BAMBOO BIKES: TRAVEL WITH PURPOSE BEGINS IN PHL  

Make. Create. Innovate. These words may sit more commonly with the thriving business hubs of the US or Japan and yet, thanks to Filipino-American entrepreneur Bryan Benitez McClelland, today they can also apply to the sleepy, rural town of Victoria, Tarlac. Bryan arrived in the Philippines seven years ago as a student of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn): “I was studying environmental resource management at the time, with a focus on sustainable community development. As a student in the US I had heard of Gawad Kalinga (GK), and so I actually arrived here to help create GK’s Green Building Manual for Gawad Kalinga. I was supposed to stay here six months, but I haven’t left ever since because I discovered an area brimming with such immense human and natural potential. That’s when I had the idea – let’s make the greenest bikes on the planet!”

Bryan is the entrepreneur behind Bambike, a socio-ecological enterprise that makes quality, hand-made bicycles from one of the Philippines most abundant – and yet underused – resources, bamboo. In addition to using sustainable building practices, all Bambike builders come from the local Tarlac GK community: “Other than being a beautiful, functional piece of art that you can ride around, each one of these bikes has a story behind it. Each one takes several months to assemble, so we have tried to involve and upskill the local community so that the effects can be felt for as many families in the community as possible.” Bryan had obtained a Master’s degree from one of the world’s most iconic, prestigious universities, which presumably offered him a passport to lucrative employment in the ultra-modern, prosperous US economy. I am curious, therefore, to understand just what appealed to him about starting his business here in the Philippines. ‘Endless possibilities’ “Unlike in a developed economy, where so many markets are saturated, the possibilities here in the Philippines are endless. In particular, I was attracted by the opportunity to start something new and to do business differently – in a way which can have a really positive influence on society. Bambike was started, therefore, with the triple bottom line in mind – that of people, planet and progress.” *READ MORE...

ALSO Part 1: Tsinoys as kidnap targets: Hard workers, silent victims 

Seven out of 10 kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) victims in Manila this year are Tsinoys—Chinese-Filipinos with every right to live in peace as much as the next Pinoy; Filipino citizens and ethnic Chinese, not aliens. Constituting only 1.2 percent of the population, they nevertheless are kidnappers’ victims of choice. When kidnappers are caught, court cases take years before they are resolved. Kidnapped on Oct. 17, 2000, Eunice Kaye Chuang, 5, and her yaya (nursemaid) Bibet were found dead in the ceiling of their assailant’s house.
The first judge hearing the case retired; today’s third is assigned simultaneously to three cities. The case is on its 14th year.

Dennis Roldan, aka Mitchell Gumabao, erstwhile bit actor and congressman, was sentenced to reclusion perpetua (imprisonment in perpetuity) some weeks ago and delivered to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. He and his coaccused were indicted for the KFR of 3-year-old Kenshi Yu, after nine years of hearings, five judges, four of whom inhibited themselves. The first judge had granted bail. Meanwhile, Roger Yu, Kenshi’s father, died under mysterious circumstances; three criminals were killed, or died. Coaccused Suzette Wang remains at large. Why are Tsinoys such valued KFR targets? The New York Times’ Seth Mydans wrote in 1996 that “the highly visible role of the Chinese in Philippine economic growth … made them obvious targets for extortion.”

It was not always so. Many were dirt-poor when hordes first came in the Spanish era. The taipan John Gokongwei, for example, got his start biking to the pier to buy retazo (textile scraps) to sell. Alfred Yao had even humbler beginnings, a helper in a billiard hall, sleeping past midnight and rising before dawn. He and his mother, a sidewalk vendor, supported the family of six siblings. Today, he is president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, owns Zest-O and a bank, and partners in AirAsia Zest. San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang used to be a mechanic for wealthy car owners. A case study ---The family of Betti Chua Sy, a high-ranking finance executive with Coca-Cola when she became a KFR and murder victim in 2003, makes for a good case study.*READ MORE...

(ALSO Part 2) Faraway dream of Tsinoys: To be unafraid  

ILLUSTRATION BY STEPH BRAVO. –The Philippine National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) replaced the Presidential Anti-Crime Emergency Response (Pacer) in 2012. It is a unit encompassing other crimes besides KFRs. Again, the situation has deteriorated alarmingly; not just Tsinoys and Filipinos but also Koreans and other nationalities have joined the roster of KFR, or kidnap for ransom, victims. Foreign groups have asked to meet with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and then AKG Chief Senior Supt. Renato Gumban (replaced last week by Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo — Ed.).

If body language tells part of the story, Roxas and Purisima, seated beside each other at the head table of a Sept. 3 forum conducted by the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), may as well have sat back-to-back. The enmity between them was so apparent, you could cut it with a knife. Roxas vowed Operation Lambat (Dragnet) would form teams of eight men each to deal with one KFR case at a time while continuing to plan and strategize. For their part, Purisima and Gumban offered platitudes. Members of the MRPO remain skeptical. Much more is needed, they complain. That President Aquino stands by Purisima has disappointed not a few sectors. Indictments of the police ---Two reprehensible events, both indictments of the police, are cited by MRPO founder Teresita Ang-See. In 2013, a KFR mastermind was caught, escaping from detention before he could be brought to court. Just before he disappeared, a grenade was found in front of the victim’s house. The case against him was later withdrawn with no manhunt ordered for his arrest or any punishment for the officers who allowed him to escape.

