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Cebu graduate surprises classmates, adviser with hand-drawn portraits


PORTRAITS. John Paul Valencia, 18 years old, draws portraits of his classmates and adviser.

CEBU, Philippines – The graduation ceremony at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City last May 27 was made extra special when one senior high school graduate gave hand-drawn portraits to his classmates and block adviser.

The man behind the graphite portraits is 18-year-old John Paul Valencia.

Valencia used the monthlong period reserved for graduation practice to draw the portraits, working on them up until graduation day.

"I tried to draw one person per day. Sometimes, I could manage 3 portraits a day depending on how busy the week was. Only a handful, maybe 5, of my classmates knew since I also asked them for suggestions," he said.

LABOR OF LOVE. The complete set of John Paul Valencia's portraits.

A special bond

Valencia drew these portraits because of the special bond his class shared.

"I think that there was respect in the class. Everybody had a role. Our class also won the school film competition, which made it more special," he said.

Their short film entitled Miscreant's Voice won awards including Best Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best in Sound Engineering at USC's 2018 CineSTEM Film Festival.

The young artist's classmates also agreed that their bond was remarkable.

"[The film was] where it all started, to be honest, because before that, everyone really didn't know much about each other's capabilities. So when we were doing the film, we got to know each other, and from there we strengthened our bond into what it is today," Johann Ethan Jade Osugay explained.

Joanna Miles Dancel recalled that forming the bond wasn't exactly a smooth process. "We had conflicts: different ideas, different thinking, different opinions," she said. "We couldn't cater to everyone. But even with all that, the production team worked so hard, and I am so proud that all their hard work paid off."

BOND. John Paul Valencia draws inspiration from the strong bond of his class.

The artist

When it comes to his skill, Valencia said that while he is mainly self-taught in terms of technique, he had also attended painting workshops in the past. 

He first drew vegetables, helicopters, and Spider-Man when he was two years old, got hooked on drawing anime characters from Grades 3 to 4, and then finally started drawing real people when he was in Grade 5.

Dancel could remember how talented Valencia was as early as Grade 1.

"Even back then, he was outstanding," she said. "Literally anyone could tell he was a true-born artist. Despite all that, he is a very chill guy, a very humble friend. Sometimes, when he gets bored, he likes to do quick sketches of our faces. He plays guitar really well too. He is a very talented person."

Jhudiel Saing, one of their classmates, said Valencia serves as an inspiration.

"It is invigorating to see that he utilized his talent, time, and effort to dedicate these pieces of craftsmanship and genius to us. By pursuing these passions despite the risks and fears, he inspires us to do the same," said Saing.

Even though people describe him as a "true-born artist” and an art "genius," Valencia is pursuing a mechanical engineering degree in college, reasoning that his talents can be applied to any discipline or situation.

"For me, art is the possibility of beauty in anything, and seeing everything as something more than reality," Valencia said. – Rappler.com

Marthy John Lubiano is a Rappler lead mover in Palompon, Leyte. He is a graduating Bachelor of Arts in Communication student of Palompon Institute of Technology and is the executive editor of Fulcrum.

[OPINION] Questioning the hill


Photo from Ateneo de Manila University

This is the valedictory speech of Reycel Hyacenth Bendaña – president of the Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, recipient of the 2019 Loyola Schools Awards for Leadership and Service Most Outstanding Individual, recipient of the St Ignatius Award for Most Outstanding Scholar, 2018 Most Outstanding Jose Rizal Model Student of the Philippines awardee, cum laude, program awardee for Management Economics, and the Ateneo de Manila University Class of 2019 valedictorian – delivered during the Loyola Schools Commencement Exercises on May 31 and June 1.

To the Superior of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus Fr Primitivo E. Viray Jr, SJ; to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees Mr Ernesto Tanmantiong; to our University President Fr Jose Ramon Villarin, SJ; to our Vice President to the Loyola Schools Dr Maria Luz Vilches; to the Vice President of the Ateneo Professional Schools Dr Antonette Angeles; to the Vice President for Administration Fr Nemesio S. Que, SJ; to the Vice President for University and Global Relations Fr Jose M. Cruz, SJ; to the dean of the School of Social Sciences Dr Fernando Aldaba; to the dean of the School of Humanities Dr Jonathan Chua; to our commencement speaker Mr John Nery; and to parents, admin, faculty, staff, fellow graduating students, good afternoon!

Let’s talk about barriers. In Ateneo, we have a no ID, no entry policy. Students with hold orders cannot enlist in classes, and in some cases, students are sent out if they don't follow the dress code.

In one way or another, we all experience barriers that make it difficult for us to achieve certain goals. But in the real world, the biggest barrier to education is not forgetting our IDs, having hold orders, or violating the dress code, but poverty. (READ: [OPINION] Game of poverty)

Dumating ako sa mundo bilang panganay ng isang construction worker at ng isang SM saleslady – parehas hindi regular at underpaid, kaya kahit nagsisikap, parehas hindi sapat ang inuuwi.

Ang kabataan naming magkapatid ay maghanap ng tindahan na mauutangan ng pagkain dahil pagod ng magpautang ang mga tindahan sa kalye namin. Ilang beses na nag-sorry sa akin ang mga magulang ko kasi hindi sila makakabayad ng tuition in time for the exam o dahil sa susunod na linggo pa sila makakapagpadala ng allowance.

Anyone can understand that for my family, my graduation from any university, let alone Ateneo, is not a realistic dream.

Sa totoo lang, baka nga nakita 'nyo na ako dati habang dumadaan sa may Service Road. Ako 'yung batang sumisigaw sa gilid ng jeep, "O Alabang Alabang Alabang FTI FTI Bicutan! O sa wala, sa wala. Meron pa po, pakiusog naman po nang konti pa. Sampuan po 'yang upuan."

Isa po akong barker ng jeep, tumutulong sa tatay ko sa pasada. At sa pag-uwi, tumutulong naman sa nanay ko magtahi ng basahan para ibenta kinabukasan.

O baka nakita 'nyo na rin 'yung kapatid ko. Dati siyang naglalako ng kakanin sa bahay-bahay, kumakayod para may dagdag baon.

In one way or another, you may have seen my family in the faces of our jeepney drivers, barkers, and street peddlers – the poor that are invisible to most.

'Yung Hya na barker ng jeep at nagbebenta ng basahan sa kalsada, 'yung batang hindi napapansin ng lipunan, ay kagaya rin ng marami pang bata na hindi natin nakikita ngayon. I am here as a reminder that the unseen poor are real.

My story has been celebrated, even romanticized, for its sheer improbability. Kahit mga magulang ko, hindi rin makapaniwala. But a story like mine is the lucky exception, not the rule. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be standing here today if it weren't for the generosity of those who helped me to get here. But generosity is not enough. Generosity means inequality. Inequality means that there is a hill, and the rest is down from the hill.

At hindi makatarungan ang hindi pagkapantay-pantay. Sino bang makapagsasabi na dapat tayo lang ang nandito ngayon? Marami tayong kasabay na nagsisikap, pero hindi natin kasama ngayon dito.

Nung high school ako, nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataon na magvolunteer magturo sa isang public school. Doon ko nakilala si Noynoy. Sa pagkakaibigan namin, nasampal ako ng katotohanan na hanggang ngayon ay dala-dala pa rin ng konsensya ko.

Grade 1 si Noynoy noon, pero siya'y 12 years old. Apat na beses na siyang umulit ng Grade 1 kasi lagi siyang absent. Kailangan niya kasing kumita ng pambili ng pagkain para sa kanyang pamilya.

What reason could there be for someone to persist, and repeat Grade 1 four times, if not for a better life? Kung hindi pa ito sapat na katibayan ng kanyang kagustuhan para sa mas magandang buhay, ano ang sapat? Ano pa ba ang kailangan?

Pero hindi lang kahirapan ang hadlang sa edukasyon. Maraming kabataan ang hindi nakakapag-aral dahil sa gulo at giyera, kagaya ng nangyari sa Marawi, at iba pang lugar, lalo na sa Mindanao.

