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Fighting tobacco use through local legislation


PROMINENT REMINDER. Iloilo City's anti-smoking billboards are mounted everywhere, like this one at Bonifacio Drive, to remind the public that smoking is prohibited.

ILOILO, Philippines – Upon landing at the Iloilo International Airport from a seminar-workshop in Manila, urban poor and labor leader Mario Andon heard the flight attendant announce that Iloilo is a no-smoking zone.

The flight attendant cited Iloilo Resolution 2015-321, which declares that Iloilo is a smoke-free city, and added that passengers are encouraged to observe the no-smoking policy in public areas.

If this announcement were made before he got sick, Andon said he would have ignored it and looked for the nearest smoking area. Things changed for him after he kicked the habit 3 years, when he had a series of ailments, including pneumonia.

“Smoking can kill you,” he realized, after his doctor asked him if he still wanted to live. There was no other culprit for his ailments but 43 years of smoking, dating back to 1971 when he was just 12 years old. (READ: Cigarette smoking is a weapon of mass destruction)

Smoking was once an integral part of Andon's daily life. Cigarettes were his constant companions as he worked long days and nights handling concerns of urban poor and labor groups.

He kept the habit even as cigarette prices increased over the years, reaching P50 per pack or P2.50 per stick by the time he stopped in 2014.

The increasing price did not discourage him to quit, but the apparent imminent threat to his life did. “When I realized that I could die by lighting another stick, quitting became possible,” said Andon. (READ: The last cigarette)

A landmark law that saves lives

Andon was happy to learn that he was now part of the list of ex-smokers saved from tobacco-related death.

According to Dr Anthony C. Leachon, the Philippine College of Physicians Foundation president, about 32,000 potential deaths were averted in 2013 alone following the signing of Republic Act No. 10351 the Sin Tax Reform Law.

Then  President Benigno Aquino III, a smoker, the Sin Tax Reform Law  in December 2012. 

The law was intended to reduce tobacco consumption my making tobacco products less affordable.

According to Leachon, prevalence among adult Filipino smokers dropped to 25.4% in 2013 from 31% in 2008, following the implementation of the law.

"There are 3.2 million less smokers in the country today because of the sin tax law," he said. Leachon was among the staunch advocates of RA 10351.

In March, the Department of Health said the Philippines hit a positive mark on tobacco control as a result of the effective taxation. A 2015 survey revealed a significant drop of Filipino smokers  to 15.9 million in 2015, from 17 million in 2009.

This reduction makes more than one million Filipinos less vulnerable to cancer, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, DOH officials said.

Despite the positive development, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial said that the country still stands among countries with the highest prevalence of smokers.

As such, more effort is needed to bring down the annual economic loss of approximately P188 billion from tobacco-related hospitalization that lead to productivity loss.

The DOH stands firm in supporting all initiatives on smoking bans in public places in the country. (READ: DOH chief opposes bill on 2-tier cigarette tax)

Local legislation to control tobacco

The smoking ban in Iloilo City is one of the major campaigns of the city government since a local ordinance was passed in September 2006.

The first Comprehensive Anti-Smoking Ordinance was sponsored by former councilors Julienne Baronda and Merci Drilon-Garcia, both public health advocates.

Ordinance No. 2006-150 was passed amid opposition from tobacco companies.

“The city government was initially reluctant to step up action for tobacco sale through local legislation because the tobacco industry lobby was also aggressive against legislations that totally ban cigarette smoking in public places," said Iloilo City Councilor Joshua Alim.

Alim introduced amendments to the ordinance in 2013 to be more responsive with the changing times. The second anti-smoking ordinance or Ord. No. 2013-348 was passed.

It hinted a total ban on cigarette smoking and discouraged designated areas for smoking within enclosed structures. It also imposed stiffer individual and administrative penalties.

Commercial establishments are also required to comply to the no-smoking requirement in securing or renewing business permits.

In 2014, Alim pushed local tobacco control by passing another ordinance  – Regulation Ordinance 2014-217, which prohibited tobacco advertising, promotion, and sponsorship within Iloilo City.  

Since then, Iloilo City has reaped both applause and criticism, especially from visiting guests. 

“Upholding public health against the ill-impacts of tobacco is a primordial responsibility of local governments,” said Alim. “We need to set the mechanisms for tobacco control,” Alim said.

While passage of an ordinance can be a local government unit (LGU) initiative, it is usually passed to complement national government programs.

Alim, a practicing lawyer, emphasized that the passage of the anti-smoking ordinance reflects the LGU's support the Philippines' commitment to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. 

“The ordinance stands in consonance with other laws like the Tobacco Regulation Act and the Sin Tax Law,” said Alim. – Rappler.com

Ted Aldwin E. Ong is a social development worker based in Iloilo and a senior policy analyst of the Center for Power Issues and Initiatives.

The story was produced by the writer under the ‘Mga Nagbabagong Kuwento: Reporting on Tobacco and Sin Tax Media Training and Fellowship Program’ by Probe Media Foundation with the support of the Tobacco Free Kids.

‘Free Tuition Watch’ campaign launched on Facebook


REPORT. Students may report any kind of feedback about the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy through the Free Tuition Watch. Photo by Marian Plaza/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has been allocated P8.3 billion to support the free tuition policy in all 114 state colleges and universities (SUCs), and there will expectedly be some kinks to iron out as students avail themselves of this benefit for the first time. 

Various student organizations, led by Agham Youth, want to monitor the implementation by crowdsourcing reports where college students often are – on social media.

On Thursday, June 15, they launched the Free Tuition Watch (FTW) page on Facebook. They encourage students to send personal messages or post testimonies on the page.

Kailangan natin itong datos na ito para makakuha tayo ng bird’s eye view kung ano'ng nangyayari ba sa Free Tuition Policy na 'tinutulak ng gobyerno,” said Miguel Aljibe, chairperson of the University of the Philippines Manila University Student Council.

(We need these data to get a bird’s eye view of what is really going on with the Free Tuition Policy the government is pushing.)

To file a report, the student should provide the following information:

  • Name
  • School
  • School Address
  • Report

The Polytechnic University of the Philippines is one of the first SUCs to experience the implementation of the Free Tuition Policy this school year, and Agham Youth's representative in PUP, Duke Ian Buenaventura, is optimistic other schools will be able to do it hassle-free.

Kung kaya ng PUP na ipatupad ang no tuition collection ngayong first semester ay tiyak na kaya rin ito ng iba’t iba pang SUCs dahil higit nga sa sapat ang P8.3 billion budget,” he said.

(If PUP can implement the no tuition collection this first semester, surely other SUCs can do it too, because the P8.3 billion budget is more than enough,” he said.

Aside from CHED's free tuition program – which includes medical students in 8 SUCs – lawmakers are confident President Rodrigo Duterte will sign into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act by June or July. – Rappler.com

Marian Plaza is a Rappler intern. She is a journalism student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.


Disaster risk reduction community to gather for Agos Summit


MANILA, Philippines – Responders, decision-makers, and advocates of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation (DRR-CCA) will gather from July 7 to 8 for the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedeness at the Samsung Hall of the SM Aura Mall in Taguig City.

The summit builds on the work of Agos, powered by eBayanihan, a disaster information management platform that amplifies and crowdsources critical information before, during, and after disasters. Together with its partner agencies, organizations, and volunteers, Agos enables disaster managers, local leaders, and responders to make quick life-saving decisions.

The summit, which is organized by Rappler’s civic engagement arm MovePH, aims to highlight best practices and innovations in DRR-CCA. The Summit also aims to train responders and volunteers in the use of social media, technology, and crowdsourcing in times of crisis. 

Invited speakers include leaders of the agencies involved in disaster preparedness and response like Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, and Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Senator Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Danilo Lim were also invited to speak at the event.

