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    ASSISTANCE. Vice President Leni Robredo and members of her staff pose with the Eraya family, one of the beneficiaries of the Metro Laylayan program. Photo by Loreben Tuquero/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – When Cecilia Eraya, 53, was asked what she hopes for her sari-sari store in the future, she answered, "Gusto ko sanang pandagdag-puhunan." (I would appreciate more capital.) 

    Given funds to start a sari-sari store, the Eraya family is one of the 10 beneficiary families of the Metro Laylayan program by the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Metro Laylayan provides livelihood opportunities for families in need in Metro Manila and surrounding areas. 

    They along with other beneficiary families came to a thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday, June 20, at the OVP in celebration of Metro Laylayan's first anniversary. 

    Vice President Leni Robredo graced the event not only to share stories of the beneficiary families but also to acknowledge the partners of the program.  (READ: Robredo's Metro Laylayan assists 10,000 beneficiaries in 1st year)

    A year after the implementation of program, how would the beneficiaries rate the program? For Nanay Cecilia, it could definitely do better. 

    Current situation

    The Erayas were given P10,000 in cash in January to set up their own sari-sari store, along with groceries and rice.

    Because of this, Nanay Cecilia said she no longer waits for her husband, Tatay Benjie, to come home from making tricycle rounds to give her daughter allowance. With a constant stream of income from the store, she had also stopped borrowing money from her neighbors. 

    Despite these, she claimed that the help is not really enough.

    "Sa ngayon, medyo kulang na 'yung mga items. Onti na lang natira, kaya medyo [naghihingalo]. Sinisikap ko rin makabenta," she said.  (For now, the items are dwindling, but I still try to make sales.)

    Nanay Cecilia hopes more sponsors will help her sell more products as she is competing with her neighboring sari-sari stores. According to her, customers would ask her for items she does not have, such as school supplies.

    It does not help that Tatay Benjie drives a tricycle he does not own. He would borrow one for P150 a day. According to Nanay Cecilia, he sometimes he earns just enough to pay this boundary. 

    College woes

    With a daughter who just graduated from senior high school and now all set to study BS Mechanical Engineering in college, Nanay Cecilia is also concerned with being able to support her eldest daughter's education.

    While Gicelle, 18, qualified for a full scholarship at the Colegio de Muntinlupa, Nanay Cecilia noted that she may not be able to provide for the miscellaneous expenses such as books, uniforms, and transportation.

    Ultimately, Nanay Cecilia hopes for more support as she struggles to make her small business thrive so she can continue sending her children to school.  Nevertheless, she thanked the Vice President for the help her office extended to them.

    "Naabot 'yung mga nandu'n sa kasuluk-sulukan ng mga mahihirap, at alam kong marami pa pong mahihirap kaysa sa amin, sana matulungan mo pa rin sila," she said. (You reached out to the poorest of the poor, and I know there are people who are poorer than us, I hope you can help them, too.)

    Responding to Nanay Cecilia's feedback, Metro Laylayan program officer Dion Romano said the capital fund they provided aims to augment the family's income and not to cover all their needs. 

    He added that they will include Nanay Cecilia in the financial literacy training workshop for sari-sari store owners, which will be facilitated by partner organizations Hapinoy and Sunlife Foundation.

    "With that, we hope that Nanay Celi will learn the necessary business skills to make her sari-sari store progressive," said Romano.

    He stated that Metro Laylayan will continue to monitor the progress of the Eraya family and the other family beneficiaries, especially in terms of the intervention they have provided. 

    The OVP does not full subsidize the program, given its low budget. To support its operations and continue providing assistance to families, the OVP links private companies and non-government organizations with local government units instead. 

    According to OVP, the program has successfully provided various types of assistance to some 10,000 individuals across Metro Manila and nearby areas after a year of implementation. – Rappler.com 

    Loreben Tuquero is a Rappler intern. She is Communication student at the Ateneo de Manila University.


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    DISCOURSE ON DISASTER.  Dr. Maja-Leah V. Ravag (middle) answers questions on disaster management during the open forum. Photo by Luisa Jocson/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – With the rainy season underway, the government and organizations are bracing for the coming storms. This raises the question: How do local government units (LGUs) improve public welfare during disasters?

    A study presented at a recent seminar on disaster risk reduction in the Philippines showed that in some cases, public welfare during disasters is compromised due to politics.

    Among the findings of the study, titled  “Coping with disasters due to natural hazards: Evidence from the Philippines,” presented by Dr Maja-Leah V. Ravago and her team, is that a one percentage point increase in the dynasty share of a province decreases the probability of recovery from disaster by 74%. (READ: The role of LGUs, local councils during disasters

    Ravago explained that officials who have shorter terms in office will most likely invest in risk management measures that will last only during their term. This is because if long term measures are in place, it will not be attributed to them but to whoever is in office.

    “More often you see mayors invest in [short-term] disaster management because the benefits accrue why they are still in office,” she said. 

    “You can really see the politics play in distributing relief,” Ravago added. “It’s a disaster. It plays a role in the recovery of LGUs. Local revenue and political dynasty matter." (READ: LGU contingency plans should be tested, regularly updated - DILG) 

    On the flipside, a one percentage point increase in the total revenues of an LGU was found to increase recovery by 7 percentage points. (READ: Bring disaster preparedness down to communities – DILG exec)

    Science in disaster management

    According to a World Risk report, the Philippines ranks third among countries with the highest risk and exposure to hazard worldwide. Studies show that there have been approximately 130 million Filipinos affected by weather-related disasters.  

    Seeking to find ways to strengthen the capacity of LGUs to prepare for and respond to disasters, Ravago, along with Dennis S. Mapa, Jun Sunglao, and James Roumasset, embarked on a study of the state of disaster management in the Philippines.

    The scope of their research focused on disasters caused by hydro-meteorological hazards – strong winds and rains, floods, landslides and big waves. Volcanic eruptions were excluded as they have a lower probability.

    A total of 47 provinces and 198 municipalities were sampled in the study that began in 2016.

    In this file photo, police rescues residents along Kalambaguhan street in Cagayan de Oro City as Typhoon Vinta lashes Northern Mindanao on Friday, December 22,2017. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

    An important factor of the study is "shock," which Ravago defined as “an unforeseen adverse event or disaster due to natural hazards that can lead to a decrease in welfare.”

    The survey asked the respondents from the green offices of the LGUs to define the shock they experienced. At least 189 out of the 193 municipalities said "yes" to experiencing shock. Of these, 61% experienced ‘very severe’ to ‘most severe’ shock in occurrences of floods, rains, and strong winds.

    Since the survey is perception-based, the researchers validated it with external data. A positive linear relationship was found, which meant that the perceptions of the LGUs coincided with the external measures, validating that the shock was indeed severe.

    Road to recovery

    Based on the study, Quezon City had the highest number of families – 200,000 – were affected by "most severe" shock.

    Among those affected, 67% have fully recovered. In terms of the state of recovery, 76% said that they were in better shape than before.

    Ravago expounded on the different types of recovery a municipality experiences after experiecing shock from a natural hazard.

    “The first is ‘no recovery’, where there are cases the municipality does not recover at all, like the experience of Haiti," she said.  “Then there’s ‘recovery to trend’ is when you go back to where you are before.”

    Another type is "creative destruction," where after the disaster, the affected area is not just able to bounce back, but further improve.

    Ravago cited the case of Bohol, which was struck by a strong earthquake in 2013.  “In Bohol, their public market was destroyed by a recent earthquake, and they’re now creating a more sophisticated, modern market,” she sid.

    Ravago said their team is eyeing a study on geological hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, landslides, and earthquakes. – Rappler.com 

    Luisa Jocson is an intern at Rappler. She is currently majoring in AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University. 


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    During my high school years, all I could think about was getting out of Manila. Having spent most of my life here, I was in need of a change in scenery and pace.

    To me, there was something toxically routine about the catered house parties, the overrated significance of "kuwento (storytelling)," and the urgency to grow up that inhibited so many of my friends. So when I boarded my flight to New York at the end of summer, there were no tears as I said my goodbyes to the city below me.

    I started my freshman year of college on the cusp of Fall. Throughout all my years of adolescent crushes, infatuations, and somewhat serious relationships, I had never loved anything like I loved sitting in Washington Square Park and describing the day's climate to my younger sister via WhatsApp.

    MANILA KID. 'It’s impossible not to have a connection to Manila in some way or another, regardless of where you are from,' says author Simona Gemayel.

    I quickly found an amazing group of friends who helped me navigate the New York lifestyle and eased my culture shock. However, more frequently, they helped explain to every new person I met that “Yes, her English is so good because it’s the only language she speaks. That’s a thing in the Philippines."

    For the most part, I had assimilated pretty well into college life. With my great friends, great teachers, and the great abundance of activities New York had to offer, I didn’t have much time to be homesick.

    Only under the stress of finals, the wrath of east coast winter, and the "FOMO (fear of missing out)" I felt from missing family events, did I finally crack. I called my mom asking what medicine to take and suddenly the questions became tangled with sobs.

    “I’ll see you in a week, okay?” was the motivation I used to get through the last week of that first semester.

    I landed in Manila 3 days before Christmas. I was greeted by the heavy heat of NAIA air, the "sorry for the inconvenience" sign placed on the escalator that went down to baggage claim, and a swaying choir singing Christmas songs. 

    After the first two weeks of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, I spent a month getting reaquainted with my old Manila routine. Yet even back in my mundane Manila life, I didn’t feel claustrophobic or that it was toxic, in fact, I realized that it was something I had subconsciously yearned for.

