Sunday, December 27, 2009

Forgotten Maguindanao massacre victims--the Lechonsito couple

I'm posting below a letter to the editor from the Philippine broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Preliminary hearings are now being done to the suspects (the Ampatuans of Maguindanao province and their private army) in the Maguindanao massacre or Ampatuan massacre, where 57 persons were brutally killed because of presumably a conflict between two powerful families.

Forgotten massacre victims
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:52:00 12/27/2009

I AM KATHRINA FLEUR LECHONSITO Serrano. I am a niece of two of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre—Eduardo “Nonie” Lechonsito and Cecil Lechonsito. My mom is the sister of Eduardo and we really appreciate Ceres Doyo’s Dec. 24 column. Our lives will never be the same again after they were killed. They left two daughters, aged 19 and 23.

We can’t describe the grief the girls are experiencing right now. Their parents were just innocent motorists who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their mother was just here from Qatar for the graduation of the elder daughter in March and to spend Christmas with the family after two years of being away. Now, their parents won’t be spending any Christmas, graduation or special occasion with them.

We want justice for them and we want our voices heard. My cousins and mom were interviewed by Kiri Dalena for ANC, but aside from that documentary, nobody seems to be interested in my Tito and Tita’s story, or the stories of their companions in the red Vios. We would like to bring to the public consciousness that there were other innocent victims in that massacre who were not even part of the convoy. My Tito and Tita just wanted to go to the hospital for the CT scan of my Tito, who suffered a mild stroke two days before. His loyal staff, Mercy Palabrica and Darryl de los Reyes accompanied them. We can just imagine how they pleaded for their lives. They were not violent persons and for them to die the way they did is hard to accept.

We are a very close-knit family, and it is not only their daughters who are in anguish. All of us in the family can’t find an answer to why they were included in the massacre.

We don’t know how we could let the whole world know about their story. We want them also included in the search for justice for the Ampatuan massacre victims.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry Christmas 2009

Christmas Eve
here in the Philippines.
Probably the last of the Christmas-
caroling kids have passed by our house and
have gotten their share of the candies and coins
we've prepared for them. In the background, I hear some
fireworks exploding as some people start an early
celebration of
Christmas, usually after the Catholic Christmas
mass being held in
various churches. Mobile phones
have started to
get busy as people have
started to send out
Christmas greetings to family and friends.
In many homes,
families are putting finishing touches
to their meals prepared for the celebration
of Christmas Eve or noche buena.
For some families, welcoming Christmas on midnight

is a grand feast. For others, like for my family, it is a simple gathering, with a
prayer to the
Almighty who is the reason for the season.
Maligayang Pasko.
Merry Christmas.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pervert at Landmark Department Store Mass?

Yesterday, December 13, I was waiting for the start of the 6PM Catholic Mass at the Landmark Department Store inside the huge Trinoma Mall, Quezon City, when my attention was caught by the man sitting in front of me. The man, who was fiddling with his mobile phone earlier, was now taking video shots, using his phone, of the lady-usher who was standing near us. The usher was directing Mass goers to seats in front, near the altar. The usher was a salesperson of Landmark and she, like the other female and male ushers at that time, was in uniform. Her uniform, like the rest of the female ushers, was a rather tight light-brown dress with a hemline several inches above the knee. As she moved her arms up to direct the people to the seats, her hemline went up a bit more to reveal more of her legs. And there she was, her back to the man (and me).

The man was apparently delighted by what he saw and about seven minutes before the Mass officiated by Fr. Ramon Eloriaga was to begin, he was videotaping the lady on his mobile phone, from the waist down. It was hard for him to hide what he was doing, if he did try to hide it, because the angle he was shooting from required him to put his camera at his eye level, while sitting down. And since I was sitting a few inches from him (we were seated in row of chairs that was propped up against a wall), I could easily see what he was doing.

