Blog Posts by VERA Files

  • Calle Real without cars

    Prima Galaw, one of Iloilo City’s premiere theater groups, performs at Calle RealPhoto by Jonathan Japitana

    By Julie Ann Mae B. Silvederio and Hazel P. Villa, VERA Files

    Photos by Jonathan Japitana and JP Sarsoza

    Iloilo City – Imagine a major city closing off its busiest downtown streets on a late Saturday afternoon till evening so that an orchestra can perform, photographers can hold a photo exhibit, poets can do open mike readings, book lovers can read as acoustic bands, solo performers and dance groups do their own thing.

    Imagine early Sunday morning in a carless street where people jog and do physical fitness activities, followed by henna tattoo live sketching, with an open reading space available for anyone who would like to temporarily free himself from the consuming world of social networking. Come late afternoon, a street fashion show with elegant designs unfolds --- adding to the boulevard’s classic ambiance while cosplayers, fire and carnival dancers suffuse the streets with a festal vibe.

    That is not a figment of one’s imagination.

    Iloilo City Councilor Jason Gonzales initiated

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  • Sinag de Leon’s delight in paper rainbows

    De Leon setting up her work entitled Malakas

    By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Photos courtesy of Reyme V. Faurillo Jr. and Joan Geli Doronila

    Barely seven years have passed since Sinag de Leon began exhibiting her paper-cut art. But already she has had 10 solo show and joined just as many group exhibits. Integrated in her shows are skills sharing and training workshops.

    Her day job is with the University of the Philippines Diliman Office for Initiatives in Culture and the Arts under the UP Diliman Chancellor’s office. At nearby Likha Diwa Vegetarian and Seafood Café hangs de Leon’s 10th solo exhibit, “Paper Rainbows.”

    More of her paper cuts are included in the group show “Paglikha at Pagsulong” at the new UP Integrated School’s administration building. Her co-exhibitors and fellow UPIS alumni there are Jemil Araos, Roberto Corbin, Matthew Doronila, Ulysses Imbang and Raul Roco Jr.

    De Leon started exhibiting her paper cuts in 2007. The year 2010 was when she had her first solo show. She was elated with the response, saying, “I

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  • Refugee life in Tacloban: the abnormal becomes normal

    A father lulls his child to sleep.

    By Mitch Menez, VERA Files

    Photos by Little Wing Luna

    There is an inside joke amongst volunteer workers in Tacloban that one must wear long pants, rub one’s body with Off lotion and sleep inside the mosquito net. If not, you will be flown by those blood-sucking flies in mosquito land.

    The swarm of mosquitoes in refugee centers are that dense. It’s a nightmare.

    Almost two months after Yolanda struck, Tacloban is still in a state of disrepair. The airport itself is a tangle of twisted metal and upturned earth and was only recently fully cleared of debris for the use of commercial airlines.

    Survival living in Tacloban City proper.Water is still not easily available to everybody. Water container in varying sizes and colors line several blocks.

    Electricity is in a state of disrepair. Toppled electric posts are still on the road.

    People light bonfires and candles in the evening. But it’s dangerous as most of the makeshift shelter are made out of tarp and cardboard. Fortunate are the ones who were able to get tents from the United

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  • Young revolutionaries share snippets of life in the hills


    By Desiree Caluza, VERA Files

    Somewhere in the Cordillera--Here in the Cordillera in northern Luzon, Philippines, cicadas, birds, dragonflies and butterflies are the usual companions of young revolutionaries who call the hills their home.

    In one makeshift kitchen made of bamboo and plastic mats, young revolutionaries (aged 18 to 31), sip brewed coffee as they watch one of their colleagues cook supper on the crackling fire on the dalikan (a stove composed of three stones). The menu for the night is boiled rice and binongor (a native dish which is cooked by boiling bamboo shoots, shells, banana heart, string beans and hot chili, or siling labuyo, and salt).

    In the guerrilla zone of the Lejo Cawilan Command (LCC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Kalinga, there is no deafening sound of exchange of gunshots with the government soldiers on an ordinary day; only the sound of Ka Rodney’s “kulitong” (bamboo guitar) . On such a peaceful day, Ka Rodney usually plays his favorite

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  • Counting blessings despite Yolanda’s destruction

    An agricultural area, most houses in Talustusan were built under the trees.

    Text and photos by Daniel Abunales, VERA Files

    Naval, Biliran – Every year, residents from Talustusan, a community 20 minutes away from this town, gather on Christmas eve at their community center to welcome the birth of Christ.

    It was no different even after typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hit the province over a month ago, but a sudden decrease in attendance was obvious in what used to be a jam-packed venue.

    With a small generator lighting up the community center, residents from its seven different zones celebrated with a feast: They brought rice cakes like biko and suman, and other delicacies and shared them with other residents.

    Others brought menudo and native chicken adobo to complement root crops like camote and cassava. Pancit was also common in all tables.

    Residents of Brgy Talustusan celebrate Christmas.

    Barangay Talustusan chief Arturo Saclolo said in his speech that there was no reason to suspend the Christmas party even after Yolanda.

