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#MyPersonalChallenge: What's the hardest challenge you've conquered?


MANILA, Philippines – No matter who you are or where you've come from, you've faced a lot of difficult challenges in your life. The experiences vary from person to person, but at the root of it lies life's tendency to see if you have what it takes. From traveling solo, to raising a family, to standing up to bullies, to starting a business – we face one hurdle after another, and sometimes we stumble, and sometimes we succeed. 

We want to talk to Rappler's readers about the times they've succeeded in taking on intimidating challenges – and what they consider to be difficult challenges in the first place. We want to see the depth and breadth of courage among the Rappler community.

Join our Twitter conversation on Friday, November 4, from 2 pm to 4 pm at @rapplerdotcom and share your inspiring stories with us! Use #MyPersonalChallenge in your tweets! – Rappler.com

DSWD to #LawinPH survivors: Report relief irregularities


RELIEF DISTRIBUTION. DSWD Sec Judy Taguiwalo leads the distribution of relief goods in Kalinga after Super Typhoon Lawin hit the province. Photo courtesy of DSWD

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) on Wednesday, November 2, encouraged survivors of Super Typhoon Lawin (international name Haima) to report irregularities in relief distribution in affected areas.

"Immediately report to our field offices any irregularities in the distribution of relief goods in (your) respective areas," DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said.

She added: "It is important that the people will know how local government units run their programs. This is why we release this kind of information so the citizens will get involved in running the government. The changes that we want will not happen if we don’t take action." 

DSWD has been receiving reports of relief packs being allegedly tampered.

The welfare department encouraged citizens to report cases to its field offices below:

Citizens can also report relief-related concerns using the Agos eBayanihan's map or its free SMS service. 

One of the strongest typhoons to hit the Philippines, Lawin left at least 12 dead– 8 from the Cordillera Administrative Region and 4 from Cagayan province – as of October 21. Damage to agriculture and infrastructure in Cagayan province alone reached at least P8.5 billion

Meanwhile, Taguiwalo also expressed her gratitude to those who gave donations to the victims.

"We will use the donations we received to assist in the rehabilitation of devastated cities and municipalities, and most importantly, to help those whose houses, crops and livelihood were destroyed,” she concluded. – Rappler.com

People affected by Typhoon Lawin need your help. Check this page to know how you can help.

Overseas voters' registration for 2019 elections begins December 1


OVERSEAS VOTERS. In this file photo, the Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia conducts mobile overseas voters' registration in Al Khobar. Photo from Philippine embassy website

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos overseas may register for the 2019 midterm elections starting Thursday, December 1.

This was announced by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday, November 3.

In a statement, the poll body said the registration period for overseas Filipino voters (OFVs) for the May 13, 2019 national elections and subsequent polls will be from December 1, 2016 to September 30, 2018.

Based on Comelec Resolution No. 10167, promulgated on October 28, Filipino citizens who are or will be abroad during the 30-day voting period, at least 18 years old on election day, and not otherwise disqualified by law may register.

Qualified voters can either secure Overseas Form No. 1 (OVF 1) at foreign posts or file online via the Comelec's iRehistro facility.

They may also download forms from the websites of the Comelec, Department of Foreign Affairs, the poll body's Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV), or the foreign posts.

"We encourage Filipino registrants abroad to file their applications online through the iRehistro facility," said Comelec Spokesperson James Jimenez. 

"This alternative system of registration was a major contributor to the high registration turnout for overseas voting for the May 2016 elections," he added. 

A total of 1,376,067 OFVs registered for the May 2016 polls, an increase from the 737,759 overseas voters who registered for the 2013 midterm polls.

Meanwhile, registration for the 2019 polls for voters in the Philippines will begin on December 4, 2017, according to Comelec Resolution No. 10166.

For the upcoming 2017 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections, voters' registration will resume on Monday, November 7, 2016. – Rappler.com

The Irish connection: Josephine Bracken and Jose Rizal


It’s a small world!                                                                

Filipinos have a close affinity with the Irish through an Irishwoman named Josephine Bracken - so much, so that it may now become a mantra for a Filipino diplomat to mention in an Irish state function, “Our diplomatic relationship with Ireland started way back in 1895 when your Josephine met our Jose.”

Josephine is the Irish wife of Jose P. Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero and martyr. She is the foreigner alluded to in his immortal poem ‘Mi Ultimo Adios’ (My Last Goodbye), where he wrote: ‘Farewell my sweet foreigner, my darling, my delight.’  

Rizal fell in love with Josephine at first sight. Shortly after they met, he articulated his feelings in this poem:

"Josephine, Who to these shores came,  Searching for a home a nest,  Like the wandering swallows,  If your fate guides you to Shanghai, China, or Japan, Forget not that on these shores a heart beats for you."  

Where and when did Josephine arrive from Ireland to the Philippines? How did fate bring them together? 

The hero meets his Irish love

It all happened in Dapitan, a secluded, rural village at the southern tip of Zamboanga, where Jose Rizal was banished to by Spanish colonists in 1892. Rizal was not only a peaceful political reformist; he was a renowned ophthalmologist and doctor who continued his practice of medicine in this far-flung area. He lived a simple, uneventful but fruitful existence that enriched his life and the people whose lives he touched. 

Until his love, the eighteen-year-old Josephine, arrived in town. The smitten hero couldn’t hide his admiration of the ‘slender, brown hair with blue eyes, dressed in elegant simplicity with an atmosphere of light gaiety. Though she was not highly educated, she was witty, quick, and eager to hear all the things that Rizal had to say.”     

Josephine Bracken was born in Victoria Barracks in Hongkong on August 9, 1876 to an Irish couple, James Bracken and Elizabeth McBride.

Because her mother died after giving birth to her and because her father, being a military man, was always on the move, Josephine was adopted by her American godfather George Edward Taufer and his wife.

Taufer worked as an engineer in Hongkong at that time and was widowed when Josephine was a child. Taufer fell ill in his old age from a double cataract that no ophthalmologist in Hongkong could cure. 

Having heard of Rizal whose fame as an ophthalmologist had spread in Hong Kong, Taufer traveled a long way to Dapitan, Philippines where Rizal was exiled by the colonial Spain. She was accompanied by his 18-year-old adopted daughter Josephine. As any good doctor would do, Dr. Rizal gave everything he could to cure his patient. Sadly, however, Taufer’s sickness was incurable; Rizal couldn’t do more for him.

But his love for Josephine was immovable. After a whirlwind romance of one month, they agreed to get married. When Mr. Taufer, however, learned about their plan, he flared up in a violent rage. Unable to endure the thought of losing Josephine, he tried to commit suicide by cutting off his throat with a sharp razor. Rizal, however, grabbed Mr Taufer's wrists and stopped him from killing himself. To avoid further tragedy, Josephine returned to Manila with Mr Taufer by the first available steamer the next day 

After 6 months, Josephine returned to Dapitan. Doña Teodora, Rizal's mother, permitted her son to marry Josephine, but Fr Antonio Obach of Dapitan refused to marry them without a special dispensation from the Bishop of Cebu.

Because Rizal was a Mason and Josephine was a Roman Catholic, a dispensation was not given. There was no other alternative but to get into a common-law marriage executed in the presence of two witnesses.

They lived together as husband and wife in an octagonal bamboo house that Josephine turned into a love nest - stocking the pantry with pickles and preserves; cooking, washing, and finding food when supplies ran low; and trying desperately to build bridges with Rizal's family, especially his sisters who heard rumors that Josephine was a woman of the streets and was a singer in a tavern in Hong Kong.

In his letter to Trinidad on January 15, 1896, Rizal wrote that “we had no quarrels and we always laugh happily”, but unlike fairy tales that end with ‘and they lived happily ever after,’ Rizal and Josephine's love affair did not last long.

Quarrels came much later, one of which, based from an article in the Philippines Free Press, was violent, leading to her miscarriage. The same article suggests that Rizal's days of consolation with Josephine were over and that his request for assignment to Cuba as a medical volunteer was also prompted by his unhappiness with her. 

On his way to Cuba, however, Rizal was arrested, and after a mock trial, Spanish authorities sentenced him to death. On December 29, 1896, Josephine visited Rizal in his cell where Rizal sadly exclaimed: “Ah! My dear, my time has come to be united to you but to be separated forever.” After which, he begged for forgiveness for the sorrows he had caused her.

Minutes before he calmly faced the firing squad, Spanish authorities allowed Rizal to marry Josephine. He gave her a copy of Fr Thomas á Kempis's De La Imitacion de Cristo yMenosprecio del Mundo with the dedication: “To my dear and unhappy wife, Josephine, December 30th, 1896, Jose Rizal."

She became a widow at twenty. 