Program highlights

Day 1 of the two-day summit will focus on how we can prepare for the Big One – a 7.2 magnitude earthquake that could devastate Metro Manila. Speakers from the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will talk about the upcoming 2017 Metro Manila Shake Drill, scheduled on July 15 to 17. 

Day 2 of the summit will focus on a broad range of topics anchored on the different phases of a disaster. Partner organizations which will lead the discussions during the summit include Oxfam, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), UNICEF, the Ateneo de Manila University, and the local government of Pasig City. 

XChange Fair

The XChange Fair will be held simultaneously with the summit featuring booths and exhibits by DRR community. It is open to the public and will showcase the latest rescue and response gear and best practices. 

MovePH is also open to partnerships with organizations and companies who want to be part of the Agos Summit’s program and XChange Fair. Contact move.ph+agos@rappler.com to inquire about the Agos Summit partnership program. 

The event is open to the public but seats are limited and must be reserved ahead of time. Pre-registration for a limited number of early-bird seats opens on June 16. General admission tickets will be available beginning June 21. 

Pre-register here:


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Don’t miss this engaging and educational event. Register today for the Agos Summit on Disaster Preparedness. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Help soldiers, civilians in Marawi through #OgopMarawi


MANILA, Philippines – Be a hero for our hero soldiers and cops, and for the civilians affected by the crisis in Marawi City.

Colonel Thomas Sedano Jr of the Philippine Army's Civil Military Operations Group (CMOG) made the appeal at the launch of #OgopMarawi on Tuesday, June 13.

#OgopMarawi is the relief operations spearheaded by CMOG for the benefit of the soldiers and affected civilians in Marawi.

Ogop means “help” in Maranao, Sedano explained.

“In doing our commitment of serving Filipinos better, we in the CMOG intend to extend our help not just to our Muslim and Christian brothers affected by the Marawi siege, but also to our fellow troops fighting for peace in Marawi city with the help of our stakeholders,” he added.

Relief operations

As of June 9, at least 58 soldiers and police have been killed in the battlefield of Marawi since the siege began on May 23. The government paid tribute to them through a noontime salute on Monday, June 12.

Continuing heavy clashes between government troops and local terrorist groups have torn down high-rise buildings in Banggolo, among the region's busiest trading centers in Marawi. Images of destruction in the crisis-hit city rendered the place unfamiliar to Marawi residents who grew up there. 

Majority of the residents have also fled their homes to seek refuge in nearby provinces. 

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), at least 65,198 families or 316,684 persons have been affected by the crisis as of June 13. Of this figure, 3,074 families or 14,772 persons are in 68 evacuation centers spread out in and around the crisis-hit city of Marawi.

To address the diverse needs of those affected by the crisis, #OgopMarawi has 3sub-categories.

  • Project shoebox to provide school supplies to about 50,000 children and students

  • Bayanihan para sa mga Bayani ng Bayan to provide clothes, hygiene kits, and inspirational messages for the troops

  • Relief operations to provide aid to thousands of civilians displaced by the conflict

The Philippine army is not alone in this endeavor.

Partner institutions such as the JCI San Juan Dambana and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, and First Kick for Peace Foundation turned over boxes of donations to the CMOG for #OgopMarawi.

“These donations will give hope for the children, soldiers, and people. Our mission is to spread hope and love,” said Katherine Yap of JCI San Juan Dambana.

How to help

To reach more people affected by the crisis, Philippine Army chief Major General Robert Arevalo called on to the public to show solidarity with the affected civilians, and security forces by supporting the army-initiated relief operations.

“In this time when our hope for peace is not our best ally, every effort, every act of kindness does not only deliver relief to meet their basic needs. It also brings hope and relief to our their spirits, for every act of kindness is a message of support for peace,” Arevalo said.

Here’s how you can support #OgopMarawi:

  • To help the civilians affected by the conflict, you may donate halal food, bottled water, clothes, hygiene kits and medicines.
  • To help soldiers deployed to Marawi, you may donate clothes, hygiene kits, and inspirational messages, to JCI San Juan Dambana. Drop off stations are located at the Logistics Support Group, ASCOM, Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifactio and Strata Views, 306 P. Guevarra St., San Juan City, and CMOG, PA Lawton Avenue, Fort Bonifacio.
  • To help send Marawi students to school, fill a shoebox with basic school supplies, hygiene kit, and inspirational messages. 
  • Cash donations are accepted. For bank information, please contact Shiela Baay of JCI San Juan Dambana at 09178778152. 

Those interested to support the #OgopMarawi may get in touch with Major Mike Ramirez of the Philippine Army CMOG at 09083972712. – Rappler.com

DepEd provides psych first aid for displaced Marawi students


ASSISTANCE. The Department of Education provides psychological first aid to students displaced by the conflict in Marawi. Photo from the Department of Education

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Education (DepEd) started providing psychological first aid on Wednesday, June 14, for students displaced by the conflict in Marawi City last May.

The assistance is being conducted in the receiving schools in Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Iligan City where most of the displaced students were enrolled.

Psychological first aid aims to reduce stress symptoms and assist in a healthy recovery following a traumatic event.

According to DepEd Director Ronilda Co of the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Service, there are 4,685 elementary and high school students in 142 receiving schools recorded by the department's tracking team.

"Tracking is ongoing as the numbers of learners from Marawi who are enrolling are growing in numbers by the day," said Co.

Public elementary and high schools nationwide opened their doors to 22.89 million students on June 5. For schools in Marawi City and 8 other districts in Lanao del Sur, classes have been postponed for two weeks, at most.

Around 5,000 learners are affected by the conflict in Marawi City, the DepEd said.

Easing trauma

According to Co, several groups are providing assistance in conducting the sessions.

Trained guidance counselors, partners from the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, the ensemble Sining Kambayoka of Marawi City, World Vision, school nurses, and personnel of the department's divisions help in conducting sessions.

"The (psychological first aid) shall continue until all displaced learners in receiving schools have gone through the sessions," said Co.

"Continuing (sessions) with peacebuilding components shall be done on a daily basis using the homeroom period," she added.

One student from Iligan City Central School shared during their session that he wants to be an engineer and be back in Marawi.

BACK IN MARAWI. In one of the sessions, a student wrote that he wants to be back in Marawi. Photo from the Department of Education

"I want to be an engineer because if this house is broke, I want to build again because that is our house in Marawi and I want to go back in Marawi," the student wrote.

On May 23, clashes erupted in Marawi City as the military moved to hunt down "high-value targets" from the Maute Group and the Abu Sayyaf Group, driving away thousands of families. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on the first day of the clashes. (READ: Martial law in Mindanao: School opening to bring 'sense of normalcy')

As of Tuesday, June 13, 65,198 families or 316,684 people have been displaced due to the conflict. (READ: How a father fled Marawi to save kids, wife in labor– Rappler.com

Is there hope for Pasig River rehab? Microorganisms can help


MUD BALLS. Effective Microorganism mud balls can help restore Pasig River. Photo by Bea Herrera/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Can we restore the Pasig River to its original state again?

We can. And this can be done with the help of microorganisms, advocates say.

Back in the day, the Pasig River used to be a potable source of water. Since it connects Manila Bay to Laguna de Bay, it was once an active traveling route for residents.

But after massive industrial development, it became heavily polluted.

The Pasig River has been considered "dead with no more aquatic life" since 1994. "Sewage and garbage were disposed there – a septic tank," said John Mendoza of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC).

The ultimate goal of the Pasig River clean-up is to revitalize its tributaries and esteros one by one to make the river class C again – where aquatic life can live and thrive. (WATCH: Esteros and the river warriors)

With the help of Effective Microorganism (EM) mud balls, Pasig River's contaminated water and soil can be cleansed again.


Microorganisms present in EM mud balls turn harmful bacteria into helpful ones that help in breaking down organic waste.

This is part of a larger process called "bioremediation" where microbes clean up contaminated water and soil by secreting enzymes that break down contaminants into smaller pieces.

The microbes then consume the broken-down contaminants, thus helping reduce waste in polluted waters.

