NO REAL PROGRESS IN PH IF POLITICAL DYNASTIES NOT DISMANTLED

The Philippines remains a fragile democracy despite the Aquino administration’s gains that have not been enough to make up for “nearly a decade of regression” during the previous administration. A new report by Bertelsmann Foundation, a German think tank, said true progress in the Philippines would be out of reach unless the improbable was achieved: Dismantling of oligarchies that control both politics and business. “Since the election of Benigno Aquino III as president in May 2010, the overall development of democracy in the Philippines has regained momentum,” the group’s 2014 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2014 report read. “However, the corruption and patronage under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration left behind a difficult legacy for the current president,” it said. Bertelsmann said the dominance of entrenched family clans in politics and the economy should be reduced in order to make politics and economics more transparent and competitive. The antidynasty law, which has been debated in Congress since 1987, must be passed, it said. This, however, would be “highly unrealistic” since President Aquino himself and about 80 percent of lawmakers come from these dynasties. The group’s BTI report, published every two years, analyzes and evaluates the quality of democracy, market economy and political management in 129 developing and transition countries. It measures successes and setbacks on the path toward democracy based on the rule of law and a socially responsible market economy.READ MORE...

EARLIER REPORT: Makati so rich it could fund another DOST, DOLE

Still the richest city government in the country, Makati posted P9.65 billion in gross revenues for the first eight months of the year, five percent higher than its collection in August 2012. In the City Treasurer’s report to Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., local sources contributed to the bulk of the city’s total revenue collections, with business taxes amounting to P5.06 billion and real property taxes totaling P3.36 billion. At P9.6 billion, Makati generated enough funds just slightly lower than the 2013 budget of the Department of Science and Technology, which is P9.9 billion, or that of the Department of Justice, which is P10.2 billion. It dwarfs the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment, P7.8 billion.The new figures came out more than a month after Makati found itself being handed another revenue-rich area, the upscale Bonifacio Global City (BGC), thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling that nullified the claims of neighboring Taguig City after a 20-year boundary dispute. The ruling, however, was followed by weeks of tension and animosity between the leaders and personnel of the two cities, as Taguig filed an appeal and refused to yield control of BGC. A truce of sorts was reached between Binay and Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano on Sept. 9. READ MORE...

(ALSO) Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it

Politics in this country too dirty for you? It is precisely the dirt in politics that should make you join it and clean it up. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, urged the faithful during the Holy Week to enter the very institutions most prone to corruption, abuse, cheating, and to “align their affairs” with the “way of God.” Among these are the worlds of finance, business, the arts, science and mass media. Weakness, malice, evil, faults and corruption stalk their halls and can be daunting to an upright lay person, but “with the values of Jesus,” one can overcome the “poverty” to be suffered in making the move, according to the cardinal. Seek precisely to enter those “institutions and conditions of the world customarily an inducement to sin, to realign them with the kingdom of God,” he said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s teachings. “Huwag kang pahawa sa kanila. Hawakan mo ’yung corrupt nang mabawasan ang corrupt (Don’t be swayed or influenced by them. Hold on to them, so their numbers are reduced),” he challenged a packed recollection audience at St. James the Greater Parish in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City, last Monday.

(ALSO) Tagle: Christ’s resurrection will vindicate victims of injustice

“Those who lie, those who sell and betray friends, you think you have succeeded but God will reverse what you have done.” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle made this warning in his homily during the Easter Vigil celebration at the Manila Cathedral Saturday night. He reminded the victims of injustice that they would have their vindication as Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead, and that the Lord would “reverse their suffering to joy.” “The resurrection is a warning to the unjust, to those who trample on the rights of the innocent,” Tagle said. “You may be weeping now, you may be suffering now. Have no fear for God will raise you up. God will vindicate you. “God is alive and if He raised Jesus from the dead, he continues to raise us from the dead. This is pure grace. We thank God, and we rely on God,” he added. Despite the challenges and imperfections being experienced by God’s people, Tagle said that the Lord continues to renew and raise them from suffering so they may experience great things in their earthly journey.

