Of love that never dies: When tourism intersects with culture

Reflections on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism

[Note: This is a paper that I had submitted in ENRM 257 – Sustainable Tourism Development, through FIC Ivan Anthony Henares, in my Master of Environment and Natural Resources Management program.]

Cultural heritage – a link from the past, a bridge to the future

Who has not heard of Taj Mahal? It may be the only building in the world that is part of every wanderer’s and traveler’s bucket list.

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

The Taj Mahal in Agra, India: Beyond words. [Image courtesy of pcwallart(dot)com]

  “…one solitary tear would hang on the cheek of time in the form of this white and gleaming Taj Mahal”, as the poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) has described it, perhaps soulfully with a tinge of sadness (as cited in Government of Uttar Pradesh, India, 2014, with adaptation).”

This author has not (yet) been to this heritage site but she is already in awe of what it represents. The Taj Mahal symbolizes a love that never dies, of the beauty of tenderness, of the universal need for union, and for faith in eternity. Who cannot help but wax philosophical in the sight (whether in the flesh or in the imagination) of this grand beauty?

The Taj Mahal, a UNESCO heritage site (inscribed in 1983), is a mausoleum mostly made of white marble. It was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan to remember and in honor of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (UNESCO, n.d.). The Taj Mahal is described as “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage” (UNESCO, n.d.). No wonder, many carry the dream of visiting it and those who have done so have never stopped being enthralled by it.

A discussion on cultural heritage and sustainable tourism perhaps becomes richer by taking off from a place like Taj Mahal. It makes serious learners appreciate the concept of sustainable tourism from a place or point of view where they can truly experience and appreciate history.

“Cultural heritage” as a concept must first be revisited. UNESCO (2016) has succinctly explained the concept, delineating between tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

What is cultural heritage?

 Cultural heritage

Tangible cultural heritage

  • movable cultural heritage (paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts)
  • immovable cultural heritage (monuments, archaeological sites, and so on)
  • underwater cultural heritage (shipwrecks, underwater ruins and cities)

Intangible cultural heritage: oral traditions, performing arts, rituals

Natural heritage

  • natural sites with cultural aspects such as cultural landscapes, physical, biological or geological formations

Source: UNESCO, 2016.

Heritage sites and experiences are, therefore, important in preserving a society’s rich culture and history. However, except in monumental places like Taj Mahal, efforts to preserve the integrity of such sites and traditions are not always consistent and/or successful.

The Philippines, for example is among the countries that need to learn more from best practices all over the world. There are many examples worthy of discussion but those that come to mind almost immediately are the historical buildings and monuments that are being torn down without regard to their significance, neglected, or allowed to be ‘defaced’ such as in the case of Jose Rizal’s monument in Rizal Park—now sharing a part of the magnificent sightline with Torre de Manila, a 49-storey condominium project of DMCI Homes, one of the Philippines’ top developers.

When the soul is weak, the flesh forgets – lessons and strategies in sustainable tourism

Tourism—both domestic and international—is deemed as crucial in allowing peoples and cultures to interact. It is considered as “the foremost vehicles for cultural exchange, providing a personal experience…” (ICOMOS, 2002). Who has not grown richer and fuller because of the experience of traveling? Human history has evolved because of constant wonderment, traveling, and exploration. Some even choose to stay. The meaning of any ‘exchange’ differs for each person—but what is universal is the experience of inner joy and sense of discovery that such an ‘interaction’ offers. “Touring” always goes beyond the physical—sure, the colors and textures of sites and places always give something to the senses—but what is more powerful are the feelings that are evoked, those that touch one to his deepest core.

Cultural and natural heritage sites speak to the soul and that is why they require a deeply-seated commitment. Why did our society allow Torre de Manila to become the “national photo bomber”? Is it plain forgetfulness or a lack of love for our history? Is it about greed? The Filipinos need to think about it really deeply.

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

The Jose Rizal Monument – sharing the line of sight with Torre de Manila [Image taken by this author in September 2014. The Torre de Manila is now significantly taller than this.]

It is almost shameful, disgusting even. One can only grieve at what became of the great man’s well-deserved spot in Manila’s skyline. We couldn’t leave him alone; what’s worse, even, is that we needed to go to the Supreme Court to protect a part of our history and heritage.

What have we become as a nation?

This touches at the crux of the dilemma. How does a society protect its culture and heritage while succumbing to the demands of survival and commerce? How can tourism be developed and managed without sacrificing our heritage and history?

Sustainable tourism then forces us to think beyond the colors and feasts for the eyes and the fullness of our stomach—it tells us to reaffirm our connection to the past, reclaim what was lost, and protect what is still here as we also optimize and share the economic benefits more equitably. Proponents of sustainable tourism prescribe strategies that can be adapted in tourism development and management, particularly in the context of cultural and natural heritage sites. [See Lindberg et al. (1999) for the list of strategies.]

A quick review of these strategies and best practices will reveal that many or all of these strategies and principles had been violated in most Philippine heritage cases such as the one on Torre de Manila. Clearly, our society does not or fails to adhere to similar standards and values. For one, policies are unclear and even wantonly violated. [This paper is rather limited in its scope but readers are encouraged to read an article by Marquez and Garcia (2015). The link is under suggested readings.]

While best practices elsewhere cannot be automatically adapted in other locations, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from the experiences of successful sites. The management and preservation of the Taj Mahal is worth mentioning here. The surrounding area of the monument (covering about 10,400 sq km) is clearly protected not just from obstruction and massive developments but also from pollution.

For example, the Supreme Court of India issued a policy (in December 1996) that banned the use of coal in industries within the Taj Trapezium Zone and mandated industries that use it to shift to natural gas or otherwise be relocated outside the zone (UNESCO, n.d.).

An air control monitoring station has been installed to allow managers to monitor air quality and prevent deterioration that can be caused by atmospheric pollutants (UNESCO, n.d.).

While such air quality measures may be unnecessary for historical monuments (which may be aesthetically ‘lesser’ in grandeur when compared with Taj Mahal) in other locations, the government and private sectors should still be guided by the same level of respect and importance that the people of India are giving their heritage sites, and ultimately, their history and common fiber as a nation. Perhaps inspired by the love of Emperor Shah Jahan to his wife, Mumtaz, there is even a stronger ‘love’ that binds them to the past, enabling their present and future action to be properly placed in the context of sustainable development.

Tourism that cares – valuing people and heritage, alleviating poverty

Sustainable tourism respects not just the physical manifestation of natural and cultural assets but also accords the highest regard for the development potential of people and their communities. It is not simply about giving jobs and employment but more about allowing socially-conscious and equitable exchange of payments and services and rich experiences between and among individuals, families, and communities.  When one visits a heritage site, he should not only think about deriving joys and fulfillment from the experience but also about leaving something valuable behind – whether it be in the form of payment, friendship, or genuine act of kindness and respect. On the other hand, the host should also embrace the experience not simply as another opportunity to earn but also as a chance to celebrate his heritage, history, and roots.

While there are ‘horror’ stories about tourism programs that turned sour (e.g., leading to neglect, losses, damage, and destruction of natural and heritage sites), there are also inspiring and beautiful stories of community development and empowerment. In fact, when planned for and managed well, cultural and natural heritage sites can help improve lives and alleviate poverty. [See World Tourism Organization (2006), for information on how sustainably-managed sites can contribute to poverty alleviation.]

These pathways and strategies have led to significant gains in specific communities all over the world. One of the cases taken up by the WTO (2006) study involved a community-supported project in Karsa District in Ethiopia. Called the Bishangari (“sweet water”) Lodge, it is located on the shore of Lake Langano in sub-Saharan Africa. The project has so far been benefiting the community through direct employment (96% of the staff are locally-hired), assistance to farmers (e.g., through provision of seeds and technical guidance in organic farming), piped water access to the community school, and gradual transfer of technology such as on the development of locally-designed and innovative stove that uses 60% less wood (WTO, 2006).

It is considered a pioneer in ecotourism in Ethiopia—leading the younger set of entrepreneurs toward more responsible tourism enterprises. It promotes an environmentally-friendly way of putting up a business, sparing no cost when it comes to incorporating sustainable energy and waste treatment plant (i.e., solar power and a bio-gas digester) in its over-all design. It is also inspiring because it did not receive any government grant, with owners relying on sound business principles and support from banks through loans. With about 39 local staff, it is estimated to be benefiting about 390 family members. It has also encouraged appreciation of the community’s local culture by forming a musical group that now regularly performs at the lodge (WTO, 2006).

It is also encouraging the community to supply   produce and crops for the consumption of   the   lodge. Meanwhile, local craft makers and artisans are being encouraged to produce handicrafts that could be sold at the lodge’s gift shop (WTO, 2006).

An important ‘credo’ that the owners carry with them as they manage the operations should inspire other entrepreneurs or project developers. They believe that “tourism should only be conducted when the environment, the culture and the nature are respected and preserved for future generations” (WTO, 2006).

Another similar project took place in Candirejo Village, near the Borobudur Temple in Central Java province in Indonesia. Being near a UNESCO-designated World heritage Site, (inscription in 1991) the assistance given to the community by a local NGO, United Nations Development Programme, and Japan International Cooperation Agency was instrumental in the community members’ stronger appreciation of the heritage site and their role as hosts. The project helped families to offer home-stay accommodation, rendered training activities, implemented handicraft-making activities, trained tour guides, assisted and formed catering enterprises, taught farmers in organic farming, and organized the provision of local transport services through andong (horse carts) and ojek (motor bikes) (WTO, 2006). Through the tourism cooperative, profits from the activities are shared and then used to organize and improve community activities such as those for the environment and cultural interaction (Silitonga, 2009).

Striking a balance, dealing with the negative social impacts

Dulnuan (2005) has written about the case of the people of Sagada, which used to be a quiet town in the Cordillera Administrative Region but is now slowly getting used to tourists and visitors. While there had been perceived negative impacts especially on the natural environment and the lives of the indigenous people, those who are engaged in tourism-related activities appreciate the generation of jobs and income that the industry has given them. Young people are directly benefited through rendering of services as tour guides. Local entrepreneurs are able to establish small inns and lodging houses, restaurants, handicraft stores, and transport services (Dulnuan, 2005). Arts and crafts have become sources of revenue as well because local weavers and artists now have the opportunity to produce and sell souvenir items such as friendship bracelets, hand-woven bags, and rattan baskets (Dulnuan, 2005). While the impact on food security and sustainability is not yet fully ascertained, some farmers have shifted from planting subsistence crops to market-oriented produce such as fruits and vegetables, which they now sell to lodging houses, inns, and restaurant (Dulnuan, 2005, with adaptation).

However, such positive outcomes come with a price. There had been accounts of perennial noise, vandalism and theft in the cave sites, crimes, and even drug use (Lapniten, 2016, and Dulnuan, 2005). The local residents had also begun complaining about low water supply particularly during tourism peak seasons. There had also been accounts of stalactites and stalagmites being chipped off by uncaring tourists and of significant amount of garbage (e.g., plastic and styrofoam containers, tin cans, etc.) being left behind. The local life and culture are also being affected with some important rituals being postponed, lessened, or unwittingly opened to guests (Dulnuan, 2005).

There had been gains but there is an over-all feeling of disenfranchisement with some expressing that the rewards are not really reaching the most marginalized. Understandably, only those who can afford to open businesses are the ones who profit significantly from the tourism boom. Project designers and implementers should, therefore, put the necessary mechanisms through which the benefits from tourism can really impact the lives of the people in the most positive way.

Therefore, it is important that communities and the government work hand-in-hand in putting these mechanisms in place. These recommendations may have already been expressed before or done in other locations but, nevertheless, they need to be revisited and implemented soon in the context of community-based engagement:

  • Review and amendment of existing laws and creation of new laws that will address the gaps in governance of heritage sites (e.g., ensuring that local ordinances carry the breathe and depth of national and international policies and declarations);
  • Reforming and enhancing education and values formation programs in both formal and informal settings, allowing us to deepen appreciation of our rich culture and heritage;
  • Creating and strengthening sustainable livelihood opportunities in communities where there are important heritage sites so that people are not unwittingly forced to choose between earning ‘quick bucks’ and the need to protect the integrity of our assets (when people are financially empowered, they are more motivated to act responsively);
  •  Enabling authentic public-private partnerships where profits and rewards are well placed in the pursuit of environmental and societal goals (environment and culture first before profits);
  •  Empowering communities to manage and benefit from tourism sites, practicing shared responsibility, decision-making, and enjoyment of rewards; and
  • Strictly enforcing code of conduct for, between, and among guests/visitors and hosts, deepening shared governance and mutual respect.

The future beckons – and the stories and love that are waiting to be shared

Pearce (1989) has highlighted an important factor when he said that “the social and cultural characteristics of a host community will influence its attractiveness to tourists, the process of development and the nature and extent of the impacts which occur” (as cited in Dulnuan, 2005).

As can be learned in the popularity of the Taj Mahal and places like Sagada and Borobudur Temple, tourists are naturally captivated by places that have deep cultural values. It is, therefore, necessary to respect, preserve, and protect the authenticity of our heritage sites not just because they will draw the tourists in but more importantly, they are our link to the past and bridge to the future.

As what our national hero, Jose Rizal, said “ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan ay hindi makakarating sa makakarating sa paroroonan.”


Dulnuan, J. (2005). Perceived Tourism Impact on Indigenous Communities: A Case Study of Sagada in Mountain Province, Sustainable tourism – challenges for the Philippines. Retrieved from http://dirp4.pids.gov.ph/ris/books/pidsbk05-tourism.pdf

Government of Uttar Pradesh, India. (2014). Taj visitors – Visitors’ perspectives. Retrieved from http://www.tajmahal.gov.in/celebrities_visiting_taj_2.html

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (2002). Principles And Guidelines For Managing Tourism At Places Of Cultural And Heritage Significance. Retrieved from  http://www.charts-interreg4c.eu/app/download/5796628919/ICOMOS+International+Cultural+Tourism+Charter+1999.pdf

Lapniten, K. (2016, January 12). Sagada asks visitors to respect sites. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/travel/ph-travel/118788-sagada-visitors-respect-tourist-sites

Lindberg, K. & Molstad, A. Hawkins, & D. Jamieson, W. (1999). Sustainable Tourism and Cultural Heritage: A Review of Development Assistance and Its Potential to Promote Sustainability. Retrieved from http://files.cargocollective.com/491146/Sustainable-Tourism.pdf

Silitonga, S. (2009). Candi Rejo Village – Community Based Tourism Project in Central Java, retrieved from http://ezinearticles.com/?Candi-Rejo-Village—Community-Based-Tourism-Project-in-Central-Java&id=2043471

UNESCO. (n.d.). World Heritage List – Taj Mahal. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/252

UNESCO b. (n.d.). Borobudur Temple Compounds. Retrieved from http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/592

UNESCO. (2016). What is meant by “cultural heritage”? Retrieved from http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/illicit-trafficking-of-cultural-property/unesco-database-of-national-cultural-heritage-laws/frequently-asked-questions/definition-of-the-cultural-heritage/

World Tourism Organization. (2006). Poverty alleviation through tourism – compilation of good practices. Retrieved from http://www.e-unwto.org/doi/pdf/10.18111/9789284409204

For a legal opinion on the Jose Rizal monument and Torre de Manila controversy, you may go to this link:

Marquez, B., and Garcia, A., (2015, February). A soaring eyesore: Torre de Manila’s construction threatens Rizal Park’s skyline. Retrieved from http://thepalladium.ph/legal/soaring-eyesore-torre-de-manilas-construction-threatens-rizal-parks-skyline/


This is not paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant tree/s on your birthday.

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September tells us to build bridges and hold hands

Namaste, dear friends and readers!

It’s another month of hope and promises amid the challenges of our country (and the rest of the world). I ask you all to continue praying for peace and unity.

Take every chance to hold someone's hands. Build bridges! [Sketch in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin; inspired by a work found in the Pinterest account of Natasha Dilip. Please write to me if you think that this attribution is erroneous.]

Take every chance to hold someone’s hands. Build bridges! [Sketch in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin; inspired by a work found in the Pinterest account of Natasha Dilip. Please write to me if you think that this attribution is erroneous.]

Last weekend, I had the time to sit down and make this quick watercolor sketch. I hope this will inspire you to make small gestures of friendships. Let’s hold hands, build bridges, and pray for one another!

May our September be full of joys and opportunities!




This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant a tree/s on your birthday.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Tea time in August

Hello, dear friends and readers!

Here is my little sketch for August. This is not a new sketch but I think this is appropriate for the rainy month of August.  :) I actually gave a copy of this sketch for a dear friend of mine for her birthday so I hope she won’t mind that I am sharing it also with you all!

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee today! [Pen and ink sketch by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee today! [Pen and ink sketch by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

I hope that this sketch in ink will remind you to simply savor quick moments of tea time bonding with your loved ones. As I wrote on the sketch, “Every day brings special reasons for celebrations.”

Go ahead, celebrate your wonderful life!




This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please plant a tree/s on your birthday.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Book Tour of Gelber (Greenest Person on the Planet, 2008)!

Hello dear readers!

I met Matthias Gelber recently and pledged to help him promote his book, The GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working.


Cover of Gelber's book, GreenMan's Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Cover of Gelber’s book, GreenMan’s Guide to Green Living and Working. Get a copy for PhP500 only!

Being able to listen to him or read his work offers lifetime opportunities particularly for companies that want to optimize efficiency. Matthias is a professional motivational speaker with experience in 41 countries and voted as the Greenest Person on the Planet in 2008 (3rd Whale, Canada). He has always enjoyed traveling to the Philippines and, in fact, served as Chief Judge of the Miss Earth Philippines Pageant in 2016.

I am helping him spread the word about energy efficiency and climate change mitigation so please contact me if you want Matthias to deliver a talk in your organization/university.  He is so generous with his time and talents that he is waiving his professional fees for the talk as long as you can order 60 pieces of the book at PhP30,000.*

If you want to read the book for your private reading pleasure, you can also purchase the book from me directly at PhP500 (exclusive of shipping cost). We can also arrange to meet in UP Diliman if you are buying a minimum of 3 books (just add PhP50 to cover my transportation).

The book offers practical tips on energy conservation and efficiency and carbon footprint reduction. This is a wise investment especially that the Philippines has among the highest cost of electricity in the world. I still encourage you to book Matthias as his talk is very inspiring. His talk will definitely motivate you, your employees/colleagues, and household members in practicing energy-efficient and environmentally-sensitive lifestyle.

What are you waiting for? Contact me (through the comments section below or the contact page here) if you want to benefit from his talk and this awesome offer.

*Offer is good for August-September 2016. Organizations outside Metro Manila are requested to cover his transportation and accommodation (if applicable) costs.


This is not a paid blog.  There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday. (Full disclosure: While this is an unpaid blog post, I have a book deal with Mr. Gelber.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

Hello, July!

Hello, dear readers and July!

Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

Painting in watercolor by M. Velas-Suarin [Inspired by a watercolor painting of Amy Hautman]

I promised to work on a new sketch every month but decided to spend more time in improving my feed/gallery in Instagram so this month’s sketch is from 2014. (Please head on to my IG page if you have the time? That will really be awesome!)

