Renato Tibon .
“A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds.” (Saint Basil)
IT perplexes me no end figuring why merchants especially stall retailers sell over-priced fruits and other highly perishable produce while allowing more than half to just waste away and later discarded. I assume they’re sourced cheap and thus should be priced fairly. If we follow the basic principle of supply and demand, prices are pegged lower when there’s a surplus of commodities especially of the kind that are easily spoiled. People tend to buy and consume more when inexpensive fruits and vegetables abound ensuring a fair return of capital for middlemen and retailers. Conversely, consumers shun from buying unreasonably priced items even if they’re touted as health food. We read from posts on social media or Google a deluge of information about the nourishing qualities of local mango, banana, soursop (guyabano) or avocado and other seasonal fruits albeit only a few avails of this bounty because the price tags are not consumer-friendly. You can find it around the country but P100 per kilo for mango? Even at P80 and aplenty, many people ignore them and guess where the overripe, blighted, unsold ones end up. I can understand avocado selling at P80/kilo, that to me is fairly cheap considering its health benefits as breakfast food but not everyone knows it. On shelves or market stalls, their quality deteriorates and even if they later sell them cheap when their values have dropped from half-edible to good-for-nothing, of course, there won’t be any takers.
I am concerned with the decrepitude of values attached to this avarice. We are a country blessed with rich natural resources, with a superabundance of food, fruit, vegetables and other crops, yet we only take them for granted and don’t give a hoot if they’re trampled underfoot. Mindanao is considered food basket in the country and a surfeit of produce would mean our people are overly fed. Or are they? Records of poverty incidence at the Department of Agriculture and DENR are foreboding. Four of the top five poorest regions are in Mindanao. Despite this, Mindanao is receiving a measly 14.5-percent share of the national budget. Recent statistics may have shown a decline of poverty incidence during the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte. Yet the decline is minimal while the damage is palpable. There are still a good number of our countrymen identified as not only poor but hungry poor especially the indigenous people in Bukidnon and Cotabato who can no longer till their ancestral lands. Mindanaonons are starving in their own lands because they became vassals to big businessmen and are totally dependent on the dole-outs of politicians who are only interested on the votes they get during elections.
People, busy with their own affairs and survival don’t care. Imperial Manila and those obnoxious oligarchs don’t care. Traditional politicians, local government officials, church leaders, civil society and people enjoying their lives inside an economic bubble which could burst anytime this benighted country is handed back to the same people who caused so much misery to the poor and downtrodden, just don’t care. While the apathy persists, vagabonds and itinerant junk gatherers scour garbage for useful items, frequent food stalls for edible leftovers whereas underpaid wage-earners such as security guards, utility men, laborers and contractual workers fall prey and become willing victims of fly-by-night, get-rich-quick investment schemes and dubious networking activities which only worsened their already sorry conditions. Powerlessness in a sea of abundance is like the inability to drink while being enclosed in a body of saltwater.
Rotten attitudes in a land teeming with rotting produce. When lanzones, rambutan, mangosteen, pomelos, even homegrown durian are bounteous, are they priced cheap? No. The buying public ignores them until they start to decay. Are they given to the poor and hungry before they get beyond useful? No. They’re carted away to the dumps. When the supply is scarce, the more they get expensive, the demand is less and when they rot, they’re likewise thrown away. Fruits are blessings and are meant to be consumed by all. The Land of Mindanao is brimming with powerhouse veggies and fruits such as tomatoes, squash, cabbage, carrots, pineapple, durian and a variety of products which are prized finds in other countries. Yet we largely ignore them and patronize instead imports such as apples and oranges which are sold way cheaper. Some are allowed to deteriorate at source if market prices are not favorable to traders. Could this mindset be influenced by our colonial past? Or are we living up to our reputation of irresponsibility (blaming others), inconsideration (thoughtless of others’ welfare), hypocrisy (being double-faced), crab mentality (pulling down those who are succeeding) and the annoying come-what-may (bahala na) habit?
They say we had been suffering from this extreme malaise since foreign cultures have subjugated our lands reducing us to negativity and utter hopelessness. But I beg to disagree. Filipinos are known to be hardworking, honest and dependable in other countries. In fact, they have assimilated and have greatly influenced other cultures with our carefree spirit, trustworthiness, strong family ties, generosity, desirable work ethics, inherently loving and caring attitudes which are the envy of their employers, neighbors and newfound acquaintances. We are not a damaged culture as yet in our own lands. Now can we can get our acts together and buckle down to real work?
(Renato Gica Tibon is a fellow of the Fellowship of the 300, an elite organization under Centrist Democracy Political Institute [CDPI] with focus on political technocracy. He holds both position as political action officer and program manager of the Institute. He is the former regional chairman for Region 10 and vice president for Mindanao of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines [CDP].)