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    'LIGHT.' Benedique Vidad, cousin of Avie Uy, enjoys reading the 'Light' series. Photo courtesy of Avie Uy  

    ALBAY, Philippines – To encourage a love of books, a child doesn't necessarily have to be able to read words. Ask someone who got a terrific jump-start from comics or graphic novels, if not parents or kin who know one. (READ: Bedtime stories: 7 PH children's books that even adults will enjoy)

    Avie Uy, whose then 7-year-old cousin Benedique John Vidad was a reluctant reader, can attest to that. She said her cousin was easily intimidated by worded books. This was until she showed him Light and Lost, silent (wordless) graphic novels by Baguio-based artist Rob Cham. 

    Light is a graphic novel series that follows a backpack-toting adventurer who's on a quest to find treasure. It's published by Anino Comics, an imprint of Adarna House Inc, which has a vision to "cater to readers fascinated by stories told and rendered in artful visuals."

    A paper titled Selected Philippine Wordless Graphic Novels and Komiks: A Semiotic and Thematic Analysis by Arnold Buenaflor of University of the Philippines Baguio explains that silent graphic novels get their name from their reliance on "illustrations on each page to tell the narrative."

    After reading Light, Avie's cousin read the second book. Then, he kept on asking for the third book. 

    "He loved it so much that he started asking me for more books like that," Avie said. 

    Before, books with lots of words would easily discourage Benedique because he was struggling with reading at that time. (READ: A Reading Revolution: Students choose their books)

    "He would simply put down the book once seeing the words, adding that he couldn't," Avie said. 

    When she told Benedique that she bought him a book with no words and only pictures in it, he was so excited that he asked to take it home. 

    Eventually, Benedique read books with more and more words. Even now that he can read worded books, he still asks for silent graphic novels, and hopes to get a third sequel of Cham's Light series, said Avie.

    Curiosity as the driving force

    While Light and Lost are friendly for all ages, Cham said he didn't make them specifically for kids.

    How it breaks down the language barrier and how kids would find it a less intimidating read – these, he admitted, were not in his mind too and are all new to him. 

    The fan art he got from kids shown to him by their parents is something he didn't expect, either.

    Light is now on its third reprint. It won the 2016 National Book Award under the category: Best Book of Graphic Literature (Wordless).

    Research author Buenaflor explained the appeal of silent graphic novels to young children who are still learning how to read. 

    "Children are highly visual learners. It is no wonder picture books are heavily connected to children especially in their formative years," he said. 

    He added that graphic books also serve as a validation of children's imagination because what is represented in the pages of these books become the actual representations of these things in the real world for the children. (READ: In Albay, impoverished kids find refuge in summer reading program)

    In the end, Buenaflor believes that "curiosity is a driving force in the appeal of graphic novels." 

    Bringing excitement to a new level

    If graphic books help strengthen children's world and meaning-making capabilities, the wordless types amplify them into a new level of storytelling, said Buenaflor. 

    "Having the narrative be interpreted purely based on the schemata and symbolism behind every detail in the text compels the reader to pay attention and turn the page until the end," he added. 

    The absence of words in the text further intensifies anticipation. 

    In cases where children's experiences really cannot supply any interpretations for the illustrations they are seeing, they are encouraged to ask and that allows them to learn a wide expanse of new information, Buenaflor said. 

    Cham agreed that it is this sense of wonder and immersive nature that interest young minds in graphic fiction, including wordless ones. He added the ease of use of graphic fiction, especially when young minds haven't consumed much information yet. (READ: Laguna-based rehab center champions mental health through comic book)

    However, Cham is careful not to chalk up how visual books are less intimidating since, for him, that might be underestimating the younger crowd. (READ: Beyond boundaries: Reading children's lit)

    It is certain though that all these result to one thing: motivation. 

    According to a parenting website which cited psychology journals for an article about reading, it is more important for early learners to develop the love of books, both pictures and stories, than force them to sound the words. Kids learn to read naturally when they have the motivation, among other pre-reading skills, it added.

    Applied to Cham's silent graphic novels, Avie's cousin couldn’t emphasize more the motivation it gave him with this statement: He liked the book because it was easy to understand, adding that he wasn't good at reading that time, especially English. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – We want to hear your story.

    On Monday, July 22, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address. The SONA is an opportunity for the President to give an overview of the administration's achievements, and present his legislative agenda for the next 12 months. (READ: The Duterte Show: A reflection on the last 3 years)

    Duterte has hinted that he might use his 4th SONA to "educate" Filipinos about why his recent remarks on allowing Chinese fishermen to fish in Philippine waters is constitutional.

    The SONA, however, is the President's version of the nation's story. 

    In the days leading up to SONA 2019, we want to know the #StoryOfTheNation from the Filipinos themselves.

    Since 2014, MovePH, the civic engagement arm of Rappler, has been striving to capture the voices of different Filipinos through #StoryOfTheNation.

    This time, we want to hear again from Filipinos all around the country: What do you want to hear from Duterte in SONA 2019?

    Take part in the campaign and help illustrate the narratives of the Filipino people through photos or videos.

    Here’s how:

    Step one: Talk to different people!

    Talk to industry experts, students, people with different professions and backgrounds, even strangers you see on the street, and ask: What do you want to hear from President Duterte in SONA 2019?

    These are the people whose stories may shed light on issues and challenges of the everyday Filipino and showcase the true state of the nation.

    Record your interview, and add more questions to strengthen their response and set the tone for their expectations in this year's SONA.

    Make sure to list down important details to get to know your subject better: their name, age and profession.

    Step two: Take photos!

    Capture the story of the everyday Filipino using your camera or phone!

    Take a horizontal photo of your subject in a well-lit area or in a place that says something about your interviewee’s lifestyle. Photos can be candid.

    Step three: Submit!

    You can send the photos, videos, captions, posters, artworks, and other relevant information to move.ph@rappler.com. Please put #StoryOfTheNation in the subject line of your email.

    You can also send your entries via Facebook or Twitter. When submitting via social media, remember to use #StoryOfTheNation and make your post public. Rappler.com


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    Let me start off with stating that I am Chinese Filipino, Chinese being the adjective and Filipino being the subject. I am a Filipino of Chinese descent, and a third generation immigrant. My grandparents migrated from China’s Fujian province to the Philippines. I am a Filipino who happens to have ancestors that come from China. 

    I am born of two worlds, and two cultures. I speak 4 languages, with Filipino being my primary language. English comes second. I speak and understand Hokkien well enough, and have passable skills for Mandarin. I belong to both cultures yet am never fully accepted in either, and I am equally wounded whenever someone speaks ill of Filipinos or the Chinese.      

    This peculiar diplomatic situation our country is in with China has put me, along with all the other Chinese-Filipino people, in a weird and difficult position, not because of divided loyalties but because we are constantly questioned. Even prominent writers have accused us of being sleeper agents and of being secretly disloyal to the Philippines. Even the more aware people don’t really know how to talk to us or about us when it comes to the Philippine-China diplomatic issue.

    We were born in the Philippines; grew up in the Philippines; live, work, and love in the Philippines. The Philippines is our home. 

    I can’t claim to speak on behalf of all Chinese Filipinos, but I think my personal sentiments reflect those of the majority. We may cling to a lot of our ancestral culture, but for the majority of us, we have no love for the government and ruling party in China. There was probably a reason our ancestors decided to leave China, and they left a very different China than the China we are dealing with now. The culture my grandparents left is very different from the culture of China today. There are aspects of current mainland Chinese culture that shock me, and I’m pretty sure that if my grandparents were alive today, it would shock  them too. (READ: Filipino-Chinese businessmen give P1.2 million for sunken boat's repair)

    What follows is purely my personal opinion seen through the lens of a Chinese Filipino. I am troubled by the provocative behavior the Chinese military and fishermen/militia have shown in the West Philippine Sea. The behavior is disrespectful and is cause for alarm. I am also troubled by the lack of nuanced thoughts from people on social media. I am also troubled by the increasing racist rhetoric from critics of the current direction the Philippine government has taken towards China. I almost feel like a child watching helplessly as I see my parents fighting. (READ: Owner of sunken boat: I feel like we're slaves of China

    While the behavior of the Chinese government is troubling, we must distinguish this from the Chinese people. Having personally met and worked with people in China, I feel that their government’s behavior does not reflect the current general sentiment of the people of China. They have the same basic desires as the Filipino or pretty much any other people in the world. Average Chinese people just want to get on with their lives and have a chance to improve it. They would very much just like to have business with us as usual than cause trouble with the Philippines.

    While I was not a fan of the overly confrontational way we had dealt in the past with China, I am also not a fan of being too accommodating to the Chinese government. Our partisan politics have forced us into a false dichotomy. It almost feels like only extreme positions are valid.  

