MASTER PLAN FOR YOLANDA-HIT AREAS COMPLETED 

A master plan for areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda has been completed. Speaking over radio dzBB, presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson over the weekend said he submitted to President Aquino last Friday a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan covering 171 cities and municipalities in 14 provinces spread in six regions. “I would just like to emphasize that my office has no power of implementation,” he said in Filipino. “Our task is to draw up a master rehabilitation plan. I will have to discuss that matter with the President. What will be my next task? Or do I have a task?” Lacson called for public vigilance in monitoring the implementation of the rehabilitation and recovery plan since the government has allocated about P170 billion for the project. “With the help of some NGOs, USAID, UNDP, e-PLDT-SMART, which will be our web-hosting, anyone can just click a link in the computer and can immediately see the house built from a certain donation,” he said. The public can check the implementation of the project through a website “empathy,” or electronic monitoring program accountability and transparency hub, which his office will set up soon, he added.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: Decade on, separate lives for once-conjoined Filipino twins 

SCARSDALE, New York – One twin uses an iPad, plays video games and dances to Michael Jackson tunes. The other has significant, possibly permanent, problems walking and talking.
The delicate separation 10 years ago of conjoined twins from the Philippines wasn’t perfect, but the boys’ mother says their very survival is reason enough to celebrate the anniversary.
“When they were born, the doctors at home told me, ‘You have to choose which one is to live,’” Arlene Aguirre said. “I said, ‘I cannot choose that.’ The doctors here did not ask me to choose.” The boys, now 12, were born joined at the top of their heads, unable to sit up, stand straight, eat normally — or see each other. Once their case was accepted by the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, leaving Carl and Clarence conjoined was not an option. “If they hadn’t come to us when they did, they would have just withered away and died,” said Dr. Robert Marion, the boys’ pediatrician, who plans to be at the hospital Monday to mark the separation anniversary. “I am extremely proud of having been a part of this. I’m a little disappointed with some of the outcome but, clearly, to see how these kids have survived and are for the most part thriving, is really wonderful.” * READ MORE...

ALSO: 21 OFWs from Libya bring tales of terror; Palace appeals to other migrants to leave now  

“It was difficult. There were explosions night and day,” oil pipeline welder Michael Antalan, 37, said as he and 20 other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Saturday. Antalan’s group, red-eyed and weary from lack of sleep and a long journey from strife-torn Libya, came home on tickets paid for by the Philippine government, grateful to have escaped the conflict but anxious about bleak job prospects here. Their Libyan company stopped work on July 20 and allowed them to seek refuge in the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, about two hours’ drive away. Rose Biros, 33, a domestic worker in Tripoli, and husband Abraham, the family cook and also 33, sought permission to return home after a bullet slammed into a terrace wall of their employer’s home on July 20.

“At first, he refused, insisting it was safe to stay. How can it be safe when there were stray bullets flying around? After three days he finally let us go,” she said. Antalan and the Biroses were among the 60 OFWs who have returned home from Libya in the past three days, bringing to 831 the number of Filipinos who have accepted repatriation.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Sunday that it had assisted at least 624 OFWs in getting out of Libya. The DOLE said 15 more OFWs were scheduled to arrive in Manila Sunday night. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said most of the more than 13,000 Filipino workers in Libya wanted to stay despite the fast deteriorating security conditions because they feared they would be jobless at home. In a statement, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said officers from the government’s repatriation program would be at the airport to ensure that the returning workers would get assistance.

She said the returnees would be assisted through immigration, put up at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration hostel in Pasay City, given emergency medical help and stress debriefing, and money to pay for their bus or boat fares to their provinces. In addition, Baldoz said the DOLE would help the returnees find new jobs or other means of livelihood. Malacañang’s appeal --With the news that most of the OFWs in Libya refused to leave, Malacañang on Sunday appealed to the migrant workers to flee, warning that the situation there could worsen.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had chartered a ship to ferry Filipino workers to Malta from the ports of Benghazi, Misrata and possibly Tripoli.* READ MORE...

