Sunday, March 25, 2018

Don’t marry early, Sara Duterte tells UB graduates

● Holy Week destinations for relaxation, reflection
● Don’t marry early, Sara Duterte tells UB graduates

Scene: Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach had a brief visit to Bohol last week to shoot an advertisement for a real estate property.  Wurtzbach is a proud Century Properties homeowner after years of living in the good graces of friends and renting apartments while she worked hard to build a career in modeling and show business, and tried her luck in beauty pageants.  “I'm still star-struck,” said actress-performer Scarlet Guelen-Boiser who was part of the commercial.

Pia Wurtzbach 
Scene: Senator JV Ejercito hit the graduation circuit this year, giving four commencement addresses in March in Bohol.  He will be the commencement speaker for Bohol Island State University (BISU)’s communication school graduation ceremonies in four campuses. He will give an inspirational message to the graduates of Bohol Island State University (BISU)-Candijay Campus and BISU-Bilar Campus on March 26; and BISU- Balilihan and BISU-Tagbilaran on March 27.  Ejercito will also inspect the additional building of the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital. He filed Senate Bill 1768 as senate counterpart of Rep . Rene Relampagos’ bill to increase the bed capacity from 225 to 525 and upgrading the medical facilities and equipment of the said hospital.

Scene: Karen Gallman was crowned as Miss Intercontinental Philippines 2018 in the 55th edition of Binibining Pilipinas. Gallman, who was croned Miss Ubay 2007, was asked if she agrees with the idea of having a third restroom built for transgenders. She responded, “I definitely agree that there should be a third restroom for transgenders because as women, we would also want our privacy, and also with men.”

Time has a way of changing things. Before, people could only go to church. Today, more and more people choose to spend it at the beach or the mall.   For many Filipinos, the long weekend is a time to not only reflect on the sacrifices of Christ, but also a time to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Even though the folk beliefs and customs for the Holy Week are things in the past, we can still hear some of them:

-Evil spirits are believed to roam during the Holy Week.
-Travel on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday is taboo.
-Spending is taboo on Good Friday, as is sweeping the floor.
-Bathing, making noise, and laughing or smiling on Good Friday, especially at 3 p.m., are taboo.
-Roasting food during the Holy Week makes your face black.
- Using sharp objects is taboo during Lent.

In the past, the whole week was marked in red on the church calendars.  The elders bought rice and viands good for one week since business establishments were closed for a week. The neighborhood was so quiet.

The Village of the Compassionate God the Father 
in Inabanga town offers perpetual breeze to reflect 
on the life, death and message of Jesus.   
Photo by Leo Udtohan
It was also an ideal time to start a diet. Since meat is avoided during Lent, fish dishes were prepared in most households. Our favorite soul food binignit is still popular.  Although a common merienda fare, binignit takes center stage during the Holy Week and especially on Good Friday.

As we journey through Holy Week, let us draw closer to Christ in many meaningful ways.

If you decide to look for destinations for the Holy Week, VRS has picked some places to allow this significant season to touch your life more deeply:

The Village of the Compassionate God the Father- Located in Barangay Fatima in Inabanga town, the place is peaceful, tranquil and something different.  The place has a perpetual breeze that will remind you instantly about life and the Lord. There are life-size structures of the 14 Stations of the Cross with a big figure of the God the Father of All Mankind at the top of the hill.

Fatima Hill- The Fatima Rosary Hill in Barangay Buenavista in Carmen town will put you on a state of pure bliss with its scenic sights. It is the home of the Madonna of the Miraculous Blessed Virgin Mary. The shrine was built sometime in the early 1940s. There is a concrete chapel, a spring and a souvenir shop. Spiritual recollection becomes more enhancing on top of this hill where one can look at the wide plains of Carmen and Sierra-Bullones. Don’t forget that it is holy and quiet. Burn a candle and pray.

Virgen sa Kaluoy in Calape- The image of the Virgin is believed to be growing from an empty giant shell. From a mere obscure figure, the image now is very visible, showing the beautiful virgin with the giant shell in the background.

San Antonio de Padua Shrine- Located in Barangay Tinibgan in Calape town, it houses the miraculous image of St. Anthony of Padua, one of the Catholic Church’s most popular saints. Saint Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost and stolen articles.

Kruz Daku in Loboc – It is one of the favorite destinations of the pilgrims during the Holy Week. A huge white cross 80 feet in height is on top of the highest hill, where one can view the towns of Loay and Loboc.  A few meters from the Krus Daku is the giant statue of the Our Lady of Guadalupe.

