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#ShareLove this holiday season, one good deed at a time


MANILA, Philippines – Nobody wants to be a scrooge around the holidays. There are many charitable activities around this time of year to help the less fortunate and those in need.

Rappler’s #ShareLove campaign aims to get people involved in these events so you too can spread the love.

Joining the #ShareLove campaign are organizations  that have set up innovative ways for people to lend a hand. Most efforts in the campaign involve giving children the Christmas they deserve.H ere’s a list:

  1. “Ugma damlag” is Cebuano for future. Project Damlag aims to help create a better future for children and help parents send their children to the Napalico Elementary School. It is inviting sponsors to donate P500 to cover expenses for school obligations and school supplies of students from pre-school to grade 6.
  2. Project Pearls aims to spread joy among children living in extreme poverty. It is asking for toy donations, to be dropped off at select Total gas stations. It is even willing to bring toy collection boxes to schools and offices that want to partner with them. Project Pearls also has a ninong/ninang sponsorship program where for $20 (P1,000), you can pay for the Christmas dinner  of a family of 8 and give gifts for the children in the family.
  3. Childhope Philippines aims to bring the merry back in the Christmas of a street child by urging people to spend time, sing Christmas Carols, and give any help to the street children it looks after. This includes giving them access to learning, counseling, health education, sports and recreation so they can pursue their dreams and goals in life.
  4. If you want to become an “elf” and volunteer to pledge 4 balls (basketball, volleyball, or football) worth P200 each to the Youth Sports Advocacy, join IVolunteer’s Operation Christmas Elf. It aims to support the YSA’s 150 young athletes’ passion for sports by giving them new sports balls as gifts so they can continue playing sports even after their one- to two-month program at YSA.
  5. You can take part in the Philippine Toy Library's bid to make "a dent against the poverty of play, one toy library at a time," by helping raise P50,000 needed for each toy library. It is selling P500-tickets for an upcoming big fundraiser, the block screening of Star Wars: Rogue One at SM Megamall Cinema 7 on December 17, 4 PM.

There are many good deeds you can do this Christmas but you can start by considering getting involved in these organizations. It's not yet too late to be part of one. Check out the #ShareLove campaign on X for more details! – With a report from Ushlyia Nichole Medina/ Rappler.com

Obama signs law honoring Filipino WWII veterans


MANILA, Philippines – Outgoing President Barack Obama signed into law on Thursday, December 15, the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 which honors Filipinos who fought valiantly alongside US soldiers in the last war.

The law awards the Congressional Gold Medal to 260,000 Filipino veterans in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions in the United States.

“We welcome this terrific news and extend our appreciation anew to all the advocates and supporters of the bill at the US House of Representatives and the Senate," said Minister Patrick Chuasoto, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Philippine Embassy, in a statement.

"This gold medal is a fitting tribute to our veterans’ sacrifice, courage, and strength. From ordinary civilians to defenders of free nations, these men and women deserve our deepest respect and gratitude,” he added.

The House version of the measure was sponsored by Representatives Tulsi Gabbard, Joseph Heck, Juan Vargas, Mike Thompson, Mark Takai, and Jackie Speier. In the Senate, it was sponsored by Senators Mazie Hirono, Dean Heller, Harry Reid, Tim Kaine, Brian Schatz.

Both bills were introduced on June 11, 2015.– Rappler.com

LOOK: Hundreds brave cold as Jollibee opens first store in Canada


FIRST IN CANADA. People brave sub-zero temperatures as they line up during the opening of Jollibee's first Canadian branch. Photo from Jollibee Canada's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Wearing thick coats and scarves, hundreds braved sub-zero temperatures to line up at the opening of Jollibee’s first branch in Canada on Thursday, December 15.

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The fast-food giant’s venture in Canada started at 1406 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, where locals have been anxiously waiting for weeks to try Jollibee's famous Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti.

On its Facebook page, Jollibee Canada shared the story of its first customer – Jason Ladera – who was in line with his son hours before of the opening. As someone who used to work for a Jollibee restaurant back in the Philippines, Ladera said that Jollibee reminded him of home.

“I miss home. I miss Jollibee,” he said.

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Check out more photos and videos from the opening here:

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Homegrown Jollibee is one of the largest fast-food chains in the world with more than 3,000 stores worldwide. Its first branch in Canada is its 35th store in North America. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Using technology to push for tax reform


MANILA, Philippines — Raymond Abrea, otherwise known as the Philippine Tax Whiz, is the Digital Mover for this year’s Move Awards.  

For years, Mon Abrea has been rallying for tax education and tax reform. “Next to death, everybody fears or avoids taxes,” he says. “Our current tax system is inefficient and burdensome to a lot of people, especially the ordinary employees and small businesses.”

Because of a severe lack of awareness on the part of the people, and inefficient systems in place on the part of the government, tax evasion becomes commonplace. By bringing tax education online, he hopes to reach the younger audience and help them understand the tax systems better, and in turn, empower them to move when they feel that the system could be better. 

“If taxes are becoming more of a burden than the benefit they get from government, then the younger generation must make a stand and must not allow for it to continue,” Mon says. 

So, through his consultancy service, Facebook page, and regular online columns, Mon Abrea is the Philippine Tax Whiz for all those who are willing to listen. 

Most recently, Mon took his advocacy further when he launched the Philippine Tax Congress, which eventually led to the signing of the memorandum of agreement with the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Department of Trade and Industry. 

What’s next for Mon Abrea? Soon, a national tax awareness campaign is in order as well as a tax whiz app. 

“His advocacy is to promote genuine tax reform in the Philippines,” said Marion Villar as he received the Digital Mover Award on Mon Abrea's behalf. “These awards are not for personal gain. It’s a means to share his advocacy.” — Rappler.com  

VIRAL: Jollibee helps elderly lady cross the street


MANILA, Philippines – A heartwarming video about a fast-food chain mascot helping an elderly lady cross the street is quickly gaining attention in social media.

As seen in the viral video, the unidentified good samaritan wearing the iconic Jollibee mascot approached the old woman who was seemingly having difficulty crossing the street and offered his help. The old lady gladly accepted the mascot’s offer, while he held her hand across the bustling street.


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The video, posted on Sunday afternoon, December 18, already has 273,000 views, 5,700 shares, and close to 6,000 reactions as of writing. 

The Jollibee employee didn't hesitate to help the old lady despite the thick, bulky mascot costume the person was wearing, and even carried her purple rolling schoolbag while waving at approaching vehicles to let them pass.

