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BINONDO, METRO MANILA: WORLD's OLDEST CHINATOWN CONTINUES TO ATTRACT BUSINESSES[RELATED: A SENSE OF HISTORY - Feeding a Republic]


JANUARY 28 -A rich, colorful past, an illustrious present, and a promising, burgeoning future. This, in essence, is what the thriving Chinatown in Binondo, Manila is now all about. From being the hub of the Pacific where the beginnings of global commerce took place centuries ago, the world’s oldest Chinatown continues to be that highly influential district which saw the seamless fusion of tradition, culture, heritage and modernity. And despite its numerous transformations over the years, Chinatown’s identity has remained intact and compelling, enabling it to retain a unique flavor that appeals to both the locals and the foreigners. In the last decade alone, Manila’s Chinatown has seen a revitalization of sorts, as it started to catch up with the changing times—a clear indication that it holds much promise for the future. Old Binondo There was, of course, a period when Binondo had lagged. READ MORE...RELATED, A SENSE OF HISTORY - Feeding a Republic...

ALSO: Duterte to skip Miss U coronation; 'Bato' ordered gun ban, in Pasay, P’que
[RELATED: One of these girls will be the new Miss Universe!]


JANUARY 29 -Miss Universe contestants, from left front row, Valeria Piazza of Peru, Maxine Medina of the Philippines and Izabella Krzan of Poland, walk on the ramp during the evening gown preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 in Pasay city. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) / MANILA BULLETIN Miss Universe contestants, from left front row, Valeria Piazza of Peru, Maxine Medina of the Philippines and Izabella Krzan of Poland, walk on the ramp during the evening gown preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 in Pasay city. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) / MANILA BULLETIN
President Rodrigo Duterte won’t attend the 65th Miss Universe coronation on Monday, January 30. The president confirmed this to GMA News after he was invited to attend the pageant. “In-invite namin, binigay na ang ticket pero walang advice. Alam mo naman si presidente, last minute eh kung magdecide,” tourism secretary Wanda Corazon Teo earlier said in an interview on radio DZMM on Sunday, January 29. With or without the president’s presence, the National Capital Region Police Office has beefed up security for the coronation rites by deploying at least 1,858 police officers to the venue. PNP director general Ronald dela Rosa has also ordered a gun ban in Pasay and Parañaque starting midnight of Sunday until Monday, January 30. READ MORE... RELATED, One of these girls will be the new Miss Universe!...

ALSO: Heavy rain prompts evacuations in Cagayan de Oro
[RELATED: Davao City sends trucks of food for flood-hit Maguindanao towns]


JANUARY 28 -Heavy flooding was reported in Cagayan de Oro Saturday afternoon. Cagayan de Oro Facebook account
 Dozens of families were moved to evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro Saturday afternoon after the city ordered preemptive evacuations due to heavy rains. According to the city's Social Welfare and Development department, 15 families had been evacuated to Bonbon Elementary School while Cugman had five families as of Saturday afternoon. Another 10 families were seeking shelter at the Puerto covered court while 10 more families were at the Puerto Elementary School. Twelve families had been evacuated to the covered court of Barangay Macasandig. Traffic officials have already ordered the closure of some portions of Claro M. Recto Ave., where hundreds of vehicles were stuck during flooding on January 16. Other major streets in the city were also closed, particularly Osmeña St., the Lapasan highway, Serena St. in Carmen, and the JR Borja Ext. in Camaman-an village. READ MORE...RELATED, Davao City sends trucks of food for flood-hit Maguindanao towns...

ALSO: Bishops to discuss EJKs in CBCP meet


JANUARY 29 -Fr. Jerome Secillano. Photo from cbcpnews.com
Church’s relevance in modern, interconnected world expected to be raised in three-day gathering Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) amid President Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs and the government’s prodeath penalty stance were among the issues expected to be tackled by Philippine Catholic bishops as a plenary assembly began on Saturday. Questions about the church’s relevance in an increasingly modern, interconnected world were also expected to be raised and discussed in the three-day gathering, officials said. Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive director of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) public affairs committee, said these issues would be discussed even as it remained unclear whether a pastoral letter would be issued at the end of the gathering. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Tokhang,’ purging of PNP scalawags continue — Palace
[RELATED: Retired, active policemen wary over Duterte backing of cops]


JANUARY 29 -ABELLA: The Palace yesterday shrugged off calls by some legislators to suspend the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Oplan “Tokhang” amid increasing incidences of its abuse by some government elements, including those in the police force.Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said President Duterte is being committed to purge criminals, especially those involved in illegal drug trafficking, and, at the same time, the unscrupulous operatives within the police force. “The President is really pursuing a two, a parallel track agenda. Cleansing, on the other hand, continuing to fight illegal drugs, criminality and corruption,” Abella said.“I don’t know if what the legislative is saying is necessary. However let’s leave it to the President to decide regarding these matters. It comes directly under his office but we can see that the President is doing everything,” he added. READ MORE...RELATED, Retired, active policemen wary over Duterte backing of cops...

ALSO: Palace says it's too early to react to Trump's travel ban


JANUARY 29 -Protesters block an intersection near Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle
 Malacañang respects the Trump administration’s move to temporarily bar the entry of citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries and refugees to the US but believes it is too early to react to the policy. Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Banaag said the US government has the right to implement its immigration policies and to determine who are qualified to enter the country. “Well, in the first place, we respect the policy of the United States of America if they have prohibitions or they would be banning people from entering their country because that is their right. And they have the visa right? They have regulations on who are qualified to go to their country,” Banaag told state-run radio station dzRB Sunday. “So, what we can do perhaps would be to let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) negotiate on that matter. However, we would respect whatever regulation would be implemented by the embassy or the US on that matter,” she added. READ MORE...


