The “ReVOTElution” Is Being Done in Leyte

by Bobby Reyes

Michael Foster, a Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) volunteer, takes a child’s temperature. | Photo by Erika N. Jones via Wikimedia

Part III of the “ReVOTElution of H.O.P.E.” Series

Yes, the “ReVOTElution of Helping Other People Everywhere” is being done in a small rural town in Leyte. And since 2002 at that.

Actually, a retired Filipino dentist in Los Angeles, California, named Rustico B. Balderian, went back to Tabontabon (Leyte) in 2002 and helped his townmates get an education in nursing and entrepreneurship. He founded the Santa Lourdes of Leyte Foundation, Inc. to provide a means of tertiary education to the people of his hometown and the surrounding area. Please read a portion of the Intro Note on its website at this link.

Dr. Balderian, whose nickname is “Rusty,” and I first met in 2001, a few months after I was elected the chairman of the Board of the Leyte-Samar Association (LSA), Inc., of Los Angeles, CA. The LSA had to amend its by-laws first to permit a non-native scion (like me) of Leyte or Samar to become an officer. I qualified, as I have first cousins and a half-sister in Northern Samar and a brother-in-law in Western Samar. And I had also been writing about the “Balangiga Bells” of Eastern Samar.

During our first meeting at his dental clinic at the Eagle Rock district of Los Angeles, Dr. Balderian refused assistance from any community or civic organization. It appeared at that time that he was trying to avoid even community politics. Perhaps he did not want to be caught in a “cross fire” in my fight for reforms in the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, Inc. (NaFFAA). The NaFFAA in-fighting, which became nasty, started in 2000, was highly publicized. Its founders eventually kicked me out and some 35 community supporters that represented more than 100 civic associations. But we kept in touch with each other, and eventually, we became Facebook friends.

“… from mutual friends that Dr. Balderian’s college project succeeded beyond his initial goals. All of its nursing graduates passed the Philippine Board exam. And some of them now work in foreign hospitals as experienced board-certified nurses.”

I gathered information from mutual friends that Dr. Balderian’s college project succeeded beyond his initial goals. All of its nursing graduates passed the Philippine Board exam. And some of them now work in foreign hospitals as experienced board-certified nurses.

And the people of Tabontabon persuaded Dr. Balderian to run for mayor. He did and won twice. Apparently, he made the mistake of running for a seat in the House of Representatives, and he lost. The information that I obtained alleged that many established political figures ganged up on him. They defeated him also when he ran for the third time for mayor. The political opponents of Dr. Balderian allegedly gave 10,000 pesos (worth U.S.$200) per voter to targeted individuals. This was 10 times the normal amount some politicians doled to voters in Sorsogon Province when I ran for governor in 2016.

My fellow OFW/Overseas-Filipino Nation leaders and I tried to entice Dr. Ballderian to join us in fielding a national slate for 2022. But he prefers only to engage in the politics of his beloved hometown. He may run again for mayor in the 2022 election. But he shares our common aspirations, goals, and motivations for the “ReVOTElution,” which he wittingly (or unwittingly) did and proved that they could be done.

But Dr. Balderian was very excited to read my report in this column about the World Health Organization’s 2019 (pre-pandemic) report that there is a coming shortage of six million trained and Board-certified nurses by 2030. He concurred with this writer that it is feasible for Philippine nursing schools to fill up half of the needed nurses. And if every indigent family can turn out a qualified nurse (with the help of willing-and-capable OFWs and Overseas Filipinos) to be deployed abroad, that medical worker will elevate his (or her family) to the Middle Class in 10 years. Just imagine three-million PROMDI (from the province) families being now financially independent and empowered. What effect on politics will vote-buying have since many Filipino nurses working in North America and Europe will be earning each from $75,000 to $120,000 per year?

