SK is back with a blast! Ilocos Norte town SK get busy with beauty contest

Pagudpud SK
Pagudpud SK Officials pose with their winning bets.

THE REFORMED SK is back. It’s officials in Philippine barangays assumed office on July 1.

Much has been said about the reforms made in the new edition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, through Republic Act 10742 or the SK Reform Act,especially on how youth leaders have been empowered to better contribute in national development, thereby erasing the reputation it has sadly earned in years past—that it is irrelevant, corrupt, and a bane to an already bloated bureaucracy. Bringing SK back to life was a big challenge, but its believers, including my friend James Ventura, who is commissioner-at-large of the National Youth Commission, are holding their hopes high.

It seems like the youth leaders of Pagudpud town here in Ilocos Norte are up to the challenge. In their first days in office, they got themselves busy with their first assignment, their baptism of fire: a beauty contest. The town is celebrating its 64th Founding Anniversary, and SK officials in the different barangays were in charge of scouting for candidates and preparing them for competition, and in serving as ushers and production staff during the competition proper. I learned from my interview with Rex Benemerito Jr., the SK Federated President of Pagudpud, that these assignments were given to them by the Municipality’s Tourism Office. What kind of competition did they get busy with?

It’s actually the brainchild of the town mayor. Straight males get dressed and made up as women, inspired by the Paloma character in the epic television soap, Ang Probinsiyano. Ten contestants from different barangays vied for the title, Miss Paloma 2018. While the competition is already on its third year, Kevin Riveral, the SK chair of Brgy. 2 explained, “Kami po yung partner ng LGU para maging possible ulit ang Miss Paloma 2018.” (As the partner of the LGU, we—the  SK—made possible the restaging of Miss Paloma 2018.) Kevin said he is “so happy a naisabak kamin uray katugtugawmi pay laeng.” (We are so happy that we got to work immediately even if we have just assumed office.)

The event was a crowd drawer. Expectedly there was a lot of laughter as it’s an old, tried-and-tested formula to get Filipinos entertained by male cross-dressing. But what actually did Pagudpud achieve with this? Well, organizers say, it gave men the rare opportunity to experience what a woman goes through.  But isn’t it lame to have that mindset? Being a woman is certainly more than wearing heavy make up and high heels. You could, in fact, be a woman even if you have a different sense of fashion.

If at all, the pageant only perpetuates gender stereotypes. “It doesn’t promote gender sensitivity because the candidates are being a laughing stuff,” PJ Quitoriano, a well-distinguished young transgender from Pagudpud, notes. He also lamented that the show fell short of promoting neither the empowerment of women nor the LGBT. The same sentiment was echoed by the Head of the Committee on Gender and Development of the nationally acclaimed Sirib Ilokano Kabataan Association: “It only promotes the culture of domination because participants are reduced to being objects of laughter.”

I will leave it to you, dear reader, to assess the merits of the first activity Pagudpud’s youth leaders embarked on. I will be cruel if I don’t give them credit for their effort. Some of them (and I know this because I was their speaker on Public Service ethics during their mandatory SK training held in May) may actually be truly eager to serve and make a difference.

But they started on the wrong foot.

While SK is back to life, I maintain that there are things that should have remained dead.

I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Here comes the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School

House of Representatives

RA 10965

Expected to open next year in Laoag City, particularly in Brgy. Vira—a hilly village where large Fariñas estates are located—is the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School.  President Rodrigo in December signed Republic Act No. 10965, the law mandating its creation.

People had mixed feelings about this news. While the creation of a new, modern, well-funded science high school in Ilocos Norte is a welcome development, not a few are baffled with its name.

The most vocal critic is Board Member Vicentito Lazo who repeatedly pointed out in the sessions of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan that “a street, plaza, or government building could be named after a person only after 10 years after his death except when that person had attained highly exceptional achievements or when the cause of death is due to patriotism or in the service of men.” The new science high school is named after Congressman and Majority Floor Leader Rudy Fariñas’ son JR who perished in a vehicular accident in 2015.

I would not deal with JR’s worthiness for such an honor or whether other great men and women better deserve the distinction, lest I be accused of disrespecting the dead, something I am not inclined to do. The Fariñas family, through the good congressman known for being a devoted father, have all the right to honor their departed loved one by any means allowed by law. And the law creating this science high school is by no means a weak piece of legislation.

After all, it was the Majority Floor Leader together with no less than the Speaker of the House, Pantaleon Alvarez who introduced House Bill No. 5235 entitled, “An Act Establishing a National Science High School in the City of Laoag, Province of Ilocos Norte to be known as Laoag City National Science High School and Appropriating Funds Therefor.” Note here the originally proposed name of the school.

After going through the process in the Lower House, in August last year it was sent to the Senate, requesting for concurrence. After being read on First Reading, it was referred to the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture chaired by Senator Francis Escudero and the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Loren Legarda.

The joint committee recommended the bill’s approval without amendment and was thus presented on December 6 to the plenary for Second Reading through its sponsor, Senator Escudero. It must be noted that on that day, the senator made an omninus  sponsorship speech for 17 bills that seek to establish, separate, convert, and/or rename one elementary school and 16 secondary schools—including the Laoag City National Science High School.

In his explanatory note, Escudero posited that “Laoag City, being the capital of the Province of Ilocos Norte, deserves to have its own science high school to cater the needs of its growing number of elementary school graduates every academic year. The establishment of the Laoag City National Science High School aims to offer courses that focus on the fields of science, technology and mathematics. These courses will enable its students to be equipped with the proper training and adequate education for a science-oriented career. Thus, the Laoag City National Science High School will not only provide free and quality education but will also facilitate better opportunities for the future of the city’s youth.”

Normally, senators are given time to review proposed bills before the period of interpellation, but considering that the 17 bills are of local application and that local legislators, in this case the members of Congress who sponsored the bills, are “better informed and better equipped to make a judgment on these proposed bills,” the senators proceeded with the interpellation.

But no one stood during the interpellation and no amendments were proposed for any of the 17 bills… save for one. Senator Franklin Drilon made a manifestation proposing that the Laoag City National Science High School be named instead as Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School. This proposal was accepted by the Sponsor, and there being no objection, the Body approved the amendment to House Bill No. 5235. It was approved on Second Reading that day, and was subsequently approved on Third (and final) Reading on Dec. 11 through a unanimous vote.

On Dec. 13, HB 5235 was sent to the Office of the President of the Philippines. A few days after, Dec. 19, it was approved and signed into law by President Duterte, and became Republic Act No. 10965.

What I wanted to show here is that the law creating the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School clearly went through the process and had the overwhelming support of the legislature and the Philippine president.

Is it legal? Yes. Unless someone challenges R.A. 10965’s constitutionality in the Supreme Court where it is declared as unconstitutional, it is a law that must be enforced and respected. But will anyone challenge it before the High Court? And who?

I don’t think even Governor Imee Marcos will go at great lengths to challenge this in the Supreme Court. She is now busy in her senatorial run, and this is not the best time to be at loggerheads with Congressman Fariñas. The memories of the 7171 congressional probe are still fresh. In fact, the inquiry has not yet even been fully, finally terminated and thus remains a potent bargaining chip of Congressman Fariñas.

Granting that somebody brave would challenge the wisdom of the Legislature and the Executive Branches of Government and would actually file a case in the Supreme Court, such person would all be but a hopeless martyr, if not a fool, wasting time and resources, and not least because after the Sereno impeachment, who among the justices would wish upon themselves the ire of a major presidential ally such as Congressman Fariñas?

And so we can say now with certainty that the Rodolfo CG. Fariñas, Jr. National Science High School, barring any major political upheaval or popular dissent, will open next year. According to news reports, the initial science building will cost at least P110-M and will stand on a three-hectare government lot. Indeed, I have no doubts that Congressman Fariñas–especially because their family name, his beloved son’s name is at stake–will do everything within his vast powers to make it a good one, a great one, one hell of a model science high school in the country. And if this happens, the Ilocano learner will stand to benefit.

