Saturday, August 26, 2006

Meet Dimsum and Rhea, Zoobic's hottest act

Manila Bulletin

Amid the growls of numerous Siberian tigers caged at the famous Zoobic Safari, located inside the Subic Freeport Zone in Zambales, two pint-sized cubs – Dimsum and Rhea, are stealing the show with their child-like demeanor and audible ‘‘purr.’’

They hop, they jump, they knock each other out. They never seem to tire out. These tiny little cubs will allow you to lovingly pet them as if they’re your own tabby cat.

"Dimsum is the gentler one. He’s very affectionate. Rhea, on the other hand, is temperamental. She embodies the typical tiger, playful and mischievous," said Primo Francia, Zoobic’s animal trainer.

The duo are fast becoming the hottest craze in the park’s weekend special where tigers show off their tricks before an awe-struck audience.

Zoobic is the only tiger safari in the Philippines. It is only three-hour easy drive from Manila through the North Luzon Expressway.

Zoobic Safari, set in a sprawling 13.60hectare woodlands of Subic, is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. It is home to different kinds of animals, both endangered and endemic species.

"Guests can touch, play and even walk with the animals. We train them to be people-friendly so, basically, they’re harmless," Francia assured.

They’re indeed harmless, as a matter of fact, the tigers by far have never shown any significant dangerous behavior.

"But of course, the animal instinct will always be there. Tigers are naturally aggressive animals. They may scratch or bite, but as trainers, we try to minimize their aggression," Francia added.

Siberian tigers are native to the jungles of Russia and India. Their thick striped fur protects them from harsh, cold weather of their natural habitat.

"But Dimsum and Rhea (and the other tigers in captivity here) have well-adopted with our tropical weather," Francia said. The tigers keep their paws clean by enjoying baths at least twice a week.

Three in-house veterinarians also ensure the animals are in tiptop shape through routine checkups, vaccinations and balanced nutrition. Tigers’ diet consists only of raw meat, such as chicken, beef or pork.

One tiger can consume 10 kilos of beef just in one day, roughly 300 kilos per month, he said.

Tigers are considered endangered species. There are approximately 300 Siberian tigers left in the wild due to massive hunting. Their body parts are sold for medical purposes and for cooking.

A Siberian tiger measures 1.4 to 2.8 m (4 ½ to 9 ft) long, not including the tail which is 69 to 95 cm (27 to 37 in) in length, and this big cat weighs 180 to 306 kg (400 to 675 lb.). It has thick yellow fur with dark stripes.

Francia admitted that it takes a while to effectively tell the two cubs apart, but the stripes in their bodies and facial structure give Zoobic staff clues as to who’s who.

Dimsum and Rhea, who will both turn three-month old this August, were taken off from their parents’ nooks just few months ago.

They have different mothers, but have the same father – an alpha, male tiger, which is the most dominant among the pack. The alpha male fathers most of the offspring in the park.

Dimsum and Rhea’s parents are in captivity inside the park’s three-hectare enclosed forests where the wild tigers are encouraged to frolic in their natural habitat.

Found in the forests atop the Subic Freeport Zone, Zoobic serves as a sanctuary not only to Siberian and Bengal tigers, but also to ostriches, snakes, iguanas, lizards, potbellies, wild boars, guinea fowls and other animals seen roaming freely only in the Discovery Channel and other cable shows.

In Zoobic, they can be seen, touched and even be photographed up close. One can even take a photo of being flanked by Siberian and Bengal tigers, or one of it’s snakes.

Visitors may feed them through barred windows of the safari jeep provided by Zoobic authorities.

Zoobic offers a two-hour tour in a safari jeep. Tourists can experience the tigers prowl and growl at the raw chicken they could dangle before them.

They can also enjoy the park’s amenities, including the Zoobic lodge at Tiara (Crown Peak). It is a safari-inspired rooms where guests can stay after their adventure at the park.

Likewise, the options are not limited as some of the hotels, theme parks, resorts and spas at the Freeport zone offers up to 40 percent discount to vacationers during the rainy months of August and September, even onwards.

"You will never get bored here. There are a lot of things to do," said SBMA Tourism Department Manager Benny Triguero III.

The SBMA will also hold series of festivals such as mardi gras, fiestas, street parties and sports tournaments to draw in local and foreign tourists in this beautiful locale as part of the Subic Bay Summer Spillover promo.

Whether you’re a big fan of the wilds or not, you should never pass up a thought of visiting Zoobic Safari. Forget the crowded malls or beaches or worn-out theme parks in the metro, Zoobic Safari is now the place to go.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Korea now RP’s largest source of tourism investments — Durano

A year after attracting over 480,000 Korean visitors to the Philippines, Korea has remained the country’s largest tourist market in Asia with an estimated target of 600,000 arrivals by December, and is today’s leading investor of multi-billion peso worth of tourism-related projects.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano announced during a press conference held recently in Mandaluyong City that the Koreans have invested heavily in golf and resort infrastructure projects in various tourist destinations across the country.

Among these are the newly-completed 5-star Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa worth P3 billion in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu; a $ 10-million Korean joint venture investment in an 18-hole championship golf course at the Royal Garden Golf and Country Club in Angeles City, Pampanga; and huge capital outlay in Mimosa Leisure Estate in Clark, Pampanga and Seraph Hotel, the first Korean hotel in Boracay. A Korean company is also planning to put up a residential property for its retirees inside the Subic Freeport Zone in Olongapo.

Durano said these Korean investments are part of 22 other varied projects amounting to R3.9 billion that the Department of Tourism (DoT) has endorsed for grant of incentives and clearances in 2005.

"The Koreans are not only our tourists, they are also our biggest investors. They are the ones playing golf in Zamboanga. They have put up a golf academy in Cagayan de Oro, and a spa in Mt. Pinatubo. They come here to learn English as well," he exclaimed.

The tourism chief hailed the new flow of investments which would somehow help the country solve its problem of limited room capacity in its choice destinations.

"For Boracay and Cebu alone, we are short of 5,000 hotel rooms. When these expansions and new infrastructures are completed after two years, it will only provide 2,000 hotel rooms in the major destinations," he said.

To encourage more investments for tourism infrastructure, he explained that the government has began to undertake several projects that will give tourists easier and more convenient access to destinations particularly in Central Philippines which attracts more than half of foreign tourists in the country. These include the building of new airports in Bicol, Bohol and Balabac in Palawan and upgrading of old ones in Kalibo, Puerto Princesa, Busuanga and San Vicente, Palawan.

Moreover, a R3 billion private investment in San Jose Romblon and the construction of good roads in Panay island is expected to benefit nearby Boracay island. In Cebu, he said a R783-million South Road project is expected to cut travel time between Cebu City and southern tourist towns.

In the meantime, Durano said the DoT is maintaining its strong demand from its top source markets like Korea and has focused on maximizing its existing hotel room capacity.

To sustain its popularity in Korea as an all-time favorite Southeast Asian destination particularly for honeymooners, the DoT has launched recently a new campaign for Korea dubbed "7,107 Philippines: More than You Can Imagine." This is an offshoot of last year’s successful "Feel the Philippines" campaign which drew in a record number of arrivals, that even surpassed visitors from the United States, and posted a growth rate of 26 percent.

"Our marketing strategy for the new campaign will capture the Korean minds to venture beyond the usual. The Philippines will be packaged as an extraordinary destination located just a few hours from Korea, that offers 7,107 variety of experiences and sites," Durano explained.

To strengthen this sales pitch, Durano has appointed famous Korean singer/actress Eugene Kim as the Philippines’ special tourism envoy to Korea. Kim is the country’s second celebrity endorser to be conferred this title, next to fellow Korean actor Kim Sung-Min.

Durano said Kim was chosen for her wholesome image and stature as a topnotch entertainer in her country.

Kim will help promote the DoT’s subcampaign geared to entice Korean lady travelers. She is set to appear in a FIT (Foreign Individual Traveler) Ladies’ Guide Book and an audiovisual material featuring the best spots for dining, shopping and entertainment in Manila, Cebu, Bohol, and Boracay. Her recent familiarization tour to these places will also be covered and aired by various magazines and stations in Korea. All these promotions, according to Durano, are aimed at capturing a bigger slice of the 10 million outbound Korean market.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Procurement too lengthy, says study


Filipinos may have to wait a while longer before enjoying the fruits of government’s fiscal reform program, as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said procurement activities of public agencies take too long, leading to delays and missed targets.

The Department of Finance recently said the government is spending nearly a third of the fresh revenues generated from a newly amended sales tax law on social services and infrastructure spending.

Under the Reformed Value-Added Tax law, about 30 percent of the amount collected from the tax measure would be set aside for the two expenditure items.

In the first half of the year, the government generated about P38.229 billion from RVAT and this was 23.17 percent more than the P31.037-billion goal for the period.

But in its 14th official development assistance (ODA) review, the NEDA said a wide variance exists in procurement periods of the 21 civil works, four consulting services and 11 goods contract packages included in the study.

