Thursday, June 30, 2005


By K. Oanh Ha

MANILA, Philippines - Marsha Abenes, 20, pauses while talking to a visitor at the Glorietta Mall in downtown Manila to read an incoming text message on her cell phone. It's a sweet nothing from her boyfriend, who could have delivered the message quicker and cheaper by leaning over and whispering it into her ear.

But then, this is the Philippines, where text messaging isn't just a craze, it's a way of life. This country's 80 million people send 160 million cell phone messages a day.

Unlike in the United States, where text messaging is popular mostly with teens and young adults, sending and receiving messages via cell phone has become tightly integrated into the daily life of many Filipinos. It has become a vital tool for daily communication, commerce and government, as well as a formidable political weapon.

``Filipinos are addicted to text messaging,'' said Claro ``Lalen'' Parlade, executive director of the Cyberspace Policy Center for Asia- Pacific in Manila. ``It has become a part of our cultural identity.''

Even the guerrillas in the country's embattled southern province of Mindanao, where fighting between splinter groups and the government occasionally flares, find text messaging an indispensable tool. ``No self-respecting rebel would be caught without one or two cell phones,'' said Amina Rasul-Bernardo, who is working to craft peace between the guerrillas and the government.

Rebels here, who often resort to kidnappings, send ransom notes via text messages because their location can't be traced.

In the Philippines, where computer and Internet penetration remains low, text messaging is the equivalent of e-mail and computer instant messaging rolled into one.

As in many other Asian countries, cell phones are a leapfrog technology, enabling people without land lines to go straight to a mobile phone. The low cost of text messages has made them widely popular throughout Asia, which sends the most number of text messages in the world. Of the 2.9 billion text messages sent each day worldwide, nearly 40 percent originate in Asia, compared with 14 percent from North America, according to research firm the Radicati Group in Palo Alto.

With 27 million cell phone subscribers in the Philippines, there are more cell phone accounts than fixed telephone lines. The vast majority of text message senders are people with modest incomes. They buy access in small, prepaid amounts for as little as $1.80, which buys 100 text messages. That makes a text message one-seventh the cost of a voice call from a cell phone.

Vital to economy

Although low in cost, text messages are a critical part of the Filipino economy. Last year, when growth in nearly all major industries was stagnant or in the single digits, the telecommunications industry grew by 17 percent -- boosted by text messaging, said Cielito Habito, director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development.

There are also cultural reasons for Filipinos' love affair with text messaging. The technology supports many Filipinos' aversion to even mild confrontation, said Cesar Tolentino, an analyst with telecom research firm XMG-Global in Manila, which is spearheading a study to explain the service's popularity in the country. Many Filipinos use text to ask permission before they call someone on their cell, said Parlade of the Cyberspace Institute.

In a country where personal relationships are key, keeping in constant touch with family and friends is of utmost importance. Nothing is too trivial to prompt a message. More than half of
personal text messages are just greetings less than 100 characters long. ``Hi,'' ``good morning,'' and ``how are you?'' are among the favorites, according to XMG's surveys.

Divina Parreno, a Filipino-American who lives in Milpitas, became hooked on text messaging on a visit in 2001. She routinely sends greetings, as well as jokes, to friends and family in the Philippines -- sometimes as many as 1,000 text messages in one month. (Her service provider is Verizon, which enables her to send text messages internationally.)

``I've been here (in the United States) for 25 years. I lost touch with many friends because I hate writing letters,'' said Parreno, who is in her 40s. ``This is an easy way to keep in touch.''

Text messaging has serious uses, too. In 2001, mass, impromptu protests were staged using text messages by opponents of then- President Joseph Estrada, bringing together 1 million protesters who ultimately toppled Estrada.

Today, cell phones are routinely used to stage political rallies and demonstrations. Equally important is their use to send damaging political jokes at election time, many written and planted by the political parties, Parlade said.

``It's a great tool because Filipinos love jokes,'' he said.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo now swirls in controversy, accused of fixing the election results that enabled her to stay in power. One Web site,, encourages Filipinos to download a ring tone of a song that jokes about Arroyo's troubles -- as a sign of protest to urge Arroyo to answer the allegations.

For its part, the Filipino government is catching on. Filipinos can now text message Arroyo, as well as other government agencies. The country's equivalent of the Internal Revenue Service, in an effort to catch tax scofflaws, holds a text-message lottery with prizes. Citizens are urged to send details of purchases, which are used to catch vendors who don't pay taxes.

Criminal activity

Police stations ask citizens to message in criminal activity and complaints. Even the 911 emergency service can be contacted through text message.

Businesses have milked the trend for profits, with television viewers messaging their favorite soap operas and competing in contests.

All this messaging, of course, is making cell phone companies gleeful. One of the country's two major telecommunications companies, Smart, is rolling out programs where users can pay for retail items with their prepaid minutes.

In the fall, it unveiled a text messaging remittance service -- the first of its kind in the world -- to capitalize on the $9 billion overseas workers send home to the Philippines annually. The bulk of remittances come from workers in the United States who send as much as $1,000 at a time through the service, which charges lower fees than banks, said Tolentino of XMG. The transaction is received as a text message and can be presented at a ``cash center'' for pesos.

Marsha Abenes is helping to fuel the text messaging craze. A student at Technological University of the Philippines in Manila, she recently signed up to send unlimited text messages. She sends messages every free minute, firing off as many as 100 a day.

``The very first thing I do when I wake in the morning is check my phone for messages,'' she said, smiling between rapid-fire key punches. ``I can't live without my phone.''

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Blueprint for RP’s software industry for breakthrough growth in five years bared


CEBU CITY — Major players of the Philippine information and communications technology (ICT) industry presented a five-year action plan for the local software sector to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during the recent Cebu ICT Congress 2005 held here at the Cebu Waterfront Hotel.

The Philippine Software Industry Association’s (PSIA) action plan, dubbed "Fly High: Philippine Software 2010," identifies five priority areas for development that will contribute to achieving expansion and accelerated growth of the software industry in the country. These are: Grow domestic demand for software, develop skilled software professionals, increase software exports, reinforce intellectual property compliance and build infrastructure for industry growth.

Funded by Microsoft Philippines and led by the PSIA, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) and presented by Outsource2Philippines, Inc., the intention of the project was to produce a realistic and practical series of action steps for the country’s software industry that will contribute to President Arroyo’s 10-Point Economic Program.

Under the five areas are 21 specific items recommended for urgent implementation, namely:

- promote software development quality standards- encourage collaboration among domestic software companies- develop and implement a strategic marketing communications program to increase awareness of local software solution developers among SMEs- leverage existing government procurement regulations to strengthen focus on software solutions and stimulate demand- create an incubation program to support startups- extend financial assistance to SMEs investing in software - implement an annual skills inventory and job survey- introduce competency-based training for IT workers- establish a national certification program for IT professionals- extend training of IT professionals to include business education- increase international awareness of the Philippines’ offshore software industry ("Brand Philippines")- promote strategic partnerships with foreign companies (and countries)- address the opportunities presented by "niche market" leadership- create a domestic software IP exchange- develop and implement a broad-based IP campaign- introduce the concept of "Digital Communities"- review prevailing legal status of IP regulations to protect SMEs- build and operate shared development centers- clarify policies on emerging communication technologies- provide financing opportunities to small IT enterprises (SMITEs)- activate the concept of community eCenters (CeCs).

Proponents of the project have also identified quantifiable goals in the action agenda which they tagged with the acronym FLY HIGH, which stands for:

- Fifty software development companies aligned with international quality standards;- Locate operations of 50 foreign-based software companies in the Philippines;- Yes to development of "Brand Philippines";- Hire 100,000 software workers and support improved recruitment, re-tooling, and retention;- Increase intellectual property compliance for software three percent annually;- Government software investment to increase 10 percent annually; and,- Have social and physical infrastructure in place to support industry goals.

Meanwhile, a study on ICT integration readiness of public high school teachers who have access to computers in their schools in terms of technology literacy and usage was also presented at the conference by Microsoft Philippines.

The study conducted by Learn.Ph Foundation among Department of Education teachers and principals nationwide revealed that such educators are shifting their teaching style towards more student-based project learning and encourage the use of technology in their class presentations.

The initial results of the survey further show that while most educators value technology as a teaching tool, both teacher and principal respondents say that they still need to undergo trainings related to integrating technology with teaching and basic computer skills such as using e-mail and the Internet. the survey observed that most teachers learn IT informally or were "self-taught" and recommend formal training.

The survey was conducted among 7,450 public high school teachers and 320 principals in all 16 regions except the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and will be available in July 2005.