After the revolution, Josephine asked for the mortal remains of Rizal, but she was refused by the Spaniards. She swore to avenge his death by joining Gen Emilio Aguinaldo's revolutionary movement on January 6, 1897. She once led a charge against the Spaniards and killed one Spanish officer using her own rifle. She participated in many battles, and most of the time, she was hungry and barefooted.

Josephine stayed in Cebu where the American colonial government employed her as a public school teacher. One of her students was Sergio Osmeña, who became the Second President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Afterwards, she returned to Manila, taught at the Lyceum de Manila, and witnessed the Tejeros Convention of the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the Katipunan at San Francisco de Malabon in Cavite.

She was then summoned by Governor General Camilo Polavieja, who gave her an ultimatum to leave the country. Frightened because of impending torture, she left Manila for Hong Kong in May 1897.

When her foster father died, Josephine was married to Don Vicente Abad of Cebu, who was then working in a tabacalera in Hong Kong, on December 15, 1898. They had one daughter, Dolores Abad, who was born on April 27, 1900, in Hong Kong, and who was married to Don Salvador Mina of Ilocos Sur. When Dolores was one year old, her parents brought her to the Philippines, and they lived with the other Abads in a big house in Calle Magdalena, Tondo, Manila.

Afflicted by tuberculosis of the larynx, Josephine wished to die in Hongkong. A certain Father Spada, then Vicar General of Hong Kong, said that he was deeply touched upon seeing her deplorable condition. Father Spada added that the last time he saw Josephine, he was stricken with pity. She was broken down in health and in spirit, and she had lost all her hope and her faith in humanity.

Father Spada took Josephine to the Saint Francis Hospital where nuns took good care of her. At the eve of her death, she asked for the Holy Sacrament that Father Spada and another priest administered. She died on March 15, 1902, unaware that a line of her husband’s poem had rendered her immortal: ‘Adiós, dulce estranjera, mi amiga, mi alegría’ (Farewell, sweet foreigner, my darling, my delight).

Her mortal remains were buried in the Catholic section of the Happy Valley Cemetery in Hong Kong.

In honor of Rizal's dulce estranjera, the City of Manila named a small street, Josefina, (the Filipino equivalent of Josephine) after her. The said street crosses España Street near the Quezon City boundary.

Proof of the Irish Connection 

The Irish connection was uncovered through the joint efforts of Fr. Kevin McHugh and Fr. Martin Murphy, both Columban missionary priests who worked for many years in the Philippines.

Both of them had great admiration for our national hero and wanted to prove that his wife Josephine was indeed an Irishwoman. 

The 58-hectare Rizal Park, found at the heart of Manila, was named after the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal, who was shot to death there.

McHugh, for his part, traced the military postings of James Bracken, Josephine’s father. He found out that, indeed, Josephine was born in Hongkong to Irish couple Corporal James and Elizabeth Bracken, and was the last of 4 children.

The 3 other children were born in Ireland, Malta, and Gibraltar. On his retirement from military service, James Bracken settled and died in Dublin, although he originally came from Ferbane. 

Murphy was responsible for tracing the Dublin descendants of Josephine Bracken. Using the Irish telephone directory he sent letters to a selected numbers of James Brackens. His efforts were rewarded when one day in 1997; he received a call from Francis Bracken in Dublin confirming Josephine’s connection with his family. When Fr. Murphy met with Francis Bracken, it was made clear that his great, great grandfather James was the father of Josephine.

Murphy then happily filled him in on the love story of his grandaunt Josephine and her husband Jose Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero and martyr.

A planned statue commemorating our national hero and his Irish wife Josephine Bracken was aborted when the Philippine Embassy in Dublin suddenly closed during the recession. – Rappler.com

Roots & Wings is a Filipino online magazine based in Stockholm that caters to the Filipino community in Europe. They work to encourage exchange and dialogue between the Philippines and Europe's diverse cultures by highlighting the ways we intersect in history, culture, art, politics and economics. They have just recently launched their seventh anniversary issue which can be read in full at rawmags.com. People can also find them on Facebook.

Are you an OFW with a story to tell? Send contributions to balikbayan@rappler.com

OFWs in South Korea to benefit from 2017 pay hike


MANILA, Philippines – Good news for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in South Korea!  

The minimum wage in South Korea will increase by 2017, benefitting all workers in one of Asia’s largest economies including OFWs, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) said.

According to a report sent by POLO-South Korea Welfare Officer Manuela Peña, the minimum wage come 2017 will increase to KRW 6,470 (P268.73) per hour from KRW 6,030 (P250.46) per hour, a 7.3% climb.

This is equivalent to KRW 51,760 (P2,149.87) per day for 8 hours of work, KRW 258,800 (P10,749.34) for 5 days, or KRW 1,352,230 (P56,165.27) per month.

The pay hike, according to Peña, will benefit more than 24,000 OFWs in small and medium manufacturing industries under the Employment Permit System (EPS). South Korea’s Labor Standards Act applies to all employees in South Korea, regardless of their employment status or nationality. 

The South Korean government, through its Labor Standards Policy Department, said they will be closely monitoring the implementation of the wage increase.– Rappler.com

Bills seeking to make education more accessible pushed in Congress


MANILA, Philippines - During the first day of the Education Summit hosted by the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Senator Bam Aquino, chair of the committee on education, presented some of the proposed policies he hopes will be enacted in 2017. (READ: Education stakeholders to gather for Education Summit in 2016)

The two-day summit attended by about 500 education stakeholders on Thursday and Friday, November 4 to 5, also aims to gather inputs for the education agenda of the Duterte administration and the new Philippine Development Plan (2017-2022).

One of the proposed measures, Senate Bill 0172 or the Abot-Alam (Knowledge Within Reach) Bill, aims to institutionalize the alternative learning systems in the country, the program which Education Secretary Leonor Briones also wants to become one of the major legacies of the Duterte administration.

It aims to give the out-of-school youth, those who are at risk of dropping out or those who were not able to get their elementary and high school diplomas, a chance to get quality education.

Under the bill, a targeting system called the Barangay Abot Alam Targeting System will be established, allowing the government to “know the total percentage of out-of-school youth in the country and where they are.”

It will enable the government to map all the programs related to solving the challenges of the out-of-school youth to ensure cohesiveness and efficiency among different sectors.

A program matching system will also be established to give out-of-school youth “equal access to programs and services of partner agencies and institutions.”

Aquino said that this will be among the first bills that will be passed in his committee.

Trabaho Centers in Schools Act

Another bill that Aquino hopes the Senate will pass in 2017 is the Senate Bill No. 170 or the Trabaho Center in Schools Act.

As a follow-through on the K to 12 program, Trabaho Center, a job placement office, will be established. The office aims to provide the following:

  • Career counseling services which will guide students on what career track they will pursue
  • Employment facilitation which will assist senior high students on resume writing, pre-employment seminars, and job fairs
  • Industry matching which will provide graduate listings and resume profiling of students to companies
  • A database of job opportunities in different localities

“We’re pushing for this bill because my take is that the ability of our senior high schools to produce employable graduates is probably one of the most important indicators of the success of the K to 12 system,” Aquino said.

“If at the end of the senior high school process and you graduate Grade 12, you have 40% entering college and entering the tertiary level, you have about 50 to 55% who took the tech-voc track and that 55% are still unemployed, then that puts the whole system into question,” he added.

Aquino said that if the bill is passed, the first graduates of senior high school will be able to avail of the services provided by the act.

“This is probably, according to Secretary Diokno, going to cost a lot of money, but we feel that this is an important piece to really complete the K to 12 promises for our youth,” Aquino added.

Scholarships for the underprivileged

Aquino also said he is pushing for a more accessible tertiary education, especially for the underprivileged.

“We will be pushing for more support for the poorest of the poor to be able to get the scholarships that they need in our [State Universties and Colleges] SUCs, maybe even in our private tertiary level institutions and support for our youth in terms of a tuition fee scholarship,” Aquino said.

The support includes miscellaneous, living, and travel expenses. Aquino said that while these are already being provided by CHED, there is still a need to augment such support.

2017 budget highest

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno announced during the summit that the proposed 2017 budget allocated P650 billion ($13.4 billion) for education.

The education sector gets the biggest chunk of the country’s national budget, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution. According to Diokno, the proposed budget is the largest that has ever been proposed, saying that it is “three times as large as the national budget 10 years ago,” and is 30% higher than the previous budget.

The proposed P567-billion ($11.7 billion) budget for DepEd, which is the biggest item in the national budget, will be financing the recruitment of new teachers, construction and improvement of 47,500 classrooms, the upgrading of teaching skills, and the acquisition of learning materials.

Tertiary education, on the other hand, has a proposed budget of P75 billion ($1.5 billion), 22% higher than the previous allocated budget, according to Diokno. Majority will be given to CHED and SUCs.

