Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Simbang-Gabi Singapore 2009: Wardens Needed

What are you doing after office hours on the 17th of December 2009? Do you live in the Jurong area? Please lend your presence to the observance of Simbang Gabi Singapore 2009 as a church warden at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Boon Lay.

As a volunteer church warden, you will help manage human traffic before, during, and after the Simbang Gabi Mass on December 17.

Please get in touch with Mr. Manny Resmeros through mobile phone +65-9277 2863. He's the conductor of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir and he will brief the volunteer wardens on December 13. Thirty (30) wardens are needed.

This is the eleventh (11th) year that Rev. Father Angel Luciano, CICM, a Filipino priest based at the Church of St. Michael, has tirelessly spearheaded the observance of Simbang Gabi in Singapore since 1999.

Maligayang Pasko po sa ating lahat!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Filipino Teachers: Beware of US Recruitment

Dear fellow teachers from the Philippines,

I am teaching overseas right now. Please do not allow yourselves to be victimized by recruiters. Please read the article about Filipino teachers held in 'servitude' in the USA in the link below.

You don't need recruiters. You don't need middlemen/middlewomen. You can take control of your job search.

Let me share with you how I applied for my overseas job.

As an Overseas Filipino Worker, my first overseas job was a teaching position at the Da-Yeh University in Changhua, Taiwan. I taught there for 5 1/2 years. I applied online by posting my resume on Dave's ESL Cafe. It was free. Afterwards, Dave's ESL Cafe sent me job ads posted by schools and language centers.

I sent my application portfolio to several universities in different countries. After considering the offers, I chose to sign up with Da-Yeh University in Taiwan. Everything was free in the sense that I didn't have to pay any middleman/woman (the recruiter). Of course, I paid for my passport at the Department of Foreigh Affairs and my visa at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Makati City.

I applied personally for my passport and my visa. I didn't allow any recruiters or travel agents to make money off me. I was a direct hire.

Right now, I am teaching at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore. How did I apply for this job? I surfed the web, found advertised job openings for academic staff in reputable institutions, and sent my application documents in 2007 to some.

After going through the usual interviews and waiting for several months, in November of the same year, I received from NIE an air parcel sent through a 24-hour courier. It contained my letter of appointment and other relevant documents. I signed an acceptance letter which I sent back through a 24-hour courier, too. A notice was e-mailed to me to pick up my air ticket from the nearest Philippine Airline sales office.

On Nov. 30, 2007, I flew to Singapore. I checked into the university's executive centre for free, then transferred to a faculty flat on Dec. 3, 2007. I received my first paycheck on Dec. 15, 2007.

I was a direct hire. I didn't allow any recruiters or travel agents to make money off me.

It breaks my heart when I hear of fellow teachers who are victimized by recruiters. I understand the dream that you dream. For heaven's sake, don't let it become a nightmare!


Carmelita C. Ballesteros

Monday, September 14, 2009

MONEY Management Seminar at Insular Life, Makati

by Jaime G. Seculles, Jr.

Magandang araw po!

Once again, Insular Life would like to invite OFWs and their family members to a Forum/Orientation session entitled, "Money Management", in our Makati Office at 6781 Makati Avenue, Makati City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.

"Money Management" is designed for OFWs and their families to make them aware of the opportunities Insular Life is offering, and maybe help them in financial management.

There is no cost or obligation. Spouses and grown-up children of OFWs are encouraged to attend. Slots are limited, so please reserve a seat by calling Cell No. +63-917-5028310 or dropping an e-mail at


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tita Cory's Funeral

by Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista
A friend of mine in the Philippines sent me this e-mail about Tita Cory’s funeral. It describes how Filipinos from all walks of life took part in Tita Cory's historic funeral spontaneously. The writer has given Barangay OFW permission to publish her e-mail.
Dear all,

Last Wednesday, August 5, 2009, the Filipino people laid Tita Cory to rest. Ton, Nina, Yumi, Ma and I accepted Gigi's invitation to join her and her family in their place which was near the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). It offered a good vantage point of Tita Cory's funeral.

Ma and I arrived at Gigi’s place before 9:00 a.m. and so there was no traffic at all. Ton, Nina, and Yumi arrived after a few minutes. We were able to watch the funeral Mass on TV and it was a great experience being able to see it with family.

Iyakin ako, as you know, so there were several times umiyak ako. All of us found Fr. Arevalo's homily beautiful and we were not turned off (as some were, according to the Inquirer) by the celebrities singing songs -- they were all good (especially Dulce and Lea Salonga) and the songs chosen had great meaning in Cory's life.
At 2:30 p.m., when we thought the cortege was approaching Gigi’s place, we went to SLEX. Ay naku, the wait lasted two hours. It was a very mixed group -- peninsulares who lived in posh villages and ordinary Filipinos. There were the usual vendors of bottled water and peanuts and fish crackers.

When the advance party of the cortege came in view, we flashed the L sign and shouted, “Cory, Cory!” several times. We saw Gina Lopez and then Judy and Mar Roxas drive by. We saw Butch Abad, Aurora Pijuan, and Jun Lozada walk by.

Finally! The flatbed truck with Cory's flag-draped coffin surrounded by flowers and the four honor guards standing tall!

Shouting, “Cory, Cory,” we were again teary-eyed. It was an emotional moment. Nina was shocked that Ma, who’s in her 80s, clambered on top of a monobloc chair to get a better view.

The vans and buses carrying the Aquino family followed. But because of the tinted windows, we only glimpsed Jiggy Aquino-Cruz holding a placard with the pentel-pen inked message: "WE LOVE U. SALAMAT."

Then the rain poured and the wind blew -- and even though we were protected by the Skyway overhang -- we got really wet. The rain came in horizontal torrents.

Ma and I took EDSA back to the house and there was no traffic. We passed by Tita Cory's house on Times Street and we saw the orchids that we had left the day before. At home, we caught the tail-end of the funeral on TV.

A memorable day indeed -- thanks to Gigi and family for the idea and for the great hospitality.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Images of Tita Cory's Funeral Cortege

I chanced upon this blog which features pictures and video clips of Tita Cory's funeral cortege from La Salle Green Hills to Manila Cathedral on 3 August 2009.

Do check it out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tita Cory's Wake... Incandescent Smile

by Felix Bautista

A friend of mine in the Philippines forwarded to me another e-mail about Tita Cory’s wake at the La Salle Green Hills Gymnasium. The original writer of the email has given Barangay OFW his permission to publish his email.

From: Felix Bautista ______________________
Date: Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 6:56 AM
Subject: Tita Cory's Wake
To: tish bautista ___________________________


Tato, Joville, Nina and I went to the wake Sunday night. It was raining while we were in the car, but mercifully, the rains stopped when we left Robinson's Galleria parking. We stopped over at the EDSA Shrine and took the elevated walkway to Ortigas.

We got to the line at around 7:30 PM, near the tire shop on Ortigas and the line was just two deep. We settled in for a long wait, observing people, listening to hawkers plying their trade, and hearing Nina talk about her experiences as a high school teacher at La Salle Green Hills in 1986.

It took us several hours to get inside the gym, but we were offered Nestea juice and iced tea, Hersheys kisses, San Mig coffee. The only thing missing were the biscuits, a constant in Philippine wakes.

On the long ramp up to the gym, we saw two of Tita Cory's grandsons, as they worked the line apologizing to the people for the long wait.

Finally, we got inside the gym, and my first impression was that it looked like a giant TV studio, with all the lights and equipment. What struck me next was that even with all the people, the gym was almost quiet.

Soon, we were facing the coffin, and we only had enough time to make the sign of the cross. I only saw the heavily made-up face, not the brown hands and the rosary.

I also saw Ninoy during his wake at the Sto. Domingo Church -- Ninoy in his bloodied clothes. The two images from the two wakes were like night and day.

And then I remembered what Kris said during the Boy Abunda interview earlier. Kris said that she promised Tita Cory that she will make sure that Tita Cory will look good in her wake, so she was present the whole time, during the transfer of the remains from Makati Medical Center to the Heritage Mortuary, the embalming and preparation. And then in typical showbiz fashion, she thanked people who did Tita Cory's hair, makeup and clothes...

It was Kris's showbiz tribute to her mom.

I prefer to retain an image of Cory when she lit up in her incandescent smile, which I am now indelibly reminded watching all of the tributes to her on television. I will remember her for her transparency, her sincerity, her lack of pretence.

We stayed a while, sitting on the bleachers. Joville and Nina signed our names in the visitor's book. We received yellow pins; I will keep mine as a memento. For some minutes, we watched as people viewed Cory, trying to recognize Important People, drinking in the atmosphere.

Nearing 11 pm, we left the wake. On the way out, we caught a glimpse of Dolphy and Zsa Zsa. Dolphy looked stooped and was heavily made- up. So was Zsa Zsa.

As we walked back to Robinson’s Galleria, the line had grown four- tiers thick. The visit to the wake was, for me, a perfect ending to a truly happy day when I celebrated my birthday.


OFWs and Tita Cory

by Noslen Sonnel
August 5, 2009 12:45 a.m.

Far from the land of our birth
We thrive on this one land called earth
To be back home our constant dearth
Our fatherland, our countrymen, our mirth.

Adopted, yet unwanted.
Paid yet unneeded.
Seen yet unseen.
Here yet keen.

Keen to see the day of our return.
Hoping and weeping, graceful and silent
Struggling, striving and always benevolent.
Sending our dollars like we've tons to burn.

Keen to see our nation's rebirth.
See Happy Pinoys with none so poor.
Humble leaders with diminished girth.
'Tis what we'd like to see at the end of our tour.

The death of Cory increased our sorrow.
Yet we struggle on ‘cuz there’s still tomorrow.

She was the mother who wouldn’t let us leave
A fellow Pinoy who wanted us not to cleave.
She believed what many of us abandoned
The road she travelled, we scorned and disowned.

Yet in the depths of our hearts we are brown.
We knew then and we know now that we can.
That we Pinoys can never be let down.
And we may yet prove that we are her avid fan!

The death of Cory increased our sorrow.
Yet we struggle on ‘cuz there’s still tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tita Cory's Wake

by Ms. Juliet Guanlao

A friend of mine in the Philippines forwarded to me an e-mail about Tita Cory’s wake at the La Salle Greenhills. The original writer of the email has given Barangay OFW her permission to publish her email.

From: Juliet Guanlao _________________
To: usths80@_______________________
Sent: Sunday, August 2, 2009 10:35:31 PM
Subject: [usths80] Tita Cory's Wake
I was there last night. It took me, a friend, and three nieces more than three hours to get to Tita Cory's coffin, where we were able to spend a few seconds to say thank you.

I could not pass up on this chance to feel "People Power" all over again. I went there with the hope of witnessing and feeling the same fever that gripped all of us 23 years ago. I was at EDSA (it happened three months after I came home from an 8-year stay in NY). I was squeezed at the gates of Malacañang with the passionate mob who rushed there after hearing the news that the Marcoses had fled. I was in Luneta during the rally after the dictator was ousted.

