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Verbatim We have a cottage industry already of people who make a living criticizing me. And it detracts [me] from solving the problems of this country if I have to attend to them.

President Aquino, vowing to ignore his critics as part of his New Year’s resolutions

I want smuggling of rice in my city stopped. But if you still do not stop your smuggling activities, I will kill you.

Alam na nga nyang under fire siya, ganun pa pagka-allocate niya. Pakapalan na lang ito.

Senator Antonio Trillanes,

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We don’t owe you any of our personal lives.

Kim Chiu, asking movie reporters to respect her privacy after she was pressed to reveal the real status of her relationship with onscreen partner Xian Lim

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., telling media that he has turned to the Bible after being implicated in the P10-bullion pork barrel scam

Senator Jinggoy Estrada to allocate P100 million under the Priority Development Assistance Fund to the city of Manila under the mayorship of his father, Joseph Estrada. The younger Estrada is among 3 senators charged with plunder for alleged misuse of pork barrel funds.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, warning rice smugglers operating in Davao City

Kim and Xian

Sinurrender ko na sa Lord ang lahat.

Puwede namang magpatawa pa rin habang nagtataas ng antas ng kalidad ng paggawa ng pelikula.

Blogger Lourd de Veyra, in an open letter to Vic Sotto, castigating the popular comedian-TV host for producing slapstick films that appeal to the mass audience without regard to artistic and cultural values, such as his latest hit movie, My Little Bosssings

Siguro, nagbago rin talaga ako as a person. There’s a part of me also na hindi na kasinggreedy at hindi na kasing-hungry, medyo okey na talaga.

Kris Aquino, reflecting on her newfound perspective about focusing more on her family and less on her career and material things


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Miracles of the Black Nazarene

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ORE than 10 hours into the Black Nazarene procession in Manila, his senses were only glued to the carriage bearing the life-sized, dark-colored, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross.

Barefoot, his feet already bruised and burned by the hot asphalt of the procession’s route. He even endured the worst physical discomfort from shoving and overcrowding, with other devotees scrambling just to get closer to the image. He was not cowed when some lost consciousness during the transfer of the image from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church. There were no second thoughts; all that was to ask for a cure to the disease of his eldest son. Cenon J. Esguerra, 57, had devoted 10 years of his life taking part in the Black Nazarene march. He placed the fate of his son, Mike, on his faith to the image, which was indeed miraculous, after all. “When he was child, he was always in and out of the hospital. I didn’t know whom I can approach for help. I turned to the Black Nazarene,” Esguerra said. It was Holy Week in 1991 when Esguerra started to join the procession until 2000. He can’t exactly say it was a matter of devotion, or religious fervor. Only one thing he was certain, he wanted his son to be cured. “He can’t talk because of his poor health condition,” the male devotee from Pulilan, Bulacan recalled.

Attended by some 3 million devotees, this year’s procession lasted 19 hours. Like Cenon, others believe that the Black Nazarene represents the solutions to their problems, a relief to their sufferings, and blessing for a better life. He is just one of the hundreds of thousand devotees who walked barefoot for hours, clad in maroon shirts, and waving handkerchiefs in the air as they would find all the means to draw themselves closer to the sculpture of Jesus Christ. Maroon is the color of the Black Nazarene as he is portrayed as wearing a maroon robe at the time of his suffering and crucifixion at Calvary. He has a crown of thorns and a diadem in the form of three silver rays rested on his head. Looking back on those years, he said: “It is very fulfilling to participate in the procession. My connection with God becomes stronger.” “When I joined the procession, my son was no longer brought back to the hospital. He started to speak,” Cenon said. Another devotee who experienced miraculous healing is Fr. Melvin Castro of the Diocese of Tarlac. More than a miracle, the Black Nazarene gave him a

deeper insight on Faith. “He didn’t give me what I want; He gave me what I need for my priestly ministry. I went all through those trials so that I may also know what other people are also going through,” Castro said. He said these are just some of the miracles that he experienced which made him realize that one’s prayers need not always be granted for a person to start believing in miracles. Years ago, he prayed for a miracle to heal his parents of cancer. “I prayed to Him in all

churches for them to be healed. Eventually they both died. Although I didn’t get what I prayed for, I later realized that the miracle was He helped me get on with life,” said Castro. Another miracle was his priesthood. “Sometimes it is in believing that one shall see the miracles,” said Castro. An object believed to bring miracles is the hand of the Black Nazarene which is encased in glass in the office of Quiapo Rector Monsignor Clemente Ignacio. “Many were healed…even those afflicted with cancer,” Ignacio said in an interview. But the Quiapo rector was quick to add that they have several hands of the Nazareno which they bring to a sick person’s house upon request. “Whenever there is a request our ministry brings the hand to the hospital or to the house of the person who is sick and we pray for them,” said Ignacio. He said the healing depends on God. “Some were instant…it depends on God,” Ignacio said. The annual procession of the miraculous image every feast day on January 9 is a display of that fervent devotion to the Black Nazarene. Every year, devotees from all over the country gather in Quiapo Church to witness this traditional parade. Others would say it is an extraordinary feat, which requires great physical strength, and it something that devotees should prepare for and not take it for granted. Once the procession starts from the Quirino Grandstand on its way back to the Quiapo Church, the physical fitness of devotees would be tested. “The procession is not for the faint of heart. They should be prepared spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. If you are not physically fit, it is absolutely not advisable for you to join the procession even if you are strong willed,” said another devotee, Carlos Robbie Sy, 33, of Valenzuela City. (Manila Bulletin) n


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A transitional house costs P7,000 to build.

“Bangka and Lambat” program aims to provide each cluster with two bancas or a total of 400 bancas for the 2,000 adopted families.

Road to normalcy

By yoly villanueva-ong

Yolanda

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IKE the fading howl of the super typhoon, the preponderance of Yolanda stories in media seems to be gradually tapering off. All that’s left still being squeezed for the last drop of sensational pulp bits, are the political gewgaw (Who’s really in charge of the burials?); finger-pointing (“Not us, says the LGU; Not us, says NDRRMC”); and the grandstanding of armchair critics (“Bunkhouses are overpriced, substandard, cramped etc, etc.”). In other words: the petty, snarky aftermath of calamity, as played up by the media.

Meanwhile, away from the limelight, the real newsworthy activity goes unreported. Various NGOs and Christian organizations are quietly and efficiently undertaking the imperative mission of remodeling from devastation. One such effort is iRebuild Leyte. In a rare display of ego-less generosity, a communion of public and private sector entities have linked up to implement a rebuild-itbetter holistic plan. Assistant Secretary Rolando “Dong” Cucio from the Office of Political Affairs (OPA), a former pastor and founder of Operation Compassion Philippines, is at the forefront of the project. After the relief work, iRebuild Leyte designed a need-scope that accurately identified the provisional and long-term requirements of the devastated province.

The multi-sectoral disaster response group is composed of local government units (notably Mayor Sandy Javier of Javier town in Leyte), civil society, private sector and faith-based organizations. The partners include the Municipality of Sogod, Southern Leyte; Kaya Natin; Mamayang Liberal; Unifruitti Foundation; Care Channels; International Graduate School for Leadership; WordComm Foundation Philippines; Japanese International Baptist Church; Villar Sipag Foundation; and Christ Commission Fellowship. After the relief work that commenced four days after Yolanda hit, an operation center was immediately set up in Sogod town. One month after the desolation of Leyte, we trailed the seamless operation of iRebuild,

from packing to distribution. How I wish Anderson Cooper, CNN and the international aid community were there. They would have witnessed the smooth, non-political, wellthought-out deployment of forward-thinking solutions. It was a joy to observe firsthand where our donations were being judiciously spent. Two thousand transitional shelters divided into ten houses per cluster would provide spacious, more comfortable temporary homes for some 2,000 pre-identified displaced families initially adopted by the program. One house costs P7,000. With additional amenities, these could later be turned into their permanent houses. For now, each cluster will have 5 cubicles of common toilet and bath – certainly more hygienic than the few portalets in the tent cities. A plastic box filled with pots and pans, dinnerware, a pitcher and a water jug plus a hammer and saw was aptly called the “Balik Bahay” start-up kit. “Pamayanihan,” a food security program, will be implemented in each cluster and all families have to participate. They are encouraged to practice organic farming for sustainability. As fishing is one of the major sources of livelihood in the coastal municipalities, the