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World’s oldest Chinatown continues to attract businesses



MANILA,
JANUARY 30, 2017 (INQUIRER)  By: Amy R. Remo - Reporter / @amyremoINQ January 28, 2017 RICHARD A. REYES RICHARD A. REYES - A rich, colorful past, an illustrious present, and a promising, burgeoning future.

This, in essence, is what the thriving Chinatown in Binondo, Manila is now all about.

From being the hub of the Pacific where the beginnings of global commerce took place centuries ago, the world’s oldest Chinatown continues to be that highly influential district which saw the seamless fusion of tradition, culture, heritage and modernity.

And despite its numerous transformations over the years, Chinatown’s identity has remained intact and compelling, enabling it to retain a unique flavor that appeals to both the locals and the foreigners.

In the last decade alone, Manila’s Chinatown has seen a revitalization of sorts, as it started to catch up with the changing times—a clear indication that it holds much promise for the future.

Old Binondo


Picture of old Binondo in Manila Philippine History

There was, of course, a period when Binondo had lagged.

READ MORE

Wilson Sy, sales and marketing head for Megaworld Corp., admitted that the Binondo of about 20 years ago was highly different than what it is today.


WILSON SY, PHILSTAR BUSINESS COLUMNIST

Growing up in Binondo himself, Sy bore witness to the stagnation that this town underwent in earlier years. Binondo, according to him, had seen a period when it lacked energy, was quite dirty, had fewer inhabitants, and had old—sometimes dilapidated—infrastructure, as well as worn down roads.

It took the commitment of one developer to take on the cudgels to help restore and breathe new life into the illustrious Chinatown.

The entry of Megaworld, Sy said, has helped revitalize Chinatown, infusing energy into what then was a sleepy town, through new developments, foremost of which was the Lucky Chinatown Mall.


dragon department store location manila philippines date taken july 1946 photographer john florea credit life magazine

This large-scale urban renewal project formed part of Megaworld’s bigger and continuing commitment to help bring Manila’s Chinatown back to its former glory.

Close to heart

“What we have now is a revitalized Chinatown that is full of energy. It has again become a tourist spot for the country… And it’s not only the locals, but the foreigners as well, who are flocking to Binondo,” Sy said.

“But while it has become modernized, the rich culture and tradition of Chinatown were preserved,” he added.

Megaworld started in earnest the revitalization of Chinatown about a decade ago, and has remained steadfast to fulfilling this commitment today. Such dedication to this project, according to Sy, stemmed from the fact that Chinatown is one of the locations that is close to the heart of the company’s chairman, tycoon Andrew Tan.


A Noble Place to live in Binondo today

“(Tan) stayed in Binondo—he lived there after the family migrated from Hong Kong. That’s why he really has this vision to transform the image of Chinatown. And putting up the Lucky Chinatown Mall was something that should be worthy of praise and admiration because no other developer would even think of doing this. It helped transform the old image into a very vibrant one, that is full of energy,” Sy explained.

Projects

Apart from the Lucky Chinatown, Megaworld also has within Binondo the Cityplace Twin Tower Residence, a ready-for-occupancy (RFO) luxury residential condominium; the Noble Place, a high rise residential project whose units are scheduled for turnover next year; and the planned 93-room hotel that will also be managed by Richmonde Hotels and Resorts.

Another project currently in the works is the revitalization of the Plaza Cervantes (See related story at B3-4), which formed part of the company’s efforts to preserve the Chinatown culture.

Sy said there is a deliberate effort to seamlessly fuse the rich history of the old Chinatown with that of the modern day Binondo, with Hong Kong being looked at as the model for this revitalization project.


Lucky Chinatown Mall, Binondo, Metro Manila

Although new structures are being built, Megaworld has ensured that the famed old shops along Ongpin and elsewhere in Binondo would be part of this transformation.

For instance, Megaworld’s mall in Binondo has as tenants the so-called “old guards of Chinatown” which included the likes of Eng Bee Tin and Sincerity, as well as drugstores and Feng Shui shops.

Welcome change

“Megaworld is about halfway through its vision of transforming Chinatown. We are still doing a lot to modernize and improve everything in accordance to the vision of our chairman, Andrew Tan, who does not only want to revitalize Chinatown, but also uplift the way of life of the people there,” Sy explained.

And these changes were received warmly by the local community, according to Sy. A big factor was the fact that Tan was at the helm of the projects.

“(Tan) is well respected… The Chinese community is happy and satisfied with what we’re doing for Binondo. They even attend the events there because they have seen how the entire community is being energized as well, from the developments to the infrastructure,” he said.

Growing investor interest

As it is, the positive developments in Chinatown have attracted the interest of many investors, particularly the Chinese from mainland China. Also helping boost interest in Chinatown, as with the rest of the country, was Duterte administration’s pivot to China.

“The changes brought a lot of Chinese from mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, and Malaysia, some of which have already migrated here to do business. The pivot to China is good as the Chinese are now coming in, and one of the first things they are looking at is a home,” Sy explained.

“That’s why we’re so bullish about our new developments in Binondo because of the rosy diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China. It’s giving us more business. And this pivot will not only benefit Chinatown, but the rest of the country as well as we had Chinese investors buying our projects from Makati and Taguig,” he further noted.