I just felt that this is the last chance to feel Tita Cory's fervent hope to unite us, even up to her death.
I was not disappointed. The unity of our people and the desire to be with Tita Cory for the last time are very much alive. The line started from Gate 5 and extended all the way to the corner of EDSA and Ortigas, and snaked 4 times. Four layers of people peacefully and orderly lined up along Ortigas, in the midst of traffic and the smoke-belching vehicles. But there were no complaints, no rowdiness among the crowd, just the usual noise of people chatting, waiting patiently in line.

There were a lot of smiles, nods and short comments exchanged among strangers, as we passed by or faced each other in our respective spots. As expected, there were a lot of entrepreneurs who were able to produce yellow shirts and yellow ribbons in such a short time.

We arrived at around 8:30 pm and were able to join the 2nd layer of the line. Those who were in the first line had been there since 4 o'clock. There was a mass at 8pm and they stopped letting people in at 7.

We were feeling impatient at around 10:30 pm when, to our surprise, there was activity behind us. Tita Cory's grandsons, Jiggy (the one who looks like Ninoy) and the other one (we didn't get his name but I think he was the other one who was frequently seen with Jiggy, but this time without his Ninoy glasses), were walking through the lines, shaking people's hands, profusely thanking and apologizing to everyone about the long wait.

Of course there were a lot of posing and picture-taking, and these two young lads were game! It was probably a nightmare for the two security personnel who tailed Tita Cory’s grandsons. Their presence gave everyone the much-needed boost, and we were able to keep our spirits up for the next 2 hours. There was even one lady behind us who shouted, "Iho, ano nga bang pangalan mo? Iboboto kita!" It was indeed an unexpected but heartwarming gesture from those two young men.

When we had gone through the gates, we saw young people handing out Kopiko candies and Hershey's Kisses chocolates. Feeling nasa wake talaga! Kulang na lang Boy Bawang, Happy peanuts, butong pakwan and Zest-o. But there were water dispensers and cups in different spots inside the campus.
Flowers lined up the corridors, and Tita Cory's enlarged portraits were placed along the hallway leading to the coffin. Inside the gym, celebrities were everywhere. But despite the fact that there were showbiz stars and politicos everywhere, I didn't think it replaced the feelings of the people that they were there to pay their respects to Tita Cory. The mood was calm and solemn.
In two's, we were allowed only a few seconds in front of the coffin. Not enough to digest and take in the minute details of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was there with a friend and my three nieces, and when we were back in the car, we pieced together all that we were able to store in our memories.

Tita Cory was wearing a simple bright yellow dress with sparkling stones. Brownish hands folded clutching a rosary. Jet black hair combed back, bright red lips, heavily-foundationed face. She looked very different... she looked like a Chinese mestiza but decades younger... The face was different from the Tita Cory we are all familiar with. But her expression was very serene... very peaceful...

The way she looked in the coffin got us distracted. We were hoping to see the sweet, motherly face of Tita Cory. We walked back to the car pensive, and disturbed. We did not want this to be the last memory we will have of her.
My initial feeling was, I wish I did not go.... But now, the morning after, things are clearer in my mind. She must have suffered so much in her ordeal that they had to hide the pain.. The face may have masked the sufferings but the color of her hands exposed them anyway... Now I feel that even up to her death, she wanted us to see her strength, not her sufferings. And for that, I admire her more...
Tita Cory suffered so much in her a wife, as a mother, as a person...We are the ones who benefited from those sufferings. As a nation, we are free. But, as a people, we have a lot more to do. My fervent prayer is for all of us to show the same unity that we showed Tita Cory and do our share in addressing the ills of our country.

Twenty-six years ago, I was marching in the streets of New York City, together with the members of the anti-Marcos movement, because Ninoy had been assassinated. I live now in Manila, but for the 26 years that I have lived here, my sense of obligation has centered around myself and my loved ones. Other than doing my best to be a law-abiding citizen, the occasional bouts of nationalism demonstrated during the People Power and now for Tita Cory, I have not really done much. I hope now, I can start...

I have been a silent reader in our e-group for the past 8 years.. Now I cannot resist na magparamdam because I want to share this experience with all of you.

To those who are overseas and cannot make it to the wake, I hope this gives you a glimpse of what it was like to be there, from my perspective. To those who can make it to the Manila Cathedral, you still have a chance.
Let's pay our respects to Tita Cory. It's the least we can do. And let's hope that the spark that this visit rekindles will stay and ignite us to move.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Thank you, Tita Cory!

Tribute to Tita Cory
25 January 1933 - 1 August 2009

Maria Corazon C. Aquino
11th President of the Philippines

Thank you, with all our hearts, for your:

C- ourage and dedication

O-verwhelming simplicity and sincerity

R- esolute commitment to democracy

A-mazing and audacious faith
Z-ealous love of country

O-verflowing kindness and love

N-ever-ending legacy of freedom!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

OFWs at NAIA Terminal 3

by Carmelita C. Ballesteros

Dear readers: Please share your observations of international airports and/or any airport in the Philippines, domestic or international, by e-mailing

Terminal 1
Are you ashamed of Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila? Compared to other international airports, it is dilapidated and shabby. However, it is a functional airport, although its toilets don’t work all the time.

According to Wikipedia, it handled 22 million passengers in 2008.Wasn’t that a feat? Supposedly, it was built to handle only 4.5 million passengers.

