Honored

The Philippine Business for Social Progress – Enterprise Development Group held last Tuesday a forum  for SMEs (that’s small, micro and medium enterprises) on how to make their business operations more eco-friendly.  The same event also honored PBSP’s Volunteer Advisors (VA) under its Business Advisory Program.  I have been a VA for PBSP for some time already, making myself available for small enterprises that need support in the areas of Service Marketing, Customer Service,  Business Planning and Strategic Management.

As an aside, and for you to better appreciate why SMEs are important to the national economy, read today’s A View From Taft column in BusinessWorld written by Aida Velasco of DLSU.  In summary, “SMEs comprise more than 96.6% of all registered establishments in the Philippines (NSO, 2002). Ninety percent of business establishments are micro industries, and 59% are engaged in wholesale and retail businesses. Only 2,984 or 0.4% are classified as big businesss, and 43% are in the manufacturing sector”.  This figure alone tells us that the SMEs are the real engine of commerce, supplying big business and houselholds alike and employing a large number of people at the same time.  Unfortunately, the SMEs are also the least supported sector.  They lack skills, technical know how and capital among many other support mechanisms.

I am sharing below the speech I gave that afternoon, as a response to the recognition PBSP conferred to its volunteer advisors.  Taking inspiration from President Noynoy Aquino’s inaugural speech and SONA, I also prepared my speech in Filipino.  Here you go:

Bagsik ni Ondoy, Tapang ng mga VA, Tibay ng PBSP, at Syempre, Tagumpay ng mga Maliit na Namumunuhan

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

Buong galak po naming tinatanggap ang karangalan na iginawad sa amin ngayon ng PBSP.  Sa ngalan ng mga kasamahan kong VA, maraming salamat po.

Noong una kong tinagpo ang mga kababaihan ng Women for Progress of Nagpayong Multi Purpose Cooperative (see previos post) para sa isang strategic planning session sa Intramuros, malakas na ang ulan noon.  Medyo nahuli sila ng dating kasi bumaha na sa ibang parte ng Kamaynilaan, at mahirap na din humanap ng masakyan patungong Manila.

Pagkaraan ng ilang linggo, para naman sa aming follow up session, nakatakda kaming magkita sa kanilang lugar sa Nagpayong, Pasig.  Lingid sa aming kaalaman, iyong araw na din yon pala ang nakatakdang pagdating ng mabagsik na si Ondoy.

Syempre pa, na-stranded kami sa daan- ako, si Weng at si Edwin ng PBSP.  Bago pa man lang kami makarating sa Nagpayong, nakatanggap na kami ng tawag mula sa coop na nagsabing huwag na kaming tumuloy.  Hanggang bewang na po daw ang tubig.  Kaya naman bigla din kaming nag U-turn.  Madami na kasi kaming nadaanang mga kalsada na lubog na sa baha.  Madami na din kaming alternate routes na sinubukan.  Nakikinig man kami sa radio noong mga panahon na iyon, pursigido pa din kaming makarating.  Sige lang…sabi namin…makakarating din tayo.

Hindi po kami nakarating sa Nagpayong.  Na-stranded kami sa kalye.  Naghanap ng malulusutang daan na hindi pa lumulubog.  Naipit sa trapik ng mga sasakyang ilang oras na ding nakatigil sa daan.  Hatinggabi na kami nakauwi, sina Weng inumaga na.

Si Ondoy ay matagal pa bago natin makalimutan.  Mas matagal sa apat na linggong pamamalagi ng bahang dulot ni Ondoy sa mga naninirahan sa Pasig.  Mas matagal kaysa sa mahigit 8 oras na walang tigil na pag ulan noong araw na iyon.  Mas matagal pa sa mga madilim at mahabang sandali ng paghihintay ng tulong habang natatakot at nangangamba ang mga nasalanta ng bagyo.

Sa tagal ng pananatili ng alaala ni Ondoy sa ating mga kamalayan, gamitin din natin ang panahong yan sa pagsisikap na maintindihan kung bakit may mga Ondoy o unos o bagyo sa ating buhay.

–         May bagyo para gisingin ang natutulog nating kakayahan para makilahok sa paghugis ng ating lipunan.  Di ba, madami ang nag volunteer, naki-alam, tumulong, nagpaka-bayani?

–         May bagyo para sabihin sa atin ng kalikasan na hindi na nya kayang buhatin pa ang mabigat nating mga basura at pagsasawalang bahala sa ating kapaligiran.  Kaya naman, ibinalik ng kalikasan ang mga basura natin…sa loob mismo ng ating mga tahanan.

–         May bagyo at pagbaha para mamulat tayo sa ating mga angking kakayahan, at upang lubos na maunawaan ang kahalagahan ng pagiging responsableng mamamayan.

–         May bagyo para tayo ay matuto.

Ang bagyo, tunay man o metapora sa mga suliranin sa buhay, ay kasangkapan lamang upang ipaalam sa atin ang mga kelangan nating malaman o matagal nang alam pero tila ay binabalewala. 

–         Na lahat tayo ay may angking kakayahang tumulong sa kapwa.  Kelangan lamang ay panatilihing buhay ang ispirit ng boluntarismo at pakikilahok – bilang propesyonal, bilang negosyante, bilang isang mamamayan. Lahat tayo ay humuhugis sa ating lipunan; nagpapanday sa ating kinabukasan.  Walang sisihan.  Pero wala din dapat lamangan. 

