Planning to Retire Soon!

If you are planning to retire in the Philippines soon, I suggest you visit several excellent websites on pro's and cons of retiring in the Philippines. However if you want to retire in the provinces, where life is simple, standard of living cheaper, less traffic congestion and pollution, availability of fresh seafood and vegetables compared to the big cities, my island province is the place for you! If this is your first time in my site, welcome. Please do not forget to read the latest national and international news in the right side bar of this blog. Some of the photos and videos on this site, I do not own. However, I have no intention on the infringement of your copyrights. The photo above is the front yard of Chateau Du Mer-Our Retirement Home in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Mindanao Massacre-Explain why Filipino Politicians becomes Addicted to Politics

Image from blogs.inquirer.net
The following article explains why Filipino politicians become addicted to politics. It is the best way to become rich as well as establish prestige and power. This also explains why there are political dynasty in almost all of the provinces in the Philippines. This article was written by Francisco Lara, Jr and published in London, MindaNews, dated November 26, 2009.

"The Maguindanao massacre predicts the eruption of wider violence and conflict as the nation heads towards the 2010 elections. Yet to dismiss this incident as “election-related” is to miss the fundamental political and economic implications of this evil deed. The massacre is rooted in the shift in politico-economic sources of violence and conflict in Muslim Mindanao. It signifies the emergence of new-type warlords whose powers depend upon their control of a vast illegal and shadow economy and an ever-growing slice of internal revenue allotments (IRA). Both factors induce a violent addiction to political office.
Mindanao scholars used to underscore the role of “local strong men” who were an essential component of the central state’s efforts to extend its writ over the region. The elite bargain was built upon the state’s willingness to eschew revenue generation and to grant politico-military dominance to a few Moro elites in exchange for the latter providing political thugs and armed militias to secure far-flung territories, fight the communists and separatists, and extend the administrative reach of the state.
The economic basis of the elite bargain has changed since then. Political office has become more attractive due to the billions of pesos in IRA remittances that electoral victory provides. The “winner-takes-all” nature of local electoral struggles in Muslim Mindanao also means that competition is costlier and bloodier. Meanwhile, political authority may enable control over the formal economy, but the bigger prize is the power to monopolize or to extort money from those engaged in the lucrative business of illegal drugs, gambling, kidnap-for-ransom, gun-running, and smuggling, among others. The piracy of software, CDs and DVDs, and the smuggling of pearls and other gemstones from China and Thailand are seen as micro and small enterprises. These illegal economies and a small formal sector comprise the “real” economy of Muslim Mindanao.
The failure to appreciate how this underground economy, coupled with entitlements to massive government-to-government fund transfers, shapes prevailing notions of political legitimacy and authority in the region partly explains the inability of the central State to deal with lawlessness and conflict. 
Political legitimacy in Muslim Mindanao has very little to do with protecting people’s rights or providing basic services. People rarely depend on government for welfare provision, and are consequently averse to paying any taxes. People actually expect local leaders to pocket government resources, and are willing to look the other way so long as their clans dominate and they are given a small slice during elections. Legitimacy is all about providing protection to your fellow clan members by trumping the firepower of your competitors, leaving people alone, and forgetting about taxes. 
There were positive signs in the recent past, especially among the Moro women and youth who bore the brunt of conflict and who sought a different future. But achieving their aspirations depends on their ability to rise above clan structures and the dynamics of hierarchy and collective self-defense that bound its members. This dilemma was painfully exposed in the Maguindanao massacre, where Moro women who usually played a strategic role in negotiating an end to rido became its principal victims.
The sad thing about the recent massacre is that it could have been avoided. Everyone in Central Mindanao knew about the looming violence between the Ampatuan and Mangudadatu clans as early as March 2009, when the latter’s patriarch Pax Mangudadatu confronted Andal Ampatuan in a public gathering and made known his clan’s intention to challenge the latter’s political hold on Maguindanao. This threat was in turn based on the knowledge that Ampatuan was planning to undermine the Mangudadatus by fielding a challenger against them in Sultan Kudarat.
In short, the “looming” rido which pundits are predicting today actually started more than six months ago. Yet neither MalacaƱang nor the COMELEC, PNP, and the AFP made any attempt to monitor their activities, disarm their private security, demobilize their loyalists within the police and military, and ring-fence their camps.
Why?
The answer lies in the new found role of Muslim Mindanao to national political elites. The region is known for a long history of electoral fraud. The difference today lies in its ability to provide the millions of votes that can overturn the results of national electoral contests, a situation brought about by the creation of a sub-national state (ARMM) and reinforced by the sort of democratic political competition in the post-Marcos era that makes local bosses more powerful and national leaders more beholden to them. This was the case in the presidential elections of 2004 and the senatorial race in 2007. It will serve the same purpose in 2010. Whose purpose is served by arresting Ampatuan in an election year? Certainly not those of the ruling coalition.
This partly explains the foot dragging and the lame treatment of principal suspects in the massacre. And to those pressing for limited martial rule in Maguindanao, beware what you wish for. Having a surfeit of troops on the ground can provide a superficial peace at best. At worse, it may facilitate the same type of electoral fraud in 2010, or leverage the firepower of the dominant clan over another.
In a region where the rebellion-related conflict between the GRP and the MILF received all of the national and international community’s attention and aid, NGOs such as International Alert and the Asia Foundation have often decried the ignorance and indifference of the government and donor agencies to community-based inter and intra clan violence. As International Alert asserts, it is time to focus on the confluence between both types and sources of violence and conflict. Indifference will only lead to more death and destruction as the election approaches, when a convergence between rebellion-related, and inter and intra clan conflict occurs as military forces and armed rebels take sides between warring clans and factions.
Mindanao scholars such as Patricio Abinales, James Putzel, and John Sidel have previously noted how local strong men made Mindanao, and how the region provided an ideal case of the country’s “imperfect democracy” and “political bossism”. More recently, the conflict scholar Stathis Kalyvas called attention to the birth of “ruthless political entrepreneurs” who shape and are shaped by the dynamics between states, clans, and conflict. The viciousness of the Maguindanao attack shows how these phenomena resonates here. It demonstrates the weak and narrow reach of the central Philippine state in Muslim Mindanao, and how the continued reliance on local strong men will not end the cycle of violence".
(Francisco Lara Jr. is Research Associate at the Crisis States Research Center, Development Studies Institute, London School of Economics.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pro's and Con's in Retiring in the Philippines

Marinduque-My Island Paradise

Just recently, I found the following article on the Pro's and Con's in Retiring in the Philippines from www.philippinetravelguide.com

The Cons of Retiring in the Philippines

Infrastructure
You must remember that the Philippines is a third world country and the infrastructure that you enjoy and probably take for granted back home, is nowhere near as efficient or dependable. Now, when I talk about infrastructure I’m referring to transportation, public utilities like electricity and water, telephone, Internet and mobile phone reception and access and not to mention the postal service.

While all is widely available in the Philippines it does not always function consistently and in a manner you are use to.
It is not unusual to have regular brown-outs, if it is a problem get yourself a generator.
Public transport leaves and arrives when it does, no use trying to understand why that’s just what happens. The highways are not like the motorways back home and fitting two cars into a lane is well… normal.
In a lot of areas mobile or cell phone coverage is far greater and reliable than land lines. Outside of the major cities high speed Internet access is just not available. Can you live without these modern luxuries in your Philippines retirement?

Filipino Family

One of hardest areas to manage is your extended family in the Philippines. If you are married to a Filipino, your wife’s family will immediately label you as rich, irrespective of whether you are or not. You will be pressured to assist with all things monetary. Don’t for one instant think that a loan is to be paid back. If you do lend money to a family member be assured from the start that you will not see the money again, it will be gone forever.
The Filipino family unit is very close, much closer than western families and is reflected in their culture. If you find yourself in this situation, you can try to manage and maybe even control it with a bit of authority.
The best advice is never live within three hours of your Filipina wives family. This is important so I will repeat it, do not live within three hours of your Filipina wives family. Right you have been warned.

