Category Archives: Politics, History, and Current Events

At the heart of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 is MALASAKIT

MALASAKIT. A beautiful Filipino word that, at first, seems so simple enough for translation to English.

However, the more I think about it, the more it becomes difficult to find the correct English word for it. Is it concern for others? Is it a combination of regard and compassion? Whatever the most appropriate translation might be, it may inspire us, Filipino citizens, that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the blueprint for our future as a nation, upholds the value of PAGMAMALASAKIT.

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let is shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos!

The PDP tackles what could be a long-neglected value: pagmamalasakit. Let it shine again, in our hearts, beloved Filipinos! (Note: There is significant distortion in image quality so I enjoin you to download the PDP file from NEDA’s website. Believe me, it is a worthy and inspiring read!) [Image courtesy of NEDA, 2017]

For how long ago did we, as a nation, think about our country first more than and beyond our political affiliations and loyalty? If we truly love our country, couldn’t we, for once, stop bickering and complaining and just do something good for our society–one that desperately needs healing?

For the people have already spoken through the ballots and they had chosen a President to whom they entrusted their faith. Let him govern. Let him fulfil his mandate. Let the sanctity of the ballot prevail.

For whichever part of the political spectrum do we come from,  there is no escaping the fact that the President’s downfall will eventually be this country’s as well.

We do not have to agree with him all the time–an authentic democracy allows opposing discourses–but  we cannot also act as if our voice is the only true voice. Here lies the true essence of democracy. Democracy is not just about exercising our freedom to voice out our dissent. Democracy is, more than anything, the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.

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Democracy, more than anything, is about the capacity to respect, celebrate, and uphold the COMMON GOOD.

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Pagmamalasakit and the common good

Undermining and attempting to destroy the chances of our country to move forward is contrary to the common good. When one talks about human rights but forgets the rights of the victims of crime and drug menace, he fails to discern on the meaning of the common good.

The PDP 2017-2022 then takes off from the need to reflect on how can we, as Filipino citizens, create a society where there is true regard and concern (pagmamalasakit) for others. This is the essence of the common good–when we (both as individuals and society) reflect deeply on how will our speech, decision, and action impact on others.

The PDP 2017-2022 could be a unifying document and, hopefully, be a good reason for all of us to work together (despite our political differences). The Plan appeals to our sense of nationhood–an important value (as part of cultural asset) that allowed countries like Japan and South Korea to recover and embark on nation-building from the horrors and destruction of wars and calamities.

The Plan should be read by every Filipino completely but here are key take-aways from the Plan (directly lifted, NEDA, 2017):

1. The Plan aims to lay a stronger foundation for inclusive growth, a high-trust society, and a globally-competitive economy toward realizing the vision by 2040.

2. The target is to reduce poverty incidence from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14.0 percent by 2022. This is equivalent to lifting about 6 million people out of poverty.

3. Individuals and communities will also be made more resilient by reducing their exposure to risks, mitigating the impact of risks, and accelerating recovery when the risk materializes.

4. Innovation will be encouraged as the country sets its eyes on graduating to a knowledge economy in order to accelerate growth in the future.

5. The strategies to achieve the targets cited above are grouped under three pillars: Malasakit or enhancing the social fabric, Pagbabago or reducing inequality, and Patuloy na Pag-unlad or increasing growth potential.

6. On the kind of life they want for themselves, Filipinos want a life that is strongly- rooted, comfortable, and secure: matatag, maginhawa, at panatag.

7. The terms “strongly-rooted, comfortable, and secure” used to describe the life envisioned by Filipinos by 2040 reveal middle-class aspirations. They include home ownership, a steady source of income to support family and self, college education for the children, a motor vehicle, stable finances to cover daily needs and contingencies, savings for retirement, and time for vacation and travel.

8. To make the people’s aspirations a reality, government must use the various policy instruments in its arsenal to accomplish the following:

(a) investment in human capital so that Filipinos are equipped to learn and adapt to new technology and the changing pro le of society;

(b) investment in high-quality infrastructure to make the cost of moving people, goods, and services competitive;

(c) sound urban development that takes advantage of scale and agglomeration economies to make the cities more competitive and livable; and

(d) adequate and inclusive nance to enable households to build up savings and to provide capital for MSMEs and households considering the desire of many to run their own businesses.  (Source: PDP 2017-2022, NEDA; directly lifted.)

What are we willing to give?

Our country needs us now, more than ever. True pagmamalasakit entails giving up some parts of our selves, for some, even power that we used to hold. Let us not aggravate the mess nor contribute to the noise. In the quiet, there is true discernment.

More importantly, let us have faith in the good men and women of our government–that despite the lingering ills of corruption and deceit there are STILL many good public servants out there, those who are always  doing their best, ready to protect our institutions, constitution, and people – whoever the president may be. Kahit anupaman ang kulay ng pulitika natin–yellow, red, or blue–our veins carry one blood only. That of a Filipino.

Let pagmamalasakit reside fervently in our hearts again.

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This is not a paid blog. I do not request for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree/s on your birthday(s). Namaste!

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

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.”

References

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/

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

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

Jose Rizal lives on

Today is June 19 and I am celebrating it with you, Dr. Jose Rizal. I count myself lucky to share your birthday for it always reminds me about the love you have shown for our country and how you dedicated yourself to the service of others.

I am devoting this page for you but in the meantime, I would like to greet you first a happy birthday! (Dear friends and readers: My promised post is below. Through this post, I am sharing with you my experiences in “Lakbay Jose Rizal” from 2011 to 2012. Thank you so much to all those who sent birthday greetings! )

Happy birthday to our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal!

Happy birthday to our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal!

Lakbay JOSE Rizal @150: Celebrating Rizal’s Life and Gifts to the World

The Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 campaign was launched by the Inter-Agency Working Group Committee led by the Philippines’ Department of Tourism (DoT) in 2011, to commemorate the national hero’s 150th birthday.  While the competition part ended in 2012 already, one can still embark in this journey and visit the 27 Rizal shrines anytime. The website devoted to the campaign said that the stamps in the sites will still be available even after June 19, 2012 so I encourage you all to make this journey and reconnect with our national hero or simply pay respects to all our heroes and our flag.

His steps led to our awakening. [Photo taken through an HTC phone by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

His steps led to our awakening. [Photo taken through an HTC phone by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

How did the competition part work? It was something similar to “Amazing Race” in that one has to visit the 27 Rizal shrines and ensure that all the sites in the Rizal passport had been stamped before June 19, 2012. (Note that the passport requires 26 stamps, combining both the Rizal Monument and Park into one stamp.) The Rizal passport may be availed of from the DoT or  National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) offices. (Note: I am not sure if the passports are still available at this time but you may contact the  NHCP at TM Kalaw St., Manila. through tel. no. +63 2 5249952 or +63 2 5231019 or e-mail hsed@nhcp.gov.ph).

Here is how the passport looks like (folded):

The Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 Passport.

The Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 Passport.

We heard about the campaign a month after his birthday in June 2011. I think we were able to secure our Rizal passport sometime in July.  We had covered all of the sites in a span of about seven months–beginning the pilgrim in Intramuros on August 2, 2011–so I think that was a fairly good record given our busy schedules. (I will not yet reveal here if we were among the  first 100  pilgrims who made it so I can infuse a bit of excitement as you read this post! You will read about it at the end of this post.)

It was only apt that we made the “second leg” of our journey on December 30 (Rizal Day!). By then, we felt it was necessary to hurry up because we lost some six months already although we’re still quite hopeful that we would end up among the lucky 100 pilgrims, fully aware that it is indeed challenging to visit all the sites, which are located in 10 provinces (particularly in 10 cities and 2 municipalities).

I will share the actual chronology of our journey, hoping that it will help you plan your itinerary in case you want to follow how we covered the 10 provinces (counting both NCR and Antipolo) in just seven months. I will also be mentioning where we stayed (for those locations where we needed to stay overnight) and include notes/contact points on these “side trips.”

First leg: Intramuros and Paco Park, Manila (2 Aug. 2011) | Number of stamps: six (6)

I remember August 2 to be a very hot and humid day but we were very excited as this was our “official start” of Lakbay Jose Rizal @150. JR and I were joined by our good friend, Rory. Our first stop was in Fort Santiago where there are two Rizal historical sites: the first one is the Prison Cell & Rizal Shrine and the second, the Chapel Cell of Rizal. I did not yet own my second DSLR back then (having decided to sell my previous one several months earlier) so I had used the camera of an HTC phone only. Nevertheless, here is a picture of the prison cell, where he had stayed during his confinement in Fort Santiago from November 3 until his execution on December 30 of 1896.

In order for us to move forward as a nation, we need to look back and remember those who have given up their lives for us. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

In order for us to move forward as a nation, we need to look back and remember those who have given up their lives for us. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

We then proceeded to secure our second stamp, which  was for the chapel cell.  This place reminds us of Rizal’s faith, which he held on to steadfastly despite the darkness around him.

He dealt with darkness through his faith in God and love of country. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

He dealt with darkness through his faith in God and love of country. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

After our quiet moments inside Fort Santiago (and a quick drink in a small cafeteria before the exit gate), we then continued with our journey. The next three sites are located within Intramuros so it gave us a chance to walk again on some of the cobblestone streets of the walled city. I like Intramuros very much but I hope that the City of Manila will give it more care and attention to protect the integrity and history of the place.

We proceeded to the next landmark, the Trial of Rizal Site, which was the old Cuartel de Espana. (The place is now where the current Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila is located). The trial of Rizal began on December 26 and his death verdict was signed on December 28 (notice the 2-day trial period!).

A very good chronology of events during Rizal’s trial and execution had been captured in a blog post by Michael “Xiao” Chua. You can read it through this link. (Thank you, Sir Xiao for writing this timeline!) Meanwhile, here is our 3rd stamp, to allow you spend a moment in remembering Rizal’s trial.

