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Hello veggies, goodbye abaca!

Moving on in Zamboanga

Climate advocates launch nationwide climate caravan

Helping Yolanda survivors start anew

PLDT, PBSP bring students closer to school with new classrooms

80,908 informal settlers aided by housing sector in 2013

Island folks commemorate 69th Anniversary of the Battle of Sibuyan Sea

KAC alumna is Athlete of the Year

The Hingatungan Lupong Tagapamayapa (HILUTA)

Green groups, Romblon governor question regional court ruling against local issuances






Marawi: Unable to return home, thousands remain dependent on aid 2 months after conflict ends

Marawi conflict

December 20, 2017

MANILA – It has been almost two months since armed conflict ended in Marawi City but thousands of displaced people remain unable to return home and are in need of help and attention. A majority of the displaced people staying in municipalities east of Lake Lanao come from the worst affected parts of Marawi City that have not opened for return yet. They are still dependent on relatives, the authorities and aid organizations.

Coming to their aid, the Red Cross recently distributed food and hygiene supplies to thousands of people still displaced in Lanao del Sur. Among the recipients of this assistance is Aisah Toroganan, a mother of five, who is currently seeking refuge in the eastern part of the lake.

Aisah and her family have been living with her aunt in Molundo, Lanao del Sur, since the fighting broke out in May. They left their home and everything they had behind once they felt it was too dangerous for them to stay in Marawi. “Where we live now, we are 34 people occupying three small houses in the compound. The place is cramped and we can barely find a place to sleep”, she said.

“We try to find ways to earn extra cash to support ourselves. I, for example, use my skills as a seamstress by offering sewing services to neighbors, but that is not enough to help us make ends meet. Most of us still rely on the assistance – especially food rations – that the government and other agencies give us”, Aisah added.

Aisah is looking forward to return to their house in Marawi once they will be allowed to do so. She hopes to receive seed capital to restart her business as well as cash to repair any damages of their house.

From December 13 to 15, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in collaboration with the Philippine Red Cross distributed half-month food rations and hygiene supplies among over 16,500 displaced people in five municipalities of Lanao del Sur. Each family received 25 kg of rice, one litre of soy sauce, one litre of oil, 12 tins of sardines, 1 kg of sugar, ½ kg of salt, two 20-litre jerry cans and hygiene items.

“We are in contact with the authorities, armed forces and non-State armed groups at the local level so they understand who we are and allow us to deliver our humanitarian response”, ICRC delegate Meher Khatcherian said. “To optimize available resources, we coordinate the distribution work with the main government agencies and other organizations. While they support the displaced people in the west of Lake Lanao, we focus on the eastern part,” he added.

Having continuously helped those affected by the fighting in this area, the ICRC enjoys a level of acceptance that allows it to deliver aid in hard to reach areas where other organizations have limited access.

The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. The ICRC also endeavours to prevent suffering by promoting and strengthening humanitarian law and universal humanitarian principles.






Chairs from Coast Pacific Manufacturing Inc.
Chairs from Coast Pacific Manufacturing Inc. made from natural, sustainable, and a variety of recycled materials.

18 PH brands spotlight local fibers, indigenous sustainable crafts in Japan’ biggest furniture fair

November 21, 2017

MAKATI CITY – The country’s premier woven fibers, recycled natural and other indigenous materials will take center stage as the Philippines returns to the International Furniture Fair Tokyo (IFFT) on November 20-22 at the Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo, Japan.

Led by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), 18 homegrown brands will present eco-sustainable home and lifestyle products made to suit the need of the Japanese market, the 2nd largest trading partner of the Philippines.

“We will continue to invigorate the good trade relations between Japan and the Philippines by bringing in interiors and high-end fashion wears made from country’s natural indigenous and sustainable materials, including abaca, tikog fiber, shells, raffia, sugarcane, and many more,” said CITEM Executive Director Clayton Tugonon.

Tugonon said the Philippine raw fibers, as well as products made from it, enjoys high demand from Japan. For instance, Japan was the second top importer of local abaca fiber from January to September 2016, accounting for 38.8 percent of the total exports during that period, based on the date of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (Philfida).

Under the Lifestyle Philippines pavilion, eighteen companies representing the Philippines are Artisana Island Crafts, Azcor Lighting Systems, Inc., Coast Pacific Manufacturing Corporation, Contemporaneo Design Enterprise, Cubo Sustainable Furnishings, Delza's Native Products, Designs Ligna, Inc., Fashion Interiors Manufacturing, Inc., Johansen World Group Corporation, Lija By That One Piece Enterprise, Lolo Bobby Handicraft, MLC Crystal Seas, Inc., My Souvenir Banig de Basey, Natural Craft Connection Enterprise, Nature's Legacy Eximport, Inc., South Sea Veneer Corporation, Southeast Metro Arts, Inc., and Tuy Arts and Designs.

With the theme ‘Perpetual Artistry,’ this Philippine exhibit in the IFFT 2017 will showcase the country’s premier products with a deep emphasis on the value of aesthetic value, space and nature. Included in the product offering are home accents, wall décors, tabletop accessories, lamps and lighting, outdoor furniture, and functional home furniture.

“We want to highlight the Philippine design aesthetics can be seen through our sense of artistry, authenticity and visual dynamism. We will evoke the sense of beauty of material things and emulate the emotional appeal of every little detail that was put together by hands to create a sophisticated piece,” Tugonon explained.

“On the practical side, we also made careful consideration and adjustments to the product sizes and spatial boundaries. The least space one occupies in a home, the more attractive it is in the market since Japanese people tend to live in small yet cozy houses,” he pointed out. “The Japanese's preference in furniture which comprises of three qualities: functional, practical, and innovative without compromising style.”
Meanwhile, Tugonon noted that the focus on natural crafts was further inspired by greenery, which is this year's color trend declared by Pantone symbolizing new beginnings.

Tugonon said: “The Philippines' return in the Japanese furniture trade, it is crucial to present fresh ideas and new exceptional products that showcase the abundance of natural resources that are used in our crafts and are proudly homegrown.”

The November edition of IFFT, also known as IFFT/Interior Lifestyle Living, is an international trade fair that spotlights lifestyle concepts in interior design markets from around the world.

Interior Lifestyle Tokyo derives from two trade fairs – Ambiente, the largest consumer goods trade fair in the world, and Heimtextil, an international trade fair for household and commercial textiles. In Japan, Interior Lifestyle Tokyo is held in June, while its sister fair, IFFT/Interior Lifestyle Living, takes place in November.

Last year, the IFFT welcomed more than 20,400 visitors from 31 countries around the world to witness the finest design and interior products from 450 brands and companies from 14 different countries.

Lifestyle Philippines is a collective of creative enterprises representing the best of the Philippines’ home and fashion sectors – featuring versatile yet highly-artisanal products that are attuned to modern living.

The participation in IFFT 2017 is a key initiative of CITEM in its commitment to develop, nurture, and promote globally competitive small and medium enterprises (SMEs), exporters, designers, and manufacturers by implementing an Integrated Approach to Export Marketing in partnership with other government and private entities.


Planters by Natural Craft Connection Enterprise
Planters made from 100% local abaca fiber by Natural Craft Connection Enterprise.





Genuine rehabilitation, not militarization!

By People Surge
November 7, 2017

CATARMAN, Northern Samar – People Surge Northern Samar Chapter, together with allied groups under the #StandwithSamar campaign, joins fellow disaster survivors in commemorating the 4th anniversary of Yolanda with surge of protests from all over the region and with support groups backing us up from all over the globe.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan), the strongest typhoon to ever made landfall, only signaled the arrival of other consecutive typhoons which ravaged Northern Samar: Typhoon Glenda (July 2014), Super Typhoon Ruby (December 2014), Typhoons Seniang (December 2014) and Nona (December 2015).

The already “poor” province of Northern Samar has become even poorer. Prior to Yolanda, poverty incidence was nailed at 43.5 percent but in 2015, it leaped to 56.2 percent. Northern Samar remains to be one of poorest provinces in the country.

Nona, the typhoon which hit strongest in Northern Samar, left 15 people dead, 1,207 wounded and 11 people missing. It ravaged 110,427 houses and 112,655 families in Northern Samar. According to the Office of Civil Defence (OCD), total loss in the province amounted to more than P14 billion where P960,690,993 came from the agriculture sector.

The storms that struck, especially Ruby and Nona, have resulted to fallen trees and severe damage to coconut plantations. It takes almost seven years before coconut trees fully recover from nature’s fury. Farmers either have very low yield or farmers' planted coconut trees have yet to bear fruit, subjecting them to the perennial debt trap of rich landowners and exploitative merchants.

A recent report from the Department of Agriculture (DA) also shows that rice production in Northern Samar posed a steady drop in the past three years. In 2014, rice production in the province was at 117,965 metric tons but in 2016, it dropped to 111,086 metric tons.

According to the Provincial Office of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), damaged abaca plantations after Typhoon Nona was at 99.97% affecting thousands of farmers and fiber loss worth more than P173 million. Abaca farms also suffered the infestation of bunchy top virus which impeded recovery from the wrought of successive typhoons.

We suffer multiple disasters: nature's fury, government negligence and militarization

Provincial and national government failed to provide timely and decent help. Even during the disaster preparation phase, the Commission on Audit (COA) 2016 report cited certain municipalities in the province which failed to maximize and/or misuse the 70% mitigation fund under the Local Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (LDRRMC).

The integrity of disaster response after Nona struck Northern Samar is also put in question. The 2016 Audit Report of COA shows municipalities in the province which lacked transparency as to where disaster aids go such as the case of Laoang and Palapag towns, to name a few.

