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2009 Filipino Of The Year — The Filipino People!

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In just a few hours, 2009 will end. A new year shall arrive. And I thought what better way to end 2009 than by honoring the country’s most respected individual or group, particularly those who made headlines, gained prominence, and brought honors for the motherland. I believe it’s also a good idea to do this every year. So allow me to make it a tradition, my humble way of honoring annually the best that this country has to offer.

The award for the 2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR goes to none other than — THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!

2009 Filipino of the Year Award goes to the whole Filipino nation! Take a bow, paisanos!

FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS have many candidates for this humble award.

First off on top of the list is our 1986 EDSA heroine, the late President María Corazón S. Cojuangco vda. de Aquino, popularly known as Cory Aquino, who passed away last August 1. Her imminent death due to colon cancer brought back the so-called “Cory Magic” (the phenomenon which toppled the Marcos dictatorship) to the Filipinos and paved the way for the sudden and unexpected rise of her quiescent son, Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Noynoy took advantage of this Cory Magic and ran for the presidency. Right now, he is on top of the surveys for the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections.

We also have Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiáo, champion athlete, number one pound-for-pound boxer, and a political wannabe. His recent victory over Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto last 14 November 2009 eventually made him the first boxer in history to win seven world titles in seven different weight divisions, prompting famous and legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum to declare that “Pacquiáo is the greatest boxer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen them all, including Ali, Hagler and Sugar Ray Leonard.” Even boxing superstar Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is terrified to square it off against Pacman. But all this stardom might disadvantage him once he rejoins the dirty world of politics next year.

Efren Gerónimo Peñaflorida, Jr. is another breakthrough. The founder of Dynamic Teen Company won recognition last November 22 when he was named as the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year for his commendable “pushcart classroom” (he calls it Kariton Klasrum) aimed at educating poor children and to keep them away from the corruption of the streets.

Of course, YouTube sensation Charmaine Clarice “Charice” Pempengco shouldn’t be left out. The petite singing sensation from San Pedro, La Laguna earned the admiration of millions of people who saw her astounding vocal exhibitions on the internet. More importantly, she gained fame in the US, the entertainment capital of the world, via The Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Oprah Winfrey Show (even Oprah was teary-eyed). Many singing legends in the US took notice of her talent, particularly Celine Dion (they even sang together in a New York City concert!). There were also reports claiming that Charice would have been included in Michael Jackson’s This Is It series of concerts had it not for the King of Pop’s untimely demise.

The abovementioned Filipinos have brought honor and pride to the Filipino race. It is of course worthy to honor each and every one of them as this year’s Filipino of the Year.

However, I just couldn’t ignore the Filipino people as a whole.

Yes, FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES and ALAS FILIPINAS would like to declare the whole Filipino Nation as this year’s winner of the 2009 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR Award. And this is because of the immense outpouring of support that they gave to their fellow Filipinos who were victimized by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

It was during these troubling moments when the Filipino Nation’s sense of intestinal fortitude –not to mention unity– was tested yet again. Metro Manila was crippled by massive and destructive flash floods never before seen in its history. Seventy five percent of the nation’s capital –including surrounding provinces– was inundated by floodwaters, displacing thousands of families and killing scores of unsuspecting people. Typhoon Ondoy’s backlash continued weeks and even months after the killer floods. But the Filipinos’ unique spirit of bayanihan reigned supreme. Everybody –regardless of social standing, religious belief, race, or political inclinations– helped out in the tragedy by donating food, clothing, money for temporary shelter, basic necessities, etc. Political rivalries were ignored for the sake of the victims. The rich showed that not all of them are stingy and greedy. Even celebrities were seen wallowing in the floodwaters to assist those who were stuck in the water. Individual and private donors were always visible in evacuation centers. Every one made their share.

It is times like these which makes me feel so damn proud to be a Filipino!!!

To the Filipino Nation, take a bow. You are God’s precious race!

See you again next year for FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES‘ and ALAS FILIPINAS‘ choice for 2010 FILIPINO OF THE YEAR!

May everybody have an exciting New Year’s Eve!

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Three pre-Christmas tragedies

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Sadly, three tragedies hit the Philippines moments before Christmas day…

1.) Mayón Volcano has been terrorizing natives of Albay PHIVOLCS scientists for months. Thousands of families have already been evacuated from their homes to protect them from the volcano’s impending wrath. Now, PHIVOLCS declared that it’s only a matter of days –or even hours– before the World’s Most Perfect Cone displays its fiery power.

