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2017 World Food Day focuses on nutrition as part of human rights


HUNGER. Around 2.2 million Filipino families suffer from food scarcity and malnutrition, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

MANILA, Philippines – The Council for Health and Development (CHD), the national secretariat of more than 70 community-based health programs in the Philippines, underscored that food and proper nutrition are an integral part of basic human rights. (READ: World Food Day 2015 to highlight social protection vs rural hunger)

Everyone is entitled to good nutrition regardless of their social or economic status.

This is the primary focus of 2017 World Food Day being celebrated on Monday, October 16. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: Why we celebrate World Food Day)

Food scarcity, malnutrition 

Around 2.2 million Filipino families suffer from food scarcity and malnutrition, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey. These families, especially those in the countryside, comprise the bulk of the population.

CHD said food security among poor families in the countryside is "perpetually weakened, due to restrictive trade policies, low farm productivity, and income."

Another SWS survey early this year found that an estimated 3.1 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the 4th quarter of 2016. (READ: SWS: 3.1 million Filipino families suffer from hunger in Q4 2016)

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) also noted worsening malnutrition, saying in a 2016 report that "stunting rates were 30.3% and 33.4% in 2013 and 2015, respectively." 

Chronic malnutrition among children 0-2 years old is at 26.2% – the highest it has been in a decade. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: PH hunger in numbers)

Land reform is key

"The most effective and efficient solution to the current food crisis in the Philippines is genuine land reform to strategically address the peasants' age-old cry for land, and providing them with the means to make their land productive and achieve national food security," said CHD executive director Eleanor Jara.

Another survey, conducted by Ibon Foundation in 2016, found that over 70% of Filipinos consider themselves poor.

The diet of majority of urban poor families consists of instant noodles, dried fish, and white rice, while rural poor families eat mostly local agricultural produce.

"The small and disenfranchised farmers have barely enough to feed themselves and their families," Jara said.

"If the farmers themselves, the producers of food for the national population, have nothing to eat, then it is no surprise that the country is suffering from a nationwide food and malnutrition crisis." – Rappler.com 

Junk current version of PUV modernization program – Piston


NO TO PHASE OUT. Transport group Piston leads protest against the PUV modernization program in Cubao, Quezon City on October 16, 2017. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) called on the government Monday, October 16, to junk the current version of the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program.

According to Piston president George San Mateo, there is a need to have a new dialogue on the program.

"Ang gusto nating gawin, i-junk ang kasulukuyang version at magkaroon ng panibagong pag-uusap...Kasama ang mga pasahero talaga, mga experts," said San Mateo.

(What we want to do is to junk the current version (of the program) and to start new dialogues...with the commuting public and experts.)

Piston staged a two-day nationwide strike from Monday to Tuesday, October 16 to 17, in protest of the PUV modernization program which mandates the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years or older. (READ: Buses, jeepneys in the Philippines to be modernized by 2020)

San Mateo said they are fighting for drivers' and operators' livelihood, as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) questioned their "true motives" in staging the strike.

Leftist groups argue that the current version of the modernization plan would lead to loss of jobs

"Ang motibo natin ay ipagtanggol ang kabuhayan. Para sa amin, hindi na bali magsakripisyo kami ng one day, two days kaysa mawalan kami ng karapatang mabuhay," he said. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')

(Our motive is to save livelihood. For us, sacrificing one or two days of work does not matter, rather than be deprived of the right to live.)

'We support modernization'

Piston refuted claims that they are against modernization of public utility vehicles (PUV). San Mateo explained that they are not in favor of the "pro-business scheme" behind the plan.

"Nagsagawa tayo ng strike hindi para kontrahin ang konsepto ng modernisasyon ngunit para tutulan 'yung framework na ipapatupad na pro-business tapos nag-aalis ng kabuhayan sa maliliit na operator," said San Mateo. (READ: Yes, Pedro, we need to modernize the jeepney)

(We are staging a strike not to block the concept of modernization but to protest against the framework that implements pro-business (schemes) and removes the livelihood of small operators.)

San Mateo said that the government should work on nationalizing mass transport instead to make it more efficient and affordable. (READ: EXPLAINER: What's the reason for the 2-day transport strike?)

In a statement on Monday, the DOTr refuted the leftist group's claim that only corporations will benefit from the modernization program.

According to the transport department, local manufacturers will design and produce the units. Drivers and operators will earn more with the proposed program due to fuel savings, expanded seating capacity from 16 persons to 22, and low maintenance cost of the unit, they said.

The DOTr also denied jeepney phase out claimed by Piston.

"Walang phase out. Mananatili ang jeepney sa kalsada. Pero sa pagkakataong ito, bago at modern na. (Jeepneys will not be phased out. (It) will remain on the streets but this time, it will be new and modern.)," the DOTr said.

Commuters to pay higher fare

According to the leftist group, commuters will bear the brunt of the costs of the program.

"Pinaglalaban namin ang karapatan ng mga commuter na sana hindi ipasa sa kanila ang malaking cost ng negosyong-modernization program... Makikita na P20 ang minimum fare diyan (mula sa P8)," said San Mateo.

(We are fighting for the rights of the commuting public that hopefully, the high cost of the profit-oriented modernization program will not be shouldered by the commuters. We see that P20 will be the minimum fare from P8.)

"Sana maunawaan ang ating sinagawa. Pinaglalaban natin ang ating hanapbuhay. (I hope the (public) understands our actions. We are fighting for our livelihood.)," he added.

On Monday, Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Martin Delgra III gave assurances that jeepney minimum fare will not reach P20.

In a report by GMA News, Delgra said that minimum fare will not reach even P15 based on their studies. "It's based on the current fare, if there will be a fare hike – we're not even thinking of that for now – but it will be very small," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The two-day transport strike is the 3rd organized by Piston this year, prompting Malacañang to cancel classes at all levels in public and private schools nationwide, as well as government work on Monday.

According to the leftist group, parts of Luzon saw "100%" participation in the nationwide transport strike.

In Cebu, however, the protest failed to cripple the province's transport system on Monday. (READ: What is happening outside Metro Manila during the nationwide transport strike)

In anticipation of the strike, government prepared contingency plans to prevent commuters from being stranded.– Rappler.com

LOOK: New jeepneys under PUV modernization program


NEW JEEP. The Public Utility Vehicle modernization program seeks to provide a safer and environment-friendly option for commuters. All photos from Department of Transportation - Philippines Facebook Page

MANILA, Philippines – What will the new jeepneys look like under the government’s public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program?

The public had a glimpse of the updated modern jeepneys in an expo held by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Department of Trade and Industry on October 12.

Local manufacturers built the prototype vehicles following DOTr specifications.

The government plans to replace all old PUVs aged 15 years or older with enironment-friendly jeepneys that have safety features. (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, 180,000 jeepneys nationwide face replacement under the modernization program.

The DOTr cited a study showing that next to walking, jeepneys are the most used mode of transportation in Metro Manila, comprising 19.1% of the total trips made in the capital region.

It is followed by tricycles at 16% and motorcycles at 8.3%

MODE OF TRANSPORTATION. The DOTr cited a study which shows jeepneys as the most used mode of transportation in Metro Manila.

The goal of the modernization program is to promote safer and more environment-friendly transport options.

Jeepneys should be replaced by those powered with Euro 4 engines or electrically-powered engines with solar panels for roofs.

The modern jeepney should also be equipped with safety features, such as a speed limiter, closed-circuit television camera (CCTV), GPS, and dashboard camera.

It will also be outfitted with an automated fare collection system to make it compatible with the current payment system being implemented in Metro Manila’s 3 train lines.

Some of the prototype vehicles have a 22-passenger seating capacity. Current jeeps can seat around 20 to 22 passengers, excluding the driver.

MODERN. The PUV modernization program aims to have a safer and environment-friendly mode of transportation. Photo from Department of Transportation - Philippines Facebook page

NEW. One of the designs of the new jeepney features colors of the Philippine Flag.

AUTOMATIC. Instead of passing the fare to the driver, the new jeepney features an automated fare collection system similar to the payment system of Metro Manila's 3 rail trains.

SEATS. The seats of the modern public utility vehicles are improved for better comfort of commuters.

PROTOTYPE. The new jeepney offers a safer vehicle structure.

According to the DOTr, the vehicles will also be equipped with PWD-friendly features and free wifi for the convenience of commuters. They will also locally made and assembled.

