Thursday, November 5, 2009

People Again

With His Excellency Ricardo Cardinal vidal of Cebu at the historic Manila Hotel

With Fr. Gregorio L. Banaga, Jr., CM of the South Manila Consortium

With Jose Manalo of Eat Bulaga

Chanced upon Sen. Richard Gordon while being interviewed by media

With noted Rizalist and Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Ambeth Ocampo

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Preview of the Automated National Philippine Elections

Here's a preview on what is in store for the 2010 National Philippine Elections. Smartmatic-TIM gave a demonstration on how the machine works. Any comment or afterthoughts?

Quick Guide to the Automated Elections @ Yahoo! Video

Sunday, October 25, 2009

PDI cites Ella blog entry in its editorial

Ella's blog entry truly deserves all the attention. Even the prestigious Philippine Daily Inquirer wrote an editorial about it.

To be cited as a primary source for an editorial of a respected broadsheet is a double honor. The paper takes you seriously and you have a strong point that deserves support.

The editorial reads:

Turtle-paced relief
MANILA, Philippines—On October 21, a blogger named “Ella” posted an entry chronicling her experience as a volunteer at the DSWD warehouse on Church Road, Pasay City. She photographed heaps of relief goods, many of them donations from foreign governments and organizations, and asked why so little seemed to have been done with the supplies. (The blogger never alleged outright theft or mishandling of relief goods, only frustration over how goods didn’t seem to be moving out the door with any speed at all.)

The blogger also asked why imported goods seemed to have been set aside. After all, the last thing we need is a repeat of the Guinsaugon relief efforts, where officials cornered imported relief goods and sent expired domestic relief items to the victims.

Within two days the entry had been read, and passed on to others, by a growing number of people online, and had piqued the interest of the Philippine News in the United States and media here at home.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral responded with a statement saying the department was working “around the clock,” and that while the DSWD’s warehouses were, indeed, full, “we have distributed 500,000 food packs and 200,000 clothing packs as well as thousands of sacks of rice, blankets, beddings, and items of personal hygiene in the past almost 4 weeks.”

Cabral says that what is taking place is a “calibrated release” of goods, and her response is worth reproducing at length: “Relief response is not just emergency assistance. There will come a time when we have to do recovery work and rehabilitation work and when that time comes there will not be many volunteers left. There will be large NGOs that we usually work with but mostly it will be the government that will provide relief to these people who are starting to recover and who need to be rehabilitated. We need to keep some resources for them because when that time comes, there will be no more donations coming in, some will be reserved.”

And yet in her official statement, she pursued the line put forward by her secretary—blame it on a lack of volunteers: “Our goods are repacked by volunteers who are there because they want to help. But they are volunteers and report when they have time to help us. Sometimes there are two hundred of them and sometimes there are only a dozen.”

There is something incongruous about the welfare secretary saying government will do the job, as it expects volunteers to peter out, only to then blame its inability to act in a swifter manner, on a lack of volunteers. Public opinion has been—deservedly, we believe—harsh on the DSWD precisely because while the private sector required volunteers to accomplish what is a temporary job, the DSWD has a continuing task and enormous resources at the command of the President. Or, she could have made a public appeal—and indeed did make one, but only after the blogger’s entry started making the rounds.

We understand Secretary Cabral means well. As reported in the papers on Oct. 19, she vowed a “politico-proof” distribution of relief. She told radio station dzBB, “We will not allow politicos to repack UN-donated goods. These will go through us and our personnel will be there while the goods are distributed.”

We bring this up because a “politico-proof” policy is the right thing and ought to have been applied to all relief goods. But she seems to have established one set of behavior for one set of goods, and another set of behavior for another.

