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Leonardo Q. Belen, 0949-9056563, 0932-2381616,

"Magna Carta for Muslim Mindanao" submitted to Sen. Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on LGUs

A proposed "Magna Carta for Muslim Mindanao" has been submitted to Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local Governments, to replace the controversial Bangsa-Moro Basic Law (BBL) which is replete with unconstitutional provisions!

Former Philippine Ambassador Jose V. Romero Jr., Ph.D. who wrote the MCMM, earlier presented for approval the MCMM to the National Unity For Peace Summit, chaired by lawyer Jose Malvar Villegas Jr., held June 30, 2015 at the Sheraton Park hotel. The summit was held in cooperation with the Unity for Revival Foundation headed by Sultan Shariff Irahim Albani.

Among the components of the "Magna Carta for Muslim Mindanao" are:

The creation of a new state by the Comprehensive Agreement and the BBL which grants to a small minority the attributes of people, territory and sovereignty is anathema to the Constitution; the BBL will experiment with untested asymmetric political structures that rely on leaders with no track record on democratic governance;

That the Mindanao Autonomy discussion is purely a domestic issue, and the inclusion of foreign groups with vested interests in Mindanao as facilitators and observers is deplorable; the solution to the root cause of violence and poverty in Mindanao is development which is being exacerbated by decades of neglect by the national government;

That the development of Mindanao cannot be guaranteed by the adoption of an untried political structures that would replace the constitutionally erected autonomous region of Mindanao... a work in progress aimed at the accelerated development of the Muslim region;

The "Magna Carta" further avers "that the answer lies in an enhanced ARMM that can benefit from accelerated devolution of development agencies and greater fiscal economy. This can be done without the insertion of unconstitutional provisions in a new mandate for Muslim Mindanao!"

The "Magna Carta" also stresses that "without the cooperation of armed elements of the region through a speedy process of disarmament and demobilization the zone of peace and prosperity envisioned by the Magna Carta will come to naught." (Posted July 10, 2015) 

Adopt "Trial  Jury" to eliminate corruption and injustice

A movement for the collection of 5.4 million signatures is now being undertaken for the passage of a law providing for the establishment of a "Trial Jury" justice system in the Philippines to replace the "one judge" system which has been a well-entrenched source or cause of graft and corruption or bribery in the country's judiciary! (Daisy Arcilla Brett-Holt, left photo, displays the jury initiative logo)

The nationwide initiative, "Worldwide Philippine Jury Initiative" is being led by Daisy Arcilla Brett-Holt, chairperson of WPJI (UK & PH), a former science teacher in the Philippines.

The Philippine Constitution provides for a 'people's initiative' of at least 10% of voters to sign a proposed law and then submitted for a referendum. With the trial  jury system, the justice system will be speedy. Because once a case is being heard in court, it will be continuous until it is finished and the verdict is given by the members of the jury, and the function of the judge is only to read the verdict!

There are no postponement in a trial jury! In its simplified form, here's what we have in a Trial Jury system:

Two Types of Juries:

The GRAND JURY is composed of 23, highly educated members called JURORS; chosen by lottery from the electoral register and who remain anonymous. They serve as juror for a term of six months only and receive a compensation that is twice the minimum wage.

The GRAND JURY has the power to: 1. Secretly investigate a suspect within 45 days from the date it begins investigation; if there was a probable cause 2. It decides with a fixed majority rule by secret ballot; and 3. Indicts directly crime offenders in court.

The TRIAL JURY is composed of 12 ordinary citizens, also called JURORS, at least 21 years old, can read and write and educated enough to be able to process simple facts. They do not have to be professionals. They are chosen by lottery from the electoral register to participate in deciding serious civil or criminal cases. They serve for the duration of the trial and paid the minimum wage.

The TRIAL JURY has the power to:

Decide whether the accused is guilty or innocent with a fixed majority rule by secret ballot.

Its decision is final. No postponement while the trial is on-going.

Note: Jurors shall remain anonymous!

The Presiding Judge enforces court order; rules on the admissibility of evidence and educates the jurors on how to serve in the jury. He does not participate in the decision-making!

Daisy Arcilla Brett-Holt, chairperson of the World Philippine Jury Initiative, stressed that with the "Jury system, justice will be served fast! The jury system empowers the Filipinos in indirectly running their government and administering equal justice to all. It will unite the Christians, Muslims and Ethnic groups who will sit together as the jurors."

She added: "The Filipino people's character will change from corrupt to fair and just. They will be proud to be called 'mga Filipino na may lahing Maharlika.'" (Posted June 30, 2015)


Naty Ng leads Aguman Capampangan Foundation, Inc.

Business-woman par excellence Naty Mallari Ng, (left, photo by Nardz Belen) CEO of Great Eastern Hotel and   Aberdeen Court located along Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, recently led the induction of the new officers and members of the Aguman Kapampangan Foundation, Inc. during ceremonies held at the GEH. 


Former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban (left) inducts the officers, with Miss Ng (7th from left)as president. Others in photo, from left next to CJ Panganiban, are Pepito Guerrero, PRO; Eden Josefina V. Bonus, Secretary; Florante S.  Quizon MBA, Exec. Vice President; Marinela "City" Sanchez, Asst. to the President;  Niza S. Vergel de Dios, Asst. to the President; Miss Ng; Justice Agustin S. Dizon, Vice President-Legal Affairs;  Rene D. Pineda, Vice President-External Affairs; Abner "Ace" M. David, Auditor; Wilfrido B. Villarama, Director; Jorge L. Banal, Director;  Former Quezon City Mayor Adelina Rodriguez, Adviser;  and not in photo: Albilio C. Cano, Vice President-Internal Affairs; Bienvenido S. Dimson, Treasurer; Emerenciana S. Catapang, Asst. Treasurer; Jorge L. Banal, Demetrio B. Macapagal, Arch. Nestor S. Mangio, and Dr. Juan Sanchez, Directors. 

To fulfill the mission of Aguman Capampangan Foundation, Inc. to help the less fortunate sector of society particularly in Pampanga, President Naty Ng said that the officers and members of the foundation must forge their cooperation together! "I need your selfless cooperation, at least half-a-day a month!" She stressed when she delivered her inaugural speech.

Following is an excerpt from her speech:

"When Aguman Capampangan Educational Foundation, Inc. was organized and registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1982, I was voted as Treasurer by the Board of Trustees, and I stayed as one until 2011. For many years prior to 2011, some of the members offered the position of president  to me, but I declined due to time constraint. (Naty Ng, left, photo by Nardz Belen)

In 2011, I finally accepted the highest position in the foundation with the conviction and mission to help in whatever I can, to the less fortunate in our society. I find the position of president in the foundation rewarding, but, it demands hard work, it demands time and it demands resources in order to achieve its vision - to improve the social and economic well-being of the less fortunate people, more particularly the poor.

I say it is rewarding and fulfilling, it is the feeling of fulfillment when we are able to send poor deserving students to finish college or vocational courses, when we are able to aid people during natural disasters and calamities and when we support the community on health care thru medical missions. To my co-members, I need your selfless cooperation, at least half a day, a month, and of course our provisions, your timely commitment in order for our foundation to operate and comply with our marching order - Aguman Capampangan towards a new era of dedicated service to the country!

Again, mayap a gatpanapun queco ngan! (Posted June 24, 2015)


Sen Legarda opens Philippine SME Business Expo 2014

Sen Loren Legarda led yesterday the opening of the "Philippine SME Business Expo 2014 at the SMX, Mall of Asia (MOA) with known business leaders joining her.

Sen. Legarda is an advocate for Filipino SMEs, stressing later in her keynote address that SMEs are the engines of progress in ASEAN communities!

Among those present during the ceremonial ribbon cutting ceremonies representing local and international entrepreneurs and business executives were William Bailey, treasurer, British Chamber of Commerce Philippines; Henry Ong, president,Young Entrepreneurs Society of the Philippines; Rudolf Kotik, CEO of Filipino International Franchise Association (FIFA); Rolly Pagaspas, head of Digital Activation, GPOD Mobile; Arman Lorenzo, owner of Sugarleaf, Inc.; Ria Lu, president and CEO of Komikasi Games & Entertainment, and Arnel Gamboa, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines. The three-day expo, is scheduled November 21-23, 2014 with more than 200 exhibitors.  David Abrenilla (Left photo), founder and managing director of Philippine SME Business Expo and CEO of Mediacom Solutions, Inc., said:

"We aim to put together under one roof SME business owners, senior level executives, professionals, government agencies, trade association from the Philippines and the ASEAN region to collaborate in order to boost businesses and the Philippine economy at large. (Left photo - Manila Bulletin's "Celebrity World" columnist Cris M. Belen shops some Filipino sweets at the expo) The ASEAn economic community will become the 7th largest economy in the world with a combined consumer market of over 600 million people and we will do everything we can to help businesses to get across to this market and become globally competitive." (Posted November 22, 2014) 

Manila City Hall Tri-Media Club's officers take their oath

The officers and members of the newly-formed Manila City Hall Tri-Media have taken their oath of office with City Councilor Yul Servo as the inducting officers! The officers are Edgardo Lanuza (photo, left), president; Rey Navarez, vice president, internal; Arnel gutierrez, vice president, external; Nanette Florante, business manager, Nida Godino, treasurer; Teddy Cho, auditor; Gabby Labastida, secretary general, and Ver Garcia, PRO.

Members of the Board of Directors are: Rudy Bonifacio, Redentor H. Oro, Mario R. Lanza, and Benhur Rodriguez. Chairman of the board is Jorge Lopez. Members who witnessed the oath-taking were Michael Agawin, Ezzer Perez, Carlo Magno, Ray N. Bartolata, Al Manacmul, Efren Battad, Joy Palenzuela, Rommel Javier, Harry P. Samaniego, Edwin Ongsod, German Ojevas, Cathy Mallari, and Edna Malinis. (Posted November 25, 2014)

Grand Taytay Bazaar opens 

Taytay (Rizal) Mayor Janet de Leon Mercado launched the Grand Taytay Bazaar yesterday which is definitely a shoppers' haven!

"I'm inviting not only Taytayenos but all other shoppers from neighboring towns as well as from Metro Manila to visit our bazaar where we offer cheap but high-quality goods for your shopping delight!" the lovely Mayor Janet de Leon Mercado said.

She also stressed that the bazaar will boost the economic progress of the municipality of Taytay. The town is known as the "Woodworks and Garments Capital of the Philippines. Taytay is also ranked as the 10th Most Competitive Municipality in the 2014 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index."

The 600 square meter Grand Taytay Bazaar with about 600 stalls, is located along the Manila East Road. (Photo, right: Mayor Janet de Leon Mercado, center, leads the ribbon cutting ceremony opening the bazaar. Others in photo are Vice Mayor Gonzaga, left, and business leaders) It showcases an array of goods, like clothing and other garments, curtains, toys, bags, shoes, decors, furnitures, trinkets and food among others at reasonable prices.

Nicky Andres, managing director of the bazaar, said that "I want shopping at the Grand Taytay Bazaar to be a pleasurable experience.(Photo, left: Manila Bulletin's "Celebrity World" columnist Crispna M. Belen, among first shoppers at the Taytay Bazaar) It showcases what we have and what we can do as a community. Taytay is a progressive municipality!" Andres is a native of Taytay.

The Grand Taytay Bazaar with Evith Marie as general manager, was designed by Architect Mila I. Martinez and AEB Builders headed by Antonio E. Bolanos for the structural design with Arch. Alfonso DLR Cruz, also from AEB Builders. A fashion show and a mini musical concert entertained the audience. (Posted November 16, 2014)   


Architect Felino Palafox Jr has called for "visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design and good governance to bring the Philippines globally competitive well into the 21st century."

Palafox made the statement during the opening of the 23rd National Conference on Planning Cities of the Future which was held November 6-7, 2014 at the Asian Institute Conference Auditorium, Legazpi Village Makati. Palafox is the current president of the Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP).


Karima Palafox honored by Urban Land Institute

The US-based Land Urban Institute (ULI) has given recognition to Karima Palafox (left photo) as one of the world's top 40 real estate and land use leaders and visionaries. The recognition comes under ULI's program of "Urban Land 40 Under 40," which means that the 40 who received recognitions were all below age 40!

Karima Palafox is the only Southeast Asian honored in the program! ULI chairperson Lynn Thurber made the announcement during the ULI Fall meeting at the Javits Center in New York. ULI received about 500 nominees worldwide for the "Urban Land 40 Under 40" program.

ULI CEO Patrick L. Philips described their honorees "as stars in the industry... with fresh approach to community building  for the 21st century... and innovators who distinguish themselves by their business acumen, commitment to development that enhances the quality of life and their vision for the future."

At the Palafox Associates and Palafox Architecture Group, Karima heads a multidisciplinary team that creates architectural designs and master plans for communities and developments in numerous countries from India and Malaysia to Saudi Arabia and also in the Philippines!

Karima holds at least two master's degrees, Industrial Economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific, and Urban Planning with specialization in Urban Design from Oxford Brookes University. (Posted November 5, 2014)



PIEP holds 23rd national conference on planning cities of the future

The Philippine Institute of Environmental Planners (PIEP) will hold its 23rd National Conference on Planning Cities of the Future on Nov. 6-7, 2014 at the SGV Conference Hall, 3/F Asian Institute of Management Conference Center, Legaspi Village, Makati City.

PIEP President Felino A.Palafox Jr. will discuss "Cities of the Future: Global Best Practices" during the Plenary Session. PIEP VP EnP Saviniano M. Perez Jr will welcome the delegates and after which, Sen. JV Ejercito Estrada will give the inspirational message.

Other speakers are EnP Apolo C. Jucaban, Regional Physical Framework Plan; EnP Franklinbel I. Isip, Socio Economic Plans; EnP Claire de Luna Villanueva, Land Use, Zoning, Climate Change and Comprehensive Development; EnP/Dir. Crispin Emmanuel Diaz, Mobility, Circulation & Transportation Facilities; EnP/Atty. Mark Gamboa, Program Implementation & Investment Planning;  Ms Francisca N. Dayrit, Planning and Designing Cities of the Future with Geospatial Technologies and City Engine; and EnP Larissa Glenda G. Togonon, Role of Environmental Planners in the Development and Management of Cities of the Future. (Posted November 3, 2014) 

PCW condemns gender-based violence

The Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) denounces the brutal killing of a transgender Pinay in Olongapo City on October 11.

The PCW stressed "that no lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual (LGBT) deserves to be violated, harassed or murdered!

"LGBTs," the PCW also stressed, "have human rights equal with men and women. Human rights and freedom must be enjoyed by all, without distinction as to sex, age, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class, ethnicity, nationality, social status or political affiliation.

"The killing of Jennifer Laude," the PCW said, "is a clear manifestation of violation based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the perpetrator(s) must be held accountable for such acts!"

The PCW, an agency under the Office of the President, is the primary policy-making body on women and gender equality concern! (Posted November 1, 2014)

Teachers slam government 's tricks without treat

The Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) and Ating Guro Party-list staged yesterday morning, October 31, a protest dubbed as Trick No Treat in front of La Loma Catholic Cemetery in Caloocan City.

Wearing black and white, the teachers gathered at the main entrance of the cemetery to "highlight the insensitivity of the government specifically the Department of Budget & Management and Malacanang on their just demand for a P10,000-across the board salary increase.

"Year 2015 would be the 3rd year the school teachers did not receive any salary adjustment," Benjo Basas said. Basas is the TDC national chairperson and a teacher from Caloocan City.

Basas stressed that Malacanang and DBM did not initiate a salary adjustment for teachers and other state workers. Salary adjustments were not reflected in the 2015 national budget. (Posted November 1, 2014) 


Princess Isabelle's vision for Mindanao's tribal people 

Princess Isabelle Lafforgue, International Princess of  Mindanao and Ambassador of Goodwill at Large, has vowed to help bring peace to Mindanao. She made the statement when she spoke at the "1st International Business Summit on Mindanao 2014" held July 28, 2014 at the Tent City of the Manila Hotel.

The business summit was hosted by the Unity for Revival Foundation chaired by its founder, Shariff Ibrahim Albani (see story below)

HRH Sultan Mangacop Umpa Saud, Supreme Tribal Chieftain, Tribal Paramount Sultan of Sulu, appointed Princess Isabelle as International Princess of Mindanao/Ambassador for Goodwill at Large on March 18, 2014.

On her mission, as published in the Princess Isabelle Executive Edition 2014, let's quote some excerpts: "Foremost of my mission is peace. Peace for me, is not just the absence of conflict. Peace is a constant practice of love and harmony. It is not just a phase or a situation that can change anytime. For peace to be a continuing reality, it must emanate from the very core of every individual residing in a community, as well as in the basic component of society that we call family. Peace has to come from the meeting of the heart and mind and of every individual. One has to feel it.

"As the International Princess of the Tribal Peoples of Mindanao, I commit myself to spreading the message of peace among the tribal communities and the whole of Mindanao. We are all part of a large community where we may have diverse economic capabilities, resources, religions, beliefs and way of life. That is why it is my privilege, as well as duty of my designation as the International Princess of the Tribal Peoples of Mindanao, to make known to the whole world that the tribal peoples of Mindanao willingly reach out to the rest of humanity in their desire to live in peace, and that they are loving and kind people."

Princess Isabelle also stressed her commitment to help build a bright future for the tribal children, even as she underscored socio-economic development, among other significant projects to benefit Mindanao. (Posted July 1, 2014)

ALBANI: Unity - key to dynamic progress in Mindanao!

Shariff Ibrahim Albani, chairman of the Unity Revival Foundation, has strongly called on all the people of Mindanao to unite regardless of religion, tribe, and race so that a sustainable dynamic socio-economic progress will be achieved! 

Albani (photo, right) made the urgent call during the "1st International Business Summit on Mindanao" held June 28, 2014 at the Tent City of the Manila Hotel. About 250 delegates attended the business summit.

Albani stressed: "Muslims, Christians and tribes are sitting on mountains of gold in Mindanao, yet they remain beggars!"

He added that factionalism has been the cause of disunity. "The Muslims are disunited! The Christians are divided into more than 20,000 factions, the Administration is disunited, the opposition is disunited, even as political parties are also disunited!"

Albani recalled that from the 11th to the 14th Century, people then in our archipelagic country were all united, engaged in trade with neighboring Asian countries and even far beyond into Europe and the Middle East. "Mindanao has extensive natural resources, even greater than those of other countries!"

"When the Americans came, they established a 'divide-and-rule policy,' and that began the country's tragic journey!"

"I am very proud of Mindanao though there are a number of kidnappings, illegal drugs, terrorism and conflicts which are seemingly beyond control. But let's not talk about the bad images but more on its positiveness. Mindanao has the richest natural resources compared to other countries in the world. These resources are waiting to be explored!

"Our oil reserves are more than those of any of our Asian neighbors. But again, unity alone can help us enjoy our great natural resources," Albani added.

He also stressed that "war is no solution to any problem, we are all losers! The only solution is to establish unity!" (Posted June 29, 2014)  


Lady mayor steers Taytay (Rizal) to dynamic progress

By LEONARDO Q. BELEN, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

She is charming, she is beautiful! She even had a four-month experience as flight stewardess; she also dreamed of immigrating to Canada with her then new family!

But destiny would have its way, and plunged her into public service at an early age of 20. A saying goes that one cannot argue against destiny.

"Yes, I believe in destiny," she said during an interview by this writer.

That's Mayor Janet De Leon Mercado, the current local chief executive of Taytay, Rizal, on her first three-year term.

She knows Taytay so well that she feels the needs of her constituents and what to do to make Taytay a dynamic and progressive municipality.

"It's no time yet for Taytay to become a city," she said in opposition to a proposed cityhood. "We can go to that later," she stressed. "There are priorities that must be attended to before cityhood!"

"I made promises when I ran for mayor, and I must fulfill them!" she added. (Mayor Mercado, riding a bike, left photo, excels also in sports leadership)

After she took her oath of office on June 30, she issued Executive Order 001 declaring ineffective all administrative/executive orders of the administration she replaced in order to remove all barriers that might stiple her own agenda and road-map for Taytay's positive growth!

Executive Order 001 indeed show-cased her own superior brand of leadership and administrative acumen - with the welfare of her constituents as the core of her administration!

"I want to promote Taytay as the garment and woodworks capital of the Philippines," she stressed. Garment production in the municipality started as a cottage industry, then called "Silong," because people engaged in the industry cut and sewed dresses or clothes in the "silong," or the ground floor of their houses. (Photo, left, is a "Retaso" or pieces of excess clothes artisticallysewn together)

The "Silong" has become a Taytay tradition, even a culture by itself, that Mayor Mercado saw to it that the once-a-year month-long "Hamaka" Festival be continued and supported well by the municipal government. Hamaka is actually a fashion show of clothes which originated mostly from the "Silong."

Hamaka - Hamba, Makina, Kasuotan - Festival starts every 3rd week of February and winds up three weeks after, show-casing the craftmanship, artistry and talents of the people. (Photo, left, Mayor Jane De Leon Mercado visits a display of condiments at the Hamaka festival)  

To enhance the garment industry, there's now an open garment market - every Friday - at the town's Kalayaan Park and at the Manila East Open every Satrurday. Visitors can go and and buy their choices of low-cost and ready-made clothings and other Taytay products.  

She is the 12th mayor of the municipality of Taytay. The first was Adaucto Ocampo who served from 1901 to 1907.

"My immediate priority was the clearing of the Manila East Road and the Veterans Park of illegally-parked and junked vehicles," she said. After she took her Oath of Office, she did not lose a minute in clearing the area by leading a team, including a component of the local police, in towing all the unwanted vehicles to an impounding area. 

The areas were clogged - for quite a time - with all sorts of vehicles, either abandoned by owners or by motorists who violated every norm of a clean community.

All she needed was an uncompromising political will to solve an onerous problem!

Her other priority is the renovation of the old municipal hall. It's about to be finished now as of this writing.

"We cannot abandon the building. It's the ancestral home of Taytay. Besides, it's located at the center of the town and people have been used to going there to transact business with the municipal government," Mayor Mercado explained.

She holds her office at the new municipal hall.

Reorganization of the municipal government is still on-going, she added. This is to improve efficiency. And reforms, of course. Particularly the elimination of graft and corruption! (More of this article in the forthcoming "I Love Taytay" Special Edition of TOWNS & CITIES Magazine, our printed version.) (Posted April 5, 2014) 

Tanauan City Mayor Halili declares city illegal drugs-free!

By LEONARDO Q. BELEN, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief 

TANAUAN CITY - This city, which traces its history way back to 1774, with an estimated  population now of more than  152,400 has been declared illegal drugs-free by its incumbent and first-termer Mayor Anthony Halili! (Photo, left)

How did Mayor Halili achieved this unprecedented feat in a city which has 48 barangays and used to be an illegal drugs center!

"I talked to the illegal drugs pushers," Mayor Halili told TOWNS & CITIES. "Some of them were even my acquaintances or friends. But I was able to convince them to the leave the city! And they, indeed, left the city!" Mayor Halili stressed.

"It is life-threatening to undertake any form of campaign against illegal drugs," Mayor Halili revealed. "In fact, I am the first mayor of Tanauan City who made that declaration! But I have to do it because I want to keep and maintain peace and order here in Tanauan City!"

Asked if he was trying to do a Mayor Rodrigo Duterte style, he  laughed. "No!" he said. "Mayor Duterte (Davao City) has done so much already for the peace and order of his city. I am only a beginner yet, and there's no point comparing myself to him!" (Photo, right, a traffic safety float during the "Parade of Lights" in Tanauan City.)

Reacting on the negative comments in social media about the "Walk of Shame" which he imposed on a recidivist thief, Mayor Halili said that he is enjoying the support of his constituents for what he has done, particularly those who have been the victims of recidivist criminals.

"The support of the people will always be the basis of my action," he added. "

"Peace and order is one of the major thrusts of my administration," he stressed.

He added that the construction of a city hall and a new public market will cap his administration this year. (Photo, left, Irene B. Tabing, current president of Metro Tanauan Rotary Club, was also at the stage during the "Parade of Lights.")

The easing of traffic is another priority. Illegal structures causing traffic jams have also been removed, as well as the easing of sidewalks.

Promotion of tourism is also another priority, and Tanauan last Saturday, March 8, staged the first "Parade of Lights" in the city. (Photo below, a beautiful bird float entry during the "Parade of Lights."

"I did not expect that a huge  number of people would come and watch the beautiful, parade of lights," Mayor Halili said. Each barangay fielded its  own float and the parade lasted up to about 10 in the evening. Celebrities, like Miss International Melanie Marquez, DZMM's Jobert Sucaldito, Dr. Viki Belo and officials of the Department of Tourism, amongh others, served, as members of the board of judges to choose the best float(s). (Posted March 9, 2014)


OFWs in Saudi to become mere commodities?

A former party-list representative and an OFW leader who spent 20 years together with an OFW Filipino community in Saudi Arabia, has warned the Philippine government that Filipino manpower will become mere commodities if the Department of Labor (DOLE) agrees to a new hiring scheme under a Royal Decree authorizing the creation of mega recruitment companies to exclusively recruit and process OFWs. (Photo, left, Omar Fajardo) 

A high-level team from DOLE and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is now in Saudi Arabia to discuss with Saudi officials the onerous and disadvantageous scheme for Filipino manpower!

Former congressman Omar Fajardo of the OFW-Labor Party-List who worked for many years in Saudi Arabia and Mr. Rashid Fabricante, an OFW Global Advocate who spent 32 years in the Kingdom explained the deployment scheme for Filipinos under the Mega Recruitment: (Photo, right, Rashid Fabricante)

Filipino manpower will be "Slave Trade" as workers will be treated as commodities traded to government and private companies under the mega recruitment companies which will accredit a maximum of five Philippine agencies and will place job orders from the local recruitment companies. In turn the mega companies will be the direct employers and will sub-contract these OFWs to the government institutions, like hospitals and private companies which require Filipino manpower services.

Salaries of OFWs will now be dictated by the mega agencies and will eventually be reduced as the OFWs are now for "rent." (Posted February 14, 2014) 


Kebab Turki celebrates 1st anniversary in the Philippines

Kabab Turki Rafi, the world's biggest kebab chain with over a thousand branches worldwide (Indonesia, Philippines, Netherlands, China, Sri Lanka) celebrated its first year anniversary in the Philippines January 22, 2014 at the Atrium, Robinson's Place, Manila.  (Photo right, Archbishop Deogracias F. Flores, OP-EOE, second from left, officiates the blessing for the first anniversary of Kebab Turki. Others in photo, from left, R. Toto Waspodo, Minister Counsellor, Embassy of Indonesia; Arleen Mendiola Lipana, second from right, of Kebab Turki, and Edmund Rogando, right, ACGI president)

The brainchild of Hendy Setiono, Kebab Turki traces its beginnings in Indonesia with merely three stalls and has grown at an unprecedented rate in only a decade. Hendy is known as one of the youngest breakthrough entrepreneurs in Indonesia, receiving numerous awards for his astonishing feats with Kebab Turki.(Photo, left, 3rd District Manila Councilor Yul Servo does a thumbs-up with ACGI Pres. Edmund Rogando) 

Asia Classic Gourmet, Inc. (ACGI) is the exclusive franchise distributor of Kebab Turki in the Philippines. ACGI is headed by Edmund Rogando as its president.

Though only one year in the Philippines, ACGI has now eight company-owned branches located in the most prestigious and high-traffic malls and supermarkets in Metro Manila (Robinson's Place Manila, Robinson's Supermarket Paranaque, Trinoma, Alabang Town Center, SM Hypermarket Pasig, Dela Rosa Carpark Makati, STS, UST Carpark. (Photo, left, Irene S. Castro, guest and lover of Kebab) 

Kebab Turki serves Middle-Easter foods that are tasty and convenient to eat. Kebab Turki's flagship products  are beef and chicken kebabs. The beeb kebab is made of 100% US grade beef and Middle Eastern secret spices. 

The chicken kebab is spiced perfectly for those with adventurous taste buds.Each kebab is wrapped in a thin and soft-textured hand-made tortilla.Even the way Kebab is cooked in a rectangular manner is an art in itself. One may top his or her kebab with any of the special secret sauces - original tomato, garlic or hot sauce - that certainly will stimulate anyone's palate.

Kebab Turki boasts of a unique patented packaging. With a convenient pull-up tab, eating kebab is hassle-free, totally mess-free!

Edmundo Rogando said that Kebab Turki is now open for franchise!(Posted January 24, 2014)  

Solidarity among media members

Dr. James Dy, president of the Chinese General Hospital and recently conferred the prestigious international award, "Gusi Peace Prize," said that a any form of relationship can only remain strong and lasting if "it is nurtured by honesty, loyalty and trust."

Dr. Dy made the statement during the January 10, 2013 Christmas Party which he tendered for Media Force at the Chinese General Hospital. The event is being held annually since several years back, with Dr. Dy as the sole host and sponsor! (Photo, right, Dr. James Dy. Seen partly behind him is broadcast journalist Atong Balatong, president of Media Force) 

Through his message during the affair, Dr. Dy defined what is true and lasting friendship:

"They say that building a long lasting relationship with anyone requires more than an exchange of smiles and warm greetings. It is not a mere act of acquaintanceship. Friendships are strengthened by commitment forged through menany years of trials, failures and triumphs. It is nurtured by honesty, loyalty and trust.

"You and I have gone through many things since the first day we met. You know me as a young businessman newly venturing into the music and recording industry. My first triumphs in the recording industry would not have been possible without your help and support. And I am extremely grateful for the support you had given me from that day onwards! (Photo above, Dr. Dy, RPN 9 president Robert Rivera, and Force Media president Atong Balatong)

"The long years of our relationships have stood the test of time and I am looking forward to more years of celebrating more Christmasses with you!"

The party was highlighted with musical, dance and song numbers, with Anthony Castello leading the performers. Dr. Dy prepared snacks and gifts for everyone, with Cheche Jiongco (photo, left) assisting in the distribution. 

And to make the party even more memorable, some members volunteered to dish out their jokes!  (Nardz Belen, posted January 17, 2013)  

Las Pinas City celebrates 7th Parol Festival

By Nini Rubia-Enrique

LAS PINAS CITY - This city once again proved that it is "the lantern capital of Metro Manila" as its barangays' residents showed their ingenuity in creating the best Christmas parols (lanterns) using recycled and indigenous materials for the 7th Parol Festival's lantern-making competition.

"We are pleased that the Parol Festival has become popular not only in Metro Manila but also in other areas of the country," former Las Pinas Lone District Rep. Cynthia Villar said. "I always promote the festival whenever I attend festivals in other provinces," she added. (Photo, right: Mrs. Villar, right, with guests Manila Bulletin's LifeStyle editor Isabel de Leon, left, and center, Crispina Martinez-Belen, entertainment editor, Manila Bulletin)

Mrs. Villar, managing director of the Villar Foundation, initiated the parol festival in 2007 by encouraging the city's magpaparol (lantern-makers) to organize themselves into the "Samahang Magpaparol ng Las Pinas." To support them, then Rep. Cynthia Villar set up the Las Pinas Parol Center where the lantern-makers can go for free training.

Now, the Parol Festival has a new venue, the Social Institute of Poverty Alleviation & Governance (SIPAG) along C-5 Extension in Lupang Pula Uno this city.

For the current Lantern Festival, the Villar Foundation gave a subsidy of P1,000.00 for each participants. Prizes are: P45,000, grand prize. P20,000, P15,000, and P10,000 respectively for the runners-up, and P2,000 for all participants.

Mrs. Villar said: "We want the unique tradition of parol-making to be continued by the younger generation."

The lantern-making competition also highlights environmental protection as participants can only use recycled materials. (Posted December 15, 2012)

Villar brings 'Love and Joy' to cancer-stricken kids

Child Haus, a halfway house for cancer-stricken children who came from various provinces and undergoing treatment in Manila, was filled anew with 'love and joy' as former Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar visited and gave them gifts and snacks from Jollibee.

There was a festive mode as the faces of the sick children, their parents and guardians staying with them at the Child Haus, brightened up when the Jollibee mascot entertained them with games, dances and song numbers. (Photo, right, Cynthia Villar)

They were more delighted when the the former congresswoman and celebrity hairdresser Ricky Reyes (Photo, below, right), Child Haus founder and main benefactor, hand them with gift packages consisting of biscuits, chips, T-shirts and toys!

In choosing Child Haus children as among the recipients of her gift-giving, Villar said that in her own small way, she wanted to make them happy.

"I want to ease the pains they feel. I want to see the smiles on their faces," she stressed.

Despite their young age, Villar said, these children are battling the "Big C" every day of their lives.

"And I know how a mother's heart bleed seeing her child struggls to survive," she added.

Child Haus or the Center for Health and Life Development, dubbed as "Shelter of Hope," is a temporary home to 83 'residents' composed of 35 patients and their parents and guardians.

Of the 35 patients, 22 of them, including a 22-year old adult, are sick with cancer, specifically leukemia. The youngest cancer patient is a one-year old from Nueva Ecija. (Mrs. Villar and Ricky with the kids, photo, below). There are 13 non-cancer patients; three are being treated for cThe impoverized patients are undergoing chemotherapy and other medical treatment at the Philippine General Hospital, Philippine Children's Medical Center and Philippine Orthopedic Hospital.

"They are all outpatients. So instead of staying in the corridors of hospitals, they are being accommodated at Child Haus," former Las Pinas Congresswoman Cynthia Villar said.

"It's good that there are kind-hearted and generous souls helping them like Ricky Reyes, and Mr. Hans Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings, who donated the new site of the Child Haus in Quzon City," Mrs. Villar said.

Villar noted that helping the poor and the needy and the less fortunate is their way of giving back the blessings they have been receiving from God.

Mrs. Villar, who won a landslide victory as representative of the lone district of Las Pinas, and whose three terms ended in 2010, remains very active in various advocacies and social and civil programs. (Nardz Belen, posted December 3, 2012)


Barangay Bel Air, Women of Bel Air launch "Huwag Kang Plastic"

The Barangay Bel Air (Makati City) and the Women of Bel Air Foundation, Inc. launched on Sunday "Huwag Kang Plastic: Reduce, Re-use, and Recycle" at the Salcedo Community Market.

Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay Jr. was the special guest of honor during the launching of the project. He highly commended the project which is in line with the city's environmental programs!

Barangay Bel Air Chairperson Nene Lichauco said that the "Huwag Kang Plastic" campaign would help people see the importance of current local and city government efforts to ban the use of plastics in commercial establishments.

The project is being jointly undertaken by the Salcedo Community Market under the Women of Bel Air Foundation and Barangay Bel Air.

The Salcedo Community Market, started about eight years ago by a group of Salcedo housewives and Mrs. Lichauco, has become a popular destination for Makati residents as well as balikbayans and other residents from Metro Manila.

Mrs. Lichauco said that the Salcedo Community Market has been actively encouraging its vendors and customers to espouse a green lifestyle and with the launch of "Huwag Kang Plastic," to encourage buyers to bring their own shopping bags and food containers.

To support the campaign, the Women of Bel Air Foundation has come up with its own list of "Green Shopping Tips" that will help promote the group's effort to protect the environment, starting with a list to avoid useless purchases. "Often, on a whim or impulse, we often buy things we don't need! The less useless things you buy, the less garbage you throw away," the Foundation said.

Bacolod City Councilor Em L. Ang, a guest during the Huwag Kang Plastic launch, said that starting in December this year, their own brand of plastic ban will be implemented. Coun. Ang authored the ordinance, approved last November 2011,  banning plastic in commercial establishments in the city.

The Foundation is also suggesting to all shoppers to bring in an eco-friendly bag, as well as bring smaller reusable bags to separate wet and dry goods.

They may also bring reusable food containers, or to buy goods packaged in reusable containers instead of disposable ones.

"Less one plastic bag a day means less trash to dispose!" The Foundation stressed. (Note: Join the "Partnership For A Cause," a non-profit full-length commercial movie production on waste management and the 3Rs. Click "Partnership For A Cause" in our Towns & Cities e-Magazine

One rule that people should never forget is always to be on the lookout for recycled products, or those that are biodegradable. Plastic takes a long time - up to 100 years - to completely breakdown. So if you throw a plastic bag away, it will find its way and clog dumpsites, esteros, creeks and waterways thus contributing to massive floodings! (Nardz Belen, posted October 2, 2012)

First Time Voters Network calls for satellite registration sites

The First Time Voters (FTV) Network has renewed its commitment for increased youth participation in the 2013 mid-term elections. Various youth leaders who attended the the recently-held FTV congress, has appealed to the Comission on Elections (Comelec) for the establishment of satellite registration sites.

FTV Coordinator Migs Angeles said the youth constitutes 60% of the voting population in the 2013 elections, a significant number that can affect the future of the country.

"Youth have to take a more active and progressive stance in engaging electoral and political processes in the country by practicing the right of suffrage," Angeles said.

Cleo Leogardo of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines stressed that through efficient sattelite registration sites, the youth is provided democratic avenues for greater youth participation in the electoral and political processes.

Leogardo observed that registration of voters, especially the firtst-time-voters, usually falls on months when the students have classes, and most registration sites are far from their hometowns.

The First Time Voters Project is a network formed in 2001 committed to lessening youth disenfranchisement during elections and help raise young people's political consciousness. (Nardz Belen, posted May 18, 2012) 


Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard J. Gordon, an advocate for volunteerism, has announced that a Million Volunteer Run will be held on December 4, 2011 to highlight the UN Declaration of the year 2011 as the International Year of Volunteers and the annual celebration of the International Day of Volunteers every 5th of December.

Gordon said that the Million Volunteer Run "will be the defining moment for a culture of volunteerism in our country. A culture that will save our country and our people from the horrors of disasters."

Gordon further said that a country like the Philippines which is plagued by a bufft of disasters all year round must empower itself with humanitarian soldiers eqipped with life-saving skills and a heart that beats for humanity.

October 24-31 has been designated as national registration week for the Red Cross Million Volunteer Run scheduled December 4, 2011.

Registrations are being held at the Red Cross headquarters, Bonifacio Drive, Port Area, Manila, and in all Red Cross chapters nationwide.

PRC Secretary-General Gwendolyn Pang said that the Million Volunteer run will be held simultaneously in key cities and municipalities in the country early morning of December 4, 2011. Registration fee is P1,000.00 each and P500.00 each for students. Proceds of the run will be used to fund the training program for Red Cross volunteers. -Nardz Belen (See related story in "Showbiz"). (Posted October 21, 2011)


P2.4 Million worth of forest products seized

The Department of Environment and the local officials of Monkayo (Compostela Valley) headed by Mayor Manuel Brilliantes Jr. confiscated recently P2.4 million worth of forest products from the Royal Wood Enterprises' wood processing plant whose wood processing permit expired last July 2011.

The confiscation of the illegal wood products is in accordance with Executive Order 23 issued by President Noynoy Aquino. The seized wood products are 332.71 cubic meters lauan logs, and 7,998 board feet of flitches.

DENR Sec. Ramon S. Paje said that the implementation of EO 23 rests greatly on the cooperation of local government units and ntional agencies.

EO 23 bans logging on inside natural and residual forests. A wood processing plant must show proof that it has a sustainable source of legally-cut wood for a period of five years. (Posted October 13, 2011)


Department of Environment & Natural Resources Sec. Ramon Paje has urged Local Government Units (LGUs) to declare as "no habitation zone" areas in their respective jurisdictions which are "high-risk" to floods and landslides.

Sec.Paje made the appeal following the high incidence of fatalities and destruction of properties caused by storms along "high-risk" areas. The local chief executives must consider relocating residents in to safer places, the DENR secretary also stressed.

He added that the Marines & Geosciences Bureau has come up with Geohazard maps identifying areas susceptible to floods, landslides and flashfloods. With the geohazard maps as reference, local government executives must now declare "no habitation areas" in their respective jurisdiction and relocate the affected residents to safer places. (Posted August 3, 2011)

DENR Produces 88% of Targetted Seedlings for NGP

The Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR) has produced 88% of the 25-million mid-year target for tree seedlings under the National Greening Program (NGP), a priority government project launched May 13, 2011 pursuant to Executive Order No. 26 issued by Pres. Aquino.

DENR Assistant Secretary Mario Mendoza (photo, left) said that as of July 15, a total of 22 million tree seedlings had been produced. He added that "76% of the planting sites have been prepared, with more to be completed during the second semester due to favorable weather - the rainy season which is the best time for planting tree seedlings.

"It is wrong to plant in summer. The trees planted will just wither and die," the DENR official also said. "Plant during the rainy season, from mid-June to August to August or September. During summer, we do not have the capacity yet to water all the plants!" He stressed.

Mendoza also reported that local government units (LGUs) have planted 17 million seedlings. Throughout the country, there are eight million hectares of open, denuded and degraded lands in need of immediat rehabilitation.

The NGP is participated by both public and the private sector. "It's a continuing endeavor!" the DENR official concluded. A total of 3,928 hectares have already been planted! (Posted July 23, 2011)