Thursday, December 13, 2007

Singing Improves Health

Hear this: Singing is good for your health
The Philippine Star 

It's no secret that music and singing relate to man's health and well-being. Historically and internationally, music forms a part of the healing systems and rituals of many cultures. It has been observed that singers tend to live longer lives. Could it be because they have stronger breathing mechanisms strengthened by habitually holding longer breaths? Or that they express their emotions more and thus release much internal angst and tension?

We are a lucky people because almost every Filipino can sing. Lately, there has been a surge in singing mainly because of the karaoke craze and the natural, irrepressible human desire to get up on stage and be a star. Many baby boomers find much satisfaction joining friends, setting up bands, and having soirees. singing songs from the '50s onwards. I believe that a song a day keeps the doctor away. And indeed, a singing nation is a healthy nation. Here are what some top singing devotees have to say:

Bayani Fernando

Chairman, Metro Manila Development Authority

Whenever I sing, I feel good. It is an emotional drain through which one can flush the stresses of the day. By nature, we have different emotions we want to express, and we can do this by singing. You can release negative emotions like anger, you can communicate your innermost feelings to others, and most of all, singing brings you in communion with yourself. I look forward to our singing sessions, which we hold at least twice a week. If I were not that busy, I would be a member of a band or musical group. Music keeps me young —   it is the elixir of youth!

Angelo Reyes

Secretary, Department of Energy

Before, to ask me to sing was really difficult. You had to physically carry me to the stage. However, when I reached the rank of general in the Armed Forces and I had a captive audience who seemed to applaud my singing for whatever reason, I started to enjoy singing. I learned that almost anybody can sing. What is important is that you can carry a tune, have a sense of timing, and that you can feel the song with the proper emotion. You must not only sing the melody; it is important to convey the message of the song. I do a lot of public speaking and appearances, and singing in public has helped me reinforce my confidence on stage. You can't sing well if at the time you are singing, you are unable to cast off your worries and emotional baggage. For people in high-pressure jobs almost nonstop, singing is extreme relief and supreme joy.

Joey Lina

President, Manila Hotel

Of all stress-relieving activities, I enjoy singing the most because through songs, I am able to express myself. Singing is expressing. Furthermore, it is thoroughly relaxing and makes me forget the worries that plague my day. There are times when singing brings me a real high, transporting me to another level of consciousness.

Marides Fernando

Mayor, Marikina City (and wife of MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando)

Ever since I have known BF, he loved to sing. He had a weekly night out with his singing buddies, which was his stress reliever for the week. If he didn't get a chance to sing enough that night, he would sing in my ear in bed. Now, we continue to sing as a family one night a week and we have a good time. There is something about singing that makes you focus on your performance, tone, words, and expression; makes you forget your many problems; and takes you, if only for a brief moment, to a place that's carefree, beautiful, and all that we were meant to be — happy.

Lenny de Jesus

Professorial lecturer at UP (and best remembered as the iron lady of Malacañang during the Estrada regime)

My basic stress relief practice is to meditate twice a day for at least 20 minutes each time. I have resumed my yoga practice and started playing the piano again. I have also taken up the flute and the guitar and, of course, sing for fun. Music has definitely not only de-stressed me; it has enabled me to discover much more joy in life. While playing music, I get lost in the wonder of the sounds that uplift my spirits.

Boy Camara


To manage stress, I keep a personal attitude that life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived. I meditate regularly and practice tai chi, which I now teach. I believe that everything can be meditation if you are totally into what you are doing right here, now. I always try to be total, not necessarily perfect. As much as I can, I live totally from moment to moment. And I try not to take myself too seriously! Singing is a great stress reliever for me. It is like opening and emptying oneself, then, a silent state happens.

Willie Nepomuceno


One evening, I had one of the greatest stress-relieving moments of my life singing one Beatle song after another with a live band. It brought back my youthful days, carefree and singing my heart out. I felt like some imaginary steam was being flushed out of my body system, like a cleansing process. Even simply listening to old music I grew up with gives me the kind of mental state one gets from yoga — relaxing and peaceful. Laughter, of course, is the universal medicine for stress. The real cure, I surmise, is the subject matter that we laugh about. Music and laughter, indeed, are the best stress relievers. And you don't pay any doctor!

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Filipino-Chinese Firm Bags P3.95 Billion Transco Deal

By Donnabelle Gatdula 
Philippine Star 

A consortium of Filipino and Chinese firms led by local infrastructure holding firm Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp. bagged yesterday the concession contract for power grid operator National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) with a bid of $3.95 billion.

Monte Oro had teamed up with Calaca High Power Corp. and State Grid of China for the bidding, the country's biggest privatization effort.

Controversy has shrouded Monte Oro in the wake of allegations by Sen. Jamby Madrigal of the group's discreet ties to President Arroyo's brother, Diosdado "Buboy" Macapagal Jr. and the Aboitiz group.

She also said it is Enrique Razon Jr., chair of International Container Services Inc. (ICTSI) and treasurer of the administration Team Unity in the May senatorial elections, who leads the Monte Oro group.

The consortium narrowly beat the $3.905-billion bid of the group of San Miguel Energy Corp. and partners Dutch firm TPG Aurora BV and Malaysia's TNB Prai Sdn Bhd.

The Monte Oro group must still get a franchise to operate the grid from Congress, where opponents of Mrs. Arroyo in the Senate are likely to give them a rough ride amid allegations the winning consortium has close links to her.

"They (Monte Oro) have enough political clout to get it through the lower house but will likely run into a long-running tele-novella in the Senate," said Alex Magno, director of the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The consortium has a year to get the franchise or ownership will revert to the government, which will continue to run the grid for the time being.

But Monte Oro's president expressed confidence, saying their offer would be funded through a combination of equity and borrowing.

"We have agreements with underwriters and we will begin to implement them," Walter Brown, who is also chairman of mining group Philex, said.

The government will get 25 percent of the purchase price once the franchise is awarded, with the remaining funds to be paid over 20 years.

"This is a move in the right direction," said Jose Ibazeta, head of the agency tasked with selling state-run energy assets.

The winning price tag is more than double the previous privatization record of $1.6 billion paid for Fort Bonifacio in 1995 and crowns a turnaround in what had previously been a notoriously stop-start energy privatization program.

The government has been trying since 2003 to privatize the management of TransCo to boost state finances and modernize its creaking power sector. Yesterday's auction was the fifth attempt and the second this year.

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Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mutiny by Senator Trillanes

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. disclosed on Saturday that two participants in the short-lived 2003 Oakwood mutiny have warned the military leadership about the new efforts at destabilization by the Magdalo group.

He said the military received the tip only hours before Senator Antonio F.Trillanes IV, Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and former Vice President Teofisto Guingona attempted to grab power last Thursday. At that time, the AFP was still trying to verify the information.

However, Esperon said that the information provided by the two Oakwood mutineers enabled the military to make some preparations, explaining the timely response by the military when Lim, Trillanes, Guingona and their supporters went to the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.

The two, along with a handful of Oakwood mutiny officers facing trial for coup d etat, walked out of the Makati City regional trial court, marched to the hotel where they subsequently called for the unseating of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"In the early morning of (Nov.) 29, there were two soldiers who participated in the Oakwood mutiny were again invited to join them. This report reached us, the two soldiers reported this to us and based on that report, we made some declarations of alert or preparations," he said.

"That explains why in a very short notice, in a very short period of time, the Marines were already in Ayala surrounding the Manila Peninsula," said Esperon, referring to the group of Brig. Gen. Jonathan Martir who was the ground commander of the Marines.

When asked why the military was not able to pre-empt the plan when they were already tipped off by the two Oakwood mutineers, Esperon said: "We do not know that it would be (the walk-out for the Makati) RTC. We just got the information that there would be some activities that would be staged."

Esperon said the two soldiers are now supportive of the military. He said the two did not rejoin the group of Lim, a former commander of the elite First Scout Ranger Regiment, and Trillanes because they know that they would be abandoned in the end.

"They are with us, they side with us and I must commend them for coming forward and report the matter to us...They know that they will be abandoned by this (self-styled) so-called messianic leaders," said Esperon, referring to Lim and Trillanes.

The PNP has filed rebellion charges against Lim, Trillanes and at least 46 other military officers and civilians. A four-man panel headed by State Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco are determining if there is prima facie case to elevate the case before the courts.

Esperon said the situation in Metro Manila has stabilized but said the military would be prepared for another power grab attempt by the group of Lim, who was involved in the failed coups in the 1980s against the Aquino government.

In Feb. 25 last year, Lim, former Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Renato Miranda and 26 other Army and Marine officers planned to withdraw support from President Arroyo. They are detained and facing trial by a general court martial.

"Everything is back to normal in the Philippines after the incident. I think we are very much in control of the situation...Im talking about the physical security situation, we could go about our daily lives here in Manila," the AFP chief added. (PNA)

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Learn to fly an Airbus in 1 year

Manila Bulletin

If the vast potential of the newly-opened Clark International Aviation (CIA) at the Clark Special Economic Zone in Pampanga would be realized, commercial pilots can well be the next professionals that Filipinos could be famous for.

Opened early this year, the CIA offers an intensive, integrated 12-month training of first-time pilots. At the end of the program, graduates would be qualified and certified to fly Airbus 320s, the most favored single-aisle aircraft in the world.

CIA chairman and chief executive officer Mark Pearson believes there will come a day, while on a flight from London to Paris, he would recognize the captain as a graduate of CIA - and a Filipino at that.

At the core of CIA program is an $ 11-million, state-of-the-art full flight simulator, the first of its kind in the country.

"We train pilots who have never flown an airplane before. They graduate from college and come here for the intensive, integrated, 12-month program. They come and live here at Clark. In the first five months, they spend their time in the classrooms to learn all the theoretical knowledge plus ground studies. They have to learn about aviation, meteorology, navigation, flight instruments and air law, among others," explained Pearson, himself a former pilot for the British airline Monarch.

From ground instructions, the pilot cadets move on to fly 70 hours in small light planes where they will learn "basic pilot skills.

Pilot-cadets live inside the CIA compound but are accorded comfortable accommodations. CIA has two types of accommodations the air-conditioned and serviced dormitory type (P5,000 a month excluding the food) which can fit 18 cadets in a room and apartments ( a night) for single and double occupancies complete with shower and baths, personal refs, DVD players, wireless internet, and TV. CIA also has a full-service gym, basketball gym and bar. Pilot-cadets may also bring their wives with them during the program.


Now comes the best part.

At the end of the 12 months, the pilot-cadets not only graduate as commercial pilots but fully type-rated to fly the Airbus 320 which immediately made them eligible to enter the airline service.

Perhaps what attracts CIA to prospective pilots is the price of the training fees as against the high salaries a graduate can expect. At the moment, course fee is pegged at $ 80,000. But Pearson was quick to point out that this is a bargain compared to the facilities where similar programs are offered.

"We can actually deliver our training at the fraction of the price that it would cost to deliver, say in Europe for example. When the Europeans start this program it would probably cost double compared to that in the Philippines," said Pearson.

He noted that given the shortage in pilots of A320s, both in Asia and other parts of the world, prospective pilots stand to get a windfall in salaries once they get their certification from CIA.

"All of the pilots are guaranteed a job once they graduate from the program. There is global pilot shortage at the moment which requires 16,000 new pilots each in every year for the next 20 years. And we are here to train pilots in time for the delivery of new planes for these airlines," said Pearson.

CIA chose the Philippines as its area of operations because of its strategic location.

"It is accessible to all points in Asia. It has one of the lowest cost bases in Asia. Combined with that it has an abundance of highly-educated fluent English-speaking (English) personnel," he said.

Pearson added that what makes CIA's program distinct is that it is the first school in the world which has actually commenced with the multicrew license program approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).


CIA has also opened its facilities for the re-training of pilots coming from both local and foreign airline companies. It is a mandatory international requirement for a pilot, including seasoned pilots, captains and first officers, to retrain every six months for him to maintain his proficiency if he is to keep his license.

"This is the only opportunity they have to practice real emergency drills that I hope they will never see in real life like engine failures, engine fires, hydraulic problems. The kind of problems you can't safely simulate on a real plane on the air with real passengers on board," said Rick Norman, head of flight operations.

Cebu Pacific currently has a group of its own pilots re-training at CIA.

As word about CIA spreads around, the Clark-based institution has seen a steady stream of pilot cadets as well as pilots who are on its re-training program.

"We have a new course intake every month of 18 cadets so in a full year we will have about 220 cadets in training in any one time," averred Norman.

He added that CIA is an international school and that majority of the pilot-cadets do happen to be Filipinos. But it does have students from Europe and India and is expecting a huge influx from the Middle East and China.

If the substantial investments in the country were not enough, Pearson said CIA would be bringing in three more simulators and two A-320s. There will also be two other different types of simulators called fixed-based simulators.

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Visa Dispute in Dubai

GULF manpower recruiters will urge their governments to stop issuing work visas to Filipinos until a dispute over domestic workers' wages is resolved, it was revealed yesterday. A meeting of the GCC Recruiters Committee unanimously agreed in Bahrain to submit the request for the ban until conditions set by the Philippines government are revised.

The new regulations seek a minimum wage of $400 (BD150) and improved standard of living for any Filipino workers being employed as domestic help in the GCC.

The minimum wage was passed in December last year and maids planning to go overseas must first undergo familiarisation training with the culture, beliefs and practices of their prospective employers.

Employers of Filipino maids are also now being required to sign a declaration that they will face a BD5 fine everyday if they fail to pay workers their salaries on time.

"We have approved a decision that we will urge our governments through the GCC chambers of commerce to stop issuing working visas to all Filipino workers," Bahrain Recruiters Society (BRS) chairman Fareed Al Mahmeed told the GDN.

He was speaking following the meeting held at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Manama, yesterday.

Representatives from all the GCC countries participated in the meeting.

"As a recruiters committee we will ask the GCC countries to stop Filipinos' visas," said Mr Al Mahmeed.

"We hope our governments will support us. It is affecting our citizens, it is affecting business and it is interfering in these country's policies and rules."

He said that he hoped the decision would give GCC governments an opportunity to speak with their Filipino counterparts and reach a compromise, and claimed the committee's actions would have the backing of Filipinos.

"The rules are affecting the Filipino workers and according to our agent even the workers are refusing the regulations and are going on strike because nobody is taking manpower from the Philippines anymore," said Mr Al Mahmeed.

BRS board secretary Khalifa Al Jowder said that the meeting addressed means of dealing with enforcing $400 minimum wage rule on the sector.

"We have always tried to solve this problem but this has not been solved," he said.

"All GCC representatives agreed to ask our government to suspend visas and work permits for all skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers from the Philippines until we see what the solution will be."

By Mark Summers

( - "No-one is going to accept paying a salary of $400 - we will not bring workers from the Philippines to any GCC countries until we get a solution to this problem."

However, Philippine Ambassador Eduardo Maglaya said any such ban would be open to accusations of discrimination.

"If it is specific that they mention only Filipinos then I think that it is discriminatory," he told GDN.

"Filipinos are the preferred employees in the service industry and we have reasons why we should also take care of our nationals.

"I guess what every normal embassy would do is protect their own nationals in the same manner as the GCC embassies would do for their citizens abroad."

In Bahrain, maids account for 40 per cent of the total Filipino population.

The embassy had estimated that there are about 40,000 Filipinos in Bahrain.

Last year the embassy handled 4,978 cases of Filipinos with employment problems - 95pc of which involved maids.

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Filipinos in Malaysia can send SMS money home

( - KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of Filipino workers can now send money to their families and other dependants in the Philippines within seconds through mobile phone service messaging, and without going through banks. 

Maxis Communications Berhad and the Philippine's telecommunications company Globe Telecom yesterday launched the world's first international mobile-to-mobile money transfer service, between the two countries. 

The service, approved by Bank Negara, allows users to transfer up to PHP6,500 (RM500) per transaction at RM5 per transaction and 15 sen for each SMS, half the transaction fee of banks, said Maxis chief executive officer Sandip Das. 

Up to RM10,000 can be transferred per day at no charge to recipients who receive the money in pesos based on daily exchange rates. 

The service will benefit 20,000 Filipino Maxis subscribers in Malaysia, Das said. 

"The service is part of a larger picture of us being a strong service provider for the immigrant population," he said. 

"We will not replace the banking institutions for international remittance but provide customers an alternative solution to sending money in micro arrangements, at a lower fee and a greater convenience," he said. 

The service will also be made available for Indonesians in Malaysia before the end of the month and other countries later in the year, he said. 

It is estimated that there are 150,000 Indonesian mobile phone users in Malaysia, he said. 

On receipt of an SMS confirmation, a recipient can withdraw the money through any of Globe's GCash 6,000 outlets in the Philippines, as well as rural banks, pawnshops and retail outlets and pay for things and tuition fees in some places without cashing it out, said Globe's head of consumer business Ferdz De la Cruz. 

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Filipina jailed in Dubai for killing own baby

( - Dubai: A Filipina mother who battered her newborn girl to death has been sentenced to three years in jail.

The Dubai Court of First Instance found the 32-year-old mother, identified as E.L., responsible for her 45-day-old girl's death. She will be deported after serving the prison term.

The Public Prosecution charged her with premeditatedly murdering her daughter. The Filipina denied the charges and said her daughter died after accidentally falling from her hands into the bathtub.

Her lawyer, Nabih Badr of Nabih Badr Advocates and Legal Consultants, said, "Every mother is ready to sacrifice her life to save her child. God gave every mother a caring and warm heart towards her child. It would have been impossible for my client, who is a mother of five children, to premeditatedly batter her 45-day-old girl to death."

Following the ruling, Badr told Gulf News that he couldn't comment on the ruling, however, "it seems the judge considered our appeal to treat the case as a death caused by negligence".

"If the charge was true, she definitely must have been suffering from postpartum depression, which pushes a patient to suicide or to kill someone.

"Ultimately, a pregnant woman feels happy when she delivers. Celebrating a woman's delivery helps reduce the effect of postpartum depression, as explained to me by one of the doctors," said Badr.

Counterfeiters land in prison

A group of five counterfeiters has been sentenced to one year in jail for possessing about $300,000 (about Dh1 million) in fake bills and trying to sell them for Dh750,000 to a police informant.

The Dubai Court of First Instance also fined the five Dh5,000 each. They will be deported after their sentences.

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First Pinays on Mt. Everest


The Philippine Star

When Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino became the first Southeast Asian women to summit Mt. Everest and the first women in the world to traverse Mt. Everest from the North side to the South side, Himalaya didn't seem to care.

The country was rejoicing, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent a congratulatory message, and the Philippine Coast Guard prepared a heroes welcome for the three summiteers who had just been promoted from seawoman first class to seawoman third class.

Himalaya, though, remains clueless. After all, he's only five months old. His mommy Janet left two months ago to pursue her dream of conquering the world's highest peak, and she did so with a heavy heart.

In an article published on the Kathmandu Post titled "Mom of five-month-old atop Everest," Janet was quoted as saying, "I decided to leave him, as I was too focused on the mountain. I believed there was a greater cause behind my decision."

Noelle, on the other hand, brought her loved one with her to the summit, a picture of her mother. Her mom passed away last year due to a stroke. She was on her way to the airport to pick up Noelle when she had the attack. Noelle had just arrived after successfully climbing Mt. Denali in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America. She was waiting at the airport, when she got the call that her mom was rushed to the hospital. By the time Noelle arrived there, it was already too late.

Carina is one of 14 siblings who grew up in Bukidnon. Her family didn't want her to join the Everest team because of the obvious danger. They also relied on her as the family breadwinner. But Carina was determined to sacrifice to achieve a greater goal.

The Dayondon family apparently had nothing to worry about. According to ABS-CBN correspondent Vince Rodriguez who chronicled the journey on, Carina was even singing on the summit!

According to the blog, two hours before reaching the summit, the team radioed Advance Base Camp to give an update on their location. During the call, Carina sang in the radio an excerpt from the song Kaya ng Pinay, composed by team doctor Ted Esguerra.

On hearing her singing, Everest summiteer Pastor Emata, who was at ABC, radioed back, "Carina, I bet you're singing because you're scared."

Carina's response was, "Excuse me!" But things are different back home. Their families may support their goals and trust they know what they're doing — but they can't completely take away their loved ones' apprehension, the fear that something bad may happen.

Ricky Serdenia, husband of Janet Belarmino-Serdenia, couldn't hold back his tears when he heard the news his wife had reached the summit. You'd think that Ricky, being a member of the Philippine Dragonboat Federation, would be cool under pressure.

He admits though, it's not easy when you're the one left behind.

"Himalaya, your mom has reached the summit," he softly told his baby while crying. "I'm so happy but I also worry about her everyday. I try not to think about it by being with friends, keeping myself busy. Sometimes I fear Himalaya may not see his mom again. But I trust in God and I believe in Janet."

Himalaya was just chuckling and making cute baby sounds while his father wept.

This May, more than 300 people are estimated to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest. Critics have said that the mountain has become so commercialized, anyone with time, money and a bit of guts can reach the top.

So what makes the Pinays' achievement so special? They could have swum across the Pacific, they could have aimed to reach the North Pole — it wasn't about the summit of Everest per se. The mountain is simply an allegory, a very tough one at that, for achieving what people think is impossible. That if we set our minds to it and unite in a common cause, we can climb whatever heights and reach whatever distance we imagine.

Like Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata and Romy Garduce before them, the women have again made the country proud. The message is loud and clear, yes, the Filipina can, Kaya ng Pinay! And they didn't just do it for themselves, but for all the Filipinas around the world struggling to conquer their own mountains.

And even if Himalaya doesn't understand yet why his mom left, one day when he grows up, he'll realize the meaning of his mother's sacrifice. Indeed, Mommy Janet knows best, there is a greater cause.

Not even all the money in the world can match the legacy Himalaya will pass on to his children and his children's children. A legacy of hope, faith and triumph of the human spirit.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Luring Voters

By Carmel Crimmins

SAN ISIDRO, Philippines (Reuters) - Campaigning for local and congressional polls is rolling into its final week in the Philippines with candidates dispensing cash, food, mascots and even their own brand of underwear to woo voters. 

Elections in this Southeast Asian country are renowned for their colourful cast of characters, endemic corruption and violence.

In the village of San Isidro, around 50 km north of Manila, Father Ed Panlilio has swapped his clerical robes for a white bullet-proof vest as he campaigns for the governor's seat in Pampanga, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's home turf. 

The Catholic priest, who has been suspended from performing spiritual duties while he focuses on politics, has been getting death threats but vows to keep going with his anti-corruption, anti-Arroyo ticket. 

"It's part of the commitment. It's all the way," said the 53-year-old, before boarding a truck festooned with posters of him, in trademark white, looking up to the heavens. "It's a divine crusade based on gospel values." 

Panlilio's no-frills campaign relies on donations and volunteers fed up with shady quarrying operations and the province's reputation as a centre for illegal gambling. 

His background as a priest carries a lot of weight with devout parishioners in the largely Catholic country. 

"We've had gambling lords and quarry lords, why not praise the lord?" said Bert Salvador, 46, a Panlilio supporter. 


For politicians who can't rely on divine endorsement, there are the traditional routes to victory -- advertising, handouts and, of course, vote-buying and vote-manipulation. 

Public office is a lucrative career in the Philippines and with half the 24 seats in the Senate, all 240 slots in the lower house and nearly 18,000 positions in local government up for grabs on May 14, billions of pesos have already been spent trying to secure posts. 

On the official campaign trail, politicians dole out freebies, from roast pork and beer to fresh fish and rice, as well as amulets and insurance policies. 

But behind the scenes, candidates' agents dispense cash and favours to get elected. Harassment and intimidation are also employed and smear campaigns are carried out via text message. 

Seven out of 10 voters expect vote-buying and half of them think it's okay to accept the cash provided they vote with their conscience, according to a recent survey. 

"This is the only time they (the public) can make money out of these people, out of the government," said Benito Lim, a professor of political science at the University of the Philippines. 

"This is the only time they are treated like kings. They sing to them, they plead to them, they organise, they dance before them and say good things about them and give them money." 


Across the archipelago, actors-turned-candidates and scions of political dynasties are racing from rally to rally, making speeches, singing jingles and pressing the flesh. 

In Manila, a city councillor is appealing to the female vote by giving away underwear with his nickname printed on the rear. 

Others are playing on their names or pseudonyms, which can be used on ballot papers. These are important factors because manual polling means that voters have to write out the names of their preferred choices. 

Prospero Pichay, a pro-government candidate for the Senate, has created his own mascot, "Super Pichay", a comic book-style figure with his facial features to reach out to the electorate. 

The lawmaker, whose last name sounds like "pechay", a variety of local lettuce, has 10 lifesize mascots, complete with blue capes, fibreglass masks and lettuces stuffed down their cummerbunds, attending rallies across the country. 

His catchphrase is "Plant in the Senate". 

"If it catches the attention of the kids then it should catch the attention of the parents," the candidate reasoned. 

But when it comes to name recall, Agakhan Sharief wins hands down. The 36-year-old is using his pseudonym, Osama Bin Laden, to get elected to the council in his province of Lanao del Sur, in the Philippines' Muslim south. 

With his beard, turban and neck scarf, Sharief looks like the world's most wanted terror suspect. And it's getting people's attention. 

"I'm expecting in this coming election, Inshallah (God willing), a landslide victory for Bin Laden," he said.

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NPAs abduct Philippine mayor

(AFP) - Communist rebels abducted a Philippine mayor campaigning for re-election after killing two of his bodyguards in an ambush, but the official later escaped, police said yesterday.

Alex Aranas, mayor of Pola township in Mindoro Oriental Province, south of Manila, had just finished campaigning in a village late on Friday when his group was attacked by about 30 New People's Army guerrillas, regional police chief Napoleon Cachuela said. Two of his bodyguards were killed.

Aranas and his two other security escorts, both soldiers, sought refuge in a nearby house owned by a friend. The guerrillas threatened to burn it down and kill all occupants if they did not yield. The mayor and his guards then gave themselves up, police said.

Cachuela said Aranas and the two soldiers escaped hours later. He did not give details.


It was the second time Aranas was seized by the rebels. He was snatched along with about a dozen other people during the 2004 election campaign.

The rebels released Aranas and 10 others within hours. Two soldiers in his security detail were later abandoned by the guerrillas during a clash with the military two days later.

Aranas said at the time that the rebels demanded a so-called "permit to campaign" fee that would allow politicians to campaign in their areas. It was uncertain whether Aranas paid it then, and if the rebels were again demanding money.

The government has condemned the practice as extortion and warned candidates not to comply.

The Maoist rebels, which the US and the EU consider a terrorist group, have been waging a Marxist rebellion since the late 1960s. The military estimates they have about 7,000 fighters, and the rebels claim to have a presence in nearly 70 of the Philippines' 79 provinces.


The attack on Aranas was the latest in a string of election-related violence in the run-up to the balloting on May 14.

In the bloodiest attack so far, six relatives of a town mayor now running for a congressional seat were killed in an ambush on Friday while returning from a funeral in northern Abra Province.

Three others were wounded.

More than 75 have been killed and at least 82 wounded since January when campaigning for local and congressional elections began, police said.

Almost 150 deaths were recorded during the hotly contested 2004 election.

Nearly 87,000 candidates are vying for 17,000 national and local positions, including 265 seats in the House of Representatives and half of the 24 Senate seats.

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US$6 Billion For 2008

The Philippines plans to undertake a borrowing program totalling 325.57 billion pesos (6.84 billion U.S. dollars) in 2008, a local newspaper said here on Friday.

The new program would be 16.7 percent less than that of this year, as the government trys to roll over its maturing obligations with continuous borrowing, the Philippine Star reported.

Some 70 percent of the 2008 borrowing program would be raised from the domestic credit market, the report quoted Finance Secretary Margarito Teves as saying, while the remaining 30 percent would be sourced from the foreign market in a combination of commercial borrowing and official development assistance (ODA).

Teves added that the Philippines is also hoping to qualify for the so-called compact assistance of the Millennium Challenge Account, a U.S. bilateral development fund.

By November this year, the government plans to make a presentation before the U.S. lender, detailing its efforts to meet the criteria for the assistance, Tevels said.

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Guinness World Record For Philippine Mothers

Nearly 4,000 mothers around the Philippines on Wednesday set a new world record for simultaneous breastfeeding, organisers said.

At least 3,869 mothers began feeding their babies at 10:00 am (0200 GMT) sharp in basketball courts and community health centres at 156 sites around the country.

"We are certain we were able to establish a new Guinness world record on breastfeeding in multiple sites," said Nona Andaya-Castillo, one of the organisers.

Last year the Philippines set a new world record for a single site when 3,738 mothers breastfed their babies in a sports stadium in Manila beating the previous record of 1,135 mothers set in Berkeley, California in 2005.

Organised by advocacy groups along with the United Nations Children's Fund ( UNICEF), the departments of health and social welfare and local governments, the event was intended to raise public awareness of breast feeding and discourage mothers from using infant milk formulas.

In Manila alone, 1,028 mothers participated in the event at gymnasium.

Andaya-Castillo said the event was "not only for the record" but a drive to urge mothers to stop using infant milk formulas which "do not guard children from various illnesses and infections such as asthma and diarrhea."

According to the World Health Organisation, children fed with infant formula are 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those who are breast-fed.

"Stop using formula milk. A baby deserves his mother's milk," said health department chief Francisco Duque at the event.

The event also stressed the health benefits of breast feeding for the mothers, protecting them from postpartum hemorrhage, anemia and even breast cancer.-- AFP

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Kite Blamed For Helicopter Crash

( - The string from a child's kite was responsible for the crash of a Philippine military helicopter that killed nine people, the head of the country's air force said on Thursday.

Although the full report on the crash on April 28 has not been released Lieutenant General Horacio Tolentino said a kite string appeared to be the likely cause.

He said that Muslim rebels had used kites to disable air force helicopters in the past.

However terrorist involvement is not suspected in the latest incident.

Tolentino said crash survivor Captain Allan Villagarcia told him that the aircraft was flying perfectly and just about to land in the central island of Cebu when a kite got entangled in the rotor blades.

"There was no problem with the engine. It (the kite string) caused the stoppage of the rotor," Tolentino said.

He said the nylon kite string was found still entangled, just below the main rotor blade.

The Vietnam-era UH-1H "Huey" helicopter, carrying four people on a training flight, went down on a crowded street, killing seven people on the ground and two members of the crew.

Tolentino said the kites were being flown in an area where kite flying is banned to avoid endangering aircraft. But, despite this, the air force has no plans to charge anyone.

"We are not blaming anyone for what has happened. It is not the intention of the people flying the kites to cause accidents," he said. - Sapa-AFP

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Texas Instruments To Invest $1 Billion in the Philippines

U.S. semiconductor company Texas Instruments Inc. said Thursday it plans to invest about $1 billion over 10 years in a new test and assembly facility in the Philippines.

The new facility, Texas Instruments' second in the country, will be located on a 19-acre site in Clark Freeport Zone, a former U.S. Air Force base northwest of Manila.

Construction will start in the second half of this year and initial production will begin later next year, officials said.

"This is an important site for TI because it will add capacity to support our growing business and serve our customers," said Kevin Ritchie, senior vice president of the company's technology and manufacturing group.

Texas Instruments already operates a production complex in the northern city of Baguio. The facility, which has undergone at least four expansions since it was set up in 1979, accounts for 40 percent of the semiconductor company's global output.

The new investment will generate 3,000 jobs and boost Philippine electronics exports, which account for two-thirds of country's goods shipment, officials said.

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Friday, May 4, 2007

1 of 4 seamen around the globe is a Filipino

One of four seafarers around the globe today is a Filipino, putting the Philippines in the big league of the world's maritime industry, according to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano G. Salonga.

Salonga, who has been considered as one of the pillars in the Philippine maritime industry, noted statistics showing that remittances of Filipino seamen into the country have reached US$3.5 billion, helping stabilize the country's economy for the last 25 years.

"Last year alone, these remittances comprised 3.5% of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is no mean feat considering that we only have 300,000 seamen of 82 million population," Salonga explained.

Speaking before this year's graduates of Bachelor of Science in Maritime Transportation and Marine Engineering at the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA), Salonga challenged the SBMA to rally the maritime sector towards competitiveness and productivity.

"What is now happening in the Subic Bay, especially given the huge personality of Hanjin and the modern container port, should convince everyone that the Philippines has now become a great maritime nation and power," Salonga said.

Based on records, he said, the principal avenues of transportation in the Philippines are the inter-island sea lanes, connecting the more than 300,000 ports and harbors [in the world] where 90 percent of commercial goods are being ferried.

Salonga said, "When you sail under foreign flags, work with sense of pride and obligation as Filipinos serve in a global context, not only for your loved ones but for the entire profession and the industry, so that the stamp excellence of Filipino mariners will remain our reputation."

The SBMA has urged the Global Maritime and Transportation School of the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, to study the possibility of putting up a similar school in San Narciso, Zambales.

If the school materializes, it would be the first of its kind in Asia, which could provide opportunities for PMMA graduates to hone further their maritime skills.

The Philippine maritime industry is expected to contribute about US$2-3 billion to the country's annual export earnings starting next year with its unprecedented growth in terms of productivity and job generation, Salonga earlier said.

Salonga cited the entry of South Korea's Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) (KSE:003480) with its US$1 billion shipbuilding facilities inside the Subic Bay Freeport and which is scheduled to produce 12 ships by June next year.

"Hanjin is not only the Philippines' biggest single foreign direct investments of 2006 but its entry can also be regarded as the single most dramatic development in our country's growth as the Asias new maritime powerhouse," he said.

As of March, Hanjin has already generated 6,900 direct and indirect jobs compared to just about 2,400 workers during the early stage of its construction in September last year.

It is projected to create as high as 30,000 jobs in a span of three years.

"That is why, we at the SBMA continue to push the development of the freeport zone not only as a tourist destination and logistics hub but also as a maritime industrial base," Salonga said.

He added that enormous maritime resources with highly knowledgeable and skilled human resources are needed to create wealth in maritime industry.

In addition to shipbuilding and ship repair, Salonga said, the country also has vast potential in the area of regional transshipment hub for Asia-Pacific operations.

"Singapore and Hong Kong with their lesser ports, earn US$20 billion a year from transshipments alone. Given our many well-endowed natural harbors like Subic Bay, the Philippines can do well or even better," Salonga said.

He noted that the Subic Port development project is about 92 percent complete.

"The time has come for us in the maritime sector to help shape the future of our country and the Filipinos by pushing the maritime industry to live up to its role as the new major contributor to Philippine growth and progress," he stressed. – GMANews.TV

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Filipino students at VA Tech cope with tragedy

By Marconi Calindas

( - Had it been an ordinary week, students at Virginia Tech would be sitting down now to take their final exams. However, with the campus still reeling from the rampage on April 16 that left 33 people dead, the task of studying for exams seems overwhelming. Most students have decided not to take the tests, choosing instead to accept the grades they had before the tragedy.

Saipan Tribune had the chance to get in touch with the Filipino Students Association president, Romeo Capuno, to find out how the group is coping in the wake of the tragedy. Capuno, a graduate student in Environmental Engineering, said there are over 100 Filipino-American students at the college right now. He said only about 10 are Filipinos taking graduate studies.

ST: Where were you during the incident?

My schedule varies from day to day. I may work very early in morning or late at night because I am dealing with microorganisms. Luckily that day, I was in my apartment getting ready to go to the university when I got an e-mail from the University Relations about the first shooting. I seldom use my car to go to my office or lab since it is only 5 minutes away from my place.

ST: Did you by chance meet Cho Seung Hui in any activities at school?

I don't know Cho but who knows if our paths have crossed within my two-year stay here.

ST: How are you doing in the wake of the tragedy?

I am getting involved in a lot of student activities inside the campus to make myself busy. Work has been slow for me last week but I am going back to my usual pace this week.

ST: What activities did your group participate in to remember the 32 victims?

There have been lots of activities to remember the victims. There have been memorial services for the 32 victims-as a whole and individually. There were memorial stones placed on the field and close to the Administration building.

ST: What did the Filipino community do when you learned about the incident?

During the incident and upon learning that at least 22 people have died, we immediately accounted for the Filipinos. We checked through our cell phones.

ST: How's the school now after two weeks?

Classes resumed Monday, April 23. The University gave three options for students regarding classes and grades. Classes ended May 2 but students were given considerations.

ST: Is everything back to normal?

It is really hard to tell if everything has normalized. But I know we're getting there.

ST: Is there anything that could be learned from this tragedy?

There are lots of things I got from this incident. One of the important things I got from this is to show your loved ones how much you love them as often as you can. A simple hug, a simple kiss and simple words may be enough. It depends on how you want to let them feel you love them. A brother of a fatality in the Virginia Tech incident told me that he was on campus the day before the massacre because his sister will perform in the International Street Fair. He left before the performance. That was the last time he saw her alive. He said he did not even get a chance to say goodbye. In incidents like this, we can never turn back time and show our unspoken and unexpressed love to them. While we still have the time, let us show them how much we love them. I would like to let my parents and sisters know how much I love them.

ST: Since that incident, have any of you experienced discrimination for being Asian?

Fortunately, there are no Filipinos here that look Korean. But even if there is one, the university issued a memorandum against discrimination of any kind to Koreans.

Capuno graduated with a bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos. He moved to Virginia Tech in May 2005. He said he chose VA Tech because of an interesting research being funded by NASA on water recovery in space stations.

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Iraq: 4 Filipino employees of the US embassy killed in an attack

BAGHDAD - Four Filipino employees of the American embassy were killed Wednesday in the explosion of a rocket in the strengthened green Zone of Baghdad, announced Thursday the embassy in an official statement.

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Husband Arroyo Drops Libel Cases Against Philippine Journalists

(International Herald Tribune, The Associated Press)

MANILA, Philippines: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's husband announced Thursday he is dropping libel suits against more than 40 journalists, explaining that he wants peace and reconciliation after surviving high-risk heart surgery.

The cases — filed over the last three years by Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo against reporters, newspaper columnists, editors and publishers — had alarmed media watchdogs in one of Asia's liveliest democracies.

The suits stemmed mostly from stories alleging corruption and claiming Arroyo helped his wife rig the closely contested 2004 presidential election.

Despite condemnations by foreign and local media watchdogs, the president's husband continued to pursue journalists with lawsuits, then adopted a reconciliatory tone following the surgery that confined him to a hospital for about three weeks last month.

Arroyo, an attorney from a prominent family, has no official powers but is regarded as an influential back-room operator and is a vocal backer of his wife against political rivals.

He was discharged from a suburban Manila hospital Sunday, looking pale and considerably thinner. His daughter held his hand as he walked from the hospital to a van.

"I have instructed my attorneys to withdraw all the libel suits pending before the courts," Arroyo said in a statement read by the presidential press secretary.

"Seeking redress for all the grievances that the libel suits sought to address now pales in comparison to taking on a genuine chance to make peace," he said.

He said he would try to reconcile "with those who will accept my offer of a handshake."

Arroyo thanked his wife, who cut short a trip to China to be at his bedside, and his "harshest critics" for showing compassion.

He called his wife "the constant light in my life" and added "a lesser person would not have been able to take care of me and still take on the duties of a president."

Some journalists said they wanted the court, not Arroyo, to eventually clear them of the lawsuits.

"We would like them to be resolved in court. ... We believe we can get an acquittal," said Marites Vitug, editor in chief of Newsbreak, an online magazine sued by Arroyo's husband for libel.

Rowena Paraan, secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, doubted the sincerity of Arroyo's husband, whose announcement coincided with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

"It's a perfect way out for him, given all the bad press that the libel cases have generated," Paraan said. "Sincerity? We'll see that in their next moves."

Last December, 36 Filipino journalists filed a class-action suit against Arroyo, alleging that he stifled press freedom.

More than 600 Filipino reporters and foreign journalists have also signed a petition calling for the decriminalization of libel and criticizing "the propensity of public officials and figures like Mr. Arroyo of using our outdated laws to muzzle a critical press."

Under a 105-year-old law, people can be fined or sentenced to prison for libel.

Press freedom groups have also protested a series of killings of journalists in the Philippines, which has been listed among the world's most dangerous countries for media.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Nora Aunor reunites with two sons after three years

ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Actress and singer Nora Aunor (known as "The Superstar" to her fans) had a tearful reunion with her two sons during her show at the Banquet in Vallejo, California.

The iconic Filipino singer, who was arrested in 2005 in the United States for drug possession, had entered into a US drug court program to avoid serving prison time.

Her legal woes plus her preference to stay in the US to live a more anonymous life have kept her away from her sons for three years.
The show's producer helped send Aunor's sons, Ian and Kiko De Leon, from the Philippines.

"I just couldn't believe that I'm with her right now, you know that feeling, my heart is [beating fast] that you need to control your emotions. I'm really happy because it's been almost three years since we last [saw] each other," Kiko said.

