This is not really about me, but about the people I meet, the places I visit and the stories I want to share.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sacred Sanctuary

The village of Guinsaugon in St. Bernard town of Southern Leyte has been declared a sacred sanctuary. Let us pray for the souls of the people who perished in the February 17 landslide. The rescue operations have already been called off and it is estimated that around a thousand people perished in the village.

From the very start, rescuers were saying it is highly improbable that survivors will be rescued after days of being trapped under 5 to 30 feet of dried mud, boulders, and other debris. But they still went on with the rescue efforts despite the risks involved. The report of a live chicken being rescued after 6 days of being trapped in a buried house gave hope of finding human survivors. Sadly it turned out to be a false hope.

Maybe this tragedy will serve as a lesson for government authorities or even residents of landslide prone areas to be more cautious, especially now that “La Nina” is now making her presence felt in the country. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Danish Cartoons

  1. Much has already been said about Muslims all over the world condemning the caricatures that were published in Jyllands-Posten, a newspaper in Denmark. In countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan, and even in Denmark, protests have become violent. But the good news is, just last week, Filipino Muslims have also raised their voices against Jyllands-Posten, but in a relatively very peaceful manner.

    After friday prayers at the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila, Anak ng Mindanao Party-list Rep. Mujiv Hataman and former Tawi-Tawi governor Al Tillah took turns in publicly condemning the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist. There were loud chants of "We are not afraid of Europe, we are ready to die." But fortunately despite the scathing words, no one was physically hurt.

    I hope I'm not offending Muslim sensibilities if I describe one of the cartoons - it was the face of Islam's much revered prophet with a lit grenade on top of his head. It was like Jesus Christ holding two bombs while nailed on the cross - very offensive for Christians.

    By the way, if our Muslim brothers wonder if my network showed the offending cartoons in full -we decided not to. Even if Tillah showed photocopies of the cartoons at the Golden Mosque, only blurred images were shown at our news program Insider. Even in the picture above, I have practially erased the cartoon. But this is not to blame Tillah for publicly showing the cartoons. I believe he was just overcome by his emotions at that time.

    What is bothering though is the statement of Rep. Hataman. He said "kung darating ang panahon na gaganituhin pa rin nila ang ating relihiyon, obligasyon natin ang magpakamatay".

    I have covered Rep. Hataman several times and I know him as a fighter for Muslims. Maybe there’s nothing wrong about fighting for one's rights even if it means death. But I just hope this Danish cartoons controversy will be resolved peacefully.

    Maybe the government should consider airing the concerns of Filipino Muslims to Jyllands-Posten through our Department of Foreign Affairs. I understand why the Danish government refuses to apologize since the Prime Minister has no control of the press in his country. But what I cannot understand is why the paper stood by its decision to publish the cartoons after publicly apologizing.

    Of course there’s freedom of the press in some countries, but certain freedoms do have limitations. I think Jyllands-Posten could have just apologized, period. But then maybe, Danes are like Filipinos, who may easily utter the words "I am sorry" but would refuse to pay an act of contrition. Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 06, 2006

Julian Elaine

Mang Eddie can’t afford to lose this mint green bunny backpack. The bag was the one used by his 4-year old daughter Juliane Elaine when she was towed by her mother to Ultra for the first anniversary of Wowowee. It was extremely difficult for Mang Eddie to accept the fact that the backpack could be his last memory of his daughter.

Mang Eddie was still in a state of shock when I met him at Arlington Funeral Homes in Pasig City. He was with his wife Aling Myrna to claim the lifeless and battered body of Julian Elaine.

Aling Myrna told me Julian Elaine could have survived the Ultra tragedy. At the height of the stampede, Julian Elaine was whisked off by a good Samaritan to a nearby roof for safety. But seeing her mother being crushed to the ground, Julian Elaine jumped from the roof just to be with her mother. But along with 74 other people, Julian Elaine died.

Among the victims of the stampede, Julian Elaine is the only child. The rest are adults, mostly female with only one man in the list released by Arlington management.

While the rest of the victims wanted to win cash, or a house and lot, or a tricycle, Juliane Elaine’s wish was way simple – to personally meet the show’s host Willie Revillame. But sadly, the girl got her wish only after she died when Revillame viewed the remains of the stampede victims at the morgue of Arlington Pasig. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 03, 2006

He Says, She Says

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police say they have neutralized on January 30 at least 18 members of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya of the New Peoples Army in Sta. Ignacia, Tarlac.

Only 10 bodies were brought down to a church from the forested area where the encounter occurred. Several bodies were badly disfigured and burnt and were left in the area.

AFP Northern Luzon Command Spokesperson Col. Preme Monta says they had to bomb the hideout of the suspected rebels since it is highly forested. He adds they have credible information that the group was planning to attack the police stations of Sta. Ignacia and Mayantoc towns. Civilian residents in the area where the suspected rebels are camping out are the ones who reported to the authorities.

But human rights advocate Emil Paragas of Karapatan Central Luzon branded the operation as an“overkill” saying the bodies were almost beyond recognition even by their families.

Paragas also says it was a misencounter because among the dead are civilians. Apparently the suspected communist troop was embedded in a civilian village.

Based on the story of Jaime Salgado whom I met at a funeral parlor, his brother Dante and cousin Allan Ibasa are not rebels. Jaime says Dante and Allan were invited by the military for questioning while cutting bamboo trees. A day later, Jaime found out that Dante and Allan are among those neutralized by the authorities.

But minutes after talking with Jaime, a man who refused to identify himself approached me said the suspected rebels are indeed NPA members. He said he clearly remembers the faces of the dead and these are the ones who killed his neighbor last November 15 while they were onboard a running vehicle.

Other residents of Sta. Ignacia also quietly confirmed that most of the dead are communists. They are afraid to be interviewed oncam though.

Again, this is a case of a “he says, she says” story. But for whatever its worth, 18 people are dead. And insurgency and counter-insurgency will always be there for as long as the communists and the government refuse to meet half-way. Posted by Picasa

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