I am happy with this small achievement (wink! wink!) – putting up pictures (and curating them!) in Instagram is time-consuming because I had to review hundreds of digital files, transfer the chosen ones in DropBox, save them in my tablet, and then upload them in IG. As many Instagram users know, it is quite complicated to post pictures directly in IG through one’s PC/desktop. There are apps available but most reviews do not encourage using them due to some techie issues. Therefore, I decided to use the ‘longer route’ (desktop to tablet/phone).

Anyway, this July sketch is among my favorites in watercolor (so far, that is!). As I had mentioned in my earlier posts, I am not very good with watercolor so this is somehow an ‘improvement’ from earlier attempts. ;) I have always enjoyed looking at doors and windows and I think this is because they remind me of opportunities. (Ok, you all know that popular saying about how a window opens when a door closes!) This sketch will remind us of the many opportunities around us! We just have to keep on looking!

July seems a perfect time also to hone on our artistic skills and enjoy more of our hobbies and  creative inclinations. Perhaps the “dreamy” effect of the rainy season (hear the raindrops on the roof?) enhances our creativity? Whatever the reason may be, I enjoin you to find your quiet corner, call on your creative muses, and simply CREATE!

I hope you’d treasure your creative days in July! Wishing you many more joys and blessings!




This is not a paid blog.  There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthday.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

The winds brought me here – thoughts on clean energy (and why a Laguna + Rizal weekend is a must!)

[Note: This post is in three parts. The second and third parts are more personal in nature but the first part will be better contextualized in the second part while Part 3 will be useful for those who want to travel to Laguna and Rizal on a weekend. (In Part 2, you may also be interested to find out how I survived an emergency landing while riding a helicopter!)]

Part 1: Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016

Speakers for the Knowledge Networking event at the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016 [Image courtesy of ACEF 2016 Organizers]

Speakers at the Knowledge Networking event of the Asia Clean Energy Forum 2016 [Image courtesy of ACEF 2016 Organizers]

I have attended the Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2016 (6-10 June 2016) so the almost-impromptu weekend road trip (to Laguna and Rizal) was a perfect way of closing the week. [To know more about ACEF, please visit http://www.asiacleanenergyforum.org/]

As many green energy advocates in the Philippines already know, Alternergy Wind One Corporation has recently built a 54 MW 27-tower wind farm in Pililla, Rizal Province. It was inaugurated in January 19 of this year although the commercial operation began in June 2015 (Saulon, 2016; Velasco, 2016). The technology supplier for the 125-meter tall towers is Spanish firm, GAMESA. (I will share later why I and my husband ended up in Rizal last weekend – particularly for those who are interested to embark a similar road trip).

This year’s Asia Clean Energy Forum, held at the Asian Development Bank, was attended by about 1,500 delegates. I had the privilege to be part of the Knowledge Networking (KN) event on the 1st day – where I was able to share a dream project (“Project: SKY BIKE LANES”), which envisions to build integrated elevated bicycle lanes (with solar energy system) in Metro Manila. As in any infrastructural intervention, it is always necessary to conduct a feasibility study so I am hopeful that through my participation in ACEF 2016, I was able to create the needed “ripples”, which will hopefully lead to supporters and fellow dream-pursuers who can finance the study.

Among other things, the study will calculate expected reduction in motorized traffic volume and GHG emissions as well as health and economic impacts that will hopefully be realized should the sky bike lanes are built. (You may visit https://projectskybikelanes.wordpress.com for further information.)

The KN event was very engaging and interesting –it is not in the usual lecture-type format so it offered more chances for one-on-one interaction. It used a format similar to “speed dating”, where the participants are instructed to go around the room, “pick” resource speakers (with their different topics), stay with their chosen speaker for 10 minutes, and then move on to the next speaker. Since the session lasted for one and a half hours, I assume that I was able to meet and talk to about 60 delegates. (There were 8 chairs for each table/topic.) Moreover, this session ensured that almost everyone in the room will have a good chance of sharing his/her thoughts, albeit quickly, because smaller groups tend to allow more democratic and active participation.

Through this blog, I would like to send my deepest thanks for the organizers including the ADB, US Agency of International Development (USAID), Korea Energy Agency, and World Resources Institute. I also feel so blessed that I had the opportunity to meet the forum’s co-chair, Peter du Pont (USAID’s Climate Change Team Lead and Regional Development Mission Asia) and other renowned clean energy and climate change thought leaders such as Ralph Sims of Massey University, New Zealand and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) of the Global Environment Facility. It was especially meaningful for me because Professor Sims joined my KN table and that he is a passionate biker! (I asked him to promise me that he will bike on the proposed sky bike lanes, if and when these are finally here!)

I have always been a believer of renewable energies, writing about it as early as 2001, when I was assigned as a consultant for the Philippine Climate Change Mitigation project of the Department of Energy (DoE), with support from the US Agency of International Development. One of the outputs of this project is the Guidebook for Developing Sustainable Rural Renewable Energy Services (available at http://www2.doe.gov.ph/Downloads/nre20guidebook.pdf).

In 2004, while I was a consultant of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), I was invited to the International Conference on Renewable Energies in Germany. As far as I know, this was the first biggest international event on renewable energies. This year was a very memorable time for me because it was also then when the first-ever wind farm in the Philippines, the Bangui project (in Ilocos Norte), held its groundbreaking ceremony. Since I was among the few close-in-aides of the DENR Secretary back then, I was assigned to accompany her and the director of the Environmental Management Bureau.

Part 2: Of wind farms and emergency landings (and why angels must really exist)!

Now this is where it becomes more interesting. The Pililla Wind Farm is somehow “connected” to my personal history. It is almost like coming to a full circle because I also found out today that Alternergy, the company that built the Pililla Wind Farm, is headed by Vince Perez. In 2004, Sec Vince (as what we—the aides of the cabinet secretaries–often call him) was the DoE Secretary so he was among the invited guests in the groundbreaking ceremony in Bangui. To save on travel time, some of the government officials who attended the Bangui ceremony needed to take helicopters while another group took a government-chartered plane. The tree of us from DENR (the Secretary, the EMB director, and I), took a helicopter. It was excruciatingly hot that day but the ceremony went well and everyone was in high spirits.

Unfortunately, on the way back to Manila, our chopper experienced a serious technical problem. The battery lost power and since the engine has no more power to fly, we had to do an emergency landing via autorotation (similar to “gliding” in layman’s term). For ordinary mortals like me, it was a very scary experience although it was also the first time in my life that I faced the thought of dying with a very peaceful heart. In fact, I remember praying in my mind with words like, “Oh dear Lord, please…not on a house with people!” [Since you are still reading this, it means that I survived the emergency landing!]

Anyway, before I continue, let me comfort those who will be riding a helicopter soon: “Helicopters are designed specifically to allow pilots to have a reasonable chance of landing them safely in the case where the engine stops working during flight, often with no damage at all. They accomplish this via autorotation of the main rotor blades” (Hiskey, 2015). Therefore, I am a living proof that this autorotation mechanism is definitely crucial. According to Hiskey (2015), the tricky part in this emergency landing is ensuring that the rear of the helicopter will not hit the ground first (you can just imagine what will happen if it does).

To continue – I was normally awake during those chopper rides (it was almost like an unwritten rule) and, in fact, in one of our previous rides, the pilot would give me basic instructions on what to do in cases when either of the pilots (God forbid!) will have emergency situation (e.g., heart attack). Of course, I was not expected to fly the chopper myself but it was somehow ‘comforting’ that the pilots covered all “what if’s”, understanding that I would be flying with them often because of my job.

On the fateful day, when our chopper lost power, the pilot immediately talked to me over the sound system—through my headset–and explained the whole situation. I was instructed to wake the Secretary up–I cannot remember if the EMB director was also taking a quick nap during the flight–and ensure that we were all securely fastened to our seats. If you did not believe in angels, this is a good time to start believing in one.

At the most crucial moments, maybe seconds before we landed, the pilots found a perfect spot where to land—and it was definitely not a house nor a field with corn plants and people! That time of the year was harvest season for corn farmers of Ilocos region so a quick look below revealed a huge expanse of corn fields with farmers scattered all over. The pilots must have been praying hard too because just in the nick of time, they found a perfect spot—an almost spotlessly clean square patch of land, just big enough for a chopper and where the corn plants had already been uprooted. It was like God and all His angels prepared this empty patch in the middle of corn fields just for our chopper’s landing! It was very surreal.

I can imagine that it was also surreal for all the corn farmers who might have seen this ‘bird’ slowly descending from afar onto…their fields! Soon enough, they were all running to us, shaken but exhilaratingly happy! We told them our story. One of them fetched a barangay official, who kindly offered help. It turns out that the pilots (Air Force pilots, mind you) are very thorough and well trained and they only needed to be provided with two truck batteries, which can re-charge the chopper’s battery. (Yes, I also discovered that time that it is possible to charge a chopper’s battery from the batteries of trucks.)

However, there was a catch. They asked us (the three passengers) if we were ok with that solution because that kind of charging only guarantees ‘basic’ flying and one take-off and one landing. That means, the chopper will also not be able to run other navigational aids (and if I remember correctly, even the air-conditioning unit).

I first asked the Secretary and she asked me back the same question so we all ended up somehow asking one another with the same question and then finally deciding in the affirmative. Yes, we will still ride this chopper, we told the pilots. I don’t know why my co-passengers agreed but my key reason is that I have faith in our pilots (who must have been ‘powered’ by immense talents that only God can give). One thing I remember about those crucial minutes from the moment the pilot told me what was happening to the few minutes after we landed safely was sending a quick SMS to about three persons and one of them was…Sec Vince!