INCLUSIVE. New PUVs will feature facilities that are friendly to people with disabilities.

Several transport groups and jeepney operators are opposing the modernization program, and dramatized their sentiments through a two-day nationwide transport strike on October 16 and 17 – the third such protest staged this year.

While they acknowledged the need to upgrade PUVs to make them safer for drivers and commuters, they criticized the high cost for drivers to replace their old jeeps.
They called the program “anti-poor” because buying a new vehicle will cost around P1 million per unit. They also expressed fear of losing their jobs.

For transportation expert Primitivo Cal,  the jeepney modernization program is “long overdue.”

While stakeholders must be consulted, Cal said that the status quo is not acceptable. Public transport must really be improved because the users deserve a better system.

“[The program] cannot please everybody. Those who are affected should be given options like compensation and re-training,” said Cal, a former transportation undersecretary.

Responding to criticism from transport groups, the government has said that there are several financial loan schemes available to drivers to help them pay for the cost of the new jeepney units. – Rappler.com


How did the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act help empower the community?


IP RIGHTS. Representatives from different tribes from all over the country gather at the Ramon Magsaysay Center for the 2017 Indigenous Peoples Summit. Photo by Bong Santisteban/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Since Republic Act 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples' Rights Act (IPRA)  was implemented two decades ago, it had opened greater opportunities for IPs and further empowered the community that used to label itself as marginalized. 

This statement was made by May Hyacinth Ateng, a member of the B’laan tribe from Polomolok, South Cotabato, at the opening ceremony of the 2017 Indigenous Peoples Summit on Monday, October 16. 

“Simula nang naging batas ang IPRA, napansin ko po na hindi na nadidiscriminate ang mga IP sapagkat dahil sa batas nabigyan ang mga katulad ko ng oportunidad lalo na livelihood,” the 23-yaar-old Ateng said. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: Who are the Lumad?)

(Since IPRA was signed into law, I noticed that members of IPs have not been discriminated against anymore because the law itself gave people like me opportunities especially in livelihood.)

Ateng also said that the law enabled her to have access to free education without the need to leave her community. 

Ateng is one of the beneficiaries of the Indigenous Peoples Leadership and Enterprise Development (IP LED) Academy that hopes to create pathways of learning that strengthen indigenous peoples' leadership potentials and capacities.

It employs a dynamic learning process through meaningful skills development, articulation of values and vision, identification of current issues, challenges, and opportunities to create positive change and meaningful development in the IP communities.

Assisi Development Foundation sponsored IP LED Academy along with other non-profit organizations. According to its president,  Ben Abadiano, the community provides the "soul of the Filipino culture." This means that empowering IPs means investing in the future and preserving the diverse culture of the country. 

The foundation currently has 516 IP children and youth in public and private schools supported through the Hope Reach Educational Assistance. It has built 23 school buildings around the country.

Convening IPs around the country 

Ateng is one of more than 300 ethnic individuals from around the country who attended the 2017 Indigenous Peoples Summit at the Ramon Magsaysay Center in Manila. 

Organized by the Assisi Development Foundation,  the event focused on nurturing community initiatives aimed at advancing IP rights towards sustainable development. (READ: Lumad leaders to UN rapporteur: 'We're affected by wars which aren't ours')

“We are advocating an inclusive community where opportunities are open to all regardless of race and ethnic affiliation,” Abadiano, a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, said in an interview with Rappler. 

For Abadiano, the 20-year existence of IPRA raised national awareness, cultivating a culture of respect for IPs, and their customs and beliefs. He said the law slowly sealed the gap which used to exist among Filipinos divided by different cultures. (READ: Indigenous peoples march to ask Duterte to lift martial law in Mindanao)

Looking back

Speaking at the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Indigenous Peoples Summit, Supreme Court Associate Marvic Leonen said that the proposed IPRA went through rigorous debates and revisions before it was enacted into law in 1997.

Senate Bill 909 sought is to create an office under the Office of the President that will identify the borders of ancestral domain and will segregate it from the public domain. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Dayaw, PH’s indigenous peoples festival)

"Land is life, nobody owns the land. How can you say you own the land when the land actually owns you," Leonen emphasized, quoting the words of a tribal chief. 

Leonen, an expert on IP law, said that the 9-year fight to pass IPRA – the bill was first filed in the Senate in 1987 – was a collective effort of advocates who called for respect ofor ethnic tribes’ ancestral domain. 

He ended his keynote speech with a challenge to all IPs to unite for everyone’s benefit. (READ: Indigenous peoples’ ‘humane, sustainable’ ways lead to peace – Magsaysay Awardee Abdon Nababan)

IPRA recognizes indigenous cultural communities or indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs) as a diverse sector in the Philippines. It also gives them the ownership of their ancestral lands. – Rappler.com 

NDRRMC to local officials: Prepare for Severe Tropical Storm Paolo, LPA


PREPAREDNESS. The NDRRMC conducts an emergency response preparedness meeting to discuss government response for combined effects of Severe Tropical Storm Paolo and the low pressure area. Photo from NDRRMC

MANILA, Philippines – The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) advised local governments and residents to be on alert for both Severe Tropical Storm Paolo (Lan) and a low pressure area (LPA).

The NDRRMC on Tuesday, October 17, convened an emergency response preparedness (ERP) meeting at its operations center in Camp Aguinaldo.

There are no areas under tropical cyclone warning signals due to Paolo, since the severe tropical storm is too far from land.

But Paolo's spiral bands are bringing rain to Bicol, the Visayas, and Mindanao, so local government units (LGUs) in these areas should prepare for possible floods and landslides.

The LPA, meanwhile, is located off Coron, Palawan, also bringing rain to the province. Tours at the Puerto Princesa Underground River have been suspended due to the LPA.

Fishermen or those with small sea vessels are advised to coordinate with the Philippine Coast Guard first, since seas are moderate to rough.

The NDRRMC said it has alerted its regional and local DRRM councils to take the necessary precautions as early as possible.

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has prepositioned food and non-food items in its field and central offices as part of the agency's precautionary measures.

Oplan Listo 

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) also advised concerned LGUs to follow measures outlined in Oplan Listo.

Oplan Listo uses a disaster preparedness manual first adopted by the DILG when Typhoon Ruby hit in December 2014. It provides mayors and other local government disaster management agencies a checklist that enumerates what should be done before, during, and after typhoons. 

Minimum critical activities that LGUs should be enforcing in affected areas include the following: 

  • Secure power, water supply, and communications
  • Start preemptive evacuation
  • Announce forced evacuation 
  • Prepare list of evacuees
  • Distribute relief packs and conduct mass feeding
  • Stop traffic in landslide-prone areas

The manual includes flowcharts that correspond to 3 phases of critical preparedness actions – Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie. It also contains a tropical cyclone information board and minimum actions to guide mayors. 

CHARLIE. A set of preparedness actions that LGUs should undertake before a typhoon makes landfall. Infographic by Oplan Listo/DILG

The public is advised to stay vigilant and follow the orders of authorities in their respective areas. 

The 1991 Local Government Code and the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 mandate LGUs to be on the frontline of emergency measures during disasters. – Rappler.com

Check if your mayors are taking these minimum preparedness activities that LGUs should be enforcing in areas expected to be affected by Severe Tropical Storm Paolo and the LPA. Tell us how prepared your LGUs are through email (move.ph@rappler.com) or Twitter (@moveph).

Stay alert and ready with the latest weather and disaster information through Agos.

Marawi rehab funds enough, technical assistance needed, says DBM


Q&A. DBM Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno talks with media during "Breakfast with Ben" at the DBM Executive Lounge in Manila. File Photo from the DBM

MANILA, Philippines – Now that Marawi City is liberated, the government is ready to roll out with the rehabilitation of the Islamic City which was left in shambles because of the 5-month war.

"Marawi City is now militant-free and is ready for rehabilitation after the death of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute," said budget chief Benjamin Diokno said on Wednesday, October 18.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) alloted P5 billion for the rehabilitation of the war-torn city in 2017, to be sourced from the augmented National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund.

"We have set aside P5 billion this year. (The budget) will be sufficient for the last 10 weeks of the post-conflict needs of Marawi," he said.

Following a multi-year scheme, P10 billion will be released in 2018 as budget for 2019 is yet to be determined.

Diokno said, however, that the government still has no final rehabilitation plan for Marawi City.

The budget chief also said though he welcomed foreign financial assistance, funding was not a concern for the government. (READ: Does the Philippines have enough funds to deal with disasters?)

