Dec 23, 2009

Poor Face Greater Health Burden Than Smokers or the Obese

ScienceDaily reports (article here) that according to a study published in the Dec. 2009 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, in the United States those who are poor or are school dropouts face lowered life expectancies comparable to that experienced by smokers.
The average low-income person loses 8.2 years of perfect health, the average high school dropout loses 5.1 years, and the obese lose 4.2 years, according to researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Tobacco control has long been one of the most important public health policies, and rightly so; the average smoker loses 6.6 years of perfect health to their habit. But the nation's huge high school dropout rate and poverty rates are typically not seen as health problems.
The study was conducted by Peter Muennig, Kevin Fiscella, Daniel Tancredi, and Peter Franks and is titled "" The full study is available in PDF form here. (subscription required)

It looked at the individual behaviors and activities of people in advantaged and disadvantaged social groups as well as looking into policy goals directed towards these individuals in the fields of "smoking prevention, increased access to medical care, poverty reduction, and early childhood education".
"While public health policy needs to continue its focus on risky health behaviors and obesity, it should redouble its efforts on non-medical factors, such as high school graduation and poverty reduction programs," according to Peter Muennig, MD, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health and principal investigator of the study.

Dec 20, 2009

Reproductive Health Resource - Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings

While browsing the United Nations Population Fund website, I came across a recent news item detailing a new reproductive health toolkit for social development workers. From the blurb,
This Toolkit is intended to guide humanitarian programme managers and healthcare providers to ensure that sexual and reproductive health interventions put into place both during and after a crisis are responsive to the unique needs of adolescents.
With the recent debacle on HB 5043, otherwise known as the Reproductive Health Bill here in the Philippines, I thought that this document would be an interesting read for social workers engaged in providing maternal and reproductive health services in the country. Dubbed the "Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Toolkit for Humanitarian Settings" toolkit, the PDF document (available from this page) is a useful guide in the planning, implementation, execution, and assessment of reproductive health programs. Also included in the document are links to documents relating to reproductive health program planning for special sectors such as migrants, youth, and people in crisis situations. This document may come in handy whether or not the future leaders of this country will include reproductive health in his or her priority list of programs to implement.

Copenhagen Climate Change Talks Likely to End On A Sour Note - What Now?

Bulatlat News reports that a tentative agreement has been reached between the major countries participating in the Conference of the Parties 15 (COP15) Climate Change Conference. (read the article here)
Last night a tentative agreement was reached between major parties at the COP15 climate change talks in Copenhagen, but will need to be approved by the 193 nations at the gathering. Initial word is that the “Copenhagen Accord” falls short of the already low expectations set for the talks.
The 12-point draft agreement (PDF file) mostly focuses on the need to limit the increase of global average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and for countries to begin major adaptation strategies (and some mitigation as well) in light of this increase. Furthermore, the draft proposes a cash pool amounting to $30 B to be created by developed nations before 2012 that would fund "balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation, including forestry".

GMA News also reported that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has returned from Copenhagen bringing along "$310 million worth of funds for 'green' projects".
Of these funds, a bulk – at $250 million – came from the Clean Technology Fund, a program jointly funded by both the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).


The fund intends to invest in renewable energy projects, including those involving solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and others, the ADB said in its Web site.

The fund will also increase efficiency and cut emissions of the Philippines’ “existing gas plants," improve public transportation in major metropolitan areas, improve fuel economy standards or switch to cleaner fuels, and assist in the adoption of energy-efficient technologies in buildings, industries, and agriculture.
At the same time, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, speaking upon Arroyo's return to the Philippines, hinted that a binding treaty was not reached at the time of Arroyo's early departure from the talks.
While the summit was a step in the “right direction," the results were still “not enough," Remonde, who accompanied Mrs. Arroyo in the trip, said on government-run dzRB radio.

“The Philippines will continue to do its part through advocacy and support for a global treaty for the reduction of gas emissions," Remonde said. “This is the only way forward if we are to make a real difference."
What will be the implication of the possible failure of the Copenhagen talks on social development practitioners here in the Philippines? For one, the lack of a non-binding international agreement shifts the pressure to plan and implement concrete environmental solutions away from national governments towards the institutional and community levels. With resources being managed and allocated by the national government however, this might just be an uphill battle for new and existing projects for the environment. Then again, the 2010 Elections might be an opportunity to ease the tension between the government as a funding agency and NGOs and communities with regards to allocating resources for projects effectively.