Meanwhile, the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) for Typhoon Nona was given two years after it swept through the province under a 'prorated scheme'. Instead of receiving full amount, totally damaged households only received P13,000 while partially damaged households only received P8,000. People Surge chapters in Gamay and Lapinig towns reported that distribution of said aid has not yet even begun in their municipalities. Even the cash-for-work program of DSWD for Typhoon Ruby has not yet been conducted in those two municipalities.

Northern Samar is also set to receive the Presidential Financial Assistance (PFA) under the Duterte administration. There are 22,073 beneficiaries in Northern Samar who will receive P5,000 from the PFA. Local People Surge chapters however said that distribution has not yet started in any part of the province.

The Provincial Office of Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority reported that there is an unused fund of P12.7 million budget specifically allotted for the rehabilitation of abaca farms in the province after Typhoon Nona swept. Two years since the typhoon, the government has not provided a single coin, no free insecticide or pesticide to kill bunchy top virus, virtually no help amid the gravity of the situation.

The government provided little to no aid for farmers in the province. While the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that rice seedlings and other agricultural inputs have already been distributed in communities affected by the typhoon, local farmers' organizations report that most farmers did not receive any of those agricultural aids. And if there are any agricultural inputs given, local chapters reported that only selected families are provided with such aids. In our local chapter in Lapinig town, members reported that rice seedlings were not actually given for free by the DA.

The provincial government has instead crafted the Nona Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan (NRRP) 2016-2019 that brushes the agricultural sector to the margins and has put more premium on infrastructure instead despite Northern Samar being an agriculture-driven province.

Government intervention to the farming sector is also notorious as scapegoats of land-grabbing. Northern Samar Small Farmers Association (NSSFA) reported cases where their lands are being taken from them by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for the mass reforestation of bamboo shoots across the province particularly in Las Navas and Catubig. Despite strong resistance from the local peasants, hundreds of hectares are being claimed by the National Greening Program. Meanwhile in Palapag town, farmers are asked to plant cacao instead. One of the principal objectives of the said program is to help reduce poverty and provide alternative livelihood to farmers in upland areas but ironically operates in favor of landlessness, debilitating farm production and stealing peasant livelihood.

DA's promise of free irrigation is nowhere to be found in the province. All local chapters present reported that no free irrigation was provided to them by the government. In Palapag, farmers are asked to pay P1,500-P3,000 per hectare whenever they use the irrigation facility. Meanwhile in Catubig town the Help for Catubig Agricultural Project (HCAAP) which aims to provide irrigation covering 700 hectares of farmland supposed to be completed in 2007, was left unfinished by the government.

Local chapters report that if there are any livelihood programs given, they are mostly loans that may potentially bring bankruptcy to farmers' organizations. In Palapag town, the military is initiating alternative livelihood in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) as part of their overall counter-insurgency design, Oplan Kapayapaan. A review of the NRRP also shows provisions such as the “No Build Zone” policy which may displace thousands of residents along the coast and consequently displace them from their sources of income.

Militarization is government's response

In previous months since the implementation of the bloody counter-insurgency program Oplan Kapayapaan, the people of Northern Samar who have yet to recover from the onslaught of successive typhoons, have been targets of militarization and state terror.

In Barangay Sumuroy, farmers from the barrio stood their ground against military encampment and sought refuge at the municipal town proper of Lope de Vega due to 43rd IBPA Bravo Company's militarization last March. Schools are far from being zones of peace as they report soldiers occupying schools and even constructing defense structures such as fox holes.

Meanwhile in Barangay Geparayan in Sivino Lobos, 13 families (57 individuals) evacuated to different barrios due to harassment threats by the military. Cases of illegal detention and strafing were also experienced by farmers in Las Navas. Military encampment within civilian communities continue in Barangay Mckinley in Catarman, Barangay San Isidro and San Miguel in Las Navas, among others.

In Las Navas Elementary School, the military has been encamping within the school vicinity for three years now. They also camped within Las Navas National High School from May to August this year where even teachers have been harassed by the military. They also planted landmines surrounding the school which sent fear among students and teachers alike. Harassment among teachers have also been reported in Lope de Vega and far-flung barangays in Las Navas. There are also reported military men going inside the school in full battle gear and enticing children to spy their targets.

In Barangay San Miguel in Las Navas, Alyansa san mga Parag-uma kontra Gutom san Las Navasnon (APKLAS) reported that elements of the 20th IB have been camping within the community for three months now. Under the pretension of “peace and development,” they have exhibited ill-respect to public facilities such as barangay halls, barangay health centers and even the barrio school by treating them as barracks. For one, military fatigue are hung in the barangay health stations and they occupy the place when barangay health workers and patients should have been occupying these facilities.

As of this writing, military troops are also in civilian communities of Barangay Mckinley in Catarman town, in Barangays Poponton, San Miguel and San Isidro in Las Navas town, committing various human rights abuses. We have received reports from local chapters that state forces are strong-arming civilians to surrender, subjecting them to psywar to admit that they are members of the New People's Army (NPA).

We are fed up with so much injustices and outright fascism. We join other disaster survivors in the call for justice and accountability! Stand with us. #Stand with Samar.





The women of Marawi: Threading the way back to normalcy

women of Marawi

October 24, 2017

MAKATI CITY – Making ends meet is a great challenge for residents of Marawi City but these women are doing everything just to stay afloat and keep their family alive.

Sewing was their regular source of livelihood, but all of a sudden, it came to an abrupt end. On May 23, 2017, thousands of families were displaced by the war and scores of families had to flee to ensure their families' safety.

But as they say, there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

To hasten the recovery and rehabilitation of Marawi City, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which leads the Bangon Marawi Task Force Sub-committee on Business and Livelihood, provided these with sewing machines and cloth as starter kits to help them earn while staying either home-based or at evacuation centers.

Back in August, DTI-Region 10 identified 16 women internally displaced persons (IDPs) who will be trained for dressmaking and were awarded with the sewing kits. The 16 sewers are able to generate income for themselves.

From the Sta Elena Gymnasium, where they temporarily stay, the 16 women sewers go to the Provincial Training and Livelihood Development Center in Iligan City, where every sewer can earn at least P500 after a day’s work.

For Asnia Sandiman, 23, laying hands on a high-speed sewing machine was a dream come true. Even as a kid, Asnia has been sewing handwoven tube skirts or malong in Filipino, shoals, and long dresses to earn extra for her schooling and for her family.

But with the new sewing machines and cloth provided by DTI, Asnia can earn up to P1,300. At school, her classmates also ask her to sew for them, allowing her to earn even more.

To Asnia, the new sewing kits was her new lease on life amid the crisis that she and her family are going through.

"Naappreciate namin at sobrang masaya kami. Parang nabigyan kami ng panibagong buhay," a teary-eyed Asnia said, while recalling the time when the terrorists where banging on their door.

"Malaking tulong sa amin ito," she added.

On the other hand, the DTI's Negosyo Center and PTLDC ensure that the handwoven malongs, shoals, and long dresses made by the IDP sewers go to the market. Indeed the products ended up in the right market with orders coming in from SM Cagayan de Oro, Manila, the Bangon Marawi Concert, Bangon Marawi Store at DTI main office in Makati City. There are also orders from Rustan's for the Go Lokal! Project.

Fellow IDP and 36-year-old Memeng Dianal, said the sewing kits allowed her to feed her six children everyday. From P500 she earns before, now, Memeng earns P2,000 a day, finishing at least 20 handwoven malongs, shoals, and long dresses.

“Malaking tulong ito sa amin [sewing kits] kahit kaunti-konti natutustusan namin yung araw-araw na pangangailangan namin,” Memeng said.

Despite knowing that her family’s home in ground-zero is now levelled due to the conflict, Memeng is hopeful that once they return to Marawi, there will be more opportunities for her and other Marawi residents. If only she can handle two businesses, she would do it for her children.

“Kung pwedeng doblehin ang business, magdodoble kayod ako para sa mga anak ko,” she said.

Now with the fighting officially declared over by the government, Asnia and Memeng, together with other residents of Marawi will just have to wait for their return to their hometown.

After all, hope springs eternal.







Maria's Farm in Benguet
Overlooking a carrot and romaine fields in one of the highland vegetable terraces of Maria's Farm, situated on over 2,000 above sea level (ASL) in the town of Kibungan, Benguet.

Former OFW uplifts Cordillera farmers into exporters

GDME Fruits and Vegetables leads PH highland farmers to global market

September 11, 2017

MAKATI CITY – The province of Benguet has been making a mark in the international market as a sourcing hub for premium agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, coffee, and other highland crops.

With more than half of its residents or 100,000 farmers toiling on more than 30,000-hectare farms scattered in vegetable-producing towns, Benguet is living up to its moniker as the “Salad Bowl of the Philippines.”

But the farmers from the province, including most areas in the Cordillera, has yet to realize their full market potential in the lucrative export industry. This difficulty contributes to the economic disadvantage of Cordilleran farmers as the region’s agriculture sector records the least contribution to their economy, despite employing 46 percent of the labor force or 348,000 of its total 766,000 abled bodies.

“The lack of drive from our farmers to export much of it has got to do with their local and limited mindset,” said Maricel Hernaez. “Many of our farmers in the Cordillera are producing crops with the idea of harvesting it only either for their own household consumption or for selling at the local vegetable trading post.”

Taking Philippine fruits and vegetables from highlands to overseas

A former overseas Filipino worker (OFW), Hernaez came back to the Philippines with a dream: to abolish the domestic-centric mindset of the Cordillera farmers and help them penetrate the international market.

Born and raised in a farming family in Cordillera, her life-mission sprung during her service as a domestic helper for five years in Singapore, where she has keenly followed the sky-rocketing prices and huge demand for highland fruits and vegetables.

