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PH ranks 3rd in international math contest


WINNING TEAM. Six out of the 7 Filipino gold medal winners pose for a photo after the  International Regions Mathematics League at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where the Philippines placed 3rd. Photo courtesy of the PH team from IRML

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine team won third place at the International Regions Mathematics League (IRML) in Las Vegas in early June.

The Philippine team, composed of 22 students from different high schools across the country, competed in the event held from June 1 to 2 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

China and Macau ranked first and second place, respectively. The Philippines' final score was one point higher than South Korea, which placed 4th.

Seven members of the Philippine team received gold medals in the individual round of the competition.

  • Kirk Patrick Bamba (Mataas na Paaralang Neptali A. Gonzales)
  • John Joshua Cruz (Pasig Catholic College)
  • Bikram Chohan Singh (Notre Dame School of Greater Manila)
  • Lance Adrian Ko (St Stephen’s High School)
  • Hans Mackenzie Uy (St Joseph School in Naga City)
  • William Joshua King (Bethany Christian School in Cebu City)
  • Arthur Caleb Co (Philippine Science High School – Central Luzon Campus)

Gold medalist Hans Mackenzie Uy of St Joseph School in Naga City, Camarines Sur, said while the training was both “mentally and emotionally draining,” bonding with his teammates and his supportive coaches helped him withstand the challenges he faced.

“Winning the award was an accomplishment for me because it shows that my efforts have paid off, but the real reward here is the unforgettable memories and the great friends you gain in the event. To me, this victory was a team victory, and whatever I accomplished in this event, it was for my team. Mathletes don’t collect medals, they collect memories,” Uy said.

IRML is an international contest where students solve several math problems in different formats. It is an extension of the American Regions Mathematics League, where student teams from various states of the United States compete with one another.

Students are given the chance to compete individually and in teams in different parts of the competition. Teams go through 4 rounds in the IRML: Team Round, Power Round, Individual Round, and Relay Round. Scores from each round are tallied for the teams’ final ranking.

Here are other members of the Philippine team:

  • Ravi Bahukhandi (The British School Manila)
  • Evgeny Cruz (Manila Science High School)
  • Lawrence Gabriel Dy (CCF Life Academy Foundation Inc)
  • Alyssa Guevara (Philippine Science High School – Main Campus)
  • Lance Adrian Ko (St. Stephen’s High School)
  • Crizanne Chanelle Mejica (City of Mandaluyong Science High School)
  • Erika Emmanuelle Pantaleon (Philippine Science High School – Main Campus)
  • Ralph Silva (Don Bosco Technical College)
  • Alison Chloe Tan (Ateneo de Manila Senior High School)
  • Audrey Gabrielle Tan (Malayan High School of Science)
  • Erin Nicole Blanche (Philippine Science High School – Main Campus)
  • Kaye Pauline Larroder (University of the Philippines Visayas High School in Iloilo)
  • Mi Jung Pak (Philippine Science High School – Main Campus)
  • John Patrick Santelices (Philippine Science High School – Main Campus)
  • Shoshannah Tiu (Makati Hope Christian School)
  • Dominic Villegas (Naga City Montessori School)
  • Daniel Maranello Wong (Westfield Science Oriented School)

The participation of the Philippine team was made possible by training from the Asian MathSci League, Incorporated, under its president, Rechilda P. Villame. The students were coached by team leaders Ezra Templonuevo and Charles Kyle Mupas. (READ: 7-year-old Filipino math whiz shows amazing skills in 'Little Big Shots'– Rappler.com 

Gaby N. Baizas is a Community intern at Rappler, and is an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is an AB Communication major under the journalism track.

IN PHOTOS: Militant groups protest at Chinese consulate


PROTEST. A militant group protests at the Chinese consulate in Makati City on June 12, 2018, Independence Day, to ask President Duterte to end tolerance of China's incursions in the West Philippine Sea. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Despite inclement weather,  members of several militant groups stormed the Chinese consulate in Makati City Tuesday morning, June 12. (READ: [OPINION] Joint development in West PH Sea: An idea whose time has come)

“Today is #Hindipendence day. Freedom remains an illusion under the helm of a cheap dictator-wannabe who shamelessly kowtows to foreign superpowers like China and US, and wields terror and violence against the Filipino people,” said Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes.

Anakbayan slammed Duterte’s policies and programs that, they said, would only benefit China, US, and foreign corporations. (READ: Aquino: The president who brought China to court)

“We condemn Duterte’s inaction amidst Chinese incursion in the West Philippine Sea depriving Filipino fishermen of their livelihood. We condemn Duterte’s burdening Filipinos with high taxes and other conditionalities for onerous Chinese loans funding his corrupt infrastructure program,” Recedes added.

On Monday, June 11, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque brought 3 fishermen all the way from Masinloc, Zambales to attest to the benefits brought about by the Duterte administration's approach to China.

 Here are some of the photos taken during the protest outside the Chinese consulate. All photos by LeAnne Jazul. 

CHINA OUT! Militant groups call on China to leave the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

LAPDOG. Protesters portray President Duterte as China's lapdog for his tolerance of China's incursions in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

STOP HARASSMENT. Protesters call on Chinese authorities to stop harassing Filipino fishermen on Scarborough Shoal.

– Rappler.com

Be part of the MovePH network


MANILA, Philippines – Do you want to be part of a bigger movement? Do you have an event or activity that needs an extra social media boost? Do you want to harness the power of social media to amplify your group's advocacy?

Whether you're an individual or a member of a non-governmental organization (NGO) or student organization, Rappler's civic engagement arm, MovePH, can help you out!

We want to help individuals or groups promote events, activities, or advocacies online. We also want to link you up with other like-minded organizations and mentors you can learn from.

All it takes is to be part of the MovePH network – an ecosystem of civic action enablers and doers collaborating towards sustainable progress and nation-building. 

Social good

In disaster preparedness and promoting climate change awareness, for instance, social media plays a crucial role. During Tropical Storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009 and after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck in 2013, social media was alive with people volunteering their time and resources to help survivors.

MovePH's own Agos aims to harness social networks before, during, and after disasters to build more resilient communities.

It is for this reason that MovePH is building a community of Movers – people who want to bring about the change they wish to see in the world. 

We have projects and activities lined up for the year so we need volunteers who can help us do a number of crowdsourcing initiatives, from mapping flooded areas to reporting incidences of hunger. Volunteers who are willing to help organize community events like MovePH workshops and meet-ups are also welcome.

Join the MovePH network

We will have our first gathering for the MovePH network on June 30, a Saturday, at the Rappler headquarters in Pasig City.

During the orientation, we will present MovePH's plans for the rest of the year, and discuss how we can work together for various advocacies.

Here's how you can join the MovePH network:

  • If you're an organization who wants to partner with MovePH, fill up the Move Partnership Form.

  • If you're an individual who wants to sign up as a Mover, fill up the Be a Mover Form.

  • Attend the orientation on June 30. 

Expect a reply from Rappler within 5 days after you have submitted your form.

We'd like to move and grow with you through partnerships aimed at triggering ripples of change across the country. Tell us what we can do together. – Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: Groups seek return of comfort woman statue


FLORAL OFFERING. Sister Mary John Mananzan (center) and others offer flowers at the former site of the comfort woman statue on June 12, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Armed with flowers and placards, women from all walks of life on Tuesday, June 12, gathered along Roxas Boulevard for a different Independence Day celebration.

Womens' groups Gabriela and Lila Filipina led a group of mostly women in a small flower offering ceremony at the former site of the comfort woman statue as they demanded the reinstallation of the symbol of Japanese atrocities during World War II.

The march was part of the #Flowers4Lola campaign, a coalition of cause-oriented non-governmental organizations, individuals, and schools that got together when the statue was removed.

THE MISSING STATUE. Women gathered at where the statue was once erect, along the baywalk of Roxas Boulevard, Manila. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

#Flowers4Lolas said in a statement that the flower-offering ceremony is meant “to remember our comfort women and raise our consciousness about the deep and idelible wounds from brutalities committed against our people during the Japanese occupation.” 

"We gathered at the site where the ‘Comfort Woman” statue once stood. We reiterated our calls for the re-installation of the statue and for the Philippine government to uphold the truth in our history, and stand up for the nation’s dignity amidst pressures from the Japanese government to dictate how we should remember and teach our history to our young," it said.

TRUTH IN HISTORY. Flower for Lolas Campaign organized by Gabriela and Lila Filipina at the former site of Comfort Woman statue at Roxas Blvd. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

In April, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) explained that the comfort women statue and two other monuments were removed to give way for the improvement of the Roxas Boulevard Baywalk Area. Months earlier, in January, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano had said that Philippine ties with Japan were at stake with the continued presence of the statue along Manila Bay.  

