Yellow Fever

In other countries, yellow fever has been the cause of many devastating epidemics. It is an acute viral disease that causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths every year in unvaccinated populations.

In the Philippines, ‘yellow fever’ is something different… The country once again witnessed an intense ‘yellow fever’. It was not a mosquito that bit millions of Filipinos. We saw multitude who were glued to their TV sets or who went to the wake and participated in the funeral procession from the Cathedral to Manila Memorial Park. We had our own version of the “Yellow Fever”.

In a dinner I hosted for our Go Negosyo Book on 21 Steps to Start Your Own Business, I told Karen Davila that I felt something may change the landscape soon with Tita Cory’s death. I told Karen I’m almost sure that Noynoy would take on a leadership role that the parents would leave behind. He has basically started to assume the role as a senator. And, in 2010, he will most likely be the vice presidential candidate of Mar Roxas.

In a dinner hosted by Grace Go, her son Vernon asked me what was the best thing that Tita Cory did. I thought for a moment and said that she married the right person – Ninoy Aquino. We seem to think that these choices are easy to do. We forget that even bright men and women make wrong choices and end up with a messed up life. Your spouse is your co-pilot in life. In Tita Cory’s case, she helped bring up their children to be patriotic, with values that exemplify simplicity.

But of course, the answers can also be seen in many news articles and columns that reminisce her exemplary life and leadership during the difficult transition phase in our country’s history. From leading the country in restoring democratic policies as found in the 1987 Constitution, to initiating several reforms that brought back fair play and stability in the business environment

When Ninoy was killed, she took the role to lead the country and help restore democracy. This was Ninoy’s purpose or mission. While his death had to happen in a manner like Jesus died being nailed to the cross, it was his destiny that would reawaken the Filipino people. Sometimes in life, we cannot control our destiny. Things just happen.

The Philippine Star had a very apt banner headline the day after the funeral “The Queen We Never Had”. We saw real love and support given to our land’s mother-figure; the ‘Queen of our Democracy’. Because of their ideal attributes, the Aquino couple has an enchantment that can be likened to well-loved monarchies that stood for the people, and a strong symbol of unity. People are depicting that someone had to be the next heir to the ‘Aquino throne’. It was destiny. When Ninoy was shot, Cory’s destiny unfolded.

A nation’s hard prayers were answered. Now, we have democracy and sometimes too much of it. These days, the yellow fever is back. How do we turn it into something that will really bring about change to this nation? The yellow fever must be turned into a true patriotic fever of positive action and a citizenry that inspires others. Definitely, the answer is not found in another people power or in frequent government bashing. There are other more meaningful ways.

After her presidency, our Tita Cory started a foundation called PinoyMe that lends to microentrepreneurs. The idea is to help them help themselves. It is not the dole out that is a solution to giving them a better future. It’s about inspiring them and teaching them ‘how to fish and not just give a fish’. We in Go Negosyo share the same belief.

Let me share with you an SMS from PLDT Senior Vice President Eric Alberto: “Hi Joey, just want to give you great feedback from a micro entrepreneur who follows your article religiously and a big fan of yours. He used to be a small time buy and sell car agent, who was inspired by your messages. He has built a car detailing business, a seat cover business, and now he is in appliance distribution trade. Your biggest influence on him is your advice not to get into a business that you don’t love or understand. His name is Aayd Dabo. I have my cars cleaned regularly in his detailing business. Kudos Joey and good weekend!”

This shows the influence of a column. Rather than using this power to keep criticizing the government, it would be a great help to the country if we inspire and empower the people around us.

Many have criticized the President. As we have seen in the past, whoever the incumbent President was and will be, there will always be a lot of criticism – right or wrong, and with or without basis. There will always be a call to resign or to change the government.

We have to change this and use the Yellow Fever to bring about greater nationalism through action. Why channel energies into negative means? As we have felt unity and love once again during Tita Cory’s wake and funeral, we are in effect called to do our share, no matter how small, in helping the country move forward. Let us do our part. Then, we could say that Ninoy or Cory or any of our past leaders did not die in vain.

Imagine if we can get all columnists in this country, who write once a week, to write even just once a month about good things they see in this country and some of the good things this government has done. I am sure there are still good news to write about or else we would have all migrated elsewhere. I hope that our version of the “Yellow Fever” would have the effect of encouraging and teaching people.

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Let me share with you a real successful project of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). We asked some information on this from Usec. Merly Cruz.

Among the many projects assisted by their Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program, the DTI Regional Operations and Development Group has developed the “Pangasius Livelihood Project”. Pangasius (hito) is a type of catfish that was brought to the Philippines. Mindanao has found a commercial value in the fish. DTI, together with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, provide seminars, and technical and financial assistance to producers in pilot areas.

This was a project first launched in Gen San and given the project’s potential, Usec Merle has replicated the project in several parts of the Mindanao region such as in Lanao del Norte, Iligan City, Zamboangga City, Davao del Norte, North and South Cotabato and Butuan City. Todate, 16 technology-demo ponds were established to transfer right farming process and feeding methods to farmer-growers. PGMA herself launched the project expansion last June in Koronadal City.

A total of almost P50 million were invested by various groups in Pangasius hatchery, nursery, grow-out and processing plant projects in Mindanao, loaded with 850 metric tons of fingerlings. The country imports about 40 containers of Pangasius a month or about 600MT or USD 1.6 million worth of imports, mainly from Vietnam The project aims to reduce this importation by having local production and at the same time provide a good steady stream of livelihood for many fish farmers in Mindanao. Eventually the aim is to be a net exporter of Pangasius to EU, US and ASEAN.

This is only one of the projects that DTI has developed in order to assist the micro and small entrep communities nationwide. We shall be featuring in our future columns other interesting livelihood projects so that we can show more ideas and business models that our readers can consider.