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  • A total of 2,536 informal settlers live at the UP Arboretum.

    By Antonio Jose Galauran and Luis Adrian Hidalgo, VERA Files


    IN May 2013, a few months after the University of the Philippines-Diliman signed an agreement with the agriculture and environment departments and the UP Beta Sigma Fraternity to develop its 22-hectare arboretum into a National Botanical Garden, residents of Pook Arboretum barricaded a portion of Metro Manila’s last remaining forest and installed placards and tarpaulins slamming the plan.

    Two months later, they marched from their homes to the UP Diliman campus to force university officials to consult them on the proposal.

    The 2,500 inhabitants of Pook Arboretum, all of them informal settlers, feared losing their homes once the botanical garden is established.

    A series of dialogues between representatives from the university and Pook Arboretum would end in a compromise.

    Affected residents were promised on-site relocation, participative maintenance, and livelihood projects. They were told that they would be

    Read More »from Near-site relocation mulled for urban forest dwellers
  • Arboretum

    By Antonio Jose Galauran and Luis Adrian Hidalgo, VERA Files

    (First of two parts)

    In the midst of the concrete jungle that Metro Manila has become, a forest continues to thrive.

    But the 22-hectare University of the Philippines Arboretum is in peril, owing to the inroads of urbanization and influx of informal settlers in the last five decades.

    A plan to save the arboretum, by turning it into a National Botanical Garden, has raised questions of what is to become of some 2,500 informal settlers that call the metropolis’ last standing forest home.

    The manmade forest located behind the UP-Ayala Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City was initially an open land donated by the Tuazons in 1939 as an extension of the university’s first campus in Manila. It had served as a forest nursery of the now defunct Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Reforestation Administration before its care was officially transferred to the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD) in 1962.

    Read More »from Saving Metro Manila’s remaining urban forest
  • By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Juliet Lara has dystonia, a chronic neurological illness that affects her muscle movement.

    Nanginginig yung katawan ko pag hindi ako nakakainom ng gamot (My body shakes when I fail to drink my medicine),” she said.

    Even though dystonia impairs her ability to perform everyday activities, Juliet cannot secure a person with disability (PWD) ID for it, as chronic illnesses are not among the categories that make one eligible for the said program.

    She remembers being told, when she applied, to put mental disability instead on the form.

    Sabi ko wala naman akong ano sa utak (But I told them that what I have is not a mental disability),” Lara recalls.

    In the end, she was able to obtain her card that states she has an orthopedic disability.

    Her experience is not uncommon, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the Department of Health (DOH) with assistance from the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WPRO).

    In reviewing the efficacy

    Read More »from Include chronic illness in PWD ID – study
  • 2015 planner

    By Toni Diane Bellen, VERA Files

    Chinggay Nuque didn’t think a reply to an old friend’s text message would change her life.

    But it did. And five years later, Carmen Angela “Chinggay” Nuque, Antoinette Jadaone and their company, Witty Will Save the World Co., have navigated beyond their brainchild, “The Anti-Coffeehouse Planner,” to “slumbooks” (yes, they still exist), wedding planers, and now calendars and greeting cards sold in mainstream shops like Fully Booked.

    How many planners speak Filipino? Well, Witty Will Save the World’s do. Their latest offering, “The ‘Relaks, Puso Lang ‘Yan, Malayo sa Bituka’ Planner 2015,” is no different, replete with Filipino wit and humor that are the company’s trademark. 


    Chinggay Nuque (Photo by Toni Diane Bellen)

    Witty Will Save the World owes its success to Jadaone’s creativity, Nuque’s business acumen and what Nuque says is their simple game plan: to not have a game plan. Just the way the two film graduates of the University of the Philippines

    Read More »from Witty planners and this accidental businesswoman
  • By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    This Christmas, one of the most welcome gifts is a cellphone or a Tablet. Not only for adults but also for children who are now tech-savvy.

    Ban Toxics, a group that goes by the motto that “The only world worth passing to our children is toxic- free” advises all of us to go slow on new gadgets.

    Ban Toxics says Electronic Waste or E-Waste is the bane of the today’s Electronic Age. Discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, television sets, and refrigerators are all considered e-waste.  Many of these devices contain toxic metals (lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, selenium) and can stream into our environment if not managed properly.

    Toxic materials poison the land, the waters and the air. That is poison we imbibe.

    Ban Toxics says “Toxic metals, such as mercury, bio-accumulates in living organisms and can cause neurological and respiratory problems.”

