Sunday, March 31, 2019

Issues that matter


Scene: Pope Francis has named Fr. Cosme Almedilla, 60, as the new bishop of Butuan. Almedilla, a clergy of the Diocese of Talibon, succeeds Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos who died in October 2017. A native of San Miguel town in Bohol, the bishop-elect is a product of the St. John XXII College Seminary in Malaybalay City and the Loyola School of Theology (LST) in the Ateneo De Manila University. He was ordained a priest on Aug. 4, 1987.

Pope Francis has appointed
 Fr. Cosme Almedilla as the
 new bishop of Butuan.
Photo courtesy: CBCP
Scene:  Beauty pageant expert, make-up artist and host Oliver Esclamado Acebes, passed away last week at the age of 27, leaving Bohol entertainment and beauty pageant industry grief stricken. Soon after the news was confirmed, many of his friends and acquaintances took to social media to express their grief and share condolences. Acebes, a registered nurse from Jagna, Bohol, was a Pianatics member, the group of supporters of Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach. The last pageant he watched was the 67th Miss Universe competition in Bangkok, Thailand.  The municipal government of Jagna  said that “his delightful personality was memorable.” We will always cherish the memory of his enthusiasm hardworking capability and well-disciplined life.”  So long Oliver!


As the official campaign period for the local polls opens on Friday, politicians are likely to encounter the same old perennial issues: poverty and lack of social services.  Voters also questioned their sincerity, honesty, integrity, competence and track record.

While drug problem and corruption remain the most pressing problems in Bohol province, many voters are also concerned about tourism, climate change and environmental protection. Basic needs as water, electricity and jobs also matters to ordinary voters.
For Michael Cañares, tourism, climate change
 and environmental protection are of paramount concern.

Michael Cañares, a senior research manager for Digital Citizenship at the Web Foundation, said how candidates would give importance to environmental issues in their platforms would be critical in the election.

 “Will the local leaders betray the environment this time and pursue development projects at the expense of environmental destruction?” said Cañares, who has more than 10 years of research and development work experience in community-based project management and regional development in Southeast Asia.

According to Cañares, Bohol has enshrined the importance of the environment in its development thrusts but how this will be carried out by the leaders in terms of policies and programs would be critical.

"We have heard of the massive destruction of the mangroves in Bien Unido last year, the plan to put up an oil depot for some big company in Sandingan (in Loon town) recently, and the revival of the issue of Panglao reclamation as proposed by the some investors," the international consultant said.

The growing inequality is also a big issue here. He said that while there is relative growth in the different economic sectors the growth has favoured the rich.

"As expected, the already rich, making them all the more richer, while the majority of the population has not benefitted from this economic growth," he said.

He noted that the income from tourism had not trickled down to the poor, especially the farmers and the fishermen who are often times the victim of powerful businessmen. 

"So how will the leaders this time ensure, that growth will occur with equity?" asked Cañares.

For Willy Ramasola, the growing problems
of drug problem and corruption in Bohol province
 have become a major election issues. 
The third issue that will matter, according to Cañares, is how leaders will approach the issue of disasters and climate change. 

"We have experienced first hand how an earthquake and climate-related disasters (as typhoons) have devastated our province, impacting everyone. However, we have also seen that our capacity to cope with these have been differentiated.  The rich are able to bounce back easily, but the poor are having significant problems coping up," he said.

Part of being resilient is to ensure that everyone is able to withstand natural disasters and minimize losses, he said.

“I think the leaders who are able to provide us a clear vision of how people can be protected and made resilient in the face of natural disasters is critical in the coming elections.  I should also add though that man-made disasters should also be part of the equation, including threats to peace and order," he added.

But for Willy Ramasola, a social media influencer and political observer, issues on corruption and drug problem should be addressed urgently.

"Projects to solve potential problems on power and water, addressing environmental concerns, policies to promote investment and breaking up the monopolies that keep prices high," said Ramasola.

Both Cañares and Ramasola said that while many voters were conscious and concerned about the election issues, it was doubtful if they would elect candidates based on those concerns.

Beauty pageant expert Oliver Acebes with
 Miss Universe 1993 Dayanara Torres  and Miss Universe
 1994 Sushmita Sen.
"Unfortunately though, while I have highlighted the issues above, it is still a fact that voters have the tendency to forget these issues come election day," said Cañares.

While the debates and the miting de avances will be a good place to discuss and learn about what are the stand/plans of candidates, Cañares said the fact that something else, other than proposed programs will matter.

“At the end of the day, it is the politician who has the political machinery that will be able to corner a large vote for the Boholanos,” said Cañares. "This includes, among others, the capacity of mayors to give "inangayan" on election day, or the ability of congressmen or governors to run a campaign, dispensing favours to mayors, and barangay captains while the campaign is ongoing.”

Money matters during election time, irrespective of age, income, level of education, or religion, according to Cañares.

Ramasola said voter’s education is critical in influencing the outcome.  However, Cañares said the problem is not just about voter’s education.

"It is more about reforming value systems and ensuring that people have the right incentive to really vote for the candidates that will bring citizens better public service and a better future," said Cañares.

"That’s why the candidate who has an organized social media team, a well- oiled political machinery that can bring in voters to join rallies and getting them out to vote will come out the winner," Ramasola said.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Dry weather strengthens its grip

Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten farmers

Scene:  Former Cabinet Secretary and Bohol gubernatorial candidate Leoncio Evasco, Jr, said that the visit ofHugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) head Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio last Wednesday, March 20, affirmed the support of the Duterte family in his candidacy.  “Kining pag-anhi ni Inday Duterte nagsuporta kini sa  atong lantaw nga makab-ot nato ang kalinaw sa probinsya, makab-ot nato ang pagsulbad sa droga ug paghunong sa korupsyon nga maoy naglaganap diri sa atong probinsya karun,” said Evasco.  Carpio said Evasco, who was serving his father for a long time, was the choice.   “We support him in his campaign and candidacy as governor of Bohol,” Carpio said. Evasco is running against former Agriculture Secretary and outgoing Bohol 3rd district Rep. Art Yap.  Boy Pernia, campaign manager of Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado, said that there were at least 14,000 people who attended the event.

Scene: Leon Flores III, erstwhile chairman of the National Youth Commission (NYC) on Wow Pilipinas partylist:Wow Pilipinas is the leading tourism sector partylist and advocacy in the Philippines which champions opportunities and job creation through sustainable, quality, and modern tourism development and local community empowerment. “When we speak of tourism, it’s not all just about statistics of visitors or the means to entice them to be here. It is more important to include sustainable strategies to advance a balanced tourism agenda for people, profit, and planet,” said Patty Keng, the party’s first nominee.

Farmer Joseph Osorio was eagerly waiting for rains expected to be dumped by Typhoon Chedeng last week, hoping that these would finally bring relief to his parched farm.

While it had rained in Jagna town, they experienced only a drizzle.

Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten
farmers as the dry spell caused by
 the El Niño phenomenon grips in Bohol
 province.  Nilo Bulag shows
a not fully developed eggplant which
 was affected by the hot temperature
 in his farm in Jagna town, Bohol province. 
Photo by Leo Udtohan
Osorio, 60, had to water his cabbage twice a day on an 8,000-square-meter farm lot at Sitio Labo in Barangay Boctol.  

Osorio said he started planting cabbage last February and he would wait till May for the harvest.

He fetched water from the reservoir in the barangay which he pays P20 per cubic meter. The water is sourced out from a stream which the water level has dwindled.

“Minipis na ang tubig. Kung  makuwaan namo og dili lang jud siya  mahubas maka-harvest pa mi taman sa May. Kay first week sa May puhon maluoy ang Ginoo maka-harvest naman mi (The water is drying up. If there is enough water, through God’s mercy, we can have a harvest in the first week of May),” he said.  

The village of Boctol in Jagna town is one of the places where residents grow vegetables including the neighboring mountain towns of Sierra Bullones, Duero and Guindulman.

Osorio said he lifted up the fate of his crops to G-d. If it does not rain in April, Osorio said he would not have a good harvest by May.