Following the removal of the statue, President Rodrigo Duterte said "it is not the policy of government to antagonize other nations."

The statue was a memorial for Filipino comfort women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese imperial army during World War II. Hundreds of thousands of women in Asia were turned into "comfort women"  (READ: What's wrong with this statue of a comfort woman in Manila? )

The statue, said #Flowers4Lolas, "gives a face to victims of war and militarization."

The statue’s removal triggered outrage from several women’s groups who demended its reinstallation.

JUSTICE FOR COMFORT WOMEN. Sister Mary John Mananzan addressed the group gathered at Manila Bay on June 12, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Speakers at the June 12 ceremony included anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See, Lola Estellita Dy of Lila Filipina, Sister Mary John Mananzan, and Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas. (READ: Duterte says comfort woman statue part of free expression)

In her speech, Mananzan lauded the strength of the surviving comfort women. “Kaya po ang mga lola na ito, kahit na matatanda na sila, napakamatatag sila [sa] pakikipaglaban, na dapat magkaroon ng apology at ilagay dapat sa kasaysayan yung nangyari sa kanila,” she said.

(That’s why these women, even if they're old, they remain steadfast in demanding for an apology, and that [what happened to them] should form part of history.)

Mananzan also paid tribute to the “first” comfort woman who came forward, Rosa Henson. – with reports from Luisa Jocson/Rappler.com

Filipino women take #BabaeAko movement from social media to the streets


#BABAEAKO. Filipino women take the #BabaeAko social media campaign to the streets on Tuesday, June 12. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – What was once a social media campaign-only movement, became “alive” when Filipino women and other groups took to the streets the call to end sexism and misogyny in the Philippines, on Tuesday, June 12.

Led by a loose group of Filipino women activists and leaders, #BabaeAko is a social media campaign that came in the wake of the President’s statement that the next Ombudsman should "not be a woman”. Launched in late May, the campaign aims to condemn the misogynistic behavior of Duterte and some of the members of his administration. 

Not the typical rally characterized by loud chants, the Filipino women who marched from Luneta Park to Liwasang Bonifacio on Independence Day made a statement against misogyny and sexism through the tarpaulin artworks showcasing the plight of women under Duterte’s presidency.

They called on the resignation of Duterte, with women militant group Gabriela’s secretary general Joms Salvador asking him to “make good on his promise.”

“Duterte should make good his promise to resign should women protest this so-called "no-malice kiss".  Here we are marching in protest and many others are taking the social media, and we dare him to make good on his pronouncement,” said Salvador.

The #BabaeAko march is part of the #HINDIpendence day protest activities organized by opposition groups against the administration.

One of those who joined the #BabaeAko march was social critic Mae Paner, more popularly known as  “Juana Change".

In her speech at Liwasang Bonifacio, Paner symbolically dressed as a pregnant woman hinted at the importance of motherhood and women in the country’s future.

Kung kailan ako naging  singkwenta, tsaka ako nabuntis, alam niyo ito ang unang-una kong anak eh, alam niyo ba, may pangalan na ang iluluwal kong ito, at babae ang iluluwal ko, ang kanyang palayaw Kina, alam niyo kung bakit Kina? Kasi ang buong pangalan ng aking anak ay Kinabukasan, okay ba kayo? Iluluwal ko ang kinabukasan,” she said.

(After all this time, when i reached 50, that’s when i got pregnant, you know, this is my first-born, and this child that I will bear is a girl; her nickname is "Kina". Do you know why "Kina"? Because her whole name is ‘Kinabukasan’ [future]. I will give birth to the future.)

The campaign reached its peak again after Duterte kissed a female overseas Filipino worker (OFW) during his 3-day visit to South Korea. Prominent personalities put to the internet the fight against misogynism and sexism including former social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo, journalist Kara David, former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, and actress Agot Isidro.

“Duterte should learn from history. Many of those who joined the revolution and fought for Philippine independence are women. Women are a force to contend with and Duterte should be careful lest he bear the brunt of their force unleashed,” Salvador added.

Below are some photos from the #BabaeAko march: 

FILIPINO WOMEN. Women's group Gabriela joins the #BabaeAko march on Tuesday, June 12. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

CREATIVE PROTEST. Different from the typical rallies characterized by loud chants, Filipino women use artwork to protest against Duterte's misogyny and sexism. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

MOTHERHOOD. Mae Paner, more popularly known as Juana Change, joins the #BabaeAko march from Luneta to Liwasang Bonifacio on Tuesday, June 12. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

HINDIPENDENCE. The #BabaeAko march is part of the #HINDIpendence day protest activities organized by opposition groups against the Duterte administration. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

 – Rappler.com 

 Kenneth Leonardo is a Rappler Intern. He is currently taking up BA Journalism at the University of the Philippines-Diliman

Local dance foundation shines spotlight on people with special needs


FINALE. Parents join their children at the 'The Heart at Play' Foundation performance. Photo by Angelica Yang/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Dancing is often seen as a strenuous sport, only suited for able-bodied people who can memorize different choreographies while focusing on coordination and balance.

The Heart at Play Foundation (THP), a local organization that promotes dance movement therapy or DMT to People with Special Needs (PWSNs), is determined to break stigmas and stereotypes.

“Because of THP, no one thinks otherwise of my daughter, Charmel Canceran. There is no stigma against her there,” Eric Canceran said, referring to his 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with autism at an early age.

Every Saturday, Charmel, along with her parents, Eric and Heidi, travels from Novaliches City to attend THP’s free dance therapy sessions.

“Charmel’s improvement, after attending THP dance classes, was remarkable. At first, she couldn’t speak or communicate with anyone, because she wasn’t a social person. Because she had the chance to meet and interact with people like her, she became more sociable,” Heidi Canceran said.

“My mother, Ana Rivera, started this advocacy in 2011,” said Patricia Rivera, the co-founder and corporate secretary of THP. Ana is a Special Education (SPED) graduate who finds fulfillment in teaching the art of dance to PWSNs.

Rivera said that Ana drew inspiration from the dance movement therapy methods in the States, where she went for her SPED practicum. Ana then decided to create a local foundation that employed pioneer DMT methods that merged fundamental patterns of movement, dance, and imaginative play.

“At present, we are now an NGO that provides free dance movement therapy for marginalized people with special needs. [Our dance classes] cater to individuals with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder] and other developmental disabilities,” Rivera said.

Through its weekly Saturday dance classes at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Quezon City, the THP promotes holistic healing, independent living, and a supportive community for PWSNs.


Just recently, 30 beneficiaries of the THP, along with their parents, performed at the Groove Central Hiphop concert at the AFP Theater in Camp Aguinaldo last June 10. Their 3-minute dance number received a standing ovation from the audience.

“My son can now express his emotions through dancing,” Maria Teresa Noriega, from Novaliches City, told Rappler.

Noriega’s 20-year-old son, Richard, was diagnosed with autism at a young age.

Because of the efforts of the THP, Noriega noticed that Richard became sociable with his peers by way of text.

“He also has a speech problem, but [being part of THP] gave him a chance to socialize with his peers through text messaging. Richard now communicates with his classmates through text,” Noriega smiled.

Three children star in the opening number of 'The Heart at Play' Foundation's performance.  Photo by Angelica Yang/Rappler

For Noriega, Richard looks forward to every THP session.

“It won’t be complete without the THP. He always reminds his classmates to ‘Don’t forget to attend the THP every Saturday,’” she said, emphasizing that Richard had found a second family in the foundation.

Richard, who was clad in a yellow suit, joined his peers at the concert. Performing alongside Richard was Charmel Canceran and Jake Eden Sabater, who were both clad in ruffled purple dresses.

Jake Eden is a 20-year-old adult who was diagnosed with Global Development Delay (GDD) Syndrome. She was accompanied by her mother Edna at the concert. Both mother and daughter traveled from Quezon City to attend the event.

“My daughter, Jake Eden, developed confidence in herself because of the THP program. At first, she couldn’t walk on her own, and she would often be hot-headed. Now, she can socialize with her peers, and walk on her own,” Edna said.


“Our DMT merges the artistic element of dance and special education principles. The THP pioneers in an antecedent-behavioral-consequence intervention tool called the 'Rope of Hope',” Patricia Rivera said.

“The Rope of Hope works like this: you make a PWSN hold a rope and make two able-bodied people flank him/her on each side. After that, the instructor will give directions and the 3 of them are supposed to follow it. Even if a PWSN is not able to follow the movements, you can capture their attention by giving them a rope,” Rivera explained.

According to Rivera, the rope is an antecedent that spurs a certain focused behavior from the PWSNs. “With that antecedent and behavior, the PWSNs are now able to dance, and move to the music,” Rivera said. The Rope of Hope is one of the trademark tools of the THP.

