Saturday, November 21, 2015


Medy Feria Beroy, Independent Contractor, Legal and Medical Interpreter
by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 22, 2015

In her work, the phrase ‘lost in translation’ is a no-no.

Filipina Medy Beroy works as an independent legal and medical interpreter in Georgia, USA. As an interpreter, she listens to what her clients say and translates them to another language so that legal or medical procedures are translated accurately without losing their meaning.

In layman’s language, legal interpreting involves cases that are heard between a judge or hearing officer and the defendant.

Medical interpreting obviously is, when it is done in hospitals, clinics or other medical facility involving health practitioners and their patients.

Because of the big number of foreign-born residents in the US with limited English proficiency (37.5 million, based on current Census Bureau statistics), the demand for interpreters has become a necessity.

As a result, interpreting agencies in America have mushroomed, providing readily available professional and court-certified interpreters.

As for Beroy’s case, she gets calls around the US and as far as London, to do interpreting jobs. As an interpreter for both disciplines, she must not only speak the language of what a client needs, she must also interpret its nuances intelligently.

Beroy does it either face-to-face or through remote telecon. Her interpreting job may include collecting unemployment benefits, activating clients’ health insurance plans to doing mundane tasks like fixing telephone connection problems, among others.

First job in America

Prior to her job, Beroy worked as a caregiver for the elderly and disabled. “I had a soft spot for them,” she says. Her patients were rich men and women who started out as ordinary people and ended up being successful.

“I learned a lot from them. They also brought me to places that otherwise I won’t be able to see,” she narrates. But health issues forced her to stop what she loved doing and had to reinvent herself as an interpreter.

When she migrated to the US in 2009, transitioning was very hard for Beroy. She was a department head in the Philippines with the power to hire and fire, yet had a hard time getting a decent job.

While domestic helpers were common in the Philippines, housekeepers were expensive in the US. Only the rich could afford to hire them. Out of need, she learned to clean the house, tidy up and cook.

As former head of a provincial PESO (Public Employment Services Office) that deployed local and overseas workers, Beroy felt bad about the diaspora of Filipinos but accepted it as a fact and a reality, noticing that her ‘kababayans’ with spouses, children or siblings abroad have better quality of life.

In her former place of work back home, she laments how her colleagues slowly became powerless to fight cultures of impropriety. “They have eventually succumbed to the pressure just to keep their jobs.

I didn’t want to place myself in a situation where I would be swallowed by the system. So I got out when I still could,” she recalls.

Beroy was born and raised in Cuyo, formerly Palawan’s capital. Her parents were Engineer Leandro Feria and Mrs. Neria K. Feria, a retired elementary school teacher.

Her oldest brother is Fr. Peter Feria, Parish Priest of San Isidro Labrador parish in Maruyugon, Puerto Princesa City.

Her brothe Bong is a musician, Jhie, a navy serviceman and Dominic, a talented comic and skilled welder. She and Fr. Peter went to kindergarten at St. Joseph Academy and they all studied at Cuyo Central School.

They all finished high school at St. Joseph. 

Her parents came from generations of close-knit and religious Catholics who practiced simple living, nationalism and ignored the trappings of material wealth. Her father was a lay minister while her mother was a church organist. Her earliest memory of her family was tagging along with them in church and singing in the choir. She lived a sheltered, decent life in a community where everybody knew everybody and almost everyone was a relative.

Beroy was studying at University of Santo Tomas when martial law rule was getting worse. That period opened her eyes to a startling awakening: “We don’t only think and live for ourselves, we also need to be concerned with issues affecting our country and our future.”

Cuyo, Palawan, Beroy's hometown in Palawan
While in college, she actively joined rallies at university belt in Manila. Not amused, her landlady would inform her parents and the latter would in turn, cut her allowance off and ask her to return home.

Determined, she instead looked for a job, underwent training on sales and marketing and got hired as a field demonstrator. She worked hard to survive.

“Earning my own money gave me the power to focus on my career. At age of 19, I was already a Division Manager with three units of people working under me,” she recalls.

Worried about her safety in the looming political storm, her father wrote her once again and begged for her to come home. Homesick and scared being a college dropout, she went back to Palawan and enrolled at Palawan State College, now a university, on a scholarship program. 

But a major blow happened to his family after the EDSA revolution. Her father lost his job even after faithfully discharging his duties and responsibilities as a government employee for 23 years. “It all went down the drain and I could not forget his bitterness,” Beroy remembers.

Cuyo Municipal Hall
That left her supporting herself, as a singer at a local restaurant at night while attending school at daytime. Little by little she started standing on her own two feet.

She was soon hired as a casual clerk at the National Power Corporation and worked at Palawan Council For Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) from 1991 to 1999 as Project Development/Human Resources Development Officer III.

She then got a scholarship grant from the Civil Service Local Scholarship Program where she acquired her Masters in Public Administration degree in 1996. In 1999, she was hired as Chief, Manpower Development Officer at the provincial office, first as assistant, then as head of office.

Care for the environment has since been her advocacy for many years. Why does she think it’s worth fighting for? She tells her story:

It started in 1990 when Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office (PIADPO) was phasing out. Worried about lack of security of tenure in my job at Napocor, I joined a play, “Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kelan? Kung Hindi Tayo, Sino?”

