Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: "Ilustrado," by Miguel Syjuco

By Paul Lee

In a post-colonial parallel reality Philippines; the body of a once-famed Filipino writer was fished out of the Hudson River amidst the backdrop of the September 11, 2001 attacks unravelling tales of triumphs, trials and tribulations. As his student takes stock of his mentor’s life and works in search of his last unpublished novel amidst a string of estranged relationships, the denizens of the blogosphere offer their two cents worth over the otherwise long and colourful life and mysterious death of the author as the harried student pieces together what is left of his mentor’s final work amidst the maddening little universe that is Philippine society. Welcome to the world of "Ilustrado," the much acclaimed debut novel of 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and Palanca Award winner Miguel Syjuco.

Through the life experiences and the writings of the two protagonists, namely the dead author Crispin Salvador and his student assistant Miguel; Syjuco’s novel takes the reader into a trip alternating between both a century and a half of Philippine History and an alternate modern Philippines disturbingly similar to ours.

In the Pinoy universe of "Ilustrado," the unlikely combination of old rich families, irreverent bloggers–cum-Internet trolls as well as migrant workers share an uneasy coexistence with unholy evangelists and crooked politicians amidst a succession of EDSA revolts erupt as the angst of the average Pinoy college-educated petit bourgeoisie clash with both the world of local traditional politics and an otherwise illustrious past through compiled autobiographical snippets, collected essays and anecdotes covering the life of Crispin Salvador. As the title revels on the identities of the protagonists in being Ilustrados or "sosyal" in today’s context; it also points on how they relate to the otherwise dysfunctional world around them. In the case of Crispin and Miguel, they are separated by generations, the former belonging to what seemed like a genteel generation surviving a global war, reconstruction and Martial Law, this in contrast to the rough-and-tumble present world of the Internet, laptops and Starbucks of Miguel’s.

As the absentee protagonist of Ilustrado; Crispin Salvador is a combination of Charles Foster Kane, Leonard Zelig and Forrest Gump, absent yet omnipresent as his life and writings reflect the chaos that is modern Philippine history. Born in the final peacetime years before the Second World War; Crispin lived his life as newspaper columnist, communist guerrilla, overseas Filipino worker, gadfly and ultimately novelist as he vents out his sentiments, insights and frustrations on the Philippines through his selected essays, interviews and travelogues with acerbic pithiness. As with a real-life columnist, Salvador draws on clichéd metaphors for what is wrong with Philippine society; ‘While our fruit is officially the mango arbitrarily mandated by the Americans during the occupation, it is not a long bow to propose the balmibing as the country’s unofficial fruit due it its metaphorical significance.’ went one of his quotes. But it is Syjuco’s literary conceit that sets "Ilustrado" apart; it is magically real even though it is fiction.

(Paul Lee is a freelance writer. He is currently finishing his master's in creative writing at U.P. Diliman).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Diliman Video of the Week: SAVE UPIS!!!!

(Editor's note: This video was produced by UPIS '81 and posted on

UPDATE: Since the Diliman Diary first broke the story in the Diliman Diary (May 26, 2010) quoting Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo as stating that that the UPIS property was the subject of an unsolicited proposal by Ayala Land, Inc to the U.P. Board of Regents to commercialize the property while transferring UPIS to the former Narra Residence Hall; a Facebook Page entitled, "No to Ayala Land, Inc.'s proposal to take over UP Integrated School," has subsequently been formed with 646 members so far.

In the interests of further stimulating democratic discussion and consultation for the BOR, which is an absolute requirement for such projects under Republic Act 9500 or the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, we are reproducing below the Facebook comments:

  • Victor Bernabe We should also alert UPIS Alumni who are now in the reins of government....and those who have retired.... (Friday at 10:03pm)
  • Victor Bernabe any mass actions??? violent objections? black arm band days???? Makibaka huwag matakot! (Friday at 10:01pm)
  • Victor Crisostomo Just an example of what Ayala Land Inc. could do: (Friday at 11:55 a.m.)
  • Ja Dela Cruz sana hindi patapos sa pag pindot lang sa like button nito ang pag tutol natin sa balak ng Ayala Land Inc. sa UPIS. (Friday at 8:51 a.m.)
  • No to Ayala Land, Inc.'s proposal to take over UP Integrated School isumbong natin sila kay soon-to-be VP Jejomar Binay :p (Thursday 6:26 p.m.)
  • Justin Giovanni Ilagan Linatoc TAMA LANG! Tatak UPIS yun eh.(Friday at 3:40 p.m.)
  • Carlo Cielo Good idea. (Friday at 5:02pm)
  • Benjamin Vallejo Jr Any news on what Ayala plans to do with the property? Nagtatanong ang mga UPIS alumni kasi? (Friday at 8:16pm)
  • Jewel Rueda Pastor Tanungin n'yo mga taga CA-EMA kung me pakialam ba talaga si Binay sa UPIS. (Yesterday at 6:27am)
  • Mila D. Aguilar Yan ang tanong: Anong plano nilang gawin doon? At ililipat pa ba ang UPIS? Kung ililipat, saan? (Yesterday at 9:20pm)
  • No to Ayala Land, Inc.'s proposal to take over UP Integrated School ililipat po nila ang UPIS sa Narra residence hall if ever. (10 hours ago)
  • Ac Pascual kung ililipat sa dating spot ng narra ang upis.. e di sagot ng ayala dapat ang pagpapagawa ng school.. materials.. equipments.. etc.. tapos dapat sagutin nila yung mga chairs whiteboard thingys.. ewan ko ba.. (9 hours ago)
  • Smilla Jaspersen hi ac. u mean equipment? singular and plural of 'equipment' is the same (i would hate for others to think we don't know this!:-D).
    in any case, it's hard to judge unless we are privy to all the details of the negotiation. at the heart of it, the issue that must first be addressed is whether UP (and the government!) still feels that UPIS should continue to exist as an institution that provides low-cost, high quality education to the most deserving Filipino kids. if this is still a relevant vision, then all succeeding actions must be aligned to fulfill this vision.

    i've been to narra and it seems smaller compared to the current location of UPIS. to me, that in itself is already a deterioration that is inconsistent with the vision of high quality education. an environment that is conducive to scholarly pursuit is important and shouldn't be ignored (we don't want to turn into a dlsu where everything is cramped inside and outside it's all chaos!). well, that's just the start of it. there are still many issues that need to be seriously considered. but everything has to be aligned from the very beginning. (8 hours ago)
  • Smilla Jaspersen also, i wouldn't want binay to be personally involved. although he's an alumnus, he's hardly a deserving poster boy for UPIS. (8 hours ago)
  • Jewel Rueda Pastor When I was still with UPIS and doing my masters at CMC, one of my profs and a part of the UP admin as well, mentioned that she thinks UP Eduk and UPIS to that effect should be scrapped from the system. She thinks UP could do without these institutions. Looks like her idea is being embraced now by other admin people.
    By the way, instead of saying no to the scheme, why noy being more positive and say what we all want to happen: UPIS Forever? UPIS For Keeps? We Want UPIS to Stay? Quality Education for Filipino Students? There's Nowhere to Go but UPIS! (4 hours ago)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

U.P.'s Staff Regent says "Swiss Challenge" rules will apply to Ayala Land, Inc.'s proposed privatization of the U.P. Integrated School Property

Staff Regent Clodualdo "Buboy" Cabrera
(Source: Facebook page
of Laban PGH Movement)

By Chanda Shahani

It's confirmed. "Swiss Challenge" rules will apply in the evaluation by the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) of the unsolicted proposal by Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) to take over the U.P. Integrated School (UPIS) along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City and transfer UPIS to the now non-operational Narra Residence Hall located inside the U.P. Diliman Campus, also in the same city.