"What we really need is technical assistance. Funding is not a concern for us. I think we can manage. If there are some foreign donors, they are welcome but we will not need to strain on financing," he said.

Patriotic bonds

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Diokno said another way to finance the reconstruction of Marawi City was through selling of patriotic bonds, which will be issued starting the first quarter of 2018.

"As far as the Marawi bond is concerned, we will probably issue it early next year, in January," the budget chief said.

In August, the finance department directed the Bureau of Treasury to study the possible issuance of P30 billion-worth of debt securities to help fund the city's rehabilitation.

Details into the patriotic bond will be finalized by the finance department, Diokno said.

Diokno's briefing comes a day after President Rodrigo Duterte declared that Marawi City has been liberated from terror elements. 

The killing of top Marawi seige terrorists Abu Sayyaf subleader Isnilon Hapilon and Maute Group leader Omar Maute was confirmed by the defense department on Monday, October 16. – Rappler.com

WATCH: Abala ba ang transport strike?


COMMUTERS. Stranded commuters chase a jeepney in Monumento, Caloocan City on October 16, 2017, following a transport strike against the government's PUV modernization program. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – For some, their commute time took longer than usual on Monday and Tuesday, October 16 and 17.

It came as a surprise to some commuters who were not aware of the two-day nationwide transport strike staged by the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

Many from the riding public were frustrated.

Arlene Suan, 46, was already waiting for more than 30 minutes along Monumento for her jeepney ride to Navotas. She did not know a strike was happening.

"Abala po yun sa mga pumapasok. Bakit sila nagtitigil-pasada? Nahihirapan ang commuters na pumasok sa trabaho na wala't kulang ang masasakyan," she told Rappler.

(The strike was such an inconvenience to the public. Why do they have to stage a strike? Commuters have difficulty going to work because of lack of transport.)

Meanwhile, Elsa Padilla, 21, came all the way from Pandi town in Bulacan with her family, only to spend hours waiting along Monumento for a jeepney going to Malabon.

LIGHT TRAFFIC. The usual busy streets of along Monumento were clear of jeepneys on Monday. Photo by Angie de Silva / Rappler

"Sobrang hirap galing pa kami ng Pandi, Bulacan, maulan, ta's walang jeep ngayon. Ta's may dala pa kaming bata(at) gamit," said Padilla, whose 3-year-old child was clinging to her.

(It's really hard to get a ride. We came from Pandi, Bulacan. It's been raining and there were no jeeps. I have with me my child and baggages.)

She said they had been scouting the area for alternative modes of transport but to no avail.

"Ang hirap makipagpatintero sa mga sasakyan. Hahabol ka lang para makasakay. (It's really hard to play Patintero with vehicles. You keep chasing them to get a ride.)," she said.

Padilla had been traveling for almost 4 hours when it usually took about 3 hours to get to their destination.


Protesting against the PUV modernization program, Piston said parts of Luzon saw "100%" participation in the nationwide transport strike on Monday.

They argue that the modernization plan – which mandates the replacement of jeepneys aged 15 years and older – would lead to loss of jobs.

In anticipation of the possible impact of the strike, the government prepared special vehicles to prevent commuters from being stranded.

Along Monumento, gateway to 4 cities in the capital region, vehicles were deployed by the Metropolitan Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Land Transportation Office, and the Caloocan City government to aid the riding public.

FREE RIDES. Commuters in Monumento, Caloocan City take advantage of the "Libreng Sakay" after a transport strike paralyzes Camanava area on October 16, 2017. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

The usual busy streets of Samson Road in Caloocan City were clear of jeepneys on Monday. According to Piston, Monumento was among the areas in where jeepney routes were "100% paralyzed." (IN PHOTOS: Paralyzed)

"Sana hindi na lang 'yung ganito para hindi na nahihirapan 'yung mga tao lalo na 'yung uuwi (o) kung may emergency, (They shouldn't have (staged a strike) so commuters won't have to deal with the difficulty to get a ride coming home or attending to an emergency)" Padilla wished.

Despite the commuters' frustration, many took advantage of the free ride offered by the government that day.

Nelito Samuraw, a resident of Caloocan, regularly leaves his house around 7 am to go to work. He said the strike truly brought inconvenience but he's grateful the government prepared contingency plans to aid commuters like him.

"Pasalamat kami nagkaro'n ng ganito kasi mahirap eh. Walang masakyan, (We're grateful that we have (free rides) because it was difficult to get a ride.)" he told Rappler as he squeezed himself on Caloocan City government's pick-up truck that afternoon.

Lito Reyes of the Caloocan Department of Public Safety and Traffic Management said their pick-up truck goes around MC Malabon and MCU. They picked up passengers especially pregnant women, those with children, and those with special needs.

Just talk

In their 3rd strike this year, Piston asked the government to junk the current version of the program and called for new talks with them.

They said that the current version was "pro-big business" and anti-poor, as the new jeepney models cost around P1.5 million each – which was too much for small drivers and operators.

"Hindi na bali magsakripisyo kami ng one day, two days kaysa mawalan kami ng karapatang mabuhay. (Sacrificing one or two days of work does not matter, rather than be deprived of the right to live.)," Piston leader George San Mateo told Rappler.

But the transportation department questioned the real motive behind their protest, accusing them of spreading false propaganda.

On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed his support of the program and urged jeepney operators and drivers to modernize by the end of the year. He scoffed at Piston's criticism that the program is anti-poor.

Piston threatened the government with monthly strikes if their requests for dialogue land on deaf ears. Late Tuesday afternoon, Piston confirmed that the House of Representatives will finally hear their woes.

"What's more important (is that) the strike forced Congress to call for a special hearing on (Thursday), October 19 regarding the sentiments of the strikers," San Mateo said.

As the government grants them an audience on Thursday, will they find a compromise?–  with reports from LeAnne Jazul/Rappler.com

Displaced 95-year-old person with disabilities sells potatoes to support family


CAPABLE. Datu Mangontra Sultan, 95 years old, works hard despite his old age and disabilities. Photo by Jamilia Taha

MANILA, Philippines – What would you do when life throws you several challenges?

Datu Mangontra Sultan slowly lost his eyesight in his 30s. When he was younger, he lost his right arm during a fishing accident.  In May this year, he and his family were forced to leave their home when local terrorists attempted to take over Marawi City. 

People who have met 95-year-old Sultan do not see him as a person with disabilities and an internally displaced person but as a strong and commited individual who wants to continue providing for his family. 

Early in October, Jam Taha, a Project Development Officer II at the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Northern Mindanao, saw a photo that went viral on social media. In the photo, Sultan is carrying a big sack of potatoes on his head. He is wearing a malong, which he uses to support another sack of potatoes.

As a DSWD employee based in Northern Mindanao, Taha is no stranger to heartbreaking and inspiring stories of resilience. But Sultan's story stood out from all the other stories she has heard on the ground, she said.

 “Naantig ako sa story. Kasi I’ve seen all kinds of IDPs na galing sa Marawi. Lahat sila may kanya-kanyang story at paghihirap. Pero si Datu, 'yung natatangi [sa kanya], with all his disabilities plus vulnerable pa siya dahil senior citizen, nakita mo 'yung hindi siya nag-give up,” Taha said.

(I was touched by his stories. I've seen all kinds of IDPs from Marawi. Each of them has his or her own unique story of hardship. But what is unique about Datu is  despite his disabilities, plus he's vulnerable sicne he's a senior citizen, you can see that he never gives up.)

Inspired by his extraordinary story, Taha and colleague Charl John Flora decided to pay Sultan visit.

Finding Sultan

Ffinding Sultan proved to be difficult.

In an interview with Rappler, Taha shared that they managed to find Sultan after 4 tries. He lived in a far-flung farmland in Balo-i town in Lanao del Norte, and the DSWD workers walked for an hour to reach him.

“The purpose of our search for him is to gather basic information,” Taha said in Filipino. Sultan lived with his sixth wife and their two children – a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. 

They lived in a modest hut that had no ceiling. It's roof was a tarpaulin that hung above the house.

INSPIRED.  Jamila Taha and Charl John Flora from the Department of Social Welfare Development finds Datu Mangontra Sultan in  in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte. Photo by Charl John Flora

During Taha’s brief visit, Sultan shared how they ended up in that hut. His family first hid in the neighbor's house. A week into the siege,  when they realized that the fighting would not end any time soon, Sultan’s family began the long walk from Basak, Malutlut in Marawi City to Balo-i.