The most significant thing about Terminal 1 is its historic value. It was where Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in 1983, moments after he was escorted out of a China Airlines flight by Marcos’ soldiers. So consider it a unique privilege to arrive and depart from such a rare and aging airport. It’s like time travel. On top of that, it’s an airport where a modern-day hero was assassinated.
Terminal 2
It is a little newer and its toilets seem to work all right. It is used exclusively by the Philippine Airlines for all of its domestic and international flights. However, the last time I arrived at Terminal 2 in 2007, I remember a really awful experience.

There were very few trolleys for the passengers’ baggage. I remember that there were at least 500 passengers fighting for about 20 trolleys. My family was worried sick because it took me more than an hour to get out of the airport.

I advised a colleague who was flying to Manila after me, and also flying via Philippine Airlines, not to check in any baggage so that he could get out of the airport fast.
Terminal 3
What about the newest terminal of NAIA? With its tattered reputation of being at the center of legal disputes and charges of corruption, I wanted to find out for myself how Terminal 3 compares with its older siblings.

Having heard that Cebu Pacific uses it exclusively, I used this airline for my trip from Singapore to Manila and back last June. I was pleased that Cebu Pacific already offers day flights. It used to offer flights only on graveyard shifts – late evening, midnight, and wee hours of the morning.

My flight from Singapore to Manila on June 18 was at 10:35 a.m. I flew out of Changi’s Budget Terminal which is miles better than Terminals 1 and 2 of NAIA. My plane touched down at 2:05 p.m. in Manila and I was out of Terminal 3 by 2:45 p.m. It was a breeze!

I was in a hurry to get home, and didn’t look around. The only impression I got was that there were no crowds and the airport was quite cold and quite bare.

Time flew, literally. Two weeks were gone and I had to head back to Singapore on July 1. My flight being at 1:30 p.m., my family dropped me off at Terminal 3 at 10:30 a.m.
Check-in Process
Unlike the annoying, multiple layers of security checks at Terminals 1 and 2, I got the pleasant, but ‘uneasy’ feeling that security at Terminal 3 was lax. I remember only one security check before I queued up to the airline counter check-in.

The Security Profiler Queue

On my way to the airline counter, there was a security profiler from a private agency. He looked only at passengers’ tickets and passports. He was not from POEA, and I wasn’t sure what his ultimate aim was. He didn’t ask to see my OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) Certificate nor my OEC (Overseas Exit Clearance). Anyway, it took only a few minutes.

The Airline Counter Check-in

There were several flights en route to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taipei but there was no crowd. The airline counter clerk asked me if I was an OFW. I said yes and offered her my green OEC. She took one sheet from the set of four copies, then returned the remaining three to me.

(By the way, I didn’t need to pay the Philippine travel tax of Php1,620.00 as an OFW privilege. My OEC, which cost me SGD5.50, is the proof that I am a documented OFW. If you are an OFW in Singapore, you must go to the Philippine Embassy on Nassim Road and pay the equivalent of USD25.00 to get an OWWA certificate. Only then will you be allowed to purchase an OEC.

Cebu Pacific, for its part, collects the travel tax from departing non-OFW Filipinos when they buy their airline tickets. Thus, Cebu Pacific has cut down a usually slow and disorderly step from the check-in process of passengers at Terminals 1 and 2.)

On my way to the Immigration Counter, I passed by the booths which collect the terminal fee of Php750.00. I approached the booth for OFWs and gave my OEC to the clerk. She tore off one copy and returned the remaining two to me. I didn’t need to pay anything. Altogether, I was spared from spending Php2,370.00 in exchange for the OEC which cost the equivalent of Php180.00.

Finally, I walked in towards the immigration counter through the terminal fee counter. There were only two immigration counters and there were only three of us international passengers.

The immigration officer waved me through. I was a little disappointed that my transaction was so ordinary and uneventful.

Airport Amenities
I walked farther inside Terminal 3 and had lunch in one of its cafes. It was a 90-peso lunch of rice and chicken. There were pricier choices but I wasn’t interested.

I checked out the wash room, of course. It’s almost as good as Singapore’s. That’s a big improvement.

Was there a duty-free shop? I don’t remember any. For the second time, I noticed that Terminal 3 was quite bare. With nothing to while away my time, I looked for my boarding gate. The clerk ripped off half of my boarding pass using the cover of my passport. Without even looking at me, he waved me in.

There was hardly anybody in the departure lounge. People started streaming in only at 12:45 p.m. After 10 minutes, we were asked to board through a short tube. The plane was probably two-thirds full. We took off promptly at 1:30 p.m. and landed at Changi Airport at 4:40 p.m., 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

Both Cebu Pacific pilots who captained my return flights were great landers. The landing was so soft and gentle that I didn’t feel the landing gears touching the ground at all.

An OFW’s Impression
So what’s the verdict? NAIA Terminal 3 is efficient and Cebu Pacific is using it effectively. OFWs, aside from the submission of the green OEC, are inconspicuous. It means that OFWs at NAIA Terminal 3 are treated decently just like any other passenger, whether Filipino or foreigner.

I sure hope the decent treatment of OFWs remains that way. On a different note, I hope some sprucing up of Terminal 3 will be done to make it look friendlier and more attractive.

Friday, July 17, 2009

MONEY Management Seminar at Insular Life, Imus, Cavite

by Jaime G. Seculles, Jr.
Insular Life would like to invite OFWs and their family members to a Forum/Orientation session entitled, "Money Management", in our Imus District Office in Cavite on Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.
"Money Management" is designed for OFWs and their families to make them aware of the opportunities Insular Life is offering, and maybe help them in financial management.