HELPFUL MICROBES. EM mud balls are being formed in an activity by the PRRC and Bayani Brew on June 8. Photo by Bea Herrera/Rappler

EM mud balls contain lactic acid which keep harmful microbes away; photosynthetic bacteria which suppress harmful odor; and yeast which helps grow aquatic life.

These are shaped into balls and are stored for 14 days, allowing molds to form and harden.

According to Rina Papio of Earth Venture, "bacteria are easily neglected because [these are] not seen but microorganisms are nature's warriors."

"(But) mud balls aren't the first line of defense. As long as (there's trash), there's no use. We need the river to be cleaned of solid waste," she said.

On June 8, another batch of EM mud balls was released at Estero de Sampaloc as part of the Pasig River clean-up. It was considered rehabilitated in 2014, along with the Estero de Valencia.


NEW MUD BALLS. New mud balls are released at Estero de Sampaloc on June 8. Photo by Bea Herrera/Rappler

Informal settlers dumping trash into waterways has been a problem of the PRRC. (READ: Taytay creek is water rehab model for Southeast Asia)

The PRRC said that only 15 esteros are ready for bioremediation. The commission said they need the help of the National Housing Authority to help relocate the families so that parks can be built around esteros.

In 2000, a relocation program was started to create a 10-meter easement on both sides of the tributaries and the Pasig River channel to be designated as "environmental preservation areas."

The project aimed to improve water quality as 65% of garbage that end up in the waterways comes from nearby informal settler communities.

In 2016, the Commission on Audit criticized the slow pace of relocation of informal settler families by the PRRC along the Pasig River, after failing to rehabilitate the river's waterways in 2015.

Will we ever see the Pasig River clean again? – Patricia Dy and Bea Herrera/Rappler.com

Patricia Dy and Bea Herrera are Rappler interns

Marawi clash evacuees now volunteers


HELP. Student volunteers help in bringing goods. Photo by Wendy Perocho Salva

ILIGAN, Philippines –  Like any other Tuesday,  Tenny Andam, Valerie Malinis, and Edward Borres were going about their usual activities as students of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City.

Tenny was in school to schedule his thesis defense while Valerie was preparing for her board exam review. Edward, who had no classes, was back home, playing computer games with his housemates.

They knew that day, May 23, was not just like any other Tuesday when they heard gunshots. The military and the Maute group began clashing in their city. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

The days that followed were the longest for the MSU students and faculty who were trapped inside the university. (READ: Hundreds still trapped in Marawi as crisis enters 3rd week)

They first sought refuge at the Princess Lawanen Hall, one of the dormitories inside the university. The food that they managed to gather were not enough for the evacuees inside the dormitory, the students said. (READ: Trapped Marawi residents dying of hunger?)

Aside from the limited resources, the evacuees were traumatized by the constant gunfire and the bombings, prompting them to flee to a safer place two days after the clashes began (LOOK:  Marawi: Images from a ghost town)

Travel to Iligan

On the morning of May 25, the 3 students decided to head to Iligan City. The traffic was heavy as many other residents were fleeing Marawi. (READ: Thousands flee Marawi to escape clashes)

They experienced hunger and thirst along the way but other residents were generous enough to share their food and water to them. (READ: Students walk 32 kilometers to flee Marawi)

After 9 hours of travel for a trip that usually took an hour and a half, the students reached Iligan City at 7:30 pm. Travel time from Marawi to Iligan took just an hour and a half on normal days.

When they reached the city center, they saw  their fellow evacuees who who were terribly affected by the war. That was when the students decided to become volunteers at the evacuation centers. (READ: Marawi under siege: It's like 'looking at Aleppo')

VOLUNTEERS. Students help in cooking and distributing food for those displaced by the crisis in Marawi. Photo by Wendy Perocho Salva

"Gusto ko motabang sa mga biktima dadto kay ako isa pud sa mga biktima (I want to help the victims there because I was also a victim)," said Edward.

"Nadama (ko) ang kanilang paghihirap kasi isa rin ako sa naghirap. Kaya ako ay tutulong sa aking kapwa tao (I know their hardships because I also experienced [it]. That's why I will help my fellowmen)," said Tenny.

Language barrier

Valerie, a social work student, said that the huge language barrier is one of the biggest challenges that they faced at the evacuation centers.

She said she grabbed the opportunity to help so that they can break the barrier. (READ: Maranao student helps build Muslim-Christian understanding in evacuation site)

"Isip 21 uno ka tuig nako sa MSU Main, napalapit ko sa mga Maranao. Ang problema nga akong nakita kai ang language barrier gyud (As a 21-year old in MSU Main, I got closer to the people from Maranao. The problem I saw was the language barrier)," said Valerie.

"Maong gi grab na nako ang opportunity nga maka-volunteer ko para makatabang ko sa pag communicate sa ilaha (That's why I grabbed the opportunity to volunteer so I can help communicating for them)," she added.

The crisis in Marawi City started with a military raid on May 23 targetting Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapilon. Clashes erupted between soldiers and members of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on the first day of the clashes.

According to the social welfare department, 65,198 families or 316,684 people have been displaced due to the conflict as of Tuesday, June 13. – Rappler.com

Wendy Perocho Salva is a student volunteer from Marawi City

Lighting up far-flung communities in the PH


SYMBOLIC. More than providing physical light to household, Light Up Philippines also hope to help provide a brighter future for the children beneficiaries. All photos from JCI Cebu

MANILA, Philippines – In 2015, the photo of Daniel Cabrera studying by the light outside a fastfood chain went viral on social media. 

The photo caught the public's heart and he became a symbol and hope for Philippine education.

More than inspiring netizens about the diligence of the young boy, the photo also shed light on the many problems affecting the Filipino youth in the Philippines.

One of them is the reality that access to electricity remains a challenge in many communities across the archipelago. 

In 2015, the viral photo inspired JCI Cebu, Inc. to start a campaign addressing this problem in off-grid communities in Cebu, relying mainly on the power of renewable source of energy. 

Barely two years later, the campaign expanded to the whole country with the launch of Light Up Philippines on Friday, June 16 in Cebu City. 

Lighting up Cebu

A study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies in 2013 revealed that an estimated 16 million Filipinos still do not have access to electricity. 

The study found out that majority of these Filipinos who have no access to electricty are actually located in island and mountain barangays – places power companies have not reached yet. If not too expensive, applying for access to electricity in these areas are also tedious and close to impossible. 

Unfortunately, there are a number of primary and secondary schools in these off-grid communities. 

With the end goal of providing indigent students in these communities an opportunity to further excel in their studies, JCI Cebu, with its partners, distributed 100 solar kits to a hundred families.

This initiative benefitted at least 500 students. 

The project targeted 5 island and mountain barangays in Cebu: Brgy. Labangon, Brgy. Toong, and Brgy. Buhisan in Cebu City; Hilutungan Island in Mactan; and Kinatarcan Island in Bantayan. 

Brighter future

With the success of their chapter initiative in Cebu, JCI Inc., is geared towards expanding their advocacy in a bigger scale through Light Up Philippines. 

Their goal is to light up 20,000 households and benefit 25,000 families and 100,000 children. (READ: 'Access to energy is so important in the fight against poverty')

WHOLE COUNTRY. Light Up Philippines, launched in June 16, 2017, aims to light up 20,000 households in off-grid communities across the country

"Light Up Philippines serves as our inspiration to continue doing sustainable projects that will help empower communities," the group said in a statement. 

Aside from providing physical light, JCI said the project also aims to provide a brighter future for these children to maximize their potential. 

Light Up Philippines also pushes forward at least 5 advocacies under the the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Quality Education - Ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning;

  • Affordable and Clean Energy - Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all;

  • Climate Action - Taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impact;

  • Peace is Possible  - promoting Just, peaceful and inclusive societies, and;

  • Partnership for the Goals - Revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development.