The DSWD’s own record of disbursements of relief goods lists the following: disbursements to Secretary Bello on Sept. 27; to Representative Puno (brother of the interior secretary) on Sept. 28; to Representative Ermita-Buhain (daughter of the executive secretary) on Sep. 29 and Oct. 7; to Senator Revilla on Oct. 1; to Representative Crisologo on Oct. 2 and 13; to Rep. Rodrigo Antonino on Oct. 9; to Representative Pizarro on Oct. 10; Representative Abayon on Oct. 11; Representative Arquiza on Oct. 12; and Vice President De Castro on Oct. 3 and 15. In addition, there were at least 15 disbursements to the Malacañang Disaster Operations Center, and three to Camp Aguinaldo.

Far from “politico-proof”!
Ella opened it all. Hail to advocates like Ella.

Blogger exposes alleged DSWD slow-paced distribution of relief goods

Could this be true?

Taking pictures of the 'humongous' undisclosed DSWD warehouse where local and international donations of goods for the victims of the typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng are stored and waiting to be repacked and distributed, a blogger got so enraged by what she has seen and experienced when she served as a volunteer to be one of the repackers and called on her followers to spread the word about it.

Apparently, blogger Ella Rose felt it unthinkable that the DSWD still has all those piles and piles of relief goods which were donated for the victims of the recent typhoons while so many victims are still waiting for additional relief because they were totally devastated. Houses were destroyed. Many were left jobless. Thousands await help in evacuation centers. Those who have nothing hardly even could have three meals a day. More so to buy cooking utensils, at the least. Or perhaps even just a decent mat to sleep on or a towel to dry them up either from sweat or another fresh dash of rain on them. It must have felt so appalling to be faced with stocks upon stocks upon stocks of Pork and Beans, water jugs, cooking pots, sleeping mats, blankets, etc. Not to mention the yet to arrive 100 tons of fortified biscuits from the United Nations World Food Program.

She was enraged some more when allegedly the DSWD reasoned out that there were no enough volunteers to repack them so they could be distributed at the soonest, reasonable time. She reposted some pictures showing volunteers in some other relief centers, even as young as 10 years old, very much willing to extend efforts to help expedite the much needed relief.

As soon as Ella has posted her emotion-laden entry in her blog, her followers and readers immediately posted their disgust and anger on the DSWD. Tirades were thrown at the DSWD. The entry has reached the international community like wild fire.

The DSWD secretary reacted on the controversy. Of course, there are always explanations and reasons. The media was able to catch the hot item. The DSWD banked on the word 'rotting' goods used by the blogger as a defense wall. Goods are released, it said, on calibrated amounts. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran a story about the defense. Giant TV networks ABS-CBN and GMA 7 also had their share of the item.

One or two weeks from now, it is possible that those goods would no longer be there. They would have been distributed already to the local DSWD offices in areas devastated by the typhoons. Meanwhile, help would continue to arrive, both from local and international donors. The warehouses could be filled up again. The pictures shown by blogger Ella are definitely quite disturbing on first look. It is so easy to accuse the DSWD of being so slow or worse hoarding those goods for whatever reason one can imagine.

But could truth be judged based on pictures alone accompanied with emotionally filled comments or descriptions?

I salute blogger Ella Rose for her exposé. That was truly admirable of her. How many among us could act like her and take a personal stand and become the 'guardian' of truth, justice, and equality? How many among us can speak up genuinely for those who have less in life?

Ella did what she believed was right. She felt that by letting those relief goods be stocked up longer, it is also denying the intended recipients the good intentions of those who responded promptly to help them right away. If indeed they are for distribution, why delay?

The DSWD should explain what they mean by 'calibrated release'.  Does it mean storing some of them for future emergencies or calamities? But the goods were donated for the victims of Ondoy and Pepeng. Perhaps to include Quedan and Ramil. Not for other future calamity victims. Statistics of victims is a public knowledge. Apportioning or allocating these donated goods could be easily done by experts. The DSWD should know by now how much should go to the different regions devastated by the typhoons. I guess all donations must go. No single donation should be left lurking somewhere in any government agency or private entity for that matter. All donations were meant for the victims. And it must be as soon as possible. As soon as they are repacked. Future victims of calamities will have their own share, too once we get there. Meanwhile, the government should always have buffer budget for calamities which it prepares for future use, especially when donors already get burned or fatigued. But it should not come from the donations which the donors gave for a particular intention.

