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Monthly Archives: November 2011

80-year-old grandmother gives thanks for piece of Hacienda Luisita land

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‘My child, we have won’.

When news broke that the Supreme Court had decided to break up Hacienda Luisita and distribute the sprawling sugar plantation to farmers, 80-year-old Virginia Paligutan wept.

She shed tears of joy because hacienda workers, who had been caught in the vortex of a decades-long period of peasant unrest over a feudal land ownership system, would finally get a piece of the vast estate straddling Tárlac City and the towns of Concepción and La Paz.

Virginia recalled that one of her sons, Valentino, who was retrenched from the hacienda after it encountered worker protests over a stock distribution arrangement in lieu of land distribution under the 1988 Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), had gone to the hills and joined the New People’s Army.

Valentino, then 52, died of a gunshot wound in an encounter with government troops in 2005.

“My child, we have won,” she remembered saying on hearing the Supreme Court ruling.

“We have worked so hard for this,” Virginia told the Inquirer outside the Supreme Court building, where she had joined scores of Luisita farmers to thank the magistrates for their ruling.

“This is not for me,” said the grandmother of 13 children, including three of Valentino’s under her care. “I am already old.”

Sword pointed at CARP

The long-pending Hacienda Luisita impasse had been described by antipoverty advocates as a “sword” pointed at the heart of the agrarian reform program that then President Corazón Aquino had promulgated in 1988—two years after she was installed in Malacañang following the ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The estate was acquired from Spanish owners in 1958 on loans guaranteed by the government on condition that it would be distributed at cost to tillers under the Ramón Magsaysay administration’s counterinsurgency program.

The democracy icon’s failure to fulfill an election campaign promise to undertake agrarian reform as the centerpiece of a social justice program to alleviate poverty and remove one of the major causes of unrest led to a demonstration outside Malacañang in January 1987—11 months into her presidency. Thirteen protesters were killed by government troops.

Virginia has spent all her life as a worker at Hacienda Luisita. “I did not even own a pot of soil before,” she said at the Supreme Court, thinking back on all those years that she had toiled at the Tarlac estate.

Now, she said, she has something to pass on to the next generation of her family.
Though she walks a little slowly, she was still sharp and spunky, braving the morning heat to be able to express her gratitude.

A new day

Virginia was up at 2 a.m. on Thursday, raring to travel from Tárlac to the Supreme Court building in Manila. Her relatives had been apprehensive about her plan, fearing she might not be up to it given her age.
But she was adamant. It was also her first time to join a mass action in Manila.

Virginia said her family planned to continue planting rice on their land. She also hopes her family would not sell the land in the future. She said workers at the hacienda shared her joy at the Supreme Court ruling.
“Everybody was dancing,” she said. “It feels like a new day for us.”

The ruling was hailed as a victory for peasants who have long struggled to break the stranglehold of powerful political clans on the country’s rich agricultural lands.

“This has been a 50-year struggle already and this is a victory not only for these farmers, but for the many who are similarly situated,” said Romeo Capulong, a lawyer for the farmers.

“This gives hope to thousands of farmers who are continually being oppressed, that they too can dream to one day own the land they till,” he added.

President Aquino divestment

But Capulong said he expected President Aquino’s relatives would file an appeal, and that no distribution of land on the estate would happen until the case was deemed “final and executory.”

The battle over the estate’s ownership has allowed Mr. Aquino’s critics to portray the popular President’s family as a greedy political dynasty.

Its resolution could send a signal that owners of some 1 million hectares of the nation’s prime agricultural land who have evaded coverage would also be subjected to agrarian reform with three years left before the program’s mandated completion under a 2009 law.

The CARP was meant to give farmers ownership of the land they worked on, but it was watered down from tougher intended legislation.

This allowed the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and other powerful families to use controversial exemptions and loopholes to keep the land.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda emphasized on Thursday that the President had sold his 1 percent stake in the farm shortly after taking office.

But it remains under the control of the family of Mr. Aquino’s late mother, the Cojuangcos—one of the most influential clans in Philippine politics.

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Published earlier today by Inquirer.net.

More Hispanic than we admit

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Is it possibe to be Filipino if we (get) rid of the Spanish influence? No.
—Fr. José S. Arcilla, S.J.—

Maguindanáo Massacre: 2nd year (and counting?)

