Blog Posts by VERA Files


  • By Michael A. Bengwayan, VERA Files

    Challenge 160 route

    Baguio City---“No mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome...”

    This saying might as well describe the  resumption of  series of protest actions to be  staged by environmentalists and residents against SM City Baguio’s plan to remove more than a hundred pine trees on Luneta Hill to make way for a parking lot and entertainment plaza.

    On Sunday (Feb.17), about a hundred environmentalists will begin their 160-kilometer protest walk, dubbed “Challenge 160,”  from Sagada, Mountain Province up to Session Road in this city.  During the six-day walk, hikers are expected to trek mountains, some of which are more than 2,000 meters above sea level.

    According to organizers,  Sagada was chosen as starting point “because it is a place where people love their trees and forests, and it is a known tourist haven because of its forests, which are being managed sustainably through an indigenous agroforestry practice called ‘lakon.’ ”

    They decided to

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  • Chinese welcome Water Snake

    Text, photos and video by Vincent Go, VERA Files

    The sound of firecrackers filled the narrow streets of Binondo as crowds packed the district to watch traditional lion and dragon dancers welcome the Lunar New Year.

    Binondo, as Manila’s Chinatown is known, joined the world's Chinese community in greeting the Lunar New Year with fireworks, feng shui, trinkets and Chinese delicacies, which they believe will bring good luck and drive away evil spirits and bad omens.

    Binondo is also the world’s oldest Chinatown. It was established in 1594 by the Spanish Governor Luis Perez Dasmariñas, and has since been populated by ethnic Chinese and become a bustling merchant and commercial district.

    In the Chinese lunar calendar, February 10 marked the start of the Year of the Water Snake, which ends on January 30, 2014.

    (VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)

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  • Late-blooming author realizes her debut was worth the wait


    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Columnist-humorist Chit Roces-Santos has joined the respected ranks of hyphenated women authors at the launch of her first book, Personal Space and Other Essays.

    At the well-attended event at Powerbooks in Greenbelt Makati, the author marked other milestones: another birthday in her senior citizen’s life, coming out with her official married surname in her byline, partnering with husband Vergel O. Santos who was her illustrator, and being serenaded publicly by him and his son Paolo.

    She also made Anvil Publishing Inc. happy with the sale of 200 copies at the launch.

    “A star is born. She looked absolutely ravishing,”enthused editor Lorna Kalaw Tirol describing the evening as “joyful and special. “

    Freelancer Mae Manalang Sta. Ana said, “That launch made me think and dream again that maybe someday I, too, will write and get published.”

    The fact that Roces-Santos inspired this reception from followers of her newspaper column “Not Quite

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  • Choreographing ‘Daragang Magayon’ in multi-media

    Scene from Daragang Magayon. Photo by George Tapan.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    The most encouraging thing about “Daragang Magayon: An Istorya Ni Mayon” is that it was spearheaded by the provincial government of Albay as part of its tourism pitch.

    Very few in the government sector believe in the immense power of culture to perk up the tourism landscape. Albay, for one, has a formidable tourist attraction in the presence of Mt. Mayon. It didn’t occur to many that the legends surrounding the magic mountain can be transformed into a cultural attraction.

    The production’s next commendable attribute is that Albay Gov. Joey Salceda was able to work with an artistic team in the realm of choreography (Gerald Mercado), music (Ramon Santos), poetry (Virgilio Almario) and dramaturgy (Abdon Balde, Jr.).

    From the project director Katrina Santos Mercado, one learns that a dance music on the subject already existed with an original libretto by Merlinda Bobis. The libretto by Bobis focused on the oppressed Filipina and how she fought for love.

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  • Auspicious dishes for wealth and longevity

    Yu Sheng Salad

    By Winnie Velasquez, VERA Files

    As dragon and lion dancers usher in the Year of the Water Snake at around three in the afternoon Sunday, Feb 10, families and friends will gather to wish one another wealth, longevity, happiness and prosperity. And as cries of Gong Xi Fa Ca! rend the air, rituals steeped in centuries-old tradition will be observed around the city.

    And food is the focal point of these ceremonies marking the start of the Lunar New Year also the onset of the Spring Festival. This celebratory feast of dishes deemed auspicious is shared to invoke blessings of good fortune, longevity, and good health on everyone who partake of it.

    At Xin Tian Di, Crown Plaza Manila Galleria’s premier Chinese restaurant, Sam Lee, its executive Chinese chef has prepared eight essential auspicious dishes that will be rotated alongside the regular items on the menu until February 24. Among these are the Yu Sheng Salad, Braised African Abalone with Broccoli in Oyster Sauce, Tiger Prawns, Whole

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  • Arthur Espiritu soars in ‘The Poet Speaks’

    Arthur Espiritu3

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    The sixth of this month will linger long in the head and hearts, like the “last song syndrome,” of those who watched tenor Arthur Espiritu as he breathed life into the lyrics of poets and the music of the masters.

