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TONY MELOTO OFFERS RAY OF HOPE, SILVER LINING FOR MARGINALIZED


NOVEMBER 26 -He is not affiliated with any of the country’s real estate giants, but his works place him alongside the “pillars” of this growing industry. Tony Meloto, in his own right, is no different from the rest of the bigwigs that have spearheaded the creation of the many landmark masterpieces and structures that continue to define and alter the dynamic city and provincial skylines. His works, instead, have brought him to address the needs of those living in society’s fringes. Through Gawad Kalinga, Meloto has proven to be a key player in the housing industry, helping provide decent homes and sustainable livelihood to the marginalized and homeless Filipinos. And with Christmas just around the corner, Inquirer Property deemed it proper to pay homage to the likes of Meloto who served as a guiding force, delivering “gifts of change” to make lives better. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Fr. Ranhilio Aquino - Advent in a time of hate


NOVEMBER 28 -Fr. Ranhilio Aquino
It comes before Christmas, and that is practically all that is commonly known of the Season of Advent. In many churches, most will take note of the Advent Wreath, a bough of green with four candles: three, violet, one pink. Twice a year—on the third Sunday of Advent and on the fourth Sunday of Lent—the liturgy recommends a very peculiar color: “old rose” is how it officially goes, but pink is what it has become in present-day versions of liturgical habiliment. It is the color of joy and exaltation in a season of sobriety. And for many, if not most Catholics, the advent wreath is not an advent symbol, but an early piece of Christmas decor, like the Filipino puts up his Christmas tree as soon as the “-ber” months march in. But apart from this, there is not too much that many will say about Advent. The air is thick and heavy with hate these days. So many hate the Marcoses for having buried the family patriarch with the solemnity by which every son or daughter would like a father laid to rest. Many are angry at De Lima for having had an affair with Dayan and for what is not yet in fact known for sure—that she had something to do with the frightening drug trade at the national penitentiary.READ MORE...

ALSO: New Zealand best place to live in–2016 survey


NOVEMBER 26 -Auckland skyline (left), seen from the peak of the extinct volcano Mt. Eden, which has a massive crater that has been developed into a running and biking trail —PHOTOS BY GIBBS CADIZ
New Zealand has been in the world news lately. On Nov. 14, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, the epicenter of which was northeast of Christchurch, a city hit by a similarly powerful temblor in February 2011 that killed 185 people. While only two casualties were reported this time, the quake was a reminder of one of New Zealand’s unique characteristics, which accounts as well for its often unearthly beauty. This country of adjoining two landmasses, located below Australia and already quite near Antarctica, is shaped by the primal elements of fire and ice—active volcanoes on the one hand, and massive glaciers on the other. READ MORE...

ALSO: Cuba mourns Fidel Castro


NOVEMBER 27 -Students light candles in honour of Cuban historic revolutionary leader Fidel Castro a day after his death, at the Havana University in Havana on November 26, 2016. Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro died late Friday in Havana, his brother, President Raul Castro, announced on national television. Castro's ashes will be buried in the historic southeastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country. / AFP PHOTO / Yamil LAGE
Cuba mourned its revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Sunday, as the communist island prepared to bid farewell to the towering giant of its modern history with memorials and a four-day funeral procession. After the stunned commotion triggered by Saturday’s announcement that Castro, 90, had died, Sunday was set to be a day of preparations ahead of a flurry of events to mark his passing. Castro, a titan of the 20th century who beat the odds to endure into the 21st, died late Friday after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts. No cause of death was given. President Raul Castro said that his older brother’s remains would be cremated Saturday, the first of nine days of national mourning. There was no official confirmation on whether this had yet happened. READ MORE...

ALSO: RESEARCH - A vice president, senator, diplomat and top government lawyer are among the bar flunkers who made good


NOVEMBER 27 -
Vice-President Leni Robredo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES Vice President Leni Robredo failed the bar exams on her first try in 1992. Robredo, an economics graduate of the University of the Philippines, studied law at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City. Robredo, who passed the bar in 1997, shared her story during the commencement rites of Sacred Heart College in Lucena City in March. “Don’t lose hope. Learn to rise from failures,” 
The others were: Claro M. Recto, the great Nationalist (1930s), READ THE FULL REPORT...

