November 14, 2020

Manila– The early morning Saturday update of the Philippine weather bureau noted that the amihan or northeast monsoon, which signals the advance of the cold season and the approach of Christmas, is affecting weather conditions but for the better.

“The Pacific Ocean is restless, but there are no tropical storms in the horizon,” the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration announced.

Filipinos are usually elated at this piece of news, but they’re not, as they watched in disbelief thousands of their countrymen wading in floods, soaked in mud, and shivering with their families from their rooftops, waiting for rescue. The Philippine police reported that the typhoon left  26 dead and dozens either still missing or injured.

These scenes started Friday morning after typhoon Ulysses (international name: Vamco), made landfall Thursday night, Nov. 12, on the main island of Luzon including Metro Manila, whose 12 million residents were kept awake at the terrifying s...

November 5, 2020

Manila– Brash, offensive, unbecoming. Filipinos opposed to the demeanor of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte use these words to also describe U.S .President Donald Trump. Incidentally, the two heads of state hit it off in 2016 at the start of their presidencies, and continued their warm friendship in the succeeding years.

While Filipinos watched with the rest of the world how Trump slugged the U.S. presidential elections to beat Joe Biden and to stay in power, they have in mind a slight preview of what is to come in 2022 when the Philippines will choose Duterte’s successor. 

The scene is similar in the divisiveness in their societies and the fanatic adoration for odd politicians like Duterte and Trump, but widely different in that the Southeast Asian country has an unstructured, multi-party, free-for-all political system.

A U.S. ally since the mid-1940s after World War II, the Philippines’ strategic location and the ease by which Filipinos speak English has earned itself favors from th...

November 4, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines addresses the UN General Assembly via videolink on Sept. 22, 2020. Photo courtesy of Manuel Elías/UN

Since coming to office, President Rodrigo Duterte has largely ignored the 2016 arbitration award made in favor of the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which invalidated China’s nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea. But in an astounding turnaround, Duterte used a speech last month to the United Nations General Assembly to declare “the award is now part of international law” and that “we firmly reject attempts to undermine it.”

Yet it would be a mistake to see this statement as marking a new stance in Duterte’s foreign policy. This is a diversionary strategy, targeted to an audience at home rather than one abroad.

Duterte is sensitive to the negative perceptions about his “appeasement policy” that seems to be yielding too much, too often to Beijing. He has preferred a non-confrontational stan...

November 2, 2020

 Covered in PPE, human rights activist Reina Mae Nasino pays her final goodbye to three-month-old baby.  Photo courtesy of Kapatid

They dressed her up in full PPE and handcuffs and brought her to the funeral parlor to say her final goodbye to her child. 

Don't turn away. It was all too painful to watch. Go ahead, cry. I am. It hurts. 

The wake for the infant named River, severed from the activist mother at birth, started on Oct. 14. The three-month-old was born of a mother imprisoned for protesting against human rights violations. Reina Mae Nasino, the 23-year-old frail mother, spent her pregnancy at the Manila City Jail. She was allowed a month before they tore the newborn from her arms, and two months later, the baby is dead.

"It's painful for me; I was really longing to see my baby, but not like this," Nasino said. 

Don't tune her out. The Philippine National Police arrested Nasino in a coordinated nationwide attack against human rights groups in November 2019.

They “furloughed”...

October 29, 2020

Manila– When Filipino film and TV actress Angel Locsin posted her photo on social media in a red dress and wearing red hot lipstick, other female celebrities did the same in solidarity, including artists who rendered illustrations as protest – prompting an internet movement that multiplied to protest red-tagging by the military and government officials supportive of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Locsin’s human rights advocacy and her being outspoken, not to mention her being related to prominent opposition leader, lawyer Neri Colmenares, are the reasons why she is labelled as leftist or sympathetic to the country’s communist insurgents.

Using the hashtags #NoToRedTagging and #YesToRedLipstick, Locsin’s Instagram post provoked anti-government sentiments denouncing the government’s attempts to suppress freedom of expression.

Red-tagging, defined by the Philippine Supreme Court as an “act of labeling, naming and accusing individuals and/or organizations of being subversives, communi...

The ABS-CBN tower viewed from Tomas Morato Avenue in Quezon City, Philippines. Photo by Diana G. Mendoza

Manila-- A specter of martial law. A move to fully snuff out press freedom and freedom of expression. A final blow to democracy. The chills brought by the shutdown of ABS-CBN Channel 2, the Philippines' largest TV network, were felt across the country as its final broadcast aired at 7:52 pm local time, on May 5, 2020, just as the curfew was enforced in Metro Manila and the entire Luzon island under the Covid-19 lockdown.

“We can’t even hug each other,” Ces Orena-Drilon, one of the network’s veteran broadcast journalists, twitted about the media workers’ observance of social distancing, a Covid-19 precautionary health measure, as they wept and became emotional inside the newsrooms when the station ID and the playing of the Philippine national anthem trailed the final broadcast, before TV screens of Filipinos watching the channel went black.

The closure was prompted by a legal cease-and-...


 


Majuro-- With a population of 53,127 located on 70 square miles of land, and a challenged and epidemic-weary medical system, the capacity of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) to successfully mitigate a Covid-19 pandemic is very low. In recent times, dengue, flu, zika and chikungunya have been widespread, difficult to contain quickly, and likely to be recurrent.
 
Against this backdrop, the government and people of RMI have had to develop a national strategy for preventing the introduction of the Covid-19 virus. As of the first week of April 2020, the RMI remained one of only a few countries in the world without a reported case of COVID-19, thanks largely to the actions of the national government. Between Jan. 24 and April 2, the RMI has issued eleven Health Travel Advisories & Restrictions (HTAR), with most tightening the restrictions of the advisories they have replaced.
 
The first HTAR released on Jan.  24  mandated all incoming travellers to complete a special health cl...

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...

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