I was
alarmed and shocked at how this man could invade the lady’s privacy that way, and while at Mass yet! For a moment, I was thinking that maybe the man had a new mobile phone, and he was just checking out its features. But, no! He just went on with his videotaping, making sure that his phone’s camera was focused on the lady’s buttocks and legs. I wanted to either ask the man to stop what he was doing or else yank the lady away from where she was standing, away from this instant videographer. But, somehow, fear gripped me as I wondered how the man would react if his attention was called. He didn’t look harmless to me, if I would go by first impression of his looks and demeanor at that time. Anyway, I proceeded to observe the man while he was videotaping, and I decided that if he did any graver thing about the lady at that time, I would really do something to stop him. Mercifully, the Mass already started, and although the lady-usher continued to stand near us, the man behaved. Although he was checking his mobile phone from time-to-time, something that he shouldn’t have been doing too, in respect to the ongoing Mass.

Anyway, I resolved that if I see him again at the Landmark Mass soon and he again whips out his mobile phone to take a shot of the lady-ushers or even Mass goers at their unguarded moments, then I’ll really do something to stop him from doing so. I don’t think I could again just sit there and see how another woman’s privacy was being violated that way, and to think that that man was doing his thing at a Mass!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Maguindanao Massacre--hell on earth

Tonight, I join other journalists in the Philippines in lighting a candle for the 57 Filipino women and men massacred on November 23, 2009 in Maguindanao Province, which is located in the Mindanao region of the Philippines. More than 20 of the victims were media people who joined a convoy that was going to a local office of the country’s Commission on Elections (COMELEC). The media people, from different organizations, were supposed to cover the filing of candidacy for governor by the leader of the convoy on behalf of her husband. The national elections in the country are to be held next year. The husband, a vice mayor of a Maguindanao town, sent his wife and relatives to the election office in his stead amid threats to his life supposedly from his bitterest political rival. The wife, relatives, and media people never reached their destination as their vehicles were held may armed people along their way. All 57 people in the convoy were mowed down by gunfire, some women even raped, and all were eventually hastily buried by their killers right after they were shot (maybe even buried barely alive) in diggings already prepared for them in a killing site. The mass graves waiting for them were earlier dug by a backhoe (with markings that it belonged to the government) that was still found on the site by the authorities hours after the carnage. Some of those killed and buried weren’t even part of the convoy, but their vehicles just happened to be traveling quite near it since they were going to the same place where the convoy was going or somewhere near that place.

The killing, at the onset, appears to be a politically motivated scheme, thought to be inspired by the bitter rivalry between influential and powerful families in Maguindanao province, especially with the coming elections. But in this battle for supremacy for power, so many lives were lost in a single swoop, including those of many media people who were just doing their job of bringing the news to the outside world, and whose presence in that convoy and in supposedly the election office they were going to was hoped to be an aid to the security or protection of the main personalities in that convoy. But hunger for power and lawlessness—barbarism, in fact—doesn’t respect anyone, be it political rivals, or members of the media armed only with their pens, papers, recorders, mobile phones, radios, cameras, and laptops, ready to bring the news to the people. Now, these media people and the others who died with them are the news.

The investigations are till now ongoing—amid public shock, grief and uproar, and the pleas for justice by the victims' families—with the results threatening to open up a Pandora’s Box of even more shocking revelations about the breadth and depth of the suspected killer(s)’ influence and connections that enabled the carnage to be carried out. As though it could have only happened in hell.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Philippine Christmas lanterns galore

The Philippines reputedly has the longest Christmas season celebration in the whole world, and homes and establishments, from the simplest to the grandest, are never wanting in lights and decorations to help mark the occasion. No matter what the economic situation is.

Philippine Christmas lanterns (locally called parol) of various shapes (usually star shape), sizes, designs, materials (some use recycled or reused materials), kaleidoscope-like flashing colors, lighting patterns, and prices are among the most popular Christmas decorations in the country. They are also among the favorite items to bring along for Filipinos who live abroad and foreigners who visit the Philippines. The most favored and prized of these lanterns for their designs and quality are made in the province of Pampanga, north of the country’s capital Manila.

But other places outside Pampanga have also produced their own versions of the Philippine Christmas lanterns. Many of the Christmas lantern manufacturers in the country are home-based, with family members and close neighbors pitching in the work. The lanterns are, therefore, not just a showcase of craft and creativity but also a labor of love. But, most of all, a wonderful reminder of Filipinos’ joyous celebration of the best occasion of all—the birth of Jesus.

