STORIES (August 2003) 1) MCT Users A. Ms. Letty Tano (Malingao) Written by Edilberto Limare, eDI Letty Tano is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Multi-purpose Community Telecenter. She is fifty-six years old. She does farming with her husband. They tilled four hectares of banana planted under coconut trees. They actually own only two but also till the two of the three hectares of her mother’s. Farming is the only means of living she knows because she only finished grade school. All weekdays they go to the farm. They went in the morning and come back in the afternoon. Sunday is their rest day. The two of them are the only ones left at their home because five of their children are already married and the youngest is attending master’s course in Biology in Iligan City: she occasionally comes home in weekends. Letty is a busy and hardworking woman. She does household chores as soon as she arrives home. She has a garden where she spends her leisure hours. She has gone to big cities like Manila but she likes the spatial luxury that country life offers. She seldom goes out to socialize (except when she goes to trainings or seminars). Though she does not often expose herself to the community, people recognize her capabilities. This was confirmed by the fact that the barangay captain recommended her, though she was not known to be his ally, to be one of the members of the MCT Board of Trustees when an eDI staff scouted for potential leaders. She has a strong sense of independence and does not seek approval. She has a strong drive for knowledge. She grabs every opportunity to learn: she attended seminars, lectures, training and non-formal education classes or anything that could somehow augment her knowledge or skills. She even begged the Barangay Captain for inclusion in a one-year educational program to determine one’s equivalence in the educational ladder. She was obviously refused due to advanced age. Education occupies her top motivation. She said that she worked hard and invested much for the education of her children. It was a big blow for her that five of her children got married without finishing their courses in college. Her eyes were cast on the floor as she narrated their stories. Her voice was couched with disappointment. Her consolation was her youngest daughter who made distinction in her studies. She looked at it as new opportunity for learning when she was invited to join the MCT. She became even busier but her husband understands her in her involvement with the MCT. He does her wife’s chores and sees to it that food is ready when Letty arrives from the meetings. Sometimes when she felt too tired to attend meetings after a day in the farm, her husband would push her and would advise that she better quit if she wouldn’t go. It was a long struggle for Letty to gain the present supportiveness of her husband. Before, her husband was very domineering and would not listen to her. He would consider only himself. Letty took to many ways on how to get her husband recognize her being a person. She was prohibited to attend seminars, which Letty hankered of. She had once tried drinking Tanduay just to be able to muster courage to speak up to her husband on the matter but still didn’t work. One day she asked her husband again. But this time she intended to bring him with her. Her husband did not permit even after many persuasions. Letty gave up and went to the farm alone with a heavy heart. After spending a little solitude, she decided to come down passing by the church. To her surprise, she saw her husband attending the seminar. She made herself un-noticed and left with prayers in her heart that may her husband be enlightened by the seminar. The seminar was about basic awareness. She pretended to have no idea where her husband had gone when he arrived home. Then he started talking with a chastened tone. Letty was very happy. From thereon they have become classmates in similar occasions and Letty began to have a share in the decision-making. This extended also to the children. Her husband has realized how he treated her and the children. He has realized how it affected him being raised in a broken family with a father who was very strict and domineering. As member of the MCT Board of Trustees, Letty is exemplar when it comes to punctuality. She always comes on time and invariably the first to arrive in the meeting place. She is serious in her participation. She claimed to have gained new learning about meetings. She said that many meetings she attended in the past wasted a lot of time. Agenda were not clearly defined so, oftentimes the discussions went nowhere. They had long discussions but achieved very little. Now she already expects clear output in every meeting. She has become observant and pensive during discussions. She does not talk when she thinks it unnecessary. She only threw valuable shots. She has watched the eDI staff facilitate meetings. She is confident that she can handle the task if given the trust. She shared with pride to her daughter her experience in the eHealth conference in Opol, Misamis Oriental. She felt empowered meeting with people holding key positions in the government. She understood the dynamics of the conference but she confessed that she did not understand much of what the speakers were saying. What came