Another implication that a botched international agreement on us would be a repeat of recent natural calamities here in the Philippines. As such, community workers and social development specialists will now need, more than ever, to come up with innovative disaster risk and damage management plans. We already know this by experience = typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng demonstrated the severe impact of climate change-induced shifts in weather, and the effect of not preparing for such calamities. The Philippine Blog Awards has come up with a bloggers' network they call TechTanod. This project has the potential to form a network of empowered bloggers capable of working in their communities to teach - and learn - information advocacy. Eventually, I envision those same bloggers/community organizers mobilizing for change as well.

Lastly, climate change will cause organizers and communities to reassess the current direction of sustainable environmental projects and community-based resource management plans. In coastal regions for instance - where increasing sea levels, rising water temperatures, decreasing fishing yields and declining social conditions are likely to be more pervasive in the next few years - there will be a sudden need to reassess the viability of the local community and its populace. While the effects of a failed climate change treaty aren't likely to be seen or felt immediately, they will be as soon as global temperatures hit the 1.5 degree threshold mandated by the draft agreement. And that's not going to be very pretty for those coastal communities. How will these communities survive?

In light of all of these possibilities, I ask one more question: what else can we do from here?

(Credits to darkly_seen from Flickr for the photo)

Dec 18, 2009

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan Offers Training for Voters' Education Trainors

I am reposting in full an invitation I received from the Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) or "Church that Serves the Nation", a "non-partisan, Church-based organization that functions as part of the socio-political ministry of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits)" according to its website. SLB is extending an open invitation for community workers and interested individuals to attend their voters' education trainors' training session in January (see below).

While I would take SLB's claims of non-partisanship with a large pinch of salt (this is a church-sponsored establishment, mind you,) I can't discount their role in bringing voters' education services to the grassroots level. Shortly after my birthday in 2006, I joined the one day training session and was happy to learn that many of the participants worked and learned directly with their constituents in their parishes and communities. And I was even happier to find out later that the program did have an impact in redefining voters' perspectives on the value and power of the electoral process.

And without further ado, here is the text of SLB's invitation:

In a few months’ time the entire nation will be thrown into the midst of election frenzy. We can get lost amidst all the campaign jingles, taglines, slogans and promises. Thus we need to search for a firmer foundation on which to ground our vote – the self.

PVA 2010 Edition: Ang Bagong Botanteng Pinoy (BBP) is a political education program that shifts the focus from the candidate to the voter. It consists of the following modules:

MODULE 1 - Ang BBP: Kumikilos sa isang Konteksto

Oftentimes, our choices and decisions are done out of context and thus we end up adding to the problem rather than solving it. Thus, the voter must be aware of the current national social, economic and political situation which will serve as the context for his/her vote.

MODULE 2 - Ang BBP: Karapatan Kong Tunay

The voter has an important responsibility to protect our democratic institutions. To carry this out, s/he is given the power to choose public officials and his/her power to choose is protected by rights.

MODULE 3 - Ang BBP: Hi-Tech Na!

The voter must be familiar with the automated process to ensure that his/her vote and those of the rest of the electorate are correctly counted.

MODULE 4 – Ang BBP: Gusto Ko ‘To!

Political engagement does not end with casting one’s vote. The Filipino Voter actively engages in the socio-political affairs of the country even beyond elections. This module will show how!

By January 2010, Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB) is planning to conduct the 1st of a series of Trainers Training for the PVA 2010 Edition. Hence, we are calling for volunteers to make these endeavors of ours possible.

We invite everyone to take an active part in our campaigns for the coming elections. We will be deploying facilitators, speakers and volunteers to help out in the cascading of the voters’ education.

Should you be interested to participate in the PVA 2010 Edition Trainers’ Training on 23 January 2010, please send us an email indicating your name, affiliation, address, and contact information at

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If you want to get in touch with the me, you can:
  1. Leave a comment on this page with your contact details, if you want me to contact you directly. Else, I'll reply to your post over here.
  2. Catch me over at Twitter.
  3. Send me an e-mail. My address is es[dot]ilaga[atsign]gmail[dot]com

Dec 17, 2009

Welcome to the Barefoot Scientist!

Not-so-Twin Towers
"The Barefoot Scientist" is the brainchild of a one-time scientist turned community worker/social development activist who has a penchant for emerging technologies and bringing those same technologies to the masses. Thus, this blog will focus on how science, technology and public policy affect the marginalized sectors of society.

The moniker "barefoot scientist" was once ascribed to the Soviet-era agronomist Trofim Lysenko who once embodied the concept of the peasant genius - one who used his or her knowledge in the pursuit of the proletariat revolution. While his methods of agriculture were eventually discredited and rejected as being fraudulent, the ideal of scientists using their knowledge to improve the lives of the most downtrodden people lives on.

