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‘I Want to Go Home’: Filipina Domestic Workers Face Exploitative Conditions Human Rights Watch has long described migrant domestic workers, thousands of miles away from home and hidden out of sight in strangers’ houses, as one of the world’s most vulnerable demographics. Now, nearly a year into a global pandemic, thousands of Filipina women are stranded with even fewer options to flee exploitation.

Many women migrant workers often work in the shadows, exploited in foreign countries, and excluded from basic labor laws.

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Maids from the Philippines at a shelter managed by Labour and Welfare officers in Dubai. By CoRinnE REdfEM • The Guardian

VERY morning, Rowena wakes early on the pile of blankets where she sleeps, curled up against a desk in the corner of the office she used to clean. It’s not yet 7a.m., but if her manager catches her alone in her pyjamas, he’ll try to grope and stroke her, as he’s tried to do several times a week for the past six months.

Rowena, who is 54 and asked to be identified only by her first name, left the Philippines for Bahrain in April 2019. After she had been in the Gulf country for a year, her boss told her that due to the pandemic, he could no longer pay her monthly salary of 120 Bahraini dinar, or BHD (£240). Instead, he would provide her and the three other migrant domestic workers he employed with 10 Bahraini dinar (or £20) for food every fortnight, to be split between four. The same month, Rowena’s flight out of the country was cancelled, and she found herself trapped. In September 2020, her employer stopped giving the women their food allowance too, leaving them with nothing. Rowena and her housemates are not alone: the pandemic has left domestic workers like them further exposed to exploitative working conditions and abuse. The Guardian has interviewed more than a dozen Filipina women across Asia, Europe and the Middle East since April 2020. Most have lost jobs or had salaries cut by their employers since the start of this year. Others have also found themselves suddenly subjected to physical abuse. As Covid started to spread worldwide, the Philippine government organised repatriation flights from Manama to Manila. But Rowena didn’t know about them. In July, three months after her boss first stopped paying her, she wrote on the Philippine government’s Overseas Foreign Workers Help Office’s public Facebook page to ask for help, along with dozens of other Filipina women and men stranded abroad. She also applied for financial support from the Philippine department of labor and


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employment. Months passed by, but no one replied. “I don’t want to make trouble,” she says via a call over Facebook Messenger. “I want to go home.”

Most vulnerable group

The Philippine government says that about one-third of its 10 million citizens overseas are women working in “elementary” jobs – a term widely interpreted as referring to domestic workers like Rowena who are paid low wages to clean homes, and cook meals and care for wealthy families under often horrendous conditions. Human Rights Watch has long described migrant domestic workers, thousands of miles away from home and hidden out of sight in strangers’ houses, as one of the world’s most vulnerable demographics. Now, nearly a year into a global pandemic, thousands of Filipina women are stranded with even fewer options to flee exploitation. According to the International Labor Organisation, there are 11.5 million migrant domestic workers worldwide. By the Philippine government’s own estimate,

about one in four is a Filipina woman. International advocacy organisations believe the number would likely be higher if those who are undocumented were taken into account. Together, the women form a scattered community, the majority spread across the Middle East and East Asia, followed by Europe and the United States. Recruited by international agencies who favour English-speaking nannies and cleaners, the women are charged exorbitant fees to find work overseas. For the 60% of Filipina women who work in the Middle East, they’re also subject to the “kafala” system, which generally binds a migrant worker to their employer, resulting in the confiscation of their passports until their contracts come to an end. Maria, 43, is a single mother from the Philippines who has been working in Hong Kong since 2019. In August, her employer lost her temper after Maria (who agreed to speak on the condition of her anonymity) didn’t cook a bell pepper for the family’s baby. “She slapped me on my face, on the right side of

Foreign domestic workers in the Middle East rally against the “kafala” system, which generally binds a migrant worker to their employer, resulting in the confiscation of their passports until their contracts come to an end. my face with her hand, and beat me on [my] bottom [ I think] around three or four times,” she says. “I felt that I was unworthy for her.” In Singapore, Robina Navato hears similar stories daily. A domestic worker for almost 25 years, she also volunteers for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), counseling her peers across the city on their rights. At the start of the outbreak, she received calls

late into the night from Filipina domestic workers trying to leave their abusive employers. “I told them that the shelter is packed with people already and we cannot accept [them],” she remembers. “So if you can hold on, for like another month, and then run away after that?”

Exploitative working conditions

The UK issues about 23,000 visas to foreign domestic work-

ers every year, half of whom come from the Philippines, according to reports. British laws enabled their abuse before the pandemic, migrant rights advocates say. But research shows illegal, exploitative working conditions have multiplied in recent months. “They don’t have any access to public funds, or furlough schemes or anything like that. From the perspective of the state, they just don’t exist,” says Dr Ella Parry-Davies, a postdoctoral fellow at the British Academy researching the lives of Filipina domestic workers in Lebanon and the UK. “They’re really pushed to the brink of destitution.” In the first two months of the coronavirus outbreak, more than half of the Filipino migrant workers surveyed in the UK had lost their jobs, according to a report compiled in June by Dr Parry-Davies and the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium – a London-based consortium of grassroots organisations advocating for Filipino migrants’ rights. Others saw their wages drop to less than £2 an hour, less than a quarter of the UK’s statutory minimum wage. Of those who were infected by


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the coronavirus, one in four were too scared to ask the NHS for help in case it affected their immigration status in the future. “They’ve got no support whatsoever,” says Dr Parry-Davies, adding that the Filipina women, who clean, nanny and take care of disabled or elderly people, are essentially key workers. “They’re just completely abandoned by the nation.” In 2014, Mimi (who asked to go by a different name to avoid jeopardising her safety) arrived in west London, brought over to the UK by a European family she had previously worked for in Hong Kong. Today, she works from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m., Monday to Friday, taking care of two children under the age of 10, earning about £5 an hour. After finishing her day’s duties, the 52-year-old often crosses High Street Kensington and cleans a neighbour’s house from 8:30 p.m. until one or two in the morning. Then she walks for 30 minutes back to the boarding house she shares with four other Filipina women. Her monthly rent is almost half her salary. “When I am working in the wee hours I am crying, and I am saying: ‘Why am I doing this?’” she says over the phone, late one Friday night. “I know I am being abused. But I cannot complain.” As the country moves in and out of Covid-19 lockdowns, her employers have insisted she continue working, coaching her on what to say to the police if she’s stopped on the street. Their demands have also increased: she has to disinfect the house from top to bottom, clean their three toilets every day and sanitise the kitchen. But although Mimi fears for her safety, she can’t afford to quit. The Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, says his administration is helping Filipino

citizens stranded overseas, but such support is limited. In April 2020, the department of labor and employment (Dole) released a one-off grant of up to 10,000 Philippine pesos (£156) for displaced foreign workers, and the department of foreign affairs (DFA) has repatriated 277,320 Filipino citizens from countries including Lebanon, Turkey and Bahrain since February.

Money for family back home

Each of the women the Guardian spoke to sends the majority of her disposable income back to the Philippines. Filipina migrant workers wire back more than £26bn to support their families every year, accounting for 8.8% of the Philippines’ total GDP, according to the World Bank. Since the start of the year, unemployment in the Philippines has doubled and the pressure to send money home is greater than ever. Without Mimi’s income, her 19-year-old daughter won’t be able to finish her civil engineering degree. “There’s nothing left for me,” Mimi says. “I’m working here with no [money] for myself, just for my family.” Even if Mimi did decide to hand in her notice, she would risk deportation. Until 2012, an overseas domestic worker visa allowed Filipina women to quit their jobs and find a new employer within the UK without it affecting their immigration status. “But when [Prime Minister David] Cameron and the Conservatives were in power, they removed the rights of the domestic workers to change their employers,” says Phoebe Dimacali, who heads up the Filipino Domestic Workers Association UK, a volunteer organisation of more than 80 women from the Philippines in the UK. “Once they leave their employers they will automatically become undocumented.”

