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    MANILA, Philippines – After weeks of intense summer heat, Metro Manila and parts of Luzon finally experienced rains on Wednesday night, May 8.

    But the downpour and thunderstorms were sudden and heavy that several areas in Metro Manila – especially the cities of Makati, Manila, Marikina, and Quezon – experienced flooding.

    Some netizens used references to the floods to have a dig at the water shortage that was still affecting parts of Metro Manila. They pointed out that although there was rain outside their homes, their households did not have adequate water supply from the tap.

    A number of social media users sympathized with those affected by the floods, but added that the sudden downpour helped cool down the weather after a series of dry days.

    The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration advised of thunderstorms in Metro Manila, Zambales, Bulacan, Laguna, Rizal, and Quezon on Wednesday.

    Netizen @guillermojose said, “lakas ng ulan pero walang tubig sa gripo.”

    Last March, Metro Manila was hit by a water shortage, and people had to line up and wait for hours to fill containers at public water pumps. (READ: [ANALYSIS] The economics of Metro Manila’s burgeoning water crisis)

    Meanwhile, @ayenbii lamented what she called “Manila problems” – experiencing extremes such as drought in the summer and floods when there's rain. (READ: Domino effect: Water crisis causing more trash, hurting businesses)

    Here are more tweets:



    The flooding also caused gridlock in some areas.


    Rappler.com

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    ABS-CBN photo from Shutterstock

    MANILA, Philippines – After the online exchange of Angel Locsin and Jimmy Bondoc revived concerns over the possible non-renewal of their company's franchise, ABS-CBN journalists and staff took to social media to pay tribute and show support for the media network which marked its 65th anniversary this year.

    Remembering their journey as part of the media network, members of the ABS-CBN family posted the company's 65th anniversary logo on their social media pages, along with their tribute to the company.

    In 2017, Duterte threatened to block the renewal of ABS-CBN's franchise, which will expire in 2020. He had accused the media network of "swindling" and of biased reporting.

    Experts had said that  the President's warning to ABS-CBN was a threat to press freedom.  (READ: Duterte's ace against ABS-CBN, the Philippines' biggest network)

    House Bill No. 4349, which seeks to renew the franchise granted to ABS-CBN for another 25 years, remained at the House committee level.

    On Friday,  ABS-CBN journalists and staff reiterated that the country's biggest network would always be “in the service of the Filipino people.”

    “Honored to tell our nation’s story. Here’s hoping our generation can keep the legacy going,” said ABS-CBN reporter Jeff Canoy.

    Others pointed out how the media network provided opportunities to realize the dreams of countless Filipinos.

    Forrmer ABS-CBN journalists and staff jumped in the conversation to share their experience working in the media network, and stood in  solidarity with their former colleagues.

    Bumagyo, lumindol, umulan man ng bala, kahit saan nandyan ang ABS-CBN News (If there’s a storm, an earthquake, a rain of bullets, no matter where it is, ABS-CBN News is there). Proud to have been part of it. I stand with the network and my ex-colleagues and friends who continue to toil in the field,” said Al Jazeera’s Jam Alindogan, a former ABS-CBN reporter.

    The posts were made a day after ABS-CBN actress came to the defense of the media network after Jimmy Bondoc, who is serving the Duterte administration as Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation vice president for corporate social responsibility, said he was "eagerly awaiting [the demise]" of ABS-CBN.

    In a series of tweets, Angel Locsin criticized Bondoc's insensitive remark, pointing out that thousands of jobs were at stake. – Rappler.com


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    WORK READY. YouthWorks PH key officials give updates during a roundtable on May 17. Shown are (from left) YouthWorks Chief of Party Karol Mark Yee, PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote, USAID Office of Education Director Brian Levey Photo by Nicole Anne Del Rosario/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – With the aim of providing work-based training for Filipino youth to make them employable, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) have partnered for a 5-year project called YouthWorks PH.

    YouthWorks PH was launched with a roundtable at Barangay Loyola Heights, Quezon City, on Friday, May 17.

    PBEd Chair Ramon del Rosario, USAID Office of Education Director Brian Levey, PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote, YouthWorks PH Chief of Party Karol Mark Yee, and Barangay Loyola Heights Chairman Darwin Hayes discussed the plans of the project.

    Earning while learning

    According to the government, the profile of an unemployed Filipino is a male junior high school, between 15 and 24 years old. (READ: Unemployment rises under Duterte's watch)

    YouthWorks PH envisions to prepare young Filipinos to join the workforce while promoting better alignment between the industry and education system.

    Anyone aged 18-24 years old, at least a high school graduate, or not in education, employment, or training can apply to YouthWorks PH. Partner companies and schools, together with YouthWorks PH will screen the candidates. 

    Successful applicants will undergo life skills training and work-based training provided by the partner schools and companies.

    This will include immersing the participants in actual work to improve their skills and get them used to the demands of a workplace.

    “The project is all about enhancing the skills of the youth to be employed. The idea is to improve the lives of the people to make them more employable,” said Del Rosario.

    Through the work-based training approach, participants experience theoretical and practical learning, while receiving 75% of the minimum wage from partner companies. Qualified participants will also have the opportunity to become full-time employees at the companies where they are being trained. (READ: Youthworks PH now accepting techvoc trainees from CDO)

    Del Rosario said that the partnership with the private sector will make the program succeed because it will connect the youth to a higher chance of employability right after the trainings.

    The project will focus on Metro Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos and Zamboanga.

    These places were chosen because of the need to improve the following sectors:

    • Hospitality and Tourism
    • Banking and Finance
    • Manufacturing
    • Agriculture
    • Energy
    • Construction

    According to PBEd Executive Director Love Basillote, they aim to generate models for training that can become a national program.

    Basillote urged the youth to take part in the project and encouraged the government to support YouthWorks PH. (READ: Out-of-school youth, undergrads shift to becoming full-time workers)

    The first recruitment activity was in Cagayan de Oro.

    In Metro Manila, YouthWorks PH partnered with Punlaan School in Quezon City and the Sangguniang Kabataan Federations of Quezon City and San Juan. 450 young Filipinos attended the event.

    Punlaan School will provide at least 40 scholarships for courses in cookery and hospitality. 

    Their next roadshow is set Sunday, May 26, 1 pm, at the University of Makati Basketball Court.

    To learn more about the YouthWorks PH project, visit PBEd website. – with reports from Nicole Anne Del Rosario/Rappler.com


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    SAVE OUR PLANET. Young activists join the youth strike for climate movement on May 24, 2019, at the Mendiola Peace Arch in Manila. Photo by Cherline Trajano/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Students, youth leaders, and advocates took to the streets across the country on Friday, May 24, as they demanded the government to take urgent action on environmental problems that the country faces today.

    They took action in solidarity with youth groups all over the world who initiated the global movement Youth Strike for Climate in staging a strike against climate change inaction and to demand for climate justice. (READ: 'No Planet B': Tens of thousands join global youth demo for climate)

    Hoping to make a united stand, advocates held the strike in 15 cities in the Philippines to amplify the call to action on environmental issues affecting their respective areas.

    Metro Manila

    In Metro Manila, young ecological justice advocates gathered in Morayta, España, and the Mendiola Peace Arch to urge political leaders and Filipinos to take action on climate issues.

    They asked city officials to reject the construction of a gym at Arroceros Park – a 2.2 hectare park that is home to to over 3,000 trees of 61 varieties, and 8,000 ornamental plants. It has been dubbed as the "last lung of Manila City."

    Aside from the possible construction at Arroceros Park, the groups also appealed to politicians to oppose the Manila Bay reclamation, cancel the Kaliwa Dam project, protect and preserve the Quezon Memorial Circle, and introduce a sustainable mass transport system.

    CHALLENGE TO POLITICIANS. Youth climate advocates urge newly elected leaders to push for an environmental agenda. Photo by Cherline Trajano/Rappler

    Acknowledging that climate action can also stem from the people, Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago challenged the youth to resist plans and proposals made by the government that could greatly affect the environment. (READ: Forest rangers of Freedom Island fight losing battle vs plastic pollution

    "Ang boses na ito sa lansangan na naipakita natin ngayong araw, ay kinakailangang makarating sa may kapangyarihan. Hindi lang sa Malacañang, sa Kongreso –  ang boses nating ito ay kinakailangan makarating sa tunay na may kapangyarihan, at 'yan po ang taumbayan,” Elago said.

    (The voice of those in the streets today must reach those who are in power. Not only in Malacañang, in Congress but [our voice] must reach the ones who hold real power, and that is the people.)

    Ecological Justice League of Youth Leaders (EJL) Convenor Avril de Torres said that the youth will continue to fight until their demands for climate and ecological justice turn into policies and actions. 

