Sunday, April 28, 2019

How Pipay rediscovers her ‘power’

Scene:  Celina Villoceno was crowned Mutya sa Tagbilaran 2019.  Villoceno, who represented Barangay Dao, was crowned Dr. Cecilio Putong National High School (DCPNHS)-Miss Intrams 2011.

Scene:  If plans push through, at least 100 contestants of Mister World 2019  will visit Bohol this August as part of the three-week  once-in-a-lifetime  experience, as they battle it out to discover  who should be declared the “world’s most desirable man.” The contestants will arrive in Manila on August 6 with the final taking place on August 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.


For the nth time, my visit to Siquijor Island last Holy Week (the best time to explore the island) was truly enchanted where magical delights beckon around every corner.

I was with Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor, Edward Guyano  aka Inday Charity, Helen Castano, Jerwin Jala and Michael Lawrence Castillon — the latest batch to be invited by Fiel Angeli Araoarao-Gabin and her hubby Engr. Jerome John Gabin who, we soon found out, was an Apostoles at14 and he’s serving as Saint Peter for almost 20 years.  

Tourist Regil “Pipay” Torralba Gucor explores the island province of Siquijor which is feared by many people because of the tales of kulam, paktol and gayuma and other mystical elements.  Photos by Leo Udtohan

Although Siquijor Island has been known for witchcraft, for us there’s far more to the idyllic island than meets the eyes.

Pipay’s second visit to Siquijor surprised her a lot since it is no longer the dreaded province it once was.

“It totally changed a lot—from a sleeping island to an enliven island where there are many hordes of tourists,” said Pipay.

She said, however, the island never lost its original charm.

“It is still a wonderful and magical island and the people are friendly,” she said. “If you’re looking for an island adventure with the charm of the countryside, Siquijor Island might just be the paradise you’re looking for.”

Stories about voodoo, bizarre rituals, and other supernatural things in Siquijor Island were the reasons why many Filipinos have dropped the island many times from their bucketlist.

St. Francis de Assisi Church.
But tourists who are coming to Siquijor have seen few overt signs of it.

Siquijor does, however, offer several white-sand beaches and other activities.

The island-province of Siquijor in the Central Visayas is the third smallest province in the country with only six municipalities-Larena, Enrique Villanueva, Lazi, Maria, San Juan and the capital Siquijor. It has a land area of 343.5 square km with 90,000 residents.

The island’s native name was Katugasan, after “tugas” (molave) tree that covered the place. The Spanish first called it “Isla del Fuego” (Island of Fire) due to the swarm of fireflies they found here, and later renamed it to Siquijor. 

Since it is relatively small, visitors can tour the island for 6-8 hours. You can rent a motorbike at P350 for 24 hours to enjoy the island for 48 hours.

Here are the “must-see’s” and the “must-do’s” in Siquijor:

Visita Iglesia
 Siquijor is also the home of centuries-old churches. The starting point for the tour is the St. Francis de Assisi Church in Siquijor town. It is only a walking distance from the Siquijor port. Few meters from the church, in the middle of a plaza, stands the bell tower that has served as a watch tower for the sea raiders during the Spanish colonial period.

In the town of Lazi, you can visit the San Isidro Labrador Church, one of the most outstanding cultural heritage churches in the Philippines, and the San Isidro Labrador Convent which is said to the one of the biggest and oldest convents in the Philippines.

 The Our Lady of Divine Providence in Maria town houses the statue of Santa Rita de Cascia, an Italian saint touted as the miraculous Black Maria.

Fish spa.
Water cascades, beaches
The province offers wonderful cascades. Visitors can swing like Tarzan at Cambugahay Falls in Lazi  town.  There is no entrance free and it is open until 5 p.m.  It has a multi-tiered waterfalls with clear turquoise waters. Look for the swing rope hanging on the tree and do a Tarzan jump for P20.

 Swimming lagoons are formed downstream where tourists can get a refreshing dip in the cool water.

For P50 entrance, one can enjoy and witness the hidden beauty of Lagaan Falls still in Lazi town. The beauty of its clear water awaits vacationers. Aside from trekking, swimming and jumping into the water from the edge of the falls, one could also swing from the vines.

