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    HIGH-RISK AREAS. Towns in Northern Luzon  are prone to floods and landslides. Screen grab from Agos

    CAGAYAN, Philippines – At least 3 towns in Cagayan - Benito Soliven, Claveria, Gonzaga - evacuated before Severe Tropical Storm Carina  made landfall early Sunday afternoon, July 31, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councill (NDRRMC).

    Heavy rains and strong winds were felt in Gonzaga town since early Sunday morning. Local disaster officials said the water level in Cagayan River continued to rise in the past hours, threatening low-lying areas, including Tuguegarao, Alcala, and Amulung.

    The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier advised local government units of vulnerable towns in Northern Luzon to conduct preemptive evacuation by Sunday morning, July 31, before the storm makes landfall. (READ: #CarinaPH: Areas in Northern Luzon, Visayas prone to floods, landslides)

    On Sunday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) activated the NDRRMC's response cluster to "ensure that assistace will immediately be mobilized to affected areas."

    Missing

    Meanwhile, Solomon Roc, 41-year old, was reported missing since 4 pm on Saturday, July 30. He was last seen by his neighbors swimming in Bayo River in Iguig, Cagayan.

    Roc's sister, Edlyn Narag, said their neighbors saw her brother's clothes, slippers, and cellphone near the river.

    The provincial disaster agency said they already deployed search and rescue teams to locate Roc even as they verify if the incident was caused by Tropical Storm Carina.

    #WalangPasok 

    As another preemptive action, power in Cagayan was also cut off at 8 am, authorities said.  

    On Monday, August 1, classes in all levels in the towns of Sta Ana, Gonzaga, Sta Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Lal-lo, Camalaniugan, Allacapan, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, Sanchez Mira, Claveria, Sta Paxedes, Calayan, Lasam, Gattaran, and Rizal in the Northern Cagayan have already been suspended.

    Residents can report emergency situations using the following hotlines:

    09262532067

    09363462355

    09151109305

    09771275507

    09269560219

    09163086527

    The 1991 Local Government Code and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandate local government units to be at the frontline of emergency measures during disasters. – Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – The goal of the eUP Student Academic Information System (SAIS) to address previous problems in the University of the Philippines' enlistment process is promising.

    But when it was rolled in UP Los Baños (UPLB) for the first semester of academic year 2016-17, people did not celebrate. On the contrary, UPLB students slammed the new enlistment system after glitches sent throngs of students to camp out early Friday to Saturday, July 29 to 30, in order to secure slots in their preferred classes.

    A comprehensive data management system, SAIS aims to cover the entire student lifecycle –from admission, registration, and enrollment, to graduation and alumni tracking. 

    According to UP students, the system has miserably failed to serve its purpose of  improving the enlistment process, triggering an online clamor to junk the new system. Here are 4 things you should know about SAIS:

    1) Part of P752-million eUP project

    SAIS is part of UP President Alfredo Pascual’s P752-million flagship program called eUP. 

    Introduced in 2012, the eUP project aims to “integrate and harmonize the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and system across all constituent universities (CUs) of the UP System.” The system uses a software called Oracle, which is also employed by over 800 campuses, including top universities in Asia such as the National University of Singapore and University of Hongkong. 

    Prior to the eUP project, each campus units use different ICT workflows and systems resulting to “slow processing of data, lack of standardization of academic-related processes, data errors, and the lack of IT information dissemination.”

    By making systems in campus units interoperable, the eUP projects aim to make UP more efficient and competitive to global standards. The integration of the information system also means the information of students across all campuses in the state university will be pooled into a single database. This is expected to make getting grades, cross-registration and shifting or transferring easier.  

    SAIS is just one of the components of the eUP project which also include the Human Resource Information System (HRIS), Financial Management Information System (FMIS), Supply, Procurement and Campus Management Information System (SPCMIS), and Executive Information System (EIS).

    It is expected to span for six (6) years and will completely roll out to all UP campuses by 2017.

    2) Replaces homegrown systems

    SAIS replaced 4 homegrown systems of different UP campus units namely the Computerized Registration System (Diliman, Manila, Visayas, Baguio, Cebu), Academic Information and Management System My Portal (Open University), Computerized Student Records System (Mindanao), and Systemone (Los Banos).

    SAIS has so far been implemented in three CUs: Los Banos, Manila and Baguio. It is scheduled to be rolled out across all the UP campuses, including UP Diliman.

    3) Aims to ease up registration

    SAIS introduced new features that were not present in its predecessors, allowing students not only to enlist in their preferred classes but also to pay for fees and request for documents.

    It is not only built for students. Responding to the needs of faculty and staff, SAIS also intended to make enrollment and student requests online easier.

    Unfortunately, instead of making enlistment easier, students complained of a more difficult enrollment experience. Aside from the supposed poor user experience SAIS offers, the SAIS website has been reportedly inaccessible during the schedule of enlistment.

    4) #JunkSAIS?

    Several organizations and student councils across different CUs have called for the junking of SAIS. (READ: X - UPJES' Official Statement to #JunkSAIS) 

    This is not the first time the project was met with protest. As early as 2014, the system has been criticized by students in UP Manila after it was first partially rolled out in the campus.

    According to Tinig ng Plaridel, UP Manila students attributed the dismal results of the enlistment with SAIS to lack of information dissemination about its interface and functions. Students also reported a lot of bugs and system glitches.

    The experience of students in UPLB has triggered a widespread call to junk the new online enlistment system across all CUs. Below are statements made by UP student councils and student organizations: 

     

     

     

     

     

      

    On Sunday, July 30, the eUP project team apologized to UP students, staff and faculty on Facebook for failing to serve its purpose of easing enrolment for the UP community.

    Rest assured that we, the eUP Team, SAIS Team, the administration of UP Los Banos, and ePLDT are all doing our best to resolve issues in the system as soon as they are detected and reported. We are also continuously attending to all support requests received through our official channels,” they said. – Rappler.com 


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    STORYTELLING. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa talks about how communities and creative storytelling can change the status quo. Photo by Janelle Paris/ Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – With great information comes great responsibility and when, globally, people demand for change, the responsibility becomes shared and social.

    This premise dominated the De La Salle University Communication Conference (DLSU CommCon) 2.0 on Saturday, July 30, where over 700 communication and media students from various universities gathered to discuss the future of social media.

    Hinging on the theme, “Revolutionizing the Future of Communication,” speakers from the fields of journalism, film, advertising, and digital media spoke of their experiences in the changing industry.

    “Change has come and it keeps going,” JR dela Cerna, ABS-CBN’s social media head, said. “The power of digital is impactful even in our non-digital lives.” 

    Dela Cerna added that information used to be contained and stable. Now, it is more fluid and collaborative. 

    “The narrative of a story really changes as more people get involved with it. You don’t even attempt to contain it, it gains a life of its own…so how it is framed (and received) is critical,” he said. 

    What stories are worth

    For Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, the discipline of journalism is more important than ever before. “Stories can spark change. We believe that journalism is at the core of change. You will not have change if you do not have a story,” Ressa said. 

    Rappler launched X in 2015. With X, people can publish their own articles on issues they feel strongly about. X presently has content on topics raging from politics to students’ social initiatives. It is a platform through which people may build communities to amplify their advocacies. 

    “If you don’t have a community, you won’t develop courage,” Ressa said. And connectivity now, she added, makes the Internet a fertile ground for building these networks.

    Asked what she thinks is the solution to seemingly shortening attention spans, Ressa simply said it is a reality we must embrace considering how fast-paced the world has become. She hopes, though, that this does not lead to desensitization.

    “The more tech (there is), the faster things go…the more human we have to become.” 

    Going beyond words

    Advertising and film have also been moving towards social change.

    David Guerrero, chairman of advertising company BBDO Guerrero, shared about his previous work with clients such as UNICEF, Philips, and even Sweden’s tourism department.

    His company was UNICEF’s partner in its release of advertisements relaying the plight of Syrian child immigrants in short animated videos.