ALSO: U.S. crowds pick up slightly on Thanksgiving Day Black Friday, Amazon online sales jump; Macy's fights back on Black Friday
{IN THE PHILIPPINES BLACK FRIDAY FOCUSED ON PROTESTS}[RELATED: Organizers tap millennials for "Black Friday" anti-Marcos burial protest]


NOVEMBER 25 -U.S. online sales surged on Black Friday, with Amazon.com Inc offering the steepest discounts among e-commerce sites as it set the agenda for what has traditionally been the biggest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers. In-store shopping began to pick up in the afternoon, but the increase in customer traffic paled in comparison to the jump in online sales, analysts said. Macy's Inc website saw such heavy traffic that it had to delay customers from entering the site at three different times. Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT, according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago. READ MORE...RELATED, [IN THE PHILIPPINES BLACK FRIDAY FOCUSED ON PROTESTS - Organizers tap millennials for "Black Friday" protest...


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Tony Meloto: offers ray of hope, silver lining for marginalized

MANILA, NOVEMBER 28, 2016 (INQUIRER) Theresa S. Samaniego,@inquirerdotnet,   November 26, 2016 - He is not affiliated with any of the country’s real estate giants, but his works place him alongside the “pillars” of this growing industry.

Tony Meloto, in his own right, is no different from the rest of the bigwigs that have spearheaded the creation of the many landmark masterpieces and structures that continue to define and alter the dynamic city and provincial skylines. His works, instead, have brought him to address the needs of those living in society’s fringes.

Through Gawad Kalinga, Meloto has proven to be a key player in the housing industry, helping provide decent homes and sustainable livelihood to the marginalized and homeless Filipinos.

And with Christmas just around the corner, Inquirer Property deemed it proper to pay homage to the likes of Meloto who served as a guiding force, delivering “gifts of change” to make lives better.

READ MORE...


MELOTO, through Gawad Kalinga, is building the first Farm Village University in theworld.

Get to know more about the strong proponent behind Gawad Kalinga, a Philippine-based movement that aims to end poverty by helping restore the dignity of the poor through access to life’s basic rights such as food and shelter.

Here is the story behind this noble advocacy, which targets to end poverty for 5 million families by 2024—in the words of Meloto himself.

QUESTION: Who was Tony Meloto before Gawad Kalinga? What inspired you to start Gawad Kalinga?

ANSWER: I was a typical Filipino. I went to Ateneo de Manila University. I took up Economics and worked in a multinational company and became a manager at the age at 21years old in Procter and Gamble Philippines, but I left to become an entrepreneur.

(But) at the end of the day, it did not give me the satisfaction… I felt like a prisoner in the world of those privileged with an education, business, and career opportunities; who live in their comfort and safety zones and exclusive subdivisions; those who send their kids to exclusive schools.

There was deepening poverty outside of our subdivision gates, conflict in the countryside, vulnerability to climate change. And all these just compounded with the growth of landlessness, homelessness, and hunger in our country.

It was only then at that time that I realized that the education that I got in the university and the corporate background and the entrepreneurial experiences—they were all preparations for me to create, to help to build communities that restore human dignity and also productivity, for me to now create an economic platform where rich and poor work together.

What inspired me is the fear that the deepening poverty did not create opportunities for my family in our country and in fact, posed a threat to their own safety. So I had to go to the slums and to experience the depth of our people’s poverty, to see the world through their lens and to find also a model of development.

Q: What was your first project and how many families/houses were involved?

A: The first project involved 127 out-of-school youth in Bagong Silang in 1996 and it expanded in 7 years to 2000 marginalized youth, mostly men, gang members, drug addicts, juvenile delinquents.

This was a discovery for me—how to treat them as family and also to really discover my fatherhood, parenthood not just to my children but also to the children of the poor.

We did youth camps, leadership camps, sports, theater, livelihood. But in 1999, we started to build the first Gawad Kalinga village in Phase 9 in Bagong Silang for 43 families.

It has since grown to 3,000 communities throughout the country, and there are more cities now transforming their towns using the Gawad Kalinga’s model of building houses through sweat equity and building colorful houses with landscape and the goal is to really restore human dignity and for the poor to take pride, for them to develop their self-reliance and self-worth.

Q: Why among all possible projects for the poor did you take on housing?

A: Shelter is very basic. We just don’t talk about “house.” We talk “home” and so it is not just the basic physical structure but it is really the family that lives in that home.

So we would like the family who have been living like animals in shanties to wake up everyday and say that “I am a human being, I have dignity, I now have a home with a toilet, with clean water and I live in a community that have shared values where I feel safe, where I feel I have pride.”

Why also in the building of the houses? Because it is our way of attracting the men to not just be the problems in their community but also be part of the solution—because the drunks are men, the thieves are men, the wife-beaters are men.

They become very predatory and mercenary when they are treated like animals in a survival environment.

But when you make them also participate in their own liberation from poverty, they can contribute also to their own labor equity. They also develop their skills and develop their own self-worth and they will also learn to be more responsible for their family and their community.

Q: How do you choose the areas/communities you will help?

A: We chose areas that are slums in the cities where we can work with the government or the landowners who will donate land. We want to build in land that has already provided security.

We also want to build in land, especially in the rural areas, that have been given geo-hazard clearance from earthquake, floods, and typhoons.

Then, we work with the families who are most distressed and most in need, but are willing to work together to build (their own) home (but) to build the community that will come after they move in.

The sustainability of the community will depend also on the empowerment of the families… We work with the poor themselves who provide sweat equity. We work with the CSR (corporate social responsibility) of corporations so it’s a tax-free donation.

We work with the government to build the road, the water system, the electricity, and we work with universities, corporations for the volunteers. So this now becomes a five multi-stakeholder partnership.

There will always be difficulty. But I have the day-to-day satisfaction [from] witnessing the greatness of the human spirit from the poor, from the rich who want to help the poor, from corporations who want to share their profit to the poor, from government leaders that work with us without demanding anything in return.

Gawad Kalinga’s integrity actually brings out the good in everyone that we have never experienced because of corruption from government leaders. We have challenges, yes. If this is a perfect world, we will not be here.

Q: Is Gawad Kalinga your first project or have you always been involved in such activities?

A: I’ve always participated in charity by giving donations and doing volunteer work but Gawad Kalinga is really the first serious dive into the world of the poor because GK is about the power of presence, not just staying in my ivory tower and giving donations to the poor out of compassion.

Gawad Kalinga is not about making the poor the object of charity and our mercy but seeing them as the untapped wealth of this country. The role of Gawad Kalinga is to be an enabler of the disabled, disabled by poverty.

Q: What were the challenges you encountered? How did you handle it?

A: The greatest challenge was not doing enough, not fast enough to save more people from hunger, from being victims of conflict. My biggest challenge was in Bagong Silang when 14 of the 2,000 young people we’ve worked with in seven years died from gang wars. They were killed by their former enemies when they decided to go back to school.

Burying some of them were painful memories and I came to realize about the reality of hunger, pain, and death for those who have been deprived of justice.

Q: What was the most memorable part of this journey of yours? What was the greatest compliment you’ve received?

A: When people tell me that they no longer need to steal or kill because we gave them back their dignity and their humanity. The greatest compliment I guess is when recently, a son of a garbage collector was invited to speak in 20 universities in France and he got a standing ovation in the World Forum in Grenoble.

Q: Is there anything more that you want to achieve?

A: I’m building the first Farm Village University in the world. It is our Silicon Valley for social entrepreneurs so we will continue to build houses and schools, (conduct) medical missions, and plant trees. We will build the Farm Village University and we want this replicated in 24 other provinces by the end of 2024.

The goal is to raise 500,000 social entrepreneurs that will create jobs for 5 million Filipinos.

Q: What do you consider to be the best Christmas gift you’ve received?

A: The best Christmas gift for me is just to learn. It’s not so much the presents because we’ve given houses, classrooms, scholarships through many generous people and Filipinos through Gawad Kalinga.

But the greatest Christmas gift that I’ve really received was when I learned to consider the poor as family—that a poor squatter from Nazareth gave up his life for me because I am family.

He considered the rest of humanity, including me as family. That is what I received and that is what I will give – the love of Christ is what I received in Christmas and the love of Christ is what I’ll give throughout the year.


MANILA STANDARD

Advent in a time of hate posted November 28, 2016 at 12:01 am by Fr. Ranhilio Aquino


 Fr. Ranhilio Aquino

It comes before Christmas, and that is practically all that is commonly known of the Season of Advent. In many churches, most will take note of the Advent Wreath, a bough of green with four candles: three, violet, one pink.

Twice a year—on the third Sunday of Advent and on the fourth Sunday of Lent—the liturgy recommends a very peculiar color: “old rose” is how it officially goes, but pink is what it has become in present-day versions of liturgical habiliment. It is the color of joy and exaltation in a season of sobriety. And for many, if not most Catholics, the advent wreath is not an advent symbol, but an early piece of Christmas decor, like the Filipino puts up his Christmas tree as soon as the “-ber” months march in. But apart from this, there is not too much that many will say about Advent.

The air is thick and heavy with hate these days. So many hate the Marcoses for having buried the family patriarch with the solemnity by which every son or daughter would like a father laid to rest. Many are angry at De Lima for having had an affair with Dayan and for what is not yet in fact known for sure—that she had something to do with the frightening drug trade at the national penitentiary.

READ MORE...

There is seething anger at the members of the Lower House who skewered Ronnie Dayan—whom they called a “resource person”—apparently more interested in the juicy details of his romantic liaison with his former boss rather than how he proved de Lima’s culpability, and for displaying what many take to be shameless misogyny. Christmas is around the corner, but it is not in the air. Anger, agitation, restiveness and resentment are the smog of the season.

Advent is the season given to reflection on ends: the end of life, the end of time, the end of history. And the images conjured by the liturgical readings of the season are a mix of the terrifying and the inspiring.

There are apocalyptic visions of terrible portents in the sky, on earth and in the seas but there are also reassuring and comforting metaphors of homecoming after a period of exile and the definite establishment of a kingdom of justice, peace and love. “End” itself is two things at once:

It is closure, what prevents something from meaningless and utterly pointless perdurance and repetition; but it is also purpose, goal, that which gives any venture direction, purpose and sense! It should then not be surprising that we get mixed symbols: symbols of the forbidding—for the end of an established order, the scheme of things to which we are habituated, the “world” of our “worlded” existences is always threatening, always apocalyptic, and symbols of promise and of fulfillment—the new heavens and the new earth, not a re-run of an old show!

Advent relativizes our obsessions. In its call for sobriety, it makes us see that the raging issues of the day that now we take to be either our making or unmaking will be irrelevant, impertinent perhaps even hilarious and silly at some later time.

To look at things sub specie aeterni…with eternity as backdrop, that is what makes us laugh at our own self-importance, disposes us to be more forgiving of failings—those of others and our own, and at the same time more courageous about doing what may, for the moment, be scorned, reviled and shamed for, in the end, the judgments men and women give are subject to the ultimate revision of Final Judgment. The scorn and spite of earth do not determine the meaningfulness or meaninglessness of what we do, just as it is for none to say of another that he or she has been “evil” and “sinful” by a pronouncement that has eternal validity!

A people that wallows in hate and bathes in the elements of its own collective resentment is in danger of losing the capacity to hope—the virtue of the Advent Season. To hope, Gabriel Marcel towards the middle of the preceding century, is not to expect, for what one expects, one calculates.

Hope is beyond all calculation. It defies calculation. One hopes without making demands. Hope is not confined to the targets of one’s aspirations. Hope is seeing light at the end of a long, dark and forbidding tunnel, knowing not what lies at the end. Hope is repose. And so it is that hope is looking beyond our hating, hateful, resenting and resentful selves. Hope, says popular philosopher John Caputo, is giving our fiat to the God of the Impossible.

Hope is lighting that candle in our hearts that reminds us to be vigilant about the Advent of One whose love offers the promise that no hate ever can. It is the sobering but also joyful reminder that there is a kingdom to come that does not depend on the count of our fickle choices but is so much more that what eye has ever seen, ear has ever heard or anything at all that has ever occurred to us and our troubled spirits!


INQUIRER LIFESTYLE

New Zealand best place to live in–2016 survey Middle Earth is also the Land of Fire and Ice
By: Gibbs Cadiz - Theater Editor / @Inq_LifestylePhilippine Daily Inquirer / 04:30 AM November 26, 2016


Auckland skyline (left), seen from the peak of the extinct volcano Mt. Eden, which has a massive crater that has been developed into a running and biking trail —PHOTOS BY GIBBS CADIZ


Auckland’s Ferry Building, a heritage structure built in 1912 and restored in 1988; it now hosts trendy cafés and retail shops.

New Zealand has been in the world news lately. On Nov. 14, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck, the epicenter of which was northeast of Christchurch, a city hit by a similarly powerful temblor in February 2011 that killed 185 people.

While only two casualties were reported this time, the quake was a reminder of one of New Zealand’s unique characteristics, which accounts as well for its often unearthly beauty. This country of adjoining two landmasses, located below Australia and already quite near Antarctica, is shaped by the primal elements of fire and ice—active volcanoes on the one hand, and massive glaciers on the other.

READ MORE...

The other news about New Zealand is much cheerier. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, an annual survey of 149 countries by a London think tank, New Zealand is the best place in the world to live in 2016, due chiefly to its “free and open markets, free people, and strong society.”

Not surprisingly, it also notched high marks for the quality of its natural environment.


Harbor of Waiheke Island, a country getaway of wineries, olive orchards, craft shops and rustic restaurants 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland

More particularly, a global “liveability” study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which looked at such factors as quality of health care, transport, schools, crime levels, etc., adjudged Auckland, New Zealand’s largest urban center, as one of the 10 most liveable cities in the world.

Pristine environment

Filipinos traveling to Auckland—Philippine Airlines flies four times a week to the city via Cairns, Australia (see sidebar)—get an immediate idea of the high premium New Zealand puts into taking care of its environment right in the airport.

The quarantine desk is extra-strict in screening anything that might pose contamination or biosecurity risks, including fruits and food of any kind, plant and animal products, even clothing or implements previously used for gardening, farming or outdoor activities, such as tents, tools, footwear. Visitors must declare these—or pay a steep fine of $400.

That extra vigilance becomes understandable once you’re out breathing New Zealand’s air and marveling at the view. This is a land of endless green farmland and sheep-flecked meadows, of icy mountains and fiery geysers, caves that gleam with the enchanting light of millions of glowworms, and scenic coastlines framing bustling cities—all kept in pristine condition.


The spectacular Pohutu geyser at the TeWhakarewarewa Thermal Reserve in Te Puia, Rotorua—sacred ground for the Maori people of New Zealand

Auckland’s skyline, one of the world’s most recognizable, thanks to the iconic Sky Tower and the blue harbor in the foreground, is especially picturesque from nearby Mt. Eden. The highest point of this extinct volcano offers a 360-degree view of the city below, made more distinctive by the addition of a unique topographic feature—a massive crater whose rim has been developed into a running and biking trail with presumably the purest oxygen around.

Island country getaway

A mere 35-minute ferry ride from urban Auckland is Waiheke Island, a country getaway of wineries, olive orchards, craft shops and rustic restaurants. The graceful green hills with their groves and vineyards set against the sea constitute a vista irresistible for weddings and honeymoons. With a glass of local wine on one hand and a sprig of lavender on the other, any visitor can only sigh at the serene, Edenic vibe.

No one visiting New Zealand, of course, would miss the chance to go to the Hobbiton—the now-famous farm in a once-remote part of the country, about two hours away from Auckland by bus, that Peter Jackson chose as the cinematic stand-in for the mythical Middle Earth of “The Lord of the Rings.”

The Alexander Farm is the Shire made real, a sprawling movie set constructed with the help of the New Zealand army (which also served as extras in the films), and now maintained full-time as a tourist destination.


One of 39Hobbit holes in TheHobbiton, the famed “Lord of the Rings”movie set at the Alexander Farm in Matamata

The insistence on authenticity extends to growing real vegetables on the yards of the 39 Hobbit holes, though only Bilbo Baggins’ house on a hill is partially furnished to give visitors a peek into Hobbit living.

Atop Bilbo’s house is the sole artificial prop in the entire farm—a towering tree made of steel and silicon, but which looks seamlessly real.

Everywhere else, there are longjohns and petticoats flapping on clotheslines, firewood ready for chopping, chimneys puffing smoke, even geese (black swans, in this case) cavorting on the pond. Tolkien’s vision of rural England—resurrected in Matamata, New Zealand.

Cradle of Maori culture

Matamata is about an hour away from Rotorua, a city and region said to be the cradle of ancient Maori history and culture.

The Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve in Te Puia, Rotorua, hosts not only the spectacular Pohutu geyser and the surrounding environs of mud pools and hissing vents (the Maori would cook their food in these earth ovens); it’s also home to a kiwi sanctuary—one of the few places to see New Zealand’s elusive and endangered national icon.

The nocturnal flightless bird flits about in large glass enclosures shrouded in darkness; seeing one in the enclosed bush once your eyes have adjusted to the dark is spine-tingling.


“Haka”—the traditional war dance of the Maori—is an intense experience filled with history, song, mythology and mysticism.

Close to Roturua are the Waitomo Caves, another destination that requires visual adjustment to darkness to be able to behold the star of the place: the arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species endemic to New Zealand that, in their millions, hanging on the cave’s ceiling and crevices, create a breathtaking universe of light amid spectral darkness, as visitors on boats glide silently on the river below.

The millennia-old limestone caves of Waitomo have sections that are cathedral-like in their vastness, adorned with stalactites and stalagmites and with superb natural acoustics. The Maori opera superstar Kiri Te Kanawa has famously performed in this one-of-a-kind venue.

Top industry

Along with tourism, farming is a top industry in New Zealand, and a place like the Agrodome in Ngongotaha, also in Rotorua, combines the two into a fun eco-farm show. Tourists learn about and get up close with 19 sheep breeds—the backbone of the country’s reputation as a fine source for dairy, merino wool and lanolin oil, among others. They will see a shearing demonstration, watch sheepdogs expertly interact with the herd, feed lambs and see how wool is turned into clothing.


Visitors playing with lambs at the Agrodome in Rotorua

The best way to cap a visit to New Zealand is by watching a “haka”—the traditional war dance of the Maori, an intense experience filled with history, song, mythology and mysticism. In their soaring war cries and lilting melodies, the descendants of the ancient people of this country celebrate their indefinable bond with the land—and beckon visitors to discover for themselves the rest of New Zealand.

Outside of Auckland, after all, is the rest of the country—the capital Wellington, historic Christchurch, more forests and pastoral country, more heaving volcanoes and mighty mountain ranges, the gleaming sounds and fjords in the glacial regions of South Island and beyond.

To explore Middle Earth, start from Auckland—what a start that would be.

Philippine Airlines flies four times a week to Auckland, New Zealand, with a one-hour technical stop at Cairns, Australia.

Call 8558888 or 9111327.


INQUIRER

Cuba mourns Fidel Castro Agence France-Presse / 07:16 PM November 27, 2016


Students light candles in honour of Cuban historic revolutionary leader Fidel Castro a day after his death, at the Havana University in Havana on November 26, 2016. Cuban revolutionary icon Fidel Castro died late Friday in Havana, his brother, President Raul Castro, announced on national television. Castro's ashes will be buried in the historic southeastern city of Santiago on December 4 after a four-day procession through the country. / AFP PHOTO / Yamil LAGE

Cuba mourned its revolutionary leader Fidel Castro on Sunday, as the communist island prepared to bid farewell to the towering giant of its modern history with memorials and a four-day funeral procession.

After the stunned commotion triggered by Saturday’s announcement that Castro, 90, had died, Sunday was set to be a day of preparations ahead of a flurry of events to mark his passing.

Castro, a titan of the 20th century who beat the odds to endure into the 21st, died late Friday after surviving 11 US administrations and hundreds of assassination attempts. No cause of death was given.

President Raul Castro said that his older brother’s remains would be cremated Saturday, the first of nine days of national mourning. There was no official confirmation on whether this had yet happened.

READ MORE...

A series of memorials will begin Monday, when Cubans are called to converge on Havana’s iconic Revolution Square.

Castro’s ashes will then go on a four-day island-wide procession before being buried in the southeastern city of Santiago on December 4.

Santiago, Cuba’s second city, was the scene of Castro’s ill-fated first attempt at revolution in 1953 — six years before he succeeded in ousting US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Adored by supporters as a savior and reviled by enemies as a tyrant, Castro ruled Cuba from 1959 until he handed power to his brother Raul in 2006 amid a health crisis.

Even in retirement Castro wielded influence behind the scenes, and regularly penned diatribes against American “imperialism” in the state press.

Dancing in Miami

The news of Castro’s death drew strong — and polarized — reactions across the world.

In Miami, just 370 kilometers (230 miles) away, crowds of Cuban-Americans danced in the streets for a second night, celebrating Castro’s death.

Among the cacophony of car horns, drums, loud music and singing in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, a chant rang out: “Fidel, you tyrant, take your brother too!”

Some two million Cubans live in the United States, nearly 70 percent of them in Florida. Of those, the vast majority live in Miami.

Cuban-American politicians excoriated Castro, with Florida Senator Marco Rubio calling him an “evil, murderous dictator who inflicted misery and suffering on his own people.”

However Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed Castro as “the symbol of an era,” and China’s Xi Jinping said “Comrade Castro will live forever.”

There were sharply different US reactions from outgoing President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump.

Obama, who embarked on a historic rapprochement with Cuba in 2014, said the US extended a “hand of friendship” to the Cuban people.

But Trump dismissed Castro as “a brutal dictator.”

The future of the US-Cuban thaw is uncertain under Trump, who has threatened to reverse course if Havana does not allow greater human rights.

Mourning in Havana

The bustling streets of Havana emptied and parties ground to a halt as Castro’s admirers sank into grief.

The city was oddly silent late Saturday, as night clubs closed and liquor sales were limited, part of the official days of mourning.

“What can I say? Fidel Castro was larger than life,” said a tearful Aurora Mendez, 82.

She recalled a life in poverty before Castro’s revolution in 1959.

“Fidel was always first in everything, fighting for the downtrodden and the poor,” she said.

Indiana Valdes and her husband Maykel Duquesne, who work at a state-run bank, worried about life after Fidel.

“Fidel was the island’s protector, he was everywhere,” said Valdes, 43.

Choking back tears, Valdes recalled a lifetime under El Comandante. Will socialism survive his death? She looked at her husband and shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said.

Cab driver Armando Lobaina, 50, admits that he cried on hearing the news. “Without Fidel I feel empty,” he said.

Lobaina hoped that Raul Castro and whoever succeeds him prevents the collapse of Cuba’s socialist system and the “good things” that it provides, such as free health and education.

But he still worries. “Things can’t change too abruptly because there are people who don’t like change,” he said, adding that it is now all down to the top Communist Party leaders.

Underdog and survivor

Fidel Castro, who came to power as a bearded, cigar-chomping 32-year-old, adopted the slogan “socialism or death” and kept his faith to the end.

Castro survived more than 600 assassination attempts, according to aides, as well as the failed 1961 US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.

His outrage over that botched plot contributed to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, when the Soviet Union accepted his request to send ballistic missiles to Cuba.

The US discovery of the missiles pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The Soviet Union bankrolled Castro’s regime until 1989, when the Eastern Bloc’s collapse sent Cuba’s economy into free-fall.

But Fidel managed to hang on.

He ceded power to his brother Raul in July 2006 to recover from intestinal surgery.

The father of at least eight children, Fidel Castro was last seen in public on his 90th birthday on August 13.


INQUIRER

A vice president, senator, diplomat and top government lawyer are among the bar flunkers who made good Philippine Daily Inquirer / 06:13 AM November 27, 2016


Vice-President Leni Robredo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

Vice President Leni Robredo failed the bar exams on her first try in 1992. Robredo, an economics graduate of the University of the Philippines, studied law at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City. Robredo, who passed the bar in 1997, shared her story during the commencement rites of Sacred Heart College in Lucena City in March. “Don’t lose hope. Learn to rise from failures,” she told the graduating class. “I studied to be a lawyer while I was raising my little girls,” said the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, with whom she has three daughters: Aika, Tricia and Jillian. “I shuttled between Manila and Naga City, while reviewing for the bar. It was a very difficult time. I was juggling my responsibilities as a mother, a teacher and a student,” she recounted. In May this year, Robredo won a tightly contested battle for the second top post in the land with 14.4 million votes.

Claro M. Recto

The great nationalist Claro M. Recto took the bar in 1913 while still in his senior year at the University of Santo Tomas law school—and failed. He got a grade of 41 percent in Civil Procedure even as he scored 90 percent in Civil Law. The 1913 bar exams marked the first time that the test questions in Civil Procedure were in English, while the medium of instruction was Spanish at the Ateneo and UST when Recto was a student there. The examiner in Civil Procedure also noted that Recto’s handwriting was hardly legible. The bar flunker went back to UST and graduated class valedictorian. He retook the bar in 1914 and passed, though there was no record that he landed in the top ten. He earlier graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo de Manila with a perfect grade of 1 in all his subjects, except for one where he got a 1.3. He got the highest honors (maxima cum laude) at the Ateneo.

Francisco Noel R. Fernandez

Francisco Noel R. Fernandez of the University of the Philippines flunked the bar in 1993 but came back to top the exams the following year. He told the Inquirer then: “I failed because I was overconfident. So the second time, I was more careful and I enrolled at the UP review school.’’ With his rare feat, UP broke Ateneo’s three-year run at No. 1. Fernandez was then training to become a diplomat at the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs. He was welcomed as incoming Deputy Chief of Mission at the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa last September.

Persida Acosta

Public Attorneys Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda Acosta failed the bar twice—in 1987 and 1988. On her third try in 1989, she ranked fourth. Acosta blamed poverty for twice failing the bar, saying her parents could not afford her tuition and other school requirements, forcing her to miss classes.

This 1987 law graduate of the University of the East is among the 14 candidates vying for the seat of Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Perez, who retires on Dec. 14.

Compiled by Kate Pedroso and Minerva Generalao, Inquirer Research


REUTERS

U.S. crowds pick up slightly on Black Friday, Amazon online sales jump; Macy's fights back on Black Friday By Nandita Bose and Siddharth Cavale



U.S. online sales surged on Black Friday, with Amazon.com Inc offering the steepest discounts among e-commerce sites as it set the agenda for what has traditionally been the biggest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar retailers.

In-store shopping began to pick up in the afternoon, but the increase in customer traffic paled in comparison to the jump in online sales, analysts said.

Macy's Inc website saw such heavy traffic that it had to delay customers from entering the site at three different times.

Online sales on Friday hit $1.70 billion as of 3 p.m. EDT, according to Adobe Digital Index, after reaching $1.13 billion for the day on Thursday, up almost 14 percent from a year ago.

READ MORE...

The National Retail Federation has said it expects total sales this holiday season to increase by 3.6 percent to $655.8 billion, mainly due to the rise in online shopping.

This weekend's shopping could reflect signs of faster economic growth in the fourth quarter this year. Nationwide U.S. retail sales rose 0.8 percent in October, driven by a 1.5 percent jump in receipts at online retailers.

