MARY JEAN LASTIMOSA CROWNED MISS UNIVERSE PHILIPPINES

The 40 candidates of Bb. Pilipinas 2014 (File/Photo by Eunice Blanco) MANILA, Philippines - Mary Jean Lastimosa is the Philippines' representative to this year's Miss Universe pageant. The 26-year-old from Tulunan, North Cotobato bested 39 other contestants during the Binibining Pilipinas coronation night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Sunday. The pressure is on insert as she tries to equal or surpass the recent good standing of the Philippines in the Miss Universe competition: Maria Venus Raj was fourth runner-up in 2010, Shamcey Supsup was third runner-up in 2011, and Janune Tugonon was first-runner up in 2012. In 2013, Ariella Arida was named third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant, with Venezuela's Gabriela Isler taking the crown. Meanwhile, Mary Anne Guidotti was named Bb. Pilipinas-International, Parul Shah was named Bb. Pilipias-Tourism, Yvethe Marie Santiago and was named Bb. Pilipinas-Supranational. Bb. Pilipinas–Intercontinental, the fifth and newest title given at the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, was given to Kris Janson. Expectations are high with this year's Binibining Pilipinas winners following the recent success of the Philippines in the international beauty pageant scene.

ALSO: Consistent honor student gets 14-carat gold medal

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley, Philippines – For the last 10 years, her diligence at school has brought pride and wealth to her family — literally. Sixteen-year-old Era Jean Rivera on Friday received a 15-gram, 14-carat gold medal for being the brightest high school student in Barangay Mt. Diwata, the village that has become the richest in the country in terms of gold stocks. The shy Rivera led the 105-strong graduating class of Mt. Diwata High School, a gold-rich community some 29 kilometers from here and known for gifting its brilliant students with real gold medals. Expensive tradition, but… A rather expensive tradition that has earned both pride and scorn from locals and outsiders, the medal-giving endured challenges as the changing fortune of the village gold mining industry glistened and dimmed, officials and residents said. “We are proud to say that in the entire Philippines, we are the only barangay (village) that gives real gold medals to our honor students,” said newly elected village chief Pedro Baluarte Samillano Jr.
“This is a tradition worth keeping,” Samillano said. READ MORE...

RELATED REPORT (2011): High prices spur new gold rush on Mt. Diwata (also called Mt. Diwalwal)

MOUNT DIWATA, Compostela Valley—As grime-covered men emerge from deep shafts on the “golden mountain,” Norie Palma eagerly prepares to haggle for her share of ore from the weary miners.The former laundrywoman turned gold buyer directs the procession to her small milling shack amid grunts from the miners whose backs are stooped under the weight of their hauls from the dangerous honeycomb tunnels of Mount Diwata. “It is like this everyday. People are always digging, searching and haggling for that stone with the best gold,” says Palma, a 36-year-old mother of four who runs one of many backyard mining operations on Mount Diwata. “Gold is what we live for on this mountain.” With global gold prices rising as investors park their funds in the precious metal to hedge against an uncertain global economy, Palma said she and other prospectors on Mount Diwata were enjoying a windfall. The Philippines has some of the biggest gold and other mineral deposits in the world, according to the US government, but the country’s official mining industry is relatively small and hard to access for foreign firms. Illegal mining, in which individuals or small-scale ventures simply start digging on vacant land, is rampant. Mount Diwata is the country’s biggest and most famous of these “gold rush” sites. It has yielded at least 2.7 million ounces of high grade ore since a tribesman first discovered gold there three decades ago, according to local government data. The discovery of gold on the mountain triggered a mad rush of people from all walks of life, from military deserters and ex-communist rebels to gun runners and ordinary folk dreaming of that life-changing haul. The government estimates that at the height of the gold fever in the early 1980s, the population in the area peaked at nearly 100,000. The present population is believed to be 40,000, according to officials, but they said more miners had started returning to the area recently to take advantage of the rising prices.


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

Mary Jean Lastimosa crowned Miss Universe Philippines 2014


The 40 candidates of Bb. Pilipinas 2014 (File/Photo by Eunice Blanco)

MANILA, MARCH 31, 2014 (PHILSTAR) By Chuck Smith - Mary Jean Lastimosa is the Philippines' representative to this year's Miss Universe pageant.

The 26-year-old from Tulunan, North Cotobato bested 39 other contestants during the Binibining Pilipinas coronation night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City on Sunday.

The pressure is on insert as she tries to equal or surpass the recent good standing of the Philippines in the Miss Universe competition: Maria Venus Raj was fourth runner-up in 2010, Shamcey Supsup was third runner-up in 2011, and Janune Tugonon was first-runner up in 2012.

In 2013, Ariella Arida was named third runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant, with Venezuela's Gabriela Isler taking the crown.

Meanwhile, Mary Anne Guidotti was named Bb. Pilipinas-International, Parul Shah was named Bb. Pilipias-Tourism, Yvethe Marie Santiago and was named Bb. Pilipinas-Supranational.

Bb. Pilipinas–Intercontinental, the fifth and newest title given at the Binibining Pilipinas pageant, was given to Kris Janson.

Expectations are high with this year's Binibining Pilipinas winners following the recent success of the Philippines in the international beauty pageant scene.

Last year, the country brought home three beauty pageant titles: Mutya Johanna Datul won Miss Supranational, Bea Rosa Santiago won Miss International, and Megan Young won Miss World.

Among the judges in this year's Bb. Pilipinas include reigning Miss Universe titleholder Gabriela Isler, ABS-CBN channel head Cory Vidanes, news anchor Korina Sanchez, collegiate basketball player Jeron Teng, and senator Juan Edgardo Angara, among others.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Consistent honor student gets 14-carat gold medal By Frinston L. Lim
Inquirer Mindanao 5:03 pm | Sunday, March 30th, 2014

MONKAYO, Compostela Valley, Philippines – For the last 10 years, her diligence at school has brought pride and wealth to her family — literally.

Sixteen-year-old Era Jean Rivera on Friday received a 15-gram, 14-carat gold medal for being the brightest high school student in Barangay Mt. Diwata, the village that has become the richest in the country in terms of gold stocks.

The shy Rivera led the 105-strong graduating class of Mt. Diwata High School, a gold-rich community some 29 kilometers from here and known for gifting its brilliant students with real gold medals.

Expensive tradition, but…

A rather expensive tradition that has earned both pride and scorn from locals and outsiders, the medal-giving endured challenges as the changing fortune of the village gold mining industry glistened and dimmed, officials and residents said.
“We are proud to say that in the entire Philippines, we are the only barangay (village) that gives real gold medals to our honor students,” said newly elected village chief Pedro Baluarte Samillano Jr.

“This is a tradition worth keeping,” Samillano said.

Over 11 years ago, village officials led by then barangay chairman Francisco “Franco” Tito started the tradition as a way of motivating children to excel studies. It was a noble, collective idea enthusiastically embraced by the village of 18,000, with people from all walks of life— from powerful tunnel owners, financiers and gold traders to the lowly miners and mine laborers contributing varying quantities of gold nuggets used in minting the pricey medals.

During its early years, the village was giving gold medals generously, spending 100 grams of gold to mint 10 medals for all the “first honors” in the elementary and high school. That went on for seven years, or a total of 700 grams. At an average price per gram of P1,500, it was pricey indeed, with Diwalwal folk contributing over P1 million worth of the precious metal.

“But due to a slack in production at the mines and economic hardships, gold donations were also coming in crumbs, and many officials were doubtful whether to continue the tradition,” said resident Bonifacio Libres, a former village councilor who engages in gold trading there.

Bigger medals

In an effort to keep the tradition, something drastic had to be done, said incumbent village councilor Ely Zamora.

Started three years ago, bigger medals were given away— from 10 grams these were enlarged to 15 grams. There’s a catch though: only the elementary and high school valedictorians— and not 10 students receive the valuable tokens.

“That’s better than stopping the tradition completely,” Zamora told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in vernacular.

Rivera, this year’s high school valedictorian, has been a recipient of all but one of the pricey awards throughout her basic education years.

“I’m overwhelmed with happiness. My efforts and my parents’ sacrifices have paid off,” the elated teenage girl said in mixed English and Filipino, eyes misting as she delivered her valedictory address before a sea of white flowing graduation garb and togas at the village basketball court.

Rebuilding dreams

Rivera’s 48-year-old mother Cornelia, wept as her daughter stood on a concrete stage and spoke how her dreams of continuing her studies were blown away when typhoon Pablo (Bopha) struck and devastated the village in 2012.

“I’m the happiest mother now,” said the elder Rivera, wiping off tears with the back of her hand. “I’m very proud of my daughter.”

Era Jean has so far received six gold medals since elementary, an expensive collection of four 10-gram and two 15-gram tokens. With the present price per gram at P2,000, the younger Rivera’s awards cache weighing 65 grams could have been valued at P130,000.

Cornelia admitted only two of her daughter’s medals have remained (including Friday’s award). The four 10-gram tokens were “re-melted” and minted into pieces of jewelry.

“Gold rings and earrings can be pawned easily than the medals for her emergency cash needs in college,” the elder Rivera explained.

Aside from the valuable tokens, the eldest in a brood of three also received plated “gold medals” for leadership and excellence awards.

Ruchel Jane Magallanes, 12, received the other 15-gram medal the size of a five-peso coin, as elementary valedictorian last March 27.

Academic excellence

Wilson Son, Mt. Diwata High School principal, said the real gold medals have been helping motivate their students to do well in school.

“These medals are also an asset not only for the student-awardees but also for their parents because they can use these to pay for the children’s college education, just like an educational insurance do,” said Son, adding school officials have followed strict standards set by the Department of Education in ranking students for the awards.

The school principal also praised the 16-year-old Rivera for being a consistent honor student “whose intelligence and perseverance” made her excel and reap the pricey awards.

Era Jean plans to enroll in a teaching course in Monkayo town proper, where a campus of a new state college is set to open this June.

“Since elementary, my dream has been to become a teacher. I love to teach children my favorite subject Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies),” she said. “Four years after, I want to return and teach in this school.”

RELATED 2011 REPORT

High prices spur new gold rush on Mt. Diwata (also called Mt. Diwalwal) Agence France-Presse 5:15 am | Saturday, October 22nd, 2011


For the past several decades, settlers turn small-scale miners and traders have raised their families in this gold-rich mountain of Mt. Diwata or Mt. Diwalwal as it is commonly called in Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province. ANDREW TADALAN / INQUIRER

MOUNT DIWATA, Compostela Valley—As grime-covered men emerge from deep shafts on the “golden mountain,” Norie Palma eagerly prepares to haggle for her share of ore from the weary miners.

The former laundrywoman turned gold buyer directs the procession to her small milling shack amid grunts from the miners whose backs are stooped under the weight of their hauls from the dangerous honeycomb tunnels of Mount Diwata.

“It is like this everyday. People are always digging, searching and haggling for that stone with the best gold,” says Palma, a 36-year-old mother of four who runs one of many backyard mining operations on Mount Diwata.

“Gold is what we live for on this mountain.” With global gold prices rising as investors park their funds in the precious metal to hedge against an uncertain global economy, Palma said she and other prospectors on Mount Diwata were enjoying a windfall.

Gold hit a record high of $1,921.15 an ounce in early September and, although it has since fallen back, some analysts have forecast it will hit the $2,000 mark this year.

A college dropout, Palma’s operation has lately been producing thousands of dollars’ worth of gold.

“You could say gold changed our life. I now have the money to buy the things that I want,” she said. “And we want more of it while the prices are high.” Palma buys the ore dug up by the miners who don’t have the means to process it, then trades with jewelers and brokers who regularly make the arduous trip up the 2,012–meter (6,600 feet) mountain to buy the yellow nuggets.

The Philippines has some of the biggest gold and other mineral deposits in the world, according to the US government, but the country’s official mining industry is relatively small and hard to access for foreign firms.

Illegal mining, in which individuals or small-scale ventures simply start digging on vacant land, is rampant.

Mount Diwata is the country’s biggest and most famous of these “gold rush” sites.

It has yielded at least 2.7 million ounces of high grade ore since a tribesman first discovered gold there three decades ago, according to local government data.

The discovery of gold on the mountain triggered a mad rush of people from all walks of life, from military deserters and ex-communist rebels to gun runners and ordinary folk dreaming of that life-changing haul.

The government estimates that at the height of the gold fever in the early 1980s, the population in the area peaked at nearly 100,000.

The present population is believed to be 40,000, according to officials, but they said more miners had started returning to the area recently to take advantage of the rising prices.

However, Mount Diwata is as famous for the misery it has wrought upon the miners and the destruction of the local environment as it is for the riches enjoyed by the lucky ones.

The first-generation miners and their families settled in small cliff-side shacks and dug tunnels under their homes, creating the blueprint for a chaotic and dangerous existence in which many laws of society and nature were ignored.

Highly toxic mercury is used in the mining process, polluting the Naboc stream that cuts through the village.

Armed disputes erupted between rival miners and their thugs, according to local village chief Rodolfo Boyles, himself an ex-miner, although he said violence dropped after the military stationed some troops there nine years ago.

He said hundreds of people had also perished in cave-ins and other mine-related accidents.

The hardships of working the mines have earned Diwata the tag “diwalwal,” local slang referring to tongues that hang out after a hard day’s labor in the tunnels.

“When you enter the mines your life is already at stake, you might be buried there or you might get hit by falling rock,” said Dandy Labrador, 28, who left his work as a security guard to become a miner.

“It is dangerous and anything can happen.” Labrador said he arrived at Mount Diwata several years ago filled with dreams of striking it rich, but found that fortune-hunting was back-breaking work.

Like the vast bulk of the miners, Labrador works as a hired hand and is paid with a share of the ore that he digs up. He then sells his ore to brokers.

Still, Labrador said he earned more than he would as a construction worker or laborer in Manila.

“And I have not given up on my dream of becoming rich,” he said.

Boyles said there had long been a plan to bring in big mining firms with modern extraction methods and make the operations there legal, but small miners had resisted the idea and continued to virtually control Mount Diwata.

With the high global gold prices, the government is concerned that there will be more Mount Diwata-style operations around the country.

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje recently said 70 percent of gold produced in the country already came from illegal mines.

“There is the possibility of a gold rush, because gold is the safest commodity right now,” he said. “But we have to manage our resources well… this is not the kind of mining we want to encourage.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE