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Photo Essay: The Beauty of Bukidnon

Sharing a photo essay from one of my high school mentors on one of my favorite provinces in the country.

As Kingfishers Catch Fire

Bukidnon is a haven for photographers, especially those who like pastoral scenes, landscapes, and waterfalls. Here are reasons why.

1. Del Monte Pineapple Plantation, Camp Philips, Bukidnon.

Huge pineapple plantations mark Bukidnon's landscape. Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ Huge pineapple plantations mark Bukidnon’s landscape. Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Pineapple workers on their way to work. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ Pineapple workers on their way to work. PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

2. Damilag, Bukidnon

PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ PHoto: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Erick Salonga provides an interesting central point in Damilag, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ Erick Salonga provides an interesting central point in Damilag, Bukidnon. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

4. Camp Philips Soccer Field, Bukidnon

School children taking their lunch at a vast open ground in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid School children taking their lunch at a vast soccer field in Camp Philips, Bukidnon. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Children taking their lunch together at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ Children taking their lunch together at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

Children take their lunch break at one of the benches at the Camp Philips Soccer Field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ Children take their lunch break at one of the benches of Camp Philips’ soccer field. Photo: Fr. Jboy Gonzales SJ

5. Barangay Dicklum, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon

Two girls walk towards their school carrying flower garlands used for a Philippine cultural dance. Photo: Fr. JBoy Gonzales SJ Two girls walk toward their school carrying flower garlands…

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It’s not only about the urban social media user

An early morning discussion with @iwriteasiwrite and @renguila on Twitter brought to the fore some realizations which have been unnoticed over these past few days of objections against the Cybercrimes Prevention Law of 2012 (Republic Act 10175).

In the middle of our discussion as to why very few offline seemed to be bothered by the implications of the law on freedom of speech, privacy of communication and due process, we threshed out that the effect actually goes beyond the young, urban, middle-class, social media-using demographic. And perhaps the rest of the population (roughly 70%) are not bothered because there has been little effort to make them see how the law might affect their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights.

For those who may not know, there have been several groups in the Philippines which also use social media to advance land rights and agrarian reform. And in the process of advancing these rights, it is inevitable that some of the materials that they post online as updates of their struggle, would ruffle the feathers of some local politicians and bosses in the multinational companies which encroach upon their land.

Take for example the case of indigenous communities in Luzon and Mindanao. Indigenous groups like the Koalisyon ng Katutubong Kasamahan sa Pilipinas or KASAPI have been actively engaged in capacity building of indigenous communities in the effort to protect their ancestral domain against encroaching by mining, logging firms and even real estate and golf course developers.

In the face of ineffective enforcement of laws relating to the protection of ancestral domain, KASAPI, aided by groups like the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development  or PAFID, have used technology and the internet to document and register their ancestral domain with the Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas, in the hopes that international recognition will better protect their ancestral domain.

In agrarian reform, groups like Task Force Mapalad regularly post updates on land acquisition cases and claims that their farmer-members are working on in various parts of the country. TFM has been involved in several bloody confrontations with armed groups of rich landowners who refuse to honor the land rights given by the government to farmers. They use social media to bring the incidents to the attention of the media and general public.

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Thank you Papa, Mama, Sorene and Abe!

I got this from my family in Cagayan de Oro last Friday. It was delivered to the office in the afternoon. My Mama told me that she specifically asked LBC to have it delivered that day. And aside from it being my special day. It was supposed to have food so the contents are perishables.


Later, when I arrived at the house, I opened the package and saw among its contents, a couple of shirt from Hong Kong bought by my sister from her recent trip; a couple of boxes of Pastels, a coupld of boxes of krinkles and a pack of dried mango candies.

Thank you very much Papa, Mama, Sorene and Abe! Your package has made my day more special and less melancholic being that I am far from all of you. I will cherish these gifts though they may be consumed in a few days freom their arrival. But the memory of them being sent is enough to make me feel loved and thought of.

I will see all of you soon! Love you all.

Ignorance is boring. And it ain’t cute.

Before I left for the office this morning, I saw a news story where a reporter went around doing MOTS (man-on-the-street) interviews with random persons she bumped into. And with each one of them, she asked if they remember what happened back in January 20, 2001 or February 25, 1986.

Some were quick to say they didn’t know. Others evaded the questions and went about their way. And others gave answers with a hint of not being sure about it. A few were able to give the right answers.

My attention though was caught by a guy wearing a National Geographic Earth Day Run shirt. Unlike the others, he didn’t answer the reporter immediately. Instead, the guy seemed to enjoy the camera time while laughing at himself for not being able to find the answers in his head. And then he relented.

Funny as it may seem, among the best-selling National Geographic shirts last year was one with the line: Ignorance is boring. And true enough, the guy did look boring despite his laughter and seemingly nonchalant behavior. He probably thought it was cute. It wasn’t.

I guess that’s the problem with some of us Filipinos. Instead of working on our lack of knowledge on certain things, we tend to just laugh it off (and remain ignorant). And despite our lack of knowledge on certain things, we tend to be very boisterous, attracting attention from everyone around us. But when confronted, we are reduced to what we really are: ignorant. And that’s where even the loudest laughter and the most desperate jokes end up boring. And again, it ain’t cute.

Rest in peace Pads!