Maraming kabataan ang kailangan pang umakyat ng bundok at tumawid ng mga ilog para lang makapasok sa paaralan. At maraming kabataan, kagaya ng mga Lumad at iba pa nating kapatid na katutubo, ang hindi makapasok dahil sa karahasan sa kanayunan. Their distance from us here in Metro Manila makes it easy for us not to see them. But these unseen people are also real.

There are also barriers closer to home. Many of us here are scholars too, and even among those who can pay tuition, there are some who barely managed to.

Many of us struggled with separation and homesickness, on top of the rigorous demands of school. Your parents, who moved heaven and earth so you could take your place here – this is their victory too.

There are children of OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) present today, whose parents could not be here to see them graduate. And there are those who still grieve the loss of a beloved parent. If they were here, I'm sure they would have been very proud to see you in your togas today.

Many of us here struggled bravely with trauma and mental health issues. There are some of us who would not come to class for fear of coming face to face with our abusers. Marami rin sa ating halos mag-overcut, hindi dahil tamad o batugan, hindi dahil ayaw bumangon, pero dahil hindi kayang bumangon.

We faced all of these with unspoken bravery. Difficulty has been our shared experience. And because we are not strangers to pain, grief, and struggle, we have been able to share in the broader fight for social justice.

This is the batch that protested over various social issues – for the first time in years, different student organizations and unaffiliated students grabbed the megaphone and spoke out.

This is also the batch that submitted a petition to the Senate against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability. This is the batch that strongly condemned sexual assault and asserted the inviolable dignity of a human person, regardless of gender.

This is the batch that does not forget. We have done all this united in the struggle against all unjust realities.

This is why I believe that this batch understands why these realities are not acceptable. Hindi dapat kailangan maging barker ng jeep, magbenta ng basahan, o maglako ang bata para makakuha ng dagdag baon.

Hindi dapat kailangang um-absent ng isang bata para tumulong mapakain ang kanyang pamilya. Hindi dapat kailangang mangamba ang isang bata para sa kaligtasan niya. At hindi dapat kailangang maramdaman ng isang bata na nag-iisa siya sa laban niya.

For all our efforts and our struggles, and all we have done so far, we deserve to march proudly today. But while our graduation marks the end of our academic lives, it also marks the beginning of a deeper commitment to working with others to transform unjust social realities.

These realities are systemic, complex, and intertwined. It will take more than one batch of graduates, or even one generation of Filipinos to even begin to unravel the knots that have been tied over and over for decades until we no longer see where one problem ends, and where another begins. We are called to do better than this.

Every graduation, Atenean seniors are told to go "down from the hill." This year, perhaps it is time to ask why there is even a hill at all. Though we worked hard to be here, we know that this hill exists because there is much work left to be done.

As long as society has not overcome bigger, deeper problems – social discrimination, stark economic inequality, and the concentration of political power in the hands of the few – there will always be something better to struggle for.

Sa isang makatarungang lipunan, hindi na natatangi ang kwento ng iskolar na gaya ko, pero isa ng realidad sa sinumang nangangarap. Sa isang makatarungang lipunan, ang edukasyon gaya ng atin ay hindi na lamang para sa iilan. Sa isang makatarungang lipunan, mas marami pa sana tayong kasama na magtatapos ngayon.

Pero kahit hindi makatarungan ang mundong minana natin, kasama natin ang kapwa kabataan, ang mga magsasaka't manggagawa, ang mga guro't kawani, ang mga lingkod bayan, at marami pang ibang sektor ng lipunan, sa paglikha ng mundong ito.

At ito ang hamon sa ating lahat: bumuo tayo at mag-iwan ng isang Pilipinas na mas makatarungan kaysa sa lipunang dinatnan natin – isang lipunan na ikararangal nating ipamana.

Maraming salamat, po! Dios mabalos. – Rappler.com

On Eid 2019, Filipino Muslims recall Ramadan teachings to attain peace


PEACE. Muslims pray outside the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila during the Eid'l-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, on Wednesday, June 5. Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – As the Islamic world marked the end of Ramadan with the feast of Eid’l Fitr, Filipino Muslims reflected on the value of the monthlong celebration in attaining lasting peace. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Filipino Muslims break fast at start of Eid'l Fitr)

On the morning of Wednesday, June 5, Islamic scholar Abdul Fattah Tanog reiterated the essence of Ramadan as he joined hundreds of Muslims who flocked to the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila.

Ramadan is a monthlong period of fasting from sunrise to sunset, where Muslims devote time to seeking forgiveness, exercising self-control, and doing charity. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you should know about Eid'l Fitr, end of Ramadan)

“[The celebration encourages us] to be more spiritual and to be more attentive to the devotion, and [to] focus one's self to spiritual enhancement over worldly and material things, and if possible, to eliminate the bad traits or spiritual ailments especially arrogance and envy,” Tanog said in a mix of Filipino and English.

According to him, the lack of spirituality is the root cause of all conflicts – from marriage disputes to wars between nations. "Everyone is thinking that they are superior than the rest and that they have the desire to bring down others,” he said.

Eliminate hatred

In an interview with Rappler, 16-year-old Jaffar Malic echoed Tanog, saying he’s hoping for an end to hatred.

“‘Yung hatred kasi ay reason kung bakit nagkakaroon ng civil wars. Kapag natanggal ‘yan, sure ako 101 percent na sure akong makaka-attain tayo ng world peace. Magiging united tayong lahat,” Malic said.(Hatred is the reason why civil wars exist. I can guarantee, 101 percent, that if this is eliminated, we can attain world peace. We will all be united.)

Tanog asked his fellow Muslims to pray for the displaced residents of Marawi City.

We have to pray na kahit papaano ay makabalik sila sa kanilang mga tahanan. The rebuilding of the devastated city is so slow. [Sana] magawan ng paraan na makabalik nang mas mabilis sa mas lalong madaling panahon ‘yong mga [taga-Marawi]." (We have to pray that at the very least, they can go back home. The rebuilding of the devastated city is so slow. I hope that we can find a way to immediately bring the people back to Marawi.) 

In 2017, more than a thousand troops and civilians died as the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur was attacked by local terrorists known as the Maute Group. (READ: URBAN WARFARE MARAWI: 153 DAYS AND MORE)

Achmida Mamacotao, a Muslim who celebrated the feast in Marawi, talked about how Ramadan reminded them that patience and faith can help attain peace.

“I pray for all Filipinos to learn the art of being patient with each other despite our differences in belief. I pray for the future of our country and [I pray] for lasting peace in our city,” she said.

According to 2016 data from Conflict Alert, an online database covering 15 provinces in the Bangsamoro region, common crimes and shadow economies caused violence in the area, along with political conflict. – Rappler.com

Josiah Antonio is a Rappler intern. He is a 4th year student at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking BA Philippine Studies, major in Journalism and Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino.

VIRAL: Muslim graduates from Catholic school, shares inspiring view on faith


MANILA, Philippines – Donning her faith’s traditional head garb, 21-year-old Jomana Lomangco stood out as a proud Muslim woman among the new graduates of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Asia’s oldest and largest Catholic university.

Lomangco, who graduated cum laude with a degree in Accountancy, recounted in a Facebook post on Tuesday, June 4, how she never felt discriminated as a Muslim in the predominantly Catholic UST. (READ: Breaking barriers: More than just Muslims)

“Never have I felt discriminated in the 4 walls of the university. Never have I felt less just because I’m a Muslim. Never did they leave me out just because of my faith," Lomangco wrote in her post. (READ: #EndDiscriminationNow: On being Muslim and discriminated)

She admitted that initially, people questioned her decision to study in a Catholic school, which they said might alter her faith and turn her into a Christian.

But Lomangco stuck to her Islamic upbringing and chose to see the common ground between Muslims and Christians instead. “To be of a certain faith, may it be Christianity or Islam, is to be human. And to be human is to respect and accept each other in spite of the differences in our beliefs,” she said.

“As a Muslim who took up a few Theology courses, I’ve learned to look at our similarities rather than our differences. And I think that’s exactly what this world needs,” Lomangco added. (READ: Muslim women: 'We are not limited because we wear a hijab')

As of this posting, Lomangco’s Facebook post has garnered 5,200 shares and 28,000 reactions, with mostly high spirited praises in the comments section.

