Tips on using your Philippine ATM card in Indonesia

NOTE: This page will be constantly updated as soon as we get new information from banks.

Using your Philippine ATM card in Indonesia can be very daunting. Based on my experience, the thing that took me time to acquaint myself  with is the so many zeros you see on the ATM screen. Imagine someone getting so overwhelmed after learning that he has 1.45 million, er, Rupiah (US$ 104.95*) in his account, but later realises that he has to be careful with the currency rate adjustments, apart from the charges for the transaction.

Continue reading “Tips on using your Philippine ATM card in Indonesia”

Plastic ban stifles Philippine vendors

DAVAO CITY — Agdao Public Market is fringed with long queues every morning. These are not eager shoppers. They’re vendors waiting to get their daily ration of biodegradable plastic bags.

“It’s really hard, we have to adjust to the whims of the cellophane trader. They (traders) only gives us two packs for each of us,” said Josalle Linasam as she plucks the leaves of spinach she sells in her stall.

Linasam, 31, has been lining up everyday for the past two weeks for her 100 bags, ever since Davao banned non-recyclable plastic bags.

“So when sales are high, we would run out of plastic bags because it’s not easy to just buy more,” Linasam lamented.

Davao lawmakers passed the ban on non-recyclable plastic in 2009 but the city only started to enforce it this year. Anyone caught breaking the law pays a fine of P300 (US$7.16). 139 violators were punished two days after the ban was implemented, news reports here said.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) says the bulk of garbage in waterways, mostly plastics in 2011 reached 17,087 kilograms.

“And it’s exactly why this kind of plastic is prohibited. When disposed improperly, they clog the waterways and cause flooding when there’s torrential downpour,” said Jim Sampulna, DENR’s regional chief in Southern Mindanao.

Joseph Felizarta, Davao’s environment officer,pointed to another reason to ban nonbiodegradable plastic: to lessen the impact of climate change since it releases dioxin, a highly toxic compound.

“If nonbiodegradable plastics are also thrown into sanitary landfills, it produces methane gases,” Felizarta added.

But the bid to deal with climate change and pollution is also creating unintended consequences.

“Our expenses have increased and we are facing a deficit,” said Linasam.

At the Bankerohan market, a thirty-minute jeepney ride from Agdao Public Market, vendors echoed the same sentiment. Fruit vendor Cinderella Ronquillo, 62, says her profit “now goes to the (biodegradable) plastic.”

Two packs of 50 cellophane bags, says Ronquillo costs her P64 (US$1.51) a day. Two packs of nonbiodegradable plastic would only cost P40 (US$0.96). Now, the premium she pays is cutting into her average daily income of P780 (US$18.64).

Small traders talk about how they’ll make ends meet. Now they wonder whether the law is there to help the environment — or just to single out wet market vendors who struggle to put food on the table.

“We can’t do anything. We have to follow it or else we will have to pay fines,” said Linasam.
(Mick Basa/Asian Centre for Journalism)

Philippines journo gets threat after posting “scandalous” photo of Catholic church

Karlos shows the photo that went viral on Facebook

A journalist from Davao, Southern Philippines, is getting threats and hate messages after posting a photo of a half-naked man being forcefully driven away by security guard inside a cathedral.

Karlos Manlupig, a freelance photographer of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, says one of the blackmails he has received comes from an anonymous user who threatened to circulate posters of him with a message that reads “wanted gay terrorist and rebel.

The Facebook photo has gone viral, with more than 11,000 users sharing it as of press time. It first appeared Friday afternoon, a day where Christians, the majority population in the Philippines, commemorate the death of Jesus.

Covering Mindanao storm for the first time

Emilio Mabalio hopes to find his missing relatives so he could finally lay them to rest

Emilio Mabalio hopes to find his missing relatives so he could finally lay them to rest

Covering disasters in Southern Philippines was something I have never done in the past for a couple of reasons. First, I’m new to this field since I only started in 2009. Second, this is the first time in decades that a storm badly hit what was once called “typhoon-free” Mindanao, to borrow one of the words of Sec. Lualhati R. Antonino, the chairperson of the island’s socio economic planning agency.

Our managing editor, Fil Sionil, phoned me Wednesday (Dec. 23) afternoon while I was in Davao City looking for human interest stories I could write for our paper on the 25th. “I want you to write a story about the flood survivors so we could put it on print on Christmas day,” she said.

My blood ran cold.

“How could I do this?” I asked at the back of my mind. The road going to Cagayan de Oro is a disaster itself. Traveling from Davao City via Bukidnon now takes 9-10 hours, said the driver of the Rural Tour bus I rode Wednesday evening. Immediately rushing home after Fil’s call to pack my clothes, I went to the terminal 7:30 in the evening. Had adrenaline failed to keep me going, I would have arrived Cagayan de Oro Thursday afternoon, a big mistake for broadsheet reporters who wish to make it to the daily midday deadline.

I arrived Agora terminal in Cagayan de Oro just few minutes before sunrise. While sipping the first coffee of the day, questions began to pop out of my mind: What am I going to do first?

Stepping out from the terminal, I began to converse to residents, asking them to help me find where Barangay Macasanding was, the village hit worse by tropical storm Sendong (International Code: Sendong). Urgency, said my friend who works for a TV Network, is what pushed me to wrap this coverage.

Here is a copy of my December 25 story for Manila Bulletin:

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines — The day Jaydhan Sapio asked his mother to come over their shanty this week to attend his six-month son’s christening today turned vain.

Sitting on a bench with his daughter held close to his chest, Jaydhan recalls his most traumatic incident in his life like nothing had happened. His face was blank, like most other survivors who found temporary shelter just a stone’s throw away to where I found him.

Floating iron bars swept by the raging floodwaters tore his mother’s right thigh apart, causing serious injury which eventually led to her demise Saturday morning (December 17, 2011).

“I was very close to my mother. We never saw it coming,” the 23-year-old construction worker, whose grandfather and nephew are also missing, said.

“She repeatedly called our name until her last breath,” he added.

At least 1,080 dead bodies have been recovered in Northern Mindanao since Christmas eve. And officials say a thousand people are yet to be rescued.

Like him, 60-year-old Emilio Mabalio’s relatives are missing. And until this day, his efforts of returning to the now devastated Sitio Cala-cala in Barangay Macasanding are for his hope that someday he would find them.

“If they are already dead, I just want to see their bodies so I can finally lay them to rest,” Mabalio told the Manila Bulletin while on his way to Sitio Cala-cala, scouring for anything he could while at it, possibly looking for signs of his relatives’ lives.

“They’re still in my mind every time I go to sleep,” he added.

At least for now, he said, the searching will never end.

Luck came down on Epafrodita Padilla, 39, when her 14-year-old daughter held her in his young arms and fought the torrential water.

“He is my angel. Without him, I would have been floating dead,” she said.

But everyone in their community, she said, were unprepared as they thought Tropical Storm Sendong will just be like any other storms they have had in the past.

“It was the worst of all the storms we have encountered here in Cala-cala,” she said.

Michelle Malate used to have 14 cousins. She now only has one remaining, Maria Jane, who is turning one-year-old today.

But while the search for her missing cousins continue, Michelle fears Maria Jane will be celebrating Christmas without her siblings and other cousins.

“We feel that she knows exactly what is happening here. When we say her missing cousins’ and siblings’ names, she begins to cry,” said Michelle, who said she he wants to see the rest of her cousins and that her hope has not gone out of flame yet.

“Christmas is about being happy. Before the storm, my cousins and I talked that we would exchange gifts even though the items they would wrap weren’t expensive at all,” she recalls as she fights the tears falling from her eyes.

The Balili siblings, too, say it is their darkest moments of their lives. The torrential downpour washed their parents, leaving the four children orphans.

Rolando Balili Jr., the eldest son of their family, shares his grief as flashbacks of the distressing event recur in his mind. His two children, too, are missing until this day.

“My parents reminded me to take care of my children and my three other brothers,” 29-year-old Balili said, adding that the chance in finding their mother again is far from possible.

“She has hypertension and overweight. And the carcasses recovered by authorities don’t have any of her distinct physical features, not to mention that the rotting bodies have inflated,” he said.

His father, who bore an overgrown scar on his chest, could also no longer be found for now.

“It’s a painful and bitter feeling,” he explained.

Many of the residents here fear from returning back to what used to be their homes. They say they want to live a place far from water, one that is safe from storm.

But for now, family members who survived while experiencing the pain of losing their loved ones, as well as the fears that the missing ones are already dead will have their “saddest” Christmas in their lives.

“This is the saddest Christmas in my whole life. No amount of fun can take away the pain. I just want to see their bodies so I can have a peace in mind. I was 15 when I became pregnant to my eldest child,” said Romelyn Nulla, 23, whose live-in partner works in Saudi Arabia and is yet to fly to the country to be reunited with her.

“My (husband) who works in Saudi Arabia sent money to buy my kids bicycle on Friday morning. But they have never used their father’s gift,” she said.

Weak consumption during long holidays

It’s a long weekend in the Philippines. With schools, banks and business establishments closed, most people here are at home.

For those who find their living every single day, the long holiday was bad for their business.

30-year-old Julieta, a vendor selling sweet coconut water near a major park here in this city, says she barely had anything yesterday, making only 100 pesos ($2.37), four times less than what she earns on normal days.

“I used to earn 1000 during the Kadayawan, though normally I earn 700 out of the 400 pesos capital I use to buy all of these ingredients to make my products. But with the holidays and few people going out, I only earn 100,” she lamented.

Bad business for some, good for others. For the tourism industry, Mindanao Business Council chair Vicente T. Lao said it would benefit well.

The President declared Monday and Tuesday as official non-working holidays at all sectors in the country to celebrate the National Heroes Day and the end of the Islamic fasting, respectively, making it a long weekend from Saturday down to the last day of holiday.

It’s an ironic picture of what the government wants to achieve: encourage domestic tourism and private spending. Businessmen complain they have lost productivity and the hassle of preparing mandatory holiday and overtime salaries in a short period of time.

“In terms of business its negative because our monthly sales are lessened. For us, nobody goes to our stores because the people are on the streets,” an entrepreneur told this writer.

Despite this, majority of of Filipinos took advantage of the government’s ambition of giving the people “full and uninterrupted opportunity” to holidays. They say the long weekend means more time for their families, a tradition Filipinos value the most.

Davao welcomes guests with a “punch”

A month ago, Davao City became well-known for its Mayor who punched a court sheriff. Criticized and praised by many, the talk about the punching became so popular that tourism groups here were able to turn it into something the city could benefit.

But unlike the jab that hit the face of an unfortunate sheriff, this punch does not hurt anymore. A fruit concoction made of guava, pummelo and calamodin prepared by a chef from a local culinary school, this punch serves as a brand new hospitality gesture for those who fly to this city.

“Fly to Davao and we will welcome you with a good punch,” says an advertisement showing a fair-skinned woman wearing a Lumad attire, raising a glass of the so-called “Davao punch”. It appeared on national newspapers this month, drumbeating an annual festivity every August, Kadayawan “the King of Festivals.” Horror for some, fun for others.

Telai Jarabelo, a resident here, says she finds the advertisement amusing. But she says people outside the city might not find it funny at all.

“I think it was funny. (But) I believe it’s only amusing to Davao people. Because non-davaoenos were against the punching incident,” she says.

Mayor Sara Duterte admits she was surprised and was even asked if she could be photographed with the fruit punch as the brains of the creative advertisement wanted her to be the endorser for the month-long event itself.

“I didn’t saw it coming that they were planning it for Kadayawan. They wanted me to be the one in the advertisement but I refused because I felt it wasn’t a good idea to have me in the picture. It’s as if we’re making fun of what happened,” she told this writer in a cocktail party  organized by the Indonesian Consulate Monday night as they celebrate their 66th Independence (Ulang Tahun Kemerdekaan Republik Indonesia).

Jason Magnaye, City Tourism, Investment and Promotions acting chief, said developing the so-called “Davao punch” into a marketable tourist product that could be served in restaurants is not far from possible.

The city government here is eyeing to turn the concoction into an economic activity, creating livelihood especially for women, said Duterte.

Duterte became under fire since July for punching court sheriff Abe Andres during demolition row in squatter shanties. Cases of disbarment has been filed by a group of Sheriffs in the country. But the mayor, and even residents here, seemed to be unfazed about it.

Pinoy Muslim brings pride to predominantly-Christian country

KUALA LUMPUR — A Muslim Filipino has brought pride to the Philippines, a predominantly-Christian country, as he won second place in an international Quran reading competition held here at the Putra World Trade Center last week.

Official results presented by the 53rd International Quran recitation council revealed that Saudi M. Gandisa, a 24-year-old Arabic teacher from Maguindanao, got second place in the competition, only .89 percent away from Amariahman bin Abas, a Malaysian contestant, who got first place with a score of 89.26.

Gandisa will go home with a cash prize of 22,400 Malaysian Ringit and a gift certificate from Malaysia Department of Islamic Development (Jakim).

At least 61 participants from 37 countries participated this year’s reading competition of the Islamic religious book, an event organized by the Malaysian government since 1961 — in a bid to strengthen ties among Muslim countries in the world.

Around 2,000 people from around the world filled the Merdeka Hall of the Putra World Trade Center here during the event.

Meanwhile, Filipina contest Rahima M. Panondiongan, 29 years old of Marawi City, also placed fifth, following top contestants from Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. Organizers, however, only award top three contestants.

Gandisa and Panondiongan are finalists of the Quran reading competition held in the Philippines last June.

Filipino Muslims, comprising 5 to 9 percent of the country’s, are known to have aced the Quran reading competition over the years, including Prof. Hassan Sarip who won in the 1979 international contest in Tripoli, Libya.

Other Filipinos who became well-known globally include Ustadza Bantayao Parahiman who won the top title in the female category of the 2002 World Qur’an reading contest in Malaysia.