ALSO: Due to looming energy crisis: Special powers for Aquino pressed 

Is President Aquino about to use emergency powers to deal with the looming energy shortage in Luzon in 2015 when several world leaders will come to the Philippines for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit? A technical report elaborating on his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 28 said the government would tap private firms to put up 500- to 600-megawatt power plants by March next year. Citing Department of Energy (DOE) figures, the report projected an energy shortage of between 400 MW and 1,000 MW for Luzon from March to May 2015, “resulting in rotating brownouts.”
“Mindanao may experience longer brownouts in 2015 if no new power plants come in,” the report said, but noted that the June 2014 supply would be enough for “the country’s highest projected demand level of 11,943 MW” this year.
The document suggested that the government “invoke Section 71 of Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001” in order to deal with the need for additional capacity during the critical period in Luzon in 2015.

“Upon issuance of the joint [congressional] resolution, the government would contract a private proponent to construct capacities equivalent to 500 to 600 MW power plants and operate and maintain the same for a period of five years.” Also known as the “Electric Power Crisis Provision,” Section 71 states that: “Upon determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.” But Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on Sunday said he was not sure whether the President had agreed to his proposal that the provision be invoked. “I also don’t know why it was worded that way [in the Sona technical report],” Petilla told the Inquirer by phone. “But when we had a discussion [the week before the Sona], the President said that would be the last resort.” Prepared by the Office of the President, the Sona technical report compiled accomplishment reports submitted by different government agencies. Petilla acknowledged that information on how the government intended to resolve the looming power shortage came from his department. Still, he was unsure why the Sona report stated categorically that government would “invoke Section 71.”  “Let’s just put it this way: If the President wanted to invoke it, he would have already mentioned it in the Sona. The mere fact he didn’t say it in the Sona means he had not invoked it,” he said. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Nationalist church marks 112th year  (Aglipayan)

PHOTO --A wooden image of Virgen ng Balintawak at the National Church of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Aglipayan Church). In the dream, the Virgin Mary wears the balintawak (a native dress of Filipino women) while the Child Jesus is a Katipunero, a bolo on his side and one hand holding a banner with the prayer: “Ama, sumilang nawa ang aming pagsasarili.” (Father, we pray for the birth of our independence.) Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) calls the image Virgen ng Balintawak, referring to Mary when she appeared in a dream to a Katipunero sleeping in Tandang Sora’s home in Balintawak.

Popular lore says Mary came with a warning to Katipuneros while the Child Jesus, in the dream, was shouting, “Kalayaan! Kalayaan!” (Freedom! Freedom!) IFI has embraced that image as a representation of what it has stood for since Union Obrera Democratica (UOD) and labor leader Isabelo de los Reyes Sr. proclaimed a church free from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church on Aug. 3, 1902. On Sunday, it marked its 112th proclamation anniversary. In the 1920s, it gave the Virgin a feast day, Aug. 26, and a special Mass.
‘Perfect symbolism’ For a church whose mission is “Pro Deo et Patria” (For God and Country), the dual image of Mary as Inang Bayan (Motherland) and the Child Jesus as the Filipino people is a perfect symbolism. For IFI—named the Aglipayan Church after its first supreme bishop, Gregorio Aglipay—that image has stood the test of time.
“The important feature is the porous boundary between nation and belief,” said Francis Alvarez Gealogo, chair of Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of History and a member of the church. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Yolanda survivor rules CPA exam  

Rommel Rhino Edusma hurdled the licensure examinations for certified public accountants (CPA) like he did the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November last year. Edusma, a graduate of the Asian Development Foundation College (ADFC) in Tacloban City, topped the 2014 CPA exams with a score of 94.57 percent. “Poverty is not a hindrance to success,” he said, adding Yolanda was just one of the many hardships in life that he had survived. Edusma admitted that he was among those who ransacked a grocery store in Tacloban after Yolanda devastated parts of the Visayas. “The owner told us it was OK to get food. There was a chance to get expensive gadgets but I did not. I only took food because we needed it,” he said. Edusma, the sixth of 10 siblings, said he finished college at the age of 25 because he had to wait for an elder sibling to graduate before he could continue schooling.