    ADVERTISING ADVOCACY. BBDO Guerrero Chairman David Guerrero says there must be a balance between product and impact. Photo by Janelle Paris/ Rappler

    Asked how he determines whether to prioritize the product or the impact, Guerrero frankly said, “The decision has to come from the owners of the brand.” If they do choose the advocacy, however, Guerrero said, “They have to live it – the advocacy or stand – it can’t be just something they say. It’s about how they behave.” 

    Meanwhile, in a time of short attention spans and exponential information growth, independent filmmaker Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil intends to keep the long form alive. From dabbling in broadcast journalism to advertising, Ongkeko-Marfil found her calling in theater.

    “In the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), we really went out into the world. When we did a play about farmers, we lived with the farmers. When we made a film about laborers, we joined the picket lines, and not just joined the picket lines but stayed.”

    This is the sort of immersive experience that she tries to achieve in her independent “advocacy filmmaking.” 

    Though wrought with the typical problems of filmmaking logistics and promotions, Marfil was staunch to say that her focus is on the impact of her productions. She shared how paramount it is that she gets actual stories from communities. 

    Marfil also founded Pelikulove.com.ph, an online platform that releases short, inspiring, and light-hearted videos while also inviting readers to submit their own. In this way, she is able to sustain a community with a common love for film and potentially other social advocacies. 

    These insights served to level off CommCon participants for the breakout sessions that followed during the one-day event. Over 30 media practitioners working in design, film, advertising and public relations, and print and online journalism, met with the students for interactive and simulative activities meant to prepare the young media aspirants for the industry. – Rappler.com

    A student of Ateneo de Manila University, Janelle Paris is a Rappler intern.


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    Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – Simon Kemp, founder of Kepios and marketing strategist at We are Social, believes there are 5 things marketers should know about the future of their profession, especially in the age of social media and its future evolution.

    Kemp says that almost half the world is on the Internet, with more than one in 3 people using social media. He added two-thirds of the world's population now has a handset.

    Because of this, Kemp wants marketers to reconsider the bigger picture.

    "There's a big cultural nuance here," Kemp said in a talk at Rappler’s #ThinkPH event at Resorts World Manila on July 21. "The platforms that we choose depend very much on the languages that we speak and the places where we live."

    As a result, it is important that marketers understand that what might work for one cultural scenario may not work for others.

    "The stories that you are witnessing, even in your own small ecosystems, amongst your groups of friends and in your industry, they are not representative of the bigger world out there," Kemp explained.

    Marketers should learn to question what statistics mean in this context.

    The future of social media 

    Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

    Kemp made forecasts, and gave 5 tips on how to handle the changes that would come as a result of the evolution of social media.

    "We will – and I'm very confident about this – by the end of the next year, we will see one of those mobile messengers overtake Facebook's dominant public platform to become the world's most active social platform," he said.

    While Facebook isn't going anywhere anytime soon, Kemp said "the way we use social and the things that we're offered by the companies that manage those platforms is evolving very quickly."

    The players on the social media landscape have to be aware of this and adjust accordingly.

    The reason behind this, Kemp said, is that the natural flow of conversation is easier on chat apps. Data costs are also remedied somewhat by the use of chat apps, and the social aspects of information – avoiding a fear of missing out – is also lessened by interpersonal communication via chat.

    As a result, the way marketers should maneuver themselves has to change. "It's understanding that everything we do is going to be able to drive success," Kemp said.

    He emphasized that marketers "can no longer, in this chat app-driven world, rely on a boosted content approach. By that I mean create mediocre content and stick a hell-load of ads behind it."

    5 tips for navigating the new landscape 

    Photo by Martin San Diego/Rappler

    Kemp's tips for navigating the evolving social media landscape emphasize adaptability and value-added worth.

    His first tip is to treat social engagement as the outcome, rather than the measure of success. Driving positive conversation is key to a successful marketing campaign.

    "If we do our jobs correctly across all aspects of our marketing," he said, "people will talk favorably about our brand, by choice, organically, through word of mouth in digital social platforms. That is your measure of success in today's social world."

    Kemp's next two tips emphasized the importance of how and where a marketer imparts his message. If a marketer wants people to really pay attention, he should focus on adding value: either you solve a problem or feed into a passion or into something people care about.

    Related to this, the way marketing should work in this day and age is that it should feed into having moments. Kemp asked marketers to consider the following: "When is my promise, when is my purpose, most relevant and most valuable to my audience, and what are the stages that lead up to that, in which I can deliver some of that value and engage people in the conversations that matter?"

    Kemp's last two tips dived deeply into the wellspring of future technology. The way we see the world now will be different from the way the world presents itself through technology in the future, as technologies will change how people do things.

    Aside from a future where chat apps become the de facto medium of choice for communication, we may one day see a world that uses screens less and voice activated commands more. As such, marketers should aim to add value through utility.

    More importantly, technology is slowly influencing our own thoughts and preferences. Technology now harnesses big data and algorithms to help consumers make decisions and, sometimes, act on a user's behalf. Marketers should grow more aware of the implications of this.

    Kemp said, "We are now in a world where the data that is being collected by these devices all around the world will very soon take over as the number one determinant of the things we think are the best answers to our problems and our passions, and also will go on to buy those things for us often without any of our own involvement."

    Future business success "is going to, in some way, and most likely in a large way, be determined by the influence of an algorithm."

    Marketers, Kemp said, should look to improving or refining their skill sets "to enable us to understand and influence these new audiences." – Rappler.com


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    AKYATCON. Mountaineering enthusiasts from all over the country gathered at the UP National Institute for Science and Mathematics Development (NISMED) to share insights on current trends in the activity and the state of Philippine wildlife, July 30. The event is hosted by the UP Mountaineers, a non-profit student organization. All photos by Tessa Barre/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – As mountaineering becomes more and more a trend, both experts and enthusiasts alike reminded the public of the impact of the increasingly-beloved activity, and the responsibility of every mountaineer to the outdoors.

    On Friday to Saturday, July 29-30, the University of the Philippines Mountaineers (UPM) held the first-ever mountaineering conference in the country. Dubbed as “#AkyatCon2016,” the event aimed to raise awareness on responsible mountaineering and environmental protection.

    Yay Ortega, president of the Mountaineering Federation of the Philippines Inc (MFPI), said that the interest in the sport increased starting in the late 90s. This was marked by the increasing number of local outdoor shops, available package tours, and relatively more organized registration processes at entry points of mountains.

    At present, social media plays a huge role in the increasing awareness of the sport. Photos posted online attract curiosity from others. She added that nowadays, anyone can be a mountaineer. “You just join a Facebook group, and you can already call yourself a mountaineer,” she said.

    PROS. Veterans and newbies, some members of mountaineering organizations in the country alike attended the event. According to listings by Pinoy Mountaineer, there are over 300 hiking and mountaineering clubs in the Philippines.

    Still, Ortega reminded participants of the ill effects of this sudden increase. She acknowledged that due to more people trying out mountaineering, there is more appreciation for nature and the awareness of the need for environmental protection. 

    'Responsible mountaineering'

    JP Alipio of the Cordillera Conservation Trust shared the same sentiment. “It’s amazing. The growth of the outdoor community the last 10 years is one of the best things that has happened to the Philippines,” he said. “But we also have to move towards acknowledging that all of these areas are not empty; they have villages and these villages have needs.” 

    Another positive effect is the additional income for both the locals and local government units. More and more people are also gaining interest in doing outreach programs in mountainous areas, and in other outdoor activities such as birdwatching.

    However, Ortega also brought up concerns regarding the current state of Philippine mountaineering.

    For one, since more people are climbing mountains, there is also an increase on the impact left on the outdoors. Expanded campsites, trail deterioration, and unregulated entry/exit points are just some examples. 

    With this, she encouraged mountaineers, both veterans and amateurs, to be good examples. She emphasized the importance of learning basic mountaineering courses, which she said some are ditching due to the availability of trekking guides on the Internet. 

    “We should learn from and cooperate with each other,” she said. “The goal is to go beyond responsible mountaineering.”

    Leave no trace

    Lito De Veterbo talked to the audience about the "leave no trace" principles. Most mountaineers are already familiar with these principles but De Veterbo reiterated the importance of always keeping in mind the said guidelines, not only in mountaineering but in everyday life.