Since they ended up in a farmland, the 95-year-old father found an opportunity to make a living for his family.

No charity

Sultan does not believe in charity.

“He does not want to beg for money to support his family. That is why, despite his age, he is working hard to sell potatoes on the street,” Taha said.

In the absence of capital to start his own business, Sultan helped sell the daily harvest of fishermen and farmers back in Marawi City. The fishermen and farmers then paid him a small  portion of the sales in return.

In Balo-i, Sultan harvested the leftover potatoes from the farmland. Along with his son, they would clean them and sell the potatoes on the streets.

Sultan is one of the 7 to 8 million senior citizens in the country. According to DSWD, an estimated 5.5 million senior citizens are indigent.

Taha believed that Sultan does not want to be considered weak and incapable.   “For him, the disabilites are not a curse. The disabilities did not stop him from working hard," she said.


Taha said they recommended Sultan to the DSWD regional office in ARMM for the agency's Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens (SPISC). 

FAMILY. Datu Mangontra Sultan's motivation for working hard is his family. Photo by Jamilia Taha

They also consulted Sultan and his family if they want to be transferred to an evacuation site in the center of the city where they would be given a room. Sultan can continue selling potatoes in a nearby market.

"We will transfer him because we cannot stop him if he wants to continue selling to provide for his family. We will tranfer him to the city center so they will have access to the health center, market, and the DSWD office," Taha said in Filipino.  

More than being relocated to an area with humane living conditions, Sultan said he wants to go home to Marawi City. 

When asked what he wants as soon as he returns to Marawi, Sultan made a simple request – a small amount of capital to start a business.

Marawi, considered the Muslim capital of the largely Catholic Philippines, has been reduced to a ghost town following the clashes between government troops and terrorist groups linked with the Islamic State (ISIS).  (IN PHOTOS: Death and destruction in Banggolo, heart of Marawi)

According to the latest  DSWD figures, around 78,466 families or 359,680 persons have been displaced by the armed conflict.   (READ: Marawi children need our help)

While President Rodrigo Duterte has declared Marawi City liberated from terrorist influence, the rebuilding Marawi is expected to take years. – Rappler.com

Heavy rain triggers floods in Dumaguete


COLLAPSED BRIDGE. A bridge collapses in Barangay Taclobo, Dumaguete City, after the Banica River overflowed on October 19, 2017. Photo by Dondee Señeris

MANILA, Philippines – Nonstop heavy rain due to Typhoon Paolo (Lan) hit Dumaguete City and other parts of Negros Oriental on Thursday, October 19.

The heavy rain triggered flooding in several barangays and caused the Amlan and Bio-os rivers to overflow on Thursday morning.

According to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Dumaguete City, residents living near riverbanks already evacuated. 

In Barangay Taclobo, the Banica River overflowed around 7:15 am, leading to the collapse of the bridge connecting Barangay Bagacay and Colon Street Extension. The area remains inaccessible as of posting.

INACCESSIBLE. The Banica River overflows and leaves an area in Dumaguete City inaccessible on October 19, 2017. Photo by Francis Luwee Luce

Acting Negros Oriental Governor Edward Mark Macias suspended classes in all levels, based on the recommendation of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer Jose Lawrence Silorio. Macias also advised the public to continue monitoring weather advisories.

Power interruptions also hit parts of the province, according to the Association of Negros Oriental Public Information Officers Facebook page.

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As of posting, the DILG said no casualties have been reported in the province.

PAGASA advised residents to take precautionary measures against floods and landslides. – with reports from Abigail Abigan / Rappler.com

LGU, NGOs step up relief efforts for displaced families in Zamboanga


RESCUE. Members of the military and Bureau of Fire Protection together with other response units in the city frontlined the rescue operations in flooded low-lying barangays. Photo by ZCDRRMO

MANILA, Phillippines – The city government of Zamboanga conducted relief operations to affected families following the declaration of state of calamity in the city.

As of Thursday, October 19, the massive floods and storm surge had displaced a total of 3,666 families with 18,330 dependents in 17 coastal barangays.

At least 7 people were reported dead, 158 houses totally destroyed, while 327 other houses were partially damaged. (READ: Storm Surge 101: Are you at risk? Are you prepared for it?

In cooperation with the Zamboanga City government, the military and the Bureau of Fire Protection frontlined the rescue operations in flooded barangays.

Relief operations 

Responding to the needs of those affected by the massive flooding, Mayor Beng Climaco-Salazar and members of the Sangguniang Panglungsod spearheaded a series of relief operations since Sunday, October 15.


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Nongovernmental organizations like Red Cross Youth (RCY) and Rotary Zamboanga West also initiated relief operations in far-flung communities.

RCY-Zamboanga distributed relief goods for families in Barangay Sinunuc while Rotary Zamboanga West brought boxes of instant noodles to evacuation centers.


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The Zamboanga City Council declared a state of calamity in the city on Thursday, upon the recommendation of the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council. The local DRRM office cited the extensive damage to agriculture and infrastructure caused by the massive floods and storm surge triggered by the intertropical convergence zone.

More rain is expected in Zamboanga City due to Typhoon Paolo (Lan). – Rappler.com

What's the weather like in your area? Report the situation through Rappler's Agos or tweet us at @rapplerdotcom.

How Piston imagines jeepney modernization


JEEPNEY PHASE OUT? On its second day of protest, members belonging to transport group PISTON and labor group KMU hold a protest rally against the modernization and phaseout of PUJ, along Aurora Blvd. in Cubao, Quezon City on Tuesday. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Transport groups said they are not against the plan to "modernize" public utility vehicles by 2020, but they are against the "questionable" schemes behind it.

Jeepney routes in parts of Luzon were "crippled" by the nationwide transport strike in protest of the government's PUV modernization program held on Monday to Tuesday, October 16 to 17. 

While many commuters complain of the inconvenience brought by the strike, many jeepney drivers and operators fear a loss of livelihood. (WATCH: Abala ba ang transport strike?)

But what kind of modernization do they envision?

Expensive jeeps

The strike was the 3rd organized by the major transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston), as they called out the modernization plan "anti-poor."

Under the PUV modernization program, jeepneys aged 15 years and older and non-Euro 4 compliant engines must be replaced with the new models prescribed by the government. Around 180,000 jeepneys need to be replaced, transport officials said.

These models cost at least P1 million per unit according to government estimates. (READ: Is the PUV modernization program 'anti-poor?')

Piston secretary-general Steve Ranjo said they are not opposing the selling of new models; rather, they want to make these a "voluntary acquisition" especially to those who own jeepney models that are less than 15 years of age.

"Ang aming ini-ooppose na, by law, lahat ay kailangang palitan. Hindi pwede na lahat ng sasakyan natin ay palitan at sabihin na 'bulok at hindi na mapapakinabangan,'" Ranjo told Rappler.

(What we are opposing is that by law, all jeepneys need to be replaced. We can't replace all the vehicles and say 'these are no longer working.')

Ranjo also said that the new jeepney models are too expensive for driver-operators.

NEW JEEP. The Public Utility Vehicle modernization program seeks to provide a safer and environment-friendly option for commuters. All photos from Department of Transportation - Philippines Facebook Page

"'Yung gusto bumili ng bagong sasakyan, eh 'di bumili sila. Hindi sila pinipigilan. Basta huwag pilitin lahat na hindi naman kailangan talaga. Napakamahal ng mga presyo ng bagong sasakyan nito," he said.

(Those who want to buy the new vehicles, they can buy. We're not forcing them not to. Our plea (to the government) is not to force all those who do not need it. The new jeepneys are too expensive.)

If emission are a problem, Ranjo said that the government should instead look into alternative technologies that address emissions for Euro 2 engines which power most jeepneys.

"The (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) already has approved technologies that address smoke belching. Those can be installed in your vehicles and are not expensive," he said.

Installing alternative technologies to address smoke belching is better than buying a new jeepney, he added.

Make it local

Ranjo also said the government should consider partnering with local jeepney manufacturers like Sarao Motors and Francisco Motor Corporation in producing the vehicles.

He argued that the current version of the of the plan is more likely inclined to working with multinational car companies, citing the government's Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) that incentivized Mitsubishi Motor Philippines Corp and Toyota Motors Philippines.

"Ba't mo ibibigay sa mga malalaking kompanya? Ibigay na lang ang grant sa Sarao at Francisco. 'Yan ang dapat tumulong para marehabilitate ang ating mga jeepneys," he said.

