A SERIOUS LOOK AT PAMPANGA CRUCIFIXION RITES

Culture

A SERIOUS LOOK AT PAMPANGA CRUCIFIXION RITES

2 Comments 30 March 2010

By Tonette T. Orejas

City of San Fernando — The ritual of real-life crucifixion in Barangay San Pedro Cutud in this Pampanga city — entering its 48th year on Good Friday, April 1, and practiced by the likes of Ruben Enaje, who holds the longest-record of being nailed on the cross for 23 years — has earned its first academic scrutiny.

The research — Ang Ritwal ng Pagpapako sa Krus: Panata at Dulaan sa Bawat Turok ng Pako (The Ritual of Nailing on the Cross: Faith and Theater in Every Piercing of the Nail) — by Sir Anril Pineda Tiatco earned recognition as the best research in the College of Arts and Letters’ graduate program at the University of the Philippines-Diliman in April 2006.

College dean and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario and Jimmuel Naval, associate dean for research and publications, cited Tiatco for his “contribution in theater and performance research.”

“(It is) considered to be the first research on the ritual of the nailing on the cross in Cutud (and it is) cited not only in its anthropological merit but also in its in-depth analysis on the important nature and aspects of theater and performance,” Almario and Naval said.

They added: “This research is also a significant instrument in understanding local cultural expression and other central discourses on related fields. Because of its comprehensive and rich analysis of the ritual through the descriptive and narratives of theater and performance, it is recognized as the best research of the year.”

Tiatco, a former seminarian and now an educator and theater artist, said he undertook the two-year study because “I am a Kapampangan.”

“I wanted to understand my own culture. I wanted to understand what we Kapampangan are so proud of in terms of performance and religiosity. I was convinced that more than spectacle and entertainment, something substantial was present in the ritual,” he explained.

Tiatco started with this view and ended up sticking to it: “In a sense, the historicity (of the Cutud crucifixion) isn’t about tourism, politics and media sensation as most people claim. These, among other (reasons), paved the way for me to undergo the ethnography.”

He believed that anthropologist Nicolas Barker “misrepresented” the ritual by “implicitly proclaiming the fatalistic attributes of lowland Christians in Central Luzon.”

“I wasn’t convinced with his arguments especially (because) I am part of the region,” Tiatco pointed out.

Using formal research methods as well as immersion in the village and interactions with those who keep the practice, Tiatco looked from within.

As folks told him, the root of the crucifixion ritual evolved from the rituals of pamagdarame (flagellation) and the street play on Via Crucis (Pasion Y Muerte or The Way of the Cross).

No one could exactly say when flagellation actually started. It is largely practiced by men, who wound their backs and violently whip these to bleed the blood out. The usual reply of old penitents was, “Akagisnan mi namu ini (This was already in practice when we were growing up).”

The late Ricardo Navarro, more popularly known as Tata Legring, wrote the play in 1955, staging it yearly since then with residents as cast of actors in the last hours of Jesus Christ on earth. The play has seen no interruption, continued by his son Ricardo and now by his grandson Allan.

Even a calamitous event like Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991 failed to stop the penitents’ conviction. Tiatco said they performed the crucifixion in October 1991 and did it again in April 1992 as Cutud was all covered with volcanic ash and sand, and inundated by mudflows (lahar) in 1995.

“Both the flagellation and the staging of the Via Crucis have pamamanata (a religious pledge leading to redemptive sacrifice) as an objective,” he said, noting that the same objective continued with the crucifixion.

According to him, the pamamanata aim was present in all its elements: actor, audience, place and text.

Further, the pamamanata was a pact between God and those who keep the pledge.

Mortals hold the vow for the following reasons: To seek petitions and intentions, to pay utang na loob (debt of gratitude) and unburden themselves of bigat ng loob (guilt or remorse).

Tiatco noted that while the ritual was an expression of Catholicism and a literal reenactment of the death of Christ, it is not among the Catholic rites. In fact, it is strongly discouraged by the local Roman Catholic Church.

“This is a ritual by those in Cutud, a modification of Catholicism,” he said.