According to U.P. Staff Regent Clodualdo "Buboy" Cabrera, the proposed conversion of the 20 hectare UPIS property was an unsolicited proposal submitted by ALI and discussed as part of the agenda of the May 27, 2010 BOR meeting held at Quezon Hall at U.P. Diliman.

Under the Swiss Challenge system as it is practised in the Philippines (See Diliman Diary, May 26, 2010), the government grants the original project proponent a predefined advantage through a point system in a competitive bidding process. This allows third parties to make better offers or "challenges." The original proponent then has the right to match a superior offer ( 

Cabrera said the proposal was still in its preliminary stages, and thus not enough time had elapsed for other interested competitors to submit their own proposals; given that the BOR was still in the process of evaluating and reacting to the original ALI proposal.

Here are some of the details of the ALI proposal as it currently stands: 
  • ALI is proposing a 25-year lease agreement for the UPIS property
  • U.P. will get 10% of any commercial building lease revenues
  • U.P. will also get 15% of any land lease revenues
  • Total leasable office space areas would equal 12,000 square meters
  • Total gross leasable retail areas would equal 50,000 square meters
  • All told, the entire leasable area under consideration equals 62,000 square meters
  • ALI is proposing an overall compensation package to U.P. of PhP 177 million over the entire 25-year period
Regent Cabrera said that he did the math, and found out that the revenue accruing to U.P. came to a measly PhP 9.00 per square meter per month. The Diliman Diary validated the math by dividing PhP 177 million by 25 years and further dividing the product by 62,000 square meters to get a total compensation of PhP 114.00 per square meter year for U.P. Dividing that figure by 12 to get the monthly figure, we got PhP 9.52 per square meter per month for the coffers of U.P.

By way of comparison, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) accredited properties in Libis, Ortigas and Makati City charge anywhere from a low of PhP 250.00 per square meter per month to a high of PhP 600.00 per square meter per month. If ALI wins the Swiss Challenge, ALI as the building developer, with U.P. concurring, is expected to apply for PEZA accreditation as it has already done so for the the 37.5 hectare North Science and Technology Park, located along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman where the U.P.-Ayala Land Technohub is located. Even the U.P. Ayala Technohub, which is run by the Ayala Foundation, Inc., and located along C.P. Garcia Avenue, enjoys PEZA status.

According to the PEZA website ( PEZA benefits include income tax holidays for up to four years, a special 5% tax on gross income (after the income tax holiday), payment exemptions.. Foreign investors will also be granted a permanent residency status upon initial investment of USD 150,000 to any sustainable, local enterprise. These are particularly attractive to business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, given the proximity to quality graduates from U.P. Diliman and elsewhere which will help drive the need of BPOs for comparatively cheap but skilled knowledge economy-based human resources. Since BPO workers are given comparatively higher starting salaries than their counterparts in other industries, ALI's business model hopes to capture back some of the disposable income spent by call center agents and their bosses by ensuring that there enough restaurants, convenience stores and other retail outlets. This is why a mixed-use site is being envisioned, and not just office spaces.

But the bottom-line, said Regent Cabrera, is that U.P. can do much better than the ALI proposal as it now stands, in terms of revenues obtained by U.P. He said that he is not even in favor a Swiss Challenge as he thinks that the UPIS property can be put to better use by constructing dormitory facilities for students or other essential university structures. In fact, a huge secondary market for bedspaces, apartments, houses, etcetra exists now precisely because of the university's inability to provide safe, decent and affordable housing to the entire population of students who needs this service.

Other critics have criticized U.P.'s decision to mimic the overall outsourcing boom in the country by attracting facilities that cater to the low-end call center and outsourcing market which represents a "dumbing down" of the job offerings being promoted by U.P. to U.P. graduates within U.P.'s vicinity. By way of comparison, India, which is the world leader in outsourcing, has already made the shift from BPO development to Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) development. KPO are processes that demand advanced knowledge, analytical interpretation and technical skills as opposed to BPO work which typically entail standardized routine processes and data entry kind of work or sales or order fulfillment work. Given the high level of capabilities of the typical U.P. graduate, there is clearly a mismatch between the types of jobs being offered and the students' capabilities.

In other developments:

The search process for a new U.P. President to replace U.P. President Emerlinda Roman may be said to have already begun by way of Faculty Regent Judy Taguiwalo's recent submission to the BOR for  a proposal to initiate the search process for a new UP President as President Roman's term ends on February 2011. During the 2004 search, the BOR members were already provided relevant documents related to the search process as early as February 2004, Regent Taguiwalo said in an email message to the Diliman Diary. Based on the search process in 2004, the search for a new U.P. President should commence this June and the election should be in November, she added.

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary. He has a master's in entrepreneurship (M.E.) from the Asian Institute of Management and is a former business page reporter from the Philippine STAR).

U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo is finally granted tenure by the U.P. Board of Regents, ending two years of waiting

U.P. Diliman Professor Sarah Raymundo 

The University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) voted today by a vote of 5 in favor, 2 against and one abstention, granting U.P. Diliman Sociology Professor Sarah Raymundo tenure, ending two years of waiting for the professor, when her department initially recommended her for tenure in February of 2008, and whose latest appeal, dated January 15, 2010 finally reached the BOR. Professor Raymundo's case has gained widespread sympathy, both inside U.P. and internationally.

BOR Chairman Emmanuel Y. Angeles, who was present in the meeting, did not vote. The new Student Regent, Cori Alessa Co, who took her oath of office today, and  replaced outgoing Student Regent Charisse Bañez was able to vote; thus restoring student representation to the BOR, as Ms. Bañez was disallowed by the U.P. Administration from voting ever since December 18, 2009 (See Diliman Diary, February 25, 2010:

The Diliman Diary observed Regent Abraham Sarmiento and Regent Nelia Gonzales exiting Quezon Hall in U.P. Diliman after the meeting. The total number of regents present in the May 27, 2010 BOR meeting were nine (9) regents, including  U.P. President Emerlinda Roman and BOR Chairman Emmanuel Angeles. There are eleven (11) regents in the BOR. However, Regent Francis Chua left before the voting began, while Rep. Cynthia Villar, representing the House of Representatives sent in a written vote, and Senator Mar Roxas, representing the Senate, did not attend or send in any vote at all.

(Faculty Regent Taguiwalo. Source: 
Facebook page of Laban PGH Movement)

The basis of the BOR decision was a motion made last January 29, 2010 by Faculty Regent Taguiwalo which was tagged by her to the Diliman Diary and which we are reproducing below in full:

"On the appeal for tenure of Prof. Sarah Raymundo

Judy M. Taguiwalo
Faculty Regent
January 29, 2010

As the Faculty Regent my mandate is to represent the faculty, both tenured and untenured, of the University at the Board of Regents.

Prof. Raymundo’s appeal has ramifications vis a vis the parameters of the right of tenured faculty to make judgment on tenure application and the right of untenured faculty members to expect fairness and justice in the tenure process and decisions. In studying the appeal for tenure of Prof. Sarah Raymundo, I am guided by the existing policies approved by the University at various levels and previous decisions made by the Board.

