26 November 2008

'Lola Oas'

TWO DAYS ago, we finally laid her to rest at the Bagsa cemetery in Oas, Albay, beside her husband she outlived for 18 years, the last 13 of which she spent with us in Pacol.

During the funeral discourse given by Ramil Martinez, our circuit overseer, I couldn't hold back my tears, as I do now while writing this post, as we sang "The Resurrection Joy." Ordinarily, when attending the funeral of other Jehovah's Witnesses, I would sing that melancholy song with gusto, fired up by the biblical hope of resurrection, knowing that our sorrow is but a fleeting pain we all must bear.

But that warm afternoon, my voice gave up right at the end of the first line. I ended up sobbing quietly and wiping my tears on my little Nokie's red dress. When the talk ended and it was time for us to close her casket and take the two-kilometer journey to Bagsa, my wife Lynn and other kins were crying hard, especially Nana Puyet, her younger sister whose house in Tobog hosted Mama's last two nights in her hometown.

My Sofia and Pep were crying inconsolably, especially the latter who doted on her "Lola Oas," as the late Corazon Recongco Reoveros came to be known among my children and close family friends. The night before, a relative installed a karaoke at Nana Puyet's frontyard, where anyone, for five pesos, can sing any available tune in the songbook to his heart's content. I asked Pep to sing "Panalangin" once more, knowing how special that song is to her grandma.

Alas, what that song yearned for was not to be, at least in this earthly life. For glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest and most devastating form of brain tumor, took her life. Death came rather quickly, though not suddenly. Last summer, we took the car and drove to Manila, where I brought Mama and Ophelia Bianca to Tata Tol (as we call her brother Melchor), in San Pedro, Laguna. Despite her advancing age, she was still vibrant and full of life and love for her grandchildren, especially my seven who literally grew at her feet. Little did I realize that it was to be their last time together as siblings.

About a month back, she was still her usual self: the overly protective lola who will never allow anyone at Grandview Elementary to mess with her grandchildren, the able overseer of the Prilles of Pacol household while I and my wife are away for work, the steadfastly faithful witness of her God, the glue that for 13 eventful years held our family together. Until one fateful Saturday morning in mid-October, when after securing our daily fill of tsamporado, macaroni and pansit from the neighborhood joint, she inexplicably slipped and hurt her head.

As Mama wouldn't get well as she used to, two CT scans confirmed the unthinkable: our Lola Oas was dying from brain tumor. When she was discharged from the hospital on November 1, her doctors wouldn't tell us how long. But we did not realize Mama would leave us so quickly.

Last Wednesday afternoon (early evening at the US West Coast), as we were preparing to board our return flight to Manila from a San Francisco conference, Lynn's text message came swiftly: Mama has passed away. Pep's slighted grandma was 75 when she left us, but God willing, we look forward to seeing her again, in her usual hopeful, zestful and vibrant self, in the near future.


17 September 2008

'Sa Gabos na Panahon'

GOT this email early this morning from Hablondawani aka Fer Basbas:

Last night, we finally wrapped up the Naga City Creative Media Center's Penafrancia offering and should be showing soon on ABS-CBN Bicol's TV stations in Naga, Legazpi and Daet. The special premiere has been slated on September 21, 2008 on MagTV Na Oragon.

"Sa Gabos Na Panahon" is an animated presentation touching on the Bikolano's devotion to the Regional Patroness, Nuestra Sra. de Penafrancia. It runs for about 6:00 minutes.

For this project, we tried on a different style, seeking a fresh perspective to animation. Although the technique is no(t) entirely new, we hope that it would at least bring new flavor to the offerings from the city studio.

Done in a space of a few months and with everyone grappling with all sorts of challenges in the various aspects of producing the show, we know that it would have some shortcomings. For all that we'd like to thank everyone who have been part of the making of the show and we hope that at the very least, people would enjoy watching it.
This morning, after our ManCom meeting, Reuel Oliver of the NCIB/IPAC, Metro Naga and EDP units, previewed a raw copy of said animated feature. Suggestions were made, especially regarding the audio and the subtitles.

The city website is expected to carry the final cut after its launching, tentatively set for tomorrow.

I have some screenshots here. A short review will follow.


