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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.

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 God Didn’t Make Instant Coffee

   Over breakfast the other day, my wife was so pissed off on the reported “disappearance” of ZTE broadband controversy witness, Rodolfo Lozada, Jr., upon his arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

     She was so disappointed at the way the “wheel of justice” is turning in our country. She said the bad guys seemed to get away with their “evil” schemes while the good guys continue to suffer.

     My wife was complaining at what she termed as “circuitous” process of bringing law breakers to justice. She could not understand why the Supreme Court had to stop the Senate from arresting Secretary Romulo Nery when the Senate merely wanted the NEDA Secretary to appear before the Blue Ribbon Committee and tell everything he knows about the NBN-ZTE deal. I had to explain to my wife that that’s how justice is administered; it’s a slow process of listening to all sides and painstakingly “sifting” every data to come up with convincing evidence.

     I was of course enjoying my usual cup of sinara na kape (brewed “barako” coffee) as I listened to her. Then, as the aroma of coffee filled my nostrils, I said,     

     “You know, Vyks (that’s short for “Vicky”), God did not make instant coffee. He gave us instead a coffee tree to plant, a fruit to harvest, to dry, to roast, to grind. A water to boil, to evaporate, to condense, to drop on roasted coffee, to extract the best tasting beverage from coffee. All these hustle, to perk our every morning that God gave us.”

     I almost lost my lunch that day when my wife told me to start pounding the palay and make some rice!

     In the early Friday morning of February 8, however, we woke up to the angelic confessions of a man who refused to be drowned by the dark. Jun Lozada came out, miraculuously unscathed, with a firm resolve to be with the light! He went on with his confessions to the Senate and bared his soul. Not even Miriam Defensor could becloud the issue with her “credibility testing one, two, three. . ”. Jun Lozada, like the Jedi that he is, spit it all out as though “The Force” was really with him. He came out “with the courage of the truth”, and came out truly triumphant.

     At the breakfast table, my wife quipped again, “That was one quick “brewed coffee”, huh? It all happened in less than 24 hours, from Jun Lozada’s abduction in the airport to his Senate appearance”, then she asked, “Do you think there is a Jun Lozada in Bulan who would finally bring light to the Bulan Bus Terminal scam?”        

    “Nothing is impossible with God,” I retorted.

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    Poetic Justice

    The Webster Dictionary defines “Vexation” as “A feeling of annoyance or irritation”. So that when somebody annoys or irritates another he is said to be “vexing” that person.

      Just before the 2004 Presidential and local elections, Geming De Castro was apparently annoyed by the fact that he was not invited to “deliver” a speech during the coronation of a barangay fiesta queen in Sta. Remedios (Bulan, Sorsogon).

      Perhaps thinking of himself a king, Geming may have developed a sense of dominion over all of TagaBulans and expects all of us to pay our respects to him before we could even decide what to do with our lives.

       Geming, who was then the incumbent mayor, claimed he was embarrassed when instead of inviting him, the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) of Sta.Remedios Elementary School asked another mayoralty candidate, Cesar Boy Gogola to the coronation ceremonies. According to Geming, “for the past six (6) years (he) was always invited to deliver the fiesta message” in Sta. Remedios. The decision, therefore, of the PTA to replace him with Boy Gogola is a politically-motivated scheme and purely aimed at “vexing, annoying and humiliating” him.

      Not wanting others to follow suit, Geming wielded his power. Instead of being vexed he decided to vex the PTA of Sta. Remedios.

      In June 2002, he lodged a criminal complaint for “Unjust Vexation” against public school teacher Ronald Latonero and parent Zenaida Gotladera, ostensibly, for preventing him from delivering his Barangay fiesta message,  to Geming’s “great annoyance and humiliation”. Asked why he singled-out Latonero and Gotladera only, he said the other PTA officers apologized to him already. Whew! Apologize for what? For sparing themselves from his boring speech?

      Still not satisfied with the criminal case, Geming pursued Latonero with another administrative complaint before the Department of Education. He also availed of his influence over Bulan’s Sangguniang Bayan by humiliating Latonero to appear before the legislative body and explain why he (and the PTA officers) did not invite Geming to the barangay fiesta coronation night.

      Luckily for Latonero, the Department of Education dismissed Geming’s complaint against him. As to the Sangguniang Bayan? Well, what do you expect, it acted the way Geming wanted it, deliver the message to Latonero or anyone who messes up with him that “the strong arm” of Geming’s law will always fall on lowly mortals!

