NEWS ANALYSIS: SNAGS SEEN IN PROPOSED PHL-US MILITARY ACCESS PACT

Even before the proposed military access agreement between the Philippines and the United States is signed, there are already indications that its legitimacy will be challenged both in the country's highest court and legislature. On Sunday, the Bayan Muna (Country First) Party announced that it will question the constitutionality of the agreement in the Supreme Court (SC) once it is signed. Both Manila and Washington have expressed the hope that the new access agreement, officially called Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC), would be signed during the April 28-29 visit by US President Barack Obama to Manila. Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares criticized the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino for being in a "mad rush" to finish the AEDC in time for Obama's visit, saying the pact is "worse than the bases treaty rejected by the Philippine Senate in September 1991." "Simply put, it is like a dog's welcome gift to his master. They are trying to move heaven and hell so that Obama would be here for the signing of the AEDC," Colmenares said in a statement. According to Colmenares, the AEDC will practically bring back U. S. military bases to the Philippines but this time "without a treaty, without rent and without limits as the Americans may use all the Philippine military facilities." Colmenares said his party is preparing to question the AEDC in the Supreme Court for violations of the Philippine Constitution, particularly on sections about civilian supremacy over the military, the state's pursuit of an independent foreign policy, and the ban on nuclear weapons in the country. Earlier, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, said that the US access to Philippine bases under a new regime of expanded US military presence will have to be covered by a treaty that is subject to scrutiny and concurrence by the Senate. Santiago, an international law expert, said that the deployment of US military hardware in Philippine territory is not a minor case of details in the implementation of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed 62 years ago.

ALSO: White House announces itinerary for Obama’s Asia trip

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced. Administration officials hailed the president's visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States's commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies. The trip comes after Obama missed a scheduled visit to four Asian countries in the fall, including stops at two regional summits in Southeast Asia, during the partial U.S. government shutdown. "Unlike many of the president's overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama's itinerary Friday. "So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy." READ MORE...

ALSO: Obama overnight visit to the PHL April 28 and 29

US President Barack Obama will be in the Philippines on April 28 and 29, in a visit aimed at further strengthening ties with its long-time ally, Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia announced on Friday. Speaking before a business forum in Makati City, Cuisia said defense and security cooperation, trade and people-to-people exchange are high on the agenda of talks between Obama and Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III. This is the first visit of a US President to the Philippines in 11 years after President George W. Bush’s trip in October 2003. “It will be a working visit,” Cuisia told reporters at the sidelines of a dialogue hosted by the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines. “The important thing (during this visit) is to reaffirm the strong military alliance, the strong economic relations and people to people exchange that they’ve had with the Philippines,” he said. Obama will be on a week-long Asian swing that includes Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines later this month. His visit to the region is expected to reassure Asian allies at odds with China, like Japan and the Philippines, of American support amid long unresolved territorial conflicts and disputes.

ALSO: Pope prays for peace, end to terror

Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted so many Christians. More than 150,000 tourists – Romans and pilgrims, young and old – had turned out for the mass he celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica. So many came that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River. Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine. Invoking God, he said, “We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.” Tensions between pro-Russian supporters in Ukraine and those loyal to the interim government in Kiev have sparked bloodshed in recent days. Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.”

ALSO: Pope seeks to bring faith to ‘ends of the Earth’

Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday and urged them to bring their faith “to the ends of the Earth” as he presided over an Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The vigil is among the Vatican’s most solemn services. Francis entered the darkened basilica with a lone candle, which he then shared with others to slowly illuminate the church. The symbolic service commemorates the darkness of the faithful over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and their joy and light at his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Francis urged the priests, bishops, cardinals and ordinary Catholics gathered for the late night service to remember when they first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it. The Lord is waiting.”
Trying to remember isn’t an act of nostalgia but rather a way to bring the “fire” of faith “to all people, to the very ends of the Earth,” he said.READ MORE...

ALSO: Thousands celebrate Easter in Holy Land

Worshippers pray by the Stone of Unction, where according to Christianity Jesus was laid after he was crucified during the Washing of the Feet ceremony inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed by many to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 17, 2014. AP JERUSALEM — Thousands of pilgrims from around the world are celebrating Easter in the Holy Land, commemorating the day when according to Christian tradition Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem two millennia ago. Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem on Sunday. The site is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, worshippers prayed and lit candles at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. Easter was also celebrated in Gaza where less than three thousand Christians live among about 1.7 million Muslims. Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining in recent years due to regional turmoil. THIS IS THE FULL STORY