    When I returned to New York for the start of the second semester, I had never been more homesick. As much as I tried to distract myself, there was a constant discomfort I felt for not being at home. After many calls with friends from home, I could finally be diagnosed: I was a Manila Kid. 

    I don’t speak Tagalog (or understand it very well) and I’m not really a full Filipino (ethnically speaking), but when you grow up in Manila, the city somehow makes its way into your roots.

    CONNECTION. 'There is a kind of unspoken camaraderie between kids who grew up in Manila,' says Simona.

    Growing up in the country instills a certain set of values in you. The Manila culture, whether you were raised in it or grew accustomed to it, is ultimately taken to heart. There is a kind of unspoken comradery between kids who grew up in Manila. 

    Maybe it comes down to the sense of connection you feel when you’re making bad decisions on a Wednesday night at Black Market. Or perhaps it’s the sincerity in hospitality and genuine interest that is so pronounced when another Manila Kid asks, “How are you?” 

    I think on some level, you could even zero it down to the easiness of giving "beso’ (a buss on the cheek)" as a form of greeting. 

    It’s impossible not to have a connection to Manila in one way or another, regardless of where you are from. If you spend more than two years there, it marks you. You can find these marks in the simple things, like the way even Caucasians who went to school in Manila use the terms gags (idiot), basura’ (trash), kwents  (worthless) etc. The more significant Manila marks being things like having a tita (an aunt, not necessarily blood-related) or a guy friend always making sure you’re getting home safely.

    I don’t think I hold so much attachment to the physical city itself. But parts of the people I was raised with and went to school with, have been greatly shaped by Manila and are attachments that I can’t fathom separating from.

    There is an indescribable sense of community in finding another person who has grown in this city –it’s like being home. – Rappler.com

    Simona Gemayel is a Rappler intern. She studies Media Culture Communications at New York University.


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    LONG WAY. UP's Dr. Erwin Alampay believes that the presence of a PDAO in each LGU will help push for change the sector, end poverty, ensure inclusive quality education, and promote sustainable, economic growth.

    MANILA, Philippines – Only 60 percent of local government units have a Persons with Disability Office (PDAO), according to a study by the UP Center for Local and Regional Governance (UP CLRG) on persons with disability (PWD) inclusion in the Philippines.

    The low compliance of this requirement has severely impaired the implmementation of the law assuring the delivery of services to PWDs.

    “The presence of a PDAO office [in a local government unit] lowers the chances of PWDs having limited access to various services, such as health, employment, rehabilitation, assistive devices, education, social welfare and disaster management,” said Dr. Erwin Alampay, an associate professor of public administration from the University of the Philippines National Center for Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG) in a press conference on Tuesday, June 19.

    Alampay also said that the presence of a PDAO in each LGU would help push for change in the sector, end poverty, ensure inclusive quality education, and promote sustainable, economic growth.

    However, he said: “Only 6 out of 10" LGUs had a PDAO. This means "(T)here are 33 provinces, 25 cities and 282 municipalities with no PDAOs,” said Dr. Erwin Alampay.

    The implementing rules of RA 10070 enacted in 2010 mandated the creation PDAOs and the designation of PWD Affairs Offices or focal persons.

    Alampay, project head of the study on PWDs, and his team presented their findings to various stakeholders and government representatives at Sequoia Hotel in Quezon City.

    The study included a literature review, a roundtable discussion, an awareness survey for local government officials, 7 LGU case studies and key informant interviews.

    ‘Most vulnerable’

    “We have to educate our local governments, because the PWDs are the most vulnerable to poverty and lack of access to basic needs. This is connected to the idea of why we want to establish PDAOs in all LGU’s. This is why we’re pushing for PWD representation,” Alampay explained.

    In the study, 7 LGU’s with existing PWD programs were cited for their various initiatives. These LGUs were: Carmona (Cavite), San Lorenzo Ruiz (Camarines Norte), Angeles City, Mandaluyong City, Valenzuela City, Camarines Norte, and Iloilo Province.

    The PDAO office in San Lorenzo Ruiz, Camarines Norte started out with a zero budget in 2016, the year when the IRR was enacted.

    But according to Prejean Prieto, the researcher for the Camarines Norte PDAO, this financial limitation lasted for a short while. Soon, funds for the PDAO were brought back when the PDAO was given half of the funds allocated for the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA).

    "This was a minor setback, but the PDAO office in San Lorenzo Ruiz was able to come up with several projects such as the retrofitting of ramps, assisted devices and customizations, an ongoing registration for PWDs and livelihood trainings,” Prieto reported.

    Funds are very important in maintaining PDAO operations, according to Prieto. “Since it is an unfunded mandate, it will always be governed by the mantra for local governments. It will always be subject to the availability of funds," Prieto said, quoting an interviewee’s statement.

    In Iloilo province, the residents are still waiting for the actual establishment and operation of the PDAO, according to researcher Celenia Jamig.

    Though even without a PDAO, Iloilo City was able to spearhead PWD-friendly efforts, with the help of a focal person under the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Services Office (PSWDO).

    Some of the programs provided for Iloilo City PWD’s include the distribution of wheelchairs, data banking, employment matching, online registration of PWD’s and search for the best PWD-friendly city, according to Jamig.

    In a recent press release of CLRG, it was said that Iloilo is planning to set up a PDAO in line with the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) indicators.

    “However, the structure is planned to be under the SWDO. It will not be a department, division or section under the office of the local chief executive as the law requires,” the press release said.

    ‘More representation’

    Alampay and his team’s study came up with the following recommendations:

    • Strengthen the monitoring of PDAO implementation and incentivize compliance to the RA
    • Standardize data reporting of PWD information that can be linked to a national PWD registry
    • PWD representation/participation in LGU’s must be clearly established 

    “The enactment of an ordinance is not equivalent to its implementation,” Alampay said, during the synthesis of the study.

    For him, the forms of the government’s non-compliance with the RA 10070 and RA 10070 IRR are the following: the concurrent assignment as a focal person, the non-designation of the PDAO under the local chief executive as mandated by the law, and the non-observance of the general assembly requirement.

    “There is a need to manage the transition from the PDAO as a part of the SWDO, to its own department,” Alampay said.

    He also raised the point that becoming a concurrent PDAO head is not recommended, as it would require the PDAO head to oversee other tasks and projects. Being a concurrent head of a department means that one would be spearheading two or more projects at the same time.

    According to Alampay and his team, a few challenges that would come with institutionalizing the PDAO would be the creation and filling up of personnel in PDAO units, management structure, budget and a dedicated space for PDAO operations.

    “Overall, there is a low awareness of the RA 10070 among local legislators. Everyone must recognize that PWD interests must be heard,” Alampay said, recognizing the need for more PWD representation and awareness on the local government level.

    Alampay and his team’s study was funded by the Coalitions for Change program of the Australian Embassy and the Asia Foundation.

    The study will be released for viewing for stakeholders and government officials, but it won’t be released yet to the public, according to Elyzabeth Cureg, a research coordinator from the UP CLRG. 

    For more information about the study, you may contact Dr. Erwin Alampay at eaalampay@up.edu.ph. – Rappler.com 

    Angelica Y. Yang studies B.A. Journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a Rappler intern.

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – How do we become better LGBTQIA+ advocates?

    Rappler talks to Naomi Fontanos from GANDA Filipinas and Metro Manila Pride's Nicky Castillo and Loreen Ordoño to talk about the history of the Pride movement in the Philippines and how Metro Manila Pride has made the shift from last year's #HereTogether to #RiseUpTogether.

    In a time when our democratic institutions and human rights are facing challenges, how do we progress beyond identity politics into advocacy work that is responsive and intersectional? Why is it important to do so? Fontanos, Castillo, and Ordoño help us unpack these issues as we #RiseUpTogether for this year's Pride month.

    Watch the interview here on Rappler. - Rappler.com

     


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  • 06/26/18--03:30: WATCH: How did you come out?
  • MANILA, Philippines – The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has come a long way in the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, but the fight for equality and inclusion goes on.

    Discrimination, both overt and subtle, remains prevalent. The LGBT community is still denied certain civil rights and services. There are negative stereotypes that persist in society.

    Despite all odds, however, many people still find the courage to come out of the closet and walk among us as proud members of the LGBT community.

    In celebration of Pride Month, Rappler talked to members of the LGBT community to ask them about their stories and how they found the courage to come out. (READ: 'Rise Up Together:' Metro Manila Pride March set for June 30)

    TURNING POINT. 'Everything in my life changed after I came out,' says Rambo Talabong, a 21-year-old gay man.

    When did you realize you were gay?

    Rambo Talabong, 21, gay: I realized that I was gay when I started looking at other guys during elementary. It was just pure fascination. I was just fascinated. I just found them beautiful as people. And right then and there, I realized I was gay. And at first I was trying to deny it. I tried to deny it because you know, I was very Catholic before, but in the end when I hit high school, I just accepted it – I'm gay. 

    Fritzie Rodriguez, 25, lesbian: I think I first had the idea, but I didn't have the concept, when I was about 6. But the self-awareness about being a lesbian, probably around college.

    Jeremiah Ibañez, 20, gay: Nung pre-school when I was 5 years old, may kaklase akong may Barbie pencil case and Bratz and I was really fascinated. Do'n naman 'yun nagsta-start. Sa mga pink na bagay, and hindi ko masyadong trip 'yung mga binibili sa akin. Nung narealize ko na talaga, mga Grade 4. Hindi pa ako gano'n ka-exposed, hindi ko pa alam 'yung meaning ng gay. Alam ko na may gay, but what does it take to be gay? 

