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Bicolano fishermen rescued off Eastern Samar coast after 2 weeks


SURVIVORS. Catanduanes fishermen Rene Del Valle, Zaldy de Jesus, and Luis Tupig survived their 14-day ordeal in the middle of sea. Photo by Cora Basada

MANILA, Philippines – On a sunny Sunday on October 23, Lito Rosales, a fisherman from Barangay Sabang North in Borongan City, sailed off the coast of Eastern Samar to catch fish. He returned the following day not only with his catch, but also with 3 other fishermen from Catanduanes whom he rescued – Rene del Valle, Zaldy de Jesus, and Luis Tupig.

The 3 fishermen drifted out to sea about 14 days earlier as Tropical Depression Karen was moving towards the Catanduanes province.

Karen (international name Sarika) strengthened into a typhoon on October 15, placing Catanduanes under signal number 3.

The fishermen struggled to save their boat during the typhoon as waves rocked it, filling it with seawater, according to Cora Basada who posted about the ordeal of the rescued fishermen on Facebook. Basada works at the Borongan City Hall.

“On the 9th day at sea, they were afloat again, sailing aimlessly using the tarpaulin they had onboard for mast,” Basada said.

They survived by eating raw fish and floating seaweed as they drifted on water. 

When Rosales saw them, he offered the fishermen biscuits and water and took them and their boat to shore. It was only then that they realized that they reached Borongan.

Barangay Sabang North officials then brought them to the Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital for medical check-up.

Reconnected through social media

The inspiring rescue story reached authorities in Catanduanes through social media. 

Nag-post ako kaagad sa Facebook. Alam mo naman sa social media, nag-strart sa pa-share-share. Una, mga 20 shares muna, naging 30, at umabot ng 40 hanggang umabot sa Region V ‘yong post around 6 pm,” Basada shared. (I immediately posted their story on Facebook. The post started with a few shares. First it only got 20 shares, until it reached 30, and then 40. By 6 pm, the post reached Region V.)

Upon reading the post, the Office of Civil Defense in the Bicol region and other local authories contacted Basada to check the condition of the fishermen.

The OCD is scheduled to fetch the fishermen and bring them home on Tuesday, October 25. – Rappler.com 

Bayanihan spirit alive in Cagayan during, after Lawin


HELPING OUT. Volunteers repack relief goods for survivors of Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima).

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Many survivors of Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) here in Cagayan have dreadful stories to tell about the darkest and longest night that they've ever experienced – the night Lawin made landfall on October 19.

But a few, perhaps most importantly, are sharing inspiring stories of heroism.

That night, Soledad Langcay expected that the typhoon would be a strong one. But she opted to stay at home, together with her bedridden husband, 3 children, and 6 grandchildren, instead of evacuating.

"Noong una, mga 6 pm, okay pa, kaya pa. Pero nung 9 pm, biglang lumakas 'yung hangin at natanggal ang mga bubong namin," Langcay said, recalling the horrific moments.

(At around 6 pm, we were still okay, we could still handle it. But at around 9 pm, the winds became stronger and our roof was blown away.)

Langcay and her family then rushed to their neighbor, Maring Castillo, to seek shelter while waiting for the typhoon to weaken.

"Pinatuloy naman kami kahit na maliit lang din ang kanilang tirahan, nagsiksikan kami doon. Tulung-tulong naming binuhat ang asawa kong may sakit sa kasagsagan ng hangin," she said.

(We were welcomed at their house even if it's also small like ours. We were cramped inside. We carried my bedridden husband to their house at the height of strong winds.)

"Nagpapasalamat kami ng marami. Kung hindi dahil sa kanila malamang namatay na kami sa lakas ng hangin at sa mga punong nagsisibagsakan... Hindi na talaga namin alam kung kanino kami kakatok noon," Langcay, now teary-eyed, said.

(We're so grateful. If not for them, we would probably be dead by now because of the powerful winds and the trees that were getting toppled left and right... At that point, we really did not know where to go.)

For Castillo, it was her duty to help her neighbor. She said she is still thankful that they are all safe.

Civic initiatives

Langcay is just one of the thousands of residents who lost their homes.

According to the Cagayan provincial government, about 45,000 houses were damaged by the typhoon. Of that number, more than 9,000 houses were totally damaged.

Overall, Lawin affected more than 300,000 people in the 28 municipalities and one city of Cagayan. 

But where you can see traces of destruction, there also exists the Filipino culture of bayanihan (community spirit).

For instance, hundreds of volunteers are repacking relief goods in relief operation centers.

One of them is 49-year-old Marilyn Cabalza, who decided to volunteer after cleaning up the debris inside her house.

"Kanina pa akong mga alas-diyes dito. Maghapon ako dito tutulong. Tulong ko na lang sa mga parehas ko din na biktima ng Bagyong Lawin," Cabalza said, while busy packing a kilo of rice.

(I've been here since around 10 am. I'll be here all day. It's my way of helping those who are victims of Super Typhoon Lawin like me.)

Lloyd Aldrin Javier of Cagayan State University (CSU)-Carig Campus said his family is blessed because they did not suffer much from the typhoon. As a form of thanksgiving, Javier helped in the packing of relief goods at the Tuguegarao City People's Gymnasium. 

"We volunteered because we wanted to. We were enlightened to share hope to the homeless families as of this moment," he said. 

Churches are also distributing assistance. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints started giving relief goods last Friday, October 21, in evacuation centers.

"The relief goods are contributions of all the members of the church in the whole world. We are giving it to the identified families, either members or non-members," said Brother Kenneth Lee, head of the humanitarian department, in a speech before the distribution.

At CSU-Andrews, there's the #BangonCagayan campaign, a joint project of the Athena Debate Society, Association of Legal Management Students, and the Campus Student Government in partnership with The Northern Forum as well as telcos TM and Globe.


 The drop-off point for donations is located at the CSU-Andrews gate.

"Our goal is to reach the unreachable. #BangonCagayan will accept donations from different people and organizations then it is our duty to give it to the community," said Genica Daquioag, a volunteer for #BangonCagayan.

FREE CHARGING. Residents avail of the free charging in Cagayan.

Free charging, load, Wi-Fi

Since electricity is still down, telcos are offering Wi-Fi, cellphone load, and charging – all for free – to give residents the chance to talk to family members abroad or outside the typhoon-hit areas.

Louie Pagalilauan, one of the top officials of Smart in Cagayan province, said they had served more than a thousand residents already when they opened their free charging station last Saturday, October 22.

"This is our initiative to connect the residents here to their loved ones," Pagalilauan said.