Buyers of Philippine Christmas lanterns need not go to Pampanga or other provinces to get their stuff. Although going direct to the sources can have advantages as in any other kind of purchase. But the lanterns are also available in the cities from sidewalk stalls, some ambulant vendors, department stores, and malls. (Some years ago, they weren't that easy to be obtained.) Prices range from a few hundred pesos to more than a thousand. A gift for haggling for a lower price comes in handy. But each lantern is a creative piece and a joy to the senses, so paying some big bucks for it is definitely worth the price.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Berlin 1989, 1991, and 2009

This November marks the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall. In November 1991, or 18 years ago, two years after the Berlin Wall was brought down to merge the two Germanys, I left the former East Berlin after staying for six weeks to take a journalism course in a school that was in a middle of a forest. The International Institute of Journalism-Berlin (IIJB) hosted me and 11 or 12 other young journalists, and our teachers from different countries who--along with IIJB’s own German journalism professors--taught us students the ins and outs of the trade that we would bring back to our organizations. Our organizations were mostly in the development and co-op field as our course was aimed at young co-op journalists. Students were sponsored by different agencies, and I was sponsored by my employer the National Confederation of Co-operatives (NATCCO) in the Philippines, the Canadian Co-operative Association (ICA), and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), along with other event organizers, including the IIJB itself.

Where we came from
I was the only student from the Philippines, and only one of two students from Asia (India was the other Asian country). Th
e rest of us came from Kenya, Zambia, Uganda, Egypt, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Russia. It was my first trip abroad. It was a wonderful and lesson-filled experience. It was also tiring but had lots of fun moments (or we students managed to have fun although we were pretty much left on own at the school’s dorm especially at night, with a radio in each of our rooms to keep us company). We had good interaction with our teachers--Dr. Claus, Dr. Janke, Mr. Williamson, to name a few, and I’ve continued to keep in touch with Mr. (Iain) Williamson via e-mail to this day. He’s based in Britain. My classmates and I gave each other great company throughout our stay in beautiful Berlin—Geoffrey, Nathan, Phil, Serina, Shahira, Monica, Sethu, and the others.

Nice Berlin
I met an old German couple in the small church near our school. The couple invited me to their home every Sunday after Mass, for lunch and afternoon treats. German-English dictionaries helped in our random conversation. Berlin was beautiful. Old architecture blended well with new structures. Our boat ride along the winding Spree River was a pleasure, seeing old those old bridges and well-manicured riverbanks. Even if I emerged from the boat ride shivering as my two jackets failed to keep out the cold. And knowing that just up to two years ago before I arrived, the area where I was gave very limited access, if
at all, to “outsiders” gave me a different kind of feeling and an urgency to explore the location, even though I had quite a limited time to do so. But Berlin and my experiences while I was there will always have a special place in my memory and my heart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Twitter Tweet Retweet

Twitter is one of the most popular social networking sites around the globe, although I don’t know how useful it has been for non-English-speaking citizens. Anyway, I find it interesting how the people behind Twitter has managed to put some sense into quickly interchanging (or using) the “i” and “ee” in between the “tw” and “tter” to mean different, although somewhat related, words pertaining to Twitter. As a basic example, consider the following: Twitter is the name of the site. Tweets are posts on Twitter sent by Twitterers (a user of Twitter, the site). (But Ztwitt means to tweet very quickly.) Retweets are posts of Twitterers that are posted by other Twitters. Twithead is someone who is constantly twittering, but a Tweetaholic is someone who is addicted to Twitter, which might already indicate an actual problem, it is said (gasp!). (To be Attwicted also means to be addicted to Twitter.) By the way, a Twitterer is a user of Twitter, a term that is also similar, however, to a Tweeter, who is, in turn, a Java-based client with customizable URL (see?). lists more explanations of Twitter-related words, from letters A to Z, with some twit or tweet words derived from “old/ordinary” words, given new spelling or twist (or tweest?) as they can apply to Twitter. But words are yet to be listed under the letters V and X. Perhaps the Twitter staff doing the Twittonary has, for the moment, run out of bright ideas and still drawing up twit or tweet words to put under V and X. Twitter users worldwide can perhaps send Twitter dot com some of their “brighttweet” ideas. Hmmm, brighttweet. Hey, Twitter! Can I suggest you add "brighttweet" under letter B, please? (I guess I don't have to explain what the word means.) Or, maybe you prefer it to be spelled "brighttwit"? Now, I'm suddenly confused if it's Tweety Bird or Twitty Bird? :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Niceness, Rudeness

