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Lumad leaders to UN rapporteur: 'We're affected by wars which aren't ours'


INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' DAY. UN special rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz (3rd from L) link arms with indigenous leaders including Lambangian tribe leader Leticio Datuwata (4th from L) and Kulamanen Matigsalog Migsabela chairperson Magdalena Suhat-Herbilla during the celebration of the International Day of the World's Indigenous peoples on August 9, 2017 at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City

MANILA, Philippines – The declaration of martial law in Mindanao and the ongoing war between government forces and terrorists in Marawi City have further undermined the rights of indigenous peoples.

They claimed that the imposition of martial law has instilled fear among indigenous peoples and has displaced them from their communities.

"Noong diniklara ang martial law noong May 23, naramdaman agad namin. Naging istrikto ang checkpoints at hinihingian ng ID ang mga katutubo. Kapag walang ID, ituturing na terorista," Eufemia Cullamat, an elder of the Manobo tribe, said.

(We immediately felt the effects of martial law upon its declaration on May 23. Checkpoints have been stricter and indigenous peoples were asked to show their IDs. You're considered a terrorist if you don't have one.) 

On July 6, members of the Manobo tribe in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur left their village after bomber planes allegedy hovered over their community, Cullamat, an elder of the tribe, said.

To date, at least 89 alternative Lumad schools have been affected by "militarization" and indiscriminate firing in indigenous areas, according to Save Our Schools Network.

Indigenous peoples continue to lose their lands, territories, and resources, are unable to fully access basic social services, and are subjected to various forms of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings and displacement. 

Fear of rights violations

Meanwhile, an indigenous leader from the Lambangian tribe complained that their activities in their communities have also been restricted.

"Hindi ka makapag-activity kung wala kang consent sa local government at galing doon sa PNP o AFP," according to Leticio Datuwata, deputy secretary general of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement’s Katawhang Lumad (MPPM-KL).

(We cannot hold any activity without the consent of the local government and the Philippine National Police or the Armed Forces of the Philippines.)

"Ayaw namin ang martial law kasi ang martial law, mawala ang karapatan ng mga katutubong leader na i-invoke ang kanilang right of habeas corpus dahil sa sitwasyon ngayon," Datuwata said. 

(We oppose martial law because it takes away the right of indigenous leaders to petition for a writ of habeas corpus.)

The writ safeguards individual freedom against arbitrary state action. Its suspension only applies to "persons judicially charged for rebellion or offenses inherent in or directly connected with the invasion."

Datuwata feared that if they assert their rights, they will be identified with Leftist and Moro rebels.  

SAVE LUMAD SCHOOLS. The Lumad from Mindanao hold a rally on August 9, 2017 to protest against the alleged military attacks on Lumad schools and communities, slamming President Rodrigo Duterte's earlier statement that he will order the military to 'bomb lumad schools'. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

Not their wars

Datuwata also said that the conflict in Mindanao had worsened the situation of indigenous peoples there.

“We have been greatly affected by wars which are not ours," he said, adding that "the conflict is made worse by the recruitment and deployment of Lumads by all parties to the wars."

Since battles are waged in their territories and involve their own people, he emphasized the importance of involving the Lumad in any peace process, the recognition of the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA), and full respect of their rights in peace agreements or laws, such as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

At the end of the day, the Lumad people only wish for peace to come and for them to be able toreturn to their normal lives unharmed, Datuwata said.

Datuwata and other Lumad leaders shared their stories and issues with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations special rapporteur (UNSR) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in a gathering at the University of the Philippines Diliman in Quezon City on August 9 to observe the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples.

UN special rapporteur's call

The UN special rapporteur, herself an indigenous person from the Cordillera region, reminded the Duterte administration to uphold international human rights standards.

"On my part as the Special Rapporteur, it is really a basic violation of human rights – of indigenous peoples' right to mobility, to life, as well as the right to due process. You cannot just be identified and on that basis, be killed. That is totally against the international human rights standards that the government of the Philippines has ratified," Tauli-Corpuz said.

Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed power, the UNSR has received 20 cases of killings of indigenous peoples.

Tauli-Corpuz challenged indigenous peoples to “build their confidence and strengthen their own forms of governance and representation for them to be able to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials, and the private sector.”

She recognized that there are still a lot of tasks ahead for indigenous peoples to fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the UN Declaration and the IPRA. 

Know more about the plight of the indigenous peoples in Mindanao in this Rappler Talk interview with members of the Manobo tribe. (WATCH: The love-hate relationship between Duterte and the Lumad)



WATCH: Nanay Ely, the 82-year-old crocheter of Tayuman


STANDOUT. Nanay Ely, with her colorful crochet products, stands out under the LRT1 line in Tayuman, Manila. All photos by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Many vendors line Tayuman Street in Manila, selling second-hand books, street food, and trinkets and accessories – all driven by the common goal of make ends meet before day turns to night.  

In that long stretch of vendors, Luisa Pagindian stands out.

Amid faded buildings and a trash-strewn street, Pangindian sells colorful crocheted products that she made herself. Each one, priced from P100 to P300 ($1.96 to $5.88), is unique, she says with pride.

That is not the only thing that sets her apart from other vendors: Pangindian, who is turning 83 on August 24, is the oldest vendor on that street. 

“Ang paggantsilyo ay isang libangan. Bukod sa libangan, isa na ring hanapbuhay na rin na kinakabuhay ko rin  (Crocheting is a hobby. Aside from a hobby, this is how I make a living as well)," she says.

Crochet is life

Nanay Ely, as many of her customers call her, would sometimes wake up at 2 am or 4 am – never later than 5 am. For a street vendor like her, waking up early increases her chances of selling more products.

Pangindian lives alone in a cramped room in Caloocan. Her living space of 15 meters holds her bed, cabinet, kitchen, and bathroom. At sunrise, she would head to the streets, tugging along a big bag with all her yarns and products – bottle covers, sling bags, purses, and even shoes.

Once she finds a nice spot on the streets, she would fix her mat, carefully display her crocheted products, and start crocheting her day away. 

Natuto ko po ito sa sarili ko lang, sa sariling isip ko. Wala hong nagturo kasi 'di naman ho ako napag-aral (I learned this on my own. Nobody taught me since I wasn't able to finish school)," Pangindian says matter-of-factly.

Nanay Ely only reached Grade 1. She says when she was growing up, it was okay for girls not to get formal education.

Pangindian says she already considered earning her keep from crocheting when she was only a teenager. Even then, she knew she had to work hard to survive since she had no education, and that retirement was a luxury she could not afford when she turned 60.  (READ: FAST FACTS: What benefits are senior citizens entitled to?)

Sole breadwinner

Before learning how to crochet, however, Pangindian said she ventured in all sorts of small enterprises just so she could raise her 8 children.

Nagluto ako ng halayang ube, leche flan. Hinahatid ko sa city hall ng Maynila. Nagtinda ako roon. Dati, wala pang pintuan 'yun eh, eh ngayon may pintuan na, mahigpit na ngayon ang city hall. Hindi basta nakakapasok ho,” she recalled.

(I made ube jam, leche flan. I would bring them to the Manila city hall. They did not have a door then. Now, they already have one and they became stricter since then.)

HOME SWEET HOME. Nanay Ely lives alone in a 15-square-meter apartment

When she was pregnant with her 8th child, Pangindian discovered that her husband was having an affair. This was the start of her story as the sole breadwinner of the family.

“Ay hindi ko na pinakialaman. Eh ginusto niya eh. Sabi, kapag mahal mo raw hindi mo guguluhin. Hindi ko ginulo, hanggang sa namatay (I did not bother him. He wanted that. It's been said that if you love someone, you will just let them be. So, I let him be until he died.)

This is the love advice that she followed her whole life.

Standing both as mother and father, Pangindian showed her children tough love. She once tied her son near an ant colony with the kind of big red ants that bite and leave painful bumps on the skin, after he disobeyed her order not leave the house while she was at work.

Her biggest achievement, she says, is sending all her children to school. None of them had to beg nor work.

“Kaya awa ng Diyos, wala akong anak na naglimay sa kalye at mag apo (By God's grace, none of my children or grandchildren begged on the street)," she says. 

Her children are all grown up, some with their own families. She refused to take money from them even if they offered.

Eh ang mga anak ko naman hihingian ko, namerwisyo pa ako. Dapat napupunta na lang sa mga apo o anak nila. Basta kumikita ako, okay lang (If I ask money from them, I would be a burden. They could give the money to me instead of spending on their child or grandchildren. I am okay as long as I can still earn)," she says.


Besides, Nanay Ely enjoys her work. She’s 82 but she says she does not feel her age at all.

“Alam 'nyo kahit itong edad na ‘to, hindi pa rin to mahina. ‘Yun nga lang napinsala tenga ko no, pero malakas pa ‘to….Dapat talaga kumita. Maganda ang kumikita (Despite my age, I am still able. Aside from my poor hearing, I am still strong. I can still earn on my own. It's nice to make a living)," she says.

Her earnings vary. On a good day, she earns P1,000 to P1,500 ($19.60 to $29.41). On other days, she can only sell 3 products and earn only around P300 ($5.88).

The old crocheter added that she can finish creating one bottle cover in less than two hours.

Pero kapag napa-tsismis umaabot ng 4 ng oras. Siyempre kuwento-kuwento 'yun, ganon ho (If I get into gossiping, it would take me four hours to finish one product),” she says.

CROCHET. Nanay Ely sells her knitted products for P100 to P300 each

When she was young, Nanay Ely suffered hearing loss in the right ear after an accident. Her old age has also weakened her hearing in her left ear, but this has not deterred her from talking.

She would take visual cues from her customers and would just keep on talking about her products until she would end up telling bits and pieces of her life that has spanned 8 decades.

This was how she went viral online.

Early in July, Sean Aleta posted photos of Nanay Ely on Facebook and promoted her products. At least 9,600 netizens reacted to the post, praising Nanay Ely for her hard work, while 3,300 shared it. 