    The Ayala Museum lobby in Makati City was filled with sparkling anticipation as the perfumed set and casually dressed culture vultures took unnumbered seats. The glass-walled, tall-ceilinged museum had been there for some time as venue for launchings of Jaime Zobel de Ayala’s de luxe books; it has hosted fashion shows of the likes of Josie Natori and Inno Sotto and similar worthy endeavors that enrich the city’s cultural life. But as venue for a concert like MCO Foundation Inc.’s “The Poet Speaks?” Now we’re talking!

    The US-based Espiritu has consistently enthralled the operatic and fine music crowd with his prince-like stance, his “beautiful legato”, a critic once wrote. These qualities were present that enchanted evening

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  • Mock polls

    Text, photo and video by Amiel Mark Cagayan, VERA Files
    Additional interview by Radyo Bida, DXMS Cotabato City

    BULUAN, Maguindanao—Only five ballots had been fed when the Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machine at the Talitay Elementary School here encountered a software error. As the day wore on, the machine failed to read the ballots or ejected a ballot.

    Despite these and other problems observed in the mock polls held on Saturday in this town and Bongao, Tawi-tawi in preparation for the May 13 elections, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said there was still time to correct glitches.

    Alalahanin nating ang PCOS is just a counting machine. It solves the problem in the counting and of course the transmission and during the canvassing and proclamation (Let us remember that the PCOS is just a machine used to count, transmit and canvass votes),” Fr. David Procalla, PPCRV chair in ARMM, told Radyo Bida DXMS.

    Ang problema

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  • Ilocos Norte PNP evaluating watchlist areas

    Ilocos Norte arc

    By Leilanie Adriano, VERA Files

    LAOAG CITY— Police are considering declaring this city and five other towns as priority watchlist areas in the May elections.

    Senior Superintendent Gerardo Ratuita, acting police provincial director, said the towns of Marcos, Pagudpud, Pasuquin, Dingras, Sarrat and Laoag City are being monitored as possible priority watchlist areas.

    Ilocos Norte is made up of 21 towns and two cities. So far, the province has not yet been identified as a “high risk” area compared to other provinces in Region I, said the Commission on Elections provincial office.

    But previous incidents involving key officials and candidates in the five municipalities and the capital may provoke an untoward incident, Ratuita said.

    Mayor Salvador Pillos was shot Monday afternoon by men riding in tandem in front of the Marcos Agro-Industrial School.

    Task Force Pillos led by Ratuita has yet to identify the motive of the shooting.

    It had earlier traced the abandoned motorcycle used by the

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  • The weakest link in the Megamall heist

    A shop in Megamall after the robbery. Photo by Rio Ribaya from Yahoo.

    By Ace Esmeralda, VERA Files

    Many things don’t fit in the statements of the police on the Jan. 26 Megamall robbery.

    A shop in Megamall after the robbery. Photo by Rio Ribaya from Yahoo.As of this writing, the Mandaluyong police have claimed to have “identified” two of the six suspects in the robbery. But in reality, they don’t have the two suspects’ names and addresses yet. What they have are cartographic sketches that matched the images captured by the CCTV and confirmed by the sales ladies of The Jeweler and F&C Jewelry stores.

    Ironically, the police were quick to tag the Martilyo (Hammer) Gang as suspects without knowing that pipe wrenches were used to smash the glass displays and that they haven’t identified by name and other personal details any of the robbers.

    How did it happen?

    At around 6:56 p.m. of that Saturday, the first of the six suspects entered the mall through a supermarket entrance where the security guards on duty were performing their mandatory and required bag check and frisking. Five others were seen through CCTV review to have

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  • El español es parte de la cultura filipina

    Spain's Queen Sofia delivers a speech at a dinner reception hosted by President Aquino.

    By Norman Sison,VERA Files

    Queen Sofia's photo by Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos

    If you are a Filipino, most likely you can understand the Spanish headline above.

    Because of 300 years of Spanish colonial rule, Spanish is part of Filipino culture since Ferdinand Magellan discovered the Philippines in 1521.

    There are about 20,000 Spanish words in Filipino. In spite of that, however, the Philippines — unlike Latin America — never became a Spanish-speaking nation. The conquistadors never taught the language to perpetuate the disunity of the archipelago and maintain their rule over the natives, who were scattered over 7,100 islands, 10 languages and 70 dialects.

    A Spanish colonial official asserted: “Experience has taught us that those who know our language are almost always the most headstrong ... the ones who talk behind our back, criticize and rebel.”

    Fast forward to the present. In June last year, on her fourth visit to the Philippines,Spain’s Queen Sofia encouraged Filipinos

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