    "Unlike the government, we will not be bogged down by flimsy excuses and the demands of rich companies and foreign powers. The youth recognizes that this is a matter of life and death. We hope our government sees this too,” De Torres said in a statement.

    Jefferson Estela, lead organizer of Youth Strike for Climate PH, said the youth played an important role in strengthening and realizing advocacies that can help further society.

    “The youth of today know what they are doing. Many of my colleagues are giving their time in environmental advocacies and causes: helping each different community, reaching the most vulnerable, underrepresented, and the voiceless,” Estela said.

    NON-NEGOTIABLE. Youth groups troop to the streets to join the nationwide Climate Youth Strike PH in Morayta, Manila near FEU High School. Photo by Cherline Trajano/Rappler

    Bacolod City

    Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH) in Bacolod City kicked off the discussion through an interactive community event called Istorya Klima at the Bacolod Public Plaza, discussing environmental issues in compelling and innovative ways such as through art, music, and storytelling.

    Krishna Ariola of Y4CH said that the strike showed the need for the public to rise up as one and demand drastic climate action from the government. 

    "A strong collective movement has to keep the pressure on the government and hold the decision-makers accountable, and the youth is more than ready to man the frontlines,” Ariola said in a statement.

    It was through Y4CH that the youth of Negros Occidental triumphed in their fight against the use of coal as an energy source in the province. (READ: The youth of coal-free Negros Occidental)

    CLIMATE JUSTICE. Bacolod youth troop to the streets and call for a coal-free Negros Occidental, 'Mundong umiinit, kabataan nagagalit!' Photo by Joey Baldonado/Rappler

    CALL FOR CLIMATE ACTION. Protesters converge at the Bacolod City public plaza. Photo by Joey Baldonado/Rappler

    Tacloban City

    In Tacloban City, the Youth Leaders for Environmental Action Federation (YLEAF) called for climate justice and environmental preservation. 

    Alongside with 6 national demands proposed by Youth Strike for Climate Philippines (YS4C), YLEAF co-founder KC Bacolod also urged the local, national and international leaders to act on climate change through the creation and strict implementation of envrionment-friendly policies and ordinances. 

    “We must do more than just clean up drives and tree-planting. We need to create sustainable solutions to help the environment, and we can strengthen this call if the government is involved,"  YLEAF co-founder Ronan Renz Napoto  said.

    PROTECT MOTHER EARTH. Tacloban youth convene for the national youth strike for climate. Photo by Cherry Tabuena

    Tacloban City, experienced climate vulnerability back in 2013, when Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) devastated Eastern Visayas. In connection with this, the youth also expressed their willingness to work together with the local government to protect the environment.

    MY STAND. Students from Tacloban City express their pledges to help save the environment. Photo by Cherry Tabuena

    Bacolod read a letter for a signature campaign before the Tacloban youth, where they pledged their essential role in nation-building. The letter was later on forwarded to the office of Vice Mayor Jerry Yaokasin.

    Yaokasin said that he was proud of the youth for actively participating in environmental campaigns. He als said he was looking forward to working with the group and promised to look into the ways he could help in their advocacy.

    Iloilo City 

    CALL TO ACTION.Ilonggos join the Youth Strike for Climate PH at Plaza Libertad. Photo by Joan Loja

    As part of the climate strike in Iloilo, local art group Pugad organized an art workshop and spearheaded collaborative art for the youth themed KKK, or "Kay-uhon ang Kahimtangan sang Kalibutan (Fix the current state of the world)."

    EXPRESSED THROUGH ART. The youth of Iloilo participate in an art workshop organized by local art group Pugad to express their battle for climate justice. Photo by Carl Don Berwin

    SAVE THE EARTH. The youth of Davao City join the nationwide youth strike for climate at the Freedom Park, Roxas Avenue, urging the people to 'follow the rules' in order to save the environment. Photo by Kate Gutierrez

    The youth strike for climate was also held in Ilocos Norte, Pampanga, Bulacan, Dumaguete, General Santos, Koronadal City, Davao, Cebu, San Carlos, South Cotabato, and Antipolo City. – with reports from Cherline Trajano, Carl Don Berwin, Clifford Colibao, Joey Baldonado/Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines– Filipino and Panitikan (Philippine literature) no longer required in college? The Filipinos have spoken, and they are not happy.

    In a resolution dated March 5, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld its October 2018 decision to remove Filipino and Panitikan as core subjects in college after petitioner Tanggol Wika failed to offer "any substantial argument" on the case.

    Netizens took to social media to slam the High Court’s decision and most of them made their point in Filipino.

    Netizen Jonathan Vergara Geronimo said the SC decision  Geronimo said that with threats to the Philippines' sovereign rights, now is a crucial time to strengthen nationalism among Filipinos. He added that disregarding Filipino and Panitikan would hurt the chances of the Filipino language to shine on the global stage.

    Azure Gianan Quiñones stressed that the Filipino language embodies the “spirit” of the Filipino identity. He also pointed out that the subjects are vital in promoting creative and critical thinking in college-level discourse on social issues.

    A number of netizens echoed the same sentiments, arguing that the decision dealt a blow to the Filipino identity and culture.

    ‘Delving deeper’

    Some netizens also explained that tertiary-level Filipino and Panitikan promote deeper appreciation of the language and Philippine heritage, as compared to introduction courses in the primary and secondary levels.

    Not relevant in college

    There were also netizens who came to the defense of the SC ruling, explaining that Filipino and Panitikan are offered anyway in both elementary and high school curricula, and are no longer relevant to their respective degree programs.

    Netizen Carl Kacak said that the college curriculum should focus on technical subjects instead.

    Those who favor the ruling pointed out that English proficiency comes in more handy after college, especially when most job interviews are done in English.

    Meanwhile, others suggested putting in foreign language subjects instead, saying that learning other languages are "a good step towards global competitiveness" compared to learning the national language.

    With the SC decision final, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) can now implement Memorandum Order No. 20 (CMO No. 20). – Rappler.com 


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    APPROPRIATE. Several groups and individuals burn a streamer red-tagging various journalists and human rights groups in Cagayan de Oro City on May 27, 2019. Photo from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines' Facebook page

    ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) lauded their colleagues in Cagayan de Oro City for standing against allegations that they and other groups are communist fronts.

    On Monday, May 27, a black streamer red-tagging the NUJP and other organizations was draped on the fence of Cagayan de Oro's Press Freedom Monument at Vicente de Lara Park. The incident happened on the first day of the city's Press Freedom Week.

    In response, members of various media organizations took turns in tearing and setting the streamer alight while vowing to remain united and undeterred by the claims thrown against them.

    The NUJP described the response of its local chapter "as swift as it was appropriate."

    "The example set by the media of Cagayan de Oro is proof of what we have maintained all along, that the united community of independent Filipino journalists is capable of holding back the darkness that seeks to engulf us once again," the NUJP said in a statement on Tuesday, May 28.

    It added that the timing of the incident indicated it was intended to suppress freedom of the press, and to "warn all journalists to go easy on critical reportage and commentary."

    Local NUJP chairperson Pamela Jay Orias slammed the red-tagging incident, saying "a critical press serves the public interest and should therefore not be subjected to attacks."

    The other groups tagged as communist fronts included the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao, National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Confederation for Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees.

    Warning to all journalists

    This is not the first time that journalists and human rights defenders in Northern Mindanao have been linked to communist rebels.

    In February, press freedom and human rights advocates denounced an anonymous list distributed to journalists in Cagayan de Oro that tagged groups and individuals as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Among the tagged individuals were lawyers and journalists. (READ: Rights group, journalists denounce recent red-tagging in Cagayan de Oro)

    The document, written in Bisaya, said, "Here is the list of several members of the Communist Party of the Philippines here in our city that are aspiring to wrestle the government."

    Despite these attacks on the press, CEGP national president Daryl Angelo Baybado asserted that journalists will continue to report what needs to be reported.

    "We've had enough of the attacks launched by the government against the press. As vanguards of truth...we'll need to vow to become more true to our commitment of serving our purpose – to fight tyranny and to let people know the truth," he said.

    Since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, journalists and human rights groups have decried attacks against press freedom which have escalated in the Philippines.

    Amid the threats, the Philippines slid one spot in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 134th out of 180 countries. – Rappler.com

    Maria Victoria Te is a Rappler mover in Cagayan de Oro City. She is a Grade 12 student of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan and editor-in-chief of The Squire Publication.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Christian Jay Millena, 30, has gone a long way since he started his journey in law school.

    From working different jobs to borrowing money from his friends just to make ends meet, he has proven that no obstacle is too big to hurdle.

    His story went viral after he posted a series of tweets narrating how he survived law school. 