ALSO: New meaning of Easter in Samar

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar—As Christendom celebrates Easter, worshippers are coming in droves to a popular church here, grateful for having survived the worst storm in their lives. Observing a significant number of survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) coming to visit St. Anthony of Padua Church at Sulangan village (population: 3,500) is Fr. Joberto Picardal, the parish priest, who has ordered additional Masses and other rites to accommodate the sudden spike in churchgoers.
“A lot of Yolanda survivors have been coming to our church lately. This is something new to us,” Picardal, 65, said. “They come to thank the Lord for their new gift of life, and those who lost loved ones come here to pray for their dead,” said Picardal, who hails from Oras town. Worship and pilgrimage --Located 39 kilometers south of this town, the church is a popular place of worship and pilgrimage in Leyte and Samar provinces because of its image of St. Anthony of Padua, the saint from the 12th century who is associated with the recovery of lost things and reprieve from lost causes. Devotees believe the image is miraculous.
The church, with a Baroque façade popularized by its Franciscan mission heritage, was reconstructed in 1957 and was repaired in 2007 under Fr. Jose Lugay.READ MORE...


Read Full Stories here:

News Analysis: Snags seen in proposed Phl-US military access pact


AQUINO

MANILA, APRIL 21, 2014
(PHILSTAR)
(Xinhua) - Even before the proposed military access agreement between the Philippines and the United States is signed, there are already indications that its legitimacy will be challenged both in the country's highest court and legislature.

On Sunday, the Bayan Muna (Country First) Party announced that it will question the constitutionality of the agreement in the Supreme Court (SC) once it is signed.

Both Manila and Washington have expressed the hope that the new access agreement, officially called Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation (AEDC), would be signed during the April 28-29 visit by US President Barack Obama to Manila.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares criticized the administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino for being in a "mad rush" to finish the AEDC in time for Obama's visit, saying the pact is "worse than the bases treaty rejected by the Philippine Senate in September 1991."

"Simply put, it is like a dog's welcome gift to his master. They are trying to move heaven and hell so that Obama would be here for the signing of the AEDC," Colmenares said in a statement.

According to Colmenares, the AEDC will practically bring back U. S. military bases to the Philippines but this time "without a treaty, without rent and without limits as the Americans may use all the Philippine military facilities."

Colmenares said his party is preparing to question the AEDC in the Supreme Court for violations of the Philippine Constitution, particularly on sections about civilian supremacy over the military, the state's pursuit of an independent foreign policy, and the ban on nuclear weapons in the country.

Earlier, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, said that the US access to Philippine bases under a new regime of expanded US military presence will have to be covered by a treaty that is subject to scrutiny and concurrence by the Senate.

Santiago, an international law expert, said that the deployment of US military hardware in Philippine territory is not a minor case of details in the implementation of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed 62 years ago.

"It is a major subject in itself so it (the new agreement) cannot be classified as an executive agreement but as a treaty to which the Philippine Senate must give its concurrence," Santiago said.

The Constitution prohibits foreign bases on Philippine territory unless provided for by a treaty approved by the Senate.

But Malacanang, the seat of the Philippine government, has maintained that the new security arrangement with the United States is an executive agreement and would not need Senate concurrence.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Benjamin Caguioa said that the Philippine panel's position is that the AEDC merely implements the general provisions of the MDT and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the two treaties that have been concurred in by the Senate in separate instances.

"Thus there is no need for the Senate ratification for this implementing agreement," Caguioa said.

The VFA, which allows presence of American military assets in the Philippines during joint military exercises, was crafted after the Senate's rejection of the extension of the bases military agreement in 1991.

Representative Carlos Zarate, also of Bayan Muna, questioned how Filipinos could be sure that US forces would not bring nuclear weapons into the country when the US government maintains a neither-confirm-nor-deny policy as to whether their ships or planes carry nuclear weapons.

Zarate warned the presence of nuclear weapons in the country " will make us a prime target of US enemies."

"They already found a way to circumvent the constitutional ban on the presence of foreign troops in the country through the VFA but now they will further maximize this and increase US troops' presence in the country. So, in truth, the AEDC is a very deceptive deal," said Zarate.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, the chief of Philippine negotiators, said the AEDC is meant to provide " critical and timely support to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the achievement of the country's minimum credible defense posture."

"After 15 years of the VFA and given current realities, challenges and opportunities, the Philippines is ready for a heightened level of defense cooperation. This agreement, which should stand on mutual trust, is an idea whose time has come," Batino said.

In a statement, the Philippine panel said that the United States will not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines and that the US military equipment and assets to be stationed in Philippine military facilities will not include nuclear weapons.

Washington, which has earlier announced plans to "rebalance" its forces in the Asia-Pacific region, has similar arrangements with Australia and Singapore.

FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

White House announces itinerary for Obama’s Asia trip BY DAVID NAKAMURA April 18 at 3:39 pm


President Obama arrives at a hall to deliver speech in Tokyo on Nov. 14, 2009. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

President Obama will meet with the leaders of four Asian nations, answer questions at a town hall-style event at a university in Malaysia and address U.S. service members in South Korea during a week-long trip that begins Tuesday, the White House announced.

Administration officials hailed the president's visit to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a chance to underscore the United States's commitment to the Asia-Pacific, with an emphasis on regional allies. The trip comes after Obama missed a scheduled visit to four Asian countries in the fall, including stops at two regional summits in Southeast Asia, during the partial U.S. government shutdown.

"Unlike many of the president's overseas trips, particularly to Asia, there are no large summits involved," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said while briefing reporters on Obama's itinerary Friday. "So the agenda in each country can focus intensively on energizing our bilateral relationships and advancing the different elements of our Asia strategy."

On the trip, Obama will meet with each of the leaders of the four countries. Two of the stops -- in Japan and the Philippines -- will be official state visits, meaning Obama will attend formal dinners with Emperor Akihito in Japan and President Benigno Aquino in the Philippines.

The trip also will include tours of the Meiji shrine in Tokyo and the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, meetings with business leaders in Japan and Korea, and a look at a new electronic vehicle in the Philippines called "the Comet." Obama will lay a wreath at the national war memorial in Seoul.

The town-hall event at Malaya University will be with young leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations, and Obama also will meet with civil-rights leaders in Malaysia, as the United States attempts to promote democratic values.

The White House had hoped to be able to announce major progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation Pacific free trade pact that stands at the core of the Obama administration's bid to ramp up U.S. economic engagement in the region. But U.S. and Japanese negotiators failed to make a breakthough during two days of talks that concluded in Washington, D.C. on Friday.

FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Obama to visit PHL on April 28 and 29 By MICHAELA DEL CALLARApril 11, 2014 2:13pm 398 46 2 1006  (Updated 3:56 p.m.)

US President Barack Obama (photo) will be in the Philippines on April 28 and 29, in a visit aimed at further strengthening ties with its long-time ally, Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia announced on Friday.

Speaking before a business forum in Makati City, Cuisia said defense and security cooperation, trade and people-to-people exchange are high on the agenda of talks between Obama and Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.

This is the first visit of a US President to the Philippines in 11 years after President George W. Bush’s trip in October 2003.

“It will be a working visit,” Cuisia told reporters at the sidelines of a dialogue hosted by the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines.

“The important thing (during this visit) is to reaffirm the strong military alliance, the strong economic relations and people to people exchange that they’ve had with the Philippines,” he said.

Obama will be on a week-long Asian swing that includes Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines later this month.

His visit to the region is expected to reassure Asian allies at odds with China, like Japan and the Philippines, of American support amid long unresolved territorial conflicts and disputes.

Sea dispute

Territorial disputes over the resource-rich South China Sea became a tug-of-war ground for a rising China and a returning America, the Pacific power which has come to realize how rapidly it lost the strategic advantage and tight control it once wielded over the region when it stepped back and focused its attention in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some parts of the waters within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone as mandated by a United Nations law are referred by Manila as West Philippine Sea.

Relations between the Philippines and China were strained by Manila's move to bring their maritime row to international arbitration to try to declare as illegal Beijing’s massive claim over the South China Sea and its features where undersea oil and gas deposits have been discovered.

The US has publicly declared several times that it would honor its military treaty agreement that obliges American troops to help defend the Philippines if its ally comes under attack even in the South China Sea.

New PHL-US defense pact

Manila and Washington are finalizing a defense agreement that would pave the way for an increased rotational presence of American troops in the Philippines, allow them to store equipment and grant their soldiers, ships and aircraft access to Filipino military installations across the country.

Specific details of Aquino and Obama’s meeting are being worked out, according to Cuisia, but said he hopes the accord, called Enhance Defense Cooperation, would be signed on or before Obama’s visit.

“This will be both mutually beneficial to the Philippines and the United States,” he said. “This will enable us to build a minimum credible defense posture and that would mean not only training hopefully we could get more equipment.”

An expanded US military presence, Cuisia noted, can help the Philippines defend its territory as it builds up a defense capability to guard and defend its maritime borders, including Manila-claimed areas in the disputed South China Sea which is claimed nearly in its entirety by China.

China frowns upon any foreign intervention, particularly US engagement, on the sea disputes that also involves other claimants Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Washington maintains it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation and flights over the waters, where a bulk of the world’s trade passes through.

On Thursday, Malacañang denied it is rushing to seal the agreement for increased rotation presence of US troops in the country in time for Obama's visit.

Earlier this year, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said Obama will meet with Aquino III to "discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of security, economic, and people-to-people ties."

"President Obama’s visit will provide a new momentum to Philippines-US relations and strengthen the partnership of the two nations in many areas," he said then.

Aside from visiting the Philippines, Obama will also visit Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia this month, the White House announced in February.

Obama was supposed to visit the Philippines in October 2013 but it was canceled after the US government went into a shutdown. — KG/RSJ, GMA News

FROM PHILSTAR

Pope prays for peace, end to terror By AP (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

VATICAN CITY – Celebrating Easter Sunday, Christianity’s most joyous and hopeful day, Pope Francis prayed for peace in Ukraine and Syria and for an end to the terrorist attacks in Nigeria that have targeted so many Christians.

More than 150,000 tourists – Romans and pilgrims, young and old – had turned out for the mass he celebrated at an altar set up under a canopy on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.

So many came that they overflowed the huge square, which was bedecked with row after row of potted daffodils, sprays of blue hyacinths and bunches of white roses. Waving flags from the pope’s native Argentina as well as Brazil, Mexico, Britain, Poland and many other countries, they filled the broad boulevard leading from the square to the Tiber River.

Francis noted that this year the Catholic church’s celebration of Easter coincided with that of Orthodox churches, which have many followers in Ukraine.

Invoking God, he said, “We ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine, so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence.”

Tensions between pro-Russian supporters in Ukraine and those loyal to the interim government in Kiev have sparked bloodshed in recent days.

Francis also prayed that all sides in Syria will be moved to “boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue.”

Since March 2011, Syria has been wracked by a civil war that has cost 150,000 lives and forced millions to flee the country.

Francis makes a pilgrimage to Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Israel next month. On Easter, he prayed that hopes sparked by the resumption of Mideast peace negotiations be sustained.

He also recalled those suffering in Africa from an epidemic of deadly Ebola and urged a halt to “brutal terrorist attacks” in parts of Nigeria.

But Francis’ Easter message also stressed that people pay attention to the needy close to home. Reflecting the priorities of his papacy, he said the “good news” of Easter’s joy and hope means “leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast.”

Cheering and applauding, the crowd tried to catch a glimpse of the pontiff as he circled around in his white popemobile at the end of the ceremony before he went to the central balcony over the basilica to deliver his commentary on the violence and poverty staining the Earth.

A rainstorm had lashed Rome on Saturday night, with thunder competing with the sound of hymns when Francis led a vigil service in the basilica. Dawn brought clear skies and warm temperatures for Easter, the culmination of Holy Week, the day which marks the Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead after his crucifixion.

Reflecting the worldwide reach of the Catholic church, faithful read aloud prayers and passages from the Bible in Hindi, French, Chinese, German, Korean, Spanish, Italian and English.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Pope seeks to bring faith to ‘ends of the Earth’ Associated Press 7:45 am | Sunday, April 20th, 2014


Pope Francis baptizes 10-year-hold Giorgio Capezzuoli during the Easter vigil service in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Vatican Saturday, April 19, 2014. Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday as he presided over an Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica, fulfilling a ritual deep in meaning on the most solemn night of the Catholic calendar. Francis urged the priests, bishops, cardinals and ordinary Catholics gathered for the late night service to remember when they first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it. The Lord is waiting.” AP

VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis baptized 10 people Saturday and urged them to bring their faith “to the ends of the Earth” as he presided over an Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The vigil is among the Vatican’s most solemn services. Francis entered the darkened basilica with a lone candle, which he then shared with others to slowly illuminate the church. The symbolic service commemorates the darkness of the faithful over the crucifixion of Jesus Christ on Good Friday and their joy and light at his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Francis urged the priests, bishops, cardinals and ordinary Catholics gathered for the late night service to remember when they first found their faith. “Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Look for it. You’ll find it. The Lord is waiting.”

Trying to remember isn’t an act of nostalgia but rather a way to bring the “fire” of faith “to all people, to the very ends of the Earth,” he said.

After his homily, Francis proceeded to baptize each of the 10, starting with Italian brothers Giorgio and Jacopo Capezzuoli, aged 8 and 10. “Do you want to be baptized?” he asked each one as he smiled.

He asked the same of the adult converts, who hailed from Vietnam, Belarus, Senegal, Lebanon, Italy and France.

It was the second late night for Francis after the long Good Friday Way of the Cross procession at Rome’s Colosseum.