      But sweet Lady Justice smiled at Ronald Latonero this week.

      In a 16-page Decision, the Municipal Trial Court of Bulan acquitted Ronald Latonero and parent Zenaida Gotladera of the trumped-up charges brought by Geming De Castro against them.

      Judge Marie Louise Guan-Aragon (remember this equally “sweet-smiling” lady who brought TagaBulans great pride when she held the much-covetted post of National Federation of Kabataang Barangay Chairmen? Yes, she is the acting presiding judge of MTC-Bulan.) cleanly cut Geming’s malicious prosecution of public school teacher Latonero when she wrote:

       “This Court would like to believe that this case was brought about by the election fever (of 2004) that time when emotions were high and when political jealousy was prevalent”.

      Giving more credence to Latonero’s defense than to Geming’s childish bickerings, Judge Guan-Aragon cited in her Decision Latonero’s testimony:

      “Since joining the career service of the Department of Education, I did and has always done my best to be apolitical, or politically neutral.” 

     Latonero said, “If my intention was to favor or follow my father’s (Rudy Latonero) political affiliation, I would certainly have opposed the choice of Cesar Boy Gogola as fiesta guest. My father is affiliated with the Guyala group in Bulan, and not with the Gogolas then it would be politically correct if I invited instead Atty. Redentor Guyala. But I did not do that because politics to me is personal – it ends where my loyalty to my oath begins!”

      Hamak mo suon! A public school teacher thinks and speaks better than a municipal mayor. At least Ronald Latonero knows where his “loyalty to (his) party ends, where (his) loyalty to his country begins”.

           Just in case Geming does not know who said that famous quote, it was his high school alma mater’s namesake, the great Manuel Luis Quezon!

Another One Faces Same Fate

  

De Castro-Backed Liga ng mga Barangay

Prexy Disqualified

By Luis Panelo and Adan Silangan

Bulan, Sorsogon – A government tripartite board of election supervisors (BES) composed of the municipal officer of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG), the election supervisor of the COMELEC and the secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Bulan, disqualified Antonio “Toto” Vytiaco from holding the top post of Bulan’s association of barangay chairmen or the Liga ng mga Barangay (LnB) 6 days after he was elected president of the association and after having garnered 54 votes out of Bulan’s 63 barangays.

      In a decision rendered by the said Board of Election Supervisors this week, Vytiaco was disqualified from holding the position of LnB president “for having been convicted by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude”  declaring, at the same time, Vytiaco’s vice president, Excel Zuñiga, as the new President of the association.

      The decision to disqualify Vytiaco stemmed from a letter-complaint filed by known anti-De Castro barangay chairmen, Permo Evasco of San Isidro, Antonio Boncan of Gate and Rey Loilo of Beguin, questioning the qualification of Vytiaco to run for president of the Liga ng mga Barangay. The triumvirate’s complaint made reference to Vytiaco’s prior conviction by the Bulan Municipal Trial Court for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (B.P. 22) otherwise known as the “anti-bouncing checks” law.

      The “anti-bouncing checks” law is a Marcos vintage law authored by former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza the purpose of which is to discourage the practice of putting in circulation worthless checks that may injure the viability of the banking system which, in turn, may injure the welfare of society and the public interest as well. Since its implementation in 1979, B.P. 22 has successfully curbed the harmful practice by unscrupulous individuals of absconding from their financial obligations by deceiving their victims to accept their bum checks and, once the check is accepted, the issuer eventually runs away from his debt completely.

      Vytiaco, however, expressed optimism that he will prevail over this predicament when he elevates the matter to the Pambansang Liga ng mga Barangay, banking on what he believed as the “decriminalization” of the law (BP 22) in the past decisions rendered by the Supreme Court reclassifying its violation to mere “civil obligation” which, according to Vytiaco’s lawyer, lifts his client’s conviction from the genre of crimes involving moral turpitude.

        In another development, Sangguniang Kabataan federation President-elect Annika Guelas faces the same disqualification with the issuance of an official certification by the National Statistics Office (NSO) of Guelas’ real date of birth to be October 23, 1989 debunking her claim in her certificate of candidacy which is October 31, 1989.