According to the document "Shaping Our Institutional Future: A Statement on Faculty Tenure, Rank and Promotion" (OVPAA, 2004), there are two rights at stake in considering appeals regarding the non-award of tenure, to wit, "the right of tenured colleagues to make a qualitative judgment on the candidate's performance and record and the right of temporary faculty to expect fairness, both in the process by which the tenure decision is reached and in the substance of that decision. The appeal procedure should take into account both these rights." The same document states that the consideration of tenure should be made "solely on academic grounds" and that the use of any other criteria may lead to a "violation of academic freedom" (I.F.4.a).

The UP Diliman University Council in December 15, 2008 upheld the right of all untenured faculty to be informed upon employment of the criteria for their evaluation and to be evaluated on the basis of these criteria. The UPD UC also spelled out the elements of transparency in the tenure process.

The primacy of academic standards as basis for the grant of tenure is affirmed by the Board of Regents’ decision on the case of Lorraine Carlos Salazar. In the BOR meeting of January 27, 2005 the Board reviewed the case of Prof. Salazar and decided that:

Taking note of the department’s definition of collegiality as explained by Prof Noel Morada, Department Chair, in his letter to President Nemenzo, the Board asked about the weight given to collegiality vis-à-vis Prof. Salazar’s academic credentials (e.g. PhD, international publications). The Board was not satisfied with the department’s argument that the best, though, implicit, measure of collegiality is the confidence vote of two-thirds of the tenured faculty. Since the basis of the vote is not explained in the letter, the Board could only conclude that collegiality outweighed academic credentials. The Board maintained that academic credentials should not be ignored.

Why should the BOR intervene on this matter?

As a young UP faculty member, Prof. Raymundo has spent the past nine years serving the university well and has worked hard to fulfill all the requirements for tenure . The justification provided by the Department of Sociology in April 2008 recognizes Prof. Raymundo’s academic qualifications and in fact, the Department approved her promotion from Assistant Professor 1 to Assistant Professor 2 in June 2008.

After initially providing strong justification for the recommendation to grant tenure to Prof. Raymundo, the majority of the tenured faculty of the Department of Sociology then decided to deny the grant of tenure without providing any reason. In a past case, the BOR had overruled a similar refusal by the Political Science department to grant tenure because the Board deemed the reason given (in that case "lack of collegiality") unacceptable as basis for withholding tenure to one who is otherwise duly qualified. If the BOR can pass upon the acceptability of a reason given to withhold tenure, it must pass upon the unacceptability of no reason being given for a similar act. Otherwise, the BOR is telling departments that the way to avoid BOR oversight and intervention is to simply decide without any declared reason. This gives permission for departments to become whimsical and arbitrary in their decisions on the grant of tenure to faculty.

In pursuit of the appeals process, Prof. Raymundo appeals to the University President who denies her appeal by simply asking the department to vote again and to treat the negative vote result as basis for denying the appeal, again without seeking to determine the substantive reasons for the vote. If the appeal process does nothing to determine and weigh the substantive basis for the action being appealed and instead simply repeats the action, for what purpose do we have an appeals process? Is it merely to torture the affected party with the repetition of the act being appealed?

I am thus requesting my colleagues in the Board of Regents to support the following:

• Declare as a matter of policy that the absence of any reason to deny tenure from a temporary faculty who has otherwise met the declared requirements for tenure is not an acceptable exercise of departmental autonomy that should be uncritically respected.

• Given the lack of any substantive reason declared to deny tenure in this case from the original process as well as from the appeals process and given that Prof. Raymundo met the requirements for tenure, grant the appeal for tenure of Prof. Raymundo."

However, Faculty Regent Taguiwalo told the Diliman Diary that dissenting members of the Sociology Department are expected to file a motion for reconsideration to the BOR pleading that Professor Raymundo not be granted tenure. The next meeting of the BOR is scheduled for June 2, 2010.

Outgoing Student Regent Charisse B. Bañez
(Source: Facebook page of Laban PGH Movement)

The new Student Regent Cori Alessa Co
takes her oath of office before Regent
Sarmiento, President Roman and her mother.
 (Source: Faculty Regent  Taguiwalo)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ayala Land, Inc. proposes to take over U.P. Integrated School. Is a "monopsony" in the offing?

In this satellite picture, Narra Residence Hall and U.P.
Integrated School (left and right of Katipunan Avenue)

By Chanda Shahani

The University of the Philippines (U.P.) Board of Regents (BOR) meeting scheduled for May 27, 2010 will include an unsolicited proposal by Ayala Land, Inc. to lease the current U.P. Integrated School (UPIS) site for "commercial and academic purposes" and to transfer UPIS to the current location of the former Narra Residence Hall.

This according to an email message sent on May 26, 2010 to this writer by U.P. Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo. The UPIS property is located along Katipunan Avenue while Narra Residence Hall is located inside the U.P. campus proper. Narra was already abandoned in October of 2007 due to its deteriorating condition before a fire hit its east wing in January of 2008.

If the BOR favourably entertains Ayala Land, Inc.'s unsolicited proposal without giving competing parties a fair chance to bid for the same project, then U.P., which is a government entity, is setting itself up to be in open violation yet again of current Philippine government practices for unsolicited bid proposals which allow for a "Swiss Challenge" to take place. U.P. will also be on the fast track to granting Ayala Land, Inc., a virtual "monopsony" to commercialize choice U.P. System properties which would allow Ayala to dictate its own terms to U.P.'s and therefore the taxpayer's disadvantage, creating a buyer's market or an auction with Ayala as the sole participant.

Under the Swiss Challenge system as it is practised in the Philippines, the government grants the original project proponent a predefined advantage through a point system in a competitive bidding process. This allows third parties to make better offers or "challenges." The original proponent then has the right to match a superior offer (

Executives from Ayala Land Inc. headed by ALI Chairman
Fernando Zobel de Ayala together with the UP BOR Chair
Emmanuel Angeles and UP President Emerlinda Roman at
the U.P.-Ayala Land Technohub

One prominent example of  a successful Swiss Challenge was the original proposal for the construction of a third terminal in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which was proposed by Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation (AEDP). AEDP eventually lost the bid to PairCargo and its partner Fraport AG of Germany, who went on to begin construction of the terminal under the administration of former President Joseph Estrada in 1998; although President Gloria M. Arroyo later ordered the contract scuttled for being "onerous" (

But it is the U.P. Administration's constant choice of Ayala as a partner in developing its vast tracts of real estate properties that has lead observers to say that Ayala is now enjoying a virtual "monopsony" in its dealings with the entire U.P. System, leading to fears that U.P. may not be able to wrangle the best possible deal if it had a variety of competitors to choose from.

In economics, a monopsony is a market form in which only one buyer faces many sellers. It is an example of imperfect competition, similar to a monopoly, in which only one seller faces many buyers. As the only purchaser of a good or service, the "monopsonist" may dictate terms to its suppliers in the same manner that a monopolist controls the market for its buyers (

Ayala's stranglehold over U.P. in terms of the number of projects it already is implementing with the premier state university may grant it unwarranted clout with the U.P. Administration, as U.P. technocrats bend over backwards to grant this real estate developer even more accomodations.

For example, the Ayala Foundation, Inc. currently manages and runs the U.P. Ayala Technopark which comprises 5 hectares. According to the U.P. System website (, U.P. and Ayala Foundation, Inc. grossed PhP 3 million from 2001 to 2004 which essentially amounts to a gross income (before profit sharing with Ayala Foundation, Inc.) of a mere two pesos or PhP 2.00 per square meter per year. U.P. only gets 60% of the gross income under this arrangement.