Dubbed as "C.E.B.U. ICT 2005: Asia’s Emerging Role as a Global Center for the ICT and IT-Enabled Services," the three-day conference and exhibition was organized by the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry and sponsored by Innove Communications and Globe Telecom, provided ICT players in Cebu, and the rest of the Philippines, a venue for showcasing their capabilities and competencies to the global ICT industry, and showcased Cebu, and the Philippines in general, as a premier ICT investment, software and e-services hub.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Recovering the lost promise

by Camille M. Carandang

ALWAYS THE IDEALIST, I am one of the few who once said, "I am not leaving this country." While I thrive on the thought of traveling for a living, I simply cannot imagine permanently moving to an entirely different time zone and paying taxes to a government that isn't mine.
My history class has instilled a bit of patriotism in me. It only took two months to convince me why I should love this country, and why I should believe that Rizal deserves to be the national hero. It only took, however, four days, to collapse the foundations where my idealism and patriotism once stood.
I went on a trip to Singapore. It was as simple as that.
For most people, the United States is their great oasis. Mine is a garden city guarded by a mythical merlion. It is beautiful, perfectly landscaped, safe, well-developed, and filled with disciplined citizens. Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Beijing may have captivated me. Singapore, however, lured me.
Twelve years ago, the Philippines was the tiger of Asia. The only progressive country in the Southeast region. Today, we are left behind by the struggling economies of the past. Those, which perhaps, twelve years ago, desperately wanted to be like us. Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia have obviously left us behind. Here we are wondering what went askew. It's easy to blame the government for our snail-paced development, or even the lack thereof. Yet, we probably all know we're part of the problem we're trying to fight. We're all just too ashamed to admit it.
It's tempting to nitpick, it's easy to criticize. I could probably list at least 10 reasons why we Filipinos, as a whole, are part of the problem. Then again, you would already know them.
Albeit leaving the country may be the obvious solution, it only exacerbates the problem. Migration has been the usual resort, it almost seems institutionalized. Tracing its roots in the mid-1920s, the first group of Filipinos left during this era to explore new terrain - the United States. Employed as factory workers in California, they were not only exposed to harsh living conditions, but also to discrimination from their American counterparts and superiors. It almost seems surreal that such a practice has persisted a century later. But social conditions have changed, globalization has emerged, and more often than not, leaving does prove to be more financially rewarding. Obviously.
Anywhere but here seems to be the common mentality shared by millions of Filipinos. Oz is a faraway land and there are many yellow brick roads that can lead one there. It isn't a wonder why. There is simply no question about it. But in finding a better promise for a personal future, people never stop to realize that they are the very reasons why our country isn't Oz.
The people themselves are the promise of the nation. It may fall short of a cliché, but only promising people can make up a promising country. A basket of bad eggs do not make for a delicious omelet.
We are endowed with free choice. There's nothing wrong with looking for greener pastures. It's our divine right as human beings. It's  nothing to guilt over. Ironically, we aren't made to settle for less than the best. As evidenced by the myriad of rallies that spring in Mendiola each day, Filipinos always strive for the better life - not always in the best possible way, but they try nonetheless.
Thinking of our personal welfare has obviously led us farther and farther away from our country. Yet, wherever we may be, the Philippines will always tug at our heartstrings. Upon getting to Oz, romanticized notions disappear, leaving us with a plain simple thought: there's no place like home.
Let it serve as a reminder that we do not live for a job. We live for a life.
People clamor for change to the point of unreasonably going against the government. The difficulty lies in the fact that we want quick solutions for complicated problems. Tila isang kahig, isang tuka. No one is willing to work it out on a long-term scale. But at the end of the day, until we realize that each of us is part of the problem, the obvious solution will always be elusive.
While most have gotten cynical and some have gotten jaded, I refuse to be part of them. I am not going to fall into the trap of believing that the glass is half-empty. Because once I do, this country is going to lose another hope of becoming a promising one.

Bill proposes broad powers for Subic, Clark agencies

A SENATE bill has been filed to empower the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) to develop special economic zones in Luzon.

Its author, Senator Richard Gordon, said the bill was aimed at promoting investments and business opportunities in areas surrounding Subic and Clark.

Under Senate Bill No. 1840, the SBMA and the CDC shall have authority to develop, manage and operate special economic zones in Luzon, and to borrow funds from local and international institutions, or to raise money through bond issues or issuance of other securities.

"The development of special economic zones in the municipalities nearby, bordering the highway and railway and connected to the airports and seaports in Subic, Clark and Manila must be encouraged as this will bring jobs to the people," said Gordon, a former chairman of the SBMA.

The bill also seeks to empower the SBMA and CDC to grant incentives to businesses that will locate in the economic zones, set minimum wage rates, impose strike moratoriums in businesses to be located in the economic zones, enter into joints ventures or other investment activities to raise funds, and establish subsidiaries.

Both the SBMA and CDC are under the Bases Conversion Development Authority, which oversees development of former military camps.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Bill proposes broad powers for Subic, Clark agencies

A SENATE bill has been filed to empower the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Clark Development Corp. (CDC) to develop special economic zones in Luzon.

Its author, Senator Richard Gordon, said the bill was aimed at promoting investments and business opportunities in areas surrounding Subic and Clark.

Under Senate Bill No. 1840, the SBMA and the CDC shall have authority to develop, manage and operate special economic zones in Luzon, and to borrow funds from local and international institutions, or to raise money through bond issues or issuance of other securities.

"The development of special economic zones in the municipalities nearby, bordering the highway and railway and connected to the airports and seaports in Subic, Clark and Manila must be encouraged as this will bring jobs to the people," said Gordon, a former chairman of the SBMA.

The bill also seeks to empower the SBMA and CDC to grant incentives to businesses that will locate in the economic zones, set minimum wage rates, impose strike moratoriums in businesses to be located in the economic zones, enter into joints ventures or other investment activities to raise funds, and establish subsidiaries.

Both the SBMA and CDC are under the Bases Conversion Development Authority, which oversees development of former military camps

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New journalism book hits the stands

New journalism book hits the stands

THE National Book Store has announced that a new book on journalism, Campus and Community Journalism Handbook, by Alito L. Malinao, is on sale in all its outlets nationwide.

The book, written for high-school students, particularly campus journalists, contains the text of the Campus Journalism Act of 1991.

It explains the basic rules and techniques in news writing, editing and headline writing, interpretative and investigative writing, feature writing, page design, a stylebook and ethical standards in the media profession. The book has a folio of photos of major campus and community news­papers in the country.

As a teaching tool, the book suggests classroom exercises in each chapter. Dr. Benjamin C. Tayabas, president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, wrote the foreword.

This is the second book on journalism by Malinao, a veteran journalist and educator. His first book, Journalism for Filipinos, now on its third edition and 13th printing, is widely used by most journalism and mass-communications schools in the country.

Malinao was the chief editor of the Presidential News Desk in Malacañang. He was a former news editor and diplomatic reporter of the Manila Standard. He worked as executive editor of the state-run Philippines News Agency.

Malinao is the executive director of the Center for Culture and Mass Media Foundation Inc., which trains young journalists through seminars and lectures.

The center is based at the National Press Club building.

Malinao has been teaching journalism at the Paman­tasan for the last 10 years

Wiretapping 101

HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star 06/22/2005

The infamous wiretapping CDs, recordings and now even ring tones involving the controversial Garci conversations are making their way around the Philippines and even abroad. Some people think being wiretapped, especially if you are the President of the Philippines or anybody famous for that matter, is amusing until it happens to you. Most people believe that because they use GSM cellphones and the signal is digital, their communications are secure.

During the analog AMPS days, monitoring a cellphone was as easy as buying a radio scanner from Radio Shack for about $450. During that time, engineering students would have fun eavesdropping on the romantic interludes of their fellow students. In order to avoid cloning, cellphones went digital.

But is digital secure? GSM is digital, but so is CD music, VCD, DVD and even satellite. All it takes to listen to a cellular conversation is the right receiver and decoder. How does the intelligence community listen to conversations?

There are actually three ways: environment or by bugging the surroundings, transmission or by listening to the signals as they are transmitted over wires or cell sites, and central office or at the facilities of the telecom company. Bugging used to involve the placement of a small transmitter in areas frequented by the target and receiving this signal some distance away. More modern means include bouncing a laser beam off the window glass and decoding the sound from the vibrations of the glass.

This is not used so much anymore because of the considerable set-up time. Transmission monitoring of land lines is as easy as attaching alligator clips to a telephone line and listening to the conversation like a party line.

With GSM cellular, a device such as a GSM Interceptor 900 is used. This device used to cost $500,000. It can be programmed to record the conversations and SMS or text messages of designated cellphone numbers. The device operates by listening to nearby cellsites, about 250 meters in the city and up to 10 km in rural areas for the cellphone number of the targets.

Once it detects that the target is calling or is being called, it starts recording. Other techniques involve decoding the microwave signals between cellsites, but because of the increased use of fiber optics and the large number of cell sites, this is impractical. Central office monitoring is done by tapping the line at the facilities of the telephone company.

This is very easy for analog land lines, which switch all lines in a given area through a local exchange, but is quite difficult for cellular, because switching is dynamic based on the system load. A cellphone conversation in Cavite may be controlled from as far away as Manila if the local facilities are congested. So how do you avoid being monitored?

The US during World War II used Navajo Indians who spoke a language the Japanese did not know. During the Mindanao war in the 70s, radio operators spoke Kapampangan because the MNLF did not have any Kapampangan troops. But because translators are a dime a dozen nowadays, using an unknown language may no longer be practicable, unless you invent a new one.

Scramblers may also come in handy but are rather expensive since both the caller and the receiving party should be equipped with one.

By using scramblers, the conversation becomes difficult if not impossible to decipher for anybody eavesdropping or illegally recording it because the voices become muffled. Scramblers may be practical for certain government offices but not for ordinary folks.

For common folks like us, when engaged in a controversial or delicate conversation that could put you in trouble if it leaks out, try modulating or raising the pitch of your voice. That way, you can easily deny it was your voice. From the readers:

I am not in the habit of sending letters to newspapers but since you wrote in a recent column of yours about the above subject asking for views on why this has persisted I feel I have to somehow try even if my view will not be welcome to those who manage the country’s energy affairs.

