Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • Ampatuan killing: Why some widows keep giving interviews

    By Mylah Reyes-Roque, VERA Files

    Seven women on Friday marked the third anniversary of the Ampatuan killing giving interviews left and right, at times dividing themselves in teams to appear in simultaneous TV and radio shows.

    Noemi Parcon, whose husband Joel is among the 58 people killed in the election-related rampage, said back home in Koronadal City, she and some of her fellow victims have been called publicity-seekers.

    It is uncalled for, she said, because the reality is, if they don't talk, they would be perceived as having been bought by the Ampatuans, the primary accused in the ongoing multiple murder case.

    "Ang isip kasi nila sa probinsiya, pag hindi ka na nakikita sa TV, hindi ka na nagpapa-interview, hindi ka na nagpupunta sa Maynila, nabayaran ka na (Those in the province think you've been bought if you don't appear on TV, don't give interviews and don't go to Manila)."

    Zenaida Duhay said that on her way to Manila from Tacurong City in Sultan Kudarat, some people in her

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  • Ronnie Quizon (right) as Mabini with Alvin Anson on the set.

    By Norman  Sison,VERA Files

    Ronnie Quizon may be a fan of Andres Bonifacio, the father of the Philippine Revolution, but he immediately snapped up the offer to play a role (Apolinario Mabini) in the big-budget biopic about Bonifacio nemesis Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines' first president.

    "As a whole, I thought it was a no-brainer. I would love to be a part of such an ambitious project," says Quizon of El Presidente , one of the offerings in this year's Metro Manila Film Festival. "And I think it can be considered as a milestone in Philippine movie-making someday. I can only think of two words: epic proportions."

    Of course, that will be for the audience to decide. Movie budgets alone don't win accolades. There is no award for having the largest movie budget.

    One thing is definite: El Presidente ("The President" in Spanish) will get people talking about Aguinaldo's place in the nation's history. Making a movie about a historical figure is one thing. Telling history as it happened is

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  • How to turn a manuscript into a bestseller

    David McKirdy reads from his book of poems.

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Editors today generally spend less time in editing because time is money. This is the observation that novelist Ken Spillman gave at a panel discussion on "Uncut: Issues in Editing" at the recent "Read Lit District," the Third Philippine International Literary Festival in Makati City's Ayala Museum.

    Spillman, author of the successful Jake series for young readers and whose novel Advaita was described by Young India Books as a work of "sheer genius" that "gently pushes the boundaries of language," qualified that "the best writers respect and respond well to the editor's work."

    Because he also accepts editing jobs, he said as a reader he first tries to get "a feel of the manuscript. I look for copouts or parts where the author is struggling with a point of view or if he is able to sustain it and be effectively consistent if he switches it."

    A good editor, he added, "becomes a little bit more of a writer, a partner of the writer. He is

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  • E-resource on Ampatuan murder trial launched

    Ampatuan FilesBy VERA Files

    The advocacy group Center for International Law (Centerlaw) launched Friday an electronic resource of public documents relating to the trial of the Ampatuans and their accomplices for the mass murder of 58 people, 32 of them journalists, in Ampatuan, Maguindanao exactly three years ago.

    The e-resource "Ampatuan Files"  contains scans of the documents filed in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 by the prosecution and defense lawyers, as well as orders issued by the court, sourced mostly from the Roque & Butuyan Law Offices, which provides it legal services.

    The court has been hearing the consolidated criminal case People of the Philippines vs Andal "Unsay" Ampatuan Jr., et al.

    CenterLaw has been assisting the heirs of 13 journalists and media workers killed, as well as the heirs of two civilians accidentally included in the convoy of victims.

    Centerlaw stressed that the website is not the official source of the documents.

    Ampatuan Files initially started as a

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  • Wake-uppers and ‘croakers” on AM Radio

    am radio3

    By  Winnie  Velasquez, VERA Files

    From the Sixties to the Seventies, schoolchildren in the barrios rose at the crack of dawn as the cock crowed. They started their day thus because after a simple breakfast they made their way to school crossing rivers and trekking for miles to their classrooms which were located nearer the centers of town. Their city counterparts woke up to a different set of "croakers" from Monday to Friday.

