The Inbox
  • A mother and her children walk past a roofless classroom in Lantangan Elementary School.

    By Alfred John Tayona and Hazel P. Villa, VERA Files

    Photos by Alfred John Tayona

    Perched on top of a hill in Islas de Gigantes, one and half hours pump boat ride away from the mainland of Carles in northern Iloilo, a school ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda (International name: Haiyan) struggles to educate students despite roofless classrooms, lack of books and chairs.

    Mabelle Mortel, 26, a third grade teacher at Lantangan Elementary School, recalls that Monday before Yolanda smashed into Carles on Nov. 8, 2013, they were excited to hold their classes in the newly repaired classroom.

    When Yolanda left, it brought with it the roof of Mortel’s classroom. Her charts and other visual aids were all destroyed and the students’ books were all wet. The same was true with the other schools in the Islas de Gigantes group of islands.

    At the opening of classes early this month, Mortel’s classroom remained roofless. She holds her classes under a makeshift classroom with no desks, no chairs and no

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  • The Philippine flag said to be the one unfurled on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.

    By Norman Sison, VERA Files

    It is a surprise to most people to find a museum dedicated to General Emilio Aguinaldo in the northern Philippine city of Baguio. After all, Aguinaldo’s hometown is down south in Kawit, Cavite Province, where Philippine independence was declared 116 years ago.

    Located on Happy Glen Loop, not far from the city center, the museum looks more like a house. But it has one artifact that no museum — not even the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit — has: the very Philippine flag that was unfurled on that day in 1898.

    Well, that’s what the museum’s curator and Aguinaldo great-grandson, Emilio Aguinaldo Suntay III, maintains. General Aguinaldo himself said so when he bequeathed the flag to his daughter, Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay, shortly before he died in 1964.

    That has yet to be authenticated by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, however. But the story surrounding the flag is difficult to ignore.

    Aguinaldo family legend holds that the flag was Aguinaldo’s

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  • Del Rosario fights media battle while China controls battlefield

    AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, FileAP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    Statements coming from Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario betray helplessness over the situation in the South China Sea.

    The Philippines is losing the battle that he led the country to wage against China.

    Last Thursday Del Rosario said that the Philippines will ask the United Nations Arbitral Court to hasten the resolution of the 2013 suit it filed questioning the legality of China’s nine-dash line map in the light of the latter’s expansion activities on islands they are occupying in the disputed areas of the Spratlys in the South China Sea.

    Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza had said that they expect the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to rule on both jurisdiction and merit of the Philippine claim “between 2015 to 2016.” China has refused to participate in the Philippine case.

    Earlier, del Rosario said he will ask the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to call for a moratorium on activities in the South China Sea. Four –Philippines,

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  • Pianist Ingrid Sala Santamaria playing in the atelier of an ancestral house built in 1932.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Indeed, Tondo has many faces but what you see in media and past film releases will probably discourage anyone not to visit the place.

    For one, it is the birthplace of the country’s foremost revolutionary, Andres Bonifacio, National Artist for Theater Rolando Tinio, the King of Comedy Dolphy and Filipino writer Bievenido Santos, among others.

    The poor but brilliant Emilio Jacinto, the Brains of the Katipunan, was also born in Tondo in 1875. For the record, the Katipunan was also born in Tondo on July 7, 1892 when Bonifacio, with friends Ladislao Diwa and Teodoro Plata, founded this secret society on Calle Azcarraga (now Claro M. Recto Avenue).

    On the other hand, the place is the setting of many gangster films from Asiong Salonga to Boy Golden and its famous landfill called Smokey Mountain has since then been immortalized in Brocka films as symbol of decay in Philippine society.

    But of the gangster films set in Tondo, Chito Rono’s “Boy Golden” -- based

    Read More »from Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff concertos in the heart of Tondo
  • Protecting El Nido’s coral reefs

    Cadlao mountain island

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    When God blessed the earth, he must have been standing near and facing Palawan because the province is so rich in natural resources and possesses spectacular sceneries – on the ground, underground, on the water, underwater.

    In the northern part of Palawan is El Nido, a municipality of almost 40,000 in an area covering 92,326 hectares. The town is named after Swiflets (local name is Balinsasayaw) nests made from the bird’s saliva found in the crevices of the limestone’s cliffs in the area.

    The mountain islands of El Nido are simply breathtaking. They are towers of stone so high they almost kiss the clouds.They come in all shapes and forms, depending on your imagination.

    If your tour guide is Jayson R. Gonzales of El Bacuit Travel and Tours, he will show you a mountain island shaped like a helicopter, a feature shaped like a king with a crown with a horse nearby, or a stone jutting out of the cliff shaped like the chunky heel of a shoe.

    Gonzales will also point

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  • By Elizabeth Lolarga, VERA Files

    Photos courtesy of Jayson Fajarda, Paolo Gonzales and Rouelle Umali

    The people behind the non-profit organization Sinag are not altruistic millionaires. They work hard like any Juan but still passionately pursue their goal of providing a beam of hope to financially struggling students who are pursuing their dream of finishing college.

    Margaret Yarcia, marketing director, recalled how Sinag, Filipino word for “ray of light,” got started. Six officers had been friends since their University of the Philippines Integrated School years where they understood the meaning of serving the people.

    Yarcia said the seven UP alumni who make up Sinag are bound by friendship and a vision “which we share with the rest of young Filipinos: that of a more progressive Philippines.” The seven are: Sheena Jamora, executive director; Rica Cruz, finance and development director; Carla Baful, media production director; Mary Anne Tuazon, program director; Meiling Lee, technical

    Read More »from Sinag helps keep college kids in school
  • An express lane for PWDs in Cordova Central School in Cebu during the 2013 midterm elections. (File photo by Mario Ignacio IV)

    By Vince Nonato, VERA Files

    IT'S not so much how the classrooms are built but how persons with disabilities (PWDs) would reach the school where they’re supposed to vote during elections.

    This was one of the findings of human rights lawyers group Upholding Life and Nature (Ulan) that audited the accessibility of schools in 17 towns, one for every region, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

    Barangays with the highest number of PWDs based on a criteria of 23 standards set the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), including those in vote-rich Pangasinan, Cebu City, and Davao City, were covered in the audit, the highlights of which were presented at a forum Wednesday.

    In Bohol, a pilot area of the accessibility audit, nearly all the voting centers were found on single-story school buildings. However, the problem with the island province is its uneven topography, making some areas hard to reach.

    Ulan executive director Ronaldo Gutierrez said having polling places on

    Read More »from Most schools used as voting precincts not PWD-friendly, audit shows
  • Photo from The Official Gazette's Flickr pagePhoto from The Official Gazette's Flickr pageBy Richard Javad Heydarian

    In our age of hyperconnectedness, where time and space have progressively diminished in significance, it is easy to take the fruits of our historical struggles for granted. In many ways, history seems to have lost its grip on the younger generations, which have been increasingly overwhelmed by cutting-edge technology and instantaneous communication.

    More than ever, individuals tend to live in the present with a pragmatic orientation towards the future—as if the past never exisited. On our independence day, it is high time to revisit the real significance of our forefathers’ anti-colonial struggles, and their commitment to establish a viable nation-state for the Filipino people.

    Although there is still an ongoing debate on whether Jose Rizal or  Andrés Bonifacio was the true hero of our national liberation movement, one must acknowledge how it took a diverse collection of historical figures and selfless actions to consolidate our quest for self-determination. And

    Read More »from How the Philippine revolution echoed beyond borders
  • Dangerous dependence

    By Trixie Cruz-Angeles

    The recent headlines on Chinese intrusion into Philippine waters makes me think sometimes that we should not bother having independence day celebrations.  The clear reliance on American forces to protect our exclusive economic zone and territory seems to me a rather dangerous proposition, considering our historic relations with the United States of America.

    While we all learn about the Treaty of Paris in school and how Spain ceded the Philippines to the US for 20 pieces of silver… er, twenty million dollars, we should also remember that despite the take-over, the war they called an insurrection, the imposition of governance and education, we were never called a colony, because (gasp!) the US never, never waged a war of conquest.

    In the Fourteen Diamond Rings case, the US Federal Supreme Court determined that for customs purposes, the Philippines is not a foreign country to the US, precisely because it acquired the territory when it was ceded to it by Spain. Its

    Read More »from Dangerous dependence
  • Malabon City conducts a flood evacuation drill in high risk areas in Barangay Potrero. Photo by Mario Ignacio IV

    By Jane Dasal, VERA Files

    As soon as the siren rang, they ran.

    Armed with “bakwit”or evacuee bags containing food, water and emergency supplies, residents of Barangay Potrero in Malabon City set out from their homes and lined up for barangay trucks to take them to evacuation centers as their shelter during typhoons.

    With the rainy season looming ahead, the Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (BDRRMO) of Potrero, in partnership with the Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (Accord), on Saturday conducted the flood evacuation drill.

    The barangay’s first drill was designed to test a revised contingency plan for an improved disaster mitigation program.

    “We have conducted disaster risk reduction activities in the rural communities of Cordillera and St. Bernard in Leyte, but this is the first time we have worked in an urban setting,” said Accord executive director Marieta Alcid.

    She said the large population of cities and the disruption the

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