The Inbox
  • Cagsawa ruins with Mayon Volcano at the background. From flickr.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay is in the news again with its official entry, Ivethe Maria Santiago, winning Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational.

    Another beauty with Albay roots, Bianca Guidotti, ended up Bb. Pilipinas International.

    Santiago did pretty well in the question-and-answer portion saying, “At a time when our country was suffering from man-made chaos and natural disasters, our queens kept our hopes up.”

    It was an apt answer for a province known for its comprehensive disaster-preparedness program.

    Indeed, Santiago put a human face in the ongoing Daragang Magayon (Beautiful Maiden) Festival celebrating the 440th anniversary of Albay.

    However, the fact remains that Albay’s Mayon Volcano remains its number one tourism endorser with its constantly changing hues.

    Two Albay beauties -- Ivethe Maria Santiago and Bianca Guidotti, copped the Bb. Pilipinas –Supranational and Bb. Pilipinas International titles.The historic photos of the volcano from the 1800 to the present surely documented the dramatic transitions in the volcano country.

    Meanwhile, the province has posted 55% tourism growth last year with the Department of

    Read More »from Faith, love, time and Mayon Volcano
  • Is the Philippines ready for China’s retaliation?


    Chinese President Xi Jinping and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

    By Ellen Tordesillas

    No ifs and buts about it: the Philippines and China are no longer friends.

    That’s a decision that the Philippines made when it hauled China to the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal over the latter’s all -South -China -Sea-encompassing 9-dash line map. As former ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja said, “When we filed a case against China at the U.N. that was the end of diplomacy.”

    The submission of the Memorial on the case today at the U.N. Court’s headquarters at The Hague further reinforced the hostility.

    As a sovereign country, the Philippines has every right to choose who to be friends with and who to take on. The Aquino government has chosen to battle with China. It’s a move applauded by allies who are uncomfortable with the enormous strength of modern China but are hesitant to antagonize the world’s second largest economy.

    The Philippines can bask in that momentary applause but at the end of the day it has only itself to rely on when push

    Read More »from Is the Philippines ready for China’s retaliation?
  • NCCA writer's prize awardee Raffi Banzuela from Albay with NCCA chair Felipe Padilla de Leon, Jr. and National Artist Virgilio Almario.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    Albay turns 440 years old on April 3 with a special homage to its outstanding citizens who made a name for the province, among others, in the arts.

    Two among the awardees, writer-poets Marne Kilates and Merlinda Bobis, are worthy of special mention because their body of work received national and international recognition with distinguished citations and several book awards. This doesn’t include their rightful place in the Palanca Awards hall of fame..

    In the same vein, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts recently conferred a Writer’s Prize for an Albayano poet, Raffi Banzuela, for his book, “Dios Makina” which probes into the heart and soul of the Albayano through the years.

    Indeed, the province is in the news not just for its writers but also for its Team Albay who was the first to come to the rescue of the Typhoon Yolanda victims in Tacloban.

    On top of this, this year’s top PMA graduate, Jheorge Llona , is from the province as well.

    Gov. Joey Salceda. Photo by George Tapan

    Read More »from Albay through the arts glass brightly
  • China's 9-dash line

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas, VERA Files

    Despite Chinese requests to delay it, the Philippines is filing on March 30 its memorandum challenging before the United Nations China’s territorial claims over the South China Sea.

    The memorandum, called a Memorial in international law, will be filed with the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at The Hague in the Netherlands, contesting China’s 9-dash line territorial rule.

    Under the 9-dash line rule, China claims almost the whole of the South China Sea as part of its territory, but the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian nations are staking various claims to parts of the area.

    Sources said the Chinese government had asked President Aquino through back channels to wait a little longer before filing the Memorial.

    A delay in the filing would be seen as an indication of Philippine willingness to improve ties with China, a source quoted a Chinese official as saying.

    China has informed the

    Read More »from PH ignores China request to delay filing of Memorial vs 9-dash line
  • Camote doughnuts

    By Carlo Figueroa, VERA Files

    Davao City—Kalabasa (squash) pancakes, camote doughnuts, lemongrass and ginger juice.

    They sound like they’re part of a menu for adults on a special diet. But in reality, these recipes will soon be available for students, especially in public schools in this city.

    Thanks to its Food Revolution project, Davao City tries to follow the mantra of wellness by introducing healthy items such as these in school cafeterias and even in stores near schools.

    The project is an advocacy campaign promoting access to healthy food in schools and communities. Organized by the nongovernmental Mindanao Commission on Women’s (MCW) Mothers for Peace movement and the Davao City government, the campaign targets school children whose health can be compromised because of junk food.

    Patricia Ruivivar“Chronic malnutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and frequent illnesses can lead to poor school performance that would consequently lead to children dropping out of school early,” said Mindanao

    Read More »from A new revolution simmers in Davao City
  • Guide Rickson Tividad walks the final meters to the Onoda Trail.