“Grabe ang taas ng presyo ng gulay sa Singapore, for example nalang ‘yung isang malaking patatas minsan umaabot ng two dollars at pati ‘yung cabbage nasa mahigit one dollar ang 250 grams. Dito sa Pilipinas, nasa limang piso lang ang patatas na malalaki at yung cabbage, isang kilo na katumbas ng one dollar mo,” she shared. “Kung produkto lang naman ang paguusapan, competitive ang galing sa Pilipinas pagdating sa laki at kalidad.”

In her last working year as a domestic helper, Hernaez met up with the Philippine Trade and Investment Centre (PTIC) in Singapore to seek guidance on her plan to become a vegetable and fruit exporter. In March 2015, she came back to the Philippines and immediately established her company, GDME Fruits and Vegetables Trading, naming it after her parents: Gilbert Domerez (father) and Mercy Espara (mother).

“My parents who made a living through farming have inspired me to pursue this agenda,” she elated. “They are the foundation of my goal of nurture the country’s agri-export market by tapping the promising farming communities in Cordillera.”

A tall order

Having no land to call her own, Hernaez has been operating GDME Fruits and Vegetable Trading for the past two years as its sole networking, monitoring, and marketing officer for grassroots farmers across the Cordillera region.

In her networking initiatives with the local farmers, it has always been a challenge for her to explain, innovate, and change some of their farming methods and even their products to suit the demand of the global market.

“Going one by one with the farmers, I always explain that we have the tools to compete with other countries. We are situated at a higher elevation with the perfect soil and climate. Most importantly, our farmers are hard-working,” she stressed. “But, I tell them we should comply with food standards and certifications. I also encourage them to plant the crops that are in-demand because if we plant crops that no one wants to buy then it will just go to waste.”

Without a formal academic background in agriculture, she has always been looking for fresh ideas and new ways on how to improve her technical know-how on the export industry by attending seminars and partnering with government agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“I never missed opportunities where I can learn new things. Last May, I joined IFEX Philippines, together with our farmers, where we encountered people who are willing to help us grow,” Hernaez said. “We were also glad to meet foreign buyers that are really interested in our fruits and vegetable products.”

Now GDME Fruits and Vegetables Trading has partnered and has been consolidating the yield of more than 60 farmers in communities located in the municipalities of Kibungan, which is considered the “Little Alaska of the Philippines,” as well as in Mankayan, and Kabayan.

Among her community partners are the Bosingan Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Mankayan Young Farmers, Maria’s Farm, and the Bashoy Kabayan Multi-Purpose Cooperative.

Fresh from the highlands, they offer different varieties and cultivars of potato, radish, carrot, chayote, cucumber, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, tomato, romaine zucchini, sugar beets, bell pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, onion leeks, snow peas, and green beans.

“In our farm, we are able to grow fruits in huge sizes. For instance, in our cabbages, we are cultivating the scorpio F1 hybrid and sugarloaf varieties. When fully grown, these varieties can reach an average net weight of 2 kilograms each, while your regular lowland cabbage varieties only reach 1 kilograms each. Our is twice the size,” she said.

Her partner farmers are also cultivating strawberry, lemon, parsley, cilantro, kale, mint, basil, alfalfa, arugula, red radish, young corn, fennel leaves, and okra.

They also have some of the iconic Cordillera processed goods, such as sweet and sour chili sauce, strawberry jam, peanut butter, and kimchi.

Hernaez said an exporting farmer will be able to earn at least 15 pesos more per kilo of their harvest. She added: “Some might even go double the price when depending on their reception on our quality and demand.”

"With these many products, we are targeting the demand in Singapore and other nearby ASEAN countries, as well as those in the Middle East,” she added. “We are also open to offers from other buyers across the globe that can be beneficial to the livelihood of our farmers.”

Cordillera farmers moving forward

While the high elevation augments the harvest, it also makes highland fruits and vegetables prone to risks of climate change, making its price highly volatile.

“We know that there is a demand for our agricultural products, but the next step is how we can corner that demand? With our talks with people that we met on IFEX Philippines, we should be able to do it if we set our fruits and vegetables at stable prices and produce them at a sustainable rate. It’s a challenge for us here in the highland considering the ever-changing weather conditions,” said Hernaez.

Faced with this predicament, Hernaez is trying to hit two birds with one stone in creating a viable year-round crop rotation system: working on identifying the in-demand varieties crops that are a tolerant to extreme weather and are resistant to pests and diseases.

“With this method, we also can minimize the use of synthetic chemicals and inputs, or apply good farming practices which involve the balanced application of organic and chemical inputs,” she explained.

The former OFW also continues to widen her network to increase their agriculture supply and product selection, allowing small-scale farming communities to accommodate bulk orders from foreign buyers.

At the same time, she is helping Cordillera farmers secure the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification – an accreditation promoted by the ASEAN community and is unanimously recognized in the international market.

Out of the 78 GAP-certified farms in the Philippines, only 4 farms are from Cordillera.

According to the Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Standards (DA-BAFS), GAP Certification ensures that a farm is not only in the quality of his crops, but in all aspects of farming.

The GAP standard requires a scrutiny of the history of the farm site and its prior use; the type of soil, and its compatibility with crops and seed sources; the judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers, whether chemical or organic; the sources of potable water for irrigation and washing of crops; the harvest and post-handling procedures; the health and hygiene of the farmer and handlers, and other factors.

"Gusto kong makita sa mga farmers if they can eat their products raw and fresh, ‘yun na kasi uso din because there are a lot of vegetarians. ‘Yung iba kasi they have a lot of pesticide to the point na hindi na pwede makain kasi maamoy or matapang yung chemicals. At least with GAP [certification], we can be one stop closer to this goal,” she said.

Aside from GAP certifications, GDME Fruits and Vegetable Trading is also working to secure Halal certifications for the community farmers as they are targeting the demand for halal fruits and vegetables in the Middle East, particularly in Dubai and U.A.E.

Though the Philippine National Standards for Halal (PNS 2067: 2008), Halal products are at par with international standards to enhance the competitiveness of local industries, and to ensure product quality and safety for the consumers.

“GDME Fruits and Vegetable Trading is committed to prime Cordilleran farmers to become export-ready in the global market so that they would grow together with the company and the booming Philippine food industry,” she said.

Cordillera fruit and vegetable farm





Muslim OFW breaks waves; Opens the first Japanese Halal resto in the PH

Hasim Salih Mammah

July 11, 2017

MAKATI CITY – The Filipino worker who has served among the longest at King Saud University as an administrative secretary and quality standard coordinator for over 20 years is a Mindanaoan, who at childhood would bravely cross islands by boat and alluvial plains on foot with his brother during summertime to collect coconut shells and make them into charcoal.

Coming from one of the minority tribes in Mindanao known as the people of the current, Hasim Salih Mammah conscientiously turned around an imminent tide of deprivation into waves of success in his various personal and professional engagements.

“I was raised by a disciplinarian teacher-mother and a business-trader father to value hard work, independence, and concern and respect for others at an early age. Joining reach-out activities in Mindanao’s most impoverish communities at teen age, and eventually awarded as among one of the best scouts by the Boy Scout of the Philippines in Zamboanga City boosted my interest to make a difference in life,” says Hasim.

Hasim was 18 years old and recuperating from the demise of his father when he found himself driving tamaraw jeepney along unpaved roads in outskirts of Zamboanga City to sustain his schooling at the Western Mindanao State University. He was a relentless working student throughout college, finishing a degree in Political Science.

The young man who dared to twist his fate in Metro Manila selling books and reading materials in offices and homes eventually landed a job in Riyadh as a salesman and one of the pioneering employees of a company that would become today’s top retail franchise company carrying more than 80 of the world's best-known retail brands across global markets.

“Hard work and work-focus were my weapons to build the trust of my superiors,” Hasim relates as he reminisced growing his career from being a salesman to becoming a retail supervisor and sales advisor. His two years of exposure in marketing top brands have built up in himself an incredible global market knowledge and marketing strategies.

An epitome of Filipino resiliency

When not at work during weekend, Hasim would delight his close Filipino friends in Riyadh with his Asian recipes that he casually prepared for their various special occasions. “I cooked 100 percent Halal in the variety of my Asian menus.” Hasim’s catering service, though limited to the Filipino community, was handled with quality standards.

Having had received a certification program with the Associate Chartered Quality Institute (ACQI) made Hasim very meticulous in his service detail. The significant learning he has accrued from his university research works on “Academic Quality Management” manifested in the way he manages his professional works and personal ventures.

Hasim became an epitome of Filipino resiliency when he dared break through the Japanese food business industry in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, about 12 years after a decade-long season of servicing the Filipino community with his home-based 100 percent Halal Asian food catering business, Hasim decided to learn the trade of food service. “I went to various places to learn the food service trade -- attending conferences and food expo in Dubai, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Japan.” In his unyielding pursuit of more knowledge in food service, Hasim met a Filipino who has a lengthy experience as a Japanese chef.

Hasim manages the Samurai Japanese Cuisine Restaurant in Riyadh since 2013. The restaurant that employs mostly Filipino OFWs has been enjoying excellent reviews among multi-racial customers and Japanese food fanatics in the city.

“It is amazing that Japan, which has mere .05% Muslim population, enjoys numerous Japanese Halal eateries spread across all its cities and provinces. It is sad though that the Philippines has 11% Muslim population and yet has no Japanese Halal restaurant found anywhere across the country,” reveals Hasim.

“It is this reality that prompted me to bring to the Philippines the first 100 percent Halal Japanese restaurant, called Samurai Halal Express.”

Innovative and authentic taste at Samurai Halal Express

Located at a prime area in the Food Court of Terminal-3 in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the Samurai Halal Express is a cozy eatery for Muslims and non-Muslims who love Japanese cuisine.

Strictly using imported Halal meat and chicken and halal-authenticated ingredients, the first Halal Japanese restaurant in the Philippines is proudly manned by a Filipino sushi chef who has mastered the artistry of Japanese cuisine.

On top of the regular Japanese cuisine selections, the Samurai Halal Express unveils several innovative menus, such as the country’s first new ramen in a bowl with choices of seafood, chicken and beef ramen – all in authentic taste.

“Everything is made to order with the freshest ingredients, making sure that every dish is prepared from scratch, and is cooked separately with secret flavor,” claims its Sushi chef.

Samurai’s tempura and furai (fried shrimp) are hand-picked and nicely coated with utmost care. Customers are free to watch Samurai’s show kitchen. Customers can see the preparation of sushi side and food orders as they are done the traditional way – with not much fusion except for its authentic ingredients. Children who love sushi will surely bask in its beef and chicken roll designed with the fancy look.

Samurai Halal Express is said to be a “market tester” that will soon become a model for expansion to other places in the Philippines.

Like the daring young boy who wandered places to collect coconut shells to produce charcoal and who drove tamaraw jeepney around outskirts of Zamboanga City, and went far to work abroad and acquired quality international experience and education, the man of current will soon take Samurai Halal Express to the hearts of the Filipinos.

Samurai Halal Express






Cavite enterprise wins back-to-back Katha Awards at IFEX Philippines

Kapfer and Rivera United Inc. bags award for Processed Fruit and Vegetables with Puso ng Saging

May 23, 2017

PASAY CITY – Cavite-based Kapfer and Rivera United Inc., makers of the ‘Island Gems’ brand, won the 2017 Katha Award for Food for the Best New Product Award for Processed Fruit & Vegetables category for its ready-to-eat bottled Puso ng Saging at the recently concluded IFEX Philippines held at the World Trade Center Metro Manila (WTCMM) and Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC).

Puso ng Saging – Processed Vegetables
Island Gem’s Puso ng Saging – Processed Fruit and Vegetables 2017 Katha Award Winner.

The company’s bottled Puso ng Saging, is an all-natural creation made of banana blossoms, coconut cream, salted shrimp fry, and spices that can be used as a spread, topping or the main dish. Consistent with the company’s vision for the highest food standards, it contains premium ingredients, no preservatives, and no added flavoring.

The award is a back-to-back win for the Filipino-German company, having won the Katha Award in the same category in 2015 with their ready-to-eat bottled Laing or Taro Leaves in Coco Cream.

"Kapfer and Rivera deserves recognition for its consistency in delivering high-quality and inventive Filipino-inspired products, such as Laing and Puso ng Saging, which helps propel the Philippine in the international market as a source of premium healthy and organic food products,” said Clayton Tugonon, Executive Director of Center for International Trade Expositions and Mission (CITEM), the organizer of IFEX Philippines.

A joint venture by Maria Rivera, who came home from Singapore in 2012 with German husband Chris Kapfer, the Kapfer and Rivera United Inc. started in 2012 with the creation of their fine mango jam using premium ingredients.

As a boutique company, it is committed to bringing new products to the market that are affordable and authentic, never cutting corners with the use of artificial additives like flavoring, coloring, and preservatives.

“I’m glad that our line of healthy products is recognize here in IFEX Philippines,” said Kapfer. “For this year, we are hoping to get more high-quality buyers from Korea and Japan and this recognition in Katha is a big boost towards this endeavor.”

Aside from tapping markets abroad, Kapfer and Rivera Inc. aims to focus growth on the local market, a segment that they believe has great potential and lacking in premium quality locally made food.

“The Philippine economy is doing well. More manufacturers are coming up with higher quality, because people are demanding it,” said Managing Director Maria Rivera Kapfer. “The problem is we tend to serve cheap stuff, synthetic stuff for the Pinoys. Why give fruit-flavored jams? We give them real fruit.”

Rivera added: “We deserve quality goods for our people and we want to make it mainstream and affordable. We could have chosen to go to go to gourmet shops but we said no, we must democratize good quality food and make it more affordable. You can’t always say, pwede na yan, local naman yan eh. That’s really bad. We deserve better than that.”

Aside from Puso ng Saging and Laing, the Filipino-German company is selling single-serve fruit fillings, such as Strawberry, Calamansi, Guava, Mango and Pineapple, as well as Macapuno and Ube de Pastillas, under their Island Gems brand. The company is also offerings manufacturing and toll packaging services.

As of now, Kapfer and Rivera United Inc. have established retail stores in Urban Pantry (Green Hills Metro Manila), Connie's Kitchen Deli (New Manila, Quezon City), Real Food (Molito, Alabang), Landmark (Makati and Trinoma), Unimart (Green Hills, Metro Manila), Ritual (San Lorenzo Village, Makati), Shell Gas Mart (Slex to Batangas, after San Pedro Exit), Enchanted Kingdom (Agila - The Eksperience) Duty Free (Kalibo, Palawan), and selected stores of Robinsons Supermarket.

K&R United embraces the traditional values of integrity, reliability, quality and cost-effectiveness in dealing with its business partners and clients.

The company’s facility is located in Cavite, an area in the southern region of Luzon in the Philippines. We are licensed to operate (LTO), with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certifications, and registered in US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

Laing – Processed Fruit
Island Gem’s Laing – Processed Fruit and Vegetables 2015 Katha Award Winner.







Katha Awards for Food
DTI-CITEM Executive Director Clayton Tugonon (leftmost) and DTI Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado (rightmost) introduces the winners of the 2017 Katha Awards for Food at IFEX Philippines.

Katha Awards for Food spotlights innovative, export competitive products at IFEX Philippines

May 20, 2017

PASAY CITY – The 11th edition of the International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines, through the 2017 Katha Awards for Food, once again pays homage to newly developed Philippine food products and applications yesterday at the World Trade Center Metro Manila (WTCMM) and Philippine Trade Training Center (PTTC).

The awards aim to strengthen the reputation of the Philippines as a go-to destination for globally competitive Asian food and ingredients by recognizing companies that explore new galleries of flavors, original brand ideas, unique food fusions, and creative packaging methods.

The competition is open to all Philippine-based food manufacturers and suppliers participating in IFEX Philippines 2017. The winners are hailed from six different product categories: Food Ingredients, Marine and Meat Products, Snack Foods, Beverages, Processed Fruits and Vegetables, and Confectionery and Biscuits and Pastry. The company with the most creative booth exhibition is also recognized.

Katha Awards for Food was judged by SM Supermarket Senior Vice President for Marketing Millie Dizon, ZOMATO Philippines Country Manager Anton Ojeda, Philippines Airlines Manager for Food Planning and Standards Division Maria Criselda Abantao Rayos, and Food Packaging and Labeling Expert Abner Villahermosa. They chose the winners according to Market Demand, 25%; Packaging Design and Innovation, 35% and; Product Innovation, 40%.

Here are the category winners of the 2017 Katha Awards for Food:


Food Ingredients: FIERY LABUYO BARBEQUE MARINADE of Mama Sita’s

Instilling innovation while keeping its century-old culinary tradition, Mama Sita’s has newly concocted to perfection the Fiery Labuyo Barbeque Marinade for lovers of spicy food fusions.

Bold and fiery, the native labuyo chili pepper offers a truly unforgettable barbeque experience without the monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other preservatives.


Marine and Meat Products: FISH SAUSAGES of Fisherfarms, Inc.

Fisher Farms All Natural Fish Sausages are free from artificial ingredients and chemical preservatives. Made from 100% fish meat, they provide around 10% of the recommended daily allowance of protein, contain Omega-3, and have 0 trans fats.

Free from gluten, casein, nitrites, and MSG, Fisher Farms All Natural Fish Sausages are perfect for health-conscious gourmets and sausage aficionados.


Snack Foods: KALE CHIPS of Take Root Food Corner

Imagine a completely guilt-free, vegan chip that combines the taste of tangy sour cream with freshly cut chives!

Take Root Food Corner’s Kale Chips is made with all-natural and organic ingredients. No oil, dairy, sugar or any preservatives. Made from nutritionally dense leafy greens available, these addicting kale chips are never baked or friend, but dried at low temperatures to preserve its essential nutrients and enzymes.



Turmeric Ginger Lemongrass is a sweetened tea drink made by the Negros Occidental-based Muy Bien Ventures Co. Inc. from the natural and organic extracts of turmeric, ginger, lemon grass and calamansi.

Turmeric comes from the root of Cucuma longa plant. Called in the Philippines as "Luyang Dilaw," turmeric has a tough brown skin and deep orange flesh. Curcumin, the main active ingredient in turmeric, has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and a very strong antioxidant.


Processed Fruits and Vegetable: PUSO NG SAGING of KAPFER AND RIVERA UNITED INC.

Also known as “Ginataang Puso ng Saging,” this ready-to-eat Philippine dish satisfies the cravings for a hearty and savory meal – perfectly served on a hot cup of rice or as an appetizer paired with toasted bread and melted cheese on top.

Puso ng Saging is high in fiber and rich in taste, while completely being pork and chicken free.


Confectionery, Biscuits and Pastry: 85% NATULE CHOCOLATE DARK of MALAGOS AGRI-VENTURES CORP.

Developed to cater the taste of the high-standard Japanese market, the 85% Natule Chocolate Dark is an all-organic treat lets you experience the true essence of cacao, enriched with the subtle sweet aroma of coconut nectar.

The product was made under Malagos Chocolate’s single-origin chocolate production or what they call the “tree to bar” process, which involves the planting, harvesting, fermenting, solar drying, roasting, and processing of the cacao beans into fine-flavored chocolates.


Best Booth: Fisherfarms, Inc.