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In 2020, foreign domestic workers can legally change employers in the UK within the first six months of their arrival. After six months, the only way they can stay in the country is if he or she can prove they have been trafficked. “The reason why that is a problematic response is because we have lots of people that come to see us who have been exploited but haven’t been trafficked,” says Avril Sharp, legal policy and campaigns officer at Kalayaan, a London-based nongovernmental organisation advocating for migrant domestic workers’ rights. “But they may well be trafficked later in the future, because their visa – if it hasn’t already – will expire, and then they will lose a lot of ... the basic fundamental rights that will keep them safe in the UK.” Many of the women who say they have been trafficked are not allowed to work and have to survive on the national asylum support allowance of £39.60 a week until their visa application is processed, which can take up to three years. Human rights campaigners, along with the Labour MP for Birmingham, Yardley Jess Phillips, are urgently calling for 2012’s overseas domestic worker visa to be reinstated during the pandemic, and to allow thousands of women the right to escape abusive working conditions. “They’re not being fed, they sleep on the floor, they’re not being given the right amount of wages that they need,” says Dimicali. “Nobody knows what is happening inside these big houses in Knightsbridge, inside these big houses in Kensington, in these very wealthy places in London.” A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to protecting migrant domestic workers from exploitation and have already made a number of changes to better protect

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workers. This includes allowing workers to switch to a different employer and explaining how to raise concerns. We are also proud to provide world-leading support for victims of modern slavery so they can rebuild their lives, including by providing accommodation, financial support and counselling.” After her employer stopped paying for her food in Bahrain in September, Rowena found part-time work cleaning houses in the neighbourhood, earning approximately 16BHD (£30) every week. Her visa has expired, and she’s worried that if she’s caught, she might be sent to jail. “It’s useless,” she said. “Because I’m alone here. This is not my country.” On 4 December, Rowena received 75BHD (£147) in financial support from the Philippine government, seven months after she

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first applied. The cheapest ticket from Manama to Manila costs more than twice as much as she received. Her boss has promised to pay for her flight home, but he hasn’t told her when. The Phillipine department of foreign affairs did not respond to repeated requests for comment. As rates of Covid-19 continue to climb across the world, neither she nor Mimi have told their children the reality of their lives abroad. When Rowena’s 24-year-old daughter and twoyear-old grandson ask how she’s doing, she lies. “She’s asking me: ‘Mama, what date do you come back?’ I say: ‘Very soon …’ But I don’t know, because my boss never says: ‘OK, your ticket is ready now.’” Until he does, Rowena lies on her pile of blankets behind the desk and waits. n

PLANET PHILIPPINES is a newsmagazine for overseas Filipinos published and circulated in various cities and countries all over the world. Launched in 2002, the paper carries news features written by professional and experienced writers from Manila covering a wide range of topics – lifestyle, entertainment, celebrities, current affairs, OFW-related issues, travel, sports, politics and business. Each edition of Planet Philippines is managed and run by an independent area publisher under an exclusive licensing arrangement. We pioneered a unique business model that simplifies operations and cuts cost while ensuring high editorial standard. We provide the editorial content (stories and photos), design and layout for each issue; the area publisher solicits advertisements, prints the paper and keeps all the advertising revenue. For inquiries on how to become a publisher of Planet Philippines, email us at planetphilippines@gmail.com or visit us at www.planetphilippines.com.


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The situation is a far cry from the university life Rosemine Gonzaga had anticipated. ‘I was really excited for college because all my life I’ve been here in the mountains,” Gonzaga said, explaining how the pandemic had thwarted her plans for an independent life in the town.

The students have even built a hut to provide shelter when it rains and to sleep in when they work late into the nights on assignments

Mountain Trekking to Catch a Signal:

Online Learning in the Philippines PhoTos by ELoIsA LoPEz (Reuters)

In Laguna province, students Jester Rafon, 20, Rosemine Gonzaga, 19, Jenebyl Cipres, 19, and Almer Acuno, 21, trek up a mountain to get internet access


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Hopes for a return to classrooms in January were dashed after President Rodrigo Duterte reversed a plan to trial in-person classes in low-risk areas, postponing any reopening indefinitely as the Philippines battles coronavirus infections, the secondhighest number in Southeast Asia.

Since the pandemic forced him to learn remotely, 10-year-old Jhay Ar Calma has often had to climb on to the roof of his home in a poor neighbourhood of Manila to get an internet signal. He takes part in an online class with a tablet provided to him by the local government.

“It’s important for me to finish my studies so I can help my parents in the future,” said grade 3 student Mary Joyce Florendo, 8, pictured at home with her mother and siblings.

“Sometimes we change the sim card to a different provider so he doesn’t have to study on the roof, but there’s rarely enough money to spare for that,” said Jhay Ar’s mother, Jonalyn Parulan.

Mark Joseph Andal, 18, who lives in San Juan, Batangas, has taken a parttime job in construction to purchase a smartphone for virtual classes and has also built a forest shelter to capture an internet signal.

The shift to online classes, self-learning modules and television and radio programmes has proven extremely challenging in a country of 108 million where less than a fifth of households have internet access and many lack mobile devices.

Tending to her family’s sidewalk eatery, while completing her assignment, grade 9 student Annie Sabino, 16, said: “I often wake up late for class from staying up too late finishing online schoolwork, as the signal is better at night.”


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When the signal fades, Andal picks up his plastic chair to move to another spot, and if it rains, he holds the phone in one hand and an umbrella in the other. Andal says he has no choice. “We’re not rich, and finishing school is my only way to repay my parents for raising me.”

Grade 7 student Jean Irish Del Rosario, 13, takes part in an online class using a tablet that is connected to a store’s wifi vending machine, at Tondo, Manila.

Grade 5 student Lovely Joy de Castro, 11, who lives at a makeshift home in a cemetery in Makati City, sometimes studies sitting on gravestones to avoid getting under the feet of her family cooking chicken to sell to visitors.

Daniella Nicole Cabasines, 11, a grade 5 student, carries on her learning at an evacuation centre for residents affected by Typhoon Vamco. “When the flood started to rise, the first thing on my mind was to save my modules. I forgot about my clothes, but not my modules,” she said.

“I know we haven’t given her enough guidance with school,” said Lovely Joy’s grandmother Angeline Delos Santos, “but if we don’t take care of our business, we would have nothing to feed the kids. I just hope that she finishes school, gets a good job, and ultimately finds a life outside this cemetery.”

Many families struggle with home tutoring and there has been a surge in students dropping out of school, according to the education ministry, while others who rely on scholarships fear they may lose them if they are unable to keep up with lessons. (The Guardian) n


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The Philippines has one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to legally have sex with children as young as 12 if they agree.

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ANILA teenager Rose Alvarez was 13 when she started having sex with a man who was more than twice her age. That would be statutory rape in most countries, but not in the Philippines. The Catholic-majority country has one of the lowest ages of consent in the world, allowing adults to legally have sex with children as young as 12. Child rights activists have lobbied for decades to increase the age - enshrined in the penal

Child rape and sexual abuse are rampant in the Philippines, according to official data. A woman or child is raped nearly every hour.

‘Victory for Children’:

PH Set to Raise Age of Consent

Congress now looks set to approve a bill to raise the age of consent from 12 to 16. Campaigners say the legislation would help protect youngsters in a nation that has become a global hotspot for online child sex abuse and where more than 500 teenagers get pregnant and give birth every day.