A masters’ degree holder from the National College of Public Administration and Governance of the University of the Philippines who majored in Public Policy and Program Administration, I have been in the energy business since graduation from college and am presently also a professorial lecturer in Public Administration in the Graduate School of the University of the East.

The problem of power generation is that it is an activity where economies of scale is extremely critical, thus contrary to the popular belief, saving power results in higher per unit cost and thus should not be encouraged. If you will dig back to 1978 press releases of the Napocor and their financial reports, the losses incurred by the company were attributed to the very successful energy saving program that resulted in lower volumes of electricity sold which raised production costs for electricity whereas fixed costs such as debt amortization and salaries of personnel remained the same or even increased.

When the FVR administration tried to solve power shortages problems the only way it could attract investors in power generation was to guarantee that this independent power producers (IPP) will be guaranteed a minimum volume of sales. There is nothing wrong with that.

What was wrong was for the government to charge consumers Power Purchase Adjustment (PPA) which is the difference between the volume of electricity sold and what was guranteed to the IPPs and to penalize and force large power consumers to save and consume less electricity by charging them higher and higher rates as their electrical consumption increased, instead of the other way round. This resulted into higher and higher PPAs.

This is never done in other countries. There, large power conumers such as factories are rewarded with lower rates and thus consume more as they increase their production to be able to produce cheaper products that will be more competitive in the market, and as the volume of production increases they then need to employ more people whose salaries and wages also go up as a result of the increased demand for labor.

Thus we see the spectacle of companies such as Unilever, Procter and Gamble, and Filsyn moving their production facilities to Thailand and Indonesia.

Our energy officials seem to be fixated on savings and making electricity cheap for the poor who unfortunately becomes even poorer as most products become more expensive for them as a result of expensive electricity.

Forget about saving electricity. Whatever you save just increase PPA that you have to pay. – Ildefonso Maminta

For comments, e-mail at

Sunday, June 19, 2005

MasterCard Int’l hacker breached security system

NEW YORK - A security breach at a processor used by MasterCard International may have exposed more than 40 million customers to fraud, the credit-card giant announced Friday.

The case was the latest and largest in a series of security breaches of customer data that open up the possibility of identity theft. One group monitoring such breaches said 10 million US consumers may have been affected this year before the latest incident.

MasterCard said its security experts identified that the breach occurred at Arizona-based CardSystems Solutions, a third-party processor of payment card data used by MasterCard and other branded credit cards.

The breach occurred when "an unauthorized individual" was able to infiltrate the network, MasterCard said in a statement without elaborating.

The credit card firm said the breach "potentially exposed more than 40 million cards of all brands to fraud, of which approximately 13.9 million are MasterCard-branded cards."

MasterCard said it was notifying participating banks and customers about the breach.

"Through the use of MasterCard fraud-fighting tools that proactively monitor for fraud, MasterCard was able to identify the processor that was breached," the company said in a statement.

"Working with all parties, including issuing banks, acquiring banks, the processor and law enforcement, MasterCard immediately launched an investigation into the breach, and worked with CardSystems to remediate the security vulnerabilities in the processor’s systems."

In other recent incidents, Citigroup said last week it lost computer tapes containing personal banking data on 3.9 million customers.

Last month, police said arrests had been made in the theft of data of more than 700,000 account holders held in four major US banks.

That case involved customer records from Bank of America, the second-largest US bank in terms of assets, Wachovia Corp., Commerce Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group Inc. AFP

RP’s remotest town now just a cellphone call away

The Philippine STAR 06/18/2005

The country’s remotest municipality marked Independence Day free from isolation, thanks to modern technology. A cellular site built on Kalayaan Island in the Spratlys was activated on the eve of the national holiday.

Smart Communications Inc., the country’s leading wireless company, set up the cellular site in the town’s sole barangay, Pag-asa Island, about 800 kilometers from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, proving that no place is too far to link up to its network.

Kalayaan Mayor Rosendo Mantes said he was optimistic that with telecommunication facilities in place, development was sure to follow.

He hopes this would boost the town’s potentials for tourism and commercial fishing.

He received the first call at 5:18 p.m. of June 11 from Vladimir Pascual, senior manager of Smart’s Network Services Division (NSD)-Project Manage-ment and Implementation for South Luzon. Pascual led the engineering team which set up the cellsite.

Pag-asa, the largest of eight islands in the Spratlys claimed by the Philippines, is home to about 300 soldiers and locals who have virtually been living in isolation. There are no regular commercial trips to and from the island and communi-cation is limited to radio facilities owned by the military.

"We are committed to serving the communication needs of Filipinos, even in far-flung areas," says Rolando Peña, Smart’s NSD head.

Smart’s extensive and modern GSM network and infrastructure covers 97 percent of the population. As of end-March 2005, its GSM network consisted of 36 switches and over 5,400 base stations, serving some 20.2 million subscribers.

Mantes thanked former Energy Secretary Vince Perez, Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and Vice Admiral Ruben Domingo for helping make the construction of the cellsite a reality.

The Spratlys, a group of approximately 100 reefs and islets in the South China Sea, is surrounded by rich fishing grounds and gas and oil deposits.

The People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Vietnam are laying claim sovereignty over the entire group, while Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei are claiming parts of the group.

A group of civilians from Palawan were persuaded to resettle in Pag-asa in September 2002 and start a municipality and strengthen the country’s claim on the Kalayaan Island Group.

Many have since left and now live in various parts of Palawan. The municipality has opened an extension office in Puerto Princesa City.

Nation joins Father’s Day celebration today

"One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters," so says an English proverb.

To a large extent, this is particularly true as fathers provide their children, not just mere concern for their physical well-being, but nurture their intellect and mind, developing them into productive and responsible members of society.

Today, June 19, the world pauses to pay tribute to the men who have dedicated their lives and efforts to make sure their children live comfortably even if it entails a great sacrifice on their part.

Here in the Philippines, Father’s Day is celebrated in simple but meaningful ways.

Filipino children remember their fathers on a very significant event by way of greeting them with hugs and kisses, giving them cards with affectionate words, greetings and handing them gifts — ties, wines, hankies, etc. — that will surely put a smile on their lips.

The day is not complete without partaking of a sumptuous lunch or dinner inside the malls, hotels or at the nearest Chinese "panciteria."

The importance of this occasion is best exemplified at the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa where children will be allowed to be with their detained fathers for a longer period from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The children will be welcomed by the prison band to lend a festive atmosphere in the vast prison compound.

How Father’s Day came to be has an interesting beginning. It began in Washington when Sonora Dodd thought of the idea for Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.

Sonora wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran, who was widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state.

After Sonora became an adult, she realized the selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man.

Sonora’s father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.

In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. In 1926, a National Father’s Day Committee was formed in New York City. Father’s Day was recognized by a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1956.

Then in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day. President Richard Nixon signed the law which finally made it permanent in 1972.

So Father’s Day was born in memory and gratitude by a daughter who thought that her father and all good fathers should be honored with a special day, just like we honor our mothers on Mother’s Day.

In parting, let us find wisdom in the saying that "any man can be a Father, but it takes a special person to be called Dad."

Solo parents must enjoy privileges — Recto

"Solo fathers, single or married, must enjoy privileges granted to married individuals and solo mothers," said Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee.

"In this age of changing definitions of the ‘family,’ the government should make relief available to traditional nuclear families to be open to new family set-ups. It’s all for our children."

"It will be gender sensitivity, expressed in the full sense through tax relief."

Recto said he would expand the coverage of the public hearings being conducted by the ways and means committee "to improve conditions for the solo parent since they shoulder similar responsibilities, as married parents. Likewise, benefits envisioned for solo unwed mothers should be made available to solo unwed fathers."

He said income tax relief should apply to both solo mothers and solo fathers alike, citing SB 794 geared for unwed mothers.

Villar said his bill seeks to grant a personal exemption at P32,000 and an additional exemption for each child at P8,000 to unmarried women with children , enjoyed by a married individual with children.

Most Senate bills on individual income tax propose raising personal and additional exemptions. The first bill filed on increasing personal and additional exemptions was SB 5 filed by Sen. Juan Flavier who raised the personal exemption for single individuals and legally separated by more than double from P20,000 to P48,000; head of the family, from P25,000 to P54,000, and for each married individual from P32,000 to P64,000.

Flavier also proposed to raise additional exemptions for dependents from P8,000 to P16,000.

Recto clarified that tax relief is not granted by the Solo Parent’s Welfare Act (RA 8972). Benefits under RA 8972 ranged from free training to livelihood, counseling, parenting skills, stress management, easy credit, temporary shelter, legal aid and medical care, flexi-time work, protection against discrimination at work due to being a solo parent, additional seven days’ leave per year on top of leave under existing laws, scholarship for solo parents and their children, and liberal terms for socialized housing.

"It’s been in our minds as shown by the bills filed on the very first day of the 13th Congress last year by my colleagues," Recto said, citing those filed by Villar and Flavier.

"The First Regular Session focused on measures raising money for government coffers. It’s time to tackle those for the family purse now," Recto said.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Studies show no correlation between violence, video games

By Alexander Villafania

RECENT studies collected by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) from several researchers have exonerated video games of inducing violent behavior in the young.
Mostly conducted in 2004, all the studies found no evidences linking increased violence among children who play video games. Instead, they found that playing video games to have beneficial effects on the development of cognitive thinking.

These studies were in stark contrast to allegations by American groups of mostly parents and teachers claiming that the spread of violent video games, particularly those with mature-rated titles, had caused an increase in violent behavior among young people.

In one study conducted by the Danish government and published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media, it was determined that it was not possible to make conclusions about potentially adverse effects of violent video games because data was too limited and the criticism thrown against video games too broad.

"This criticism is primarily that it is an oversimplification to perceive computer games as a phenomenon that can be isolated from the player’s everyday life,” the Danish study said.

Professor Cheryl Olson of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media stressed the limitations of current studies on aggressive behavior due to video games, such as the definition of aggression and failure to include other known contributing factors.

She said there were “small non-random, non-representative instances” of video game-induced violent behavior, which did not give a clearer conclusion on previous allegations.

“In summary, it’s very difficult to document whether and how violent video and computer games contribute to serious violence such as criminal assault and murder,” she wrote in her study.

Olson quipped that younger people would wonder why older generations resent new computer games when they feel nostalgic about many classic games perceived to be violent in their time.

A laboratory study led by University of Bologna Professor Bruno Baldaro also pointed out to a zero connection between video games and hostile behavior. Baldaro and several other doctors monitored heart rate and anxiety reactions of some patients to both violent and non-violent video games.

"The results of [this] study showed a range of short-term effects of playing violent and non-violent video games on arterial pressure and on the state anxiety of subject, but not on hostility measurements,” wrote Baldaro.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

cheap medicines

A drug company yesterday sought to improve the Filipino capacity to buy quality medicines by launching five essential medicines under their low-cost drug program.

Drugmaker Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) announced the five new drugs in its value health program.

These are anti-ulcer drugs Axid and Zantac and antibiotics Ceclor (originally cefaclor), Ilosone (originally erythromycin), and Keflex (originally Cefalexin). These medicines have been reduced to as much as 34 percent from its original price and can be bought in any drugstore nationwide.

Daisy Sembrano, GSK commercial head, explained that last year, they launched the value health program and included nine essential medicines in the list of drugs with reduced prices. Among these are Amoxil (originally amoxicillin, an antibiotic), Plasil (for nausea and vomiting), and Rifamax suspension (for treatment of pediatric tuberculosis).

"We looked at the Department of Health’s list of common diseases and that’s where we based our list of medicines under the value health program," Sembrano said.

GSK will also be launching a value health card later this year. It is a discount card to be used to purchase drugs for asthma, diabetes, and hypertension.

CHED supervision reverted to DepEd


President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has transferred back supervision and control of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to the Department of Education (DepEd) after 12 years of its independence, Education officials announced yesterday.

Under Executive Order 434, the President has delegated Education Secretary Florencio Abad to exercise policy oversight on the 12-year-old commission effective June 3, 2005.

Abad was not available for comment. But it was learned that he received the EO just before he left for Boston, USA last week.

DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesman Chito Gascon said in an interview that the order of the President was merely to "simplify the work of governance and organize the education quarters."

"Basically the aim of the President here is to synchronize and harmonize the programs of the government," Gascon said.

"We have yet to discuss with the CHED acting chairman about this development. But we will have to comply with the order of the President," he added.

According to him, he has met with CHED acting Chairman Dr. Carlito Puno late last week and assured to meet again and discuss the merging of DepEd and CHED when Abad arrives from his US trip on Saturday.

Asked to comment on the issue, Presidential Adviser for Education Dr. Mona Valisno said, "I have no comment regarding the EO."

However, a school authority who requested anonymity remarked that putting CHED under DepEd is a gross violation of the CHED Law.

The law contains several provisions among which is one that requires a doctoral degree for the head of the CHED. Abad, he said, has no doctorate degree.

Dr. Puno could not be reached as of yesterday.

CHED Deputy Executive Director Julito Vitriolo said that the move of the President clearly shows she has lost confidence with the way officials are handling the agency.

"It looks like the President has lost her trust and confidence with CHED due to the issues on the private schools," he said.

He, however, clarified that the issues were legitimate.

"It is a wake up call to the commissioner and the members of the CHED to meet the standards that will improve education," he said.

CHED is an independent body separate from the DepEd, and attached to the Office of the President.

It was created on May 18, 1994 under Republic Act 7722 with a mission to provide quality education to the citizens and make education accessible to all. CHED was initially supervised by the former Department of Education, Culture and Sports

Three million Filipinos jobless as of end-April

NEARLY three million Filipinos were jobless as of end-April, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).

In its latest labor force survey, the agency said unemployment in April rose 8.3 percent to 2.91 million using the International Labor Organization (ILO) concept of joblessness.

The jobless rate stood at 11.3 percent in January.

In adopting the ILO concept of unemployment, the NSO included all persons who are 15 years old and above, and who reported having no work whether or not they are looking for a job.

Under the old concept, which included only those actively seeking work, the jobless rate stood at 12.9 percent, or eight percent lower than last year’s 13.7 percent.

Filipinos who have work numbered 32.2 million; the labor force, or those who are either employed or unemployed, reached 35.1 million.

Metro Manila recorded the highest unemployment rate of 14.4 percent, followed by Central Luzon at 11.4 percent and Southern Luzon at 11.1 percent.

Most of the jobs created during the period were in the services sectors at 16 million. The agriculture and industry sectors, meanwhile, generated 11 million and 5.2 million jobs, respectively. Analysts expressed surprise at the reduction in the jobless rate.

“It is really too good to be true,” said Ron Rodrigo of Accord Capital Equities Inc.

Rodrigo suggested that perhaps more young people were getting jobs earlier rather than pursuing higher studies but he questioned if these jobs were on a long-term basis.

“What the government is saying is that the economic performance of our country is really looking better,” he said.

Bienvenido Oplas, economist and chair of the Minimal Government Movement, blamed rising unemployment rate on government disincentives to job creation by the private sector.

While the private sector can create at least two million jobs a year, high taxes and corruption constrained job generation, he said.

Despite the lower jobless rate year on year, the economist said the government should focus on the rising underemployment rate.

The number of underemployed persons or those who desired additional hours of work but cannot find the same, stood at 26.1 percent.

Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said the fall in unemployment was because “a lot of jobs were created in the service sector and this is from the wholesale and retail trading.”

She also said more Filipinos were becoming entrepreneurs although she did not give figures.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo L. Neri earlier said that employment has grown at an average of 2.6 percent a year since 1998, reaching 31.6 million jobs last year. This, however, has not made a significant dent on unemployment because of the country’s high population growth rate, compounded with the drop in employment in the agriculture sector.

He said the labor force grew faster than the pace of job creation. Unemployment remains higher among females than among males, and is pronounced in the 25 to 34 age groups. “This is sad, since these are the ages where the performance of an employee is at its peak,” Neri said.

Under its Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan, the government expects to create 1.5 million jobs a year, and 10 million by the sixth year of the Arroyo administration

Ong kicked out of seminary for being a Mason?

By Jaime Laude and Non Alquitran
The Philippine Star 06/16/2005

Former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) intelligence chief Samuel Ong was ordered to leave a Catholic seminary in Makati, where he had been seeking sanctuary, after a top police official told a bishop that Ong is a Mason, police and military sources said yesterday.

Ong sought refuge in the San Carlos seminary in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati last Friday after disclosing at a press conference that he had in his possession the "mother of all tapes," purportedly audio recordings containing a bugged conversation between President Arroyo and Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano about massive electoral fraud.

Sources told The STAR that Philippine National Police chief Director General Arturo Lomibao had informed Bishop Teodoro Bacani in a telephone call during Saturday’s negotiation for Ong’s surrender that Ong — like himself — belonged to the Freemasonry worldwide fraternal organization.

"Ong was asked to leave the (San Carlos) seminary after Church and seminary officials found that he is a Mason," a source said.

Sources added that Bacani, who was not ready to give up Ong, asked Lomibao to assure Ong’s safety if the Church decided to hand him over to the police.

"I can assure you of his safety and he will be accorded due process," Lomibao was quoted by sources saying to Bacani. "More so, he is a worthy brother Mason."

Lomibao told Bacani that Ong had recordings of an illegally wiretapped conversation, which was a criminal offense, sources added.

Lomibao also sought an audience with Archbishop of Manila Gaudencio Rosales to seek his help in convincing Ong to surrender.

Sources said upon learning that Ong was a Mason, Bacani and

the priests at the San Carlos Seminary courteously asked Ong to leave the compound.

"He was not kicked out of the San Carlos Seminary because he violated any rules for his continued stay, including his supposed granting of a media interview, but because he is a Mason," the source said.

Still concerned over Ong’s safety, three bishops and a priest helped Ong seek refuge at another location outside the confines of the Catholic Church, sources added.

A Catholic priest told The STAR the Catholic Church believes the real intention of the Free Masonry brotherhood is to destroy the Church.

"On the surface, most of the Mason members were being deceived that Free Masonry is but to promote a fraternal brotherhood," he said.

"But within the inner circle of the movement, their main objective is to destroy the Church."

The priest said people who wish to join the Mason brotherhood have to undergo several stages (of training) before they can be completely accepted into the group.

"Once you’re in, there’s no turning back," said the priest who now serves as a spiritual director of a seminary outside Metro Manila. "It’s just like a fraternity."

The Free Masonry Fraternal Brotherhood in the country is headed by Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., who holds the title Grand Master.

Known Masons in the PNP are Lomibao; National Capital Region Police Office chief Deputy Director Vidal Querol; PNP directorial staff chief Deputy Director General Avelino Razon Jr.; former PNP chief Roberto Lastimoso; and former police general Reynaldo Berroya, now Land Transportation Office National Capital Region chief.

Other Masons include military and government officials, lawyers, doctors and other professionals.

Another Mason, Capiz provincial police director Senior Superintendent Cipriano Querol, said Free Masonry is not a religious organization but a brotherhood.

"The Free Masonry is a fraternal brotherhood regardless of religion and political beliefs," he said.

Reports said the Catholic Church has a standing and explicit teaching to all Church officials and lay members to be extra cautious in dealing with any member of the Free Masonry Brotherhood, except under special circumstances.

Freemasonry is a worldwide fraternal organization. Its members are joined together by shared ideals of both a moral and metaphysical nature, and, in most of its branches, by a common belief in a Supreme Being.

Freemasonry is an esoteric art, in that certain aspects of its internal work are not generally revealed to the public. Masons give numerous reasons for this, one of which is that Freemasonry uses an initiatory system of degrees to explore ethical and philosophical issues, and this system is less effective if the observer knows beforehand what will happen.

It often calls itself "a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols."

In recent years, Freemasonry gained renown through American author Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, "The Da Vinci Code," whose main thesis is that Jesus Christ did not die on the cross but instead lived on after the crucifixion and sired a child by Mary Magdalene.

The Catholic Church has publicly condemned the novel.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

More than 2,000 Filipino workers sneak into Iraq despite ban

Philstar - More than 2,000 Filipino workers have sneaked into Iraq to work for US military camps despite a government ban imposed last year, recruitment agencies said Tuesday.

The workers leave the country with forged travel papers and use Dubai as a jump-off point into Iraq, according to formal complaints presented by recruitment agencies to a government task force enforcing the travel ban.

On average 100 Filipinos have been leaving for Iraq every month to work in some 60 US military-run camps in Iraq, they said.

In Olongapo City, more than 300 workers in security services were recruited for Iraq and Afganistan. As of this writing, a secret training camp in Subic Bay is conducting refresher courses in anti-terrorism, re-tooling to include mine detection and safety and orientation on culture of their future host country by experts in Special Weapons and Tactics who were originaly trained by American and Israeli Counter-Terror operatives in 1996 to secure the 18 head of states who were in Subic during the APEC summit. Observers commented that "mercenaries" or "mercs" is the more appropriate term for these adventurers and not OFW. But with P100,000.00 to P150,000.00 monthly take home pay coupled with P2,000,000.00 insurance, its not at all surprising that applicants come in hundreds. In fact, Subic Bay is expecting a "security drain" (patterned from the famous "brain drain") if this trend continues.

These "mercs" will be tasked to secure western expats in Iraq and Afganistan, escort civilian convoys or construction/maintenance/supplies of different pro-democracy projects, and mine clearing operations.
Reports which was relayed by the first batch of Filipino "mercs" who are now operating in the Middle East for more than six months indicate that death is expected. Filipinos die (both pro and anti-democracy) in the Middle East but you will not see it in the news and our government most of the time does not even know about it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

RTC freezes CHED order closing college courses

With graduates performing badly in board exams


DAGUPAN CITY — A court here has temporarily stopped the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) from implementing a resolution that orders the closure of courses in higher educational institutions, whose graduates have performed poorly in board examinations.

In a temporary restraining order (TRO), Judge Rolando Mislang of the Regional Trial Court’s (RTC) Branch 42 here also stopped CHED from issuing statement in the media "or any forum that is derogatory or damaging to the petitioner."

Mislang’s order stemmed from a petition filed by the University of Luzon (UL) here against CHED, which had written UL in April that it should phase out its BS chemical engineering and BS accountancy programs after only seven and eight percent, respectively, of its graduates from 1999-2003 passed the licensure examinations for these courses.

The CHED, in an en banc resolution issued on Sept. 29, 2004, set the cutoff passing rate at eight percent and approved the immediate phaseout of programs in higher educational institutions whose passing percentage in licensure examinations is eight percent or less.

"This is not just about UL," said Engineer MacArthur Samson, acting UL president and Metro Dagupan president of the Association of Private Schools, Colleges and Universities (APSCU).

"The CHED order actually affected 1,600 private schools nationwide," he said.

In his petition, Samson stated that the CHED resolutions violated due process and equal protection of the law.

"The law that created CHED, RA 7722, requires that policies, standards, and requirements governing academic programs in higher institutions must go through a process of consultation," Samson said.

He said that the CHED resolutions are ineffective due to lack of publication.

"It is a settled rule that administrative rules and regulations which impose a sanction or penalty must pass the test of prior publication in a newspaper of general circulation before it becomes binding and effective," Samson said.

Lawyer Gonzalo Duque, president of Lyceum Northwestern University here, assailed CHED for "dictating on schools."

"They should all resign," Duque said.

14 killed in Central Luzon

RHB fighters clash with police in Pampanga, Bataan Soldiers seize high-powered rifles & pistols


Fourteen members of the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB), a breakaway group of the New People’s Army, were killed Sunday in two separate clashes with police and government troops in the provinces of Pampanga and Bataan, police said yesterday.

Thirteen RHB members including their leader were killed in a two-hour gunbattle with police and Philippine Army troopers in Barangay San Nicolas in Mexico, Pampanga, last Sunday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a suspected RHB member was killed while four of his companions were captured after a gun battle in full view of the public in Barangay Saguing, Dinalupihan, Bataan, also Sunday.

In a report to Chief Supt. Alejandro C. Lapinid, Police Regional Office 3 director, Senior Supt. Leonardo A. Espina, Pampanga provincial police director, said joint elements of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army led by Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Bong Visaya and police led by Pampanga Mobile Group commander Supt. Keith Ernald Singian and Mexico acting police chief Senior Inspector Roger Tomen engaged 30 heavily armed RHB members in a running gun battle which began at 3:50 p.m. until 6 p.m. in Barangay San Nicolas.

Espina said 13 RHB members were killed during the clash while no casualty was reported on the government side.

Police said that among those killed in the Mexico encounter were one Luciano Tubig y Posadas, 40, resident of San Agustin, San Luis; Melvin Bondoc y Francisco, alias Ka Aris, 20, of Barangay Sto. Rosario, Mexico, and Marcial Dungca y Canlas, alias Ka Mar, 33, of San Pedro, San Simon, all of Pampanga.

Recovered from the encounter were an M14 rifle, an Uzi submachine pistol, six M16 rifles, one grenade launcher, one M653 rifle, one carbine and one .45 caliber pistol, subversive documents and assorted empty shells and live ammunition for long firearms.

Police said the bodies of the RHB members were brought to Tumang Funeral Parlor for autopsy. (Franco G. Regala)

1RHB rebel killed, four captured in Bataan gun battle

DINALUPIHAN, Bataan — A suspected member of the Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB), a breakaway group of the New People’s Army, was killed while four companions were captured after a gun battle in full view of the public along the highway in Barangay Saguing last Sunday afternoon.

Senior Supt. Hernando M. Zafra, Bataan PNP director, said that he sent his men led by Chief Inspector Luisito Magnaye and Senior Inspector Rogelio Rillon, chief and deputy chief of Provincial Intelligence, respectively, and Inspector Willie Manaloto to check the reported presence of armed men in the barangay when they were fired upon by the armed rebels who were on board a motorized tricycle.

Zafra said his men returned fire killing Ricardo Flores, 50, of Purok 4, Roosevelt, Dinalupihan, and wounding Leonardo Movilla, alias Ka Mely of Barangay Colo. Police brought Movilla to a hospital for treatment.

Police said they also captured Alvin Yandan, alias Ka Bingbing who was the alleged head of the group and resident of Barangay Magsaysay; Reynaldo Bitonio, 32, of Colo; and Rolando Marzan of Roosevelt, all of Dinalupihan.

Taken from the rebels were three fragmentation grenades, five .38 caliber revolvers, a 9mm pistol, live bullets, four cellular phones, and subversive documents.

Police said that barangay residents had complained the suspected RHB members were forcing them to pay "taxes."

Police said that Yandan has an standing warrant of arrest issued by Judge Erasto Tanciongco of the Hermosa-Dinalupihan municipal trial court for the killing of Luder Pelagio and Joey Abraham last Feb. 19 in Magsaysay. (Mar T. Supnad)

Monday, June 13, 2005

US 'delighted' over Ong's coming out

The US government welcomes the admission of a former National Bureau of Investigation official that he was the source of the audiotape allegedly proving that President Arroyo cheated in the last elections.

Samuel Ong, former NBI deputy director, said on Friday that he was the source of the audiotape and that he possess the master tapes, which would prove that cheating occured in the last elections.

US embassy charge d'affaires Joseph Mussomeli on Saturday expressed relief that Ong finally came out. He said the US will no longer be worried that it would continue to be dragged into the audiotape scandal.

"We're delighted that no one would think anymore that the US government (was behind the tape). That's a good thing," Mussomeli told ABS-CBN TV Patrol World.

Early reports about the existence of the audiotape pointed to the US as the alleged source of the leak. The audiotape contained the alleged conversation of President Arroyo and election officer Virgilio Garcillano discussing a plan on how to insure that the former would win by a margin of one million votes over the late Fernando Poe Jr.

The US embassy in Manila was quick to deny the allegation.

But Ong's admission last Friday further strengthened the US embassy's claim that their government was not involved.

US embassy officials also reaffirmed on Friday their government's "unequivocal" support for the administration of Mrs. Arroyo despite widening calls for her resignation.

"We are not concerned that this administration is at risk," Mussomeli told ANC.

He said US government would oppose "any extra-constitutional or extra-legal efforts to any way undermine" Mrs. Arroyo.

Mussomeli said the US embassy had known about the alleged recordings as early as April, but "we didn't take it that seriously."

"We want to take it seriously, we just don't think it's credible," he said.

He said the US embassy had not issued any alerts for its citizens in the Philippines and the consulate is not taking "any special precautions" in terms of security.

"We believe this has really grown out of proportion from what we know. Just as accurately, this is very serious because it distracts people from the real problems that we should be dealing with," the diplomat said.

DILG takes steps to ensure attendance of kids in school


Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Angelo Reyes has called on local government units (LGUs) and local police forces to conduct a continuing campaign against school truancy that would prevent children and youth of elementary and high school age from skipping their classes.

Reyes has proposed that mayors, with the municipal and barangay councils, should enact and implement anti-truancy ordinances as he reminded local officials that the education of the youth is essential to the future economic and social progress of the nation.

Reyes also stressed that keeping children and youth in schools is an effective way of curbing criminality, because aside from being educated, children in schools are kept from the temptation of committing crimes due to vagrancy and illness.

Reyes proposed that the city and municipal councils, and the respective barangay councils, should organize special truancy patrols, consisting of representatives of the municipality, barangay, the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) and the police to look for truants during school hours.

According to the DILG chief, school truants need not be detained, but should be brought to the schools where they are enrolled, where their case would be brought to the attention of the principal and the guidance counselor. In case of recidivism, the parents of the truant may be summoned by the barangay and told to discipline the child, he proposed.

"It is important that young people of elementary and high school age should be guided strongly about the values of education and kept out of the temptation of law breaking in order to reduce the incidence of criminality and maintain peace and order in the community," Reyes stressed.

Faithful attendance of children and youth of school age in elementary and high schools should be considered a basic community goal, Reyes added.
** Olongapo City has Truancy Ordinance and organized truancy board under leadership of Kate Gordon

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Subic, Clark next Asian tourism hub

The Subic-Clark economic growth corridor will soon be transformed into Asia’s next commercial and tourism hub in Asia, according to Patrick C. Gregorio, Tourism Director General of the Subic-Clark Alliance Development (SCAD) Corp., the new corporate entity that will handle the development of the Central Luzon boom area.

"By enabling infrastructure development in Subic, Clark and their surrounding areas, we will have a new economic center that will not only compete with Metro Manila, but also with the best cities in Asia in attracting investors and travelers who can help the Philippine economy in the race towards industrialization," he explained.

Gregorio, who is president of Waterfront Hotels and Casinos in Cebu City, is also the founding chairman of the private sector-led Cebu Visitors and Convention Bureau.

The new Tourism Director General said he wants to share his expertise in the tourism industry and focus his management skills, which he has acquired from running the Waterfront hotels, on establishing SCAD Corp. as a model government corporation, with crucial role in economic development.

As a corporate arm of the two former American military bases, SCAD Corp. will enable Subic and Clark to synchronize efforts in developing a regional logistics hub that will result in the complementation and sharing of resources, infrastructure and facilities between the two zones thereby propelling economic growth in Central Luzon.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo envisions the Subic-Clark area as a regional economic center, in the mold of Hong Kong and Dubai.

In January 2003, the president approved the creation of the P31.25-billion SCAD Corp. upon the joint recommendation of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Clark Development Corporation (CDC) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

SCAD Corp. will manage various infrastructure projects such as the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and the Subic Bay port.

In particular, DMIA is being eyed as the country’s next premier international gateway and Asian regional center for express freight operations, logistics and warehousing, and a major aircraft heavy maintenance base. Once completed by 2006, the DMIA expansion project can service up to 3.5 million passengers annually.

As the director general of SCAD Corp., Gregorio will coordinate with SBMA chairman and SCAD presidential adviser Francisco Licuanan III and CDC chair and former DTI Secretary Rizalino Navarro in the development of Subic and Clark.

Before he joined the government, Gregorio was among those considered by the president to be the next secretary of the Department of Tourism.

A veteran of 17 years in the tourism industry, Gregorio started as a junior sales executive at the Philippine Convention and Visitors Bureau (PCVC) at the age of 17. From there, he worked in various tourism establishments and worked his way to the top of one of the most prestigious hotel chains in Cebu and Davao




By Jtb, at 12:25 PM


As of the moment, we don't know of any direct flight from Japan to Subic Bay.

The Subic Bay International Airport has a regular direct international scheduled and chartered flights. Far Eastern Air Transport Corp. provides international scheduled flights to Taipei and Kaoshiung Taiwan on Sundays and Fridays while Uni-Air flies to Taipei, Taiwan on Mondays and Fridays.

Air Asia operates once a week to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia while the Cebu Pacific flies twice a week to Manila and Guangzhou, China. Subic International Air Charters Inc. operates chartered flights to different parts of the Philippines and Southeast Asia region depending on the schedule set by the passenger.

If you will pass by Hong Kong, you may opt to travel via CR Airways. here's d link . .

If you'll pass by Korea, Asiana Airlines will bring you to Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Formerly Clark Air Field) where traveling by land to Subic is faster. Although with the newly upgraded North Luzon Expressway, traveling from Manila becomes more pleasurable.

Below are some artivles in our blog that may give additional info:

More international commercial flights at Clark

Malaysian airline is set to start twice-a-day flights...

Thank you for visiting our website,

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Written and delivered by a young lass from UP, named Patricia Evangelista and won first prize in London.


When I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the country wanted. I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white.

I thought -- if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, I'd wake up on Christmas morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose!

More than four centuries under western domination does that to you. I have sixteen cousins. In a couple of years, there will just be five of us justify in the Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad in search of "greener pastures." It's not just an anomaly; it's a trend; the Filipino diaspora. Today, about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world.

There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I used to. Maybe this is a natural reaction of someone who was justify behind, smiling for family pictures that get emptier with each succeeding year. Desertion, I called it. My country is a land that has perpetually fought for the freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle against the
Spanish, the Japanese, the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to spitting on that sacrifice.

Or is it? I don't think so, not anymore. True, there is no denying this phenomenon, aided by the fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-hour plane ride away. But this is a borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from where he is now. My mother is of Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a pure Filipino-a hybrid of sorts resulting from a combination of cultures.

Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world, so is my neighborhood back home.

Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of populations, is not as ominous as so many claim. It must be understood. I come from a Third World country, one that is still trying mightily to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we shall make it, given more time. Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who graduate from college every year. They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all.

A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not so much abandonment but an extension of identity. Even as we take, we give back. We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK's National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world's commercial ships. We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in London's West End.

Nationalism isn't bound by time or place. People from other nations migrate to create new nations, yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself an example of a multi-cultural nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are, indeed, in a borderless world!

Leaving sometimes isn't a matter of choice. It's coming back that is. The Hobbits of the shire traveled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer in every sense of the word. We call people like these balikbayans or the 'returnees' -- those who followed their dream, yet choose to return and share their mature talents and good fortune.

In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. But I will come home. A borderless world doesn't preclude the idea of a home. I'm a Filipino, and I'll always be one. It isn't about just geography; it isn't about boundaries. It's about giving back to the country that shaped me.

And that's going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside my windows on a bright Christmas morning.

Mabuhay and Thank you.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

BONIFACIO FLORENTINO : The Batman of the Subic Rainforest

WE WERE standing along a short stretch of highway in Subic, Zambales when the first bats flew across the darkening sky.

Acerodon jubatus, the giant flying fox, known locally as bayakan, and its close cousin pteropus vampyrus, the golden crown flying fox, distinguishable in the daylight by their reddish breasts: the largest bats in the world and native to the 10,000-hectare lowland forest in Subic.

They were bigger than I thought they would be, each wing spanning a meter or more, and surprisingly graceful, compared with the frantic flitting about of the urban bats I was used to. Soon they were followed by more bats. Within a few minutes, the sky was blanketed by hundreds of them, making their nightly pilgrimage to their feeding grounds tens of kilometers away.

"The children of the night," I thought, with a Bela Lugosi accent. "What sweet music they make."

"Da best 'yan, lalo na pag inadobo" (especially when cooked as adobo), some guy ventured in the dark.

"Pampatigas ng u--n. (Hardens your, uh, member)."

That about sums up the range of uninformed opinion about bayakan: that they are somehow linked with the supernatural world of vampires, or more likely, that they are nature's Viagra. So pervasive is the latter belief, in fact, that it poses a threat to the continued existence of Subic's flying foxes.

Although they are considered an endangered species, the fruit bats' protected status has done little to discourage hunters in their quest for bigger and longer-lasting erections. Others merely hanker for a taste of the succulent, fruit-fed flesh of free-range bats, long considered a delicacy around these parts. Stalls selling cooked bats are still a common sight on roadsides around Subic.

Fast disappearing

There are only a few thousand bats left in Subic, from the estimated 100,000 in 1930. Still, the Subic bats are better off than their cousins elsewhere in the Philippines. Of the country's 56 known species of bats (which include the largest and the smallest in the world), many have become extinct. Dobsonia chapmani, the bare-backed fruit bat, disappeared from the forests of Cebu and Negros in the 1960s. Acerodon Lucifer, the Panay fruit bat, was last seen in 1892. The Philippine tube-nosed bat, Nyctimene rabori, is fast disappearing from Negros.

The triple-canopy rain forest of Subic, considered the largest bat roost in the world, appears to be the bats' last sanctuary. But the only reason the Subic forest lasted this long is, until 1992, it was part of the US Naval Base and was heavily secured. Now, although it is considered a protected area by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), illegal loggers and kaingeros (slash and burn farmers) have begun to nibble away at its edges.

There is more at stake here than just the continued existence of the bats. No less than the entire ecosystem is at risk. Fruit bats are nature's forest rangers. From their roosts in Subic, the bats range as far away as a hundred kilometers to feed, and on their return flights, their droppings re-seed the forest, far more efficiently than humans ever could. It is a true symbiosis: without the bats, the forests would dwindle, but without the forests, the bats would disappear too. For eons, nature has kept the balance, until man came along. Now, only man can restore it.

The heavy responsibility for preserving the Subic rainforest and its inhabitants rests largely on the diminutive shoulders of one man. Bonifacio Florentino, known to most of his neighbors as "Kap Bon," is a tribal chieftain of the Pastolan Aetas, an indigenous community of about 850 residing within the reservation area. He is largely credited with leading his people in negotiating the granting of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to the Pastolan Aetas by the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples last year. The first such title granted in Luzon, it guarantees the tribe's property rights to their land, and paves the way for the Ancestral Domain for Sustainable Development Plan, a document which will govern the area's development in the future, as well as archive the tribe's history, culture and traditions, which until now have been passed down orally.

Kap Bon is also the chief forest ranger of the Bat Habitat Restoration Project, a program conceived by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, the Pilipinas Shell Foundation Incorporated and the Department of Energy and funded by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.. Under this project, some 20 hectares of forest area on the slopes of Mt. Sta. Rita will be reforested by planting fruit trees. In so doing, the program hopes to restore and expand the feeding area for the fruit bats, and thus increase their numbers.

Jungle survivors

Kap Bon leads a team of about 90-plus forest rangers, most of them Aetas, the rest of mixed Aeta-lowlander parentage, in planting trees, guarding against forest fires, and keeping an eye out for poachers.

It is a task to which he is eminently suited, since he was previously employed by the US Navy as a forest guide from 1986 to 1992, when the bases were finally closed down. His duties included training soldiers in jungle survival, a skill in which the Aetas are unsurpassed. In fact, when the US bases closed, his former employers wanted to bring him to the States, but Kap Boa refused to leave his beloved forest.

"Dapat huwag na sanang mapinsala yung mga paniki para dumami pa sila," he says. "Nagkakatulungan ang tao at paniki dahil sa inaabot nilang paglipad, sa dumi nila tumutubo ang seeds. Dapat maibalik ang kagubatan para hindi mapinsala ng lubusan ang ating environment. Saan mang lugar dapat mayroon ganito ang komunidad para hindi nasisira ang ating kalikasan."

("The bats should be protected so they can multiply. Bats help man because their droppings plant seeds. We should restore the forest so we can protect the environment. Communities everywhere should have something like this so nature will be preserved.")

Unlike many of their brethren, the Pastolan Aetas have been relatively lucky. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, which displaced many Aeta tribes in Central Luzon, left their area relatively unscathed (although the ashfall did decimate the bat population). Some displaced Aetas were reduced to begging in urban areas, but the Pastolan tribal community managed to preserve their way of life.

Florentino is keenly aware that the fate of the Aetas is inextricably linked with the fate of the forest and its other inhabitants. For the Aeta, the forest is not only home and provider of sustenance: it is part of his being.

"Ang Aeta talaga sa gubat 'yan," Kap Bon waxes eloquent bout the Aeta way of life. "Hinahanap ng katawan niya yung paglalakad sa gubat. Ang Aeta kasi meron lang isang takal na bigas, maligaya na. Pupunta sa tabing ilog, pag nakahuli ng hipon magluluto, maligaya na sa pahiga-higa sa bato. (The Aeta is really of the forest; his body needs to walk inside the forest. The Aeta is happy with a cup of rice. He can catch shrimp in the river, cook and lie back on the stones.)

Forests as God's gift

"Nung bata pa ako, parati kaming nasa gubat," he continues. "Nabubuhay sa gubat, sa pagkuha ng mga herbal, sa pagkuha ng honeybee. Nasa gubat ako kasi doon malamig. Wala kang maiisip na problema. Yung problema mo nawawala sa kalalakad mo sa gubat. Nalilibang ka sa huni ng kuliglig, sa ibon." (When I was young, I was always in the forest, gathering herbs and honey. It is cool in the forest. Your problems disappear as you walk inside the forest, listening to the cicadas and the birds.)

Of course, Aetas also hunt bats for food. According to Aeta beliefs, the animals of the forest are God's gift to man, says Florentino. But Aetas only hunt what they need to survive, he adds, and only at the proper time. For example, the bamboo bats-among the smallest in the world-are only eaten by Aetas during the rainy season when they have fattened. And Aetas don't hunt bats to sell, unlike lowlanders.

One of the aims of the Bat Habitat Reforestation Project is to provide a source of livelihood for the Pastolan Aetas, to lessen their need to hunt for food.

Like most indigenous peoples, the Aeta are at a crossroads. The road to a modern way of life is open to them, but they risk losing their distinct cultural identity in the process. Much of the Aeta's way of life is tied to the forest; in the cities they are like fish out of water.

No one knows this more than Kap Bon. Although he was raised in the forest, Kap Bon left to try city life during his wild youth in the 1970s.

"Sanay ako sa labas kasi dati mahilig ako sa barkada," he says. "Umaabot ako ng Maynila. Matagal din ako doon. Naranasan ko rin mamuhay sa siyudad. Pero iba ang buhay doon kasi maraming problema. Talagang magulo sa siyudad. Sa bundok walang problema. Magtrabaho ka lang may pagkain ka na. Wala ka nang iisipin."

("I'm used to the outside world because I liked going out with friends. I used to go as far as Manila, and spent a long time there. I've tasted city life, but life is different there because you have many problems. In the mountains you have no problems. Work and you have food. You don't have to worry about anything.")

Machete and cellphone

Kap Bon is in many ways the epitome of the modern Aeta: machete on one hip, cell phone on the other. He is traditional enough that he still chews betel nut, but he jokes about it in a hip way. ("Sandali lang," he quips, taking out his betel nut case. "Dudurog muna 'ko."

But even within the relatively sheltered enclave of Pastolan, change is slowly making inroads into the Aeta community. Last year, for instance, the tribe was divided by the issue of whether to continue to select their leaders through hereditary chieftainships, or whether to hold elections for tribal leaders.

Florentino also worries about the younger generation of Aetas who, as he did in his younger days, are trying city life. He worries that unlike him, they may choose not to go back to the forest.

"Mahirap na pag natuto na silang mag rock'n'roll," he says. "Yung iba computer na ang alam. Sana naman kung ano yung inabot nila huwag nilang kalimutan yung pinagmulan nila, dahil kahit anong gawin nila Aeta pa rin sila e. Nandoon pa rin ang dugo. E bakit kakalimutan mo yung ugaling katutubo?" (It's hard when they get to know rock'n'roll and computers. Hopefully they won't forget where they came from, because whatever they do, they're still Aetas. It's in their blood, so why should they forget their native customs?)

For Florentino, the only way to preserve Aeta culture is to return to the forest, where elders can teach their children the age-old ways of hunting and gathering: fishing in streams, finding honey, listening to birds, and sleeping on the ground wherever nightfall overtakes them.

"Kailangan kung ano ginagawa mo ituro mo sa anak mo. Isama mo sila sa gubat para makita nila kung ano ang buhay ng talagang Aeta. Ituro mo kung ano talaga ang ginagawa ng Aeta para manatili sa kanila iyon." (You have to teach your children what you know. Take them to the forest so they can see how the real Aeta live. Teach them what the real Aeta do so that it will stay with them.)

But this, he knows, is premised on there still being forests to return to.

"'Pag nawala ang gubat, mawawala din ang Aeta." (If the forests disappear, the Aeta will vanish too.)
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Motor vehicle sales up 11% to 38,315 units in January-May

By Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star 06/08/2005

Motor vehicle sales expanded by a double digit rate of 11 percent to reach 38,315 units in the first five months of the year from 34,585 units in the same period last year.

According to a joint statement of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA), the 11-percent increase in automotive sales for the first five months of this year was due to the introduction of new models, promotions and other marketing activities by the local assemblers.

Overall sales are seen to increase in June and July.

Passenger car sales for the first five months of the year totaled 14,280 units, posting a nine-percent growth compared to the 13,089 units sold from January to May last year.

The growth in passenger car sales was attributed to the introduction of new models, coupled with sustained financing promos offered by major car assemblers.

Commercial vehicle sales for the same period amounted to 24,035 units, growing by 15 percent compared to the 20,910 units sold for the comparable period last year.

According to the CAMPI and TMA, the growth in commercial vehicle sales is due to sustained new model sales from the pick up and compact segment.

AUV sales from January to May this year amounted to 11,250 units, for a growth of 24 percent, as compared to only 9,054 units sold in the first five months of 2004.

LCV sales for the five month period amounted to 11,949 units or a growth of four percent, as compared to the 11,534 units sold for the comparable period last year.

Sales of light trucks, on the other hand, registered a negative three-percent decline with only 656 units sold in the first five months of this year as compared to the 677 units sold in the first five months of 2004.

Truck and bus sales, likewise, fell by 22 percent with only 180 units sold in the first five months of this year compared to the 231 units sold in the first five months of 2004.

Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. still dominated the market with sales of 13,482 units from January to May this year, cornering 35.19 percent of the sales pie.

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. also retained its number two slot with sales of 5,848 units, while Honda Cars Philippines Inc. still failed to improve it sales and stayed at the number four spot with sales of 3955 units.

Isuzu Motors Philippines managed to hang on to the third slot with sales of 3,955 units.

At number five was Ford Motors Philippines with sales of 3,337 units sold followed by Nissan with sales of 1,835 units.

Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. climbed up to number seven with sales of 1,598 units.

General Motors Automobiles Phils., Inc. got the number eight spot with sales of 1,196 units.

Columbian Autocar Corp., which distributes KIA vehicles, tumbled to ninth slot with sales of 1,172 units.

At number 10 was Universal Motors Corp., which sells the Nissan pick-ups, with sales of 1,053 units.

The 11th spot went to Asian Carmakers Corp., which sell the luxury BMW brand vehicles, with sales of 426 units followed by Pilipinas Hino Inc. with sales of 236 units.

Scandinavian Motors Corp., which sells the luxury Volvo brand, was at number 13 with sales of 166 units.

BCDA, CJHDevCo urged to settle row

By Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star 06/08/2005

"Sit down and talk!"

This was the advice of various quarters in Baguio City amidst the ongoing media war between the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and the Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo) over the alleged breach of contract following a recent Supreme Court decision nullifying the John Hay Special Economic Zone (JHSEZ) tax and duty free incentives extended under the lease contract.

Rep. Mauricio Domogan, the lone representative of Baguio City, expressed his anxiety over the prolonged media scuffle between CJHDevCo and BCDA.

Domogan has vowed to help the Baguio City government in its effort to bring BCDA and CJHDevCo to the negotiating table. "The last thing we need is a government takeover. Not only is such takeover a legal issue, but also we know the track record of the government when they took over John Hay in the past," Domogan said.

The City Council of Baguio, likewise, urged the government through BCDA-John Hay Management Corp. to sit down with CJHDevCo to settle their differences amicably for the sake of the people of the Baguio who stand to be most affected.

Sub-locators, concessionaires and sub-lessees in Camp John Hay Project lamented that instead of slugging it out in the papers, BCDA-JHMC and CJHDevCo should find a common ground so that innocent third parties are not caught in the crossfire and become unwilling casualties.

"In the interest of the people of Baguio and the local tourism industry, both government (BCDA) and the developer should find a solution to their issues as soon as possible. It is not only the future of the people of Baguio at stake here but the larger picture which is the privatization program of the government," Domogan said.

Domogan was then the mayor of Baguio City when the lease agreement between CJHDevCo and BCDA was signed.

Baguio Councilor Jose Molintas urged the BCDA and CJHDevCo to sit down and discuss the alleged violations committed by each camp.

Molintas pleaded that "it is the city that is put at a disadvantage. If each camp insists on what they want, the case might drag on longer."

Aurora Dangpa, a small vendor in Camp John Hay, appealed "we hope they (BCDA and CJHDevCo) talk so that they can settle their differences. We are caught in the middle. Instead of just worrying about how we can prepare for our welfare especially with the onset of the rainy season, we are placed at risk. This adds to our worries."

Meanwhile, legislative efforts are underway to correct errors of Presidential Proclamation No. 420 granting SEZ tax and duty incentives in John Hay.

Lawmakers warn though that the corrections may not be retroactive.

The BCDA had earlier dared CJHDevco to pay its P1.2 billion "due and demandable debt" before BCDA agrees to talk about the remaining arrears of CJHDevCo.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Grade school whiz kids show math is easy as 1-2-3

By Volt Contreras Inquirer News Service

WHO'S afraid of math? Certainly not these grade school kids whose recent achievements abroad should make our education officials rethink the traditional methods of teaching numbers.

Tutored early on in a computing technique based on "finger math" and the abacus, six Filipino children recently bagged top places in an arithmetic competition held in Ipoh City, Malaysia, which drew some 300 contestants from the Philippines, India and the host country.

The 13-member Filipino delegation included Patricia Brazil, 10, whose idea of fun is to add up the cost of her mom's cartload of groceries well before they get to the cashier-without using paper, pen or calculator.

It also included Gerard Pacifico "GP" Capuchino, 11, whose warp-speed skills in addition comes in handy in the family-owned mini-grocery in Naguilian, Isabela, whenever there are too many customers and only one pocket calculator to go around.

Of course, GP would have no need for the gadget.

The team, pooled from private and public schools, won two first-places and four second-places in what even typical college students would consider the most brutal of math exams-a single-round race to solve 50 problems in four minutes.


Held last May 1, the contest was the annual Olympiad of students from various countries that had joined the "Aloha" school system.

Aloha stands for "Alternative Learning on Higher Arithmetic," and its first school in the Philippines was established in 1998.

The technique is just one of the many versions derived from "finger math"- the use of one's digits to perform the four basic operations-which originated in ancient China, according to Mer Elenzano, president of Aloha Learning Systems Inc.

In this method, the two hands can represent numbers 1 to 99- not just up to 10, which is how children do their first math in kindergarten, said Elenzano, who is also a math professor at the University of Sto. Tomas.

He offered a view on why Filipino schoolchildren tend to be "intimidated" by math the moment they enroll in grade school: "Maybe because as younger kids, we are taught to count, add and subtract using our fingers or stick drawings or actual objects-and then suddenly in the classroom we're introduced to Hindu-Arabic numerals that are merely 'symbols' of an amount."

"Children somehow get shocked [by] that change," Elenzano said in an interview last Thursday, when his winning team of Aloha students and their families celebrated their victory at a restaurant in Manila's Chinatown.

As he spoke, his ace apprentices played around the tables like typical pupils let loose during recess.

Honor roll

The youngest winner-Jeremiah Brazil, 6, Patricia's younger brother, of Dr. Alejandro Albert Elementary School in Manila-appeared to be the most mischievous of the group. He won first place in Group A, the only Filipino entered in that level.

Adrian Judd B. Gaw, 11, of St. Jude Catholic School, won first place in Group C, where three Filipino participants competed. His compatriot GP Capuchino (the boy who minds the store), of Merry Sunshine Montessori School in Cauayan City, Isabela, took second place in the same group.

Of the seven Filipino participants in Group B, 9-year-old Oscar Joseph N. Brazil, another brother of Patricia's, also from Dr. Alejandro Albert Elementary School, bagged second place.

Keefe Colin A. Tan, 11, also of St. Jude Catholic School, and Rikki Lee B. Mendiola, 12, of Infant Jesus Montessori Center in San Pablo City, Laguna, were the only Filipino participants in Group D-and they tied for second place.

The other members of the delegation were all cited for exemplary performance for having an "accuracy rate of more than 80 percent" in their answers.

They were Leandro Martin A. Ong, 11, of Morning Star Montessori School in Los Ba¤os, Laguna; Michaia Bea A. Gregorio, 11, of A. Beka Correspondence School in Pensacola, Florida, USA; Daniel M. Matchoc, 9, of Trinity College in Quezon City; Austin Jed B. Gaw, 9, of St. Jude Catholic School; Patricia Monique N. Brazil, 10, of Dr. Alejandro Albert Elementary School; Queenie Angelie A. Tejero, 9, of St. Jerome's Academy, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, and Marcus B. Alcantara, 9, of Canossa College, San Pablo City.

'It's easy'

Despite their feat, the kids have remained, well, kids-loath to stop playing even as the Inquirer tried to settle them down for an interview.

Gifted with something that is for them as natural as riding a bicycle, they groped for answers when asked "deep" questions like: "Why do you like math?"

Their common answer: "It's easy."

But it's not—if you ask ordinary mortals who grew up minus their kind of training.

Elenzano said Aloha students, for example, could be taught to multiply a 4-digit figure by a 4-digit figure in a matter of seconds—even if the numbers were written horizontally.

He explained this as if to emphasize what the Philippine public school system has sorely been missing in its yearly struggle to improve the math competence of Filipino students.

In Malaysia, the Aloha system has been adopted by the government and is being taught nationwide, he said.

Free training

But Aloha in the Philippines, which currently runs around 20 tutorial centers nationwide (accepting pupils aged 5 to 13 for Saturday sessions), has begun working in this direction by providing free training to teachers in selected public elementary schools.

Up to 56 teachers have been trained since 2003, and most of them began applying what they learned last school year, Elenzano said.

The Department of Education may consider including "workbooks for mental math" in its yearly budget for textbooks, he said, noting that the Malaysian-developed workbook used in Aloha-which is good for one school year-can be had for just P150 each.

"We really want to promote this in the public schools and hope the government can give its support," he said.