Day-to-day survival

While inspiring, Nanay Ely’s story is not all that pretty. (READ: Without pension, senior citizens forced to continue working

There are laws and policies in the Philippines that are supposed to ensure that indigent seniors – those who are old and sickly and do not receive pension from state-run pension agencies – like Nanay Ely would not need to break their backs just to continue living a comfortable life. 

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), of the 7 to 8 million senior citizens in the country, an estimated 5.5 million are indigent. 

To  “augment [their] daily subsistence and other medical needs," the DSWD gives P1,500 ($29.41) to poor senior citizens every quarter under its  Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC).  

Only 2.8 million seniors, however, are currently enrolled in the program, according to DSWD Undersecretary Hope Hervilla.  

Nanay Ely is not one of them. She even does not know that such a program exists.

Why is there a gap between the estimated number of indigent seniors and the total number of beneficiaries of the program?

In a phone interview, Hervilla explained that local government units, with the help of the local social workers, are responsible for making sure all the indigent seniors in their community are enlisted with the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) desk.

"Sa atin naman, under the P19-billion ($372,468,683) program that we are proposing, which is good for 3 million beneficiaries, tumutulong tayo sa LGU at tumutulong tayo sa OCSA para lahat ng senior citizens na maregister nila at matulungan nila," Hervilla said.  

(Under the 19-billion program that we  are proposing and that is good for 3 million beneficiaries, we are helping LGUs so we can cover and register all senior citizens.)

Hervilla said that ideally, LGUs should be able to enlist would-be seniors, or constituents who are about to turn 60, to make sure that they will be considered when the department submits its budget proposal for the following year.  


More than the program's reach, is the support for senior indigents enough?

The program allocates only P500 per month to beneficiaries, released  quarterly.

Hervilla agreed that that given the medical needs of seniors, the amount is not really enough. 

"Ang goal natin ay kasama sila sa vulnerable section na mabigyan ng proteksyon, na mabigyan ng pension kasi that’s the DSWD's goal. Kung titingnan talaga, saan aabot ang P500 ($9.80) a month? Sana madagdagan pa natin ng quarterly," Hervilla said, appealing to lawmakers who will deliberate on budget proposals beginning this month.

(Our goal is to include them in the vulnerable section that should be given protection and provided with pension. That is DSWD's goal. If we take a closer look, how far will P500 a month reach? We hope that we can augment this quarterly dole out.)

The DSWD said it has also partnered with other private and like-minded organizations to make sure beneficiares get as much support as possible. Under the Centenarian Law, seniors who reach 100 years old will also receive P100,000 ($1,960) and other rewards and incentives. 

Notwithstanding the reach and budgetary constraints of the program, Hervilla encouraged seniors like Pangindian to enroll in the program. 

Nanay Ely, however, has no plans of retiring her small crochet business any time soon. 

"'Yung mga bumibili sa akin, ang mga masasabi nila? Natutuwa raw sila dahil sa edad ko raw, nakakapaghanapbuhay pa raw ako. Nakakagawa pa raw ako ng paraan. Dapat nga raw nagpapalimos na ako eh. Di ako nagpapalimos. Eh kasi meron naman akong [libangan]," she said.

(My customers are usually amused because I can still work despite my age. They say I can still find ways. They said I should be begging. I won't beg for money as long as I can still do my hobby.) – Rappler.com

 $ = P51.01

FEU, Kandama showcase creations of Ifugao weavers and designers


IFUGAO WEAVING. One of the few Ifugao women who continue to practice loom weaving. All photos by Joco Calimlim

MANILA, Philippines – The Far Eastern University (FEU), in partnership with the social enterprise Kandama, is showcasing Ifugao weaving to help indigenous women preserve their tradition of loom weaving.

Ifugao women weave fabrics for personal wear, annual rituals, and wedding feasts. Traditional wears include wrap around skirts called “ampuyo,” blouse or “lamma,” belt or “balco,” g-string for men or “wanno,” shoulder blanket or “bayaung,” and other blankets like “gamong” and “hape."

But due to the influence of western education, culture, and fashion, younger generations of Ifugao barely practice the indigenous tradition.

Photo by Joco M. Calimlim

For instance, only 28 weavers in Barangay Julongan in Kiangan, Ifugao, are still using upright looms. There are 18 newly certified weavers, 85% of whom are also rice and vegetable farmers.

That is why Kandama thought of bringing together indigenous artisans, cosmopolitan designers, and master weavers to create pieces that are inspired by cultural heritage while providing economic opportunities for indigenous women.

The project also aims to preserve the tradition of handloom weaving.

Photo by Joco M. Calimlim

FEU students will be exposed to the program by engaging in community projects. FEU Fine Arts students who study textile and fashion will be exposed to the process of handloom weaving and participate in an internship program with Kandama designers.

Kandama will feature creations of indigenous women from Ifugao and various designers like John Rufo, Jeff Tonog, Joco Calimlim, LA Sevilla, and Mark Escay in a fashion show on August 19, 5pm, at the Green Sun Hotel in Makati.

“The partnership reminds us that innovation and collaboration are crucial to worthy causes such as cultural preservation,” said FEU assistant vice president for academic services Joeven Castro. 

He added that it is their obligation as Filipinos and as an academic institution to help sustain indigenous knowledge and practices. – With a report from Danielle Nakpil/Rappler.com

Mindanaoan youth: 'We want just and lasting peace'


PEACE SYMBOL. Young Mindanaoans form a human peace symbol, sending a message that despite the conflict they experience in their region, they continue to stand for peace in their homeland. All photos from the National Youth Commission

MANILA, Philippines – "We, the Mindanaoan youth, are committed to the protection from and prevention of conflict and violence."

In a bid for self-empowerment, youth leaders from Mindanao delivered a manifesto calling for just and lasting peace during the celebration of International Youth Day (IYD) on Saturday, August 12, in Iligan City.

The youth leaders described their home, Mindanao, as "an island that knows conflict unlike any other."

They said they want to turn this picture around, and they also want to be part of the process to make this peace happen.

"The youth must not be seen as passive victims, rather as active participants in the midst of conflict and crisis. Only then can we be meaningful partners in finding solutions and realizing our nation’s pursuit for peace," they said. (READ: The youth's role in the Bangsamoro and nation-building)


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It was a strong statement amid the ongoing conflict between government troops and the Maute Group in nearby Marawi City. As of August 9, at least 78,466 families or 359,680 have been displaced by the clashes, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Beyond this, the youth also recognized how the decades-long conflict in Mindanao has hampered progress and development in the island where many of the Philippines' poorest live.

According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, 45.2% of children in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are stunted. This is significantly higher than the national average of 33.4%. In terms of education, ARMM’s functional literacy rate is estimated at 72.1%, the lowest in the Philippines.

MANIFESTO. At least 50 youth leaders from Mindanao work together to create a manifesto calling for just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

This is the dire picture that the young Mindanaoans want to change. But they know they cannot do this on their own.

"We urge the national and local governments to regularly allocate sufficient funds and resources for programs and policies affecting young people to ensure sustainable youth development," they said.

The manifesto was collectively written by 50 young Mindanaoans ahead of the celebration on Saturday. (READ: Development under Duterte: Why he can’t fail the Mindanaoan youth)

During the celebration, the young Mindanaoans also participated in the formation of a human peace symbol, sending a message that despite the conflicts they experience in their region, they continue to stand for peace in their homeland.

With this year's theme "Youth Bringing Peace," the National Youth Commission (NYC) spearheaded the celebration of IYD, with 3 simultaneous events in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The main celebration happened in Iligan City, led by NYC Chairperson Aiza Seguerra and Commissioner James Ventura. The celebration was in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund, the Office on Bangsamoro Youth of the ARMM, and the Iligan city government.

In Iligan City, Social Welfare Undersecretary Hope Hervilla also encouraged the youth to actively be involved in nation-building activities.

The Luzon event, meanwhile, was held at the Ayala Malls South Park in Muntinlupa City. Headed by NYC Commissioners Paul Anthony Pangilinan and Percival Cendaña, it was dubbed the "IYD 2017: Love, Peace, and Music" celebration.

For the Visayas leg, NYC Commissioner Rhea Peñaflor led the IYD celebration in Iloilo City. – Rappler.com

Providing medical services for relocated informal settlers


TOWERVILLE. JCI Manila and other partner groups help renovate one of the three medical facilities in Towerville, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. Photo courtesy of Robin Garcia

MANILA, Philippines – Many impoverished communities do not receive ample medical attention.

One of the reasons for this is the lack of properly functioning medical facilities in these areas. Other factors include the scarce medicines and the lack of medical professionals who can regularly provide needed services without charging unaffordable high fees to indigent patients. 

One such community is located in San Jose Del Monte in Bulacan. It is populated with former informal settlers relocated from various Metro Manila communities, including Pandacan, Tondo, and Sta. Ana in Manila. 


At least 600,000 people reside in the municipality according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, making it among the top 20 most populous towns in the country. 

Towerville, a Gawad Kalinga community situated in Barangay Minuyan, is inhabited by around 10,000 people. Data showed that at least 2,000 from this figure are living below the poverty line and are relocated informal settlers. 

Only around 3 small operational medical facilities exist in the barangay to service the community, affecting the delivery of effective medical attention to patients.

To help fill this gap, the UST Medical Alumni Association of America Class of 1958 built the Klinika Tomasino, a 50-square-meter structure located in Towerville. This was built back in the early 2010s. Back then, it services to around 100 to 150 people a day. 

Unfortunately, the facility stopped its operations in 2015. 


Junior Chamber International Manila Chapter (JCI Manila), in cooperation with Gawad Kalinga and other sponsors, sought to take the first step towards addressing the medical needs in Towerville. 

For 4 months, the JCI Team led by JCI Manila President Nino Namoco, JCI Manila Director Michael Uy, Project Chairman Leeron Borja, MD, and team members Atty. Christian Chan, Robin Michael Garcia, PhD, James Alba and Raschid Lim renovated the structure of the clinic, provided adequate medicines and medical facilities and reached out to various medical professional and organizations who can commit to the provision of medical services for a period of at least one year.  

