There was a proposal to drop the letter “A,” for amateur, from AFAG, the Association of Filipino Amateur Geologists. The rationale is: most of the brods are already professionals and the name of the association should reflect that status correspondingly. That sounds reasonable, but this is less an issue of functional appearance but more of a transcendent existence.
We are talking here not of being professionals or amateurs, as the issue appears to have focused on. We are talking here of history, the story of a special breed of people, of a special experience about learning and friendship, when rocks were pure joy and friends were the reason for being.
AFAG was Filipino history itself
As you all know, AFAG agglomerated in 1959. Calling it AFAG, then, was not as an acronym for Association of Filipino Amateur Geologists; rather, the name AFAG was a rallying symbol that solidified a band of students who, for various academic reasons, found their way into the U.P. Geology Department (now NIGS).
They were a bunch of engineering and liberal arts stragglers (shifters they righteously called themselves) who transferred to the Department of Geology. To shift, or transfer to another course during those times, particularly from a science course, meant that one had overrated himself so as to have enrolled in a technical course that demanded lots of brains, which he soon realized, and with all braveness of heart, had to shift his college course. Hence, like ugly ducklings, they were snubbed by the geology upperclassmen of that time, which were original geology enrollees and were moneyed scholars of oil companies. The originals arrogated the drafting room, a choice private room under the stairway, for their tambayan and for their publicized poker sessions. They called themselves Katipunan.
The outsiders, mostly offbeats in thinking themselves, naturally gravitated towards each other and decided one day to organize. If the elite residents were katipuneros, the emigres said, then we were afags.
The time was a decade after WorldWar2. The plight of unrecognized guerrillas was a familiar story in the newspapers and magazines. To be recognized meant a hefty back pay for the war years and being integrated into the army, the surest way of getting a salaried job during those days.
One might remember that shortly after the war, a band of guerillas called the Anderson’s Filipino American Guerrillas (AFAG) was refused recognition by the government and was not accorded a back pay, a bitter struggle during that time. The AFAG exposed the so-called Escolta guerrillas and Avenida guerrillas, the shrewd buyers and sellers of stolen clothes in the wartime Manila, who, upon the arrival of the Americans in 1945, suddenly mushroomed as groups in khaki uniforms, complete with high rank insignias, pistol belts, and guns, and proclaimed they liberated the city. They got privileges in the army camps, especially in the business of selling PX goods.
The AFAGs, the sun-beaten unshaven fighters, meantime were branded as rabble-rousers, troublemakers, and later accused of being bandits. Many went back to the Montalban hills in the fashion of Gen. Sakay of the Katipunan, who was also called a bandit during the American pacification campaign of the early 1900s. The AFAGs said that they did not care for back pay or recognition because they fought the Japanese never imagining money or sardines and corned beef, but for the freedom of their people. Happily, some years later, they were recognized as legitimate freedom fighters. Their stories were told alongside that of Gen. Yay Marking’s guerrillas in the Rizal Sierra Madre.
History repeated itself in the geology shifters: talented, confident of themselves, but sticking out like angular pebbles in claystone, they found a name for themselves: AFAG.
Through the years, afag was a dirty word. Some professors sought out the afags on the first day of the semester and announced them, as if to warn the class. The AFAG fought for recognition on the campus, but no puede, only the UPGS (UP Geological Society) was allowed. Still the AFAG multiplied like cockroaches in the dark. They went out of the UP campus, preaching academic excellence and love of country. This was many years earlier than the Kabataang Makabayan (KM) call to activism. AFAG sprouted in Adamson University and Mapua Institute of Technology, and its members became academic standouts. Its existence under question, AFAG made clear that it was not a UP geology organization, but an association of students of geology, no matter from which school they were. Later, AFAG registered its name in the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the group was granted a beribboned piece of paper granting AFAG its legal right to be there. Most of you remember that struggle for existence.
Now, many years later, and with so many names appended to the top roster of many mining and oil exploration companies, and much like those of the Sierra Madre guerrillas, AFAG is a respected name.
AFAG was a time of truth and innocent exuberance
For me, amateur in AFAG meant the days when a ragtag dozen UP students surreptitiously held meetings at the Adamson University, teaching courage and rights and rocks; AFAG was the long bawdy line of dirty jeans perched on two sides of the bridge to the Chemistry Pavilion; AFAG brings back the memory of a professor who, with a booming voice, asked a bunch in his class, “AFAG ka ba?” (Are you an afag?) As if it was the best time for him to drop the course! And that professor’s fallen face when he discovered that his best student in stratigraphy was AFAG, and he had to back down, “AFAG ka pala!” (Oh, you are an afag!). Still Dr. Mateo Tupas and Ray Punongbayan accepted them with, “AFAG ‘yan!” (He is an AFAG!) for which we walked tall in the dimly lighted corridors of the 3rd Pavilion.
AFAG is about a time in our lives. A time when we created a world beyond the threat of failure, not even physics nor chemistry could touch us and erode our joy. During those days, there was always the next sem for our chem. We were amateurs who basked in the thought that we knew a lot, and the world laid before us like a mountain that we should climb, not merely to take delight in the scenery but to see the rocks.
Each little piece of rock we picked on the campus, by the roadside, on a gravel pile, was an excitement as we recognized a speck of epidote, a tiny sliver of a leaf in the adobe clay. The first 10X hand lens was our most prized possession that hung down our chests with much visible pride. It was the emblem of our existence, announcing to the world that we were students of the ancient rocks. We spoke a language that made even professors of other studies turn to the dictionary. That made us unique and we were also talked about. That was being an amateur geologist.
We knew that we were smart, but the world of rocks always looked so vast, and places were far away and there we must go. The mountains were Sierra Madre, never mind if it was just Montalban in view every day. Just talking of the rocks that might be out there was already a joy. We did not know then that there was very little we knew. And we would not have believed had anyone told us so. That was because we were amateur geologists.
We held a piece of rock that we picked from the ground differently. We were always ready to share it with a friend and it somehow acquired a smell of the different hands that held it close to their eyes, so close to their noses. Those little rocks even evolved a characteristic smell that we knew could come only from the fondness of so many hands. That rock-smell was part of our being young, of being an amateur geologist, when we showed a piece of rock even to our special friend the way another would have offered a little flower. That was when rocks were a wonder and even brought romance.
Postscript: AFAG has since been renamed Association of Filipinos for the Advancement of Geosciences, but the members have not forsaken their AFAG roots.
This is an account of our Brod Noe of how and where it all began. Our organization is tied to Filipino history itself. When AFAG was born, it was a time of truth and innocent exuberance. It narrates of a special experience about learning and friendship, when rocks were pure joy and friends were the reason for being.
AFAGinc was born more than four decades ago in the University of the Philippines as “AFAG,” an organization of geology students who shared a sincere concern for what they called “the world of the Filipinos outside the university.” As students in the country’s premier educational institution, they sought to erase the walls between other students that were created by name of schools they belonged to. Thus, AFAG became an agglomeration of socially responsible students from all the schools in Manila with geology courses, like the Adamson University, the Mapua Institute of Technology and the University of the Philippines.
AFAG eventually grew out of the campus to be “AFAGinc,” an organization of professional geologists. The AFAGs, as the members were called, developed as specialists in petroleum exploration, geophysics, volcanology, geothermal exploration, mining exploration, engineering geology, groundwater geology, paleontology, petrophysics, environmental geology, sanitation and public works, and education. Most are currently in the middle to top echelons of management in private companies and up to the cabinet level in the government of the Philippines. One heads an international energy policy-making organization. While its many members work in all the continents, those in the Philippines apportion time outside their jobs for community and grassroots education on local geology, mineral resources, geohazards, and environmental geology. AFAGinc also adopted an active role in the formulation of the government’s policies where its collective and individual expertise find relevance.