Do not judge another being so easily; his pains could be much deeper than yours. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Do not judge another being so easily; his pains could be much deeper than yours. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Next in the journey is the old Ateneo Municipal de Manila Site (which is now the Ateneo de Manila University). Ateneo was established by the Jesuits in 1859 and had its first home in Intramuros. Rizal began his Ateneo education at age 11, staying there from 1872-1877, and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. (For more of Ateneo’s history, you may visit this link.) He was among the nine graduating students who were conferred with sobresaliente (“with distinction”) honors in a class of twelve. A summary of his stay in Ateneo had been captured in a slide presentation done by Honey Grace Santos and you can read it through this link. Here is a picture of what remains in the site in Intramuros.

Jose Rizal taught us to delight in our life-long education. It brings us to many places, enriches our mind, and empowers our being. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Jose Rizal taught us to delight in our life-long education. It brings us to many places, enriches our mind, and empowers our being. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal’s quest for learning and education is deeply inspiring. Many of us assume that Rizal had a relatively easy life as a student but the historical notes I had read as I wrote this blog reflected his challenges, such as when he was ridiculed by schoolmates because of his imperfect Spanish during his first months in Ateneo. These are humbling experiences, which many of us can relate to. These also remind us that we can surpass the difficulties that life is hurling upon us through faith, diligence, and hard work.

Moving on, we visited the old University of Santo Tomas (UST) Site, which was also previously located in Intramuros. (Apologies that I intentionally did not give specific directions to the sites so you can also enjoy and be challenged by the search as you also think back about Rizal and our rich history and heritage. You may consult Google for directions but that lessens the difficulties, right?) :-)

Established in 1611, UST was first called Colegio de Nuestra Señora del Santisimo Rosario. You may read more about UST’s history through this link. Our national hero studied there from 1877 to 1882, taking a course in Philosophy and Letters for one year and then shifting to  medicine.  There had been historical notes about his ‘discrimation’ in both UST and Ateneo but a more objective narration had been discovered in the archives of UST. The notes had been summarized in an article published here.

Below is a picture of the historical marker at the old UST site. Note that the picture is somewhat lopsided and there’s a good reason for it–the site where the marker is located is enclosed in a steel fence and we were not able to go inside. I took this picture by climbing up a concrete slab (I cannot remember if it was a stone step), trying my best to avoid the steel fence that obstructs the marker.

Embrace every opportunity for education. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Embrace every opportunity for education. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

It was nearing sunset when we completed the sites in Intramuros so Rory had to go ahead. JR and I then decided to proceed to Paco Park. This place is relevant because it was said that the remains of Rizal were buried here (right after his execution), without letting his family and friends know. According to some historians, the Spanish authorities kept the burial ground a secret–the grave was left unmarked–to avoid the public outpouring of sentiments. They probably thought that making the grave known to all will likely encourage the public to congregate there. After a long search, his family eventually found the grave and had it marked with “R.P.J.” (the inverted initials of Rizal). His remains were eventually transferred to his mother’s house in Binondo in 1898 and to Rizal Park in 1912. Here is a marker on his first burial ground in Paco Park.

Jose Rizal was first buried here secretly.  [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Jose Rizal was first buried here secretly. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Second Leg: Rizal Park, Manila (30 Dec. 2011) | Number of stamps: three (3).

We thought it was a perfect day to remember the death of Jose Rizal. It was December 30 and as the country pays tribute to this great man, JR, I, and Badette agreed to make this day more special by continuing our “paglalakbay” (journey).

The first stop was in the Rizal Monument and Park. As a child, I remember being fascinated by the honor guards who are tasked to watch over his monument. I enjoyed watching them, imagining the difficulty of keeping their  stances. I admired them more as I found out today that these honor guards are expected to keep their two-and-a-half-hour shifts from 8:00 am up to 10:00 pm every day, rain or shine.  The guards assigned there are mostly corporals and sergeants from the Philippine Marine Security and Escort Group (MSEG). These soldiers are those who have already rendered at least one or two years of combat service. To appreciate the role that they play (and realize some of the difficulties and challenges of the job), you can read this article. I was able to take a picture of the monument with the Philippine flags at the left. I was so happy that it turned out well despite the cloudy skies.

Rizal lives on. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal lives on. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Rizal Park Monument is the hero’s final resting place. His remains were transferred here on December 30, 1912. The monument was eventually unveiled to the public on December 30, 1913. The monument was designed by Richard Kissling, a Swiss sculptor, who was not actually the first prize winner in the art competition organized for the design of the monument. If you are quite intrigued (as I had been!), you may read more about the story behind this monument through this article.

A few meters from the monument is the Rizal Execution Site. I was enveloped with a certain sadness as we reached the site but was also  pleased that the place had been improved, remembering its sad state the last time I went to Rizal Park.

The final moments of Rizal were captured through larger-than-life statues created by the renowned artist, Eduardo Castrillo. I would share here the sculptures depicting Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken, who is often referred to as the hero’s common-law wife. (Some historical notes suggest that they had been married in Catholic rites before Rizal’s execution.)

Sculptures of Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken at Rizal's Execution Site. [Sculptures by Eduardo Castrillo. Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Sculptures of Jose Rizal and Josephine Bracken at Rizal’s Execution Site. [Sculptures by Eduardo Castrillo. Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

One will find many articles and blogs on the detailed accounts of the events that transpired on December 30. I especially liked this write-up and this one, which focused on the dog that appears in the photo of Rizal on the day of his execution.

Next in the trail is the Rizal Fountain. Many of you might wonder what is the significance of this fountain in the life of our hero. We must recall that Rizal traveled to Germany and spent some time in Wilhemsfeld, finishing his novel, Noli me Tangere, in 1886. While there, he stayed at the vicarage of Pastor Karl Ullmer, whose gardens featured a drinking fountain. This very same fountain was eventually donated by the German government to the Philippines in 1964. I was so pleased to know that it was restored in time for the celebration of Rizal’s 150th birthday. Here is a picture of me, relishing my moments with the Rizal Fountain:

This fountain carries the memories and 'spiritual imprints' of Rizal. [Photo by JR Suarin]

This fountain carries the memories and ‘spiritual imprints’ of Rizal. [Photo by JR Suarin]

Meanwhile, I would also like to share the picture of the “Kuya guard” who stamped our passports for this specific Rizal landmark. (Thanks, Kuya!)

Rizal Fountain stamped! [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal Fountain stamped! [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Stamp update: After these two legs, we were able to earn nine (9) stamps already!

Third Leg: Antipolo (12 Jan. 2012) | Number of stamp: one (1).

For our Antipolo journey, we (JR, I, and Badette) were joined again by Rory (who also brought her daughter, Faye, along). Antipolo is significant in Rizal’s life because  his father brought him to a pilgrimage of the Antipolo Church (also often referred to as “Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage Shrine”  or the “Shrine of the Virgin of Antipolo”) on June 6, 1868. Historical notes say that the pilgrim was in fulfillment of a pledge of his mother who vowed to visit the Shrine should she and his son (Jose) survive the difficulty of his birth. Here are two pictures that capture the memories of our day in Antipolo:

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, Antipolo. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A day for prayers in loving memories of our saints and heroes. [Photo by JR Suarin.]

A day for prayers in loving memories of our saints and heroes. [Photo by JR Suarin.]

Antipolo has a very rich history and Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 made us appreciate the city’s heritage more. After our visit to the Shrine, we also enjoyed shopping for suman (rice cake) and casuy (cashew) nuts, at the stalls of local delicacies near the Shrine.

One can easily be enamored with the offerings of Antipolo. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

One can easily be enamored with the offerings of Antipolo. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

We also visited the Cristina Villas and the Seven Suites Hotel Observatory. The photos below were taken from a good vantage point at Cristina Villas and at the lobby of Seven Suites Hotel Observatory. (For those who are not yet aware of this, the Seven Suites Hotel is the only hotel-observatory in the Philippines. On the viewing deck, they have installed a powerful telescope, said to be the fourth largest in the country.)

From Cristina Villas, one can have a nice view of Metro Manila on a good day. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

From Cristina Villas, one can have a nice view of Metro Manila on a good day. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The lobby of Seven Suites Hotel Observatory [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The lobby of Seven Suites Hotel Observatory [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

It was indeed a very enjoyable day for all of us. Antipolo will always be special and I hope that you can include a visit here in your “travel bucket list,” not just to remember Jose Rizal but also to appreciate our very rich heritage…or even just to look at the stars!

Fourth Leg: Malolos, Bulacan and San Fernando, Pampanga (21 Jan. 2012) | Number of stamps: two (2)

In these two provinces, we reconnect once again with the memories and legacy of Jose Rizal. The Kamestisuhan District in Malolos, Bulacan, is significant to the life of Rizal because of his great admiration for the strength of character of the women of Malolos, who had built a night school for women, against the wishes of the town’s administrators. Note that Rizal wrote to them while he was in London in 1889. The full text of the famous letter, “To the Young Women of Malolos” may be read here. The Casa Real Shrine in Kamestisuhan District is the designated ‘keepers’ of the memories and archives of these brave women. Here is how Casa Real looks like from across the street:

The Casa Real Shrine, Malolos, Bulacan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Casa Real Shrine, Malolos, Bulacan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Inside, we were greeted by the guard who assisted us as we signed our names in the guestbook. Below is a picture of my husband, JR, as he signs on the guestbook.

Proud to sign our names in the guestbook of the Casa Real Shrine. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Proud to sign our names in the guestbook of the Casa Real Shrine. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Meanwhile, below is a wooden sculpture of Rizal with the Women of Malolos, displayed on one of the walls of the Casa Real Shrine. I hope I can discover who is the artist behind this work of art. I have tried searching for it through Google but to no avail. (Dear readers, please write to me if you have his/her name so we can properly acknowledge him/her here.)

In honor of the brave women of Malolos. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

In honor of the brave women of Malolos. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Our next stop was in the old Bautista House, where Rizal was said to have stayed as he recruited members for the La Liga Filipina. It had been designed in the 1850s neoclassical tradition and one can easily imagine the mysteries and conversations of the past as s/he goes through each room of the house. I gathered that it used to be the office of the Secretaria de Fomento (Ministry/Department of Interior Affairs) and home of Don Antonio Bautista, who served as  Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Secretary of the Interior. Below are some of the pictures I had taken of and inside the house.