    I won’t claim to be an expert on international relations and international law, so I’ll refrain from asking or espousing specific policies for us to take with regards to this issue. I can only ask that we Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and mainland Chinese see past the constructs of race and politics that blind us, conduct ourselves based on common human decency, and treat each other with respect. With that as our guide, maybe then we can find a viable middle ground to work on with the Middle Kingdom. – Rappler.com

    Freddie Tan is an entrepreneur and a tabletop games advocate with more than two decades worth of experience points.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Working on the streets of Metro Manila could be cruel.

    Apart from the hazards of road crashes, the elements could also take their toll on the worker.

    In this episode, Vince Lazatin talks to Dr. Emmanuel Baja about the toxic levels of lead in traffic enforcers' blood (READ: Lead found in MMDA traffic enforcers’ blood – study), and Rodney Ronsayro of 3M Philippines about the solutions that could help road workers lessen the effect of air and noise pollution. – Rappler.com


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    I’d like to begin by saying that I have neglected a promise to a friend decades ago. His name was Julian, a young fisherman about my age, who was living a few towns away from where I spent my adolescent years.

    Every day, he was paddling, caressing the seawater that nourished his family for years. But the water that sustained them was reclaimed and converted into an "island resort." I vowed to help him by making a documentary and doing all the investigative research. The film project was about how the developers threatened to kill my friend’s livelihood for capitalists' gain. I told him that I would return with tapes that he and his fellow fishermen could use as evidence for the court hearing.

    But he never sailed again. I learned that he was shot by armed men during the course of the hearing. I was a week late and the tape that I made was never used.

    I learned from the news weeks ago of a Philippine fishing boat on Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea that was rammed by a Chinese vessel. I stayed glued to the TV and saw the boat captain whose name was Junel. Then I remembered Julian. (READ: The sinking of Gem-Ver: Barko! May babanggang barko!)

    As someone who grew up in downtown Manila, I had introduced Julian to my milieu: Binondo, Sta Cruz, Chinatown. He also knew some of my friends. But I didn’t look Tsinoy enough: no slanted eyes, no Chinese school to speak of. But those didn’t matter. I knew that I was part of the community, and so was Julian.

    Looking at Junel’s eyes on TV, I was engulfed with shame. His eyes were the same as Julian’s. Years in the sea, he always looked to the horizon. Will there be enough catch for the day? Will my family have food on the table?

    A day after the Recto Bank incident, I plied the streets of my childhood: Ongpin, Gandara, Tabora, and the alleys where the merchant’s shops and my friend’s houses in midrise buildings were located. Fresh produce abound the sidewalks, the watch store owner that father and I frequented was still there, thriving, and he was smiling at me. I had lunch at Sir Andrew’s kitchenette and had his famous pancit pata tim. It tasted the same from the time that we were regulars.

    While the comforting and the familiar remained, I couldn't help but ask the residents if they were alright. Yes, they would chorus. But they equally felt awful about what they had been hearing on the news: Filipino fishermen left to die at sea, the government taking the side of the Chinese government, covering it up, forcing the boat captain to change his statement. (READ: Cook of Gem-Ver crew: 'China is lying')

    But who are we to say anything? My grandfather migrated to the Philippines from Fujian in the 1930s. My last name is a dead giveaway. It’s been difficult for me and for us in the community to air out our grievances when we are regarded as people from the "outside," that we have no right to speak because our race are the oppressors. But is it? How about the citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan? Why is it second nature for them to protest? Aren’t they from the same race as well?

    I no longer live in Manila but I work near downtown and have maintained a number of Tsinoy friends. Despite the naysayers online, we are lucky not to have encountered any face-to-face backlash or discrimination. Not yet. But know that we denounce the outright disregard for our fishermen’s right to earn a living in their own domain as ruled by Philippine law and recognized by the international court.

    The plight of our fishermen falling on deaf ears and being manipulated by the current government is appalling. We are dismayed by some people who question the credibility of our Filipino fishermen. Why would they lie? How would they benefit from it? They’re fishermen who only go through their daily lives and hope to get the catch of the day. (READ: Owner of sunken boat: I feel like we're slaves of China)

    My other Tsinoy friends support our Filipino fishermen. But we hope that one day, we will fully integrate into society and no longer be referred to as "Chinese Filipino," but simply Filipino. We are on the same boat, the same plight for justice and equal rights. We’re equally proud to wear shirts with "West Philippine Sea" printed on them.

    I hope that this stance will make Julian’s eyes smile as he glides and slices the water with his paddle, in another sea, in another world. He may have left abruptly the day he was killed, but I know that he has forgiven me. As I stand up for him, on behalf of all the Filipino fishermen, I know that I have fulfilled a promise never to abandon our boat of friendship. – Rappler.com

    Jeffrey P. Yap was born and raised in Manila. As a cultural worker, he has lobbied for the protection and preservation of built heritage in Manila. He is also a member of a homegrown, community-based group in Manila whose Tsinoy members conduct events and activities to promote the history and heritage of Manila’s Chinatown. 


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    COVER. Quezon City Hall employees join the 4th Nationwide 'Shake Drill' on July 19, 2018. File photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Residents of Metro Manila may have to prepare in the wee hours of Saturday morning, July 27, for the Metro Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) 5th metrowide earthquake drill.

    In the past years, the MMDA-organized earthquake drills – dubbed online as #MMShakedrill – were done during the day and even during rush hours. 

    In 2018, MMDA upped its simulation by keeping the exact date of the drill as a surprise. However, a premature text blast alerted the public of the 1 pm #MMShakeDrill that occured that day, July 19, 2018. (READ: Jolted netizens liken #MMShakeDrill phone alarm to ‘The Purge’ siren)

    For this year's #MMShakeDrill, the MMDA hopes to elevate their simulation by conducting the annual exercise on a weekend and almost at the break of dawn "when most Metro Manila residents are at home and asleep."

    The simulation is meant to test the response capabilities and preparedness of local government units and the private sector in Metro Manila since an earthquake might occur anytime.

    MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said that the #MMShakeDrill on July 27 will start as early as 4 am, signaled by the sounding of an alarm.

    He emphasized that the shake drill will give way for agency employees, local government units, various agencies, volunteer organizations, and other stakeholders to demonstrate their contingency plans.

    "We are doing this to prepare everyone to minimize damage and loss of life," Garcia added.

    The 2019 #MMShakeDrill will feature different emergency scenarios to be staged at city hall offices, establishments, communities, businesses, and households in Metro Manila.

    MMDA will also be utilizing designated emergency operation centers located at the 4 quadrants in Metro Manila to practice personnel deployment.

    The 4 quadrants are located in the following areas:

    • Northern quadrant: Veterans Memorial Medical Center Golf Course
    • Western quadrant: Intramuros Golf Course
    • Eastern quadrant: LRT 2 Santolan Depot
    • Southern quadrant: Villamor Golf Course

    Throughout the drill, Danilo Lim, MMDA chairman and concurrent head of the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, will be visiting city halls and designated emergency operation centers in the metro to check on their progress.

    "We expect more active and full participation of the private sector as government's partner in disaster and emergency preparedness and response for Metro Manila," Garcia said.

    The annual shake drill aims to prepare, assess, and strengthen Metro Manila in responding to the "Big One," which refers to the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that could hit the metropolitan area anytime in our lifetime if the West Valley Fault moves. – with reports from Stanley Guevarra/Rappler.com


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    STAND. Protesters on Friday, July 12, take a stand outside the Chinese Consulate in Makati City to condemn China's harassment against the Philippines. Photo by John Philip Bravo/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Various groups marked the third anniversary of the Philippines' historic victory against China over the West Philippine Sea with protests in Metro Manila on Friday, July 12.

    A protest movement comprised of groups including Katribu, Let's Organize for Democacy and Integrity (LODI), Kilusang Mayo Uno, Anakbayan, Bahaghari, and Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (P1NAS) urged the government to uphold the Philippine victory in the arbitral tribunal outside the Chinese Consulate in Makati City. 

    Protesters waved small Philippine flags and displayed banners denouncing the "incursions" of China in the West Philippine Sea. This comes more than a month since a Chinese vessel rammed a Philippine boat with 22 fishermen.

    The administration earlier dismissed the Philippine boat sinking as a mere "maritime incident," with President Rodrigo Duterte cautioning how challenging China means going to war with the Asian giant.

    Bayan Muna chairperson Neri Colmenares pointed out how other countries were able to assert their rights and defend their fishermen against China without a war. (READ: Unlike PH, Vietnam defends its fishermen vs China) 

    "Mayroong foreign policy si President Duterte na walang aral. Kwentong barbero ang kanyang batayan, kasi ang Vietnam, Taiwan, at iba pang bansa nilalabanan ang panghihimasok ng Tsina sa South China Sea," Colmenares said. 

    (President Duterte has a foreign policy that is uneducated. His basis is old wives' tales because Vietnam, Taiwan, and other countries are fighting against the intrusion of China in the South China Sea.)

    Colmenares added that it was time for Filipinos to take a stand and assert the Philippines' sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea. 