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code since 1930 - but faced resistance from what they describe as a “culture of patriarchy” in a country where abortion and divorce are illegal. Congress now looks set to approve a bill to raise the age to 16. Campaigners say the legislation would help protect youngsters in a nation that has become a global hotspot for online child sex abuse and where more than 500 teenagers get pregnant and give birth every day. “This is a victory for Filipino children,” Patrizia Benvenuti, UNICEF’s chief of child protection in the Philippines, said recently as


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the proposed legislation moved closer to a final vote. “Pegging 12 as the age of consent is really not consistent with scientific studies on brain development.” Alvarez, who got pregnant when she was 14, says she now realises she had been too young for a sexual relationship and the demands of motherhood. “I was still a child then, I didn’t know anything about sex,” Alvarez, now 16, told Agence France Presse (AFP) at a clinic run by the Likhaan Center for Women’s Health in Navotas, one of the poorest areas of Manila. “I was telling him to use a condom... but he removed it. He didn’t want to use it,” said Alvarez, whose name has been changed to protect her identity. Alvarez - who until the age of 12 thought it was possible to get pregnant from kissing - said she was drunk the first time she slept with the man, who was about 29 when they met on Facebook.

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Donna Valdez carries her child at a health centre in Manila. “When I woke up I was shocked to see blood in my underwear and it hurt a lot,” she recalled. “I was too intoxicated

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to know what was happening.”

‘Victim blaming’

Child rape and sexual abuse are rampant in the Philippines, according to official data. A woman or child is raped nearly every hour, Senator Risa Hontiveros said in a document to the Senate, citing figures from the Center for Women’s Resources. Seven out of 10 victims are children and the vast majority are girls, she said. A governm e n t- b a c ke d nationwide study in 2015 showed one in five children aged 13-17 experienced sexual violence, while one in 25 were raped during childhood, UNICEF said. But prosecuting adult perpetrators in rape cases involving children as young as 12

Activists say increasing the age of consent will deter sexual predators. But more needs to be done to combat sexual violence against children and one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia. has been difficult because they can argue the sex was consensual, said Rowena Legaspi, executive director of the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center. “Imagine a 12-year-old... that girl is still a minor,” Legaspi told AFP. “How could she have consented?” The proposed bill would make it automatically illegal and carry a penalty of life imprisonment, though it would not punish young couples close in age. It is expected to be approved by the Senate in the coming months before going to President Rodrigo Duterte to be signed into law. Activists say increasing the age of consent will deter sexual predators. But they caution more needs to be done to combat sexual violence against children and one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Southeast Asia. All children should have access to age-appropriate sex education “from an early age” as

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well as information and services to make sex safer and avoid unplanned pregnancies, said Carlos Conde of Human Rights Watch. Sexist and “victim blaming” attitudes among prosecutors and judges also needed to be changed, and cases needed to move faster, said Legaspi. It currently take years for a rape case to reach court, by which time the victim may be an adult - and in some cases, the accused has died. “We have so many laws that protect children but the problem is the implementation,” said Legaspi. “You only change the law but the system is still there.”

‘I want to have fun’

Not everyone favours increasing the age of consent. A social worker dealing with adolescents in impoverished areas of Manila told AFP it could push relationships between children and adults underground, making it more difficult to assist youngsters in need. Donna Valdez, 15, says it should be left to the couple to decide if they are ready to have sex. She was 13 when she met her current boyfriend, who is 10 years older than her, on Facebook. After chatting online for two months, they slept together. Soon she was pregnant. The couple live together and under the proposed bill he could be charged with rape. Valdez had no regrets becoming a mother so young, she told AFP as her 10-month-old son wriggled in her lap at the health centre. “We’re happy that we’re blessed with a child,” said Valdez, not her real name. But Alvarez says she misses her old life. “I want to go out with friends again, I want to have fun,” she told AFP. “I’m jobless, my parents are also out of work. Where will we get money for my baby’s needs?” Alvarez hopes to finish high school so she can work overseas - like millions of other Filipinos whose monthly remittances help support their families at home. “I’m too young to be worn out,” she said. “I still have plans, I want to marry an American to have a better life.” (Agence France Presse) n


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WILL SHE OR WON’T SHE?

Robredo to Duterte: Not for You to Decide if I’m Fit to Lead ICE President Leni Robredo remains unfazed after President Rodrigo Duterte once again belittled her capability to lead should she run for president in 2022. Without confirming if she is gunning for the presidency, Robredo said that it is not for Duterte to decide if she is capable or not. The choice would ultimately rest on Filipinos. “Pag ganun kasi, hindi naman siya ‘yung magdedesisyon kung qualified ako o hindi. ‘Yung taumbayan ‘yung magdedesisyon,” said the Vice President. Robredo faced the nation last February 16 after the Supreme Court (SC) unanimously ruled to dismiss the entire electoral protest filed against her by the late dictator’s son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The Vice President’s SC victory came just a day after Duterte railed against her for likening to “extortion” the President’s demand for the United States to pay for the Visiting Forces Agreement. Robredo said Duterte’s reaction is beyond her control, but she is “saddened” that the President often resorts to insults whenever she criticizes his abusive or faulty policies, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. “Hindi ko naman dedepensahan ‘yung sarili ko. Pero ‘yung sa akin lang, makakabuti sa ating

If the naysayers think she has no chance of winning the presidency, then why do they keep wasting their time speculating about her political ambitions in 2022? This was Robredo’s amused reaction amid reports she was being considered by the Liberal Party as its standard-bearer in next year’s presidential elections.

lahat ‘pag nakikinig, ‘pag nakikinig sa mungkahi, nakikinig sa pagpansin ng ibang mga polisiya,” Robredo said. “Kasi ipinakita ng buong mundo, lalo na ngayong panahon ng krisis, na ‘yung mga leaders na marunong magkonsulta, ‘yung mga leaders na marunong tumanggap ng pagkukulang, ‘yung mga leaders na marunong makinig, ‘yung mas consultative, mas maayos ‘yung response,” added the Vice President. The Duterte government has long been criticized for mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis, which has seen businesses closing down and cases

Vice President Robredo feels like it would be a ‘sin’ if she were to think of her 2022 plans while the pandemic is still raging


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of infection steadily going up despite quarantine restrictions.

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to this goal by leading the country as the next duly elected President in 2022,” read the petition, which has since garnered thousands of signatures. On February 14 Robredo thanked her supporters but again dodged questions about her plans for 2022. “I have to admit that, in the deluge of work we face every day … for me, at least in our office, we’re just doing our jobs,” she said. “I don’t think it’s right that I should prioritize politics in a time of crisis.” “When the elections are near, then we will talk. But for now, we don’t want to be distracted from what needs to be done. There is a right time for that,” she added.

Leni coy about 2022 plans

Political pundits have long named Robredo as a likely presidential bet in 2022, as she is holding the highest position in government among key opposition figures. She is the Vice President, after all. Robredo herself has not yet categorically declared her intention to run. Still, this has not stopped Duterte from questioning Robredo’s capability to lead the country, previously calling her incompetent and unfit to become president. When asked by a reporter last February 16 what the possible implications of the VP protest’s dismissal on her 2022 plans are, Robredo reiterated her candidacy is still far from her mind. “Alam ‘nyo parang gusto ko munang namnamin ‘yung araw na ito. Almost five years din naming hinintay,” said Robredo. “Parang immersed pa kasi kami sa pang-araw-araw, ‘yung pang-araw-araw na pagtugon sa mga naapektuhan ng pandemya na pakiramdan ko na parang kasalanan kung political plans ang uunahin ko,” she added. Even without a Cabinet position, Robredo has managed to run her flagship anti-poverty program Angat Buhay with the help of the private sector. Robredo has also earned praise for initiating various recovery programs when the COVID19 pandemic hit the country. She has delivered concise remarks that offer concrete solutions to the pandemic, often contrasted with Duterte’s winding speeches.

Petition for Leni to run

If the naysayers think she has no chance of winning the presidency, then why do they keep wasting their time speculating

“As in all my other elections, I’m open to all possibilities. I’m okay with everything — with various positions,” she said. But she would be much “happier” in local office where she would have “direct contact” with people. about her political ambitions in 2022? This was Robredo’s amused reaction amid reports she was being considered by the Liberal Party as its standard-bearer in next year’s presidential elections, potentially pitting her against Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who emerged as the front-runner in a Pulse Asia survey released in December.

