PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEKEND

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: VP ASKED PINOYS TO SHOW COMPASSION FOR INDIGENTS 

DEC 24 ---Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday urged Filipinos not to forget to show their concern and compassion for the less fortunate and reminded his fellow workers in government to continue to deliver genuine service to the people. “In this season of love, let us not forget to share with our countrymen, especially those who have less in life, our concern and compassion. For those of us in government, giving comfort and genuine service should guide us not only during the Christmas season but every day,” Binay said in his Christmas message. The Vice President also asked the government to consider the plight of elderly prisoners. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Tsunami-hit nations mark 10th year of catastrophe

DEC 27 ---PHOTO: FOR TSUNAMI DEAD A white rose released by relatives of German victims of the Asian tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history, is swept on the sand as a couple looks toward the sea during a commemoration and religious ceremony on Friday in Khao Lak, Thailand. The tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off Indonesia, left more than 230,000 people dead in 14 countries. AP BANDA ACEH, Indonesia— Prayers, tears and solemn visits to mass graves marked the start of commemorations on Friday across tsunami-hit nations for the 230,000 people who perished when giant waves decimated coastal areas of the Indian Ocean a decade ago. On Dec. 26, 2004, a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia’s western tip generated a series of massive waves that pummeled the coastline of 14 countries as far apart as Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia. Among the victims were thousands of foreign tourists enjoying Christmas in the region, carrying the tragedy of an unprecedented natural disaster into homes around the world. READ FULL REPORT FROM THE BEGINNING...

ALSO STORY OF 3 OFWs: Back for good and home for Christmas 

DEC 24 ---PHOTO: Marc Josef Dionisio: “Happiness and success are both here” Three former overseas Filipino workers realized that they didn’t have to be away from their loved ones to be able to provide for their needs. Their stories prove that greener pastures can be found right at home. Marc helped his parents put his three siblings to college and live a comfortable life by working for six years in Qatar. Those years abroad did not start out the way he envisioned it, though. When he arrived in Doha, the construction company offered him a contract that was different from what he initially signed up for. Out of frustration, Marc turned it down and decided to head back home. CONTINUE READING 2 OTHER OFW FAMILIES STORIES...

ALSO: Lights and smiles mark the coming of Christmas everywhere

Indian Christians light candles at a Sacred Heart Cathedral on the eve of Christmas in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Christmas is a national holiday in India, marked by millions of all religions and faiths. AP CONTINUE TO THE NEXT PHOTOS...

 ALSO: ‘Merry Christmas, bro’—A streetballer’s final fast break

DEC 25 ---PHOTO: CHRISTMAS IS IN THE HEART Edward Ballesteros. Photo courtesy of Jan Ballesteros. MANILA, Philippines—Blinking lights illuminated a man’s face and beeping sounds broke the silence of an otherwise quiet room. Just after the break of noon, Jan Ballesteros arrived, panting. He stared at his family as they surrounded a metal-framed bed. In it, Edward, his brother, was attempting a final fast break. A brotherhood of basketball lovers, Jan, Edward, their oldest Jay and their second-youngest Renz all grew up in Airmen’s Village in Las Piñas. It was a sorrowful reunion at the hospital. From a distance, Jan, the youngest of the brothers, saw youngest sister Marianne with her arms around their father Eduardo; beside them, their mother Cyrill was praying for Edward to come away victorious. But the skillful streetballer was losing the battle. Edward had been suffering from lung cancer for more than a year, the result of years of smoking. READ FULL STORY...

(ALSO) TIMELINE: World news events of 2014

A photo of the Earth captured in 8 mm from a cupola in the International Space Station by American Astronaut Reid Weisman. Twitter/astro_reid January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December January --Jan. 1 — The Palestinian ambassador to the Czech Republic dies in an explosion that occurred when he opened an old safe that had been left untouched for more than 20 years. Jan. 2 — An explosion tears through a crowded commercial street in a south Beirut neighborhood that is a bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah, killing at least five. TO CONTINUE READING GO TO PHILSTAR WORLD NEWS AT http://alturl.com/gcfsa

ALSO INQUIRER OPINION: ‘Panunuluyan’ 

DEC 25 ---PHOTO: 'Panunuluyan' From the book Pasko!: The Philippine Christmas by Reynaldo G Alejandro, Marla Y. Chorengel et al. Published and exclusively distributed by National Bookstore and Anvil Publishing. ---According to Nick Joaquin’s “Almanac for Manileños,” there is a Christmas playlet performed in Makati called the “Panunuluyan”—literally “seeking entry”—that reenacts the first Christmas Eve when Joseph and Mary could not find room in any of the inns of Bethlehem. They had to rough it in a stable, where the Christ child was born and placed in a manger to be worshipped, first, by the farm animals and shepherds, and, later, by the Magi or Three Kings, whose names have been handed down to us, not through the Bible, but through tradition, as Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar. The playlet moves about town, with a couple dressed as Joseph (a bearded youth in white with a staff) and Mary (a pregnant maiden in robes of blue and white) knocking on the doors of preselected houses and singing or reciting verse seeking a room at the inn. READ FULL EDITORIAL FROM THE BEGINNING....


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

CHRISTMAS MESSAGE: Pinoys asked to show compassion for indigents

MANILA, DECEMBER 29, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Helen Flores - Vice President Jejomar Binay yesterday urged Filipinos not to forget to show their concern and compassion for the less fortunate and reminded his fellow workers in government to continue to deliver genuine service to the people.

“In this season of love, let us not forget to share with our countrymen, especially those who have less in life, our concern and compassion. For those of us in government, giving comfort and genuine service should guide us not only during the Christmas season but every day,” Binay said in his Christmas message.

The Vice President also asked the government to consider the plight of elderly prisoners.

“Those who have recognized and have paid for their crimes should be given the opportunity to rejoin society. Many of our elderly prisoners are sick and in need of care. My hope is for them to spend their twilight years with their family and loved ones, especially during Christmas,” he said.

He said the welfare of senior citizens is one of the advocacies dear to his heart.

Binay, the presidential adviser for overseas Filipino workers’ concerns and the country’s housing czar, also asked the public to include in their prayers all Filipino workers who will spend Christmas overseas.

“While they may be far from their loved ones in the Philippines, I hope they feel the love and gratitude of their countrymen,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. led yesterday the House of Representatives in extending his warmest greetings of hope, peace and goodwill to all Filipinos as he prayed that the nation will continue to be progressive and peaceful despite adversities.

“Christmas continues to be a celebration of thanksgiving and solidarity, as we remain united in working together and achieving our aspiration of a progressive and peaceful country, despite the diversity in our beliefs and principles,” Belmonte said.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Tsunami-hit nations mark 10th year of catastrophe Agence France-Presse Associated Press 12:38 AM | Saturday, December 27th, 2014


PHOTO: FOR TSUNAMI DEAD A white rose released by relatives of German victims of the Asian tsunami, one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history, is swept on the sand as a couple looks toward the sea during a commemoration and religious ceremony on Friday in Khao Lak, Thailand. The tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off Indonesia, left more than 230,000 people dead in 14 countries. AP

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia— Prayers, tears and solemn visits to mass graves marked the start of commemorations on Friday across tsunami-hit nations for the 230,000 people who perished when giant waves decimated coastal areas of the Indian Ocean a decade ago.

On Dec. 26, 2004, a 9.3-magnitude earthquake off Indonesia’s western tip generated a series of massive waves that pummeled the coastline of 14 countries as far apart as Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Somalia.

“I cannot forget the smell of the air, the water at that time … even after 10 years,” said Teuku Ahmad Salman, a 51-year-old resident who joined thousands in a prayer service in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

“I cannot forget how I lost hold of my wife, my kids, my house,” he said sobbing, recounting that he refused to believe for years that they had died but finally gave up looking for them.

Among the victims were thousands of foreign tourists enjoying Christmas in the region, carrying the tragedy of an unprecedented natural disaster into homes around the world.

A chorus of voices singing the Indonesian national anthem opened the official memorial at an 8-hectare park in Banda Aceh—the main city of the Indonesian province closest to the epicenter of the massive quake and which bore the brunt of waves towering up to 35 meters high.

“Thousands of corpses were sprawled in this field,” Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla told the crowd of several thousand—many among them weeping.

“Tears that fell at that time … there were feelings of confusion, shock, sorrow, fear and suffering. We prayed.

“And then we rose and received help in an extraordinary way. Help came from Indonesia and everyone else, our spirits were revived,” he said, hailing the outpouring of aid from local and foreign donors.

Mass graves

Mosques also held prayers across the province early Friday while people visited mass graves—the resting place of many of Indonesia’s 170,000 tsunami dead.

Pictures of the 135-year-old mosque left isolated in a plain of desolation after almost everything around it was wiped away were among the most memorable from the disaster.

“Allah kept his house unscathed, that’s what we Muslims believe,” said Azman Ismail, great imam of Baiturrahman Grand Mosque. About 5,000 men, women and children crowded inside for its largest mass prayer since the tsunami.

Syahirizal Abbas, a local government official, said he was attending “to pray that the dead will be welcome to Allah’s side.”

Although the tsunami brought devastation, Ismail said it had also led to peace in the province, which had suffered years of conflict between rebels and the military, as well as much needed development.

“The tsunami should be seen as a blessing instead of punishment by Allah,” Syeikh Ali Jabar, an imam from Saudi Arabia, told worshippers.

Shared memories

In Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and elsewhere, moments of silence were held in several spots to mark the exact time the tsunami struck, a moment that united the world in grief.

More than 100 survivors of the tsunami along with the bereaved relatives from Germany, Austria and Switzerland held a memorial service on a beach in Khao Lak, Thailand. They walked into the waves and lay flowers in the warm Andaman Sea, while diplomats placed wreaths on the sand.

“I didn’t expect it would again touch me so much after 10 years because I’ve come back every now and then in recent years,” said tsunami survivor Claudia Geist of Germany, who was so badly injured during the tsunami she almost lost her leg. “But this has been a completely different experience now connecting with all the other people.”

Later in the day, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha was to lead a ceremony at a beached police boat that was out at sea when the tsunami struck and was carried 2 kilometers inland by the massive waves. It has become a permanent memorial to the power of the waves that day.

In southern Thailand, where half of the 5,300 dead were foreign tourists, a smattering of holidaymakers gathered at a memorial park in the small fishing village of Ban Nam Khem, which was obliterated by the waves.

As the ceremony began, survivors recounted stories of horror and miraculous survival as the churning waters, laden with the debris of eviscerated bungalows, cars and boats, swept in without warning, killing half of the village’s inhabitants.

Swiss national Raymond Moor said he noticed something was amiss when he saw a white line on the horizon rushing toward the beach where he and his wife were having breakfast.

“I told my wife to run for her life … it wasn’t a wave but a black wall,” he said, describing being caught up in the water moments later like “being in a washing machine.”

“A Thai woman from the hotel saved my life by pulling me up to a balcony. She died later,” he said, breaking into tears.

Nearby, Thai Somjai Somboon, 40, said she was yet to get over the loss of her two sons, who were ripped from their house when the waves cut into Thailand.

“I remember them every day,” she said, also with tears in her eyes.

Among the international commemorations, in Sweden, which lost 543 to the waves, the royal family and relatives of those who died will attend a memorial service in Uppsala Cathedral on Friday afternoon.

Global response

Disaster-stricken nations struggled to mobilize a relief effort after the tsunami struck. The world poured money and expertise into the relief and reconstruction, with more than $13.5 billion collected in the months after the disaster.

Almost $7 billion in aid went into rebuilding more than 140,000 houses across Aceh, thousands of kilometers of roads, and new schools and hospitals.

Tens of thousands of children were among the dead.

But the disaster also ended a decades-long separatist conflict in Aceh, with a peace deal between rebels and Jakarta struck less than a year later.

In Sri Lanka, where 31,000 people perished, preparations were under way to hold a memorial at a railway site where waves crashed into a passenger train, killing 1,500 people.

Ahead of the ceremony, a train guard who survived said a lack of knowledge of tsunamis —in a region that had not experienced one in living memory— led to more deaths than necessary.

“We had about 15 minutes to move the passengers to safety. I could have done it. We had the time, but not the knowledge,” said 58-year-old Wanigaratne Karunatilleke.

To plug that gap a pan-ocean tsunami warning system was established in 2011, made up of sea gauges and buoys, while individual countries have invested heavily in disaster preparedness.

But experts have cautioned against the perils of “disaster amnesia” creeping into communities vulnerable to natural disasters.


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Back for good and home for Christmas By MST Lifestyle | Dec. 24, 2014 at 06:40pm


Marc Josef Dionisio with family

Three former overseas Filipino workers realized that they didn’t have to be away from their loved ones to be able to provide for their needs. Their stories prove that greener pastures can be found right at home.

Marc Josef Dionisio: “Happiness and success are both here”

Marc helped his parents put his three siblings to college and live a comfortable life by working for six years in Qatar.

Those years abroad did not start out the way he envisioned it, though. When he arrived in Doha, the construction company offered him a contract that was different from what he initially signed up for. Out of frustration, Marc turned it down and decided to head back home.

“While at the ticketing office, a man dressed in white spoke to me. He must have sensed my distress. I told him about my problem. Like a genie, he turned my luck around and offered me a job as a ‘muhasib’ or accountant at one of Doha’s top hotels,” shared Marc.

As a night-based auditor, he had no fixed schedule or regular days off. Marc interacted with people constantly at his job, so he took Arabic classes to improve his communication skills. He was earning well but missed his family. “Money definitely could not buy happiness.”

During a brief vacation home, Marc met his future wife. It was a turning point as he returned to Qatar to finish his contract. He decided to come home for good, marry and start a family.

In Manila, Marc applied at Convergys, knowing the competitive compensation, benefits and world-class training in the business process outsourcing (BPO) company. He soon discovered tremendous career growth. Even with zero experience starting as a technical support representative, Marc became a consistent top agent, and also participated in a development program. One of the rewards he received was a trip to Hong Kong.

Three years into his call center career, Marc is already a Team Leader and remains a top performer at the Convergys UP Technohub 1 site in Quezon City.

“It’s great to be in a people-centric environment, where we are well-informed and actually involved. Convergys has also become my family, along with my wife and my son.”

Mon Calixtro: “My daughter is my home”


Mon Calixtro

Ramoncito “Mon” Calixtro worked in Taiwan for two and a half years as an engineer for a computer company. His daughter was barely a year old when he left the country. His contract ended with the company relocating outside Taiwan, upon which Mon decided to return to the Philippines.

“Going abroad meant being out of my comfort zone. But more than the weather and the cultural differences, it meant being away from my daughter,” said Mon.

“My daily routine abroad was straightforward: wake up, prepare breakfast, go to work, go home, watch TV or listen to music, sleep. I was grateful for a supportive Filipino community, which helped ease the homesickness. But one nagging question kept me up at night—‘what am I really doing here?’ So when I had to choose between remaining abroad which meant continued separation from my child or coming home, the decision was easy.”

Upon his return, Mon set up an Internet shop in his neighborhood in Muntinlupa. For the first two years, business was good. However, when several cafés started popping up and competition became tight, he had to find another way to support his daughter.

“After hearing and reading so much about the BPO industry, I decided to apply,” said Mon. He has been successful in his career as an agent in the Convergys Libis site for almost eight years now.

“I enjoy being here because the company cares and everyone has a voice. My work helps me provide well for my daughter,” he proudly shared.

Portia Peralta: “Dream house for parents”


Portia Peralta (right) with parents

Portia left the country in 2009 to work as an emergency nurse in Qatar. She is an only child and the breadwinner to her aging parents. Her mother is a retired teacher and her father, a former soldier.

“My dream was to build a house for my parents so they can transfer from Zamboanga to my father’s hometown in Pangasinan,” she said.

“Being a nurse in Qatar meant earning a good enough salary to fill up balikbayan boxes for relatives back home, and explore places with friends while abroad. But being away was simply the biggest challenge. I spent about P100,000 worth of overseas calls because I was homesick.”

When Portia’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, she knew that her father, who had hypertension as well, needed help. Portia flew home right away.

“I stayed at home taking care of my mother for a year. There were times she wouldn’t recognize who I was. It broke my heart,” she recalls.

Portia found herself running out of funds to support her ill parents. Through a friend’s referral about a job opening at Convergys in Makati, she flew from Zamboanga to Manila for the job interview. She was hired that same day.

“I had to adjust quickly to being employed again, and having a different type of work and environment. With the support of my teammates, I gained confidence and honed my skills in customer service. I was amazed at the employee development and engagement programs that Convergys provided for us to grow and also have fun,” she said.

Now approaching two years of being with the country’s largest private employer, Portia is also able to save and has renewed her dream to build a new home for her parents in Pangasinan, where it will be even easier to visit them from Manila.

Breaching one million in workforce headcount in 2014, the Philippine BPO industry continues to grow. With the talent and openness to build new skills, returning OFWs can find not just suitable jobs but career growth opportunities, enabling our countrymen to build better lives while staying together with their loved ones.


FROM THE INQUIRER

Lights and smiles mark the coming of Christmas around the world Associated Press 9:38 PM | Thursday, December 25th, 2014

As Christmas Eve turns into Christmas Day, lights in every color shine through the night around the world. Colored bulbs decorate buildings from Ahmadabad, India. Candles illuminate the faces of the faithful at a church in Beijing, China. And Santa Claus floats on a boat full of twinkling lights near Genoa, Italy.

Here’s a gallery of images from Christmas celebrations in Pakistan, Italy, China and elsewhere.

IN INDIA


Indian Christians light candles at a Sacred Heart Cathedral on the eve of Christmas in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Christmas is a national holiday in India, marked by millions of all religions and faiths. AP

IN MEXICO CITY


A man stands next to a neighborhood shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe built on a street median in Mexico City, Friday Dec. 12, 2014. Every year thousands upon thousands of faithful flock to the Basilica of Guadalupe to pay their respects but just as importantly, little shrines built in parking lots, places of work, street medians, playgrounds and any imaginable corner of a world of concrete and asphalt are colorfully decorated with flowers, balloons and confetti on the Virgin's feast day as neighbors gather around the altars to share a small breakfast, sing happy birthday to the Virgin, light fire-crackers and some just come to have a quiet prayer. AP

ST. PAUL MINNESOTA, USA


Rachel Boelke sings “Silent Night” with her daughter, Lilja, 7, and the rest of the congregation at the end of the Intergenerational Christmas Eve Service at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in St. Paul, Minn., Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

ITALY


A man dressed as Santa Claus lights flares as he stands on a boat in Imperia, near Genoa, Italy, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

BEIJING, CHINA


Children dressed as angels take part in a Christmas Eve mass at the South Cathedral official Catholic church in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

LITHUANA


Priests and clergy attend the Christmas celebration midnight Mass at the Cathedral-Basilical in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Over 80 percent of Lithuanians are Christians who celebrate the festival of Christmas on Dec. 25. AP

HONG KONG


A man dressed as the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus poses for photographs during the early hours of Christmas Day celebrations in the Causeway Bay shopping district in Hong Kong Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. AP

ST PETER'S BASILICA, THE VATICAN


Pope Francis kisses a statue of Baby Jesus as he celebrates the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

IRAQ


Iraqi Christians attend a Christmas Eve mass at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Iraqi Christians gathered for Christmas Eve services amid tight security. AP

OFFICIAL CATHOLIC CHURCH IN CHINA


Chinese bishop Joseph Li Shan places a statue of baby Jesus in a replica of a stable as he takes part in a mass on the eve of Christmas at the South Cathedral official Catholic church in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

BAGHDAD, IRAQ


A woman shops for Christmas decoration items in central Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Although the number of Christians has dropped in Iraq, Christmas, a national holiday in Iraq, is very popular in the capital. AP

PAKISTAN


Pakistani Christians prepare a Christmas tree in preparation for Christmas in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. AP

MONROVIA, LIBERIA


Liberian men shop for a Christmas tree at a shop in Monrovia, Liberia, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. The deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone means no festive parties at the beach and no carolers singing at night. Authorities this year have banned any activities that could further the spread of the highly contagious virus now blamed for killing more than 7,000 people in West Africa over the past year. AP

LAHORE, PAKISTAN


Pakistani vendor Maqbool Mashi sells Santa Claus balloons ahead of Christmas in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary)

NORAD TRACK SANTA OPERATION, COLORADO, USA


Volunteer Patty Shook takes a phone call from a child asking where Santa is and when he will deliver presents to her home, inside a phone-in center during the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Operation, at the North American Aerospace Defense Command, at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Patty and her husband, Bryan, who is retired from the Air Force, have been volunteering at NORAD each Christmas Eve for five years, fielding calls from children from all over the world eager to hear about Santa's progress. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

THE LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM'S MANGER SQUARE


A Palestinian girl dressed in a costume joins a Christmas Eve celebration at Manger Square outside the Church of the Nativity, built atop the site where Christians believe Jesus was born, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. Christian pilgrims from around the world have begun to gather in the biblical town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations in the traditional birthplace of Jesus. AP

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN


Pakistani Christians gather in an alley of a Christian neighborhood decorated with festive lights for Christmas in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)

LOS ENGELES, USA ZOO LIGHTS EXPERIENCE


In this Friday, Nov. 28, 2014 photo provided by the Los Angeles Zoo, guests view the first night of a lighted adventure, the inaugural “L.A. Zoo Lights” experience. The holiday season show transforms the zoo from its daytime persona to a nighttime environment of a series of animal escapades rendered in led lights, lasers, 3D projections, spectacular sets and interactive displays. Guests take a self-guided 60- to 90-minute tour through select areas of the zoo while the animals themselves are asleep. A troop of animated LED “monkeys” guide visitors to an illuminated “Reggie the alligator,” an origami “rhino,” singing �elephants,� and a party of musical pink “flamingos” and their DJ leader, among others. The show is open nightly through Jan. 4 except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
AP


FROM THE INQUIRER

‘Merry Christmas, bro’—A streetballer’s final fast break Bong Lozada @BLozadaINQ INQUIRER.net  5:57 PM | Thursday, December 25th, 2014

CHRISTMAS IS IN THE HEART 


Edward Ballesteros. Photo courtesy of Jan Ballesteros.

MANILA, Philippines—Blinking lights illuminated a man’s face and beeping sounds broke the silence of an otherwise quiet room.

Just after the break of noon, Jan Ballesteros arrived, panting. He stared at his family as they surrounded a metal-framed bed. In it, Edward, his brother, was attempting a final fast break.

A brotherhood of basketball lovers, Jan, Edward, their oldest Jay and their second-youngest Renz all grew up in Airmen’s Village in Las Piñas. It was a sorrowful reunion at the hospital.

From a distance, Jan, the youngest of the brothers, saw youngest sister Marianne with her arms around their father Eduardo; beside them, their mother Cyrill was praying for Edward to come away victorious.

But the skillful streetballer was losing the battle. Edward had been suffering from lung cancer for more than a year, the result of years of smoking.

From a lean streetball machine that struck fear among outsiders and challengers, Edward was a mere remnant of himself as he lay in his hospital bed at the Las Piñas Doctor’s Hospital, frail and with a bulging stomach that left him in agony.

Another beep. Another blink.

Everything looked bleak as the man with the scythe got ever closer. This was a break Edward could not hope to complete, unlike in his glory days.

Jan, still outside of the circle, could not manage to get close to his sick brother. Jay, a hulking tattooed man close to six feet tall, looked at Edward with fear and anger. He could not save his diminutive brother this time. This wasn’t a basketball game against mortals he could easily fend off as Edward drove to the lane. Edward was facing a monster no mortal could defeat.

Beep.

A pitiful huddle: Edward’s parents hoping for the best, Renz clutching his brother’s bed, Jay looking on closer, Jan scared thinking that soon all would be lost.

Another beep, with a blink following shortly after.

Cyrill cried, a moving Pieta. Eduardo looked at his son and his other children, powerless.

Jan, tears running down his face, looked at his older brother, this time not in awe but in despair.

A beep, this time a long one.

Everyone is stunned; the man with the scythe had caught up with Edward. “Merry Christmas bro,” Jan said.

It was over.

Edward left his family on Christmas Eve in 2013. He was 33 years old; he died 12 days after his birthday.

* * *

One year on, Jan remembers his brother, the sadness and the pain.

One year on, he now looks at the experience in a different light.

“Masakit mawalan ng mahal sa buhay sa araw mismo ng Kapaskuhan. Yung araw na nabuhay si Kristo, namatay naman yung kuya ko (It hurts to lose a loved one on Christmas day. On the day that Christ was born, my older brother passed away),” Jan said. “Christmas Day will be remembered for two contrasting things, at least for us.”

“Bubuhos ang pagkain at regalo sa Pasko, pati na rin ang luha (The food and the gifts will pour during Christmas, and the tears too). But in the words of one of my favorite professors, ‘His best Yuletide gift is that he’s already up there, with today’s Celebrant.'”


FROM PHILSTAR

TIMELINE: World news events of 2014 (Associated Press) | Updated December 25, 2014 - 4:39pm 2 16 googleplus0 0


A photo of the Earth captured in 8 mm from a cupola in the International Space Station by American Astronaut Reid Weisman. Twitter/astro_reid

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August | September | October | November | December January

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OPINION FROM THE INQUIRER

‘Panunuluyan’ Ambeth R. Ocampo @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:10 AM | Wednesday, December 24th, 2014


PHOTO: 'Panunuluyan' From the book Pasko!: The Philippine Christmas by Reynaldo G Alejandro, Marla Y. Chorengel et al. Published and exclusively distributed by National Bookstore and Anvil Publishing.

Traffic in the past week has discouraged me from venturing out on any trip that requires a car. The upside of this situation is that I finally found time to reclaim my desk from clutter, reshelve books, and, most important, sort out papers.

