Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • Photography lesson at 7,748 feet above sea level

    Juan Portrait

    By Ofelia C. Empian, VERA Files

    The grandeur and mystery of Mount Pulag through the eyes of children.

    That is what Juan Portrait wants to share with the rest of the country when it stages the works of 20 pupils of Mount Pulag Primary School in Kabayan, Benguet who attended their photography workshop last July.

    For one week last July, the participating school children, between Grades 4 to 6 learned the rudiments of photography in a classroom 7, 748 feet above sea level, in one of the most diverse biodiversity in the country today.

    Mount Pulag is the third highest mountain in the Philippines. It is Luzon’s highest peak.

    A large part of Mount Pulag is designated a National Park hosting 528 documented plant species. Threatened and endangered animal species can still be found in the mountain forests like the Philippine Deer, Giant Bushy-Tailed Cloud Rat and the Long-Haired Fruit Bat, Dwarf cloud rat and the Koch pitta bird.

    The photography mentors were from Juan Portrait, a non-profit

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  • Violin virtuoso Chino Gutierrez’s Passion

    Chino Gutierrez

    By Itchie Cruz-Yap, VERA Files

    Many young Filipino musicians struggle to make their music heard. Although the Filipinos are a very musical lot, the infrastructure for music and the arts in the Philippines is still fraught with a lot of challenges. To make a name here, often one has to first make it big elsewhere.

    But this is not how violin virtuoso Joaquin Maria Fernando "Chino" Gutierrez sees his musical career predicament. It is not just to make a name for himself that he  goes abroad. For him, going overseas is just a way to learn from the masters the world over. Ultimately, to come home more experienced so as to contribute in enriching his country's musical heritage is his life goal.

    On September 13, 7:30 p.m.  Gutierrez is holding a concert, “Passion” at the Francisco Santiago Hall, BDO Tower 1, Makati Avenue to raise funds for his studies at the prestigious State Academy of Music and Theater in Munich

    Gutierrez was supposed have attended the  Keshet Eilon International Summer

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  • 10 tips to lessen travel hassles

    Travel South Korea

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    The proliferation of budget airlines has made travel affordable even if one does not belong to the rich and famous.

    Travel recharges one’s tired body and mind. You learn other people’s culture, you gain new friends. It widens one’s horizon. But since traveling involves being in a new and in some cases, unfamiliar environment, problems sometimes happen that could ruin the whole trip.

    Here are some tips to lessen the inconveniences in traveling:

    1.Do your research.

    Pick out a place you want to go and list specific sites you want to visit. Group sites according to location so you can cover more places in a day.

    2.Buy travel insurance.

    Certainly you are not expecting to need to use it, but it is always responsible to be prepared.

    On a trip to Phnom Penh, I met an Australian man who had to fly down to be with his daughter. She had been butted in the ribs by a water buffalo while back-packing in a remote Cambodian village. She had to undergo surgery

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  • CinemalayaX: The year of creative conceit

    CinemalayaX poster

    By Katrina Stuart Santiago, VERA Files

    I had started watching CinemalayaX with Carlitos Siguion Reyna’s Hari Ng Tondo, Joseph Alterejos’s Kasal, and Roderick Cabrido’s Children’s Show. It was two good movies out of three, and I thought it was portents of things to come for the rest of the week’s movie viewing frenzy.

    After watching all 15 full length films, I realize I had it good that first day. It was downhill from there.

    Staring in the mirror

    This might be as old as movies itself, but the camera shooting a woman’s reflection as she looks at herself in the mirror was something that I saw too many women characters do in the films this year. From Biring in Hustisya, to Cory in 1st Ko Si 3rd, Imelda in Mariquina to Paloma in Ronda, among others. Even Divina in Bwaya stares a mother-crocodile in the eye much like a mirror. That this is what I remember speaks tons about this year’s festival offerings as a whole.

    There was just too much tired, trite imagery here. From the long-drawn

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  • Bohol reconstruction: Harmonizing yesterday with today

    By Cooper Resabal, VERA Files

    Rebuilding structures damaged by the 7.2 intensity earthquake that struck Bohol October last year not only means restoring the pre-earthquake look of the island province, but also involves harmonizing them with existing structures that reflect its colonial and non-colonial heritage.

    This was the gist of the training workshop “Design and Engineering Standards for Reconstruction of Heritage Places and Earthquake-Damaged Buildings in Bohol,” conducted in the capital city of Tagbilaran July 28-August 1, 2014 by architects of the International Committee for Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) .