The Insular Life's Imus District Office is located on the 2nd Floor of Sayoc-Abella Building (atop Allied Bank), Aguinaldo Highway corner Tamsui Avenue, Imus, Cavite.
There is no cost or obligation. Spouses and grown-up children of OFWs are encouraged to attend. Slots are limited, so please reserve a seat by calling Cell No. +63-917-5028310 or
Tel. No. 63-46-5020151.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Deserving Grace

by Sonny Coloma

This article was originally published in Mr. Sonny Coloma's column, VECTOR, in the Business World Online on May 22, 2009 (Manila time). He has given Barangay OFW his kind permission to re-publish this article. You may reach him at

"The people deserve the kind of government they want" is a timeless maxim on democracy. If we choose wisely and well, we may yet deserve to have a national leader like Isabela Gov. Ma. Grace Cielo Magno Padaca who was honored by the Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Foundation as its 2008 awardee for outstanding public service.

"When I was elected governor in 2004," she told members of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX) the other day, "I thanked God, saying, ‘Lord I was only joking. I did not expect you to take me seriously!’ "

But after 40 years of the Dy family’s hegemony, voters in Isabela chose wisely and well. Against the three Gs — guns, goons, and gold — they elected a polio-stricken broadcaster as their new leader.

Thus did Ms. Grace complete the transition from 1) CPA -- Certified Public Accountant (she graduated magna cum laude in BS Accountancy from Lyceum University) to 2) CPA -- Courageous Public Announcer (14 years as a broadcaster with Radio Bombo), and finally, to 3) CPA -- Competent Public Administrator (second-term governor of Isabela and Magsaysay laureate).

She was reelected in 2007, with a slimmer winning margin, but she felt vindicated. "This was sweeter than when I first won," she said, "because the people reelected me on the basis of my performance, and not anymore on my promises."

With prudent fiscal management, Isabela was able to pay off more than 80% of its more than half-billion-peso debts to the Land Bank, Philippine National Bank, and DBP.

She increased farm productivity by providing subsidies to rice and corn farmers. Isabela is the largest corn-producing province and the second largest rice producer. Her administration was also able to enroll more than 100,000 Isabelinos in PhilHealth so that they now enjoy medical insurance benefits.

She has introduced transparency and accountability. Awards of contracts and release of checks to contractors are publicized in the provincial capitol. Businesspersons and investors have found it profitable to do business and invest in the province because they need not pay bribes or incur unnecessary costs due to corrupt practices of government officials. She urged people to report to her directly any anomalies in government transactions.

But the road to the governorship was rough, bumpy, and fraught with danger. She was immobilized by polio at the age of three.

Her parents, both educators, gave her many books to read. She recalls reading stories about honesty, industry, truth, and fairness — and these filled her mind with positive thoughts and inspired her to dream of an auspicious future.

One of her dreams was to be a radio announcer, a job where she could be heard even if not seen. She went on to join Bombo Radyo where she had a daily three-hour program from Monday to Saturday. Her focus was "the abusive way by which resources of government were being squandered" by political "gremlins" that "seemed to forget that power is not theirs as a birthright."

Instead of being frustrated about not being able to do anything about irregularities that were being committed openly, she decided to seek public office.

"At least," she mused, "even if I lose, I will have peace of mind." She lost in 2001 and ran again in 2004, aware that she could lose then and probably lose two or three more elections before making significant headway in her crusade for good government.

She had an epiphany: "If fear is contagious, courage is also contagious." She urged her province mates to overcome their fear:

"Huwag kayong maawa sa akin dahil ako’y isang pilay at mahina. Maawa kayo sa inyong mga sarili at sa inyong mga anak kung wala kayong magawa kahit mas malakas at masigla ang inyong katawan kaysa sa akin."

("Don’t pity me because I am paralyzed and weak. Have mercy on yourselves and on your children if you can’t do anything despite the fact that you are healthier than I am.")

"What they saw in me was not my weakness, but my strength," she recalls.

Another important realization on her part is that, "People in government wield tremendous power. With just one signature, I could mobilize millions in pesos in resources. If used judiciously, political power may be harnessed to empower people and lift them from poverty."

Thus, she urged the executives in the audience to go into public service themselves, or encourage those who they know can become competent public servants.

Her speech followed a pitch for voter education especially among the youth. "But if the educated voters do not have credible choices among the candidates, even your best efforts may come to naught," she said.

"Those who think themselves to be too smart to run for public office are doomed to be governed by those who are too dumb. Elect the right people," was her spirited pitch. "Look at me," she said, "I am the embodiment of the power of the people expressed through the ballot."

When asked about her biggest asset and her worst liability, her replies elicited warm applause. She said that her staffers call her "Excel Governor" because she always required spreadsheets depicting relevant information and figures, especially when she deals with requests for assistance from barangay officials. Her attention to details (a discipline she acquired as an accountant) enables her to allocate scarce resources judiciously according to the real needs of her constituents.

But she longs for the gentler and kinder days when, as a private citizen, she received abundant care and attention from friends.

She plods on with great courage and determination. When she first won, only three out of 36 mayors supported her; now, the ratio is reversed. Only three have not reached out to her and two of these are members of the political dynasty that she ousted from power.

She is mindful of the need to build common ground even among erstwhile adversaries. "Maybe my being a dispassionate accountant is also one of my strengths; I never take differences personally against anyone." Instead of wooing political rivals, she said she would rather focus on serving the needs of her province mates.

