Monday, November 30, 2009

Evacuees may spend Christmas season in tents

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 29, 2009

LOS BAÑOS, LAGUNA — Lorna Labadia, 35, was sorting plastic bottles and metal scraps, which she would sell to a junk shop, hoping to augment her husband’s income so they could have something for their three children this Christmas.

Labadia was in front of a white tent as she was also looking after her daughter, who has been sickly since they were forced to transfer inside a tent since Tropical Storm “Ondoy” struck late September.

Hers is among the almost 200 families still stuck inside tents in Barangay Tadlac who are prepared to spend Christmas inside their respective tents.

Labadia said her home has been flooded since September so they did not have any choice but to live inside the borrowed tent. But, she said, her children had been complaining of the heat during the day, while it was usually extremely cold at night.

“We just have to adjust since we don’t have any choice. Even our relatives’ homes are still flooded up to now,” said Labadia, whose house was still flooded up to her knees.

Labadia’s family shares the tent with some relatives. Seven persons live inside their tent.

“We felt very desperate at the start, but we could not do something about it, so we chose to continue living our lives,” said Labadia, whose husband also works in a nearby junk shop.

She said they wanted to go home already but were worried of their children’s health.

She said the flood water had a foul smell already. “If we need to spend our Christmas here, there’s nothing we can do.”

Labadia’s house is located near Laguna lake and water rises with heavy rains.

Lita Hernandez, 75, another resident of Barangay Tadlac said her nine grandchildren had also been complaining of the extreme heat inside their tent.

“I would just tell them that we would return home soon,” but, she said, it might really take some more weeks.

Hernandez said their home still had water inside so there was still no chance to move in.

She said the flood water was still almost knee-high when they visited their area a few days ago.

Village chief Marvin Bautista said the residents could use the tents until the flood had subsided.

The tents were lent by some nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in September.

Emergency classes

Teachers of the Tadlac Elementary School, meanwhile, were still struggling to help their students adjust to the situation.

The school was also gravely flooded last September where flood water was waist-high.

Last October, a large tent was put up to accommodate most of the students, but it was washed out by Typhoon “Santi.”

Now, classes of Grades 1 to 4 are held inside a chapel, while those of Grades 5 and 6 are held inside a private subdivision’s vacant clubhouse.

School principal Sylvia Encabo said she hoped that classes would be normal again by January. Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Friday, November 27, 2009

From an old house to a new restaurant

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon

Posted date: November 26, 2009

PAGSANJAN, LAGUNA— For love of food, a man and his wife here turned their ancestral house into a restaurant, using heirloom such as sets of silverware and plates to serve customers.

“At first, we wanted a small and simple business because we both love food,” says Anna Cabrega, the town’s current council secretary.

Her husband Ronald has been in the food industry for 12 years, and has cooked for a number of popular restaurants.

In 2006, the couple started serving snacks for residents of Pagsanjan right on their Rizal Street property, which they soon called Calle Arco.

The restaurant is located near the famous Pagsanjan Arc at the town’s entrance, hence, the name of the establishment.

Soon, demand pushed the couple to turn their small enterprise into a serious restaurant venture.

“We never thought Calle Arco would become famous,” she says.

Asked on what made their food business a success, Anna cited that it could be their family’s love for entertaining guests.

“Love for food is a given factor, but the difference lies in how you treat customers. In our case, we treat them as if they are visitors to our home,” says Anna. “That habit of entertaining guests was actually derived from my grandmother who owned this house. She loved cooking for guests.”

When the Cabregas started out, they used the utensils that Anna’s grandmother stored in the house.

Even the tables and chairs were not new when Calle Arco opened as a 20-seater restaurant.

The couple also improved on the menu over the years. From mere snacks and pasta dishes, the Cabregas now serve breakfast, lunch and dinner fares.

Calle Arco is popular for its Sinigang na Baka na may Langka. She says that the dish is the one enticing more people to eat at their place.

Later, Calle Arco’s reputation crossed the town’s boundaries.

“Our past and returning clients are doing their part. They would recommend our restaurant to [other people],” says Anna, who remains gratified with the feedback they get from tourists.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Laguna de Bay takes center stage

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: November 18, 2009

SCIENTISTS usually list causes and solutions—mostly in highly technical terms—when dealing with the swollen Laguna de Bay, but two university professors are trying to make people understand the issue better through theater.

Professors Dennis Gupa and Emmanuel Dumlao of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) came up with a theater production that aimed to spread awareness of the lake’s history and current situation.
In particular, they wanted to explain to high school and elementary students in Los Baños what went wrong with the Laguna lake.

“Sapagkat Hindi Delubyo ang Tawag Dito” was presented at the
UPLB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) auditorium on Oct. 17 by the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), in cooperation with the CAS.
The play was based on poems about stories of the lakeshore people, written by Dumlao, a literature professor and Palanca awardee for poetry. Dumlao personally went to the areas affected by the recent typhoons to hear the stories and to understand what happened.