U.P. also leases out  the 37.5 hectare North Science and Technology Park, located along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman where the U.P.-Ayala Land Technohub is located. U.P. also signed a memorandum of agreement last April, 2010 by and between the U.P. Visayas Cebu College (UPVCC) and the Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI) to establish the U.P. Visayas Cebu College (UPVCC) Technology Business Incubator (TBI) (

The TBI facility will boost the creation of new high technology businesses and industries, while providing an environment where scientists, engineers, faculty members, technology innovators, along the same lines that the Ayala Foundation operates the U.P. Ayala Technopark in Diliman. It could also bethe tip of the spear for future Ayala Land, Inc. development of other vast tracts of U.P. properties in the Visayas and Mindanao, leading to a virtual "monopsony" for one corporation, without diversifying and allowing for other proposals to enter the fray, allowing U.P. to pick and choose which are the most advantageous to the University.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has previously criticized the U.P. Administration for its lack of transparency in a contract signed on June 18, 2009, for the UP PGH Faculty Medical Arts Building (FMAB) Project by President Emerlinda Roman and Dr. Edwin Mercado, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Daniel Mercado Medical Center (DMMC) to privatize portions of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and to construct the FMAB.

In a legal opinion the DOJ said RA 9500 or the University of the Philippine Charter of 2008 requires that any large plan to commercial U.P. assets must protect U.P. "from undue influence and control of commercial interests" and that it should be "approved by the Board subject to a transparent and democratic process of consultation with the constituents of the national university."

Recent protests by the Laban PGH movement, which is made up of U.P. College of Medicine Faculty, staff and students indicate that there was not enough -  if any - consultation for the FMAB project as it is currently defined in the final signed contract. Critics say that the project, while beneficial in some respects, would nevertheless still hurt the essential constituents of U.P. PGH, who are the disadvantaged poor, by siphoning away much-needed income needed by PGH for its programs and benefitting DMMC instead (Please see Diliman Diary, March 3, 2010 at

In the case of UPIS, the satellite picture embedded above would show that UPIS would be giving up much more real estate than it would receive in return (the former Narra Residence Hall). Additionally, RA 9500 would require that there be a transparent and democratic process of consultation which would also require asking if U.P.'s and therefore the taxpayer's interests are being adequately served if enters into yet another binding contract with Ayala Land, Inc., in order to avoid creating a situation best described by the word, "monopsony."

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mass action to protest May 27, 2010 University of the Philippines Board of Regents meeting

A mass action is expected by the All U.P. Workers Union and the Laban PGH Movement and other groups this May 27 at 8 a.m. at Quezon Hall, U.P. Diliman to protest the U.P. Board of Regents meeting, according to U.P. Issues The agenda includes: Annual promotions, rice subsidy for employees, an equitable "sagad" award, large class policy, job security issues related to the case of U.P. Diliman Professor Sarah Raymundo and Mr. Freddie Sambrano, President of the All-U.P. Workers Union, U.P. Los Banos Chapter.

Third Hand Smoke: An invisible enemy

By Lulu Dumlao

Wena (not her real name), 24 is a self confessed heavy smoker. She got pregnant when she was 21 and decided to quit smoking because she knew that it would bring harm to the baby in her womb.

But after Miggy (not his real name), now 3 years old, was born, Wena admitted that she missed the taste of cigarettes. “I wasn’t able to control myself, so I started smoking again. But only outside the house." Wena said that she is familiar with second hand smoking that is why she never smokes when Miggy is around. But she also admitted that she has not heard about third hand smoke.

We are all familiar with the effects of cigarettes to those who smoke. Also, it is known to us that even non-smokers are gravely affected by inhaling the smoke that came from lit cigarettes. But unlike first hand and second hand smoking, third hand smoke occurs after a smoker puts out his/her cigarette.

What is Third Hand Smoke?

Third hand smoke is the invisible toxic brew of residue left on long after the cigarette has been extinguished. It usually sticks on people’s hair, skin, and clothes. Third hand smoke also lingers on floors, wallpapers, carpets, furniture, et cetera. When you enter a room, elevator, hall or any confined space and smelled a faint scent of cigarette, that’s third hand smoke.

According to studies made in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, burning tobacco releases vapors of nicotine that can be easily absorbed by indoor surfaces. Nicotine can stay on those surfaces for days, weeks and even months.

Scientists have been aware that when tobacco smoke sticks to surfaces, it may have reactions to some chemicals. But they may have overlooked the possibility that residual smoke components may have reactions with the molecules in the air and can be harmful pollutants. After further experimentations about the said possibility, chemists in Berkeley Laboratory found out that cigarette smoke reacts with one chemical—nitrous acid.

The reaction of cigarette smoke with nitrous acid forms carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines or TSNAs. TSNAs are abundantly carcinogenic and individuals exposed to it are at a higher risk of having cancer.

Hazards of Third Hand Smoke on Babies

Surely, parents would never smoke in front of their babies; they are surely familiar with the dangers of second hand smoking. But these parents may take cigarette breaks during office hours or after a meal at home. Even if they limit smoking outside their houses, the possibility of bringing harmful toxins home does not slide down. TSNAs stick onto the hair, skin, and clothes of these parents. And when they cuddle their babies—is when the real harm begins.

Children are more susceptible to the harm of third hand smoke than adults. Babies and toddlers still crawl and they like putting things inside their mouths, making them more exposed to TSNAs stuck on the floor, furniture, and other things inside their houses. Also, due to the small size of babies they are at a higher risk of getting sick.

According to Dr. Henry Laforteza, a pediatrician, the immune system of a baby is still immature and it may mistake smoke components for harmful germs and attack them; an inflammatory process that causes bronchitis or asthma, begins. The other harmful components of third hand smoke may interfere to the development of a baby’s nervous system. And since babies will be exposed to carcinogens in such an early age, their risk of getting cancer is increased.

Keep Your Kids Safe

After some explanations about third hand smoke, Wena realized that it might be the reason why Miggy always gets coughs. She admitted that she did not realize that even if Miggy is not exposed to cigarette smoke, he can still be harmed. She promised to herself that even if it is difficult to let go of her vice, she will do it for her little boy.

The best way to avoid the harmful effects of smoking is to quit. Especially to those people who have kids in their homes. Parents should also always put in mind that even if cigarette smoke is not visible, the harmful chemicals from it can just be in the surfaces inside their homes. To keep the kids safe, parents should keep their houses and vehicles free from tobacco smoke. Smoking should never be an option for parents. And there is no such thing as worry-free or guilt-free smoking. For babies, third hand smoke is definitely dangerous; especially the harmful substance is invisible. Parents, always guarantee that you are smoke-free. You never know, third hand smoke might just be stuck on your hair, skin, or clothes.

(Lulu Dumlao is a freelance writer. She is currently enrolled at the BS Development Communication program, Major in Development Journalism at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Diliman Video of the Week: Breakfast with Lolo

This is the Winner of the 2009 Microcinema Film Festival Jury Selection (Narrative). An apo (grandson) bonds with his diabetic Lolo (grandpa) over stolen moments involving pancakes but implemented with panache, tenderness and love. To see this video, please click on this link:

Arizona State University's International Institute for Species Exploration names Top 10 New Species for 2010, includes Palawan's Attenborough's Pitcher

Carnivorous sponge from Palawan, Minnow with fangs, Golden orb spider and make the 2010 list for new species; Scientists issue SOS

(Carnivorous sponge from Palawan)

The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University (ASU) and an international committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification – yesterday announced the top 10 new species described in 2009.

On the list are a charismatic plant from Palawan, Philippines that produces insect-trapping pitchers the size of an American football, a minnow with fangs, and a golden orb spider. The top 10 new species also include a deep-sea worm that when threatened releases green luminescent “bombs,” a sea slug that eats insects, a flat-faced frogfish with an unusual psychedelic pattern, and a two-inch mushroom. Rounding out the top 10 list are a banded knifefish, a carnivorous sponge,  and an edible yam that uncharacteristically sports multiple lobes instead of just one.