All these were possible through around 20 generous and kind-hearted sponsors and partners who provided financial and other forms of support for the project. 

The project was launched last July 23, when JCI Manila and Gawad Kalinga formally inked the partnership. 

With the distribution of medicines and other health-related paraphernalia, a medical mission was also held in Towerville where University of Perpetual Help doctors serviced around 350 patients. 

Realizing that education should also complement health awareness, the Immaculada Concepcion College, a higher education institution not far from the community and one of the major financial sponsors of the project, also awarded 20 full scholarships for hardworking and promising Towerville elementary and high school students. – Rappler.com

Robin Michael Garcia is a political economic risk consultant who recently finished his PhD in International Politics at Fudan University in Shanghai

WATCH: How sharks are killed at Pasay market


CRUEL KILLING. A video shows the cruel killing of a bamboo catshark at a market in Pasay City.

MANILA, Philippines – A video of a bamboo catshark being killed at a live market in Pasay City has been making the rounds online.

Posted by Gregg Yan, the communications director of Oceana Philippines, the video showed a vendor showing off an adult Chiloscyllium punctatum or a bamboo catshark. Oceana Philippines is the world's largest international advocacy organization dedicated solely to marine conservation.

According to Yan, the sale of live catsharks is no secret.

"I already knew the area sold live catsharks as I've written about questionable seafood trade practices and the aquarium fish industry several times before. What was different was that a Chinese customer bought a shark mere seconds before we entered – so I was able to film a crewman smashing the shark against the floor," Yan said.

In the graphic video, the man first shows off the live bamboo catshark, which is around 24 to 30 inches long. At the 00:12 mark, the vendor then proceeds to slam the head of the shark onto the floor. 

It was sold at P500 per kilo.

Law needed for all sharks

There are several policies in the Philippines related to the protection of marine species, but no law that specifically protects all species of sharks and rays.

Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001, for example, provides for the conservation of the country's wildlife resources and their habitats for sustainability.

Meanwhile, under RA 10654, the Philippines' amended fisheries code, unregulated and unreported fishing in the country is prohibited.

Of the country's approximately 200 shark and ray species, however, only two are specifically protected by Philippine laws – the whale shark and the great white shark.

Advocates are pushing for the passage of a law that would focus on the protection of all species of sharks and rays.

"I hope that the video convinces our lawmakers to consider banning the killing of all shark and ray species nationwide," Yan said.

PROTECTION. Of the country’s approximately 200 shark and ray species, Philippine laws only protect two kinds – the whale shark and the great white shark. Photo by Gregg Yan

The nationwide laws for marine wildlife protection pale in comparison to the local ordinance in the province of Cebu which prohibits the sale of all shark species. Palawan, meanwhile, protects 8 species of sharks and rays.

Some of the larger sharks are protected by international trade sanctions. These include the great, smooth, and scalloped hammerhead sharks, plus oceanic whitetip sharks, whose elegant fins have made them an all-time target in the shark fin trade.

Biodiversity and tourism

"An estimated 73 to 100 million sharks are killed every year. Nobody knows the actual number, because few fishing boats will admit to having caught and killed sharks," Yan said.

Groups like Oceana have been calling for the protection of these marine wildlife species in the Philippines, for good reason.

While they are usually feared by the public, sharks and rays actually serve as good ecosystem indicators. This means their presence in Philippine waters indicates a healthy marine ecosystem.

In fact, according to the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute, "the Philippines is often considered the world's epicenter of marine biodiversity with approximately 200 species of shark and ray thought to inhabit its waters."

Beyond that, Yan also said taking care of these marine wildlife species actually makes sound economic sense.

"Charismatic animals – particularly sharks or large rays like mantas – will always attract tourists, whether local or foreign. They will be worth more alive than dead," he said.

Yan cited how whale shark hunting was replaced by ecotourism in Donsol, Sorsogon and Malapascua, Cebu. – Rappler.com

[Balikbayan Voices] OEC stands for Overly Excessive Crap


The overseas employment certificate (OEC) is a useless piece of junk that has been the bane of every overseas Filipino worker (OFW). 

While there are now exemptions, these are only for OFWs who are going back to the same employer and to the same country where he or she was previously deployed.

I hate using the word “deployed” because it sounds like OFWs are pawns sent to war for the country’s benefit. Our government uses that word often, and it shows just how skewed and limited their views are on OFWs.

I understand that some of the government procedures that OFWs have to go through are there to protect their interests and welfare. They have been designed to protect OFWs from human trafficking, illegal or dubious recruitment, and unfair labor practices. However, if you look closely, some of these requirements and procedures could be considered excessive.

Let’s take for example the following scenario.

Juan, who had just finished his contract working in Singapore, was directly hired to work as a consultant in Europe. If Juan stayed in Singapore to have his work papers processed, he would have just signed and emailed the employment contract together with other requirements. After that, his employer would send him the relevant papers he needed to successfully apply for a visa in Singapore. Once Juan’s visa was approved, he could have easily flown to his next job site without an OEC. It’s basically a three-step procedure for Juan: sign the contract, apply for a visa, and then fly.

Unfortunately, Juan decided to have a long vacation in the Philippines after his last contract. By doing so, he unwittingly immersed himself into the bureaucracy of the government.

Juan would be required to get an OEC, and that comes with a lot of requirements: an authenticated employment contract, a medical certificate, and a Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) certificate of attendance. Juan literally has to move from A to Z just to secure those.

Juan’s employer would also be required to submit a ton of documents to the Philippine embassy or consulate in the country where he is going to work or to the nearest Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO). The requirements include the following: 

  • Signed and notarized employment contract– Is it a necessary requirement? Employment contracts are usually private and confidential, and only the employee and employer should be privy to it. Also, more often than not, employment contracts of highly skilled OFWs working in multinational companies already offer enough protection for the OFW, sometimes even more than what the government requires them to.
  • An affidavit of undertaking by the employer– Just imagine Tim Cook, the current chief executive officer of Apple Incorporated, being asked to sign a document to make sure that Juan the Consultant is able to make phone calls to his loved ones on a regular basis! 
  • Proof of financial capacity of the employer– The problem is, some companies are not publicly listed and may not disclose such information to any 3rd party. Does the government just assume all employers of OFWs are either landlords or homeowners?  

Submitting these documents could even become a logistical nightmare, especially when the Philippines does not have a diplomatic mission in the country where Juan is supposed to go. Just imagine asking Juan’s employer to send hard copies of those documents to the Philippine embassy or POLO in another country. Once those documents have been authenticated, they would have to be sent via courier again to the employer before Juan receives his fancy red-ribboned contract. This back-and-forth bureaucracy increases the cost of hiring Juan because Juan has too much bureaucratic baggage in tow.

COMING HOME. OFWs line up at the airport, eager to come home. AFP file photo

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) should devise a way to have those documents authenticated and paid for electronically. It could launch a secure web portal where the employer could upload scanned copies of employment contracts and other relevant documents. Once submitted, DOLE and POEA could electronically check and inspect the documents. And if everything is acceptable, electronically stamp them. The OFW then receives an electronic copy of the authentication notice, which he or she could present to get an OEC. Better yet, the same notice could be sent electronically and recorded directly under the profile of the OFW in the POEA's electronic database or records.

By automating the procedures, the government would not only show that it respects and values the time and efforts of each OFW but also provide any OFW even more reason to hone their IT skills, which is undoubtedly very important today and in the foreseeable future. Moreover, such electronic procedures and transactions would overall trim down the cost, manpower, and time needed to process various transactions. 

DOLE and POEA should wake up and realize that the world does not operate in their timeline nor revolve around their ludicrous and antiquated bureaucratic procedures. Many government and public officials have already immersed themselves in so much bureaucracy that they eat and breathe their bureaucratic procedures every day. They fail to think out of the box whenever a special circumstance arises. 

Even if Juan already has all the necessary documents (working visa, work permit card, airfare) to fly to and work legally in his next destination, the government would still want him to have his employment contract authenticated, so he could get an OEC – an Overly Excessive Crap! – Rappler.com

Bertrand is an OFW who remains true to his Filipino roots and identity, no matter where he goes and resides. He considers himself a millennial at heart but Gen Xer by blood. He is an educator by profession and an aspiring writer and businessman. He hopes to retire as a philanthropist someday. Follow him on his Twitter account.

Can you help Nanay Ely, the elderly crocheter of Tayuman?


MANILA, Philippines – On Saturday, August 12, the story of Luisa Pagindian, an 82-year old "manggagantsilyo" (crocheter) from Tayuman, Manila inspired many netizens (WATCH: Nanay Ely, the old crocheter of Tayuman

Nanay Ely, as many call her, is one of the hundreds of working senior citizens in the country.

According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, of the 7 to 8 million senior citizens in the country, an estimated 5.5 million are indigent. Indigent seniors refer to those who are old and sickly. They do not also receive pension from state-run pension agencies.

DSWD gives P1,500 ($29.41) quarterly to poor senior citizens under its Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC). However, only 2.8 million seniors are currently enrolled in the program, according to DSWD Undersecretary Hope Hervilla.

To provide for their own needs, many of these indigent seniors who do not receive pension or benefits from the government, like Nanay Ely, resort to working despite old age (READ: FAST FACTS: What benefits are senior citizens entitled to?)



Netizens praised Nanay Ely for her hard work. As of posting, the video has been watched nearly 900,000 times. Many of them asked where to find Nanay Ely and how to buy her colorful bottle covers, sling bags, shoes, and purses.

Here are some of the online comments about Pagindian:


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Responding to all the kind words she received, Nanay Ely said: "Thank you po, magandang regalo po ito sa akin." (Thank you. This is a nice gift for me)

How you can help

Nanay Ely is celebrating her 83rd birthday on August 24. You can surpirse her by paying her a visit or by patronizing her products:

  • Look for her near the Tayuman LRT station in Manila

  • You can also message her for orders at 09268054187. Directly coordinate with Nanay Ely or her daughter Cristy.