The lines of the poems were the actual lines thrown by the characters.
“We wanted to give the lake its character,” said Gupa, a humanities professor, who directed the play. “It’s like personifying the lake.”
The lines mainly explained the reasons Tropical Storm “Ondoy” stole many lives and property on Sept. 26:

“Pitik lang nang pitik, pare.
Sige lang, kasi wala kang pake.
Upos ng sigarilyo? Pitik lang.
Balat ng kendi? Pitik lang.”

(Just flick and flick, pare.
It’s OK, because you don’t care.
Cigarette butt? Just flick.
Candy wrapper? Just flick.)

“Tapon lang nang tapon, pare.
Sige lang, kasi wala kang pake.
Plastic at goma? Tapon lang.
Styro at bakal? Tapon lang.
Kasi wala kang pake!”

(Just throw and throw, pare.
It’s OK, because you don’t care.
Plastic and rubber? Just throw.
Styro and metal? Just throw.
Because you don’t care!)

“Pero, pare, huwag mong kalimutan
pag nagpasalamat sa ’yo ang ulan,
Lahat mong ipinitik, lahat mong itinapon.
Lahat ibabalik sa iyo ng alon.
Ibabalik sa ’yo ng alon.
Kasi wala kang pake.”

(But, pare, don’t forget
when the rain thanks you,
Everything you flicked, everything you threw.
Everything will be brought back to you by the waves.
Will be brought back to you by the waves.
Because you don’t care.)

Dumlao and Gupa wanted to show to the students the simple activities that people often do to harm the environment.

The lines were lifted from one of Dumlao’s poems, “Dahil Wala Kang Pake,” referring to the inconsiderate and irresponsible acts that affect the state of the lake and the environment in general.
Another poem, “Kung Pababayaan Natin,” highlighted sustainable development while criticizing a kind of progress that compromises the environment.

“Ano’ng halaga ng pag-unlad
kung sinasalanta ang komunidad?
Anong halaga ng kayamanan
kung kinikitil ang buhay?”

(What’s the price of progress
if the community is devastated?
What’s the value of treasures
when lives are lost?)

With only wooden benches and pillows held by masked characters, the play offered an atypical plot. “Those are normally found in our homes, and they give a certain connection to the audience,” Dumlao said.
There were no main characters or cameo roles. In most of the scenes, the characters held black pillows that spelled out the lake’s different pollutants. Sometimes, the pillows were thrown to the floor as the lake.

What happened in the Laguna lake should not be treated as a deluge but a consequence of one’s greediness, Dumlao said.

Gupa and Dumlao said they introduced a different approach to prick the conscience of the audience without being too boring. “We intended it to be a bit horrific,” Gupa said in explaining the masks and the musical scoring.

He said people had known the problem for many years, “but we need repetition to help people understand what we want to convey.”

Perfect timing

According to him, the theater production was conceptualized through the LLDA even before Ondoy came. The first target, Gupa said, was Muntinlupa.

“We were busy rehearsing the play when Ondoy hit many towns and cities around the lake, and we felt it was a perfect timing to tell people how much the lake has suffered,” Gupa said.

Gerry Carandang, public information unit head of LLDA, said the amount of water in the lake doubled after the storm, and its condition worsened because of the clogged floodways.

The Laguna lake is surrounded by six provinces and 12 cities, the majority of which are still submerged in water.

Dumlao told the students not to rely on anyone, especially politicians, in saving the lake. “They may be here during relief operations, bringing packs of relief goods with their names and photos on it. But they’re doing that not to save the lake, but for the coming elections,” he said.

Dumlao and Gupa planned to stage more productions for an environmental cause. “A lifetime is not enough for this kind of campaign, but we’re willing to do more so we can help,” Gupa said.


Delia Bandoy, a high school teacher at the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU), said the play helped them explain to their students the reasons behind the flooding.

“We’re grateful that the LLDA chose our students to be part of the audience. Even us (teachers) were enlightened,” she said.
The LSPU is one of the schools in Laguna that were gravely affected by the swelling of the Laguna lake. Most of its students now hold classes in tents.

“Educating the youth about what is happening in the environment is a very tedious task. Capturing their interest should be the primary consideration. Thus, we came up with the idea of feeding them the information in a very creative and unconventional way,” said LLDA general manager Edgardo Manda.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thousands missed lunch to view Pacquiao fight

Inquirer Southern Luzon

MANILA, Philippines -- Thousands of Marinduqueños braved the searing heat of the sun and hunger just to watch Manny Pacquiao's fight.