    The 7 principles are:

    • Plan ahead and prepare
    • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
    • Dispose of waste properly
    • Leave what you find
    • Minimize campfire impacts
    • Respect wildlife
    • Be considerate to other visitors.

    The goal of the leave no trace principle is to leave little to no impact to the environment. It aims to protect the outdoors by inspiring people to enjoy it responsibly. To achieve this, discipline and mindfulness of one’s actions are required.

     “The environment is not just utilitarian but something that also needs to be preserved,” echoed Alipio.

     NO TRACE. Lito De Veterbo discusses the seven leave no trace principles and the importance of following them to participants of the first AkyatCon, July 30.

    De Veterbo also gave instances where one could apply the principles. He showed photos posted on social media – such as writing on leaves and tree trunks, and rearranging stones – and asked the audience to identify whether they align with the principles or not.

    As he put it, “To adhere to the leave no trace is always a personal choice. These are not laws; they’re just guidelines.”

    But for the mountaineers and outdoor enthusiasts who attended the event, the preservation of the environment is not just a choice but a responsibility of everyone. – Rappler.com 

    Renzo Acosta and Annika Herico are Rappler interns. Renzo is from the University of Santo Tomas, while Annika is from the Ateneo de Manila University.


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    OUT OF JOBS. A worker walks past a giant poster on May 4, 2016 at a construction site of a section of the Saudi capital Riyadh's $22.5 billion metro system. File photo by Fayez Nureldine/AFP

    MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of jobless Filipinos, Indians, and Pakistanis are stranded and destitute in Saudi Arabia after a plunge in oil prices sparked construction layoffs, activists and officials said on Tuesday, August 2.

    Some Filipinos are forced to beg or sift through garbage to survive after going unpaid for months, said Garry Martinez, chairman of the Migrante group which works for the millions of Filipino overseas workers worldwide.

    "Some of them have nothing to eat and have to go through the garbage for food," said Martinez.

    India said Monday it was negotiating with Saudi authorities to repatriate thousands of its own nationals after they lost their jobs, leaving them with no money to return home.

    Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told parliament in New Delhi she was sending a junior minister to Riyadh after reports that around 10,000 Indian workers had been left to starve.

    Indians are among millions of poor Asians working in the Gulf states, where human rights groups say many suffer exploitation and abuses including non-payment of wages.

    In Manila, Migrante coordinator Gilbert Saludo – who returned from Saudi Arabia last month after two years working there – said as many as 20,000 Filipinos could be affected.

    Saludo said that while Manila had extended financial aid to them so far, it was not clear how long this aid could last.

    The labour problem appeared likely to worsen, he added.

    "It will get much worse because so much of the income of Saudi Arabia comes from oil... so their budget for infrastructure and other projects will not be met and more people will be affected," Saludo told the Agence France-Presse.

    The Philippine Labor Department said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello had visited Saudi Arabia last July to address the problem but would not elaborate.

    Pakistan confirmed its nationals were also stranded in Saudi Arabia but gave no number. It said it had set up a special center and fund to provide aid, food, medicine and shelter.

    "The [Pakistani] embassy has further informed that Saudi King has issued a decree for urgent payment of dues to workers by the concerned," the office of the prime minister said.

    "We stand by our hardworking workers who are away from their homeland to earn a living for their families. They are our strength and pride. We will help them out in all possible ways," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a statement.

    The Indian consulate in Jeddah has been providing free food for its nationals since their plight came to light last week but repatriation has been complicated by restrictive labor regulations.

    Swaraj cited a Saudi requirement that workers provide a no-objection certificate from their employers before they can leave the country.

    In Manila the Migrante officials also said Filipinos could not leave because they lacked proper permits or were still awaiting months of back pay.

    Nearly 3 million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia, according to the foreign ministry, one of the largest populations outside of India. – Rappler.com


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    JUNK SAIS? More than 800 students skip their classes to protest against eUP's SAIS. Photo by Jaira Roxas/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – More than 800 students from the University of the Philippines - Los Baños (UPLB) skipped the first day of classes on Wednesday, August 3, to protest against the controversial Student Academic Information System (SAIS).

    They called for the scrapping of SAIS, holding UP President Alfredo Pascual accountable for the glitches experienced by students during the registration period: wrong scholarship bracketing, failure to enlist in required classes, among others.

    SAIS, a data management system that seeks to “integrate and harmonize the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and system across all constituent universities (CUs) of the UP System,” is part of UP President Alfredo Pascual’s P752-million flagship program called eUP.

    Students camped out early Friday to Saturday, July 29 to 30, in order to secure slots in their preferred classes. This triggered a UP-wide movement to junk SAIS. (READ: 4 things to know about eUP's SAIS

    “With the failure of SAIS, many students still lack or do not have units. Add to this is the shortage of slots which will not accommodate the demands of the students. These are manifestations of the public-private partnership programs and an evident form of commercialization of education," said Merwin Jacob Alinea, the UPLB university student council (USC) chairperson.

    'Disservice to students'

    SAIS replaced SystemOne, the homegrown system used in UPLB, among other online registration systems used across different campus units. 

    "This is a disservice to the students, stripping them of their right to free and accessible education,”  Alinea added. 

    The protest coincided with the annual "Org Fair #UPLBUnite: Sama-samang Sumulong tungo sa Libreng Edukasyon. (Let's collectively move forward to attain free education)." 

    Students marched to the Office of the Chancellor for a dialogue with Chancellor Fernando Sanchez and eUP Project Director Jaime Caro. However, only a select number of members of the media were initially allowed to participate in the dialogue. 

    At 5pm, Wednesday, other protesters broke into the Office of Chancellor, according to USC Councilor Stephen Villena.

     

    "Los Banos has this very unfortunate experience last weekend, but if you look at the other campuses using SAIS, they are very happy using the SAIS and they were able to enroll," Caro explained to the protesters. 

    Caro also clarified that only P37.7 million was used for SAIS, adding that the funding is good for 5 years. 

    'Denial of service' attack

    In a statement, the eUP project team confirmed that the SAIS was subjected to a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, an attempt to make the service unavailable by overwhelming it with traffic.

    According to them, this is the reason why SAIS faced several glitches during the enrollment period. 

    While the system has long been secured from any DoS attack from known overseas attackers, the eUP team said the system was configured to treat traffic coming from the Philippines as valid and hostile.

    They added that investigation shows that the system was attacked from within the Philippines, culminating in about 4 million hits in a span of two days. During the dialogue with the students, Caro said they already have the IP addresses of those responsible for the attack

    "This consequently overloaded the system and rendered it unstable. In response, access was temporarily confined within the UP network to prevent possible damage," eUP said in their statement. 

    The team condemned the alleged attack, saying they stand in solidarity with all the affected members of the UP community. – with reports from Jaira Roxas/Rappler.com


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    Ken Villa (L) and Jojo Antonio, both working for Twitter in Silicon Valley, shares advice for Filipinos looking to join the tech industry. Photo by Carissa Villacorta

    SAN FRANCISCO – “Let’s hire more people, but make sure they’re people like you.”

    Those were the words Jojo Antonio, 44, heard his employer say when he was at Paypal. His boss knew him and his skills, so even when he passed up a chance to work at Paypal at first when it was a startup, his boss took him in a year after their interview when the other startup Antonio did join folded.

    Now he’s at Twitter HQ in San Francisco.

    “Companies care more about what you do, not where you came from,” says Ken Villa, Jojo’s 29-year-old colleague and fellow Filipino at Twitter.

    “We’re a bunch of people who have crazy amounts of skills all in different fields. We have different engineering teams who help us. The common thing that binds us all is our focus on safety and defending users’ voices online." 

    For over a year now, Villa has been working at Twitter’s Trust and Safety, and Legal Policy. A graduate of NYU Law, he’s worked with Kickstarter and Senator Hillary Clinton’s office before joining Twitter in 2015.