“Kung pagka- Abril og pananglitan mahubas na ang tubig failure na. Wala na mi mahimo kay nakaplastar nami mao lang amumahan.  Pagbuot sa Ginoo kung tagaan mi grasya o dili (If in April the water dries up, it would be a failure. We can’t do anymore but water the remaining crops to save it. It’s up to G-d if these remaining crops can survive),” he said.

Osorio said he knew about the El Niño advisory last year but he had no option but to plant vegetables for survival.

“Pero wala mi laing pangita. Ang amo, paswerte nalang, kumbaga ang Ginoo nalang ang muantigo muhatag og grasya namo.  Kung failure, failure. Naanad nami ma- failure basta El Niño (I don’t have other source of livelihood. As for me, it is just a matter of luck. It’s up to God if he would give us blessings. If it’s a failure, it’s a failure. We are used into this during El Nino),” he said.

Vegetable production in some towns in
Bohol province is also affected by the mild El Niño
phenomenon that farmer Joseph Osorio
waters his cabbage in Barangay Boctol in
Jagna town to save the crops from further damage.  Photo by Leo Udtohan

During good harvest, he said he could sell 3,000 kilos of cabbage for P20 per kilo.

The extreme heat also damaged the one-hectare farm of eggplant of Nilo Bulag in the adjacent village of Mayana.  

Bulag, 50,  said he was hoping to see rain clouds.  The intense heat damaged his plantation. Those that survived did not grow  as big.

Leaf miners also attacked his eggplants which some failed to fully develop.

The hot weather is also hurting his bell peppers. The tender, warm-season crops were not spared by the excessive heat.

His crops, however, were not insured by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

Bulag said he was expecting a huge financial loss. He said the family have no savings to cover the loss. 

Asked what he would do, Bulag just smiled.

“Mag-ampo nalang jud (I just pray),” he said.

During good harvest, Bulag said he sells his crops along the road. Sometimes, vendors buy in bulk and sell the crops in the town proper and in the capital city of Tagbilaran.  

He said vegetable farming is where he gets money to support his children who are in college.

“Naanad nako.  Ikadaghan na. Naanad nako dili ka harvest (I am used to it. It happened many times. I am used into it that I can’t have a good harvest),” he said.

For farmers, the dry spell is a major source of stress as their livelihoods and communities depend on the weather.

Some farmers are facing crop failure and bankruptcy as the dry weather due to El Niño phenomenon strengthens its grip.

 But the hot temperature is yet in sight.

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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bohol farms dry up due to El Niño


Scene: For the faithful, the presence of the heart relic of St. Camillus de Lellis last week placed inside a glass casing also mean the visit of the saint himself. The relic was brought to the St. Joseph the Worker Cathedral last March 8, which was followed by a Mass officiated by Bishop Albert Uy of the Diocese of Tagbilaran. After the Mass, Boholanos who are known for their intense Catholic faith, started lining up to get close to the relic. They took turned in either touching the glass that housed the heart or wiping it with their handkerchief while uttering a short prayer.

Scene: Boy Pernia on the Bohol Poll 2019:  For all the 23 years of conducting surveys HNU poll forgot to include to survey the 2nd dist? First of all they have a pre-survey where questions are carefully crafted to cover all bases;We have been an active participant and supporter of HNU poll enough reason for them not to forget; We were never given the courtesy of an explanation except during the public consultation. They even wrote us a letter informing us of the presentation and they could not even explain the situation to us? This incident has left a black mark on the integrity of HNU poll. They should not prostitute the process.

Farmers reaping the grains and the noise of “bulhot” (manual threshing machines) were usual scenes this month as rice farmers in Bohol who planted early their crops are now reaping their first harvest for 2019.

For the 35 -year-old farmer Ruel Barrete, the golden grains were mature enough to harvest, a sign of good harvest.

 "Maayo nga panahon, naka-una mi og tanum mao wala maapsi sa El Niño," said Barrete who farms near Barangay Buenos Aires in this town. He was able to harvest 17 sacks of rice in his 2,000 sq meter rice paddy last week.

