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PH laws on transportation 'really incomplete' – expert


LACKING. While the Philippines has a number of laws that protect road users, it still has a lot of room for improvement. Graphics by Alejandro Edorio

MANILA, Philippines – More than half of the vulnerable road users who died in road traffic crashes are motorists and pedestrians. However, the currently existing laws that seek to protect them are either lacking or outdated. 

During a Rappler Talk interview on Thursday, October 12, transportation expert and former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) undersecretary Primitivo Cal shared why the country's laws are still very much 'lacking'.

"Compared to laws of other countries, we lack many traffic-related measures," he said.

An example of this lack would be on the laws that protect pedestrian safety. Cal pointed out an example of how pedestrian lanes like the "zebra crossing" is not implemented correctly. 

Under international practice, a "zebra crossing" must always give priority to pedestrians. Once a pedestrian stepped on the crossing, vehicles must stop.

In the Philippines, however, these facilities are usually present at signalized intersections, where pedestrians are not always given the priority especially when the signal light turns green. 

The Land Transportation Code, for example, was enacted more than five decades ago in 1964 and might not have comprehensive and updated provisions appropriate to the current road traffic conditions. 

For pedestrian safety, the code only mentioned yielding the right of way to pedestrians.

"The driver of any vehicle upon a highway within a business or residential district shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing such highway within a crosswalk, except at intersections where the movement of traffic is being regulated by a peace officer or by traffic signal" the law stated.

 According to a report from the World Health Organization, motorcycle riders and pedestrians are the most vulnerable on the road. They are 72% of the total road crash deaths in the country in 2015.  (READ: Road deaths in PH: Most are motorcycle riders, pedestrians )

 Aside from pedestrian safety, Cal also mentioned the lack of legislation for cyclists.

The data from the World Health Organization also stated that more than half of the road deaths in the Philippines are motorists. In Metro Manila alone, there were 23,105 incidents of road crash incidents in 2016. I

Just last year, a cyclist was killed when she was run over by a dump truck in Marikina. 

Cal also recognized the "obsolete" provisions of the speed limits indicated in the Land Transportation Code. 

While the code prohibits provincial, city or municipal authority to enforce any ordinance or resolution specifying speed limits, some local government units are have already set local speed limits exercising their mandate provided by the Local Government Code to  "exercise all powers granted to it in order to promote health and safety, among others." (READ: What you need to know about speed limits in the Philippines )

Cal suggested efforts to address the worsening traffic condition in the country. He emphasized the need for a better public transport system, in particular, the rail transit system. It is only after improving this can the stricter traffic restraint measure be implemented. 

The transportation expert added that ultimately, education and enforcement must be strengthened to effectively improve road safety in the Philippines. – Rappler.com

Children’s health in peril as climate impacts escalate in PH


MANILA, Philippines – More Filipinos are now exposed to viral diseases due to climate change impacts in the country.

"He had been complaining of headache and stomach cramps, and had chills at night even when it was humid. In the morning, blood came out of his nose. It happened so fast," said Phoebe Ambanloc, a dental secretary from San Carlos City in Pangasinan.

Ambanloc recalled the dreadful experience of watching his 22-year-old brother Fabian fall sick to dengue in September. Before getting sick, Fabian had spent a week taking care of their 8-year-old sister, Letecia, who was hospitalized because of dengue as well.

"It was traumatic to have two family members fall sick one after the other. We cleared plant pots and put mosquito nets up after that," Ambanloc said. (READ: DOH identifies 80 barangays as dengue 'hot zones')

The case of the Ambanloc siblings is not isolated as more Filipino children face the dangers of vector-borne diseases such as dengue and Chikungunya – a mosquito-borne disease that shares clinical symptoms with dengue, but is incurable.

Records from the Department of Health (DOH) show there were 76,391 people who had been infected with the dengue virus from January to September in 2017. (READ: Fast facts about dengue in PH)

While this is 45.4% lower compared to the same period last year, alarmingly, majority of the cases (22.5%) had been children from 5 to 9 years old. This age group also recorded the highest fatality.

A total of 1,530 Chikungunya cases were recorded from January to September 2017, with most patients belonging to the 25 to 29 years age group. There were 3 deaths reported. (READ: DOH warns vs mosquito bites after 9 deaths from Japanese encephalitis)

Children's health endangered

Dr Anthony Calibo, officer-in-charge of the Children’s Health Division at the Disease Prevention and Control Bureau at the Department of Health (DOH), said that forest destruction which disturbs the habitat of certain disease carrying insects has led to increase in spreading the disease.

"With forest destruction resulting to or being part of climate change, mosquitoes for example will try to fly to other areas when their known habitat has been destroyed. As such, Aedes mosquitoes, the vector of dengue and chikungunya, seek refuge in domesticated settings," he explained.

In a lecture, Jonathan Lambert of Cornell University's Institute for Climate Smart Solutions said that mosquitoes migrating to new habitats is part of climate-induced changes in vector behavior and ecology. (READ: Climate change: Why PH should care)

With thinner forest cover, there is lesser defense against global warming. A warmer environment alters breeding periods for species such as mosquitoes, causing them to mature faster and become active disease carriers sooner, he explained.

Lambert also cited that the El Niño weather event, which is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures, has increased malaria risks 5-fold.

"There’s also been an increase in water-borne disease outbreaks that occur after extreme precipitations which are occurring due to climate change," he said. This has a disproportionate effect on communities, putting the elderly and the very young at greater risk, he added.

Malnourished children

Aside from being at risk of infection from vector-borne diseases, Filipino children are also most vulnerable to diarrhea, upper respiratory tract infection including pneumonia, and measles when disasters displace their families and disrupt their lives.

Seeking shelter in crowded evacuation centers that have poorly hygienic conditions make children more susceptible to diseases, Calibo said. (READ: On nutrition and disasters)

"Malnutrition can also happen because of disruption of routine practices at home involving feeding of infants and young children. Other climate disturbances as drought, extreme heat can also affect food security leading to malnutrition," he added.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) acknowledges the need to improve evacuation facilities.

Karla Minorka Aldea, communications staff of the NDRRMC, said they have started installing more toilets and bathing facilities in evacuation areas. "There are also interventions for nutrition such as vitamin supplication and supplementary feeding," she added.

More costs

Many health impacts from climate change can be prevented through early action, significantly lowering the costs as opposed to dealing with impacts after they occur, Cornell University’s Lambert argued.

"Climate action is much more beneficial to our over-all economy than climate inaction," he urged.

Calibo said that geohazard mapping should integrate both climate and geologic risks with the other aspects of child health, including access to health care facilities, food production and security, and road and transport network availability. "This way, risks mitigation and disaster preparedness will be achieved," he said.

Calibo said that as a means to build resilience amid climate change-related health risks among children, the DOH is mapping its strategies towards Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 development goals internationally adopted in 2015 that seeks to end poverty, hunger, and lack of access to quality healthcare and education by 2030. SDG 3 addresses equal access to healthcare.

The First 1000 Days campaign, for example, links many public health interventions to SDG 3 and also SDG 2, he said, with programs that aim to reduce newborn, infant and under-5 child deaths and child malnutrition. (READ: Global Goals)

"If health is at the center of all policies and strategies, the welfare of children will always be assured," Calibo said.

According to a 2015 UNICEF report, more than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flooding occurrence and 160 million live in drought zones, therefore exposing them to the dangers of climate change.

"All interventions that will reduce impact of climate change on children will ultimately be dependent on efforts and initiatives by the adult members of the community, the decision and policy makers and implementors," Calibo said.– Rappler.com

Ping Manongdo is a correspondent for Eco-Business, a Singapore-based sustainability-focused news organization. She was also a 2017 Southeast Asia Fellow for ClimateTracker, one of the world's biggest communities of climate journalists, and recently finished a course with Cornell University on climate change science, action, and communication.

Filipino entrepreneur brings a taste of Pinoy food to Qatar


NEW BUSINESS. Dahlia Agbanlog in JKCMom cafe, which she opened last summer. Photo by OM

DOHA, Qatar – Dahlia Agbanlog had an expansive view of the dazzling West Bay district from the small round table where she sat. The long narrow skyscrapers that lined the streets seemed to twinkle under the glint of the sun. On hot arid days like this, an ice-cold halo-halo would have just been just the thing to stave off the desert heat.

“Halo-halo is one of JKCMom Cafe’s best sellers,” Agbanlog said and promptly asked her son, Christian Dahnuel, who was manning the cashier to whip out one for me so I could find out for myself.