His father, Rustico, 58, is a retired soldier. His mother, Flores, is a housewife. Edusma said he finished college with the help of his brother, a member of the Armed Forces. He took his first year at the Eastern Samar State University in Borongan City and transferred to the Eastern Visayas State University in Tacloban. When he qualified for a scholarship from the Commission on Higher Education, Edusma enrolled at the ADFC. While studying there, he lived with his aunt, Maria Fulseda Carolino. He said there were times that he had to walk to school and skipped meals so he could use his money for school projects. Mayor Federico Carolino of Capoocan, Leyte took him in as his scholar and gave financial support. * READ MORE...


READ FULL REPORT HERE:

Master plan for Yolanda-hit areas completed

MANILA, AUGUST 4, 2014 (PHILSTAR)  By Cecille Suerte Felipe - A master plan for areas devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda has been completed.

Speaking over radio dzBB, presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery Panfilo Lacson over the weekend said he submitted to President Aquino last Friday a comprehensive rehabilitation and recovery plan covering 171 cities and municipalities in 14 provinces spread in six regions.

“I would just like to emphasize that my office has no power of implementation,” he said in Filipino.

“Our task is to draw up a master rehabilitation plan. I will have to discuss that matter with the President. What will be my next task? Or do I have a task?”

Lacson called for public vigilance in monitoring the implementation of the rehabilitation and recovery plan since the government has allocated about P170 billion for the project.

“With the help of some NGOs, USAID, UNDP, e-PLDT-SMART, which will be our web-hosting, anyone can just click a link in the computer and can immediately see the house built from a certain donation,” he said.

The public can check the implementation of the project through a website “empathy,” or electronic monitoring program accountability and transparency hub, which his office will set up soon, he added.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Decade on, separate lives for once-conjoined Filipino twins
Associated Press8:29 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


Clarence Aguirre, left, embraces his twin brother Carl while relaxing at the family’s home with their mother Arlene in Scarsdale, N.Y.,Thursday, July 31, 2014. On Monday, Aug. 4, the the formerly-conjoined twins, now 12, are celebrating the ten year anniversary of the risky surgery that separated them. The surgery was performed in four stages at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. AP

SCARSDALE, New York – One twin uses an iPad, plays video games and dances to Michael Jackson tunes. The other has significant, possibly permanent, problems walking and talking.

The delicate separation 10 years ago of conjoined twins from the Philippines wasn’t perfect, but the boys’ mother says their very survival is reason enough to celebrate the anniversary.

“When they were born, the doctors at home told me, ‘You have to choose which one is to live,’” Arlene Aguirre said. “I said, ‘I cannot choose that.’ The doctors here did not ask me to choose.”

The boys, now 12, were born joined at the top of their heads, unable to sit up, stand straight, eat normally — or see each other.

Once their case was accepted by the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, leaving Carl and Clarence conjoined was not an option.

“If they hadn’t come to us when they did, they would have just withered away and died,” said Dr. Robert Marion, the boys’ pediatrician, who plans to be at the hospital Monday to mark the separation anniversary. “I am extremely proud of having been a part of this. I’m a little disappointed with some of the outcome but, clearly, to see how these kids have survived and are for the most part thriving, is really wonderful.”


In this Sept. 9, 2003 file photo provided by Philippine Airlines, 17-month-old Filipino twins Carl, left, and Clarence Aguirre wait at Manila’s International airport before their flight to New York. When they were born joined at the head, their mother remembers doctors in the Philippines telling her that she would have to choose which one would live and which would die. But ten years ago doctors at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx were able to save both boys in an operation done in 2004. AP FILE PHOTO

* Montefiore’s president and CEO, Dr. Steven Safyer, said, “We are honored to have played a part in helping these boys develop into the unique individuals they are today.”

The boys were separated on Aug. 4, 2004, in an operation that climaxed a then-unusual “staged separation” that took four surgeries over nine months.