Meanwhile, TESDA will get P6.9 billion ($142 million), which is P10 million ($206,861.55) higher than this year’s allocated budget, Diokno said.

The proposed budget, which has already been approved in the House of Representatives will be presented to the Senate this week, according to Diokno.

Given the huge increase in the education budget, Aquino said that the problem now is how to utlize it so that it will be felt by the students.

"The challenge that we have now is really to be able to synergize the macro-policies, the budgets that we’re allocating (which are tremendous and huge) and the very micro, the very real, the very palpable concerns of our schools all over the Philippines… the challenge now is to execute.” – Rappler.com

$1 = P48.34

'Till I Met You' actor urges youth: Get tested for HIV/AIDS


GET TESTED. Actor JC Santos encourages the youth to get tested. Screen grab from Save the Children Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Artist JC Santos is the new ambassador of HIV/AIDS in a campaign that was recently launched by non-profits The Red Whistle and Save the Children.

In a video posted by Save the Children, Santos encouraged the youth to know their HIV status by getting tested.

"I want to reach out to the people of my generation to know your status, get tested, and stay healthy," he said.


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The Philippines has one of the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world. According to the World Health Organization, around 25 people get HIV in the Philippines everyday. If the epidemic is not curbed, the number of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) may reach 133,000 by 2022, the Department of Health said.

"The median age of new cases is 28 years old, and more than 80% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the Philippines are under 35," Niccolo Cosme, co-founder of The Red Whistle, said.

He added: "Men who have sex with men (MSM) comprise 80% of new infections since 2010 and new HIV cases among MSM and transgender women increased by more than 10 times in the past five years."

The campaign aims to prevent HIV transmissions by providing communities with better access to treatment care, testing, information, counselling and support.

"The first important step is to get tested and know the result, without shame and stigma," Save the Children said.

The Red Whistle is a collaborative platform for artists/individuals/groups to come together using social and digital media to show their support against HIV and AIDS.

Among those who showed support for the campaign were actress Cherrie Gil, advocate Wanggo Gallaga, and musician Jay Contreras. – Rappler.com

Phivolcs urges youth: Prepare for earthquakes, tsunamis


UNDERSTANDING HAZARDS. To commemorate World Tsunami Awareness Day, scientists of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology orient students on earthquakes and tsunamis. Photo by Gwen de la Cruz/Rappler.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) oriented high school students from Metro Manila schools on how to prepare for earthquakes and tsunamis on Friday, November 4, in observance of World Tsunami Awareness Day.

Philvolcs invited around  90 high school students from 6 schools in Metro Manila that are near the Manila Trench, one of the two major faultilines near the national capital. (READ: What if a magnitude 7.2 quake strikes Manila?)

The event was held a day ahead of World Tsunami Awareness Day, which is marked on  November 5. Phivolcs said November 5 was chosen as the date of the event in honor of a true story in Japan on disaster preparedness.

“November 5 was chosen in honor of a true story from Japan: Inamura-no-hi, which means the 'burning of the rice sheaves.' During an 1854 earthquake, a farmer saw the tide receding, as sign of looming tsunami and he set fire to his harvested rice to warn villagers, who fled to high ground,” Phivolcs explained.

Importance of awareness

Earthquake experts from Phivolcs discussed the different characteristics of an earthquake and tsunami, and taught the students how to prepare and what to do in case an actual earthquake strikes and generates a tsunami. The students also toured the agency’s exhibit, where other geological hazards were explained.

GEOLOGICAL HAZARDS. High school students tour Phivolcs' geological hazards exhibit on November 4, 2016. Photo by Gwen de la Cruz/Rappler.com

According to Mylene Villegas of Phivolcs' Geologic Disaster Awareness and Preparedness Division, major earthquakes that cause tsunamis are not as frequent as other natural disasters like typhoons. The major tsunamis in the country happened in the 1800s to 1900s.

“We recognize the importance of schools, especially the teachers and the children because they are the next generation. In our lifetime, that’s like how many major events….When it happens, it really has a big impact. So for us really, it’s important to make sure that we are always prepared, like we don’t forget,” Villegas explained. 

The Philippines is located along the Pacific Ocean Ring of Fire, where seismic activities such as earthquakes occur on a daily basis. The Philippines is vulnerable to tsunamis as it is an archipelago. (READ: Tsunami 101: What you need to know about tsunamis)

“All coastal areas in the Philippines are tsunami-prone,” said Phivolcs Science Research Specialist Jeffrey Perez.

One of the major tsunamis that hit the country was in Mindoro on November 15, 1994, when a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck and triggered waves as high as 8 meters. The incident killed 41 people and destroyed 1,530 houses. – Rappler.com

CHED chief urges students to take vocational courses


TECH-VOC COURSES. CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan urges students to take vocational courses. File photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – With the full implementation of the K to 12 program, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chairperson Patricia Licuanan said students should start to consider taking vocational courses.

She made the statement at the Education Summit press conference held on Thursday, November 3, where about 500 education stakeholders gathered to discuss key challenges in the education sector. (WATCH: Education stakeholders gather for Education Summit 2016)

According to Licuanan, even though K to12 has already been implemented, data still showed that one of the main priorities of Filipino families is to send their children to college.

“Ever since, that has been the saying, the truism that they will sell their last carabao so their child will go to school. We find at CHED that more people want the diploma from college, when maybe it is better for them to go to TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) to take vocational courses," she said.

"We are trying to change that mindset. In fact, it is really a good job. If you get through skills training, then go for it. It’s okay. Alisin na natin 'yung status ng college education (Let's remove the status of college education),” Licuanan added.

She said that she has been "criticized" for taking such a position.

"But it is because we value the middle-level skills training. Schools come [to CHED] and they have ideas like they will open this course, this [Bachelor of Science] BS course. We now always ask why? Can these skills not be offered again through middle-level training? Why do you have to open a BS course?” Licuanan added.

College degrees still required

Licuanan also called out businesses and employers who require college degrees for jobs that don’t need such requirements.

“The other campaign is also the employers. There is ‘credentials inflation’ wherein employers will ask for college degrees when the job does not call for it. That is wrong, so we are now going on this kind of crusade,” Licuanan said.

The K to 12 program, which added two more years to basic education, provides different tracks to specialize on, among them the “technical-vocational-livelihood (TVL) track.” This is seen to boost the country’s employment.

According to TESDA chief Guiling Mamondiong, TESDA has taken steps to make sure that senior high school graduates will have job opportunities.

“We are closely coordinating with the industry to address mismatch. Meaning, if we have to produce skilled workers, it is because the industry needs it," he said.

"Here in the Philippines, we are giving skills training for those people who are willing to work locally, those who are willing to work abroad, and those who are willing to work in emerging markets… We have conducted skills mapping all throughout the country, that’s how we will see the skills that are needed,” Mamondiong added.

Among the major job generators in the country are construction, tourism, information and communications technology (ICT), and agri-fisheries, he said.

While he revealed the TESDA’s training centers at the summit, Mamondiong said that it would be difficult for the country to be competitive. (READ: TESDA Chief: PH training centers need repairs, new equipment)

"I pity TESDA. I will not stay here for so long. What is TESDA now? I have been in almost all regions of the country. What I have seen are dilapidated TESDA training centers. How can we be competitive globally when our own training centers are not competitive?" he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

He also said that TESDA’s proposed 2017 budget of P6.9 billion ($142 million) is not enough because of the thousands of students the agency has to serve. – Rappler.com

US$1 = P48.55

US elections: Fil-Ams cross party lines, make hard choices


SAN FRANCISCO, USA – The raucous, divisive campaign for president of the United States ends on November 8, with the election of the new leader of the free world.

Who cares about this tight race?

Definitely Filipino Americans, among over 146 million registered voters, including those who have already mailed their ballots or personally voted before Novermber 8, Election Day.

Fil-Ams have a major stake in this election because the outcome would affect their efforts to reunify with their families from the Philippines, their health coverage, retirement benefits, and status as citizens with equal rights as every other American. (READ: 'Filipino Americans and the US elections: What's on their mind?')

The historic ties between their native or ancestral country and their adopted one hang in the balance, with the Philippine president cozying up to China.  His threats to "divorce" the United States might be fulfilled under a US counterpart less cognizant of the archipelago's strategic value. 

How Fil-Ams will vote seems anyone's guess in this year's contest.

Do you think party affiliation dictates their choice? Think again.

Osmeña changes her mind

"I typically don't have this much trouble casting my vote," admitted Cristina Osmeña, a registered Republican or "someone who wants lower taxes and less regulation."

The former Wall Street worker had considering being disloyal to the Republicans by voting for a woman to be president, until the FBI revived a probe into the email scandal against Hillary Clinton.