San Vincent Ferrer – It’s time to touch and kiss the 400-year-old image of Saint Vincent Ferrer at the Diocesan Shrine of Saint Vincent Ferrer in Maribojoc town. The place is a pilgrimage site, with many miracles reported.  One can appreciate the wood and stone carvings of the Escuela Taller.

Lenten Procession in Baclayon- During Holy Wednesday and Good Friday, the streets of this town are filled with life-size religious statues depicting key events of the Passion and Death of Christ on decorated carrozas which are solemnly paraded along the streets followed either by devotees reciting the rosary.

Hugos in Loboc- The ritual that dramatizes the first meeting of Christ and Mary after His resurrection, and takes place at dawn on Easter Sunday.  It begins with two processions, where statues of Christ and Mary are carried from opposite ends of the community. The statue of Mary is covered in a black veil of mourning. Eventually, they will meet at midpoint, during which an angel (typically played by a young girl from the community) will lift the veil, ending Mary’s mourning and Holy Week celebrations.  Well, what makes it special is the world-famous Loboc Children’s Choir sings during the mass and the ritual.

There’s no place better than Bohol to make your Visita Iglesia pilgrimage, a good try for spiritual journey.  There are many churches to attend services during the Holy Week.

With Holy Week destinations like these, there's enough time for both relaxation and reflection.

Sara Duterte tells graduates not to marry early

 Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio advised University of Bohol (UB) graduates to be focused on living a fulfilling life, giving back through service and not marrying early during the school’s commencement.

Duterte-Carpio addressed 570 graduates at Friday’s ceremony in Tagbilaran City.

She said that when she saw the graduates she then realized how meaningful to attend one’s graduation. She failed to attend her own graduation ceremonies.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio 
offered an impactful message to the 
graduating students during the 154th 
Commencement Exercises of the University 
of Bohol on Friday afternoon.  
Photo courtesy: Leah Tirol-Magno 
“Nagtana-aw ko sa inyuha teary- eyed ko. You know wala ko muattend sa akong college graduation wala pud ko muattend sa akong law school graduation. Giingnan ra nako akong ginikana nga graduate nako, okay rana,” she said.

 In her speech, she said that graduation was meant for the parents and loved ones.

“Today is the culmination of many years of hardwork and also the beginning of many adventures. This time, the tests will come first and the lessons afterwards. Some tests will be easy, while others might pull you down. But is in your determination to get back up that will reveal the strength of your character,” she said.

She encouraged graduating students to be honest with themselves.

“As much as possible stay true of who you are and never let a hardship will break your character. Do not be afraid to commit mistakes rather be fearful of learning from them,” she said.

She encouraged them to help their families, community and the nation. “I encourage for you to take some time to discern of what will be your contribution to your family, your community and your nation. Know your purpose, make some goals, no matter how small. Basin pa man inyong barangay inyong gitabangan that will contribute to nation building.”

Duterte-Carpio also advised the graduates not to marry early.

 “And third personal note nga gusto nako i-impart this afternoon is ayaw mo pagminyo og sayu. Kay kung minyo namo karun okay lang na pero kadtong dili pa minyo ayaw samo pagminyo palihog og sayo. But you know, wala man ta kahibaw unsay mahitabo ogma ang importante lang you are happy with the decisions that you make,” she said while it elicited cheers, laughter and banter from the crowd.

 Duterte-Carpio briefly stayed for an hour at the graduation ceremony.

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Sunday, March 18, 2018

Strange stories on Holy Week

Urban legends that surround Holy Week refuse to die.  In fact, social media seems to have given them a new lease of life.

-Sigbin, a mythical creature that usually appears during the Holy Week. It looks like a kangaroo or a hornless goat with big ears that flap when excited or mad. Sigbins usually like to feast on charcoal. In the absence of charcoal, Sigbins target young children with fresh and clean blood. Sigbins do not physically attack their victims, they just sip their victim’s blood.

-A female vampire who was an OFW is terrorizing the Visayas area. After returning home, she started to crave for human flesh. Known as Maria Labo, she has the ability to change her appearance.

-Some children are abducted or bred for sacrifices days before the Holy Week.  A white van and men in bonnets kidnap children, take out their organs and sell them to people needing organ transplants.

However, last week’s occurrence in Jagna town was so strange that experts have struggled to explain the situation.

Some stories blur the lines between science, spirituality and the supernatural.

At least 10 high school students of Jagna High School in Barangay Bunga Mar were allegedly possessed by evil spirits on Monday morning.

Justino Cesar Arban, a grade 11 teacher, said that some Grade 10 students screamed and fainted inside their classrooms. He said they spoke strange language and displayed freakish strength while being "possessed."

A palpable chill settled over the school that the teachers and students were praying to ward off evil spirits.