Lessons have to be learned.

Meanwhile, the power of the Internet in disseminating information is not a question anymore. Bloggers like me are free to post practically anything under the sun, whatever pleases us. Bloggers could either make or break people or institutions. Once published in the Internet, one hardly has control anymore. And before one knows it, the damage has been done.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

5 missing Chinese students found

Thanks God! The five "missing" Chinese students of St. Paul University Philippines weren't missing after all. They probably left for Manila without even bothering to ask permission from the University officials. Two of them already left for Hong Kong. The other three are yet to leave for Shanghai on Saturday.

The news story follows:

SANTIAGO CITY, Isabela – Police have found the whereabouts of the five Chinese students who were reported missing in Cagayan province.

The Chinese nationals, all exchange students at the Catholic-run Saint Paul’s University in Tuguegarao city, were last seen on October 6 but the school’s international student coordinator reported the incident only after a week.

The “missing" persons were identified by school authorities as Li Sha, Tang Jing, Yu Ming, Zheng Xian Jun and Nang Yuan Yuan.

Probers from the regional police office, however, found out that the students left for Manila on the night of October 6.

Li Sha and Nang Yuan Yuan were discovered to have flown out of the country via a Cebu Pacific flight bound for Hong Kong on Oct. 10.

The remaining three are set to leave the country Saturday night for Shanghai, China.

Four of the “missing" students reportedly sought temporary shelter at the house of a Chinese friend in Mandaluyong while Yu Ming stayed in the Manila house of a close friend from the university.

Cagayan Valley police director Chief Supt. Roberto Damian said it looked like the foreign students suffered from homesickness.

However, he said they will still examine Yu Ming’s classmate, identified only as Stella, if there are other reasons why the Chinese nationals left without going telling school authorities. - GMANews.TV
I felt a little relieved. Thanks God, it was not a case of kidnapping.

5 Chinese Exchange Students Missing

I was surprised and can't believe what I stumbled upon while surfing the net this morning.  GMANews.TV reports that 5 Chinese exchange students of St. Paul University Philippines in Tuguegarao City have been feared missing.

The Chinese nationals were identified as Li Sha, Tang Jing, Yu Ming, Zheng Xian Jun and Nang Yuan Yuan, and were reportedly last seen on Oct. 6.

The entire story was featured by Yahoo! News Philippines. It reads:

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Five Chinese students from a Catholic-run university in northern Philippines have been reported missing, police said. The missing persons were identified by school authorities as Li Sha, Tang Jing, Yu Ming, Zheng Xian Jun and Nang Yuan Yuan are all exchange students enrolled at the Saint Paul’s University in Tuguegarao, the regional and provincial capital city.

Officials from the university identified the students as Li Sha, Tang Jing, Yu Ming, Zheng Xian Jun and Nang Yuan Yuan, who reportedly were last seen on Oct. 6.

Cagayan Valley police director Chief Superintendent Roberto Damian said Dr. Peregrina Battung, the school’s international student coordinator, reported the case only on October 13. Damian said he has sent a team to investigate the matter. Two Chinese visitors at the Cagayan Economic Zone and Freeport (CEZF) in Santa Ana were also reported missing last April 5. The Chinese nationals, identified as Wehon Che, 35, and Chenny Ang Lee, 45 were both guest speakers to an affair at the Sun City Casino inside CEZF. Authorities said the two were first seen at the Eastern Hawaii Casino also inside CEZF but police tracking teams found them in Manila. - GMANews.TV
I hope that this is not a case of kidnapping. And I pray that they would be found soon.