Asked about the hurdles in handling the THP, Rivera said that elevating the discourse about PWSNs and raising funds for the foundation were one of the challenges.

Photo by Angelica Yang/Rappler

“We need to educate [society] on how to be more inclusive through awareness campaigns. Because our organization isn’t well-known yet, it’s hard to get support for it,” Rivera explained. (READ: Sunflower farm in Quezon plants seeds of hope for PWDs)

Events like annual fundraising concerts help in the weekly operations of the THP, but Rivera hopes for more support, and awareness from the Filipino community. – Rappler.com

If you want to help or volunteer at The Heart at Play Foundation, you may reach them through their e-mail address: theheartatplayfoundation@gmail.com or through their Facebook page

Angelica Yang is a BA Journalism student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman. She is a Rappler intern.


WATCH: Inspiring films on Uber driver, a jazz bar, swimmer with no legs


INSPIRING. Marlon Fuentes, the Uber driver starring in the winning film 'Ang Biyahe ni Marlon,' has a condition called Tourette Syndrome. Screenshot from 'Ang Biyahe ni Marlon'

MANILA, Philippines – Three short films on real-life stories from young filmmakers emerged victorious in this year's Istorya ng Pag-asa (Stories of Hope) Film Festival organized by the Office of the Vice President and the Ayala Foundation.

No less than Vice President Leni Robredo herself attended the film festival's gala night and awarding ceremony held at Glorietta on Tuesday, June 12, coinciding with the country's 120th Independence Day celebration.

A total of 15 films – out of 73 submissions – made it to the final round. The films Ang Biyahe ni Marlon, Tago, and Gawilan were chosen as the top 3 winners.

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Florence Rosini's Ang Biyahe ni Marlon was named Best Film. It features the story of Marlon Fuentes, an Uber driver who has Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by repetitive and involuntary movements and vocalizations called tics.

Fuentes' story first went viral on social media after one of his passengers, Mimi Velasquez, saw the sign he put up inside the vehicle, saying, "I have Tourette Syndrome. I hope you understand my condition." Velasquez posted a photo of the sign on Facebook, where her post has gained more than 37,000 reactions and over 13,000 shares as of Thursday morning, June 14.

The Uber driver said he created the sign after noticing several of his passengers were uncomfortable during their trip because of his condition. 

Robredo later invited Fuentes to tell his story through the Vice President's "BISErbisyong Leni" radio show on February 11.

Rosini, who is currently taking up her master's degree in media studies, major in film at the University of the Philippines Diliman, took home a P50,000 cash prize, a DSLR camera, and a Samsung S8 phone for her winning piece.

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Coming in as first runner-up was the film Tago by professional makeup artist and instructor Margaret Serranilla. The short film tells the story of Nelson Gonzales, who owns the rundown Tago Jazz Café in Cubao.

In the film, Gonzales shares how the jazz café serves as a place for budding musicians to hone their craft. Several of these musicians have since gained international fame after performing at the humble Tago.

Serranilla got a cash prize of P30,000.

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Completing the roster of winners is Kelsy Lua's Gawilan, which features the story of swimmer Ernie Gawilan.

Despite having no legs and no left arm, Gawilan kept on swimming, his hard work earning him a spot to represent the Philippines at the 2016 Summer Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Lua, a film and television postgraduate student at the University of Southern California, won P20,000 for her film's second-place finish.

The winning films of the Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival will be screened at Ayala Malls Cinemas from June 13 to 30.

Other special awards given during the gala night were the following:

  • Best Director for Anna Mikaela Quizon for her short film Pamilyang Bernardo
  • Best Cinematography for The Climbing Puppeteer by AR Angcos
  • Best Script for Ang Gahum Sang Daku Nga Handum by Demy Cruz Jr

The Istorya ng Pag-asa Film Festival entries were judged by screenwriter Doy del Mundo, filmmakers Dan Villegas and Quark Henares, actress Shamaine Buencamino, and Film Development Council of the Philippines Chairperson Liza Diño. – Rappler.com

[Right of Way] Nikki Veron Cruz on the challenges of being a female commuter


Commuting in Metro Manila can be a drag, but there are challenges unique to female commuters.

In this episode of "Right of Way," road safety advocate Vince Lazatin joins longtime commuter Nikki Veron Cruz on her way to work. They talk about ninja routes, problematic sidewalks, bus seatmate nightmares, and firing back at leery catcallers.

Got any traffic, transport, and road safety woes? Send them to rightofway@rappler.com. – Rappler.com 

UST student who endured daily long commutes graduates magna cum laude


UST student Mark James Operiano-Capulong endures 4 years of long daily commute from Laguna to University of Santo Tomas. Photo from Mark James Operiano Facebook profile

MANILA, Philippines – It might be the end of long and tiring bus rides for 21-year-old Mark James Capulong, at least for now.

Capulong endured a maximum of 5 hours of daily travel from his hometown in San Pedro City, Laguna, to the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Sampaloc, Manila and vice versa, for 4 years. 

Not only that, he obtained his bachelors degree in Economics, magna cum laude, and ranked third in the Economics department of UST. 

Mark’s story has inspired a lot of netizens when he posted his graduation photos wearing a toga plastered with bus tickets, which he collected from his daily commute. 

As of this writing, the post has more than 33,000 reactions and 7,639 shares. 

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But apart from the guy who became an inspiration to many netizens because of his perseverance and dedication, Mark has a lot of stories to tell more than what his post shows. 

Meet Mark

Coming from a family of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Mark already learned the value responsibility from an early age.

His father, Reynaldo, has been working abroad for 20 years now as an electrical engineer in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His older sister Abigail works as a registered nurse in Abu Dhabi.

Being the eldest son, Mark takes care of the household by helping his mother manage finances and looking after his younger siblings. He also attends to the needs of his aunt, who is physically disabled. 

“Much is expected from the eldest sons of any family; they are seen as role models who must imbibe fatherly values that their younger siblings would do well to follow as example,” Mark said on his social media post.

The responsibility and love for his family were the main reasons why he decided not to live in a dormitory near UST.

21-year old Mark has to take the role of a father while his dad works abroad. Photo by Mark James Capulong

“Noong papasok pa lang ako ng college, nag-usap na kami nila mama na kailangan ko na mag-rent ng dorm. Pero naisip ko na mas kailangan nila ako sa bahay eh,” Mark told Rappler.

(When I was about to enter college, we were open to the idea that I needed to rent a room in a dormitory. But I thought, my family needs me more in the house.)

“Naiisip ko kasi noon na at the end of my college life, alam ko na mahihiwalay din ako sa kanila kasi magkakaroon na ako ng sariling pamilya kaya gusto ko na lubusin 'yung time na kasama at mapagsilbihan sila,” added Mark. 

(I realized back then that at the end of my college life, I would have a life of my own and eventually leave my family so as much as possible I wanted to spend the most time with them and serve them.)

Mark said that choosing to live with his family while studying entailed a lot of sacrifices. It prevented him from joining university-wide activities and organizations. But those were nothing compared to the sense of fulfillment with being with his family.

Like people of his age, Mark also enjoys surfing the internet during his free time but he spends most of his leisure time reading books on history, general information, and economics. 

Daily commute experience

Long daily commutes can be dreadful and tiring. But according to Mark, those made him experience a feeling of solitude. 

There were moments that his travel from home to school made him reflect on things: “Ano ba talaga ang purpose ko in life?” (What is my real purpose in life?)

It wasn’t all success and fun for Mark for he also had a fair share of memorable mishaps during his commutes.

“Isa dun is yung nahulugan ako one time ng daga sa loob ng isang bus while I was studying for a final exam in Philippine literature,” recounted Mark in his post. (One of those mishaps was when a rat fell on me inside the bus while I was studying for a final exam in Philippine literature.)

He also fell in a manhole when he ran towards a moving bus. He also experienced walking along the Skyway when a bus had to offload passengers due to technical failure. 

“Sinamahan ako ni mama buong araw sa school noong inoperahan ako sa appendicitis. Binibilinan niya mga kaibigan at professors ko na tingnan-tingnan ako,” Mark told Rappler. (My mother accompanied me to school the whole day when I had my appendicitis surgery. She told my classmates and professors to look after me while I was in school.)

Mark also lost weight as there were times he had to skip meals because some of his classes would start at 7 am and end by 9 pm.

He got used to his classmates teasing him, “Mukhang pagod at puyat (You look tired and sleep-deprived)."

Future plans

It seems being an OFW runs in their blood. Mark will go to Spain in October for an 8-month contract with a university in Madrid as a language professor. This means he would live away from his family but Mark takes comfort in knowing that he would be back in a few months. 