    "Huwag naman tayong pumayag. The Philippines is not for sale. Ipaglaban natin ang ating karapatan. Ipaglaban natin ang ating sambayanan. Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino," Colmenares added.

    (Let's not accept this. The Philippines is not for sale. Let's fight for our rights. Let's fight for our nation. Long live the Filipino.)

    The Makati Police said around 600 people attended the protest. 

    ATIN ANG PINAS. Placards condemning China's continued disregard for Hague Ruling on West Philippine Sea are used in a protest outside the Chinese Consulate in Makati City on Friday, July 12. Photo by John Philip Bravo/Rappler

    Meanwhile, Anakbayan staged a rally at Mendiola in Manila to press the government to act on offenses committed in the West Philippine Sea, and stop concessions to China.

    The protesters burned an image of the Chinese dragon and an image of Duterte to cap the protest. 

    DEFEND. Protesters rally at Mendiola in Manila on the anniversary of the declaration of the Hague ruling to continue to press the government to act on Chinese incursions at the West Philippine Sea on July 12, 2019. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    BURN. Protesters burn an image of the Chinese dragon and an image of Duterte to cap the picket protest at Mendiola, Manila on July 12, 2019. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    SYMBOL. Protesters hold image of a Chinese dragon and an image of President Rodrigo Duterte in a rally in Mendiola, Manila on July 12, 2019. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    On June 12, 2016, The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague, Netherlands, ruled in favor of the Philippines in its historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 

    Philippines' lead counsel against China, Paul Reichler, claimed this win as a victory not only for the Philippines but also for the rule of law and international relations. 

    President Rodrigo Duterte however has shelved the ruling in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing.

    Three years since the Philippines' victory at the Hague, most Filipinos still want the government to assert the country's rights to the islands in the West Philippine Sea. – with reports from John Philip Bravo/Rappler.com


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    Some weeks ago, some colleagues invited me to have lunch with them. People were jovially joking with one another, spooning rice on plates with vegetables and pork from a selection of viands, until someone started to complain about a certain ethnic group. The blanket statement made that moment was,“Dapat paalisin lahat ng Instik (All Chinese should be kicked out)! It was enthusiastically seconded by another eater with more pork than brains in his head that very minute.  

    I work with people who think I’m from mainland China, despite my surname. One former co-worker actually asked that. And despite the influence of Hokkien words on the Filipino language, and whatever contributions have been made to commerce by generations of Chinese-Filipino businessmen, we are still considered outsiders. 

    Since the influx of undocumented workers from the mainland (and the occasional horror story involving uncouth behavior), and the shops with their almost-unreadable signs sprouting to cater to palates homesick and craving for dishes of another province – it feels different walking and interacting with people in the central business district.

    I speak to people in English or Filipino so they can tell I’m not TDK (a Chinese-Filipino nickname for mainlanders) – because with the diversity of China’s population, you really cannot tell unless someone tells you so. Kulang na lang magsusuot ako ng Team Manila shirt proclaiming “West Philippine Sea” (I'm this close to just wearing a Team Manila shirt proclaiming "West Philippine Sea").  

    Since the Recto Bank incident, the looks from fellow commuters can get nastier, only softening sheepishly when they hear me say, "Bayad ho (Here's my fare)," as only someone who has commuted for years in Manila can say it – occasionally with the subtext of “and how’s YOUR shitty day?” when I make eye contact with someone.  

    I was born in the Philippines, and am an introvert (so intrusions into my time and personal space need managing), and right now it feels like someone declared open house for strangers to make this country their home – without ground rules. Previously, generations of Chinese-Filipino people (often through family associations, some of which still exist today) would help mainlanders assimilate into society, but this influx of people (and their talent for being in the spotlight in a bad way) and the manner in which the Recto Bank incident has been downplayed by the current government is distressing.

    Yes, it is superior to teach a man to fish than to just give him a fish, but if the Philippines’ resources are overfished, what will be left for Filipinos if the country’s marine resources are available for one country to pillage? And if they’re turned into inedible wares by someone else, isn’t that food waste? Wouldn’t ramming a Filipino vessel in Philippine waters constitute being a bad "guest" (if it can be called that)?

    It’s time for this spree to stop, drunken or otherwise, and reword the invitation if you can’t rescind it. Don’t alienate a Filipino nation for the benefit of foreign guests who either don’t want to or fundamentally cannot understand the house rules. – Rappler.com

    Anna Gamboa works in Makati and believes in equal opportunity. So it doesn’t matter what nationality you are; if you stand on the wrong side of the escalator, she will gently but firmly move you while saying “excuse me.”


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    WIN. Student documentary filmmaker Drama del Rosario is one of the two winners of the inaugural BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant for his film 'I'm Okay (And Neither Are You).' Photo by Lan Nguyen

    MANILA, Philippines – For someone who's a queer person of color doing a documentary on his recovery from sexual assault, 24-year-old New York Film Academy student Drama del Rosario wasn't expecting to bag a coveted grant.

    But Del Rosario surpassed boundaries with his new documentary after being recognized by the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) and the Global Student Accommodation (GSA).

    Calling the achievement a "truly life-changing moment," Del Rosario was awarded as one of two winners of the inaugural Short Film Commissioning Grant of BAFTA-GSA at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica, California, on July 9 for his documentary I'm Okay (And Neither Are You). Lola Blanche Higgins was also awarded for her short film Kissy and the Shark.

    The BAFTA-GSA Commissioning Grant was launched in 2019 with a theme focused on raising awareness of mental health and well-being among 15- to 25-year-olds.

    Del Rosario's documentary takes off from his personal experiences, similar to his coming-out documentary film In This Family, which was shortlisted in the 2018 BAFTA Student Film Awards.

    I'm Okay (And Neither Are You) traces Del Rosario's yearlong recovery from sexual assault trauma – an experience that eventually led to suicidal thoughts.

    Documenting the strain that sexual assault brings not only to its victims but also to the people around them, the film captures how Del Rosario's trauma affected his boyfriend's mental health as well, and follows the journey of overcoming trauma from the perspective of a couple.

    "In the early stages of developing this film, I thought that it was just gonna be a film about my mental health and how I have a hard time opening up to people. Upon filming my everyday life, I started to realize how my trauma was affecting my boyfriend," he said.

    Struggles to get help

    Del Rosario shared how he faced a number of obstacles that hindered him from opening up to friends and family in the Philippines.

    Among these were gender bias, and the dismissal of trauma, with religion and prayers being considered as serious remedies. It was also especially hard for him as a gay man to tell people about his trauma for fear that they would turn a blind eye to his experience and label it as a dramatic act to get attention.

    Although therapy might have seemed the most ideal response to Del Rosario's trauma, he was held back from seeking professional help because of the stigma surrounding mental health and the financial costs that come with it.

    "One of the struggles I had in making the film was that there were no therapy services addressed to male sexual assault victims. I've come to realize that it's not because there are no male sexual assault victims, but because there is no demand for it. The people who need it aren't really demanding for it," he said.

    Del Rosario eventually realized that his trauma wasn't something he could just simply ignore. 

    "If I don't address it openly, then I'm just gonna be throwing all of this burden to someone who I care about," he said.

    Until now, sexual assault is not often talked about, especially when it involves male survivors. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

    Research says that at least 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted, though this is a low estimate since these cases often go unreported.

    Help is out there

    Anchored on the journey to recovery, Del Rosario said telling people when you're not okay serves as the overall message of his upcoming documentary. 

    "The truth is that we are not these strong beings that can solve things on our own. If we don't ask for help from people, we're just gonna be burying ourselves in our own little bubble and it's gonna start affecting the people around us," he said.

    Del Rosario added that he wants the film to make an impact on people who have experienced trauma.

    "I just think about all the people who are burying all of the things in their head and staying in their bubble and how much weight could be taken off if they just go to the closest person that they love," he added.

    Del Rosario hopes that the film would help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health and sexual assault, especially involving male survivors, and normalize the act of seeking help.

    Through the grant, Del Rosario will be getting $8,000 for I'm Okay (And Neither Are You) – more than half of the $12,000 commissioning grant. He said he will allocate the grant for principal photography and post-production expenses. 

    Del Rosario plans to finish his documentary when he graduates with his master's degree in Fine Arts in Documentary at the New York Film Academy in September.

    He also plans to send the documentary to film festivals and screen it to students with the help of GSA and non-profit organizations in Los Angeles. – Rappler.com 

    Stanley Guevarra is a Rappler intern and an incoming AB Literature major at Ateneo de Manila University.


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    MANILA, Philippines – How can we use social media to promote social good in the community? How can Filipinos prevent the spread of disinformation online? 

    These are some of the questions that the forum “Social Good in the Digital Age” intends to answer.

    MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, will be at the Palawan State University-Main Campus Performing Arts Theater at 9 am on Thursday, July 25, to promote the responsible use of digital technology for social good.

    This is the first time that MovePH will have its roadshow in the Mimaropa region. 

