Mona Lisa y Rosa Mia


Taga-Bulans can’t help but sing Nat King Cole’s song every time they talk about our public hospital in Pawa.


    Almost always they chorus:


Many dreams have been brought to your doorstep. They just lie there, and they die there!

Are you warm? Are you real, Mona Lisa?

Or just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art?


    Ironically, however, Bulan’s general hospital is far from being a “lovely work of art”, cold during the Christmas season and unbearably warm in summer.


    And if that is not enough to send chills down your spine, most of the emergency patients brought to its doorstep don’t get proper medical attention, they just lie there, and yes, they die there!


    Last year (December 3, 2007), for instance, a “not-so-discreet” love triangle ended in a bloody confrontation between a jealous lover and an Indian national inside Bulan’s One Concepcion lodging house, along the town’s business center. The Indian national was attacked inside the motel room while he and his 25-year old mistress were about to begin their sexual congress.


    The “jealous” lover reportedly barged into the room, armed with a knife, and brutally stabbed the Indian national several times before turning to the woman who was taking a bath. The woman frantically fled the motel naked, after she, too, was fatally wounded by the assailant. She negotiated the steep stairwell of the lodging house and collapsed at the side walk of de Castro St. (formerly Disky Boulevard), where she and her Indian lover were rushed to the Pantaleon Gotladera Memorial Hospital in Pawa.


    At the hospital, no physician was on duty. Only nurses were there to attend to the victims. There were not a single emergency facility in the “operating room” or even much-needed medicial supplies.


    The hapless Indian national expired without receiving any medical attention or anything to ease his trauma except for the medical staff’s checking the victim’s blood pressure.


    During police investigation, however, a suspicious “twist” of events attended the “love triangle” angle.


    According to initial police investigation reports, Ana Gipit (the supposed victim of the Indian national) confessed to police investigators SPO1 Edgar Calupit and SPO1 Maricel Gelilio that she (Gipit) was the one who stabbed Raji Want Singh for allegedly attempting to rape her inside the Concepcion Lodging House. Another report, however, claims that Singh was a sadist who derives sexual pleasure by wounding his partner Gipit who, in turn, grabbed the fan knife (balisong) from Singh and killed the latter.


    With these reports, the angle of a “love triangle” is conveniently eliminated, but for whose convenience, friends sympathetic to Singh could only speculate.


    But more than this “crime thriller” is the present state of Bulan’s Pantaleon Gotladera General Hospital (named after the late mayor Gotladera) – a deplorable state that the de Castro administration would rather sweep under the rug than help improve it.


    Every time the hospital’s condition is talked about Mayor de Castro’s ready-made-alibi is that “the LGU of Bulan is not responsible for its maintenance” since it is a “district hospital” and therefore under the care of the provincial government.


    Para ba’ng, “wala-akong –pakialam-d’yan-di-ko-naman-sakop-‘yan,-eh” na attitude, no?


    Such an attitude is somewhat expected from uncaring public officials. But Rosa de Castro’s recent pronouncement over the radio (on Imbing Asuncion’s Radyo Patrol Bulan last Friday, May 9, 2008) about the same “uncaring” attitude of the ongoing margaha or magnetite quarrying in the beaches of Bulan raises the eyebrows of Taga-Bulans.


    Rosa said, her office does not know anything about the operation of Cesar Detera’s Alexandra Mining since it (Alexandra) is engage in small scale mining which only the provincial government is involved in issuing mining permits.


    Whew! Pwede na talaga pang Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not” ini si May!


    Kun an mga makaluluoy ngani na para tinda sin gulay sa relansi diri nira pipatawad sa pagsukot sin bayad para magtinda sin tinumpok na gaway o kamote, mao pa ada an milyun-milyon na negosyo sin paghakot san saato baybay pakadto sa China an diri nira sukuton sin bayad?


    I leave this to you to ponder. I will be back next week for more updates on our Crusade for Good Government.