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Presidency not for women

The Vice President during a visit to depressed community in Tondo, Manila.

President Duterte says women are not fit to become president, which some observers believe was directed at Vice President Robredo. In early February Robredo’s supporters launched a signature campaign called “I am ready for Leni,” that urged her to run for the country’s highest post. The petitioners said it was their “deepest desire to see the

Philippines back on its way to being one of the most economical, progressive, politically transparent, humane and respected countries in Asia.” “We believe that Vice President Leni Robredo can lead us

On January 14, President Duterte’s sexism reared its ugly head once again as he proclaimed in a speech that women aren’t cut out to be president of the country. Duterte, speaking at the formal opening of the Skyway Stage 3 project, made this comment in reference to his own daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who he said he advised not to run for president in 2022. “My daughter, inuudyok man nila. Sabi ko, ‘My daughter is not running.’ I have told Inday not to run kasi naaawa ako sa dadaanan niya na dinaanan ko. Hindi ito pambabae,” said the Chief Executive in front of Cabinet members, businessmen, and other government officials. He continued: “Alam mo, the emotional setup of a woman and a man is totally different. Maging gago ka dito.” While the President’s sexist remark was ostensibly in reference to his daughter, some observers believe that it was directed at Robredo, whom the President has constantly criticized and insulted. (Rappler.com) n


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ANILA – President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has been steadfast in his position that the country should have a separate department that would properly address the concerns of Filipinos overseas, Senator Christopher “Bong” said on Monday.

“This is so important to him that he has called for the creation of this department in the last two State-of-the-Nation Addresses,” Go said during the Senate hearing on the proposed bill creating Department of Overseas Filipino (DOFil). Go thanked his fellow senators, including Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development chairperson, Senator Joel Villanueva, for pushing the creation of DOFil.

Duterte ‘steadfast’ on creation of OFW department: Go “Today, we heed the call of the President to enact a measure that will create a department solely focused on the evergrowing needs of Filipinos in foreign lands. I thank our good Chair, Sen. Villanueva, and all of my colleagues who filed similar bills for leading in this first step towards the realization of this goal,” Go said. He said the executive department has conducted series of meetings and consultations among the government agencies in-

OFW INVESTMENT PROJECT. Photos show the round-table meeting between Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Emmanuel Piñol (right) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) President Herbosa on Monday (Feb. 1, 2021) at the DBP office in Makati City. Both parties agreed to work on the details and mechanics of the “MinDA OFW Investments Fund,” which is expected to offer the country’s foreign workers a secure investment program. (Photo courtesy of Argie Leparto/MinDA)

DBP, MinDA to create OFW investments fund By prexx marnie kate trozo

D

AVAO CITY--The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) have agreed to establish an investment vehicle where Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) can deposit their hard-earned money for modest earnings while at the same time help rebuild the country’s economy.

Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the initiative arose from his discussions with top DBP officials led by its president, Emmanuel Herbosa, on Monday. Both parties agreed to work on the details and mechanics of the “MinDA OFW Investments Fund,” which is expected Senator Christopher “Bong” Go (File photo)

Turn to page 22


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Lira’s ImmIgRAtIon oRnER

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ccess to health care has never been more important than now. this article explores who can access free health care via the National Health service (NHs) and who cannot. contrary to what some believe NHs care is not public funds so receiving medical care from the NHs will not be in breach of your immigration status where you have limited leave to remain. Beware, however, of NHs debts which is also discussed below. Primary care

NHS England defines primary care services as “the first point of contact in the healthcare system, acting as the ‘front door’ of the NHS.”. Primary care services are provided by your General Practice (GP / doctor) or in emergencies, treatment at an Accident and emergency department. this means that once you are registered with a GP any treatment you receive from your GP is free of charge. Likewise, if you meet with an accident and you require emergency treatment at a hospital such procedure will also not be chargeable as both are regarded “primary care”. It is important to note that free Primary care service will apply regardless of your immigration status.

Registering with a GP

Anyone in england can register with a GP. GPs will generally register you with their practice if they have capacity and this is again regardless of your immigration status. the GP surgery will ask you to complete some forms and may ask if you have a visa – they should not refuse your registration because you have limited leave such as say a spouse visa, or if you are an overstayer. once registered consultation with your GP under the NHs is not chargeable. If you are in an unfortunate position of needing further medical

NHs treatment and Immigration by Lira Simon Cabatbat

help beyond primary care, the next consideration is whether the further NHs procedure you need is c h a rg e a b l e . Are you entitled to free NHs “secondary care”?

Secondary Care

If you need follow up treatment following your GP visit or after an accident, your entitlement to free secondary care will depend on two things. The first is whether you are “ordinarily resident” in the UK and secondly whether you have “settled status” in the UK. If you do not have both then you will be charged for secondary treatment which is basically everything beyond primary care. For example, undergoing physiotherapy following an accident will be considered secondary care.

Ordinarily Resident

It is a question of fact if you are ordinarily resident in the UK. to assess this, you will be asked by the Hospital various questions including whether you usually live in the UK? Do you have a permanent address? Do you work in the UK? An overstayer can be ordinarily resident; by the same token a British citizen may not be ordinarily resident in the UK. this means that a British citizen who recently returned to the UK but does not usually live here may not be ordinarily resident in the UK and will not be able to access free NHs secondary care.

Settled status

settled status means you have permanent residence status in the UK. A British citizen or someone

with settled status (Indefinite Leave to Remain) will have settled status for the purpose of free NHs secondary care. the above means that if you are ordinarily resident and have settled status in the UK you will not be required to pay for NHs medical help that amount to secondary care. Fortunately, this is not the end of the matter in that if you have limited leave (visa) you can still access NHs secondary care free of charge provided you paid the relevant Immigration Health surcharge when you applied to enter or remain in the UK.

Immigration Health Surcharge (IHS)

If you have limited leave (visa) and have paid the IHS you can use the NHs in a similar way to an ordinarily resident person while your visa remains valid. IHs is the fee that you pay, additionally, when you submit your application to the Home Office. This is presently calculated at £600 per year. If you are applying for a spouse visa this is will be £1500 (£600 x 2.5 years). this means that if you are in the UK with limited leave, such as a spouse, you will not be charged for secondary care carried out under the NHs. You will still need to pay for certain NHs services, including prescriptions, dental treatment and assisted conception services but secondary care will be free under the NHs.

How will the hospital know if you are entitled to free treatment under the NHS?

the hospital will usually email the Home Office via a dedicated Status Verification and Enquiries checking (sVec) to enquire about your immigration (settlement or IHs payment) and for your residency (ordinarily resident) status. If you satisfy the requirements, then you are entitled to NHs secondary care and will not be required to pay for

such treatment. No information about your medical condition is sent to the Home Office. For some medical conditions you may be entitled to free treatment regardless of your immigration status. this means even if you are an overstayer you can receive NHs secondary care treatment without being charged for it. If you receive treatment and are billed for this because you are deemed not entitled to NHs (free) secondary care and you do not pay the hospital’s bill any application, you later make to the Home Office may be refused if you have a debt to the NHs.

NHS debts

Immigration rules provide that applications for entry clearance or leave to remain in the UK may be refused if the applicant failed to pay an NHs charge or charges totalling to at least £500. Note that this only applies where the debt was incurred after the 6th of April 2016. If the debt was incurred between 1 November 2011 and 5 April 2016, the limit is higher at £1000. this means if you were billed for treatment under the NHs and you did not pay it, your application to the Home Office to return to the UK or for leave to remain in the UK may be refused. Beware that hospitals do not always get

this right as I have dealt with cases where my clients were incorrectly charged for NHs medical treatment. If you are in doubt you should challenge the bill.

