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My adoptive hometown’s cityhood is near

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I just saw this a few minutes ago in RAPPLER:

San Pedro in La Laguna to hold cityhood plebiscite on December 28

BY MICHAEL BUEZA
POSTED ON 12/18/2013 6:32 PM  | UPDATED 12/19/2013 8:43 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Four days before the year ends, registered voters in San Pedro, La Laguna, will either approve or reject the conversion of their town into a city.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) scheduled for Saturday, December 28, a plebiscite to ratify San Pedro’s cityhood. Voting hours will be from 7 am to 3 pm.

If majority of the 160,777 voters write “yes” on their ballots, San Pedro would become the 6th city in the province of La Laguna, after Biñán, Cabuyao, Calamba, San Pablo, and Santa Rosa.

San Pedro was converted into a component city through Republic Act 10420, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on March 27, 2013.

RA 10420 states that Comelec should conduct a plebiscite within 30 days after the law’s approval, but the poll body resolved to hold off all plebiscites until after the October 28 barangay polls.

The plebiscite period in San Pedro started on November 28, and will last until Jan 2, 2014. A gun ban is implemented throughout the plebiscite period, while a liquor ban will take place on the eve of the plebiscite and on plebiscite day. The counting of votes will be done manually.

The town’s Comelec office is gearing up for the plebiscite. “We will be putting up tarpaulins in every barangay hall to inform voters about RA 10420 and the plebiscite,” said Mario Loyola, a staff member of the Comelec-San Pedro municipal office. Rappler.com

I can still vividly remember the first time we moved in to San Pedro. It was during the Philippine presidential elections of 2004. That was almost a decade ago. No disrespect to the former mayor back then, but the place was really topsy-turvy when me and my family arrived: potholes in major roads, rowdy vendors, rugby boys, piles of garbage in sidewalks, etc. Whether or not it is the fault of San Pedrenses, command responsibility will always come to mind whenever new arrivals have a first impression of a place.

I can say that I am proud of having witnessed all the positive changes in this place throughout the years. Sana ñga lang, maquisama din ang lahát ng tagá San Pedro, maguíng tubo man dito o dayo tulad ng familia co, sa  positibong pagbabago na itunutulac ng casalucuyang pámunuan.

A hearty congratulations to Mayor Lourdes S. Catáquiz and her team. Of course, former mayor and now San Pedro’s First Gentleman Calixto R. Catáquiz shouldn’t be left out in the acknowledgments; all this was, after all, his brainchild when he was still the Sampaguita Capital’s chief magistrate.

My Filipiniana wedding!

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Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
—2 Thessalonians 2:15—

Jennifer “Yeyette” Perey and I have been together for 14 years. She was my college classmate (the prettiest in class, if I may add), my barcada, my “ate” (she’s three years my senior), my partner in crime, my best friend. Hindí man niyá acó lubusang naiintíndihan, tacbuhan co siyá palagui sa touíng bad trip acó sa cung anó mang bagay sa buhay. And vice versa. She had no fondness for almost everything that interests me. Books and politics bore her to death. And she couldn’t care less for the difference between nationalism and birthday parties. In the same vein, I dislike her diversions: showbiz and fashion, and the usual girl talk.

But as children of the 90s, perhaps the only thing which drew us towards each other is our susceptibility to the frivolities of our youth. It was an era of youth itself, when youth in the history of Time was at its happiest, when “happy-go-luckiedness” was basic canon, an age when democracy in our country was having the time of its life, when hip hop and metal were waging war against each other, and when primetime cartoons and sitcoms were the subject of next-days idle talk inside classrooms. It was a time when rebelling was no longer dangerous but fun, a time when pop culture has reached its zenith to the point of being making itself stale (and it did).

When Yeyette and I met, it was a time when euphoria made itself blatant as the most sought-after objective of man.

We never ignored the future, but we cared less for responsibilities. Unselfishness was but a precipitation on a windowpane on which we merely used to write down our names. Youth was all there was. We thought it was immortal. Although it never lorded us over, it never commanded us to do anything, it, however, tolerated our every whim, blinding us with the “truth” about pleasure.

Fortunately for me, I was not your average petty bourgeois. I was also an observant SOB and a worshipper of books dealing with various subjects. And even before me and Yeyette were already an item, I was already in pursuit of truth. Religious truth, that is. And so: growing up with a non-religious Catholic mom, I freely received various books and pamphlets from her JW cousins; as a teen, I showed interest with my maternal grandmother’s UCCP; I then spent several months with the MMCC; a couple of weeks with the INC; was a fanatic Ang Dating Daan fan for about two years, etc. Becoming more adventurous, I then joined DeMolay.

Looking back, I believe that listening to all those sects led to my disenchantment with organized religion which was further augmented with my activities as a young socialist activist. Imagine just what kind of existential angst I had to go through.

During my training with De Molay, my friendship with Yeyette ended up with her getting pregnant. Then Krystal followed. Then life in its most ostentatious color.

Our frosty windowpane was shattered with just a snap of a finger. All of youth’s promises, lost (I imagine José García Villa mockingly slapping our faces with yellowing rough drafts of his “Footnote to Youth”).

Youth betrayed us. Pop culture popped rather hard in front of us, stinging our faces painfully.

Our first photo together taken at Bacoor, Cavite (circa 1999).

In the difficult events that followed (and being unable to make a compromise with my dad regarding Yeyette’s pregnancy), I resigned myself to the notion that life’s a bitch, so it’s better to love myself. I gave up the idea of God. But not my family.

*F*I*L*I*P*I*N*O*e*S*C*R*I*B*B*L*E*S*

My apologies; it’s not my intention to write a pathos-incensed story of our love life in one blogpost, so never mind the —if you may— kick-a$s intro, hehehe! It might take me forever to write about it. So let me just fast-forward things up to the time when me and Yeyette were already proud and happy parents of four kids: Krystal, Momay, Jefe, and Juanito. It took a family of my own to make me realize that God is real, God is true, God is within us, that family is the covenant He speaks of.

Yes, I became a Christian again, but only after torturous months of joblessness and defeat, reawakenings due to a rereading of Philippine History and philosophy (particularly metaphysics and theology), and wrestling against myself if I was to abort my second child or not. In the end, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) won over me. Life became clearer then. And I didn’t even have to read The Purpose Driven Life (as a matter of fact, I haven’t even read it yet).

And since me and Yeyette didn’t want to live a life filled with guilt over what we did (hooking up together much to our respective parents’ disappointment and heartbreak), neither did we intend to continue our lives in “fornication”. Although we were wed civilly, we are not yet married in God’s eyes. A couple of years from now, we’ll be in our 40s. We didn’t have any plans of going beyond that age limit before officially tying the knot.