Bulan’s “Blood” Sand


     Weeks ago, incessant rains claim at least 20 lives and left over a thousand families homeless in Bulan’s adjacent towns of Magallanes and Juban as well as barangay San Roque, Bulusan. A great mass of earth denuded by loggers (I’m not sure if they are “illegal” loggers since both the laws of rebel NPA and infidel PNP tolerate rape of our forests) collapsed and buried the Barangays of Incarisan in Magallanes, and certain barangays of Juban.


    In Bulan, barangays San Vicente and Managa-naga, flood waters rose to a record high of at least 4 feet deep. The “elite” Immaculate Conception subdivision (built along historic Banuang Daan River) was practically underwater when the continuous rains of February rose to a little less than 5 feet deep eroding the river bank together with the several houses built alongside.


    The same was true with the over-rated Villa Las Palmas subdivision which looked like a lagoon after heavy rains poured over the province. The Villa Las Palmas experience, however, was not a surprise to many. The area is a natural catch-basin for Sta. Remedios rainwaters and the nearby Calomagon and San Juan highlands. Many even wondered why this place was converted into subdivision when even on ordinary days the area is easily flooded due to its low location.


    Heaven forbid! But Bulan may just be another disaster-stricken town at the rate our coastline is being shaved-off of our precious margaha sand.


    Incidentally, Fr. Josefino Bayto Chavenia or Fr. Chubby (pronounced “Choo-by”)’s first death anniversary was remembered last March 9, 2008. That day fell on a Sunday the Gospel of which is about death and resurrection – a coincidence that seemed to tell us what Fr. Chubby died for: standing up for what is right even if it meant losing his life.


    Fr. Chubby knew he has a failing heart. But this he kept from those he loves. Having a heart ailment for years already, he did not talk about it. It did not even stop him from joining, nay leading, his parishioners to a “heart-straining” rally to protest the reopening of the Lafayette Mining operations in Rapu-Rapu, Albay.


    That year, March 9, 2007, Fr. Chubby braved the long march around Sorsogon’s capital. He marched with the farmers, the poor, the lay people and Sorsogon’s professionals. Sadly though, along with Fr. Chubby’s death so was Sorsogon’s mass actions against what ails our country today.


    Corruption in grand scale abounds. Government leaders with no shame at all parade their loot as though they’ve won it from a lottery. Calls for reform or resignation are continuously ignored.


    Under the scorching heat of last year’s summer sun Father Chubby offered his life – to save our environment from the pillage of greed-driven individuals and their equally greedy partners in government.


    He heeded his bishop’s call to stage a mass action in Sorsogon to protest the ongoing mining by foreign nationals in the island of Rapu-Rapu in Albay. Little did Fr. Chubby know, however, that a much the same pillage of our environment is happening in his own hometown of Bulan.


    Yes, this quiet little town of Bulan is being shipped to China by its very own Papay and Mamay!


    And it happened just when everybody thinks Guiming De Castro bought the town already, because of his “rumalayas na kamo sa Bulan caper”.


    Well, we were all wrong. Guiming and Rosa de Castro are actually selling Bulan, tons by tons – at the expense of our very own safety.


    In late 2006, ALEXANDRA MINING VENTURES purportedly secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to engage in quarrying of magnetite sand along the northern coastal barangays of Bulan, one of which is barangay Namo.


    In one of its operations last year, Alexandra Mining shipped a total of 2,907 metric tons to Jingtang Gang, China on board M.V. “Pine Pia” and the cargo is consigned to one Wong Tai General Merchandize Ltd. of Wan Hai, Hong Kong.


    Sorsogonnews checked the credentials of Alexandra Mining and found it to be holding office at No. 39 Carmel Subdivision, Project 6, Quezon City and, just like Geming’s supposed contractor of the bus terminal, Alexandra Mining is, conveniently, a “single proprietorship” owned by one CESAR ESTAYAN DETERA.


    Magnetite sand is commonly known in Bulan as margaha. The beaches of Pon-od, Inararan up to Danao are covered by this magnetic sand, believed to have been carried by the waves to the shorelines from the sea. Those of us who studied grade school in Bulan must have participated in a science experiment where we discovered margaha’s magnetic qualities. Remember the speckles of margaha “dancing” on top of a sheet of paper as magnet is moved from corner to corner of the paper?