Agbanlog opened JKCMom Cafe last summer in the Twin Towers along Al Jazeera Street, in the same building as the Philippine Overseas Labor Office Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA). Already, the cafe which is named after her children, has begun to draw a steady crowd of Filipino and non-Filipino customers.

“Our kababayans (countrymen) who come here sometimes spend an entire day lining up to get their various requirements (at the POLO-OWWA). They are going to get hungry,” said Agbanlog pragmatically.

And they are bound to look for a hearty meal of Filipino favorites like adobo and caldereta with a generous helping of rice, then perhaps indulge in a glass of halo-halo after.


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FRUITS OF LABOR. From a restaurant with 3 employees, Agbanlog now employs over 40 people. Photo by OM




The cafe is her latest project in a growing list of successful enterprises that have introduced Filipino food to Qatar, starting with the first Nayong Filipino restaurant she opened in Mesaieed in 2004. Agbanlog closed that to open another branch in Al Khor.

“I opened the Nayong Filipino restaurant in Al Khor back in 2006 when it was still a desert. People thought I was crazy to open up a restaurant there,” laughed Agbanlog.

While others saw a desert, Agbanlog saw an opportunity in the growing number of Filipino labor migrants coming to Doha to work.

The migration wave that would make Qatar the third most populated country by Filipinos had just started. Men were working as welders, plumbers, and electricians in the construction sites that had begun sprouting up around the city. Nurses began filling up the staff posts at the nearby Hamad Hospital.

FEAST. With the growing number of Filipinos going to Qatar, Agbalog knew they would look for a taste of home. Photo by OM

Agbanlog thought, if they were like her, it would take them awhile to get used to Arabic food. “They’re going to get hungry and look for Filipino food.”

Having lived in Doha since 2001, Agbanlog knew that in a foreign country where you are far away from everything that is familiar, the taste of a Filipino dish would satisfy your longing for home. Culturally, food is so important to the Filipino way of life. Eating is not just about satiating hunger; it’s about community gathering.

She admitted that it was a hunch, but she was willing to gamble on it. Agbanlog started with 3 employees: her brother was the chef, her father was the cashier, and another relative was the dishwasher.

On the first day they opened, snaking lines formed from the cashier and spilled over into the streets. The restaurant was an instant hit and a source of validation.

Her very first food business venture years before was short-lived though, because some business partnerships took a downturn. That was Agbanlog’s first taste of failure and it hurt. “It was hard for me to think about setting up another business. It was hard for me to trust again because it might be taken away.”

But the fighter in her told her she shouldn’t give up. Her initial success proved that a Filipino restaurant in Doha had a market. “I just thought of another concept for a Filipino restaurant and started all over again.”

That was the birth of Nayong Filipino, a restaurant best known for serving a mix of Filipino, Chinese, and Singaporean food.

Now Nayong Filipino has expanded its services to supplying different kinds of Filipino breads to over 100 shops around Doha. “The monays and siopaos that you see being sold in the stores around Doha, we probably supplied that.”

From a restaurant with 3 family members as employees, Agbanlog now employs 45 people. Majority of them are Filipinos and some still are relatives, but she now also employs some foreigners. “I thought instead of sending them (relatives) money back home, I could just bring them here and work.”

CHANCE. "People thought I was crazy to open up a restaurant here," Agbanlog said. Photo by OM

Not too bad for someone who came to Doha in 2001 from Mangaldan, Pangasinan – her first time out of the country to visit her brother – and who ended up never leaving.

“I never imagined that things would turn out this way. I wanted to be a doctor and my first job was selling Tupperware!” laughed Agbanlog.

To this day, Agbanlog can still deliver the Tupperware sales pitch of “a locked-in airtight seal that comes with a lifetime service guarantee” with much confidence. “I believed so much in the product. I could fight for it, defend it and share many positive experiences about it. It wasn’t sales talk anymore.”

Sales was in Agbanlog’s blood and her top sales ranking and commissions proved it.

“My first big sales commission was P7,000. Back in the early 90s, that was already a lot of money,” she said, then added with a laugh. “Well, I’m sure there was some charity there, too. People must have been thinking, ‘She’s so young and hardworking. I’ll buy from her.’”

Agbanlog’s days in direct selling served as business school bootcamp where she trained in the persuasion needed for sales, learned the charisma that is at the heart of people skills, and mastered the numerical dynamics of profitability.


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NEW VENTURE. Agbanglog sets her sights on opening a new restaurant in Georgia. Photo by OM




Lessons learned

Looking back on it all, the 45-year-old Agbanlog says that the dream of becoming your own boss does not come easy. Anyone considering entrepreneurship should know that it requires a lot of hard work and means having to know a little bit of the entire business cycle from operations to human resources to marketing.

“I would say that you just have to stay curious and enjoy the learning process. Everything can be learned. Everything can be turned into an opportunity,” said Agbanlog.

The current global buzz on Filipino food is another untapped opportunity to expand her horizons beyond Doha. Now she’s setting her sights on setting up a Filipino restaurant in Georgia. “I vacationed there and fell in love with the country and its weather.”  

Her brother, her trusted chef, is already there making the initial preparations.

There aren’t a lot of Filipinos living there yet but she’s seen many of them traveling to Georgia on holiday. “I’m sure they’re going to look for Filipino food. When you travel, after you’ve tasted the local cuisine you end up looking for a taste of home.”

“And I’m sure the Georgians are going to love our adobo,” quipped Agbanlog, her eyes twinkling at the prospect of another new business adventure. – Rappler.com


Reporting for this project was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 

VIRAL: 3 Marines dance to nursery rhyme 'Baby Shark'


HIGH MORALE. Members of the Philippine Marines dance with the hit craze 'Baby Shark' Screenshot from the video uploaded by Soldiers' Wives and Girlfriends Facebook Page

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine troops inside the war-torn Marawi City still have high morale despite the ongoing armed conflict for more than 5 months now.

A video showing members of the Philippine Marines dancing to the hit craze and nursery rhyme Baby Shark caught the attention of Facebook users.

The video opened with the troops – in fighting form and carrying long arms – working their way through a destroyed building.

As they moved across the landscape, the video then shows them dancing to the nursery rhyme. (READ: 'PH failed to detect signs that led to Marawi' – expert)


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As of posting time, the video has over 130,000 views, almost 6,000 reactions, and 4,000 shares.

Facebook user Beverly Escarda commented, “That's Filipino spirit, always looking for the brighter side.”


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Another user said that this video, despite the awful-looking battleground, gave the Filipino people a glimpse of joy despite of their situation. (RAPPLER TALK: Sidney Jones on the effect of the Marawi siege on terrorism in Southeast Asia)

Many of the comments expressed their appreciation for the armed forces risking their lives in Marawi.

As of posting, Rappler is still reaching the owner of the video to identify the names of the Marines in the viral post.

The clashes in Marawi City, which began on May 23, prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the entire Mindanao. Congress approved the extension of Duterte's proclamation until December 31. – Rappler.com

VIRAL: Homeless father, son study hard along Davao street


VIRAL. In this photo that made rounds online, Tatay Efren and 10-year-old Fren-Fren are seen studying despite not having a roof over their heads. Photo from Mildred Yu

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Even without a roof over their heads, a little boy and his father have been persevering to study hard for school. 

Taken by Facebook user Mildred Catadman Yu, a photo of a little boy named Fren Fren with his father Tatay Efren studying together went viral online. In the photo, the two were seen studying and writing despite the lack of a light source outside the building along Ilustre Street in Davao City.

The 10-year-old kid was seen doing his assignment while his father was helping him with his projects. The two shared a small space together outside the building, with only thin carton boxes shielding them from the cold pavement.


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"Habang naglalakad ako, ang daming pumasok sa isipan ko. Saan kaya sila naliligo? Saan kaya sila naglalaba? Kapag natutulog sila, ang dami kayang lamok. Paano nila natitiis yun?" Yu shared after taking the photo.

(While I was walking, a lot of questions entered my mind. Where are they taking a bath? Where are they doing their laundry? There are a lot of mosquitoes where they sleep. How can they endure all those?) 

In her post, Yu appealed to her network of family and friends to help the father and son in the spirt of Christmas. 

Another Facebook user, Maresh Agero dela Pedra, reposted Yu's photo on her account in a bid to spread their story and encourage help from strangers and friends alike. The reposted photos reached 443 comments and 667 shares, as of posting.

"Makita jud nimong naningkamot sila makalingkawas sa kalisod," Dela Pedra said.  (You can see that they are working hard to surpass poverty.)


In a chat with Tatay Efren, Dela Pedra learned that they lost their home in a fire. She also said that the Fren Fren's mother reportedly left them a few weeks back. 

In her separate post, Dela Pedra appealed to netizens to donate school supplies to Fren Fren and Tatay Efren. Fren Fren is a kinder student at a nearby school, Dela Pedra said. 

Several people have so far heeded to their call. Dela Pedra, along with her classmates, have been regularly updating posts regarding the help people have given and channeled through them. 

"May Good Samaritan pong magso-shoulder sa titirhan nila Tatay from Digos City po. May magpapadala din po bukas ng allowance nila P1,000 from," Dela Pedra said.  (We found a Good Samaritan from Digos City who will shoulder their housing. Somebody will be giving them P1000-worth of allowance) 

Fren Fren wants to be a soldier when he grows up. Against all odds, Tatay Efren said he would help his son make his dreams come true. 

The heartbreaking photo is reminiscent of the viral photo of Daniel Cabrera, the kid who was found studying along Cebu sidewalks. Then 9-year-old Cabrera was pictured while sitting on his legs, with a look of concentration on his face as he writes on an open book. Without a decent place to go home to, Daniel was studying outside while using the light illuminated from the nearby fastfood place. 

That photo changed Daniel Cabrera's life. After inspiring community action here and overseas, he now has a scholarship until college and his family now has a place they can call home. – Rappler.com 

Lira is the Rappler lead Mover in Davao City 

Law groups denounce Duterte's 'brazen assaults' vs democratic institutions


'PROTECT DEMOCRACY'. The Alternative Law Groups urge Congress to protect democracy, and media and civil society to 'intensify their vigilance' amid President Rodrigo Duterte's attacks on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales (left) and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (right).

MANILA, Philippines – Law groups slammed President Rodrigo Duterte for his "brazen assaults" against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the Office of the Ombudsman, saying such attacks undermine the independence of constitutional bodies mandated to maintain the system of checks and balances in the government.

Alternative Law Groups (ALG) – a coalition of 23 legal resource non-governmental organizations that aim to uphold the principles and values of alternative or developmental law – made the statement on Friday, October 13, as Congress tackles the impeachment complaints against the two officials.

"[We] denounce the brazen assaults against democratic institutions of President Rodrigo Duterte, which undermine the independent bodies mandated by the Constitution to maintain the system of checks and balances in the government," ALG said.

ALG said while the 1987 Constitution "puts impeachment as a mechanism to make top officials accountable...in this case, it is apparent that the attacks and threats of impeachment against the Chief Justice and the Ombudsman come directly from the top official himself, President Duterte."

Duterte had been criticizing and hurling allegations against Sereno and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in his public addresses. He had even suggested that all 3 of them resign and just allow the military to investigate them for graft and corruption. (READ: 'Do not be afraid to be minority': Chief Justice Sereno, 5 years on)

The President had repeatedly accused Morales of "selective justice" and openly supported the impeachment bid against her when the Office of the Ombudsman began its probe into the complaint on his alleged ill-gotten wealth.

ALG said Duterte's threat of impeachment against Morales, his attacks against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang, the creation of a body that can supposedly investigate outside the executive like the Ombudsman, and "his refusal to be submit himself to the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman, are clear signs that these are counter-attacks to intimidate the Office that is probing his wealth."

"These acts deliberately undermine the independence of the institutions whose duties primarily consist in upholding public trust by cleansing the government's ranks of graft and corruption and maintaining checks and balances so that tyranny would not arise from any branch of the government again," ALG said.

“We stand with these institutions not because of the people who are associated with them but because they are the remaining safeguards towards a balanced and just government free from corruption and despotism,” it added.

The group appealed to Congress to help uphold democracy in the country. 

"The members of the House of Representatives and the Senate must remember that Filipinos hold democracy dear to them. The Filipino people count on them to be circumspect in accordance with their sworn duties and to heed the public outcry in bolstering our governmental system of checks and balances," ALG said.

It also called on the media and the civil society to "lead the people, and be the vanguards of truth and knowledge in these trying times."

"We must always remember that an informed and empowered public, equipped with the truth and social consciousness, is still more powerful than the most brilliant political player and a barrel of a gun," ALG said. Rappler.com

LOOK: Flooded Pola spillway in Sta Cruz, Occidental Mindoro


FLOODED. Only trucks and busses can pass through the Pola spillway in Sta Cruz, Ocidental Mindoro. All photos courtesy of the Sta Cruz Local Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office (LDRRMO)

MANILA, Philippines – The Pola spillway in Sta Cruz, Occidental Mindoro, has remained unpassable to people and small cars due to flooding since 1 am on October 14, Saturday. 

According to the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office administrative (LDRRMO) officer Ricky Claveria, heavy rains caused the flooding. As of posting,  the floodwaters had risen to two and half feet.

The flood subsided when the rain stopped later Saturday afternnon but the water rose again due to the  heavy downpour. 

Claveria said that only busses and trucks can pass through the road. But if the water would not subside and heavy rains continue, all types of vehicles would be barred from passage.

"We might stop even trucks and busses from passing by if the rain will not stop," he said in Filipino. 

Claveria said they are also preparing for support teams on the ground in case of emergencies.

HITCH. A motorcycle is placed on the back of  a truck to help the rider and his vehicle cross the Pola spillway

How to report floods

When flooding hits your area, you can post photos and status updates on your Facebook and Twitter accounts using the hashtag, #FloodPH. The posts should be set to public.

Reports can also be sent via SMS to 2929 for Smart and Talk N' Text subscribers.

Text Format: FLOODPH <Street, Barangay, City> <Describe Flood>
Sample Text: FLOODPH Bajada St Victoria Plaza Davao City knee-high

Flood reports can also be posted directly on the Agos map, powered by eBayanihan. Rappler's MovePH team will monitor the map and alert the public and authorities. – Rappler.com





How the 'tiger of Mayon' protects the unpredictable volcano


TIGER OF MAYON. George Cordovilla earns the monicker of Tiger of Mayon.  Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Like many stories of romance, theirs started with an insatiable attraction.

At an early age, George Cordovilla fell madly in love with her.  Like how any hopeless romantic would, he tirelessly pursued her. Throughout many decades, his love never faltered even amid threats that were difficult to predict.

Except, George Cordovilla isn’t referring to any random girl. Instead, he fell in love with the beautiful maiden of Albay, the Mayon volcano. 

“My number one advocacy is to protect the volcano that I love. I fell in love with the volcano because, every morning when I wake up, I can see the beauty in its perfect symmetry. It is very inspiring to everybody who sees her,” Cordovilla said. 

He first climbed the volcano at 17 years old. Now at 56, George has lost count of the number of times he has reached the Mayon's summit. He said he stopped counting at 300. 

Tiger of Mayon

Cordovilla is known for his undying commitment to preserve the beauty and rich biodiversity of Mayon

He does not just swoon over Mayon's beauty. He walks the talk, too. In 2013, Cordovilla was instrumental in saving a tourist guide when the volcano had a phreatic eruption. Late in September 2017, he also led the community and local police to apprehend the group of climbers who scaled the volcano despite a ban on climbing. 

 His life's worth of efforts to climb, conserve and protect the volcano later earned him the monicker "Tiger of Mayon." For him, each of his over 300 climbs felt like the first time. 

"They call me the 'Tiger of Mayon' because of the number of times I scaled the volcano. At the same tme, it's a monicker. They called me that because I kind of serve as the volcano's guardian. They know how passionate I am about climbing this volcano," Cordovilla said. 

It was Edwin Gatia, the person known as the "Tiger of Kanlaon," who gave Cordovilla the nickname. The two are just among the pilars of the mountaineering community in the Philippines who co-founded the Montain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines. They consider themselves as "old school climbers." 

"All major mountains have been climbed by this organization. We impart our advocacy to take care of the mountain and, at the same time, we teach newbies the technicalities of becoming a tropical mountaineer," Cordovilla said. 

ACTIVE VOLCANO. Volcanologists classify Mayon as an active volcano. This means there is a constant possibility of eruption even in the absence of an alert. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

For Cordovilla, climbing a mountain is a balancing act of enjoying nature’s wonders and exercising responsibility. This is why, way back in 1979, he strived to become an accredited guide under the Department of Tourism (DOT), undergoing a basic mountaineering course (BMC).  

In fact, Cordovilla is one of the most senior members of the Mayon Naturalist Ecoguides Inc. (Manega), the group of accredited tour guides in Mayon.

Being an accredited guide means they are required to follow the standard operating procedures before venturing out for a climb, including securing a visitor's permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and check with Phivolcs for any alert on the volcano.  (#SharePH: ATV adventure at the foot of Mayon Volcano)

Seeing the province's main attraction – the 2,462-meter-tall volcano – always leaves many tourists and residents in awe. 

"It is a magnet that attracts people of all races," Cordovilla says of the volcano. 

But one should not be fooled by its beauty. Volcanologists classify Mayon as an active volcano, which means there is a constant possibility of eruption even in the absence of an alert.

This lingering threat, however, never stopped people from seeing Mayon up close. (READ: Looking back: Mayon Volcano’s most destructive eruption

Selfless love

Becoming a tour guide, according to Cordovilla, gave him the opportunity to share the beauty of Mayon at the same time promote responsible climbing to tourists. 

"I am a guide. It is also my passion to climb. I also impart what I feel whenever I climb this mountain and other volcanoes," he said. 

On May 6, 2013, Cordovilla, together with his porter guide, brought 5 Thai tourists to the summit of Mayon. They were able to reach the summit at 3 pm of the same day. As they started their descent, however, the microweather around the volcano started to change and it began to rain hard. 

"Suddenly, I heard a sound that is similar to a loud exhale. It is as if the mountain was expanding. And then big rocks suddenly started falling," Cordovilla distinctly recalled that particular climb as if it only happened yesterday. 

Because of the strong rain and falling rocks, Cordovilla decided to split the team into two. After giving his porter instructions to follow, Cordovilla led the first team to go ahead, across two gullys, to Camp 2.

Night came, however, but his porter and the rest have not made it to the Camp 2, their designated meet up place. The rain was still pouring hard and Cordovilla figured that they may have lost their way. This is when he decided to call for a preemptive rescue. 

When the morning came, the weather also cleared. He got a call from the rescuers who were at the foot of the volcano, relaying the good news that they found his porter and the Thai tourist a few meters behind where they were. Cordovilla and his team then proceeded to descend the volcano. 

"After 10 minutes, that is when it felt like the water started boil. We heard a loud whistle, followed by a loud explosion. Boom!," he recalled. 

It began raining rocks – big and burning boulders. 

The small phreatic event – caused by the heating of water by the magma underneath the volcano's crater, sending steam, water, and volcanic material out – lasted 73 seconds but it was enough to separate and delay the descent of the other team.

PASSION FOR CLIMBING. For George Cordovilla, climbing the mountain is a balancing act of enjoying nature's wonders and exercising responsibility. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

A few minutes later, the porter and the other tourists were able to reach the foot of the volcano – except for one: the Thai tourist named Boonchai Jattupornong. 

The next day, Cordovilla led the search and rescue for the missing tourist. Fortunately, they found him alive on the other side of the gully. He lost his helmet and fractured his arm. 

"He said, when the volcano erupted, he went the other way and got separated from the rest of the team. He rolled and hit his arm. He ended up on a slope. That is where he stayed," Cordovilla said. 

Bringing him to safety took more than 36 hours, according to him. 

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 5 mountain climbers died after being hit by rocks cascading down the slopes of the volcano due to the phreatic eruption. Four of the casualties were Germans, while the fifth was their Filipino tour guide, Jerome Berin.

Volcano's vanguard

"That incident prompted the government to ban climbing because they said it is unpredictable," Cordovilla shared. 

Despite the ban, some groups still organized backdoor climbs at the Mayon volcano. Backdoor mountaineering, accordigng to Cordovilla, refers to climbs organized at mountains where climbing is prohibited. 

"The problem is, while there is an ordinance, there is a problem with enforcement. Even the DENR lacks the personnel to guard the volcano and patrol existing trails," Cordovilla said. 

On September 25, Cordovilla was told about the lights villagers saw at the volcano. He then quickly told local officials about the climbers who ascended the volcano despite the ban. 

"We mobilized the village together with local police from Malilipot. They apprehended the group," Cordovilla said. 

BAN ON CLIMBING. After the 2013 incident, activities such as climbing and farming are banned within the six-kilometer zone from the crater. Photo by Raisa Serafica/Rappler

The group were made up of 31 mountaineers who came all the way from Manila. More than anything, Cordovilla expressed his dismay over the incident. 

"Although we belong to the same group, others carry a different advocacy. They guide because they consider this as a business. They are not as passionate about taking care of the mountain," he said. 

For aspiring mountaineers 

When Cordovilla started mountain climbing in the late 1970s, only few people would join them. But, recently, they have seen a spike in the number of people climbing summits. 

"Climbing is trending. During that time, we wanted to promote mountain climbing but nobody heeded to us. With Facebook, mountaineering suddenly trended," he said.

While he is happy that mountaineering is attracting old and young souls alike, Cordovilla hopes to teach more poeple how to take care of the volcano. 

For aspiring mountaineers, he recommends them to take a BMC to learn what it takes to become tropical mountaineer. He also discouraged millennials from taking "buwis-buhay" (life-threatening) shots at summits of mountains. 

"A lot of people are now climbing mountains. They would post their pictures, selfies, and life-threatening shots. Many of those who climb just climb to take a photo which they can post. I hope before they do that, they also think about the possible impact when something wrong happens," Cordovilla said. 

Ultimately, he wishes that people who climb share his love and passion for taking care of mountains. 

"There is constant courtship. You will always pursue this beautiful maiden of Albay. The more you are challenged, the more you would be encouraged to pursue her," Cordovilla said. – Rappler.com 

How a bitter recession gave birth to a sweet export business


SWEET SUCCESS. Shirley Dayanan tasted her first bitter deal of failure – a recession – before she became an exporter of dried fruits. Photos by Franz Lopez/Rappler

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – There were no signs that could have prepared her for the better. But all of a sudden, in the early 2000s, Shirley Dayanan saw a recession sweep multinational companies, including her 17-year career with a durian and mango farm operator, to naught.

She hopped from one company to another. Her longest would only last for half a year. The recession kept closing factories. Eventually, she moved from Davao to Butuan, where she worked for a food manufacturing company. But Davao’s supply of clean water, she says, is what sets it apart from other cities.

And with her combined experience of working for food companies, she asked: “Why don’t I start my own business?”

From the end to beginning

She returned to Davao, where old clients from the company she used to work for were looking for her. “Where have you been?” they asked Dayanan, who at the time was trying her luck with durian jam.

Her own business had Dayanan divide her home’s kitchen into two: one for the family, and one for the company. She would begin selling jams to Zamboanga.

Six months later, she received a call from a friend who was in the export industry who hinted that dried fruits from the Philippines tastes better than another neighboring country.

“I know how to do that,” she told her friend. It happened that another friend of her had a drying facility she could use.

But the problem was the durian jam maker did not have capital to start a fruit drying factory. So her friend advised her to send samples first, and perhaps from there the client could decide whether the dried fruits she made were worth taking risks.

Later in 2011, she found herself stuffing a 20-foot equivalent unit shipping container with dried papayas and mangoes for New Jersey, which led her to set up her own company, Safepac Corporation.

It was that moment she learned a life lesson: that an end could possibly open a door to another beginning. And that beginning could either be a new business, or another storm.

Climate change

Years later, the mango trees that were vital to their business would not bear fruits during harvest season. And the mangoes, if there were any, had prices that spiraled.

So Dayanan told her client in New Jersey that there were no ripe mangoes for drying. Thailand, on the other hand, was becoming a threat. They were making dried mangoes while exporters here could not.

But thanks to that friend who did not give up on her. She immediately thought of another idea.

“Can you make banana chips?” she asked.

“As long as it’s dried fruits, I can.”

In that moment, Dayanan had another lesson: to take opportunities and figure how things are done along the process. After all, she had an experience in fruit processing, and government support.


 The support came through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The two agencies assisted her in acquiring a machine that slices bananas which were to be turned into chips. The equipment was worth P540,000, payable for three years.

As soon as she completed the payment for the loan, she applied for another, this time one that would dry mangoes which was worth P1 million.

It was the acquisition of the machines that got her back into the exporting scene. Her chips and dried fruits ares exported to South Korea.

“Others think that just because I’m an exporter, they think that I’m successful,” she says.