"Konting buwan lang naman 'yon. At least dito, alam ko na babalik din ako sa Pilipinas," said Mark (It's just a few months anyway. At least I know that I'll be back here in the Philippines.)

Mark plans to pursue law after his teaching stint in Madrid.

Mark’s ticket to success was keeping his priorities and finding motivation to attend to them.

Asked for his message to students, Mark said, “Choose your battles in life. Follow your dreams. Keep your eye on the goal, keep your priorities straight.” with reports from Dane Dagatan/Rappler.com

Dane Dagatan is a Rappler intern. He is a Broadcast Communication student at the Lyceum of the Philippines University.

When he called her 'Papa,' she promised to be the best father


HAPPY FAMILY. Roanne Oca says she will try to be the best father on Earth. All photos from Roanne Oca's Facebook account

MANILA, Philippines – "Ma, puwede po bang siya na lang ang maging papa ko?" (Mama, can she just be my father?)

It all started with that question. It was one afternoon in 2011 when 3-year-old Lorenz Castillo asked his mother, Agot Castillo, if Roanne Oca, a lesbian, could just be his father. At that moment, Roanne's dream to have a child became a reality.

"Hindi ko talaga akalain na sa buhay ko dadating 'yung point na may tatawag sa akin na Papa," Roanne, 32, told Rappler.

(I never imagined that at some point in my life, someone would call me Papa.)

Roanne already knew she was a lesbian at a young age. According to her, the turning point was in elementary school, when she had a crush on a female classmate. 

"Alam ko na noon eh. Hindi ko rin gusto ang mga gawaing pambabae at pagsusuot ng palda sa school," recounted Roanne.

(I already knew back then. I didn't like doing girly stuff and wearing a skirt at school.)

Roanne did not have to come out to her family and friends. They already knew she was a lesbian even without her explicitly saying it, and the support she got from them was overwhelming.

OUT AND PROUD. At an early age, Roanne already knew she was a lesbian.

Roanne, Agot's love story

Roanne said she had been in many same-sex relationships before meeting Agot. But it was with Agot that she saw herself settling down.

"Kaya ang laki ng pasalamat ko sa Diyos na dumating sila sa akin, kasi kung wala sila, baka hindi rin buo 'yung pagkatao ko, at wala ring direksyon hanggang sa ngayon," she said.

(I am thankful to God for bringing them into my life. Without them, my life wouldn't be complete, and it wouldn't have direction until now.)

Roanne told Rappler that she really had a crush on Agot, even before their friends started to suggest that they should get together. Agot's being a single mother was never an issue, added Roanne, who had always dreamed of having a child.

When she felt that Agot would be open to the idea of having a same-sex relationship, Roanne courted her. The courtship did not take long because Roanne also focused on taking care of Agot's son, Lorenz.

"Ang sa akin kasi noon, gusto ko patunayan na kaya ko silang panindigan kahit na hindi ko tunay na anak si Lorenz. Gusto kong punan 'yung pagiging isang ama kay Lorenz at pagiging asawa kay Agot," Roanne said.

(All I wanted was to let them know that I could stand up for them even though Lorenz is not my own child. I wanted to be a father to him and a spouse to Agot.)

The moment Lorenz called her "Papa," Roanne said she promised to strive harder.

"Binuo ni Lorenz 'yung pangarap kong maging ama. Natutuwa lang ako kasi nangyari 'yun kahit hindi ko siya kadugo. [Nagkaroon] ako [ng] matatawag na anak," she said.

(Lorenz fulfilled my dream to become a father. I'm just grateful that it happened even if he's not related to me by blood. I now have someone I can call my child.)

Lorenz is her 'life'

Since the moment Roanne and Agot decided to live under one roof, Lorenz and Roanne have been inseparable. According to Roanne, Lorenz would always seek permission from her first before asking his mother.

"Sa akin din 'yan madalas humabol kapag aalis ako, at gustong sumama kung saan ako pupunta," Roanne shared.

(He would cry whenever I have to leave our house, and wants to join me wherever I go.)

She also makes sure Lorenz has everything he needs, even before he asks for it.

HER LIFE. Roanne says Lorenz is her life.

In 2013, Agot had to work as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, leaving Lorenz to Roanne. Since then, Roanne has fulfilled the roles of being a father and a mother to Lorenz.

Roanne would bring Lorenz to school every day and fetch him after class. "Ako na rin nagtuturo sa mga assignments and projects niya," added Roanne. (I help him with his assignments and projects.)

Asked how she disciplines Lorenz, Roanne said she would always tell the child to listen to elders because it is for his own good. She would always tell him to respect older people and not to ever hurt girls.

"Sinasabi ko talaga sa kanya na huwag siyang mananakit ng babae kasi kapag ginawa niya 'yun eh para niya na rin sinaktan ang kanyang ina," said Roanne.

(I always tell him not to hurt girls because if he does, it would be like hurting his own mother.)

Acceptance, love

Their family may not be considered conventional, with a male for a father and a female for a mother, but this has never been a problem for them since they are surrounded by loving relatives and friends.

Lorenz is turning 10 this year, and according to Roanne, they never had a hard time explaining to him their family setup.

"Matalino si Lorenz Hindi na siya nagtanong [kasi] alam niya kung ano ako. Naintindihan niya 'yung setup namin ng kanyang ina," Roanne shared.

(Lorenz is smart. He doesn't ask questions because he knows what my sexuality is. He understands our family setup.)

In a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, however, there are still many challenges for couples like Roanne and Agot. For instance, same-sex marriage is not yet allowed. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: SC tackles same-sex marriage in historic oral arguments)

This Father's Day, Roanne advised all fathers, would-be fathers, and fathers at heart to be the best dad they could ever be.

"Mas galingan nila 'yung pagiging ama, mas protektahan nila ang kanilang mga anak at asawa, at laging maging responsable. Huwag na rin [tumingin] pa sa iba, kasi doon masisira ang pamilya 'nyo," said Roanne.

(Strive to be an even more excellent father, always protect your children and your wife, and always be responsible. Be faithful to your wife, too, because infidelity will destroy your family.) – Rappler.com

Filipino-Chinese millennials speak up vs China harassment of PH fishermen


DIALOGUE. The Philippine Navy and the Zambales provincial government gather fishermen on June 14, 2018 to discuss actions of the China Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal. Photo by Randy Datu

MANILA, Philippines – How would you feel if someone took your hard earned day's catch in exchange for bottled water and packets of instant noodles?

On June 7, a cellphone video that showed Chinese fishermen taking the catch of Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal went viral. Filipinos of all ages reacted negatively to the acts they saw online. 

Filipino-Chinese millennials are rarely asked about their opinion on the geopolitical issues between China and the Philippines, so in light of this recent viral video, Rappler interviewed some students and young professionals to get their sentiments on recent developments in the relations between their homeland and the land of their ancestors.

They were asked for their comments on the actions of the China Coast Guard against Filipino fishermen in Panatag.

“I feel angry and upset at how these Filipino fishermen – who were only trying to make a living – were bullied by Chinese Coast guards when their catch was unjustly taken from them,” said Olive*, a 21-year old psychology student from the University of the Philippines.

“I am also questioning how the [members of the] coast guard were able to exert their power and control in a territory that does not belong to them,” she added

Justine Chua, a 20-year-old college student from Ateneo de Manila University, agrees with Olive.

“I am angry that there’s a foreign power policing our fishermen who are trying to make a livelihood. A net full of fish isn’t going to cost the Chinese population a thing. A net that isn't even full won't even register as a blip to them,” Chua said.

“Why is the Chinese coast guard patrolling that area in the first place? It’s not like we have some navy to fight them. This is a time of peace, why don’t they act like it?” she added.

Chua was apparently referring to the stance of President Rodrigo Duterte and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who had said on different occasions that the Philippines is not capable of defending its maritime territories against China, given its weak military.

For 24-year-old Isaiah, the situation in the West Philippine Sea is a given, considering Duterte's new direction in dealing with China. 

“It was expected. I don’t really feel anything right now since I already figured out a long time ago that Duterte was selling Philippine territory to China,” said Isaiah, who works in the ICT industry.

Medical student Gershwin* shared Isaiah's sentiments.

“Being part of the educated population of the Philippines, the answer is obvious – I’m against the taking of the Filipino fishermen’s catch. However, I’m not really surprised that this happened, is happening, and will happen again,” he said.

Following outrage over the video showing China Coast Guard harassing Filipino fishermen in Panatag, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque brought 3 fishermen from Zambales to his Palace briefing so the latter can compare their experience of fishing in Panatag during the previous administration, and during the China-friendly Duterte administration. 

While the fishermen said they can fish in Panatag now, Chinese coast guard go through their catch and get their best fish. In return, they are given bottled water, instant noodles, and cigarettes.