Palawan State University, where Beroy graduated

That very successful play tackled issues on illegal logging, illegal fishing, kaingin (slash and burn farming) as well as mining. The message left a lasting impact on my mind. Shortly after, I joined some local people to lobby for the passage of R.A. 7611, aka Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act. It was passed into law on September 19, 1992 before President Cory Aquino finished her term,” she recalls.

When Gen. Fidel V. Ramos became president, Beroy continued to write news reports and did environmental articles for a local newspaper.  She was then assigned to the Secretariat where she transcribed and prepared volumes and many minutes of the meetings.

She heard the pros and cons of environmental protection and sustainable development efforts from technical experts and powerful businessmen who wanted to invest in Palawan.

She learned to appreciate Palawan’s beauty and rich natural resources and realized the serious threat of losing it if abuse will continue and people not take good care of it.

As a Pinay working abroad, Beroy thinks she can be effective with her advocacies even if working away from home.

“I’d rather write about my advocacies than do nothing at all. When Jose Rizal went abroad, he wrote. He didn’t organize or lead a revolution. Yet, he influenced the world with his writings. He is also our national hero.

She believes in the sayings: “The pen is mightier than the sword” and “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

I’m nothing compared to these great men. But I’d rather write about the things that would benefit Palawan, if not today, at least someday. When God calls me back home in His time, I could say that I used my gift of singing to sing in the church choir and my gift of writing to help awaken our people to protect Palawan’s environment.

Beroy notes that the more serious issue here is the brain drain. “Most brilliant and highly skilled Filipino professionals have gone out of the country to work abroad.

They are known all over the world as God-fearing, hardworking, loving, patient, understanding and most of all, resilient in times of adversity,” she says.

She says, Filipinos abroad, in general, are honest, highly skilled, professional, disciplined, support their family back home and most-of-all, law-abiding citizens. 

On what would make Filipinos become successful abroad?

Beroy says there are many definitions of success. When she moved to the US, her goal was to support her kids until they finished college. She wanted them to become well-rounded kids who are God-fearing, honest, responsible, kind and be able to survive and make it anywhere in the world.

“My daughter has graduated in 2013 and now working part-time in Sweden. As a mother, I could only guide them, support them and be there for them when they need me. But I don’t impose my will on them,” she intimates.

If given a chance to have an audience with the President of the Philippines, what are the burning things she would like to tell him and act swiftly on? “Graft and corruption in the government. The scandal reaches from the highest echelon down to the lowliest clerk.”

Environmental protection is also close to Beroy’s heart. “The Philippines is rich in natural resources and blessed with beautiful islands. If we focus on protecting the environment, the day would come when majority of the Filipinos would become happy, peaceful and prosperous,” she says.

The three things she would like to happen in her hometown: 1. God-fearing and honest people elected as public officials. 2. Drug problems and all sorts of illegal activities eradicated. 3. Positive investor atmosphere that would also protect the environment and its own natural resources.

Who is Medy Beroy as a person? She replies: “What you see is what you get.” She misses the Philippines and can only say the following to her fellow Filipinos:

“The Philippines is our country, the earth is our planet. We have to start thinking that we only have one planet.

We need to love and take good care of each other. 

If you were rich and God has abundantly blessed you, focus on doing philanthropic deeds.

Do not squander your money on the latest fashion, collecting cars, yachts and mansions while people around you are collecting and eating garbage, homeless and living like rats in hovels. If God blessed you as a talented musician, write music that would praise God and help our people. If you were a scientist, do some research that would help protect our environment. 

What I’m only pointing out here is that whatever talents, skills or gifts that God blessed you with, use it not just for yourself or your family, but for the good of your community and your people.”

Sunday, November 15, 2015


"Katala", the Philippine Cockatoo, fast diminishing in Rasa Island sanctuary in Narra, Palawan. Ironically, the island is being pushed as location for an environmentally-damaging coal-fired power plant.

by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 16, 2015

Semirara’s photos taken from space look bizarre. Defaced, the island looks like a geological Frankenstein, grotesquely scarred by coal mining pits.

How would you feel if the same thinghappens to the Last Frontier? Indignation, outrage, fury, anger, unless you can’t see.

Would you just sit there and watch the unabated environmental plunder?

At the foot of Mt. Mantalinggahan, Palawan’s highest peak, are hectares and hectares of forest trees, breathing life to one of the most diverse flora and fauna species in the world. Imagine if they are burnt to ashesto give way to palm oil plantations?

"Tandikan" Palawan Pheasant Peacock
Picture endemic animals fleeing from wildfires as their habitats are razed to the ground. Imagine if the already endangered “Pilandok”(Mouse Deer), “Tandikan” (Pheasant Peacock), “Balintong” (Armadillo), “Kiyaw”(Mynah), “Pikoy” (Blue-NapedParrot), “Katala” (Cockatoo), “Binturong” (Bear Cat) and many more continue to diminish in number. Can we all withstand the horrific sight?