The old Bautista Mansion continues to stand quietly in the Kamestisuhan District. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Don Antonio Bautista Mansion continues to stand quietly in the Kamestisuhan District. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

 Memorabilia and antique furniture at the Jose Bautista House. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Memorabilia and antique furniture at the Jose Bautista House. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

 The beautiful details on the ceiling and walls of the Bautista House complement the rich history of the place. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The beautiful details on the ceiling and walls of the Bautista House complement the rich history of the place. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

I would like to express our deepest thanks to the current owner of the house (who is a descendant of the Bautistas), Mr. Dez Bautista, who toured us around the house even without prior notice! (Our apologies and deepest thanks, Sir Dez!) We did not really expect Mr. Bautista to be there but we were kindly allowed by his caretakers to take a quick peek and then, by a lucky twist of fate, Mr. Bautista arrived as we were being given a quick tour. We were sure he was surprised to see us there (who wouldn’t be?!) but was very kind enough to allow us stay a little bit longer. We are truly grateful. For  more detailed articles/notes on historical landmarks and mansions of Bulacan, you may go here and this link.

From Bulacan, we proceeded to Pampanga, where we would find the next Rizal site: the San Fernando Train Station. This station is part of the old Philippine National Railways’ northrail line. According to historians, Rizal disembarked at this station on June 27, 1892, to confer with some of the recruits of La Liga Filipina. I am pleased that the station has been carefully restored. Here are pictures of the station:

The San Fernando Train Station [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The San Fernando Train Station [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The San Fernando Train Station [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The San Fernando Train Station [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Enroute to Manila, we completed the Pampanga trip by having a hearty dinner at the famous Aling Lucing’s sisig restaurant.

By the end of our trips to Bulacan and Pampanga, we were happy to note that our Rizal passport had 12 stamps already and, more importantly, that we were getting to know Rizal really well!

Fifth Leg: Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao (27 to 30 Jan. 2012) | Number of stamps: eight (8).

The province of Zamboanga del Norte, especially Dapitan, is very significant to the life of our national hero.  For this part of our Lakbay Jose Rizal, we were also joined by Badette. Our first stop upon arrival was at the Dipolog Cathedral (also called the “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary”), which was built in 1896 and restored over the years, beginning in the 1970s. The church is included in the Rizal heritage trail because it was the hero himself who designed its main altar. Below are pictures of the left side of the main entrance.

The Dipolog Cathedral [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Dipolog Cathedral [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Dipolog Cathedral [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Dipolog Cathedral [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

I am also including a closer shot of the Cathedral’s marker where the artistic contribution of Dr. Jose Rizal was mentioned:

Rizal's generosity of spirit can be gleaned from the many ways he contributed to our rich heritage. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal’s generosity of spirit can be gleaned from the many ways he contributed to our rich heritage. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

You can read more about and view some more pictures of the Cathedral through this link.

After saying our prayers inside the Cathedral and securing our stamp at the Dipolog City Hall, we then decided to proceed to Dapitan while the sun was still up. We were really looking forward to this trip because Rizal spent four years in exile there (from July 1892 to July 1896), doing a lot of good works and influencing a lot of people, particularly his young pupils. In Dapitan, he practiced medicine, pursued scientific, engineering, and environmental activities, farmed, taught, and engaged in commerce. For a more detailed discussion on the life of Rizal in Dapitan, you may go to this link. (Note: I cannot attest to the veracity of all the information stated in the links that I have included in this post so I encourage you to make your own research as well so that, together, we can derive more accurate accounts on the life of Rizal.)

Our first destination in Dapitan was the Rizal Shrine and Waterworks. Rizal resided in this part of Dapitan, where he also established a school, a small farm, a waterworks system, and a small hospital. The 16-hectare land was bought through his winning from a lottery.

The Shrine is a beauty to behold and quite peaceful. The huts (mostly replicas of the original structures) and grounds were well taken cared of by the government and volunteers. It is here where you can hug the trees planted by Rizal and or his students. I would not want to miss the chance to hug the tree that Rizal planted (and is believed to be the oldest tree there) so here is my moment with this beautiful tree. (Ahhhh, the encounter gave me a good and refreshing feeling!)

I just have to hug this tree! This Baluno tree was believed to have been planted by Jose Rizal himself. [Photo by JR Suarin]

I just have to hug this tree! This Baluno tree was believed to have been planted by Jose Rizal himself. [Photo by JR Suarin]

Below are some more pictures, which will, hopefully, encourage you to make a trip to Dapitan as well.

The waterworks system that Rizal developed in Talisay, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The waterworks system that Rizal developed in Talisay, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The "Mi Retiro Rock" (My Retreat Rock). The hero spent many beautiful afternoons here, watching the sunset. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The “Mi Retiro Rock” (My Retreat Rock). The hero spent many beautiful afternoons here, watching the sunset. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Some of the very old trees at the shrine. Rizal and his students planted many of them. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Some of the very old trees at the shrine. Rizal and his students planted many of them. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The poem of Rizal titled, Himno a Talisay (Hymn to Talisay), was beautifully etched on the grounds of the Shrine. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The poem of Rizal titled, Himno a Talisay (Hymn to Talisay), was beautifully etched on the grounds of the Shrine. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

From the edge of the Shrine, one can watch the sun as it sets toward the horizon of the Sulu Sea. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

From the edge of the Shrine, one can watch the sun as it sets toward the horizon of the Sulu Sea. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Sulu Sea as it waits for the sun to set. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Sulu Sea as it waits for the sun to set. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

If you want to know more about the hero’s stay in Dapitan, Dr. Floro Quibuyen, a UP professor, has written an analysis of Rizal’s Himno a Talisay.

The sun was already setting when we left the Shrine so darkness has descended by the time we reached Sta. Cruz Beach, where the Punto del Desembarco de Rizal (Rizal Landing Site) was built. (This site is going to be the 15th stamp in our passport. ) The monument depicts the arrival of Rizal and his captors in Dapitan on July 17, 1892. The figures were painted in what looks like a mixture of bronze and gold so it was probably a blessing-in-disguise that we reached the landmark at precisely the start of a  perfect night. The dark blue skies and the yellow lights provided a beautiful hue to the whole surroundings. (The Dapitan City website has indicated that the monument was designed by Antonio Tuviera and Nilo Ferraren, executed by sculptor Manuel Tolentino, and installed and bronzed by Ronel Roces.)

Rizal Landing Site at the Sta. Cruz Beach, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal Landing Site at the Sta. Cruz Beach, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Rizal Landing Site is located at the coast of Sta. Cruz Beach,  parallel with one side of Sunset Boulevard. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

From the steps of the Rizal Landing Site, one can marvel at the quiet beauty of Sunset Boulevard at night. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The next day, we went back to the beach and decided to take a brief walk. By then, I had understood why Rizal must have quietly ‘endured’ his exile here–Dapitan is simply a quiet refuge, embracing and comforting you.

Sta. Cruz Beach, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Sta. Cruz Beach, Dapitan. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

We quickly saw the site of Casa Real the previous evening but were not able to linger because it was already quite dark. The Casa Real was the official residence and administration building of the politico-military governor of Dapitan during the Spanish Regime (Source: Dapitan City Tourism website). Rizal was said to have stayed here for about eight months or up to March 1893. Here is a portion of the marker to the site:

Marker to the Casa Real Site. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Marker to the Casa Real Site. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Also part of the Rizal landmark sites is the Relief Map of Mindanao, which was actually larger than I had first imagined it. It measures about 900 square meters and was said to have been made by Rizal and Francisco Paula de Sanchez, Rizal’s favorite teacher in Ateneo. (Source: Dapitan City Website). This map is a testament to the wisdom and eagerness of Rizal in improving his teaching methodologies. Historians say that the hero created this gigantic map as a tool in teaching his students history and geography. Below is a close-up picture of a portion of the map showing the coast of Dapitan and Dipolog:

A portion of the Map of Mindanao Site. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A portion of the Map of Mindanao Site. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

It is better to see an aerial shot of the map so you can better appreciate it. There are very few aerial shots of the relief map available online but a blogger was able to take this picture.

The Dapitan Church was just across the relief map so we also looked forward to visiting it. Below are pictures of the facade of the Church and the interiors, which show portions of the ceiling.

The St. James Parish Church (Dapitan Church). [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The St. James Parish Church (Dapitan Church). [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The interiors of St. James Parish Church (Dapitan Church). [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The interiors of St. James Parish Church (Dapitan Church). [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Church was built in 1871 in honor of St. James the Great. Rizal, during his exile, attended Sunday masses regularly there and stood in a particular spot so the National Historical Commission put up a marker there.

Several steps away from the Church is Dapitan Plaza. It was already there when Rizal arrived in Dapitan but he worked on its improvement and further beautification, with the assistance of the then Spanish Governor Ricardo Carcinero. Some of the acacia trees were actually planted by Rizal himself. (Source: Dapitan City Website) Below are pictures of the plaza and its marker.

Dapitan Plaza at sunset. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Dapitan Plaza at sunset. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The marker to the Dapitan Plaza [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The marker to the Dapitan Plaza [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Next in the itinerary is the Rizal Farm in Katipunan. The farm is located in Barangay Dr. Jose Rizal, Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte. Katipunan is about 20-30 minutes from Dipolog. Rizal, together with his pupils, tended to this farm mostly on weekends. It is rather unfortunate that many of the locals whom we met along the way did not know or ever heard of this farm. Luckily, we met a kind lady who knows the place and introduced us to Mrs. Ade Eguia (as far as I can recall, she was and may still be the Tourism Officer of Katipunan), wife of the Mayor, who is incidentally, the son of the owner of the farm now, Mr. Crisostomo Eguia Sr. (Mr. C. Eguia Sr. is a direct descendant of Fernando Eguia, one of the pupils of Rizal in Dapitan).