Their collective expression of their faith gives those in Cutud a faith identity of their own. “Ang pantayong identidad ng pananampalatayang Cutud ay ang sama-samang pagpupugay sa pagkamatay ni Hesus na simbolo ng pagtubos sa sanlibutan na siyang pinakabuod ng pagdiriwang ng Biyernes Santo sa komunidad Katoliko,” Tiatco said.

But the ritual has undergone changes in recent years.

Basically, it has ceased being an exclusive affair by those in Cutud. The Department of Tourism, local government units and travel companies have cashed in on the event, bringing in spectators and devotees from around the country and abroad. Crowd estimates range from 20,000 to 30,000.

The crucifixion has assumed a dual character — a holy ritual and at the same time a show. Because this is so, Tiatco said the Cutud community takes on an identity as a keeper of an old tradition in the context of faith and one that is a modified form of Catholicism.

Photo by Nicholas Barrowclough

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AQUINO OPENS UP 9-POINT LEAD OVER VILLAR

Politics

AQUINO OPENS UP 9-POINT LEAD OVER VILLAR

No Comments 28 March 2010

Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” C. Aquino III has opened up a nine-point lead over his nearest rival for the presidency, fellow legislator and Nacionalista Party bet Sen. Manuel “Manny” B. Villar, Jr., based on the results of the latest BusinessWorld-Social Weather Stations Pre-Election Survey.

Aquino picked up a point to score 37% and further benefited from a six-point loss for Villar, now at 28%, in the March 19-22 poll conducted just before campaigning for local posts began last March 26. The gap between the two frontrunners was just two points, within the error margins used, a month earlier.

Former President Joseph M. “Erap” Estrada of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, meanwhile, gained four points to 19%, narrowing his gap with Villar to nine points from 19 previously.

Administration candidate Gilberto “Gibo” C. Teodoro, Jr. of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD remained in single digit territory with his score staying at 6%.  FULL STORY

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HOLY SHRINES OF THE PHILIPPINES

Travel

HOLY SHRINES OF THE PHILIPPINES

No Comments 27 March 2010

By Amadís Ma. Guerrero

They say we Pinoys have a funny way of observing the Passion & Death of Our Lord, most of us being practicing or nominal Catholics with a dash of paganism or hedonism. It’s vacation time come Holy Week, and it’s time to go to the beach and to frolic, even if it’s Holy Thursday or Good Friday.

In Baguio City at one time, the discos were going full blast during those solemn days. Some protested, but the dancers did not appear to feel any guilt. When a major earthquake struck Baguio later, the devout said it was God’s wrath. Well, I wouldn’t go that far…

Metro Manila is virtually empty during Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Only a few commercial vehicles ply their route, and car owners have a field day. The malls and the movie houses are closed, and the Light Rail Transit and the Metro Star Express (MRT) are silent.

The churches, however, come alive on Good Friday, especially at 3 p.m., as the faithful come to listen to Los Sietes Palabras (The Seven Last Words) of Jesus. And I take the time to pray to the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, carrying my decades-old Ateneo Retreat Manual.

I usually recall the time when my sister and I were children, and our mother would take us on a Visita Iglesia, visiting as many churches as we could. (I think the required number was seven.)

The Sabado de Gloria of my youth (when we were told to jump three times upon waking up so as to grow tall) is now Black Saturday, officially still a day of mourning. But it’s back to normal for most people in the city, as the malls reopen. As for me, it’s time to go to the provinces with friends (Baler, Aurora again this year) for that needed vacation, even as I recall the holy shrines I have visited during recent travels in the archipelago.

Far–off Cagayan in the Cagayan Valley (Region 2) is a nice place to visit during the Lenten season, having a rugged beauty of its own. That is, if you don’t mind a long trip by bus or car – about 12 hours.

Coming from Manila and passing through Central Luzon, then Nueva Vizcaya and Isabela northward, you will come upon Cagayan, the first town (now a city) being the capital of Tuguegarao. A 30-minute drive away is Peñablanca, with its Callao Caves National Park, which is also a resort with cottages, seminar facilities, and tennis courts along the river.