    Articles in the web place the selling price of margaha in Nevada, U.S.A., ranges from $40 to $52 per kilo or Php.1,600 to Php.2,080 per kilo. If you care to compute how much 2,907 metric tons of margaha cost, roughly, it would be P6M. Considering that Alexandra Mining ships margaha to China on the average of 3,000 metric tons per quarter, Bulan would have had earned millions of pesos, too, from fees and taxes levied and assessed from Alexandra Mining.


    But there’s the rub!


    Barangay Namo does not receive a single centavo from Alexandra’s margaha quarrying. The quarry operators even exploit barangay folks and children by paying them a measly pay of 80 centavos for every kilo of black sand they haul from the shorelines to Alexadra’s dump site, some 300 meters away.


     Sorsogonnews also managed to photograph the quarry site and saw that most of Bulan’s heavy equipment service Alexandra Mining’s operation from day one to this day. Had the rental for these equipment, like the backhoe in the picture, been properly charged and collected, Bulan’s coffers would have been enriched by at least P720,000 per quarter.




     A check made with Bulan’s 2008 Annual Budget, however, reveal no such income from an obviously profitable undertaking. In 2006 (the year Alexandra Mining started its operation in Bulan), the municipality of Bulan, under the auspices of Rosa De Castro, reported a measly sum of P479.00 pesos as taxes collected from “sand, gravel and other quarry products”.

    In Rosa’s approved annual budget this year (2008) income estimate for quarrying is unimaginably placed at P20,000 only –  a stark contrast to the annual 24 million pesos Alexandra Mining is profiting from margaha! Pira na milyon an nawawara sa taxes and fees na dapat bayadan san paghakot san margaha pakadto sa China!

    Since Bulan’s heavy equipment are being used, it is also surprising that Bulan has no income estimates for its rentals. Or is it just a scheme to keep us in the dark as to the real income of our municipal government so they can go on with their unhampered misuse of the people’s money?  

    Curiously, Bishop Arturo Bastes of the Diocese of Sorsogon and most of the Sorsogon clergymen who decried the La Fayette Mining in Rapu-Rapu, Albay are all quiet as to this latest environmental fiasco. Bishop Bastes, who practically pushed Fr. Chubby to death with his ephemeral environmental concerns, has suddenly fell deaf and dumb to what’s happening in his Diocese. Or, to say the least, to what Fr. Josefino Chavenia has died for!

    Their eerie silence is truly disturbing, reminiscent of a decadent society lending credence to allegations of bribery reaching the portals of the temple. 

    With neither drums nor trumpets, Fr. Chubby did his “good sheperd” job. He offered his life if only to save his flock from environmental disaster. I just hope he did not die in vain or we will all be heading to eternal damnation. The least we could do now is to “expose society’s wounds to the light” so the culprits may be brought to justice.

     Or margaha could just be Bulan’s “blood” sand.

     Treasure hunters ravished what many considers as a “pristine Pacific paradise” on the eastern coast of Sorsogon’s quiet town of Sta. Magdalena.

     Vicky and Nonong Guyala maintain this beach haven for their family and friends to find solace from frenzied urban life. Despite encouragement to cash-in on the viability of their place as a tourist destination, the couple chose to make “Kubo Blanco” (the name the Guyala’s gave to this place) as exclusive as they could, limiting its use only to close friends. They even refused to alter its natural landscape or introduce any hint of commercialism so as to preserve its local flavor.

     Among the short list of Kubo Blanco’s frequent visitors is a couple from Switzerland, Eduard Neuenschwander, a well-respected architect in Zurich, and his Bulan (Sorsogon, Philippines) – born wife, Menchu Nepomuceno Asuncion.

     Menchu always makes sure she takes a dip into the blue sparkling waters of the beach before she makes a round of her relatives and friends in Bulan. And takes one last dip, before bidding them goodbye every time she returns to Zurich. Eddie, on the other hand, swears to be back whenever “the cold North” starts its heavy toll on him.

