By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--In business, it pays to go green, to embrace one’s roots, and to engage small communities. Ask the owner of Binalot, a fast-food chain famous for its low-budget Pinoy meals wrapped in banana leaves harvested in a poor farmers’ community in Laguna, a neighboring province of Metro Manila. As it continues to make good business through its 35 outlets, mostly inside malls in Metro Manila, the young company is starting to gain international recognition. Out of the box United Parcel Service (UPS) has named Binalot the recipient of a $10, 000 special prize for a small business exemplifying “end-to-end customer service,” the UPS theme for its centennial celebration this year. In the UPS “Out of the Box” Small Business Contest, which was opened to the Philippines this year, Binalot bested entries from China, Singapore and other countries in the Asia Pacific. It was the first Filipino company to win the prize. “The UPS prize was a gift from God,” Rommel T. Juan, president of Binalot Fiesta Foods Inc., said in an interview. “We didn’t know it was gonna come. We didn’t expect to win the prize.” Dahon program He joined the online contest months ago, and had all but forgotten about it until he got a call from UPS. And he believed its use of banana leaf from a poor community clinched the prize for Binalot. “Why did we win? Because of the Dahon program. It’s end to end. We get it directly from the farmers, bring them to the commissary, deliver them to franchisees, and the end customers,” said the 35-year-old marketing management graduate from De la Salle University. Besides, helping the poor proved to be a “good karma,” he added. Rommel left Monday for the United States to receive the prize in Atlanta, Georgia, where UPS is based. Since its small delivery operations in Makati City began in 1996, Binalot has served the meals in banana leaves harvested from different communities. Typhoon ‘Milenyo’ But it was only in January that Binalot decided to get its supply from a community of poor banana farmers at the foot of a mountain in Laguna as part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). “When Typhoon ‘Milenyo’ struck [in September 2006], it wiped out our regular supply of banana leaves. So we were forced to source somewhere else,” Juan said. Soon after, Binalot found a viable source in a banana plantation in Laguna, and developed a CSR program, “Dangal at Hanapbuhay para sa Nayon” (Dahon) or leaf, to help farmers earn income right in their own backyard. Proper harvesting Binalot personnel trained the farmers from 29 families on proper harvesting, trimming and sanitation, equipped them with tools, and set up a modest workplace for them. So each day, the men would head for the clumps of banana trees at dawn to cut leaves, and haul these by horse to the workplace where their wives would clean and trim them according to Binalot’s specifications. The company buys banana leaves at P60 to P70 per bundle from the farmers thrice a week, providing a regular livelihood for them, weaning them off idleness and boosting their confidence. “The men are earning P300 a day and the women, P200,” Juan said. “Just imagine how a crisis (damage wrought by Milenyo on Binalot’s supply) turned into something good.” Until Binalot came into the picture, most of the farmers earned income by selling their banana leaves to small traders at low rates, and mainly subsisted on remittances from children working abroad. Less trash The leaves also meant less trash for the company. By Juan’s reckoning, the company has set itself apart from the rest, not only because of its “eco-friendly” packaging and “truly Pinoy” meals, but also because of its Dahon program. “This CSR is one program that our whole organization is proud of. We are 35 outlet-strong. We are a truly Pinoy fast food, but it’s different when you’re able to help others,” he said. Through this program, Binalot shattered the misconception that only corporate giants could come up with a good CSR program. “They always thought it was the domain of Ayala, of Shell and of big companies. We’re a testament that it’s not,” he said. After initially working for the family-owned MD Juan, which exports jeep bodies and parts, Juan and his older brother decided to start their own food business in 1996. And their childhood memories of family outings helped shape it. Binalot begins In one of their talks, he told his brother: “Do you remember when we used to go to Alfonso, Cavite? [We had a farm there with a river in the back. We’d go there on weekends. My mom would wrap our food in banana leaves] So I told him, the food was more delicious that way. Why not offer it in Makati?” Thus began Binalot (which means wrapped). After tapping Aileen Anastacio, a chef-friend of the Juans’, to do the cooking for which she got good reviews, the brothers started delivering home-cooked Filipino favorites in banana leaves to offices from their condominium unit in Salcedo Village in Makati. “Since it was residential, not a commercial area, we didn’t tell people where we were based. When customers called to ask, we’d just tell them we’re in Makati. But neighbors would find out and come knocking,” the younger brother said. There came a time when the Juan brothers had to move out when the other tenants started complaining of the smell of adobo (meat dish). But they soon found spaces in Greenbelt mall and on Jupiter Street. The initial offerings were rice topped with Filipino favorites adobo, tapa (cured meat), bangus (milkfish), tocino and longanisa, garnished with pickles, salted egg and tomato. Financial crisis Months after the financial crisis hit Asia in 1997, the Juan brothers thought of closing shop after their customers started bringing home-cooked lunch to work. Delivery sales dropped sharply. Then came an offer from Shangri-La mall in Mandaluyong City that it had a space for Binalot in its food court. “Our mini-board met, and I said ‘Let’s go for broke,’” Juan recalled. “When we opened in Shangri-La [in 1998], it was an instant hit. We were alive again. We realized the sale was constant unlike in delivery service.” Exponential growth After gaining confidence, Binalot opened more outlets in other malls, mostly from its annual earnings, and hired more people to run the growing business. In 2003, it went into franchising. “That’s when we started to grow exponentially,” Juan said. Over the years, Binalot’s menu has evolved, too. It now serves varieties like the funny-sounding Tapa Rap Sarap, Bistek Walastik, Bopisticated, Pride Tilapia, Sisig na Makisig, My Dinuguan & Only, and Love Me Tenderloin Tips in all its outlets. With the $10, 000 prize, Juan and his partners plan to set up a foundation or a social enterprise, and develop other banana products, like chips and cakes. “If we have things we can develop, we’ll start with them (farmers),” he said. “What we want to develop is an industry for them that’s related to our business.”