    #MovePalawan, in partnership with the Palawan State University Student Council and Pioneer Publication, is the sixth stop of MovePH’s series of roadshows around the Philippines. So far this year, MovePH had held roadshows in Cavite, Quezon City, Cagayan, Baguio, and Iloilo

    The forum aims to explain the nature of disinformation online and to highlight the role of a free and independent press in preserving democracy. (READ: Baguio journalists urge youth to help fight disinformation

    Participants will learn the ropes of responsible social media use for advocacies, including connecting with possible collaborators; identifying, handling, and preventing disinformation; promoting positive online behavior; and ultimately, inspiring courage in themselves and in others.

    Tickets to the public forum are free, but seats are limited. Register below:

    The program is as follows:

    Time Activity
    8:15 - 9:00 am Registration

    9:00 - 9:15 am

    Welcome Remarks

    Dr. Grace Abrina
    Director of Office of Student Affairs and Services, Palawan State University 

    9:15 - 9:30 am

    Getting to know you/ Leveling off activity

    9:30 - 9:50 am

    Keynote:
    The power of social media and its impact on democracy 

    Miriam Grace Go
    News Editor, Rappler

    9:50 - 10:15 am

    Discussion: Digital media etiquette

    10:15 - 11:15 am

    Talk: Being a reporter in the time of disinformation
    Aika Rey
    Reporter, Rappler

    11:15 - 11:45 am

    Panel discussion: Why facts matter
    Aika Rey
    Reporter, Rappler

    Alexis Fernandez
    Editor-in-Chief, Pioneer

    Moderated by:

    Raisa Serafica
    Unit Head of Civic Engagement, Rappler

    11:45 am - 12:00 pm

    Synthesis

    Raisa Serafica
    Unit Head of Civic Engagement, Rappler

    Be part of the MovePH and Rappler network! Meet like-minded individuals from across the country with whom you can collaborate on projects and advocacies, and be part of the fight for a free press and progressive Philippines! – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – What is the state of the nation for the youth and the sectoral groups? 

    This is one of the questions that the Huddle, an informal gathering of the youth, members of advocacy groups, and non-governmental organizations (NGO) intends to answer. (READ: Share the #StoryOfTheNation: What do you want to hear from Duterte in SONA 2019?)

    MovePH, Rappler’s civic engagement arm, in partnership with Dakila #WeTheFuture will be hosting a huddle on “SO ano NA? Let’s hear the people’s story of the nation” on Saturday, June 20, from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Rappler HQ.

    The huddle aims to create a meaningful discourse on the following issues days before President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22: 

    • Labor rights
    • Environment and climate justice
    • Press freedom and Freedom of Information (FOI) 
    • Road safety and transportation
    • Gender equality
    • Education 

    Anchored on these issues, the huddle will serve as an avenue to tackle topics that matter to the youth, and discuss how local communities are faring as Duterte reaches the halfway point of his term. It'll also assess the administration's performance and stances on relevant issues, and take note of the participants' vision for the nation for the next three years.

    Interested students, young professionals, private sectors, NGOs and partners are welcome to join. Click the button below to register or fill up this form.

    An email will be sent to confirm reservation to the Huddle. 

    Aside from the Huddle, MovePH is also doing a series of roadshows around the Philippines to bridge the online gap by bringing the conversation on ground.– Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – She  may have been called out for expressing herself, but 21-year-old trans woman Aeron Jade Parena has received more than enough support to make up for it.

    In a tweet that had gone viral, Parena, a research and development manager for a government institution, recounted her experience of discrimination in her workplace when their human resource (HR) manager allegedly reprimanded her for “dressing inappropriately.” 

    Parena was wearing a midi skirt and blouse when she said the HR manager insisted that she follow the male dress code.

    Parena’s tweet has gotten 4,200 retweets and 29,800 likes as of posting, with many netizens expressing support for her.

    After the incident, the HR manager and Parena's bosses spoke with her and allowed her to wear her preferrred clothing.

    Parena said it wasn’t the first time it happened. She claimed that she had been experiencing discrimination since she was employed in 2018, particularly from the HR department.

    “I presented myself as who I am and have always been. Since I am a trans woman, I wear ladies’ clothes,” she said. “It’s clearly transphobia. I have been wearing [clothes] appropriately to the best of my understanding. And I have been doing my job well.”

    Despite feeling discriminated against based on her SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression), Parena  said that her workplace was relatively tolerant compared to other workplaces in the Philippines.

    “May ibang trans women na talagang pinapagupitan at hindi pinapayagan na magdamit based on their gender identity (There are other trans women who are forced to cut their hair and are not allowed to dress based on their gender identity)," she said. 

    Last month, a professor from the University of the Philippines came forward with her experience of alleged workplace discrimination. Hermie Monterde, also a trans woman, recounted the times she felt discrimination from her colleagues ever since she started her career in 2011, paired with her efforts to physicially transition from a male to female body. (READ: U.P. transwoman professor talks about workplace discrimination)

    For so long, the LGBTQ+ community in the Philippines has lobbied for the enactment of an anti-discrimination bill. The legislation can be traced back to 1995 when then Quezon City congressman Rey Calalay filed a bill proposing to recognize the "third sex" as a sector.

    Since then, various lawmakers had followed suit. Two decades later, however, a national law protecting the LGBTQ+ remained elusive. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)

    Parena hoped that the bill would be passed in the 18th Congress. “I believe it is the only way to institutionalize anti-discriminatory policies in all fronts, either in public or private places,” she said. (READ: 'Rainbow wave coming': Hontiveros hopeful SOGIE bill will pass 18th Congress)

    Parena expressed gratitude to all those who support her. S he hope that all forms of gender discrimination in the workplace would soon be eliminated.

    “I am really happy that we fought for this, because I might have sparked an opportunity for other trans people in the workplace to speak up and be respected in their own skin,” she said.  – With reports from Stanley Guevarra/Rappler.com

    Stanley Guevarra is a Rappler intern and an incoming AB Literature major at Ateneo de Manila University.

     

     


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    Books from Underground and all other stalls at the Manila City Hall underpass have been evicted. The underpass is for the people, says Mayor Isko Moreno, not for illegal vendors. "Ito ay sa taumbayan na muli." (This belongs again to the community.) 

    I am certain I am not alone in mourning the loss of this unique bookshop, whose setup is possible precisely because⁠ – or perhaps, even emblematic of⁠ – Manila's crazy landscape of underdevelopment. It is a dusty jewel hidden among racks of denim and gadgets, humbly blending with its neighbors but running on a different tempo altogether. Books from Underground has quickly become a kind of cultural destination in the University Belt; it is a trove for rare and out-of-print books, Filipiniana, and even indie and self-published titles. It also carries classics and mass market titles at very accessible prices.

    Every time I visit, there's always an ongoing conversation, people searching for particular texts, discussing their value. It's not just for literary types; I see moms looking for their kid's next book report, old-timers reminiscing about the past lives attached to old titles, young students just looking for the next good read (or bestsellers at prices their wallets can better withstand).

    More than the secondhand books, what is truly remarkable is the reading culture surrounding Books from Underground, the palpable love for culture and knowledge that struggles to flourish in the cracks and seams of an otherwise inhospitable environment. There is a shared enthusiasm for printed matter no matter how derelict the condition, both of the book and its reader.

    I've been purchasing from AJ Laberinto even before he decided to take root at the underpass. I first saw him hawking books on the fringes of the UP Fair in Diliman, a thoughtful selection of books and magazines splayed on mats on the sidewalk. (This latag [spread on the ground] culture declined as the fair became more conscious of its fences and formal stalls.) I became a return customer; he would always point me towards the film and art titles. I'd run into him at Luneta and Manila City Hall, and eventually, the underpass stall and its Facebook page. The shop has become one of my regular Manila haunts, alongside the National Museum, Quiapo, and Intramuros.

    CLEANUP. Personnel conduct clearing operations at the underpass near Manila City Hall on July 16, 2019. Photo by Lito Borras/Rappler

    Watching videos of the clearing of the underpass and Divisoria, I can't help but see the violence folded into the act. Wedges are being driven to pit working class versus fellow working class. City workers are made to take down stalls which they have probably patronized at some point. On social media, the discourse of road clearing frames the issue as pedestrians and commuters versus vendors, and not the car owners who stand to gain the most. The underpass is for the taumbayan, the mayor declares, as if vendors and their customers are not part of the taumbayan, as if these informal economies are not part of the very pulse and character of Manila. (READ: Isko Moreno's clearing operations: Which Manila areas have been covered?)

    I am not against the clearing of thoroughfares and passageways for pedestrians. (Private cars are another discussion altogether.) Nor am I against maintaining a clean and orderly environment for public monuments and markers. The question is, where will these stalls and vendors be relocated? If working-class folk are not allowed to make a living on the last scraps of land that have not yet been cannibalized by gentrification, then where is their place? Whose city is it anyway?