She said even Globe users are welcome to charge their phones because it is during these times that competition should be set aside. – with reports from Julius Catulin & Erma Diciano / Rappler.com

Fil-Am candidates aspire to break racial barriers in US elections


SAN FRANCISCO, USA - Filipino Americans with political ambitions hope to break racial barriers in their respective bids for elected offices on November 8. Born in the United States, in the Philippines or elsewhere, they tout their Filipino identity and vow to bring their best qualities, skills and experience to serve the entire population while giving voice to minorities. (READ: 'Filipino Americans and the US elections: What's on their mind?')

As the two contenders for this country's highest office envision becoming either its first woman president or its first man unelected 'til then, Fil-Ams seek seats never occupied by one of their own. They are banking on their individual records but also their shared roots and vision to propel them to long-unreachable posts.

Aiming for the assembly

Mae Cendaña Torlakson is following in the footsteps of husband Schools Supe. Tom Torlakson, in her bid be the first FilAm woman elected to the California State Legislature.

Photo courtesy Torlakson campaign

California has the distinction of being the state with the largest population of Americans of Filipino descent but has not elected a Fil-Am to the state Senate or a Fil-Am woman to the state Assembly.

Mae Cendaña Torlakson won't take that fact sitting down: If the success of the Philippine-born former rock singer – thrice elected to the Ambrose Park and Recreation District Board of Contra Costa County east of San Francisco Bay – holds up, she would become the first Filipino American woman member of the Golden State Legislature. 

Four years ago, another Philippine native, Rob Bonta, truimphed in his bid for District 22 comprising Alameda, Oakland, San Leandro in the State Assembly and defended that seat by a landslide last year. To date he is one of two FilAms holding the highest elected seats in two branches of goverment (California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil Sakauye was nominated and later elected to her post).  

The Assembly often is dress rehearsal for the national political theater. Its members hold two-year terms but are limited to 12 years in that seat. Many termed-out representatives run for the state Senate for 4-year terms, like Torlakson's husband of 7 years, Tom Torlakson, now State Superintendent of Schools. The more confident vie for the US Congress 

No greenhorn on the political trail, Cendaña Torlakson took one of two top votes in June to advance to the final race to represent District 14, which spans parts in of Solano and Contra Costa Counties across San Francisco Bay to the east. 

By day, the 57-year-old mother of a son in college and a daughter in communications is statewide coordinator of the University of California (UC) Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement program. Administered by the UC Office of Diversity and Engagement, the MESA program assists disadvantaged students build careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

She highlights her immigrant story as a journey of challenge, resilience and faith in herself and her adopted country where she arrived in 1988 with her first husband and their children. The University of the Philippines graduate was armed with a rich resume amplifying her work in entertainment, fashion, and property management.  

Torlakson's pursuit of her American Dream stalled when her then-husband left the family. Suddenly a single mother, she lost her home but not the will to carry on. In 2000 she joined the staff of UC Berkeley, one of the foremost public university in the country.

Less than two decades later, Torlakson became the first known Fil-Am woman elected in Contra Costa, one of 9 counties composing the San Francisco Bay Area. A fan of the outdoors, she won a seat on the Ambrose Parks and Recreation District board that operates 9 parks including recreation services in the unincorporated community of Bay Point and a small section of Pittsburg, her home town. She is its current chair.

Torlakson vows to advocate for the following: "background checks for all gun sales," development of "revenue streams for education... pursuing efficiencies in the health care system," promoting neighborhood watch and modernizing the transportation system. 

In August, she earned the endorsement of the California Labor Federation for "promoting and defending the interests of working people and their families for the betterment of California’s communities."

“I believe that one of the State’s main responsibilities is to stimulate economic growth, create good paying jobs, help lift our workers to the middle class, and bridge income and wealth gaps," Torlakson reponded.

"In order to do this, I plan on working closely with the California Labor Federation to ensure that our work force is strong, trained, supported by elected leaders, and treated with the dignity and respect working people deserve.”

Marjan Philhour seeks a seat on the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors to advocate for young families like hers.

Photo courtesy of Philhour campaign

Supervisor races

San Francisco is fountainhead of the nation's Filipino political activism and origin of Filipino Studies in the country's academia's ethic studies programs, but it has not yet elevated a Fil-Am to the Board of Supervisors, the body governing this country's only administrative entity that is both County and City (though locals and vicinity residents refer to it simply as "The City").

San Francisco-born Marjan Philhour, aims to end the exclusion of Filipinos from the position, where other Asian Americans, like Chinese and Korean Americans, have sat or are currently seated. She is no slouch in the political arena, having been an aide to state officials throughout her professional life. But she has framed her campaign on her motherhood, underscoring the lack of advocacy for families in a community focused on technology, real estate and development. 

“Despite being the fastest growing and largest Asian American population in California, the Filipino American community has not yet succeeded in translating its activism into elected leadership commensurate with its size,” Philpour told this writer.

“I do believe that is changing, and the time is now for us to reap the benefits of our growth and activism. I have had over two decades of experience in government, politics, and community outreach. I have built relationships not only with elected leaders but also neighbors. I understand the importance of fund-raising as well as personal contact, and will run a campaign that prioritizes voter engagement.” 

The daughter of a Filipina mother and Iranian father is a cradle political strategist, having joined the office of San Mateo Congress Member Tom Lantos right after college graduation at UC Berkeley. She later joined the staff of several women legislators before signing on the presidential campaign of then-Democratic nominee John Kerry as deputy director for finance in the Pacific Northwest.

She returned home and ventured on her own in 2009, establishing her consultancy. By then she was a wife to Byron Philhour, a high school physics teacher. They settled down in the Richmond District, the original "Outside Lands" or outskirts of California, which became part of San Francisco 18 years after annexation from Mexico.

"The Richmond," as it's known, covers the northwest of The City including the expansive Golden Gate Park, the "New Chinatown," the commercial hub that is Clement Street, and the billionaire enclave of Seacliff. 

"Deep in the heart of San Francisco is a wonderful openness to newcomers — including to my own immigrant parents — and I am troubled by the growing undercurrent of nativism and exclusion we see in our politics," Philhour says on her campaign site.

"We also need to fight hard to protect what makes the Richmond District so special. We love our sleepy and foggy avenues — there is no appetite here for skyscrapers. We love our unique and legacy businesses ... and don’t want to see them run out by this unnerving boom-bust economic cycle we’ve seen over the past 20 years. We want to remain a residential community for families, working people, the retired, immigrants — everyone. We want to retain our wonderful shopping and dining experiences and have access to ordinary services."

The San Francisco Chronicle endorsed Philhour for "taking action" and "taking a stand... where housing and homeless concerns are at the top of the list."

