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'Bongbong Marcos knows what to apologize for'


CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENT. Senator Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos issued a controversial statement asking what he is to apologize for over his father's presidency during martial law. Photo courtesy: bongbongmarcos.com

Editor's Note: Below is an open letter to Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr from the trustees of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, which aims to honor martyrs and heroes from the martial law era. The Board of Trustees is chaired by former Philippine ambassador to the UN Alfonso Yuchengco, with former senator Jovito Salonga as chairman emeritus. Here is their full statement and open letter: 

On Aug. 26, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr was asked during an  interview with ANC’s Headstart whether, as a potential candidate for the country’s top positions, he would apologize for  the corruption and abuses perpetrated by his father’s brutal regime. The meat of his response was, “What am I to say sorry about?” This is a response to Senator Marcos’ question. For clarifications, please contact Bantayog.

Dear Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr,

The extent of your parents’ crimes during the Marcos dictatorship is so extensive its accounting has yet to be completed.

Ferdinand Marcos wrecked Congress, the courts and the bureaucracy. He prostituted the military. He shackled the country with debts. Your parents stole billions of the people’s money and from their political opponents. He had a nuclear plant built that [was never operational] but which the country has to pay for in loans.

He had thousands jailed, abducted, tortured or killed. Many activists are still missing to this day. A law was enacted by Congress in 2012 offering reparation to these victims. As of the latest,  75,000 individuals  have applied (and thousands more did not, or failed to file) for claims. 

Compensation would be taken from assets recovered from Swiss banks, described by the Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Burkhalter as “looted from the state” by a “corrupt dictator.” The law was an effort by the Philippine and Swiss governments to “right the wrongs committed by the Marcos regime,” said the Swiss ambassador. 

We who are writing this letter represent a foundation that launched a book just last month, containing over 100 accounts of the lives of those heroic individuals who fought your father’s regime because they saw it as undemocratic, cruel, and corrupt. 

We have accounts of unarmed activists shot dead in San Rafael, Bulacan or who were abducted and later found barely alive or dead in Angeles City, Pampanga, or who were mowed down with gunfire while joining rallies in Escalante in Negros Occidental and in Daet in Camarines Norte. The book was published by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

It is time for honesty, Mr Senator. You owe it to the country that let you go free unharmed when in February 1986, the Filipino people finally drove your family out. It was through a democratic uprising [immortalized] in [the] song “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo,” a gift to the world, because Filipinos managed to cut the Marcos stranglehold with very little violence in society. It was a gift to you also — a gift of your second lives.

You owe it to the victims of your parents’ regime, but you also owe it to your own sons. How do you teach them the selflessness of true public service and the value of honesty and of righting of wrongs if you lack the courage to admit the truth? How do you spare your sons the scorn that certainly faces them if your family continues to feel no remorse or regret over the years of dictatorship?

You are nearing your 60s, a senator, and possessed of normal intelligence. You know what it is exactly that you and your family have to be sorry for. History will judge, you say? That is why you must now stop the lies – because precisely, history, and the people you have aggrieved, will judge.– Rappler.com 

Away from home


LIFE GOES ON. The Lumads' evacuation center in Tandag City Sports Complex where they have been living for over two weeks after the alleged murders of their tribal and school leaders in their ancestral land, Lianga. September 17, 2015. All photos by Pat Nabong/Rappler

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur — At the Tandag City Sports Complex, the gates are strictly guarded. Only a few go in and even less go out, but the bleachers are far from empty. Thousands of people sleep on the concrete. Children play volleyball on a dry piece of land surrounded by makeshift tents.

Inside some of the tents are classrooms where kids draw colorful scenes of brutality. And hanging on the fences are clothes beside banners that read, “Hustisya para kay Dionel Campos, Emerito Samarca, at Bello Sinzo!” (Justice for Dionel Campos, Emerito Samarca, and Bello Sinzo!), “Save our schools”, and “Stop Lumad Killings”. 

Threatened to be “massacred” if they do not leave their homes, more than 3,000 displaced Lumads, mostly Manobos from 27 communities, are seeking refuge in the evacuation center, and the numbers are continuing to rise. They fled their ancestral land in Lianga, carrying the dead bodies of their leaders, after witnessing the alleged murder of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) executive director Campos, and tribal leaders Samarca and Sinzo by a paramilitary group.

Over two weeks after the Lumads’ exodus, somehow life still goes on in the evacuation site in Tandag City Sports Complex. But life there is not easy. (READ: Timeline of the attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

Food security

A state of emergency was recently declared in Surigao del Sur due to imminent food shortage. The Lumads, who are used to eating vegetables and root crops, wish to grow vegetables in the complex but still haven’t found an area to plant in. They had no choice but to subsist on canned goods for several days. 

Recently, NGOs like the Philippine Red Cross started providing food and water while Art Relief Mobile Kitchen distributes healthy meals to the evacuees once a day. Some Manobos help them cook food to be distributed to their respective communities in the evacuation area. The local government and churches have also extended their help to the Lumads.

FOOD SHORTAGE. The Lumads are used to eating vegetables and root crops but had no choice but to subsist on canned goods for several days.

However, because of the drastic change in their diet, the infrequency of meals, and the living conditions in the evacuation area, a lot of Lumads have started getting sick.

“Talagang mahirap ang buhay namin dito. Lalong lalo na pag mainit ang araw...tapos pag nag-uulan, binabaha ang tinutulugan namin,” said Tenia Garay, one of the evacuees, who lives in an open tent.

(Life here is really difficult, especially when the sun is hot. When it rains, our tents are easily flooded)

Health problems

“Ang dami nang nagkasakit”, said Hazel Acero from the Community Based Health Project (CBHP) (A lot of people are getting sick). According to Acero, an asthmatic four-year-old girl already died due to heart disease.

The leading form of illness is respiratory infection due to the living conditions inside the complex. There have also been cases of diarrhea and sore eyes. 

To prevent the spread of illnesses, the regional office of the Department of Health are immunizing children below 5 years old and adults older than 60 against pneumonia, tuberculosis, hepatitis, measles, and rota virus.

MOTHER. A woman holds her friend's albino baby while the mother nurses her child. The children are triplets, two albinos and one non-albino.

Aside from diseases, another concern is the welfare of the Manobo infants. One newborn baby lives in the evacuation center while 11 women are due to give birth in September. 

Linked to health problems is the sanitation of the area. Most of them sit, eat, and sleep on the ground, but the main problem of the evacuees is the maintenance of the portalets provided by the Department of Health. There are 10 portalets for over 3,000 Lumads. The portalets are emptied only once a week. When the lines are too long, they cannot help defacate in the open. 

How they cope

Despite their current situation, life goes on. Children study in makeshift tents where Tribal Filipino Program for Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and ALCADEV have resumed classes. They start the day by singing Lupang Hinirang and reciting Panatang Makabayan and proceed to the tents where they listen to lectures, make collages, learn traditional dances, and play sports.

But it is clear that the wounds have not healed. Children draw cartoon versions of the atrocities they witnessed while the widow of Dionel Campos is brought to tears whenever she is asked, “Kamusta ka?” (How are you?)

BACK TO SCHOOL. Lumad children sing "Lupang Hinirang" before reciting "Pantang Makabayan" in the Tandag City Sports Complex where the Lumads have been living for over two weeks since they left their ancestral land in Lianga. Classes have resumed in makeshift tents. September 16, 2015.

To help them cope, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) facilitates psychosocial therapy through art and play for kids while adults can undergo voluntary counseling. 

Hindi lang pagkain at tirahan ang kailangan”, explained Birthday Quinto of DSWD, referring to critical incidence stress debriefing, which they conduct for those who are willing to talk about their traumatic experiences.

(They need more than food and shelter)

But more than food, psychosocial support, shelter, and medicines, Garay and her fellow Lumads need justice, security, and peace in order to return to their homes. 

[Ang] prinsipal na pananawagan [namin] ay paalisin ang militar at wasakin ang grupo ng paramilitar...at makasuhan rin ang militar na kasama sa pagpatay ng aming lider”, demanded Garay, who claims that she and her family were once held hostaged and starved by the military inside their houses.

(Our primary demand is the demilitarization of our homes and schools, the disbandment of paramilitaries, and justice for our leaders).

THE MEN. Getting haircuts at the Tandag City Sports Complex where almost 4,000 Lumads have been staying since September 1.

The mother of Dionel Campos, who saw her own son shot in the head, wishes that justice is served immediately so they can return to their livelihoods. “Pagkabalik namin dun baka wala na yung mga pananim namin, maghihintay na naman kami ng anim na buwan para sa pananim naming mais at kamote.  Anim na buwan pa bago kami makakain ulit. Kaya yan talaga ang malaking problema namin, pagkabalik namin dun ay wala na ang aming pangkabuhayan na pananim...  Napakahirap talagang isipin,” she explained in Bisaya. 

(Our crops - corn and sweet potato - might be gone by the time we get home. We will have to wait another six months before we get to eat again. That’s our biggest problem. We might lose our livelihood. It’s difficult to think about it)

EVACUATION SITE. Lumads seek refuge in Tandag City Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur where they have been living on the bleachers and in makeshift tents since September 1.

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have denied the murder accusations, the Lumads are not leaving unless justice is served and military and paramilitary groups flee their schools and ancestral lands.

Until then, the displaced Lumads will continue to live in fear and uncertainty under their makeshift tents in Tandag. - Rappler.com

Listening needed to #StopLumadKillings


In the news on the Lumads, with all the poverty, the killings and deaths, it’s difficult to imagine any explanation other than what is presented: the brutish military unreasonably attacking members of the New People's Army (NPA) while terrorizing sweet Lumads or forcing them to fight. 

It’s easy to forget that, even in the news, many sides are not given much time or space - maybe because the answers of the more traditional Datus, or even of the military, are less fantastic, less easy to understand, or the actors are just more reserved.

Apart from what I have read and watched, I had the opportunity to hear the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Lumads, some of whom are suspected of...something, on separate occasions. Their stories, told from very different perspectives from the media, turn out to make more sense than what I was prepared to believe.

On review, it occurs to me that people against the military cite a document without any source, or statements of the church to confirm whatever evidence they have. I don’t know when the church became a fact finding or investigative body. They aren’t even required to verify what they hear. Just because we think they don’t lie doesn’t mean they are not easily lied to.

And yet the evidence they demand from the other side is asked for with such incredulity. Between a people whose laws are not even written, a military with at least some sources of evidence, and politicians and other officials who should have access to documents, I can’t see how we can really believe one side or the other.

Big voices 

It made me think about how, though I am generally not hysterical, I can appear rational and apparently be so easily swayed by the people screaming the loudest, especially when the story is about poor davids and evil goliaths. It also made me think about how one-sided the media can be and how things snowball because politicians often react to partial information, same as me - except they can mobilize arms and make sweeping pronouncements from which they cannot back down.

There is still so much to know and we are not listening to what is not being said. No one is bothering to explain the allegations that the innocent school teachers and administrators they keep looking for are actually the suspected NPA members who teach Lumad kids how to assemble, carry, and use firearms and sing some other national anthem.

There are too many unanswered questions but come to think of it, all I hear are how the AFP is lying. Can it really be that one else is lying? That the NPA, who have much to gain from a fragmented community, is not lying? I don’t even think anyone has really figured out who the legitimate Datus are, or who should be the credible sources of community information are. Who knows where the stories are coming from?

The facts will hopefully come out.

In the meantime, this is what I do know: apparently very little about our indigenous peoples (IPs) - despite specializing for a while in the protection of traditional knowledge. I see our IPs as distant discovery channel subjects rather than as Filipinos - my own people who should be more kin to me than any other in the world.