I think that the context of my message was, “We just survived an emergency landing, and taking the same chopper – please promise that you will continue building wind farms whatever happens!”, or something as idiotic as that one. He must have thought I had gone crazy but after checking on us and offering to work on finding a chopper to fetch us (instead of the same chopper with the recharged battery!), he sent me an assuring YES to the wind farm request. Therefore, you can imagine the joyful surprise that I had felt when I realized that Sec Vince is the President and CEO of Alternergy! He is keeping his promise! (I am thinking now that I should have made a screenshot of those text messages but realized that the phones back then didn’t have such a capability yet!)

I wish I had kept the flight manifest also so that I can thank our excellent pilots again! They had been very calm, professional, and focused all throughout those challenging moments. The memories still make me feel a little giddy but my gratitude is more empowering. Looking back, I also think that my co-passengers were a little shaken but strangely, perhaps, all of us had been more calm than panicked. It may have helped a lot that our pilots were totally in control of the aircraft and exuded much confidence.

It was big lesson in emergency situation: being scared is normal but keeping a part of our minds focused will surely save our lives! In our situation up there, going into a panic will not help at all and I guess everyone realized that. We were all quiet so I assume that the silence allowed the pilots to concentrate on whatever they needed to do rather than waste time and energies comforting panicked passengers. When the pilots told us to brace ourselves for a possibly ‘hard’ landing, we were all calm. And amazingly, the landing was not so bad. It was as if an imagined “air bubble” cushioned our chopper as it glided–remember, there was no more power so the chopper had to glide naturally–and landed.

Indeed, the winds brought me in ACEF; the winds that helped us land the chopper safely and the winds of those rotating blades in Pililla are the same winds that will bring our dreams to their fruition.

Claim your dreams!

[For a copy of my post, Solar energy for Filipino Households: Is it viable?, please go to this link. http://meilbox.net/solar-energy-for-filipino-households-is-it-viable/]

Part 3: Laguna and Rizal provinces – a fusion of culture, arts, and heritage…and some science!

Despite the very busy week, I did my best to catch the last hour of this semester’s closing ceremony of UP Open University’s non-formal education program last Saturday (June 11). Since we were traveling down south anyway, my husband (JR) and I decided to take this rare chance of going on a road trip. (For those who are not familiar with UP’s distance education system, the OU is part of the UP system, with headquarters in Los Baños, Laguna, near the International Rice Research Institute.) I even sent a quick email to Professor Sims (mentioned earlier), inviting him to the impromptu trip. Unfortunately, he was flying out of Manila that morning.

The road trip was mostly unplanned so we didn’t have time to check the internet for travel notes or even make reservations. Since it was an spontaneous trip, we relied mostly on the very helpful text messages from our good friend, Jay, as we were leaving UPOU. [She and her husband, Ned, are “smitten” with Laguna and after the road trip, JR and I understood why and became equally smitten.]  We decided that instead of going back to Manila via SLEX, we thought it is better to go further north of Laguna and use Manila East Road so we can visit Rizal province, where the Pililla Wind Farm is located.

The map below shows the route that JR and I took: Laguna and Rizal "Loop". The blue stars mark the places where we stopped. [Map courtesy of Google]

Laguna and Rizal “Loop”. The blue stars mark the places where we stopped. [Map courtesy of Google]

Here is a quick rundown of places we visited and things we did (I had numbered the events/places so that you can refer to the map above as you go along):

1-2. STARTING POINT (Home sweet home). From Quezon City, we proceeded to UP Open University (Los Baños, Laguna) through SLEX, stopping by somewhere in Santa Rosa for a quick drink.

3. VICTORIA, Laguna. After attending the closing ceremonies of the Continuing Education Program of UPOU (with hubby patiently waiting), we proceeded north, stopping by briefly in Victoria to buy the town’s famous delicacies—salted eggs and balut (a Filipino delicacy, which is an 18-day-old fertilized duck egg*). I am not a fan of balut but hubby can eat it so Victoria had been agreed upon as a required stop. (Victoria is known as the “Duck Raising Center of the Philippines.”) We were a little disappointed because the main branch of “Mr. Duck” or also known as “Itlog ni Kuya” (Jay and Ned’s favorite, too!) has finished its stock for the day, announcing it on the counter with, “Ubos na po ang itlog, bukas ulit!” (may be loosely translated as “Eggs are sold out, come back tomorrow!”) This made us laugh amid the frustration.

Not wanting to be defeated, we tried the store next door. Unfortunately, when we tried the goodies at home, the salted eggs and balut did not come as close to the ones from “Itlog ni Kuya”. (For expat /foreigner-readers, the translation of “Itlog ni Kuya” is infused with Filipino humor. You need to ask a Filipino friend for the translation and watch for his/her reaction.) Nevertheless, those with salt intake restriction may appreciate the salted eggs next door (right side of Itlog ni Kuya if you are facing the store) because they are not that salty. However, for those who are craving the distinct saltiness of salted eggs, it is better to buy the ones from Itlog ni Kuya. Its website, found at http://www.itlognikuya.com/, has a listing of its outlets.

4. LILIW, Laguna. From Victoria, we then proceeded to Liliw, which is also known as the “Tsinelas (slippers) Capital of the Philippines.” We decided that this is where we will spend the night because it was already getting dark. From Jay’s recommendation, we went straight to Arabela’s Bakehaus & Coffee Shop (Rizal Street) and enjoyed a long lunch-cum-dinner of pasta and pizza. This place is surely a must-try– the food is delicious and priced reasonably.

It was challenging to find a place for the night because it was our first time here (Jay didn’t have any recommendation, too). Appreciating that this will be a “hit and miss”, we lowered our expectations and decided on Batis ng Liliw, which is a spring-water resort located at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Brgy. Laguan. (For drivers, this is on the right side of the road enroute to Liliw, right after Nagcarlan.) The rooms here are very basic but you will love the owners, a nice old couple who graciously welcomed us and advised us about the schedule of the masses the next day, Sunday. (I googled for their names and they are Mr. and Mrs. Milagros and Carmelino Arrieta. Thank you, po, Ma’am Mila and Sir Carmelino, for welcoming us!) We were somehow “namahay” (the experience of finding it difficult to sleep when one is new to a place) but eventually lulled to sleep by the sounds of the flowing streams from Mt. Banahaw and the room’s air-conditioning unit.

The next morning, we said quick goodbyes to the owners and were able to reach St. John the Baptist Parish Church just as the 8:00 am mass was beginning. The Church is beautiful, with its red bricked façade and baroque style architecture. It was first built as a wooden church in 1620 (Huerta, 1865).

St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Liliw, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Liliw, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Of course, one should never leave Liliw without visiting the rows of slippers and shoe shops. The footwear products are reasonably-priced and looked durable enough. (I couldn’t attest to the quality yet but a quick Google search revealed happy customers who shared their satisfaction when it came to durability.) We liked the big slippers by the entrance doors of most of the shops so a souvenir photo is necessary!

Liliw is definitely a haven for footwear fanatics! [Image by JR Suarin]

Liliw is definitely a haven for footwear fanatics! [Image by JR Suarin]

5. MAGDALENA, Laguna. From Liliw (enroute to Paete), we decided to make a quick trip to Magdalena to visit another old church, which was built in 1829. (Trivia: Magdalena is also known as “The Little Hollywood of Laguna”, it being a favorite location for Filipino films. The local government even built a sort of replica of Hollywood’s “Walk of Fame.”) Here is a picture of the Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church. (Note that all pictures in this post had been taken through an iPad only.) If you want to see more pictures of the Church, please go to Jay’s blog at https://nakisnanay.blogspot.com/2011/04/magdalena-laguna.html

The Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church in Magdalena, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Santa Maria Magdalena Parish Church in Magdalena, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

After our prayers at the Church and some more picture-taking, we decided to enjoy a cold and refreshing drink: chocolate-flavored carabao’s milk. You can grab this at a store near the church (left side if you are facing the park fronting the church). We reminded ourselves to bring a cooler full of ice if we want to bring home kesong puti (white cheese) and carabao’s milk on our next visit. (If you want to read more about the growing carabao milk industry in the Philippines, please visit http://www.pcc.gov.ph/newsdisplay.php?sq=269&id1=1)

6. LUMBAN, Laguna. On the way, we cannot help but stop at a good vantage point in Lumban to enjoy a view of scenic Laguna de Bay. Lumban is considered as “The Embroidery Capital of the Philippines.” Here, you will find the works of Lumban’s artisans on fabrics such as jusi and cocoon. Textile and clothing are not among my expertise so I searched online and found a good read: http://thestylishscholar.tumblr.com/post/41609376023/a-trip-to-lumban

The LGU put up a marker (with gigantic letters to spell out the word “Lumban”) along the highway overlooking the bay so we were also enticed by it to stop briefly so we can appreciate the view. As we didn’t bring a DSLR, we can only take a picture with one of the big letters. B is for beautiful!

The Laguna de Bay from a ridge in Lumban, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Laguna de Bay from a ridge in Lumban, Laguna [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

7. PAETE, Laguna. From Lumban, we then proceeded to Paete, which is “The Carving Capital of the Philippines.” If you are looking for authentic wooden art pieces, sculptures, and religious statues, Paete is the perfect place for you. I chanced upon this site where you can read more about its culture and history: http://www.paete.org/abtpaete/  Meanwhile, a blogger had shared a lot of pictures so you can visit this link and have an idea on what to find in Paete: http://www.reach-unlimited.com/p/713686412/amazing-paete–that-custom-woodcraft-wundertown-hiding-in-laguna

JR and I did not linger here so much because we wanted to “reserve” the long exploration for our next visit.

8. PAKIL, Laguna. Enroute to Pililla, Rizal, we saw another beautiful church along the highway. We found out that this is called Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish Church, which is already in the municipality of Pakil. The original wooden structure was said to have been built in 1676. It is “home” to Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba (or simply “Virgen de Turumba”). Because of the faithful’s deep reverence, they have been giving Our Lady with embroidered gowns all through the years that it has reached 50,000 already! Because of this, Our Lady changes gowns every two weeks. The gowns are then cut up into pieces (after being worn by Our Lady) and then given to devotees. The source of these bits of history and where you can read a more detailed story is here: https://marilil.wordpress.com/2013/03/10/pakil-laguna-a-church-for-every-juan-de-la-cruz/

The St. Peter of Alcantara Parish Church (Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba)[Image by JR Suarin]

The St. Peter of Alcantara Parish Church (Shrine of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba)[Image by JR Suarin]

Before reaching Pililla, one should also stop by the roadside stalls for the other bounties of Laguna—the sweetest bananas, mangoes and pineapples! I was pleasantly surprised that the mangoes of Laguna are as sweet as the ones I have tried in Guimaras (and they are as cheap, too)!

9. PILILLA, Rizal. On the way back home (in Quezon City), we passed by Pililla, Rizal, where you can find the 27-tower wind farm. With the other wind farms in the Philippines (including those in Bangui, Burgos, Caparispisan, and Puerto Galera), our installed capacity now reaches about 400 MW (SunStar Davao, 2016).

Pililla Wind Farm (by Alternergy Wind One Corporation) [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Pililla Wind Farm (by Alternergy Wind One Corporation) [Image by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The brief visit to the wind farm inspired me further to continue working on the promotion of renewable energies. In fact, this is among the primary reasons why I am writing this post! I hope that by reading this, more Filipino companies and investors will be inspired to build more RE plants! I predict a future where fossil-based electricity will become less and less viable.

One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

One of the towers of the Pililla Wind Farm. May the winds bring you to your dreams! [Image by JR Suarin]

10. ANTIPOLO, Rizal. Of course, the best part of traveling via the Rizal route is the enjoyment of a delicious meal in one of the restaurants along Sumulong Highway. There are perfect spots there where one can have a good view of the Metropolis. As we didn’t have time to research prior to this trip and it was a challenge to simply stop every time we fancy a new place (Sumulong is not meant for tentative driving), we ended up in a familiar establishment, Padi’s Point. The owners really need to improve the place and the menu but this is still a very good spot for enjoying the urban scenery from afar.

This had been a very enjoyable albeit an impromptu weekend travel, filled with talks, arts, history, food, prayers, and yes – appreciation of clean energy! JR and I decided that a longer trip to Laguna and Rizal should be planned again! (And of course, we promised to do a better research next time!)


Hiskey, D. (2015). How helicopters are designed to land safely when engines fail. Retrieved from http://gizmodo.com/how-helicopters-are-designed-to-land-safely-when-their-1708128868

Huerta, Felix de (1865). Estado geográfico, topográfico, estadístico, histórico-religioso. Binondo: Imprenta de M. Sanchez y Ca.

Saulon, V.V., (2016, January 20). Another wind farm eyed in Laguna-Rizal. Retrieved from http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Corporate&title=another-wind-farm-eyed-in-laguna-rizal&id=121821

SunStar Davao. (2016, January 24). Philippines is top wind energy producer in ASEAN. Retrieved from http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/business/2016/01/24/philippines-top-wind-energy-producer-asean-453487

Velasco, M. (2016, January 22). Alternergy plans wind power project expansion. Retrieved from http://www.mb.com.ph/alternergy-plans-wind-power-project-expansion/

For a videoclip on the Pililla Wind Farm, you may go to www.getlinkyoutube.com/watch?v=k-0a0q7C1lo

*A good article about balut is at http://eatyourworld.com/destinations/asia/philippines/manila/what_to_eat/balut


This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but please do plant trees on your birthday/s.

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Duterte and Philippine media – unmasking of rotten culture and sense of entitlement?

Wanted: Media that we can trust again. [Image courtesy of QuoteAddicts]

Wanted: Media that we can trust again. [Image courtesy of QuoteAddicts]

[Fair warning: This is a rather long post. I have written it in five parts (excluding introduction and conclusion) so you can always go back to it anytime. I am hopeful that there are many people who care enough for this country and will find value (if not a little diversion) in  a long post like this. To my friends in the media—please do not be offended as I know there are still many of you – honest, upright, and credible. Kudos to you all and may your tribe increase! (I am and will always be a supporter of responsible journalism.) However, as in any segment of the population, there are good and rotten tomatoes. It is time to expose the rotten ones so that all of you who are wielding the pen with integrity may be protected and allowed to flourish. I did my best to be very fair in writing this piece but if I had failed miserably or touched sensitive chords, I express my apologies. I will do better next time.

Full disclosure: I am not related to President-elect Duterte but voted for him. Some portions here—particularly in the introduction—had been lifted from the document (inputs for governance platform) that I had written and submitted to his team. I am not going to be his apologist but my vote for him came from a long research and soul-searching. There were parts that I did not like about him but when I finally decided to give him my vote, I knew that if I wanted real change to happen in this land, I also needed to change my way of thinking and my tendencies. I have always been an idealistic person, an open-minded positive-leftist (its definition will likely deserve another post), and believe in God. Voting for Duterte did not mean giving up my principles and idealism but if I want this country to benefit from his political will and brand of leadership, I must avoid the pitfall of expecting him to be the ‘proper’ President that we all wanted. If we wanted change, there is certainly a price to pay. I was and still willing to pay it. I then enjoin everyone who truly cares for this country to help this country move forward—and moving forward certainly requires acceptance of some hard truths, avoidance of judgmental and holier-than-thou tendencies, and, yes, a little humility.

Request: Please respect this post and the person behind it. :) I am a private citizen and have no wish to be embroiled in social media trolling and bashing. I am sure that many will disagree with some of the things that I said here so I want to simply say, “Peace be upon all of us.” I am among the millions of citizens here who only wish the best for his/her country so I hope you will appreciate not just my works in this blog but the context of why this piece is being written. I embrace you all with love and light! Namaste!]


Becoming the change that we want

THE election of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte had been a most difficult if not a miraculous one. Compared with the campaigns of his opponents particularly that of Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party, he has no well-oiled political machinery. The campaign and ultimately victory of incoming President Rody relied mostly on the spirit of volunteerism and the sheer strength of the common people who vigorously bonded together and used social media to claim victory. The results also broke many records in the history of Philippine elections, for example, claiming the highest number of voters’ turnout at 81.62% (Comelec, as cited in Philippine Star, 2016).

The tagline, CHANGE IS COMING, had initially sounded like a typical catchphrase but it soon became obvious that it was a unifying battle cry—revealing the people’s hunger for genuine change. Duterte’s win symbolizes hope amid the people’s frustration, even anger, to the yellow administration and possibly over the long years of oligarchic and inequitable economic and political systems post-Marcos era.

Hopes are indeed high as pronouncements of “inner change” had begun circulating from the moment the people started thinking about the promise of the Philippines becoming a bigger Davao—the city that enjoyed Duterte’s good governance, no-nonsense approach to rule of law, discipline-centered culture, and genuine heart. (Stories of his caring gestures may be easily accessed online.) Suddenly, people are talking about “becoming the change that you want” or the need to “begin change in each one of us.” These are all good signs.

For despite having a strong leader like Duterte, genuine change and societal transformation will not happen if the people are not inspired enough to begin, take part, and sustain change.

This is probably the most difficult hurdle—the Filipinos had become so free that ‘democracy’ is easily misconstrued as the right to practically do anything without regard to the consequence. We have become a nation of “pasaways” (may be loosely translated as brats or hard-headed bunch of people) and to borrow the words of our President-elect in one of his campaign sorties, laws here have become optional. Somewhere along the way, something happened to the Filipino psyche that he is more prone to break rather than follow laws, however simple they may be (e.g., following pedestrian crossing or traffic signs).

Freedom requires a sense of responsibility. [Image courtesy of LifeHack Quotes]

Freedom requires a sense of responsibility. [Image courtesy of LifeHack Quotes]

We cry “FOUL!” when stopped by a traffic enforcer for a violation but then, easily, almost automatically, fish our wallets out to pay bribe instead of surrendering our driver’s licenses. Who commits the lesser crime there? Corruption happens even during those fleeting moments when we are in a hurry and want to simply “get the hell out of there.” We are angry at our corrupt government, yet, we do not seem to apply the same anger when we are the ones contributing to the culture of corruption. This irony applies to the way mainstream media also tries to turn a blind eye on or “go soft” in addressing corruption within its ranks.

The Durterte administration then inspires us to look at our inner core—and embrace, once again, age-old values such as respect and discipline. We are reminded by President-elect Duterte and the people of Davao City to obey laws, respect others, and make some small sacrifices. At this juncture in our history, we are called upon to revisit, uphold, and protect democracy. A revisit means clarifying what does the concept really mean. We need to be reminded that democracy is not about total freedom. It is about freedom with a sense of responsibility.

This post should be contextualized in the basic premise that not even 10 versions of President-elect Duterte can heal our country. Certainly, his brand of leadership is important, necessary even. However, the bigger CHANGE should come from us. And I believe that many people–whether or not they voted for President-elect Duterte–are  aware of this.

The people must, therefore, not tire of vigilance; they must resist efforts to undermine their intellect and sensibilities. We had been insulted and treated with disdain even by people we considered friends because we had been bold enough to admit that we support President-elect Duterte. We should not be his apologists but  nevertheless refuse to be categorized as “indecent” people or promoters of dictatorship or lawlessness simply because we had decided that we want to give this man (read: his style of governance) and this country a chance. There are perceived risks in such a decision but, ultimately, many of us believe we had weighed the risks intelligently against the deteriorating status quo, where even basic services and expectations like the MRT, peace and order, disaster preparedness, and accessible health care either keep on breaking down or are hardly felt by the people.


Is “sense of responsibility” now missing in the concept of “freedom of the press”?

The last election has also opened up our eyes about the viciousness of political campaigns, compounded by institutions that seem to fall short of our expectations or deliberately assume that we had already been silenced and blinded. The supposedly pillars of mainstream media have joined the fray, taking the side of pro-establishment and yellow army’s demolition jobs, airing haphazardly-done and desperate materials, in the process forgetting how innocent victims (e.g., children) are becoming pawns in the games of so-called ‘adults.’

A basic rule. [Image courtesy of Meetville.com]

A basic rule. [Image courtesy of Meetville.com]

It matters who is really saying the truth but we all have a God whom we need to face after our earthly journey. However, what matters most especially is the unmasking of how some of these big media institutions (one of them, ironically, carries Bantay Bata and Ipanalo ang Pamilyang Pilipino campaigns), [1] are the first ones who have disregarded, turned a blind eye to, or kept mum on the rights and welfare of children. MTRCB and Comelec, the very institutions entrusted by the people with clear mandates to uphold rights of children and maintain electoral integrity, had been asked to make a stand but each seems to have pointed finger to the other (Montano and CNN Philippines Staff, 2016).

Philippine institutions—not just in the government—have reached a sorry state where mediocrity and lowered standards seem to be the norm. For long years, we have been treated shamelessly by the establishment (and its instruments) yet we have allowed it because we had stopped using our voice. We have lowered our standards on governance and social accountability so much that we expect so little from our institutions.

We have allowed the government and mainstream media to tweak and ‘twerk’, propagandizing their version of democracy and, worse, forcing upon our brains that the political exercise is really a battle between good and evil (Guinto, 2016)—that those who believe in President-elect Duterte are the bad guys and those who prefer sweet-talking and “proper” politicians are the good ones.

It has become so polarizing that I, for one, kept quiet at first about my decision to support him, concerned that my friends will call me “indecent” or, worse, decide that I must have “gone out of my mind”. True enough, less than 24 hours of my posting an announcement about my decision, I received insulting and demeaning remarks from friends, whom I thought are very open-minded. Someone went as far as describing me as having “wasted my God-given talents.” It pained me personally but beyond the personal pains is a glaring parallelism—this experience became a microcosm of what is happening outside.

The recent events relating to the narrative of President-elect Duterte about corrupt Filipino journalists being killed had been used by many people in the media so much that it became another opportunity at attacking his character rather than digging deeper at its true context. (Poor guy, he never once pretended to be a saint nor was running for papacy but that’s beside the point.) Expectedly, some of the big players in media pounced on it once again, manipulating (or choosing to misinterpret?) words spoken so that Philippine-based newspapers’ headlines looked idiotic and reeking with malice when compared with their foreign counterparts’:

[Image/screenshots courtesy of Du34s]

[Image/screenshots courtesy of Du34s]

Not to be left behind, Reporters Without Borders (a foreign media organization) called for boycott, choosing to interpret President-elect Duterte’s words in the worst possible sense (Associated Press, as cited in Philippine Star, 2016), forgetting to contextualize it as part of a universal truth: that people (whether journalists or not) who have done something wrong to others may likely face a terrible consequence. (Here, I do not mean to disrespect the memories and honor of those who passed on.)

He was stating a hard truth but it is indeed very unfortunate that President-elect Duterte’s style of communication, in itself, appears as a big “liability” (particularly to those who have rigid standards or political biases). He is very strong-willed and a no-nonsense guy and unfortunately (at least for many people’s sensibilities), he will deliver his message in the way that he is already used to. He expressed a sad universal truth, which we ought to acknowledge and reflect on, but his manner of expression and choice of words are definitely going to be subjected to different including malicious interpretations. However, those who have already made up their mind about him (that he is the “bad guy” and against freedom of the press) will find it very convenient to interpret his words according to what they perceive him to be. If they really believe that he is the bad guy, then no matter what he says or does, he will remain to be that person.

A few days after, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued a statement about not taking up the call for boycott but, ironically, saying that

…We do hope you will be willing to help us and other media organizations address the often onerous working conditions faced by so many of our colleagues in the frontlines, the long hours for meager pay and, at times, deliberate orders to violate ethics at the risk of losing their jobs, that can push the desperate and the weak towards becoming, as you say, “vultures.” (NUJP, as cited in InterAksyon.com, 2016]

I may be misinterpreting it myself (and committing the same mistake so I express my apologies at the onset). However, the NUJP, by these words, appears (at least to me) like it is practically passing on the bigger responsibility to the future President (and the public in general), to the point of laying down the reasons (excuses? We hope not!) for the culture of corruption in media. Suddenly, it is as if the society shares the bigger responsibility in why their media “colleagues” are pushed to desperation, thereby becoming “vultures.”

Again, no one wants to aggravate the heated arguments but in the interest of raising public consciousness, it appears that many media players have been quick in interpreting President-elect Duterte’s words, but that NUJP (as a representative of many Filipino journalists) is now asking Duterte (and all of us?) not to judge their “colleagues” outrightly. I may not be a credible voice here so I leave it to you, my readers, to interpret NUJP’s thinking. This may be an opportune time to reiterate that poverty indeed breeds crime and lawlessness but it is not and will never be a justification for misdeeds and in the case of journalists, devaluing their work and integrity. It is also unfair to the others who are, despite the pitiful salaries and circumstances, continue to do their job with their integrity intact – following the tenets of responsible journalism.

As the image above says, I am not going to tell anyone how to do his job but perhaps NUJP may want to revisit its statement because unwittingly, perhaps, it acts like a hostage-taker, expecting help while pronouncing his pitiful plight (and holding his hostage at gunpoint). It has made a clear request for help but which comes across as a sort of emotional blackmail.

Moreover, it is rather ironical to see journalists ganging up on the future president for every verbal gaffe but it makes one curious where were NUJP and Reporters Without Borders when the yellow-paid media hacks (to borrow the words of President Digong, let us not f**k each other anymore) had apparently sold their souls and used primetime TV and innocent children in trying to demolish not just the campaign and name of President-elect Duterte but also the opportunity of Filipino voters to have informed decision. I personally felt victimized because it was only when I began researching online did I truly see the big picture—that outside my home (where I normally watched evening news) are already legions and huge crowds of people calling for genuine change and that there are many progressive and pro-women programs in Davao City. These media entities had been angered by what they interpreted as “open season for murder” (NPC, as cited in Regalado, 2016) but remained and continue to remain passive and quiet when every single day, we are bombarded (and murdered?) with distorted truths and unfounded “scoops” by some in the mainstream media.

Some of them (e.g., the yellow-tainted players) had seemed to have become so selective in practicing “freedom of the press.” They were demanding freedom but seem to have forgotten that freedom comes with a sense of responsibility. They want to be free in criticizing every “mistake” of the future President but kept and continue to keep quiet about the perceived massive cheating in the last elections. Why can’t they give the same amount of vigor in ensuring that we will find the truth over reports of massive cheating to benefit Leni Robredo, Mar Roxas, and some of the LP senatoriables? If there is no truth in those reports, it will be better for this country. However, if there is some truth in those, isn’t it time to expose the grand machination?

If they had been truly listening (minus their prejudices and biases), they will most likely appreciate the heart and platform of government of President-elect Duterte—his pronouncements and planned Cabinet appointments clearly indicate that steps will be undertaken to address the plight of workers (not just journalists), farmers, fishefolks, and the marginalized. And so, I make this appeal now:

Dear media friends—please listen to the people. Journalists are not the only ones suffering in this country. There are many shared pains (which the society must address) and media is asked not to monopolize and romanticize theirs for basking in its perceived “superiority” or “rarity” prevents it from really facing the painful truths. People should appreciate your work (those founded on truth) but appreciate that people (at least many of us) are intelligent. Please stop drowning the people with news based on half-truths. You said you want to protect the country and its laws—we say now that we want it, too, but protecting our country entails protecting the sanctity of the ballot and the persons whom we voted for.

You can insist on attacking President-elect Duterte for every “wrong” or “improper” word that he says but we all know that he can fend for himself. However, every time you attack him for his verbal gaffes (instead of considering the profound truth and context of what he is trying to say), you are also attacking our chances at unity. No one wins in this madness. More importantly, the media should not ignore the people’s call for integrity, professionalism, and unbiased reporting as we all work for change. There are important areas that the mainstream media should also address.


Sense of entitlement and double standards

President-elect Duterte stated the hard truths: many media people seem to think too much of themselves. They appear to have been enslaved by the thought that they can destroy reputation with just one story (that oftentimes do not have enough basis), falling asleep on a bed of arrogance. Many use “press cards” as passports for free meals, travels, special/priority seats, and even protection badge against traffic enforcers. Here, vehicles with “MEDIA” on their windshields are never ever stopped for traffic violations. Special eh. One can always shout, “Taga-media kami!” and shove his press card on the face of an absent-minded traffic enforcer, never mind that everyone is agonizing over the same traffic in EDSA. Never mind that the internet allows flexibility of writing stories at home or anywhere there is wi-fi. Never mind that there are alarm clocks and mobile apps now that allow everyone to wake up early so that they can plan ahead and consider the daily traffic grind. No, in their minds, they are a special breed of people, armed with press cards, at hindi pwedeng kantihin, hindi pwedeng hulihin (and cannot be touched, cannot be arrested). They can dish out malicious stories and distorted headlines freely (emboldened by “freedom of the press”) but they themselves cannot accept hard and painful truths.

They may have gotten so used to the idea of being “special” that when, for the first time, a Philippine incoming president, has dished out bitter truths, they reacted in the best way that they know how: manipulate words, twist meanings (according to their prejudices), and distort headlines. (It does not seem to help that the President-elect is brutally frank, has no penchant for scripted speeches and press conferences, and not a sweet-talking trapo.)

