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Why Filipinos overseas love #AlDub


BRISBANE, Australia – It is almost midnight in Brisbane. I can hear the sound of the clock ticking as if reminding me to go to sleep. But I refuse to go to sleep. My day is not yet complete.

The winter breeze has yet to leave Australia and for the past few months, I found myself alone in my room, tucked in a duvet at night, hooked on my mobile device to check for any updates on the phenomenon that is: AlDub.

Yes. I have to admit it. I am obsessed with anything and everything about the tandem of Alden Richards and Yaya Dub (Maine Mendoza in real life), popularly known as AlDub.

But more than their love team, I am hooked on their story.

Every night since the craze started in July, I wait like many other Filipino fans overseas until Filipino noontime show Eat Bulaga uploads a shortened 30-minute video online of their popular segment KalyeSerye featuring AlDub’s love story.

Since the video is usually uploaded on the wee hours of the night in Australia, I have already convinced myself to exchange an hour or so of sleep to wait and watch AlDub’s love story unfold before me.

And just before I start to watch the online video, I always make sure to close my windows and lock my door, knowing that my laughter has enough decibels to wake up my sleeping 65-year-old neighbor.

And so the story starts.

For 30 minutes, I am transported back to everything I miss and love about the Philippines. I hear familiar words, recognise familiar places, and remember familiar expressions. 

In half an hour every day, I am brought back home.

‘Chivalry is Not Dead’

Admittedly, AlDub in KalyeSerye is a typical love story which most Filipinos love and relate to.

In the story, a helper (Yaya Dub) of a wealthy grandmother (Lola Nidora) is pursued by her long-time crush, actor Alden Richards, who plays himself. (READ: #AlDub: The fun tandem of Alden Richards and 'Yaya Dub')

What distinguishes AlDub from other love stories is it capitalizes its storytelling on spontaneous reactions from its character actors using the art of improvisation on live television.  

Credits should be given to its writers but also to comedy geniuses – Wally Bayola, Jose Manalo and Paolo Ballesteros – who play multiple characters effortlessly throughout the love story. It also helps that Mendoza, who plays the character of Yaya Dub, reportedly admitted that she genuinely has a crush on Richards. (#kiligpamore)

The almost unscripted and real-life storytelling has been proven effective to its audience in the Philippines and around the world. This is evident with Eat Bulaga’s increased ratings while maintaining trending topics and hashtags on social media platforms. (READ: How #AlDub is breaking the Internet)

Recently, Filipino fans tweeted 12 million times on Twitter for AlDub's romantic date, marking the tandem’s and Eat Bulaga’s domination on social media and in noontime television. (READ: Filipinos tweeted 12 million times for AlDub's romantic date)

But I guess the real success of AlDub goes beyond its ratings and millions of tweets. Eat Bulaga was able to find the right formula in using the popularity of AlDub and to link it to Filipino culture which the audience buys.

The storyline of AlDub remains true to the very core of old-school Filipino values and traditions, which the younger generation desperately needs and the older generation desperately needs reminding of.

The AlDub Magic

But I also understand that AlDub is not everyone’s cup of tea with some even disdaining knowledge of it because of fear of being ridiculed and labelled as "jologs."

And to be completely honest, I cannot pinpoint the exact reason of my obsession with AlDub, too. But I guess it is probably because the reason is that I have too many reasons to love it.

AlDub reminds us that sometimes, laughter is indeed the best medicine.

Filipino humor is often different from other cultures. And just being able to laugh at familiar jokes you grew up to – be it by your self or with another Filipino – is priceless. Eat Bulaga manages to make me laugh so much that it hurts.

AlDub also reminds us of the importance of family and how it is both the strength and weakness of every Filipino. That just like Yaya Dub, Filipinos are willing to sacrifice their own interest and happiness, for the sake of their loved ones back home.

And cliché as it may sound; AlDub reminds us of unconditional love. And this is especially true for Filipinos overseas like myself, who left many of my loved ones back home.

AlDub is a constant reminder that no barrier, not even a piece of plywood, nor a very long table, can block and stop true love. Just like AlDub’s split screen romance, the love of Filipinos who live abroad for their family back home goes beyond the distance and online video calls.

As AlDub and its fans put it perfectly, "True love is forever."

And so it is 1:00 am again in Australia and I just finished watching KalyeSerye online. I can hear the clock ticking as if reminding me to go to sleep. I submit to its call. My day is finally complete. – Rappler.com

Ace Tamayo is a journalist and an Australian Clarion awardee. He is currently pursuing his law studies at the TC Beirne School of Law at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Ace is a hopeless romantic and believes that true love exists. Ace is AlDub’s No. 1 fan. Follow him on Twitter @AceATamayo

Voice of a Lumad widow: Our Land, our blood


JUSTICE. A group of ALCADEV students reenact what happened on September 1 in KM 16, Barangay Diatagon town of Lianga, Surigao del Sur where 3 Lumad leaders were allegedly killed by the paramilitary groups formed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines. All photos by Mark Saludes/Rappler

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur — She was steady. She was subtle, holding her bag on her lap while waiting for the camera to roll. It was her first time to talk to media crew with filming gear. It was her first time to talk about what really happened on September 1 to people she didn't even know. It was her first time to talk about Lumad culture and beliefs without her husband.

She is Jocelyn Campos, the widow of Dionel Campos, one of the 3 Lumads allegedly killed by paramilitary groups in Diatagon Village in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. She was not in the village when it happened. She was working on something that day. “Nadatnan ko na lang na nakahandusay ang asawa ko, butas na ang ulo at umaagos na ang dugo niya sa lupa,” she said.

(I saw my husband lifeless, a hole in his head and blood flowing in the dirt.)

“Gusto nilang patayin ang mga Lumad, uubusin nila ang mga lider para matakot ang lahat. Wala naman kaming ibang gusto kundi alagaan ang lupang ninuno. Bakit kailangang gawin nila iyon sa asawa ko,” Jocelyn said.

(They want to kill all Lumads. They will execute all the leaders to frighten everybody. We want nothing but to take care of our ancestral land. Why should they do this to my husband?)

On September 1, the Magahat paramilitary group allegedly attacked a tribal school in Surigao del Sur province. Supposedly linked to the Philippine military, the group is accused of torturing and killing an educator and two tribal leaders.

The attack caused an estimated 4,000 residents to flee their homes, mostly to an evacuation camp in Tandag City, the capital of Surigao del Sur. (READ: Human Rights Watch: Heads should roll over attacks on Lumad)

According to Jocelyn, her husband performed his duties as one of the leaders of their village. One of their beliefs as Lumads is to protect the environment as the primary source of their food and livelihood.

“Ang buhay namin nasa bundok. Doon kami magtatanim para meron kaming makakain at ikakabuhay. Ilang beses na kaming nag-ii-bakwit dahil lagi kaming nahaharas. Dahil gusto nilang umalis kami sa lugar namin,” she said.

(Our lives are in the mountains. We plant crops where we get our food. We evacuated several times because of harassment. They want us to vacate our community.)

Pursuit of a better life

“We may be primitive but we are not backwards,” Jocelyn said in a local dialect. She was talking about how the Lumad dedicate their lives to protect "Lupang Ninuno" (ancestral land).

She said that the root of this tragedy was her husband's choice to fight for their clan’s claim on ancestral land. She told Rappler that a true Lumad is a "protector of nature, vanguard of the mountains and army of the environment."

“We know that businessmen and capitalists have a huge interest in our lands. They want to pursue mining and logging but we, the Lumads don’t want mining operations in our areas. We know the bad things that it will bring. Andap Valley is rich. They want us to vacate the complex and make way for the entry of large-scale mining,” said Jocelyn.

Andap Valley is a complex covering the mountainous areas of Marihatag, San Miguel, San Agustin, Tago, Cagwait and Lianga in Surigao del Sur. Jocelyn claimed that they witnessed how mining destroyed Claver in Surigao del Norte.

COPING. A Lumad family displaced by the conflict in Andap Valley has to wait for food provided by different aid groups and the DSWD. The Lumad are used to farming in high lands and getting their food from their own crops.

She believes that the capitalists and mining companies are using the government to suppress them, utilizing the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary groups as private armies.

She claimed that these capitalists and the Philippine government are conniving to kill their own people.

“I was asking these for so long. Why do poor people remain poor and why do rich people become richer? Is it because they have money and we have nothing? We are always caught in the crossfire. Even in education, we are discriminated."

"The Lumad community strived hard to put up a school, but what did they do? They are accusing us of supporting the NPA (New People's Army). They are accusing us of using the school as a training ground for the communists,” Jocelyn added.

Children in the crossfire

Jocelyn said that her husband had a dream of a better future for their kids and the rest of the Lumad children in their community. Dionel tried hard to fulfill that dream and when the time came that a school was built for their children, he knew it will change their lives.