Someone sent me an SMS the other day, which came at an appropriate time for me that day. Thinking about this message can surely help one to keep her or his temper in check:

If other people become rude to you,
be nice to them not because they are nice but because you are nice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The climate is changing--BLOG ACTION DAY

My family (parents, siblings) lived about 12 years ago in Sampaloc district, city of Manila, before we transferred to Quezon City, which is right next to Manila. Manila is the capital of the Philippines, although for a time, Quezon City had that title. My family resided in Sampaloc since the 1950s or even a bit earlier as we were among the first ones to live in our street, which is P. Leoncio St. (later known as E. Quintos St.) at the corner of Simoun St. Like most of the residences in the area, our house was almost all-wood as wood seemed to be the in-thing in construction materials at that time that our two-storey house was built. Actually, we lived not very far away from the boundary of Manila and Quezon cities. But we were also not very far away from the floods that swamped Sampaloc, and almost all of Manila for that matter, even if it rained only moderately. In fact, P. Leoncio and Simoun Streets were the first ones to get flooded followed by surrounding streets like Maria Clara, Laong Laan, Calamba, Kundiman, Antipolo, Metrica, Craig, Washington, etc. Since our house was a corner lot, we always saw how our area would turn into a catchbasin for floods everytime it rained from moderate to hard, and our streets would disappear and seemingly become lakes.

The early years
In the earlier years, my parents said that our streets would have some water during rains but not really deep, and it would quickly subside. But as the years went on, the floods would come more frequently and subside more slowly. I can’t anymore count how many times my siblings and I would have to wade through floods either going out of our house or coming home from school or work. Sometimes when it would be raining, we would first phone home from school or work to check if there was already any flood on the streets. Told that there wasn’t any or that it was only like ankle-deep at that time, we would bravely and hurriedly go home only to find out that we would already have to wade through waist-deep water to reach our home. And these floodwaters were very dark, dirty, and filthy. Garbage would be floating along as we walked on the water. We’d get even more wet when a fast-moving vehicle would suddenly cruise past us, throwing the water at us. Of course, there was always the danger of stepping into an open sewerage hole. Or be electrocuted by some hanging live wire. It was really a pain living in and with flood. And the years of being flooded became even worse with stronger rains and stronger cyclones coming in year after year. During dry season, we had nice streets and neighborhood, with well-paved roads and some plants on the sidewalks. But during rainy season, we could just curse our living on that area. Seeing floods all around us that didn’t subside for hours or a day or two, seeing all that garbage floating in the waters, and watching poor malnourished kids lapping up the waters as a giant swimming pool eventually got to my family’s nerves and we had to move out. We eventually had to sell our dear house full of good memories and transfer to our current residence in Quezon City. That’s why when the recent two strong typhoons hit the Philippines and submerged houses and other properties in many parts of the country, leaving loss of lives, destruction, and a lot of mud and garbage in their trail, I could only sympathize with the flood victims as I know how difficult it is to be caught in that situation. In our case in Sampaloc, the rains that became stronger year by year were met by heavy garbage that clogged drainage and other waterways. Clean-ups by government on the drainage weren’t consistent and systematic, and sometimes we’d had to even request City Hall first before a team would be sent even if it was pretty obvious our area was the first to get flooded during rains. But, of course, we’d have to take account, too, for the worsening situation the practice of many people in throwing garbage almost anywhere, disregarding or perhaps not knowing the ill effects laters. If only the powers-at-be had the political will to really instill discipline among the people and let them know the downside of throwing garbage indiscriminately, perhaps the flooding would have been minimized or at least would have subsided more quickly.