      It will be recalled that the Board of Election Supervisors that took charge of the SK elections dismissed Fernan Briones Frutos’ petition (to disqualify Guelas on her “material misrepresentation” that she is below 18 years old on the day of the SK elections in October 29, 2007) “finding more weight” on Guelas’ xeroxed certificate of live birth than the original copy of her baptismal certificate.

     When Fruto, however, filed his motion to reconsider the Board’s dismissal of his petition, he appended to his motion an NSO authenticated copy of Guelas’ certificate of live birth confirming Fruto’s allegations that Guelas “materially misrepresented” her age to be below 18 years old on the day of the SK elections. With such a development, Guelas is not only facing disqualification from her post as SK federation president, she likewise faces a criminal case for perjury since she lied about her real age when she accomplished her certificate of candidacy and declared the same under oath.

      Sources close to the Frutos, however, deny ever contemplating filing criminal charges against Guelas. “I don’t want to expose her (Guelas) to that kind of public trial. I don’t believe that was Annika’s sole decision. She was just an unwitting tool in the deadly game of politics played by her father and his political benefactors”, Fruto said in the vernacular, “It is unfortunate that grown-ups dipped their fingers on what is concededly an affair restricted to the young. Instead of leading us by good example, these traditional politicians exposed their true color, dark and grim, by showing us how politics should NOT be practiced.”

           Both Vytiaco and Guelas are publicly acknowledged De Castro bets in the recently concluded barangay elections. Ex-mayor Guillermo De Castro has reportedly campaigned for both Vytiaco and Guelas to be elected, not only as municipal federation prexies, he was also gearing them to be Provincial Liga ng mga Barangay and SK Federation presidents, respectively, who will sit as ex-officio members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Sorsogon.

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TagaBulans Unite Against Corruption

     I have to write this piece today to acknowledge the growing readership of sorsogonnews.

      The writers, reporters and I are truly touched by your unexpected outpouring of sentiments toward our beloved town and the indignation you expressed on the abuses hurled on Bulan by its supposed “public servants”.

      One may think that since a taga-Bulan chose to settle for good in the U.S., Zurich, Canada or elsewhere, that he or she no longer cares about what’s happening in his or her hometown. That expatriates cease to be Filipinos or taga-Bulans the moment they change their passports. Your responses to this blog confirm our colleague’s thoughts when he wrote:

      “What is appalling about all these indignities is that it inflicts on all Filipinos indiscriminately. It has a way of bugging us no matter how we ignore it. No matter where we are or who we are.

      “Whether “national pride” or “national embarrassment” there is no way we can avoid its resultant effect. In fact, we can not say “Labas ako dyan, pare. Sila lang naman ang mandaraya.” Or  “Eh, sila lang naman ang gumawa ng kagalak-galak.” 

     “No! When the Filipino nation suffers, all of us suffer because we are the nation. Huwag mo’ng sabihing Kano ka na ngayon at hindi ka na naaapektuhan ng  mga kawalang-hiyaan ng kapwa Pinoy natin. Passport lang ang napalitan sa’yo. Pinoy ka pa rin!” (From Adan Silangan’s Keeping Stock of Our Old Selves”, Sorsogonnews, 14 Sept. 2007)

      Jun Asuncion’s reactions to these blog best exemplifies the unwavering loyalty tagaBulans have to our town. He writes:

      “It is important that we look back to our past, – to those leaders who put the interest of the people first, who sacrificed many things in their lives, even in some cases their very own families for the sake of Bulan,- to ground our political views at present.

      “Our town stands on a solid foundation laid down by many noble and dignified leaders of the past. Now it’s your turn to give tribute to them by being guided by their very own ideals as you go on with your daily political affairs in Bulan.

      “In this way there is this spirit of continuity, thus protecting the town from some people who are there just driven by their selfish intentions. Such people are not rooted in Bulan’s history, dissipated and vicious people, and therefore do not deserve to lead a beautiful town like Bulan.

      “Bulan deserves a bright future.” 

     Or Rudy Bellen who thirst for much-needed infrastructure projects in our town lamenting the snail-paced “development” in Bulan for the past 35 years.

      “(S)ince i left (Bulan) when his uncle (Mayor Luis De Castro) is the incumbent mayor there had been no significant improvement on the life of Bulanons. The only significant development i have seen is the cemented roads (McLane and side streets) of the town proper all the way to Polot. But other than that no other noteworthy development i’ve seen.” 