    At an early age, Millena, a resident of Daraga, Albay, dreamed of becoming a lawyer. He graduated college and earned his license as a professional teacher in 2009.  

    He moved to Manila with the hopes of pursuing law immediately after college. He worked as a teacher and moved to a business process outsourcing (BPO) company to pay for his needs and support his family. 

    In 2012 he passed the entrance exam at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law. He said he had to save up and prepare for his studies.

    Working in a sales company at that time, he was asked to resign when his boss learned about the news.

    “I was so devastated that time because I needed the job to pursue law. But I understood my employer. My job required a lot of fieldwork, and law school would prevent me from performing well at work,” Millena told Rappler in an interview. 

    The debts he took out to survive

    Unaware of UP's Student Tuition and Financial Assistance Program (STFAP), he was categorized as Bracket A until second year, which meant he needed to pay P1,500 per unit or about P25,000 per semester. In the years after, he was rebracketed to B and C. 

    Since the program's implementation in 1989 and amendment in 2007, STFAP has been continuously criticized for its supposed ineffectiveness and inadequacy in democratizing “access and admission to [UP's] academic programs while promoting fairness and social justice in the University.” This was later on replaced by the Socialized Tuition Scheme (STS) in 2014.

    Millena was able to pay for the reservation slot and his tuition fee with the help of his friends who lent him money while he was unemployed at that time. 

    “During my first semester...I didn’t have books or codals. All I had was this old Revised Penal Code and Civil Code that I borrowed from a cousin who also studied law years ago. It was difficult keeping up with my classes because I couldn’t study since I really didn’t have materials to read,” he said.

    Even when he finally got a job as a content editor in a company, he said his salary still wasn’t enough. In the second semester, he was only able to enroll because of UP’s loan program. (READ: I survived UP)

    “I went to class hungry most of the time. I usually just had coffee and biscuits for dinner since my classes were in the evening. There were days when it’s the only 'meal' I’d have for the day.... I also had friends who lent me money. I even had a friend who didn’t ask to be paid until I finished law school,” Millena recounted.

    To settle his previous loan, he initially thought of filing a leave of absence on his second year in law school until his finances got better. 

    Surprisingly, he received a call from Gaby Concepcion, who was then his persons and family relations professor and professorial lecturer. She was offering to help.

    “On the last day of enrollment, my professor called and told me she’d pay for my loan so I could enroll.... I got a 2.5 in her class, so it wasn’t like I was a really deserving student. But she insisted on paying for my loan, and since I also wanted law school so bad, I accepted her offer,” he recalled.

     

    In his 3rd year in law school, his classmates contributed money for him to be able to enroll. 

     

    In 2013, Millena worked as an executive assistant for his friend in a government agency. After a year, he transferred to a non-governmental organization. 

    Millena shared that it was "extremely difficult" having to work and study at the same time. 

    On top of law school, Millena, being the 3rd child among 6 siblings, provided financial support for his family back in Bicol, especially for his father’s medical expenses because he had diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease.

    One tragedy after another

    In 2014, his 17-year-old sister, who also had diabetes, suddenly died after complaining of severe stomach ache. After a year, his 13-year-old sister got hospitalized in the intensive care unit (ICU) due to a kidney problem.

    “Dahil may guilt feelings pa rin ako na hindi ko naabutang buhay ang isa kong kapatid sa ospital noong 2014, ipinangako ko noon na hindi ko iiwan ang isa ko pang kapatid na nag-aagaw-buhay sa ospital,” Millena recalled.

    (Because I felt guilty for not being able to see my 17-year-old sister in the hospital while she was still alive, I promised myself that I wouldn't leave my other sister who was in a critical condition.) 

    Millena thought of taking a leave of absence from law school, given the difficult situation he was in. But his civil procedure professor disagreed and permitted him to take as many absences as needed on the one condition that he'd catch up on his pending work when he came back.

    Although he wanted to resign from his work, he needed money to pay for his sister’s medical expenses. But in March 2015 he resigned to focus on his studies and his family. Two months later, he decided to take a job at the House of Representatives.

    Millena would usually travel back to Albay every weekend to check on his sick sister. As the days went by, his absences piled up. He was only able to go to the university during midterm exams.

    He said he didn’t request for special exams because he didn’t want to be treated differently due to his circumstances.

    When his sister’s medical condition improved, he thought of going back to Manila to attend to his studies. But while he was studying for his class, he received a text message that his sister had already passed away.

    With the help of his classmates, he was able to take a flight back home to attend his sister’s funeral.

    “Lubhang napakasaklap lalo’t hindi ko man lang naipagluksa ang pagkamatay ng kapatid ko, pero salamat na rin at nakaraos kahit papano,” Millena recalled on Twitter.

    (It was extremely unfortunate because I wasn't even able to grieve for my sister's death, but I am still thankful that I was able to get through it somehow.)  

    Due to his sister's confinement at the ICU for two months, he incurred a huge debt. Still, he was thankful to the people who helped his family.

    Things eventually got better for him, as he got a new job and continued law school. 

    In his 4th year, Millena expressed how his father was excited for his graduation.

    “Sabi niya, mag-eeroplano siya sa graduation ko dahil hindi na kaya ng katawan niya ang mahabang biyahe. Kakailanganin niya rin daw umuwi agad dahil hindi niya p'wedeng ma-miss ang schedule ng dialysis niya,” Millena said, referring to his father who was undergoing dialysis thrice a week at that time. (READ: 90 days of dialysis per year now covered by PhilHealth

    (He said he was going to take an airplane for my graduation because his body can't endure long commutes. He'll have to go home immediately because he can't miss the schedule of his dialysis.)

    But a year before he graduated in 2017, his father passed away. Millena went home to Albay for the funeral and traveled back to Manila to take his final exams, which he successfully passed.

    Overcoming trials

    He recalled how he lost his interest in finishing law school in his 5th year, but he said he was most hurt when a professor accused him of using the deaths of his sisters and father to “get away with things in law school.”

    But Millena continued to draw stregth from the people who believed in him.

    His family and relatives had always been supportive of him. In fact, on his graduation day, they travelled to Manila just to see him receive his diploma.

    He took the bar examinations that same year, but because he prioritized his work more than his review, he failed the examination on his first take.

    “Marahil sa dami nga ng pinagdaanan ko sa law school ay pinanghinaan na rin ako. Mas pinili ko rin na matapos muna ang pagpapa-renovate ng bahay namin dahil alam kong iyan ang pangarap ng tatay ko noon pa man,” Millena stressed.  

    (Maybe it's because of the many things I've been through in law school...I chose to focus on my work so the renovation of our house could be completed since it was my father's dream before he died.)

    Ending up victorious

    But this did not stop him from giving the bar examination a second try. Millena was one of the 1,800 examinees who passed the 2018 bar exams. (READ: 'A dream come true': 2018 Bar passers celebrate success)

    “There were several times I almost gave up. But every time I thought about it, I think of my youngest sister.... Every time something happens, there’s always something worse that follows. But at the same time, I realize that if I made it through the previous trial, there’s no reason I can’t make it through the next,” he said.

    Millena shared that with everything that he’s been through, he believed that it was his dream of becoming a lawyer and providing a better life for his family that motivated him. 

    “I always think that there’s always someone who’s going through [something] worse than I am, so what right do I have to complain?” Millena added.

    Future goals

    As a way to give back, he said he wants to help change the lives of others in the same way his family, friends, and professors in law school believed and changed him for the better.

    Millena still works at the House of Representatives as a political affairs officer. Now that he is already a lawyer, he is still in the process of figuring out the best career path for him.

    “I think I’ll eventually try litigation. But one thing is for sure, I’ll give back to the country and pay my dues,” Millena said. – Rappler.com


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    Every Filipino has memorized “Lupang Hinirang.” This is mostly by singing and not by reciting it like prose or a poem.

    During our school days, when our teachers ask us to write the lyrics down, one would always hear students humming the tune. Teachers would stop them, saying that a Filipino should know the lyrics by heart, soul, and mind without having to hum the tune. We can’t help it especially that we Filipinos have been blessed with a deep love for music.

    Oftentimes we watch interviews of fellow Filipinos blundering at the lyrics. We sometimes laugh and feel silly for them.

    These blunders also happen during international boxing competitions when our artist chokes under pressure and we can’t help but facepalm ourselves over it.

    We have always sung “Lupang Hinirang” since elementary, and it seems a bit far-fetched when we see other Filipinos forgetting lyrics that they have learned since Grade 1. But in recent events, it is not only the lyrics that we have forgotten but also the nationalistic identity that the lyrics and our schools have tried to mold.