In keeping with the ideals of the barefoot scientist, this blog is unabashedly highly political and the ideas presented here may not sit well with a number of people. With that in mind, I do moderate the comments here for the sake of cutting out profanity and spam, but do know that I allow all other comments otherwise. It may take time for you to see your comments, so please be patient.

Nov 26, 2009

Of Ampatuan.

On the morning of November 23 2009, representatives of Esmael Mangudadatu - vice mayor of Maguindanao, Mindanao in the Philippines - were reported missing after contact with the convoy was lost. Later that day in Ampatuan, Maguindanao, a mass grave containing the bodies of the convoy's members was found. Among the them were 12 journalists, Mangudadatu's wife and 2 sisters, lawyers and aides. As of November 25, 2009, 57 bodies have been uncovered in what has been dubbed as one of the most brutal politically-motivated killings in Philippine history, and has led Reporters Without Borders to dub this incident as a "dark day for press freedom". At this time, Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan - a close ally of incumbent president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and whom Mangudadatu is running against in the 2010 Philippine Elections - is alleged to have some part in the commission of the massacre but has yet to release a statement denying his or his clan's involvement in the case.

Nov 23, 2009

Tomorrow, I begin anew.

It's been about a month since I attended post-traumatic stress debriefing, and just about as long since I've been getting on my feet. I managed to get out of my funk last week thanks to the pressing deadline that UP had for late registration, and beginning tomorrow I'll be back in UP for my first day of classes. While I certainly hope that I'll be able to register tomorrow, what I worry about more is the fact that while psychologically speaking I'm on the way back to normalcy, the state of my political and social paradigm is another thing altogether. Since the events of Ondoy and Pepeng, I've felt nothing but unbridled hatred for any and all politicians who promise to bring about change while being hypocrites in their own way. Noynoy - what about Luisita? Fernando - the street merchants and the urban poor? Villar - the landless ethnic minorities? Bro. Eddie and JC de los Reyes - your constituents and your stands on RH? Erap - graft and corruption during your term? Teodoro - your lack of commitment towards transparency and accountability in government? And Perlas - the unorthodoxy of your economic and social development ideas?

As of now, this is just a rant. But given how things are going in the blogosphere, people will have to think about these same issues in the run-up to the 2010 elections. More importantly, while we are giving so much focus to the national candidates, what about our local candidates? There are some candidates who have shameless posted promiscuous adverts already, and yet we've not reacted with as much as a batting of an eyelash towards them.

If this is the way that we think and act, what will we come to expect in 2010 and beyond?

Nov 1, 2009

Kahel OS - A Pinoy Gnu/Linux OS

Spread Kahel OS
Just taking a few minutes of my time to tell you about Kahel OS. It's a GNU/Linux operating system based on Arch, which has the reputation of being very streamlined and slick (at the price of being not at newbie-friendly as say, Ubuntu). Kahel is developed by the team at 8layertech, a Filipino company that works on Free and Open Source Software development and software as a service (SAAS).

Oct 12, 2009

KCh Tulong Balik Eskwela

Help our Public Schools recover from Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) by donating School supplies or Cash

Classes resumed already and there are still damaged schools and students with no school supplies to use.

You may donate the following:

For the students:
• Notebooks
• Pens
• Pencils
• Crayons
• School bags
• Pad papers
• Eraser
• Slippers
• Sharpener
• Toiletries: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap

*A pack will include: for ES 8 notebooks, 2 pens, 2 pencils, 1 box of crayons, 2 pad papers, 1 school bag, eraser, sharpener, Slippers and toiletries. For HS: 12 notebooks, 2 pens, 2 pencils, 2 pad papers, 1 school bag, ruler, toiletries and slippers
* You may also donate toys for elem. school students..

For schools:
• Monetary donation

Donations may be dropped off at:
c/o Knowledge Channel Foundation
Benpres building, Exchange Road cor. Meralco Ave. Ortigas Center, Pasig City

Other Drop off centers:
STI-Alabang (across Starmall Alabang)
TUP-Taguig c/o NSTP dept.

Cash donations may also be deposited at any BPI branch
Account details:
Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc.
BPI- Pasig- Ortigas Branch

For inquiries, please call our hotline: (+632) 385-3847
or email or volunteer@knowledgechannel

Sep 14, 2009

25 Questions for the 2010 Presidential Aspirants

Wow. I can't believe that it has been about 9 months since I've posted something here. Anywho, time to revive this shenanigan for the benefit of the thinking masses.