Arban, who led the class praying the Holy Rosary to ward off evil spirits, said one of his students chilled and began shouting when they were reciting the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary.

The students were so scared that the school decided to send the students home.   However, the hysteria spread to four more students on Tuesday. Some of the students got angry when rosaries were hung around their necks.

The school decided to suspend classes on Wednesday and a Holy Mass was held at 9 a.m. at the school ground officiated by Msgr. Orencio Jubac, resident priest of St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church and Fr.  Tereso Lumacang, assistant priest.  It was attended by the teachers, parents, alleged victims and lay people.  

During the Holy Mass, five students were reportedly fainting and having strong muscular convulsions.  They were also speaking in tongues.

Speaking in tongues or glossolalia is a phenomenon in which people appear to speak in languages unknown to them. 

Lumacang said he could not conclude yet if what occurred in the school was a genuine demonic possession. He urged the parents and the community to pray for the children.

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, the students were brought to St. Michael the Archangel Parish Church for “casting and deliverance.”

According to Jagna Councilor Anthony Aniscal, a village faith healer identified only as Lando told the teachers that the students drew the ire of spirits inhabiting an old kalachuchi tree near the school’s entrance.

The area around the tree has been used as a dump site for the school’s trash. Lando told teachers that the spirits would try to possess all of the school’s students unless the area is cleaned.

A student went to the comfort room near the kalachuchi tree and saw a child before the alleged possession occurred.  The child asked her to buy a candy, but the student chilled and was shouting when the child’s face turned bloody.

Prior to the incident, senior high school students attended a two-day Youth Camp organized by Couples for Christ (CFC)-Bohol last March 10 and 11 at Jagna Central Elem. School.

School principal Christopher Aclan, who refused to talk to reporters, asked his teacher to tell Bohol reporters not to report the incident.

In 2016, 41 female students at the Japer Memorial School in Barangay Catalina in Sagbayan town went into convulsions, screamed and fainted inside their classrooms. Residents believed the hysteria started after a gmelina tree inside the school was cut down. A week after, 22 female students of the San Pascual Academy (SPA) in Barangay San Pascual, Ubay town, exhibited similar behavior believed to be possession.

When I was young, I had witnessed two demonic possessions.  Two of our female neighbors were possessed by evil spirits on different occasions.  As the priests began to pray, the woman slipped into a trance. She spoke in multiple voices-deep, guttural and masculine. When someone secretly sprinkled ordinary water on her, she didn't react. But when holy water was used, she screamed in pain. It took weeks for these women to be completely delivered from evil spirits.

Doctors used to be widely skeptical and they argued that there's no empirical evidence that proves possession is real.

Belief in possession exists in many religious traditions. Some people believe that possession is rare, but real. However, only a trained exorcist could tell if someone is possessed.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks to the importance of knowing the difference between mental illness and demonic actions. It said, “The exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.”

According to Jerome Magallen, a Bohol-based psychologist, many cultures still believe that seemingly unprovoked acts of hysteria are caused by spirit possession. He said apart from spiritual modes of therapy, those exhibiting odd behavior should seek medical help.  

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Sunday, March 11, 2018


For years, Cresencia (family name withheld upon her request) has had problems with her stomach.

She was found to have gastric cancer, a disease usually grows slowly over many years.

Badly wanting to be healed, the  60 year-old mother of three traveled all the way from Bilar town to Tagbilaran City last Tuesday when she learned that the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of  Lindogon Simala arrived in Bohol on Monday.

She said it was an opportunity for her to see the image in Tagbilaran since it was costly for her to travel to Cebu.

Marian devotees have joined the grand procession
of the image of the Our Lady of Simala on Thursday
 in Tagbilaran City, Bohol.  Leo Udtohan
Pilgrims visit Sibonga town in southern Cebu to visit the Our Lady of Lindogon Shrine, in the hills of Barangay Simala.

Cresencia did not mind the distance, firm in faith that she will be healed by God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“Nag-ampo ko nga hikapon ko para ayuhon ko niya sa akong balatian,” Cresencia said as tears welled up in her eyes.

She was accompanied by one of her grandchildren in her trip to the Our Lady of Barangay Shrine in Barangay Cogon.

Cresencia had to endure for at least four hours under the heat of the sun outside the church until she was able to come close and touch the image of the Virgin Mary inside a glass.

A sea of people covered some streets of Tagbilaran when the Our Lady of Simala passed by during the procession.

Along the streets, devotees lighted candles while praying for the Virgin Mary.

Among those who waited was Wincesa Espejo-Araoarao, founder of Bukang Liwayway Dance Troupe, the longest surviving folkloric group in Bohol.