She admits that despite her success in expanding her market abroad, she said the rules of trade are far difficult abroad.

She says that more and more countries require accreditations like the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), ISO 22000, British Retail Consortium, among others.

“And I cannot call myself successful yet until I meet these standards,” says Dayanan.

There were no signs that could have signaled her to prepare for the better, but surely Dayanan says she’s proud of the difficult path she took.

Because, she said, no matter how bitter life was at the start, she was able to make a complete turnaround from a worker who lost a job – to an exporter of dried sweet fruits. – Rappler.com 

How residents make a living out of their home, Lake Bulusan


PEACEFUL. The calm waters of Lake Bulusan captures the heart of every tourists that seeks to relax and get away with city life. All photos by Bong Santisteban/Rappler

SORSOGON, Philippines – The lake was calm, and the ambiance was serene. The mirror image of Mount Bulusan in the backdrop left the tourists muted in awe. It seems that everyone was caught by the hypnotic beauty of the scene – a perfect setting to relax for the weekend.

Marhay nga aga (Good morning)! Welcome to Lake Bulusan,” a woman in her 40s said, breaking the deafening silence.

Virginia Negrite, or Ate Virgie as she introduced herself, is a mountain guide at Lake Bulusan National Park.

Before exploring the lake, tourists will undergo a short orientation on the do's and dont’s of the tour. This includes what to do if separated from the group, and unauthorized plucking of any plant species, among other rules.

During the tour, Negrite showed some pit stops where visitors can take several breaks during the two-kilometer hike, including the old Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) observatory and the dance pavilion used by American troops during the Martial Law era. (READ: FAST FACTS: Mt Bulusan, the PH's 4th most active volcano)

Negrite explained how the lake became home to a variety of plant species. The rich biodiversity within the national park is nurtured by the year-round temperate weather.  Two of plants first discovered in the park have scientific names named after Bulusan – Prenephrium bulusantum, a fern; and Schefflera bulusanicum, an evergreen tree.

For years, the tour guide mastered every detail of the lake, and the stories behind it. The lake was her home, and since it was opened  to tourists in 2010, it became her job.

Privilege more than a job

A former housewife, Negrite supports her 3 children with the income she gets from guiding local and foreign visitors around Lake Bulusan.

For a group of 10 persons, she receives P150 ($2.92) as payment. The whole tour lasts for two hours. According to her, she handles not more than 3 tours a day, sometimes, none at all.

The challenge for tour guides like Negrite is to make sure that their earnings will last until the next group of visitors arrives.

"Hindi po namin masasabi na bukas may bisita ulit, kaya ang kita ko sa araw na ito ay iniipit ko hanggang sa bukas, at sa susunod pang araw," she said.

(We can't tell if we have visitors for the following day, that's why we make sure that our earning for today will last until tomorrow, and until the day after that.)

Despite this, Negrite said that being a tour guide is a privilege more than a job.

"Dahil po sa trabahong ito, mas nakilala ko po ang aking lugar. Kung noon hindi ko masyado pinapansin ang paligid, ngayon nalaman ko na ang bawat puno dito ay may kuwento," she said, pointing to one of the trees known to many for its mythical origin.

(Because of this job, I became more acquainted with my place. If before, I don't know about my surroundings,now, I know that every tree here has their own stories.)

Negrite also related that if given the chance to choose a job, she would still choose to be a tour guide. According to her, nothing is more fulfilling than showcasing the beauty of their place to every visitor. (READ: 6 travel mistakes that harm beautiful destinations)

"Sa bawat 'thank you' po ng mga bisita, alam ko na nagawa ko po ang trabaho ko bilang guide. Masaya na po ako sa ganoon (With every 'thank you' I received from visitors, I know that I already did my job as a tour guide. I appreciate that)," she added.

To end the tour around the lake, visitors were challenged to take the 340-foot hanging bridge to return to the base station. With a harness securely wrapped around their waist, they crossed the hanging bridge suspended 30 meters above the ground with courage and shaking knees. (READ: Beautiful Bicol: What you can see, eat, and do)

COURAGE. Ate Virgie used to take this hanging bridge almost everyday to end the every tour she handles. While all of us cross the bridge with harness and shaking knee, she courageously lead the way without any safety gear

More to do

If you're not fond of hiking, Negrite suggested some of the activities around the lake.

If you want to just relax, having massage by the lake would be best for you. For P300, you can enjoy the knuckle-massage of locals using their own pili ointment.

For those seeking a water adventure, you can rent a kayak for P250 per hour and enjoy the serenity of the lake. You can also go fishing for free, just bring your own fishing rod. (READ: Tourism: What PH must do to be more competitive)

Local delicacies and souvenir items are also available in the canteen at reasonable prices.

The lake is located at the foot of Mt Bulusan, the 4th most active volcano. (READ: Active volcanoes in the Philippines)

On October 23, 2016, a phreatic eruption occurred in the volcano, producing an ash column 2.5 kilometers high. Up to this day, Alert Level 1 remains in effect, meaning, there could still be more phreatic or steam-driven eruptions.- Rappler.com


The Sumilao farmers, a decade after they marched for their rights


DECADE AFTER. The lives of the Sumilao farmers have changed in so many ways 10 years after they fought for their rights.

BUKIDNON, Philippines – In 2007, 10 years after a 28-day hunger strike, 55 farmers walked 1,700 kilometers from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Manila in 60 days to reclaim their 144-hectare ancestral land from corporate giant San Miguel Corporation. Their historic walk galvanized wide support from local governments, church groups and civil society. Catholic schools threatened to pull out all San Miguel products from their canteens. Employees threatened to resign.

San Miguel Corporation was compelled to give the farmers back their land. The Sumilao Farmers won.

Today, a total of 97 hectares of the land is communally owned while each of the 163 Sumiao farmer families own 1/4 hectare of land where they can grow vegetables for their own needs plus 150 square meters to build their homes.

The farmers have a total of P72M in assets that includes the value of their land, trucks, storage units, multi-purpose building, and farming equipment.

Their cooperative has a total P1.4 million capital build up and has become a model for other farmer cooperatives.

Last October 10, 2017, the Sumilao Farmers celebrated their collective 20 year struggle of active non-violent protests to reclaim their land.

Congresswoman Kaka Bag-ao

Kaka Bag-ao has been the lawyer of the Sumilao Farmers for the last 21 years. It started with a simple case of cancellation of title where the farmers discovered that they had already owned the land as beneficiaries of the Agrarian Reform Program. Additionally, the Sumilao farmers had ancestral claim to the land which used to be the seat of the Higaonon tribal leadership.

“We used to meet literally along the highway or under a banana tree because they had no land where we could meet.”

As part of the SALIGAN law group, Bag-ao was part of the team of lawyers working on empowering farmers through paralegal and case analysis trainings.

“There has been so much difference in the last 10 years in the quality of life of the Sumilao farmers and their children. There is really much to celebrate today,” said Bag-ao in a mix of English and Filipino.

There remain to be many challenges like optimizing productivity, maximizing returns on their produce and reducing operational costs.

Right now, the group is canvassing for a 10-wheeler truck to add to their farming equipment. “They tell me that it has to be 10-wheeler truck with 4-wheel drive because there are parts of the farm that are hard to get to when it rains very hard,” beamed Bag-ao.

“These are happy problems of land owners. It is no longer problems of those fighting to reclaim their land.”

Bajekjek Orquillas

YOUNGEST FARMER. Bajekjek Orquillas is the youngest farmer who joined the walk. Photo by Ana Santos

Bajekjek was a grade 5 student in 1997 when her father and other Sumilao farmers went on a 28-day hunger strike, shaved his head and camped out at the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Cagayan de Oro.

In front of her classmates, her teacher mocked the hunger strike and called her father a “squatter”. She did not fully understand what her father was doing but what her teacher said cut her to the core.

She stopped going to school. It was Bajekjek’s first act of active non-violence. She was 11 years old. 

She returned the following year and had to repeat grade 5.

Ten years later, Bajekjek was a 21-year-old who loved to download songs from her favorite bands, Maroon 5, Blink 182 and Britney Spears. She was also the youngest to join the Sumilao Walk for Land, Walk for Justice march from Bukidnon to Malacañang. It was time for her to join her father’s struggle.

Bajekjek fainted twice during the 60-day march. The others formed a makeshift stretcher using sticks of bamboo and a malong and carried her. She wore down 3 pairs for slippers.