Based on nearby establishments seen on the clip, the event took place at Santana Grove in San Antonio, Parañaque, Metro Manila.

A screen grab of the viral video of Jollibee helping an old lady cross the street.

Many netizens found the act adorable, posting their praises and admiration for the unknown hero for his selfless deed. Some netizens even wished for the mascot’s promotion.

"Sa Jollibee ay mararamdaman mo ang alagang Pinoy (You will really feel how Filipino care for others at Jollibee)," a netizen commented.

"This is the reason I'm proud to always say that I (was a) Jollibee mascot for 6 years (in) all Cebu branches," another netizen, Mike Marigomen, said. 

Shean Molera-Dysangco took the video while inside their vehicle. She was so ecstatic upon seeing the kind gesture.

Do you know any other hero (with or without costumes)? Let us know through your comments. – Rappler.com

Rappler intern Enrico Belga Jr is a senior AB Mass Communication student from Centro Escolar University.


#LingkodBayani: Meet the outstanding public servants of 2016


MANILA, Philippines – There's no shortage of good service in government.

From teachers and professors who extend education beyond classroom walls to local officials and repairmen who go above and beyond their duties, they overcame challenges and exhibited innovation all in the name of serving their fellow countrymen.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) through its Honor Awards Program recognized this year's batch of outstanding public servants, composed of 15 individuals and 4 groups. They were feted on Monday, December 19, in a ceremony at Malacañang Palace.

In conferring the awards, President Rodrigo Duterte thanked the exemplary government workers for going the extra mile in serving the public. (READ: Public servants recognized for outstanding work in gov't)

Meet the recipients of the 2016 Presidential Lingkod Bayan, Dangal ng Bayan, and CSC Pagasa awards below. Citations for the awardees are from the CSC.

  • 2016 Presidential Lingkod Bayan awardees

All photos by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

Dr Jose L Bacusmo
Professor, Visayas State University
Baybay City, Leyte

For being the catalyst in the transformation of VSU as a premier educational institution in the field of instruction, research and extension, and technology transfer.  

He aggressively pushed for faculty development, sending 56 instructors to graduate programs under local and international fellowship grants. He also pursued a P14-million aid from the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research in 2014 to fund research scholarships and the modernization of VSU research facilities and equipment.

In addition, instead of recording a decline in enrollment after Typhoon Yolanda, VSU saw a 125% increase, with Dr Bacusmo leading the efforts to secure scholarship grants for 5,632 students who were about to quit school, thus earning from students the title, "Student Champion."

Dr Mario V Capanzana
Director IV, Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) 

For being a key player in addressing malnutrition, resulting in the decrease of the child mortality rate in the country. 

He pushed for the implementation of food fortification programs and nutrition intervention strategies, such as the Malnutrition Reduction Program, which addressed macronutrient deficiency in children and mothers. He also led the development of a multi-nutrient growth mix (MGM) to increase the nutrient intake of infants and young children, as part of the Philippines' commitment to the Millennium Development Goals.

Aida L Maniego
Teacher I, Malita South District
Department of Education - Division of Davao del Sur 

For creating the ripples of change that transformed the lives of the B'laan community in Malita, Davao del Sur. 

She made education more accessible to the B'laan, opening primary schools and translating alternative learning system (ALS) modules to the B'laan dialect. She traversed rugged terrains to reach the 4 learning centers that she handles, and devoted her extra time teaching students.

Her efforts resulted in the increase of the number of passers in acceleration exams and a 600% rise in the literacy rate. She also batted for better social services for the Lumad and initiated livelihood programs to help increase their income.

Master Sergeant Perfecto L Perez
205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, Philippine Air Force
Brigadier General N. Ebuen Air Base, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu 

For his dedication and commitment to service, unselfishly sharing his expertise in aircraft engine repair and maintenance. 

MSg Perez is responsible for the high operational rate of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) 37 UH-1H/1D units, aircraft used in times of national emergency, disasters, and other calamities. Because of his diligence, aircraft are in full mission capable status, and pilots trust their airworthiness.

Due to his generosity in transferring institutional knowledge, the members of his team were also able to perform in-house repair of the aircraft that helped save P28 million for the AFP.

President Rodrigo Duterte with team leader Cindy Salimbagat

Bayawan City Local Flood Early Warning and Rescue Team
Edilberito Euraoba II, Cindy Salimbagat (team leader), Noel Tolentin, Edward Ryan Torreda, Marchita Tuale
Bayawan City, Negros Oriental

For exemplifying best practices in disaster preparedness.

Bayawan City put up a functional 24/7 rescue group with skilled personnel, local flood early warning system, geo-scientific map of the city, preemptive evacuation plans, and a data center on disasters to reduce disaster vulnerability of its various communities.

The group's exploits in rescue operations are not confined to helping fellow Bayawanons, as it has responded to calls for help from neighboring towns, and requests for training from local government units in Metro Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte with team leader Romana Basalan

The Verdant Movers
Juditha Alanano, Ruth Basco, Romana Basalan (team leader), Rosita Basinillo, Leslie Laborada, Jean Lagase, Viminda Lausa, Magdalina Lee, Estrella Ocon, Delcila Quisil
Bala Elementary School, Davao del Sur

For proving that learning goes beyond the 4 corners of the classroom, turning a small-time gulayan project into a two-hectare vegetable garden that supplies local produce, provides livelihood and teaches the technology of organic farming, agricultural management, environmental restoration and sustainable development to students, their families, and the community.

Apart from providing sustenance to undernourished students, income from the vegetable garden is used to procure instructional materials, thus improving learning and development.

  • 2016 Dangal ng Bayan awardees

Nixon C Aquino
Light Equipment Operator, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University
Agoo, La Union

For his dedication to public service as demonstrated by his provision of general services at the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University.

He performed tasks beyond his responsibilities with excellence and integrity. By ensuring that equipment and facilities are in good operating condition and by maintaining a clean environment, he helped the university save a significant amount of human and financial resources. The University was able to save around P100,000 on cost of labor services for construction of a school fence because of Mr Aquino's services.

Wenceslao P Caranguian
Mechanical Plant Operator III, National Food Authority
Tuguegarao City, Cagayan

For performing his duties with utmost professionalism, enabling the National Food Authority to serve the public more efficiently. 