Dr. Balderian and I met at a coffee shop in a bookstore at a Torrance (CA) mall last Friday. We discussed the “ReVOTElution” and the socio-economic situation in his hometown, province, and region. Our talk also touched on the pandemic and even the need of indigent patients for dialysis. There is indeed the urgency for a modern but affordable health-maintenance organization (HMO) in the Philippines. He said that there is not much healthcare infrastructure in the rustic towns (pun intended) in distant provinces. He was happy to learn that “universal healthcare” (as discussed in Part II of this series) is the primary project or goal of the “ReVOTElution.”

But Dr. Balderian cast doubt whether Corporate Philippines and the present political leaders would support our idea of raising the minimum wage to PHpesos 1,000 (approximately $20.62) per day. Or $2.58 per hour. The current minimum wage in the provinces is PHpesos 350 (equivalent to $7.22) per day. Or $0.90 per hour. I explained to Dr. Balderin that a living wage of a thousand pesos per day would enable the minimum-wage earner at least PHpesos 100 each for healthcare premium, social security contributions, and a retirement fund. And double the worker’s take-home pay, actually. Moreover, the minimum wage should be tax-free, up to a limit of PHpesos 100,000 income per year per household (as I also proposed to a presidential candidate in the 2016 election, aside from including it in the platform of my candidacy).

He asked me where local government units (LGUs) get the funds for all the social programs and assist small businesses to afford the increased minimum wage? I replied to him that I have already written in this column (and on Facebook) how to end the pork-barrel allocations of the Philippine Congress and the Executive Department as the initial funding. Then we use 100% of the Value-Added Tax (VAT) to finance the “Healthcare for All” HMO national project. But, unfortunately, politicians often waste the pork-barrel funds and the VAT taxes in ghost projects, ghost employees, and plain corruption.

“…we hope to produce a brief documentary film about Dr. Balderian’s “ReVOTElution” in the Tabontabon town of Leyte. It will become the template of rural development.”

Ultimately, we hope to produce a brief documentary film about Dr. Balderian “ReVOTElution” in the Tabontabon town of Leyte. It will become the template of rural development. It should also feature the urgent need for farmers to engage in the cultivation of cash crops like sweet potato (known locally as “camote”) and turn them into chips and fries. An agricultural college in Leyte has produced the so-called “Miracle Camote” that could be harvested in 90 days. I mentioned this fact in my letter to the Philippine President in August 2018. The correspondence was about how to end the rice and meat crisis of the Philippines, as they were being imported.

I also mentioned to Dr. Balderian the project of a retired Filipino-American educator, Dr. Art Pacho, who also hails from Leyte. Dr. Pacho has proposed cultivating more fruits in the Philippines and turning the excess harvests, those damaged and the over-ripe ones, into “fruit wines.” He has written a book about fruit wines. The Pacho Proposal is in line with the concept of producing locally (and for export) an alcoholic drink under the domain name www.2pinacoladas.com, which this columnist has registered.

Perhaps the documentary film can be turned eventually into a 13-part series by my other friend, Nelson Vargas of Bohol. Mr. Vargas is a film producer, actor, and director. He is also the Region VII chairman of the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM), a budding political party.

“God willing, and with the aid of the human-and-financial resources of the OFWs and Overseas Filipinos, the “ReVOTElution” may be able to reinvent Philippine politics and nation-building in just four elections cycles.”

Our idea is to do video records during the 2022 election campaign of the economic assets, environmental problems, health concerns, and tourism potentials of all the provinces. And eventually, do a regional 13-part series from mid-2022 to 2025 province by province. In addition, we have to record the promises and proposals of local and national candidates. Why? It will be hard for the 2022 winners to forget their versions of party platforms and do nothing — if people can view them by watching them on television or smartphones. We have to stop turning the Philippines into a “Land of Broken Promises.”

God willing, and with the aid of the human-and-financial resources of the OFWs and Overseas Filipinos, the “ReVOTElution” may be able to reinvent Philippine politics and nation-building in just four elections cycles. Yes, from 2022-to-2031. In just nine years. But we have to help turn out first the local equivalent of a Rusty Balderian in the 81 provinces of the Philippines. Or a majority of the tens of thousands of Philippine towns.

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