 –         Na lahat tayo ay may pananagutan sa kalikasan.  Kaya dapat tamang sakto lang ang paggamit sa enerhiya, tubig, kahoy, gasolina, papel, hangin, bakal at iba pang likas na yaman. 

 –         Na hindi na natin kelangan ng isa pang bagyo para alamin ulit ang aralin o lessons sa mga sakunang pwede naman talagang maiwasan.

Ganyan din sa buhay mangangalakal o negosyante o namumuhunan di ba?  Kelangan tapat sa mga suki at mamimili; kelangan responsable sa mga kalat o basura at gumagamit ng mga materyales na angkop at hindi nakakasakit sa kalikasan o sa lipunan.

Sa mga VA, ito ay hamon din para sa atin na rumisponde hindi lamang sa mga oras ng kagipitan.  Mas makatutulong tayo kung maging instrumento tayo ng wastong pagnenegosyo – handa, tapat, malinis at may silbi sa kapwa. 

Bilang pagtatapos, maraming salamat sa PBSP sa mga pagkakataong ibinigay nyo sa amin upang maging kapaki-pakinabang.  Sana ay madami pa tayong matutulungan.

Tag ulan na ulit.  Madalas na naman ang bagyo at ang pagbaha.  Sana ngayon ay mas handa na tayo.  Maraming salamat po.

Interested to volunteer as Business Advisor?  Click here.

Autopsy of a Disaster

What went wrong?

While it is true that PAG-ASA told us about the oncoming slow-moving typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) days before it hit Metro Manila, I wonder why we were not warned of the unusual amount of rain it has brought?

Consider this:  government data tell us that rainfall was abnormally high at 41.6 centimeters, breaking the previous single-day record of 33.4 centimeters in July 1967.    Metro Manila’s average rainfall for September is 39.17 centimeters. In six hours, Ondoy dumped 34.1centimeters of rainfall.  So how come nobody issued a warning that Ondoy is bringing an extraordinary amount of rain when average rainfall per hour has already registered beyond the normal level?

Autopsy-SeveredSurvival

I was in Pasig City that day, 26 September 2009, with colleagues from Philippine Business for Social Progress, as we have a scheduled business advising workshop with a multi-purpose cooperative.  We left Intramuros, Manila few minutes after 9 AM aboard a rented van.  The rain was gentle but relentless.  When we reached Sta. Mesa, Manila, we were not at all surprised to see ankle-deep water in the area.  In fact, it was quite a normal occurence on a rainy day. 

All roads leading to Pasig however, were also flooded.  That was the time that I started to worry but I kept quiet.  We already spent some two hours on the road, snaking through several side streets hoping to find a clear road but to no avail.  After some time, and quite fortuitously, the president of the cooperative called up to say that their place is flooded waist-high already; better to cancel the event.

As soon as we decided to cancel, we found ourselves trapped on the road heading to Pasig City Hall.  Vehicles in our front suddenly stopped, and we saw the floodwater rising.  Our driver has got presence of mind so he backed off, away from the gathering crowd of stranded vehicles.  Then we stopped for brunch, clueless that what lies ahead of us is a “once-in-a-lifetime typhoon”, as Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has put it.

***

Going back to Intramuros was a nightmare.  We decided to take the long way:  via C5 to Fort Bonifacio to Villamor to Roxas Boulevard.  En route, we already saw several motor vehicles on the roadside, as if parked or just waiting for the flooded road to subside.  Traffic situation has turned terrible.

When we reached Fort Bonifacio, we spent one hour on queue to Villamor – Nichols exit.  Our driver decided to take another route (Ayala via Forbes Park) only after a man in bicycle told us that the flood in Nichols- South Superhighway area has reached chest-deep.

In Makati, traffic along Ayala Avenue was light but when we reached Buendia (Gil Puyat crossing Ayala), traffic going to Manila was not moving at all.  We again decided to take another route, this time our driver led us to the Skyway entry ramp near Don Bosco.  We were shocked to see this side of Makati that day:  cars on counterflow, going nowhere and everywhere, it was anarchy in the true sense, flood all over.

We braved the flooded Skyway ramp, only surprised to find out that people have started walking up in the Skyway, going to Bicutan, Sucat and Alabang.  Pedestrians in Skyway was really surreal.  I was no longer worried, I was shocked.  From Skyway, we saw Magallanes and parts of Pasay City all covered with flood water.  I felt safe in the Skyway, something in me would like to suggest that we stop right there.  No flood can reach us this high.

***

We found refuge at McDonald’s in front of NAIA Terminal 3, after several attempts to negotiate our exit to Manila via Tramo.  Three times we tried, three times we failed.  So we were holed up in McDo with all other stranded motorists.  We stayed there until past 10 PM.  I was fortunate to find a friend also stranded within the area.  Since he lives near my place in Sucat, I decided to transfer car, leaving my PBSP friends and my parked car in Intramuros to fate.  

***

All those time, we were tuned in to a local AM radio, or at least for most of the time that we were in the van.  Sad to say, there was no coordinated effort or direction given to the public.  It has become evident that our government was not prepared for a disaster.  There is NO plan.  There was nothing but panic in their voice.

At 6 PM that day, I started to spot army trucks carrying troops and rubber boats.  On Sunday morning, I realized that their action was too late, too little.  Many had already drowned and died.