(ALSO) Our Lady of Piat: Centerpiece of Cagayan’s gifts to Christianity

Street vendor Federina Taguba was all smiles as she greeted a group of pilgrims who had alighted from a rented van to visit the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Piat (Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Piat). The basilica is an imposing red brick Romanesque church sitting on top of a hill that overlooks parts of Piat town proper in Barangay Maguiling. “Welcome to Piat. Would you like some souvenirs? We can have them blessed,” Taguba told the group, a family of eight from Marikina City. It is the time of the year when the place comes alive as Catholics from all over the country flock to the Our Lady of Piat shrine, the centerpiece of the Visita Iglesia (church visits) in Cagayan province. The outpouring of religious zeal has inspired parishioners in Cagayan’s pilgrimage sites—from this town by the Chico River to the provincial capital of Tuguegarao and to Aparri up north—to reciprocate the Filipinos’ piety by serving as guardians of the province’s religious wealth. The Basilica of Our Lady of Piat is the popular first stop among Catholics who come to Cagayan for their Visita Iglesia. “We do our very best to maintain the upkeep of the church and make constant improvements on the facilities, especially now that our parish has been showered with generous donations from the faithful,” said Fr. Othello Bartolome, parish priest.READ MORE

ALSO: Taming the Cagayan River

People in Barangay (village) Catayauan in Lal-lo, Cagayan province, are agitated whenever they hear news of another weather disturbance forecast to hit northern Luzon. The community of about 30 households that line the thinning patch of land between the national road and the Cagayan River has every reason to worry, as a minor swelling of the river would submerge, or worse, even erode and gobble up the houses. Now, the river has come even menacingly closer at nearly 3 meters from the nearest house. During a recent typhoon, a mother described how she was traumatized seeing her backyard pigpen being swallowed by the river. This was not the same landscape they woke up to everyday last year. “Before, we had about more than a hectare of open land at the banks of the river below, which we planted with corn and vegetables. It would take us about 10 minutes to walk down to the nearest flow of the river,” said Femely Malana, 37. For Catayauan, as well as the rest of the province, the Rio Grande de Cagayan—the longest river system in the country—has of late assumed a new character. From a majestic body of water that for centuries symbolized their social, cultural and economic well-being, it has morphed into a massive monster that ravages their existence every time natural calamities strike.READ MORE...


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‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’


SKYLINE OVER POVERTY LINE The towering buildings are at the heart of Makati City, while the shanties are along an estero in Pasay City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, APRIL 21, 2014 (INQUIRER) By Paolo G. Montecillo - The Philippines remains a fragile democracy despite the Aquino administration’s gains that have not been enough to make up for “nearly a decade of regression” during the previous administration.

A new report by Bertelsmann Foundation, a German think tank, said true progress in the Philippines would be out of reach unless the improbable was achieved: Dismantling of oligarchies that control both politics and business.

“Since the election of Benigno Aquino III as president in May 2010, the overall development of democracy in the Philippines has regained momentum,” the group’s 2014 Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2014 report read.

“However, the corruption and patronage under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration left behind a difficult legacy for the current president,” it said.

Bertelsmann said the dominance of entrenched family clans in politics and the economy should be reduced in order to make politics and economics more transparent and competitive. The antidynasty law, which has been debated in Congress since 1987, must be passed, it said.

This, however, would be “highly unrealistic” since President Aquino himself and about 80 percent of lawmakers come from these dynasties.

The group’s BTI report, published every two years, analyzes and evaluates the quality of democracy, market economy and political management in 129 developing and transition countries. It measures successes and setbacks on the path toward democracy based on the rule of law and a socially responsible market economy.

The Philippines ranked 36th overall in the 2014 rankings, improving from 48th in 2012. In terms of political and economic transformation, the country ranked 40th and 44th, respectively.

In 2010, the country ranked 49th in the main index and 51st in 2008. The score for 2014 was the best showing for the Philippines since the index was launched in 2003.

Despite the progress made in the last four years, Philippine democracy, the report said, remained fragile.

“After nearly a decade of democratic regression under Macapagal-Arroyo, the current administration has so far shored up the country’s democratic institutions, but only to some extent,” the group said.

It noted that the former president presided more than 37 consecutive quarters of economic growth and “adeptly steered” the economy at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis. However, the majority of the population did not benefit from these gains, with just as many people in poverty at the end of her term as when it started.

The political gains that would have been associated with economic growth were also eroded by corruption scandals that rocked the previous administration. Government became more authoritarian during Macapagal-Arroyo’s term.

These came in the form of the prevalence of patronage for all government positions, a lack of transparency, a growing number of human rights violations against regime opponents and money politics to co-opt potential partners, the report said.

She also relied increasingly on the military to stay in power as mass demonstrations against her shook the country and many of the political and economic elites turned away from her.

Many of these elements have been removed from government. The BTI report said the Aquino administration’s success in impeaching former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, a midnight appointee of the previous administration, punctuated these reforms.

“(But) Mr. Aquino still has a long way to go to consolidate democracy in the Philippines,” it added.

Bertelsmann noted that the recent abolition of the pork barrel system would have far-reaching effects in reducing corruption and the improvement of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Bertelsmann said the lawmakers’ pork barrels, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), gave members of Congress unjustified discretion over public funds. It also made them dependent on Malacañang’s good will.

Another key reform under the current administration was the recent signing of a peace agreement with the Muslim separatists, a deal that promises to help usher in lasting stability in Mindanao.

The government’s success in pushing for the reproductive health law that intends to reduce the steadily growing overpopulation by providing sex education and facilitating the use of contraceptives was also cited as a major achievement.

EARLIER REPORT

Makati so rich it could fund another DOST, DOLE By Niña P. Calleja Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:04 am | Tuesday, September 17th, 2013


MAKATI SKYLINE

Still the richest city government in the country, Makati posted P9.65 billion in gross revenues for the first eight months of the year, five percent higher than its collection in August 2012.

In the City Treasurer’s report to Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., local sources contributed to the bulk of the city’s total revenue collections, with business taxes amounting to P5.06 billion and real property taxes totaling P3.36 billion.

At P9.6 billion, Makati generated enough funds just slightly lower than the 2013 budget of the Department of Science and Technology, which is P9.9 billion, or that of the Department of Justice, which is P10.2 billion. It dwarfs the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment, P7.8 billion.

The new figures came out more than a month after Makati found itself being handed another revenue-rich area, the upscale Bonifacio Global City (BGC), thanks to a Court of Appeals ruling that nullified the claims of neighboring Taguig City after a 20-year boundary dispute.

The ruling, however, was followed by weeks of tension and animosity between the leaders and personnel of the two cities, as Taguig filed an appeal and refused to yield control of BGC. A truce of sorts was reached between Binay and Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano on Sept. 9.

“I am glad that the city is on track in its revenue targets, even exceeding our expectations. The six percent increase in our business tax collections and five percent increase in realty taxes as of this August only show the investors’ sustained high level of confidence in Makati,” said Binay, whose family had dominated Makati politics for the last 27 years, ruling the city that hosts the country’s financial district.

The mayor noted that while there had been no increase in tax rates for the past seven years, the city’s income from local sources had consistently risen and more than made up for its steadily dwindling Internal Revenue Allotment. The IRA represents a local government’s share in national government revenues.

As of August this year, Makati’s IRA stood at P476 million, or two percent lower than its share in August 2012.

According to the 2012 annual report prepared by its Urban Development Department (UDD), the city posted for the past three years an average income growth rate of 7.3 per year, while its IRA of 7.4 percent in 2010 fell to 6.7 percent in 2012.

The UDD report also showed Makati’s total revenue reaching P11.37 billion, which was 5.8 percent higher than 2011. The city’s urban planners attributed its strong economic performance to growing investor confidence, as indicated by the increased number of business and special permits issued by City Hall from 33,548 in 2010 to 34,760 last year.

Binay noted that even with its multiawarded best practices in public service and local governance, Makati strives to sustain its competitiveness through groundbreaking initiatives in disaster risk reduction and management and peacekeeping to promote a stable business environment.

Recently, the city started the implementation of the Makati Comprehensive Land Use Plan covering 2013-2023 and the new Zoning Ordinance of Makati.

Binay also underscored the city’s improved public security systems with the installation of new surveillance cameras around the central business district that are directly monitored from City Hall.—With a report from Inquirer Research

Cardinal Tagle to faithful: Join politics to clean it By Avie Gochoco-Perez Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:25 am | Thursday, April 17th, 2014


Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the Archbishop of Manila, makes a sign of the cross on the foreheads of devotees during a mass in observance of Ash Wednesday. AP FILE PHOTO

Politics in this country too dirty for you? It is precisely the dirt in politics that should make you join it and clean it up.

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila, urged the faithful during the Holy Week to enter the very institutions most prone to corruption, abuse, cheating, and to “align their affairs” with the “way of God.”

Among these are the worlds of finance, business, the arts, science and mass media. Weakness, malice, evil, faults and corruption stalk their halls and can be daunting to an upright lay person, but “with the values of Jesus,” one can overcome the “poverty” to be suffered in making the move, according to the cardinal.

Seek precisely to enter those “institutions and conditions of the world customarily an inducement to sin, to realign them with the kingdom of God,” he said, quoting the Second Vatican Council’s teachings.

“Huwag kang pahawa sa kanila. Hawakan mo ’yung corrupt nang mabawasan ang corrupt (Don’t be swayed or influenced by them. Hold on to them, so their numbers are reduced),” he challenged a packed recollection audience at St. James the Greater Parish in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City, last Monday.

Contagious virus of holiness

“Go be a contagious virus of holiness!” he thundered. A charming speaker prone to making light of heavy Church exhortations, the cardinal scratched his head and, quickly changing the somber mood at the venue, he waved to his audience. “Hi,” he said, smiling.

Cardinal Tagle then rued the hiring system in some government agencies: The well-connected but who know nothing get hired, not the competent. This is why some agencies and institutions continue to achieve nothing, he noted. Even in church, there are choir members who can’t sing but due to connections, become part of the group. Also there are “treasurers” who are not competent. “Treasurer pero ’di marunong mag-treasure (Treasurer, but does not know how to treasure things, people).”

In this the Year of the Laity, ahead of the 500th anniversary of Christianity’s coming to the Philippines, the focus is on lay folk who, as much as the ordained and the religious, are as much a part of the Church in bringing God to the materially, morally and spiritually destitute.

Only 6,000 priests

There are 85 million Catholics in this country but there are only 6,000 ordained priests, he noted. The predominant number of lay folk shows their key role in aligning the affairs of the world with the way of God.

Upright lay folk should not say, “Marumi ang pulitika. Ayoko diyan. Iwas tukso na lang (Politics is dirty. I’d rather avoid going there),” the cardinal said. “God should not be eliminated from the secular world. The lay person has the conviction in faith that can realign the faults with the values of Jesus. It won’t be easy but if we bear the Lamb of God in us, we can face the sins of the world.”

Even church ministries will have to change, he said, with the laity doing more out-of-church ministries to do good. There are now too many lectors, commentators, Eucharistic ministers, collectors—all members of in-church worship ministries—and not enough volunteers for out-of-church ministries championing human rights, social and cultural change, fighting abuse, caring for the marginalized, even “purifying” corrupt agencies in government.

NGOs acquired bad name

He is saddened by the bad name nongovernment agencies, for example, have acquired lately due to the pork barrel scam in the legislature. Interpreting the Second Vatican Council’s teachings, the cardinal said Filipinos should seek those institutions in society “customarily related to inducement to sin. Diyan kayo pumasok so transformation can be effected.”

Those entering such institutions should be prepared to suffer the “poverty” Jesus suffered, including the jealousy of others, betrayal of friends, empty promises, abandonment.

But because Jesus suffered all that “when he embraced the human condition,” Jesus “becomes their companion so they will never be alone,” the cardinal said.

He tells a story of why parents must embrace the “poverty of Jesus” in disciplining their children. They must deny themselves vices and addictions they forbid their own children to have. How can a father stop his teenage daughter from smoking if he himself chain-smokes? How can a mother insist that her daughter save money while she splurges on weekend shopping sprees?

“My father is a fake. My mother is a fake. You are a fake, all you adults are fake!” a teenage girl brought to the cardinal for counseling screamed at him.

“Gusto kong sakalin ang bata! Nakakainis talaga! (I wanted to strangle her! This was annoying!)” a peeved Cardinal Tagle said. “But I tried my best to sincerely listen to her. I asked myself: Is she an enemy with all her irreverence? I realized she was not an enemy, she was a friend. She was looking for someone she could trust, people with integrity, parents to lead her to her true humanity.” He said he told the father to give up his vice out of love for his daughter and asked the mother if she could try to be “poorer” by giving up her addiction to shopping.

Misconception of grandeur

The cardinal also rued the seeming misconception today of the grandeur of God. One forgets that God works simply, he said.

On a flight to Rome recently with a short stopover in Hong Kong, the cardinal was stopped by a Caucasian who recognized him and could not accept that the cardinal was traveling alone.

“You are a cardinal,” the man exclaimed. “You need an entourage befitting the dignity of a cardinal.”

Cardinal Tagle could not believe what he was hearing. “I was made to believe I was doing something wrong. Is having 20 alalay (aides) accepted as the norm?” he asked himself. He told the man that having an entourage would entail the added expense of having to feed them. “And I humored him, saying I was still relatively young and healthy, I could still push my own bags. He laughed.”

Celebrity status

There were other occasions when the cardinal’s celebrity status perplexed him.

At a drugstore, the salesperson recognized him and brought out even the manager to have photos taken with him.
Security guards track his every move too, and sometimes, he had to brush them off, abruptly turning left or right while walking, without any signal.

“Bishop, marunong kayong tumakas (You know how to avoid them),” said one of his guards. “Aba, nakalimutan ninyo, galing ako sa Cavite. Kababayan ko si Tiyagong Akyat (You must have forgotten, I’m from Cavite. Tiyagong Akyat, a local outlaw, is my province mate),” he recounted, and his audience laughed with him.

The point is, embrace the poverty of Jesus, he said. That in itself will enrich you.

FROM PHILSTAR

Tagle: Christ’s resurrection will vindicate victims of injustice By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - “Those who lie, those who sell and betray friends, you think you have succeeded but God will reverse what you have done.”

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle made this warning in his homily during the Easter Vigil celebration at the Manila Cathedral Saturday night.

He reminded the victims of injustice that they would have their vindication as Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead, and that the Lord would “reverse their suffering to joy.”

“The resurrection is a warning to the unjust, to those who trample on the rights of the innocent,” Tagle said.

“You may be weeping now, you may be suffering now. Have no fear for God will raise you up. God will vindicate you.

“God is alive and if He raised Jesus from the dead, he continues to raise us from the dead. This is pure grace. We thank God, and we rely on God,” he added.

Despite the challenges and imperfections being experienced by God’s people, Tagle said that the Lord continues to renew and raise them from suffering so they may experience great things in their earthly journey.

The cardinal also reminded that the death of Christ was the “work of human beings and institutions that failed to see the action of God,” and that those who plotted his death “wanted to make sure that His words, His visions, His actions, and His inspirations, would all die with Him.”

But he said the resurrection of Christ was “purely the work of God, that’s why the gospel could talk of the resurrection of God only symbolically – through earthquake and angels dazzlingly white in appearance – to tell us that this event is not the work of human hands.”

Our Lady of Piat: Centerpiece of Cagayan’s gifts to Christianity
By Melvin Gascon Inquirer Northern Luzon 3:20 am | Thursday, April 17th, 2014


CALVARY HILLS IN CAGAYAN One of the landmarks of Cagayan province is the Stations of the Cross on Calvary Hills in Iguig town. MELVIN GASCON/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

Street vendor Federina Taguba was all smiles as she greeted a group of pilgrims who had alighted from a rented van to visit the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Piat (Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Piat).

The basilica is an imposing red brick Romanesque church sitting on top of a hill that overlooks parts of Piat town proper in Barangay Maguiling.

“Welcome to Piat. Would you like some souvenirs? We can have them blessed,” Taguba told the group, a family of eight from Marikina City.

It is the time of the year when the place comes alive as Catholics from all over the country flock to the Our Lady of Piat shrine, the centerpiece of the Visita Iglesia (church visits) in Cagayan province.

The outpouring of religious zeal has inspired parishioners in Cagayan’s pilgrimage sites—from this town by the Chico River to the provincial capital of Tuguegarao and to Aparri up north—to reciprocate the Filipinos’ piety by serving as guardians of the province’s religious wealth.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Piat is the popular first stop among Catholics who come to Cagayan for their Visita Iglesia.

“We do our very best to maintain the upkeep of the church and make constant improvements on the facilities, especially now that our parish has been showered with generous donations from the faithful,” said Fr. Othello Bartolome, parish priest.

Rebuilding the basilica

Built in 1875, the basilica has constantly seen rebuilding and renovation to keep up with the stream of devotees.

A staircase and a passageway at the back of the church provide access to pilgrims who wish to touch the image of the Black Virgin Mary through a small window behind the altar wall.

The interior has also been upgraded, with the altar’s “retablo”—a shelf enclosing images of saints and placed behind the altar—expanded to accommodate more images, Bartolome said.

Kiosks have been built around the Lady of Piat’s image at the prayer garden, located just outside the basilica, to shade devotees, especially during summer.

Donations have also been used to repair the shrine’s toilets as well as repaint the parish office, Bartolome said.

Major renovation

These latest preparations are timely for the weeklong celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Sambali Festival on the third week of June, which culminates with the start of the Feast of the Our Lady of Piat on July 1 and 2, he said.

The Piat basilica museum, located on the right side of the church and housing many of the Tuguegarao archdiocese’s significant religious artifacts, has been closed for repairs.

“The building is no longer safe and will need a major renovation. We had to move many of the important artifacts to the archbishop’s residence (in Tuguegarao) for temporary safekeeping,” said Fr. Victor Emmanuel Quintos, curator of the archdiocese’s museums.

Seat of the archdiocese

Some 40 kilometers from Piat is the Saints Peter and Paul Metropolitan Cathedral in Tuguegarao City, the biggest Spanish-built church in Cagayan Valley and also the seat of the archdiocese.

Completed in 1767, the cathedral has undergone major renovations following its destruction during World War II.

Today, the church is undergoing restoration of its dome-shaped ceiling to return its original appearance during the precolonial period, but with modern building materials, Quintos said.

“We were able to find a very old photograph of the prewar look of the ceiling and that is what we are now trying to replicate,” Quintos said, referring to ornate fresco paintings.

Religious art

The cathedral’s windows are also being replaced with stained glass featuring religious art.

Should there be enough funds, the archdiocese also plans to restore the church’s retablo.

“Three of the five panels will be restored based on an old photograph, while the remaining two will be generated based on scholarly analyses of how they may have looked during those earlier times,” Quintos said.

The “ambo,” or readers’ lectern, and a new cathedra (the seat of the bishop at the altar) will also be replaced, he said.

In Iguig town, the life-size, concrete images representing the Stations of the Cross have again come to life following their repainting and the sprucing up of the grounds by volunteers.

But it is the church that needs immediate refurbishing, said Fr. Carlos Evangelista, Iguig parish priest.

Destroyed by floods

Saint James Church, which overlooks the vast rice and corn fields along the Cagayan River, has seen repeated repairs and rebuilding following its destruction by floods in recent years.

“We have been trying to extend the life of the roof so we looked at repainting the ceiling. The last time we checked, the engineers said it was about time the roof was replaced. It’s coming down really soon,” Evangelista said.

The parish is also trying to complete the concrete fence that will enclose the 2-hectare church grounds against roaming cattle and other farm animals, which in the past have become a nuisance to pilgrims.

Historically, the Saint Philomene Church in Alcala town was left unfinished by the Spaniards fleeing from Filipino revolutionaries. Its completion has been left to the town’s Catholic faithful, said Fr. Rino Pio Guaring, Alcala parish priest.

Thus construction of altars on the left and right wings of the church is ongoing. It was supposed to have been completed in time for the Lenten season.

“The weather has not been cooperative. Also, the church has been hosting a lot of religious events, causing all these delays,” he said.

Cultural significance

The 17th century structure is considered the widest Catholic church in Cagayan Valley.

The parish has completed the installation of religious images on the church’s facade, filling the niches left vacant through the centuries, Guaring said.