The top 10 new species come from around the world, including Palawan in the Philippines, Africa, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, New Zealand, Thailand, the United States and Uruguay.

Issuing an SOS

The taxonomists also are issuing an SOS – State of Observed Species – report on human knowledge of Earth’s species. In it, they report that 18,225 living species new to science were described in 2008, the most recent year for which complete data are available. The SOS report trumpets the latest discoveries of previously unknown plants, animals, microbes, algae and fungi. It also notes 2,140 fossil species described as new in 2008.

The SOS report was compiled by ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration in partnership with the International Plant Names Index, Zoological Record published by Thomson Reuters, International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, AlgaeBase, MycoBank and World Register of Marine Species.

Photos and other information about the top 10 new species, including the explorers who made the discoveries, and the SOS report are online at Also at the site is a Google world map that pinpoints the location for each of the top 10 new species.

The top 10 new species list includes a carnivorous sponge, bug-eating slug, edible yam, stinkhorn fungus, golden orb spider, flat-faced frogfish, banded knifefish, minnow with fangs, deep-sea worm and charismatic plant that feeds on insects. The top 10 new species list is issued annually by the International Institute for Species Exploration at ASU and an international committee of taxonomists – scientists responsible for species exploration and classification.

The winners are …

Among this year’s top 10 picks is a charismatic plant species – Nepenthes attenboroughii – or Attenborough's Pitcher - from Palawan, Philippines and which produces one of the largest pitchers known, each the size of an American football. It also is carnivorous, feeding on insects trapped by the fluid contained in the pitchers. For more details on Attenborough's Pitcher, please click on

From the animal kingdom is a minnow with fangs – Danionella dracula – found in a stream at Sha Du Zup between Mogaung and Tanai in Kachin State, Myanmar. The males of the species have canine-like fangs for sparring with other males. This is the first record of oral teeth-like structures being found in the Cyprinidae, the largest family of freshwater fishes.

Also from the animal kingdom is a golden orb spider – Nephila komaci – the first species of Nephila to be described since 1879 and the largest to date. Nephila has the distinction of spinning the largest webs known, often greater than a meter in diameter.

In the category of “killer sponge” is a carnivorous deep-sea sponge – Chondrocladia (Meliiderma) turbiformis – that displays a special type of spicule for which the new term “trochirhabd” has been coined.

Another deep-sea selection for this year’s list is a worm discovered off the central coast of California – Swima bombiviridis – that when threatened releases “bombs” that illuminate for several seconds with green bioluminescence.

From Pak Phanang Bay in the Gulf of Thailand is a sea slug – Aiteng ater – that eats bugs, which is unusual since nearly all sacoglossans eat algae and a few specialize in gastropod eggs. Its discovery has resulted in a new family, Aitengidae.

Several fish made this year’s top 10 new species list, including a frogfish – Histiophryne psychedelica – that has an unusual psychedelic pattern and is unique among frogfishes for its flat face.

A two-inch mushroom – Phallus drewesii – was named, with permission, in honor of Robert C. Drewes at the California Academy of Sciences. Drewes, who initiated extensive multi-organism biodiversity studies on the island of São Tomé, Africa, where this news species of stinkhorn fungus was found, dedicated more than 30 years of his life to research in Africa, according to the scientists who made the discovery.

An electric fish – Gymnotus omarorum – goes by the common name Omars’ banded knifefish. The species was named to honor Omar Macadar and Omar Trujillo-Cenoz, pioneers in the anatomical and physiological study of electrogenesis in Gymnotus.

Rounding out the top 10 picks is another from the plant kingdom, an “udderly weird yam” – Dioscorea orangeana – that was found in Madagascar. Its tuber morphology is uncharacteristic of edible Malagasy yams exhibiting several digitate lobes, instead of just one.

It’s about diversity

“Annually, an international committee of taxon experts, helps us draw attention to biodiversity, the field of taxonomy, and the importance of natural history museums and botanical gardens, in a fun-filled way by making the selection of the top 10 new species from the thousands described in the previous calendar year,” says Quentin Wheeler, director of the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University and an entomologist in the School of Life Sciences.

“Charting the species of the world and their unique attributes are essential parts of understanding the history of life,” says Wheeler. “It is in our own self-interest as we face the challenges of living on a rapidly changing planet.”

Wheeler advocates a new generation of cyber-tools and Web accessible resources that will vastly accelerate the rate at which humans are able to discover and describe species.

“Most people do not realize just how incomplete our knowledge of Earth’s species is or the steady rate at which taxonomists are exploring that diversity. We are surrounded by such an exuberance of species diversity that we too often take it for granted,” says Wheeler, who also is an ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Commemorating May 23 birth of Linnaeus

The annual top 10 new species announcement and issuance of the SOS report commemorate the anniversary of the birth of Carolus Linnaeus, who initiated the modern system of plant and animal names and classifications. The 300th anniversary of his birth on May 23 was celebrated worldwide in 2007. The 250th anniversary of the beginning of animal naming was marked in 2008.

Since Linnaeus initiated the modern systems for naming plants and animals in the 18th century, an estimated 1.8 million species have been named, described and classified. Scientists estimate there are between 2 million and 100 million species on Earth, though most set the number closer to 10 million.

The SOS report summarizes the number of major plant and animal species newly described for the most recent year of complete data, which is 2008. The majority of the 18,225 species described (named) in 2008 were insects (48.25 percent), vascular plants (11.41 percent) and fungi (7.37 percent) with arachnids coming in a close fourth (7.24 percent). The SOS report also includes data for prokaryotes (bacteria and Archaea) in addition to protists.

The State of Observed Species report and list of top 10 new species issued annually by ASU’s International Institute for Species Exploration is part of its public awareness campaign to shine attention on biodiversity and the field of taxonomy. Previous top 10 lists and SOS reports are online at

Taxon experts pick top 10

An international committee of experts, chaired by Janine N. Caira of the University of Connecticut, selected the top 10 new species for the 2010 list. Mary Liz Jameson of Wichita State University served as vice chair. Nominations were invited through the website and also generated by institute staff and committee members.

“Committee members had complete freedom in making their choices and developing their own criteria, from unique attributes or surprising facts about the species to peculiar names,” Wheeler notes.

Other members on this year’s committee included Philippe Bouchet, French National Museum of Natural History; Daphne G. Fautin, Biodiversity Research Center, University of Kansas; Peter Kämpfer, Institut für Angewandte Mikrobiologie, Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen; Niels Peder Kristensen, Zoologisk Museum, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; James Macklin, Harvard University; Ellinor Michel, Department of Zoology, Natural History Museum, London; John Noyes, Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum, London; Alan Paton, International Plant Names Index and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK; Andrew Polaszek, Department of Entomology, Natural History Museum, London; Gideon F. Smith, South African National Biodiversity Institute; Antonio Valdecasas, Museo National Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain; and Zhi-Qiang Zhang, International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, New Zealand.

Nominations for the 2011 list – for species described in 2010 – may also be made online at

(Photo credits:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Commentary: Southern Tagalog under a State of Impunity

(Source: To see how you can
help, click on this link:

By Lulu Dumlao

At the rate of the number of journalists being killed, the Philippines is living up to the International Federation of Journalists’ label description of this country as being the “most dangerous place for journalists to practice.” According the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), the regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo turns out to be the worst years of journalists’ assassination in the Philippines. 100 cases of media killings were recorded under Arroyo’s administration—the largest number since President Aquino’s government. Most of these killings are attributed to the military counterinsurgency programs approved also during Arroyo’s time.