Rizal must be guiding us along the way, meeting these wonderful people! Ms. Eguia was so nice that she welcomed us to their home and shared many stories of Rizal and of how he and his students tended the farm! According to her, a patient of Rizal named Calixto Carreon, offered him the farm as payment and token of thanks for the successful treatment by Rizal of his blind eye. Being a good man, Rizal refused the payment and instead offered to pay him P200 for the land. Before Rizal’s execution, he designated his sister, Trinidad, to administer the land. Trinidad eventually designated Mr. Fernando Eguia, Rizals’ pupil as administrator. Eventually, Trinidad offered to sell the land to the son of Fernando, on one condition: that the farm will continue to carry the name of Rizal.

We were indeed blessed because we met Mrs. Eguia and a very nice lady–whom we met in the multicab that we took going to Katipunan–and who introduced us to the former.

Rizal and his pupils tended this farm on weekends. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal and his pupils tended this farm on weekends. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

It was an honor just to simply walk on the farm that Jose Rizal tended. [Photo by JR Suarin.]

It was an honor just to simply walk on the farm that Jose Rizal tended. [Photo by JR Suarin.]

During our last day in Zamboanga del Norte, we were able to visit Dakak Beach Resort and go around Dipolog City. In Dipolog, we were wonderfully surprised to experience the artistic ambience of GoodTimes Gallery & Cafe, which is, incidentally, owned by the uncle of my former photography mentor, Jimmy Domingo. Here is a picture of one of the seating areas in the gallery-cafe (you can view more pictures in the Gallery page soon):

GoodTimes Cafe-Gallery in Dipolog City [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

GoodTimes Cafe-Gallery in Dipolog City [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Of course, we cannot leave Dapitan without taking a river cruise, so here is among my favorite pictures of Dapitan River and the mountains behind it:

A visit to Dapitan is not complete without the river cruise. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A visit to Dapitan is not complete without the river cruise. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The river cruises usually begin and end in any of the restaurants along the Dapitan Aqua Marine Park (DAMPA). We arranged our cruise through the Inato Lang Restaurant. On our last evening in Dapitan, we also took leisurely walks inside the Gloria de Dapitan Complex (where the Fantasyland theme park is also located). It was not a very busy night when we went there but there are nice cafes/restaurants and we enjoyed our burgers at the joint called “Barracks”.

Stamp update: We had earned 20 stamps already by the time we completed this part of Lakbay Jose Rizal @150! (Note: The contact details of the B&B where we stayed in Dipolog are indicated at the end of this post.)

6th Leg: Laguna and Camarines Norte (10 to 12 February 2012) | Number of stamps: three (3)

We deemed it more practical to visit the Rizal sites in Calamba, Laguna and Daet, Camarines Norte in one leg/weekend as they are both in Southern Luzon. It was also more practical for us to return to Manila–after the trip to Calamba City–in the evening and then just simply travel to Daet the next day, staying there for a night. Of course, an alternative is to stay overnight in Laguna or Quezon, and then proceed to Daet.

The Rizal Shrine in Calamba City, Laguna showcases the home where Rizal was born and nurtured as a young boy. Rizal was born on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Rizal Mercado and Teodora Alonso, and christened José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda. He has nine sisters and one brother. For more detailed accounts on his life, you may visit this and this site.

Meanwhile, below are some photos of the Rizal Shrine in Calamba City.

A reproduction of the Rizal house in Calamba. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A reproduction of the Rizal house in Calamba. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Remembering the birth of a hero, a great man. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Remembering the birth of a hero, a great man. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A reproduction of the Rizal Family's kitchen. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A reproduction of the Rizal Family’s kitchen. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal is often referred to as a great doctor, writer/novelist, and artist. However, he is also a naturalist/environmentalist. This poster at the Shrine serves as a reminder of his other great deeds. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal is often referred to as a great doctor, writer/novelist, and artist. However, he is also a naturalist/environmentalist. This poster at the Shrine serves as a reminder of his other great deeds. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

For more details about the Rizal Shrine in Calamba, please visit this link.

Jose Rizal was baptized in San Bautista Church in Calamba on June 22, 1861, by Fr. Rufino Collantes. The church was established by the Franciscan order sometime in 1779. Below are two pictures of the interiors of the Church.

The interiors of San Juan Bautista Church in Calamba City, Laguna. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The interiors of San Juan Bautista Church in Calamba City, Laguna. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The altar of San Juan Bautista Church in Calamba City, Laguna. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The altar and the floors of San Juan Bautista Church in Calamba City, Laguna. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte, is an important place because it is considered the oldest monument built for Rizal, built in 1898 or only two years after his death.The project undertaking was led by Lt. Cols. Antonio Sanz and Ildefonso Alegre of the Republican Army. It was also Sanz who designed the three-tiered structure. For more details about the monument, please read this article.

This trip was probably the most difficult part of our journey because it was raining when we reached Daet and secondly, it was on a Saturday, a weekend, when there is a great chance that no one will be available at the office where we can get the Rizal stamp.

True enough, the officer who holds the rubber stamp kit was not in the tourism office. It took a while and a lot of phone calls before we finally got hold of the person. It seemed that it was normally left with the guard-on-duty (in case some pilgrims will arrive on weekends and after office hours) but on that one particular weekend, a likely communication gap prevented someone from leaving the kit.

Nevertheless, we got hold of the lady and she was kind enough to go to us despite the rains that day! (Oh, we had to thank God and Rizal again for all the divine interventions!) Below are photos of the oldest Rizal monument.

We braved the rains that day and happily posed by the oldest Rizal Monument. Taken in Daet, Camarines Norte. [Photo by JR Suarin]

We braved the rains that day and happily posed by the oldest Rizal Monument. Taken in Daet, Camarines Norte. [Photo by JR Suarin]

The people of Camarines Norte have contributed toward the construction of this monument so it is truly a gift of the people of the province to the Filipino nation. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The people of Camarines Norte have contributed toward the construction of this monument so it is truly a gift of the people of the province to the Filipino nation. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The historical marker of the Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The historical marker of the Rizal Monument in Daet, Camarines Norte. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Stamp update: By the time we completed this leg, we had earned 23 stamps already!

7th Leg: Visayas Region (18-20 February 2012) | Number of stamps: three (3)

This was particularly challenging, time-wise, because we needed to cover three provinces (and secure three stamps) but we only had the weekend (3 days/2 nights) to accomplish this. To be able to maximize our short stay, we flew in to Cebu (Day 1), traveled by land to Liloan in Santander, Southern Cebu (Day 2), took a ferry boat to Sibulan, Negros Oriental, and then rode a tricycle to Dumaguete. After visiting the Rizal Shrine in Dumaguete City and securing our stamp in Dumaguete, we then made the land travel to Bacolod where we stayed for the night (still Day 2). The next day (Day 3), we traveled to Iloilo City via another ferry ride to Dumangas port in Iloilo province, and then by bus to the city proper. We were back in Manila by the evening of Day 3. It was an exhausting trip but certainly all worth it!

Before I narrate the details of our Visayas leg, I would like to share a cute story as we arrived in the port of Dumaguete. It was a very hot day and as we walked along the port, we noticed a silver-and-gray striped fish that seems shivering on the ground. It was quite obvious that it was already dying. (Obviously, he was part of the day’s catch of a  fisherfolk as there were still bits of crushed ice near him.) In a sort of ‘panic’ mode, we didn’t want to waste any more time so JR picked up the fish and threw it upon the waters immediately. We were not sure if it will survive. See his/her picture below.

The fish that needed urgent help. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The fish that needed urgent help. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A few seconds after throwing him in, the fish remained motionless. Our hearts were beginning to be crushed…but then, lo and behold, after a few more seconds, the fish started moving, weakly at first, and then finally swimming more vigorously! JR and I laughed heartily, joyfully, knowing that we had just saved a fish! :-) Here is his picture as he began swimming away.

Now, a happy fish, swimming away! [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Now, a happy fish, swimming away! [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

It was a simple event in our life as a couple but it will always bring good memories and smiles on our faces every time we think about it.

Now back to our Rizal journey – first in the itinerary was Fort San Pedro in Cebu City. Historical records show that Rizal’s group, enroute to Manila (from Dapitan) via the steamship España, passed by Cebu in August 2, 1896. The fort is said to be the oldest and smallest triangular fort in the Philippines. Records are unclear but some notes say that it was built around 1565. (Source: DOT Central Visayas) Below are some pictures of Fort San Pedro.

The top facade of Fort San Pedro in Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The top facade of Fort San Pedro in Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

An old structure inside Fort San Pedro, Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

An old structure inside Fort San Pedro, Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A mini-pond inside Fort San Pedro, Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

A mini-pond inside Fort San Pedro, Cebu City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

After our overnight stay in Cebu City (where we also had a very relaxing and enjoyable evening with the family of JR, my husband), we proceeded to Dumaguete City, where Rizal’s group first stopped by while enroute to Manila. Rizal’s diary carried these notes:

“…The following day, Saturday, at dawn, we anchored at Dumaguete, capital of Oriental Negros. The steamer anchors quite near the shore because of the great depth of the water.  Dumaguete spreads out on the beach. There are big houses, some with galvanized iron roofing. The house of a lady, whose name I have forgotten, was outstanding. It is occupied by the government and another one, just begun with many ipil posts. I went ashore with my family and the C.P.M.* I told my family to see the town while the C.P.M. and I paid our respects to Governor Regal whom I met at Dapitan on the way to his destination.” (Note: The “CPM” means “Politico-military commander“. Source: JoseRizal.info)

Below are pictures of Rizal’s monument in Dumaguete City and its marker.

Rizal Monument in Dumaguete City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Rizal Monument in Dumaguete City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The historical marker to Rizal's Monument in Dumaguete City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The historical marker to Rizal’s Monument in Dumaguete City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

From Dumaguete, we took a Ceres bus that will take us to Bacolod, Negros Occidental, where we intended to stay overnight and recharge for another day of our Lakbay Jose Rizal @150. We were all getting excited because Iloilo is where we will secure our 26th stamp, completing our Rizal pilgrimage!

