by Heidi M. Pascual

       For Filipino Americans in Madison who are interested in more than just cultural shows and entertainment, the
Kapihan gatherings provide the venue,  the issue/s for discussion, and lead discussants. If one is looking for a place to really engage in serious dialogue, even on matters considered  taboo by tradition, belief, and religion, Kapihan is the place to be.
      Around 30 or so community members met on Saturday,  April 22, at the United Way, to listen to presentations by Gemma Bulos,  founder of A Single Drop and A Million Voice Choir, and Prof. Paul Hutchcroft of the University of Wisonsin-Madison Political Science Department. There was a question and answer portion after each     presentation. Bulos not only awed her audience by her song/composition,
We Rise, but by her effort at making people all over the world to sing it. The song is the theme of her global campaign for safe water in third world countries through training community members in building the BioSand Water Filter, as well as Rainwater Harvesting Technology (where appropriate). A Single Drop has started strategic      partnerships with local nonprofits in the Philippines, for example, that support water and sanitation projects that provide access to potable water. Bulos travels all over the world to help raise awareness for safe water and unity for global peace.
      UW's Paul Hutchcroft, who has written extensively on Philippine politics and economy, talked about recent political  happenings in the Philippines and gave his insights. "The system is struggling to maintain its legitimacy," Hutcroft said of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's recent bout with an aborted coup d'e'tat. "In light of an ongoing military unrest, will the democratic institution survive?"
    
Kapihan (Coffee gathering)
Tackling serious Filipino issues
Gemma Bulos explains the work of A Single Drop in the Philippines.
UW's Paul Hutchcroft, who has written extensively on Philippine politics and economy, gives his insights on recent political  happenings in the Philippines.
     Comparing the presidency of Arroyo with that of Cory Aquino after the 1986 People Power revolution, Hutchcroft said that Arroyo had no mandate like Aquino, who had the 1987 Constitution to back her legitimate power. Arroyo tried to secure this legitimacy in 2004, he continued, but the huge patronage machine worked for her and declared her victory amid allegations of cheating and use of public funds to win the election. The key issue, Hurchcroft pointed out, has something to do with electoral administration. He said Arroyo was caught micromanaging the election of 2004. In addition, NAMFREL (National Movement for Free Election), was more concerned with giving Arroyo the legitimacy she needed rather than coming out clean with the truth. Hutchcroft also challenged his listeners to see why the present House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia supports Arroyo''s efforts to convert the legislature into a unicameral assembly. With a remote chance at the presidency through direct  vote, Hutchcroft said that de Venecia has the opportunity to become the Prime Minister in case the Constitution is amended through Congress.
    
     There was a lively discussion afterward that  enlightened those present about two seemingly unrelated issues: safe water  and politics in the Philippines. In the end, many observed that there is a connection. Politics is always involved, whether or not the issues seem too  far off. Decision makers are usually the elected officials -- in the national, provincial, city or town, and the barrio, level.
Kapihan participants and volunteers (l-r) Jenny Ybanez, Joan Couey, anna Maria Manalo, and Jennifer Rodis
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