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  • Text, photos and video by Vincent Go, VERA Files

    Every third Sunday of January, Tondo, one of Manila's most densely populated districts, celebrates the Feast of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child in Spanish). The Sto. Niño is one of the oldest religious relics brought by Fernando Magellan to the archipelago in 1521.

    Barely a week after the Feast of the Black Nazarene, thousands of devotees flocked to the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish, bearing images of the Child Jesus to have them blessed.

    Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle officiated the early morning mass held at 6 a.m., which  was followed by hourly masses held to accommodate the huge number of devotees. A grand procession then ensued, with devotees swaying, images of the Holy Child in their arms, to the drumbeats of native Ati-atihan dancers smothered in black soot around Tondo district.

    The event went peacefully with no untoward incident, apart from several people who reported losing valuables to pickpockets.

    Read More »from An uneventful feast of Sto. Niño in Tondo, except for pickpockets

  • By Patrick King Pascual, VERA Files

    Amid chants of Viva Pit Senyor! (or Long live the Christ child!), about a hundred thousand devotees of the Holy Child joined  Saturday's  grand foot procession in Cebu City--- the eve of the Feast of the Sto. Niño.

    In the island province of Cebu in southern Philippines, the most celebrated feast and patron is the Sto. Niño, an icon in the Roman Catholic faith  symbolizing the child Jesus Christ. Devotees pray to him for different petitions, and to give thanks for all the blessings they have received.

    Although the Sto. Niño is not the official patron saint of Cebu, the Cebuanos still continue to celebrate the feast of the child patron with much gusto. (Cardinal Vidal, Archbishop of Cebu, declared Our Lady of Guadalupe as the principal patroness of Cebu in 2002.)

    The Sto. Niño statue in Cebu is believed to be the oldest religious image in the Philippines, donated by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon in 1521. The statue is said to be miraculous

    Read More »from Viva Pit Senyor!
  • sinulog 2012

    By Patrick King Pascual,VERA Files

    Tomorrow, January 15, the main streets of Cebu City will reverberate to the sound of revelry as residents and visitors  dance in the grand parade of the Sinulog festival.

    The Sinulog festival is the most awaited event in southern Philippines that is held annually in the city of Cebu. The celebration pays tribute to the Cebuano's acceptance of Roman Catholicism and to honor the Santo Niño.

    Sinulog comes from the Cebuano word that means, "like water current movement", the term describes the forward and backward movement of the Sinulog dance.

    The festival features a street parade with participants in attractive, colored costumes and props dancing to the eclectic beat of the Sinulog theme.

    The Sinulog Festival started in 1980 organized by the government of Cebu City to attract more tourists. The first Sinulog parade was composed of students dressed as Moros accompanied by the festive street drums, dancing the "Sinulog". Today, contingents come from

    Read More »from Sinulog festival: one beat, one dance, one vision
  • Viel Aquino-Dy graces awarding ceremonies of IP writing contest

    By Ariel C. Sebellino, VERA Files

    There's more about indigenous people than just being relegated to the fringes of society and beneficiaries of the kindness of international organizations.

    The more than 80 articles submitted in the writing competition, Pagkilala sa mga Natatanging Kuwentong Katutubo (Discovering outstanding stories about Indigenous People), showed that Indigenous People (IP)  have a lot to offer in society and are outstanding partners in development.

    Sponsored by the International Labor Organization in partnership with Probe Media Foundation, the  writing contest conducted last year  recognized outstanding IP stories in print, photo essay, radio, television and online media.

    The contest wanted to focus on how  indigenous peoples communities or individuals were able to empower themselves amidst adversities and challenges as citizens of this country in an environment where they "usually take a back seat in the scheme of things or are lost in the stream of public

    Read More »from Recognizing stories that make Indigenous People proud

  • By Amer R. Amor, VERA Files

    When world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell played at the Washington DC Metro Station in 2007 as part of The Washington Post's social experiment on how people perceive and appreciate art and beauty, very few noticed and applauded. But when a 63-year-old man played the piano at the LRT 2 Cubao Station on Jan. 12, Filipino commuters stopped, paid attention, took videos, applauded, and at some point, swayed and sang along with his music.

    Perhaps as a testament to British award-winning author Neil Gaiman's tweet on Friday that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines since Filipinos applaud loudly, at least 300 commuters alternately took delight in the impromptu "concert" of pianist performer Vidalito Infante in a music retail stall at the Cubao Station from 4 to 6 p.m.