"We didn't [talk] about what happened, we know what is true and untrue and if there are people who will still dwell on that issue its their problem, because we ... we are happy," said Ian, referring to his mother's 2005 drug case.

Aunor's fans in the US have stuck with her through the many scandals in her career and gladly paid the $45-$55 tickets to see her show.

Her admirers beamed with approval after the concert, expressing generous praises like "She's a really good singer, a champion", "The show is beautiful, we like it very much", and "She's really the best, we will never replace Nora!"

Aunor said she plans to take a break and make another movie while in the US.

Nora Cabaltera Villamayor in real life, the fifty-ish Aunor began her showbiz career when she was 14 years old.

Since then, she has made more than 170 films and recorded more than 20 albums. Her glorious fame in Philippine show business has been marred but not really affected by scandals related to her love life, her children and her drug use.

Aunor received a house as a gift from former president Joseph Estrada after she endorsed his candidacy in the 1998 elections. She has been called the Philippines' greatest pop icon.

Her fans, who call themselves "Noranians", have now spread to cyberspace with one fan club calling itself the International Circle of Online Noranians (ICON). The group runs the Web site 

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Shipbuilding giant hires 6,900 Filipino workers, expects to generate about 30,000 jobs

Tacloban City (May 2) -- This is good testament to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 8 by '08 priority agenda, particularly that of creating more jobs and investment enhancement, among others.

More than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs are expected to be generated as Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.-Philippines goes full blast in its operations in Subic. To date 6,900 workers are already employed, about 4,000 of who are skilled workers hired during the pre-operations and construction stages, DTI Upbeat informed.

To top it all, Hanjin's ship production in Subic is also expected to bring the export industries' growth close to $2 - 3.5 billion.

Hanjin Heavy Industries Corporation, South Korea's ship-building giant and one of the world's largest shipyards, has recently marked the start of its production with the no less than Hanjin Chairman Cho Nam Ho presiding.

The company is set for the construction of new 4,300 Twenty Foot Equivalent Units container ships ordered by Germany and Greece, in Subic Bay. Lined up for the first production are six 4,300 TEU capacity container ships that will be delivered to Diorxy Maritime Corp. in Greece in 2009. Another six ships will be built on its second production round which will be delivered to NSC Schiffartsgeselhaft of Germany.

DTI Secretary Peter Favila said that the construction of the new ships is momentous not only for Hanjin but also for the Philippines because it will boost the local economy.

Secretary Favila said he strongly believes that with the training programs conducted by HHIC-PI for Filipinos, the vast experience and stature of Hanjin shipbuilding, and the competent Filipino technicians, this project will introduce the Philippines in the world map of large-scale shipbuilding as the new shipbuilding hub in Asia and the Pacific.

It would be recalled that so many welders were needed by Hanjin in Subic, which prompted TESDA to use the PGMA Training for Work Scholarship Program so that the welders could upgrade and enhance their skills and be qualified. (PIA 8)

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Deployment of OFWs to US, Canada doubled in 2006

By Veronica Uy

MANILA, Philippines -- The number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) deployed to the United States and Canada doubled in 2006, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said Friday.

Citing a report from the department's Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, Brion said that total OFW deployment to the US increased from only 4,128 in 2005 to 11,406 in 2006, or an increase of 7,278. He said this makes the US the 11th top destination of documented OFWs globally.

On the other hand, documented OFW deployment to Canada grew from only 3,629 to 6,413 during the same period, or an increase of 2,784. Brion said this makes Canada the 17th top destination of OFWs among more than 180 host countries worldwide.

The labor chief said these figures are significant because legally documented OFWs are "at the heart of the Philippines' internationally acknowledged global migration management system."

Brion explained that the country's global migration management system revolves around a "circular" process of migration in which skilled OFWs with legitimate work visas are properly contracted and deployed for overseas jobs.

He said that after the OFWs complete their work contract during a specified period, they return to the home country either to be reintegrated into the economic mainstream or rehired on renewed visas for overseas work.

"The Philippine system of managing migration on a global scale is recognized by no less than the United Nations, primarily because it averts and prevents illegal entry of alien workers prejudicial to both the host and home countries of migrants," Brion said.

The labor secretary attributed the initial growth in OFW deployment to Canada to the recent accord forged by his department with the Ministry of Advanced Education and Employment in Saskatchewan for "Cooperation in the Fields of Labor, Employment, and Human Resource Development."

Overall, he said, more and more OFWs are being deployed because the receiving countries need the OFWs' services and skills to boost their economic growth and to serve their graying populations.

The bureau's statistical data reveal that prior to a 176 percent (+7,278) growth to 11,406 last year, the annual deployment of documented OFWs to the US in the past five years totaled 3,405 in 2000; 4,689 in 2001; 4,058 in 2002; 3,831 in 2003; 3,831 in 2004; and 4,128 in 2005. They also show that documented OFW deployment to Canada totaled 2,020 in 2000; 3,132 in 2001; 3,535 in 2002; 4,006 in 2003; 4,453 in 2004; and 3,629 in 2005, before increasing by 76.71 percent (+2,784) to 6,413 in 2006.

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Green card holder a fresh voice on the hustings

By Patricia Laurel, May 02, 2007

The good news is: there are Filipinos, who after many years abroad are ready to come home to impart or share the knowledge they've acquired to our people back home.

Meet Dr. Martin Bautista. He is a returnee determined to make a difference. He vowed to return home one day to help turn his country around. In his mind he never left, he didn't exchange his Filipino passport for the coveted U.S. one. He chose instead to remain an immigrant. His thoughts were always back home, thinking of the people he left behind.

As evident in the PBS program, "Searching for (Asian) America," Bautista was one of two Filipino physicians featured in the episode as Asians doctors working, sometimes in the face of adversity, in the mostly white rural town of Guymon, Oklahoma. Bautista and his wife, Sylvia, also a physician, raised their children as Filipinos, teaching them Tagalog and reminding them constantly of their home country. In the program, Bautista admitted that he had achieved material success in the U.S., but felt a tug to return to his native land, to work for the betterment of the future of his home country.

Bautista's reason for leaving the Philippines is not a unique one. Like many Filipinos seeking a better life for his family, Bautista chose to make it on his own, instead of living off his parents and becoming a financial burden. It was also during the terrible time of martial law in the Philippines.

Bautista was born and raised in Quezon City. He attended the Ateneo de Manila School for 12 years, transferred to the University of the Philippines for nine years, and spent 18 years working as a physician in the United States. His life and struggles is a success story parents would be proud of. But instead of staying and enjoying the good life, he made his plans and prepared his wife and children for the journey home. There was something he needed to do back home.

Indeed, he returned home, and what he's undertaken is daunting, at best. He is running for a seat in the Senate. A legislative body that is overloaded with names that have been a permanent fixture and celebrities that don't have any business being in politics. But because the names are known to many, and because people aren't educated enough on important issues, and because most people are poor and need money, they sell their votes to the highest bidder. Sadly, our people vote for so many corrupt, rotten eggs in our country's vicious political cycle.

Unlike Filipino American Theodore B.M. Aquino, whose candidacy for senator was rejected by the Comelec unless he renounced his U.S. citizenship, Martin, a green card holder, is running as a Filipino citizen.

He said that if he loses, he could always be sponsored by one of his American-born kids and return to the U.S. The issue of his citizenship is not a factor.

Bautista has joined the Kapatiran Party that means The Brotherhood or The Alliance. There are three senatorial candidates from the party. All three have very impressive credentials: good educational background, informed and knowledgeable in the many issues and concerns that plague our country, no stains on their young political reputations. The party has hardly any funds to campaign as evident in their absent posters not plastered all over the country, only posters of airbrushed smiling candidates enticing the voter. Their unsophisticated website was probably created by a student of computer science. There are no frills there. There are those that say isn't it about time for a breath of fresh air to leak in?

Bautista has familiarized himself with all issues like medical (his expertise), poverty, corruption, etc., just about everything that plagues our country. He does not shy from questions thrown at him and does not read from notes, unlike his opponents, as shown recently in a TV political debate that included well known and beloved veteran screen actors. At the end of the debate, it was clear the actors needed to return to their professions and never entertain the thought of entering the political arena. The same should apply for some who are currently in politics or those thinking of becoming a politician because it's a way to get rich quick.