He was happy with the quality of grains because it was bigger and heavier compared to last year’s harvest which dropped to only 9 sacks while the grains were smaller. Barrete, 35, also helped in harvesting a nearby 1-hectare farm with other farmers which would yield to 60 sacks of rice.

The effects of the El Niño phenomenon
affecting Bohol has been draining the Malinao
Dam in Pilar town, Bohol province, with its
water level dropping to a critical spot.
 Large cracks appeared in some parts of waterbeds
of the dam. Photo by Leo Udtohan
Farmers also harvested their palay in Dimiao, Ubay, Carmen, Batuan, Bilar, Pilar and Sierra-Bullones.

“Based on our observation, we have a good harvest this year. We are 90 percent in our harvesting season hitting a rice sufficiency in the province,” said acting provincial agriculturist Larry Pamugas.

Farmers are expected to produce a total average of 200,000 metric tons of palay (paddy rice) which could generate at least 100,000 metric tons of milled rice that can feed about 1.1 million people for one year.

However, not all farmers were fortunate.

Many of the farmers who lost their newly harvested and ready to harvest rice to the dry spell already suffered from the impacts of dry spell in 2016 and 2018.

The rice bowl of Central Visayas has been reeling from the drought brought on by El Niño phenomenon.  Farmers reported that their palay had either wilted or literally burned due the intense heat of the sun.

The lack of water caused the palay of Orcesio Amoy planted in a 8,000-square meter farm lot in Sitio Camanayon, Barangay Buenos in Carmen to wilt. His rice paddies had cracked due to lack of water while the palay had turned yellow as these started to wilt.

 Amoy said he was expecting to get a huge financial lost. Last year, he was not able to recover the P20,000 he invested in farm inputs after suffering from the brunt of a dry spell.

Gerry Quita, a farmer from Sierra-Bullones, said that the intense heat literally burned down some of the stalks while others had wilted. Those that survived did not grow as tall. “It is very hot. I planted late so my palay were burned,” he said.

He relied on rains that didn't come due to the drought. Bohol is known as the rice bowl of the Central Visayas.

Pamugas said the farmers and their crops were insured by the Philippine Crops Insurance System. For palay, the coverage is P30,000 per hectare.

Several ricefields in Bohol have dried up
as palay seedlings have turned yellowish green
due to the dry season made intense by the El Niño
 phenomenon. Photo by Leo Udtohan
Farmers are expected to produce a total average of 200,000 metric tons of palay (paddy rice) which could generate at least 100,000 metric tons of milled rice that can feed about 1.1 million people for one year.

The average daily consumption of Bohol is 9,020 bags a day, according to National Food Authority (NFA) Bohol Manager Maria Fe Evasco.

For NFA, they will buy harvested palay for P 20.70 pesos from farmers’ cooperatives, and P20.40 from individual farmers. NFA targeted to buy 13,840 bags from local farmers for the year.

 “We hope we can buy more,” said Evasco.

The agriculture sector in the province remains to be the major source of employment and livelihood, with 42 per cent of the province’s population working or dependent on agriculture.

The province has a total of 46,587 hectares for rice farming, which is 25 percent of the agricultural land area of the province at 185,276 hectares.

Of the 46, 587 hectares of rice field in Bohol, 24,000 hectares are irrigated through dams, small water catchments, and diversionary canals.

The rest of 23,000 hectares rely on rain.

In 2015 and 2017, Bohol produced 66 percent or 149 percent thousand metric tons of Central Visayas’ rice production and 10 percent of corn production.

A total of 238,728 metric tons in 2017 and 252, 816 metric tons in 2015, according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The production lowered to 161,003 metric tons in 2016 due to a prolong dry spell.

The effects of the El Niño phenomenon were felt in some parts of the country including Bohol province.

The water supply in various irrigation systems - Malinao Dam in Pilar town, Bayongan Dam in San Miguel town, Capayas in Ubay town and Zamora Dam in Talibon town- have also dwindled.

Acting Provincial Agriculturist Larry Pamugas
said the water levels in Bohol dams could last
until May. He said their office would conduct cloud
seeding operations in May to protect possible damage
 to croplands and in preparation for the next cropping season.
Courtesy: GMA News
In Malinao Dam, the water level continues to drop to ”critical” spot. It is now lower than the 152- meter normal water level.

Some parts of waterbeds of Malinao Dam were already exposed, creating island-like grounds or large cracks on the dam.

Some springs and creeks in the province are drying up.

Pamugas said the water levels in these dams could sustain until May.

He said their office would conduct cloud seeding operations in May to protect possible damage to crop lands caused by dry spell and for the preparation for the next cropping season.

The cloud seeding operations have a budget of P2.3 million from the funds of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (PDRRMO).

 There is no escaping the fact that the prevailing dry weather is more severe than was probably expected.

The dry season intensified by the El Niño is now felt in Bohol.


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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Miss Intercontinental Karen Gallman eager to promote Bohol

UBAY, Bohol- Miss Intercontinental 2018 Karen Juanita Gallman is ready to take on the task of promoting tourism in the country, with Bohol province as her launching ground.

The adoring crowd jammed Ubay’s streets
and snapped pictures of Karen Gallman,
the first Filipina to win the Miss Intercontinental
title during the homecoming parade in Ubay,
Bohol on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Photos by Leo Udtohan

Gallman, back in her home-province after winning the country’s first Miss Intercontinental crown, said she wants to share with the world the beauty and wonder Bohol has to offer.

 Bohol, the 10th largest island, is the home of the world-famous Chocolate hills, the smallest primate tarsier and miles of white-sandy beaches.

“Of course, now that I have a platform and I have this voice that a lot of people will and can listen to, I can always showcase the beauty of Bohol. And I love that too to show everyone how beautiful Bohol is. Everyone should visit, it is such a beautiful island,” she told VRS.  

At the Bohol Dairy Farm in this town which was part of her homecoming on Tuesday afternoon, Gallman loves yogurt, a product made by local farmers. Since Bohol positioned as dairy hub in her hometown, she would like to promote including other local products and other sights and sounds of the province.

Her other advocacy is better education in the rural areas.

At past 1 p.m. on Tuesday (March 5, 2019) hundreds of thousands lined the streets as residents here welcomed home Gallman who won the first Miss Intercontinental for the country after 46 long years.

Gallman, 26, rode a float that snaked through streets in the town, at least 124 km from the capital city of Tagbilaran.

She basked in loud chants and cheers as she was welcomed by her fellowmen and pageant enthusiasts during the parade.

There was no parade for Gallman in the city.

Her two-day trip to Bohol province was sponsored and organized by the municipal government of Ubay headed byMayor Constantino Reyes and Bohol 2nd district Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado, a relative of Gallman.

For Karen Gallman (of course, with your VRS),
the first Filipina who won the first Miss
Intercontinental title, home is where the heart is. 
People stepped out of their schools and offices to wait on both sides of the normally busy streets in Barangay Poblacion, snapped pictures of Gallman, the first native of Bohol to win an international title.

Some fans unfurled tarpaulins, carried cutouts of a pageant crown and face of her, congratulating her for bringing honor to the province while waving flaglets of the Philippines during the parade.

Gallman, however, had only sash during the parade since the original crown was in Panama.

As for Ubay native Leah Cutamora, she's happy to finally see Gallman in flesh but hopeful that the latter would be back soon.

 "I admire her and she's an inspiration to us. She deserves all what she has now as the first Filipina to win the crown," she said.

Police and traffic aides were deployed to keep order and secure a parade route of about 1 km that began at the town hall and would end at the gymnasium for the two-hour program a fitting welcome and recognition to the new queen.

Gallman received a plaque of appreciation and a cheque from the municipal government of Ubay through Mayor Constantino Reyes.

She elicited chants from the crowd when she seized the moment with her attention-grabber catwalk.

Miss Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman
with her relative Bohol 2nd district Rep. Erico
Aristotle Aumentado and wife Vanessa
during her homecoming. Photo by Leo Udtohan
It feels so good to be back home. This is my hometown and I always love to coming back to Ubay and Bohol. I just feel at home,” said Gallman, who was born and raised in Ubay town.

“I am also overwhelmed by all the supporters. Grabeh I have no words, I want to thank Congressman Aris Aumentado and his beautiful wife, and also the Ubay LGU and also si Mayor Constantino Reyes, for facilitating this homecoming, for letting me experience this and it is such a memorable experience that I will never forget,” she added.

Former Bohol beauty queen Vanessa Cadorna-Aumentado, one of the organizers of the homecoming, said that Gallman brought pride and joy to the Boholanos.

She said Gallman is the epitome of beauty, determination and passion that Boholanos were really inspired by her.

“All the people are very happy, overwhelmed. I saw it she really served as an inspiration to all of us especially the young ones, grabeh jud ang impact nga gihatag ni Karen,” she said.

She said Gallman’s traits such as being loving; kind, sweet and God-fearing gave her the chance to be where she is now.

“Kahibaw nako nga (I knew) one day she would become a queen. Behind the pretty face, I always see she has a beautiful soul,” said Vanessa.

Gallman, who was crowned Miss Ubay 2007, was born to Gavin William Gallman, a retired Australian soldier, and Ubay native Editha Boyonas.

.Karen Gallman with Ubay Mayor Constantino Reyes.
Photo by Leo Udtohan

She first joined Binibining Pilipinas in 2012 at the age of 19 and made it to the top 12 of the beauty pageant and was also named Miss Photogenic of the batch. She worked as an operations analyst in a London company for two years before trying her luck again in 2018.

She speaks the Visayan language fluently with her thick Boholano accent.

Her mother, she said, trained her and her siblings to speak Visayan and embrace the Filipino way even if they lived in Brisbane, Australia.

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Monday, March 4, 2019

Bohol welcomes Ms Intercontinental 2018 Karen Gallman

After winning the Miss Intercontinental 2018 crown, Bohol native Karen Gallman is now back home, even for a short while.

A warm welcome greeted the beauty queen
upon her arrival at the Bohol-Panglao International
Airport on Monday, March 4, 2019. Photos by Leo Udtohan
A warm welcome greeted the beauty queen upon her arrival at the Bohol-Panglao International Airport at 3:55 p.m. on Monday.

A group of fans unfurled a tarpaulin, congratulating her for bringing honor to the province while waving flaglets of the Philippines as soon as she stepped out of the airport in Panglao town.

She was also welcomed by her relative, Rep. Erico Aristotle Aumentado of Bohol’s 2nd district.

Gallman made history when she became the first Filipino woman to win the Miss Intercontinental crown after 46 long years.

Her homecoming was sponsored by the municipal government of Ubay where she is from and former beauty queen Vanessa Aumentado.

According to Vanessa, Gallman would have a homecoming parade in Ubay on Tuesday afternoon.

Gallman was born at Barangay Fatima in Ubay to Gavin William Gallman, a retired Australian soldier, and Ubay native Editha Boyonas.

She spent her childhood at Barangay Bood before migrating to Australia at age 8.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Keep your kids safe from ‘Momo’


Scene:  Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol re-launched on Saturday the Bohol Fish Market and TienDA at the APC Grounds in Barangay Dao in Tagbilaran City. Piñol said it aimed to promote locally produce agri-fishery products, provide market access and bring down the rising prices of basic commodities especially fish products.

Scene: JP Maslog posted on Facebook: The LGU-Panglao acted swiftly to address the illegal structures at Virgin Island. After a coordinated meeting with the Coastal Resource Management, the Municipal DILG and the concerned vendors, the latter voluntarily agreed to remove/detach and demolish the structures at the famous sand bar. Just this morning a team composed of the Coastal Resource Management (CRM),Municipal Engineering, Municipal DILG,PNP-Panglao and Bohol Tourist Pulis Unit inspected the area and was very satisfied with the quick action and result. 

Scene: Rima Aumentado on the sudden death of Bohol’s tattoo and graffiti artist Dexter Bustrillos: May your Soul Rest In Peace Sir. You are such a Good Friend and a Humble Person, despite of all the Achievements and Success that you have right now. We are not that close but you are so respectful magtagbo bisag asa sa ICM or molabay ka diri sa balay ky silingan ra lage sad ta mo smile gyud ka. You are a very family-oriented person, ky bisag unsa ka busy sa Shop you still managed to find time with your family esp your girls (daughters). You are very humble and down to earth kay sharing kayka sa imo blessings esp sa imong natabangan na mga Tattoo Artists. Bootan kaayo. Shocking Sad News but God has a purpose for everything. May you rest in peace Sir Dex. 

Schools have issued warnings about
 the Momo challenge, after the grotesque
doll with bulging eyes associated
with the suicide game has been
reportedly seen in the social media.  Internet Photo
Bedtime stories are a beautiful part of our childhood memories. As kids, we have lived all those amazing tales of courage, adventure, thrills and fun, but the ones which remain etched in our memories are the “mumo” (ghost) stories and other scary tales that our grandparents and parents told us.

The “mumo” stories were not meant for very young children who could be frightened more than they should be.

But earlier this week, "Momo" was a top new trending search term on Google for the US, Australia, Canada and the UK.

My friend Jessa Ylanan, a former journalist, shared that her friends were alarmed when their children were talking about “Momo” that someone had managed to scare their children into hurting themselves.

Momo Challenge is the latest viral concern /social media fad/urban legend going around Facebook parenting groups and schools. Authorities described it as a "suicide game".

The game, which involves a terrifying doll with grotesque features, works by getting young children and teenagers to message a specific phone number and then follow the instructions texted to them. 

The orders become increasingly violent and dangerous, including instructions to threaten others and self-harm. The children are threatened if they refuse to comply.

My assistant Helen Castano shared that her neighbors in Lamdagan thanked that their kids are not hooked on gadgets. They added In jest, ‘Maayo gani kay dili kasabot og English among mga anak kay English man kaha ang instruction anang Momo.”

Whatever it is, Ylanan said that the most terrifying aspect of the Momo Challenge is that as much as parents are trying to protect their children  from the slightest danger, somehow, right under their noses, people are still able to get to them.

National Online Safety has released tips (later adapted by the PNP-Cybercrime Group) on how to keep your child safe from the Momo challenge.

1. Tell them it's not real.  Just like any urban legend or horror story, the concept can be quite frightening and distressing for young people. Whilst this may seem obvious, it’s important for you to reiterate to your child that Momo is not a real person and cannot directly harm them. Also, tell your child to not go openly searching for this content online as it may only cause more distress.

2. Be present. It’s important for you, as a parent or carer, to be present while your children are online. This will give you a greater understanding of what they are doing on their devices, as well as providing you with the opportunity to discuss, support and stop certain activities that your child may be involved in. As the nature of each task become progressively worse it’s also important to recognize any changes in your child’s behavior.

3.Talk regularly. As well as monitoring your child’s activity, it’s important for you discuss it with them too.
Not only will this give you an understanding of their online actions, but those honest and frequent conversations will encourage your child to feel confident to discuss issues and concerns they may have related to the online world.

4.Device settings and parental controls. Ensure that you set up parental controls for your devices at home. This will help to restrict the types of content that your child can view, as well as help you to monitor their activity. In addition to this, it’s vital that you are aware of your device and account settings to ensure your child’s utmost safety. For example, on YouTube you can turn off ‘suggested auto-play’ on videos to stop your child from viewing content that they have not directly selected.

5.Peer pressure. Trends and viral challenges can be tempting for children to take part in; no matter how dangerous or scary they seem. Make sure you talk to your child about how they shouldn’t succumb to peer pressure and do anything they are not comfortable with, online or offline. If they are unsure, encourage them to talk to you or another trusted adult.

6.Real or hoax.  As a parent it is natural to feel worried about certain things you see online that may be harmful to your child. However, not everything you see online is true. Check the validity of the source and be mindful of what you share as it may only cause more worry.

7.Report and block. You can’t always rely on parental controls to block distressing or harmful material. People find ways around a platform’s algorithm in order to share and promote this type of material. Due to this, we advise that you flag and report any material you deem to be inappropriate or harmful as soon as you come across it. You should also block the account/content to prevent your child from viewing it.

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