This June, an arrest warrant for a KFR mastermind was issued. His victim brought the warrant to AKG, citing places where the culprit could possibly be hiding. The following month, the Manila Police District, in pursuit of another case in which the missing KFR mastermind was also the main culprit, asked AKG for a copy of the warrant. AKG’s response: We don’t have it. When Ang-See brought the matter up, Gumban expressed surprise that a warrant had been issued and that the victim had personally turned it over to his unit. Is AKG deliberately covering up for their own people to avoid arresting a well-connected, well-funded and influential mastermind? Recorded Tsinoy KFR cases: 18 in 2012; 26 in 2013; 28 as of August 2014. The numbers are rising. A 69-year-old owner of an umbrella factory, Benito Chao, was kidnapped in Caloocan City the night of Aug. 27. The next evening, an MRPO leader received a text message: Chao had been found dead in Santa Maria, Bulacan province, shot through the head.*READ MORE...

ALSO: Love endures in the 'House of intrigues' 

PHOTO: REPRESENTATIVES Mark Villar and Em Aglipay: Romance in the unlikeliest of places. While politics has been known to tear friends and families apart, it did the opposite for Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar and Diwa Rep. Emmeline Aglipay. Love has blossomed between the two, who met as neophyte lawmakers in 2010 in the 15th Congress, where they navigated the often intrigue- and controversy-filled world of politics that has, ironically, brought them closer. After dating for two years, the couple quietly got married in a civil ceremony on Sept. 19 and are set to have a Catholic wedding at the Church of St. Teresa in Singapore on Oct. 1—a strictly family affair. A reception for friends and colleagues will follow a week later in Las Piñas City.

The couple have chosen to keep their wedding private despite their public profiles. Major players ---Villar’s family is a major player in politics and business. His mother Cynthia is a senator and his father Manuel, a former politician and real estate mogul who is one of the richest Filipinos, with a net worth of $1.5 billion. The younger Villar used to work for the family’s company, but has since followed in his parents’ footsteps in politics. He is now serving his second term as Las Piñas representative and chairs the House committee on trade and industry. Aglipay, also a second termer in the House, is a lawyer and a Ten Outstanding Young Men awardee in 2012. She is one of the advocates of the freedom of information bill and the reproductive health law.

She is the youngest daughter of former Philippine National Police Chief Edgar Aglipay and granddaughter of former Ambassador and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Manuel Yan. Politics worked for Villar and Aglipay’s relationship instead of against it. “I guess, in a way, it’s OK because on that level, we can also relate to each other, and then we see each other almost every day in [the House],” Villar told the Inquirer in an interview in Aglipay’s Pasig City home.
Independent, strong-willed --The couple have also shared advocacies as lawmakers. These include the welfare of children and adults with special needs—a topic close to Aglipay’s heart, as she has a sister with special needs. They also support the promotion of better education and have similar measures on the welfare of distressed overseas Filipino workers.* READ MORE...


(ALSO) My City, My SM, My Crafts: Amazing pottery and woodworks in Calamba  

PHOTO: Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn with their artisan pottery. The Pettyjohns belong to an emerging generation of artisans who are reviving traditional methods of pottery making by fusing these with contemporary Asian and Western ceramic styles using indigenous materials like volcanic ash and local clays. Calamba in Laguna is the regional center of the Calabarzon, and with its numerous hot springs, touted as the Resort Capital of the Philippines. It is also the birthplace of our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Its rich history and picturesque lakefront area make the province a popular tourist destination. Like other towns in Laguna, Calamba is a huge showcase of Southern Luzon craftsmanship as it boasts many fine crafts.

Mallgoers recently had a glimpse of crafts from Calamba and the rest of Laguna, as well as the rare opportunity to meet its master craftsmen up close when “My City, My SM, My Crafts” recently made its 17th stop at SM City Calamba. A joint project of SM, DTI’s Bureau of Domestic Trade and the Philippine STAR with support from CITEM and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, it is a celebration of traditional arts and modern Philippine design in the cities where SM has malls. Laguna Vice Governor Karen Agapay attended the event together with Roger Cuenco and Jayne Rizal from the Offices of the Mayor and Vice Mayor, respectively. Officials from project partner the Department of Trade and Industry also came in full force led by DTI provincial director Susan Palo and provincial livelihood officer Rex Palacol.

SM officials led by SM senior vice president for marketing Millie Dizon, SM Supermalls regional operations manager for South Luzon 2 Aurea Angelica Torreja, SM City Calamba mall manager Maria Odessa Galicia and assistant mall manager Niko Alvarez gave guests a warm welcome. The program featured a video presentation featuring Laguna’s world-class crafts with Calamba Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco as the video’s tour guide. Highlight of the event was a silhouette pottery-making performance by Sammy Kilat from the pottery studio of Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn. Jon Pettyjohn is of Filipino-American descent. He has spent many years in the Philippines experimenting with, learning about, and sometimes teaching pottery. He learned his craft in Barcelona, Spain, where he started out an apprentice at a small studio. An artist who works with the elements of fire and clay, creating pots is his passion. His work in traditional functional pottery is in one-of-a-kind, or extremely limited editions. *READ MORE...