“It’s a very nice place just like you are in paradise. It’s very hot and if you want to refresh just go to Lagaan falls. The water is so cold and very refreshing,” said Pipay.

The Lugnason Falls in Barangay Napo in San Juan town offers visitors time to swing like Tarzan and enjoy the cold water for free.

The Capilay Spring Park offers  a natural spring-fed swimming pool located in the town of San Juan. For swimming the pool, you need to pay P20.  Visitors can have a picnic, dine and swim here. Don’t forget Tating’s creamier ice cream. It can bring delight during hot and humid days!

Going up a mountain can be exhausting but not in Siquijor’s highest peak. The Mt. Bandilaan Nature Park has natural springs, hiking trails, caves, and even a butterfly sanctuary. The more spiritual might be moved to reflecting by the Stations of the Cross. Visitors can climb a tower to get a panoramic view of the island and Bohol.

Siquijor has a postcard-perfect scoop of pristine white-sand beaches that frozen your time.

Salagdoong Beach in  Barangay Olang in Maria town is famous for its cliff diving/jumping.  For P30 entrance, visitors can enjoy swimming in its pristine waters.  There are two jump-off points at Salagdoong at the height of roughly three to four storys.

“It is basically about conquering one’s fear. Fear is inevitable at first, but after you do it, you become more courageous,” said Fiel after her Salagdoong experience.

The town of San Juan has the best resorts in Siquijor. The undeveloped Paliton Public Beach in San Juan has sugar-fine, white sand that could very well match Boracay’s white-sand. Few meters from Paliton Beach is a still an unnamed “secret cove” where it offers white-sand beach with clear waters. Here, visitors can enjoy the beach without the noise of overdevelopment and the nightlife. It's a place where you can relax and enjoy the beach...and to catch beautiful sunsets.

Fish spa
The 400 year-old Balete tree in Barangay Campalanas in Lazi town is believed to be enchanted because of its eerily hanging roots and vines. Folks believe that it is home to mythical and scary creatures like agta and engkanto. But the balete has real dwellers- the doctor fish or garra rufa! 

For P10, visitors can try a new and fun alternative health and beauty treatment in Siquijor to safely and gently exfoliate the feet. The fish clean pores, remove dead skin cells and also serve as a micro massage of the feet and legs, improving blood circulation. The experience is slightly ticklish at first, but skin instantly becomes softer and smoother.

 “Oh my G-d, I was so amazed to see an old balite tree. And the fish spa, it’s so  giluk. I love it,” said Pipay.

Love potion
In spite of the long presence of Christianity, witchcraft exists in various forms on the island with Barangay  San Antonio as the center of shamanism.  It’s in a hilly part of the island with a mystical yet primitive vibe.

Siquijor is known for white-sand beaches. Photos by Leo Udtohan

For the past years, the provincial government of Siquijor tried to rebrand itself from “mystical island”  to Asia’s “healing island.” It gathered some mananambals (folk healers) who practice several styles of healing for tourism through the provincial government approved Healing Festival during Holy Week. 

But it is during Holy Week both the “white” and “black” witches make concoctions and recharge their “powers”.  Mananambals from Visayas and Mindanao visit the mountain villages of Cantabon, Punong and San Antonio to participate in a ritual called “tang-alap” (searching).

For seven Fridays, the herbalists and sorcerers roam the forests, seas, caves and cemeteries to gather medicinal herbs and roots to make amulets, charms, love potions and other concoctions. They cook their concoctions on Black Saturday to make “sumpa” (counterspell or anti-dote).  

Pipay was lucky she was allowed to “join” during the ritual-- the mixing of the “ingredients” of the “sumpa” and chopping of the herbs --at the house of one of the folk healers.  She was also taught the secrets of making the most effective “lumay” (love potion).

Pipay is trying to make some herbal potions.
“The feeling is different.  It gives you a glimpse of how these potions are made with so much reverence,” said  Pipay.

If you’re still craving a taste of Siquijor’s mystical side, ask a local to point you to a faith healer.

Local flavors
 Seafood is abundant in the area and they have lots of local seafood dishes. Fresh sea urchins (salawaki) is sold at cheaper price. Some Siquijodnons even eat this raw right by the beaches. Sea-liciously sweet! 