    It is not only ordinary folk that are being erased from our city streets. Manila has also been notorious for demolishing important examples of architectural heritage, including works by national artists. Other locales have followed suit. From people to heritage, nothing is safe.

    Well, almost nothing. Cities do not seem to flinch when megacorporations build megastructures that alter urban ecologies. Private developments are never displaced, even when they violate skylines, historical landmarks, urban lifeways. Torre de Manila still stands. The Philamlife Auditorium remains in limbo at the hands of SM. In the Divisoria area, let us not forget that two public high schools were demolished to give way to Lucky Chinatown mall. High-rise buildings have begun to eschew Filipino tenants in favor of selling whole floors to Chinese companies. (READ: Eat, pray, shop: Philippine malls become the new town plazas)

    Who dictates what should be cleared from the city? Malls and condos mushroom at a dizzying speed, but somehow they are not condemned for being eyesores. They do not contribute anything to our architectural or cultural heritage; at best, they are vapid veneers of cosmopolitanism. Yet vernacular homes and modest structures get all the flak.

    WHOSE CITY? This general view shows informal settlers' homes dwarfed by high-rise buildings near the port of Manila on August 20, 2014. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

    Scholar on Philippine architecture Rodrigo Perez III writes: "From the legal viewpoint, a squatter is a violator of property rights. From the socioeconomic viewpoint, he is a victim of the inequitable distribution of property.... Still, the squatter stays on, striking roots in a land of exile, encroaching on land to which he has no title, mocking the rights of private ownership, defying the power of public authority and employing the oldest and crudest form of establishing a right, namely, occupancy. It is the only way he can survive and confront the injustice and indifference of the prevailing order."

    The informality of vendors is both a consequence of poverty (inability to afford private brick-and-mortar shops) and a response to it (the demand for cheap tingi goods [good sold in amounts smaller than minimum retail packaging], a stopgap survival strategy for fellow citizens with ever-dwindling purchasing power). Gritty marketplaces are a stark contrast to glossy and marketable developments, but these are two sides of the same coin. (READ: FULL TEXT: Ano ang plano ni Isko Moreno sa ambulant vendors ng Maynila

    At the root is the dominance of corporate power. Private interests control the development of our cities, from urban planning and public transportation, to leisure and cultural activities. The government routinely favors big business, which is why ordinary people are deprived of a living wage, dignified and accessible housing options, and access to green spaces.

    If Isko Moreno and other new leaders are truly interested in changing the landscape of our cities, they must actively resist the neoliberal logic that is shaping them. You cannot reclaim public space without first reaffirming the primacy of public interest. Address the welfare and needs of the 99%, not displace them for the comfort and benefit of the 1%. – Rappler.com

    Karl Castro is an artist and designer. His book designs have won several National Book Awards, and he has mounted solo exhibitions at the Ayala Museum and Vargas Museum. He is currently a lecturer at the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Fine Arts. He is also a member of Giant Dwarf Art Space and Concerned Artists of the Philippines.


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    CROWDED STREET. While they are criticized for causing chaos and litter on the streets,  vendors have become integral to people's everyday lives in Metro Manila. Photo by Ponch Escobar/rRappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Street vendors are part of the informal economy, making them difficult to monitor and regulate. While this allows them to dodge tax payment, this also means they lack legal protection, making them vulnerable.

    In his first 10 days as Manila mayor, Isko Moreno cleared streets in Divisoria and other areas of illegal vendors. (READ: Isko Moreno’s clearing operations: Which Manila areas have been covered?

    While many praised Moreno for his prompt resolution of one of Manila’s long-standing problems, some of the displaced vendors were expectedly dismayed. Moreno had assured them that there will be space for vendors in places designated by the city government.  (READ: Divisoria vendors to Isko Moreno: ‘Give us another chance’)

    "Bibigyan naman po natin ang ating mga vendors na makapaghanapbuhay doon sa mga pupuwede pa na mga lugar. And, hopefully, pangalagaan na nila iyon at isaayos na nila iyon (We will give our vendors a designated place where they can sell. And, hopefully, they will take care of it and keep it in order)," Moreno told reporters in a recent news briefing.

    Moreno said his long-term plan was to build a new shopping area where vendors can set up shop permanently.

    In light of these events, People Make Cities, a group of urbanists led by planner Julia Nebrija, hosted a discussion on July 13 to answer a long-standing question: “Who are our streets really for?”

    Street vendors joined professionals, students, and concerned urbanites in the roundtable event.

    Contributor to economy

    Before address the issue, the group acknowledged that street vending is illegal. But the group also noted that street vendors form part of the country’s larger informal economy. It contributes P5 trillion to the economy – more than a third of the Philippines' gross domestic product (GDP).

    The participants discussed the importance of the vendors based on their interaction with them in daily life, and the barriers  that the sector have to overcome to become legal vendors – poverty, inclusivity, and accessibility. 

    Street vendors are being blamed for disorder and garbage on the streets, and are even suspected of being part of crime syndicates, they said

    “There are also generalizations that some street vendors are also drug dealers or part of syndicates [in] Manila, this thinking is understandable. But equating the entire sector to crime is misguided; many street vendors are simply trying to make ends meet," said urban planner Ragene Palma, one of the organizers of the forum.

     "Their lack of protection, which is provided in formal industries is worsened by our general perception, making them all the more vulnerable," Palma added.

    Nebrija and Palma also pointed out that street vendors have no access to sanitation facilities.

    Palma asked, “How can one even expect vendors to uphold cleanliness in cities when they don’t have access to proper facilities of sanitation? There are no public toilets and barely any waste bins in many public areas.” 

    While it's true that informal vendors further tighten already tight spaces and cause traffic, are streets only for those who can afford a car? Are they for those who regularly use the streets, vending, buying, and walking? Is the answer to this problem really to exclude street vendors from our cities? 

    A society inclusive of street vendors

    A quick show of hands in the room made it clear that street vendors are integral to people's everyday lives in Metro Manila. Almost everyone buys meals, office supplies, and even clothes from their regular vendor on the streets.

    Others agreed and explained how street vending is not only convenient, but also provides character, community, and vibrancy to cities.

    “It’s the people that make the place alive," Nebrija said.

    Louie, a participant who has worked in the housing sector, said:  “There’s a sense of vibrancy in the way people interact. There a level of ethnicity because people are approachable."

    Another participant shared about "eyes on the street," a basic urban studies concept where shopkeepers at the street-level contribute to the safety of passersby because of their constant presence and familiarity in a place. A street vendor who joined the discussion affirmed this, saying: “Sa may pwesto namin noon, kapag may snatcher, isang sigaw lang galing sa amin, mahuhuli na iyon. Ngayon, makakatakbo na kasi walang haharang.”   

    (In our stall before, whenever there's a snatcher, one shout from us and he would get caught. Now, they can easily escape there are no more obstructions.) 

    The group talked about the difference between customers of street vendors and those in malls. Street vendors are able to access a totally different market – one that is more inclusive and accepting. 

    Some participants talked about how Filipinos also have a “tingi (retail)” culture out of economic necessity. 

    “People just buy enough to get by for the day,” said Nebrija. She also talked about how this affects where vendors place themselves to sell goods. “People wouldn’t go all the way inside a huge mall supermarket to buy two pieces of garlic.”

    Nebrija also pointed out how the openness caters to the majority of consumers. “In some planned areas, you would notice how street vendors crowd around because they’re not allowed inside. For example, in Rockwell, taho vendors and those who sell viands are on the periphery. Also, not everyone would feel comfortable entering a mall like Power Plant,” she said.

    Urban planning

    The first step is to try. Suggestions from the room included providing proper sanitation facilities, formalization of street vending, improved public transportation, and dedicating public spaces for vendors to address continued urbanization. 

    Parallels were also drawn between the Philippines and countries like Thailand and India where change happened when vendors were treated as partners instead of problems.

    While India created vending zones or dedicated spaces with proper facilities for their street vendors, Bangkok in Thailand mostly integrated vending into its prime tourism experiences, and allowed it to continuing  public spaces given strict regulation on sanitation, among other set standards.  

    Planner and architect Paulo Alcazaren joined the discussion to share about more inclusive designs, some learnings on the Singapore hawkers’ strategy, and how one can move forward in the context of Metro Manila. 

    Towards the end of the discussion, the group was asked, “India isn’t any less hectic nor problematic of a country as we are. If they can do it, why can’t we?”

    What do you think? Who are our streets really for? And how can we make this happen? – Rappler.com

    Angelica Sinay is a Rappler intern and studies Math at the University of Pennsylvania.


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    MARCH. Protesters march towards Batasan along Commonwealth Ave., Quezon City for the United People's SONA during President Duterte's 3rd State Of The Nation Address. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Different youth groups, organizations and coalitions of opposition personalities will be staging protests and other activities around the country on the day of President Rodrigo Duterte’s fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.

    Dubbed the United People’s SONA, groups from different sectors will show their strongest opposition to Duterte’s stance on the West Philippine Sea, attacks against human rights, and unjust economic policies.