Now, Bajekjek and her husband, Roger, have 3 children. She prefers Rihanna over Britney Spears and named one of her daughters after the singer from Barbados. Although between farming her own land and looking after her children, she doesn’t have a lot of time to listen to music.

She takes her children with her when it doesn’t interfere with their school work. “Kailangan malaman nila na mahirap magsaka pero mas mahirap yun magsaka na walang lupa. Hindi na na nila mararanasan yun.”

(They need to know that farming is hard. But it’s harder to till land that isn’t yours and they won’t ever have to experience what that is like.)

Bebing Lorenza

When she thinks back to walking 1,700 kilometers, Bebing Lorenza does not remember so much of the physical hardship but the emotional pain. She left her two young children with her husband to march to Manila.

It was Lorenza’s first time to be away from her children. The group made a collective decision not to use cellphones to call home or communicate with loved ones while they marched. Only their support groups (individual trusted supporters) were allowed to use phones and keep in touch with their families. This was to eliminate possible distractions that would weaken their resolve. They needed to be physically and emotionally strong to take on 60-days of walking an average of some 30 kilometers a day.

She later learned that the children were ostracized in school. “Mga sira-ulo daw kami maglalakad. Hindi naman daw kami makakarating ng Maynila.” (They said we were crazy to march and that we would never make it to Manila)

When Lorenza mother returned, the children went back to school. They had their mother back and she brought with her 144 hectares of land that was given back to 163 Sumilao farmer families, including theirs.

Noland Penas

A BETTER LIFE. Noland Penas used to have no land of his own, but now that he already does, life has become so much better. Photo by Ana Santos

“Yun pangalan ko, Noland, may D talaga.” (My name, Noland, really has a D in it.)

Noland Penas’s name has a literal meaning of "no land." When he was born, his father, Ka Rene, a farmer leader could only dream of owning the land he tilled.

Ka Rene was one of Sumilao farm leaders who started the 20-year struggle to reclaim their ancestral land. Using various forms of active non-violence, the farmers staged hunger strikes, land occupations, and finally walked 1,700 kilometers from Bukidnon to Malacañang.

Preparation for the march to Manila took two months. Farmers and their support groups strategized and planned for every possible detail they could think of. Messaging was crucial.

“Nag-media training kami. 'Pag may nagtanong sa amin kung bakit kami nag-mamartsa, sasabihin namin na gusto namin ibalik yun lupa – hindi ibigay. Magkaiba 'yun,” said Penas.

(We underwent media training so that when someone asked why were marching, we would say, 'To get back our land'. It was not  'give us land.' Those mean different things)

The younger Penas did not get to complete the march and had to turn back just as they were about to cross from Mindanao to Visayas. His wife had just given birth and their baby had fallen ill and a few months later, passed away.

But Ka Rene marched and in 2007 saw the day when he and 163 Sumilao farmer families were given back their land.

In 2009, on his way home, Ka Rene was shot and killed.

Penas still thinks of his father and child when he tills the land that they fought so hard to get back.

“Kailangan galingan namin na hindi na kami bumalik sa dati na kita lang sa pag saka sa lupa ng iba P70 a day at inaabot ng gutom.”

(We need to do things right so we don’t go back to our old struggles where we made only P70 a day and would go hungry)

Vice President Leni Robredo

Leni Robredo was part of alternative law group SALIGAN and her husband, Jesse Robredo, was then mayor of Naga.

As mayor, Jesse prepared for a grand salubong for the farmers and  Leni joined him not as the wife of the mayor but as a member of SALIGAN.

“At the time, I felt that they weren’t getting the attention that they deserved. Some local governments they passed through welcomed them but we wanted to be different because the mayor was my husband and I was one of their lawyers,” recalled Robredo. (WATCH: Sumilao Farmers enter Naga November 16, 2007)

The City of Naga prepared a Grand Salubong for the farmers. Banderitas (buntings) flapped from trees as well-wishers and supporters cheered and held up their fists high. They gathered together for a concert, a feast was served, wounds were treated and aches and pains were cared for. (READ: Young, old Sumilao farmers march for Leni Robredo)

“We took care of them. They had been walking thousands of miles already by the time they got to Naga. We wanted to make them feel welcome and that we were very much in the fight with them,” Robredo said. (READ: Sumilao farmers march again, this time for Leni Robredo)

More than that, a friendship between the Robredos and the farmers was formed. Though she was well-versed in the details of their case, it was her first time to meet them and as their case progressed, they became like extended family. (WATCH: Robredo thanks Sumilao Farmers in VP Debates

Through Robredo’s efforts, the Sanggunian ng Lunsod ng Naga issued a Resolution of support for the Sumilao Farmers. It was the only official resolution of support from a local government that the farmers received during their 60-day march.

When Robredo ran for Vice President in 2016, the farmers decided to march to Manila again to show their support for her candidacy. The gesture both surprised and touched Robredo.

“I did not solicit for their help. I only asked them if I could visit them. But they offered to march again for me. I said that was too much, they could just campaign for me in Bukidnon because I did not have presence here yet,” said Robredo.

The time the farmers offered to march, Robredo was still down in the surveys and while the VP debates were the game changer that catapulted her to the second highest office in the country, for Robredo, it was the Sumilao march that boosted her morale.

“When you introduce yourself, you relay your history. You tell people that you have been fighting for  the poor for the longest time. That’s cliché as far as people are concerned. So many politicians say that. For the Sumilao farmers to sacrifice for me, that legitimized my claim.

It also assured me that the people I have fighting alongside with for the longest time are still beside me."

“Hindi talaga namin sinabi sa kanya na marmartsa kami. Basta, nag-iisip kami kung paano namin papakita yun supporta namin ngayon na sya naman ang nangangailan,” said Noland Penas, one of the Sumilao leaders.  (We really did not tell her tha we were going to march again for her. We were thinking of ways to show our support for her now that she needs it)

The farmers did a Sumilao March Express – 21 days where they partly walked and rode vehicles.

“Gusto din namin pakita 'yung progress din namin, tulad nyan may mga sasakyan na kami. Eto 'yung mangyayari kapag ang mga magsasaka ay may kanilang sariling lupa,” added Penas.

(We also wanted to show our own progress, like now we could afford to hire vehicles. This is what happens when farmers own the land they till) – Rappler.com

LOOK: Organizations, communities unite to preserve Paco Park


PACO PARK RESTORATION. Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Incorporated and the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) lead the unveiling of the campaign banner where people can write their messages of support for Paco Park. All photos by Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Incorporated

MANILA, Philippines – The Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Incorporated and the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), along with communities surrounding Paco Park in Manila, launched a campaign to increase awareness of the heritage site in line with its preservation.

Paco Park is among the heritage sites in Manila that need preservation. It is also the only remaining colonial cemetery that is still intact. (READ: Fighting to preserve heritage in Santa Ana, Manila)

The launch of the campaign was attended and supported by barangay officials, business owners, and students from various schools, including the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila and Manila Science High School.

"Heritage assets can only be alive and significant if the communities around them make use of them and continue to help protect them," said Angeline Calurasan of Escuela Taller.

The event was highlighted by the unveiling of the campaign banner that reads, "May pakialam ako sa Paco Park." (I care about the Paco Park.) On the banner, people wrote their messages of support for the heritage site as well as their concerns about its preservation.

FOR A CAUSE. Communities and organizations gather to raise awareness of Paco Park's preservation.

Escuela Taller also recognizes the power of the youth and their participation in these efforts. The organization has helped restore a number of historical structures, including the Malate Church and the San Agustin Church.

"The youth play an important role in these efforts because they will be the future users and custodians of these sites and it is just necessary that we get them involved in these initiatives," said Escuela Taller executive director Carmen Bettina Bulaong.

The ossuary of Paco Park, which is also being restored, was shown during the launch of the campaign. The ossuary was an area used as a repository of bones when Paco Park was a cemetery during the colonial period.

The restoration is expected to be finished by March 2018. 

The NPDC allotted P12 million for the overall conservation program of Paco Park. – Rappler.com

Jeepney modernization would lead to loss of jobs – leftist group


JEEPNEY MODERNIZATION. Several groups oppose the plan to phase out old jeepney models. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) urged the public to support the two-day nationwide transport strike set for Monday to Tuesday, October 16 and 17.

In a statement on Sunday, October 15, Bayan said the looming phaseout of old public utility vehicle (PUV) models by 2020 would only bring "displacement and loss of livelihood" among drivers and operators.