“All we want is for our children to know how to read, write and have a better life ahead of them. The Lumad took a stand to protect the environment and give our children education but they don’t want us to do that. The government and the capitalists want us to remain uneducated, primitive and weak,” Jocelyn said. 

The Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) has no choice but to transfer and resume its classes at the Surigao Sports Complex in Tandag, Surigao del Sur which serves as the evacuation center of more than 3,000 Lumad who fled their villages.

“Whenever we will vacate our village and live in evacuation centers like this, the most affected are the kids and their education. It was a relief when ALCADEV decided to continue the classes,” Jocelyn added.

Eufemia Cullamat, the 55-year-old niece of the slain Datu Bello Sinzo, said that evacuations are common. There were large groups of Manobos who vacated their villages in 2005 and 2009 because of harassment and a killing incident.

“We are not used to this and we don’t want our children to grow up with fears. We want to go back to our communities but it will only happen if the government will disarm its paramilitary groups,” Cullamat said in the native dialect.

CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. A Lumad child washes dishes after the family's meal.

We are not NPAs

Sitting on a pile of firewood, Jocelyn and her two kids patiently wait for their turn during the distribution of food from different aid groups. Suppressing tears, Jocelyn told Rappler that it hurts her so much every time she hears people especially in the government and the military tagging them as Reds.

“We are not NPAs, we have no firearms. We just want a normal and peaceful life. Lumads don’t want conflicts nor taking up arms. My husband died serving his people in a peaceful way. If we are communists or supporters of NPA, we will not be here. We will be in the mountains or in their doorsteps,” said Jocelyn.

She was not sure how long they can cope with these changes. She admitted that until now, she doesn’t know what to do but she believes in the Lumad and the community’s unity.

“I am not sure of what will happen next, but I trust my people as my husband trusted them. They will protect us,” Jocelyn ended. – Rappler.com


Shame and pride: A millennial's take on Heneral Luna



Last Monday, coincidentally on the anniversary of Martial Law, I finally got to watch Heneral Luna—the local film that’s been storming the Filipino social media world since its release in theaters. For over a week, my newsfeed has been filled with nothing but posts and statuses of how grand the movie was, shares and links of news articles that reviewed the film, and even a circulating petition to keep it in the cinema houses when threatened it would be stopped from being showed.

And, as if the consensus of the general public on social media on the film wasn’t enough, a few hours before the 8:30 pm show that I was scheduled to watch, news broke out that it just got accepted as the Philippine entry for the 2016 Oscars.

Given the series of events, I could not bring myself to have had higher expectations for a local film. It was for this reason that I was utterly worried that I was going to be disappointed. I was worried it wouldn’t live up to its hype.

I was wrong. Within just 5 minutes into the film, I was proven dead wrong. I spent days trying to process why the film struck a chord in me so strongly, and I ended up counting so many reasons why it did. 

But, out of all them, the one that seems to have hit me the hardest was this one: Heneral Luna made me experience something for the first time ever – it made me feel both proud and ashamed to be Filipino. And, I cannot recall any experience in my lifetime that’s allowed me to feel anything closely similar.

Filipino shame and pride

Now, I can easily imagine these two experiences when felt separately. I do, after all, find it so easy to be proud to be Filipino when Manny Pacquaio has an upcoming fight and he represents our country on a global stage. I feel the same pride when I bump into former schoolmates and they tell me their stories about working for the government, non-governmental organizations and foundations, corporations, or studying in medical school, law school and graduate school.

It’s difficult not to feel a sense or pride and hope for the country when you see your own generation—the millennial generation, eager to take on the challenge of making the Philippines better.

Like a double-edged sword, however, the experience of being ashamed to be Filipino is probably just as easy. I feel that consistently when I watch fellow countrymen and women break everything from basic traffic laws to simple rules on littering. I feel that constantly as I watch an ongoing culture of hate manifest itself in proud, uninformed Facebook comments. It still disgusts me when I remember the time that some Filipinos managed to hate the recent Summa Cum Laude of U.P. Diliman because she was Chinese – as if there was some greater responsibility for a student than to study hard.

I share these experiences because I felt the extremes of both these feelings at the same time while watching Heneral Luna. It was genuinely hard not to.

Just thinking about how the film made me proud to be Filipino, I just remembered how the cinematography was an outstanding sensual treat to the eyes. It blew me away that we were capable of producing a film like this locally, and everything came together perfectly from the shooting of the war scenes between the Americans and Filipinos to the display of majestic landscapes and flashbacks.

Moreover, I could only appreciate the intimate shots even more when they were coupled with a playful and hard-hitting dialogue. With much respect for the script, it seemed to hit the nail on the head perfectly with regard to what the timeless sense of Filipino humor is: the ability to laugh at anything and everything. 

Whether it’s shooting from trenches and fighting against a superpower, taking a cannonball to the head, swearing, or trying to speak in fluent English, Filipinos seem to be able to laugh at anything under the sun. It switched on a little light bulb in me when I thought to myself that much of my own positivity and hope for the country could possibly be rooted in actually being a Filipino. That made me very happy.

But, that happiness and pride could only go so far when the movie pointed out one very true and shaming reality: that things in our country have not changed since 1898. During the last few scenes of the film when Emilio Aguinaldo and Felipe Buencamino Sr were denying any claims that they were involved with what happened to General Luna, it was so easy for me to imagine some of our country folk in the highest positions mouthing the same words – something to the effect of: “Hindi ko iyan kasalanan (It's not my fault).”

As I watched General Mascardo acting on his misplaced Filipino pride, making the Cavite forces fight against General Luna, I remembered the crab mentality that remains rampant until this day. It seems as though the culture of hate – the kind that manifests itself in floods of social media comments, existed back in 1898 as well. Even in just the opening scene where everyone was fighting over what to do with the Americans coming in, respectable dialogue seems to be something we were incapable of even back then.

The pride and shame of these realizations and realities brought me to the questioning of the very foundation of my being Filipino – something, I have to add, that no other local film has done for me either.

The question of being Filipino

After dwelling on Heneral Luna, I still find myself left with many puzzling questions. It seems as though, at its core, the most pressing question I ask myself is: what does it even mean to be Filipino today?

After 300 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood, as the Department of Tourism (DOT) put so eloquently back in their 2012 AVP, can a national identity even begin to exist? Is the ‘being Filipino’ we’ve grown up with even a valid representation of actual nationalism today? Can we even claim a Filipino identity to begin with? And, if we’re bold enough to do so, did we just somehow end up killing it off along with General Antonio Luna along the way?

Can a Filipino identity still exist? The answer I seem to be content with, for now, is that I believe it most certainly can. And, I feel I can say that with conviction because it is this personal sense of nationalism, that we all experience differently, that allows us to transcend what’s already written in our history books, and further us to be bold enough to write our own stories – our own kind of Philippine history.

I think Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna did that perfectly. The film did not disregard the fact that much of our already written past involved having been colonized by Spain and America. The movie showed that part of our history but Tarog went beyond that and showed us a modern Filipino’s story on traditional and timeless nationalism. Tarog’s story showed us more than just a "what was," and "what is" – he showed us a "what can be" and "what more is there?"

The entire team that brought Heneral Luna to life seems to have given us more than just a film worth remembering – it’s given us the much-needed ink for our pens that have been empty for so long. It’s reminded us that the story of the Philippines goes on, and the only question that remains for us is: what kind of story are we now writing today? 

What kind of history are we making for tomorrow’s generation to read and see in the cinema in the future? When we hit 2098—200 years after what took place in the film, can we say we did what we could to teach the next generation to be more selfless because, at that time, hopefully that’s what it means to be Filipino? Can we sweep under the rug the culture of hate and selfishness that inspired the line "Bayan o sarili? (Country or self?)" in the first place? Will we see ourselves to grow up to be Lunas and bring pride to our country? Or will we live long enough to end up becoming the reason why we’re ashamed to be Filipino?

Whether we like it our not, this is the responsibility we’re left with after seeing something like Heneral Luna. It’s sparked and contributed to the story of our national identity, our being Filipino, and now it’s up to us to try and do the same. 

Will we manage to write just as great a story with our own lives to make the next people who read it be proud to call themselves Filipino, too? I genuinely hope so. I believe that would be something worth living for and dying for. And, I genuinely think that General Antonio Luna would think so, too. – Rappler.com

Serge Gabriel is a psychology graduate from the Ateneo de Manila University. He is an aspiring philosophy professor, triathlete, and restaurant owner. He currently juggles work in marketing, teaching, and writing while being a poet under Words Anonymous. He hopes that, whether within or after his lifetime, he can help make other people proud to call themselves Filipino.

#StayNegatHIVe: How life does not end with HIV


ANGELES CITY, Philippines – It is a common misconception that when you get diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it is the end of the line for you, a literal dead.

Mikee*, who tested positive for HIV in December 2014, proved that life doesn’t need to end after getting diagnosed with HIV. 