    "I just can't stop myself from playing good music, and besides, the crowd here wouldn't let me stop as well,' Infante said smilingly, waving to the people who were still gathered around him even

    Read More »from 63-year-old pianist puts up impromptu ‘concert’ for train commuters
  • Text and photos by Karlos Manlupig, VERA Files

    PANTUKAN, Compostela Valley—A loud cracking sound followed by waves upon waves of clay, timber and rocks roused sleeping residents in a poor small-scale mining community in Sitios Diat 1 and 2 in Barangay Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley before dawn of Jan. 5.

    Shortly after, more than 50 houses would be buried in rubble, leaving residents who survived the nature's onslaught in shock.

    Thirty-six bodies have been retrieved and four of these remain unidentified, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

    Sixteen people were rescued from the site of the landslide and were immediately brought to the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City. But the NDRRMC reported 40 people still missing.

    Dr. Arnulfo Lataya of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Pantukan said Napnapan, the site of the tragedy, is a high-risk area.  It has been a mining area since the 1980's.

    "We marked this zone as a

    Read More »from ComVal residents stay put despite deadly landslide
  • Blogging tips from the award-winning Geek Girl

    Time was, few people had heard of blogging, let alone maintained their own blogs. Now that blogging has become a familiar online activity, with users ranging from hobbyists to professional bloggers to journalists to companies, how can Pinoy bloggers stand out from the crowd?

    For blogger and social media manager Lia Espina Lopez, who maintains the Geek Girl Manila site, the key differentiator is passion. It's what fueled the growth of her blog and led to it being named the best blog in the Lifestyle Category for the National Level of the 2011 Philippine Blog Awards.

    Tip No. 1: Write about your interests

    "I felt really honored and happy and, of course, surprised! I didn't really expect to win since the other finalists were really good! I was just happy being one of the finalists. It was surreal for me going up the stage and giving an acceptance speech," she told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

    Geek Girl on stage at the 2011 Philippine Blog AwardsGeek Girl at 2011 Philippine Blog Awards

    A personal website, Geek Girl Manila is all about Lia's interest in gadgets and technology, geek

    Read More »from Blogging tips from the award-winning Geek Girl
  • Photos by Luis Liwanag, VERA Files

    A community of urban poor dwellers resisted demolition by the San Juan City police Wednesday morning, resulting in a skirmish between the demolition team and residents.

    At least 10 people were reported injured.

    The affected community was composed of 2,000 residents on P. Narciso St., in Barangay Corazon de Jesus, their shanties torn down to make way for a new city hall.

    The demolition order came from San Juan City mayor Guia Gomez, wife of former president Joseph Estrada.

    City officials said the area would also be used for a new Pinaglabanan shrine, to commemorate the place where the Filipino revolutionaries fired the opening salvo in their fight to end Spanish rule.

    On Wednesday morning, the area was again the scene of violence. San Juan City policemen fired water canons at residents who put up a barricade to stop the demolition. Policemen and snipers also stationed themselves on a hill of construction material overlooking the contested area.

    In the

    Read More »from Urban poor community resists demolition in San Juan
  • Text and video by Vincent Go, VERA Files

    It was the longest procession to date in the history of Quiapo Church's centuries-old Black Nazarene.

    It took almost 22 hours for the life-size wooden sculpture of a dark-colored Jesus carrying the cross to return to church after leaving the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park Monday morning.  It was already quarter past 5 a.m. of Tuesday when it entered Quiapo Church as millions of devotees who believe the icon to be miraculous participated in the annual feast of the Black Nazarene.

    Early on the procession, two of the wheels of the carriage bearing the sculpture sustained damage from the sheer weight of the crowd trying to climb it to get a chance to touch the Black Nazarene. Two more wheels gave way as the procession approached Manila City Hall.

    Eager crowds that were waiting along the route of the procession started to proceed to where the carriage broke down. This also prompted Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, the parish priest, to proceed to

    Read More »from Black Nazarene procession: Broken wheels and strong will
  • Boracay's breathtaking view (Photo by Glenda Villena)

    Some people say Boracay is already overrated. But why do people still flock to the island during the holidays?

    Here's why:

    1. The beaches. Boracay still has the bragging rights of having the finest, white, powder-like sand and cool blue ocean waters.

    According to Henry Chusuey—owner of Boracay Garden Resort, a subsidiary of Henann Hotels and Resorts which operates Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa, Regency Lagoon and Henann Resort at Alona Beach, Bohol—that the Boracay Foundation (where he serves as chairman) ensures that the island is protected against abusive practices despite ongoing infrastructure developments.

    2. The food. Boracay offers a gastronomical feast. There are a host of restaurants and eateries that offer a variety of dishes—from simple grilled island fare to fusion dishes.  Bottom line: Your taste buds won't get "marooned" on this island.

    3. The people. Filipino hospitality is widely practiced in Boracay. From the courteous hotel staff to locals you meet while

    Read More »from Why Boracay is still a top holiday destination

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