As a pioneer in aquaculture products processing, Fisherfarms, Inc. stages this year’s IFEX Philippines with a bright and modern scenography, highlighting the interesting insights on the Philippines’ seafood products, as well conducting on-site cooking and food sampling activities.

Fisher Farms, Inc, has one of the country’s widest range of premium quality fresh, frozen, value-added, and completely processed seafood products to clientele and institutions such as supermarkets, groceries, fast food chains, restaurants, distributors, and hotels all over the world. The Philippine seafood innovator is currently present in key markets such as USA, Canada, Middle East, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe.





2017 labor day state of workers

Government, employers ignore workers’ slide to poverty, inequality

By Associated Labor Unions (ALU)
May 1, 2017

DAVAO CITY – The country’s biggest labor organization, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU) warned of uprising among the working poor as means to be freed from misery if government and employers continue to ignore worsening poverty and inter-generational inequality caused by joblessness, inadequate wages, insufficient social protection benefits and precarious short-term work arrangement.

“We have been witness to recent series of events where our poorest poor people were forced to raid rice warehouses, invade government housing units and claim ownership to lands that they felt was deprived from them. We do not condone nor tolerate these illegal actions but we attribute these series of lawlessness as symptoms of an irresponsive government and inhumane employers and capitalists,” said Alan Tanjusay.

Diminishing value of wage vs. rising inflation

Despite of the country’s consistent economic growth, the purchasing power of daily minimum wage fell significantly in the face of 3.4% inflation rate registered in March 2017.

In a monitoring made by ALU, the purchasing power, for example, of P491 daily minimum wage in the National Capital Region fell to P361 in February 2017. While the average purchasing power of daily minimum wages in regions outside NCR is P250 a day.

These rates are considered way below the 2015 standard poverty level of P393 required amount needed by a family of five for food and non-food needs to survive in a day.

“This condition needs immediate response from government and employers. Workers are now desperate and if this is met inaction many will resort desperate means to survive,” Tanjusay said.

Tanjusay cited incidents in April last year where 300 farmers attempted to ransack a rice warehouse, the recent invasion of government housing units in Bulacan by hundreds informal settler families and last week’s invasion of a portion of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac by landless farmers.


To back up his claims on growing poverty, Tanjusay cited the result of survey a few days ago by the Social Weather Station (SWS) estimating there are 11.5 million families or 69 million individuals who said they are impoverished compared to 10 million families or 60 million individuals in December 2016.

With a vast amount of wealth generated by a consistently growing economy, why does millions of families still feel deprived? Where does the money go?

Aside from 40 families of oligarchs still controlling the economy, Tanjusay specifically identified the drivers of poverty among workers and their families. These are growing unemployment, underemployment, and meager social amelioration benefits.

He said the drivers of poverty among working poor are the growing unemployment, widening underemployment driven by inadequate wages, precarious contractualization short-term contractual work arrangement, jobs-skills mismatch, inadequate social insurance, worsening traffic congestion and fire-prone workplaces.


Government’s Labor Force Survey released on March 14 this year, 39.4 million Filipinos are employed, out of which are 2.8 million without jobs while 6.4 million are underemployed of the total 69.4 million workforce as of January 2017.

“With only a few families controlling the economy, our government institution should function according to their mandates and enforce our laws and implement programs to make the money trickle down to benefit workers who helped built that wealth. But these are dysfunctional.

“Analyzing these numbers, the cause of concern out of this survey is not just on those jobless but we are monitoring the behavior of the underemployed as well or those who have jobs yet their income is inadequate to meet their needs,” Tanjusay said.

Causes of unemployment and underemployment

He identified the causes of unemployment and underemployment as contractualization, jobs-skills mismatch, low minimum wage, rising prices of goods and cost of services, diminishing purchasing power of meager minimum wage and lack of jobs-creating investments due to expensive electricity, water and transportation cost, expensive but poor telecommunication and internet services.

Workers productivity at work and quality time at home are also hounded by tardiness, fatigue, stress, caused by worsening traffic congestion and poor mass transport system and inadequate and aging infrastructures such as airports, seaports, container ports, railways, roads and bridges.

The ALU also attributes unemployment and underemployment to high cost of doing business imposed by local government units, judicial proceedings, and government red tape, illegal smuggling, occupational safety and health, tedious labor cases, and meager social protection coverage including low pension benefit, rising crime incidents, and continuing peace and order problems.

Contractualization and wage

The issue of temporary contractualization work arrangement are among the top priorities when labor groups meets with Duterte in a Mayday dialogue with labor groups including ALU, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) and labor coalition Nagkaisa to be held 3p.m. today at People’s Park in Davao City.

“These challenges are brimming burden for workers. But organized labor groups prioritized the order of battle by concentrating their energy on the issue of raising wages to cope rising cost of living and ensuring workers have security of tenure by banning contractualization and all fixed-term employment because they need to survive and cope with rising cost of living not just for today but the days after,” Tanjusay said.

The unions fight to eradicate contractualization is even made difficult with many elected executive and legislative government officials through dummies are engaged in the business of manpower service providers in constantly providing workers to companies and locators in their areas of jurisdictions.

“This racket is working for both the politicians and business owners. This is profit and secured votes for politicians in exchange of no delays in permits to operate and for them turning blind eye on employers’ non-compliance to local labor ordinances and standards including general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards,” Tanjusay said.

Kentex and HTI fires

Seventy four workers perished in May 2015 Kentex factory fire while five workers were burned to death in HTI fire incident in February this year. These fatal incidents could have been prevented had there been routine local level inspections before the issuance of permits to operate.

May 1, 2017 dialogue agenda

Aside from the contractualization and wage issues, there are ten other issues that they expect action from Duterte in today’s dialogue.

The ALU and Nagkaisa labor coalition have grounds to anticipate that Duterte would also certify House Bill 4444, an Act to Strengthen Security of Tenure sponsored by TUCP Party-list Rep. Raymond Mendoza as urgent administration measure. House Bill 4444 shall prohibit all forms of fixed term employment and criminalizes its violation.

Workers also requested the Duterte approval of International Labour Organization Convention 151 which empowers government workers to organize and create their own associations and unions; resolve once and for all the five-years-and-running dispute on outsourcing between Philippine Airlines and PAL Employees Association.

Labor groups also requested for the creation of a tripartite commission to review and revise guidelines on wage setting, ensure genuine labor representation to government tripartite bodies, establish a reform of power policy that will assure security of supply of electricity and its affordability to make our economy competitive.

They also seek Duterte approval of deputization of trade unions in the inspection of workplaces, regularize quarterly dialogue with labor groups, issue an order prohibiting the collection of recruitment and placement fees, and assign help desk where trade unions can report rogue cops who are using the crack down on illegal drugs as a camouflage in union-busting.

Emergency subsidy

The ALU proposed Duterte to provide through a P500 monthly subsidy for workers to cope with the rising cost of living. The proposal is called Emergency Labor Empowerment and Assistance Program of the Office of the President, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and accredited trade unions.

Under the proposal, the Office of the President may initially appropriate and provide the subsidy amount with the DOLE as lead implementing agency with trade unions as conduit of the program in distributing cash vouchers after beneficiaries attended workers’ orientation on fundamental workers’ rights.

Forthcoming labor problems

Aside from ongoing challenges and problems facing workers, the ALU anticipate the influx of foreign workers to fill the shortage of skilled and professional workers due to the continuing flight of Filipino workers to work abroad in search of better wage and higher benefits and the possible uptick demand for more workers in the light of mega-infrastructure programs envisioned by Duterte administration’s ‘Dutertenomics” and ‘build, build, build’.

Climate change

The ALU also identify climate change events as significant factor that impact workers. The devastation caused by El Niño and La Niña phenomenon not only threatens the life and limbs of working people but also displaces and breaks livelihood patterns.

“Extreme weather events are catastrophic to all Filipino. The sum effect is if workers are able to survive these events, they are unsure if they still have jobs and means of livelihood when their factories and offices are destroyed by natural forces,” Tanjusay said.

He cited the post-Yolanda havoc and the recent decision of the government to shut down mining companies.

Decreasing union density

The narrative of workers struggle for decent work and shared prosperity in globalization age is made difficult by waning power if unionism.

The Bureau of Labor Relations of the DOLE estimated there are around 2.1 million workers registered as members of the union and only around 200,000 of which are covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) as of December 2016, down from 4 million unionized workers and 400,000 covered by CBA in 2010.

Bright prospects

However, amid the brimming natural and man-made woes confronting workers, there are bright prospects that would somehow slow down the downward trend of unemployment and underemployment and mitigate its negative impacts to the labor force.

Tanjusay said the government’s completion and operationalization of mass railway and utility bus system and the establishment of a national broadband nationwide spur direct employment in the construction and information, communication and technology sector.

Impending tax refund

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) owes each 600,000 minimum-waged workers nationwide with an estimated P9,000 “blood money” from the tax they collected for six months in 2008 amid a law exempting the workers from withholding tax.

In its decision released on February this year, the Supreme Court said minimum wage earners (MWEs) should not taxed because they are exempted from doing so by Republic Act 9502 – the law giving exemption to minimum waged workers from monthly salary tax deductions. The law became effective June 17, 2008. However, the BIR issued Revenue Regulation 10-2008 and only exempted MWEs six months later.

Tanjusay said they expect the Supreme Court finally decide on the manner of refund before the end of the year.

Compliance and enforcement

These challenges needs radical government interventions and serious reforms in the hearts and minds of employers and capitalists.

“The Associated Labor Unions is urging the government to consistently enforce labor standards and occupational safety and health standards. We call on employers and business-owners to faithfully comply to labor laws and policies,” Tanjusay said.