    This year will also be the first time for the United People’s SONA to focus on the central issue of sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea.

    Duterte’s 4th SONA comes on the heels of the controversial sinking of a boat with 22 Filipino fishermen onboard by a Chinese vessel, which the administration downplayed as a mere “maritime incident.” (READ: 12 things to expect at Duterte's SONA 2019)

    In Metro Manila, various opposition groups will be staging their own programs along Commonwealth Avenue and Elliptical Road leading up to the United People’s SONA before marching towards the main stage at St Peter Parish Church at 3 pm.

    There are also United SONA programs expected to be held not only in different parts of the Philippines but also abroad.

    Here is a running list for Monday:

    • As part of the protests happening on the day of the SONA, Piston Partylist, along with drivers and operators, will hold a rally in front of the Commission on Human Rights to denounce the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program at 9 am.

    • Youth groups such as Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, College Editors Guild of the Philippines, National Union of Students in the Philippines, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, and Kabataan Partylist will also meet up at the Commission on Human Rights at 11 am for the United People's SONA rally. The protest action is an effort to show the youth's fight for human rights, freedom, and sovereignty. 

    • The National Council of Churches in the Philippines will also hold a program at Ever Gotesco Mall to pray and call on the administration to defend Philippine seas and Filipinos at around 1 pm. They'll later march in the United People's SONA at 3 pm.
    • In Iloilo City, Kilusang Mayo Uno - Panay will join the United People’s SONA at Sunburst Park at around 1 pm to strengthen their call to end contractualization and to denounce violence against workers. 

    • In Baguio City, Tongtongan Ti Umili-Cordillera Peoples Alliance will be holding a forum on the state of the nation with former Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Bishop Reuel Norman Margiza at the Upper Hall, Cathedral of the Resurrection, Magsaysay Avenue Baguio City from 8:30 am to 12 pm. This will be followed by a protest action to fight for the Philippines at 12:30 pm at Malcolm Square. 

    – with reports from Pat Echano/Rappler.com

     

    In the days leading up to SONA 2019, we want to know the #StoryOfTheNation from the Filipinos themselves. Share your photos by following these simple steps.


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    CULTURAL HERITAGE. Paco Park is recognized as a national park and a national cultural treasure. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Manila is crumbling.

    I often hear this from disappointed tourists and politicians. 

    This year, I promised to explore the great capital more – to see if I would step on crumbs, as most people claim, or if my experience proves otherwise.

    As a child, Manila was a faraway exotic land. My family barely left our small sleepy town, hence I could not relate to classmates bragging about vacationing in Manila to see famous paintings, to watch musicals, or to simply shop and dine. 

    We had none of those. I was envious. I only got to travel to Manila through episodes of Lito Atienza’s drama series Maynila. I knew the show’s opening song by heart.

    As a teenager, I watched old copies of Lino Brocka’s Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag and Ishmael Bernal’s Manila By Night. Their version of Manila is completely different from Atienza’s. 

    In my mind, Manila morphed into a place of crime, sex, garbage, arts, and culture.

    Until today, Manila maintains its mystique. Despite having studied and worked in Quezon City and Makati for years now, I have never truly known Manila.

    Hassle

    Going to Manila has always felt like a chore. 

    Before the boom of Grab and Angkas, one had to take several jeepney rides to reach Escolta, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Museum, Intramuros, and all other famous Manila landmarks. My mother always worried I would get mugged during these trips. 

    Manila was also extra confusing before the rise of Waze and Google Maps.

    The destinations were lovely, but a commuter’s journey isn’t.

    Ride-sharing apps made going to Manila easier, but only for those who can afford it. These beautiful parks and museums – albeit having no entrance fees – remain inaccessible to many Filipinos.

    Newly elected Manila mayor Isko Moreno has been generating media buzz for promising to restore the capital’s beauty and glory. Many are impressed by the mayor’s zeal. 

    Today, I met a few others doing their best to preserve our country’s heritage sites. They work silently, receiving little-to-no recognition, but their bare hands are literally reshaping today’s Manila.

    RECREATIONAL SPACE. Paco Park is a popular pick for pictorials, weddings, and concerts. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

    Women get it done

    To celebrate my birthday, I went to an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Manila (MET). Incidentally, there were people at the lobby preparing for a “Heritage Walk” organized by the MET.

    I wanted to join, but slots were limited and you had to pre-register. Luckily, two participants bailed and I got their slot.

    Our group was a mix of young and old. I did not even know our destination. The next thing I knew, I was on a jeep heading to Paco Park.  OLD ENTRANCE. Paco Park's entrance in 1899, when it was still used as a cemetery. Photo from the University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

    It was my first time at Paco Park. I was clueless. 

    Completed in 1820, it was intended as a cemetery for Manila’s elites but was also used for victims of a widespread cholera epidemic during those times. 

    The Gomburza priests and Jose Rizal were once buried here. Rizal’s grave was “simple and nearly anonymous,” with his initials reversed to keep it unnoticed.

    CEMETERY. The Paco Park used to be a municipal cemetery. Photo from the University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

    In 1912, burials were discontinued; remains were transferred elsewhere. In 1966, it was turned into a national park; the St. Pancratius Chapel inside the park has been popular for weddings. Finally in 2015, Paco Park was declared a "national cultural treasure." 

    After all it has been through, Paco Park stands still – not through some divine miracle, but through a carefully planned rehabilitation process.

    Among those keeping Paco Park alive is a group of women.

    At the heritage walk, I met Analisa, a 28-year old mason who was part of the conservation team that rehabilitated Paco Park's ossuary, in partnership with the National Parks Development Committee.

    After two years, Analisa's team started wrapping up their opus in July 2019.

    Out of the team's 8 members, 6 are women. They are trained in masonry, carpentry, plumbing, and electrical, wood, and metal work.

    "Some say these jobs are not for women," Analisa told me in Filipino. "That's not true. Women can do whatever men can. We're not weak."

    Analisa was a computer science student, but she had to drop out during her second year in college due to financial constraints. At 21, Analisa started her technical-vocational education and training (TVET). "I enjoyed it. I like getting things done," she said.

    In the Philippines, TVET is yet to be fully understood and appreciated. Some might even frown upon TVET, misjudging it to be less valuable than a college degree. In the past two decades, however, the number of TVET graduates has increased, according to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

    HERITAGE CONSERVATION. A student from Escuela Taller works on the rehabilitation of Malate Church. Photo from Escuela Taller

    The K-12 program’s technical-vocational-livelihood strand is among the government’s latest efforts to remove stigma against TVET. In 2018, TESDA reported having over 2 million TVET graduates. 

    Analisa earned her training through Escuela Taller Filipinas Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on preserving heritage sites.

    WOMEN. Analisa (third from left) and her fellow masons from Escuela Taller's conservation team. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

    They train indigent youth on technical-vocational skills needed in heritage conservation. Their students have also contributed to preserving the Fort Santiago, Ivatan houses in Batanes, and other heritage sites like the San Agustin Church. 

    Analisa advises young Filipinos – especially women – to pursue TVET. “You can do it if you have patience and perseverance. Believe in yourself,” the young mason said. 

    “Technical and vocational skills are important, especially in protecting our heritage,” she added. “When I was growing up, I didn’t understand the value of cultural heritage. I hope today’s youth isn’t the same.”

    Analisa’s favorite project so far is her team’s rehabilitation of the Malate Church, “because it was very difficult, but we were happy to see people appreciating our work after.” 

    HERITAGE WALK. The Metropolitan Museum of Manila holds heritage walks and lectures featuring different historical sites in the capital. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez/Rappler

    Rise of mall rats

    In our colonial past, heritage sites were destroyed by wars.

    Today, our spaces are mostly threatened by mushrooms of malls and condominiums. And even by our mere lack of interest in our own history and culture.

    “We cannot freeze development and our social fabric,” explained Jeffrey “Foom” Cobilla, our heritage walk tour guide and an architect from Escuela Taller. “However, whenever we want to alter our space – especially our heritage structures – we should think about it carefully,”

    Heritage sites are protected under RA 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Unfortunately, like most of our laws, this one needs sharper teeth.

    “What we want to do is to make communities more capable of caring,” said Foom. “More people should be involved either by participating in conservation projects or by simply raising awareness on the significance of our heritage.”

    Just as I was leaving the gates of the famous cemetery-turned-park, I was already thinking of where to visit next week. I then noticed some residents voluntarily sweeping and collecting trash along the sidewalks of the street beyond Paco Park’s walls.

    I realized Manila isn’t crumbling just yet – thanks to the likes of Analisa, Foom, and many others quietly keeping this great city afloat. – Rappler.com

    Fritzie Rodriguez is a humanitarian and development worker.


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    AGAINST. Youth leaders from various organization assemble for an alternative SONA called SOPAS: State of the Province of China Address at Nepa Q MArt in Cubao, Quezon City. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Various groups and child rights’ advocates slammed the current administration’s performance ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22.

