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How Philippine Mahogany helped win the war for the Allies

June 6, 2021

June 6, 2021 is the 77th Anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II codenamed Operation Neptune and better known as D-Day.   The Normandy landings were the largest seaborne invasion in history, with nearly 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers participating. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day, with 875,000 men disembarking by the end of June. The operation began the liberation of France (and later western Europe) and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front. Few people today are aware this operation considered one of the decisive battles of the 20th Century, would never have come to fruition without the famous Higgins Boat made of Philippine Mahogany. Our colleague, eminent author and researcher Ms. Marie Vallejo commented that “It was the Higgins Boats that were made of Philippine Mahogany” and provided us with a link to the online article “The Higgins Boats” where the “extraordinary role” Philippine Mahogany played in the Allies ultimate victory over the Axis was discussed. As US President Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked in a 1964 interview with author Stephen E. Ambrose, “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us. If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicle & Personnel), we never would have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.” Adds Col. Joseph H. Alexander, USMC (Ret): “The Higgins Boats broke the gridlock on the ship-to-shore movement. It is impossible to overstate the tactical advantages this craft gave US amphibious commanders in World War II.” And pray where does Philippine Mahogany come in on all these? Here’s where it gets interesting. The Higgins Boat Designed by the fiery tempered, whiskey chugging Irishman Andrew Jackson Higgins, the half-wood/half-steel LCVP assault boats would land troops and material on invasion beachheads. A self-taught genius of small boat design, Higgins was born on 28 August 1886 in Columbus, Nebraska, the youngest child of John Gonegle Higgins and Annie Long (O’Conor) Higgins. Higgins was raised in Omaha and completed three years at Creighton Prep High School before being expelled for brawling. He served in the Nebraska Army National Guard, attaining the rank of first lieutenant, first in the Infantry, and later in the Engineers. He gained his first experience with boat building and moving troops on the water during militia maneuvers on the Platte River. He left Omaha in 1906 to enter the lumber business in Mobile, Alabama, and worked at a variety of jobs in the lumber, shipping and boat building industries in an effort to gain experience for starting his own company. In 1910 he became manager of a German-owned lumber-importing firm in New Orleans. By 1922, he formed his own company, the Higgins Lumber and Export Co., importing hardwood from the Philippines, Central America and Africa, and exporting bald cypress and pine. He acquired a fleet of sailing ships, said to have been the largest under American registry at that time. To service this fleet, he established a shipyard which built and repaired his cargomen as well as the tugs and barges needed to support them. As part of his work in boat building and design Higgins completed a program in naval architecture through the National University of Sciences in Chicago, an unaccredited correspondence school, which awarded him a bachelor of science degree. In 1926 he designed the Eureka boat, a shallow-draft craft for use by oil drillers and trappers in operations along the Gulf coast and in lower Mississippi River. With a propeller recessed into a semi-tunnel in the hull, the boat could be operated in shallow waters where flotsam and submerged obstacles could foul the usual types of propellers. He designed a “spoonbill” bow for his craft, allowing it to be run onto riverbanks and then to back off with ease. His boats proved to be record-beaters; and within a decade he had improved the design to attain high speed in shallow water and turn nearly in its own length.   Stiff competition, declining world trade, and the employment of tramp steamers to carry lumber cargoes combined to put Higgins’ Lumber and Export Co. out of business.   