The Inbox
  • Videographer Robert Suntay, Senator Loren Legarda, Director Brillante Mendoza discuss the need to raise awareness on the country's marine life and underwater resources.

    By Kiersnerr Gerwin B. Tacadena, VERA Files

    “Gutom (hunger),” Sen. Loren Legarda said is what’s in store for the Filipino people if destruction of the country's marine resources is not stopped.

    Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on Environment and Natural Resources, presented the grim scenario at the launching of a video documentary on Philippine Marine Biodiversity at the National Museum on International Earth Day.

    Directed by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Brillante Mendoza and shot by underwater videographer, Robert Suntay, the documentary is part of a campaign to prod Filipinos to protect marine resources. It was produced in partnership with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Philippine Information Agency.

    Legarda said protection of marine resources could be one of the many solutions to hunger experienced by Filipinos.

    “We are rich in fisheries and coastal resources, and yet why is it that 3.9 million Filipino families were hungry in the last

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  • Fishermen from Tacloban and Palawan join the first training session on fiberglass boat technology in Manila. Photo by GREGG YAN/WWF

    By Jane Dasal, VERA Files

    If you want to save the earth, build a boat.

    That's what a group of environmentalists is saying, especially if you want to save both the forests and fishermen affected by supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan).

    “Haiyan sank about 30,000 bancas. Fishermen in hard-hit communities need to get back in the water and on their feet. But to rebuild all 30,000 boats from wood will rob the Philippines of precious forest cover,” World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines communications manager Gregg Yan said on Tuesday, Earth Day.

    The solution: Build fiberglass boats.

    WWF has launched Bancas for the Philippines, which aims to help fishing communities in Tacloban and Northern Palawan build 600 boats with fiberglass, a reinforced polyester resin made from strands of glass filaments bundled together to form mats or rovings.

    Tacloban and Northern Palawan were some of the areas severely affected by Yolanda, which struck the country on Nov. 8.

    Fredel Mued, one of the beneficiaries of

    Read More »from ‘Yolanda’ fiberglass boats modern-day Noah’s ark
  • Philippine Movement for Climate Justice gathers outside the DENR main office to protest the proposed construction of 25 coal-fired power plants.

    By Patricia Isabel Gloria, VERA Files

    GROUPS opposed to the building of 25 coal-fired power plants within the next six years gathered outside the gates of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Tuesday, International Earth Day, as a sign of protest.

    Members of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) walked from the Bantayog ng mga Bayani along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City and continued with the program in front of the DENR’s main office along Visayas Avenue. An estimated 200 participants joined the rally.

    DENR is the agency that issues Environmental Clearance Certificates for the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

    Lawyer Aaron Pedrosa, head of PMCJ’s Energy Working Group said this proposal expressly contradicts the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chance Fifth Assessment Report (IPCC-AR5).

    According to the report, one of the leading causes of climate change is the high concentration of greenhouse gases in the

    Read More »from Environmental groups oppose proposed coal-fired power plants

  • Text by Kimmy Baraoidan, VERA Files

    Photos by Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan

    Los Baños, Laguna—Inside a wet market in Los Baños, a stack of paper bags hangs by a fruit stand.

    Many towns now ban the use of plastics in business establishments. Consumers haul their produce and groceries in brown paper bags, colorful eco bags, old newspapers and used cardboard boxes.

    Bicycles are all the rage as of late. Aside from zero emissions, another benefit is that the rider is able to work out while going from one place to another. Bicycle surplus shops have sprung left and right to cater to the demand for the eco-friendly vehicle. Consequently, bicycle rental and repair shops are experiencing a resurgence in their business.

    Another booming business is wood recyclers. Palotsina used by big factories as packaging material is salvaged by small-scale furniture makers and make them into customized pieces of furniture.

    These practices show a growing consciousness to save the environment from further

    Read More »from Green is in
  • Chinatown Walk beside Lucky Chinatown Mall

    By Yolanda L. Punsalan, VERA Files

    There are sections of Binondo that are not in the itinerary of bloggers, and food and culture trippers.

    For the generally young crowd who want to experience the sights, smells and flavors of Binondo, Ongpin Street is always the hands down winner. The famous street has the dynamic appeal and vibes of Hong Kong and its corners are feasts for the eyes, as well as ideal for delightful shopping.

    There are quiet sections, though sans the entertainment and tourist traps, like San Fernando. It is that long street directly in front of Binondo Church, intersected by Quintin Paredes and Juan Luna Streets and begins with a pretty bridge with white stone art on both sides.

    Some historical nuggets are waiting to be dug up in this area. There are stories about a certain relative of Dr. Jose Rizal, the only one living to this date, who resides near this San Fernando Bridge.

    Footbridge built in 1969 from Alvarado to Insular StreetFurther down this cemented road, on Urbiztondo Street, Emilio Aguinaldo is known to have been

    Read More »from Binondo: Beyond hopia and dragon dance
  • Not just a backdoor transit point, Tawi-Tawi is also a destination for human trafficking victims. Photo by Jake Soriano/VERA Files.