Francis, 77, will get a few hours of rest before celebrating Easter Sunday Mass in the flower-strewn St. Peter’s Square.

He then has a week to prepare for the other major celebration of this year’s Easter season: the April 27 canonizations of Pope John XXIII and John Paul II. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend.

Thousands celebrate Easter in Holy Land Associated Press 5:46 pm | Sunday, April 20th, 2014 5


Worshippers pray by the Stone of Unction, where according to Christianity Jesus was laid after he was crucified during the Washing of the Feet ceremony inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, traditionally believed by many to be the site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem, Thursday, April 17, 2014. AP

JERUSALEM — Thousands of pilgrims from around the world are celebrating Easter in the Holy Land, commemorating the day when according to Christian tradition Jesus was resurrected in Jerusalem two millennia ago.

Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal led Mass at the Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem on Sunday. The site is where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, worshippers prayed and lit candles at the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus.

Easter was also celebrated in Gaza where less than three thousand Christians live among about 1.7 million Muslims.
Christian communities in the Holy Land, as well as elsewhere in the Middle East, have been declining in recent years due to regional turmoil.

New meaning of Easter in Samar By Danny Petilla 9:30 am | Sunday, April 20th, 2014


Beautiful Suluan sunset. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

GUIUAN, Eastern Samar—As Christendom celebrates Easter, worshippers are coming in droves to a popular church here, grateful for having survived the worst storm in their lives.

Observing a significant number of survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) coming to visit St. Anthony of Padua Church at Sulangan village (population: 3,500) is Fr. Joberto Picardal, the parish priest, who has ordered additional Masses and other rites to accommodate the sudden spike in churchgoers.

“A lot of Yolanda survivors have been coming to our church lately. This is something new to us,” Picardal, 65, said.

“They come to thank the Lord for their new gift of life, and those who lost loved ones come here to pray for their dead,” said Picardal, who hails from Oras town.

Worship and pilgrimage

Located 39 kilometers south of this town, the church is a popular place of worship and pilgrimage in Leyte and Samar provinces because of its image of St. Anthony of Padua, the saint from the 12th century who is associated with the recovery of lost things and reprieve from lost causes. Devotees believe the image is miraculous.

The church, with a Baroque façade popularized by its Franciscan mission heritage, was reconstructed in 1957 and was repaired in 2007 under Fr. Jose Lugay.

In this church, the entrance to which is just a few steps from the sea, the desperate and hopeless find solace and refuge, and the healed raise hosannas to high heavens.

“I almost died from dengue. But I also survived Yolanda so I came back here to sing my praises to the Lord,” said 22-year-old nurse Elizabeth Ann Palacio of Palo town, Leyte.

The rich come in their flashy cars, the poor arrive in crowded jeepneys and crammed tricycles. But they are one in professing their faith and in asking for divine intervention for their earthly needs like healing for various ailments, success in board exams, job promotion, even a wife or a girlfriend, or a baby.

Given a child

Such was the case for Marilou Manglinong, a firefighter from Tacloban City, who drove 200 km in her Mitsubishi Montero to hear Mass here. She said she became a devotee after St. Anthony granted her wish to have a child.

“I thought I was barren. But I made a vow to come here regularly if I am blessed with a child,” said Manglinong, 36, whose seafarer husband Dennis, 38, is currently based in Argentina.

After years of trying, the couple finally had a baby on April 8, 2006, after regularly visiting the church in Sulangan village, Manglinong named her son Joman Anthony after St. Anthony of Padua.

On Nov. 8, 2013, as Yolanda ravaged Tacloban, Manglinong and her 7-year-old son, whom she calls “my gift from St. Anthony,” found refuge in the office of the Tacloban City Bureau of Fire Protection on the top of Kanhuraw Hill.

“I credit my new life and that of my boy to St. Anthony,” Manglinong said. She is expecting her husband to come home for a visit next month.

Residents of Sulangan who are mostly fishermen also believe St. Anthony saved them from Yolanda’s wrath as the monster storm made its first of five landfalls here.

Most of the residents claim they saw two huge waves smashing into each other, leaving the newly renovated church undamaged.

The village suffered only one casualty, Jose Custodio, who was hit by a flying sheet of metal roofing that almost cut him in half. The rest of Guiuan recorded 100 dead.

One of the more visible visitors in the village is Guiuan Mayor Christopher Sheen Gonzales who drops by often to pray in the church. The 33-year-old Gonzales is credited by international observers for saving lives by ordering forced evacuations days before Yolanda struck. But he is quick to say that his timely decision came from God.

“I did not save Guiuan. It was the unseen hand of the Lord that saved us,” Gonzales said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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