By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines – Family, friends, and former colleagues of the late Senator Blas Ople gathered for a mass at the Libingan ng mga Bayani [Heroes’ Cemetery] in celebration of his 82nd birthday. Ople served for nearly two decades and created the overseas employment program in the early 70’s, and then the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration, with the last earning for him the distinction of being the “father of overseas employment.” Continuing the legacy of her father, Susan Ople, president of Blas F. Ople Policy Center, is helping overseas Filipino workers by strengthening the programs designed by the government for them. “He is a mentoring type of father and we grew up knowing the country first,” said Ople as she described what her father was like. Ople said that the real thread right now was the “localization of workers” due to global financial crisis. “Everyone is hoping to get things better but let’s keep in mind [that] either things get better, or status quo or things decline.” One of the proposals of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center to the government would be to provide OFWs with “direct cash assistance” considering that most of them have borrowed money to pay the fees that they needed to go abroad. “Maganda na may mga livelihood program sila for OFWs na bumalik [It is good that the government has livelihood programs for the OFWs when they return] but how does government make all these programs concrete and attractive to all the displaced workers,” Ople said. “With the present crisis, it is time to review the role of overseas employment in our economic and national life because we may have been relying too much on overseas employment,” Ople said.
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By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net ROAMING around a historical place like Intramuros can be more nostalgic if you take a ride on a “kalesa” or a horse-drawn carriage. No need to hire a tour guide because your English-speaking kutsero or coachman can definitely give you background of this historic place. In my recent tour of the Intramuros, I met Emiliano Ortaleza, a coachman for 40 years. Always ready with a smile and a warm greeting to potential customers, Ortaleza has been doing this job to earn enough money to get by every day. Ortaleza goes around Intramuros using a borrowed kalesa and a horse named Alasan. As I found out later, there is no specific season when tourists would be around to ride his Kalesa. But during these slow seasons, Ortaleza has to give the kalesa’s owner his share of the daily revenues. Through the years, Ortaleza who is a father to eight children, has learned more about the history of Intramuros and English. Although he never finished a formal education, Ortaleza admitted that the Department of Tourism’s seminars has helped him become more confident in dealing with foreign tourists. “Mahirap lang kapag iba iyong accent nila minsan pero kaya naman [I sometimes have difficulty understanding them especially if they have an accent],” Ortaleza added. In my conversations with him, Ortaleza showed me a scar on his leg that was a reminder of accidental fall from his Kalesa. Ortaleza cherises times when people remembered him. “Minsan kahit nasa ibang bansa na ‘yong naging pasahero ko natatandaan pa rin ako, pinapadalhan pa nga ako [Some of my passengers still remember me even if they’re abroad. They sometimes send me gifts],” Ortaleza added. After four decades of doing this job, Ortaleza admitted he never gets tired smiling and accommodating local and foreign tourists. Ortaleza also shared another secret – and it’s not about the fastest route around Intramuros. He said that as long as you are honest and you don’t take advantage to your customers, you will always be on the right direction in life.
The Philippine national anthem’s title has often been mistaken as, “Bayang Magiliw.” It is the first few words in the lyrics composed by Julian Felipe in 1898. But more than being a cheerful nation, the Philippines is a chosen land, hence, the title, “Lupang Hinirang.” I remember singing Lupang Hinirang in my elementary years under the heat of the sun every morning in school. Back then, I felt that the national anthem had lost its meaning, as we sang it everyday. Of course, that was before. Today, you will hear the national anthem played in movie theaters before it opens and closes. So it was refreshing to hear a new version of the national anthem complete with new visuals. For several minutes, I was enthralled, as I saw, for the first time, the recent movie screening of Mae Paner’s Lupang Hinirang at the Rockwell Powerplant Mall. Here's the same video uploaded on YouTube: Advertising executive and director Paner’s interpretation of the Lupang Hinirang hopes to restore the Filipinos’ national pride. It begins with a young boy walking. With ragged slippers, he paces until he finds a little Philippine flag covered in dust on the ground. He picks it up and shakes off the dust. The boy continues walking, sees an empty flag pole. He moves towards it. Without hesitation, he removes his slippers, places the flag in his pocket and begins climbing it. The boy struggles to climb until he reaches the top. He then takes the flag from his pocket and waves it with a smile and pride. Meanwhile, a slower cadence of Lupang Hinirang played. I must admit I had goosebumps as I witnessed Paner’s interpretation of Lupang Hinirang. Watching the public screening of Paner’s Lupang Hinirang are Roadrunner’s Ric Hawthorne and NBN-ZTE controversy star witness Jun Lozada. Later in an interview, Hawthorne admits Paner’s music video portrays and instills national pride, which should start in every Filipino at a young age. Lozada was touched by the music video. “It appeared to me that it was so symbolic [especially with] the flag lying on the ground. Parang ganyan ang nangyayari sa bansa natin ngayon [It is similar to what’s happening in our country now] that national pride and national dignity is being stepped upon by so many of these corrupt officials. Somebody has to pick it up,” Lozada adds.
