Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stories of Sablayan's Magnetism

This is the first story. Silly as a little child, I was made to believe that there’s a certain portion in the mountainous part of Sablayan that, according to some accounts, “magnetized” the Philippine Airlines’ DC3 Flight No. 785 which crashed into a ravine of the northern slope of Mount Rabañgan in the 60s. The mountain is believed to be part of Sitio Yapang and inside the property of the Sablayan Penal Colony just like the marvelous Libuao Lake shown in the above photo. It was the most tragic air accident in Occidental Mindoro’s history. It happened Wednesday morning, June 29, 1966 when a horrible event took the lives of 26 people including its 4 flight crews. I was only 5 years old that time but stories about the plane crash survived for decades especially in San Jose where many of the victims are residing or working, my mother told me.

Based on the investigation conducted by authorities, the PAL DC-3 took off from Mamburao Airport, which was actually came from Manila before its stop-over at the capital town, and was bound for San Jose Airport. Official document has it that the probable cause of the accident was the "misjudgment of the terrain clearance of which resulted (in) the collision with trees." One of the two lucky survivors is an Engineering student at FEATI University and a son of a farmer from Barrio Bubog named Federico Aguilar. The other survivor is a farmer also from San Jose identified as Donato Magpiling. The ill-fated aircraft which was found by the rescuers beyond repair first flew in 1944 was a twin engine Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92. According to Rodolfo M. Acebes in his book “Stories of 100 Families”, “He (Aguilar) survived because of the fresh water he drank from the Rayusan River.” Aguilar’s story instantly became talk of the town in Bubog, the place where I grew up. How he survived for days with wounds all over his body before he was found by the rescuers.

My childish imagination then made me believe in the urban legend saying that there is indeed literal “magnetic” forest in Sablayan causing the tragedy. But now that I am a grown-up man based in this town, I am still a believer of Sablayan’s magnetism but in its figurative sense. This paved the way to my second story of the town’s “magnets”.

My definition of “magnetism” here simply means “attraction”. Every single thing in the world, people, events and places included, has the capacity to attract or to magnetize both “gold” and “garbage”. Or garbage that looks like gold!  

As reported by the Tourism Development and Promotion Division headed by Ms. Sylvia T. Salgado, 3 national media networks stormed this year to Sablayan to feature the town’s tourist destinations. We, without doubt, have “magnetized” those journalists to introduce to the world the amazing-ness of this municipality aspiring to be the economic and political center of the province in the years to come. Our Tourism Office is under the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO). But we are not complacent for we are still aiming to “magnetize” many investors, tourists, local entrepreneurs including projects and programs coming from public and private entities here and abroad and forge sustaining partnership with them as envisioned by Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano and the rest of the LGU officials.

But magnetism isn’t just a phenomenon. Any human organization has to work for it. Aside from places and events, economic opportunities and richness of culture and natural resources, the practice of good governance can be a magnetic material as long as its people mutually has these: vision, expectation, contribution and commitment. To paraphrase an old saying, this kind of magnetism isn’t like that of a vacant lot or a vacant mind. The lot filled with “majoras” (improvements) won’t attract garbage!

Anything we have in common is a potential magnetic field, so to speak…

(Photo : Sablayan File)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lesson from Sarita Devi

I have now a new boxing heroine and she’s from Asia. Her name is Sarita Devi, the Indian who lost a controversial lightweight bout against South Korean Ji Na Park in the Asian Games at Incheon recently. Several dailies around the globe featured a crying Sarita on the front page, claiming she had been "robbed in the ring" by "biased" judges. Said the report that can be accessed HERE.

Before Devi’s emotional outburst during the medal ceremony, I happened to see the live telecast over Channel 5 on how our Filipino boxer lost to another Korean via same controversial match. I almost fell from my seat and shout to the heavens when Filipino flyweight Clark Bautista lost to hometown bet Choe Sangdon last Saturday. Choe was visibly rubber-kneed in the end and very lucky to finish the fight standing. Referee Michael Gallagher called a KO on 3rd round but the 5 judges favored Choe via UD, scoring 30-26, 29-27, 29-27. Five judges are assigned for every fight but a computer randomly selects which 2 scorecards to eliminate.

Ed Picson, the supervisor of the Philippine Boxing Team in Incheon almost filed a protest but he did not. Why? Because according to AIBA rules, said Picson, it is not allowed to file a protest on a decision. He stressed further that, “You can only file a protest on something the referee did to affect the outcome of the match”. So, one cannot file a protest if it concerns the score of the judges as stated HERE. Well, you may call her gesture as unsportsmanlike or plain emotionally- charged action, I understand what Sarita Devi is feeling right now. One thing is certain: She and Clark Bautista are victims of this semi-crazy rule!

With that explanation from Picson, I understand now why the Indian sports officials that went to Korea are mum on the issue. Picson even said on Bautista’s feat, “[I]t would just antagonize the officials if we pursued a protest. We made our message clear to (Tournament Supervisor) David (Francis of Wales) anyway and I’m hoping he appreciated our position.” Therefore, making the message clear to game officials is sufficient enough. But my heart bleeds with Sarita Devi when she cried, "None of the officials who came with me protested. I have been representing India for 14-15 years now but no one supported me when I needed it the most". What a sad, sad thing. "I have sacrificed for my country, whatever I did, I did it for my country and other players so that they don't go through the same thing again," she concluded as reported in THIS news item.

Many will say that the action made by Devi at the medal ceremony is not right and an uncalled for decision. An irrational decision maybe but certainly it’s triggered by emotion. An emotional decision made by a human being who felt robbed and became victim of injustice in a noble sport called sweet science. At age 32, she is not getting any younger for she's in a sport where age and agility matters most. A sport she truly love. 

As of press time, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had been requested to decide on the matter. Francis said in a statement, “I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement." Well, that’s it. Disciplinary action from OCA may or may not come soon.

This is the lesson I learned from Sarita Devi’s story: Heroines and victims do not need medals, anyway. And in times of scandals and controversies, heroines and victims, like whistle-blowers, need to rock the boat…

(Photo :

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Filipinos Soon in Space?

Congratulation to my cousin Eunice Barbara C. Novio for coming up with an article at Rappler titled “Coming soon: Filipino food in space”. Please click HERE and read and at least be informed on how Filipino delicacies would invade the space soon. This is a story about NASA Filipino scientist Apollo Arquiza working at the space agency’s Advanced Cookware and Techniques for Food Preparation for its Mars Space Mission in 2030. Reading her story, I became curious to know how the astronauts poop and pee in space. If Eunice’s story is about food preparation for Mars Expedition or on making possible cooking in space, mine is about poop-ing and pee-ing or the "human waste management systems" in outer space.

I did a little reading and "consulted" Cecil Adams, my ever trusted “straight doper”. In the early years of space missions, according to him, “waste management systems” were primitive. The feces were collected in a plastic bag (AKA “Apollo Bag”) that is glued to the astronaut’s behind during poop-ing and when pee-ing, a hose attached to a bag was worn by the spaceman. How about in women? Adam was adamant (?) in that aspect.

Then the Skylab came and later the space shuttle, a “space toilet” was designed by the NASA people. As our teacher in elementary science taught us that there’s lack of gravity in space and the fact that while gravity plays an important role in unloading poops and pees on earth, that would be a big problem up there. But modern space technology made this easy. Here’s the LINK describing vividly how “space toilet” works then during Adams' time in the 1990s.

In the Mars Mission which is set to embark in 2018, Taber MacCallum, member of the Inspiration Mars planning team, said in THIS report that human waste makes great radiation shielding, so it’ll be stuffed into bags and then lined along the walls of the ship. Their poops will stay with the astronauts for 501 days until they come back to Mother Earth. This is the yuckiest: The human poops will be dehydrated, so the waste water can be recycled for drinking. The solid part would remain in the spacecraft but controlling the smell is at present being taken care of by the team.

In that same news report by James Plafke posted March 4, 2013, he explained, “On a spacecraft, there isn’t exactly a plumbing system that leads to a large plant somewhere upstate, so there isn’t anywhere for urine or fecal matter to go.” But it would be fixed in the future, I am sure.

Just for laughs, I imagine, too, Malabanan soon in space …


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Martial Law Painting

This painting sums up all my recollection of the Martial Law years and this inspires me to no end. Not only because it is one of the masterpieces of a man whom I know personally, born and raised in Mindoro but because it's message is still relevant after 42 years of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation 1081 in September 21, 1972. The painting, “Notes for a Theology of Struggle” was created inside the prison cell in Bago Bantay, Quezon City by Edicio Dela Torre, former SVD priest and one of the pillars of the Christians for National Liberation or CNL. According to him as he cited in his blog, the reason why he painted a Christ figure with the right hand stretched out in resignation, even unto death, while the left hand is a clenched fist of resistance is, “[t]o portray the tension between our understanding of Christianity as a call to struggle for justice and the more dominant interpretation of Christianity as a consolation for the poor and oppressed who bear their suffering patiently.” Suffering, without doubt, can inspire artistic expression. But also true with comfort. Unluckily, the Christ image that dominates us is the suffering Christ and not the Christ who rejected the dominant religious and political systems of His time. The clenched fist of Jesus at the left side of the cross in Manong Ed’s painting.

When asked about the meaning of the figures at both sides of the cross, Dela Torre explained, “I decided to add leaves sprouting from the left arm of the cross, beyond the fist of resistance. Although the theology of struggle focuses on resistance, we do not need end there. We believe that new life will rise, like the leaves, from the dead wood of the cross. It adds the perspective of hope. To balance the leaves on the left, I filled the space beyond the right arm of the cross with leaf-like patterns on jungle uniforms of the military, and the face of a frightened child.” The “Notes for a Theology of Struggle” is an unfinished work of art and still an opus magnum in progress. Despite of the horrors of Martial Law, the painting comforts us for it leaves us a message that Christ shares in our suffering and struggle.

The turbulent times brought about by Martial Law in the Philippines gave birth to excellent works of art,- movies, novels, music, etc. that are too many to mention. Men and women who lived through it at least have a story or two to tell or re-tell. We need to keep alive the works of progressive artists coming from those dark sides of history when more than 3 thousand people have been killed and faced death. Their works are essential not only to inspire us though the struggle for justice and lasting peace is not yet over, but to celebrate that we, the “Martial Law babies” or survivors, are still alive. And the Generation X to be thankful for they are not yet born during those times. Those victims of "veneration without understanding" and "miseducation", as how nationalist historian Renato Constantino calls them. The "neo-Marcosists" as others would call them. 

The democratic space and the incomplete freedom that we are experiencing after EDSA, should not hinder budding artists here and now, to show their talents along this social or mass line. Pure entertainment is a staple of mass media nowadays without considering its redeeming social and literary value. We need works of art which depict the lives of ordinary people living in poverty, powerlessness and short-mindedness. These are the present-day artists’ battlefield. This must be their desk, studio and workshop aside from city streets and meeting places in the rural areas.

Now is the time they must even simply share artistic “notes” (not manuals) of struggle in case another Martial Law in whatever form and substance, threatens us again or in keeping up flame of freedom against this prevailing “selfie” mindset of our present political system…

(Photo : Ed Dela Torre's Blog)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exalting the Cross of Renewal and the PCP-II

Allow me to share to you that as I grow old, the Cross to me is gradually becoming a symbol, above all, not only of salvation but of renewal.  What the people in the grassroots and far-flung communities really aspire now is again seeing our local church actively participating in socio-pastoral situations and realities affecting them. My mentioning of the “Cross of Renewal” here also hinges on the belief that we, as people of faith have to move on for a new life. Let go of the shadows of the past, embrace the light to re-start from our tradition of struggling with the aspiration of the masses even those who are not church-goers (Gentiles?). Nobody can afford to just keep his fingers crossed in the face of inhuman social and political realities in our midst till Kingdom come!  

We cannot renew ourselves by discarding everything that we have started just because of the ugliness of the past. This “Cross of Renewal” is challenging us to be relevant in said context and dimension. In his book called, Called to Communion (p.142), writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVII taught us, “It is true that purely spiritual attitudes also have an impact on social structures. This shows that the spiritual element does take effect. It is necessary, yet it is not sufficient. There is in fact a density proper to impersonal and collective structures which has to be reached.” On the other hand, we are not suppose to forget that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) is a council of renewal renewing, among other things, the performance of her mission at the service of the transformation of the Philippine society (Well for many of us, PCP-II doesn’t ring a bell anymore). If we continue to be visible in our Basic Christian Communities (BECs) concretely struggling with the Mangyans in asserting their right to their ancestral domains or with the fisherfolks in their vigilance over illegal fishing methods and the peasants against usury for instance, we together “exalt” (rise on high) the Cross of renewal and salvation.

Call me an old fashioned parishioner but I believe that the tenets of the almost 23- year old Council need to be constantly revisited and revitalized. But it is sad to note that it seems diluted into a mere event than a tool in reading the times in the light of the Good News and “Unite all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10) as its theme have suggested. The PCP-II for me is always relevant to us Filipino Catholics. To some personal reminiscence, PCP-II was the “hot” when I first set foot at the door of the Church as a lay worker and that was 1991 until I tendered my resignation in January 2, 2011. From a radical street militant fixed to Marx’s Dialectic Materialism, I was able to gain example and inspiration of mainly from the Man “fixed” to the Cross.

The decrees embodied in the PCP-II are gems of faith but it is sad to note that it is now seldom referred to in various formation, manuscripts and homilies addressed to the people of God. Like her social doctrine, it is becoming another “best kept secrets” of the Church. The documents were crafted by the Council from January 20 to February 17, 1991. The Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Mindoro then is represented by Fr. Vicente C. Panaligan, Mr. Gaudencio M. Espiritu, Sr. and the late bishop Vicente C. Manuel, SVD, DD who heads the Conciliar Commission on the Religious. Fr. Panaligan, a jolly and friendly but intelligent clergy was among my early mentors on how to be involved in various active peaceful initiatives like pro-environment, the peace process and anti-illegal gambling campaigns towards putting into action the Social Doctrine of the Church. It’s the cross that we fearlessly put up high those days. It is the same cross that I am trying exalt now as a government employee and as a member of a Civil Society Organization (CSO) and as a Mindoro blogger.

Today is September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) and we Catholics honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. And before going further, allow me to greet everyone in Sta. Cruz a Happy, Happy Fiesta!

Here’s a little “throwback” on the Church’s history. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is the origin of the tradition of celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on this date.

As we celebrate this feast, let us all remember Our Lord’s words, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:38,39).Meditating on these words we unite ourselves — our souls and bodies — with the cry and aspiration of the Anawim right here in our diocese specially both in the rural and urban areas. We owe a preferential option for them, remember? With this, we are worthy pilgrims who walk with Jesus throughout history in this part of the universe.

People would be glad seeing our local Church taking up the crosses of renewal of our marginalized and deprived brethren by keeping alive her essential pastoral programs that deals with seminary formation and social action ministry, among other related programs or commissions.

The hierarchy has to pick up the Cross of Renewal even at the point of suffering or feeling the weight of a wounded institution brought about by our, to borrow from PCP-II’s (665) description of the Philippines, “chronic, almost compulsive dividedness”…

(Photo : Forum Andrew Gough)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joe Francisco: More Than a Former Boxer

It’s Throwback Thursday! My office mate Jasper Francisco took the above uploaded “throwback” picture of his father and it reminded me of an equally “throwback” blog entry that I have posted some years back that can be accessed if you click THIS LINK.

To retell, the Joe Francisco-Chito Adigue fight in May 16, 1981 shattered our high hopes of seeing our local boxing hero then on top of world championship ring. In Francisco’s home court he was caught by Adigue’s left hook that landed on his jaw on the 6th round of the bout. Chito Adigue is a nephew of the legendary Pedro Adigue, the former World Boxing Council (WBC) Light Welterweight Champion in the late 60s’ and he was at Chito’s corner that moment. Joe Francisco, the pride of Brgy. Batasan in San Jose knelt  on the canvass the night he lost and the people of Occidental Mindoro wept for him.

In his early years in boxing, Diomedes “Joe” Francisco was molded and turned into a human wrecking ball by the former world champion Erbito Salavarria after the great but once controversial Filipino puncher saw Joe’s potential when Joe was still an amateur. After only 2 impressive amateur wins, Salavarria decided to “level up” his protégée to the professional level for the featherweight division. That was 1977 and he’s the Philippines’ newest ring sensation. Boxing analysts in Joe’s golden years considered him as a thinking boxer because of the way he analyzes his opponent before delivering his own killer punches. Until that heartbreaking loss from the hands, err, fist of Adigue. His second lost was in a match held at Araneta Coliseum via split decision to Gener Cruz in October 5, 1980, but in their rematch, Francisco won by points over Cruz in March 1, 1981.

But life has to continue. He married his most loyal (all pun intended) fan, the former Loyalyn “Bing Bing” Hilario of Brgy. Pag-Asa, San Jose. Bing Bing, by the way, just celebrated her 50th (golden!) birthday only last week. Joe and Bing Bing’s 4 children are all boys.

Seriously, here’s Joe Francisco’s record after his retirement in 1981: a total of 26 fights; 23 wins; 1 draw; 2 losses. Francisco was the #1 Philippine Junior Featherweight contender and #3 in the OPBF or the Orient Pacific Boxing Federation that time.  Three 3 years after that gruesome lost, Joe successfully won by way of unanimous decision in his two comeback fights but have decided to finally hang his gloves. He now has a growing family to attend to and new career path to thread.

From fistfights, Joe finally ended in public safety sector, specifically firefighting now known as SFO2 Diomedes L. Francisco of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). Only last June 28, he headed the Volunteer Fire Brigade of Sablayan which won the Provincial Fire Olympics and will be representing our province in the upcoming regional competition this September.

Way back in November 10, 1982, a year after his retirement from boxing, Bing Bing gave birth to their first born Drian (nicknamed Jhong) in Brgy, Pag-Asa, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Joe raised Drian Francisco (25-2-1) in Sablayan to be a boxer like him. Drian had been boxing for about 142 rounds now with 71.43 knock out percentage in his 28 professional fights. In Drian’s early professional bouts held here in the Philippines, Bing Bing took care of her son’s diet while Joe give pre-fight pointers and acted as physical conditioning coach in the training camp. But Sweet Science runs deep in Joe’s veins that even after he decided to quit the pugilists’ world, he teaches free boxing lessons to kids, act as referee or promoter of boxing matches in our province. He is also into street basketball as his pastime and he’s in excellent shape until now that he’s already in his mid- 50s.

Let us go back to Drian, the son, just this August he returned to the ring after one year layoff KO’ing in the 3rd round Colombian Manuel de los Reyes Herrera at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in California. A big fight for Drian, after series of fine tuning in the US, is expected to be coming up soon like what his manager Justine Fortune have announced.

And there’s another boxer in Joe Francisco’s family in a son named Lloyd. Lloyd’s first fight as a professional was in September 29, 2007 defeating Jose Ocampo at Ynares Plaza in Binangonan, Rizal. His last fight was held two years ago winning by TKO at the expense of Roger Galicia in Lipa City. Being sidelined for almost 2 years, certainly he could still comeback. In his 12 professional fights, Lloyd record is as follows: 10 wins (6 by KO) and lost twice via KO. The last time I heard he is applying for a slot also at the BFP. I am unaware if it is still Lloyd’s dream to box overseas say for instance at the Madison Square Garden in a city called “The Big Apple”.  

Only the Francisco twins, Jasper and Jarred, are not into boxing but Jarred aspires to be like his father the other way around which is to be with the public safety sector someday as a policeman. On the other hand, Jasper is aiming into something else that he cannot figure out until now. He was once a Sepak Takraw star player in college until he got a knee injury and stopped. When asked if he also willing to box or to deal with fire someday, Jasper jokingly told me that he prefers to be a porn star!

With all certainty, the Francisco siblings absorbed not only their father’s boxing ability and public safety skills but more importantly, they must learn parenting lessons from Joe Francisco,- the former fist fighter, the present chief fire fighter of our pristine town and forever father to his sons…

(Photo : Jasper Francisco)