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Bongao, Tawi-Tawi—Tawi-Tawi authorities are alarmed at the growing number of fishermen from the Visayas who end up here after being recruited by human trafficking syndicates to engage in dangerous compressor diving.

    The latest case involves 13 fishermen rescued from a fishing village here on March 15 by a team composed of the Tawi-Tawi Provincial Police Office (PPO), Philippine Marines and the Bongao Inter-agency Task Force Against Trafficking in Persons (BIATFAT).

    The case is the eighth recorded by BIATFAT since December 2012, and brings the total number of rescued fishermen to 80, all of them from Cebu and Bohol.

    “They have taken a huge risk in accepting compressor diving work here,” said Inspector Elmira Relox, chief of the Tawi-Tawi PPO Women and Children Protection Desk, who led the rescue.

    Compressor diving, a dangerous deep-sea fishing method, requires the fishermen to dive into the water without any gear, except for a plastic hose attached to an air

    Read More »from Rising number of trafficked fishermen alarms Tawi-Tawi authorities
  • The return of Gigi Reyes

    By Ellen T.Tordesillas

    This is going to be fascinating.

    Gigi ReyesAtty. Gigi Reyes, former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile who is included among those accused of plunder in connection with the misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund, came back last Saturday.

    Reyes left last August when her name came up as one of those who were dealing directly with pork barrel operator Janet Napoles . She was reported to have gone to Macau, then to other countries.

    In the resolution approved last April 1, the Ombudsman said they found probable cause for  Enrile ,Reyes, Napoles, Ruby Tuason, Ronald John Lim, and  Raymond de Asis to have committed plunder.

    Plunder is punishable by lifetime imprisonment and forfeiture of ill-gotten wealth in favor of government.

    The Ombudsman also found cause  to indict Reyes together with Enrile and others for 15 counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

    Corrupt practices under R.A. 3019 is punishable by imprisonment of not

    Read More »from The return of Gigi Reyes

  • Photos by Little Wing Luna, VERA Files

    Text by Mitch Meñez

    Kalibo, Aklan--Viernes Santo or Good Friday is the most solemn of all the days in Holy Week. It commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus on the Cross. The Sorrowful Mystery is depicted in the life- sized image of religious figures on caros or chariots.

    The CrucifictionAdorned in intricately woven robes, aromatic flowers, and blinding lights, the caros make their way into town.

    The whole town of Kalibo, Aklan in Panay is closed and all businesses cease from selling any commodities. The only sign of trade would be the vendors selling candles on the street. Or refreshments for those who have come from farflung barrios away to participate in the annual religious activity.

    As with all small towns rich with history, the entire population gather in the plaza. House lights are dimmed. Music is turned down to an almost inaudible level. The only sound one can hear, is the prayers coming from the pursed lips of the devout.

    Townsfolk walk alongside

    Read More »from Viernes Santo in Kalibo

  • Text by Kimmy Baraoidan, VERA Files

    Photos by Chris Quintana and Kimmy Baraoidan

    Pakil, Laguna--In the small town of Pakil, Laguna resides a group of men who call themselves Hugas Dugo. Most members of the group are residents of the town, who, every Good Friday, transform from everyday townspeople into faceless flagellants.

    The group was formed in the ‘80s, and its members since then had been performing self-flagellation every Lenten season.

    Hugas Dugo is now a mix of young blood and old folk. Usually it is the younger generation that does the self-flagellation, and the older men are the ones who take charge of scheduling the flagellants into shifts, which would run from morning until late afternoon; cooking meals for the flagellants; manning the assembly area.

    This year their home base was located under a bridge. Members bring contributions for the flagellants’ food and drinking water.

    Flagellants first change into some old shirts, usually with long sleeves. The backs of their shirts

    Read More »from Hugas Dugo
  • Text and photos by Kiersnerr Gerwin Tacadena, VERA Files

    Baliuag, Bulacan--This town is hosting what could be the country’s biggest Lenten procession consisting of more than 100 religious statues riding on carriages or carrozas. But concerns are being raised that the occasion may have evolved from being a form of catechism and service to the Church, into an opportunity to show off their owners’ wealth.

    “These things are not just for show,” said San Agustin parish priest Andres Valera. “It is also for the deepening of the faith of the faithful.”

    Yet owners of images and carroza themselves admit processions have turned into parades of affluence.

    “To be frank, there are a lot of rich people here in Baliuag who just want to show off,” said Jacinto Cruz, owner of one of the oldest images in Baliuag.

    Every year since Spanish times, these carrozas have graced the busy streets of Baliuag on Good Friday. In the past, images were small so that they could be carried on the shoulders of their

    Read More »from Lenten procession more than just a spectacle


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