And so three months ago today, on a dreaded Friday the 13th which was also our 14th anniversary as a couple, me and Yeyette were finally married in our parish church. It was a simple ceremony, really, as it never had the grandeur similar to other weddings. However, it had the elegance, the sacredness, and the character of a true Filipino wedding…

Photo by Mao Joseph Almadrones.

…because we were married using an ancient Catholic rite: the Rito Mozárabe or the Mozarabic Rite which was the original Catholic form of worship in the Philippines from the Spanish times up to the late 1950s. The wedding took place before the entrance of the church; it lasted for about half an hour. Afterwards came the nuptial blessing using the extraordinary form of the Roman rite, also known as the Tridentine Latin Mass. The languages used during the entire ceremony were Spanish and Latin, the way it should really be.

Ours can be considered a historic wedding because it was the first time —at least in the Southern Tagalog area— that a traditional Filipino wedding occurred since the late 1950s; a similar wedding occurred earlier this year, but it was held at the Holy Family Church in Cubáo, Quezon City.

And speaking of Tridentine Masses, it was a startling coincidence to find out later on that our wedding happened on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the promulgation of the celebrated apostolic letter Summorum Pontificum of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI! And our wedding also occurred during the final months of the Year of Faith, probably one of the most awesome things to have happened to someone who was once faithless! Friday the 13th be damned!

Really, AWESOME is all I could muster from my thoughts. :D

Invitation card designed by young Church historian Jesson Allerite.

Our wedding rings on my wife’s Filipiniana bouquet composed of sampaguita, gumamela, ylang-ylang, pandacaqui, camia, and champaca flowers. The bouquet was designed by renowned florist Serge Igonia, a native San Pedrense.

I said goodbye to my long hair on the day of my wedding, LOL! It was Ryan Panaligan, Yeyette’s friend who is a personal stylist of Jed Madela, Luis Manzano and other ABS-CBN stars, was the one who took care of our hair and make-up. And now he’s styling another hunk in this photo.

My bride and our daughter Krystal.

Our boys: Momay, Jefe, and Juanito.

The centuries-old and miraculous Cruz de Tunasán —a “victim” of José Rizal’s satire— became part of our historic wedding!

A modest string of sampaguita flowers are hanging by the church pews on either side of the carpeted nave. San Pedro Tunasán is also known as the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines”.

With former San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz and his wife, incumbent Mayor Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz who served as our wedding sponsors.

The bride arrives in an elegant looking carroza.*

The Mozarabic wedding is about to begin.

Locution of the admonition and exhortation. Reverend Father Michell Joe “Jojo” Zerrudo, pastor at the Holy Family Parish in Quezon City and also a renowned exorcist, officiates the rare wedding.

Union of our right hands.

Father Jojo blesses our rings and arrhae.

Fr. Jojo places the ring on my right ring finger.

Fr. Jojo gives me Yeyette’s ring which I then insert to her right middle finger.

Fr. Jojo transmits the arrhae to my hands…

…which I then transmit to Yeyette’s hands…

…which she then transmits back to Fr. Jojo.

Done with the Mozarabic Rite wedding! And nope, I’m not doing a rendition here of John Cena’s “you can’t see me!”. I was just proudly showing off my golden ring. :-)

The nuptial blessing begins (using the extraordinary form of the Mass). Both me and Yeyette were led by Fr. Jojo towards the altar. We were holding on to the edge of his stole as he recites Psalm 127. Go figure. :-)

 

The Catáquiz couple. Behind them is Señor Guillermo Gómez, a giant in Philippine history and letters who is also one of our wedding sponsors. Accompanying Señor Gómez is Valerie Devulder, French-Filipina granddaughter of the late Francisco Coching, “Dean of Philippine Comics”.

Sampaguita and camia flowers strewn all over the carpeted nave.

Imposition of the veil as Señor Gómez looks on. Renowned Catholic apologist Carlos Antonio Pálad

Nuptial blessing.

This moment brought me to tears, for I have not received Holy Communion in years. Tita Joji Alas, one of our wedding sponsors, is seated beside Señor Gómez.

My bride’s turn to receive the Body of Christ.

Sorry, no kissing in Tridentine Mass weddings. But of course, a couple should not show an intimate moment right in front of the altar. That is what I call a Novus Ordo Mistake.

Standing behind us: my cousin Jam, Tita Joji, Mayor Baby, my maternal grandmother Norma Soriano, Yeyette’s dad Jaime Perey, my dad Josefino Alas, Mayor Calex, and Señor Gómez.

Throwing rice grains to the newlyweds is an old Filipino custom. I just treat it as tradition. And hey, what our friends and family members flung at us are organic rice grains, LOL!

❤ ❤ ❤

CLICK HERE for more photos! And for an explanation of our wedding’s symbolism or the rite as a whole, CLICK HERE.

*Special thanks to Gerald Ceñir and the rest of the “Tridentine Boys” (Jesson, Mao, Juhnar Esmeralda, Satcheil Amamangpang, Miguel Madarang, and Justin Benaldes) for making this dream wedding come true (Gerald has been helping me in planning for this wedding since 2009!). Thank you also to former Biñán councilor Rómulo “Ome” Reyes for allowing us the use of his carroza, and to Mr. Ronald Yu for sponsoring it. To all who attended our wedding: ¡muchísimas gracias!. And more importantly, THANKS BE TO GOD!

Stay tuned for more of “My Filipiniana wedding!”

Baby Catáquiz vs Norvic Solidum: the Battle for San Pedro!

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Despite the lack of conclusive and official judgment, it is already common knowledge that the late actor and Filipino cultural icon Fernando Poe, Jr. was cheated during the 2004 presidential, legislative, and local elections. Having lost faith in democratic politics, that was the last time I exercised my right to suffrage. Turning apolitical, I swore to myself never to participate in elections ever again.

Incidentally, it was on the same day when I relocated my family from BF Homes Parañaque to Barrio San Vicente in San Pedro, La Laguna. A female cousin of mine who was married to a native San Pedrense (from the well-known Igonia clan) helped us in finding an apartment unit. Having lived most of my life in urban Parañaque City, I was somehow elated with the idea that me and my family will become provincianos and enjoy a rural lifestyle. I’ve been an urban kid for years. That’s why rural life always revs up the sentient patterns of my behavior toward society. Summer vacations in my father’s rustic hometown during my childhood made the thought even more nostalgic. But I was disappointed with what I saw.

