PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

AQUINO DARES CHINA: ACT! GO BEYOND DIPLOMATIC MOVES IN SEA DISPUTE 

NOV 15 ---PHOTO: FROM BEIJING TO NAYPYITAW President Aquino joins US President Barack Obama, Brunei Darussalam Prime Minister Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the 9th East Asia Summit in Naypyitaw, Burma, on the sidelines of the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit. The four leaders earlier met in Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AP --NAYPYITAW, Burma—President Aquino on Thursday challenged China to take “concrete action” in the South China Sea to match its diplomatic overtures in the Southeast Asian region. Speaking at the dialogue between the 10 Southeast Asian countries and China near the close of the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here, Aquino said the group was “concerned about developments” in the South China Sea, referring to China’s reclamation of land and occupation of islets and reefs in the West Philippine Sea, part of the sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte Phl’s ‘most amazing’ sandbar

NOV 17 ---PHOTO: Kalanggaman Island is the ‘crown jewel’ of northwestern Leyte’s tourism effort, according to officials. Photo courtesy of APPLE ANIDO-ALAGON. MANILA, Philippines - Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte has been named by leading sky travel advisory website Skyscanner as the best of nine “amazing sandbars” in the Philippines. Others on the list are the Higatangan Island in Biliran province in Eastern Visayas, Manjuyod White Sandbar in Negros Oriental, White Island in Camiguin, Sumilon Island Sandbar in Cebu, Manlawi Island in Caramoan, Snake Island in El Nido, Bulubadiangan Island in Iloilo and Virgin Island in Bohol.

ALSO: Pope’s PHL tour revealed: Francis to break bread with poor, Yolanda survivors 

NOV 15 --Pope Francis will have lunch with the poor and the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) at the residence of the Archbishop of Palo during his five-day visit in the country in January, the organizing committee of the papal visit disclosed on Friday. The Pope will be at 11 venues in Manila and Leyte during his visit to the Philippines from January 15 to January 19. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle announced the Pope's official itinerary in a news conference at the Arzobispado de Manila. Tagle was joined by Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines; Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, the chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications; Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Coloma; former Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Marciano Paynor, who arranged Pope John Paul II's papal visit in 1995; and Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa. READ FULL REPORT BY GMA NEWS...

ALSO: Papal visit organizers fear Nazarene-type frenzy 

NOV 16 ---MANILA, Philippines - The excitement surrounding the visit of Pope Francis might lead to a frenzy similar to what happens during the Black Nazarene procession held every Jan. 9, a week before the papal visit next year. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said on Friday preparations for the pope’s visit will focus on security, but refused to give details of the security plans covering the five-day apostolic and state visit from Jan. 15-19. “If I may suggest to everybody, let us not be too detailed on that. Precisely, we want to make sure that the pope is safe. It is in the interest of this country that we keep it that way…On the government part, 95 percent of its preparations is all about security. Let us leave it at that,” Ochoa said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Pope to say masses in Latin, deliver speeches in English

NOV 16 --MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis will deliver in Latin his three masses during his five-day visit to the country in January 2015, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). “The masses will be in Latin but the responses will be in English,” Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara announced Friday night. Vergara also said the pontiff will deliver his speeches in English, “but the pope is the pope of surprises, he might make off the cut comments in Italian and Spanish.” Pope Francis will celebrate masses at the Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16, near the Tacloban International Airport in Leyte on Jan. 17 and at the Rizal Park in Manila on Jan. 18. The official residence of the pope during his stay in the country is the Apostolic Nunciature located along Taft Avenue in Manila. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Belenismo’ attracts tourists to Tarlac

BIRTH OF CHRIST RECALLED Built by soldiers, a Nativity scene is displayed at the military’s Northern Luzon Command at Camp Aquino in Tarlac province. The backdrop is made of plastic materials. WILLIE LOMIBAO/ CONTRIBUTOR MONCADA, Tarlac—At dusk on Saturday, an elderly woman, aided by an assistant, stepped off a van and took a close look at a “belen” (Nativity scene) built at the town plaza. She was so awed to see the light-bathed display that, despite her walking difficulty, she and her group moved up a bamboo walkway and inched closer to the manger to pose with the figures of the Holy Family at the center of the belen. “Isn’t this beautiful? It’s terrific. Look at the way it is decorated with lights,” said the woman, Socorro Ramos, 92, owner of National Book Store, the country’s largest chain of bookstores. “I think this is the most beautifully decorated Nativity scene in the whole Philippines,” Ramos said. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO: Ebola watch: Soldier with fever, in isolation in Cotabato Island 

NOV 15 --One of the Filipino peacekeepers who returned Wednesday from Ebola-stricken Liberia is being tested for the deadly disease after developing fever and showing malaise while under quarantine on an island naval base, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday. Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin confirmed that the military officer was flown from Caballo Island to a government hospital in Metro Manila. She did not identify the officer or the hospital. “The peacekeeper is already undergoing confirmatory tests for Ebola and malaria and we expect the results to come out within 48 hours,” Garin said. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: It’s malaria, not Ebola; The Philippines remains Ebola-free.  

NOV 16 --Caballo Island. AP FILE PHOTONOV 16 ---It’s malaria, not Ebola. The Philippines remains Ebola-free. Soldier tests negative for dreaded virus --Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin reported on Saturday that the Filipino peacekeeper who came down with a fever on Friday, his second day in quarantine on Caballo Island after returning from Ebola-stricken Liberia, tested negative for the dreaded disease. “However, we are saddened to learn that the patient was positive for malaria,” Garin said at a press briefing at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City. “Combination treatment has started. It’s in the early stage so there’s no complication,” she said.

ALSO: Tubbataha, Hamiguitan in Palawan now Asean heritage parks

NOV 17 ---The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental have been added to the list of Southeast Asia’s most treasured parks, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said yesterday. He said environment ministers from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations approved the nomination of Tubbataha and Mt. Hamiguitan as the 34th and 35th ASEAN heritage parks, respectively during the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October in Vientiane, Laos. He said the government is delighted by the designation of the two nature parks, which brings to seven the total number of ASEAN heritage parks in the Philippines. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Aquino dares China: Act, Go beyond diplomatic moves in sea dispute


FROM BEIJING TO NAYPYITAW President Aquino joins US President Barack Obama, Brunei Darussalam Prime Minister Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at the 9th East Asia Summit in Naypyitaw, Burma, on the sidelines of the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit. The four leaders earlier met in Beijing for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. AP

NAYPYITAW, BURMA, NOVEMBER 17, 2014 (INQUIRER) Dona Z. Pazzibugan @inquirerdotnet —President Aquino on Thursday challenged China to take “concrete action” in the South China Sea to match its diplomatic overtures in the Southeast Asian region.

Speaking at the dialogue between the 10 Southeast Asian countries and China near the close of the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here, Aquino said the group was “concerned about developments” in the South China Sea, referring to China’s reclamation of land and occupation of islets and reefs in the West Philippine Sea, part of the sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Buoyed by support from other Asean leaders for the Philippines’ arbitration case against China in the United Nations, President Aquino pressed for the conclusion of a legally binding code of conduct between Asean and China that would prevent conflicting claims in the South China Sea from erupting into conflict.

Aquino said that as a partner of Asean, China had to “demonstrate to the rest of the world” that it can, jointly with the Southeast Asian bloc, deal with security concerns in the region “based on the rule of law.”

“We in the Asean value practical cooperation and early harvest measures, including hotlines and search and rescue arrangements,” Aquino said, referring to talks between Asean and China on the nonbinding Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea signed by both sides in 2002.

“These activities, however, can only be meaningful if there are concrete, positive developments [in] the waters of the South China Sea,” Aquino said.

Code of conduct

Addressing Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang and his fellow Asean leaders, Aquino pressed for the “early conclusion” of such a code of conduct between China and Asean.

“This does not necessitate reinventing the wheel. We can source the elements of the proposed [code of conduct] from existing norms and international conventions that promote good conduct,” Aquino said.

The President said tensions over rival claims in the South China Sea were not an issue only between Asean and China but also for countries outside the region that have legitimate and strategic interests in the sea, as a substantial percentage of world trade passes through the disputed waters every year.

“I appreciate the warm conversation I had with President Xi Jinping in Beijing just two days ago. We agreed to work on improving relations between our two countries. I believe that relations can be improved without sacrificing our advocacies, including efforts to clarify maritime entitlements through arbitration,” Aquino said.

‘Friendship treaty’

China, however, offered only a “friendship treaty” with Asean, saying territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be settled directly between the countries involved.

Besides the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea, 90 percent of which China claims, including waters close to the shores of its smaller neighbors.

“China … stands ready to become the first dialogue partner to sign with Asean a treaty of friendship and cooperation,” Li told the Asean leaders.

The treaty is seen as an attempt by Beijing to dispel any notion it is a threat.

Li said China was willing to sign legal documents with more countries in the region on good-neighborliness and friendship.

Still, the Chinese premier reiterated Beijing’s resolve to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and its position that disputes concerning the South China Sea should be settled directly rather than collectively or through arbitration.

The competing maritime claims have formed an undercurrent of tension at the East Asian and Asean summits here this week.

The Philippines has previously irked Beijing by seeking international arbitration over China’s claims to nearly all of the South China Sea.

Diplomatic sources from the Philippines reacted coolly to China’s treaty proposal, saying that it lacked substance and was similar to a 2012 proposal made by Manila and ignored by Beijing.

Li was to meet the heads of Asean countries behind closed doors later on Thursday, with the Southeast Asian leaders hoping to persuade their giant neighbor to take a less bellicose approach to overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Closer ties with US

The Philippines and Vietnam have sought closer US ties to counter what they see as China’s aggression in the region.

In May, China sent an oil drilling rig to waters claimed by the Vietnamese. The move sparked deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

US President Barack Obama, also in Naypyitaw to attend the East Asian summit, was to hold his first formal meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dong on Thursday.

US engagement with Vietnam has entered a new phase in recent months after a flurry of high-level visits that culminated in the Oct. 2 decision by Washington to start easing a nearly four-decade lethal arms embargo.

12 years ago

Late on Wednesday, President Aquino told reporters that he had received support from other Asean leaders, some publicly speaking and others in private, for the Philippine case in a UN arbitration tribunal challenging China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea.

“Because of our efforts and other countries’ efforts, they now have to start at least the preparatory talks leading to [negotiations for a binding code of conduct],” Aquino said. “So we’re closer than we were when we started.”

Negotiations for a legally binding Asean-China code of conduct in the South China Sea have not started 12 years since the Philippines made the proposal.

During the two-day summits that included talks with regional powers India, Japan, South Korea, the United States, Australia and New Zealand as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Aquino called for the rule of law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), in the settlement of the South China Sea disputes.

Toned-down statements

Aquino acknowledged that he has toned down his statements in this year’s summits compared to the “more heated” statements he gave in the last two summits when China renewed its incursions into the West Philippine Sea.

“Compared to the statements in Phnom Penh (in Cambodia), I will liken this to be gentle reminders as opposed to very strong statements, especially in Cambodia in 2012, [in] the 10th year of the failure to come up with a code of conduct,” he said.

In this year’s Asean summit hosted by Burma (Myanmar), which is traditionally friendly to China, the South China Sea dispute was placed at the top of the agenda together with the Asean economic integration starting next year.

Aquino said his brief talk with Xi in Beijing did not change the Philippines’ intent to pursue arbitration in the United Nations.

He said Xi did not ask him to withdraw the Philippine arbitration case.

High-level talks

“I think at the very least we had discussions at the highest level, like the restart of discussions at the highest level. That’s an opening,” Aquino said.

“They might present a different solution that is acceptable to us then. Once it’s presented, why won’t we try and explore that possibility and resolve this issue?” he said.

After a series of summits, the regional leaders were expected to issue joint statements covering their discussions.

Below are highlights from the draft “final” statements, which were written ahead of the meetings and circulated even before the talks began:

South China Sea disputes

Territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which is of tremendous strategic importance to everyone, including Washington, need to be solved peacefully and through dialogue. Southeast Asian nations and China should work toward the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Ebola

Ebola poses a global threat to peace and security and relief assistance is needed to help fight the deadly virus in the hardest-hit West Africa nations, home to most of the world’s 5,000 deaths. When necessary, leaders from Southeast Asian nations will seek technical assistance from the World Health Organization to help detect and respond to public health threats.

Islamic State group

The participants reiterated that they supported efforts to restore law and order inside Iraq as it—and the world at large—struggles with threats posed by the Islamic State group. They called on Iraq and international partners to ensure the protection of civilians and access to humanitarian assistance for those affected by the conflict. They demanded the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all those who are kept hostage by the group or associated individuals and entities.--With wire reports


FROM PHILSTAR

Kalanggaman Island Phl’s ‘most amazing’ sandbar By Lalaine Jimenea (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 17, 2014 - 12:00am 9 49 googleplus1 2


Kalanggaman Island is the ‘crown jewel’ of northwestern Leyte’s tourism effort, according to officials. Photo courtesy of APPLE ANIDO-ALAGON.

MANILA, Philippines - Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte has been named by leading sky travel advisory website Skyscanner as the best of nine “amazing sandbars” in the Philippines.

Others on the list are the Higatangan Island in Biliran province in Eastern Visayas, Manjuyod White Sandbar in Negros Oriental, White Island in Camiguin, Sumilon Island Sandbar in Cebu, Manlawi Island in Caramoan, Snake Island in El Nido, Bulubadiangan Island in Iloilo and Virgin Island in Bohol.

Palompon Mayor Ramon Oñate, who recently received the “Most Tourism-Friendly Local Government Unit Award” for his town, is ecstatic at Skyscanner’s listing as Kalanggaman Island is the “crown jewel” of tourism efforts in the Northwestern Leyte corridor.

Oñate thanked residents, especially Palompon’s fishermen, for heeding the call to respect nature and help in keeping the island and the seas clean.

He also thanked the Department of Tourism, Leyte Gov. Dominic Petilla, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and Leyte Fourth District Rep. Lucy Torres-Gomez for helping Palompon develop its tourism program.


FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Pope’s PHL tour revealed: Francis to break bread with poor, Yolanda survivors November 14, 2014 6:56pm 4 0 0 4

Pope Francis will have lunch with the poor and the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) at the residence of the Archbishop of Palo during his five-day visit in the country in January, the organizing committee of the papal visit disclosed on Friday.

The Pope will be at 11 venues in Manila and Leyte during his visit to the Philippines from January 15 to January 19.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle announced the Pope's official itinerary in a news conference at the Arzobispado de Manila.

Tagle was joined by Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines; Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, the chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Social Communications; Presidential Spokesperson Herminio Coloma; former Philippine Ambassador to the Holy See Marciano Paynor, who arranged Pope John Paul II's papal visit in 1995; and Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa.

In the itinerary, the Pope is to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka past 5 p.m. on January 15, and go on a motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature along Taft Avenue in Manila.

"The Nunciature, which is the embassy of the Holy See, will be the Pope’s official residence in the Philippines," the Papalvisit.ph site said.

Malacañang, Tacloban, UST

On January 16, the Pope will be officially welcomed by President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañan Palace in Manila.

He will also meet Philippine authorities and members of the Diplomatic Corps at a Palace reception.

A motorcade to the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros follows, where he will take part in a Mass with bishops, priests, and religious.

The Pope will then meet with families at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

On January 17, the Pope will visit Palo Archdiocese and offer a Mass near Tacloban Airport in the morning. The province of Leyte is one of the provinces hardest hit by Yolanda.

Pope Francis will then have lunch with the poor and survivors of natural calamities at the residence of the Archbishop of Palo.

Afterwards, he will bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, and visit the Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) to meet with priests and religious.

On January 18, the Pope will meet religious leaders and young people at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila.

In the afternoon, he will go on a motorcade for the Concluding Mass at Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.

Pope Francis will leave for Rome on January 19.

People surge

Tagle also said the symbolism behind the Pope's visit mattered, and the quality of his encounters during his two-day stay in Manila will mean a lot to those who suffered a different kind of tragedy in the city.

While unsure of Pope Francis' complete knowledge of the Philippines, Tagle said the Pope admired "the faith and resilience of the survivors" of past disasters and in Tacloban.

He said the Pope will bring a message of solidarity and hope, and hoped to be edified by the "faith of the simple people".

Paynor asked the public to refrain from forming a "people surge" in following the pontiff to allow Pope Francis to keep his schedule.

Ochoa said 95 percent of the government's preparation was concerned with the Pope's security.

He added that people's security was also a concern, reflecting on the injuries incurred by Black Nazarene devotees during its annual procession.

Holidays may also be declared during the Pope's five-day visit due to address traffic concerns.

Details

Details of his itinerary are as follows:

January 15, 2015

Arrival from Sri Lanka – Villamor Air Base Motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature – Taft Avenue, Manila

January 16, 2015

Welcome Ceremony – Malacañan Palace, Manila
Courtesy Visit to the President
Meeting with Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps
Motorcade to the Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral)
Mass with Bishops, Priests, and Women and Men Religious – Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (Manila Cathedral)
Motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay
Meeting with the Families – Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay

January 17, 2015

Departure for the Archdiocese of Palo – Villamor Air Base
Arrival at Tacloban Airport Holy Mass near Tacloban Airport
Lunch with the Poor and Survivors of Calamities at Gonzagahaus (Residence of the Archbishop of Palo) – Palo, Leyte Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor – Palo, Leyte
Meeting with the Priests and Women and Men Religious at Cathedral of Our Lord’s Transfiguration (Palo Cathedral) – Palo, Leyte
Departure for Manila
Arrival at Manila – Villamor Air Base