(ALSO) Take it from WHO: Less salt, more life  

If you want to live longer and have a healthier heart, cut back on your salt intake. This means ditching your favorite fast-food meal, checking salt levels on food labels, and removing salt dispensers and bottled sauces from your dining table. The World Health Organization (WHO) gave these tips to mark World Heart Day on Monday, as it urged countries to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce salt consumption to trim the number of people experiencing heart disease, strokes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs). In a statement, the WHO said that one of its targets was to reduce global salt consumption by 30 percent by 2025 to prevent people from succumbing to NCDs, which are the leading cause of premature death.

People who consume too much salt increase their risk of hypertension and other heart diseases and strokes, it noted.
“If the target to reduce salt by 30 percent globally by 2025 is achieved, millions of lives can be saved from heart disease, stroke and related conditions,” according to Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director general for NCDs and mental health. In the Philippines, lifestyle-related diseases are the top causes of death. These diseases are linked to common but preventable risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. Chestnov said one of the more effective ways to improve population health was for governments to enforce regulations and policies that would ensure that food manufacturers produced healthier food with lower salt levels. He said the food industry must also work closely with the WHO and national governments to “incrementally reduce the level of salt in food products.” *READ MORE...


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Bambikes: Travel with purpose begins in Phl


Bryan Benitez McClelland with his Bambike, a socio-ecological enterprise that builds bicycles out of bamboo.

SEPTEMBER 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Thomas Graham - Make. Create. Innovate. These words may sit more commonly with the thriving business hubs of the US or Japan and yet, thanks to Filipino-American entrepreneur Bryan Benitez McClelland, today they can also apply to the sleepy, rural town of Victoria, Tarlac.

Bryan arrived in the Philippines seven years ago as a student of the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn): “I was studying environmental resource management at the time, with a focus on sustainable community development. As a student in the US I had heard of Gawad Kalinga (GK), and so I actually arrived here to help create GK’s Green Building Manual for Gawad Kalinga. I was supposed to stay here six months, but I haven’t left ever since because I discovered an area brimming with such immense human and natural potential. That’s when I had the idea – let’s make the greenest bikes on the planet!”

Bryan is the entrepreneur behind Bambike, a socio-ecological enterprise that makes quality, hand-made bicycles from one of the Philippines most abundant – and yet underused – resources, bamboo. In addition to using sustainable building practices, all Bambike builders come from the local Tarlac GK community: “Other than being a beautiful, functional piece of art that you can ride around, each one of these bikes has a story behind it. Each one takes several months to assemble, so we have tried to involve and upskill the local community so that the effects can be felt for as many families in the community as possible.”

Bryan had obtained a Master’s degree from one of the world’s most iconic, prestigious universities, which presumably offered him a passport to lucrative employment in the ultra-modern, prosperous US economy. I am curious, therefore, to understand just what appealed to him about starting his business here in the Philippines.

‘Endless possibilities’

“Unlike in a developed economy, where so many markets are saturated, the possibilities here in the Philippines are endless. In particular, I was attracted by the opportunity to start something new and to do business differently – in a way which can have a really positive influence on society. Bambike was started, therefore, with the triple bottom line in mind – that of people, planet and progress.”

* In particular, Bambike has been inspired by the spirit of walang iwanan and bayanihan – values which not only embody the GK Tarlac community, but have inspired over a million volunteers nationwide to get behind GK’s vision to end poverty by 2024: “We have programs that include scholarships, sponsoring a preschool teacher, and a weekly feeding program for children, as well as a bamboo nursery for reforestation. This is the beauty of being in a developing country: because you are starting pretty much from scratch, you find many opportunities to shape the future,” Bryan explains.

The ‘endless opportunities’ Bryan talks of have now inspired him to set up Bambike Ecotours, a social enterprise which offers tours of Intramuros as seen from a Bambike: “One of the nicest ways to explore many cities across the world is by bicycle, and so I felt there was a gap in the market for a bike tour in Manila. So, for me it was a logical next step for Bambike to launch Bambike Ecotours.”

Metro Manila may not seem to be a particularly bike-friendly city, and yet the tours have already attracted a considerable following in the short time they have been running. Indeed, Bambike Ecotours ranks third among the top “Things to do in Manila” category of Trip Advisor: “Intramuros is actually really conducive to bike riding and cultural tourism, especially since the Intramuros Administration had been doing a good job in thinking about the future of the walled city strategically, including bicycle provisions and infrastructure in their plans. We will look to expand Bambike Ecotours to other tourism destinations in the future,” Bryan says.

Growing tourism, developing communities

Tarlac is not the only quiet, underdeveloped rural town in Northern Luzon which has, in recent years, seen a revival. In 2011, surf enthusiast Raf Dionisio and his friend Ziggie Gonzales arrived in San Felipe, Zambales intent merely on catching some waves: “San Felipe is known as a great surf spot - just a three-hour trip from Manila - and yet when we arrived we were shocked that the area had barely any accommodations for surfers. As a result, people only came at weekends, and just to surf, staying the shortest time possible. The small food kiosks and local surf schools and shops managed to get a few customers on Saturdays and Sundays, but no one really came during the week. Business and life were slow, and people really struggled to make ends meet.”

Raf and Ziggie then had the idea of establishing the Circle Hostel – a simple, affordable beach-inspired bamboo hostel for backpackers and surf enthusiasts. Now in its third year, the hostel has grown steadily and today forms an integral part of a local community which is gradually beginning to thrive from tourism.

Raf explains: “We both had no experience in managing resorts when we started, and the entire process has been a learning curve ever since. But one philosophy we were clear about was that we didn’t want to go in and isolate ourselves from the rest of the community – we wanted them to grow with us.”

One of the decisions Raf and Ziggie took was not to sell food and other basic amenities on site, nor to hire their own surf instructors: “We were new to the community, and wanted to partner with our neighbors so that everyone had a chance to make money. We could earn on accommodations, while others could earn from everything else the surfers spend money on. We wanted our guests to go out and discover the many things this community has to offer.”

Raf tells me that while an average tourism enterprise may take around 80 percent of all customer spending, the Circle takes only 30 percent and redistributes the rest in the local community. “We decided to do business in this way not because we lack ambition, but because we see the entire community as one big resort from which we can all benefit. Today, all businesses in the area have increased their menus, reinvested in infrastructure and grown their establishments, in large part because the Circle is bringing more people to area. As a result, there is more to do for our guests, who also feel safe because they sense that the community around them is happy. This is the magic of solidarity - it starts with treating everyone as a friend and leaving no one behind, and it ends up being good for everyone.”

Phoebe, a local store owner, explains how the community is beginning to embrace this different approach to doing business: “In the past, we often used to fight among ourselves over how much profit we could get out of local events. But since the Circle has arrived, we have begun to work together more. And, slowly, more and more tourists are beginning to come.”

Raf and Ziggie have already established a second hostel in La Union and, like Bryan, he sees the lack of development of rural areas in the Philippines not as a hindrance but as an opportunity: “There is so much more we can do to maximize the potential of La Union and Zambales. For example, just by developing our own waterfalls tours in both destinations, not only do we offer more reasons for people to visit here, but we also provide more jobs to local surfers during the off season.”

With rural-urban migration continuing unabated, a more inclusive approach to tourism – known as ‘social tourism’ - can play an important role in reversing the worrying trend towards increasingly polluted, congested and unequal cities. After all, while some of the Philippines’ most beautiful areas are also among its poorest, many foreign tourists would relish the opportunity to visit these areas and provide the local communities with much-needed revenue. For now, the missing link, it seems are more adventurous innovators such as Bryan and Raf who have the vision, the means and the courage to bring such transformation into reality.

The Social Business Summit

Join Raf, Bryan and other young change-makers at the Social Business Summit (October 2-4) at the GK Enchanted Farm.

The 2013 Social Business Summit brought together innovators rich and poor, political leaders, multinational company executives, idealistic young students and graduates, small-scale entrepreneurs and skilled professionals, from all around the globe - 500 in all - to meet and learn from each other about how to tackle poverty through the creation of social enterprises.

Join the 500 change-makers this year and be prepared to discover your own passion and purpose.

For more information, visit the website:www.socialbusinesssummit.net.

The author is Thomas Graham, a British journalist who came to the Philippines on a short-term assignment. He has since stayed over two years in the country, volunteering for Gawad Kalinga and other causes. His experiences will be documented in a book: “The Genius of the Poor”, which will also be launched during the Summit.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Tsinoys as kidnap targets: Hard workers, silent victims By Joan Orendain |Philippine Daily Inquirer9:00 am | Saturday, September 27th, 2014


First of a series

Seven out of 10 kidnap-for-ransom (KFR) victims in Manila this year are Tsinoys—Chinese-Filipinos with every right to live in peace as much as the next Pinoy; Filipino citizens and ethnic Chinese, not aliens.

Constituting only 1.2 percent of the population, they nevertheless are kidnappers’ victims of choice.

When kidnappers are caught, court cases take years before they are resolved. Kidnapped on Oct. 17, 2000, Eunice Kaye Chuang, 5, and her yaya (nursemaid) Bibet were found dead in the ceiling of their assailant’s house.

The first judge hearing the case retired; today’s third is assigned simultaneously to three cities. The case is on its 14th year.

Dennis Roldan, aka Mitchell Gumabao, erstwhile bit actor and congressman, was sentenced to reclusion perpetua (imprisonment in perpetuity) some weeks ago and delivered to New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

He and his coaccused were indicted for the KFR of 3-year-old Kenshi Yu, after nine years of hearings, five judges, four of whom inhibited themselves. The first judge had granted bail. Meanwhile, Roger Yu, Kenshi’s father, died under mysterious circumstances; three criminals were killed, or died. Coaccused Suzette Wang remains at large.

Why are Tsinoys such valued KFR targets? The New York Times’ Seth Mydans wrote in 1996 that “the highly visible role of the Chinese in Philippine economic growth … made them obvious targets for extortion.”

It was not always so. Many were dirt-poor when hordes first came in the Spanish era. The taipan John Gokongwei, for example, got his start biking to the pier to buy retazo (textile scraps) to sell. Alfred Yao had even humbler beginnings, a helper in a billiard hall, sleeping past midnight and rising before dawn. He and his mother, a sidewalk vendor, supported the family of six siblings. Today, he is president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, owns Zest-O and a bank, and partners in AirAsia Zest. San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang used to be a mechanic for wealthy car owners.

A case study

The family of Betti Chua Sy, a high-ranking finance executive with Coca-Cola when she became a KFR and murder victim in 2003, makes for a good case study.

* Arriving from Fookien in the 1930s, Betti’s grandfather worked for a Spanish family as errand boy, saving his wages and learning Spanish and Tagalog. After a year, he started a small lumber business which grew but burned down during the war.

With his postwar savings, he opened a hardware store and sent some of his eight children to college. Left out because his father could not afford his college education, Betti’s father went to vocational school, then set up an electronics repair shop.

He opened a metal recycling factory in Caloocan City in 1965 and, by 1978, was operating a plastic extruding plant, recycling plastic scraps into pellets sold to makers of finished plastic products.

Betti’s father sent all his five sons to college, four of whom have master’s degrees. The only girl, Betti, went to the University of the Philippines, then became an investment banker before joining Coca-Cola. She did so well that the company sent her to Wharton for a business course.

A few weeks before she was kidnapped, she traveled to Thailand with Coke’s cream of the crop to meet their chairman. “They were the best and the brightest,” the Pacific region’s top honcho said.

She had suitors but cheerfully refused marriage, telling her parents and her grandmother that her duty was to take care of them. Her five brothers weren’t expected to do that.

Perfumed nightmares

The morning of Nov. 16, 2003, an FX taxi blocked Betti’s car. Kidnappers ordered her to alight; when she refused, they shot her through the window, carried her into the taxi and shot her fatally twice more.

She bled to death in 30 minutes. Brought to the kidnappers’ safe house in Trece Martires, Cavite province, she was wrapped in a shroud, stuffed into a garbage bag and dumped on Diosdado Macapagal Avenue. She was found the next day.

Smelling Betti’s perfume in nightmares, the spooked taxi driver turned himself in to the Parañaque City police. Erstwhile Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, the head of the National Anti-Kidnapping Task Force, acting on leads provided by the taxi driver and the Sys’ factory employee, cast a dragnet which yielded 20 Waray-Waray gang members, of whom 10 were the most wanted criminals.

Sy’s father told his family to migrate to another country while he pursued the criminals’ indictments. The family refused. The Sys received bomb threats during the wake and the trial. The Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order, with Teresita Ang-See as chair, was a big help. As a Sy brother noted: “Folks helping others, victims helping other victims, was therapy.”

After five years, the culprits were sentenced to life imprisonment, except for the taxi driver; a state witness, he was freed.
Thousands marched with Betti’s hearse, asking again: Who’s next?
(To be continued)

Faraway dream of Tsinoys: To be unafraid By Joan Orendain |Philippine Daily Inquirer4:58 am | Monday, September 29th, 2014


ILLUSTRATION BY STEPH BRAVO

MANILA, Philippines–The Philippine National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group (AKG) replaced the Presidential Anti-Crime Emergency Response (Pacer) in 2012. It is a unit encompassing other crimes besides KFRs. Again, the situation has deteriorated alarmingly; not just Tsinoys and Filipinos but also Koreans and other nationalities have joined the roster of KFR, or kidnap for ransom, victims.

Foreign groups have asked to meet with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima and then AKG Chief Senior Supt. Renato Gumban (replaced last week by Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo — Ed.).

If body language tells part of the story, Roxas and Purisima, seated beside each other at the head table of a Sept. 3 forum conducted by the Movement for the Restoration of Peace and Order (MRPO), may as well have sat back-to-back. The enmity between them was so apparent, you could cut it with a knife.

Roxas vowed Operation Lambat (Dragnet) would form teams of eight men each to deal with one KFR case at a time while continuing to plan and strategize. For their part, Purisima and Gumban offered platitudes. Members of the MRPO remain skeptical. Much more is needed, they complain. That President Aquino stands by Purisima has disappointed not a few sectors.

Indictments of the police

Two reprehensible events, both indictments of the police, are cited by MRPO founder Teresita Ang-See. In 2013, a KFR mastermind was caught, escaping from detention before he could be brought to court. Just before he disappeared, a grenade was found in front of the victim’s house. The case against him was later withdrawn with no manhunt ordered for his arrest or any punishment for the officers who allowed him to escape.

This June, an arrest warrant for a KFR mastermind was issued. His victim brought the warrant to AKG, citing places where the culprit could possibly be hiding. The following month, the Manila Police District, in pursuit of another case in which the missing KFR mastermind was also the main culprit, asked AKG for a copy of the warrant.

AKG’s response: We don’t have it. When Ang-See brought the matter up, Gumban expressed surprise that a warrant had been issued and that the victim had personally turned it over to his unit.

Is AKG deliberately covering up for their own people to avoid arresting a well-connected, well-funded and influential mastermind?

Recorded Tsinoy KFR cases: 18 in 2012; 26 in 2013; 28 as of August 2014. The numbers are rising.

A 69-year-old owner of an umbrella factory, Benito Chao, was kidnapped in Caloocan City the night of Aug. 27. The next evening, an MRPO leader received a text message: Chao had been found dead in Santa Maria, Bulacan province, shot through the head.

* More sophisticated information technology such as mobile phones, automated teller machines and electronic banking have rendered kidnappers’ despicable deeds easy-as-pie to carry out. After Chao, three more Tsinoy KFRs were committed on Aug. 31.

The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce, on alert status, have held a forum similar to MRPO’s, seeking answers from the PNP and the Interior department. Some of them have also asked MRPO for advice on how to avoid becoming victims.

