Kid (K): Grandpa, can you listen to the story I read today?
Grandpa (G): Oh yeah? OK, we have 10 minutes before your nanny tucks you to bed. What is this story you are so eager to tell me?
K: A long, long time ago, an eagle was getting tired flying and flying. He had no land to rest in. There was only Heaven and Ocean.
G: (to himself: Hmmm. Sounds like my meeting tomorrow.) And so what did the eagle do?
K: He made Heaven believe Ocean was going up, up and up (with all the gestures of a fully awake child)… and drown Him (slides in the sofa as if overwhelmed with water).
K: And then the eagle went to tell the Ocean, “Heaven is going to throw rocks at you!”
G: Really? That’s clever of the eagle.
K: Yes, yes. You guessed right! When Heaven threw rocks on Ocean, soon there was land!
G: And the eagle can take his rest!
K: But… but… will Heaven and Ocean like that?
G: Why do you ask dear?
K: Because… Heaven may get mad at the eagle someday, (looking worried) and throw rocks at him while he is resting on land…. and mad Ocean can also rise, rise, rise … (more assertive now) so the eagle has no land to rest his wings!
G: Why do you say that?
K: (furtively glancing at Grandpa) Is it… ok… for the eagle to let Heaven and Ocean fight, fight, fight… so the eagle will get only what he wants? Is … there … another way?
G: (disturbed) Time for you to get to bed now.
K: (Pleadingly) But… Grandpa?
G: (thinking China’s mandate from Heaven, and so many countries along the Pacific Ocean now threatened by North Korea’s provocative missile tests directed at US military allies)… Go ask your nanny… Your Mom and Dad will be home also any minute now.
The eagle story is drawn from one of the creation myths in a handsome volume of folktales from the Asia-Pacific, Water in the Ring of Fire, edited by Carla M. Pacis (Osnofla Books, 1996); it is a Philippine story retold by Susie Baclagon-Borrero with illustrator Adriano Natividad. The book was designed for the 18 member economies of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1996 with an APEC Foundation grant to CASA San Miguel of Pundaquit arts fame.
Alfonso C. Bolipata, the publisher, quotes Harold Goddard in his foreword, “The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost or won, than by the stories it loves or believes in.” Indeed, children can “create a more aware and fuller human being for an enriched humanity” — grandfolks who do business with “head, hand, and heart” and genuinely care for their own grandkids’s future.
Bolipata notes that the challenge of APEC is balancing the water and fire in the region — too much fire-not enough water, or too much water-not enough fire — thoughts that grandfolks think are no childsplay. In November 1996, “water” was from the developing member economies pleading for assistance (economic-technical or ecotech cooperation) before the “fire” of trade and investment liberalization espoused by the advanced countries.
With APEC being the most wired region in the world in 1996, its eco-tech cooperation succeeded most memorably in its critical endorsement of the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) to the inaugural meeting of World Trade Organization (Singapore, early December), only a few weeks after the Subic Summit chaired by President Fidel V. Ramos (in late November). ITA fast tracked the digital revolution and e-commerce for the global markets we know today. Fun for kids!
Likely, the November 2020 economic leaders summit, if it is held at all, is going to be online, a cheaper and safer alternative. But then, APEC is so far off-course from its original avowed goal of complete trade and investment liberalization in 2020, moved to earlier targets during surprising economic downturns.
BERRIES OF THE MEDICINE WOMAN
The coronavirus situation is one other such surprise now. Except in tourism and health goods and services discussions, rare were the dangers of pandemics cited in 1996 APEC meetings. But one story in Water in the Ring of Fire has a kid’s viewpoint that APEC grandfolks can muse about to humanize their policy deliberations. A Canadian story (Michele Jamal’s “Deerdancer,” 1995) was re-told by a pediatrician who has, since 1996, won six gold prizes in the Palanca Prize for Children’s Literature.
Dr. Luis P. Gatmaitan brings to life (with illustrator Isabel Roxas) a shaman healer of maladies whose village elders were envious of the people’s adulation. Rumored to be a witch disguised as human, she was hunted and hung from a forest tree upside down. An old man discovered red dots and clots in a bush where the berries cried “Eat me. Eat me.” Tracing the voice up the tree, he saw the shaman strapped high up, blood dripping, and ran to the village where people had fallen ill.
One elder said it was impossible that the medicine woman was alive — she was left by his group to die.
The curious people rushed to the forest but found nobody up the cedar tree. The berries still
begged “Eat me, eat me”; the villagers ate them — and were miraculously healed! Kidstuff. Not for grandfolks? Not quite!
“Before long, aged with wisdom, the people realized that the medicine woman and the berries symbolized the soul and the living blood of Mother Earth … (who) responded to people’s cruelty by healing them with her blood.” They embarked on a mission to preserve the earth and protect its bounty.
APEC 1996 in Manila in fact launched the first-ever Meeting of its Environment Ministers. Whether they still seriously listen to and learn from the stories of their grandkids, bureaucrats’ concern for their own blood may create magic. Will they link the coronavirus to the cruelty we inflict on our only planet now? That’s a future tale for APEC kids to tell grandfolks. n
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Federico “Poch” M. Macaranas is a member of the MAP CEO Conference Committee, Chair of the 1996 Senior Officials Meeting of APEC in Manila/Subic and is Adjunct Professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).