Eager Pacquiao fans even trooped to the plaza in Sta. Cruz town as early as 7 a.m. just to have the best seats. The free viewing of the fight was sponsored by a local politician.

By 10 a.m., around 2,000 fans converged in the plaza. Despite the heat and hunger, most of the excited fans refused to budge from their seats to take lunch.

Jose Ramos, 57, from the neaighboring Torrijos town, said he went to the plaza early to get hold of a promotional VCD of previous Pacquiao fights given away for free for the early viewers.

Edmar Rey, an avid Pacquiao fan, remarked that as soon as Pacquiao floored Cotto in the middle rounds, he knew that the fight was over.

The fight was shown live for free in the town plazas of all the six towns of Marinduque.

In Calapan City in Oriental Mindoro, viewers mocked Cotto as a "runner," not a boxer.

“Cotto is not a boxer but a runner,” said Inzo Maula, an enterpreneur from Bulalacao town in Oriental Mindoro.

The live coverage of Pacquiao's fight was sponsored by politicians in the province.

At the provincial jail, all inmates, estimated at 300, were focused on the fight.

There were shouting and hugging when Manny won, said prison guard Willy Chan.

In Los Baños, Laguna, the streets were almost totally cleared even hours before the start of the bout as the residents here were glued to the telecast.

Businessman Ping Garcia, who watched the fight via live streaming, said, “Discipline, dedication and talent did it for Pacman.

Dwight Jason Ronan, 22, said the fight was not as exciting as Pacquiao’s previous fights.

He added he wanted to see more action and drama on the fight.

University of the Philippines student Jehboy Bagalihog, 20, said he did not care much about this fight.“I don’t see its impact on our lives. What can we get after that win?”

Bagalihog said some people might have died out of sheer excitement.

In Cabuyao town, also in Laguna, the crowd cheered for Pacquiao since the national anthem opened Sunday's boxing match and jeered at Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto's bloodied face every time it was flashed on the screen.

“Magaling (Great)! This is one of the best fights I've seen, the other one was his fight against (Ricky) Hatton. Either way, what's important is he won,” said Victor Villano, 58, who has been following Pacquiao's fights.

“Pacquiao and even Aling Dionisia (Pacquiao's mother), will be richer,” said Elvie Bibal.

A live feed of the Pacquiao-Cotto fight was shown at the St. Vincent Academy, Barangay Mamatid, Cabuyao, Laguna.

It drew hundreds of residents to the school's gymnasium, even those from the flooded areas of the town.

Dr. Claire Reyta, who was with the Laguna Chapter of Red Cross conducting a bloodletting activity, said she only watched boxing when Pacquiao hit the ring.

In Cavite, resident Xyzie Ybanes, 50, said about a thousand watched the live screening of the Pacquiao-Cotto fight at the rooftop of the town market in Noveleta.

Local politicians sponsored the screening of the fight.

In Sta. Cruz, Laguna, the presence of relief goods in the covered court in Barangay Poblacion prevented the regular free screening of the bout, said town Mayor Ariel Magcalas.

He said they usually put up television sets at the four corners of the court but were not able to do so because the space was occupied by relief goods, including sacks of rice kept for distribution to the typhoon victims.

Nineteen thousand families were affected by Ondoy and Santi in September and October with several villages remaining under floodwater, said Magcalas.

The mayor, however, believed that even in such a dire situation, residents would still find ways to view the boxing match.

He said there was free screening of the Pacquiao-Cotto fight at the Arjem cockpit arena in Barangay Bubukal, but this one was sponsored by Laguna 4th district Rep. Egay San Luis.

Naga City Legal Officer Angel Ojastro III: “Pacquiao did not defeat Cotto, he destroyed him. As stated by Shane Mosley, Pacquiao is the Bruce Lee of boxing. He is revolutionizing boxing the way Bruce Lee revolutionized [other forms] of martial arts. Pacquiao has changed fundamental concepts of boxing.”

Fr. Wilmer Joseph Tria, priest, Archdiocese of Caceres: “It reflects Philippine elections: bet, watch, go home. No real participation, no genuine democracy.”

Fr. Norberto Eyuli, director, Socio-Pastoral Action Center, Archdiocese of Daet: “Win or lose Pacquiao, it's our pride.”

Kristoffer Sychay, coffee shop owner, Beanbag Coffee Naga: “It's a prelude to the much anticipated Pacquiao-Mayweather fight of the decade.”

John Concepcion, spokesperson Karapatan-Bicol: “I want Pacquiao to win. He's the pride of the Filipinos. What I would not want is for traditional politicians to use him (Pacquiao) to advance their interests, especially those who belong to the Arroyo administration.”