I am a Paulinian. St. Paul lives in me.

May I share with you an oratorical piece that I have written for our 3rd year and 4th year Oration Contest. There is a strong likelihood that those who can relate with it are also Paulinians.

I am a Paulinian. St. Paul lives in me.

To stand for Christ. To witness for Christ. To preach like Christ. To feel like Christ. To see like Christ. To love like Christ. To live like Christ.

These were what Saul of Tarsus, who eventually became St. Paul, the most zealous among the apostles, though he never met Christ physically, did when he was converted by Christ himself on his way to Damascus. And I am a Paulinian, whose name was inspired by the Greatest Writer and Preacher of all the Apostles. I must say, it is indeed an honor to carry his name Paul because I am a Paulinian.

St. Paul urged Christians to be “all to all” – to minister to the “body of Christ” in faith, hope, and love.

I am a Paulinian. My roots could be traced from the farming villages of the old, rustic Levesville-la-Chenard in Beauce, France. Four young girls moved by compassion began works of charity for the poor – taking care of the sick and teaching them to read and write and about Jesus. A young priest, Pe’re Louis Chauvet nurtured these young souls until their congregation grew in number. He endorsed them to the then bishop of Chartres, Most Rev. Paul Godet de Marais who gave them his name and St. Paul as their patron to become the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres. The rest, they say, is history.

In 1905, the SPC Missionary Sisters reached the Philippine shores in Dumaguete “to guard the faith” and teach the young people of the “Good News of salvation.”

More than a hundred years later, now here I am, standing proudly before all of you – a Paulinian, inheritor of a glorious past whose people were motivated by their love of Christ. We, Paulinians, live by our motto Caritas Christi urget nos! – our Love of Christ impels us.

This makes me different from all the rest. I stand tall and firm in a sea of people who care less because I care more.

I am a Paulinian.

I am formed as Christ-centered, integrated, environment-caring, and community-oriented person. I am a Paulinian who is academically equipped and morally sensitive in the service of my family, the Church, and my country. I am formed to value the finer and nobler things in life, always conscious of the Gospel of Christ. I am formed to respect myself and to recognize the dignity of others. I am taught to make responsible decisions and to use my knowledge and responsibilities to help others. I am a Paulinian molded to integrate my spiritual and moral values, academic, cultural, vocational, and technological knowledge in my life particularly in fulfilling my various responsibilities in my home and in the community where I belong. I am a Paulinian who upholds my identity, appreciates my cultural heritage, and involves myself in issues geared towards community and nation-building.

I am shocked and angered to see people who are elevated into power tasked to manage the affairs of the government, yet they are motivated by greed and lust for more power in order to get more.

I grind my teeth each time that the fundamental rights and dignity of my fellow are trampled upon by those who are callous and ruthless.

I am shaken by people who think only of themselves regardless of what the cost may be.

I grieve in disgust and pain when those who swore to uphold the law and to protect the people are the same people to bend and circumvent the law to be scot-free from crookedness at the expense of the people.

I clench my fist in shame and protest when lawmakers who profess the Christian Catholic faith would push to legalize and promote the use of internationally accepted contraceptives to ensure “a manageable population of healthy, educated and productive citizens”.

I am outraged not merely by the floodwaters brought by cruel typhoons that ravage cities and provinces and claim hundreds of lives as they destroy billions of pesos worth of properties, but also by the lack of sensible urban planning and the late release of excess water from the reservoirs of gigantic dams! A Paulinian is taught to make responsible decisions.

I am enraged by the utter callousness of people who exact high prices amidst crisis, by the indiscriminate dishonesty and red tape in places enshrined with public trust, by the malpractices of certain professionals who are only after their own welfare and caprices, by the crooks in our society who commit crimes left and right without regard to the dignity and lives of their victims.

I am a Paulinian. I hail and praise to high heavens all the genuine but unsung heroes in our midst who give hope and light in the dark alleys of our jungle society.