    Through the SONA, the president is expected to flaunt his administration’s achievements throughout the past year and lay down the legislative agenda for the next 12 months. (READ: 12 things to expect at Duterte's SONA 2019)

    Groups, meanwhile, have held rallies and even alternative SONAs to showcase their perspective of the Duterte administration’s policies and actions for that period.

    Child rights’ advocates, especially, blasted the administration’s supposed anti-child policies on Friday, July 19.

    Gabriela Women’s party-list representative Arlene Brosas, along with Calookan Bishop-Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez, Eule Rico Bonganay of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, Rose Hayahay of Save Our Schools (SOS) Network, Frances Bondoc of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center (CRC), and Girls for Peace convenor Marielle Rugas gave the president failing marks for his policies that supposedly threaten the welfare of children and their right to education.

    “President Duterte did not only flunk in upholding children’s rights and welfare, but the President himself also is the primary perpetrator of human rights violations against children. The people will never forget his statement during his SONA, when he ordered the bombing of Lumad schools,” said Bonganay. 

    Bishop Iñiguez slammed the administration’s controversial and bloody war on drugs, which according to local rights monitors now include more than 100 children among its casualties.

    Dahilan sa iligal na pagpatay na ito, maraming mga kabataan natin ang nagiging ulila, ang nawawalan ng kanilang mga magulang.  'Di lamang ‘yan, mayroon ding mga bata na nadadamay at pinapatay,” Iñiguez, who chairs the child welfare group Akap sa Bata ng mga Guro - Kalinga Philippines, lamented. 

    (Because of these illegal killings, many children become orphans. Not just that, there are also children who get implicated and killed.)

    Three-year-old Myca Ulpina is the latest child victim of the war on drugs. 

    Inaasahan kong hindi bulag si Duterte, na kanyang nadarama ang napakalaking impact ng extrajudicial killings (I am hoping that Duterte is not blind, that he sees the huge impact of extrajudicial killings),” added Iniguez.

     More than this, Children’s Rehabilitation Center officer-in-charge France Bondoc noted that there are instances when children were not merely implicated but were the actual targets of deadly law enforcement operations.

    Advocates called on the government to stop the proposed lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility and the implementation of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), calling these measures “anti-poor and anti-children.”

    They also urged people to join the United People’s SONA to demand justice, truth and accountability for the rights and welfare of Filipino children. (READ: LIST: SONA 2019 activities, protests)

    “Our children’s future depends on the unity in principle and in action of the people to defend and protect our children,” Bonganay said.

    DEFEND. Children's rights organizations give President Duterte a failed mark for his policies that continue to criminalize children and militarize education in press conference at the CHR in Quezon City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler  In the same day, peasant women group Amihan together with the families of victims of EJKs and militarization appealed to stop militarization to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and CHR ahead of Duterte’s 4th SONA.

    APPEAL. A few days before Duterte's State the Nation Address, peasant women group Amihan together with the families of victims of EJK and militarization appeal to the UNHRC and CHR at a press conference in Quezon City on Friday, July 19, 2019. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler  Meanwhile, youth leaders from various organizations assembled for an alternative SONA called SOPAS: State of the Province of China Address at Nepa Q Mart in Cubao, Quezon City on Thursday, July 18.

    Led primarily by Akbayan Youth, the alternative SONA hit the administration’s pro-China policies, stressing how the Philippines is seemingly becoming a province of China under Duterte’s term.

    They underscored Duterte’s initial silence and response toward the sinking of a boat with 22 fishermen onboard by a Chinese vessel, which the administration downplayed as a mere “maritime incident.”

    In the alternative SONA, a man wearing a Duterte mask gave out soup bowls labeled with Duterte’s failed promises and twisted promises.

    STATE OF THE NATION. Youth leaders from various organization assemble for an alternative SONA at Nepa Q MArt in Cubao, Quezon City to hit President Duterte's continued pro-China policies. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    PRIORITIES. In an alternative SONA activity called SOPAS: State of the Province of China Address, a man wearing a Duterte mask gives out soup bowls labeled with Duterte's failed promises and twisted priorities. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

    – with reports from Nico Czar Antonio/Rappler.com

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – On Monday, July 22, President Rodrigo Duterte will deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), marking halfway through his term in office. 

    Like in his past SONAs, Duterte is expected to flaunt his administration’s achievements for its 3rd year and lay down his legislative agenda for the next 12 months. (READ: 12 things to expect at Duterte’s SONA 2019)

    Duterte's 4th SONA comes after the controversial sinking of a boat with 22 Filipino fishermen onboard by a Chinese vessel, which the administration downplayed as 'little maritime incident.'

    But the SONA is only the President’s narrative of the nation’s story.

    Leading up to Duterte's annual address, Rappler went around different communities to ask people of their assessment of his governance in the past 3 years. 

    Watch the video to hear what ordinary people had to say about Duterte's halfway term. – Rappler.com

    Video editing by Em Hidalgo


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    STORY OF THE NATION. Filipinos share the issues that they want President Rodrigo Duterte to tackle in his 4th State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22. Photos by Arlan Jay Jondonero, Aaron Tolentino, Micah Avry Guiao, Anna Salvina Fontanilla, Macel Pagdanganan, and John Philip Bravo/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – What is the #StoryOfTheNation?

    President Rodrigo Duterte is set to deliver his 4th State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 22. (READ: Throwback: What Duterte’s last 3 SONAs tell us)

    This year's SONA does not only mark the halfway point in Duterte's presidential term but it also comes in the aftermath of recent controversies such as the close ties between the Philippines and China, and United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) adoption of the Iceland-proposed resolution to probe drug killings in the Philippines.

    It also comes in the heels of the sinking of a boat with 22 fishermen onboard by a Chinese vessel, which the administration downplayed as a mere "maritime incident."

    With these and many other pressing issues the country continues to face, Filipinos are expecting the President to forthrightly address the controversies at hand in his annual address.

    In the days leading up to the SONA 2019, Rappler went around various cities and provinces and asked Filipinos what they would like to hear from President Duterte, in hopes that he will speak of the #StoryOfTheNation – the true state of the nation. (READ: Filipinos' top SONA 2019 issues: Pay hike, lower prices, Philippine sovereignty)

    The worsening struggle of the Filipino poor

    Filipinos continue to feel the brunt of inflation, especially street vendors like Forpunito Borre who have to cope with high market prices with their unstable and small income. (READ: IN CHARTS: Inflation crisis not yet over for poorest Filipinos)

    Borre shared how he hopes Duterte will tackle the challenges of Filipinos, and help provide livelihood opportunities to ease the burden on their finances. 

    "Pagusapan po sana ‘yung tungkol sa buhay ng Pilipino...Mahirap po ang hanapbuhay. Tulungan po sana kami (Hopefully, he talks about the lives of the Filipino...It's hard to get stable income. I hope he helps us)," he said. 

    Borre’s story echoes those not only of street vendors, but of the many Filipinos who struggle to make ends meet with their small income. 

     

     

     

    On the other hand, Gailo Bukalon, a security guard in his thirties, wished Duterte would tackle yet another pressing issue among the working class – the “endo” or end-of-contract scheme. 

    The security of tenure bill is already on Duterte's desk for signing. However, both labor groups and business chambers alike don't agree with the current form of the anti-endo bill.

    Labor groups said the measure fails to address key issues such as the end-of-contract or endo scheme, and is "not worthy of support." 

    Meanwhile, the country's biggest business organizations think the bill is redundant and could have a negative impact on the Philippine economy and even on workers themselves.

     

    Apart from the call against abusive forms of contractualization, workers like Ryan Balad also appealed to the President for an increase in wage to keep up with the soaring prices of commodities. (READ: EXPLAINER: How inflation affects you)

     

     

     

    Claim what’s rightfully ours

    After the Recto Bank incident, Filipinos were indignant and pushed for the Philippines to assert its fairly won sovereign rights over West Philippine Sea.

     

    The President, however, is doing the exact opposite of its legal victory over the South China Sea, with the Hague victory remaining shelved three years after in exchange for loans and grants from Beijing. (READ: Philippines loses to China 3 years after Hague ruling)

    Duterte even said he is planning to use his upcoming State of the Nation Address to defend China's right to fish in exclusive Philippine waters.

    Despite this, youth activist Amber Quiban hopes that people will still make the effort to educate themselves on the matter, and know there are options to protect the sovereign rights of the Philippines without going to war with China. (READ: Talk to China or go to war? 'False option,' Carpio says)

    Taking off from Duterte's claim, Quiban said some Filipinos also tend to see China as a country they'd rather not mess with, overlooking Philippines' legal victory over the West Philippine Sea.

    Quiban added that this kind of thinking is also a reflection of the educational system in the Philippines.

    Student JLo Sacote echoed the sentiment, explaining that people need to have better access to education so they can be discerning and critical, especially when it comes to matters of the nation.