Free Treatment regardless of status

A full list of the 33 medical conditions for which free treatment is available is on the Home Office’s website. In addition to the list free treatment is available for the following: • coVID-19 investigation, diagnosis, and treatment • diagnosing and treating sexually transmitted infections • family planning services (does not include termination of pregnancy or infertility treatment) • services for treating a physical or mental condition caused by torture, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, or sexual violence • palliative care services provided by a registered palliative care charity or a community interest company • services that are provided as part of the NHs 111 telephone advice line

COVID-19 treatment

Do not be afraid to get treatment or be vaccinated even if you are an overstayer as your information will not be shared, by the NHs, to the Home Office. The Government has already announced that they will not ask the NHs for information received from patients’ treatment for coVID for immigration reasons.

Disclaimer: This information is not designed to provide legal or other advice or create a lawyer-client relationship. You should not take, or refrain from taking action based on its content. Douglass Simon accept no responsibility for any loss or damage that may result from accessing or reliance on content of this Article and disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability with respect to acts or omissions made by clients or readers on the basis of content of the Article. You are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein.

Article written by Ms Lira Simon Cabatbat. Lira has been in practice as an Immigration and Family solicitor for over 26 years and is the principal of Douglass Simon Solicitors. She is an accredited Resolution (First for Family) specialist and is a fluent Tagalog speaker. Douglass Simon (tel. 0203 375 0555) has been established for over two decades and has been a centre of excellence, especially in the areas of Immigration, Family and Probate. We have received commendations from judges and clients alike. Please refer to our website for more details.


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Duterte ‘steadfast’ on creation of OFW department: Go

From page 19

volved in the proposed measure to coordinate and consolidate their concerns about the DOFil. “Nagkakaisa po ang ating mga government agencies in support of this proposed law (Our government agencies are united in support of this proposed law),” he said. Go allayed concerns that proposed DOFil would further bloat the government bureaucracy.

“Hindi po ito pagdagdag sa ating bureaucracy. Rather, this is a measure to streamline the bureaucracy. Kaysa naman hiwa-hiwalay ang ating mga ahensya na nagsisilbi sa ating mga overseas Filipinos, hindi po ba mas maganda na nasa iisang bubong

na lang sila? Iisang naman po sa kanila team, iisang mandato. itong isinusulong natKailangan po mayroon ing batas (We should retayong one-country- member that they are the one who are in need here. Let’s listen team approach (This is to them and understand where

not an addition to our bureaucracy. Rather, this is a measure to streamline the bureaucracy. Instead of having different agencies serving overseas Filipinos, isn’t better to put them under one roof? One team, one mandate. We should have one-countryteam approach),” Go said. He added that it is important to properly listen to the voice of the OFWs.

“Sana po ay alalahanin natin na sila ang nangangailangan dito. Pakinggan po natin sila at intindihin natin kung saan po sila nanggagaling. At the end of the day, para

they came from. At the end of the day, this proposed law is for them),” he said.

‘Immeasurable contribution’

For his part, Villanueva said it is high time to create separate department for overseas Filipinos, citing the “immeasurable contribution” of the OFWs to the country’s pride and economy, especially in these times of pandemic.

“Noong 2019, umabot po ng PHP1.56 trillion ang kabuuang cash remittances ng mga overseas Filipinos. Ito yung pinadaan

remittances of the overseas Filipinos reached PHP1.56 trillion and sent through banks and remittances center. This does not include money they personally brought home or sent through their fellow OFWs in the Philippines,” Villanueva said in his opening remarks. These facts alone, Villlanueva said, are enough justifications to create a whole department mandated to only look after OFWs worldwide, and consolidate the mandates of smaller government offices under the Department of Labor and Employment and the De-

partment of Foreign Affairs. And because overseas Filipinos are prospering worldwide, the senator noted, the country also prospered, “lifting many out of poverty.” “At present, 12 percent of the national income is the monetized sweat of the overseas Filipinos. Their generous remittances buoy our economy up, keeping it afloat in times of economic headwinds,” Villanueva said. “Kung bibilangin po natin ang pasok ng salapi mula sa mga OFW na parang metro ng taxi, ito po ay PHP4.276 billion a day, PHP178.17 million an hour, and almost PHP3 million bawat minute (If will the money being sent by our OFWs, it is like taximeter: PHP4.276 billion a day, PHP178.17 million an hour, and almost PHP3 million every minute). Villanueva said the proposed DOFil has been certified as urgent by Duterte. (PNA) n

Another initiative for potential funding, he said, would be the Mindanao Fish Cage Program that will support the island’s fishermen in establishing fish cages in the different bays and coves of Mindanao to contribute to food production. Other programs for possible

funding included the Mindanao Cattle Industry Development Program, the MinDA Water Supply Program, the Mindanao Hog Industry Development Program, and other food production projects such as chicken raising, high-value vegetable farming, and highvalue fruit tree farming were included in the OFW investment program. “It was agreed during the meeting at the DBP Makati Office yesterday that the details and mechanics of the MinDA OFW Investments Fund will be crafted by a joint team of DBP and MinDA. A massive information drive targeting the prospective OFW investors will be undertaken after the details of the program have been finalized,” the MinDA chief said. (PNA) n

sa bangko at remittance centers. Mas malaki pa ang halaga kung kasama ang perang personal na inuwi o ‘ipinakisuyo’ kay kabayang umuwi sa Pilipinas (In 2019, cash

DBP, MinDA to create OFW investments fund

From page 19

to offer the country’s foreign workers a secure investment program. “The country’s OFWs remit to their families an estimated PHP1.6 trillion every year, and many of them have been victimized by investment scams which offered incredible returns. The MinDA OFW Investments Fund Program is a result of the inquiries of several OFWs forwarded to MinDA on how they could invest their hard-earned money in the various agricultural and fisheries programs initiated

by the agency,” Piñol said. Herbosa, on the other hand, said the “Principal protect” policy would be adopted in handling the OFW investments, which means that while the returns could be just in the vicinity of 1.5 percent annually, the OFWs’ hard-earned money would be protected from any risk. At the same time, he said, the OFWs would be able to “perform a patriotic act of helping the Philippine economy, which is badly battered by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Piñol said that among the

programs that could be funded by OFW Investments initiated by MinDA is the Bamboo Industry Development Program, which seeks to utilize a million hectares of denuded and logged over areas, watersheds, and sources of headwaters located in the eight major river basins of Mindanao.


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Theatre staff vacancies Practice Plus Group Hospital, Shepton Mallet Competitive salaries, benefits and relocation packages available.

Are you looking to join a team whose key focus is to provide excellent patient care through working

together in a collaborative and caring way?

We are looking to add to our hospital theatre team and have vacancies in the following areas: •

Anaesthetic Practitioner

Endoscopy Nurse

Surgical First Assistant

Nursing Associates/ Assistant Practitioners

Scrub Practitioner

Ward Nurse

PACU/Theatre Recovery Nurse

Outpatients Nurse

When you work at Shepton Mallet you will be able to benefit from an excellent work life balance, clear career pathways, cross functional working, excellent clinical facilities, flexible working, clinical training, clinical leadership and governance structures and excellent training and development. Our team have a wide diversity of backgrounds and skills and we proudly place an emphasis on employee wellbeing. What is it like being part of the theatre team in our hospital? We are a small team and very close, more like a family. Many staff members have been here 10-15 years so we are quite settled. Our working hours are predictable and we don’t need to do many unsocial hours. We listen to our staff and are very supportive. In our theatre team we are very keen to develop our staff, for example, most of our first assistants have been trained whilst working with us. We have recently started our first nurse apprenticeship programme via Open University and we would be interested in pursuing more apprenticeship training for both nurses and nurse associates. All training we provide has been paid by the hospital and we also allocate study time. We support staff to attend courses and study days as long as they are well justified. We have an extensive e-learning portal and develop me programme, which are accessible for all staff as identified in the annual performance review. Once a month we also have training afternoon and staff can request training they feel would be helpful. Some things we’re really proud of at Shepton Mallet are our outstanding CQC rating in all domains, innovation such as day case hip surgery, PROMs scores and supporting our NHS Trust colleagues during COVID and beyond.

To find out more or apply email Sonia at careers@practiceplusgroup.com or call 07580 018791. Feb.21 (0132)


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LOCAL SERVICES SEPTEMBER 2020

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By joHAnnEs chua

T IS not business as usual, especially if you are below 15 years of age, or 65 years old and above. Most business establishments and accommodations strictly enforce this rule from the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on Corona Virus), which also includes following rules ensuring physical distancing, wearing of face mask and face shield, checking of body temperature, etc. With or without government guidelines, it is prudent to stay at home as Covid-19 cases are rising. But if you really want to go out and spend the long holiday

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Destinations You Could Easily Reach By Car In Tagaytay, it is not business as usual as all establishments in the city are required to observe health and safety protocols. The city also has a strict curfew at night, so as to prevent unnecessary late-night gatherings. Call your accommodation or hotel first to ask for their requirements. weekend somewhere outside the metro, then your best bet is to organize that road trip you’ve been wanting to do to shake off that “quarantine fever.” It is also advisable to use (or rent) your

own vehicle. It is safer (though not cheaper) compared to taking public transportation at this time. Another advice: Make sure to book your accommodations in advance and ask for requirements, such as medical certificates, test results, etc. It would save you a ton of effort and money to plan things well. You don’t want to go to a far place, only to be turned away because of a technicality. An added guide would be the official website of the Department of Tourism (DOT) https://philippines.travel/safeph. Check the website for the latest updates and status of various tourism sites located all over the country.

To ensure that the city is safe for its residents and visitors, the local government of Baguio prescribes strict requirements for tourists.

La Union’s beaches are currently open only to tourists from Ilocos Region and Baguio City.


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or practice regular hand washing. A resort in Batangas was recently in the news (and was ordered to stop operations) as a video showed a party being held at its place. Proper physical distancing must still be observed at all times, even though you all came together as a group.

FOR LONGER TRIPS La Union: Partial opening If you want to celebrate a belated summer and Boracay, Cebu, or Siargao are too expensive for you since you have to buy airfare at regular rates and present various test results to prove that you are fit to travel, then the best option would be the beaches of Batangas or La Union. In fact, La Union is keen at jumpstarting its tourism once again, after months of lull. The DOT recently launched its VISITA (Visitor Information and Travel Application) app in the province. So what you have to do first is to download this mobile app, which was developed to streamline tourism activities in the context of new normal. (Trivia: The VISITA app was developed by the City Government of Baguio to monitor the surge of visitors in the Summer Capital as it opened its doors for tourism last September. Eventually, it was adapted by the DOT to be used for visitor monitoring, contact tracing, and other tourist activity regulation in Region 1). Through the VISITA app, local tourism offices may keep track of the tourist activities to ensure that safety protocols are followed. According to a statement from the provincial government, “La Union is open only to tourists from Region 1 and Baguio City. Through insights generated by the VISITA app, the province may assess its readiness to eventually open tourism to the entire Luzon.” Let’s wait and see if La Union would be once again open to tourists from Metro Manila.

Baguio: Premium on safety As a prime tourist destination, Baguio is challenged with ensuring that its locals are safe, and its destinations are also safe for tourists. As of the moment, Baguio can only accommodate 500 tourists per day (may change depending on the decision of the LGU). Visitors are required to sign up with the Baguio VISITA app and to upload various requirements (such as ID, photo, etc.). For an added

Subic: Responsible tourism

Tourists are now flocking to Tagaytay. layer of safety, guests must have a negative Covid-19 test result, which can be acquired prior to travel or upon arrival.

Ilocos Sur: Confirmed bookings Ilocos Sur, home of the historical site of Vigan, is now open to tourists from Luzon. Like in Baguio, guests are required to have confirmed bookings to a DOT-accredited hotel or travel agency. All are required to register online at SafePass and have a pre-entry Covid-19 test (RT-PCR issued not more than 48 hours prior to travel). Guests will also undergo an antigen test upon arrival. Various tourist sites have different requirements, too, so better inquire in advance.

FOR DAY DRIVES Calabarzon: New normal The Calabarzon region (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon) is welcoming tourists in a new normal way. The region offers a myriad of destinations perfect for a day drive (with the exception of the easternmost towns of Quezon). In Cavite, one of the top tourist sites is Tagaytay, which is now open for business. But again, it is not business as usual as all establishments in this city are required to observe health and safety protocols. The city also has a strict curfew at night,

so as to prevent unnecessary late-night gatherings. Call your accommodation or hotel first to ask for their requirements. In Laguna, specifically the hot springs area of Pansol in Calamba and Los Banos, private resorts are open. A fast check reveals that majority of these resorts are now open, with some changes to follow the LGU’s health protocols. One private resort requires early reservation to determine the exact number of guests. There is a checkpoint to see if this is followed as some resorts (more for the public ones) can only accommodate half of its capacity. In order for your family and guests to be safe, make sure that the private pool you will rent is thoroughly sanitized. And if possible, main-

tain less face-to-face contact with people outside your group, so utilize digital payments, have your food and drinks delivered,

Subic is open to those who plan to stay for a day or two. It is advisable to keep an itinerary with you (or a copy of a hotel/ resort reservation) and a copy of a health certificate coming from either public or private doctors. These documents may be asked from you and your family if you plan to go around and visit the sites and shops. For longer stays (more than 96 hours), there are other requirements asked by authorities, which includes RT-PCR testing, confirmation of bookings, among others. (Manila Bulletin) n

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Julia’s Dad Tells Gerald: ‘Huwag mo lolokohin’

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Julia’s Instagram post with a nipa hut in the background, which looks like those in Gerald’s Hayati Private Resort (right).

Julia-Gerald Romance: Rumor or Real?

W

Julia wearing what seemed to be a ‘G’ pendant.

HEN photos of Gerald Anderson and Julia Barretto from fellow actor Rayver Cruz’s birthday party in 2019 surfaced online, the local showbiz world was “shookt.” Bea Alonzo, Gerald’s girlfriend then, revealed that the actor “ghosted” her and no formal breakup happened. (“Ghosting” is when someone you’re dating ends the relationship by cutting off all communication, without any explanation.) Since then, the rumored relationship between Julia and Gerald has become a household staple. Now that Julia revealed that she’s now “taken,” here are some “signs” that Internet users have spotted that allegedly narrow down at Gerald as the actress’ new love.

OMEDIAN Dennis Padilla had a message for his daughter Julia Barretto’s rumored boyfriend Gerald Anderson. According to a social media post by ABS-CBN’s Kapamilya Online World, Dennis was quoted as telling Gerald to take care of Julia. “Kung mahal mo naman ‘yung daughter ko, alagaan mo na lang siya. Huwag mo lang sasaktan. Saka huwag mo lang lolokohin para mas masaya ang buhay,” Dennis was quoted as saying. `Dennis, however, said that he doesn’t know the real score between her daughter and Gerald. “Kapag hindi siya nagkukuwento, hindi naman ako nagtatanong,” he said. “Siguro she wants to be private lang din. Kung magu-open up siya, makikinig lang ako. Kung hindi man, antay lang ako kung kailan siya magsasabi sa akin. Siyempre, kailangan naman nating respetuhin din ‘yung karapatan ng ating mga anak, siyempre personal naman nila ‘yun eh.” Dennis said he will support Julia and wants her to be happy. “Kung saan naman masaya ang anak ko, du’n ako. Ang pinaka-importante, she’s a very responsible woman. Meron naman siyang sariling hanap-buhay,” Dennis said. “She’s an adult. She’s already 23. So, I’m sure alam naman niya kung saan ang tama at mali. Sa akin lang, kung saan siya masaya eh dun ako susuporta. Basta nasa likod lang ako. I’m just a text away kung ano man ang problema.”

