March 15, 2020

Manila -- Filipinos woke up to an unusually quiet Sunday on March 15 as Metro Manila started its first day on “community quarantine,” the government’s lockdown of the capital as a precautionary move against Covid-19 or the coronavirus disease that has multiplied from six to 111 cases in one week, and six deaths.

For the first time, Metro Manila streets, which regularly see families going to Sunday mass, were deserted as Catholic churches canceled masses and people stayed home after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced in a nationally televised address two days earlier a sweeping lockdown and ordered a stop to domestic travel  on sea, air and land to contain the disease.

Duterte’s lockdown order is from March 15 to April 14, 2020, a month-long stop in domestic travel as well as orders to stay home, for companies and offices to adopt the work-from-home policy, if applicable, observance of preventive health practices such as frequent hand washing, and “social distancing” or avoidi...

January 18, 2020

Taal, Batangas —  A journalist’s most important weapon right now is the N95 mask, not so much the pen or voice recorder. Maybe of equal importance is the mobile phone, which can do a lot of things for you. But without a mask, you won't be able to last 20 minutes covering the Taal volcano eruption. Thus the price of this extremely in-demand item has shot up from P30 to as high as P500 a piece. Some unscrupulous businessmen know how to capitalize on a calamity.

I came to Batangas three days after Taal volcano erupted. But even after the volcano's wrath settled quite a bit, I still have to wear a mask because the sulfuric stench from the volcano and ashfall linger in the air.

As early as March 2019, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology issued alert warning No. 1 on Taal as instruments recorded unusual activity inside the volcano. But many took the warning for granted.

Before noon on Jan. 12, Taal suddenly erupted, spewing out thick smoke, creating thunder-like sou...

January 14, 2020

                                                                 Taal volcano began erupting on Sunday. Photo courtesy of GMA News Network

                  

Manila — Jan. 12 was a quiet Sunday for Filipinos still reeling from the busy Christmas holidays, but at past 2 in the afternoon, they were shaken by the eruption of Taal Volcano, one of the Philippines’ most active volcanoes about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of the country’s capital city Manila in the island of Luzon.

Images in the news and in social media showed thick, dark plumes of ash and steam blowing up from the volcano that later also showed fiery lava flowing from its vent. The eruption sent clouds of ash up to nine miles (14 kilometers) into the air, according to the Philippine I...

                                                         Taal's eruption continues. Photos courtesy of gmanetwork.com

Manila-- The Philippine Navy (PN) is readying 15 disaster response and rescue teams in Manila and Cavite for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in areas affected by the phreatic explosion of Taal Volcano in Batangas, according to the Philippine News Agency.

On Sunday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) raised Alert Level 4 over Taal Volcano, which means “hazardous eruption is possible within days.”

"The public is reminded that the main crater should be strictly off limits because sudden steam explosions can occur and high concentrations of lethal volcanic gases can be released," Phivolcs  said. "In addition, communities around the Taal Lakeshore are advised to take precautionary mea...

June 9, 2019

Historian Daniel Immerwahr’s look at the painful history

between the US and its former colony, the Philippines

Gen. Douglas MacArthur wades ashore during initial landings at Leyte, Philippine. File photo from Wikimedia Commons

 Northwestern University professor Daniel Immerwahr said a long-ago research trip to Manila set him on a course leading to his new book, “How to Hide an Empire,” which examines how the U.S. came to possess islands, atolls and other territories far from the conventionally taught 48 state U.S. mainland. The Philippines, which gained independence in 1946, suffered a good deal under the American flag, including what Immerwahr described as the “bloodiest thing that ever happens on U.S. soil” during World War II.

“It’s not that I hadn’t known that the Philippines had been a colony of the United

States,” Immerwahr said. “I knew that perfectly well. But something about being there made a difference. It was something like reading the lyrics and hearing the music and suddenly...

May 16, 2019

Another former actor-turned-politician has stolen the show and injected the spark of change into Philippines politics

In Manila’s most densely-populated and poorest district of Tondo the fight for the mayor of the city is a loud one. For 10 hours, voters line the halls of Manuel L. Quezon Elementary School in the middle of the district. Hundreds of voters will have their say in the Philippines’ midterm elections, electing senators, congressional members and local representatives. But in this schoolyard, it’s all about the Mayor of Manila.

Francisco Domagoso, a 44-year-old better known as Isko Moreno, passed through the gates bright and early to cast his vote. Into the blindingly sunny afternoon, children accompanying their parents and living nearby will shout his name and wave fan-shaped hand-outs emblazoned with his face. By evening he will have beaten out two former bosses to become the 27th mayor of the City of Manila.

One is a huge scalp. Incumbent mayor Joseph Estrada, 82, was infamo...

January 31, 2019

Manila— If there's one thing that most Filipinos put up with under the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, it's his jokes and profanities that have shocked them from day one of the campaign period to the May 2016 presidential elections that he won. And up to this day.

 His recent graphic anecdote about molesting their housemaid upset Filipinos anew, and his offensive stories don't stop, even when, in early January, he acknowledged his rudeness and seemed to have apologized, but not without giving an excuse.

“I hope I have not offended anybody by my strong words or my jokes,” journalists quoted him as telling a provincial audience. While saying he was trying to “push the limits of civility,” Duterte reasoned out that he intentionally uses harsh words to attack those who had been unfairly criticizing him even before he became president. "I am deliberately being rude because they have been rude to me even during the campaign period," Duterte said.

Journalist Ellen Tordesillas, editor of...

September 30, 2018

Itogon, Philippines  -- They huddle among the despairing wreckage left by the violently destructive Typhoon Mangkhut. They must see their loved ones —  even if that means they have to bring them back home in coffins.

This is the overwhelming feeling that engulfs Barangay Ucab in Itogon, Benguet as hundreds of families stand at the landslide site, awaiting any news. When a body is found, everyone wonders if it is their brother, sister, aunt, cousin, wife, husband or child. They stand in line as they take turns identifying any body that is retrieved from the rubble. Many bodies that have been dug up are in state of decomposition. Village residents wear masks to mitigate the olfactory assault of the stench of death.

 Benguet, a National Geographic-perfect site, is a landlocked province located in the southern tip of the Cordillera Administrative Region in the island of Luzon. Mining and vegetable farming are major economic activities in the highland province known as the “Salad Bowl of...

May 4, 2018

Manila –  Is it like shutting down paradise to give way to a nightmare?

  President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to close down Boracay, the world-renowned paradise island in the Philippines, for six months in order to clean it up and to teach business owners a lesson for apparently violating environmental laws, sparked doubts about the real reason for its shutdown.

  Upon Duterte's instruction, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered the temporary closure of Boracay on the grounds that local businesses have violated certain ecological regulations that worsened the island's sanitary conditions, even citing the president's calling the island a “cesspool” because of its crowded establishments with deteriorated drainage and waste systems.

  The closure order that also tasked the Department of Tourism and the Department of Interior and Local Government to share in the responsibility will be for a maximum of six months starting April 26.

   As more than 200 businesses, nearly...

April 30, 2018

   

While other carriers have made significant reductions to their flight frequencies and seat capacities, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is expanding its services in Guam.

   According to Bryan L. Ang , PAL’s vice president  for international passenger sales, Philippine Airlines has enhanced its efforts to promote Guam as a destination in Asia, Oceania, China and Europe.  “Unlike other carriers that are mainly strong to the east of Guam, PAL maintains its sustainable flights in and out of the island,” Ang said.

   PAL’s flight schedule to Manila allows Guam travelers to arrive in the Philippines early and leave Manila late allowing maximum time spent in Manila.

    “This is better than other full-service airlines where passengers arrive in Manila at night and incur a hotel night stay right away. At the same time PAL is better than the low-cost airline where passengers leave Manila at the unholy hour of 4:10 a.m. and arrive on Guam with red eyes,” Ang said....