Osmeña said that jolted her. "People who stay in power too long, no matter what side of the aisle, act a little more entitled than is appropriate. The power fest needs to be broken up before they start acting like an oligarchy," said the mother of 3 and daughter of former Philippine senator Serge Osmeña.

The Hillsborough resident considers "national security, systemic risks to our economy, and social tolerance" as the most pressing issues the new president will need to address. The other Fil-Am concerns, she said, are "President Duterte's position on United States-Philippines relations" along with "potential large moves in the dollar/peso exchange rate and racial tolerance."

So Osmeña is writing in Evan McMullin for president for what she views as his social conservatism and "detailed, reasonable solutions to the problems he's identified."

US presidential elections are determined by the electoral vote. Each of the 50 states represents a number of electoral votes, totaling 538.  California, traditionally Democratic or "blue," has 55, the highest number of electoral votes.

Longtime Republicans Kierulf-Sitcharungsis break ranks November 8.

The Golden State is home to the largest Filipino population with 1,195,580 residents or 3.2%, according to the US Census, but it is a diverse population leaning progressive up north and conservative further south. 

Crossing party lines

In Southern California, 3 generations of a family in Glendora that have supported the Grand Old Party for 20 years also is crossing party lines this time. Its matriarch, Pilar Kierulf, is definitely not a fan of the Obama administration, but she is voting for Clinton "because we have no choice.”

Her party bet is inexperienced on top of being boorish, complained the 91-year-old. But she has no qualms with this decision, because "California is heavily Democratic" anyway and "so I can be as idealistic as I want in my vote.”  

She sees eye to eye with her granddaughter Kimberly Sitcharungsi, 24, a Republican who is checking Clinton's name on her ballot like her fellow Republican dad Vibul Sitcharungsi, a Thai-American and honorary Filipino having married into a large and tightly-knit Spanish-Danish-Filipino American family originally from San Juan City, Metro Manila.

"What's most important is to have an effective president who has the experience and temperament to address the economy and foreign policy- especially jobs," said Elizabeth Kierulf Sitcharungsi, Kimberly's mom.

"There is no way I can vote for Trump," said the Los Angeles paralegal, who claims to get post- traumatic stress disorder upon hearing the GOP nominee proclaim "Make America great again.”  

"That was the slogan of Ferdinand Marcos when he declared martial law in the Philippines," reminded Sitcharungsi, who broke ranks with her mother, daughter and husband one reason: Clinton is pro-choice. Sitcharungsi said she will write in Stein, about whom she knows nothing, not even the candidate's stance on reproductive rights.  "But I know Clinton's position and that's enough for me not to vote for her.”

Religion rules

Filipino Americans are an immigrant community and thus tilt liberal – open to spending on social services, right? Not quite.

Most Fil-Ams are Catholic, faithful to the Church even on political matters. That's why for retired accountant Rosie Robles Paulino of South San Francisco and the popular hairdresser known everywhere as Raffy "G" (Garcia) of Daly City, California – both Republicans – are voting for their party nominee.

"My Christian beliefs make it hard for me to choose because I have questions about both major candidates," said Paulino, a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. "However I will vote for the candidate who is pro-life.”

Garcia sees no separation of Church and State: "As a Catholic, my choice is Trump: We share the same Christian values.”  

Faith dictates Rosie Paulino's (R) vote but pro-life Nellie Hizon struggles over her choice.

But devout Catholic and San Francisco resident Nellie Hizon considered her decision and arrived at a different conclusion.

"I probably will still vote for Hillary who has the demeanor and stature of a strong leader, then be vigilant about legislation issues," said the recipient of the Benemerenti Award, the highest papal honor given to non-clergy for service to the church. "After all, the (reproductive health) 'choice' rests on the individual, and is not mandated.”

If elected, Clinton would "be in the Executive branch and will have get the two other branches – the Legislative and the Judiciary – to effect  pro-choice as law," said the registered Democrat.  

"I do not want to be a one-issue voter," said the coordinator of the Simbang Gabi tradition now observed in 44 parishes in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. "I need to examine my priorities and reconcile these. Definitely not voting for Trump, who does not meet my criteria of a leader.

Hizon wants the next president to stimulate the economy by offering tax incentives and job opportunities; respect religious liberty and protect its subordination to "political correctness"; and protect US borders and restructure immigrant categories.

Boomers' priorities

Baby Boomers, or those born between 1946 and 1964, including Filipino Americans, comprise the biggest demographic in the United States.

Every day, 10,000 Americans turn 65, therefore eligible for Medicare, the federal health insurance system. The entitlement is not free unless beneficiaries are qualified for Medicaid, the joint federal-state health insurance that supplements Medicare for low-income recipients.

Diehard Democrat Aclans want to be part of history in electing the first US female president.

Eligibility for Medicare is determined by the Social Security Administration, which awards the retirement pension to those who have worked specific number of quarters and may begin collecting at age 62. 

Long-term availability of those entitlements are paramount to just-turned-65 Danny Aclan, a retired engineer, and his wife the former Malou Joson, a registered nurse.

Daly City residents are concerned about the sustainability of Social Security funds not just for themselves but for their sons Khristian, also a registered nurse, and Daniel, a future dentist. And yet, the Aclans expressed concern that the next president should focus on legalization of undocumented immigrants flooding in from nations besieged by civil unrest and terrorism.  

"They contribute to the economy of this country by paying taxes and taking jobs others consider lowly. They deserve to be comparative compensation and equal treatment as other immigrants. It's a human rights issue," said the Aclans, Democrats who announced they are proud to vote for Clinton.

Millennial focus

Their younger son Daniel Aclan, 26, Class 2012 in BS in Human Biology at University of California Santa Cruz works at a bio-pharmaceutical firm.

Health matters as much as the economy to the millennial – those born between 1982 and 2004 – who also ponders the "disconnect between Filipino Americans and their native culture." He has voted for Clinton to be the commander in chief.

Also 26, Bernardo Nieva Simon Jr., said he admires Clinton's "respect and pride for democracy" and will vote for her to continue the "steady social achievements and progress that Barack Obama has begun.”

Newly transplanted from Chicago to Northern California, the Apple employee is not blind to Clinton's "controversial emails."  Still, "BJ" believes "she can prevail in leading the country towards further social growth, especially for my generation.”

Like most of his peers who catapulted progressive Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to a heartbeat away from the Democratic nomination, Simon is keen on the next president immediately addressing climate change, population growth and lack of education here and in developing countries. The son of a Filipina mother and Cuban father, the psychology graduate wants action on social and economic injustice he said trigger "gender, race and economic inequality.”

Artist and architectural designer in Minneapolis Joshua Castañeda Ong is no fan of Hillary Clinton but has her name on his ballot "because she is the lesser of two evils.”

Millennial Josh Ong struggles with conscience while Boomer parents Zita and Ramon Ong vote wholeheartedly for Clinton.  

"I despise Hilary Clinton's track record as Secretary of State. And I also dislike how she's pretty much just going to maintain the status quo as can be seen in her latest response to the Dakota Access Pipeline, in which she said nothing," said the 26-year-old who is unhappy with the country's two-party system. "However, the alternative is Donald Trump, who is the personification of toxic masculinity, racism, xenophobia, corporate greed, and pretty much everything wrong with the US.”

The former Chicagoan challenges his fellow former Illinois resident Clinton to end "institutional racism, income inequality and uninhibited corporate greed and influence.”

Ong's parents Ramon, an engineer, and Zita, an optometrist in Chicago, are more forgiving of their son's candidate, counting on her resume to protect their and every immigrant's American Dream of a life of equal opportunity to achieve success through hard work.

Beyond party

GenXer Jose Antonio says election transcends party.

"I feel this presidential election has transcended party affiliation," said Jose Antonio, vice president with Union Bank, a registered Democrat who feels that his party ideology is "more important now than ever.” 

This election "has now come to voting for who you think can keep this country great and looked up to by the other countries," he reclaimed the opposite candidate's battlecry, "someone who is an advocate for the underprivileged, minorities, women and children.” 

Assessing the ideal candidate is a no-brainer for the "Gen X'er," the population born before 1965 and 1984.

"Clinton has the qualities, attitude, and experience to run a government," he told this writer. She, too, could best address the most critical issues "facing the United States that specifically affect the Filipino American community- immigration, minimum wage and equality," said the San Jose, California resident.

For Antonio's fellow Pampanga native Oscar Quiambao of Hayward, California, the answer is simple.

"We don't want another Duterte," said the entrepreneur: "We're voting Hillary." – Rappler.com

Cagayan needs Yolanda-like rehab plan – Governor Mamba


AFTERMATH. Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) battered Cagayan on October 19, 2016. Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba on Sunday, November 6, said the province needs a Yolanda-like rehabilitation plan to cope with the damage brought by Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) last month.