To make this possible, Light Up Philippines also opened itself for possible collaboration with other institutions that also champion the same cause. – Rappler.com 

For questions or concerns, you may contact JCI Mem. Joeven Lee, National Chairman, Light Up Philippines at joevenlee@yahoo.com or +63922-8209430.

Global displacement hits record high due to war, persecution - UN


SAVE A LIFE. By the time you finish this sentence, someone will have been displaced by war, conflict and violence. In 2016, 10.3 million were newly displaced, an equivalent of one person every three seconds. Photo credit:UNHCR/A. McConnell

MANILA, Philippines – The number of displaced people in the world has risen to a new record high due to war, persecution, and violence, according to the latest report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends report says there were 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2016 – some 300,000 more than the previous year. The total number represents the enormous population in need of protection by international agencies and states, according to the UNHCR.

Of this number, 22.5 million are refugees – those forced to leave their country; 40.3 million are displaced persons or those who find temporary shelter within the same country; and 2.8 million are asylum seekers – people who have fled their country and are seeing international protection as refugees. 

“By any measure this is an unacceptable number, and it speaks louder than ever to the need for solidarity and common purpose in preventing and resolving crises, and ensuring together that the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum seekers are properly protected and cared for while solutions are pursued,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

Protecting refugees from persecution, violence, and sickness adds to the immense human cost of war and conflict globally. But the UN Refugee Agency says this should not deter governments from taking concrete action today.

“We have to do better for these people. For a world in conflict, what is needed is determination and courage, not fear,” added Grandi. (READ: More solidarity with refugees needed as forced displacement rises)

“When we stand together with refugees, we also stand for respect and diversity for all,” says UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi. Photo credit: UNHCR/F. Al-Khateeb

Global conflict 

The conflict in Syria has produced the largest number of refugees at 5.5 million and displaced people overall at 12 million people. The civil war, compounded by the battle to defeat the ISIS group, has devastated cities and left millions of Syrians vulnerable and without homes. 

Children, who make up half the world’s refugees, continue to bear a disproportionate burden of the suffering, mainly because of their greater vulnerability. Tragically, 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. The report says even this number is likely to underestimate the true figure. 

UNHCR produces its Global Trends report annually ahead of World Refugee Day on June 20. – Rappler.com 

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, encourages Filipinos to stand in solidarity#WithRefugees and with families torn apart by war, conflict and violence. To learn more how you can help, please visit: http://donate.unhcr.ph/refugees.

UP student who hails from Marawi to deliver valedictory speech


PROUD MARANAO. UP student Arman Ali Ghodsinia is expected to deliver the valedictory address during the 106th commencement exercise in UP Diliman. Photo from UP Diliman Information Office

MANILA, Philippines – BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology summa cum laude graduate Arman Ali Ghodsinia will deliver the valedictory speech in the 106th commencement exercises of the University of the Philippines Diliman on Sunday, June 25. 

Ghodsinia obtained a General Weighted Average (GWA) of 1.176. His mother hails from Marawi City while his father is Iranian. 

Coming on the heels of the crisis in Marawi City, the inspiring story of Ghodsinia was welcome news for Filipino netizens. On social media, Filipinos congratulated and praised the young graduating student for his achievement. 

As of posting, the photo about Ghodsinia has garnered at least 5,400 reactions and 1,400 shares.  

Ghodsinia is a nephew of Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, one of President Rodrigo Duterte's appointees for the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. 

"It proves that there are many outstanding Bangsamoro out there. This is a great story. Now that he has grown, it is great to see him shine," Tomawis said in an interview with Rappler. 

Tomawis recently resigned from her post in May 2017 reportedly over Duterte's joke in Sulu when he said that he would take the blame for soldiers who commit rape while martial law is in effect.

According to Tomawis, Ghodsinia is "a very happy young boy. He's very joyful and friendly."

"Just him standing up there. That's the message. That's showing the world that he's doing his part in this society. That not all Maranaos are Maute," she added. 

The 22-year-old state scholar will speak on behalf of 36 summa cum laude students and 4,000 graduates.

Budget and Management Secretary Benjamin Diokno, will be conferred a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa degree at the commencement exercises. It is the university's highest rank and honor. 

Diokno, a professor emeritus at the UP School of Economics, will also be the commencement speaker. 

Here are the other summa cum laude students:  

  • Williard Joshua D. Jose (BS Electronics and Communications Engineering) – 1.058
  • Rangel DG. Daroya (BS Electronics and Communications Engineering) – 1.074
  • Patricia S. Sy (BA Sociology) – 1.089
  • Victor Carlo G. Irene (BA Philosophy) – 1.101
  • Stephanie Ann B. Lopez (BA Psychology) – 1.102
  • Paollo Deo R. Reyes (BS Statistics) – 1.103
  • Martin Anthony M. Salud (BA European Languages) – 1.104
  • John Ian V. Baytamo (BS Mechanical Engineering) – 1.115
  • Arla Mae Nicole T. Salcedo (BA Psychology) – 1.125
  • John Alexander O. Soriano (BS Business Administration and Accountancy) – 1.131
  • Jeynald Jeyromme L. Endaya (BS Computer Science) – 1.133
  • Johntee T. Tantuco (BS Industrial Engineering) – 1.152
  • Quirby Angelo S. Alberto (BS Industrial Engineering) – 1.154 
  • Angelica Cielo B. Gozar (BA Psychology) – 1.157
  • Philip Christopher S. Cruz (BS Physics) – 1.163
  • Krizzia Elyse B. Mañago (BA Linguistics) – 1.163
  • Jose Monfred C. Sy (BA Comparative Literature) – 1.166 
  • Marco Angelo DP. Samonte (BS Electronics and Communications Engineering) – 1.166 
  • Clare Feliz S. Tan (BS Computer Science) – 1.166 
  • Jan Patrick C. Tan (BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) – 1.168 
  • Kristine Larissa B. Yu (BS Chemistry) – 1.169
  • Christine Darla A. Bautista (BS Business Administration) – 1.171 
  • Christian Cariño (BS Chemistry) – 1.172
  • Corinna Victoria C. Martinez (BS Psychology) – 1.172
  • Marco G. Del Valle (BS Business Administration) – 1.173
  • Jennifer B. Rucio (BS Tourism) - 1.173
  • Ian Christian Belando Fernandez (BS Computer Engineering) – 1.177 
  • Ryan Timothy D. Yu (BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology) –  1.179 
  • Katherine Adrielle R. Bersola (Bachelor of Sports Science) – 1.118
  • Marly Vea Clarisse L. Elli (BA Linguistics) – 1.182 
  • Mary Anne Balane (BA English Studies) – 1.183 
  • Angelo Rafael E. Arcilla (BS Business Economics) – 1.183 
  • Erica Camille U. Lau (BS Business Administration and Accountancy) – 1.193 
  • Teod Carlo C. Cabili (BS Statistics) – 1.196 
  • Kamille Anne U. Areopagita (Bachelor of Fine Arts [Visual Communication]) – 1.197

– Rappler.com 

Danielle Nakpil is a former Rappler intern and a graduating student in UP Diliman

Pride March 2017 pushes for solidarity with LGBTQ+ community


PRIDE MARCH. In this file photo, LGBT groups and individuals gather at the Luneta to celebrate the 22nd Pride March in the Philippines on June 25, 2016.

MANILA, Philippines – Inside the Taggo Bar and Cafe, Pride March organizers Loreen Ordono and Nicky Castillo prepared for a June 20 press conference on the upcoming 2017 Pride March slated for Saturday, June 24.

As a lesbian parent, Ordono wants to see her daughter grow up in a country that does not only tolerate but also accepts and recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

It is the reason behind her being an active organizer in the 2017 Pride March, to be held in Marikina City, which has an LGBT-friendly city government. 

ORGANIZERS. Nicky Castillo and Loreen Ordono prepare for the 2017 Pride March scheduled on June 24. Photo by 
Timothy Palugod

"The reason why we're trying to go to different venues is because we want to make the Pride March the largest safe space for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community," said Ordono.

