Friday, March 30, 2007

eleksyon ekonomiks in da yir op da pork

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s a weekend. In a few days time, we’re in for the Holy Week. Just a few words before we (or at least some of us) immerse in our annual (read: once-a-year only) moments of showing piety (in my case, it means no acerbic comments about everybody else).

So, our lawmakers have increased their pork barrel allocation. I don’t know if this was part of the predictions of the fortune tellers (both real and fly-by-night), things are really “porky” this year. Well, at least for those who will make it. Hmm, must be good news for their constituents: that means more roads, more medicines, better times for the (Filipino) people. Do I hear someone say “YEAH RIGHT”? No wonder everyone is running these days. And yes, before we forget, as reported in the national dailies, some retiring government employees have to make do with whatever is available (or unavailable) coz the retirement money (or whatever they call it) has been allocated for the increase in the pork (hmm, just when I thought everyone is into health food these days. Corny joke? Heck, it’s a weekend.) And interesting enough, the former Senate President who called for PGMA’s resignation didn’t say a thing about this. Ahh, politics.

* * *

Remember my feature about our house helper and laundry woman complaining about the high price of chlorox and sabon? I called that poor man’s economics. Now there’s another twist. It’s the other poor man’s economics (okey, this time let me refer you to, well, some barangay officials). A few nights ago, the fried chicken vendors along Gomez street had to go home early coz their stuff was sold early. I asked one vendor what happened. It turned out one (controversial) official running for reelection was in town and supposedly doled out something as much as two thousand bucks to some lucky patrons, err, officials, who in turn had their companions buy some stuff for dinner or whatever. As one fried chicken buyer had it, kaupay la basta eleksyon, kadamo kwarta. And no vendor in his right mind would disagree with that statement. And the buyer added, mayda pa liwat ti-abot, tikang kanda (names of two other candidates). Now, that’s what we call a robust economy in the year of the pork, err, pig.

* * *

It’s registration time for the local bets. Candidates from the opposing parties in Calbayog sponsored their respective masses at the Cathedral. One kibitzer (a mataray one, if I may say) had it: “maupay kay nanimba anay sira antes sira mag-aragway”. I’m using the term aragway coz the kibitzer used a violent term. Anyway, my apologies if I had to mention that line. I know many of us advocate peaceful polls, but the line, be it joke or otherwise is a reflection of the way elections are (and will be in the many years to come) in the RP.Now, have I told you about that other Calbayog (election) tradition? It’s about some people who serve in the polls (you try to identify their position or line of work) who go on house-to-house binge to collect their (election day) allowance from the candidates? More details next issue.

* * *

Let me end with the last part of Charo Nabong’s article “People who made a difference in Samar in 2006”:

Ray Gaspay is one of two persons who provide cable tv services in Catbalogan. The other guy has been able to make extensive cable tv connections in Catbalogan that has earned him millions. Ray, on the other hand, has made limited cable tv connections, but unlike no other, Ray was able to connect with people worldwide specially those who come from the islands of Samar and Leyte. With his, an on-line newspaper about Samar and Leyte, he prides in providing "the latest news in Eastern Visayas region"? and providing a message board for personal comments & inquiries and even searches for long-lost friends and relatives; and a discussion forum on issues affecting us in the region. Obviously not a commercial venture, I don't know how Ray is able to sustain but he has done it!

As a lawyer, Antonio Eduardo Nachura is known nationally as an authority on Constitutional law - teaching and writing law books about it. He is also admired by close friends and colleagues for his dedication to teaching. Even when he was congressman of the second district of Samar, he continued teaching law in various law schools. He has served as Undersecretary of the Department of Education and has been one of the public prosecutors during the impeachment proceedings against Pres. Joseph Estrada. Recently, he has been appointed as the country's Solicitor General. But it is not his long list of achievements in his professional and political career that I have included him in this list. As president of the Katbaloganon Association of Metro Manila in 2006, he envisioned a book tracing the history of his native town of Catbalogan as a legacy to the young Catbaloganons to be proud of their heritage. And he made this vision a reality by publishing O, Catbalogan! Prof. Cesar Torres praised the book as "one of the most beautiful book ever". He said that "In the entire history of Samar, since the beginning of time, "O, Catbalogan!" is one of the most momentous happenings in our history... It is a food for the soul, food for the intellect, a tribute to all the Samarnons, past, present, and future."? Of course, I'm thankful to Atty. Nachura for giving me the opportunity to work with him on this book.

Thus, I welcome the new year with inspiring stories of leadership, vision and action of people who were unstinting in their service to care for our environment, nourish our heritage, and to improve the lives of our people. Not only at the end of the year, will we be asked this question again, have we done something to make a difference?

* * *

In line with the celebration of Holy Week in Calbayog City, Bishop Isabelo Abarquez will lead a Lenten Reflection at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on Holy Thursday at 7:00 pm.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

Friday, March 23, 2007


(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s Friday. As you read this I will be in Tacloban for some personal business. I will have traversed (again) the famous Samar roads (okey, it’s the Calbiga-Calbayog span that makes it famous; or is it infamous?). Anyway, my point is, though it’s still a bumpy ride, it's nice to note that work is finally being done. Of course, that is after the formalities that the contractor and the concerned government agencies need to do after President Arroyo gave a go-signal for the project during the last Calbayog Charter day celebration.

Satur Ocampo is still the news. So, back to his episode (I guess episode is a more diplomatic term compared to fiasco or fracas). He is a congressman, isn’t he? I think his term ends months yet after the forthcoming elections (that’s granting that he doesn’t get re-elected. That I doubt). So what’s the catch? I just need to remind myself that he is an honorable (you know the title we give to our lawmakers) after seeing the way he was handled by some authorities in an effort to fly him to Leyte, err, to take him on that joyride over the southern skies. That certainly was a dishonorable handling. How is it different from dishonorable dismissal that some people get from their schools? (oops, don’t take the last line seriously, it’s supposed to make you smile this weekend)

After the Tomb of Jesus episode, another channel is supposed to show something about the trial of (the) freemasons. Interesting. How I wish for that day when we see the trials of some famous Filipino lawbreakers, kahit sa documentary na lang.

My apologies to his members, but I was never into Mike Velarde. A few years back, when one bishop uttered that he was shallow (referring to what he would teach and the way he taught it to his followers) I was tempted to agree, but of course I never watched his program, so I stayed put. Anyway, (at the risk of electioneering on my part, I’m tempted to say that) I guess he made sense when he went on TV and in a way, gave support to the senatorial candidates from the Kapatiran group. Now, after hobnobbing with the high and mighty (via the famous Luneta gatherings), this is a welcome relief.

* * *

Here’s the third part of Charo Nabong’s article “People who made a difference in Samar in 2006”:

Romeo "Omi" Royandoyan is the executive director of SENTRO SAKA (formerly Philippine Peasant Institute), an NGO working for Filipino farmers. He has served as member of the Board of Trustees of the UCPB to look after the interest of the farmers' coco levy. For many years now, Omi has consistently been assisting the coconut farmers in Samar. As a response to the low price of copra, his NGO came up with the Kopra Social Investment Plan to enable farmers to bring their copra to the milling companies at miller's price and chose Samar as one of their pilot sites. (Samar is the biggest coconut producing province in Eastern Visayas which in turn, is the third coconut producing region in the Philippines). In 2006, he brought Danilo Coronacion, CEO of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund and Oil Mills President, to Samar where he linked up CIIF's Coconut Farm Development Program to the coconut farmers of Samar. The program covers 12 municipalities in Samar provinces to undertake planting, replanting & fertilization; crop intercropping with tuba-tuba and other crops; and harvesting and copra processing. This is an industry-wide program that could boost the sagging coconut production and income of coconut farmers in the province.

Don Mabulay succeeded me as the executive director of Tandaya Foundation, a non-government organization based in Catbalogan, Samar. In the NGO community, Don is known to be a non-conformist in a community of already many non-conformists. He is known to greet you over the phone with reverse greetings (greeting you good morning when it is afternoon and vice versa). A self-proclaimed Cinderella (to be home before 12 midnighthe tells his buddies that being Cinderella he is scared of becoming a mouse), you can count the few times he turns up in long pants and shoes, preferring to be comfortable in his shorts and sandals. Early on in our NGO work, he tried to teach Samarnons in government “how to think”. His "WII-FM"? (What's in it for me?), an innovative process to generate participation has now been adopted and used by many NGOs in many parts of the country in their trainings. Eccentricity aside, he was a major winner, in the national competition of the World Bank's Panibagong Paraan 2006. His policy proposal “Aquaculture for Fisherfolks” calls for making Technology accessible to small fisherfolks to engage in sea farming. With dwindling yields from fisheries not only in the Philippines but also worldwide, his proposal was hailed to be the most practical policy to increase harvests and incomes of fisherfolks. (to be continued…)

* * *

Now for some political ek-ek (oops, that’s a jargon which can also mean chika, intriga, etc). An official was in town recently (let’s refer to that official as high-ranking official). It was not actually a social visit to one of that official’s allies in the city. I guess we can call it part of the muscle flexing that candidates do this election season. So, what about it? Some, err, a good number of officials (of the lesser order. Whatever that means, kayo na ang mag-imbestiga) were called to dine and wine (the latter I’m not so sure). I suppose there were some “envelopmental” moments (they ought to have received something. A friend of mine who was a kibitzer in that gathering got 200 bucks); and what else? The (high-ranking) official supposedly sought the commitment of the officials (of the lesser order; or should I say officials who are children of the lesser gods) as to delivering the votes in favor of surprise – not that high-ranking official – but for the opponent of an official in the city who is seeking re-election (magulo ba? E, magulo talaga ang eleksyon).Yun lang po. I still need to check on some more people who were in that gathering. By the way, when I inquired from someone supposedly privy to comings and goings of the official’s ally (from Calbayog) I was told that it was not actually the city official (seeking re-election) that the (high-ranking) official is after, but the officials who are running for re-election in _______ . Yup, it’s a blank. Sorry, I can’t disclose it. Not now, anyway. (p.s. how many times did I use the word official? Smile!)

* * *

This is it for now. I guess the preceding paragraph should be enough amusement for you today. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

taken for a ride

Hi there! It’s midweek. It’s odd, the city is still clean, there seems to be so few election posters pasted in town. Sign of the times? Or are the candidates into following election guidelines? Okey, we still have more than two months.

So, a (Foreign Affairs) subcommittee of the U.S. Congress is into an investigation of the killings in the Philippines. Interesting, coz so far, no yankee-go-out-calls here.

I’m no big fan of Satur Ocampo, and we may not agree on our beliefs in life, I have to admit that he and his wife are among the better Filipinos there are. From what I saw on TV and read in various publications, I believe they are simple, educated folks with no air of being pretentious intellectual snobs. And the images of Satur being literally dragged out of a detention center? I can only shake my head. Anyway, as reported the plane was ordered back to Manila. Now that’s being literally taken for a ride. I guess the consolation would be the free plane ride, cramped as the airplane may have been. Seriously, doesn’t the predicament of Mr. Ocampo remind you of something from our recent past? Ah, lest we forget the lessons of history, as one of my SocSci professors had it, those who never learned from the mistakes of the past are bound to repeat it.

And what’s this? News had it that some (Senatorial) candidates are seeking Ladlad’s (Danton Remoto’s group) endorsement? Hmm, it’s nice to see pink all over. I first met Danton when we were guest in Julie Yap Daza’s show. Surely he is one hell of a staunch gay rights advocate. Now, I’m reminded of that gay beauty pageant (among the aims of which is to encourage those in the closet to be out) where one winner said that it’s his moment and he intends to shine. Whew! I see something else in it: in whatever undertaking there is, the truth will always set you free (gets nyo? Okey, I mean magpakatutuo na kayo. Smile, its midweek).

* * *

The fourth Sunday of Lent always features one of the most beautiful parables ever told, that of the Prodigal Son. Last Sunday Fr. Ric (whom many will agree if I say that he is one of the better priests of Calbayog) gave a nice, simple reflection on the story. Among other things, he cited the famous Rembrant painting entitled the prodigal son; that painting which contained three images, that of a father embracing his lost son with the other son in the background. Fr. Ric used the painting and the story in guiding the faithful as to where they are in the scheme of things in this season of lent. A question hung in the air: to which character do we belong? the repentant son, the forgiving father or the indifferent brother? Think about it.

* * *

About two weeks ago, I featured that first part of Charo Nabong’s article “People who made a difference in Samar in 2006”. Here’s the second part of that article:

Mel Sarmiento, Coefredo Uy, Reynato Latorre and Mario Quijano are mayors of Calbayog City, Catbalogan, Villareal and Pinabacdao respectively. Mayor Sarmiento is an energetic mayor who has won numerous awards for his good governance in Calbayog, the only city in Samar island. He was named national winner of the Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence (KAME) as a Highly Performing City Government by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the Local Government Development Foundation. KAME, named after the first German Chancellor, is an award for best managed local government unit in the Philippines, given to local executives for their leadership, accomplishments and vision for their communities. He has also won for Calbayog an award from the Galing Pook Awards for his project on Coastal Zoning which delineated the boundaries of the municipal waters of Calbayog City and its neighboring municipalities, thus securing the municipal fishing grounds for the artisanal fisherfolk of Calbayog.

Mayor Mario Quijano brought honors to the municipality of Pinabacdao when his proposal for an agro-forestry project was declared one of three national winners in the Panibagong Paraan Competition of the World Bank in 2006. His proposal, "What is Yours is Mine, What is Mine is Yours', bested 87 other proposals from the original 1,000 entries and a P2 M grant was given for his project. He convinced farmers to go into agro-forestry, offering to pay for their tax delinquencies when yields had improved.

Mayor Uy, or Tekwa as he prefers to be called is a first termer mayor of Catbalogan who showed how to exercise political will in realizing long cherished improvements for the town of Catbalogan. Most politicians in elected positions would hesitate to act on what has to be done fearing the loss of votes, but Mayor Tekwa pushed on, no matter the political consequences. With this daring-do, he was able to do what his predecessors were not able to accomplish. He built and improved the wet and dry markets for fish and vegetable vendors. He built the first bus and jeepney terminal for Catbalogan, the premier town of Samar. He was named Second Best Performing LGU in Fiscal Management and Collection in Region 8 (second to Ormoc City) by the DILG.

Reynato "Boy" Latorre is another first termer mayor of Villareal, Samar who took the "responsibility of an extra-ordinary, mind-boggling and gargantuan project that separates us from the very ordinary Filipinos in the words of Prof. Cesar Torres, a Villahanon based in San Francisco, U.S.A. The project is the repair and concreting of the 9- km. road from the Maharlika highway to the town of Villareal. Built in 1937, the dirt road is the only access road linking Villareal to the rest of Samar but it has deteriorated so badly, people would rather take to the sea to reach Villareal. With the strong support of the Villahanon Association in Metro Manila (VAMM), Mayor Latorre has mobilized his fellow Villahanons here and abroad to contribute sacks of cement and harnessed tiklos labor (the traditional practice of helping one another in times of harvest). Contributions poured in and people turned up for the tiklos and now about 3.5 kms of what is now known as the "Villareal Bayanihan Road" has been cemented. Mayor Boy Latorre has demonstrated people power in action in his municipality. The project continues and so thus the tiklos spirit." (to be continued…)

* * *

Belated Birthday greetings to Archbishop Jose Palma. He turned 57 last Monday.

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice week everyone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

oh Kris!

(This column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! It’s midweek. First things first. It’s all systems go got tomorrow’s big affair in Calbayog City. Msgr. Isabelo Abarquez will be installed as the new bishop of the Diocese of Calbayog. His installation rites will be held at the Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral at 10 in the morning. This will be followed by a Testimonial Luncheon at the TTMIST Hall. Ricardo Cardinal Vidal is expected to be in town for the event, together with at least 31 bishops and 500 priests from Cebu, Palo and Catarman.

As you read this, a motorcade that will bring Msgr. Abarquez to Calbayog City will have commenced at San Juanico Bridge. As per advice from the organizers, the motorcade is expected at arrive in Calbayog City at around 4:00 pm today. Students from various schools will participate in a standing parade to welcome the new bishop.

At around 7pm tonight, the bishop will host a dinner at the spanking Centennial Pastoral Center for some officials and guests who are in town for the installation.

* * *

Oh Kris! You did it again! You may love her or hate her, but when she bares her life’s details on TV, it’s always a national event (hmm, a new addition to our list of national stuff? You know, like national fruit, national bird, dance, etc.) Well, what with the RP as a nation of voyeurs? (my apologies) I guess that explains why a simpleng away-mag-asawa is always part of the news, if I may emphasize, on national TV. Scandals come and go, but surely, anything about Kris is bound to linger on and on.

* * *

Last week, Charo Nabong emailed me her article entitled “People who made a difference in Samar in 2006”. That article paid tribute to some SamareƱos who did something good for Samar. The author gave me permission to feature that article in my column. Here’s the first part:

"Time magazine ushered in 2007 with a tribute to the Person of the Year (US) and an article about people who made a difference in our lives globally.

In Samar, my list of persons who have made a difference in the lives of Samarnons would include Mel Sarmiento, Cesar Aculan, Romeo Royandoyan, Angel Hobayan, Leonardo Medroso, Jose Palma, Mario Quijano, Renato Latorre, Don Mabulay, Coefredo Uy, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, and Ray Gaspay. My list is surely not a result of an exhaustive search, there may be more out there, but to me, these persons have done something beyond expectations that spelled a difference in the lives of Samarnons especially the poor farmers and fisherfolks, in this part of the world.

Cesar Aculan is the director of the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Calbayog. Among the religious, titles like D.D., S.T.D., H.P. are earned for completing certain studies but Fr. Cesar has been conferred the title Sus.Ag. which is jokingly appended to his name by his religious colleagues for his untiring promotion and practice of Sustainable Agriculture among the farmers of Samar. Majority of the priests in Samar have embarked on beautifying their churches and convents, but Fr. Cesar took the "road less traveled", he organized trainings for farmers, established a demonstration farm, sourced materials and funding to make farming a sustainable and profitable venture and in the middle of these - provided refuge to the farmers and their families who were displaced by the silent war waged in Samar. Along with sustainable development, he has pushed for Peace and Development to secure a peaceful environment for development to prosper in Samar island.

Angel Hobayan, Leonardo Medroso, and Jose Palma were bishops in Samar island. Bishop Hobayan was bishop of the Diocese of Catarman before he retired in 2005; Bishop Medroso was bishop of the Diocese of Borongan before he was named Bishop of the Diocese of Bohol in November, 2006; and Bishop Palma was bishop of the Diocese of Calbayog before he was promoted Archbishop of Palo early last year. The formidable trio added their voices and support to the establishment of the Samar Island Natural Park and the people's stand against mining and logging in the island of Samar. When the DENR issued an order in 2005 lifting the logging moratorium in Samar island which allowed the San Jose Timber corporation to resume logging operations, the three bishops closed ranks again, this time with Bishop Trance of the Diocese of Catarman who had replaced Bishop Hobayan, to oppose the DENR order. Bishop Emeritus Hobayan came out of his retirement to testify in the Senate public hearing on the issue. The three bishops also initiated the formation of the Samar Island Development Council which later became the Samar Island Partnership for Peace and Development." (to be continued…)