    Villa feels privileged to work for his company and department. “Trust and safety’s general purpose is that users are safe, and we defend their rights on the internet, because Twitter is a platform that people use for different kinds of speech – some are positive, some are negative. There are different kinds of harassment, that we want to avoid on our platform."

    There are over 3,500 employees at Twitter and 20-70 new people start every week. But Antonio insists, “There’s a lot of opportunities for people even for people who are not here."

    'We didn't have anything'

    Speaking of opportunities, Antonio has one advice for Filipinos who want to succeed globally: “All you have to do is take that opportunity, don’t be shy. Filipinos are shy. We don’t show off. We feel like we’re the underdog but we’re not."

    One might say Antonio’s work life started in McDonald’s before embarking on a career in Motorola. Both his parents worked abroad – his dad went to Saudi Arabia and his mom went to Qatar. His dad didn’t graduate from college. But in all of his college years, Antonio was a scholar. He was determined to graduate early by necessity. 

    “I had no money to pay for college. We didn’t have anything. I had to graduate in four years, so I had to enroll for 21 units (even though only 16 units were allowed)... I graduated earlier than those with 4.5 averages. Because I really had to graduate."

    In all of those college years, Antonio chose his subjects well. Knowing his strong and weak areas, he went into IT while all his friends went into hardware, software, and computer technology. 

    Antonio had a brother and a sister and all of them graduated from college. “We knew how to iron our clothes, wash (our clothes) with our hands, cook our dinner, so those things you bring it here. It brought us closer together because we came from that environment. So when I was here, and I got laid off, I was like, “Who cares? I was down before. This is nothing. I enjoyed. I went to Disneyland.”

    “That’s a good way to recover,” joked Villa.

    Villa is also grateful for the sacrifices of his mother who sacrificed living in a basement in the US while Villa was a baby growing up with his lola in Cebu City where he lived for 10 years.

    “I never saw my mom then. She moved to New Jersey to work as a MedTech; eventually she was able to get sponsored. It was my grandmother who raised me, that’s why I’m very close to her.”

    “When I was 10, my mom brought me to the US. It was hard for me and people bullied me. This was in the East Coast, at that time there weren’t many Filipinos so it was hard, and some of the kids can be really mean. From a kid’s perspective you just have to adjust and adapt quickly.”

    From his mother’s sacrifices and hard work and through his own resilience and interest, he went on to study International Relations at New York University. His first break was to work as an immigration intern for then Senator Hillary Clinton.

    Villa feels fortunate to be able to advocate for people’s rights, bring people together for a cause and show compassion within the confines of law. “Law by nature is just following precedent… What drew me here (at Twitter) is that a lot of times we’re setting the policy or strategy, we’re creating it and that makes me happy here.” 

    For Antonio, timing played a role that brought him from database administration in the Philippine banking industry to the tech industry in the U.S.

    “I was a consultant. During that time, Y2K, they were hiring a lot of people but nothing happened during Y2K.” He laughed.

    “When I was in the Philippines, I was doing good. I was a manager at a bank, I had a house, a car... In 1996, I got an offer from the US, but I said  ‘No, I’m not gonna go. Three years later I realized that I have a car and a house but I don’t have any savings. So I said, ‘Okay, let’s go, let’s try.’

    "But I told them I’m only gonna go if they show me tickets that my whole family was gonna go too. I wasn’t gonna leave them behind. So we all came to San Francisco. On the first week, I got an interview with the company I was consulting with, I got accepted. Six months after I figured out how it works here. So I applied for a startup and they paid more.”

    After Antonio worked for the startup, he moved to Paypal, and then eBay for seven years, and then to YouTube before it was bought by Google. He stayed in Google for eight years. Through all those years he stayed with Database Management (DM), his expertise. Antonio says he feels very blessed. He then explains that DM is about operations, making sure everything works; for Paypal it’s all about logging everything that a user does into a database, like usernames, passwords, etc.

    “Paypal became big because the people I worked with have passion in what they do. I was 28 then, and they were 21 - very passionate about it.”

    Their parents’ sacrifices and decisions coupled with their hard work and determination shows that Filipino families do what they can to ensure that the next generation is better off.

     

    Practical tips

    For the rest of the community and their countrymen who would want to join a tech company, Antonio and Villa have these to share:

    “You can study in the Philippines, and still join tech companies like Twitter."

    "You don’t have to go to school here because school here is expensive... You get a degree, if you want to really come to the US, come over here, apply for an MBA... It’s cost effective. If you don’t get the MBA, just get the experience. We’re looking for experience. It’s all about how you project yourself, and of course, the experience that you’re gonna get. Make sure that they’re valuable experience," said Villa.

    Antonio adds, “Don’t be afraid if you’re from AMA, De La Salle, wherever as long as you start early...If you have an opportunity, just grab it. Don’t be afraid, just do it. Be good at what you’re doing, make sure that you know what you want.”

    “Have passion in what you do, be passionate about your field and then everything will just come together. Increasingly I think tech companies care about what you can do than where you come from." 

    Villa and Antonio also shared these practical tips: 

    • When you fail, just try again and don’t stop.
    • Put yourself out on the internet, show your accomplishments. 
    • Network, meet up and keep in touch.
    • Don't be afraid to make mistakes.
    • Connect, be passionate, and ask. 

    “Also for Fiipinos, there hasn’t been a place I’ve been to that there are no Filipinos,” Villa then shared. "There’s bound to that connection that people should take advantage of.”

    “I think the people here are generally willing to help. In every company I’ve been to, I’ve never met people who generally didn’t want to help other people who are passionate about something. It’s all about asking.” – Rappler.com

     

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – Despite the higher income that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) get abroad, many of them still fail to manage their finances well - going home empty-handed and sometimes even burdened by debt.

    Borrowing money is common among many Filipinos. A survey by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) shows that eight in ten Filipinos have experienced borrowing money. The most common purposes for borrowing money is to buy food, pay for school-related expenses, and finance emergencies.

    OFWs are no exemptions to the culture of borrowing. Many OFWs leave to be able to pay for their loans or borrow money in order to finance their move overseas. With loans hounding them, OFWs fail to save and often end up overextending their stay abroad. 

    Vince Rapisura, president of the Social Enterprise Development Partnerships, Inc., a social enterprise that provides financial literacy trainings to low-income OFWs in 15 countries worldwide, recently launched a book entitled (L)earning Wealth: Successful Strategies in Money Management

    According to Vince, there are a few things an OFW should consider before borrowing money.

    When is borrowing okay?

    Vince suggests that OFWs follow these 5 cardinal rules of borrowing:

    1. Borrow money only when you plan to use it for productive purposes. This means using the money to finance something that creates income.
    2. Income from this project should be greater than the interest you will pay.
    3. Installment amount should not exceed 20% of your regular income.
    4. Do not borrow to finance wants. To be able to buy the things you want, save for it or create an investment portfolio that will provide you with a passive income.
    5. Lastly, borrow only from formal financial sources. This way, you can take advantage of lower interest rates and establish your credit history.

    Filipinos often borrow for emergencies, which according to Vince, should be avoided.

    Ask yourself the following questions before getting a loan:

    1. Do I really need this loan?
    2. Will this loan help me earn more money?
    3. Can I afford the borrowing cost of this loan?

    From whom should I borrow?

    At least 71% of Filipinos who borrow money get it from informal sources - family, relatives, friends, and informal money lenders. Only 4% borrow from banks.

    According to Vince, it is best to borrow from formal financial institutions since they offer the best rates available in the market and are subjected to strict regulations.

    There is no standard prescribed interest rate for loans, but Vince suggests that you look for the lowest interest rate available and make sure that the return from the investment (if you used the loan to invest) is higher than the interest you need to pay.

    How do I get out of bad debt?

    What are bad debts? Vince says bad debts are those used for non-productive purposes. 

    Many OFWs resort to borrowing money, especially during emergencies, and learn the hard way that this is not good. But it is never too late. Here are 4 steps to free yourselves from bad debt:

    1. The first step is to stop incurring even more bad debt. Stop making loans that are not used for productive purposes.
    2. The second step is making a list of your bad debts. You have to know your enemy. If you borrowed money from informal sources without a contract, initiate one. List the debts from the highest to the lowest effective interest rate.
    3. Now check if the total installment amount or minimum payment required is below 20% of your gross income. If not, try to negotiate the terms and conditions with your creditor. You may offer to lengthen the period of your loan to make payments more affordable. If not, you may try looking for other means of creating income or scrimp on expenses.
    4. After that, pay the installment amount or the minimum required payment for each loan. If you have excess money after paying the loan with the least effective interest rate, use it to make an additional loan with the highest interest rate. You should aim to get rid of loans with the highest interest rates first.

    #UsapangPera 

    To help even more OFWs and young professionals manage their finances better, SEDPI produces weekly webisodes featuring Vince Rapisura and beauty queen Venus Raj entitled #UsapangPera. 

    The second episode, to be released on Friday, August 5 at 7pm, will also tackle debt and related problems. Bookmark this page and watch it here on Rappler! – Rappler.com

     

    SEDPI is a Philippine-based capacity-builder in the fields of microfinance, social entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Learn more about them here.

    Got questions for SEDPI about managing your finances? Email us at balikbayan@rappler.com.


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    ILLEGAL RECRUITMENT. Some overseas Filipino workers fall into the trap of illegal recruiters due to the government's slow processing of their documents. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

    MANILA, Philippines – The International Labor Organization (ILO) has named the Philippines as one of the pilot countries for its global program for promoting migrant workers' protection, citing the country's improving policies on ensuring safe and fair recruitment. 

    "The Philippines has made significant progress in developing legislation and policies that address challenges in the recruitment process, including the hiring of migrant domestic workers," said ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Tomoko Nishimoto.

    "It also has another sector – the seafarers – which provides a good model of practice for all: that no recruitment fees are charged against workers," he added.

    ILO's Integrated Program on Fair Recruitment or FAIR, launched on Wednesday, August 3 in Mandaluyong City, aims to establish a model that will reduce deceptive hiring of migrant workers by partnering with the government, labor organizations, and recruitment agencies.

    As a pilot country, the Philippines "will contribute to a global knowledge system on what works and does not work with respect to fair recruitment practices," said the ILO.

    The Philippines will also spearhead the ILO's multilateral meeting this September, where experts will draft guidelines on eliminating abusive recruitment of overseas laborers not only in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world.

    Aside from this comprehensive model, other expected outputs of the 3-year intervention project are:

    • Launching of a Migrant Recruitment Monitor, a global website where overseas workers can file their complaints and be referred to authorities that will attend to their concerns. The Philippines is also the test country for the website, which will initially be in Filipino.
    • Helping trade unions in coordinating with the government and recruitment firms.
    • Review of existing policies on labor recruitment and enforcement.
    • Analyzing the feasibility of developing recruitment models.
    • Tapping media to help investigate and expose recruitment abuses and promote the solutions tested in pilot countries.

    POEA initiatives

    Although the Aquino administration faced criticism for its handling of issues concerning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said they have sent 893 cases of illegal recruitment to prosecution officers. They have also cancelled the licenses of 213 erring recruitment agencies. (READ: Aquino and the continuing plight of OFWs

    "[FAIR] will further strengthen our efforts in enhancing protection of our migrant workers," said POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac during Wednesday's launch.

    One of the efforts they are taking towards curbing abusive recruitment is the reconstitution of the Presidential Task Force on Illegal Recruitment, a marching order of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

    Cacdac added that the POEA is further promoting a mandatory pre-employment seminar for Filipinos aspiring to work abroad. This is where they learn the challenges of working overseas.

    There are also 8 modules uploaded on peos.poea.gov.ph to guide workers on how to avoid illegal recruiters.

    Cacdac also said that they have reduced the processing time of their services for OFWs to 72 hours as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte. This is to address the problem of OFWs falling prey to illegal recruiters due to slow government processes– Rappler.com 


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    PADAYON. Youth request to be registered at the COMELEC office in Cebu City, Saturday, July 30, 2016. Photo by Paolo Saberon

    MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of young voters across the country failed to register on Saturday, July 30, the last day of the registration for the Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay elections.

    In Tumauini, Isabela, a Mover reported that as early as 8 am on July 30, a cutoff in registration was declared, and even the forms for distribution were limited.

    In General Trias, Cavite, Mover Xian Lozares reported that despite the long lines, it was announced that only the first 500 applicants would be accommodated. 

    At the Lingkod Pinoy Center at Robinsons Mall, Limketkai Complex, Cagayan de Oro City, 1000 priority numbers were given out. When these ran out, there was still a long line of hopeful youth registrants. 

    PATIENCE. Caloocan youth wait their turn to register for the Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay elections. Photo by Dale Chang.

    In Caloocan City, Mover Dale Chang reported that while some youth camped out early in the morning, they were told that only the first 1,500 applicants would be accommodated. 

    In Cebu City, according to Mover Paolo Saberon, by 9 am, those in line were advised of the cutoff because 1,000 had already registered.

    At Kabacan, North Cotabato, only 250 priority numbers were given. Strong rain and power interruptions affected the registration process.  

    In Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Mover James Ventura reported that around 500 youth were in line, but that only around 250 could be accommodated. There were no available forms and no clear instructions for the registrants. 

    WAITING. Youth in Legazpi, Albay, wait their turn to register at the local Comelec office. Photo by Flored Medina.

    In Legazpi, Albay, Mover Flored Medina reported that 500 priority numbers were given, and that Comelec would go on overtime until everyone was able to register.   

    In Manila, 500 priority numbers were given. New arrivals were not given numbers and had no assurance that they could be accommodated. 

    However, in Pavia, Iloilo, Youth Commissioner JP Peñol reported that there was no cutoff, there was a smooth flow in registration, and hundreds were in line, but that all was in order. 

    At Poblacion, Alubijid, Misamis Oriental, Mover Engelbert Ubay-Ubay observed that there were short lines and that there was no congestion.

    HOPEFUL. Ilocos Norte youth fall in line to register for the Sangguniang Kabataan and Barangay elections. Photo by James Ventura

    On Saturday night, July 30, election offices in Badoc, Carasi, Piddig, Dingras, and Laoag in Ilocos Norte were still processing registrants. 

    Mover James Ventura of Ilocos Norte, reported that most of the registrants were high school students, and the registration period covered only 3 Saturdays and 2 Sundays. He said that a limited number could only be accommodated per day.

    When asked why she registered on the last day, Gienel Dometita, a student, said, "Ngayon lang din po ako sinabihan,eh." (I was told only now about this) 

    "I am disappointed with the early cut-off time scheduled by some Comelec offices nationwide, leaving thousands of young people still waiting in line yet unaware that they could no longer be accommodated. This action disenfranchises the youth of their basic right to vote and be heard," observed Commissioner JP Peñol of the National Youth Commission, in a statement.

    Chard Amazona, President of the 11th National Youth Parliament, initiated an online Registration Grievance Desk to gather reports about the SK registration.

    On Thursday, August 4, youth groups called for an extension of the registration period - Rappler.com

     Jaira Roxas is an alumnus of the 11th National Youth Parliament.


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    MANILA, Philippines – What does love have to do with our finances?

    According to Vince Rapisura, president of the Social Enterprise Development Partnerships, Inc., a social enterprise that provides financial literacy trainings to low-income OFWs in 15 countries worldwide, Filipinos tend to mix financial decisions with emotions.

    This is a problem because rationality is necessary when making these decisions – something we lack when we are in a highly emotional state. (READ: Are you an OFW? Here are bad spending habits you need to break')

    One of these emotions that prevents us from making rational financial decisions is fear, specifically the fear of not being loved.

    Vince, in his book entitled (L)earning Wealth: Successful Strategies in Money Management, tells us about fear and how it affects overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) management of their finances.

    Common cause of distress

    According to Vince, the fear of not being loved is a common cause of distress for OFWs. They send a large chunk of their income to their relatives in the Philippines, sometimes leaving barely enough for them to survive in their host country.

    Many OFWs fear that their children or spouses would love them less if they fail to send remittances to buy the things they want. In some cases, some relatives threaten OFWs with emotional blackmail. 

