Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • Simbang lakad for Lolo Uweng

    Lolo Uweng (from the shrine's FB page)

    By April Anne Benjamin, VERA Files

    San Pedro, Laguna--For 14 Maundy Thursdays now, Inding Amoranto has prayed the rosary while walking the eight-kilometer distance from her house to the Shrine of Jesus in the Holy Sepulcher in the village of Landayan mornings.

    It is her way of thanking Jesus Christ for another year of “good health and happiness.” She says she has never asked for anything but longer life. “You don’t need material things to be happy. It is enough to have peace of mind,” she said in Filipino.

    The church has been one of the Holy Week destinations of devout Catholics in the town of San Pedro, Laguna for many decades now. It houses Lolo Uweng, an image of the dead Jesus, which is believed to have done great miracles since it arrived in the church in 19th century.

    According to the shrine’s website, the name Lolo Uweng is derived from Emmanuel, short for Emmanuel Salvador del Mundo, which according to elderly church workers is the name inscribed in the icon’s original wooden

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  • Batangas women bear ‘the cross’ to save loved ones


    Celilia Zafra drapes herself with a black dress and veil.

    Text and photos by Jane Dasal, VERA Files

    Nasugbu, Batangas—At the break of dawn on Good Friday, Celilia Zafra donned a black dress and shrouded her face with a black cloth. Then she walked to a place called “putol na ilog” along the seashore of Wawa where devotees who do their “penitensya” or penitence gather every year.

    Zafra is one of the millions of devotees in the country who fulfill their “panata or vow during the Holy Week through acts of self-denial and self-discipline called penitensya. The panata usually accompanies a plea to God to grant a request.

    In this town, the most common act of penitence among men is hitting the back with strips of wood attached to ropes or self-flagellation. Among women, it’s bearing a wooden cross.

    The Church does not approve of the practice, but devotees like Zafra believe it to be a form of salvation, for themselves and their families.

    For 13 years now, the 52-year-old has been carrying a cross during Holy Week.

    “When my son was 7 months old

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  • Chronicling the komedya in Antique

    Komedya performance 1

    By Alex C. Delos Santos, VERA Files

    The first time Cecile Locsin-Nava, a scholar on cultural studies in Western Visayas, came to Antique around ten years ago was to gather data for a research on the korido, or Philippine narrative poetry that sprung from the Spanish corrido, medieval metrical romances.

    Locsin-Nava believed that the korido were the sources of the komedya that became widespread throughout the archipelago as a theatrical form in the country since the 18th century, and she thought she could gather more materials by interviewing komedya practitioners in the province. A persistent scholar that she is, one lead came to another that she decided her next subject for research shall be the history of the komedya in Antique.

    The komedya is a play in verse, usually about royal characters from imaginary European kingdoms, utilizing marches, swordfights, magical and fantastical elements as part of the spectacle. Traditionally, the subject of the komedya is the war between Christians

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  • 48 nabbed in biggest anti-trafficking catch in Bongao

    The group was believed recruited by a human trafficking syndicate for work in Malaysia. Photo by Jake Soriano

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Bongao, Tawi-tawi—A team of Marines and policemen intercepted around noon Thursday 48 people, 12 of them minors, believed recruited by a human trafficking syndicate for work in Malaysia.

    The arrest constitutes what advocates called the biggest catch in the government’s anti-trafficking efforts here this year.

    Elements of the Philippine Marine Battalion Landing Team 5, Bongao Inter-agency Task force Against Trafficking in Persons (BIATFAT), and the Philippine National Police-Regional Maritime Unit apprehended the group as it disembarked from a commercial vessel at the Bongao port.

    “This is the biggest number of intercepted potential human trafficking victims we have seen this year,” said Rosabella Sulani, BIATFAT focal person.

    The sheer number of people attracted the attention of law enforcers, who proceeded to round them up. Members of the group had no travel papers but were on their way to Malaysia.

    They said they came from different parts of the Zamboanga

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  • Docs vow to pay right taxes, make peace with BIR

    BIR Commissioner Kim Henares and officers of the Philippine Medical Association

    By Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena, VERA Files

    Leaders of the medical profession have made peace with their former adversary, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), and joined forces in a campaign to get doctors to pay the right taxes.

    BIR Commissioner Kim Henares and officers of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said they would start with an information campaign to make doctors more aware of their tax obligations.

    Henares and PMA officers led by incoming president Dr. Minerva Calimag held a joint press conference to announce that talks are underway between the BIR and the medical profession to integrate good citizenship in the medical curriculum.

    “In retrospect, our curriculum is steep on science of medicine. It lacks education in terms of physicians coping with the real world,” she said.

    Just recently, the BIR earned the ire of doctors for its print advertisements urging people to pay their taxes right and to file their Income Tax Returns (ITRs) on April 15.