These things happen “under the (very) noses of police authorities,” Sen. Chiz Escudero observed. Grace Poe issued a statement calling on Purisima to “heighten (their) commitment and zeal.” She expressed frustration that the PNP chief has not shown up at Senate hearings “to give us a plan…in light of the current crime situation.” Neither has he stepped forward to refute corruption allegations, she complained.

Tips from a victim

Architect Ka Kuen Chua, MRPO chair and a 17-day KFR victim in 2008, has adopted the motto: “Evil triumphs when good men do nothing.” Working with Ang-See to deal with MRPO’s concerns, he offers tips on what to do if one ends up a kidnap victim based on his experience:

— Do not remove your blindfold
— Remember the voice and accents of your captors
— Observe where you are going by sense of direction, quality of terrain and sounds
— Estimate travel time to have a rough idea of your location
— Never give out information about yourself, especially your finances
— Never argue with abductors; follow their instructions and
— Think twice about escaping; but when the coast is clear, go to the nearest police station (and pray they are “good guys”)

Prayer, in fact, strengthened the backbone of the next-of-kin of two teenagers kidnapped immediately after Chao’s killing.

Recalling the day she was delivering the ransom money to the drop-off point, she says: “As I drove, I just kept repeating Psalm 23: ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… Yea, though I walk through the shadow of the valley of death, I will fear no evil….’”

MRPO has challenged the AKG to get Chao’s kidnappers-murderers in the way that Pacer and its predecessor worked on the cases of Charlene Mayne Sy (kidnapped in 1993) and Betti Chua Sy (2003) until their abductors were caught and convicted.

They add that AKG should find Suzette Wang, partner-in-crime of former actor and congressman Dennis Roldan who was recently convicted for the 2005 Kenshi Yu abduction.

In a paper read at Ateneo de Manila, Ang-See asked: “Why must Tsinoys pay a price for economic success? Weren’t the sacrifices and struggles the ethnic Chinese went through… enough to enable them to fully enjoy the fruits of their hardships?”

To bask in the Philippine sun unafraid—that seems a faraway dream for the hapless Tsinoys.

Love endures in the House of intrigues By Leila B. Salaverria |Philippine Daily Inquirer3:27 am | Sunday, September 28th, 2014


REPRESENTATIVES Mark Villar and Em Aglipay: Romance in the unlikeliest of places ALANAH TORRALBA

While politics has been known to tear friends and families apart, it did the opposite for Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar and Diwa Rep. Emmeline Aglipay.

Love has blossomed between the two, who met as neophyte lawmakers in 2010 in the 15th Congress, where they navigated the often intrigue- and controversy-filled world of politics that has, ironically, brought them closer.

After dating for two years, the couple quietly got married in a civil ceremony on Sept. 19 and are set to have a Catholic wedding at the Church of St. Teresa in Singapore on Oct. 1—a strictly family affair. A reception for friends and colleagues will follow a week later in Las Piñas City.

The couple have chosen to keep their wedding private despite their public profiles.

Major players

Villar’s family is a major player in politics and business. His mother Cynthia is a senator and his father Manuel, a former politician and real estate mogul who is one of the richest Filipinos, with a net worth of $1.5 billion.

The younger Villar used to work for the family’s company, but has since followed in his parents’ footsteps in politics. He is now serving his second term as Las Piñas representative and chairs the House committee on trade and industry.

Aglipay, also a second termer in the House, is a lawyer and a Ten Outstanding Young Men awardee in 2012. She is one of the advocates of the freedom of information bill and the reproductive health law.

She is the youngest daughter of former Philippine National Police Chief Edgar Aglipay and granddaughter of former Ambassador and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Manuel Yan.

Politics worked for Villar and Aglipay’s relationship instead of against it.

“I guess, in a way, it’s OK because on that level, we can also relate to each other, and then we see each other almost every day in [the House],” Villar told the Inquirer in an interview in Aglipay’s Pasig City home.

Independent, strong-willed

The couple have also shared advocacies as lawmakers. These include the welfare of children and adults with special needs—a topic close to Aglipay’s heart, as she has a sister with special needs. They also support the promotion of better education and have similar measures on the welfare of distressed overseas Filipino workers.

* Villar recalled how they faced challenges together, particularly when he campaigned hard for Aglipay’s party-list group Diwa on his home turf so it would have a good showing there in last year’s elections.

They have their differences as well, but the couple have not let it come between them.

“Em is very independent-minded and that’s one of the things I love about her. She’s so strong-willed …. She has her opinions and I respect that, whether or not we agree, which we don’t always,” Villar said.

Aglipay, on the other hand, finds Villar dependable and easy to talk to, and they can discuss any topic.

No instant romance

It was not love at first sight for the two lawmakers, who met at work and in social gatherings but had the chance to go out on a date only a year later.

Aglipay said she did not take Villar seriously at first since she thought he was “just a joker” and didn’t like his “chauvinistic” humor.

“And I was probably too serious for my own good,” she said.

She did not take his initial invitations asking her out on group dates seriously, either. However, when he asked her for a lunch date on her birthday in May 2011, she thought, why not?

She had not planned to date, much less marry, someone in politics but had no aversion to the idea, either.

The two did not always have time to see each other after the birthday lunch, so their courtship became a “long, drawn-out thing.”

“It slowly brewed,” said Aglipay.

Passion for food, travel

It was about a year later, on June 18, 2012, that they officially became a couple.

“I realized he was perfect for me, and I for him,” said Aglipay.

Aside from their shared background in politics, the couple have a passion for food and travel.

“Since I met her, I’ve gained about [2.25 kilograms]. That’s one of my accomplishments,” said Villar.

Aglipay, however, has kept her slim figure.

“We travel to eat,” she said, adding that they like trying out new cuisine, as even their trips tend to center around food, which range from street food to fine dining.

Engagement foretold

The couple’s engagement was foretold by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

During the budget deliberations in September last year, another lawmaker, Magdalo Rep. Ashely Acedillo, proposed to his girlfriend on the floor during a session break.

Belmonte had then joked that Villar should be the next to propose.

A year later, Aglipay and Villar became husband and wife.

The couple got engaged on April 16 at the Great Wall of China during their Easter vacation. The proposal did not involve any grand presentation but a long, grueling hike to a steep and secluded portion of the Great Wall.

Villar wanted to propose in a secluded spot, so he asked her to keep on climbing to a steeper portion where there would hardly be any tourists.

Eventually, the climb took its toll on his knees so he soon stopped, knelt, took out the ring and popped the question.

Aglipay said the proposal was not one of those dramatic ones she had seen. She thought that he would make a speech that would make her cry.

But the actual moment was “light and funny,” and no less happy.

“It was a light feeling, and funny. We just kept on laughing,” she said.

They took selfies to document the momentous occasion.

Take two

However, when they got down from the wall, Aglipay lost her phone that contained the pictures of their engagement. She was so sad that they returned to the Great Wall the next day to take engagement pictures a second time.

“But we only went to the flat portion [of the wall]. So our photos were a take two,” Villar said, laughing.

“Just so we’d have something to show our children,” Aglipay added.

Villar said his parents were happy that he finally decided to get married.

“At my age—I’m already 36—I think they were happy we’re finally getting married,” he said.

Mark is the Villars’ middle child. The eldest, Manuel Paolo, is president and chief executive officer of Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc., while the youngest, Camille, is managing director of Brittany, one of Vista Land’s brands.

Since her siblings are all married and have children, there wasn’t similar pressure on the 32-year-old Aglipay to settle down but she said her parents were as pleased as well about their union.

For their Singapore wedding, the couple said it was their choice to keep it small and intimate.

Despite being in the public eye, Villar said he was a private person and preferred to keep his personal life quiet. Aglipay is the more outgoing of the two but preferred a private wedding as well.

Strictly no politicians

The couple’s four sets of sponsors for their Singapore wedding would consist of their aunts and close family friends—strictly no politicians.

But their colleagues from politics will be invited to their Las Piñas reception on Oct. 9.

Villar said they chose Singapore for their religious ceremony because he had spent a lot of time there for his studies, and was taking courses there for his Master’s in Business Administration (MBA).

They will have the Catholic wedding ceremony at the Church of St. Teresa and Aglipay will walk down the aisle in a gown by Veluz Reyes.

Before the Singapore wedding, the couple wed in civil rights earlier this month to make things legal.

Aglipay explained that they could have a legally valid wedding in Singapore as well but they’d have to do it before the consul. In their case, they would be having a religious ceremony, so they opted to wed in civil rights in the Philippines to take care of the legalities.

Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen, Aglipay’s law school professor, presided over their civil wedding, held at the Intercontinental Hotel Manila. It was supposed to be at the Supreme Court but Tropical Storm “Mario” forced the court to close early.

No honeymoon plans

The couple have no definite honeymoon plans yet because Villar has to finish his MBA and they have their work in the House to attend to.

But they plan to start a family soon.

The couple also hope to continue their political careers and plan to run for their third and last terms in the House of Representatives in 2016. Villar joked that he could now join Congressional Spouses Inc., a group composed mostly of House members’ wives.

Villar has no plans to run for public office just yet but in case he does, Aglipay said she would support him. Villar said he would be supportive of her plans as well.

Shared passions and interests keep them strong despite their different personalities, said Aglipay.

“Sharing a passion with your husband or wife is something that brings you together,” she said.

FROM PHILSTAR

My City, My SM, My Crafts: Amazing pottery and woodworks in Calamba (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 28, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 1

J
on and Tessy Pettyjohn with their artisan pottery.

The Pettyjohns belong to an emerging generation of artisans who are reviving traditional methods of pottery making by fusing these with contemporary Asian and Western ceramic styles using indigenous materials like volcanic ash and local clays. Calamba in Laguna is the regional center of the Calabarzon, and with its numerous hot springs, touted as the Resort Capital of the Philippines.

It is also the birthplace of our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Its rich history and picturesque lakefront area make the province a popular tourist destination.

Like other towns in Laguna, Calamba is a huge showcase of Southern Luzon craftsmanship as it boasts many fine crafts.

Mallgoers recently had a glimpse of crafts from Calamba and the rest of Laguna, as well as the rare opportunity to meet its master craftsmen up close when “My City, My SM, My Crafts” recently made its 17th stop at SM City Calamba. A joint project of SM, DTI’s Bureau of Domestic Trade and the Philippine STAR with support from CITEM and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, it is a celebration of traditional arts and modern Philippine design in the cities where SM has malls.