Apart from his regular function of ensuring proper care and maintenance of post-harvest facilities, he acted as welder and electrician for the repair and improvement of other machineries. His skill, innovativeness, and resourcefulness helped the agency save more than P240,000 that could have been spent for job-out services or purchase of new machine components.

Lanie A Castañares
Municipal Civil Registrar
Datu Abdullah Sangki, Maguindanao

For her perseverance and commitment in addressing the civil registration problems of Datu Abdullah Sangki.

She initiated various programs in Muslim and indigenous people communities, including the Tirurays. Her efforts made citizens realize the value of having civil registration documents and contributed to drawing up a more accurate profile of the town.

Darwin M Domingo
Punong Barangay
Barangay San Lorenzo, Laoag City, Ilocos Norte

For exemplifying responsiveness in looking after the health, safety, and spiritual well-being of his constituents, transforming a once dreaded community into a vibrant and model neighborhood which boasts of improved daycare centers, regular child nutrition and safety programs, youth summer workshops, and increased tanod visibility. 

He initiated sitio assemblies to foster transparent and participative governance. As chairperson of the Lupon Tagapamayapa, he established a system that efficiently managed amicable settlements, thus attaining a zero record of cases elevated to higher courts and ensuring peace and order.

Joselito G Florendo
Assistant Professor 7
University of the Philippines - Diliman

For his devotion to public service, using his financial acumen to boost the state university's resources and help Filipinos attain prosperity.

As vice president for planning and finance, he improved the university's financial status so that it can continue to be a leader in higher education and fulfill its social responsibilities. He chose to also share his expertise on financial literacy to the ordinary Filipino – the prison inmates, small store owners, midwives, mothers, business process outsourcing employees, and overseas Filipino workers – so they can effectively manage their finances.

Rio Ador C Gabaisen
Teacher I
Dapa Central Elementary School & SPED Center, Surigao del Norte

For giving hope and inspiration to hearing-impaired individuals in Siargao.

As a hearing-impaired person himself, he inspired his students to dream for a better life and persist in their education. He also personally sought out hearing-impaired children in the community and encouraged them to go to school, even providing financial assistance and letting them stay in his home. He fostered 3 hearing-impaired children, 2 of whom have already finished schooling.

Sonia E Ipang
Social Welfare Officer III
Department of Social Welfare and Development, Cagayan de Oro City

For her passion and diligence in caring for children in conflict with the law.

Under her watch, the Regional Rehabilitation Center for Youth (RRCY) in Gingoog City established the Therapeutic Community, a parenting environment where residents – many of whom are neglected children – are able to express their thoughts and emotions. Residents are also taught to become more responsible through engagement in livelihood opportunities and through activities such as sports fests and educational trips.

She treats them with utmost compassion, care, dignity, and understanding. Many of the residents have been rehabilitated and are now helping marginalized people attain a better future.

Abner O Lawangen
Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer II
Tublay, Benguet 

For the professionalism and responsiveness he has shown in his work in disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).

He used his theoretical and technical expertise in environmental management, community relations, and monitoring and evaluation to engage indigenous communities in disaster preparedness. His persistent and passionate approach to advocacy also attracted the support of the United Nations World Food Programme and AEION Japan Foundation of Japan to boost the financial capacity of Tublay for DRRM.

Noel A Polaron
Secondary School Principal III
Belison National School, Antique 

For his unparalleled commitment to raising the quality of education in Belison National School; for igniting the spirit of volunteerism among its faculty, students, and parents; for improving its curriculum and facilities;  and for making it a hub of culture and arts in the province.

He served with justness and sincerity, catering to the needs of students including those from far-flung areas by working for the construction of a students' boarding house free of charge to avert absenteeism and improve school performance. Despite experiencing a mild stroke in 2012, he maintained a key role in the school's success story.

  • 2016 CSC Pagasa awardees

Artemio F Baylosis
General Manager B
Baliuag Water District, Bulacan 

For his innovative leadership that turned the Baliuag Water District into an efficient government service provider.

Baylosis did not rest until all 27 barangays in the town were provided with water supply. He was also able to enhance the quality of life of communities through improved water quality and sanitation, with a Septage Management Program and the completion of the Baliwag Septage Treatment Plant.

Maria Corazon A Rubio
Head Teacher I
Lucena City National High School, Quezon 

For her exemplary performance as Special Education Coordinator, as well as Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health Department Head at the Lucena City National High School.

Through her Project IDEA, a responsive instruction intervention, she tirelessly used her skills and talents in producing successful graduates with special needs – teaching sign language, enabling dyslexic students to read, and providing ICT training. Aside from focusing on her students, she also mentored teachers, engaged parents and the communities to further provide support to the program.

President Rodrigo Duterte with team leader Dalisay Moya

Provincial Rice Program Implementing Team
Fe Agas, Nestor Batalla, Ramon Claveria, Irene Estrada, Peachy Lozada, Dalisay Moya (team leader), Rita Prieto, Gemma Rosario, and Danilo Villamil
Provincial Agricultural Office, Pangasinan

For their innovative work and excellent performance in making Pangasinan a major rice producer once again.

By collaborating with key players in rice production, the team customized its programs and provided raw materials, loan opportunities, irrigation support, and other services to rice farmers. Now on its 5th phase, the Accelerated Certified Palay Seed Production and Distribution program – which the team conceptualized – has already served 19,233 farmers and added 19,233 metric tons of palay to Pangasinan's produce.

President Rodrigo Duterte with team leader Cynthia Abiol

The Synergist
Cynthia Abiol (team leader), Maria Athena Agoot, Lexter Catalan, Jacqueline Carlota Magpayo, Jarlyn Oliver, and Eufronio Umali
Provincial Government of Bulacan

For their sheer determination to turn Bulacan into a micro and small enterprise (MSE) capital in Central Luzon. 

By providing trainings, management and technical assistance, and financial assistance to thousands of beneficiaries, the team was able to engage entrepreneurs and help them organize businesses and trade fairs. The team's intensive campaign to drive economic activity resulted to P5 million worth of revenue to the provincial government in 3 years.


Tell us about your experience of good government service at www.fightcorruption.ph.

PWDs in Iloilo make crayons out of fruits, veggies


FOOD-BASED CRAYONS. A Japanese volunteer trained PWDs in Iloilo how to make crayons out of natural ingredients. Photo from JICA

MANILA, Philippines – A small business venture has brought color to the lives of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in New Lucena, Iloilo.