     Sally, Salve, Marta and Maryjoy (Does that sound like Marco Sison’s song?) almost “ganged-up” on Ms.Universe, when the latter hurled insults on those who were complaining on the way Guiming De Castro treats his wife’s constitituents.

      Enraged by Guiming’s “Rumalayas na kamo sa Bulan caper” Maryjoy, perhaps unknowingly, revealed she’s an EDSA I veteran when she quipped, “(M)aski ngani an mga Marcoses diri kami inpaharale sa Manila san nag-rarally kami with yellow tshirts for NINOY….”.

       While Marta gave us a hint of her “militant” past (Guess ko lang, tabi) with her call, “It is time for Bulan folks to unite and fight for their rights from this oppressive, abusive and corrupt administration.”

      Salve and Ms.Bulan 2007, on the other hand, did not mince their words articulating their indignation, Salve says:

       “Sin-o siya na mapahale saimo, ms. Universe? Sabot mo na tabi an issue didi? Salamatonon kun macharm mo siya na bawion niya an sinabi niya. After all, he doesnt own Bulan. Nobody does! Maski pobrehon na wara sin sadiri na ingud, diri nya pwede pahalion sa bulan. To disagree with any type of governance (official voters & absentee voters) makes up his power – his right to govern sadto na panahon. Thats politics- ms. Universe. Thats life!” 

and Ms.Bulan 2007, simply retorted,

      Ambot sa imo gimming san-o mo nabakal ang Bulan? Gurang ka na. Magisip ka sa insasabi mo.

      But Sally chose the path of the righteous saying,

       “Ms. bulan 2007…ipangadye na lang nato sa Dios si Gimmeng at an kabungto ta na mga Bulanon, na sana wara sin gulo para sa ikakaayad san banwa ta.” 

     Before anyone else, however, Daru, Jhone and Kevin blazed the trail where our readers now tread. They are the “musketeers” that dare speak against the unbridled corruption in Bulan. They fearlessly wrote to sorsogonnews when we were just beginning and made known their feelings to us. 

     When we started our advocacy for a graft-free society in Bulan, we thought our voices will all just be in vain, muted by an uncaring mass of indifference. We almost fell on the trap laid by grafters, believing in their line that “everyone carries a price”. And that nobody cares anymore about elections, since people entrenched in power will always lie, cheat and steal or worse, kill!

      Your responses, however, kept us going. Your notes are truly reassuring, especially on our “low-batt” hours. Every word you write rekindles the daunting spirits in us, lifting us back to what we should really be doing – expose the evil doers and bring them to justice. For that’s what Christmas is really all about, “one not of revelry alone, but of the rebirth of selflessness”, a selflessness that puts our country first over ourselves.

       This season, and the many seasons ahead of us, we hope to read more from you, and speak for those who, can not and will not, dare speak against the excesses of our ‘chosen’ leaders.

       Merry Christmas!

_________

 To Jun Asuncion,

      Thank you for your much-needed encouragements. I really hope to write more about Bulan’s past and the kind of nobility our past government leaders exhibited while in office, among whom is your lolo, the late mayor Adonis Asuncion.

      As you might have seen in the photo in my last article, “Remembering the WWII Generation”, your lolo and mine (Amado Golpeo) and the late mayor Guillermo Latinazo, all became mayor with only one goal, serve the people, serve them well and serve them always.

      I hope to interview your mom, as well as her other siblings, to learn more about your lolo. I was lucky enough to record some of my family’s stories when most of my lolo’s children were still alive. From the scanty information I gathered from them, your Lolo Donis was among my Lolo Mado’s best friends together with mayor Latinazo and the late congressman Norberto Roque. I think it was this closeness that made your Lolo Donis name one of his daughters, Amada, to ‘seal’ his friendship with his friend ‘Amado’ Golpeo.

      Maybe for starters, we can share our families’ stories from time to time and come up with a ‘unified’ version.

      Till then, please keep on reading sorsogonnews and keep on fighting!

                                                                              Nonong Guyala

Bulan SK Federation Elects Over-Age Prexy Amid Protest

by Adan Silangan

      In what observers see as an “obvious attempt” to favor the election of a De Castro-sponsored Sangguniang Kabataan municipal federation president, local governments officer Rico Gaurino ignored bids to disqualify Annika Sherryn Guelas on grounds of misrepresentation about her real age.