When it was over, Dr. David Staffenberg, the boys’ plastic surgeon, told the mother, “You’re now the mother of two boys.”
Aguirre, who never left the area after the operation and now raises the boys in Scarsdale, New York, said she throws birthday parties twice a year — on April 21, the day they were born, and on Aug. 4.

“The historical treatment was basically to sacrifice one to save the other,” said the lead surgeon, Dr. James Goodrich. “The staged separation turned out to be obviously very successful.”

He and his team have since separated four other sets of joined-at-the-head twins in London, Melbourne and Riyadh.
The Aguirre boys shared a “bridge” of brain, 5 or 6 centimeters long, which had to be divided. “When you get beyond 1 centimeter or 2 centimeters, one or both kids takes a hit,” Goodrich said.

Eventually there was some degeneration of Carl’s right parietal lobe, which controls the left side, Goodrich said. Carl suffered seizures, now controlled with medication, and has limited use of his left arm and leg.

Carl uses a wheelchair and leg braces, and there’s hope he’ll eventually be able to walk on his own, though Goodrich doubts there will be a full recovery.

As for speech, his mother said he can utter just a word or two at a time, such as “bye” and “thank you.” He spends the school day in classes for kids with multiple disabilities and gets occupational, physical and speech therapy.

She said Clarence, who can be difficult to understand when he speaks, also gets some special instruction in communication. But unlike Carl, he is an attention-seeking preteen who leaps up to high-five visitors and is quick to show them his favorite video games.

“He’s kind of a delightful kid,” said Marion, who is chief of genetics at the Children’s Hospital. “I think he’s going to be a typical adult.”

Clarence shows tenderness toward his quiet twin, and Arlene Aguirre said, “He feels like he’s the big brother. He likes to read to Carl, and he’s very patient.”

Both boys still wear helmets to protect their skulls. Goodrich said that once they’re fully grown, the skulls will be patched.

Arlene Aguirre said, “I did the right thing,” when she accepted Montefiore’s offer to do the surgery — and absorb the multimillion-dollar cost.

And caring for her sons alone — she’s a single mother — is getting easier as the boys grow up in their white house behind a picket fence off a busy road. She has a support network of friends who come over on weekends to stay with the boys while she buys groceries and runs errands.

With Montefiore’s support, the family lives in the U.S. on a medical visa. They have not been back to their hometown of Salay in the Philippines — and Arlene Aguirre said she misses her family. She hopes that she and her sons can eventually become American citizens.

“The boys are Americans, really,” she said. “They don’t want my Filipino food. They like spaghetti, mashed potatoes — and McDonald’s, of course.”

21 OFWs from Libya bring tales of terror Palace appeals to other migrants to leave now Agence France-Presse, Philippine Daily Inquirer12:40 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


BACK FROM LIBYA One of the overseas Filipino workers who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila flashes the peace sign following his repatriation from Libya. The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said the arrival of 21 workers on Saturday brought the total number of Filipino repatriates from Libya to 831. About 13,000 Filipinos are working in Libya. AP/BULLIT MARQUEZ

MANILA, Philippines–“It was difficult. There were explosions night and day,” oil pipeline welder Michael Antalan, 37, said as he and 20 other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Saturday.

Antalan’s group, red-eyed and weary from lack of sleep and a long journey from strife-torn Libya, came home on tickets paid for by the Philippine government, grateful to have escaped the conflict but anxious about bleak job prospects here.

Their Libyan company stopped work on July 20 and allowed them to seek refuge in the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, about two hours’ drive away.

Rose Biros, 33, a domestic worker in Tripoli, and husband Abraham, the family cook and also 33, sought permission to return home after a bullet slammed into a terrace wall of their employer’s home on July 20.

“At first, he refused, insisting it was safe to stay. How can it be safe when there were stray bullets flying around? After three days he finally let us go,” she said.

Antalan and the Biroses were among the 60 OFWs who have returned home from Libya in the past three days, bringing to 831 the number of Filipinos who have accepted repatriation.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Sunday that it had assisted at least 624 OFWs in getting out of Libya.