Implementing agencies reported that procurement activities from submission of bids to issuance of Notice to Proceed takes between 1.44 months and 35 months instead of the 3.2 months prescribed by Republic Act 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) as well as the Departments of Transportation and Communication and of Public Works and Highways cited high bid prices as reason for delay, the NEDA study said.

The same study said the Department of Education and the Philippine National Oil Co.-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC) cited failure in bidding or rebidding of contracts as a source of delay, while the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) and the Supreme Court pinned the blame on the lengthy review process.

Other factors that caused delays were changes in the leadership of agencies such as happened at the Department of Agrarian Reform and the BCDA, and the lack of familiarity with the procurement law or the funding institutions’ procurement guidelines.

The BCDA, MWSS, PNOC-EDC and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority encountered delays in procurement with respect to five major contracts, with amounts ranging from P106 million to P14 billion, resulting in the agencies’ inability to meet performance targets.

The Local Water Utilities Authority (LWUA) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, however, showed improved procurement timelines, the NEDA study said.

The report said that the LWUA’s procurement period for civil works, for example, was cut from 3.69 months to 2.91 months.

The study also noted the performance of the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Laguna Lake Development Authority whose respective procurement periods reached 2.4 months and 2.6 months. These were less than the 3.2 months prescribed by law. In contrast, the High Tribunal’s Judiciary Reform Support Project exceeded the time frame by 1.86 months.


Ginanap sa FMA Hall ngayong Huwebes, ika-17 ng Agosto, ang Defensive Driving Seminar para sa mga tricycle, jeepney at bus drivers ng lungsod sa pangunguna ni Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr.

Sa pakikipagtulungan ng Office of Traffic Management and public Safety, mahigit 150 drivers ng pampublikong sasakyan ng Olongapo ang dumalo sa nasabing seminar upang matutunan ang ligtas at propesyonal na paran ng pagmamaneho. Tinalakay dito ang iba’t-ibang klase ng road signs at mga responsibilidad ng drivers sa kalsada.

Mapapansin ang mataas na pagtingin ni Mayor Bong Gordon sa mga drivers ng lungsod sa ibinigay nyang pagbati sa mga ito. Sinabi nyang susuportahan nya ang mga drivers na gustong magpatuloy ng pag-aaral ng high school sa gabi sa pamamagitan ng muling pagbubukas ng mga night schools. Maaari rin anyang sumama sa mga livelihood trainings ang mga drivers sa kanilang libreng oras upang lalong mapaunlad ang kanilang mga buhay.

Ang defensive driving Seminar na ito ay isinasagawa taun-taon upang makatiyak ang pamahalaan na nadaragdagan at narere-view ng mga drivers ang kanilang kaalam sa pagmamaneho at trapiko. Isang requirement din ang nasabing seminar sa renewal ng ID ng mga drivers at para maaprubahan ang permit o prangkisa ng kanilang mga sasakyan.

Ayon sa isa sa tagapagsalita ng seminar na si Officer Allan Dancel ng Traffic Management & Public safety, karaniwan nag nilalabag ng mga drivers ang mga batas laban sa paninigarilyo, drunk driving, pagsusuot ng uniporme at ID at ang pagpasada ng mga kolorum o walang permit na sasakyan. Sa kabilang dako, binanggit naman ng pinuno ng nasabing opisina na si Col. Jerry Adique na bagama’t marami silang ipinapatupad na panuntunan sa mga drivers, dapat nilang ituring na kakampi ang mga Traffic Enforcers at hindi kalaban. Nararapat aniya na magtulungan ang dalawang grupo sa kalsada upang maiwasan ang sakuna at maihatid ng ligtas ang mga pasahero sa kanilang patutunguhan.

Sinabi din ni Col. Jerry Adique na hindi lamang drivers ang kailangang maturuan ng disiplina sa kalsada. Tuturuan din aniya nila ang mamamayan na sumunod sa mga alituntunin ng trapiko sa pamamagitan ng pagsasagawa ng mga Seminar on Public Safety sa mga eskwelahan at baranggay.


Bago pa man simulan ng kapwa mga Pilipino at Amerikanong miyembro ng Sandatahang Pandagat o Navy na makikilahok sa isa na namang ‘bilateral exercise’ na mas kilala sa taguring CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) Exercise 2006, nagkaroon muna sila ng courtesy call sa lungsod ng Olongapo nitong Agosto 14, 2006. Pinangunahan ang grupo ni PN Capt. Feliciano Angue Jr., Cdr. Michael Talaga, Cdr. Peter Driscoll Jr. at Cdr. Mark A. Manfredi.

Buong-sigla naman silang sinalubong ni Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. at ng buong-pwersa ng pamahalaang lungsod, kasama pati ang mga negosyante ng Olongapo.

Isang linggo ang isasagawang training sa iba’t-ibang lugar sa bansa kasama ang Subic Freeport, ilang bahagi ng Zambales at La Union.

May mahigit sa dalawang libong (2,000) Amerikano at Pilipinong sailors ang kalahok sa nasabing combined bilateral exercise. Ang CARAT 2006 ay bahagi ng RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty upang ma-ensayo at palakasin ng parehong grupo ang mga naval operations tulad ng pagsugpo sa terorismo sa dagat at iba pang krimeng nangyayari sa karagatan. Ilan sa isasagawang mga aktibidad ay ang ‘at-sea maneuvering and communications’, ‘maritime interdiction’, ‘search and rescue’, at ‘diving and salvage routine activities’.

Bago ang kanilang isanagawang Panimulang Programa sa Global Terminal sa SRF Compound sa Subic Bay Freeport Zone, pinili ng mga opisyales ng Navy na mauna munang mag-coutesy call kay Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. Nagbigay ng isang plake ang mga opiyales ng CARAT 2006 sa punong lungsod upang pasalamatan ang pagsuporta ng Olongapo sa kanilang isasagawang bilateral exercise.

“Ang Olongapo at Subic Bay na matagal na naging tahanan ng US Navy ay laging bukas at nagagalak sa inyong pagbisita”, saad naman ni Mayor Gordon sa mga opisyales ng CARAT 2005.

Samantala, bilang community outreach activities ng CARAT 2006, nakatakda silang magsagawa ng Medical at Dental services para sa mga residente ng ilang lokalidad sa Zambales at La Union.

US, Philippines weigh new military marriage

By Fabio Scarpello

COTABATO CITY, Southern Philippines - More than 15 years after the US was forced to close its military bases in the Philippines by nationalist politicians, there are growing indications that Washington is angling to re-establish a permanent military presence here - though US diplomats strenuously deny the speculation.

The United States' behind-the-scenes role in mediating a peace deal between the Philippine government and a group of Islamic rebels and its assistance to the Philippine armed forces in chasing down another rebellious Islamic organization has, for many Filipinos, lent credence to growing speculation that the US has designs on establishing new bases on the country's southern island of Mindanao.

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent, non-partisan institution established and funded by the US Congress, is involved in the negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has been fighting for independence for more than 30 years. The USIP, however, is conspicuously not a party to the broad, Malaysia-led peace talks, which were launched after the two sides signed a tentative truce in July 2003.

The MILF, the largest rebel group in the Philippines, has hinted on several occasions that it has been approached by undisclosed US authorities about the possibility of establishing US military bases in MILF-controlled territory as part of a final peace deal. "This is negotiable, it is possible,"said Eid Kabalu, the MILF's spokesperson.

"We are facing reality. We know that Washington has its own agenda in Mindanao, and that this has mostly to do with terrorism," said Kabalu from his modest residence in central Mindanao's Cotabato City. "However, if the American interest is really in pushing this peace process, then we can talk about military bases."

For nearly a century, the US military had use of two major bases in the Philippines, one at Clark Air Force Base and the other at Subic Naval Station, representing for a time the United States' largest military installations in Asia. After the 1986 fall of Philippine dictator and erstwhile US ally Ferdinand Marcos, nationalistic lawmakers in 1991 voted to end the United States' long military presence in the country.

The subsequent US military withdrawal was widely expected to create a regional power vacuum, bringing the Philippines into territorial disputes with Japan, China, Taiwan and Malaysia, particularly over competing claims to the reputedly oil-rich Spratly Islands. Meanwhile, in the late 1990s, the US made overtures to establish permanent military bases in Thailand - which were spurned out of hand.

From the United States' perspective, the concomitant rise of regional Islamic terrorism and China's growing military ambitions have fundamentally changed the region's security calculus and accentuated the strategic need for new installations in the region. And from a regional perspective, the Philippines is arguably the best fit. The Islamic-rebel-racked southern Philippines has recently emerged as a key theater in the United States' counter-terrorism campaign in Southeast Asia.

The US has in recent years poured hundreds of millions of dollars of military-related assistance into the Philippines, including funds earmarked for military training. The US has also provided technical assistance for the Philippine military's campaign in the southern province of Sulu against the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic rebel organization that Washington contends has links to al-Qaeda.

