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Duterte Youth offers P50,000 reward to catch Cebu rape-slay culprits


MANILA, Philippines – Duterte Youth President Billy Villareal is offering a P50,000 reward to anyone who catches the perpetrators of the killing and rape of Christine Lee Silawan in Cebu, said National Youth Commission (NYC) Chairman Ronald Cardema on Thursday, March 14.

The reward, Cardema said, will be doubled if the suspects are handed over dead.

Duterte Youth President Billy Villareal will also be offering a P50,000 reward if the perpetrators are caught alive and will double it if they are caught dead," he stated.

"Rape and heinous crimes are not accidents and must now be treated differently to secure the millions of Filipino Youth and our entire peace-loving society. We will fight and neutralize all heinous criminals, rapists, & terrorists in our country,” Cardema added.

With the horrific killing of Silawan, the NYC Chairman called on President Rodrigo Duterte and public officials to restore capital punishment or death penalty for rape and heinous crimes.

“We must restore the death penalty for such gruesome horrifying acts. With their inhumane acts, the human rights of the perpetrators is now secondary to the safety of the 100 million terrified citizens in our society,” said Cardema.

The revival of the death penalty, especially for drug traffickers, is one of the priority bills of President Duterte.

Various human rights groups, organizations, and the Catholic Church have been vocal on opposing the revival of death penalty in the country.

Global human rights group Amnesty International asserted that capital punishment has no conclusive evidence to prove that it deters crime rates. Its revival will also be a step back in the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines. (READ: Lawmakers urged to reject revival of death penalty)  

“The re-introduction of the death penalty would not only represent a major setback for the promotion and protection of human rights in the country but also violate the Philippines' obligations under international law,” they said.

House approved the controversial death penalty measure for drug convicts – House Bill (HB) Number 4727 – in March 2017 and is pending in the upper chamber.

On Monday, March 11, the body of 16-year-old Silawan was found half-naked and skull exposed in a vacant lot in Barangay Bangkal in Lapu-Lapu City. Autopsy reports said the victim sustained 16 stab wounds and was raped. Investigators are looking into the alleged involvement of 3 drug addicts in the area.

After the rape-slay of Silawan, Duterte warned drug addicts of ‘most dangerous time’. – Rappler.com

Sofia Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a BS Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Understand platforms, content to fight disinformation – experts


Q&A. Rappler Head of Research and Strategy Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, UP Law Professor Gwen de Vera answer questions at #MoveDiliman: Social Good in the Digital Age, at Malcolm Theater on March 12. Screenshot from Rappler video

MANILA, Philippines – How do Philippine laws fare in the battle against disinformation?

University of the Philippines (UP) law professor Gwen de Vera zeroed in on the need to understand social media platforms to consider sound policy interventions in a forum on Tuesday, March 12.

“The starting point is learning about the platform, learning about what goes on in terms of content, other activities, and the business model, so that any policy intervention...will be able to address problems,” she said.

MovePH, in partnership with the Harvard Law School Alumni Association of the Philippines, held #MoveDiliman: Social Good in the Digital Age at the Malcolm Theater, University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.

The fourth leg of MovePH’s series of forums, #MoveDiliman tackled the roles of legislation in combating disinformation.

De Vera highlighted how platform algorithms sift and show content generated for and by users. She explained that such impact suggests the need for policies on responsible social media use and regulation.

She said the Philippines still has a long way to go in terms of laws on social media use, compared to other countries. “This is where we could be. This is why we have to examine the adequacy of law, or how we can make law and regulation adequate,” De Vera said.

She cited the recommendations of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee of the United Kingdom, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)  on data breach, disinformation and fake news on Facebook; and pm the impact of social media on quality of journalism and news, respectively.

One DCMS Committee recommendation is te designation of an independent regulator to oversee a compulsory code of ethics for technology companies.

De Vera related this to the Commission on Elections’ regulation policy requiring candidates in the May elections to register their social media pages, but added that the policy still needs improvement.

“What’s their primary way of regulating? Aalamin ba nila lahat ‘yung ibang mga pages (Will they try to find out all other pages) that are under their name but which are not official pages? Are they supposed to register influencers who are actually paid to do certain posts?” De Vera asked.

She also discussed Philippine laws that protect online users’ rights, such as the Data Privacy Act and the Anti-Cybercrime Law which has provisions on cyber libel.

She also explained users’ responsibility to use tools to protect their privacy. She cited a Supreme Court  ruling that favored St Theresa's College in Cebu City which banned students from attending their graduation ceremony as they violated the school policy by posting “bikini photos” their social media pages in 2012.

The parents of the students filed a petition before the Court, and argued that the photos were illegally obtained, as the privacy settings of the post were customized to be visible only to the 5 students themselves. The Cout had ruled that there was not enough corroborative evidence to prove this.  (LOOK: SC: STC did not violate students’ right to privacy)

De Vera said jurisprudence in the Philippines and policy instruments “haven’t gone far in terms of false information that’s been generated and shared,” and are still currently limited to data privacy, and defamatory and libelous content.

Weaponizing laws

In the panel discussion, law students raised the issue of weaponizing libel and other laws against the press.

De Vera said that to ensure that the law will not be used to suppress press freedom, the National Prosecution Service and the courts must assess cases carefully to determine if they should go to trial. The courts must also ensure that the trial is continuous and appreciation of evidence is properly applied.

“It becomes oppressive if there isn’t any sufficient basis to move forward with a criminal complaint. More often it’s journalists who become the victim while having to sit through, and for some to be detained in the course of trials,” De Vera said.

She also mentioned efforts to decriminalize libel, as many public figures resort to filing criminal suits or huge civil cases for damages that cost huge amounts against journalists.

One of the forum speakers, Rappler’s Head of Research and Strategy Gemma Bagayaua-Mendoza, said that legislation has been used to go after legitimate press, with claims that they’re "fake news."

“We are wary of legislation right now because it’s the government that’s after us,” Mendoza said.

De Vera said legislation is not the only way to go for social media regulation.

“I wouldn’t discount legislation altogether, but certainly I agree it isn’t a one-size-fits-all. Hindi tayo naghahanap ng one code for social media for legislation (We’re not looking for one code for social media for legislation)” she said.

Challenge the lies, engage in dialogue

Mendoza also talked about challenging lies as a way to educate one’s own audience and combat disinformation.

“Not because you believe the trolls, not because you’re engaging them, but because you’re educating your own audience. It is your friends, the people who are following you that you are educating when you challenge a lie,” Mendoza said.

Rappler Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada stressed that the recent developments related to  Philippine democracy should be “galvanizing” enough to urge people to act, but many still choose to be apathetic.

She added that it is not just the journalists’ responsibility to combat disinformation, but the duty should fall on “on everybody’s shoulders.” – Rappler.com

Sofia Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a BS Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

LOOK: Crab trapped in #PlasticMonster goes viral


SNAGGED. A crab floats inside a plastic cup near the surface of the waters of Caban Cove, Batangas, along Verde Island Passage on March 7, 2019. Photo courtesy of Noel Guevara

MANILA, Philippines – “It’s as real as it gets and sadly, not out of the ordinary.”

A Facebook postof Noel Guevara, a conservation and wildlife photographer and director, went viral and caught the attention of international publications.  He shared a photo of a crab inside a floating single-use plastic cup along the Verde Island Passage on Tuesday, March 12.

“The crab most likely made the cup its home on the seabed, and then the current propelled the cup upwards to the surface,” Guevara said. 

Many asked him if he saved the crab after, but he said he couldn't as he only had limited air supply. He said the crab was safer inside the cup until it reaches the shore then comes out onto the sand after.

In an interview with Rappler, Guevara shared that during their deployment in the Ship it Back tour for the plastics campaign of Greenpeace Philippines, they encountered several sachets of toothpaste, shampoo, coffee, and food seasoning; disposable diapers, sanitary napkins; and generic plastic bags that polluted the area. 


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According to a report released on March 8, Filipinos consume nearly 60 billion sachets, 17 billion shopping bags, and 16.5 million "labo" bags on a yearly basis. Produced by NGO Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), the report is part of an effort to collect data on plastic consumption as environmentalists push for government action to reduce plastic waste. (READ: Philippine survey shows 'shocking' plastic waste)

‘Call them out’

While it's easy to "put the blame on the consumers," Guevara said that the public should look at the bigger picture of the plastic problem. 

“We’d like to see these companies (P&G, Nestle, Unilever, Coca-cola, and Colgate-Palmolive) made accountable and develop alternative delivery systems that go beyond current products and even consider a refilling system over a throw-away model,”  Guevara added.

 “I use my photos primarily to start dialogues with relevant stakeholders of issue by sharing them on social media,” he said. 