"Bagama't kailangang iangat ang kalidad ng mga jeepney at kalagayan ng mga manggagawa sa transportasyon, displacement o kawalan ng kabuhayan ng libo-libong tsuper at operator sa ngalan ng pribadong tubo ang hatid ng pinaplanong Omnibus Franchising Guidelines," the leftist group said.

(While there is a need to improve the quality of jeepneys and the condition of workers in the transport sector, the Omnibus Franchising Guidelines would only bring displacement or loss of livelihood to thousands of drivers and operators in the name of profit.)

Back in June, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) launched the PUV modernization program, mandating the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older. (READ: Buses, jeepneys in the Philippines to be modernized by 2020)


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Bayan said members of the transport sector need the understanding of the public as a new jeepney would cost at least P1 million. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')

The group added that only companies with millions of pesos in capital can afford the proposed "fleet management system" that sets a minimum of 10 units per franchise.

"Sa huli, mapag-iiwanan nito ang maliliit na driver-operator habang mga kumpaniyang may milyon-milyong pisong kapital lang ang kayang pumasa," Bayan said.

(In the end, small-time driver-operators will be left behind as only companies with millions of pesos in capital would be able to meet government standards.)

State-run transport

Despite the protest, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said on Sunday that workers from the transport sector "do not oppose modernization." (READ: Yes, Pedro, we need to modernize the jeepney)

"We know there are many problems confronting the transport sector and many commuter complaints are valid. But corporatization? Giving big business control of the transport sector? Haven't we learned enough from MRT and LRT?" he said in a Facebook post. (READ: DOTr eyes MRT3 buyout under Duterte admin)

Bayan suggested that the government invest in a high-quality mass transport system instead.

"Upang magkaroon ng abot-kaya, ligtas, at mahusay na serbisyong pangtransportasyon, kailangang isabansa ang mass transport system na patakbo ng estado't nakasandig sa industriyalisadong ekonomiya," the group said. 

(To have affordable, safe, and high-quality transportation, the mass transport system should be run by the state with the support of the industrial economy.)

The transport strike from Monday to Tuesday is the 3rd one organized by transport group Piston this year. (READ: Hundreds stranded amid jeepney transport strike)

It prompted Malacañang to cancel classes at all levels in public and private schools nationwide, as well as government work on Monday.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) also suspended number coding in the entire Metro Manila for both private and public vehicles. (READ: Creating sustainable transport systems: PH's progress so far)

Meanwhile, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Central Visayas will deploy special buses for stranded passengers during the strike. – Rappler.com

Stranded? Report transportation problems using #CommuterWatch


MANILA, Philippines – Several transport groups are gearing up for a nationwide transport strike from Monday to Tuesday, October 16 to 17.

The protest aims to oppose the planned public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program of the government, mandating the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older. (READ: Buses, jeepneys in the Philippines to be modernized by 2020)

As the transport strike is expected to pose problems for commuters, Malacañang has suspended classes at all levels in public and private schools nationwide, as well as work in government offices.

But since Malacañang's order does not cover work in the private sector, the transport strike is expected to affect thousands of employees, especially in Metro Manila.

Traffic and transportation problems are common in Metro Manila even when there is no transport strike. (READ: Humor and agony: Best stories from #DiaryOfACommuter

To help commuters who will be stranded due to the transport strike, netizens are encouraged to report problems using the hashtag #CommuterWatch.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), according to the agency's digital media head Jan Paul Songsong, will be using the hashtag to monitor reports shared by stranded commuters on the road.  Rappler.com

What is happening outside Metro Manila during the nationwide transport strike


PUV MODERNIZATION. Jeepneys are seen as an enforcer manages traffic at a busy street in Manila on May 30, 2017. Photo from Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines – Will the nationwide transport strike scheduled on Monday to Tuesday, October 16 and 17, affect the whole country?

Various local government units within and outside Metro Manila are gearing for the worst-case scenario, preparing to assist commuters who will be stranded on the road.

Malacañang has even suspended classes at all levels and government work nationwide due to the transport strike.

According to the national transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON), thousands of jeepney operators and drivers from the following provinces and areas will join the transport strike: Isabela province, Metro Baguio, Pampanga, Bulacan, Laguna, Quezon, Batangas, Albay, Camarines Sur, Sorsogon, Masbate, Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, Iligan, Bukidnon, Gensan, Davao City, Butuan City and the Surigao provinces.

Here’s a rundown of what will happen outside Metro Manila for the nationwide transport strike.


Drivers in Bicol – belonging to Condor Piston Bicol and the No to Jeepney Phase Out Coalition – are expected to join the nationwide coordinated transport strike on Monday.

To assist stranded commuters, Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara said there will be "libreng sakay" or free rides to ply the Daraga-Legazpi routes. Free rides will also be provided for commuters who will be travelling to Tiwi and Polangui.  

In his advisory, Bichara also suggested "early marketing and buying" of food and medicine.

Cabuyao Mayor Mel Gecolea also announced that the local government unit will be deploying afew vehicles around the Laguna town to assist stranded commuters. 

"The route is [from the] boundary of Cabuyao-Calamba and [the] boundary of Cabuyao-Sta. Rosa," Mayor Gecolea said. 


Despite assurance from the transport group Piston Cebu that it does not seek to cripple the transport system in Cebu, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in Central Visayas will be providing alternative rides for passengers who might get stranded on Monday and Tuesday.

According to LTFRB, bus companies have also pledged to field buses that can travel out of line to serve strike-affected passengers at a special fare of P10.

In Cebu City, 15 buses will be deployed for stranded commuters. Meanwhile, Lapu-Lapu City will be mobilizing barangay vehicles and buses at two transport terminas.

“In coordination with the LTFRB, we are also deploying vehicles to assist in the possible shortage of public transport as cancellation of work in the private sector remains to be the discretion of their respective management,” Mandaue City Mayor Luigi R. Quisumbing also said in his post.

Meanwhile, transports groups in Western Visayas said they will not be participating in the nationwide transport strikeAccording to reports, local transport groups in Iloilo City will instead hold a “transport caravan protest” from terminal to terminal.


Hundreds of jeepneys and tricycles are expected to suspend operations in 47 routes in Davao City.

Acoording to reports, Ricardo Baron of the Tranmision-Piston said that the transport strike will paralyze up to 90% of transportation in Davao.

To help stranded passengers, Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte said that they will be deploying buses to assist passengers.

“Let us all take this opportunity to observe the streets with less jeepneys and more buses as envisioned in the High Priority Bus system project for the Dabawenyos,” the Davao City mayor said in a post on her Facebook page.

Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte also reminded the public that “crimes committed during the strike will not be tolerated,” encouraging protesters to be peaceful during their protest action. – Rappler.com

What to expect during the October 16-17 transport strike


TRANSPORT STRIKE. In this file photo, commuters wait for vacant jeepneys. Photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – In line with the two-day nationwide transport strike on Monday and Tuesday, October 16 and 17, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional offices were tasked to prepare for contingency plans to help commuters get to their destinations. (READ: Stranded? Report transportation problems using #CommuterWatch)

The LTFRB will work closely with local government units (LGUs) and concerned government agencies such as the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Highway Patrol Group (HPG), Philippine National Police (PNP), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to minimize the impact of the strike. 

In Metro Manila, the Joint Quick Rection Team (JQRT) was created to address the shortage of PUJs (public utility jeepneys) along affected routes, as well as to ensure safety of the riding public and jeepneys that will not participate in the strike. (READ: Jeepney modernization would lead to loss of jobs – leftist group)

Buses will also be deployed in replacement of PUVs (public utility vehicles).

A total of 35 city buses were engaged by LTFRB to help commuters affected by the transport strike in Metro Manila. MMDA also provided 4 military trucks, and 4 buses. The Philippine Coast Guard also gives free rides with 12 light trucks and 4 military trucks. 

The Philippine National Railways (PNR) is also preparing for the nationwide transport strike. 

"We are on [schedule] with all available trainsets. We aim maintain the 30-minute in-between-trains headway. We should be able to augment the removal of capacity for the jeepney strike, specifically in the southern corridor between Alabang and Tutuban," PNR general manager Junn Magno said in a text message to Rappler. 

Malacañang suspended government work and classes in private and public schools nationwide on Monday. 

What prompted the PUJs to launch a nationwide strike is their opposition to the PUV modernization program. The program launched by the the Department of Transportation (DOTr) mandates the replacement of jeepneys that are 15 years or older. 

Accoridng to leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), the said program would lead to loss of jobs. 