"Philhour has the skills and can-do approach to upgrade the area’s voice at City Hall," the paper recommended in its September 16 issue.

San Mateo County is home to Daly City, which boasts the highest concentration of Filipinos in the continental United States, but has not voted a Filipino or Asian American to its Board of Supervisors.   

Mike Guingona with son Kai and wife Jackie is fighting to end Filipino and Asian drought on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Photo courtesy of Guingona campaign

San Francisco-born Mike Guingona seemed a shoo-in for the seat to represent District 5, where he made history nearly a quarter of a century ago by getting elected to the City Council of Daly City, where Filipinos make up almost 40% of the population. It took some 20 years before he was joined on the council by another Fil-Am, Ray Buenaventura, who was born in the Philippines and came to this country at age 11 with his parents.

The criminal justice lawyer battled to advance to the Nov. 8 election after placing a distant second to the front-runner, a colleague on the City Council.

Guingona belongs to the American branch of the political family led by former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona. His father, Joe Guingona, heads the ABS-CBS Foundation and Meralco's former partners in Spain. His mother, Cecile Limjap Apacible, hails from the clan that produced fighters in the revolution against Spain. 

While no longer the enfant terrible that in 1993 defied the Fil-Am establishment admonishing him to defer his candidacy to those who had waged and lost earlier campaigns, Guingona at 54 still drips with aplomb at odds with self-effacement instilled in the Philippine culture, particularly toward elders.

To his contemporaries, however, Guingona embodies the leader whose qualifications stack up against the brightest, in or out of the mainstream. Majority of the sitting Board of Supervisors concur: They endorsed him to succeed the termed-out incumbent. 

The University of San Francisco and UCLA alum started out as an San Francisco public defender before going into private practice.  He is a 2nd Lieutenant with the California State Military Reserve.

Now as then, the father of Kai, 15, marches to the beat of his own drum. He has a core crew of "confidantes" who admire his candor. Pioneer business leaders Vince Agbayani and Guy Guerrero have been raising funds because they support what Guingona would focus on if elected: "County healthcare system, affordability for families and seniors, and the transportation network throughout the County.

Guingona rests on his service record.  

"I will continue to work toward fiscally sound and sustainable government budgets; promoting economic development and local job creation; maintaining quality public safety services; investing in City services for our seniors and youth; and improving transportation systems," he emphasized.

"Besides being the most eminently qualified, he is our best chance to get a Filipino American elected to the board," agree Guerrero and Ray Satorre, who led the campaign to change the former voting system they believe disadvantaged candidates of color.

November 8 marks the first time only district residents will vote for their district representative. District 5 comprising the county's largest city Daly City, Broadmoor, Colma, Brisbane, and parts of South San Francisco and San Bruno further south, is the first to elect its representative exclusively by district residents.

Guingona grew up making history. He was the first Fil-Am head of the student body at Westmoor High School in Daly City, where he led the wrestling team. He is confident his record will hold through the most important campaign of his life – to date. – Rappler.co 

San Francisco police cut ties with PNP over drug war


CEBU CITY, Philippines – After 16 years, police agencies in the San Francisco Bay Area are ending their training program with the Philippine National Police (PNP). This was due to concerns over the war on drugs.

"Our nation [the Philippines] is in turmoil and trouble and it just gets worse and worse. Economically, because of this controversy, it affects every segment of making us a better nation and better people," Retired Filipino American Police Lieutenant Eric Quema told local San Francisco CBS affiliate KPIX.

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) said in a statement that they decided to end the program because of "concerns of allegations of civil rights violations in the Philippines."

President Rodrigo Duterte has been making good on his campaign promise to wage a war on illegal drugs. Since his term began, there have been more than 3,500 people killed, and convinced over 700,000 drug users and pushers to surrender.

Over 1,100 of those deaths so far are suspects killed in legitimate police operations, while the rest were killed by unknown assailants.

According to the PNP's numbers, around 20,000 have been arrested nationwide due to drug charges.

The program began in 1999 and was organized by the Filipino-American Law Enforcement Officers Association (FALEO).

In addition to equipment, enforcement and rescue training, the program consists of lectures, dialogues and turnover of new and second-hand equipment to the PNP.

In 2010, members of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Police, the California Department of Justice/Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement and the San Francisco District Attorney's Investigation Brueau joined the exchange program.

About 1.5 million Filipino immigrants and Filipino Americans live in California, of which, 380,000 are in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Duterte won 45% of the 14,000 votes cast at the San Francisco Consulate, which covers overseas absentee voters living in the western United States, last May.

Aside from extrajudicial killings, Duterte has also been criticized for ordering police to "shoot to kill" suspected drug pushers. (READ: Shoot to kill? Duterte's statements on killing drug users)

"Do not bullshit with me, but do your duty, I will die for you. Do your duty and if in the process you kill 1,000 persons because you were doing your duty, I will protect you," he told police officers last July.

Police departments in the United States have also been accused of using excessive force. According to The Guardian's "The Count," 1,146 civilians were killed by police in 2015, while 873 have been killed in 2016. Many of those killed are ethnic minorities.

In contrast with Duterte, US President Barack Obama condemned killing of civillians by American police officers. He was quoted by ABC News last July, "All of us Americans should be troubled by these shootings. These are not isolated incidents, they are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system."

The Philippines' war on drugs has caused a rift between the longtime allies after the US expressed concern over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. (READ: US releases a rare list of concerns under Duterte)

During a recent trip to Beijing, Duterte announced an 'economic and military' separation from the US, but clarified that he was not 'severing' diplomatic ties. – Rappler.com

#ReliefPH: DSWD ready to accept donations for Lawin survivors


MANILA, Philippines – Responding to the needs of the families affected by Typhoon Lawin, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) announced on Wednesday, October 26, that the agency is ready to accept donations. The announcement came after DSWD conducted its initial ground assessment in regions struck by the typhoon. 

“Our doors remain open to those who offered aid assistance, as long as they do not come with conditions and are locally available already. We also appeal to the public to have patience with us as we conduct the ongoing validation of areas affected and assessment of their needs because we want to ensure that all donations and relief items will not overlap and will be rationally distributed to rightful beneficiaries,” said DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. (READ: #ReliefPH: Help victims of Typhoon Lawin

For organizations and individuals who wish to help, the list of goods or items that can be donated are the following:

  • Canned process goods (not expiring within six (6) months)
  • Rice
  • New clothing and underwear
  • Shelter materials
  • Jerry cans
  • Cooking and Kitchen kits
  • Water
  • Hygiene kits
  • Sleeping kits (such as mats, blankets, mosquito nets, etc.)
  • Tents/tarpaulins/laminated sacks

Hotline numbers of NROC are: (02)852-8081 / (02)851-2681 / (02)511-1259.

Meanwhile, the Department also accepts cash donations through:


Account Name : DSWD DONATION

Account Number : 3122-1011-84

Bank Address : Land Bank of the Philippines, Batasan Branch, Constitution Hills, Quezon City

Foreign donors may also send monetary assistance through:



Account Number : 3124-0055-81


Bank Address : Land Bank of the Philippines, Batasan Branch, Constitution Hills, Quezon City

Donors are advised to directly deposit to the DSWD donation account and notify the DSWD Finance Management Service (FMS) or Cash Division (CD) by sending the validated deposit slip together with the donor’s information to fiance@dswd.gov.ph and cash@dswd.gov.ph or fax to 931-8127.

Taguiwalo also gave assurances that the donations will be appropriately handled by the agency.

“All donations will be inventoried, monitored, reported and acknowledged. We will also provide donors with reports regarding the receipt and utilization of the items. For transparency, these will also be posted on our website www.dswd.gov.ph,” Taguiwalo added. 

Advanced preparation and coordination

Taguiwalo also added that the DSWD and other agencies have been prepared in their response to the the emergency situation created by Typhoon Lawin. 

“We are improving   as we go and as we see areas of work that are weak and need to be strengthened.  Our conclusion is basic – we at the DSWD must go down to the field, speak to the people if the steps we are proposing are also what they need. We have to do this to ensure the validity of our data on which we base our plans,” she said.

To date, there are 302,764 families or 1,352,002 persons affected in 3,097 barangays in Regions CAR, I, II, III, and V.

There are a total of 97,126 damaged houses in Regions CAR, I, II, and III; of which, 84,691 are partially damaged and 12,435 are totally damaged.

Responding to this emergency situation, government agencies, local government units, and private groups donated a total of P34,636,253 (P714540) worth of relief assistance to the affected families. Of the said amount, the DSWD provided P27,844,541 ($574,428); respective LGUs provided a total of P6,786,712 ($140,008); while some NGOs provided a total of P5,000 ($103.15).

The Central Office (CO), affected Field Offices (FOs), and NROC also have a total stockpile and standby funds amounting to P840,551,812.92 ($17,340,440).  Rappler.com 

$1 = ₱48.47

LOOK: This box of DSWD relief goods goes a long way


HELP REACHES KALINGA. A mother from Kalinga province in Cordillera is in all smiles after receiving relief goods. All photos courtesy of DSWD

MANILA, Philippines – This box of relief goods has travelled far - on rough roads, across rivers, through carabaos, and from one helping hand to another. 

On Wednesday, October 26, it reached far-flung villages of indigenous peoples in Cordillera. 

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Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo and Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno flew to Kalinga province on Wednesday to conduct a post-disaster rapid damage assessment and needs analysis (RDANA) and to distribute boxes of relief goods.  

Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) hit Northern Luzon on October 19, leaving the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and nearby regions under a state of calamity. 

The super typhoon destroyed around 12,000 houses and damaged about P400 million worth of fisheries and crops in the region. 

NEW PACKAGING. Relief supplies that DSWD distributes are now packed inside a sealed box.

Taguiwalo visited Barangay Cabaruan in Tabuk town in Kalinga to lead the distribution of boxes of relief goods and emergency shelter assistance (ESA). 

A box contains the following:


  • 6 kilos of rice,
  • 4 cans of sardines,
  • 4 cans of corned beef or meat loaf
  • 6 sachets of coffee or energy drink


The food pack can sustain a family of 5 for two days according to Taguiwalo. 

She also reached the remote town of Rizal, the last town of Kalinga near the boundaries of Cagayan and Isabela provinces.

REACHING RIZAL. A carabao is used to transport relief goods to the remote town of Rizal in Kalinga province.

Kalinga was one of the most devastated provinces – 6 people died and at least 2,113 families were severely affected, according to the provincial risk reduction management council (PDRRMC). (READ: Kalinga residents appeal for aid: ‘Don’t forget us’)

DSWD social workers also brought family food packs to Sitio Simod, Barangay Malibang, in Pudtol, Apayao by foot.

BY FOOT. DSWD social workers and volunteers bring boxes of relief supplies to a remote village in Apayao province in Cordillera by foot.



So far, DSWD has released around P5.6 million worth of relief goods and also gave shelter aids to the survivors. A cash assistance of P5, 000 was given to families that needed shelter aid. 

DSWD also announced on Wednesday that the agency is ready to accept donations

"We also appeal to the public to have patience with us as we conduct the ongoing validation of areas affected and assessment of their needs because we want to ensure that all donations and relief items will not overlap and will be rationally distributed to rightful beneficiaries,” Taguiwalo said. 

The agency can be reached through its CAR hotline 074-442-3946 / 074-446-5961 for those who need assistance and relief goods in the area.

The national hotline 911 and Agos eBayanihan's free text service 2929 (SMART and SUN subscribers) are also ready to receive relief-related reports. – With a report from Voltaire Tupaz/Rappler.com 


WATCH: Giving birth during Super Typhoon Lawin


ISABELA, Philippines – At the height of Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima), Ilagan City resident Jamaica Navarro didn't expect to go into labor. With floodwater rising and roads blocked by fallen trees, help could not get to her.

Fortunately, the Rescue 1124 team was able to give instructions through a phone call. The baby was successfully delivered in the wee hours of October 20 – alive and healthy.  Rappler.com

Hijacked Filipino seafarers to return home after nearly 5 years


MANILA, Philippines – Five Filipino crew members of MV Naham 3 are set to come home Friday, October 28, nearly 5 years after their ship was hijacked by Somali pirates.

The Omani-flagged fishing vessel was seized by pirates in the southern part of Seychelles in March 2012, during the height of the region’s piracy scourge. 

The Somali pirates freed 26 asian hostages, including the 5 Filipinos, on Saturday, October 22. 

The distressed seafarers – Arnel Pregillana Balbero, Elmer Salvador Balbero, Ferdinand Jacinto Dalit, Akes Tininggal Edwas Jr, and Antonio Auxtero Libres Jr – are set to arrive at 4:30 pm on Friday via Emirates EK332.

They will be met by their families and representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

According to OWWA Officer-in-Charge Carmelina Velasquez, the seafarers will be accorded assistance by the OWWA Repatriation Team upon arrival at the airport and will be provided accommodation.  

OWWA’s assistance to the  repatriated Filipino seafarers will also include transportation to their respective hometowns, where they will also be recommended to undergo psycho-social counseling as part of their healing process. 