Netizens commended her message of finding unity amid the seemingly great religious and cultural divide.

 – Rappler.com

Nicolas Czar Antonio is a Rappler intern and a Psychology major at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He tweets at @Nicolas_Czar.





'Anti-poor, anti-commuter': Netizens lambast provincial bus ban


MANILA, Philippines – Is the provincial bus ban another band-aid solution to traffic? 

As the Duterte administration scrambles to fulfill its campaign promise to ease Metro Manila’s traffic crisis, netizens took to social media to express their indignation against the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority's (MMDA) ban on provincial buses along EDSA, calling this measure “anti-poor and anti-commuter.”

In an interview with Rappler, transport economist Jedd Ugay said that contrary to its intent, the provincial bus ban on EDSA would only worsen traffic congestion in the Metro, as “commuters would be forced to shift to more unsustainable modes of transportation.” (READ: Expert says provincial bus ban to worsen Metro traffic congestion)

Many pointed out that the MMDA’s new policy is a myopic solution to the traffic crisis as the number of provincial buses plying EDSA daily pales in comparison with the number of private cars.

Facebook user Jed Salvan even suggested that instead of prohibiting provincial buses in EDSA, private vehicles should be banned instead.

Other netizens pointed out that this ban would greatly inconvenience commuters coming in from the provinces, adding to their already arduous and time-consuming commute.

Here’s what others had to say about the issue:

The provincial bus ban along EDSA was originally set to take effect on June 1, but in a text message to Rappler, MMDA General Manager Jojo Garcia said  they were still “waiting for the policy and requirements from the Department of Transportation.” 

Nicolas Czar Antonio is a Rappler intern and a Psychology major at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He tweets at @Nicolas_Czar.

‘More Teacher Maricels needed' says alliance standing against intimidation


MANILA, Philippines — On June 5, Wednesday, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) condemned acts of intimidation directed against Maricel Herrera, the teacher who exposed photos of the comfort room-turned-faculty room at the Bacoor National High School.

The Department of Education’s (DepEd) contentious response to Herrera’s exposé, which garnered much attention online, sparked calls for solidarity from fellow teachers.

“What Ms. Herrera is being made to suffer right now is a clear case of union repression and violation of her academic freedom. She is being shamed and punished for speaking truth to power,” the alliance said in a statement.

When asked about her motivations behind posting the photos, Herrera said, “Nakita ko talaga ‘yun hirap ng mga guro—mula sa pagbubuhat ng mga silya’t mesa hanggang sa pag-aayos ng kanilang mga kagamitan. Hindi lang ito nangyayari sa Bacoor kundi sa buong Pilipinas.

(I really saw the hardships of the teachers, from carrying tables and chairs to fixing their own materials. This is not only happening in Bacoor, but the entire Philippines.)

Not an ‘isolated’ case

ACT also denounced DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones’ statement that the case was an isolated one, claiming that teachers merely chose to stay in the decrepit faculty room because it was “more dramatic and touching.”

In an interview with Rappler, Herrera said, “Sana nandoon siya nung oras na sabay-sabay nagtratrabaho ‘yun mga guro para humanda sa bagong taon. Nakaka-offend na hindi niya nararamdaman ‘yun hirap ng mga guro."

(I wish she was there when the teachers were working to prepare for the upcoming school year. It’s hurtful to see how she doesn’t feel the hardship of the teachers.)

A new school year started last Monday, June 3, prompting other public schools and teachers to recall their frustrations.

Bagong Silangan Elementary School in Quezon City and Calderon High School in Manila were other institutions that also suffered from similar facility shortage problems.

According to ACT, examining the poor working conditions of public school teachers was simply an act of truth-telling.

“'Yun mga guro na iniinterview nila ay yun mga hindi masyadong apektado. Di nila ako pinapatawag dahil alam nilang hindi ako pipigil sa pagsalita,” said Herrera.

(The teachers that they interviewed were those that weren’t as affected. They didn’t call for me because they knew I would not stop from speaking out.)

The alliance equally condemned the threats of Anita Rom, BNHS principal, to sue Herrera for allegedly ‘disparaging the reputation’ of the education agency and school.

Herrera met with DepEd Undersecretary Jesus Lorenzo Mateo and other officials last June 6, Thursday to discuss plans on how to improve the school facilities.

“Nangako sila na magkakaroon ng building para lamang sa mga guro, ngunit kailangan lang naming bantayan dahil wala pang tiyak," posited Herrera.

(They promised to have a building for the teachers. We just have to watch over them because nothing is definite.) 

 When asked how she felt about the tremendous support other teachers were showing, Herrera was gracious. “Napatunayan namin na maraming concerned sa edukasyon. Hindi lang ito bulag-bulagan.”

(We proved that a lot of people are concerned about education. This is not simply about playing blind.) – Rappler.com

Joddi Edwards Chua is a Rappler intern and Communications Technology Management major at the Ateneo de Manila University.



[OPINION] A teacher’s plight: The problem in our educational system


It was just another humid day, my uniform soaked in sweat, a week's worth of students’ files on my table. Our room was not fully air-conditioned or ventilated, which made us perspire a lot.

Herds of students were outside for their break time. I looked around the room to assess if my co-teachers were also feeling what I felt deep inside me, but it seemed that they had become robots numb and ignorant to the real issues. 

Although it was break time, we still had to deal with the inquiries of our students. We did not have enough time to rest, to be fully recharged for our next class. 

Then the clincher: We were told to take our things and evacuate the faculty rooms because they were going to be converted into a journalism training office, school-based management office, guidance office, learning resource management and development office, and sports and arts office.

There would no longer be faculty rooms for specific strands or tracks occupied by teachers. The school suggested that we just stay in our own home classrooms. However, the arrangement was not ideal in a senior high school setting, since there would be other subject teachers coming in to teach in my classroom, so my being there could rob them of privacy and academic freedom.

I am not complaining. In the two years that I have been teaching, I know that we, as teachers, should cater to the needs of our students and obey orders from above. But lately, I have been thinking if the Department of Education (DepEd) really treats the teachers as first-class citizens, because we always feel otherwise. (READ: 'More Teacher Maricels needed' says alliance standing against intimidation)

I was finally able to sit alone for a while after entertaining my students’ concerns. I browsed the latest news on my cellphone. I saw reports on how DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones said that teachers should reflect on teaching as a passion, and not a profession to gain more money.

I am not against that. But realistically, we all need to survive to sustain our passion. Based on the salary that we receive as educators, is it really enough to survive? (READ: [OPINION] A teacher's voice)

I hope everyone realizes how hard it is to be a teacher in a country that claims to treat us well. If you look closely, we are not really enjoying the same privileges as first-class citizens. (READ: I am a teacher)

Some would say that the government already provided us the kind of income that could support us economically. But if you sit down and make computations, you will see that it is not enough, especially if we have a family to support, and given the fact that the prices of commodities in the market are skyrocketing. (READ: FAST FACTS: What you need to know about the PH education system)

As much as we want to give quality education to our students, we also want to give quality living to our family, which our humble income cannot afford. 

Our meager income from teaching does not go directly into our pockets, either. Some of it is allotted for classroom beautification. We even use our own money to help our students who are struggling financially. We also give contributions for school activities.

Isn't it necessary for the government to provide us better services since we are serving our country? Right now, the government only gives us discounts when we avail of their health services. Most of the time,  if we need health care, we pay bills that are triple our salary. (READ: Teaching: A labor of love)

Plus, does the government even acknowledge all the real tasks assigned to teachers? We are also doing the jobs of other agencies. Whenever certain government offices need assistance for their programs and projects for students, the tasks are given to us so that they have something to write in their reports.

Worse, we are the first to be blamed whenever our students do not learn properly, despite that fact that we monitor more than 300 students a day. We usually face administrative and even criminal liabilities because of mistakes we did not make, without even acknowledging our side, that fact that we are only human beings deserving of second chances.

As we witness the number of teachers seeking greener pastures in other countries, may we realize that there is a problem in our educational system. The future lies in great educators, but these great educators may already be teaching abroad, or worse, doing menial jobs such as washing dishes – a job that actually lets them earn quadruple their salary in the Philippines.