(Why do you have to give (the incentives) to big companies? Better to give the grant to Sarao and Francisco. They should be the ones to help rehabilitate our jeepneys.)

He also said that the government should look into improving the country's steel industry to revive the local automotive industry to make it sustainable in the long run.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) repeatedly gave assurances that local manufacturers will design and produce the vehicles.

However, when lawmakers asked if local companies would be able to compete with big car firms, transportation officials said they could "if they have the capacity." (READ: PUV modernization: Planning, readiness issues raised at House hearing)

Modernization is not exclusion

A huge number of poor drivers will be excluded in the modernization plan, Ranjo argued. 

He said that many drivers fear they will be buried in debt, even with the loaning schemes to cooperatives that may amount to more than P2 million per unit after computing amortization.

"The loaning scheme is very limited. They said that you cannot avail of the loan yourself. That requirement alone excludes many small operators," Ranjo said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The government has currently set up a P1.5-billion loan facility with the Development Bank of the Philippines, and the Land Bank of the Philippines at P1 billion.

But the DOTr has yet to come up with clear guidelines on the loaning scheme for the new jeepney models.

"Kapag sumuko na ang operator dahil sa utang, eh 'di sa kanila na ang franchise! (When the operator gives up because of the loans, then the (lender) now has the franchise!)," he exclaimed.

President Rodrigo Duterte previously expressed his support and urged PUV drivers and operators to abide by the law or they will be "dragged away" from their vehicles. He pointed out that Filipinos die because of the PUV's emissions and because the units are not roadworthy.

Ranjo, however, viewed the statement of the President as an "utmost disregard of the poor."

"Talagang wala nang puwang para sa mga mahihirap. Sink or Swim. Wala nang pretense na tumutulong siya. (There is really no space for the poor. Sink or swim. He is no longer pretending that he helps)," he said. 

Ultimately, Piston suggested that the government should instead work on nationalizing mass transport than allowing private companies take over franchises.

"Hindi namin talaga kayang bumili ng sasakyan. Kaya gawin na namin ang strike kaysa mawalan kami ng kabuhayan. (We cannot buy new vehicles. That's why we'd rather strike than our livelihoods be lost.)," he said.– Rappler.com

Survivors of abuse empowered through self-defense lessons


EMPOWERMENT. Volunteer instructors from the Japanese Karate Association teach young girls basic self-defense. Photo courtesy of Mildred Fragante

MANILA, Philippines – If there’s one thing the viral #MeToo social media campaign did, it gave people a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment.

With this in mind, the Rotary Club of Metro Aurora saw the need to help women and children learn to protect and defend themselves in dangerous situations. This is how the “Superwomen: Power Against Violence” project, a self-defense clinic, started.

Empowerment of women

In partnership with Japanese Karate Association Philippines (Camp Crame)​, 40 girls in Marillac Hills, a DSWD shelter for abused women and children in Alabang, and 31 girls in Barangay Old Balara, Quezon City were taught basic self defense moves in a series of workshops that spanned the months of July to September.

Instructors from the Japanese Karate Association conducted a two-hour workshop on basic self-defense, based on various dangerous situationers where women may find themselves in.

In addition to this, Dra. Bernadette Madrid of Child Protection Unit from the Philippine General Hospital gave a talk on how to determine abuse and where to seek help.

“I believe that education plays a big part in the empowerment of women,” Mildred Fragante from the Rotary Club of Metro Aurora said. 

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT. The Japanese Karate Association conducts a 2-hour workshop on basic self defense. Photo courtesy of Mildred Fragante


“My team and I decided to volunteer because we want to share our knowledge to others especially to women and children who are perceived to have weak physical features. They are mostly targets of physical and any forms of abuse. We want to share the benefits of how karate can be useful in situations when they face danger and violence,” Naomi Curay, one of the instructors, said. 

For the instructor, volunteering for the self defense clinic is also a way of giving back to the community.

“It is important to learn the skill because it does not only develop the body but it also develops the mind. It develops their self awareness and awareness to the surroundings. It also molds the spirit to fight in all adversities that may come their way,” Curay added.

Moving forward

In February 2016, SWS surveyed women and men in barangays Payatas and Bagong Silangan in Quezon City regarding sexual harassment in public spaces. At least 88% of the female respondents ages 18 to 24 experienced sexual harassment at least once. Thirty-four percent of them experienced the "worst forms" of sexual harassment: flashing, public masturbation, and groping.

In worst cases, sexual harassment would lead to physical abuse. From 2011-2016, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) served a total of 7,418 victims of sexual abuse. Of this figure, 2,770 are incest victims.

“With abused women, pepretrators are usually family members. Most of the time, they do not have a home to go back to,” Fragrante said.  

Fragrante, who also experienced abuse when she was younger, said their goal is to empower abused women through education and raise more awareness about their plight.

Unfortunately, hindi pa ganoong kamulat ang mga tao tungkol sa pagaabuso at tugnkol sa pinagdadaanan ng mga biktima. Kailangan pa siyang ipaalam sa mga tao to get more help,” she said. (Unfortunately, people are not yet aware of the plight of abused women. We need to raise awareness to gather more help) 

While Fragante acknowledged that the problem runs deeper in the country’s culture, she is optimistic that the self-defense clinic would help empower the young and abused girls they have engaged with. – Rappler.com

Cardinal Tagle to ex-drug dependents: You're not a 'hopeless case'


'YOU'RE NOT HOPELESS'. Cardinal Tagle hugs a Sanlakbay graduate on October 21, 2017. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Clad in pristine white shirts, more than a hundred graduates took the stage on Saturday, October 21, as they received their certificates.

Their families beamed with pride as they took photos of the event, which was not your typical graduation ceremony.

On Saturday, 132 former drug dependents graduated from “Sanlakbay para sa Pagbabagong Buhay,” a 6-month community-based rehabilitation program launched by the Archdiocese of Manila for drug surrenderers and recovering addicts. (READ: Cardinal Tagle slams drug trade, launches rehab)

The ceremony was held at the Minor Basilica of San Sebastian in Quiapo, Manila. Launched on October 23, 2016, Sanlakbay is the Catholic Church's response to the government’s war against illegal drugs.

"Many who have recovered from drug addiction are in our midst and their daily courage is a sign of the power of God's healing presence to all of us," said Fr Roberto Dela Cruz, Sanlakbay minister-in-charge.


The mass on Saturday was a celebration of hope, according to Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle. 

"Bawat misa ay espesyal, subalit sa araw na ito, may extra na dahilan para maging mas espesyal ang espesyal na misa," Tagle said as he looked back to the time the Catholic Church launched Sanlakbay at the Manila Cathedral. 

(Every mass is special. Today, there are more reasons to call this mass extra-special) 

LORD'S PRAYER. Former drug dependents raise their hands as they sing the Lord's Prayer. Photo by Maria Tan

According to the Philippines' most influential cardinal, the 132 graduates of the drug rehabilitation program are proof that drug dependents can change for the better. "

"No one can say that you are a hopeless case," Tagle told them. 

Tagle has been vocal about the spate of killings in President Rodrigo Duterte's war against drugs. Thousands have been killed in both police operations and vigilante-style killings since Duterte began his drug war in July 2016. The casulties include children and high school students. 

Addiction, said Tagle, results from a confluence of factors – poverty, environment, and upbringing. It could also be due to the lack of faith. 

"Sino ang ating Panginoon? Kilalanin ang tunay na Diyos – si Hesus. Siya lang ang susundan – hindi ang pera, kapangyarihan, o ang mga gawa ng tao na umaalipin sa atin," Tagle said to an audience of former drug dependents and their families. 

(Who is our Lord? Get to know the true God – Jesus. Follow only him – not money, power, or all the material things that enslave us.)

Continue to hope

In his homily, the cardinal also reminded Filipinos to be hopeful. 

“Ang mundo ngayon, kay daling mawalan ng pagasa….Hindi mababago ng mundo ng mga taong walang pag-asa (In today's world, it's so easy to lose hope....The world cannot be changed by people who are hopeless). The world will never be renewed by people who are desperate. The world  will only be renewed by people filled with hope,” Tagle said. 

Besides, there are many reasons to be hopeful. 

At present, there are 12 parishes that carry the community-based rehabilitation program of the Catholic Church. At least 18 more had expressed their intent to put up a Sanlakbay Program, and had been given the parish community-based program orientation. 