– Rappler.com

#HackSociety 2017: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind


MANILA, Philippines – Do you have a game changing idea that could potentially create social impact? Are you a young innovator helping a local community? If yes, then you are what we are looking for.

This 2017, Rappler, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), challenges you to formulate innovative solutions for society’s real life problems.

We want you to create "hacks" that would make our society more inclusive – a Philippines with no one left behind.

Your "hack" could be an idea for an enterprise or a startup that you want to initiate or a change project you want to implement within existing organizations or communities. We welcome all kinds of ideas: from actual physical products to potential services.

Bottom line, we want ideas that could make a positive impact on communities, organizations, and society in general. We want you to #HackSociety!

Data and purpose-driven innovation

During the 2016 Social Good Summit, we introduced the first round of #HackSociety– the ideathon that aims to harness the new democratic space to crowdsource "hacks" that address key social issues.

It became an experiment where decision makers met ordinary people, and where both worked together to solve common problems and challenges. We taught the innovation process and inspired students and young professionals to think outside the box and ideate viable ventures.

We believe the future of social innovation is the fusion of data, creativity, and the values we hold dear: compassion, integrity, hope, courage.

This year will spin off #HackSociety into a separate event with hack workshops focusing on 4 key areas. Click on a button below for more information:

#HackSociety will provide participants with data to help ground and refine their ideas. It will dare selected participants to accelerate their ideas to prototype through a 30-hour challenge.

In the spirit of the #2030NOW vision of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), selected teams will be given 30 hours to learn new concepts, talk with experts and mentors, and jumpstart their ideas by building prototypes of their long-term solutions for a sustainable future.

Here are this year's 4 key areas:

Media and democracy

  • One of the challenges in the field of media and democracy today is the proliferation of unverified sources and fake news. How do we address these dilemmas in an innovative and sustainable manner?

  • How can we utilize technology, the internet, and available media platforms to strengthen our democracy?

  • SDG 16 aims for just, peaceful, and inclusive societies for sustainable development. Different forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation are still prevalent worldwide, especially violence against children and women. How can platforms and technologies help in preventing these forms of injustice?

  • How can we use media and new technologies to engage, include, and empower marginalized groups such as the youth, women, PWDs, and those in rural areas, including indigenous peoples?

  • What are innovative ways that could be done to teach media literacy to Filipinos, especially to the youth?

Peace, governance and local development

  • According to UNDP, "development and inclusive growth are anchored in the quality of governance". How can we help civil society organizations and ordinary citizens monitor and create checks and balances in both their local and national governing bodies?

  • How do we ensure that stakeholders are involved in the budgeting process for government projects?

  • What are innovative practices that could be done to complement the existing initiatives of civil societies that are geared towards administrative reforms, anti-corruption, and freedom of information?

  • One of the primary goals of UNDP is "to assist Philippine government to nurture a culture of human rights by fulfilling commitments to international treaties; mainstreaming rights-based approach into local, gender-sensitive plans; and building the capacity of government, including the security forces, to protect and promote human rights." How can new technologies help in the protection and promotion of justice and human rights?

  • What innovative initiatives can be done to improve the access of  marginalized sectors such as farmers, women, children, youth, and persons with disabilities (PWDs) to social services?

  • SDG 16 aims for just, peaceful, and inclusive societies for sustainable development. Different forms of abuse, violence, and exploitation are still prevalent worldwide, especially violence against children and women. How can platforms and technologies help in preventing these forms of injustice?

  • What are ways that could be done to increase understanding and cooperation among communities in conflict with each other in the Philippines?

  • How can we address the hate revolving around online political conversations and debate?

Environment and climate change: Responsible consumption & production

  • According to the World Food Programme, one-third of the world’s food goes to waste. In the Philippines alone, Filipinos waste an average of 3.29 kilograms of rice per year. What interventions could be done to address this and to provide sustainable and alternative sources of food?

  • Studies show that households consume 29% of global energy, contributing to 21% of overall CO2 emissions in the world. How can we engage citizens to practice responsible energy usage and promote renewable sources of energy?

  • How can we creatively promote a "zero-waste" lifestyle among Filipinos? Are there commonly wasted  resources, which can be transformed into a product or a business venture?

Public health and well-being

  • An estimated 29 new HIV infections are reported daily in the Philippines. More than half of these infections are from the youth sector. According to the National Youth Commission, around 62% of these infections are in the youth sector. What interventions could be done to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the country?

  • In terms of maternal and child health care, in 2015 there are 114 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in the Philippines. Infant mortality, on the other hand, is at 35 deaths per 1,000 live births. While the Philippines has seen improvements in these areas in the recent years, many still lack the access to proper maternal and child care, especially those who are located in far-flung areas. How can we make healthcare more inclusive to these sectors?

  • Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) says 1.2 million people die yearly because of road traffic crashes. The Philippines has around 10,379 land transportation-related deaths annually. What other innovative measures could be done to promote road safety in the country?

  • Mental health continues to be a least addressed and least talked about health issue in the Philippines. The Department of Health (DOH) reported that one in 5 Filipino adults has some form of mental illness. What initiative can be implemented to address this issue?

  • A study by the Inter-Agency Regional Analyst Network (RAN) and the Action Against Hunger (ACF) in 2015 showed that 1 in 3 Filipino kids are still malnourished and stunted. To add to this, an estimated 3.1 million Filipino families said they experienced hunger in the 4th quarter of 2016. How can we combat hunger and child malnutrition using ways that have never been done before?

Ready to take on the challenge? Here are simple steps on how you could join:

  1. Create a team with 2 to 5 members. All team members must be under 30 years old.

  2. Brainstorm and think of an idea or "hack" for addressing any of the issues mentioned. We are not limiting ideas to tech-related innovation. Also, your ideas could be an application of existing innovations or systems to current challenges, or new approaches or tweaks to existing programs.

  3. Submit your idea through this form and answer the following questions:

  • What is the specific problem you are solving?
  • Describe the solution you are proposing.
  • What makes your solution innovative and sustainable?
  • Identify your key stakeholders, target partners, and needed resources.
  • Introduce your teammates and their roles in implementing your idea.
  1. Submit and upload your entry through this registration form before the deadline: August 25.

Chosen entries will be notified on or before August 30, and will be invited to participate in the 30-Hour Challenge workshops for each of the key areas.

What’s at stake?

After a series of workshops, mentoring, and elimination, the best and most viable proposal for each category would have a chance to deliver their pitch at the 2017 Social Good Summit at Samsung Hall, SM Aura on September 16. The Summit will be attended by key people from government agencies, civil society, and even by incubators, accelerators, and angel investors.

One final winner will be declared by the end of the Social Good Summit and awarded with the following:

  • P50,000 in cash

  • Access to Rappler events, workshops and trainings. These events will provide winners with opportunities to network with partners who can provide mentorship and help refine your product/service and business model.

  • Production of one social video (worth P450,0000) for their winning idea/innovation. The social video will be posted via Rappler and Move.PH social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity. This is your chance to create the change you want to see in our society. Talk with your peers, form a group, think of your solution, and submit your entry.

If you have any questions, email us at socialgood@rappler.com using #HackSociety in the subject line. – Rappler.com

An Uber driver's fear: That's my only source of income


AFFECTED UBER DRIVER. Ronan Barrientos is one of the 60,000 Uber drivers who will be affected by the LTFRB suspension. Photo by Raisa Serafica

MANILA, Philippines – When the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) announced the suspension of Uber operations on Monday, August 14, Ronan Barrientos was one of around 66,000 Uber drivers who got worried about where to get their income for the next month.

“Syempre, maraming tumatakbo sa utak mo dahil 'yan na lang ang source of income mo, you think of other ways agad para makakuha ng income, kasi your income cannot stop,” Barrientos said. (Many things went through inside my head. Since that is my only source of income, I immediately considered other livelihood options, because you cannot stop having income.)

The decision came after the  transport network company (TNC) continued accrediting drivers into their system past July 26 despite LTFRB’s order against it. In an advisory, the LTFRB said it "strongly recommended" that Uber gives financial assistance to its peer-operators who would be affected since the latter "would not have suffered the current predicament were it not for the predatory actions" of Uber. (READ: Leader of TNVS drivers' group: Uber at fault

Monthly income

Barrientos started driving part-time for the ride-hailing service in early 2015. By the end of that year, he resigned from his full-time job and went full-time driving for Uber.

He also serves as an administrator of one of the biggest Facebook groups catering to drivers for Transport Network Vehicle Companies (TNVCs) like Uber and Grab.

According to Barrientos, he earns at least P20,000 a month for driving Uber 4 times a week. He does not drive on weekends because he reserves them for his family.

A father of two, he allocates majority of his income to pay the P10,000 monthly downpayment for his car. The rest goes to their expenses at home.

“Hindi biro 'yung araw-araw na gastos, kasama na 'yung grocery, kuryente, tubig, 'yung ibinabayad sa kotse buwan-buwan. Hindi biro mga 'yun. Imposibleng hindi nag-panic mga Uber drivers up to some level. What if magtuloy-tuloy yan?” he said.

(The daily expenses – grocery, electricity, water, and car payments – they are not a joke. It’s impossible for Uber drivers not to panic to some extent. What if this [suspension] continues becomes permanent?)

On a regular day, Barrientos leaves their house at 5:30 am to bring his wife from Pasig to Pasay, where she works. Without taking a break, he would then drive for 8 to 9 hours straight.

Other Uber drivers have it worse, according to Barrientos.

He says Uber drivers who are under an operator and do not drive their own cars usually work longer hours to be able to pay their boundary and earn a decent income at the same time.