October 2007 Archives
By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--In the eyes of fellow environmentalists, Von Hernandez is the kind who walks his talk, and gets the job done. It’s no surprise then that Hernandez has been named by Time magazine as among this year’s “Heroes of the Environment,” along with Al Gore, Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles and other personalities. The Greenpeace campaign director was cited for his relentless campaign against trading in waste and highly polluting waste incinerators that led the Philippines to ban waste incineration in 1999, the first country to do so. “He deserves all the honor. He represents the authentic environmental activist. He walks his talk. He knows his direction. He knows the problems of the planet,” environmentalist Odette Alcantara said in an interview. Hernandez “belongs to the pantheon of Filipino environmentalists that made their mark at the international level,” said Richard Gutierrez of Basel Action Network (BAN). “He helped blaze the way and is an inspiration for Filipino environmentalists to be fully engaged on the international environmental issues,” Gutierrez said. 2nd international accolade The Time citation was the second international accolade for the 40-year-old environmental activist, who was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003, the Nobel Prize equivalent for grass-roots environmentalists. In the magazine’s special edition, Hernandez was lumped together with other activists who made a huge impact in their countries. Gore, Gorbachev, Prince Charles and others were grouped as leaders and visionaries. The rest of the heroes fell under the categories of scientists and innovators, and moguls and entrepreneurs. Gratifying Hernandez described the Time recognition as “gratifying,” but said the honor belonged to groups and communities who had been showing the way on efficient waste prevention. “It’s a surprise to receive this recent accolade, but the real heroes here are the groups and communities whose work on waste prevention shows the way forward in our campaign for sustainability,” he said in a text message from Thailand. “Our leaders should learn from them,” Hernandez said. Validation of work Hernandez was presiding over a meeting of the Greenpeace Southeast Asia in Bangkok to “decide the focus of our work in the coming years” when the Inquirer reached him for comment. “Like the Goldman award, the Time recognition is an important validation not only of my work as an activist but also of the urgency of the planetary crisis now confronting us,” he said. “The personal recognition is gratifying but as an activist I know that time is fast running out,” he added. Hernandez began working with Greenpeace International in 1995 as coordinator for its antitoxic campaign in Asia. He then launched a campaign against plans to set up waste incinerators to deal with the waste problems in Metro Manila, according to Greenpeace. Clean Air Act The campaign led to the passage of the Philippine Clean Air Act in 1999, which banned waste incineration. Together with other allies in the environment, Hernandez next campaigned for the passage of the Ecological Waste Management Act, which mandates segregation of wastes, and development of materials recovery facilities, among others. Alcantara, founder of the Mother Earth Network, said she agreed with the Time commendation given to Hernandez. “He led the campaign in banning waste incinerators; we’re the first to do that. That’s a monumental achievement for a serious environmental activist,” she said. Networker “He’s credible because he knows his facts. And the reason he’s successful is because he values networking. He’s a networker,” Alcantara said. Gutierrez agreed: “He introduced a distinct style of activism here in the Philippines. You can immediately see it’s a Greenpeace action, and one will immediately say ‘Ah, Von Hernandez.’” As an environmentalist, Hernandez has initiated a host of campaigns for projects like the rehabilitation of Pasig River, and cleanup toxic contaminated sites in the former US military bases in Pampanga and Zambales. Alliance, coalition Hernandez either founded or convened other environmental coalitions such as the Global Anti-Incineration Alliance (GAIA), Waste Not Asia, Lakbay Kalikasan, the Eco-Waste Coalition, and the Sagip Pasig Movement, among others. Hernandez said a lot of work lay ahead of him, not only in the Philippines but also in the region. “Right now, I am focused on helping pressure world governments to agree on a fresh and renewed mandate under the Kyoto protocol to bring down greenhouse gas emissions in order to avert climate chaos,” he said. Waste and climate crisis Greenpeace will organize activities for a forthcoming climate change convention in Bali, Indonesia, in December “to highlight the role of dirty fossil fuels and deforestation in increasing greenhouse gas emissions.” “Globally, we only have 100 months to reverse destructive trends and avoid a climate crisis of catastrophic proportions. Business as usual and overconsumption are giving rise both to the waste crisis and the climate crisis,” Hernandez said. On top of all this, Hernandez is also overseeing Greenpeace work on water pollution in the Philippines and Thailand. “The work never stops, but can we really afford to give up fighting for our future?” he said.
By Momar G. Visaya, Contributor INQUIRER.net NEW YORK--A soldier of Filipino descent emerged victorious at the recently concluded 2007 Best Warrior Competition held Oct. 1-5 at Fort Lee, Virginia and was declared the Department of Army’s Soldier of the Year. Spc. Heyz T. Seeker, who represented the US Army Special Operations Command, won the grueling competition after competing with 12 other soldiers in tests of physical fitness and military skills ranging from marksmanship to first aid. “It’s still sinking in. I was really overwhelmed at first,” Spc. Seeker told the Asian Journal in a telephone interview Thursday, Oct 11. The 35-year-old soldier is stationed at the Hunger Army Airfield in Georgia with the 75th Ranger Regiment. While he listed Grover, California as his hometown, his family is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was born to Filipino parents in Atascadero, Calif., and grew up in Grover. His father died when he was two years old and his mother remarried when he was 10. “I only know stuff about my father through pictures and the stories that my mother used to tell me,” Seeker said. His mother, Maxima Voelker, is from Bohol, which he describes as a “small and beautiful island in the Visayas”. Seeker’s first and only trip to the Philippines was when he was 15. Spc. Seeker recognizes the fact that with this win, he is now in a different position. “This is an honorable position to be in and there’s a lot of weight on my shoulders now,” he admitted. “My mission now is to promote the army and I will go out there to tell the army story. I plan to reach out to the struggling inner-city youth and tell them my story. I am a testament to what the army has given me,” Seeker said. His goal Spc. Seeker is the first in his family to become an Army Ranger, and has said that his ambition is to become the first Filipino sergeant major of the Army, the Army's top enlisted rank. He grew up hearing stories of how both his father and stepfather had fought in World War II. Spc. Seeker said three deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq helped prepare him for the competition. “I love the Army, and I love living a structured life," he said. “I'm all about paving the way, leading the way and being the first at something. I was the first in my family to be a ranger, and I'd like to one day become the first Filipino sergeant major of the Army." Asked about what he considers as his favorite part in the five-day competition, Seeker replied, “It has to be the first day of the competition, when we had to go before the board. I had to concentrate and focus on it and afterwards, I was pretty confident that I did well. I felt like a winner.” His fathers' footsteps When he joined the Army in 1991, Spc. Seeker was following in the footsteps of his two fathers who were both World War II veterans. In his first enlistment, Spc. Seeker became a forward observer artilleryman and when he transferred to the National Guard in 1995, he was an armored crewman. When he enlisted again in 2004, he signed up as an infantryman. During his second round of basic training, he raised his hand to apply for the Ranger Indoctrination Program. Now an airborne Ranger, Spc. Seeker is looking to be the best in the Army through this competition. Fierce US Senator Harry Reid of Nevada congratulated Spc. Seeker of Las Vegas for being recognized with the Army’s Top Soldier award. “I congratulate, Specialist Seeker, for being named the Army’s Top Soldier,” said Reid. “While I am proud of all of our men and women in uniform, Specialist Seeker's exemplary service honors the country and honors Nevada.” Spc. Seeker was selected as the best of 26 competitors representing 13 US Army major commands, after a fierce battery of physical and mental tests. The results were based on his performance in simulated urban combat drills, battle drills, physical fitness tests, and written examinations. Seeker and 11 other soldiers competed for the title of Department of the Army Best Warrior. The 12 Soldiers and an additional 12 non-commissioned officers spent a week at Fort Lee, competing in events such as the board, land navigation and warrior tasks. The winners were announced Oct. 8 at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, DC. Culinary arts Throughout his military career, Spc. Seeker has also kept an interest in the culinary arts, according to a news release from the Army’s Public Affairs Office. For about six years between his Army enlistments, Spc. Seeker was a sushi chef apprentice in San Diego. Oddly, he never considered becoming a food service specialist for the Army. "I wanted to roll around in a tank or become a Ranger," he said. He's putting off his goal of opening up a sushi bar until he retires from the Army. In the meantime, he's focused on making his two deceased fathers proud. "And I want to set an example for my kids so they can serve their country too," he said. Reprinted with permission from the Asian Journal. Photo by T. Anthony Bell/Fort Lee Public Affairs Office.