The DOLE said 15 more OFWs were scheduled to arrive in Manila Sunday night.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said most of the more than 13,000 Filipino workers in Libya wanted to stay despite the fast deteriorating security conditions because they feared they would be jobless at home.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said officers from the government’s repatriation program would be at the airport to ensure that the returning workers would get assistance.

She said the returnees would be assisted through immigration, put up at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration hostel in Pasay City, given emergency medical help and stress debriefing, and money to pay for their bus or boat fares to their provinces.

In addition, Baldoz said the DOLE would help the returnees find new jobs or other means of livelihood.

Malacañang’s appeal

With the news that most of the OFWs in Libya refused to leave, Malacañang on Sunday appealed to the migrant workers to flee, warning that the situation there could worsen.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it had chartered a ship to ferry Filipino workers to Malta from the ports of Benghazi, Misrata and possibly Tripoli.

* From Malta, the evacuees would be transported by air to Manila, the DFA said.

“We are appealing to them to call our embassy in Tripoli … it is better that at this early stage, they get in touch with our embassy to arrange to be evacuated,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told reporters.

Mandatory evacuation

The government imposed a ban on travel to Libya on May 30, warning Filipino workers there to leave.

It then issued a mandatory evacuation order last month after the kidnapping and beheading of a Filipino construction worker in Benghazi.

A Filipino nurse was also abducted and gang-raped in Tripoli on Wednesday, sparking a walkout by her colleagues at Tripoli’s Medical Center.

But Del Rosario, who traveled to Djerba Island in Tunisia on Thursday to coordinate evacuations, said convincing the OFWs to leave Libya was proving to be a “challenge” because of the fear of being unemployed back home.

Still, he appealed to the OFWs in Libya to get out now while they still can, warning that the exit routes were closing fast.

Border closed

Neighboring Tunisia shut down the Libya-Tunisia main border crossing on Friday when a Tunisian police officer was shot there during violence that erupted when stranded Egyptian and other foreign nationals tried to break through the passage.

Del Rosario said a border crossing to Egypt had also been closed for months.

That left the sea as the only way out of Libya for Filipinos accepting the government’s offer of free repatriation.

In Hong Kong on his way home to Manila Sunday night, Del Rosario said most of the OFWs in Libya wanted to stay despite the government’s appeal to them to get out.

“Even as numbers are increasing for repatriation, my estimate is more than a majority are prioritizing economic security over safety,” Del Rosario said by text.

He said the sea route remained the best option, but in case the ports of Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli were closed, an overland route to Sirt, which takes three hours, would be used.

“Sirt is an option, but we need to ferry our folks to the ship, as it is a shallow port,” Del Rosario said.

The government previously launched a mass evacuation of its workers in Libya in 2011, when most of the 30,000 Filipinos there left during the violent uprising that led to the fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Health workers

But about 1,600 Filipinos, mostly doctors and nurses, remained in Libya throughout the uprising.

Their numbers increased after the government lifted a ban on labor deployment to Libya in 2012.

Filipinos make up a large proportion of Libya’s medical personnel and health officials there are warning of a possible collapse of the healthcare system if all the Filipinos leave.

The few hundred that have returned home left more than 12,000 Filipinos still in Libya, which is fast descending into civil war.

But Coloma said that while some Filipinos may be stubborn, “once their lives are at stake, they will be convinced to go.”–Reports from Jerry E. Esplanada, Christine O. Avendaño

Special powers for Aquino pressed By Christian V. Esguerra |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:34 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


Is President Aquino about to use emergency powers to deal with the looming energy shortage in Luzon in 2015 when several world leaders will come to the Philippines for the Apec summit? LYN RILLON

MANILA, Philippines–Is President Aquino about to use emergency powers to deal with the looming energy shortage in Luzon in 2015 when several world leaders will come to the Philippines for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit?

A technical report elaborating on his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 28 said the government would tap private firms to put up 500- to 600-megawatt power plants by March next year.

