Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Friday, August 6, 2010

“Life begins at 80---or preferably at 90”---Salonga

Philippine Airlines’ local operations have been greatly jarred by the resignation of 25 pilots flying its domestic flights, to work abroad, particularly in wealthy Middle Eastern airlines such as Qatar Airlines. PAL management has threatened to sue these pilots for abandonment if they don’t return, claiming they have a contract that stipulates, among other things, a notification of 180 days before any resignation (the idea being to enable the airline to train their substitutes in that time). On the other hand, PAL airline staff air various complaints about management, such as reducing the cabin crew to cut costs and early retirement. The Aquino administration is trying to patch up things and we hope, for the sake of the riding public, a third of which is serviced by PAL, that mediation would work, as it’s not easy to replace pilots. PAL quoted the cost of P1.8 million to train each pilot.

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There’s no question that one of the biggest problems facing our country in this age of globalization---of seas without shores, as is romantically put---is that we’re bound to keep losing our trained people to better work opportunities and higher pay abroad. Recall that in earlier years there was the exodus of nurses abroad, including doctors who shifted to nursing in order to get work abroad faster. A month ago we lamented the admission of Pag-Asa’s director, Dr. Prisco Nilo, that only fourteen of his trained scientists are left here; most of them, including Nathaniel Cruz, had left for greener pastures abroad. Very recently it was reported that many of our geologists have also gone abroad. But it’s not just our top professionals whom we’re losing. A recent report I read said we’re losing even good mechanics, electricians, plumbers and even Meralco linemen. In other words, our skilled workers too. This is one valid argument against going nuclear---imagine if our nuke technicians walk out like the PAL pilots did?

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I recall that at the height of the nursing exodus, President Macapagal Arroyo said that one solution was to put up more nursing schools. This was a good argument in the sense that it raises the standard of our human exports above the level of the DHs. But the problem that soon emerged was the proliferation of sub-standard nursing schools, that caused foreign recruiters to threaten to boycott RP unless something was done; the government had to crack down on those sub-standard schools.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s really little one can do with the global demand except to keep training more and more skilled and professional workers---not while our economy still has to pick up and our industrialization still has to go full steam. Training more people will heavily tax the education sector in its present state, but that may be the only solution at the moment. Ultimately it will produce more foreign remittances from our higher-quality OFWs, and as the economy improves, it would pull up the standard of our schools, training and educating more of our people. The circle goes round and round.

One day soon, we hope, our people don’t have to seek their fortunes in foreign shores.

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Former Senate President Jovito Salonga recently celebrated his 90th birthday, surrounded by family members, some of whom came from various parts of the world, loyal friends and admirers. Twice in his long life he came close to death’s call. The first when he was brutally tortured by the Japanese military police in front of his aging father for his underground activities against Japanese propaganda, and the second when he was among those bombed in Plaza Miranda on Aug. 21, 1971. None of his 34 doctors gave him more than a 5 percent chance to live at that time.

Salonga read a short message full of wit and humor, titled "Life Begins at 80," when he celebrated that age back in June 2000. For his 90th birthday last June, he rehashed that message as “Life begins at 80, but better still, make it to 90,” with due respect to famed Mindanao missionary Frank Laubach. Let's pass on these gems of thought to those who are working their way rather fearfully to a glorious 80 or an industructible 90 years.

“The first 80 years are the hardest. The second 80 are a succession of birthday parties. Once you reach 80 (as in the case of the flamboyant Imelda), everyone wants to carry your baggage and help you up the steps. If you forget your name or anybody else’s, or an appointment, or your own phone number, or you can’t remember how many grandchildren you have, you need only explain that you are 80.

“Being 80 is a lot better than being 70. At 70, people are mad at you for everything. At 80 you have a perfect excuse, no matter what you do. If you act foolishly, it’s your second childhood. Everybody is looking for symptoms of ‘brain-softening .’

“Being 70 is no fun at all. At 70 they expect you to retire to a house in Baguio or Tagaytay. And complain about your arthritis. And you ask everybody to stop mumbling because you can’t understand them (due to the Plaza Miranda bombing? Actually your hearing is about 50 percent gone).

“If you survive until you’re 80, everyone is surprised that you’re still alive. They treat you with respect just for having lived so long. Actually, they seem surprised that you can walk and talk sensibly.

"So please, folks, try and make it to 80---or better still, make it to 90…It’s the best time of life. People forgive you for anything. If you ask me, life begins at 80---or preferably at 90. Salamat po."

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