He kept his boatbuilding firm (established in 1930 as Higgins Industries) in business, constructing motorboats, tugs and barges, for the private market as well as the United States Coast Guard. The 1939 Philippine Mahogany Crop Higgins foresaw and prepared for the coming war better than most. As a mark of his prescience, he bought the entire 1939 production of Philippine Mahogany, and stored it at personal expense at his boatyard. He knew it would be desperately needed soon, and it was. One of his first wartime contracts was to build PT Boats, all of which required mahogany as the primary deck material. As author Mike Whaley described what followed next: “In a common movement of eccentricity, Higgins bought the entire 1939 crop of Mahogany from the Philippines and stored it on his own.” Two years later, the US Navy ordered production of Higgins’ iconic LCVP built with that 1939 Mahogany which helped win World War II. Higgins’ innovative spirit enabled a series of breakthroughs that led to the eventual design that became his namesake boat. First was the spoonbill bow that curled up near the ramp, forcing water underneath and enabling the craft to push up on to the shore and then back away after offloading. A ridge was later added to the keel, which improved stability. Then, a V-shaped keel was created and that allowed the boat to ride higher in the water.   Higgins started making landing craft for the Navy when World War II began. He built a 30-footer, the Landing Craft Personnel (LCP), based on government specifications but he insisted a larger boat would perform better. The Navy relented and he came up with a 36-foot version, the Landing Craft Personnel Large (LCPL), that would become the standard for the rest of the war. The Boat that won World War II   That landing craft, often referred to as “the boat that won World War II,” could quickly carry up to 36 men from transport ships to the beaches. It also could haul a Willys Jeep, small truck or other equipment with fewer troops. Higgins’ earlier modifications along with an ingenious protected propeller system built into the hull enabled the boats to maneuver in only 10 inches of water. This version became the basis for a variety of designs and different configurations during World War II. LCA (Landing Craft Assault), LCM (Landing Craft Mechanized), LCU (Landing Craft Utility), LCT (Landing Craft Tank) and other models followed the same fundamental style, all built by Higgins or under license with his company, Higgins Industries. Higgins was named on 18 patents, most of which were for his boats or different design adaptations to the vessels.   Prior to the LCVP, large-scale seaborne invasions were more difficult to mount. They usually required the bombardment and capture of large ports and harbors, which were often heavily fortified and well-defended. But thanks to the availability of small landing craft like the Higgins boat, whole armies could instead be deposited on any stretch of shoreline with relative speed. To meet the threat of an invasion that could fall anywhere, enemy commanders suddenly needed to be spread their forces out across entire coastlines and fortify vast stretches of shore. Others simply called the Higgins boat “the bridge to the beach.” Even Hitler was grudgingly impressed. After D-Day, he demanded to know how the Allies managed to land so many troops at Normandy in a single day. His generals reported the mammoth number of Higgins’ landing craft that were involved in the operation. “Truly this man is the new Noah,” the Fuhrer reportedly remarked. The Higgins boat was used for many amphibious landings, including Operation Overlord on D-Day in Nazi Germany occupied Normandy, Operation Torch in North Africa, the Allied Invasion of Sicily, Operation Shingle and Operation Avalanche in Italy, and in over 100 amphibious operations in the Pacific Theatre.   “To put Higgins’s accomplishment in perspective,” historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in a 2000 article for American Heritage magazine, consider this: “By September 1943, 12,964 of the American Navy’s 14,072 vessels had been designed by Higgins Industries. Put another way, 92 percent of the U.S. Navy was a Higgins navy.” Along with the help of other American factories, Higgins produced 20,094 boats-of which 14,800 were LCVPs– during the War -and they proved to be one of the most rugged and versatile boats ever created. They deposited troops, vehicles, and equipment on every type of beach imaginable: shores made of sand, volcanic ash, and rocks; on coral atolls, islands, and continents; in locations ranging from the tropics to the Arctic; and on beaches sometimes free of opposition and obstacles and at other times heavily defended.   Although the coral reef at Tarawa laid bare the LCVP’s glaring weaknesses—its inability to traverse obstacles in the water or operate on land, the little craft is remembered along with the Jeep, the C-47 aircraft, and the deuce-and-a-half ton truck as one of the transport systems that powered the Allied victory in World War II.   And thanks in no small measure to that 1939 crop of Philippine Mahogany that made the Higgins Boats available in numbers that made the ultimate Allied victory a reality.