* * *

Oh Kris, again. As with other celebrities (famous and/or notorious), text messages abound about L’affair James. I got one last week.Let me end today’s column with that corny message: “eh ano kung may Hope c James? Ay sus! Dati naming may Phillip c Kris ah! Dapat kasi alam nila na Cigarette smoking s dangerous 2 ur health esp wen ur pregnant”.

* * *

Have a nice week everyone! Ciao!

Friday, March 2, 2007


(this column appears in today's edition of the Leyte-Samar Daily Express)

Hi there! We’re into another weekend; and yes, off we go to the second Sunday of Lent. Talking about Lent, today’s title is just about that (well, almost). It has nothing to do with the Armed Forces of the Philippines or the military, or the Melo Commission, or the controversy that’s brewing as an offshoot of Philip Alston’s findings which led to Sec. Gonzales uttering the muchacho comment (ahh, what’s Sec. Gonzales without being acerbic? I don’t like it, but I don’t dislike it either. Except for once, when I loved how he got the flak after his comments against Cory Aquino).

AFP is a part of what I got from last Sunday’s liturgy wherein the theme was one on temptation (before I forget, the priest gave emphasis on the temptation on power. Hmm, just in time for the elections). We’re in for the season of AFP – A for alms-giving, F for forgiveness and P for prayer. I suppose, that’s something many of us we have been told since time we can remember, I mean the acts of doing good towards (all) our fellowmen. Just like the Christmas season when most of us are into our seasonal generosity, it’s nice to have these forty days in preparation for the greatest feast of all which is Easter. I guess many of us find being good to everyone all the time a very tall order, thus all the reason to go to confession every now and then. So this season is a welcome relief from that hard task (magulo ba?). Do I hear some say that it’s an occupational hazard that goes with being a Christian? (Please forgive me, just wanna make you smile)

* * *

For the Church in the Philippines, last Sunday was also National Migrants’ Sunday. The OFW phenomenon is certainly something. The government, sincerely or otherwise, have always referred to them as the (much-ballyhooed) modern-day heroes of the country. Three presidents - Cory, Erap and PGMA - have always included meeting with OFWs part of their itineraries during their state visits; and yes, also the annual grand welcome at the airport during Christmas.

Back to last Sunday’s liturgy. Prayers were said for the welfare of the OFWs and their families. Their sacrifices were compared to the cross of Jesus which was a source of salvation. The sacrifices of the OFWs resulted in dollar remittances that sustained the Philippines in times of crises. They have another sacrifice (?) to bear. It’s election time, and no need to mention it, the OFWs are among the issues floating in the air.

* * *

Beauty pageant candidate disqualified coz she did not disclose details about her previous job. She was too honest to tell the organizers that she once worked in a night club. So much for honesty (and chastity?).

Talking about candidates. Can’t the COMELEC do the same thing about their set of candidates? I mean, at the slightest hint of dishonesty (by the candidate), tsugi! (oops, smile, it’s a weekend)

* * *

Belated birthday greetings to City Assessor Arnol Trani. He turned a year older last Friday (Feb. 23); and to Fr. Romy Manzanero and Ms. Baby Sabenicio (Feb. 28).

* * *

Last Saturday, we were at the Isidro residence for a mirienda cena, in celebration of the 40th day of Mano Boy’s receiving the gift of eternal life. The Isidro family gave out cards which contained this beautiful poem:

“My Life’s been full, I’ve savored much.
Good Friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts and share with me,
I’m with God now, I’ve been set free.”

* * *

This is it for now. Have a nice weekend everyone! Ciao!


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