Citing Department of Energy (DOE) figures, the report projected an energy shortage of between 400 MW and 1,000 MW for Luzon from March to May 2015, “resulting in rotating brownouts.”

“Mindanao may experience longer brownouts in 2015 if no new power plants come in,” the report said, but noted that the June 2014 supply would be enough for “the country’s highest projected demand level of 11,943 MW” this year.

The document suggested that the government “invoke Section 71 of Republic Act No. 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001” in order to deal with the need for additional capacity during the critical period in Luzon in 2015.

“Upon issuance of the joint [congressional] resolution, the government would contract a private proponent to construct capacities equivalent to 500 to 600 MW power plants and operate and maintain the same for a period of five years.”
Also known as the “Electric Power Crisis Provision,” Section 71 states that: “Upon determination by the President of the Philippines of an imminent shortage of the supply of electricity, Congress may authorize, through a joint resolution, the establishment of additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

But Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on Sunday said he was not sure whether the President had agreed to his proposal that the provision be invoked.
“I also don’t know why it was worded that way [in the Sona technical report],” Petilla told the Inquirer by phone. “But when we had a discussion [the week before the Sona], the President said that would be the last resort.”

Prepared by the Office of the President, the Sona technical report compiled accomplishment reports submitted by different government agencies.

Petilla acknowledged that information on how the government intended to resolve the looming power shortage came from his department. Still, he was unsure why the Sona report stated categorically that government would “invoke Section 71.”

“Let’s just put it this way: If the President wanted to invoke it, he would have already mentioned it in the Sona. The mere fact he didn’t say it in the Sona means he had not invoked it,” he said.

* In his address to the joint session of Congress, Aquino said he had instructed Petilla to “coordinate with the Joint Congressional Power Commission, the Energy Regulatory Commission, members of industry, and, most importantly, the consumers, in order to increase our capacity to respond to this problem.”

“We want to be completely ready so that we can avoid paralysis if the worst-case scenario arises. The goal: To have planned solutions for problems that will not arise until next year,” he said.

Power industry officials and businessmen have warned of a looming shortage as a result of the growing demand for electricity brought by the booming economy.

Economic activity tends to spur electricity demand. For the Luzon grid, a 1-percent growth in gross domestic product translates into an increase in electricity consumption by 0.6 percent, according to DOE documents.

For the Visayas, it’s 1 percent and for the Mindanao grid, 0.8 percent.

The last time Congress granted a president emergency powers to solve crippling outages was in 1993. The Electric Power Crisis Act, or Republic Act No. 7648, allowed then President Fidel Ramos to enter into agreements that favored independent power producers (IPPs).

The deals ended the crisis but resulted in higher electricity rates with the imposition of the purchased power adjustment in which consumers were required to pay whether or not they used the electricity produced by the IPPs.

The IPP deals have led to power rates in the Philippines becoming among the highest in Asia, adversely affecting the competitiveness of the country’s industries.

Based on the Sona technical report, the government, once a joint congressional resolution was issued, “would contract a private proponent to construct capacities equivalent to 500 to 600 MW power plants.”

The report included an assurance that the government, which would “operate and maintain” such facilities for five years, would “not intervene in the power generation business.”

“The additional capacity will only be run when the grid is in yellow alert upon the determination of the system operator or upon the instruction of the DOE,” it said. “The additional capacity will also be traded and will be a price taker on the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

Nationalist church marks 112th year By Vaughn Alviar |Philippine Daily Inquirer2:32 am | Monday, August 4th, 2014


A wooden image of Virgen ng Balintawak at the National Church of Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Aglipayan Church). VAUGHN ALVIAR

MANILA, Philippines–In the dream, the Virgin Mary wears the balintawak (a native dress of Filipino women) while the Child Jesus is a Katipunero, a bolo on his side and one hand holding a banner with the prayer: “Ama, sumilang nawa ang aming pagsasarili.” (Father, we pray for the birth of our independence.)

Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) calls the image Virgen ng Balintawak, referring to Mary when she appeared in a dream to a Katipunero sleeping in Tandang Sora’s home in Balintawak.