“'Yung iba doon, they drive 12 to 15 hours a day just to get a decent income. Ang pahinga nun, tulog lang at saka kain,” Barrientos said. (Some would drive 12 to 15 hours a day just to get a decent income. The rest of the day is for sleeping and eating)

Commuters’ woes

Barrientos also raises his concern for commuters who depend highly on Uber.

“I had this one passenger, it was before dawan, female, she was by herself. Drunk. When she got in the car, she passed out. You can’t do that in a taxi or a jeep,” he said.

Another time, a mother booked a ride for his grade schooler son on Uber. According to Barrientos, she just let him drive the small boy to his school. 

What happens to commuters like them? 

The Uber driver said that the TNVCs introduced an unprecendented trust between commuters and drivers. 

"What’s the reason why riders use Uber? It’s the service that they are getting. They are getting their money’s worth and peace of mind brought by good service. No one will ask for additional fare. The car smells nice, it's clean, and the air conditiioner works," he explained.

True to this statement, commuters immediatley took to social media to express their anger and rally behind Uber drivers on Monday night.  

According to commuters, the decision will cause unnecessary "hassle for commuters." This was echoed by Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, calling the suspension “cruel and absurd.” She said she is set to call LTFRB officials for a meeting on Wednesday, August 16.

Moving forward

Despite Uber's suspension, Barrientos remains optimistic that the transport networr will not allow the suspension to last for days.

"Nung una, ang unang pumasok sa isip ko ay hindi magtatagal yan. For sure, hindi papayag si Uber at magpa-file ng motion for reconsideration," the Uber driver said. (I initially thought that the suspention will not last for long. For sure, Uber will fle a motino for reconsideration to overturn the decision) 

In fact, around lunch time on Tuesday, August 15, Uber filed a motion for reconsideration and resumed its operations. 

LTFRB, however, clarified that the order still stands, and that Uber drivers are still prohibited from plying the roads even though the ride-hailing company has filed a motion for reconsideration. – Rappler.com 

#2030Now: Innovate with purpose, leave no one behind


MANILA, Philippines – Artificial intelligence is here. And it promises to make people’s lives easier by helping solve some of the world’s most pressing problems, including solutions to better health care, education, smarter energy consumption, and even global warming.

But along with the optimism comes the disturbing questions: are intelligent machines like robots and self-driving cars a blessing or a curse for humanity? Are digital platforms, today’s public conversation spaces, helping strengthen democracy or are they fostering hate and deepening polarization?

Globally, the 2017 Social Good Summit puts the future in focus:  Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

In its 6th year, the Social Good Summit in the Philippines will challenge us to take this a step further and examine the purpose of innovation and will push back to the center stage the massive and urgent needs that society faces.

Organized by Rappler in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the 2017 Social Good Summit will be held on Saturday, September 16, at the SM Aura, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila.

With the theme: “Innovate with Purpose: Leave No One Behind,” the Social Good Summit celebrates human judgment and values – compassion, integrity, hope, courage – traits that distinguish us from machines.

Experts say these are the qualities that digital technology can’t replace in the future economy. 

We believe it is critical to keep this in mind as we ponder over how technological innovations are transforming industry, our public conversation spaces, the way societies are governed, and even the way we live.

We will highlight these urgent messages:

  • In order to leave no one behind, it is important to channel all available resources and technologies to deliver on sustainable development goals.
  • In order to leave no one behind, there should be effective mechanisms that foster innovation and collaboration to achieve meaningful change. 
  • Citizens, particularly marginalized groups, should be able to hold their leaders, at national and local levels, accountable for key developmental outcomes. 
  • Stakeholders, particularly the youth, should be able to contribute to the achievement of the global goals.



1. Form a team and #HackSociety!

On its second year, #HackSociety, the ideathon that harnesses the digital space to crowdsource “hacks” that address society’s greatest challenges, will inspire purpose and data-driven innovation that is grounded in social realities. We will do this by spinning off #HackSociety into a separate 30-hour event with workshops focusing on the following themes:

  • Media and democracy
  • Peace, governance, and local initiative
  • Environment and climate change
  • Public health and well-being

#HackSociety workshops will provide youth participants with available data about the core issues at hand, encourage them to talk to their target stakeholders, and connect them to mentors who are experts in their chosen issues. Winners from the hacks will pitch their ideas before the SGS plenary where they could win:

  • P50,000 in cash
  • Access to Rappler events, workshops and trainings. These events will provide winners with opportunities to network with partners who can provide mentorship and help refine these ideas into sustainable initiatives.
  • Production of one social video for their winning idea/innovation. The social video will be posted via Rappler and Move.PH social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Winning teams can use it for their promotional campaigns.

If you are interested in participating in #HackSociety, read the details of the competition and submit your entry through this form. You may submit your entries until August 25, 2017.

2. Be a partner/sponsor

To those interested to be a partner or sponsor of SGS 2017, you may also email socialgood@rappler.com using SGS Partnership in the subject line. 

3. Have a booth at the Social Good Summit XChange

XChange is a space for learning, interaction, and ideas. It is a marketplace that will feature technologies and ideas that are shaping the world and partner initiatives around key issues and themes:

  • Poverty and inequality
  • Media and democracy
  • Peace, governance, and local initiative
  • Environment and climate change
  • Public health and well-being
  • Technology & Innovation

A fun way to learn and connect, exhibitors and participating groups in the Social Good Summit XChange are encouraged to think of challenges related to Sustainable Development Goals which the participants can take on. 

To those interested to sponsor a booth, email socialgood@rappler.com using XChange Exhibitor in the subject line no later than Wednesday, August 24.

4. Organize a viewing party

Help us rally more communities around the global goals by organizing a Social Good Summit viewing party in your school or community. For those interested in organizing a viewing party, email us at socialgood@rappler.com so we can send you details on how to go about it. Please use SGS Viewing Party in the subject line. 

The requirements are easy. All you have to do is secure a venue good for your target audience and to make sure you have a stable internet connection. All registered viewing parties will be acknowledged live during the summit!

5. Be an SGS Volunteer!

Our yearly Social Good Summit would not be possible without help from movers and volunteers who have been participating and helping us organize these events since 2012. If you want to volunteer for the SGS 2017 Organizing Committee, just email socialgood@rappler.com using SGS volunteer in the subject line.

Deadline to sign up to be a volunteer: August 25, 2017.

6. Be a participant

Seats at the SGS plenary are limited. To be part of the plenary, email socialgood@rappler.com using SGS participant in the subject line so we can send you the registration details. 


QC eyes new ordinance to lessen road crashes


QUEZON CITY, Philippines - The Quezon City Council Committee of Transportation held a public consultation with various road safety users and advocates last Tuesday, August 15, on the proposed Quezon City road safety ordinance. 

The ordinance, spearheaded by Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte and committee chairman Councilor Oliviere Belmonte, aims to promote road safety management and eventually lessen the number of road crashes in the city.

Quezon City has the most number of road crashes in Metro Manila since 2010, according to data from Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA). In 2016, there was a total of 33,717 incidents causing 116 deaths and 4,755 injuries. 

Quezon City currently has 8 road safety related ordinances:

  • Traffic Management Code and its amendments
  • Tricycle Management Code of 2014
  • Children on Board Motorcycles
  • Maximum Load on Motorcycles
  • Anti Drunk and Drug Driving
  • Speed limit on Commonwealth Avenue
  • Side Mirrors on Motor Vehicles
  • Removal of Junk and Construction Materials on Road

The proposed road safety ordinance provides a more comprehensive ordinance patterned on the 5 pillars of the road safety action plan by the United Nations. These are to improve road safety management, safer roads, safer vehicles, safer road users and improve trauma care and rehabilitation.

Key features of the new ordinance include the following:

  • Establishment of a speed limit, not just along Commonwealth Avenue. The default speed limit for all motor vehicles will be 30 kilometers per hour (km/h) for city roads, 20 km/h for barangay roads and 20 km/h for crowded streets.
  • Implementation of random sobriety check points to prevent drunk and drug driving. Officers in charge of check points will be wearing body cameras for accountability purposes.
  • Construction projects, road works, and other similar activities shall be required to undergo a Road Safety Impact Assessment to ensure alternative solutions for affected pedestrian lanes or sidewalks
  • Residents may file complaints and/or requests for road repair or maintenance directly to the assigned lead agency – the Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS) or the barangay.
  • DPOS shall promote inclusive mobility by ensuring that at least 10 kilometers of bicycle lanes are installed every year for 5 years. 
  • Motorcycles using sidewalks will be penalized P2,000 for the first offense, P3,500 for the second offense, and P5,000 for the third offense.
  • Enforcement of the '3-strike-rule' which revokes the franchise of tricycle and pedicab drivers who commit 3 violations within 3 years. These violations include the failure to comply minimum road safety standards and violation of limitations of their route. 

The proposed ordinance will still undergo public consultations and amendments this month before moving on to the second reading.

"Given the data that was presented to me, I felt that it was necessary for us to conduct this measure." Vice Mayor Belmonte said.

She shared how she realized that crashes are preventable through proper regulations during Rappler's Road Safety Forum.

"Examples [are through] the way the roads are built and maintained – by the way we regulate cars, tricycles or pedicabs, the state of health, and consciousness [of the drivers]," she said. 

The vice mayor said she hopes the proposal will not only be passed but be properly implemented. 

"I'm hoping that the [implementing agents] will buy into it, see its value [and] be excited about implementing it. I'm also hoping [that] when the measure goes up to the mayor, he [will see] the merit of the measure [and sign it]." —Rappler.com

Seats that save kids’ lives: Why are they rarely used in the Philippines?


MANILA, Philippines – Pele Escueta, 3, and Julio Baltasar, 6, may not know each other but they do share a common experience: They have both survived car crash incidents.

In July 2017, Pele was in his parents’ SUV on his way to a family holiday. The vehicle was at full stop at a red light when a van, whose driver had fallen asleep, suddenly rammed it from behind. The impact left Pele’s mom, actress and TV host Jolina Magdangal, with slight injuries. It shattered the front windshield of the van and the rear windshield of the SUV.