When will we ever deserve the grace of having a national leader (president, vice president or senator) in the mold of Governor Grace Padaca?

Only when we have the courage to elect competent and dedicated public servants like her — and reject the empty enticements of well-entrenched politicians who have all brought our country and us on the road to perdition.

Comments may be sent to

If you would like to send a message to Gov. Grace Padaca you can text her at +63-919-3533-222 or send an email to

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alert OFW Lady Foils NAIA ‘Magician’

by Flori Tuazon
Her mother had been sick so my wife Marilyn went home to the Philippines on April 9, 2009. Marilyn’s arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was uneventful.

She was overjoyed the moment she saw the smiling face of our daughter Melanie. Melanie who has recently learned how to drive had come to fetch her mother from NAIA.

My wife Marilyn spent most of her short visit caring for her sick mother and playing with our young grandchildren.

Time flew and Marilyn had to depart the Philippines on April 26, 2009. Melanie took her mother to NAIA where they said bitter-sweet goodbyes and embraced each other tightly and lovingly.

After checking in at the airline counter, Marilyn proceeded to the Bureau of Immigration area for the usual passport and visa check. She chose to line up behind a counter manned by Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’

The name of the immigration officer rang an alarm bell in Marilyn’s head and she wanted to change lanes. But she would have to go to the end of a kilometric line, so she stayed put.

Marilyn keeps her passport in a leather passport wallet with a zipped-up side pocket. Before leaving her mother’s house on that day, she put some dollar bills in the fabulous amount of US$70.00 in the zipped-up side pocket of her leather passport wallet.

Marilyn prayed that her transaction with Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ would be uneventful. And so it was, she thought. But she was wrong.

From the immigration counter, Marilyn went directly to her boarding gate. A few minutes after settling down in the departure lounge, she felt thirsty and wanted to buy bottled water. She took her passport wallet from her handbag to pay for the bottle of water. To her embarrassment, there wasn’t any dollar bill in the zipped-up side pocket of her passport wallet. It was empty.

After apologizing to the sales clerk, she sat down and collected her thoughts. As sure as she was sitting there at the NAIA, she knew that she had put US$70 in the zipped-up side pocket of her passport wallet.

Who else aside from her had access to her passport wallet? Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’!!!

Marilyn rushed out of the departure lounge to go back to the desk of this NAIA ‘magician.’ She nearly bumped into the duty airport police officer whom she promptly asked for assistance. Together, they approached Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’

Mr. NAIA ‘Magician’ feigned innocence at first. But my wife Marilyn stepped on her gas pedal, so to speak, and screeched and screamed and shrieked! Soon, a crowd gathered around the desk of Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’

Mr. NAIA ‘Magician’ came to the rescue of his invisible twin, Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’ He pretended to look for the US dollar bills among his things, then bent down and – surprise! – found the fabulous amount of US$70.00 on the floor. He gave it back to my wife with a sheepish grin.

Mr. Regalado Medalla, the Duty Immigration Supervisor, noticed the commotion and approached the desk of Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’ Mr. Medalla asked my wife, the duty airport police officer, and Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ to come with him to the Immigration Office in the airport.

My wife Marilyn argued that it was impossible for her dollar bills to fall out of her passport wallet because they were inside the zipped-up side pocket. Accusing Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ of theft, Marilyn insisted that her complaint be written down in the airport police blotter.

Mr. Regalado Medalla, the Duty Immigration Supervisor, promised Marilyn that the Immigration Office would pursue the matter and would not let Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ off the hook. Mr. Medalla advised Marilyn to follow up her complaint.

As Marilyn was leaving the Immigration Office to catch her flight, Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ clasped his hands on his chest and begged Marilyn to have pity on him. He might lose his job.

As Christians, my wife and I do pity Immigration Officer ‘Mukhang-Dolyar.’ We don’t want him to lose his job. But he doesn’t deserve his job as an immigration officer at the NAIA. Surely, there are many upright men and women who can be recruited for the job Mr. ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ will lose.

Since Mr. ‘Mukhang-Dolyar’ is gifted with sleight of hand, he will surely find a niche as a clown and magician in children’s parties!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Please… bring the family with you

By Freddie P. Base

I have been working overseas since 1986. For more than 20 years, my children grew from toddlers to kids to adults without me. Now, my eldest got married. When requested for advice to the newly wed, I said: "Please… bring the family with you. There should be no compromise." Why is it that so?

The Wedding
I was excited. I never thought that as a father I would have the chance walking my daughter to the altar resplendent in a Barong Tagalog sewn purposely for the wedding. Forgetting this was a solemn ceremony, I jokingly whispered to my daughter: "Let's walk in a hurry lest the groom might change his mind". But she didn't hear me, she's 29.

As I sat clasping the hands of my wife, I couldn't help remembering the more than 20 years I labored without them – the jewels in my life at my side: my eldest whom I fondly called Honey, Beybs, my second, Iyay, my youngest, and my lovely wife with whom I proudly call 'Agom' which in bicolano dialect literally means 'spouse'.

The Betrothal
It was last December the betrothal was arranged. The entire family of the would-be groom came to our house to get the nod from me and my wife – Mama Nil. It was not a nod only from both of us. I did asked all my brothers and sisters in the area to come; my parents too were with me since noontime so with my foster mother who's too excited and kept guessing what the other family would be saying as if this event was a sort of a negotiation between agreeing parties. The nod was more like a family blessing. Moreover, this is the first a girl in the family would be engaged. I wanted to experience a beautiful Filipino tradition in this century of iphones and nokia.