    This fear starts with "lambing," a Filipino expression of fondness where one usually asks for favor from another. The favor granted is commonly seen as an act of love.

    It is normal for children, for example, to do this to their parents. Vince however says that this "lambing" is usually abused, which is already tantamount to extortion. When this happens, the OFW starts to fear not being loved.

    Living miles away, this fear becomes one of the OFWs' biggest insecurities. Many of them think that sending more gifts and remittances is the only way they can send their love back home.

    Showered with everything they need, relatives may become highly dependent on the OFW – becoming complacent with being unemployed and spending more than they should. 

    Teach them to be independent

    So how do we deal with this fear? Vince says we just need to look into these 3 definitions of love. 

    First, we have to understand that love is about making the other grow. When you allow your relatives to become too dependent, you don’t allow them to grow. In this case, you must aim to teach your relatives to be able to pay for their own basic needs. Tough love can still be an act of love. 

    Second, love is a choice. Before leaving to work abroad, make sure that it is your family’s collective decision. Deciding to leave should not be your burden alone. By making it a collective decision, every member of the family will be aware of the roles they play and their responsibilities. You will also not be be blamed for your absence.

    Lastly, love is work. Many Filipinos leave precisely because they want better lives for their families. The challenge is to be able to get better living conditions without having to separate from your family. Your goal therefore should be to reunite with your family as soon as possible. You and your family must work together to make this possible.

    What can your family do? 

    Your family’s help is vital for you to attain your financial goals. 

    For children, a good way to help is to work hard to finish school on time. Setbacks, such as early pregnancy or failing grades, mean more expenses for the household and may cause the OFW to extend his or her stay abroad.

    The spouse left behind, meanwhile, may work and augment the income of the family. The family’s reliance on OFW income can be reduced if the spouse or other productive member of the household is able to work and contribute to the family budget.

    Vince suggests to make it a goal for the family left behind to be able to cover the household’s basic needs and expenses while the OFW’s income funds their family’s ultimate financial goals – building a house, opening a business, or sending the kids to school. 

    Bottomline: reaching financial goals should not be the OFWs’ responsibility alone but the whole family’s.

    Whenever you feel the urge to send more than your family needs, just remember the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat forever.” – Rappler.com

     

    SEDPI is a Philippine-based capacity-builder in the fields of microfinance, social entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. Learn more about them here.

    Got questions for SEDPI about managing your finances? Email us at balikbayan@rappler.com.


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    MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) begins releasing financial aid to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) left unpaid and laid off in Saudi Arabia following the plunge in global oil prices.

    Thousands of OFWs working in various construction companies remain stranded in the kingdom after not being paid their salaries for months and getting laid off without getting end-of-service benefits. (READ: 'Thousands of OFWs remain stranded, unpaid in Saudi Arabia' )

    Under OWWA’s Relief Assistance Program (RAP), affected OFWs, including those who have been repatriated to the Philippines, are each entitled to a P20,000 cash assistance. 

    Likewise, families of affected OFWs who are still stranded in the kingdom may get P6,000 financial assistance.

    Qualified OFWs are those employed in the following Saudi Arabia-based companies:

    • Mohammed al-Mojil Group (MMG)
    • Saudi Bin Laden Group of Companies (SBG)
    • Saudi Oger Ltd. (SOL)
    • Mohammad Hameed Al-Bargash & Bros. Trading & Construction
    • Aluminum Company (ALUMCO L.L.C.)
    • Rajeh H. Al Merri Contracting Company
    • Arabtec Construction L.L.C.
    • Real Estate Development and Investment Company 

    The Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO-OWWA) in Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Khobar will distribute the financial assistance to qualified OFWs still in the kingdom.

    On the other hand, qualified workers already repatriated back to the Philippines as well as the families of those still at jobsite may claim their respective financial assistance through the OWWA Regional Welfare Offices.

    Documentary requirements for claimants may be viewed at the OWWA website

    This move follows Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III’s visit to the kingdom last July. 

    Migrante International’s chairman Garry Martinez told Agence France Presse that some Filipinos are forced to beg or sift through garbage to survive after going unpaid for months.

    "Some of them have nothing to eat and have to go through the garbage for food,” Martinez said.

    Migrante coordinator Gilbert Saludo – who returned from Saudi Arabia last month after two years working there – said as many as 20,000 Filipinos could be affected. Rappler.com 

     


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    PARTNERSHIP. Rappler and SEDPI partner to empower OFWs through financial literacy. (L-R) Rappler BalikBayan's Don Kevin Hapal, SEDPI's Neil Palteng and Vince Rapisura, Rappler's Glenda Gloria, MovePH's Rupert Ambil and David Lozada. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – To empower overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) through financial literacy, Rappler and Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Incorporated (SEDPI) entered into a partnership on Thursday, August 4.

    The partnership aims to produce content that will help OFWs manage their finances better and reach their financial goals. 

    SEDPI, a social enterprise that provides financial literacy training to low-income OFWs in 15 countries worldwide, will provide research data and financial advice while Rappler will help spread their advocacy on social media and to its OFW readers. 

    The partnership also brings to Rappler readers #UsapangPera, financial literacy webisodes hosted by SEDPI president and personal finance expert Mariel Vincent Rapisura and beauty queen Maria Venus Raj. Each webisode will be released on Rappler every Friday at 7 pm. (Watch the first episode of #UsapangPera here.)

    {source} <iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmove.ph%2Fvideos%2F1049803755111259%2F&show_text=0&width=560" width="560" height="315" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allowFullScreen="true"></iframe> {/source}

    OFW readers may also now ask advice or send their questions about managing their finances, investing, and dealing with money problems like debt to balikbayan@rappler.com. Rapisura himself will be responding to them in his new Rappler column, #OFWTips. 

    SIGNING. SEDPI's Vince Rapisura and Rappler's Glenda Gloria sign the Memorandum of Understanding on August 4, 2016 at the Rappler office.

    Rapisura and Rappler managing editor Glenda M. Gloria formally inked the partnership at the Rappler office in Pasig City.

    "We are excited to begin our relationship with Rappler because it provides us the leverage to spread our financial literacy advocacy," Rapisura said. "With the partnership, we envision to empower millions of Filipinos here and abroad through relevant, practical and entertaining content."

    Gloria agreed, adding that Rappler "is always looking for ways to better engage our community and make our content relevant to them." – Rappler.com

    Learn more about SEDPI here.


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    DONALD TRUMP. US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gestures as he speaks at the Sheraton in West Des Moines, Iowa, USA, 01 February, 2016. File photo by John Taggart/EPA

    WASHINGTON, DC, USA – Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump launched new attacks on immigrants on Thursday, August 4, telling supporters that Somalis and other refugees from "terrorist nations" should be barred entry to the United States.

    "We are letting people come in from terrorist nations that shouldn't be allowed because you can't vet them," Trump, who has built his campaign around an anti-immigration platform, said at a rally in Portland, Maine.

    "You have no idea who they are. This could be the great Trojan horse of all time," he said, reprising a warning that terrorists including members of the Islamic State extremist group will sneak into the United States as refugees.

    "This is a practice that has to stop."

    He pointed to the Somali immigrant population as an example of the "thousands" of refugees who have flooded into Maine and other US states and caused problems.

    Trump said efforts to resettle Somali refugees – many of them in Minnesota – were "having the unintended consequence of creating an enclave of immigrants with high unemployment that is both stressing the state's... safety net and creating a rich pool of potential recruiting targets for Islamist terror groups."

    He then listed several immigrants, mostly from Muslim majority countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Syria, Uzbekistan and Yemen – who were arrested for conducting or threatening to carry out violent attacks, teaching bomb-making to recruits, and otherwise supporting terror groups.

    "We're dealing with animals," he seethed.

    Trump caused an uproar last December when he called for a temporary ban on all Muslims entering the United States, and he has harangued his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for seeking to allow many times more refugees into the country than President Barack Obama has.

    "Hillary Clinton wants to have them come in by the hundreds of thousands," Trump warned Thursday, to a chorus of boos.

