Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Full Monty: The Philippine Version

The Philippines National Steel Corporation, the country’s largest and only rolling mill plant went on rapid expansion and upgrading of its Iligan facilities in the decade of the 80’s. It was a series of FYEP’s or Five Year Expansion Programs which hoped to finally make its integrated steel plant a reality.

At the turn of the 90’s, signs indicated a short lived progress; ther party’s over. Finally, in 1994, the first of its continuing retrenchment came. I was with the first batch. Not even the entry of Malaysia’s wing Tiek Group and later the Hottic Group, touted as earlier as the saviors but turned out to be just its opposite, could reverse the slide.

Finally, almost at the end of 1999, after 5 years of uncertainty and hemorrhage, the inevitable came. The company and the plant went on complete shutdown. By then, the company’s best and brightest, technical and managerial men especially, went on exodus mostly abroad, like the uS, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

NSC’s and the Philippines’ loss, the gain of these supposed to be industrialized countries. A classic “brain drain.”

Meanwhile, “Steeltown,” once a bustling housing community of NSC’s employees almost became a “Ghostown,” exactly a similar acsene carved out in the movie Full Monty. Lonely, deserted---a gory reminder of steel glory lost.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Verifying SteelConnect

Let me interrupt myself as I try to claim this blog on MyBlogLog.

I am Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification it so that I could track the traffic of this blog. It sure would be nice to know you, my readers and engage in good conversations with you.

Do drop by often and I'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts with me, too. :)

Obama and My US Experience

Flashback in spring 1986. I was with a group of 13 engineers who were sent by our company, National Steel Corporation (NSC) to undergo training on 5Std. Tandem Cold Rolling Mill Operations and Quality Assurance at Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Burns Harbor Plant in Portage, Indiana, just over an hour’s drive from Chicago. Our company bought this facility described then as both old and new. Old because it was designed and built in the 1970’s. New because , though completed and ready for commission, it was never installed and put into operation. Mothballed before it could even produce its first coil, it just lay there in the warehouse, a stark symbol of the US steel industry recession and decline. And with it came the inevitable; worker displacement, something Barack Obama took concern of at that time.

At the parking lots of street-side grocery halls, we would then see car stickers proclaiming “ Foreign steel steal jobs “. At the shop floor and workplace, we would always be reminded to speak English. The workers were wary, insecure and felt threatened every time we converse in our native language concluding that the more we know, the more their chances of losing their jobs. They learned their lessons from the Japanese who came much earlier than us. The Japanese, they said, were silent and never talked but were busy copying, taking down notes, taking photos and gather whatever information they could obtain. The result? Japan indeed overtook the US in steel technology and production.

In the succeeding years, NSC bought more facilities from US steel companies- 2 Std Temper Mill, Continuous Pickling Line, Electrolytic Tinning Line , among them. US steel was never the same again.

In between our training, we would then take leisurely walks along Lakeshore Drive, view Chicago at the Sears Tower, enjoy the great rides of Great America and much more. Though aware, we were oblivious of the plight of displaced steelmen. Now we knew, during that time, Obama, then a young human rights lawyer was a helping hand to them.

Will Obama therefore finished what he has started before if by the grace of the American people themselves chose him to be their next president?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Barack Obama and Full Monty

What has Barack Obama got to do with Full Monty? Obama is a US Democrat presidential candidate this year. Full Monty is a lesser known movie (set in Great Britain) in the late 90’s until it got an Oscar’s nomination. Absolutely nothing, or so it seems. Except that Full Monty is a story of displaced British steel workers (presumably British Steel) and how they cope up with unemployment and a bleak future for their families. From steel men, they became or forced to become stage dancers just to eke out a living, finally doing a full monty (British slang for “ going all the way “i.e., nude) as the curtains fall at the end of the movie.

Barack Obama takes pride in listing or justifying his experience (during campaign speeches, interviews and TV debates with another US Democrat presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Clinton) as community organizer and helping US steel workers in the Chicago area who were displaced by the fall of the US steel industry. This was in 1985 to 1987 and this is how they are connected.

