By KATHLEEN T. OKUBO
Have you watched a Chinese kung-fu movie where the characters dressed in old-style Chinese dresses? They also have that round hat fitted to the top of the head like a helmet. Well, I thought that was the hat I was wearing when I got to Shanghai. But no, it was not. I can’t pass for a Chinese even if I was chinky-eyed, fair-skinned and of light build. Along the way, somebody changed my hat into one of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Shanghai. And I didn’t get to meet any one OFW in Shanghai.
I was in the middle of the Challenge Bibendum. This is a big corporate annual convention hosted by Michelin, the tire maker, itself represented by Bibendum (the mascot of Michelin) that was celebrating its birthday today through the said convention. In attendance were car makers, car-accessory makers, distributors, raw material suppliers, fuel producers, etc., and people such as I who had nothing to do with these things, not even with the routine work of driving a car.
The meeting I was in was about “sustainable biofuels,” with six of us Filipino participants attending. We were all stakeholders in the drive to promote biofuels use and production. We talked about palm oil, sugarcane alcohol, etc. We recommended the search for much healthier alternatives, in the light of investment projection and opportunities that have screamed – in large red letters – a veiled but so eminent threat to all peoples of my country – indigenous or otherwise, women and children, workers and especially peasants. These are the people whose impoverished situation deprive them of an intelligent and free knowledge of the situation, the advantages and disadvantages in this or that option, so as to ensure their benefit as a nation and as a people.
In Shanghai, the weather was great and cooperated well, Then there was the big wide beautiful countryside of Shanghai. We were not in the center of the City of Shanghai, but rather in the auto manufacturing capital of China. It was an hour to the airport and also an hour away from the city by land vehicle. The convention or the meeting I was attending was also an hour’s bus ride from the hotel we were booked in.
So what kind of territory was in between these main locations I was to stay in – the hotel, the convention site, and the airport? It was wide flat lands as wide and far as the eye can see that could very well have been planted with fruits and vegetables – crops that could maybe solve, in one sweep, the lack of nutritious sustenance among my own country’s population. China, in its bid to get a bigger share of world commerce, is changing its skyline so fast. I wonder what this fast transformation meant and brought to the ordinary Chinese population.
According to available data, Shanghai is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world. It has a large population – a total of 16.74 million in 2000 – occupying fifth place among the 10 largest cities, next only to Mexico City, Tokyo, Sao Paolo, and New York. The population density of Shanghai is as high as 2,657 per sq. km. on average. Since 1993, Shanghai has been the first region of China to have a negative fertility growth rate in its registered population, while the total number of registered people is increasing owing to in-migration.
According to the 2000 population census, the rate of natural increase was -1.9 per 1,000. Besides, along with the urbanization and expansion of metropolitan regions, the urban population of Shanghai increased to 14.78 million in 2000, accounting for more than 88% of the total population. Generally speaking, the trend is such that settlements of urban inhabitants are extending to suburban areas where rural inhabitants are also assembling on the border line of metropolitan areas.
This Igorot was seen here to be wearing a Chinese hat but didn’t speak any Chinese, and couldn’t find any one in a Mao cap.#