Strategic motivations
Security analysts in Manila agree that Washington has a strong strategic interest in re-establishing permanent military bases in the Philippines. According to prominent political analyst Antonio Abaya, the short- and mid-term military objective would be to undermine activities of Jemaah Islamiya, the Indonesia-based regional terrorist group that is believed to have training camps in the Philippines' Sulu Archipelago and West Mindanao.

Retired General Fortunato Abat, a former Philippines defense chief and senior envoy to Beijing, contends that establishing a US military base in Mindanao would make strategic sense for Washington on several fronts, including possible future naval interventions in the South China Sea, defending Taiwan from a preemptive Chinese attack and providing a launch pad for anti-terrorist operations in Indonesia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Furthermore, it would complete the US security arc providing additional strength to what the US has in place in Japan, Korea and Hawaii to forestall any Chinese adventurism in Southeast Asia," Abat said.

Writer and historian Renato Redentor Constantino concurs with such assessments, noting that Mindanao is now in the midst of a US-financed infrastructure spending spree that he contends goes well beyond what the region's development would need. "Yes, the US is interested, and no, it is not only because of the war on terror," Constantino said.

Philippine-based US diplomats strongly dismiss such speculation. "There are no talks along those lines. The US is an ally of the Philippines and, at the moment, military bases are not allowed here," Stacy MacTaggert, deputy press attache at the US Embassy in Manila, said in a telephone interview.

Eugene Martin, executive director of the Philippines chapter of the USIP, sounds similar denials. "As the Institute of Peace is not a US government agency, I do not know what and if any discussions on this matter are or have been held. But the institute is not in any way engaged in such talks as we focus on trying to help the two sides reach a viable peace agreement," he said in an e-mail response to Asia Times Online queries.

"Personally, I would be surprised if there were such discussion, since the US military is working closely with its Filipino counterparts on counter-terrorism training," Martin said. "Furthermore, as long as the prospective Bangsamoro homeland is within Philippine territorial boundaries and sovereignty, I believe the national constitutional provisions barring foreign military bases would prevail. Legal scholars and nationalists in Manila would find it difficult to accept such bases."

Sources close to the Philippine-based US intelligence community claim that talks about establishing bases are under way, are spearheaded by a parallel unofficial diplomacy on the ground. "It is an ongoing discussion. The two parties are close, and Manila has agreed. One big problem is to find a formula that can be sold to the strong local opposition," a source said.

Peaceful latecomer
Washington's strategic interest in the region followed al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001, attack on the US, when evidence emerged that some of the plot's leaders had held meetings in the Philippines. The US later became militarily active in the region after reports emerged that various Islamic terrorist organizations had taken sanctuary in Mindanao's thick forests, including some groups that had allegedly relocated their camps from Afghanistan after the US invasion of that country in 2001.

Intelligence sources in the Philippines say the Moro rebels welcomed many of the mujahideen fighters, who brought with them weapons and expertise. Then, their relocation was made easy by Manila's incompetence in identifying and combating the new threat, because of weak anti-terror legislation, a tattered intelligence network and a lack of resources and manpower.

The United States' involvement in the region was partly triggered by a direct plea for help made by the late MILF chairman Salamat Hashim, who wrote to US President George W Bush in January 2003. Washington's commitment was partially based on the MILF's pledge to renounce terrorism, which was made public by Hashim in a policy statement released on June 20, 2003. This was followed that same month by a similar request for assistance by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who had by then emerged as Asia's most vocal supporter of the US-led anti-terrorism campaign.

Since then, the US has substantially increased its assistance to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In the past few years, Washington has poured roughly US$300 million into the AFP's coffers and sent hundreds of American soldiers to conduct prolonged training exercises with their Filipino counterparts. This May, the Philippines and the US signed a new agreement establishing a formal board that will determine and discuss the possibility of holding joint US-Philippine military exercises against terrorism and other non-traditional security concerns.

The US military presence in and around Mindanao arguably has a more permanent feature in the shape of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, which advises Filipinos on how best to fight terrorism. The JOSTFP, which rotates personnel every six months, is composed of marine, air-force, navy, army, and special-forces personnel, all under the US Pacific Command.

The JOSTFP's main target is the Abu Sayyaf Group, a small but violent rebel organization operating mainly in the Sulu Archipelago that has historically been involved in kidnappings for ransom. The US has since September 11, 2001, included Abu Sayyaf on its list of global terrorist organizations.

The MILF and Manila have optimistically stated their joint intention to sign a final peace agreement by the end of this year. Provisional indications of the deal include a power-sharing governmental system, which would place part of Mindanao under the Moro's direct day-to-day control while at the same time maintaining Philippine national and geographical integrity. The establishment of US military installations would conceptually serve a de facto peacekeeping role between the two sides, while also providing Manila and Washington a valuable beachhead to combat Islamic terror groups in the region.

The MILF's Kabalu said his group would like official US participation in the peace-talks process, which since 2003 has been led inconclusively by Malaysia. "We would like Washington to make its position official, like Malaysia, Brunei and Libya, who take part in the consultations on behalf of their governments.

"At the moment the US is playing a clever role; they are involved, but only via the United States Institute of Peace," he said, adding: "We have nothing against the Americans. As a matter of fact, in our 30-year-long struggle, we have never hurt one American. If they help, then they are welcome."

Fabio Scarpello is AdnKronos International Southeast Asia bureau chief.

Olongapo & Subic Bay: Primal Forces in the Philippines

Sunken wrecks, deep jungle, devastating volcanoes and a deserted military base. This isn't a Hollywood movie, it's Olongapo, a once-restricted area that's now revealing vast potential as a convenient, accessible all-round adventure travel destination.

AA staff
First published in Oct/Nov 1994 issue of Action Asia magazine

The Olongapo area opened to the outside world with the second-largest explosion recorded in the twentieth century. On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo - just 30km from Olongapo city, erupted with a massive blast that ripped 300m off the top of the mountain, dug a vast crater into its summit and sent thousands of tonnes of rock, sand and ash hurtling into the sky. The brilliant noonday sunshine was snuffed out, and the area was pitched into a blackness far darker than any night. For another 36 hours the earth continued to rumble, and minor explosions flashed and flickered ominously in the darkness. Then the sand and ash began to fall, covering towns, villages and some of the richest farmlands in the Philippines with a deep, destructive layer of sediment. Buildings collapsed under the weight of this fallout, streams were choked until they stopped flowing and crops were totally destroyed. Some 800 people died, tens of thousands were made homeless and countless thousands more were financially ruined.

It was a total disaster - but there was more to come. Later, when heavy rain fell on the area, loose ash and sediment from the slopes of the volcano flowed down into the valleys. This muddy material, called lahar, engulfed whole villages, buried farmlands and generally continued the process of destruction.

One of the casualties was the US huge military base on Subic Bay adjacent to the town of Olongapo. For more than 90 years, it had been America's main naval base in Asia. But since Philippine independence in 1946, the land it stood on had been leased from the Philippines government. The lease was due to expire at the end of 1991, and the issue of whether to renew it or not turned into a major political debate. In the end, the government decided not to renew the lease, and in the wake of the Pinatubo disaster the US Navy packed up and moved out, leaving the Olongapo area in a state of chaos and ruin.

Rising From the Ashes

But all was not lost. Richard Gordon, the energetic and charismatic mayor of Olongapo city, saw opportunity in the midst of this upheaval. One thing the US military could not take with them were the port facilities, and he correctly reasoned that if the right incentives were given, the harbour itself could become the basis of a revival in the area. He successfully campaigned to have Subic turned into a free port, administered separately by an organization called the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA). Gordon's initiative is slowly proving successful, and industries are springing up all around the area.

Although the free-port status was aimed mainly at businesses, one of the fringe benefits for SBMA has been the opening of duty-free retail outlets. Local Filipinos are allowed to buy just US$200 worth of duty-free items per year, but that - combined with a general interest in the base area itself - has been enough to fuel a mini-tourist boom. Once again, Gordon's administration saw a golden opportunity, and they were soon seeking ways of turning Olongapo and the Subic Bay area into a bona fide tourist attraction. They didn't have to look far.

Action Stations

Contained within the military base area - now generally referred to as SBMA, the same as the administrative body - is 10,000ha of virgin triple-canopy rainforest, one of the largest tracts of pure jungle left on the whole of Luzon. Even better, within the jungle is a training centre staffed by local Aeta - a Negrito tribe who live in the area - who once taught survival techniques to American servicemen. It is an ideal playground for adventure travellers and "ecotourists." The bay itself also obviously has great potential. The military presence limited the growth of polluting industries, illegal fishing practices and farming, so the water here is very clean - ideal enough for a wide range of watersports. Scuba diving experts - led by Brian Homan, one of the most respected dive operators in the Philippines - started assessing the potential of the area for recreational diving. But fallout from Pinatubo had done a great deal of temporary damage to local reef systems and coral, so there was some initial apprehension. But then it was found that the bottom of the bay is littered with dozens of wrecks, many of them offering excellent and interesting dives. It had the potential to be a recreational diving bonanza with international appeal.

Jungle hiking and diving weren't the only sports to receive attention: boardsailors from Manila came to explore the potential of the bay for summer sailing, then a seasports centre opened complete with sea canoes, jet skis and other water craft. Some of the more imaginative developers realized that Pinatubo itself, a rare example of a powerful natural force in action, could also ultimately be a draw for environmentally interested tourists. Soon the great potential of Subic Bay and the Olongapo area was becoming obvious. What it lacked in overall quality, it made up for with variety and by being just a 3-hour drive from Manila.

The Great Bay

To get to Olongapo from Manila, you drive up through the broad, flat farmlands of Pampanga then turn west towards the spiny ridges and humps of the Zambales Mountains. As soon as you're off the highway, the fallout from Pinatubo is obvious although the mountain itself is largely obscured by surrounding peaks. You only ever catch occasional glimpses of its jagged, barren summit, and see the occasional plume of steam rising from the lahar fields on its slopes.

You drive up through the Zambales Mountains, then wind down across ridges and through valleys into Olongapo. The bay itself appears in quick flashes, a segment at a time. The first thing that strikes you is the vastness of it: a huge, enclosed expanse of water that's like a great inland lake. There are smaller bays and inlets around its shoreline, little barrios (villages) and occasional towns. The water is a rich, cobalt blue, a good indication of the deep bottom that makes it an ideal anchorage for heavy shipping. Strips of beach on the shoreline stand out bright white in the sunshine (though closer inspection reveals that volcanic ash is largely responsible for the white appearance; the sand is naturally a yellowish-brown).

The bay first came to the attention of the Spanish in 1572, when the adventurer Juan de Salcedo noted the quality of the anchorage; but it wasn't till the late nineteenth century that the Spanish settled here. Their base was still under construction in 1899 when it was seized by the US in the Spanish-American War. The Americans were quick to appreciate the value of Subic's deep-water anchorage; the strategic benefits of the narrow inlet and the security of being a reasonable distance from Manila. They turned the bay into their main naval station in the Far East. During World War II it fell into Japanese hands. The Americans did their best to destroy the facilities prior to their departure in 1941; and the Japanese completed the job when it was their turn to leave in 1944. After the war, the base was rebuilt on rigid grid lines, and using the austere architectural style that's there today.

Today, Olongapo city is a shadow of its former incarnation. The whole community once buzzed and hummed with the business and entertainment generated by the fleets. Now, as you drive down the main street, there is still plenty of local atmosphere, but most of the bars and discos are boarded up.

Olongapo city is about halfway down the eastern side of Subic Bay, and the old base - the SBMA area - abuts it to the south. To get onto SBMA you simply drive down the main street of Olongapo until you come to a border gate where you have to show your ID (don't forget to bring you passport) and obtain an entry permit before proceeding inside. SBMA looks like what it is: a deserted military base built in the 1940s. Just because Olongapo has an impressive array of action sports sites, don't think that this somehow has magically changed the outward appearance of the urban structures. SBMA is neat, clean, orderly - and sterile. If you come with visions of a Boracay or a Puerto Galera, you're going to be extremely disappointed.

To get around in SBMA - especially if you have equipment - you need a car. Even so, you're going to be stopped on a regular basis by zealous guards just doing their duty (be patient with them - looting remains a real threat). The best beaches and bays, the jungle training centre and the now-famous rainforest area all lie just to the south of the gate, further along the bay.

You can stay on SBMA, and if you're doing a lot of diving or boardsailing there, it's not a bad idea; or you can drive northwest, following the coast of Subic Bay, to a village called Barrio Baretto. This was a popular recreational retreat for the servicemen on the base, and the bars, restaurants and other establishments that catered to their needs are still there - albeit in various stages of dilapidation and disrepair. Baretto is on a long beach, backed by steep hills, and generally has a pleasant rural Philippines atmosphere to it, which gives it a far more appealing ambience than the sterile formality of SBMA.

There really is no point in coming to Olongapo to laze beneath palms trees on a white beach lapped by crystal seas. You come here for outdoors activities and the opportunity to get in close contact with some spectacular natural environments. And when you get into these aspects of the area, it comes alive. The aura of gloom created by the deserted buildings and empty base disappears completely, and you realize this has the potential to be a great adventure travel destination.

Perhaps the best place to start is right on the bottom - beneath the clear blue waters of the great bay.



To consider scuba diving here is to consider wreck diving, and in this Subic is outstanding. To date, 19 wrecks have been located and identified, but Brian Homan believes there are many more, perhaps as many as 80. That would make it one of the best wreck diving areas in the world. Most of the wrecks are in very still water no more than 30mins by banca from Subic Bay Aqua Sports (currently the only dive operation in the area). The team at Subic Bay Aqua Sports have patiently removed any potential hazards from five of the wrecks, and now escort visiting divers down inside them. The choice is exceptional. Most of the wrecks are from World War II or the 1940s - one notable exception is the San Quentin, a Spanish gunboat scuttled in 1898 - and still in good condition, so there's plenty to see.

The Wrecks

USS New York: This is the star attraction in Subic's underwater world, and an excellent wreck dive by any standards. The New York was a battle cruiser launched in the USA in 1891. She had a long and illustrious career - including time as a fleet flagship in the North Atlantic - and was once the pride of the US fleet in Asia. But by the time World War II broke out she was virtually retired. As the Japanese invasion swept through the Philippines, the US Marines, unable to sail her out to sea, scuttled her as they departed Subic in early 1942.

The New York now lies on her port side in 27m of water between Alava Pier and the northern end of Cubi Point runway. A small green buoy marks the spot. The 120m-long hull presents excellent opportunities for swim-throughs. A standard dive starts at the stern with a slow swim around the propellers and up to the aft gun emplacements. You enter the wreck amidships for a quick check around the vast mess room, exit again, then re-enter the bow section for another brief spell inside. There's an abundance of marine life in and around the wreck, and this, combined with the clearly defined structure of the vessel, makes it an unforgettable dive.

El Capitan: This is another excellent wreck dive. The El Capitan, a 3000-tonne freighter about 130m long, went down in the mouth of Ilanin Bay, a small, pretty inlet on the east coast of Subic Bay. In the dry season the visibility here is very good, and as the top of the wreck is just 5m below the surface it's an easy dive. The wreck is not in great shape: the superstructure has disappeared, and some 2cm of ash and sand from Pinatubo cover the hull; but this is more than compensated for by an incredible abundance of marine life and an easy swim-through amid shafts of light that beam down through gaping holes in the side. Even snorkellers can enjoy this site.

San Quentin: This is the oldest known wreck in Subic, a wooden gunboat scuttled by the Spanish in 1898 in a futile attempt to block the channel between Grande and Chiquita islands against the invading Americans. It's a popular dive, though there's little left of the hull, and more of historical interest than visual impact. As it's closer to the open sea, visibility is usually better than on the wrecks of the inner harbour, and the resident fish tend to be bigger.

LST: At the mouth of the bay, in 24-30m of water, is a large, complete LST (Landing Service Transport). The Subic Bay Aqua Sports divers worked on it for nearly six months, clearing obstructions before they first took tourists there. It's an interesting dive with significant marine life.

Japanese Patrol Boat: Deep inside the bay, sitting upright in 25-30m of water, is a 100-tonne Japanese patrol boat. This is an easy, pleasant dive. You can't enter the hull, but - perhaps by way of compensation - a cable has been run from the bow of the boat to a nearby reef: after examining the wreck you follow the cable to the reef and glide around with a dazzling array of fish.

Other Sites

Triboa Bay This site is deep within the confines of the bay. While the US military occupied the base, it was totally inaccessible to fishermen. As a result the fish population flourished, and it's now one of the better areas in Subic for observing shallow-water marine life.



Two major winds affect the Philippines. The northeast monsoon, locally known as the amihan, blows from November to March, a strong, constant wind that brings mild weather, clear blue skies and sunshine. The southwest monsoon - called the habagat - blows from April to September, bringing rain and inconsistent winds that generally lack strength.

Traditionally, once the amihan finished, boardsailors packed up their gear and looked for other activities until this wind returned. But in Subic Bay they may at last have found a venue which, though it may not offer the clean, constant winds and idyllic conditions of the amihan, still offers consistently good sailing in the "off" season.

The bay faces directly into the habagat, so if it's blowing anywhere on the coast of Luzon, it blows here. Also, this usually fickle wind is remarkably consistent here. It picks up at about 10am, blows well through the middle of the day, and starts to back off at about 3pm. It's also much stronger than normal, which leads Caliraya Windsurfing Fleet Commodore Art Palacios to believe that the surrounding mountains create a thermal effect through the day that intensifies the wind. (The ultimate wind accelerator in the habagat season is a typhoon: when one of these monsters passes across northern Luzon, the wind at Subic can exceed 30 knots). But best of all, the habagat here seems to blow constantly. As Art says, to date in 1994 he has visited Subic on 12 weekends, and on 10 of those occasions got good wind.