As an aficionado of nature and culture, I was expecting farmlands, tranquility, more of nature, more rustic imagery, and more bahay na bató houses in San Pedro. But upon entering it from Muntinlupà City, what greeted me was a vandalized bridge and welcome arch, a garbage-filled estero, pro-promiscuity Sogo Hotel, smoke fumes from numerous tricycles, boorish traffic on potholed and littered roads, and a motley assemblage of unaesthetic establishments reminiscent of dirty Quiapò, Manila in the 80s and 90s. Simply put, the then Municipality of San Pedro was an exuberance of poor municipal planning. I promptly blamed the current town leader, Felicísimo Vierneza. My reason: command responsibility, if not inept leadership. It was but unfortunate, in my opinion, that he won during the said elections.

In 2007, businessman Calixto Catáquiz —half Tayabeño, half San Pedrense— again entered the scene as San Pedro’s chief executive. I said “again” because he has already managed San Pedro before, starting in 1986, when he was first appointed by the late President Corazón Aquino as Officer-In-Charge, all the way to 1998. 2007 was the year that I truly noticed CHANGE in San Pedro.

One more challenge

I’ve been hearing about Mayor Calex since I was a kid because he is actually a family friend; his father and my father are both from Unisan, Tayabas Province. In fact, one of my uncles is a very close associate of his. And whenever I spend my summer vacations  in Unisan as a young boy, I do remember seeing him in the Rural Bank of Unisan (now Entrepreneur Bank) which was owned by his family (he used to manage the bank). It was just pure coincidence that I transferred my family to San Pedro that has been the home of a fellow Tayabeño.

But that is all I know. I never knew Mayor Calex on a personal level until 2008. During that time, my friend and fellow history buff Arnaldo and I were pondering on how we could make it to the publishing scene. We maintain blogs that deal with Philippine History and Filipino Identity. But we believed that the only way we could make it into the big league (or for our body of work to be seriously noticed) is to get published. Publish or perish, as noted authors will always say. But really, we have no idea how to start.

And then it hit me: why not write a history book for San Pedro? That could be a good start. After all, my nose for history compelled me to read everything that I could regarding my family’s adoptive hometown since 2004. I was confident that me and Arnold could write one. But we needed support. I thought of using my connection to be able to reach out to Mayor Calex. And so one day, I contacted my uncle, and he setup a meeting between us (me and Arnaldo) and the Mayor at the old municipal office (fronting the town plaza and the historic Church of San Pedro Apóstol). But like everyone else, we had to wait for our queue (there were many people who had wanted seek an audience with him that day, and he was also officiating a civil marriage for about ten couples or so). Then came our turn to speak to him. We were led to his desk by his stern but polite staff. The mayor turned out to be a nice guy after all, very accommodating, hearing us out well, and not menacingly intimidating (because of my activist background, I then had reservations of dealing with politicians). And despite his tall stature, Mayor Calex was a soft-spoken man, even showing qualities of timidity that I think is unusual for a politician. I immediately liked him.

We never talked about our Unisan connections. We immediately told him our plans: a history book for San Pedro. But much to our dismay, he revealed that there were already two books published about San Pedro’s history. The most recent was made during the incumbency of his predecessor entitled San Pedro, Laguna: Noon at Ngayon (San Pedro, La Laguna: San Pedro Historical Committee, 2007) by Amalia Cullarín and Sonny Ordoña. Prior to that is the now rare Kasaysayan ng Bayan ng San Pedro Tunasán (Manila: Liberty Press, Co., 1963) by Anastacio Olivárez. However, Mayor Calex did not immediately dismiss us. Little did we know that he was actually planning to have his own biography. He was inspired to have one after having read the best-selling biography of his good friend, the late Comedy King Dolphy (Hindi Ko Ito Narating Mag-isa by Bibeth Orteza, Quezon City: Kaizz Ventures, Inc., 2008). He and Dolphy made a movie together, Home Along da Riber, in 2002. Mayor Calex was then the General Manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), and he conceptualized the said movie to promote environmental efforts for Laguna de Bay, the Philippines’s largest lake.

A book is a book. An opportunity is an opportunity. So we grabbed the chance. And that is how my close association with Mayor Calex started. And I got to know him better.

From municipality to cityhood

While doing research for his biography, we found out that during his first two years as OIC of San Pedro, Mayor Calex was able to accomplish a staggering 110 major projects! It must be noted that the number of projects that Mayor Calex was able to accomplish was already outstanding for a first-time “accidental” politician. Accidental, because he never even planned of becoming Mayor despite his parents’ ties with the late strongman President Ferdinand Marcos. Another remarkable feat: in less than a decade, from his OIC years up to 1995, he was able to raise the coffers of the municipal treasury from ₱6.41 million to a staggering amount of ₱70 million! In 1992, he was able to make San Pedro a 1st class municipality. He could have done more. But in 1998, Vierneza replaced him. And this new leader took hold of San Pedro’s mayoralty seat up to 2007. It was during these years that San Pedro retrogressed into the disappointing municipality that I found it to be in 2004.

In retrospect, how was Mayor Calex able to do such accomplishments even without any formal training in political leadership? He was not from a political family. They were more into business (the Catáquiz family is, in fact, one of the wealthiest —if not the wealthiest— in all of San Pedro). And so with this, he invented a formula: his “50-50″ scheme which means that he had to be a 50% politician and 50% administrator. Using the “banker” side of his character, or his being a 50% administrator, he turned San Pedro’s financial woes into financial gains.

So fast forward to today. For the past few years, Mayor Calex has been working extremely hard for the cityhood of San Pedro. His hardwork finally paid off when, on 27 March 2013, Republic Act 10420 was signed, effectively converting San Pedro into La Laguna province’s newest city.

The failed municipality of San Vicente

Thankfully, this act was signed in due time. Because if not, San Pedro would have fallen into a downward spiral.

In a blogpost that I published last month, I wrote about the selfish plans of Mayor Calex’s political rival, Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum. It turned out that Solidum and his partner/protégé Allan Mark Villena were petitioning the provincial government to split San Pedro into two by having Barrio San Vicente converted into a new municipality. If that ever happened, San Pedro’s income class would have gone down to 3rd class, thus making impossible San Pedro’s bid for cityhood. And as main petitioners, either Solidum or Villena would have been the mayor of this failed municipality of San Vicente.

