The size card

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – Think about such things.” St. Paul to the Philippians 4:8

For many of us in media in the Philippines, the past week has been colored by a stream of rumors, gossips and ultimately fake news concerning the status of certain Cabinet members of President Bongbong Marcos. From the looks of it, the targets were DOF Secretary Ben Diokno and DTI Secretary Fred Pascual. The timing indicates that the rumors were intended to mess or delay the confirmation of Diokno and subsequently Pascual.

The PBBM administration should consider the attack as an impression on the part of destabilizers that PBBM and Cabinet are weak and vulnerable. The half-hearted attack was probably counting to stir the discontent and dissatisfaction now often mentioned by local politicians, analysts and the media. It serves as a wake-up call for the complacent officials in the PBBM administration who may think they are safe and secure in their position.

Success and good performance in some departments and programs of government are not enough. International diplomacy and effective financial strategies don’t address the needs of the hungry, the unemployed and the emotionally desperate, especially with Christmas already at the door. Remember what president Erap often said: “Hungry stomachs know no laws.”

The response from Malacañang to the rumors was too slow, dismissive and lacked gravity, considering that such attacks can disrupt investments and cause market losses even for just one day.

Given the organizational disruption that has been plaguing the BBM cabinet, I strongly suggest that the President prioritize a quick reaction team inside Malacañang to deal with disinformation, fake news, as well as prompt and accurate announcements on developments in the executive department. NO to gag orders. Rumors should not preoccupy and suck the energy of the public.

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Someone always brings up the “size” card.

Whenever I interview or talk to experts or proponents of “urban agriculture” or backyard gardening, someone will always shoot down the idea by saying that size and efficiency matters and that small plots are not practical or ideal. Worse, they’ll say it’s not worth it.

Experts and economists love to talk about ROIs, commercial viability and profit in terms of peso signs. Some simply like to sound so authoritative and all be damned. Perhaps because they don’t go to the wet markets regularly, they make more than enough money not to be affected by food inflation and they would rather be dead than be caught with soil under their nails.

But circumstances have radically changed. The Covid-19 related lockdowns that kept as at home awakened among us an appreciation for plants and the emergence of Plantitos and Plantitas. With the price of vegetables going sky high, such as red onions at P400 a kilo, chicken hovering anywhere from P250 to P300 and tilapia at P150 a kilo, the backyard farmer in all of us is coming back to life.

Call it impractical and too much work for so little a harvest but it’s better than doing nothing or waiting for the government to do what we can do for ourselves. That is what “farming” was originally all about: your effort to plant for a predictable harvest of food for home consumption. Human greed and population growth and politics simply redefined it and brainwashed us to thinking large-scale factory-style farming.

Many of us will soon be working on our hopes and dreams and possible projects for 2023 and I humbly encourage all of you to include starting a vegetable garden. If you have the space go horizontal, if not try to go vertical. Even in a “squatters’ area” in San Juan, I saw a creative man set up his pechay wall, on a wall using discarded soft drink plastic bottles.

Before the Covid pandemic, I wrote about planting a saba banana tree on a one square meter patch that looked so ugly I decided to stick something in it. Lo and behold, many months later, with no caring whatsoever, the saba bore fruit that I thoroughly enjoyed as turon and to this day its seedlings now produce fruits in our mini farm in Lipa, Batangas.

Small is good, as it says in Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whosoever gathers little by little will increase it.”

If you are not into getting dirt under your nails, there is aquaponics and hydroponics where you use “dirt free” technology to grow vegetables and even raise a few tilapias in a sub-tank underneath your vegetable platform. If you wake up early in the morning, you can try to listen by your window, not for the chirping of birds but for the crowing of roosters. Except for the highly regulated and patrolled exclusive neighborhoods in Metro Manila, most barangays are dotted with roosters belonging to security guards, barangay tanods and even residents themselves.

For the record, I don’t keep roosters in the city, but I have not discouraged housewives and natural foods practitioners from taking care of a hen or two in their backyard for eggs. You know where it comes from and young kids learn about poultry as well. They also eat most of the natural table scraps you would be disposing. Once they lay, they are dependable for eggs for as long as 18 months under ideal conditions and their poop is the best fertilizer you can get!

So, for 2023: Make planting your own vegetables, raising fish and chicken part of your targets. Start small until you feel good enough to go big! You get the psychic and financial benefits from raising your own food and to the obstructionists, I quote from the Bible:

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.” Zechariah 4:10

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