Leaving our home
We left our place in Sampaloc in 1997, and today, the rains still bring the same sad story to the area. And it seems that the floods have gotten even worse because according to some friends of ours who still live there, the government has elevated the streets (by pouring more concrete into the streets) in an effort to avoid floods from massing up. But in elevating the streets, the streets’ drainage however wasn’t touched or repaired. And the elevated streets have caused some houses to become below street level when before they were at the level of the street. Thus, when it rains, more of the floods come right away inside their homes. Talk about short-term or even knee-jerk solutions.

Here in Quezon City, while our exact area of residence doesn’t get flooded, the area around the public market less than a kilometer away also gets flooded during heavy rains. When it’s not raining, the streets around the public market are littered with garbage. A few people do sweep those streets at night, but I could just imagine how much of the garbage during daytime are already blown away to clog the canals and open drainage around the area.

The Clean Air Act
Another lack of political will that I noticed in the government is enforcing the “Clean Air Act” which was enacted in 1999. Included among the prohibitions of this law are smoking inside public places, including public vehicles; and smoke-belching by vehicles. Everyday, there are rampant violations of this law. For instance, while some establishments do follow the no-smoking rule and have designated smoking areas, some people still violate and do their smoking in no-smoking areas. Walking in the streets is still a nightmare not just because of undisciplined drivers but because of that pollution that many vehicles emit. Now and then, smoke-belching tests are conducted on the spot on the streets by the authorities but again these aren’t consistently done. Many irresponsible drivers are still moving around with their “dirty” vehicles.

In its Declaration of Principles, the Clean Air Act promises a lot: “The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature. The State shall promote and protect the global environment to attain sustainable development while recognizing the primary responsibility of local government units to deal with environmental problems. The State recognizes that the responsibility of cleaning the habitat and environment is primarily area-based. Finally, the State recognizes that a clean and healthy environment is for the good of all and should therefore be the concern of all.”

In practice, in daily living, 10 years after the enactment of the law, we all still have to struggle and contend with the polluted air around us.

Action needed now
Problems with floods, garbage, pollution, unclean surroundings, these problems have been with us for years, with hardly any sustained and concrete action to counter them. And I haven’t even yet talked about deforestation, illegal mining, illegal fishing, and a host of other environmentally damaging practices that go unabated and are even worsening. And we feel the ill effects of all these as we the people live in a sensitive ecosystem that a pain or problem in one part of that system will surely affect and will also cause pain or a problem in other parts. These problems may not just be happening to my country the Philippines, but then that makes the situation even worse because all countries also form, I believe, an ecosystem among themselves that should be guarded and delicately balanced. The Philippines and all other countries, after all, have only one Earth to call home. And when we don’t take care of our surroundings and our environment, the bad effects of what we do will only come crashing back to us, as it is already starting to happen now. It’s indeed time to act now, not tomorrow, not just for government but also for the people themselves, the citizens as we should all be responsible for taking care of our country, our countries, our world.

In the Philippines, I’ve heard that the Congress now has committees that have to do with the environment. In the House of Representatives, there’s the Committee on Ecology. In the Senate, there’s the Committee on Climate Change. Hurrah for that. I hope the work of the committee members of these two bodies will be consistent and productive, and also supported by their colleagues in the House and Senate. I hope that the committees' work will not weakened or lost amid different interests among the Congress Representatives and Senators, especially with the upcoming national elections in the Philippines in May 2010. May the work of Congress be able to lead and inspire the citizenry to greater action now for the environment.

This post was written in support of Blog Action Day,
Photo of chaotic flood situation in Marikina City, Philippines, during the recent typhoon Ketsana (local name Ondoy), from

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bump! oUcH!!!

Yesterday, I bumped my forehead on the ref’s freezer door. Huh? How’d that happen? Well, I was just so sure that I had closed the freezer door after getting something from the freezer, and I turned around to put that thing on the dinner table next to the ref. As I always move fast, I quickly stepped past the ref on my way to the dirty kitchen of our home. Bump! Ouch! The left part of my forehead hit the protruding hard plastic tray of the open freezer door. A good lump and a bit of wound on my forehead I not-so-proudly wear today.