In a statement, Bayan said that the public must understand that a brand new jeepney would cost P1 million and only multi-million companies can afford to follow the said program. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?') –Rappler.com 

Jeepney riders feel effects of transport strike


Jeepney drivers and operators belonging to transport group PISTON hold streamers against the phase-out of passengers jeepneys from 15 years old and above in a protest rally during their nationwide transport caravan at the Elliptical Road in Quezon City. Photo by: DARREN LANGIT

MANILA, Philippines – The lack of public transport, in particular jeepneys, was felt by commuters on Monday, October 16, the first day of the nation transport strike. 

As early as 7 am Monday, netizens took to social media their experiences on the lack of jeepneys during the third nationwide strike against the government's Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) Modernization Program

Launched by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) last June, the PUV modernization program orders the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')

Earlier September, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Development Bank of the Philippines for the bank to provide loans to qualified cooperatives for the acquisition of new public utility vehicles (PUV).

A change in the franchising system, updates on new routes, training for drivers are also part of the modernization program

The transportation department also said that all buses, jeepneys and public utility vans will be modernized, organized and put under an automated fare collection system by 2020.

However, the plan has sparked outrage among jeepney operators and drivers who say it is 'anti-poor' and will lead to a loss of livelihood. (READ: DOTr hits Piston 'propaganda' on modernization program ) – Rappler.com

'Globe on strike too?': Netizens complain about the network's poor service


MANILA, Philippines –  Globe Telecom subscribers woke up Monday morning, October 16, unable to make calls, text, or even connect to the internet. (READ: ‘Make Internet a basic service in PH’)

Many users took to social media to air their frustrations after experiencing interruptions with voice calls, SMS, and internet data services.

At around 10:00 am on Monday, Globe topped the Philippines trending list with over 17,000 tweets showing disappointment. 


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">&#39;Globe&#39; trended this morning after users took to social media their complaints about the network&#39;s services. <a href="https://t.co/Z0Nn4w7UrW">pic.twitter.com/Z0Nn4w7UrW</a></p>&mdash; MovePH (@MovePH) <a href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/status/919765038562394114?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 16, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


In a statement, Globe Senior Vice President for Corporate Communication Yoly Crisanto apologized to the company's subscribers, adding the network provider was currently doing emergency operations on their servers that may have affected voice, SMS, and data services for both prepaid and postpaid users.

The company said data services for affected subscribers, as well as mobile services for Globe Postpaid consumers, went "back to normal" as of 9:00 am.


<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fglobeph%2Fposts%2F10155394005639748&width=500" width="500" height="313" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowTransparency="true"></iframe>


MovePH, Rappler's civic engagement arm, compiled some of the complaints posted by Globe users on Twitter:


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="http://go.rappler.com/https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/919745888779608066?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Globe on strike? - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>              



On September, Globe Telecom launched its $250-million Southeast Asia-United States (SEA-US) submarine cable system in Davao City which the company sees will improve transmission, connectivity, and network resiliency in Mindanao and the rest of the country.

The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), which regulates telcos, already proposed making Internet a “basic service” instead of a “value-added service.” – Rappler.com

Startups tapped to rescue disaster-prone ASEAN region


MANILA, Philippines — When natural disasters strike, can innovative startups help us recover? Can they help reduce the risks of calamities?

From crowdfunding platforms to drones, chatbots, and artificial intelligence, emerging startups in ASEAN are leveraging on their existing technologies and business models to solve the region's most urgent problems through a competition called "Startups to the Resque."

The competition was organized by QBO Innovation Hub (QBO), the Philippines' first public-private initiative for startups by Ideaspace, J.P Morgan, the Department of Science and Technology, and the Department of Trade and Industry.

"Startups to the Resque" is also in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF).

Butch Meily, president of QBO and PDRF, said they relied on the spirit and dynamism of the youth to bring new ideas to the table when it comes to disaster resilience and recovery.

INSTITUTIONS AND STARTUPS. Government, private sector, and UN organization scout for startups they could work with for a more resilient ASEAN. (From left to right) DTI Usec Nora Terrado, UNDP Programme Manager Floradema Eleazar, PDRF and QBO President Butch Meily, and QBO Executive Director Katrina Chan

Towards a disaster resilient region

Because of its location, ASEAN member-countries regularly experience a variety of disasters including typhoons, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis.

Due to climate change, the frequency and intensity of these calamities have increased and is expected to increase even more in the coming years.

For one, Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) which is among the world's strongest storms caused 6,300 deaths and P95.48 billion damages in the Philippines in 2013.

"Climate change and disaster risks are real threats to people and development – and we have seen this repeatedly in the last decade not just in the Philippines but across the region," said Titon Mitra, UNDP Philippines Country Director.

According to the 2016 World Risk Index by the United Nations University's Institute for Environment and Human Security, 4 of the 10 ASEAN member-states, namely Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, and Vietnam, are at a very high risk and high vulnerability.

VULNERABLE. Four out of 10 ASEAN countries are at high risk for natural calamities. Screenshot from World Risk Report website Here are the top 20 startups of the competition:

  • ChatbotPH - a chatbot development company in the Philippines
  • After Effect - a Thailand-based startup specializing in artificial intelligence
  • SkyEye Analytics - a drone startup doing land surveying, disaster mitigation, precision agriculture and forest protection
  • GavaGives - fundraising platform for non-profit organizations
  • LifeMesh - a software that uses blockchain to connect humanitarian organizations to communities and to foster transparency and accountability
  • Ascendant Technologies - a software development company specializing in healthcare digital systems management
  • Senti - social media analytics startup focusing on understanding Filipino culture
  • Tralulu - digital marketplace for travelers and local guides
  • StyleGenie PH - startup offering styling subscription box in the Philippines
  • Cropital - crowdfunding platform to help finance farmers
  • Timba - an Indonesian social enterprise that promotes sustainable living
  • Billionbricks - a Singapore-based non-profit design and technology studio working on shelter solutions for vulnerable communities
  • ServeHappy Jobs - online job marketplace for food service professionals
  • Pushkart.ph - an online grocery delivery service
  • UPROOT Aquaponics - aquaponics enterprise that aims to alleviate hunger, poverty, and malnutrition
  • Blogapalooza - a startup that connects businesses to bloggers and influencers
  • Haraya Labs - a company teaching STEM education to K-12 students using virtual reality
  • Frontlearners - e-learning content developer and e-school solutions provider
  • Go Gridless - a B2B wholesaler of off-grid technology solutions
  • Unomap - a digital identity solution provider that digitize individual identities into a decentralized model

Startup community integration

The startups will pitch their ideas on October 20 at the Slingshot ASEAN 2017, a regional startup and innovation conference hosted by the Philippines as part of its ASEAN Chairmanship this year.

Slingshot will serve as a platform for startups, innovators, investors, academe and government from the region's 10 member states to engage and connect.

ASEAN is the seventh largest economy in the world. Collectively, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) has a GDP of $2.4 trillion.

The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that the region suffers an average of US$4.4 billion direct economic losses from disasters annually.

The first prize winner of the competition will receive US$10,000 and will have the opportunity to implement their solutions with UNDP and PDRF. Second and third prize winners, on the other hand, will receive US$4,000 and US$2,000, respectively. – Rappler.com

Piston, #TransportStrike trend on Twitter


MANILA, Philippines – Piston and #TransportStrike trended on Twitter during the nationwide transport strike on Monday, October 16.

Piston, which stands for Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, is the transport group behind the protest against the government's public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program. (READ: Jeepney riders feel effects of transport strike)

The PUV modernization program, which was launched back in June by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), mandates the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older.

The program also requires jeepneys to be replaced by those powered by Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs to promote safer and more environment-friendly transport options. (READ: EXPLAINER: What's the reason for the 2-day transport strike?)

According to Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Chairman Martin Delgra III, they have tallied 180,000 jeepneys that need to be replaced. (READ: Buses, jeepneys in the Philippines to be modernized by 2020)

This sparked complaints from drivers and operators who said the program is "anti-poor" since each new jeepney would cost P1 million each.

A leftist group also warned that some jeepney drivers could lose their jobs.

Take a look at some of the #TransportStrike tweets below.

This is the 3rd nationwide strike against the modernization program, with the first two strikes held in February and September this year. (READ: Hundreds stranded amid jeepney transport strike)

Aside from the phaseout of old PUVs, the modernization program includes changes in the franchising system, new route plans, and training for drivers. – Rappler.com