    “Although there were houses that were damaged, we have no casualty, and

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  • The elderly: Yolanda’s forgotten survivors

    Photo by Peter Caton

    By Attila Kulcsar and Vincent Henson, VERA Files

    Photo by Peter Caton of HelpAge International

    Francesca Genemilo, 78, sits on a bench where her house once stood. She stares pensively at the ruins, clutching her blue umbrella, one of the few treasured possessions that supertyphoon “Yolanda” did not take from her.

    She lives in Barangay Bulak, a village up a hill in Matag-ob, Ormoc in Leyte province. Yolanda has turned the road to her village into nothing more than a mud and rock track.

    “It’s about 20 minutes up the hill, but the very old and very young can’t come up and down it now, it’s too hard,” Genemillio said. “My house has been totally destroyed; I can’t even get my clothes and cooking utensils out from under the rubble. “

    Genemilo and her husband, who is 85 years old, are taking shelter in the health center that has very little roof left. “My husband is ill and lying on a bed there, but no medical staff has been back to the health center. No one is coming to see us. Because

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  • A security expert weighs on Dasma incident with Binays

    By Ace Esmeralda, VERA Files

    Video from the Philippine Daily Inquirer

    (Security expert Ace Esmeralda wrote the following observations based on the statements of Makati City Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay, the Dasmariñas Village security, Makati Chief of Police, Right Eight Security agency and the video of the incident.)

    If a picture paints a thousand words, a 15-minute video paints a million.

    The video taken almost midnight of Nov. 30, 2013 showed a convoy of four SUVs near the boom barrier at the Banyan Road gate of Dasmariñas Village in Makati City. One guard is seen approaching the lead vehicle, most likely to explain the village rules that that particular gate is closed at 10 p.m.

    But the convoy had already squeezed itself too close that backing up is the only option to get to the other gate. Sad to say, based on the body language of persons in the video, the convoy expected the guards to raise the boom barrier and let it quickly leave the premises. When the guards refused,

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  • Pimentel explains bill seeking funding for PDAOs

    By Melissa Luz Lopez, VERA Files

    For nearly 20 years, government agencies have tried to come up with a consolidated list of Filipinos with disabilities, but to no avail.

    An organization of persons with disabilities composed of throat cancer survivors hopes to finally create this national database by working with hundreds of PWD organizations all over the country.

    “The database is a vital tool to measure the degree of development and social support that PWDs need in their respective place,” Emerito Rojas, president of New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP), which launched Thursday the PWD Sector Empowerment Project that is being supported by the United Kingdom.

    He said NVAP will consult with the 450 disabled peoples organizations under Alyansa ng mga may Kapansanang Pinoy (AKAP-Pinoy) in building the PWD database.

    AKAP-Pinoy Chairman Manuel Agcaoili said six attempts to come up with a PWD database since 1995 all fell below the estimates of the World Health Organization.


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  • What Ilonggo kids want from Santa Claus

    By Typhoon Yolanda Story Hub Visayas, VERA Files

    JocelleRayo, 12,of SitioButlogGamay in BarangayTambaliza, Concepcion writes a letter to Santa Claus asking for help.

    Concepcion, Iloilo--Despite the devastation wrought by supertyphoon Yolanda in this northern coastal town in Panay Island, children here still look forward to celebrating this Christmas.

    Many of them are still hopeful that Santa Claus would grant them their wishes. But while most children their age would wish for toys this Christmas, these kids are asking Santa for “gifts” that would help rebuild their communities.

    Like many other kids here, 12-year-old Jocelle Rayo of Sitio Butlog Gamay in Barangay Tambaliza, Concepcion wishes for a home for her family.

    “We don’t have a house because of typhoon Yolanda,” Jocelle says.

    A letter to Santa Claus by one of Yolanda’s victims.It was in their town where supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) made its fifth landfall last Nov. 8.

    Where Jocelle’s house once stood are piles of debris “Yolanda” left behind. During the monster howler’s onslaught, the raging waves forced her family and other people to evacuate to a hilltop.

    She asks Santa

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  • Damaged fish habitats reduce Bohol fish catch

    Tubigon, Bohol (Wikimapia)

    By Procopio Resabal Jr., VERA Files

    Tubigon, Bohol—Teodoro Sacon was at sea fishing when the 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the island province on Oct. 15.

    “The water seemed to sizzle and shake,” he said. “This (shaking) damaged the coral reefs where the fish were living.”

    In the bird sanctuary not too far from where he was, he said he saw “flocks of birds fly when the waters shook and seemed to bubble up.”

    Sacon was right about the coral reefs.

    The Oct. 15 tremor had caused coral reefs to collapse, damaging fish habitats and driving the fish into deep waters, said Noel Mendana, Tubigon Municipal Planning and Development Officer.

    The result: Fish catch in this coastal town in northern Bohol has fallen since the tremor, and fisherfolk now have to go farther to sea in their motorized bancas to earn a living.

    Tubigon fishers share experiences with USAID team (P. Resabal Jr.)There are some areas, in fact, where fisherfolk can hardly find any fish now, Sacon of the Makaas Fishers Association (MFA) told representatives of the United States Agency for

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