I commend all those in public service who are imbued with unquestioned dedication worthy of emulation that brings honor and prestige to the public offices they represent.

I salute with pride all those who extend the extra mile to help build lives and give hope to those who have nothing in life.

I rejoice in gladness to see outstretched arms to embrace another and offer comfort and peace.

I commend all those who genuinely care for the environment and the planet we call home.

And I raise to our ever merciful and loving God all those who genuinely recognize His almighty presence even as I pray that those who have forgotten Him will eventually be converted like Saul on their roads to Damascus.

I am a Paulinian. I stand for Christ. I witness for Christ. I preach like Christ. I feel like Christ. I see like Christ. I love like Christ. I live like Christ.

St. Paul taught me so. He made me so.

And I am thankful because I am a Paulinian.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Great Flood and The Super Typhoon

The recent onslaught of Typhoon Ondoy that caused unimaginable destruction in many parts of Metro Manila and its surrounding Regions brought out the best in the Filipino. Many had been written about the flooding caused by Typhoon Ondoy as the Great Equalizer. Rich and poor alike were not spared from its fury. Perhaps the HAVE-NOTS suffered the most - almost all of their properties damaged and lost may really have been their ONLY treasures in life. But the HAVES may have lost only a fraction of what they really have in life. But just the same, all suffered. My own family was not spared, too.

But as soon as the Ondoy flood was yet about to recede in most areas that it affected, stories of real-life heroes began to emerge. A trial court judge saved more than a hundred people from their dangerous roof-top refuge which only time could tell whether they would also be washed away by the raging floodwaters or not. A man salvaged many people from drowning by risking his own life braving the unpredictable water currents amidst the darkness. This same man saved even the family whom he had odds with. And who could ever forget the ala-fiction dramatic rescue of showbiz star Cristine Reyes by Richard Gutierrez. Cristine had been on the roof of their house which was submerged under water. For over 12 hours, she had been begging for help and rescue but no one arrived until her leading man in their movie Patient X came to the rescue via a borrowed speed boat.

Other prominent stories also flooded the news - couple Ryan Agoncillo and Judy Ann Santos plucked Gladys Reyes and her kids from her fast submerging house.

These are just a few of the hundreds of stories of heroes that Ondoy gave birth.

When local radio and television stations began to describe and show the images of the onslaught, people from all walks of life, affected or not, began pouring in relief goods and cash donations. Moved by the unimaginable sights of people wading in the floodwaters, floating and submerged vehicles being carried away by the strong currents, walls and houses falling apart, people hanging on to dear life by clutching the last twig or rope or electric line as the last defining straw for survival, more and more voluntary donations came in like a flood. The government acted swiftly by deploying all available government assets to help in the rescue, relief, and rehabilitation of the thousands affected. A nationwide state of calamity was declared so that the local governments can act immediately on the 3Rs.

Typhoon Ondoy will definitely be unforgettable.

As if Ondoy was not enough. Super Typhoon Pepeng packing gustiness of over 200 kph threatened the country a week after Ondoy punished Metro Manila and the nearby Regions. Pepeng's fury was received by Northern Luzon especially the Cagayan Valley and the Ilocos Regions. Tuguegarao City turned black and blue. Cagayan gasped for breath. Ilocos Norte suffered the same fate.

Not even relieving the pain caused by Pepeng, Typhoon Quedan passed by going towards the direction of Japan causing Pepeng to return back to Northern Luzon. The Fujiwara effect caused more rains and floodwaters in the area. As if really punishing to the hilt, Pepeng ravaged again the same places as it did the first time around. Another low pressure area could blow Pepeng back to its original course which may be a record-breaking three hits in a row of the same typhoon on the same places in a week's time!