If for some reason you find yourself retired in the Philippines living amongst your extended family who request money from you, I suggest you make the Filipino family members work or earn the money they would like. There are plenty of odd jobs that always pop up and what better way of getting them done than getting a family member to do them and pay them for it. I’m sure it will not surprise you, requests for money whilst you are retiring in the Philippines, will cease, if they know that the only way they are going to get money is to earn it.


The Pro's in Retiring in the Philippines

Cost of Living

Here your hard earned Dollar, Pound, Euro or whatever, will go a long, long way, further than you could possible believe.
Depending on how lavish a life style you wish to enjoy, many foreigners are retired in the Philippines living off $1,000 per month. Some less and some more.
Could you afford to have maids, drivers and a house where you live now, I would suggest not, whereas if you retire in the Philippines you can and you will be living and feeling on top of the world.

Tropical Weather

Retirement to me means relaxing and enjoying life and what better way than in a tropical environment. Retirement Philippines can be exceptionally hot and humid but don’t forget that you can now afford to retire in the Philippines, by the beach with the cool sea air blowing into your face or you can afford air conditioning.
Now it is true that not everyone enjoys the hot humid weather, but do not despair there are beautiful places in the Philippines that are cool and Baguio City is a prime example. It is known as the summer capital of the Philippines, cool fresh mountain air.
There is a retirement place in the Philippines for everyone, you too can enjoy the warm weather.

Filipinos

The Filipino people are among the most friendly in the world. They are giving and so very relaxed. For a country and people that is so poor, they are rich beyond belief in happiness and joy. Life is what it is and a smile is always readily given.
Back home you get caught up with existing in the 9 to 5 grind earning just enough to pay the rent and put food on the table and totally ignoring everyone as you go about your day. In the Philippines, the Filipinos also try to grind out an existence with far fewer opportunities than you ever had, but they have one huge advantage, they go abut there life with a smile for you and anybody else, their friendship is a credit to them and an inspiration to me.

Anyone for English?

If you thought communicating with Filipinos would be difficult, because you cannot speak Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, then think again. The Philippines is the largest English speaking country in Asia. Communicating is not difficult.
English is pretty much understood by all however in the rural areas it is not as common as in the cities, either way communication is not as hard as you would have thought. Most taxi drivers and shop assistants speak English.
If you know a few Tagalog phrases, You will be accepted by the Filipinos so much easier, do not worry about pronunciation they will love you for just trying. Give it a go, you nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Update on the Diving Sites in Marinduque

Here's the latest update on diving sites in Marinduque. The following video was filmed by the provincial government department of tourism. It is a short video, but shows you do not have to go far to enjoy scuba diving in Marinduque. Baltazar Island is one of the three islands in the group called Tres Reyes Island-a marine sanctuary.
Diving in Baltazar Island
Image from asiadivesite.com
Our province is mostly known worldwide because of the Moriones Festival. However, it has recently been in the news due to interests of divers all over the world to explore the diving sites in the island and in the vicinity. Among the diving sites are:
1.Natanco- north of the island has good walls and drift diving. Corals are abundant. Close by is the wreck of a Japanese torpedo boat
2.Baltazar-west of the Island-one of the Tres Reyes Island Chain- has a cave 20m worth exploring. Stone fish may be a problem.
3.Elephant Island-now known as Bellarocca- private resort with good walls, coral formation and and several varieties of tropical fish. Currents could be strong, but conditions for photography good.
4. Torrijos- canyons and fissures to explore. Can expect to encounter grouper, barracuda, tuna and shoals of tropical fish.
5.Maestro De Campo Island-southwest of Marinduque- a wall on the west side and a wreck of a ferry boat, MV Mactan on the east side
6.Banton Island- farther southwest – amazing corals and an array of fish. Dolphins, sharks and sting rays may be seen. From February to May are the good months for scuba diving
7.Sibuyan Sea- outlying areas to the south and east of Marinduque are fairly unexplored. Puerto Galera, Mindoro is the place to organize this tour if you are adventurous.
Here are two excellent videos, I found in You Tube. Enjoy! Happy Diving

Diving Video from Southern Leyte, Apo Reefs, Sogod Bay, and Puerto Galera

Monday, November 16, 2009

Love and Hate of Life in the Philippines

Photo from anton.blogs.com
Several months ago I wrote two articles as a guest writer for Bob Martins' web magazine “Live in the Philippines. The first article is the ten items that I love about the Philippines from the perspective of a balikbayan retiree living the “snow bird” lifestyle. Snow bird means that if it is winter time in US, my wife and I flew to the Philippines. When it gets super hot and humid in the Philippines we fly back to US. We do this every year. Most of our friends and contemporaries are envious of our lifestyle. But I say, “Eat your Hearts Out”.

Of course there is no perfect place on earth even if I call Marinduque my Heaven on Earth and my Island Paradise, (http://marinduquemyislandparadise.blogspot.com). So I wrote a second article on the ten most annoying things in the Philippines also listed below.

The following are the ten items I like and love about the Philippines. I modified and revised this list from the one published in Bob Martin's web magazine a while ago to reflect current conditions in the Philippines. These ten items are not in order of importance. I also sited my blogs for references on the subject listed.
1.The cheap standard of living: The cost of food and services with the exception of electricity is cheap in the Philippines specially services. For example haircuts, massages , pedicures and manicures is much cheaper in Philippines than in US. A specific example are Mens’ haircut. I pay between 60 to 100 pesos in Marinduque, but here in Northern California, I pay between $12 to $14 for a haircut. For $1500 plus or minus 10% a month, my wife and I live like a Queen and King here in Marinduque. The current exchange rate is about 48 pesos for one dollar as of this writing date. For fast conversion from pesos to dollars or vice versa, use “50” as the factor.
2.The simplicity and peaceful life in the provinces. The locals are easy going and do not hurry for their appointments. There is not much traffic in the provinces and in small towns. (http://marinduqueonmy mind.blogspot.com).
3.The abundance of fresh meat and seafood, vegetables and fresh fruits ( papayas, mangoes and bananas) at a reasonable prices as well as the Filipino delicacies ( lechon, lumpia and pancit) and desserts ( bibingka , leche flan and Halo-Halo).
4.Accessibility to the beaches, mountains, caves , rivers , islets for picnicking, bathing, snorkeling, scuba diving or just relaxing ( I am talking about Marinduque, not the big cities).
5.The social support system is fantastic. The presence of friends and relatives specially during Christmas and Easter seasons is an experience one can not forget. The Philippines celebrates Christmas five months every year starting from September 1 to January 31. (http:/planningtovisitthephilippines.blogspot.com)
6.Availability of all modern amenities, good restaurants, international food , modern health services in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu and other big cities and five stars vacation resorts all over the islands.
7.The dry and cool weather, ocean sea breezes ( at Chateau Du Mer )during the months of November to February. (http://chateaudumer.blogspot.com)
8.The numerous Fiestas and Festivals the whole year round, specially during the months of January and May. (http://lifeinus1960present.blogspot.com).
9.The hospitality of the people and their attitudes toward foreigners and visitors.
10.Historical and Cultural heritage we have as a nation from Spain , such as our old churches, folk dances, Kundiman music, Putong, Kalutang and respect for our elders and freedom of the press and speech and educational opportunities we had from the United States.(http://theintellectualmigrant.blogspot.com).

The ten items I dislike about the Philippines are listed below. This list is modified from what was published in Bob Martin's magazine to reflect current conditions (#4, #6 and #10) in the island.
1.Traffic and Pollution ( in big cities) There is always traffic congestion almost 24 hours a day, especially in big cities. The only time of the day when there is no traffic congestion in Manila and suburbs is between 2 to 4 AM. This is a good time to go to the airport to be in time for your 6AM flight.
2.Jeepney and Bus drivers: They drive like maniacs. They pick up and drop passengers in the middle of the road. Most provincial drivers drive like maniacs. They will overtake private cars on the wrong side of the highway and even on dangerous curves.
3.The long lines in the banks and ATM machines and people cutting-in the lines
4.The noise of crowing cocks and the barking dogs at 4AM or even earlier and loud karaoke music and out-of -tuned and horrible singing of the neighbors
5.When you invite one in your party, he or she brings one or two others, without advising you ahead
6.Filipinos seldom RSVP an invitation or answers their e-mails in a timely manner. Some have Face Books accounts , but seldom or never opens it. ( why open an account if you do not open it at all ?)
7.The heat and humidity during the summer months especially the months of March, April and May
8.The smell of fish and Durian-(probably only in Davao) in the wet markets
9.Littering'/urinating on the streets and on the beaches, parks and other public places
10.Frequent brown outs/ black outs, typhoons and torrential rains in the provinces.
You could probably add more items, but the good things outnumbered the annoying things.DO YOU HAVE ITEMS TO ADD TO THE ABOVE TWO LISTS? PLEASE SHARE!
Again as snowbirds, my wife an I are happy whether we are in the Philippines or United States. We believe that “HOME IS NOT A PLACE, BUT IN THE HEART!”.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sea Travel Schedule From Manila via Lucena/Batangas To Western Marinduque


The following are the latest ( from marinduquegov.blogspot) sea travel schedule from two shipping lines from Manila to Marinduque, either via Lucena, Quezon or San Juan, Batangas. I find this schedule very informative. Note that if you are not in a limited budget, there are now daily air flights from Manila to Marinduque either by Zest Air or SEAIR. It takes less than 30 minutes flying time from Manila( old Domestic Terminal) to Masiga Airport, Gasan in Marinduque.


SCHEDULES FOR MARINDUQUE SEA TRAVEL( as of November 12, 2009)

Two ports serving the towns on the westside of Marinduque (Mogpog, Boac, Gasan and Buenavista)and linking Marinduque to Batangas, Mindoro, Quezon, Metro Manila and the Visayan islands are BALANACAN PORT and CAWIT PORT.

Balanacan is 27 nautical miles to Dalahican (Lucena), 57 nautical miles to Batangas; sea distance to Manila is 150 nautical miles.

Two months ago, Viva Shipping Lines, launched its Balanacan-Lucena and Balanacan-San Juan routes with the tourist class RORO vessel, "STARHORSE". (Rates: P260 (a/c); P180(reg); vehicles (approx: P1,600). These are much lower than the rates offered by Montenegro Shipping (Reg. P270; vehicles (approx. P2,500)

M/V STARHORSE SCHEDULE (3 hours): (Viva Shipping Lines)
Mondays to Fridays:
06:30 AM & PM: BALANACAN - DALAHICAN (LUCENA)
10:30 AM & PM: DALAHICAN - BALANACAN

Saturdays & Sundays:
08:00 AM & PM: BALANACAN - SAN JUAN (BATANGAS)
12:00 AM & PM: SAN JUAN - BALANACAN

M/V SOPHIA SCHEDULE (3 hours): (Montenegro Shipping Lines)
08:00 AM: BALANACAN - DALAHICAN (Lucena)
12:00 AM: LUCENA - BALANACAN
04:00 PM: BALANACAN - LUCENA
12:00 NN: LUCENA - BALANACAN

M/V MA. REBECCA SCHEDULE (3 hours): (Montenegro Shipping Lines)
12:00 NN: CAWIT - LUCENA
02:00 AM: LUCENA - CAWIT
08:00 PM: CAWIT - LUCENA
04:00 PM: LUCENA - CAWIT

FASTCRAFT schedule (2 hours)VIA M/V LUCENA CITY:
07:30 AM BALANACAN - DALAHICAN

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Today is Veteran's Day in US


To celebrate Veterans Day today, I am reposting my article on my memories of the Filipino-American War from 1941-1946. At that time, my father was the dental officer for the Filipino-American Forces, in charge of the dental needs for all members of the Filipino-American Forces in the Western Visayas Region. My father's territory include the whole island of Panay as well as Romblon Island. This article is my personal tribute not only to my DAD but also to all Filipino-American soldiers who gave their lives for the sake of democracy in the Philippines during World War II. Here is the posting for your reading pleasure. I hope you find it interesting.

In late 1945, just after the end of American-Japanese War in the Philippines, my father who was a captain and dental officer for the Philippine-US army took me and my Mom for a month to Romblon Province. He was in-charged of all the dental needs of army personnel in the whole island of Panay as well as in Romblon. I remember we took a PT boat owned by the US navy from Iloilo to Romblon. I was only about 11 years old that time, but very knowledgeable of US history. One of my hobbies was to read US history. I have memorized all the 48 capitals of US states( yes,at that time there are only 48 states in US). My father's dental assistant was a white sergeant from Oklahoma City. He used to quiz me of my knowledge of the capital city of all the US states. If I get it right he gave me chocolates and cookies as a prize. There came a time when he ran out of chocolates, since I have never made a mistake. One capital I almost made a mistake was the capital of California. Most people think at that time the capital city is either LA or San Francisco. Even today, there are still a lot of Filipinos that do not know that Sacramento is the capital of California. The same thing with the capital of Illinois. Most Filipinos at that time believe it is Chicago( the biggest and most populated city in Illinois).

Back to my memories of Romblon. As we enter the harbor, the picturesque view of the mountain so close( all white with marble) almost took my breathe away. It was so beautiful that until today, it is still vivid in my memory. I have not been to Romblon since then, so I do not know if the view is still the same. Anyway we stayed in Romblom Island for 2 weeks. Every day my father took me to his dental office. All of his patients talked to me about their lives and towns/cities in US. That was the beginning of my life-long dream to visit and live in US someday. I did accomplished that dream, having studied, lived, worked and raised a family here in US since 1960.

After two weeks in Romblon Island, my father's assignment was one week each at the two other big islands of the province, Tablas and Sibuyan Islands. The trip to Tablas Island from Romblon took only about 30 minutes by PT boat. I remember, it was so fast, that we arrived about one hour early at the port of Badajoz ( now known as the town of San Agustin). The PT boat went back to Romblon and we waited by the side of the sea under a coconut tree for a jeep from Odiongan, capital town of Tablas Island.
We were hungry and thirsty, but there was no store (tiange) or restaurant in the area. We saw a several residents in the several nearby houses, staring at us, but no one said hello or even offer us a glass of water. As I remember these memories, I felt that if this incident happened in Marinduque, at least one person will probably offer us a glass of water and perhaps even invite us to wait in their house instead of outside under the sun ( luckily there were a few coconut trees providing us with shade). My father explained later why the town was called Badajoz. He said it means "bad hosts". I am glad the town is now called San Agustin.

Our week stay in Odiongan, Tablas and later in Cajidiocan, Sibuyan went pretty fast. Before I realized,it was time for me to go home to Iloilo and back to school.
Sibuyan Island and Mt Guiting-Guiting in the background
My memories of Odiongan and Cajidiocan - it was the most rural place on earth and the roads were bad. It felt like driving in the craters of the moon. Does any one knows what the road conditions now in the Tablas and Sibuyan Islands?
If any one is from Romblon reading this blog, I will appreciate if you let me know what is going on in Romblon today. Someday, I will visit the province again, to see if that harbor view of the marble mountain is still the same.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Rigodon De Honor -Dance with the Stars

The Grand Entrance and Parade of Participants- Note my matching Barong to Macrine's Terno! Macrine did not used her matching removable butterfly sleeves bolero, since it was a very warm evening.

About eight years ago, Macrine and I had the honor to be invited to participate at the Rigodon De Honor dance at the Grand Ball of the May Flower Festival in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines.
Right in the middle of the Dance Promenade

The Rigodon de Honor is an elegant dance which was brought to the Philippines by the Filipinos who returned from their travels abroad during the Spanish era. This dance takes its name from its opening performances at formal affairs such as the President's Inaugural Ball and other Festivals in Philippines and also in other parts of the world. In Marinduque, members of the provincial government, including the Governor and his wife, legislative officials, and other prominent members of the town are usually invited to participate in the Rigodon. Traditionally, a ballroom waltz dance would follow the Rigodon. This particular dance is a form of quadrille which is a historic dance performed usually by four couples in a square formation.