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A German Expat in The Philippines: WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XVIII)

June 6, 2021

Chapter XVIII: The Year of a Serious Decision It was on a wonderful Sunday morning during breakfast. My mother opposed all the advice of her friends and decided to move to Berlin to live with Rossana and me in another cute apartment. “Then you don't always have to drive almost 1,000 kilometers back and forth to visit me on a free weekend,” she said. She moved into a wonderful one-person apartment in Berlin near us. "You have probably booked your next vacation in the Philippines? What do you think if you just take me with you this time?" The question didn't shock Rossana and me. It was our dearest wish for some time. As always said, done. The flights were booked. Berlin - Frankfurt. Frankfurt - Manila, a nonstop flight with Lufthansa. Manila - Davao by Philippine Airlines.  We arrived safe and sound  in March 1993. The big Hallo and the incredible warm welcome from the family in the Philippines shocked my mother and she burst into tears. "Why have so many in Germany warn me against going to the Philippines?" my mother asked. Rossana and I couldn't answer her. All so-called good hard blows from her German friends were lost in the flight. Even her family doctor had urgently advised her never ever  to travel to the tropics, in this case to the Philippines, because of her unstable, cancerous health. When my mother sent him a postcard and told that she was fine and enjoying her stay in the Philippines her doctor no longer replied even after she returned to his clinic in Berlin. During our vacation, we got  very distinguished visitors in our house: Davao Archbishop Fernando Robles Capalla together with parish priest Father Allan. Capalla was born on Nov. 1, 1934 in Leon town, Iloilo province. He was ordained priest on March 18, 1961, and was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Davao by Pope Paul VI on April 8, 1975 . His episcopal ordination and installation were on June 18, 1975. The same pope appointed him as Prelate of Iligan on April 25, 1977 and he was installed on May 26, 1977. He became Bishop of Iligan when it was elevated to a diocese by Pope John Paul II on Nov 15, 1982 . He served as Apostolic Administrator of Marawi from Oct. 17, 1987 until 1991. On June 28, 1994 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Davao, and on November 6, 1996 , was appointed Archbishop of Davao. He was installed as third Davao archbishop on November 28, 1996. Meeting the bishop gave me an incredible opportunity to become a columnist as well as a  radio host in the Philippines. I met Father Dexter Veloso, the station manager of DXGX 89.9 The Good News Radio, a member of the Catholic Media Network as well as the chief editor of the Davao Catholic Herald. (To be continued)

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Xavier Ateneo bids farewell to XUGS Macasandig