In a press release, provincial information officer Rogie Sending quoted Mamba as saying that despite the much lower casualty count from Lawin compared to 2013's Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Cagayan "obviously" suffered heavily in agriculture and infrastructure.

"Ayon sa gobernador na malinaw na libo-libong Cagayano ngayon ang wala nang bahay at kabuhayan kung kaya't malaking tulong kung magbaba ng tulong ang national government mula sa P150 billion na calamity fund nito para [sa] rehab plan sa Cagayan," Sending said.

(According to the governor, it's clear that thousands of Cagayan residents no longer have homes and livelihood so it would be of great help if the national government would allocate to us a portion of the calamity fund for the rehabilitation of Cagayan.)

Mamba said the rehabilitation plan would include temporary jobs for farmers who would be unable to harvest crops for the next several months.

The provincial government also plans to tap typhoon survivors as workers when the reconstruction of public infrastructure begins.

"Umaasa si Governor Mamba na makikita ng pambansang gobyerno ang pangangailangan ng rehab plan lalo at sadyang hindi sapat ang calamity fund ng probinsiya at mga lokal na pamahalaan kung ibabatay sa pinsalang iniwan ng pinakamalakas na bagyomg tumama sa Lambak Cagayan sa kasaysayan," Sending added.

(Governor Mamba is hoping that the national government will see the need for a rehabilitation plan, especially since the calamity fund of the province and the municipalities are not enough, based on the damage brought by the strongest typhoon ever to hit Cagayan Valley.)

The Cagayan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) said the overall damage to agriculture is pegged at P5,746,052,600. The following were affected by Lawin:

  • P5,036,930,000 worth of rice crops
  • P498,876,950 worth of corn crops
  • P143,632,500 worth of high-value commercial vegetable crops
  • P66,613,550 worth of fisheries

Lawin also left P2,821,680,600 worth of damage to classrooms, offices, district hospitals, the provincial capitol, sports facilities, provincial roads, and bridges.

The cost of damage to infrastructure does not include more than 25,000 totally damaged houses and 93,834 partially damaged houses. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Advocates urge PH Senate to ratify Paris climate deal after Duterte nod


TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – As the Philippines marked the 4th anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the Paris climate change agreement came into force.

Nearly a hundred countries have already ratified or accepted the historic agreement, but the Philippines is not among them.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier expressed concerns about the agreement, saying that it was unfair to the country as it is not a major carbon emitter. At one point, he threatened not to honor it.

But on Monday, November 7, Duterte announced that he now intends to sign the climate pact after a near-unanimous approval by his Cabinet.

Advocates welcomed the President's decision and urged the Senate to immediately act on the agreement.

"We call on the Senate to heed the call and ratify the treaty now," international aid agency Oxfam said in a statement.

According to the group, it is high time the legislators ratified the agreement as countries gather for the 22nd UN Climate Talks in Morocco, beginning Monday, November 7.

Oxfam, with environmental groups Aksyon Klima Pilipinas and Green Thumb Coalition, earlier launched an online petition calling for the ratification of the agreement. (PETITION: Ratify the Paris Climate Agreement Now!)

Historic climate agreement  

On December 2015, nearly 200 countries came together to forge the historic climate deal in Paris, France. 

The Philippines, considered a poster child for climate change impact, was among the active supporters of the agreement.

The deal aims to limit global warming since the Industrial Revolution to well below 2 degrees Celsius and strives for an even more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

By the end of the century, the Earth will heat up some 3 degrees Celsius, the disastrous tipping point of climate change, according to a recent UN Environment Program report, 

The deal will push high-emitting developed countries like the US and China to lower their greenhouse gas emissions to provide support to vulnerable countries like the Philippines for climate change adaptation.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, experiencing an average of 20 typhoons a year. Yolanda, one of the strongest typhoons recorded in recent history, hit the country in 2013, killing over 7,000 people. – Rappler.com

U.S. Pinoys for Trump


 After its neighboring Latino countries like Mexico, the Philippines has the highest number of undocumented immigrants in the US, at over a quarter of a million according to Homeland Security Department estimates.

But while the Latinos are in a panic over Donald Trump winning the US presidency on November 8, and have been organizing to get the Hispanic votes tip the scale to stop it, Filipinos comprise the highest support for Trump among Asian voters, according to a New America Media poll.

This time, we are Number One for the wrong reasons. Why?


In my dealings with our kabayan in America, I am a witness to the fact that some of the Filipino immigrants here, especially among the old folks who still call their homeland the pejorative P.I. – until Duterte translated these initials into swear words – are whiter than white. And not only because they bleach their skin with glutathione and blonde their hair with hydrogen peroxide.

They carry the same hatred held dear by Trump supporters of keeping the illegal aliens out. Though to most white evangelical Christian Conservatives, especially among the old folks, their hatred is borne of economic survival because, to them, the  "illegals" are stealing their jobs. But to some Filipinos, usually Republicans, it's more of their crab mentality at full play; of refusing to give a struggling fellow countryman a helping hand. These are the "Turo Ng Turo" (TNT) Filipino US citizens who get paid by the INS for fingering an undocumented Filipino immigrant. As one Republican lawmaker would call it: "kill them before they breed."

For all their misgivings as a Filipino who is a Republican, at least, the Pinoy Republicans are not as unreasonable as the Duterte supporters, whose blind faith in Duterte makes them always frothing at the mouth for any perceived slight, or, the far right-wing racist White supporting Donald Trump to restore white supremacy in the US.

Pinoy Republicans may pester you with misinformation to trash talk Hillary and pay paeans to Trump, but they won't go the distance of trolling those who dislike their candidate. (READ: Fil-Ams cross party lines, make hard choices)

It's not too late for our kababayang mga Republicans to have a change of heart come Election Day, given how Donald Trump has trampled upon the principles that made them move here in the first place – that is, equality for all men and respect for women.

C'mon, man! We don't want another Duterte. Let's vote Hillary!

No brown in a Trump White House

It's myopic for Pinoy Republicans to believe there is a place for them in a Trump White House. This 2016 US presidential election is turning out to be a racial war. According to Bill Maher, this is a slow-moving right-wing coup to take over the White House with Trump installed as their Grand Imperial Wizard: No Colored Allowed.

After the Mexicans, the Muslims and the Jews, don't you think the next on their list to get rid off are Asians? Remember, this country has a history of putting Japanese Americans in an internment cap. Just by being true to his German lineage, with some of that blood running in his vein could be that of Hitler, an internment camp should be the least we should worry about as immigrants under a Trump administration.

We have to rally the troops!

The Democrats are known for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. And with this race so tight two days before Election Day, it's beginning to look a lot like the 2000 US presidential election when the Democrats turned a win into a loss; when, even by winning the popular vote, Al Gore still lost to George W. Bush.

It was just two Friday nights ago when Hillary had this 2016 US presidential election in the bag, with Donald Trump already conceding defeat and claiming the election is rigged as he wiggled his tiny perverted hands away from his groping scandal.

Now it seems that a #DickPic could ruin it all for the Democrats. – Rappler.com 

Oscar Quiambao is a businessman and former business journalist from Manila who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

#RescueMarch in Eastern Visayas commemorates Yolanda


?RESCUERS IN ACTION. Rescuers perform the Mogadishu Walk on their final march to ground zero in Balyuan Grounds, Tacloban City. All photos by Jene-Anne Pangue/ Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – More than 400 responders from rescue teams, local government units, government agencies, civil society organizations, and volunteer groups participated in the first-ever rescue march in Eastern Visayas on Sunday, November 6, to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and to prepare for the next deadly typhoon.

Clad in their rescue gears carrying disaster response equipment, participants were divided into two groups – one group marched from Sta. Rita, Samar while the other started from San Joaquin, Palo at 2 AM. Both groups convened at the Balyuan Grounds in Tacloban City by 5:30 AM.

The rescue march was a simulation of an emergency response scenario following the Incident Command System (ICS), a national response mechanism promulgated by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Rescue March lead convenor Martin Aguda Jr said the event aims to promote unity and collaboration among rescuers. 

“It strengthens public-private partnerships,” Aguda added.

The march was organized by Orange Helmets, Responder PH, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) -Region 8 and Tacloban City.

Yolanda ravaged the Visayas in November 2013, leaving more than 6,000 dead and billions worth of damage.

Testing camaraderie

RESCUERS UNITE. More than 400 rescuers from two different starting point (Samar and Palo) gather at the Balyuan Grounds to complete the march.

Various scenarios were given during the march to test responders' endurance, ICS procedures, and emergency communications.

OCD-8 Regional Director Edgar Posadas said that the activity helps agencies identify the capabilities and skills of disaster response teams, and discover weaknesses and areas that need improvement.