Freedom of expression is curtailed because of media killings. The usual targets of elimination are the journalists who dare to speak out about the abuses in our country.

Southern Tagalog: Region under Blockade

From 2001-2009, there have been 10 reported cases of media killings in Southern Tagalog. Most of these cases were either dismissed or neglected by the administration. Instead of giving assistance to the families who are seeking justice, the government seemingly ignores these alarming extrajudicial killings.

On May 2003, Lucena City, Apolinario Pobeda was shot dead by two unidentified men riding a motorcycle. Pobeda was also riding his motorcycle, on his way to work, when the two suspects flagged him. He was shot four times and was dead on arrival in the hospital. The two gunmen were arrested and detained. Until now Pobeda’s case is still being heard in Quezon.

Pobeda was an alleged member of the New People’s Army and a regular commentator at the local radio station in Lucena City, DWTI-AM. His family and friends think that his death was lead by his fearless commentaries against alleged corrupt government officials.

Another case was Dong Batul’s. Batul is a commentator of DYPR at Puerto Prinsesa, Palawan. He was known for his hard-hitting commentaries that tackled corruption of government officials in the province. On April 2006, Batul saw two dud grenades outside his house. Also, a death threat written in red ink warning him to "hold his tongue or else his family would suffer harsh consequences." Barely a month after that incident, Batul was gunned by unidentified gunmen who fled on a blue motorcycle. Batul was hit 12 times and was dead on arrival at the hospital.

An Aaron Golifrado was identified by four witnesses as Batul’s killer. He was apprehended by the Philippine National Police (PNP). Golifrado is a member of a police counterinsurgency program in Palawan. But despite the charge filed against him, Golifrado stayed active in the force. And the case against him? It was granted dismissal.

The trend of media killings in Southern Tagalog, or even in the whole country is apparent. Journalists who expose the power abuses of government officials were killed. Their cases were not thoroughly investigated and usually, get dismissed. The victims’ families continue on seeking for justice, but it seems like it will never be on their reach.

Press Freedom under Siege

The Philippines has become one of the most dangerous places for journalists in Asia. Why? This can be deeply rooted to the fact that journalists in the Philippines are not scared to expose the abuse of power of those individuals who hold it. Journalists are silenced by influential individuals who know that with media men writing and reporting about their unlawful activities they will taste their downfall. Journalism in the Philippines is a powerful tool used in exposing the wrongdoings of these influential and powerful people. Journalists carry the power to uncover the transgressions of these individuals. The people who hold power are afraid to get caught red handed. They might get condemned by the citizens. They might lose their power. And to keep their grip onto the power, they annihilate whoever comes their way.

(Lulu Dumlao is a freelance writer. She is currently enrolled at the BS Development Communication program, Major in Development Journalism at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The University of the Philippines at Diliman's University Hotel is a White Elephant according to the Commission of Audit

By Chanda Shahani

The Commission on Audit (COA) website is a treasure trove of information for amateur sleuths, anti-corruption NGOs, journalists and other concerned citizens and organizations who wish to gather further information on the improprieties or worse of the various organs of the Philippine Government.

If you want an annual accounting of how the People's Money is used or misused, then a lot of the information is all there at the COA website, including the annual audit of the entire University of the Philippines System (U.P.) at: 

Take the University Hotel, which the 2008 Consolidated Audited Annual Report (CAAR) of COA describes, in its own words, as being characterized by "inefficient operations," and that "inadequate monitoring and evaluation including insufficiency of guidelines for the Hotel’s effective operations resulted in lapses of the Board of Overseers’ management, which adversely affected the earning potential of the University of the Philippines (U.P.)."

Here is a brief history of the University hotel, according to the 2008 CAAR of COA:

1. The Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) donated the PCED Hostel, now University Hotel (UH), and its income to the UP with Deed of Donation dated June 10, 1983.

2. On July 14, 1983, the UP President issued Administrative Order (AO) No. 108 creating a Board of Overseers (BOO) of not more than seven members University employees to manage the Hotel at the pleasure of the President. By virtue of this Order, the BOO shall recommend to the President the amount or percentage of income to be remitted regularly to the UP Faculty Development Fund (FDF) and to submit a report on the disposition of the Hostel through lease or other arrangements on or before December 31, 1983.

3. The hotel continued to be under the management of the BOO, as reaffirmed in Section 2 of AO No. FN-03-56 dated October 2003 of the then UP President Francisco Nemenzo. The AO was issued to define and clarify the status of the Staff of the UH, and it likewise indicated the status of the Hotel of “being not a regular unit of the University but a special project directly under the Office of the UP President,” among others.

4. On June 20, 2007, UP President Emerlinda R. Roman created a committee to review the status of the Hotel under AO No. PERR-07-50 dated June 20, 2007. The committee was tasked to recommend the best course of action that the university should take given the Hotel’s mandate and its current situation as well as the University’s need and responsibilities. The report was due in July 2007; however, as of this date, the Committee has not officially submitted its report to the University President.

5. Audit of the UH operations during the year by COA disclosed that there was insufficient compliance with the requirement under the PCED Deed of Donation to remit its income to the University’s FDF on the basis of the Hotel’s yearly financial statements resulting in an undetermined amount of income from 1988 to 2008 and highlighting the following problems:

a) UH remitted to beneficiaries other than FDF a total of P3.55 million;

b) There were either delayed/no remittance; and

c) There was no logical basis for remitting only two percent of the gross income since in previous years (CY 1983 – 1996 except 1993 and 1995), an additional 25% of the net income was also remitted.

The 2008 CAAR said the BOO exceeded its authority as defined in the AO, as amended, thus government rules were inconsistently adopted to the hotel’s operations, among others:

a) Hiring of regular employees without valid contract and authority from U.P. President Emerlinda Roman;
b) Increasing the BOO honoraria as approved by themselves;
c) Assignment of UP regular faculty and staff as hotel’s consultants without the approval of President Roman.
The report also said there was laxity in implementing hotel’s policies on collection and room rentals as follows:

1) Delayed collection of revenue due to inefficient collection system; and

2) Non-renewal of the lease contract with the UH health club tenant, Pro Gym which expired in December 1997.

COA also criticized UH for non-compliance with government rules on cash management as follows:

1) In addition to her duties, the Cashier also handles the petty cash loan to employees (from the fund of the Separation Pay) amounting to P2.5 million contrary to sound internal control system;

2) Use of unauthorized, non-UP ORs;

3) Deposit of funds in a non-government depositary bank;

4) Use of provisional receipts to acknowledge payment;

5) Cashiers are not bonded; and

6) Unrecorded hotel income and disbursements in the books of the University System.

Unreconciled variances of PhP 30 million existed between the accounting and property records due to absence of regular reconciliations and the absence of inventory taking and non-maintenance of Property, Plant and Equipment (PPE) ledger/property cards.

UH was also found to be in non-compliance with R.A. 9184 in the procurement of goods and services. Procurement was done thru emergency or shopping modes.

UH also said that there was an unauthorized contract with a private external auditor at a cost of PhP11,200 per month or P134,400 a year, since the audit of the hotel being a public entity should be solely and exclusively undertaken by the Commission on Audit (COA).

"The above-mentioned management lapses of the BOO in operating the UH did not ensure transparency and efficiency in its operation, which eventually affected the earning potential of the University," COA said, adding that, "We recommended that the University System strictly monitor and evaluate the performance of the UH in accordance with existing government rules and regulations."