Filipino fishermen from Zambales confirmed this during a forum with the Philippine Navy on June 14.  (READ: '2 small bottles of mineral water for P3,000worth of fish in Panatag Shoal'

Isaiah criticized the government’s efforts in mitigating the issue. (READ: Duterte: China taking of PH fishermen's catch 'not outright seizure)

“The Philippine government is distracting us with nonsense rather than actually handling the issue,” he said.

‘Too soft’

Gershwin echoed the sentiments of Vice President Leni Robredo, who said the Duterte administration was being "too soft" on China in relation to its militarization of the South China Sea.

“Scarborough Shoal is within the Philippine soil; therefore, the Chinese Coast Guard should be dealt accordingly based on Philippine Law. To simply tell China to punish their coast guards is basically acknowledging Chinese sovereignty and economic control over Scarborough Shoal,” Gershwin said.

China has practically occupied Panatag since 2012, following a standoff between the Philippine Navy and the Chinese Coast Guard. While China had "allowed" entry to Panatag waters under President Rodrigo Duterte, conditions remain far from ideal, as shown by the Zambales fishermen's experience. 

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said China's actions in Panatag iviolated  the 2016 ruling of the international arbitral court in favor of the Philippines. The ruling affirmed the right of Filipino fishermen to fish in Panatag.

Carpio said the Philippines can file a new case against China over the incident, but Malacanang said this would not happen anytime soon. 

Isaiah noted the importance of the Philippine Coast Guard in enforcing the country's sovereignty but added this would be useless if the "higher-ups" themselves send mixed signals.

“The government is not being true to the Filipino people they serve. Why can’t they be honest with what they want from China? Isn’t that this admin’s unique selling proposition? They [should] tell the truth plainly – no lies or frilly words,” Chua said.

Olive, for her part, said: "I feel that the government is not truly making an effort to protect our people and territory, and to resolve the conflict with China. Instead, they seem to be merely pandering to China’s every whim."

‘Be more assertive’

Olive believes that the Philippine government must "remain firm in its stance to protect its own land, resources, and people."

“They should file a protest and employ stricter mechanisms in which we may guard our borders and territories, and ensure that an incident such as this will never happen again. If the Filipinos will feel that the government is on our side, they may be empowered to continue on with their livelihood in waters that rightfully belong to us, and they will not be afraid to be bullied again,” she said.

Gershwin said it's important for the Philippines "to strongly assert its rights and control over Scarborough Shoal," considering China's military might.

Gershwin also said that the Philippines should follow the example of other claimaints to the South China Sea like Vietnam and Taiwan. (READ: Unlike Philippines, Vietnam condemns China bombers)

“Both countries are more assertive, despite having a smaller army than China. Instead of being obsequious sycophants of China, we should be like Vietnam and Taiwan,” he said.

For him, China’s deeply-rooted ethnocentrism has gone too far.

“It must be made clear that their ethnocentrism is not applicable in this day and age. It must also be made clear that the Philippines is not afraid of its vast army, just like other Asian nations who are not afraid of China,” Gershwin said. – Rappler.com

Angelica Yang studies B.A. Journalism at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a Rappler intern.

'Supremely Erroneous Court': Groups slam final SC ruling on Sereno ouster


'COURT OF THE PETTY'. Various groups give new names to the Supreme Court after its decision to affirm the ouster of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition. Sereno photo by LeAnne Jazul

MANILA, Philippines  Various groups and sectors have questioned the credibility of the Supreme Court after it affirmed the ouster  of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition on Tuesday, June 20.

Akbayan party list said the decision was a “missed chance to correct a historical wrong" and “left a festering wound” on the credibility of the High Court.

“We now have a Supreme Court that can easily bend to the whims of Malacañang. With the Supreme Court beheaded, Duterte could legalize all his oppressive policies,” said Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson.

In a statement, (CFJ) said with the Court showed it had “no intention to uphold the Constitution” and to “defend the separation of powers.”

CFJ urged Filipinos to demand accountability from this “grave miscarriage of justice and blatant betrayal of the Constitution." It called Sereno “the people’s Chief Justice,” because of her “firm resistance in speaking out for truth.”

“With her grace and courage, CJ Sereno has emerged victorious. CFJ hails her boldness and welcomes a new day with CJ Sereno joining the Filipino people as we battle malignant powers on the long and winding road to freedom, dignity and integrity,” it said.

EveryWoman said the decision is “unacceptable" as the High Court showed its inability to observe objectivity and impartiality despite being the “final arbiter of the Constitution.”

“It is tragic that the Highest Court of the Land, failed to listen to the voices of the Filipino people who took to the streets, held vigil and demanded truth and justice,” EveryWoman said.

On May 11, the SC, voting 8-6, granted the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno from office on the basis of an invalid appointment. Sereno filed a motion for reconsideration, which the Court rejected with the same vote on June 20.  – with reports from Gaby N. Baizas/Rappler.com

Gaby N. Baizas is a Community intern at Rappler, and is an incoming senior at the Ateneo de Manila University. She is an AB Communication major under the journalism track.

#WeAreFamilyToo: LGBT groups push for marriage equality outside SC


WE ARE FAMILY. On Tuesday, June 19, supporters for gender equality rally in front of the Supreme Court hearing the petition on same sex marriage. Photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – "We are family too."

This was the common rallying cry of various lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) groups during the protest for marriage equality on Tuesday, June 19 which coincided with the historical oral arguments on same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court. 

“Within the LGBT community, there are pairs that belong to the same sex. We recognize them as families too. That's why 'we are family’,” Regie Pasion, president of the LGBT Bahaghari United Secularists Philippines (lgbtBUS) said in Filipino.  (READ: ‘Mistakes’ of young lawyer overshadow historic marriage equality hearing

The petition filed in 2015 by lawyer Jesus Falcis III seeks to legalize same-sex marriage, arguing that Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code are unconstitutional. The provisions tag marriage as the foundation of a family, yet limit marriage to the union of man and woman only. (READ: SC's De Castro: Same-sex marriage will complicate gender specific laws

Pasion admitted that he had little understanding of the legal side of the battle and left that to Falcis. However, he said that marriage should be a basic human right.  He cited, for example, the civil rights of families recognized by law. “Dapat bigyan ako ng karapatan ng estado na maging malaya kung kanino ko iiwan ang aking ipapamana." (The state should give me the right to choose whomever I want to leave inheritance.)

Conjugal rights are among the elements that differentiate marriage from a holy union rite. The latter is available to members of the LGBT community through queer churches such as the Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), and petitioner-intervenor Rev. Cresencio Agbayani, Jr.’s LGBTS Christian Church.

Pastor Joseph San Jose of MCC said that the holy union rite is just a religiously symbolic proof of togetherness but is not legally-binding in the Philippines. However, such unions are recognized as legal in other countries such as Canada.

Ironically, Pastor San Jose and his same-sex partner for 3 years have not yet taken the rite due to the lack of protection for same sex couples’ joint properties.

“The constitution is very clear[ly] in opposition of the family code,” the 33 year-old pastor said in an interview with Rappler. “We want to have our own house. We’re just waiting for the capacity to have our own house and then we will have our union.”

This was the same issue in the case of Vince Madolid, who lost his same-sex partner of 17 years to cancer last year.

He told Rappler, “I have experienced yung wala akong hawak doon sa partner ko with regards sa property." (I didn’t have conjugal rights over our properties)

“We had a car. Since the car was under his name, it was impossible for me to acquire it so I decided to return it to his legally-recognized family," Madolid said in mix Filpino and English.

Gathering support 

Among the groups that were present during the rally were UP Babaylan, Lagablab LGBT Pilipinas. MCC, lgbtBUS, Philippine Atheism, Agnosticism and Secularism Society, Inc. (PATAS), Metro Manila Pride (MM Pride), and Akbayan.

Pasion said they use social media to make the protests like that possible. They use digital tools such as hashtags #WeAreFamilyToo and #RiseUpTogether to spark online discourse and encourage participation in rallies and other activities to commemorate pride month.

Pasion lamented the high tolerance yet low acceptance of the LGBT in the country.  

“Halos walang panahon ang Pilipino (including the LGBT) na ipaglaban pa ang ganito kasi komportable na sila," he said. (Filipinos barely have the time to fight for advocacies like this because they are comfortable already.)

But he is hopeful. Despite these challenges, he believes it is the most opportune time to fight for marriage equality.  (READ: Is timing right for same-sex marriage petition? Leonen warns of risks)

“Hindi naman maiintindihan pa talaga ng Pilipino ang isyu na ito pero naniniwala kami na ito na ang panahon para ipaglaban namin ito," he said.  (Filipinos won’t understand this issue yet but we believe that it is time for us to fight for this.) 

