The Inbox
  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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
  • Text and photos by Patricia Isabel Gloria, VERA Files

    Dolores, Quezon—Around this time each year, hundreds of devotees flock to Barangay Sta. Lucia in Dolores, Quezon on the slopes of Mount Banahaw to celebrate Holy Week. Here, mysticism meets Catholicism, as members of various sects engage in what a local priest calls traditional spiritual practices at the height of the town’s Lenten rituals.

    Bulk of the Holy Week pilgrims are members of an estimated 137 sects who come to Mount Banahaw and head for the Sta. Lucia River, which is said to have miraculous healing powers.

    “Dito ako gumaling, sa tubig at saka sa pananampalataya (I was healed here, because of the water and faith),” said Leony Madera, whose anemia was cured after she took regular baths in the river.

    Madera, 52, is a member of Jesus Nazareno Jove Rex Al Prayer Partner Movement International, Inc., one of the 137 religious sects in Dolores. Members of these sects troop to Banahaw to bathe in the river, lighting candles and

    Read More »from Holy Week in Mt Banahaw: Mysticism meets Catholicism
  • 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

    Read More »from Simbang lakad for Lolo Uweng

  • 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

    Read More »from Batangas women bear ‘the cross’ to save loved ones
  • 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

    Read More »from Chronicling the komedya in Antique
  • 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

    Read More »from 48 nabbed in biggest anti-trafficking catch in Bongao
  • 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

    Read More »from Docs vow to pay right taxes, make peace with BIR

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