In response, the U.P. Administration said that:
  • The amount of PhP 3.55 million went to beneficiaries other than FDF as decided by previous BOO with the concurrence of the then UP President.
  • There was  no contribution from 1983 to 1987 as the UH was recovering from a huge deficit prior to the donation and was unable to extend any donation during the period in question.
  • The non-contribution for 2001 and 2002 as UPD- HRDO used all the 15 rooms indefinitely after UP CIDS left while its office at Quezon Hall was undergoing renovation. The UH was handicapped in its operation due to the long period of stay by UPCIDS and HRDO free of rental.
  • UH regrets the four-month delay in remitting the two percent contribution for the FDF.
  • On the 39 employees with no records of contract or renewal of their contracts “because of the status of the Hotel (no permanent appointment is issued), current practice is – once an employee is given a regular appointment, there is no need to issue renewal.”
  • On the increased BOO honoraria rates without the approval of the OP, the current honoraria of the BOO was approved by President Francisco Nemenzo on November 5, 2003. As per the AO of President Angara and President Nemenzo, the BOO has the authority to appoint the UH staff including the Resident Manager and set the compensation package for them.
  • On the assignment of UP regular faculty and staff for position at the UH, “delegation of authority is intended to free the UP President from routine administrative operations of the UH. However, out of respect, permission of immediate superiors is solicited everytime the need for consultant/resource person arises.”
  • U.P. said that because of the unusual set up, the UH is not covered by Civil Service Commission (CSC) laws and rules. PD 453 creating the PCED specifically states that the current personnel of the Hotel are exempted from the CSC laws. The Hotel has always been treated as a “special project”.
  • The U.P. Administration agreed that funds should not be expended for payment of external auditor’s fees.

Painted water substation beside Vargas Museum at
U.P. Diliman dramatizes COA's perennial 
concerns about unauthorized organisms
capturing U.P.'s various revenue streams

COA said that while it took note of U.P.'s comments, it nevertheless critiqued the U.P. Administration for the following:

1) The AOs of President Angara and President Nemenzo, do not contain the delegation of authority to the BOO to appoint personnel and increase in honoraria.

2) The conditions set in the Deed of Donation of PCED Hotel to the University that its PCED employees shall be absorbed by the UH no longer exists since none of the current personnel of UH are from the PCED; thus, not covered by the said exemption.

"Since UH is a government entity, hiring of UH personnel are covered by government rules. As a basic requirement, the service contract or appointment should be properly documented and approved to ensure its enforcement and validity. The UH personnel are said to be “regular”, receiving benefits of a private and public employee and yet not evidenced by a duly attested appointment," COA said.

Photos by: Chanda Shahani

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary)

Diliman Video of the Week: The Philippine Comics Art Museum Online by

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Roving Gourmand tours Ilocandia

Miki Soup from Ilocos Norte
By Sigrid Salucop

It was the first week of May and I was on vacation in Ilocos Norte. The scorching sun made Ilocos Norte appear like a desert especially with the presence of sand dunes in the outskirts of Batac and the province’s capital, Laoag City.

However, the heat will not stop you from going to the local restaurants though because food in Ilocos Norte is just too delectable to miss. In the morning, locals would have breakfast near the riverside just across the church and the Marcos Mansion. With a bowl or two of  miki –a local soup made out of locally-produced egg noodles, chicken, chicken broth and garlic with a sprinkling of chicharon (bagnet), a plate of pan-de-sal and Ilocos longanisa on a stick, you will get one of the best and heaviest Filipino breakfasts ever.

The Ilocano Version of Pakbet

For lunch you can order a bowl of pinakbet in any of the local restaurants, not the one with cubed squash but the original one with thick tomato sauce and lots of chicharon. A healthy lunch with rice, it can go with fried chicharon –an Ilocos specialty that is priced around 500 pesos per kilo in specialty stores in Metro Manila. There is no need for you to spend so much on food if you are in Ilocos though because most meat stores sell chicharon at a lower price.

Vigan longganisa

For merienda, you can go to any of the food chains located in the cities of Batac and Laoag. If you are in Vigan, there are lots of food chains to choose from as well. However, for those who want to satisfy their craving for Ilocano food, it is best to try the Ilocos Empanada. The empanada the Ilocanos know is not the usual empanada in other places because Ilocos Empanada is made from eggs, mongo sprouts, papaya shreds and Ilocano longganisa. The locals call the usual empanada empanadita because of the small size of the delicacy. Empanaditas are usually sold in batches although they are not really considered an Ilocano recipe; all empanaditas are homemade and taste really good. You can order them from local merchants or if you have an Ilocano friend, you can ask where you can get the best empanadita in town. The local empanada however is the Ilocano sandwich, it can be splashed with a bit of Sukang Iloko (sugar cane vinegar) and eaten for merienda or dinner. The best stores to buy your empanada are the ones located in Batac City’s riverside such as Glory and Glomy’s. The local restaurant has been around since the 1940s and the recipe of their empanada has been passed along from generation to generation.

Empanada Queen of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte

If you decide to take a road trip to Ilocos, do not fail to drop by any of the royal bibingka shops along the road. You will immediately see them when you are nearing Vigan. If you are riding a bus, most of the operators going to Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte stop by these shops. Usually, there is only one stop so be sure to buy a box of royal bibingka before you miss the chance of tasting them. How is the royal bibingka different from the usual bibingka? The royal bibingka is a lot softer and tastier because it has more milk and eggs. They are baked the old fashioned way that is why they are tastier than other types of bibingka sold in other places.

Editor's note: Metro Manila residents can get a quick taste of genuine Ilocos Norte empanadas at Ilocos Empanada along Katipunan Avenue (Beside Bo's Cafe), Quezon City. Just check this excellent link for more details:

(Sigrid Salucop is a freelance writer and a B.A. Public Administration graduate from U.P. Diliman)

Photo credits:


Diliman Video of the Week: Quick Guide to the automated 2010 elections in the Philippines

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Editorial: If Dr. Jose Gonzales is not (yet) the Director of the Philippine General Hospital, then neither is Dr. Enrique Domingo. Then who should it be?

Even as this editorial is being written, reports streaming in from the field indicate that there is now a standoff today at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) Philippine General Hospital (PGH) with two directors attempting to occupy the same physical office. Members of the All U.P. Workers Union, students and doctors are providing peaceful passive resistance and protection to ousted PGH Director Dr. Jose Gonzales, who continues to occupy the Director's office, while Dr. Eric Domingo and several security guards opened the director's office without Dr. Gonzales' consent.

Who has the legal rights to occupy the office? This question must be answered decisively and in such a manner that there are no questions about the integrity of the selection process itself.

Ironically, it is the bumbling but arrogant bureaucrats from the University Administration ensconced in Quezon Hall in U.P. Diliman who appear to be the chief instigators of a crisis that nobody wanted in the first place. Even as the University Administration-dominated Board of Regents voted to remove the Student Regent Charisse Bañez on February 25, 2010 on grounds that her credentials were expired, three of the Malacañang-appointed regents themselves had expired papers. Talk about hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Talk about the sheer incompetence of the Administration of U.P. President Emerlinda Roman and its inability to track and renew their own regents' papers after the one-year legal period had lasped after their original acting appointments in 2008.

The U.P. Administration adamantly insisted on a legally questionable two-year rule interpretation saying it applied to the acting appointments of Regents Francis Chua, Nelia Gonzales and Abraham Sarmiento in 2008. But it was the same U.P. Administration that also applied to the Office of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for a renewal of terms of the same regents last March 2010, for even those regents whose terms would not have been deemed expired under a two-year interpretation; which shows that even they did not have a faith in their own spurious arguments.