Last September 09, 2009 (09.09.09, if you haven't noticed) the U.P. Diliman College of Social Work and Community Development, the University of the Philippines Student Government, and the College of Law held a forum titled "Y Vote? U Vote!: What It Takes To Make A Difference In The 2010 Elections". The speakers during the said forum were Professor Randy David, Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, Student Council Alliance of the Philippines Secretary General Bianca Lapuz, and the Dean of the College of Law Atty. Marivic Leonen. The first three speakers (David, Padaca, and Lapuz) discussed the role of the youth as advocates, campaigners, and guardians in the electoral process. But that's not what I want to share today - I'll make another post on that soon. What I want to share today is part of Atty. Leonen's talk.

You see, I'm one of the few people I know of who would vote anyone - irregardless of race, size, creed or gender - who could present to me a SMART platform. You know, Simple, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The problem for me has always been one of finding a respectably accurate and comprehensive list of plans and programs to look for in a candidate. Atty. Leonen proposed a relatively common - but otherwise daring - solution: come up with a list of key policy questions that can be answered with "Yes", "No", or "I don't know", and have the aspirants answer those.

I've listed below the questions that Atty. Leonen posed. Can you think of other issues that need to be answered?
1. Will you require that all public health centers actively provide information on the various aspects of reproductive health including the use of contraceptives?
2. Will you simplify the tax on tobacco and cause its increase in order to make its price prohibitive and increase revenues?
3. Will you and your team refrain from asking support from religious sects who you know vote as a block and therefore deny the right of wach and every member of their congregation to make their own choices?
4. Will you allow that our national symbols - i.e. the flag and our national language - be revised so that greater representation can be made of the historical and current narratives of various peoples in Mindanao?
5. Will you cause the abrogation of the current Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States?
6. Will you support the current impeachment complaint filed against the present Ombudsperson?
7. Will you recognize the DPWH and prosecute all its employees (past and present) that have facilitated the SOPs for various public officers?
8. Will you cause the abrogation of the DENR so that there is a separate agency that manages natural resources and another one that ensures environmental compliance?
9. Will you provide clear guidelines and transparent procedures for the release of budget appropriated by government i.e. are you willing to regulate the power of impoundment by the President?
10. Will you require that Hacienda Luisita, and other agricultural companies similarly situated, be covered by compulsary acquisition under the Agrarian Reform Program?
11. Will you continue negotiations for a preferential trade agreement with the European Union, Australia, and New Zealand?
12. Will you continue negotiations for a preferential trade agreement with China?
13. Will you call for the suspension of Burma from the ASEAN until they release Aung San Suu Kyi and all their political prisoners?
14. Will your Department of Agriculture encourage sustainable agriculture to meet a clear direction towards reducing our ecological footprint and food security rather than cater to commercial agribusiness firms?
15. Will you work to allow foreign companies to compete in the transportation sector, maintenance of port facilities, and telecommunications?
16. Will you reform the energy sector so as to reduce the monopolies in the generation and distribution of energy?
17. Will you work for the parallel importation of essential drugs?
18. Will you impose a carbon tax?
19. Will you work to change the charter of the PAGCOR so that it will either be a regulator or a gambling corporation?
Alternative question: are you in favor of legalizing jueteng?
20. Will you increase our negotiating capability in the ASEAN, the WTO, and in other multilateral trade organizations by transferring the role of lead negotiator to a trade representative rather than to disparate government agencies?
21. Will you defend the current concept of special safeguard mechanisms and special products for agriculture in the DOHA round?
22. Will you reappoint any member of the Judicial and Bar Council for a second term?
23. Will your choice for the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court be based on seniority?
24. Will you appoint any retired military official to any civilian public office?
25. BONUS QUESTION Will you interfere in the selection of a President of the University of the Philippines or any other Dean of any college in the University of the Philippines?

Now I know that some of the issues may sound unfamiliar to you at this time. Don't fret, because I'll be tackling the background of each of these issues during the next two months. So stay tuned!

Jan 6, 2009

Missing in Action

So, what is Edgar doing as of now?

Well, simply put, he's preparing something BIG. Well, not TOO big. Just, UTILITARIAN.

A new website, new face, new content for the Not-For-Profit organization who wants to free themselves from proprietary software.

That's coming soon.

But, what has Edgar been doing lately?

He's been busy attending to his work and his planning for the new Anime Alliance Philippines website. But hey, that doesn't mean he has no life. He just managed to upgrade his PC to accommodate podcast software. OPEN-SOURCE, of course.

So yes, that is where Edgar has been, just in case you were wondering.

Happy New Year!