Laguna Vice Governor Karen Agapay attended the event together with Roger Cuenco and Jayne Rizal from the Offices of the Mayor and Vice Mayor, respectively. Officials from project partner the Department of Trade and Industry also came in full force led by DTI provincial director Susan Palo and provincial livelihood officer Rex Palacol.

SM officials led by SM senior vice president for marketing Millie Dizon, SM Supermalls regional operations manager for South Luzon 2 Aurea Angelica Torreja, SM City Calamba mall manager Maria Odessa Galicia and assistant mall manager Niko Alvarez gave guests a warm welcome.

The program featured a video presentation featuring Laguna’s world-class crafts with Calamba Mayor Justin Marc Chipeco as the video’s tour guide.

Highlight of the event was a silhouette pottery-making performance by Sammy Kilat from the pottery studio of Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn.

Jon Pettyjohn is of Filipino-American descent. He has spent many years in the Philippines experimenting with, learning about, and sometimes teaching pottery. He learned his craft in Barcelona, Spain, where he started out an apprentice at a small studio.

An artist who works with the elements of fire and clay, creating pots is his passion. His work in traditional functional pottery is in one-of-a-kind, or extremely limited editions.

* Jon and his wife Tessy belong to an emerging generation of artist potters who are reviving the traditional methods of pottery making, fusing them with contemporary styles of Asian and Western ceramics. From mostly gas-fired stoneware and porcelain, the Pettyjohns are now experimenting with wood and salt firing.

The event also featured the awarding of the winner of the pottery-making contest with workshop participants creating wonderful pieces from clay. Isaias Panganiban got the judges’ nod for the top prize, for which she received P5,000 worth of gift certificates.

Judges included DTI provincial director Susan Palo, and Leandro Baldemor of Ukit Paete.

The “My City, My SM, My Crafts” centerpiece was clearly the Craft Market inspired by the traditional bahay na bato in Luzon. This beautifully designed showcase was a treasure trove of the best-of-the-best crafts in the province, and was an instant hit among SM City Calamba shoppers.

The Craft Market showcased traditional arts and world-class craftsmanship from Laguna: amazing woodworks from Leandro Baldemor’s Ukit Paete; stylish wooden handbags from Elmoise’s Arts and Crafts; artisan driftwood décor from Flor-San’s Handicrafts; eclectic tin plate holiday items from Jalikee Arts & Crafts; rice bran wellness products from Oryspa; and religious images from Saint Jude Int’l. Export Corporation.

“My City, My SM, My Crafts” is a take-off from the previous My City, My SM campaign, which promotes tourism, and My City, My SM, My Cuisine, which highlights the culinary specialties in cities where SM has malls. A celebration of traditional arts and modern Philippine design, it aims to showcase the best-of-the-best Philippine crafts in each host city, providing livelihood opportunities, as well as a platform for cultural exchange.

The Calamba launch is the fourth in the Second Season of the “My City, My SM, My Crafts” road show after SM City Clark, SM City Masinag, and SM City Lipa. The first season made stops at SM City Santa Rosa, SM City Lucena, SM City Batangas, SM City Davao, SM City Naga, SM City Cagayan de Oro, SM City Marilao, SM City Dasmariñas, SM City Taytay, SM City Pampanga, SM City Iloilo, SM City Baguio and SM City Cebu.

Next stop will be in SM City Baliwag.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Take it from WHO: Less salt, more life By Jocelyn R. Uy |Philippine Daily Inquirer10:05 am | Monday, September 29th, 2014


INQUIRER.net PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–If you want to live longer and have a healthier heart, cut back on your salt intake. This means ditching your favorite fast-food meal, checking salt levels on food labels, and removing salt dispensers and bottled sauces from your dining table.

The World Health Organization (WHO) gave these tips to mark World Heart Day on Monday, as it urged countries to implement evidence-based strategies to reduce salt consumption to trim the number of people experiencing heart disease, strokes and other noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).

In a statement, the WHO said that one of its targets was to reduce global salt consumption by 30 percent by 2025 to prevent people from succumbing to NCDs, which are the leading cause of premature death.

People who consume too much salt increase their risk of hypertension and other heart diseases and strokes, it noted.

“If the target to reduce salt by 30 percent globally by 2025 is achieved, millions of lives can be saved from heart disease, stroke and related conditions,” according to Dr. Oleg Chestnov, WHO assistant director general for NCDs and mental health.

In the Philippines, lifestyle-related diseases are the top causes of death. These diseases are linked to common but preventable risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Chestnov said one of the more effective ways to improve population health was for governments to enforce regulations and policies that would ensure that food manufacturers produced healthier food with lower salt levels.

He said the food industry must also work closely with the WHO and national governments to “incrementally reduce the level of salt in food products.”

* With the abundance of processed food in the market, people consume roughly 10 grams of salt a day on the average, an amount twice the WHO’s recommended level of less than 5 grams or under one teaspoon from all sources, including home-cooked meals, ready-made meals and processed food."

The WHO has recommended that children aged 2 to 15 consume even less salt than 5 grams, adjusted to their energy requirements for growth.

“Salt is in almost everything we eat, either because high levels of salt are found in most processed and prepared foods, or because we are adding salt when we prepare food at home,” said Chestnov.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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