'Rocky start'

Mikee got diagnosed with HIV when a friend urged him to get tested. 

It was unplanned. My friend told me to get tested (for HIV). He said it was free. At first, I didn’t want to get tested, but in the end I got tested because I really want to know," Mikee said. (READ: Thinking about taking an HIV test? Be brave)

When the results came, Mikee’s friend was negative or non-reactive but Mikee tested positive.

That moment was a sad twist of fate for Mikee. He was so devastated that he stopped showing up for work or even bothered showing up to his family and friends. He also skipped meals and did not leave his house because he lost the sense of these things when he knew that he will one day or another die of HIV. 

I really didn't know what to do. I tried to ignore it – let it be. But in the end it was all for naught. It was like I was just fooling myself, pretending that there was nothing wrong when there really is," he added.

Bad decisions

Mikee believes that he got infected with HIV because of bad decisions. 

“Feel ko, kasalanan ko rin naman talaga ito. Kung kani-kanino na lang ako nakikipag-sex tapos wala pang proteksyon. Minsan kasi nadadala ka lang talaga sa libog,” he explained. (I feel that it is really my fault. I had unprotected sex with just anyone. Sometimes, you get overridden by lust.)

He further explained that before he got diagnosed he was fond of using dating apps as a medium to hook up with someone. 

Mikee also explained that, even though he feels that it is wrong in the inside, somehow he was always drawn to use sex to fill up a missing hole in his life. It removed an empty feeling inside him. 

Coming to terms 

The first year after he got diagnosed was very rough. The first few months were the roughest. Mikee did not know what to do and felt that his world was about to cave in. 

But, with the help of his family and friends, Mikee came into terms with himself. They contacted local support groups wherein he could meet other people living with HIV (PLHIV).

At first, he was afraid because he thought that other people with HIV would look like drug addicts or the likes but he was shocked that they looked normal just like him.

"They we’re like normal people. The type of people you see on the streets," he added.

Mikee was even more shocked when he heard their stories, of how they got infected and how they still try to live a normal life. It made him realize that HIV is dangerous but he should not be down about it.

"I realized that it [HIV] is already there and we can’t change that. Nothing will happen if I would just sulk in a corner. I realized that I should just continue with my life," Mikee said.

Mikee still tries to live a normal life. He is happy that he still has time to spend with his loved ones. Aside from managing their families’ small business, he keeps himself busy by helping and counseling others who are also HIV positive. (READ: How to fight HIV: Show you care or sow fear?)

HIV in Pampanga 

Mikee is just one of the 521 people in Pampanga diagnosed with HIV. This number only includes those who have willingly gotten tested and the real number of people who have HIV is potentially higher. 

Most of these cases are linked to the highly urbanized areas of Pampanga, particularly Angeles City which ranked second in terms of HIV and AIDS cases increase based on the study created by Human Life International. These numbers also extends to the less urbanized or rural municipalities of Pampanga including Guagua where there are cases that are as early as 6 years old.

Aside from the usual method of transmission via unprotected sex and needle sharing, there have also been records of HIV passed through birth from an HIV positive mother like in the case of a young child from Guagua Pampanga. (READ: What you need to know about children with HIV/AIDS)

The Guagua Municipal Health Office withheld to release further information regarding the child to protect the child’s privacy. 

HIV a rising threat to Pampanga 

HIV continues to become a threat to Pampanga with the continuously rising number of cases.

For the first 6 months of 2015, the Department of Health (DOH) has already recorded 61 cases of HIV in Pampanga beating last year’s tally of 49 cases.  

DOH has also recorded one full blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) case, 17 asymptomatic cases or patients who do not show any symptoms, and 5 AIDS-related deaths. (READ: WHO: PH has fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world)

This number is significantly higher than the number of cases in the other provinces of Central Luzon. Both Tarlac and Nueva Ecija have 5 asymptomatic cases while Zambales has 4 and Bataan has one. All 4 of these provinces have not reported any full-blown AIDS cases.

The only province in Central Luzon to have a higher number of cases is Bulacan which has one full-blown HIV case and 27 asymptomatic cases.  

Pampanga also topped last year’s number of HIV cases in Central Luzon with a total of 95 new cases. 

The DOH attributes the rise of the number of HIV/AIDS cases to the rising number of individuals who opt to get tested. – Rappler.com

*The real name of the individual has been changed to protect his identity and privacy.

Reginald Gregg Ceballos, a student of Holy Angel University, is one of Rappler's lead movers in Pampanga.

#StayNegatHIVe is MovePH's HIV/AIDS awareness campaign spearheaded by our communities across the Philippines, and held in partnership with DM9 and LoveYourself.

WATCH: Moving PH through social good #SGS2015


PEACE MOVEMENT. The football team of the island-village of Buan, Tawi-Tawi is part of the Football for Peace movement, a campaign supported by MovePH. Photo by Franz Lopez/ Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – At the 2015 Social Good Summit in the Philippines, MovePH looked back at the issues and initiatives it pursued in the past year.

From September 2014 to September 2015, it pushed stories and initiated campaigns that promoted social good.

It also trained students, youth leaders, citizen journalists, and activists on how to make social media a platform for their causes.

Since its founding in 2012 as Rappler's civic engagement arm, MovePH has engaged communities, empowering them to tell their stories and create ripples of change.

From pushing for support for kids in conflict areas through football to engaging communities to synergize efforts to eradicate hunger, we have seen how Filipinos take action in their communities.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/VoltaireTupaz">@VoltaireTupaz</a>: Social good is social action. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ProjectAgos?src=hash">#ProjectAgos</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/2030NOW?src=hash">#2030NOW</a> <a href="http://t.co/FaAc9e3prz">pic.twitter.com/FaAc9e3prz</a></p>&mdash; Lyn Garcia (@lynvgarcia) <a href="https://twitter.com/lynvgarcia/status/647609879289462785">September 26, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>{/source}



In September 2014, while the 2014 Social Good Summit was being held in Tacloban and Typhoon Mario (Fung-Wong) was battering the Philippines, one of MovePH's platforms helped save lives.

A trapped pregnant mother and her family were rescued with the help of Project Agos partners and the social media. (READ: Project Agos: Pregnant woman, HIV patient rescued)

Project Agos is MovePH's flagship project. It is a collaborative platform that harnesses technology and social media to ensure that critical information flows to those who need it before, during, and after disasters.

With the support of AusAid, Project Agos has conducted more than 10 social media workshops all over the Philippines and helped local government officials and disaster responders use social media to improve disaster communication.

SAVED FROM DEATH ROW. The #MaryJaneLives hashtag trends on Twitter as news of her reprieve breaks. Photo from EPA

In April 2015, Move and Rappler ran a campaign to spare the life of Mary Jane Veloso, an overseas Filipino worker who was victimized by drug traffickers. She was sentenced to death by an Indonesian court. (READ: The story of Mary Jane Veloso, in her own words)

The campaign #SaveMaryJane spread like wildfire as Filipinos and other activists around the world called on the Indonesian government to stop Veloso's execution. In the end, the public clamor and international pressure was too big to ignore and the hashtag #SaveMaryJane became #MaryJaneLives.

Today, Mary Jane lives. (READ: How the viral petition to save Mary Jane reached Jokowi)

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT. Areas where MovePH has conducted civic engagement workshops.

Move workshops

MovePH conducted more than 15 citizen journalism and civic engagement workshops across the Philippines in 2015.

In June 2015, for instance, we held a Move workshop in Tawi-Tawi which was attended by more than 1,500 youth from the islands of the province.

The movement that was started in the shores of Bongao eventually became a model for our communities across the country. (READ: Petition vs abusive Tawi-Tawi trike drivers launched) 

MovePH reached these milestones because of the hundreds of Movers and partners across the Philippines. 


WATCH: Social Good Summit 2015: Move talk and X launch


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– Rappler.com

Social media education pushed at #Connected2015 summit


SPEAK UP. Patricia Evangelista fields a question by a student-participant at the 2nd national MACS summit

MANILA, Philippines – Around 600 students gathered in Quezon for the 2nd nationwide convention of the Metropolitan Alliance of Communication Students (MACS) on Sunday, September 27.


Entitled #CONNECTED2015, the convention aimed to promote media education and social awareness.


Following the theme “One Nation for Media Education,” speakers from the media, creative and entertainment industries were invited to talk a range of topics: from investigative journalism to hosting.


Students from different colleges and universities attended the convention with the majority coming from the University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University.


Driven by its mission to build ties and unify communication students all over the country, MACS first held #CONNECT last year. This year’s convention hopes to further strengthen the connection shared by its members.


MACS was launched at the University of the Philippines in September 2010. It was founded by Sherwin Su, an alumnus of UP who majored in Broadcast Communication. The alliance now has a total of 35 member colleges and universities.

