Wednesday, September 30, 2009

‘Ondoy’ more cruel than ‘Milenyo’—townsfolk

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:17:00 09/30/2009

Filed Under: Ondoy, Weather, Disasters (general)

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – People in this town couldn’t help compare storms.

They had been in the thick of Supertyphoon “Milenyo,” one of the strongest typhoons this century, according to weather experts.

For some of them, however, Tropical Storm “Ondoy” was more cruel.

“We really felt hopeless at that time. Everything happened in a flash and we saved almost nothing,” said Leonildo Olgurpe, 64, recalling the flood flushing his family’s belongings out of his home.

Exactly two years ago, Olgurpe recalled they were also hit by Milenyo.

“Our barangay was also flooded, but this one was worse,” he said.

Olgurpe lives beside old railroad tracks and floods broke through his shanty.

His family sells cooked meals in the village and that’s where he wants to start again.

Olgurpe’s experience was not isolated as hundreds of families in Barangay Tadlac in Los Baños, Laguna were in panic last Saturday.

Mary Perez, 38, cried seeing her home sink in the water.

She was with her five children.

Perez said she had no inkling the rains would be bad as Pagasa raised only storm signal No. 1 in the area.

By noon, the villagers realized the alert level was deceptive.

Many lost their homes.

Danilo Albong Sr., 54, built one quickly from scrap materials. It now houses 14 people.

Rene Diaz, village councilor, said more food and medicines are needed.

Officials said 950 families were hit in the village of Tadlac. In the entire province, 70,000 families felt Ondoy’s fury.

The village is beside Laguna Lake, which some residents said overflowed at the height of Ondoy although there was no independent confirmation of it.

The lake is the largest inland body of water in the Philippines that spans 14 cities and 17 municipalities in the provinces of Laguna and Rizal, and parts of Batangas, Cavite, Quezon and Metro Manila.

About 63 kilometers from Manila, Los Baños is a highly urbanized area that hosts the University of the Philippines and the International Rice Research Institute.

Los Baños town was last hit in late 2006 by Supertyphoon Milenyo which downed power and communication lines and billboards along major roads in the town.

Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

1 dead, 3,000 families evacuated in Calamba City

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 11:59:00 09/29/2009

Filed Under: Disasters (general), Flood, Ondoy,Evacuation(General)

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna, Philippines -- One died and over 3,000 families in this city were evacuated to safe ground as floods spawned by typhoon Ondoy swamped this city, disaster officials reported on Tuesday morning.

Officials identified the dead as David Rafols, 20, a resident of Barangay (village) Looc, Calamba City while the city's Action Center said 3,084 families or 15,765 individuals were already in 43 designated evacuation centers in the area.

It added that so far, 4,598 families or 22,015 persons in this city either fled from the floods or lost property due to the floods spawned by typhoon Ondoy.

City government and resident-volunteers had been clearing the streets of mud since Monday afternoon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Noli: Not sorry for outburst against poor

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 06:46:00 09/21/2009

Filed Under: Government, Poverty, Subversion
LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA—Militant groups based in Southern Luzon on Saturday hit back at Vice President Noli de Castro for his remarks against hecklers who disrupted his speech during a recent event.

Some 50 militants staged a lightning rally on Thursday while De Castro was giving out certificates to housing program beneficiaries here. They accused De Castro of promoting anti-poor programs.

The militants—led by the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap-Southern Tagalog, Bayan Muna-Southern Tagalog and Anakbayan-Southern Tagalog—consisted mainly of urban poor victims of demolition.

They held up placards and chanted: “Noli, salot sa maralita (plague of the poor)” They were soon dispersed but no one was hurt.

De Castro is also chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.

The militants identified the Southville relocation site in Cabuyao, Laguna as one of the anti-poor policies being pushed by De Castro.

They said the residents of Southville had been affected by the SouthRail project of the government. They had been deprived of basic social services, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Southern Tagalog deputy secretary general Christine Macabetcha.

SouthRail is a multimillion-dollar project that will link Laguna to Bicol through a high-speed train service.

During his speech on Thursday, De Castro called the militants KSP or “kulang sa pansin (lacking attention).” He said those who cannot pay for the housing program will naturally be evicted. He added that people who default on their payments are probably just lazy.

In his Saturday radio program, De Castro said he was not sorry for his remarks.

“We really lack attention,” Macabetcha admitted in Filipino, adding that they needed government attention when it came to basic social services.

Many children have died because of the environment and lack of medical services in Southville, she said.

“Noli’s behavior is very unbecoming,” Macabetcha added, “he is a public official.”

“De Castro says those who cannot not pay P300 per month are lazy. The problem here is a family of six lives on P100 per day,” she said.

Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Possible power outages alarm solon

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:03:00 09/20/2009

Filed Under: Electricity Production & Distribution, Eleksyon 2010

LIPA CITY – Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo has expressed alarm over pronouncements by energy officials of a possible power shortage starting next year – a presidential election year.

Ocampo, speaking at a forum here marking the declaration of martial law on Sept. 21, 1972, said that power shortages in the past provided justification for giving emergency powers to the president.

The militant lawmaker, who has announced his intention to run for a Senate seat next year, said he shuddered to think of the possibility that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would be given emergency powers if a series of blackouts were to occur next year.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes has been warning that there could be a power shortage in the Visayas starting next year and could affect Mindanao and Luzon in the succeeding years unless additional power plant capacities were developed.

“We already had a negative experience with power failures before, which led to giving emergency powers to the president,” said Ocampo, referring to the term of former president Fidel Ramos.

Those emergency powers, Ocampo said, were intended to immediately solve daily, eight-to-10-hour brownouts all over the country, and gave (Ramos) full authority to enter into contracts with independent power producers. These contracts are now cited as one reason why electricity rates in the country are very high.

“Arroyo can use the power shortage issue to exercise extra authority,” Ocampo warned, adding that this will be more threatening since President Arroyo is known to have a longer list of corruption issues, and is more unpopular than Ramos ever was.

“It seems that Arroyo has studied the tactics of [Ferdinand] Marcos,” he said.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Diner lures Manila crowd to Liliw

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 22:16:00 09/05/2009

Filed Under: Food, Restaurants & catering, Economy and Business and Finance

LILIW, Laguna – With only word-of-mouth and personal blogs as unsolicited forms of publicity, a coffee shop cum restaurant here has become another reason why tourists keep on coming to this town, aside from the cheap yet quality footwear it offers.

Other than the people residing within the town, Arabela has also enticed those from nearby towns as well as those from far cities like Manila.

Cora Relova, a member of the Pila Historical Society Foundation, who is now based in Manila, drives for at least two hours to visit Arabela. “Each meal is delightfully presented. With its reasonable prices, Arabela makes the long drive to Liliw more enjoyable.”

She adds, “I keep coming back because a good treat has a way of becoming a habit.”

Relova spends most of her weekends in Arabela, about 110 kilometers south of Manila.

Arabela – owned by brothers Victor, 63, and Bobby Camello, 44, with his wife Antonette, 44 – started in 2004 with literally two tables.

The two tables then were not intended for customers’ use. The owners just put the pasta dishes and pastries that they wanted to sell to buyers within the neighborhood.

The space they occupied then was in front of their family’s shoe store along Rizal Street here and was intended to be a plain source of additional income.

The shoe store was later transferred to another spot a few blocks away from its former location.

The restaurant’s name came from those of Bobby and Antonette’s two daughters, Ara and Bela.

Given the demand that the owners observed from their small food business then, they were pushed to put up a formal food business since their customers kept on coming back with their number increasing.

The business, which started with only P3,000 as capital, grew more than what the owners expected.

From pasta and pastries, Arabela added coffee, steaks, and fruit shakes to their menu.

“We are overwhelmed by how the people responded to our business. When we started five years ago, the food items that we put atop the two tables we used would be sold out after just an hour or two,” says Victor.

Soon after the three owners formally opened Arabela as a restaurant and coffee shop, more people started visiting their place.

“At first, we found it surprising how even prominent people are eating in our place,” notes Victor.

From mayors of different towns and cities, Arabela has also become a favorite restaurant for many celebrities and business entrepreneurs.


Arabela offers affordable price for each food item that even students can afford.

Contrary to the usual prices of popular coffee shops and restaurants that most people know, one can sip a cup of coffee in Arabela for just P50.

Most of the pasta dishes in Arabela like lasagna and carbonara are pegged at P75.

“If the price is right, and the food is palatable enough, people will really come back,” says Victor, who now understands why their customers keep on recommending their business to their respective networks of friends and contacts.

The owners of Arabela do not have to spend money in advertising their business.

“The customers that we have served are doing the promotion for our business, even if we are not asking for it,” Victor shares.

The restaurant cum coffee shop, which can accommodate around 30 people, is usually seen fully packed.

Despite the outstanding demand of their business, the three owners have no plans of expanding their business by putting up branches in nearby towns.

“There have been a lot of suggestions on how we can expand our business. Some people are telling us that we should put up more branches but we chose to let them down,” Victor claims.

Victor, along with Bobby and Antonette, wants to maintain the character of Arabela.

“Our business may not be that unique anymore once we put up other branches. The best thing about our business, and the most gratifying, is that people are willing to travel two to three hours just to eat in our place,” Victor says.