To restore a semblance of normalcy, the repair of school buildings is a top priority. Called “Balik Iskwela,” the group also distributed school supplies, bags, notebooks, pads and pencils that were received with much enthusiasm by the students. It also aims to feed the school children 5 days/ week for 90 days. The cost of feeding per week is P1,000. An estimated 180-200 children and mothers will be covered by this budget weekly. The participating faithbased NGOs perform the task of continuous stress and trauma debriefing that includes play therapy for the children. This is one area that could benefit from a partnership with a professional psychosocial trauma group like CNetPSR (Citizens’ Network for Psychosocial Response to Disasters). We saw a medical mission initiated by one of the global partners. On one occasion, we ended up translating the health problems of an elderly lady to a sympathetic Korean doctor who good-naturedly tried to decipher the patient’s sign and body language. A video-documentary on Leyte’s rise above the rubble is under production. Hopefully this can demonstrate a best practice model that can be replicated as an effective disaster-response template in any geography. On a lighter note, I carried the baggage that my infamous name had become from the time “Yolanda” was identified officially as the strongest typhoon in the planet, all the way to my Leyte sojourn. Catching a 4:30 a.m. flight, the sleepy guard at NAIA 3 suddenly became alert upon seeing my boarding pass, exclaiming, “Si Yolanda babalik sa Tacloban!” Guffaw. Guffaw. (Rappler.com) n


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British Travel Guides List PH As One of Top Countries to Visit in 2014 T

HE Philippines has been named as one of the top travel destinations for 2014 by two British travel publications.

The British travel guidebook Rough Guides, which was first published in 1992, ranked the Philippines tenth in its “Top 10 Countries” list for 2014, citing the archipelago’s “dazzling array of pristine reefs, volcanoes, sleepy backpacker islands and the famed rice terraces.” The Philippines also made it to the list of 20 destinations for 2014 of the online edition of the British newspaper The Telegraph. “The archipelago is made for island-hopping between sugary beaches that receive far fewer tourists than they should,” The Telegraph said. Travel writers at The Telegraph said they opted to include destinations that rarely make it to brochures of mainstream tour operators, as well as a handful of new city spots. They made it clear, however, that “it’s no sympathy vote,” given how the Philippines has suffered a huge blow following the onslaught of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name Haiyan) last November. Rough Guides also noted how the Philippines recently suffered a blow from “Yolanda” “In the wake of the terrible devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, tourism has become even more important to the Philippines, bringing crucial support to the economy,” Rough Guides said on its website. “An estimated 97% of the country remains unaffected, including Boracay and the southern parts of Cebu… the country mostly remains off the beaten path, despite being relatively safe for travelers – flare-ups

The Philippines remains off the beaten tourist path, says Rough Guides. of political violence (mainly in Mindanao) are easily avoided,” it added. Rough Guides also encouraged European travelers to visit the Philippines, citing direct flights from London to Manila. “New direct flights from London to Manila mean that it’s now easier to get there from the UK,” it said. Aside from the island paradise of Boracay, other “things not to miss in the Philippines,” according to Rough Guides, include the Ati-Atihan festival in Kalibo, El Nido resort in Palawan, the Banaue Rice Terraces, the Filipino dessert halo-halo, Vigan in Ilocos Sur, swimming with whale sharks, Coron island in Palawan, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, and San Agustin Church in Manila. In October last year, another leading international travel guide, Lonely Planet, named Palawan as one of the “best value travel destinations” for 2014. The island province has been praised for its “jungle rivers, limestone cliffs and awesome beaches.” Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec-

retary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. lauded the Philippines’ inclusion on the list. “We have once again proven that the Philippines is among the most attractive destinations in the world,” Coloma said during a press briefing at the Palace. He cited the importance of tourism in its many contributions to the economy, particularly the creation of jobs. The Department of Tourism is working on many projects in line with the government’s recovery and rebuilding efforts for the victims and survivors of calamities through the promotion of tourism. n

UK Pledges Long-term Support for Rehab

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HE British government is pledging long-term support to survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) by helping rebuild homes and providing humanitarian support for up to 800,000 people. In a statement, the British government said it is providing over £75 million in humanitarian support to help aid get through to hard-to-reach areas affected by the typhoon. UK International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the British government has committed an additional P1.091 billion to the early recovery effort, bringing the UK’s total contribution to over P5.4 billion. Greening said the UK is providing the money and expertise needed to start the longer term recovery of the Philippines and the restoration of livelihoods and buildings destroyed by the typhoon. The UK’s support will help people to earn an income again, by providing rice seeds, restoring irrigation systems on farms, and re-establishing fisheries. The UK will also offer British experts to advise on how to protect girls and women during the recovery, and how the Philippines can prepare for future weather disasters. Specialists from businesses will offer expertise on restoring infrastructure and jobs. “By supporting the reconstruction and recovery effort in the Philippines we are helping the victims of Typhoon Haiyan rebuild their lives and secure a better future,” Greening said. The UK said it will support the Philippine government’s plans for recovery and reconstruction, which include the restoration of public infrastructure, rebuilding schools and hospitals and helping people get back to work. n


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By pia ranada

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S it time to retire the jeepney?

Clunky, heavy, noisy and one of the primary suspects of air pollution and chaotic traffic in the metro, many have despaired of the jeepney. Though hailed by some Filipinos as a colorful cultural symbol and war-time legacy, many see the jeep as an embodiment of the outmoded transportation system clogging Philippine streets. A new electric shuttle wants to replace the jeepney and the system it represents and thrives in. The COMET (City Optimized Managed Electric Transport) is a fully electric-powered city shuttle designed to render the jeepney obsolete. Its state-of-the-art lithium iron phosphate batteries lets it travel 80 to 100 kilometers a day until the next battery charge. These batteries can last up to 7 years unlike the lead acid batteries of older e-vehicles which have to be replaced after one year. Just like the jeep, the COMET is designed for in-city roads instead of major thoroughfares and highways. That’s why it can only go as fast as 60 kilometers/hour, slow for some but quite reasonable given the pace of city traffic. But more than its equipment, the COMET is revolutionary because of the transport system it employs. Gone will be the days of Bayad po and Barya lang sa umaga because the COMET will employ a cashless system. Passengers buy credit-loaded cards from terminal stations which they tap

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Welcome E-shuttle, Bye-bye Jeepney to places where they are needed or taken out from places where they are only clogging up streets. Because it uses the most stable lithium battery, it has zero carbon emissions. With less parts and less consumption of fluids, it is 50% more efficient than diesel jeeps. It’s also much lighter than the regular jeep at 2,500 pounds compared to the regular jeep’s 6,000 lbs.

Revolutionizing transport A pre-production model at the design center in Vancouver, Wahington, USA. into the COMET’s built-in scanner when they board the jeep and tap out when they get off. Instead of jeeps stopping whenever and wherever they want on busy roads, COMETs will have designated stops and terminal stations. In January 2014, an initial fleet of 30 COMETs will be fully operational. They are set to travel from SM North EDSA in Quezon City to SM Megamall in Pasig passing through Quezon Avenue, University of the Philippines Diliman campus, Katipunan Avenue, Eastwood Libis then Ortigas with stops every 200 to 300 meters.

Passenger and eco-friendly The COMET, created by Global Electric Transportation (GET) is designed to right the wrongs of the conventional

jeepney by being passengerfriendly and eco-friendly. That’s why Armi Consunji, director of communications for GET Philippines, is loath to call it an e-jeep. “It’s completely different from the jeep. Unlike the cramped jeeps, it has a head clearance of 6 feet so you can stand inside. The doors are on the side not in the back so that passengers can alight from the sidewalk instead of between cars during traffic,” she told Rappler. The COMET also has wider windows for ventilation and is equipped with GPS, WiFi and a CCTV camera. Each COMET unit is connected to a Command Center through which operators can monitor every COMET driver and vehicle. This way, COMETs can be deployed

The 30 COMETs to be unleashed in January are the first in the world. GET CEO Ken Montler said he chose Metro Manila for the pilot release for a reason. “The Philippines is a great place to showcase what we want to do because we have cities that suffer from congestion, noise and air pollution. We want to give the city back to the people,” he said. “We’ll take the IT system to manage how transportation moves about our cities and to maximize the efficiency of our vehicles. Most importantly, we’re going to take the drivers and passengers, and make a better world for them.” Though GET is a US-based company, GET Philippines plans to make the Philippines the primary manufacturing hub for the revolutionary vehicle. (Rappler.com) n


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Chinese custom influences Filipino way of celebrating New Year

Middle class Filipinos are increasingly adopting Chinese traditions in welcoming the New Year.

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O A Filipino middleclass family, the New Year celebration is not complete without 12 kinds of round- shaped fruits on the dining table which the family members partake after the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31. This is a Chinese tradition in welcoming the New Year which the Filipinos have adopted. The Chinese, however, need to have only eight round fruits on the table because the number 8 signifies good luck. For Filipinos the belief is that the 12 round fruits represent 12 months of the year and assure good fortune to the family members all year round. As a tropical country, it is not difficult in the Philippines to find round-shaped fruits such as oranges, watermelons, mangoes, pineapples, guavas, rhambutans, jackfruits, pomelos and peaches. In the Chinese tradition, the pineapple is an important fruit for the New Year celebration because the “eyes” of the fruit symbolize success in one’s career and more opportunities in the coming year. In the Philippines, however, the pineapple is not given such importance. Filipinos do not place pineapples outside doors or on windowsills as some traditional Chinese families do. But most Filipino families have adopted the Chinese custom of presenting red envelopes

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with new crisp peso (the Philippine currency) bills to children. Usually the children and even adults are asked to hold coins of various denominations and jump at the stroke of midnight, another Chinese tradition to usher in a prosperous new year. The belief is that when children jump at the stroke of midnight, they will grow up a few inches in the coming year. Many Filipinos also believe that having money in their pockets and wallets at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve will ensure a prosperous coming year; the crispier and bigger the better. The Filipinos, like the Chinese, also believe that what you do at the beginning of the year will have an effect on your life at least until the end of the year. The most popular New Year’s Eve tradition around the world is display of fireworks. In the Chinese tradition, firecrackers or fireworks supposedly ward off misfortune and drive away evil spirits. But Filipinos tend to overdo the firecrackers and hundreds of children and adults suffer injuries or even deaths as a result of the wanton use of firecrackers. The local government of Davao City in the southern Philippines has adopted a total ban on firecrackers because of the harm that the firecrackers have caused during New Year’s celebration. There were those who sug-

gested that the firecracker ban should be imposed nationwide but many Filipinos, particularly in Metro Manila, want to welcome the New Year with a “bang” literally. Some gun-owners, including the police, have the penchant

of firing into the air as part of welcoming the New Year. The bullets sometimes ricochet and hit innocent bystanders. Every year, the Department of Health launches a nationwide campaign warning the people of the danger of exploding firecrackers, especially the bigger ones. But these exhortations are often ignored by the public. Two days before the New Year, authorities reported that some 200 have already been injured by firecrackers. Some Filipinos now hit metal pots, pans and basins or blow their car horns just before midnight of Dec. 31 to make as much noise as possible in welcoming the new year. As in other Southeast Asian nations, the large Chinese community in the Philippines has been exerting cultural influence on the Filipino way of life long before the coming of the Spanish and American colonizers.

with full news by Alito L. Malinao from Xinhuanet


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By michael l. tan

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OU don’t quite expect to see Masel tov, Osang on a Filipino’s Facebook page, but there it was.

Masel tov is a Hebrew (and Yiddish) greeting that can mean “Good luck” or “Congratulations.” And Osang is a nickname, in this case, for Rose Fostanes, a 47-year-old Filipino woman who has worked half her life overseas, as a caregiver. The Inquirer had a front-page article about her and she has made it as well to other newspapers, and to the online edition of Time. Osang is everything you don’t expect of a celebrity-inthe-making: She’s 47, stands 4’11, and is, well, on the plump side, yet she has been making waves and making it to the finals in a nationwide singing competition, X Factor Israel. But I want to write not so much about Osang’s singing as about Osang as the face of the overseas Filipino. It is clear -- from her performances, her interviews, her Facebook page -- that she is aware of what she is, of who she is, in the beginning, to her Israeli audience: the Filipini, which has become synonymous to a caregiver (and please, let’s not take that as an insult). From postings on the Internet, you can see she’s bringing pride to Filipinos, at home and in countries all over the world. Her making it to the front page of local newspapers is a refreshing change from the coverage of beauty contestants with all the artificial glitter and glamour. Osang is simple, almost plain. She speaks with a strong accent, yet comes through with depth and substance. In fact, she is the antithesis of the beauty-pageant contestant whose every move, every statement, is scripted. Sure, there’s a bit of performance when Osang speaks. She’s self-deprecating: “I have small confidence in myself,”

Our hearts will ‘toog, toog’ with you, Osang!

Masel tov,

Osang she says in one interview. In other interviews, she constantly refers to herself as coming from a poor family. I do have mixed feelings about this, similar to the way I respond when street vendors -- of sampaguita or flannel -- come up whining and begging you to buy, pleading that they need money to buy food. Osang comes too close to sounding like those vendors at times, saying she has to support people back home. I almost want to write her, and tell her she doesn’t need to say that: People know that, and will deliver votes even without the sob story. Then my being a social scientist takes over. That’s part of Osang’s psyche. She is what she is, and we’ll have to respect

that. And to some extent, she was probably raised that way, constantly being reminded to know her place, to know that she is mahirap lang, or “caregiver lang. But Osang and other overseas workers must realize that being a “mere” caregiver is an asset. If Osang awes her audience, it’s because she sings from the heart, and I am certain that many Israelis relate to her because her singing reminds them of the zest, enthusiasm and dedication of Filipino caregivers in their own homes. When we think of OFWs, we tend to think of domestic workers in Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East, or seafarers roaming the world. We don’t

usually think of Israel, a tiny country, as a destination, but the Commission on Filipinos Overseas lists 32,000 Filipinos deployed there and apparently, many of them are caregivers, mainly for the elderly. On Osang’s Facebook site you find Filipinos cheering her on, urging each other to vote for her on the X Factor Israel website. The exchanges on the Internet are quintessentially Filipino. There’s a woman asking for clarification about the deadline for voting, because she’s unsure if she properly heard the instructions on X Factor, which were given in Hebrew. Of course, there has to be prayer, typically: “Lord, papanalunin mo si Osang.” I saw one appeal to Allah. Another one is a battle cry: Load and reload your cell phones so you can send in more votes. “Ratratan na,” she calls out, and you can imagine the cell phone turning into a machine gun. Then comic relief, with a fan warning Osang, tongue in cheek, to be careful now that she’s famous because our Bureau of Internal Revenue will go after her to pay taxes on her winnings. Osang’s story provides some respite from depressing news about disasters and corruption. But we shouldn’t forget that Osang and others like her are away from home precisely because we’ve made such a mess of the Philippines. And so life moves on, our Filipinos caring for the world’s children, and the world’s elderly. Many will leave their mark with families; others, like Osang, will move the hearts of many more people. Right before one X Factor performance, Osang described her nervousness to the judges: “My heart is going ‘toog, toog.’” I was sure the Filipino audience wanted to scream out: “We, too, we, too, our hearts will ‘toog, toog’ with you!” Masel tov, Osang. Masel tov, the Filipino, at home and in the world. (Philippine Daily Inquirer) n


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Filipina Beauties Dazzle the World Bea Rose is the fifth Filipina to win the Miss International title.

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013 will be remembered as the year the Philippines reigned. The country emerged triumphant in four beauty pageants, besting perennial frontrunner Venezuela as “country of the year.” The year 2013 saw Filipina beauties conquer the Miss World, Miss Supranational, Miss International, and Miss Tourism International pageants.

In September Megan Young was crowned Miss World, the first time a Filipina had won the title. In the same month Mutya Datul romped off with the Miss Supranational title. Capping the bountiful harvest last year was the coronation of Bea Rose Santiago as Miss International on Dec. 17 in Tokyo, Japan, and Angeli Dione Gomez as Miss Tourism International 2013/2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Dec. 31. The Philippines also finished strongly in several other beauty pageants last year: Ariella Arida, 3rd runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant; Angelee delos Reyes, among Miss Earth’s top 8 entries; Cindy Miranda, among the top 10 in Miss Tourism Queen International; and Koreen Medina, 3rd runner-up in the Miss Intercontinental contest. With Santiago’s victory, the Philippines now boasts of five Miss International winners:

Gemma Cruz in 1965, Aurora Pijuan in 1970, Melanie Marquez in 1979 and Precious Lara Quigaman in 2005. Gomez is the country’s third Miss Tourism International titlist. Her fellow Cebuana, Rizzini Alexis Gomez (no relation), won the title last year. Santiago’s win in Miss International was made more sentimental by her 30-second speech in the final round where she made reference to the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan). The 22-year-old fashion model said: “The whole world saw how my country, the Philippines, suffered. The agony of my people was felt. But one by one, country to country came to help. I would like to thank all the nations that helped my country. In our darkest hours, you have opened my eyes and my heart to how important it is to support each other. If I become Miss International, I will

Bea Rose takes a “selfie” with President Aquino during her courtesy call in Malacañang. uphold international camaraderie to sustain the spirit of sympathy and to continually share the message of hope. I believe that whatever calamity may come to us, as long as we have each other, there will be hope.” She dedicated her victory to her kababayan who were affected by “Yolanda.” Before leaving for the pageant in Tokyo, Santiago said, “For me, what they need the most now is probably happiness. And if I win, if I make it, that will bring happiness to them, to make them more proud and happy this Christmas.” “Iyon ang gusto kong ipakita sa mga tao -- na the Philippines, no matter what happens to us, kahit na bagyo man tayo... I’m going to bring the storm in Japan, that’s what I’m going to do,” she added. In an interview with ABSCBN News hours after she bagged the Miss International 2013 title, Santiago said she

wrote the speech she delivered during the pageant with the typhoon survivors in mind. “Before pa ako lumaban, I wrote na my speech. Pero before I left, we visited Capiz. It was a life-changing experience for me. I was there, I’ve seen it. It got into me na my speech should be something about that. I’m very passionate about that, so it will show to everyone in the audience that I’m not faking it, na everything is real. I think that’s also why my speech was heartfelt by everyone. I made it. I wrote it. That’s how passionate I am about helping the Yolanda victims.” “I’m confident and I’m thankful na they are all proud of me and they are happy,” she said. “I really did it for the Philippines talaga. Hindi pa rin ako makapaniwala. I am with the crown now and the sash and the plaque, but parang it’s still like a dream. I’ve been wanting this for long and when it’s there na in front of you, it’s hard to claim it pala.” Santiago was born in Alabang, Muntinlupa City and later moved with her grandparents to Masbate. The eldest of three children, she attended elementary and two years of high school in Masbate. At 15, she and her family moved to Toronto, Canada, where continued school until college. She became a fashion model under the prestigious modeling agency Elite Management, the only Filipina in its roster. She returned to the Philippines in 2012. n


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5 Best Places to Bring your Balikbayan Guest

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HEN IT comes to foreign aid, there’s no one who has given more to us than our the balikbayan. So when they’re in town, they deserve to be shown the time of their lives.

1. Intramuros For most Metro Manila residents, the first and only time they visited this majestic walled city was on a school field trip way back when. This historial area is home to Instagram-worthy structures like Fort Santiago, Postigo del Palacio, Baluarte de San Diego, Puerta de Isabel II, Plaza de Roma, San Agustin Church, and a couple of other museums and ruins. Sign up for a guided tour of the area (both Old Manila Walks and Walk This Way are popular choices) and then grab a meal or a drink at The Bayleaf Hotel’s Sky Deck View Bar. For modern Filipiniana souvenirs, check out The Manila Collectible behind Manila Cathedral which sells banig mats from Mindanao, among others. 2. Greenhills Shopping Mall Long considered the Mecca of bargain shopping, Greenhills offers the most complete shopping experience. Amazing deals on gadgets, appliances, computer accessories, games, toys, designer replica bags, clothes, and jewelleries are easy to find. During December they’re also host to the famous “Greenhills Tiangge Night Market” which opens from 10pm and operates to the wee hours of the morning. With their experience abroad, Balikbayans have grown to be more practical; hence, they will surely thank you for this experience. 3. Resorts World Manila If you want to go all-in and roll out in style, this is the place to be. This is the closest we could get to Las Vegas-style entertainment. Their casino floor offers state of the art slot machines and the latest and most popular card games. However, Resorts World is more than a casino; it features a shopping centre that is home to the most exclusive luxury brands such as Cartier, Gucci, Burberry and more.

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The Performing Arts theatre offers live shows and special events for the most cultured of guest. Finally, there’s the Opus Lounge and Republiq Super Club, where celebrities and famous personalities are often spotted partying till dawn. 4. Mercato Centrale at BGC For most Balikbayan’s, Filipino food is the first thing they look for when they come home. The original “Weekend Night Food Market” is a unique gastronomic experience that will surely satisfy their cravings. If on your first visit, you can’t decide whether to get the Angus Beef Tapa, Cebu Lechon, Ilocos

Empanada, Paella Rice Toppings, Barbequed Isaw, Tenga, chicken feet, and various street foods, you could always come back and try the Beef Kebabs, Grilled Burgers, Buffalo wings, Baby Back Ribs, Steaks, Roast Beef, Adobo Rice Toppings, and various cakes and desserts. Mercato Centrale is usually open from 10pm to 3am every Friday and Saturday, and would be a perfect night cap a day of roaming around. 5. Duty Free Fiesta Mall This exclusive to international traveller only shopping mall is heaven for those looking for great deals on imported

chocolates, liquors, perfumes, cosmetics, apparels, toys, and grocery items. Duty Free Shopping Mall accepts both Philippine Peso and US Dollar currencies so even the locals can take advantage of this tax free privilege afforded to international travellers. In Fact, in most Filipino families it’s already a tradition that they visit here whenever a family member arrives from abroad. This gives the Balikbayan the opportunity to share with his family this privilege and in most cases let them choose their own coming home presents or “pasalubong.” with full news by Miko Almario from Coconuts Manila


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Villar on the 3rd OFW and Family Summit 2013

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O AFFORD returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), especially those affected by Saudization, a chance to start their own business with a small capital, agribusiness was a focus in the 3rd OFW and Family Summit 2013 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City on November 22. The summit, initiated by the VILLAR SIPAG (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) and GoNegosyo, had for its theme, “Kita at Ipon, Palaguin at Pagyamanin sa Pagnenegosyo.” Senator Cynthia Villar of VILLAR SIPAG said they decided to delve on agribusiness because of its broad potential as an engine of economic growth and employment and poverty alleviation. “We have invited speakers who will give our migrant Filipino workers and their families knowledge to embark on agribusiness and maintain its sustainability,” said Villar, chair of the Senate Agriculture and

Senator Cynthia Villar said that agribusiness has a lot of potential for OFWs returning home.

Food Committee. Resource speakers from the emerging agribusiness markets like AGAP, AANI, SINAG and Meralco business farm, among others, will discuss how they gain access to the industry, and keep it going.

Villar assured to support initiatives for sustainable production of agricultural communities. She also sees agribusiness a boost to food security by addressing the escalating food prices.

She said agribusiness can be an option for OFWs who will decide to stay in the country for good, particularly those whose status cannot be legalized, and will opt return to their respective provinces and start their own businesses. “We have to prepare them to ensure that they and their families can lead a comfortable life in the country even without going back to their jobs abroad. And indulging in agribusiness is one option. With a small capital and a piece of land in their backyard, they start agribusiness,” explained the senator. Aside from agribusiness, speakers will also talk on OFW reintegration. The other topics are spotting business opportunities, financial literacy, franchising, direct selling, real estate salesmanship, product consignments, and distributorship. Villar said providing OFWs the needed business know-how can help go back to the society and continued to Page 21


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Showbuzz higher post, she said she cannot just rely on her name as “Vilma Santos, the actress.” “Kapag pinasok ko ang isang bagay, dapat kahit papaano...kaya kong gawin at kaya kong mag-excel at kapakipakinabang ako,” she said.

Anne gets lead role in Dyesebel remake Will PNoy tap his LP colleague in 2016?

Vilma: I’m not dreaming of presidency BATANGAS Governor Vilma Santos said she does not dream of becoming the president of the Philippines, noting that she still has other important roles to fill besides being a public servant. “Kasi being a public official or servant hindi po madali eh. Dito lang sa Lipa, hirap na hirap ako noon [nung mayor ako], and now my last term as the governor and we’re talking about the province already. Now national, the whole of Pilipinas? Naku, I don’t envy our President. Not easy. Parang lahat ng gagawin mo may mali, eh pumapatol ako eh, nakikipag-away ako,” Vilma said in a recent TV interview. “So bahala na, pero hindi ko dini-dream [maging president]. Marami akong role sa buhay. I’m still a wife, I’m still a mother,” she added. She said she also wants to give herself some time too, explaining that she has been working since she was 9 years old. So is she closing her doors to the highest position in government? “It’s hard kasi eh. Hindi ko po masabing sarado o bukas... I’ll just cross the bridge when I reach it,” the multi-awarded actress said. She said she and her hus-

band, Senator Ralph Recto, have yet to talk about their political plans for 2016. “Ang hirap magsalita ng tapos, baka bumalik sa mukha ko. Pero with all honesty, wala akong political plans. In fact to be honest, hanggang ngayon wala naman kaming pinag-uusapan ni Ralph for 2016,” she said. Vilma, however, admitted getting offers from some political parties to run for vice president. The couple belongs to the ruling Liberal Party of President Aquino. But in case she decides to run for a

THE highly coveted role of the mermaid in the TV remake of the Dyesebel has gone to Anne Curtis. “Siguro sa lahat ng mga taong naniwala na kaya kong iportray si Dyesebel, maramingmaraming salamat for keeping that kind of faith in me,” she said in a press conference on Jan. 9 to announce her selection by ABS-CBN. “It’s another dream come true po. Sobra lang akong speechless. Ang laking project nito and para mahilera sa lahat ng naging Dyesebel. . . So eto na, 2014, a great way to start the year na makuha ko yung isa pang dream to come true.” Explaining the choice of Anne, Biboy Arboleda, head of Ad and Promo of Dreamscape business unit, said: “Ang pinagbasehan po namin na pamamaraan sa pagpili o paghirang, management ran a marketing research survey and, hands down, in all levels of survey and multi-platforms, Miss Anne Curtis topped the list.” The other Kapamilya talents considered for the role were Kim Chiu, Jessy Mendiola, KC Concepcion, Angel Locsin, Erich

‘Dyesebel’ is a dream come true for Anne.

Gonzales, Sarah Geronimo and Maja Salvador. Dyesebel will start taping shortly and the show is expected to air in first quarter of 2014. In 23013, ABS-CBN finalized the deal on the network’s acquisition of 13 titles and characters created by Mars Ravelo, including the superheroine Darna, the everyman-superhero character Captain Barbell and the lovelorn mermaid Dyesebel.

Kris remains a Kapamilya

KRIS Aquino announced on Jan. 6 that she has renewed her contract with ABS-CBN after speculations that she will be transferring to another network. In her Instagram account, Kris said her contract renewal with the Kapamilya network after her manager Deo Endrinal continued talks with the ABSCBN management while she was in London vacationing with her two sons. “My manager, Deo Endrinal, continued talks w/ our ABS bosses during the Christmas break & it is w/ much joy that I share w/ you that we have RENEWED my ABSCBN contract. I am grateful to my ABS


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Showbuzz CBN bosses, Sir Gabby, Ma’am Charo, and tita Cory for the trust, value & importance they have given me,” she said. She was referring to Gabby Lopez, ABS-CBN chairman; Charo Santos-Cancio, president; and Cory Vidanes, Channel Head. Kris also clarified that she never met with officials of rival network GMA7 but admitted having met with TV5 boss Manuel V. Pangilinan. “May I set the record straight? 1) I never met w/ any GMA officials but I am grateful to them for the generous coverage they gave ‘My Little Bossings’, primarily because of their longstanding partnership w/ Vic Sotto & the ‘Eat Bulaga’ family. 2) I had met w/ MVP (Manny Pangilinan) in October & again Dec 23 of 2013,” she explained. Kris added: “I have been w/ ABSCBN for 18 years & like any other family we’ve had our ups & downs and sometimes unavoidable “tampuhan” - but we remain FAMILY...” She also thanked ABS-CBN executives. “I would just like to give a shoutout to @cvvidanes for being an inspiring boss who has not only my respect, but my love.” She cited her close friend, Boy Abunda, “for his unwavering faith,” as well as her staff on her morning show, KrisTV.

Daniel, Kathryn now ‘exclusively dating’

It’s your move, Paul In a previous interview, Paul said he is planning to propose to Toni “when she least expects it.” “She’s 30 in January so keep your cameras on, it’s happening very soon,” he said. Toni and her boyfriend of six years have been vocal about their plans to spend the rest of their lives with each other. The host-actress even said in jest that she will marry Paul if his movie, Transit, wins in this year’s Oscar Awards. Toni said her younger sister, Alex, is not yet keen on the idea. “Si Alex ang hindi ready, she said. “Sinabi niya ‘yun sa akin na, ‘Ate hindi ako ready na i-let go ka kasi wala na akong kausap sa gabi.’ Dalawa lang kami eh.” Her parents, however, have always been supportive of her future plans. “Oo, tingin ko they are ready. They have always been ready. The family is ready.”

DANIEL Padilla admitted that he and Kathryn Bernardo are now “exclusively dating”. This comes after a supposed tweet of Daniel’s uncle, BB Gandanghari, where he referred to Kathryn as the young actor’s girlfriend, went viral online. Appearing on Buzz ng Bayan, Daniel was asked about the status of his relationship with Kathryn. “Ganun pa rin naman, kagaya last year. Close pa rin kami talaga, MU (mutual understanding) pa rin,” he said. Prodded by program cohost Boy Abunda if he and Kathryn are already exclusively dating, he said, “Ganun ba? Wala na ring oras manligaw ng iba. Siguro ganun nga ‘yun.” Kathryn, however, made it clear that she is not yet ready to be in a serious relationship even if she is set to

Countdown to Toni’s Maja on relationship with Gerald: wedding FANS of sweethearts Toni ‘Habambuhay’ Gonzaga and Paul Soriano are excited about their impending marriage. The only problem is the wedding proposal has not even been offered. Not to worry, Toni’s director-boyfriend assures, the proposal will come at the least expected time – and it could be “very soon”.

MAJA Salvador expressed her affection for boyfriend, Gerald Anderson, through an Instagram post on Jan. 5. Sharing some of their photos together taken in the past year, Maja made a slideshow as she described their relationship through its caption. “Habambuhay ikaw at ako

The lovebirds on Maja’s Instagram account ang magkasama #believe,” she wrote. Maja’s post was accompanied by Yeng Constantino’s original hit song, Habang Buhay. The celebrity couple, who

‘Close pa rin. MU pa rin’ turn 18 in March. “Hindi muna siguro ako ready talaga na makipag-commit talaga, ‘yung may obligations na. Enjoy lang muna kasi mayroon pang school and meron pang trabaho. Pero hindi naman masama magkaroon ng inspiration,” she said. Saying she has always been open to her parents, Kathryn said, “As far as I know, siguro po oo naman [boto si Mama kay Daniel] kasi feeling ko nagain na din kasi ‘yung trust and na-prove na rin naman siguro niya na maganda ang intention niya.” are both artists of Star Magic, was embroiled in a controversy early last year in relation to their ties with fellow Kapamilya talent Kim Chiu. Kim was known to be a close friend of Maja, until the latter admitted to seeing Gerald, Kim’s ex-boyfriend. On whether she and Gerald have managed to move on from the controversy, Maja said, “Sobrang okey [na kami], masaya. . . Hindi mo nararamdaman ang problema, ang mga stress sa buhay. Parang syempre it’s your choice kung paano mo iha-handle ‘yung mga problems at nangyayari sa buhay mo. It’s your choice kung didibdibin mo at lagi mong iintindihin ‘yun, or maging positive ka lang. And I am happy.” n


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Bohol Restores Damaged Heritage Churches

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ACLAYON, Bohol – It used to be a major stop along the tourist route from the Blood Compact memorial to the Chocolate Hills, but after the destructive quake two months ago, the 18th century coral stone church here has lost some of its luster as the most popular heritage cathedral in the province.

“No entry,” a sign on the paved road in front of the church warns motorists, as vehicles are directed to a one-way detour that puts some distance between the crumbled bell tower and the traffic around it. Inside the Baclayon Church, visitors are required to wear hard hats – in case of aftershocks – while taking a look at the damage wrought by the magnitude 7.2 quake last October 15. From the altar, a large crack can be seen on the inner entrance and visitors can only take a cursory look at cordoned off areas where rubble and plaster still litter the floor. Outside the church walls, workers are busy clearing the debris and undertaking restoration work, in line with rehabilitation strategies drawn up by local tourism players on what to do with heritage cathedrals that were damaged by the quake. “We have been discussing with the bishop our rehabilitation and reconstruction for the old churches,” Bohol Gov. Edgar Chatto told a media delegation that visited the damaged churches last December. “For those that cannot be reconstructed, they will just

Workers undertake restoration work on Baclayon Church. remain as ruins and evidence of the destruction of the earthquake and they will just be promoted as tourist attractions,” he added. Consultants from the National Museum, National Commission on Culture and the Arts, and the National Historical Institute have been assisting Bohol in the rehabilitation work. Spain also sent a delegation to check on the heritage churches, which were built when the Philippines was still their colony, along with UNESCO, the governor said. “We have plans of putting up transitional churches beside the ruins while waiting for the time na ma-restore ang reconstructed churches, or as the bishop would say, contemporary churches,” Chatto said. The local government and tourism industry players are getting assistance from USAID’s Compete project, which has brought various media groups to Bohol to monitor the reconstruction efforts.

Alternative churches More than any image, the ruins of heritage churches such as Loboc and Loon have caught widespread attention and magnified the destruction from the

quake that struck Bohol. But as media portrayal goes, they actually show a small part of the overall impact, as much of the province was largely untouched. In the capital city of Tagbilaran, there’s a small pile of rubble on the side of the cathedral and parts of the ceiling in ageing government buildings have collapsed. However, visitors would have to look hard for evidence of the powerful quake, as the bucolic scenery has remained just as it was before the natural disaster. Along the road to the resorts in Panglao, the ruined façade of Dauis Church is the only indication that the temblor had affected the island. With the massive damage in some of the most frequently visited churches, opportunities have opened up for other centuries-old churches to gain the attention of tourists. “Actually, grander than Baclayon ang churches sa west side, pero dinevelop lang sa east side kasi ang main attraction is Chocolate Hills, papunta na rin doon kaya mas convenient yung madadaanan na churches,” says Lucas Nunag, president of the Bohol Tourism Council. For now, the intact church-

es close to the main tourist trail are those in the towns of Panglao and Alburquerque, he noted. Known simply as Albur Church locally, the latter is renowned for having some of the best ceiling paintings in Bohol. Three years ago, restoration work started in Albur Church, which has 14 pillars made of wood. “Dati, nakabalot ‘yan ng GI sheet na pininturahan ng simulated marble. Noon siguro naisip nila, pangit yung kahoy, mas maganda yung marble. Nung na-strip off, nakita na solid na straight na kahoy na very rare,” Nunag said. “This may be the only church na ganon ang pillar, tapos yung haligi na yon, dahil matagal na, nabulok na yung base kasi exposed, they were shored up with cement at bato,” he added. The ceiling paintings, done in the 1930s, were also restored. There are plans to convert Albur convent into a church art museum, with the help of corporate foundations, Nunag said. With 47 heritage churches scattered all over Bohol, some in far-flung towns, USAID-Compete communications consultant Andrea Echavez said they are thinking of displaying old photos in the ruined ones so travelers will get an idea of the structures’ former grandeur. History will also be keeping up with the digital age through QR readers on smart phones that visitors can use to access information about the churches. “Magiging kasama sa kuwento yung restoration process,” said Nunag. “Pwede kang mag-visita iglesia ng sira-sira na simbahan. Pwede mong tingnan sa umpisa yung restoration, and then tingnan kung ano na ang hitsura ngayon.” (GMA News) n


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Villar... from Page 17 become “productive members” aside from ensuring protection for their hard-earned money. “We want OFWs and their families to have an entrepreneurial mindset for them to invest their earnings or the remittances they get into profitable endeavor. We want them to have success stories, not sob stories that we often hear from distressed OFWs,” said Villar. The senator gave the closing remark in the summit, while her husband, former Manny Villar gave an inspirational talk. GoNegosyo’s Joey Concepcion delivered the opening remarks. As in the previous years, there will be raffle prizes in the summit which include a house and lot from Camella, one motorcycle and a LED TV from KServico, 5 Aling Puring’s sari-sari store packages, 10 pangkabuhayan appliances from Savers, 50 dealership certificates & 10 gift packs from Dakki, 10 gift packs from Ever Bilena and 2 Kettle Kart businesses. Majority of the raffle prizes will help the OFWs and their families start a business.

FULL PAGE AD The corporate sponsors of the summit are Vista Land, Vista Residences, Camella Homes, KServico and All Home. Institutional partners include the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administra-

tion (OWWA),Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), DFA and Blas Ople Policy Center , National Reintegration Center for OFWs and POEA. The media partners in the event are PTV4, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror,

People’s Journal, People’s Tonight, Abante, Bulgar, DZRH, Radyo Natin, Radio 5 Wanted sa Radyo (92.3 FM) by Raffy Tulfo and Nina Taduran, Crossover 105.1, Tiger 22 (Jam 88.3, Magic 89.9, Play 99.5, Wave 89.1, KLite 103.5). (PH Senate)


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Rough Sailing

The Panatag Shoal, known locally as Bajo de Masinloc, a small strip of uninhabited rocky outcrops not far from the coast of Zambales, is in the news again after China recently issued restrictions on foreign fishermen in the disputed waters of South China Sea. A number of islands, reefs and shoals in the region are being claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia.

t Raining Confetti It rained on her parade but not the kind that would spoil the victory ride of newly crowned Miss International 2013, Bea Rose Santiago, along Ayala Avenue in Makati City last Dec. 27.

s Black Nazarene Procession

The sacred image of the Black Nazarene seems on the verge of drowning, awash in the waves of faithful multitudes at the start of the traslacion at the Quirino Grandstand on January 9. Faith draws millions of Filipinos to the annual event, with many risking life and limb just to touch the revered statue.

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Pigs Roasting on an Open Fire

A worker checks the coal as he roasts pigs in Manila. For many Filipino families, a special occasion won’t be complete without the lechon.


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Flash t Right to Clean Air

Environment group members wearing gas masks protest against the use of air-polluting firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices during the New Year revelry.

s Hataw Na!

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (in white t-shirt) dances the Zumba along with some 700 police officers during the launch of the Philippine National Police’s health program called “Hataw Na.”

t Christmas in the Ruins A giant Philippine-flag-themed parol hangs from a tree in the desolate landscape in Tacloban, an eloquent symbol of the unyielding spirit of the typhoon victims.

s Welcoming the New Year

A girl blows a plastic horn to attract customers in a sidewalk stall in Manila on New Year’s Eve. Despite the government’s constant reminders about the dangers of firecrackers, Filipinos could not be restrained from welcoming the new year with a loud bang.


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PH in UK’s top 10 to see countries in 2014

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HE PHILIPPINES is among the Top 10 Countries worldwide to visit this 2014, according to British travel guidebook Rough Guides. In its 2014 edition, the Philippines made it to the 10th place along with other beautiful and culturally-rich countries. Rough Guides cited Philippines’ natural places that are “not to miss” which include the islands of Boracay, the limestone islands El Nido in Palawan, the coasts of Coron that hidesbeautiful beaches and pristine mountain lakes, and Puerto Gallera. The Rough Guides, known for its travel references, has also recommended a must-visit in Chocolate Hills in Bohol, despite being partly damaged by the 7.2-magnitude earthquake the struck the province last year. It also recommended to visitors to see the tiny primate Tarsiers in the region. “Soak up the bizarre landscape of Bohol’s iconic Chocolate Hills, conical brown-green mounds said to be the calcified

FULL PAGE AD Rough Guide: Boracay’s enchanting white beach is one of the country’s major tourist draws.

tears of a broken-hearted giant,” Rough Guides said. Aside from the crystal-clear

waters of Philippine beaches, Rough Guides also suggest to tourists to also try to explore

the country’s beautiful mountains and the majestic top views they offier, including the perfectly-coned Mt. Mayon and mountain lakes in Mt. Pinatubo. Rough Guide describes the crystal-clear waters of Apo Reef Marine Natural Park in Mindoro as a “scuba diver’s dream,” along with other underground river in the country. Aside from places, tourist should also explore the traditions and colorful festivals in the country like the Ati-Atihan Festival on Panay to see the “indigenous dress and learn tribal dances,” the travel advisor said, adding that if one gets exhausted from the heat of the sun, a tall glass of Halo-halo, a local sweet icy dessert, will quench tourist’ thirst. Other countries in Rough Guides’ Top 10 countries to visit in 2014 are Georgia in Central Asia, Turkey, Macedonia, Japan, Rwarna, Ethiopia, Brazil, Bulgaria and Madagascar. with full news by Ron B. Lopez from the Manila Bulletin


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HE Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is “a little concerned” as more and more higher education institutions (HEIs) express their intention to synchronize their academic calendars with the rest of the world. At first, CHED Chairperson Dr. Patricia Licuanan found it all right when the University of the Philippines (UP) system and the Ateneo de Manila University informed her of their plan to shift. But now that three more universities – De La Salle University (DLSU), University of Sto. Tomas (UST), and Adamson University – are mulling the change, CHED is worried about a bandwagon effect. Without proper consultation and a solid study to back them up, schools that follow suit may find themselves with a problem instead. To prevent this, Licuanan ordered the creation of a technical working group composed of people from the Commission and stakeholders from the education sector. The group, set to convene this January, will conduct a study that will provide CHED enough data for a clearer position on the issue by March 2014. UP, Ateneo and Adamson are aiming for an August school opening, while UST and DLSU are looking at a September-June academic calendar.

‘Bitter pill to swallow’ Ateneo President Fr. Jose Ramon Villarin told Rappler in a phone interview that talks on making the shift actually started earlier than 2013, but that it was only last year that they “ripened because 2015 is just around the corner.” In 2015, an ASEAN Economic Community will be established, marking the start of free trade among the organization’s 10 member-states and allowing the free flow of goods and services

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Is It Time to Shift to International School Calendar?

discussions are still ongoing in the Diliman campus. But Licuanan doubts schools can push through with the shift that early.

Three issues

With a synchronized school calendar within the ASEAN region, it becomes convenient for students to cross-enroll in any of the member countries. – education services included. It also comes a year earlier than the full implementation of the K-to-12 program’s senior high school curriculum, which will also affect HEIs by 2016. But Villarin said both are “bitter pills to swallow.” “Opening the education system [is both] good and bad in a way, but the benefits outweigh the costs,” he said. He added the academic calendar in basic education – which is “largely local” – should not change because the minimum 5-month gap (high school graduation in March, and the proposed beginning of college classes in August) “can be put to good use.”

Effect on educational system CHED, however, said if all HEIs – including public institutions – decided to shift their calendars, it would have a major effect on the education system. For UP Vice President for Public Affairs Prospero de Vera, it may mean two major education sectors – the Department of Education (DepEd) and CHED – competing for funds.

“Nagsabay ang implementation ng [regional] integration at K-to-12. . . [Meron pang] rehabilitation for Yolanda,” he told Rappler in a phone interview. He added that ASEAN 2015 will also require an upgrade in school facilities. CHED urged schools to consider other possible ways to become integrated, like adapting a trimestral or a quarterly system. With only the Diliman campus still conducting consultations, de Vera said the rest of the UP campuses and their chancellors are ready to implement the change this coming school year 2014-2015 “even if Diliman doesn’t go.” Adamson University said likewise, as reported by GMA News. These universities enjoy an “autonomous” status because they are regarded as centers of excellence. As such, they have more freedom and flexibility than other institutions to introduce changes in their systems. All they need to do is notify CHED. De Vera said the UP Board of Regents may decide on the plan to shift anytime soon, even if

Aiming for a 2015 implementation will give universities more time to think about other issues like weather, the scheduling of both the Professional Regulation Commission’s (PRC) board exams plus the bar exam, and the inclusion of other HEIs (besides UP, Ateneo, and DLSU) in the ASEAN University Network (AUN). Weather is not so much an issue for Ateneo since almost half of its students go to summer classes, Villarin said. As for the exam schedules, de Vera said UP is already in the process of discussing with the PRC, hoping that if the 4 major universities (UP, Ateneo, DLSU, and UST) shift their academic calendars, the regulatory body may adjust its exam schedules. But the last one is crucial. “[The AUN membership] is useless if not maximized,” de Vera said. This will empower Philippine state universities and colleges (SUCs) – supposedly the top universities in the country, as in the case of those in neighboring ASEAN member-states. AUN is identified under the 2007 Charter as “one of the sectoral bodies responsible for the implementation of higher education commitments in the blueprint for the ASEAN SocioCultural Community.” “We are helping CHED. Priority [na] magkaroon ng [international] linkages [ang] SUCs. Ang kilala lang, UP,” de Vera added. Despite these concerns, feedback has been generally positive among faculty, staff, and students of UP and Ateneo. (Rappler.com) n


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Senate bill to offer subsidy loan to OFW families

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N THE first three months of an Overseas Filipino Workers’ deployment, his or her family is usually unable to access funds for living expenses while awaiting the worker’s first salary. A Senate resolution would allow the families access to P50,000 in credit aid for that period. The resolution entitled, “An Act Establishing a Credit Assistance Program for Overseas Workers” amounting to P50,000 was filed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, whose family foundation has helped OFWs in distress return home. Under Senate Resolution No. 507, any OFW with valid employment contract and certification from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), can avail himself of a loan from the Overseas Worker and Welfare Administration (OWWA). The program also provides that any member of the family of an OFW, not disqualified by law, can be a co-borrower of the loan and can execute necessary documentation related it.

A resolution would allow OFW families to access loans while waiting for the OFW’s first salary.

The loan can also go to assist this measure,” said Villar, who FULLre-PAGE ADthat OFWs have time an OFW to pay for his/her stressed cruitment expenses, including and again been referred to as placement fees, documentation “modern-day heroes.” costs and plane tickets. She described as “expansive” “It is but fitting to extend our the credit facilities envisioned OFWs all the assistance that the in her proposed piece of legisgovernment can give, including lation. OWWA would grant and an exclusive credit assistance release the loan upon proper program as proposed under submission by the applicant

at your doorstep! LONDON

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of the following documents— employment contract, plane ticket and bank account. These must certified in writing by the recruitment agency with corresponding authentication and properly certified/verified by the POEA. The loan from OWWA shall be paid in 12 equal monthly instalments or more, but not exceeding 24 months at a preferred interest rate not to exceed 6% per annum through the bank account. Overseas workers accessing the loan should establish a bank account where the monthly remittances of his salaries and wages abroad and payments on the loan shall be made. “It shall be the obligation of the overseas worker-borrower to remit his earnings abroad only through the said bank account,” Villar said. The applicant must thus execute the necessary authority for the bank to withhold the monthly loan amortization from his remittances. with full news by Ernie Reyes from Interaksyon


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WHAT’S ON

COMMUNITY

22-26 Jan. 2014

8 February 2014

Venue: Chelsea Theatre, 7 World’s End Place, King’s Road, London SW10 0DR, 7:30pm (3:00pm Sat and Sun Matinee)

Venue: TBA

From Heaven with Love

Pre-Valentines Ball, Ms Gay Philippines

Entrance: £5 Contact: Sally - 07886742417 Rodger 07725892489 Eva - 07542026296

Tickets: £10 - £12.50 Contact: 02073521967 www.chelseatheatre. org.uk

4-6 April 2014

15 March 2014

The 70’s Superband: Tayo’y Magsayawan!

“Pooh” on Stage Caravan Tour 2014 Walbottle Campus FULL Theatre, Hexham Road, Walbottle, Newcastle Upon Tyne NE15 9TP Tickets: £ 25 Time: 5:00pm Contact: Sally Sellars 07886742417, 01912736779

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Venue: TBA (London, Essex, Kent) Tickets: £15 at www.sideprojects.biz Contact: 07903547676

SAVE THE DATE! BIRMINGHAM

BARRIO FIESTA 2014 12-13 July 2014

Woodgate Valley Country Park, Clapgate Lane, Bartley Green, Birmingham B32 3DS Contact: Rozen Malonzo 07985159203 / 01212446900; Noel Azuro 07861805260


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WHAT’S ON

Extensions of Validity of Old Passports No Longer Allowed Beyond October 2015

P

ER THE regulations of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), all nonmachine readable passports may no longer be extended beyond October 31, 2015 and must be completely phased out by November 24, 2015. All Filipino nationals holding Machine Readable-Ready Passports (MRRP; green passports) and Machine Readable Passports (MRP; maroon passports) will no longer be allowed to apply for an extension of the validity of these passports after October 31, 2014. They must instead apply for a new e-Passport as soon as possible before the expiry of their current MRRP (green) or MRP

or another country for medical treatment; 3. OFWs returning to their employers abroad with valid employment contracts processed by the POEA; and 4. those going home on final exit visas (for Filipinos in the Middle East). (maroon) passports. Those who fail to do so will likely encounter difficulty at immigration checks when traveling through any ports of entry around the world after October 2015. Passport holders are also reminded that there are strict rules for applying for an extension of the validity of expiring or expired passports. Passports that are valid for less than six (6) months or those that have al-

ready expired may be extended once only in the following instances: 1. death in the family requiring the OFW and members of his/ her dependent family to urgently travel to the Philippines;

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2. medical emergencies requiring the OFW and members of his/her dependent family to urgently travel to the Philippines

In these instances, proof of urgency such as a copy of the death certificate, medical certificate, valid employment contracts processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) or any of the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO), along with plane tickets with confirmed flight details should be presented. (Philippine Embassy)

Advisory: Donations for Typhoon Yolanda

M

Quezon City, 1100”

GA Kababayan,

To be properly acknowledged by the Philippine Embassy, please provide us with a copy of your remittance receipt, or if you have donated goods, a copy of your bill of lading (if by sea) or airway bill (if by air) and a copy of the packing list, or an acknowledgement from the forwarding company which received your goods.

If you wish to send donations in kind, please be reminded that CEBU City has now been designated as the central hub for typhoon relief efforts. As such, all donations in-kind should be shipped to: The Department of Social Welfare and Development (Attention: Typhoon Yolanda Relief) DSWD Field Office VIII Maxillom Avenue Cebu City, Philippines

Please take note of the following priorities for donated goods: 1. Food items 2. Bottled water, water purifiers and containers 3. Temporary shelter such as tents, sleeping bags 4. Blankets and mattresses 5. Hygiene kits 6. Cooking implements and utensils 7. Power generators Donations of medicines, medical supplies and equipment should not be mixed with the abovementioned goods.Private individuals, international NGOs, and Filipino Organizations are advised to CONSIGN their in-

kind, non-medical shipment to the DSWD which allows the granting of duty and taxexemption: Consignee: Department of Social Welfare and Development c/o Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman Constitution Hills, Batasan Pambansa Complex Quezon City 1100, Philippines Shipment address: The Department of Social Welfare and Development (Attention: Typhoon Yolanda Relief) DSWD Field Office VIII

Maxillom Avenue Cebu City, Philippines Focal person in the DSWD for donated goods is Mr. Patrick Reyes who may be emailed at: pjgreyes@ dswd.gov.ph If the donor organization would like to consign the shipment to other organizations or foundations, the shipment may still be coursed through the DSWD. The intended organization must be specified in the consignment details, e.g: “The 123-ABC Foundation, c/o DSWD, Constitution Hills, Batasan Pambansa Complex,

C. For those who wish to make a monetary donation to charities, you may do so through either: 1. The DEC (http://www.dec.org. uk/) which is the British side of the donations (note: the website lists other ways of donating if you don’t want to do it online, and has a handy guide on holding a fundraising activity in the name of the DEC. or: 2. The Philippine charities listed on the embassy website. You may also wish to visit the following two (2) links related to relief efforts for the Philippines: http://friendsofthephilippinesuk.com/ www.SpectraSingers.com Philippine Embassy


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Hot and Spicy Albay

O

NE of the most spectacular welcomes that I have ever encountered in all my years of traveling around the Philippines or abroad is the majestic Mount Mayon Volcano coming into view of a plane’s window. The sight of the sweeping curvaceous slopes rising to a near-perfect cone puffing white wisps of smoke is enough to take one’s breath away. And while you cannot escape its colossal presence -- Mount Mayon is visible for miles around even as far as the neighboring provinces -- there are several other spots in Albay, even in its capital city of Legazpi alone, that are worth visiting. Two of the best times to visit Albay are during the Magayon Festival in April and the Ibalong Festival in August. The Magayon Festival showcases the culture and artistry of Albayanons (as Albay folk are called), and features beauty pageants, food festivals, trade fairs and street dancing. At the Ibalong Festival, people wear masks depicting the ancient heroes and villains in the folk-epic.

Must-see’s A bit of history -- Explore a tunnel that was carved out during World War II and where the Japanese military hid their ammunition, located at the Ligñon Hill Nature Park. Aside from its historical background, the park also offers a panoramic view of Legazpi City, Mount Mayon and its environs, the town of Daraga and the shimmering Albay Gulf. Try other activities in the park such as ziplining, running or jogging along its winding,

rising incline, biking or rappelling. Waterworks -- Busay Falls (Barangay Malilipot) is said to be one of the highest in the country, cascading from 250 meters in seven levels into seven different pools. The last waterfall, a single cascade from 40 meters, is the most popular among tourists who usually come during the sizzling summer months and rent the available huts in the area. One has to hike about a kilometer through lush vegetation to get to the gushing Vera Waterfalls (Barangay Bulang). Located in a ravine, the water streams from several points in the bedrock spraying into the pool down below. Pilgrimage -- Marvel at the baroque architecture of the Daraga Church (Our Lady of the Gate Parish Church), built by Franciscan missionaries in 1773, in Barangay San Roque. Volcanic stones, with engravings and carvings, were used in the construction of the church, making it one of the rarest in the country. It has been tagged a National Cultural Trea-

The view of the majestic Mayon Volcano from the Cagsawa Ruins.

If spicy food, such as the Bicol Express, is your thing, there is no better place in the country to feast on such dishes but Albay. sure by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines. The Cagsawa Ruins (Barangay Busay, Cagsawa) is what remains of an old Franciscan church that was damaged during the eruption of Mount Mayon in 1814. The old church’s belfry still stands, a constant reminder of the dangers of living near the still active volcano. Other churches worth visiting are the Saint Dominic Guzman Parish Church in Santo Domingo; the Albay Cathedral (Cathedral of San Gregorio Magno) in the old Albay District; the Our Lady of the Assumption Parish Church in Guinobatan, Albay; and Saint Raphael’s Church in Legazpi City.

To-do’s Cave exploration -- Albay is a haven for spelunkers, with a number of caves found all over the province offering varying degrees of difficulty. Pototan

Cave (Barangay Tinucawan, Batan Island, Rapu-Rapu) is accessible from the island’s beach via stairs and one of the easiest to traverse. There is an underground river inside that flows into different caverns, while multiple rock formations abound along with a generous number of stalactites and stalagmites. Also on Batan Island is the Minaroso Cave (Barangay Villahermosa), which provides a natural sanctuary for seabirds and swallows, while the HoyopHoyopan Cave (Barangay Cotmon, Camalig) has remnants of coral embedded in its walls and on the ground, having once been below sea level. Eat up a storm -- If spicy food is your thing, there is no better place in the country to feast on such dishes but Albay. Sibid-Sibid Food Park (328 Peñaranda St., Bonot, Legazpi City) is where one goes for an introduction to authentic Bicolano dishes that are hot and cooked in coconut milk. Specialties include bicol express, tinotungang manok sa gata, crispy fish sisig and homemade ice cream. One shouldn’t miss eating the “new look,” a fleshy dried fish only available in Legazpi. Buy at the Legazpi Market to take home, or order it for breakfast at Hotel Venezia or Misibis Bay Resort. The Legazpi Market is also a haven for pako (fern) lovers. Suntan and a swim -- Beaches abound in Albay, though these are of the grainy blacksand variety, pulverized over the centuries from the volcanic rocks spewed by Mount Mayon. Check out Barangay Sogod in the town of Bacacay; Kaluyukai beach in Santo Domingo; and Joroan beach in Tiwi. Misibis Beach on Cagraray Island offers guests at the private Misibis Bay Resort, a white-sand beach for tanning and engaging in water sports. (BusinessMirror) n


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