PLASTIC IN THE SEA. Several sachets of shampoo pollute the area along the Verde Island Passage on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

TOOTHPASTE. A toothpaste sachet of settles on the ocean floor near Maricaban Island on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

PLASTIC IN THE SEA. Even sachets of food seasoning can be found along the Verde Island Passage on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

SPOT THE BOTTLE. A plastic bottle can be seen buried in the sand along the Verde Island Passage on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

DIAPER. A used diaper is seen stuck along the Verde Island Passage on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

BURIED. A shampoo sachet can be seen peeking from the sand near Maricaban Island on March 7, 2019. Photo by Noel Guevara/Greenpeace

With the combined actions and efforts of NGOs and environment advocates to raise more awareness on plastic pollution, Guevara urged Filipinos to “make yourself heard by signing Greenpeace’s petition that calls out this companies to stop producing single-use plastic."– Rappler.com

Isabel Lupac is a Rappler intern, and a 4th year AB Communications student from De La Salle Lipa


Sonny Angara under fire for ‘#ShowerTogether’ tweet amid water crisis


Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines– Amid a water crisis being experienced by thousands of residents in Metro Manila and Rizal, reelectionist senator Sonny Angara piped up on Thursday, March 14, with a joke to #ShowerTogether 

Angara said in a tweet that ‘sexy time’ was difficult if you are only using a tabo (dipper). He posted it along with the hashtags #ShowerTogether, #ConserveWater, #WalangTubig.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Hirap mag Sexy Time kung naka Tabo lol <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/showertogether?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#showertogether</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/conservewater?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#conservewater</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/walangtubig?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#walangtubig</a> </p>&mdash; Sonny Angara (@sonnyangara) <a href="https://twitter.com/sonnyangara/status/1106410438219030528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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Netizens were quick to point out the insensitivity of the joke during a raging water crisis that is affecting not just households, but also businesses, hospitals, and schools. (WATCH: In hospitals, water woes take shape where lives are at stake)

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-cards="hidden" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Really sir?! Wag kami! &amp; most certainly wag ako, puyat ako kakahintay ng rasyon ng tubig! The least of the worries of the Filipino people now is this sentiment. I&#39;m sure u have water to conserve. Good on you, but please don&#39;t make this problem light with your insensitive remarks.</p>&mdash; Jerome Bruan (@jbruan18) <a href="https://twitter.com/jbruan18/status/1106581694927126530?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Sana yung joke mo nung 2nd day mo ginawa. Yung situation namin ngayon hindi na nakakatuwa. Lampas one week nang walang tubig. Konting sensititivty pls.</p>&mdash; Kevin Pakganern(hello eyebags) (@caspersnaps) <a href="https://twitter.com/caspersnaps/status/1106437927674896384?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Buti pa kayo sexy time lang worry nyo, si Manong pangkabuhayan yung apektado<a href="https://t.co/6f0Lq2Pjb4">pic.twitter.com/6f0Lq2Pjb4</a></p>&mdash; Karren (@karrenfetalvero) <a href="https://twitter.com/karrenfetalvero/status/1106518747483787265?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Lighthearted joke? Insensitive, inappropriate and unneccessary</p>&mdash; JP Tanyag (@dumidyeypee) <a href="https://twitter.com/dumidyeypee/status/1106421816858284035?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Pa&#39;no mo nagagawang magbiro sa oras na gan&#39;to?<br>Marami ng tao ang literal na naghihirap dahil dito. May mga hospital at mga negosyo na hindi na makapag-function ng maayos, mga batang&#39; di na nakakapasok sa paaralan. This is a very serious situation sir. <a href="https://t.co/TeoZPvip4q">https://t.co/TeoZPvip4q</a></p>&mdash; Riguel||Shiloah||Dean (@_Anniebells_) <a href="https://twitter.com/_Anniebells_/status/1106706710889062400?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 16, 2019</a></blockquote>

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Netizens also pointed out how the reelectionist senator should check his privilege, and consider the plight of the Filipinos who are struggling due to the inconveniences brought by the water interruptions. (READ: Domino effect: Water crisis causing more trash, hurting businesses)

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">i doubt if our esteemed senator is even affected by the water shortage.<br><br>that&#39;s what his alalays are for. <br><br>meanwhile: pinoys suffer, senator makes jokes <a href="https://t.co/zZKyl88wzQ">pic.twitter.com/zZKyl88wzQ</a></p>&mdash; Papa.Ojie (@TataOjie) <a href="https://twitter.com/TataOjie/status/1106442901360304128?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Stare at this image. Contemplate on the plight of your fellow kababayans because of the water crisis. Then check your tweet again and let us know what you feel. <a href="https://t.co/vNayOd6kMB">pic.twitter.com/vNayOd6kMB</a></p>&mdash; Danyelito Mucho (@danyelito9) <a href="https://twitter.com/danyelito9/status/1106444686816768003?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">lol imagine being so privileged na nahirapan kang mag &quot;sexy time&quot; kapag naka tabo. people are struggling, Sonny get over yourself <a href="https://t.co/liEzxHRFfS">https://t.co/liEzxHRFfS</a></p>&mdash; Diwara Diwata (@satanspice_) <a href="https://twitter.com/satanspice_/status/1106718025598664705?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 16, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/sonnyangara?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sonnyangara</a> kelan pa naging punchline ang suffering ng mga Pilipino? We don’t ask you to feel our suffering, especially from your Train Law, but at least be sensitive enough not to play your balls in our Face! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WalangAngaraNgBuhay?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WalangAngaraNgBuhay</a> <a href="https://t.co/jcdhrfSjL4">https://t.co/jcdhrfSjL4</a></p>&mdash; Erwin Mappatao (@erwin_mappatao) <a href="https://twitter.com/erwin_mappatao/status/1106590546628349952?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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They stressed that the water crisis wass no laughing matter. They suggested that as a public official, Angara should instead focus on looking for tangible solutions rather than making jokes about the water crisis. They added that the seriousness of the situation required sensitivity to the Filipinos’ struggles.

{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Senator, with all due respect, instead of sexualising the issue of the “water crisis” — I think what the people need to hear from public officials are immediate actions to the problem. Also, your sexual activity is not a national interest for people to be concerned about. Thanks</p>&mdash; RJ Barrete (@rjamesbarrete) <a href="https://twitter.com/rjamesbarrete/status/1106482940458917888?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Katawa tawa lang ang sitwasyon ng mga Pilipino sa kanila, ano?  Nakakagalit! The stupidity of someone like him is not acceptable! Ugh! We really have the worst version of &quot;public leaders&quot;. <a href="https://t.co/0dq1BgjgfA">https://t.co/0dq1BgjgfA</a></p>&mdash; Lystra Dayapera  (@lystrazyrill) <a href="https://twitter.com/lystrazyrill/status/1106720535310942213?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 16, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">wow, this is not something you should joke about.<br><br>people are having difficulties with their livelihoods thanks to this issue.<br><br>wag ka po munang maki-get in sa youth ngayon because this is not funny nor a good way to promote yourself to the people. <a href="https://t.co/rHE25FZIzi">https://t.co/rHE25FZIzi</a></p>&mdash; hunted (@jams_adventure) <a href="https://twitter.com/jams_adventure/status/1106705355608715264?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">LIMANG ARAW.<br><br>May mga taong limang araw nang walang tubig.<br>May mga taong nagkakasakit, nahihimatay sa sitwasyon.<br>May mga taong nawalan ng kabuhayan dahil dito.<br><br>Salamat Senador <a href="https://twitter.com/sonnyangara?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sonnyangara</a> sa pagjoke mo, nakatulong ito sa mga kababayan natin <a href="https://t.co/6LPhLXICT2">https://t.co/6LPhLXICT2</a></p>&mdash; Khamylle (@lestraaange) <a href="https://twitter.com/lestraaange/status/1106684381626683392?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">A lot of people are in desperate need of water but here you are making fun of what’s happening right now. Tingin mo funny tweet mo? Ikauunlad ng bansa yan sige <a href="https://t.co/RsVYYFH5x1">https://t.co/RsVYYFH5x1</a></p>&mdash; erick jourdan (@ejancheta_) <a href="https://twitter.com/ejancheta_/status/1106608774414950401?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">Adventurous naman pala. Paano `yan ser? Kung diyan pa lang hirap ka ng solusyonan paano pa kaya ang problema ng bansa? <a href="https://t.co/QkJ63DTKRN">https://t.co/QkJ63DTKRN</a></p>&mdash; Pia (@sphfchln) <a href="https://twitter.com/sphfchln/status/1106600590363127809?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="tl" dir="ltr">This water shortage is not an issue to be made fun of. Senador ka, pwede bang sa halip na magjoke, gumawa ka ng paraan. Filipinos are suffering tapos may pa-sexy time ka pa smh <a href="https://t.co/Wfc0EbnfSW">https://t.co/Wfc0EbnfSW</a></p>&mdash; Proletariat Khaleesi Hazel (@HazelJuniosa) <a href="https://twitter.com/HazelJuniosa/status/1106575479207682049?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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{source}<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-partner="tweetdeck"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/sonnyangara?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@sonnyangara</a>  This is why the Philippines is in trouble - you have this insensitive senator trying to make fun of a difficult situation. Plus the fact that he sponsored the TRAIN law. Pampahirap ng buhay. Let him have his sexy time with his tabo - no to sonny angara. <a href="https://t.co/qizLeQtspo">https://t.co/qizLeQtspo</a></p>&mdash; Bib M (@bibmacasaet) <a href="https://twitter.com/bibmacasaet/status/1106571375022505984?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">March 15, 2019</a></blockquote>

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As a reply to a netizen who asked if the Filipinos’ suffering was a joke to him, Angara answered: “Magkasama tayo lahat dito at gagawan natin ng solusyon. (We’re in this together, and we’ll find a solution)”

Angara clarified to ABS-CBN that the tweet doesn’t mean he was not taking the water crisis seriously.

“Just because we crack a joke does not mean we do not take this seriously. In fact, we have already made suggestions on how to curb the crisis in both the short term and long term,” he said. – Rappler.com

[OPINION] An open letter to President Duterte


Priests photo by Eloisa Lopez/Rappler; Duterte photo from Malacañang

This is an open letter written by Grade 12 students of a private school in Muntinlupa City.

Dear President Rodrigo Duterte,

Good day! We would like to thank you, as there have been many changes and progress during your administration. We applaud you for the cleanup of Boracay and Manila Bay. In a world where our environment is no longer valued, thank you for taking steps to protect and preserve the beauty of the Philippines. We also admire that you have been a proactive president in achieving your vision of a new and improved Philippines.

However, it was disheartening to read an article in which you talked ill about the priests of the Catholic faith, which more than 80% of Filipinos belong to. As you are the leader of the country, you are also the representative of our nation – a bridge between the people and the government. How can you insult the faith that more than half the nation belongs to? (READ: Duterte said kill the bishops – and his word became flesh)

We recognize that you were hurt by the Catholic Church in your youth and we cannot imagine the traumatic effect this must have had on you. We sincerely apologize on behalf of the Church and pray for your healing. Despite this, we believe that in dealing with the Church, as well as our priests, respect should be given to them, as they serve as instruments of Christ. (READ: After priest killings, Duterte again threatens Church leaders)

As our president, you must be able to deal with each religion respectfully, despite the doubts that you may have regarding them. You are not obligated to follow Catholic teachings, but to insult the leaders of the Catholic Church would be to demoralize the vast number of Catholic Filipinos. In line with your recent words regarding Catholicism, we wish to enlighten you on the faith and explain the stands of the Catholic Church. (READ: Duterte curses bishops, priests who criticize drug war)

The first and foremost responsibility of a priest is to preach the Faith by word and example. This includes proclaiming what is objectively true, regardless of the risk of persecution and criticism. Please try to understand that the priests of the Church are in no way trying to attack you, as they are only trying to fulfill their moral duty to respond clearly and strongly to erroneous fallacies and actions against the teachings of the Catholic Church. Just as you take seriously your duty to protect the country, priests are earnestly committed to defending the Word of God. Regarding original sin, even if you may not have committed the sin of Adam and Eve, all human beings are inherently weak due to their limited powers of reason. (READ: Duterte blasts Bible creation story: 'Who is this stupid God?')

This is why faith is needed in order to shed light on the falsehoods created by reason. Furthermore, the creation of original sin was not meant to condemn humanity, but to show that from the great evil of sin comes an even greater good in the form of Jesus Christ. It was only through original sin that the history of salvation and the experience of God's merciful love became possible.

We wish that you read this letter with an open mind and heart. We simply want to clarify any misconceptions you or anyone else might be having. If you are in doubt about the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church, please allow us to show you the love and compassion that the faith is truly about.

Every Filipino has the common goal of changing our country for the better – even us Catholics. With that said, we think that it would be best if we all respect one another and work together in achieving this dream, because we are more than willing to do so. You have such great influence over the people of our country, and so we hope that you will be one to unite us and propel us forward as a nation. – Rappler.com

VIRAL: Cancer survivor is now a doctor


Photo from Albien Emmanuel Gacias' Facebook account

MANILA, Philippines – In a fortunate twist of fate, 30-year-old cancer survivor Albien Emmanuel Gacias is now a doctor. 

On Thursday, March 14, Gacias' Facebook post caught the attention of netizens. He shared his photo in 2008 when he was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 20. Beside it was his recent photo wearing a white coat after passing the board exam last March 3. (READ: RESULTS: March 2019 Physician Licensure Exam)

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Gacias dedicated his success to his mother who died due to pancreatic cancer in 2006, and to his brother who passed away due to an accident in the same year.

Battling cancer

In an interview with Rappler, Gacias shared how worried he was when he was diagnosed with cancer. He is the eldest in the family and takes care of his 4 siblings while his father works abroad. 

With the help of their relatives, Gacias underwent chemotherapy. "Ang naisip ko lang is, ang magagawa ko that time ay magpaka-strong," Gacias said. (The only thing I thought I can do that time is to be strong.)

He recounted the words of another cancer patient who visited the hospital after stopping undergoing the treatment: "Bahala na lang kung anong mangyari sa akin. Wala na akong pera pampagamot eh." (I leave it up to fate. I no longer have money for treatment.)

Gacias felt bad that the cancer patient has the will to live, but because of financial problems, he was unable to continue his treatment.

Making a difference

When his mother was diagnosed with cancer and he heard stories of cancer survivors who cannot afford medical treatment, Gacias dreamt of becoming a physician.

As a medical student, it was a challenge for him to study every day. However, Gacias always put in mind that his hard work will pay off someday.

Gacias did not expect that netizens will be inspired by his story. From there, he realized that through one's own little ways, anyone can make a difference. (READ: Biker to ride 2,200 km for kids with cancer, other chronic illnesses)

When asked for his message to fellow cancer survivors, he said: "Kahit gaano pa kahirap ang mga pinagdaraanan natin, just keep going. And if ever you feel sad, puwede kang umiyak. If napapagod ka, just pause and rest. Basta 'wag kang susuko at tuloy ang laban. Magtiwala tayo sa plan ni God para sa 'tin."

(Whatever it is you're going through, just keep going. If ever you feel sad, you can cry. If you feel tired, just pause and rest. Do not surrender and just keep going. Let us trust in God's plan for us.)

Gacias also reminded future physicians to study well. (READ: Why I went to serve in the barrio)

"Lahat ng sacrifices mo sa med school will all be worth it lalo na kapag nakita nating nakakatulong tayo sa mga future patients natin," he said. (All of your sacrifices in medical school will be worth it, especially when you see that you are helping your future patients.) – Rappler.com

Nicole Anne del Rosario is a Rappler Intern. She is a 4th year AB Communication student of De La Salle University-Dasmariñas.

Be discerning of news sources, journalists urge students


FIGHT DISINFORMATION. Jay Beltran of the Department of the Interior and Local Government urges the public to start combating disinformation through their own social media accounts. Photo by Jose Villaroel

CAVITE, Philippines – At a time when disinformation online spreads like wildfire and affects public discourse, journalists urged students to be more discerning of their news sources.  

"There are some people who are saying that some news outlets are 'Dilawan (Yellows)' because they want people to believe that these news outlets cannot be trusted anymore so that they could promote their agenda. I hope, especially the students here present, please you should know the legitimate media from the illegitimate ones," said Marissa Balidoy, faculty member at the De La Salle University-Dasmarinas (DLSU-D) journalism and communication department.

Balidoy spoke during a Rappler forum, #MoveCavite: Social Good in the Digital Age, at the DLSU-D Alumni Auditorium on March 12. The forum was attended by at least 300 campus journalists, student leaders, school paper advisers, and other stakeholders. Other journalists in the forum echoed Balidoy's sentiments.

To help counter disinformation, Balidoy added that their department will launch a voter's education project for the May 13 elections. "Some of my students are planning on posting different kinds of information using social media so that people will know how to vote and who to vote. So that they'll know the truth from lies," Balidoy said.

SOCIAL GOOD. At least 300 campus journalists, student organization leaders, school paper advisers, and other stakeholders  attend #MoveCavite: Social Good in the Digital Age Forum at the De La Salle University on March 12, 2019. Photo by Jose Villaroel

For Jay Beltran of the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Region IV-A, people should start combating false information through their own social media accounts.

"I think people should keep calling them out, if you see something shared online that's false, and you know that's really not the truth, you need to call it out. No matter what agency it's coming from, whether it's a news agency, whether it's a government agency, call it out," Beltran said.

Paige Occeñola, digital communications head of Rappler, meanwhile warned that hateful rhetoric can result in hate crimes. In Myanmar, for example, hate speech and disinformation online have serious real-life ramifications for the Rohingya, fueling tensions and shaping the discourse. (READ: Facebook bans Myanmar military chief, others for fueling ethnic tensions)

In this context of all these, student journalist Bianca Isabelle Lariosa admitted during the #MoveCavite forum that she sometimes feels discouraged by attacks against journalists, including the recent arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa.

"But then you see these people who support them. You have faith in the Filipino people that though there are numerous online accounts that will say hurtful things, there are much, much more people who will say enlightening things, who will say the truth," Lariosa said. 

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What about you? How can you take part in preventing the spread of disinformation online? Rappler.com

#BilangBabae: Roundtable discussion on women and the elections


MANILA, Philippines – Do women in elected posts and women candidates in the upcoming midterm elections articulate a clear women’s agenda?

This National Women’s Month and a few months before the elections, Rappler in partnership with Angat Bayi, wants to highlight the importance of women’s issues this coming elections. 

This conversation comes at a time when the country has reaped both wins and losses in the fight for women's rights. For example, Philippines ranked eighth in the 2018 Gender Gap Report of the World Economic primarily "on the back of strong scores on closing the Political Empowerment gender gap." However, the report also noted that the country needs work in the health and survival category.

Today, 114 out of 100,000 Filipino women who give birth don't survive – the highest maternal motarlity rate among countries in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, 14% to 15% of Filipino girls as young as 13 to 17 years old have been sexually violated according to the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2017. (READ: [OPINION] This is what we want for our women

Beyond these numbers, women issues have also become a hot topic under the current administration, with President Rodrigo Duterte drawing mixed reactions in his approach to and policies for Filipino women. 

Mostly, he has drawn flak for remarks taken as derogatory and misogynistic. (READ: Duterte slams women for 'depriving' him of freedom of expression

Why do few women elected officials or women candidates publicly stand for or defend women? Given this context, how do we encourage women elected officials to promote women’s empowerment, gender justice, and gender equality? 

Join Nathalie Verceles on Monday, March 18 at 5 pm, as she sits down with Canadian Ambassador John Holmes, Ilocos Sur Councilor Joanne Valdez, Quezon City Councilor Mayen Juico and Angat Bayi mentor Dr. Carol Sobritchea.

Participate in the conversation on social media using #BilangBabae. – Rappler.com


The youth behind coal-free Negros Occidental


YOUTH PROTEST. San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza poses with youth protesters at the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol on March 6, 2019, while holding the executive order declaring the province as coal-free. Photo by Rexor Amancio/Climate Reality Philippines

BACOLOD, Philippines – In Negros Occidental, the young generation triumphed in their fight against the use of coal as a source of energy in the province.

Negrosanon youth banded together in a strike against coal in front of the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol last March 6. Dubbed the "Youth Strike for Negros," it was a silent protest that prompted Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr to declare Negros Occidental coal-free.

Marañon signed an executive order that prohibits the entry of coal-fired power plants in the province. He also ordered the creation of the Provincial Renewable Energy Council to formulate measures encouraging renewable energy programs.

Behind the important fight against coal in Negros Occidental is Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH), a coalition of youth organizations and concerned individuals based in Bacolod City.

Y4CH has initiated several events and activities that focus on climate change, climate justice, and renewable energy, including the March 6 protest.

"We are critical of the systems surrounding climate action, but we aim to do more than calling for accountability or passing the blame – we hope to be a part of building the future we want, and we offer proactive solutions along with our public actions," Y4CH convenor Krishna Ariola said.

"People say it's pointless to do anything, but we disagree. There is so much we can do if we all do it together," she added.

Among these proactive solutions are plans of the group to launch awareness campaigns on renewable energy.

Aiming to equip young people with basic knowledge of climate action, Y4CH will be conducting several programs, to be introduced as "R.E.learn" and "R.E.treat." The former will focus on teaching the youth through talks and forums, while the latter will center on modularized camps.

COAL-FREE. Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr gives a thumbs up to the participants of the Youth Strike for Negros on March 6, 2019. Photo by Rexor Amancio/Climate Reality Philippines

The decision to banish coal, Ariola also said, is long overdue.

"Negros is an island of success stories: from the organic ordinance, environmental efforts, and clean energy sources, we will make sure that Negros continues its legacy of environmental protection. We see Negros as a true renewable energy hub of the Philippines in the near future," she added.

Y4CH has been working closely with other youth groups in Negros, specifically in Bacolod City, whose visions are similar to theirs. Making use of available platforms such as Facebook, the coalition amplifies its call for volunteers in order to expand its circles.

"We also hold small capability-building activities within the group, to make sure everyone is educated and aware about what we're fighting for. We also have good relations with other environmental groups, youth groups, and the Church," Ariola said.

According to Claudia Gancayco, a member of Y4CH, their aim is to campaign on a positive note, hence the emphasis on hope.

"We want the youth to be hopeful that although the science and the news sound bleak, we want the youth to have a hopeful approach because there is still something that can be done. We want to underscore that fact since if we don't, it's so easy to lose hope," she said.

Asked why Y4CH does what it does, Ariola said the coalition's mission is rooted in basic humanity.

She said: "I think environmentalism is not just for the environmentalist, but it's for everyone.... It's only a matter of time until everyone joins the fight for survival. Clean air and a balanced ecology are basic human rights, and we will do our best to protect those rights, especially in our communities." – Rappler.com

Chad Martin Natividad is a 4th year AB Psychology student at University of St La Salle (USLS) Bacolod and a Rappler Mover. He was previously magazine editor and literary editor of The Spectrum, the official student media corps of USLS, and is currently its editorial assistant.

Maria Angeline Mayor is a 4th year AB Communication student at USLS Bacolod and a Rappler Mover. She is also a news writer of The Spectrum.

‘One Big Pride': Ateneo LGBTQIA+ community calls for acceptance on women’s month


Sanggunian Gender Equality Co-Commissioner Ramon Tanjuatco, holding the rainbow banner, leads the band of Ateneans on the "One Big Pride" march on March 15, 2019. Photo by Zach G. Garcia/The GUIDON

MANILA, Philippines – In an effort to be one with women in the fight against gender inequality, the Ateneo community through its student government Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila held “One Big Pride” on March 15, in time with the celebration of International Women’s Month.

"If you look at it, gender inequality is not just about the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s also about women,” said outgoing President Hyacenth Bendaña. (READ: LGBT rights are human rights)

LGBTQIA stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.

The Ateneo Loyola Schools, a Catholic and Jesuit academic community, is finally moving towards becoming an all-gender-friendly society. In December 2018, the Loyola Schools Gender Policy, which aims to build a “gender-inclusive, gender-responsive, and gender-safe” Ateneo, was established.

Genuine acceptance

“Genuine acceptance goes more than holding a pride march. Genuine acceptance means having counter-structures in the university that advocate for gender equality,” Bendaña said.

She added that genuine acceptance should also manifest in integrating gender equality in the curriculum and recognizing the gender movement in Philippine history.(READ: Strength in colors: The Filipino LGBTQ community)

For communications student and One Big Pride attendee Fran Enriquez, genuine acceptance is not treating the LGBTQ community as “different” and not boxing them through labels.

At a time when people have become divided on political, social, and religious views, Atenean Joseph Caligner believes that genuine acceptance come from a place where people are seen and treated equally, and where people acknowledge that the LGBTQIA+ “deserve those same rights, same opportunities, same love as everyone else.”

For Sanggunian Gender Equality Co-Commissioner Ramon Tanjuatco, not defining a person based on their sexuality or gender is the essence of genuine acceptance.

“Our worth is more than just sexuality…. We can give our abilities to whatever advocacies that we want to push for, in health, in education, in business, in any aspect, where being LGBT is not an inhibition but maybe even a propulsion to do great things,” Tanjuatco said.

Asked about the significance of celebrating Pride in their university, Tanjuatco said it allows a space for those who have felt prejudiced and discriminated for celebrating their identity.

“It gives us a sense of hope, a sense of acceptance in a community. Now we are being heard, now we’re being recognized, now we’re being loved,” Tanjuatco said.

Apart from visibility and education, Tanjuatco believes that it is important to continue to actively advocate for the rights of the community, as there are members who still experience discrimination and whose voices remain unheard.

“We always hear about the issues of a gay man, why not the lesbian woman, as well? Why not the transgender male? Why not the androgynous man or woman?” Tanjuatco said, explaining the need to recognize the LGBTQIA+ as a spectrum, and that all members deserve equal recognition.

Both Bendaña and Tanjuatco urged the members and allies of the community to unite to amplify the call for equality.

“We’re stronger, better together. We have to collectively voice out our opinions because individually we are weak; it’s hard for us to be heard. That’s why it’s important for us to stand together because it amplifies our voices – it means we are united; we are looking for one purpose and we have one vision,” said Bendaña.

Safe space

For many Atenean LGBTQIA+, the campus is a space where they have come to terms with their identity. Ateneo alumnus and now a Biology instructor, Rej Bagonoc recalls how Ateneo has encouraged him to come out to his family and friends. (READ: WATCH: How did you come out?)

“I came from a place that I thought I’d be okay concealing myself for the rest of my life, until I reached this safe space, Ateneo, and made me realize that I can be myself and people will love me for who I am,” Bagonoc said.

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Bendaña, however, noted that while it has become a safe haven for some, Ateneo still has a lot of work to do with regards to being a more gender-inclusive and gender-responsive campus. (READ: LGBT Community: It's time for action)

“Right now there are a few open spaces and safe spaces for people to talk about their struggles. You see them in their little barkadas (cliques). You see them in their little corners in the Ateneo but it’s not as accepting yet. That’s why we’re moving towards that,” Bendaña explained. –Rappler.com

Sofia Faye Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).


Iloilo cyclists ride vs ‘anti-biking’ ordinance


RIGHT TO PEDAL. Ilonggo bikers gather and register themselves in front of the Iloilo Dinagyang Grandstand along Muelle Loney Street in Iloilo City on March 18, 2019. Photo by Rock Drilon ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Coinciding with the Liberation of Panay celebration in Iloilo on Monday, March 18, nearly 600 local cyclists joined a 24-kilometer ride “for [their] right” to pedal in what has been dubbed the most bike-friendly city in the country.

The “Ride to Liberation: Ride for our Rights” was convened by the city's numerous bike groups calling for a repeal of the “archaic” Regulation Ordinance 982-354, passed in 1982, which penalizes and prohibits cyclists from a handful of major thoroughfares in the city.

The old ordinance was brought to public attention and sparked debate after a series of statements from the office of the city administrator went viral on social media.

These prompted the Ilonggo bikers to come together to challenge the “outdated legislation.” Iloilo was proclaimed the “most bike-friendly city” in the country by the PhilBike Awards during the PhilBike Expo at the World Trade Center Manila in September last year.

Signature campaign

Wearing black, the bikers gathered at the lloilo Freedom Grandstand before heading to the districts of La Paz, Jaro, Mandurriao, and Molo, circling back to Iloilo City Proper to complete the 24-kilometer route. After the “Ride to Liberation,” cyclists launched a campaign to collect at least 1,000 signatures for the repeal of the ordinance.

NO TO OUTDATED LAWS. Cyclists in Iloilo City join a protest. Photo by Eric Barbosa Jr.

“We raise a call to be liberated from local government’s neglect and inaction and to break free from archaic policies and ordinances that are anti-biker and anti-pedestrian,” according to architect Jai Javier, one of the founders of the Iloilo Folding Bike Riders.

“Instead we assert for road sharing while we are reaffirming our continued dedication to collaborate with the government and with the different sectors in making Iloilo City a biker-inclusive progressive city,” Javier added.

During the “Ride to Liberation,” Ilonggo bikers also called for the completion of the “university loop,” a bike lane circuit which connects the 6 universities located within the city proper and intends to ensure the safety and protection of students who bike to school and for school personnel who bike to work.

Architect Wilfredo Sy Jr, director of the Iloilo Bike Festival last year, sees the “university loop” complementing Iloilo’s protected bike lanes along Diversion Road, already dedicated solely for cyclists. When completed, 58,000 students are set to benefit from the loop, Sy said.

Sy is a major proponent of the proposed comprehensive bike lane for the city – a nearly100-kilometer route that starts at the Iloilo International Airport and connects all seven districts of the city, linking all plazas and major schools of Iloilo.

“Unfortunately, the full completion of the initiative [was] confronted [by] humps,” said Sy in a statement. “Not for the reason that it needs additional funding, but because the local government failed to facilitate the consultations among stakeholders so that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) can proceed with the works and complete the project.”

“Considering that the elections is within the corner, may this advocacy ride serve as the bikers’ call for our candidates and future leaders to take a strong position as genuine movers of road sharing and sustainable transportation,” Sy continued.

The Ilonggo biking community’s campaign is grounded on Republic Act (RA) 6735, or the People’s Initiative Act of 1989 and RA 6735, the Local Government Code of 1992. According to Sy, the two laws uphold a “peoples initiative’ provision which avers that 1,000 voters acting as petitioners in the city can submit a petition to the city council as basis for the passage of an ordinance.

Currently, Iloilo City has two other bike-related ordinances: Ordinance 2014-193, an ordinance requiring government and non-government buildings with existing parking spaces to provide a safe bicycle parking zone, and Ordinance 2016-299 or the Benigno Aquino Avenue bike lane ordinance.-Rappler.com


Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay is a Rappler Mover, an Iloilo-based writer, and a journalist reporting largely on the local cultural community and art scene of the thriving city. 


Ateneo blueRep's Spring Awakening musical hopes to empower youth


LOOK: Cast of Spring Awakening together with director Missy Maramara. Photo by Ateneo blueRep

MANILA, Philippines – “Unless the people in power, give [the youth] a chance to be heard, mawawala 'yung future natin (our future will be lost).”

These were the words of director Missy Maramara as she introduced the Ateneo Blue Repertory's (BlueRep) 27th season finale, the alternative rock musical, Spring Awakening.

Based on the 1891 play by Frank Wedekind, the musical is set in 19th century Germany with repressed teenagers trying to navigate their budding sexualities. More than a century later, Ateneo BlueRep still finds Spring Awakening relevant to the Filipino youth.

More than a century forward

During Spring Awakening's press launch last March 14, Maramara discussed the relevance of the musical’s theme despite being staged after more than a century.

“[Spring Awakening] was very risky back then because this was talking about the sexuality of these young adolescents … and it was very repressive,” Maramara said.

She added that even with the vast technology and media the contemporary era has, the youth are still repressed in terms of dealing with their sexualities. Spring Awakening aims to validate the experiences of the youth.

The 2019 production of Spring Awakening is Ateneo BlueRep’s second staging of the musical. The first was in 2013.

Maramara said that the musical allows a critical discussion on topics branded as “taboo” such as suicide, premarital sex, incest rape, and abortion.

She further explained that there is a need to talk about these topics with critical thinking.“Isipin natin (Let’s think) beyond morality, kung paano tayo makakatulong sa mga taong dumadaan dito (how we can help people who are going through this),” she said.

Musical director Ejay Yatco also spoke about generation gaps and how he thinks that there still are topics that the public will always refuse to talk about.

“Maging bukas tayo. Maging mulat tayo.”

Maramara explained how there is an urgent need to grasp the message of Spring Awakening.

She said that there is a need to go back to what it means to be young, lost, and in need of guidance despite wanting to make a difference. “Sometimes, our adults now are like children... Nakakalimutan nila na mayroong mga nangangailangan sa kanila ng tulong nila. (They forget that there are children who need their help.)” she says.

Maramara also said that the country’s socio-political climate now focuses on the “big” and the “loud” people who make decisions that “affect everybody.” She said that unless these people allow the youth to make choices and to be heard, the country’s future will continue to be in danger. (READ: House lowers minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12)

Recently, experts and youth groups railed against the lowering of the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 12 years old. Legislators ignored years of research which say that exposing children in conflict with the law (CICLs) with the juvenile justice system poses them more harm than good. (READ: Why experts strongly oppose lowering the age of criminal responsibility)

Maramara invites viewers from all ages to share in Spring Awakening’s vision of showcasing the young and their experiences.

Maging bukas tayo. Maging mulat tayo… hindi para sa sarili natin pero para sa kinabukasan ng kabataan natin… (Let’s be open. Let’s be conscious not for ourselves but for the future of our youth.)” Maramara said.

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The cast is led by Ian Pangilinan and Sandino Martin as Melchior, and Erika Rafael and Krystal Kane as Wendla. The musical is co-directed by Darrell Uy.

Ateneo Blue Repertory’s Spring Awakening runs from March 29 to April 14 at the Hyundai Hall, Areté, Ateneo de Manila University.– Rappler.com

Jillian Siervo is a Rappler intern. She is a senior high school student under the General Academic Strand at the Ateneo de Manila University.


Netizens hail university president for letting transwoman wear dress for graduation


MANILA, Philippines – A university president in Bicol won the hearts of netizens after he granted the request of a transwoman student to wear women's clothing for her graduation rites.

“I stan a progressive Father President!” tweeted Roman Giuseppe “Emma” Bueno, as she shared the good news with fellow netizens on Tuesday, March 19.

Bueno had written a formal letter to Ateneo de Naga University President Father Roberto Rivera, SJ, for her request. She told Rivera that a graduation committee professor had reminded her that crossdressing is not allowed during the Baccalaureate Mass and graduation ceremony "in spite of the fact that I have been wearing the clothes that reflects my gender identity as a transgender woman."

"I have gained the support of my parents, relatives, friends, peers, and the Ateneo community itself ever since I started transitioning," Bueno said in her letter.

The request was not only marked "approved," Rivera also scribbled a note on one side, telling Bueno to present the letter if her choice of clothing would be questioned again. 

“He even congratulated me!” Bueno said.

Director of Student Affairs Rodolfo SB Virtus Jr had recommended to Rivera the approval of the request,  citing a similar request granted in 2017.

Bueno's post had been retweeted over 2,000 times and liked more than 16,000 times as of writing. Netizens expressed admiration for Rivera and his “progressive” and “open-minded” attitude toward the matter.

‘Find your safe space'

In her letter to Rivera, Bueno noted that women’s clothing best reflects her gender identity as a transwoman, and that dressing as a man rather feels like “crossdressing” to her. (READ: ‘One Big Pride': Ateneo LGBTQIA+ community calls for acceptance on women’s month)

“Personally, wearing clothes for male is the act that would make me feel like I am crossdressing,” Bueno explained in her appeal.

Asked for a message for her fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual+ (LGBTQIA+) who have been criticized for expressing their identity, Bueno urged them to continue to strive for equal rights and to challenge repressive policies. (READ: Get to know Ianne Gamboa, PUP's first transwoman valedictorian)

“Always remember that you are valid. Find your safe space and from there allow yourself to shine. Slay the world!” Bueno said.

Bueno, a senior financial management and accounting student, is set to graduate on March 23, coincidentally her birthday. She plans to “slay” the ceremony in a red dress and black heels. – Rappler.com

Sofia Faye Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).


[Right of Way] Is it time to do away with protocol plates?


MANILA, Philippines – On the road, motorists occasionally spot protocol plates. These plates are given to high-ranking officials from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

But are they really necessary? Watch this Right of Way episode where Vince Lazatin expresses his take on the matter. – Rappler.com

PPCRV urges youth to join ‘community effort’ for honest elections


INTRODUCTION. PPCRV National Chairperson Myla Villanueva talks during their youth ambassador launch on March 20 at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center. Photo by Samantha Bagayas/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines– With the youth comprising more than 18 million of the voting population in the Philippines, poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) on Wednesday, March 20, encouraged millennials to help champion clean elections. 

At its youth ambassador launch at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center, the PPCRV said it's gearing its efforts toward voters’ education for the youth and advocating clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful (CHAMP) elections.

“A big majority of our population would be considered the youth, and there are many first-time voters that are coming out in May 2019. We deem it very important to catch them and encourage them to vote,” said Myla Villanueva, PPCRV national chairperson.

More than 2.5 million Filipinos are registered as new voters during the last registration period, exceeding the target set by the Commission on Elections.

Ambassadors and social media influencers

The PPCRV ambassadors include former professional basketball player Chris Tiu, professional volleyball player Dzi Gervacio, television host Gretchen Ho, TV anchor Daniela Laurel, bar topnotcher Mickey Ingles, and PPCRV trainer Jayson Tabor.

“More than just voting, I think it really goes beyond this May elections. We want to encourage the youth or foster in them that attitude of being concerned for our country. As early as now, we want them to be aware of issues,” Tiu said.

With the youth being so connected to social media, the PPCRV hopes to reach out to them by tapping influencers that will amplify the many ways people can be involved in the elections.

“It's such a social media world right now. Every single post we do matters. We were thinking, the way to actually get the message across apart from the volunteers on the ground is for us to be promoting this and being the face of this initiative,” explained Laurel.

“These youth ambassadors have a following, mostly on social media.... Their followers will also take that up and repeat and share it and multiply it in their own sites,” said Ambassador Henrietta de Villa, PPCRV chairperson.

Although people can make noise online, PPCRV also urged people to do their part by translating their social media activity to offline actions.

“We can do social media, but if you don't actually go and cast your vote physically, all the words that we say are really meaningless,” Laurel added.

How to sign up as volunteer

Aside from voting, there are many other ways people can be active in the elections.

PPCRV said voters can join PPCRV’s voters’ education programs through their parishes or be among the trainers who will train and educate other voters. They can also be poll watchers or volunteers by going to their nearest parish or registering online.

“If they see that we are actively participating, then hopefully that will encourage them to do the same. It takes a lot of time. It'll take years, maybe generations, but it has to start somewhere. Hopefully it will trickle down to more and more people, and they'll eventually stand up and move out of their keyboards and vote,” said Tiu.

Community effort

With social media being so accessible to the public, candidates have used these platforms for campaigning.

“Candidates can actually campaign for very little cost. You can campaign anytime even outside election season. That is how candidates are historically using social media now,” PPCRV executive director Maribel Buenaobra said.

This may also trickle down to Overseas Filipino Workers, whose votes may be influenced based on what they see on their social media feeds.

“One overseas Filipino voter can have a multiplier effect. The fact that Filipinos in the Philippines can send news about the Philippines and not even verify whether the news is true or not is one way to propagate and disseminate wrong information,” explained Buenaobra.

The PPCRV noted how disinformation on these platforms has become a way to disenfranchise voters.

“What we think about in the short period of time until election is how fake news can be used to disenfranchise voters. So this is where we need everybody's help to be truthful on disseminating information,” Villanueva said.

PPCRV highlighted that fighting disinformation requires a community effort, both online and offline, to help people make well-informed choices and be discerning.

“What we are watching out for and what we hope to achieve is a community effort amongst people to be guarding whether information about their election process on election day is actually true or not. I think it's a community effort and checking against one another,” added Villanueva. Rappler.com

Despite honesty system hitch, bus firm still willing to go 'conductorless'


Photo from Green Frog Hybrid Bus Company

MANILA, Philippines– After ending its honesty system because a number of passengers who did not pay their fare, Green Frog Hybrid Bus Company told Rappler that it would still give the conductorless system another try.

However, it will have a “more robust [system], not dependent on whether a person is honest or not,” said Philip Apostol, Green Frog Founder and CEO.

“This was a small hiccup. We will reintroduce conductorless buses… Give us a few months,” he added.

On Wednesday, March 20, Green Frog announced that it ended its honesty payment system after 30% of the passengers refused to pay fare. It was just 9 days since it started with the honesty system, which asked passengers to bring the exact fare to put in the drop box or tap their prepaid cards upon entering the bus. The aim of the system was to eliminate conductors in the bus collecting the fare. 

In an official statement, Green Frog applauded the 70% who followed the system. But it showed its dismay towards 30% of the passengers who were mostly office workers and university students. Green Frog said those who did not cooperate were among “the most educated population in the country.”

Green Frog’s routes are from SM Mall of Asia to C5, Buendia, and Kalayaan.

“It is sad because this happened on the route with the most educated population in the country...Yet the 30% who refused to pay are part of this educated group―the Starbucks-coffee-drinking group with the latest gadgets,” Green Frog said.

To have that number of non-paying passengers was unsustainable for the company. This was the reason Green Frog ended the honesty system after over a week and recalled their conductors.

The end of the first day, we all knew we had a problem. Fare collection dropped significantly. In the next few days, the fare collection stayed where it was. It never improved. After 3 days, drivers and the paying passengers were complaining that too many people were taking advantage of the system.  By the 7th day, I decided to end it,” Apostol said.

Lack of discipline

Green Frog introduced its ‘honesty system’ conductorless operations on March 11, as its next logical step after launching their innovative tap card and P2P (point-to-point) format. It was also a way to be at par with First World countries.

“This is how it’s done in First World countries. This is how Green Frog will do it from now on,” Green Frog said in its announcement about the honesty system. 

Apostol said that they had simplified the system ―passengers queue up, board the bus, drop exact fare or tap their prepaid cards, get the ticket, and find a seat.

“Instead, what the 30% did was to enter the bus, ignore the driver, find a seat and ride for free,” Apostol said.

Apostol pointed out that this lack of discipline manifests not only in failing honesty systems but also in the heavy traffic and unorganized queues.

“It is always this undisciplined minority that spoils it for the rest of us. Look at our traffic mess which is basically caused by a few undisciplined drivers. Queues are difficult for these people, too,” Apostol said.

Netizens also expressed their disappointment, pointing out this long-standing trait among Filipinos.

Despite the setback, Green Frog vowed to continue to innovate and improve the country’s public transportation system.

Green Frog, a trendsetting transportation company, introduced the two-door, low-floor city hybrid buses, and pioneered the tap card payment system and P2P (point-to-point) format. – Rappler.com

Sofia Virtudes is a Rappler intern. She is a BS Development Communication graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Pasig City residents share water supply woes


STRUGGLES. People from all walks of life in Pasig City share their experiences and struggles due to the water crisis hitting parts of Metro Manila and Rizal. Photos by Sofia Virtudes, Nicole Del Rosario, Jillian Siervo, and Isabel Lupac/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – In Pasig City, people from different walks of life struggled to cope with the water shortage that hit Metro Manila and Rizal.

As one of the most affected cities, some parts of Pasig experienced several weeks without a single drop of water.

Rappler went around Pasig City to ask how a most basic human need – or the lack of it –  can affect a community.

Life at home without water

Barangay Oranbo residents experienced  24-hour water service interruption for 8 days since the water shortage began on March 7.

Talagang magdamag kami nag-aabang, walang tulo (We waited overnight, but there wasn’t a single drop),” recalled Rizalyn Tolentino.

Tolentino shared how there should have been an earlier advisory about the water shortage to help households prepare, especially when people rely on water for almost all of their day-to-day activities.

Parang ‘di ka makakilos kapag walang tubig. ‘Di bale na mawalan ng kuryente, huwag na ‘yung tubig…. Dapat kapag ganyang mawawalan ng tubig, dapat may abiso (You can’t move without water. Nevermind if we lose power supply, so long as we have water.... If ever there would be a water service interruption, there should be an advisory),” said Tolentino.

Isipin mo ‘yung buhay mo araw-araw.... Kapag magluluto ka, tubig ang unang hinahanap mo. Kapag dudumi ka, maliligo, kailangan ng tubig. Kapag walang tubig, mahirap. Magkakasakit pa ‘yung mga tao,” she added.

(Think of your everyday life.... If you’re cooking, water is the first thing you look for. If you’re defacating, taking a bath, water is needed. If there’s no water, it’s hard. People will end up getting sick.)

WATER CRISIS. Cristina Maridejo, a Barangay Pineda resident, shares her struggle to provide water, especially drinking water, for her children. Photo by Nicole del Rosario/Rappler

In Barangay Pineda, Pasig City, Cristina Maridejo , a 43-year-old mother of 6, shared the same sentiment.

Maridejo recalled her struggle just to provide water, especially drinking water, for her children.

Despite continuous efforts of the local government to supply water in their barangay, Maridejo suggested having a system to distribute water, so everyone gets a fair share.

She also brought up how the back-up water supply offered by the local government could not be used for drinking, which might also pose another problem to big households with a limited budget.

May dumating naman kaagad kaya lang talagang nagkagulo-gulo kami dahil nga una-unahan sa tubig…’Yung tubig naman na ‘yun, hindi siya pwede panggamit sa mga inumin so sacrifice talaga kami...Tulad ko, marami akong anak, wala naman akong budget para pang-mineral,” she said.

(Water supply arrived immediately but it got chaotic because we were all rushing to get water first.... That water can’t be used for drinking, so we had to sacrifice.... Like me, I have many children. I don’t have the budget for bottled water.)

Wash and go no more

Marilyn Abella, a supervisor at Stain Master Laundry and Dry Clean shop in Pasig, shared how the business struggled during the recent water crisis. As a laundry shop, the business is fully dependent on water supply. They had to stop operations when the water service interruption struck their area.

Aside from finding a way to operate amid the water crisis, Abella also had to explain their situation to every complaining customer.

Walang humpay na paliwanag sa mga client namin na yung minsan ‘di mo maintindihan bakit nagagalit pa (There was no end to explaining to every client who got angry for reasons you sometimes don’t understand)," she said.

On instances that their water came back for a few hours, they maximized the time by rushing to do the laundry for their business to survive.

Duty calls

David Isidro, a firefighter at the San Antonio Pasig Fire Department, recalled how their team almost never stopped supplying water in their areas of responsibility.

Isidro shared it had been particularly difficult to keep water supply in Barangay San Antonio, a highly urbanized community and home to condominiums and commercial buildings.

Although water interruptions mean that specific barangays will have no water for specific hours, Isidro explained that the situation was different since there was no water at all in those areas, even from fire hydrants.

Ang nangyari kasi totally wala. Ultimo itong Business District, itong Ortigas, ultimo ‘yung hydrants natin patay (What happened was there was totally no water. Even the Business District, Ortigas, their hydrants were shut down)," he said.

The water crisis prompted the city government, the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction Management, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to help supply water to the areas, with the support of fire volunteers.

Isidro said despite this, the supply was still not enough, and other cities have to pitch in.

As firefighters rushed to provide water to communities, several firefighters fell ill due to the fatigue. 

Still recovering from flu, Fire Officer I Roderick Sibbaluca shared how he and his juniors in Kapitolyo got sick due to exhaustion and lack of rest from their 24-hour duty to supply water, particularly at the Rizal Medical Center, government hospitals, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology of Pasig.

He added how he felt bad for the residents as they could not give out water rations beyond what was set since this was regulated by a strict protocol.

Masakit para sa’min na nakikita namin 'yung mga tao sinasabi nila 3 araw na silang ‘di naliligo, kulang-kulang 'yung tubig.... Meron tayong sinusunod na protocol so hindi rin namin pwedeng pasobrahan 'yung kanila kasi may sinusunod tayo sa taas. Kaya ‘yun ‘yung isa sa mga naging problema, ang hirap papilahin kasi basic need talaga yung tubig,” he said.

(It’s painful for us to see people who say they haven’t taken a bath in 3 days because of the water shortage.... We follow a protocol, so we can’t give them more than their ration because we follow orders from above. One of our problems is making them line up because water is such a basic need.) – with reports from Sofia Virtudes, Nicole Del Rosario, Jillian Siervo, and Isabel Lupac/Rappler.com


Advocates push for fair representation of women in politics


WOMEN AND THE ELECTIONS. (From left) Nathalie Verceles sits down with Quezon City Councilor Mayen Juico, Angat Bayi mentor Dr. Carol Sobritchea, Ilocos Sur Councilor Joanne Valdez, and Canadian Ambassador John Holmes for a roundtable on women and the elections. Screenshot from Rappler Talk

MANILA, Philippines – Why aren't women in elected posts pushing women issues forward? Why is there no women's agenda?

These are just among the things discussed on Monday, March 18, in a roundtable  highlighting the importance of forwarding women’s issues in the political arena. 

Dr. Nathalie Africa-Verceles, Director of the UP Center for Women's and Gender Studies (UPCWGS) said that only 21.5% of all elective posts in the Philippines are comprised of women. The UPCWGS recently launched Angat Bayi, a comprehensive political empowerment program.  Its aim is to encourage women to be politically active, develop their capacities and skills on feminist leadership, and carry a clear and strong women’s agenda. (READ: [OPINION] This is what we want for our women)

Patriarchy and politics 

Angat Bayi fellow Mayen Juico said that the low representation of women may be because of the influence of the cultural context of patriarchy in society. “Our society is also still pretty much patriarchal and leadership roles are still very much given or males are looked to for leadership roles,” Juico said. 

Juico, who is also a Quezon City Councilor, cited "political preservation." She said women leaders who are up for re-election hold back from rising and speaking out because they still want to be re-elected. 

In the past years, Filipino feminists have criticized women in elected posts for failing to speak up against the sexist and misogynist remarks made by President Rodrigo Duterte in various occasions

Dr. Carolyn Sobritchea, also a mentor of Angat Bayi, explained that, in a patriarchal society like the Philippines, men are viewed as more capable for leadership roles in a community seeking for a leader who can command with the voice and acquired physical strength.

“I guess we have to change the culture itself and the culture should be gender sensitive and gender responsive,” Dr. Sobritchea said.

This was echoed by Ilocos Sur, Candon City councilor Joanne Valdez who added that the desire for political convenience also complements the patriarchal context of the country. 

"In my case, I filed the anti-catcalling ordinance. The council didn't actually approve it, [saying they] will just include it in our GAD Code. So I think sometimes they don't let you pass because you're not part of the administration. I think that's one of the biggest challenges also but I'm very hopeful that there are few women who really carry women's agenda," Valdez said. 