    Niccolo Angelo Vitug, 36, gay: I had crushes in grade school and high school. I came from an all-boys school. I didn't identify myself as gay then. I came out in college na. I decided that I'm just done not admitting things to myself, to my friends. 

    Kishan Garcia, 22, transgender: Actually I didn't realize I was gay. Ever since I had a sense of being, I knew it na. Never ako nagkaroon ng concrete time na, "Okay, gay ako." 'Yung pagiging trans ko, narealize ko 'yun nung second year college. First time ko na-learn 'yung term na transgender and nagkaroon ako ng identity crisis again. I realized that I was transgender rather than just a homosexual. 

    How did you come out?

    Rambo: I came out at college. I am from the province and I studied here in Manila. So I didn't get the chance to be together with my parents at all times, and for this case, also coming out. So I did it through chat. I chatted my mother, I just decided and wanted to come out at second year college. I was thinking about it for a long time already. I messaged her and told her, "Mom, I'm gay." 

    I didn't know how she would reply. She didn't see it for a good 15 minutes, so my heart was throbbing, I was so afraid what she would reply. But when she saw it, she just bombarded me with heart messages, heart emojis, heart GIFs, and I cried. That's how I came out to my mother. And from there I came out to my father and other friends.  

    It was the hardest part, coming out to my mom. But after that, it's easy coming out to everybody else.

    ONE'S OWN TIMING. 'Come out at your own pace,' 25-year-old lesbian Fritzie Rodriguez tells people who are thinking of coming out.

    Fritzie: It's not a one-time thing. Most people would say it's a process. 

    The first time was actually through Skype, because I was studying in Japan that time. I had to tell someone, so I skyped my friend and told her I'm a lesbian.

    Eventually, I came out to more people. To some of my friends, and when I was about 22, I wrote an article when I was still a full-time journalist. Everyone important to me read it. My parents texted me and said they read it. My dad's exact words were, "read it, luv u."

    Jeremiah: Actually, sobrang accident eh. It was a fun, happy night. When I was 12 and Grade 6 ako. And then, sa bahay nagsasayaw-sayaw ako. And then my dad asked me, "Bakla ka ba?" I was very hesitant siyempre, shy ako, knowing na my father is a very strict person. But I confidently said, "Yes. Opo. I am gay."

    Niccolo: It started when I placed a call to a friend of mine who was from our high school retreat group. The one who directed the retreat said, "God loved us for who we were." He even identified one image of Jesus as a "bakla" Christ, so "God came for us." So I called one friend from that retreat and told him I was gay. He decided to give me a copy of Danton Remoto's X-Factor. I read that and saw that there's a possible life for me as a gay person. I talked with other friends. 

    Eventually I came out to my family. When I was reflecting, I wrote an essay and left it in the printer and then my dad saw it. And so I came out to my dad. Then my mom saw me hang out with this guy frequently. She asked me while we were riding in the car if I was gay. I decided to tell her that I was gay. 

    CHALLENGES. 'Bakla ka lang,' 22-year-old transgender woman Kishan Garcia was told by her mom when she came out as transgender.

    Kishan: Actually before coming out, I read a thesis about it. I really wanted to confirm. I'm not really that super go with the flow. I wanted to learn about it muna. 

    When I first came out to my mom, she's from Bicol so medyo conservative, ang sinabi niya sakin, "Bakla ka lang." 'Yun ang sinabi niya sa 'kin. "It's all the same, bakla lang din naman ang lahat." It was really hurtful. It was in a dinner table. Brownout. And then, umiyak ako. Tapos hindi siya natulog sa bedroom niya. Do'n lang siya sa living room.

    Why did you decide to come out?

    Rambo: I decided to come out because being trapped inside the closet is very hard for me. I see myself as an extrovert. It's so hard to mingle with other people, talk with other people, while you're hiding something, even unconsciously. Even if you say that okay, sexuality or gender is something that you can avoid talking about. But it's something that's still a big part of me. It's also a big part of our culture. It's something that many people look for, many people notice. 

    There was this feeling of hiding constantly. And in that feeling of hiding, there's always that feeling of fear. I decided that I didn't want to live with that fear anymore. So I wanted to come out. At times there's still that fear – that people would judge you. But at that time, or at this time, because I know that I'm already out, I can stand by who I am and not hide anymore. That's why I came out.

    Fritzie: What really pushed me that time when I was in college was actually the RH (reproductive health) bill. It wasn't a law yet, it was a bill. I was part of a study group when I was 16. I left it already. I was asking them about the RH bill, and why some of their members were against it. And I asked what their thoughts were about the LGBT, and they said things I didn't agree with. After that, I did some thinking, some reintrospecting, researched about my rights, and I came out.

    REALIZATION. 20-year-old Jeremiah Ibañez realized he was gay when he was fascinated by 'pink things' as a child.

    Jeremiah: I decided to say yes, kasi gusto kong ma-express ang sarili ko. Nung elementary, gustong gusto ko nang maging masaya. 'Yung costumes namin, pang-girl. Nagsasayaw kami sa kalsada.

    Gusto kong ma-express [ang sarili ko]. Gusto ko din na makita nila I am very proud of myself at a very young age.

    Niccolo: I was tired of trying to be straight. I was tired of not saying things as how I saw them. I just had enough. Tama na. I had to be true to myself. If I would be loving to others, I had to be true to myself.

    Kishan: It's just being true to yourself. I don't think I can live a life na, niloloko ko ang sarili ko. Once ka lang mabubuhay eh. Lolokohin mo ba ang sarili mo? It's really not that simple. You have to think it through talaga. It's for yourself. It's for yourself. 

    Did anything in your life change after coming out?

    Rambo: I think everything in my life changed after I came out. The gender part and the sexuality part are a big part of me. I tried to hide it for years and after coming out, I was able to finally breathe better, live better, sleep better, and wake up better. And interact with people so much better. I didn't have to conceal my actions. I didn't have to tone down my voice. I didn't have to watch out for myself. I didn't have to be very conscious about what I wore, how I spoke, how I interacted with other people. I just became me.

    Fritzie: Yes. A lot of things changed. I feel more comfortable. I was able to find my people in the community. I was also able to use that voice as a writer and I was able to write more topics. Before I would write them as an outsider, but now I can speak as an actual member for the LGBT community.

    Jeremiah: Ang dami, ang dami. Kasi nung college ko, I went to PUP (Polytechnic University of the Philippines). Anything you want to wear, puwede. Puwede kang magpahaba ng buhok. Do'n ako nagstart na mag-makeup.  

    My dad told me, ay dapat ganito ka lang. Dapat ganito ka, dapat masculine gay. Pero hindi pala. I wanted to show everyone, I can express myself through art and that's makeup. Gustong gusto ko 'yun. 'Yung pagpapahaba ng buhok – I want to play with hair. It was very fun and 'yung mga tao alam nila kung ano ako. Wala akong tinatago. 'Yun ang pinakamalaking bagay, ang maipagmamalaki ko ay wala akong tinatago.

    'COMFORTABLE.' After coming out as gay, 36-year-old Niccolo Vitug says he could 'move in a freer way.'

    Niccolo: I could move in a freer way. I could be more comfortable with myself. There were people who very visibly reacted. Even my friends, I still feel their unease. But at least I'm true to them and they're true to me. The discomfort of other people, I can't do anything about that anymore. That has also become more pronounced, but I also just became more present to them. That's just the way it is.

    Kishan: Ang dami. Ang daming nag-change. Pakikitungo sa 'kin ng tao, 'yung wardrobe ko. Mas naging komportable ako sa sarili ko. I think I became an inspiration to some na takot. And also, I became more independent, dahil hindi nga siya tanggap. It's only tolerated by my family, mom. I became more independent and I think it's a good thing for me. At the end of the day, ikaw at ikaw lang din naman ang magthra-thrive to survive.

    Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of coming out?

    Rambo: At first I thought that it's better to come out as soon as possible, but after meeting so many people, so many LGBT people who aren't out, I realized that the best advice I could give is, "Come out at your own time. Come out at your own pace."

    There are no two people that are alike when it comes to their context, their families, their friends. So we can never really impose when you should come out or how you should come out. Come out at your own pace. Come out [in] your own way, how you want to come out. Don't rush. Think about it. And when you do it, don't regret it.

    Fritzie: Don't feel pressured. Come out at your own pace, in your decision, your own volition. Don't think you're required to come out right now, this very moment. If you feel like you need to come out because of other people, even if your intentions are good, you want to empower the LGBT community, if you're not ready, don't worry. It will come. You will come out when you're ready. Just enjoy the process. Keep learning. Don't discriminate [against] yourself or others. 

    Jeremiah: My advice for you is, of course, dapat ready ka physically, mentally, and emotionally. Because emotional pain is more difficult to handle than physical pain. You have to be ready. Kahit na tanggapin ka ng buong pamilya mo, kahit tanggapin ka ng lahat ng nakakakilala sa 'yo, paglabas mo ng bahay, everyone will not think the same way. Dapat ready ka, palaban ka. Know how to defend yourself. There are a lot of people who will discriminate [against] you. Expect that to happen.

    Niccolo: I was lucky because I had a community of friends and a family that was pretty open to the idea of coming out. I was blessed with the generosity of people around me. However, I have seen that other people have it differently. It's more difficult for them on many levels.

    But my highest value is to the truth. It's still to come out. One just needs to be prudent. Look for the spaces where you are welcome and get your strength from there.

    Be practical about coming out. If you're still dependent [on] your family, then please consider that. It has practical ramifications, but it's still the truth, but you have to dance with the truth.