By Margaux Ortiz Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Imagine going to Manila Bay and coming face-to-face with a shark or even a school of fierce barracudas. Come December, this awesome scene would be experienced by Filipinos -- adults and children alike -- with the completion of the Manila Ocean Park just behind the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park. The ocean park, a P1-billion project of Singaporean and Malaysian investors, is the first world-class marine park to adopt a “fusion concept,” according to Manila Ocean Park president Lim Chee Yong. Lim said the concept entailed bringing together an oceanarium, a mall, a boutique hotel, a restaurant row and open marine habitats -- where marine enthusiasts could learn to swim and dive with the fishes. “The park will house the first and largest aquarium facility in the Philippines,” Lim announced during a walking tour with the media Wednesday at the site. He said that both the oceanarium and the open marine habitats would contain 12,000 cubic meters of seawater featuring 300 marine species indigenous to the Philippines and Southeast Asia. Larger than Sentosa’s Lim proudly said that the Manila Ocean Park would be among the most advanced ocean parks in Asia -- with an area larger than the famous Sentosa oceanarium in Singapore. “Sentosa is 6,000 square meters while this one is 8,000 sqm,” Lim said. He also compared Manila’s upcoming marine park with Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, “which has lots of fun rides but showcases a smaller oceanarium.” Species from Philippine waters Robert Dean Barbers, Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) general manager, said that unlike other oceanariums in Asia, the Manila Ocean Park would be getting marine species from Philippine waters. “All over the world, people have been saying that our country is the center of marine biodiversity,” Barbers said. “This is the time to be proud and show the world what we have,” the PTA head said. Lim said the project would be composed of three phases, with the oceanarium as the first phase. It would be completed and opened to the public this December. “The second phase, which includes the marine-themed mall and the hotel, and the third phase, the open marine habitats, would be completed next year,” Lim said. Entrance fee He said the Manila Ocean Park would be affordable to all -- P250 for students, and P350 to P400 for regular patrons. Aside from providing jobs to 2,000 Filipinos, the project would enable the government to earn P20 million annually in rental fees. “After 5 years, there would be an incremental increase of 5 or 10 percent per year. We would also get a share from the income,” Barbers said. During the walking tour conducted as a “sneak peek” for the media, officials and personnel of the Manila Ocean Park showed the different parts of the oceanarium, now 80 percent complete. The “oceanarium journey” is divided into six sections, each one carrying a Filipino name to exhibit national pride, according to the park’s vice president Cristina Romualdez. The first section, called Agos (Flow), features a rainforest-theme with eight tanks containing freshwater species. “This part of the oceanarium -- the only open area in the facility -- shows the interconnectedness between the water and land,” Romualdez said. Agos would also feature an artificial waterfall and a touch pool, where children could interact with creatures such as starfish and shrimps. The next section, called Bahura or the Reef, would exhibit artificial corals in 48 tanks, complete with their scientific and common names, and their roles in the ecosystem. Laot (Fishing Ground), on the other hand, would feature big fish and Eagle-spotted rays in a long tank. Main attraction The main attraction of the oceanarium is a 25-meter long walkway tunnel with 220-degree curved acrylic walls. “Other oceanarium tunnels only have 180-degree curved walls. The Manila Ocean Park tunnel in effect, would give patrons a better viewing experience,” Romualdez said. She said one wall of the tunnel would feature corals and small fishes, while the other wall would exhibit big fishes like sharks and rays. A school of barracudas would be seen swimming in a large tank at the Kalaliman (The Deep) section of the oceanarium. There would also be a shark tank and an overhead aquarium featuring the breathtaking beauty of rays, Romualdez said. Educational facility “We are largely an educational facility. As much as possible, we want to promote the conservation and preservation of marine species,” Romualdez said, pointing out that the park has been working very closely with government agencies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She said the Manila Ocean Park would not include protected and endangered species such as whale sharks and other sea mammals. A team of marine biologists and scientists has been working to ensure that the types of fish put together could live well with each other in the tanks, Romualdez said. “We are very careful about the fish display. We are aware that we have a responsibility also -- both to the public and the environment,” she said. Manila Ocean Park is owned by China Oceanis Philippines Inc., a subsidiary of China Oceanis Inc., a Singaporean-registered firm that has operated four oceanariums in China.
By Edwin Fernandez Inquirer CAMP SIONGCO, Shariff Kabunsuan--An alert used clothing (ukay-ukay) vendor, police and military authorities yesterday foiled a bombing attempt in a densely populated public market in Tacurong City. Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesperson of the military’s 6th Infantry Division, said a suspected terrorist group allied with the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah planted a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) at a stall selling used clothing along a busy street in Tacurong City, an agricultural city rocked by more than a dozen bomb attacks in the past two years. The vendor noticed the explosive left unattended near the stall of his merchandise at about 7 a.m. He immediately carried the device to a children’s park and reported his discovery to the police. “He actually prevented what could have been a bloody Wednesday morning,” Ando told the Inquirer. 1Lt. Francis Señoron, team leader of the Army’s bomb disposal team, promptly defused the home-made bomb and prevented injuries and death to innocent civilians. He described the IED as “very powerful.” It was fashioned from three live 60 mm mortar projectiles packed with jagged fragments of cast iron, nails, and rigged with a battery-operated trigger mechanism. Ando said the IED was placed inside a black bag left by still unidentified men at a makeshift stall owned by Joselito Baylon, a dealer of imported used clothing. “It would have hurt many people and caused major damage,” said city police chief, Supt. Teng Tocao. “One of the workers of Mr. Baylon was so vigilant that he immediately suspected the bag left unattended by a man,” Ando said. “What is remarkable was that he risked his life by carrying the bag and brought it to the plaza where no one would be hit should the bomb explode,” Ando said. Baylon told police he has no known enemies.