      Annika Guelas, daughter of rabid De Castro supporter and incumbent SORECO director Tito Guelas, declared her age to be below 18 years old in her certificate of candidacy claiming her birthday to be October 31, 1989 while her baptismal certificate showed otherwise.

      The fact of her birth, however, is reflected as October 23, 1989 in the baptismal certificate issued by the Parish of the Immaculate Conception of Bulan. Emboldened by this discovery, two of Guelas’ contenders for SK federation president, Lemuel Gerero of Zone 2 and Fernan Fruto of San isidro of the municipality of Bulan, questioned Guelas’ qualifications to run for any position in the SK federation. For his part, Gerero presented to local government officer Gaurino a letter-protest and a copy of Guelas’ baptismal certificate while Fruto filed a formal and sworn (verified) “petition for disqualification” before the said local government officer.

      Instead, however, of giving due course to the disqualification contests brought before him, Gaurino completely ignored the two SK chairmen’s protest and proceeded with the election of Guelas.

      Sinubukan ko po’ng ipa-alala sa kanya (Gaurino) na mayron akong protesta sa edad ni Annika (Guelas) ngunit dali-dali po niya akong pinaupo sabay sabi sa akin na, ‘Bakit ka lumapit dito, hindi naman kita tinatawag?’”, Fruto narrated to Sorsogonnews.

       A municipal employee present during the SK elections but who requested anomymity said, Gaurino based his decision on Guelas’ photocopy of her birth certificate saying she was born on October 31, 1989 and therefore Guelas was below 18 years old when she was elected SK chairman of San Juan Bag’o. Gaurino reportedly confided to this employee that he can not do anything but give credence to the representation of Guelas as to her real age.

      While perusing the petition for disqualification, Gaurino was reportedly overheard consulting someone over the phone saying, “Sir, may petition for disqualification po kasi dito”, followed by “Okay, sir.. okay, sir!”. After the phone conversation, Gaurino carried-on with his business without even informing the SK delegates of the pendency of a disqualification protest against Guelas or even “lifting a finger” to try to resolve the question before proceeding with the election.

      A former SK official who requested anonymity, expressed surprise with the dispatch Gaurino dismissed Gerero and Fruto’s petition for disqualification. He said the local governments officer owe it to the Sangguniang Kabataan delegates to apprise them of the qualifications of those running for SK Federation officers so that they would be guided properly in making their choices. Gaurino should have informed the SK delegates that Guelas’ age qualification is put in question and that there are legal steps that will be followed in settling this dispute. But the more important thing is to let the SK delegates decide whether it is in the best interest of the Federation to elect Guelas.

      “I read the petition and Fruto’s proposed manner of ‘temporarily’ resolving the controversy by requesting the Election Committee to consider votes for Guelas as ‘stray votes’ or at least defer counting votes for Guelas until her true age is settled with finality. The way I understood it”, the ex-SK official continued, “the DILG officer need not resolve it (the disqualification bid) right away. But that the counting of all votes in favor of Guelas be set-aside temporarily and be appreciated only after the disqualification proceedings is terminated. But worse than that, Gaurino did not even inform the SK delegates that Gerero and Fruto are seeking Guelas’ disqualification which unnecessarily revealed Gaurino’s bias in favor of Guelas by keeping mum about the petition to disqualify her.”

      “The DILG officer has no business suppressing the disqualification of Guelas”, another observer said, “he is bound by his oath to obey and execute the laws and all other legal orders without fear or favor. He should have been more circumspect in his actions so as to allay any suspicion of favoritism especially that the SK candidate benefited by his “suppression” of her disqualification is closely identified as a De Castro supporter.”

      Meanwhile, about 20 SK chairmen who learned of DILG’s alleged suppression of the disqualification case against Guelas are planning to call for her resignation to preserve, according to them, the integrity of the Sangguninag Kabataan.

      The SK chairmen elected municipal federation president will sit as ex officio member of Bulan’s Sangguniang Bayan which explains why any incumbent mayor would be interested in electing his ally to the post to fortify his influence over the municipal legislative body. And if the mayor is ambitious enough, he may even sponsor his SK municipal federation president to bid for the provincial federation post and have his representative in the provincial board or the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

      After he or she has qualified as an SK provincial federation president, he or she may again run for the National Federation and be elected national president. 

     Sorsogonnews tried to get the side of local government operations officer Gaurino but his cellphone “could not be reached”.