    One advertisement showed

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  • Poet Marne Kilates with Sen. TG Guingona and Gov. Joey Salceda.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair Teofisto “TG” Guingona III found a short respite from hearings on pork barrel scams when he flew to Albay to address the awardees of this year’s Outstanding Albayano Award.

    He had ample time time to relax and swim at the city’s Oriental Hotel but was soon awed by the sight of Mayon Volcano and its perfect cone.

    “Mayon Volcano represents truth and beauty and where I work, I am regularly exposed to the ugliness of lies and corruption,” said the senator who heads a senate committee still unearthing more reports of corruption in high places including the senate. “Sad to say we are all witness to unbridled lying and corruption in unlikely places. The awardees who represent the art should do something to counteract the agents of ugliness in this world.”

    Guingona congratulated this year’s awardees in the arts including writer-poets Marne Kilates, Merlinda Bobis, cultural worker Ramona Raneses and Ricardo Dy who has climbed

    Read More »from Sen. TG on the beauty of Mayon and the ugliness of corruption
  • Faith, love, time and Mayon Volcano

    Cagsawa ruins with Mayon Volcano at the background. From flickr.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay is in the news again with its official entry, Ivethe Maria Santiago, winning Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational.

    Another beauty with Albay roots, Bianca Guidotti, ended up Bb. Pilipinas International.

    Santiago did pretty well in the question-and-answer portion saying, “At a time when our country was suffering from man-made chaos and natural disasters, our queens kept our hopes up.”

    It was an apt answer for a province known for its comprehensive disaster-preparedness program.

    Indeed, Santiago put a human face in the ongoing Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden) Festival celebrating the 440th anniversary of Albay.

    However, the fact remains that Albay’s Mayon Volcano remains its number one tourism endorser with its constantly changing hues.

    Two Albay beauties -- Ivethe Maria Santiago and Bianca Guidotti, copped the Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational and Bb. Pilipinas International titles.The historic photos of the volcano from the 1800 to the present surely documented the dramatic transitions in the volcano country.

    Meanwhile, the province has posted 55% tourism growth last year with the Department of

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  • Albay through the arts glass brightly

    NCCA writer's prize awardee Raffi Banzuela from Albay with NCCA chair Felipe Padilla de Leon, Jr. and National Artist Virgilio Almario.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay turns 440 years old on April 3 with a special homage to its outstanding citizens who made a name for the province, among others, in the arts.

    Two among the awardees, writer-poets Marne Kilates and Merlinda Bobis, are worthy of special mention because their body of work received national and international recognition with distinguished citations and several book awards. This doesn’t include their rightful place in the Palanca Awards hall of fame..

    In the same vein, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts recently conferred a Writer’s Prize for an Albayano poet, Raffi Banzuela, for his book, “Dios Makina” which probes into the heart and soul of the Albayano through the years.

    Indeed, the province is in the news not just for its writers but also for its Team Albay who was the first to come to the rescue of the Typhoon Yolanda victims in Tacloban.

    On top of this, this year’s top PMA graduate, Jheorge Llona , is from the province as well.

    Gov. Joey Salceda. Photo by George Tapan

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  • China's 9-dash line

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Despite Chinese requests to delay it, the Philippines is filing on March 30 its memorandum challenging before the United Nations China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea.

    The memorandum, called a Memorial in international law, will be filed with the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at The Hague in the Netherlands, contesting China’s 9-dash line territorial rule.

    Under the 9-dash line rule, China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea as part of its territory, but the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian nations are staking various claims to parts of the area.

    Sources said the Chinese government had asked President Aquino through back channels to wait a little longer before filing the Memorial.

    A delay in the filing would be seen as an indication of Philippine willingness to improve ties with China, a source quoted a Chinese official as saying.

    China has informed the

    Read More »from PH ignores China request to delay filing of Memorial vs 9-dash line
  • A new revolution simmers in Davao City

    Camote doughnuts

    By Carlo Figueroa, VERA Files

    Davao City—Kalabasa (squash) pancakes, camote doughnuts, lemongrass and ginger juice.

    They sound like they’re part of a menu for adults on a special diet. But in reality, these recipes will soon be available for students, especially in public schools in this city.

    Thanks to its Food Revolution project, Davao City tries to follow the mantra of wellness by introducing healthy items such as these in school cafeterias and even in stores near schools.

    The project is an advocacy campaign promoting access to healthy food in schools and communities. Organized by the nongovernmental Mindanao Commission on Women’s (MCW) Mothers for Peace movement and the Davao City government, the campaign targets school children whose health can be compromised because of junk food.

    Patricia Ruivivar“Chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illnesses can lead to poor school performance that would consequently lead to children dropping out of school early,” said Mindanao

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