    There is no turning back to the time when one can live and

    Read More »from Make Christmas meaningful by reducing E-waste
  • image

    By Jake Soriano, VERA Files

    Upi, Maguindanao—Drums beat loud and fast. A showcase of moves with the bilao and the indigenous basket biton for props, a splash of colors and folk rhythms thundering from the agong and the kulintang filled the streets of this town up in the mountains.

    Already on its 12th installment, Upi’s Meguyaya festival on Monday had its biggest year yet with nine teams of street performers from Cotabato City, Datu Piang in Maguindanao and Esperanza in Sultan Kudarat, as well as a local team of grade school pupils.

    The festival serves as a great reminder for Mindanao and the rest of the country that unity among people with different religious and cultural backgrounds is not only possible but is here a reality.

    “We can’t help but reminisce the good relations, the good working together of everyone to make the Meguyaya festival more meaningful, especially for the tri-people of Upi,” said Mayor Ramon A. Piang Sr.

    The mayor was referring to the lumad group Teduray whose

    Read More »from Maguindanao town celebrates unity through dancing
  •  By Chickie R. Locsin, VERA Files

     “God must have loved our country so much because of the 25,000 varieties of orchids in the world, around 1800 are indigenous to the Philippines,” exults  Jun Anota, Executive Director of the Nayong Pilipino (NP).

    And the beautiful thing about it is that almost all of the 1,800 indigenous Philippine varities are found in the Nayong Pilipino orchidarium .

    With more than 130,000 orchid plants of different species, the orchidarium of the Nayong Pilipino has become the centerpiece of its new facility in Clark.  A second but no less impressive satellite orchidarium is located in Luneta, behind the National Museum.

    With the incredible elegance of the orchids in bloom, the Orchidarium in both locations showcases the best of Philippine flora.

    It also provides serious orchid enthusiasts the opportunity to learn cross pollination techniques and experience creating their own unique plant.

    This project marks the first time that local orchids are grown and

    Read More »from The incredible elegance of orchids in Nayong Pilipino
  • Nayong Pilipino resurrected


    By Chickie R Locsin, VERA Files

    Coming out of political doldrums, Nayong Pilipino is now again a sprawling showcase of what is beautiful about the Filipinos and the  Philippines.

    “No other facility in the country offers such a wide spectrum of the country’s rich heritage nor an interactive experience in learning its various facets, “ boasts Nayong Pilipino Executive Director Jun Anota.

    Nayong Pilipino, built from scratch in 1969 through the patronage of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, is on its fourth product cycle in almost 50 years.

    After 32 years of operation, in 2001, Asia’s first theme park was forced to close its doors and was removed from its original site near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport I.

     In 2006 President Gloria M Arroyo gave Nayong Pilipino a new home in Clark as a major attraction of the Centennial Expo; thereafter it once again reverted into “sleep mode.”


    In March 2012, the Aquino administration breathed new life into Nayong Pilipino with a new Memorandum

    Read More »from Nayong Pilipino resurrected
  • Heartbreaking



    By Ellen T. Tordesillas

    The world is no stranger to heinous crimes but nothing is more abominable that the massacre of schoolchildren in Peshawar, a large valley close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan  border,Tuesday.

    This is excerpts from a New York Times report:

    “First the Pakistani Taliban bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls’ rights.

    “But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low with an assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people — 132 of them uniformed schoolchildren — in the deadliest single attack in the group’s history.

    “During an eight-hour rampage at the Army Public School and Degree College, a team of nine Taliban gunmen stormed through the corridors and assembly hall, firing at random and throwing grenades. Some of the 1,100 students at the school were lined up and slaughtered with shots to the head. Others were gunned down as they cowered under their

    Read More »from Heartbreaking

    A top foreign affairs official said some 2,000 overseas Filipino workers, all of them victims of human trafficking, remain trapped in Syria three years after civil unrest broke out there.

    Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Senior Special Assistant Renato Villa said during a migration conference earlier this week the Philippine government is still negotiating with Syrian authorities and employers for their repatriation.

    “But first, before we can negotiate, we have to locate them,” said Villa, who spoke during the ‘Migration Crisis Management: The Duty Bearers’ Conference’ earlier this week.

    “All our workers in Syria are trafficked victims,” he added.

    The Syria crisis began in early 2011 and escalated throughout the country following the violent response of authorities there to protests and demonstrations.

    The exact number of Filipinos in Syria is unknown but the DFA estimates 9,000 were caught in Syria when the crisis erupted.

    “Ninety percent of our

    Read More »from More than 2,000 trafficked Filipinos trapped in Syria


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