However one may look at it, calamities like these, though unwanted, always bring the best Filipino spirit in us. Bayanihan is alive. As pliant as the bamboo but as strong as the molave, the Filipino weathers all kinds of weather.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kissing 100 people you never knew

This morning I was in for a surprise. I was surfing Yahoo Philippines for the latest news heads when I got this very interesting odd news about a 27-year old music student and Taiwanese girl who posted on her personal blog that she wanted to kiss 100 people (men) while she is in Paris. This attracted 1.97 million visitors to her blog (, including more than 224,000 on Monday alone. I did not understand the language so I checked on her albums, and my, she's pretty. Her name is Yang Ya-ching.

The news read:
A Taiwanese woman's ambition to kiss 100 men in Paris has become an overnight web sensation after she provided details of the quest on her much-visited blog.

Yang Ya-ching, a 27-year-old music major living in the French capital, has so far notched up 54 smooches, she said on her blog, which features photos of some of the encounters.

Collaborators in her project included a factory worker, a model, an Italian tourist and even a soldier visiting the capital of romance for Bastille Day.

"I came up with the idea three years ago," she said on her blog.

"Three of my four friends who were aware of the plan warned me that I might wind up getting slapped rather than kissed."

Yang, who plans to write a book about her kissing experiences, has attracted 1.97 million visitors to her blog (, including more than 224,000 on Monday alone.
"Aren't you afraid of catching a disease?" one of her followers asked.
"No," she replied. "The more you're afraid of, the less you accomplish."
One thing I realized in blogging is that you have to make a strange, odd, unusual gimmick to ensure sure hits. Like this girl. But she has another interesting plan. She wants to publish a book about her experience in kissing 100 men. That must be another hit in the making.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Unforgettable Moments in Mt. Banahaw

In September of 2007, I had the privilege of scaling the heights of Mt. Banahaw with our 4th Year students for their Outbound Education. I must say it was a once in a lifetime experience. What with the so many legends and stories of mysticism about the mountain.

Mt. Banahaw is located some 170 kilometers from Manila. If I am not mistaken, this is a part of Lucban, Quezon. Legends have it that a certain Agripino Lontok had a vision that the mountain was to become the New Jerusalem. Many believe that there is a certain mysterious energy that the mountain possesses that pilgrims claim they feel renewed and invigorated once they visit the mountain for a spiritual journey. In fact, we were oriented by our guides that many places afoot the mountain have been identified as puwesto, or "holy sites" which should not be desecrated. Allegedly, many religious cults or groups abound around the mountain.The names of these puwestos were given some biblical allusions like Kinabuhayan, Dolores, Santo Kalbaryo, Kweba ng Dios Ama and the famous Jacob’s Well. 

I remember, there was this water fall where the water practically descended from the thick roots of a particular vine. Our students were told that the water coming from the fall allegedly had healing powers. The guides called it Buhok ni Ina.

During Holy Week, pilgrims ascend to the mountain for spiritual reasons. Many would try to reach the crater rim peaks called Durungawan to relieve the passion and death of Jesus Christ. There, three crosses have been strategically planted to recreate the actual crucifixion scene. On Good Friday, however, the summit should be deserted, as the mystics believe that only God the Father may bear witness to His Son’s death.

When we went there, we hiked up the mountain with ample amount of water. We had to make sure our water supply would be able to carry us through. We were led to the cold running water of the creek. Then we scaled the heights 'til we found ourselves at the mouth of a very challenging crevice which the people call a cave. It was an exhilarating experience going through the dephts of the cave.

The greatest challenge was being able to reach the peak of the mountain where a large cross was planted. I think the people called it the Kalbaryo. Whoa! Trekking the heights almost made me give up. Thanks to my students who had always been with me. I especially took care of one of them, my ever sweet Jerrmaine de Jesus. Her father entrusted her to me prior to our trip to Mt. Banahaw.

Perhaps if I were to climb the mountain again, I would prefer it on a Holy Week so that I would really experience the mystical magic of the mountain.

Here were some of the unforgettable moments while we were in Mt. Banahaw.