Nicky Castillo pointed out the progress of the campaign from 2014 to this year's theme.

"In 2014, the theme was Come Out for Love. In 2015, it was Fight For Love. And in 2016, it was Let Love In. If you notice, there's a national progression for the kind of action or the kind of impact that we want the Pride campaign to have on the community," she said. (READ: Why Gay Pride celebrations still exist)

Their decision to choose "Here Together" for this year's theme came from the need for solidarity to push for the causes of the LGBTQ+ community.

It is a call for the non-LGBTQ+ allies, friends, family, and other people to come out and celebrate love and the rights of the community. 


The results of a survey by Metro Manila Pride revealed three main issues that the community sought to tackle: first, lack of acceptance and violence in the home; second, discrimination in the workplace, third, bullying in schools.

"Many LGBT people are scared. It comes to a point where they need to deny themselves; yung thing that makes them feel like they're themselves. Because otherwise, there [is] going to be discrimination, violence," said Castillo 

She emphasized that most of the studies done by other organizations in the Philippines for the last ten years were consistent that the number one issue faced by the community is discrimination in the home – a place where they are supposed to feel safe. (READ: Is the Philippines really gay-friendly?)

But Ordono confided another problem that the LGBT community is facing: government policies that do not favor same-sex couples. 

"Right now, I don't have medical insurance because it's not provided in my work, but she has," Ordono explained.

"Apart from that, we bought a car and it's under her name. It's not under our name even though we are both paying for it," she added.

For Ordono, the Pride March serves as a platform where they can manifest their legitimate concerns like this. She is hopeful that, in time and with the help of the rest of the community and legislators, they will be able to convert their actions on the street to real-world policies. 

The 2017 Metro Manila Pride March on June 24 will be held at the Plaza de Los Alcaldes in front of the Marikina City Hall, from 12 pm to 9 pm. Rappler.com

Timothy Gerard Palugod is a Rappler intern and a student at the Lyceum of the Philippines University 

Full-face motorcycle helmets, bonnets banned in Rizal municipality


MANILA, Philippines – Motorcycle riders in the municipality of Morong, Rizal, are not allowed to wear full-face helmets and bonnets that conceal their faces, according to a memorandum order by Mayor Armando San Juan.

The order, dated June 2, says: "Concealment of one's face while travelling and moving around our area of jurisdiction is subject to inspection of authorities in Morong, Rizal."


According to municipal administrator Danilo Mendoza, the order is meant to protect the lives of the general public. He cited the death of barangay captain Roger Canios, who was shot in the head by an unidentified suspect who fled on a motorcycle.

Wearing motorcycle helmets, Mendoza said, is becoming ironic because they are used to protect the safety not of the riders or the citizens but of the killers. 

Even if Republic Act 10054 or the Motorcycle Helmet Act of 2009 mandates all motorcycle riders to wear a standard helmet, Mendoza said that the helmets are being used to conceal both the identities of the riders and their intention of attacking public officials.

Dito sa ’min, nakita ni Mayor na instead maka-protect mula sa accidents, which is the real purpose of 10054, instead 'yun (helmets) pa nagiging protection ng criminals in doing their criminal acts,” Mendoza told Rappler.

(Here, the Mayor saw that, instead of protecting the people from accidents, which is the real purpose of [Republic Act] 10054, the helmets give protection to the criminals in doing their criminal acts.)

After inspection and police find nothing suspicious with the motorcycle rider, the motorist is free to go, Mendoza said.

The Morong ordinance is similar to the “no helmet” policy in parts of Bulacan.

A councilor in Tuguegarao City has also raised concerns about the use of motorcycle helmets by criminals, citing the threat of crime and extrajudicial killings. – Rappler.com

Kaela Malig is a Rappler intern.

From vegetable vendor to Bicol's salon magnate


HUSBAND AND WIFE TEAM. Yco Tan with wife Elizabeth. Photo courtesy of Yco Tan

Yco Tan can still remember it clearly: the day he decided that he deserved a better life.

He was only 17. The eldest boy in a Filipino-Chinese family, he had been his family’s breadwinner for as long as he could remember. 

Yco was walking through a flooded market that day carrying a basketful of tomatoes. He had been doing the same thing almost every day for the last 10 years, but his heart seemed to carry the weight of the rainclouds that particular day.

The Tan family got by on the meager income from their stall in the local market where they sold tomatoes and onions. Every morning, Yco manned the stall then went to school at 5 pm. After school at 10 pm, he'd go to Divisoria to find anything else he could sell.

He wouldn’t call himself business-minded then. "Business-pilit (forced)" would have been more apt, he said.

On that fateful rainy day, the 17-year-old Yco trudged towards the delivery truck with his basket. He waded through floating trash and rotten vegetables, and just before he reached the end of the road, he saw two rats swimming beside him, as if they were racing him to dry ground.

“Is this really all my life can be?” he recalled asking himself. “There must be a better plan for me,” he said, while crying.

The rough way up

From that point on, Yco was willing to jump at any chance to get a better lease on life.

That opportunity came when a friend invited him to apply at an agency looking for Filipinos who want to work in Saudi Arabia. 

Since Yco was only 19 years old at the time, they had to rig his application to make it appear that he was 21, the minimum age requirement for applicants. It was a common practice among OFWs back in the day, he shared. 

Luck was in his favor, as Yco’s application passed. His friend, however, didn’t make the cut.

In 1984, 19-year-old Yco, along with 35 other Filipinos, flew to Saudi Arabia to work.  

Yco Tan with his co-workers in Sarawat Superstore, Jeddah, KSA. Photo courtesy of Yco Tan

Yco started working as a warehouse man for a department store, earning SR850 every month – barely equivalent to P5,000 at the time – a high salary for someone his age back in Manila. Young as he was, however, Yco had big dreams and “clamping cans” in a warehouse wasn’t going to be his life.  

The young Yco had his eyes set for a promotion, even though he knew he didn't have a strong chance, since the company rarely gave managerial positions to Filipinos. “The biggest challenge is still discrimination. At work, everybody knows that it’s the Filipinos who do most of the job. But when it comes to promotions, the last people they’d consider are Filipinos,” he said. 

This reality didn’t stop him from chasing his dream. When his supervisors noticed his dedication, Yco was promoted to work on the shop floor in just two years.

MANAGER. Because of his dedication, Yco Tan was given a managerial position just a few years after he started working. Photo courtesy of Yco Tan

His dream didn’t stop there, either. He eventually worked his way to becoming junior manager, and then an assistant manager.

Yco couldn’t get a higher promotion than that since the position of store manager required a college degree. After he insisted on it, Yco’s company offered to send him to school in exchange for years of service in the company. Yco took the offer and went to study marketing and management at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. After 3 years of studies, he went back to Saudi, finally as a store manager – a feat that no other Filipino in their company had ever achieved.

As manager, Yco led a staff of 175 people from 16 different countries. Having to work his way from the bottom up worked to his advantage: Yco knew the company better than anyone. Overall, he'd stayed with his employer for 18 years.

With his remittances, he sent his siblings to college. One became an engineer, another an accountant, and the youngest, a physical therapist.

"Kung hindi ako umalis, siguro kahit isa sa amin ay hindi makakapag-college (If I didn't leave, perhaps none of us would have been able to get a college degree)," he said.

While in Saudi, Yco met his wife, Elizabeth, a nurse at a private clinic in Jeddah. They have 3 kids: Joshua, Eryka, and Andrew. 


Having to fly from one branch to another eventually took a toll on Yco’s health. He was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis. In  2002, he decided to return to the Philippines. 

Yco, who had met success in Saudi, suddenly had to start from scratch again and build a new career in the Philippines.

He and his wife first tried their luck with a sewing business, manufacturing uniforms for the Philippine National Police (PNP). It didn’t work out well because of late payments.

