Monday, October 31, 2011
We were listening to a woman from the urban poor sector telling a TV reporter that she does not think of having her deceased husband cremated even if this is a less expensive option than doing business with a funeral parlor for her dear departed's coffin, wake and interment. Her reason: cremation is for the rich!
Going to the Great Beyond really does entail considerable expense for those who are left behind. Hence, the pre-need plans for those who can afford to prepare for the inevitable end, and the financial KBL (kasal-binyag-libing, wedding-baptism-burial) assistance of local government executives for both charitable and political reasons. We were neighbors to a block of informal settlers in Cubao in the 1970s, and we witnessed that wakes for the dead could last more than a week to raise funds for interment, although there were rumors that these provided the cloak to run a small-scale neighborhood casino.
During the Spanish regime and into the 1930s, the people of our town buried their dead within 48 hours. Definitely, the art/science of embalming had not reached this coastal town yet. Funeral parlors are recent business ventures there. There were no coffins of various styles and colors with different price tags yet to choose from. Even into the 1950s, when we were an innocent boy, we still saw carpenters make coffins for the dead in our neighborhood using carefully measured and cut pieces of wood from the hardware store. Superstition had it that the coffin must exactly fit the departing body.
Electricity came late to our town. The Ramos Electric Company of our relatives provided power after the second world war, and we remember we had lights only six-to-six, early evening to early morning. We imagine candles and wicked oil lamps lighting up a one-night wakes during the pre-electricity period. These could have been held in the town church because one of the services paid to the church was for "vigilia" (wake or vigil).
Wakes in the cities are now held in the chapels of funeral homes or memorial parks or large churches. Expense for these are included in the pre-need plans. Many sleepless nights for the bereaved also entail funds for food, snacks, coffee, etc. in the entertainment of friends who come to condole, and for novena masses until before the body is taken out for burial.
Wakes in the countryside have taken a new twist. In our town, the funeral parlor services also include a live band event during the last-night vigil, which comes as a package with a brass band for the funeral procession the next day. The live band is to attract more people to hopefully spend a sleepless night with the bereaved family.
For those with lesser means, the live band may be a karaoke or sing-along music system. Filipinos are musical, and it is expected that there would be a queue to the microphone of the town's or barrio's undiscovered singing talents.
Unless the bereaved family is strict about gambling in the premises, there would always be tables for the mahjong or card players.
All these mean that a kitchen cabinet of friendly neighbors and relatives would be around to serve the late night snack of sandwiches and/or arroz caldo, and to keep the supply of hot water for 3-in-1 coffee running.
The funeral procession today has the deceased in a coffin conveyed to his grave in a funeral car. One suspects that there is a funeral cortege ahead if the traffic slows down on Metro Manila streets or on the stretch of MacArthur highway from Pampanga to Zambales. This service of course comes with the pre-need plan.
In our town, the funeral car may be done away with and replaced with a horse-drawn caisson or carriage. It could still be a carroza (float) decorated with flowers ceremonially pulled by the menfolk using a pair of long ropes. The horses are rented from Pampanga thus the dramatic effect of a horse-drawn carriage equates to quite a hefty sum of money.
When our parents died, they were buried with the Aglipayan (Philippine Independent Church) priest attending them. Both were fetched by the priest and brought to the church where a mass was said. Before their remains were brought out of the house, the priest and some elder women sang prayers for them. We remember that in the case of our mother, the funeral procession paused a couple of times and the priest and the women again sang prayers. In the case of our father, who was a widower for around 25 years, the priest and the women just said the prayers. Probably, it was faster that way or they did not know tune of the prayer song.
Thus in recent memory, "cantado con posas" was still in practice.
Then and now, burial services depends on capability to pay.
Sunday, October 23, 2011
The Philippines department of education (DepEd) recently launched in San Francisco, California its TEN Moves (short for ‘The Entire Nation Moves’) project to attract US-based Filipinos and other nationals to support the construction of 10,000 classrooms, which is estimated to cost Php600,000 (US$14,000) each.
The DepEd strategy aims to raise some PhP6-billion (US$140M) from two million supporters, which means each donor contributing Php3,000 (US$70) each.
This partially addresses the need for 68,000 classrooms for students going into the 10-year basic schooling from kindergarten to junior high school. Current budget is reported to be sufficient only for the construction of 58,000 units.