 “I feel I am blessed that she passed our place,” said Araoarao, who visited the Lindogon Shrine 10 years ago.

“And I hope and pray that all what we pray for will be granted through her intercession,” she added.

Another devotee Wilma Diez-Balag was overwhelmed of the Virgin’s visit to Bohol.

“Daghan kaayong salamat Mama Mary sa Lindogon Simala sa pagbisita namo imo gyung gipakita namo kon unsa ka kamilagrosa ug kabalaan nakita gyud namo ang imong balaang mga luha.. VIVA MAMA MARY,” she posted on Facebook. She used the hashtags #loveumamamary #ayawmikalimtikangjesusand #congratulationtousblueladies.

In Cebu, thousands of devotees troop to the shrine in Simala which the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in Simala started sometime in 1997.

The image was given to monks of the Frater Martin Mary by an unknown woman at the height of the lahar destruction in 1991 in Pampanga.

In 1996, the monks moved to Cebu with the image of the Blessed Mother with permission of then Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

Since then, a lot of people find bliss and healing with proofs displayed at the shrine’s museum.

Beach clean-up and landslide

Last Monday was focused on environmental issues and concerns.

Government officials, volunteers and residents joined a coastal cleanup on Panglao Island, one of the country’s favorite tourist destinations plagued with environmental problems.

Hundreds of volunteers composed of students, the public and authorities gathered on Panglao beach early Monday to collect garbage at the coastlines.

Among the trash they picked up were cigarette butts, plastic beverage bottles and other plastic containers.

At least 400 business establishments in Panglao, including illegal settlers, were found to have been violating environmental laws during a validation conducted by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the municipal governments of Panglao and Dauis.
The Monday afternoon news was shocking. Two workers- Ariel Abac and Valeriano Galeya­- were buried in a landslide at a quarry in Sitio San Isidro in Barangay Candabong  in Anda town, at least 5 km from the town proper.
Two workers were buried in a landslide in Anda, Bohol.
Photo courtesy: Jeryl Lacang-Fuentes

“Alerto” Jun Gutierrez of dyRD who was quick at the site gave listeners the most comprehensive, blow by blow report of the progress of the operations.

When I visited the site on Tuesday afternoon, KC Peñaranda-Abac, wife of Ariel, said she remained hopeful her husband was alive because his phone was still ringing when she called his mobile phone on Tuesday, more than 12 hours after the landslide occurred on Monday afternoon.

KC, 25, said her intuition told her that her husband Ariel, who was working at the quarry for nine months, was still alive even if they were believed buried.   

“Naglaum ko nga buhi pa siya (I am still hoping he is alive),” she said as she watched a group of rescuers frantically digging through the debris with the help of shovel in the area believed they were buried.

“His three children are waiting for him,” she added.

Abac’s brother-in-law Ramon Peñaranda said they were at the quarry site gathering “anapog” (limestone) on Monday afternoon.

When he took a break and left the group, he heard a big commotion.

He said Galeya and Ariel, who were digging at that time, didn’t notice that big rocks as big as a barangay hall had rolled down toward them, followed by a mass of soil.

When the landslide hit, he added, smog and dust covered the entire place for half an hour.

Ramon, 48, said Ariel and Galeya may have been buried in a pile of soil at least 12 feet tall. A mini dump truck near the victims was completely covered.

But Ramon said that while he believed the two would not have survived the landslide, he wanted to recover the body to give them a proper burial.

Rescuers had difficulty digging due to the huge rocks.

The search and retrieval operations.
Photo courtesy: Jeryl Lacang-Fuentes
Anthony Damalerio, head of the provincial disaster risk reduction management office (PDRMMO) said that rescuers from neighboring towns of Pilar, Alicia, Ubay, Candijay, Guindulman and Duero went to the site to help for the search and retrieval operation. Additional volunteers from the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police arrived on Tuesday afternoon.

Tarsier 117’s training headed Mark Sidney Galia said the soil may have cascaded due to intermittent rains brought by typhoon Basyang.

The search and retrieval operations on Monday  and Tuesday nights were stopped for safety reasons.

Rescuers found the bodies of the two workers on Wednesday morning.  

The mountain in Candabong was a known quarry site for limestone.  

On August 27, 2011, two were killed and one was injured in a landlslide at the same quarry.  Killed were Romeo Galos, Jr., 14 and Eric Bernil, 21. Mark Jerico Alaguer, 13 sustained severe injuries.

Anda, about 99 km from Tagbilaran City, is an alternative destination in Bohol province because of its white sandy beaches and cavepools.