Media, mostly fueled by the stiff competition over revenues rather than search for truth, has grown so alarmingly big and powerful that it seems it now finds it difficult to temper its own arrogance and sense of entitlement – becoming a tyrannical force in itself.

[Image courtesy of QuoteAddicts]

[Image courtesy of QuoteAddicts]

However, the surfacing of these hard truths about corrupt media entities and personalities—many of whom are obviously paid hacks and lapdogs—is just waiting to be unmasked and, this time, the once timid society seems to be waking up, emboldened by a strong President who can finally say with disgust, “don’t f**k with me!” [Did we just hear loud clapping sounds in the background?]

 And oh, that awful catcalling came at just the nick of time! I am a woman and find it improper but, once again, media feasted on it as if President-elect Duterte committed a most despicable crime. [2] As I said earlier, I will not be his apologist—what he did was definitely uncalled for—but for the sake of this country, let him face God and find his own enlightenment. Not even Pope Francis castigated him for that remark about causing traffic during the Papal Visit so who are we to pounce on him and act as if we are all better and holier than him? Gabriela and all women’s organizations should dialogue with him pronto but as we wait for that time, let us assume that like everyone else, he is prone to errors and lapses (at least to society’s standards and prejudices) because that is who he is.

Try to look at his eyes, search his heart (without biases and prejudices) and you will most likely discern what he is saying all along. We have the same enemies. We are all fighting the same battle. He is probably the worst communicator we have ever seen (again, based on the society’s dictates) but we can easily sense his genuine love for this country. Unless he is a very good actor, this man is fueled by patriotism. One can always sweet-talk us and laugh his way to the bank but this man will most likely curse us right and left but deliver tangible changes that we direly need.


Duterte’s victory – reflecting the low credibility and influence of mainstream media?

Is this another hard truth? It may probably take an exhaustive study to ascertain the correlation but one may be tempted to conclude that had the 32+ million voters (the voters who did not vote for Roxas) still believed in mainstream media, President-elect Duterte would not have won. This seems to place the so-called pillars and big operators of mainstream media at their lowest point in terms of credibility and influence.

Sadly, even with this glaring lesson, top media networks have not ceased their efforts and style of reporting. A primetime TV news program only began reporting the development and social welfare programs (including those for women) in Davao City after the elections. It is releasing the news that should have been aired prior to the elections at a time when almost everyone already know about them, thanks to a more credible social media. It is both exasperating and insulting.

What makes it more pathetic is that the style of reporting is still the same. The yellow tinge can still be seen some 5 meters from the television screen or newspaper headlines.

We then ask these players in mainstream media—what signs do they still require so that they can finally accept the fact that many people do not believe it anymore and that we can see through their relentless attempts more clearly than ever? Are the voices of the 32+ million voters not yet enough to spell the words, “Stop the lies and hypocrisy” on its  pristine-white walls clearly? To reiterate, these Filipinos (almost 75% of voters) did not vote for Roxas, the obvious “darling” of the top media businesses in the Philippines. The well-funded black propaganda (including a last-minute and desperate call for anti-Duterte alliance three days before May 9) relentlessly aired and reported in mainstream media did not work. The yellow formula no longer works. The faster the mainstream media accepts this, the faster can this country move forward.

It is also a good time to talk about and address mediocrity. It was exasperating to watch a TV network’s news team interview trying to pin down an incoming cabinet secretary, asking him mindless questions that do not concern him, putting a “bait” about a Senator’s “demolition handiwork.” (The three anchors seem to have acted as if viewers do not yet know what the Senator and their network had done to this country during the election period.) A top newspaper’s reporter also asked an incoming official an inutile question, which was intelligently handled by this gentleman by responding, “Do you want me to criticize my President?”

 What a letdown to watch and read about these journalists. Instead of preparing and asking insightful and incisive questions about how we can battle corruption in government and address climate change, these journalists are once again towing the line of the yellow brand of madness, asking inutile if not downright stupid questions (sorry that may sound harsh but it is true, right?). The people are not as dumb as the media thinks. They expect more intelligence in reporting. The media demands perfection in the presidency? Well, the people demand that it does its homework diligently as well. The people have had enough of mediocrity.


And those paid ads about “Martial Law” days…

In the spirit of transparency, can anyone confirm who really paid for those anti-martial law ads? Does the channel that aired them honestly thinks that the ads worked? Does anyone really believe 100% that Leni Robredo won? In your quiet moments tonight, everyone, just think. This is not meant to dishonor Ms. Robredo. In fact, I ask her to think and ask herself the hard questions, too. If she is the true winner, I will support her (and even volunteer to plant trees with her if she offers to help in the environment sector). However, let us, for a moment, just think deeply. Who is the true winner in the VP race? Bongbong Marcos won in overseas and absentee voting, right? There had been verified reports of “0″ vote for him in certain precincts, right? There was this so-called “cosmetic” Smartmatic tweaking right in the middle of the sensitive counting, right? There are at least three witnesses willing to risk their lives to testify over what they know happened in Quezon province, right? There is also a recent call from PPRCRV’s Tita de Villa for Comelec to probe the alleged irregularities, right? (Tribune Wires, 2016). (Enough said.)

Let this be made clear—I did not vote for Marcos (I voted for Senator Alan Cayetano) and continue to have reservations against another Marcos in the top two posts in the country. However, I want the truth. The people deserve the truth. Who really won as the Vice President?

Moreover, isn’t it time to heal this land? Healing begins with forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean the condoning of crimes that had been truly committed. However, the Aquinos had been in power for 12 years already—isn’t it enough time for them to pursue justice? Who really killed Ninoy Aquino? Why didn’t the Aquinos pursue and persecute the real killers if they continue to think that we need to hate and reject the Marcoses? The irony is that we had been made to watch those sponsored ads, forcing us to feel the pains of the Marcos years again but they themselves had not really moved a finger to pursue justice. The elections had been made as a fight between “democracy” and “dictatorship” but they themselves had enjoyed being in power for 12 years and then wanted us to give the yellow party another 6 years—for what? So that we can continue to hate the Marcoses while they continue to enjoy the perks of being in power?

We should not condone the injustices during the Marcos years but, we beg you, LP and the decision-makers and paid hacks in media, please stop playing with our emotions and, worse, undermining our intelligence. You have bombarded us with anti-Marcos and anti-Martial law ads—forcing us to believe that the election was a war between good (LP) and evil (Duterte). We are not dumb. We know our history. [For a revisit of EDSA, you may all want to read this article by Tony Lopez, The Lie of EDSA. The link is in the References. You don’t have to believe him right away but I encourage you to dig deeper.]

As what a good friend of mine (a respected and veteran journalist) said, “The Japanese had already forgiven the Americans for dropping the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, while we, Filipinos, we are forced not to forgive the Marcoses.” I second the motion.  The LP and its media cohorts have always been showing the world that they are prayerful–posting and airing pictures of masses and Churches–but sadly, ironically, their ads are telling us not to forgive the Marcoses. What is more appalling is not just about forgiveness per se, it is the temerity to force upon us that they are the decent ones, the protectors of democracy, and the hope of this nation, and yet, exerting all means possible (most likely including illegal ones?) to thwart the impending victory of the people through the ballots.

Martial Law era is definitely a painful time in our history. However, it had divided this country too much and is being abused as a political instrument through which an oligarchic rule may be perpetuated instead of being contextualized as source of valuable lessons. It became LP’s chopping board, the ultimate arena where the winning candidates (Duterte and Marcos) had been demonized and cut into pieces.

Fortunately, LP and its media cohorts had obviously lost their grip on the people. With their credibility seemingly sinking so low that not even the alleged massive infusion of LP money into media ad placements can pull up, 32+ million people stood their ground. The fight has not ended particularly for the VP race but, at the very least, we had reclaimed our voice.


Duterte’s failure will be ours, too

We are not condoning the perceived “flaws” of President-elect Duterte. However, let us be reminded that, among other things, people voted for him because of his positive traits like strong political will, executive skills, keen intelligence, clear change agenda, and genuine patriotism. However, those positive traits come with negative ones. He needs to work on those perceived flaws (again, vis-à-vis society’s standards) but we should not even try to put him into the mold of what we think is the right kind of president. I guarantee you, he will always fall short. Let us manage our expectations and such expectations for “proper behavior and good manners” should not burden him, who is already faced with gigantic problems (and people’s expectations that he will solve many if not all of them).

I am not suggesting that he should not listen to the pulse of the people but come on, dear brothers and sisters, let him find his own discernment. We expect too much from him and with such high expectations, he will always fail. For the first time, in a long long time, we have a president who is so brave and nationalistic that he will most likely (with our support) effect meaningful changes but there you are, media, waiting to pounce on him like hungry wolves, fully aware of his Achilles’ heel and capitalizing on it for the prized scoop.

Our brothers and sisters in the media, I make another appeal and pose more questions:

Please tell us, do you really want him to fail? Are your goals for revenues more important than the public good? If so, I rest my case.

Have you become so self-centered that you want the entire country to focus on your perceptions, hurt feelings, and double standards? Why do you expect a “proper”, almost saintly, President when you yourselves have remained and continue to be quiet as the yellow-paid lapdogs continue to threaten democracy itself?

And to you, yellow supporters—we are all brothers and sisters but what are you doing to our country? President-elect Duterte won already. Why can’t you just accept it and support his leadership? Why are you pulling your future President down when you know that his failure will affect us all? Why the online campaign for him to resign? Do you really think that his resignation will help our country move forward? I did not vote for PNoy before but when he won, I kept quiet and respected his leadership because that is the right thing to do as a citizen of this country. You may read this previous blog post here (http://meilbox.net/crying-cops-tell-us-when-anger-is-futile/), as a case in point.

Everyone is called upon to contribute to nation-building, whether red or blue or white. Or yes, even yellow.