Reports from Gerald Gene Querubin, Donna Virola, Karen Lapitan, Maricar Cinco and Jonas Cabiles Soltes, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Laguna café also brews artists

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 18:52:00 11/07/2009

Filed Under: Restaurants & catering, Entrepreneurship

PAETE, LAGUNA, Philippines—Using the remains of demolished homes and buildings from nearby towns, a dentist here has put up a coffee shop, aimed to develop and promote local artistry.

Art aficionado Dr. Noli Valdecantos, 47, opened Kape Kesada on December 26, 2004 after attending a series of art exhibitions in Metro Manila that made him realize that Paete artists also deserve wider opportunities.

Located along J.V. Quesada street in Paete town, Kape Kesada is also known to brew local artists other than aromatic concoctions.

Asked on how he managed to combine his love for science and the arts, he said “when you are born in Paete, you are born an artist.”

He said his interest in art started when he was still a kid, mainly due to the artistic environment where he grew up, realizing that there’s no conflict when combining science and art.

No blueprint

The structure of Kape Kesada is in itself a work of art from accumulated old materials. From the walls to the lavatory, the coffee shop used recycled materials Valdecantos got from nearby towns and provinces.

“[Kape Kesada] is like a puzzle. No plan was formally made on how the structure should look like. I just gathered some useful recycled materials from demolished structures,” said Valdecantos, who spent almost two years in completing the whole structure.

The stone bricks of Kape Kesada were from an old church, the windows’ capiz parts were given by some Paete residents, while the wood he used were from demolished homes in Pila town and the provinces of Rizal and Quezon.

Haven for artists

Kape Kesada paved the way toward many opportunities for many home-grown artists.

The Paete Artists Guild was established along the process that supports local artists who want their talent to be exposed. Visual artists and singers primarily make up this group.

According to Valdecantos, Kape Kesada serves as the official venue for the artists’ exhibits and acoustic nights.

“After being given exposure here, we also help them through our contacts to have a more sustainable career,” he added.

As Kape Kesada serves as an exhibit area for Paete artists, customers can view and decide what to buy while sipping their cups of coffee. Art works of featured artists are also sold here.

“Most exhibitions in Manila are plainly viewing of paintings and other art works, but we offer more by allowing customers to feel more relaxed while drinking coffee,” Valdecantos claimed.

The coffee shop and art gallery offers a rustic and relaxing ambiance that has attracted many coffee and art lovers not only from Laguna but also from the metropolis as well.

Ambassadors of Spain and France are just two of the high profile personalities enticed by this coffee shop-art gallery.

Valdecantos thinks that local artistry must be preserved and promoted as this is what Paete is known for. “Paete artists have this huge potential, but they just don’t know how to get enough exposure,” while encouraging more young artists to develop their artistic sides.

“This is the pathway for artistic thought and its works,” he added, while emphasizing how proud he is to be from Paete.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brownouts, floods continue in southern Luzon areas

Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 18:14:00 11/03/2009

Filed Under: Electricity Production & Distribution, Disasters (general)

MANILA, Philippines -- Several parts of Southern Tagalog continue to endure brownout and floods while the number of casualties has risen days after sweeping typhoon Santi (international name: Mirinae) packed strong winds in the region.

In its latest report Tuesday, the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) recorded a total of 17 deaths. Two persons remain missing.

Laguna accounted for 11 deaths with the recovery of another victim identified as Fidel Reyes, 26, in a river in Calamba City late Monday, said the RDCC.

Quezon and Cavite reported one death each; Rizal recorded two deaths; while in Batangas, the bodies of a father and a son who perished after a bridge collapsed were retrieved on Monday.

Anthony Espedido, 51, from Pagsanjan and Anthony Candelaria from Liliw in Laguna, however, remained missing

Meanwhile, several towns are still enduring a power outage since Saturday.

Power supply has not been restored in the towns of Alaminos, Magdalena, Liliw, Victoria, and San Pablo City in Laguna; Candelaria, Sariaya, and Tayabas in Quezon; and in Jalajala and Pililla in Rizal.

The flood reaching five feet high remained in Pagsanjan while water remained at knee to waist level in some villages in Los Baños, Mabitac and Liliw in Laguna.

The Department of Public Works and Highways-Calabarzon put the damage to infrastructure at P133 million, after the bridges of Colong-colong and Matingain in Lemery, and the “Bridge of Promise” in Batangas City, collapsed due to the flashfloods.

In Majayjay town in Laguna, the San Isidro bridge remained closed to traffic.

It also estimated a P1.8-million worth of damage in the collapse of bridges in Quezon.

In the Bicol Region, the Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council in Camarines Norte, which was hard hit by typhoon Santi, reported a death toll of 11 as of Tuesday. Causes of death included drowning, extreme cold (hypothermia), and being hit by falling trees. Reports from Maricar P. Cinco, Karen Lapitan, Jonas Cabiles Soltes and Marrah Erika Lesaba, Inquirer Southern Luzon