Duterte-Cayetano wall mural in Davao City (Shot c/o Melchor Zarate)

Countdown to the end game in Duterte-land

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Davao City private billboard supporting mayor Rodrigo Duterte's presidential bid

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

DAVAO CITY— In the city of pomelos and durians, it’s business as usual under the scorching sun.

The streets bustle only with the rush-hour jams of vehicles driving under the mandatory 30-kph speed limit. Pedestrians shy away from the elements at high noon, except for the occasional street hawker peddling beads.

If not for the campaign posters that sparsely dot this city, you would hardly notice that it’s election season.

It still qualifies as quiet here, much as it was in the days that led to an election that has elevated Davao City and its most famous resident to national and international prominence.

Common poster area at Davao City for 2016 elections

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The quiet is also characteristic. This city has gained a reputation as a blueprint for where 16 million Filipinos think the Philippines should be.

But the tranquility masks the mix of anxiety and excitement here, as it did during the countdown to the May 9 vote.

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‘Harapan Na!’ A primer to the PiliPinas town hall debate

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

PiliPinas Debates 2016 logo (courtesy ABS-CBN)

DAGUPAN CITY, PANGASINAN–For one last day, all roads in the 2016 race for Malacañang will converge here.

At a basketball-court-sized covered quadrangle in the center of the Phinma University of Pangasinan, lights, columns, speakers and streamers have risen over the stage that will bring together Jejomar Binay, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Rodrigo Duterte, Grace Poe and Mar Roxas for a final appeal to voters.

ABS-CBN technicians and set assembly crews were the first at the campus early Thursday, selecting and securing spots for their set-ups in Sunday’s big event.

Students at the U-Pang continued on with their classes, occasionally sneaking glances at the court and casually passing through the piles of equipment as if no hauling was going on.

Venue of the PiliPinas 2016 Town Hall debate (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

The venue. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Still absent are the touches of politics that will pervade this area during the weekend. No colors, posters or supporters.

But the school residents know all eyes will be on their school when all these arrive, more so the objects of all this support.

At a stairway, one student watches snippets of the last Comelec-sponsored debate on his phone. A duo of communication majors go around the school’s food court asking people they could interview their expectations on how the presidential candidates will perform.

Much indeed hangs on the April 24 debate hosted by ABS-CBN and the Manila Bulletin.

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Surviving Casiguran’s worst storm yet

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

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(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

CASIGURAN, AURORA–The black sky gradually breaks into a swirl of orange and purple.

Pockets of smoke rise in the distance, from wood– debris or fallen branches –being burnt in piles throughout town.

All is awake–a new day for Aurora’s northern town of Casiguran, still reeling from the super typhoon it first welcomed to the Philippines early this week.

The days are now dry, the run-up to sundown again climbing to stinging hot–evidence of the upside-down turn of climate.

It’s a far cry from the hours of what the locals say was their worst and longest ordeal under a storm since they could remember.

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(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

They haven’t gone past the after-effects of it–eating breakfast in candlelight, settling for the radio during lunch instead of the usual noontime TV habit, and rushing home before darkness once again envelopes their power-less town.

But they’re thankful to have at least survived Lando.

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The eve of Lando’s landfall

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

(Shot by Rommel Zarate, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Rommel Zarate, ABS-CBN News)

BALER, AURORA– At the point where the Pacific Ocean meets the Philippine shore, tourists tease and play with the waves, making the most of fading daylight.

The waves have been climbing as the hours pass, the tide teeming closer to the fences that separate the sand from the row of resort-hotels in this surfing hotspot.

It’s a last-ditch attempt to enjoy the remainder of what was previously surf-friendly weather.

The resort hotel they had checked into was also hosting a surfing event for the whole weekend. But even that had to be ended a day before schedule as reports of the approaching typhoon Lando (internationally Koppu) grew dire and direr. Beach activities, including surfing, have been banned.

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No longer playtime: Why Pinoy sailors trained with ‘toy guns’

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

 

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PALAWAN—Ridiculous. Disturbing. Humiliating.

These were among the intense reactions to an image of U.S. and Philippine navy officers handling visually distinct rifles at a training exercise aboard combat ship USS Fort Worth docked outside Puerto Princesa City.

The beige-clad U.S. servicemen brandished jet-black high-powered weapons, while their Filipino counterparts in blue coveralls held brick-colored plastic rifles lent by their trainors.

The contrast in the shot was telling: clearly, one was the real deal and the other a synthetic replica for training purposes. The meaning, unsettling for some who saw it: Why didn’t all the sailors just use similar weapons?

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When no news is good news

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

PDRRMC press con in Ilagan City after Chedeng (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

PDRRMC press con in Ilagan (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ILAGAN CITY, ISABELA–“Sorry, guys, wala kayong maireport…”

It wasn’t pity or something sinister. No one lost a scoop nor was anything swept under the rug.

Jessie James Geronimo, information officer of Isabela province, was actually in good spirits giving this aside to national reporters at the briefing of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and local officials in the capitol.

Geronimo’s reason for saying so: “…Because we did our job.”

Everyone at the briefing shared a laugh.