This was echoed by Pastor San Jose who believed that Filipinos have the capacity to think progressively.

“The LGBT community is a bit more courageous now as compared some decades ago,” he said.  “There’s reason for hope." 

The oral arguments will resume on June 26 at 2 pm.– Rappler.com 

Sheila Advincula is a Rappler intern. She is currently taking up AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University

Falcis legal team: Same-sex marriage petition will help LGBT movement


GROUNDBREAKING. The team of lawyers led by Jesus Falcis faces the Supreme Court. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines– While petitioner Jesus Falcis and his legal team faced intense interpellation during the oral arguments to legalize same-sex marriage at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, June 19, they remained optimistic the efforts of their team will result to victory for the Lesbians, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) movement in the country.  (READ: Your guide to the Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage)

In an ambush interview conducted after the court had adjourned, Darwin Angeles, Falcis’ co-counsel, said that the petition has already achieved its own victory, regardless of the SC’s decision.

“No matter what happens today or what happens to this case, it will be on some level a victory for the movement. Why? It […] will cause ripples throughout,” Angeles said.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen questioned Falcis on the timing of the petition, fearing the implications and damage it may bring to the LGBT movement. Falcis assumed that Leonen was referring to a case in the United States where the push for same-sex marriage was denied in the courts, leading same-sex couples to be disallowed the right to marry until the SC granted the petition in 2015. “That could be the backward movement for the community for this case.” (READ: Is Timing Right For Same Sex Marriage? Leonin Warns of Risks)

“The [LGBT] movement can never be homogenous […] because […] the movement is big. There will be priorities for some sectors over the other,” Falcis added.

However, Falcis argued that the petition’s visibility would do more good than harm. “The nearest effect will probably be that there are Filipinos now who can hear that there are groups, straight or LGBT […] who say that being gay is okay, and that was a message that a lot of people did not hear in the past, because there was not a lot of opportunity to discuss why LGBT people are the way they are, and why they have rights.”

Supporters of the petition held a demonstration outside the Supreme Court while oral argumenents were ongoing. TV personality Boy Abunda was present at the opening of the oral arguments to show his support for the petition and the LGBT movement. (READ: #WeAreFamilyToo: LGBT groups push for marriage equality outside SC

Para sakin ang importante ay naumpisahan na ang paguusap. The conversation has now begun inside the Supreme Court,” Abunda said. (For, me what’s important is that discussion is now starting)

Still, turnout in the demonstration held outside the Supreme Court was low due to fears of public backlash and reactionary anti-LGBT sentiments in the Philippines.

While Falcis noted the need for normative change in the Philippines regarding societal views on LGBT individuals, Regie Paison, organizer for the demonstration held outside the Supreme Court, spotlighted the necessity for state recognition.

Ang importante dito yung estado inirecognize o pumapayag doon sa kahilingan ng LGBT community na magkaroon ng same sex marriage.” (What’s important here is for the State to recognize or accept the wish of the LGBT community to have same-sex marriage) Rappler.com

'Major victory': Groups hail signing of Philippine Mental Health law


MANILA, Philippines – Advocates consider President Rodrigo Duterte's signing of the Philippine Mental Health law a "major victory."

The Youth for Mental Health Coalition, a group of student organizations and youth advocates, described the journey to the law's passage as a "decades-long battle in the legislative arena." (READ: How does the PH fare in mental health care?)

The coalition noted that the new law is "the first legislation that protects rights and welfare of people with mental health conditions, shifts focus of care to the community, improves access to services, and integrates mental health in the schools and workplaces."

In a statement, Silakbo.ph, an art and mental health publication, said people could now have more avenues to access help.

"These people now have a fighting chance at treatment, recovery, and a better life," added Silakbo.ph.

"The fight doesn't happen in a vacuum and social environment plays a huge role in mental health issues.... We cannot begin to address the mental health of these marginalized sectors without first safeguarding their physical safety, fundamental human rights, and human dignity."

As with any law, however, the bigger challenge lies in implementation. (READ: Why do Filipinos need a mental health law?)

"This only [sets] the precedent for real change and mental health awareness in Philippine society. Let us monitor the law's IRR (implementing rules and regulations) and keep track of concerned government and non-government agencies," said Silakbo.ph.

Meanwhile, the Isanliyab Servant Leaders' Union (ISLU), a student organization at Far Eastern University, sees the passage of the law as part of the advancement of a "mass-oriented and pro-people health care system."

The new law, added ISLU, should serve as a reminder of other social conditions that affect people's health.

"While we cherish this victory, we must advance and elevate our call and battle for a truly inclusive and progressive health care system that serves all, especially the marginalized," the group said.

The Akbayan party, of which the law's principal authors Senator Risa Hontiveros and Representative Tom Villarin are part of, said its passage is "a collective effort and victory of advocates, health workers, and lawmakers."

"We say goodbye to taboo, superstition, and myths about mental health issues now that services are made accessible for all citizens," added Akbayan spokesperson Gio Tingson.

Mental health advocates expressed their support with the hashtags #HelpIsHere, #MoveForMH, and #MentalHealthForAll. – with reports from Samantha Bagayas/Rappler.com

IN PHOTOS: NDRRMC, LGUs hold 2nd nationwide earthquake drill


2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultanaeous Earthquake Drill 2018 San Mateo Rizal. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – To test the community preparedness efforts, as well as synergize and synchronize the implementation of both the National and Regional Disaster Response Plan, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) held the 2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) at Brgy. Sta Ana, in San Mateo, Rizal on Thursday, June 21.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary Eduardo M. Año urgerd the public to make resilience-building a priority.  

“Ang indibidwal na paghahanda ay haligi ng isang komunidad na matatag sa banta ng kalamidad katulad ng isang malakas na lindol. Ating seryosohin at isa-puso ang mga pagsasanay katulad nito, upang tayo’y maging ligtas at mamuhay ng panatag,” said Año in a message.

(Our preparedness is the foundation of a strong community against a disaster. Let us take this seriously and remember the value of practices like this so we can live peacefully and safe.)

At exactly 2 pm, residents of San Mateo, Rizal performed the duck, cover, and hold after hearing a loud 60-second siren caused by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake generated from the West Valley Fault. This siren represented an earthquake affecting the Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA).

Various scenarios were portrayed to show the possible impacts of a strong earthquake based on the Metro Manila Earthquake Impact Reduction Study (MMEIRS), including performing a Rapid Damage Assessment and Needs Analysis; coordination and management of camps; search, rescue and retrieval operations, fire suppression operations, emergency medical response, chemical decontamination, and management of the dead and missing.

Here are some photos from the earthquake drill:

2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultanaeous Earthquake Drill 2018 San Mateo Rizal. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultanaeous Earthquake Drill 2018 San Mateo Rizal. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultanaeous Earthquake Drill 2018 San Mateo Rizal. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultanaeous Earthquake Drill 2018 San Mateo Rizal. Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Police and non-uniformed personnel of the Manila Police District participate in the 2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) in Manila on June 21, 2018. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Students of the Araullo High School participate in the 2nd Quarter Nationwide Simultaneous Earthquake Drill (NSED) in Manila on June 21, 2018. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

– Rappler.com

How the fight vs plastic pollution can begin in the classroom


SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT. Participants brainstorm during an environmental policy-making workshop. Photo by Luisa Jocson

MANILA, Philippines — Can you use a math problem to teach children about saving the environment?

Conservation group World Wide Fund (WWF) believes this is possible, as the fight against plastic pollution can begin in the classroom.

"Hindi lang science 'yung dapat magturo sa bata nu'ng pag-aalaga sa kalikasan. We train teachers from different subject areas to integrate, even in small ways. For example, if you're a math teacher, 'yung binibigay 'nyong word problems, it can include renewable energy," WWF environment officer Kimberly Anne Marcelo said.

(It's not just science that should be used to teach children about caring for the environment. We train teachers from different subject areas to integrate this, even in small ways. For example, if you're a math teacher, the word problems you give can include renewable energy.)

The WWF, according to Marcelo, believes the youth is important in preserving nature. That's why part of their goals is to train teachers about waste segregation.

"We like to start with the children so it'll be embedded in their minds already, why we have to conserve the environment," said Marcelo.

Marcelo spoke alongside other environmental advocates in an event on June 16, titled "Climate Action Forum: Filipino Youth and Solutions to Plastic Pollution."

Marcelo discussed how the WWF's environmental education team partners with the Department of Education and different schools to train teachers to uphold Republic Act 9512, or the National Environmental Awareness and Education Act of 2008.

The team encourages teachers to integrate environmental education in all subjects, through modules on different facets of environmental conservation. Components include the waste management module, which highlights the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and composting, as well as the water conservation module that focuses on the importance of watersheds.