By Associated Press MANILA, Philippines--Thousands of Filipinos joined an international campaign to end global poverty Wednesday by standing up and making a symbolic pledge in the world's most populous region, where more than 640 million live on less than $1 a day. The pledge in part rejects excuses that allow 50,000 people to die every day because of extreme poverty and the growing gap between rich and poor. It urges government leaders to save the lives of the poorest citizens, tackle inequality, govern fairly, fight corruption, and fulfill human rights. The "Stand Up, Speak Out" pledge is part of the UN campaign to promote the Millennium Development Goals that include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and ensuring a sustainable environment by 2015. The Asia-Pacific region had more than one billion people living on less than $1 a day in 1990, but that number has now dropped to 641 million and is likely to be cut in half by 2015, according to an Asian Development Bank-UN report released last week. China has made the biggest headway, with one in three Chinese living in poverty in 1990, compared to one in 10 today, the report said. But other countries were lagging behind, among them the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Last year, 24 million people from 87 countries around the world stood up against poverty, with India leading Asians with 9 million people, followed by Nepal with 3 million and the Philippines with 2.4 million. In Manila, the Philippine capital, about 2,000 government officials, teachers, students, soldiers and ordinary citizens, many of them wearing white wristbands with sketches of multi-colored human figures, assembled early Wednesday at the seaside Rizal Park to make the pledge. Agnes Aleman of the UN Information Center said the Philippines was targeting 3 million to stand up and make the pledge -- in parks, government and private offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants and even at Starbucks stores -- around the country from 5 a.m. to midnight. An auditor working with the UN office in Manila will certify the final figure for the country. "We would like to be one with the others in commemorating our fight against poverty," Philippine Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said. "It is a gesture that we recognize our effort to fight poverty, but really the fight itself -- what we are doing in order to eradicate poverty in our nation." She said in 1990, about 27 percent of Filipinos lived in extreme poverty -- on less than P1,022 pesos a month -- but this has gone down to 17 percent currently. Assistant Secretary Dolores Castillo of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said the country's financial stability plus a combination of government social services, including subsidies for food and medicines, have helped reduce the incidence of extreme poverty.
By Tetch Torres INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--The Bureau of Immigration has relaxed its rules for returning Filipinos or "balikbayans" by giving them a one-year visa-free stay in the country, Commissioner Marcelino Libanan has said. A balikbayan principally refers to a former Philippine citizen who has become a naturalized citizen of another country. Libanan said they decided to ease the bureau's rule after being swamped with queries and complaints from returning Filipinos who claimed that they were confused by some immigration officers who would give them a 21-day stay instead of one year on the pretext that they have been to the country more than once over a 12-month period. "We will be doing our balikbayans a disservice if such mistakes by some of our immigration officers are not addressed and rectified, especially in light of our government's thrust to encourage our countrymen abroad to visit the land of their birth and even settle and have business here," Libanan said. Under immigration rules, a balikbayan shall declare before a Philippine immigration officer at the port of entry that he or she is availing of the balikbayan privilege and shall present his or her valid passport in addition to other supporting documents such as the passenger's cancelled Philippine passport, birth certificate, naturalization papers to show former Philippine citizenship or certification from the adopted country. Libanan said the balikbayan privilege was extended to foreign spouses as well as minor, unmarried children provided they were traveling together.
By Vicente Labro Inquirer BALANGIGA, Eastern Samar--With fervor and pride, they again paid tribute to their forebears who left behind a legacy of love for freedom. People of the century-old coastal town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar commemorated the 106th anniversary of the victory of their forefathers against American invaders on Sept. 28, hoping anew that the historic Balangiga Bells taken as war booty by US soldiers will eventually be returned. A festive mood pervaded the town as the historic event was marked, albeit with less pomp as before. Photo shows a dance drama depicting American soldiers taking away the church bells of Balangiga. The reenactment of the 1901 Balangiga Encounter participated by hundreds of residents-cum-actors -- the crowd drawer for several years -- was “temporarily cancelled” for lack of funds, Mayor Viscuso de Lira said. It was replaced by a dance drama of high school students. Despite the scaled-down festivities, De Lira said the occasion was still meant “to pay tribute to our great men and women who fought and died in asserting their priceless freedom from foreign domination.” The Balangiga Encounter Day retained the other activities in previous celebrations -- the civic-military parade, thanksgiving Mass, wreath-laying ceremony and commemorative program. It remains a holiday in the province. The attack The dance drama showed what happened during those fateful days in Balangiga. It peaked with the depiction of the successful attack staged by bolo-wielding Samareños on the US garrison and capped by American soldiers taking away the church bells. Historians recount that the ringing of church bells on Sept. 28, 1901, signaled the attack on the garrison of the US Army’s Company C near the church and municipal hall. Relations between the natives and the Americans had soured because of alleged abuses, including the molestation of several women and forced labor. A few days before the attack, Maj. Eugenio Daza, district leader of the Philippine Revolutionary Movement in Samar, secretly met with Capt. Valeriano Abanador, Balangiga police chief, and other revolutionary leaders in Sitio Amanlara to finalize their plan. The revolutionaries were from Balangiga and nearby Lawaan, Giporlos and Quinapondan towns, which were then barrios of Balangiga. On the eve of the attack, some guerrillas entered the church dressed as women, while others carried a coffin purportedly containing the remains of a cholera victim but which actually concealed sundang (long bladed weapons). When Abanador raised his cane to signal the raid, the bells started ringing. Some 500 natives with sundang and spears attacked the American soldiers, most of them having breakfast. Fifty of the 74 soldiers were killed while 22 were reported wounded. Others escaped by boat to nearby Basey town where another US detachment was located. A handful of soldiers were able to get hold of their Krags and shoot dead some of the natives. Howling wilderness Some historians considered the event the “worst single defeat” of the US Army during the Philippine-American War. In retaliation, the US Army sent Gen. Jake Smith to Samar. According to some accounts, he ordered his men to kill all Samareños aged 10 years old and above, burn houses, shoot working animals and seize crops, making Samar a “howling wilderness.” When the soldiers left, they took away, among others, the church bells as war trophies. Two of the bells are still mounted at the Fort Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, while another is kept by the US Army in a warehouse in South Korea. Many efforts have been made by local and national leaders for the return of the “Bells of Freedom” but to no avail. The former bishop of the Diocese of Borongan, Leonardo Medroso, went to the United States a few years ago to seek the return of the bells, but veterans’ groups in Wyoming were adamant in their decision not to send them back. Medroso had even cited an order issued by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 that defined specific articles that should be respected and not taken as trophies of war, and these included church property. “Nagpapabilin it aton hingyap, it aton mga inop nga hibalik ine nga aton Balangiga Bells (Our