The provincial marker declares: “The Callao Caves, which bear the imprint of God, are Cagayan’s priceless heritage…”

We ascended 100 steps, this city slicker heaving and panting a bit, and came upon the first chamber, which is also the biggest and most impressive of the caves. It has been transformed into a catacomb – like church, with natural rock formations and cemented pews before a natural altar. Water drips down the walls, and during the day sunlight streams down from a big natural hole above.

There are more caves in the interior, the way becoming darker and more slippery, the guides said. So I was just content to stay in this big chamber. In a smaller cave, devotees placed images of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Also near Tuguegarao is the centuries-old church of Iguig, which overlooks the Cagayan River and the surrounding countryside, a wide plateau, with low-lying mountain ranges in the background.

The parish church of Iguig is known for its Calvary Hill, stretching over 11 hectares of rolling terrain. There are colorful, life-size, man-made figures and symbols of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross, starting with Jesus Being Condemned to Death, and culminating with the Crucifixion between two thieves, and Jesus Taken Down from the Cross.

The last Station is particularly poignant, showing Mother Mary attending to her son. It is the Pieta of Cagayan Valley.

Let us journey down South this time, specifically the scenic island province of Camiguin in Northern Mindanao, off the mainland, accessible by boat from Balingoan, northeast Misamis Oriental, and from Cagayan de Oro City.

Camiguin has five towns and seven volcanoes, among them Hibok – Hibok (which erupted in the 1950s) and Mt. Vulcan (Old Volcano), which blew its top in 1871, killing many people and destroying the old capital of the province, Cotta Bato, and its church.

The ruins of the old church still stand there, and a makeshift chapel has been constructed.

Mt. Vulcan is also the site of Camiguin’s version of the Fourteen Stations of the Cross. The figures are also life-size but whitewashed this time, and are scattered along the mountain trails. You have to trek upward to reach each Station, the sea and coconut trees nearby.

The way upward becomes more difficult (you are, after all, expected to make sacrifices during Lent) and then you pass through a tunnel to reach the resurrected Christ. This shrine attracts many pilgrims and penitents come Holy Week.

Farther south in Mindanao, along the western peninsula, is the city of Zamboanga, famous for the song we sang as children: “No te vayas, no te vayas a Zamboanga… (Oh don’t you go, oh don’t go to Zamboanga…) In those days, Zamboanga seemed to be so far from Manila.

Standing by the sea is history-laden Fort Pilar, scene of battles with foreign invaders, from the Dutch in the 17th century to the Japanese during World War II. The fort is now, among other things, a museum and a church where open-air Masses are held, dramatically lighted by a throng of candles.

Looming over the city is Holy Hill, a project of the late (assassinated) Mayor Cesar Climaco, with its Stations of the Cross – mercifully accessible through paved roads – leading to the mountain peak. There, you will behold a giant Cross facing the bay and the sometimes troubled province of Basilan. Cross and countryside make for a striking sight.

PHOTO: Chapel inside Callao Cave in Cagayan

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WHO ARE THE ELITE?

Current Affairs

WHO ARE THE ELITE?

1 Comment 26 March 2010

By Juan T. Gatbonton

Our elite of power and wealth are extremely diverse. Their members range from the genteel remnants of the colonial hacendero families to the grossest political-warlord clans such as the Ampatuans of Maguindanao, who are accused of slaughtering 57 people in just one morning. READ FULL STORY.

IN PHOTO: Former ARMM chair Zaldy Ampatuan (left) and younger brother ex-Maguindanao Gov. Sajid Ampatuan with President Arroyo.

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OUR VERY OWN ARNIS

Sports

OUR VERY OWN ARNIS

2 Comments 24 March 2010

By Pepper Marcelo

When it comes to martial arts, there are several styles of fighting which are recognized all over the world. From Asia, these include Japan’s Karate, Korea’s Taekwando, China’s Wushu and Thailand’s Muay Thai.

Filipino martial arts have been growing steadily in popularity in recent years. Starting with a minor, underground cult appeal, it is poised to break out as a sports phenomenon not just in its full-contact incarnation, but as an exhibition and display of Pinoy culture as well.