16 September 2008

Plaza de Nueva Caceres

AFTER hurdling scrutiny by the Sangguniang Panlungsod, both at the committee level last week and at its regular meeting this morning, the city government is converting the current island between the Naga City Public Market and Atlantic Bakery into Plaza de Nueva Caceres.

The Arts and Culture committee hearing chaired by Councilor Badette Roco featured interesting comments and suggestions by historians Dr. Danilo Gerona and Jose Barrameda, Jr.

Jose "Jojo" Barcena, Jr., descendant of Federico Barcena who crafted the Plaza Quince Martires monument, conceptualized this new historical landmark meant to celebrate the beginning and end of Spanish reign over Naga. Its scale model is shown above.

The project site and Jojo's descriptive text of the proposed monument, which he calls "Oragon," follows after the jump.

We hope to finish it in time for the opening of the 4th National Filipino Heritage Festival, which will be held in Naga on April 29 and 30 next year.

In the drawing boards is another monument dedicated to the Arejola brothers Luduvico and Tomas, which will rise in front of Advent Theater. (Although JoeBar suggests that their statues be placed at the two corners of Plaza Quezon near Kinastillohan.)

Your comments and suggestions are most welcome.


14 September 2008

Marquez deserves another shot at Pacquiao

THE WAY Juan Manuel Marquez slowly softened and eventually demolished Ring Magazine champion Joel Casamayor today all the more convinced me that the Mexican champion is the real measure of Manny Pacquiao's true worth.

Like a number of Pinoy boxing pundits, I happen to believe that Marquez was the real winner in their last fight, which was replayed on a bus VCD player on my way to Naga from Libon, Albay.

I watched today's fight at our home in Sagrada, together with my wife, my father and younger brother, all of whom are Pacquiao fans and avid boxing enthusiasts.

Actually, I was looking forward to a win on points by either fighter, and did not expect Marquez to knock Casamayor out, given the latter's own skills worthy of an former Olympic champ of Cuban heritage when they were still the best of the amateur boxing world.

But the closing seconds of the 11th round gave Marquez the opportunity to cash in on the barrage of combinations he sent Casamayor's way, and fashion a scintillating knockout win that is the first thorough defeat inflicted on the Cuban champ.

Win or lose against Oscar de la Hoya, Pacquiao cannot retire without fighting Marquez for the third and hopefully final time.  The final episode of this new trilogy will help conclusively settle the issue as to who is really better -- and put to rest nagging doubts about their bout last March that fortunately went Pacquiao's way by the narrowest of margins.


11 September 2008

Fun with QGIS and GIMP

ONE of the two reasons holding me back from totally shifting the city planning operations from Windows to Ubuntu was the absence of a decent (read: user-friendly, which therefore requires a GUI or graphical user interface) geographic information system (GIS).

Until yesterday, when I discovered -- via Wikipedia -- installed and got Quantum GIS (QGIS) running in my Ubuntu Hardy-powered desktop. (It's a dual-boot system, but I rarely use the Windows Vista that went with the machine these days, except when editing Powerpoint presentations for my principal.)

I'm having problems opening the QGIS website today, but installers can be accessed in the cached version of its download page.

The pictures here show how I plotted the proposed redistricting of the province using datasets available at the Naga GIS webpage, courtesy of Senen Ebio, former EDP head and a neighbor at our Grandview community in Pacol.

Together with a Google map showing Camarines Sur's terrain, I then used Ubuntu's native GIMP Image Editor to superimpose the PNG image that QGIS yielded over the terrain map.

QGIS, by the way, is also available for Windows. The last picture is from the QGIS interface installed on another computer running on a Mac-customized Windows XP Home.

But there is that remaining roadblock to the full adoption of Ubuntu in the office: my staff have gotten so used to Microsoft Office Suite they're having trouble adapting to the Open Office alternative.

It's some sort of Windows dependency syndrome, especially if it is what you've grown up to and used all your life.


10 September 2008

The next 'Nora Aunor'

JAY 'BUGOY' Bogayan of Ocampo, Camarines went home yesterday and dropped by his alma mater, Universidad de Sta. Isabel, among other places. The daughter of my officemate, an Isabelina, said Bugoy was blindfolded when he was brought to USI, and the drama of coming home to the school where he used to work as student assistant (even as janitor, according to some) surely made him cry.

(Although there's more than meet the eye here, if my source is correct. But let's not spoil Bugoy's upcoming final battle royale.)

All over the city, streamers have sprung up, all encouraging texters to send him the needed votes. This weekend, he, and five other finalists of the Pinoy Dream Academy Season 2, will be facing the moment of truth.

Incidentally, I posted the following in the Naga.Gov community forum last week:

Ano daw kun makaigdi si Bugoy before the Traslacion, and hold a media-covered event that ABS-CBN will televise all over Bicol, to drum up support for his bid?

Kumbinsido ako ki Bugoy -- he's the next 'Nora Aunor' -- and the PDA people knows it. But at this stage, it's no longer about pure talent, which he has, but the support of our text votes.
Somehow, I'm happy the PDA staff did find a way of bringing him over to drum up support.

If you're from other planet and don't know what I'm talking about, check out what this Ilonggo wrote in his blog.

And don't forget to let those text votes coming:
To vote Bugoy text

to the following access numbers:
2331for Globe, TM and Bayan Wireless Landline subscribers
231 for Smart and Talk N’ Text subscribers


08 September 2008

On the Naga-Camaligan-Gainza merger

FILIPINAYZD aka Irvin Sto. Tomas's comment reminded me of a long-overdue assignment for the Sangguniang Panlungsod -- our initial evaluation of the proposed merger between Naga City and neighboring towns Camaligan and Gainza.

You can find the document -- which we are submitting to the Sanggunian secretariat today -- here. The following part of the conclusion deserves to be highlighted:

As a matter of strategy, notwithstanding the short-term costs, there are three reasons why it will make sense for the long term.
  • One, it gives Naga a bigger population base of 190,678 as of last year’s census. This makes the city Bicol’s biggest in that respect, giving it an edge of more than 10,000 over Legazpi City.
  • Two, a bigger population base puts it in a better position to influence the election of its congressional representative, especially if redistricting takes place.
  • Finally, at a constant annual growth rate of 2%, the unified Naga will exceed the 250,000 population threshold by 2021 (instead of 2030, thus accelerating the process by 9 years), qualifying it for HUC status and its own congressman by the time election takes place the following year – assuming of course that current rules remain the same, and the proposed merger is approved by the electorate of Naga, Gainza and Camaligan in the first place.


06 September 2008

A new provincial geography

HOW the geography-oriented configuration of Camarines Sur's six congressional districts looks like.

Aside from the historical (1) Partido and (2) Rinconada districts, it will also have

  • (3) Central Plains
  • (4) the Bay Area (fronting San Miguel Bay)
  • (5) the Gulf Area (the Ragay Gulf towns), and
  • (6) the Southwest Coast (towns fronting Burias Pass).
If I recall it right, the DPWH is building a new bypass road skirting the current Maharlika Highway -- from Naga all the way to the provincial boundary in Bato up to Polangui. Snaking alongside that coastal mountain range, making it less susceptible to flooding, it will connect the southwestern coastal towns from San Fernando up to Oas, Albay.


05 September 2008

Redistricting revisited

THE recent brouhaha involving Senators Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino and Joker "The Joke" Arroyo could have been avoided if the latter actually batted for the creation of two, not just one additional district in Camarines Sur.

It's too obvious that the proposal is meant to accommodate Rep. Dato Arroyo, the president's youngest son, and Budget Secretary Nonoy Andaya, previous occupant of the former's current post who is planning to reclaim it in 2010.

If The Joke only bothered to check, Camarines Sur is already entitled to six districts, on the strength of its 1.69 million population as of August 2007 -- about 140,000 higher than the 2000 figures but a tad lower than what I projected here.

But when he called up the NSO regional office, according to people there who met us potential users of the planned 2010 Census on Population and Housing (CPH) this morning in Legazpi City, Senator Arroyo was only asking about a fifth district.

He could have told Noynoy why he is so interested about Camarines Sur: the sixth district, if it materializes, is where he plans to run after being term-limited in the Senate.

Which got me thinking: what are the other possible configurations of Cam Sur's two additional districts now that we already have the official count? I came up with two, shown after the jump.

What do you think?


04 September 2008

Desktop tales

SOMETIME in June, I wrote about my "Dawn of Ubuntu" desktop sitting on an ancient Mac-customized three-year old laptop.

The following pictures have recently made me very happy. Care to hazard a guess why?:)


23 June 2008

Lessons from 'Frank'

AS IS THE case every time a powerful typhoon that lashes our god-forsaken country leaves many dead on its trail, we are once again going through the ritual of fingerpointing and buckpassing, led by President Arroyo no less, and by telecon from the other side of the globe. (Her party won't come home yet; the Pacquiao fight wouldn't happen until Sunday morning.)

When another crisis erupts and grabs the headlines, the tragedy is swept under the rug, policy prescriptions remain just that, and the lessons quickly forgotten.

And what are these?

One, local officials (like Albay Gov. Joey Salceda) should not be so stupid as to rely on PAGASA's forecasts alone in making their decisions. Fortunately for us, websites like the Naga-based Typhoon2000.com have been in existence for at least a decade now. The treasure trove of information there should be required reading for local disaster councils and alter egos of governors and mayors.

Two, while some areas are certainly more fortunate than others (like most of Mindanao which, according to a Cagayan de Oro relative I visited last week, are alien to what we regularly experience in Bicol), most of Luzon and the Visayas should know how disastrous typhoons can be.

We should therefore should leave nothing to chance, especially with the recently erratic climate and this 2008 forecast from the City University of Hong Kong that western north Pacific (which includes the Philippines) will have slightly above-normal overall TC (tropical cyclone) activity this year.

The path taken by 'Frank' -- the first salvo of the the wet season -- is unusual, and portends that natural disasters will probably cover a wider swathe this time around.

Oddly enough, having been so used to being at their receiving end, we were prepared as usual. Although thanks to the Typhoon2000, I already had an idea by last Friday evening that 'Frank' path will change and spare us just for once.


10 June 2008

My new desktop

THE best of three worlds:

- My all-time fave Dawn of Ubuntu wallpaper, sitting on a Mac customization of the good ol' Windows XP.

- On my three-year old Celeron M 1.40GHz Asus A3L that is crying out for an upgrade.That eePC 901 or Acer Aspire One looks nice.:)

Courtesy of Carabs and Naga's good ol' EDP boys.


28 January 2008

'Where in the world is Willy now?'

TWO COMMENTERS have asked the question, the first one evoking the computer game involving Carmen Sandiego. Porfirio, the other one, asked whether I got sick or went out of the country.

Well, I'm still in Naga, in that lovely little spot in the world we call Pacol.

I didn't get sick in the physical sense of the word, thankfully -- although I am close to overcoming a persistently durable cough (commonplace here, I am told, at this time of year in a climate gone crazy), and some episodes of arthritic attacks that make plain walking a terrible ordeal.

But I did get sick in a different way.

With the way things are in our country, I get this feeling as if evil has triumphed. And everything we do is for naught. So why bother? Why write, and why blog for that matter?

Until I read Juan Mercado's column last week. Especially the following quote from the fallen El Salvadorean bishop Oscar Romero:

“We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of God’s work. Nothing we do is complete. We simply plant the seeds that one day will grow. We cannot do everything. But this enables us to do something, and to do it very well.

It may be incomplete. But it is an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest. We are workers, not master builders, servant-leaders, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”
The article took some time to sink in, but gently reminded me of the good so commonplace that I refused to see.

My seven wonderful blessings -- a source of boundless joy in our cramped little home filled with a cacophony of voices whose laughters, cries, shouting and even hushed conversations become a living symphony -- without whom life would be nothing.

Sixteen years of solid, happy, eventful and productive marriage to a most loving wife.

A community that may not be the richest, the cleanest nor the mostly orderly in our part of the city -- but is vibrant, dedicated, colorful and alive.

The sweet, pleasant early mornings that greet me everytime I would don my ancient sneakers and negotiate the bends and turns around Grandview and Green Valley.

Work that is fulfilling, with people ready and committed to give their all, in a city government where public service remains what it should be.

All I had to do is look a little bit closer and count these blessings.

And blog about them.