hope, our dream that the Balangiga Bells will be returned still remains),” Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evardone said in a message during the commemorative program on Sept. 28. “We don’t know when these will be returned. Many have already worked together for the bells’ return because these are symbolic to us but up to now these were not returned. If these are not returned yet, let us just not forget the reason why the event took place,” Evardone said in Waray. “The reason? It’s simple -- a struggle for our rights that was trampled upon during that time,” he added. Sen. Loren Legarda, the guest speaker, vowed to continue working for the return of the bells, citing Senate Resolution No. 155, which she recently filed, that urged the Philippine government “to exhaust all efforts to persuade the government of the United States to, as an act of goodwill and solidarity between these two nations, immediately return” the bells to Eastern Samar. “While the church bells were taken in an atmosphere of divisiveness, perhaps hatred and revenge, what is essential is that we, the Filipino people, now strive for peace and reconciliation,” she said. Castor Gamalo, 41, a legal researcher assigned to the regional trial court in Balangiga, a former college professor and whose great grandfather was one of those who died in that historic battle, said he owed it to his slain forebears to continue the efforts to reclaim the bells. Joy Campanero of the Balangiga Tourism and Information Office stressed the need to continue remembering the event, if only “to remind the younger generation this is the best legacy of our forebears.” Campanero is a descendant of Vicente Candeluces, the man who rang the bell that preceded the attack. The belfry of the renovated church still shows that one of its four windows is still vacant, signifying a space reserved for at least one of the original bells. But a replica could be seen at the belfry in the P6-million Balangiga Encounter Monument that was sculpted by national artist Napoleon Abueva. The monument depicts local revolutionaries who are about to attack, with Captain Abanador raising his cane to signal the raid and the ringing of the bells. Photo by Vicente S. Labro
By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--He isn’t hanging up his gloves yet. But Manny Pacquiao now wants to focus on a larger-than-life fight outside the ring -- protecting the Philippine Eagle from extinction. The boxing icon bared his plans to help preserve one of the world’s rarest and most powerful birds after he was showered with red, white and blue confetti at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Pacquiao, 28, fresh from his second conquest of Mexican Marco Antonio Barrera in Las Vegas last Oct. 7, flew in early Thursday to a subdued, less festive welcome after a planned motorcade in Manila was scuttled. Mayor Alfredo Lim is going after Pacquiao for his failure to pay P120, 000 in concessionaires’ fees for operating the Knockout Bar, recently demolished along with other unsightly eateries at the edge of Manila Bay that the boxer’s former patron and erstwhile Manila chief executive Lito Atienza had established. Pacquiao denied the charge -- a denial affirmed by Atienza, Lim’s bitter political rival. Now the environment secretary, Atienza nevertheless managed a grandiose red carpet welcome for Pacquiao. He motored quietly to the main office of the DENR in Quezon City after a similar warm welcome in Malacañang led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. “Thank you for your support and prayers. I got lucky again,” a smiling Pacquiao, clad in a striped white polo shirt, told the throng of well-wishers from a makeshift stage on the steps of the DENR building. “My trademark now is eagle. Because the eagle is endanger (sic) species,” he added, eliciting chuckles from employees. “Let’s protect it, and increase its dwindling population.” Unifier In Malacañang, the President hailed Pacquiao for unifying the nation with his victory. “The whole nation celebrates yet another victory in boxing for our national champ,” Ms Arroyo said. She then led reporters in interviewing Pacquiao, who said he would like to fight every day if it would mean getting Filipinos together as one nation. Atienza himself gave a preview of Pacquiao’s sudden interest in environmental protection when he introduced him to the crowd as “environment ally” in addition to being the “world champ.” Pacquiao, an endorser of San Miguel Corp.’s beer and a host of other products, said he had even asked Nike to put the figure of the eagle, instead of fists, on any apparel that he’d be wearing in public. Atienza said Pacquiao was serious about his new advocacy and had even shelled out an initial P100,000 for the Philippine Eagle Foundation for the conservation of the bird that preys on monkeys, among other meats. The boxer, considered by Ring Magazine as the world’s best “pound for pound” fighter, indicated he would be joining Atienza’s campaign to protect the environment, nurture the habitat of eagles, and raise awareness about these issues. Green plans “I’ll help in the best way I can. I’ll go to places that need to be saved from degradation, and campaign against illegal logging to protect our forests, and plant trees,” Pacquiao later said in a briefing. Toward the end of the briefing, Atienza handed Pacquiao a poster and a pin bearing the picture of an eagle. Pacquiao said he wasn’t retiring yet because he realized that each of his fight had been helping “unite people” in a nation deeply divided and polarized by political controversies. “My fervent prayer to God is to make me an instrument of unity and understanding. Help me spread unity and love,” he said. The boxing champ was joined in the briefing by Atienza and his son Ali, and later on, by former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson. Show biz and reality TV While preparing for his next fight, Pacquiao said he would also pursue his plan to enter college, rejoin show biz and star in a reality TV show. “Prioritize your studies. Wherever you go, if you’re educated, it’s easy to land a job. I’m not encouraging you go into a boxing. I want you to finish school first,” he said when asked for his message to the youth. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Tarra Quismundo
By Tonette Orejas Central Luzon Desk CITY OF SAN FERNANDO--The poor have ceased being just receivers and the rich, the givers. They both participate in building families and communities in Pampanga. This is the “paradigm shift” that Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio, a Catholic priest, said he had helped introduce in his first 100 days in office. It manifested also in the ability of Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao and provincial board members to “rise above their disagreements” with him and “putting the needs of the people above all else,” he said. In three months, the provincial government has allocated P63 million for infrastructure and P52 million for basic social services. Reporting on his first 100 days on Monday at the capitol, Panlilio said the vehicle in removing the recipient-giver mentality was the “Pamisaupan” or “Helping Each Other” program. Even poor residents have a part in this, he said: they provide labor to repair classrooms and hospitals and construct toilets using supplies provided by the capitol. Private partners, on the other hand, help by validating the needs in schools and communities, or rendering labor for construction or management expertise in community projects. “The key to uplifting the lives of the masses is in giving importance to the advancement of their dignity,” he said. “We do this because that is the mandate of our servanthood. And when we do this, it should be nothing more, nothing less. We’re bringing our people’s dignity back,” said the 53-year-old governor. Panlilio said the accomplishments in the first 100 days were not his alone but shared by more than 1,000 capitol officials and employees, the provincial board and private groups. His seven-page “scorecard” included the improvements of facilities and services in nine district hospitals and the Diosdado Macapagal Provincial Hospital. Those hospitals were given an additional P300,000 each for medicines. The Pampanga Health Office is building a laboratory to screen tuberculosis patients. The supplemental feeding program has started in six schools and medical missions are done every week in remote villages. Nearly 500 walk-ins seeking medical and social assistance have received more than P900,000. In education, the provincial government has adopted a program to stop the high dropout rates and increase the comprehension level of students.