It was just another humid day. My uniform was already soaked in sweat, but it reminded me to hold on, to perspire more, and to believe that someday the situation of teachers here in our country would finally change. – Rappler.com

Robinson Valenzona, 25, is a senior high school teacher from Muñoz National High School-Main, Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. 

LOOK: Zamboanga del Sur town upcycles election tarps into school bags


DREAM BIG. In Dumalinao, Zamboanga del Sur, tarpaulins are being upcycled into school bags decorated with inspirational quotes. Photo by Dumalinao LGU

ZAMBOANGA DEL SUR, Philippines– Now that the elections are over, what do you do with all the campaign paraphernalia that were left behind?

In Dumalinao town, Zamboanga del Sur, election tarpaulins are upcycled into school bags painted with inspirational quotes. 

The tarpaulins were gathered from Operation Baklas, an initiative of the town’s local government unit (LGU) where youth volunteers remove campaign paraphernalia after the elections. (READ: Youth involvement is San Fernando's secret in achieving zero waste)

According to Dumalinao town mayor Junaflor Cerilles, the operation successfully collected around 1,300 campaign materials. These came from barangays within the municipality and other neighboring areas such as Margosatubig town and Pagadian City, where citizens donated used election materials for the initiative.

Care for the environment

Repurposing of election materials is not a new initiative for the local government of Dumalinao. After the 2016 elections, they spearheaded a Hindi Ako Plastic campaign where election paraphernalia were converted into ecobags. (READ: Zero-waste basics: Mess kits will help save the world)

The ecobags were given to market vendors in Dumalinao for them to freely offer it to buyers instead of the widely used plastic cellophane.

“Anything that is good; anything that will benefit other people, I will really continue [it] as well as saving the planet,” Cerilles said.

As an environmental advocate, Cerilles has made it a point to clean up campaign paraphernalia in her town after the elections. (READ: The challenges of going zero waste in the Philippines)

"For this election, when I pulled out the campaign materials, somebody messaged me, 'If possible, Mayor, this time, could you convert it into school bags since a lot of children need school bags for the opening of the school?' So instead of the grocery bags that I made in the 2016 [elections], I converted it into backpacks this time," she shared in a mix of Filipino and English.

After the elections, Cerilles focused on creating school bags using election tarpaulins to give to students just in time for the start of classes in June. (READ: How the fight vs plastic pollution can begin in the classroom)

With an initial target of 154 beneficiaries, the initiative will give the upcycled bags packed with school supplies to children in Pili Elementary School, Barangay Pili, Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, by mid-June.

However, Cerilles said that demands for the upcycled bags continued to rise after the initiative was posted on Facebook.

Although more people were interested in the upcycled bags, Cerilles said that the LGU had no plans on selling them since the bags were made primarily by volunteers.

Those interested to help the project may drop off tarpaulins in the Dumalinao municipal hall or contact the LGU to pick up tarpaulins from nearby areas. 

“I’m still getting a lot of messages asking if I can get more bags [for] other children like their neighbor kasi daw walang pera, kailangan ng bags, (because they don't have money and they need bags) so I’m still making more also,” Cerilles told Rappler on a phone call interview.

The LGU of Dumalinao town hopes to inspire other local executives to create eco-friendly initiatives for their community. (WATCH: What can you do about plastic pollution)

"I think it's also our responsibility to lessen the waste that we are contributing to our planet...Here in the province, there are many school kids that need backpacks. I really hope they can also do the same thing in their community para mabawasan naman yung napupunta sa basurahan (to lessen the trash)," Cerilles said. – Rappler.com

Stephen Bryan Esic is a Rappler Mover based in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. He is the editor-in-chief of The Capstone school publication in Saint Columban College Senior High School.

Tea Time with Vince and Frank: Are we deaf to noise pollution?


MANILA, Philippines – The rattle of motor engines, the honking of horns, and the screeching of tires are but part of the daily background noise of the urban dweller. Have we gotten so used to this cacophony that while we are starting to become more mindful of the smog and the plastic clutter around us, the campaign against noise pollution is falling by the sideways?

Join Right of Way host and road safety advocate Vince Lazatin and VISOR motoring writer Frank Schuengel (all the way from the Isle of Man TT Race, arguably the biggest motosport event in the world) as they talk about the lack of action against noise pollution – and the irreversible damage brought about by prolonged exposure. – Rappler.com

'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination


MANILA, Philippines – The Filpino LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community's struggle for acceptance is far from over. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law)

On Saturday, June 8, MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, conducted the second online conversation for Pride Month, asking the LGBTQ+ community to recount times when they were discriminated against for their gender. 

'Always be a failure'

Abandonment and being neglected by family members are typical narratives for the LGBTQ+.

Getting judged for being gay is hard. But it was even harder for Jeyd, since this judgment came from his own family. He wrote that he wanted to explore his gender fluidity, but his family shut him down.

"Matalino ka pa naman. Gusto mo nilalait-lait ka," Jeyd recalled on Twitter. (To think that you're smart, but you want to be disrespected.)


Coming out as part of the LGBTQ+ community isn't easy under any circumstance. But it's extra difficult for those who are afraid of how their family would react.


Nothing is more painful than being discriminated against by people you thought had your back. HannJhey tweeted about his struggle with his parents.


Twitter users Sean Josh and Cherl shared that they were discriminated against for being effeminate gays. Sean said he was mocked whenever he watched Barbie movies and sang in a soft voice.


Numbers-wise, MovePH's conversation garnered over 1,600 tweets, with participants using hashtags #PHPride2019 and #ResistTogether. 

Made with Flourish


Words such as as "acceptance," "nakakadiri" (gross), "equality," "pass," and "anti-discrimination" were the most used.

"Pass" and "anti-discrimination" were associated with the anti-discrimination bill,which aimed to ban any discriminatory practices on the basis of one's "sexual orientation or gender identity." The 17th Congress failed to pass this bill. (READ: [OPINION] Life without bullies? Why Senate must pass anti-discrimination bill)

Here are more accounts from the conversation:

How do you think society could better treat the LGBTQ+ community? – Rappler.com

[OPINION] Teddy Regala: A diamond in the rough


The following piece was delivered during ACCRALAW’s necrological services for the late Teodoro D. Regala, Sr., one of the five founding partners of the firm.

It was around 8 pm last Friday, May 31, when I got a text message from Teddy’s wife, Carminda, which said in part: “We were not accepting visitors but tonight, but we will welcome close friends like you to say a prayer by his bedside.” As I was in Alabang having dinner, I asked Carminda what time the visiting period would end, and she replied, “You can come anytime." 

Without any hesitation, I excused myself from dinner, and off I went to St. Luke’s Hospital in BGC. After dropping by the hospital’s chapel on the 5th floor to pray for Teddy and his family, I went up to room 1214. I stood by Teddy’s bedside for a few minutes, stunned; I could not start a prayer but eventually did. 

I initially planned on leaving immediately after saying my prayers, as we had to wake up early the next day for a 7 am flight out of Manila.  But something in me was telling me to stay a little longer. So I sat on a sofa beside Teddy’s bed. During this period, which lasted for an hour or so, I noticed inner peace in him, manifested in the glow on his face. I even told Carminda and their son Teddy Boy, “Ted looks good.” During the whole time I was watching Teddy, I was telling myself: “Here is a great but very private man.” I also thought about what ACCRALAW and the Corporate and Special Projects Department (CSPD) could have been without him. I even drifted into thinking how temporary we are here on earth and  contemplated on life in general.

I left the hospital shortly after 11 pm. I learned from his son, Teddy Boy, that Teddy died at 12:40 am that Saturday. Teddy Boy informed me that I was the last non-family visitor of Teddy before he passed away. For this, I profusely thank Teddy, Minda, and the whole family. I will cherish those moments all my life.

There’s a thousand and one things that people who truly know Teddy can say about him. Foreign Affairs Secretary and former ACCRA alumni Teddy Boy Locsin, Ave Cruz, Boy Lazatin, Ebot Tan, and Rico de Guzman had already spoken about some of them. I’m sure the remaining speakers will mention more. I will spare you the inconvenience as it might take the whole night. But I can’t help but mention a few.