In the early 2000s, beauty parlors were popping out fast all over the country and Yco partnered with his sister-in-law to start one. Their relationship turned sour and the Tans decided to open one in Bicol themselves. 

Yco had always thought big. He wanted his salon to be nothing less than great – a business mentality that, he said, is rare in the provinces. He needed a sizeable capital for the venture so Yco applied for a livelihood loan from LandBank. He got a P300,000-loan. 

The Tans opened their first salon, EveGate, in Tabaco City, Albay, which quickly became a hit among Albay’s middle class. They paid their loan immediately and opened other branches in the region.

Yco soon ventured into other businesses, all in the beauty and wellness industry and under the banner of the Tanvera Corporation. They opened Salon de Estudyante, a hair salon for the masses; Fresh Up Nail and Body Spa; and Spalon, a high-end salon and spa. 

As of writing, the Tans have a total of 16 salons, spread all over the Bicol region. Their 17th branch is set to open this year.

They branched into the distribution business through Adams Housing Salon Supply which distributes salon supplies, formula, and equipment in Albay; and also the Evegate Technical Development Training Academy, a TESDA-accredited school for aspiring beauty and hair technicians.

Team effort

TAN FAMILY. Yco Tan with wife Elizabeth and their 3 children receive an award.

Yco said his secret to success is the cooperation of his whole family in running the business. “It’s a team effort,” he said.

Because of his experience, Yco is in charge of the overall management of their business while Elizabeth takes care of training their employees. Son Joshua handles human resource and marketing.

Government agencies have recognized the family's efforts. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Region V honored Yco and his family with the Model OFW Family of the Year Award for 2012, while the Department of Labor and Employment gave their company the Outstanding Achievement in Entrepreneurship Award.

They also received the 2012 Outstanding Non-Agri-based Entrepreneur Award and the Gawad Entrepreneur Bagong Bayani Award from the LandBank of the Philippines.

Giving back

The Tans’ success goes beyond awards. With their businesses, they are able to give at least 250 people regular income, including  persons with disabilities (PWDs). 

Yco said the decision to hire PWDs was influenced by their house help who was a deaf mute.

"So everytime na nagtetraining si misis, nakikita namin siya na parang very attentive. Interesado siya. And when my wife asked her kung gusto niyang matuto, sabi niya very much willing daw siya,” Yco shared. After this, the Tans made sure to hire at least one PWD for every salon and give PWDs scholarship to their school. 

(Because once, I had a helper who was deaf and mute. And everytime my wife was training, we saw that she was very attentive. She was interested. And when my asked her if she wanted to learn, she said yes.)

In partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Tans also give free massage and physical therapy training to different communities in Bicol, automatically hiring the top 5 students of their classes. 

Their salons are also required to organize at least two outreach programs every year. They usually go to remote communities to provide free haircuts, manicure, pedicure, and massages. 

The Tans have also hired capable senior citizens in their salons who are tasked to provide "motherly care” to their staff. Working in a beauty salon, Yco said, can be an empowering experience and will give the elderly a chance to be productive again and to feel good about themselves.

“If we hire them, they become busy, earn money, and at the same time, become more beautiful. They get a reason and the means to dress up again and look good,” he shared in Filipino. 

The former OFW is the co-chairman of the UN’s Joint Migration and Development Initiative (JDMI) in Bicol, leading programs aimed to help families left behind by OFWs.

Advice to OFWs 

Having come far from selling vegetables at the local market, Yco has a lot of wisdom to share to OFWs pining for success.

First, he said, is to plan for their homecoming and business early. “I don’t want them to make the same mistake I did where I only thought about doing business when I’m already back,” he said. 

"Habang nasa abroad ka palang, pagaralan mo na ng mabuti. Kailangan you come home prepared. You do a project study. You do a business plan. Lumapit ka sa gobyerno kasi government has so many things na ibinibigay like free training. May mga loan pa sila,” added.  

(While you’re still abroad, study it carefully. You have to come home prepared - make a project study, business plan. Reach out to the government because they provide a lot like free training and loans.) 

This will help the OFW make calculated decisions and make sure that their hard-earned savings won’t go to waste.

Yco also said that OFWs need to learn to trust the government more. “Before, galit ako sa gobyerno. Feeling ko kinukuhanan lang nila ako (Before, I was mad at the government. I felt like they’re just getting money from me). But I realized that we can actually help each other, like when I got my livelihood loan from LandBank,” he shared. 

The OFW’s family must also realize that each member has a role to play in the success of the family. In his case, he shared that he couldn’t have been where he is now if not for his wife. “Habang si mister ay nasa abroad, si misis sa Pilipinas ay maaaring magnegosyo na (While the husband is abroad, his wife in the Philippines can start a business),” Yco said. 

Yco also said that an OFW and his or her family must choose a business that they are really passionate about. This would help make any task seem easy. “Kung ‘yung ginagawa mo ay ‘yung gusto ng puso mo, napakaikli ng 24 hours sa 'yo (If you’re doing what your heart really wants, 24 hours would be too short for you),” he said. 

As for Yco, he just keeps on moving forward. Just as he did when he was young, when he waded through the murky flood to reach his destination, he knows that challenges will keep on coming as he strives to reach his goals.  – Rappler.com

WATCH: UP Resilience Institute is Project NOAH's new home


UP NOAH. UP Resilience Institute executive director Mahar Lagmay (1st from L) and UP President Danilo Concepcion (4th from R) welcome disaster risk reduction champions during the relaunch of the institute, Project NOAH's new home, on June 21, 2017. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – A few days before the country observes the National Disaster Consciousness Month in July, the University of the Philippines relaunched its Resilience Institute (UP-RI), showcasing the integration of Project National Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH) as its flagship program.

"As a scientist who studies disasters, I'm aware of the importance of this day because I know that our problem regarding extreme weather will intensify in the next few years. Let's unite, appreciate the importance of science and technology, and above all, value the people behind them and the people they serve," UP-RI executive director Dr Mahar Lagmay said in his speech at the relaunching event in Ang Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman, Quezon City on Wednesday, June 21.

Before being adopted by UP, Project NOAH started out as a government project, providing real-time satellite data to empower communities and help them prepare against extreme natural hazards such as floods. The initiative, however, ended as a program under the Department of Science and technology (DOST) in early 2017. (READ: Gov't to stop Project NOAH due to 'lack of funds')

Project NOAH maintains a disaster management platform that provides data available for everyone to use. The services that Project NOAH provide disaster managers and the public include barangay-level hazard maps, near real-time weather information, storm surge advisories in affected localities, and apps and tools that make disaster preparation easier. 

Role of science in disaster risk reduction

Senator Loren Legarda, hailed the relaunch of the UP-RI, emphasizing the role of science and technology in preparing for disasters and in saving lives.

"The best strategies for disaster risk reduction are possible only with the guidance of science," Legarda, who heads the climate change and finance committees, said in her speech. 

"We need science in providing the depth and breadth of information that the public needs to make decisions and take early action," she added.

Project NOAH has been instrumental in improving disaster preparedness in the country, according to Legarda, assuring the institute of state funds and calling on donors to continue supporting the initiative.

"It has been very helpful particularly in providing accurate information and timely warnings to our agencies and communities. I am glad that it will be integrated within the UP Resilience Institute," Legarda said.

Other leading disaster risk reduction champions who attended the event were Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Climate Change Commissioner Secretary Vernice Victorio, UP President Danilo Concepcion, and UP Diliman Chancellor Dr Michael Tan.



Lessons on disaster preparedness and response

After 5 years of implementing Project NOAH, Lagmay said that his team of experts learned important things in combating disasters. 

"Tthe warning which the government gives should be reliable, understandable, accurate, and timely," Lagmay said. This is ensured by harnessing the best tools provided by science and technology, he said.

"We should always conduct researches on the latest and best practices to mitigate hazards. Such knowledge should be shared to benefit the people. It should not be kept from the public," he added in Filipino. 