    From reciting the Panatang Makabayan and Panunumpa sa Watawat ng Pilipinas during flag ceremonies, our education system has been dedicated to shaping a nationalistic mindset. Another such feat in this endeavor is the tradition of Buwan ng Wika (language month) every August, which celebrates our literature, history, and culture through balagtasan, pageantry, essay, and other forms of performances. (READ: The Buwan ng Wike debate: Do we celebrate local languages or dialects?

    Although nowadays, we have been lingering far from the goal of imbuing a nationalistic mindset. We are under attack from the inside.

    Recently, the decision of the Supreme Court to have Panitikan and Filipino as optional subjects in college entails that our study and appreciation of literature ends in high school. (READ: Want to read more Filipino literature? Here's where to start)

    Sadly, due to the lack of resources, most high schools only delve on 4 of Philippines’ major literary works. When a Filipino who grows up in our education system only knows Ibong Adarna, Florante at Laura, Noli Me Tangere, and El Filibusterismo – and only those 4 – do we begin to see that we will fail in promoting ourselves as a culture with art and literature; when we, in fact, have a larger pool of writers such as Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, Paz Marquez Benitez, Lualhati Bautista, and many more contemporary writers that Panitikan classes ought to cover. 

    Another decision by lawmakers that also falls short in ensuring a nationalistic mindset among Filipino students is the mandatory Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). The support of lawmakers in making the ROTC mandatory, in my opinion, does not foster patriotism nor the sense of duty, but rather only forced discipline and obedience.

    I remember my citizen army training (CAT) in high school only as a playground of power and forced discipline, without a sense of duty to anyone but the commanding officer.

    In shaping the Filipino people, we must devote ourselves to our studies and the appreciation of history, culture, and literature, rather than a flurry of commands.

    In fostering our national identity, we must be wary of how we handle our educational system. Being a Filipino does not end with preferring English over Filipino, nor choosing hamburgers over sinigang, but rather ends when we have forgotten that we have our own literature, culture, and heritage to the point where we abandon it; that we force the people to love the nation rather than foster an appreciation.

    In the memory of Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, and all other heroes who have died in service to our country do we strengthen our identity as a nation.

    The lines of “Lupang Hinirang” is a promise carried by every Filipino that we’ll stand and never be again subjected to anyone in the face of invaders. It is also a way to show the reverence that we hold for our majestic country of more than 7,600 islands filled with beauty. (READ: The problem with the lack of nationalism)

    In the hopes of fulfilling a promise to our country and to our ancestors who have again fought tirelessly do we rise up and take a stand; especially now when our political and sovereign claims are being contested, and our fellowmen are deprived of their rights to enjoy the freedoms we have long fought for. – Rappler.com

    Gillian Reyes is a registered librarian who works at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He often writes stories for children, and hopes to build a library for kids someday.


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    GETTING CONNECTED. University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student fills out the online form in the book reservation area. Photo from UPLB Human Library Facebook page

    LAGUNA, Philippines – It has become a common sight to see people spend more time staring at their phones than talking to their friends.

    Launched in April 2019, the human library of University of the Philippines  Los Baños (UPLB) hopes to keep readers more attuned to reality, especially in the digital age. With the Philippines topping in social media use worldwide for the 4th straight year, the human library is an effort to spark meaningful conversations instead of being engrossed with the use of cellular phones. 

    Dr. Mary Ann Ingua, College Librarian IV of the UPLB Main Library, said that social media can never capture what the other person in the virtual world truly feels in contrast to a face-to-face conversation. 

    “Even if we often say that the technology helps speed up our work, nothing can beat a human being that you can talk to and can empathize with your problems,” she added in a mix of English and Filipino.

    A popular project adopted by over 80 countries, the human library operates the same as any library where books can be borrowed and read. (READ: [OPINION] In choosing a degree, consider Library and Information Science)

    Instead of reading text from a book, people get to interact with a real person through casual conversations to discuss experiences and topics about a certain issue for an hour.

    Its purpose is centered on the idea of building a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

    Creating a safe space 

    UPLB aims to provide a safer venue for asking questions and sharing stories in the university by challenging preconceived notions through the human library.

    “We want to achieve meaningful conversation in a relaxed mode, wherein no one will judge you," Dr. Ingua said. 

    In the UPLB article, Dr. Ingua added that the human library was implemented because of the increasing rate of mental health problems among students. It aims to create a social support group inside the campus that's open to understanding individual differences and struggles. (READ: 'A cry for help: Mental illness, suicide cases rising among youth)

    It also aims to create a safe space for people to connect with others, break stigma and prejudices through meaningful discourse, promote understanding of culture and diversity, and bring a movement for social change.  

    MEANINGFUL DISCOURSE. Dr. Portia G. Lapitan, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), opens the Human Book fair with a speech. Photo from UPLB Human Library Facebook page

    UP's human books feature stories of a person suffering from depression, a mother sharing her challenges and struggles, a wife who survived domestic violence, and people who have experienced prejudice and other stereotypes.

    As of writing, UPLB Human Library's catalog features 14 different titles. 

     

    Izabel Aruges (not her real name) of Whose Child Am I? shared her experience of being a human book.

    “[Being a human book] is not a confession. It is really more of opening up and trusting [the readers] that whatever you talk about will only remain between you...With [human library], I can connect better with other people,” she explained.

    For human book reader and UPLB student Jyra Gaviola, being able to listen to the story of Izabel Aruges gave her the opportunity to look at things differently. 

    "I get [to realize] the perspective of others. Makakatulong iyon sa akin para magrow pa ako as a person kasi hindi ako nakukulong sa sarili ko lang na experience. (It helps me grow as a person because I'm no longer caged in my own experience),"Gaviola added. 

    Human book Little Thao talked about the diversity of Muslims and debunked stereotypes of how Mindanao and its people are portrayed and seen. (READ: Seeds of insurgency: The youth of Marawi)

    Gusto ko i-share ‘yung culture namin sa Mindanao, na everyone is well-respected despite their religion or cultural background (I want to share our culture in Mindanao. That everyone is respected despite their religion or cultural backround)," Little Thao said.

    Another human book Anne Sayatee tackled what people with major depressive disorder experience through a feature titled Keep It Together. (READ: Is the Philippines ready to address mental health?

    Meanwhile, human book Chidori behind the title Keep Moving Forward discussed about how he managed to overcome his grief and how he was healed after losing someone precious in his life.

    The human books are kept anonymous to protect their identity. Readers, on the other hand, must sign a confidentiality agreement since the project is protected by the Data Privacy Act.  

    More human book titles are expected to be available in the coming weeks, as university library is also looking for interested human book volunteers

    Interested readers can reserve any human book through their website or they can visit the UPLB Main Library.  – Rappler.com  

    Rosemarie A. De Castro is a Rappler mover from Libmanan, Camarines Sur. She is also a Development Communication student at the University of the Philippines Los Banos.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of the start of classes in June, human rights group Hustisya launched a donation drive for children from poor and marginalized communities, including those whose parents are desaparecidos, political prisoners, and activists who are victims of extrajudicial killings.

    “We just wanted to help make sure that the children will have what they need for school, and lessen the burden of parents who are coping with being a widow or a solo parent and have to raise their children singlehandedly,” Cristina Guevarra of Hustisya said.

    “The drive also became an opportunity for us to introduce who are the victims of rights violations, the ones left behind by parents who were killed, disappeared, or put to jail,” Guevarra added.

    From jail to school

    In 2019, Hustisya is also partnering with community-based urban poor organizations in Sampaloc, Manila, to provide school supplies for at least 200 children. (READ: 'Rights-based' education needed to protect children in schools)

    Among the hundreds of beneficiaries this year is 4-year-old Payter (not his real name), an incoming kindergarten pupil.

    Payter was born while his mother was in detention due to trumped-up charges. He stayed with his mother, but was later brought home by his grandfather.

    If time and resources permit, his grandfather would take him to jail to visit his mother, who is still awaiting the promulgation of her case.

    It was because of children like Payter that Hustisya started a donation drive in 2013 to not only provide them with supplies but also let people know of their plight. (READ: Defending human rights under Duterte)

    According to Guevarra, by letting people hear the calls for justice from the victims firsthand, their stories will be seen “beyond figures and unknown names.”  (READ: The Impunity Series)

    Now on its 6th year, the initiative continues because of the overwhelming support from friends who have been also become friends with the victims and their relatives, according to Guevarra.

    How to donate

    Through the drive, Hustisya hopes to gather in-kind and cash donations for the school supplies.