Here is a tale about a time when AFAG, Inc. expanded beyond the university's walls from whence they started.
07 February 2003
The Association of Filipinos for the Advancement of Geoscience (AFAGinc) lauds the shift in the government policy from TOLERANCE TO PROMOTION of the minerals industry.
AFAGinc believes, however, that Government should not stop at the mere promotion of mining, an extractive and raw material-exporting industry that predisposes the country to remain a net importer of finished consumer commodities. History has shown that the resulting unfavorable trade balance has kept the Philippines a poor country in spite of its rich natural resources.
AFAGinc PROPOSES THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD, INSTEAD, DRAW UP A NATIONAL MINERALS POLICY THAT WOULD PROMOTE A VIBRANT MINERALS INDUSTRY AS AN INSTRUMENT FOR INDUSTRIALIZATION AND POVERTY REDUCTION.
We have seen poverty significantly reduced in the neighboring countries of South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore. Malaysia and Thailand are right behind them. Common to all of them are national industrial policies that are sensitive to their unique culture, natural resources and manpower capability. We can do no less in identifying and pursuing the Philippines’ natural advantages – our mineral resources being an outstanding element to hasten and sustain equitable development.
AFAGinc will actively support the government in crafting and implementing a National Minerals Policy aimed at a competitive, responsible, and environmentally-keen minerals industry. But most of all, such policy must be suited to our national need to hasten industrialization and reduce poverty.
503 Amberland Plaza Condominium, Dona Julia Vargas Avenue, Ortigas Center, Pasig City
Tel. (632) 6311220; Fax (632) 634 5490; Email: afaginc.yahoo.com
These are communications between members during critical times as AFAG, Inc. tries to make a stand for what we believe in.
Subject: [afaginc] Re: FW: Haribon Signature Campaign Sheet
The point is that we do not really need NEW laws, only the serious enforcement of existing laws and regulations which on paper are tough enough to protect our remaining forest covers. The fact that we have among the greatest number and toughest environmental laws in SE Asia has not prevented the wanton destruction of our environment. Clearly, what we need is to strengthen our collective capacity to hold those who implement these laws, and those who break them, to more stringent standards of accountability. This analysis is not rocket science. And while I will not join in the chorus of instant experts in the media assigning blame for the Quezon tragedy, it is one more sad example of our collective failing as a society in general and the weakness of our political-administrative state, in particular.
If all we, and especially RP environmental NGOs, can show for our efforts and good intention are more environmental laws that are never consistently enforced, then we have certainly failed and perhaps deserve the wrath that nature has wrought on us. Unfortunately, as in most things in RP, the poor carries a disproportionate burden, even of nature's wrath.
We can, and we must do, better.
A peaceful and prosperous New Year to you and your family!
PhD Candidate in Public Administration
School of Policy, Planning & Development
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles, CA 90089
This is a moment in time where enforcement of existing laws was lacking to prevent the Quezon tragedy.
APRIL 2, 2003 AT WINDMILLS AND RAINFOREST
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat. Thank you Noe for your generous introduction. I thank all of you for welcoming me here and for the unique opportunity you have given me to speak my mind.
The DOE has charged me with a task and for the performance of that task, I have developed a vision. I strongly suspect that you are in this very room today because you share that vision.
Many people say we are a poor country. We have an increasingly large population and very limited resources. We seem to be continuously climbing on the uphill slope of a mountain too tall to climb. I believe that if there is any sector of our society that can make a difference in speeding up the walk or lowering the slope of that mountain, it is this sector. Energy is the key to setting the goals, quickening the pace and actually getting to the top. Energy finds almost all our endeavors. No one is more aware of this fact than all us present here – tapping our existing resources, finding more of them, considering alternative sources, applying our intellectual, technological and financial power to harness energy – that is what we are about. Energy is why we get up in the morning, put on our barongs or suits and face the workday. Energy is our foremost concern.