Strangely enough, the mountain ring around Subic seems to block most of the force of the amihan, denying sailors in this area the pleasures of this powerful wind. Manila-based sailors will be heading back to Lake Caliraya once the habagat season is over.

Beaches & Reaches

Subic is an excellent sailing venue. The huge dimensions of the bay mean that there are many sailing sites; the water is clean; the backdrop of mountains provides a spectacular setting; beaches and resorts all around the shoreline create an ideal set-up for coastal cruising; and the narrow entrance to the bay guarantees maximum safety when you're sailing offshore. You have many excellent choices for a launch site, which can divide them into two general areas: inside SBMA and outside. Inside, the natural focus is Subic Bay Aqua Sports, a site generally referred to as The Waterfront. The beach is not much to look at, but there's a broad grassy area right behind it that's ideal for rigging up or camping. The habagat blows side-onshore here, but you have to sail a long way upwind to get out into steady wind. A far better option is Officer's Beach, over by Cubi Point airfield. It's right out on an exposed point and faces northwest. The habagat blows cross-shore, so from the moment you step onto your board you're planning. The beach isn't great, but the water is clean, and you're well away from built-up areas.

Sailing outside SBMA means heading out to Barrio Baretto. The main beach here is Baloy. The wind blows onshore here, there are very few obstructions and the water is clean, so once you're out and planning you can settle back and cruise up and down the coast. Further along is La Sirena Beach, which takes its name from a resort nearby. It's a pretty area with few people around, and is an ideal launch spot if you want to cruise over to the islands in the middle of the bay. Gaines Beach - on the western coast of the bay - Grande Island and Snake Island are all accessible by water only, and if you're sailing from Baloy or La Sirena are convenient cruising destinations.



As with boardsailing, one of the great attractions of sea canoeing is the opportunity it presents to explore the beauty of the coastal landscape. The SBMA has excellent areas for paddlers, and some of the bays - like Triboa, mentioned in the scuba section above - offer great snorkelling. You can also paddle right across Subic Bay, stopping at Grande Island and Snake Island, all the while feeling protected from the risks of the open sea. Of course, if you're confident and experienced and want an extra element of adventure thrown in, paddle west around the outer point and then on to Capones, San Miguel and the other small villages along the Zambales coast.

To date, Subic Bay Aqua Sports is the only operator renting equipment. They have a total of 10 polypropylene kayaks: five of the two-man type, and five of the one-man. Rates vary according to the time of year. They actively arrange long rentals, and will supply you with tents and arrange for the permits you need to land at certain beaches.



As you drive in from Manila through the Zambales Mountains, it's obvious there are some interesting hiking along the ridges and through the valleys. The tree coverage is sparse, but it's an area of rugged rural charm and sweeping views. What you can't realize at this stage is that two of the best hiking experiences in the Philippines are right in front of you, obscured by the ridges. If you come to this area, you owe it to yourself, in the name of memorable outdoors experiences, to hike with an Aeta guide into the virgin rainforest around Subic Bay; and to climb the ridges that overlook the great lahar fields flowing down from Pinatubo.

Day-Tripping: Jungle Money

Entrepreneurs in Subic have been quick to see the commercial potential of the 10,000ha tract of natural rainforest preserved by the US, and a number of jungle tours are already being offered. These range from short half-day strolls down a well-manicured jungle path to full-on 7- and 10-day jungle survival courses - with quite a variety to choose from in between.

The SBMA offers jungle walks through its Ecology Tourism Office. At the simplest level, you can take a 1.5km hike to a reconstructed Aeta village where tribespeople in traditional costume put on demonstrations of fire-starting and other jungle survival skills. It's an attractive walk and, despite the contrived situation, is undoubtedly interesting. If you have limited time, it's well worth the 4 hours and 250 pesos required - but note that you need a minimum group of 10 people. Other hikes offered by the Ecology Tourism Office include a 6-hour hike up Hill 394 - poetically named for its height in metres. The summit area was originally cleared as a helicopter pad and now offers unimpeded views over the bay. You can also try the Calumpit Trail, which takes you 6km along a river bed and ends in a pretty cove on Subic Bay.

JEST: Jungle Survival

If you want a more intense and involving jungle experience, head straight to the Jungle Environmental Survival Training school - popularly known by its acronym JEST. The school was established by the US military in the 1960s to teach soldiers and airmen bound for Vietnam the skills of jungle survival. The man responsible for it is still in charge: a local Aeta by the name of Eking Bulatao.

Now that the military have departed, JEST has become a commercial venture, offering courses in jungle training to budding Tarzans and Rambos, as well as a few curious botanists. The centre arranges everything from brief demonstrations of basic techniques to full 7-day courses in jungle survival. Visits to the centre are free. Day trips into the jungle cost 250 pesos for a day, or 300 pesos for overnight stays, and 300 pesos for each day thereafter.

Other Options

Once you've had your fill of jungle, or if you're looking for something a little less demanding, try hiking the hills and valleys behind Olongapo and Barrio Baretto. One good route is to start from the naval magazine in SBMA, hike north, then west into the hills above Olongapo, then follow game trails and old roads across the valleys, stopping at Aeta villages that have hardly changed in centuries. Locals say that every ridge you cross in this area takes you back another hundred years. Heading north again, you come to the strange lahar fields of Pinatubo, and finally wind up in Botolan, where you can catch a bus back to Olongapo. Allow at least 3 days to give yourself time to explore and enjoy the countryside.

Other shorter hikes can be covered in days and half-days, simply by striking out into the hills behind Barrio Baretto or catching jeepneys to the smaller villages then setting off on foot.



As usual in the Philippines, where rural settlements are made up of small clusters of huts spread through valleys and across farmlands, there's a labyrinth of foot trails and paths that take you anywhere you want to go. You can basically look at a map, get your bearings and go for it - and you won't go too far wrong. Or you can take some of the rides recommended below.

San Isidoro Trail

Rolling back a few centuries of time here is easy: just turn inland onto the San Isidoro Road right after you cross the bridge in Barrio Baretto. There's a light uphill, then the road becomes a trail, winds into a valley where no motor vehicles can gain access - and suddenly you're in a completely different world. The valley lies immediately behind the hills that abut Barrio Baretto, but it feels like an isolated rural area where the way of life is still deeply traditional. You roll along beside a pretty stream, pass rice and vegetable farms, fruit orchards, small huts and even waterfalls. It takes about 2 hours to ride right though to the highway near Subic city (not to be confused with SBMA, which is the base), where you can take a road back to Barrio Baretto.

Gordon Heights

This is a popular hiking trail because of the easy access and spectacular views, but it's faster and more fun on a bike. To get onto the trail, take the road out of Olongapo towards Barrio Baretto and look for the big Chinese cemetery on the right. It's impossible to miss. Walk up onto the ridge behind it and you'll find a trail that follows the ridgeline. This spur of the Zambales Range leads you inland to wild hill country. The ridge is quite sharp and drops away steeply on both sides. It's only a few hundred metres high, but there's little vegetation so the views are excellent. You get great panoramas over Subic Bay on one side and the inland valleys on the other. Allow 4-5hrs from the start to San Marcellino.

Kinabuksan Beachhead

This was where the US Marines practised beach landings. Just getting here is an adventure. There are no roads, so you have to load your bike onto a rented banca and perform your own beach landing. It's a popular destination with local bikers (see below) who take complete picnic hampers and make a great day of it. Once you're on the beaches, you'll find trails winding along the coast and up into the hills. You get a real sense of exploration.

Santa Fe/San Marcellino

This is the jumping-off point for a trip to the lahar fields of Pinatubo, a must for any visit to this area. At first mention, the sight of a great expanse of mud doesn't sound too exciting, but it is in fact a rare opportunity to witness a powerful natural phenomenon. You're made very aware of the immense impact the eruption had - and is still having - on the local people and their land. The most spectacular views can be had by heading out to the dyke in the Santo Tomaso valley, riding along the dyke in the direction of the volcano - which you can see brooding on the horizon - then taking the steep trail up into the ridge of hills on your right. It's a grind on the way up, but when the trail levels out you're on an undulating road that takes you towards Aglao and gives you great panoramic views over the lahar fields on the way. If you watch for a few minutes you'll even see steam explosions rising up from the base of Pinatubo. A great experience.

Olongapo and Subic Bay areas offer a variety of activities, including diving, boardsailing, hiking, mountain-biking -- and relaxing!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Buong-araw na nag-ikot ang bumubuo ng validating team upang markahan ang Olongapo para sa prestiyosong 2006 Search for the Presidential Award for the Most Child-friendly Cities/ Municipalities.

Ang validating team na binubuo ng labing-isang (11) kinatawan buhat sa Regional Sub-Committee for the Welfare of Children ay masayang sinalubong ni City Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr. nitong ika-16 ng Agosto 2006 sa FMA Hall.

‘’Ang Lungsod ng Olongapo ay patuloy na nakikipaglaban para sa kapakanan ng mga batang Olongapeños. Sinisikap naming magtayo ng mga lugar na maaaring tuluyan ng mga ito,’’ wika ni Mayor Bong Gordon.