    Kishan: One thing na na-realize ko talaga, 'yung standards of beauty for women, sobrang taas. Magkakaroon ka ng point na na-identify mo sarili mo as a woman pero 'yung ibang tao hindi pa din. 'Pag napansin nila na hindi ka pa babae, they're going to call you something different from your identity. Masakit 'yun.

    So you're gonna thrive to be passable, and be attractive. Masyadong mapre-pressure 'yung sarili mo na maging maganda. Just be yourself. Somehow, it matters what other people say, pero ang pinakanagma-matter ay sarili mo. If you really can't keep up with the standards, then don't. It's fine. – Rappler.com


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    IN ACTION. The Cebu Pink Paddlers in one of its international dragon boat races. Photo from the Cebu Pink Paddlers Dragonboat Team Facebook page.

    MANILA, Philippines – It's barely a year old, but the Cebu Pink Paddlers has already won in multiple dragon boat competitions – 5 championships and one runner-up title. What makes this feat more exceptional is its members are not your typical athletes; they're all cancer survivors.

    Composed of 15 members, the Cebu Pink Paddlers is the first all-women dragon boat team in Cebu and the first all-female breast cancer survivors dragon boat team in the Philippines.

    The team, established in July 2017, has humble beginnings.

    Mostly housewives and not initially into sports, the members discovered paddling when a fellow breast cancer survivor, Grace Diomare, introduced dragon boating to them.

    Diomare, who has been paddling for 6 months at the time, encouraged the women to try it because of its health benefits. Dragon boating proved to be beneficial to them as a therapy and recovery program, especially to ease some of the side effects of cancer treatment.

    Through ICanServe Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the early detection of breast cancer, the women decided to take paddling more seriously, eventually forming the ICanServe Dragonboat Team.

    From a group of 5, the team transitioned to what it is known today, the Cebu Pink Paddlers, as it recruited more members.

    “They are not just Breast Cancer Survivors; they are now athletes who are inspiring the world, teaching us that despite the scenarios that may happen in someone’s life, one should keep moving forward as life must go on," Christian Sy, Cebu Pink Paddlers’ head coach said.

    Championship titles from the Keelung Taiwan International Dragon Boat Festival (Breast Cancer Survivors Category) and the 12th Boracay International Dragon Boat Festival (Women’s Regular Category) are just some of their hard-earned medals.

    Sy, who has been training the team since the beginning, has nothing but praises and awe for his paddlers. After all, he knows how hard it is to have a family member with this kind of disease.

    “I didn't choose to be the coach of Pink Paddlers but maybe it was destined to happen as my auntie was also diagnosed with breast cancer, but she didn't survive. I offer every training and race to her, to everyone in the team, and to the community, that life must continue and it is worthy to be lived to the fullest," he said.

    Sy is also the head coach of much-admired PADS Adaptive Dragonboat Racing Team. (READ: Filipino PWD paddlers win gold in HK paradragon boat race)

    3 training programs

    The paddlers undergo a strict training consisting of 3 programs, running its full course all throughout the year and takes its peak 3 months before the team competes in any dragon boating bout.

    UNITY. The women paddlers treat their team as their second family. Photo from the Cebu Pink Paddlers Dragonboat Team Facebook page.

    On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the team undergoes land training. The lady paddlers do running routines, weight lifting, and special body workouts.

    Every Wednesday, they do pool paddling to enhance their power and load in every stroke of rowing.

    On Mondays, Fridays, and Sundays, they train at sea, perfecting their synchronization with the same power, load, and strength in paddling.

    As the rigorous training takes up their whole week, the paddlers have less time to spend with their own families.

    “I have a 6-year-old child that at this stage really needs my ample attention but I am also occupied with dragon boat trainings. There are times that I ask myself if I am going in the right path; times that I have a guilt feeling that I am neglecting my family. I am just blessed and thankful that I have an understanding husband who sees what's in me," Eden Paluca, one of the paddlers, said.

    With support system from their families and communities, and time management on the part of the paddlers, they are able to balance their responsibilities.

    But money has also proved to be a challenge.

    They spend on uniforms, hotel accommodations, flight tickets, and the training itself.

    As sponsorships and solicitations from private institutions are not usually sufficient, they sometimes find themselves spending their own money. But the team remains hopeful that more people will notice and help them in their advocacy.

    SECOND CHANCE. The Cebu Pink Paddlers members find new hope in dragon boating. Photo from the Cebu Pink Paddlers Dragonboat Team Facebook page.

    The Cebu Pink Paddlers’ team captain, Ma Liberty Rañoa, said she is confident that the team will continue to get better. 

    It's the best way to show the world that cancer can't stop anyone from living a fulfilled life, she said.

    The team is set to compete and defend one of their titles in Taiwan in October. – Rappler.com

    For donations, you may contact them at cebupinkpaddlersdbt17@gmaill.com and at (+63)917 630 714.

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – With the much-awaited Metro Manila Pride March well underway, what are the LGBTQIA+ developments in other regions of the Philippines?

    Get to know more about the current state of LGBTQIA+ movements in Mindanao and Visayas with Hamilcar Chanjueco Jr. from Mindanao Pride and Roxanne O. Doron from Bisdak Pride, Inc., as their organizations bring forward their advocacy for justice, acceptance, and equality.

    In an environment affected by poverty, armed conflict and cultural differences, how do these movements thrive?

    Chanjueco and Doron tackle the gender discrimination faced by their communities and their various efforts: from lobbying gender inclusive policies to using theater as a platform for development, and more.

    Watch out for the interview on Thursday, June 28, at 7 pm. - Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – In 2016, UNICEF dubbed the Philippines as the global epicenter of the live-stream sexual abuse trade– an indication that online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) is an issue that plagues Filipinos of all ages.

    Forms of OSEC that are prevlent in the country include live streaming videos of children performing sexual acts, coercion of pimps in internet cafes or parents at home, and trafficking and trapping children in ‘cyber dens.’

    Responding to this pressing problem, organizations have collaborated to develop ‘AlamBaU,’ an online hub that provides resources for educating, supporting, and connecting stakeholders from different age brackets in the fight against OSEC.

    AlamBaU provides audience-specific materials on preventing OSEC that target 4 demographics: kids, teens, parents, and teachers.

    We designed the contents of AlamBaU.ph – the tone and language used, and the form it is presented – in such way that would effectively reach different audiences, keeping in mind their different attitudes and behaviors online; we actually tested the materials with its intended audience,”  Dakila OIC-Executive Director Rash Caritativo said.

    The website was developed by Dakila and The Asia Foundation, supported by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. New developments to the AlamBaU website were announced on Tuesday, June 26, in Hotel Jen Manila, Pasay City.

    According to Caritativo, the developers recognized the varying stakes that the respective age brackets have on the OSEC issue, therefore they designed the content for each sector according to tone, language, and form.

    “AlamBaU.ph was a localized response to the need of Filipinos to understand the Internet and the risks attached to its use. With the growing threats to children, especially online, it is imperative that stakeholders, especially parents and teachers, have access to tools and knowledge that can enable them to protect children active on the internet,” Caritativo added.

    Caritativo explained that this method “would effectively reach different audiences, keeping in mind their different attitudes and behaviors online.”

    The site’s other features include the following:

    • Resources page (downloadable Department of Education-approved cyber safety modules and kits)

    • Upload tool (for resource-sharing)

    • Directory of relevant national authorities, institutions, and organizations

    • Blog (relevant news and articles on OSEC and cybersafety)

    • Local language translation (Tagalog and Cebuano)

    AlamBaU was launched in 2016 in response to the growing issue of OSEC.  Caritativo mentioned how during that time, the Philippines was becoming a hotspot for child pornography, even perpetuated by family members of children themselves. (READ: Stolen: Pretty Girls)

    Since then, the platform focused on education as a response to OSEC, gathering materials that will inform kids and teens as well as parents and teachers on cyber safety issues.

    “Targeted talaga siya to parents and even teachers kasi sila ‘yung kumbaga nasa first line of defense, so sila ‘yung unang tatakbuhan ng bata, sila ‘yung unang makakapansin kung may something bang mali sa bata, and at least to capacitate them para makita ‘yung mga red flags,” said Caritativo.

    (It is targeted toward parents and teachers because they are the first line of defense. They are the first ones the child will run to and they are the first ones who will notice if there’s something wrong with the child. It will capacitate them to see the red flags.)

    The site also functions as a platform for stakeholders such as parents, police, government, and inter-agency councils to collaborate and share materials.

    Two years after launching AlamBaU, Caritativo said that the developers are still looking for collaborators to level up the website. Caritativo expressed their vision to develop the site further and make it multi-platform, such as developing a mobile application or an Ami and Abu online/television show.

    They are also looking for partners and proponents that would adopt and sustain the website.

    AlamBaU.ph was further developed with the help of the following collaborators: Philippines Against Child Trafficking, End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography & Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes Philippines, Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw, Children’s Legal Bureau, Stairway Foundation, Development Action for Women’s Network, Oceana Gold Philippines, and Telstra Foundation Philippines. Rappler.com

     Visit the site at alambau.ph

    Loreben Tuquero is a Rappler intern. She is Communication student at the Ateneo de Manila University.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Ever heard of paperless attendance sheets for classroom use?

    Going viral online is the Facebook post of Cavite public high school teacher Michael Angelo C. Maleriado who showed how he tracks his students’ attendance using QR Codes – two-dimensional barcodes used to provide easy access to information through a smartphone.

    As of June 27, the post has garnered 11,000 likes and shared over 12,000 times.

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    Maleriado told Rappler in an interview that he believes that this is an easy and convenient alternative to the usual attendance sheets printed on paper.  