But this science high school, having been named the way it was named, will also be a publicly funded monument of a family’s love for a departed member. It will moreover be an unmistakeable proof of something we in this country already know and are doomed to endure for a longer time, perhaps for eternity unless we move towards political maturity: that politicians do things because they could.

What I owe MVF

Laoag City Vice Mayor Michael V. Fariñas
(Photo from philstar.com)

If there’s one blogger-journalist who has hit hardest on Michael V. Fariñas, both when he was mayor of Laoag and in his tenure as vice mayor cut short by a tragic accident last night, it could be me.

Over the years, I have written about him on a range of issues, nothing personal and all of public interest. Each time I’d do so, people would ask if I was not afraid. He was, after all, the leader of the city, a member of Ilocos Norte’s powerful family, and a man preceded by a certain reputation. Even my editor at The Ilocos Times—deeply concerned with the political repercussions it will have on our publisher who is now back in politics as a barangay captain—once edited out some lines about a throwback issue people today not dare talk about.

Was I afraid? I wasn’t. At all. I think Sir Michael fully embraced critics like me—and here I remember my late friend Steve Barreiro who also wrote explosive columns on MVF—as an important part of a democratic city. To his credit, MVF never caused injury nor harm to me or my family, and my commentaries notwithsatnding, he always flashed for me a smile and extended a firm handshake each time we cross paths. As he does to other people, he prepends my name with “Apo” as in “Apo Herdy.”

On one occasion some years ago, I told him: “Sir, you are my favorite mayor,” to which he replied with a chuckle, “Paborito a tirtiraen.” (You’re fond of hitting me.) Then we had a nice photo together. His wife, Mayor Chevylle and his kids are also very nice to me.

Last April, in what would be our last encounter, MVF visited us at home during the “last night” of the wake for my dad. Surrounded by barangay captains, including my brother Herry, he stayed for seven hours until almost the break of dawn. I sat right beside him for about half an hour during which he told me how he has always respected my thoughts and how he chooses not to get affected by criticisms and unfair accusations and how he prefers to “just do his job.”

Never that night or ever did he tell me to shut up or tone down.

I love living in a city where a person can freely and responsibly express views, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to the powerful. That is why as a dutiful son of Laoag, I share my thoughts and talents in the ways I know, always with pure intentions, always with humility, and a dash of courage.

MVF helped make that possible. He consciously made Laoag a fertile ground to write, a safe place to disagree, a conducive place for the practice of journalism.

I thus say that MVF, simply by being MVF—with all his human strengths and frailties—helped me nurture a career in writing.

For that, I am thankful.

So long, Sir Michael. Rest now. May God be with you.

Is Imee Marcos running for Senator?

By the looks of it, yes, Imee Marcos is seriously considering a senate run next year, 2019.

The governor, whose third term ends next year, has been going around provinces from Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan to Metro Manila cities, and, as I write this, to Iloilo where the Dinagyang Festival is ongoing.

Imee presses flesh in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija (Photo from the Imee Marcos Facebook page)

Once hesitant to run for a national post (she said she would rather go back to her first loves: filmmaking, graphic animation, and theater), Imee seems to be now considering the growing clamor for her to run for senator. Such clamor, I suspect, is getting stronger as the vice presidential protest of her brother Bongbong is at snail pace. Bongbong can’t run for the senate without jeopardizing his protest, and people want a Marcos in the national scene.

Imee is no stranger to legislative work. Prior to becoming governor, She was representative of the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte for 9 years. As governor, she focused on programs for education and youth empowerment, agriculture, economic development, tourism, and the advancement of clean energy, winning for Ilocos Norte a host of awards.

Whether her clash with Rudy Farinas—House Majority Floor Leader and himself a possible senatoriable—which led to congressional hearings would affect her chances remains to be seen, but judging by the very warm reception she experienced in places she has visited thus far, a senate seat is not beyond her reach.

Congressman Fariñas, non grata

persona

BY A resounding vote of 8, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Ilocos Norte in their regular session on June 27 declared Rudy Fariñas as persona non grata. The congressman was expectedly piqued, but he was right to point out in his statement that referring to someone as persona non grata is to say that “he or she is ostracized, and that such a person is for all intents and purposes culturally shunned, so as to be figuratively non-existent.” That exactly is what board members have done to him.

The term “persona non grata” is Latin for “a person not appreciated.” It was originally meant for diplomats and foreigners who have been deemed undesirable or unwelcome, but it is not the first time a Filipino citizen has been declared non grata in his own country.

Ramon Bautista was declared persona non grata by the Davao City Council for his hipon jokes in a party in the city during the celebration of Kadayawan Festival in 2014. Bautista joked that many women in the city are “hipon” which is a derogatory term for a person with a sexually appealing body but with a less attractive face.

Last year, the Sagguniang Panlalawigan of Pangasinan also declared Dr. Dexter Buted, president of the Pangasinan State University (PSU) as persona non grata after he snubbed the board’s three invitations to him and other university officials to appear before an inquiry.

But this indeed could be the first time a sitting congressman is declared persona non grata in his own province. What are its implications? Continue reading “Congressman Fariñas, non grata”

Rudy wins… and loses

photo from rappler.com

RUDY Fariñas is no doubt a brilliant lawyer and a skillful politician. He can amaze you with his analytical mind perfectly matched with his gift of gab. He can dazzle you with the wit and humor that go well with his good looks. This congressman, who loves to remind people that he is an Ateneo graduate and a bar topnotcher, can indeed make so-so lawyers look like total idiots.

I once wrote after his successful comeback to the national consciousness through the Corona impeachment trial that he should run for the Senate and that it will be a great disservice to the nation and a great injustice to his gifts if he doesn’t. And in another article after his glorious resurrection from political death, I sang my hallelujahs for the triumph of the human spirit. “You have seen the worst in me, now is time to see the best of me,” he said. And most of us believed him.

In 2010, he ran with Imee Marcos under the slate of One Ilocos Norte. Imee won as Governor. Rudy was elected congressman of the province’s First District. Such political union was short lived and in 2013, it was One Ilocos Norte no more.

But the rift between Rudy and Imee climaxed in recent weeks with the congressional investigations on the supposed misuse of R.A. 7171 funds. The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Committee, of which Rudy is part, alleged that some P66 million in funds intended for the welfare of tobacco framers were wrongfully used for the purchase of vehicles, and that there were obvious irregularities in procurement procedures.

I will leave the facts and legalities to the experts, for I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant. But let me give my two cents on who is winning in this political battle.

Rudy is winning. He has managed to keep six Ilocos Norte Capitol employees under detention for contempt. He has also thrice defied the Court of Appeals which is hearing the petition for habeas corpus filed by the detainees’ lawyers. I say “he”, and not the “Committee” or the “House” because, come on, we know that it is all Rudy’s orchestrations. The congressmen, afraid to lose positions and perks they enjoy if they draw the ire of the majority leader, will always toe the line. Although a political butterfly who gracefully fluttered his wings from the Yellows to the current administration, Rudy enjoys the trust and confidence, not only of the House Speaker, but President Duterte himself. And with all his feats, we can say, with just a little exaggeration, that Rudy Fariñas is master of the universe. Continue reading “Rudy wins… and loses”

Why Senator Miriam chose MMSU

 

TRANSCRIPT:

Last month, nag-usap-usap kami ng aking staff saan kami mag-inaugurate o mag-launch ng aming presidential at vice-presidential. Some suggested the North, some the South because I come from the Visayas, some wanted the rally or whatever event might happen inside Metro Manila, some outside Metro Manila. Pero bandang huli, dahil marami na masyado ang nagsasalita, ka’ko, dalhin niyo ako sa campus where I have always been most comfortable with an audience, but only a campus consisting of ordinary students. I want a campus with a high IQ.

(Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago at Mariano Marcos State University, Batac City, Feb. 9, 2016)

 

And, of course, the obligatory pick-up lines here:

=) =) =)

 

P-Noy mentions Laoag twice in SONA but has never visited Ilocos Norte as president

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Then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino in Laoag City, 2010
Then presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino in Laoag City, 2010

NOT ONCE but twice. President B.S. Aquino mentioned Laoag City two times in his State of the Nation Address on July 28 at the Batasan in Quezon City.
First is when he announced that NEDA (which, incidentally, is headed by an Ilocos Norte native and MMSU alumnus—Sec. Arsenio Balisacan) has approved the Laoag City bypass road; second when he illustrated the extent of national highways his administration has built: it can connect the cities of Laoag and Zamboanga four times, he said.

It is quite refreshing to note that Laoag City bears an imprint in the President’s consciousness, yet he has never come here since he became president. I am not sure why, but it could be two things: maybe he thinks Ilocos is hostile ground for him or, in reality, he doesn’t really care enough about this part of his kingdom. To her credit, Governor Imee Marcos has always spoken well about P-Noy, and would share stories about their experiences in congress—they being together in the opposition during the time of Gloria Arroyo.

P-Noy did come to Ilocos though when he needed our votes, and while he did not rank first in the polls here, with Joseph Estrada and Manny Villar besting him, it was not bad. Compared to her late mother who got zero in a number of precincts in the 1986 snap elections, P-Noy got from Ilocanos a good number of votes, and that included mine and, I guess, most of my colleagues in The Ilocos Times who bought his anti-corruption tack: Mitch Esmino, Steve Barreiro, and Jun-B Ramos.

Not only did I vote for P-Noy; I wore yellow for almost two months preceding the 2010 presidential elections. But I have not worn those shirts in a long while. It is odd that he mentioned Laoag twice regarding roads which connect us to the rest of the country while he has seemingly disconnected himself from us since we became part of the body he collectively calls “Boss.”

I may be P-Noy’s boss, but Nora Aunor is my idol. As a Noranian, I was deeply hurt when the country’s one and only Superstar was rejected by Malacañang as national artist. I hope it had nothing to do with Ate Guy’s glorious Ilocos Norte visit and her being declared as honorary daughter. Only a paranoid drug addict would do that.

Continue reading “P-Noy mentions Laoag twice in SONA but has never visited Ilocos Norte as president”

Rockstar Governor

If she wins as governor, her critics warned in 2010, she will probably spend more time in Metro Manila than in the Ilocos Norte Capitol.  “She will be bored here,” they said matter-of-factly. Sure, Imee Marcos had served as congresswoman for nine years but that job meant more time spent in the nation’s capital.

Four years and one reelection later, the cynics, or whatever have remained of them, are silent. Many may now even be singing a different tune. Looking at how things are going on for the province, it has become increasingly difficult not to admire Imee Marcos as a leader. Highly popular and well-loved, she has attained rockstar status never before seen in this part of the country. Here are 10 reasons why:

1.      Hands-on leadership, good governance

To begin with, Imee has consistently proven, both in moments of joy and in times of disaster, that she is a hands-on governor. Even young employees at the Capitol are having difficulty keeping pace with the lady leader who is known to work long hours even on weekends. “Her energy is unbelievable,” says a colleague at the provincial press corps.

Resulting from her hard work, Ilocos Norte has been constantly identified as among the best governed provinces in the country. It also holds the distinction of being the first Philippine province to attain full ISO certification.

Governor Marcos during a flag-raising ceremony
Governor Marcos during a flag-raising ceremony (NOTE: Most photos in this article are from websites and social media accounts maintained by the Ilocos Norte Provincial Government.)
Imee visits calamity victims.
Imee visits calamity victims.

Continue reading “Rockstar Governor”

Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty

Orlando Cardinal Quevedo (photo by PGIN)

First, dear karikna, let me let you realize how powerful this man is. In a church of 1.2 billion members, he belongs to the top brass. He is one of only 117 existing cardinal electors (cardinals below 80 who are qualified to elect a pope) of the Roman Catholic Church, and one of only two in this country of almost 80 million Catholics. That makes this man one in many millions. Considered a “Prince of the Church” vested by the Vatican not only with religious powers but also with political might, His Eminence Orlando Cardinal Quevedo is definitely an influential man.

Last Sunday, March 31, the 75-year old church leader visited his hometown to the grandest hero’s welcome ever seen in Ilocos, next only to the arrival of President Ferdinand Marcos’ remains in 1993. Quevedo was born in Laoag City in 1939 to parents who are both natives of nearby town Sarrat. The family later on transferred to Marbel, South Cotabato. He makes history as the first cardinal from Mindanao, and the first Ilocano, too.

I must say, however, that though he is a kailian, I was disappointed upon hearing his appointment as Cardinal last January. To explain why, let me refresh your memory. Continue reading “Cardinal Quevedo’s questionable loyalty”

‘Naimas nga agserbi’

riknakem.jpgNear midnight of Oct. 28, my Uncle Gerry in Hawaii posted a lengthy note at the Labayog Clan Facebook page. There was good news for the clan. (For the curious, yes, Labayog is the La in La Yumul.) My brother was elected as chairman of Brgy. 7-A, Laoag City where his family has lived for around 25 years. I reside in nearby Brgy. 5. The following is Uncle Gerry’s post quoted verbatim.

“Wow! Again, the Labayog Clan made history. Herry Labayog Yumul is elected as kapitan.

“If you are a Laoagueño, West Riverside is like a municipality within a city. It covers Barangays 1 to 10. Barangay 7-A is like its capital, being the center of the densely populated West Riverside.”

“Herry, who has the heart of a leader, deserves the position. When I attended his graduation in Baguio City, I already saw in him the makings of a leader. When his name was called, there was a thunderous applause and standing ovation. He even captured the heart of the most beautiful co-civil engineering graduate and now his wife Gina. Sabi nga nila, may inalat si Herry.

“He practiced briefly in construction supervision. But his salary was not enough to raise a family. With 3 children to feed and send to school, his salary was not enough so he ventured in business. As a market vendor, the hundreds of vendors in Ilocos Norte were amazed of his character and personality and elected him as president of the Ilocos Norte Ambulant Vendors Association. He had represented them in dialogue with government officials for a system beneficial to both sides. He is currently president of the Laoag City Night Market Vendors Association.

“In 2010, he ran as a barangay official, and was overwhelmingly elected. In this election, the outgoing Brgy. Captain made Herry his personal choice to lead 7-A. Even high-ranking provincial and city officials gave him their blessings. Thankfully, he was also endorsed by the Iglesia ni Cristo.

“In his campaign sorties, members of the Labayog clan extended their all-out support. They were with him everywhere, rain or shine. The Pink Ladies—composed of Mafae, Mafel, and Girlie (Herry’s nephews)—were even Branded as EBB or Eat Bulaga Babes. I call them Herry’s Angels.

“I laughed at one of their campaign slogans. ‘Ibotos tayo a Kapitan ni Tito Herry, naimas nga agserbi’ (Iboto natin si Tito Herry, masarap siyang magsilbi.) And they follow it up with, ‘Uray damagenyo ken Tita Gina.’ (Kahit tanungin niyo pa kay Tita Gina.) Dinamagko ken Gina, kasta unay ti katkatawana. (Nung tinanong kay Gina, sobrang tawa niya.) Continue reading “‘Naimas nga agserbi’”

Farewell, Mayor Ventura. Be a good citizen of heaven now.

ceasr old selfVentura: One-man campaign teamcesar with me

When our newspaper was doing a feature on the Laoag City mayoralty candidates in this year’s local elections, I insisted on including Cesar Ventura, a former mayor who was regarded by many as nuisance. Naturally, my colleagues smirked at the idea of putting him side by side with whom they believed were legitimate candidates. I believed in fair play.

But I had respect for the man, the only politician to beat a Fariñas in Laoag City, for I grew up knowing him as a good mayor, a no-nonsense leader who made things work. He was a builder. During his term, I had a one-week stint as a junior city councilor. I was in high school then.

Even after his political glory has faded, he always had this burning desire for good governance. He would talk to me to make sumbong everytime he had the chance, and I always intently listened, and thanked him.

Last Wednesday, October 16, he succumbed to renal cancer after a long battle against the disease. He was reportedly confined for a long time at the St. Luke’s Medical Center until his family decided to bring the former mayor home to his beloved city. He died at the Laoag City General Hospital.

Farewell, mayor. Be a good citizen of heaven now.

And please make sumbong to God about the crooks down here.

riknakem.jpg

*****

Also, this post by blauearth, In Memory of Former Laoag Mayor Cesar A. Ventura.

Notes from Aurora Park

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Photo by blauearth (http://blauearth.com)
Photo by skyblue/Ritchelle Blanco dejolde
Photo by skyblue/Ritchelle Blanco dejolde
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Photo by blauearth (http://blauearth.com)
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photo by blauearth (http://blauearth.com)
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photo by Blauearth (http://blauearth.com)
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photo by blauearth (http://blauearth.com)
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Katrina Valera-Mandac (photo by blauearth  http://blauearth.com)
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Ilocos Allstar (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com)
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Emil Tanagon (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com)

LJC

University students (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com)
University students (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com)
Steve Barreiro (photo by Blauearth http://blauearth.com)
Steve Barreiro (photo by Blauearth http://blauearth.com)
Bikers unite! Rex Alejandro (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com
Bikers unite! Rex Alejandro (photo by blauearth http://blauearth.com
Lady Jaja Colleen
Lady Jaja Colleen

“Parmeken ti kinababoy, ibalud dagiti birkog!”

That, dear karikna, was the cry of hundreds of Ilocanos who joined the anti-pork barrel gathering held at the Aurora Freedom Park last Monday, Aug. 26. Dubbed as the Pork O’Clock March, the gathering drew representatives from various sectors to peacefully but loudly express indignation against mammoth government corruption. Incidentally, this rally for the abolition of the pork barrel was staged near the monument marking the abolition of the tobacco monopoly in 1882.

Like the Million People March in Luneta and other protest activities around the country, the Laoag event did not have any organizers, only facilitators. I and a couple of other writers met Friday, three days before the event, to talk about how the Ilocano voice can be heard in what was already looming as a nationwide day of protest. We in this part of the country are often perceived as passive on issues, but no, not this time, we said. We know that Ilocanos are as furious as the rest of our countrymen, only that there is no avenue where we could express our collective fury. Continue reading “Notes from Aurora Park”

The Pork O’clock March

Yes, we Ilocanos may longganisa, bagnet and dinakdakan, but we sure abhor this kind of pork. And so we cannot be silent. And so, like the rest of the nation, our voices will be heard.

pork

For, as Edmund Burke puts it, all that is needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.

See you, dear karikna.

9 senators on my ballot

I wish to share with you, dear karikna, my choices for senator in the coming polls. I am doing this not to try to influence you in anyway but simply to contribute to the public discourse on what kind of senators we should have and deserve.

Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño (Makabayan)

It’s time for a true leftist in our Senate. This this will make our democracy even more vibrant and the Senate more representative.

Teddy visited our home when he came over to Laoag City, and during the simple dinner my family prepared for him and some academics and journalists I invited, everyone was impressed by his progressive views on issues. The discussions were intellectually stimulating and honest, so honest that he admitted towards the end what he and his party thinks is still the ultimate solution to our country’s ills: armed revolution.

Though it is possible that his party, which has decided to bring the struggle from the streets to the legislative halls—is using public funds to buy arms in their effort to overthrow the government, I am not really afraid, for communism is today is really more an idea than a possibility.

Because the idea of an armed revolution and a resulting classless society has become impossible in our globalized, highly capitalized world—and I am sure Teddy and his comrades, deep in their hearts, know this—social justice, human dignity, and nationalism can be better advanced in nonviolent ways, and which this young man I am sure will do in the Senate as he has done in the Lower House.

Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (Akbayan)

She has fought, in a very fashionable manner, for agrarian reform, environmental protection, universal health care, and good governance. She is one of the prominent figures behind the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, which she co-authored during her stint in congress. I also appreciate her candor in supporting the legalization of divorce, which I really hope would happen soon so couples can stop circumventing annulment, a measure more expensive and painful.

Edward Hagedorn (Independent)

It’s time the nation benefits from the gifts of Edward Hagedorn who has transformed Puerto Princesa into the top destination and eco-tourism model that it is today.

Over the past two decades, this Erap kaloka-like has proven to be one of the more progressive local leaders in the country. His leadership dictum, which is directed towards striking a harmony between the environment and development, is worth reflecting into pieces of legislation to be abided by other local government units.

Juan Edgardo Angara (LDP)

I appreciate the good work he does on educational reform and job generation as chairperson of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

If he maintains his independent-mindedness and keeps his integrity—much of which he owes to his father though he has proven his own worth over the years—intact , he could be one of the better senators of our time.

 

Jamby Madrigal (Liberal)

I worked for Jamby for two years shortly after I graduated from college.  I initially had doubts about voting for her on account of trivial things I have come to know, but, after thorough discernment, I decided to include her on my list in recognition of her work ethic, passion for reform, and her advocacies for the welfare of women and children.

She works hard, works fast, and stands courageously for her convictions. And I am glad she now offers herself as Jamby, no longer as a Judy Ann Santos twin sister.

Grace Poe-Llamanzares (Independent)

In 2004, I voted for FPJ who, we now know, was rightfully elected by our people as president of the Republic, but was robbed of his victory by former fake president and now-prisoner Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

I must admit po, I will vote po for this very respectful lady because it is really the least we can do po to give FPJ what he rightfully deserves po. It also helped that Ms. Poe’s stint at MTRCB was refreshing. Under her leadership, the agency has professionally performed its primary role of upholding the state’s values—as reflected in movies and television—without sounding moralistic in a Manoling Morato or La Guardia kind of way.

Ramon Magsaysay, Jr. (Liberal)

This is not because some middle-aged, chinky eyed actor known as Ser Chief has endorsed him.

Jun Magsaysay’s  track record in the Senate (1995-2007) was marked with integrity, diligence and competence in serving the public interest.

Particularly commendable was his firm determination to uncover, document, and recommend the prosecution of accountable public officials in the nefarious P750 million fertilizer fund scam under the Arroyo government.

Son of the president known as a “Man of the Masses,” he supported legislated substantial salary increases and increased support for Filipino farmers. “Those who have less in life must have more in law,” said the father. I am glad the son has taken this to heart.

Eddie Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas)

The guy really wants to serve (he lost his bid for the presidency not once, but twice) and he really seems more upright than most sitting senators. While I am not against religious leaders running for public office, I hope that this former activist, former atheist, former academic, currently evangelist would not shove his religion down my throat.

Bam Aquino (Liberal)

I must admit, I had a hard time deciding on this one. I am not a fan of political dynasties, and having a President’s cousin elected in the Senate may, to some extent, compromise the independence of the Upper Chamber.

But I decided to vote for this guy anyway because he has proven that he is an outstanding, well-meaning young person who happens to be an Aquino. The way he expresses his stand on issues is dignified and clear. It will be refreshing to see him in a Senate that is also home to the likes of Lito “Ben Tumbling” Lapid, Bong “Alyas Pogi” Revilla, and, soon, God bless the Philippines, Nancy Binay.   ##

Battle for Laoag: Roger the Crusader vs ‘Sweet’ Chevylle

(The Ilocos Times and riknakem.net are embarking on a voter information campaign dubbed “Keddeng ti Umili 2013”. In this issue, we are featuring the mayoralty candidates in Laoag City. News articles on the interviews, conducted mainly by your karikna, are published in the paper.)

She is sugar, spice, and everything nice. She answers even the most controversial questions but knows how to get though them unscathed. She pledges to speak ill of no one, even if her main political opponent is having a field day throwing mud.

He is stiff and stern. It is not difficult to be afraid of him. And having a reputation of literally slapping people, which he does not categorically deny, is of no help. But he came prepared for the interview, bringing with him documents proving that the current administration led by his nephew is anything but sugar, spice, and everything nice.

chevylle roger

It has happened elsewhere, family members torn widely apart by politics, but we did not see it coming here in Laoag City. The Fariñas Family has always seemed close-knit and formidable until now. There was hope against hope that they would resolve their issues among themselves, but in politics, dear karikna, hope has its limits. And so it has come to this.

Roger accuses the couple—Mayor Michael and ABC President Chevylle—of corruption and ill-gotten wealth. He cites a newly constructed house, which he values at 80 million pesos, condominium units in Manila, and luxury cars, among others, as proof of shenanigans. He decries the deterioration of peace and order, overpriced but losing government ventures such as the Laoag City General Hospital, and dirty public spaces which was unseen of during his term when the Laoag first gained fame as the Philippines’cleanest and greenest component city .

roger with me

To all these, Chevylle has ready answers. In her husband’s nine-year stint, she says, Laoag City has reaped various recognitions, including the ‘Seal of Good Housekeeping’ from the Department of Interior and Local Government. She argued that “If there was corruption, it would have been known because the ‘seal’ guarantees efficiency and transparency in governance.” She says their house, located at Brgy. Vira in the city’s outskirts, costs only eight million pesos at most while denying other properties Roger asserts they have amassed. While enumerating their various businesses which contribute to their family income, this advertising graduate of Miriam College says she is not materialistic and is content with a simple lifestyle. She proceeds to show a crucifix pendant, a gift from his late father, which she says is her main piece of jewelry. Continue reading “Battle for Laoag: Roger the Crusader vs ‘Sweet’ Chevylle”

Tempest at Holy Spirit Laoag

In my senior year in high school, I ran for president of our student government. I knew I was qualified for the post and had all the best intentions. My mind brimming with ideas for programs and projects for my schoolmates, I really tried to campaign hard so I could win. I made very creative and informative flyers, did a room-to-room campaign, and smiled wider and more often than I usually would.

I lost by one vote.

The frustratingly close margin notwithstanding, I was a graceful loser. I conceded defeat, congratulated Henry Barroga—my opponent, winner by a single vote—and pledged him my support.

In high school, Henry smoked, drank frequently, had mediocre grades, and was more passionate as a lover than a leader. But his father, the highly respected Nol Datoc, who served as Laoag City Sangguniang Panlungsod secretary for a long time, talked to me, with his right arm on my teenaged shoulder. “My son is really a good boy deep inside, Herdy. Please help him become a good leader, too.”

I remained active in student organizations and collaborated with Henry on some projects. I still tried to make a difference in my own sphere of influence. I did not need to prove anything; I really just wanted to serve. At the end of the school year, I ended up being chosen over Henry for the prestigious Gerry Roxas Leadership Award.

I would see Henry again after many years. He is now successful in his career and has a happy family life. We had fun reminiscing the past. I was deeply moved by our mutual respect for each other.

Indeed, it is commendable to accept defeat in elections, especially in the Philippine context where most politicians proclaim only two things: either they won or they were cheated. Bowing to the electoral judgment of the majority is one important democratic principle we should thus seriously teach our children.

But what, dear karikna, if the elections were not clean, honest, and orderly? What if this democratic exercise itself casts doubt on the sovereign will?

These questions come to fore as there have been news reports circulating on the tempestuous student elections held last February 8 at the Holy Spirit Academy of Laoag. Continue reading “Tempest at Holy Spirit Laoag”

On SK absenteeism

At the risk of being suspected once more by Del, a valued blog follower I have not met, as a propagandist of the Fariñases, let me say that I only have respect for my congressman, Rodolfo Fariñas, And this respect extends to his adorable kids.

In the months leading to the 2010 elections, then serving as panelist in a debate-forum participated in by congressional candidates in Ilocos Norte’s first district, I noted that while Fariñas had views totally different from mine regarding two issues I deemed important, namely the Reproductive Health Bill and the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, his brilliance and eloquence make it impossible to ignore his views. Surely, this bar topnotcher, unlike Iskul Bukol alumnus and Philippine Senator Tito Sotto, has a brilliant mind.

Recent developments, however, lead me to write, yet again, about the Sangguniang Kabataan which, incidentally, is headed here in this province by JR (Rodolfo Jr), one of the congressman’s lovely kids.

Based on a report filed by The Ilocos Times staff reporter Leilanie Adriano, JR, the incumbent SK Ilocos Norte Federated president and ex-officio provincial board member, as in the cases of previous youth officials before him, has recorded the most number of absences at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan sessions.

Every Monday afternoon, the young Fariñas’ seat and table at the back row of the session hall is unoccupied, and based on records of the provincial board’s secretariat, the young Farinas has been absent for 42 sessions since he assumed his post in February 2011. The board’s attendance record shows that Farinas has a total of 42 absences (official leaves of absences) and two missed sessions while on official business. Having attended only 38 sessions, he has been more not there than there.

Still according to Leilanie’s report, on several occasions wherein JR was present, like on August 28, his latest attendance at the provincial board, he stayed only for a few minutes and left the session hall while other board members were deliberating for the passage of draft provincial ordinances and resolutions scheduled in the agenda.

Leilanie’s research reveals that, to date, Farinas has so far sponsored at least 12 provincial resolutions, all endorsements for the conversion of roads in various municipalities of the first district of Ilocos Norte, his father’s turf.

JR’s chronic absences prompted Vice Governor Angelo Marcos Barba, the board’s presiding officer, to soon hold a meeting to tackle about Farinas’ absences. “The law is the law. We will adhere to our local government code and act on it,” Barba reportedly said shortly after noticing Farinas’ absence during the September 3 regular session.

However, in the case of the Sangguniang Kabataan, Cong. Farinas, when asked by reporters in his press conference at the Laoag City hall on the same day, argued that the SK is different as they have “autonomy” as provided in their constitution and by-laws. While acknowledging that there is a ground to remove an absentee member of the Sanggunian, Fariñas, who has one of the best attendance records in Congress (a perfect attendance in 2010, only seven absences in 2011), said “this doesn’t apply to the SK as they are merely ex-officio members.”

“The Sangguniang Panlalawigan can only remove regular members, the elected councilors. The SK has its own by-laws. My son is 16 years old. Ana’t trabahona nga SK president ket agbasa met Manila? (What work can he do as SK president when he is studying in Manila?) He is even a minor, he cannot decide without my permission,” the older Fariñas, whose two other sons have likewise previously served as SK Federated presidents of Ilocos Norte and Laoag City, said on record.

The congressman underscored that only the SK members themselves, if they want to, can remove him. “Not even the president or the office of the Department of Interior and Local Government can remove an SK official because it is a violation of their autonomy,” he added.

While referring to the Ilocos Norte board led by the vice governor, Farinas quipped, “Dida koma ammo’t ar-aramidenda no awan tay barok? As youth representative, saling-pusa da lang dagita” (Won’t they know what to do without my son? As youth representatives, they (the SK) are just saling pusa), he said.

Personally, dear karikna, I do not push for JR’s removal from office, and I am not even amenable of having him punished for prioritizing his A.B. Sociology studies at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila. Indeed, it should make us all proud that this young Ilocano is doing well as a college student and also as a talent of ABS-CBN’s Star Magic.

Still, I am reviving my plea for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan, and the Congressman’s passionate defense of his son may have just strengthened this cause. Continue reading “On SK absenteeism”

Pax you, fratmen

In San Beda College’s official seal, the Latin word ‘pax’ appears prominently. The word is also engraved in various campus structures as it is supposedly etched in the heart of Bedans who are, as our hymn goes, “men of prayer, work, and peace.”

But my dear Alma Mater shocked the nation last week with reasons other than peace. Marc Andrei Marcos, a freshman law student, died in initiation rites under the bloody hands of men he wanted to be his ‘brods’. The incident, which happened in a farm somewhere in Dasmariñas, Cavite, was believed to have been participated in by over thirty members of the Lex Leonum Fraternity. Marcos, black and blue in various parts of his body, was brought to the hospital not by his would-have-been brods, but by two farm helps.

What aggravates the nation’s grief and fury is that only five months ago, another Bedan law student, Marvin Reglos, suffered the same fate under the Lambda Rho Beta fraternity.

As expected, CHED chair Patricia Licuanan condemned “in the strongest terms” the death of Marcos. She reminded the college of its “heavy responsibilities and duties under RA 8049 or the Anti-Hazing Law.” Other schools, particularly the UP and the Ateneo, have also had similar episodes of fraternity violence, each time fueling public uproar but only to be forgotten after the issue subsides, no thanks to the Filipino’s short-term memory coupled with the ningas-cogon vice.

San Beda has responded by saying that it does not recognize fraternities, sororities or similar organizations. Since they are not recognized, the Benedictine-run institution said that it could not submit to CHED a “certified list of officers and members of such organizations.”

Meanwhile, administration lawmakers urged CHED to enforce a strict “no-hazing policy” in schools as the Filipino people mourn for the death of yet another young man who had a full and bright life ahead.

Before admission to San Beda, I had to sign a contract stating that I could be expelled if the college finds out I am a member of any fraternity. I really did not find any need to join one. Among most active student leaders in my batch, I did not lack belongingness nor self-esteem. But then I was in undergraduate San Beda. I knew our law school was different; joining fraternities there are more of norm than exception They hold activities in the open and display banners bearing their groups’ Latin names even in interschool activities like bar operations. Today, San Beda reportedly bans fraternities in law school though I doubt if administrators seriously believe it is possible.

Banning fraternities or hazing, however, is only a part of the solution. Making it less appealing is the more difficult task.

An aspiring lawyer perceives membership in a fraternity as ticket to legal success. The exclusivity and influence of a group proves beneficial not only in ensuring survival in law school but even more when one has become a lawyer who finds connections handy in cases he handles (e.g. when the judge is one’s brod). Having passed the initiation, after risking life and limb, the neophyte becomes a full-fledged member of the fraternity, part of the old boys’ network. “The pain lasts a few days, but the perks are forever,” this explains the resilience of hazing as a law-fraternity practice despite RA 8049.

In 2010, Jejomar Binay credited his vice presidential success to the support he got from the Alpha Phi Omega. In one episode of the impeachment trial of Renato Corona, widely watched by aspiring lawyers, fraternity prestige was proudly displayed by the senate president himself. When Rep. Raul Daza stood up to introduce himself as prosecutor, Presiding Senator-Judge Juan Ponce Enrile formally acknowledged him, and fondly called him “brod.” Enrile then quickly turned to the senior defense counsel, Serafin Cuevas, and likewise referred to him as “brod.” Broadly smiling, the venerable defense lawyer impishly nodded to the chair, and forthwith called out the other “brods” among the senator-judges – Senators Edgardo Angara and Franklin Drilon.

Public officials cannot in good conscience condemn fraternity violence while becoming poster boys, wittingly or otherwise, of these barbaric groups. We are in dire need of statesmen like former Senator Jovito Salonga who in 2007 resigned from his fraternity, Sigma Rho, which was implicated in the death by hazing of a UP student. Any politician who does a Salonga today deserves our vote.

Until then, ‘pax’ would remain as elusive as justice is in this country where lawyers turn liars propagating the fraternal mystique.

*****

The first opinion column I ever wrote, and that was in high school, was against fraternities very active then in Northern Christian College. It’s title: “Mga anak ng frating.”

Obviously, fratmen were unhappy with it, and even before the school paper was circulated, the picture in my column was defaced in almost every copy, with the permission of a security guard who turned out to be their supporter. Alarmed, people began warning me about possible danger. But I was not afraid.

Then one afternoon, in a street adjacent to the campus’ main building, four teenage boys suddenly circled me as I was walking home. With my head locked in the muscled arms of a gangster, my face was on the receiving end of powerful jabs. While I tasted blood dripping from my nose, I saw nothing but black, except stars and twittering birds circling my head (the kind of which I thought only appeared in cartoons). I was a helpless punching bag until members of the Samahang Ilocano came to the rescue. They shooed away my attackers.

I was thankful to S.I., of course. God knows what more injuries I could have sustained if they did not come. Yes, I was grateful, but only until I figured that the four action stars were their brods from INNHS, a nearby school. All of them arranged the plan so that I would have a debt of gratitude to them. Bravo.

A couple of months after, a riot erupted in the campus, killing one student and injuring a security guard. Only then did administrators ban fraternities on campus.

As Rudy as it could get

I received a text message from someone thanking me for an article I wrote the other week.  It read, “Herdy, my son showed me your post, ‘Senator Fariñas.’ I am humbled by your kind words. Thank you so much! All in God’s time!!”

I did not know how to respond to the message. Should I have said, ‘You’re welcome, sir’? But I was only expressing my thoughts, speaking out loud about the best senator today we should have. So I put off sending a reply, and then I got busy with a lot of things, including the opening of classes and the reprinting of The He(a)rd Mentality which is now sold out in bookstores.

But the other day I got a call from a Capitol staff, asking me if they got my number right. The congressman wanted to confirm, I was told. Then I received another call from the politician’s son, checking if I received his dad’s message. Shortly after, the congressman sent another message of thanks, to which I finally decided to reply: “My pleasure, sir. Will you kindly inform us when your schedule is not so tight so we local writers and bloggers can host dinner for you soon?” It was three in the afternoon. He replied right away, inviting us for dinner that very night, and insisting that he hosts it. He said he’d invite our colleagues from radio as well, lest he be “accused of favoritism.”

So we found ourselves at the Golden Cow Restaurant in Laoag (original location was at their house in Brgy. Barit, but there was a paint job going on) for a night of spirited storytelling and sharing of insights by arguably one of the most revered politicians in the country today: Congressman Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas, he of the Corona impeachment fame.

Apparently, it was the first time Fariñas was talking to the local media regarding his experience in the successful removal of the chief justice from office. There were, dear karikna a lot of amusing “off the record” tidbits I could not share with you, but based on them, I could surmise the following: Continue reading “As Rudy as it could get”

MLQ3 to meet Ilocos Norte bloggers

Manuel L. Quezon III

Malacañang Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III, grandson of the Commonwealth president, is coming to the province on May 4 for a couple of engagements. Himself a blogger, he wishes to meet Ilocos Norte bloggers in the afternoon. I am helping his staff identify participants, and I have so far listed twelve, aside from myself.

  1. Tina Tan – blauearth.com
  2. Edwin Antonio – ilocandiatreasures.com
  3. Ericke Tan – surprisinglykitsch.com
  4. Shermon Cruz – ilocosfutures.wordpress.com
  5. Guien Garma – guiengarma.wordpress.com
  6. Marianne Pasion – maryaneeephotography.blogspot.com
  7. Tricia Domingo – triciadomingo.blogspot.com
  8. Sherene Ruiz – mylifeneverbeeneasy.blogspot.com
  9. GD Baltazar – iamthesupergd.wordpress.com
  10. Jonas Paul dela Cruz – simplejonas.wordpress.com
  11. Peter La Julian – pedroblogspotcom-peter.blogspot.com
  12. Ritchelle Blanco Dejolde – resurrectingtheilocanospirit.wordpress.com

I have met Manolo Quezon on several occasions, especially when I was still teaching at Colegio de San Juan de Letran, the alma mater of his illustrious lolo. At the Intramuros school, the Quezon family always graces the August birthday celebration of the Ama ng Wikang Pambansa. I am a fan of The Explainer, his television show where issues are discussed with great detail and insight. Also, he is supportive of the Philippine Blog Awards where I have been a national finalist three years in a row in the society, politics, and history category. I really look forward to May 4.

This is the first time bloggers here are coming together, and I am thinking of finally initiating the Ilocos Norte Bloggers Commune. In other parts of the country, bloggers have long organized their respective societies which allow them to initiate activities and write for common causes and advocacies. Now is time to do it here.

Do you know of any other serious blogger who might be interested to join the activity?

Official Smoking

A Laoag City executive was unabashed in smoking in full public view during grand parades in last month’s Pamulinawen Festival. While school boys and girls passed by to show respect for the VIPs, there he was at the middle of the stage, puffing no end, stick after stick. And he was even seated beside the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation chair, a minor.

Don’t get me wrong, I admire this public servant, as he has received prestigious awards, for him and for the city, for his outstanding leadership. His productivity even increased when, lately, he is said to have controlled his drinking problem, which is, or was, one of his very few waterloos. Given all his achievements, he has my respect.

However, I fervently hope our leaders really become more sensitive in this respect. Come on, smoking is not really something we could be proud of. I would not urge the city official to quit the vice as he has his own mind and we respect it. But, smoking in public is just so off, especially if you are a person looked up to by many. Presidents Aquino and Obama are known smokers, but they are never seen engaging in the vice. Indeed, gone are the days when senators were allowed to smoke during legislative sessions, and gone, too, are the advertisements that make us believe that cigarettes help one become better in sports or in hooking up with girls. Smoking, dear karikna, is just so out of fashion. Continue reading “Official Smoking”

OPEN

I brought my kids to the Open Capitol activity held Feb. 2 in celebration of the 194th Founding Anniversary of the Province of Ilocos Norte. Eighty Accountancy Students enrolled in Sociology 1 (Society and Culture, which I teach) formed part of the estimated 7,000 visitors who trooped to the Capitol that day. The tour to the province’s seat of power was timely as we were just about to begin our classroom discussions on government as a social institution.

Here, dear karikna, are some of the observations and insights of my students. Continue reading “OPEN”

Super Imee

Okay, the title may sound hard sell at first, but you just have to talk to people who saw her in action when Typhoon Mina pounded Ilocos to believe this is apt.

“Ma’am, pahinga naman po kayo, hindi po kayo Superwoman,” a young staff had to remind Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos who had a maximum two hours of sleep in the two days Mina unleashed her wrath in the Saluyot Republic.

She would be in one town talking to municipal and barangay officials one minutes and, faster than you can say “I love you, Imee,” she would be seen in yet another town consoling a widow. And these are not just photo-op visits. Manang Imee personally made calls to coordinate with various government agencies, inspected damaged infrastructure and crops, and made sure relief goods reached the intended recipients.

But believe me, dear karikna, her presence alone was even more valuable than relief goods. When Manang Imee visits a place, observes a media colleague, “people feel no longer alone and neglected… somehow, they feel safe.” Oh, yes, the lady radiates sunshine in the middle of a storm and a nasty tornado.

Imee checking on victims in Sarrat (photo from Imee Marcos facebook page)

Young and dynamic, the Capitol’s media staff were quick to post pictures and updates on Facebook to reassure Ilocanos, here and in diaspora, that government is responding well to the situation. Deeply moved, Ilocanos in Hawaii and elsewhere showered Manang Imee’s facebook page with messages of gratitude and admiration. Continue reading “Super Imee”

Imeemadness

Hindi ako mahilig makinig sa mga talumpati ng mga pulitiko. Karamihan kasi sa mga ito ay nakakabobo, nakakatorta ng utak. ‘Yung iba nga, mukhang maging sila ay hindi naiintindihan ang pinagsasasabi; malamang ay ipinagawa lang nila ang kanilang speech sa pipitsuging ghost writer na nangongopya lang naman mula sa Internet. At madalas, halos kalahati ng speech ay pagbati sa mga ibang opisyal at VIP na dumalo sa okasyon, walang patumanggang paghihimuran ng puw*t.

Subali’t busog na busog ako sa aking pagdalo sa State of the Province Address (SOPA) ni Manang Imee noong nakaraang Miyerkules, June 29, sa Ilocano Heroes Hall. At nabusog ako bago pa man inihain ang meryenda.

Napakahusay ng pagkakasulat ng pinakaunang SOPA dito sa Ilocos Norte, at binigyang buhay ito ng flawless na pagbigkas ng minamahal na punong lalawigan.

Alam niyo naman, mahal na karikna, at ‘di ko itatanggi na lubos ang aking pagmamahal at paggalang sa gobernadora, gaya ng pagmamahal ng isang uugod-ugod na Noranian kay Nora. Continue reading “Imeemadness”

Fantastic Rudy

photo from newsbreak.ph

 

NEVER HAVE I been a fan of Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas. I had always known he is brilliant, but the arrogance attached to his person turned me off big time. And it did not help that he got embroiled in a wide array of controversies both in the public and private spheres.

In the last elections, his campaign spiel was that he is a changed man.  After one tragedy over the other struck, successively over a decade, the once invincible politician said he had a lot of time to reflect on his life. Nice speech, but I was cynical.  It is, after all, the duty of any good citizen to always take everything a politician says with a healthy dose of disbelief.

When he won convincingly in the congressional race over Kris Ablan, who was highly popular with the younger generations, I decided to employ a wait-and-see attitude on the comeback kid.  “Let’s give the guy a chance,” I thought.

Rudy has not disappointed.  In fact, he has surprised, and so pleasantly.  Watching him in action in the televised impeachment proceedings against Merceditas Guttierez made me feel so proud to be from his district. He was consistently brilliant, witty, visually refreshing, and, oh, so charming.

That he was entrusted the post of Vice Chair of the House  Committee on Justice speaks of how highly regarded he is in the legislature.  An old congressman from the South even referred to him as a “legal luminary,” and was unabashed in saying that Rudy is someone whom “I love dearly.” It was strange because that congressman fan was standing in an opposing rostrum, and was supposed to interpolate Rudy. Not even the worn-out, wearisome antics of Minority Leader Edcel Lagman could work on Fariñas, who was as eloquent and coherent as a debater could be.

And the adulation for Rudy goes beyond the chambers of congress.  I have talked to a lot of people—from colleagues in the media and political observers to house workers of the congressman, all of them sing in unison:  he is a changed man. And his kids adore him.

I have never been a fan of Rudy Fariñas, but I think I am now, and moreso after reading a story written by Glenda M. Gloria for Newsbreak’s profiles on the members of the 11-person prosecution panel in the Ombudsman’s trial at the Senate. The story is balanced and fair; it neither sugarcoats Rudy’s dark past nor does it romanticize the present , but this to me is a story of the triumph of the human spirit.

Here’s the link.

Hear! Shame!

OKAY, I AM swamped with a lot of work this week so I do not have much time to write the usual full-blown essay.  Allow me though to share tidbits of my rikna and nakem in previous days. Under “Hear! Hear!” are things that made me smile, events that firmed up my belief in the future of our nation and of humanity at large. “Shame! Shame!” are those which furthered my hair loss and, consequently, the widening of my shining and shimmering forehead.

*****

Hear! Hear! Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo saying, in reply to a question I asked during a presson, that he is strongly for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan council, which I consider as a sticky phlegm on the nation’s throat .