If these remains unattended, poverty will continue to thrive and breed social problems. Ignoring inequalities will always evolve from one generation to another and create even more problems, he said.






members of the Magbinuligon Bayanihan Association-Women in Development Association (MBA-WIDA)
Some of the members of the Magbinuligon Bayanihan Association-Women in Development Association (MBA-WIDA) pose with Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Maritess Nacilla (extreme left). (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

It takes a woman to do a man’s job: The MBA-WIDA story

March 23, 2017

TACLOBAN CITY – Former British Prime Minister Margaret Tatcher, once said, “...that whenever you want things said, give it to a man, and when you want things done, give it to a woman.” The women of Magbinuligon Bayanihan Association – Women In Development Association (MBA-WIDA) formerly the Opong MPC are proof that women can indeed bring change and make things happen.

Formed from the defunct Opong MPC, the MBA was organized with the help of DAR in 2009. According to DAR Agrarian Reform Program Officer I (ARPO I) Ma. Milagrosa Noveda, she spearheaded the reorganization effort of what is now the MBA, and has 379 members, 197 of which are females and 182 are males. It is a federation or network organization, with WIDA as its affiliate member.

The organization has a one (1) hectare communal farm planted to high yielding vegetable varieties, in addition to a less than a hectare tilapia fish pond. It is also engaged in rice production.

But the women of MBA-WIDA, have walked the extra mile. They may look comely, shy and pretty; but mind you, some of them are certified welders with NC II certificates from TESDA. Some have also received training in carpentry and masonry, and gentlemen, take a bow, these ladies constructed their warehouse from scratch. ARPO I Noveda says that these women actually built their warehouse, and it was a sight to see them holding hammers, welding tools and do construction work. Welding, carpentry and masonry, are traditionally the preserve of men. It is not every day that we find women in a rural community break the gender barriers, and the women of MBA-WIDA, have shown they can indeed make a difference.

In a rural community, the traditional occupational roles are very much emphasized between sexes. However, things were to change when super typhoon Yolanda came. It brought change at a rapid pace.

Several international non-government organizations, private agencies and donors, and government agencies poured assistance to calamity-stricken areas, Tolosa, included. There was also a serious shortage of skilled labor particularly for carpenters, masons, plumbers, electricians and the like. Soon, government agencies and civic-minded organizations started training those interested in these skilled occupations that were in short supply. These trainings included both men and women, and the members of MBA-WIDA. Together, they were a force in the rehabilitation and development of their community. After Yolanda, it opened several opportunities for livelihood and entrepreneurship.

But they did not stop there. They were able to access ILO funding worth P2M, more or less, for the construction of their building with provisions for an office and storage area. It was here that the women showed their carpentry, masonry and welding skills, and did traditional chores that used to be the preserve of men, a few years back. Yes, there were males who helped them along the way, but this was something new and it signalled a new chapter in the life of empowerment of women in local life.

They were also a beneficiary under the Partnership Against Hunger and Poverty (PAHP), ARPO I Noveda said. They also availed of the on-site training provided by DAR and from partners. Today, they are engaged in addition to their vegetable production where they produce bell peppers, they are in vermi-cast production, an organic fertilizer derived from African Night Crawlers earthworms with technology provided by the DAR. They produce green charcoal briquettes. They have also engaged in the production of red rice organically, which is in high demand for the wellness and health conscious market, particularly the diabetics.
They have diversified their interests: meat processing, and catering business. In line with this, they underwent trainings in food preparation and food handling, table skirting. They have also produced nuggets from vegetables. Their latest venture is the production of organic dishwashing liquid, which they started marketing in their area.

The MBA-WIDA is an epitome of empowerment, breaking traditional stereotypes. They have also learned to think of their future, access and mobilize resources to effect their plans. They may have to deal with challenges along the way. But after the storm, they have charted their lives in their hands, and blazed new trails.





Davao-made Malagos Premium Chocolates launched in the US

By DTI- Industry Promotion Group
November 18, 2016

MAKATI CITY – The Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center Los Angeles (PTIC-LA) confirmed that Malagos Premium Chocolates, a chocolate produced in the Philippines, will now be available in the United States. This was further to the announcement made by the Davao-based Malagos Agri-Ventures during their recent participation at the North West Chocolate Festival in Seattle, Washington on November 12 -13, 2016.

Malagos Premium Chocolates
Philippine Trade and Investment Center - Los Angeles and San Francisco Trade Representative Jojie Dinsay (L) with Mr. Rex Puentispina (R) of Malagos Agri-Ventures at the NorthWest Chocolate Festival. (photo by PTIC-LA)

The Malagos line of chocolates has received acclaim from international fine food and chocolate award-giving bodies in Europe for its premium qualities. The products are single-origin, having been manufactured fully on-site on its farm in Davao, Philippines.

Mr. Jojie Dinsay, Trade Representative of the Philippines for the US West Coast and Head of the Philippine Trade and Investment Centers in Los Angeles and San Francisco said that this is another success story for the promotions efforts of premium food products in the US market as a result of the partnership between government and the private sector. “We are very happy and proud to have another premium product from the Philippines enter this market” Dinsay said. “The Philippine Trade and Investment Centers as part of our mandate will continue to support companies like Malagos in promoting their products all over the world”.

Featuring 110 exhibitors, the Northwest Chocolate Festival is known to be among the top shows for artisan chocolates in the world today with around 12,000 visitors. Malagos Premium Chocolates, a multi-awarded Philippine chocolate from Davao, was introduced not only to choco-loving consumers but to traditional and artisan chocolatiers, chefs and baristas present at the show.

Malagos Agri-Ventures’ participation at the NW Chocolate Festival was supported by the DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau (DTI-EMB). Prior to this, assistance from the DTI regional office in Davao was also recognized by Malagos.

The Malagos brand is also expected to be introduced by Ampac International Inc., its importer in the United States, to UNI-MART Niles in Niles, Illinois and UNI-MART Hoffman in Hoffman Estates.

According to Mr. Rex Puentispina, Sales and Marketing Head of Malagos Agri-Venture, joining the Festival validates his belief that their chocolates can match the quality and taste of US and other international brands. “We have received a lot of good feedback from chocolate lovers visiting our booth” said Puentispina. “There were even some who say that this is one of the best they have ever tasted,” added Puentispina.

In 2015 at the International Chocolate Awards, Malagos 65% Dark Chocolate was named one of world’s best drinking chocolates. In the same year, it won at the Academy of Chocolate Awards when its 100% Unsweetened Chocolate won the Bronze Award for Best Unflavored Drinking Chocolate.

In 2016, its Premium 100% Unsweetened Chocolate won the Silver at the Drinking Chocolate competition of the Academy of Chocolate’s Eighth Golden Bean Awards in London. It also won that year a blind-taste competition when its Unsweetened Chocolate earned two of the maximum three stars awarded by Great Taste, the world’s most prestigious food accreditation body.

The company continues to invest in equipment and technology, producing its premium, single-origin chocolate products such as Malagos 100% Pure Unsweetened Chocolate, Malagos Roasted Cocoa Nibs, Malagos 65% Dark Chocolate, Malagos 72% Dark Chocolate, and Malagos 85% Dark Chocolate.

With its expansion in the United States, Malagos is expected to generate more jobs for Filipinos back in the Philippines.






Bugho Farmers Association
Members of the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) savor their firs harvest after the Department of Agrarian Reform with the help of the RIGHTS and the Philippine National Police successfully installed the former to their awarded land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program in June this year. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

After 16-year struggle Ormoc farmers start harvesting

October 7, 2016

ORMOC CITY – Rosenda Apay could not hide her happiness as they started harvesting last week after having been deprived entry for 16 years to their awarded land under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program’s (CARP’s) land acquisition and distribution component.

Apay, 56, was one of the 21 members of the Bugho Farmers Association (BFA) who were successfully installed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in June to the 25-hectare lot within the Fran Farm in Barangay Matica-a in this city after several failed attempts.

“Masaya kami dahil nakabalik na kami pagtrabaho sa aming lupa. Tapos, sa ngayon nag-aani na. Mas lalo kaming masaya,” (We are happy because we are back working in our farm. Now, we are already harvesting. The happier we are.) said Apay.

According to her, they will be harvesting rice in the 25-hectare lot until the last week of October. Their initial harvest produced 60 cavans.

She also disclosed that they decided not to sub-divide the 25 hectares covered under a collective certificate of land ownership award (CLOA) to keep it intact, preventing the sale of any portion of it by a member of their association. What they are going to divide is the produce, Apay added.

The members of the BFA were identified by the DAR in the late 90s to be the beneficiaries of lots 8667-47 and 8667-48 with a combined total area of 46 hectares.

But when CLOAs were registered in 1999 in the names of the BFA members, the Fran Farm Workers Association (FFWA) questioned in court as to who should be the rightful beneficiaries of the said lots which dragged on for 16 years resulting to animosity among them.

During this period, BFA was deprived entry into the contested landholding.

The case was resolved only when the BFA, in a rare gesture of magnanimity and grace, offered the 21-hectare lot to the rival group while retaining the 25-hectare lot to themselves leading to a compromise agreement in March this year.

Both groups were finally installed to their respective farmlots on June 13 and started cultivating.

Apay thanked DAR, the non-government organization RIGHTS and the Philippine National Police which continue to provide security in the area to maintain the peace and order situation.

Apay and FFWA member Medardo Cabahug, 59, admitted that their groups have already settled their differences. However, both also disclosed that another group entered into the scene bringing threats as the latter claims ownership of the once disputed area.

Meanwhile, DAR-8 Regional Director Sheila Enciso directed Assistant Regional Director Ismael Aya-ay to hasten the delivery of the necessary support services needed by these farmers.