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Remembering the WWII Generation

          Communication has gone a long way since the invention of papyrus and the ink, far from what our parents had in the past, especially during the Second World War.

      I remember my aunt, the late Araceli Golpeo-Enriquez, who used to tell us her war exploits. She relished telling us how she would pass through Japanese sentries carrying critical intelligence reports from guerrilla units to another, with the Japanese guards hardly knowing what she was doing.

           Better than your memory chip. Asked how she did it, Mama Peteling (as we fondly called her) simply said, “I rolled the paper (where the message was written) so thinly and slipped it through my hair and casually walked pass the guards.”      

           In contrast with the WWII Generation, the wwwgeneration may be hard-put in devising such a scheme with its heavy reliance on the cellular phone and/or the “memory chip” that stores and delivers almost any information we could think of today.

       Come to think of it, our parents (or grandparents) had a much better “memory chip” in their heads than the ones we have on our laptops or ipods. In those days, they had nothing but their guts to fight the onslaught of the foreign invaders. Creativity and an undaunted spirit were their only means of survival.

        This week, the bombing of Pearl Harbor may be remembered as just another day in military history. Today’s www-generation may not remember it at all. But to countless of families in Bulan, December 7, 1941 changed the course of their lives and left them a lasting legacy. The following are excerpts from my notes, “A Family Odyssey“.

        Guerillas in the midst. Amado Golpeo was Sorsogon’s outgoing First Board Member (the equivalent of today’s vice governor) of the Province when the war broke out in 1941. He was only six years old when National Hero Jose Rizal was executed and was barely eight when the Philippines gained independence from Spain. But the seeds of nationalism subconsciously stuck to his heart and blossomed into his own children.

       When Pearl Harbor was bombed, Amado’s eldest son, Benigno, had military training only a few years back. He had trained for almost half a year in Camp Murphy under the compulsory military training program of the National Defense Law. So that as early as November 22, 1941 Benigno was already called to active duty. He immediately reported to the 1st Cadre’s “mobilization center” in Sorsogon under Capt. Edmund Wilkes of the United States Armed Forces in Asia or the USAFFE.  

        Single and still very much into fun and frolic, Benigno was tossed into the war having no inkling of what awaits him. He was 25, enjoying every ounce of his youth. Marriage was far from his mind, muchless, fighting a foreign invader. His only concerns then were his shoes and clothes and the routine of sipping fine liquors with his cronies or the regular visits to known beauties of the town. After all, he was his father’s eldest son and Amado was not without means to support him. benignopierj5.jpg   benignopierj2.jpgbenignopierj2.jpg      Amado was uninterruptedly Presidente Municipal of Bulan, Sorsogon from 1932 to 1937. At the prime of Benigno’s life his father was still well entrenched in government Amado being Sorsogon’s First Board Member, first in 1929 to 1931, then from 1938-1940, interrupted only by the ensuing world war. The family’s comprahan as well as the yields of the rice and coconut plantations sustained most of the Golpeos’ needs.     amadofrendswanttn.jpg 

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          But as soon as the news about the war broke out Benigno had to give up all comforts and fearlessly face whatever enmity war forebodes.

      In war, as in peace, it takes a lot of sacrifice to leave home and loved ones, a lot more of faith to hope to win the struggle and return – a great deal of courage to learn to face the truth.

        Even before Bataan fell in April 1942, the rest of the Golpeo siblings have long learned to face the truth.

      The fight for freedom was not for the combatants alone. Information of the enemies’ movement, weapons and strength were all critical. Intelligence work was far more important than actual combat.

      The Spy he had in mind. At the time Pearl Harbor was attacked, Araceli (Ma Peteling), the fifth of Amado’s brood of eight, was a graduating student of the Sorsogon Provincial High School in the province’s capital town.

       Like any other student, she was eagerly anticipating Christmas and the extended vacations at hand. But the moment she heard of the war, she saw Christmas in a different light – one, not of revelry alone, but of rebirth of selflessness.

       She thought of her brothers Benigno and Saling (former vice governor Absalon Golpeo) who earlier left home to join the army. She remembered her childhood with them. She remembered the time they would spend marveling being ‘heroes’. The boy Saling would insist on confronting the guardia civil with his lastiko (sling shot), Benigno with his bolo, while she would prefer to douse them with a bucket-full of urine.