Even knowing the difficulties of agrarian reform farmers, how much less I imagined our indigenous struggle to remain peaceful - despite all that’s being done to them and to their homes with such impunity - because they are so far away and friendly and uneducated. How have I been missing important things they say because I measure their value according to the untrusting habits of the city life I lead. Small things like: how can there be no witnesses or alibis?

I don’t know. I’ve never lived in forests or have witnesses who are also in hiding, hunted down on both sides by the NPA from whom they try to escape or the government forces who want to arrest them based on some evidence that no one has seen or verified.  

People have a tendency to hear things that support their beliefs. Lawyers are supposed to have been trained better, like investigators or scientists or journalists: to learn to get the truth by suspending disbelief and reserve judgment until as many sides are allowed to speak, then consider each argument as faithfully as if you had to argue it yourself. 

Listening, a rare gift when we rely so much on noise. - Rappler.com

Trina Monsod lectures on international criminal law at the Ateneo Law School and constituonal law at the FEU law school.

Singapore jails Filipino nurse for 'seditious' posts


SENTENCED TO PRISON. Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore was fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

SINGAPORE – A Singapore court on Monday, September 21, sentenced a Filipino nurse to 4 months in prison for posting inflammatory comments on Facebook against Singaporeans and lying to police investigators.

Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, 29, a former employee of government-run Tan Tock Seng Hospital, had posted comments on Facebook in January insulting Singaporeans and calling for the takeover of the city-state by his countrymen.

State Courts Judge Siva Shanmugam sentenced Bello to 3 months in jail for sedition in relation to his Facebook posts, and another month for lying to police who investigated him following complaints from the public.

Singapore, a densely populated immigrant nation which suffered racial riots in the 1960s, uses sedition laws to clamp down on locals and foreigners found to have incited ethnic tensions.

In a Facebook post on January 2, Bello wrote: "Singaporeans are loosers (sic) in their own country, we take their jobs, their future, their women and soon we will evict all SG loosers (sic) out of their own country hahaha."

In a subsequent comment, Bello said "we will kick out all the Singaporeans and SG will be the new filipino state."

After an outcry from Singaporeans, Bello took down his posts and claimed to police investigators that his account had been hacked by an unknown person. But he eventually admitted posting the comments.

Prosecutors said Bello's misleading statements to the police aggravated his original offenses and led to "unnecessary wastage" of investigative resources.

They had sought a sentence of 5 months in prison to "send a clear message to like-minded individuals that their behaviour will not be tolerated."

Singaporeans who have written or published racist comments about other ethnic groups as well as foreigners have also been prosecuted.

The Filipino community in Singapore is estimated at more than 170,000. 

About 40% of Singapore's population of 5.5 million are foreigners. The wealthy city-state depends heavily on guest workers because of its low fertility rate. – Rappler.com

#COP21 climate action: 1 million signatures from PH to Paris


SIGNATURE DRIVE. Climate Change Commission's Lucille Sering and National Youth Commission's Dingdong Dantes lead the signing of a memorandum of cooperation among government agencies, media groups, and advocates that seeks to gather signatures for climate action in Paris. Photo by Voltaire Tupaz

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines, which has become an image of disaster vulnerability after it was battered by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), seeks to gather at least 1 million signatures for the Paris climate summit in December 2015. 

On Monday, September 21, the country’s climate and youth commissions signed a memorandum of cooperation with other government agencies, media organizations, and advocates to kick off the signature drive dubbed "#NowPH: One million Filipino youth voices for climate action.”

National Youth Commission (NYC) Undersecretary Gio Tingson and Climate Change Commission (CCC) Secretary Lucille Sering sealed the partnership witnessed by representatives of other agencies including the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

The signatures to be gathered will be presented by NYC assistant secretary Dindong Dantes and Sering to French President Francois Hollande, who is presiding the 21st conference of the parties (COP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Philippines and France earlier signed the "Manila Call to Action on Climate Change”  after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III welcomed French President Francois Hollande during his first state visit to the Southeast Asian country in February. 

"This (#NowPH) is the continuation of that story. We want to promote the role of the Philippines in Paris. We view the Philippines as an important stakeholder in the conference,” said French Embassy Deputy Head of Mission Laurent Le Godec, who attended Monday’s event.

#NOWPH. As of September 21, more than 13,000 Filipinos pledge to call for climate action. Sign now!

Ways to curb carbon emission 

The landmark climate conference seeks to come up with a bold agreement that aims to stop global warming by more than 2°C.

“Through this campaign, we hope to further increase their understanding of the climate change negotiation and how its outcome will affect their future,” Sering said, emphasizing the objective of the #NowPH campaign. 

Greenhouse gas emissions are feared to double over the next 50 years, causing global temperatures to rise to a catastrophic 3°C or more by the end of the century, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) earlier warned.

Dantes vowed to help mobilize the Filipino youth, encouraging them to rally behind the global efforts to address the looming climate crisis.

“This campaign is envisioned to encourage the young people to sign a petition that will push the Philippine position on climate change and to adopt one or two of the 15 ways to curb carbon gas emissions,” he said.

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Rappler's MovePH, one of the media partners, vowed to help in engaging the online community to sign the petition.

“We commit to help amplify the campaign through our Project Agos community and bridge online and offline efforts of the #NowPH movement,” MovePH executive director Rupert Ambil said.

Project Agos is a collaborative platform that combines top-down government action with bottom-up civic engagement to help communities learn about climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. – Rappler.com 



Lumad to Winnie Monsod: 'Visit us to know our plight'


MANILA, Philippines - Lumads slammed University of the Philippines (UP) professor and columnist Winnie Monsod on Tuesday, September 22, after she asserted in a controversial column that they were being used for a political agenda.

"Hinahamon namin ang mga tulad ni Prop. Monsod na bisitahin kami upang malaman nila ang tunay naming kalagayan," a Lumad representative said in a press conference in UP Diliman, the Philippine Collegian reported in a Twitter post.

(We dare those like Professor Monsod to visit us so they will know our plight.)

In a column published in the Inquirer on Saturday, September 19, Monsod said that the Lumad were being "exploited" by leftists.

"It looks to me, folks, like the Lumad are being taken advantage of, and not by the army. They have an age-old culture, and style of governance. Their datus can certainly hold their own. They can speak for themselves. So why do these leftist groups insist on talking for them?" Monsod said in her column.

A representative of Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (Kalumaran), a confederation of different indigenous tribes in Mindanao, said that Monsod's sentiment was nothing new.

"Hindi na bago ang ganyang pahayag, nais naming iparating na hindi lang kami biktima. Sa simula'y nakikibaka na kami," they said in the same press conference. (This is not a new sentiment. We want people to know that we are not victims. We've been fighting for our rights from the very start.)

'Leave the Lumad'

Kalumaran has expressed alarm over a series of alleged direct attacks, killings, arrests, harassments, zoning, and vilification in Lumad communities where there is a strong resistance against mining, logging, and land grabbing. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

The attacks are concentrated in the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur, which are hosts to Lumad schools that are operated by non-governement organizations but are regulated by the Department of Education (DepEd). (READ: Leave the Lumad alone)

The Lumad are fighting against Oplan Bayanihan, the government's counter-insurgency program which they claim are being used to harass and abuse Lumad communities, Kalumaran claims.

"Ang tuwid na daan ni Aquino ay para lamang sa malalaking kumpanya na nagreresulta sa pagkasira ng kalikasan," Kalumaran said. (READ: #StopLumadKillings trends: Nasaan ang Pangulo?)

(Aquino's 'straight path' is just for big companies that want to abuse our resources.)

The military denied that soldiers were involved in the spate of killings and violence committed against indigenous peoples in various parts of Mindanao. (READAFP denies role in Lumad deaths)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) earlier said in a dialogue with the Lumad that the killings were “extrajudicial.” – Rappler.com


Fun run relives Martial Law experience


MANILA, Philippines - Do you remember the Martial Law years? 

On Saturday, September 19, Martial Law victims, human rights activists, and students of the University of the Philippines (UP) participated in the Great Lean Run, a fun run that relives the abuses done during the Martial Law and honors the life of the late iconic UP student leader Lean Alejandro.

This year marks the 43rd anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law.

David Lozada reports.


Students are chased by policemen with batons. Some are hit with water cannons while some go through rough barricades.

For some alumni of the University of the Philippines, these scenes are all too familiar.

This is the Great Lean Run, organized by the Sandigan para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan Party or SAMASA to pay tribute to the late iconic UP student leader Lean Alejandro, who fought the Martial Law alongside legendary nationalists Senators Jose Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada.

But 18 months after Cory Aquino assumed power, the leftist leader was assassinated in front of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan office.

The participants get to experience the hardships that activists like Lean went through to commemorate the declaration of Martial Law.

According to Liddy Alejandro, the run brings fond memories of her late husband.

LIDDY ALEJANDRO, WIFE OF LEAN ALEJANDRO: Nakakaantig din ng puso kasi siyempre lalong nagiging vivid yung memories ko nung panahon namin ni Lean kaya lalong nakaka-miss kasi wala siya dito ngayon. Marami sa aking memories ay yung magkasama kami sa kilusan laban sa diktadura.

(It’s heartwarming to be in this event because it brings back the memories in Lean. I miss his presence. Most of my memories of him were those times when we were fighting the dictatorship.)

More and more netizens have been expressing pro-Martial Law sentiments in recent years.

Some even call the dictatorship the best years of the country, despite the glaring number of human rights violations and corruption cases.

Alejandro says this is why the youth should be reminded of the harsh realities during the Marcos dictatorship.

LIDDY ALEJANDRO: Mahalagang ibunyag kung ano ang katotohanan noong mga panahon na yon kasi ayaw nating maulit ulit. Kailangan magkaroon ng ganung pang-unawa ang kabataan natin para alam nila yung mga hindi dapat nang maulit at dapat pigilan, anong klaseng lider ang kailangan ng bansa at hindi kailangan ng bansa.

(It’s important that we show the truth of what really happened during those times so they won’t be repeated. Our youth today need to have that knowledge of history so they know what mistakes not to repeat and avoid, what kind of leader the country needs and doesn’t need.)

For UP journalism student Dulfo Dulfo, the run’s difficulty is nothing compared to the real-life struggles of activists like Lean Alejandro.

DULFO DULFO: Nakita naman natin kanina sa run na maraming struggles, maraming hurdles sa pagiging aktibista. Isasakripisyo mo ang iyong buhay mismo bago marating ang finish line which is democracy.

(There are many struggles in being an activist. You really have to sacrifice your life before you reach the finish line, which is democracy.)

But not all UP students share the same sentiment.

VICKY DELDIO, UP STUDENT: About sa Martial Law, hindi ako against sa Martial Law dahil sa pagkakaalam ko, naging maganda yung ekonomiya and kahit naging dictadurial siya, napabuti yung bansa.

(I’m not against the Martial Law period because, from what I know, the country’s economy became better than. Although Marcos was dictatorial, the country fluorished.)

Organizers of the great lean run emphasize the importance of educating younger generation of Filipinos about the abuses done during the Martial Law period. As the Philippines commemorates the 43rd anniversary of one of the worst events in Philippine history, human rights advocates say we need to remember martyrs like Lean Alejandro to never let another dictatorship come into power. 

- Rappler.com 

AGENDA Innovation +SocialGood: #2030NOW #TheLeaderIWant


MANILA, Philippines - On September 26, Rappler and the United Nations in the Philippines, through the United Nations Development Program, joined the global community through the Social Good Summit.