According to Sy, the preference among Chinese for Chinatown may be attributed to the fact that there is no language barrier in Binondo with many of local store owners and residents speaking the same language.

“The Chinese feel right at home—it’s like we’re giving them a second home in the Philippines. The others, meanwhile, are here for their retirement,” Sy further said.

Sustained growth

Indeed, the future looks bright not only for Megaworld’s projects in Binondo, but elsewhere in the country as well.

“We expect to sustain the interest and growth as foreign investors continue to patronize the projects of Megaworld and take to liking the rich culture and history of Manila’s Chinatown,” Sy said.

“Megaworld never stops. We will continue to improve and develop (our portfolio) to sustain that vibrancy so that tourists and investors will continue to come in to visit us, and to pour in their investments in our projects,” Sy concluded.

MANILA TIMES PHOTO OF THE DAY

SPECIAL GUESTS: CHINA MEETS RUSSIA BY THE MANILA TIMES ON JANUARY 29, 2017 TODAY'S HEADLINE PHOTOS


China’s Ambassador to Manila Zhao Jianhua meets Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaev during celebrations to mark the Chinese new year in Binondo, Manila. Also in photo is Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. PHOTO BY ROGER RANADA

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

A SENSE OF HISTORY - Feeding a Republic posted January 29, 2017 at 07:50 pm by Manila Standard Lifestyle


Malolos longganisang hamonado topped with olives

There’s a sense of history – more than 200 years of it, in fact – that fills you once you enter the Tansojoy house, one of the few remaining stone houses in Malolos City. Built in 1812 for Doña Rufina Tanjosoy, it was eventually inherited by Don Antonio Bautista, aide-de-camp of the late President Emilio Aguinaldo.

The open windows from the second floor of the Tansojoy house provide VIP viewing access to the colorful street celebrations marking Fiesta Republica, an annual event commemorating the Malolos Republic that culminates on Jan. 23. Outside, there’s a parade of brass bands not just from Malolos but from neighboring cities and provinces, too.

It was raining every so often, it was humid, and the kids have been perspiring in their costumes for several hours now, but the show went on, and it was a beautiful show.

Here, they celebrate the country’s “other” independence day when the Philippines made its debut in the international community as a free nation more than a century ago.

“We just want to give justice to the declaration of the first Philippine republic. We were the first ones to establish a Constitution in Asia –the Malolos Constitution. The declaration of independence on June 12, 1898 was the start of our journey toward becoming an independent nation recognized by the international community, but the declaration of the first republic on January 23, 1899 was the culmination of this process,” says Malolos City Mayor Christian Natividad.

“There’s a bill now pending before the House of Representative to declare January 23 a national holiday as Republic Day. We are hoping that our lawmakers will be nationalistic enough to recognize this legacy that completes our sense of being Filipino,” he adds.

Part of that rich history leading to Republic Day was the ratification of the Independence Proclamation on Sept. 29, 1898. A “high-style” luncheon for 200 select diners, including the assemblymen in Malolos, was prepared. The sole surviving copy of the printed menu – which bore the words Libertad, Fraternidad y Igualidad (Liberty, Fraternity and Equality, the rallying cry of the 1789 French Revolution) – has been preserved in the museum of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro. It was written in French, then the language of diplomacy and haute cuisine, and it has been re-enacted several times and several ways by some of the country’s renowned chefs. But this year, a local restaurant – Bistro Maloleño – was tapped to bring to life the dishes that fed the people who paved the way for the declaration of the first republic.


The luncheon menu of the 1898 Malolos Convention, as interpreted by Malacañang.

Based on the original menu, members of the Malolos convention were served seven kinds of appetizers, followed by seven main courses and five choices of cheese and desserts, and capped by a progression of red wine, champagne, sherry, and cognac, and to end all meals, a choice between coffee or tea.

Bistro Maloleño recreated for this year’s festivity the following dishes: nilasing na hipon on top of crab roe sauce (Crevettes roses), sardines in tomato sauce (Sardines aux tomates), lengua estofado set in pastry (Vola-au-vent a la financiere), Malolos longganisang hamonado topped with olives (Saucission de Lyon), adobong balun-balunan (Abatis de poulet a la Tagalo), hamon Bulakenya served with asparagus (jambon froid-asperges en branche), tortang alimasag (Coquilles de crabes), and roasted turkey (Dinde truffee a la Manilloise). For dessert, there was strawberry gelatin (gelee de Fraises) and mantecado sorbetes (Glaces) mixed with Bulacan’s famous pastillas de leche.

Nick Joaquin once described the menu as a “culmination, like Malolos itself, and should stand side by side with the Malolos Constitution.” Indeed, knowledge of these events leading to our nation’s birth – including the dishes served to our republic’s Founding Fathers – reinforce our sense of identity and help us find our place in history.


MANILA BULLETIN

Duterte to skip Miss U coronation; gun ban in place in Pasay, P’que 185 SHARES Share it! Updated January 29, 2017, 9:16 PM By Argyll Cyrus Geducos, Aaron Recuenco and Robert Requintana


Miss Universe contestants, from left front row, Valeria Piazza of Peru, Maxine Medina of the Philippines and Izabella Krzan of Poland, walk on the ramp during the evening gown preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 in Pasay city. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) / MANILA BULLETIN Miss Universe contestants, from left front row, Valeria Piazza of Peru, Maxine Medina of the Philippines and Izabella Krzan of Poland, walk on the ramp during the evening gown preliminary competition of the Miss Universe beauty pageant at the Mall of Asia Arena, Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017 in Pasay city. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) / MANILA BULLETIN

President Rodrigo Duterte won’t attend the 65th Miss Universe coronation on Monday, January 30.