Shame! Shame! I think his position is compromised as he is only for the abolition of SK Kagawads, not of SK Chairmen. While he also proposed that the age requirement be raised, e.g. 25, this does not respond to the problems of corruption, nepotism, ineptitude, and everything trapo that has hounded the political structure.

*****

Hear! Hear! Secretary Jesse Robredo sounding sincere in his efforts to bring integrity in governance.

Shame! Shame! Robredo sounding weak to me. I doubt if he can really handle the big-bellied spoiled brats in local governments and among the ranks of the police. His realm is no longer just the fine city of Naga, but crazy Philippines.   I honestly feel that he will not last another year in the DILG post. Continue reading “Hear! Shame!”

Konsehales Japorms and the Fashion Police

ONE FRIDAY NIGHT, after an exhausting workweek, I was in a video shop in Laoag looking for a good movie to watch when I chanced at City Councilor Joseph Tamayo who was also on a scout for good films.  The good councilor suggested to me “Law-abiding Citizen,” a film that stars Jamie Foxx.

The movie intrigued me instantly because I consider myself a citizen who has high regard for the rule of law, and more so in Laoag, the city of my affections.  A traffic enforcer flagged me one time because my motorcycle had an open pipe. I am not a fan of anything noisy, my friends know how much I value silence, but when I bought the second-hand vehicle, it was set-up with an open pipe, and I was not aware that it was not welcome in my city given the number of motorcycles with open pipes around her streets. But informed that I was in violation of an Anti-Nuisance Ordinance, I respectfully presented my driver’s license, gladly accepted my violation ticket, and sincerely thanked the traffic enforcer for conscientiously doing his job. I went to the city hall and paid my three-hundred-peso fine the next day.

My friends would later on laugh at me. “You should have told the enforcer that you’re from the media, and he would have given you a chance,” they said.  Sadly, they didn’t get the point.  I write for a community newspaper and so I am in a better position to know existing legislation. It was a shame that I was ignorant, and the least that I could do was to pay my dues, and help inform the public of the law.

Tamayo, I know, is of the same stock.  He was once flagged by Land Transportation Office personnel due to a violation: the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s majority leader was not wearing a helmet. He likewise accepted his ticket and went through the process, like any law-abiding citizen should.

As a survivor of two motorcycle accidents, I know how important the wearing of helmet is. Sans the protection a reliable head gear, either I would not be alive now or permanent damaged would have marked my shining, shimmering, widening forehead.  And so I wear that monstrosity, no matter how inconvenient, every time I ride my motorcycle, and I encourage others to do the same.

I am a law-abiding citizen, and our washerwoman, who knows that I would rather keep garbage in my pocket rather than throw them in Laoag’s patently clean streets, would attest.

But what does one do when faced with a law that is patently strange, such as the one recently sponsored by Tamayo, Franklin Dante Respicio, Donald Nicolas, and David Frez?  City Ordinance No. 2010-03 penalizes, among others, the wearing of tsinelas while riding a motorcycle in any street in the city.

This piece of legislation does not reflect the true sentiment of the people these gentlemen were voted to represent.  I do not say that laws must always be populist, for real leaders, dear karikna, must not be afraid to make difficult decisions, and this is the best time to make unpopular legislation because the elections are over two years away, definitely not the time to fear losing votes, given our people’s short memory. But I believe the Sangguniang Panlungsod, who unanimously approved the ordinance, are wasting their political capital on this particular measure.

The public, as expected, met this ordinance with much resistance—from farmers who do not own shoes to sons sent by their frantic mothers to buy three pieces of tomato at the market. Continue reading “Konsehales Japorms and the Fashion Police”

Tina, Helen, Christian, and Mary

FOUR human beings pervade my consciousness these days, and they happen to be all mothers.

First is Tina Tan, whose recent appointment as Tourism Officer of Ilocos Norte made me so happy, I almost had permanent cramps on my facial muscles due to oversmiling.  Thanks to Manang Imee for getting only the best and the brightest to work in the bureaucracy.

I can name many a reason why Tina is best fit for the job, but I will limit my list to only three due to lack of space.

First, she loves Nature, being highly involved in ecotourism and environmental protection groups.  And she goes beyond lip service.  My students she led in a mangrove cleanup in Pasuquin would attest.

Secondly, I think Tina has reached a point in her life when acquiring material possessions is no longer the order of the day, as she and her husband are a highly accomplished business team.  I am not saying the rich don’t steal–the case of Manny “Dagat ng Basura” Villar belies this–but I think Tina is so accomplished in her life (finances, family, romance) that she really just wants to contribute something good to the community. I can vouch for Tina’s integrity.  I dare predict she will not be corrupt.  Her son Eugene, a very unassuming and respectful boy, is my student at MMSU.  Eugene shows how successful Tina is in her most important role–as mother.

Third, and most importantly, Tina Tan is most fit for to be tourism officer of this beautiful province because she is a woman who knows how to celebrate life in ways big and small.  From food served in A-restaurants to dirty ice cream and ice scramble sold in the streets, from high fashion to indigenous stuff in the mountains of Adams, from Kings and princes to paupers like me—Tina Tan finds something interesting she is generous and vivacious and childlike enough to share to the world.

How do I know a lot about her?  I am a fan of her Blauearth blog which I have previously featured in this space, and this forces me to name a fourth reason, although I only promised three.  Tina Tan sends the message across clear and perky enough to attract men and women from everywhere to go pack their bags and explore Ilocoslovakia.

Way to go, Tina!

Continue reading “Tina, Helen, Christian, and Mary”

‘Babaeng bakla’

OK, I’m writing about her again, and at the risk of being suspected as a paid PR.  But what can I do?  I am a fan.

Besides, it’s enough that God knows how much I value my integrity as a writer.  Never have I asked nor accepted payment, monetary or otherwise, for anything I write in this space.  Without rendering judgment on those who engage in it, journalistic prostitution is not my cup of tea.  I am young, and, when you are young, you are always idealistic, unless of course you are a juvenile delinquent or a Sangguniang Kabataan official, whichever is worse.

The last time I met Imee Marcos was in May prior to the elections.  During a barangay tour in Laoag, she spoke at a lightning rally incidentally held in front of our house.  Posing for a souvenir photo with my parents, Imee noticed my mom’s garden and told us of her love of plants.  Gloria, our househelp, was not to be outdone.  She approached Imee to say “thank you.”  Luzviminda, Gloria’s daughter, finished college as a Scholar ni Imee.  “Kumusta na si Luz?,” asked the then gubernatorial candidate.  “Nakapagtrabaho na po siya, at may anak na,” Gloria replied.  “Ang tanda ko na pala, may mga anak na ang mga scholars ko,” Imee replied, sounding pensive.

That, dear karikna, was the last time, but I manage to keep track of Manang Imee.  I am lucky to know some Capitol insiders who attest to the remarkable work ethic of the lady whose age I mistakenly put at 58 in a previous column.  (She’s actually younger, a bit.)  Ferdinand and Imelda’s eldest child is said to work long hours and is meticulous on how things get done.  True to her campaign promise, the gobernadora is determined to create more jobs here in the province where, as with the rest of the country, unemployment and underemployment figures remain high.  I am very confident that Imee will deliver.  In fact, I tell my students in the university, especially those in the lower years, that they are luckier than their seniors because more jobs would have been generated in the province when they graduate.

Yes, Imee is a hard worker, but not the nerdy type. Giselle Sanchez, in her Manila Bulletin column Gossip Girl, wrote about Miss Marcos’s lighter side in an article titled, “A birthday tribute to the original ‘babaeng bakla’.”  Sanchez attended the Princeton-educated governor’s birthday celebration here in the province last week.

“You know the saying that there’s a thin line between genius and insanity? Imee is a genius but once she cracks her witty one-liners, you are going to go insane,” the comedienne revealed.  She then went on to share what she considered as “the top 10 unforgettable quotes of Miss Imee Marcos,” to wit: Continue reading “‘Babaeng bakla’”