“We are preparing to do major repairs on the roof and ceiling through the use of stronger trusses and a domed ceiling design patterned after a blueprint approved by the [Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines],” Guaring said. “This will become the standard, uniform design for all colonial church ceilings in the country in the future.”

The Saint Dominic de Guzman Church in Barangay Centro in Lal-lo town, with its deep historical and cultural significance, is also yearning for immediate, sensitive repairs.

This church served as the seat of government in the 16th century. Lal-lo has been named the city of Nueva Segovia. It was, in those times, the hub of religious, trade and commercial activities in northern Luzon.

Typhoons and decades of exposure to the elements have caused leaks in the church interior, prompting parish leaders to consider replacing the roof and the heavy wooden ceiling, said Fr. Nathaniel Malana, parish priest.

Leaning belfry

Today, Lal-lo’s parishioners are looking at stripping the wooden ceiling to expose the church’s centuries-old trusses and galvanized iron sheets.

But an even greater challenge is up ahead for the parishioners: How to stop the church belfry, which is showing signs of leaning, from crumbling.

The tilt may have been triggered by the loosening of the earth on the foundation of the belfry, where traces of a centuries-old tunnel were found, Malana said.

“We have yet to discuss this matter with other church leaders in the archdiocese. Definitely, it will be a difficult task,” he said.

The parish in Camalaniugan town and the Tuguegarao archdiocese are also studying how they can best preserve the Sancta Maria church bell, touted as the oldest bell in Asia.

Oldest bell

Minted in 1595, the bell remains hoisted, along with three other 15th and 16th century bells, in the three-story brick belfry of the San Jacinto Church in Camalaniugan.

Quintos acknowledged the limited measures the church had taken to preserve the bells, which have become a popular attraction for pilgrims.

“There have been suggestions to replace the oldest bell with just a replica, which shall be open for public viewing, while the genuine bell will have to be preserved and kept in some form of encasement. But then again, we ask, ‘What good is a bell that is not being rung?’” he said.

Two churches in Aparri stand as symbols of the Cagayanos’ deep sense of devotion—one was rebuilt and completed in 2011 and the other was built from scratch.

Tribute to 1st Filipino saint

In 2002, Aparri’s faithful led an ambitious project to build a church within the main campus of Lyceum of Aparri, a Catholic-run school, which also hosts a seminary and another archdiocesan museum.

With donations from devotees in the country and abroad, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Church was built as the Cagayanos’ tribute to the first Filipino saint.

In 2011, renovation of the St. Peter Gonzales Thelmo Church in downtown Aparri was completed to replace an older church rebuilt from the ruins of World War II.

Renamed the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the church is now a significant destination for devotees.

Taming the Cagayan River By Melvin Gascon Inquirer Northern Luzon 10:55 pm | Tuesday, August 6th, 2013


THE SUN sets at the Cagayan River in Barangay Catayauan in Lal-lo town, Cagayan province. The river provides irrigation to vast tracts of land and has become a rich source of marine life, making Cagayan Valley the country’s food basket. MELVIN GASCON

People in Barangay (village) Catayauan in Lal-lo, Cagayan province, are agitated whenever they hear news of another weather disturbance forecast to hit northern Luzon.

The community of about 30 households that line the thinning patch of land between the national road and the Cagayan River has every reason to worry, as a minor swelling of the river would submerge, or worse, even erode and gobble up the houses.

Now, the river has come even menacingly closer at nearly 3 meters from the nearest house. During a recent typhoon, a mother described how she was traumatized seeing her backyard pigpen being swallowed by the river.

This was not the same landscape they woke up to everyday last year.

“Before, we had about more than a hectare of open land at the banks of the river below, which we planted with corn and vegetables. It would take us about 10 minutes to walk down to the nearest flow of the river,” said Femely Malana, 37.

For Catayauan, as well as the rest of the province, the Rio Grande de Cagayan—the longest river system in the country—has of late assumed a new character. From a majestic body of water that for centuries symbolized their social, cultural and economic well-being, it has morphed into a massive monster that ravages their existence every time natural calamities strike.

River potentials

It is in this reality that the government tries to redirect its efforts into further harnessing the river’s wealth and potentials but, at the same time, taming its viciousness and lessening the harm it inflicts on people in times of calamities.