to her was that the Telecenter is a new concept employing ICT to provide rural communities equal access to information. Letty is a good observer. She really is watching things going around as manifested when she narrated her observation in the development of the society. She recalled that old values like the authority resided on patriarchy was patterned after the monarchial society --- that to answer back to parents means disrespect. Today’s generation is educated in the concept of democracy hence the family should be governed by mutual respect to every member and differences could be healed more effectively through open dialoguing. She resented the old system in which women were viewed as “taman ra sa lampin” (good for the nappies only) as she described it --- of which she was a victim. Men were given priority to educational access. She also refused the idea that outsourcing responsibility rests on the shoulder of the men. Life, according to her, has become so difficult that it has become necessary for wives to help their husband. On the staff’s visit in her home, she asked him to help her in the research in the Internet for better management of banana diseases. She observed that the leaves of her banana plants withered prematurely. She had attended a seminar given by the department of agriculture. She learned that the most effective way of controlling or eliminating the disease is to uproot the whole infected plant and burn it. She is somehow discontented with the method. She is optimistic that there must be other ways to control the disease without uprooting the whole plant. That way, she wants to know. She does not like also the idea of spraying pesticide because other plant-friendly predators might be eliminated along with. While she is hopeful that she could probably get some information in the Internet, she does not know yet how to operate the computer to do the research. She dreams that the Telecenter would be able to reach out the youth especially the out of school ones. She mentioned how great the help the Telecenter brings to the different sectors of their community most especially to the education sector: the time, the resources and the convenience they save due to its presence in their barangay. She looks forward that the Telecenter could do more to their empowerment. She is wishful that she would always be part of the Telecenter’s achievement in the community. B. Mr. Rommel Ditche (Taguitic) Written by Edilberto Limare, eDI Rommel Ditche is 23 years old. He was orphaned with both parents at an early age. The family was survived by her elder sisters who managed their way to success through their own initiatives. Rommel, on his part, graduated in the course of Bachelor of Science in Elementary education as a working student. He is now preparing to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). He lives just a few meters across the MCT. Rommel is seldom seen along with friends. He is reserved in his speech. He seemingly has a low level of confidence as in one instance; he tarried long before he made the final step of approaching a teacher for a certain purpose. An eDI staff once asked him, seeing in him great potential, to take the lead of the volunteers. This, he immediately turned down. When the Telecenter first opened in the year 2000, he did not get interested. He speculated that such indifference was attributed to his first experience with computers in college which he regarded as intricate. It never came to him to use computer in his school projects because he did not really know how to use it. He had a computer subject in his course but he confessed he did not really learn at all because there were only about a total of five hours hands on and all the rest of the sessions were all theories and discussions. Their school provided only a few computers for a considerable number of students. He joined the MCT volunteers when he went home for a school break. He did not get active at that time. He preferred to stay at home and lingered in front of the television to spend the day. However, he occasionally attended seminars conducted by the eDI. When he came home after graduation, he finally decided to get active and saw for the first time what the telecenter can possibly do to his enrichment. He has also begun to realize how much it can potentially do to help the community as he has observed that a number of people have become busy for meetings and trainings. “There has been mobilization within the community. Neighbors talked to their neighbors about the Telecenter. Some talents and abilities were discovered.” He said citing an example of their neighbor who was told by another neighbor about the Telecenter during their laundry session in the communal tap. The daughter of her neighbor eventually became the bookkeeper of the MCT. His interest to learn computer was aroused as he held the mouse during a literacy session. He said that it was not the same in their school where computers were difficult to manage or maybe because he got anxious then because a classmate at the back would wait for his turn. He laughed as he recounted his story. He saw his computer class as an ordeal to get a passing grade. He said, “It was a different experience in the MCT because being a volunteer we are given access to computers if there are no customers. And