    “As a public school teacher, it is no doubt that we consume so much paper in one school year – making quizzes, handouts, test papers, research papers, forms, grading sheets, and so much more. That is a lot of paper and some of it just goes to waste,” Maleriado said.

    The 37-year-old teacher said that he came up with the idea at the start of class this year. He also teaches Contact Center Services (CCS) under the technology and livelihood education department in GEANHS. He pioneered the trend at the General Emilio Aguinaldo National High School, noting that his co-teachers have yet to pick up the eco-friendly trend.

    “I was trying to figure out how I could monitor the attendance of my students. Our printer broke in the faculty room so I couldn't print the attendance sheet for my classes. So I browsed [online] for an attendance checker online and I saw this app called Attendance Control Checker [where you can] use QR codes,” Maleriado quipped.

    He asked for the opinion of his students, who "loved’ the idea, and were all excited to come to class to have their codes scanned. Scanning QR Codes allows a person to record a huge amount of data, and transfer them to a Microsoft Excel file through a mobile app.

    According to Maleriado, the advantages of this method include helping the environment, saving money, and easier access to data.

    However, the alternate method has its downsides. “If a user is very careless and not organized, he/she could accidentally delete the files and completely lose the records. Also, technology may not be available in some areas making it difficult for [people in that area] to go paperless,” Maleriado said.  

    Today, Maleriado’s students go to school with printed QR codes or digital QR codes on their phones.

    “Every time they come to my class, they form a line outside and prepare their QR codes. I stand right outside the door and scan their codes one by one. Scanning 30 students only takes me less than 3 minutes to check everyone,” he explained.

    Maleriado, who is also a travel blogger, shared that he advocates a zero-waste living.

    “I have to create awareness, not just for the readers [in my blog], but also for my students, on how to lessen the amount of waste we produce. Going paperless is one way of doing that,” he said. – Rappler.com

    Angelica Y. Yang studies B.A. Journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a Rappler intern.

     


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    MANILA, Philippines – When solutions to address climate change are at the tip of our fingers, who’s responsible for communicating them?

    Different stakeholders discussed the importance of raising awareness on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and their effects on climate change in an event held Wednesday, June 27.

    HFCs are primarily used as refrigerants, and are commonly found in air conditioners, aerosols, and refrigerators. 

    They are among the many contributors to climate change worldwide. Under the Kigali Agreement, HFCs are to be phased out, in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius as per the Paris Agreement.

    Jessica Dator-Bercilla, Climate Change Advisor for Asia and the Middle East for Christian Aid, stressed the urgency to disseminate solutions and alternatives to HFCs.

    “We’re working hard towards ensuring that the temperature increase doesn’t go beyond 1.5 degrees. There’s an urgency for doing that, and that’s why we need to communicate it to everyone so they become a part of that movement,” she added.

    The event, entitled “Climate Café: HFC Phasedown and Climate Solutions Towards 1.5”, was hosted by Climate Stories Philippines, in partnership with Christian Aid Philippines and The Climate Reality Project Philippines. It was the first installment of the Climate Café series, a series of informal gatherings on climate stories and solutions.

    Beatrice Tulagan, executive director of Climate Stories Philippines, said she hopes to arrive at an interdisciplinary approach to climate change through the Climate Café series.

    “Keeping the conversations within scientific circles, within advocates, and within the newsroom – it doesn’t work anymore. We have to bring all these people together, so the conversation for enhanced climate action really has to happen between different stakeholders,” she said.

    Awareness and constituency

    Dator-Bercilla highlighted the significance of raising awareness and tapping constituents.

    “For it to be given attention by the senators and the President, people have to talk about it, because if people don’t talk about it, it will not get the attention of our policymakers, particularly the senators,” she added.

    On October 15, 2016, parties to the 1987 Montreal Protocol created the Kigali Amendment, which aims for the phasedown of HFCs.

    The elimination of production and consumption of HFCs aims to reduce global warming by 0.5 degrees by the year 2100. The Philippines has yet to ratify and accede to the said agreement. (READ: Legarda at COP23: ‘We have to do both the difficult and the impossible’)

    “Our goal is not only obviously to communicate, but also to lobby for policy, and we can’t do that without people knowing what we’re lobbying for,” Tulagan said in a mix of English and Filipino.

    The danger of HFCs

    HFCs were introduced to replace chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were discontinued under the Montreal Protocol after they were found to be responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer.

    While HFCs are not classified as ozone-depleting substances, their global warming potential (GWP) can range from 12 to 14,000, making them more harmful than carbon dioxide emissions (CO2).

    HELPFUL OR HARMFUL? John Algo compares and contrasts HFCs with CO2 emissions and assesses their likelihood to contribute to global warming. Photo by Gaby N. Baizas/Rappler.com

    At Wednesday’s event, John Leo Algo, incoming Science Policy Associate at The Climate Reality Project Philippines, emphasized the increase in HFC usage. He said the rate of HFC consumption in the Philippines increased from 2010 to 2016, and is bound to keep increasing in the next 20 years as well.

    Without addressing the increase in HFC usage, energy demand for space cooling will consume nearly 40% of electricity growth in buildings and more than 20% of global electricity growth by the year 2050.

    The Philippines was also listed as one of the 12 nations with the greatest potential for rises in air conditioning use, in a study by Lucas W. Davis and Paul J. Gertler.

    Humble solutions

    While the Philippines has yet to ratify the Kigali Amendment, Dator-Bercilla encourages Filipinos to combat climate change in small ways.

    “Climate affects each and every one of us. Each of us will have the task to contribute to that, to addressing climate change, no matter how little it is—a change of clothing, turning down the air conditioning unit...it might be insignificant for you, but it is a big help for the environment,” she said.

    Algo discussed the importance of energy efficiency, or opting for alternatives that produce the same amount of cooling at lower economic and environmental costs.

    “Sometimes, the best solutions do not always have to be something that is so revolutionary, you’ve never seen it before. Sometimes, it’s about going back to the basics,” he advised.– Rappler.com

    Gaby N. Baizas is a Community intern at Rappler, and is an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is an AB Communication major under the journalism track.

     


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    In earlier episodes of "Right of Way," road safety advocate Vince Lazatin tackled problematic road signs and pavement markings around Metro Manila. (WATCH: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3)

    The trilogy merited a response from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA),with Traffic Management Office Director Noemie Recio explaining why Philippine road signs are wordier compared to international standards.

    The MMDA rectified at least 6 road signs and pavement markings along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City. Watch this episode to see the corrective actions taken. – Rappler.com


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    I AM A WOMAN. #BabaeAko members march from Luneta to Liwasang Bonifacio to join the Independence Day protests on June 12, 2018. File photo by Jire Carreon/Rappler

    MANILA, Philippines – They said they've had enough, and they were heard.

    In a list released on Friday, June 29, the #BabaeAko (I am a woman) movement in the Philippines was named among Time magazine's "Most Influential People on the Internet."

    #BabaeAko, launched last May as a social media campaign after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that she preferred the next Ombudsman to be “not [a] woman,” captured the anger and frustration of many Filipino women over the President's misogynistic remarks since he assumed power in 2016.

    The campaign began as series of #BabaeAko videos where women would introduce themselves and criticize the President. The spiel ends with the vow, lalaban ako (I will fight). 

    Among those who joined the campaign were Judy Taguiwalo, former social welfare secretary of President Duterte, and Mae Paner, popularly known as performance activist Juana Change. (READ: Filipino women take #BabaeAko movement from social media to the streets)

    #BabaeAko later went beyond social and mounted a street protest. On June 12, on the occasion of the Philippines’ Independence Day celebration, Filipino women and women’s rights groups took to the streets to call for Duterte's resignation. 

    Time's recognition of the movement on Friday came two days after Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, belittled the campaign, saying it was "doomed." 

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    “That #babaeako campaign is doomed [….] Many women and some men are known to be damsels in distress, that #babaeako included,” Mayor Duterte said on her Instagram post.

    This isn't the first time that Filipino women stood out in the new environment of online protests.

    In 2017, fourteen-year-old Shibby de Guzman sparked conversations on social media after joining a spontaneous protest against the hero's burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos, with her picture going viral.

    This landed her in Time's list of "30 Most Influential Teens of 2017."

    The June 29, 2018 Time list of "Most Influential People on the Internet" is an annual roundup of people who have made a global impact on social media.– with reports from Samantha Bagayas/Rappler.com

     


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    TRIUMPHANT. Jeb Baclayon Bayawon as a child working in a landfill, and as a fresh graduate. Photo grabbed from Bayawon'€™s Facebook profile

    CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – Jeb Baclayon Bayawon thought that he would collect scraps and empty plastic bottles all his life.

    That all changed after he seized the chance to pursue an education through the aid of a foreign-funded foundation. Ten years after he got the opportunity, he donned his toga and cap and marched with fellow graduates of the Mindanao State University – Naawan in June.

    The 23-year-old Bayawon shared in an interview that the path towards earning his degree – Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English – was paved with obstacles.

    Life in a dumpsite

    “I grew up in the landfill where my siblings and I scavenged for recyclable scraps and empty plastic bottles to help our parents for their livelihood,” Bayawon recalled.

    The 17-hectare dumpsite that stretched over an upland area of the city used to have mounds of garbage before it was rehabilitated in 2017.

    Bayawon said his parents encouraged him and his siblings to work for a living at an early age. “We sold the scraps and bottles to the junk shops,” he said.

    Bayawon and his siblings would scavenge for leftovers in the trash and cooked them again at home. Anything edible they could find would be enough – from fast food scraps to wrapped candies, he said.