Organized around the UN General Assembly, the Social Good Summit aims to start a global conversation on possible solutions to the world’s toughest questions. (Read: What you need to know about the Social Good Summit)

This year, the summit focuses on the Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals adopted by world leaders on September 25 at the United Nations General Assembly.  The agenda aims to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change by 2030.

With the theme, Innovation +SocialGood: #2030Now #TheLeaderIWant, the Manila Social Good Summit explored how these Global Goals may be reached by 2030 using key ingredients: technology and innovation; engaged and active communities; competent and accountable leaders.

Innovation +SocialGood was held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila in Pasay City. The summit explored the power of technology and the vital roles leaders play in fostering innovative ideas that can address the problems of our day.

You can follow the event through this blog:


 Check out the program and the speaker profiles below:


RapplerTalks +SocialGood
10:00 - 12:00 PM

Select partners will serve as “conversation leaders” and will be asked to deliver short talks to trigger conversations around key issues and topics.


9:00 - 10:00 am


10:00 - 10:05 am

Welcome Remarks

Zak Yuson
Director for Civic Engagement, MovePH

10:05 - 10:10 am

Video: A year of Moving the Philippines

10:10 - 10:20 am

Information as a lifeline
Innovations in disaster information management

Matthew Jakab
Philippines Activity Leader - Community Safety Branch
Geoscience Australia

10:20 - 10:30 am

Bridging the digital divide: Communications technology and the social media for the bottom of the pyramid

Bong Esguerra
Head for CSR
Globe Telecom

Darwin Flores
VP for Community Partnerships
Smart Communications

10:30 - 10:50 am

ShareSpace # 1


Celso Caballero
Weather Philippines

Dr. Reena Estuar

Marina Azcarete

Eugene A. Villar
Open Street Map Community

Myles Delfin
Bike Scouts

Collen Curran

10:50 - 11:00 am

Why we tell stories


Voltaire Tupaz

Dominic Go

11:00 - 11:10 am

Data-driven leadership
Innovations in analyzing open data and big data to improve governance and transparency

Kai Kaiser
Senior Economist, World Bank

11:10 - 11:20 am

Securing our common future
Innovations in development programs that can exponentially change the world

Ramya Gopalan
Innovation Specialist


11:20 - 11:40 am

ShareSpace # 2
Minding the gap

Cdr. Armand Balilo
World Vision

Francesca Zimmer-Santos

Patrick Gentry

Amb. Henrietta de Villa

Ona Caritos
Lente | Task Force 2016

Joey Dela Cruz

Fr. Xavier Alpasa, SJ
Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan

11:40 - 11:45 am

Closing Remarks

Maria Ressa
CEO, Rappler

11:45 - 12:00 pm

Coffee Break


PACE - Rappler MOA signing

Maria Ressa
CEO, Rappler

Marco Polo
PACE President

Innovation +SocialGood Plenary
1:00 - 5:30 PM

Chay Hofileña,
Rappler Investigative Desk&
Manny Ayala,
Chairman of the Board, Rappler.com and CEO, Hatchd Digital


12:00 - 1:00 pm

Registration for the Plenary Session

1:00 to 1:05 pm

Philippine National Anthem


1:05 to 1:10 pm

Welcome Remarks

Maria Ressa,
CEO, Rappler

1:10 to 1:30 pm

The Challenge Today:
Powering up social enterprise through competition & technology

Hon. Bam Aquino

1:30 to 2:00 pm




Technology and Justice
How technology strengthens the justice system

Hon. Maria Lourdes Sereno
Chief Justice, Philippine Supreme Court

2:00 to 2:20 PM

The Global Goals for
Sustainable Development

Ola Almgren
UN Resident Coordinator
UNDP Resident Representative in the Philippines

2:20 to 2:50 PM

Technology, development and leadership

Maria Ressa
CEO and Executive Editor, Rappler

2:50 to 3:10 pm

Big data, deep learning and smart nations

Mario Domingo
Founder and Managing Partner, lloopp Natural Intelligence Solutions

3:10 to 3:40 pm

Panel discussion and Q & A on Technology, leadership and the Global Goals:

Mario Domingo, lloopp Natural Intelligence Solutions

Kai Kaiser, World Bank

Ramya Gopalan, UNDP Innovation Specialist

Regina Estuar, Ateneo eBayanihan

Moderated by
Maria Ressa
CEO, Rappler

 3:40 to 4:40 pm

Leadership #2030Now

Hon. Leni Robredo
Representative, 3rd District of Camarines Sur
House of Representatives

Joey Salceda
Governor, Albay


Q and A : Leadership #2030NOW


4:50 to 5:05

#TheLeaderIWant and You
Voter registration challenge launch

Hon. Andres Bautista
Commission on Elections

Maria Ressa
CEO and Executive Editor, Rappler

Henrietta De Villa
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)

Rupert Ambil
Executive Director

5:05 to 5:20 pm

Elections and #2030NOW:
Why voter participation in elections is important for social good

Hon. Andres Bautista
Commission on Elections

5:20 to 5:30 pm

Closing Remarks, Plenary

Glenda M. Gloria
Managing Editor, Rappler


5:30 to 6:00 pm

Musical Performance


Reese Lansangan

6:00 - 8:30 PM

The Move Awards celebrates outstanding Filipinos who create change – not just for themselves, but also for others. They are making a difference in their communities, bringing new ideas to the table, and displaying excellence in their field.

6:00 to 6:05 pm

Opening Remarks

Zak Yuson

6:05 to 6:10 pm

Move Awards : Philosophy and Vision

Maria Ressa

CEO, Rappler

6:10 to 6:11 pm

Thematic video

6:11 to 6:35 pm

Awards proper


For Category:
Civic Mover       

Presented by:
Dingdong Dantes
Commissioner, National Youth Commission


For Category:
Creative Mover

Presented by:
Pepe Diokno


For Category:
Enterprise Mover

Presented by:
Steve Benitez
President and CEO
Bo’s Coffee


For Category:
Global Mover

Presented by:
Patricia Evangelista
Award-winning multimedia journalist
Multimedia Manager, Rappler


For Category:
Tech Mover

Presented by
Mr. Ken Lingan
Google Philippines

6:50 to 7:00 pm

Move Communities Recognition and Closing Remarks

Rupert Ambil
Executive Director


Entertainment Number

Monica Cuenco and
Ronnie Liang
Stars of “Bituing walang Ningning,” the Musicale

**To go back to the program, click here** | **To go back to the livestream, click here**

About  the RapplerTalks +SocialGood resource persons (in alphabetical order):

 Fernando "Bong" Esguerra Jr. is the head of Globe's Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Globe's CSR projects focuses on building the information and communications technology capacities of public high schools, local governments, environmental organizations, and social enterprises. They also have volunteer programs and electronic waste recycling initiatives. Esguerra was also a disaster preparedness panelist in 2013's Social Good Summit

For the last 12 years, Darwin Flores has been leading Smart's community engagement initiatives for the base of the pyramid communities in the Philippines. He heads the department responsible for developing ICT-oriented, socially relevant programs in the areas of education, health, disaster preparedness and response, environment and livelihood. Before joining Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart), Darwin was, for ten years, at the helm of fair trade and environmental conservation programs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific for Oxford-based  Oxfam UK-Ireland and Washington D.C.-based Conservation International. Previous to this, he was a political researcher in aid of national legislation for the Philippine Senate.

Ramya Gopalan leads UNDP's innovation practice in Asia Pacific, focusing on helping UNDP develop the next generation of its services based on approaches and methodologies mediated from different sectors. She manages a portfolio of around 40 innovation projects, leads the horizon scanning work and is responsible for building innovation capacity across the region. Ramya has helped set up a number of cutting edge initiatives in the area of technology and innovation and is a regular speaker at international conferences and events. She has also been contributing to exploring the nexus between public and private sector work, developing partnerships to adapt new technology and ideas for addressing development challenges and facilitating country exchanges and south-south cooperation. 

Matthew Jakab is the Disaster Geography Specialist in the Community Safety Branch of Geoscience Australia. Matthew completed a Bachelor of Geoinformatics and Surveying at the University of South Australia and has extensive experience in the application of surveying and the spatial sciences across three levels of government in Australia. Matthew has a strong interest in spatial analysis that supports urban and regional land use planning, natural resource management, infrastructure development, emergency management and natural hazard risk analysis. Matthew joined Geoscience Australia in 2009 and leads the exposure component of the Risk Analysis Project for Greater Metro Manila Area. The project is supported by the Australian aid program in the Philippines and implemented in partnership with Office of Civil Defense and the Collective Strengthening of Community Awareness for Natural Disasters (CSCAND) agencies.

Kai Kaiser, is a Senior Economist in the World Bank in Manila. He is primarily focused on public finance and public sector governance reform in the country.  Before this he was a Senior in Washington, DC where he worked on global public finance, intergovernmental relations, natural resource led development, and applied political economy and institutional reform issues. He has also worked in Jakarta, Indonesia where he focused on fiscal decentralization and service delivery reforms. He is the author of several books and papers on governance, development and public finance such as Good Practice Framework: Problem-Driven Governance and Political Economy Analysis and Rents to Riches: The Political Economy of Natural Resource-led Development. 

One of the pioneers of Move.PH, Rappler's citizen journalism arm, Voltaire Tupaz moves around the country organizing the 'Social Media for Social Change' chat series. Voltz creates and manages platforms for public discussion, opening avenues for citizen involvement online and on the ground. Before joining Rappler, he was the executive director of a consortium of non-government organizations that promotes sustainable development and food security. He also served as a policy advocacy specialist for various non-profit organizations and an international environmental network, raising awareness about a range of issues that included indigenous knowledge systems, appropriate technology, climate change and other development issues.

About  the RapplerTalks +SocialGood Host:

Zak Yuson is the head of Citizen Journalism at MovePH. He has a masters degree in public policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School at the National University of Singapore and a BA in political science from UP Diliman. Prior to working at Rappler, Zak was a policy wonk at the Presidential Management Staff where he distilled policy papers for the President's consumption. He was also an associate producer for the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC). Offline, Zak is the QC Chapter President of CISV, a international volunteer youth organization that promotes peace education in more than 60 countries.

About the Innovation +SocialGood resource persons (in alphabetical order):

His Excellency Ola Almgren is the resident coordinator for the United Nations (UN) in the Philippines. He has been with the UN for 25 years, working on humanitarian affairs, development, peace and security, and disaster relief. He was director of the New York Office of UN’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an organization that worked on the removal of chemical weapons in Syria. He was also the Mission Chief of Staff of the UN Stabilization mission in the Republic of Congo, where they worked on the security, the restoration of government stability, the return of displaced families to their homes, and to relaunch community economies after years of political turmoil. Ola Almgren was recently in Leyte where he visited various projects for the families and communities affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV is the youngest Senator in the country. He chairs the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Entrepreneurship, as well as the Committee on Youth. The senator is a multi-awarded youth leader and social entrepreneur who co-founded the Hapinoy Program, a microfinance and micro-enterprise support meant to lift poor Filipinos out of poverty. He became the youngest person in Philippine history to head a government agency after he was appointed as chairman of the National Youth Commission at age 25. Aquino was named as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines in the category of Social Enterprise and Community Development, and was chosen as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World in 2012. 

Andres Bautista is the current Chairman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Bautista used to serve as dean of the Far Eastern University's Institute of Law. He was also the CEO of the Kuok Group in the Philippines, the investments of which include Shangri-La hotels and resorts in the Southeast Asian country. Bautista later served as chairman and president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools, as partner in an international law firm, and as a constitutional reform commission member under different Philippine presidents. Bautista finished his law degree at the Ateneo de Manila University in 1990 as class valedictorian and topped the Bar the same year. He eventually took a master of laws degree at Harvard University in 1993. Bautista was a candidate for chief justice in 2012.