Some of the things that emerged from the depths were notes on a Philippine drama class I took almost three decades ago under the late Doreen G. Fernandez, who said that all forms of drama developed from ancient religion and ritual.

Come to think of it, the Christmas Eve Mass we have to endure before the feasting and exchange of gifts is also a form of drama. I remind myself often that we should not only see but also notice things in everyday life.

Doreen’s drama class made me seek out folk plays like the “Sinakulo” during Lent and even the playlets that usher in the “Salubong” of Easter. Most memorable for me were the komedya performed in San Dionisio, Parañaque, that had fantastic sets that included lights, fireworks and a papier mache whale that devoured the main character.

Watching the komedya made me wonder why the Cristianos were always bida, in contrast to the Moros who were always kontrabida. Then I realized that those words were rooted in the Spanish “vida” (life). That’s why the rubber tube we use when swimming is called “salbabida” (from the Spanish “salvar” (to save) and “vida”) or life-preserver.

Some of the drama types and festivals we studied in Doreen’s class are still in my bucket list, like the “Moriones” of Marinduque and an odd festival in Nueva Ecija where people walk about costumed as trees. I did not know that one of the items on my bucket list, “Panunuluyan,” has been revived in the Poblacion de Makati.

Like many other people, I associate modern Makati with the Zobel de Ayala family, with skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls in the commercial and business district. Not many are aware of an older part of town—the poblacion, on a hill with many small streets that radiate from a 17th-century Jesuit church once known as San Pedro de Makati or “Sampiro.” As the navel of the city (pusod ng Makati), it is the place to catch folk Lenten rituals like the “Pasyon,” processions, “Salubong,” etc. in an urban setting. There is something in this old part of town, aside from history and heritage, that valiantly tries to survive the changes that come with the Rockwell development, the girlie bars, as well as the Korean restaurants.

My dream of living in the poblacion with a view of the Pasig River remains an illusion because property prices even in this part of Makati are beyond me.

According to Nick Joaquin’s “Almanac for Manileños,” there is a Christmas playlet performed in Makati called the “Panunuluyan”—literally “seeking entry”—that reenacts the first Christmas Eve when Joseph and Mary could not find room in any of the inns of Bethlehem.

They had to rough it in a stable, where the Christ child was born and placed in a manger to be worshipped, first, by the farm animals and shepherds, and, later, by the Magi or Three Kings, whose names have been handed down to us, not through the Bible, but through tradition, as Gaspar, Melchor and Baltazar.

The playlet moves about town, with a couple dressed as Joseph (a bearded youth in white with a staff) and Mary (a pregnant maiden in robes of blue and white) knocking on the doors of preselected houses and singing or reciting verse seeking a room at the inn.

Sometimes images of Joseph and Mary are placed on a carroza and taken to the houses, and someone sings their lines for them. They stop in front of the first house, knock and seek entry, then from the balconies or closed gates the people inside will refuse them because the inn is full.

They bid the house owners goodbye, move to the next one, seek and be refused a room again and again till they reach the church where they are let in—and there, during the “Gloria,” the Christ is born in a manger or a cave, whichever the parishioners built that year.

I guess if Mary and Joseph knocked on your door today you would turn them away, too, because they are described as: “Isang lalaking marungis, isang babaeng buntis (One grimy man, one pregnant woman).” These, declared Nick Joaquin, are “two of the most moving lines in Philippine folk poetry.”

Our “Simbang Gabi” and “Panunuluyan” were imported from the “Posadas” of Mexico during the days of the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade. The “Posadas” are sung on the nine days before Christmas, hence “Simbang Gabi,” while the “Panunuluyan” is performed only on Christmas Eve.

The playlet is also known as “Panawagan” (calling out) in Tagalog provinces; in Bicol it is known as “Kagharong” or “Panharong-harong” (going from house to house).

The most elaborate “Panunuluyan” is known in Cavite as “Maytines” (from the early-morning prayers known as “matins”).

Here the couple ride on a carroza and are accompanied by a band, plus a dozen other carrozas carrying characters and scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

All these may seem primitive to members of a generation that can find better entertainment in their cell phones and tablets, but folk theater like the “Panunuluyan” still has a place in the 21st century, especially for children who can yet find wonder in something adults find corny.

These traditions are heritage at risk and should be preserved in some way.

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Comments are welcome at aocampo@ateneo.edu


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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