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We will never forget.

Why Spanish?

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WHY SPANISH
Jorge Domecq

Señor Don Jorge Domecq, Spanish ambassador to the Philippines.

On Wednesday, November 23, language teachers and experts from all over the region will assemble in the Instituto Cervantes de Manila for the Second Conference of Spanish as a Foreign Language in Asia and the Pacific which will be inaugurated by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. Many will remember the common heritage and the historical bonds between our two countries but wonder why reviving the Spanish language is an issue of interest in the Philippines as we enter the second decade of the 21st century.

Way back in 1937, President Manuel L. Quezon, referring to Spanish, said that “the Latin-American people believe and feel that we Filipinos form part of that vast family, the children of Spain. Thus, although Spain ceased to govern those countries many years ago and although another nation is sovereign in the Philippines, those Latin-American peoples feel themselves as brothers to the people of the Philippines. It is the Spanish language that still binds us to those peoples eternally if we have the wisdom and patriotism of preserving it.”

However, the 1987 Philippine Constitution abolished Spanish as an official language of this country. Although this decision could have been avoided, the truth of the matter is that the majority of Filipinos then no longer used Spanish in their daily lives and therefore the constitutional reform only represented a statement of fact.

It makes no sense to look back on the Spanish language just as an element of our common past, which is no longer there in our efforts to enhance our bilateral relations, to get to know each other better and to better understand our history and culture. We must admit, and we would be foolish not to do so, that there is so much about the Filipino culture that can only be understood fully if we have knowledge of the Spanish language.

Without forgetting Rizal, we can affirm that the “Golden Age” of Philippine literature (which paradoxically coincided with the American period in the Philippines and as Spanish began to disappear from all official communications) produced first-class writers like Pedro Paterno, Isabelo de los Reyes, Apolinario Mabini, José Palma and Fernando Mª Guerrero, who wrote all their works in Spanish. We must note that more than 20 percent of Tagalog words are of Spanish origin, although many of the popular expressions have a slightly different meaning. The oldest and some of the most important documents found in the National Archives of the Philippines or in the archives of the University of Santo Tomás can only be best understood and interpreted if one is fluent in Spanish. I am happy to say that we are working closely with Filipino authorities and some private institutions in the country to reverse this situation, among other things, by providing language training to the archivist who will have to ensure that the history that is there will continue to benefit future generations. All these efforts are commendable and need to be continued.

However, that is not the real reason why we are obliged to preserve and promote Spanish among the young and future generations of Filipinos.

Spanish must not be viewed as some archaic and dead language like Latin, that most Filipinos above the age of 50 remember as a compulsory subject in school, which they did not like and which for them was just a waste of time. Spanish should not be regarded either as a language of the elite spoken among Spanish mestizo families or as a legacy of a past that no longer exists. Spanish, along with the English language, is one of the only two global means that exist for communication (even if Chinese is the largest spoken language in the world). Today, more than 500 million people speak Spanish. It is also the second most studied language and the third most used on the Internet.

Furthermore, as far as the Philippines is concerned, Spanish can be a fundamental tool for many young Filipinos seeking employment in call centers or BPO businesses in this country or trying to get a better employment abroad as seafarers, nurses, social workers, etc. The United States is the main land of promise for the citizens of this country, and there are nearly 50 million North Americans who speak Spanish as their mother tongue. In addition, many Latin-American countries are notably increasing their trade and investment relations with Southeast Asian countries, gradually shifting their economic focus toward the Pacific.

If only Spanish were commonly spoken in the Philippines, along with the English language, the Philippines would become the next unbeatable business hub in Asia.

Since I arrived in Manila less than a year ago, I have been constantly asked about the relevance of Spanish in the Philippines of today. I would always reply by saying that I am very confident that Spanish is under no threat of disappearing. Manila has the third biggest Instituto Cervantes in the world in terms of number of students (an annual enrolment of 6,500) and at present, it can hardly take in more students. The real issue is whether we are ready to face the challenge of providing the young generations of Filipinos with the necessary academic backing that will enable them to study Spanish as a language of choice that will open for them a wealth of opportunities in employment. To this end, I hope to work closely with the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education.