2.) Yesterday, more than 1,000 families from both cities of Pásay and Macati lost their homes from a monstrous flame. The blaze started at around 10 A.M. in a house on Bonifacio Street in Barangay Bangkal, Macati City, after its owner left an open stove unattended. This means that countless residents from the two mentioned cities might end up experiencing Christmas Eve without comfortable roofs above them.

3.) And just this morning, around 2:30 A.M., at least three people were killed and at least 24 others were still reportedly missing after a passenger ferry smashed into a fishing boat off the coast of Maragondón, Cavite.

Heartbreaking news indeed.

The year 2009 is overwhelmed with disasters, natural or manmade. The most memorable were the back-to-back typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng which wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and much of Luzón. As the year is about to end, Filipinos are hoping for brighter days ahead.

True, there is no such thing as a perfect day. There is no perfect month. And each year, it’s impossible for tragedy not to strike. Be that as it may, Filipinos are already strengthened by the very tragedies that have smothered them. The Filipino race is a resilient and sturdy race. No amount of tragedy will ever bring us down.

Christmas cheer shall continue no matter what.

Gibo-Gwen tandem: a powerhouse duo? Says who?

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Gilbert Teodoro has Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng to thank for. Because of these tempests, he’s all over the news helping out the victims. An added plus for his presidential campaign.

Because if not for these typhoons, he would have been just another candidate.

Now comes his surprising choice for his veep:

Gibo-Gwen tandem emerging for Lakas

The tandem of Lakas-Kampi standard-bearer Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia for the 2010 elections is emerging as negotiations for what the administration sees as a powerhouse team-up are nearing the homestretch, officials said yesterday.

A highly placed source privy to the talks said the negotiations to have Garcia as the Lakas-Kampi-CMD’s vice presidential candidate have reached “the crucial stage and an announcement would be made anytime soon.”

The ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD is expected to hold its national convention on Nov. 12 in Cebu where the party is set to formalize the selection of Teodoro and his running mate for the 2010 elections.

“It was Gibo (Teodoro’s nickname) who really wanted Gwen, and she was the real target,” the source said amid reports that the ruling party was wooing either Sen. Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) or Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos to be the defense chief’s running mate.

“This is a powerhouse team. They are both young and well-experienced executives with good credentials and track record. Together, that counts a lot for the reconstruction and reform in the country,” the official said. philstar.com

Gibô Teodoro seems to be in a quandary.

Gibô Teodoro seems to be in a quandary.

A powerhouse team?

In a country where popularity in surveys counts so much, this is no powerhouse team at all. Aside from being the governess of historic Cebú island, who in the blue hell is Gwen?

Only time will tell. And if they ever win in the upcoming 2010 Philippine National Elections (very possible since this hapless country of ours is still under the chains of US imperialism and its local lackeys), a big question mark will be placed on top of the victory marquee of this so-called “powerhouse team”.

Reunion with three friends.

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“The best things in life come in threes, like friends, dreams, and memories.”

The workload in my current company makes me want to disappear from this world with just a snap of a finger. Last night’s shift was hell. Too many issues, slow internet, bad vibes, and documents drowning my thoughts. All of us weren’t able to finish the job. And it has been weeks like that. Some of us feel that we lack manpower. Some feel that there were bad project decisions from the higher ups. Some felt sick (literally). Me, I just feel like I want to fly away from it all.

I was supposed to continue all unfinished tasks at home. But…

It was a reprieve when my wife fetched me and broached the idea of visiting a childhood friend of mine, Christian Caballero, who works in the building next to ours. I already know that Tanò has been working in the other building for a long time (thanks to our office concierge, Oliver). But we haven’t had the chance to see each other due to our busy schedules.

Our bunch was the baaaadest and nastiest in our own turf in some posh yet decrepit village in Parañaque City, my “dirty south, baby!” hometown. We’ve known each other since kids. I was estranged from my childhood pals when I was kicked out of our home because I chose to stay with my pregnant girlfriend (who’s now my wife) instead of being with my family and continue schooling. Since then, I began seeing my Parañaque homies sporadically. And the last time I saw Christian and the rest of the gang was back in 2006, but only for a short drunken while. We weren’t even complete that night. We’ll, now there’s Facebook; many of my childhood pals are already in my list: Jerome, John Michael, Dennis, Angerico, etc. But of course it’s a different feeling when you get to see your long lost friends eye-to-eye and in the flesh.

