Bro. Erle Frayne D. Argonza
[Writ 01 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]
Hi Fellows! Kumusta kayo! (How are you doing!)
You may wonder how a man, convicted for murder and imprisoned for a long period, possessing just a single arm (he was amputated of his left arm), would survive life after prison. This is the success story of a man from Solana town, Cagayan province (northern Philippines), whose name now escapes my memory when I met him in 1982.
Solana is a new town carved out of its mother town, the capital town Tuguegarao, and lies just across the mighty Cagayan River from the capital town. 700,000 years ago mammoths roamed this area, whose remains, including those of Paleolithic man, were freshly discovered by anthropologists in the 1990s. This town could very well be the ‘cradle of mankind’ in Southeast Asia, who knows?
But among those news that enlivened the quite sleepy town in 1982 was about its scion, whom I’d call Asyong here. Freshly out of prison, possessing nary a thing but a few clothes, he “jumped the gun” right away and took on the challenge of heading towards a successful middle income life, minus his left hand. His town was notorious for producing Jesse James-type assassins, and without him telling me what he did then, I knew he was a dreaded Jesse James (besides my staff whispered the fact to me hmmm).
He was morbidly repentant of what he did in the past though, as I can see in his face and aura (I was already a spiritual seeker than and had started doing yoga meditation). I was the designated Deputy Provincial Manager of the Ministry of Human Settlements for Cagayan, and here was this man whom I thought was bankable and would fit our search for human interest stories of our livelihood program (funded through the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran or KKK). I was also dabbling as concurrent Regional PR Manager, edited our KKK newsletter, was on radio every Saturday of the week for livelihood talks, and here was this petite but dangerous artisan of murder who now wanted to mutate into a genuine artisan of a preferred craft.
Dangling behind his back was a handbag containing a bulging thing. And were it not that one knows his real intention for coming, the bulging thing might be suspected for a caliber 45 hand gun. It turned out to be his model of his craft that he learned inside the Muntinlupa correctional (prison), a transparent 750 gin bottle that now contained inside it a replica of a house surrounded by a mini-garden. It was beautiful! How did this one-armed jack ever do the trick? Well it was no trick but craft, serious craft.
Selling for a mere P35 apiece then, I immediately ordered for three (3) pieces, one would be mine while the two others would be for gift items. I also did the peddling within my office by urgently meeting my staff and informing them of the product, while the Livelihood Coordinator and his assistants did the selling for this humble and short man (he must have been mid 40s then). After hearing his sad travail, I instructed my staff to prioritize this beneficiary, and expected the business plan be done in a couple of weeks or less. His project will be funded pronto upon completion of the biz plan and fast-track training.
Just by viewing the esthetics of the prototype, I was convinced that the product will sell. That was all I needed to establish: the marketability. The rest would be marketing strategy, branding, and packaging. With my good staff behind me to prepare the business plan, it did turn out in the cash flow and income statements that the project was highly feasible. Seeing the bullish biz mien of the proponent himself, it didn’t take long before my staff would complete his training so he and his assistants (he had apprentices) could handle the organizational, financial and marketing aspects fairly well.
The project, funded again through the KKK, did take off not soon after my first encounter with this reformed ex-con. In couples of KKK Recognition Days (we held one every month), I requested this beneficiary to be around so he could be duly recognized. In some occasions I also requested him to do some talks before the audience, which he shyly complied with.
So Fellows, from mammoths and Paleolithic Man to ex-con producing wonderful craft, this town of Solana had it in the 1980s. It’s worth visiting, this town, which now has tour resorts, and hopefully that man (he must be early 70s if he were still alive today) had more than amply exhibited to his town-mates the true way of the Solana Man: a harbinger of civilization.