We stayed in a simple but nice tourist inn in Bacolod called Saltimboca. Below are pictures of the inn.

Saltimboca Inn, Bacolod City [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Saltimboca Inn, Bacolod City [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Saltimboca Inn Bacolod [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Saltimboca Inn Bacolod [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

I will post more pictures of this inn in the Gallery page so please visit meiLBOX again soon.

After recharging at this quaint hotel, we took the ferry that will bring us to the island-province of Iloilo, where we will secure the stamp for Molo Church.

The Church of St. Anne, also often called the Molo Church, was visited by Rizal in August 4, 1896, again, enroute to Manila (from Dapitan. The church was built in 1831, following the Gothic and Romanesque design traditions. (Source: ExploreIloilo.com) You can read more about the church through this blog post. Below are pictures of Molo Church.

The belfry of Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The belfry of Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The marker to the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The marker to the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Inside the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by JR Suarin]

Inside the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by JR Suarin]

Inside the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by JR Suarin]

Inside the Molo Church, Iloilo City. [Photo by JR Suarin]

It is also interesting that the stamping kit for the Molo Church had been entrusted with the Panaderia de Molo, which is already part of the history of Iloilo, being the oldest food business there (founded sometime in the 1830s). It was said that in the 1800s, masons would use egg whites in cementing the bricks used to build churches. The women of Iloilo found this wasteful and started baking cookies from the egg yolks that remained. This could have led to the beginning of Panaderia de Molo. The panaderia, with three branches in Iloilo City, is famous for its galletas and bañadas. To read more about it, here is an article, which I had referred to for this post. Below is our picture by  the door of this famous Iloilo panaderia.

Happy to complete the 27 Rizal shrines! [Photo by Badette Tamayo]

Happy to complete the 27 Rizal shrines! [Photo by Badette Tamayo]

It was apt that we completed our Lakbay Jose Rizal @150 journey in Molo Church. It gave us a chance to pray and simply relish the beautiful journeys that we made, knowing Jose Rizal in a more profound way, making us richer and hopefully, wiser.

To close this post, I am sharing with you my Rizal passport, with all the 27 sites completely stamped! As promised at the start of this post, I am happy to share with you that JR, I, and Badette were among the first 100 pilgrims who had successfully completed this journey! We were given token gifts and official Kalakbay Jose Rizal certificates. Thank you to DoT, NHC, NHIP, and all those who made this project possible!

The Rizal Passport will always remind us of the life and sacrifices of a great man. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

The Rizal Passport will always remind us of the life and sacrifices of a great man. [Photo by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin]

Thank you, Lord, and Dr. Jose Rizal for accompanying us in these journeys!

Note on references: I had consulted various sources as I had written this post. All of my sources are the ones I had indicated in the links. Thanks so much for all the historians, researchers, and writers who wrote (and continue to write) about Jose Rizal. Mabuhay kayo!

Mei_Watermark-4

 

 

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Contacts:

Cristina Villas Mountain Resort & Hotel | Taktak Road, Brgy. Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City | Tel. no. (02) 697-4521 | FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cristina-villas-mountain-resort-and-hotel/401192523268232

Seven Suites Hotel Observatory | Blk. 1 Lot 2, Hollywood Hills Subd., Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City | Tel. nos. (02) 682-0330/2076 Website   http://www.sevensuites.net

Aling Lucing Sisig Restaurant | Glaciano Valdez St., Angeles City, Pampanga | Tel. no. (045) 598-0317 | FB page https://tl-ph.facebook.com/lucingcunanan

Antonio’s Pension House | Gen. Luna cor. Martinez Streets, Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte | Cp # +63 908 815-6638 | FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Antonios-Pension-House/107598042603011

GoodTimes Cafe & Art Gallery (Galeria Indelecio) | C.P. Garcia cor. Lopez Jaena Sts., Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Norte (Sorry, the cp # is not advertised! This adds up to the excitement of visiting the place!)

Dakak Park & Beach Resort | Brgy. Taguilon, Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte | Tel. nos. (065) 213-6813/6647 Cp #s +63 918 803-8403 +63 915 318-5238 | FB Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dakak-Park-and-Beach-Resort/402670300139

Barracks Burger Joint-Hobby Shop-Internet Cafe | Gloria de Dapitan, Sunset Blvd., Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte | FB Page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Barracks/416866895125075

Inato Lang Restaurant | Dapitan Aqua Marine Park, Dapitan City | Tel. no. (065) 213-6474

Holiday Spa Hotel | Gov. M. Cuenco Ave., Banilad, Cebu City | Tel. no. (032) 236 5220 | Website http://www.holidayspahotelcebu.com/

Saltimboca Tourist Inn | 15th Street (near Lacson St.), Bacolod City, Negros Occidental | Tel. no. (034) 432-3617/ 433-3179 Cp # +63 932 877-9488

(Note on these contacts: The contact details listed above are current/working as I posted this, however, I cannot guarantee that they will always be correct. Please also note that the links are currently working–and seem secure or virus-free–but I also cannot guarantee the security of the links today or at any time in the future. Please take the necessary precaution and ensure your PCs are protected by the latest anti-virus software when visiting any websites/links.)

_________________________

This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin
An aerial view of a coastal village in Concepcion, Iloilo after Yolanda. (Photo  credits: Iloilo Provincial Administrator, Dr. Raul Banias/AFP, shared through rappler.com)

Adopt-a-Community: Embarking on Relief and Rehabilitation After Yolanda

An aerial view of a coastal village in Concepcion, Iloilo after Yolanda. (Photo  credits: Iloilo Provincial Administrator, Dr. Raul Banias/AFP, shared through rappler.com)

An aerial view of a coastal village in Concepcion, Iloilo after Yolanda. (Photo credits: Iloilo Provincial Administrator, Dr. Raul Banias/AFP, shared through rappler.com)

Super Typhoon Yolanda had left us wondering what hit us. Described by many scientists as among the strongest typhoons ever recorded, it caused the loss of more than 2,000 lives and is estimated to lead to economic losses of about $12 to 14 billion. (Source of data on economic losses: Charles Watson, Kinetic Analysis Corporation, as reported in International Business Times, 13 November 2013.)

Almost a week after the disaster, we hear news of bodies still strewn around on the streets and sidewalks, looting and chaos, unorganized relief efforts, and weak disaster management by both the local and national governments. While this is not the time for finger-pointing, it is important that we recognize the hard lessons from this very unfortunate event so that we can move on and start rebuilding.

What went wrong and how can we effectively manage the relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts? Below are take-off points, which may, hopefully, reach the authorities fast and be seriously considered in the drawing of a plan post-Yolanda and even in long-term disaster risk reduction and management planning.

1. Understanding the science behind natural disasters (particularly those that are climate-related). It is very important that the people truly understand the science of natural disasters. Terms such as “super typhoon” or “storm surge” must be described in simple and layman’s terms (graphic, if need be) and disseminated widely particularly to those who are most vulnerable (e.g., residents in coastal communities). However, it is necessary that awareness-building is intrinsically-linked in our daily lives and not just something that we do during the typhoon season.

The first step begins in incorporating climate change and disaster response in the country’s educational system. This is slowly being done but there should be more concrete steps about it. The development of a national mentoring /teaching plan for climate change adaptation and disaster response and management should be done and such a plan must be adopted by all elementary and high schools in the Philippines. Children, young and old alike, should understand climate-related challenges and issues completely. Awareness begins the process of empowerment, which redounds to the benefit of their families (and their communities). (By the way, SEAMEO has already developed a very useful handbook on how to integrate climate change issues in the school curriculum so please visit this link for more details.)

The next step is ensuring that the LGUs (including local executives) are part of the education process. For example, after Yolanda, local chief executives (and even national leaders) had admitted to being ‘shocked’ by the sheer strength of Yolanda. They knew it was going to be strong but no one had foreseen such an unimaginable impact and dimension. As we see it now, no one thought that most of Tacloban City (and the other affected communities) will be submerged in coastal waters because of storm surge.

2. Development of a climate change and disaster response toolkit. The strategy above needs a strong knowledge management (KM) component. A communications plan that will not gather dust in government desks and shelves should be localized and widely used, like a “Bible”. A helpful material, for example, is a climate change and disaster response toolkit for LGUs, uniquely packaged based on local conditions (e.g., the toolkit of a Samar coastal community should be different from the toolkit of an upland community in Oriental Mindoro). This toolkit should have detailed disaster risk maps and complete guide to preparing for and management of disasters.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Climate Change Commission can be the lead agencies for this. It brings to mind the heartbreaking speech of Mr. Naderev Saño, the country’s climate change commissioner, during the recent U.N. Climate Change Conference in Poland. As I said in an online forum–I am currently attending a non-formal course related to climate change–”I salute him for having the courage to stand up for the people and challenging global leaders to act fast.”

His appeal should always be remembered. “I also believe that participation in global meetings is very important. However, governments should go beyond pronouncements because they carry the inherent responsibility and power to make a huge difference in equipping local executives in responding to situations that they do not yet completely grasp. In the case of coastal towns/cities like Tacloban, Palo, and Guiuan, local chief executives should be thoroughly equipped so they know how to prepare. For example, if they understood the complete picture (including the terminologies), they would automatically know that their usual evacuation sites are not really going to be safe anymore. Even the simple preparation of providing life vests, for example, for those in the coastal areas, could have saved lives. (Although it may be wiser to go to higher and safer grounds in such locations where the danger of storm surges is imminent.) Developing such tool kits is not going to cost much. They can also be developed through partnerships with the private sector. A more pro-active approach, even through small steps, will certainly mean more in terms of saving people’s lives and resources.” [Quoted material is mostly lifted from my statement in the online forum mentioned above. For more details about the course, please visit this link.]

