COMMENT: Notable Items

Here’s one from Washington Post of last Sunday, January 21. Take it with a laugh, a chuckle or a grin. The story happened in Virginia, USA – in Richmond and Springbrook, just three hours apart.

Last December, a FedEx package was delivered to the Springbrook High School library. What was in it? A dusty, 1,122-page, 1930 edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Nothing strange. Nothing special. Just a book.

Really? When the librarians looked it over, they “hooted and hollered”. It was borrowed on May 14, 1964. The borrower? Stephen N. Sampogna, a 1966 graduate of Springbrook High School.

In an accompanying letter dated December 18, Sampogna asked: “How much do I owe for borrowing this book for 42 years and 8 months? Did you miss it?” Sampogna is living in Richmond, has terminal cancer but is trying to enjoy his remaining days.

In his letter, he recalled his world history class during his sophomore year under Mr. Lerario. “Pete Lerario told me to get a history book. I thought he said ‘mystery book’. No wonder the test had nothing to do with [the] reading assignment.”

Last January 4, he was amused to receive a letter from librarian Linda S. French, which said: “My first thought was to forgive your $152.70 in fines (yes, we still charge $.02/day) because of your honesty. But then I remembered all those students who were deprived the joys of Sherlock Holmes because you couldn’t tell the difference between history and mystery ….”

However, as a consolation, French wrote that he had “probably paid $3.95 for the lost book” when he graduated. Minus the $2 processing fee for returned books, the school would refund him $1.95 upon his presentation of “your receipt”.

Sampogna is unlikely to collect his $1.95 refund for he has no receipt but he will “visit his alma mater soon … to see an exhibit in his honor that was erected two weeks ago in front of the library. His overdue ‘Complete Sherlock Holmes’ rests on an Ionic column, next to a copy of the letter he sent and his 1966 yearbook photo”, said the Post.

How did Sampogna remember the book after 42 years and eight months? Did the nearing death sharpen his recollection? No! As he was giving away his possessions, he discovered the book when he was crating his library books to be sent to the used book store.

In deciding to return the book, he said: “I just wanted to see what the school’s reaction would be. I though it would be fun.”

Fun-loving that he is, he says he doesn’t dwell on his cancer. “Dwelling on the negative can lead to depression. And nothing will shorten your life more than depression. It’s a much easier way to live, even if you have cancer.”

When you see blues around you, think of Sampogna. Besides his positive view of life, his honesty is eloquent: A borrowed thing is a borrowed thing. Forgetting to return it no matter how long doesn’t make it the borrower’s possession.

***

The goose that lays golden eggs is legend. Take care of it; don’t kill it.

The Philippines has more than eight million such geese – the overseas Filipino workers. Any idea how fast they multiply? In 2004, there were 4.6 million. Last year alone, more than one million went abroad, reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer citing official data.

The Philippine government is taking very good care of its golden egg-laying geese. For good reason. Their golden eggs are indispensable. Last year alone, from January to November, they remitted $11.44 billion which was 10 percent of the GDP, 60 percent of BSP foreign exchange reserves, and very much more than the $2 billion direct foreign investments. Including December, the estimate was $13 billion.

The government, in taking good care of the geese, also wants to avail of the golden eggs. For instance, the country needs Pl.7 trillion for infrastructure from 2006 to 2010. The OFWs can be tapped for much of the needed fund.

So the government will offer OFWs special treasury bond or retail treasury bond. For the OFWs, this is an investment as the bonds will earn interests higher than savings or time deposits in bank. For the government, this is raising the necessary funds for infrastructures.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 39 percent of OFW households in Metro Manila keep savings in banks and other depository institutions. An attractive offering will persuade them to invest these in government bonds. Others outside of Metro Manila will do the same.

Last March, there was a plan to create an Overseas Filipino Workers Bank through the facilities of the post offices in coordination with post offices in the countries where the OFWs are. I have no idea whether the plan pushed through. This was one means of facilitating for Filipino foreign workers the remittance of their money for home — another way of taking care of the geese that lay golden eggs.

The Philippines, according to a report, is one of the world’s biggest exporters of workers – 10 percent of its 86 million people. They are employed in 194 countries and territories around the world, including – believe it or not — the tiny Pacific island of Palau.

According to another report, had the more than eight million Filipinos not worked abroad, the present 10 percent unemployment rate would have doubled. The more the reason to encourage the multiplication of the number of the geese that lay golden eggs, take very good care of them and make sure the eggs go into the government’s basket.

Some have deplored the brain drain depriving the Philippines of health workers, teachers and other professionals. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has never been reported to have deplored so. Of course doing so would be like shedding crocodile tears.

(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to patpdiazgsc@yahoo.com.)