“We must remember that sometimes the impact of a disaster is beyond the capacities and capabilities of one response team in an affected area. Thus, strengthening cooperation and coordination among various disaster response groups and volunteers are indeed important and necessary,” Posadas reminded the participants.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/MovePH">@MovePH</a> participants of the Rescue M.A.R.C.H (Mass Assembly &amp; Care for Humanity) marching along PHHC in commemoration of Yolanda <a href="https://t.co/KTCJcllldC">pic.twitter.com/KTCJcllldC</a></p>&mdash; Catherine Atienza (@scaredy_cath) <a href="https://twitter.com/scaredy_cath/status/795026386356346880">November 5, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


Among the agencies and teams that participated in the event were the Department of Health (VIII), the Tacloban City Rescue Unit (TACRU), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), the Leyte chapter of Philippine Red Cross, Tacloban Chamber Volunteer Fire Brigade, Kabalikat Civicom, and rescue units from Alang-alang, Palo, Calbiga, Carigara, Dulag, Isabel, Barugo, Paranas, Tanauan, and Tolosa. 

Remembering ‘fallen rescuers’

NEVER FORGET.? Organizers of the event and relatives of the rescuers who died during Typhoon Yolanda initiated a wreath-laying ceremony in the Cancabato Bay to remember those who risked their lives on that fateful day in 2013.

Participants paid tribute to fallen rescuers who died doing their duty during the super typhoon by giving certificates of recognition to their relatives. A wreath-laying ceremony was also held afterwards.  

Mass graves and other Yolanda memorial sites were part of the march route.


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Posadas said the event emphasizes the importance of responders during disasters.

“We learned a lot from Yolanda, not just rebuilding lives but rebuilding them better. Yolanda provided a benchmark. It is the new normal,” Posadas added.

Aguda, who is the founder of Orange Helmets, added that the super typhoon served as a reminder not to be complacent about any disasters. "Thus, there will also be a need to improve the system for disaster risk reduction and management in place," he concluded. – With a repor from Catherine Atienza/ Rappler.com

A race that brought out the ugly underbelly of America


Supporters hold placards during a rally by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump campaign after midnight, early November 7, 2016, at the Loudoun Fairgrounds in Leesburg, Virginia. Mandel Ngan/AFP

NEW YORK, USA – The 2016 race drew out the darker impulses that seemingly reside just below the surface of life in the United States.

From Mexicans are "rapists" to banning Muslims, groping and sexual assault, emails and fat-shaming – the tone of the campaign was rarely edifying. It felt like a roll in a pigsty and the stench lingered.  

The United States is voting for its next leader on Tuesday, November 8. For some, election day cannot come soon enough in a contest whose morbid entertainment attraction featured the latest insult by Donald Trump in a 3 am tweetstorm.

To say the past year has been ugly is a decided understatement.  

Looking back, some Fil-Ams reel from the ugliness of a campaign whose dark moments were mostly stoked by Trump.

“The presidential campaign has no doubt turned uglier. It came down to personal character attacks and the real social policy issues have not been at the forefront of discussions,” Ledy Almaddin, a mother of two who works as a manager of private business services in an accounting firm, told Rappler in an interview.

“I think the uglier elements feel more comfortable expressing themselves. I also fear too many are falling into the hysteria of the fear of the other,” David Scott Banghart, a former Republican who switched party affiliation around 9 months ago, added.

Banghart graduated from the Ateneo de Manila University in 1982 and now lives in Florida. He was a registered Republican from the age of 18 until deciding to change his party affiliation 9 months back. He is now an IT manager in central Florida.

Brendan Flores, the national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said: “It seems as though this election season will leave a black eye, and we gave it to ourselves. Is our country uglier, thanks to our candidates for President? Heck, yes.”

This file combination of pictures created on September 27, 2016 shows Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (R) looking on during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York on September 26, 2016, and Republican nominee Donald Trump (L) looking on during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.Timothy A. Clary and Jewel Samad

Flores is the first millennial to head the group and he is a banker from Jacksonville, Florida.

Other Fil-Ams are a bit more philosophical about the direction the campaign has taken in 2016.

“I think in a vigorous democracy, there will always be passionate conflict. So it’s only ugly for the people who are just now tuning in and paying attention,” Aries Dela Cruz, President of the Filipino-American Democratic Club of New York, pointed out to Rappler.

Almaddin said the country “is better than 8 years ago with the numbers to prove it.”

But the overheated rhetoric in the contest between Hillary Clinton and Trump has had the regrettable effect that “the very long-term issues” facing the country have been ignored during the campaign, she said.

This would include the retirement costs for an aging population of baby boomers, a deteriorating infrastructure network of roads and airports, escalating health care expenses and college costs among others, Almaddin said.

In some ways, there is relief the campaign is almost done and election day is here although there is a fear that what Donald Trump unleashed will bedevil the United States for months and years to come.

“I do think Donald Trump’s candidacy is something our country will never be able to shake. It will be epoch-making and unresolved, much like slavery or the civil war,” Dela Cruz said.

“This country was founded on racist principles, our constitution was written with the notion that people of one color was better than another. So it’s always been there, and we’re always struggling through ignorance and racism,” Dela Cruz explained.

That history ranged from Native Americans being killed or being shunted off to reservations, African-Americans enslaved and segregated, Italian and Irish Americans ostracized for their Catholic faith, race riots against Filipinos in California, and Muslim-Americans seen as fifth column terrorists.

Delegates hold up signs that read 'Love trumps hate' during the opening of the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

The modern versions are echoed in the campaign waged by Trump demonizing Muslims or mocking the looks of women.

Banghart said the “politics of fear has been part of Republican tactics for a while, ever since (President Barack) Obama was elected, by those who fear the black or brown skin.”

A win by Clinton will not eradicate such tactics or beliefs, especially with some Republican leaders already talking of impeachment before she even wins.

“It will carry over when Hillary is elected by those who fear a woman in charge. However, Trump is throwing kerosene onto those fears, exploding them,” Banghart said.

A loss by Trump would put the Republican party, says Banghart, “at a crossroads with the politics of fear: continue and face more damage or pull back. Frankly, if the economy gets better, that will lessen the fear. If by some curse of luck, Trump wins, well, who knows?”

Dela Cruz is hoping that Clinton’s message of being a president for all Americans would allow the country to heal.

Bottomline though, Banghart believes in the goodwill of a majority of Americans.  

“There are many good folk, who don’t like or agree with Hillary, but cannot in good conscience go for Trump.” – Rappler.com

Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.   

In Vegas, Fil-Ams mobilize to get out the vote for Hillary


FIL-AMS FOR HILLARY. Volunteers pose for a photo before beginning work on Monday, the final day before Election Day in the United States. Photo by Ryan Songalia/Rappler

LAS VEGAS, USA - You have to be a morning person.

That’s one of the prerequisites to volunteering for the Democratic Party, says Vivian Rudolph, an organizer from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union district 12, as she looks over a map for an apartment complex in Henderson, a residential area far from the Las Vegas strip in the voter-rich Clark County. 

It’s Monday, November 7, and with less than 24 hours before Election Day, Rudolph and several hundred other volunteers under the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) are in Nevada, a battleground swing state with 6 electoral votes which has sided with the eventual winner of the last 9 presidential elections. (READ: US politics 101: The American political system explained)

The days start at 9 am and can last 10-12 hours, and include voter canvassing, or knocking on doors to remind people that E-Day is coming up, and then calling phone banks when the sun goes down to reach others whom they hadn’t met in person. Just the day before, Rudolph estimates that she and two other volunteers knocked on 200 doors between them.

For those who aren’t home, they leave literature at their doors encouraging voters to support Hillary Clinton, aiming to become the first female American President, and Catherine Cortez Masto, a former Nevada Attorney General trying to become the first Latina elected to the Senate. Masto is locked in a tight race with Congressman Joe Heck, a Republican, for control of the seat held by the retiring Harry Reid.

After knocking on several doors, a man in his late-20s who identifies himself as being with the complex’s front office calls our attention. “Are you guys campaigning? Normally it’s not allowed but I’ll let you do it this time,” he says before asking, “You’re for Hillary, right? OK then you’re cool.”

Rudolph, a Filipina-American who was born in Bicol in the Philippines and is now based in San Diego, is well-equipped with Tagalog in case the situation calls for it. And for Gregory Cendana, another volunteer and the executive director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), sometimes speaking the voters’ language can take on a literal meaning.

“Sometimes it’s not just about the issues. They see you out in the sun and want to know what compels you to volunteer,” says Cendana, whose organization represents 660,000 Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) union members and offers voter assistance in Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Urdu, Hindi and Bengal, according to their Twitter account.

“When that person shares your same background, experience or language, there is more opportunity to engage.”

The numbers that count

Vivian Rudolph, a Filipina-American volunteering for the Democratic Party, leaves a door hanger which urges support for Nevada senatorial candidate Catherine Cortez Masto. Photo by Ryan Songalia/Rappler

On television, democracy in action may appear like super-surrogates stumping on the campaign trail before thousands of supporters and increasingly negative ads which run back-to-back among dueling candidates, but an election is won as much on the ground as it is on the debate stage. That’s why Cendana and his associates have spent much time helping get people out for early voting to avoid long lines, and registering new voters to the tune of 3,000 in this cycle alone, he says, with half of them being Filipino-Americans in the Las Vegas region.

“People say ‘Well we’ve seen so many yard signs here’…It’s an important reminder that until you actually go to the ballot box and actually cast those ballots, those are the numbers that actually count,” says Cendana.

I first meet Cendana at his hotel just off the Vegas strip. He walks in wearing a black t-shirt with the words “Black Lives Matter” written on it in many different languages with a button that reads “FilAms for Hillary Clinton for President” attached, and a full beard which contrasts with his shaven head. A UCLA grad, he once performed with a hip hop dance group back home and still dreams of joining another one in Washington DC where he now lives.

“My vision [for a Clinton presidency] would be that there would be Filipino-Americans represented at all levels of the administration, secretaries in her cabinet all the way down to all levels,” says Cendana, who has also aided close races in Pennsylvania and North Carolina in recent months.

“My vision is also that there is an ongoing effort to engage our communities, inclusion of Filipino Americans on the president’s commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Even other boards and commissions as well because we know that all of the different issues impact us in different ways and so to ensure that our voices and representatives are at the table helping make important policy decisions and continue to have ongoing access in terms of getting updates and also making sure we hold her accountable to some of her promises that she’s made during the election season.”

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Margin of victory

The prospect of victory by Clinton’s rival, Donald Trump, is a thought which inspires as much fear to Cendana and his associates as Clinton’s does optimism. While Clinton promises to introduce comprehensive immigration reform in her first 100 days in office and provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Trump’s campaign has been built on promises to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, ban Muslims from entering the United States and to build a wall along the Mexican border.

“That’s a very scary thought. That thought actually makes me want to cry,” said APALA national president Johanna Hester about a Trump presidency. Hester, who was born in Las Piñas, Metro Manila, but has lived in the United States since she was 15, is the highest ranking Asian-American officer in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“The platform that he’s been running has been about criminalizing people who are different from how he looks. The policies he’s been advocating, the wall that he’s been advocating, is not going to make sure that Filipino-Americans have a voice in this country even though we’ve been here a long time.”

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Asian-Americans generally agree with Hester’s sentiments.

The 2016 National Asian American Survey released last month concluded that Asian Americans are more than twice as likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans, with Clinton being viewed as having a "high net favorability" and Trump being viewed "very unfavorably." In a two-party race, Clinton has a nearly 4-to-1 edge over Trump (55% to 14%) according to the same survey with 1-in-5 identifying as undecided.

Still, Filipino-Americans comprise the largest percentage of Trump supporters among Asian-American registered voters according to the same poll, with 32% saying they would  vote for Trump while 62% said they’d vote for Clinton. (READ: US Pinoys for Trump)

According to a 2015 story in the Las Vegas Sun, approximately 215,000 Asians reside in Nevada, and half of the Asians in Clark County are Filipinos. That factor could determine which way the state goes, and potentially the election itself.

“In Nevada the Asian American Pacific Islander community actually grew 110% over the last decade, and Filipino-Americans are actually a big percentage of that growth,” said Cendana. “We’re about almost 10% of the electorate here, so we can go from being marginalized to the margin of victory.” – Rappler.com

Yolanda taught Eastern Visayas farmers to diversify livelihood


BETTER FARMING. Eutiquo Casiroman plows the rice field using the hand tractor provided to the farmers' association that he is a part of by Plan International. Photo courtesy of Plan International

EASTERN SAMAR, Philippines – Three years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name Haiyan), coconut farmers in Eastern Visayas have improved their farming practices and engaged in diversified livelihood to adapt to the "new normal."

Euqituo Casiroman, a father of 11 and a coconut farmer for 30 years, is one of the farmers in Balangiga, Eastern Samar who engages in diversified livelihood after being affected by the devastation brought by Yolanda.

“Three years ago, my family was left homeless after our house was washed out and the coconut farm I am maintaining was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. Everything was gone,” 56-year-old Euqituo recalled.

He added: "We used to be very dependent on coconut. But after Yolanda and other typhoons that came one after another, we were convinced that we need to find other means to earn."

Coconuts are one of the most important crops in the Philippines, which is the second largest producer in the world with 26.6% of global production. Eastern Visayas is one of the main producers in the country.

According to the Philippine Coconut Authority, in Eastern Visayas alone, 33 million coconut trees were damaged and destroyed by Yolanda, affecting more than a million coconut farmers.

Diversifying livelihood

To help farmers affected by Yolanda, Plan International has had helped farmers like Eutiquo improve their livelihood to be resilient and to have food security when future typhoons come.

“As part of our initiatives on disaster preparedness, Plan International, along with the Department of Agriculture, does not just restore what was gone. We improve farmers’ farming practices and teach them to diversify their livelihood to be resilient from climate change and typhoons,” Raul Itong, Plan International livelihood specialist, said.

Maria, Eutiquo’s wife, has to help Eutiquo in the farm.

“We planted coconuts again but it will take us 6 to 8 years to be back in production. We can’t wait for that long as we have children to feed and to send to school,” Maria, 54, said. 

Maria attended trainings on how to diversify their farming. “We learned our lesson. After Typhoon Yolanda, another typhoon came and it destroyed what we planted. So we need to diversify and find ways to earn,” she noted.

She added: "Now, we maximize the vacant lot in the farm. We plant fruit trees and made a pond to raise fish. We also make our own fertilizer, learning from the trainings I attended. We do not need to buy our fertilizers."

The family has an organic vegetable garden and planted root crops right across their house. They sell their vegetable produce at the market. 

When it’s rainy season, Euqituo gets paid for plowing the rice field of others. “We need to maximize the rainy season since our rice are rain fed,” he added. 

NEW CROPS. Maria harvests the eggplant at their family’s organic vegetable garden just right across their house. Maria’s family used to be solely dependent on coconut farming but after Typhoon Yolanda and other typhoons, the family learned to diversify their livelihood. Photo by Plan International

Plan International provided farm inputs and facilities to farmers association which Maria and Eutiquo are a part of. “The community that we are part of now has rice mill and tractors. The facilities have been so helpful to us. It saves us a lot of money since we no longer spend to transport our produce,” she said.

In the past three years, more than 1.3 million people or 308, 000 families had been reached by Plan International interventions. More than 700,000 of which have benefitted from the organization's livelihood intervention. Among those who benefited are farmers, fisher folks and youth who belong to the vulnerable and marginalized groups. 

Maria concluded: "I believe, we are now resilient farmers. When another typhoon comes, we will no longer have a hard time coping. My children will no longer have to stop schooling. And I think it goes with my neighbors as well who somehow have the same experience with what our family had gone through." – Rappler.com

Maryann Zamora is the communications officer of Plan International.

Yolanda survivors to Duterte: We demand justice


DEMANDING JUSTICE. Fishermen from Serum, Basey in Samar arrive at the Old Jeep Terminal Rizal Avenue in Tacloban City to meet with other protestors joining the people surge. Photos by Catherine Atienza/ Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Yolanda survivors and activists of the People Surge Alliance of Disaster Survivors in Eastern Visayas urged President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, November 8, to prioritize issues still neglected and unresolved three years after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

With the devastation that struck Eastern Visayas, the demands for justice over the persisting crises and accountability remain elusive for disaster victims.

Representatives from Gabriela, Northern Samar Small Farmers’ Association (NASFA), KAPAWA, KAPAS, ACT-EV, ACT Teacher Partylist, LFS-EV, Katungod Sinirangan Visayas and other civic groups presented their concerns during the protest. 

Secretary General of People Surge Marissa Cabaljao stated that protestors came from areas as far as Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Western Samar, Leyte Province and Biliran Island.

Nagpadala tayo ng representasyon ng mga Yolanda survivors upang ihapag yung mga demanda tungkol sa kalagayan ng mga nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda at iba pang mga kalamidad matapos ang tatlong taon,” Calbajao added. 

(We sent representatives of Yolanda survivors to lay down the demands about the situation of those affected by the super typhoon and other calamities after three years.) 

Disaster survivors demanded that the current administration address the pervading hunger, poverty, and militarization in the affected communities.

The protestors also called for food, shelter, agriculture and livelihood assistance, free public services provision such as that of resettlement areas, and moratorium on projects and programs that threaten displacement of survivors.