Such schemes are a pet peeve of mine, for I do not believe in the splitting of towns/cities. Why? Because I always subscribe to this Nick Joaquín dictum, which is logical and highly principled:

Philippine society, as though fearing bigness, ever tends to revert the condition of the barangay of the small enclosed society. We don’t grow like a seed, we split like an amoeba. The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns. The moment a province becomes populous it disintegrates into two or three smaller provinces. The excuse offered for divisions is always the alleged difficulty of administering so huge an entity. But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small. The decentralization and barrio-autonomy movement expresses our craving to return to the one unit of society we feel adequate to: the barangay, with its 30 to a hundred families. Anything larger intimidates. We would deliberately limit ourselves to the small performance. This attitude, an immemorial one, explains why we’re finding it so hard to become a nation, and why our pagan forefathers could not even imagine the task. Not E pluribus unum is the impulse in our culture but “Out of many, fragments”. Foreigners had to come and unite our land for us; the labor was far beyond our powers. Great was the King of Sugbú, but he couldn’t even control the tiny isle across his bay. Federation is still not even an idea for the tribes of the North; and the Moro sultanates behave like our political parties: they keep splitting off into particles.

Setting aside his selfish ambitions, it is safe to conclude that, based on the above, Solidum fears bigness and thinks like an amoeba, therefore not fit for public service. Anything large intimidates him.

And because he’s intimidated, he sought to play dirty.

¿Daáng Matuwíd ñga bá talagá?

During the fiesta of Barrio San Vicente last month, a strange document started circulating in various Facebook accounts, pages, and groups concerning San Pedro. The document, dated 5 April 2013, is purportedly from the Office of the President of the Philippines, ordering Mayor Calixto Catáquiz “to vacate his office immediately”:

The strange thing is that these papers first appeared on the internet, that is why it was considered dubious at best. And for many days since the papers first appeared on the web, Mayor Calex still had to receive the hard copies. News of this also reached the major dailies and some radio stations. So upon hearing the news, thousands upon thousands of supporters, many of whom were native San Pedrenses, trooped to the new municipal hall and to the town plaza to show their support for the mayor.

Why these documents first appeared on the web still remains a puzzle. But it is already clear that it is a form of black propaganda to discredit the mayor. It should be noted that Mayor Calex belongs to the Nacionalista Party whereas Solidum is being carried by President Noynoy Aquino’s powerful Liberal Party. Noynoy is known to hate everyone who used to be allied with former President Gloria Macapagal de Arroyo (just ask Renato Corona). And Mayor Calex was an appointee of the former president.

The ghost of LLDA: the real score

The order to vacate the mayoralty seat stems from Mayor Calex’s case with the LLDA. In 2001, ex-president Arroyo appointed him as LLDA General Manager (prior to this, he was already a member of its Board of Directors from 1992 to 1998). One of his well-known achievements as its administrator was securing for Laguna de Bay the “Living Lake” honor from the prestigious Living Lake network, winning the distinction over Brazil’s Pantanal, the world’s largest wetlands, and Poland’s Milicz Pond.

Nothing is too small or too big for Catáquiz as the GM of LLDA. During his administration, he made studies about the feasibility of tapping Laguna de Bay as a source of potable water for Metro Manila, citing that having this as an option would greatly reduce water utility costs. His vision was reinforced by his observance of the Singapore model in which part of used water is recycled. Before leaving LLDA, he had already made this recommendation to the Office of the President.

He was also bent on changing the office culture into a more productive environment the moment he stepped in as its GM. But when he found out about employees playing computer games during office hours, he issued an intra-office memo banning and removing all computer-based games within office premises, much to the dismay of some lazy employees.

This very trivial matter was actually the start of his troubles with the LLDA employees. He was a strict boss, but fair in all his dealings. Corruption? An impossibility. He was already a millionaire even on the day he was born because of his parents banks and other profitable businesses. To put it more bluntly, he never needed the GM job nor any political seat just to enrich himself, as is the practice of many politicians who are not as financially fortunate as him.

Sadly, his strictness was not received well by these employees. Later on, these same employees would join the clamor made by a militant fishing group (whose members lost their illegal fishing fences within the lake courtesy of GM Catáquiz) to replace the GM. Perhaps they were looking for a leader who could tolerate their laziness and other unfair dealings?

GM Catáquiz reasoned out that he always had the employees’ welfare in mind. But he was unwilling to tolerate unprofessional deeds. He was fully expecting that everyone would subscribe to the idea that they would have to abide by the law and that they should have the focused willingness to serve the poor people.

Due to graft charges unfairly hurled against him by some LLDA employees who had personal grudges to bear, Catáquiz parted ways with the organization on a sad note.

NOT convicted

His enemies inside the LLDA prevailed. In 2003, Catáquiz was dismissed as GM “on the grounds of corrupt and unprofessional behavior and management incompetence”. But this is the real score: he was NEVER CONVICTED in a court of law. Instead, he was found guilty of administrative misconduct by a tribunal by the Office of the Solicitor General. Two years later, a resolution from the Office of the President that was based on the findings of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission imposed the penalties of “disqualification from reemployment in the government service and forfeiture of retirement benefits” on Catáquiz. But he never pursued that anymore because it was already moot and academic.

In simple words, the Supreme Court merely acknowledged that an administrative case was filed against Catáquiz, that it was uncontested, and so that the penalties attached to the case were applied. That was all to it. There was no conviction at all. After this setback, Catáquiz simply went back to private life and just supported his wife Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz’s political career who was then serving as the town’s Vice Mayor. Eventually, he returned as mayor of San Pedro in  2007.

Simply put, his troubles with the LLDA had NOTHING to do with his being mayor of San Pedro. Therefore, the recent order from Malacañang, signed by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr., is ILLEGAL.

The problem now is that during Solidum’s campaign sorties, his group continuously trumpet that Catáquiz was convicted by the Supreme Court when the truth is that the high court took no action at all with the mayor’s past (and questionable) troubles with the LLDA.

Cracks in the Solidum-Almoro tandem?

But in a twist of fate, as mentioned earlier, thousand of angry residents of San Pedro trooped to the city hall to show their support for Mayor Calex, something that Solidum’s camp never anticipated. And it happened for several days last month. Could this overwhelming (and probably unexpected) show of support one reason why the dubious Malacañang order for Mayor Calex to vacate his position never materialized?

And could this also be the reason why Solidum’s camp was rattled? According to a very reliable source, Solidum’s running mate, Sheriliz “Niña” Almoro, already broke away with him. Not only her but two others who are running for councilors under the Solidum bandwagon:

Ina Olivárez, Niña Almoro, and Kim Carrillo reportedly broke away from Solidum’s camp. How true?

The three, however, have kept mum on the issue.

COMELEC unreliable

Nothing happened with the questionable Ochoa papers. So out of desperation, and realizing that Mayor Calex was still popular inspite of the smear campaign against him, the enemy camp made one final blow.

With just a few days left before May 13, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) suddenly decided to disqualify Mayor Calex from seeking reelection:

In a resolution dated May 7, the COMELEC first division granted the petition filed by Catáquiz’s rival, San Pedro Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum, and two others to disqualify the local chief executive, who was also recently ordered by Malacañang to step down.

The COMELEC ruling, signed by Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, and Christian Robert Lim, cited Section 40 of the Local Government Code, which bars “from running for any elective local position … those removed from office as a result of an administrative case.”

Catáquiz, a member of the Nacionalista Party, said he has yet to receive a copy of the COMELEC order but vowed to seek “legal remedies” from a higher body to stop his disqualification.

“With three more days to go (before the elections), this is just a strategy of my opponents to discredit me,” he said in a phone interview Thursday.

But COMELEC decisions are highly unreliable these days. It will be remembered that just a few days ago, they implemented COMELEC Resolution No. 9688 which prohibits the “withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks and conversion of any monetary instrument into cash from May 8 to 13, exceeding P100,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency, per day in banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions performing similar functions.” But the Supreme Court put a stop to it, declaring it unconstitutional. So how can one rely on COMELEC’s wisdom?

Norvic then made a mad scramble and trumpeted the news. Last Friday, an old yellow model pick-up truck (take note: the plate number was covered) was driving all over the municipality declaring, with its megaphone blurting out that Mayor Calex was already disqualified, and that all who would vote for him will no longer be counted.

But Norvic, party’s not over when it’s really over.

Enter Baby Catáquiz

Just when Solidum et al. thought that they had won (especially since another mayoralty bet, Berlene Alberto, is not really well-known), Cataquiz’s wife Lourdes filed her certificate of candidacy last Friday at the COMELEC office (almost at the same time that Mayor Calex received his copy of the COMELEC resolution that disqualified him from the mayoralty race). The move is legal.

Let it be known that under COMELEC rules:

“The substitute for a candidate who died or is disqualified by final judgment, may file his COC up to mid-day of election day, provided that the substitute and the substituted have the same surnames.” (see COMELEC Resolution No. 9518).

So to all registered San Pedrense voters, please be informed that all votes for Mayor Calex will still be counted. And all of them will be automatically accounted for his legal substitute: Mrs. Lourdes “Baby” Catáquiz.

In less than 24 hours, it’s election time! Let it be known that this blog is not supposed to be a political blog. However, I now feel concerned with the elections in my adoptive hometown, San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna especially since this has been our home for the past nine years. Despite my rather apolitical stance (I’m not a registered voter), I feel I had to do this because it is a civic duty, and not out of political friendship or bias. And I feel the need to endorse and support Mrs. Baby Catáquiz not out of political ties (they never instructed me nor paid me to write this blogpost, believe it or not). Because I know that it is the RIGHT and JUST thing to do.

Yes, Mayor Calex is a friend of mine. And to my observation, I honestly do find Mr. Solidum as an inept and unfit and uncouth public servant (many witnessed how Solidum made a slit-throat gesture yesterday when his motorcade met Mrs. Catáquiz’s). But I never thought of putting myself in the midst of their rivalry by writing a blogpost in support of Mayor Calex (who am I to do that in the first place? I’m just another blogger).

Nothing really personal with Mr. Solidum. But had he not attempted to divide San Pedro, then this blogpost wouldn’t have existed. During the last elections, in 2010, I never wrote any article/blogpost in support of Mayor Calex. Nor did I attack his challenger (Vierneza) back then.

So to my fellow San Pedrenses, you now know where you stand.

And what of Mayor Calex? His story has not yet ended.

His biography is still in progress. :-)

Norvic Solidum, Mayor of San… Vicente?

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Two days ago, the Manila Times ran a rather disturbing story about a political “tug of war” that is happening in the erstwhile municipality of San Pedro in La Laguna province:

Tug of war over La Laguna town seethes

Published on 03 April 2013
Written by ROSELLE AQUINO CORRESPONDENT
SAN PEDRO, La Laguna: Machinations by políticos and their minions seeking to carve their turf in a huge section of this highly urbanized municipality has stirred residents and old-timers into a furor.

Frantic San Pedro residents are begging Malacañang to speed up the conversion of their municipality into a city to thwart attempts at chopping off a large portion of their town.

Officers and members of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Rotary Club of San Pedro, who asked not to be named for fear of political reprisal, expressed apprehensions over ongoing attempts to slice off Barangay San Vicente —a big portion of San Pedro— and convert it into another municipality.

“San Pedro has a lot of economic potentials that are waiting to be harnessed and a key to unlocking these potentials is the conversion of this booming municipality into a city,” the concerned leaders said, adding that San Pedro’s neighbors Biñán, Santa Rosa, Cabuyao, and Calambâ have turned into booming cities.

Behind the alleged move to split San Pedro into two municipalities is a group led by Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum and his erstwhile political protégé, San Vicente barangay chieftain Allan Mark Villena.

The two successfully swayed the entire Sangguniang Barangay of San Vicente to approve Barangay Resolution No. 11-33 on August 12, 2011 asking La Laguna Governor ER Ejército and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to create the new San Vicente town. The one-page Resolution 11-33 was signed by Villena and barangay councilors Vicente Solidum, Jr., César Caísip, Vicente Facundo, Wilfredo Álvarez, Lolito Márquez, John Dell Blay, and Alfredo Flores.

Solidum and Villena then teamed up in arguing their case before the La Laguna Sangguniang Panlalawigan in a hearing on September 19, 2011. Records released by the SP legislative staff of the La Laguna SP showed that they formally presented their case to the Joint Committee on Laws and Procedures and Barangay Affairs, presided by La Laguna board member Benedicto Mario “Bong” Palacol. Also in attendance during the hearing were board members Floro Esguerra, Gab Alatiit, Rey Parás, and Juan Único.

But there is obviously no tug of war happening. Vice Mayor Norvic Solidum —if the merits and motives of Resolution 11-33 are indeed true— does not appear interested in wresting the whole of San Pedro from his rival, San Pedro Mayor Calixto “Calex” Catáquiz. He is only interested in slicing off a piece from the cake. And that tasty slice, according to the said report, is Barrio San Vicente. At 665 hectares, it is San Pedro’s second largest barrio (or barangay). Before becoming Vice Mayor, Solidum was its capitán del barrio. His brief stint as the head of that barrio must have inspired him to come up with such an ambitious plan.

Or had it?

Reading the news report further:

Homeowners associations leaders, led by Rosario Complex president Ding Latoja, and barangay leaders led by Santo Niño barangay chair Nap Islán, said that should Solidum and Villena succeed, San Pedro will not qualify as a city and would revert and be doomed to a third class municipality status.

San Pedro electorate deplored Solidum and Villena’s attempt to sabotage the town’s cityhood bid via a “backdoor move” to separate San Vicente from San Pedro.

Resolution 11-33 was filed with the La Laguna SP after La Laguna 1st District lawmaker Dan Fernández has filed on August 22, 2010 with the Committee of Local Government of the House of Representatives House Bill No. 5169 entitled “Converting the Municipality of San Pedro in the Province of La Laguna into a Component City to be known as City of San Pedro”. The filing of Resolution 11-23 was suspiciously timed to pre-empt approval by the House Committee of the bill which had scheduled a public hearing on December 2011. The Committee unanimously approved the San Pedro cityhood bill in that hearing.

San Pedro Mayor Calixto Catáquiz vehemently opposed Solidum and Villena’s proposal in a letter to the La Laguna provincial board on September 19, 2011, arguing that the Sangguniang Bayan of San Pedro was bypassed because it “was not notified and given opportunity to be heard”. The Local Government Code requires that all barangay resolutions and ordinances should be submitted to the Sanggunian for review.

Both the House and Senate has passed the cityhood measure which has been submitted to the President for enactment.

A plebiscite will be held upon the President’s approval of the bill. San Pedro’s conversion into a city is expected to further spur its development and further enhance delivery of basic social services to its people, particularly in public health, social welfare, education, employment and infrastructure.

So there. If we are to believe the veracity of this news report, then what do we San Pedrenses make of Vice Mayor Solidum?

Unfortunately for his supporters, it is difficult to doubt this news report. Aside from the fact that it’s not coming from the “Balanced News, Fearless Views” camp, the report made mention not only of the resolution number but also members of the provincial board who participated in the public hearing to hear it out. If this plan of making Barrio San Vicente as a new Lagunense municipality was merely hearsay, then Manila Times has just placed itself in the lion’s den where there are no big cats but big libel charges ready to pounce on it (that is, if Mr. Solidum is the kind of man who does not allow anyone to trample upon his dignity).

So what if you chose San Pedro? No disrespect, but are you some kind of a gem that we should be proud of? My golly. Vice Mayor, your campaign slogan reeks of egomania if you haven’t noticed it yet. Better fire all of your PR staff.

The Manila Times, however, failed to disclose the text of the controversial Solidum-Villena resolution. What was really the motive behind this wretched plan? I say wretched, because there is really no need to make San Vicente into a new town, whether its revenues are increasing or not. And if the the barrio”s internal revenues indeed have risen, then why separate it from the town matrix? Is that reason enough? What kind of greed is this? And how about the people? Walk through the streets of San Vicente and ask around; they will certainly say no to any plans of separating their beloved barrio from their beloved San Pedro.

In view of the above, I am reminded of the late National Artist Nick Joaquín’s observation regarding this immature practice of slicing up towns to create new ones:

Philippine society, as though fearing bigness, ever tends to revert the condition of the barangay of the small enclosed society. We don’t grow like a seed, we split like an amoeba. The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns. The moment a province becomes populous it disintegrates into two or three smaller provinces. The excuse offered for divisions is always the alleged difficulty of administering so huge an entity. But Philippines provinces are microscopic compared to an American state like, say, Texas, where the local government isn’t heard complaining it can’t efficiently handle so vast an area. We, on the other hand, make a confession of character whenever we split up a town or province to avoid having of cope, admitting that, on that scale, we can’t be efficient; we are capable only of the small. The decentralization and barrio-autonomy movement expresses our craving to return to the one unit of society we feel adequate to: the barangay, with its 30 to a hundred families. Anything larger intimidates. We would deliberately limit ourselves to the small performance. This attitude, an immemorial one, explains why we’re finding it so hard to become a nation, and why our pagan forefathers could not even imagine the task. Not E pluribus unum is the impulse in our culture but “Out of many, fragments”. Foreigners had to come and unite our land for us; the labor was far beyond our powers. Great was the King of Sugbú, but he couldn’t even control the tiny isle across his bay. Federation is still not even an idea for the tribes of the North; and the Moro sultanates behave like our political parties: they keep splitting off into particles.

“The moment a town grows big it becomes two towns,” Nick astutely quipped. This is especially true in San Pedro’s case. It has really been growing these past few years, so now outside forces wanted it to be split. However, San Pedro’s growth was already unstoppable; just last month, March 27, it was proclaimed a city by virtue of Republic Act No. 10420:

Republic Act No. 10420

If Solidum still has plans of continuing his political adventurism in San Pedro, it is rather too late. San Pedro is now the newest city in the prosperous province of La Laguna. :D

In his campaign posters spread all over the city, Solidum proudly states: “San Pedro ang Bayan Ko, Ito ang Pinili Ko!” (San Pedro is my town, it is what I chose). It should be noted that Solidum is a native of Romblón. He is not a native San Pedrense like Mayor Calex but has been living here for about three decades already. But still, he wishes to show his adoptive people of his supposedly genuine love and concern for San Pedro. Well and good. If that is true, which at this point is highly doubtful, then why does he want San Vicente to be taken off from San Pedro’s map? Is it merely to embarrass Mayor Calex’s cityhood efforts for San Pedro? And as respect for his adoptive hometown’s history and heritage, shouldn’t Solidum instead create plans of keeping San Pedro intact and united and progressive? San Vicente has been a part of San Pedro since Spanish times. It took centuries and a time-honored history for it to bloom into a thriving San Pedrense community that it is today. And now it will take only a single (and immature) action of just one ambitious OUTSIDER to uproot it from its stronghold?

There is also speculation of a lust for power on Solidum’s part. As main petitioner, he would have automatically become mayor of San Vicente in case the divisive Resolution 11-23 has come into fruition. This is reminiscent of Nagcarlán’s case during the early 1900s. Fortunato Arbán, a municipal councilor, led two of his colleagues in filing a petition to separate the barrios of Antipolo, Entablado, Lagúan, Maytón, Paúlî, Poóc, Tuy, and Talaga to form a new municipality. Their petition was granted which gave rise to a new municipality: Rizal (of Tayak Hill fame). And as main petitioner, Arbán became its first municipal president (or town mayor). This kind of setup has also happened in other towns inside and outside of La Laguna.

Was this Solidum’s plan all along?

With the 2013 Philippine general election just a month away, Vice Mayor Solidum has a lot of explaining to do.٩(•̮̮̃̃)۶

*******

Incidentally, today is the fiesta of Barrio San Vicente. The barriofolk of San Vicente should have a double celebration: to honor its Spanish patron saint San Vicente Ferrer, and; of its continued status as a proud barrio/barangay of La Laguna province’s newest City of San Pedro!

¡Feliz fiesta al barrio san pedrense de San Vicente Ferrer! ¡Viva!

Road Map 2020 – San Pedro, La Laguna

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Too bad we won’t be here in San Pedro by 2020 anymore. But we’ll definitely pay this future city a visit when that time comes.