This “ steel men “ experience factor in the resume of Obama may yet catapult him as the first ever black president of the most powerful country in the world, the United States of America. If ever it happens, the question will be: will the steel industry be in his agenda and put back the glory years of the US steel industry who has been since those years in the back seat of surging steel economies of Japan, Europe, South Korea, Russia and recently, China and India.

No, I don’t think Barack Obama did a full monty at that time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Welcome to the world of steel

Fortunately, for the man of steel, there will be no world without steel. Day by day, technological and environmental developments come in the way, finding new sources, optimizing, rationalizing, and enhancing the many and various uses of this very prime commodity affecting our daily lives- steel.No material can yet, on a widespread scale, replace or substitute steel

Welcome to SteelConnect -- my journey as a steelman, as a man who ponders every day about world where steel was not yet discovered, and a world made modern with the presence of steel.

Again, imagining the world without steel

Let’s stretch down further to our noisy and chaotic world.

No no more infrastructure projects for pork barrel allocations. No more Congress halls and TV cameras for grandstanding and cheap entertainment. No more politicians at last. And the pollution from too much political noise would be wiped out. Very good!

But surely, it would again be another dull and boring world.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Imagine further our world without steel

The world will finally achieve the long most sought World peace.

No steel for guns, tanks, battleships, fighter jets, helicopters. No buildings and no infrastructure to build bombs and ammunitions. Not even for spears and arrows, bolos and knives. No Spanish Armada to set sail and conquer the world and look for new discoveries. No more wars, so we may think.

A peaceful but definitely a dull and boring world. Is this the world we want?

Monday, March 3, 2008

The World Without Steel

Did you ever wonder what it would be like if no one discovered steel?

Imagine the world without steel.

Steel is considered the backbone of the nation. No industrialization, hence no progress can take place without steel. The following article describes satirically the uses of this prime commodity.

Imagine your world without steel. Then, there won’t be skyscrapers that dot Makati’s skyline. And we will be holding office under thatched nipa roofs, a la Nayong Pilipino sans air conditioners to ward off manila’s heat. There won’t be coolers and refrigerators to obey your thirst for a cold drink. Coke, Pepsi and company will be a drink of the past generation. Manila’s infamous traffic problem, to your relief will be solved, as there won’t be cars, jeeps, and buses to clog the road lanes. The 1-to-2-hour Cubao-Makati trip may extend to a 4-to-6-hour walkathon, unless you go horseback riding. And surely you’ll miss the evening timeslot of Marimar or The Kungfu Kids. Well to tell you quite clearly, you’ll miss them completely as there won’t be TV sets in the first place.

Still it might just be okay with you. You can live with that. Housewives would be very happy because the tempting videokes and beerhouses won’t be around for business. Weekends, the children will have to enjoy the beach as there won’t be megamalls to shop around. Manila Bay though and the Pasig river may not yet still be clean. There won’t be factories to dump wastes, alright, nor will there be ships to discharge their own wastes, but personal wastes may pose a greater threat to health and safety as the sea becomes the biggest discharge of them all.

The world will become larger than ever, larger than Magellan thought it to be. And we may conclude that the earth is in fact flat, not round. PAL’s Lucio tan and Gokongwei’s Cebu Pacific Air will fold up their airline business and go back to shipping of the wooden Galleon trade era. Going to Davao or Cebu and much more America or Europe won’t be an exciting trip anymore, unless you’re the kind who enjoys cruise fro weeks or months. And if you love the Boracay of the past with no electricity, then you’ll love it even more , since the absence of steel towers , transmissions lines and power generating units made of steel and cast iron would make it us back to the dark age. That would make Edison rise from the grave and curse the day he invented electricity.

Ahh! And suddenly , the scenario sinks in your consciousness. Steel is all around us. You see it, you use it, 24/7. Without steel, what would life be?

A dark and bleak scenario? Think again. Where would we be without steel?