In his homily, Tagle also acknowledged the various partners of the Church for the rehabilitation program, including the Philippine National Police, the Department of Health, local government units, and private sectors like the Ateneo Center for Family Ministires and UST Graduate School Pyscho-Trauma Clinic. 

Tagle said all sector of the society contribute to the positive change the country aspires for – the doctors for their medical expertise, lawyers for their legal expertise, and law enforcement for promoting security, among other groups. 

Here are other photos from the Sanlakbay anniversary: 

NOT HOPELESS. Manila Archbishop Luis Tan Cardinal Tagle tells former drug dependents that no one can claim they are a hopeless case. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

COLLABORATION. National Capital Region Police Office Director Oscar Albayalde (right) sits beside Manila Archbishop Cardinal Tagle during the Sanlakbay anniversary. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

GRADUATION. Sanlakbay graduates receive their certificates during the drug rehabilitation program's anniversary. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

GRADUATES. Sanlakbayan graduates pose with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle during the program's first year anniversary. All photos by Maria Tan/Rappler

ALL SMILES. More than a hundred former drug dependents graduate from the Catholic Church's drug rehabilitation program. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler



Boy Tsinelas: Crafting action figures out of flip-flops


ARTIST. A pedicab driver from Catbalogan City crafts his action figures from scrap materials. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

CAVITE, Philippines – If he could do something all his life, it would be to pursue his passion and craft action figures out of scrap.

"Kung ako lang po ang masusunod, gagawa ng gagawa po ako hanggang mapuno ang bahay namin ng mga character," Elmer Padilla, an action figure artist, told Rappler.

(If I have a choice, I would craft as many characters as I can until our house is filled.)

But Elmer, 30, a pedicab driver on the side, has to feed his family of 4.

Trying his luck

The Padilla family recently moved to Imus City in Cavite from Catbalogan City in Samar province to try Elmer's luck.

Without a peso left in his pockets, Elmer couldn't buy food for his family nor work on his papers to apply for a job. But luckily, he has samples of his craft.

"Gipit na gipit ako. Nagtatanong-tanong ako saan dito maraming tao, kaya tinuro sa akin sa Lotus sa Imus. Doon ako gumawa ng mga character. May display din habang gumagawa," he told Rappler.

(I was short of money. I asked where there were many people and was told (to go to) Lotus in Imus. I crafted characters there. I brought samples of my work as display.)

That Sunday afternoon, September 17, Elmer walked about 5 kilometers to reach Lotus Mall and started making figures from the movies Hellboy and Transformers out of flip-flops.

Photos of Elmer's crafts went around the internet.

CRAFT. Elmer Padilla went to Lotus Mall in Imus City, Cavite to sell his action figures. Photo by Adrian Soriano Bernabe

He caught a netizen's attention and posted his photos on Facebook, and was reposted in several pages – one of which garnered over 41,000 likes and about 17,400 shares.

Elmer said he knew he couldn't afford buying the expensive action figures he sees at the malls. A Hellboy figure can be priced as much as P4,000 whereas he can create one himself using scrap.

"Hindi po ako makakabili kaya ginamit ko na lang po yung kakayahan na meron ako. Para mabuo ang mga character sa mga scrap lang po na pwede pa nating mapakinabangan," he said.

(I can't afford buying those so I'm just using the talent that I have to craft the character using scrap materials that can still be recycled.)

Out of poverty

Elmer said it has always been his dream to be able to craft figures and hopes that one day his earnings will be enough to sustain his family.

He has always been creative as a kid. He started sculpting flip-flops for fun until he was able to master crafting figures from his favorite action movies.

Back in the day, he considers selling his characters at P500 a "lucky day." On the "unlucky days," some figures were sold for as low as P100 just to be able to earn money.

Elmer said that he spends a day of work to finish the characters. Those with intricate details take a day or two.

TIME. Elmer said it takes time to finish each action figure depending on its intricacy. Photo by Vee Salazar/Rappler

When he started, he wasn't so optimistic about earning with his craft. Back in Catbalogan, he doesn't earn as much when he sold his characters given the economic situation in the area where he used to live.

"Kung mayroon mang tutulong sa akin, susuporta, siguro ipapagpatuloy ko po para mapahalagahan ko ang mga ginagawa ko. Pero kung ganito lang naman po, gawa ng gawa ako, mabagal ang income ko po, siguro mag ko-construction na lang ako," he said.

(If somebody will help me, give support, maybe I would continue (creating figures) so I can appreciate what I'm doing. But if I just continue to create and have slow income from it, maybe it's better for me to apply for a construction worker job.)

Since he went viral on Facebook, Elmer has been invited to several conventions to exhibit and sell his work. Currently, toy collector and maker Jerry Santos, owner of Life Size Toys and Collectibles, trains and extends his support to Elmer.

He was also recognized by the Imus City government for his setting an example to save the environment through recycling on Friday, October 20.

Elmer was also given the chance to give one of his The Hulk figures to Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo starred as The Hulk in The Avengers.


It may be pure luck but nonetheless Elmer's grateful. He still hopes to open his own business.

"Siyempre po napupusuan ko na po ang mga pangarap ko na gumawa ng maraming character at magkaroon ng sariling shop. Kaya nagpapasalamat po ako kung ganoon yung mangyayari na may tutulong at tsaka susuporta sa mga ginagawa ko."

(Of course, I would love to work on my dreams of creating characters and to have my own shop. That's why I am grateful to everyone who will help and support my endeavors.) 

For him, it's never too late to master a craft and pursue one's passion.

"Kung mayroon man kayong nakikitang tulad ng ginagawa ko, pagbutihin niyo lang kung kayo ay may kakayahan, (If you see somebody who has the same skills as I have, do your best in mastering that craft)," he said.– Rappler.com

Want to send financial assistance to Elmer Padilla? You may send it through his bank account:

UnionBank of the Philippines
ACCOUNT NAME: Elmer B. Padilla
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1093 5039 4052

IN PHOTOS: Vying to be an 'Iskolar ng Bayan'


MANILA, Philippines – Students trooped to different examination centers across the country on Saturday, October 21, to take the University of the Philippines College Entrance Test (UPCAT) in the hope of fulfilling their dream to become an "Iskolar ng Bayan."

According to the Melvin Luis Sabado, assistant director for test administration of UP, an estimated 100,000 students are expected take the examinations in 82 test centers around the country beginning Saturday.

The UPCAT is administered nationwide, from Saturday, October 21, to Sunday, October 22.

Here are some of the scenes at the first day of UPCAT. All photos by Angie de Silva.

EARLY BIRDS. Senior high school students arrive early in their designated testing centers, hoping to land a slot in country's premiere state university.  All photos by Angie de Silva/Rappler

PREAPARED. These two UPCAT takers say they did everything to prepare for the exam. They say they'll try their best to be in the roll of successful takers because choosing UP is choosing a brighter future.

FINAL PUSH. While others are relaxing, some are still using their remaining time before the exam to review, hoping to ace the exams.

IT'S TIME. UPCAT takers fall in line for the final briefing and checking before they proceed to their designated testing rooms.

STARTER PACK. A student is armed only with two good quality pencils, a bottle of water, and a test permit.

SUPPORT. Parents show their full support for their children by accompanying them to the testing center.

WAITING. For more than 4 hours, parents have to wait outside the testing center, hoping that the test will go smoothly for their children.

ANTICIPATION. Despite the number of UPCAT examinees and the limited slots, parents are hopeful that their children can get in UP.

HOPEFUL. A parent rests his head on an umbrella while waiting for his child to emerge from the hours-long exam, said to be one of the hardest entrance exams in the country.

CHILLING OUT. While waiting, some parents pass the time with ice cream from a cart just across Palma Hall.

EXCITED. A parent meets her daughter outside Palma Hall. 'How was the exam?' can be heard almost everywhere.

COMFORT. Tight hugs meet every UPCAT taker walking out of Palma Hall, followed by 'You did it!'

NOT QUITE DONE. After enduring the long and tough exam, UPCAT takers will have to endure waiting for the test results .

– Rappler.com

Mark Ruffalo thanks Filipino artist for ‘sustainable, awesome’ Hulk action figure


MANILA, Philippines – Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo tweeted about the extraordinary Hulk action figure he received from a Filipino artist on Saturday, October 21.

Ruffalo, who played The Incredible Hulk character in The Avengers films, said the action figure was made especially for him by Elmer Padilla, an action figure artist from Catbalogan City in Samar. (READ: Boy Tsinelas: Crafting action figures out of flip-flops)

Ruffalo lauded Padilla's effort by giving him a "shout out" in his official Twitter page. He also said Padilla's craft is "sustainable."

"Elmer Padilla made this for me so I just wanted to give a nice shoutout. Not only is this inventively creative, but it's sustainable and just pure awesome! Thank you Elmer!" tweeted Ruffalo.

Padilla, a budding action figure artist now based in Cavite province, used to be pedicab driver on the side and a construction worker.

The Imus City government recognized Padilla for setting an example to save the environment through recycling on Friday, October 20. – Rappler.com

Want to send financial assistance to Elmer Padilla? You may send it through his bank account:

UnionBank of the Philippines
ACCOUNT NAME: Elmer B. Padilla
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1093 5039 4052

Chris Hemsworth gets Thor action figure from Filipino artist


MANILA, Philippines – It wasn't only Hulk actor Mark Ruffalo who received an action figure from Filipino artist Elmer Padilla – Thor star Chris Hemsworth got one as well.

"It looks better than me," Hemsworth  said in an interview on ABS-CBN News, as he praised the Thor action figure.  (READ: Mark Ruffalo thanks Filipino artist for ‘sustainable, awesome’ Hulk action figure)

ABS-CBN reporter Marie Lozano handed over Padilla's Thor action figure  – made from scrap flip-flops – to Hemsworth during an interview in Sydney, Australia.

Hemsworth and Ruffalo are co-stars in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

Padilla, a budding action figure artist now based in Cavite province, used to be pedicab driver on the side and a construction worker. (READ: Boy Tsinelas: Crafting action figures out of flip-flops)

He was recognized by the Imus City government for setting an example to save the environment through recycling.

Commissioned works

As of the moment, Padilla said he's not yet taking commissioned works from customers.

"Ngayon po, hindi po muna ako tumatanggap ng mga orders. Sa mga exhibit na lang po muna (As of the moment, I'm not taking any orders. I'm currently putting my works on exhibit)," Padilla told Rappler in a text message.

Padilla said those who want to see him working on the figures may visit his booth on the following dates and venues:

  • October 22 - Shangri-La Plaza
  • October 24 - SM Megamall
  • October 28 to 29 - Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila

– Aika Rey/Rappler.com

Those who are interested to give Padilla financial assistance may deposit here:

UnionBank of the Philippines
ACCOUNT NAME: Elmer B. Padilla
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 1093 5039 4052


For UP hopefuls, the struggle starts with UPCAT


DETERMINED. Gumela, Caalaman, and Bahasuan (left to right) travelled all the way from Zamboanga City to take the UPCAT. All Photos by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – “Ma’am, baka puwede pa pong humabol?” (Ma'am, can I still catch up?)

Novebel Caalaman, teary-eyed, asked the admission officer if she could still take the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT). She was almost hopeless.

On Saturday morning, October 21, she was denied entry to a testing center at the University of the Philippines–Diliman for arriving late. She claimed, however, that it was not her fault. According to her, they are not familiar of the university grounds and the taxi driver misled them going to UP. 

Caalaman, together with her classmates Sitti Nurhaina Bahasuan and Jaymaikah Gumela, are senior high school students from Ateneo de Zamboanga University (AdZU). They went to Manila all by themselves to join more than 80,000 students in a quest to earn a sought-after admission to the country's premiere state university.

Bahasuan told Rappler that they didn’t have their parents’ approval when they applied for UPCAT last August.

"Our parents don’t want us to study in Manila because it’s too far from home," she said in Filipino.

Despite this, the 3 of them still pushed through with the entrance exam application, believing that they will discover their true potential in UP.

TEARY-EYED. Caalaman (3rd from right) asks the admission officer if she could take the exam in the afternoon after being denied entry to her testing room for arriving late

Assigned to UP Diliman as their testing center, each of them needed P6,000 for a roundtrip airfare from Zamboanga to Manila. So for 2 months, they took a cut from their daily allowance and added it to the savings they have initially pooled together. Before they flew to Manila on Thursday, their money reached just enough to cover the expenses during their brief stay in Metro Manila.

"We did everything on our own because we are really determined to take UPCAT," said Bahasuan 

Slim chances

To be admitted to the UP system, they have to be at least one of the top 15% of the total number of examinees. That is according to the data showed by UP Assistant Director for Test Administration Marvin Luis Sabado.

In 2015, a total of 82,854 students took UPCAT nationwide, with 30,699 takers in UP Diliman alone. Of the nationwide number, only 15.72% passed, that’s 13,028 students. In Diliman, only 3,788 successfully earned a slo or 12.33% passing rate.

This year, UP Admission received 103,091 online applications with 78,486 qualified examinees as of posting.

“This number is heavy but this is why we’re here for, to provide access to the best quality education in the land,” Sabado said.

UPCAT NUMBERS. UP Assistant Director for Test Admnistration Melvin Luis Sabado shows the number UPCAT takers per examination centers


The 3 girls cited the quality of education as the main factor in choosing UP as their tertiary school. This was echoed by many parents of UPCAT takers who took the admission exam on Saturday. 

Jun Laride, 54, chose UP for his twins because of the same answer.

"Maliban sa quality ng edukasyon, libre pa ang tuition," Laride added. (Other than the quality of education, you don’t have to pay for the tuition) (READ: LIST: State colleges and universities covered by free tuition law)

This is true if the parents are to base the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2018 which was released early in September 2017. The lone Philippine university to make it to the THE World University Rankings, UP is now in the 601-800 bracket of the THE World University Rankings 2018

The THE World University Rankings based its scores on 13 performance indicators that cover teaching, research, knowledge transfer, and international outlook, the publication said. The Philippines' national university got an overall score of 30.6 out of 100.

SUPPORT. A proud father, Jun Laride patiently waiting for her twins outside the Palma Hall


Fortunately, Caalaman's request to take the UPCAT in the afternoon was granted. 

"Sa UPCAT pa lang struggle na, paano nalang kung nakpasok na?" the relieved Caalaman said. 

Despite the odds, the 3 are optimistic that they can successfully pass the exam.

Bahasuan and Gumela will take up Political Science, while Caalaman will take up Psychology if the result permits. 

Tiwala po kaming makakpasa sa UPCAT dahil pinaghandaan po talaga namin ito,” Gumela said. (We are confident to pass the UPCAT because we have prepared enough)

They will go back to Zamboanga on Monday, October 23, succesfully making the first step towrds their dreams. If they performed well enough to pass, the UPCAT marks the the beginning of their struggle in UP

An estimated 100,000 graduating high school students are expected take the examinations in 82 test centers around the country. The UPCAT is administered nationwide, on Saturday, October 21, and Sunday, October 22. – Rappler.com

VIRAL: Was Whang Od exploited at Manila FAME?


WHANG OD IN MANILA. For the first time, Whang Od travels to Metro Manila after organizers of the Manila FAME flew her in for the three-day trade event. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) People were happy to learn that Apo Whang Od was in Manila, and that she had a photo with her favorite actor, Coco Martin, which went viral on social media.

Organizers of Manila FAME – the trade show on culture, designs, crafts, and brands that runs from October 20 to 22 – brought the legendary tattoo artist from Buscalan, Kalinga, to the national capital with the help of the Philippine Air Force.

Whang Od is known to be one of the last mamabatok (Kalinga traditional tattoo artist). She is said to be 100 years old, although various groups and government agencies had said that she did not have the documents to prove this.  Ton Vergel de Dios, one of the hosts of sports and travel show "Gameplan," had described her as “looking really strong.” She was training her niece, Grace, to one her place someday.

The celebratory mood that accompanied the artist's Manila visit ebbed two days into the trade event, when netizens began criticizing the organizers for supposedly exploiting the tattoo artist by allowing her to tattoo up to 300 attendees at the trade show.  



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In a photo that went viral, Whang Od was seen sleeping at a press conference where she was selected to participate as panelist.

According to Winky Scott, a blogger who posted about the supposed exploitation of Whang Od, the organizers charged attendees P2,500 for a tattoo, P500 for a signature (3 tattoo dots), and P700 to see Whang Od at the press conference.

As of posting, Scott's photo garnered more than 37,000 reactions and had been shared 18,000 times. For netizens, having the centenarian tattoo artist work at the trade fair is a blatant act of exploitation and commodification of her culture.