By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net TAGUIG City, Philippines -- United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney together with some American and Filipino military dignitaries celebrated the Veteran’s Day at American Cemetery. “If not for their sacrifices, our nations will never be free. They are the reason why we can vote peacefully, freely and with excitement actually,” said Kenney who joined the honoring of the war veterans. Kenney said she appreciated the enduring friendship between Filipino and Americans, as she acknowledged Filipinos who served the Americans during the World War II. “My grandfather and father is also war veteran,” Kenney said, as she disclosed why this day was also close to her heart. In an interview with reporters, Kenney shared her excitement about the new government under President-elect Barack Obama. However, she stressed that she is waiting until January when Obama finally settles into the White House.
By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MAE Paner has been in advertising industry for 25 years. Her debut in directing commercials came in 1997 when she came out with “Black and White.” Since then, she has found herself drowned in a career of “selling” soap, political personalities and products appealing to a certain target market. Paner is a stage actor in the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA). Aside from directing, she has been a commercial talent, appearing in a funny Boysen paint commercial as the nagging mother-in-law to a man painting his home. In the commercial, the nonchalant son-in-law keeps painting the wall white until he decides to paint over Paner who continues nagging him. For years, Paner thought she was doing okay with her chosen career as an artist until she saw Rodolfo Noel Lozada, Jr.'s expose on the controversial National Broadband Network project during a Senate investigation. “I was crying as I watched him. I felt so sad knowing that this is how terrible corruption is in our country,” Paner said. She realized that as an artist, she must do something to promote love for country because the greed for power and money is rooted in the lack of love for country. Paner later invited her friends to join her in an advocacy but very few responded. This did not stop her. She and some friends eventually formed a group called “Convergence Team,” whose objective is to promote nation building through art. The group also hopes to encourage good governance. The group eventually came up with a modern and inspiring music video of the Philippine National Anthem, “Lupang Hinirang,” which practically slowed down the way the anthem was sang from its usual 4/4 cadence to a slower, heartfelt beat. Paner directed the video. She also got the Loboc children’s choir conducted by Alma Taldo to sing the national anthem. While it may sound cliché, Paner believes that the children are the country’s future. Not surprising, the music video of the Lupang Hinirang features a child. The music video is simple: it shows a child walking and eventually finding a little Philippine flag on the ground. Next, the kid starts climbing a flag pole, and towards the end of the anthem, plants the little flag on top of the flag pole. “What will a kid do when he sees a flag on the ground?” asked Paner. In the music video, Paner shows that children who symbolize innocence will take and clean the flag. But it goes beyond that, as the child makes an effort to put the flag where it belongs. The kid’s presence in the music conveys innocence and pure intention. If only Filipinos would also show such love for the country, then we can all move forward as a nation, Paner said. “I am done with selling political ads and products, now I want to sell our nation,” she added. Indeed, incorporating social values is a rare practice in profit-oriented businesses. Paner suggests companies should also help in nation building. The Lupang Hinirang music video has so far been getting positive responses from people. Paner said her group is thinking of more and similar projects in the future. One problem they have encountered is delay in production due to tight budgets. For now, the group is using the Internet to spread the music video. People has already found their music video on YouTube.
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
HERE'S a clip of the Philippine proclamation of independence on July 4, 1946, courtesy of the UniversalNewsreels YouTube channel.
By Desiree Caluza Northern Luzon Bureau BAGUIO CITY, Philippines--The Baguio Centennial Commission will put up a museum at one of the heritage sites here to celebrate the city's 100th charter anniversary in 2009. The Diplomat Hotel was chosen as the location for the museum that will keep photographs and documents charting the growth of the city, said Michael Pearson, member of the centennial committee. He said they chose the abandoned hotel at Dominican Hill here because it offers a panoramic view of the city and is surrounded by trees. Virgilio Bautista, the committee chair, said the museum will showcase the beginnings of the mining industry that was introduced by the Americans in Benguet in the early 1900s. He said the centennial celebration and its related activities will also recognize the participation of foreign workers involved in the construction of Kennon Road, a major link of the city to the lowland provinces. The construction of Kennon Road, originally called Benguet Road, involved workers from almost 40 countries. Most of the workers, however, were Japanese, Americans and Filipinos, accounts show. Bautista said the commission is planning to trace the families of the Kennon Road workers so they could be recognized in the centennial celebration. He said the Japanese-Filipino community in Baguio would be asked to donate documents and memorabilia to the proposed museum. Pearson said they were evaluating books, photographs and documents issued or printed before the outbreak of World War II so these would be included in the museum. He said it was difficult to find pre-war materials, especially books, because most of these were destroyed or lost during the fighting and pillage of the 1940s. Bautista said the commission is preparing a coffee table book that will feature the history of the city and the people and institutions who contributed to the development of Baguio. He said 100 citizens, called "Baguio's 100," will be honored during the celebration for their roles in making Baguio what it is today. The commission and various civic groups and schools in the city have also started sprucing up parks and community gardens in time for the centennial.
By Tonette Orejas Inquirer CITY OF SAN FERNANDO--Kapampangans filled the San Agustin Church and its nearby museum in Intramuros, Manila, on the night of Aug. 24 to pay tribute to Augustinian missionaries who had sailed from there to Pampanga 435 years ago and influenced the natives’ character, culture and history. As they stood on the same grounds where some of those 100 friars lived and trained, they bridged the time, seeing past and present connections between Fray Juan Gallegos, who set foot in Lubao in 1572, and far, far, far down time when Fr. Eddie Panlilio, who finished theology at the St. Augustine Major Seminary, was elected governor in 2007. “Holy ground,” was how Dr. Arlyn Villanueva, president of the Holy Angel University, called the event’s venue. By the way the tribute and the celebration of continuing collaboration turned out, it was apparent the people wanted to remember the Augustinian fathers beyond their white robes and emblems of a flaming heart. Their “enduring legacies” are the Roman Catholic faith and values, heritage churches and architectural knowledge, schools and education initiatives, publications that chronicled the language and culture, ecclesiastical arts and culinary tradition, said San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto at the Mass he celebrated with Bishop Roberto Mallari and eight priests. Other legacies are the archival documents, the solidarity of friars with the faithful in times of wars, calamities and epidemics, the opening of roads, and their engineering attempts to provide irrigation to farmers. The extent of the Augustinians’ work and the breadth of their influence spoke of the fervor with which the pioneers lived out the dictum of their founder, St. Augustine, that “our hearts are restless until they rest in (God),” said Fray Francisco Musni, archivist and researcher of the HAU’s Center for Kapampangan Studies, which organized the tribute. Aniceto said the Archdiocese of San Fernando was “most profoundly grateful for the gift of faith” because it steeled the people in adverse times like Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruptions and the lahar flows that followed. That gift, he said, flourished because several Kapampangan, like Rufino Cardinal Santos, the first Filipino cardinal, became church pioneers themselves. In gratitude, the provincial board presented a copy of Resolution No. 945 to Fr. William Araña, OSA, vicar of the Orient of the Philippines, Augustinian Province, and to Alvaro Trejo, charge d’affaires of the Spanish Embassy. The resolution gives “due recognition and honor to the friar missionaries of the Calced Order of Saint Augustine for their pioneering efforts in Pampanga and for their role in the preservation of the culture.” That made Pampanga, the first and last Augustinian territory in Luzon until 1960, to be the “first province in the Philippines to officially thank the Spanish missionaries who labored in the country during colonial times,” said Robby Tantingco, the center’s executive director. One of the high points was the launch of the English translations of Fray Diego Bergaño’s two books, the “Arte de la Lengua Pampanga” (1729 Kapampangan Grammar) and the “Vocabulario de Pampango” (1732 Kapampangan Dictionary). Bergaño and his collaborator then, Don Juan Zuñiga of Mexico town, managed to reach out to the present through the translations of Fr. Edilberto Santos and Fr. Venancio Samson.