The president confirmed this to GMA News after he was invited to attend the pageant.

“In-invite namin, binigay na ang ticket pero walang advice. Alam mo naman si presidente, last minute eh kung magdecide,” tourism secretary Wanda Corazon Teo earlier said in an interview on radio DZMM on Sunday, January 29.

With or without the president’s presence, the National Capital Region Police Office has beefed up security for the coronation rites by deploying at least 1,858 police officers to the venue.

PNP director general Ronald dela Rosa has also ordered a gun ban in Pasay and Parañaque starting midnight of Sunday until Monday, January 30.

READ MORE...

During this period, the permit to carry firearms outside residence is suspended and only policemen, soldiers and other law enforcers will be allowed to carry firearms, said NCRPO spokesperson Chief Insp. Kimberly Molitas.


FROM ABS-CBN -MANILA - Vice President Leni Robredo has "turned down" an invitation to the Miss Universe coronation on Monday, Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo confirmed Sunday, following conflicting reports on whether an invite was given to the country's second highest official. Robredo said Friday she will not attend the pageant on Monday since she was not invited. Teo denied Robredo's claim the following day, saying the invitation for the Vice President was only delayed since they wanted to give her VIP tickets, but only lower box tickets were immediately on hand. She said Robredo will be given two VIP tickets worth P50,000 each on Saturday. But speaking to radio DZMM on Sunday, Teo confirmed that Robredo's office has sent word that she will no longer attend the pageant.

Checkpoints will also be set up in strategic areas in some areas in Metro Manila, especially in Pasay and Parañaque, Molitas said.

NCRPO director Oscar Albayalde said the authorities are striving to achieve zero incidents during the Miss Universe coronation.

While there is no direct threat towards the staging of Miss Universe, Albayalde assured that the police will not be “complacent.”

“I have directed all police officers to be alert at all times in all places of engagements,” said Albayalde.

The NCRPO chief also asked for the public’s cooperation in maintaining peace, order and safety during the event.

The 65th Miss Universe beauty pageant will be held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on Monday, January 30, starting at 8:00 a.m., with 86 women vying for the title and crown.

---------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

One of these girls will be the new Miss Universe!  0 SHARES Share it! Published January 29, 2017, 12:06 AM By Alex Y. Vergara


Will fate be kind on a perennial frontrunner, or will a come-from-behind victory by a dark horse spoil the best-laid plans of beauty pageant coaches and national directors? Images by Noel Pabalate

With Thursday evening’s preliminary competitions at the SM Mall of Asia-Arena over, the 65th Miss Universe beauty pageant’s top 12 list is all but finished in the eyes of diehard fans except for the question and answer portion, which was held behind closed doors.

The results are also pretty much fixed as far as former Misses Universe Dayanara Torres and Riyo Mori, and their fellow judges, are concerned. A new set of judges in the finals will decide the fate of the top 12 tomorrow morning, but we have no reason to believe that their choices for the top three spots would be dramatically different from Torres and company’s picks.

All Glammed Up Miss Universe candidates in their stunning gowns at the preliminary competition

Unless two or three girls shine brighter than the rest of the pack during the finals, the results will be pretty much the same. But beauty, so they say, is in the eyes of the beholder. At the risk of falling flat on their faces, a number of local “beau con” watchers have agreed to share with us their final and definitely fearless top 3 forecast.

“The top three girls on my list are Venezuela, Thailand, and the Philippines,” said stylist Monika Ravanera. “Venezuela and Thailand came prepared, girl scout-like prepared! Apart from wearing well thought out evening gowns, they had calculated moves on stage. Both Chalita (Suansane) and Mariam (Habach) are hungry for the crown.”

READ MORE...

In contrast, Ravanera added, the Philippines’ Maxine Medina, her third choice, was a natural. She had fun in her swimwear, and was effortlessly elegant in the evening gown.

“With her youthful twirl followed by long strides and the swaying of her hips on stage, Maxine readily ruled the swimwear event,” Ravanera said. “As for the evening dress, again, for me, it’s the Philippines. The fringes’ fluid movements were remarkable.”

Fierce competition Misses Universe Caragua, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico, Venezuela, France, and Brazil confidently strike a pose wearing their swimsuits

Ravanera also cited the “charming” Miss Nicaragua’s solid and “remarkable” performance. Miss Dominican Republic’s regal, model-like stance didn’t escape her as well.

BETS

Businessman Albert Almendralejo, a loyal Miss Universe fan who saw Pia Wurtzbach’s unconventional win in late 2015 in Las Vegas, is placing his bets on Misses Colombia, Venezuela, and Indonesia. He singled out Habach and Colombia’s Andrea Tovar as “fantastic” in the evening gowns. True to their reputation as pageant frontrunners, both girls were in fighting form.

“They knew that this is a war, and they fought hard and strong,” he said. “Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Thailand, and Brazil made their presence felt in swimsuits. They will spring a few surprises once they make it to the top 12.”

Project manager Robbie Francisco thinks Misses Colombia, Philippines, and Brazil are shoo-ins. The styling of Colombia’s Tovar, he said, is “universal” and her tiered bejeweled gown “cemented” her position as a pageant favorite. Raissa Santana’s big curls, piercing eyes, and shimmering gown, said Francisco, were “on point to bring this Brazilian beauty to the final three.” And what about Medina?

