Month: November 2009

When Monsters become Real

When I was a child, I would climb into bed with my mom and fall asleep in the comfort of her warmth, knowing monsters would not come close with my mom by my side.

I am no longer a child and have outgrown my fear of bedtime monsters. But what about children living in Maguindanao who wake up after a bad dream? How can their mothers assure them there are no monsters?


As I prepared for the upcoming International Day to Eliminate Violence against women (November 25), I learned that a candidate sent his wife to file his certificate of candidacy as governor of the province. He had received threats that he would be harmed if he pursued his candidacy. So he decided that to send a woman, his wife, would be a safer thing to do. A few hours later, his wife, other women and companions, including members of the media, were brutally murdered.

Excerpt of the report published in Inquirer:

“Esmael Mangudadatu said the body of his murdered wife had been horrifyingly mutilated and that his dead sister and aunt had both been pregnant.

‘We can’t call him an animal because I have pets and they are tame. No, he is a monster. They are monsters,’ Mangudadatu told reporters, referring to Ampatuan Jr. and his gunmen.

‘My wife’s private parts were slashed four times, after which they fired a bullet into it,’ he added.

‘They speared both of her eyes, shot both her breasts, cut off her feet, fired into her mouth. I could not begin to describe the manner by which they treated her.”

To date, 62 bodies have been recovered.

Moreover, 12 members of media were part of the group that was killed. In its website, the International Federation of Journalists states:

“Under the current government the Philippines has become the most dangerous place in the world for media workers. At least 74 journalists have been killed during its eight-year tenure, yet the [Arroyo] government has not acted to end the culture of impunity. At last count, only four convictions had been secured,” the group said.”


If I was a child, I would wave around  a giant dream catcher and make this bad dream go away. But it is real, the monsters are real.

And the only way the monsters will go away… when the criminals, the crooks and the perpetrators of evil are arrested, prosecuted and convicted, swiftly – no cover-up, no delays, no bungling of evidence.

But not just that…

We need to work on our priorities. The next President has to right all the wrongs of this present administration.  Corrupt officials must be jailed. The Senate has come up with so many reports on multi-billion scams. What did this administration and the Ombudsman do? Nothing. No wonder, crooks and killers walk around without fear.

Our latest official statistics (2006) show that 27.6 million Filipinos are living below the poverty line. Our enrollment rate is lower than it was 10 years ago. 

The same statistics show that the region with the highest poverty incidence is the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The  province of Maguindanao is the 3rd poorest province with a poverty incidence of 62%.

In Maguindanao, school is often disrupted due to armed conflict. As such, their literacy rate is 66.27 compared to the national average of 92.3. The Philippine Human Development Report of 2005 states that only 39.7% of adults in Maguindanao have six years of basic education compared to the national average of 84%.

In my next blog, I will write about the need for a  national budget  that will  address social injustices that plague our nation.

Bike 02: Commute via LRT with your Bike

Bike commuters and environmentalists rejoice! Bikes are now allowed on LRT line 1 and line 2.  Foldable bikes that is.

I had the pleasure of traveling from Cubao to Luneta via two modes of eco-friendly transportation – as a bike commuter and on board the LRT. Along with LRTA Administrator Mel Robles, bike enthusiasts and environmentalists, we took  the LRT from Araneta, disembarked in Legarda, unfolded our bikes and biked to Luneta.

At the Legarda LRT station
At the Legarda LRT station
relaxing during the ride to Legarda
relaxing during the ride to Legarda


This was at the launch of the LRTA’s Bike On Bike Off program (BIKE 02).

The Bike 02 is the first mass transportation/bike friendly program in the country.  It is our first step towards an eco-friendly and healthy mass transportation system.

At Legarda station ready to go
At Legarda station ready to go

The project seeks to encourage commuters to leave their cars and hop on their bikes to the nearest station and board a train to their destination.

I recognize that there is still much to be done. For now, only foldable bikes can be used. That in itself is a huge limitation since most people own regular bikes. Also, due to limited space, only 4 bikes at a time on the last coach of the train. 

Of course,  we have no bike lanes and let’s not even get started on the quality of the air in Metro Manila!

But a journey starts with the first step and I congratulate LRTA and its partners – Firefly Brigade, UP Mts, Padyak and Tiklop for this initiative. Already there are commitments to  follow-up measures. 

Close monitoring of this pilot launch will help us expand this project to make it mroe viable. LRTA Administrator Mel Robles acknowledges the need to build bike racks in all  stations. We also discussed the need to have secured bike racks/parking areas in all parking lots. I commit to continue working on the national budget to include funding for the Clean Air Act and its related projects. 

If there are any lessons to be learned from typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, it is that the time has come to focus on eco-friendly sustainable programs in urban planning, transportation, energy and everything else that we do.

biking on Legarda st. heading to Luneta
biking on Legarda st. heading to Luneta
happy bike commuters at Luneta
happy bike commuters at Luneta

Meanwhile I will continue to dream and plan for  a time where we can commute from the south and north of Metro Manila and all over our country in a seamless inter-connected pollution-free mass transportation and bike friendly system.  

For more information on the Bike 02 project, please read LRTA’s Bike Rules.

London Part I: Women Power thru Pinay OFWs and the Queens of England

After my conference in Geneva, I flew to London. I had requested the Philippine Embassy to set-up a dialogue with the Pinay OFWs, particularly the nurses. I have been working on our problem brought about the migration of our health professionals and knowing that we had a large number of nurses in the UK, I wanted to meet them.

Before the meeting, I chatted with Ambassador Lagdameo who is an old friend of my mom and dad. He knew my parents when they were still studying in the University of Michigan and actually gave me my very first present when I was born! Imagine that. It was a delight chatting with him. I asked him and Con Gen de Vega about their visit to the queen where the ambassador presented his credentials and they had to bow and curtsy 3x in keeping with protocol.

the closest I got to the queen is holding Ambassador Lagdameo's picture with her
the closest I got to the queen is holding Ambassador Lagdameo's picture with her


Ambassador Lagdameo, ConGen de Vega and Embassy officers
Ambassador Lagdameo, ConGen de Vega and Embassy officers


I was delighted to be among such an empowered group of Pinays! Among others, the group included a nurse, teacher, businesswomen, solicitor, domestic worker, chef and urban planner.

We had a lively discussion at the Embassy. Ambassador Lagdameo and Consul General Tess de Vega welcomed everyone. I began by giving the women a background of the issues affecting women and why I believe legislation and policies  still need to be improved.  I talked to them about the Magna Carta of Women. I also mentioned the Millennium Development Goals and the salary standardization law (see my previous blog on the discrepancy between the salaries men and women. I  explained my work in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), where I currently am the President of the Women Parliamentarians.

At the Phil embassy with Pinay OFWs
At the Phil embassy with Pinay OFWs and migrants

For this talk, I focused on migration issues and how migration affects both the OFWs and the families left behind. I emphasized the need to create more programs directed at the social impact on OFWs and their families.

After my talk, we had an open forum to give the women a chance to air their views and concerns. Many of them spoke of the long hours they endured to send money back home. Many worked 2-3 jobs! But despite the long hours, they felt rewarded and fulfilled in their ability to improve their standards of living and provide for their families.

They also spoke of the difficulty of being away from their families, the frustration of not getting the support and understanding they needed from loved ones back home. Many nodded their head, when one woman spoke about the despair of working so hard and yet feeling unappreciated.

They were a hardy happy  set of women, confident about the lives they made for themselves in the UK.  They spoke of improving their support system for newcomers to help them adjust to the lifestyle in the UK and the need to encourage Pinays to get better  by getting a better education.

The next day I went to the Financial Learning Campaign sponsored by the Central Bank and the Philippine Embassy. I think this is a great program and committed my support for continuing financial literacy programs for the OFWs and their families back home.

central bank presentation
central bank presentation


watching the presentation with Ambassador Lagdameo
watching the presentation with Ambassador Lagdameo

In between those meetings, I was able to visit a few historic sites including the Tower of London and West Minister Abbey. I am an enthusiastic student of history, including  English history.  And I was thrilled to visit the places, I had only read about in the past. I have always believed that we can learn a lot if we look back into history. 

So many were beheaded here, including two queens disliked by their husband King Henry VIII
So many were beheaded here, including two queens disliked by their husband King Henry VIII


Suffice it to say, at a time where women were subservient to men, England  had a succession of Queens that ruled the land.  Each of these Queens have their own stories to tell. I’ve been reading about the lives of queens, including Queen Katherine of Aragon (first wife of King Henry  VIII), Queen Mary and her sister Queen Elizabeth (daughters of King Henry  VIII). If I can find the time, I hope to  blog about my thoughts on the lessons we can learn from the women and the Queens of England in 15 and 16 century England.