Mario Domingo is a co-founder and managing partner at Natural Intelligence Solutions, PTE Ltd. lloopp. He stands side by side with customers in finding new and effective ways to solve conventional problems using Deep Machine Learning, Big Data and closed-loop self-optimization technologies. A cognitive technology geek and Project Management guru, he previously served as Head of IT Transformation Strategy at Globe Telecom and subsequently as Head of Customer Operations for a Singapore-based Company. 

Glenda Gloria served as chief operating officer of ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel from 2008 to January 2011. Under her management, ANC acted as the harbinger of new initiatives for the ABS-CBN news group. She played a key role in harnessing social media for the network’s 2010 election coverage. She’s written numerous books. With Marites Danguilan-Vitug she authored Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao, a groundbreaking book on the conflict in Mindanao that won the National Book Award. In 2011, she wrote The Enemy Within: An Inside Story on Military Corruption with Aries Rufo and Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza. Glenda now manages the Rappler newsroom, merging traditional journalism with innovative crowd-sourcing social media techniques.

Maria A. Ressa has been a journalist in Asia for nearly 30 years and is the author of FROM BIN LADEN TO FACEBOOK: 10 Days of Abduction, 10 Years of Terrorismand Seeds of Terror: An Eyewitness Account of Al-Qaeda's Newest Center of Operations in Southeast Asia. She is one of the founders of independent production company, Probe Productions, before reporting for and heading CNN's Southeast Asia operations for nearly 2 decades (bureau chief in Manila then Jakarta). For 6 years, she was ABS-CBN's Senior Vice President for News & Current Affairs, handling news operations across multiple platforms. She is Rappler's CEO and Executive Editor.

Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona-Robredo is a lawyer and a first-term representative of Camarines Sur’s 3rd district in the House of Representatives. She is the widow of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died on a plane crash in 2012. She has lead groups advocating for women empowerment, such as Lakas ng Kababaihan and the Naga City Council for Women. She has also worked with Saligan, an organization that aims for legal empowerment for the poor and dispossessed. She is seen as a champion of good governance and freedom of information, authoring bills such as the Freedom of Information Act of 2013, and the Full Disclosure Act of 2013.

 Governor Joey Sarte Salceda is often referred to as the Green Economist Governer of Albay. He is also considered as the father of the Albay and Manila Declarations on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and Climate Change Adaptation (CCA). The declarations paved the way for The Climate Change Act of 2009 and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act which established DRR and CCA as priorities in both local and national government. 

 About the Innovation +SocialGood Program Hosts:

 Manny Ayala is CEO of Endeavor Philippines, a non-profit that transforms markets by supporting high-impact entrepreneurs. He was previously managing director at IRG Ltd, a HK-based M&A boutique focused on the telecoms, media and tech industries. At IRG, Manny focused on a variety of projects in the Internet, mobile, television and online gaming sectors. Prior to that, Manny was the number two executive at Discovery Networks Asia, where he oversaw Strategic Planning, Programming, On-Air Branding and Program Sales. He was instrumental in turning Discovery Channel and Animal Planet into top-rated TV channels across the region. He is currently Chairman of the Board at Rappler.

Chay Hofileña spearheaded Move.PH, Rappler's Citizen Journalism & Community Engagement arm. Before joining Rappler, she was a contributing writer of Newsbreak Magazine and was one of its founding editors. She has written extensively on media issues and authored the book, News for Sale: The Corruption and Commercialization of the Philippine Media (2004)." She co-wrote with Miriam Grace Go the top-selling book on the 2010 Philippine presidential elections, Ambition Destiny Victory: Stories from a Presidential Election (2011). She has been the recipient of awards from the Jaime V Ongpin Awards for Excellence in Journalism. She is currently Editor of Rappler's Investigative Reporting Desk.

About the Move Awards Night Resource Persons (in alphabetical order):

Rupert Ambil IIbegan his career in the broadcast industry at the Philippines' first 24-hour news channel Sarimanok News Network, now ANC, or the ABS-CBN News Channel. In 2000 he left what could have been lucrative employment to work for an NGO in Eastern Samar. His love for journalism persisted and he found himself back at ABS-CBN in 2005 as a Futures Desk Specialist and Field Producer. He left the company as Head of Field Operations for the News Division. Now, he serves as the Executive Director of Move.PH, the citizen-journalism arm of Rappler.

Steve Benitez is the owner of Bo's Coffee, a local chain of coffeeshops. Starting out in Cebu in 1996, Bo's coffee now has more than 56 branches all across the country. Other than the usual fare for coffeeshops such as espressos and frappes, Bo's offers brewed coffee sourced locally from places such as Benguet, Sagada, Mt. Kitanglad, Mt. Matumtumm and Mt. Apo.  

Jose Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes III is a TV personality who was appointed as commissioner-at-large of the National Youth Commission in May 2014. He also serves as ambassador for Youth for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and is active with his foundation called Yes Pinoy Foundation. He has appeared in numerous TV shows (mostly in his home network GMA Network), movies, and advertisements since his teenage years. He now manages his own film studio named AgostoDos Pictures. He was married in December 2014 to his long-time screen partner and girlfriend Marian Rivera. The two expecting their first child on November.

Pepe Diokno is filmmaker. In 2009, his debut film “Engkwentro” premiered at the Venice Film Festival and won the Lion of the Future - "Luigi de Laurentiis" award for Best Debut Film, as well as the Orizzonti Prize for New Trends in Cinema. "Above the Clouds" is Pepe's second film. He is among "100 most exceptional emerging filmmakers" the 2010 book Take 100: The Future of Film, a list published by the UK's Phaidon PressIn 2010, Diokno also received the Ani ng Dangal Award from the President of the Philippines.

Patricia Evangelista is a journalist who has worked across a range of platforms including television production, documentary film and multi-platform collaborative projects focused on human rights, conflict, disaster, development and public interest issues. She writes for both online and print, and is a videographer, editor and producer. She is a fellow of the South East Asian Press Alliance and covered the refugee camps of Burma in 2009. In the same year, she was awarded by the Union Catholique Internationale de la Presse the Titus Brandsma Awardee for Emergent Journalism for trekking “treacherous grounds for journalists." In 2014, she won the Agence France-Presse Kate Webb Prize for her "balanced, nuanced eye and astonishing courage” covering two of the country's most brutal events of 2014 – the standoff between the military and Muslim rebels in Zamboanga and the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan.

Performers at the Social Good Summit

There will also be performers during the event. The Innovation +SocialGood plenary,  will be capped off with a performance by Reese Lansangan, an indie pop/folk pop musician. Meanwhile, the Move Awards night will feature a performance from the stars of Bituing Walang Ningning, the musical.

Reese Lansangan, 24, is an indie pop/folk pop musician, she has over 3,000 followers on her Soundcloud and over 1,700 subscribers on YouTube. Her songs range from covers requested by her fans on Twitter to original songs about the use of proper grammar. Last July, she gave a talk on the power and potential of music to reflect human realities other than love and heartbreak and how there needs to be a better appreciation for less mainstream music at the TedxBritishSchoolManila. She was also a resource speaker at TEDxUST.


 The old story of Bituing Walang Ningning sees new life through its new faces and voices performing a repertoire composed by Willy Cruz on stage and backed by the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Rodel Colmenar at the Newport Theater in Resorts World Manila. Among the many enduring songs of the repertoire are "Magandang Gabi," "Sana'y Maghintay ang Walang Hanggan," and of course, "Bituing Walang Ningning."


**To go back to the program, click here** | **To go back to the livestream, click here** – Rappler.com

#EndDiscriminationNow: On being Muslim and discriminated


We are living in an era of pervasive discrimination, racism, and social inequality. We are living in a world where we are easily judged. Every day, we wake up to a society where freedom is not always an option. 

Discrimination among Muslims has been too obvious lately. 

A few months ago, Tahera Ahmad was denied an unopened soda can on an affiliated US domestic flight. Why? The flight attendant said Ahmad might use the can as a weapon. A few days ago, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested in Texas for bringing a home-made clock to school. Ben Carson, Republican US presidential candidate, also recently said that no Muslim should ever become the US president.

Meanwhile, in Zamboanga City, news broke about a suspected bomber who was then labeled as a “Muslim type.” 

Now, what do these mean? Aren't these manifestations of discrimination, inequality, and oppression? Where is social justice now? (READ: NBI's 'Muslim type' profile)

Why are we being judged just because we wear a veil? Why are we being judged just because we are Muslims? 


I have been wondering why a non-Muslim can grow his beard without any fear of being suspected of bad intentions. But when a Muslim sports a beard, there is a high chance he would be labeled an extremist. (READ: DOJ orders probe NBI agents over 'Muslim type' tag)

I have been wondering why nuns can cover themselves from head to toe, but when an Islam sister does this, she is often misjudged. I have been wondering why, when a person protects his land, he is called a hero; but when a Muslim does it, he is tagges as a terrorist.

I wasn't aware of the term “Islamophobia." Don’t you think it’s too nasty? Don’t you think it disrespects Muslims?

Are we really living in a free world if Chinese-Muslims are prohibited from "fasting," one of Islam's pillars, during the holy month of Ramadan?

Don’t you think it is useless declaring a holiday when the actual day isn’t the declared one? How can you expect Muslims to feel the essence of the two most important feasts of Islam community when they need to rush to work or school after Eid’l Fitr (Feast of Breaking the Fast) or Eid’l Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) prayer? It happened not just once.


The suffering of Muslims in the Philippines is inhumane. But I also believe that our Muslim brothers and sisters from other parts of the world are even more oppressed.

Religious discrimination has become too epidemic, too invasive. It is now or never – discrimination has to end. Imagine a world where religion and race are no longer issues. It is the kind of world I bet we would all want to live in.

Discrimination is the root of human division, and it has to disappear. Otherwise, wars will never end. It must be scratched out from people’s mind or else the youth will never learn to correct their misconceptions.

We also need to focus on cultivating human relations, regardless of differences in gender, nationality, religious faith, class, education, among other factors. For a simple reason: because we are all human. We are all the same; we all want to be respected.

We should never forget past achievements like the African-Americans who fought for their civil rights in the US, and the women who fought for equality. Muslims are also struggling to fight for their rights, we are also aiming to be truly accepted in this society.

I am optimistic of a future where the world has no vacancy for discrimination because it will be filled with peace, love, and harmony. And that future starts now, as we end discrimination now. – Rappler.com

Yarah Musa is a first year Legal Management student at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University. She is a Rappler Mover in Basilan.

Image via Shutterstock

Police release UP teachers arrested in budget protest


RELEASED. UP Visayas instructors Erick Aguilar and Gretchen Velarde are released after being arrested in Iloilo City for joining a protest action against the biggest UP budget cut under the Aquino government. Photo courtesy of Kasama sa UP

MANILA, Philippines — The two UP Visayas (UPV) teachers who were arrested in a protest action Thursday afternoon, September 24, were released midnight on the same day, the Philippine Collegian reported.

The two were arrested in Iloilo City by local police after they joined a walkout protest against the reported P2.2-billion cut from the state university's budget in 2016.

Literature instructor Erick Aguilar and history instructor Gretchen Velarde faced charges of "illegal assembly" and "civil disobedience.”

Students and some faculty members also took part in the walkout. Nine others were arrested, facing the same charges. 