That’s me, always bumping, usually my head, into something. Like the low ceiling of a jeepney or a tricycle (local transport vehicles). Or a low-hanging part of a roof while I was going up on the stairs under it (this happened years ago, and that one surely hurt). Or a toilet sink, when I bent down to the floor to pick up something and bumped my head on corner of the sink while I was getting up!

Me, clumsy? Hmmm, I don’t think I am. Maybe, I’m just almost always in a hurry and thinking of something while going in a hurry that’s why I tend to run into inanimate objects. Well, yeah, maybe on that note I AM clumsy. :)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

DFA's guidelines for storm-damaged Philippine passports

The Philippines's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has issued guidelines for renewing passports lost or damaged by tropical storm Ondoy (or Ketsana). The DFA says that the DFA Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) information counter will issue free affidavits of loss or damage. Ondoy
recently hit the Philippines and submerged in floods thousands of homes in many cities and towns.

Those aged 8 to 64 years should personally appear at the DFA’s OCA for their applications to be processed. They have to present the following requirements:

1. Birth Certificate issued by the National Statistics Office (NSO)
2. Identification card (ID card) or other supporting documents showing the date and place of
birth of the applicant
3. Three passport-sized pictures with royal-blue background
4. Duly-accomplished Application Form (downloadable at

The following are required for replacement of damaged passports:

1. Presentation of original Philippine Passport
2. ID card or other supporting documents indicating the date and place of birth of the applicant
3. Three passport-sized pictures with royal-blue background
4. Duly-accomplished Application Form (downloadable at

The passports will be issued following normal schedule of passport releasing. The schedule will be indicated in the official receipt to be given to the applicant. (With information from

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ketsana and Parma

These typhoons locally codenamed Ondoy and Pepeng, respectively, hit the Philippines one after the other in a matter of a few days recently. Pepeng is somewhat still lurking around northern Luzon island, Philippines, as of this writing, and it was deemed a “super-typhoon” with a speed that reached 24 kilometers per hour at noontime last Saturday. Although it wrought much damage in that part of the country, mercifully it pretty much spared the areas around the center of Luzon (cities in Metro Manila and nearby towns and provinces) that were inundated with rainfall brought on by Ondoy and where the victims are still suffering in the aftermath. Twelve hours of Ondoy’s continuous rain managed to give the country a month’s worth of rain. As a result, waters from rampaging overflowed rivers and clogged drainage submerged houses even two-stories high, leaving residents stranded for hours on their roofs while their possessions were left in the floods or carried away by the strong current. Their long wait for rescue by mainly military vehicles, rubber boats and other amphibious devices was delayed by hundreds of stranded vehicles that littered the flooded streets leading to the affected areas. Helicopters couldn’t fly and pick them up either because of zero visibility. Plus the fact that the sheer number of people in different localities seemed to have outnumbered rescue teams.

A few days after catastrophe struck, there were still areas with floods or tons of mud or both (with residents in a quandary on how or where to begin cleaning up or rebuilding), houses severely damaged or swept away, thousands of evacuees located to different evacuation centers or crying of hunger or in shock in the streets, people found dead or were still missing, families separated, garbage spread out and threatening to further clog drainage in case of another heavy rain. But amid the pain, there were also stories of heroes who saved lives and sometimes lost their own, neighbors helping each others, strangers reaching out to assist, goods and cash donations flowing in to relief centers for distribution to the victims.

It may take a while—perhaps a long while for many—for the victims of Ondoy and also of Pepeng to rise from their suffering. But Filipinos are a resilient lot, hardworking, patient, and determined—coupled with a smile that never fades amid adversities. As one of the victims interviewed on television said, as long as they were alive, which is the most important he said, there was always hope to rebuild their lives, and trust in God will help them through. (Thanks also to God that our own place and that of my sister’s in Quezon City were spared by floods. Two of my cousins and their families though in Marikina weren’t so lucky though, but they are now slowly getting up to face life again. Photo shows a cousin's home brought down by floods and mud. He and family stayed on the roof and transferred roof to roof for 17 hours straight until they could reach the flooded highway and walk some more to save themselves. They eventually reached a relative in another city where they are now staying temporarily.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two-sided door but...