TEN Moves is a private sector initiative, part of the bigger Bayanihang Pampaaralan campaign of the 57-75 Education Reform Movement, which is an alliance of the Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED), Foundation for Worldwide People Power (FWWPP), League of Corporate Foundations (LCF), Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Philippine Business for Social Progress ((PBSP), and Synergeia Foundation (Synergeia).
The reverse-image 57-75 speaks of the mission of the alliance-- “to reverse the educational crisis.” The number 57 reflects the current state of affairs of the Philippine public education system being the national average score in percentage points in the National Achievement Test (NAT) of public elementary school pupils. The reverse image 75 is target passing mark within the next five years.
It’s not only the perennial shortage of classrooms that has to be addressed though to turn 57 around to 75. There are other needs as well like blackboards, desks, and salaries for teachers. And even sanitation facilities!
We’d like to think that Ten Moves considered the seismic and climate threats in the design and construction of the “brick-and-mortar” classrooms, which we read as “concrete” buildings, the same critical elements that were deemed significant in the design of standard school buildings a century ago.
“In the Philippines,” said the Bureau of Education Bulletin No. 37-1912, “a building to be permanent must be prepared to withstand earthquakes and severe storms, and resist the ravages of insect pests. White ants alone have destroyed buildings worth thousands of pesos. Only the best timber, stone, or concrete will resist them.” It did not say anything about floods though. There could have been minor floods in some parts of Manila and major towns but these were not as life-threatening as we know of them today to cause suspension of classes when heavy rains occur.
Back then, the Bureau of Education faced “the threefold problem of organizing the schools, training a corps of Filipino teachers, and providing them with the buildings essential to their success.” The American administrators inherited from the Spaniards predominantly “temporary structures, poorly built and of perishable materials. The best of these were great oblong buildings of stone, with earth floors, roofs of grass or tile, low eaves, and deep-set, heavily barred windows. They were usually damp and poorly ventilated. “
Then as it is now, the “need of buildings was so pressing, and the funds available locally, whether provincial or municipal, were so limited that it was impossible for the local authorities to effect the construction of permanent school buildings unaided.” The Insular Government infused capital funds for school buildings through legislative action starting with Php350,000 [around US$175,000] in 1904 and by 1911, it had appropriated a total of Php4,149,000 [around US$2.075M] including the Php1,000,000 [around US$500,000] for primary schools provided for by the Gabaldon Law of 1907.
The standard schoolhouses built a century ago were of concrete re-enforced with steel in “combination with timbers of superior quality for roof trusses, floors, and partitions, and galvanized iron for roofing.”
The unit system of construction had the standard classroom size of 7 by 9 meters. “[The] classrooms are so arranged in the plans that additions may be made at a minimum cost and without prejudice to the original structure. In Plan No. 6 and those for larger buildings, provision is made for an assembly room. These buildings are enlarged by adding units at the rear of the original building on both sides of the assembly room, forming a continuous row of classrooms on either side. These additions may be extended almost indefinitely without injury to the original structure and without interfering with the lighting or ventilation of any of the classrooms. The largest building of this kind at present contemplated is a twenty-room building containing two wings, each having six classrooms in addition to the large assembly room connecting these in front, and four additional classrooms in the rear, which completes the quadrangle, thus forming an open court within the structure. This court is faced by porches or open corridors from which doors lead into the various classrooms.”
The Plans were numbered 1 (the unit building) to 14, and 20 (see pictures with descriptive captions). Plan No.12, which is not shown here was a special designed for trade schools in the provinces.
Plans No. 4 and 5 were abandoned, and the use of Plans No. 9, 11, 13 and 14 were discontinued.
The classroom sizes may have evolved through the years to accommodate more students and the introduction of technologies for teaching like audio-visual equipment and computers.
The TEN Moves classrooms may well be standard school houses of 1912 re-configured to withstand the risks of fire and floodwater, to be adaptable to modern teaching tools, and to accommodate increases in class sizes.
- Bureau of Education. (1912). Bulletin No. 37—1912. School buildings and grounds. Manila: Bureau of Printing. Retrieved from http://name.umdl.umich.edu/acp1028.1912.037
- Reporter not named. (2011, Oct 08). Department of Education Initiative to Raise Funds for Classrooms. Inquirer.net. Retrieved from http://globalnation.inquirer.net/14913/department-of-education-initiative-to-raise-funds-for-classrooms
- Ronda, Rainier Allan Ronda. (2011, Oct 22). DepEd to end classroom shortage by 2014. Philippine Star Online at Philstar.com. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=739987&publicationSubCategoryId=63