Popular lore says Mary came with a warning to Katipuneros while the Child Jesus, in the dream, was shouting, “Kalayaan! Kalayaan!” (Freedom! Freedom!)

IFI has embraced that image as a representation of what it has stood for since Union Obrera Democratica (UOD) and labor leader Isabelo de los Reyes Sr. proclaimed a church free from the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church on Aug. 3, 1902. On Sunday, it marked its 112th proclamation anniversary.

In the 1920s, it gave the Virgin a feast day, Aug. 26, and a special Mass.

‘Perfect symbolism’

For a church whose mission is “Pro Deo et Patria” (For God and Country), the dual image of Mary as Inang Bayan (Motherland) and the Child Jesus as the Filipino people is a perfect symbolism.

For IFI—named the Aglipayan Church after its first supreme bishop, Gregorio Aglipay—that image has stood the test of time.

“The important feature is the porous boundary between nation and belief,” said Francis Alvarez Gealogo, chair of Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of History and a member of the church.

* The Virgin, still displayed in Aglipayan churches today, finds its way in processions during important church celebrations.

Apostolic succession

The antifriar movement of Aglipay and the labor movement of De los Reyes intersected to produce IFI, Gealogo said. Both sought freedom from an oppressor and made the Virgin an apt symbol.

The image also asserted the importance of local cultures once suppressed by the friars.

Apostolic succession—acceptance into a fold of churches claiming continuity from the apostles—required IFI to tame its doctrines.

However, the church stuck to the nationalistic orientation after its acceptance in 1948. Not without backlash, IFI was branded a cult by some.

‘Trinitarian principle’

“Catholicism should not be connected [exclusively] to the Roman Catholic faith,” Supreme Bishop Ephraim Fajutagana said. “IFI is from the Catholic tradition. We believe in the ‘trinitarian principle’—one Lord in three persons, one faith, one baptism.”

“Some Roman Catholics believe that we are unitarian and therefore do not welcome our baptism,” Fajutagana said.

While other Aglipayan churches produced schisms in 1955 and 1981, Fajutagana said IFI had remained trinitarian.
He insisted that cultural variations were not heretic.

Folk songs

“Liturgy should reflect the aspirations of the believers,” he said. “If prayers are too general—praying for bread to eat—why not ask God to safeguard the farmers from being maligned? You should contextualize your prayers.”

IFI historically translates prayers and missals to reflect the languages of the membership, predating the move of the Roman Catholic Church. It also uses melodies from folk songs as songs during the Mass.

Adrian Hermann, a visiting German research associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture, cited IFI as “one of the most important Rome-independent churches in Asia” when it began.

It was sought by non-Roman churches in Sri Lanka and Switzerland for possible cooperation, he said.

Alternative community

However, locally, “there was a very negative view of IFI and Aglipay. [Members] were seen as schismatics,” Hermann said.

Despite that, many were receptive to the concept of a Filipino Catholic Church, he said, making IFI one of the biggest alternative Catholic communities in the world at its inception.

Church records say roughly one-fourth of the population in 1903 were members.

Klein Emperado, a descendant of one of the first couples in the IFI parish in Tayasan town, Negros Oriental province, said his great-great-grandparents Jose Bromo and Asuncion Caldera might have experienced oppression in the hands of the friars.

He added that many influential people, including then Gov. Demetrio Larena, were converted.

Driving force

IFI cites oppression as the driving force for its early success.

According to its records, revolutionaries in Tayug town, Pangasinan province, and Calamba City and Cabuyao town, both in Laguna province, were active members of the church.

Churches that rejected papal authority before 1902, including Iglesia Catolica Filipina in Maragondon town, Cavite province, also joined IFI.

In 1907, when the Americans prohibited the use of the Philippine flag, IFI invoked separation of Church and State in singing the national anthem during Mass, Emperado said.

Priests also wore Philippine flag-inspired vestments and placed the flag on the altar.

Peace process

IFI is active in unionism and the peace process.

Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Diocese of the Agusans and Surigao Sur played a central role in the recent release of four policemen held captive by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The national cathedral on Taft Avenue also hosted the wake of the firstborn child of suspected NPA member Andrea Rosal. Unions and farmers’ groups gather there every February to mark the founding of the UOD.

Activism has felled some members, according to IFI.

In 2010, lay minister Benjamin Bayles was gunned down in Negros Occidental allegedly because of his farmers’ rights advocacy. Former Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento was murdered in 2006 in Tarlac City allegedly because of his criticism of government.

2 to 6 million members

Gealogo said social awareness needed to be affirmed if the church, with a membership of 2 to 6 million, were to thrive.
“Some people say the church is too ‘Red,’” he said. “Rallying on the side of the masses, the workers and farmers are deemed wrong and evil. But I think the church should insist that this is a part of its doctrine.”

Gealogo thinks the “Red stigma” is a consequence of being true to the IFI’s heritage.

Hermann said: “I think now is a good time to look back and try to evaluate its history without getting caught up in positive and negative perspectives.”

“I became IFI because of my ancestors but I realized that being IFI is a personal choice,” Emperado said. “I could still remember the time when people denied of funerals, weddings and baptisms would come to our church because we welcome such people … It served as a church of the people, the poor, the oppressed and the neglected.”

‘Conscience of masses’

To Gealogo, IFI “is always on the underside, the underbelly of history.”

“People are searching for strength in terms of how the church is able to project itself to the general society—the size of its churches, the traffic standstill its events cause,” Gealogo said.

But IFI “is different,” he added.

“IFI stands as the conscience of the masses,” Fajutagana said.

FROM PHILSTAR

Yolanda survivor rules CPA exam By Lalaine Jimenea (The Philippine Star) | Updated August 4, 2014 - 12:00am 4 180 googleplus0 3


Edusma ‘Poverty not a hindrance to success’

MANILA, Philippines - Rommel Rhino Edusma hurdled the licensure examinations for certified public accountants (CPA) like he did the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda in November last year.

Edusma, a graduate of the Asian Development Foundation College (ADFC) in Tacloban City, topped the 2014 CPA exams with a score of 94.57 percent.

“Poverty is not a hindrance to success,” he said, adding Yolanda was just one of the many hardships in life that he had survived.

Edusma admitted that he was among those who ransacked a grocery store in Tacloban after Yolanda devastated parts of the Visayas.

“The owner told us it was OK to get food. There was a chance to get expensive gadgets but I did not. I only took food because we needed it,” he said.

Edusma, the sixth of 10 siblings, said he finished college at the age of 25 because he had to wait for an elder sibling to graduate before he could continue schooling.

His father, Rustico, 58, is a retired soldier. His mother, Flores, is a housewife.

Edusma said he finished college with the help of his brother, a member of the Armed Forces.

He took his first year at the Eastern Samar State University in Borongan City and transferred to the Eastern Visayas State University in Tacloban.

When he qualified for a scholarship from the Commission on Higher Education, Edusma enrolled at the ADFC. While studying there, he lived with his aunt, Maria Fulseda Carolino.

He said there were times that he had to walk to school and skipped meals so he could use his money for school projects.

Mayor Federico Carolino of Capoocan, Leyte took him in as his scholar and gave financial support.

* Edusma was grateful to his mentors at the ADFC as well as his relatives and friends for their help.

He took review classes twice in Manila before taking the CPA test. But topping the exams came as a surprise.

“I could not believe it,” he said.

He said he would be joining accounting firm SGV soon.

Determination to succeed

Leticia Bartolome, ADFC department head for business courses, said Edusma’s determination to succeed buoyed his confidence to pass the licensure exams.

“He always emerged winner in the various accountancy contests he joined in school,” Bartolome said.

She said Edusma could have graduated with honors but he had some low grades from his previous schools.

The CPA topnotcher will attend the ADFC’s 20th founding anniversary in October.

The college held a thanksgiving mass Saturday for his feat, ADFC president Edward Chua said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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