RECOVERY. Protesters voice out what they think should have been addressed three years after Yolanda. Photo by Catherine Atienza/ Rappler

May patuloy na diskriminasyon sa kung ano ang dapat na matanggap ng mga nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda na mga ayuda galing sa gobyerno, lalo na yung Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA),” Calbajao, who is also the organizer of the event, stressed. (There is a continuous discrimination on what relief Yolanda victims should receive, especially the ESA.) 

The survivors want the former administration to be held accountable for the perpetuated injustices and criminal neglect committed to them – such as the alleged failure to give access to free, safe, decent and adequate shelters for many survivors.

Yolanda ravaged the Visayas in November 2013, leaving more than 6,000 dead and billions worth of damage. Eastern Visayas, where the storm made landfall experienced the full force of the super typhoon. – Rappler.com

On a clear day in November: Voting in Rahway, New Jersey


TO THE POLLING CENTER. The author heads to a polling center to cast his vote. Photo by Cristina DC Pastor

Rahway is a bandbox of a town in central New Jersey where people never hang around for long.

The reason for that are the two train lines which normally chug into Rahway. One is the Northeast Corridor which runs from New York to the capital of New Jersey, Trenton. Then there is the North Jersey Coast line which goes down from New York to Long Branch and then Bayhead in the southern part of the state.

People from the towns surrounding Rahway like Clark or Colonia would drive into the car garage that our apartment overlooks before they hop the train to New York City.

We live in an apartment called Skyview, halfway up its 16 floors where we could hear the plaintive toot-toot of the trains in the mornings and late afternoons.

During spring and summer, we would cross the street into a plaza where small farmers hawk their summer fruit and corn, but they have now vanished as the cold winds of fall sweep away the leaves of trees rapidly turning bare.

The day of the vote for the next U.S. president dawned like most Tuesdays for me.

I snapped awake at half past five. Streaks of sunlight glimmered on the horizon after taking a hot shower that totally woke me up, for a few minutes at least.

The drive to Middlesex County College in Edison normally takes about 30-35 minutes.

I swung by a Dunkin’ Donuts shop to pick up a sandwich and a bottle of orange juice.  I do not take the highway, using backroads to take in the scenery. The air is bracing at that time of the morning and I cleared my head while listening to a Ryan Cayabyab song sung by Lea Salonga.

I got to the school parking lot and ate my breakfast, gathering my thoughts for my Reading class and the day ahead.

At the end of the class, I asked a few of my students if they have voted. That was the only time I asked the class anything about the election.

The drive home was quick because I had to start my shift in an online job.

Lunch was fish and squid balls.

We went out at 4 pm for the walk to the polling precinct. After a really frigid morning, the day had turned very mild.

The walk took all of 5 minutes. After checking my driver’s license, I was given ballot number 498. People were coming off work so the wait in line took another half hour.

Women in walkers patiently waited for their turn to vote. When I finally got behind the curtain, the voting machine would  light up when you pressed the candidate’s name.

WAIT. Voters lining up to cast their votes. Photo by Cristina DC Pastor

I pressed the space for Hillary Clinton. I then worked my way down the Congressional candidates, voting Democrat all the way.

There were about 3 ballot questions. I pressed no on more casinos in New Jersey and yes on using fuel taxes for infrastructure. I couldn’t even remember the last ballot question.

The last step was to press the submit button and the vote was cast.

By the time me and my wife got out of the polling station, the sun was almost down.

The walk back from the precinct passed by quietly.  We picked up the mail and was back in the flat. The TV was tuned to MSNBC, blaring the latest news on the elections.

A few days ago, I reminded my daughter to vote. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where the state is hotly contested between Clinton and Trump.

“I voted. Yup. Now I’m going back to sleep till this is all over,” my daughter posted on Facebook.

She supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, but voted for Clinton as part of her contribution in making sure Trump does not get near the White House.

It is the second time I have voted in a U.S. presidential election. The first time was in 2012 when I voted for Barack Obama.

Counting off to myself, I have voted for an African-American and a woman for president, a position that had been previously occupied by 43 white men.

Honestly, can someone in good conscience vote for a guy as execrable as Trump?

About a dozen women have come forward to say they were sexually groped or assaulted by Trump. Can all of them be lying?

But I did my civic duty so that part of the day is now done. – Rappler.com 

Rene Pastor is a journalist in the New York metropolitan area who writes about agriculture, politics and regional security. He was, for many years, a senior commodities journalist for Reuters. He is known for his extensive knowledge of international affairs, agriculture and the El Niño phenomenon where his views have been quoted in news reports.

Duterte: P10,000 each for Yolanda survivors who have yet to get shelter aid


SLOW. The Philippine government still has a ton to accomplish, two years after Typhoon Yolanda struck the country in 2013. File photo by Rappler

TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte who staged protests during the third anniversary of the disaster got what they wanted. (READ: Yolanda survivors to Duterte: We demand justice)

In his speech at the Holy Cross Memorial Park Mass Grave in Barangay Basper on Wednesday, November 8, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that Yolanda survivors qualified to receive Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) but have yet to receive the amount would be given P10,000 each.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo explained that the amount is not the same as ESA but "a valid response to the clamor of families who were denied of their right to the assistance." 

The DSWD and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will equally contribute to the fund needed for the assistance. 

A recent investigation conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) revealed that while a million victims have received ESA, there were still thousands – Taguiwalo had earlier pegged this number at 200,000 – who have not because of glitches in the process.

May patuloy na diskriminasyon sa kung ano ang dapat na matanggap ng mga nasalanta ng bagyong Yolanda na mga ayuda galing sa gobyerno, lalo na yung ESA,” People Surge secretary general Marissa Cabaljao said at the protest action in Palo town.

(There is a continuous discrimination on what relief Yolanda victims should receive, especially the ESA.)

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In solidarity with survivors

Addressing survivors in Tacloban City, Taguiwalo said: “Una, ayaw na natin maulit ang ganoon na pinsala tulad ng Yolanda na libu-libong nagbuwis ng buhay na marami sa kanila ang hindi na nakita ang bangkay. Pangalawa, meron pa ring hindi natutulungan ng pamahalaan kahit 3 taon na ang nakakaraan."

(First, we don’t want a repeat of what happened during Yolanda wherein thousands died. Second, there are still many survivors who have yet to receive assistance 3 years after the disaster).”

Since Monday, November 7, Taguiwalo has been going around Yolanda-hit areas in Leyte to express her solidarity with the survivors.

She explained that Duterte committed to find ways for government to assist them.

Taguiwalo also said the DSWD will ensure that the construction of core shelters will be finished and will also assist in the provision of livelihood opportunities to the victims.

RECOVERY. Protesters voice out what they think should have been addressed three years after Yolanda. Photo by Catherine Atienza/ Rappler

Not blaming anyone

Taguiwalo stressed that she is not looking for someone to blame as she shared the updates on the ESA implementation. She said that the information DSWD is sharing is merely in response to the many queries of victims regarding controversial shelter assistance.

Taguiwalo added that the data on ESA and core shelter program recently released are the results of the assessment made by the DSWD internal audit team on the Yolanda disaster operations.

She made special mention of farmers and fishermen affected by the super typhoon and recognized their role in society, as the main food suppliers in the community. She reminded them and the other victims to organize themselves so that they can help one another seek assistance and achieve development.

Taguiwalo concluded her visit to the province by proceeding to the Regional Rehabilitation Center for the Youth (RRCY), a DSWD facility also hard-hit by the typhoon.

She also conveyed her condolences to the center staff and clients who lost a social worker at the height of the super typhoon.

Addressing the center-residents, she said, “Ito ay panahon ng pagbabago. Mahaba pa ang kinabukasan ninyo. Paunlarin ang kakayahan ninyo para magkaroon ng katuparan ang inyong pangarap."

(This is a time for change. You have the future ahead of you. Develop and hone your skills so that you can fulfill your dreams).”

Survivors in Western Visayas

In Western Visayas, DSWD Assistant Secretary Hope Hervilla visited Yolanda-affected areas and held a dialogue with the survivors in partnership with civil society organizations like Rise-Up Aklan, Kusog Sang Pumuluyo, and Bayan Panay.

Hervilla emphasized the DSWD’s message to the more than 300 Yolanda survivors who participated in the dialogue. “Nasa lakas ng tao ang pagbabago (The power to achieve change is within the people’s collective efforts)," she said.

“We want real change, and this means everyone has to work,” she added.

Responding to the inquiries of the victims on the ESA provision, Hervilla explained, “While the Department cannot assure payment to the remaining 83,000 families who did not receive their cash assistance, DSWD can provide them with other available services like livelihood assistance and other basic services.” – Rappler.com