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This article was first published in Inquirer.net.

Pacquiáo wins! However…

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…many who have seen that match, even fellow Filipinos, doubt Pacman’s victory. Pacman won via majority decision: 114-114, 115-113, 116-112. But it was clear in Márquez’s every move that he had thoroughly studied Pacman’s fighting style. To his credit, the Mexican’s battle plan was evenly calculated and impressive.

It should be noted that all Pacquiáo-Márquez matches are not without any controversy. On their first meeting, in 2004, the match ended in a draw; Pacquiáo was believed to have won that match especially since he knocked Márquez three times in the first round. They fought again in 2008. Pacquiáo won via split decision that time, but many (including yours truly) believed that it was Márquez’s moment.

Now many are crying a screwjob. If true, who’s fault then? Definitely not Pacman’s. Besides, Pacman still fought like the champion that he is. Unlike Floyd The Chicken (and Victor Ortiz), Pacman fought cleanly.

As of this writing, the local internet community is disappointed with the win. But what shines here is their honesty. Even if we Filipinos were all rooting for Pacman to win, we didn’t want it to end that way — in doubt. But why doubt that win? Are we all boxing experts? Aside from what we saw in that match, what do we really know about how a boxing match should be scored?

At any rate, Manny “Pacman” Pacquiáo is still the world’s best pound-for-pound prize fighter. But a Pacquiáo-Márquez IV should be in the offing. Make it happen.

Manny Pacquiáo vs Juan Manuel Márquez III live streaming

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Watch Manny Pacquiáo vs Juan Manuel Márquez today right here, LIVE and CLEAR!

Good news: Palawan’s underground river is now one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature!

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Great news: our very own underground river in Puerto Princesa, Provincia de Palawan made it to the New 7 Wonders of the World!!!

Here’s the list in alphabetical order:

1) Amazon Rainforest (encompassing Brazil, Perú, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana)
2) Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)
3) Iguazu Falls (located between Argentina and Brazil)
4) Jeju Island (South Korea)
5) Komodo National Park (Indonesia)
6) Puerto Princesa Underground River (Philippines)
7) Table Mountain (South Africa)

GENEVA—The Amazon rainforest, Vietnam’s Halong Bay, and Argentina’s Iguazu Falls were named among the world’s new seven wonders of nature, according to organisers of a global poll.

The other four crowned the world’s natural wonders are South Korea’s Jeju Island, Indonesia’s Komodo, the Philippines’ Puerto Princesa Underground River, and South Africa’s Table Mountain, said the New7Wonders foundation, citing provisional results.

Final results will be announced early 2012, said the Swiss foundation, warning however that there may yet be changes between the provisional winners and the final list.

Sites which have failed to make the cut include Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the Dead Sea, and the US Grand Canyon.
The poll organised by Swiss foundation New7Wonders has attracted great interest, mobilising celebrities including Argentinian football star Lionel Messi calling on fans to pick his home country’s Iguazu Falls.

The results come after a long consultation process lasting from December 2007 to July 2009, when world citizens were asked to put forward sites which they deemed were natural wonders.

More than a million votes were cast to trim the list of more than 440 contenders in over 220 countries down to a shortlist of 77.

The group was then further cut to the 28 finalists by a panel of experts.

Anyone in the world was then able to vote for the final seven via telephone, text messages or Internet social networks.
Founded in 2001 by filmmaker Bernard Weber in Zurich, the foundation New7Wonders is based on the same principle on which the seven ancient wonders of the world were established. That list of seven wonders was attributed to Philon of Byzantium in ancient Greece.

New7Wonders said its aim is to create a global memory by garnering participation worldwide.

But even as the natural wonders poll came to a close, the New7Wonders foundation has set its eyes on a new survey — the top seven cities of the world. Participating cities will be announced on January 1, 2012 (taken from Inquirer.net).

My cousin Ann Cecil Évora (blue cap) and friends outside the Puerto Princesa Underground River taken early this year.

However, as stated in the above article, these natural wonders are just “provisional” which means it is possible that there will be changes between the abovementioned provisional winners and the eventual finally confirmed winners. I don’t understand why, nor what the catch should be. So let’s just keep our fingers crossed that our underground river will remain as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature on a permanent basis.

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