26 December 2006

Hello world:)

FROM Emilia Mikaela R. Prilles. All of 7.1 lbs. Newest member of the Prilleses of Pacol.


22 December 2006

What?!? Am funny?:)

IF YOU don't think so, which I share by the way, read this. Courtesy of Benito Vergara aka Bulletproof Vest.


19 December 2006

Haayy! 'twas finally over

MY ROLE as a stage father-cum-designated driver, that is. I was meant to post this one last Saturday evening before we packed for home but the free WiFi connection at Avenue Square was not cooperating. Most probably because of the sheer number of users sharing the available DSL line for the entire building. Hands down, Avenue has, in less than a year, become the place to be in Naga. And the free WiFi is surely one of the come-ons. The Cu family, and Donald, must be grinning from ear to ear.

Anyway, last Saturday afternoon, my two daughters Pia and Pep -- and 36 other classmates -- finally did their recital at the Madrigal Center for Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Naga University. It went quite smoothly, except for a little snafu at the beginning (a little past lunch) that ruffled some feathers at the nearby Ignatian House.

Lead workshop facilitator Jobert Narvadez, and Julma, too, should be proud of the outcome nonetheless. The weather cooperated well -- with rainclouds massing to the south, I thought it would rain towards the end but fortunately it did not. I took some photos and video footages -- using a Sony DCR-HC40 -- of the occasion, but is still having trouble downloading them to my PC, mainly because of the Firewire thing.

Which made me pine all the more for that Nokia N73, which remains a little pricey.:) But I will get there, at one point in time.


15 December 2006

Bikol lit renaissance is afoot

FIRST, it was the Palanca. Then the 2004 Premio Arejola. Now, here's yet another proof that a renaissance in Bikol literature is afoot -- powered both by traditional and new media, the latter including blogging -- with no less than the portal to Philippine literature heralding its coming.

Let's savor together what I think are the choicest cuts:

By the time Kristian Cordero’s name was announced as 2006 Madrigal-Gonzalez Best First Book Award winner, everyone at the Claro M. Recto Hall knew that the awarding was to be an event of many firsts. It was the first time a volume of poetry won. It was the first time a trilingual book won. It was the first time a book published by a small press won...

A hush fell over the Recto Hall as Cordero related moments of creativity in the face of the storm battering the region. Mga Tulang Tulala: Piling Tula sa Filipino, Bikol at Rinconada, then, is a testament not only to the emerging success of Bikol literature but also to the artist’s ability to triumph over the external life in the face of the most heart-wrenching of circumstances...

The unanimous decision of the 2006 judges bodes well for Bikol literature and writing from the regions in general....
As I wrote Kristian many fortnights ago: "Ma-o talaga a taga-Rinconada!" My heartfelt congratulations.:)

UPDATE (6:02pm): Want another proof that blogging is helping power this renaissance? As I was furiously composing the above, little did I know that Kristian (who I have yet to meet in person) has been here at Koko Café all along -- until I asked him, noting that the photo I nicked bears a striking resemblance to the young man in sandals who is leisurely enjoying the free WiFi in this joint.

Photo nicked from Kristian's blog


A Naga seafront a hundred years hence?

THIS Reuters news item that greeted me in my Yahoo! newsbox this morning grabbed my attention and sent my mind spinning.

The world's oceans may rise up to 140 cms (4 ft 7 in) by 2100 due to global warming, a faster than expected increase that could threaten low-lying coasts from Florida to Bangladesh, a researcher said on Thursday.
And it led me to this Wikipedia article, which led me to this interactive Google-powered flood maps, and finally to the three maps for the Metro Naga area (right), arranged in the order of flooding scenario: 0 meter (status quo), 1 meter and 2 meters. I did not try the worse scenarios (it can go as high as 14 meters) for the fear of the unthinkable.

This weblog entry by Alex Tingle, the guy behind the flood maps, and the comments that flooded it, and continues to, showed some limitations of his work: there are six, including tides as non-factor. So I googled "tides in the Philippines" and got this: a graphical and tabular data on the high and low tides in Legazpi City (which is just 100 kms away) over the next two days. It appears the difference between high and low tides in our corner of the world ranges between 0.5 t0 1.25 meters.

Which makes the lowermost map very plausible -- assuming Stefan Rahmstorf's calculations are correct. Effectively, it would put a seafront right beside Naga City as the San Miguel Bay as we know it will extend deep into the Bula-Minalabac area.

As always, phenomena like this will cut both ways: a seafront will be nice but it means goodbye to the low-lying areas of the Bicol peninsula as we know it. And the danger of storm surges, which is what brought about the terrible flooding in Legazpi City in Reming's aftermath, especially given the increasing ferocity of typhoons that regularly pass our way. While we may not see this in our lifetime, and I definitely do not want to be an alarmist, but I think this is one set of data we should etch in our collective consciousness because the future Naga City of our children is at stake, and most probably at risk.


A very powerful religion

WHEN I was cruising last night along the lightless Naga-Carolina Road on the way home to Pacol, I thought I saw a flying saucer (aka UFO) land to my right -- reminiscent of the Close Encounter movie -- somewhere in barangay San Felipe. Only that when slowed down and looked closer, it was really the Caceres Sports Arena.

It was only around 7:30pm yet the edifice is already full up to the brim, peopled by local cockfighting enthusiasts from all walks of life: there are those who came in their SUVs, cars and pickup trucks; many through their scooters and motorbikes; and the lesser-off onboard passenger jeepneys (PUJs) that have converted one side of the road as their parking area.

To my shock, when I came back to the city center early this morning to deposit my wife and eldest at Cam High -- it was only around 10 minutes past 6am -- the place is still full of life, although a number of enthusiasts are already lumbering their way to the awaiting PUJs with shoulders drooping, while some have the sprightly bounce in their steps.

A week ago, I texted Mike and Grace in their popular afternoon program over RMN-DWNX that only four days after Reming pummelled the city, the sports arena is already operating.
"Grabeng pagtubod ki San Pedro!" I said in an attempt to humor the two.

But Grace, who I assume is not an
aficionado (I have yet to see a woman paying homage to the Catholic saint most associated with this bloody sport), curtly dismissed my remark, even rationalizing that the local bolangeros probably turned to cockfighting to make money and rebuild their homes.

Which made me realize -- being a daily passerby of the sports arena -- that cockfighting is actually a second religion to this particular segment of local society, more powerful if not of equal footing with their mostly catholic faith. Day in and day out they come without fail whenever there is a cockfighting event, analogous to the traditional day of worship of the regular faithful; the
kristos serve as the high priests in their rituals which, today, lasted until the well into early morning: all in the greater glory of the God of Luck.

If somebody can point me to a definitive study into the sociology and psychology of the Filipino cockfighting aficionado, and into this fascinating phenomenon, I will be most grateful.


14 December 2006

A parliamentary government? No, not yet

I WAS meaning to write about it early this morning, but not only did I misplace my copy of his slides but also had a hard time finding his final quote of Plato by way of Leo Strauss, which I -- and most everyone in the audience, particularly Councilor Miles Raquid-Arroyo -- think summed up the essence of his lecture.

Our guest was Dr. Patrick Riordan, a member of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, who talked on "Power and Charter Change: Control or Tyranny?" last night at the Madrigal amphitheatre at the Ateneo de Naga University.

My difficulties notwithstanding, he essentially pointed out the danger of pursuing systemic change which, he said,
must always be viewed with the worst-case scenario in mind, when everything else fails. This is a very critical point that had been conveniently swept under the rug in the reckless drive for charter change -- first via the people's initiative route, then lately the rushed constituent assembly attempt by the House leadership; a failed power grab, says Manolo Quezon -- that the Arroyo administration and its allies has been foisting on the nation.

In his concluding remarks, Riordan -- who teaches political philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London and is on his fifth visit to the Philippines -- asks:
Are the benefits to be achieved through charter change so great that they are worth the threat to stability and predictability that any change would entail?

The affable Irishman reminded me of what David Ellis, a classmate at Cambridge, said when I first told him about the effort to change the Philippine system of government from parliamentary to presidential. David, who once worked as a housing manager in a local authority outside London before deciding to give graduate work a stab after retirement, is fed up with the apparent limited choice under the British parliamentary system. Hence, he cannot understand why Filipinos would want to give away their right to directly choose their leaders. (As things stands though, as shown by the recent unfolding events, only the House leadership and their ilk want to give it away, and in the process control everything.)

Riordan essentially echoed the same thing, pointing out that UK's strength is also its weakness: the absence of a bill of rights, of a written constitution, and a deficient separation of powers under a parliamentary system can easily degenerate into tyranny -- shades of V for Vendetta. Only an operative culture to pursue the common good has prevented it from happening.

That kind of culture underpinning an effective parliamentary system is what the Philippines lack at the time being. What will prevent the same defects -- which charter change is envisioned to cure -- to arise again and again, when the flaws are actually in the people themselves? the elusive Platonian quote (as I recalled it) said in a perfect windup.

And so it is not yet appropriate for the country, Riordan finally said when coaxed by Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado about the bottomline of his lecture.


A perfidy, this time in the 1st district of Cam. Sur

NOW THAT con-ass is dead, and 100 of the 161 congressmen who co-starred with the accused Gangbangers (see also this post by Dominique Cimafranca; and I like that bit about "negative votes") are belatedly hand-wringing as they shout their 'mea culpas,' it is time to focus on another perfidy that is going on in Camarines Sur.

For this, let me yield to Dave Bercasio's most recent post, which is about a carpetbagging presidential son, a former congressman who sold out his district, and the main sponsor of the failed con-ass measure who cobbled up the whole thing.


The renowned Bicolano historian Prof. Danilo Gerona once wrote about Oragon as a virtue. A word, in which Bicolanos are known and are associated with outside of the Region. But while the word would most of the times (since at times it would have a negative connotation) bring pride to us Bicolanos, it is being endangered today.

In the first district of Camarines Sur, the oragon politicians and political families gave a new meaning to oragon by offering the seat as the district representative to the presidential son, Dato Arroyo in golden platter, with all the garnishments at the sides (this is how one businessman describes the situation). What the Andayas and their allies did was to invite Dato to run for Congress and offer not to run against him. They said that having Dato as Congressman would ensure that benefits from Malacañang will surely flow to the district. I say that they are not of thinking anything else but themselves. What development? For whom?

For them. They think that to be oragon is to be able to create a situation wherein one could amass great wealth, and at this time, by making Dato run for Congress.

Echoing a sentiment from a punong barangay from the 1st district, this will go down in history that our politicos sold out the 1st district to the monied and the powerful non-bicolano. More painfully, it will be a stigma that will rob our young of the pride of being Bicolanos!

This is also TraPo at the highest level. A politics of patronage and not of platforms, character, capacities and track record.

But the fight is far from over, though. Some groups are now going around the 1st district to talk to capable and promising individuals to stand up against this blunder. We hope to stage One Big Fight inspired by the story of David and Goliath.

By the way, if we don't do anything now, congressmen from Albay may in 2010 sell-out some districts to Luli Arroyo or Mike Arroyo.

If you have thoughts on this, and if you know of persons whom you think we can ask to run against Dato, please send me an email at dbercasio@gmail.com or post it as a comment.
Image nicked from www.returningsoldiers.us


13 December 2006

There's still time to help little Jack

IMAGINE having a child with a serious, life-threatening disease that's mostly unheard of where you live. Imagine not having health insurance, and living in a country that's medically a few steps behind the first world when it comes to rare cases like Fanconi Anemia (FA)....Imagine getting up every day hoping your child will get through it without getting sick or needing a transfusion.
I know these are hard times, especially for a city like ours that had just scraped through the most destructive natural disaster in the last 50 years. But the quote above is something else, especially for a father like myself. And I'd like to believe we still hold the other half of the sky.:)

As I write this, Urbano's campaign on behalf of Jack Simbulan still has 12 days to go. So there is still time to help little Jack. (I hope provisions for Philippine-issued credit cards can be made.)

Those who want some more details, there's this detailed explanation -- which contains the above quote -- from Urbano's latest post on Jack and the rare medical challenge he faces.


12 December 2006

Powerless after Reming: The other side

ON THE other hand, there are positives that come with the dark, powerless nights at our Grandview community.

My bubbly daughter Pep -- my "Panaginip"-singing 'pusong mamon' of a daughter -- was fuming mad when Reming unroofed the multipurpose center of our little subdivision, which is located right in front of our house. "Our
tambayan is gone," she rued. "We don't have a place to play anymore."

But the darkness that took away the TV, the Playstation 2 and the DVD player has forced her, sister Pia and their playmates to improvise. Now, during evenings, I hear them doing school programs -- where vocal solos and dance numbers are common fare -- that sounded much too familiar, because in my elementary days, when my teachers get tired of delivering their lessons, this is what they ask us to do as they rest for their second wind.

As a result,
Deal or No Deal's loss became female bonding's gain. Technology's unscheduled outage has strengthened the social ties that bind childhood friends. And I believe our little community is all the better because of it.

Which makes me pine for the days of my youth when I and my childhood friends from Pili and Minalabac would drink the night away, mostly to the tunes of the '60s and the '70s, aided by a solitary guitar that becomes jukebox-like in the hands of Pol-Art Bautista: a dying rite of passage that karaoke and Manny Pacquiao's Magic Sing-Extreme have all but consigned to oblivion.


The problem with being peripheral

NORMALCY is slowly returning to Naga, but at a much slower pace than it was after Typhoon Milenyo. Power was restored to much of the urban areas of the city late last week but after a quick burst of activity, it appeared Casureco II had other peripheral urban areas in its coverage to attend to.

Early this morning, as I was checking if Cabrê (which is how my kids call Vic Cabrera's Grandview Minimart) and Aman (their competing store across the street) are already open to get our daily Enoy's sliced bread, I chanced upon Luis Marasigan, Grandview Elementary OIC. Buying his own breakfast of probably
champorado or pancit, he was complaining to the Escaños that centro Calabanga (which is around 30-40 minutes away from Naga) has already been energized! Our Grandview/Green Valley community, on the other hand, can only envy the brightly lit city center -- visible especially during the lately moonless early evening. It's been almost two weeks since Reming, and all we see are the still fallen Casureco posts and cables littering the Naga-Carolina road -- with a few solitary steel posts rising in between.

I woke up at past 2 this morning -- weighed down by some unfinished business I just cannot seem to put away -- and only had a few catnaps in between. For the most part, I alternated with my wife in vigorously fanning the humid air that is again making Pep, Nokie and Bada uncomfortable in their sleep. The windows are already open, but unlike the other night, there was no cold December air coming in.

I know, I know. One has to have tons of patience in times like this. But these are also the times I longed for the years when we were still renting a unit at the Barbosas of Calauag. Then, typhoons from time to time also visited Naga and blacked out the city, but being in the center (or pericenter, if there is such a word) of things, we reap the benefits that go along with it.

In my frustration with being peripheral -- and being way down Casureco's totem pole of priorities -- I quickly constructed the following verse in my cellphone while driving to fetch my wife from Cam High. Unfortunately, Mike and Grace already signed off so I just saved it in my "Saved Text Messages" folder. But I will surely fire it away this afternoon, the moment they sign on in that popular radio program at DWNX.

Tigsik ko an Casureco II
Kalbo na siguro an payo ko
Uda pang kuryente sa Grandview!

Photo by Bob Ursua


11 December 2006

Now showing at the Lower House

WITH APOLOGIES to Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis.


08 December 2006

Like an ostrich burying its head in the sand

I CAUGHT the tailend of Albay Gov. Fernando Gonzales's interview over Magandang Umaga Bayan at ABS-CBN, where he called on his constituents -- in the face of the incoming Typhoon Seniang that is being projected to bring more rains to the province -- to listen only to duly constituted authorities, and not to other entities, in times of disasters.

Obviously smarting for being caught with their pants down by the deadly foray of Supertyphoon Reming, I can understand why the good governor badly wants to do it right this time. Indeed, when evacuations are necessary, there is wisdom in the local state -- steered by a decisive leadership -- and its apparatuses moving in concerted action.

I can only hope he did not mean these "other entities" to include local experts like Mike Padua who is admirably filling in for whatever limitations the local Pagasa unit in the Metro Naga area has. For the truth of the matter is, Padua's invaluable service -- in partnership with RMN-DWNX which furiously stayed on the air before, during and after Reming's rampage -- has effectively saved countless lives. And he had been doing this service unselfishly since he established the Typhoon2000.ph website in 1997, in the process earning him the moniker "Mr. Typhoon".

Yesterday, when Mayor Robredo wrote President Arroyo a status report on the damage wrought by Reming, he said

What the [media] reports have glossed over is the fact that the eyewall of that supertyphoon (where the strongest winds of up to 265 kilometers per hour were found) actually came very close, only 12 kilometers south of Naga City, after entering Luzon mainland via Tiwi, Albay. Prompted by information from Typhoon2000.ph – a Naga-based website – we have started preparing for its coming as early as November 25, even before it entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR). This is one of the reasons why the city did not suffer a single human casualty, although there were 15 cases of injuries.
Thomas Friedman, in his opus The World is Flat, said that since the turn of the millennium, Globalization 3.0 is being powered by individuals and small groups. I believe Padua is Exhibit "A" of this paradigm shift in a city that has embraced this thinking. To miss this paradigm shift is to be like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.

Image nicked from www.fotosearch.com


Now it can be told

EVER since I resumed posting after Reming hit Bicol, I've been wondering why Albay was hit harder despite the fact that the supertyphoon came much closer to Naga -- in fact only around 12 kms south of the city. This can be seen from the UNOSAT map (top) showing the deadly path it took last November 30.

Thanks to Mike Padua's über-useful website on tropical storms entering the country, I now have the answer, in the form of the bottom map from a NASA website that specializes in tropical rainfall measurement. The following quote explains:

Rainfall totals exceeding 200 mm (~8 inches) are shown in red and extend from the western Philippine Sea across southern sections of Luzon, Catanduanes Island (northwestern most island shown), and northern Samar. Locally up to 18 inches of rain were reported in Albay province.
This reminded me of a similar typhoon sometime in the mid-90's whose name eludes me. It hit Naga at around midnight, and the one picture that comes back to mind over and over again were the huge amount of mud and silt -- called dalnak in the vernacular -- its floodwaters deposited right at the city center.

Another is the unusually high water level it brought: If I recall it right, Francis Soler (then my boss at a local aviation concern) recounted to me that their residence in Barangay Dayangdang was flooded waistdeep. Fortunately, the flood went out quite quickly.


07 December 2006

Here's how to help Naga

IN CASE you want to help our city recover from the destruction wrought by Supertyphoon Reming, the following information from the Typhoon Reming Task Force will be useful:


You may turn over your donations -- in cash or in kind -- at any of the following offices:
  • San Francisco of Assisi Parish Church, San Francisco, Naga City 4400, c/o Fr. J. Nelson B. Tria. Tel. No. 63.54.4737570
  • City Government Secretariat: Office of the City Mayor, City Hall, Naga City 4400. Tel No. 63.54.4732240. Fax No. 63.54.8111286.
  • Private Sector Secretariat: MNCCI Office, 2/F, Velasco Building, Panganiban Drive, Naga City 4400. Tel. Nos. 63.54.4733519/9258/6318.
You may deposit your donation in the name of Task Force Reming-Naga at any of the following Philippine peso accounts:
  • Savings Account No. 0007-3102644-6, Allied Bank, Panganiban Drive, Naga City 4400.
  • Savings Account No. 1890069793, Banco de Oro, Penafrancia Avenue, Naga City 4400.
  • Savings Account No. 8861-00924-7, Bank of the Philippine Islands, Padian Street, Naga City 4400.
You may wire your donation to the following USD account:

Account Name: City Government of Naga
Account Number: 0044-0029-65
Depository Bank: Land Bank of the Philippines-Naga Branch
Address: LBRDC Building, General Luna Street, Naga City, Philippines 4400
Updates on the ongoing work of the local Typhoon Reming Task Force can be accessed from its newly established weblog here.


I'm starting to love YouTube:)

AND WHO won't -- if on one's second try, he lands on a weblog of the venerable New York Times no less?

Well, that's what happened yesterday, to which my Grandview neighbor and fellow blogger Senen Ebio tipped me off in an email.

The particularly entry in the
NY Times weblog called The Lede -- which Tom Zeller, Jr. maintains -- can be found here. My YouTube videos -- the most popular of which had been viewed 901 times as of this writing since I posted it last Dec 4 -- can be accessed from this post.

To those wondering what's behind the name, here's the blurb:

About The Lede

In the news business, the opening sentences of a story are referred to as its "lede" -- spelled that way, journalism lore has it, to avoid confusion with the lead typesetting that once dominated newspaper printing presses. Although a tightly focused narrative typically follows the lede, every sentence in a news story has the potential to spiral off in new directions, and each paragraph leaves behind unexplored angles. That's where The Lede's mission begins.


06 December 2006

The Albay disaster: A bomb ticking since 2000

ALBAY 3rd district congressman Joey Salceda had all the soundbites in the following quote from this Inquirer article:

“Like a femme fatale, Mayon is the culprit. Reming just pulled the trigger to the humanitarian disaster in Albay,” said Salceda, who believed that the crisis was preventable if Phivolcs had advised a forced evacuation.

He noted that the weather bureau had announced as early as Nov. 27 that a supertyphoon would hit the country.

“That should have triggered Phivolcs to issue an alert on possible lahar flows. Yet it was clear that the areas hit by Mayon’s lahar were beyond the extended 8-kilometer permanent danger zone which would have been covered by Alert 4, the highest issued during Mayon’s eruptions,” Salceda said.
But Phivolcs is not entirely at fault. As early as January 2000, the agency had issued a lahar hazard map that is uncannily accurate, as the satellite imageries on Guinobatan and Daraga, freely available from UNOSAT, show. In effect, this disaster is a bomb that has been ticking on silently since the turn of the millennium, its tonnage multiplied many times over by this year's rumblings that began on July 18, which Reming's winds finally detonated last November 30.

The burning questions are:
  • Why didn't Phivolcs and Pagasa (which is responsible for flood forecasting) come out with the critical advisories on a regular basis in the runup to Reming?
  • And what were regional authorities -- Legazpi City is Bicol's regional administrative center and home to regional offices of national government agencies -- and local officials -- from the governor to city and municipal mayors down to the barangay officials -- doing all the while?


A perfidy of the highest order

THE fingerpointing started two days ago, as shown by these Inquirer articles here and here. With thousands of their fellow Albayanos dead and many more missing, a congressional investigation on what went wrong should have been the highest priority for Albay congressmen Edcel Lagman (1st district, which includes the heavily hit Sto. Domingo town) and Joey Salceda (3rd district, which includes the god-forsaken Guinobatan town).

I would also include Carlos Imperial (2
nd district, including Legazpi City, Daraga and Camalig) but he has been practically invisible since reelection in 2004.

Lagman and Salceda -- together with my own congressman Luis Villafuerte (whose province suffered the biggest damage in terms of electric transmission lines) -- are more concerned with resurrecting the half-dead charter change (cha-cha) rather than exact accountability from those who had been sleeping on their duties in the face of this deadly disaster. And for one be the congressional district representatives that they should be, for chrissake.

As usual, Manolo has the blow-by-blow account on this ongoing perfidy of the highest order. In the face of this unfolding national catastrophe, if there is one Philippine institution today that
Reming should have destroyed, it has to be the House of Representatives.


Cagsawa ruins: Slaying an urban myth aborning

A FAST circulating rumor here in Naga, in the aftermath of Supertyphoon Reming, is the alleged disappearance of the world-famous Cagsawa Ruins from the map.

A photo taken by a group of city hall personnel yesterday -- led by Public Safety Office head Lito del Rosario and Joe Perez of the Visitors Center -- should lay this aborning urban myth to rest. Encircled in the background is the Cagsawa church belfry still standing.

What were damaged were the low-lying structures, including the Cagsawa lodge and the spillway leading to the park.

Compare these with photos nicked from this article by Jenny Exconde, which includes that of the original Cagsawa Church before Mayon buried it in 1814. One gets the feeling that (1) restoring the park to its glorious days will take some time, and (2) this deadly episode will not be the last.


05 December 2006

A plea for help

THE newly activated Typhoon Reming Multi-Sectoral Relief and Rehabilitation Task Force met for the first time this morning, and issued the following plea for help. I am reproducing the letter in its entirety:


Greetings from the people of
Naga City.

Super Typhoon
Reming struck Naga on November 30, 2006, causing widespread damage to private dwellings, crops and livestock, public schools, farm-to-market roads, health and community centers, the city’s waste management facilities, as well as to power, telecommunications and water utilities. As of this writing, total damage is estimated to have reached P187.5 million.

In response to the massive destruction previously unseen hereabouts, the local private sector have volunteered their services in the relief and rehabilitation effort fielding manpower and resources in support of the city government’s own relief and rehabilitation activities.

Notwithstanding this local public-private partnership, the damage wrought by Super Typhoon
Reming, which came just weeks after Typhoon Milenyo, is of such magnitude as to dwarf the joint capacity of the city government and the private sector, already sapped by the previous typhoon, to effectively respond to the relief and rehabilitation requirements of the city.

Toward this end, we have created the Typhoon
Reming Multi-Sectoral Relief and Rehabilitation Task Force to lead Naga’s rebuilding efforts. Through this non-partisan government-private-civil society initiative, may we therefore request your kind office to join hands with us in:

1. Extending immediate relief assistance to affected households particularly in terms of various housing materials (especially nipa, GI sheet, or plastic sheeting for roofing, water containers for potable water storage, non-perishable food items);

2. Rehabilitating vital public infrastructure facilities, particularly the following:
- School buildings (estimated damage: P30.5 million)
- Farm-to-market roads (estimated damage: P10 million)
- Barangay health centers (estimated damage: P20 million)
- Barangay daycare centers (estimated damage: P15 million)
- Naga City Materials Recovery Facility (estimated damage: P15 million)
- Barangay multi-purpose halls (estimated damage: P27 million);
- Various city government offices and facilities (estimated damage: P10 million); and

3. Reviving agricultural crops and livestock (estimated damage: P10 million excluding damage caused by Typhoon Milenyo).

Your immediate assistance will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of our people and in restoring our city back to being one of the key drivers in
Bicol’s economic growth.

Dios mabalos!

Very truly yours,

TRIA, Chair, Typhoon Reming Multi-Sectoral Relief and Rehabilitation Task Force

ROBREDO, City Mayor
A PDF copy of the letter can be downloaded here.


Our city the day after Reming

SCENES around Naga City the day after Typhoon Reming battered Bikolandia. From top to bottom:

(1) A Casureco wooden pole split in two, with the upper end dangling in midair.

(2) Fallen acacia trees blocking the Naga-Carolina road at Km 5 junction.

(3) The wrecked NFA warehouse meets its end, after 34 years of public service.

(4) The roofless Metro Naga Sports Complex grandstand, three-time venue of the Palarong Pambansa (National Games). Some of the roofspans were hurled at the gate of the Ateneo de Naga high school campus 50 meters away.

(5) The Seaoil gasoline station along Magsaysay Avenue.

(6) What was left of the Hope Christian School gymnasium along Panganiban Drive. The school will reopen on Monday (Dec 11), a week later than others in the city.

(7) An overturned native gazebo sits on its roof in Barangay Cararayan.

(8) Army personnel helping direct traffic as Maharlika Highway is cleared of fallen acacia near the Carmelite Convent in Concepcion Pequena.

(9) One of the public school buildings destroyed by Reming. DepEd-Naga estimates place the total damage at P30.5 million.

(10) Mayor Jesse Robredo (right) and Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado visit one of the 6,520 households with partially damaged homes in the city. Together with some 1,000 families whose units were totally destroyed, they represent 29% of Naga's total household population.

(11) Ongoing work at the Naga City Coliseum at CBD 2, already hampered by Milenyo, suffers a more terrible setback.


04 December 2006

Beware of November: Views outside my window

I TOOK the following videos during lulls of Reming's onslaught last Thursday, especially when her howling winds already reversed course and spared our house.

The first was taken at 2:04pm. Note that the roof of the Grandview multipurpose hall is still intact. My car is parked just outside our house, right below my window. Like most everyone in Bikolandia, we never expected a devastating howler will come avisiting.

The second one was taken more than an hour later, at 3:09pm to be exact. I merely caught the tailend of the typhoon's tremendous fury. But it shows how she waylaid our multipurpose hall's roofting too easily -- very much like my youngest daughter Ophelia Bianca tearing and crumpling her Ate Sofie's pad papers when having her fits.

This is already our sixth year at Grandview, and that hall stood up to the previous ones practically unscathed. Until Reming came along.

The third and fourth ones came another hour later, four minutes apart. The one at 4:17pm shows Reming starting to rip off the most exposed portion of the roof of our neighbors, the Ordases from Rinconada. It also shows the nearby church suffering the same damage.

The last one at 4:21pm was taken as Reming's onslaught started to slow down. The roof of the Ordases would stay as they are, until our community woke up the following morning to a terrible damage wrought by Typhoon Reming on Bonifacio Day 2006.

N.B. My deepest thanks to Avenue Square and Max's for their generous free WiFi connection that finally enabled me to rejoin the blogosphere.


My Grandview neighborhood the day after

FROM top to bottom:

(1) One of the hardest hit units in our neighborhood.

(2) Steel purlins left hanging, with Casureco wires as clothesline.

(3) Even the newly built church suffered Reming's fury.

(4) My daughter Sofie's suddenly roofless classroom.

(5) A basketball board laid bare.


02 December 2006

"This is all too surreal!"

THIS WAS what Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado texted me moments before Globe Telecoms went kaput last Thursday afternoon (Nov 30) as Typhoon Reming was battering Naga.

As I write this, most of the city hall staff have switched to Smart prepaid, including me. When my 24-month lockout period ends in six months, I'll also say goodbye to what an otherwise was a good relationship. There's no use staying with a service provider that abandons you in the hour of greatest need. When Milenyo struck, Globe also went off the air; now, you have this.

Anyway, surreal is the word to describe what the two of us just went through. A freak off-season snow storm that blanketed most of British Columbia and the Greater Vancouver area as we were about to leave. An ordeal with uncaring Philippine Airline staff at Vancouver International Airport. And now this: the strongest typhoon in memory that practically leveled most houses made of light materials, sent roofs flying off decently built ones like in our subdivision, as well as sturdily built homes of the better-off in Naga.

Reming's strongest winds -- reaching as much as 230 kph, according to the live blow-by-blow account of Mike Padua of typhoon2000.ph fame over RMN-DWNX -- starting hammering the city by around 1pm, as Mike predicted. From 2:30-4pm, howling winds from the northeast slammed our rowhouses from the rear. Sensing its unusual strength, I instructed my wife, mother-in-law and our daughters to go downstairs; only I and my two young sons remained and made our last stand against Reming.

For around 45 minutes, I climbed and clambered up the ceiling hatch and pushed downwards whenever winds would come and raise it by as much as 4 inches; my sons were pushing their weight against the inch-thick plyboards that we positioned as additional buffer against the left window that partially opened when two jalousies broke down. When I peered through the ceiling, I can see light emanating from our neighbor's, indicating that his rooftop already gave in. Fortunately, Reming's winds reversed course by around past 4pm; had it continued for another 30 minutes, our house would have certainly followed suit. Fifteen out of the 18 or so rowhouses comprising our block had their roofs ripped apart by Reming in varying degrees of destruction.

When I told my ordeal to Mayor Robredo and company yesterday, he said I probably have prayed more intensely than the rest. As we were making our stand against Reming, my wife said she never prayed as hard in her entire life.


27 November 2006

Nightmare in wintry Vancouver

OUR WORST nightmare has just happened.

Instead of being on our way to Naga via Manila, just in time before an approaching typhoon is projected to pass through Bicol Region, we are still stuck here in Vancouver -- no thanks to a record-breaking snow storm in British Columbia and bad breaks from a callous, uncaring airline.

Gabby believes this has just broken the all-time high "police academy" standard starring City Administrator Frank Mendoza -- in an episode that happened sometime ago somewhere in Calauag, Quezon co-starring his favorite city hall driver, Tox Ballaran.:)


PAL: A callous, uncaring airline

NOW I know why Philippine Airlines is not highly regarded among international flag carriers, in spite of its being Asia's first.

Early this morning, Pacific time, we had to harangue and vigirously argue with its ground staff -- outsourced through an outfit called Globeground agents -- to get the usual accommodation that comes with a cancelled flight. Here's the timeline:

10:40pm - published departure time out of Vancouver. When we checked in at around 9 yesterday, we learned that boarding time had been moved back to 2am.

Around 1:30am - the Arrivals and Departures information board showed that the flight had been cancelled. But no announcement was made on the PA system to the unsuspecting passengers.

2am - Globeground staff appeared and told those living in the Greater Vancouver area to go home and come back at around 2:30pm the following day. The rest were asked to wait for further announcement.

3am - Passengers from distant places -- including a party of 20 that came earlier from Edmonton via an Air Canada flight -- were already getting restless. The Globeground staff were stalling, appearing and disappearing every now and then.

3:30-4:00am - Passengers started haranguing the ground staff. Offers for free meal vouchers were initially made. A number settled for them. But our group said we are not hungry; all we need is a place to sleep. They then offered to reimburse the cost we will incur in finding hotel rooms elsewhere, claiming all hotels near the airport are full. When a quick-thinking lady from the Edmonton party managed to get in touch and arrange preliminary booking with Hilton Vancouver (which is just 10 minutes away from the airport), the ground staff said they'll take over and pay for the room.

4:30am - We began waiting for the Hilton Hotel shuttle to arrive. It came in at around 5:15am.

5:45am - Checkin was further delayed when the fax from PAL confirming the arrangement came in late.

And all throughout the ordeal, no organic representative of the airline presented himself to us, using instead the mostly chinese Globeground staff as buffer, who conveniently cannot make the decisions that would have made life a lot, lot better for the harried PAL passengers.


Winter comes early in Vancouver (2)

"I'VE NEVER seen anything like this in the last eight years," our host Dr. Leonora "Nora" Angeles told us as we went to the Taiwanese Noodle House for lunch after going to church service. "Snow only comes around in January, and not this heavy. You should be lucky to have seen anything like this."

According to the Vancouver Sun website, this freak weather situation is expected to dump more than 13 inches of snow by tomorrow. The following is what worries me:
Vancouver International Airport has reported several flight cancellations and delays. Officials are urging anyone who has a flight leaving Vancouver to first check the Air Canada or Vancouver airport websites before leaving.
I hope our lucky streak continues. The PAL Airbus that is supposed to leave for Las Vegas has been sitting there at the Vancouver International Airport, delayed for at least two hours. Together with another 1.5-hour delay while airborne, that's close to four hours already. According to the PAL website, it is estimated to leave at 6:30pm, which is still an hour away as I write this. Which means that at the very least, we're looking at a 2:40am departure from Vancouver -- assuming there are no more delays from the Las Vegas sector.

A delay of more than six hours will mean missing our connecting Cebu Pacific flight to Legazpi. But the worst-case scenario is for the flight to be cancelled. But I don't want to think about it.


26 November 2006

Winter comes early in Vancouver

WINTER came early to Vancouver as snow started falling at around 2pm today while we were at Lake Capilano, one of the three reservoirs that supply drinking water to the city. As we went home at around 6, snow has piled up all over the place.

Incidentally, this lake was hit hardest by mud and sediments brought about by a heavy storm that hit British Columbia 10 days ago, bringing turbidity to unprecedented levels. As a result, a boil-water advisory remains in effect until Monday. Since we arrived, bottled water has been our best friend.

A tour guide who happened to be in the area was telling his visitors that water supply from the lake -- which account for 40% of the total -- is still being held back by Greater Vancouver regional authorities.

After that Capilano sojourn, we proceeded to the Cypress Mountain Ski Resort in North Vancouver where Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado held a fistful of snow for the first time.:)


25 November 2006

Notes on the Vancouver School Board

WE PAID a visit to the Vancouver School Board (VSB) yesterday, and secured some basic -- and truly interesting -- info like the following:
The Vancouver school district is a large, urban and multicultural school district providing programs to 56,000 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12, over 3,000 adults in adult education programs and over 40,000 in continuing education.
By comparison, the Naga public school system (elementary and high school, plus the city government's Educare system and DepEd-run preschools) only serves some 40,000 students; and less than 1,000 out-of-school youth and adults under alternative learning system (or ALS; formerly, it used to be called non-formal education or NFE).

Technical-vocational courses through the former Bicol College of Arts and Trades (now the Naga campus of the Camarines Sur Polytechnic College) and similar institutes come to mind as our local equivalent of the VSB
Continuing Education program. But I doubt if their combined enrolment can reach even half of what Vancouver has.

I also doubt if our formal, ALS and technical-vocational institutions are talking to each other in a meaningful way at the national, regional and local levels. The beauty and strength of the VSB structure lies in the integration of all education services under a single organization that can be held accountable by the community it is serving. At the national level, I don't think this is feasible as it will give rise to a humungous bureaucracy bigger than the DepEd. But at the city level, I think it can be done.


24 November 2006

UBC gig went very well

YESTERDAY was our big day. Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado and I made the pitch to Dr. Leonora "Nora" Angeles's students at the University of British Columbia -- plus others who attended our lecture, about half of them in fact -- to visit Naga in summer next year for a proposed one-month studio course on participatory governance.

Nora is an associate professor at the UBC School for Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) and Center for Research in Women's Studies and Gender Relations. She is putting together the Naga City Planning Studio Course that will bring UBC graduate students to the city. A grant from the university paid for my travel to Vancouver. To underscore the city government's commitment to the project, Mayor Robredo sent Vice Mayor Gabby along; together, we explained why going to Naga will be more than worth their while.

It is going to be a two-way learning process, Nora explained to prospective student visitors. We are also eyeing to pair them with counterparts from Ateneo de Naga to enrich the process. My presentation emphasized why Naga is an exciting place to be, insofar as participative governance is concerned. At the same time, Gabby explained that the city government will greatly benefit from the multidisciplinary expertise that the students will bring -- in such areas as urban agriculture, community economic development, gender issues and urban design where local staff are relatively weak -- so much so that it is subdizing half of their accommodation cost.

With a minimum of 5, Nora said the studio course will push through, with 15 as the upper limit. "But what if I am the 16th?" one student asked. "Will I be able to go?" "Then I'll welcome you with open arms," she said.

Five, fifteen or sixteen will not matter to us from Naga: what is important is for this groundbreaking project to happen. We've done our part, and we're keeping our fingers crossed.


Choco Naga goes to Canada

VICE MAYOR Gabby Bordado was one proud papa yesterday. Reason: his eldest daughter Marian's Choco Naga was warmly received by our host, the Forster-Angeles family in Vancouver.

The main selling point of these proudly Naga-made product are the luscious roasted
pili nuts generously embedded in every choco bar.

And it enabled Marian to earn her degree, as member of the pioneering batch, from the new entrepreneurship program of the
Ateneo de Naga University, an offering backed by the Madrigal Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Nobody graduates from the course without putting up his own business. And that, I think, makes all the difference.


21 November 2006

Off to Vancouver (2)

AS THINGS stand, I'm now looking forward to enjoy this trip. The "police academy" episodes keep on piling up:

  • the saga of Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado's Canadian visa continued. Within reach yesterday, a disaster then stared me in the face as I went to the embassy to pick it up, only to correct itself at the end of the morning;
  • a successful last-minute episode at the Department of Tourism involving our travel tax;
  • only to be stymied by a 4-hour delay of our flight, which was moved to 9pm tonight instead of the published 5pm departure.
But the huge payback would be putting into motion the definitive retelling of the Naga City Hall's legendary "police academy" tradition, written by key protagonists themselves.:)


20 November 2006

Off to Vancouver

JUST GOT off the phone with Cheech, Nene Guevara's tireless alter ego at Synergeia Foundation. Her contact at the Canadian Embassy said Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado's visa application had been approved, and will be ready for pickup tomorrow.

That was a huge relief for us, paving the way for our week-long visit to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, where we are slated to discuss details of a proposed course that will bring UBC graduate students to Naga City. We will also visit the Vancouver School Board, and using contacts that Reuel Oliver of the city investment board will furnish us, touch base with a Canadian institute that specializes in computer animation.

If things proceed as planned, it will surely be another "police academy" milestone: the last-minute DILG travel authority, one of the last seats for our return flight that is just a hairline above budget, and then the visa approval which, 24 hours ago, seemed to be beyond reach.

Fedex-Airfreight 2100 will have a lot of explaining to do. To send documents to the Canadian embassy, one pays a premium rate of P320. But the additional document we sent last November 15 reached the embassy two days later. And we had no inkling about the unfolding fiasco, until Cheech came to the rescue. Talk about lousy service of the highest order! And customers do not have a choice. Maybe it's high time the Canadian Embassy reviews its relationship with this courier company. Going by our most recent experience, its clients deserve something better.


18 November 2006

So this is what you get for blogging:)

A SPOT on Manolo Quezon's senatorial "dream team," that is -- assuming winnability is not a factor.

Suddenly I felt my ears growing as big as Joe DV's.


14 November 2006

My special kid Nokie

WHEN I brought her to our annual retreat in Silang, Cavite sometime in 2004, Nene Guevara said Nokie -- then only a little over one year old -- looks just like her father. As Patricia Anne (Nokie's real name) is growing up, I think Nene is right: Nokie is indeed turning out to be a chip off the old block, or an old bloke, if you will.

The other night as I was to motor to the central bus terminal at the city center for an overnight trip to Manila, Nokie was crying a river and wouldn't let go. Clad in her favorite red Japanese kimono, her arms are flailing in vigorous gesticulations, mostly pointing outside the house. She wants to go with me, but can only hand motion about it. At three, she has yet to find her full gift of speech.

That makes her our own special child, and the object of her father's deep affections. Which Nokie returns in full measure. Dropping my backpacks, I embraced her one more time and explained that Papa had to go away for a job -- but will soon be back in no time, with the promise to let her tag along once more as her older sisters take their dance lesson at the Ateneo.

The promise calmed her down, reduced the cries to sobs and she then eventually bade me goodbye. It eased a lot the difficulty of leaving. But I now have a promise to keep, and Nokie is not one who easily forgets.

Fulfilling promises will certainly not only bring a wide smile on her face; it will also have a soothing cathartic effect on a father who needs to go away from time to time. But nothing will replace the immense joy that would come when Nokie finally speaks, and tells her father how much she loves him.