    "You're going to have problems like you've never seen." – Rappler.com


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    LONG WAIT. OFWs in Saudi Arabia. File photo by AFP/Fayez Nureldine

    MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines said Saturday, August 6, it would within days send government missions to Saudi Arabia to help thousands of jobless Filipinos left stranded across the kingdom after the plunge in oil prices.

    The first batch of officials would fly to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, August 10, "to provide immediate humanitarian, legal, and other consular assistance to the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in work camps across Saudi Arabia," a foreign department statement said.

    The immediate target is to bring aid to "those without food and in dire need of medical care and other support services," it added.

    "A high level delegation of senior Philippine government officials will also be sent soonest to negotiate immediate and long-term solutions with counterparts in the Saudi government," the statement said.

    "The directive of (President Rodrigo Duterte) is to bring all of them home as soon as possible," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello told ABS-CBN television in an interview aired Saturday, August 6.

    Labor rights monitors in the Philippines said last week some Filipinos have been forced to beg or sift through garbage to survive after going unpaid for months or after having been laid off from construction jobs.

    The Philippine government estimates about 9,000 Filipino workers were affected, though the Manila-based labour rights group Migrante said as many as 20,000 could be in distress.

    They could not leave because they lacked proper permits or were still awaiting months of back pay, Migrante added.

    Asian activists and officials have said thousands of Indians and Pakistanis are also stranded in Saudi Arabia following the layoffs.

    About 10 million Filipinos work abroad due to low wages or lack of jobs in their own country of about 100 million people.

    Oil-rich Middle Eastern countries have been a key destination since the 1970s. – Rappler.com


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  • 08/04/16--23:16: Where recovery starts
  • JUST SAY NO. Posted on a wall are the cardinal rules of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Photo by Renzo Acosta/Rappler

    Along Dr. Sixto Antonio Avenue in Pasig can be found two nondescript buildings, adjacent to each other, with no signs or whatsoever. The only mark of their identity is the number 520, embossed in metallic plate.

     

    "It's the one in cream and brown," said the woman I talked to on the phone. I was lost, and not many people in the neighborhood knew about the center. Not the woman selling food in a mini-store along the avenue; not the tricycle driver working in the area.

     

    It was 11 in the morning, 26th of June. The sun was up high in the sky; the temperature very much humid. After half an hour of looking around for the cream and brown building, I finally found the place.

     

    It was cool and quiet inside. Marble floors and glass walls. I was ushered in by a 29-year-old man named Chuck. He was wearing grey glasses, stood at about 5'5, and weighed around 150lbs. He had a warm smile that contrasted with the cold vibe of the place.

      

    Curiosity and euphoria

     

    Chuck was a former trainee of the center. Trainee, not patient, is what they call those who undergo their program. He has had a long history with substance abuse, one that is not yet and will never be over, he said.

     

    It all started with curiosity. He was curious about what those people he saw in the TV were doing, inhaling solvents and rugbies; curious as to how it feels. Inhalants were his drug of choice, and he was mocked for it. That's only for street boys, he was told.

     

    From the moment he first tried it, it soon became a daily habit. "I took it and I liked the feeling of euphoria," he said. He also tried marijuana and shabu, but went back to his preferred drug. Solvents and rugbies, after all, are cheap and accessible.

     

    Aside from substance abuse, he was also an alcoholic. "I was a heavy drinker, to the point where I would black out," he said. And like many others, he did not accept at first that his drinking was a problem. "I thought I was just an occasional drinker."

     

    He was brought several times to pscyh wards, but it did not change his habit of substance abuse and heavy drinking. "I knew that it had bad effects, but I liked the feeling more," he said.

    NEW BEGINNING. The wet laundry of the 'trainees' dries in the sun ready for a fresh start. Photo by Renzo Acosta/Rappler

     

    Episodes from the past

     

    He studied engineering for a year, but due to a violent incident caused by his drug use, he was expelled from the university. After, he went to a different university where he pursued a scholarship for computer technology.

     

    "But the effect of drugs was too heavy on me," he said. "I was restless the whole time." With this, he was not able to sustain his scholarship. He then entered a seminary for three years, but his drug addiction persisted, forcing him to leave. One week after leaving, he entered his first rehab in Pampanga.

     

    Where he stayed in Pampanga, corruption was a norm. "It was just like prison," he said. There was a hierarchy among the trainees where the ones at the top got small privileges such as having the best view of the small TV, and getting free massages. "I'm small but I don't know how I did it," he said, referring to climbing up the hierarchy. "If I didn't do it, I would've been a slave of the group."

     

    After his stint in Pampanga, he entered TESDA and had an OJT. But five days before ending his OJT, he withdrew, again because of the effects of drugs on him. His family took him for a short while, and he continued engineering in a different university. However, after only a year there, he returned to his old habits, leading him to enter his second rehab.

     

    "It's a continuous thing that cannot be stopped if there's no support and proper coping mechanism," he said of his situation. (READ: Talking to your kids about sex, drugs, and rock and roll)

     

    Dark days

     

    Back in his college years as an engineering student, he would inhale solvents in order to stay awake, do more school requirements, and cope with stress. But all these were just secondary reasons according to him. "The real reason is that it felt good," he said. "It's as simple as that."

     

    It came to a point where Chuck completely lost control of himself, and he was brought back to the psych ward where he was diagnosed with drug-induced schizophrenia. It's a disease that makes people shut you out, he said. In addition, he was also diagnosed with several other drug-induced disorders. He was even once told that his situation was irreversible.

     

    His family found his situation hard to accept. "I was the only one in my family who was like that," he said. He was abandoned by his family, saying that he did it to himself so he should also be the one to help himself. But luckily, some were willing to help him with his recovery.

     

    "The problem with me is that I kept on relapsing," he said. "There's the regret and the willingness to change, but the urge is very strong."

     

    According to him, his case was more of not having control than having the guts to do things. With no control over his actions, he once assaulted his father, brother, and some friends. It was this unfortunate event that led his family to seek professional help.

     

    "I cannot change and control myself without any intervention. Even after rehab, I have to have support," he admitted. Support, for him, does not necessarily mean family. It's more of the people who understand his situation. It takes one to know one, he believes.

     

    Until now, he still hears judgmental comments from people every now and then. "Even if I know that they just don't understand what I'm going through, it still hurts every time I hear those comments." This brings back bad memories and the urge to return to his old ways. (LOOK: Drug rehabilitation center in Davao)

     

    EMPTY INSIDE. The rehabilitation center's basketball court with murals painted by the trainees.

    The unpaved road to recovery

     

    A recovering person, according to him, is very fragile. Anything can become a trigger, be it the sight of liquor or a cigarette, or any incident that he finds stressful or depressing.

     

    For Chuck's case, he had been to two rehabs before. The second one was successful, but the first was a complete failure. He attributed it to the lack of personnel, facilities, and the overall unconducive environment of the center. "After I got out the first time, instead of changing my ways, my drug abuse was just reinforced because of the lack of processing."

     

    A conducive environment, for him, is one where there is constant one-on-one counseling in order to first control the withdrawal symptoms of the trainees, which is a particularly difficult part of the recovery.

     

    "Addiction is a disease of making choices," he said. "Our priority is no longer survival, but to do drugs." This mindset, according to him, leads others to do horrible crimes like murder and rape. "Still, I believe that people deserve second, third, and several chances."

     

    While he has accepted his situation and his ability to change, he said that it is not the same for others. "It's hard to accept a situation that you don't believe in," he said, and this is the reason why many find it hard to undergo the necessary pressure of recovery. According to him, someone not in the right mindset will see the process as torture.

     

    After he completed the program, he was allowed to go out of the center. He stayed for a while with his father in Alabang, but realized that it was not healthy for him. "There was just so many triggers," he said. His father often drinks, and it was hard for him to reject his father's offer to drink with him. This led him to come back to the center and live there. He pays for board and lodging, and for five years now, it is the place he calls home. (READ: Ex-drug addict turned congressman to probe "cheap" rehab programs)

     

    Looking ahead

     

    At present, the center is paying for his studies. He is currently taking up social work in a university in Manila. When he is not at school, he works in the center as a program staff. "It's actually good because I've already experienced some of the things that I learn in school working as a social worker here," he said.

     

    For him, his hectic schedule balancing work and school is better because there is no idle time. "Idle time entertains bad thoughts," he said.

     

    With all that he has gone through, his biggest realization is that he can choose for himself. "In everything I do, I have choices," he said. He used to see himself only as a victim of circumstances, having no ability to control his life.

     

    "I still see myself as a victim, but I know now that I have the choice to either stay a victim or be part of the solution," he said. "If I choose to be okay, I know that I will be okay." - Rappler.com

    Do you know someone who is or was addicted to drugs and wants to tell their story? Send us an email: move.ph@rappler.com.

    Are you a drug user and are looking for counseling? Here is a list of drug rehabilitation centers accredited by the Department of Health and the Dangerous Drugs Board

    Renzo Acosta is a student at the University of Santo Tomas and a Rappler intern.

    This article first appeared on Rappler X.


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    The photograph of a wheelchair-bound elderly woman tied to a fence made rounds on social media, sparking outrage and allegations of neglect and abuse.

    MANILA, Philippines – Israeli police reportedly arrested a Filipina caregiver  for leaving an elderly wheelchair-bound woman tied to a fence outside a mall in Ramat Gan while she went shopping.

    A photograph of the elderly woman made rounds on social media on Tuesday, August 2, sparking outrage and allegations of neglect and abuse.

    According to a report by the Times of Israel, a concerned passerby named Dikla Amram Cohen saw the elderly tied outside a mall for at least 40 minutes, enduring the 32 degrees Celsius heat. 

    She then looked for her carer inside the mall and found her Filipina caregiver who, she said, apologized and left in a hurry.

    According to a report by Yedioth Ahronoth, the incident also caught the attention of Israel’s Interior Minister Aryeh Deri who called the caregiver’s actions "inhumane and shameful" and vowed to revoke her work permit and have her deported.

    The report quoted a lawyer representing the unnamed caregiver saying she "denies all accusations and is cooperating with investigators.” The lawyer also said that the Filipina never tied the elderly woman to the fence and that she was staying close to her all the time.

    Rappler is awaiting the Philippine Embassy's comments on the matter. – Rappler.com


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    JOY OF LOVE. British Jesuit academic and author Fr Michael Kirwan SJ, PhD, shares insights on Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) in a lecture at Xavier University on Tuesday, August 2. Photo by Whitney Nagasan.

    CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines –  In a document that lays down revised foundations for the Catholic Church's teaching on a host of issues related to family life, Pope Francis reminded married couples that a good marriage is a dynamic process:

    “Love does not have to be perfect for us to value it,” Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), a 200-page "apostolic exhortation" to the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.

    The document cites contemporary challenges faced by families throughout the world, reflecting on the Pope's instinctive tendency to try to make the Church seem a more merciful, less judgmental body in relation to those faithful who find themselves in "irregular" situations. 

    In a lecture recently held at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, a Jesuit academic and author explained that the apostolic exhortation asks the church to help families make good decisions in life, taking into consideration their own struggles and issues.

    "It is about taking the time, giving something the time it needs. Pope Francis wants us to be gradual about our pastoral care and not looking for instant results,” said Fr Michael Kirwan SJ, director of University of London's Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society (HIRS). 

    Give it time

    Kirwan said that the issues families face "need time for deeper reflection and discernment.” 

    “Most of us want to change everything. We want to change things right away without deep reflection. On the other hand, some of us want a simple, mechanical application of the general rules," he said.

    The scholar reiterated how Pope Francis views the church and its pastoral work – that the church is like a field hospital.

    "This means that the treatment you give to the wounded soldiers in the field is different from the treatment when they are recuperating later down the line. Time makes the difference,” he said.

    Kirwan underscored patience in the church’s pastoral care and ministry to families. The apostolic exhortation, he said, asked married couples, families, and pastoral ministers to care for those in need of the Lord's mercy and healing. 

    Amoris Laetitia encouraged the church to consider the complexities of people’s lives and to respect people’s reasons behind their moral decisions.

    Pope Francis, himself the son of divorced parents, said that the aim of the church is to “accompany, discern, and integrate” the people who fell short of the Christian ideals.

    Sexual abuse

    However, the document also drew criticism from various groups.

    In July, conservative and liberal church officials and scholars sent an appeal to the College of Cardinals asking Pope Francis to “repudiate erroneous propositions” contained in Amoris Laetitia.

    Kirwan was among those who posed questions, but he also suggested ways "to push the apostolic exhortation further forward.”

    “What about the negative aspects of family in Jesus’ teaching: ‘hate father and mother,’ ‘the sword which divides, and others? For some theologians, the essence of Christian discipleship is the decoupling from family, tribal, and national identities,” he said.

    Kirwan said that Amoris Laetitia should have also discussed the child sexual abuse cases, including those committed by priests and nuns in various parts of the world. 

    “Something powerful could have been said here about the child sex abuse scandal, as a global phenomenon, which takes place largely in the family,” he said.

    Amoris Laetitia is the result of Pope Francis's reflection on the two synods of bishops held in Rome – Extraordinary Synod in 2014 and Ordinary Synod in 2015. Both tackled controversial issues on marriage and family.
    – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

    Stephen Pedroza, Rappler's Lead Mover in Cagayan de Oro City, is a journalism graduate from Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan. He attended a course on new media in journalism at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana.


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    MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) developed a new web application that will allow users to determine how near they are to a specific fault line.

    The Phivolcs FaultFinder web app, created in partnership with the Geological Survey of Japan, shows detailed maps and provides the exact distance from the nearest fault line.

    Here's how to check the nearest fault in your area:

    Valley Fault System

    If you live in Metro Manila or its neighboring provinces, you should take a look at the Valley Fault System.

    One of the major active faults in the country, it traverses parts of Metro Manila and neighboring provinces such as Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite. Its active segments are the West Valley Fault and the East Valley Fault. (READ: What happens when the West Valley fault moves)

    1. Go to http://faultfinder.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/

    2. You will see 3 options on the screen. Choose the "Valley Fault System" button. A disclaimer will appear, then click "Agree."
    3. You will be asked to choose from 3 options:   

    a. For mobile users, you can choose "VFS Fault Nearest You," and it will automatically detect your proximity to the nearest fault based on your current location. Note that you have to enable the location settings of your phone first.

    b. If you choose "Active Fault Based on Location," you can select a location from the provincial level down to the barangay level. This will allow you to identify how far the center of a barangay is to the nearest fault.     

    c. If you want to be more specific (e.g. street-level), you can select "Double Click a Place on the Map."

    Cities and towns traversed by the 100-kilometer West Valley Fault may experience earthquakes of up to magnitude 7.2, while areas traversed by the 10-kilometer East Valley Fault are due for, at most, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake.

    Other fault systems

    For fault systems in other parts of the country, you can choose the "Other Fault System" option. In the drop-down menu, you have the option to choose more provinces.

    Base maps

    The web app also allows you to choose from 3 base maps: Philippines Geoportal (from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority), Google Maps – Hybrid, and OpenStreetMap.

    "If the user knows how to use Namria's topographic map, then no problem. But if he wants to look for his house or [a] specific spot, then he can use the Google base map, and also [the] OpenStreetMap," explained Phivolcs Director Renato Solidum.

    Among the 3, Google Maps is more visual since users can see actual buildings.

    Solidum added that since there are discrepancies in the other maps, users are given the option to switch from one base map to another while selecting only one location.

    Areas to avoid

    In a country located along the Pacific Ocean's Ring of Fire, hazards related to earthquakes should be considered in urban planning. (READ: All you need to know about preparing for earthquakes)

    Solidum reminds the public not to build houses directly on top of active faults. There must also be a buffer of at least 5 meters on both sides of a fault line.

    "Everyone – planners, government organizations, anyone can use it... The FaultFinder web app is important in preparing everyone for the potential effects of an earthquake," he said.

    FaultFinder can be used not only by engineers, urban planners, and property developers, but by ordinary citizens as well. – Rappler.com


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