‘’Buhat sa sariling pondo ng lungsod ay malapit ng matapos ang Olongapo Youth Center, isang lugar na kung saan namin aalagaan ang mga kabataan upang iiwas sa masamang bisyo sa lansangan,’’ dagdag pa ni Mayor Gordon.

Ang Search for the Presidential Award for the Most Child-friendly ay isinasagawa batay sa Executive Order 184 na nagsimula noong 1999 ay
naglalayong higit pang palakasin ang pangangalaga sa mga kabataan ng bansa.

Ang Lungsod ng Olongapo ay tumanggap ng pagkilala sa kompetisyon ng makuha nito ang unang pwesto (1st place) ng magkakasunod na taong 2001, 2002 at 2003.

Samantala, taong 2004 at 2005 ay pansamantalang nahinto ang kompetisyon bagamat patuloy pa rin ang lungsod sa pagbuo ng ibat-ibang mga programa para sa mga kabataan.

Inilahad rin ni First Lady Anne Marie Gordon ang mga natatanging proyekto ng lungsod kabilang na ang kauna-unahang Women Center sa Region 3 na laan para sa mga naabusong kababaihan ng lungsod.

‘’Maging ang OCARE at SDC ay lugar para sa mga kabataang walang masilungan. Nagpapatunay lamang na palaging nakaagapay ang lungsod sa aming mga kabataan,’’ dagdag pa ni First Lady Anne.

Tinungo rin ng validating team ang mga barangay Health Centers ng West Tapinac, Gordon Heights at Sta Rita, maging ang James L. Gordon Memorial Hospital (JLGMH) bilang bahagi ng ebalwasyon.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Get clear reception with Greentek Antenna

You no longer have to put up with bad TV and radio reception with the Greentek line of indoor and outdoor antenna. Greentek’s 10dB amplification picks-up weak signals while its 39" dipoles. Adjust and rotate for stronger pick-up.

Greentek offers a wider range of choices. For indoor needs, the UVR-AV 022 comes with built-in high gain booster, gain control and dual function socket only for P395. The UVR-AV 228 is priced at P495 and offers high gain and low noise, useable working voltage, indoor and outdoor reception of TV signal and adjustable stretching rods and is UHF-rotated. The UVR-AV 208 has built-in gain booster, gain control, retractable dipoles and is adjustable for best reception. The UVR-AV 209 has an additional 75 signal input/output socket while the UVR-AV 210 has large UFG loop for clear picture quality and LED power-on indicator. All three models are priced at P695. The STAR-1A has all the preceding features plus an infrared remote control that makes the antenna rotate 360 degrees. It comes at P995.

For outdoor use, Greentek offers remote controlled antennas that allow you to manipulate the antenna’s position from within the house. Choose from the 850 model at P995 and the premium P1,495 ET-1A model that has a firm waterproof design for easy installation and adjustment.

To know more about Greentek and other interesting gadgets, call Search Commercial at 899-0102 or drop by DIY Shops located in Ortigas, Libis, Cubao, Fairview, Sucat, Cainta, Imus, Naga, Batangas, Baguio, Tarlac, Olongapo, Angeles, Dagupan, Urdaneta and Alaminos.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Relax lang ....

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"

Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.

The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it's the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."

He continued, "And that's the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes >increasingly heavy, we won't be able to carry on. ""As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we're refreshed, we can carry on withthe burden."

"So, before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don'tcarry it home. You can pick it up tomorrow.Whatever burdens you're carrying now, let them down for a moment if youcan."

So, my friend, why not take a while to just simplyRELAX. Put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don't pick it up againuntil after you've rested a while.

Life is short. Enjoy it! Here are some great waysof dealing with the burdens of life:

Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and somedays you're the statue.

* Always keep your words soft and sweet, just incase you have to eat them.

* Always read stuff that will make you look good ifyou die in the middle of it.

* Drive carefully. It's not only cars that can berecalled by their maker.

* If you can't be kind, at least have the decencyto be vague.

* If you lend someone $20 and never see that personagain, it was probably worth it . I like this one..abuloy mo na sa mga balasubas!!!

* It may be that your sole purpose in life issimply to serve as a warning to others.

* Never buy a car you can't push.

* Never put both feet in your mouth at the same time, because then you won't have a leg to stand on.

* Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance.

* Since it's the early worm that gets eaten by the bird, sleep late. The second mouse gets the cheese.

* When everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

* Birthdays are good for you. The more you have, the longer you live.

You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one >person.

* Some mistakes are too much fun to only make once.

* We could learn a lot from crayons... Some are sharp, some are pretty and some are dull. Some have weird names, and all are different colors, but they all have to live in the same box.

*A truly happy person is one who can enjoy thescenery on a detour.
Have an awesome day and know that someone has thought about you today......I did.

Independence Day of the Republic of Korea

TODAY is the Independence Day of the Republic of Korea.

At the end of World War II, the Korean Peninsula was liberated from colonial rule, which had been in place since 1910. The Republic of Korea, commonly known as South Korea, was proclaimed on August 15, 1948.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the Republic of Korea were established on March 3, 1948. The Philippines is considered a close traditional ally of South Korea. Many South Koreans still harbor a deep sense of gratitude to the Philippines for being one of the first countries to send troops to defend South Korea from invasion in the 1950s.

Korea has enjoyed an ever-expanding cooperative and friendly relation with the Philippines. The Republic of Korea currently ranks as one of our biggest trading partners. It is one of the largest markets for Philippine exports and imports as well as one of the top investing countries in the Philippines. Korea also ranks first at the source of tourists for the Philippines.

In December, 2005, President Roh Moo-Hyun of the Republic of Korea visited the Philippines and met President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. After an expanded bilateral meeting participated in by the two Presidents and members of their official delegations, the meeting produced six agreements: (1) a Social Security Agreement, covering pension, retirement, disability, and death benefits of Filipino workers in Korea as well as Korean workers in the Philippines; (2) a Project Arrangement and Loan Agreement in the amount of US.3 million for the Widening of the GapanSan Fernando-Olongapo Road and Emergency Dredging Project; (3) a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Field of Mineral Resources, which involves the exchange of data and information on mineral resources; (4) a Partnership Agreement between the Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy and the Philippine Energy Regulatory Commission in establishing and operating a regular council that will promote cooperative exchanges in the electricity regulation area; (5) a Memorandum of Understanding on Mining Industry Development, which involves cooperation and joint development between the Philippines and Korea through exchange of mining information; (6) and a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Information Communications Technology (ICT), which involves the development and exchange of ICT among various sectors of the two countries.

On July 13, 2006, the 3rd Philippines-Republic of Korea Policy Consultation was held in Manila. The Consultation is a mechanism through which the Philippines and Republic of Korea discuss the advancement of the relationship between them.

We congratulate the government and people of the Republic of Korea led by President Roh-Moo Hyun, and its Embassy headed by H.E. Ambassador Hong Jong-Ki on the occasion of their Independence Day.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Napuno ang FMA Hall nitong ika-14 ng Agosto 2006 ng mga residente ng lungsod kaugnay sa isinagawang Special Recruitment Activity (SRA) sa atas ni City Mayor James ‘’Bong’’ Gordon, Jr.

Ang SRA na pinangunahan ng Public Employment Services Office (PESO) sa pamumuno ni PESO Manager Evelyn delos Santos at ng apat (4) na employment agencies kabilang na ang Verde International Manpower Services at Rowald International Manpower.

Kasama rin ang JAS Security Agency at Grand Placement Agency ay dinumog ng mahigit tatlong-daang (300) aplikante na nagnanais makipag-sapalaran sa ibayong-bansat.

Personal naman na tinungo ni Mayor Bong Gordon ang isinagawang SRA na nag-iwan ng inspirasyon sa mga aplikante. ‘’Kung talagang nais ninyong tumungo sa ibang bansa upang magtrabaho dapat lamang ninyong tandaan na merong isang lungsod kayong uuwian,’’ wika ni Mayor Bong Gordon.

‘’At kahit saan man kayong bansa tutungo lagi ninyong ipagmalaki ang Pilipinas at ang Olongapo. Palagi kayong maging masipag, masikap at matiyaga, mga katangian ng tunay na Olongapeño,’’ dagdag pa ni Mayor Gordon.

Ang SRA ay regular na isinasagawa ng ibat-ibang recruitment agencies sa bansa bilang tugon na rin sa mga residente ng lungsod na nais subukan ang nag-aantay na kapalaran sa ibang bansa.

‘’Dahil sa mga SRA na isinasagawa natin ay marami nang mga Olongapeños ang nasa ibang bansa ngayon. Ang mga aplikante natin ay hindi na kinakailangan pang tumungo sa ka-Maynilaan dahil ang mga ahensiya na mismo ang tumutungo dito sa ating lungsod,’’ wika ni PESO Manager delos Santos.