This was echoed by Philippine Tattoo Artists Guild (Philtag) President Ricky Sta Ana.

"Inabuso talaga siya. Wala silang kaalam-alam na ipag-tatattoo siya pagdating sa Manila (She was really exploited. They had no idea that she would do tattoos when she got to Manila)," Sta Ana shared in a phone interview with Rappler. He had just spent Saturday night talking with Buscalan village leaders. 

He said that the village leaders told him that doing tattoos at the trade fair was not part of their initial agreement with the show organizers. Village leaders, according to Sta Ana, also claimed that Whang Od was looking forward to retiring from doing tattoos. 

The contract signed by Whang Od and her niece, however, told a different story. 

In the contract, Whang Od agreed to a "two-day live tattooing in Manila FAME and speaking engagement for Create Philippines." It was also stipulated in the agreement that "any proceeds from the tattooing or sale of Blacksmith products shall be received in whole by the Talent and her companions."

Two other tattooists who came with her also agreed to conduct live tattoo sessions for Friday and Saturday. 

Many also said that Whang Od's case was reminiscent of the Philippine Exposition at  St Louis World’s Fair in 1904. Then Governor General Philippines William Howard Taft convinced the fair organizers to feature a grand Philippine Exposition, complete with Philippine indigenous people brought to the US as living exhibits. The exhibit depicted Filipinos as savages.


<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">HAPPENING NOW: Panel discussion on the Kalinga Heritage Tattoo with Apo Whang-Od <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ManilaFAME?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ManilaFAME</a> <a href="https://t.co/9jhKb1MORI">pic.twitter.com/9jhKb1MORI</a></p>&mdash; Manila FAME (@TheManilaFAME) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheManilaFAME/status/921266758442393600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>


“I'm no longer surprised by how we commodify culture or use our indigenous peoples as our edge in business, proving that we are capable of "innovation,” Nash Tysmans, a Filipino writer and community worker, commented.

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

Here are some tweets from netizens about the issue:


<a class="twitter-timeline" data-partner="tweetdeck" href="https://twitter.com/MovePH/timelines/921860933625921536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">Whang Od in Manila - Curated tweets by MovePH</a> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>



‘Not exploited’

Manila FAME is a trade fair organized by the Department of Trade Industry's (DTI) Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM).

According to Clayton Tugonon, Executive Director of DTI-CITEM, it was not part of their intention to "exploit" the Kalinga tattoo artist. On the contrary, they brought her to Manila with the intention of proudly showcasing her culture. 

Tugonon added that they brought Whang Od to Manila, along with other Buscalan village leaders, to support her nomination for the "Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)" or the National Living Treasures Award.

A viral online campaign in 2015 called for a National Artist Award to be given to Igorot tattoo artist Whang-Od.  Others argued, however, that she should be given the National Living Treasures Award. 

As an institution into arts, Tugonon said CITEM wanted to support Whang Od whose "art has never been changed" or altered.  

"She is an institution about art, [symbolizing] the pure talent of Filipinos," Tugonon said in mixed Filipino and English, praising the tattoo artist. 

The CITEM executive director also said that before flying Whang Od to Manila, they made sure she was physically able. 

"Before she was brought into the city, we have 6 people looking into her health. We do not want to fly her in sick....She came in an ambulance, assisted by 4 paramedics, one doctor, and two close security. Outside, an ambulance is on standby for transcare," Tugonon added. 

Responding to criticism that they have exploited her for profit, Tugonon said CITEM did not get a cent out of  their almost P800,000 worth of income from the trade fair. It was Whang Od, according to Tugonon, who insisted to do more tattoos.  

Manila FAME flew Whang Od back to Buscalan on Sunday morning, October 22.  – Rappler.com 

Whang Od not 'exploited,' says Manila FAME organizers


MANILA FAME. Filipino tattoo artist Apo Whang Od graced Manila Fame with her presence and did live tattoo sessions for two days. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines – Organizers of the Manila FAME denied that Filipino tattoo artist Apo Whang Od was "exploited" during the trade fair that ran from October 20 to 22.

Whang Od, a centenarian, and her group did about 300 live tattoo sessions for the first two days of the fair, prompting netizens to call out the organizers for "exploitation." (READ: VIRAL: Was Whang Od exploited at Manila FAME?)

The organizers called on the public "not to put malice" for inviting Whang Od at the trade fair.

Clayton Tugonon, executive director of Department of Trade and Industry's (DTI) Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), said the Kalinga tattoo artist was flown to Manila to nominate her for the "Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan (GAMABA)" or the National Living Treasures Award.

"The art has never been changed. She's an institution about arts – (symbolizing) the pure talent of Filipinos," Tugonon said, praising the artist.

"The dream was for her to be awarded. It's our plan to work until she gets the award. She deserves it," Tugonon saying the agency had to go through the process of acquiring several permits just to be able to bring her to Manila.

Responding to the issue of "exploitation," Tugonon said that it was not their intention to "exploit" Whang Od but to showcase her craft. DTI-CITEM did not get a cent from the artist's earnings during the fair.

"Nakakasakit kasi 'yung mababasa mo na kino-control ang pera. We want to promote. Kayo mag-price, all we have to do is to present them. (It hurts to read those allegations that we control the money. We want to promote. They put a price and all we have to do is to present them)," he said.

"Paano ma-eexploit si Whang Od? For so many years, walang nangyayari na nagpromote sakanya bilang recipient ng GAMABA Award, (How was Whang Od exploited? For so many years, nobody has worked to promote her to be a recipient of the GAMABA Awards)," added Tugonon.

GALA NIGHT. NCCA received Apo Whang Od's nomination for the National Living Treasure Award on Saturday night, October 21. Photo by DTI-CITEM

"I hope the people change their notion about her being here. We just want to promote her," Tugonon said.

In 2015, a campaign calling for the recognition of Whang Od as National Artist went viral. Indigenous art forms, however, are under the National Living Treasures Award.

Whang Od's nomination for the GAMABA Award was officially accepted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) on Saturday night, October 21.

Live tattoo sessions

If she was brought here for the GAMABA awards, then why was she at the trade fair inking tattoo on people's skins?

Nerza del Rosario, part of the organizers of Manila FAME, said that doing tattoos was one of Whang Od's requests during their initial talks.

Under the contract signed by Whang Od's niece, Grace Palicas, on behalf of her, it was clearly stipulated on the agreement that the centenarian should conduct "at least 5 live tattoo sessions for the event opening until the second day of the show."

The contract also states that all proceeds from tattooing or sale of Blacksmith products "shall be received in whole" by Whang Od and her companions.

Whang Od took home about P800,000 from all her earnings during the fair, apart from the honararium she received from the organizers.

Netizens complained about putting the centenarian to work, inking 300 tattoos in two days is too much, they said. (READ: Whang Od at Manila FAME: Marginal notes on a damaged culture)

The organizers said it was Whang Od who insisted to do more tattoos. She was even late to the gala night on Saturday where her GAMABA Award nomination was to be endorsed because she was doing tattoos, Del Rosario explained.

'Whang Od is happy'

In a text message sent to Manila FAME, Palicas said their group was honored to be invited to the trade fair.

"Masaya ako na mainvite kami sa Manila FAME, proud kami. Hindi kami masyadong showy sa nararamdaman namin. Pag nag-uusap kami (Whang Od), gusto niya. Sabi ni lola, gusto niya rin daw makita ang Maynila. Sabi ko, kung gusto mo, sige para memeet din niya yung ibang kultura," she said. (READ: Indelible moments with Whang Od, a living legend)

(We are happy to be invited at the Manila FAME; we're proud. We're not very showy when it comes to expressing our feelings. When we talk, she said she wants to come. Lola said she wants to see Manila. I told her, if you want, let's go, so we can experience other cultures.)

Eva Oggay, another relative of Whang Od, posted on the 18,000-member Facebook group "Tattooed by Apo Whang-Od" that they are "very happy to come to Manila," despite the growing debate on her "exploitation" within the FB group. (READ: British backpacker's PH adventure: Tattooed by Whang Od, the living legend)

"I just want to tell you guys that the group from Buscalan are very happy coming here to Manila. And Apo Whang Od Oggay is very well... happy to meet the people in Manila that appreciate her tattoo design. That she came to meet [actor] Coco Martin and the relatives from Kalinga [who live] in Manila," she wrote on a Facebook post.

Manila FAME flew Whang Od back to Buscalan on Sunday morning, October 22 as scheduled.  Rappler.com