    "People think na lahat ng sinasabi ni Duterte ay tama kaagad, so siyempre kapag sinabi ni Duterte na we can’t go to war. Hindi naman kasi tayo humihingi ng war; what we’re asking is accountability. I think what’s alarming for me is that it shows that this admin has prevented access for people para sa tamang educational resources," he said.

    (People think everything Duterte says is right, just like when he said we can't go to war. But we're not asking for war; we're asking for accountability. I think what's alarming for me is that it shows that this admin has prevented access for people to the right educational resources.)

     

     

    Indigenous ≠ invisible

    Indigenous communities are among the most vulnerable to government harassment in the country, especially as their ancestral lands face threats of being taken away for profit. (READ: CHR: Ancestral lands of indigenous peoples 'sacred' and protected by law)

    Rogelio Villarama, leader of the Dumagat tribe elders in Sierra Madre, said his community has hardly been a priority in government programs. 

    Despite that, all that Villarama asked from the head of state is for the government to respect their ownership of and their rights to their own ancestral lands.

    Kung mamarapatin po ng kanyang pamamahala bilang siya ay pangulo ng ating bansa, ay ‘yung mga katutubo gaya sa amin ay maigalang naman doon sa kanya-kanyang mga nabibilang na lupain,” Villarama said.

    (We ask with due respect that we, the natives, be treated with respect in our own land.)

     

    Peace not war

    Like the indigenous peoples (IPs), farmers are no stranger to rampant militarization in rural areas, making them just as vulnerable to military violence. (READ: Massacres, incidents of violence against farmers)

    Emilio Cruz, a farmer, wishes to hear about peace from Duterte’s SONA, as his folks now live in fear of military presence in their locality.

    Kung mayroong pumunta sa amin, kami ay ‘wag takutin, makisama [sana] sa amin at kami ay mga takot na (If the military are to come to our community, do not intimidate us, treat us fairly because we’re already scared),” Cruz said. 

     

    Bawal bastos?

    In what seemed to be an irony for many, President Duterte signed the Safe Spaces Act or the Bawal Bastos law, which penalizes misogynistic and homophobic slurs, unwanted sexual advances, and other forms of sexual harassment in public and online spaces. (READ: New law punishes wolf whistling, catcalling, online sexual harassment)

    Duterte himself has been well-documented saying sexist slurs and rape jokes. (READ: EXPLAINER: Never bastos? Duterte's top sexist moments)

    For student Yanna Sunga, Duterte should address the issue of rape remarks and unabashed display of sexism especially now that he’s signed the Bawal Bastos law. (READ: Not just a joke: The social cost of Duterte's rape remarks)

    “I want him to explain why he considers himself to be pro-women despite saying all those discriminatory remarks,” Sunga said.

     

    ‘I’m sorry’

    Meanwhile, 19-year-old Lee Duque said she would welcome an “authentic” apology from Duterte to women for his misogynist remarks, to the victims of EJKs and their families for the injustice and ruthlessness, and to all others who suffered from his administration. 

    While deemed ideal, Duque said it would be unlikely that Duterte will hold himself accountable, much less “genuinely” apologize.

     

    Here are what others had to say regarding what they want Duterte to address in his 4th SONA.

     

    As President Duterte takes the spotlight once again and delivers his annual address on Monday, July 22, Filipinos can only hope that their President may hear his countrymen and their stories, include the marginalized in the picture, and speak of the true state of the nation. – Rappler.com


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    HUDDLE. Youth and advocates from sectoral groups participate in 'Move Huddle: SO ano NA?' in partnership with Dakila to talk about the state of the nation ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's SONA. Photo by Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA), more than 40 students and advocates discussed their visions for the Philippines in "Move Huddle: SO ano NA?" on Saturday, July 20. 

    The SONA Huddle was organized by MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, in partnership with Dakila, an organization building a movement of modern heroism.

    While discussing visions for the Philippines in the next 3 years, participants tackled the important role that citizens play in creating change in society.

    Suggestions included unity through "active citizenship," such as joining advocacy groups for collective action, lobbying for "progressive laws," and informing other people "through simple conversations."

    Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) student Reinier Jan San Gabriel emphasized the need for collaborative action among the youth and sectoral groups. 

    "Tayong mga mulat at progresibong mga indibidwal ay magsama-sama tungo sa pag-enhance ng ating mga skills, kung saan mas may magagawa pa tayo, and [demand] better living standards to uplift those who are below the poverty line," San Gabriel said. 

    (We, the enlightened and progressive individuals, must unite towards the enhancement of our skills, where we can make a difference, and [demand] better living standards to uplift those who are below the poverty line.)

    This was echoed by Rob Julian Maghinang. He suggested that people "form groups" and "call [legislators] to write progressive laws."

    "We don't want just one person to talk about something...maliban na lang siguro kung bilyonaryo ka, kakausapin ka niyan (unless you're rich, [legislators] won't talk to you)," Maghinang said.

    PRESS FREEDOM. Alyssa Suico of Dakila asks the youth advocating for press freedom about the issues affecting Philippine media and democracy. Photo by Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler

    Kristiene Nathaniel Miranda of University of the Philippines Alyansa ng mga Mag-aaral para sa Panlipunang Katwiran at Kaunlaran reminded everyone that despite people's alliances, the fight will always be for the people.

    "Lagi nating tatandaan na 'yung mga 'pinaglalaban natin ay para sa masa at para sa bayan (We must remember that we fight for the masses and for our country)," Miranda said.

    Mood Meter, insights on issues

    Educating the youth and other sectors of society on social and political issues was among the most mentioned plans for the next 3 years.

    During the SONA Huddle, the reactions of the youth and advocates on statistics and facts related to issues such as press freedom, gender equality, climate justice, road safety, labor rights, and education were determined using the Rappler Mood Meter.

    The audience was generally "angry" over the deaths of 12 media practitioners and 128 reported attacks and threats against journalists during the Duterte presidency. (READ: Over 100 attacks vs journalists since Duterte assumed office – monitor)

    The Philippines was dubbed the deadliest peacetime country for journalists in Southeast Asia, according to a 2018 report published by the International Federation of Journalists.

    IMPORTANT ROLE. Bea Orante of Dakila explains the important role that media plays in the nation. Photo by Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler

    On the issue of press freedom, Bea Orante from Dakila noted that it is more difficult for consumers to "hear news that is more impactful" because they are "being bombarded by disinformation campaigns."

    "If you're not aware of media disinformation tactics, you're more likely to buy into what propaganda is trying to sell you," she said.

    Orante added that disinformation also affects society's attitudes towards practicing active democracy.

    "It's harder to be empowered if you're not getting the right information," she said.

    Although Huddle participants were "happy" about the 70,000 people who marched in the Metro Manila Pride Parade, Patricia Daloria of Dakila expressed her concern about the commodification of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) symbols. 

    "'Yung ginagawa kasi sa LGBTQ+ community, parang nagiging capitalism na rin kasi there are a lot of stores na, 'Ay, pumasok na 'yung Pride March, sige magbenta tayo ng rainbow-themed shirts.' 'Yung monopoly na ito, ginagawa ba to support the LGBTQ+ community o para lang pagkakitaan?" Daloria said.

    (What's being done to the LGBTQ+ community is similar to capitalism because there's a lot of stores that go, "Oh, Pride March celebrations are near, let's sell rainbow-themed shirts." Is this monopoly being done to support the LGBTQ+ community or just to make profit?)

    Almost everyone said they were "inspired" by the youth sector's efforts to campaign for a coal-free Negros, but a lone participant was saddened by the fact that the youth had to conduct rallies just to be heard. (READ: Youth, advocates continue fight for coal-free Negros amid new leadership

    DISCUSSIONS. Huddle participants share their vision for the Philippines 3 years from now. Photo by Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler

    "Dapat ang gobyerno ay nakikinig or dapat they are aiming para sa protection ng environment natin at ng mga taong nakikinabang dito," said Neilvin John Aventurado from the PUP College of Communication Student Council.

    (The government should be listening or they should be aiming for the protection of our environment and the people who benefit from it.)

    Visions for the Philippines in 2022

    The huddle wasn't just about discussions; participants were also asked to form groups of 5 and create a three-year plan to address current issues in the Philippines.

    There were suggestions per sector, such as those on improving urban planning and modernizing public utility vehicles to improve transportation; defending the Philippines' sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea through diplomatic means; and addressing the nation's drug problem as a health issue.

    There were also recommendations to end contractualization and pass laws for gender equality.

    GENDER EQUALITY. Youth pushing for gender equality state their concerns and expectations ahead of President Rodrigo Duterte's 4th State of the Nation Address. Photo by Arlan Jay Jondonero/Rappler

    The huddle ended on a positive note, as they each described in one word their hopes for the state of the nation after 3 years. They wished that the Philippines would be united, progressive, inclusive, and free by 2022. – Rappler.com 

    Enrico Berdos is a Rappler intern. He studies journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman. 


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