Bautista is not high on the ratings, but most likely his chances for 2010 will be very favorable. He's only 44. But he's making other politicians nervous. So far, the only negative thing written about him is he tends to stutter when he gets riled up, but not all the time.

In one interview, Bautista was quoted: "I invite all of you to join me. I am personally willing to bet everything material that I possess that if we ordinary citizens were to become aware that the power to change our country lies in each of us, then we can all work together in redeeming our Philippines. All the political dynasties with their innumerable guns, armies of goons, unlimited gold and Comelec will not stop an idea whose time has come."

Bautista has given interviews and speeches tirelessly. Despite the challenges, the negativity, he forges on talking and explaining ceaselessly about his plans to get us out of the hole we've dug ourselves deep into. It is indeed refreshing to watch him as he spoke and rallied the people at Quezon Circle, in Quezon City recently, to fight against the plague of poverty, something he hopes to abolish one day. A very tall order, but the man is managing to open tired, sleeping minds out there.

To learn more about Dr. Bautista's political platform, or to find out about the Kapatiran Party, visit their website at

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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Filipinas discouraged working as maids

By Nina Muslim, Staff Reporter

( Dubai: Filipina housemaids here and elsewhere may become a rarity under a Philippine government directive to reduce the number of its women working as domestic helpers overseas, in a bid to reduce labour problems.

A majority of labour problems the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Dubai handle, involve housemaids who have run away because of unpaid salary, physical abuse, overwork and contractual disputes.

The office is currently in the process of repatriating 30 women, all runaway maids, and 35 more in the future, under a government-sponsored mass repatriation programme.

Antonio Curameng, Philippine Consul General, told Gulf News that they were trying to discourage Filipinas from going abroad to work as domestic helpers as a protective measure.

"Domestic helpers are the most vulnerable to exploitation," he said.

"People are taking advantage of Filipinos' good nature and hard work. If they know how to value the Filipinos, then [the employers] would not mistreat them," he added. He said despite their efforts, the rate of labour complaints received at the POLO office has remained constant.

Substituted contracts

One of the problems related to domestic workers is some sponsors' attempts to cut corners by recruiting Filipinos to do professional and skilled jobs, but giving them a domestic worker's visa instead. Domestic worker's visa, plus expenses and fees, costs Dh2,000, about Dh1,500 less than a regular employment visa.

"Five in the [mass repatriation] batch suffer from substituted contracts, which is why they ran away," Curameng said.

The government is providing alternatives for the women, through the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration (OWWA), by giving them skills-training to help them secure professional jobs and loans to help them start a business.

The move is the latest in a series of initiatives set by the Philippine government to protect its nationals who seek employment as domestic workers.

On April 1, the UAE and the Philippines agreed to a unified contract for domestic workers, including raising the minimum wage from $200 (Dh734) to $400 (Dh1,468).

Have your say
Do you agree with the new Philippine directive? Do you think it will help reduce labour problems or will only force desperate Filipinas to seek the help of unscrupulous employers?

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Filipina math teacher thrives in the U.S.


The Wichita Eagle

( - Maria Santiago traveled from the other side of the world to teach algebra to South High School student Jacob Hanks. One day last week, they covered midpoints and the Pythagorean theorem. She worked out problems on the board.

"She shows us how to do it, unlike other teachers," Jacob said. "And she's the nicest teacher."

Santiago's classroom is simple and clean, with students' work on the bulletin boards and inspirational mantras about attitudes and challenges hanging on the wall. But the most telling sign is taped on the door, written in marker:

"We the students welcome and thank you for coming to South High."

Santiago is one of 20 Filipino teachers the Wichita district hired last year for difficult-to-fill positions in math, science and special education.

Ed Raymond, the district's assistant superintendent of human resources, and Neil Guthrie, special education and support services division director, traveled to the Philippines in March 2006 to hire teachers as a way to counter the teacher shortage.

Most of the teachers they found had more than three years' experience in an education system similar to the one here.

It's been nine months since the first group of teachers stepped into Wichita classrooms, and for teachers like Santiago, the experience has been one of discovery -- of self and of a new culture.

"This has given me patience and acceptance for learning different types of personalities," she said.

The most significant discovery for Santiago is snow -- driving in it, walking in it and dressing for it.

There's no snow in Manila.

"To drive -- oh, my," she said.

Standing at 4 feet 11 inches, Santiago is shorter than most of her students. And she's shy and always smiling. But when class starts, she seems three times her size.

As a teacher, her biggest adjustment has been learning to take the kids in stride.

"Kids in the Philippines respect teachers a lot," she said. "Here, they speak their minds. I don't take it personally."

In Manila, Santiago was a college professor. She's also a mom of 12- and 9-year-old sons who share a birthday.

Santiago talks to them every day by Web camera. During her children's school year, she would wake up at 5 a.m. to talk with them. Now that they are on vacation, she talks to them at 7 in the evening, which is 8 a.m. here.

She hopes one day to be able to bring them to live with her in Wichita.

"It's just really hard to leave them behind," she said.

During her short time here, she's learned that American kids need attention. They need someone to care.

"If you want them to succeed, you have to show them you care and they do their work," she said.

Principal Cara Ledy said that Santiago's attachment to her students and her innovative way of teaching makes her an invaluable teacher.

"She's done a tremendous job connecting with the kids and showing the importance of math in their lives," she said. "She works hard to help kids be successful in math."

Santiago shares her culture with her students. For example, Dominique Williams didn't know she liked Philippine cookies until Santiago introduced them to her classroom.

She ate half the box.

"They were good," she said in her defense.

The cookies, which are wafers surrounded by chocolate, are a treat in the Philippines.

When she started, Santiago would show her students videos of her homeland that showed the weather and fashion, she said.

Santiago's students hold her in high regard. When she was out two days with a cold, they organized a get-well party.

"She's like the bomb teacher," said student Jessica Roeder.

Raymond said Santiago and the other teachers have been adjusting well. One of them earned the highest score in the state on a math test taken by teachers.

"Many have established strong relationships with faculty and students," Raymond said. "They teach about their culture and enrich the math and special education classes. They love Wichita but miss their families."

The teachers have done so well that Raymond returned to the Philippines in December and offered contracts to 52 teachers.

But as experience showed him last time, he only expects about 42 to make it through the process, which includes securing a visa and obtaining a teaching license from the state.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Monday, April 30, 2007

11 Filipino Orphans Looking For Homes

( - Their résumés are short, just a few lines, and they are grim.

Abandoned at 2. Lived on the street until age 7. Taught by his mother to steal for a living. In foster care until father got out of prison and abused him until he was 4.

There are bright spots. Studying violin. Skillful in drawing. Appeared in a detergent commercial.

And all are from the Philippines and counting on someone to adopt them, warts and all.

International adoptions are common in the United States. One organization, Hand in Hand, which has an office in Albion, has long helped facilitate these adoptions by bringing children to the United States on what was called a vacation. Once here, orphans would be paired with host families interested in adopting. Over a couple of weeks, the potential parents and child could get to know one other.

The vacation strategy helped potential parents deal with what was a grab-bag approach to adoption. In Ukraine, for example, people wanting to adopt had to go to the orphanage and choose a child out of a book. They were then introduced to the child and expected to quickly decide whether to adopt. There was never a chance to get to know the child, and the orphanages provided little information about the children.

By presenting the trip to the U.S. as a vacation, the hope was that children wouldn't have their hopes built up and then dashed if they weren't adopted.

In just the past couple of years, for example, 14 children were brought to Fort Wayne from Ukraine, and 12 were adopted.

Then, just days ago, Russia, one of the major sources for American families wishing to adopt, called an abrupt halt to foreign adoptions.

Orphans aren't unique to Russia and Ukraine, though. They're all over the world. Hand in Hand is also trying to find homes for Filipino children living in orphanages, and 11 will be coming to Fort Wayne this summer. In the next couple of weeks, the organization hopes to arrange for a host family interested in adopting each of the children.

There is one major difference between children coming from, say, a Russian orphanage and those from the Philippines. The Russian and Ukraine orphanages offered little information on the children, other than their ages.

The children from the Philippines, though, come with full backgrounds. The backgrounds are often sad and often include tales of being abandoned, living on the street, abuse and mistrust born of being abandoned, abused and rejected.