We are the key to not just tapping into our resources, but maximizing them. Not just finding more resources, but aggressively (sic) exploring them, not just considering alternative sources – but creating them. We ourselves can harness our inner, intellectual energies for the pursuit of our common goal which is the critical improvement of our energy base and its infrastructure. I submit to you today, that you and I can make a difference in how we conduct business of finding, exploiting and finally improving the energy landscape of which we are a major part.
Let us meet on Wednesday, January 22, 2003 at 4 pm to finalize the document that will breathe in the soul of the New AFAG.
The venue will preferably be at Pael’s office in Fort Bonifacio where there are a number of brods and the place is accessible to brods in the Makati area, who may want to kibitz as they did in the last meeting at Art’s office. I do not have Pael’s ok, though, to host this meeting. I do have Rene’s word that in case of (that) emergency, we can seek refuge in the rainforest with windmills (kahiya-hiya man kay Nora Rieza).
Let us finish the statement of goals, which I noted as a reflection of the intention of the various Subcoms’ programs. We may also consider the comment, sent today Jan19 by JunDelfin (and others) via the egroup on the statement of Core Values.
The collated reports by the Subcoms will be a separate document. The reports are due this meeting. It is preferable to have print copies for discussion purposes. If you can send your subcom report via email to everybody in the AdHoCom before Wednesday, we could think them over and give quality suggestions.
For everybody’s consideration, here are the items the AdHoCom had previously agreed on:
VISION: To be the champion of responsible application of geoscience in nation-building.
MISSION: To be the responsible, committed and active leader, catalyst and participant in endeavors that enhance the talents and capabilities of the Filipino geoscientists so that they can be effective contributors to nation-building
CORE VALUES: GEOSCIENCE
Global awareness, Environmental involvement, Objectivity, Social responsibility, Competence, Integrity, Excellence, Nationalism, Camaraderie, Entrepreneurial spirit.
Comment by JunDelfin:
I supported your last deliberations on the mission
and vision of AFAG last month (remember my buko pie)
but the perspective of distance and additional
comments from brods make me re-think, especially the
core values thing. I would prefer a shorter list of values (something that both Wency and Ricky M. I think are pointing out). Trying to come up with values just so the first letters would spell GEOSCIENCE seems rather "pilit".
Reminder: Here are the SubComs:
Legal -- ABMaulion
Member Welfare -- NLCaagusan
Finance -- RGLaraya
Ethics -- RGLaraya, ABMaulion
Communications/Archives -- APFerrer
Membership -- APFerrer, AAMorado, EGRamos,
Education/Lectures/Public Issues -- NLCaagusan, EGRamos, RSRieza
External Affairs (conferences, UPGAA,GSP) -- AAMorado
Governmental Affairs -- RSRieza External
Geoscientific/Popular Science -- EGRamos, APFerrer
Environmental Concerns – ESBate
On other matters:
You probably notice that the intents and plans of AFAGinc, at least those of the AdHoCom, are being overtaken by events that could influence the direction of our nation’s history. In the case of the mining issue, we planned to issue a position paper in behalf of AFAGinc, but we chose to get our perspectives and facts accurate first. And if our technocratic instincts would prevail, we would have a series of for a to get all the contending viewpoints.
In this situation I recommend that AFAGinc issue its position now since our principles and core values dictate a straight path towards our goals, then we can say so. Our position may or may not align with any other viewpoint, but that is exactly the point: we thrust our vision to policy-makers of the country and thus contribute to nation-building.
The AdHoCom’s last mile to the General Meeting can run parallel to the
implemenatation of the programs of the Subcoms, e.g. continuation of the mining fora, interaction/collaboration with environmental groups, etc.
As an added item, I will update the AdHoCom on some insights I had the privilege to gather about some hands that now point the new directions of our country.
Brod Noe's communication on what the AdHoCom previously agreed upon deliberation of the current vision, mission, core values and committees.