      When the authorities were forced to close down the schools and graduating students in all levels were deemed graduates, Ma Peteling just thought of doing anything to help fight the Japanese.

     Barely 18, she had nothing but a face of innocence. She was, however, full of vigor, bright, fashionable and genuinely attractive, truly a chipped-away from a precious jewel. To her elder sisters, Manay (my mother Gloria) and Paring (the late Amparo Geronga), she was a frail, helpless teenager whose flamboyance draws risks than safety. But Saling thought otherwise. Her looks and wits perfectly matched the spy he had in mind.

        Soon, Ma Peteling was to become the youngest, and probably the only female guerilla of Bicol.

       Memoirs to the next generation. Just before she died last year (December 6), she handed over to me her “handwritten” account of her exploits as an intelligence operative of the guerilla unit of then Constabulary provincial commander, Lt. Licerio Lapuz. She was initially assigned in Bulan under Lt. Guillermo Gollena to monitor the activities of the invading Japanese at the garrison that they set up in Bulan. To provide herself cover, she set up a store cum coffee shop right beside the Japanese garrison and even befriended Japanese Army officers, Ochoda and Komro. Ma Peteling then ran another store near Bulan’s shorelines when the Japanese transferred their headquarters there. She called the store, the Fisherman’s Inn.

      Her intelligence work was nearly discovered when a Japanese collaborator was killed near her store. The Japanese soldiers raided the Fisherman’s Inn and desperately searched her place looking for guerillas. She knew she had to stay calm despite the Japanese’ blazing eyes and bayonets in hands since she knew that the murder weapon used to kill the collaborator was just lying underneath the fishing net she was sitting on.

      In mid-September 1944, Papa Saling, who was then a Lieutenant under the Lapuz Unit, was assigned to organize a command conference at Tangkong Baka in Camarines Sur. Ma Peteling was one of those who attended that conference. From her own account she recalled:

       “I was with my brother, Lt. Absalon Golpeo, Lt. Rufino Aureus, Lt. Gerona and Lt. Sebastian on our way to Tangkong Baka when we were caught by a storm. We shivered from our soaked garments and could hardly move our feet by morning. But we had to struggle and practically dragged our bodies since we did not want to miss our rendevouz with Lt. Tomas Karingal and Capt. Leon Aureus in Pasacao. In Pasacao, we were treated to boiled mais for breakfast but had to leave quickly for Tangkong Baka.

      “I don’t recall having seen or met a woman guerilla in that command conference. Those who attended were mostly men so that when my name was called, Major Lapuz, who was obviously surprised to find a woman guerilla in their midst, stood up and addressed my brother Saling. He quipped: Golpeo, bakit mo pinayagang sumali ito sa guerilla? Sayang ito kung mahuli ng mga sakang, kawawa naman. But I quickly retorted, Hindi naman ako pahuhuli ng buhay sa kanila, Sir!

       “When the conference was over, we had some sort of a party. We were all jubilant of the news that McArthur was on his way to the Philippines as promised. Major Lapuz then asked me if I wanted anything. Roming (Lt. Romeo Honasan), who perhaps thought Major Lapuz wasn’t serious about it, egged me to ask for ice cream which I readily obliged.

      “Roming and I almost fell on our seats when Major Lapuz ordered Lt. Rufino Aureus and Capt. Bonnevie to go look for ice cream and the poor guys had to take Ia “slow” boat to Naga in search of my ever precious ice cream.

      “Quite interestingly, cavaliers that they were, Lt. Aureus and Capt. Bonnevie came back with a gallon of melted ice cream. Left with no choice and with the prospects of being hit by a Japanese bullet anytime that day, we relished slurping the ice-cream-turned-milk-shake in the wee hours of the morning.” 

     Nipped from the opulent and blithe pre-war period, Ma Peteling had all the reasons to be bitter of the way the ensuing war had robbed her of her youth. But this did not stop her from becoming a hero in her own right. Such a blossoming of nationalism in her is evident in her war memoirs when she wrote:

      “I am now 84 years old and I was barely 18 when war broke out – an age when most teenagers enjoy the best part of their life frolicking in merriment. But young as I was, I was unable to ignore the call to nationalism. I gave my best years of my life serving my people. I lay in rest proud that I have given something of myself to my country – to make the Philippines a much better place to live in.” 

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THE BOMBING OF PEARL HARBOR

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