It amazes me how people form into a crowd in going out a mall, a theater or even just a medium-sized restaurant all because they seemingly don’t see (or refuse to do anything about what they see) that the door they’re using for exiting is actually a two-sided door. That is, a two-sided door that opens in the middle. But seldom do I see a two-sided door (e.g., a glass door) opened both ways in exit areas in public places like malls, restaurants, etc. Sometimes it’s for security reasons. In a mall, for instance, the two-sided exit door has only one side open to deter the easy escape of bad people, like shoplifters, whom the security guards maybe running after. It’s also to keep in the cool of the airconditioning in an establishment, as for example in the Philippines where warm weather mostly prevails. The coolness brought on by the aircon inside an establishment will more quickly dissipate if too much hot air from outside comes in. (But in entrance areas, the two-sided door is really usually closed on one side especially for security, even if the guards take more precautions by frisking the customers and checking the bags.)

But even then, customers do have the right and the opportunity to open both sides of a door that opens in the middle, especially if it becomes crowded in going out of any place. But again, like I said earlier, I’m amazed that people would rather suffer a few minutes of slowly moving out rather than opening up that other side of the door, which could really be easily done since it’s usually not locked. Usually, in such case, I’m almost always the one opening up that other side. I just don’t know if somebody, maybe the security, closes the door behind me. Hahah!

Image from (This is isn't an ad for them, just found them on the Net. I happen to like glass and wood, and the picture suited me fine.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bayan Ko

"Bayan Ko (My Country)," a soulful Filipino ballad that sings of love for country (the Philippines) of Filipinos who will always cherish a free, peaceful nation, even if it means sacrificing everything for that freedom and peace. The song was composed in 1928 by Filipinos Mr. Jose Corazon de Jesus and Mr. Constancio de Guzman, while the Philippines was campaigning for independence from America. In mid-198os, the song had a revival of sorts when it became the protest song of Filipinos fighting a dictatorship. It has since become standard fare in rallies and gathering where Filipinos get together to speak up against graft and corruption, and peace and freedom for the country. Modern-day Filipinos have sung it particularly with arms raised, and the index finger and thumb formed into the letter "L," which stood for "laban" or fight.

In Cory Aquino's wake and funeral (see previous blog entry), "Bayan Ko" again gained prominence at it was sung in various days, including most prominently, during the funeral mass, after which her long funeral procession began on Metro Manila's streets, witnessed by multitudes of people. Cory had led many of the protest marches in which the song had been played or sung. During her fight against dictator Marcos in 1986 for the presidency and the ensuing marches after the election marred by vote manipulation, singing the song was a rallying point for the Filipinos, which culminated in people power, the ousting of Marcos, and the installation of Cory as the first female President of the country. Cory's People Power Revolution later became credited with inspiring other peoples and countries in many parts of the world to demand change for the better in their governments.

The video link below (from Dadivas08 YouTube channel) is from Cory's funeral mass, where a soulfoul rendition of "Bayan Ko" is given by Ms Lea Salonga, a Tony-award winning Filipino stage and film singer/actor. The other video link (from tribeofjedTV YouTube channel)shows various Filipino singers also singing at Cory's funeral mass the song "Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo (Gift of the Filipinos to the World)." This song was inspired by the Philippines people power experience in 1986, and how Filipinos will not permit again the loss of its freedom, as it also inspires other countries to value their freedom as well.