Save the Children report: PH economy loses P328 billion a year due to malnutrition

By Save the Children Philippines
August 30, 2016

MANILA – A new report released today by Save the Children reveals that the Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year due to the impact of childhood stunting on workforce productivity and education. Stunting is the most prevalent form of undernutrition, and has permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.

The report entitled “Cost of Hunger: Philippines” suggests that, in 2013, childhood stunting cost the Philippines almost 3 percent of its GDP. The overall economic loss of P328 billion consists of:

1) P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting;

2) P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths among children who would have been members of our current working-age population;

3) P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition.

stunting prevalence among Filipino children
After more than 25 years of steady improvement, stunting prevalence among Filipino children below five years old increased from 30.3% in 2013 to 33.4% in 2015.

Ned Olney, Save the Children Philippines Country Director, said: “This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, Philippines has lost almost 3 percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity costs due to stunting. If we add up health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05 - 1.6 percent.”

The report shows that stunting is the best predictor of productivity and income, and that undernutrition is linked to lower human capital. Children who are stunted in the first two years of life are more likely to repeat grade levels, drop out of school, delay school entry and have lower income levels when they enter the workforce.

Olney added: “If stunting rates continue to rise, it would be difficult for families to break free from poverty. It is the poor and neglected sectors of society that carry the burden of stunting. Any investment in reducing childhood undernutrition will reduce suffering and poverty, and will ultimately stimulate economic growth for all Filipinos.”

The report found, however, that Philippines’ investment in nutrition programs is very low at only 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared to the global average allocation of 2.1 percent. Citing the report findings, Save the Children highlighted the need to invest in nutrition programs during the child’s first 1000 days, from pregnancy up to the second birthday, which is considered a critical period of care to avert stunting.

Olney said: “Nutrition is the cornerstone of all development efforts. This new report tells us that for every US$1 spent on programs to avert stunting in children below 2 years old, the Philippines could save over 100 US dollars in health, education, and lost productivity costs.”

“It should outrage us that 95 children will die every day because of malnutrition.”

Save the Children is raising the alarm on the nutrition crisis, and is calling the national and local government, private sector and the donors to end the appalling state of malnutrition in the Philippines:

• Support the “First 1000 Days Bill” to enhance the delivery of quality nutrition interventions in the first 1000 days of a child’s life to prevent stunting among children.

• Push and sustain equitable nutrition policies and programs and ensure budgetary allocations that address the immediate, underlying and basic causes of malnutrition.

• Ensure security of tenure and sustained training of the community front-liners e.g. such as barangay health workers and nutrition officers and scholars. Health and nutrition workers are highly politicized, lack incentives and support for trainings, have no security of tenure.

• National and local governments provide clear and separate budget for nutrition-specific interventions to avoid confusion between health and nutrition budgets.

• Intensify health and nutrition-related training, research and extension support activities to support the First 1000 Days Program through the Barangay Integrated Development Approach for Nutrition Improvement (BIDANI) Network Program of the Rural Poor and other relevant approaches, thereby strengthening delivery systems in partnership with the LGUs.

• Scale up cost-effective and affordable high-impact nutrition interventions to prevent undernutrition that cripples the country, such as promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding, vitamin A and iron supplementation, treatment of acute malnutrition and maternal nutrition.

• Strengthen enforcement of the Milk Code (Executive Order Number 51), and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (Republic Act Number 10028) to protect, promote, and support optimal infant and young child feeding, both in private and public facilities and spaces.

• We call for the strict and sustained implementation of nutrition-specific interventions, including infant and young child feeding (IYCF), micronutrient supplementation and the Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), which is now required to be implemented nationwide.

• Revise conditionalities under the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) to include mandatory breastfeeding and education sessions on infant and young child feeding.

• Align health and nutrition programs to the priorities and directions of the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition and the Strategy for Women, Infant, and Young Child Nutrition.

• Increase the focus on water, hygiene and sanitation interventions for children by targeting child-related behaviors and risk factors, such as safe disposal of human waste, complementary food hygiene and handwashing and intensifying promotion of Philippine Approach to Total Sanitation (PhATS) program to reinvigorate our country’s progress towards the national goals of eliminating open defecation.





Children of War

children of war

June 24, 2016

QUEZON CITY – They are children of war, victims of a war their innocent minds cannot comprehend. But they know injustice has been to done their parents who did nothing wrong by helping the farmers, the workers, the poor.

Even adults cannot comprehend why launching a fight against the causes of poverty and unrest is a crime. And why one should be jailed for one's political beliefs.

Angel Lorenzo, 8 years old, studies at the Children of God Learning Academy; a child seemingly forsaken by man's folly.

She remembers when the bad guys came along, took her mother and left her with her one year old sister and their “yaya” to complete strangers. How she cried and cried together with her sister. Their “yaya”, terrified and confused, would not know how to console them. They cried and cried until their grandmother arrived to take them.

That day, July 20, 2015, Joyce Latayan, 39, Angel's mother, has just arrived home after picking her up from school. She noticed two men in civilian clothes inside their compound. Then she saw other plain- clothes men went up the second floor of their house. They later came down with bags and a box of weapons, items which do not belong to Angel's family. They identified themselves as members of the Criminal and Investigation Detection Group (CIDG).

The men whisked Joyce away on the basis of a highly questionable and faulty search warrant issued from the Cabanatuan City Regional Trial Court and the box of weapons they were carrying. She was charged with trumped up cases of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, which were later dismissed by the Prosecutor's Office in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan where they reside.

At about the same time, Angelika's father, Ernesto Lorenzo, 59, was nabbed at the IT Center in Gilmore, Quezon City, by joint elements of the CIDG and members of the military intelligence group.

Lorenzo is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines with JASIG ID No. ND978229 under the assumed name of "Lean Martinez". Lorenzo's arrest was based on a warrant for destructive arson filed in 2010 in Lucena City. He was among the activists and leaders of people's organizations in Southern Tagalog falsely charged with criminal offenses by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG). In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston had strongly recommended abolition of the IALAG and a stop to the practice of filing fabricated charges against activists.

Lorenzo was a youth leader of the Methodist Youth Fellowship and had been a long time pastor of the United Methodist Church after his studies. Later he engaged in organizing work in the peasant communities and in socio-economic and development work among urban poor and workers. He is currently detained at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s Special Intensive Care Area (BJMP-SICA) at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City.

"Magpakabait, mag-aral mabuti. (Be good, study well)." This is Kennedy Bangibang's perennial advice to his only son, Diwin Jude Kenn Monte Bangibang, 8 years old, whenever he visits him in the confines of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Tabuk, Kalinga, Cordillera.

A full-blooded Igorot who hails from a remote village in Cordillera, Kennedy was witness to the plunder of foreign corporations on their ancestral land and natural resources.

As a student activist in 1987, he had immersed with the peasant masses. He later became a full-time activist and revolutionary leader. He was illegally arrested on February 23, 1913 [sic] by elements of the RIU-14 of the Philippine National Police-Intelligence Group while on board a bus at a PNP checkpoint in Bangao Proper, Buguias, Benguet. Kennedy is a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines on Cordillera Affairs. His arrest is a blow to the national minorities as their concern is among the issues to be tackled in the next agenda of the peace talks – the drafting of a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reform (CASER).

Victim of a justice system that grinds exceedingly slow, Kennedy has been languishing in jail for the past three years and his case being transferred from one court to another, from Kalinga to Baguio.

While Angel would bubbly narrate the happy moments with his father as they frolic on the beach of Pangasinan, where he used to work, Diwin would just matter-of-fact share memories of his Papa and Mama – the walks in the parks, the visits to the malls and the one time they went swimming in the underground river of Palawan.

Diwin's Mama, Recca Noelle Monte, was a New People's Army (NPA) fighter, who was killed during a military operation of the 41st Infantry Battalion, 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army on September 4 and 5, 2014 at Guinginabang, Lacub, Abra. She was unarmed and bore no gunshot wound indicating from the looks of her remains that she was tortured while held captive, a clear violation of the International Humanitarian Law.

Diwin could tell the state of his Mama's remains without batting an eyelid – the traumatic injuries, crushed skull, unidentifiable face, broken leg bones. Asked if he actually saw this, he said only from the picture. The handsome, smooth pinkish face of the boy showed no emotion, but admitted he is sad and lonely.

Angel was loquacious and confident as she told her stories. Her mother said she regained her composure with the psycho-social counselling she underwent after the trauma from her experience.

Asked about her father's work, Angel quipped, "Natulong sa farmers at workers (helps farmers and workers)". Diwin has a similar impression of his parents work, "they were helping the farmers and the poor."

What do the children of war aspire to be when they grow up? Angel said she will be a heart surgeon to help the sick. Meanwhile, Diwin wants to be a lawyer, "so I could defend Papa and Mama. I could free Papa and give them justice."





Communities sustain climate action on 10th year of “An Inconvenient Truth”

Cebu climate action

By Climate Reality Project Philippines
May 24, 2016

CEBU CITY – Commemorating the 10th anniversary of Academy award-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth”, environment groups and climate vulnerable communities gathered in Cebu to call for the cancellation of approved coal-fired power plants proposals and just transition to renewable and cleaner energy source.

The Climate Reality Project Philippines in cooperation with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, Dakila, Greenpeace, Pusyon Kinaiyahan, Foundation for the Philippine Environment and the University of San Jose de Recoletos organized an exclusive screening of An Inconvenient Truth and a multi-sectoral dialogue with students, the religious, and representatives from coal-fired power plant-affected communities in cities of Naga, Toledo and Cebu especially that of barangays Sawang Calero and Pasil.

When former Vice President Al Gore and Participant Media released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, the effect was immediate and profound: people everywhere began talking about the climate crisis – to their friends, their family, and everyone in their lives – sparking a new kind of movement with millions demanding action all across the planet.

For so many of us, An Inconvenient Truth was a wakeup call. It was the moment we understood the reality of the climate crisis devastating our planet – and it was the moment we knew we personally had to do something. May 24 marks the 10-year anniversary of the film's release, and we want to acknowledge and thank you for the critical role you've played in making it a global phenomenon.

In 2006, An Inconvenient Truth inspired millions around the world to speak up about the climate crisis. Since then, we’ve made progress on many fronts. Just last December, 195 countries created the historic Paris Agreement to cut global warming pollution and accelerate the shift to clean energy. This was a turning point but there’s still tremendous work ahead.

This is the challenge of our time. Our work to solve the climate crisis could not be more urgent or important. But today momentum is with us, and together we can solve it.

Quotes from key speakers:

Al Gore, Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President; and Chairperson of The Climate Reality Project (Video Message) -

When we released the “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006, I knew we had an important message to share. But what I couldn’t have known was that the countless people like you would hear that message and begin talking about the urgency of the climate crisis in persuasive ways – to their friends, their families, and their communities – and then, together, we would spark a new kind of movement with millions of people calling for climate action around the world.

So as we take a moment to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of An Inconvenient Truth, I just wanted to say “Thank You”. Thank you for finding the moral courage to stand up, even when it wasn’t easy, for taking action to protect our only home, and thank you for making a difference. We’ve made a lot of progress together. Just think, last year, 195 nations reach the historic Paris Agreement to cut global warming pollution and accelerate the shift to clean energy, a true turning point, but there’s still tremendous work ahead. And that’s why I’ll be working with the Climate Reality Project to ensure that countries not only stick to their commitments but make those commitments even stronger in the years ahead. And I’m counting on you to continue helping to meet that challenge, the challenge of our time.

Our work to solve the climate crisis couldn’t possibly be more urgent or important. But now the momentum is on our side. I know we can solve the climate crisis. And I know that thanks to you we will.

Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change (Keynote Speaker) –

A lot has changed since that year when An Inconvenient Truth was launched, especially on how we perceive the climate change phenomenon. People now have a better understanding of the climate crisis and how it is linked to our survival. An Inconvenient Truth continues to ignite climate action.

As a developing nation, it is understandable that the Philippines needs more power, but it cannot be “we need power at all costs and we will develop at all costs.”

They say that coal is cheap. I say, coal is not cheap. Coal affects our health, kills biodiversity and the environment, affects our waters and pollutes the air we breathe.

We are a country rich in renewable energy – the amount of sun and wind is more than enough to power our entire country many times over.

There is no reason to hesitate or delay action on a challenge so compelling, on a threat to humanity so clear and present. For every second that ticks away is but a second closer to the next calamity. We must lead the way towards meaningful change for our children and grandchildren, for all of humanity, for all species in the world, and for Mother Earth.

Rodne Galicha, Country Manager of the Climate Reality Project Philippines –

Looking back at the challenges of the film, we were reminded that our planet has all the means to make our lives convenient through sustainable utilization of resources within the carrying capacity nature. However, due to our excessive search for convenience, the long-term result becomes more inconvenient for our own species to thrive and others are in danger of extinction. Solving this biggest crisis the world is facing needs every individual’s commitment and collective action to shift to a cleaner and livable future.

The Climate Reality Project in the Philippines will continue to work with communities and partners to collectively regain the power of the people to define the future they want for their children's children and the planet.

Screening the film in Cebu City after the communities’ triumph against the proposed coal-fired power plant in Barangay Sawang Calero is both a celebration and a way to collectively reflect on why we do what we can to combat climate change.

Brother Jaazeal Jakosalem, Co-Convener of Pusyon Kinaiyahan –

Since 2006, Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth still echoes our planet’s cry. The most vulnerable communities especially the poor call for justice. We are all impelled to take drastic action to bring back balance and harmony upon all of creation. Indeed, the cry of the earth is the cry of the poor. This is a moral and spiritual issue, the integrity of creation.

Gideon Lasco, Environment Champion for the Climate Reality Project Philippines –

It remains inconvenient to live up to the implications of climate change partly because for every inconvenient truth, there is a convenient falsehood. Today, we hear politicians talk about “clean coal”, as if the word “clean” before coal can exorcise the havoc coal and other fossil fuels have wrought upon our planet (coal plants alone account for 1/3 of global carbon emissions). Today, we hear people talk about “responsible mining”, which, while it may indeed be a possibility in the future, detracts from the fact that mining has been responsible for the environmental degradation in many areas - from Semirara to Surigao.

But perhaps the most convenient falsehood of all is the idea that we are too insignificant to make a difference. Indeed, if there is something we can draw inspiration from in the past ten years, it is the fact that no effort is too small not to count in our fight to save the planet.

Reuben Muni, Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace –

The film "An Inconvenient Truth" tells us this truth: there is no such thing as an insignificant act when it comes to solving the climate crisis. 10 years after Al Gore released his film in May 2006, this wisdom still remains. Every battle against coal is therefore a significant battle for the planet. Cebu is one of the most important battles for climate change in the Philippines. It is not just the country that is watching but the whole world. Unfortunately, what happens in Cebu does not stay in Cebu. If we allow another coal plant to be built in Cebu, then we are sending signals to the rest of the country that it is okay to build more elsewhere.

Hence, Cebu is one of the iconic fights against coal of our generation. We owe it to the next generation to ensure that there are no more coal plants that will be built in Cebu. This year, the people of Cebu City rejected a proposed coal plant right in the heart of the city. And this year, we declare that Cebu will break free from coal and other forms of dirty energy.

Ara Chawdhury, Creative Director of Dakila’s Cebu Collective –

It is evident with An Inconvenient Truth what the power of film can be. It can be policy changing petition forming, mind changing. At its best, mind blowing. At its worst, mind numbing.

Film is supposed to shake you, to reel you out of your comfort zones. Advocacy filmmaking for me fails if it preaches to the choir. We aren’t doing any favor by creating messages only we want to hear, or by alienating anyone who does not agree with us.






Samuel Guadalquiver
Former Presedent Diosdado Macapagal Agrarian Scholarship Program scholar, Samuel Guadalquiver Jr. (extreme left), pose with the writer, Clariza Estremera (second from left); Municipal Agrarian Reform Program Officer Romeo Castil (third from left); and his advisory class. (Jose Alsmith L. Soria)

Destiny: The Samuel Guadalquiver’s story

May 10, 2016

TACLOBAN CITY – “There were times when my parents would tell me, I might not be able to continue my studies next school year because the harvest is low or the price of copra had gone down. Every time I hear this, the uncertainty of getting a college degree dreads me. Thus, I applied for a scholarship to finance my college education.”

These were the recollections of Samuel Guadalquiver when we visited him before the school year closed in Quezon Elementary School, where he is teaching for seven years now.

Samuel, or Boboy, to his family and friends was one of the President Diosdado Macapagal Agrarian Scholarship Program (PDMASP) recipients in Northern Samar.

His parents, Samuel Sr. and Amelita, are both agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) so that he qualified for the said scholarship program.

PDMASP is a four-year college scholarship offered by DAR to deserving dependents of ARBs under the Program Beneficiaries Development component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

“It was only by accident that I discovered the PDMASP,” Boboy said.

According to him, when he was in his first year in college at the University of Eastern Philippines, he applied for the Catarman Educational Scholarship Program offered by the local government unit so he could continue with his studies. But he was denied of the said opportunity. Or was it a blessing in disguise?

When he returned back to their school, Boboy read an announcement at the bulletin board about a scholarship program being offered by DAR.

He grabbed the opportunity and got the slot. Later, he learned that DAR just re-opened its search to fill-in a vacated slot. Boboy must have been destined to become a PDMASP scholar to reach his dreams. In 2008, he graduated with a degree of Bachelor in Elementary Education Major in Social Science.

The third in a brood of nine (two are now deceased), Boboy is the first to earn a college degree (the second is sister, Gloria, who was also a PDMASP scholar) in their family, and one of the handful of professionals in their village, which is situated in the mountains of Catarman, 27 kilometers away from the town proper.

He was the only one of the less than 20 pupils enrolled in grade 1 in 1994 who finished college. “He was so determined,” his parents said proudly of him.

When I asked why his other classmates failed to continue their studies, Boboy said, it could probably be due to lack of motivation. He disclosed that their teachers rarely report to school then because of the distance. That is why his parents transferred him to the town proper when he was in grade four.

Barangay Quezon is one of Catarman’s remotest villages. There was no road at that time. People had to walk 10 kilometers to and from Barangay Polangi by just passing through a trail. Now, this barangay could already be reached by motorcycles for P70. Very soon, when concreting of the road is completed, travel will be much easier and perhaps cheaper.

Boboy, who used to help his parents in the farm, said determination to escape from poverty pushed him to strive and find ways to reach his dream.

After graduation he took the licensure examination for teachers and passed it.

But why did he return to Barangay Quezon to teach, when there were better opportunities at the town proper or elsewhere?

Boboy humbly said he wanted to serve his fellow residents in their community. But to us he inspires the young and motivates them to take education seriously to have a better future.

According to Boboy, had he not taken his studies seriously and without the PDMASP, surely he would have also remained a farmer until today, carrying heavy loads of copra and other farm products.

As a teacher, his supervisor Annie Dulay said, he is a good one, while his pupils described him as strict when it comes to their lessons.

He taught his students to be industrious. The once idle surrounding in their school is now planted to pili nuts and bananas.

Presently, Boboy is planning to take up masters degree this coming school year.

Looking at him in his uniform and listening to his story, makes me proud to be part of DAR which was instrumental in helping this son of ARBs free himself from the bondage of the soil and find his destiny.

Last updated: 01/21/2018