Members of a group called PWD Association of New Lucena Iloilo (PWD ANLI), through the help of a Japanese volunteer, were able to turn themselves into entrepreneurs.

Shinnosuke Amano, an economics graduate of Tokyo Metropolitan University and a volunteer of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), has been teaching the 26 members of the group how to make crayons from natural ingredients such as fruits and vegetables.

They train in Amano's small apartment, melting the ingredients in a boiler to extract the pigments that will be molded into crayons and packaged in boxes.

Each box contains 10 crayons of different colors extracted from pigments of papaya, santan flower, dragon fruit, tamarind, bitter gourd, mango, carrot, purple yam, and bamboo. These are shipped to Japan and marketed there.

Photo from JICA

The packaging bears the quote, "Life is not easy but through prayers, wishes can come true," which pretty much sums up the motivation of the PWDs creating the crayons.

"This is a new skill for us, but we are grateful to [Amano] for introducing this form of livelihood to us. Some of us cannot leave the house because of disabilities and crayon making is something that they can do in their home," PWD ANLI president Grace Servas said.

Amano, who is overwhelmed by the success of his initiative, said he wants to expand it further by seeking support from Japanese crayon manufacturers.

He also wants to train more people from New Lucena so they can benefit from crayon making.

"I thought that by being a Japanese volunteer, I will teach the community with skills. But, I realized, the community sometimes already possesses the skills and ideas. I'm just here to help them realize those ideas," said Amano. – Rappler.com

OFW bank set to open September 2017


MANILA, Philippines – The country’s fourth largest commercial bank, Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank or LBP), is set to open a bank that will be partly owned by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) by September 2017, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who also chairs LandBank’s board of directors, said that LBP will be converting its newly-acquired Philippine Postal Savings Bank into a subsidiar, 30% of which will be owned by OFWs.

“The acquisition of the postal bank will be completed by the third quarter of 2017, after all required procedures are completed and approvals are secured. The LBP has sufficient resources to complete this transaction,” Dominguez said.

LBP president Alex Buenaventura said that the OFW bank will be a listed company with an authorized capital of P3 billion and a subscribed capital of P2 billion, of which P1 billion is paid-up by LBP itself. Another P1 billion will be open for subscription to OFWs who can acquire them by buying shares in the bank.

Buenaventura said it would take 8 months to accomplish the requirements that would convert the postal bank into a LandBank subsidiary. 

LandBank will have to seek clearances from the Governance Commission for Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations (GCG) and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), as well as approvals from the Monetary Board, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for the OFW bank to be operational by September 1, 2017.

But while the OFW bank is still in the works, Dominguez said LBP will set up a representative office in Saudi Arabia to cater to the banking needs of Filipinos there.

Buenaventura added that the LandBank decided to open the Saudi unit in Riyadh because 40% of OFWs based in that country reside there.

“The LandBank unit will be opened near the Philippine labor office or near a place where OFWs usually converge and meet,” he said. – Rappler.com

VIRAL: Driver turned artisan inspires netizens


MANILA, Philippines – Photos of an old man creating craft using wires are gaining attention on social media because of the intricacy and design of his creations.

Netizen Henry Ngan posted photos of Carlito Romanillos on Saturday, December 17. In the post, Ngan asks netizens to "like and share" the post so they can help Carlito promote his work, and get him sales in time for Christmas.


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Carlito has been working as an on-call driver for almost a decade. The 52-year-old is separated from his wife and has a daughter who works as a call center agent.

He told Rappler that when he first started his craft, it took him 6 months to finish just one motorcycle. Now, because of practice, he can finish one motorcycle a week.

"Noong una, alambre lang ang gamit ko. Pinagpapraktisan ko. Noong kalauna'y sinubukan ko ang aluminum. Mas matibay, mas matingkad ang kulay," Carlito said. (At first, I used thin wire for practice. Later on I used aluminum because it's stronger and the color is more vibrant.)

He said he did not have any intention to sell his work initially. But when his friends saw his talent, they told him he could earn from it.

"Noong una, ayaw ko talagang magbenta dahil nga gusto ko sa bahay lang. Pang-koleksyon lang. Pero sabi nila, baka yumaman daw ako kapag nakabenta ako. Kaya sinubukan ko," he added. (I really didn't want to sell at first because I just wanted something for the house – for collection only. But they said I could make a fortune out of it so I tried selling it.)

Inspiring but...

The post has been shared more than 166,000 times with more than 6,000 comments and 109,000 reactions. 

Netizens stormed the post with praises for Carlito’s craft. Many asked how much the products cost and some said they felt proud to see such Filipino talent.

"Magaganda ang mga gawa ni Tatay Carlito, walang katulad. Magandang pang-regalo as souvenir," netizen Marina Bautista commented. (The works of Tatay Carlito are beautiful, and without equal. They are perfect as gifts and souvenirs.)


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There are some discouragements, however, because customers are asking for cheaper prices.

"I'm selling the motor for P1,500 (*$30) and they're asking for P500 (*$10)," Carlito told Rappler.

Some of his more intricate designs are priced P7,000 (*$140). He said he uses his own money to buy the materials and that he learned the craft on his own with some guidance from the internet.

"I hope people don't haggle too much because this is my work of art. I put a lot of effort into this. After all, I just wanted to make a hobby out of it," Carlito said. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P49.95

If you want to purchase Carlito Romanillos' work, you can contact him at 09164772501.

Rappler intern Jaen Manegdeg is a senior Mass Communication major from the Centro Escolar University in Manila. 

Ex-DFA spokesman named Ambassador of the Year in Korea


HAILED IN KOREA. Philippine Ambassador to Korea Raul Hernandez receives the 2016 Ambassador of the Year Award from Asia Society on December 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of the Philippine embassy in Korea

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Ambassador to Korea Raul Hernandez, former spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), was named as Asia Society Korea's 2016 Ambassador of the Year, the Philippine embassy said. 

In a news release emailed on Wednesday, December 21, the Philippine embassy said Hernandez was recognized for helping improve ties between the Philippines and Korea.

Asia Society, a 60-year-old nonprofit organization founded by John D. Rockefeller III, handed Hernandez the award on December 9.

In his acceptance speech, Hernandez told Asia Society, "I hope to have somehow contributed to your mission of deepening cooperation among countries in the Asia-Pacific region in the areas of arts and culture, business, policy, and education."