We were all delighted to see each other of course. He’s also engaged to his college sweetheart Lesleyann Tugnáo of Majayjay, La Laguna. Their wedding will be this coming December in Sanctuario de San Antonio, Forbes Park, Ciudad de Macati. And I’m expecting to see the rest of the gang on his wedding day. =)

Congratulations and best wishes, Christian and Lesleyann! May the good Lord bless you always!

*******

Next stop was our current town, San Pedro, La Laguna.

After visiting Krystal and Momay at school, we went to Tita Deming, the manager of our apartment, to pay for the monthly rent. She works in the Municipal Hall. And since we were there already, I thought of introducing Wifey to our town mayor, Calixto R. Catáquiz, whom I haven’t seen since the death of his father. I just wanted to introduce my wife to him, and perhaps setup a date with him to talk about whether he’s still interested in publishing the biography Arnold and I wrote for him last year (it was even reviewed by our country’s first beauty queen, Gemma Cruz de Araneta, in her Manila Bulletin column “Landscape”).

Well, it turned out that he is still very interested in it. But the problem is proper timing. Aside from his father’s untimely death, Typhoon Ondoy ruined all of San Pedro’s lakeshore villages. Now he has the task of taking care of thousands of San Pedrense families who have lost their homes and who are now sheltered in various evacuation centers scattered around San Pedro. He invited us to join him for lunch. I wasn’t able to say no. And my wife, who was star struck (hehehe), urged me to come along.

We ate at Max’s Restaurant in –coincidentally– Parañaque City, my hometown! There we discussed lots of things about town politics, national politics, the 2010 Philippine National Elections, and of course, his biography.

He also mentioned to me interesting facts that Arnold and I haven’t included yet in his unpublished biography, A DATE WITH DESTINY: One More Challenge! (The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz). When he was still the chairman of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, he made several project recommendations to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and even Malacañang Palace to help safeguard and uplift the status quo of Laguna de Bay. For one, he recommended that LLDA should adopt a system for Laguna de Bay which is very similar to the Dutch Flood Barrier System. Mayor Calex also once tackled environmental and developmental issues of the lake with renowned architect Felino Palafox, Jr., who last month declared that the the national government already foresaw the massive floods of September 26.

The mayor also cited sewage, water treatment, and other waterworks projects that he had envisioned for Laguna de Bay. He also forwarded the idea of taking care of not just the lake but its tributaries as well. He also complained LLDA’s lack of policepower which should have enforced environmental rules. And he also lamented the fact that the LLDA was not under the direct supervision of the Office of the President (this would have ensured the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s commitment to a “green” Philippines). But all of these were ignored. If they weren’t ignored, the horrible displacement of thousands of lakeshore families –not to mention the death toll which the flood had left– wouldn’t have happened.

We also discussed his San Pedro 2020 Vision.

My wife had a grand time listening to the Mayor’s candid stories. Afterwards, we spent a relaxing afternoon at the Manila Southwoods Golf and Country Club.

*******

The next reunion was, well, via SMS only. =(

Mayor Calex and his convoy drove us home. On our way home, I remembered having kept the cellphone number of someone else from my past: Ka Danilo Balao.

I never thought that I’d be able to communicate with a dear comrade in Ka Dan. He is from the Ybanag tribe of the northern lands. We were both socialist activists during our college days, members of the militant Liga ng Sosyalistang Kabataan (in political solidarity with the Sosyalistang Partido ng Paggawa). Me, Danilo, and a host of other socialist youth shared each other’s tribulations, joys, hunger, and sufferings. Like my Parañaque boys, we at LSK were also a bad bunch (giving the League of Filipino Students some headache which they deserved). Aaaahhh, the days of yore! I really stopped growing when I reached 30 years of age!

I got his number several days ago from another long lost activist friend, mad chemist Allan Jay Q. Martírez (my “discoverer”!) whom I rediscovered in Mike Chanco’s / JB Lazarte’s (my other “discoverer”!) controversial website Flesh Asia Daily 3.0.

So here I print our text conversation:

PEPE: Danilo Balao
DANILO: Hu r u?
PEPE: Visit https://filipinoscribbles.wordpress.com and you will know, my old friend…
DANILO: Hav n0 tym searchin.. Y cant u say it n0w?
PEPE: Because I do not want the military to trace me. You know the drill, Ka Dan.
DANILO: Hahaha.. U.G.? Ur kidding me.. H0w can it pocbly be? Wat org?
PEPE: Mabuhay ang LIGA NG KOMUNISTANG KABATAAN!
DANILO: Damn! Is this true? Wer did u get my numbr?
PEPE: José Mario Alas Fans Club
DANILO: Hahaha! Yeah..! Wats crakin man? Wat happen 2 u? I’ve been searching u 4 d last 3 years. H0w did u realy get my numbr?
PEPE: I have been monitoring you for the last five years. I was sent to kill you, Gerry, Page, and Allan Jay. But I couldn’t because you’re my friends.

I got no more reply from good ol’ Dan. I must’ve totally freaked him out with my last text, so…

PEPE: Just kidding, dude.

*******

I miss my other friends. I miss the past. I miss the Spanish past although I’ve never lived in that era. I grew up listening to We Built This City On Rock N’ Roll, Footloose, and Rico Mambo. I cried when Atreyu’s horse Atrax was taken by the Swamps. Garfield still had farm friends (beats Facebook’s FarmVille), and the Christmas Belén in C.O.D. (Cubáo, Quezon City), and so much more.

I’m getting old, and dying.

Shucks. Nostalgia fever setting in again.

The only bad thing that happened this afternoon? My wife’s almost-a-decade-old cellphone camera was out of battery. =(

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.

We haven’t recovered yet, but there’s another typhoon coming!

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Barely three weeks since the back-to-back devastation caused by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that claimed almost a thousand lives, now here comes another one:

RAMIL

Typhoon Ramil (international name: Lupit) is expected to hit land either tonight or tomorrow morning. This is very bad news considering what had happened recently in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces. This doesn’t even include the overflowing dams of Pangasinán.

Three strong typhoons in less than three weeks? No doubt about it — climate change is officially here.

Blog Action Day 2009 — Fight climate change NOW!

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Fighting climate change will save our descendants' earthly existence!

Fighting climate change will save our descendants' earthly existence!

“When you try to scientifically observe the data… we will find this year and last year as very strange years, and we can only presuppose that this is due to climate change” — Anthony Gólez (Civil defense chief), on Typhoon Ondoy

“We can’t just blame this on the rain. We know this is the worst deluge in 40 years. We know there is climate change happening, there is no debate about that. This is just a glimpse of what will happen. This is not even a super typhoon. We need to be prepared. This is just a taste of things to come. We need to have more preparations and we need to factor in climate change.” — Mark Día (Greenpeace campaigner), on the same typhoon which killed hundreds of people in less than nine hours.

And so I will make this blogpost as brief and as comprehensible as possible…

To those who are ignorant of the situation, the recent killer typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, which incapacitated the capital of the Philippines and wreaked havoc in many parts of Luzón, are just that — natural calamities. It’s devastating, but it’s normal. Yes, Ondoy and Pepeng are indeed deadlier compared to other killer typhoons of the past. But it has never crossed the mind of the unitiated as to why the typhoons are getting stronger and stronger every year.

These typhoons may be natural calamities, yes. But their origins can be traced to manmade irresponsibilities. Throughout the centuries, man has innovated technology to suit himself to changes in his culture and behavior. Wittingly or unwittingly, this pursuit of “change for comfortability” has drastically altered the normal course of climatical phases throughout modern history (especially since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution).

OK. So the only thing that’s permanent is change. But climate change is one type of change that won’t be for the betterment of mankind. It’s called global warming.

Global warming has become a very familiar term during this decade. It was made even more popular by world-renowned environmentalist Al Gore in his bestselling documentary video entitled “An Inconvenient Truth”. It has made many people sit up and take notice — but only those who are educated enough to be interested in watching documentaries. That is never enough.

The educated should educate the masses because a great bulk of them are unfamiliar with the cause and effect of climate change and global warming. And besides, many of them use products that are harmful to the environment and which contribute to this abnormality that we’re experiencing with our weather. As US Vice President Joe Biden said: “I think it is manmade. I think it’s clearly manmade. If you don’t understand what the cause is, it’s virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That’s the cause. That’s why the polar icecap is melting.”

Speaking of melting icecaps, the Philippines is in grave danger since it has countless small islands that will easily disappear when the sea level eventually rises. Majestic coastlines and seaside villages and towns will be affected, displacing hundreds of thousands of Filipino families. And expect more destructive typhoons from the Pacific which will make Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng seem tame.

¡Kilos ná!

If you guys have genuine compassion for the young –our only planet’s next generation– then start acting now! By simply not littering at all outside the streets is already a BIG accomplishment, believe me. Love the environment. Love this planet. It’s the only planet we have. So…

Fight climate change! START RIGHT NOW!!!

Fight climate change!

Fight climate change!

This is FILIPINO eSCRIBBLES very brief take on BLOG ACTION DAY 2009.

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