Pele was unscathed. “He did not even cry,” his dad, musician Mark Escueta, wrote in a Facebook post.

MONEY WELL SPENT. Mark Escueta spent P17,000 for a brand-new car seat for son Pele, money he considers well spent. The car seat kept the boy safe during a car crash that left Pele's mom, actress and TV host Jolina Magdangal, with slight injuries. Photo courtesy of Mark Escueta

In the case of Julio, the boy was being driven to his preschool in the family sedan in 2014, when the driver nodded off at the wheel. The car, which witnesses said was going at 60 kilometers per hour (kph), hit a vehicle. The car was a total wreck; Julio, then 3 years old, was seriously hurt.

The boy was sitting in the front seat. His mom, Kelly Baltasar, who was at work at the time of the crash, said Julio’s mouth might have hit the dashboard.

“Three of his upper front teeth were forced into his gums, and the teeth needed to be surgically extracted,” Baltasar said. Julio was in the hospital for 3 days. He was fed liquids and soft food for a month, as his mouth needed to be closed for complete healing.

Child restraints

What kept Pele safe in the violent crash? He was in his front-facing car seat when the crash occurred, his father said in an email interview. The seat was strapped to the rear seat of the SUV.

Pele’s car seat is a type of child restraint. Child restraints, which include infant seats and booster seats, are designed to reduce the risk of injury in the event of a collision. In Pele’s case, the car seat kept him from being thrown against the car interior or catapulted forward to hit other car occupants.

“We’re very strict with the car seat,” Magdangal said in a message during her morning show. “Even if traffic is heavy and Pele wants to sit on my lap, we insist that he stays in his car seat.”

In contrast, on the day of Julio’s crash, he was not in a car seat. He could no longer fit in the seat that he used till he turned a year old.  

“My husband and I used a car seat for each of our 3 kids when they were babies. And we were unaware that the next step was for us to get a bigger car seat,” said Julio's mother. “We have not seen one on the market.”

Interesting insights

All parents want their kids to travel safely in cars. A new study found that child safety was the most common reason cited by drivers in the Philippines for using child restraints. Hilton Y. Lam, Wilfredo A. Atienza, and Adovich S. Rivera authored the unpublished baseline study on the availability, affordability, and acceptability of age-appropriate child restraints in the Philippines. The World Health Organization (WHO) funded the study.

LESSON LEARNED. Julio Baltasar (left) suffered  injuries in a car crash in 2014 as he was not in a car seat when the incident happened.  He lost 3 of his front teeth then. Photo courtesy of Kelly Baltasar

In fact, the use of child restraints dramatically increases a child’s chance of surviving a road crash. “If correctly installed and used, child restraints reduce deaths among infants by approximately 70% and deaths among small children by between 54% and 80%,” according to a WHO fact sheet.

But how many parents in the Philippines, like the Escuetas, strap their little ones into child restraints such as car seats? And how many parents, like the Baltasars, lack information on the proper use of these restraints?

There is no comprehensive data. Now the baseline study offers interesting insights.

Researchers interviewed 1,004 drivers throughout the country for the study. Here’s what they found on the demand side:

  • 18.5% of drivers are aware or have heard of child restraints prior to the survey

  • 9.3% are current users, and 19% replied yes to the question, “Have you ever used child restraints/child car seats?

  • 6.2% among the 1,569 child passengers of respondents use child restraints

  • Drivers have little knowledge on the age, weight, and height recommendations for child restraints

In a nutshell, too few drivers know about child restraints. No wonder the rate of using the life-saving system is low.

Fact or fallacy?

Aside from low awareness, the respondents cited other reasons for not using child restraints. Here are some of these reasons, what the findings from the study show, and what research indicates.



  • No law/not required

This is a fact. “Legislation mandating the use of child restraints can be an effective way to increase the use of restraints and reduce injuries,” WHO said in the Global status report on road safety 2015. In the Philippines, the proposed laws on the use of these child safety devices are still being debated.

To date, there are at least 5 legislative bills related to child restraints that have been filed in the 17th Congress. Two bills – House Bill 5595 and Senate Bill 1447 – seek to penalize the driver of a privately owned motor vehicle who does not tsecure at all times a child in a child restraint system while transporting him or her on any road, street, or highway. Both bills are pending in different committees. (READ: Road safety advocates seek passage of child restraint bill)

  • Not available in the Philippines

This is a fallacy. The study found that there are 7 brands with local distributors in the country. At least 25 more brands are available via online purchase from the company store or from online sellers.

In addition, the study found that 84% of the car models being sold in the Philippines are equipped with ISOFIX. As defined in Seat-belts and child restraints: a road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners, “ISOFIX is a system that uses purpose-designed mounting points provided in the vehicle to attach the child restraint with a rigid mechanism, rather than using the seat-belt to secure the restraint.”

  • Not needed due to slow traffic

This is a fallacy. Many people think that traffic is so bad that motorists can’t speed up on the road. But even at a speed of just 48 kph, unrestrained children run a high risk of severe injuries and even death.


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Moreover, a car seat “is not only to protect your child in a speeding vehicle," said lawyer Evita Ricafort. "It’s also designed to protect the child if your car gets hit by another vehicle."  This is exactly what happened in Pele’s case.

  • Expensive

This is a fallacy. The study found that the average price of brand new child restraints in the country is 10,040.68. The average price of a secondhand unit is 4,250.

The study also found that drivers are willing to pay between 1,000 to 5,000 for child restraints. This shows that a secondhand unit is within the reach of the drivers who were surveyed.

To parents who find a child car seat pricey, pediatrician Anthony Calibo had this to say: “Car seats ensure protection for the child. More catastrophic injuries will be more expensive to treat.” In Julio’s case, his hospital bills came up to 80,000, according to his mother. If the family did not have health insurance, the bills would have been much higher.

Does Mark Escueta recommend that parents use a car seat for their children? “Most definitely,” he said.

Since road crashes are unpredictable, it pays to be proactive.

“We were stopped at a stoplight....when the other driver fell asleep at the wheel and rammed us from behind. We had no control over that, but we DID have control on how prepared we wanted to be IN CASE something like that happened," he said.

 He added, “Your car has insurance, which you pay annually. A car seat can be your child’s additional ‘insurance,’ and it’s a one-time expense. Now what’s more important? Your child or your car?”

Children at risk

How many children risk injury and death each time they get in a passenger vehicle in the Philippines? No data is available on the number of children who ride passenger vehicles in the country, lawyer Evita Ricafort wrote in the memorandum, “Framework for Developing Child Restraints Legislation or Policy in the Philippines.”

Yet it is certain that they are exposed to road crash risks. Based on the 2010 census, over 30 million children – 33% of the population – are aged 0 to 14 years old. This is the age group for which the use of child restraints is appropriate.

From 2010 to 2015, the number of children in this age group who were injured or killed in road crashes has steadily increased.

INCREASING. The source of the graph is the Department of Health (DOH) Comparative Annual Online Electronic Injury Surveillance System (ONEISS) Report on “Road Transport/Vehicular Accident Cases” for calendar years 2010 to 2015. The data in ONEISS is based only on reports to DOH that come from less than 20% of hospitals nationwide.

Another alarming finding comes from the baseline study on the availability, affordability, and acceptability of age-appropriate child restraints in the Philippines authored by Lam,  Atienza, and Rivera. They found that many drivers stopped using child restraints when the child passenger turned one.

CHILD SAFETY. This graph is according to Hilton Y. Lam et al.,  research entitled “A baseline study on the availability, affordability, and acceptability of age-appropriate child restraints in the Philippines”


As the child grew older, the rate of child restraints use dropped. This lessens a child’s chance of surviving a road crash. – Rappler.com

Dinna Louise C. Dayao participated in the 2016 Bloomberg Initiative-Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the WHO, the Department of Transportation, and VERA Files. She completed the Global Road Safety Leadership Course, organized by Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit, Global Road Safety Partnership, and Bloomberg Initiative for Global Road Safety in March 2017. Her reporting on road safety is supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting


Netizens: CA rejected Taguiwalo because she didn't let them use pork barrel


PUBLIC SERVANT. Netizens react to the rejection of Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD chief.

MANILA, Philippines – Netizens expressed both anger and disappointment over the rejection of the ad interim appointment of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Wednesday, August 16. (READ: CA rejects Taguiwalo as DSWD chief

The Commission on Appointments (CA) committee on labor and social welfare recommended the rejection of Taguiwalo. 

According to netizens, DSWD lost a true public servant in Taguiwalo. They say that they have never seen the department as organized as it was on her watch. 

"On behalf of the LP Senate contingent in the CA, we would like to manifest that all 4 of us voted for the confirmation of Sec Taguiwalo," Senator Francis Pangilinan posted on Twitter. 

The voting was conducted anonymously. 


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&#39;Judy Taguiwalo&#39; is currently the top trending topic on Twitter nationwide. <br><br>Story here: <a href="https://t.co/AiMOBxhZuR">https://t.co/AiMOBxhZuR</a> <a href="https://t.co/TIcR7WV6Tq">pic.twitter.com/TIcR7WV6Tq</a></p>&mdash; Raisa Serafica (@raisaserafica) <a href="https://twitter.com/raisaserafica/status/897726568772108288">August 16, 2017</a></blockquote>
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"Judy Taguiwalo" was trending nationwide on Twitter. 


Here are some tweets from the netizens on the CA's decision: 



<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="http://go.rappler.com/https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/897716436688400385">Taguiwalo reax - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>




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What are your thoughts on the CA's decision to reject the appointment of Taguiwalo as DSWD chief? Share your thoughts on X! – Rappler.com 

Teacher explains use of 'anti-cheating' headbands


COVERED. Students are wearing folder-made head coverings while taking an exam. All photos by Jurinda Manaug

MANILA, Philippines – She’s already fed up with students cheating in exams, but she was criticized when she finally found a way to avoid it.