"The confluence of Seoul's rise as a new center of business, technology, culture, education, and logistics, as well as my own country's emergence as a haven of economic stability, has made my work to deepen our relations a lot easier," the Philippine ambassador added.

The Philippine embassy said former recipients of this Asia Society award include Indonesian Ambassador John Prasetio, Kuwaiti Ambassador Jasem Abudaiwi, Indian Ambassador Vishnu Prakash, and Australian Ambassador William Paterson.

Hernandez has been Philippine ambassador to Korea since 2014. 

Before this, he was DFA spokesman under then president Benigno Aquino III. His term covered the time when the Philippines filed a historic case against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in January 2013. – Rappler.com

Delayed balikbayan box delivery? Here are the possible causes


MANILA, Philippines – The balikbayan box has been an important part of overseas Filipino workers' (OFWs) life. Away from their families, Filipinos abroad send imported goods back home through these iconic boxes every year. (READ: Things to know about balikbayan boxes)

It comes as no surprise then that Filipinos can be very protective of their packages – the goods inside, after all, were bought with hard-earned money. 

The Bureau of Customs (BOC), the country's regulatory body for imported goods, has always been on the receiving end of complaints about delays in the arrival of balikbayan boxes.

But what a lot of people don't realize is that the BOC isn't the only authority checking these.

Encountered delays with the delivery of your boxes? To figure out what might have happened and what you can do, it might help to understand first the long journey balikbayan boxes go through:

Pre-arrival process

According to the BOC, before your box makes its way to Philippine soil, the first ones to manage it would be your importer or forwarder who will supervise the dispatch and delivery of your goods as well as secure permits, accreditation, and other required documents.

Declared goods in your package must comply with the Customs Regulated Imports List (CRIL). More than 7,000 items are regulated imports, which means that you need special permits to import them. These permits are issued by trade regulatory government agencies (TRGAs) who are also the ones who make the requirements for the CRIL.

All food and drinks, for example, are regulated imports, and must have a permit from the Bureau of Animal Industry, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Bureau of Plant Industry, or the Food and Drug Administration. 

The issuance of these special permits may be a possible cause of delay.

When all permits have been secured, your box will now be delivered by your forwarder. Take note that unforeseen circumstances like natural calamities may set back the delivery of your boxes, too.

Bureau of Customs

The BOC serves as the gatekeeper for all imported goods entering the Philippines. 

Upon receipt of your package, the BOC will issue an electronic receipt of goods declaration and manifest data. 

After this, the BOC will inspect and assess your package. BOC personnel are no longer allowed to randomly or arbitrarily open balikbayan boxes so inspections will be done through x-ray scanning. 

The BOC follows a risk management system where cargo risk is classified as low (green), medium (yellow), or high (red). 

A delay may happen when your package has been deemed as high-risk cargo. If this happens, the balikbayan box will be transferred to designated examination areas where BOC inspectors will be allowed to open and inspect them in the presence of a representative from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), a designated officer of an OFW association, apprehending officers, and the freight forwarder consolidator.

Balikbayan boxes are flagged by:

  1. Undeclared and/or misdeclared goods
  2. Banned or regulated cargoes like firearms and ammunitions, prohibited drugs, pornographic materials, gambling materials/apparatus
  3. Goods in commercial quantity

When the goods have been cleared of risks, the BOC will conduct a final assessment of duties and taxes. Sometimes, authorized agent banks also fail to send payment confirmation to the BOC immediately, causing delays. 

Port or warehouse

When everything's been cleared, the BOC will issue release instructions and forward the box to warehouse or port operators. 

Operators will then process payments for port charges and issue gate passes. During peak periods, traffic queues at warehouses can be long, delaying the release of the cargoes to importers.

According to the BOC's June 2015 data, on average, it takes around 4 days and 13 hours for a shipment to be cleared by the BOC and sent to the port or warehouse operators. From there, it may take another 4 days to be released.

What to do if your balikbayan box is delayed

In case the delivery of your balikbayan box is delayed, the first you'd want to know is where the delay happened – during delivery or the BOC checkpoint.

What you can do first is check the status of your cargo using the BOC's online balikbayan box tracker. The tracker will tell you the status of your cargo, or whether it already made it to the BOC. Note that to use the tracker, you will need to know your bill of lading (for shipped cargoes) or the airway bill (for air cargoes). You can ask both from your forwarder.

If the tracker tells you that your box is still "pending payment," it means that the BOC is still waiting for the forwarder to pay the required taxes. 

If your cargo can't be found using the tracker, then your balikbayan box is most likely still being shipped or your forwarder might have not submitted all required documents to the BOC.

But if the tracker tells you that the cargo has already been "paid and released," then chances are, your balikbayan box is already with your local forwarder. In this case, you might want to call your local forwarder to follow up. If your forwarder is unresponsive, you may call the BOC hotline (705-6000) for help. – Rappler.com 

Senate donates P28M to typhoon-hit Cagayan


LAWIN. Cagayan was the province hardest hit by Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) in October 2016. File photo by Adrian Portugal/Rappler

TUGUEGARAO CITY, Philippines – The Senate on Wednesday, December 21, handed its P28-million donation to the typhoon-hit province of Cagayan.

In a press statement, Cagayan public information officer Rogie Sending said Governor Manuel Mamba personally received the donation from Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

The donation, according to Sending, was taken from the Senate's savings this year.

The Senate also reportedly gave donations to the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Isabela, Abra, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur.

Cagayan, however, received the biggest portion based on the recommendation of the Office of Civil Defense. (READ: Duterte visits typhoon-hit Cagayan, Isabela)

Senator Panfilo Lacson, head of the Senate committee on accounts, earlier proposed that the chamber donate part of its savings to those who were affected by Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima), which struck Northern Luzon last October.

Mamba thanked the Senate for its gesture, adding that he would ensure donations for typhoon survivors will be used properly.

So far, Sending said the provincial government has received cash donations totaling more than P47 million.

Sending said they are still consolidating the tally for the goods and materials donated. (READ: Lawin leaves P10B worth of agri, fisheries damage in 5 regions – Piñol– Rappler.com

Baguio students create biofuel from wild ‘gabi’ plant


YOUNG SCIENTISTS. Student inventors from St Louis University show their Business and Idea Development Award for inventing "Bio-Gab." Photo courtesy of John Cyril Paco

MANILA, Philippines – Global warming has created the need for people to develop renewable, eco-friendly energy sources to lessen their dependency on petroleum.

This need also motivated a group of college students from St Louis University in Baguio City to create alternative fuel derived from the taro plant (scientific name: Colocasia esculenta) or locally known as gabi.

The plant grows anywhere, can thrive in almost any type of soil, and is highly resistant to floods and drought.

Dubbed as "Bio-Gab," the group’s biofuel invention won them the Business and Idea Development Award 2016 given by by the Philippines Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The group is composed of Joji Tateoka, John Cyril Paco, Gregory Jones Ochoada, John Paul Galong, and Keanu Verzosa. They received their award in October 2016 and they are now aiming to have their invention be patented.

Giving back to the community

A poster of the product courtesy of John Cyril Paco

According to the group, "Bio-Gab” biofuel was produced by extracting the oil from wild taro and fermenting it for several weeks. They tested their invention and found that it is as effective as other petroleum products commonly used in cars.

Wild taro is rich in substances necessary for the creation of bioethanol, which can fuel cars in a cleaner way. 

“We tested it in a spare engine similar to that of jeepneys to prevent risk. Fortunately, it worked. The testing center also agreed that it is feasible for engines,” Ochoada told Rappler.

He added: “In the long run, our product will create great impact [on] the economy. At present, the country is using rice, coconut, and corn to create bio-ethanol. If we use wild gabi, which is an abundant yet inedible crop, we could maximize the use of the said agricultural products. We would also like to promote corporate social responsibility by providing jobs to the community."

Paco, another group members, said that they invented Bio-Gab for the purpose of creating a better and safer world to live in. Since wild gabi is an inedible type of taro, which is hazardous to humans and other animals, they thought of converting it into a useful product.

“We believe that Bio-Gab will potentially revolutionize the industry by providing a product that will minimize the carbon monoxide emission of burning fuel," he added.

"We also wanted to give back to the community, at the same time by providing jobs in the country, especially in the local areas where poverty and pollution is rampant,” Paco said. – Rappler.com

Rappler intern Enrico Belga Jr is a senior AB Mass Communication student from Centro Escolar University.

2016 on X: From political to personal


MANILA, Philippines – It was an eventful year for the virtual world in the Philippines, to say the least.

From fake news and burning phones to mixed realities, the country witnessed both the bad and good sides of technology. For better and for worse, this led to increased participation of netizens in cyberspace.

We've seen this on X, a free platform for expression made for, and run by, the Rappler community. It was harnessed by online users to initiate discussions on an array of subjects, ranging from national issues to topics affecting their personal lives. 

In 2016, the stories posted by the Rappler community on the platform cumulatively reached almost 3 million page views. Here is a wrap of stories published this year on X:

#PHVote: Analyses and commentaries

The country's May 2016 polls was the first social media-led presidential elections. In an unprecedented turn of events, the online world, including the X platform, transformed into a battleground of memes, analyses, commentaries, and even fake news.

Who won’t vote for Mar Roxas? Why will Duterte win? How is Grace Poe ready to lead the nation? What is wrong with Duterte’s rape jokeWhy did Miriam Santiago choose Bongbong Marcos as VP? These are just some of the questions and analyses shared by supporters and critics of the presidential candidates on X.

Netizens were also quick to share their reactions to the candidates’ performances during the presidential debates that were held in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu City, and Manila. (READ: Lost in the echo chamber)

Fortunately, the discussion did not just revolve around personality politics. The online community also raised issues relevant to the campaign, including federalism, the crime rate, and the rise of fake news. As netizens condemned those who spread fake news in an effort to shape public opinion, some also urged the Filipino electorate to be critical in their choices.

Support for the eventual president also flooded X. In the post entitled "The confessions of an anti-Duterte," a supporter shared how he became convinced to vote for Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Response of a Dutertard)

Under the Duterte presidency

The active participation of Filipinos online did not taper after the elections, especially as several controversies erupted under the Duterte administration.

For example, Erwin Rafael used X to spark a much-needed discussion on the tax reforms proposed by the Duterte administration. He argued that while the re-bracketing is middle class-friendly, the poor would be excluded from the direct benefits of income tax reform. "Would the proposed tax reforms help achieve the goal of reducing inequality?" Rafael asked. (READ: Duterte team's proposed tax reform: Why shift the burden to the poor?)

When the Davao City night market bombing happened in September, Liavel Badillo noticed that many Filipinos failed to empathize with those affected by the incident. "We are creating a society devoid of empathy, a mass of people who cannot see that they themselves could be slaughtered," she noted in her widely-shared post on X, urging others to empathize with the families and friends of those who died.

Extrajudicial killings and human rights were also favorite topics on X. In a post entitled "The Purge: Killing for Convenience," an X user shared how 3 of her relatives died at the hands of a drug addict. Despite this, she spoke out against the extrajudicial killings happening in the country, saying that even drug users can change for good. (READ: UP Political Society's stand on EJK and related incidents)

Months into the Duterte presidency, has change come? According to Madison Dominguez, it hasn’t. For Dominguez, the recent resignation of Vice President Leni Robredo as housing chief over her "irreconcilable differences" with Duterte proved that nothing has changed in the Philippines.

Marcos burial

But if there's one topic that generated the most noise on X, it would be the surprise burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Coming on the heels of the burial, Exequiel Jun Villego talked about a poem entitled "Apo on the wall," which he said reminded him of the importance of always looking back on the past. This was echoed in "A Millennial's Reflection in the Age of Marcos 2.0,where the author highlighted the importance of educating others and organizing communities as the country moves forward after the controversial burial.

In line with educating others, Mike Alcazaren wrote a millennial's guide to Martial Law while Rappler's Zak Yuson crowdsourced and listed reading materials on the Marcos dictatorship, Martial Law, and the years after the Marcos regime.

At the peak of the Marcos burial controversy, photos of St Scholastica students circulated online. Netizens asked: Should students be allowed to join rallies?

Responding to this, Serena Estrella wrote a widely-read article on X about reasons why parents shouldn’t send their daughter to St Scholastica’s College– and the one reason why they should. This post was the second most read on X in 2016, reaching more than 150,000 page views. (READ: #ThankYouStScho)

Sharing wisdom and inspiring courage

Student organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) also harnessed X to inspire courage and promote their own advocacies and activities. (WATCH: 100 student organizations start publishing on X)

For example, the UP Materials Science Society used X to post weekly trivia on its publication for Wisdom Wednesday. The org has written about Olympic medals, synthetic microfibers, dentures, and even Christmas trees.