"Desperate move ito ng state na protektahan ang interest ng dayuhan dahil sa APEC, (This is the state's desperate move to protect the interest of foreigners because it's APEC)," Aguilar, a Palanca-winning playwright, told the Philippine Collegian.

IloIlo City is hosting the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the world’s largest regional economic group. The two-day event is being attended by various representatives from around the globe.

Members of the UP community across different campuses held rallies on Thursday, condemning the cut, the biggest drop in its budget under the Aquino administration in 2016.

The Department of Budget and Management is proposing P10.9 billion for the UP system in 2016, lower than the current year's P13.14 billion budget.

What do you think of the incident? Let us know. Reach us at move.ph@rappler.com, on Facebook, or tweet us @moveph. – Rappler.com

Jail 'inevitable' for parents of half Filipina teen who committed suicide


CHARGES. This photo shows Philippine national Herminia Garcia (L) and her British businessman partner Nick Cousins (R) arriving at the Eastern Magistrate Court in Hong Kong. Photo by Anthony Wallace/AFP
HONG KONG – You will surely go to jail.

This was what a Hong Kong magistrate told Nicholas Cousins and Herminia Garcia, after they both pleaded guilty on September 25, to various offences uncovered after their 15-year-old daughter, Blanca, jumped to her death from their 19th floor apartment in April. (READ: Cousins suicide: A HK tragedy that could have been averted

Magistrate So Wai-tak’s statement followed a long and impassioned plea from the couple’s lawyer, Giles Surman for leniency, saying the two were still suffering from the death of their daughter, and were remorseful.

Surman also said putting the couple behind bars would impact greatly on the future of their younger daughter who is still grieving from the loss of her sister.

The younger girl, who appeared in court for the first time, also sent a letter to the magistrate asking that he does not impose a jail term on her parents, who she said “pretty much fulfill the definition of best parents.”

She said that having lost her only sister recently, it would be even more painful if her parents were jailed.

'Where will I go?'

“If my parents were taken away from me, where will I go?”, she implored.

Surman finished off by saying that during their last conference before the court hearing, Cousins told him that he would be willing to go to prison forever “if it would bring Blanca back”.

But after listening patiently to the mitigation for nearly two hours, So asked Cousins and Garcia to stand before him, then proclaimed: “I will have to say that an immediate custodial sentence is inevitable”.

So said he needed more time to decide on the sentence, and set the next hearing date on October 9.

Garcia, 53, who is known to friends as Grace Cousins, pleaded guilty to breaching her conditions of stay by overstaying her visa for more than 20 years.

Cousins, 57, pleaded guilty to a charge of aiding and abetting Garcia’s violation of her visa conditions and to two counts of failing to register the births of their two daughters. (READ: Charges filed vs father of half-Filipina teen in HK suicide

For the first time, the court heard that Garcia came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper in 1990, two years after she had gotten married in the Philippines. But after two years of working here, her marriage reportedly broke down because her husband has been unfaithful and had a “drinking problem.”


Garcia finished a two year-contract, but was terminated shortly before completing a second one. She applied for a visa extension on Nov. 7, 1994, but was denied and told to return to the Philippines. She never did.

The following year, she met Cousins, a self-made insurance executive who had just been posted to Hong Kong by his company, Jardine Lloyd Thompsons (JLT). The two began living together in August 1996, when Cousins reportedly first became aware of Garcia’s undocumented status.

Three years later their firstborn, Blanca Pamela was born, and just eleven months afterwards, the second daughter.

Meanwhile, Cousins continued to climb up the corporate ladder, until he became JLT’s managing director in 2008. He reportedly resigned from this post on August 12, five days after Blanca’s death. Last Sept. 14, he also resigned as a member of various company boards.

Surman said the first question that many would ask is why Cousins did not marry Garcia.

Apart from the fact that Garcia was already married, he said “unfortunately, in the Philippines, rightly or wrongly, there is no divorce”. You can have legal separation and annulment, but this is just done if there is an agreement between the parties.”

Still, he said the couple was very much aware that they were violating immigration laws and agonized over this each time they had a child.

The last time they talked seriously about legalizing their union was sometime after May 21 last year, when Garcia’s estranged husband died.

“This provided the couple an opportunity to marry but they could not do this in Hong Kong because she (Garcia) did not have identity documents,” said

He also told the court that the hospital where both girls were born duly reported their births to the authorities. However, Cousins failed to comply with the requirement that he complete the registration within the mandated period of 42 days because this would have revealed Garcia’s illegal status.


Despite not having identity documents, Garcia and the two girls were included in Cousins’ medical insurance privilege so they had adequate health care.

Getting into regular schools was, however, a different matter, and the two girls were put in a tutorial center, the Sylvan Learning Center, which has a branch near their Repulse Bay home, after kindergarten.

Surman was quick to say that contrary to widespread belief that the Cousins daughters were not given adequate education, they attended Sylvan four times a week where they taught various subjects. At the time of her death, Blanca was said to be working through a number of GCSE (General Certificate for Secondary Education) papers.

The younger sister was made to undergo an assessment for her educational experience and socialization by a teacher in Island School recently, and the report indicated that she was “intelligent, well adjusted and socially competent”.

The younger Cousins is said to have moved to an international school after Immigration Department provided her with a Hong Kong ID card a few days after her undocumented status was uncovered following her sister’s tragic death.

Given these, Surman said that any notion that the deprivation of identity had caused social and emotional difficulty on the young girls “can now be put to rest.”

Still, he could not offer any explanation as to why Blanca felt compelled to take her life.

On the day she died, the family reportedly went out to dinner in Tsimshatsui, and upon returning home, the couple decided to watch home movies while the girls retired to their bedrooms.

Shortly afterwards, the parents saw Blanca go into the bathroom. When she did not reappear after some time, they decided to check on her by knocking on the door but got no answer. Alarmed, Cousins broke down the door and was horrified to see the window open and Blanca gone.

He rushed down to the ground floor with his younger daughter trailing him, and there saw Blanca on the pavement, already dead.

“Why did she jump? We simply do not know,” said Surman.

Pending the sentencing, Cousins remains out on $10,000 bail while Garcia paid $100,000 cash for bail and secured a surety in the same amount from Cousins’ colleague and friend, Michael Wellsted. – Rappler.com 

What you need to know about tilapia, guppies, and maya


Invasions aren't always spearheaded by armies. Sometimes a released pet is all it takes to transform a country. What are the most commonly encountered Philippine animals?

If the maya, tilapia, ipis, dagang estero, or kalabaw are top-of-mind, you're in for a surprise. Despite being ever-present, none of them originated from the Philippines. (READ: Elephants, rhinos, tigers in the PH)

Introduced by accident or on purpose, exotic species can overpower native plants and animals in just a few generations. How prevalent are introduced species in the Philippines? 

Maya birds fom Europe

Eurasian tree sparrow, Nile tilapia, and guppies

Maya birds were actually imported from Europe to combat loneliness. And they're impostors too. The term maya once referred to a group of small, gregarious birds – particularly the richly-hued chestnut munia (Lonchura atricapilla) which was our national bird until 1995.

Legend has it that lonely Spaniards, wishing the Philippines to feel more like their beloved Spain, brought Eurasian tree sparrows (Passer montanus) with them in the early 1900s.

A century later, they've become our most familiar bird, flitting over every major Filipino island, town, and city sometimes plaguing ricefields. Sadly, most Pinoys now mistakenly believe the introduced Eurasian tree sparrow is the real maya when in fact the original one is the chestnut munia.

Imported African tilapia

Originally hailing from Africa and the Middle East, tilapia has become among the world's most important food fish. It is grown in 70 countries. Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) were brought to the country in the 1950s, followed by Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) in the 1960s. The territorial and prolific mouth-brooders took over all major Philippine waterways within 50 years. 

Tilapia can decimate the native fauna of many rivers and lakes in the Philippines and elsewhere. In Lake Victoria, Africa's largest, the introduction of Nile perch and tilapia has spurred the extinction of 60% of the lake's native fish in what may be the biggest vertebrate extinction of the 20th century. 

Dagang estero as expert ship stowaways

Hailing from northern China, dagang estero or brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) invaded every continent, save for Antarctica by hitching aboard ships. They are the most widespread mammal next to humans. 

Typically seen slinking around grimy alleys and gunky canals at night, these all-gnawing rodents have annihilated many island species, especially birds. In Palawan's Bancauan Isle, introduced rats wiped out all ground-breeding seabirds. Rats are also smarter than we think, they’re as intelligent as dogs – learning fast and remembering solutions to complex problems.   

Colorful guppies and malaria

Introduced in 1921 to keep mosquitoes at bay, prolific “millions fish” or guppies (Poecilia reticulata) have spread to just about every waterway in the country. They dine on wriggling kiti-kiti or mosquito larvae. However, not all introduced species are harmful. These lively livebearers – they pop out little guppies instead of laying eggs – control mosquito-borne diseases like dengue and malaria. Hence, they help make our country a safer place.

Giant cane toads, pests, and sugarcane fields 

Their success story is truly riveting. Giant cane toads (Rhinella marina) eat more than insects. They gorge on anything– small birds, mammals, reptiles – even other toads! With their toxic, leathery hides and rabbit-like reproduction rates, they've become the Philippines' most common amphibian – sitting at the top of the heap in their warty, bug-eyed glory. 

Alien catfish displacing the native hito 

Introduced for food, African sharptooth catfish (Clarias gariepinus) and Asian walking catfish (Clarias batrachus) are displacing our delicious local hito or the broadhead catfish (Clarias macrocephalus), which is now dwindling because of land conversion and hybridization with the two alien species. A good reason to conserve our broadheads? Among the 3 species, ours is still the tastiest. 

Golden kuhol from South America

“What better way to feed people than to throw South American snails into ricefields?” thought entrepreneurs in 1982. Well, these little golden buggers don't spread at a snail's pace. Eight years after introduction, golden apple snails (Pomacea canaliculata) and their familiar pink egg clutches infested 11% of the Philippines' ricefields, turning our palayan into their personal salad-bowls. Tasty yes, but these gastronomic gastropods are now top rice pests. 

American cockroaches and commerce 

By stowing away on ships, planes, trucks, bags, and anything small enough to crawl in, American cockroaches (Periplaneta americana) colonized the world, contaminating food stores with cockroach crap. 

Aside from being unbelievably tough to kill – they can take a full-force slipper-slap and still merrily scurry into a wall-crack – they're armed with a truly terrifying move: the flying ipis (cockroach) attack.

Carabaos brought in by Malay settlers 

Originating from India, Indochina and China, wild water buffalos were domesticated approximately 5,000 years ago. Malay settlers brought carabaos (Bubalus bubalis carabanensis) to till the isles which would someday be the Philippines around 2,200 years ago. The beloved, hardworking carabao has now been naturalized as our national animal.  

Dumped South American janitor fish 

No invasive species story would be complete without mentioning janitor fish, particularly the common plecostomus (Pterygoplichthys pardalis) and sailfin plecostomus (Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus). Aquarists just love these tireless sucker-mouthed algae eaters, which hail from the fast-flowing waters of South America.

Unfortunately, they grow larger than a foot, way too large for most aquaria. Well-meaning pet-keepers then dumped them in rivers. Voila, the infestation has spread as far as Mindanao. Looks like we're the real suckers.  

Introduced, invasive or naturalized?

INTRODUCED SPECIES. (L-R) The Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus), giant cane toad (Rhinella marina), carabao (Bubalus bubalis carabanensis), golden apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata), Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), broadhead catfish (Clarias macrocephalus), guppies (Poecilia reticulata), American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) and common plecostomus (Pterygoplichthys pardalis.