Julia allegedly frequents Gerald’s Zambales resort

Last October 2020, Julia posted on her Instagram account a photo of her with “her” flowers with a nipa hut in the background. “My flowers growing beautifully,” Julia wrote. According to Internet users who commented on the post, the nipa hut in the background looks like those that can be found in Gerald’s Hayati Private Resort.

Julia seemingly wearing G pendant

Julia sent “kilig” frenzy to her and Gerald’s fans upon posting a photo of her wearing a seemingly “G” pendant on her Instagram account last December. “OMG yong pendant. I’m so kilig. Love love love,” @s3ductive33 wrote. While the letter G could stand for anything, social media users said that the letter means Gerald.


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In Julia’s latter Instagram post for the same beauty product, a user alleged that she hid her pendant. “Ginilid yung necklace para hindi makita yung letter G. Hahaha,” @battenberg43 alleged.

Tanay mountain hike

Some social media users claimed that Gerald and Julia were together in a hiking trip in Mt. Kulis in Tanay, Rizal last November. Julia posted a photo of her in the mountain while riding in a wooden boat called “Noah’s Ark.” Meanwhile, a fan account of Gerald posted a photo of the actor allegedly at the same mountain. The fan account credited the photo from Gerald’s Instagram story. Gerald’s brother Ken, meanwhile, posted a drone video taken from the same mountain. Social media users pointed out that Julia and Gerald were seen together in Noah’s Ark.

Hairy arm

Another post of Julia that captured the attention of social media users was when she posted a photo of her “new baby,” a St. Bernard dog. A hairy arm in the photo, however, turned social media

Julia and Gerald in separate posts showing them in Mt. Kulis in Tanay, Rizal. users abuzz, claiming that it was Gerald’s arm, as can be seen from his Instagram account.

‘Pick a side’ Tiktok video

Julia dropped hints about her relationship status through a Tiktok video with her friends. The challenge was to pick a side between two choices. Julia picked “taken” over “single,” “AFAM” (foreigner) over “Pinoy,” “older” over “younger.” Julia’s

chosen sides all allegedly describe Gerald.

Same jersey number

account a video of her kissing Julia on the forehead after her daughter’s volleyball game

against Kim Chiu’s team. In the post’s comments section, an Instagram user noted that Julia sported the same jersey number as Gerald. “NUMBER 3 rin si @andersongerald <3,” the user commented. Marjorie clarified that Julia wore jersey number 3 since her high school volleyball varsity days. “Let me correct this before the story gets big and out of hand again. Number 3 has always been Julia’s jersey number since her high school volleyball varsity days. No special meaning. <3,” Marjorie replied to the Instagram user. In his past interviews, Gerald, who plays for the Imus Bandera in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) Lakan Cup, explained that he chose the number 3 because of his idol – NBA Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. ( Philstar.com ) n

Last 2019, at the height of Gerald’s “ghosting” controversy, Julia’s mom, Marjorie Barretto, posted on her Instagram

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Julia and Gerald in their latest movie “Between Maybes”


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Filipino Toys That Will Make You Super Nostalgic

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KIDS (and adults) today are often too absorbed in playing digital games, so much so that we no longer know or remember how to play with traditional Filipino toys. Unlike their virtual counterpart, the old-fashioned Filipino toys nurtured our creativity and built a sense of teamwork among our peers. Heck, you can even create your own toys by using what was already available around you. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention. Although we now live in a high-tech world, it makes sense to find a perfect balance between allowing our kids to play with their gadgets and introducing them to the toys that have made Filipinos who they are. Here are a few unforgettable toys and games that will make every true Pinoy extremely nostalgic:

1. Tirador

Slingshot is one of the oldest toys in the world, dating as far back as ancient times when it was used both as a weapon and hunting tool. Its Pinoy version, called tirador, is an improvised toy made of a Y-shaped piece of hardwood (or branch of a tree) and rubber strips made from the inner tube of a car wheel. A leather pocket attached to the strips is pulled back in order to launch the projectile–usually a stone or a seed. Filipino kids use tirador either to get high-hanging fruits or hunt small animals such as birds.

3. Holen

or Jolen

Another popular toy that traces its roots to ancient civilizations, the marbles come in different sizes and are usually made of glass with melted pigments. Known to Filipino kids as holen or jolen, these toys are played indoors or outdoors and encourage the players to get down and dirty. Different variations of the game exist, the most popular of which require a player to flick a marble and hit a group of marble inside a circle. Those that went outside the circle automatically become part of the winning player’s collection.

2. Sungka Board

An indoor Filipino game, sungka is actually a member of the mancala (“count and capture”) family of board games and has its counterpart in different Southeast Asian regions and countries as far as Madagascar. A sungka board has seven cups for each of the two players–six cups will hold the cowrie shells (stones or fruit seeds can also be used), while the seventh cup will serve as the player’s home base. The goal is to distribute the shells in a counterclockwise fashion, with the player who gathers the most number of shells in his or her home base declared as the winner. Although considered as a toy by many, the sungka board is also used by some Filipinos to foretell future events. According to an article in the Indian Journal of History of Science, the sungka board in the Philippines “is occasionally used for popular divination, especially by elders enquiring on whether travel by youths is auspicious on a certain day, or by girls interested in finding out whether and when they will get married.”

4. Saranggola

Saranggola, or kite in English, is another favorite outdoor toy of Filipinos. Although the kite is not an original Filipino invention, the saranggola from our childhood was memorable because it was a product of ingenuity. Regular saranggola is usually made of barbeque sticks and plastic bags, with the Manila hemp twine serving as its tail. Saranggola is also known by its other names like boka-boka (smaller and usually made of paper), guryon, tsapi-tsapi, and portagis.


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5. Trumpo

The trumpo or Philippine tops is a conical toy of ancient origins that had fascinated Pinoy kids long before the advent of Beyblades. It is similar to the American top but much smaller. Although you could buy ready-made tops, most kids back then preferred to have an improvised trumpo, usually carved from hardwood or guava branches. The typical trumpo has an iron-nail pivot and is wrapped with nylon lines attached to a stopper held between the player’s fingers. It also comes in various shapes and designs–from the wooden Ifugao top “with a groove at its waist, its pivot the extension of its body” to the Maranao version in Mindanao that has “silver or copper bands incised with decorations.” Trumpo is ideally played by two or more people. Kids would often throw their tops on a flat surface and let them spin and outperform each other. The player with the last trumpo standing becomes the winner.

8. Sipa

6. Teks

Made of a small metal washer and colorful plastic straws serving as its tail, this shuttlecock-like toy is used in sipa, a game that had been the country’s national sport until it was replaced by Arnis in 2009. Sipa, which shares similarities with sepak takraw and China’s jianzi, requires balance and agility. No wonder why kids who played it back then were physically fit and had awesome kicking styles to boot.

Popularly known to Filipino kids as “teks,” these cards are similar to US collectible sports cards (basketball, baseball), except the former was commonly played in a betting game wherein the winning player takes home the cards. Printed on cardboard, the “teks” usually depicted TV shows or movies that were popular at the time they were released (for ’90s kids, think Mari Mar, Sailor Moon, Ghost Fighter, Dragon Ball Z, BT X, and Zenki among others.) Back in the day, you could trade these cards with your childhood barkada, or you could join a game where the players would flip the cards in the air and bet which side will come up. Before or after the game, players would usually count their respective cards while uttering “I-sa! Dala-wa!, Tat-lo! A-pat! Li-ma!” and so forth.

9. Coconut Leaf Balls

Coconut leaf toy is to the Philippines as origami is to Japan. Filipino kids who grew up in farms or mountainous provinces took delight in seeing their parents or grandparents as they transformed coconut leaves into toys in the shape of balls or animals. Take note that this coconut leaf ball is similar but quite different from the diamondshaped or heart-shaped woven coconut palm primarily used by Cebuanos to cook the pusò, also known as hanging or palm wrapped rice.

7. Pogs

Pogs is the circular version of “teks.” School-age children from the late ’80s and early ’90s grew their pogs collection also by playing with their peers. The game requires getting the same number of pogs from each player and forming a stack. After a few throwing and slamming, each winning player will get their share of the pogs that land face up.

10. Old Tire

More often than not, it would only take old and unused items to fascinate children back in the days. Such is the case with old motorcycle tires which Filipino kids would roll with a hand or a stick to win a competitive racing game popularly known as kariling. The game is usually held in an open space such as streets or basketball courts, and best enjoyed if you do it with as many friends as possible. Each player should do their best to keep their tires rolling. The first kid to reach the finish line is declared as the winner. (FilipiKnow.net) n


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Then: Rizal Park

The history of Rizal Park, or Paseo de luneta as it was known back in the day, goes back to 1820 when it was completed. Through the years, it has become the site of several historic events that have shaped the history of the Philippines.

s

Now: Rizal Park Today, the historic urban park is still one of the most recognizable areas in the city of Manila.

7 Famous Landmarks in Manila,

Then and Now By pAoLo chua

I s Then: Intramuros

a stone’s throw away from Rizal Park is Intramuros. The walled City has been through wars, occupations, and more, and the area also contains several more landmarks.

s Now: Intramuros

Reconstruction efforts have been made in the walled City, and it has been named a UNESCO world Heritage Site.

T’S alwayS interesting to see beforeand after-pho tos. From historic hotels to plazas and parks, we’ve covered just about everything there is to compare between old Manila and right now—except, of course, the most recognizable landmarks we see around the city. Here, we’ve put together photos of Rizal Park, Intramuros, and more if you’ve ever wondered what it looked like back then.

s Then: Quiapo Church

another old Manila landmark is Quiapo Church. The basilica was founded in 1586 when it was initially built with bamboo and nipa leaves.

s Now: Quiapo Church

Through time, the church has been built and ravaged by war to be rebuilt again. The structure was expanded in 1984, with the facade and dome retaining the classic design.


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s Now: Binondo

l n

s Then: Binondo

Established in 1594, Binondo is known as the oldest Chinatown in the world. During the start of the 20th century, it had turned into a major banking and financial center.

In the 1960s Binondo gradually began to lose its reputation as the country’s financial center to the upcoming suburban town of Makati. Binondo, however, remains a major commercial district, particularly for Tsinoy businessmen.

s Then: The Manila Hotel

The Manila Hotel is the oldest hotel in the Philippines, playing host to several notable personalities like General Douglas MacArthur, Ernest Hemingway, Michael Jackson, Prince Charles, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, and King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain.

s Now: The Manila Hotel

The latest renovation of the historic hotel began in 2008— just in time for its centennial celebration in 2012.

s Then: Manila Central Post Office

s

Built in 1926, the Manila Post Office was part of Daniel Burnham’s Plan of Manila. The structure was designed neoclassical style, but it was severely damaged during the Battle of Manila in the late 1800.

s

s Now: Manila Central Post Office

After being rebuilt in 1946, the main postal office continued to serve as the home of the Philippine Postal Corporation.

Then: Divisoria

It isn’t known when Divisoria was established. But for as long as many Filipinos can remember, the market has been a go-to for lowpriced goods.

Now: Divisoria

Despite the emergence of shopping malls, Divisoria remains a favourite of Filipinos from all walks of life not only for its bargains but also for hard-t-find items. (Esquire Philippines) n


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With the lockdown, many housewives have the luxury of time to spend in the kitchen to learn, relearn, and explore, we can expect a lot of homegrown specialties such as family and heirloom dishes, cooked with much love and care.

Because of the pandemic, ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook food will become more prevalent.

How 2021 Is Shaping the Way We Eat

By juLEs vivas

AST January, one of the country’s most diversified food company, San Miguel Purefoods Culinary Center (SMPCC), held an online seminar detailing the predictions for this year’s “what’s in and what’s hot” in the local culinary scene. Part of the program was famous chefs giving their opinion on the upcoming food trends based on their personal observations.

Chef Gene Gonzales

The president of the culinary school, Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS), Chef Gene emphasizes that the number of pandemic food entrepreneurs are growing. This means readyto-eat and ready-to-cook food will become more prevalent. For the owner of successful restaurants Café Ysabel and Gino’s Fine Dining, home-cooked and home-baked meals with luxurious and creative improvements will take center stage. Rice will be innovated and incorporated into recipes, while

alternative grains will also be explored. With regards to drinks, coffee and tea consumption will increase, and there will be an expansion of alcoholic and nonalcoholic selections.

Chef Reggie Aspiras

“With the pandemic still in our midst, allowing many the luxury of time to spend in the kitchen— to learn, relearn, and explore—we can expect a lot of homegrown specialties such as family and heirloom dishes, cooked with much love and care,” says the author of food books Notes

Homegrown herbs and spices will gain more popularity with indoor gardening as a trend, mode of relaxation, and safe hobby during the pandemic.

from My Kitchen, and K-Drama Cookbook. “Food this year will be about coming home to one’s roots. It is food from one’s home, meant to be shared, hoping that whoever partakes of it, will feel as though they’ve been invited to a meal by its creator.” “It is a tribute to one’s familial tastes and flavors. Cooking will then be all about bringing one’s personal light to the table,” the culinary mom further said. “There will be inventions as well as ren-

ditions to old-time favorites. On the other hand, artisanal and unique food products are delights to anticipate.” Chef Reggie also sees the rise of healthy food options, aimed to cater to a niche such as diet food, low carb, healthy meals, and the like. “It will be a sweet year where new and freshly baked cake, pastry, bar, and cookie creations will be abundant,” she said. Breads will see a boom and each unique from the other, being a personal expression of its baker.

Chef Sylvia Reynoso-Gala

Frozen ready-toeat viands are in, and one of the kings in this food category is San Miguel Foods. Some of the ready-to-eat frozen meals are the paksiw na lechon, dinuguan, as well as rarely cooked ulam because of the tedious process of cooking them, namely the kare-kare, humba, and binagoongang baboy. “These are food items we’ve been yearning for since the lockdown, which generally restaurants or really seasoned homegrown cooks could provide,” says Chef Sylvia, one of the Philippines’ culinary icons. Ready-toeat and ready-to-cook products make the best and most practical food trend.

Chef Ernest Reynoso-Gala II

The son of Sylvia sees three trends this year. Homegrown herbs and spices will gain more popularity with indoor gardening as a trend, mode of relaxation, and safe

hobby during the pandemic. “Health is wealth and with people more conscious about staying healthy, cooking using air fryer, juicer or blender, small oven, and new cuisines will emerge using these items and as Mediterranean cooking is one of the healthiest cuisines, good for the heart and brain, this will be a popular choice in home kitchens and restaurants,” explains Chef Ernest. Meat alternatives come into play for environmental and health reasons. More and more are looking at plant-based meat to reduce carbon footprints. With new studies indicating positive effects of plant-based diets, veggie burgers are gaining traction.

Chef Emelita Galang

“Like in 2020, this year will be influenced by the lifestyle changes we need to adapt to because of the pandemic,” says Chef Emelita, an established name in the local food scene, and head of the Emelita Wong-Galang Culinary Studio. Until the pandemic blows away food delivery and takeout will be ideal. Bringing restaurant dining to homes as meal kits will be in through more creative menus and packaging, an upgrade to the old to-go bag so we do not feel deprived. Since parties are on hold, it will be conducted online, and people will stick to party food delivery utilizing personalized boxes for would-be guests. And because of the work from home and distance learning setups, it follows that more home cooking will be done—classic dishes and comfort food for that total athome feel. (Manila Bulletin) n


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