Four-hour job interview

My first encounter with Teddy was the one-on-one job interview with him in 1980. The interview started lunch time in a Makati restaurant and lasted around 4 hours, of course under the heavy influence of beer. During the interview, Teddy asked me questions about the arts, movies, actors and actresses, music, etc. Being a probinsyano, I was not able to answer a number of his questions. Frustrated, he  asked me to name any field outside of law, and we would ask questions to each other about my chosen field.

Thinking that Teddy was a nerd who only knew about the esoteric and finer things in life, and not things commonly known to ordinary mortals and the less cultured like me, I chose Philippine basketball. I distinctly remember asking Teddy to name at least 5 members of the RP Youth team that captured the 1972 Asian Youth crown. (I was referring to the likes of Atoy Co, Philip Cesar, Rey Franco, Mike Bilbao, Joy Dionisio, and Ramon Fernandez.) As I'd anticipated, he could not answer them. At that point, he blurted out, “Goddamn it, what a stupid set of questions. You’re so cheap."

Those were the first of the countless “goddamn its" and "stupids" I would receive from Teddy.  I shouted back at him, “What’s the problem with you? You asked me to name any field outside of law and that was what I precisely did.” In other words, nag-aaway na kami that early.

I don’t know what Teddy saw in me during the interview, but before we parted ways that day, he said, “Francis, you can start whenever you want after your bar exams.” That was how I got hired into ACCRALAW.

Cardinal puff

The second memory I have of Teddy was the cardinal puff, a drinking game which has become part of ACCRALAW’s cherished tradition. I recall it was held on the very day the bar results were released in 1981, thereby depriving us of celebrating the day with our family. There were only 5 new hires for ACCRALAW at that time –  Reggie Angangco of the Villaraza and Angangco Law Offices (V&A) and former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), TV commentator and now UP Professor Kat Legarda, UE class valedictorian Maricel Onate, UST valedictorian Mon Samson, and myself. 

The cardinal puff started at 3 pm. Being the managing partner at the time, Teddy ordered all lawyers to drop their work and proceed to the penthouse of our old building in Legaspi Village. Teddy personally presided over the cardinal puff, saying it was mano-mano between him and each of us. 

The day did not stop with the cardinal puff. We went on to the Mandarin Hotel for dinner and he made us play charades until 6 am of the following day. Of course, the people around us were wondering what we were doing, what with Teddy’s loud voice and expletives whenever we committed mistakes. Kaya kayong mga bata, don’t ever think that we didn’t undergo the cardinal puff that we make you undergo:  we went through it – in a far tougher and more humiliating manner.


Further down memory lane, who can ever forget the basketball games between the Blue and Red teams? At times when he disagreed with the referee’s call, Teddy asked the referee to execute an affidavit to support his call. 

Who can ever forget the anniversary games with Teddy, Joe Concepcion, Frank Drilon, the late Raul Roco, and Rene Cayetano, Boy Lazatin, and Rolly Vinluan in their prime? There was a time when there were no rules for the games; anything goes, so to speak. 

I distinctly recall one end of the rope in a tug-of-war game being tied to a coconut tree. It caused the team led by the late Senator Raul Roco to walk out of the games (former NAPOLCOM chief and ACCRALAW alumnus Ed Escueta, who is here, will deny this to death to this day). I remember answers being given to trivia questions even before they were asked (Mike Toledo, who is here with fellow ACCRA alumni Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea and DFA Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, may know who the culprit was). I recall the late former DOJ Undersecretary Al Llorente (who was one year my senior) tearfully resigning as head of the Sports Committee for having been unable to control Teddy, Raul Roco, and the other partners. But surprise, surprise for a young lawyer like me, all things automatically went back to normal the minute the awarding ceremonies were over. 

I soon realized that all these things were deliberately done – to prepare the ACCRA lawyers for the worst of times even as we were enjoying the best of times. The credit I give to our beloved Teddy who, without doubt, was the most unruly and uncontrollable among all the partners. Eventually, he said to me, “Francis, we have to make each and every ACCRA lawyer tough and strong  because ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link’.” That was Teddy.

Lastly, Teddy had a betting group in ACCRALAW, which Boy Lazatin described as Teddy’s “3 Stooges” or “3 Stupids”: Chito Vera Cruz, Rio Manibog, and myself. The group was sometimes joined by younger partners like Judy Hao, Lito Bautista, and Mel Velarde. We bet on almost anything under the sun: golf, tennis, NBA, election results, and at times the Oscars. We would argue over the formulation of the rules, and over lunches and during partners’ meetings, we would argue over what was agreed upon and the interpretation of our rules. As a result, upon advice of Ave Cruz, we resorted to having witnesses, a record keeper, and an arbiter. Mon Samson graciously did us the favor.

Invariably, I had side bets with Teddy on top of our group bets, and that’s how we endeared ourselves to each other. One time when Teddy saw my wife Edy after I'd beat him on a side bet in tennis, he said, “Edy, you must be giving tips to Francis.” I also remember, one Sunday, Teddy and I were arguing over the phone about a rule. Edy asked me how much was at stake. I replied P200. Edy retorted that we guys must have been nuts, unnecessarily stressing ourselves on a Sunday over P200.

But for us, money was not the issue; it was immaterial and irrelevant, as we litigators say. It was the bragging rights that mattered more. For Chito, Rio, and me, it gave us special joy to see Teddy being very much alive and back to his old, vibrant self.

Last year, Teddy told me that Tiger Woods was done and would never win another major in golf, namely, the PGA Tour, Masters, British Open, and the US Open. I openly disagreed with him; of course, this was deliberate on my part to bait him into a bet. Lo and behold: He eventually uttered one of his familiar phrases, “Wanna bet?” Being the  naughty me, I retorted, “Of course, I put my money where my mouth is.” What followed were protracted and stressful negotiations. The result was that I bet with Teddy that Tiger would win a major within two years from the 2018 Masters. Guess how much we bet after these stressful negotiations? A measly P500.

As the golf aficionados here know, it took only one year for Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Ted, let me remind you that I still have a receivable from you. I won’t collect it from your estate, though. I want you to pay it personally to me. But unlike in the past when you would go to my room to pay me, you can take as much time as you wish. Please don’t show up to me to pay. Do me that favor, Teddy please!  If you can’t wait to pay, I authorize Chito and Rio to receive it on my behalf.

As some of us here may know, the French Open for tennis and the NBA basketball championship are ongoing. For the first time in many years, we lost interest in betting because of Teddy’s absence, as Judy Hao had correctly observed. Now, Ted, your 3 Stooges have the final say. Goddamn it, Regala, why did you leave us in the midst of the NBA championship and the French Open? You stupid, you could have won a lot of money from your 3 Stooges!”  

On a more serious note, though, our loss of interest just demonstrates the kind of influence that Teddy had on our lives. But don’t worry Ted, we will resume the betting soon in your memory; more importantly, we will not lose interest in making ACCRALAW a stronger and better firm, because we know this was your passion in life.

The real Teddy Regala

Teddy appeared rough on the surface, but was soft on the inside. He is a legend in ACCRALAW for his fairness, integrity and generosity, even offering his residence  as collateral to enable an ACCRA partner to buy his own house.

I've mentioned several times the countless swears and shouting matches that many of us in this room have experienced from Teddy. All of us can attest – before God and men – that Teddy uttered these words not out of disdain or hatred for us. On the contrary, they were terms of endearment as many of us have observed. These words did not reflect the true Teddy Regala that we all know.

In the fairly recent past, we, the ACCRA family, were witnesses to the fact that even as he was aging and his health was failing, Teddy generously spent his remaining days attending our anniversary games, Christmas parties, partners’ meetings, the weekly CSPD and monthly firm meetings, and despedida lunches or dinners for our resigning and retiring lawyers.  

Indeed, if there is an idiomatic expression “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” our Teddy was the exact opposite. If I may be allowed to create my own idiomatic expression, “Teddy is a shepherd in wolf’s clothing.” He patiently guided his flock in more ways than one. As the late Ed Angara had once said of him, Teddy was always ready and willing to share his knowledge and lend a helping hand. In the words of Joe Concepcion: He was a true and committed friend. No hesitation, no reservation, no ifs and buts. Using the combined description of Rolly Vinluan and Boy Lazatin:  Behind the bluster, belligerent, competitive, and combative Teddy Regala was a truly caring, kind-hearted, and compassionate man. 