Let this government not be vindictive

I had been raised in a conservative family but am, hopefully, a fairly open-minded Catholic. I am doing my best not to judge him and his foul language, reminded by the good teachings of all the world’s religions. I want to be the change that I want to happen. I reflected on it long and hard and came to the decision that the perceived flaws about him (whether justified or not) are the small “price” that I am willing to pay for a strong leadership, better government, a safer Philippines, and transformative changes. I don’t want him to fail because I know that his failure will be the failure of this country.

We also do not want this government to be vindictive, remembering the culture of the LP administration. However, with the change in Presidency and hopefully the start of meaningful reforms, we need to stress that the people are deeply offended and awakening from a nightmare of neglect and incompetence in governance as well as irresponsibility and callousness of many entities in mainstream media. We demand excellence, authenticity, truth, and justice. We will remain vigilant.

In the same breathe, we continue to have faith on and commend the good people of the government and media and the passionate and relentless volunteers and voters. You have served this country well, beyond the call of duty and even at the expense of your own ‘reputation’ because those who controlled power for so long did their best and use massive resources (including the people’s taxes) to convince everyone that this is “a battle between good and evil.”

It is hoped then the next six years will be the beginning of the transformation that we have always hoped for. We need to begin taking the first small steps because we are capable of changing and the Philippines can be a great nation again. The President will lead us but the bigger power lies in all of us.

Before we embark on this transformative journey, let us also draw strength and inspiration from the words of Michel Foucault (1926-1984), who said that

The real political task in a society such as ours is to criticize the workings of institutions that appear to be both neutral and independent, to criticize and attack them in such a manner that the political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them (as cited in Sorensen, 2013).

- Michel Foucault, The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature

With optimism and faith in God who always prevails, let us BE THE CHANGE that we want. Let us participate in how things are being done and make some sacrifices, big or small.

…and please, turn the volume down of your karaoke.

[Image courtesy of The Liberty Eagle]

[Image courtesy of The Liberty Eagle]


[1] Loose translations: Bantay Bata = Watchdogs for Children (or Guard/ Watch Over Children); Ipanalo ang Pamilyang Pilipino = Let the Filipino Family Win

[2] I had experienced a similar encounter where a former high-ranking government official was a keynote speaker and uttered a very sexist joke. There was a male-dominated audience (it was a fraternity convention) so one can imagine the discomfort of the few women in the group after hearing such a joke. Knowing that it was indeed a joke—unfortunately a very vulgar one—I felt that the best way to react was to share a ‘better’ joke–this time, ensuring that the women’s stand is clarified.

I quickly stood up, asked for the official’s indulgence and cracked a similar joke, but this time, ensuring that my version was wittier. The audience laughed heartily and judging from the reaction, my joke was indeed funnier. I am sharing this story not to undermine the experience of Mariz and many other women in a similar situation—respect for women is no laughing matter—but there are really unavoidable situations when a patriarchal mentality will show its ugly head even through a lighthearted banter. I was sure that the official did not really think of how anti-women the joke was, after all, he simply wanted to be funny. I am not justifying his joke either but the thing is, it was clear also that he wanted to make the audience laugh.

In such a situation, a woman who wants to stress a point about respect for women would do better if she will utilize her innate intelligence, call on the Goddesses of wit and humor, and become the stronger person in the room. Maybe in another time, a woman-journalist can simply say, “With all due respect, Mr. President, that is really uncalled for but thank you for the compliment! Please lang po, umayos kayo or isasama ko na po ang Gabriela sa susunod na presscon!” I am sure she would come out as the winner in such a retort. Many times in very uncomfortable situations, humor can save the day, break the ice, and possibly open meaningful discourses on gender issues.

This is something that many in media fail to appreciate also. We have an incoming president who is so open-minded, accessible, and humorous (despite some sexist jokes, admittedly). He is an interesting story in itself, a very rich source of honest takes and perspectives on social, political, and economic issues. His mind and experiences are a gold mine for intellectual and philosophical discourses. Media personalities should count themselves blessed to have this opportunity to engage the President in a real dialogue, inspired by the goals of nation-building. (Imagine, he does not carry prepared speeches and talks candidly!). It may help media if it considers having a change of mindset, e.g., by connecting with him on the intellectual level rather than waiting for opportunities to pounce on him, sure that he will most likely commit another verbal gaffe.


CNN Philippines Staff. (2016, May 6). Comelec on anti-Duterte ad: We only regulate duration, not content. Retrieved from http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2016/05/06/comelec-duterte-negative-political-ad-trillanes.html

Gonzales, Y.V. (2016). NUJP shuns Duterte’s boycott dare: We won’t abdicate our duty. Retrieved from http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/789023/nujp-shuns-dutertes-boycott-dare-we-wont-abdicate-our-duty#ixzz4AdQD1btn

Guinto, J. (2016,  May 7). Roxas says he can beat Duterte in good vs evil fight. Retrieved from  http://news.abs-cbn.com/halalan2016/nation/05/07/16/roxas-says-he-can-beat-duterte-in-good-vs-evil-fight

InterAksyon.com. (2016, June 3). It’s about murder for whatever reason – NUJP writes Duterte. Retrieved from http://interaksyon.com/article/128592/its-about-impunity–nujp-writes-duterte

Lopez, T. (2016, February 26). The lie of EDSA. Retrieved from http://manilastandardtoday.com/mobile/article/200282

Montano, E. (2016, May 7). MTRCB washes hands on anti-Duterte ads. Retrieved from http://www.journal.com.ph/news/top-stories/mtrcb-washes-hands-of-anti-duterte-tv-ad

Philippine Star (Online). (2016, May 9). Comelec records historic 81.62% voter turnout. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/05/09/1581634/comelec-records-historic-8162-voter-turnout

Philippine Star (Online). (2016, June 2). International media groups say Duterte’s comments risk lives, urge boycott. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/06/02/1589388/international-media-groups-say-dutertes-comments-risk-lives-urge-boycott

Regalado, P. (2016, June 2). Duterte declared an open season for murder: NPC. Retrieved from http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/06/01/16/duterte-declared-an-open-season

Sorensen, A. (2013). Foucault studies. Retrieved from http://pure.au.dk/portal/files/56599190/4132_15917_1_PB.pdf

(The videotaped debate in 1971 on Dutch TV, it may be viewed here: http://www.openculture.com/2013/03/noam_chomsky_michel_foucault_debate_human_nature_power_in_1971.html)

Tribune Wires. (2016, June 5). PPCRV to Comelec: Probe poll fraud. Retrieved from http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/ppcrv-to-comelec-probe-poll-fraud


This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donation but I hope you can plant tree/s on your birthdays.

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June celebrates the beauty of love that commits and grows over time, as if a beauty that never fades. Sketch and text by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin  [The sketch is inspired by the work of SlashPinSlash at Pinterest]

June celebrates the beauty of commitments

Happy month of June, my dear friends and readers!

Here is my sketch for the month of June. I promised to make a new sketch every month but this time around, it is not really a new sketch. Nevertheless, I hope you will still like it.  I was browsing through my PC’s folders and came across this sketch of mine and felt instantly that this will be perfect for June! A woman epitomizes beauty and June, among other things, is a month for marriage vows and beautiful brides!

June celebrates the beauty of love that commits and grows over time, as if a beauty that never fades. Sketch and text by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin  [The sketch is inspired by the work of SlashPinSlash at Pinterest]

June celebrates the beauty of love that commits and grows over time, as if a beauty that never fades. Sketch and text by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin [The sketch is inspired by the work of SlashPinSlash at Pinterest]

For many people, June is a perfect time to get married. In fact, many women dream of becoming or had become a “June bride”. The tradition of getting married in June was said to have began in the Roman times, when people celebrated June 1 to honor the deity Juno and his wife Jupiter, the goddess of marriage and childbirth (Malone, 2015).

We need to understand that June is the start of summer in most regions of the north (we in tropical zones do not really experience four seasons) so it is fair to say that a primary reason for the popularity of the June weddings is convenience. This is perfect for long holidays and when the weather is still relatively comfortable even for outdoor or garden weddings.

Nevertheless, even in countries like the Philippines, June is still a preferred month for many couples. Statistically though, the most popular wedding months for Filipino couples are February and May (PSA, 2011). Interesting, isn’t it? My guess for this preference is that February is the “love month” and still comfortable enough for weddings. Meanwhile, May is the last month of the usual 3-month (March-May) break from school (at least in the general sense because some schools are now beginning to follow the western academic calendar). May also ushers the rainy season in so while there are risks for a rainy wedding day, the weather is not as unpredictable as in the months of July to October. (For those of you who got or intend to get married in May, please feel free to write to me and let me know your thoughts and reasons!)

I then want to wish would-be June brides the most beautiful and memorable weddings and all married and soon-to-be married couples the most loving, exciting, and inspiring marriages–bound in everlasting love, profound kindness, and strong faith in the divine.

For my hubby, my dear Papa Bear, happy 7th anniversary! We are beginning our 8th year together as a married couple (and 10th as friends!) and my heart is forever full of gratitude for the wonderful memories that we have created and are still creating every minute of our life together! Thank you so much! It is definitely not a joyride all throughout but we know that with God as our navigator and torch bearer, we will never ever be lost.


This is not a paid blog. There is no request for donations but I hope that you can plant trees on your birthdays!


Malone, S. (2015). The tradition of the “June Bride”: Why are summers weddings so popular?. Retrieved from Huffingtonpost(dot)com/sandy-malone/the-tradition-of-the-june-bride-why-are-summer-weddings-so-popular_b_6752812(dot)html

Philippine Statistic Authority. (2011). Marriage Philippines: 2011. Retrieved from psa(gov)gov(dot)ph/content/marriage-philippines-2011

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