 CONFIDENCE. Nikki Gil talks about effective hosting

Social awareness


GMA 7’s Ian Simbulan, executive producer of Reporter’s Notebook, talked about investigative journalism. He discussed the role and vitality of investigative reporting, emphasizing the need to ask questions and pay attention to issues that are often neglected.


Simbulan said it’s the journalist’s job to buck the trend and see through the hype. He recalled that even as most media programs focused on the #AlDub phenomenon, his program went ahead and reported on the lesser known Lumad murders in Mindanao.


Rappler’s Patricia Evangelista gave a talk on alternative storytelling. Evangelista’s stories are known for diving into the depths of humanity.


“I believe in the power of the story,” said Evangelista who played video that left an impact on the audience. “The reason we told this story is because it is very human.”


READY. Rappler's Lou Gepuela talks about Project Agos, Rappler's disaster information platform.

Jing Castaneda of ABS-CBN gave a talk on the “Impact of Social Media on Leadership and Public Service”. She mentioned how, with the help of social media, news and information travels faster than ever before. .


Advertising executive Third Domingo entertained the audience by showing different advertisements. He delved into the concept of creativity, asking the audience: “can everyone be creative?” to which his answer was “no.”


For the last speaker, actress and singer Nikki Gil talked about effective hosting. Having been a professional host since she was 17, Gil shared her experiences with the audience. She even gave tips for those who plan to pursue hosting as a career.


“Remember, you can’t please everyone,” said Nikki. “People will always have something to say.” – Rappler.com


Angela Baraceros is a Rappler intern.


Wiretapping or not? MMDA chief urges public to 'video wrongdoing'


Rappler file photo of MMDA chairman Francis Tolentino.

MANILA, Philippines – "I still encourage the general public to video wrongdoing. I encourage everyone to utilize various media. We all have that right."

This was what Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Francis Tolentino said on Tuesday, September 29, clarifying reports quoting him as saying that those who record MMDA officers' wrongdoings are liable for "wiretapping."

Netizen Dianne Versoza sparked the issue after she posted a video of her alleged "transaction" with an MMDA officer along Commonwealth avenue in Quezon City. She was flagged down for alleged overspeeding, although she claimed she maintained a safe driving speed..

In the video posted by WhenInManila on September 22, the traffic enforcer repeatedly said he will give Versoza a traffic violation ticket, seemingly waiting for the driver to offer a bribe. At the last minute, Versoza changed her mind saying, "Mali, eh." (It's wrong.)

At the end of the video, the face of the traffic enforcer, later identified as Joel Vargas, is seen.

Gray area?

While Tolentino said he already sacked Vargas, he reportedly said in an interview with dzBB that the car owner is also liable for recording the transaction.

"In entrapment operations like that, the one that is entrapped also has a violation. We have an Anti-Wiretapping Law. There are legal provisions that makes those who offer bribes liable. The entrapped officers can go after them," Tolentino said in a radio interview on Sunday, September 27.

When asked to clarify his statement about wiretapping on Tuesday, however, Tolentino refused to answer directly, saying it is a "gray area involving rules of evidence."

He also brought up Article 212 of the Revised Penal Code, which states that "(t)he same penalties imposed upon the officer corrupted, except those of disqualification and suspension, shall be imposed upon any person who shall have made the offers or promises or given the gifts or presents as described in the preceding articles."

Tolentino, in December 2014, encouraged motorists and the public to use video cameras to record illegal activities of MMDA officers. - with reports from Katerina Francisco and David Lozada/ Rappler.com

US education can help, hurt Grace Poe candidacy, say Boston College Fil-Ams


NEW YORK CITY – When Grace Poe announced on September 16 that she is “offering herself” to be the next Philippine president, the news was met with nary a ripple of reaction in Boston College, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science.

“Unfortunately, I have not been following Philippine politics much,” said Lemuel Lim when interviewed by The FilAm. Lim is a senior in the School of Management majoring in Finance and Operations and is the current president of the Philippine Society of Boston College (PSBC).

He is not the only one. Lim speaks for many of the nearly 100 members of PSBC, an organization founded, according to him, 24 years ago by Poe.

The Filipino community of suburban Boston is divided into the “old generation” or the parents, and the first generation or the students. Boston College, a Jesuit-run private school, is located in Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts, which is about a 30-minute drive from the capital.

“As with any cultural group, children have a very diluted sense of their culture,” said Lim. “Many, like myself, are very unaware of what goes on in the Motherland.” He said his own parents – both Filipino – “don’t go in-depth and detach themselves” from Philippine politics.

He continued, “In terms of the Philippine elections, only a few international students keep up with it.” He meant the Filipino students who come from the Philippines and not the Fil-Ams who have acquired citizenship.

“Right now we live in a very small suburb, our attention span is in different places that do not extend in the realm of Philippine politics,” he said.

Lim said he has heard of Poe. He knows that she transferred to the college to complete the last two years of her studies. Her first two years were spent in the University of the Philippines until she transferred to BC.

“In terms of plain awareness, we know she is a BC grad and is one of founders of this club,” said Lim.

Lim believes that having a foreign education cuts both ways.

“It could help or hurt her [chances],” he said. Some voters will look at her BC background and make the assumption that she got a prestigious education. Others, on the other hand, will see her as “not exactly homegrown.”

Matthew Alonsozana, an alumnus of Boston College, is closely following the developments in Poe’s career, especially her “quick political ascent.” But it’s probably because Alonsozana has politics running through his veins. He is currently a senior research analyst for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, one of a dozen presidential aspirants in the Republican Party. Previously, he was a research analyst at the Republican National Committee.

“Some people think she’s breath of fresh air,” he said. While some of them may claim loyalty to her father, the movie actor Fernando Poe Jr, Alonsozana believes Poe offers a departure from the typical Philippine political families. (READ: 15 things you did not know about Grace Poe

He said Poe’s American education gives her a “worldly-wise perspective” on international affairs. More importantly, her Boston College education is grounded on the Jesuit focus on service, which he said “will be of immense benefit to any leadership position” including the Office of the President.

He said it’s “too early” to discern what a Poe presidency could mean for the Philippines.

“There is still a lot to learn about her politics and her positions on issues between now and the elections,” he said. “It will be interesting to see who else she wants on her leadership team,” Alonsozana said.

He said he has been following the developments in Poe’s political career, especially from the time she announced that she is pursuing her candidacy to become president after the term of Benigno Aquino III.

“It’s exciting to have a graduate of Boston College being involved in Philippine politics,” he said. “There’s reason to be optimistic [about the country].” – Rappler.com 

This story is republished with permission from The FilAm, a content partner of Rappler


INFOGRAPHIC: HIV epidemic in the Philippines


MANILA, Philippines – The final Millennium Development Goals (MDG) report released by the United Nations (UN) in July showed that globally, new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections declined by about 40% between 2000 and 2013.

But a closer look at regional trends showed that there was actually a slow decline or stagnation in the number of new infections in South-Eastern Asia, where the Philippines is located. 

Estimated no. of new HIV infections in South-Eastern Asia and Oceania (in thousands)

Source: 2015 MDG Report 

However, the Philippines has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, former World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in the Philippines Julie Hall told Rappler in a previous interview. 

To illustrate how alarming the situation is, consider this: in March, the number of new cases recorded daily was at 21. By July or 4 months after, it went up to 22 cases per day. 

WHO challenged the Philippine government to ramp up its response to the HIV situation in the country in terms of funding and raising awareness.

This will be crucial as the country joins the rest of the world in achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the targets under the SDGs is to end epidemics such as AIDS by 2030. 

Filipinos, too, can do something about this pressing issue. For starters, one can never underestimate the power of education. (READ: #StayNegatHIVe: Netizens show support for HIV/AIDS advocacy

Here's a quick overview of the HIV situation in the Philippines:

MovePH has recently launched the first phase of its #StayNegatHIVe campaign, in partnership with LoveYourself and DM9 JaymeSyfu. (READ: #StayNegatHIVe: We need to talk about HIV/AIDS)

Now is the time to talk about HIV/AIDS. Join the conversation! Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below. – Rappler.com

SOURCES: Department of Health, Department of Labor and Employment, Philippine Statistics Authority

Inclusiveness, education major concerns for deaf community


Faculty members and students of DLSU-CSB's School for Deaf Education and Deaf Studies take part in the Social Good Summit.

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s (DLS-CSB) School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies interpreted the presentations during Rappler's Innovation + Social Good Summit (SGS), with the aim to educate the deaf community about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


William Sidayon Jr. and several interpreters during the event described the move as “inclusive.” He said SGS was a big opportunity for people from his sector to participate in the event, although he did feel some nerves at first because of the presence of many important figures. 

Value of equal opportunities 

According to Sidayon, the targets set by the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) were applicable to the deaf community. Providing quality education for all was a particular concern for them because not all members of the Filipino deaf community have access to education materials that cater to their needs. (READ: United Nations PH chief: Make global goals elections issues in 2016)

"It’s a condition the deaf community is looking for," he said of the target. 