Totsie Escobia, provincial information officer, said the municipal government had stopped the quarry because the area is one of those identified as landslide prone. He added that some residents continued to defy the order and continued to quarry for limestone for livelihood.

Escobia said that the provincial government is looking into the situation, urging the local government units for strict compliance on quarry laws.

However, some rescuers are still bewildered of what they saw on the rock. The cryptic message read: “Claim Girl.”

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Their #Summer2018 getaways

The summer ahead holds a great deal of excitement for all of us. Whether you're swimming, grilling and exploring the world, summer crackles with infinite possibilities. And even though spontaneity defines the season, summer's even better when you plan out a few adventures.

While you decide how to fill your own summer days, here's how some of our Boholano friends would spend theirs.

Batuan Vice Mayor Yes Tirol-Dumagan-  My plans for #summer2018 include attending a workshop in Jeju, Korea organized by Cifal United Nations for Training and Research (UNITAR) for the promotion of sustainable tourism and forest management of Batuan; turning over musical instruments to Rizal High School so they can final form a drum and bugle group and train this summer; also the 1st Batuan Youth Camp will be materialized that will allow various private and public schools in the town to showcase their students skills in sports, etc.  On a personal note, will bond more with my family through getaways and enroll my eldest child in a swimming workshop.
For some, it is a time to explore different places
or sweat it out for a sizzling summer bod. Contributed Photos

EJ Relampagos- I am planning on spending my summer enjoying Davao. Then, I want to rediscover Bohol.

Queenie Melody Fullante- My summer plans for this year are to travel locally; spend a few days in the beach; and to attend in the wedding of a former Miss Bohol!

Rosalinda Paredes- I need to take a much-deserved week-long vacation from my work in the SURGE Project. Summer weather is meant for travel time. The direct flights from Tagbilaran to Davao or Clark are attractive travel packages our family is considering to take.

Mizken Tirol Andan-  I am planning to have my vacation in Boracay this Holy Week. I will buy a condo unit and a car as I decided to relocate myself in Manila where it will be more accessible in preparation for my showbiz career at Viva.

Panglao Councilor Rogelin Clemeńa-Degoma- What do you mean with #summer2018 plans? As a councilor? As an entrepreneur? As a mom and a wife? As a councilor, I will be starting to facilitate livelihood projects on recycling. As an entrepreneur, I will be monitoring on the business on its peak season.  As a mom and wife, my family will go to Cagayan de Oro- Bukidnon for a soccer tournament/family vacation in Mindanao on the 1st week of  April. And Hongkong with kids on 1st week of June. Asa ka ani makauban nako? Kuyog ta!

For them, summer is all about unwinding
 and going places. Contributed Photos
Doris Dinorog-Obena- I might be busy with freelance work this summer but I would like to finish something on the research and academics side but a weekend get away to Surigao or Siargao via Leyte with my children will be great for this summer.  Have a great summer!

Leah Tirol-Magno- To be able to launch my Baking Mama Original BukUbe Pies.

Butch Bernas, Ph.D.- My summer 2018 bucketlist is to mesmerize the beaches of Siargao and to explore the gigantic rock formation and crystal clear beaches of  El Nido, Palawan. For now, I’m preparing myself to go to gym to achieve a beach body physique.

Melinda Mendez- Basalo- I will be spending more time with my family this summer. I will keep myself busy with the events for the Women's Month.

Benjie Oliva- A trip to Coron, Palawan with my family and in-laws. Aside from the vacation, it's an opportunity to visit the last communities affected by typhoon Yolanda way back in 2013 to introduce our Blue Boat Project of our Rotary Club in Pasay. In our province, Panglao and Maribojoc are beneficiaries of the project with 40 paddle boats already turned over to the fisherfolks of the said towns in partnership with Angat Buhay of VP Leni Robredo. And at the same time, we want to link them also with our partner Rotary Clubs in Rotary International District 3810 composed of Manila, Pasay, Cavite and Oriental Mindoro to sustain the livelihood and humanitarian efforts in the area. Northern Palawan was the last place devastated by the said supertyphoon.

Fiel Angeli Espejo Araoarao-Gabin- Summer plans? I will pursue with my usual culture and arts promotion activities.  I will spend Holy Week with family in Siquijor province for spiritual enrichment, communing with nature and family bonding.  And also, I will try to start a fitness regimen for a healthy lifestyle for both health and aesthetic purposes. 

Maria Fe H. Evasco- Travel and bonding with family. Celebrate thanksgiving for Saint Joseph's fiesta.

AR De La Serna- Goal is sunkissed skin. I would like to get tanned for the first time because my friends from Manila tell me why I’m not dark. I'll try my best to be as dark as possible.

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