Chinese soft-shelled turtles, South American knifefish, Central American jaguar guapote , the list goes on and doesn't even include plants. 

So what differentiates introduced and invasive species? Introduced species have little large-scale effects on the environment, while the invasive outwits, outplays, and outlasts most other species. 

Many animals have also become naturalized as stable components of ecosystems. The famed mustang horses of North America were brought by Spanish conquistadores to the New World 522 years ago.

The legions of ancient Rome introduced pheasants from Asia to Europe 2,100 years back. Australia's ubiquitous rabbits are descended from 24 European bunnies that a farmer set free 156 years ago. Well yes, they breed like rabbits. 

Over time, these animals blended into their new habitats. 

To stem the tide of alien invasion, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) developed a National Invasive Species Strategy and Action Plan. “We can no longer ignore this issue for its impacts have extended beyond what we consider intangible. We're losing our potential to further benefit from our native biological resources,” explained Dr Theresa Mundita Lim, head of the DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB). 

Your role in all this

Hobbyists and farmers could stop releasing non-native animals into the wild. 

You can also take photos of unfamiliar animals and send them to the DENR-BMB or post them online to map out the range of both foreign and local species. “It's important to recognize the various pathways for entry like tourism, agriculture, forestry and the pet trade,” said Lim. “We want to best manage the entry of invasives by working closely with those responsible for each pathway.”

Knowledge is power. 

Careful culling can also dent introduced populations. Using aids like poisoned bait and advanced tracking, New Zealand successfully removed invasive rats in 10% of its islands, proving that eradication is possible in closed island ecosystems. 

But controlling invasive fish and farmed species is more complicated. “Invasive predators like knifefish are among the worst, having eroded the fisheries productivity of Laguna Lake,” stressed Dr Ma. Rowena Eguia, head of the Manila office of SEAFDEC, an international body which promotes sustainable fisheries development in Southeast Asia. 

“However, many invasive species like tilapia have also become important aquaculture mainstays, providing millions of people with food and livelihood. Responsible and tightly-controlled aquaculture is the key,” Eguia added.  

The war against alien invaders will drag on for decades but through steady vigilance and sound science, we can win.

Conservationists dream of an unsullied world, but the truth is that the Earth's ecosystems are already in a constant state of flux. Since spreading out of Africa 200,000 years ago to dominate this planet, we've ushered in a new epoch. This is the Anthropocene, an era where the ebb and flow of life is dictated by the strongest invasive species of all.

In this globalized world, humans alone will decide whether native or invasive species will reign supreme. And though we should do everything possible to conserve native life, I cannot help but recall the words of Charles Darwin: “it is not the strongest nor the smartest species which survives, but the most adaptable.” – Rappler.com

Gregg Yan is an award-winning communicator who investigates ecological and anthropological issues in Asia. He leads the "Best Alternatives Campaign" and highlights solutions through various advocacy groups.

The problem with PH history education


Often when I teach Philippine Government or Introduction to Political Science classes, especially for Political Science majors, I'd ask my students to do one rather time-consuming classroom exercise. 

I would ask them to do a phrase or sentence outline on Philippine History. I give them this scenario to kick off the classroom activity (yes, can't assign it, I need to make sure they're using their stock [or stuck] knowledge):

"Imagine you were asked by an alien, a non-earthling, to relate to her in summary fashion the history of our nation/country. How would you tell our story? Write an outline..."

Twenty years ago, when I first did this in class, I had a most unsettling realization much like Epy Quizon's surprised reaction to the question posed to him by a group of college students regarding his role as never-standing Mabini in Heneral Luna.

I saw a clear pattern after reading hundreds of students' outputs.

Our students – even after years of basic education from the best and most expensive schools in the country – didn't know much about the Philippine-American War. In fact, it was a blind spot in many of their outlines. Many of them would churn out something like this (edited output of one of my students, a first year Polsci student in 1998):

I. Philippine Pre-history

A. Waves of migration

B. Tabon caves

C. Trade with China

II. Spanish period

A. Magellan arrives in 1521

B. Rizal is shot at Luneta

C. KKK is founded

III. American period

A. America gives us independence and teaches us democracy

B. Quezon becomes Commonwealth President

IV. Japanese occupation

A. Death march

B. MacArthur returns

C. Japan surrenders 

V. The Philippine republics

A. Post-war reconstruction

B. Marcos becomes President

C. Ninoy assassination

D. EDSA revolution and Cory

Seems innocent enough, right?

But I realized, where was the Philippine-American War? Why merely refer to it as a "Period"? 

Do our students know that there are estimates which put the Filipino death toll in that war at around 300,000 (1/3 of Luzon's population at that time)? Do they know that the Americans developed the Caliber .45 hand gun precisely to fight Moros in Mindanao, who could not be easily brought down by gunfire especially when they went juramentado (martyrdom charge) in defense of their communities? 

Do they know that the Mindanaoans were never really fully colonized by the Americans (it's the "independent" Philippine governments that did that later)? Do they know that Luna is supposed to have refused to fight against the Spaniards and thus gained the ire of some Filipinos? Do they know that Mabini is inconsistent in his views on both Luna and Aguinaldo?

And "Philippine Pre-history"? The subliminal suggestion is that we didn't have any history before Westerners came to our archipelago.


The question then is raised: Why are our students weak in Philippine history and social studies in general? The answer will need a whole history tome to answer. But here's my take:

1. We have failed to take care of our teacher training institutions and our public school teachers. The Philippine Normal University (PNU) has been "maltreated" through the years. Teachers have had to resort to hunger strikes just to push for higher wages. Napabayaan! (Taken for granted!)

2. Textbooks are of low quality, full of questionable content and orientation (colonial, as some point out).

3. Pedagogy has not been learner-centered. Students are not educated to be critical thinkers but are trained to be submissive subjects.

Heneral Luna

It is in light of these that I warmly welcome Heneral Luna in our movie theaters and I am lifted by all the accolades that it is now getting. At the very least, it is making people ask questions about our supposed heroes. At the very least, it is inspiring some students to be historiographers.

On a side note, I find it timely that this masterpiece by Jerrold Tarog is released around the time we are also supposed to remember the imposition of Martial Law in 1972. There must be a nuanced distinction between the notion of an Artikulo Uno and the need for Martial Law in '72. 

Tragically, our education system has also molded many citizens who are now apparently ready to surrender their rights to the false notion of a benevolent dictatorship and in the name of some form of peace and order – the kind one finds in a cemetery.

Sa kabila nito, naniniwala pa rin ako sa Filipino. Ang mga palakpak at papuri sa pagtatapos ng bawa't pagpapalabas ng Heneral Luna ay patunay na uhaw sa katotohanan ang ating Bayan. (Despite all this, I still believe in the Filipino. The applause and praise after each showing of Heneral Luna is proof that our nation thirsts for the truth.)

Hindi lamang tayo – ayon nga sa tanong sa dulo ng pelikula – mga "alikabok na nag-aalimpuyo." (We are not – according to the question at the end of the film – just dust that turns fiery.)

Tayo'y mga daluyong ng pag-asa't pagbabago. Tayo'y Filipino. (We are waves of hope and change. We are Filipino.) – Rappler.com

Louie Checa Montemar is a lecturer of Political Science at De La Salle University and National Coordinator of the Lasallian Educational Commission of De La Salle Philippines. In his spare time, he is a volunteer education and community development worker of ENFANCE Inc, an NGO dedicated to dealing with urban poverty.


UNDP using apps to fight corruption, pollution in Asia-Pacific


TECH FOR GOOD. UNDP's Ramya Gopalan shares some social innovations that are helping countries tackle age-old problems. Photo by Pia Ranada/Rappler MANILA, Philippines – Technology can spell the difference between victory and failure in humanity’s battle against development challenges like poverty, corruption, hunger, and climate change.

This was the message of Ramya Gopalan, Innovation Specialist of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), in her talk during the Innovation+Social Good Summit 2015 on Saturday, September 26. (LIVE: Innovation+SocialGood: #2030NOW #TheLeaderIWant)

“Innovation plays a big role especially with the appetite for reform to address these development challenges,” she told the audience at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Pasay City.

The UNDP is among many international organizations making use of technological innovations to confront obstacles facing the world.

Gopalan cited electronic waste in China as an example. She said China is the repository of 70% of global electronic waste, and had to dispose of and manage 56 million television units and 60 million refrigerators in one year.

It was an enormous problem that the usual approaches could not hack. 

So after speaking with communities and electronic retailers, the UNDP partnered with Chinese Internet company Baidu to develop an app called the “Baidu Recycle” app. The app connects consumers with retailers of electronics that practice safe disposal mechanisms. 

This way, consumers who wanted to get rid of their old electronics had a choice aside from just dunking their old appliances and laptops into the trash bin. 

The app has been responsible for the safe disposal of 12,000 units, said Gopalan. UNDP and Baidu have already launched a second version of the app.

The app complimented other more “traditional” initiatives of the UNDP such as partnering with the government to train disposers on proper disposal of electronic waste.

Apps to the rescue

In the island nation of Maldives in South Asia, Gopalan said the UNDP helped develop an app called “Make My Island” to track reports on disaster incidents.

Borrowing from the United Kingdom site Fix My Street, the app gave citizens a platform to report soil erosion and floods to the Island Council who could then take action.

Both the reports of citizens and the action taken by the government are made available online through the app.

“We engage citizens in the kind of reporting they do. We’ve now scaled this up to the capital city of Male,” said Gopalan.

In Papua New Guinea, an island nation notorious for corruption in the government, UNDP helped establish an SMS system for citizens to monitor their government officials. 

Because of the system called Eribery, 1,000 cases were reported and two officials arrested over the misuse of over $2 million.

Gopalan added: “Animation videos were launched in Nepal to stir conversations on traditional gender roles. It started amazing interactions with the kids in schools and it helped break the barrier and make them understand how they can bring changes to their families and their communities.”


The power of technological innovations and the wide window of opportunity presented by the Internet has persuaded even national governments to invest in such innovations as out-of-the-box measures to address age-old problems.

Gopalan said there are already 15 “social innovation labs” in the Asia-Pacific region.

What sets apart groups or countries blazing the trail in such innovations from those still trying to catch up is the amount of investment being poured in, she added.

But the best initiatives start with small resources and loads of creative thinking and collaboration.

“We started with minimal seed resources rethinking how we approach challenges, and then co-designing, co- developing small level prototypes that can be scaled up,” said Gopalan. 

The key to coming up with successful social innovations is engaging the future users, working hard on the design, and constantly getting feedback, she added.

The Asia-Pacific region, home to two-thirds of the world’s poor, has a huge opportunity to tackle its many development challenges with the new tools at its feet. 

The problems may still be daunting, but the weapons the region has against them is forever evolving. – Rappler.com

International Right To Know Day: Right info, right now


Every September 28, we celebrate the International Right To Know Day. It is celebrated to encourage civil society, journalists, and citizens to exercise their right to access information and to push government institutions to create conditions for exercising these rights.  

The right of access to information is an important human right and is necessary for the full enjoyment of other human rights. It is essential for a transparent and accountable government.

The right of access to information makes public involvement possible in formulating policies and in the decision-making processes of governance, especially where it matters to them.

This is powerful. We, the public, have the right to know about what affects us and  the environment where we live. For us in the environmental movement, we want the government to act on its responsibility to provide citizens the right to a healthy ecology. 

The point of this is two-fold. 

First, we cannot underestimate the power we hold as voters and as constituents in policymaking and influencing our decision-makers. Second, we cannot assume that our government is aware of all legislations and initiatives that we would like them to support.  

While a legislator’s mandate is to make laws, which the executive will implement, it is the citizens’ job to ensure that they know about the problems we care about and want solved, and inform them of the policies we want enacted and implemented. 

Bypassing the constraints of partisan politics is a challenge, more so addressing the knotty and long-standing issues facing our nation. In order to agree on solutions to these problems, our government must first understand the urgency of the issue. This is only possible if citizens actively participate and make their voices heard. 

Knowing and solving

Solutions do not come easy, but Filipinos can attest to the power of the constituent voice as it happened during the People Power days. Without a doubt, for this election season and beyond, citizen engagement matters and will continue to move mountains. 

Greenpeace Philippines, together with different communities, has been calling on the government to implement effective policies that will curb and eliminate pollution, starting with a "Right To Know" policy that will make it mandatory for industries to report the chemical effluents that they discharge. 

With the launch of Detox Pilipinas, an interactive website that will feature maps and useful information on chemical pollution, Greenpeace hopes to empower local communities to proactively report and monitor industrial pollution and chemical- related incidents happening in their areas and municipalities, encouraging them to serve as local pollution patrols. 

To ensure its success, Detox Pilipinas will need citizens’ participation – to ask everyone to be involved, to be on the watch and to send in their exposés and reports on toxic pollution happening all around. 

Detox Pilipinas officially goes online on September 29, Tuesday. — Rappler.com

Abigail Aguilar is the Toxics Campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines.

Pollution image via Shutterstock

Why nurses are superhuman


I have never dreamed of becoming a nurse. When I was a child, my eager soul was claiming to be a renowned doctor. This vision would sometimes be replaced by thoughts of becoming a scientist, a Nobel Prize-winning author, or a rock star. I have never wanted to become a nurse until I became one. 

You see, nurses as I have found out, are superhuman. 

We go to work almost every day, never minding the long hours, the typhoons and the fact that we do not get to experience holidays like normal folks. There would be times we would have to endure 16 to 24-hour shifts depending on the weather and the traffic situation. When I started this vocation, my body developed its resistance to hunger. There are instances I would have to fake a cough to cover my rumbling stomach. I have been accustomed to ignore my bladder whenever I had the urge to pee. Surprisingly, my small frame could still lift people which are 3 times my size. 

Most of all, my job has tested my emotional endurance, having to deal with people from all walks of life.

Challenging job 

I have tried different jobs before I started working in a hospital. My experience showed me that each profession is difficult in its own aspect. However, nursing has proven to be the most challenging occupation for me. 

I realized that the days I have spent behind the computer in my previous 8-to-5 job had been a breeze. Now, my legs would be in heaven for a 5-minute rest from walking around the hospital unit. In nursing, we have a saying that goes like this: there would be days when you cry before starting your shift and there would be days when you would cry yourself to sleep. 

When the pressure becomes too much to handle, I would find myself on the brink of tears, overwhelmed by the expectations that come with the job. Sometimes I think about my patients too much. I hear them ring their call in my sleep. Not going to work after an exhausting day would be so enticing, but I would still secretly want to go to work because I know how much my patients need me.

It is a shame that unlike other professionals, nurses in the Philippines do not garner the recognition they deserve. 

I meet people who bombard me with non-medical concerns and personal whims. At times, nurses would hear condescending ramblings and disrespect from people who think that nurses are merely changing diapers. We are saving lives and it is our intent to give our utmost care. 

We make sure that in spite of your illnesses, you will feel more comfortable even if it means we have to trudge as we give our hands, feet, and almost our entire being to make you feel well. We want to satisfy your every need that is why we also try to fix your television, your Wi-Fi connection, and even your air conditioning. We are the first people to get disappointed whenever we fail to insert your IV line. 

We know that it is our job to take care of you, but more than that, we truly care for you. We are hoping for your fast recovery so that you can stop eating the same soup and finally have a decent meal. We are praying for your health so you can come back home to your families and start your daily routines. 

We will put your needs ahead of ours because nursing means being selfless.

On becoming a nurse 

Becoming a nurse has given me more than what I have hoped for. 

It had kept me grounded, humble, and hopeful. It reminded me that I am capable of doing greater things. It made me realize that I am a mere human who has her own limitations but is nonetheless not bound by these definitions. My job gave birth to better plans and broader opportunities. 

There are still days when I wonder if this profession is for me, asking myself how long I can endure the physical, intellectual, and emotional stress. Only time will tell, they say. But what I know for sure is that my heart swells each time a patient holds my hand, as if my mere presence would alleviate their pain. 

I feel fortunate when I see how humans love each other until their last breath. And I gain more faith whenever I meet people at their worst conditions but still they never fail to appreciate each sweat, blood, and tears that nurses shed.

I may still whine after a very tiring day but being a nurse taught me not to give up. Indeed, nursing was not my first dream, but it has given me the chance to dream better dreams. — Rappler.com

Cheenee Bagtas is a nurse working in a tertiary hospital. She wrote this piece in the hope of sharing the common experiences of nurses in the Philippines.

A philosopher's two cents on the #AlDub craze


It’s official. The AlDub phenomenon has taken the Filipino nation by storm.  

Reports indicate that tweets from the AlDub nation episode on Saturday, September 26, with the official hashtag “ALDubEBforLOVE” reached a record-breaking 25.6 million worldwide.

The reason I decided to write this essay is an editorial cartoon I saw online that draws a comparison between the attention being received by AlDub and by important national issues, from us, Filipinos. I would like to offer my two cents on this issue.

From a philosophical perspective, the metaphysics of St Thomas Aquinas teaches us that one of the general properties of being is beauty – the property that makes a being pleasing to behold. In this sense, we find pleasure in looking at something beautiful. Similarly, many subsequent philosophers commenting on aesthetics associated beauty with that which attracts, pleases or satisfies our physical (senses), emotional (passions) or intellectual (reason) faculties.

From this, we can glean that we cannot help but focus our attention on AlDub because it is showing us something that is beautiful, and as human beings, we derive pleasure from looking at beauty. 

Both Alden and Maine are good-looking. Their on-screen chemistry, the attraction between them, the spontaneity of most of the scenes, and the anticipation of what would happen next are all appealing. Most importantly, the theme that holds everything together is that of a “budding love.” And I would like to believe that, for most people, love is still perceived as something beautiful.

Pressing national issues pale in comparison, in terms of beauty, when placed side-by-side with the AlDub phenomenon. This is despite national issues being more important than AlDub.

From a personal standpoint – from the standpoint of being a Filipino – we cannot help but focus on AlDub because it reminds us of things that are very important to our collective consciousness as Filipinos. I would like to focus on 3 points:

1. Respect for elders

LOLA. Alden accepts the many challenges, lessons, and requests from Lola Nidora. Screengrab from GMA

The AlDub Kalyeserye underscores the virtue of respect for elders. It was showcased by the kissing of hands (pagmamano), the use of po and opo, following orders, and most importantly, listening to advice and admonitions. 

Our respect for the matatanda or elderly is rooted in our respect for their tanda. By tanda, I am not merely referring to their age but to their tanda or nata-tanda-an (memory). 

Our ancestors respected their elders not only because of their age, but more importantly, because of their knowledge. Since within tribal villages, the elders have lived the longest, they are the most knowledgeable. Of course, knowledge is useless if one cannot remember it.

Thus, elders are respected because they are considered as receptacles of knowledge. This is reflected today in the respect that we accord to teachers, doctors, and lawyers, among others, whom we believe to be knowledgeable.

2. Patience and perseverance

ALDUB. Will they ever get together? Screengrab from Facebook

The AlDub Kalyeserye showed how Alden and Maine waited for the right moment (tamang panahon) with patience and persevered to surmount every challenge that came along their way. Following the popular adage, “Patience is a virtue” and our very own, “Kapag may tiyaga, may nilaga,” Alden was finally granted permission by Lola Nidora to visit Maine at home. 

Our ancestors, most of them hunters, fully understand the value of patience and perseverance in order to bring home food for the village. They have respected and perfected the virtue of waiting and hard work and the art of acting at the right moment to catch their prey, since acting sooner or later than needed could mean that they will not have anything for supper.

3. Respect for women

CHALLENGE ACCOMPLISHED. Alden manages to complete Lola Nidora's second challenge just so he can be with Yaya Dub. Screengrab from Twitter/EatBulaga

In the Kalyeserye, Maine is portrayed as the quintessential woman. She did not need to show some skin for her to earn the admiration of Alden. She was faithful to her obligations to Lola Nidora and puts family first more than herself as indicated by her urgency to leave her date with Alden just to make sure that she could give Lola Nidora her medicine on time. 

Simply put, her actions are worthy of respect. Respect for women is an inherent part of our culture. Our forefathers respected the women of their villages because only the women are capable of childbirth and, thus, ensure the posterity of the village. They are also responsible for taking care of the needs of the family and for child-rearing.

Our forefathers considered women as equals and gave them positions of honor and authority such as being babaylan (village healers and messengers of the spirits).

National issues vs Kalyeserye

In contrast, I think that current national issues are not appealing to many of us because we would rather focus on our personal and family concerns than on national concerns. 

Similar to the points discussed above, which are all in the context of the village or the tribe, our present-day tribe is our families, friends and religious communities and we would rather focus on them first than on anything else. 

The AlDub phenomenon has caught the Filipino consciousness in a universal scale because it highlights our ancestral values, which are, deep down inside, our very own personal values. As the philosopher Sartre puts it, “what is most personal is most universal.”

To conclude this essay, I would like to leave 3 things: First, in the September 25 episode of the Kalyeserye, I thought Lola Nidora asked Alden to bring chicharon because chicharon is a specialty of Sta. Maria, Bulacan – Maine’s hometown – so that Alden would go to Sta. Maria (on the 26th) to visit Maine and to formally meet her parents, as expected in our traditional courtship practices. 

Second, a message to the AlDub couple: Alden and Maine, you are very popular now. The youth look up to you and idolize you. I hope that whatever happens, the two of you will not allow politicians to take advantage of your popularity by thinking twice before endorsing any of them in the coming elections.

You have created something beautiful. Please do not let it be soiled by the dirt of politics. The power of your fans – the AlDub nation – to generate more than 25 million tweets is not lost among politicians, so be responsible of your popularity.

And third, perhaps one of the important things that we can pick up, as a nation, from this analysis of the AlDub phenomenon is that we should learn and strive to make our national issues our own personal issues. Maybe, then, we can begin to give as much attention to them as we have given AlDub. — Rappler.com

Leander Penaso Marquez teaches philosophy at the University of the Philippines Diliman. 

Political dynasties: The end of PH politics?


If there is a question that symbolizes the culmination of our so-called Philippine-style democracy, it is this: Nagalaw pa ba iyan (Is he still alive)? It’s a line from the film Heneral Luna. 

What struck me first was the question’s implied rawness and sheer brutality. The more I ponder about it, the more convinced I am that our country’s political fate is self-inflicting, self-perpetuating, and self-fulfilling. 

Sadly, the demise of our democratic subculture may be traced from what our parents have taught us — particularly from Trinidad Famy Aguinaldo, mother of the first Philippine president, General Emilio Aguinaldo.

It was Trinidad who asked “Nagalaw pa ba iyan (Is he still alive)?” She threw this question at General Antonio Luna’s assassins after watching the killing from a window. Luna is her son’s alleged rival.

Mercilessly hacked, pierced, and targeted, Luna had no chance of surviving several wounds inflicted all over his body. Trinidad wanted to be sure that Luna was dead. 