The lowest unemployment rate in eight years of 4.9 percent in October and a rise in hourly wage rates of 2.8 percent for the year, the biggest increase since 2009, is fuelling consumer confidence and spending power.

"All of this adds up to the consumer feeling better about their current situation and I'm hoping they ... buy all of their gifts from Macy's," the retailer's chief executive officer, Terry Lundgren, told Reuters.

Administrative assistant Kelsey Gilford, 52, was shopping at Chicago's Water Tower mall on Friday but had already made purchases online on Thursday.

ONLINE DEALS

"I looked at some online deals on J.C. Penney which were good. I bought a small kitchen appliance yesterday," she said.

The deepest average discounts for Black Friday came from leading online retailer Amazon.com Inc, with an average of 42 percent off, compared with 33 percent off at Walmart , 35 percent at Target and 36 percent at Best Buy, according to e-commerce analytics firm Clavis Insight.

Amazon said Black Friday would surpass last year in terms of the number of items ordered on its website. The Seattle-based company declined to provide specifics.

Both Target and Wal-Mart, two of the country's biggest brick-and-mortar retailers, said Thanksgiving online sales were some of their best ever.

Customer traffic online could be up 20 percent over Black Friday from a year ago, Cowen & Co analysts forecast in a note, while store traffic is likely to fall 3 to 4 percent this year on Black Friday.

"We expect negative (store) traffic given (the) earlier start this year of the holiday selling season and rise of mobile, which could be as much as 60 percent or more of all traffic, and consumer exhaustion from a saturated promotional environment," the analysts said.

AT THE MALLS

At many malls, more consumers turned up as the day progressed. Reuters reporters saw bigger crowds by midday at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall near O'Hare International Airport, which houses shops for high-end brands and retailers, and at Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall in Sunrise, Florida.

But other malls, like the outdoor City Place mall in downtown West Palm Beach, remained largely subdued. Nicholas Wingo, a 32-year-old security officer at Hugo Boss in the Fashion Outlets of Chicago mall, said the store had a steady stream of customers but no long lines.

ALSO IN U.S.

President-elect Donald Trump also stepped into the online sales excitement. On Friday morning, Trump's online store announced it was offering a 30 percent-off deal on all campaign products, including a $149 Christmas ornament.

"President-elect Trump loves a great deal," a promotional email said.

For years, Black Friday has started the holiday shopping season in the United States with retailers offering steep discounts. But its popularity has been on the wane with the rise of online shopping and cheap deals throughout the year.

The holiday shopping season, which runs through Christmas on Dec. 25, can account for as much as 40 percent of retailers' annual sales.

(Additional reporting by Svea Herbst Bayliss in Providence, Renita Young and Nandita Bose in Chicago, Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore, Amy Tennery, Stephanie Brumsey and Aleks Michalska in New York and Ruthy Munoz in Palm Beach, Florida; Editing by Jo Winterbottom and Cynthia Osterman)

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RELATED FROM CNN PHILIPPINES

[IN THE PHILIPPINES BLACK FRIDAY FOCUSED ON PROTESTS[ Organizers tap millennials for "Black Friday" protest By David Santos, CNN Philippines Updated 20:25 PM PHT Thu, November 24, 2016
3.2K19

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Organizers are hoping to stage a huge anti-Marcos rally on Friday, November 25 - and they are tapping millennials to help to sustain the momentum of November 18's lightning rallies.

Some students are rushing to finish an effigy of the late President Ferdinand Marcos inside a mock coffin. It will be carried in a procession as demonstrators take to the streets for Friday's big anti-Marcos rally.

Also going on display, a giant editorial cartoon depicting a parody of the late president's controversial burial.

Most, if not all, of the artists involved are millennials - a generation of young people criticized for being too naïve to know who Marcos was.

These artists, however, draw their inspiration from speaking to human rights victims who suffered during the Martial Law years in the Philippines, and fellow progressive artists who came before them.

A significant number of those who joined street protests - following the sudden and unannounced Marcos burial on November 18 - were millennials, which surprised rally organizers.

Some University of the Philippines teachers held a teach-in to encourage more millennials to join Friday's mass actions.

Instead of the usual classroom lessons, there were interactive lectures from Martial Law victims, theatrical performances, and even dance lessons.

All these are meant to keep young people talking about the Marcoses and how that family shaped our country's political history.

Read: Anti-Marcos groups: 'Fight is not yet over'

More than just keeping up with its image as a bastion of student activism, UP hopes to inspire the public to take a stand - the very essence of democracy.


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