Internet Cafes in Asingan

5 Internet Cafes in Asingan? You better believe it! I know because I have gone to all of them. These are the ones around the town proper. How good are they? Two are excellent: very fast, myDSL 256, and with big monitors (17 inches), webcam, headset, not the poor kind. Not cheap – they are inexpensive: To surf, you pay only 20 pesos an hour, which translates to almost 25 cents US. Do they have customers is not a question – how come there are 5 cafes in a sleepy town like Asingan is the question. What I don’t like about them is that they are crowded, very crowded, like this: C R O W D E D, with almost no elbow room. They are trying to maximize their earnings per square meter. That’s their mathematics. It’s bad economics of course. And it’s bad for the education of the children. Why? They are all there playing games, and the one keeping the store is happy that way. Internet at the expense of education – that is the ultimate foolishness.

And that is why I’m writing this. I’m ready, willing and able to put up an Internet Café in Asingan, and I have no problem with moneyI have none. Anyone interested who doesn’t have my problem?

The vegetable industry in Asingan is not dying it’s dead. My brother Emilio tells me that those who sell the vegetables in Asingan now get their supply from Urdaneta! The world is upside down. When I was in high school, Urdaneta was buying from Asingan. Asingan was overflowing with vegetables, excellent quality. My mother, Baket Satur, even used to go to Divisoria in Binondo, she and others sitting or lying on top of big woven bamboo baskets (kaing) full of eggplants or tomatoes over-piled in and hauled by a big truck to Manila.

Last year, I had a chance to talk with Modesto Gabriel, who is Chair of the Bantog Samahang Nayon Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and I asked him about my town that used to be the eggplant and tomato bowl of Pangasinan, if not Central Luzon, if not Manila. (I was able to go to college out of the sales of eggplants and tomatoes, believe it or not.) And he told me it’s a pity that when the farmers plant eggplants now, the plants attacked by pests and the pesticides don’t work much anymore. And fertilizers don’t work anymore like they used to.

I’m a graduate of UP Los Baños and I should be able to explain it even if I have been mostly away for 40 years or more. I’m 66, in case you were interested. If you use chemical fertilizer for years and years, there comes a time when the soil is actually poisoned and will not give you healthy plants – the soil becomes acidic. If you over-spray pesticides, the insects develop immunity and they get back to you with a vengeance. That’s why I’d like to go back to Asingan (I’m right now in Los Baños) and share what I know about how we can raise healthy vegetables by making the soils – treating them well, applying organic matter, avoiding over-cultivation, avoiding spraying, avoiding fertilizing. In rice or vegetables, the farmers are complaining that farming has become so expensive. It’s the farmers who over-spend. And you know why? It’s the agriculturists like me who taught them and continue to teach them! At least I stopped recommending chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides about 40 years ago and started recommending organic farming – awan basolkon, di kadi?

The Agno River has always been angry, eating up farms and fields when there is a flood. After looking at the raging waters one day many, many years ago, I remember telling my father, Lakay Disiong, to sell our bangkag (non-irrigated farm) on the other side of the river in Sanchez, the side of Santa Maria. That farm had very fertile soil. He said, ‘Apay nga ilakok ngay? Tila sasawem! Di awanen ti pangalaan ti pagbiag?’ Why should I sell it? Don’t tell me such a thing. If we sell, there goes our livelihood. It’s true; that bangkag sent us to college, me and my sister Brillita. But we had graduated already at that time. I explained to him: Although the river was still about 500 meters away from our bangkag, I saw that the water was eroding (eating away) the banks of the river, and I told my father that in 5 years, the water will reach that bangkag. He did not believe me. Who was I to foretell the future? Well, within 5 years, our bangkag and those of others were eaten by the Agno River. Was the agriculturist a good fortune teller? No, he was using science to predict the immediate future.

A different school. I’ve been corresponding with a fantastic author, Donna Williams, an Australian, who can write much better than I can, and she has told me that I can help found a different kind of school and I can ask for funding from some groups in Australia. I have talked with Manang Andring (Alejandria Salom-Javier) of Bantog, who has been a schoolteacher all her life (she’s retired now), and she is very much interested. The idea of the school is that of an extended family, not more than 55 children at a time, growing up and learning as one community of learners. Why 55? Because that’s the maximum that has been found where you can still be on nodding acquaintance with each other. Teaching/learning with too many students at any one time becomes impersonal and mechanistic. One-on-one is still the best way to teach. Anyone who is willing to donate a house and lot for a school like that?


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