One such venture is Project ReBUILD, which the government, through the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and with funding and administrative assistance from the New Zealand Aid Program (NZAP) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), launched last month.

“ReBUILD” stands for “Resilience Capacity Building for Cities and Municipalities to Reduce Disaster Risks from Climate Change and Natural Hazards.” Proponents say it aims to “improve the governance framework of the Cagayan River basin.”

The significance of the Cagayan River basin to the people of Cagayan Valley cannot be overemphasized. For many centuries, it has been the lifeblood of the region, providing irrigation to vast tracts of land, and has become a rich source of marine life, making it the country’s food basket.

With a drainage area of about 29,000 square kilometers, the river meanders for about 500 km through the provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Isabela and Cagayan, and into the Babuyan Channel up north in Aparri, Cagayan. From its headwaters in the Caraballo mountains in Nueva Vizcaya, it is fed by major tributaries originating from the watersheds of the Cordillera in the west and Sierra Madre in the east.

Aside from its role as a major irrigation source, the Magat River, its biggest tributary, provides about 300 megawatts of electricity to the Luzon power grid. The Pinacanauan River in Cagayan and the Chico River in Kalinga province are best known as ecotourism destinations.

Heherson Alvarez, CCC commissioner, said the river brought in what would be considered “civilization” to this northern region as it became the gateway for Spanish conquistadores to introduce Christianity in the 17th century. It won for them the hearts and minds of the people in Cagayan and ingrained Catholic religiosity deep into the consciousness of the Ybanag.

Perhaps the best evidence to the important role the river plays in the lives of Cagayanos is the fact that the ancient baroque churches in the province face not the highway but the Cagayan River.

Love affair

And just like any beautiful love affair, the Cagayanos’ romance with the mighty river has been expressed in their native songs and poetry.

But environmental degradation has taken its toll on the Cagayan River. Forest denudation at the watersheds has greatly depleted its water flow, and soil erosion has clogged and heavily silted its waterways.

What follows is massive flooding, especially during heavy rains brought by typhoons, as siltation has made the river shallower and has caused it to swell and inundate communities and farmlands, destroying crops, damaging infrastructure and even taking away lives.

Data from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) showed that for the past decade, Cagayan Valley had incurred the highest cost in total damage from natural calamities among the five regions in Luzon, amounting to P945.5 million.

Smokescreen

Recent government efforts, such as a river dredging project, have been met with skepticism among locals, arising from allegations that the project was being used as a smokescreen for illegal black sand mining operations by foreign companies.

With Project ReBUILD, Alvarez hopes that stakeholders will be able to put an end to the traditional but generally ineffective “piecemeal” approach to disaster mitigation that the government used to address the problem of climate change.

“We used to have projects that were bound by political boundaries and fail to take a holistic approach to disaster mitigation. Hopefully we can correct that with Project ReBUILD,” he said.

On July 4, the partnership agreement was signed by New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines Reuben Levermore, UNDP country director Toshihiro Tanaka and Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering, CCC vice chair, in Tuguegarao City.

For one, the three-year project seeks to undertake a study to help planners identify the weaknesses of government responses to disasters, such as earthquakes, flooding and soil erosion caused by prolonged rains, Sering said in a statement posted on the CCC website.

“The results of the project studies will be used in creating [disaster] mitigation actions, such as early warning systems and integrated contingency planning, mobilization and reengineering of [public] infrastructures,” she said.

The project also aims to prepare the local government to respond and adapt to disaster changes, and to provide mitigating measures, like warning systems and contingency plans, as well as revisions in the design of public infrastructure, Sering said.

Bonifacio Cuarteros, provincial disaster risk reduction and management officer, said Tuguegarao and the towns of Enrile, Iguig, Amulung and Alcala, which were identified as hazard areas, would undergo screening and assessment by Project
ReBUILD proponents.

Two of the five areas will be chosen for actual implementation, based on the local government’s technical and logistical capability to respond to demands of the project, Cuarteros said.

“The main objective of this project will be the creation of hazard maps and the formulation of plans on how the local government can respond, as well as how to integrate these hazard maps into their development programs,” he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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