By Kate V. Pedroso Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Family, health and religion are the three most important sources of happiness among Filipinos, while sex, sports, politics and cultural pursuits rank among the least important, according to a recent study by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). But sounding incredulous, the NSCB official, who released the results of the study Tuesday, observed: “Could it be that the respondents were just too shy to reveal their true feelings about sex? Or (is it) time to shift stories away from the birds and the bees?” Romulo Virola, NSCB secretary general, reported that Filipinos ranked family as the most important source of happiness, with a score of 9.45 on a scale of 10. Health came next with 8.95, while religion ranked third with 8.59. Other important sources of happiness include friends (8.57), financial security (8.3), education (8.25), love life (8.2) and work (7.94). The study was based on a nonrandom poll of 167 respondents conducted during the National Convention on Statistics held on Oct. 1-2. Nonrandom sampling means that the questionnaire was given only to those who wanted to answer it during the convention without a specific target group in mind, Jessamyn Encarnacion of the NSCB Social Statistics Office explained in a phone interview. ‘Quite surprising’ In a statement, Virola said it was “quite surprising” that sex (6.39) was not an important source of happiness, and that at 14th place, it was ranked among the five least important. “Also, leisure and sports, surprisingly, is the sixth least important domain. I thought we loved Manny Pacquiao,” he said, referring to the Filipino boxing sensation who posted his latest ring conquest on Sunday. Politics was the least important source of happiness with 5.84. “I wonder if our congressmen and senators realize this,” Virola noted. Other unimportant domains of happiness are cultural activities (5.88), community and volunteer work (6.24), and government (6.53). “The National Commission for Culture and the Arts, and the Philippine Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency and related (offices) obviously need to do something if they want our countrymen to appreciate what they are supposed to promote,” the official remarked. Levels of happiness In terms of “level of happiness,” the NSCB study also found that Filipinos were happy with their family lives with a happiness index rating of 88.5 percent. They were also happy with friends (83.6 percent), religion (79.8 percent) and love lives (79.4 percent). “Health, which is supposed to be the second most important source of happiness, unfortunately gets only 78 percent, meaning that people are not getting any healthier or that we worry too much about our health,” NSCB noted. While sex life did not rank as an important source of happiness, the respondents gave it an index rating of 72.6 percent, meaning they were happier with sex than they were with work (71 percent), leisure and sports (70 percent), financial security (68.8 percent) and cultural activities (66.6 percent). The study also found that people were happier “with domains that are within their control than those not within their control, like politics.” Six out of 10 respondents also agreed that “progress is synonymous with happiness.” Women happier The study also showed that Filipino women tended to be happier than men, and that “happiness rises with income.” Encarnacion also coauthored a paper, “Measuring Progress of Philippine Society: Gross National Product or Gross National Happiness,” which was presented during the convention. The questionnaire listed the following factors: family, friends, religion, love life, health, education, sex life, work, leisure and sports, community and volunteer work, technological know-how, income and financial security, cultural activities, environment, economy, government and politics. The NSCB conducted two pilot tests of the questionnaire, which was formulated in relation to a proposed Philippine Happiness Index. On a list of 95 countries, the Philippines had landed on the “middle-range” of the World Database of Happiness Index. From 1995 to 2005, the country’s average rating of 6.4 placed it in about the same bracket as India (6.2), Iran, (6.0), Poland (5.9) and South Korea (5.8.) The WDHI is currently topped by Denmark, with a rating of 8.2.
By Jocelyn Uy Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--This 77-year-old retired home economics teacher has come up with simple and real recipes for peace in her troubled little town in Sulu province. Wobbly from arthritis, Norma Abdulla was never fettered from helping couples resolve fights or calling the attention of authorities whenever there’s trouble in her neighborhood. “Peace should start with solving petty conflicts in the community, especially in the family so it will not escalate into a full-blown clash that could involve the entire town,” Abdulla, convener of the first Muslim Women Peace Advocates in Sulu, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday. For going the extra mile, which not many people her age would take, the Jolo native was named one of the 10 recipients of the annual Ulirang Nakatatanda awards by the nonprofit group, Coalition of Services of the Elderly Inc. (COSE). She received her award on Sunday, the culmination of the celebration of the Filipino Elderly Week led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. In selecting the Tausug leader, COSE said Abdulla “is an icon of public service and dedication, highly respected and well-loved” in her community in Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo. She was nominated by former Sen. Santanina Rasul, a pioneer of the Mindanao-based Muslim Women Peace Advocates (MWPA). Abdulla’s spirit for community service was kindled at the Sulu Trade School (now Hadji Butu School of Arts and Trade), where she taught teenagers to pickle food, sew handicrafts, crochet and stitch clothes for 16 years. She was then 22 years old and a fresh graduate of the Centro Escolar University (CEU) with a degree in Home Economics. Later, she earned a master’s degree in Home Economics and a doctoral degree in Education from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, and CEU. As part of the Sulu Trade School’s outreach program, Abdulla visited homes of poor people, dropped by the public plaza in her hometown, and gave cooking lessons to impoverished wives and mothers to boost livelihood opportunities. This was in the 1950s when Jolo was a peaceful town, she said, and had yet to worry about the Abu Sayyaf bandits, the armed Moro rebels or the tension between Moro separatists and the military. Rising from the ranks Over time, Abdulla rose from the ranks and became president of the Sulu State College. Meanwhile, the violence in neighboring strife-torn districts pervaded Abdulla’s hometown. Suddenly, the situation called for more than just outreach programs. Evacuees were seeking shelter in the schools of Jolo. “Now and then, people would leave their homes, go somewhere, and come