January 18, 2015

Brief Meeting with Religious Leaders – Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila
Meeting with the Youth – Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, España,
Manila Motorcade to Rizal Park, Manila
Concluding Mass, Rizal Park, Manila

January 19, 2015

Motorcade from the Apostolic Nunciature Departure for Rome – Villamor Air Base —Rie Takumi and Joel Locsin/NB/KBK, GMA News


FROM PHILSTAR

Papal visit organizers fear Nazarene-type frenzy By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 16, 2014 - 12:00am 4 21 googleplus0 2

MANILA, Philippines - The excitement surrounding the visit of Pope Francis might lead to a frenzy similar to what happens during the Black Nazarene procession held every Jan. 9, a week before the papal visit next year.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said on Friday preparations for the pope’s visit will focus on security, but refused to give details of the security plans covering the five-day apostolic and state visit from Jan. 15-19.

“If I may suggest to everybody, let us not be too detailed on that. Precisely, we want to make sure that the pope is safe. It is in the interest of this country that we keep it that way…On the government part, 95 percent of its preparations is all about security. Let us leave it at that,” Ochoa said.

Ochoa also declined to answer queries if there are specific threats against the pope.

“We cannot go any further than saying that we will secure the pope, definitely. Of course, it is our duty. It is our honor as well to provide that kind of security to make sure that the pope is safe,” he said.

Ochoa said preparations for the papal visit are much like that for the annual Black Nazarene procession, with millions of devotees congregating in one area.

“We are also concerned with our countrymen. You know I am a devotee of the Nazarene. I am always proud to say that. You know how the celebration of the Nazarene Feast in Quiapo is – that is how we Filipinos behave or celebrate our religion. When the pope comes, the celebration would be bigger, which would need more preparations,” Ochoa stressed.

Every Jan. 9, the country observes the Feast of the Black Nazarene, when the image is brought around Manila before it is returned to the Quiapo Church. The procession usually takes a full day due to the large number of people crowding the route.

The event has often been marred by chaos as devotees scramble to get close to the image, with scores hurt and some trampled in the frenzy. President Aquino signed last September Memorandum Circular No. 72 creating the Papal Visit National Organizing Committee.

“He (President Aquino) has likewise directed all concerned government agencies to extend assistance to the Church in preparation for the pope’s visit. Pope Francis will be here not only as the leader of the Roman Catholic faith, but as the head of state of the Vatican; as such, His Holiness will be extended all the courtesies provided to visiting heads of state,” Ochoa added.

Ochoa also thanked the public and private sectors for helping ensure the papal visit would be peaceful and orderly, and called on everyone to cooperate with the preparations.


FROM PHILSTAR

Pope to say masses in Latin, deliver speeches in English By Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 16, 2014 - 12:00am 2 11 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis will deliver in Latin his three masses during his five-day visit to the country in January 2015, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The masses will be in Latin but the responses will be in English,” Pasig Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara announced Friday night.

Vergara also said the pontiff will deliver his speeches in English, “but the pope is the pope of surprises, he might make off the cut comments in Italian and Spanish.”

Pope Francis will celebrate masses at the Manila Cathedral on Jan. 16, near the Tacloban International Airport in Leyte on Jan. 17 and at the Rizal Park in Manila on Jan. 18.

The official residence of the pope during his stay in the country is the Apostolic Nunciature located along Taft Avenue in Manila.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Guiseppe Pinto is hoping that the Filipino faithful will experience “an intense spiritual preparation” for this encounter with the pope.

“He will go to the geographical and existential peripheries. We will listen to him as if he were speaking to each one of us. Every tear, every sorrow and every hope he will make his own,” he added.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said the papal visit would bring “much blessing” to the Filipinos, especially to the poor, the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda and other calamities, and the victims of injustices.

“The pope’s visit also calls us to personal and social responsibility…We will be challenged to reach out with love to the neglected and abandoned, to help heal the wounds inflicted on children, women and families, to respect those who differ from us, to form the youth in responsible freedom, to value life and creation and to imbue our culture and society with mercy and compassion,” Tagle added.

Palo Archbishop John Du also called on Filipinos to contribute “good will and efforts in ensuring that the apostolic visit of the pontiff may not be marred by any untoward incident and that it may truly be a time of grace for our country and for everyone.”

The website of the papal Friday evening just after church officials released the pope’s official itinerary.

The www.papalvisit.ph was down for at least three hours after high traffic caused the server to crash. The website was finally restored at 10:30 p.m., the CBCPNews said.

The website serves as the official source of statements, press releases, homilies, speeches related to the pope’s pastoral visit.

Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, who is part of the media and information committee for the papal visit, said the CBCP would set up measures to prevent the website from crashing again as more online visitors are expected as the papal visit approaches.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Belenismo’ attracts tourists to Tarlac Gabriel Cardinoza @inquirerdotnet Inquirer Northern Luzon 3:50 AM | Monday, November 17th, 2014


BIRTH OF CHRIST RECALLED Built by soldiers, a Nativity scene is displayed at the military’s Northern Luzon Command at Camp Aquino in Tarlac province. The backdrop is made of plastic materials. WILLIE LOMIBAO/ CONTRIBUTOR


MONCADA, Tarlac—At dusk on Saturday, an elderly woman, aided by an assistant, stepped off a van and took a close look at a “belen” (Nativity scene) built at the town plaza.

She was so awed to see the light-bathed display that, despite her walking difficulty, she and her group moved up a bamboo walkway and inched closer to the manger to pose with the figures of the Holy Family at the center of the belen.

“Isn’t this beautiful? It’s terrific. Look at the way it is decorated with lights,” said the woman, Socorro Ramos, 92, owner of National Book Store, the country’s largest chain of bookstores.

“I think this is the most beautifully decorated Nativity scene in the whole Philippines,” Ramos said.

This town’s belen is just one of the more than 60 Nativity scenes displayed this year in the different towns of Tarlac province, 100 kilometers north of Metro Manila.

Ramos, who traveled from Manila, was one of the hundreds of tourists visiting the province’s different Nativity displays at this time of the year.

Many of the belen are displayed in town halls, churches and establishments along Manila North Road (MacArthur Highway), providing travelers a visual treat, especially at night.

Amado Go, a member of Tarlac Heritage Foundation (THF), said “belenismo”—the art of making Nativity scenes that are displayed by local governments, churches and other groups—had become the most-awaited occurrence in Tarlac during the Christmas season since THF began leading the event in 2007.

Tapping local artists

At that time, THF, founded by President Aquino’s aunt Isabel Cojuangco Suntay, was looking for an event that would tap local artists and make people feel the spirit of Christmas in their communities, according to Go.

“We celebrate Christmas in the Philippines for about two months. So, we thought of the belen,” said Go, a former Tarlac provincial board member.

He said the provincial board then passed a resolution he authored to institutionalize belenismo in the province.

Belen capital

After three consecutive years of successfully holding the event, Go said the Department of Tourism declared Tarlac the belen capital of the Philippines.

“Since then, we have been known for that. We are very happy and proud of it,” Go said.

Dr. Maribel Dizon, chair of Tarlac City Tourism Council, said that more than winning this year’s belen competition, the participants wanted to show the world how united and God-loving the city’s residents are.

“Our belen signifies unity, and the prominent colors are gold, silver and bronze, which signify royalty and our belief in our Creator, the Savior of the earth,” Dizon said.

Wilfredo Toldanes, city tourism officer, said the city had been joining the belen-making competition yearly but this was the first time he was satisfied with the city’s entry.

“Maybe, it’s because this time, we worked hard on it. As you can see, people appreciate it,” Toldanes said.

The display, which is about 11.5 meters high, has a star mounted on top of a steel frame shaped like light rays.

“When we see that star above, our people don’t lose hope and we can feel the presence of the Lord,” Dizon said.

“It’s unique because you can see Baby Jesus without a face. So every time you come and pray, what do you see of yourself? Are you a person deserving to see this belen?” she said.

Inspired by ‘Frozen’

But as Tarlac City chose to craft a unique belen, the Catholic Church in Paniqui town preferred to display a belen inspired by the Disney animated film “Frozen,” building a miniature castle as the backdrop of the Child Jesus’ manger.

Alex Lamorena, vice president of Sta. Rosa de Lima Parish Pastoral Council in Paniqui, said the parish entry was a modern version of the belen and was specially dedicated to children, for whom Christmas is celebrated.

Every night, according to Lamorena, the members of the parish youth ministry gather in front of the display to sing Christmas carols, including a Filipino translation of the movie theme song, “Let It Go.”

For future generation

Go said that aside from attracting tourists to the belen displays, the annual activity has served as a launching pad for local artists and designers.

He said a winner in the personal category event during a previous competition, Albert Dancel of San Jose town, had been hired by a shopping mall and eventually by a company abroad.

“He was unemployed. But because his talent was discovered, he now has a stable and a high-paying job,” Go said.

He said belenismo would continue in the coming years because it was a legacy they could pass on to Tarlac’s next generation.

“We should not stop this just because of politics or economic difficulties,” Go said. “We should continue doing this in celebration of the Nativity so that the next generation will have something they can be proud of.”


FROM PHILSTAR

Ebola watch: Soldier with fever, in isolation in Cotabato Island By Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 15, 2014 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


Philippine Navy photo shows quarantined UN peacekeepers entering an air-conditioned tent on Caballo Island the other day.

MANILA, Philippines - One of the Filipino peacekeepers who returned Wednesday from Ebola-stricken Liberia is being tested for the deadly disease after developing fever and showing malaise while under quarantine on an island naval base, the Department of Health (DOH) reported yesterday.

Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin confirmed that the military officer was flown from Caballo Island to a government hospital in Metro Manila. She did not identify the officer or the hospital.

“The peacekeeper is already undergoing confirmatory tests for Ebola and malaria and we expect the results to come out within 48 hours,” Garin said.

She said it is still too early to conclude that the soldier had contracted Ebola.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through spokesman Col. Harold Cabunoc, appealed for calm.

“Using our clinical eye, it seems that the peacekeeper is just suffering from malaria, but we still have to make sure that he is not afflicted with Ebola so we are conducting a blood test,” Garin said.

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She said the peacekeeper was immediately separated from his companions Thursday night after complaining that he was not feeling well. He was suffering from fever, chills and body malaise early yesterday morning, she said.

Garin said the peacekeeper was afflicted with malaria a few months ago and the disease may have recurred, thus the need for him to be tested for both Ebola and malaria.

DOH spokesman Lyndon Lee Suy said the peacekeeper was not manifesting other symptoms of Ebola like vomiting and diarrhea.

“The possibility that the peacekeeper is afflicted with Ebola is very slim, but we still need to limit his exposure so we are stringently following the protocol,” Lee Suy pointed out.

Lee Suy said health personnel attending to the peacekeeper would not be required to use protective equipment until he manifests other symptoms of the disease.

But even if he tested negative for Ebola, Lee Suy said the peacekeeper would be made to stay in hospital until he completes the required 21-day quarantine, in accordance with protocol.

More confirmatory tests would be made on the peacekeeper if he displays symptoms of Ebola long after being declared free of the disease, the health official said.

Health officials said the Ebola virus is not airborne and cannot be easily transmitted to other persons.

Lee Suy said the rest of the 133 peacekeepers who returned from Liberia late Wednesday were doing well under quarantine on Caballo Island in Cavite.

The health condition of the roommates of the sick officer is being closely monitored.

The military, meanwhile, stressed that the possibility of one of the peacekeepers contracting the disease was remote because they were assigned in an Ebola-free region in Liberia.

“We are appealing to the general public not to panic. We will follow the advise of DOH officials regarding our peacekeeper who has fever. This should not be the cause of panic as the AFP and the DOH are on top of the situation,” Cabunoc said.

Before their repatriation, the Filipino peacekeepers were subjected to a United Nations-supervised Ebola-screening test in Monrovia and were subsequently cleared. – Jaime Laude


FROM THE INQUIRER

It’s malaria, not Ebola; The Philippines remains Ebola-free. Erika Sauler and Nikko Dizon @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:51 AM | Sunday, November 16th, 2014


Caballo Island. AP FILE PHOTO

It’s malaria, not Ebola. The Philippines remains Ebola-free. Soldier tests negative for dreaded virus

Acting Health Secretary Janette Garin reported on Saturday that the Filipino peacekeeper who came down with a fever on Friday, his second day in quarantine on Caballo Island after returning from Ebola-stricken Liberia, tested negative for the dreaded disease.

“However, we are saddened to learn that the patient was positive for malaria,” Garin said at a press briefing at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute in Quezon City.

“Combination treatment has started. It’s in the early stage so there’s no complication,” she said.

The findings should be reassuring, as word went around by text on Friday that the peacekeeper had Ebola and that the nation was vulnerable, prompting the military to appeal to the public not to propagate the unconfirmed information to avoid causing panic.

Malacañang followed on Saturday, with deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte calling on the public not to panic.

“We should depend on the reliable information from our government,” Valte said on state-run radio.

Valte reiterated the government information that the peacekeepers had been quarantined for 21 days in Liberia before flying back to the Philippines. The peacekeepers had tested negative for Ebola.

President Aquino ordered the peacekeepers home in October to keep them safe from Ebola.

The peacekeepers—108 soldiers, 29 policemen and one jail officer—arrived at Villamor Air Base on Wednesday on a UN-chartered Russian plane and were taken to Caballo Island on Manila Bay to be quarantined for another 21 days.

The Ebola virus has an incubation period of 21 days. It has sickened more than 14,000 people, mostly in West Africa, and killed more than 5,000 since its outbreak in March.

Ebola symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea and internal bleeding in the last stages.

Quoting health officials, Valte reminded the public that Ebola can be transmitted only through direct contact with a patient’s bodily fluids.

Negative results

The ailing peacekeeper was taken to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City late Friday and was put through the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and Elisa (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) tests.

Dr. Socorro Lupisan, RITM director, explained that Elisa is a qualitative analysis that looks for antigens and antibodies, while PCR looks for the genetic material of the virus.

The results of both tests were negative for the Ebola virus, Lupisan said.

But Garin said traces of Plasmodium falciparum, a parasite that causes malaria, were found in the peacekeeper’s blood. Of the four types of malaria-causing parasites, it is the most fatal and has the capacity to attack the brain, she said.

He got it in Liberia

Garin gave assurance, however, that the female mosquito that carries the parasite is not found on Caballo Island so that is not where the peacekeeper contracted malaria.

But he did come down with malaria in Liberia before and it is possible, Garin said, that he was not properly treated or that he contracted the disease again before leaving Liberia.

“The patient is in the hands of one of the experts in infectious diseases, the RITM. Every eight hours, [his] blood is being tested to monitor response to the combination therapy to kill the parasite,” Garin said.

She said malaria-causing parasites had developed resistance so that it had become necessary to battle them with a cocktail of drugs and monitor the patient’s response.

Battling the parasites could take a week, Garin said. Once the parasites are gone, she said, the peacekeeper will be returned to Caballo Island to resume quarantine.

Lupisan said about 20 Filipinos returning from Africa had been treated for malaria.

Malaria is endemic to Africa.

Who is that soldier?

The government has imposed the quarantine requirement on people coming home from the Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa—Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea—to keep the Ebola virus out of the Philippines.

“Therese,” wife of one of the peacekeepers quarantined on Caballo Island, yesterday said she understood the measure was necessary, but the malaria finding on the soldier at RITM was not reassuring for her, as malaria is a killer disease.

The Inquirer is not using the real name of Therese at the request of the Department of Health and the Philippine Air Force to save the relatives of the peacekeepers from being stigmatized in their communities. (See related story on this page.)

“The thing is, we don’t know who is in that hospital. Nobody has given us (the relatives of the peacekeepers) any information. What do we do? We just guess? We can’t do that,” Therese said.

Therese is complaining about the government’s minimizing contact between the quarantined peacekeepers and their families.

Lupisan said there was no vaccine for Ebola yet. But supportive treatment, or treating the symptoms, will help the patient develop resistance and fight the virus on his own, she said.

“If the patient is dehydrated, give him fluids. If there’s a fever, paracetamol. If there’s diarrhea, the patient should be hydrated,” she said. With a report from Kristine Felisse Mangunay


FROM PHILSTAR

Tubbataha, Hamiguitan now Asean heritage parks By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 17, 2014 - 12:00am 2 17 googleplus1 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Palawan and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in Davao Oriental have been added to the list of Southeast Asia’s most treasured parks, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said yesterday.

He said environment ministers from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations approved the nomination of Tubbataha and Mt. Hamiguitan as the 34th and 35th ASEAN heritage parks, respectively during the 15th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment held in October in Vientiane, Laos.

He said the government is delighted by the designation of the two nature parks, which brings to seven the total number of ASEAN heritage parks in the Philippines.

The five other ASEAN heritage parks in the country are the Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park and Mt. Malindang Range Natural Park in Mindanao; the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park in Occidental Mindoro, and the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve in Laguna.

“The designation of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary as regional heritage parks is long overdue, both having been named earlier as UNESCO World Heritage sites,” Paje said.

“This latest recognition indicates that the natural characteristics of both Tubbataha park and Mt. Hamiguitan sanctuary are so exceptional they deserve to be protected for the benefit of everyone in Southeast Asia,” he added.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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