the region

Marawi Suicide Squad back in action vs. COVID-19

April 19, 2020

    These days they brave an unseen enemy to provide a decent burial for the dead and spare the rest of the population from infection.     They are employees of Lanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO).     On March 17, they conducted their first burial of a COVID-19 patient who died on that same day in Amai Pakpak Medical Center in Marawi City.     Amer Hussein Lucman, head of Lanao del Sur PDRRMO, said they had mixed emotions when they were told to bury the dead at Maqbarra Public Provincial Cemetery in Barangay Papandayan, Caniogan.     Maqbarra is the same cemetery where over 200 unidentified fatalities recovered from the Ground Zero battleground during the Marawi siege in 2017 are interred.     Lucman’s group was the same group, better known as the Suicide Squad, who retrieved the remains while the battle between government troops and the insurgents raged around them.     “We experienced mixed emotions because at first, we were told that the PDRRMO is there only to support, and that they (Marawi City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office) is supposed to lead but the APMC told us no one wanted to handle the deceased. We are ready anytime because we, in the PDRRMO, are here to help,” Lucman said.      Two immediate family members, with the help of two hospital personnel, helped carry the remains of the COVID-19 fatality from the hospital isolation room to the vehicle waiting at the back of the hospital.     “Noong malapit na sa vehicle, doon na kami nag take over, hinawakan na ng mga tao ko ang remains. We tried our very best to carry it kasi alam mo naman ang belief namin sa Islam, dinahan dahan namin ang pag-carry,” Lucman said.     (When the cadaver was near the vehicle, we took over, my colleagues held the remains. We tried our best to handle it carefully because you know our belief in Islam, we carry the deceased with care and respect.)     All team members were wearing protective suits which were all later properly disposed off according to the protocol mandated by the Department of Health (DOH). Lucman said it was his first time to assist in an Islamic burial so unlike the previous ones he attended.  While he and his colleagues tried to make the burial solemn given the unusual circumstances, they just smiled and tried to make light of it afterwards while disposing of their hazmat suits. In reality, they all were scared of getting infected. This battle was different. “Noong nagdadamit na kami, siyempre virus yan, mas delikado kumpara sa siege, idinadaan nalang namin sa tawa, nagbibiro na lang kami ng mga kasama naming na parang ‘eto, tayo na naman ang nagtatrabaho, walang tutulong’. Hindi na naming masyadong pinu-problema para hindi mawalan ng lakas ng loob ang mga members namin,” Lucman said. (When we were wearing our hazmat suits, of course we are dealing with a virus, more dangerous than the siege, we just laughed, we joked with our colleagues and I said “here we are again, working, no one will help”. We did not take it seriously so that our team members would not get discouraged).  “Sa siege kasi, maririnig mo ang putok ng baril, puwede kang magtago muna bago dumiretso. Unlike nito, hindi mo nakikita ang kalaban mo. Puwedeng anytime dumapo sa iyo kahit naka-protective suit ka, hindi 100% na hindi kakapit sa iyo,” he added. (During the siege, you could hear the gunfire and explosions, you could take cover before proceeding. Unlike now, you cannot see your enemies. Anytime, you could get infected even if you wearing a protective suit because it is not 100% you won’t get infected.) To make sure they are safe when they get back to their office, they disinfect  three times. The vehicle used in transporting the cadaver was also disinfected. Then they underwent quarantine until they were again called to bury another COVID patient on March 20. At the cemetery, no Islamic rites were conducted since the immediate family members already did these at the isolation room. They had to be very quick. “Sa normal na libing namin, lahat nga pamilya na nasa paligid ay hahawak sa bangkay bago ilagay sa hukay, pasa-pasa yan. Maraming mag-volunteer na maglibing. Hindi ka natatakot. Pero ito, kahit immediate family ay nag-aalangan na humawak sa bangkay. Masakit isipin na ganoon ang naging impact ng sakit na ito.” “Alanganin kaming humawak kasi baka mapunit ang PPEs namin,” Lucman added. For the March 28 burial, the PDRRMO decided not to bring along the immediate family members of the deceased because the nearest relatives were living in Iligan City. ILIGAN CITY ----- In 2017, they risked their lives dodging bullets to save those trapped inside the city by the siege. The Inter-Agency Task Force COVID-19 in Iligan City did not allow the relatives to go out from their house because they were classified as Persons Under Monitoring (PUM).  “On our end also, pinagbawal na namin na may family member na sumama kasi walang problema sa amin, we can always go on a quarantine. Pero mga family members, hindi natin alam kung may disiplina sa pag-quarantine. So imbes na mababawasan ang problema, baka mas lalong lumaki,” Lucman said. (On our end, we prohibit family members from joining the burial. It’s no problem for us because we can always go on quarantine. For the family members of the deceased, we are not sure if they have the discipline to undertake the mandated quarantine. Instead of easing the problem, it may only worsen the situation.) “We understand the weight of the problem. We are not sure of the other people because there many who are still in denial once they got infected  with the virus,” he added. It was hard for Lucman’s group to prohibit family members from burying their loved one, but the group prefers it that way rather than risk further spreading the virus.

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6th BIG Bite Foodfest underway in Centrio

March 9, 2020

A Bigger and Better Big Bite Northern Mindanao Food Festival opened on March 5, 2020 at the Ayala Centrio Mall in Cagayan de Oro. Scheduled from March 5-8, 2020, the festival is a Centrio Mall marketing event promoting the food s scene in Cagayan de Oro City.     “This year there will be 71 food concessionaires, food exhibitors prepared with love,”said Centrio Mall Manager Hammer Roa during the festival launch held at the Centrio Activity Center.     “On top of that, all of our favorite food places are gathered here today at one venue for four days with the likes of Butcher’s Best and Aling Violy’s Humba, to mention a few.”     What is extra special about this year is that we have partnered with Liceo de Cagayan University who will be demonstrating the latest technical skills in kitchen set, competencies and techniques,” Roa added.     The launching program climaxed with the setting of what is probably the longest Seafood Boodle ever in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao, with VIPs from Centrio Mall and local tourism offices helping set up the 20 meter table with delectable grilled seafood favorites from Gerry’s Grill, after which all stakeholders joined in enjoying.     From 32 participating establishments last year, exhibitors to the 6th edition of the 3-day FoodFest this year more than doubled to 71, showcasing all kinds of food genres like organic, grilled, vegan, dessert and new for this year, packed food or take-outs (or takeaways).     “This year we added a new lane for packed food (take-outs) at H&M for desserts at the C.M. Recto entrance to accommodate food establishments specializing in pasalubong and similar foods,” said Itos Felesedario, Centrio Marketing Associate.     “Our rentals are friendlier which has enabled us to accommodate more entrepreneurs referred to us by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and more exhibitors from outside the mall,” Itos added.     “It’s also our way of pooling potential merchants such as Choleng’s Muron who started as an exhibitor in a previous Big Bite Food Festival but is now our full-time regular concessionaire,” Itos explained.     “Once we incorporate them in the mall, we teach them how the mall operates, which makes from a smooth transition from exhibitor to merchant,” he added.     Access to the main exhibition area at the Centrio Gardens will be during mall hours while the grilling area would remain open till 11o’clock for the festival duration.     Although the 71 slots for this year’s festival have already all been taken up, Centrio Mall remains on the lookout for trending food establishments in Cagayan de Oro.     While this year’s festival mainly still focuses on Cagayan de Oro, Centrio Mall is already receiving inquiries from merchants from areas outside the city like Iligan, and may consider including them in future festivals.     Besides the food exhibits, the 3-day program would also showcase star-studded events such as the Kapuso Meet-and-Greet on Sunday, March 8 at 4:00PM featuring GMA Artist Bejamin Alves and Gil Cuerva.

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Sounding like a broken record: We badly need reforestation

July 22, 2019

There is a stark reality that we humans face today and as cliche as it may sound, changing that reality, is easier said than done.       Over the years, the problem in climate change and greenhouse gases spread like wildfire on a hot day. It continues to increase and it drastically affects our daily lives without us realizing it.       According to the recent study of British weather service body Met Office, carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes the climate-warming in the atmosphere, is dragging its near-record amount rise in 2019. Sadly, every year, this continues to increase even more.       In fact, over the past four years, it was recorded that the temperature of the Earth already reached its highest record.       Why is this happening?      One factor that majorly contributes to this massive environmental dilemma is the rising number of people and companies destructing forests. Deforestation is no longer new to our ears. We heard this word back in school and we are still talking about it today.      As recorded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), 18.7 million acres of forests annually are being swept by various industries in the world. This is equivalent to 27 soccer fields that are being destroyed in every 60 seconds. And once the year 2030 comes, the percentage of endangered forests might jump as high as 47 percent.      In the Philippines, the country that owns two-thirds of the planet’s biodiversity, forests lose 24 percent of their covers each year over the past 100 years, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This means that 47,000 hectares of forest covers are denuded per year or a total of 1.2 million hectares in the last century.       Deforestation causes a huge chain reaction of disasters and crises. For instance, the forestry industry accounts for a sizeable portion of our water supply. Without trees, we might find ourselves in the midst of another water crisis.       Forests are also our natural barriers for disasters. A mangrove forest helps stop tsunamis during thunderstorms and earthquakes. Forestries also help stop erosion and prevent flash floods and landslides.       Aside from this, they also help mitigate and even negate the negative impact of climate change. But most importantly, they help bring about growth for both the economy and ecology.       Hence, massive reforestation is key to addressing major problems, and this initiative should be done collectively and with the right tools. Funding could also be an issue for this endeavour.       Recognizing that it has the capacity to help champion causes, GCash created a program, called GCash for Good, that will provide individuals to donate money to non-government organizations (NGOs) to champion environmental causes, among others.        Through the GCash platform, users can express their generosity and their love for the environment by sending their donations to environmental protection organizations such as Bantay Kalikasan, Haribon Foundation, World Wildlife Fund for Nature, and the Forest Foundation Philippines.      Just like a normal donation program seeking to help the unfortunate and the environment, GCash for Good introduces convenience with a cause.       With GCash's 20 million users in the country, the option of sending donations to stop deforestation can be possible in just one tap on our mobile phones. And If these 20 million users sent one peso from their accounts, a total of P20 million will be raised in no time.       Now, there'll be no more excuse in promoting a greener world for the future generation. Just like the old saying goes, "Vision without action is a daydream and an action without a vision is a nightmare."       So, let's act now before its too late.

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XUHS Batch 1980, Xavier Ateneo ink naming-rights agreement for SHS consultation room

July 21, 2019

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines — The Xavier University High School Batch 1979-1980 and Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan, through the Advancement office, recently signed a memorandum of agreement for the naming rights of a consultation room at the new XU Senior High School campus in Pueblo de Oro.       The signing ceremony was led by XU president Fr Roberto C Yap SJ and XUHS Batch 1980 representatives, namely, Architect Ernest Martin D Soriano, Reynald Z Recentes, Robert S Capinpuyan, Dr Renan B Arbellera, and Anthony Paul G Falcon.       XUHS Batch 1980, with their donation worth three hundred thousand pesos, has earlier expressed their desire and intention to “honor the memory of their XUHS batch by immortalizing their batch’s name in one of the facilities of the new XU Senior High School complex.”      In particular, one of the meeting rooms will be named “Batch ’80 Consultation Room,” containing a floor area of approximately 18sqm, located on the ground floor of the new XUSHS building, situated beside the Alumni Office and northwest of the Registrar’s Office.      Prior to the MOA signing, the batch had already turned over a facsimile check during an alumni homecoming at the XU Covered Courts on December 1 last year, in the presence of the XU Board of Trustees chairman Frank Guerra.      The XU Advancement Office opened the Naming Rights Program (NRP) last year to interested  donors and organizations who want to name a facility or space at the new XUSHS campus, thereby, sharing in the university’s vision of becoming the “Senior High School of Choice in Mindanao.”      The new campus will implement environment-friendly technology in its buildings and operations. Among its salient features are the following: a sewerage treatment plant, rainwater collection system, natural ventilation, and sky gardens. They are designed to reduce the overall impact on the environment and human health.

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Xavier Ateneo, ADMU join forces to offer PhD in Economics offsite program in Mindanao

July 21, 2019

Xavier University - Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) and Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), through their respective Economics departments, sealed an agreement to strengthen graduate learning on economics in Mindanao.      Xavier Ateneo is the only Higher Education Institution (HEI) in Mindanao that offers both an undergraduate and graduate programs in Economics. As proposed in 2020, AdMU will offer a PhD in Economics offsite program to be housed in Xavier Ateneo. An offsite scheme provides an opportunity for potential graduate students in Economics from Mindanao to avail an Ateneo education, right at the heart of CDO as students will be officially enrolled under AdMU but classes are to be conducted at Xavier Ateneo.      Part of the MOU is to develop Xavier Ateneo’s Master of Arts in Economics program, as its students are eyed to be potential enrollees in the PhD in Economics offsite program. There will be regular and certificate classes for both teachers and practitioners in Economics. Subjects are to be taught by faculty members of Xavier Ateneo and AdMU.      For the first semester of this school year, four regular and certificate subjects are being offered. All four are to be facilitated in mixed classes. Research Methods in Economics and Microeconomics are scheduled every weekday. Dr Catherine Roween C Almaden, dean of the XU Graduate School, is handling Research Methods. While junior faculty of Xavier Ateneo Economics, Jhon Louie B Sabal, is teaching Microeconomics.      Macroeconomics and Mathematical Economics, on the other hand, will be recited in the modular set-up as AdMU professors are teaching these subjects. Dr Rosalina Palanca-Tan, senior faculty of AdMU Economics, is scheduled to facilitate her face-to-face lecture on August 19-23 and September 16-20. Dr Philip Arnold P Tuano, chairperson of AdMU Economics, will conduct his lecture classes on October 7-11 and 28-30.

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Cebu Pacific gears up to expand Clark, Cebu hubs

March 11, 2019

The Philippines’ leading carrier, Cebu Pacific (PSE: CEB), is set to expand its route network from its hubs at Clark and Cebu this year, on the back of increasing demand from tourists for more direct and seamless connections.     Speaking at the Routes Asia conference in Cebu, Michael Ivan Shau, Chief Operations Officer of Cebu Pacific, announced that the carrier will launch three new domestic routes from the Clark International Airport. CEB will mount daily flights between its hubs in Clark and Iloilo; as well as between Clark and Bacolod, starting August 9, 2019. Beginning October 9, 2019, CEB will mount daily flights between Clark and Puerto Princesa in Palawan.     “There’s still a lot of opportunity for expansion within the Philippines—inter-island connections from key cities like Clark and Cebu. We believe that there is a significant untapped market in northern provinces in the Philippines. Creating direct links between domestic destinations and our other hubs will spur tourism and movement of goods and investments, whilst doing away with having to pass through the main hub in Manila,” Shau noted.     The Clark International Airport has served as the hub for North and Central Luzon of Cebu Pacific for the past ten years. It has emerged as one of Asia’s fastest-growing airports, with passenger volume breaching 2.5 million in 2018. Over the past six months, CEB has boosted frequency in Clark by over 75%, with direct connections to Cebu, Caticlan, Tagbilaran, Davao, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong.     “We are also in the final stages of launching a new route between Cebu and mainland China. We’ll have more details on that soon,” added Shau. Cebu Pacific had earlier stated they would ramp-up capacity in its Cebu hub by as much as 20% in 2019. Routes in development for its Cebu hub are focused on North Asia markets such as China, Korea, and Japan.     “The Philippines is the closest tropical destination from North Asia. Cebu and the 166 islands within the province alone boast of some of the best tropical getaways in the world. It’s a logical choice to be our ‘beach hub’ with easier access to world-class beaches, dive spots and resorts.”     From Cebu, CEB mounts direct flights to Bacolod, Caticlan (Boracay), Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, Calbayog, Camiguin, Clark, Davao, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Legazpi, Ozamis, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Siargao, Surigao, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Hong Kong, Macau, Tokyo (Narita), Singapore and Incheon.     Aside from its Clark and Cebu hubs, Cebu Pacific operates flights out of five other strategically placed hubs in the Philippines: Manila, Kalibo, Iloilo, Davao and Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan). The carrier has maintained leadership in the domestic market with 37 destinations and over 2,130 weekly flights. Coupled with 26 international destinations, the entire Cebu Pacific network covers over 108 routes spanning Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and USA.

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