    Augusto Villalon, noted architect and cultural heritage planner and ICOMOS Philippine president, told participating LGU tourism officials, local architects, planners and heritage advocates, that instead of looking at damaged structures as “single independent units without any relation to the whole townscape or streetscape,” they should also see to it that “new and old

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  • Performing Grief


    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Divina is preparing for her daughter Rowena’s 13th birthday when she hears shocking news: her daughter has been attacked by a crocodile, her body still missing. As Divina searches for the body of her daughter in the marshlands of Agusan del Sur, she learns a lesson more tragic than her fate: not all predators are underwater. The film is based on actual events.

    That's the promotional blurb of Francis Xavier Pasion’s Bwaya (crocodile), one of the entries in the 2014 Cinemalaya closing on Sunday.

    One recalls a 1988 movie, A Cry in the Dark, starring Meryl Streep in a true-to life story about a mother’s (Lindy Chamberlain’s) quest for justice when she was accused of murdering her nine-month-old daughter while on vacation in Australia’s Northern Territory. The baby was taken out of their tent by a dingo, a wild dog.

    That’s where Meryl Streep, in Australian accent, famously uttered :"The dingo's got my baby!"

    In Bwaya, a crocodile ate Angeli Bayani’s daughter.

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  • Human factor: key to success of first Iloilo BPO company

    Callbox's main assets

    By Hazel P. Villa, VERA Files

    ILOILO CITY-In the world of technology, the human factor is what makes the difference.

    Filipino-American Rom Agustin, chief executive officer of Callbox Sales and Marketing Solutions, paid tribute to the people who compose the company as it celebrated its first 10 years by moving up from a call center to a technology marketing company doing business with major markets worldwide.

    “We don’t hire factory workers, we hire people who can make an impact and change the company,” says Agustin, who co-founded with American Glen Norris Callbox the first business processes outsourcing (BPO) in Iloilo.

    Callbox’s experience in Iloilo and Davao as far as personnel are concerned has been very good that they are not importing personnel from other places. “The locals there have seen Callbox through in the last 10 years and would most likely soar with it in the next 10,” said Agustin, recognized by the United States media as one of the original internet entrepreneurs and

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  • Hashtag Why

    Elmo Magalona as Miles

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Even before its title credits appear, the film #Y directed by Gino Santos has already told its audience its lead character is dead.

    It is in fact the dead man Miles – dead boy rather, played brilliantly by Elmo Magalona who does the telling. A la William Holden in Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard, he relates the events leading up to his death.

    Any suicide is bound to elicit the big “Why?” and Santos takes up the task to attempt and find an answer. To do this, he plays shrink, both in the film and through the film.

    The challenge for Santos is to transform Miles’ interior life to what can be physically seen and visually represented. Some of the film’s visual clues lean toward the obvious (imagined scenarios, a toy brain hanging by the bed, a shirt that says “Bad decisions”) but some do open tiny windows to his worldview, for example, tiny furniture in Miles’ bedroom, or the restrictive disproportion of his bed to his size.

    Clues suggesting smallness and

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  • The mystery of the old Dao tree in UP Los Baños

    Full view of the Dao tree

    By Itchie Cruz-Yap, VERA Files

    There is one tree at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños that evokes wonder for its resistance to the strongest typhoons that have smashed into the country: the leaning tropical dao tree in front of the Student Union (SU) Building.

    UP, Los Baños, Laguna campus, like the rest of Metro Manila and other parts of the country hit by typhoon Glenda last month was a wreck. Many old trees succumbed to the force of Glenda – sustaining broken branches, balding at their crown, some split at the trunk and others completely uprooted. Even the resilient bamboo was not able to keep up with the swing that Glenda led it to dance with.

    But old DAO tree remained standing. Leaning, probably from the beating that it suffuered, but standing proud, unbroken.

    Left photoProf. Susan Aquino-Ong while retelling the story of the Dao Tree, taken on 9 July 2014, days before typhoon Glenda. Right photo the Dao tree after Glenda.No one knows who planted the tree or if it has been planted by human hands for that matter. It had been there even before the SU building was built.

    According to Professor Iderlina Guevarra, a chemistry teacher

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  • Good hygiene—the weapon vs Ebola virus

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Tony LeachonThe president of a national physicians organization is reminding the public to practice good hygiene as one of the measures to combat the Ebola virus currently sweeping West Africa.

    Tony Leachon, president of the Philippine College of Physicians and information director of the University of the Philippines-Manila, also urged the Department of Health to conduct a massive information campaign on the killer virus with the World Health Organization and medical groups.

    “Everyone should be mobilized. We need to educate people and increase the sensitization. This is the key to stop the dangerous disease Ebola,” Leachon said.

    The latest outbreak has infected 1,323 persons and claimed the lives of 729 in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria as of July 27, according to the WHO.

    The deadly Ebola virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola.

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