back. It was really hard,” she said, recalling her own experience in 1974 when Jolo became embroiled in a shooting war with armed rebels. The commercial district was burned down. Abdulla and her family, along with other residents, had to find shelter in a hospital and later in a school. Escape to Jolo “Because of escalating conflicts, people from outlying communities and municipalities would flee to Jolo where there was electricity and drinking water,” Abdulla said. The modest town, flanked by restive Patikul and Indanan, gradually became crowded and the sidewalks teemed with hawkers, she said. “Before, you can walk the streets even at midnight. Now you can’t. The stores close at 5 p.m. Even drugstores close early because they are scared of extortionists,” Abdulla said. The challenge The opportunity to address the mounting restlessness in her hometown came seven years after her retirement. In 2003, Abdulla was tapped to join the core group of the MWPA in Sulu whose mission was to gather and train women leaders in the barangay, and help solve petty disturbances, such as land conflicts, crimes and family troubles. She accepted the job, despite her weakening knees, numbing of hands and graying hair. “I’m the oldest in the group, but I accepted the job because I still think I can contribute to peace-building. I am glad not one of my six sons has reminded me that I am old and that I should be resting,” said the spunky grandmother of 20 grandchildren. Secrets of peace Peace-building begins with simple acts like “never insult unlettered people so you don’t earn their ire,” Abdulla said. A small misunderstanding must be settled as soon as possible, a little help from someone in authority would not hurt, and asking questions should be encouraged, she added. After assembling the first group of peace advocates in Jolo in 2003, she set out for Indanan and Patikul to expand the group’s network. “We didn’t go there to stop the war. We went there to teach them how to prevent conflicts in the household level. Because if you leave that unsettled, it could escalate until the whole community is involved,” Abdulla said. With the culture of vendetta common among warring Moro clans, a simple spat could easily become a full-blown feud or a “rido,” she added. Peacekeeper After four years with the peace group, Abdulla has helped resolve a number of family crises -- from a wife complaining about her husband’s infidelity to a husband objecting to his wife working outside the home. Her secret? Patience and a willingness to listen. After a shooting incident a couple of years ago near the mosque in the barangay, relatives of the victim came to her and asked if she could talk with the authorities into setting up an outpost to curb violence in the area. Abdulla saw the mayor herself, who immediately responded to the request. Age doesn’t matter When a boy was killed in Indanan after watching television in a neighbor’s home early this year, the council immediately wrote a resolution asking the authorities to investigate. Abdulla herself met with the brigade commander, believing this was the only way to address lawlessness in the area. These gestures may be paltry in a troubled place, but Abdulla believes such actions will create ripples leading to a long-term peace someday. “To me, age doesn’t matter if you want to do something. You don’t have to be young to serve,” she said.
By Gabriel Cardinoza Inquirer DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines--It's now a lot easier to spot the bangus (milkfish) grown in Pangasinan. They are now labeled either "Dagupan bangus" or "Pangasinan bangus." Those without these labels are considered "alien bangus," or grown somewhere else, according to city agriculturist Emma Molina. "We have to act fast because we cannot ignore and set aside the perception of our consumers," Molina said. "Besides, we have to give premium to Dagupan bangus and differentiate them from Pangasinan bangus and from bangus [raised in other provinces]," she said. Dagupan bangus refer to those grown in the city's fish pens and ponds while Pangasinan bangus are those grown in other towns such as Bolinao, Anda, Bani, Sual, Lingayen, Binmaley, San Fabian and Alaminos City. The labeling of homegrown bangus was triggered by the arrival here last month of large shipments of bangus from other provinces, creating fears among local growers that it would impact on the local bangus industry, which is the lifeblood of the city. "Not only were these sold P15 to P20 cheaper than our bangus but these were also passed off as genuine Dagupan bangus," said Julita Perez, president of the Malimgas-Aliguas Dagupan Vendors Federation. To the untrained eye, an "alien" bangus looks exactly like a Dagupan bangus. To tell the difference, one has to smell the gills. "An 'alien' bangus has that distinctive, unpleasant, mud-like odor," Perez said. Dagupan bangus, especially those raised in the fishponds in the villages of Bonuan Gueset, Bonuan Boquig and Bonuan Binloc, are said to be the best tasting bangus variety in the world. But Molina said the labeling system the group has adopted is the best it can do for the moment. She said in her meetings with local bangus growers and wholesalers that they were thinking of putting individual labels on each package of bangus. "But we cannot easily implement it because we need to closely coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry because there's a DTI project under the One Town-One Product program, where the DTI identified that the provincial product would still be bangus," Molina said. To ensure that the bangus products are properly labeled, Molina said the city government's market division had fielded market inspectors to monitor bangus wholesalers. "There are more than 50 wholesalers and we have identified who are trading Bonuan bangus, who are trading Dagupan bangus and who are trading Pangasinan bangus," Molina said. There are only four wholesalers trading "alien" bangus, she said. "The peculiarity of their operations is that they do not trade 'alien' bangus the whole 24 hours that they operate because the 'alien' bangus arrive during a specific period," Molina said. At least 200 kilograms of "alien" bangus arrive here every other day from Zambales and Bulacan, she said. "But when the supply is small, the trick is that these are mixed with the Dagupan bangus or Pangasinan bangus. So it is passed off as such, which is detrimental to the industry because we all know that they do not taste like our bangus," Molina said. While the city government is still perfecting the labeling scheme, Molina said they could only bank now on the honesty of the wholesalers. "We told them that we could not protect the industry alone. We can only protect it if it is coupled with honesty and with the spirit of being a Dagupeño," she said. "The first that would be ruined is Dagupan's bangus industry and second, the credibility of the operator. Even if we help each other on the monitoring side, if the person selling it is not telling us the truth, still [we will have a problem]," Molina said.