we have enough time because there are already four on-line computers aside from the off-line ones. He learned other applications like Excel and Powerpoint. “It was all hands on.” He said. “Above all I did not pay a single peso for what I acquired.” He added with a satisfied gesture. He said that he is not yet an expert, but his new skill in computer is truly an advantage. He looked forward to apply his knowledge in Excel to compute grades if he would be given a chance to practice his teaching career. He said that Excel is very useful for such an operation. It can also be used in making Student Registry. “The system”, he explained, “is very simple. Since the Telecenter is just a few steps away, the teacher makes her folder in the computer. In the folder, she would save her files or records either in the drive C or in a floppy disc. In the case of grade computations, he/she would simply feed the results of the exams in an Excel program and the computer would automatically process the data.” He has already conducted literacy training to the different puroks. He was proud to have taught one of the teachers in the elementary school. However, he thought that it was not time yet to teach her about Excel since their session started from the very basic as to holding a mouse and explaining the uses of computers. He said that as of the moment, they are agreeing with other volunteers when to implement their second batch training on basic computer literacy program. When asked why not prioritize follow up program, he said that they are still on the process of designing their module for that particular program. 2) MCT Non-User A. Tessie Jambo (Malingao) Written by Edilberto Limare, eDI An eDI staff overheard Tessie Jambo, when the former went to visit his friend (the husband of Tessie), complaining about the futility of the computer or the Internet project in the barangays. The eDI staff turned to listen to her. She said that computers or Internet work always for the advantage of the rich and powerful. The rich have big businesses. They use the computers or Internet to facilitate their business. They have the capital and the poor are their customers. The computers are only helping widen the gap between the rich and the poor. The Telecenter endeavor is just an insignificant blow against the strongly established economic order. It cannot achieve significant change. “Even inside the Telecenter itself, I heard that the most prominent volunteers have the dictate. Now the volunteers are heard quarrelling among themselves.” She said. Tessie Jambo is 32 years old. She is a mother of three siblings. She lives just about 250 meters away from the telecenter. She is a plain housewife. Her husband was a parish leader. His source of income comes from driving “habal habal” and from peddling fish. Tessie once attended one of the telecenter sponsored literacy trainings in Tubod some two years past. She said that she spent money to go to Tubod but was not satisfied with the training because they could touch the computer only in a short time, as there were only a few computers for all the participants. She said that her skill in the computer was never augmented because she was even ashamed to enter in the barangay hall. Besides, they were simple trainees at that time unlike today that trainees become volunteers. “As simple trainees, we did not have a sense of involvement in the project. We were mere recipients or beneficiaries. Whereas, being a volunteer puts you in charge of the computers, thus gives you not only better access but above all, a sense of being co-operator and incorporator of the project.” She said comparing the former system with that of the eDI. Pessimistic though she is, she still wants to pursue learning computer. She said that it is better to have little than none at all. Besides, computer will be the technology of the years to come. Many households will have it. It would be as ordinary as having a television. Though she is related to the Barangay Captain, she expressed that she does not feel good passing inside the barangay hall before getting into the telecenter office. She contemplated that patrons would multiply rapidly if it would have a separate building from the barangay. She added that only prominent people in the community entered the Telecenter. Simple farmers, vendors, drivers would not feel at ease going inside the barangay hall. Much less to an air-conditioned telecenter inside barangay hall with computers and all the air of technological sophistication alien to the rural folks. Her friend complemented the suggestion citing the experience of her son who once tried to avail of the computer services but did not enter when he saw that there was a Barangay Development Council meeting held in the hall. Tessie continued to say that she even believed that many farmers do not know about the Telecenter because what they can see is a barangay hall. In fact, the Telecenter did not reap instant popular excitement, as it deserved owing to its novelty because it is overshadowed by the barangay hall’s overarching influence. She wished that the telecenter would somehow be able to achieve a difference in their community. This would become more possible when it has a separate building from the Barangay hall. And the volunteers would patch up their differences soon.