A day before, I told my wife to tell our daughter to ask the would-be groom how many from his family would come so we could prepare for the exact food to eat. (Gone were those days of my grandfather not knowing how many would eat ordered a whole pig roasted and employed a chef to cook several menus because my would-be uncle and his family were coming to propose engagement to my grandfather's daughter (my auntie). We ended giving foods to our neighbors and friends because the other side brought the same quantity or more). The reply was only three – meaning the would-be groom, the mother and the father. I said in jest the three would be talking to my entire family. But I anticipated more would come and I was right. We had the food enough to feed everyone, not more but not less.

Four months before, that was September, I got a call from the would-be groom that his marriage proposal was accepted by my daughter. He would have anticipated this because he asked his mom to present to my daughter the engagement ring. He was calling to inform me of this formal engagement and they (my daughter and him) were getting married on December. I said fine, they were adults; the engagement was ok with me but would prefer that this be formally announced a week before the wedding date. I planned my vacation to coincide with this event.

I gathered Mama Nil was expecting the call. This kind of arrangement would never pass from MamaNil who knew everything about her kids. The would-be groom hangs up. He was a skilled aircraft mechanic. He was calling from the USA.

After a month, Mama Nil said the deal was off, our daughter returned the engagement ring to the mother of the would-be groom. I believed Mama Nil. My daughter would not talk to me directly about it but she knew where my mind would always say: I believe her and I would be happy where and when she'll be happy. This is true to all my children; this is true from me.

Another month passed and the boy (who was not a would-be groom now) called up. He's calling from the Philippines. He said he resigned from his job, went straight to the bank where my daughter was working to plead that the wedding should push thru but to no avail, my daughter wouldn't budge. The boy was asking for advice. I told him to court my daughter again and show his total admiration. He was marrying a career-woman who knows how to listen, I added. I could not advise him more. I could sense what's going on in my daughter's mind. She didn't need any advice either. Will this be another love story to remember?

Love story at its worst chapter
Five years ago, December 24th, I was more amused than surprised having a catholic priest as a visitor. I thought this would be a peculiar Noche Buena for my family. Though I heard it all from everyone about the issue, I kept mum since I arrived from Riyadh. I waited until this moment to come but did not expect it would be the night before Christmas. The priest was proposing marriage to my eldest. He was ready to quit priesthood after a year. He claimed to have the nod from his Bishop superior. He knew what to do and what to expect. He didn't say his priestly duty is to God.

Indeed, the situation was not ordinary. If this was a sort of love story, the twist was so unusual… un-expected, one for the movies as my foster mother kept telling the folks in my old hometown. I had known this kid since he entered in the seminary. Along those years, I came to know about his family. I didn't expect the relationship (if there was) would come this far. I said to myself, if this is a love story the ending could still be changed. Right now, it is at its worst chapter.

Having lived my entire bachelor-hood in association with priests, I had witnessed some stories which I viewed as a curse. A distant cousin became pregnant by one of our high school priest-professors. She died delivering her newborn. Her mother insisted that the priest bring the child with him. That was again a terrible mistake. Upon seeing the child, the father of the priest had a heart attack. He died on the spot. The priest's siblings dis-avowed him since then. More quarrels followed and the family had never been the same again. This priest asked me to address him as mister when we became classmates in one subject of a graduate program. He said he left priesthood since the tragedy.

To my visitor that night, I told him that I couldn't give my blessing as a father for this kind of relationship. (He's aware the blessing only comes from above) If there is indeed a curse, I pray to God that I absorb all His punishment – even death – and spare my family. I admitted I can't prevent my daughter from living with him if it is with him she would be happy as this is always the desire of every parent – happiness for their child. Out of love, I would close my eyes and turn my head in the opposite direction and wish their union would be a happy ending. But never would I give my blessing, it's useless.

Deep within I was praying to God to guide the two to the right path. I was seeking for the Holy Spirit intervention… to fill our house… of His love on Christmas. I kept telling myself, this would never be like this if ever I was with my family.

I did not see the priest again since he left our house before midnight.

In the Noche Buena, I led the prayer with my family welcoming the birth of Jesus.

More than 20 years ago.
I could not remember the last time I cried but I found my tears flowing when the Philippine Airlines lifted at the Manila International Airport (NAIA now) on February 26, 1986, first flight to Saudi Arabia after the Marcos family fled to Hawaii. 'Twas also my birthday.

Four days before, I asked my wife (she and the kids were in Manila for the despidida) to go home earlier to our province because the political situation in Manila was getting worse. Enrile and Ramos had just announced in the radio that they were pulling out their support to the president. Everyone was talking about civil war, revolution. I thought of the safety of my family. Perhaps, if indeed there would be a civil war, I could manage myself alone. Mama Nil was crying, unmindful of the other bus passengers. Her eyes asking: why can't we be with you? My youngest (only 14 months) hands were waving goodbye (as he was taught); my second daughter in tears (as she would had been every time I would leave, the last after her college graduation knowing she'll come to Saudi with me); and my eldest (at 6 years) who's looking for answers from questions she would only know. I waited until the bus they were riding exited from my view.

What a way to leave my family. My country was in a mess.

Dhahran was my port of entry. The Saudi authorities at the immigration and customs greeted us like heroes. The custom officer congratulated me, shaked my hand and simply put a sticker on top of my luggage. No questions asked. This was not what I heard during the orientation seminar and from what those ex-Saudis who told stories of baggage's being searched and custom authorities looking for banned items. I reached Saudi to begin my life's journey without my family. I never thought this would go on for more than 20 years.