Modules are designed to be integrated with other subjects to make lessons more cohesive.

Ysa Nazal, former co-chairperson of the WWF National Youth Council, discussed her reflections on filling a 1.75-liter plastic bottle with plastic waste despite being a zero-waste advocate.

"Despite me being a zero-waste advocate, I still make the same mistakes. I'm part of the National Youth Council, I talk during symposiums, but I still have a 1.75-liter bottle filled with plastic from home," Nazal said.

Nazal reassured forum participants that living a more environmentally sustainable life is a conscious choice every day.

"Every day we have to make the same decisions over and over again. It's a learning process," she added.

Personal choices, universal advocacy

During Saturday's forum, various Filipino environmental experts also presented their individual efforts to promote a zero-waste Philippines. This was in the light of the universal agenda for a more sustainable world in 2030.

The forum was a partnership between the Philippine Information Agency and the 2030 Youth Force in the Philippines (YFPH). It featured leaders and experts from different sectors to talk about ways to solve plastic pollution, as the Philippines is the 3rd largest contributor to plastic waste in the ocean worldwide.

The event is anchored on the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDGs 12 to 15, which focus on responsible consumption and production, climate action, life below water, and life on land.

To highlight how the use of plastic is a personal choice, Ludwig Federigan, executive director of the Young Environment Forum, presented Greenpeace's video "The Story of a Spoon".

He critiqued common solutions to plastic waste, such as banning certain types of plastic or recycling them, as he believed one should go about changing their mindset first, instead of changing their behavior straightaway.

Federigan also cited former WWF President Yolanda Kakabadse who said, "The future is not a place we go to. It is a place we actively shape."

Action and approach

Paulo Gonzalez of Nestlé Philippines presented business sector initiatives as solutions to plastic pollution.

"Plastic is light enough to be brought in massive quantities, but a lot of these are left behind," Gonzalez said. "How do we turn our trash into something useful and valuable?"

Gonzalez detailed a number of methods that can fortify the local waste management scheme, such as residual treatment seen in Green Antz eco-bricks, where sachets are collected from schools and are built into construction materials.

Daniel Alejandre, an eco-waste campaigner from Eco Waste Coalition, also dispelled misconceptions on what it means to be zero-waste.

"It doesn’t mean that there's no trash at all. The definition of zero-waste is that nothing is wasted. What we want is a circular economy where everything is circulated and used," Alejandre said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Alejandre emphasized that changes must also be made by industries and the government.

Alejandre then pushed for a ban on plastics. "Dapat may mauna, at definitely manufacturers 'yon (Someone should go first, and that's the manufacturers)," he said. "What we need is nationwide [action]. Hindi lang regulation, pero ban talaga."

ENGAGING THROUGH DISCOURSE. Speakers and organizers participate in a panel discussion to deepen their understanding of each other's views on protecting the environment. Photo by Gaby N. Baizas

The plastic problem in the Philippines

The Philippines has been regarded the "center of global marine biodiversity". More than half of the country's cities and municipalities are along coastal areas, where communities rely heavily on water resources for income and sustenance.

In the year 2014, the Philippines produced about 4.7 million metric tons of seafood, landing 8th among the top fish producing countries worldwide.

As of 2016, it was estimated that around 40,000 tons of municipal solid waste is generated by the Philippines daily, with Metro Manila contributing around 9,200 tons.

Efforts have been made to address these problems, such as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which provides a systematic waste management program that protects public health and the environment.

However, the law's objectives have yet to be accomplished. For instance, only 4 out of Davao City's 182 barangays maintained a materials recovery facility in 2016, resulting in local government spending P151.73 million for sanitary expenses.

Eastword Manlises, YFPH's Goal 14 ambassador, hopes that the participants will reevaluate their lifestyle, and how they buy their products.

"When they put together their experiences from these opportunities, they can push forward sustainable development for their communities," said Manlises. — Rappler.com

Luisa Jocson and Gaby N. Baizas are AB Communication students at the Ateneo de Manila University. They are Community interns at Rappler.

How this Cagayan de Oro lawyer is breaking the glass ceiling in international arbitration


CLASS SPEAKER. Cagayan de Oro native Earl Joyce Dolera Rivera is elected class speaker at Stanford Law School. Photo courtesy of Earl Joyce Dolera Rivera

MANILA, Philippines – “You are female. You are below 40. And you are Asian. You are the trifecta of who not to appoint.”

Cagayan de Oro native Earl Joyce Rivera Dolera still remembers her friend's joke, in reference to her goal to be appointed as an arbitrator. While she laughed about it, the remark also hit home as it perfectly described her struggles as a young Filipina trying to make a name in the international arbitration community.

While Earl has come quite far in her professional journey,  she still has a long way to go in an industry not exactly known for diversity and inclusivity.

A line from the opening paragraph of Dr KVSK Nathan's article, "Why Did You Not Get the Right Arbitrator," published in 2000, gave a good visual of the problem: "An observer from planet Mars may well observe that the international arbitral establishment on Earth is white, male and English speaking and is controlled by institutions based in the United States, England and mainland European Union.”

The Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge, a movement against the under-representation of women in international arbitral tribunals, recorded that only around 12% of arbitrator appointments in 2015 were female. It was slightly higher in 2016, when it was at 17%.

Imbibing the World War II British mantra, "Keep calm and carry on," Earl was determined to overcome these biases. Her fortitude paid off, as she became the only Filipina below the age of 40 to be appointed as an arbitrator and issued arbitral awards at the international level.

FAMILY SUPPORT. Earl's family has been very supportive throughout her journey to becoming an international arbitrator. Her father passed on to her his own dream of being a lawyer.

Learning from mentors

Earl’s interest in studying law started with Nancy Drew and other mystery fiction novels.  There were also her father’s constant reminders about how hard it was to be female in the Philippines, and how she had to be a lawyer to be taken seriously.

Her father, who had always wanted to be a lawyer but didn’t get the  kind of support he needed, gave his full support to Earl when she decided to go to law school.

Although she got her college degree in Manila, she decided to return to her go home to take her law degree at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. 

"Because of the fact that knowledge and information is already widely available on the internet. It's just a matter of self-discipline and hard work, to really take advantage of the wide availability of information now," Earl said.

Earl also attributed her success to two great mentors who, she said, showed her what it truly means to be a great lawyer and arbitrator.

The first is retired Court of Appeals justice Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores, for whom she worked as a law clerk and chief of staff immediately after she became a lawyer.

MENTOR. Earl with her 'brilliant first mentor,' retired  Court of Appeals justice Teresita Dy-Liacco Flores.

Earl described her as a “brilliant first mentor” who reaffirmed her decision to practice law in her hometown. “Be where you’re needed the most,” Flores had told her.

In their days together, Earl would often tell Flores that she  too would be a justice like her, and then joke about opening her own kamote (sweet potato) farm on the side because the retired justice was apparently fond of feeding her staff kamote for their afternoon snack.

Earl eventually worked at the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) where her everyday work as a litigation lawyer helped her transition easier into arbitration. She said litigation and arbitration involved similar skill sets: mastery of facts and of the art of asking questions to draw out answers that could potentially resolve a dispute. Arbitration, however, involved more voluminous documents.

From CDO to Singapore

As much as she enjoyed life as a litigation lawyer, Earl had to move to Singapore to be with her husband who worked for a technology company there.

Despite her experience, Earl could not practice as a litigation lawyer or even as a law clerk there, under Singapore's law. She decided to study again at the National University of Singapore and took up a Master's of Law in International Business Law.

At NUS, Earl met her second great mentor, Professor Lawrence Boo, who taught about arbitration.

Boo, Earl said, radiated with so much passion for arbitration, which sparked her own interest.

“He has been teaching this since the 90s, the same topic and coverage, but he still has this passion to update himself every year….He goes into class prepared and you’re just there [actively] listening. He’s an engaging teacher,” she said.

Earl became so invested in Boo's class that she would record his lectures at times and then take notes at home. “I mastered that class,” she said.

ANOTHER MENTOR. National University of Singapore Professor Lawrence Boo inspired Earl to become an international arbitrator.

Eventually, Boo noticed Earl’s hard work and offered her a job as a law clerk in his chambers after she graduated. It was an offer which, she said, launched her journey to international arbitration.

Learning from the masters

Because she didn’t have enough practical experience, Earl drew from the typical Filipino go-beyond-what-is-asked work attitude and grabbed any opportunity to learn.

"I read everything so that I would know what is going on. I take notes all the time. Even during tribunal deliberations, I would write notes. I'd take note of everything and absorb as much as I can,” she said.

Being a law clerk for Boo allowed Earl to work beside international arbitrators, many of whom were former Supreme Court justices in their respective countries. Earl spent years observing how they worked.