In a nutshell, this man we call Teodoro D. Regala, Sr., Teddy, Ted or simply “TDR” was truly a diamond in the rough.

Ted, rest in peace as you so richly deserve. We are comforted by the thought that you will continue to watch over us, as you have so generously done even long after you retired from ACCRALAW.

Till we meet again Teddy, hopefully and prayerfully, not sooner but a lot later. – Rappler.com

Francis Lim is a Senior Partner of ACCRALAW and the incumbent president of the Shareholders’ Association of the Philippines.

LIST: 2019 Independence Day rallies


 Background photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines– In light of issues involving Philippine sovereignty, various groups will be staging a protest calling for “true freedom” on Independence Day, June 12.

Among the groups leading the mobilizations on Independence Day are Anakbayan Vito Cruz, the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP), the League of Filipino Students, and broad citizen’s movement Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (P1NAS).

Anakbayan Vito Cruz called on Filipinos to assert the independence of the country by being free from “foreign meddling and exploitation.”

The Philippines currently houses one of the United States’ forward bases for their Pacific Air Force. It’s also forged a strong partnership with China, having signed agreements with the country despite its intrusions in Philippine waters.

“We must all make a stand for our brothers and sisters trampled on by a system empowering foreign interest,” Anakbayan Vito Cruz said.

Here is a list of rallies that will take place on June 12, 2019:

#AtinAngPinas protest at Kalaw (8:30 am) and the Chinese Consulate in Makati (10:30 am)

The Metro Manila chapter of CEGP will take part in an #AtinAngPinas caravan protest from the US Embassy in Manila to the Chinese Consulate in Makati. They'll first gather at Kalaw at 8:30 am.


P1NAS will also be leading the #AtinAngPinas protest at the Chinese Consulate in Makati to call and fight for the Philippines’ freedom as it celebrates its Independence Day.


End Dependence Day Rally in Kalaw (9 am)

The Vito Cruz chapter of Anakbayan under De La Salle University, along with other progressive groups like the League of Filipino Students, will meet up in Kalaw at 9 am before marching to the US Embassy and the Makati Fire Station in the spirit of resisting US and China interventions in the Philippines.


#HindipendenceDay at Heritage Park in Cebu City (9 am)

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines Cebu will be holding an #HindipendenceDay protest from Heritage Park, Parian to Gaisano Metro Colon at 9 am.


– Rappler.com

Elijah Allen Macaspac is a Rappler intern and is pursuing a Journalism degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Using #RP612fic, netizens imagine Philippine heroes on social media


MANILA, Philippines – Historical revisionism on Independence Day?

In what has become a yearly tradition, Filipinos online once again took to social media to share their jokes and memes about Philippine history on the 121st celebration of the country’s independence from Spanish rule.

The viral hashtag #RP612fic – which means "Republic of the Philippines June 12 fiction"  – is once again making rounds on social media as it instantly earned the top trending spot on Twitter. (READ: #RP612fic: Netizens imagine PH heroes on Independence Day 2018)

Writer Paolo Chikiamco started the online trend in 2009, and it has since become an annual tradition for the Philippine creative writing community to start a conversation on alternative historical narratives.

This year's entries for #RP612fic features references to the recent elections, 2018 Miss Universe Catriona Gray, Dante Galupa and many more. 

Some poked fun at politicians like senators-elect Bong Go and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

Meanwhile, some used the hashtag to express thinly veiled criticisms on the current state of the country or to take a jab at certain public personalities.

These are just some of the #RP612fic circulating on social media. What’s the wittiest one you’ve seen? Share them with us! – Rappler.com

Nicolas Czar Antonio is a Rappler intern and a Psychology major at the University of the Philippines Diliman. He tweets at @Nicolas_Czar.

IN PHOTOS: Celebrations, protests mark Independence Day 2019


CULTURE AND HONOR. People of Angeles City, Pampanga witness a cultural show and flag-raising ceremony to commemorate the 121st Independence Day of the Philippines. Photo by Allena Therese Juguilon/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – In a stark visual contrast, celebrations and protests marked the commemoration of the Philippines' 121st Independence Day on Wednesday, June 12.

On one hand, different local government units and key government officials proudly raised the Philippine flag in simultaneous flag-raising ceremonies across the country. On the other, protesters angrily raised their placards, calling for "true freedom" in the country.

Curiously, their call is similar with the one made by President Rodrigo Duterte in his Independence Day message, where he said he is hoping for true independence for the country "within our lifetimes." 

The day started with the commemorative flag-raising ceremony that takes place each year at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite – the place where the Philippines' independence was first declared. 

KAWIT, CAVITE. Various organizations join the celebration of 121st Independence Day at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 2019. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

CALOOCAN CITY. Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, right, led the flag raising ceremonies at the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan City. With him are Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan and Vice Mayor Macario Asistio III and other local officials. June 12, 2019. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

LUNETA PARK, MANILA. The Philippine Coast Guard holds an open house at the South Harbor, showcasing the new motor boats and jet skis on Independence Day, June 12, 2019. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Various groups, meanwhile, staged several rallies across the country and raised their placards instead of flags to protest China's growing presence in the country and the government's stance on the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Below are some photos from the nationwide rallies:

CAVITE. Policemen apprehend protesters during the celebration of 121st Independence Day at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 2019. Photo by Inoue Jaena/Rappler

MAKATI. Various youth and student groups rally at the Chinese Consulate in Makati City on Independence Day to uphold national sovereignty as China continues to occupy the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea. Photo by John Philip Bravo/Rappler

MAKATI. Bobby Roldan, Pamalakaya Central Luzon, discusses the struggles of Filipino fisherfolk in a rally held in Makati on Wednesday, June 12. Photo by Arlan Jondonero/Rappler

CEBU. Progressive groups burn the flags of the United States and China in front of Metro Colon in Cebu City during the Independence Day protest on Wednesday, June 12. Photo by Micole Gerard Tizon/Rappler


Filipinos on Independence Day 2019: 'We’re far from free'


MANILA, Philippines – Independence Day has long been an annual ritual for reflecting on freedom.

But this year, recent threats to democracy, press freedom, and sovereign rights beg the question: Are we – as individuals, as a people, and as a nation – truly free?

Many netizens seemed to shake their heads at the thought.

For Edwin Subijano, the magnitude of the injustice Filipinos have witnessed in recent times says a lot about the state of freedom – or lack thereof – in the country.

Meanwhile on Twitter, user @SyLicoNgaAko raised rhetorical questions on freedom and its many manifestations, implying that the Philippines is far from being "truly free."


'Province of China'

Many saw Independence Day as the most appropriate time to talk about the Philippines being tagged a "province of China," a reference to tarpaulins with this message seen hanging from various Metro Manila footbridges in 2018. (READ: Roque says 'province of China' tarp the work of government 'enemies')

In a more recent incident, a number of vendors were caught selling Chinese flags at Rizal Park just days before Independence Day, which the National Parks Development Committee said was a "setup."


Twitter user @ronaldgem explained that "imperialists" still have a hold over the government to this day, deeming Philippine freedom all the more questionable.


Democratic freedom – or the lack thereof

While some raised the issue of foreign control, others tackled freedom in the context of free speech and democracy. Many highlighted the government's intolerance for criticism and the rampant silencing of dissent.

Some also pointed out how the Duterte administration seems more and more authoritarian. 

For the privileged

Some, on the other hand, tackled freedom from a different perspective. While extrajudicial killings are prevalent in the slums, big-time drug lords remain at large. Politicians accused of stealing taxpayers' money get reelected. (READ: Ghosts of an anomalous past: Cases, controversies hounding new senators)

Freedom, it seems to them, chooses only the privileged.