By Juan Mercado Inquirer "IT'S your fault that i never got to talk to the man," my son Francis gripes when former senator Benigno Aquino’s death is remembered, as we do today. Francis was a grade-school kid when our family bumped into Ninoy Aquino at San Francisco’s international airport. We were flying to Bangkok, and Aquino was booked on a Boston flight. The years have blurred most of our chat that day. But we did laugh over my securing a "carrier pigeon" to sneak his article, smuggled from a Fort Bonifacio prison cell under martial law censors’ noses. A sympathetic Air India manager brought it to the editor Theh Chongkadikhij at the Bangkok Post. In February 1973, the Post published “The Aquino Papers,” a three-part series that challenged martial law. “I will not accept President Marcos’ offer of an amnesty because I do not believe I’ve committed any crime,” Aquino wrote. “He violated our Constitution and broke our laws.” Information Minister Francisco Tatad cabled a furious 8,000 word reply. Reprisals followed. Aquino and his cell mate, former senator Jose Diokno, were hustled into solitary confinement in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija -- and half-starved to death. Prison guards turned Corazon Aquino and family away for 43 days. Carmen Diokno and her children received similar brushoffs. “When Cory asked Deputy Defense Minister Carmelo Barbero why, she learned it was ‘punishment’ for the Post series,” Miriam Grace Go reported. The airport boarding call cut our talk short. “Why didn’t you introduce me?” Francis groused as Ninoy left. “He’s the next Philippine president.” That was not to be. While military agents “guarded” Aquino as he descended the service gangway from his China Airlines plane, a single bullet tore into his jaw. A reporter from The Nation in Bangkok phoned for a reaction. Given United Nations restraints, all I could mumble was: “Marcos claims he heads a ‘command society.’ He has all the powers; so he has all the responsibility.” As a numb afterthought, I added: “Manila will be renamed Aquino International Airport.” The censored press suppressed Aquino’s arrival address aborted by that murder. Manuel L. Quezon III may someday publish a second edition of his book, “20 Speeches That Moved A Nation,” and perhaps he’ll see fit to include this speech that never was. “I have returned of my own free will to join the ranks of those struggling to recover our rights and freedoms through non-violence,” Aquino planned to say. “I seek no confrontation.” He flayed the supine Supreme Court justices’ abdication of the cherished right of habeas corpus (today a centerpiece in the search for “disappeared” activist Jonas Burgos and similar victims). He would have appreciated the irony in Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s plan to wield the “writ of Amparo” in order to leash some military officers who haven’t learned history’s lessons. Aquino thought a direct appeal to the ill, isolated Marcos could usher in peaceful change. He saw the danger. “If they kill me, they’re out in two years,” he predicted. That forecast fell short of the People Power Revolt by two years. Was this stupidity? Or principled stubbornness? The Duke of Norfolk badgered the imprisoned Thomas More to heed Henry VIII’s demand for consent to his divorce. “Think Master More,” the Duke urged. “Indignatio principis mors est.” [“The prince’s anger is death.”] More replied: “Is that all, my Lord? Then, there’s no difference between your Grace and me -- but I shall die today and you, tomorrow.” Under the dictatorship’s thumb, Military Commission No. 2 found Aquino “guilty” of subversion. They sentenced him to “death by musketry.” Censorship ensured that few heard what Aquino said after the sentencing. But Aquino, we’re told, asked the tribunal if they could recall the military judges who sentenced Andres Bonifacio. They could not. Aquino ticked off names of Gen. Mariano Noriel, Col. Agapito Banzon and others. “Today, few remember the names of those judges. But we meet in a fort that is named in honor of the very man they sentenced to death.” This was historical irony. Bonifacio’s trial has been documented by retired Justice Abraham Sarmiento and others. And deadline-pressed laymen, like us, can only hope that scholars of Ambeth Ocampo’s competence will one day compare transcripts of these two mistrials. Ninoy’s funeral brought two million mourners into the streets. Thousands tuned in to Radio Veritas, the only station that dared report the rites. “No umbrellas,” people chanted as rain fell. “Only Imelda uses an umbrella!” That was a jeer at cronies who trotted with parasol behind the First Lady. When the coffin passed Rizal Park, crowds forcibly lowered the giant Philippine flag to half-staff. Did that presage People Power four years later? No one could say. All that the people clung to was the belief that the blood of martyrs is the seed of heroes. Now a 39-year-old Northwest Airlines pilot, Francis never met Ninoy. But he sees the nation mark his death yearly. And Ninoy’s features grace our currency and stamps. Schools and streets are named after him. So is the Manila International Airport. The Aquinos never demanded a plot in the Libingan ng mga Bayani [Cemetery of Heroes]. The Marcoses have wheedled, unsuccessfully so far, for such an interment. Sorry old questions, however, continue to fester: Who were the mastermind(s)? Why have they escaped accounting? And who remembers the judges of Military Commission No. 2? Do people give a damn? Indeed, the “struggle of man against power,” as Czech novelist Milan Kundera once said, “is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”