After all, there was a grain of truth to it. The reporters had nothing much to report—except that the province survived the onslaught of Typhoon Chedeng (a.k.a. Maysak) a day earlier without a single casualty.

Interior Sec. Mar Roxas, in town for the meeting, smiled, exclaiming off mic: “Good news! Good news!”

In a country too used to rising death tolls after natural disasters, Chedeng left all with a sigh of relief.

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Left behind at Mamasapano

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Remnants of the fight at the Mamasapano site (Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News)

Remnants of the fight at the Mamasapano site (Shot by Gani Taoatao, ABS-CBN News)

MAGUINDANAO—The fallout of the bloody clash of police and armed groups has long since extended beyond Barangay Tuka na Lipao, this now-infamous hamlet of one of the country’s poorest provinces.

The much-depicted wooden stilt bridge and the open cornfields it connects are again quiet. About a 15-minutes’ walk from the nearest highway, the scorching sun bears down on the scene, much as it did when shots peppered the place on the morning of Jan. 25 and ended the lives of 44 elite police commandos and at least 18 Muslim fighters and 5 civilians.

The fire, smoke and ammunitions continue, this time figuratively and turned loose in Manila. There, two congressional investigations continue to uncover how a top-secret police operation went haywire and whose decisions were to blame.

Beyond Camp Crame and Camp Aguinaldo the incident has spun a political crisis, altered the legacy of a popular president, rewritten the fate of contenders in the next elections and stopped in its tracks a piece of legislation that would affect more than 3 million Filipinos.

The "Fallen 44" being flown from Cotabato City. (Shot by Bernie Mallari, ABS-CBN News)

The “Fallen 44” being flown from Cotabato City. (Shot by Bernie Mallari, ABS-CBN News)

Yet down south, a town, province and region’s residents continue to reel from the impact of a shattered ceasefire and now live under the specter of a full-scale conflict that could again wreck their way of life. Continue reading

SLIDESHOW: Zambo evacuees a year on

ZAMBO EVAC 25

ZAMBOANGA CITY– For many locals who fled their homes during the height of the clashes between government troops and the Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013, this has been their residence for the past 12 months.

The open-air Joaquin F. Enriquez Sports Complex has sprung its own community in that time, with the evacuees there building their daily routines on the makeshift cabins and amenities there.

They are now a fraction of the original 110,000 occupants of the stadium, with new arrivals from tents at the bayside. Those who already left returned to the affected barangays, others to temporary shelters in four areas in the city.

City Hall says the sports complex will be vacated by December, the evacuees to transfer to these so-called “transitional sites”.

For now, they continue to pray, play and survive in a village that’s not theirs. They fear not the specter of another armed siege, but of carrying on life with no permanent means to sustain it.

Read more about the evacuees here.
Many thanks to Chito Concepcion, whose camera was used to take these shots.

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Waiting for a permanent address

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Muslim refugees pray at a makeshift mosque at the Joaquin F Enriquez Sports Complex in Zamboanga City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

ZAMBOANGA CITY–The midday call to Muslim prayers blares from a megaphone atop a tent of donated canvas.

Inside on plastic matting, no more than ten men stand, sit, and bow, doing the positions of the salah. Their muddied slippers and sandals wait outside. One man hurries to wash his head, upper body, and limbs with water from a soft drink bottle—the ritualistic cleanse before going in to pray.

The makeshift masjid or mosque stands unnoticeably amid more tents and shanties at the grounds of the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, just a walk near the bay.

It’s the city’s main stadium, but for the tens of thousands of locals here, this has been their house, playground, workplace, and village for the past year.

They once lived in barangays like Rio Hondo, Santa Catalina, and Santa Barbara. But a three-week-long firefight between soldiers and rebels that began exactly 12 months ago razed their communities, left hundreds dead, and forced them from their homes and livelihood.

Here at the grandstand, the year that passed hosted an endless cycle of status quos and struggles for survival. For some, it’s only gotten worse, with no end in sight.
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Rebuilding near danger

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Life after Yolanda, Log 6

Typhoon-ravaged Esperas Avenue in Tacloban's Magallanes district. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

Along Esperas Avenue in Tacloban’s Magallanes district. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

TACLOBAN CITY—Taking a turn off the main roads leads to another image of this recovering city.

The streets around downtown now hardly look like they were struck by 2013’s worst natural disaster. But beyond the city center, it’s as if Tacloban has yet to get back on its feet after Typhoon Haiyan / Yolanda.

Behind the two-storey buildings along the highway hide the receding ruins of has-been houses. The alleys there have long been swept clean, thanks to an NGO’s cash-for-work effort. Yet the debris have only been kept off the streets. From the street curbs to the nearby coastline, a stretch of wreckage and discards still lies half a kilometer wide.

Debris and damaged houses in Magallanes district of Tacloban City. (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

This is Magallanes District. The area runs parallel to Real Avenue, where most of the traffic to downtown passes. Magallanes is not just one but a couple of adjacent communities, barangays identified just by their numbers. We asked around for the worst-hit areas in Tacloban, and they pointed us to Brgy. San Jose near the airport, and to here.

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