Jurinda Manaug of Nasipit National High School in Agusan del Norte got online attention after posting pictures of her students wearing a folder-made head covering while taking an exam. Accordingly, this is to shun students from looking both sides and copy from their seatmates.

“I did this strategy 2 years ago. Base on my observation for the past 10 years, students’ study habits decreased when the use of technology increased. The tendency is they will cheat,” Manaug, 45, told Rappler.

She also emphasized that her students were well-aware of wearing head coverings during major exams as she already announced it when classes started on June.

“They (students) have no complaints about, in fact they’re the one who defended me from online bashers,” she added.

LINED. Teacher Manaug explained that since her classroom is too small for 60 students, some of the students take the exam along the hallway, still with 'anti-cheating' hats

A student speaks

Remil Vincent Lagumbay, a former student of Manaug and now in senior high school, described the teacher as “friendly but serious when it comes to class activities”. He further stressed that Manaug is the kind of teacher who will not give up on you until you learned the lesson of the day.

Agree po ako sa strategy ni ma’am. Naobserbahan po niya na tini-take for granted na lang po ng mga students ang exam at marami po sa kanila ay kuntento na sa mabababang scores. Ang iba ay umaasa nalang sa pangongopya sa kaklase” Lagumbay said in an interview

(I agree with the teacher’s strategy. She observed that students are taking the exam for granted and many of the students are contented with low scores. Some are even relying on copying from their classmates)

Online comments

A teacher commenting on the Facebook post said “Parang pinapamukha mo sa students mo na wala kang tiwala sa kanila. Lagi kong sinasabi sa students ko na naniniwala ako sa kanila at sa kakayahan nila.

(It’s like showing your students that you don’t trust them at all. I always say to my students that I believe in them and in their capabilities.)

CONFISCATED. Other than the head coverings, cellphones are temporarily confiscated to allow students to focus in their exams.

“But remember, a  teacher can create his/her own policy in the classroom but I think it’s too much. Proper instruction before taking the exam is enough.” Marlon Samson Brian, also a teacher, commented emphasizing classroom management.  

After drawing mixed online reactions, Manaug changed the privacy of the Facebook post, adding she wanted to have a peaceful private life.

Similar case

In 2013, a similar incident went viral in Facebook when Kasetsart University in Bangkok, Thailand posted a picture of its Agro-industry student wearing the same ‘anti-cheating’ headbands while taking an exam.

After it got around the internet, the Bangkok Post reported the university issued a public apology saying that it will the first and last time the hats are used. –Rappler.com

WATCH: Bike Scouts PH, the unsung heroes of Yolanda


BAYANIHAN. The volunteer bicycle messengers from Bike Scouts Philippines are among the unsung heroes in the aftermath of Yolanda. All photos by Myles Delfin

MANILA, Philippines – There were many untold stories in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, which hit Leyte and its surrounding provinces on November 8, 2013.

The breadth of the unprecedented devastation made it difficult to cover everything that has unfolded in its aftermath as survivors and the local government scrambled to get back on its feet.

Some of these stories were tragic. Others were inspiring. Among these inspiring stories are the unsung heroes of Yolanda –the Bike Scout Philippines group.


“Living in the Philippines, we are used to seeing reports of typhoons and storms and all sorts of natural disasters. But watching the flood that were coming to Tacloban City that day, I knew i was going to be bad and so I followed the reports and then the day after that,” Myles Delfin, the founder of Bike Scouts Philippines, recalled.

His instinct was to help in any way he can.

First news reports that came in told the communication breakdown in heavily affected areas. A biker, Delfin thought of bringing his bicycle to isolated areas and help survivors get in touch with their loved ones.

He posted his idea online and many pledged to volunteer and offer their services. If anything, what transpired was an amazing display of Filipinos’ bayanihan spirit.

“Within a matter of days, we were on the ground in Tacloban. And we were riding around, helping people get in touch with each other,” Delfin said.

All of the volunteers were bikers like himself.

“The concept behind Bike Scouts Philippines is that we would serve as volunteer bicycle messengers, and we chose to use bicycles for our disaster response concept because, as you know, in the Philippines, when something like that happens, there’s really so much difficulty getting to isolated places,” he said. (READ: These good samaritans celebrated noche buena on the road

Information is gold

This proved to be a bright idea considering that the storm surge scattered debris everywhere, erasing the slightest hint of roads and bridges around the province. Parts of houses, cars, trucks, and clothes littered everywhere – in flattened houses, up in trees, and on the roads.  

DEBRIS EVERYWHERE. Parts of houses, cars, and even boats litter the streets in the aftermath of Yolanda

“Even large fishing boats were spotted in the middle of the road,” Delfin said.

Going through this mountainous rubble, the volunteer bicycle managers were able to scour the isolated areas in Leyte and help survivors get in touch with their worried loved ones.

During one of their deployments, Deflin received a call for help from a security guard in Cebu. His relatives reside in San Jose, a seaside town that is among the most badly hit in Tacloban.

While both the security guard and Delfin knew that the chances were slim that they were alive, they still pushed through and searched for them.

“We didn’t really have a lot of hope of finding his parents, because it just so happens that his parents live in a place called, I think it was San Jose. Everything was gone in San Jose,” Delfin said.

At  San Jose, Delfin said that the town was almost flat except for a few two to three-story houses. Initially, there were no signs of life.

They decided to rest at one of the torn-down structures.

“It just so happened that we looked up, in the hole in the floor, there were people who were looking down at us. They were asking if we had medicine, food supply, and stuff, which  fortunately we had,” Delfin recalled.

As luck would have it, Delfin later discovered that they were talking to the relatives of the security guard.

Disaster preparedness

According to Delfin, it was during their response initiative in Tacloban when they realized the how information becomes a form of relief during disasters.

Their unforgettable experience in Yolanda was enough to keep their initiative going.

DEVASTATION. Many seaside towns are flattened in the immediate aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.


The Bike Scouts continued their volunteer work during disasters. They were there when typhoon Nona hit Oriental Mindoro, when a 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit Batangas, and when typhoon Nina devastated the tourist island of Caramoan in Camarines Sur. 

They also went beyond disaster response.

Every November 8, their foundation anniversary, they would hold a 1000-kilometer ride. They would go from Manila, traversing the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, Sorsogon, and Samar, to advocate disaster preparedness in communities.

We talk to the students, we talk to the people in the communities about how they can use bicycles and what we call portable technology. For example, almost everybody has a mobile phone that can handle some form of mobile app that will help them get in touch with, maybe MovePH or Agos,” Delfin said.

According to the disaster preparedness advocate, bicycles for disaster response is “a Filipino solution to a very Filipino problem.”

The Bike Scouts are more than hobbyists. They are advocates who want to make change happen.

Their vision is to help achieve zero casualty during disasters.

“Change, really, is about that… having that mindset of really looking for a way to use technology that we have right now  and other resources that are available to us,” he said. – Rappler.com

Person with disability praises MMDA for coding exemption


 RECEIVED. MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim personally handed the Coding Exemption Certificate to Juan Magdaraog after the latter believes that the traffic agency is no longer issuing exemptions. Photo from Juan Magdaraog/Facebook

MANILA, Philippines – After hearing that the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is no longer issuing exemptions from the number coding scheme, Juan Magdaraog, a person with disability, aired his concern on social media. Little did he expect that MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim would attend to him personally.

This came after Magdaraog expressed in a series of posts and tweets his disappointment when he confirmed through the MMDA hotline and Twitter accounts that it's no longer accepting applications for exemption from the coding scheme.


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“I had an exemption years ago. It expired and I also changed cars. I didn't bother reapplying because I work from home mostly, but I've had some instances lately that due to medical reasons I need to see doctors on coding days. So I thought of reapplying,” Magdaraog told Rappler.

He stressed that “one of the greatest barriers that people in wheelchairs have is access to transportation. It prevents them from being productive and moving around so they can do what they need.”

With the help of some friends, Magdaraog’s tweet exchange with MMDA Twitter reached Lim who immediately replied, “We still give exemptions to PWDs. We will communicate directly with the concerned person (with) disability."


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The next day, Magdaraog received a message from the MMDA chairman’s office asking for the Official Receipt and Certificate of Registration (OR/CR) of his car, medical certificate, and some personal details.

In another Facebook post, the person with disability thanked the MMDA chairman for personally meeting him to hand his coding exemption certificate. He also said it is “proof that some people in government listen and act quickly.”

In their conversation, Lim explained to Magdaraog that exemptions are given to those who genuinely need it. The MMDA is careful to make sure the privilege is not abused.


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“The MMDA recognize the importance of helping PWDs move around easier. While big changes take time, little things like exemptions ease the hardship a little. They want to do that,” Magdaraog said in his post.

In January 2017, the MMDA suspended indefinitely the issuance of exemptions from the number coding scheme as it continues to review traffic rules.

Then MMDA officer-in-charge Tim Orbos said that the decision came after applications from private motorists increased – feared to “defeat the purpose of [the] number coding scheme,” the Inquirer reported.

In the number coding scheme, vehicles with plate numbers ending in 1 and 2 are not allowed to travel on Mondays, 3 and 4 on Tuesdays, 5 and 6 on Wednesdays, 7 and 8 on Thursdays, and 9 and 0 on Fridays. – Rappler.com 

WATCH IN 360º: The Marawi humanitarian crisis


You can view this in 360º by using your Youtube app on IOS and Android. For desktop, use Chrome or Firefox to experience the immersive video.

MARAWI SITUATION. This immersive 360-degree video first takes you to Bubong, a remote town in Lanao del Sur which has been isolated due to the clashes between government forces and local terrorists in Marawi City.

MARAWI CITY, Philippines - As the world observes Humanitarian Day on August 19, MovePH editor Voltaire Tupaz and Rappler video journalist Adrian Portugal give you a peek into the front lines of humanitarian work in Marawi City and nearby towns.

This immersive 360-degree video first takes you to Bubong, a remote town in Lanao del Sur which has been isolated due to the clashes between government forces and local terrorists in Marawi City. 

