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UPLB community slams ‘repressive’ ban on unenrolled students in classes


LAGUNA, Philippines – University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB) community raged online on Sunday, March 24, over a memorandum posted on the Facebook page of the University Student Council (USC) banning students from attending classes if they are unenrolled.

In the memo dated March 15, UPLB College of Arts and Sciences Dean Felino Lansigan reminded instructors and professors to follow "university rules and policies regarding the matter." It also noted that Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez Jr instructed the order.  


'Flawed' system

Students of of state universities and colleges (SUCs) no longer need to shell out money during enrollment with the Free Tuition Law. Why then are there many unenrolled students in UPLB? 

According to them, the problem regarding enrollment is less about paying the tuition but more about the "bureaucratic system" of the university. 

USC Vice President Han Norca said that the “flawed” Student Academic Information System (SAIS), which students use to register in their courses, is dependent on the available facilities and resources in the campus – in which the UPLB is lacking. This has caused several backlogs and delays in the overall process of enrollement for the students. (READ: UPLB students hold #JunkSAIS protest on first day of classes)

SAIS, a data management system that seeks to “integrate and harmonize the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure and system across all constituent universities (CUs) of the UP System,” is part of UP President Alfredo Pascual’s P752-million flagship program called eUP.  (READ: 4 things to know about eUP’s SAIS)

Norca told Rappler the slots may not be enough to cater to the number of students enlisting in each subject. He added that it also has a "faulty" tagging system which wrongfully marks some students "delinquent."

“Minsan kasi tina-tag ng SAIS na delinquent ang isang estudyante kahit maganda naman ‘yung record. Ang nangyayari kasi SAIS will prioritize students who have good academic standing,” added Norca. (Sometimes SAIS will tag a student as delinquent even he has good academic record. What will happen is that SAIS will prioritze students who have good academic standing.)

Students who fail to enlist to a subject online have to do it manually – running after the professors, getting papers signed, and submitting the papers to several departments. The process usually takes weeks, or even months, depending on the availability of the admin who will sign the papers.

Attempts for dialogue

According to Charm Maranan, officer-in-charge of the Samahan ng Kabataan para sa Bayan, they kept asking Sanchez for a dialogue with the USC and campus organizations to address the concerns of students, but attempts at dialogue appeared to fail.

“We have requested dialogue with Chancellor Sanchez for the third time. This is despite the efforts of the students to face him, but he is never available to address our concerns,” said Maranan.

Meanwhile, Kirby Vicente, a graduating BA Communication Arts student, fears he may not graduate this semester because he hasn't been able to enroll yet due to lack of one unit on his course load.

“Kulang pa ako ng isang unit which is the manuscript. Lagi na lang dine-deny ‘yung appeal ko for course petition citing no concrete reason,” shared Vicente. (I still lack one unit which is for my manuscript. My appeal for course petition always gets denied citing no concrete reason.)

“Nakakalungkot lang na hindi ako makaka graduate, hindi dahil sa negligence ko but sa negligence ng admin,” added Vicente. (It's just sad that I won't be able to graduate on time not because I'm negligent, but the negligence of the admin.)

Online, students slammed the memo which they describe as "repressive and anti-student."

In a comment, UPLB almunus Reginel Valencia called out Lansigan for the move saying, "Dean Felino, do you really have to be this harsh?"


For Mackie Valenzuela, the UPLB registration system is “faulty at its best,” and readmission policy is "disgusting." “You look down on the students and tag them as 'delinquents' for failing to enroll. Well, in fact, it is YOUR ADMINISTRATION that is delinquent,” wrote Valenzuela.


Asked for her message to Chancellor Sanchez, Maranan said, “Face the students and be accountable. After 5 years, student services and students’ rights and welfare [have been] continuously deteriorating.”

Norca said the UPLB-USC has sent a letter to the University Secretary requesting that the issue on registration be discussed on the next Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, March 28.

Rappler has also reached out to Dean Lansigan and Chancellor Sanchez for comment, but they have yet to respond as of posting.  – Rappler.com

'We hear you': Venice Grand Canal scraps 'floating lanterns' gimmick


MANILA, Philippines – To mark Earth Hour on Saturday, March 30, the Venice Grand Canal mall at McKinley Hill in Taguig City had planned to sell floating lanterns to the public. However, it canceled its plan after drawing flak from netizens and environmental advocates.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, March 28, Venice Grand Canal said: "Yes, we hear you! No lights and no more floating lanterns."

Earlier on Thursday, environmental group The Climate Reality Project Philippines started a campaign demanding that Venice Grand Canal scrap the sale of floating lanterns during Earth Hour. (IN PHOTOS: Philippines observes Earth Hour 2018)

"We perceive this notion to be exactly against what it claims to represent. In a period where environmental protection should be a priority, the potential use of sky lanterns (supposedly to show support for the fight against climate change) will actually be harmful to the environment," the group said.

People found it ironic that the event was poised to generate more trash, when it is meant to be aligned with the global movement against climate change.

Facebook user Malu Gacuma referred to the gimmick as a "floating contradiction," saying that the organizers of the event do not understand what Earth Hour is for.

According to The Climate Reality Project Philippines, "floating lanterns represent the unsustainable, wasteful, and ecologically insensitive practices that have led to environmental degradation." (READ: Fire bureau warns vs use of sky lanterns)

"Despite possible claims of being biodegradable, parts of floating lanterns can actually take more than one year to degrade," the group said.

In 2018, environmental organization Greenpeace also urged people not to use floating lanterns to commemorate Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which claimed thousands of lives in 2013.

While the sale of floating lanterns has been dropped, Venice Grand Canal's Earth Hour event will still push through with the switching off of lights.– Rappler.com

PWDs appeal to COMELEC for ‘barrier-free’ elections


RAMP UP ELECTIONS. Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP) Representative Maureen Mata, National Council on Disability Affairs Director Carmen Reyes-Zubiaga, and Fully Abled Nation Representative Bianca Lapuz hold a press conference on March 27. Photo by Sofia Virtudes

MANILA, Philippines – While there are efforts to make polling centers friendly to all, disability sector representatives said in a press conference on Wednesday, March 27, there’s more that can be done to make the elections accessible.

Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP) representative Maureen Mata lamented the barriers facing the disability sector when it comes to the elections, despite a Commission on Elections (Comelec) mandate to establish Accessible Polling Places (APPs) for people with disabilities (PWDs) through Republic Act 10366.

May kakulangan po talaga sa COMELEC… Kulang na kulang po na parang 1% of the 100% of we’re expecting from the government agency para i-implement ‘yung karapatan namin,” Mata said.

(The COMELEC has lapses… It’s so lacking that we felt only 1% of the 100% that we’re expecting from the government agency to implement our rights.)

Disability sector representatives stressed there are other barriers for PWDs in the elections aside from the physical. These issues include ineffective sensitivity training for those working at the polls and a lack of information dissemination for both PWDs and election officers and volunteers.

Despite the sensitivity training sessions conducted, election officers still show a lack of sensitivity to PWDs.

Carmen Zubiaga, Officer-in-Charge and Director of the National Council for Disability Affairs, recounted how there were also volunteers who showed negligence in their duty to assist PWDs.

Pagbaba sa polling places, ano ang makikita namin? Ang mga volunteers na naka-uniporme pa, nandoon nakatumbok sa isang sulok. Kahit may makitang PWD, hindi tinutulungan, (When we go down to polling places, what do we see? Volunteers in uniform are gathered in one area. Even though they see PWD, they won’t help),” said Zubiaga.

Mata further explained that even the PWDs are not properly informed about how the system should work. While the sector is pleased to see that COMELEC is trying to help PWDs, Mata said, “Kulang pa (it’s still not enough).”

Coordination with other government agencies

The representatives also urged COMELEC to work with other government agencies to make voting precincts more accessible. For instance, the representatives mentioned the Department of Education (DepEd), who could provide temporary or permanent ramps in voting areas situated in schools and educational centers.

Other appeals to government agencies included the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with regard to clearing sidewalks of physical obstructions, and for the Department of Transportation to provide accessible public transportation for voters with disabilities.

Fully Abled Nation representative Bianca Lapuz stressed that other concerned agencies can help make the elections accessible to elections through their corresponding mandate. She added the DepEd can jump in the conversation by providing ramps, as public schools are not under the mandate of Comelec. The DPWH can also allot a budget to make sidewalks PWD-friendly.

So ‘yung may mandate na gumawa niyan, sana makatugon doon sa usapin na accessibility, will be really DepEd and DPWH.(So those with the mandate to do the tasks involved to address issues with accessibility will be really DepEd and DPWH.) That’s why we hope COMELEC can work with DepEd and DPWH,” Lapuz said.

Current conditions

The Asia Foundation conducted a monitoring of public schools last year. The group found some ramps were too steep, while some school entrances with steps had no ramps, and restrooms were inaccessible due to a narrow entrance. Aside from this, they found an elevated room, directly labeled “Priority Lane” with high steps and no ramp at all.

Naintindihan ko ‘yung effort din ng Commission na ilagay nga lahat sa ground floor ‘yung PWD [polling places] pero itong mga very basic concern, nasa ground floor pala pero ‘yung ground floor pala 3 steps pa bago ka makapasok, tapos bababa ka ulit ng 3 steps,” Lapuz said.

(I understand the effort of the Commission to assign PWD [polling places] on the ground floor but these very basic concerns, where [APPs are] at the ground floor but would still take 3 steps to enter, and then you have to go down the 3 steps again.)

Disability sector representatives said inaccessibility has affected the voter turnout for the disability sector. Mata recalled that in the previous elections, voters with disabilities would rather go home than resort to being carried out, for safety reasons.

[Sa] accessibility sa schools talaga, ‘pag may nalaman po nila na nasa second and third floor [ang APPs], either kinakain na lang nila ‘yung kanilang pride kasi hindi talaga sila nagpapabuhat. Delikado po para sa nagbubuhat at the same time sa bubuhatin… ‘Yung iba naman, ang ating mga deaf lalo pang hindi naiintindihan, wala naman pong sesenyas para sa kanila, umuuwi na lamang din,” she explained.

(In school accessibility, when PWDs find out that [the APPs] are at the second and third floor, either they would swallow their pride because they don’t want to be carried. It’s dangerous for the one who would carry and at the same time the PWD. As in the case of others, the deaf wouldn’t understand things, since there’s no one to translate into sign language for them. They would just go home.)

The votes of the PWDs

Lapuz pointed out the need to recognize PWDs as citizens who deserve to enjoy the same right to suffrage as everyone else.

“We want to look at PWDs as voters, not just people that you are giving charity to,” said Lapuz.

Zubiaga also called for a true PWD-inclusive election and pointed out that disability should not stop PWDs from upholding their responsibility as citizens.

Sa eleksyong ito, bigyan nating karapatan ang may mga kapansanan. Dahil ang kapansanan ay hindi hadlang upang ating tuparin ang ating tungkulin at obligasyon bilang mamamayan, at isatinig ang damdamin ng sektor na kami ay kaisa. Dapat kami ay kasali,” Zubiaga said.

(This coming election, let’s give the right to the disabled. Because disability is not a hindrance for us to uphold our responsibility and obligation as citizens, and we should hear the sentiments of the sector, that we are one with you. It is right that we are included.) – Rappler.com

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

Netizens vow to #HoldTheLine as Maria Ressa arrested again



MANILA, Philippines – Netizens slammed the latest arrest of Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa as clear proof of a pattern of harassment and intimidation of the press in the country.

On Friday, March 29, Pasig police served Ressa a warrant of arrest as soon as she deplaned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. The Pasig Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 265 issued the warrant on Thursday, March 28.

The arrest comes over a month after Ressa's first arrest in connection with a cyber libel case filed by the Department of Justice. (READ: Cyber libel charges ‘unfounded’ – Rappler’s Maria Ressa)

Netizens took to Twitter to weigh in on the development.

This is the 7th active court case against Ressa, and the 11th case against Rappler, its directors, and staff since January 2018, when the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered  the revocation of Rappler's business license over alleged violation of nationality restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities.

“This pattern of harassment against Rappler that started in January 2018, when the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order revoking its license, has not stopped,” Rappler said in its statement.

Online, netizens also pointed out how the government was using taxpayers' money to “silence its critics.”

On Twitter, hashtags #HoldTheLine and #DefendPressFreedom quickly trended as netizens slammed Ressa’s arrest.

– Rappler.com 


‘Stand firm, fight for free press:’ UP Diliman community slams arrest of Maria Ressa


Students, together with faculty members, of University of the Philippines-Diliman held a protest action on March 29, at the College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman, condemning the arrest of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa. Photo by Miguel Garcia

MANILA, Philippines – Various student organizations from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD) held a protest action condemning the arrest of Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa on Friday, March 29, over a charge of violating the Anti-Dummy Law.

Pasig police officers served the warrant of arrest when Ressa landed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1. Police officers took Ressa and her lawyer on board their police car.

‘Maneuver to silence truth’

Despite Ressa's posting of bail, the UPD community denounced the arrest saying that it was a maneuver of President Rodrigo Duterte to silence the truth.


Jefferson Losito, chairperson of Union of Students of the Philippines - UPD, expressed his dismay over Ressa’s arrest.

"As they say, a free press is the hallmark of a democracy. However, when media practitioners like Ressa are silenced, it poses threats to our freedom of expression as the expression of dissent causes them to be harassed by the state," Losito said.

"As a future media practitioner, we are called upon to stand firmly and exercise our collective efforts to fight for a free and liberating press. We should use what we learn in our classrooms and apply it to the issues we face as citizens of our country," Losito added.

Rappler is not alone on the receiving end of attacks against the press.

According to College of Mass Communication professor and Bulatlat associate editor Danilo Arao, during the arrest of Ressa, alternative media organizations Bulatlat, Altermidya, and others filed a civil case against two companies and their officers to thwart cyberattacks being waged against their respective media websites. (READ: Alternative media groups file civil case amid cyberattacks)


Arao stressed alternative and mainstream media should work hand in hand in order to defend press freedom from attack.

"Hindi pwedeng magfunction nang mabuti ang peryodismo kung wala ang mga batayang kalayaan tulad ng freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Ganito ang hamon sa atin ng panahon. Kung mananatili tayong tahimik, walang mangyayari sa ating lipunan," Arao said.

(Journalism will not function well if we don't have our basic freedoms like the freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. This is the challenge to us right now. If we will remain silent, nothing will happen to our society.)

Ressa was released Friday afternoon after paying P90,000 ($1,716) bail. (READ: Maria Ressa released on bail, warns vs impact of arrests on business)

This is the 7th active court case against Ressa, and the 11th case overall against Rappler, its directors, and staff since January 2018, when the SEC attempted to shut down the company.

Journalists and other groups also slammed the Duterte administration for its ‘judicial harassment’ after Ressa's arrest. (READ: Journalists, groups decry ‘judicial harassment’ after arrest of Maria Ressa) – Rappler.com 

Josiah Antonio is a Rappler intern. He is a 4th year student at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking BA Philippine Studies, major in Journalism and Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino. 

U.P. Board of Regents: Unenrolled UPLB students can register


DIALOGUE. UP President Danilo Concepcion holds a dialogue on March 28 to address concerns of students from UP Diliman, Manila and Los Baños. Photo by Josiah Antonio/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The University of the Philippines Board of Regents (BOR) has allowed unenrolled UP Los Baños students who have regularly attended classes and fulfilled the necessary requirements to be registered.

The Board of Regents (BOR) relayed its resolution on the late registration issue in a memorandum dated Thursday, March 28, addressed to all chancellors.

It said the coverage of the registration applies to students who were not able to officially enroll for the second semester of the current school year because they have not finish their requirements for Maximum Residency Rule extension, loan extension, or for "reasons other than academic delinquency but who have continuously attended their classes.".

The BOR said these students "shall be considered provisionally enrolled and their enrollment shall be formally regularized, provided, they are able to obtain the extension of the MRR, or of the maturity of their student loans, and the concerned faculty members have certified that they have been attending their classes, except students who are enrolled only for residency as certified by the College Secretary."

The BOR resolution also directed chancellors to conduct dialogues and consultations with their respective constituents. 

Students' victory

The UP community had earlier expressed outrage  over a memo that reiterated university rules on unenrolled UPLB students.

Students from the UP campuses in Diliman, Manila, and Los Baños had earlier help protest actions demanding a dialogue with UPLB Chancellor Fernando Sanchez Jr outside Vinzons Hall on March 28, the same day the BOR met to discuss the late registration issue.

On March 15, UPLB College of Arts and Sciences Dean Felino Lansigan issued a memo reminding instructors and professors to follow "university rules and policies regarding the matter." He issued the memo on instructions of Chancellor Sanchez.

UPLB University Student Councilor Patricia Mayor had presented 452 cases of unenrolled students to the BOR, some of them graduating this semester.  

UP President Danilo Concepcion faced the students during the BOR meeting for a dialogue to address various concerns including the ban of unenrolled students in UPLB.

Fight continues

Although the BOR has approved late registration, Mayor said that the UPLB community should continue to hold Sanchez accountable after banning unenrolled students to go to their classes.  

"Sa kabila ng tagumpay na ito, nariyan pa rin ang laban na masingil at mapanagot ang UPLB admnistration, patuloy natin igigiit sa ating administration na sila ay dapat maging accountable sa fiasco na dulot ng kanilang no late registration policy o ang patuloy na pagdidisaproba ni Chancellor Sanchez sa mga appeals for late registration,” Mayor said.

(Despite this victory, there is a continuint fight  to hold the UPLB Administration accountable. We continue to insist on our administration that they should be accountable to this fiasco caused by the no late registration policy and Sachez's disapproval to the appeals for late registration.)

According to Student Regent Ivy Taroma, the sole student representative in the BOR, without the assertion of the students – from the protest action up to the dialogue with Concepcion – the acceptance of all unenrolled students would not have been possible.

"Sinasalubong natin ang desisyon at pinagpupugayan ang lahat na tumindig at lumaban para dito. Syempre patunay ulit ito na may mga nakakamit tayo sa sama-samang pagkilos," Taroma said.

(We welcomed the decision and we congratulate everyone who stood up and fought for it. This is a testament of what we can achieve through collective action.) – Rappler.com

Josiah Antonio is a Rappler intern. He is a 4th year student at the University of the Philippines Diliman taking BA Philippine Studies major in Journalism and Malikhaing Pagsulat sa Filipino. 

Meet Jek dela Cerna, 1st transwoman pageant queen of Mapua Makati


SLAY. Jek shows off a fierce pageant makeup. Photo by Jek dela Cerna

MANILA, Philippines – What is the true essence of a woman? Is it being able to give birth? Is it defined by beauty, or a deep sense of caring and sweetness? Is it indicated by what you have "down there"?

For 19-year-old Jericho "Jek" dela Cerna, being a woman goes far beyond all of these. A BS Accountancy student of the ETYSBM in Mapua Makati, Dela Cerna was crowned Ms ETYSBM, her department's beauty pageant queen, last January 10. She was the first-ever transgender woman in the whole school to join the tilt.

A transgender is someone whose sex assignment at birth differs with his/her gender identity or expression. In Dela Cerna's case, she was born in a male body, but she fully identifies as a woman.

SHOWSTOPPER. Jek struts her stuff onstage at the Ms ETYSVBM pageant. Photo by Cate Tobias

Inclusivity in pageantry

Before Dela Cerna's win, Mapua's pageants were strict about candidates being "naturally born women/men." Fortunately, Ryan Leonardo, an organizer of the event, adjusted the old policies so they could finally include transgender participants.

Winning the pageant in the Makati campus, while a huge achievement, also led to a second and bigger challenge for Dela Cerna. This meant she had to compete in the next and larger Mapua pageant, Mr and Ms Cardinals, where department winners from both the Makati and Intramuros campuses would face off.

She had actually considered withdrawing from Ms and Ms Cardinals, as she had since received criticism and doubt from her community because she was not a biological female.

Mark Garcia, Dela Cerna's escort-partner in the original pageant, admitted that Dela Cerna had several naysayers.

"May mga naiinis. Bakit raw pinasali si Jek. Hindi daw dapat," said Garcia. (There were people who were pissed. They asked why they allowed Jek to join.They said that wasn't right.)

Nevertheless, Dela Cerna pushed through with the second pageant, furthering her message of gender inclusivity and equal rights for the LGBT to an even larger audience.

"Deserve ko 'to," she said. "Alam ko sa sarili ko na babae ako."(I deserve this. I know in my heart that I am a woman.) It's not just a fight for my department. It's not just to represent Mapua Makati. I am representing the LGBT community of our university."

Dela Cerna ended up not placing in the second pageant, but her presence alone was a triumph in itself.

Battles and victories

When it comes down to it, Dela Cerna's pageant win was nothing compared to the victories she won growing up, being subject to much physical and verbal abuse because of her gender.

"I come from a very religious and conservative family," she shared. "Nu'ng lumalaki ako, pinapa-join talaga ako sa mga religious organizations. One time, pinag-pray over nila ako kasi raw demonyo daw ako, salot daw ako."

(I come from a very religious and conservative family. While I was growing up, I was really made to join religious organizations. One time, members of an organization even prayed over me because they said that I was a demon and a plague.)

Dela Cerna also has battles against herself because of gender dysphoria. Individuals who have this feel strongly that their assigned physical gender does not match with the gender with which they identify.

"Every time I see my genitalia, nandidiri ako sobra. Tapos hindi talaga siya nagfu-function, for urinating lang." (Every time I see my genitalia, I am incredibly disgusted by it. And it doesn't really function properly; it's just for urinating.)

However, she has informed medical professionals and loved ones regarding her state, and is working on her issues.

Support system

Dela Cerna, fortunately, is not alone in her fight. Her mother, for one, had her back and acted as a shield.

"Tanggap naman ni Mommy na transgender ako. Pinagtatanggol niya ako and tanggap niya 'yung boyfriend ko." (My mom accepts that I am transgender. She always defends me and also accepts my boyfriend.)

Her classmates also defend her when she gets into trouble at school.

"One time, reporting namin so corporate attire. We were not allowed to report dahil 'yung suot ko daw hindi panlalaki. Bakit daw ako nakapambabae, sabi ng professor ko," she shared. (One time, we had to do a report so we had to wear corporate attire. We were not allowed to report because I wasn't wearing guy’s clothes. The professor asked why was I wearing women’s clothes.)

Her classmates defended her, explaining that she was a woman to begin with. The day after, her professor sent her a private message, apologizing for the incident.

The LGBT clearly still struggles for acceptance, but Dela Cerna is committed to pushing for her community's rights.

"We should accept people as what they prefer to be," she said. "Acceptance should start not just because it is the 'demand' of society, but because it is a basic right of a human person." - Rappler.com

Ella Aquino is a Rappler intern from Mapua University. 

Iloilo's 'mermaid' women turn beach trash into wearable art


SEAGLASS. Lawigan, San Joaquin native Jen-jen Sargento lays out pieces of seaglass, her favorite material for her jewelry pieces, on a table. Photo by Marrz Capanang

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – It’s become a familiar sight to see tourists leaving bottles by the beach shore for the waves to take, and discarded pieces of plastic and slippers peeking out from the sand.

But on the coast of San Joaquin, the "mermaid" women of Iloilo – humble protectors of the sea in their own right – comb the beach for trash, segregating and picking out materials they can reuse, and later crafting them into small treasures.

In the sleepy coastal town of Lawigan, San Joaquin – a two-and-a-half-hour commute from Iloilo City – a small group of women are contributing to the protection of the environment. They are crafting the trash they’ve collected along their shores into wearable art inspired by the region’s rich marine diversity.

It is no coincidence that their imprint has been named "Kataw," after the merfolk of Visayan lore, the local counterpart of the mythical mermaid, the known guardians of the seas.

The group is part of the artist-led Alima Community, an initiative that seeks to empower marginal groups in rural Iloilo by engaging them in art.

The women artists of Kataw have designed and created vibrant jewelry – from eye-catching earrings to ornate necklaces and bracelets – all inspired by their unique insight and point of view, culled from years of living close to the sea.

They’ve also taken to naming their trinkets after vibrant indigenous marine life in their area – including pakol or triggerfish, and samok or clownfish, among others – as these fishes have served as their muses of sorts.


San Joaquin town has proven to be fertile ground for the endeavor. The town has a string of 15 consecutive marine protected areas (MPAs) along its 25-kilometer stretch of coastline. Each of these MPAs have a two-hectare core “no take” zone where fishing is prohibited and human activity is limited. The local government has also implemented a regulated buffer zone in each of these sanctuaries.

The closest to the homes of the Kataw artists is the Bugnayan Marine Sanctuary, spanning from barangay Lawigan to neighboring Igcadlum.

Ghing Meñeza, 38, a Kataw artist and a long-time resident of seaside Lawigan, shared that her husband used to be one of the caretakers of these MPAs. She added that beach trash has been reduced in the last couple of years due to the efforts of the local government, but pollution along their shores is far from gone.

Ghing revealed that picking up trash while walking along the beach near her home would still yield at least two large plastic bags full of litter in just an hour or two.

CRAFT. Kataw artist Ghing Meñeza sprawls her crafting materials on her bamboo bench before creating her earring pieces. Photo by Marrz Capanang

A former factory worker in Manila, Ghing said that at first she was willing to join Kataw mostly for the additional income. Her husband, now a carpenter, was the only breadwinner in their household back then. But through the initiative, Ghing found a renewed sense of purpose and empowerment.

“I never expected I would be able to come up with the designs people would be able to love and appreciate,” Ghing said in Hiligaynon.

“Seeing the product of my efforts and my hands being worn for the first time was really a proud experience for me. Because of Kataw, I no longer underestimate myself, it has lent me self-confidence I never knew I had deep inside me,” she continued in Hiligaynon.

Ghing’s design named “Sorahan” after the surgeon fish native to San Joaquin waters, is one of the best sellers in the Kataw store. They are stud earrings made of cut-up rubber slippers and discarded rope, with its lively pattern mimicking the fins and undulating lines on the sides of its namesake fish. Meanwhile, her “Samok” takes inspiration from the distinct orange, black, and white colors of the clownfish.

Ghing said that she has already made and sold around 100 pairs of her signature “Sorahan” earrings, with her earnings from Kataw going to milk for her two-year-old child and rice for their household.

“My colorful pieces are motivated by the light that my two children give me,” she said.

“I always think about my children when I create my designs; this is for their welfare. But I’m happy that by persevering for my children, I’m also contributing to saving the environment. I want them to still be able to enjoy the clean beaches of San Joaquin when they grow up,” she said.

Jen-jen Sargento, 23, is the youngest in the group. Kataw has allowed her to explore her innate artistry to beat her own hesitation and anxiety.

“Before Kataw, I was unmotivated. [I] had no real idea what I wanted to do in life,” Jen-jen said in Hiligaynon.

“After joining one of the group’s workshops, I knew I found my place. I learned to explore and express my voice in art – in not just jewelry – but other mediums as well,” she said in Hiligaynon.

Through Kataw, Jen-jen found her creative voice and overcame her rut. With the encouragement of the Alima Community, Jen-jen is now a gallery assistant at Eskinita Art Gallery of Manila-based artist Alfredo Esquillo in Iloilo’s iconic Molo Mansion. She continues creating jewelry pieces in her free time.

Jen-jen shared that when her schedule permits, she still regularly trawls the seaside of her hometown for litter, looking out for sea glass and discarded slippers especially, for use in her wearable art pieces.

Jen-jen’s “Walo-walo,” named after the venomous seasnake, glistens as it evokes the reptile’s bright eyes, incorporating lustrous seaglass and a PET bottle enclosure. The seams are handstitched using discarded plastic cord.

SEAGLASS. Jen-jen's "Walo-walo" named after the venomous seasnake, glistens as it evokes the reptile's bright eyes through lustrous seaglass. Photo by Marrz Capanang


With her “Himbis” earrings, she cuts rubber slippers and paints them to resemble colorful scales.

But arguably, Jen-jen’s most compelling work is her “Ugsad” necklace. Inspired by her interest in mandala designs, she uses seaglass to conjure both the image of a full moon and an awe-inspiring fish eye.

FISH EYE. "Ugsad" inspired by Jen-jen's interest in mandala designs, uses seaglass to conjure up both the image of a full moon and an awe-inspiring fish eye. Photo by Marrz Capanang

Storied pieces

“In a world of mass manufacturing, we are going back to the unique art made by hands. Every piece goes through a slow and intricate journey,” explained spoken word poet and installation artist Kristine Buenavista, one of the founders of Alima Community.

Buenavista explained that their name is derived from the Kinaray-a word for “hand” because each piece of their jewelry is handcrafted, so often no two pieces are alike. She leads the initiative with co-founders Marrz Capanang and Jonn Laserna, both visual artists.

“As our commitment to empower, we immerse in the life of the village to observe the creative process of our artists and to listen and experience their stories. All 3 of us found a deeper meaning in creating together. All 3 of us fell in love with the essence of working closely with ordinary makers as they blossom into empowered artists,” Buenavista said

“In supporting Kataw, you’re not only wearing a beautiful statement piece and helping the environment, you’re wearing a story from the fringes of Iloilo, you’re wearing someone’s journey of self-discovery, you’re wearing the immutable stories of these empowered women,” she added.

Mother of 7 Lala Padrilla, another Kataw artist, had written a poem to explain the inspiration behind her “Dagsa” earrings – made out of driftwood and discarded nets from local fishermen. Lala sells vegetables and calamansi in their town, sometimes vending them on foot, but Kataw has lent a platform for her voice.

“Driftwood seen of little value, trash and debris washed ashore by the ebb and flow of the sea,” goes her poem in from her native Hiligaynon. “But holding you in my hand, there I see your potential. Holding you up, I hope others see too your untold beauty.”

Handmade and “heartmade” in Iloilo, you can support Kataw and check out their women artists’ designs on alimacommunity.com. – Rappler.com


WATCH: What can you do to encourage HIV testing?


MANILA, Philippines – Have you ever been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)?

According to the latest records of the Department of Health (DOH), there were 1,249 confirmed HIV-positive individuals as of January this year. The DOH said 95% of confirmed cases were male and almost half of them were 25 to 34 years old. (READ: Orgies and Tinder: Millennials are having sex, some with a deadly price)

Knowing your HIV status gives you the information you need to stay healthy. But it should not stop there. Encourage everyone to get tested, too.

According to the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), stigma and discrimination remain the greatest barriers for accessing HIV testing in public hospitals and clinics.

What can you do to help? Watch this video. – Rappler.com


Script by Bonz Magsambol | Animation by Nico Villarete

IN PHOTOS: Mural shows there is 'no dress code for rape'


SAFE SPACES. Graffiti artists and student leaders from Metro Manila call for an end to sexual harassment as they unveil a mural in Quiapo, Manila, on March 31, 2019. All photos courtesy of Akbayan

MANILA, Philippines – Capping off the celebration of Women's Month, graffiti artists and student leaders on Sunday, March 31, unveiled a mural in Manila to call for an end to sexual harassment.

Bearing the words "No dress code for rape," the mural is part of a bid to make streets free of sexual harassment, said Imi Espina of Akbayan Youth. (READ:  Curbing sexual harassment in public spaces 'goes beyond policy')

Espina also called for the passage of the Bawal Bastos Bill or the Safe Streets, Public Spaces, and Workplace Act into law. This bill penalizes catcalling, wolf-whistling, leering, stalking, and other forms of sexual harassment that take place in public spaces. (READ: The streets that haunt Filipino women)

"Ensuring that cities are safe spaces shouldn't be optional," said Espina.

At present, the Philippines has the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, but this only covers harassment in the workplace and in schools. (READ: The many faces of sexual harassment in PH)

In a press release, Akbayan Youth said that data from the Manila Police District, UN Women, and the Social Weather Stations showed that in Manila alone, an estimated 140 Filipinos experience sexual harassment every day.

The mural was made by graffiti artists, led by Bacolod City-based Gila Inefable. It is located along one of the jeepney terminals in the Quiapo district in Manila.

– Rappler.com

6 Filipinos on #TheLeaderIWant: Honest, empathetic, not corrupt


MANILA, Philippines – As local candidates for the midterm elections started campaigning last Friday, March 29, Rappler went around different communities to ask people about the qualities of a leader they want to elect. (READ: Local campaigns start: Duterte, ex-mayor, sets the tone for 2019 polls)

Local and national candidates showed off their best qualities, presented their platforms and some brought popular celebrities to encourage voters to support them. (READ: IN PHOTOS: Stars at the 2019 local campaign kickoff)

But what do voters look for in a candidate? We asked 6 who readily gave their answers.


When asked this question, many of them cited empathy as an important trait. 

College student Miguel Louie De Guzman said that more than having a leader who knows and understands the woes of ordinary people, he said that the country needs someone who stands for and champions the plight of Filipinos.

“Kasi marami sa ating mga kandidato at opisyal, alam at nauunawaan ang pinagdadaanan natin pero do they stand with us? Kaya mahalagang nakalubog sa masa at sa pang-araw-araw na danas ang mga leaders natin dahil sa ganitong paraan lamang nila tunay na matutugunan at maipapanalo ang laban ng mga Pilipino.”

(Most of our [government] officials and candidates just know and understand what we're going through, but do they stand with us? That's why it's important that our leaders also experience the daily struggles of the masses. This is the only way they can be truly responsive and help win the fight of Filipinos.)

Meanwhile, street vendor Delio Suarez hopes for a leader who is considerate to vendors like him and who understands their struggles. Suarez tries to make ends meet with the small money he earns from selling bottled water and cigarettes to passersby and car passengers along Shaw Boulevard in Pasig City.

“Ang katangian ng isang lider, yung magpatupad ng mga batas na [ipinapatupad] nila na nasa tama. Tulad ng hanap-buhay naming ito, eh bawal 'di ba? Sana maunawaan nila kami na, eh wala naman kaming pinag-aralan na makakuha kami ng magandang trabaho. Sana maunawaan kami na payagan na lang kaming magtinda dito, sana hindi na kami hinuhuli.”

(A good characteristic of a leader is someone who makes law for the greater good. [A good leader is] one who understands vendors. I wish they’d understand us, we were not able to finish school and get a better-paying job. I wish they’d understand us and allow us to sell here. I wish they’d stop apprehending us.) 

Streetfood vendor Rose Aniban, 30, shared the same sentiment. She said that a leader is someone who knows how to engage with and reach out to his constituents, and one who is not corrupt.

“Syempre 'yung mabait, 'yung madaling lapitan kung nangangailangan ka, saka 'yung hindi corrupt," said Aniban. (Of course [a good leader is] one who is kind, one whom we can easily reach out to when we need help, and one who is not corrupt.)

'Honesty still the best policy'

Contrary to what some politicians claim, honesty of a candidate is still valued for a leader. (READ: Sara Duterte: All candidates lie, honesty not an issue)

Pasig City traffic enforcer Rex San Agustin said he wants leaders who keep their word. “Kailangan kung ano sinabi nila, tuparin nila," said San Agustin. 

Agustin added that he also wants a leader who will address the health care issues of the poor. "Para ‘yung mga mahihirap, matugunan ‘yung mga babayaran sa ospital,” he said. (So the poor can afford to pay their hospital bills.) 

Construction painter Delio Generosa said he wants a leader who will address employment issues, especially for manual laborers like him. More importantly, he would like to see genuine kindness in a leader – one who can identify with his constituents.

More than being honest, pro-people and law-abiding, Filipinos also look for a faithful and God-fearing leader.

Fr Glenn Andrei Baes, OSJ said that he wants a leader who is God-fearing, with a good conscience and is prudent both in words and actions. He also said that a leader must stand for himself and fulfill all the promises he made and not just do what is convenient for him.

What about you? What kind of leader would you vote for? – with reports from Isabel Lupac, Maria Gabriela Aquino and Sofia Virtudes/Rappler.com 

Student representatives slam ‘weaponization of the law’ to silence critics


PROTEST. KAISA UP stages a torch rally against the recent arrest of Maria Ressa, and to call out the false promises of President Rodrigo Duterte to the people at the Palma Hall on April 2. All photos by Maria Tan/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Prompted by the recent arrest of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa over an anti-dummy law charge, students slammed the Duterte administration’s acts to shut down critics in a torch rally at the Palma Hall, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, on Tuesday, April 2.

UP political party Nagkakaisang Iskolar para sa Pamantasan at Sambayanan (KAISA), along with other student representatives, condemned the aggressions done by the government to silence and harass journalists.

“In an administration that promised change of life for Filipino families, and (to) win the ‘war on drugs,’ big-time drug lords have yet to be arrested and much less convicted, but the press who are doing their job as watchdogs of the government are being harassed and silenced,” said Ceiz Alejandro, a representative from the UP College of Home Economics Student Council.

“The intentions of this administration are clear: to coddle the criminals, silence the critics and the truth,” she added.

 Alejandro maintained attacks on the media thinly veiled in a barrage of cases and complaints show that the law is being weaponized.

 “When law is administered with an unequal hand, titigil tayo sa pag uusap na ito ay tungkol sa rule of law at tatawagin natin ito (let's stop saying this is about rule of law and call it) for what it really is: the weaponization of law and the perversion of justice,” she said.

UP School of Economics representative Louise Faraon emphasized the role journalists play in exposing the realities of the Philippines and the current administration. She assured that despite attempts to silence critics, the youth will continue to stand with and fight for journalists to speak truth to power.

Sila (media) yung nag e-expose talaga ng katotohanan sa tunay na nangyayari sa ating administrasyon, at kung paano binubusabos ni Duterte ang karapatan ng mga iskolar ng bayan at ng bawat mamamayang Pilipino,” said Faraon.

(They (the media) expose the truth about what’s happening in the administration and how Duterte abuses the rights of the nation’s scholars and the Filipinos.)

UP student representatives emphasized how the acts of the current administration trickle down to other sectors of society.

They pointed out the increased burden faced by Filipinos due to the government’s push on certain policies and projects including the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) act and the lapses in the implementation of the free tuition law.

Shara Mae Landicho, former KAISA UP chairperson, punctuated the importance of choosing government leaders and actively participating in the upcoming elections to lessen the struggles of marginalized sectors.

Ang boses ng bawat kabataan ay isang malaking pahayag kung ano bang klaseng lipunan ang gusto nating tunguhin,” she said.

(The voice of the youth is a big statement about what kind of society we are aiming for.)

Below are some of the photos of the protest at the Palma Hall in UP Diliman:

 Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

 Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

Photo by Maria Tan/Rappler

– Rappler.com

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

[Right of Way] Visibility is everything: Motorcycle tail lights aren't optional


MANILA, Philippines – There is a significant number of motorcycle crashes on the roads of Metro Manila. A key factor would be visibility, with some motorcyclists and tricycles not adhering to adequate visibility measures.

Road safety advocate Vince Lazatin goes out on the streets to gauge how many of the two-wheeled vehicles adhere to proper lighting and visibility practices.– Rappler.com

How a sniper’s bullet shut down a slum champion


AT WORK. Crisell Beltran works in their barangay's state-of-the-art monitoring center at Bagong Silangan. Photo by Arla Fontamillas

In her book, The Durable Slum, Liza Weinstein points to how informal settlements are often able to survive natural disasters and city-state attempts to dismantle them. What is not often articulated in stories of slum resilience are the unsung champions who work fearlessly and tirelessly to improve the lives of residents and ensure their safety during and after disasters.

Crisell Beltran, the chairperson of Barangay Bagong Silangan, murdered by snipers on January 30 of this year, was one such unsung hero.

We met Beltran on August 22, 2018, during fieldwork in Metro Manila. She was a petite woman with bright eyes and a soft demeanor. She smiled through most of our conversations but a few times seemed stern when talking about disaster preparedness and her vision for transforming her community.

INTERVIEW. One of the writers interviews Crisell Beltran during the former's field research in Manila in August 2018. Photo by Arla Fontamillas

Beltran was born and raised in the slums of Bagong Silangan, a relocation area for informal settlers from downtown San Mateo in the province of Rizal. She had her education in the same barangay and later obtained a degree in Mass Communication from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Beltran described her rise to local politics as a “personal calling.” She said, “I feel it’s a personal responsibility to be the leader.”

Beltran was also a political activist, a grassroots organizer, and a change agent who transformed Bagong Silangan village from one of the dirtiest and most notorious slums in Metro Manila to one of the cleanest and relatively safest places to live, work, and play. In 2018, Bagong Silangan, ranked 6th in safety and cleanliness out of 142 barangays in Quezon City. The first 5 were rich subdivisions such as Blue Ridge.

During Beltran’s 8 years as barangay chairperson, Barangay Bagong Silangan became what Catherine Brinkley described as an “opportunity of the commons” – a place where the right of access to economic, political, cultural, and social goods were provided and expanded to a variety of people, especially to poor and marginalized women.

Beltran employed several low-income earners and ensured they were paid a decent wage – about P3,900 to P5,300 a month, which is twice as much as what a typical barangay worker normally receives. She also implemented childcare programs, health services, street cleaning initiatives, multi-purpose halls, basketball courts, and disaster preparedness and response projects.

Bagong Silangan’s hazard monitoring and disaster response program could rival those in industrialized nations. It included state-of-the-art CCTV monitoring and early warning systems, rescue vehicles, emergency stockpiles (plus kits for babies and children), and a dedicated evacuation team.  

Describing how vulnerable her community is, Beltran said: “During [typhoon] Ondoy in 2009, around 200 people died in this barangay. I was not the barangay captain yet. But since I came into this position, no one has died because we are very persistent. We do not mind if we get wet. [The people of Bagong Silangan] are my children and it is my responsibility to get them out of the vulnerable condition.”

This statement speaks to Beltran’s sense of responsibility as a leader and also reflects her passion and motherly affection for her community.

In an era when most politicians use their office for personal aggrandizement, Beltran stood out for transparency and accountability. She believed politicians should serve the people and political gains should be redirected into community prosperity.

“You need to serve properly with sincerity and love, not because of religion or politics but because you love the people. If there is no love, everything is meaningless. There’s also God who guides you,” Beltran said responding to questions about what influences her as a person and a leader.

Beltran believed in building bridges, not walls. She did not see the need to have an entourage of security officers around her. This was later exploited by the 4 gunmen who shot several bullets that killed Beltran and her driver on January 30, 2019.

She was 47 years old. She left behind 3 children and 3 grandchildren. The reason for Beltran’s murder is yet to be uncovered, although media speculations suggest that it may be politically motivated. 

The mayor of Quezon City offered P5 million for information leading to the identification of Beltran’s killers. On February 3, the 4 gunmen who shot Beltran were caught but the public has yet to know the motive of the murder or its mastermind.

Too many unsung champions in the Philippines die before they can reach their full potential. Beltran was running for Congress as a representative of Quezon City’s 2nd District, which has a huge voting population.  If given the chance, she could have done more to transform the lives of these poor communities.

Impunity must not be tolerated. We demand proper investigation into Beltran’s murder. Her death and those of other unsung heroes are a direct assault on human rights and political freedom of every Filipino.

As the 2019 election approaches, people must not give in to cynicism and apathy but instead engage with power to ensure that peace and justice prevail – beginning with Beltran and the vast community of slum dwellers she passionately served. – Rappler.com

Jola Ajibade is an Assistant Professor at Portland State University, Oregon. Her research focuses on the politics of climate change adaptation, resilience planning, and slum transformation.

Arla Fontamillas is a researcher and independent consultant. Her interests include community transformation and using social media as a tool for building solidarity economies.

Rated PG: This is why I wished my parents cared


Shutterstock images

I went to see my psychiatrist the day after my birthday this year. I guess it bears emphasizing that I have been making such trips since my ex-partner and I broke up. The whole experience tore me apart and left me in pieces. I’m ashamed to admit that I almost allowed it to end the best of me. I knew I had to throw myself a lifeline because no one else was going to.

That was in the past. This time around, I made the visit over an entirely different matter.

I’ve been reading Love Factually: The Science of Who, How & Why We Love by Laura Mucha. Mucha explains how relationships are complex and how, at the bare minimum, our relationship with our parents affects the personal ones we have with ourselves and others. She builds her hypothesis on the Attachment Theory and cites studies on the field. I realized that I am messed up because I do not have a good relationship with my parents.

I have not yet revisited or addressed the psychological trauma my childhood caused. Growing up, I’ve faced so many challenges, and some I can still remember vividly up to this day. (READ: The cruelty of mental illness)

In fourth grade, I was accused of misplacing an important cassette tape my Music, Arts, Physical Education, and Health (MAPEH) teacher owned. I remember being asked to report the incident to her by classmates who were behind what happened. The next thing I knew, I was accused of being the culprit. I am unsure why I did not clarify things myself while that was happening. All I know is I have lived with the trauma and shame it caused. (READ: [OPINION] Shame is not my name)

Freshman year in high school, I was accused of malversation of, and stealing from, the class fund. I was the class facilitator for the first quarter only. Fast forward to the last days of the school term that year, our adviser addressed the class over the fund and noted the sheet was nowhere near balanced. I can’t remember how it got to the situation but I was crowned the class thief.

There were other incidents where I got abused, manipulated, accused, and misunderstood at school, and I thought I was okay and moving on. I thought allowing and warranting myself a new start would help me get by. I guess I’m a true escapist.

I didn’t know the psychology behind repressing memories until I reached college. My psychiatrist told me that’s what happened – I pushed the memories at the back of my mind, and they are now manifesting through immense anxiety attacks and breakdowns. I was diagnosed with clinical depression late last year. (READ: How these milllennials are fighting mental illness with art, Scripture)

I blame myself for not speaking up for myself but I didn’t know how to do that back then. I blame my parents because they did not teach me how to fight early on and to defend myself when deemed necessary. Now you can see how I am capable of debating, having my thoughts be heard, and being vocal both in person and on social media. Who I was back then was nowhere near who I am now.

I felt I could have done more, be more, but the very institutions that were supposed to help me get there already discredited me and saw me as insignificant. In the process, I’ve lost self-confidence even before I gained a modicum of it.

I don’t think people see me as someone credible, someone worthy of attention for his skills, knowledge, talent, and achievements. I feel like I was robbed that opportunity and it has left me trying relentlessly to prove myself to people in a bid to get their approval.

I guess you could say my experiences can corroborate Mucha’s hypothesis that our relationship with our parents greatly impacts the way we live our lives. It does because it serves as a foundation in making choices as we grow up – irrespective of whether we are aware of making those choices or not.

Growing up, I’ve always been afraid of my parents, my father for the most part. I’m thankful he disciplined me the traditional Filipino way because it put me on track. But at the same time, without proper explanation why he did those acts of punishment, he effectively closed the door for me to open up and, by extension, damaged my mental and emotional health.

Most of the time, I wish I had my parents’ support back then when these things were happening to me. It would have made all the difference in the world. But knowing my parents, even if I told them, they’d deadpan everything behind the words, “Do not mind them,” which is not going to make a whole lot of difference.

I am living a life with little to no self-confidence – always anxious and doubting every step I take. A voice on loudspeaker inside my head wishes things were completely different. I wonder what I would have become and what greatness I would have already achieved at this point in my life. I know it borders on narcissism but who can blame me when all of us harbor the same kind of thought, right?  – Rappler.com

Juseph Elas is a contributor at Thought Catalog and Spill Words by night, and media monitor for a media intelligence agency by day. He's the author of self-published books Catching Feelings and Between the Lines: The Visual Diary.


Second mother's love: Teacher buys togas for poor students


SECOND MOTHER. Elementary teacher Virgita Diaz from Malungon, Sarangani, buys 15 sets of graduation togas for her students who could not afford one on their own. Photo by Cris Cordero

MANILA, Philippines – For her students, Virgita Diaz has a heart big enough for a class of 51, and more.

A heartwarming photo of Virgita Diaz buying graduation togas for her grade 6 students went viral on Friday, March 29. She is a teacher from Kiblat Elementary School in Sarangani.

After learning that 18 of her students had no togas and 41 others had no graduation caps for their Moving Up Ceremony on Tuesday, April 2, Diaz decided to do something about it. She shopped for togas in General Santos City, an hour ride from Kiblat.

"I bought togas for them because I didn't want Tuesday to come with the kids not having anything to wear. My students commonly come from broken families. Some were abandoned by their parents. That's usually the story of the kids I bought togas for. They've really been through a lot," Diaz told Rappler in Filipino.

The togas cost her around P7,600 ($146), more than her monthly take-home pay of P6,600 ($127). Her salary is P21,000 ($403) without loans.

"Ang naisip ko, bahala na walang matira sa akin, ang importante maibigay ko 'yung pangangailangan ng mga bata," she added. (I thought to myself, it doesn't matter if I have nothing left for myself, as long as I can provide for the kids.)

The touching gesture made one of her students emotional, Diaz said.

"Umiyak daw siya, kasi sabi niya sa 'kin, hindi bale daw na wala siyang nanay, wala siyang tatay. Ang importante, may teacher siya na nagmamahal sa kanya," Diaz said. (He cried, because he told me it didn't matter if he didn't have a mother or a father. What mattered was that he had a teacher who truly loves him.)

Kiblat, a remote community in Malungon, Sarangani Province, is home to families whose primary source of income is farming. Often, these families barely make ends meet with their unstable income.

More than meets the eye

Diaz's Facebook post has gotten over 28,000 reactions and 14,000 shares as of posting time, with netizens commending Diaz for her generosity.

But there's more to her story than meets the eye.

Knowing how tough life is for her students, Diaz has made it her life's mission to provide for them even in small ways, whenever she can. She recalled how their classroom didn't have its own restroom, which led to her "sacrificing" her salary to have restrooms built for her pupils.

"Ang importante sa akin, 'yung paano ko magampanan 'yung papel ko bilang pangalawang magulang. Hindi lamang sa pagtuturo ang papel ko bilang teacher," an emotional Diaz said. (What's important to me is how I can fulfill my responsibility as their second mother. My role as a teacher doesn't end in teaching.)

Diaz also recounted how an ice cream vendor would often pass by their classroom. She could tell how badly the class wanted ice cream but couldn't afford to buy for themselves. "Ma'am, hindi pa kami nakakain ng ice cream (Ma'am, we've never had ice cream)," the students would tell her. 

"Kahit kaunti lang pera ko, kinukuha ko pa sa bag ko para mabilhan at makakain sila ng ice cream," Diaz said. (Despite the little money I have, I'd still get it from my bag just to buy and have them eat ice cream.)

She stressed the need for teachers to love their students unconditionally.

"Kahit gaano kalaki 'yung gastos, ang importante noon ay makatapos sila sa pag-aaral at makapaghanap ng trabaho. Kasi balang araw, magiging future builder of our community 'yung mga bata na 'yan,” Diaz added. (However expensive it is, what matters is that they finish school and find a job. Because they are the future builders of our community, those kids.)

Public school teachers have long called for salary increase for them. In 2018, the Department of Budget and Management announced that no budget was allocated for teachers' salary hike. The department said however that an increase should be expected this year. (READ: You want good quality teachers? Pay them right - World Bank expert)Rappler.com

*$1 = P52.09

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

#TheLeaderIWant: What do you look for in a candidate?


Manila, Philippines – What kind of leader do you want for the Philippines, for your towns and cities?

Since the start of the campaign period, candidates for the 2019 midterm elections have been going around the country to garner the support of voters. (READ: 2019 midterm elections: Over 18,000 posts up for grabs)

With just a few weeks left before the May 2019 polls, we want to know how you define #TheLeaderIWant. Are you like these 6 Filipinos who describe their ideal leader as honest, empathetic, and not corrupt?

MovePH – Rappler’s civic engagement arm – hopes to capture what Filipinos describe as their ideal senator, governor, congressman, mayor. Help us amplify their voices.

Join the campaign and show #TheLeaderIWant through your photos or videos.

Here’s how:

Step 1: Talk to different people

Talk to thought leaders, students, people from different professions and backgrounds, even to strangers you see on the street, and ask one main question: What kind of leader will you vote for?

These are the people whose stories may shed light on issues and challenges that the everyday Filipino faces. 

Record your interview.

Make sure to list down important details to get to know your subject better: their name, age, areas, and profession.

Step 2: Take photos

Capture the story of the everyday Filipino using your camera or phone.

Take a horizontal photo of your subject in a well-lit environment or in a place that says something about your interviewee’s lifestyle. Take note:  your subjects don’t need to smile or look at the camera.

Step 3: Submit

You can send the photos, videos, captions, posters, artworks, and other relevant information to move.ph@rappler.com. Please put #TheLeaderIWant in the subject line of your email.

You can also send your entries via Facebook or Twitter. When submitting via social media, remember to use #TheLeaderIWant and make your post public. – Rappler.com

Rappler trains citizen journalists ahead of 2019 elections


ALL SET. Rappler Movers and the MovePH community managers wrap up a 3-day Citizen Journalism Summit at the Rappler HQ in Pasig City on April 7, 2019. All photos by Abby Lupac/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Twenty citizen journalists from across the Philippines gathered for a citizen journalism training organized by Rappler's civic engagement arm, MovePH, from April 5 to 7.

Called Rappler Movers, the participants are campus journalists, youth leaders, advocates, and activists from partner campus publications and school organizations. They were trained by Rappler editors, reporters, and producers on news writing, covering local politics, mobile photography and videography, social media reporting, and fact-checking, among others.

On the first day of the training, managing editor Glenda Gloria spoke about the thrust of #PHVote, Rappler's election coverage. She reminded participants to “be on guard and vigilant towards false information that will affect voting, campaigns, public decisions on who will win.”

WELCOME. Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria orients citizen journalists on #PHVote, Rappler’s election coverage.

Rappler’s community managers, themselves citizen journalists during the 2016 elections, shared their key learnings and experiences.

"Being a Mover doesn’t just happen for a short span of time, like when we’re expecting important or significant events. It’s a state of being called into action and a state of believing that ripples of change is possible," shared by Jene-Anne Pangue, a Tacloban Mover since 2014 until she joined Rappler as community and civic engagement associate.

Aside from the getting technical training, Movers were asked about the issues that matter to their communities during the brainstorming and story conference sessions.

"I realized that today is the time to take a stand, to go beyond writing just to win [in competitions]. The very word the marked in my mind and heart is to 'write to call for action,' and that alone becomes my conviction as a Mover. I will write because this is what I am called to do," Rhoda Mae Ebad of Sarangani said. 

The Movers will cover the local polls in the cities of Baguio, Tuguegarao, Naga, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cebu, Tacloban, Calbayog, Cagayan de Oro, and Dipolog, and the provinces of Pampanga, Laguna, Leyte, Bukidnon, and Sarangani.

"I once saw [being from the province and away from Manila] as a disadvantage, but with MovePH and the Movers in the regions, stories that may have slipped the eyes of mainstream media have the potential to reach farther and wider than their usual circles of influence," said Rhick Lars Vladimer Albay of Iloilo.

BRAINSTORMING. Movers from Mindanao discuss the biggest issues in each of their provinces.

For Janric Bayao of Baguio, being a Mover means playing a fulfilling role. 

"Nagkakaroon kami ng role sa community.... Andito kaming handang maglingkod.... Kahit citizen journalist pa lang kami, napaka-fulfilling na mabigyan ng ganitong responsibility at ng ganitong prestige para mapaglingkuran ang taong bayan," Bayao said. 

(We have a role in the community.... We are here, ready to serve. Even though we're still citizen journalists, it's very fulfulling to be given such responsibility and prestige to serve the public.) 

Movers played an active role in the coverage of the 2016 and 2013 elections as well. 

"As a second-timer, I’m looking forward to hearing more from the other communities and on how we could bridge the online and offline community…. I’m excited to see how the communities will seize the elections, our democracy," said Bacolod's Claudia Gancayco, who has been a Mover since 2016. 

Here are other photos from the 3-day training: 

POWERFUL PLATFORMS. Social media producer Margie de Leon talks about responsible use of social media.

COMMUNITY'S VOICE. Rappler news editor Miriam Grace Go says coverage of local elections is just the beginning; monitoring governance comes after.




U.P. history teachers urge Filipinos to defend PH from China


SOVEREIGNTY. Different groups march towards the Chinese Consulate in Makati to protest the presence of China in the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Photo by Alecs Ongcal/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of History of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman reminded Filipinos to assert Philippine sovereignty and enforce the Hague ruling that invalidated China's claim over the West Philippine Sea.

In commemoration of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) on Tuesday, April 9, the department released a statement decrying the inaction of the Duterte administration on China's intrusion in Philippine waters.

"Dahil sa kawalang-tugon ng administrasyong Duterte, nabubuo ang naratibong nagsasabing walang magagawa ang Pilipinas sa harap ng isang makapangyarihang bansa tulad ng Tsina. Taliwas ang kaisipang ito sa mahabang kasaysayan ng pagtatanggol sa ating kalayaan," said the UP Department of History.

(Because of the lack of response from the Duterte administration, there is a narrative being formed that the Philippines cannot do anything in the face of a powerful country like China. This notion is contradictory to the long history of defending our freedom.)


The department called on the government to assert Philippine independence based on the 1987 Constitution, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the landmark ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague.

"Bilang mga guro ng kasaysayan, naniniwala kami na ang panghihimasok ng mga barkong Tsino sa bansa ay paglabag sa ating Saligang Batas at pagyurak sa alaala ng ating mga bayani," it said.

(As history teachers, we believe that the intrusion of Chinese vessels in the country is a violation of our Constitution and a degradation of the memory of our heroes.)

"Tahasang tinututulan ng UP Departamento ng Kasaysayan ang naratibong hindi nakabatay sa ating kolektibong karanasang pangkasaysayan," added the department.

(The UP Department of History strongly objects to narratives that aren't based on our collective experiences in history.)

The department remembered the bravery of the Filipinos who battled foreign invaders during World War II.

Araw ng Kagitingan marks the annual commemoration of the Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942, when Filipino and American soldiers surrendered after fighting invading Japanese forces. (READ: FAST FACTS: Araw ng Kagitingan)

"Malaking bahagi ng kasaysayan ang pakikibaka para sa kasarinlan, lalo na ang pagtatanggol sa integridad ng pambansang teritoryo," the department said.

(A big part of our history is fighting for independence, especially when it comes to defending our national territory.)

The department pointed out how decades after the Fall of Bataan, the nation faces yet another challenge to defend its territory.

"Higit pitong dekada na ang lumipas, muling hinahamon ang bayan na manindigan.... Itakwil ang kultura ng kaduwagan sa usapin ng pambansang teritoryo!" (After more than 7 decades, the nation is once again being dared to stand firm.... Reject the culture of cowardice in matters of national territory!) – Rappler.com

Tea Time with Vince and Frank: Will the motorcycle double plate law help solve riding-in-tandem crimes?


MANILA, Philippines – Before President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the suspension of the implementation of the motorcycle doble plaka (double plate) law, the Philippine National Police (PNP) pushed for it with much gusto

PNP Chief General Oscar Albayalde, a motorcycle rider himself, said doble plaka is necessary and not discriminatory, contrary to what motorcycle riders have been protesting.

But should it have been suggested in the first place? Are there better solutions than doble plaka?

Watch this episode of Tea Time with Right of Way host Vince Lazatin and VISOR motoring writer Frank Schuengel where they discuss this issue. – Rappler.com