Known by many names, styles and formats, including eskrima (as its known in Cebu and parts of the Visayas) or the more controversial moniker of kali, its official practitioners have preferred the name arnis, short for “arnis de mano,” which is derived from the Spanish phrase “harness of the hand.” Arnis has become the de facto umbrella term.

Referring, but not limited to stick fighting, arnis consists of weapons training utilizing a rattan stick, also called a baston, which is approximately 28 inches in length. It also encompasses empty-hand self-defense, including punching (suntukan), kicking (sikaran), locks and submissions (dumog). Besides the baston, a variety of impact and bladed weapons are also used, the latter of which Pinoys are considered the best in the world.

A milestone in the fighting style was marked last December when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law declaring arnis as the country’s official martial art and sport. Republic Act 9850 requires it to be a Physical Education course in all schools in the country as mandated by the Department of Education (DepEd). Previously, the unofficial sport was sipa or sepak takraw.

“Arnis is one sport which truly originated in our country, a part of our rich culture and tradition,” says Raymond Velayo, president of Arnis Philippines Inc. (ARPI). “First and foremost, I’m very elated at the developments because we’ve worked for so long for this.”

ARPI had persistently lobbied for the bill in both Houses of Congress since 1995, garnering support from a number of politicians, including then Senator Orly Mercado, the late Senator Robert Barbers, and then Congressman and now Senator Miguel Zubiri in 2001.

“We had to stress to lawmakers that the Philippines had not declared a national sport,” adds Velayo. Sipa was unofficial. If you look at the history books, sipa doesn’t exist, but arnis is part of our history.”

Before the Spaniards colonized the country, many indigenous tribes practiced and exhibited some form or variant of the technique, and using it to fend off invaders. With the colonization of the country, first by the Spaniards and then the Americans, Filipino martial arts and arnis slowly diminished in status.

In the 1970s, with the rise in popularity of foreign martial arts, spearheaded by Kung-Fu and ninja movies, there became a renewed interest in arnis and in its history and cultural significance.

In recent years, Filipino martial arts have been appropriated by a number of Hollywood action films. Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible 2), Angelina Jolie (Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life) and Matt Damon (Bourne series) utilized the Pinoy fighting form or one of its many variants.

Considered the greatest martial arts action star of all time, Bruce Lee hinted at the impending greatness of arnis in his last movie before his untimely death. “In Game of Death, he was using two stick against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, instead of the nunchaku,” notes Velayo.

According to Velayo, one of the significant problems of re-introducing arnis to the general population is that there is not one technique or school in Filipino martial arts. It is as varied as, some observers say, as the archipelago’s 7,100 islands.

“There was resistance from groups that felt threatened that the umbrella group ARPI would change their system,” he says. “Filipinos are clannish. We have different dialects and a ‘mine-is-better-than-yours’ mentality. We don’t want these various styles to disappear, all styles must co-exist and be preserved.”

He emphasizes that ARPI’s goal is to provide strong leadership in order to hold together and consolidate the different schools and to wholly preserve their heritage and culture. Without a strong and consistent hand, he says, the Filipino martial arts’ 400-year-old history will fade away.

Amid the division, bickering and politicking, arnis’ sheer number and variety can be maximized to their fullest. Aside from its inclusion as a distinct event in the annual national amateur sports competition Palarong Pambansa – where before it was only an exhibition event – arnis is also featured in half a dozen local and international events, showcasing the myriad styles, forms and strains from regions and clubs all over the country.

Most significant of these events is the National Encounter, which is divided into two categories – the full contact competition and the exhibition or creative portion.

“The Ano or Kata – it’s so lovely and colorful,” says Velayo. “The natives wear costumes to show off their styles and movements.” There is even a program that caters to those in wheelchairs so the disabled can participate.

ARPI had successfully lobbied for its inclusion in the 1991 and 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. The goal now is to have arnis included in other major international sporting events, culminating in the Olympics.

There are hurdles and prejudices to overcome before this can become a reality. “Medyo barbaric pa tayo, some people don’t want to think of this as a sport,” Velayo laments. “Remember, the Olympics were formed during a time of peace, because they wanted activities of friendship and camaraderie instead of war. Our approach as well is the same. We want to perpetuate its existence by turning it into a sport.”

Velayo points out that there is already an official arnis handbook of rules and regulations, and a specialized scoring system and scoreboard. Also, safety has been prioritized, with competitors not only donning protective head and body gear, but also using padded sticks that break instantly if excessive force was used, to prevent serious injury.

Noong araw, they said it would not be played in the Olympics because it’s so deadly. But as a sport, we invented equipment for safety; it’s become one of the safer sports. It’s safer than boxing,” says Velayo.

With arnis now the official sport, there is greater awareness and recognition of its uses and benefits. More importantly, it gives the country ownership of a martial art that is destined to be a popular sport around the world in the near future.

“The new law gives confirmation that it’s ours. Arnis is our very own. If there comes a time when it becomes popular outside the country, people will know it comes from the Philippines. Whatever you say – it’s Filipino. We have to be proud of it and support its propagation around the world. Arnis is yet to come,” asserts Velayo.

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OFW ISSUE A MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR NEXT PRESIDENT

Migration

OFW ISSUE A MAJOR CHALLENGE FOR NEXT PRESIDENT

No Comments 22 March 2010

They may have brought home the bacon – $17 billion in 2009 or over 10 times bigger than last year’s expected foreign direct investment – but more than an economic force, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have evolved into a social phenomenon that the country’s next president needs to resolve decisively.

The Filipino diaspora has fostered a “culture of migration,” Professor Mary Lou Alcid of the University of the Philippines’ College of Social Work and Community Development said in a campus forum last February. This has resulted, she noted, in “transnational Filipino families” with the father in Saudi Arabia, the mother in Hong Kong, the daughter in Taiwan, the brother in Dubai, and the youngest left in the Philippines.

In the May elections, migration experts believe that voters should pick a candidate who can resolve the problem of large-scale labor deployment abroad which results in the break-up of families, abuse of OFWs, the spread of infectious diseases, and other ills.

However, about a month before the polls, migrant groups say no candidate has come up with specific strategies to address these problems. FULL STORY.

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INTERESTING FACES AND RACES IN MAY POLLS

Politics

INTERESTING FACES AND RACES IN MAY POLLS

No Comments 21 March 2010

By Leandro Milan

The biggest, most star-studded and spectacular circus is coming to town!

Consider some of the dramatis personae in the next House of Representatives: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Imelda Marcos, Manny Pacquiao and Vilma Santos. It surely promises to be a controversy-laden and an action-filled chamber, where impeachment plots are hatched and the pork barrel is cut up and doled out.

The Senate is no less colorful and dazzling. Movie actors Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid, whose performances in the Upper House are definitely below Famas standards, are making a comeback. Other contenders include coup leaders Danilo Lim and Ariel Querubin, who are running on rival tickets; and militant Leftists Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, and the late dictator’s son, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., strange bedfellows in the Nacionalista Party. Two outgoing senators have tapped their children to continue their legacy – Ruffy, congressman-son of Rodolfo Biazon, and Gwendolyn, daughter of Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

It is in the local contests in the provinces where the political cauldron will reach blistering levels. It is here where electoral battles between families and clans are fiercest and often defined by the three G’s: guns, gold and goons. Most of the protagonists are familiar names that have become associated with political dynasties. In some cases it’s a free-for-all among clan members when there are not enough posts for everyone. Many of the contests are a replay of past encounters between the scions and dummies of the moneyed elite.

Biggest shocker

The biggest shocker of the electoral season, of course, is the declaration of President Arroyo that she is running for the congressional seat of the second district of Pampanga, which is currently held by her older son, Jose Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo. (Her youngest son, Diosdado Ignacio “Dato”, is gunning a second term as congressman of the first district of Camarines Sur. How he ended up in Bicol is another story.)  Needless to say, it’s a walk in the park for Mrs. Arroyo, who said she would remain in her post until her term expires on June 30, 2010. She is up against three unknown opponents.

Mikey, who joked that he had been “eased” out of a reelection bid, has been named as the first nominee of the party-list Ang Galing Party (AGP). He said at least five party-list groups have offered him a slot as their nominee. Mikey’s party-list bid drew this reaction from Liberal Party senatorial candidate and Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros: “They’re elevating this shameless craving for political power to a different, legendary level. We might as well give it a name, and call it ‘Arroyotitis’.”

Hontiveros added: “Like mother, like son. Obviously, Arroyotitis is hereditary. Masyado naman silang naghahabol ng pwesto. Gusto nila kunin ang pagka-Prime Minister, President, Speaker, at limang seats sa Kongreso. Kulang na lang baguhin nila ang ating batas para makatakbo si Mikey ng SK (Sangguniang Kabatan).”

There are two other relatives in the House: the President’s brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, and sister-in-law Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Lourdes Arroyo.

The fight for the Pampanga gubernatorial post will be a rematch between the Liberal Party (LP) bet, reformist priest-turned politician Gov. Ed Panlilio, and Lakas-Kampi candidate Lilia Pineda, wife of alleged jueteng lord Bong Pineda and a staunch ally of Mrs. Arroyo. In February, the Comelec’s Second Division nullified Panlilio’s 2007 victory and proclaimed Pineda as the rightful winner.

Solid North face-offs

Another sitting governor and LP candidate, Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, was earlier ousted by the poll body’s Second Division earlier in December. The polio-stricken former radio broadcaster who ended the Dy’s 30-year reign in the province in 2004 when she trounced then governor Faustino Dy Jr., is facing in May another member of the Dy clan, Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy III. In 2007, Padaca, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service in 2008, defeated another Dy clan member, former governor Benjamin Dy. Faustino Jr, Faustino III and Benjamin are brothers.

Over in Ilocos Norte, the Marcoses are once again flexing their political muscle. The former First Lady is seeking to take over the congressional post of the second district, now occupied by her son Bongbong, who is running for senator. Eldest daughter Imee Marcos-Manotoc is eyeing the top provincial post against her first cousin, incumbent Gov. Michael Keon. Two old hands – former governor Rodolfo Fariñas and former congressman Roquito Ablan Jr. — are slugging it out for the congressional post in the first district.

In the 2007 fight for Pangasinan’s fourth district congressional seat, then-Speaker Jose de Venecia trounced Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Lim. This time, it will be the turn of their wives to face each other. Gina de Venecia and Celia Lim will re-ignite their husband’s rivalry that began in 2001.

Metro match-ups

In the Manila mayoralty race, incumbent Mayor Alfredo Lim is facing his old nemesis, former mayor Lito Atienza, who is currently secretary of natural resources. The two used to be allies; they won as a tandem in 1992 and 1995 (Lim was mayor and Atienza was vice mayor). Atienza took over when Lim unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 1998. Later, the two parted ways and they tangled for the mayoral post in 2001, which Atienza won. In 2007, Lim resigned his Senate post and went on to regain his old post against Atienza’s son, Ali.

In Makati, long-time Mayor and vice presidential candidate Jojo Binay had a falling out with erstwhile allies Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, ex-Rep. Butz Aquino and Rep. Teddy Boy Locsin. Mercado and Aquino are both running for mayor against Binay’s son, Junjun, a councilor. Locsin has sided with Mercado and fielded his wife Louie to take over his congressional seat.

In San Juan, the bailiwick of former President Joseph Estrada, the ousted president’s mistress, Guia Gomez, seeks to take over the mayoral post from incumbent Mayor JV Ejercito, her son by Estrada. JV, in turn, is running for the lone congressional seat to be vacated by erstwhile Estrada ally Ronaldo Zamora.

In Parañaque, actor and former mayor Joey Marquez is making a comeback at city hall. He is facing incumbent Mayor Jun Bernabe and outgoing congressman Eduardo Zialcita. His estranged wife, Alma Moreno, is returning as councilor but under a rival group.

Free-for-all in Cebu

In Cebu, there are two simultaneous wars going on – one, between the Garcia and Osmeña clans and the other one is between Osmeña family members. Over the last several years, the Garcias have eclipsed the dominance of the Osmeñas in Cebu. Incumbent Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, the province’s first woman governor, was first elected in 2004 and got reelected in 2007. She is favored to win a third term in May 2010 against allies of the Osmeñas. The Garcia patriarch, Pablo, is seeking reelection as congressman of the second district. His son Pablo John is also running for another term as congressman of the third district. Former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia, a cousin of the Cebu governor, is seeking to reclaim his old seat but under a rival party.

Outgoing Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is fielding Vice Mayor Michael Rama to succeed him. The mayor’s wife, Margot, was endorsed by various groups to replace her husband but decided to run for a council seat instead. But Tomas’ younger sister, Georgia, could not be stopped in her mayoral bid.

The Osmeña internecine feud has spilled over to the national arena. Cousins Sergio III (Serge), a former senator, and Emilio Jr. (Lito), a former governor, are both running for senator. This could prove disastrous to both because a vote for “Osmeña” will be will not be counted as there are two candidates with the same surname.

The protagonists are third generation members of the Osmeña clan, whose patriarch was the former president, Sergio Osmeña. Two of Sergio’s sons are Emilio and Sergio Jr. (Serging), who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1969 against Ferdinand Marcos. John and Lito are sons of Emilio; Serge, Tomas and Georgia are children of Serging.

Duel in Davao

A bitter electoral battle is also shaping up down in Davao City between City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and House of Representatives Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr. Duterte, dubbed “The Punisher” by Time magazine for his tough stance against crime, is on his third and last term. His daughter, Sara – the incumbent vice mayor – is running to replace her father; the elder Duterte will run for vice mayor.

Nograles, who is also on his last term as congressman of Davao City, is challenging the younger Durete for the mayoral seat. His running mate is former mayor Benjamin de Guzman, who used to be a protégé of Duterte. Nograles’ son Karlo, meanwhile is eyeing to take over his father’s congressional seat.

Over in Saranggani province, boxing idol Manny Pacquiao isn’t content being just the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer, he wants also to be known as “The Gentleman from Saranggani.” He is running for the province’s lone congressional seat against incumbent Rep. Roy Chiongbian, who belongs to a wealthy clan in the province. Whether Pacman’s latest string of victories will be enough to propel him to Congress this time is another story. In his first congressional bid in 2007 in General Santos City, he lost to the incumbent, Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

Vilma, Chavit, Jocjoc

Other prominent movie celebrities in the fray include reelectionist Governor Vilma Santos in Batangas; Cesar Montano, who is running for governor in Bohol; and Christopher de Leon, who is seeking a board member seat in Batangas. Actor Richard Gomez has appealed his disqualification by the Comelec from his candidacy for the congressional seat of Ormoc City on account of his being a resident of Greenhills, San Juan, Metro Manila. Ormoc City is hometown of his wife Lucy.

Broadcaster Jay Sonza and former Jukebox Queen Imelda Papin are running for vice president and senator, respectively, under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the party founded by Ferdinand Marcos. The pair refers to themselves as Mel and Jay, which was the title of the defunct TV show that featured Jay and GMA-7 news anchor Mel Tiangco.

Former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson is out to reclaim his old post which he last held from 1992 to 2001. His son, Ronald, is running for reelection as congressman of the first district of the province.

With their boss’ imminent departure from Malacanang, several Cabinet members are seeking congressional posts: Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Batangas, Justice Secretary Agnes Devenadera in Quezon, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap in Bohol and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. in Camarines Sur.

Other Palace officials in the electoral fray are Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, for president, MMDA chair Bayani Fernando for vice president, Secretary of Public Works Hermogenes Ebdane for Zambales governor, Tesda director general Augusto Syjuco for congressman in Iloilo, and PNR chair Michael Defensor for mayor of Quezon City.

Rounding off the cast of characters are personalities who are known more for their notoriety than for integrity or nobility. There is former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, the alleged architect of the P728-million fertilizer scam, who is running for governor of Capiz. It will be recalled that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee had conducted an inquiry into the anomaly and recommended the filing of plunder charges against Bolante, a close friend of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

And in Maguindanao, 10 members of the Ampatuan clan implicated in the Maguindanao massacre, are candidates for various local positions. According to Comelec records, 68 Ampatuans are running in this year’s election – 50 of them carry the surname and 18 others use Ampatuan as middle name. Of the 50, at least 23 candidates are directly related to Andal Ampatuan, Sr., the former governor of Maguindanao who is alleged to the brains behind the Maguindanao massacre.

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AT HOME WITH DISNEY AND ‘MISS SAIGON’

Entertainment

AT HOME WITH DISNEY AND ‘MISS SAIGON’

No Comments 18 March 2010

By Stephen Holden

New York Times

A bright, utilitarian voice that sweeps across continents as it conjures the aspirations of the inner princesses in millions of nice young women from Manila to London: no, it’s not Celine Dion, but Lea Salonga, the demure 39-year-old Philippine star whose autobiographical show, “The Journey So Far,” opened a three-week engagement at Café Carlyle on Tuesday (March 16) evening.

Ms. Salonga is the vocal personification of what might be called the Broadway and Hollywood international style, which embraces Disney songs, Rodgers and Hammerstein ballads and the anthems of Schönberg and Boublil. Hers is a talent groomed to express inspirational generalities that please most of the people most of the time without taxing their emotions. Beyond an eagerness to please, impersonality is its signature quality. READ FULL STORY.

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15 YEARS AFTER CONTEMPLACION, OFWS STILL GRAPPLING WITH SAME ISSUES

Migration

15 YEARS AFTER CONTEMPLACION, OFWS STILL GRAPPLING WITH SAME ISSUES

2 Comments 17 March 2010

On the 15th death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion, repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFW) marched to historic Mendiola in Manila to call for an end to government policies which they said continue to undermine migrant workers’ rights and welfare.

Garry Martinez, chair of the migrants’ rights group Migrante International, said that 15 years after the nation was galvanized into protest by the unjust hanging of Contemplacion in Singapore, the plight of OFWs has turned for the worse. “Appalling stories of abuse in foreign lands and the government’s neglectful response” have become everyday stories, he added. FULL STORY.

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TRACKING THE NUMBERS

Politics

TRACKING THE NUMBERS

1 Comment 15 March 2010

The shifting moods of the electorate are mirrored in the results of the surveys on the presidential and vice presidential preferences in the May 10 elections by the country’s leading pollsters, Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia, from late last year up to end of  February. With two months to go before D-Day, Noynoy Aquino and Manny Villar are locked in a neck-and-neck battle. It remains to be seen which weapon will prove mightier in the end – Cory’s magic or Manny’s millions. (See related story – Too Close to Call.)

PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES FOR 2010 ELECTIONS

SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS

Nov 4-8

Dec 5-10

Dec 27-28

Jan 21-24

Feb 24-28

Benigno Aquino

47

46.2

44 42 36

Manuel Villar

20

27

33 35 34

Joseph Estrada

12 16 15 13 15

Gilbert Teodoro

3

4.6

5 4 6

Ed Villanueva

1

1.1

1 2 3

Richard Gordon

0.5

0.9

0.5 2 2

Jamby Madrigal

0.4 0.2 0.4 0.4 0.1

PULSE ASIA

Oct 22-30 Dec 8-10 Jan 22-26 Feb 21-25

Benigno Aquino

44 45 37 36

Manuel Villar

19 23 35 29

Joseph Estrada

11 19 12 18

Gilbert Teodoro

2 5 5 7

Ed Villanueva

1 1 2 2

Richard Gordon

__ 1 1 1

Jamby Madrigal

__ __ 0.5 0.3

VICE PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCES

SOCIAL WEATHER STATIONS

Nov 4-8 Dec 5-10 Jan 21-24 Feb 24-28

Mar Roxas

31 43 49 45

Loren Legarda

__ 32 28 28

Jejomar Binay

__ 10 16 17

Edu Manzano

__ 3 2 3

B. Fernando

__ 2 2 2

Perfecto Yasay

__ 0.1 0.4 0.4

PULSE ASIA

Oct 22-30 Dec 8-10 Jan 22-26 Feb 21-25

Mar Roxas

37 39 47 43

Loren Legarda

23 37 28 27

Jejomar Binay

13 14 13 15

Edu Manzano

__ 2 2 2

B. Fernando

1 2 2 4

Perfecto Yasay

__ __ 1 1

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