METRO MANILA, February 3, 2004 (STAR) A 63-year-old Filipino died of a heart attack while taking part in the annual pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA) reported yesterday.

Undersecretary Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan, OMA executive director, told The STAR in a text message that Malinao Bisok of Saguiran, Lanao del Sur, died of a heart attack and was not among the 244 who died in a stampede at the tent city of Mina during the "stoning of the devil" ritual the other day.

"There were no Filipino casualties during the stampede," he said.

Of the 2,800 pilgrims to Mecca and Medina, about 800 had been treated for minor illnesses, he added.

Ampatuan, who heads the Philippine delegation to the pilgrimage, said the first batch of pilgrims is set to return to the Philippines on Friday.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca is one of the pillars of Islam.

Every able-bodied Muslim must join the hajj at least once in his lifetime. — Perseus Echeminada

POEA building named after Ople The Philippine Star 02/03/2004

Starting today, the building of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) at EDSA and Ortigas Avenue in Mandaluyong City will be known as the Blas F. Ople Building.

The building will be renamed in ceremonies at the POEA marking the 77th birthday of the late foreign affairs secretary who, as labor minister during the Marcos regime, pioneered the overseas employment industry in the Philippines.

POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz said the Blas Ople marker will be unveiled today at the lobby of the building that would bear his name.

"Secretary Ople is recognized as the father of the Philippine overseas employment program, and the marker will remain in the lobby of the building as dutiful remembrance to Secretary Ople," she said.

The unveiling of the marker highlights a series of activities to mark Ople’s 77th birthday today.

A Holy Mass will be celebrated at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Makati, where Ople was given a hero’s burial last Dec. 21.

In the afternoon, the Sentro ng Sining at Kultura ng Bulacan in Malolos will also be renamed Gat Blas Ople Hall-Sentro ng Kabataan, Sining at Kultura.

A marker will also be unveiled renaming Anilao Road in Malolos the Blas Ople Road.

The Hagonoy East Central School and the Mayor Ramon Trillana High School in Hagonoy will also be renamed in honor of Ople.

At 10 a.m., the Philippine Normal University will confer a posthumous award on Ople in recognition of his long and dedicated service to the nation.

At 12 noon, Ople’s book, "The Many Faces of a Global Nation" will be launched in ceremonies at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Pasay City.

Other activities honoring Ople will be held in Hagonoy Poblacion:

• Free medical treatment and operation of poor patients by Dr. Godofredo Ng and his colleagues in the North Carolina Medical Mission at the Emilio Perez Memorial District Hospital in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

• A medical and dental mission at the back of the Hagonoy Municipal Hall.

• A mobile passporting service at the DFA.

• Authentication of births and marriages by the National Statistics Office.

• A job fair.

• Free overseas calls to OFWs by their relatives, courtesy of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

• A food festival.

Ople died last Dec. 14 aboard an aircraft flying from Tokyo, Japan to Bahrain to meet President Arroyo after an official mission in Japan.

Ople served as labor minister, assemblyman member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, senator, Senate president, and secretary of foreign affairs. – Mayen Jaymalin

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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