In Marinduque, it is an honor to be invited to participate in the dance. It meant you belong to the high society of the town and recognized as a leader in the community. Macrine and I were invited to dance at the Grand Ball of the May Flower Festival in Boac in May, 2001. At that time Macrine was the President of Marinduque International Inc-a non-profit worldwide organization based in US and Canada whose main goals is to conduct medical mission to the needy in Marinduque every other year. At that time, I also served as acting Treasurer of the organization. For the whole month of May, we (sixteen couples) practiced almost everyday. Near the end of the dance, a part called the CADENA ( it means chain) had to be performed perfectly, otherwise confusion and mayhem could ruined the dance. Attached is a video( taken during the Philippine Gala of the Filipino-American Community of Washington, D.C.) for your viewing pleasure, I found in You Tube! The video is a bit grainy, but does illustrate the movement and choreography of the dance. Note that the women are wearing their ternos( with butterfly sleeves) and the men their barongs.

This second video is better filmed and dance by our younger generation from the Philippines, Kalilayan Dance Group of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental. This dance is similar to the rigodon dances during the Spanish era. As I mentioned above, to be invited to participate in the Rigodon is considered as the subtle way of "branding" certain members of the community to specific social ranks. Usually performed as a party opener, the Rigodon starts off by calling the names of the participants; first the rich and influential who will compose the cabezera or headline followed by the not so popular and lesser ranking dancers who will then form the costados or sideline. The Cabezera's will start the dance movement and then followed by the costados. What a way to brand and assign social ranks in the community!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

CNN 's Tribute to the Dancing Prisoners of CPDRC


The inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilatation Center (CPDRC) became a world wide sensation after their performance of Michael Jackson "Thriller" was posted on the web by Byron Garcia. The original video has been seen and received five star ratings from over 35 million viewers. The following video is CNN latest tribute to these talented dancers from Cebu, Philippines. You must be living in another world if you have not seen the original video by Byron Garcia. Here's latest update from CNN.

This second video by Byron Garcia is JUMP! Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Finally Seair Flies to Marinduque


Here's the schedule of SEAIR from Manila to Marinduque and back. I am glad to see Zest Air will now have a competition. This schedule was posted by Sheila Evano in her Face book Notes. Thank you Sheila!

South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR) will commence flight for their newest route Manila – Marinduque – Manila this October 17, 2009. Flight frequency and schedules are as follows:

Tuesday, Saturday
Manila – Marinduque DG 385 ETD Manila: 0940H
ETA Marinduque: 1040H
Marinduque – Manila DG 386 ETD Marinduqe: 1100H
ETA Manila: 1200H

Thursday
Manila – Marinduque DG 387 ETD Manila: 1100H
ETA Marinduque: 1200H
Marinduque – Manila DG 388 ETD Marinduqe: 1220H
ETA Manila: 1320H

Sunday
Manila – Marinduque DG 389 ETD Manila: 1300H
ETA Marinduque: 1400H
Marinduque – Manila DG 340 ETD Marinduqe: 1420H
ETA Manila: 1520H

As per SEAIR (www.flyseair.com) website , the LET410 Turbolet is a twin engined short-range transport aircraft manufactured by the Czech aircraft manufacturer LET, mostly used for passenger transport. With more than 1,100 produced, it is the most popular 19-seat plane in history. It provides first class comfort, while simultaneously servicing unpaved airstrips. In the 19-seater class, no plane is better suited for short-haul.

Manufacturer: LET A.S.
Powerplant: M601-E
Length: 14.42 m (47 ft 4 in)
Wingspan: 19.98 m (65 ft 5 in)
Height: 5.83 m 19 ft 2 in)
Seat Capacity: 19 + 2 crew
Number of planes: 6
Max. Take-off Weight: 6,600 kgs (15,520 lbs)
Speed: 175 knots

To book your flight to Marinduque), contact the SEAIR CALL CENTER : +632 849.0100

OFFICE: Makati/Manila – Commercial; 2nd Floor La'O Centre, Arnaiz Ave. Makati City, Philippines 1200 Commercial FAX: +63 2 849.0219 Reservation FAX: +63 2 849.0239.

The round trip fares were not published in Sheila's posting, but I hope it will be competitive with Zest Air. This means that after October 17, there will be daily flights from Manila to Marinduque and back, since Zest air flies Monday,Wednesday and Friday. This will surely be a boast to Marinduque's tourism business and a convenience for some Marinduque residents and businessmen.

Latest Marinduque Mining News

Image from www.allanlissner.net
I found this article on Globe and Mail dated October 17, 2009. It is the latest news on the mining lawsuit by the provincial government against Barrack Gold Corp of Vancouver, Canada. This was written by Andy Hoffman. (Published on Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 6:11PM EDT Last updated on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009 3:05AM EDT)
Big Messes for Miners
A village in Marinduque, some 100 miles southeast of Manila is isolated by the heavily silted Boac River Friday, March 29, 1996. Waste linking from a containment pit of copper mine has contaminated the river and caused it to overflow. Authorities say about 2,000 people were evacuated from their villages and 2,500 others were trapped by the rising waters.
A private member's bill, if passed, could impose sanctions on Canadian resource companies that violate good governance and environmental standards
In the northwest corner of Marinduque, a small heart-shaped island in the Philippines, lay the remnants of a once-thriving mining operation run by Canada's Placer Dome – abandoned executive villas, an overgrown nine-hole golf course, rusting equipment and millions of tonnes of toxic waste.
The Vancouver company fled Marinduque and shuttered its Marcopper operations 13 years ago, but the island's 200,000 residents are still dealing with the environmental devastation caused by the mines.

According to allegations filed in a U.S. court, during 30 years of operations, more than 200 million tonnes of mine tailings were dumped into Calancan Bay, covering coral with more than 80 square kilometres of mine waste that has destroyed fish habitats. Two rivers, the Boac and the Mogpog, have also been contaminated with heavy-metal-laden and acid-generating mine waste that continues to flow into the waters every time it rains.

Barrick Gold Corp., (ABX-T38.96-0.70-1.77%) which acquired Placer Dome in 2006, is now caught up in a lawsuit by the province of Marinduque, seeking more than $100-million (U.S.) over alleged environmental damage.

Concerns about the potential health risks posed by shuttered mining operations vaulted onto the Canadian national stage last week when some residents living near an abandoned mine in Buchans, Nfld., were warned by the provincial government to get tested for possible lead poisoning.

It's estimated that there are 10,000 abandoned mine sites in Canada that, if not properly cleaned up, could pose health risks to nearby communities.

While provincial governments have generally held Canadian companies responsible for the remediation of domestic mine sites, those with operations overseas in developing nations have faced far less scrutiny.

In Barrick's case, officials in the Philippines have taken the legal battle closer to home. Marinduque scored a legal victory this month when an appeal judge ordered the case to be heard in a district court in Nevada, near a major Barrick mine, overturning Barrick's attempt to have the case moved to a U.S. federal court.

“You have a company that mined in the most irresponsible manner possible to maximize profits,” said Skip Scott, a Texas lawyer who is representing the province of Marinduque.

In Canada, a private member's bill, if passed, could impose sanctions on Canadian resource companies that violate good governance and environmental standards. Hundreds of millions of dollars of loans and investment for the resource industry are at stake.

Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada, a mining watchdog group, says her organization has identified about 60 cases of environmental damage caused by mining companies operating in international jurisdictions, including the Marinduque case.

Ms. Coumans testified in Ottawa last week at the standing committee on foreign affairs and international development regarding bill C-300, the bill sponsored by Liberal MP John McKay, which has passed second reading in the House of Commons. Ms. Coumans focused much of her presentation on the Marinduque case.

“Contrary to what the mining industry may say, which is resetting the clock all the time and saying ‘that was then and this is now,' all the cases we are currently working on now have the same elements [as Marinduque] – environmental devastation, human rights abuses, lack of recourse, weak governance and corruption,” Ms. Coumans said in an interview.

Bill C-300 would deny Canadian government support for resource companies found to be in violation of an agreed list of governance standards. Investment from the Canada Pension Plan, loans from Export Development Canada and support from Canadian embassies abroad would be pulled if a company were found to violate the rules.

However, even if the bill were to become law, Ms. Coumans said it fails to provide a mandated remedy for victims of environmental damage caused by mining operations.

“We don't see bill C-300 as solving the problem.… It doesn't deal with remedy. There needs to be legal reform,” she said.

Barrick has not decided whether to appeal the decision to have the Marinduque case heard in the district court of Nevada, near Barrick's flagship Goldstrike mine.

“We will vigorously defend the action, whatever the allegations may be,” said Brad Doores, vice-president and assistant general counsel at Barrick.

Mr. Doores would not comment on whether Barrick concedes that environmental damage in Marinduque was caused by the mines.

“We inherited this when we took over Placer. Nothing has ever been established by anyone [in court], establishing that even Placer Dome, the Canadian company, was responsible,” he said.

Marinduque's lawyer, Mr. Scott, said the Philippine province is suing Barrick in Nevada because that is where the world's largest gold producer's key operations are located. He said a legal victory in the Philippines would be difficult to enforce against the company, while Canadian law is woefully inadequate for dealing with such a case.

“The place we don't want to go, but we will go if we have to, is Canada. The reason is quite simple. Canada is an inhospitable forum for these types of claims,” Mr. Scott said.

I hope you find the above article informative! There were comments regarding the article. For the comments, read the original news item from The Globe and Mail.

Solar and Wind Technology-Long Term Solution to Power Crisis in Marinduque and Other Parts of the Philippines


The following video discussed new aerotecture of wind technology for the future, although this new technology is now applied in some buildings in Germany. Combined with solar panel this new design is the future of green power resources in crowded cities, buildings and populated areas. The current windmills ( see photo above) is not suited to crowded and populated areas. This new wind power technology is the long term solution to Marinduque's power crisis as well as other parts of the Philippines.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Time of the Year for "Autumn Leaves" to Fall


In two weeks time, Macrine and I will be in our beloved province of Marinduque enjoying our winter sojourn. But before we could do that, I need to do a lot of things here in Northern California. First the raking of the leaves, then the cleaning of the gutters, then covering the swimming pool and finally sending balikbayan boxes to the Philippines for Christmas presents to relatives. But for the moment, let me share you the following photo from my backyard and a song appropriate for this time of the year.

As I gaze at my backyard window( see photo above) a few minutes ago, the beauty of the maple trees in my yard with its yellow, orange and light red leaves getting to fall in the next couple of days, reminds me of the song Autumn Leaves. There are several interpretations of this song by several musicians, but this video is one of my favorites. Moreover, the autumn scenery in the video is just mesmerizing. Autumn or Fall is one of my favorite seasons here in Northern California. However, next week when these leaves start to fall, I will certainly spend a number of hours raking these leaves and definitely an aching back after wards. But this is the way of life here in Northern California this time of the year. Enjoy this video.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Aswang and Manananggal of the Philippines

Image from www.manananggal.com

This coming Saturday is Halloween Day here in Northern California. To celebrate Halloween Day, I thought that the following story from Dave DeWall (I have his permission to post this story in this blog) is worthy of publication and very timely.

I know that most of us here in US do not believe in witches. But in the Philippines (this is true story according to the author) witches, nono's, manananggals, giant capri's, and ghosts are part of life and folklore specially in rural areas and in the provinces. Personally, if I am in the Philippines, I tend to believe it, but when I am here in Northern California, I am not a believer. However during Halloween, the subject of witches becomes a topic of interest to me.

The Witches and Manananggal of Guimaras Island, Iloilo-by Dave DeWall
Source: www.rooster4am.com October 21 and 22, 2009

“My wife’s younger sister Emily, was a beautiful baby. Cute sharp nose and just one of those infants people would gush over and comment on how maganda (beautiful) she was. She was the favorite of her parents and adored by her older brothers and sisters. When Emily was about a year old, she became extremely ill. Wouldn’t drink her milk and didn’t want to eat. What she did eat was immediately vomited. She suffered diarrhea and dehydration, and couldn’t sleep at night.
Melinda’s Tatay (Father) and Nanay (Mother) bundled up the sick little one and took her to the doctor. The doctor examined her, and prescribed some medicine. Emily got a little better the next day, but then she became quite ill again, and so another trip back to the doctor. Quite expensive for Melinda’s Father and Mother who struggled to make ends meet and support a family of eleven. The doctor prescribed more medicine, again Emily got a little better for a couple of days. Then she worsened again. More trips to the doctor with the same results as before. The same pattern persisted, get a little better, than sick again. Tatay and Nanay were becoming increasingly worried and extremely distraught; the doctor’s visits had drained what few pesos they had before Emily became sick, and now all their money was gone. What could they do to save their little infant Emily?

Only one thing to do, Tatay and Nanay decided they would have to sell the family carabao (water buffalo, the ultimate work animal on farms in the Philippines, not caribou as the carabao is often mistakenly referred to by foreigners like myself --check this link out by my friend Mindanao Bob from “Live in the Philippines” for a great explanation of what a carabao is and for a photo: http://liveinthephilippines.com/content/2007/10/are-there-caribou-in-the-philippines/). They had to raise the cash to take Emily to the hospital and have extensive tests run on her. This was an act of utter desperation; the caribou plowed the rice fields for the family farm. Without the carabao there would be no rice fields plowed and no rice next season: No rice to sell. No rice to eat. The decision was final; the next morning Melinda’s Mother and Father would bring the carabao into San Miguel to be sold.

Darkness then falls in the heart of the jungle as the giant lizards’ cries of “tukkku …tukkku..tukkku” reverberate throughout. Giant pythons hang menacingly on the trees. An evening where Melinda and her family, distraught with worry over baby Emily, huddle inside their candle lit nipa hut shorn of any modern conveniences such as electricity and running water. No telephone. No television. The only contact with the outside world was a tiny transistor radio. Emily was especially ill that evening, vomiting and crying; reinforcing Tatay’s and Nanay’s decision to sell the carabao and bring their beloved infant daughter to the hospital. Nanay held the little baby in her arms to try and comfort her and rock her to sleep. The hour is around midnight.

Suddenly the family heard a loud commotion outside! A cat emitting strange high-pitched screams was outside the front of the nipa hut. Melinda peered out the window and saw its eyes as they glowed fiery red! Tatay cracked open the front door, and the demon cat jumped inside the front entrance of the nipa hut, and according to my wife Melinda who witnessed it, FLEW across the room. It was common knowledge in the Philippines that a witch or Manananggal had the ability to inhabit an animal’s body and possess it. Melinda’s father quickly grabbed his bolo (machete) and ran towards the flying cat screaming: “You are NOT going to eat my child, you Son of a b----!” The cat literally flew out the front door, and my father-in-law shouted at all the children to gather all their old slippers (rubber flip-flops) and put them in the front yard. The multitude of old flip flops were piled up and put in a semi-circle, and Melinda’s father set fire to them.

As Melinda and her family huddled in the nipa hut, she could hear piercing screams and laughter coming from just beyond the burning mountain of rubber: it was the witch tormenting them, still in the cat’s form! Thick black smoke poured from the mound of melting flip flops, and the terrorized family huddled inside with Tatay in the doorway, bolo in his upraised right hand. The evil laughter continued from right beyond the flames tauting them.

And Blood Shall Spill!

Yesterday’s blog concluded with Melinda and her family being taunted by the Manananggal, a witch that took the form of a cat. As Melinda’s father continued to stand at his post at the front door, armed with his bolo, Melinda relates that she could still hear the witch cat laughing and screaming at them, but the burning pile of rubber flip flops was keeping the creature at bay. A half hour passed and finally the jungle fell silent; the witch was gone for the moment, and even the cry of the lizards halted.

Morning finally arrived, and though shaken by the previous evening’s horrible events, Melinda’s Mother and Father prepared the carabao for the long journey out of the jungle to San Miguel; Emily’s condition was worsening, and the carabao had to be sold to raise the funds necessary to admit the little infant to the hospital. Hospital services had to be paid for when those services were completed.

Tatay and Nanay, Melinda and the family reach the outskirts of San Miguel, and Nanay (Melinda’s Mother) runs into her sister Feliciana, a local healer. They had not seen each other for months. “Have you heard there is a new Manananggal in town looking for a baby so she can eat the infant’s liver?” asks Tita (Aunt Feliciana.) Tatay and Nanay froze! That was the witch that visited their house last night! Manananggal take on the form of an attractive woman during the day, and are known to seek out the most beautiful of babies. The witch was after little Emily!

With a quivering voice, Melinda’s Mother told her sister of the visit last night. Tita grabbed her sister’s arm, and told her they had to get Emily to the local healer that had far greater powers than Tita, the healer, had. They would need an extremely powerful healer to deal with the wretched Manananggal!

Tatay and Nanay, and Melinda and family along with Tita Feliciana who needed to make the necessary introductions since this particular healer was know throughout the region as “the healer of all healers”. One could not expect to just walk through his door without waiting for hours as he had a multitude of people that sought his services every day; but this was a dire situation. Immediate action was needed. Tita Feliciana intervened.

The healer listened to the story of the previous night’s harrowing event. His face remained stoic. Did not nod in agreement or disagreement with anything said. Asked no questions. He knew how to deal with this menace. The Healer instructed Melinda’s Mother and Father to go out and purchase a black chicken and then come back with it and Baby Emily.

Fortunately it was early Sunday morning, the busiest market day in San Miguel. It did not take long for Tatay and Nanay to purchase a black chicken. They rushed back to The Healer with the ailing Emily, Melinda and the rest of the family in tow. As witnessed by Melinda, The Healer chopped off the head of the black bird with one swift blow of the bolo. He poured the blood of the chicken out into a vessel, and made the sign of the cross on Emily’s forehead, legs, arms, and stomach. Then he took some ginger and rubbed that on the infant Emily. The Healer instructed Tatay and Nanay to go straight home, but be sure to leave the candles lit the whole evening.

Melinda’s family made the long journey back home to the jungle. Nanay fed Emily some milk. She hungrily drank all of it. Did not vomit any of it. Nanay fed her some rice porridge. Again Emily ate it all, and again, did not get sick. The house was lit with every candle available in every room. Nightfall came again. Emily went to sleep quickly, still covered with the dried chicken blood; it was the first time in almost a month that she slept so peacefully. The little one did not get ill the whole day since she left The Healer that morning. Tatay sat near the front door the whole evening with his bolo nearby, but the night slipped away without any event.

Morning came, and Emily again drank all her milk and ate her porridge. Nothing happened, she was completely healed. The chicken’s blood was then washed off of her, and Nanay patted her dry, and held her in her arms, grateful for what The Healer had done. Oh, and the carabao? It was still there. Didn’t need to sell it now. The witch? Don’t know what happened to her, but a new one has taken her place here in San Miguel now. She is a young one in the second year of high school, and it is said she is looking for a beautiful young child to devour that child’s liver. Again, The Sainted Patient Wife was eyewitness to this account, and swears it is true. Who am I to say? Many forces of darkness battle against the good every day in this world. I am but a stranger in a strange land”. Thank you Dave for your story!

Here is a short video from a movie trailer about aswang in the Philippines to complement the story above.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween is Near-Witches, Nono and Goblins


Carenna in her butterfly costume-Mariposa Princess

If you go to the stores and shopping malls here in Northern California, you will see that most of the decorations are now about Halloween costumes, candies, masques and other items for the Halloween Night Festivities.

In the Philippines, the web is already filled with stories about witches ( aswang), capri, duende ( nono) or elves as well as stories about ghost and apparitions . Superstitions and Folklore's are part of life in the Philippines, specially in the provinces.

I know when I was growing up way back in the late 1930's, my parents and relatives had been telling me of stories about aswang( flying witches) visiting homes in the middle of the night and looking for pregnant women, so they could suck the fetus from their stomach. One way of discouraging the aswangs to your homes is to put garlic in all the windows. Other superstitions are the giant people called capri. There are two kinds, the white( good) and black ( the evil one). Opposite to this are the small people, the elves or Nono ( in Marinduque) .

Last year, I wrote a short article about Ghost, Goblins and Nonos . At that time my beloved Carenna( see photo above) was only five years old. She turned six last May and now in first Grade. The article that I wrote last year are as follows:

"One of the beliefs and folklore's in Marinduque are the existence of Nono ( goblins) . There are also stories about ghosts( white lady apparition) and witches. I know that in Iloilo, there is one town where there are a lot of witches(Dingle). However, there are no proofs, this is true. In our resort property in Amoingon, some of our neighbors inform us, that once in a while in a moonless night they have seen an apparition of a white lady. I have never seen one during our annual six months stay at the beach resort. The white lady is supposed to guard the property from robbers and intruders and she is the ghost of my mother-in-law".

"With regards to the Nono,( they reside in the big trees),even though I really do not believe it, I still say TABI PO NONO (Excuse me Nono,I have to pass by) when passing under the trees and bridges in my property at night. Even my 5 year old grand daughter from Sacramento, has learned of this phrase. We told her of the TABI PO NONO phrase last December, during our golden wedding anniversary celebration. The funny part is, when they were in Boracay a week later, she said the same phrase while passing a bridge at the Boracay Regency Hotel, where her MOM and Lola were staying. Hurrah to the memory of a 5-year old. Anyway, if you experience or hear of any stories about ghosts, nono and witches, please let me know".

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Kalutang Group-Viva Marinduque


I found this on You Tube. The background music is from the KALUTANG Group of Bangbang, Gasan. Source of video: marinduquegov.blogspot.com
This video is a slideshow of "Viva Marinduque" performance tour in Marinduque's six municipalities in celebration of Araw ng Marinduque and Philippine International Arts Festival in February. Background music performed by Pangkat Kalutang of Bangbang, Gasan using wooden percussion instruments made from twatingan and bayog trees endemic to this Philippine island.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

All You can Hear are the Sound of the Waves......

This relaxing video, although filmed in Oahu, Hawaii reminds me of Chateau Du Mer Beach in Boac, Marinduque. You could close your eyes and just listen to the waves. All you can hear are the sound of the waves and your heart beat. Guaranteed to relax you and to forget the worries of the world. Visit Marinduque and stay at Chateau Du Mer!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

My Grandson First Video Production



I have two grandsons and four granddaughters. Philip Katague is one of my two grandsons here in Northern California. He is the oldest son of my oldest son, Dodie (Diosdado) Katague. As a grandfather I am proud of my grandchildren accomplishments. Above is Philip's first video as an actor, an assignment in one of his classes in high school. Isn't he handsome? The Katague genes are certainly showing, but has been diluted with American genes from his mom. I hope you enjoy his short video!

Philip Winchester Katague, Christmas, 2007

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Marinduque or Guimaras Islands/Contra Costa or Sacramento Counties- Places For Retirement in the Philippines and Northern California,United States

Marinduque-My Island Paradise and Heaven on Earth

Five years prior to my retirement from FDA, my wife ( Macrine) and I had to make a decision where in the Philippines, we will build our retirement home, since we have decided to live the snow bird lifestyle in our retirement years. If you have been following my blogs, you know what a snow bird lifestyle is. However, if this is your first time, allow me to explain what the term “snow bird” meant. It is a lifestyle involving the best of the EAST and WEST, both culturally and weather-wise. That is, when it gets cold here in Northern California ( after Thanksgiving), Macrine and I flies to the Philippines where the weather is perfect, cool, and dry with very low humidity. When it start to get hot and humid in the Philippines ( Easter Season), around mid-April, we fly back to Northern California when it is the start of spring and perfect weather.

There are hundreds of places in the Philippines, where one could build a retirement home on the beach. Macrine and I had narrowed it down to two islands, Marinduque or Guimaras Island in Iloilo.

Marinduque is Macrine, province of birth. She finished high school at the local catholic school for girls in Boac, the capital town of Marinduque. Iloilo on the other hand is my province of birth. I finished at the local high school in the town of Barotac Viejo, about 60 Km north of Iloilo City. Macrine's parents had several beach front lots along the western coast of Marinduque at Barrios Laylay and Amoingon.
Sunset in Guimaras Island -photo from skyscraper.com

My father has a beach front lot in the island of Guimaras in the town of Buenavista. After several months of discussing the pros and cons between Marinduque or Guimaras, Macrine convinced me that Marinduque is our Island Paradise instead of Guimaras Island for the following reasons.

1.The proximity of Marinduque to Manila-only 30 minutes versus 50 minutes airplane ride

2.The location, area and physical set-up of the beach front lots. In Marinduque, the beach front lot is about 5 acres, and also along the national road. There is a creek running in the property that flows to the ocean inhabited by fish and crabs. The lot has several full grown shade and fruit trees and more than 100 banana and coconut trees.

On the other hand my father's lot in Guimaras is small and I had never seen it. In addition, the title of the lot was still not in my name. The lot is also isolated and far from the national road. Another factor against Guimaras is that the island was still under developed( poor roads), although there was a plan to build a bridge between Guimaras and the mainland in Iloilo City at that time.

3.Social Support System: Macrine has lots of closed relatives in Boac. I have relatives in Guimaras but I have never meet them. Most of my closed relatives are in the mainland in Jaro..

4.Last, but not least, I feel in love with Marinduque, its hospitable residents, its culture ( putong, Kalutang and Moriones Festival) and its delicious food ( ginat-an na manok, Kare-kare and ulang-ulang). For details read my posting "Why I Love Marinduque at http://marinduquemyislandparadise.blogspot.com

Now let us talk about the choice between Contra Costa and Sacramento County, here in Northern California. When I retired from FDA, we had a choice to buy a house either in Contra Costa County, so we could be closed to our two oldest children and grand children ranging in ages from 5 to 13. Or we could settled down in Sacramento County so we could be closed to our two youngest children. Our youngest daughter was pregnant at that time, thus could use our help in baby sitting for our future grandchild. It was a not a hard decision, why we chosed Sacramento County versus Contra Costa County. First the homes in Sacramento area is much, much cheaper than the Walnut Creek area where our oldest son and daughter resides with their respective families. Moreover, our future grandchild needed us and we were looking forward to do our “APO”stolic mission as baby sitters. "APO" is the tagalog word for a grandchild. In addition, the Sacramento area has less traffic and pollution and standard of living is a little bit cheaper than the Walnut Creek area. Sacramento is much closer to Lake Tahoe, the location of our time share property, although we are much farther to San Francisco and its famous China Town, Fisherman's Wharf and other attractions. There is less hassle to depart at the Sacramento airport compared to San Francisco Airport when we fly to the Philippines every year or to Las Vegas and other cities. I love the Sacramento Airport because it is so compact and only a short walk from the check-in ticket counters to the departing terminals. At present, a huge International Terminal Addition is under construction. I do hope they design the new addition with the convenience of passengers in mind.

I hope that after reading this posting, you understand why most of our friends and contemporaries are envious of our snow bird lifestyle. I also advise you that five years before the big date, start planning what you want to do in your retirement years. It is never too early to plan for your retirement years.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Love and Hate of Life in the Philippines

Photo from anton.blogs.com
Several months ago I wrote two articles as a guest writer for Bob Martins' web magazine “Live in the Philippines. The first article is the ten items that I love about the Philippines from the perspective of a balikbayan retiree living the “snow bird” lifestyle. Snow bird means that if it is winter time in US, my wife and I flew to the Philippines. When it gets super hot and humid in the Philippines we fly back to US. We do this every year. Most of our friends and contemporaries are envious of our lifestyle. But I say, “Eat your Hearts Out”.

Of course there is no perfect place on earth even if I call Marinduque my Heaven on Earth and my Island Paradise, (http://marinduquemyislandparadise.blogspot.com). So I wrote a second article on the ten most annoying things in the Philippines also listed below.

The following are the ten items I like and love about the Philippines. I modified and revised this list from the one published in Bob Martin's web magazine a while ago to reflect current conditions in the Philippines. These ten items are not in order of importance. I also sited my blogs for references on the subject listed.
1.The cheap standard of living: The cost of food and services with the exception of electricity is cheap in the Philippines specially services. For example haircuts, massages , pedicures and manicures is much cheaper in Philippines than in US. A specific example are Mens’ haircut. I pay between 60 to 100 pesos in Marinduque, but here in Northern California, I pay between $12 to $14 for a haircut. For $1500 plus or minus 10% a month, my wife and I live like a Queen and King here in Marinduque. The current exchange rate is about 48 pesos for one dollar as of this writing date. For fast conversion from pesos to dollars or vice versa, use “50” as the factor.
2.The simplicity and peaceful life in the provinces. The locals are easy going and do not hurry for their appointments. There is not much traffic in the provinces and in small towns. (http://marinduqueonmy mind.blogspot.com).
3.The abundance of fresh meat and seafood, vegetables and fresh fruits ( papayas, mangoes and bananas) at a reasonable prices as well as the Filipino delicacies ( lechon, lumpia and pancit) and desserts ( bibingka , leche flan and Halo-Halo).
4.Accessibility to the beaches, mountains, caves , rivers , islets for picnicking, bathing, snorkeling, scuba diving or just relaxing ( I am talking about Marinduque, not the big cities).
5.The social support system is fantastic. The presence of friends and relatives specially during Christmas and Easter seasons is an experience one can not forget. The Philippines celebrates Christmas five months every year starting from September 1 to January 31. (http:/planningtovisitthephilippines.blogspot.com)
6.Availability of all modern amenities, good restaurants, international food , modern health services in Manila, Iloilo, Cebu and other big cities and five stars vacation resorts all over the islands.
7.The dry and cool weather, ocean sea breezes ( at Chateau Du Mer )during the months of November to February. (http://chateaudumer.blogspot.com)
8.The numerous Fiestas and Festivals the whole year round, specially during the months of January and May. (http://lifeinus1960present.blogspot.com).
9.The hospitality of the people and their attitudes toward foreigners and visitors.
10.Historical and Cultural heritage we have as a nation from Spain , such as our old churches, folk dances, Kundiman music, Putong, Kalutang and respect for our elders and freedom of the press and speech and educational opportunities we had from the United States.(http://theintellectualmigrant.blogspot.com).

The ten items I dislike about the Philippines are listed below. This list is modified from what was published in Bob Martin's magazine to reflect current conditions (#4, #6 and #10) in the island.
1.Traffic and Pollution ( in big cities) There is always traffic congestion almost 24 hours a day, especially in big cities. The only time of the day when there is no traffic congestion in Manila and suburbs is between 2 to 4 AM. This is a good time to go to the airport to be in time for your 6AM flight.
2.Jeepney and Bus drivers: They drive like maniacs. They pick up and drop passengers in the middle of the road. Most provincial drivers drive like maniacs. They will overtake private cars on the wrong side of the highway and even on dangerous curves.
3.The long lines in the banks and ATM machines and people cutting-in the lines
4.The noise of crowing cocks and the barking dogs at 4AM or even earlier and loud karaoke music and out-of -tuned and horrible singing of the neighbors
5.When you invite one in your party, he or she brings one or two others, without advising you ahead
6.Filipinos seldom RSVP an invitation or answers their e-mails in a timely manner. Some have Face Books accounts , but seldom or never opens it. ( why open an account if you do not open it at all ?)
7.The heat and humidity during the summer months especially the months of March, April and May
8.The smell of fish and Durian-(probably only in Davao) in the wet markets
9.Littering on the streets and on the beaches, parks and other public places
10.Frequent brown outs/ black outs, typhoons and torrential rains in the provinces.
You could probably add more items, but the good things outnumbered the annoying things.DO YOU HAVE ITEMS TO ADD TO THE ABOVE TWO LISTS? PLEASE SHARE!
Again as snowbirds, my wife an I are happy whether we are in the Philippines or United States. We believe that “HOME IS NOT A PLACE, BUT IN THE HEART!”.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Win 2 nights and 3 days Stay at Chateau Du Mer

About two years ago, I announced a contest to win 2-nights and 3 days stay at Chateau Du Mer. A winner was chosen last year. Today, I am announcing a second contest to win this prize. I encourage all members of Face Book Katague/Catague Clan Group to participate in this contest. Read the details below:



Have you heard about the scenic beauty and unspoiled beaches of the island of Marinduque? Here is your chance to win a free 2-night stay at the Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines. All you have to do is write an essay of not more than 350 words why you want to visit Marinduque. The essay will be judged on originality and honesty. The winning essay will be published in my blog above. It is open to all non-marinduqueno over 18 years old.

The prize is redeemable whole year round except on the weeks of Easter and Christmas and will not expire until December, 2011. It is non transferable and requires at least 60 days notice prior to the date of arrival.

Please note that the beach house maximum capacity is only 4 adults and 2 children. For details about the beach house, visit my website www.chateaudumer.com and for information on the province of Marinduque, visit http://marinduquegov.blogspot.com

Please submit your essay as a comment in this blog or to my e-mail tagajaro@comcast.net
I am looking forward for your submission..

Monday, September 21, 2009

Music for Relaxation ( Ambient Music)


My nephew from Australia was telling me the other day, that one of his other interest besides graphic design and photography is what he called ambient music. I am not familiar with the term "ambient music", so he send me a video example via Face Book. It sounded to me just like music for relaxation. This inspired me to search for relaxation music in Tube You. Below is a seven and one-half of pure relaxation music. The scenery is a feast to the eyes of the beauty of nature here in the US. A few of the pictures were from Zion National Park, that my wife and I have recently visited. I have listened to other relaxation videos, but this one is the best so far. I guarantee that your 7.5 minutes will not be wasted. Please let me know if you enjoy this music video by Enya Kitaro.

Note: I viewed and listened to this video in my newly purchased 32" LCD PC screen. It was fantastic, mesmerizing and a pure delight.If you know of other relaxation videos that are comparable or better than this one, please share.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Marinduque-World Tourist's Destination


Here's the latest report from marinduquegov.blogspot.com by Eli Obligacion spotlighting Marinduque as tourist destination, dated September 6, 2009. My dream and hope is to see my beloved island, Marinduque, become a worldwide and whole year round tourist destination in the years to come competing with Boracay and officially declared as the eco-tourism capital of the Philippines. This is the reason, why I devote so much time promoting the island province as a tourist destination in my two blogs: http://marinduqueawaitsyou.blogspot.com and http://marinduquemyislandparadise.blogspot.com

TOURISM SEC. ACE DURANO AND TOURISM ATTACHES COMING TO MARINDUQUE TODAY

Marinduque Airport streamer welcoming Secretary Ace H. Durano and party. The party of thirty expected to arrive today at the Marinduque airport includes Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque, Jr. and other top officials from the Department of Tourism and tourism attaches from Philippine embassies abroad. The list also includes directors Ma. Victoria Jasmin, Allan Canizal, Benito Bengzon, Jr., Ma. Rica Bueno, Dir. Louella Jurilla from among others, as well as local and foreign media representatives.

The visit is part of the tourism department’s annual marketing and technical visits to top priority destinations such as Albay, Cebu, Bohol and Manila. Marinduque which is now on the list, has drawn the attention of the travel industry with the launching of Bellarocca Resort and Spa. Part of Bellarocca’s promotional thrusts for resort guests is the integration of visits to Marinduque’s tourist attractions as well.

In recent months, the provincial tourism office has taken time to show the Bellarocca group headed by its sales manager for travel, Sheila Evano, to local tourism sites like Tarug caves, Bathala caves, Paadjao falls, Poctoy Beach and the Torrijos loom-weavers. Support for development of eco-tourism sites with potential to generate livelihood has been adopted by the resort as part of its social responsibility program. A joint undertaking of the provincial government, the municipality of Buenavista and Gold Barrel, Inc.,resort owner, is the current establishment of a 100-hectare forest area in Barangay Tungib-Lipata in Buenavista, where a 9-hole golf course has been developed, part of Bellarocca facilities.

These moves have triggered greater optimism for local tourism stakeholders as well as for bigger prospects for Bellarocca Island Resort and Marinduque tourism in general.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Filipina Wife-My Little Brown Girl?



If you search for "Filipina" in Google, Yahoo or Scour search engines, majority of the "Hits" will be about mail order brides, sexy dates and dating Filipino or Asian women etc.

Today, it is not as bad compared to about five years ago. Thanks to the campaign of a few of our educated women in the Philippines (www.filipinaimages.com), the Filipino women on line image is improving. However, there is still room for improvement. Visit the site. There is instruction on how you can help improve the Filipina image on line.

Recently there was a good news toward recognizing women's rights in the Philippines. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into law the measure prohibiting discrimination against women, and recognizing and promoting their rights.

Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women, signed at the Heroes Hall in MalacaƱang Palace, ensures women’s equitable participation and representation in government, political parties, international bodies, civil service and the private sector.

RA 9710 recognizes and protects women’s rights at home, at work and in all spheres of society toward developing all aspects of their well-being. Its most salient features include increasing the number of women personnel until they fill half of third-level positions in the government, setting up in every barangay (village) a “violence against women’s desk,” providing incentives to parties with women’s agenda and barring the derogatory portrayal of women in media and film. I believe this law was an aftermath of the latest Hayden Kho sex scandal, where Halili claimed she was maltreated sexually by Kho in a degrading and violent manner.

Moreover, to all Americans, Europeans, Australians, or Canadians and Non-Filipino Husbands, do not call your wife "My Filipina" as if your wife is a commodity that you have purchased or "my little brown girl", even if you meant it as endearment. I am addressing it to all non-Filipino husbands who are married to Filipina women whether your are residing in Philippines or other parts of the world. I am also addressing this to all Men looking for Filipina wives in the internet and other dating sites. Filipina women are known to be good wives and they must be treated with respect and dignity. Comments anyone?

Monday, August 31, 2009

Music for Motivational Meditation and Relaxation

Recently,I was searching for music for relaxation in You Tube. I found this short video to be the best on this genre by Alexandra Witch. I love the flowers and the music. Most of the flowers remind me of my gardens at Chateau Du Mer in Boac, Marinduque, Philippines. To get maximum effect follow her instruction. I happened to have a new 32 inches LCD monitor. I viewed the video full screen with only a black background. It is fantastic, and it did relax me. Do this everyday and you do not need sleeping pills to sleep. Let me know if you like this video also. Thank you, Alexandra. Here's the video!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bellarocca Island Resort Promo Package, 2009


I do not have any financial gains by posting that Bellarocca Island Resort has now a promo package for 3-days-2-nights including meals for a fairly reasonable price if you compared it to their standard rates. Moreover, If I have a choice, I would rather that you book your vacation at Chateau Du Mer Beach Resort for a much, much more reasonable price( $25 per person per night plus a 10% discount for 7 days or longer stay). (http://chateaudumer.blogspot.com) or www.chateaudumer.com
Chateau Du Mer Beach House, Amoingon, Boac, Marinduque, Philippines (916-961-3365)
The Package Promo is effective September 1 to October 31, 2009. So, if you have been planning to see this island resort in Marinduque, now is the time. Otherwise the standard rates are so expensive, unless you are rich and famous or you are a Japanese or Korean tourist. For details, visit their newly available website, www.bellaroccaresorts.com Enjoy Marinduque-my island Paradise!
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