3. Localizing disaster preparedness but remembering that the locals may be affected, too. The law on disaster risk reduction (RA 10121) mandated the creation of Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Councils and this is an important step. Yes, we have the Local Government Code (LGC) and believe in local empowerment. However, in natural disasters, the locals are the ones directly affected and they include local government employees. That means, even local executives and public servants with strong capacity and the best intents, may be immobilized also. Local chief executives and their social workers, doctors, and policemen need to deal with the loss and trauma of their loved ones, too. It is therefore, wiser not to rely on them during the first week/s of the relief phase. (See also no. 5 below.)

4. Adopting communities as entry point for relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction (3Rs). It is always easy to point fingers. In the news and social media, we hear of government officials (with the ‘support’ of the media) pointing at one another, trying to figure out who is to be blamed for what seems to be a disorganized way of dealing with the 3Rs. Even international media has apparently joined the fray. It is indeed a tempting place; where one can easily conclude who is doing what wrongly. After a while, one gets tired of listening to the witch-hunting and asks, “What can we do then?” I believe that the LGC, while still an imperfect law, has equipped many LGUs in the country already and they are the perfect source of ‘people power’ (provided that they had been been thoroughly equipped in disaster management as well).

Why not ask an LGU for example, to adopt Palo, Leyte or Guiuan, Eastern Samar? Let a “sister” LGU or a group of LGUs help either of them to recover. It need not be a single LGU/entity holding the hands of the affected communities. Help can come from private corporations or even non-government organizations like Gawad Kalinga or Habitat for Humanity. The idea is for a single unit of affected community (e.g., Guiuan) to be directly adopted and assisted by another LGU (or group of LGUs) or private sector organizations. What is happening these days is that there are so many help and pledges coming from all directions but efforts seems so scattered that many affected communities have not been adequately reached yet by basic relief goods such as food and water. This “adopt-a-community” approach will lead to more focused and directed efforts, minimizing wastes and maximizing resources. Funds can come from the national coffers (and donations). (Let us not expect the “mentor-sister LGUs” to shell out significant funds for the affected community because the LGC is still mostly an ‘unfunded’ law….but that can be a topic for another blog post!)

5. Short and long-term planning for infrastructural reconstruction. After very disastrous natural calamities, communities often have to deal with the destruction of power, transportation, and telecommunication structures. In the aftermath of Yolanda, many communities lost telecommunications facilities that it was difficult at first to ascertain the extent of the damage. Even  network reporters had to wait for several hours to reconnect to their Manila headquarters. Roads had also been blocked by fallen trees, posts, debris, and human and animal remains that it was challenging to deliver relief goods and bring medical and humanitarian services at the most opportune time. In a country like the Philippines, we should no longer have excuses such as “not expecting the intensity of super typhoons like Yolanda”. I think the line, “I did not imagine such a magnitude”, while understandable, should already be banned from our vocabulary (and mentality). We should remain hopeful and steadfast but be more realistic and prepared for the worst.

Therefore, we should expect that roads will be destroyed and become full of debris and that power and telecommunication lines will be damaged or torn down. We should already expect those consequences and, therefore, planning one day before or after a disaster is definitely not the right time. We should plan way, way ahead of the disasters. Let us be inspired by the culture of ants. They religiously and meticulously save for the rainy days; they expect the rainy days to be harsh. And the size of our brains is way way bigger than the ants’ (!).

Short- and long-term plans should include manpower component. For example, we cannot expect local engineers and policemen to clear the roads or repair the telecommunication towers! They and their families had been affected, too, remember? A disaster strikes? So what? A contingent from specific organizations (through the DPWH, for example) had already been planned (and booked on an on-call basis) since 3 or even 12 months ago. A team is ready to clear the roads on Day 1. A government/private plane is automatically assigned to them early on, during the planning stage. It will be like pushing a button, with everyone knowing what to do or where to go immediately after a strong typhoon.

Long-term planning should be based on feasibility studies. For example, can the Philippines consider putting underground cables for power and telecommunication lines instead of overhead? We expect about 11 to 25 typhoons in a year (NSCB cited that for the years 2004-2007, the number increased to 39), and yet, our power lines are all overhead. There are geological and environmental concerns that must be thoroughly analyzed and evaluated, however, underground cabling might be a more practical approach. Definitely, underground cabling costs more in the beginning but considering the costs of constantly rebuilding power and telecommunication lines, it may be a good prospect for the future. I know that there are already a few housing developers who have built private villages with underground cable network (one such model is in Tagaytay) so those cases must be studied. The Philippines is in the “Ring of Fire” and, indeed, utmost care and best technologies are needed in developing an underground cabling system.  Nevertheless, we can learn from countries like Japan–an earthquake-prone country as well–where there are already many underground cabling systems in place. (Singapore is also among Asian countries that are already utilizing underground cabling.)

Stand-alone power facilities may also be the answer to perennial power outages due to strong typhoons. Renewable energy-based systems are good candidates for stand-alone facilities because they can harness local sources of power. And they are certainly more earth-friendly!

We should also review our housing design and materials. While storm surges may ultimately drown even the strongest of houses, our shelters, in the right locations and in the appropriate design and materials, should always give us a true sense of security. Indeed, poverty prevents us from building stronger and more resilient houses. However, indigenous materials and technologies still have strong potential for providing some or most of our housing needs. Look at the stone houses of Batanes, for example. They have been withstanding the strong winds and typhoons in the northern islands.

Many individuals and professional organizations have already been advocating for the development and adoption of relevant land use plans. When developing towns and cities, local governments, particularly those in the most vulnerable areas (e.g., coastal communities) should use the geohazard maps already done by DENR (although DENR should continue to update and enhance them). Settlement areas must be in safer grounds. Relocating the most vulnerable people entails a huge investment but it is not an impossible task.  Relocation, if it is the safest and most practical alternative, must still allow people access to their sources of livelihood and income through reliable infrastructures such as roads, public transportation, warehouses, and marketplaces for their goods. I surmise that even fisherfolks–who must be close to the sea–will prefer higher and safer grounds if they are assured that they can go to work conveniently every day.

6. Deepening empowerment and promoting the right values through the media. The media (both international and national media) are doing a great job in spreading the word about disasters and their aftermath. We see excellent coverages and editorials. However, there is still too much sensationalism, particularly in the local media. Pictures and videos of hungry people and dead bodies on the street put across strong messages, but, let us not forget the good news also. There is an imbalance somewhere. The media have so much power. It needs to speak for and about HOPE also, about rebuilding, about DOING. It can motivate people to help the government in cleaning up the debris and remind them that they are strong and not helpless. That they can rebuild their communities. Alas, the media seems to devote more air time for people crying, getting angry because the relief goods are not coming, and blaming the government for not helping them. They must certainly be heard and we must empathize with their pains. However, it is not the role of the media to ‘fuel the fire’ of hopelessness, anger, blame, and self-pity. How else can one respond if a reporter asks her how does she feel after she had lost her daughter in the storm surge? Of course, she will cry. Definitely, the media should show the grim and sad pictures but they should equally encourage positive reactions and behavior and highlight the good news however small they may be. (See no. 8 below also.)

7. Re-energizing the social welfare department. With all due respect and profound thanks to the people of DSWD (who must be working so hard these days!), I suggest some re-energizing exercises and retooling programs. It seems that the department is stuck between wanting to reach out to more people and ending up being immobilized for the most parts. It is not entirely their fault. The department is contending with a government that seems unprepared for the worst-case scenario and local pressures and challenges that seem insurmountable. It may want to go back to the drawing board and think of long-term platform for the 3Rs, particularly in managing the relief aspects and then later, the initial stage of rehabilitation. For example, it can develop a ‘“food/cash-for-work” scheme where victims of disasters (who are physically and mentally ready and fit) may be mobilized (on voluntary basis) to do certain tasks such as the clearing of roads,cleaning up of debris, and planting of trees. Studies reveal that people who are experiencing post-disaster trauma and dealing with so much idle hours tend to feel depressed more. Providing them opportunities to work and become busy (as well as cash or food as compensation) can help them in rebuilding their lives and gaining back the confidence to move on.

However, a good exit strategy (and long-term economic interventions) must also be put in place to avoid long-term dependence on these temporary work schemes. The people should also be thoroughly briefed on the importance of the program not just to them as individuals but also to the welfare of the whole community.

Through this post, I am appealing to DSWD to reconsider their ‘food pack strategy’. Perhaps it is better and more practical to simply assign this task to the civil society and private sector. The private sector can easily take care of this aspect and DSWD may just be the one to coordinate the efforts or provide the relief/feeding and contact centers. DSWD, should probably focus more on becoming the guiding light amid the darkness; the triumphant voice in the middle of chaos; and the hands that will comfort the grieving and the disheartened. Social welfare ‘angels’ should talk to the people rather than hand out food packs; they should touch them and hold them. They should cry with them if need be but they should be the anchor from which they can begin sailing again. The emotional and psychological aspects, alongside the survival needs, should be part of the plans for interventions during disaster situation.

8. Even in disasters, CARING for one another should still be the order of the day. Filipinos come from close-knit families and are very compassionate people. We should hold on to those values even in the middle of disasters. I was disappointed when I heard in an ABS-CBN news coverage that Secretary Dinky Soliman (DSWD) supposedly said that looting is socially ‘acceptable’ during times like this (or something to this effect). I cannot remember the exact words but it put across the message that it is alright to steal and to loot during desperate moments. While we should understand the reasons behind looting incidences, it was very disheartening to hear about a government official supposedly such a remark (or allowing reporters to share that remark on national TV). Being the head of DSWD, she should be the last person to say that. She is certainly entitled to her own opinion in her private moments but saying such a remark to a reporter from a big TV network seems unnecessary (and may have consequently sent the wrong signals especially to the young people?) Do desperate moments justify stealing and looting? It can invite long debates. I agree that we should understand (not condone) the circumstances of people in desperate situations and are hungry. However, what is difficult to understand is having your own social welfare secretary supposedly saying such a remark when people look up to her as a source of caring, hope, inspiration, and direction. I respect her leadership but hope that she will clarify her remark and instead call on the affected people to give something, even a simple smile, rather than take something which is not rightfully his.