    For cash donations, the group aims to raise funds for at least 300 sets of school supplies worth P500 each. The set will consist of the following items:

    • 10 notebooks
    • 5 ballpens/pencils
    • Scissors
    • Eraser and sharpener
    • Pad papers
    • Crayons
    • Ruler
    • Backpack

    Cash donations can be deposited in the following bank account: 

    Bank of the Philippine Islands
    Pagkakaisa ng mga Biktima para sa Hustisya Inc.
    Philippine Peso Account No. 4253 4393 14
    US Dollar Account No. 4254 0241 93

    Banco de Oro
    Gerifel Cerillo
    Philippine Peso Account No. 004 070 186 312

    Landbank of the Philippines
    Lorraine G. Villaflor
    Philippine Peso Account No. 2886 2290 30

    For in-kind donations, the group encourages donors to drop by the Hustisya national office at Erythrina Building, 1 Maaralin, Barangay Central, Quezon City.

    Donors may contact Cristina Guevarra at 09061880128 or Dj Acierto at 09176224761 for further details.

    In a September 2018 report, the United Nations included Philippines in the list of 38 countries whose human rights defenders and activists are suffering from “an alarming and shameful level of harsh reprisals and intimidation” from their own governments.

    Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs was launched, human rights groups estimate over 20,000 deaths – a tally which included vigilante-style killings. (READ: Duterte gov't tally: 'Drug war' deaths breach 5,000-mark before 2019) – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – You've exercised your civic duty during the midterm elections and voted for public officials whom you believe best represent your interests. So what's gonna happen next?

    Here in Right of Way, our interest is road safety, and here are a few laws we hope our newly-elected Congress will pass. – Rappler.com


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    In the 2019 senatorial election, many netizens, not happy with its outcome, have shown their bitterness by spreading hate posts on social media. (READ:#HalalanDayaan2019: Netizens raise concerns over perceived irregularities)

    Being one of the teachers who worked on election day, I bear witness to the cleanliness of the process – whether I uphold its outcome or not. If foul play occurred beyond our watch, on this we cannot comment. What I want to discuss, however, is how the President’s supported candidates exceeded our expectations. (READ: 12 new senators proclaimed, boosting Duterte's power)

    Certainly, there is more than one factor that led to this, such as the Iglesia ni Cristo’s bloc voting as well as rampant vote-buying in the country. But I attribute the candidates’ victory to the votes of enraged Filipinos who were were not vocal in their political views and sentiments.

    Elites as enemies

    In the presidential election last 2016, we witnessed how President Rodrigo Duterte blamed the elites for the persistent inequality in the country, thus becoming the target of his theme, "Change is coming." (READ: [OPINION] The lies they pushed on Election Day)

    These elites, according to the President’s narrative, include not only the previous administration's leaders but also the most powerful people and enterprises of the country.

    This may explain why people keep on shutting their eyes amid the criticism being thrown at the President concerning a range of issues. For them, these are just the elites at work. Perhaps the best proof of this is the President’s satisfaction ratingwhich continues to be in the "very good" category.

    This year’s senatorial election would be the pinnacle of this narrative – where the President is able to further consolidate his power by paving the way for his favored candidates to sit in the legislature and overpower the elites.

    Tragedies of poverty

    This can be likened to television soap operas which the Filipinos never get tired of watching. It’s about a protagonist, who often begins as one of the oppressed. As the protagonist begins to amass some power needed to crush the oppressor, it is noticeable how the show’s rating begins to improve.

    This is reasonable considering the reality of the common Filipino who is poor and blames this state on oppressors.

    When parties and candidates share the same cause as the President's, they easily get into the spotlight. This is exactly how the Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS), a party-list group apparently controlled by the Tulfos, depicted themselves in their political ads. They ended up topping the race.

    Associating with the masses

    Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa got social media attention when he indicated he didn't know much about legislative work. (READ: Incoming senator Dela Rosa seeks lawmaking seminars).

    It is remarkable how this one incident sparked disputes between Dela Rosa's supporters and the opposition.

    He didn't even have to respond to his critics since his supporters did it for him, saying that his statement was an act of humility given that he already has post-graduate degrees that are directly relevant to politics. Besides, responding directly might achieve the opposite. By appearing modest, Dela Rosa was able to embody a figure like those of the masses, contrary to that of the elites who are more likely to flaunt their achievements.

    People want to be led by leaders who identify with them, leaders who can dance to the same music. One literal example is the "budots" dance, which Bong Revilla admitted to be an effective marketing strategy that resonates with the masses. "Du’n sa budots kinagat dahil syempre pagka magma-market ka, tulad ng pelikula, kailangan magugustuhan ng viewers kung ano ’yung gagamitin mo." (The "budots" dance was marketed the way we'd market a movie; it needs to be appealing to your viewers.)

     

    Battle runs on emotions

    In the actual election, and generally in current politics, the battle runs on people's emotions.

    This might best explain the President’s jokes on serious matters, up to the point of enraging some groups. Apparently, this does not upset his supporters and in fact even adds to their affirmation of him.

    Supporters falling victim to what the psychologists call emotional bias might struggle to accept criticism against their leader. They would instead seek reasons to defend their leader, even internally, to further the President’s influence and dominance.

    All of these feelings against the elites were hardly translated to words by the masses. Most people lack the capacity to articulate these sentiments, especially those who come from the lower tier of society. This left the thinking class boisterous and unapologetic in voicing out their thoughts and opinions as if the other side does not exist. In reality, the underprivileged comprises the majority of the country. (READ: [OPINION] Hope for the Filipinos amidst election blues)

    With this, we can see why candidates kept on leaning on the President to gain the empathy of the people. Meanwhile, the President himself is leaning on the existence of a common enemy – the elites.

    We have to take a good look at the President’s ulterior motives. If Duterte benefited from the existence of these elites to rise from Davao City mayor to the nation’s chief executive, shouldn’t the President be thanking the elites instead? – Rappler.com

     

    Jordan Mitchell Cruz is a teacher, academic researcher, and freelance resource speaker and writer. He finished his Bachelor of Elementary Education at the University of Santo Tomas and then took his master's degree at the Philippine Normal University specializing in social science education. 


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    Protest photo from The GUIDON

    My father is a jeepney driver, whose example taught me to work harder than everyone else – not only because hard work is high dignity; but also, while it is no guarantee of success, anything less than that for us would mean complete failure.

    I always worked harder than everyone else to get the same opportunities they had. It’s the least I can do to compensate for my lack of privilege. This is a reality of life I have long embraced – from shouting as jeepney barker for my father to taking odd jobs in high school – I worked hard to be here. (READ: [OPINION] Game of poverty)

    Yet, I am aware that my full scholarship exists not because I simply earned it. All my work would have been for nothing if there was no slot on offer in the first place. I am here because someone, by the grace of their heart, gave generously to fund my education. I am here because a generous Ateneo exists, where someone like me who does not share the wealthier background of the common Atenean can be entrusted with the presidency of the school’s student council.

    In a generous Ateneo, one can hope. That is as much a statement of my unwavering faith as it is an indication of a greater problem. Everything I have accomplished in Ateneo has depended on the precondition of a generous Ateneo. And while it is a place that I have been able to reach, it remains beyond the hopes of many of our fellow citizens. My success is an exception, not the norm: rarely do we see a child from the poorest of the poor climb her way to one of the top universities in the country, and become its highest student representative. What was difficult for me is still unattainable for others, and will remain so, even with Ateneo’s most generous efforts.

    That is because generosity is not enough. The success of one person should not depend on the virtue of another. I may have exceeded expectations, but, let’s face it, people do not expect much from children of poor families. We are condemned by the soft bigotry of low expectations and impeded by the hard barrier of unequal opportunity. (READ: It's about privilege, not about working or studying hard)

    I am an example of the underprivileged gaining the highest quality of education in one of the best universities in the country, and achieving their dreams. It is possible, but it will take more than good intentions.

    Ateneo taught me the limits of what individual virtue can do. A generous Ateneo alone cannot make up for a society that does not provide fair access to opportunity for all, and a decent path to success for those who are like me. I envision and hope for a nation where a success story like mine is not an exemption, but the rule.

    I was raised in poverty – there was never enough food on our table; my parents were not always regular employees; and as students, my sister and I had childhoods filled with promissory notes for delayed tuition fee payments.

    I was 7 years old when I joined my first rally. I stood with my father at the frontline of a jeepney strike that aimed to raise the minimum fare. For some, the rising price of fuel meant less profit. For my family, it meant skipping another meal; it meant more debt and more promissory notes.

    Many will testify to how their Ateneo education has formed their moral and societal consciousness, and an Ateneo education undeniably allows people to see injustice. My desire for social change, however, was formed through my own experience of injustice.

    Mine is the story of a grandchild whose grandmother died because 3 hospitals refused to operate on her without down payment, and whose grandfather tilled land that wasn’t ours for 60 years, because land reform failed us.

    Mine is the story of a daughter whose father is jobless because the government phased out our jeepney in the name of hollow modernization, and even before the very policy for it was passed. Generosity is the exception, not the norm in this country. Ateneo may have shown my fellow students the realities of injustice in society, but for me, it served as a refuge from my own experience of social inequality.

    It is those contrasting powers – to show and to isolate, to influence and to ignore – that make a generous Ateneo a necessary, but insufficient condition. As long as Ateneo is generous, many young men and women like me hope that they, too, can earn a diploma that carries the same Latin words that Rizal earned. But as long as Ateneo needs to be generous, it means society has not overcome bigger, deeper problems: social inequality, lack of opportunity, and the concentration of economic and political power in the families of many of my schoolmates.

    I am grateful for what Ateneo has given me: an excellent education, a network of like-minded friends and allies, and space for me to grow with more courage as I led the community to demand greater things for this nation. Still, I am aware that in many ways, my capacity for nation-building as an Atenean carries problematic contradictions.

    Ateneo’s influence amplifies any Atenean voice, the same way it amplified mine. When I protested for the Philippines to hear the plight of our jeepney drivers against the modernization policy, the entire nation listened. The biggest news media companies – ABS-CBN, GMA, name it – wrote headlines, and invited me to interviews and documentaries. My statements, no matter how eloquent, would not have mattered if I weren’t Atenean. After all, I am not the only “daughter of a jeepney driver” in the entire Philippines. It was my Ateneo education that made me special.

    I write this not only with gratitude, but also with a discomforting sense of contradiction. I am fueled by my dreams, dreams which Ateneo’s generosity nourished, in a country whose problems are partly caused by the same inequalities that created the Ateneo.

    Beyond this discomfort, however, is hope. As a victim of inequalities, I have always seen things from down the hill. A generous Ateneo has allowed me to see the view from up the hill. Because of this, my vision is more complete; my understanding of issues more complex; and my appreciation of the world more compassionate.

    Ateneo educates the children of those who hold the keys to wealth and power in this country. I have seen them stand willing to speak truth and justice to their families’ power. And if we, the powerless and powerful, can continue standing together, then there is hope for a better future not only for this generation, but for this country.

    This is what I’ve learned from being Sanggunian President: The generous Ateneo is flawed, but none of its flaws are unchangeable.

    The generous Ateneo has always been self-critical. From being an all-male university, it became co-educational, breaking the barrier to education that was gender. It offered scholarships, making it accessible to a wider population who could not have afforded Ateneo otherwise. The integration of liberation theology in its curriculum is proof of that self-criticism, an acknowledgement that many Ateneans are those whose choices formed and maintained the same oppressive social structures Ateneo says it wants defeated.

    The most famous heroes Ateneo produced in the past – Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, Gregorio del Pilar, Ninoy Aquino, Evelio Javier – were all well-off men. Only in a generous Ateneo is it possible that the daughter of a jeepney driver from one of the most remote sitios in Bicol can aspire to their same education and heroism, too. If my story can help make Ateneo even more generous and, at the same time, help others go beyond generosity and act for systemic change, I know I am doing things right.

    We need a more generous Ateneo, but that is not the solution to this nation’s problems. What we need is a country that resembles a generous Ateneo.

    Inequality in the Philippines means that there is a hill, and the rest is down from the hill. We must dream of something better than this. Ateneo should not be content to sit proudly on its hill and invite others into its light. It must shine its light into the darkness far beyond its borders. I am extremely lucky to have been given a place here – it is my honor and duty to make things more just, to share whatever light I can, especially to those who have only known darkness. – Rappler.com

    Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña is the president of Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila. She is the recipient of the 2019 Loyola Schools Awards for Leadership and Service Most Outstanding Individual, recipient of the St Ignatius Award for Most Outstanding Scholar, 2018 Most Outstanding Jose Rizal Model Student of the Philippines awardee, Cum laude, program awardee for Management Economics, and the Ateneo de Manila University Class 2019 Valedictorian.

    This article was originally published on the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) website. It is the author’s pre-interview essay for the university’s valedictorian selection.


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    I have been living and working in the cosmopolitan global city of Dubai since 2001. For the past 7 years, I have been managing the corporate reputation of a major logistics service provider catering to the Oil Majors in the Middle East and Asia – and achieving my annual KPIs consistently.

    We came to Dubai not out of economic necessity, but for a sense of adventure and to escape Manila’s traffic, flood, pollution, and crime. I left a very promising job as corporate affairs and communications manager of a big local pharmaceutical firm.

    Today, it’s been more than a year that I have been searching for a major Filipino company or an MNC which could help reintegrate me back into Philippine society. And this is where I get frustrated as an overseas Filipino (OF).

    I have received various responses from HR officers and executive search recruiters – from the standard courteous reply – “we have decided to pursue other candidates who are a closer fit to the current requirements of this position” – to quite painful ones. These include, “You were not selected to move forward for further interview as it is critical for the candidate to have deep roots in the country” and, “There had been plenty of reorganization in the last 18 years that you’ve been out and not quite sure where your experience will be appropriate.”

    ‘Minimum package’

    The most disturbing reply I received was this: "We cannot afford the minimum package you are looking at.” 

    The sad reality is that OFs – wherever they are based – are really stuck because there is indeed a huge disparity in income between working in the Philippines and abroad. It’s a pity, because some, or perhaps most, of those who are away from their families would really want to live and work in the homeland.

    I am fortunate that I was able to afford the standard of living in Dubai with my wife and son from 2001 to 2016. After 2016, our son left to study in Montreal and later on shifted to another course in Manila. My wife and I go home at least twice a year. We both have a yearly free roundtrip air ticket, which is part of my benefits aside from free medical insurance.

    Giving back

    I do not want to finally go home for good when I am near my retirement age or retired already. I want to pursue my PR career in the Philippines where I can still fully utilize my God-given talents and, at the same time, give back to the community. 

    I would like to be an influencer in shaping public opinion and making public policies that would enhance the standard of living of people and empower them.

    To the company that would openly embrace me as a “balikbayan,” I will commit my loyalty. Aside from being seasoned in C-suite interactions as in-house PR and external counsel, my core strengths would be my wide connections in the Philippine media and the 3 branches of government despite being away for 18 years. 

    You see, my peers and friends in the media are now key opinion leaders as anchors and editors. Some have become senior executives of news organizations. My batch mates from college, major in political science, are spread in various government entities and are part of decision-making circles.

    I have been randomly reading articles and opinions on LinkedIn about the future of PR in the digital world. Coming from Gen X who graduated from college using the typewriter, I am slowly accepting this reality but still practicing the traditional ways of an effective PR: having good and lasting relations with journalists and opinion makers; engaging constantly with internal and external stakeholders; collaborating openly with government and civil society; and initiating programs that benefit local communities and the country at large, which are related to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

    I will not give up trying to search for that opportunity to achieve my heart’s desire to be able to live and work again in the Philippines. I will be there during the Eid Holidays from June 4 to 8. Just give me 15 minutes and I will pitch why I will be a great value to your organization’s journey toward business excellence and societal commitment.

    Thank you in advance to those kind-hearted people who will pave the way for my eventual reintegration. I know there are many – and they read Rappler.– Rappler.com

     

    The author has more than 20 years experience in external and internal communications, community and employee engagement, marketing communications, and special events. He lives in Dubai with his wife, Rachel Salinel, a freelance broadcast journalist. Their only child, 21-year old son Yuji, is in Manila taking up university studies. 


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    MANILA, Philippines – If you've thought about trying out cycling, then World Bicycle Day is a good time to start.

    The world celebrates World Bicycle Day every June 3. It is organized by the United Nations to encourage member states to consider cycling as a "simple, clean and environmentally fit” means of transportation that brings many health benefits. (READ: Biking to work? Here's what you should know)

    According to the World Health Organization (WHO), safe infrastructure for walking and cycling is also a pathway for achieving greater health equity. Cycling not only offers an alternative mode of transport, it also reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, and other diseases.

    In celebration of World Bicycle Day, events have been organized across the Philippines to encourage people to cycle more and push for infrastructure that will make it easier to use the bicycle as a mode of transportation.

    Here is a running list of events and activities in the Philippines on World Bicycle Day:

    Baguio

    In Baguio, the local government signed an administrative order to pave the way for a bicycle fun ride and other activities lined up to celebrate World Bicycle Day in collaboration with different cycling groups.

    Under the order, parking along Session Road will not be allowed on June 2 from 5 am to 12 am, since these spaces will be turned into bike lanes for the celebration.

    Metro Manila

    BikeScoutsPH partnered with  Decathlon, Festival Mall, Filinvest City and Filinvest Lifemalls, Zion Emergency and Disaster Response Unit (ZEDRU) to encourage local governments and communities to adopt cycling and build cycling infrastructure as a means for inclusive mobility. They will celebrate it on Sunday, June 2, at the Festival Mall in Filinvest City, Alabang, with a variety of activities.

    The acitivities include a World Bicycle Day party and World Bicycle Day Hour Challenge, where riders make as many laps as they can in an hour to set a personal record. People can also attend the event to test ride bicycles and scooters, and try out sports and wellness activities.

    In Pasig, several groups will also conduct a bike ride on June 3.

    Camarines Sur

    On June 2, Oragon Bikers and other bike groups in Naga City and Camarines Sur will have a Unity Ride and Clean Up drive in Tinambac, Camarines Sur. The meet-up will be at San Felipe Gas Station near Cokeville at 5 am. Everyone is encouraged to bring garbage bags.

    Eastern Samar

    Promoting local tourism through biking, Borongan Bikers and Bike Scouts Borongan will visit Ganap Cave in Borongan City on Sunday, June 2, where the will enjoy a scenic bike ride and fresh buko juice. Assembly time is at 5 am at the back of Mayor Luis Capito Cultural Stage.

    If you know of any related events and gatherings, make sure to tag @moveph or email move.ph@rappler.com! – Rappler.com


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    This year, I am celebrating my first Pride Month as an open and proud bisexual man.

    But in an ideal world, the whole idea of “coming out” would not be necessary. “Coming out” implies that something about your identity is not acceptable, therefore, there was a need to hide in the first place. (READ: [OPINION] I do not believe in coming out)

    We still live in a world where society sees heterosexuality as the “normal” and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) as the exception. (READ: President Duterte, praying the gay away didn't work for me)

    My coming out story is a slow and confusing one. But like Sansa Stark said in the hit TV show Game of Thrones, “I’m a slow learner, but I learn.”

    While I may not be of nobility, I can relate to Sansa’s slow character development and persistence: from starting as a quiet and timid wife to becoming a force-to-be-reckoned with in the imaginary kingdom of Westeros.

    I grew up in a conservative and very Catholic Cebuano family, meaning that I was indoctrinated with the western-imposed construct of heteronormativity from a young age. (READ: Coming out of the shadows: On being LGBT in Mindanao)

    The only acceptable way to live was to aim to get married by 25, buy a house, have children and build a comfortable life with a family.

    I tried to want this. I’ve only been in one relationship ever with a girl, and even today I am certain that the love was real. 

    But there was a part of my identity that I omitted even from my closest friends. Yes, I’m attracted to women – still am and always will be. But I am attracted to men too.

    Was it shame? Maybe. But a big part of not saying anything for the longest time was that I didn’t understand it myself, and it took a long time before I did.

    I thought growing up that bisexuality was not possible because the conversations around me framed sexuality as a mutually exclusive deal: you either liked men or you liked women, not both.

    So when I fell in love with a woman, I thought that was that. I am straight and I was just confused before.

    But while that relationship eventually ended, my attraction to men did not. Again, I was in the predicament of trying to choose “which side” I was on.

    Around 2016 I started to read more into sexual identity, and met more male bisexuals and talked about their experiences. I realized that I didn’t have to choose a side, and that was my first enlightened moment in realizing my identity.

    Aside from being stuck in the dichotomy of choosing a side, many others too have been told outright by both homosexuals and heterosexuals that bisexuality is only a phase.

    There’s a popular saying in the LGBT community that bisexuality is “just a stop on the way to gay town.” While I believe it is okay to change labels at different points of one's life, statements like these are dismissive, and perpetuate the idea that bisexuality is solely a transitional identity and not a permanent one.

    In the Philippines, bisexuality is often also misused by homosexuals who feel masculine or “straight-acting.”

    Bisexuality simply means an attraction to people of both genders. This attraction is regardless of the person's gender expression, whether it is masculine or feminine.

    Personally, my expression can range from masculine to feminine. But it should not even matter. Caring too much about these things gets tiring.

    My breakthrough moment finally came in late 2017. I was interviewing TV host Boy Abunda for a pop culture feature I was working on for another news outlet.

    The topic was colorism in Philippine entertainment. However, in the middle of the interview, Boy subtly asked me, “I want to ask you something, Ryan. You don’t have to answer, but are you straight?”

    “I’m bisexual, tito Boy,” I answered.

    It was an unbelievable moment. Here I was with probably the most famous TV host in the country today, and I was telling him about my sexual orientation when I had never even hinted that to most of my closest friends, my parents, siblings, or longtime colleagues.

    But what I realized was if I could tell tito Boy, I could tell anyone.

    From that day on, I decided I was going to work on giving less of a damn.

    I was going to stop caring about what people in a movie theatre would think if I go out with another boy; or if friends or colleagues see me with other boys; or if i lose a gig or job for being too queer; or if queer people dismiss my identity as a phase, and I won't be able to date women again because they won't understand. 

    While living as an openly LGBTQIA+ person is tiring and difficult, not living your truth is more tiring.

    I chose truth.

    I was going to be me all the time – online and offline – regardless of what privilege or friends and family I would lose because of it.

    Outside of journalism, I am a spoken word artist. I performed at Metro Manila Pride’s Himagsining Queer Arts Festival. That night I told myself I’m finally, completely, out. I am not afraid, and I am not turning back.

    I will attend this year’s Metro Manila Pride with other strong, courageous queers who taught me that being queer is not something to be ashamed of but to celebrate. 

    Yes, I’m late, but count me in on the fight and struggle for LGBTQIA+ equality here in the Philippines and beyond. #ResistTogether

    – Rappler.com

    Ryan Macasero is Rappler's Central Visayas correspondent by day, spoken word artist by night, and bisexual both night and day.


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    I grew up in a house where my mother was the breadwinner and made the decisions, while my father stayed at home doing housework. This wasn't a plan my parents made, but rather a matter of consequence since my father was very sickly. I didn't realize the impact this would make on me until in elementary and high school when I slowly became a feminist.

    In Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE), there were lessons that taught us about gender roles: how mothers were in charge of the house and how fathers were breadwinners. This idea was foreign to me to the extent that I failed an exam since I didn't believe what the book had said. But a failed score didn't stop me from knowing that the roles parents could have were interchangeable. This was clearly a bias on gender roles that were more in favor of men rather than women.

    The problem now pervades in a society where men are not held accountable by their actions. That society gives them so much privilege to the point that it saves them from having any repercussions.

    Such an instance is that in social media, there have been reports of boys from academic institutions sharing lewd photographs of their classmates. This is a clear violation of the law, with some even hinging on child pornography, but the sanctions given to the perpetrators were a mere slap on the wrist.

    It makes my blood boil to see boys sharing nudes of their classmates among themselves and having no respect whatsoever for the women in those photos.

    What makes me even angrier are the decisions of educational institutions to downplay the situation to save themselves. By handing out the diplomas of the alleged perpetrators, they doomed themselves by showing everyone that they still reward inappropriate actions.

    Schools are supposed to be a safe zone for children, in whatever form of safety that may manifest. Schools are no longer safe zones from sexual harassment. (READ: [OPINION | Dash of SAS] School punishment for boys and girls)

    Administrators, principals, and teachers need to understand that the children that they are fostering now are the better tomorrow. They are the institution that is responsible for the outcome of the next generation. They should lead by example and show that the intrusion of women and disrespect to whomever should not be a norm, and that grave offenses should be punishable.

    We see the manifestation of these actions even in the highest office of the government, the President's tirades and rape jokes are a result of a society that stemmed from this hateful and violent bias. We should not be tolerating this kind of behavior anymore from anyone – nor should we excuse our boys to crimes they've committed due to the standard of "boys will be boys."

    Change needs to start small. It is up to our schools to teach the youth of this nation that these kinds of behavior have no place in the future to come. It is time that they think first of the well-being of the youth and their image second. Maybe by then could we live in a society where there is no more hate, nor do we crown privilege on the basis of sex and gender.

    I remember being asked by a friend: If I'd have a choice to change the sex I was born into, would I choose to be a female instead? I replied that I'd still prefer to be a man. I wanted to remain a man since I can use the privilege given by society to voice out concerns of women.

    This has always been the responsibility of people with privilege: to speak and fight for those who have less. The world needs more men who share the views of feminist ideals. (READ: [OPINION] This is what we want for our women)

    What it means to be a feminist, in my opinion, is the fight for equality.

    It is not simply the discussion of not giving up our seats for women, but rather the discussion of deeper social issues that women and LGBTQ+ communities face today like uneven wages, employment discrimination, domestic and sexual abuse, and other problems. Problems that men like me, in all privilege, almost never experience.