The town hosts about 2,700 internally displaced families from nearby Marawi City, ground zero of the ISIS-inspired Maute Group's attack which started on May 23.  The Marawi siege triggered the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Watch out for the full Rappler's 360 video report on the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the ongoing armed conflict. Coming soon. - Rappler.com 


WATCH: Meet Mr. Pinoy Hoops, the champion of Tenement residents


PINOY HOOPS. Mike Swift champions the dreams of residents living at the Tenement building. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The hundreds of Tenement residents who face the constant threat of eviction found a champion in an unlikely person. Their champion did not grow up at the 11-storey housing project that has been standing for at least 54 years. He did not even grow up in the Philippines. 

His name is Mike Swift. In the community, he goes by the monicker Mr. Pinoy Hoops.

A basketball player and advocate, Swift grew up Brooklyn, New York, a place known for its bustling and colorful street basketball culture where players are not afraid to get down and dirty shooting hoops. 

Living in the Philippines for more than 3 years did little to remove the thick accent Swift picked up from his Brooklyn upbringing. Whenever he speaks, his words would form a rhythm, it would almost sound like he is rapping. 

Despite constantly standing out at the Tenement building, Swift has learned to call the place his second home. After all, the Tenement court is reminiscent of the basketball courts in New York City that have been the home of many legendary players in the United States.

“The minute I saw this court, I already knew how special it is, how special it is going to be. The people here probably did not know that, until I came here. I was like ‘You know what this place, you don't even know how special this place is. One day, the world is going to tune in to this court and they are going to see and they are going to visit this place.’ Little by little, they did,” he said. 

During his first encounter at the court in 2014, Swift promised to help the community and make basketball their common rallying point. 

Picnic Games

In October 2014, the National Housing Authority (NHA) gave Tenement residents a deadline: they have 30 days to evacuate the housing project and transfer to a relocation site in Cavite. 

The Tenement is one of the mass housing projects constructed under the administration of former President Diosdado Macapagal. Built in 1963, Tenement was Macapagal's response to the sudden influx of new settlers trying their luck in the metropolis during the 1960s. Back then, rent was only at P14 a month. 

In 2014, the NHA warned residents that the building is “condemned” and would instantly collapse in the wake of an earthquake. In a study conducted by Department of Works and Highways, however, it said that the then 51-year-old building only needed retrofitting. 

TENEMENT COURT. For Mike Swift, the basketball court located smack in the middle of the mass housing is reminiscent of the courts in New York City. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

Armed with their conviction and the knowledge about the study belying NHA’s claims, residents fought back. They said they do not want to leave the home they have known all their lives.

They also appealed to the local government of Taguig: “Help us retrofit the building.” While their appeals fell on deaf ears, they refused to move. 

It was during this tumultuous times when Swift thought of staging the first Picnic Games. 

“I chose the Picnic Games, I kind of did it for them to forget their problems here,” he said. 

The first Picnic Games brought together artists for a night of music and entertainment. Profit from the event went to the community to help renovate the court and repair the building. During the Picnic Games, he would also solicit second-hand sneakers to give to the barefoot players in the community.

Since then, the Tenement court has earned a spot in the international basketball scene. 

“The Tenement had become the top 5 most beautiful court in the world. It was voted. We are trying to get to number 1 though. So we continue our mission here, hoping that in the future, people and the government take notice how special this place is and they get to work together peacefully along with the residents to help fix and maintain their stay here,” Swift said. 

With the new-found fame of the basketball court, the residents were granted extension after extension to stay. 


Swift heard about all the horror stories and the bad reputation the Tenement building has earned through the years. He said, however, that reality is far from those grim images. 

“What I learned about this community? It's a loving community. This is not a squatters' area. There are a lot of hard-working folks here at the Tenement,” he said.

Inside the faded and vandalized building is a tight-knit, colorful community.

On one of the floors, a unit has set up a sari-sari store. On the floor above, a shirtless man grilled barbecue and hotdogs he will be selling for dinner. On the third floor, two mothers were catching up probably on the latest gossip in their neighborhood. 

Kids of all ages ran up and down the ramp. Laundry lined the corridors. Dogs took naps on the ramp in between floors.

Below, at the court, two teams were playing a competitive game of basketball. The images evoked a typical Filipino community. 

Almost all of them knew and greeted Swift as he passed by their units. 

“We have this bond like I feel like Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai or something. I am not really from here but they embraced me and I am like their adopted son here. And I am glad they did that. I have so much love for them, for embracing me and us together,” Swift shared. 

For Mr. Pinoy Hoops, the people in the community are worth fighting for. 

“If you know about the Tenement, it ain't just about the court or the things we want to fix around it. It's more like the whole building. These people here deserve better. They should not be just be thrown out or sent to relocation place where they don't want to be,” he said. 

LeBron court 

Swift used his connections in the basketball scene to raise awareness about the plight of the Tenement residents. In fact, he was instrumental in bringing NBA player LeBron James to the Tenement court in 2015. 

“It was not part of his itinerary to come to the Tenement,” Swift said. "There was even a big storm the night before the visit."

Despite that, Swift and his friend Maya Carandang pushed through with the painting of the LeBron mural. The whole court was painted with bright orange. On the floor, James LeBron was depicted shooting hoops. 

That day, despite the weather forecast, people packed the floors and anticipated the basketball megastar's arrival.

“When he did walk in, I think that changed. There goes the turning point,” Swift recalled. 

During his visit, LeBron left his handprint on the wall of the building and watched Filipino kids play basketball. 

TENEMENT BUILDING. The 11-storey mass housing project is home to at least a thousand residents. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

While the NBA player stayed for only around 30 minutes, the moment lasted forever for Swift. 

“It was definitely surreal. Here is one of the biggest sports public figure in the world, walking into the most disregarded project housing in a third world country. So it's like two opposite ends but here he is in this building, which proves that we were not wrong about knowing how special this place is,” Swift said. 

How to help 

While the court has been in the spotlight countless of times, a lot has yet to be done to ensure the residents' continuous stay in the building. They need to repaint the court, repair electricity wirings, retrofit the floors, and even create jobs for some of the residents. 

To make these lofty goals happen, Swift has set up a crowdfunding campaign to "save the Tenement." The money will be used for the following: 

  • Hire 3 to 4 residents to be janitors or custodians who will keep the basketball court clean and functional.
  • Build a full-sized covered court at the back of the building for rainy days
  • Rent the storage room the group has been occupying since 2014
  • Make minimal repairs ncluding painting the court, fixing the leaks on ceilings, cementing the cracks on the buildings and fixing the clogged sewage

Their group also still accepts second-hand sneakers they can distribute to residents who have none to use. On Friday, August 27, Swift and his friends will also be staging the 7th Picnic Games at the Tenement building, hoping to attract more help from different people. 

Swift firmly believes that every court can dream. And until his dreams for the Tenement court have fully materialized, he said he will stay and continue being a "soldier" for the community. 

"There's a long way to go. We are still looking for that turning point. Despite all the negativity, this is one of the positive things which they can look at," he said. – Rappler.com

Those interested to donate second-hand sneakers for barefoot players at the Tenement building may get in touch with Mike Swift through his Instagram accout. 

UNHCR restores hope among Marawi victims amid ongoing conflict


IDPs.  In this file photo, a home-based internally displaced family sits inside their tiny house near the town plaza of Pantar, Lanao del Norte. Home-based IDPs complains of lack of access to government supports saying government are favoring those in evacuation centers. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), also known as the UN Refugee Agency, has been helping restore hope and rebuild the lives of Marawi evacuees now staying in neighboring Iligan City. 

According to government data, there have been 78,466 families or 359,680 persons displaced as of August 18 due to the ongoing siege in Marawi City. Majority of them are home-based, while the rest stay at government-managed evacuation centers in Iligan City and neighboring municipalities.

Most of these people fled with nothing but their clothes and some things they managed to carry. (READ: On the frontlines of humanitarian for families fleeing conflict

“We’ve been here for two months already, but we are still not used to living in an evacuation center. My grandchildren, for example, have gotten sick already,” said 100-year-old Moreg Sarakan in their local language.  

The grandmother is one of the evacuees who has been far from home for two months now. 

She walked by foot to reach Buru-un, which is 40 kilometers away from her home. She said that airstrike attacks were prevalent in their area.  (WATCH IN 360º: The Marawi humanitarian crisis

“Sometimes I can still hear the sound of gunfire, and I am overcome with fear again. With our houses destroyed, I wonder how we will rebuild when the fighting is over.”

Sarakan added that they long for home, no matter how humble theirs is. She only hopes for peace to come back in Marawi. 

Longing for kins

Fatima Lumabao has her own story to tell.  

The 49-year-old mother has 8 children – 4 of them are still missing.

“I cry every night wondering where my children are. One of them is just a 10-year-old boy, and sometimes I dream of him calling my name for help,” she said.  

EVACUEES. Victims of the siege in Marawi City inside an evacuation center. Photo from the Department of Social Welfare and Development

Lumabao tries to be strong by finding comfort and refuge from the other families she has met in the evacuation camps, who went through the same traumatic experiences. However, she still cries at night when reminded of her missing children.  

“A lot of people here care for me while I try to cope. I may be smiling now but at night, when everyone is asleep, that’s when I yearn for my family to be complete again,” she added. 

Providing help 

Aside from providing plastic mats, kitchen sets, tarpaulins, and other everyday needs to the evacuees, UNHCR also provides moral support by bringing one of their advocates, broadcast journalist Atom Araullo, to the affected families. 

Araullo talked to the people and asked for the concerns they are facing.

"At this point, it's really more of a day-to-day survival in evacuation centers. I hope the conflict does not drag on for years, and while families are temporarily displaced here, how are they going to live? They cannot rely on dole-outs all the time,” he said. 

He also added that more than the daily needs, families need to go back to their respective communities in order to completely rebuild their lives. 

UNHCR also makes sure that the rights of the internally displaced people are being safeguarded.  – Rappler.com