Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Youth group hits arrest of 15 protesters

By Karen Lapitan
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 18:06:00 12/23/2008

Filed Under: Protest

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna--The youth group Anakbayan in Southern Tagalog slammed on Tuesday the arrest of 15 protesters in Batangas City on Monday, claiming that it was part of a crackdown against militants in the region.

John Paulo Bautista, Anakbayan-ST chair, said, "It is clear that the wholesale filing of criminal cases against activists in the region has become the Arroyo government's policy in facing the protest of the people."

Among the 15 arrested are leaders of militant groups in Batangas.

They are Isagani Iseta, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Batangas spokesperson; Thelma Maranan, Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-Batangas spokesperson, and June Arante, Anakbayan-Batangas secretary-general.

They were arrested at around 11:30 a.m. on Monday while marching toward the city mayor's office.

They were supposed to seek a dialogue with Mayor Eddie Dimacuha, Bautista added.

Other members of militant organizations in the region are facing criminal charges for allegedly being involved in an ambush against government troops in Calapan City on March 2006.

Among them is Pedro Santos Jr., former secretary-general of Anakbayan-Southern Tagalog.

Pols urged to help OFWs in death row

By Karen Lapitan
Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 02:44:00 12/23/2008

Filed Under: Labor, Regional authorities

MANILA, Philippines – Citing hat the 2010 elections are already approaching, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) is challenging politicians to start showing off by helping those who are on Death Row overseas like him.

Rodelio Lanuza, 34, has been in jail in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, since August 2000 and sentenced to die by beheading in public.

The beheading was postponed until the son of the victim could decide on it when he reaches legal age, or seven years from now.

However, Lanuza was still worried about his situation. “I don’t know what might happen in the coming days. If the Saudi Arabia authorities would demand it (beheading), it can be done immediately, even tomorrow,” he told the Inquirer in an e-mail.

He was convicted after he allegedly killed a Saudi national in August 2000, which he claimed was a case of self-defense since the victim assaulted him.

He, however, said he was asking for forgiveness from the family of the victim.

Lanuza has tried to seek help from some politicians, but his request for financial assistance has been declined.

He tried to ask for help from the office of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada but this was also not granted, allegedly due to budget constraints.

Lanuza sought the help of other politicians like Sen. Aquilino Pimentel and Rep. Mikey Arroyo but got only a referral to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He said he was asking for help for the education of his children since his family had no other means to support their studies. He also sought legal assistance.

“The government is neglecting my case,” Lanuza claimed.

He related that the DFA had been sending letters to his family, claiming that the office was acting on the case. “That’s a lie. I don’t even have a lawyer who can help me right now.”

The DFA, he said, tried to give him legal assistance through lawyer Sheikh Saleh Al-Wadani.

“The supposed lawyer was asking for $10,000,” Lanuza said.

“I am appealing to PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) to personally talk to the King of Saudi Arabia to ask forgiveness on my behalf,” he said. “[After all], the election is [approaching].”

Friday, December 12, 2008

Café also brews freebies for clients

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:52:00 12/12/2008

Filed Under: Restaurants & catering, Beverages

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines — Frequently giving away freebies may be something strange for a high-end business, but for Boston Café it is a customer care strategy that has led to its success barely a year into the business.

When Boston Café opened its second branch on Nov. 10, a long queue of customers greeted its owners, which only proved the patronage of its target market—students and professionals.

Eight young professionals who graduated from different reputable universities are behind the coffee shop that is now setting trends among similar businesses in town.

Michelle Catahan, 28; Lee Anthony Grajo, 28; Rodel Munlawin, 29; Gary Bacani, 29; Francis Benedic Alpas, 29; Marlon Vallarta, 29; Ellen Castillo, 29; and Heidee Ballesfin, 28, had dreamed of a coffee shop similar to those where they always hung out.

The eight friends decided to venture into the business, giving birth to Boston Café, which they own.

The café has emerged as one of the favorite hang-out places in town, packing in students and professionals alike.

The owners of Boston Café needed around P1.4 million to make the coffee shop fully operational.

After a day of deliberation, they decided to name their business as such since they envisioned a local business that would introduce international blends and fine coffee to local residents.

Before the café formally opened, the owners had started experimenting on the different drinks that they could introduce.

Alpas, marketing director of Boston Café, recalled that in college, three-in-one coffees used to be enough. But there are better types of coffee that students and professionals can drink.

Boston Café takes pride in introducing the international taste of coffee in every cup to Los Baños residents.

It was formally opened on April 8, 2007 at the Robinson’s Town Mall in Los Baños. Last Nov. 10, a branch was opened a few meters away from the University of the Philippines campus in Los Baños.

There are at least five other coffee shops near Boston Café’s new branch, but the owners “don’t treat them as competitors that could threaten our sales,” said Alpas.

Alpas said the greatest challenge in putting up Boston Café was in introducing Los Baños residents “to fine coffee.”


Boston Café has been popular in Los Baños for its unique marketing and customer care strategy.

Often, baristas of Boston Café give away free coffee, which management calls “Pleasant Surprise.”

Boston Café has also been popular for frequently giving away tumblers to customers.

When its second branch officially opened last November, the first 20 customers who ordered, received their free tumblers.

These do not include the other promotional activities in which they also give away freebies.

Customers who share their Boston Café experiences via the establishment’s website also get something special in return.

Interestingly, Boston Café holds Open Café, an event where patrons can have free coffee.

Giving away products may not be the tack of most business owners, but the management of Boston Café has considered Open Café as a major factor in the success of their business.

In their second branch near the university campus, Boston Café also gives away “bluebooks,” the university’s exam booklets, and pens for free.

Boston Café also offers free Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) connection to customers and allows them to charge their laptops at the café.

‘Barista’ benefits

Ballesfin shared that they had also come up with beneficial programs for their baristas.

The Boston Café management encourages baristas to save their earnings—something that could help them in cases of emergency.

The baristas are also given social security and health benefits.

Having succeeded in putting up their second branch in just after a year, the people behind Boston Café are now in the process of setting up more branches.

“We have also more plans for our loyal customers,” Alpas said.