Cory's funeral--Maraming Salamat, President Cory Aquino..Thank you very much, President Cory Aquino

Millions of Filipinos mourned at former Philippine President Corazon "Cory" Aquino's death on August 1, 2009, culminating on her funeral on August 5, 2009. Thousands waited in line to pay respects at her wake, multitudes attended her funeral mass and funeral procession that lasted a little over eight hours, almost as long as her husband's (former Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, who fought the dictatorship in the Philippines and was murdered in 1983) funeral procession. Her wake and funeral mass gathered together the country's migh
ty and strong and the common people. Her funeral mass brought together some of the country's best singers to sing for her. When her body was transferred from the La Salle gym in Ortigas district to the Manila Cathedral a few days before her burial, her procession passed by the Makati district, the country's financial capital and site of many of protest actions that Cory had led as the leading oppositionist in the country. This procession in Makati was an emotional one as her procession received the final confetti shower from tall buildings in the district as it was always done whenever protest actions passed by the streets of the area. People came in droves to Makati, employees went down from their offices to welcome, for the last time, Cory to Makati, and to say goodbye to her.

Her people patiently waited
Her funeral procession on August 5 winded through a number of cities and towns on the way to her final resting place in the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque C
ity. Again, people in droves were on the streets, walking, running, waving, cheering her name, putting up their banners on which were written various thank you notes to her. Many waited for hours for the funeral procession to pass by their way, never minding the rain that sometimes fell hard, the heat of the sun that occasionally poured out; they also didn't mind the hunger or the thirst or the fatigue--sometimes these were alleviated by sharing their food or drink or some shelter to rest. They came from all walks of life, and in all ages--from toddlers carried on the shoulders of adults, to schoolchildren, to teenagers, to elderly people, to busloads of people from the provinces, to professionals, to blue-collar workers, to vendors and public transport drivers. Cory loved the Filipino people, and they all loved her back, showing this to the fore on all the days of her lying in state and at her burial.

Military in full force
Throughout the days of her wake and her burial, Cory was accorded full military honors, despite her children's refusal for her to have a state funeral, opting to have a private funeral. Generals carried and saluted her coffin, honor guards were beside her coffin at her wake and the full eight or nine hours of her funeral procession, cannon and gun salutes rever
berated in military camps--all in honor of their former Commander-in-Chief. The military honor accorded her did seem a bit ironic as the Aquino family, as do many Filipinos, have always thought that the military had a big role during the assassination of Ninoy in 1983 as he landed in the Philippines's airport, back from exile in the USA. Nevertheless, the military was with Cory all the way in her death, up to the moment that the generals had folded the flag that covered her coffin, and handed this over to her children, during the last ceremonies at the cemetery.

Emotions ran high
Cory's funeral procession that started early morning with a funeral Mass ended late at night, with the multitudes still waiting for their beloved President at the gates of the cemetery. After the long flatbed truck had entered the cemetery, the people were to be held at bay, as the ceremonies inside were meant to be among several hundreds only to keep the peace and order in check. But the mass of people could no longer be held at bay, and so they came inside the cemetery, almost near the Aquino burial plot, just as soon as the military had almost finish
ed giving its honors to the former President, and the priest at hand was ready to give the final blessing to Cory. As expected, the Aquino children poured out their emotions at the final ceremonies, before their family was interred, beside her beloved husband.

As the Aquino family wept and cried throughout the whole wake and the burial, so did the nation. As more and more yellow ribbons (Cory carried the yellow color in leading the fight against corruption and tyranny in the country) sprung up everywhere in the country, tears flowed out freely from every Filipino who were there at the wake and funeral, on the streets, on TV watching the daily coverage, while glued to radio broadcasts, and or while glued to Internet streaming broadcasts.

Images of love
Much as I wanted to be there at the wake or at the funeral procession, I couldn't go because of work (in the 1983 burial of Ninoy, I was there along the procession on the streets of Manila). I watched some parts of the ceremonies for Cory's wake and funeral on Internet broadcast (particularly broadcasts of Manila TV stations GMA7 and ABSCBN2), and I've
managed to do video captures of some of the coverage. Above are some of the scenes I captured, in-between my crying over the ceremonies. Not all of them are clear pictures, but they still show how much Cory was loved by the people that she and her husband loved so much.In her death, Filipinos have remembered what the country meant to Cory; and they have been galvanized to pick up again where Cory had gone through. To look after their country, to protect it, to ensure a leadership and governance that will not lead the nation astray, and a citizenry that will work hard to make the nation peaceful and prosperous.