By TJ Burgonio Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Despite his name, he is no potato patch mailman. Floro "Pol" Camote is a modern-day postman who continues to make his job relevant in the age of the Internet. Camote, a letter-carrier of the Quezon City Central Post Office, enters seedy slums peopled by pickpockets and robbers, and puts up with threats from thugs just to bring letters, checks and bills to the residents. "I don't want to go back to our office with my bag half-full with undelivered mail," says Camote, 47, in an interview Friday night. 200 households same address The dedicated mailman has taken an extra step: He has given names (including his own) to streets and assigned numbers to homes in overcrowded communities where, say 200 households have the same mailing address. That initiative has won him praises from the public, and awards from the Quezon City Post Office, the Philippine Postal Corp. (PhilPost) and recently, from the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Camote, together with a slain assistant solicitor general, a jail warden, a school superintendent, a forester, and an auditing examiner, each received the Dangal ng Bayan Award at the Cultural Center of the Philippines last Sept. 18. Trophy, cash, promotion The award is given to individuals for performing an extraordinary act or service, and consistently demonstrating exemplary ethical behavior in accordance with the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The award comes with a trophy designed by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, P100,000 cash bonus and a promotion. Camote has been cited for his street-naming and house-numbering initiative (which he replicated wherever he was posted), his fierce promotion of PhilPost products and services, and his dedication to work. The CSC describes him as a "modern-day" postman who continued to make his job relevant in the age of the Internet. "This kind of service can only come from a public servant who has the interest of many at heart." Mind-boggling After years of doing odd jobs in Manila, Camote, a high school graduate, was hired in 1994 by his neighbor, Eduardo Alcoy, to work at the Quezon City letter carrier section at City Hall. In his first few weeks of delivering mail to Barangay Holy Spirit, a sprawling, crowded village behind the Batasang Pambansa complex in Quezon City, he was shocked to find that the houses did not have numbers. "Delivering mail was mind-boggling," recalls Camote. He proposed a scheme to number the houses but many "turf-conscious" residents put their foot down. "Some were riled by the idea that their neighbors' homes would be numbered first, when they had settled ahead of them. They finally agreed after I explained that this was for their own good," he says. For the next three weeks, he went from house to house, writing down numbers on doors with a marker pen. Some residents were so amazed by his idea, they offered to name an extension of a street after him, but he refused. Good idea In his next assignment in Bago Bantay, Quezon City, Camote encountered the same problem. "The letter carriers feared going into this territory so they would leave their bag of mail at the store. The snatchers, the pickpockets, they're all over the place. In my first forays, somebody sneaked up and snatched a letter. Another brandished a knife at me. But I was never harmed," he says. He noticed that most of the letters left at the store remained uncollected. Camote again proposed his scheme. With the help of barangay officials, he was able to convince residents to allow him to write numbers on their doors. Camote, his chief and his colleagues introduced the same system in Barangay Pagasa, which is another community of informal settlers across the Philippine Science High School on Agham Road. Here, they named some streets after themselves. They were able to deliver mail efficiently which ended the practice of some residents who delivered mail for a fee. Camote Street "The day we got mail addressed to Camote Street, I got so excited I delivered the mail myself," the letter-carrier says, chuckling. By doing his job, Camote, who is married with three children, believes he is able to impart the value of "accepting letters." "One time I delivered a subpoena, but this guy rejected it. I warned him that after rejecting it thrice, he'd get a warrant. I never saw him for a month. The next time I bumped into him, he told me he should have heeded my advice. It turned out he was jailed for a month for robbery and hold-up," he says. Close ties To this day, Camote motors to Bago Bantay to deliver mail between 10 a.m. and 12 noon. In the afternoon, he wears the cap of a liaison officer, and delivers documents to the central post office in Manila. He used to report for work even on weekends to deliver mail. Despite his meager income, he doesn't see himself changing jobs in the next 10 years in spite of the Internet and the popularity of e-mail. "Nothing beats letters. When you read letters, you feel the emotions," he says. "In a letter, you can write everything you feel and it doesn't cost much. It's just a little slow." After 13 years of delivering snail mail, Camote has established close ties with the community and is treated like one of the family. Winning song He is invited to lunch after delivering an important letter from abroad. He even gets presents during the holiday season. Some of the residents are so close to him, they ask him to mail their letters. "I enjoy my job so much. I've never felt this way in my previous jobs," says Camote, who composed "Buhay Kartero," an inspirational song about a mailman's dedication to his work. He performs the song and other compositions with Heber Bartolome's Banyuhay every Tuesday night at the Conspiracy Bar in Quezon City. "I think I won the award (Dangal ng Bayan) because of that song," he says referring to "Buhay Kartero" which won for him a prize from PhilPost a few years ago. "It captures the noble spirit of a mailman who risks life and limb to do his job."
HERE'S an interesting documentary on the importance of jeepneys in Filipino culture, directed by Jeric Sevilla. This was actually a school project -- pretty cool, huh? Here's Part 1 Part 2 And Part 3
By DJ Yap Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--She has literally seen the growth of Makati City from the time it was still known as San Pedro Makati to its rise as the financial capital of the country. Today, 101-year-old Paula Garcia-Samarista will be honored, along with two of her slightly younger peers, in a special ceremony at the Makati City Hall celebrating their longevity. To mark the beginning of Senior Citizen’s Week, the city famous for pampering its elderly residents will pay tribute to Garcia-Samarista, Melchora Oria-Ancheta, 97, and Mercedes Sarmiento-Belandres, 95. Mayor Jejomar Binay will lead local officials in the ceremony to be conducted at the City Hall quadrangle, where the three will receive a cash reward and a certificate recognizing their status as the city’s most senior inhabitants. Garcia-Samarista was born on June 29, 1906 to the late Sinporosa Garcia of Culi-Culi, now known as Barangay Pio del Pilar, Makati. Just five years before she was born, San Pedro Makati, with a population of just 2,500, was incorporated into the province of Rizal. On Feb. 28, 1914, the Philippine Legislature passed a law shortening the name to just Makati. Garcia-Samarista is the widow of the late Marcial Samarista, with whom she bore seven children. She has 22 grandchildren. Ancheta, on the other hand, was born on Jan. 6, 1910 to the late Doroteo Oria and Fausta Medina of Bulangao, Pangasinan. At the age of 29, she married Nicolas Ancheta and bore three children, who produced for them 12 grandchildren. Belandres, a pharmacist by profession, was born on Sept. 22, 1912 to Simeon Sarmiento and Justay Dimaandal of Batangas City. A former Miss Batangas, she married Angel Belandres, an agriculture graduate from the University of the Philippines-Los Baños, with whom she had two children. She has four grandchildren. Aside from honoring the city’s oldest living residents, officials will visit elderly patients at the city run-hospital, the Ospital ng Makati in Barangay Pembo, and the Acute Care Center in Barangay Bel-Air. The following day, a similar visit will be conducted at private hospitals, including the Makati Medical Center and St. Clare Hospital on Dian Street in Barangay Palanan. “Our visits and gift-giving will not only focus on our oldest residents, but on the elderly who are confined in these four hospitals, because they, too, deserve to be remembered on this special week dedicated to honor them,” Binay said. Each patient will receive a bag of groceries from the city government. Other events for Senior Citizen’s Week include a table tennis tournament at the Barangay Guadalupe Nuevo Covered Court on Oct. 3, and a “Hindi Pa Kami Laos” singing contest on Oct. 4 at the Mini Theater of the University of Makati. On Oct. 5, the city will hold “Pasayaw ng mga Pasaway,” a ballroom dance at the City Hall quadrangle, and a “Physical Fitness Day” on Oct. 6.