Nob 24, 2001

"A man is a worker. if he is not, then he is nothing."
-Joseph Conrad

I'm off to Baguio on Monday to hold a strategic planning and evaluation session with the staff. I work for an NGO with sensible people. They make the daily grind more tolerable. Still, I do not understand why they chose Baguio. The mornings are cold enough here in the lowlands! Temperature gets as low as nine degrees there!

I'm excited though because I'm about to meet Dr. Cosalan, onr of the good characters of Project Luke. It's another NGO. They also have a Blindness Prevention Program but they have something I covet - a program on Hearing Impairment!

Helen Keller, when asked which of her disabilities bothered her more, her blindness or her deafness, replied as thus: "My blindness isolates me from things. My deafness isolates me from people."

Nothing much can be said after that huh? The existence of an NGO is a very fragile thing. Most service-oriented NGOs have the features of a small business. With the difference that, in the Philippines, the demand for its "goods" is always great. Many have said that the government ought to do what we are doing, bringing medical attention to indigent brethren with little or no access to such services. That is true in my opinion. Other governments take care of their own.

But what do we do in the meantime? Should the fact that we are working where the government should preclude any effort to take our territory? Are we the reason why they are not doing our job? They should take it so we can move on to other things. Like lobbying or revolution.

Yes, we have been called names. I think some paleo-Marxists* call us palliative organizations. Granted. But I think they would also prefer a revolution with fully sighted and hearing masses.

Job security is the greatest hurdle though. We are here only until the funds come in. And we can't compete with job opportunities and security of tenure here and abroad. That's why I'd love for the government to take over. It will be a lot different but at least the people won't be easily laid-off once a project closes.

I can only thank the people who have supported us, those who worked with us as volunteers, and the "clientele" whose speechless gratitude terrifyingly shames me. Also the full-time staff. Whatever they get is a trivial coin measured against their true worth.

And so, even if they move on, we who are left behind can only respect their decision to look after their futures for a change. And we can only hold back tears

*I make the distinction because a great many have higher minds and stouter hearts that go beyond the dogma. In fact, I have great love for them and, i daresay, they hold my future.

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