Para sa karagdagang impormasyon sa mga isasagawa pang SRA, tumungo lamang sa Public Employment Services Office na matatagpuan sa Ground Floor ng City Hall.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A Ray of Hope for Mindanao

Mike Banos - American Chronicles

I know this is a little late for our 108th Independence Day celebration but bear with me and my slipping memory for having maybe too much in my mind lately that I made the cardinal sin of forgetting it!

Like my advocacy to return the maya as the Philippines national bird, the addition of another ray in the sun of our Philippine flag has been another of my pet crusades since the centennial celebration of 1998 when I learned that what I’d heretofore known as the “Calaganan Mutiny” (from a story written by the late Dr. Blas Ch. Velez in a Museo de Oro publication edited by the late Fr. Francisco Demetrio, S.J.) was indeed a planned revolt instigated by the Katipunan leadership in Luzon.

I have never failed to resurrect the story at every opportunity, even going so far as to post it in an online U.S. publication where it caught the eye of Sen. Dick Gordon. I was informed a few weeks ago by his staff A.G. Alonto of the senator’s plan to file a bill in the Senate to petition the national leadership to add a ninth ray to the sun depicted in our Philippine flag, (which as every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows, represents the first eight provinces in Luzon which rose in the fight for freedom against Spain in 1896) in recognition of the “Mutiny at Calaganan” as the first Katipunan instigated revolt in Mindanao.

Imagine my surprise when I told Sen. Nene Pimentel about it and he told me this had already been his advocacy for “years back.”

“I have delivered speeches on it but I do not know whether I still have copies of the speeches,” he wrote in reply to my email last Monday. “Today at the Pinaglaban Independence Day Rites, I reiterated it. I said that the Moros of Mindanao deserve a 9th ray in the Flag.”

In fact, it was not only the Moros as represented by a group of Maranaos from Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, but in fact all three of Mindanao’s tri-people who joined in the revolt: the Christian immigrants, the indigenous natives in the person of 50 Higaonons from Bukidnon, and a group of Moros from Lanao, making it not only a Katipunan revolt, but one in which all three of Mindanao's tri-people joined in as well.

It was my good friend Antonio J. Montalvan II, a local historian of note and a former commissioner of the Cagayan de Oro City Historical and Cultural Commission, who first alerted me to the fact that the Calaganan Mutiny was indeed sparked by the Katipuneros of Luzon.

Montalvan admits a direct link between the Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny has yet to be established ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’, but there appears to be extant sources which appear to indicate that such a link did exist, and that Pio Valenzuela did indeed come to Mindanao on the instructions of Andres Bonifacio to foment a revolt against the Spaniards.

“Should a direct link be established between Bonifacio's Katipunan revolt in Luzon and the Calaganan Mutiny, then the people of Mindanao can rightfully petition the national government to add a ninth ray to the sun in the Philippine flag,” Montalvan said.

What needs to be done at this point is to verify primary sources such as the Consular Letters of the French Embassy in Manila to Paris where the Calaganan Mutiny is described in detail, Montalvan added.

The letters are now in the archives of the National Museum in Manila, as are other extant documents like the historical account of the Jesuit historian Pablo Pastells in which the "Calaganan Mutiny" is also described in detail.

The Calaganan Mutiny is also detailed in the letters of Vicente Elio y Sanchez of Camiguin to the Manila-based Spanish newspaper La Oceania Española and two other historical sources but has never been linked to the “First Cry of Balintawak” led by Andres Bonifacio.

One reason for this could be that Elio's letters never got past Spanish censors anxious to douse the flickering flames of revolution which had broken out in Luzon.

In late August of 1896, the Katipunan revolution against Spain had broken out in Luzon. Exactly a month later, or September 29, 1896, the mutiny exploded among the so-called Disciplinarios, a group of Filipinos from Luzon deported to the Spanish fort in Calaganan for training in military discipline to fight against the Moros of Lanao.

Upon receiving instructions from the Katipunan in Manila, they raided the Spanish armory and proceeded to Cagayan to attack the town, being joined by some Moros.

On the way, they ransacked convents and homes of Spanish peninsulars. However, a joint force of Spanish soldiers led by the Gobernadorcillo Juan de Pratts and Filipino Voluntarios (volunteers) repulsed them in Sta. Ana, Tagoloan. From Cagayan, they proceeded to Sumilao, Bukidnon where they were joined by a band of 50 Higa-onons.

They next attacked Balingasag, and raided the outpost of Gingoog on January 1897. By that time, news of Rizal's execution had reached Cagayan and Misamis, and this further stoked the anger of the town folk, fanning the flames of the local Katipuneros. It took the Spanish gunboat Mariveles, recalled from the Tercio Distrito de Surigao, to finally subdue the resistance in Gingoog.

This was the only known Katipunan revolt in the whole of Mindanao which occurred at about the same time as the general uprising in Luzon, but mi compoblano Tony Enriquez tells us there was one other which occurred later in Zamboanga which successfully ousted the Spaniards in that riconcito de España only to sputter later against the superior firepower of opportunistic American imperialists who made R.P. their first and only colony.

What appears to be remarkable about this particular mutiny is that besides happening at approximately the same time as the Katipunan revolt in Luzon, there is apparently a direct link between it and the Katipunan revolt in the person of Pio Valenzuela, a cousin of the woman amazon Arcadia Valenzuela of Lapasan, Cagayan de Misamis (as Cagayan de Oro was then known) who visited Mindanao during this period (ostensibly on instructions from Andres Bonifacio himself!) to instigate a similar revolt in Mindanao.

Augustinian Recollect chronicles confirm that this revolt was in fact instigated by a communication from Katipuneros in Luzon, making Mindanao the ninth province to join the Katipunan revolt, albeit not included in the eight rays of the sun in the Philippine flag which represent the eight provinces which first rose in revolt against Spanish tyranny.

5 US solons due here, will meet GMA, affirm ties

Republican Illinois, United States Rep. Henry Hayde, chairman of the United States House of Representatives International Relations Committee, will lead a delegation of five representatives from the United States Congress to the Philippines on Aug. 11-13.

With Hyde are Reps. Melvin Watt (Democrat, North Carolina), Dana Rohrabacher (Republican, California), Jeff Flake (Republica, Arizona), and Eni F.H. Falemavaega (American Samoa).

The delegation will meet with President Arroyo to discuss economic, political, and security issues and to reaffirm US-Philippine bilateral ties. The visiting congressmen are all members of the House International Relations Committee.

While in Manila, the delegation will join US and Filipino veterans at a ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City where Hyde will lay a wreath to honor his fellow veterans who died defending the nation’s freedom.

Hyde fought in World War 2 as a US naval commander, and participated in the Allied landings in Lingayen Gulf in Pangasinan in January 1945.

The ceremony at the American Cemetery, on Friday, Aug. 11, 4 p.m., will be open to media coverage.

Hyde will make brief remarks during the ceremony, and will be available to answer questions about his military service in World War 2 in the Philippines

Only a just settlement of legitimate grievances will end the war

Fr. Shay's columns Archives:

The wanton destruction by Israeli military of the village of Qana in Southern Lebanon where as many as 50 civilians, mostly little children must be condemned and labeled as a war crime. The horrific images of 31 little children dug out of the rubble are heartbreaking. They were sheltering from the Israeli air raids in the basement of a four story building that was totally destroyed by two Israeli missiles.

The credibility of Israel as a righteous nation under the God of Abraham fulfilling their destiny is severely strained. The justification made at the United Nations failed to convince me and millions of others around the world. They call it an accident, they say the Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, killed the women and children but in fact it was Israeli missiles. There is no hard evidence that Hezbollah missiles were being fired from this building. Are the Israelis any better than the terrorists then?

The Israelis say the people were warned and should have fled. But how could they, with out cars or buses. They are poor and frightened people. Dozens of refugee families fleeing the fighting were obliterated in their cars by missiles fired from jets as they drove north to escape the blitz. Their burnt and decaying bodies are left unburied as the Israelis blast anything that moves on the roads. Escape was impossible and now a 48 hour day halt to aerial bombing has been agreed to by the Israelis. Too late for the dead.

It's not the first time either. A hundred civilians were killed in this same village in April 1996 while sheltering at a UN post during an Israeli bombing campaign that year. Even their full scale invasion of Lebanon when Ariel Sharon unleashed the Druze militia to massacre the Palestinians in the refugee camps of Beirut did not wipeout Hezbollah. And they will fail again. In fact, that atrocity inflamed and instigated even more attacks and is one of the roots of this present war.

Last week two UN observers were killed in an UN outpost when Israeli jets bombed that too. It is indeed a savage anger that is fuelling the attack of Israel. They were into Gaza bulldozing houses yet again because of small homemade missiles launched against them by the Palestine resistance group, Hamas, another terrorist organization what was elected as the Palestine government. Is Israeli any better than them?