    DUMPSTER DAYS. Jeb’s childhood photo taken by one of the volunteers of the Island Kids Philippines Foundation. Photo courtesy of the Island Kids Philippines Foundation

    Despite their situation, Bayawon’s father pounded in their heads that education should remain a priority.

    “My father always advised me to go to school,” he shared. “But when I was in elementary, some of my classmates teased me about living in the dumps and having no proper hygiene. Whenever I opened my baon (packed food) during recess, they grimaced because they knew that it came from the trash.”

    The bullying incidents discouraged Bayawon from going to school, and when his father suffered from tuberculosis, he found a reason to drop out of school.

    “I was 12 when my father died because of that,” he said. “And not long after, my mother breathed her last after a hypertension attack.”

    Bayawon was left with is siblings, but even the latter had to leave their home in search of better opportunities.

    Turning point

     

    In 2007, while going through garbage in the landfill with other kids, Bayawon was interviewed by Thomas Kellenberger, a former law enforcer from Switzerland. He established the Island Kids Philippines Foundation after witnessing the extreme poverty of Filipino children when he toured the country, 

    IKP is a private-aid organization mainly operating in Cagayan de Oro. For over a decade, it has advocated for the impoverished children’s right to education and has provided abused and stigmatized minors permanent care and shelter.

    Bayawon went on to become one of IKP’s earliest beneficiaries after he received the opportunity to return to school. (READ: 'Sponge boy': 13 years of selling dish cleaners pays off)

    “I continued my studies because I wanted to learn,” Bayawon said. “I didn’t want people to look down on me.”

    The foundation provided him with the necessary requirements for school – tuition, supplies, an allowance, and lodging. He left the dumpsite.

    The foundation has a 5,000-square meter property in Barangay Canitoan which has an elementary school and two one-story shelters for over a hundred minors, mostly  orphans. These include children from impoverished communities and victims of human trafficking. Volunteers, mostly educators, aid the foundation whose main funding comes from donors in Switzerland and Germany.

    It was in school where Bayawon developed the proficiency for conversational and oral communication in the English language, and soon discovered his skill for public speaking.

    After completing his elementary education in one of the local schools in the city, he took the alternative learning system (ALS) so he could catch up with tertiary education at his age. (READ: A Kagay-anon's leadership journey to empower the youth)

    “When I passed the ALS Assessment and Equivalency Test, I found out that I could advance to college,” he said. “IKP has encouraged me to pursue it, so I took the entrance exam at Mindanao State University-Naawan.”

    Upon passing the entrance exam, he chose Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in English because of his interest in the language and his dream of becoming an educator.

    It was not a smooth ride as Bayawon had to overcome the inevitable challenges that comes with pursuing a college education.

    “Some classes had been tough,” he said. “I had to manage my schedule and adjust to pressure. There were moments when I couldn’t relate to the conversations with my classmates because they’d talk about their lives with their families which were completely different from mine; and their high school experience, dwhich I didn’t have.”

    “But whenever these drawbacks challenged me, I had to remind myself why I started in the first place. All I had to do was to bring myself to school and study,” he added.

    He became a dean’s lister in his first semester in college. His crowning achievement, of course, is graduating from a 4-year program.

    Bayawon reunited with his siblings during his graduation. He plans to give back to the community that aided him and to advocate for education.

    “I am looking forward to the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET) this September,” he said. “Beyond that, I am planning to stay with the IKP Foundation where I can volunteer as an ALS teacher.”

    Bayawon has taken a giant leap from scavenging the landfill to brandishing his diploma along with this year’s graduates. He plans to use his degree and experience in teaching to help many like him find their path towards a similar promising future. – Rappler.com

    Angelo Lorenzo is one of Rappler’s Lead Movers in CDO. A Development Journalism graduate from Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan, he now works in the city’s local government unit.


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    MANILA, Philippines – Progressive and forward-thinking, the country's capital is emblazoned with rainbow colors and crowded with all genders chanting for equality every Metro Manila Pride March.

    Like the Pride March, most LGBT-friendly movements are still centralized in Metro Manila. Other regions continue to lag behind in addressing the concerns of the sector, especially those in less developed spaces and areas of conflict. 

    Even until now, LGBT Muslims, especially those from Mindanao, are part of an underrecognized sector of the community. (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)

    Homosexuality as 'haram'

    Rhadem Camlian Morados, an openly gay filmmaker from Zamboanga City, has struggled to reconcile his sexual orientation with his Muslim roots. Much of Muslim society regards homosexual acts as haram or forbidden by Islamic law. In turn, Muslim parents often disown their gay children. Though the Qur’an states homosexuality is sinful and should be corrected, it does not specify the punishment. (READ: On being gay and Muslim)

    Part of Rhadem’s trial with his sexuality stems from his family roots. He faced even more pressure as his father is a high-ranking police officer and his grandfather is a Muslim priest or imam. Additionally, one of his grandfather’s brothers is the governor of Basilan, while another is one of the founders of the Moro National Liberation Front. There were strong expectations to be masculine and to uphold the family name.

    “I grew up in an environment where there’s a really strong conservative-like masculinity where you need to be strong – there’s no room for softness, and you cannot taint the family name,” Rhadem explains.

    As Rhadem is open with his identity, many have doubted his commitment to his religion

    “A lot of people always question my faith. They were like, ‘Oh you’re gay, so you’re not Muslim,’” he shares.

    Though most Muslims claim they accept gay people, this often comes with certain conditions. Morados discusses how Muslim society tends to be more open with the idea of homosexuality when this doesn’t involve the family.

    “Some Muslims naman, they’re like, ah, we tolerate, we accept gay people, but not within our family. You know, there’s a sort of bias there where it’s convenient for them,” he says.

    He observes that most Muslims “fear what they do not know,” until it is properly presented to them. During his missions for the Teach Peace Build Peace Movement, he reached out to different communities in conflict areas and connected with many conservative Muslim Mindanaoans in spite of his sexual orientation.

    “I think it’s really a nice message. Like, now there’s this one family in Marawi...these are conservative Maranao, that after what we did, our psychosocial therapy, aid activity and whatsoever, and helping the refugees, they have seen the human side, the flaws of the LGBT," he adds.

    FOR THE BBL. Rhadem Morados meets with Bangsamoro Transition Council Atty. Maissara Latiph, one of the commissioners who drafted the BBL. Photo courtesy of Rhadem Morados

    Policy and protection

    Arnold Jarn Ford Buhisan from Misamis Oriental is a training specialist for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Arnold identifies as gay. With his line of work, he combines his day job with his advocacy for LGBT rights through gender and development training.

    Since the creation of DSWD’s Gender and Development division, Buhisan has been working on SOGIE training modules that address multiple concerns of the LGBT community. DSWD employees nationwide are mandated to undergo gender sensitivity trainings.

    “Ang goal naman talaga ng Gender and Development ay pagcreate ng gender-responsive systems and processes ng government. At hindi lang government, outside the government also. So when you say gender-responsive, lahat ng mga processes, ay always in consideration with the LGBT sector,” he explains.

    (The goal of Gender and Development is to create gender-responsive systems and processes in government. And not just within the government but also outside the government. So when you say gender-responsive, all processes are always in consideration with the LGBT sector.)

    ABOUT SOGIE. Arnold Buhisan discusses sogie during a gender sensitivity training conducted for the staff of DSWD Central Office. Photo courtesy of Arnold Buhisan

    Mindanao still lacks in common LGBT initiatives and facilities typically centralized in Metro Manila, such as support groups, and gender-neutral restrooms. Buhisan stresses the importance of having these facilities readily available to the LGBT community in Mindanao.

    “Government policies, responsive sa needs ng mga LGBT, 'yun yung pinakawala sa Mindanao, na nakikita ko na importante talaga. Kasi, if you have issues na LGBT issues at concerns, saan ka pupunta sa Mindanao?” he says.

    (Mindanao lacks the most in implementing government policies that are responsive to the needs of the LGBT, which I think are really important. If you have issues that involve LGBT concerns, where will you go in Mindanao?)

    The case of Mindanao

    Islam is the second largest religion in the Philippines, and 94% of the country’s Muslim population is in Mindanao.

    Considering the conservative nature of the religion, paired with the lack of gender-responsive government systems, the LGBT community in Mindanao faces unique struggles in grappling with their identities, sexualities, and reputations. (READ: [OPINION] The extra struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in Mindanao])

    Both Rhadem and Arnold have received remarks about not conforming to prevalent gay stereotypes. Some of these stereotypes reduce gay men to hairdressers and makeup artists, as well as flamboyant crossdressers.

    “Hindi ibig sabihin na being an LGBT ay kailangan magsuot in a certain way, nagsestereotype na dapat suot ka pambabae. The question is always na, 'Bakit hindi ka nagsusuot ng mga pambabae? 'Di ba LGBT ka?' Parang 'yun lagi ang tanong sa probinsiya,” Buhisan explains.

    (Just because you’re a member of the LGBT community, that doesn’t mean you have to dress a certain way, and you’re stereotyped to dress like women. The question is always, “Why aren’t you wearing clothes for women? Aren’t you LGBT?” It seems like that’s always the question they ask in the province.)

    Trumping with pride

    Rhadem and Arnold are both core members of  Mindanao Pride, an LGBT movement and organization for Mindanaoans. They hope that the pride march in Cagayan de Oro city will encourage LGBT Mindanaoans to come forward with their personal and collective trials.

    “Nakakatuwa kasi noong nagstart ang Mindanao Pride, parang nakita ko na ang path towards advocacy sa Mindanao. Kasi, finally, may entry point ang Mindanao,” Arnold says.

    (It’s heartwarming because when Mindanao Pride started, I finally saw the path towards advocacy in Mindanao. Because, finally, Mindanao has an entry point.)