Verceles also cited that during the 2016 elections only two women won Senate seats, and 28.6% for the House of Representatives. She added that only 23.5% of all governors and 23.2% of all vice governors are women. 

Finding allies, empowering women

Given that there are only a few women in government posts, the panelists agreed that it was important to find allies in both men and women in government posts. 

"We have barangay leaders coming out and taking a more active role being more serious in their participation because they see a leader. In the same manner that I see a leader in my boss. So I see that she's also espousing the same advocacies so somehow you know, the fire doesn't stop burning and it just keeps getting bigger. And you find other allies, you find peers, you find colleagues who will also help you in the same manner that we have found inspiration from each other," Juico said. 

While acknowledging the gaps in pushing for the political empowerment of women in the Philippines, the panelists also said that the fight is not without its share of small victories. 

Canadian Ambassador John Holmes for example noted how the political participation of women in the country "don't seem to be as strong as other parts of the world." 

"Despite the numbers that you mentioned, I am extremely impressed with the Philippines. [There are] many dynamic women that I have met here... And you know I think there's been some positive things that have happened in the 2 years that I've stayed here," Holmes said.

Among the examples he cited was the signing of the Expanded Maternity Leave Act or Republic Act No 11210, giving mothers 3 months of paid leave. 

 With elections coming up, why is it important to think of the empowerment of women? Ambassador Holmes has a simple and straightforward answer.

"It's already 2019." 

Valdez added that it's "quite exciting to be here in a vibrant democracy like the Philippines to be here for this elections."

"I encourage all Filipinos to exercise their rights because as we see around the world, democracy can be under threat. So exercise your right, choose the best candidate and I'm sure that if you look closely many of those best candidates will be women," Valdez said. 

Watch the full video of the roundtable here– Rappler.com

Maria Gabriela Aquino is a Rappler intern. She is a senior high school student at the Mapua University taking the Humanities and Social Sciences track.



19-year-old girl in viral love story dies of cancer


MEMORIES. Maxine Blanco dies of cancer after months of courageously fighting the disease. Couple photos from Gab Santa Ana Facebook page; Maxine's photo from 'Live Life To The Max' Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Maxine Blanco, the 19-year-old girl who inspired netizens for courageously fighting cancer, died a few days after her boyfriend's Facebook post about their love story went viral.

Blanco's mom, Belle, confirmed to Rappler her daughter's death. A page that is dedicated to Blanco, and is managed by her relatives, also announced the news, saying that she "earned her angel wings and [is] slowly going up in heaven" at 3 pm on Saturday, March 23.

Her boyfriend, Gab Santa Ana, has no words but love and gratitude for the girl with whom he spent 6 years.

"Max fought hard and I'm thankful for everything. No more pain, no more suffering. She might [have] left us, but her spirit will always be here. I love you Maxine," he wrote in a Facebook post.

On Wednesday, March 20, Sta Ana moved netizens to tears after sharing their inspiring story, which he referred to as a "roller-coaster ride." As of this posting, it has more than 110,000 shares and 83,000 reactions.

It was in 2018 when Blanco was diagnosed with cancer. According to Santa Ana, it was during that time when he decided to stand firm and never leave his girlfriend.

"Ang daming dumaan na problema sa buhay namin. Bakit ngayon pa ako aalis sa tabi niya?" he said. (We've already encountered a lot of problems. Why will I leave her now?)

Blanco was set to celebrate her 20th birthday next week, but her family earlier decided to cancel the prepared celebration as they wanted to focus on her health.

Blanco's birthday wish? To have her and Santa Ana's birthday to be celebrated together.

A few days before her death, her family said they didn't know why she wished for it, but if given the chance, they would have wanted to make it her most special one.

Blanco's remains lie in state at a chapel at Christ the King Parish, Greenmeadows, Quezon City. – Rappler.com

Medtech board topnotchers: Hard work is key to success



TOP. Far Eastern University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation summa cum laude, Zairah de Leon Monjardin, places first in the March 2019 Medical Technologist Licensure Exam with a rating of 91.10%.

MANILA, Philippines  – Out of the 4,092 examinees in the March 2019 Medical Technologist Board Examination, two aspiring healthcare practitioners topped the exams with a board rating of 91.10%. 

They are John Steward Buenavista Alberto of Cagayan State University Andrews Campus and Zairah de Leon Monjardin of Far Eastern University-Nicanor Reyes Medical Foundation.

While both of them got similar scores, their stories prove that there is no template to acing the board exam. 

Alberto said that he's a happy-go-lucky student who loves to play online games. He admitted that he wasn't an achiever during his elementary and secondary years. (READ: Medtech board exam topnotcher a ‘happy-go-lucky’ online gamer

He didn't care much about his rank in class during his first two years in college and started to become a consistent dean's lister only on his 3rd year. During his review for the board exams, Alberto turned to mobile games to help him cope with stress and pressure, as well as to relax when he could no longer absorb new information.

The case is different with 22-year-old Monjardin. 

Monjardin graduated summa cum laude at the FEU-NRMF and was class valedictorian of Fiore Del Carmelo School in Quezon City in her high school. Unlike Alberto, Monjardin took her board exams review seriously. 

Monjardin shared a tip that helped her study more effectively.

“Make sure na hindi ka puyat 'pag nag-aaral kasi mas effective 'yung nag-aaral na nakatulog ka. Nakakaguilty nga na parang naiisip mo na ang haba ng tulog mo tapos dapat inaral mo na lang pero minsan no regrets. ‘Yun naman po yung tamang tulog lang, hindi 'yung sobrang haba o sobrang ikli kasi po mas na-absorb po 'yung information 'pag well-rested ang brain.” 

(Make sure that you’re not sleepless when studying because getting enough sleep makes studying more effective. You sometimes feel guilty thinking how long you've slept and that you should have spent it studying but sometimes, there are no regrets. Consider getting the right amount of sleep – not too long nor too short, because the brain can absorb more information if it is well-rested.)

 She said that when she found out she had topped the board exam, she was in utter disbelief. 

“Parang totoo ba 'to na binigay sa akin 'to? Kasi I believe na there’s always someone na more hardworking, more deserving, tapos binigay sa akin so ayun, parang sobrang thankful ko na out of thousands yan…na naachieve ko 'yun.”

(Is it really true that this was given to me? Because I believe that there’s always someone who’s more hardworking, more deserving, and then this was given to me so I am very much thankful that out of the thousands [of board exam takers]... I was able to achieve this.)

Common ground

But despite the contrast in the two, both topnotchers showed discipline and determination to achieve success. When Alberto's professors started to notice his potential in class, he said he strove hard for the board exam. 

The same is true with Monjardin, who believes that hardwork is also the key. 

"Pag nag-work hard ka, 'pag pinilit mo talaga ang sarili mo na gusto mong ma-achieve ang something, parang binibigay talaga. (If you work hard, if you force yourself to achieve something you want, it will be given to you)," Monjardin said. 

Monjardin, also an academic scholar, said that she had also faced hardships while studying.

“Part talaga ng pag-aaral yung hardships, hindi mo matatanggal 'yun or maiiwasan sa student life. Ang importante when you’re faced with hardships, hindi ka maggi-give up kaya you do your best.”

(Hardships are part of studying, you can’t remove or avoid them in student life. What’s important is that when you’re faced with hardships, you don’t give up so you do your best.)

Monjardin, who is a resident of Bulacan, said that commuting to Manila every day during her review has become a struggle for her.

“Commuting…every day is physically exhausting...[because of] long distance and traffic.” she said. (READ: Dear politicians, we’ve documented our commute so you don’t have to)

Another struggle is practicing self-control.

“I think my greatest struggle is self control. During the review I took short breaks in between studying if I feel that I'm not doing good anymore....It would  be so much easier to put down what you are studying and just let yourself be carried away, to just let yourself go.”

But she said that she didn't let it discourage her. 

“What's important is to pick yourself up and do better next time,” she added.

‘Make your own future’

For her, learning doesn't end after graduation and after taking the licensure exam. She believes that it’s a lifelong process. Taking the board exam, for example, is just one phase of life. 

“You make your own future. Hindi po 'yun ibibigay sa 'yo. Hindi po 'yan nakukuha nang basta-basta, na isu-spoonfeed lang sa 'yo, like kung gusto mong makuha 'yung gusto mo, you have to work for it.”  

(You make your own future. It’s not something that’s given to you. You don’t get it just like that, that it's just spoonfed. If you really want to achieve what you want, you have to work for it.)  

Meanwhile, Monjardin draws inspiration from her family, saying that her success is made possible by them. 

“I was not alone in this journey. My family was with me every step of the way. I met a lot of people and became dear friends with them and greatly appreciate and am thankful to my professors who taught me well.” – Rappler.com