Mama Mary
I was excited even if I was not able to attend the high school graduation of my eldest daughter. My work as an accountant would not permit me to come on graduation day. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to continue my work in Saudi Arabia, now that I have a daughter pursuing a college degree. I could not wait for my daughter to tell me what course she intends to take in college; into what university she would like to enroll; what she had in mind; what she wanted to be. I was prepared to enroll her to any university of her choice.

"Papa, I want to enter the convent and be a nun. I want to serve Mama Mary", these were the first words from my daughter when we sat down to chat. It was like a bombshell I never imagined to hear. Deafening. The sound pierced my ear more than the sound of the scud missile that Sadam Hussein launched to hit Riyadh during the Middle East war.

My mind groped for the right response. I figured the situation calls for calmness and diplomacy with the right combination of words. I was looking at a very young lady who had grown this far without me.

But how to start with, I really had no idea. How I wish this was a mathematical equation which my brain was trained to do - a mental calculation ahead of what my hands could write.

I had nothing against serving Mama Mary but this is not what I expected from my young lady. I wanted her to finish college and have a family. Is it that much to be desired?

Calculating my move and not sure of what to say, I asked why she thought of this vocation. The next one (1) hour or so was a narration of frustrations and longing. To sum it all, my daughter finished high school alone, without me, without her mother's attention, without the love and care of me and Mama Nil. And because of these, she'd rather enter the convent away from us, from her family. She said she'll be more at peace with Mama Mary.

Mama Nil was in tears from hearing all of these. I asked her to get inside our room which she adamantly complied.

I needed a one-on-one situation with my eldest. I needed to make her feel assured of my presence, of my love, of my vision of her future. I wanted to tell my eldest that Mama Mary on earth is Mama Nil and every mother of a daughter like her. That Mama Mary was simply a symbol of a mother's love to her child. That Mama Mary was used to serve as model to every mother. That if she served Mama Nil, she would be serving Mama Mary too! Moreover, I would not argue with her going inside the convent after she finished her college. Now I was interpreting my catechism days but it's God who knows how true or not my words would be.

I didn't know how long I talked. We found each other hugging and I felt her confidence building. She said she would try the entrance exam at Ateneo the next day.

I was relieved. This would not have happened if I was with my family.

Mama Nil squeezed my arm and whispered that the wedding coordinator announced that I should take the bride for a dance.

It was my first dance with my daughter.

Mama Nil

It was our turn to dance, so I took Mama Nil's hands. She's as lovely as we've met 32 years ago.

Mama Nil to everyone, I fondly call her 'Agom' (spouse) and she's the mother of my three kids. Mama Nil never missed her schedule when it comes to our kids. The last glass of milk Mama Nil served to our eldest was the day before her wedding. This is one reason why I never fail to greet Mama Nil on Mother's Day.

Last year, when my youngest was about to graduate from college, I ask the children if I could bring their mother with me in Riyadh. I told everyone that it's about time that Mama Nil and I should re-discover our relationship as husband and wife. I didn't know it was also their plan for their Mama Nil to come with me.

I had a family status in my company – meaning I was entitled to bring my family and I made sure we were together during vacation times – my family coming to Riyadh. Going back to the Philippines, I would often coincide my vacation so that we could be together three (3) months at the most. But this situation had all changed when my eldest on entering high school, decided not to come back to spend holiday with me. Being in the adolescent stage, I could only understand her. The custom in Saudi Arabia would not let her nor any of my family get out of the house without me. The other two siblings agreed and Mama Nil could only afford to follow.

Little did I realize this would be the beginning of what exactly I wanted to avoid – less time with my family, less time with Mama Nil. For the succeeding years, Mama Nil and I could only manage to talk about ourselves for not more than I could stay – 30 or 35 days, the rest of the topic would be all about family, finances and the kids.

I remembered it was Mama Nil's absence as one of the reasons why our eldest would like to enter the convent. In anticipation of our eldest going to college, Mama Nil decided to rent an entire apartment which was a stone's throw from a university located in the next city. The decision was not hers alone. I consented too.

Mama Nil turned the apartment into a bustling boarding house. She had this business to attend to and without us noticing, Mama Nil's presence would only be with the kids on weekends. The day-to-day upbringing and caring for our kids were left to one of my cousins. Our eldest was left alone to mend for herself until her graduation in high school. Sadly, the apartment was never used during the college days of my kids. I asked Mama Nil to re-sell the rights even before our eldest set her foot into college.

Perhaps, this could not have happened if we were together ever since.

Several years ago, I remembered Mama Nil called up and asked me if we were still husband and wife or not separated. I asked why and she responded that that was the news she heard circulating in the town: we were separated and the only thing that bridged us together was the monthly allowance I send. I returned the question to her so she could honestly answer. She hang-off and went straight to the person from whom she got this news. It was war.

This could not have happened if we were together then.

There was a time when a friend could not return the money I lent and Mama Nil was all over me sending text messages almost daily inquiring when she would receive the monthly allowance already overdue because the kids would fail paying for their tuition fees, etc. Lesson learned: I dread to read Mama Nil's text message whenever I had my shortcoming.

But this would never have happened if we were together.

Our first month together was full of enthusiasm. The next was none of the first. We kept finding faults at each other later. We were struggling to work out our relationship. The most obvious was the separate markings on the bed because we slept on the opposite sides. The last straw, I shouted at Mama Nil. This would never have happened had we've been together ever since.

I figured we need to adjust and I had to make the first move. I kneeled down and made a solemn pledge to Mama Nil: I would never leave her again. -fb