At the end of the day, we only have one another. Let us be instruments of goodness and kindness, despite the harsh moments in our lives.

God bless you, Pilipinas!

__________________

This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Crying cops tell us when anger is futile

PO1 Joselito Sevilla (Photo taken by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBN News)

PO1 Joselito Sevilla (Photo taken by Rem Zamora for ABS-CBN News)

PO1 Joselito Sevilla, I am sure, did not plan to cry amid the sea of men and women  one afternoon in July 2013, when the President was delivering his State of the Nation Address. (For the full story on the ‘crying cop’, please visit this link.)

I had long wanted to write this blog but meilBOX had experienced technical issues recently. However, the story of PO1 Sevilla never left my mind; I think his story has something more to offer and should be remembered for all the lessons that it carries.

Many writers and analysts have already offered their own analyses and interpretations of what made PO1 Sevilla cry. I think what matters is how the story has moved us. Somehow, it struck a chord in me as I also think about how else can we, ordinary citizens, help the country move forward, even in our own small ways.

His story told me that there is just too much anger around us, too much negativity and bickering, too much selfishness. This episode tells us how helpless can one feel when faced with the reality that his own people cannot even find peace amongst themselves, or much less, a momentary respect for one another.

I have always considered myself as someone who is in the’ left of center’ in the political spectrum (with a note that I use such a term with extreme care because I do not want to “box” people into leftist or rightist or centrist). Therefore, I have strong belief for the exercise of freedom of expression. Everyone should be allowed that much space to voice out his sentiments and aspirations.

However, I also draw the line somewhere. I am not a supporter of P-Noy (I did not vote for him) but I respect his presidency. He is not the best that this country ever had but I also think that anyone who is seated at the top post of the land deserves everyone’s support and respect (unless, of course, when he has proven to be unworthy as in cases when presidents are impeached or overthrown because of abuse of power, human rights violations, and corruption). It’s the same thing as being in a household where you must regard the head of the family with utmost respect. We may have problems with our parents or they treat us with so much disdain or inconsideration, but at the very least, we need to show them respect if we opt to stay under their ‘jurisdiction’. Otherwise, why stay? As is often said, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

It may sound so simplistic and life is certainly more complicated than that but the thing is–we should respect the decision of the majority, support our Presidents, and just contribute, in the best ways that we can, to nation-building. In the process, I think it will be good for our personal growth if we can try to lessen the penchant for complaining and those rah-rah-rah anti-imperialism, anti-establishment sentiments when in reality, we cannot really back our complaints with substantial and positive action.

How can we even go out there and complain about how corrupt the government is when we are not even contributing to nation-building, much less, paying the right taxes? How can we even question the intelligence of our President when we haven’t really helped someone in need? It makes me sad that many can unabashedly attend rallies, exercise their freedom of expression, and shout the same things about how bad the government is but in their daily lives, they break the rules, disrespect  policemen like PO1 Sevilla, push and shove, taunt and throw stones at the authorities, and make a ridicule of their Presidents. In this country, mob rule somehow muddles the issues.

Freedom of expression should be exercised with due regard to the rights of others and the law of order. If you had been given a permit to stage a rally at a particular spot, then stay on that designated spot. We have no concrete proof as to whether it were the rallyists or the policemen who threw the first stone or shouted the first invective but let’s admit it, I think that a peacefully-held rally is still possible if everyone knew his place in the sun. One can still be creative, passionate, and vigilant even if he needs to follow the rules. He can still get the attention of the media and the sympathy of the public without causing public disturbance (and horrendous traffic!).

Misguided and one-track minded (?) activists (bato bato sa langit, ang tamaan h’wag magagalit) cry “human rights violations” when their lines are disturbed but no matter what the truth is (e.g., they violated the terms of their permit to assemble*), they have a right to throw stones at, hurt and insult policemen. The policemen should not, in any case (even if they are bludgeoned or bloodied), defend themselves or try to restore order. After all, they are not human beings. They have no human rights. Such is the picture that we are showing to our children. In this country, we see on TV that only the activists and rallyists have human rights. The open letter of the Dutch activist, Thomas van Beersum, to PO1 Sevilla  seems to follow the same line of thinking. (The letter may be read through this link.) While he praised PO1 Sevilla for restraining himself “unlike the other policemen”, it is as if by staying put and not doing anything, someone becomes a hero. I am not underestimating the deeds of PO1 Sevilla (I sincerely admire him and have the highest regard for him) but in the letter of Beersum, one begins to think that a police who takes a tough stance and puts order will always be “the bad guy.”

Certainly, there are really bad and crazy policemen and they must be made to pay for their sins. However, we also know that there are good ones like PO1 Sevilla. There are good ones who will continue to cry, even if silently, and in the dark, away from the media, because they are face to face with the reality that we have become each others’ enemies.

Have we become empty minds that howl at the slightest provocation? Mr. Beersum, do you honestly think that you are doing us a big favor by joining this rally and insulting our policemen? You may have good intentions (thank you!) but in case you are still living in the memories of Martial Law rule, educated and sensible Filipinos nowadays (some of them leftists and activists like you) prefer to do more of positive action like building small businesses to generate jobs, paying the correct taxes, planting trees, buying Philippine stocks to support the economy, bringing poor children to school, paying the medical expenses of their friends, following traffic rules, and doing small acts of kindness. In their own small ways, they contribute their time, talent, and resources to nation-building. They may complain sometimes (I still think the President can do better) but fortunately, they have grown up and evolved from the activism of the 60s, 70s, and the 80s, when it was really important to shout and fight the establishment that had become bastion of corruption, insensitivity, and mediocrity.

The 60s to the 80s are of a different reality and the kind of activism that was crucial back then is no longer the kind of activism that we need today. We needed to be angry back then. We needed to shout. We needed to push and shove. But nowadays, we need people who will truly care for one another; we need to embrace rather than push and shove; we need to build instead of destroy.

I told a friend who had lost in the last election (not in the exact words), “If you want to serve, then go where the people need you. Go in the grassroots; become a good mayor or a governor. There is where you can make a dent; an authentic difference in the lives of others. You do not need to create more laws. We need good leaders in the communities; leave legislation to the elected legislators (even if, unfortunately, many of them won their seats by sheer popularity). After all, we can always lobby for better and stronger laws. We have enough space for dialogue. However, we need strong governance in the local communities where true lives are at stake. Go there, make your own dent; be an inspiration. The higher office may come in later as a ‘bonus’ but it should not be your goal. Your goal should always be to sincerely serve others.” 

It saddens me that he did not reply. I still hope that, one day, he will write to me to tell me that he has read my letter several times and have come to the decision that he will do as I had advised or even if he won’t take this path, he will try his best to become a ‘quieter’, better, and more positive leader. More than this letter, I also wait for the time that he and other activists of my generation will finally realize that the old rah-rah-rah ‘strategies’ will no longer work, will not win them an election, and contribute significantly to national development. Of course, we still need the ‘left.’ (But let’s not be intellectual snobs and act as if only the ‘leftists’ care more for their country!) We still need vigilance. We still need to fight corruption.

However, many will agree that we  need less of those noisy, close-minded, and negative-thinking activists who never run out of complaints against the government and continue to refuse to accept the fact that actually, Filipinos nowadays are no longer the Filipinos of the 60s to the 80s. Times have changed. We may still have the same basic problems and, admittedly, many of the solutions remain the same. However, we need wiser, more grounded, and open-minded leaders who know when to change courses, pave new paths, retool themselves, learn from the past, develop new ways of thinking and doing, and…it will be better if they can  smile more often, too, and become truly positive, grateful, and inspiring citizens. :-)

Life is too short. Let’s not waste it on futile bickering and rah-rah-rah. Let us stop being angry. Let us stop the complaints and instead do more of positive action. Smile more often. Be more tolerant. Vote more wisely. There is so much to do and build…and this country needs you, the more positive you.

*There are rules to follow simply to ensure public peace and order. Period.

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This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

 

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Gratitude Wall (inspired by Geminids Meteors)

HAPPY NEW YEAR, friends and readers! (And happy birthday to my niece, Jarmaine Abby Trilles!) May the new year bring you many more reasons to be grateful about.

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty and magic of the universe!

Thank you, Lord, for the beauty and magic of the universe!

I began writing this post last December 14 so please forgive me that this may sound a little stale. :) That early morning, I fell asleep with gratitude in my heart and a smile on my face. Hubby and I just came back from UP Observatory to watch the Geminids meteor shower, the memories of which still linger in my mind.

I do not have a photo to share as proof of our beautiful experience that early morning in the UP Observatory but you may view some photos at http://www.space.com/18906-geminid-meteor-shower-skywatcher-photos.html. That magical morning reminded me and JR once again that the mystery, beauty, and vastness of the universe are strong proofs of God’s existence and his great love for us. Whoever created such indescribable beauty must really love us so much, huh? :) So I fell asleep that early morning with nothing but the deepest gratitude in my heart. I think I was even whispering repeatedly, “Thank you, Lord…thank you, Lord…thank you, Lord…” until I fell asleep (the quality of my sleep that night was probably among the best in my entire life!)

As many sky watchers know, the sight of a meteor is exhilarating, empowering, and enigmatic. You would always feel that sudden surge of joy (may be compared with adrenaline rush?) when you see one. In fact, based on how I felt each time a meteor appears on the horizon, I become so awed and captivated that I’d always forget to ask for my wish! ;D It is funny. In that split-second, you forget everything, even the wishes that you want to ask from God and the universe. “Never mind,” I said to myself. I saw 50 meteors that morning and that was enough. More than enough. I am willing to share those 50 meteors with you, my dear readers, and ask for your wishes. Consider them granted. After all, God and the angels who also stayed up that evening and dawn of December 13 and 14 must have watched intently from above, smiling at us, knowing that all is well on earth. If His children can still watch meteors all night–never minding the mosquitoes and other strange bugs hovering around–then everything is ok and going as planned.