Some restaurants offer “sangkutsang balakasi,” a famous delicacy. This dish is made of eel stewed in vinegar and spices and coconut milk. Locals said it gives men renewed virility.

Peanut brittles and banana chips are good pasalubong items.

The  Lilibeth Pan Bisaya, the famous bakery in the province, along the national highway in Enrique Villanueva town sells baked  breads in charcoal oven. They have tortang Visaya (a spongy, sweet and oily mamon that uses tuba as leavening agent) and pan Bisaya (bread with a filling of “bucayo”).

There are woodcarving shops selling wooden statues such as “bulul” all over the island.

While Siquijor is still known for alleged witchcraft in various forms, Pipay said her "fear" vanished when she saw the island’s untouched places and felt the island’s hospitality.

The locals helped her to love the island more, she said.

One of the island’s residents is Mrs. Laura “Mommy Lou” Jumawan-Gabin, a retired school district supervisor and a former member of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)-Siquijor, who has many good stories to tell about her province.  

“Siquijor has changed a lot.  The development will surprise you,” she said.

Even when retired, Gabin, 78, along with her family, continues to support activities and programs that preserve and promote culture, the arts and religion as integral components of tourism.

Gabin said that though it would still be the same mystical island maligned with the things associated with witchcraft, the beauty and goodness of the place and the people itself is already therapeutic. 

"Don’t be afraid. It is a home of peace loving and God-fearing people,” she said.

 “We have white beaches but no evil witches,” she added.

That’s real magick.

How to get there:
You can take a ferry from nearby Cebu City, Dumaguete in Negros Oriental or Tagbilaran City in Bohol, which are all accessible by domestic flights from Manila.

Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook/Instagram.

At Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ victory

Our Savior has risen!

The Easter Sunday of the Lord’s Resurrection, as the greatest and most important Christian feast, is a Day of Obligation for all Christians.

The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that God makes all things new. It also reveals to all believers the deepest meaning and purpose of the Christian’s faith in the One who came to destroy death and give life to the world.

Here are some of the best known (powerful, Scripture-centered) Easter hymns that celebrate the resurrection of our Christ.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow
Because He lives, all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living, just because He lives
---Because He Lives

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I'm found
Was blind, but now I see
---Amazing Grace

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
---Blessed Assurance

Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia! 
Earth and heaven in chorus say, Alleluia! 
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia! 
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply, Alleluia! 
 ---Christ the Lord Is Risen Today

Great is Thy faithfulness! "Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness,  Lord, unto me!
--- Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Holy Week reflections and activities

This week is Holy Week – a time to remember and reflect on the events that led Jesus to the cross and to his resurrection. 

The time of Lent developed as part of the historical Christian calendar and is typically celebrated by Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar.

Lent is the most appropriate time to really meditate about Jesus’ Passion.

This week, dust off your Bible and discover the words of the Lord.  There are Bible verses detailing promises and examples of God’s love and protection.

What are your favorite verses? 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. - John 3:16

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.- Deuteronomy 31:6
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 1 Peter 5:6

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.- First Peter 5:7

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.- Isaiah 41:10

The Village of the Compassionate God the Father in Inabanga town offers a place for quiet, restful, meditative prayer this Holy Week. Contributed 

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.- Jeremiah 29:11

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.- Philippians 4:19

The Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting … -Psalm 100:5

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. -Nahum 1:7

For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. - Psalms 61:3

It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.- Lamentations 3:22-23

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.- Proverbs 3:5-6

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.- Jeremiah 17:14

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.- Psalm 55:17

Combining religion and summer vacation, the Holy Week is the best time to get that much-needed rest and offer a silent prayer.

Holy Week is going to be a busy time for Bohol province. Local and foreign tourists are surely going to flock to this island paradise for some sea, sun, sand and “solemnity.”

Bohol is a perfect place for reflection. The paradise will surely make you reflect on the things that you have to be thankful for.

Spending the Holy Week on the beach may be frowned upon by conservatives. But it is a personal choice on how one remembers the passion and suffering of Christ. Remember, it is never about a place or location.

You can have beach soul-searching in Dauis, Panglao, Anda, Loon, Ubay and Carlos P. Garcia Island. You can sit alone under a beach hut and sip fresh juice, and thank the Lord for all the blessings.

Waterfalls in Balilihan (Camugao Falls), Dimiao (Ingkumhan and Pahangog Twins), Candijay (Can-umatad Falls) offer serenity. These not only feed the soul but also rejuvenate the body.

Himuntagon Hills in Loay and Alicia Panoramic View are another jaw dropping places for meditation and reflection. Allow these postcard worthy views to bind your faith and restore your religious spirits this Holy Week.

The Lenten Procession in Baclayon is a must. 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.

In Loboc and Loay towns, one can see the ritual that dramatizes the first meeting of Christ and Mary after His resurrection 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.

Amulet hunting is also a bizarre activity. It is a folk belief that anting-anting (amulets) are especially potent if collected, made, or charged on Good Friday. In Lamanok Point in Anda town and in Kalagan in Garcia-Hernandez, some albularyo search for anting-anting in caves and forests.

The Church said Holy Week was supposed to be a time “to be with God” in silent prayer and reflection.

VRS has picked some places to make your activities meaningful.

Old churches- There are many old churches for Visita Iglesia. Although some churches in Bohol were destroyed by the strong earthquake in 2013, they still provide space for meditation and prayer during Holy Week for your spiritual journey.   There are 14 churches to visit in remembrance of the 14 Stations of the Cross. Mediate and pray at Alburquerque (Sta. Monica Parish), Anda (Sto Nino Parish), Alicia (San Joaquin),  Antequera (The Nuestra Señora del Rosario), Baclayon (The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), Balilihan (Nuestra Señora del Carmen Parish), Calape (San Vicente Ferrer), Candijay (Saint Joseph),Corella (Parish of Our Lady of the Village), Cortes (Santo Niño Parish), Dauis (Church of Our Lady of the Assumption), Dimiao (San Nicolas Tolentino Parish), Duero (Immaculate Conception), Garcia Hernandez (St. John the Baptist), Getafe (Santo Niño), Guindulman (Nuestra Señora de la Consolacion), Inabanga (San Pablo Apostol), Jagna (San Miguel Arcángel Parish), Lila (Virgin of the Holy Rosary), Loay (Santissima Trinidad Parish), Loboc (Church of San Pedro), Loon (Church of Our Lady of Light),  Maribojoc (Santa Cruz Parish),  Panglao (San Agustin Parish), Tagbilaran City (Cathedral of San José), Talibon (Most Holy Trinity), and Valencia (Santo Niño Parish).

Fatima Rosary Hill-   The shrine of the Madonna of the Miraculous Blessed Virgin Mary in barangay Buenavista in Carmen town 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.

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.

Village of the Compassionate God the Father- The shrine located in Barangay Fatima in Inabanga town provides a unique place for quiet, restful, meditative prayer during the remembrance of the final days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. 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. “When I am in doubt, troubled or feeling blessed, I always come to this place to find serenity..and for thanksgiving,” said  call center agent Gerwin Yudelmo, a frequent visitor of this pilgrimage site.

Krus Daku and the Statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe 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. In the next hill, one can visit the giant image of the Our Lady of Guadalupe. Here, one can view the towns of Loay and Loboc.

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.

Shrine of San Pedro Calungsod-  A five-foot tall statue of Blessed Pedro Calungsod found in Barangay Malbog, Jagna town, is a popular pilgrimage site. The only statue dedicated to Pedro Calungsod in Bohol, tourists and pilgrims pray before the statue and leave written prayers at the foot of the statue.

Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome at, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Will Gazini Christiana Ganados bring the next Miss U crown?

Remember Gazini Christiana Jordi Ganados? She was crowned Mutya ng Central Visayas Regional PRISAA 2017 in February 2017 and then became Miss Bohol 2017 first runner-up (representing Loon) in July 2017.

Boholana beauty Gazini Christiana
Jordi Ganados aspires for Binibining Pilipinas 2019 crown.  Miss Bohol Photo
Now, she is an official candidate (representing Cebu) in the 56th edition of the Binibining Pilipinas pageant slated for June 9, 2019 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

TAG ’89 MeetUp! 2019

For the first time in the history of Tagbilaran City, or even in Bohol Province, the graduates of a particular class, from eight (8) high schools in the city, will jointly celebrate their 30th (Pearl) grand homecoming celebrations.

From July 1 to 7, 2019, the classes of 1989 from Bohol National High School (BNHS), Bohol Institute of Technology (BIT), Bohol School of Arts and Trades (BSAT), Divine Word College of Tagbilaran (DWC-T), Holy Spirit School (HSS), Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary (IHMS), Manga High School (MHS), and the University of Bohol (UB) will come together for the “TAG ’89 MeetUp! 2019” activities.

This is an ambitious project that entails the full support for the preparations from the coordinators of the eight (8) schools for the event to be successful, considering that many balikbayans from different parts of the world will come home just to participate in this milestone.

The group will introduce the first Tagbilaran’s Bridges-Friendship 5K Walk on July 1, 2019 starting at 4:30 a.m from the Friendship Park in Bool, Tagbilaran City, to Mansasa, then to Dauis Bridge, to Dauis Church, and back to Friendship Park and the 10K Run starting at 4:30 a.m. from the Friendship Park in Bool, Tagbilaran City, to Tagbilaran’s Rizal Park, to Dauis Church via the Causeway Bridge, and back to Friendship Park via Mansasa and Dauis Bridge that will be part of the 53rd Tagbilaran City Charter Day Anniversary activities.

Mannie Rey Amoguis of BNHS Class of 1989 is the overall chair.

On July 6, 2019, Hale will perform in the concert for a cause to be staged at the CPG Sports Complex.

Gabin is new Audio-Bohol prexy

City Government of Tagbilaran’s Fiel Angeli E. Araoarao-Gabin led the new set of officers of the Association of United Development Information Officers (Audio) – Bohol as its president for 2019-2020 who took their oath of office recently before Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II, inducting officer.

Fiel Angeli Araoarao – Gabin is Audio’s new president.  
Other officers are Liezl Del Rosario (Civil Service Commission), vice-president for national government agencies (NGAs); Nicolas Sendrijas (Local Government Unit of Calape), vice-president for LGUs; Marichu Cua (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), secretary; Elvira Bongosia (Philippine Information Agency or PIA), assistant secretary; Rosario Chatto (Bureau of Internal Revenue), treasurer; Jojeline Ruiz (LGU Trinidad), assistant treasurer; Gualberto Jaspe (LGU Pilar), auditor; Bruce Zabala (Bohol District Jail), first district Press Relations Officer (PRO); Mirasol Intong (LGU Buenavista), second district PRO; and Maria Cristina Jumao-as (LGU Jagna), third district PRO. 

The organization is under the guidance of the PIA-Bohol headed by Information Center Manager Rey Anthony Chiu.

Gabin started as Audio-Bohol secretary in 1999, then served as Audio-Bohol president from March 2003 to August 2005 and became president of the Regional Association of Development Information Officers (Radio)-7 composed of IOs from Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor from February 2004 to August 2005.

In September 2018, she was Radio-7 convention director in the regional gathering held at Dumaluan Beach Resort in Bolod, Panglao. She was also president of the DML Montessori School, Tagbilaran City Science High School, and Bohol Child Head Start Federated Parents – Teachers Associations (FPTA).

Bohol hosts 9th PABO biennial
annual convention

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Romeo S. Momo who rose to the ranks in his 43 years of service in the department, inspired the delegates as guest of honor of the 9th biennial annual convention of the Philippine Association of Building Officials (PABO) held in a resort last week.

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Undersecretary Romeo Momo (seated, 4th from left) was the guest of honor during the 9th biennial annual convention of the Philippine Association of Building Officials (PABO) held in this city. Contributed Photo
He underscored the crucial role of the building officials in the implementation of infrastructures that change the developmental landscape of the country while zooming in on the real essence of public service.

According to Engr. Alan Cahiles of Lila, the national convention director, from the 800 who originally made prior confirmation, the total number of registrants reached as high as 1,200 even during the opening ceremonies who were composed of the city and municipal engineers in the Philippines headed by Engr. Ma. Virginia Rosario, city engineer of Dagupan City, Pangasinan.

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Thanks for your letters, all will be answered. Comments welcome, follow leoudtohanINQ at Twitter /Facebook.

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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