    By Johnna Villaviray Giolagon, VERA Files

    Where once no one dared venture into the jungle of Lubang island that sheltered the World War II holdout 2nd Lt. Hiroo Onoda, it is now a favorite tourist destination in Mindoro Occidental.

    Unaware that WWII had long ago ended, Onoda terrorized the islanders, fighting in the jungle for nearly three decades after the end of the Second World War. He grew into a near-mythical figure on Lubang island.

    Children were warned against going into the forest because of the hapon. Farmers lost cattle and let fruit trees go unpicked because they did not want any encounter with Onoda, whose presence was announced with a rifle shot, but remained unseen.

    His playground had been the mountain dividing the island’s Lubang and Looc municipalities in the northwest Philippines.

    Today, villagers and visitors are given the opportunity to retrace Onoda’s steps through an 8-kilometer trail that covers the eight caves he had sheltered in during the 29 years that he

    Read More »from Following Onoda’s trail
  • Gym safety

    Lance Raymundo2

    By Ellen T.Tordesillas

    One goes to the gym to become fit and healthy and it’s distressing if one ends up in a hospital like actor-singer Lance Raymundo.

    The unfortunate incident with Raymundo last week should be a reminder to gym goers to always be careful.

    In Cecile Van Straten’s blog,, Lance related what happened Wednesday last week: “There was an 80-lb. barbell on top of me because the workout was a ‘superset’, meaning, right after I do 10 reps with the barbell with the help of my trainer, I rest it back in place and proceed to do the dumbbell fly workout.

    “After completing 10 reps of the dumbbell flies, the trainer leaned forward to assist me in lowering the dumbbells, but his body weight accidentally dislodged the barbell, which fell on my face and smashed it.

    “This kind of superset workout has been done in many gyms for over 30 years, so it’s not a new workout. But I guess talking to other people while assisting someone can prove to be dangerous.”

    Lance still

    Read More »from Gym safety
  • Anti-trafficking czar Darlene Pajarito (Photo by Avigail Olarte)

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Lawyer Darlene Pajarito had her first brush with human trafficking in 2004 as an assistant prosecutor in Zamboanga City. Since then securing justice for victims of the crime has become almost like a mantra to her.

    Initially she only wanted to observe her boss, Zamboanga City Prosecutor Ricardo Cabaron, prosecute a trafficking case and learn from him. “I practically followed the case, until one time he told me, ‘Darlene, you do it. Finish this case,” she recounts. “And of course I had to finish it. It was an order from my boss.”

    In her first case she secured the first conviction of a sex trafficker in the Philippines in 2005, a feat that led to many more.

    After handling a string of cases, the fight against human trafficking became Pajarito’s personal crusade against modern-day slavery. This earned her the honor of being one of 10 global anti-trafficking heroes of the US State Department in 2011.

    The Philippines is a source country, and to a much lesser

    Read More »from Championing trafficking victims
  • Cherie Gil acknowledging audience applause.

    By Pablo A. Tariman, VERA Files

    The recent Manila run of “Full Gallop” featuring Cherie Gil as fashion editor Diana Vreeland has many things going for it

    The stunning set of Joey Mendoza, the apt costumes of Rajo Laurel, the complimentary lighting design of John Batalla and the hair and makeup of Ruben Nazareth instantly brought us to Vreeland’s era – clothes, hair, furniture and all.

    Written by Mary Louise Wilson and Mark Hampton, the one-woman play throbbed with funny, if, poignant scenes from a fashion designer’s life.

    Brilliant doesn’t quite describe Bart Guingona’s razor-sharp direction but it is the word that comes to mind as the play unraveled what could also be a fashion icon’s untold story.

    Guingona was fascinated by Vreeland’s life as early as 13 years ago and offered it to Gil. But she was busy with family life at the time and couldn’t do it. When Gil turned 50 last year, Guingona attended her birthday party with a script of “Full Gallop” and finally got the yes he was

    Read More »from Cherie Gil on the life and times of Diana Vreeland
  • Is it ethical for a journalist to also solicit ads?


    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    Erwin TulfoHopefully, this latest controversy involving broadcasters in a government corruption case would result in reforms in the media industry.

    A Philippine Daily Inquirer report said three broadcast journalists received payments from National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), an agency under the Department of Agriculture that was used as conduit for the release of Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) money that went into ghost projects.

    The anomalous operations were the handiwork of Janet Napoles in connivance with lawmakers including Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla.

    Based on the affidavits of former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Cacal, Inquirer named Erwin Tulfo of TV5 and Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang of GMA7. A third broadcaster who allegedly got P2 million was not named in the report although the name is being mentioned in the media circle.

    Melo del PradoThe Inquirer report said Erwin was issued a Nabcor check in the amount of

    Read More »from Is it ethical for a journalist to also solicit ads?


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