     Kubo Blanco also hosts to the annual “Golpeo Summer”, a clan’s traditional reunion by Nonong Guyala’s maternal relatives. It also serves as Bandalaan festival artists’ favorite summer camp and breeding ground for its budding artists. This youth-dominated festival promotes love for mother earth and encourages a return to the many uses of the “bandala” (the local name for abaca-fiber) in everyday life.

     The Guyala couple was so infuriated at the destruction the treasure hunters wrought at their place. They vowed to pursue them in court and hope to send them all to jail.

A Former Mayor Fails to Account P3M Cash

Advances Now in Treasure Hunting

      Alejandro Gamos, Sta. Magdalena (Sorsogon)’s former municipal mayor, busies himself hunting “Gen. Yamashita’s Gold” in the hope that the treasures of World War II commander of the Japanese Forces in the Philippines could bail him out of the financial mess he is in after the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered Gamos’ unauthorized and unliquidated cash advances during its annual audit of the municipal coffers.

      In COA’s Audit Report dated September 18, 2007, State Auditor IV Jose Rey Binamira revealed that Gamos was granted, albeit illegally, Php.3,358,484.94 cash advances in 2006 in the form of “Other Receivables”.

      The state auditor noted that it is illegal for the cash advances to be recorded as “other receivables” when in truth it is an amount “Due from Officers and Employees”. Thus it should be reflected in the books as such. But even worse than this is that PHP.600,000.00 of this more than P3M advances is not even recorded.

      The state auditor also lamented the fact that these cash advances by Gamos were granted to him for no specific legal purpose or justification at all. He said COA Circular No. 97-0002 expressly prohibits granting cash advances to elected officials except for official travel expenses. What the state auditor can not understand is why he (Gamos) was still given cash advances despite his failure to liquidate the previous ones.

      Asked to comment on this apparent irregularity, the municipal accountant of Sta. Magdalena says, Gamos kept on assuring him that the advances will be liquidated. Gamos, according to the municipal accountant, promised to “replenish” his almost P3 million cash advances in September this year.

      It is over a month now since the former mayor promised to settle his cash advances with the local government of Sta. Magdalena. The erstwhile mayor, however, has yet to keep his promise.

      A barrio folk who requested anonymity, however, expressed confidence Gamos could settle his obligation. “The former mayor is into treasure-hunting” together with the mayor of another Sorsogon town, he said.

      The same source revealed that there are at least 10 sites in the town of Sta. Magdalena which are the object of a “massive” search for Yamashita’s treasures. One property owner has already filed a complaint with the office of incumbent mayor Amadeo Gallanosa.

      In his letter-complaint, former Bulan vice mayor Albino Guyala III sought the assistance of the mayor to stop what he termed as “environmental degradation” of his beach property “perpetrated by former mayor and spouses Alejandro and Nida Frilles Gamos, Barangay San Sebastian’s chairman Daniel Formanes, his barangay secretary Alejandro “Kiddy” Garduque, and several John and Peter Does”.

      Guyala also informed Mayor Gallanosa that he is in fact readying both criminal and civil complaints against the said individuals.

      For his part, Mayor Gallanosa ordered the municipality’s chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to investigate the matter and has in fact coordinated with the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to “apprehend”, if necessary, “the persons involved in the (said illegal) activity”.

      Asked whether he believes in this “myth” of the Yamashita treasure, Guyala said, “It is but a myth. Nothing more, nothing less! I know of a friend who was engaged in this same venture in Cagayan Valley. He and his “military” financier both ended up bankrupt.”

      “A lady judge from our town”, he added, “was also into this “expedition”, for more than three years now. They (the people who duped the judge into financing this scam) are still digging with no apparent signs of, even a nugget, of Yamashita’s gold.”

      “I can not blame Gamos for believing in this scam”, says the former vice mayor, “he and his wife’s chances of wresting power back from Tio Mading (Gallanosa) is slowly becoming just like that – a myth. And they probably hope to better these chances by venturing in treasure hunting”.