“We imagine the nightmare that our kababayans went through all those times, so much so that we wish that they, together with their families, will be able to  adjust and be back to their normal lives.  We are thankful that they at last, are able to come home safely,” OIC Velasquez said.   

The release of the crew from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam was negotiated by the Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP).

OBP said that pirates initially took 29 crew hostage, but one person died during the hijacking, and two more "succumbed to illness" during their captivity.

Shen Jui-chang, a Taiwanese who was among the hostages freed, told reporters that they were forced to eat mice, scorpions, and centipedes to survive.

"Every day was nerve-wracking, with the pirates pointing their AK-47 rifles at me 24 hours a day," he said. – Rappler.com



Rappler Talk: Can minorities protect their rights under Duterte?


MANILA, Philippines – On Saturday, October 29, the Philippines will mark the 19th anniversary of the historic enactment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act. October is officially declared Indigenous Peoples’ Month.

The month-long observance was, however, tainted by violence after protesters and police clashed in front of the US embassy in Manila on October 19 as cops tried to disperse a rally of indigenous and Moro activists.

At least 3,000 Moro and indigenous peoples from all over the country gathered in Manila from October 13 to October 28 for a caravan dubbed “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan” (Journey of the National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace).

The members of the national minority have long asserted their right to freely pursue their political, economic, social, and cultural development.

At 11 am on Friday, October 28, MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz talks to Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan secretary general Piya Macliing Malayao to tackle the prospects for self-determination of minorities under the Duterte government. She was one of the protesters seriously injured after cops rammed a police vehicle through the crowd. – Rappler.com















Katribu to Duterte: Review 19-year-old IP Rights Act


'NATIONAL MINORITIES'. At least 3,000 Moro and indigenous peoples from all over the country gathered in Manila from October 13 to October 28 for a caravan dubbed 'Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan' (Journey of the National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace). Photo by Kilab Multimedia

MANILA, Philippines – The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act was hailed as a landmark law when it was enacted 19 years ago today, October 29.

The IPRA outlined measures to ensure that the following indigenous peoples' rights are upheld by the government:

  • Right to ancestral lands and domains
  • Economic development and self-determination
  • Cultural integrity
  • Access to basic social services

But indigenous peoples have lost faith in the law and now want it reviewed by Congress during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, according to Piya Macliing Malaya,  Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan (Katribu) secretary general.

"I-review ito. Ano talaga 'yung naging karanasan at makita kung paano nito minaliit 'yung karapatan sa sariling pagpapasya ng mga katutubo,” Malayao said on Rappler Talk on October 28, as the observance of the Indigenous Peoples' Month wrapped up. 

(Review it. See what our experience with the law shows and how it has undermined the indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.)

Malayao, a member of the Bontoc tribe in Mountain Province, noted that indigenous peoples continue to face discrimination and are threatened by commercialization of their culture, military presence in their communities, and destructive operations like mining.

"'Yung 19 years ng kanyang pagpapatupad ay isang patunay din kung gaano ito kabigo doon sa pagprotekta ng collective rights of indigenous peoples (Its 19 years of implementation shows how it failed to protect the collective rights of indigenous peoples),” she said.

Activist indigenous groups consider Duterte an ally in their fight for their rights, saying that the President understands the "historical injustices" committed against minorities, particularly the indigenous and Moro peoples.

'IPRA violations'

The Indigenous Peoples Sectoral Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) echoed Malayao’s concerns. “After 19 years of the evolution of the IPRA, the 4 bundles of rights have yet to be achieved," it said.

The council enumerated the following alleged violations of the rights of the sector, which comprises about 10% to 15% of the total population of the country based on available government data:

  • Intrusion of all kinds of unfriendly development destroying and exploiting ancestral lands and natural resources 
  • Land-grabbing which causes displacement and killings of indigenous peoples
  • Slow pace of titling of ancestral lands/domains due to lack of funds and implementation of culturally-inappropriate policies 
  • Legal luminaries' misinterpretation of the provisions of IPRA such as the “prior rights or vested rights” which encourages disrespect of ethnicity
  • All forms of racial discrimination and human rights violations like name-calling, name-tagging, choreographed dances, and the like
  • Recruitment of indigenous youth by both government forces and other armed groups which divides communities

However, the council would rather that the government implemented IPRA.

“Our battlecry is not hatred nor vengeance but reconciliation. By reconciliation, we expect the recognition of the past injustices, forgiveness for those who were instruments of such injustices, correction of an unjust system, and acceptance of the IP as an equal partner in Philippine society,” it said, as it observed Indigenous Peoples' Month.

Indigenous Peoples' Month

The month-long observance was tainted by violence after protesters and police clashed in front of the US embassy in Manila on October 19. As cops tried to disperse a rally of indigenous and Moro activists, protesters were hurt, among them, Malayao. (READ: Police van overruns protesters in US embassy dispersal)

At least 3,000 Moro and indigenous peoples from all over the country gathered in Manila from October 13 to October 28 for a caravan – “Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya para sa Sariling Pagpapasya at Makatarungang Kapayapaan” (Journey of the National Minorities for Self-Determination and Just Peace).

Malayao said  the violent incident should be a reminder of the struggle of indigenous peoples to defend their distinct culture and way of life. 

"Ito ay nangyari dahil sa pagdepensa at paglaban – resistance mismo ng mga community para mapanatili itong natatanging kultura, makulay na kasuutan, at mga magandang kaugalian ng sama-samang pagkilos," Malayao said.

(Our culture has survived because we defended and fought for it – the resistance of the communities has enabled our distinct culture, colorful attire, and good traditions like collective action to persist.)  – Rappler.com 

VIRAL: Meet fisherman's son who painted portrait of 'Tatay Digong'


PRESIDENTIAL PORTRAIT ARTIST. Macky Bongabong, who painted President Rodrigo Duterte's official portrait in Malacañang Palace, tears up as he meets his subject. Photo by King Rodriguez posted on Bongabong's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Many artists have to go through hardships before experiencing success. The story of Macky Bongabong is proof that not giving up on your craft pays off.

Bongabong, a son of a fisherman from Sangali, Zamboanga City, is no stranger to the pains of life. He grew up on the shore, where his father taught him how to sew nylon fishing nets, which later on became his source of income as a high school student. The catch of his father for the day was always just enough for the family.

Bongabong grew up with an appreciation for the arts, despite having no formal education or training in it.

He joined almost all of the art competitions in his school and in their town, and even dreamed of going to other places to compete. Every time he won, he would always hand his cash prize to his mother, to provide for the family.

In 1999, a life-changing incident shook Bongabong – his mom died.

Despite this, he pressed on and won the championship in the National Poster Making Contest by the Philippine Association of Water Districts in 2003, which was held in Bacolod City.

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He later moved to Davao City, still wanting to pursue a career in painting. He slept on the sidewalk on his first night.

Bongabong started off in the city by working on commissioned paintings. Sometimes, dissatisfied clients would return his work, not pleased with how it turned out. But he persevered and continued practicing and practicing.

He was eventually able to rent a space in a small shopping mall in Davao City, then later moved to a bigger mall in January 2013.

One day, the biggest project of his life just landed on his lap – a request from no less than the Office of the President.

Now, the portrait of President Rodrigo Duterte made by Bongabong hangs on the wall of Malacañang Palace.

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"Who would have thought a boy, just sewing fishing nets by the port, skin burnt by the sun, would later be a part of Philippine history, his artwork hanging beside the works of Fernando Amorsolo and other national artists?" Bongabong said in a Facebook post, thanking the President whom he also called "Tatay" (father).

"We must not look at how small we are or how little we have but how big God is and how beautiful His plans are for us." – Danielle Nakpil / Rappler.com

DILG, Rappler sign MOU on better use of technology in governance


MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Rappler recenty signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on projects, activities, and programs that promote transparency and enable community involvement using social media and other available technologies.

The MOU ws signed on October 27 at the close of the month-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Local Government Code of 1991.

This partnership allows for collaboration in matters such as fighting corruption, promoting the best standards in governance, and disaster risk reduction and mitigation. 


From L-R: DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero, DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, Rappler Research and Content Strategy Head Gemma Mendoza, and Move.ph Executive Director Rupert Ambil.

Through Rappler’s citizen engagement arm, Move.ph, technology is harnessed to help bring communities and government together. Since 2012, the DILG and Move.ph have been working closely to address the gaps in publishing and disseminating crucial information to the public when they need it the most.

That was the inspiration behind Agos, which, in the past 3 years, has developed efficient crowdsourcing and mapping technologies, as well as trained government officials and citizens to use these tools to help in disaster risk reduction and management.

Agos' objective was to map critical areas and respond to calls of relief and rescue real time, using a shared database where anyone could contribute. Through the Agos platform, DILG officials were able to check and respond to real time updates of on-ground citizen reports.

This year, the anti-corruption platform #NotOnMyWatch was launched to help in understanding how corruption works – where it happens, how it happens, and how frequently it happens – through citizen reports submitted online and for free.

Similar to the idea of Project Agos, #NotOnMyWatch hopes to develop a community of active citizens submitting good or bad reports on government service delivery.

DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero cited the importance of citizens giving feedback to government, especially with the number of DILG programs and projects happening all over the Philippines. Monitoring these projects is very tedious and cannot be done by DILG alone, he said. To understand if these programs are indeed effective, DILG needs citizen feedback, and #NotOnMyWatch can be used to do this.

Rappler's research and content strategy head Gemma Bagayaua Mendoza said, “There are 50 million Facebook users in the Philippines alone, and we want to bring the conversation of governance to where they already are – Facebook.”

Reporting on government service can now be easily done via Facebook Messenger or through a web form on www.fightcorruption.ph. – Rappler.com



DSWD ready to offer food if Undas passengers get stranded


HOMEBOUND. Hundreds of southbound passengers wait to board buses at the Araneta Bus Center in Cubao, Quezon City on October 27, to avoid the last-minute rush for All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day holidays. File photo by Joel Liporada

MANILA, Philippines – The field offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) are on alert during the observance of Undas or All Saints Day and All Souls Day on November 1 and 2.

According to DSWD, it is ready to assist families or individuals who may need assistance as they travel to their provinces to visit the graves of their loved ones.

“The observance of Undas will increase the number of travellers to the provinces. In cases that there are people who get stranded along the way and may need food assistance, all our field offices are on standby to extend the necessary family food packs and other appropriate assistance,” Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a statement on Monday, October 31.

Families or individuals needing assistance may go to the nearest DSWD field office. The field offices operate the Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) 24/7.

The central office, field offices, and the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) have a total stockpile of family food packs and standby funds amounting to about P7.9 million that can readily be used in times of emergencies during the observance of Undas. – Rappler.com

911, Cagayan responders at work during Super Typhoon Lawin



TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office head Bonifacio Cuarteros ordered his men to be back in the headquarters by 6pm on October 19, 5 hours before Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) made landfall over Cagayan.

But around 10 pm, Cuarteros got a call asking for help. About 20 people needed to be rescued in Peñablanca town, ground zero of the strong typhoon, the operator said. The voice of the caller, Katherine Briosos, was shaking.

It was impossible for the responders to conduct rescue operations because strong, howling winds were already whipping through the province in the dark. At the time, Cagayan was already placed under signal number 5– the highest tropical cyclone warning signal.

Cuarteros still took the call. Together with the 911 operator who was based in Manila, the disaster management chief of Cagayan guided the caller to keep her and her companions safe as the typhoon was battering their house.

Here is an excerpt from their conversation which Rappler is publishing with the permission of 911, Cuarteros, and the caller. (LISTEN TO THE FULL CONVERSATION HERE: 911 at work during Super Typhoon Lawin)

911: Matibay naman po ang bahay niyo, Ma’am? Bale ang apprehension niyo lang po ay ‘yung bubong? (Is your house strong, Ma’am? Your only apprehension is that your roof might be blown away?"
Briosos: Opo, opo. (Yes, yes)
911: Sir Cuarteros, bale okay naman daw po ‘yong mga pader. ‘Yung bubong lang po. (Sir Cuarteros, their walls are durable but the roof isn’t.)
Cuarteros: Bale stay calm and pray. And then kung wala na po talagang malipatan diyan, dumikit po kayo sa may wall area, at kung mayroon po kayong mga mesa na matibay-tibay. (Stay calm and pray. If it’s already impossible for you to seek refuge in another house, huddle near a wall or under a robust table.)
911: Karagdagan lang po, medyo sipat-sipatin niyo po baka may mga falling debris po. Ingatan niyo lamang po. Dumikit po kayo kung may lamesang kahoy. Lumayo po kayo sa salamin para makaiwas po tayo sa mga bubog. Ma’am, dikit kayo sa posteng matibay. Okay po, Ma’am? (In addition, be mindful of falling debris. Take care. Stay close to the wooden table. Stay away from the mirror. Stay close to a strong post. Is that ok with you, Ma’am?)
Cuarteros: Stay calm, stay calm.

The call indeed calmed them down, Briosos told Rappler in a phone interview, grateful of the responders.

Salamat po. Kahit 'di na-rescue dahil sa lakas ng bagyo, may mga advice na ibinigay na nakatulong.” 

(Thank you. Even if we were not rescued because of the strength of the typhoon, the advice given was helpful.)

Briosos said they heeded the advice of Cuarteros when the wind weakened a bit. When it regained strength, blowing off the roof of their house, they had already transferred safely to a stronger house nearby.

On Monday, October 31, authorities said Lawin affected over 187,000 families or 800,000 individuals, killing 4 and hurting at least 40 individuals. 

Use the hotline to save lives

Activated on August 1, 911 is the official national emergency number that is being operated by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). Currently, callers pay P5.50 per call made to the 911 hotline.

“You don’t have to make follow-up calls because 911 has a system of calling you back to make sure responders have addressed your report,” Allan Tabell, chief of DILG's Disaster Information Coordinating Center (CODIX), said.

The hotline has been used increasingly during typhoons, according to Tabell. He encouraged residents in areas affected by disasters to maximize its use in saving lives.

"Sa mga sitwasyon na critical, lalo na kung medyo malayo sila sa sentro ng population, they should always call 911. Ibigay nila ang tamang impormasyon, huwag silang mataranta.

(In critical situations, especially if they are far from town centers, they should always call 911. Just provide the right information, don’t panic.)

The 24-hour service had proven effective in Davao City to ensure the speedy response of police, firefighters, and medical personnel during emergencies. President Rodrigo Duterte, the city's former mayor, replicated the same system all over the country. – Rappler.com

#LawinPH: Being prepared saved lives


DISASTER PROOF. Residents of Baggao, Cagayan return to their farms after Super Typhoon Lawin hit in October 2016. Photo courtesy of Plan International

MANILA, Philippines – From afar, you can just see a line of colorful umbrellas dotted along a vast rice field with mountains in the background. As you come closer, you can see more than 10 farmers, mostly women, barefoot and bending down as they plant rice while using the umbrellas to cover them from the heat of the sun.

They are women who have just braved a category 5 super typhoon.

In less than a week, farmers affected by Typhoon Lawin (international name Haima) are back on their feet – planting rice, plowing their fields, and drying the produce that they harvested days before the typhoon made landfall. (READ: 911, Cagayan responders at work during Super Typhoon Lawin)

Disaster Risk Reduction and Manager of Isabela Edmund Guzman explained how the community has managed to recover so quickly, "We conducted intensive preparations for Typhoon Lawin. Two days before the typhoon, we did pre-emptive evacuation especially for those living along the coast facing the Pacific Ocean. We had pre-positioned goods in each municipality. Most of the farmers harvested their crops before the landfall as well."

Super Typhoon Lawin was watched all over around the world with many comparing it to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that killed thousands of people in November 2013. Reports claimed that the diameter and eye of Typhoon Haima was twice the size of Haiyan. 

“We experienced heavy downpours and strong winds, stronger than Typhoon Juan (Megi) but we were not caught by surprise. We were able to prepare for Typhoon Lawin unlike when Typhoon Juan hit us six years ago,” Mayor Arnold Bautista of Tumauini, Isabela said. 

“A day after Typhoon Lawin’s landfall, families have returned to their houses from the evacuation centers. They are already busy checking on their farms and houses and mending what was damaged,” Bautista added. 

According to Guzman: “There was low casualties and devastation because of the preparation measures we did. We have the Sierra Madre mountain ranges close to us. The mountain ranges shielded us, minimizing the impact of Typhoon Lawin.”

Post-Lawin response

To understand the extent of damage caused by the typhoon, child rights and humanitarian organization, Plan International, undertook rapid assessments in Cagayan and Isabela provinces. Life-saving shelter, and infant and hygiene kits were on standby, ready for distribution in case needed. The assessment was jointly conducted through the Philippine Network of NGO Network (PINGON) which Plan International is a part of.

Plan International commended the communities and the government for their disaster preparedness measures and for quickly mobilizing their resources to respond to the needs of those affected by the typhoon.

“The change of behavior in terms of disaster preparedness has saved a lot of lives and caused less destruction,” Plan International Country Director Dennis O’Brien.

He added: “The efforts of Cagayan and Isabela provinces in terms of preparedness and resiliency are good models to follow. We have to learn from them and adapt the good practices they followed during Typhoon Lawin and previous disasters."

The Philippine government has stated their ability to respond to the immediate needs of people affected by Typhoon Haima. “Plan International stands with the Philippine government and is ready to provide support when necessary," said O’Brien.

For almost 20 years, Plan International worked with the communities in Isabela and Cagayan, focusing on child’s rights, sustainable agriculture, school construction and disaster preparedness.

In 2010, Plan International responded to Typhoon Juan, one of the most disastrous typhoons to hit north Luzon, by providing life-saving kits to affected families. Following the disaster, the organization constructed typhoon resistant school buildings in partnership with the Department of Education, facilitated teacher training on disaster preparedness and built health centers. 

International development and humanitarian organizations like Plan International play a key role in strengthening the capacity of children, young people and their families living in disaster prone communities in north, central and south Philippines.  

While there is still a lot of work to do, organzitions like Plan International continue to work to make every community in the Philippines disaster proof. – Rappler.com

Maryann Zamora is the communications officer of Plan International.

Education stakeholders to gather for Education Summit 2016


MANILA, Philippines - On November 3 and 4, education stakeholders from the government, the private sector, and civil society will gather for the Education Summit 2016 to be held at the SMX Mall of Asia. The summit will focus on crafting the education agenda of the Duterte administration.


The Summit is co-organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Scheduled speakers include Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones, CHED Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, and President Rodrigo Duterte.

“Times have truly changed and we need to change with it. The success of the Education Summit, moreover the national education, lies in our collective understanding and acceptance of the permanence of change, and our ability to respond to it," said Briones. 


Rappler will livestream and liveblog the entire two days of the summit on Rappler.com. Participate in the online discussion by sharing your thoughts or questions using the hashtag #EducationSummit2016. 


Bookmark this page to watch the livestream. - Rappler.com

Rappler journalists finalists in 2016 Save the Children Media Awards


A boy prepares fish caught at the Pasig river for cooking. This photo by Mark Saludes is a finalist in the Most Outstanding Photograph category.

MANILA, Philippines – Three Rappler journalists made it as finalists in the 2016 Save the Children Media Awards. 

With the theme "Uncovering Child Hunger and Malnutrition in the Philippines,” this year’s awards seek to recognize "audio-visual and print materials dedicated to presenting child hunger and malnutrition in the Philippines as an alarming and urgent concern in the pursuit of inspiring everyone to participate in the advocacy to eradicate these conditions."

The annual competition also wants to "encourage and engage" members of the media to "continue raising the public’s awareness regarding the reality of hunger and malnutrition’s impact on Filipino children and their families." 

Two Rappler stories were nominated and accepted as finalists for the “Most Outstanding Article” category:

  • Researcher and writer Jodesz Gavilan's "Where to find highest number of undernourished children in NCR?" looks into the results of Oplan Timbang of the National Nutrition Council to determine the effectiveness of efforts against malnutrition among children aged 0 to 5 in various LGUs in Metro Manila. 
  • Multimedia reporter Jee Geronimo’s "12M of stunted children in ASEAN live in PH, Indonesia – report" looks into a joint report by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations Children's Fund, and the World Health Organization on how 12 million or close to three-fourths of the 17 million stunted children in the ASEAN actually come from the Philippines and Indonesia. It poses the challenge on how ASEAN countries can deal with child nutrition, especially the double burden of malnutrition: undernutrition, and being overweight. 
  • Photojournalist Mark Z. Saludes’s photo titled "Food security: a daily struggle” also made it as a finalist in the Most Outstanding Photograph category. 

During the 2015 Save the Children Media Awards, Rappler won big in the awards – bagging 3 major awards.

Voting is now open for the People's Choice category. Visit the Save the Children Media Awards website to vote. – Rappler.com

9 OFW groups in Italy petition for recall of PH envoy


Photo of Ambassador Nolasco Domingo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy.

MANILA, Philippines – Nine groups of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Italy are asking President Rodrigo Duterte and Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr for the "immediate recall" of Philippine ambassador there for "conduct inimical to the Filipinos in Italy."

In a petition signed in the first week of September, the OFWs cited the following grounds against Philippine Ambassador to Italy Domingo Nolasco: 

  • Failure to facilitate Filipinos’ right to suffrage 
  • Failure to institute changes in consular processes
  • Failure to act on crisis situation (August earthquake in central Italy
  • Consistent refusal to dialogue

The petition was signed by representatives from OFW Watch Italy, ENFID Italy, OFW Global Movement, CGSMF-Angel, Bato-bato sa Langit 87.9 FM, Federation of Women in Italy, Task Force OFW, Migrante Milan, and the Association of Foreign Workers in Italy.

Nolasco, in a response sent to Rappler, denied the groups' allegations. 

"These 9 organizations are entitled to their opinions. The embassy is well-aware of the over 167,000 Filipinos and the over 200 Filipino associations and organizations in Italy. We shall continue to serve and constructively engage them,” Nolasco said.

Read the full petition here:

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On overseas voting, Nolasco explained that the Philippine embassy in Rome was merely deputized by the Commission on Elections (Comelec), and was only following instructions from the commission.

The embassy, he said, did not conduct field voting because it did not receive authority from Comelec to do so. 

However, the ambassador said the embassy undertook several activities – including massive information dissemination, explanation of overseas voting procedures to various Filipino groups’ events, delivery of electoral mailing packets, and collection of official sealed ballot envelopes, among others – to ensure high turn-out of voters in Italy.

He also explained that he had instituted several changed ever since being assigned to Rome. These include the observance of no lunch break, reduction of document processing time, implementation of whole day document releasing, and opening of the consular section during Sundays every quarter.

On the issue of passports and service fee reductions, Nolasco said the validity of passports can only be amended through legislation while service fees can only be reduced by authorities in Manila. 

Nolasco also denied that they failed to respond immediately after the earthquake that shook central Italy in August. He said he authorized and sent the embassy’s labor attaché and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) officer to Amatrice, Norcia, and Ascoli Pisceno to ascertain the situation of the Filipinos in affected areas. 

"The embassy operates under the one-country team principle, which means that attached agencies, such as the labor attaché and OWWA officer were direct embassy representatives,” he said.

After assessing the situation of affected Filipinos, Nolasco said they requested the appropriate government assistance in addition to Italian assistance already given. 

Nolasco told Rappler that he never thought of talking with the Filipino community as a waste of time. "I, with other embassy personnel, continuously engage the more than 200 Filipino associations in Italy on various issues."

Nolasco explained that he declined Enfid’s invitation to be a resource speaker because "Prague is outside the embassy’s jurisdiction, and the trip will entail additional unprogrammed travel costs to the embassy."

Nolasco was assigned as ambassador to Italy in March 2015. Prior to his assignment in Italy, he was the assistant secretary at the Office of Fiscal Management at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).  Rappler.com



VIRAL: Lens-shaped clouds over Kanlaon Volcano amaze netizens


An IP camera view of Kanlaon Volcano on November 1, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

MANILA, Philippines – A photo of lens-shaped clouds that formed over Kanlaon Volcano rippled across social media after it was posted by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on Facebook on Tuesday, November 1.

Known as a lenticular cloud, it is usually formed on the downwind side of a mountain when stable, moist air flows over a mountain, creating a series of lens or smooth saucer-shaped clouds, often mistaken for unidentified flying objects (UFOs). 


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The post has gotten more than 2,000 reactions and has been shared hundreds of times as of posting.

Kanlaon is an active stratovolcano in the island of Negros. Its most recent eruption was on June 18, 2016, when alert level one was raised. – Rappler.com

Saudi women seek to decrease domestic helpers’ salaries – report


A group of Saudi women wants to bring down the minimum salary for domestic helpers.

MANILA, Philippines – A group of women in Saudi Arabia has launched a campaign to bring down the wages of domestic helpers, following the Saudi government’s austerity measures, according to a media report.

The group is complaining about the domestic helpers’ high wages and wants to slash by half the government mandated rate of SR 2,000 (P26,000) to SR 1,000 (P13,000), said the Saudi Gazette.

A bilateral labor agreement signed in 2012 by then Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz sets the minimum salary of Filipina domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia to US$400 and entitles them to a weekly day off, an annual holiday of at least 30 days, the right to keep their passports, and a strict 9- hours-work-per-day policy.

This agreement led to an increase of deployment of Filipina household workers from 11,000 in 2013 to 30,000 in 2014, and then 70,000 in 2015. The number has gone down to 40,000 after the oil crisis, according to recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani.

Geslani said that the crisis forced the Saudi government to perform austerity measures, like cutting back on allowances and benefits for government employees, decreasing the demand for domestic helpers among Saudi households.

He added that the backlog at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and other training centers for the assessment and training of household workers also contributed to the decline in demand. 

The price of crude oil plummeted from US$120 per barrel in 2015 to US$30 in 2016, affecting government spending and infrastructure projects. This led to big construction companies, like Saudi Oger and Mojil, being unable to pay the salaries of its workers, including 11,000 Filipino workers. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P48