Here are more netizens' takes on Philippine freedom:


This Independence Day, would you say that the Philippines is free? – Rappler.com

On Independence Day, mother who lost son to Oplan Tokhang calls for 'true freedom'


Emily Soriano holds a placard during the End Dependence Day protest on June 12, 2019 as she takes part in the fight of her community. Photo by Elijah Macaspac/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – In an Independence Day protest on Wednesday, June 12, one woman standing among a crowd of protesters carried the burden of being trapped in grief, remembering how she lost someone she loved. 

Last 2016, 3 days after Christmas and while other families were bringing their children to vacation spots or restaurants, Emily Soriano sent her 15-year-old son, who was shot in an operation of the administration's Oplan Tokhang, to his grave. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Having a son who wanted to be a soldier, Emily never imagined to see her son drowning in his own blood in their own neighborhood in Bagong Silang, Caloocan. Emily recalled how the incident suddenly imprisoned her in fear, grief, and a hunger for justice.

"Hindi nawawala 'yung takot at hindi parin nakakamit ang katarungan at kalayaan. Nakabaon tayo ngayon, 'yung isang paa natin nasa hukay na dahil sa nangyayaring Oplan Tokhang ngayon," she said. (I am still afraid and I believe we haven't achieved freedom and justice yet. We are buried, our one foot is in the pit because of Oplan Tokhang)

Together with other protesters, Soriano took to the streets on Independence Day to call for "true freedom" in the Philippines amid issues involving China's growing presence in the country and the government's stance on the disputed West Philippine Sea. The protest was dubbed "End Dependence Day" and was held at Kalaw Avenue in Manila City. 

Interestingly, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte also made the same call in his 2019 Independence Day message, saying that he is hoping for true independence "within our lifetimes." 

'Fighting for the whole community'

Despite the tragedy, Emily said she suddenly found herself on a new path. She began fighting not only for her son but also for other victims when the organization Rise Up for Life and Human Rights approached her and aided her with the case. 

"Sa lugar palang namin halos 2,000 ang biktima ng extrajudicial killings pero 50 lang may dokumento," she said. (In our place, there's an estimated 2,000 victims of extrajudicial killings but only 50 of them have documents)

She is now Rise UP’s spokesperson and is a human rights’ advocate. Going beyond herself, Emily is now also fighting for the whole community.  (READ: Duterte gov't allows 'drug war' deaths to go unsolved)


"Baka kaya nangyari ito sa anak ko, ginawa itong instrumento ng Diyos upang mamulat ako na tumulong sa iba,she said. (Maybe the reason why it happened to my son is because God intended to use it as an instrument to make me realize I can help others.)

As the Philippines celebrated its 121st year of indpendence from Spanish rule, Emily chose to head the streets and joined the End Dependence Day mobilization.

Emily found her voice and is now committed to bringing freedom to Filipinos who are trapped in fear and silence, whatever it takes.

"Ayaw kong makita ako ng mga kagaya ko na mahina ako," Emily said. (I do not want other people like me to see that I'm weak.) – Rappler.com  


Elijah Allen Macaspac is a Rappler intern and is pursuing a Journalism degree at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

'Tuloy ang laban': Workers assert rights as labor leader laid to rest


FIGHT FOR RIGHTS. Representatives of Samahang Mangagawang Nagkakaisa sa Jisoo raise their arms with clenched fists as they pledge to continue fighting for their rights after the funeral march held for Ka Dennis Sequeña on June 12, 2019. Photo by Stanley Triston Guevarra/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Laborers on Independence Day, June 12, vowed to assert their rights as trade union leader Dennis Sequeña was laid to rest that day. (READ: Hundreds seek justice at funeral for slain labor leader Dennis Sequeña)

As events commemorating the 121st Philippine Independence Day took place in other parts of the country, workers gathered as early as 8 am to honor Sequeña, who was gunned down by unidentified riding-in-tandem gunmen on Sunday, June 2.

At the funeral march, Rappler asked workers about their plight. They expressed strong, heartfelt sentiments that reflected how they viewed and valued freedom.

Awareness is liberating

Noting how industries spread falsehoods about workers’ rights, Jopay Odchimar said that there is really a need to make Filipinos aware of their basic privileges.

"Hindi lahat ng manggagawa dito sa Pilipinas ay nalalaman ang karapatan nila at 'yong dapat nilang panindigan, sapagkat ang pinapaintindi sa marami sa amin na ang pag-uunyon ay isang ilegal na gawain na kung saan ay hindi naman talaga totoo,” he said. 

(Not all workers here in the Philippines know their rights and what they need to stand up for, since many of us are led to think that forming unions is an illegal activity, when it's not.)

The Department of Labor and Employment mandates that under the right to self organization, workers and employees have the right to “form, join, or assist unions, organizations, or associations for purposes of collective bargaining and negotiation, and for mutual aid and protection."

Rights equals freedom

According to Ariel Garcia, representative of Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Jisoo, their rights are a form of freedom they now need more than ever.

"Siyempre, para sa aming manggagawa, ang kalayaan ay ang pagkukuha ng benepisyo, respeto, katarungan, at hustisya (Certainly, for us workers, freedom means securing benefits, respect, equity, and justice)," he said.

Also present at the funeral march was 59-year-old Partido Manggagawa chairperson Rene Magtubo who said workers' rights continue to be disregarded by employers.

The fact na kahit meron tayong labor standards, marami pa ring hindi sumusunod, halimbawa sa minimum wage, overtime.... Marami ang naharass dahil sa pag-oorganisa,” he said.

(Despite the existing labor standards, a lot of employers still do not comply with things like minimum wage and overtime pay.... The workers are harassed for their attempts to organize.)

Magtubo called on the government to improve its mechanisms so that wokers' rights  would be upheld.

The fight does not stop here

Nickay (not her real name), an active member of a labor group in Cavite, expressed her grief as well, but at the same time guaranteed that she and her association will continue to fight not only for workers' rights, but for justice. 

Hindi naman ibi -sabihin na nawala si Ka Dennis ay mababalewala na ang kanyang pinaglalaban. Mayroon pa rin kaming nandito – may mga kasama siya na ipagpapatuloy ang mga ito. Hangad namin ang katarungan at ang paglutas ng hustisya para kay Ka Dennis,” she said.

(Just because we lost Sequeña doesn't mean that his advocacies will go to waste. We are still here – we who journeyed with him will continue what he started. We want justice for him.) – Rappler.com

Stanley Triston Guevarra and Alessandro Alfred Perez are Rappler interns. Guevarra is an incoming AB Literature student at the Ateneo de Manila University. Perez is a BA Sociology student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

‘Not a friend’: Netizens hit China over sinking of Philippine boat


MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos online were furious when news broke out that a Chinese vessel rammed into a Philippine boat in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

On Independence Day, June 12, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana announced that a Chinese vessel sank a Philippine fishing boat in Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea on June 9, and left the 22 Filipinos on board "at the mercy of the elements."

Fortunately, they were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing vessel which happened to be in the same area. (READ: Sinking of Filipino vessel a 'first' in Philippines-China row)

Twitter user @nakilalawrence said that what happened just proved that “China is not a friend” – contrary to the claim of President Rodrigo Duterte and his officials.

Wilfred Halabi slammed the regional giant for hitting the Philippines "below the belt" with the latest incident.

‘How long are we going to endure?’

The June 9 incident is the latest in a string of Chinese "harassment" of Filipino fishermen in the West Philippine Sea.

In 2018, Filipinos protested the harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard, who demanded their best catch after fishing in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off the coast of Zambales, in the West Philippine Sea. 

In March, Malacañang said it could not do anything about the continued harassment of Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal. (READ: China shooing away PH fishermen from Panatag Shoal? What can we do – Panelo)

How long are we going to suppress this? How long are we going to endure?” Elle Sibal asked.

Einah Nina lamented the Duterte administration's seeming subservience to the Asian giant. 

‘Never turn a blind eye’

Following the latest incident, netizens urged the government and all Filipinos to resist being bullied.

Nicole Joy de Asis reminded everyone to “never turn a blind eye.”

According to @Joannaaaabanana, Filipinos are being stripped of their right to sail in their own territory.

Meanwhile, Arnel Andal asked Malacañang to defend the nation from all threats initiated by “greedy traitors.”

‘Why hear this news just now?’

Some were also quick to wonder why reports on the incident were released only on the country’s 121st Independence Day, when it happened days earlier.