The descriptions aren't completely grim. One 13-year-old boy has won awards for his art and appeared in a commercial for Tide. Another is studying the violin and performs dance. One has undergone counseling to deal with his behavior but is regarded as having good leadership qualities. Then there are the two sisters, both abuse victims, described as sweet and playful. The older one, 11, watches after her sister, 6. They want a mom and dad.

No one is trying to kid the children. Most are in the 11- to 13-year range, and unlike children who have come from Russia in the past, they know this isn't a vacation. They are old enough to know this isn't really just a trip to a day camp in America and have been told that the trip to the U.S. could result in their being adopted.

Many of the people who adopt these older orphans are people who have had children who are grown, says Vickie Truelove, administrative director for Hand in Hand in Indiana.

Truelove isn't trying to kid the parents, either. Families that are interested will be given a 35-hour class in which they are made aware of all the problems that can arise, particularly when dealing with children who have lived a life of abandonment. Families also undergo a home study process.

That is why the organization is hoping to arrange host families by early May.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Taiwan set to increase the salary of Filipino workers

( - While some host countries have protested the government's policy to double the monthly salary of domestic helpers, Taiwan has gone a step further and is raising their pay as global competition becomes stiff, especially with rival China, a labour official said.

Rosalinda Baldoz, chief of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said Taiwan is expected to raise the salary of commercial household helpers and factory workers from $400 (Dh1,469) to $700 (Dh2,571) a month in the near future.

"We hope to get more jobs for workers in Taiwan, especially the high-end jobs," Baldoz said.

She added the planned increase in workers' pay could have been Taipei's reaction to the "stiff competition" it faces among labour-importing countries, particularly China.

There are about 90,000 Filipino workers currently in Taiwan and most of them are factory personnel, according to the POEA chief.


In December last year, the POEA implemented a policy on the hiring of domestic helpers, which resulted in the doubling of their monthly salary, their age requirement up from 18 to 23 years old, and a ban on placement fees being imposed by recruitment firms.

Baldoz and Augusto Syjuco, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief, were in Taiwan recently to prepare for an upcoming meeting between the two countries' labour officials.

Baldoz said the Philippines is aiming to deploy more workers to Taiwan because of the higher wages the country is offering.

The POEA chief added the government is also working on a system where workers no longer need to wait for the expiration of their contracts to be able to complain about abusive employers and their local counterparts.

"We will pilot-test a new system where workers with complaints of recruitment violation against their employers and recruiters may file these at the POEA [in Taiwan] even before their contracts expire," she said.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Backward Mentality (Should Be English)

MANILA, Philippines -- Educators, including a retired Supreme Court justice, have asked the high court to nullify an executive order requiring the use of English as the principal medium of instruction beginning with the first grade.

In its 24-page petition for certiorari, prohibition with preliminary injunction, the Wika ng Kultura at Agham Inc. (WIKA, Language of Culture and Science), led by retired justice Isagani Cruz, said Executive Order (EO) 210 issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "anti-poor and alienates Filipino school children from their Filipino heritage" and would make them "functional illiterates."

"The EO and the implementing order deprives school children coming from the lower socio-economic classes of the desired benefits in education for it has been shown that due to poverty, such school children receive very little public education, or a poorer quality of education than that available to rich families," the petitioners said.

Citing government and institutional studies, the petition said children in grade schools will learn much faster if they are taught in Filipino.

They also said the executive order and Department of Education (DepEd) Order 36 are unconstitutional.

EO 210 (Establishing the Policy to Strengthen English as a Second Language in the Educational System) was issued May 17, 2003. DepEd Order No. 36 contains its implementing rules.

Under the order, English should be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public institutions at the secondary level, relegating Filipino to being the medium of instruction in the subjects Filipino and Araling Panlipunan.

"The provisions of EO 210 and DepEd Oder No. 36 that English shall be taught as a second language starting with the first grade violates the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution since Filipino is actually only the second language in non-Tagalog areas. The EO thus subverts the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and violates the constitutional injunction that regional languages shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction," the petition said.

They added the 1991 report of the Congressional Commission on Education recommended that the vernacular and Filipino should be the medium of instruction for basic education.

Because of this study, the education department implemented in 1991 and 1998 a program for the development of instructional materials in Filipino and, by the year 2000, all subjects except English and other languages were taught in Filipino. ( )

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Philippine-based Toothpaste Maker

The company also plans to venture fully into the country's cosmetics and household product sectors, which are dominated by both MNCs, by adding more products.

"We are now in the process of analyzing the market for three additional cosmetic products, which we plan to launch soon," he said in an interview at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel yesterday.


Pedro was the speaker of the "Meet the Business Legend," a monthly project of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).

Lamoiyan is the manufacturer of Happee toothpaste, Fresher feminine wash and Dazz dish washer.

Lamoiyan's Happee toothpaste has cornered about 25 percent of the market, third only to Colgate and Closeup, which have market shares of about 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.


"We (Lamoiyan) are ready to fight them (Unilever and P&G) in the country. We are moving to the next level to compete with them. I believe that the Filipinos can excel and that Filipino products, like Happee, are comparable, and are even better than other products (manufactured by foreign companies)," Pedro said.

"But then, making us number one depends on the Filipinos," he added.

To improve on product quality, Pedro said Lamoiyan will invest some P100 million this year for equipment alone. This is on top of the amount the company will spend on marketing efforts and its human resources.


"We have hired the services of an international advertising agency. Our people in our research and development are from Unilever and P&G. This is a very huge—a growing—investment," he said.

Pedro said the company's hiring of international artist Lea Salonga as endorser of Happee is a manifestation of its determination to increase market share in the country.


Despite the additional investments, he said Lamoiyan will not increase the prices of its products. The toothpaste's price will remain 20 percent to 30 percent lower than the two leading toothpastes in the market.

"We are compromising our margin because we believe in providing quality yet affordable products to the Filipinos," Pedro said. (JBN)

Retirement Facility in Cebu

GROUP running a retirement and nursing home in Japan is now eyeing the Cebu Doctors' South General Hospital (South Gen) as a p****tial retirement facility.

"They want a place where it's near the hospital and the sea," Dr. P****ciano Larra-zabal Jr., Cebu Doctors' Hospital Inc. (CDHI) president said.

Larrazabal said CDHI and the Aiko group of Japan are negotiating to have the group relocate its retirees to the hospital's 70-bed fourth floor.

"It will be a trial run. But the Japanese are decided. They may be here in a couple of months," he said.


While waiting for the plans to materialize, the fourth floor will undergo renovation and additional amenities will be put up.
He said CDHI is already contemplating on hiring Niponggo teachers and a Japanese cook.

Larrazabal said once the deal is inked, the nursing staff will have an opportunity to learn the Japanese culture and to speak Niponggo.

While the initial plan was for the Aiko group to hire some of South Gen's nurses, he fears this may cause a "culture shock" for some nurses.

Bringing Japanese retirees here instead will be a "win-win" situation to both parties.

Larrazabal said the partnership with the Aiko group is a step closer to CDHI's realization of establishing a retirement village in southern Cebu.


"With the growing aging population, I can see that the Philippines, particularly Cebu, has bright prospects to cater to these retirees who are in need of good healthcare facilities and services," he said earlier.

He said CDHI may utilize a portion of the one-hectare lot in Naga, where the 250-bed Cebu Doctors' South Gen Hospital sits, for the retirement village or acquire other properties nearby.

There are also plans to construct a "mini mall" within the vicinity of the retirement village.

Larrazabal is optimistic that, in the near future, the healthcare sector will be among the province's booming industries, along with property development and information and communications technology.


While some hospitals in Manila make good retirement facilities, he said Cebu has a stronger probability to attract the medical tourism market because of the province's peace and order situation, better airport facilities, good telecommunications and the Cebuanos' proficiency in the English language.

In the past years, CDHI has invested in building and improving its network of hospitals in the province, including Cebu Doctors' Hospital, North General Hospital in Talamban, Cebu City) and South Gen.


"We have committed our resources in building facilities that enhance the country's medical industry," Larrazabal told Sun.Star Cebu in the sidelines of the soft opening of Cebu Doctors' University at the Mandaue Reclamation Area last Saturday.

The multi-million-peso facility includes a six-story campus and will soon have an Olympic size swimming pool, a track oval and a mixed-use facility.

It sits on a 2.5-hectare lot. (MMM)

Published in SunStar Cebu