“Maxine’s chameleon-like abilities enhance her sweet demeanor and captivating charm,” he said. “Her emerald green fringed gown by Rhett Eala worked well for her model figure. All three had excellent and toned bodies, pasarelas, poses, and inflections that allowed them to stand out from the rest.”

But when you talk of swimsuit, Francisco, like most of our respondents, readily handed it to Venezuela’s Habach. Her killer body is proportionate to her towering height.

“My dark horses include the tall and stunning Jamaica. I love her in her red gown strewn with ostrich feathers. I also like Kosovo for her sleek styling and France for taking my breath away with her floor-sweeping canary yellow gown. Thailand also had impeccable couture styling since Day 1.”

Businessman Oni Razon’s heart tends to skip a beat whenever Misses Mexico, Kristal Silva, and Colombia are around. For third place, it’s a tie between Misses Thailand and Philippines. The “stand, look, and projection run in the blood of these two girls.”

“I have to admit that initially, I was kind of not sure about Maxine,” Razon said. “But after seeing her performance in the prelims, oh my God, I was blown away. Naloka ako! In my book, she won in all three—national costume, swimsuit, and evening gown. She oozes with confidence. I would have to admit that there are plenty of other girls who deserve to win. But I do hope Maxine wins the crown.”

Stylist Eldz Mejia thinks his top three choices consisting of three perennial frontrunners Venezuela, Thailand, and Brazil are “boring.”

“Honestly, I’d love to see Maxine up there,” he said. “In fact, for me, she could be a dark horse if she nails the first round of Q and A. All in all, she slew the prelims. Then, because of last year, I also feel that Colombia has a strong chance of getting in. It’s all because of drama.”

Makeup artist Gio Flores picked Misses Venezuela, Spain, and Brazil to rule tomorrow’s contest. His dark horses are Misses Nicaragua and Indonesia.

“Venezuela is not the facially beautiful, but she has this charm and commanding presence that kind of forces you to look at her. She also seems to be the most charismatic of the girls,” he said. “Spain is like a living Barbie doll, beautiful and statuesque. On the other hand, Brazil’s uniqueness makes her a real headturner. She also has strong stage presence.”

Designer Noel Crisostomo, who, like countless other fans, couldn’t make it personally to the venue, still managed to feel the impact of what Miss Venezuela did while watching the show live on Facebook.

“She was like the vision of a goddess—statuesque, athletic, big hair, and beautiful,” said Crisostomo. “And she wasn’t like the usually cold Venezuelan we see. She seemed warm and friendly.”

Surprisingly, Miss Haiti Raquel Pelissier, whom Crisostomo never noticed until Thursday evening, also made it to his top 3 list.

“I love her in the gold beaded evening gown,” he said. “She’s very elegant and very natural. I think she’s the total package—lovely and speaks five languages. She will surprise everyone on Monday.”

Because of her “fearlessness and preparation,” Thailand’s Suansane reminds Crisostomo of Wurtzbach. With her tiny waist, her to die-for body slew everyone in the swimsuit competition. Although her evening gown wasn’t the typical number frontrunners usually wear, she also nailed it.

“I checked her on YouTube because I’m worried about her ability to speak in English, but the four-month tutorial she had seems to be working,” said Crisostomo. “She speaks well and you can really see her personality coming out when she speaks. And I love her name—Chalita—very Miss Universe.”

Crisostomo also noted three former frontrunners “melting in the competition”—Misses Colombia, Argentina, and Australia. If any of them manages to squeak into the top 12, they would have to overhaul their line of attack if they are to regain ground versus challenges posed by a new set of obvious and surprise competitors.

As for this writer, I’m staking my reputation on Venezuela’s Habach, a well-prepared and polished delegate and Thailand’s Suansane for sentimental reasons. Like Venus Raj, Suansane grew up poor, but she didn’t allow social and financial hindrance from stopping her from pursuing her dream. What could be a better Cinderella story this year than that? As far as journalists are concerned, she’s not only lovely like the rest. She’s good copy!

And finally I feel that Miss Aruba, Charlene Leslie, will go far. She’s a classic beauty queen from head to toe whose choice of gown, although safe, was impeccable. I hope judges look beyond her sash and the puny country it represents and see her for her true worth.

If history is to be our guide, when the Philippines first hosted Miss Universe in 1974, Maureen Ava Vieira, Aruba’s representative, did very well. She even managed to edge out favorites like Miss Puerto Rico and hometown girl Miss Philippines to win fourth runner-up.

Could lightning strike twice for Leslie? Could she also follow in the footsteps of Spain’s Amparo Muñoz and India’s Sushmita Sen, two Misses Universe crowned in the Philippines and whose countries had never won before? Stay tuned.


PHILSTAR

Heavy rain prompts evacuations in Cagayan de Oro 31 SHARES 1 1 0 (philstar.com) - January 28, 2017 - 2:45pm


Heavy flooding was reported in Cagayan de Oro Saturday afternoon. Cagayan de Oro Facebook account
 

MANILA, Philippines -- Dozens of families were moved to evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro Saturday afternoon after the city ordered preemptive evacuations due to heavy rains.

According to the city's Social Welfare and Development department, 15 families had been evacuated to Bonbon Elementary School while Cugman had five families as of Saturday afternoon.

Another 10 families were seeking shelter at the Puerto covered court while 10 more families were at the Puerto Elementary School. Twelve families had been evacuated to the covered court of Barangay Macasandig.