Here are other reactions:

Some of the netizens' reactions were triggered by the tweet of Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr in response to calls to seek support from the international community after the incident.

"Fuck the international community. It can be bought. This is our fight and in the end ours alone," tweeted Locsin, as he dismissed the calls. (READ: Locsin on PH boat sinking: 'Fuck the international community'– Rappler.com

LIST: Activities in PH for World Blood Donor Day 2019


MANILA, Philippines – Various blood banks and centers in the Philippines will be holding a blood donation drive to celebrate World Blood Donor Day on Friday, June 14.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, June 11, Philippine Red Cross chairman Richard Gordon emphasized the important role that blood donors play in the health care system. (READ: Blood donors hailed as heroes)

"I'm glad it's called Blood Donor's Day, but it should be celebrated every day. Ang naiisip natin palagi pag nangunguha tayo ng dugo ay 'yung taong binibigyan ng dugo, pero ang hindi naiintindihan ng tao ay 'yung pinanggagalingan ng dugo, 'yung mga donors (When we extract blood, we often think of the recipient, but what people overlook is the source of the blood, the donors)," Gordon said.

With the theme "Safe blood for all," the celebration of World Blood Donor Day in the Philippines aims to acknowledge people who choose to donate their blood for a good cause.

"Having safe and quality supply of blood is an integral part of universal health care, forming part of a robust and effective health system," Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said in the press briefing.

Duque emphasized the need to spread awareness of regular donation to ensure that individuals and communities have access to affordable supplies of safe and quality-assured blood.

The health chief also thanked regular blood donors, citing the importance of blood products in most medical procedures, and in instances of accidents or emergencies. (READ: VIRAL: Uber driver turned blood donor inspires netizens)

"Blood transfusion saves millions of lives every year.... In 2017, we received one million blood units, but the goal is to meet the target of 100% voluntary non-remunerated blood donation by 2020," Duque said.

Here is a list of bloodletting activities in the Philippines on Friday to celebrate World Blood Donor Day:

East Avenue Medical Center

In collaboration with the Philippine Association of Medical Technologists, East Avenue Medical Center will be having a blood donation drive at the hospital's lobby in Quezon City from 8 am to 4 pm.

San Pablo City General Hospital

Interested blood donors can also head to the San Pablo City General Hospital in Laguna, for the Red Cross-San Pablo City Chapter's blood donation activity from 8 am to 4 pm.

Sto Niño de Tacloban Parish 

In Tacloban City, the Philippine Red Cross Leyte Chapter, in partnership with the Sto Niño de Tacloban Parish, will be holding a bloodletting activity at the church from 8 am to 4 pm.

Acienda Designer Outlet

The Philippine Red Cross Cavite Chapter-Dasmariñas City Branch will be giving a special token to volunteer donors who will participate in their blood donation activity from 10 am to 6 pm at the Customer Service Area of the ADO Clinic at the Acienda Designer Outlet mall in Silang, Cavite.

There will also be another blood donation activity next Thursday, June 20, at the National Youth Commission (NYC) Central Office in Metro Manila from 8 am to 5 pm. The activity will also be done as part of the NYC's 24th anniversary celebration.


– Rappler.com 

What Lee Kuan Yew’s son, Lee Hsien Yang, could be trying to tell us this Father’s Day


Singapore’s netizens went into a frenzy after the following family portrait surfaced on social media and went viral in late May. It is the late Lee Kuan Yew’s (LKY) son Lee Hsien Yang (LHY). His brother is Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister (PM) of Singapore. In this portrait, LHY’s family has reunited from different parts of the world in Cape Town to celebrate his son Li Huanwu’s wedding to his male partner.

I cannot begin to tell you how this family portrait has captured my imagination.

Photo from Li Huanwu's Facebook

In 2013, I co-hosted a three-starred Michelin Chef dinner for Singapore’s upper crust. LHY and wife Suet Fern were among just 20 selected to dine at the SGD2000-per-head table. The power couple looked immaculate.

Photo by James Leong

I was at the opposite end quietly doing my job. We didn’t speak, and we didn’t have to. I knew my place in the worlds of the haves and the have nots.

Since then, Singapore’s skyline has changed rapidly, in particular the Marina Bay precinct which hosts Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands. Singapore has also become the world’s most expensive city, where regular wages have not caught up with its newfound reputation as Southeast Asia’s playground for the rich. In late 2018, UK-based charity Oxfam ranked Singapore among the bottom 10 countries for tackling inequality, as old and lower income citizens cleaning tables and pushing cardboards on streets have grown to become a common sight.

As Singapore’s inequality and class divide continued to grow, it became our turn to be invited into their personal world—but only 4 years later. In 2017, the country’s elite, as we know it, connected on Facebook after LHY crossed swords with his own brother, the PM of Singapore, over their father’s Oxley Road house and will. No ringside seats needed. The rarefied air of the elite had been exposed to reveal sibling rivalries and power struggles for their father’s approval—just like any other family in Singapore. The only difference was how their status and access to resources saw their battle grow to involve lawyers, Parliament, the courts, senior politicians, and even LHY's wife and other son Li Shengwu.

The family feud shook Singapore to the core because the leader and moral compass of one of the longest-running political parties in the world had lost his own bearings. 

While many reacted with disdain at the airing of dirty laundry in public and shook their heads for soiling the LKY legacy, I wondered what possessed LHY, a member of Singapore's most powerful family, to seek solace and support from nameless have-nots.

LHY’s Facebook postings scream anger and betrayal. It’s been sporadic but lasting a good two to three years now, with his last post just this April. But a month later, he appears on FB again and it is via his son’s gay wedding portrait.

My imagination suddenly takes over and I cannot take my eyes off it. It is as if the worlds of the haves and have-nots have finally met. Online chatter crescendos from congratulatory messages for the couple to commendations to LHY and his wife for being exemplary and supportive parents.

I don’t see a disgruntled scion but a man rallying his family under intense persecution to support his gay son’s wedding, in a display of family solidarity and gender equality. Consider this—his brother the PM continues to retain a law that criminalizes sex between men, and this portrait appears just one month before Singapore’s largest and only LBGT event, Pink Dot 2019, happening on 29th June.

Did this one portrait succeed in demonstrating the freedom to love, something that 10 Pink Dot events are still trying to achieve? Did the same portrait speak to his brother’s stubborn refusal to decriminalize sex between men because traditional love reigns supreme in conservative Singapore?

I don’t really know, but I can imagine LHY wasn’t just seeking solace and support in his FB postings. He was making real connections.

Connection is what makes us social beings, but real connection gives us purpose and meaning in life. American sociologist Brene Brown of Ted Talk fame discovered the magic ingredient among people whom she calls “whole-hearted” and possessing self-worth—they embrace vulnerability in their connections to the world. Brown explains that vulnerability is emotional exposure to the uncertain, but it is also the need to be kind to yourself and the courage to be imperfect. It is to let go of the hustle of being someone else and living up to expectations. It is the decision to be authentic and say, “I’m sorry, I’m enough.”

Have you noticed how LHY, whose hair has now turned completely grey, is the only one in the portrait not smiling from ear to ear? Instead he is sitting upright, back straight and leaning forward with confidence to face the camera. His head is tilted, and with softness in his eyes he manages a forlorn smile as if to say, “It hasn’t been easy but today it’s not about me.” 

For all the money, power, and status the Lees enjoy, they are not spared the ego and unreconciled hurts that tear families apart. I think Singaporeans now know this but are too afraid to admit it.

Nonetheless, the man did choose real connection over stoic solitude. And LHY couldn’t have chosen a better platform to connect than via his son’s wedding.

In this one portrait I see vulnerability, kindness, and the courage to be imperfect. Not as an elite, but as a father, husband, and son, warts and all, just like any one of us. I bet if my eyes were to linger on that portrait another minute longer, I might just hear him say, “I am sorry. I am enough.”

I can only imagine. Happy Father’s Day. – Rappler.com

James Leong is a born and bred Singaporean. He runs his own media consultancy, now focusing on the social service sector. He is also a trained counsellor and named his counselling practice Listen Without Prejudice to address fear and anxiety.

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