For the deaf community, Sidayon added, the value of the new global goals go beyond what is explicitly stated: having equal opportunities, whether it is in education or otherwise, would go a long way towards acceptance. Sidayon thinks that having a set of targets based on the goals would also promote the acceptance of members of the deaf community as well as others with special needs.  

The value of the goals for the deaf community, and other persons with special needs, lie in its promotion of inclusivity and integration. Sidayon encouraged people to get to know persons with special needs and take into consideration their way of life to better integrate them and their needs.

“If people know their culture, their identity, there won’t be a problem with (integration),” he added.

Applying the message

One of the major concerns Sidayon observe is that many deaf students have a low functional literacy which lead to a lack of skills. This further affects their political awareness and empowerment. 

There is currently a lack of schools catering to the deaf community. For its part, Sidayon said that DLS-CSB has been accommodating to students with special needs and has also been spearheading efforts to increase the functional literacy of students who are deaf.

Invitations to events like the Social Good Summit have also given students more platforms for increasing awareness. 

For Sidayon, greater attention must be given to the concerns of PWDs. “The concerns of the deaf community should be made a national issue," he remarked. Students, he said, need awareness if they were to be empowered enough to engage in volunteerism.

In the face of such challenges, however, Sidayon remains optimistic, describing the new SDGs as realistic. Moving forward, Sidayon and his sector hopes the SDGs will be "truly inclusive with no one left behind, regardless of any special needs." - Rappler.com

Bea Orante is a Rappler intern.

#SGS2015 exhibits provide practical applications of SDGs


Participants of the Social Good Summit are asked to put their concrete contributions to the UN's global goals.

MANILA, Philippines - People of different walks of life came together on Saturday, September 26, for Rappler's Innovation + Social Good Summit (SGS), an event that focused on the UN Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the continuation of the Millennium Development Goals. 

Rappler partnered with different organizations during the summit in order to provide opportunities for participants to gain knowledge of the SDGs and implement them in their different fields.

Each organization provided exhibits that address different advocacies in line with the SDGs. The formation of these goals gave the organizations an avenue to promote and engage people to participate in contributing to achieving the goals’ targets. (READ: United Nations PH chief: Make global goals election issues in 2016)

Specific advocacies

The exhibits tackled their own set of Global Goals. World Vision, for example, focused on goals 1 to 6, and 17, through the continuation of children-focused programs like their Child Sponsorship Program, and their promotion of World Food Day on October 17.

Some addressed environmental issues and sustainability. Bike Scouts deals with disaster risk reduction by promoting accountability to one another especially in times of need. eBayanihan takes crowdsourced information and lays it over hazard maps to serve as a “platform for the disaster cycle.” 

For the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the goal of the exhibit was to introduce participants to the goals and motivate them to ask questions like, “What do we want? What do we want for the country? What do we want for the planet?” For the exhibitors, the expectation was not to create people who were experts on the Global Goals, but to get people to know and care about one goal that mattered most to them. 

Elections and good governance necessary for success 

Not all exhibitors have a direct contribution to fulfilling the SDGs, but it focuses on a crucial factor in the fulfillment of these goals – government.

COMELEC and LENTE, organizations whose advocacies were good governance and social empowerment, were present during the event.

"The sustainable goals always go back to the government," said Carlo Africa, National Secretary of LENTE. With the presidential elections set for May 2016, citizens have a role and a responsibility to exercise their right to vote. In that way, Africa added, they can assure that the fulfillment of the global goals is on the agenda of those elected in office.

UNDP Philippines’ Country Office Head on Advocacies Louie Halumbayan said that as simple as spreading out the message and implementing the SDGs in our respective households, would ripple out to bigger places through bigger ways.

"Through unity and collective effort, we can fulfill the Global Goals," Halumbayan added. - Rappler.com

VIRAL: Declare known Igorot tattooer a National Artist


TATTOO ARTIST. At 97 years old, Whang-Od is known to be the last Kalinga tattoo artist. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A campaign initiated by Facebook user Loughrenz Aidwourd is calling for a National Artist Award to be given to Igorot tattoo artist Whang-Od Oggay.

Since its posting on September 17, it has garnered more 10,000 shares.

The original Facebook post noted that Whang-Od’s craft is a “world-class contribution to the art of tattoo-making that is genuinely Filipino,” and thus deserves the conferment of the order.

The viral post also mentioned that the tattooer from Kalinga province in Cordillera has drawn people from the Philippines and around the world who “take pride that they were tattooed by her.” 

The National Artist award is one of the the highest civilian honors in the Philippines. It was first given by the government in 1972. To date, a total of 66 National Artists have been honored for their significant contributions in their respective fields. 

In 2003, the award was elevated to the Order of National Artists through Executive Order 236, making it fourth in precedence among the decorations accorded outstanding people.

Keeping the craft alive 

At 97 years old, Whang-Od is known to be one of the last Kalinga tattoo artists. One of Gameplan’s hosts, Ton Vergel de Dios, described her as “looking really strong.” Today, she is training her niece to one day take her place.

Each tattoo is done by taking a mix of soot and water and applying it to the skin using a stencil which would then be pounded onto the skin using a stick with a thorn at the end that is rhythmically pounded. Each tattoo’s design is chosen and can range from centipedes, trees, to geometric patterns.

{source}<div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/edwardopena/posts/10204984887648377:0" data-width="500"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/edwardopena/posts/10204984887648377:0"><p>Wang-od (Fang-od), the last Kalinga tattoo artist, deserve to be recognized as a National Artist. #WangOdNationalArtistPlease share</p>Posted by <a href="#" role="button">Loughrenz Aidwourd</a> on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/edwardopena/posts/10204984887648377:0">Thursday, 17 September 2015</a></blockquote></div></div>{/source}

The tattoos are not simply for aesthetics as they have historical and cultural significance. Rappler's LeAnne Jazul earlier wrote about how the Butbut tribe used their tattoos in defending their land against the proposed dam during the Marcos administration. Because looking at the tattoos supposedly brought harm upon the viewer, the protesters displayed theirs leading to the workers abandoning the site.

The marks a person bears on his skin are also his only belongings after death as all other possessions are not buried with the body and the tattoos are supposedly brought along into the afterlife.

Widespread attention

On Facebook, many who have shared the post mentioned wanting to get a tattoo from Whang-Od as part of their bucket list. The attention she and Kalinga in general are receiving is part of why the petition has been building steam. 

Even foreign tourists have flocked to have Whang-Od give them tattoos. Some, like The Broke Backpacker, post pictures of their experience on their social media accounts, bringing Whang-Od and her art further into the spotlight.

The petition’s followers are also growing as more Filipinos share the Facebook post. Some have said that tattoos are a form of art and Whang-Od is keeping history alive by continuing to do her work. By honoring her, netizens said, the country is also recognizing its rich but vanishing indigenous culture. - Rappler.com

Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?


OTHER SIDE? A young lumad lifts the blame off the military, and points his finger at the New People's Army regarding the Lumad attacks in Mindanao. Photo by Fritzie Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines – The military is innocent in the contoversial Lumad killings, a young Lumad is insisting. His hands fell on his lap as he spoke in Bisaya and broken Tagalog. The boy is 18 and had just left his Surigao del Sur home in Ha-ayan, Barangay Diatagon Lianga. 

He is among the Lumad that lawyer Levito Baligod brought to Manila to have their voices heard on the issue. 

On Wednesday, September 30, Baligod told Rappler he is helping some Lumad who are telling a different story compared to the relatives of the victims and activists. (WATCH: Lumad: Caught in the middle of a war)

Human rights groups, activists, journalists, and pundits have weighed in on the situation, holding authorities accountable. The crisis has displaced more than 4,000 indigenous peoples from Surigao del Sur, Bukidnon, Saranggani, and Davao del Norte allegedly due to human rights violations committed by the military. (READ: #StopLumadKillings trends: Nasaan ang Pangulo?)

Alternative learning

The boy's father is dead and his mother remarried. He was raised by his grandmother, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). But he himself is not a member of the group, he said.

He claimed he was an  Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) student, a school which provides an “alternative learning system especially designed to provide secondary education to indigent indigenous youth – the Manobo, Higaonon, Banwaon, Talaandig, and Mamanwa.”  

According to ALCADEV, they offer “academic studies, vocational, and technical skills.” The boy learned how to read and write at ALCADEV. But there, he also learned how to hold a gun, he said. He first held one during 3rd grade.

Why the gun? “Para manalo sa pakikipaglaban sa gobyerno (To win the fight against the government),” the boy answered. 

In places like Lianga, there are no government schools, Baligod told Rappler.

“What’s there is ALCADEV and TRIFPSS (Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur Schools) which are both being run by the CPP-NPA.”

Several groups, however, disagree and support ALCADEV, stressing its role in helping indigenous peoples (IPs) .

ALCADEV's name has not always been as tainted. It is known as an award-winning privately operated but government-regulated learning institution established in 2004 by different IP organizations in CARAGA. Its students mostly live in the highlands of Surigao del Norte and Sur, Agusan del Norte and Sur.

'Radicalizing the youth'

Although the boy knows how to use a gun, he said he never fired one. At school, he said he learned “NPA songs” (kanta na pang-NPA). On Saturdays, his teachers would take them to NPA postings. 

After graduating, the boy claimed that students either turn into ALCADEV teachers or NPA members. 

"They were taught to hate the government," Baligod said. "So the CPP-NPA radicalized the youth, indoctrinated the general population for them to revolt against the government. So we need government presence in the area."

"On their behalf, we will try to ask government to provide protection for the Lumad people," Baligod continued. "Because if there's no government there, the CPP-NPA can easily enter, inflitrate, and impose their will."

But according to ALCADEV, its main mission is to empower the indigenous youth to become “self-reliant, self-sufficient, analytical and creative in seeking ways to improve the quality of life of their families, their indigenous communities and the country.”

Attacks on the Lumad

It was earlier reported that a series of attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao have been taking place since May this year. The attacks are concentrated in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur, which are hosts to Lumad schools. 

When asked whether the Lumad killings and reports of violence and harassment in Surigao del Sur were committed by the military or paramilitary, the boy gave a swift “no.” It was the NPA who did it, he claimed.

A 13-year-old Lumad, however, earlier told Rappler that she witnessed how her father, a Lumad leader and farmer, was shot in the head twice allegedly by military and paramilitary elements on September 1 near their village in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur. 

On the same day, another Lumad was killed together with ALCADEV executive director Emerico Samarte. Samarte was killed inside a classroom in Barangay Diatagon. The culprits, according to the human rights group Karapatan, are the paramilitary group Magahat. (READ: School head, 2 lumad leaders killed in Surigao del Sur)

Peace talks

On September 22, two United Nations special rapporteurs on IP rights urged the Aquino government to look into the Lumad killings, condemning the attacks on the Lumad and educators (READ: Lumad killings unacceptable – UN experts)

Peace talks among the government, the NPA, and the National Democratic Front must also be pursued, UN Rapporteur Vicky Tauli-Corpuz earlier told Rappler.

The UN expert also recommended that "a mechanism where a joint monitoring and investigation could happen" be formed.

"The people are caught in the middle. They are...made to side with whichever group, and in the process, that's when all these kinds of killings are happening," Tauli-Corpuz said.

Before leaving for Manila with Baligod, the boy stayed in an evacuation center, a sports complex in Tandag City.

“Condition's tough, people only sleep in chairs,” he said in Bisaya. “We eat instant noodles and it’s hard to bathe.”

He added that ALCADEV students are separated from the rest of the evacuees within the center. "Teachers guard them, in case they're pulled by soldiers."

The boy wishes to pursue his studies, without ever having to pull a trigger in his life.

His words are only among the several voices either drowned or amplified in the ongoing revelation about the lives and deaths of the Lumad. – Rappler.com

Fil-Ams mount event to promote education vs domestic abuse


CALIFORNIA, USA –  Filipino American domestic violence prevention advocates are taking the lead in commemorating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month with their 11th annual Free from Violence on October 1 at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in South San Francisco.                                                         

ALLICE Alliance for Community Empowerment Kumare and Kumpares have tapped Colma Council Member Helen Fisicaro – a staunch promoter of access to health and social justice – to headline the event. She has been a friend to Filipino Americans since she was elected over 20 years ago, thwarting a recall election for having supported a FilAm enterprise.

Voted mayor 6 times by her fellow council members, Fisicaro will join Consul General Henry S. Bensurto Jr and Kaiser Permanente Physician-in-Chief John Skerry, who will reinforce the message that intimate partner violence is a community issue.

"Education enables the community to support and comfort the person  experiencing domestic violence," Fisicaro emphasized.  "A neighbor, co-worker, classmate, or relative of the victim can assist or recommend the variety of services that can help stop the domestic violence cycle."

Knowing the facts can empower everyone, Fisicaro said as she echoed statistics showing that children who witness domestic violence are twice likely to become abusive or abused in adulthood.

"It is not good for children to observe this kind of behavior because it gives children the wrong message that domestic violence is a way of life," she stressed. 

"There are no cultural, nationality, economic, gender boundaries for domestic violence," she said, noting the prevalence of incidences. "All walks of life experience it, unfortunately. There are no stereotypes and it may surprise the community who is a domestic violence victim."

Fisicaro's own colleague Joanne del Rosario, current mayor of Colma and 2010 president of ALLICE, broke her silence in 2009 by sharing her experience of abuse in a previous relationship. Del Rosario's public disclosure showed that successful, powerful individuals may become abused if they become involved with abusive partners.           

Fisicaro said she confronted domestic violence as a supervisor at Pacific Gas and Electric Company where she worked for almost 40 years until she retired in 2010.  

"I observed one of my employees coming in to work with multiple bruises, a black eye, and other injuries that seemed to always be an accident," she recalled. "In private, I recommended to her to utilize the Employee Assistance Program to get help. I was not only concerned for my employee but also our peers."

The experience alerted Fisicaro to the effects of intimate partner violence beyond the couples involved.

"The spouse showed up at our office building so we needed to protect the whole department from this employee’s violent spouse," she said. "We increased our security access to the office. It was important to not only help the employee but also protect the employees who worked with her."

"I was not only trying to be a concerned co-worker but a good friend showing support and concern for my employee. By utilizing the confidential Employee Assistance Program, this employee was empowered to seek safe services, not live in fear, move on and lead a productive life," she added.

Fisicaro and Del Rosario are among the few elected officials visibly active in the campaign to prevent domestic violence. To this day, many still consider intimate partner violence as a "women's issue" and a "private matter" best resolved behind closed doors.

Fisicaro tends to disagree.  She believes those in public office have the privilege and opportunity to enhance the movement to deter domestic abuse.

"We as public officials can educate our community by sharing domestic violence prevention information in the city newsletters, linking ALLICE and CORA (the domestic violence service agency in San Mateo County) with our public website," she said, listing some options.

"We can make sure our employees who work with the public are trained in signs of domestic violence," Fisicaro said.

She said that brochures can be made available at all public buildings such as recreation centers, libraries, police stations, fire stations; while articles about such services can be featured in community newsletters.

"Having speakers from the referral agencies make a presentation to the different populations of the community. Referrals can be made to our Police Department who in turn can make recommendations about the services available to the victim. Survivors need to know about available counseling, legal assistance, shelter, food, etc. in order to live productive fearless lives," she said.

Fisicaro is especially proud of the protocols established by her town's law enforcement.

"Colma police respond to incidents of domestic violence and violations of related court order and stress enforcement of the law to protect the victim and communicate the philosophy that domestic violence is a criminal behavior," she said.  

Policy relates to both victims and offenders, giving them access to appropriate civil remedies and community resources.

Officers carry brochures regarding the services and resources available through private and public programs. They are required to take domestic violence courses with a mandated two-hour domestic violence update. Police employees view a DVD produced through the San Mateo County District Attorney’s office.

Fisicaro impressed Fil-Am leaders in 1997 when she and her husband and then-fellow council member Dennis Fisicaro and two other colleagues opposed a move to charge a $100,000-fee for financial reports on Lucky Chances Casino, which was under construction at the time.  Dennis Fisicaro believed an existing $20,000 permit tax already covered the cost.  Casino opponents petitioned for a recall election that Colma residents voted down.

Lucky Chances Casino, part of a chain of businesses owned by Rene Medina and his sons, continues to generate income for Colma, a town famous for its cemeteries and auto dealerships.

"She is our friend," community leader Alice Bulos described Helen Fisicaro.

The testimony of Marlene Caballero, a domestic violence survivor, highlighted the program sponsored by Union Bank, the Philippine Consulate General, Thomasians USA, and Kaiser Permanente Medical Center,   Our Lady of Mercy Church Knights of Columbus and Legion of Mary received commendations as outstanding allies in the campaign against dating and domestic abuse.

Representatives of AARS, API Legal Outreach, California Highway Patrol, Catholic Charities, CORA, FBANC, FMHI San Mateo, FCCC, FALEO, HART, HICAP of San Mateo County, HPSM, Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center, Peninsula Family Service,  Pyramid Alternatives, Rape Trauma Services, Star Vista, Victim Services, and West Bay Pilipino Multi-service Center talked to attendees about their programs to promote healthier interaction.

Donor allies San Mateo Behavioral Health & Recovery Services, Philippine Association of University Women, Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center, Rappler.com, The Filipino Channel, Philippine News, Philippines Today, FilAm Star, Positively Filipino, Lucky Chances, Moonstar, Hapag Filipino, Chalet Ticino, Café Savini and Noah’s Bagels supported the annual event through their products and services.