Traffic officials have already ordered the closure of some portions of Claro M. Recto Ave., where hundreds of vehicles were stuck during flooding on January 16.

Other major streets in the city were also closed, particularly Osmeña St., the Lapasan highway, Serena St. in Carmen, and the JR Borja Ext. in Camaman-an village.

READ MORE...

Earlier this month, the city declared a state of calamity after heavy flooding caused by rains brought by the tailend of a cold front.

Also on Saturday afternoon, local officials raised flood warnings in various areas in northern and northeastern Mindanao amid heavy rains that continued to drench the region.

Local weather officials raised the “orange alert” in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Dinagat Islands due to heavy rains spawned by a low-pressure area (LPA) Saturday morning.

The “yellow alert” was also raised in the provinces of Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte.

An “orange alert” advises residents along river channels to move to safer grounds in anticipation of a rise in floodwaters while a “yellow alert” advises residents to be on alert for possible flooding.

The weather officials also warned of floods in low-lying areas and those near river channels, and landslides in mountainous areas in the region.

Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano has issued a province-wide alert and ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office ito mobilize the rescue teams to respond to any eventuality.

He said residents of Medina, a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental, had been evacuated to safer grounds due to flooding.

Emano further said that two houses in Villanueva, also a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental, were destroyed when a tree fell on them, but nobody was reported hurt.

The governor also advised all public school officials to exercise prudence in dismissing classes, putting into consideration the safety of students. -- with a report from the Philippine News Agency

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Davao City sends trucks of food for flood-hit Maguindanao towns 17 SHARES 0 0 0 John Unson (philstar.com) - January 28, 2017 - 4:06pm


The trucks of food arrived in Cotabato City around noon on Saturday. John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- Some 30 tons of food from the office of Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte arrived in Cotabato City on Saturday for flood-stricken villagers in Maguindanao province.

The donated relief supplies were transported from Davao City to the 32-hectare compound here of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and are meant for Pagalungan and Montawal towns.

"We are grateful to the city government of Davao for this help," Pombaen Karon-Kader, ARMM’s assistant social welfare secretary, said after the shipment were turned over to her at the ARMM capitol at noon on Saturday.

More than 20,000 ethnic Maguindanaon villagers in the two towns were displaced when rivers and swamps that connect to the nearby 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta overflowed last week due to heavy rains.

The office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team jointly provided the flood victims with nine truckloads of food supplies during initial relief operations early this week.

The People’s Medical Team of Maguindanao’s provincial government had also treated hundreds of evacuees from flooded areas afflicted with common ailments and water-borne infections.

The HEART and the office of Mangudadatu are also busy extending relief services to 589 ethnic Teduray and Moro families displaced by the hostilities on Thursday between law enforcement units and the group of a wanted mayor, Rasul Sangki, in Barangays Saniag and Masalay in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

HEART workers, operating under the supervision of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, have been feeding the evacuees since late Thursday with food procured from stores in nearby Shariff Aguak town, also in Maguindanao.

Many families affected by the hostilities between the heavily armed group of Rasul, who is included in Malacañang’s list of alleged narco-politicians, and combined Army and police teams are reluctant to return to their villages, worried that the mayor and his followers can again establish hideouts there.

Most evacuees are apprehensive the outlawed group can regain control of their villages immediately after the police and Army personnel that raided their hideouts last Thursday return to their camps.

The HEART, the provincial government of Maguindanao and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division are now jointly attending to the needs of evacuees from Barangays Saniag and Masalay while efforts to neutralize Sangki and his men are still underway.


INQUIRER

Bishops to discuss EJKs in CBCP meet By: Julie M. Aurelio - @inquirerdotnetPhilippine Daily Inquirer / 12:43 AM January 29, 2017


Fr. Jerome Secillano. Photo from cbcpnews.com

Church’s relevance in modern, interconnected world expected to be raised in three-day gathering

Extrajudicial killings (EJKs) amid President Duterte’s unrelenting war on drugs and the government’s prodeath penalty stance were among the issues expected to be tackled by Philippine Catholic bishops as a plenary assembly began on Saturday.

Questions about the church’s relevance in an increasingly modern, interconnected world were also expected to be raised and discussed in the three-day gathering, officials said.

Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive director of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) public affairs committee, said these issues would be discussed even as it remained unclear whether a pastoral letter would be issued at the end of the gathering.

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“Sociopolitical issues include the war on drugs, extrajudicial killings, death penalty, federalism,” Secillano said, adding that other topics also expected to be taken up include social media abuse, including the presence of “trolls.”

“I’m not sure if they will issue a pastoral letter, but it may be possible in light of present circumstances,” he said.

Leaders of the usually combative and politically influential Catholic Church, credited for helping topple two Presidents, have been largely silent on the killings, even as individual parishes have been highly critical.

The number of those killed have gone past the 7,000 mark since President Duterte took power, rights groups said. The police, however, have downplayed the claim, and say that only some 2,500 suspected drug addicts and pushers have been killed, while the rest were considered “deaths under investigation,” a euphemism for those killed by suspected vigilantes.

Of late, President Duterte has increased his tirades against the church, cursing some bishops and accusing them of corruption.

Crossroads

CBCP head and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas on Saturday said “rapid changes” in society have led to the church at a crossroads. He questioned “liturgical pageantry” and wondered whether they were relevant in today’s evolving world, with the young spending most of their time online.

“We issue pastoral letters but are we still understood and relevant to the struggles and visions of our people? Can we listen to gutter language without judgment?” he asked. “Are we not becoming shell institutions—lovely to see with nothing inside?”

Villegas stressed that young Catholics “seek Pokemon in our parish churches and accidentally find God while window shopping.” Unconventional Masses at noon and late at night have also become popular because of the young who work as call center agents.

“Are we ready to ride on Facebook as our pulpit to proclaim Christ to our young generation?” he asked, noting that Masses have also been increasingly held in malls.

He said these “transitions” needed the church’s attention and direction, which he hoped the bishops could provide during the plenary assembly, the highest decision-making body of the CBCP.

“The shifts in paradigms need shifts in our pastoral approaches,” Villegas said. “A defensive church will not inspire and ignite souls.”

The plenary assembly at Pope Pius XII Catholic Center in Manila began on Saturday, the second to the last for Villegas as CBCP president.

He will relinquish his post by December after completing his second two-year term in office.

According to the CBCP, 82 out of the 91 active bishops, and nine of the 41 honorary CBCP members were attending the plenary assembly, which provides policy directions for the church.

Villegas, in his opening message, said the church has become inadequate to the tasks it should perform, making it a “shell institution” that is sometimes seen as disconnected to what is happening in reality.

He told fellow bishops to inspire Catholics, because “a defensive Church will not inspire and ignite souls.”

He acknowledged rapid changes happening in Philippine society, something that he said the church needs to acknowledge so that it may better answer the needs of Filipinos.

“We can be victims of change, but we can be its authors as well as its guardians. Pope Francis is providing us, pastors, with a sterling example of what it is to respond and at the same time to lead, to change boldly, but to hold to what is true faithfully as well,” he pointed out.

Lawyer Maria Concepcion Noche who challenged the country’s reproductive health law was awarded by the CBCP the Bishop Jeorge Barlin Golden Cross Award.

Noche was recognized for her “steadfast defense of the Catholic teachings and Filipino values, in particular with the rights of every Filipino from conception to natural death.”


TRIBUNE

‘Tokhang,’ purging of PNP scalawags continue — Palace Written by Ted Tuvera Sunday, 29 January 2017 00:00


The Palace yesterday shrugged off calls by some legislators to suspend the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Oplan “Tokhang” amid increasing incidences of its abuse by some government elements, including those in the police force.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said President Duterte is being committed to purge criminals, especially those involved in illegal drug trafficking, and, at the same time, the unscrupulous operatives within the police force.

“The President is really pursuing a two, a parallel track agenda. Cleansing, on the other hand, continuing to fight illegal drugs, criminality and corruption,” Abella said.“I don’t know if what the legislative is saying is necessary. However let’s leave it to the President to decide regarding these matters. It comes directly under his office but we can see that the President is doing everything,” he added.

READ MORE...

Calls to suspend “Tokhang”, which is the PNP’s anti-illegal drugs crusade, came after the so-called Tokhang for ransom incident that led to the murder of Korean businessman Jee Ick Joo within the premises of Camp Crame, where the headquarters of the PNP is located.

Abella, moreover, insisted that the despicable crime allegedly committed by operatives of the PNP’s Anti-Kidnapping Group is more of a challenge for the administration to do something against the so-called “bad eggs” within the police ranks.

“Like what had recently happened especially within our (the government’s) borders and there are people who are taking advantage of it, it is precisely this situation that these are being discussed, which the Presidente has stated that it’s beginning to be revealed,” the Palace official said.

“So there are those who are being exposed and definitely there will be more intensity and also more care in addressing of the matter,” Abella added.

The presidential mouthpiece also pointed out that the administration’s support for Congress to pass the death penalty bill should have safeguards to avoid potential abuses such as those who were innocent yet have been sentenced to the death row.

“We are all concerned regarding that matter and that really demands that there should be more careful proceedings and regularities,” he said.

Since Mr. Duterte’s first day in office, there were 2,538 suspected drug personalities killed in police operations already as of last January 27.

Ripples from Jee’s killing

After the controversial kidnap and murder case of Korean businessman Jee in the Philippines, the South Korean government plans a range of contingency measures to ensure its citizens’ safety overseas.

According to Korean Ambassador for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs Han Dong Man, they seek to establish emergency situation room to respond in a timely manner toward any incidents that may befall upon their nationals.

“It will be especially important to take prompt measures on weekends or at night when crimes are prone to take place more often,” he was quoted as saying by local publication, The Korea Times.

Jee was a South Korean national slain for accusations of drug involvement.

It was later found out that the 53-year old businessman was victimized by an elaborate “Tokhang for Ransom” operations committed by eight suspects including four active and retired police officers.

“We’ll offer legal advice and also consult with the bereaved family members over the latest murder case in the Philippines,” Han said.

A contingency team composed of their National Police Agency and other relevant organizations are likely to formulate measures when dealing with unprecendented situations such as Jee’s.

Han said they plan to boost its 24-hour call center for consular services with hopes of recording telephone conversations over countries that have different rules about privacy and human rights.

“It won’t be easy but I think we’ll be able to lessen conflicts with the callers while improving our call service if officials at the consular center record the conversation upon the callers’ agreement,” Han was quoted as saying.

In a chance interview at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea Raul Hernandez assured that the South Korean government is in constant communication with them.

Hernandez said he has already discussed this issue with the deputy minister in charge of overseas Korean nationals.

The envoy assured that by next week, they will report on the developments of this subject.

Earlier, a legislative probe was suspended for another round of inquiry on those involved in the slay case.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman to the senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said the panel will do its level best in giving a resolution to Jee’s death in his assurance to the Filipino people, the Korean government and Choi Kyung Jin, wife of the deceased Jee who was also present diring the hearing last January 26. Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

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RELATED FROM THE TRIBUNE

Retired, active policemen wary over Duterte backing of cops Written by Mario J. Mallari Monday, 30 January 2017 00:00



President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out support for the Philippine National Police and the police leadership’s Oplan “Tokhang” are being abused by some “bad apples” in the organization in their illegal money-making activities as several active and retired police officials expressed dismay over the recent involvement of active PNP personnel to heinous crimes, particularly the kidnap-slaying of South Korean Jee Ick Joo.

The officials, who requested anonymity, told The Tribune that the involvement of policemen into such heinous crime has put the entire organization in a bad light and its credibility again in question.

They also called on PNP Director General Ronald delaRosa to use his “toughness” to his erring subordinates, particularly SPO3 Ricky Sta. Isabel and his superior Supt. Raphael Dumlao – who were implicated in the Jee kidnap-slay case.

Mr. Duterte has earlier said he would believe the law enforcers’ side of the story as long as they were saying the truth, but warned that he would be unmerciful to them if he finds out that they are into illegal activities.|

“He (Mr. Duterte) is partly to blame for the breakdown of discipline in the police ranks. For six months, he has been pampering the PNP with all possible support he could provide – a big mistake because unscrupulous police are now taking advantage of that misplaced trust,” a retired police general told The Tribune.

“But we cannot blame the President because he just wanted to end the illegal drugs problem – the extent of the menace prompted Digong (Duterte’s monicker) to go all-out,” he added.

Another source said the all-out war against drugs should have come with cleansing of the PNP ranks with scalawags involved in the menace.

GOING AFTER ERRING COPS FIRST

“He (Duterte) should have complemented his war on drugs by going after rogue policemen involved in the illegal drugs trade. There are a lot of them and Bato (de la Rosa’s nickname) knows this. So instead of attending concerts, he should do his job as chief PNP,” the source said.

“Now these erring cops have already found ways to use Bato’s Tokhang to make money through kidnap for ransom and extortion,” the source added.

Apart from Dumlao, two other active PNP personnel were implicated in the kidnap-slaying of Jee, who was kidnapped by Sta. Isabel’s group last October 18 at his residence in Angeles City. He was taken to Camp Crame where he was allegedly strangled to death by Sta. Isabel.

Jee’s killing has prompted no less than Mr. Duterte to apologize to the South Korean government and its people.

“Now they (erring cops) think they are indispensable, they have the President behind their backs all the way – even in illegal, money-making activities,” another source said, citing Duterte’s pronouncement supporting cops who were involved in the killing of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa at a Leyte jail last year.

Espinosa, along with fellow inmate Raul Yap, was killed by elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Region 8 (CIDG-8), led by Supt Marvin Marcos, right inside the Leyte Sub-Provincial Jail in Baybay City in an alleged shootout.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), however, declared the incident as rubout.

De la Rosa also admitted that seven Angeles City policemen were placed under restrictive custody while their superiors were ordered sacked following robbery extortion against three South Korean tourists.

“Instead of performing their mandate to serve and protect, policemen nowadays think first on how to make money than perform their sworn duty. This is the reality – there is a breakdown in discipline of PNP personnel,” another official said.

Relatedly, Dumlao is back to restrictive custody inside Camp Crame after he left last Saturday and refused to honor the warrant of arrest issued by a Pampanga court against a certain “Sir Dumlao.”

Senior Supt. Glenn Dumlao, director of the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group, said they will ask the court, through the Depart of Justice, to amend the warrant so that they can properly serve it against Dumlao.


PHILSTAR

Palace says it's too early to react to Trump's travel ban 20 SHARES 0 1 0 Alexis Romero (philstar.com) - January 29, 2017 - 3:38pm


Protesters block an intersection near Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017, after earlier in the day two Iraqi refugees were detained while trying to enter the country. On Friday, Jan. 27, President Donald Trump signed an executive order suspending all immigration from countries with terrorism concerns for 90 days. Countries included in the ban are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen, which are all Muslim-majority nations. AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang respects the Trump administration’s move to temporarily bar the entry of citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries and refugees to the US but believes it is too early to react to the policy.

Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Banaag said the US government has the right to implement its immigration policies and to determine who are qualified to enter the country.

“Well, in the first place, we respect the policy of the United States of America if they have prohibitions or they would be banning people from entering their country because that is their right. And they have the visa right? They have regulations on who are qualified to go to their country,” Banaag told state-run radio station dzRB Sunday.

“So, what we can do perhaps would be to let the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) negotiate on that matter. However, we would respect whatever regulation would be implemented by the embassy or the US on that matter,” she added.

READ MORE...

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for the next 90 days and suspending the admission of refugees for 120 days. The order, which was supposedly intended to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the US, covered citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

The move sparked outrage among civil liberty groups and the political opposition, who claim that it constitutes discrimination and bigotry.

Trump has defended his controversial order, believing it would protect the US from terrorist attacks.

US customs and border patrol personnel have expressed support for the ban and have vowed to “work tirelessly to keep criminals, terrorists, and public safety threats” out of the US.

Banaag said Malacañang can only react to the contents of Trump’s order once it is studied by the Philippine Embassy in the US.

“For now, if it is not clear and if it is not yet put in paper and it has not reached our embassy, it’s too early for us to comment on that,” she added.


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