Even medicine, food and Red Cross supplies could not get through for days to help the victims. Going after Hezbollah does not justify the destruction of the infrastructure of Lebanon and killing women and children. Lebanon's health minister says about 750 people - mainly civilians - have been killed by Israeli action, while the number of Israelis dead is 51, mostly soldiers and 18 of them are civilians. It’s clear that Hezbollah missile attacks are not as destructive as the Israeli satellite guided missiles. Yes the response of Israel is grossly disproportionate and they don't want a cease fire, nor does the United States, Britain and the western dominated UN security council. Kofi Annan's urgent appeal has been turned down.

This attack by Israel is a collective punishment all too well known to the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto when they defied the Nazis. Hundreds were made to suffer torture and death for the resistance and fighting spirit of the few. Israeli’s have every right to defend themselves but that right is not absolute. They have no right to bomb civilians and their homes. Kofi Annan, last a few days ago, said that both side have probably violated international humanitarian law. The Hezbollah call themselves resistance fighters fighting a just cause, the Palestinian cause a war of retribution for what Israel did to the Palestinians driving them by their thousands into Jordan and Lebanon during the six day war of 1967 and taking their houses and lands and occupying the West bank. The Beirut massacres by Sharon that will live in infamy. That is the basic injustice, anger-hatred and desire for revenge that is behind the unceasing attacks of Hezbollah and Hamas. The violence that we see today has it roots in that recent history and that is what must be resolved. But bombs and missiles will not do it. Diplomacy and a just settlement is the only way.

No doubt Hezbollah are using inhabited buildings and garages as cover for their rocket launching vehicles that fire and move on. It is mechanized guerrilla warfare. They must be roundly condemned as cowards and war criminals themselves for using helpless civilians as human shields. All who support them ought to be also held liable for war criminal activity. But Israel has to answer for crimes against humanity too. They should never stoop to the same low level of vicious mindless killing that they deplore in their enemies, it only dehumanizes Israel itself and all it says it stands for.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

New Subic Bay repair operation

A former U.S. Navy floating dock is set to return to its former Subic Bay. Philippines, location as the center piece of a new commercial ship repair operation.

The dock is the 1943-built AFDM 5, originally used to repair U.S. Navy ships in Subic Bay and later transferred to Guam. It was subsequently purchased by Philippines salvor Malayan Towage and Salvage.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority has been in negotiations involving the return of the dry dock to its original site for some time.

Now, according to local media reports, the authority has signed a contract with Subic Drydock Corporation that will see setting up of a new repair facility in Subic Bay.

According to the Philippine Star, Subic Drydock is" a wholly owned subsidiary of Cabras Marine Corp., a US-based maritime services organization which has been the leading provider of tugboat, salvage vessels, pilotage and waterfront service for the US Navy and commercial vessels in Guam and Micronesia for over 30 years."

The Philppine Star says that "because of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), Subic Dry Dock will aim to secure the master ship repair agreement (MSRA) and be accredited for US Navy ship repair contracts that require dry docking and repair services particularly from the Military Sealift Command based in Yokohama, Japan."

Monday, August 07, 2006

Auto firms up 2006 sales forecast

Manila Bulletin

Local automotive assemblers have adjusted upward its sales target for the year to 8 percent from the original target of 5 percent as the market has shown steady signs of a recovery.

Elizabeth H. Lee, president of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI), told reporters the industry is keeping its target to breach the 100,000 unit sales mark this year.

Under its original growth forecast of five percent the industry is expected to post sales of 102,000 units this year from 97,063 units sold in 2005, which was 10.3 percent higher than its 2004 sales.

Industry players are just awaiting the result of the motion for clarification on Executive Order 156 or the Motor Vehicle Development Program, which bans the importation of used cars.

The issue of used motor vehicle importation through Subic is a constant factor affecting the growth of the industry.

"Barring anything that is going to happen, we still want to hit our target of over 100,000 units," Lee said.

Another crucial factor to sustain the improving car sales in the past months is the repeal of the 70 percent cap on input VAT, which the industry said is affecting dealers and assemblers inventories.

With the 70 percent cap, dealers are controlling their inventories to avoid being capped thus resulting limiting the dealers to aggressively market.

"Because of the cap, dealers only pull out from the manufacturing plants what they can sell meaning if there are orders and that is limiting sales," Lee said.

On top of the EVAT are the issues of increases in oil prices and the adjustment of the corporate income tax to 35 percent from 32 percent.

These factors are expected to force car assemblers to also adjust upward their prices this year.

In the first half of the year, CAMPI reported total sales of 46,236 units or 2.9 percent lower 47,624 units sold in the same period last year.

Lee said the minimal decrease was largely due to a decrease in sales of Asian Utility Vehicles’ gas models, stock unavailability and completion of fleet deliveries in May.

Of the total sales, the passenger car segment posted only a 1.8 percent increase to 17,980 units from 17,664 units in the same first half last year. Sales in June, however, managed to register a 4 percent improvement to 3,624 units from 3,461 units in May.

On the other hand, sales of commercial vehicles was down 5.7 percent in the first half to 28,256 units as against 29,960 units in the first six months last year.

In 1996, domestic motor sales reached 141,000 units and reached its peak in 1997 with 162,000 units.

The motor vehicle industry plummeted in the following year with the impact of the Asian financial crisis that hit middle of 1997.

While the domestic motor vehicle industries of other Asian countries have already recovered past their 1997 pre-crisis level, the Philippine industry has remained in the dark. (BCM)

The secret behind archery’s ‘secret success’

By Recah Trinidad
THIS IS A continuation of the amusing success story of a national archer who, after being excluded from the Philippine team, went to Malaysia on her own and eventually emerged the top performer for the national team.

For the record, national archery officials claimed they did nothing officially wrong.

“Ms Amaya Paz was not included in the list of participants whose expenses were shouldered by the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) due to her inability to meet some of the criteria ... like participation in the 2006 Philippine Olympic Festival National Target Archery Championship held at the Subic Bay Freeport June 12-24, 2006,” explained Dr. Lenora Fe S. Brawner, president of the National Archery Association of the Philippines.

In fact, explained Brawner in a letter to the Inquirer, they were “definitely very happy” about the victory of the young lady archer who garnered three gold medals, three silver medals at the recently concluded 2nd Asian Grand Prix at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

* * *

For the record, the father of the young archer, Jaime “JP” Paz, did not complain with this reporter. The sketchy details on the amusing adventure of twenty-year-old Amaya Paz, a scholar at the University of the Philippines, were gathered through a conversation with a Batangueño friend who wondered why there had been nothing about the big victory of the archer in the papers.

For the record, JP Paz came to us only on the day the column appeared to clarify that he and his family never begrudged the NAAP for having excluded Amaya from the list of participants in the KL Grand Prix.

The archer’s father said they were not seeking any reimbursement (of the expenses), adding they have also spent for other foreign stints of Amaya, which obviously helped hone her into a world-class archer.

* * *

Amaya, explained her father, has requested that her name not be dragged into the developing “secret success” story, which has drawn the amusement of many sports fans.

For the record, the PSC acted immediately and offered to reimburse Amaya’s expenses for her Malaysian stint upon reading the details of her triumph in that said column.

Amaya had to be excluded from team members financed by the PSC after she suffered a freak accident (she tripped on a chair at home) last April 29 that resulted into her right hand being put in a cast.

For the record, she wrote a letter to the PSC on July 5, thru the NAAP president, to “request inclusion in the list of athletes to be sent by the PSC to Malaysia.”

In that letter, Amaya explained she had been cleared by her doctor (Rodrigo Angelo Ong) for immediate competition.

“It’s been more than a month since I started regular training. I even go beyond my regular training hours. I believe that I am now in my competition form and I am very confident that, if given the chance, I will be able to represent our country well in Malaysia,” Amaya explained in her letter.

* * *

For the record, the NAAP, without having to claim it knew its athletes best, did nothing officially wrong. Amaya, to repeat, failed to meet some of the criteria.

Of course, there’s also nothing wrong if people have started to wonder why an athlete, who had no place in the national delegation, was quickly included in the RP team delegation once the need arose.

For the record, there was no evident effort to keep Amaya’s sweet success a secret.

Explained the NAAP head: “Mr Clyde Mariano of the Bulletin Today was send (sic) by the PSC to cover the Asian Archery Grand Prix and all results were published in the Bulletin, Tempo and some tabloid newspapers.”

* * *

Fine. But they’ve also started asking if Brawner was “definitely very happy” about Amaya’s success.

Here’s why: In explaining their failure to fully publicize the Paz triumph, Brawner also said that, “By airing their complaints directly to you, the father of Ms Paz had pre-empted, at least partly, our intentions to have some media publicity on her three gold medals.”

For the record, Amaya Paz completed her victories in Malaysia at the end of the Grand Prix July 27. That column on her “secret success” came out Aug. 2.

For the record, there were a good five days from the time Amaya Paz had completed her victories in Malaysia to the time the critical column appeared.

Nothing wrong with the belated acknowledgement; although this would also show that the NAAP has missed the bulls-eye, again.

Here’s hoping Amaya Paz gets a timely award for patriotic persistence