I have one complaint in this video, though. The demonym for the people of San Pedro is San Pedrense, not San Pedronian. I think I have to discuss this with the good mayor the next time we meet.

Here’s hoping that the people of San Pedro will help the mayor achieve these goals. The local government of San Pedro cannot do all this by itself. The people’s support and active participation are a major factor in fulfilling the goals of San Pedro Road Map 2020. The future looks bright. San Pedrenses should keep this momentum going.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES visits Ondoy victims in San Pedro, La Laguna

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It’s not yet over.

Typhoon Ondoy‘s victims still need our help. The government cannot do it alone.

A few nights ago, my wife accompanied me to the Municipal Health Office here in San Pedro Tunasán, La Laguna to have my blood pressure taken because I was feeling like a snail the whole day (it was 90/60). Afterwards, since one of the evacuation centers was just across the health center, I invited my wife to have a look and see. The evacuation center was actually the Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro (San Pedro Central School). The evacuees were mostly from Barrio Landayan, the home of the famous and miraculous Santo Sepulcro Shrine. Actually, I got to visit this one of many evacuation centers a few days before my BP was taken. It was a moving sight. I said that my wife (and maybe even my eldest child Krystal) should see this so that perhaps she could invite her officemates to do some charity work.

When my wife saw the hapless evacuees, she was moved to tears. She was so sorry especially for those who were the same age as our children.

And so we decided to help out ourselves.

Weeks ago before this happened, I thought that writing a blogpost on how to help the victims of Ondoy was already enough. But that scene seeing my wife weeping silently out of helplessness helped me decide that it’s never enough. We have to give what we can give.

Despite the helpfulness of the local government, non-governmental organizations, The Catholic Church, and other religious groups private donors, it is never enough. Typhoon Ondoy’s victims are just too many. And now the government are left with the burden of finding a relocation site for these hapless folks; many of them do not wish to return to their homes once the flood waters have receded; some of them might be forced to because they don’t have any means of buying their own house if in case there’s no relocation. This kind of catastrophe has never happened before.

And so early this sunny Sunday afternoon, my wife sacrificed some hours of sleep to accompany me in donating some personal stuff that we bought for the victims. Besides, the Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro (which is across the Municipal Hall’s left side) is less than five minutes away from our home.

What we brought them were non-food items because the supply for food is OK; food is what generous donors usually give, that’s why there’s little problem of running out of food supplies for the victims. But what they need now are other effects such as soap, hair conditioner, diapers for the kids, cotton buds, feminine napkins, detergent bars, etc. And that’s what we gave them.

Unfortunately, since our pockets aren’t as deep as those of Lucio Tan or Andrew Tan, we weren’t able to donate to other families.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES calls on the rest of the Filipino people to do their share. Because this ain’t over until it’s over.

Just think of the way these evacuees spend the rest of their day while you lie comfortably on your bedroom.

That’s all I can say about that.

San Pedro Municipal Hall (right in front of San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church)

San Pedro Municipal Hall (right in front of San Pedro Apóstol Parish Church)

Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro

Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (through my wife) offering its help.

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES (through my wife) offering its help.

Registration.

Innocent smiles...

The school's multi-purpose gym, converted into an evacuation center.

Even the classrooms were filled with evacuees. Classes were disrupted during the weeks after Typhoon Ondoy's wrath.

Even the classrooms were filled with evacuees. Classes were disrupted during the weeks after Typhoon Ondoy's wrath.

The evacuees, especially the children, have only cardboards to sleep on. And some unfortunate ones sleep on the concrete floor...

The evacuees, especially the children, have only cardboards to sleep on. And some unfortunate ones sleep on the concrete floor...

Aside from the few school toilets, these are the only portable toilets available; probably not enough to accomodate all of the evacuees.

Aside from the few school toilets, these are the only portable toilets available; probably not enough to accomodate all of the evacuees.

This is where the sick are confined.

This is where the sick are confined.

The fun and games should always continue for the kiddos.

The fun and games should always continue for the kiddos.

The road leading from Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro to the church.

The road leading from Paaralang Sentral ng San Pedro to the church.

If you notice in some of the pictures (and videos in ALAS FILIPINAS), many families use cardboards in lieu of beds. Now be thankful that the younger members of your families have soft mattresses to sleep on each night.

I was able to interview some people, too. They confirmed that they do lack the things that me and my wife had just given them. Many of their children relieve themselves in some grassy corner of the school (since the portalets and the school’s toilets aren’t enough for them all). That’s why diapers are direly needed. Also, at night, they are being swarmed by mosquitoes.

What’s worse is that whenever it rains, the people inside the gymnasium are unprotected and soaked. One of them told me that there used to be plastic covers on each side of the gymnasium to protect them, but for some reason, they disappeared.

There are also evacuees in some classrooms, with more than five families each. Although they appear to be safe from the weather, they’re nonetheless cramped there, like sardines in a tin can.

One of those I talked to said that Mayor Calixto Catáquiz always takes care of them. But Catáquiz is just one man. He couldn’t do it all by himself (and right now, he has the burden of relocating all this people in San Pedro’s mountainous area). And the same thing goes with other towns and cities that were inundated by Typhoon Ondoy (and Pepeng).

Go to ALAS FILIPINAS for the videos.

Typhoon Ondoy: A Global Warning!

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According to reports, yesterday’s tremendous tempest dumped the heaviest rainfall on Metro Manila and nearby provinces in more than four decades!

I was stuck in our office in Alabang, Muntinlupà City for hours after my shift. But the downpour never ceased. I was supposed to attend a kid cousin’s birthday, but I thought it best not too.

Seeing that it was hopeless to wait for the rain to cease, I just barged outside using my dilapidated umbrella. And I was disgusted by what I saw — stranded motorists! It reminded me of my college days getting stuck in the same situation. I remember one time when I had to walk from Adamson University in Manila all the way to Parañaque City! It was a scary flashback because yesterday, I didn’t plan of walking from Alabang all the way to San Pedro, La Laguna.

Little did I know that a tragedy was already happening all over the metropolis and its surrounding provinces.

I waited for almost an hour under the Alabang viaduct. And underneath the viaduct, traffic was hell. Counterflows where virtually everywhere, and many commuters were already soaking wet. Whenever empty jeepneys pass by slowly, exhausted commuters surround them, like vultures waiting for their prey to die. Luckily I was able to catch an apprehensive jeepney driver (I saw the look on his face; he was still undecisive whether or not he should just drive home or still pick up motorists). I ran as fast as I could (the veteran that I am from all these flooded moments), getting the choicest jeepney seat — the front seat.