On February 25, 2010, Six regents - namely Commission on Higher Education and Development (CHED) Chairman Emmanuel Angeles, U.P. President Emerlinda Roman, Rep. Cynthia Villar and Malacanang Regents Chua, Gonzales and Sarmiento voted to oust Student Regent Bañez as a regent on the grounds that she was no longer a student and thus no longer a Student Regent.

To be more detailed about it, out of a total of eleven regents, the other five did not participate in the voting for the following reasons:

1) One regent, Senator Mar Roxas, was already on the campaign trail, and could not participate in the voting on that day, as he was campaigning for Vice-President under the Liberal Party.

2) Student Regent Charisse Bañez was not allowed to attend the BOR meeting, not even as an observer.

3) Alumni Regent Alfredo Pascual was not physically present in the board room when the voting took place.

4) Staff Regent Clodualdo "Buboy" Cabrera abstained from voting.

5) Faculty Regent Judy M. Taguiwalo abstained from voting.

The remaining six regents voted anyway to remove Student Regent Bañez and had a new round of votes to choose a new director of the PGH under the argument that the duly selected director, Dr. Jose Gonzales only had five votes when the round of votes took place on December 18, 2009, and not six votes, as the Student Regent's vote was void. As a result, Dr. Enrique Domingo was chosen as the new PGH Director.

However, the Diliman Diary has been able to do a comparison of the 2008 appointment papers of Regents Chua, Gonzales and Sarmiento and compared and contrasted them with the appointment papers of these same regents in 2010 (see Diliman Diary, March 23, 2010:

Based on a one-year tenure argument for an acting regent which the Diliman Diary subscribes to, the following problems emerge with respect to the ouster of Student Regent Bañez:

1) Regent Chua's papers had expired on January 1, 2009 or more than a full year before he voted to remove Student Regent Banez on February 25, 2010 for having expired papers.

2) Regent Sarmiento's papers had also expired on September 29, 2009 and was also not a regent when he voted to remove Student Regent Bañez on February 25, 2010.

3) Regent Gonzales also had expired papers which expired on March 18, 2009 and was therefore not a regent when she voted to remove Student Regent Bañez on February 25, 2010.

Thus, out of the six regents who voted to remove Student Regent Bañez and install Dr. Domingo as the new Director of PGH, only three had the legitimate right to vote: Chairman Angeles, President Roman and Rep. Villar. There was therefore no majority vote to remove the Student Regent and Dr. Gonzales. There was also no majority vote to select Dr. Domingo.

However, if the U.P. Adminisration still adamantly insists that the three Malacañang regents enjoyed two year terms, and if for the sake of dicussion, we adopt their point of view, then there was still no majority vote anyway, as Regent Chua's term would have expired on January 1, 2010 under a two-year term; thus depriving the U.P. Administration dominated BOR of a single vote, resulting in five votes cast out of eleven which is no longer a majority vote.

Under a two-year term argument, Regent Nelia Gonzales' term should have expired on March 18, 2010, but she was appointed by President Arroyo on March 8, 2010 before there was any vacancy. Given that President Arroyo was banned by the Constitution from making any more appointments beginning March 10, 2010, then there now exists a vacancy in the BOR and Regent Gonzales is now not a current but a former regent and she clearly does not have the authority to participate in any future BOR meetings.

Since there was no legitimate majority vote to remove Student Regent Bañez, then she remains - by default - unousted as the Student Regent - unless a legitimate majority of the BOR decides otherwise.

In view of the legal infirmities bedevilling both sides regarding the legitimacies of various regents as well as the growing anger, the outrage in U.P. Manila and the entire U.P. System over what has happened so far and the potential for long-term damage to the reputation of the institution as well as the disruption of services to 500,000 indigent constituents over legitimate concerns that remain unaddressed; we believe that the only solution is for the BOR itself to enter into a new round of voting or a "sudden death" vote choosing between Dr. Gonzales and Dr. Domingo, with both sides agreeing to abide with the outcome. After all, both doctors have actually had the chance to run PGH for more than a month so that recent track record, as well as their previous performances as distinguished doctors elsewhere can be taken into account and seen in a fresh light.  Meantime, so as to put to rest any disputes, the vote by the Board of Regents must be undertaken by regents with updated and legitimate credentials to choose who should be the director of PGH, with both sides abiding with the outcome; and taking into consideration sentiments from the U.P. College of Medicine and U.P. Manila faculties.

Then and only then can we have a credible selection process and we can then all put closure to the longest running dispute ever regarding the Directorship of the PGH, and concentrate on the main task at hand, which is to close ranks behind the glorious PGH doctors and its medical staff and to put into action U.P.'s most famous motto: which is to "Serve the People."

(Chanda Shahani is the editor of the Diliman Diary)

Dateline Diliman: Announcements and Calendar of Events for May, 2010

Dear Reader,

The Diliman Diary's research department has consolidated announcements and calendars of events from Ateneo de Manila University, Miriam College and U.P. Diliman and will be posting them online a monthly basis as a service to our readers for May, 2010.

If you, the reader, in your individual capacity, or your organization have an event or anouncement that you wish to promote please email the details to: Attention: The Editor.

Best regards,

The Editor

May, 2010 Announcements and Events:

Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU). Please click on this link:

Miriam College. Please click on this link:

U.P. Diliman. Please click on this link:

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ways to combat Heat Stroke

By Kathryn Sunga

In a tropical country like the Philippines, excessive heat is often experienced by a lot of people especially during summer. Staying under the sun is quite popular to some people to get a tan or simply just to get some vitamins from it. But nowadays, too much exposure to the sun can lead to several problems such as, skin cancer and the most popular during summer time is heat stroke.

Too much heat can definitely lead to heat stroke which is deadly. People who are suffering from heat stroke should immediately seek a medical care as soon as possible to avoid death. This usually happens when the person is no longer producing perspiration due to dehydration. A person's body temperature will dramatically rise because the body is in too much heat that it cannot cool itself anymore.

Here are some of the symptoms of heat stroke:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • High core temperature of up to a hundred degrees Fahrenheit
  • Strange behaviour or confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Headache
  • Dry, hot and red skin
  • Convulsions
  • Hallucinations
  • Bizarre activities
There some tips on how you can avoid heat stroke and dehydration during summer time. Here are some helpful and easy tips that you should definitely follow:

Avoid staying under the sun, especially during the hottest time of the day which is noon to 3p.m.

Wear something comfortable. You can wear hat and a light color and loose fitting clothing to allow your body to breathe.

Reserve your exercise activities during early morning and later in the night.

Avoid meals that are hot. Hot meals usually increase a person's metabolism which can cause an increase in the body temperature as well.

Stay in a cool place. Set your room air conditioner between 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. For people who don't own one, taking a cool shower twice or thrice a day can also help.

Drink plenty of water to help your body produce sweat. Sweating is the way of your body to cool itself. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks that can only be loss through urination and not by sweating.

Eat more fruits that can help you to be well hydrated such as, watermelons, coconuts, cucumber and tomatoes. These foods can help your body to be cool during hot summer days.

Understanding what heat stroke is all about can help you avoid experiencing it. Share it with the people around you to help them avoid having heat stroke. Follow these easy and important things to avoid dehydration which can lead to heat stroke and eventually death.

(Kathyrn Sunga is a freelance writer specializing in fashion, technology and health issues)

Blog Archive

The Diary Archive