Indonesia’s recent forest inferno can also happen in Palawan. We all knowthe catastrophic effect: the health-damaging hazecan blanket an entire town and spread across the country.

Can the impending environmental apocalypse happen? No, if we are doubly vigilant. No, if we are wide-awakeand say yes to doubly protecting Palawan’s protected areasfrom further damage.

Case-in-point: West Papua. Last October, the Indonesian paradisewith stunning rainforests and the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity, boasting more species than anywhere else on the planet, became the world’s first conservation province by declaring it as a “conservation area.”

El Nido

Symbolically important, it sealedthe future of the province’s irreplaceable ecosystems.

“The honor could have been owned by the province of Palawan, but sadly, people who profess love for the province just pay lip service to it. They are busy milking our natural resources not knowing that someday they will all be depleted,” says Art Ventura, an environmentalist by heart and former director of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Coral Triangle, the environmental bible says of the West Papua move: “It created a legal framework for conservation efforts in one of Indonesia’s most beautiful regions, a role modelfor more effective conservation efforts.” The bold vision was initiated upon consultation with the provincial governor, Abraham Atururi.

Conserve Palawan now

Concerns about Palawan’s natural resources continue to surface.On social media, the sentiment is becoming more pronounced.

Rare orchids found in Mt. Mantalinggahan Mountain Range
The deletion of five important Palawan protected areas (El Nido Managed Resource Protected Area, Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, Mt. Mantalinggahan Protected Landscape, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park and Rasa Island Wild Sanctuary) from the expanded NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) house bill sparked a heated debate, prompting many concerned citizens and environmentalists to question the motives of those responsible for the act.

El Nido was recently voted as World’s Best Island by Conde Nast Travel Magazine for the second consecutive year. Malampaya Sound is the Philippines’ richest fishing ground.

Mount Mantalinggahan is a vast mountain range that covers four towns.It is home to indigenous Palaw’ans and one of 11 important bird areas in the province, as well as one of only 10 sites of the Alliance for Zero Extinction sites where various species are in imminent danger of disappearing in the Philippines.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park Underground River
Puerto Princesa’sSubterranean Park, a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world’s seven wonders of nature,is where the Underground River flows.

Rasa Island is home to the Philippine cockatoo, now facing extinction with only around 1,000 remain. The island, of all places, has been chosen for a coal-fired power plant.

Expanded NIPAS Law

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the reinforced NIPAS is a congressional bill under Republic Act 7586, which aims to replace, expand and strengthen the 23-year-old NIPAS Law. Once enacted into law by Congress, it will provide greater protection for the environment, especiallyprotected areas in the Philippines.

In Congress’ executive committee meeting held last November 11, Rep. Douglas Hagedornof Palawan disputed the exclusion of five Palawan protected areas from the bill saying the deletion was anomalous as it did not have the committee’s approval.

Hagedorn had earlier discovered the deletion and argued that groups with ulterior motivesor otherwise, cango around PCSD and open these areas to environmentally damaging activities like “regulated mining” in protected areas, an activity banned by the ENIPAS.

Rep. Franz Alvarez and groups identified with Governor Jose Alvarez, however,asserted that Palawan does not need to be in the NIPAS, as the province already has its own Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) under Republic Act (RA) 7611.GovernorAlvarez is currently pushing for construction of a coal-fired power plant in the province, a move being heavily opposed by environmentalist groups.

Representative Douglas Hagedorn, 3rd District Palawan
Pro-environment advocates Tony Oposa, Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN, Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth, GerthieAnda of Environment Legal Assistance Center, Gerry Arances of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Dante Lagman of Sanlakas, Isagani Serrano of Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Voltaire Alferez of Philippines Earth Day Network, Cynthia Sumagaysay of Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy, JhunetteBuenviaje of Greenpeace, Anne Larracas of Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives, ThonyDizon of Ecowaste Coalition, who were all present at the meeting disagreed.

They said inclusion of five Palawan protected areas to the expanded NIPAS Law would give double protection for the province’s ecologically critical sites.

“If the Alvarezes are really interested in environmental protection and preservation as they claim to be, why object to Palawan’s double-barreled protection?”Hagedorn asserted.

Puerto Princesa environmentalist groups also put up a united front to oppose business groups out to exploit the country’s “protected areas,” especially in Palawan.

Art Rodriguez Ventura, filing his candidacy for Palawan Governor
Former Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, led the environmentalists and declared their “united and unequivocal support.”

Pro-environment Senator Loren Legarda,vowed no exclusion of 5 Palawan protected areas from the rest and has also urged the committee to fasttrack the approval of the new NIPAS.

Earlier, Puerto Princesa City Council passed an ordinance in July, declaring two coral reef sites, the Tangdol Reef in Barangay Bancao-Bancao and the Tagkuti Reef in Barangay Simpokan as “marine sanctuaries”, where any human activity, except approved scientific research, is prohibited.

Without the vigilance of Rep. Hagedorn, the House Committee on Natural Resources would have passed a bill favoring coal and non-renewable energy, mining and other business interests. At the end of the session, five Palawan Protected Areas were restored in the original list and R. A. 7611 (Strategic Environmental Palawan) was made consistent withthe new ENIPAS.