    Mindanao Pride aims to gather several LGBT organizations to march together and to celebrate diversity amid prevalent prejudices in their communities.

    Rhadem envisions the event will serve as a political statement, as LGBT Mindanaoans will become more visible to local government officials as well as their needs and concerns. In light of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to be finalized in July, Rhadem hopes local government will finally be able to address the needs of the LGBT sector.

    “At least we were able to establish strong LGBT groups and community all over Mindanao, so that once they implement, whether federalism or Bangsamoro, they can no longer say that you cannot be gay. Because in politics, number is power,” he explains.

    Additionally, Rhadem hopes Mindanao Pride will provide a “state-sponsored safe space” for gay Mindanaoans who are afraid to come out, and to provide them with the proper support.

    “I think it’s also a political campaign to show our local politicians and lawmakers that if you wanted to stay in power, you need to respect gay people,” he says. “I envision that in the near future, you cannot campaign for public office without knocking on the LGBT doors. ‘Cause we exist, and we can no longer hide in the shadows.” – Rappler.com

    Gaby N. Baizas is a Community intern at Rappler, and an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is an AB Communication major under the journalism track. 


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    COMMUNITY. Participants gather at the second installment of the 'Let's Talk' series held at Arkipelago. Photo courtesy of Where There Is Hope

    MANILA, Philippines – How can art and Scripture help patients with psychiatric disorders?

    In the Philippines, one in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

    Given this, a group of young Filipino millennials formed Christian and non-profit organization Where There Is Hope (WTIH).

    The group's name is inspired by Psalm 42:11 from the Bible. It reads: "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

    WTIH's aim is to "provide a safe outlet for those dealing with mental health issues through Scripture, testimony, and art."

    Turning to God, art

    It was only in 2017 when, like an answered prayer, founder and executive director Juliann Savard met the individuals who would be working with her in the future for WTIH.

    Currently, WTIH has a core team of 5 and a handful of volunteers. A year since the group was formed, they've already organized several projects – work that's very personal to them as they have their own battles with mental illness.

    WTIH managing director Sophia Mikaela Montaña said their discussions center on Scripture, as they attempt to seek healing.

    "It ends up becoming like 'I-ism' when we focus on ourselves. The Word of God says that we can go to him when we are weary," Montaña explained.

    "We found rest in God. We couldn't find it in [a] self-help book," she added.

    Art also serves as another pillar of the organization. Most of the members express themselves through art – from music and graphic design, to even martial arts.

    Inclusive organization

    Although they're rooted in scriptural teaching, WTIH is very much open to non-Christians.

    "We're very inclusive. If anything, the Body of Christ is more than accepting and loving of all," Savard said.

    Their projects include the "Let's Talk" series, a roundtable-style discussion and workshop where people can talk freely and ask questions about mental health. For this project, artists who are also advocates of mental health are invited to perform.

    WTIH also has an online campaign for organizing support groups, called #WhereIsGodInMentalHealth. They collect testimonies from people who had mental health conditions and how their relationship with God had an impact on them.

    The group has also partnered with Virtualahan, an organization based in Davao City that empowers disadvantaged individuals, in co-curating an event that invites artists to contribute pieces to exhibit and hopefully auction off.

    Mental illness in PH

    Savard noted that one challenge in battling mental illness in the Philippines is the "grin-and-bear-it" mentality that persists. (READ: How does the PH fare in mental health care?)

    "Our people need to be happy at all times or people need to just hide their suffering. I think what we're trying to say as a movement is Jesus ain't about that. Jesus [isn't] about you going to Mass and covering up everything that you feel," she said.

    "God says, 'Come to me because I know exactly what you're going through. I was once here on this earth. I died on the cross and when I died on the cross, I didn't just die for physical illnesses. I died for mental illnesses as well,'" she added.

    There is hope in the recent signing of Republic Act No. 11036 or the Philippine Mental Health Act of 2018, which would provide affordable and accessible mental health services for Filipinos. (READ: 'Major victory': Groups hail signing of Philippine Mental Health law)

    This coming August, WTIH will represent the Philippines at the United Nations Youth Assembly. The group will be presenting on mental health under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of Good Health and Well-Being, and Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

    The WTIH team is organizing a campaign to help raise funds for their trip and expand their network.

    Savard said they have big dreams for WTIH, and would welcome more volunteers.

    "Jesus is our banner, and love is our banner," she said. "If Where There Is Hope is the movement for that, then in any way that God's going to prosper us, I really hope it will be through those things, where we'd be a very active mental health organization, or we [would] have an established office."

    She added: "We really want to be fully working. This is my heart and soul." – Rappler.com

    If you are interested in volunteering or donating to Where There Is Hope, you can contact them here. Watch this video to learn more about mental health in the Philippines and Where There Is Hope.

    Luisa Jocson is an intern at Rappler. She is studying AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University.


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    OPEN DATA. UP Resilience Institute executive director Mahar Lagmay says keeping data open is important in preparing for disasters. Rappler file photo

    MANILA, Philippines – More than a year has passed since the University of the Philippines Resilience Institute (UPRI) adopted Project Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH)How has the project changed since the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) decided to stop funding it?

    According to UP NOAH executive director Mahar Lagmay, they have taken on a more "transdisciplinary" approach.

    "UP NOAH has shifted to complement science in the country's disaster risk reduction efforts with the social sciences, arts, and humanities," Lagmay told Rappler in an interview.

    "We still focus on the use of frontier science and advanced technologies to help in disaster risk reduction efforts, but we now work with social scientists, musicians, visual artists, NGOs (non-governmental organizations), LGUs (local government units), stakeholders and the crowd, apart from scientists and engineers," he added.

    Formerly established as the flagship disaster management initiative of the DOST in 2012, Project NOAH had been scrapped by the department due to "lack of funds." Currently, it serves as a core component under the UPRI.

    New inclusions

    Among the new features under UP NOAH is the Rebuild platform, completed back in February. For this, Lagmay said the participation of LGUs and local communities is crucial.

    "It's a new platform for getting municipalities to input their exposure to hazards associated with climate change scenarios," he explained.

    Another new inclusion is the Resilient Campuses project, launched in August 2017.

    "We tried to make all 22 campuses of UP resilient by generating maps that showed climate change hazards [in each area]. We worked on this so that the UP System could plan [ahead]," Lagmay said.

    Both the Rebuild platform and the Resilient Campuses project, added Lagmay, answer the need to localize information on hazards in the country.

    Lagmay also hinted at a possible collaboration with a blockchain startup, saying that blockchain technology is "good for disaster-related work." (READ: Blockchain technology: A beginner's guide)

    "UP NOAH is looking at blockchain technology or distributed ledger technology. It's a platform for transparency and built on open data. It's immutable and there's always validation," he said.

    A crowdfunding initiative for UP NOAH has also been approved by the UP Board of Regents, according to Lagmay.

    'Lost in transition'

    But aside from these additions, Lagmay said a couple of initiatives have also gotten lost in the process of the project's transition from the DOST to UPRI.

    "One thing that's not there anymore is the ClimateX project. [The entire ClimateX website] and Doppler stations have been transferred to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration). I don't know where the Doppler stations [used in the ClimateX project] are, but we are not able to stream [data from them] anymore," Lagmay said.

    According to the ClimateX website, it uses a software that "calculates the percent chance of rain (PCOR) or probability of rain using processed infrared and water vapor satellite image data, and processed Doppler radar data, in combination with the statistical evaluation of historical rainfall."

    At present, the NOAH website is not able to stream radar data from individual Doppler stations in the country.

    "However, there is this radar mosaic that we are able to stream from PAGASA," Lagmay said.

    Using a radar mosaic, according to the United States-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), allows users to detect precipitation and thunderstorms in their area.

    "The radar mosaic is updated, but the display is different. For those who used it before, they will notice that there is a slight difference," Lagmay noted. – Rappler.com

    Angelica Y. Yang is a Rappler intern. She studies BA Journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman.


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    NO MORE PLASTICS. Tobaccos wrapped in paper material are sold by bulks.Photo by Claudia Gancayco

    NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Welcome to San Carlos City where plastic bags are no longer welcome.

    In the city’s public market, bundles of colorful sando bags have been replaced by bunched leaves, old newspaper, and reusable net bags. Even in the wet section of the market, where plastic bags are integral to everyone's routine, people managed to innovate a way to operate without plastic bags.

    This is in line with City Ordinance No. 14-53 regulating the use of plastic cellophane, sando bags, and Styrofoam. (READ: How the fight vs plastic pollution can begin in the classroom)

    “The city government prioritized the implementation in the public market, especially in the wet section, because it is where plastic bags are most used and is, therefore, the hardest part to implement the ordinance,” explained Arthur Batomalaque, Waste Management Office division head.

    However, It is not a total ban on plastics. There are specific exemptions for items that are can only be wrapped in plastic cellophane like ice, ice candy, sliced fruits, and products manufactured outside the city.

    A study by Ocean Conservancy in 2015 showed that the Philippines generates 2.7 million metric tons of plastic garbage every year. Of this volume, 521,000 tons find their way to the oceans, making the country the 3rd top source of plastic leaking into oceans globally. (READ: Why PH is world's 3rd biggest dumper of plastics in the ocean)

    An overview shot of San Carlos City's public market. Photo by Claudia Gancayco

    Adjustment period

    Early into the implementation, the ordinance was met with complaints and disagreement from both vendors and customers.

    “At first, marami pang reklamo – usually ganyan naman talaga 'pag may change, d iba?” said Leila Mansueto, OIC to the Public Market. Maraming reklamo just to continue doing the old way, using plastic.”