ALLICE is all-volunteer nonprofit based in San Mateo County dedicated to promoting healthy and safe relationships through education.

Founded in 2003, members call themselves Kumares and Kumpares:  Alice Bulos Allen Capalla, Bettina Santos Yap, Cecile Gregorio Ascalon, Cherie Querol Moreno, Edna Murray, Elsa Agasid, Erlinda Galeon, Jeannette Trajano, Jei Africa, Jennifer Jimenez Wong, Joanne del Rosario, Jose Antonio, Malou Aclan, Maria Segarra, Nellie Hizon, Paulita Lasola Malay, Randy Caturay, Sarah Jane Ilumin, Teresa Guingona Ferrer and Father Mark Reburiano.– Rappler.com 

For more information call ALLICE 2015 president Paulita Lasola Malay at (650) 871-7717 or visit www.allicekumares.com.

Migrants' rights group: 'Sanction recruiter of abused OFW'


IN COMA. Rina (not her real name) is in coma reportedly after being attacked by her employer. Photo courtesy of Migrante-Middle East
MANILA, Philippines – Migrante-Middle East, a Filipino migrants' rights group, is calling for sanctions against the recruiter of a domestic worker who is in coma, and was working in Saudi Arabia.

A blood clot was found in her brain and was removed on Saturday, September 26. She's in need of blood donation since her platelets are also low, the group said.

Migrante-Middle East said in a press statement: “We call on POEA chief Mr. Hans Cacdac to take necessary action against the recruiter of an underage Filipino household service worker (HSW) who is in critical condition after she undergone an operation Saturday, a blood clot in her brain were removed; allegedly she was a victim of maltreatment.”

"Rina" (not her real name) is 25 years old from Kabuntalan, Maguindanao.

"Rina" (when she was still able to talk) told other wards at Saudi’s social welfare agency (SWA) that she was only 17 when she began working in Saudi Arabia and when the abuse began.

“She was brought by her employer at SWA on September 19, and that day was very weak. On 24th, we were informed that she could no longer walk and talk, and in a state of coma,” John Monterona, regional director of Migrante-Middle East said.

Monterona added, “Upon confirmation of her being deployed underage and was a victim of human trafficking, OFW Rina’s recruiter’s license must be cancelled immediately, and appropriate case must be filed.”– Rappler.com 

Lumad from Agusan: NPA, not military, responsible for killings


(L-R) Jesse Acevedo, former NPA rebel Marcial Belandres, and Datu Martin Acevedo talk about the abuses done by NPA rebels to lumads in some parts of Mindanao. Photo by David Lozada/ Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Amid reports of the Philippine military’s alleged killings and abuses of the Lumad, the indigenous people of Mindanao, a group of Lumad leaders from Agusan del Sur claimed that it is the New People’s Army (NPA), not the military, who is responsible for the killings. 

In an exclusive interview with Rappler on Wednesday, September 30, Martin Acevedo, a datu from Prosperidad, La Purisima in Agusan del Sur province, said that in their area it is the NPA who make trouble and kill Lumad.

“The NPA imposes taxes on civilians. They charge each family a monthly tax of P10. Say you have 4 children, you'd have to pay P20 monthly – P5 per head. If the civilian can't pay, they compute the price for their life,” Acevedo said. (READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

He added: “Once they finish computing – and the farmers still can’t pay – the NPA will catch them and kill them in the mountain, where the graves can’t be found. That’s what they did in our area.” 

Martin, whose father and two siblings were allegedly killed by the rebels in 1992, said no Lumad in their area has joined the NPA, mainly due to the military’s presence.

“Despite the NPA’s aggressive recruitment, nobody from our place went with them because we made the people in our area understand what would happen to them there,” he added.

Military as friends

“The military are our friends because they give us ways to improve our livelihood, while the NPA only imposes taxes,” said Jesse Acevedo, younger brother of Datu Martin.

According to Jesse, the NPA has given the Lumad nothing but pain and hardships. He claimed that in January 2014, NPA rebels burned the Lumad's rubber plants and livelihood materials because of their insubordination.

“Why did the NPA burn the plants we need for our livelihood? Understand that the goals of the NPA are not to promote our welfare but to take advantage of the Lumad. If we continue to be recruited by them, it will come back to haunt us,” Jesse said.

Farmers who do not pay the “revolutionary taxes” imposed by the rebels, according to Jesse, are either kicked out of their land or killed.

“So we'd rather just pay because we have nowhere else to go. In some areas, like in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, if we are unable to pay the tax, the NPA will kill us. On the government's end, their only instruction to us is to let our children go to school and to continue to protect our children’s future,” Jesse said. 

He added: “I can promise you that it is not the military who cause the problems because they give us help with livelihood and education for our children.”

Opposing sides

The statements of the two datus contradict reports that Lumad in Surigao del Sur are being killed and displaced by paramilitary and military personnel.

PROTEST. A multisectoral group holds a protest outside the House of Representatives to protest the Lumad killings. Photo by Vincent Go/Rappler

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has repeatedly denied the military’s involvement in the incidents. AFP Chief General Hernando Iriberri, during the budget hearing for the Department of National Defense (DND) on September 8, denied that the Magahat Bagani Force paramilitary group, mainly accused of the killings, is working with the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Rights groups like Karapatan and Kalumaran have repeatedly accused and condemned the government for allegedly perpetrating the killings. 

UP Professor Winnie Monsod earlier accused leftist groups of using the Lumad to their advantage, for which she was slammed by Lumad and rights groups.

Two United Nations special rapporteurs Victoria Tauli-Corpuz and Michel Forst already urged the Aquino government to investigate the killings in Mindanao, calling the issue “unacceptable, deplorable.”

The Senate Subcommittee on Justice, led by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, has already scheduled a hearing on the Lumad killings on Thursday, October 1, in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur.

Marcial Belandres, a member of the NPA for 25 years before surrendering to the government, told Rappler that the abuses reported by the Acevedos continue till now.

“There are still a lot of CPP-NPA in Surigao. They have rights groups there that they call legal but the backing are actually illegal. I witnessed, and sometimes participated, in the wrongdoings of the NPA,” Belandres said.” 

He added that he surrendered to government forces because he wanted a better life for his family.

“Now that I am on the government’s side, I am being treated well. I am given food and help to send my child to a proper school,” said Belandres, who is being hunted by the NPA.

‘We need to understand Lumad culture’

Lawyer Levito Baligod, who brought the Lumad to Manila, said the government needs to understand the Lumad culture better before making any drastic decisions. (READ: Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?)

“The problem is that the government is lost on how to understand the situation. If the government will render their support to the Lumad datus, who signed a manifesto against the NPA, we can solve the problem. The datus themselves are already asking help from the government,” Baligod, who rose to fame during the pork barrel scam, said. 

Baligod pointed to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) statement a few days back which said that the baganis were responsible for the Lumad killings.

“The baganis are the Lumad's warrior class, next to datus (chieftains) and baylans (priests). They are cultural guards. There are baganis who sided with the NPA and there are those who were assigned to defend their tribes. We cannot generalize,” he added.

The lawyer added that he is trying to link with the government the Lumad who came to him for help.

“We will try to ask the government to provide protection for the Lumad people because if the government is not present in their areas, the CPP-NPA would easily be able to enter, infiltrate and impose their will,” he said. 

Call out

The Acevedos and Belandres are calling on other Lumad tribes to veer away from the NPA.

“I can say from my heart that it is not true that it’s the soldiers killing Lumad. The true killers are the CPP-NPA. Even if we'd live in the forest for one year, we’ll be fine as long as we're able to have our livelihoods. But with the NPA there, finding a livelihood is problematic,” Belandres said.

Jesse added: “I'm calling out to my Lumad brothers who are living in the mountain: I plead that if there is someone who recruits you from the CPP-NPA do not go with them because they are the ones causing havoc in our tribes.”

As the government and various rights groups continue to investigate the cases, the Lumad continue to be caught in the middle of the war between the government and the communist rebels.

"I'm calling on those Lumad who are still in the mountain to surrender so we can live a normal life and be given a livelihood by the government," Jesse said. – Rappler.com

#SaveOFWRina: Blood donations needed for abused Filipina in Saudi


IN COMA. Rina (not her real name) is in coma reportedly after being attacked by her employer. Photo courtesy of Migrante-Middle East

MANILA, Philippines – Rina (not her real name), the Filipina worker in Saudi Arabia who has been in a coma after allegedly being physically abused and raped by her employer, is in need of blood donations.

Migrante-Middle East, a Filipino migrants' rights group, is calling on fellow Filipinos working in the region to donate blood and help save Rina's life. They have a social media campaign called #SaveOFWRina.

Migrante said Rina had been unable to speak and fell into a coma after her employer "surrendered" her to the Saudi Welfare Agency (SWA).

A blood clot was found in her brain and was removed on Saturday, September 26. She's in need of blood donation since her platelets are also low, the group said.

Migrante-Middle East said in a press statement: “We call on POEA chief Mr Hans Cacdac to take necessary action against the recruiter of an underage Filipino household service worker (HSW) who is in critical condition after she undergone an operation Saturday, a blood clot in her brain were removed; allegedly she was a victim of maltreatment.”

"Rina" is 25 years old from Kabuntalan, Maguindanao. When she was still able to talk, she reportedly told other wards at Saudi’s social welfare agency that she was only 17 when she began working in Saudi Arabia.

“She was brought by her employer at SWA on September 19, and that day was very weak. On 24th, we were informed that she could no longer walk and talk, and in a state of coma,” John Monterona, regional director of Migrante-Middle East said.

Monterona added, “Upon confirmation of her being deployed underage and was a victim of human trafficking, OFW Rina’s recruiter’s license must be cancelled immediately, and appropriate case must be filed.”

“OFW Rehana told them that she was gagged with clay and silicon after the rape incident,” Dungca said, quoting OFW Rehana fellow wards at the social welfare center.

Hospital staff at the Kingdom Hospital, Exit 5, in Riyadh, will accept donors from 8 am to 5 pm local time and can check with the hospital if they are a match with Rina by saying the blood is for the patient with the MRN# 403552.

They can also contact John Leonard Monterona of Migrante-Middle East at 0539081974. – Rappler.com 

'Cordilleran tattooer should get Nat'l Living Treasure, not Nat'l Artist Award'


TATTOO ARTIST. At 97 years old, Whang-Od is known to be one of the last Kalinga tattoo artists. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – For some netizens, indigenous tattoo artist Whang-Od Oggay deserves a "more special award" than the National Artist Award.

"For indigenous art forms, Republic Act No. 7355 created a separate (and a more special) award system for the finest traditional artists called the 'Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)' or the National Living Treasures Award," said lawyer Emil Marañon III.

Marañon is a former Comelec official who works for the electoral rights of indigenous peoples in the Philippines such as the Cordillerans or the Igorot. 

Reacting to a viral online campaign that seeks to declare Whang-Od a National Artist, Marañon tagged Rappler in a Facebook post saying the Kalinga tattooer "is ripe for this award – instead of the National Artist award as pushed."

He urged netizens to nominate Whang-Od, considered one of the last tattooers in Kalinga province in Cordillera, for the National Living Treasures Award.

To date, there are only 13 recipients of the special award, noted Marañon, a Chevening scholar in London.

In a Facebook comment, Far Eastern University multimedia instructor Aboy Yu shared Marañon's argument saying:

"NCCA's declaration of National Artist focuses on the modern art forms such as visual arts, literature and dance. Traditional artists or craftsmen are given the Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GaMaBa), so GaMaBa is more suited for her."

Read the heated exchange among netizens under this post:

{source}<div id="fb-root"></div><script>(function(d, s, id) {  var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];  if (d.getElementById(id)) return;  js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id;  js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3";  fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/rapplerdotcom/posts/1062556600431789" data-width="500"><div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"><blockquote cite="https://www.facebook.com/rapplerdotcom/posts/1062556600431789"><p>Should Wang-Od get a National Artist Award?</p>Posted by <a href="https://www.facebook.com/rapplerdotcom">Rappler</a> on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/rapplerdotcom/posts/1062556600431789">Tuesday, 29 September 2015</a></blockquote></div></div>{/source}

The National Artist Award is one of the the highest civilian honors in the Philippines. It was first given by the government in 1972. A total of 66 National Artists have already been honored for their significant contributions in their respective fields. 

In 2003, the award was elevated to the Order of National Artists through Executive Order 236, making it 4th in precedence among the decorations accorded outstanding people. The order places the National Living Treasures Award equal in rank to the National Artist Award.

The National Living Treasures Award is conferred upon "a Filipino citizen or group of Filipino citizens engaged in any traditional art uniquely Filipino, whose distinctive skills have reached such a high level of technical and artistic excellence and have been passed on to and widely practiced by the present generations in his/her community with the same degree of technical and artistic competence." 

But for Facebook user Iana Ong, Whang-Od simply embodies the rich heritage of the country: "She is history. She is truly an Alagad ng Sining for the part of culture most Filipinos have forgotten." – Rappler.com 

HK raises minimum pay, food allowance for domestic helpers


MINIMUM WAGE. Hong Kong raises wages for foreign domestic workers. File photo by Devon Wong/Rappler
HONG KONG – The Hong Kong government announced on Wednesday, September 30, that the Minimum Allowable Wage (MAW) for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in Hong Kong will be increased by 2.4% or to HK$4,210 (P25,384)  from HK$4,110 (P24,781) per month.

It also increased the minimum food allowance to not less than HK$995 (P5,999) per month, to a minimum of HK$964 (P5,812).

The new levels of the MAW and food allowance will apply to all FDH contracts signed on or after October 1.

In an official statement, the government also said:

Under the Standard Employment Contract for hiring FDHs, employers are required to provide FDHs with food free of charge (free food). At present, the vast majority of employers provide free food to FDHs. Employers may, however, choose to pay a food allowance in lieu.

If employers choose to pay a food allowance to FDHs, the allowance will be increased by HK$31 (or 3.2%).

A government spokesman said, "The government reviews the MAW for FDHs regularly. In accordance with the established practice, we have carefully considered Hong Kong's general economic and labor market situations over the last year, as reflected through a basket of economic indicators, including the relevant income movement and price change in this year's review."

"Moreover, the government has taken into account Hong Kong's future economic outlook in the near-term, as well as the need to strike a balance between affordability for employers on one hand and the livelihood of FDHs on the other in reaching the decision on the above-mentioned adjustment," the spokesman added.

The spokesman added, "The government has also reviewed the food allowance in lieu of free food and decided to make an increase, having regard to the movement in the relevant consumer price index."

The MAW and food allowance are set to protect FDHs from excessively low wages and protect local domestic workers from competition with FDHs. Employers may choose to provide FDHs terms better than the MAW and food allowance, depending on their individual circumstances.

FDH contracts signed today or earlier at the existing MAW of HK$4,110 per month and food allowance of not less than HK$964 per month will still be processed by the Immigration Department (ImmD) provided that the applications reach ImmD on or before October 28 (Wednesday). This arrangement will give employers sufficient time to send the signed contracts to ImmD for completion of the necessary application procedures. – Rappler.com 

HK$1 = P6

Mayor De Blasio: TOFA-NY honorees showcase city’s ‘diversity, strength’


BIG PERFORMANCE. Darren Espanto sings for the audience and awardees at the 2014 TOFA. Photo by Meryll Yan/Rappler
NEW YORK CITY – The Outstanding Filipino Americans of New York named this year’s batch of 15 organizations and individuals who have “inspired the community with their passion, conviction, and achievement.”

They are led by Human Rights Commissioner Carmelyn Malalis, who is being honored for Public Service; and the PAGASA Social Foundation, Inc. for Senior Welfare & Advocacy. They will be celebrated in a program to be held at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall on October 31.

The rest of the awardees are Mark Bustos, a professional hair stylist who offers free haircuts to the homeless during his day off; Maharlika and Jeepney founder Nicole Ponseca, who is widely acknowledged for elevating Philippine cuisine into the mainstream; and Councilmember Jonathan Wong, who at 23 became the youngest FilAm elected to public office in New Jersey.

They will be honored alongside Steven Raga, New York State chairperson for the National Federation of Filipino American Associations; Dr. Richard Holsman, founder of Holsman Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, which provides employment to Filipino physical therapists; Dr. Kevin Nadal, executive director of The Center for LGBTQ Studies; Chelle Lhuillier, a member of the transgender engagement team of the Human Rights Campaign’s Greater New York Steering Committee; award-winning soprano Katrina Saporsantos; fashion designer Betina Ocampo; model and singer Gail Banawis; concert producer and entrepreneur John Gadia; and Makilala TV, which is the first talk show in the New York area aired through Queens Public Television and Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

“TOFA-NY’s unmatched multiculturalism just might be our City’s greatest asset,” said De Blasio in a message.

“In highlighting the key role Filipino New Yorkers play in every sector and throughout all five boroughs, the TOFA-NY awards also showcase the diversity to which New York owes both its singularity and its strength.”

Consul General Mario de Leon, Jr. said the awardees are a “testament to the excellence of Filipinos in every field imaginable, and their significant contribution” to fostering friendly relations between the United States and the Philippines.

Elton Lugay, founder and executive producer of TOFA-NY, said the honorees are selected out of hundreds nominated by the community.

“Every year, we share their stories because they reveal the many facets of the Filipino American experience and what holds our community together,” he said in a statement.

To watch the event, to be hosted by Philippine television personality Boy Abunda, tickets ($60-100) may be purchased via www.carnegiehall.org or call CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800.– Rappler.com 

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