"The way they think, the way they approach a case, the way they read all the documents from the parties, I've tried to imbibe,” she said.

After two years of exposure to their work, Earl’s own time to shine came. In 2014, she was finally appointed as a sole arbitrator for an arbitration case involving disputes arising from a distributorship agreement between an Indian company and a Spanish company. The arbitration award was issued in January 2016.

This was just the first of several arbitration cases she had been entrusted with.

'He’s a major part of everything that’s happened in my life and professional career,' Earl’s says of her husband, Charles.

Supportive husband

Earl has managed to strike a balance between her demanding work and marriage, thanks in large part to her supportive husband, Charles.

Earl credits much of her success to Charles, who not only helped finance her studies, but also has also agreed – without complaints – to go with her wherever her career took her.

A career in international arbitration means Earl has to travel a lot. Fortunately, Charles works in a tech company which allows him to work remotely.

“He’s a major part of everything that’s happened in my life and professional career,” Earl said of her husband.

For her part, Earl would also find time to travel with Charles when he needs to be somewhere else. Good thing they both “have amazing bosses who understand we have a marriage to maintain,” Earl said.

Breaking ceilings

But it hasn’t been all rainbows and flowers for Earl.

Earl had to fight her way through "unconscious bias" in the male-dominated arbitration community and constantly prove to everyone that she is capable of being a fair and efficient arbitrator. Add to this the pressure of being a young arbitrator working on disputes involving older and more experienced lawyers.

"There are people who still belittle or question the fact that I’m an arbitrator. Some people can't believe it because I’m young and female, or something like that," she said.

In one instance, a claimant in an arbitration case assigned to her challenged her appointment as arbitrator. While the claimant’s argument beat around the bush, Earl said their message was quite clear: They felt that she lacked the experience to make an impartial and independent decision.

"I have to admit it was painful. I tried not to think it has something to do with my gender, age, or capabilities, or my race. I tried not to think it’s because they think I'm incapable of doing a good job, but it still gets to me sometimes. But it's part of the experience,” she said. "There's still unconscious bias out there against minority arbitrators."

But people are noticing

While gender, geographical, and generation biases are still evident in the law community, Earl said that conscious efforts of different groups have started draw attention to the problem.

"People are taking notice and that's a very important step. People are becoming more and more aware,” she said.

In 2017, Earl decided to study again, this time at Stanford Law School in the United States, where she pursued Masters of Law in International Economic Law, Business, and Policy.

Being one of the oldest in their batch, Earl made it a point to listen to classmates who are younger, female, or those who might feel their voice will be taken for granted.

“I try to reach out to these people more...because I was once like that,” she said.

For Earl, confidence may sometimes come from external sources. Just as her mentors took the initiative and made her aware that she too has a voice, she tried to have one-on-one conversations with all her classmates, often over coffee or lunch, to hear about their stories, dreams,  and frustrations, among other concerns. It’s a great opportunity to learn as well from classmates who are also experts in different fields, she said.

CLASSMATES. There were only two Filipinos in their batch at Stanford Law School: Earl and her friend, Juan Antonio Remulla Oposa.

Together with her friend,  Juan Antonio Remulla Oposa – the only other Filipino in their batch – she'd also organize fun social events with their classmates, such as "Asian Barbecue" and "Karaoke Nights."

And to no one's surprise, when they graduated in June 2018, Earl proudly stood onstage as class speaker, elected by her classmates in Stanford Law.

Despite everything, Earl wouldn’t tell younger lawyers to follow her. "[They] should go beyond me, define their own success, and blaze their own trail," she said.

“At the end of the day, when I’m 60 or 70 and I look back at my career, what I will remember the most is how other people made me feel in my own journey. It’s not so much about the accolades, the grades, or the Latin honors. It's how people have picked you up at your lowest time. It's how people have provided some light in your darkest night. It's how people showed you the way when you think there was no other way,” she said. – Rappler.com

[Balikbayan Voice] Notes from a Manila Kid


During my high school years, all I could think about was getting out of Manila. Having spent most of my life here, I was in need of a change in scenery and pace.

To me, there was something toxically routine about the catered house parties, the overrated significance of "kuwento (storytelling)," and the urgency to grow up that inhibited so many of my friends. So when I boarded my flight to New York at the end of summer, there were no tears as I said my goodbyes to the city below me.

I started my freshman year of college on the cusp of Fall. Throughout all my years of adolescent crushes, infatuations, and somewhat serious relationships, I had never loved anything like I loved sitting in Washington Square Park and describing the day's climate to my younger sister via WhatsApp.

MANILA KID. 'It’s impossible not to have a connection to Manila in some way or another, regardless of where you are from,' says author Simona Gemayel.

I quickly found an amazing group of friends who helped me navigate the New York lifestyle and eased my culture shock. However, more frequently, they helped explain to every new person I met that “Yes, her English is so good because it’s the only language she speaks. That’s a thing in the Philippines."

For the most part, I had assimilated pretty well into college life. With my great friends, great teachers, and the great abundance of activities New York had to offer, I didn’t have much time to be homesick.

Only under the stress of finals, the wrath of east coast winter, and the "FOMO (fear of missing out)" I felt from missing family events, did I finally crack. I called my mom asking what medicine to take and suddenly the questions became tangled with sobs.

“I’ll see you in a week, okay?” was the motivation I used to get through the last week of that first semester.

I landed in Manila 3 days before Christmas. I was greeted by the heavy heat of NAIA air, the "sorry for the inconvenience" sign placed on the escalator that went down to baggage claim, and a swaying choir singing Christmas songs. 

After the first two weeks of Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, I spent a month getting reaquainted with my old Manila routine. Yet even back in my mundane Manila life, I didn’t feel claustrophobic or that it was toxic, in fact, I realized that it was something I had subconsciously yearned for.

When I returned to New York for the start of the second semester, I had never been more homesick. As much as I tried to distract myself, there was a constant discomfort I felt for not being at home. After many calls with friends from home, I could finally be diagnosed: I was a Manila Kid. 

I don’t speak Tagalog (or understand it very well) and I’m not really a full Filipino (ethnically speaking), but when you grow up in Manila, the city somehow makes its way into your roots.

CONNECTION. 'There is a kind of unspoken camaraderie between kids who grew up in Manila,' says Simona.

Growing up in the country instills a certain set of values in you. The Manila culture, whether you were raised in it or grew accustomed to it, is ultimately taken to heart. There is a kind of unspoken comradery between kids who grew up in Manila. 

Maybe it comes down to the sense of connection you feel when you’re making bad decisions on a Wednesday night at Black Market. Or perhaps it’s the sincerity in hospitality and genuine interest that is so pronounced when another Manila Kid asks, “How are you?” 

I think on some level, you could even zero it down to the easiness of giving "beso’ (a buss on the cheek)" as a form of greeting. 

It’s impossible not to have a connection to Manila in one way or another, regardless of where you are from. If you spend more than two years there, it marks you. You can find these marks in the simple things, like the way even Caucasians who went to school in Manila use the terms gags (idiot), basura’ (trash), kwents  (worthless) etc. The more significant Manila marks being things like having a tita (an aunt, not necessarily blood-related) or a guy friend always making sure you’re getting home safely.

I don’t think I hold so much attachment to the physical city itself. But parts of the people I was raised with and went to school with, have been greatly shaped by Manila and are attachments that I can’t fathom separating from.

There is an indescribable sense of community in finding another person who has grown in this city –it’s like being home. – Rappler.com

Simona Gemayel is a Rappler intern. She studies Media Culture Communications at New York University.

IN PHOTOS: Same-sex couples wed under LGBTs Christian Church


MASS WEDDING. Nine couples say 'I do' in a mass wedding on June 24, 2018. This event is held annually every June, Pride Month. All photos by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Nine same-sex couples gathered at the Le Village Lifestyle Park in Quezon City on Sunday, June 24, for a mass wedding presided by LGBTs Christian Church Reverend Crescencio Agbayani Jr.

The LGBTs Christian Church is a religious organization that describes itself as a "liberating ecumenical community of believers of Jesus Christ" which ministers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.

The group holds a mass wedding every year in June, as part of its observance of Pride Month.

The wedding rites bore similarities to Catholic rites, with exchanges of vows and rings, arrhae, and the Bible. The difference – those who were getting married had all been born biologically female.

Agbayani reminded the couples that their unions are still not recognized by the State. They are hoping this will eventually change, however, after the Supreme Court recently held oral arguments on a petition to legalize same-sex marriage, filed by lawyer Jesus Falcis III. (READ: Is timing right for same-sex marriage petition? Leonen warns of risks)

Here are some images from the mass wedding: 

– Rappler.com