April 2, 2018

Manila—The hashtag  #DuterteDuwag (DuterteCoward) trended on the Philippines’ Twitterverse in mid-March after President Rodrigo Duterte declared to withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court, or ICC, where he would be facing a formal investigation that will look if his drug war would amount to crimes against humanity.

   Critics were not surprised that Duterte wanted to withdraw the Philippines from ICC, as his blood-soaked campaign against drugs has left more than 13,000 mostly poor Filipinos dead, yet not a single person responsible for the deaths has been held to account. The death toll was based on human rights groups’ estimate.

  “Cowardice to the highest degree,” and “Flight is a sign of guilt,” read two of the tweets and social media comments accusing Duterte of attempting to shield himself and 11 of his officials from ICC prosecution for mass murder and crimes against humanity. The hashtag further went viral after Sen. Leila de Lima shouted out "Coward Du...

April 2, 2018

Manila — I was born in the sign that is ruled by the moon, which, according to birth sign readings, makes me a sensitive and emotional being. I have read that people who love staring at the moon, most often playfully called lunatics (the word comes from the word Luna, the Roman moon goddess) are induced into lunacy and other behavior changes as full moon also changes.

   But this is getting too far already. In the last day of January when the super blue blood moon was putting on a spectacular show around the universe, I was going nuts, call it lunatic, because I was not outside looking up at the sky but was holed up in a hospital for an eye surgery the exact same hours that the moon showed off its beauty. I won't be alive anymore when another lunar event like this will happen. Imagine how dreadful that felt. 

   So as I was wheeled into the operating room, I thought about mortality. More so when the surgical team started administering the anesthesia and asked if I was feeling d...

March 3, 2018

 Manila —"Have you ever experienced sexual harassment? In what form? From whom?" A male journalist asked me this question for his article about sexual harassment experienced by female journalists. I had second thoughts to agreeing to be interviewed as, first, I was not comfortable with the question and second, I am rarely asked a question because I'm the one who often does the asking.

  I stepped back for a while to look at what has happened last year and in the beginning of 2018. Women's voices resonated with marches on the streets, posts on social media and all forms of calling out for action from governments, people who are in charge and people who have power over others to listen to what women have to say.

  Somewhere in the male journalist's questions, I replied, "Who doesn't?" I was tempted to ask him if he, too, has also experienced being sexually harassed and worse, if he has received a complaint from a female that he was at some instance inappropriate toward her.

  I grew up in a...

February 15, 2018

President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr

Koror-- Palau President Tommy E. Remengesau is in the Philippines, awaiting a planned meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.

A press statement issued by the office of the president said that the aims of the meeting are to get to know one another and start discussions on issues of mutual interests.“The two Presidents through recent communications, agreed to meet and get to know one another and start discussions on mutual interests and respective mutual issues,” said the press statement.

In an earlier interview, Remengesau said the intent is, “ to meet a fellow brother and begin discussions how we can improve our friendship and relationship and cooperation.”

LABOR ISSUES

President Remengesau is expected to thank the Philippine leader “for the many Filipinos who have continued to contribute to Palau's economy over so many years.” “President Remengesau looks forward to discussing ways both countries can enhance mutual interests in foreign labor, cultural excha...

February 3, 2018

Manila — Love, just like nicotine and other stuff that are inhaled, drunk, eaten or felt, can be addictive. And so scientists have said time and again that falling romantically in love or being in love with someone is a rarity because you don't get to fall in love a thousand times.

   For many people, it can only be once in their lifetime. That is why when they do, they look at this person they fall in love with as the one who's the most important and most special in the entire world. For others, it can be more than once but the intensity of feelings don't measure up with the other. The rest of their other relationships, if they have more, are not called love.

  Being or falling in love is something that you don't force on yourself or on another person. It is felt. It happens. You feel it. You become it.

   The more dangerous thing that can happen, however, is if you become addicted to it. Behavior experts explain addiction to love simply as the longing or desiring the way you crave...

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