Rappler partner GenerationHope ran their #GivingTuesdayPH campaign using X.

It was also through X where UPLB Enactus promoted its project, Amiga, one of the winning ideas in this year's #HackSociety. UST UNESCO also used the platform to promote its relief operations for those affected by Super Typhoon Lawin (Haima) in Cagayan Valley.

Likewise, NGOs such as Project Pearls, Youth Sports Advocacy, and Philippine Toy Library published stories on X to spread word about campaigns.

Open letters

The Rappler community didn't just talk about politics on X. In fact, the most read article on X in 2016 is a law student's open love letter for a news reporter. It was read more than 200,000 times.

There were other topics close to the heart that were tackled on X. For example, Rappler's Don Kevin Hapal wrote about his experience getting bullied in high school. "What bullies see as just 'having fun' makes people look down on themselves and not see their worth. It breaks confidence, harms reputations, and undermines one's ability to perform," Hapal shared.

Jed Cortes, on the other hand, wrote about when loving comes hard.

These personal stories, like those about politics and social issues, resonated in the Rappler community, garnering thousands of views each. Rappler.com 

What is your favorite story on X this year? Share it in the comments section!

Filipina waitress in U.S. shares first racist encounter


BUILD THAT WALL. Filipino-American Rachel Mau narrates her first encounter with racism.

MANILA, Philippines – It was just going to be a normal day at work for Rachel Mau, a Filipino-American living in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

She had to take a double shift one Friday night because a large group of high school students came in to party. The next day, most kids had left and only 5 remained. Rachel waited for them.

But instead of tipping her, the students wrote, "Build that wall, Trump daddy" on the receipt’s tip column and "nah" on another receipt. 

During his campaign, Trump vowed to build a wall along the US border with Mexico and impose a minimum federal prison sentence of two years on any deported illegal migrant who attempted to return. He also said he would ask Mexicans to pay for the wall.

"I was pretty shocked and I didn't know what to do. My feelings were hurt and I didnt know how to take it in at first. I’ve just kept thinking about it and it upsets me because they didn't seem like they have a problem or anything,” Rachel told Rappler. “They were respectful the night before."

Rachel has been working for IHOP for 4 to 5 years now, but it was the first time she’s ever encountered racism. 

"Usually we have a lot of older people that come in, and there’s also high school kids and they’re usually respectful – so that was my first time dealing with that and I didn’t really know how to react towards it,” she said.

Shocked, Rachel didn’t tell anyone about the incident and went straight home after work.

Currently a nursing student, Rachel said she doesn’t really get into politics and she didn’t even vote in the last election. But she’s been hearing a lot about incidents of racism and violence ever since Republican candidate Donald Trump was elected.

What happened to her really brought the issue to her attention more. “Trump being president-elect has really made a difference on how people treat others."

Receipt rage

Reports of hostility toward minorities and immigrants have become widespread ever since Trump began his campaign. There have also been a lot of reports of similar "receipt rage" incidents where customers write hateful, sometimes racist, remarks on their receipts.

Asked if she’s scared, she said that she’s only now "scared for others."

"I don't personally feel too scared anymore because I realized how much support I had. But I'm scared for others and that's why I wanted to put my story out there so that it would make a difference on how people treat others, no matter their race or what politics they support.”

After the story hit the news, one of the guys in the group came back to apologize to Rachel, which she was thankful for.

President-elect Trump has been heavily criticized for promoting racism and discrimination. 

During the campaign, Trump promised to deport millions of illegal immigrants, spawning a tsunami of fear among the undocumented.

In an interview with CBS, Trump said he was saddened to hear about the hate some of his supporters are hurling against minorities and told them to "stop it." – Rappler.com

VAT-free shopping for PWDs starting Dec 23


MORE DISCOUNTS. Persons with disabilities can enjoy VAT-free purchases starting Friday, December 23, 2016. Photo by George Moya/ Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – It's going to be a tax-free Christmas for persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Filipinos PWDs can start enjoying their value added tax (VAT) exemption privilege on Friday, December 23, as part of the expanded benefits and privileges given by Republic Act (RA) 10754 or An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs.

The new benefit is on top of the 20% discount PWDs are already entitled to under the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

The new law covers the following establishments and services:

  • Restaurants
  • Recreation centers: theaters, cinemas, concert halls
  • Lodging establishments: inns, hotels, dormitories
  • Medicine stores and food for special medical purposes
  • Medical and dental facilities including laboratory and professional fees
  • Domestic air, sea, and land transportation
  • Funeral and burial services

Under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR), all establishments are required to place signages of the benefits so PWDs will know what they are entitled to. Subsequent purchases by PWDs on the same day in the same establishment are still subject to the VAT exemption and the 20% discount, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) reported.

The law, signed on December 1, will take effect following the publication of the law's IRR in 2 major newspapers on December 8.

PWDs should take note, however, that double discounts are prohibited. If a PWD is a senior citizen entitled to a 20% discount, he or she will use only one of the privileges and will only get a 20% discount.– Rappler.com 

Possible landslides and flooding due to Nock-ten


Satellite image as of December 22, 10:30 am. Image courtesy of NOAA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – As Tropical Storm Nock-ten is expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Thursday, December 22, state weather bureau PAGASA warns of possible landslides and floods in areas along its path. (READ: Tropical Storm Nock-ten, to be named Nina, nears PAR)

According to PAGASA, as of 2 am Thursday, December 22, at least 378 municipalities in 47 provinces are expected to experience more than 100 millimeters of accumulated rainfall in 24 hours. This could trigger landslides and floods, especially in low-lying areas.

If the tropical storm stays on track, moderate to heavy rains may be experienced in the following areas starting Friday, December 23, according to PAGASA weather forecaster Shelly Ignacio.

  • Abra
  • Agusan del Norte
  • Agusan Del Sur
  • Albay
  • Apayao
  • Aurora
  • Basilan
  • Bataan
  • Batangas
  • Benguet
  • Bukidnon
  • Bulacan
  • Camarines Norte
  • Camarines Sur
  • Catanduanes
  • Cavite
  • Cotabato (North)
  • Davao del Norte
  • Davao del Sur
  • Davao Occidental
  • Ifugao
  • Isabela
  • Kalinga
  • Laguna
  • Lanao del Sur
  • Maguindanao
  • Masbate
  • Misamis Oriental
  • Mountain Province
  • NCR
  • Nueva Ecija
  • Nueva Vizcaya
  • Occidental Mindoro
  • Oriental Mindoro
  • Palawan
  • Quezon
  • Rizal
  • Romblon
  • Sarangani
  • Sorsogon
  • Sulu
  • Surigao del Sur
  • Tawi-tawi
  • Zambales
  • Zamboanga del Norte
  • Zamboanga del Sur

Check on this map if your municipality is affected:

PAGASA advises the public to monitor further announcements from their respective local government units. – Rappler.com

Refresh this page for more updates. 