Since then, Philippine politics is almost like a rerun of the Cabanatuan set-up, Luna’s death. While the ruse tells us a sad and familiar story of betrayal, death, and corruption — all of which still plague us today — I think it’s more than that. 

Political dynasty, PH dead end

For me, what transpired in the murder of Luna symbolizes the political intersection of the value of personalism and the practice of institutionalism. The former depends on the force of the family to organize and control power while the latter relies on the force of law to legitimatize and enforce authority. 

When the institutionalism’s impulse prevails, it’ll be easier to persuade our people that we have politically evolved and kept up with societal changes. Also, it’ll be easier for our people to accept the notion that the best way to regulate the general welfare is to limit the traditional familial power with institutional power. (READ: Limiting political dynasties will help the poor)

Unfortunately, in a highly personalistic culture such as ours, the personalism tends to impose itself at the expense of the latter. As a result, it creates a structure of power susceptible to the impulses of dynastic system of politics. That’s why we have too many hyper-privileged political families in the country who believe they’re not only destined to rule over others, but also entitled to be treated special.

The superiority of political dynasties is the dead end of Philippine politics. Unless, of course, we institutionally diffuse political power or change our political narrative to a multidimensional one. But that is another topic. (READ: Can Filipinos destroy political dynasties?)

In my college years, I already harbored an anti-hero sentiment. I did not bother my friends about it because it’s not fun to “rock the boat.” I wanted to fit in. But over the years, I have not changed my stance. Anyone who worships a hero or a heroine is bound to be disappointed. 

Without them, I have learned to trust myself as well as my capabilities. After all, all that there is to depend on is one’s disponibilité— one’s readiness and availability. 

As Bishop Desmund Tutu aptly puts it: "Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Rappler.com

Efren N. Padilla is a full professor at California State University, East Bay. His areas of specialization are urban sociology, urban planning, and social demography. During his quarter breaks, he provides pro bono planning consultancy to selected LGUs in the Philippines. Visit his blog here.

Alone together: how to battle depression through support





A HEALTH CONDITION. Depression is like a shadow that lurks and slowly creeps to one's system. All photos by Jansen Romero/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines—Depression is not something you choose. It’s not something you would want to have. It’s something that slowly creeps in — from your toes to your torso. It strikes at its own understanding of time — prolonged and tiring, to your extremities, to the strands of your being until its heaviness is too much, then it tells you to cut the yarn that binds you.

It is cultural for Filipinos to assure one another of their well-being whether it may be physical, emotional, mental, or even financial. We often say optimistic expressions like “okay pa” and “kaya pa" — phrases that resonate inner strength and resilience, but sometimes are clear-cut understatements.

Depression is a health condition, not a mood

Sunlight was slipping through the intertwined branches as the canopy of leaves rustles in the afternoon breeze. It was one of Mela’s better days free from the shackles of the dark corners of their house. A full-time mother, wife, daughter, and advocate, 28-year-old Mela Cervantes-Abrera shares her enduring fight with depression and bipolar disorder.

Whenever Mela has one of her episodes, she has a tendency to inflict self-harm. That’s when she locks herself in a room, stays in her dark corner, and stays away from anyone, especially from her 4-year-old son Thor.

FRUSTRATION. Thor cries during his exam while his mother Mela encourages him that he can do it

Depression, she says, is like a flu that won’t go away. Getting up from bed is a chore, having nothing to look forward to towards the day, daily tasks become difficult puzzles to solve, focus and understanding fall behind, and having no will to do anything. Like anyone diagnosed with depression, Mela found it hard to accept her condition.

She recalled how heavy-hearted she was the first time she came to see a psychiatrist as judging eyes followed her to the psychiatric ward. Through the hallways, a sense of betrayal trailed behind her, like finally acknowledging her sanity has taken a bewildering toll on her.

Breaking the stigma

It is the social stigma on depression that Mela aims to break: overreaction, mood swings, overly being dramatic, just being too emotional and the like. Quite a few people with depression are discriminated against. Others are laid off from their work, deemed as unfit for the position. Some are labelled “mad”, while others are not taken seriously, not due to lack of empathy but unfamiliarity with the condition. Because of this, many keep their depression in their closets, others remain undiagnosed and uncured, which may unfortunately lead to a tragic end.

Talking openly about mental health is a taboo in our culture but a condition like depression is not something we can turn a blind eye on.

I think the reason why only a few are diagnosed with depression (in the Philippines), aside from the issue on money, is it is also difficult for them to accept their condition,” Mela laments.

TOGETHER. Ins pite of her depression, Mela has been with her husband Aaron for five years.

Depression has many factors and in some cases, if chemical imbalance is involved, medicine is prescribed by the doctor. In other cases, talk therapy is done to help the patient cope and understand his or her situation.

Depression then is not like a cough or a cold that would go away by drinking lots of water and taking plenty of rest. It needs professional help as well as a lot of understanding from families and friends.

Because of this social stigma, Mela created a space, a cyber-sanctuary for individuals battling with depression, social anxiety, and other mental health issues. Through the online support group Anxiety and Depression Support Philippines (ADSP), those who struggles with one of their episodes has someone, to emphatize with them, even virtually.

“I felt there are more people who are like me, people who look for refuge that even just in the online world, there’s someone who can relate with your struggles,”says Mela.

Mela says depression is a condition that can only be fully understood by people who also struggle with the same daily toil.

The black dog

In a lack of words to describe the feeling, Winston Churchill called his depression—a frequent melancholia or the lack of will and idea to do anything—as the black dog. For ADSP member Margaux (not her real name), depression is like a shadow that constantly lurks.

 “It’s just there,” says Margaux.“You wake up with a heavy feeling. Going to work is a struggle but you just have to battle against it.”

ARTIST. Margaux also plays the piano. According to her, she plays for one of their old neighbors who enjoys the melody she makes.

Margaux was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder in 2008. At that time, she was studying in medicine school but eventually quit, run off from her known life altogether, and moved to somewhere no one will recognize her or know her for her condition.

“Focusing was difficult. It takes me 1 to 3 hours to digest a sentence,” Margaux recalls.

Her closest encounter with fate was last year. She remembered how tight she held on to their dog’s chain as she laid in her bed in the darkness, tussling with the thought of hanging herself in her bathroom. But her will emerged stronger.

“I was thinking, ‘It shall pass,’ she shares.

Importance of support

For Mela and Margaux, support, from the family most especially, is important in battling with depression.

Margaux responds better when her family treats her like a normal person. Her regular psychiatric check-up and involvement also with the support group alleviate her daily struggle. She also keeps herself driven and motivated in her job as a supply chain manager as it also helps her to pay for the medicine that she admits to be costly.

“I have a small circle in ADSP and they are very supportive—that helps,” she says with a smile.

They share achievements and worst moments, finding a friend in someone whom you share a common struggle with.

Fighting depression in simple ways

Asked how she continues to do her responsibilities as a mother, wife, and facilitator in a 900-plus member support group ADSP, Mela says she’s disciplined in her schedule, taking meds and making sure she gets some sunlight.

DAILY STRUGGLE. 'Having depression is like having a flu, it is a real illness and like anyone, nobody likes to have it—it's not cool,' says Mela.

“Even though it’s hard, do everything you can so your episode will be over soon. Eat the right kinds of food. Get some sunlight if you can, it helps. Environment is such a huge factor. Keep it bright and positive if you can,” she says. 

For her, one thing that she learned from having depression is to let it run its course while try your best to live a normal life.

“I always tell myself to keep fighting because something good will eventually happen. Depression is a real condition, sometimes it’s hard to fight but that’s part of it. But don’t let it get the better of you. Don’t let it let you hang or cut yourself,” Mela says. – Rappler.com

Napansin n'yo ba si Joven Hernando sa 'Heneral Luna?'


Magtatrabaho na sana ako, kaya lang hindi ko na kayang patagalin pang hindi isulat lahat ng nakuha ko mula sa pelikulang Heneral Luna ni Jerrold Tarog. Sa mga nakapanood na, malamang alam ninyo ang pakiramdam. Sana pareho tayo ng nararamdaman.

Una sa lahat, ang galing. Hindi ako isang batikang kritiko ng pelikula. Gusto ko lang sanang itanong sa inyo kung napansin ninyo rin ang napansin ko: bukod sa katapangan at kabayanihan ni Heneral Antonio Luna, alam kong napansin ninyo rin ang kabaluktutan ng pulitika natin noon pa man. 

Siguro may ilan sa inyo na nagsabing, "Matagal na pala tayong ganito?" o kaya naman, "Kaya pala ganito gobyerno natin ngayon eh!” May namumunong walang sariling desisyon, may mga maimpluwensyang kapitalista, may mga walang ginagawa, at may mga umiiyak na kinakawawa daw sila.

Ang bagong henerasyon

BAGONG HENERASYON. Si Joven Hernando, isang inimbentong karakter, ay maaaring sumisimbulo sa bagong henerasyon ng mga Pilipino. Photo from the Heneral Luna Facebook page

Pero napansin ninyo ba si Joven Hernando (Arron Villaflor)? Isa siya sa mga ginawang tauhan sa kwento, parang tagapagsalaysay. Hindi ko alam kung napansin ninyo ang bigat at laki ng karakter niya sa kwento.

Sa gitna ng pelikula kung saan nabaril si Joven sa kamay at tenga, at matapos makita ang reaksyon ni Heneral Luna, napatanong ako kung bakit ganoon na lang kahalaga sa kanya na maprotektahan ang batang ito. Mayroon pang solong kuha si Joven nang itinataas siya ng mga mediko. Bukod dito, sa huling bahagi ng pelikula ay ipinakitang binibigkas ng heneral ang tulang isinulat niya, at sa huli ay makikitang si Joven na ang nagbibigkas nito.

Para sa akin, ito ang pinakamakapangyarihang bahagi ng pelikula.

Baka hindi naman talaga sinasadya ng manunulat, pero sa tingin ko, ang karakter ni Joven ay kumakatawan sa bagong henerasyon. Ang bagong henerasyon na kailangang pangalagaan at protektahan. Ang bagong henerasyon na kailangang makinig at umaksyon. Ang bagong henerasyon ng mga Pilipino na nangangailangang matutunan ang kasaysayan upang malaman kung ano ang totoo at dapat ipaglaban.

Marami ang nalulungkot sa kabaluktutan ng sistema at pag-iisip ng mga namumuno noon. Mabigat sa puso ang isipin na trinatraydor ng Pilipino ang kapwa Pilipino. Mahirap hanapan ng solusyon, maging ang pinakamagaling na heneral ay muntik nang sumuko. 

Mas madaling sumuko. Pero sana napansin ninyo rin ang isa pang bagay. Ang pag-asa.

Sa kabila ng kadilimang bumabalot sa kwento, ipinakita sa huli na si Joven ang nagtapos ng tula ng heneral. Nakita niya ang layunin ng bayani. Higit sa lahat, makikita mo sa kanyang mga mata at maririnig sa kanyang pananalita ang isang malakas na determinasyong ipagpatuloy ang misyon ng mga nauna sa kanya. 

O baka sa akin lang iyon. Pero sana, makuha ninyo rin. Sana makita natin na tayo ang bagong henerasyon, at ang pelikulang ito ay isang paraan lang upang malaman natin ang kasaysayan na nagbubuklod sa ating lahat. 

Kailangan tayo ngayon, mga bagong Pilipino. At hindi lang sa pamamagitan ng digmaan maipaglalaban ang bayan. — Rappler.com

Kimberly Ante is an aspiring scientist, a poet wannabe, and an all-around curious person. Kim is a recent BS Biology graduate from The University of the Philippines Los Banos." Visit her blog here.