    Public schools in the city started their morning sessions with the flag ceremony at seven in the morning; private schools begun their day at 7:30. The wake-up call  then was at 5:30 to give them  time to bathe, have a full breakfast and be ready for school in less than an hour. Public schools were barely five to ten minutes from home, while their private counterparts were a little farther so they had to be at their gates at 6 a.m. to board the school bus. Those who took the family car had 30 more minutes to spare. School bells rung at 7 a.m., 15 minutes were

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  • Genetically modified crops threaten organic agriculture

    Greenpeace presscon

    By Jonathan de Santos,VERA Files

    The country's organic farmers could lose access to international agricultural markets if their crops are continually exposed to genetically-modified crops which are a source of pollen contamination.

    This is what happened to corn farmers in Alfonso Lista town in Ifugao province when a contract for them to supply organic corn to Japan was canceled, said Daniel Ocampo, sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia.  Buyers from Japan stopped importing the Ifugao corn when they found that crops had been contaminated by genetically-modified corn being grown in the same town.

    Ocampo, speaking Wednesday at a Greenpeace press conference on the risks of allowing field testing of genetically-modified organism (GMO) crops, said the organic agricultural trade has "no tolerance for contamination."

    Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala told reporters at the Ninth National Organic Agriculture Congress in Cebu City earlier this month that organic

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  • Creative juices and how to make them flow

    Ken Spillman online

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga,VERA Files

    For writers, whether they are in journalism or in the literary arts, one source of creativity is the company of other writers.

    Tim Tomlinson, co-founder of the New York Writers Workshop, shared this observation at "Read Lit District," the Third Philippine International Literary Festival, at the Ayala Museum in Makati City.

    Speaking at the panel discussion on "Juices: Get Creativity Flowing," he said being with writers always "makes me want to write." He quoted Dr. Gemino Abad, poet- professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines Diliman, who earlier said, "The knowing is in the writing."

    He shared how he got into the social media network Facebook  to connect with his yoga group, but later found that it could also link him up "to people I haven't thought of in years." So for his workshops, using FB as some kind of model, he would ask participants to hurriedly write down 25 random things about themselves.

    Tomlinson, a fictionist

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  • ‘Thy Womb’: the return of Nora-Bembol teamup

    Nora and Bembol

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    The latest Dante Brillante Mendoza film,"Thy Womb," has reverberations of the 1957 Lamberto Avellana film "Badjao" and in another sense, Marilou Diaz-Abaya's "Sa Pusod Ng Dagat."

    They all expound on love, life and lost traditions in the islands and with the unstable peace and order situation constantly threatening an otherwise idyllic life by the sea.

    While the Avellana film zeroes on two warring tribes with their own versions of a "Romeo and Juliet" scenario and the Abaya film chronicling birth and death in the island, the latest Mendoza film unveils an uncanny kind of altruism between a childless Badjao couple.

    The film captures the colorful life and tradition of the Badjaos as seen in courtship and wedding rituals and in the process showcase a rare unselfish kind of love between a Badjao comadrona and his husband. The irony of her life is that while she helps give birth to countless babies every week and keep count of them by keeping a part of their

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  • Breaking remaining taboos

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Isagani CruzThe question "Why?" can also be the simplest editing and censoring tool. This was the consensus of the speakers at the panel on "All the Way: Writers expose remaining taboos, how to break them and why they must be broken" at the Third Philippine International Literary Festival at the Ayala Museum sponsored by the National Book Development Board.

    Chris Abani, a US-based writer with origins from Nigeria, said asking "Why?" raised the specter of shame which is used to control people and serves as the basis for the legal system.

    He added that if people cared about restitution, there would be no need for punishment that causes shame on those who could do things that normal persons could not. He said true restitution works for change from the inside out, the harder thing to do.

    Abani, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for his novel Graceland and a literature professor at the University of California Riverside, said among the things straight or

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  • How literature heals

    Chris Abani

    Text and photos by Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Although the recent Third Philippine International Literary Festival, subtitled "Read Lit District" (a pun to sound like red-light district), gathered the country's literary lights in Makati City's Filipinas Heritage Library and Ayala Museum for three days, it was Nigerian-American author Chris Abani who virtually stole the show.

    After he spoke at the first plenary on the subject "Broken: Literature Created from Human Sorrow," many participants flocked to the different sessions where he was listed as a panelist. Journalist Ruel de Vera cited his own favorite Abani quote when he introduced the author of the best-selling and acclaimed novels The Virgin of Flames and Graceland: "We are never more beautiful than when we are most ugly because that's when we know what we are made of."

    Abani, 45, described himself as "a connoisseur of ugly things." In one of his books, there is a place called the Ugly Store that only sells ugly things like

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