    It is time that men also fight against the toxic masculinity and patriarchy and revere everyone, no matter what gender, as equal to everyone else. By then can we see the beginning of change. – Rappler.com

    Gillian Reyes is a registered librarian who works at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He often writes stories for children, and hopes to build a library for kids someday.


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  • 06/02/19--05:45: [OPINION] Ride and prejudice
  • Braving the roads of Metro Manila with its endless traffic is a story of strength and courage. Braving principles of gender sensitivity which should start at home and with family roles is another.

    On my way to visit my best friend who lives in Quezon City, I decided to take time and not rush from Cavite. While I usually prefer more convenient options, it was a day of savoring the city – its noise, its people, and its colors. What best way to engage myself in the city by taking the jeepney, right?

    As I gave my fare to the driver and checked out what's new in the city, I saw stickers of striking violet and yellow colors inside the jeepney. With the words "Kaya ni mister, kaya ni misis (What the husband can do, the wife can too)" and "Kapag mas maraming babae, ekonomiya ay lumalago (When there are more women, the economy thrives)," they caught my attention. (READ: Empowering women: Because women can and women will)

    I asked the driver where he got them and he told me that those stickers were distributed by their local government. After some exchanges of information, I figured out that it was the same campaign advocating for gender equality which also appeared on social media. I knew it was somehow familiar to me and I'm glad that the advocacy is in action.

    The stickers are about a campaign entitled Infairness Movement, initiated by Spark!, a non-governmental organization championing women and equality. The campaign aims to break stereotypes of the roles of men and women. (READ: [OPINION] This is what we want for our women)

    Men can do household chores, and women can take part in economic development by being employed or heading their own businesses, among others.

    The Filipino family

    One can picture a "usual" Filipino family scenario where the mother stays at home to do the cooking, while the father is in office attire, juggling meetings in corporate offices. It's evident in elementary education stories, advertisements, and soap operas.

    But over the years, we've observed a shift. Take the train, for example, where we see people from all walks of life. It includes both men and women who work in the city and who go home to provinces close to Manila.

    However, has Filipino society really embodied that there must be no stereotypes, that discrimination must be a thing of the past?

    I can remember my elder brother who recently got married. As they were preparing for their new house, he quickly said that his wife must take charge of all the household chores. Should that really be the case? What if my future nephew and niece would see such behavior?

    Infairness Movement advocates that there must be no specific task delegation at home. The family must work together and break stereotypes, which I believe is necessary for community development. If dad can check the car engine, so can mom. If the mother can sew the hemline, so can the father. (READ: Defending Filipino women from stereotypes)

    In Technology and Home Economics education, girls are not be separated from boys if the lesson is about woodwork, while boys also learn table skirting just like the girls. These are shared skills.

    Moving forward

    My brother has to see those stickers of Infairness Movement. Fortunately, they're also visible online and not just in public transport. (READ: The role of social media in women empowerment)

    Transportation brings us to places and thus, we move forward. I hope that we all move forward to a society where there is no prejudice of who does what. We all have a home and we all have families – be it our biological relatives, or our friends, or colleagues. Each must do their part in building the strongest connections.

    Try to spot those stickers when you take your next jeepney ride. Heed the call of sharing roles and tasks in the community, regardless of gender. 'Yung mahal mo sa buhay, kasangga mo sa gawaing bahay (Your loved one is your partner in doing household chores). #infairness! – Rappler.com

    Ralph Ferolino works at the French embassy. He majored in French at the University of the Philippines. A family-oriented and friendly traveler, he seizes every opportunity with his cultural capital to give a better understanding of the world, which after all, is just small.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Pride can mean different things to different people. 

    This was evident as MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, kicked off its 2019 Pride Month coverage through an online conversation on Saturday, June 1. Twitter was filled with love and compassion when it asked its readers: “What does Pride mean to you?” 

    From celebrations of love to fighting for equality, LGBTQI+  (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex) members and allies expressed their thoughts on what pride was for them.

    For Twitter user hyacinthe, pride is a celebration of diversity and accepting who you are. This was echoed by Carlos, saying pride is a “platform where everyone can be whoever they want to be.”

     

    Meanwhile, Edward Bryan made a striking point that pride goes beyond the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community. For Bryan, pride is the humanity that calls for acceptance “regardless of the choices we make.”

     

    For Twitter user Kim, pride means the “freedom to love without the fear of judgment.”

     

    Giolo Bucoy Tadeo, meanwhile, called for equality as he expressed his thoughts about what pride means. “Gay rights are human rights and must be equal in all aspect of society!”

     

    For a long while now, the Philippine LGBTQI+ community has lobbied for the enactment of an anti-discrimination law, rather than a law on same-sex marriage.

    Last year, the issue was brought before the Supreme Court. (READ: Your guide to the Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage)

    The fight for same-sex marriage in the Philippines goes beyond what is morally accepted or not. It’s about the equal protection of the law. (READ: As #LoveWins in Taiwan, Filipinos weigh in on same-sex marriage in PH)

    Below are the highlights of the conversation:

     

    Join us again on Saturday, June 8, at 7 pm for the second part of our online conversation for pride month. – Rappler.com


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    I went on my very first date with a girl (who is now my girlfriend) 5 months ago. Seeing her for the first time after weeks of flirting online was amazing. As I made my way to her, my heart started to pound twice its normal speed and my hands shook while I was trying to think of the first words to say.  

    I immediately went in for a hug. We then decided to go for a walk, our arms intertwined, occasionally holding each other's hands and kissing each other on the cheek.

    But after a while, fear consumed me. I realized that what felt like the most natural thing for us was unnatural in the eyes of many around us. I’d never wanted to be the subject of scrutiny, and holding hands with a girl in public seemed like I was handing myself over for judgment. I was scared that strangers might come right up and tell us to fuck off for being too affectionate. 

    It took me 5 months to get used to the stares and whispers. But even though we had earned the support of my parents and her mom (for which I am forever grateful), pretending that we were just close friends in front of my other family members and her father was harder than we thought. We were scared that one day we would slip and accidentally call each other babe during a family dinner. We were afraid of running out of excuses whenever we went on dates and sleepovers. (READ: [OPINION] How to be a true friend to LGBT folks)

    We feared the day when they would find out that what we have is real and pure. They just might not understand. 

    We’re not the only ones

    My girlfriend and I are just two of the countless LGBT+ individuals who have been victims of prejudice. In fact, according to Rainbow Rights Philippines, 6 out of 10 LGBT+ individuals experiencing outright injustice. 

    There was 26-year-old Jennifer Laude, who was drowned by an American soldier after he found out she was a transwoman.

    Jervi Li, popularly known as Kaladkaren, was denied entry to a bar in Makati last year for being gay.

    Senator Manny Pacquiao has called the LGBT+ mas masahol pa sa hayop (worse than animals).

    Friends from the community have been raped and abused by people they used to call their loved ones, the latter using my friends' sexuality as their excuse for this foul behavior, and it still breaks my heart hearing their stories up to this day.

    “Bakla ka naman, pa-isa lang.”

    Our current world 

    The LGBT+ lead lives tainted by hatred and misunderstanding. Our safety is threatened each day, and all we want is to live beyond the boundaries others have set for us. We just want to walk safely in our own neighborhoods without having to worry about being attacked for dressing too "gay" or too "manly." We want to be treated as equals and not as objects given second looks whenever we hold our partner’s hands in public. (READ: 'Celebration, freedom, and equality:' Netizens speak up about pride

    We just want a world where we’re humans.

    LGBT+ rights will always be human rights, and to deny this is to deny our existence. Furthermore, we demand accountability from the perpetrators of homophobic culture.

    What we want is for the Senate to deliver on the SOGIE Equality Bill in the last two session days of the 17th Congress. We simply cannot afford to go back and waste 19 years of fighting for the rights of my community. (READ: Pia Wurtzbach calls on Philippine Senate to pass SOGIE equality bill

    It isn’t our fault that we want to be more than what society tells us to be. Let us live our lives to the fullest, because we will not stop until we get to. We will resist together. (READ: [OPINION] The B in LGBT: The long journey to coming out

    And to you, my love, someday they will understand why we hold each other’s hands. Someday they will understand that what we have is real and pure. Someday, they will see that our love is love. – Rappler.com 

    Maegan Ragudo, 19, is a first year student of the AB Political Science program of De La Salle University-Manila (DLSU). She is the Director for National Affairs of Alyansang Tapat Sa Lasallista, the leading progressive political organization in DLSU. Her internship in the office of Senator Risa Hontiveros exposed her to the lobbying efforts for Human Rights, Safe Spaces, Mental Health, and SOGIE Equality.

     


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