June 1, 2021

The Xavier Ateneo community has bid farewell to the XUGS Macasandig campus.  Tributes and prayers were offered to the past and present faculty, staff, administrators, Jesuits, parents, guardians, and pupils of the XUGS Macasandig on May 28. “For 50 years, this campus has been the home of the XU Grade School, particularly that of the Macasandig community,” said Dr Dulce Dawang, Xavier Ateneo VP for Basic Education, in her welcome remarks. “An important chapter of the XU Grade School is coming to an end,” she said, “however, there is also a whole new chapter that awaits it.” “Our track record shows that Xavier has filled us with so much confidence that we can readily take on any challenge. The GS community is indeed a great model of magis, grit, and resilience,” she added. Memories and prayers Five stations were set up around the XUGS campus, each dedicated to a particular group. “XUGS Macasandig would not have reached Level 3 PAASCU Accreditation without the dedication, commitment, and perseverance of all the teachers it had throughout its 50 years of tireless service to our young learners,”  said Nico Calunia, assistant principal for Academics and XUGS alumnus, during his sharing at the first station dedicated to the members of the faculty and staff. “As we close this campus' gates, let us remember all the memories we have shared with these grounds,” he said. “XUGS Macasandig has been a trailblazer in its time and we, the teachers and staff, will continue its legacy as we move to our new home.” XU Grade School started operations in 1941, but was transferred to Macasandig from the Corrales campus in 1970. In honor of the past and present school administrators, Teacher Hilda Gumanit recounted her experiences under different GS leaderships. “Let us not forget the wisdom and spiritual guidance of Fr Leo Pabayo SJ and all other chaplains and Jesuits who inspired us and prompted us to always find God in all things,” Gumanit said. “All these were lessons and legacies from our administrators together with their key and middle-level team, which will forever be carved in our hearts and minds.” The event also paid an homage to the Jesuits who led the XUGS Macasandig: Fr Theodore Daigler SJ (founder), Fr Jorge “George” Hofileña SJ, Fr Leo Pabayo SJ, Fr Bob Suchan, SJ and lay leaders, past principals Flerida Neri, Fatima Paepke, Emmanuel Gomez, Eva Auxilio, and their lay colleagues for the past 50 years. Messages for the pupils and parents XUGS Guidance Counselor Jenny Ugat shared at the third station her heartfelt message to the alumni and current pupils of the grade school. “As your educators and second parents, it is our joy to see our young Ateneans do spontaneous gestures of kindness, doing something good even when no one is watching or even when not being told to,” she said. “This makes us feel fulfilled that you have inhibited our culture of being men and women for others.” A thousand paper cranes with hopeful messages, submitted by pupils, alumni, parents, faculty, and staff adorned the hallways. “This may be a goodbye, but we are hoping that our children will have a better and new educational environment [in the Pueblo campus],” said Atty Johanna Lawrence Adaza, PTA President of XUGS-Macasandig. “This move is toward the better and for the good of our children,” she added.   XUGS Chaplain Fr Frank Savadera SJ gave the final blessings to the Macasandig campus. “As we travel the roads together, may the good Lord hold us always in the palm of His hands,” Fr Frank said, quoting an Irish prayer. One in mind and heart A statue of St Francis Xavier from Macasandig was transferred to XUGS Pueblo, marking the start of the consolidation of the two campuses. St Francis Xavier, the university’s patron saint, lived “a life of many transitions” as he traveled to many foreign and unfamiliar shores carrying out the mission of the Society of Jesus. A Eucharistic celebration capped the program, along with the symbolic transfer of XUGS memorabilia, such as the mace, PAASCU certificates, and trophies. “For us, consolidation is not only a physical integration of two groups of grade school communities.” Fr Mars Tan SJ, University President, said during his homily. “But more importantly, it is about being one in mind and heart as a grade school community, being inflamed by one Xavier Ateneo vision and mission, sustained by the same Ignatian values and ideals, and bonded together by the same love for our students and pupils.” The #OneXUGS project forms part of the strategic plan of the university, in line with its educational mission and vision of “becoming a leading ASEAN university forming leaders of character by 2033.” The consolidated XUGS is now integrated into the XU Basic Education Complex in Pueblo, along with the Preschool, Junior High, and Senior High School.

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Morphing Art into Fashion with Laguindingan Silk