    (At first, there were many complaints – that’s how it usually is when there’s change, right? They come up with many complaints and excuses just to continue doing the old way, using plastic.)

    Customers who felt inconvenienced by the new rule transferred to the malls, causing a drop in the sales of market vendors.

    Evelyn Apurado, a market shopper, had a hard time shopping with paper bags, especially in the meat section.

    We got angry because it was hard [to use] only paper bags. Mostly in the meat section and fish division, it’s so hard for us,” expressed Apurado. But later on, she saw its advantages. “It was very difficult but now we are practicing to have our own bags [and containers]. I think it helps our place.

    Things were similarly hard, if not even harder, for the market vendors, whose livelihood was at stake.

    Allen Auditor, a tobacco vendor, abides by the ordinance but with a heavy heart. Packing her items with paper bags or old newspaper is more expensive compared to using plastic bags, so she had to raise prices which affected her customers. Using paper wrappers also took more time and effort, she explained.

    “Pinipilit lang namin kasi ordinansya 'yan eh. Tapos wala ka naman ding magagawa (We are just complying because of an ordinance. We can’t do anything about it anyway),“ said Auditor.

    Vendors complained that plastic bags are cheaper than paper bags and dried leaves and that old newspaper are not good for wet items.

    Bobby Pangadlaw, a meat chopper, said the ordinance initially cost them their customers who turned to malls for more convenient shopping. But after some time, Pangadlaw was able to adjust, and so did his customers who now bring their own bags or containers when they shop.

    More importantly, Pangadlaw has seen the reason why this ordinance must be implemented and he agreed with it. In fact, he noticed that ever since the market implemented the ordinance, the place has been cleaner and the canals are no longer clogged with plastics.

    To help the vendors adjust to a plastic-free lifestyle, the city government conducted monthly contests in the marketplace to reward the most environment-friendly vendor. It also gave out loans so that vendors can adjust their finances. (READ: In fight vs plastic, 'challenge is changing people's mindset, lifestyle')

    “Positive approach lang muna ginawa namin, hindi 'yung apprehension. So doon na lumabas kung ano pala 'yung pwedeng alternative aside from the plastic bags. Sa kanila na lang 'yung mga ideas (We took a positive approach first instead of apprehensions. So that's when they  innovated ideas on alternatives for plastic bags. The ideas came from them [vendors],” said Batomalaque.

    “May iba pa rin na medyo matigas ang ulo, kaya nga marami kaming apprehensions during the start. Until now meron pa rin, pero hindi na ganun katindi (There are still some who are stubborn, that’s why we have a lot of apprehensions during the start.  Until now there are still some, but not as many as before),' he said.

    NO MORE SANDO BAGS. A local ukay-ukay store uses cloth sacks for purchases. Photo by Claudia Gancayco

    How did they do it?

    The local government carried out other efforts prior to the ordinance to make sure that the shift was not too abrupt.

    “It took a great deal of political will and a lot of engagement efforts to successfully implement the regulation. There was a lot of resistance but if you really are determined to apply the law, you can really do it and have your people follow," said San Carlos City Mayor Gerardo Valmayor.

    Batomalaque also noted that since plastic usage was regulated in the city, there has been a significant drop of more than 50% in their residual waste gathered during their annual coastal cleanups (READ: War on plastic leaves manufacturers grasping at straws)

    San Carlos City is a national finalist, alongside Makati and Pasig, in the One Planet City Challenge by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature as 2018 Most Lovable and Sustainable City in the world.

    If they can do it, other cities surely can, too!  Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – Using #SavePLDTContractuals, former employees of the service contract provider of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Inc. (PLDT), took to twitter to share their stories of being jobless after receiving their notices of contract termination. 

    The termination of the contracts came after President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order (EO) prohibiting illegal contracting and subcontracting on May 1, Labor Day. 

    The EO, however, was rejected by labor groups who argued that there was "nothing new" with it and it had "no use." It was merely a "face-saving" measure to appease the labor sector, they said. (READ: 'Walang silbi': Labor groups reject Duterte's EO vs endo)

    Last April, Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III asked PLDT to regularize around 10,000 employees after finding out that they performed functions necessary to the telecommunication giant. 

    Early in June, DOLE denied PLDT's appeal to reverse the department's order after it was tagged as among the top companies engaged in illegal contracting. (READ: Jollibee, Dole, PLDT among top companies 'engaged' in illegal contracting

    A Twitter thread by Pat Teves which collated the stories from former contractual workers of the telephone company has been shared 1,883 times and has 2,328 likes as of posting.

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Tweets, stories, and testimonials of PLDT workers and those who are close to them— A THREAD:</p>&mdash; Pat Teves #SavePLDTcontractuals (@patriciativs) <a href="https://twitter.com/patriciativs/status/1013619384365924352?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    Twitter user Arnie Joshua Alfonso reminisced about his experience working with the company, contacting customers about their overdue bills and saying sorry for nagging them.

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Wala na pong mangungulit para paalalahanan kayo sa billing niyo, patawad kung minsan naaabala namin kayo. Wala na ho kayong mamumura dahil sa incompetent na service na PLDT. Wala na ho ring sasagot sa 171. Wala na ho ang libolibong contractual ni PLDT <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/savePLDTcontractuals?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#savePLDTcontractuals</a> <a href="https://t.co/pf7MMVMr7r">pic.twitter.com/pf7MMVMr7r</a></p>&mdash; Arnie joshua alfonso (@ArnieAlfonso) <a href="https://twitter.com/ArnieAlfonso/status/1013799005464100866?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    For Whin Odinsson, the move made by the PLDT was heartbeaking as he would be separated from his co-workers, whom he treated as second family.

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Maging masaya sana kayo PLDT pinaghiwa-hiwalay nyo kami ng pangalawang pamilya biglaan haha! Heartbreaking talaga yung ginawa nyo. Sayang yung effort ng karamihan kung mauuwi lang sa ganito, lahat sila nagpapakahirap pumasok makapagserbisyo lang sa inyo.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SavePLDTContractuals?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SavePLDTContractuals</a> <a href="https://t.co/HJBGljZuvt">pic.twitter.com/HJBGljZuvt</a></p>&mdash; Whin Odinsson (@whindizon) <a href="https://twitter.com/whindizon/status/1013725179954917376?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    Aside from narratives of ex-PLDT contracted workers, messages of support from their relatives and friends also flooded Twitter.

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">My mom was laid off by PLDT so this hits close to home for me. Mas lalo na for contractual workers that arent nearly as privileged as I am. Makibaka po tayo. <a href="https://t.co/RC26krrLlS">https://t.co/RC26krrLlS</a></p>&mdash; hey andrew! (@andymancy) <a href="https://twitter.com/andymancy/status/1013612297636306944?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    {source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Eight years na nagwowork kuya ko sa PLDT tapos di pa rin siya nareregular. Ngayon, binigyan siya ng memo na hanggang June na lang contract niya. Waaaaw walang benefits, walang anything. JUNK PLDT.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/savePLDTcontractuals?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#savePLDTcontractuals</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PLDTWorkersProtest?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PLDTWorkersProtest</a> <a href="https://t.co/CYV1gEudyn">https://t.co/CYV1gEudyn</a></p>&mdash; E L E A N O R (@AiraaaCenteno) <a href="https://twitter.com/AiraaaCenteno/status/1013605236173299712?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">July 2, 2018</a></blockquote>
    <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    Here's what other netizens have to say about the #SavePLDTContractuals:

    {source}<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/rapplerdotcom/timelines/1013974351165603840?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SavePLDTContractuals - Curated tweets by rapplerdotcom</a> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}

    In a statement posted on its Facebook page, PLDT apologized to customers for the affected quality of service due to reduced manpower.

    "The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has given a number of our service contract providers a Cease and Desist order from rendering service to PLDT," the statement read.

    {source}<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FPLDTHome%2Fposts%2F1766207996799609&width=500" width="500" height="503" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>{/source}

    What are your thoughts on the issue? Share them with us in the comments section below! –Rappler.com


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    MANILA, Philippines – Single-use plastics and styrofoam will be banned from the Cebu City Hall starting August 1, as the city government implements more measures for environmental protection.

    Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña announced the ban in a memorandum dated July 3.

    "The Cebu City Government, mindful of its role to protect the environment and promote sustainable development, hereby declares as a policy that it will gradually minimize the use of plastics in all city government offices and endeavors to be plastic-free in the coming years," Osmeña said.

    Single-use plastics include straws, cups, plates, spoons, and forks. City government employees are advised to bring their own reusable utensils instead.

    The ban also covers food vendors handling single-use plastic containers or packaging materials for dine-in or take-out meals. People are encouraged to place take-out food in paper-based, plant-based, or reusable plastic containers. (READ: Plastic Battle's plea: Ditch single-use bottles, go for refills)

    "It also wouldn't be good to demand something of others if we weren't willing to do it ourselves. So, we will practice what we preach. Stricter even," Osmeña added.

    {source}<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Ftommyrosmena%2Fposts%2F2191458424227673&width=500" width="500" height="814" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe>{/source}

     

    Osmeña's memorandum cited a 2017 Greenpeace study that ranked the Philippines as "the 3rd worst plastic polluter of oceans."

    The mayor also pointed out how plastics, along with poor waste management and littering, contribute to flooding in Cebu City. Floods mean health risks and threats to the safety of residents. (READ: How the fight vs plastic pollution can begin in the classroom)

    This isn't Cebu City's first step to becoming a plastic-free city. For two days each week, all plastic bags and similar products are banned, too.  with reports from Samantha Bagayas/Rappler.com


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