WATCH: A crowdfunding platform for PH start-ups


SPARKING IDEAS. Crowdfunding allows the publication of Larry Gamboa's 'The Millennial's Guide To Kick-starting A Business'

MANILA, Philippines – Patch Dulay, founder and CEO of The Spark Project, is this year’s Industry Mover for the Move Awards.

The Spark Project is a crowdfunding platform for local businesses. Since 2013, it has raised over P4 million for 35 start-ups. Some of them might be familiar to you – Gouache bags, First Harvest spreads, and Risque shoes all received funding from Spark.

Start-ups play an important role in inclusive economic growth. “The more entrepreneurs that start up, the more employees or possible employment that could be generated from these start-ups,” Patch says.

By bridging the gap between idea and capital, Patch is helping a new generation of entrepreneurs to develop ventures that go beyond profit.

“In the past 4 years that we have been operating as a crowd-funding website, we have discovered a lot of really cool enterprises that are not just doing and making good things but also creating impact [on] society,” he says.

Patch’s next plan for The Spark Project is to go beyond Metro Manila businesses. He also hopes to bring the platform to the ASEAN region soon.

COLLABORATING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE. Social enterprise advocates such as Senator Bam Aquino (center) have supported The Spark Project.

Inspired by the very businesses that he has helped, Patch has also launched his own social enterprise – Obrano Heritage Goods, a line of handmade, hand-stiched leather accessories.

“Millennials have a lot of energy and great ideas in them,” he says. “My advice to them is really, don’t be afraid to start.” 

After all, it only takes a spark to get things going. – Rappler.com

Coalition asks DepEd to create mutual aid for teachers


MANILA, Philippines – A national coalition of Filipino educators is calling on the Department of Education (DepEd) to create a "more comprehensive mutual benefits system for its personnel".

The Teacher's Dignity Coalition (TDC), in a resolution, claimed on Friday, December 23, many teachers suffer the financial burden caused by calamities and personal emergencies.

TDC is asking DepEd "to establish a National Mutual Aid and Benefit System from minimal contributions of its personnel for the purpose of giving readily available monetary assistance to some 700,000 teachers and employees."

The group is proposing a minimal contribution between P5 to P50 a month.

"Most of us pay P50 monthly contribution to (the) mutual aid system of some lending institutions, (whose) policies are controlled entirely by private entities leaving us (with little choice but) to just contribute to their funds," the resolution said.

This, the coalition claimed, is why teachers end up falling for loan sharks or begging for contributions, thus "compromising" their dignity. 

Sad Christmas for Malabon teacher 

The group's call comes after the death of a teacher from Malabon City, Elena Ortigas. Only 24, she died due to cardiac arrest on Thursday night, December 22. 

On October 13, Ortigas gave birth to her first baby in a lying-in clinic in Malabon. She was then rushed to St Jude Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila due to continuous bleeding.

By November 24, the total hospital bill reached P500,000 so her husband decided to transfer her to Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, leaving promisory notes for the unsettled bill.

"Elena’s colleagues raised funds through contributions and other means. The school principal also initiated a creative writing seminar-workshop for Malabon teachers on January to be facilitated by a renowned writer who agreed (that) the registration fee of the participants would go entirely (to) Elena’s family," TDC said in a statement.

Ortigas snapped out of a comma in early December but was unable to take all her medicines which cost as much as P16,000 daily.

"Her family and colleagues claim that she was a victim of medical malpractice. (She) was forced to normal delivery instead of caesarian and was brought to St Jude because one of the officials of the lying-in clinic is connected with the hospital," TDC said.

The coalition also lobbied for help from the education department but financial assistance was not readily available.

TDC said: "This case underscores the condition of our poor teachers. They serve the children and the country selflessly but the help they just so deserve is not readily available. Most of them are forced to beg for the cost of medicines and hospitalization." – Rappler.com

If you want to help Elena Ortigas' family, you can contact her husband BJ Ortigas (09214868326).

Off to Bicol or Samar? Take precaution, check possible cancelled trips


Forecast track of Severe Tropical Storm Nina as of December 23, 11 am. Image courtesy of PAGASA

MANILA, Philippines – The government on Friday, December 23, advised those planning to travel to Bicol and Samar to take precaution and check for the possible cancellation of trips or flights, as these areas brace for Severe Tropical Storm Nina (Nock-ten).

"Those with scheduled travels are advised to coordinate with their respective seaports, airlines, or bus companies for possible cancellation of trips beginning this afternoon or evening in the Bicol Region and Samar area," the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said in a statement.

In its pre-disaster risk assessment on Friday, the NDRRMC raised the alert level to blue – meaning all local government units concerned have already been advised to do appropriate action and do preemptive evacuation – if necessary.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also urged the public to prepare for Nina, as it entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Friday.

In a statement, the DSWD said it has 573,730 family food packs prepositioned across the country and standby funds of around P127 million ($2.546 million) – ready to supplement local government units in the storm's path.

According to state weather bureau PAGASA's 11 am bulletin on Friday, Nina was 790 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. It continues to move west northwest toward the direction of Luzon at 25 kilometers per hour. 

Nina is expected to make landfall on Christmas Day, December 25, in the Bicol Region. The province of Albay has already been put under State of Imminent Danger to prepare for the storm, Vice Governor Harold Imperial announced.

Region VIII preparations

The DSWD reported that the number of families affected by torrential rains in the Eastern Visayas region in the past days has increased to 33,161 families or around 141,929 individuals in 240 barangays.

Some families who have evacuated are already returning to their homes due to improving weather.

Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo assured affected families that the regional offices will continue close coordination with LGUs for further assistance.

The NDRRMC also advised communities near dams in Luzon to monitor warnings on water release.

Taguiwalo reminded families that the safety of those most vulnerable – children, elderly, sick, and pregnant women – have to be guaranteed. The main goal is to have zero casualty, she stressed. – Rappler.com

$1 = P49.87