In just a few seconds, the jeepney was filled. Initially, the driver decided to drive us only up to Muntinlupà (the población), but no one seemed to care. We all had one thing in mind: to go back to our respective homes as close as we can get.

The driver chose the old National Road (Mahárlika Highway) instead of the South Luzón Tollway because the traffic flow in the said expressway was almost immobile. But it was even worse in the national road. Many parts were flooded. I was surprised. This was no ordinary rain. I’ve never seen Muntinlupà flooded that way before.

I started sending text messages to friends, asking them their situation. I learned that even in Manila, it was flooded. It was no surprise because floods in many parts of Manila is almost “normal” (no thanks to litterbugs).

Surprisingly, we noticed that there was no more traffic jam in the población. So the driver decided to drive us all the way to San Pedro, La Laguna (which is supposed to be a couple of minutes away). I wondered why there was no more traffic jam. I found out minutes later.

When our jeep drove past Susana Heights, it started to rain heavier again (I already threw my useless umbrella in the garbage bin; anyway, I was already prepared to get wet myself). I got the shock of my life to see that the highway in front of me turned into a virtual sea of flood!

So that’s why there were no more vehicles! And the few vehicles that remained were those whose engines were flooded already. Poor owners! And there were people everywhere, braving the rains and the waist-high floods.

Our driver was still apprehensive: should he drive through the waters or not? I egged him to “go for it, dude!” The guy was cheerful all throughout the trip, and was very thoughtful of his passengers (may God bless his career). And yes, he did decide to drive on. The secret to it was not to remove his foot onto the pedal. He must continue driving through the flooded road without stopping or else the waters will enter and engulf the engines.

And so he drove, turning his rickety public utility vehicle into an amphibian-jeep, creating waves along the way, splashing commuters who decided to walk through the floods. And other vehicles who were coming from La Laguna made more ripples and waves in the flood. Some of the flood waters even entered where I was seated.

For some odd reason, the sight excited me. And I was very, very disappointed for not having with me my wife’s Motorola v3i (the only “digital” camera we have). I should’ve taken pictures of the flooded scene for this website and for ALAS FILIPINAS.

When our jeep neared San Pedro, La Laguna, the floods got worse. All esteros overflowed, destroying the shanties along its coast. The boundary between Muntinlupà City / Metro Manila and La Laguna province has become water world. I suddenly thought of San Pedro’s mayor, Calixto Catáquiz, who is a family friend. His home in Barrio Sto. Niño lies is near Laguna de Bay and is not in an elevated place. I hope he’s OK.

Driving through the boundary is the most difficult drive we encountered. The flood was much higher, and there were so many standed people who were blocking the way, slowing us even more (I wasn’t ready yet to “dive” into the murky, garbage-filled flood). But luckily, we went through. I was confident that as soon as we get to the San Pedro bridge, we’ll be OK because the bridge was built very high above the river.

Although the river didn’t overflow on top of the bridge, the place has been converted into a “parking lot”. I’ve never seen the bridge filled with so much vehicles! There were so many parked cars, jeepneys, and even buses that I feared we might not get to the other side). But we did.

When we got to the other side, I dropped off because our apartment was just near. It was no longer raining heavily, but it was still drizzling enough to soak me. But I never got the chance to walk to our home which is what I usually do — the road was flooded with almost-knee-high waters. I had to take a trike. Luckily our apartment is situated in an elevated place. And even if it gets flooded there, we’re on the second floor. I later learned today that others who have two-storey homes, such as sexy actress Cristine Reyes, were not so lucky:

Even this year's FHM Queen wasn't spared from Ondoy's wrath!

Even this year's FHM Queen wasn't spared from Ondoy's wrath!

Funny thing is that after breakfast I was just reading a copy of FHM Philippines 100 Sexiest Women for 2009 where she won the number one spot, hehehe! I wasn’t able to watch TV news because we still have no cable (and no internet connection yet; I’m now at our neighbor’s internet shop). F*ck, we even lost our water supply. Yesterday was even worse: when I got home, there were both no electricity and water supplies.

Now that I’m online, I just realized the magnitude of yesterday’s massive downpour:

RELATED LINKS:
‘Ondoy’ leaves 72 dead and missing
‘Ondoy’ like ‘Katrina’
Tropical Storm Ketsana 2009
Typhoon Ondoy, Emergency Disaster Relief Numbers
Typhoon Ondoy displaces 153 families

And here’s a really scary video of Marikina River uploaded by INITIATE360 in YouTube. Typhoon Ondoy turned the river into a mammoth killing machine:

Below is INITIATE360′s account of the above video:

“I just got back from the river’s edge 5 minutes ago. A 10-15 feet height differential between the Marikina River and the embankment has now been reduced to the point that water is splashing against the high-rises of Eastwood, Metro Manila. A security guard for this sealed off area approaches me and covers me with his umbrella while I snap pictures from my phone. “Where are the police or firemen?” I asked. He first points at a speck in the middle of the river 300-400 meters out to my right. “That was a woman with her 2 year old infant clinging on to her. She passed through here in the middle of the river – waving at us for help. There was nothing we could do – she had passed though within 5 seconds. We’ve been seeing other people washed away.” We watched helplessly at the 20+ people 200 meters away that are now sitting on top of their corrugated roof-tops as the river rages beneath them on their submerged homes… waiting for emergency personnel yet to come.”

Marikina River, as well as other rivers in Metro Manila, overflows from time to time during typhoons. But not like this. And according to Reyes herself, she has lived in Provident Village, Marikina City for many years. This is the first time her home was inundated.

In other news, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro has his hands busy working with the National Disaster Coordinating Council with all rescue and relief operations. According to him, this is the worst typhoon tragedy he has ever encountered. Even the Philippine Navy claimed that this was the first time that they had received so many calls for help at the same time.

Since Gibô Teodoro is at the helm of all rescue and relief operations, I’m afraid that this tragedy might be given a “political color” to it because this is actually the best time for Gibô to up the ante with regard to his presidential aspirations. He might win (or try to win) the hearts (and votes) of thousands of Filipinos who were affected by the typhoon. Nevertheless, may his rescue team be successful with their endeavors.

It’s past 4:00 PM in the afternoon. The rains have slowed down, but hasn’t stopped yet. Malacañang Palace has already declared a state of calamity in Metro Manila and other 25 affected provinces. Close to a hundred people lost their lives. And thousands have been displaced. Eighty percent of the capital is underwater.

May this serve as a GLOBAL WARNING to all those who disrespect Mother Nature (such as litterbugs, smoke belchers, illegal loggers, etc.). Like countless others, I am mighty sure that climate change has something to do with this.

Click here for more photos of the tragedy (culled from various Facebookers).

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