I attended mass at the Loyola House last night. It was for my grade school principal. He had passed on to the other life last January 2. He was buried today, but since it’s not easy getting a leave after you’ve had so many, I decided to attend the last evening mass before the funeral rites.

Fr. Jorge Hofileña, SJ was the principal of Xavier University Grade School in Cagayan de Oro for the whole duration of my elementary education. And he would not just be my principal, but he would also be my mentor and my friend.

I first met Fr. Jorge when my mother brought me for admission at the grade school. By this time, I had already finished nursery and two years of kindergarten at the local public school. Since I was enrolled a year before the usual, I applied for first grade at Xavier when I was still 6 years old.

Back then, there was a practice of separating the ones old enough for first grade and those who need to repeat Kinder II. And it was asking the student to use his right hand to reach his left ear with the hand passing over his head. If the student has difficulty reaching it, he is asked to repeat kindergarten. If not, then he goes on to first grade.

When it was my turn to face Fr. Jorge, he asked me to do the same, and so I did. But being that I was actually still 6 when first graders are supposed to be 7, I could not reach my ear. And so he told me, “you need to repeat Kinder II.” And so I enrolled as a kindergarten student at Xavier and not as a first grader.

I don’t know if there’s a scientific reason behind the practice, but I just dismissed the practice afterwards. I would later learn to appreciate what Fr. Jorge did everytime I graduated from an academic level at the Ateneo. I always had an award I can count on because of his decision, since the loyalty awards at the grade school required seven years; the high school, eleven; and in college, at least fifteen.

Last night, I heard from former Assistant Principal Flerida Nery, that Fr. Jorge back then always told the grade school faculty and staff that they should never scold the students. And instead of getting angry everytime a student does something wrong, they are supposed to talk to them and explain what they have done.

And this brought back an incident back then in fifth grade. Being that ours was an all-boys school, we all had our mischievous sides. And one of those moments where mine would manifest was when we played around with the flagpole at the quadrangle.

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The Longest December Day

I had been warning my family since Thursday about the possibility of another typhoon hitting Northern Mindanao. I gathered from news reports that Sendong (Washi) was on its way to the southern part of the country.

By Friday 1AM (For those who do not know, we are an insomniac family), my mother sent me a message saying:

Ok ra Ya, wla lagi ulan diri, maayo nlang wla ko nilarga to Butuan kay naa bagyo

It’s okay, it’s not raining here. It’s good that I didn’t push through with the trip to Butuan, especially since there’s a storm coming.

Mama had originally planned to leave for Butuan and get the remaining things she left there after closing down a branch of our family business. And she also visits Butuan from time to time because my aunt lives in Caraga region’s capital.

For those also unfamiliar with Mindanao’s routinary weather, Butuan, as the rest of Caraga, is usually the first part which is hit by fury of storms coming in from the Pacific. And we all thought that Sendong would hit Butuan instead of Cagayan de Oro.

Still, I kept monitoring the developments in CDO at the same time contacting my family for updates on the ground (which are more reliable than Manila-based newscasts).

At 3PM, Mama texted me again;

Ya, karon gaulan, dag-um kaayo, unya pa daw kusog rainfall, ampo lang ta dili mubaha. Hinuon naa naman ang Strada nga makalabang dayon mmi. Ikaw, musta diha? 

It is raining here with dark clouds hanging. They say we will have heavir rainfall later. Let’s pray there’d be no flood. If it does, at least we have the Strada which would allow us to ford the waters. How about you? How are things there?

Since the university where I am working was celebrating it’s annual pre-Christmas celebrations and my job entails that I make sure there are pictures and these pictures circulate the net, I told my mom that I was busy at the moment. But I told her to contact me in case something bad happens.

I was still in the office by 12 midnight, when my mom sent me another text message. She texted…

Ya, niulan na diri kusog2, ug hangin pod. Brown-out ra ba, wla ko natulog kay gamonitor ko, basin musaka suba, giapas namo sorene sa Ketkai nghost SALE, baha na didto. c Papa ngbiyahe Tangub, wla pa ngtxt nakaabot na ba. Ikaw? kamusta diha?

It is raining heavily here, and with strong winds. There is a partial black out that’s why I decided not to sleep and instead listen to the news. The waters of the (Iponan) river might rise. We fetched Sorene (my sister) at Limketkai Mall where she was hosting a program for the mall sale.It’s already flooding there. Your father left for Tangub (Misamis Oriental) and he hasn’t texted yet if he’s already there. How about you? How are you?

An hour later, my brother texted me

Kuya, wala nay kuryente entire CDO. Kusog kaayo ang ulan Kami Ma ug Ate naa diri balay. Wala mi natulog ga-monitor mi. Baha na sa Burgos, Balulang, Carmen Acacia, Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman. Okay ra mi ya, anad naman ko ug baha.

The entire CDO has a black out. The rain very strong. I am with Mama and Soren here at the house. We did not sleep since we are monitoring the situation. Burgos (street); (Barangay) Balulang; (Barangay) Carmen, Acacia (street); (Barangay) Macanhan, Gusa and Cugman: are now flooded. We’re okay since I have gotten used to floods

My brother’s last line recalled how in January 2009, my family also evacuated the house after days of continuous rain made the Iponan River (which is 50 meters aways from our house) burst its banks. A month before that (December 2008), my aunt and cousins also evacuated their house in Barangay Macasandig after the waters from the Cagayan River (which was about 100 meters away) flooded the area. 

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