It was wonderful to chat with a mother and son who also went to the Observatory to watch the meteors. We did not know their names and it was so dark to even try to look at their faces but it was enough that we shared the moments with strangers who must have also felt the same wonderful feelings that we felt. The bond between them (after all, how many mothers and sons still watch meteors together, right?) is inspiring. When JR and I have our own children already, we hope and pray that they will grow up equally in the same way that the young son had become–grateful of God and the universe, loving to and respectful of his parents, and always in awe of the stars, meteors, and the sheer togetherness of families.

One amusing ‘side story’ that evening was when a TV network (I won’t say which network!) crew member fell asleep on the make-shift ‘banig’ of old newspapers strewn beside where JR and I were lying down (we brought our own banig!) when there were thick clouds over the horizon and most people must have fallen asleep. Lo and behold, as I continue to wait for the clouds to clear, this crew member began…SNORING! That must have been such a sweet time to “sleep on the job”, right? ;D Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that getting assignments such as waiting for meteors and watching the stars is not that bad. In fact, it is very very good!

I end this post with a simple “Thank you.” Thank you, Lord, for the blessings and wonderful moments of 2012. Please continue to bless my family, friends, and country.

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Here are basic information about Geminids meteors and the 2013 showers. Save the date!

Geminids meteor streams are groups of meteoroids originating from dust grains ejected from Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. These small dust grains (meteoroids) are distributed along the parent asteroid’s orbit concentrated close to the asteroid nucleus with fewer grains farther away from the nucleus. Every time the Earth passes through this stream of dust particles (i.e., meteor stream), we experience what is known as a Geminids meteor shower. These brief streaks of light from meteors, sometimes called “shooting stars”, peak on Friday night the 13th December 2013 when earth moves through the center of the dust trail left behind by the asteroid.

How to view the Geminids

Go outside, find a dark spot and look north north-east near the constelation of Gemini for the Geminids radiant. Meteor showers are strictly for night owls or early risers. The best time to view the Geminids is from around midnight to dawn. They are of average speed but very colourful. You should be able to see 120 streaks an hour or more during the peak. The Geminids meteor shower is active from the 7th Dec to 17th Dec with fewer activity either side of the peak time. (Source: http://www.bashewa.com/wxmeteor-showers.php?shower=Geminids&year=2013)

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Of doing good for public health, The Champ, fresh seafood, and more of Sarangani

I feel a little guilty for being away so long! If my blog can ‘feel’, then he must be feeling abandoned already.  :-O Nevertheless, I will try my best to make up for it by posting some insights and pictures from all my travels of the past six months or so. :)

Picture moments with our boxing champ, Rep. Manny Pacquiao. Also in photo (extreme right), is the former Secretary of Health, Dr. Jaime Galvez-Tan.

I will begin with Sarangani as I have been there twice in the last six months, in line with my engagement with a project that assists LGUs in working for better public health services through PPPs (public-private partnerships). The first travel happened in December 2011 and that was also when, for the first time, I had met “The Champ,” Rep. Manny Pacquiao. My colleagues and I were all star-struck and unable to stop ourselves from requesting some photos taken with him. :) The second trip took place in January 2012 and although we were not able to meet with The Champ again, his very accommodating aide gave us a personal tour of his mansion and even gave us souvenir (PacMan) T-shirts. (To protect the aide’s privacy, I will no longer mention his name here but let me send our big thanks to him through this post!)

It might interest you to know that the LGU of Sarangani, through the leadership of Governor Miguel Dominguez and Rep. Pacquiao, is planning to build a modern hospital facility in Alabel. We are part of the technical assistance team that is supporting the LGU as it prepares for the eventual management/co-management of the  facility, to be called Sarangani Medical Center. The medical facility is part of the LGU’s commitment to improve public health services for the people of Sarangani and nearby provinces. (To know more about the proposed hospital, you may visit http://www.interaksyon.com/article/9855/pacquiao-leads-groundbreaking-of-saranganis-p200-m-hospital)

Rep. Pacquiao and Gov. Dominguez, in a huddle, as the group discusses the planned Sarangani Medical Center.

Working with the team has opened my eyes further to the problems in the public health sector. Through this project, I was able to once again visit public hospitals and got more convinced that there is more that the private sector can do in ensuring that our people will get decent and compassionate healthcare.

I am aware that after the devolution of social services, many LGUs found it hard to manage public facilities due mainly to lack of managerial competence, resources, and in some cases, political will. I was not vocally in support of PPPs before but after seeing the state of some of our public health facilities, I decided that I want to keep a more open mind about this strategy. After all, this is about building partnerships. I don’t think the government can do it alone nor can we always expect it to do everything for us. I do agree that the government must build enough and efficient public health facilities but I also recognize that healthcare can be better managed if the managerial expertise of the private sector can be integrated in the whole system.

Anyway, let us ponder on this topic more in my next posts. :) I would now be sharing some photos from these last two travels in Sarangani (and even General Santos).

This is where we stayed in my team’s December 2011 trip. Called A-Montana Resort, it allows one to sleep and relax in cottages built on concrete stilts! Guests can further enjoy their stay there by fishing and boating (and I heard that there is also a swimming pool there although I was not able to see it).

Another image of the cottages on stilt. Looks inviting, isn’t it?

I saw this small orange boat while I was walking around the walkways in between the cottages.

With Sarangani Governor Migs Dominguez and my colleague, Ms. Pearl Soleta. I am not easily impressed but I sense the eagerness and commitment of the Governor when it comes to the goal of improving public health services.

This is my “pet”, Dinger. He also enjoyed being with the fishes in A-Montana Resort. He also got to enjoy my room. ;D Seriously, I just want to share the “Pinoy” ambience of the cottages in A-Montana Resort. The floors are wooden, too.

Dinger may be wondering how can he get to enjoy my mango shake, too!

We had very limited time to see some more of Sarangani because of our hectic schedule but we luckily chanced upon a beautiful beach resort in Glan, Sarangani, as we were going around to visit some of the public hospitals in the province. I am not sure now but this might be Isla Jardin del Mar Resort in Gumasa, Glan, Sarangani. We were truly blessed that afternoon because the sun was setting the moment we stepped down from our vehicle (I had to run madly though or I won’t catch the sun anymore!)

PacMan: Ang Pambansang Tubig. :) Nice, isn’t it?

This is one of the pictures I was able to take while we were going around to visit some of the health facilities in the province. This is part of the beautiful Sarangani coastline.

We had lunch and a short stop-over in Lemlunay Resort (overlooking the crystal clear waters of Sarangani Bay). This boat was ‘happily’ anchored by the cliff so I cannot help but capture this magical moment.

We got to see The Champ’s Hummer, too! :)

Dinger: What will I choose? What will I choose?! Help!

Of course, hubby will not allow me to go back home without the usual “order”: fresh seafood (including tuna!) from Sarangani! Thank you, Lord for the bounty of your oceans! :)

After the hard work, I wanted to pamper myself a little bit so I stayed in General Santos City enroute to Manila and tried the East Asia Royale Hotel. Rooms and service are ok but the hotel is a little old already. I appreciated the fact that the room I booked has a jacuzzi so I had the chance to take a warm bath, listen to good music, and simply relax. :) So, yes, have a good life and relax! Hope you can visit my blog again. :)

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This is not a paid blog.

Contacts:

A-Montana Resort | Email amontanaresort@pldtdsl.net | Tels. 083-826-6699/ 553-8553/ 553-0220/ 553-0110/ 301-333

Lemlunay Resort | Email lemlunayresort@yahoo.com | Tels. 083-228-1704/ +63 928 524 4528

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Thoughts on the SC, GMA, and Secretary de Lima (A repost)

I rarely re-post articles but this is a good read from former Senator Rene Saguisag (lifted from a friend’s post in Facebook). I do not really agree with many of the Senator’s decisions/declarations in the past ten years or so but this write-up is fair and circumspect.

 

THE LAW IN SAN BEDA

The law we learned and teach in San Beda is not the worst. We work and pray. We placed Nos. 1 and 2 last year in the 2009 bar exams, if that would count for anything. Every year we are No. 1 or 2, class-wise, again, if that would count.

It is sad that Ms. Horn should take a cheap shot at San Beda, a small school but there those of us who are proud of and love it. We are expected not to take the low road of invective and insult.

The SolGen is from UP. Does he side with GMA?

The unelected Supreme Court is static and just waits for someone to invoke its authority. The Prez is dynamic, elected by the people and he receives information from all over. If Business Insight reports that the Dominican Republic Ambassador (not to the Philippines) saw GMA last month about an asylum request, it should be checked and verified.

That was why the unelected SC should have conducted a hearing and listened to both sides, not only to GMA’s. Balance and fairness are desiderata.

The Prez takes into account not only the law but also policy considerations and justifications and should verify leads. Jake Macasaet and Pocholo Romualdez of Business Insight reported that the paper has credible information on GMA seeking asylum in the Dominican Republic, through its Ambassador (not to Manila)which could very well have been discussed in a full-blown hearing in the Supreme Court; it should notify parties in the regular mode, not through TV. Chaos may ensue.

Ad hominem is always sad. San Beda’s Florenz Regalado holds the bar record of 96.7% followed by Bobby de la Fuente with 95.95%. Flor served in the SC and had the reputation of being totally unapproachable. They taught us to stick to the high road. Lo cortes no quita lo valiente.

The presidency is in the commanding heights but the SC, without hearings, could only be a bivouac.

If government could not deal with the TRO, it was because the SC provided only GMA with same. This is not law as taught in San Beda.

I speak up in support of Leila, my fellow Bedan topnotcher. We are trained to take positions, firmly, as a matter of conviction, ready to face the consequences believing that in all things God be glorified. If there was no People Power last night in support of GMA, it may be because she has cried wolf all too often.

GMA had the basic human and constitutional right to due process but so has the State.

                                                                                  – former Senator Rene Saguisag

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This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin