I will be on the Papal plane, now what?

1488767_10152396032379845_6191053346362572845_nNow it’s out. I will be one of 14 Filipino journalists who will be on the plane with Pope Francis during his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, and back to Rome, next month.

The opportunity is “one of the great Christmas gifts” to Filipinos this year, said Bishop Mylo Vergara, head of the media committee for the papal visit to the Philippines.

Indeed it’s exciting, and a rare opportunity for Asian journalists, and a lot of work.

It’s not easy. First, my Italian is limited to some words I’ve read on a menu in a restaurant in Cubao. Second, I hardly passed my Latin and Spanish subjects during my seminary days.

Covering this rare occasion is a challenge, especially after Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle criticized the “Western-dominated international media” that covered the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.

The good cardinal described the media coverage of the synod as “fair” although he expressed dismay at the “agenda” of journalists who only focused on issues that were of interest to the West.

He also criticized the penchant of the media to label those who attended the synod.

“Labeling people as progressive, as conservative, as traditionalist, may hinder fully listening to them,” said Cardinal Tagle.

He said he felt sad that “there was not a single Asian journalist among the hundreds and hundreds of international journalists” in the synod.

“Who will report on the concerns of Asia? Who will report on the voice of Asia?”

Is it I (us), Lord, este, cardinal?

How does one cover a Pope like Pope Francis? How does one report on the concerns/voice of Asia?

That is the challenge, my friends, not how I could carry sacks of rosaries that you, dear colleagues, relatives, and Facebook friends want the Pope to bless.

(Can you imagine me carrying bags of rosary beads to the plane, opening it up in front of Pope Francis to bless if, by any chance, he stops by my seat?)

And by the way, thanks for all the “congratulations,” but I prefer “good luck.”

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Oxfam calls for respect of rights of Haiyan survivors

National and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials hold a dialogue this week in Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)

National and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials hold a dialogue this week in Manila. (Photo by Vincent Go)

International agency Oxfam this week called on the Philippine government to respect the rights of thousands of families displaced by Super Tyhoon Haiyan last year in recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

“A year after [Haiyan], the government must ensure that resettlement processes follow a more principled approach that reflects the rights and priorities of displaced people,” said Alison Kent, Oxfam’s humanitarian policy advisor.

Alison said “meaningful consultations” with those directly affected by resettlement are necessary, “otherwise, resettlement plans risk reinforcing the vulnerability of targeted communities.”

The Oxfam official made the statement during a roundtable discussion attended by national and international aid groups, community leaders from Haiyan-affected areas, and key government officials.

She noted that almost a year after Haiyan devastated the central Philippines, most of the 200,000 families identified for resettlement by the government continue to live in bunkhouses, tents, and homes repaired with scraps and debris from the typhoon.

While some affected communities are targeted for relocation in the coming weeks, many remain unsure of what services and supports will be available at the relocation sites.

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Another new year, and we’re not getting young

It has become a ritual. When New Year comes, we remember to update dormant blogs, revisit email accounts, aside, of course, from thinking about what to do in the coming year.

First things first. Let me upload the first photo I took in 2014. It was on the beach in Subic. While everybody was busy watching the fireworks and taking photos, I noticed this young boy who looked fascinated by the gentle lapping of the waves. Thus, this photo taken by my iPhone 4S. When I later looked at the photo on my computer, I realized it was blurred.

new year

Lesson learned? Nothing like, taking a photo is like life, you can’t just gamble on chance lighting or something. It is not also something like the innocence of youth versus the indifference of adults. The lesson I learned of course, and the resolution is, the iPhone 4S is not that reliable when taking New Year photos on the beach, therefore, upgrade to a new iPhone.

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So where’s the power of Philippine social media?

If the result of the senatorial race is only based on FB posts, Teddy Casino and Risa Hontiveros would have won with a wide margin. It is indeed time to look into how effective is social media, at least in the Philippines, in influencing voters.

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They still shoot Rizal in Dapitan

Soldiers stand guard at the Rizal Day celebration in Dapitan on Dec. 30.

Soldiers stand guard at the Rizal Day celebration in Dapitan on Dec. 30.

EVERY YEAR, at seven o’clock in the morning, people in the sleepy little town of Dapitan in Mindanao gather to witness the “execution” of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero.

Unfortunately, only a handful of government workers and students, who were required to attend the activity, and a sprinkling of curious townspeople, were present this year.

Yes, unfortunate because more people, especially the young should be there, not only to mark the death of Rizal but to learn about the life of the exemplary young man who once lived in Dapitan.

Unfortunate because the absence of people in activities like the reenactment of Rizal’s execution, which changed forever the country’s history, only shows the way Filipinos, including Dapitanons, appreciate their past.

(Well, many Filipinos still think Dapitan is a street in the district of Sampaloc in Manila at the back of the University of Santo Tomas, and foreigners think the Philippines is a haven of terrorists and karaoke-loving people.)

Dapitan of course is not a town anymore, although it still looks like one and earns less than several municipalities in the country. Thanks to Rizal’s four-year stay here. Dapitan is now a sixth class city in the province of Zamboanga del Norte with a population of 77,441 people.

Rizal was exiled in Dapitan by the Spaniards in 1892 after he was accused of publishing anti-Catholic and anti-friar books and articles; for having in possession a bundle of handbills, the Pobres Frailes, in which advocacies were in violation of the Spanish orders; for dedicating his novel, El Filibusterismo to the three martyred priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, and for emphasizing on the novel’s title page that “the only salvation for the Philippines was separation from the mother country (referring to Spain)”; and for simply criticizing the religion and aiming for its exclusion from the Filipino culture.

He arrived in Dapitan aboard the steamer Cebu at seven o’clock in the evening of June 17, 1892. From that day until July 31, 1896, the sleepy little town witnessed the most fruitful years in the national hero’s life.

He focused on serving the residents through his civic works, medical practices, land development and the promotion of education. He wrote most of his best literary pieces, mostly poems and letters, in Dapitan.

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