Lagmay stressed that disaster data and information should be free and accessible especially during emergencies. 

"What's the use of data if it will not reach the people when it's needed the most?" he asked. 

Globally, the Philippines is among the 5 countries hit by the highest number of disasters. A 2015 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) showed that “90% of major disasters have been caused by 6,457 recorded floods, storms, heat waves, droughts and other weather-related events" that occured between 1995 and 2015. – Rappler.com

How do you keep kids safe on the road?


BUCKLING UP. Child safety seats can help prevent injuries in case of a crash. Photo by Senado Federal on Wikimedia Commons

MANILA, Philippines – Every year since 2010, more than 8,000 Filipinos have lost their lives due to road crashes. Among those at risk are children aged 14 years and below.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that an average of 671 Filipino children died every year from 2006 to 2014, with those 5-9 years old, and 10-14 years old, ending up the most vulnerable. (READ: IN NUMBERS: Road crash incidents in the Philippines)

Road crash injuries are also among the top causes of death for children, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As the Philippines marks National Safe Kids Week this third week of June, advocates are calling for stronger government and civil society action to protect children’s lives on the road. (READ: Road safety advocates seek passage of child restraint bill)

While the seat belt law protects children by banning them from sitting in the front seat of the vehicle, current road safety laws lack another layer of protection: requiring the use of child safety seats in motor vehicles. (READ: What laws help keep road users safe in the Philippines?)

What are child safety seats?

Child safety seats are designed to protect infants and young children from fatal injuries in the event of a crash. The seats are specially built according to a child’s size and weight.

They work by distributing the impact of the crash to the strongest parts of the child’s body. They also prevent the child from being ejected out of the vehicle, or colliding with the interior of the vehicle.

These child seats can only help reduce injuries during minor circumstances, such as a car’s abrupt halt or an unexpected door opening while the vehicle is moving.

To be effective, the seats must be appropriate to the child’s weight and must be properly fitted inside the vehicle.

What are the different types of child safety seats?

During the first few months of a child’s life, their body structure is still fragile and a small amount of force may cause severe damage.

A rear-facing child seat provides the best protection for infants. This type of safety seat is smaller, and is usually outfitted with a carrying handle and detachable base.

Some models also have a head support system to support the infant’s head and stop it from falling side to side.

PROTECTING CHILDREN. Road safety advocates say child seats should be required to help protect children.Photo from Wikipedia

Older children can use safety seats that can either be forward-facing or rear-facing. Compared to the infant child seats, these seats don’t have carrying handles, and are designed to be fixed onto the car. Harness straps keep the child in place and help spread the crash forces.

Children can use these seats until their weight exceeds 18 kg, or until they grow too tall for the harness.

Once they have outgrown these, the safety seats can be replaced with a bigger model that makes use of the adult seat belt in the car.

Booster seats are for children who don’t fit on the child safety seats, but are still too small for the adult seat belt. These seats are designed for children weighing between 15 kg to 25 kg.

These seats raise the child’s sitting position so that the adult seat belt is positioned at a safe area – over the bony areas of the shoulder rather than the neck, and low across the pelvis.

Are these effective?

According to the WHO, sitting in the back seat is the safest position for children inside a vehicle.

Without a safety seat, children sitting in the rear already have a 25% lower risk of being injured. But with child safety seats added as an extra layer of protection, the risk becomes 15% lower than children sitting in the front with safety seats.

The effectiveness of safety seats also varies depending on the type of seat used.

Children up to 4 years old have a 50% lower risk of injury in a forward-facing car seat, compared to 80% in a rear-facing child seat. In contrast, if they use an adult seat belt, the injury reduction is only 32%.– Jorilyn Gaa / Rappler.com

Jorilyn Gaa is a Rappler intern

Israel gives medicine, equipment to crisis-hit Marawi residents


HUMANITARIAN AID. Israel ambassador Ephraim Ben Matityau together with his wife Lizia Lu turns over medical supplies to Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon. Photo by the PRC

MANILA, Philippines – Israel has donated medical supplies and equipment to help those affected by the clashes in Marawi City.

On Thursday, June 22, the Embassy of Israel in Manila turned over P1 million worth of medical supplies, equipment, and medicines to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed us to lend a hand of support to the affected people in Marawi and the surrounding areas," said Israel ambassador Ephraim Ben Matityau.

The donations include emergency carts and medicines; portable nebulizer machines, ECG machines, and doppler; and oxygen tanks and basic medicine package, among others.

"We all hope for a speedy return of the population to their homes and normal life in time for the [Eid'l Fitr] celebration, and that peace and national harmony will be restored," said Matityau.

A basic health care unit was set up by the PRC in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte on June 8. (READ: How a father fled Marawi to save kids, wife in labor)

"We are grateful for the outpouring support we received from our partners and donors as the (PRC) continues with its humanitarian efforts for our brothers and sisters in Marawi crisis," said PRC Chairman and Senator Richard Gordon.

Intense fighting between government forces and the local terrorist groups has sparked fears of a humanitarian disaster. (READ: DOH to provide P27-M aid to Marawi City)

According to reports, 24 people have died due to dehydration and other health-related causes as of Sunday, June 18.

On Tuesday, June 20, the MMDA distributed 1,200 gallons of filtered gallons of potable water to 120 families from Marawi temporarily sheltered in Iligan City.


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Evacuees at the Basagad and Ma'had Abdul Hamid Al-Islamie evacuation centers, Purok 8 in Barangay Pacalundo, and Markazie National Highway in Barangay West Poblacion in Lanao del Norte received the drinking water.

The crisis in Marawi started when government troops clashed with the combined forces of the Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group on May 23. (READ: TIMELINE: Marawi clashes prompt martial law in all of Mindanao)

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, a total of 69,321 families or 338,674 individuals have been affected by the conflict as of Wednesday, June 21. (READ: Groups call for donations for crisis-hit Marawi)

Some 3,747 families or 17,724 persons are staying in 83 evacuation centers while 60,810 families or 297,110 persons are seeking refuge in other regions.

Since the clashes broke, several groups and individuals have extended assistance to the affected families. – with a report from Danielle Nakpil/Rappler.com

If you want to help internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City or if you have reports about their humanitarian needs like temporary shelter, relief goods, water, and hygiene kits, post them on the Agos map, text to 2929 (SMART and SUN), or tag MovePH on Twitter or Facebook. You may also link up with other organizations that called for donations.

WATCH: Can boys play with dolls?


MANILA, Philippines – Toys are toys.

Both girls and boys can play with dolls.

In Caloocan, I met Rowena and Angelo. This mother and son duo is challenging misconceptions among Filipino families – that boys should act this way, and girls that way.

Angelo loves to play with Barbie dolls. He also collects stickers of Disney characters, like Elsa of Frozen.

In the Philippines, some adults frown upon children like Angelo. They view Angelo’s hobbies as too “feminine”, hence should not be done by boys.

But not Rowena. She sees nothing wrong with Angelo playing with dolls.

“Me and his dad, we don’t disapprove of whatever our son’s gender may be,” Rowena said in Filipino. “What’s important is we guide him through proper education.”


Aside from dolls, Angelo is fascinated with art. 

He saves his allowance to buy dolls and art materials. Using his savings, Angelo also bought a pet fish and an aquarium.   

Rowena loves to share this anecdote whenever someone asks about Angelo’s passion for the arts: One day, Rowena was looking for the little boy. She figured her son was at the newly opened internet shop, so she went to pick him up. 

“I thought Angelo was playing computer games,” Rowena said. “But when I arrived at the internet shop, I saw that he wasn’t playing shooting games like the other kids.”

“He was painting using a computer program,” Rowena said, smiling.  

Judging children for the way they look or act is unfair. 

Such way of thinking is a form of gender-based discrimination, which limits children’s choices, actions, and opportunities. 

Gender-based discrimination stops children from freely expressing themselves. 

Children should have the freedom to choose what kinds of toys they want, what colors to wear, and the like. 

Instead of forcing children to act “like a girl” or “like a boy,” parents should love and accept children for who they are. 

Smart child

Aside from drawing, Angelo spends his afterschool hours reading.

He loves to read, so he can one day become a doctor. “He’s always on top of his classes,” Rowena said. 

“But we don’t pressure him at school,” the proud mom added. “We’re proud of him, whatever he achieves.”

The day was about to end and Angelo was just wrapping up his reading. 

He clutched a small Winnie the Pooh doll as he closed his book. Now he has to feed his pet fish, while his mom prepares their vegetable dinner.

Let’s hope that the Philippines will have more loving families like Rowena's and Angelo’s.

All children deserve love and acceptance, no ifs and buts. Love and acceptance begin at home. – Rappler.com

Fritzie Rodriguez is a development worker. She was a former journalist who covered stories on LGBT rights, children, and women.

Video produced by Fritzie Rodriguez; Video & graphic design by Roman Esguerra. They work at Save the Children, an international child rights organization providing health, education, and protection services to children. You can support its programs here.

When the PH opened its doors to Jewish refugees


GATHERING. The Frieders brothers and former President Manuel Quezon at Mariquina Hall, April 23, 1940. Photo courtesy of American Public Television

MANILA, Philippines – Did you know that the Philipines took in Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust?

Beginning in the early 1930s, the anti-semitic National Socialist German Workers' Party propaganda led by Adolf Hitler put millions of Jews into concentration camps. Escape was their only chance of survival but many countries shut down their borders to Jewish immigrants.

What many Filipinos do not know is that the Philippines opened its doors to over 1,300 Jewish refugees during that time.

Travel to safety

On Tuesday, June 20, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Manila hosted a special screening of Rescue in the Philippines: Refuge from the Holocaust, to celebrate World Refugee Day.

The film begins with Kristallnacht, an incident in 1938 where the Nazi burned down Jewish synagogues, arrested 30,000 Jews, and attacked their homes.

Following the brutality, President Manuel L. Quezon and US High Commissioner to the Philippines Paul McNutt issued 10,000 Philippine visas to Jews.

When they arrived in the country the Frieder brothers – Philip, Henry, Alex, Morris, and Herbert – supported and took care of the refugees. They helped by expanding their cigar business and seeking aid from different organizations in America.

Also known as “Manilaners,” the Jewish refugees resided in Marikina where Quezon gave a portion of his property to serve as their home.

Among the Manilaners were Lotte Hershfield and Martha Miadowski who both had their fair share of struggles in their new home – beginning a new life in a strange land was not easy.

Shortly after fleeing from the Nazis, the Manilaners faced the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in 1941. "We went through some very hard times in the Philippines….But, as you see, we survived," said Miadowski.

Hershfield said the Jewish refugees "would not be alive today if not for the Philippines."

From the White Russians in the 1920s, to the Vietnamese boat people, to the East Timorese seeking shelter, the Filipinos have always exuded the bayanihan (community) spirit.

Today, there are over 8,000 descendants of Manilaners.

"For Filipinos, World Refugee Day is also an opportunity to recall how past generations have demonstrated generosity to the most vulnerable people when it counted the most," said UNHCR Philippines head Yasser Saad.  (READ: More solidarity with refugees needed as forced displacement rises)

Displaced persons

According to the UNHCR, the number of forced displaced persons hit an alarming 65.6 million by the end of 2016.

Syria has the largest population of forced displaced persons with more than 12 million fleeing violence and persecution, based on data.

In the Philippines, the UNHCR reported that there were 348,370 persons of concern in the country in 2016. (READ: Displaced families in Marawi to receive P5,000 from DSWD)

As the number of displaced persons continues to rise, advocate and journalist Atom Araullo called for everyone to stand with refugees.

"All of us can act as individuals through donations or simply by an expression of solidarity. The world needs the collective action and commitment to help those fleeing conflict, violence, persecution, and natural disasters," Araullo said. – Rappler.com

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, encourages Filipinos to stand in solidarity #WithRefugees and with families torn apart by war, conflict and violence. To learn more how you can help, please visit http://donate.unhcr.ph/refugees.

Gari A. Acolola is a Rappler intern

#HereTogether: Thousands march for LGBTQ+ community


PRIDE MARCH. Thousands attend the 2017 Metro Manila Pride march in Marikina City on Saturday, June 24. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – There ere rainbow flags all over Plaza de los Alcaldes in Marikina City Saturday, June 24, as members and supporters of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community walked hand-in-hand to call for equality and inclusion in the country’s national agenda.

Organizers estimated around 5,000 people, mostly in creative rainbow outfits,  marched along the streets of the city, from the Plaza going around the Marikina Sports Center and Marikina Polytechnic College.

Fifteen colorful floats from the private sector and partner groups were part of the march.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, a known champion of the community, delivered the keynote speech at the Pride march. "The issues we fought decades ago are still being fought for today," she said.

"The President's macho politics have failed the LGBT community," Hontiveros added. (READ: Duterte, the 'benevolent sexist'?)

Loreen Ordono and Nicky Castillo, organizers of the event, said that they wanted "members, non-members, and allies of the LGBTQ community to unite in fighting for equal rights and resolving discrimination against the gay community."

Th 23rd Metro Manila Pride revolves around the theme "Here Together," a call for the community, its allies, friends, family, and even strangers, to come together in a safe space to celebrate love, rights, and Pride. (READ: Why Gay Pride celebrations still exist)

Previous years' themes were Come Out for Love (2014), Fight For Love (2015), and Let Love In (2016).


The country may be seen as "gay-friendly" but acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community has a long way to go. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law)

Research from the Trans Murder Monitoring project found that the Philippines is part of the top 10 countries with the most reported killings of trans- and gender-diverse people at 40 since 2008. Brazil tops the list at 845.

In a separate survey conducted by the organizers of the Pride March, respondents raise lack of acceptance and violence at home; discrimination in the workplace; and bullying in schools as the 3 main issues that the community face.

Billy Santo of the Project Red Ribbon, an organization that supports anti-stigma on HIV/AIDS especially on the members of the LGBTQ+ community, calls to end discrimination.

“The fact of acceptance is very hard in the (LGBTQ+) community especially here in the Philippines, for a homosexual men or women, or trans, because discrimination still exists,” said Santo.

More than two decades have passed before an anti-discrimination bill was debated in Congress. In March, the House of Representatives kicked off the hearing on House Bill No. 4982 or the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity Expression (SOGIE) Equality Act. – Rappler.com

Clyde Jayvy Villanueva is a Rappler intern

LOOK: Advocates form 'human leaf' to mark environment month


HUMAN FORMATION. Advocates formed a human-chain shaped as a leaf using green umbrellas in University of the Philippines Diliman.

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of environmental advocates gathered on Friday, June 23, at the University of the Philippines for a fair to cap off the celebration of environment month.

Spearheaded by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the event aimed to encourage Filipinos to connect with nature and rally to protect it.

The highlight of the fair is the human-chain leaf formation of 371 participants from various government agencies and non-government groups. Using green umbrellas, the group formed a "human leaf" as big as a basketball court.

According to Ammar Torrevillas, the facilitator from San Francisco High School in Quezon City, the activity sought to "strengthen and widen consciousness toward environment protection."

In the evening, performances from different artists and dance groups entertained the crowd. Among those who performed were Autotelic, Bayang Barrios, Chicosci, Ebe Dancel, Gloc9, Lou Bonnevie, and Mayonnaise, as well as dance numbers from the UP Streetdance Club, UP Dance Company, and UP Integrated School PEP Squad.

The month-long celebration featured different activities such as tree planting, environmental lectures, and exhibits.

The first youth Greenducation was also launched to raise awareness on environmental sustainability, in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.– Rappler.com

Clyde Jayvy Villanueva is a Rappler intern