June 1, 2021

As Cagayan de Oro transitions into MECQ status in response to a surge in covid-19 infections, one of the city’s leading artists is optimizing the time available to him as he works from home. “Five years ago, I made a customized minaudière for a good friend. I did not expect to gain attention from the fashion industry since I'm producing home accessories,” said Christopher L. Gomez, one of Cagayan de Oro’s senior Kagay-anon designer who’s a multi-disciplinary creative and advocate of Sustainable Design. “Today, I reinvent again to produce in a limited-edition, hand-painted minaudières  made of Laguindingan Silk,” Chris reveals. “ As an artist, I want my product to produce in a limited way. So there will only be 43 pieces of these made-to-order, customized fashionable pieces which are proudly made in Cagayan de Oro, Mindanao.” A minaudière is a women's fashion accessory, generally considered a jewelry piece, which stands in for an evening bag. A case with compartments, it allows several items such as a makeup compact, lipstick, watch, reading glasses, or keys to be stored in a small space. Usually metal plated and oblong, sized small enough to be held within the hand, a minaudière is a dainty accessory. Gomez’s creations are textile designs with Laguindingan Silk overlaying a frame with hand painted designs. “Each piece is hand-painted and hand-crafted using traditional materials abundant in the region,” Gomez said. “The clutch is made of shell clasp thoroughly manipulated to achieve a greener tone.” According to fashion journalist Lloyd Boston, a minaudière constitutes an essential part of an evening wardrobe, a small object with no limit to its usefulness, and a fabulous character. The minaudière appeared during the 1930s. Its invention is attributed to Charles Arpels (of Van Cleef & Arpels), but many jewelers and haute couture designers have created their own models, like what Chris Gomez is doing. The word minaudière was a French term for a coquettish woman, from the word "minauder" (to flirt or simper). As a Product Development Mentor accredited by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, and a Product Design Specialist of  Design Center Philippines (DCP), Chris has been a mentor to Kagay-anon designers eyeing to break the glass ceiling that has constrained them from attaining their full potential to breach the event horizon and define a Kagay-anon Design Paradigm instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. Among his many laurels: Finalist, 2011 National Philippine Art Awards; Grand Prize winner (water-based category) 2012 Metrobank Art & Design Excellence Awards; Finalist, 2014 Look of Style Awards (British Council/Look Magazine); and Finalist, 3rd Habi Kadayawan Design Competition held August 2019 at Davao City. As one of the spark plugs of Design de Oro, composed of graduates from two previous design workshops which aimed to build their capability through trainings with designers, Chris has sought to keep local designers updated  with trends, techniques, manipulation, up to the prices of saleable products. More recently, his design class modules were adopted by the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) One Town, One Product (OTOP) through the MODA (Modernong Obra, Desinyung Atin) Designer Manlilikha course, a virtual online program conducted September-November 2020 which graduated 125 aspiring designers all over the Philippines. Featuring eight design leaders in their respective design fields from fashion. furniture to packaging and visual merchandising, MODA Manlilikha aimed at growing the capability and creativity of regional designers. “As a program director, I want to level up the growing capacity of our designers to understand better design solutions and marketable products to be executed by our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs),” Chris said. “This program is supported by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, DTI Undersecretary Blessila Lantayona, and OTOP Assistant Secretary Demphna Du-Naga.” The second phase of the program will be launched in August and will start in September with design mentors from Manila, Cebu and Cagayan de Oro. “Our 125 graduates will undergo a specialized program that best suits their design interests. We are finalizing the lists of mentors because we want our young designers to be better equipped with skills and design thinking.” Not the least, as one of the most sought-after designers not only in the region but from all over the country as well, Chris considers his work as the connection between his art and his family. “My art also serves as fulcrum between a day job and my family. It connects the two in a very organic way, a sort of translation device.” “For me, design is always answering the question “is this product good for my family?”  “Having three children today has better connected me to the child I was before, fearlessly and innocently drawing in between studies, chores and games.”

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2GO Boosts ‘Fun and Safe Travels’ - MV 2GO Maligaya maiden voyage to Cagayan de Oro

June 1, 2021

2GO Travel, the Philippines’ largest premier sea travel provider, is setting its sights to go beyond the #StaySafe mantra for travels in the new normal, by making sea travel both “FUN and SAFE” for its passengers through the new MV 2GO Maligaya – currently the fastest, largest, state-of-the-art vessel in the country.   MV 2GO Maligaya successfully sailed her maiden voyage from Manila to Cebu on May 31st. Upon her arrival in the City of Golden Friendship on June 1, 2021, Kagay-anaons were greeted with the ship’s colorful and energizing livery, which gave them a new, youthful, and stimulating visual-spatial experience of shapes and spaces, representing 2GO’s brand identity, core pillars, and values. MV 2GO Maligaya operates on a Manila-Cebu-Cagayan de Oro route, and is expected to do round trips twice a week, leaving Manila every Wednesdays and Sundays. Earlier passengers enjoyed cruise ship-like amenities that is of international standards, such as private hotel room accommodations, grand lobby, spacious lounge areas, and restaurants. They were also treated to upgraded facilities, on top of the raffle prizes and surprise giveaways, for a total onboard sea travel experience with 2GO. 2GO observes proper health and safety protocols to assure safe travels through regular disinfection and sanitation of all vessels and ports of call. Meanwhile, passengers are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and face shields, and to practice social distancing from check-in, boarding, and disembarkation at all times. The company also ensures that passengers comply with local travel requirements of their destinations. [translated] "Dakoa sa barko, murag mall! Nalipay mi kay bag-o siya og swerte nga nakauna mi og experience sa murag hotel nga barko sa 2GO. Natuyok nako ang barko, mao nga na-enjoy gyud ko ning byahe," said Mae Villar, a passenger of Maligaya’s first journey.   In addition, the roll-on, roll-off passenger (ROPAX) and cargo vessel is equipped with amenities to amplify the travel experience. This includes a café, salon, convenience store, prayer room, shower rooms, bar, clinic, activity area, and entertainment rooms. Accommodation choices include the state room, business premium, tourist premium, business class, tourist class, and the tatami. The rooms and common areas have wider spaces and open-air options for better ventilation. Passengers can also choose to either book a single room for themselves or their family, giving them the flexibility to optimize social distancing throughout their trip. “At 2GO Travel, we give our passengers the peace of mind to journey with us safely and comfortably, while offering them the best sea travel experiences for the best price. Your vacation and relaxation really start the moment you board 2GO Travel ships,” 2GO Vice President and Head of Sea Solutions Dan Fernan said.    Fernan said 2GO Travel is also committed to reliability and consistency as proven by their track record of unabated operations and trips even at the height of the pandemic last year.   To encourage more fun and safe travels, 2GO Travel is offering a ₱99 promo to Cagayan de Oro-Manila and Cagayan de Oro-Cebu, inclusive of a 50-kg baggage allowance. Passengers must book from May 30 to June 3, 2021 to avail of the promo, for sailing on August 1 to December 15, 2021. Other destinations covered are Batangas to Caticlan and Roxas as well as Manila to Bacolod, Butuan, Cebu, Coron, Dumaguete, Iligan, Iloilo, Ozamis, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga.   To book your tickets, please visit 2GO Travel’s website, https://travel.2go.com.ph/, call our hotline (02) 8 528 7000, email us at travel@2GO.com.ph, or visit any 2GO outlet and SM Business Centers near you!

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A German Expat in The Philippines: WITH BEETHOVEN UNDER PALMS (XVII)

May 31, 2021

Chapter XVII: Off to the New World Sometimes it takes an outsider to point out what's great about a culture. That's exactly what Czech composer Antonin Dvorak was when he came to the U.S. at the end of the 19th century, an immigrant thrown into a new world and new sounds. Out of that experience, he wrote a symphony for America: Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, "From the New World," has become one of the world's most beloved orchestral works. It also produced a melody that is a hymn and an anthem to what American music can be. In February 1992, Rossana and I reached the New World, the United States of America after two flights with British Airways from Berlin to London, and thence from London to Los Angeles. It was my second stay in the U.S. In 1975, I visited America and Canada already for a tent tour visiting the complete west coast of both nations up to Alaska. This time, we visited some members of our family, who emigrated to Los Angeles and San Diego after our wedding in 1983.  Uncle Boy, Auntie Gigi, our nephews Dustin and Bebeng as well as their partners reside in Santa Monica until now.  The sprawling beach and consistently sunny weather of Santa Monica is less than 15 miles from downtown Los Angeles, significantly adding to the seven million visitors this seaside city receives each year. The epitome of Southern California coastal appeal, Santa Monica has an energy spurred by the lapping waves of its western border, and a visceral excitement found on the pedestrian-friendly streets, buzzing with activity well into the night. Rossana and I forgot Germany for several weeks. Uncle Boy asked several times whether we didn't want to emigrate to them. Our heads spun. "Let's visit Mexico first and then we decide where we are emigrating!" Rossana said this so seriously that all believed it. But we only reached Tijuana and returned back to the U.S. as soon as possible. The Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Park and Griffith Observatory, Disneyland Resort, Venice Beach, Long Beach, or The Original Farmers Market - really unforgettable, intoxicating weeks. We would meet Uncle Boy and Auntie Gigi again after years in Davao City. 1993 was planned again for the Philippines. My mother, a cancer survivor and then age 70, expressed an amazing wish all of a sudden. (To be continued)

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