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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Snaps: Awaiting the 2014 UPCAT takers

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Waiting for UPCAT 2013 takers at UP Manila, Pedro Gil

(Shot by Nico Bagaoisan)

A throng guarded the gate of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine along Manila’s Pedro Gil Street last Sunday afternoon, August 4.

Many of them had been standing there for hours. Some took a break at the neighboring Robinsons Mall and had returned, only to learn they had to wait a few hours more.

Others eschewed the crowd and looked on from St. Paul University across the street. At times, the glass door of the school’s auditorium opened, letting out a blast of cool air.

Two women passed by. The older one asked aloud, “Ano’ng meron? May artista ba?”

There were no celebrities, she was told. Exam lang po para sa UP.”

The bystanders were parents and siblings, friends and companions of senior high school students attempting to get into the country’s national state university.

Passing the UP College Admission Test or UPCAT was their way in, and 83,000 were taking it this year–its biggest number of examinees yet.

Sunday was the second and final day of the exam. The turnout was far from the long lines outside Palma Hall in the UP Diliman campus on Saturday, but it was as tense and suspenseful for the hundreds scheduled this day.

Test-takers were assured that the exam for academic year 2014-2015 would extend just below the four hours and twenty minutes of last year. And it would discard the wildcard essay question that surprised takers then.

The exam at UP Manila started at 12:30 noon. By 3:30, the guards at the gate were saying the examinees would be done by 5.

But the crowd did not see their loved ones come out of the Felipe Calderon Hall until 30 minutes after. The students later said they were lined up before they were allowed to leave.

There were hardly cheers or applause like for those departing from the bar or board exams. Mostly there were silent sighs of relief. Others who took the test with school mates were chatting excitedly with them, releasing pent-up sentiments after hours of near-silence.

Awaiting UPCAT takers 2014 in UP Manila closeup

(Shot by Nico Bagaoisan)

The students were met with questions as they walked away: how was the test, did you answer it all, but more so, were you hungry?

A mother asked her daughter: “Hindi ba pwede kumain habang nag-e-exam?” “Pwede po.” But it turned out only a few got to sneak bites from their packed snacks.

Soon, some took to skewering eggs fried in batter or “kwek-kwek” at a mobile food stand near the gate. Others trooped to a fast food outlet close by.

Another girl told her mom: “Naka-three-fourths pa lang ako ng test, ten minutes na lang natira.”

A motherly figure was reassuring her two wards—a boy and a girl: “Buti na-review niyo lahat.”

One taker was telling his companions, “Hindi ako maka-move on. But it was less about the exam than about someone he met before taking it.

He had taken some time inside the campus before leaving the gate, hoping he could catch the fellow-examinee again. Maybe he could put a name to the face and a number or social media account to the face. And maybe they might meet again should they both pass.

But like the test results which are five to six months away, his meeting the mystery girl was still uncertain.

Only about 14,000 (or less) are expected to be admitted to the university next year. Even then, their experiences taking the UPCAT are but the start of many others they will encounter as Iskolars ng Bayan.

Campaign snapshots: Jolo brings Jodi to Imus

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Saquilayan at Imus

Imus Mayoral candidate Homer Saquilayan (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News)

The covered basketball court at the Narra Homes Subdivision in Imus, Cavite vibrated with shouts and music the afternoon of April 4.

It was no summer sports league. Instead, Imus was having its own version of the many events enveloping the country since March 31–the start of the campaign period for local positions.

At an enlarged stage inside, the candidates of the “Team Saki” slate–named after their mayoral bet Homer Saquilayan–were working up the assembled supporters into cheers.

A live rock band jammed the intro tunes to pop hits like “Call Me Maybe” as each contender was introduced.

The contenders are one side of the intense political battle permeating Cavite that spilled into Imus. They wore azure collared shirts printed with lines in all caps: “No more lies”, “No more deceptions”, “No more corruption”.

The shirts and the speeches hit at the administration of Saquilayan’s opponent, Mayor Emmanuel Maliksi. The two are at odds over Supreme Court and Comelec rulings in March declaring Saquilayan the duly elected mayor of Imus. Maliksi, however, refuses to leave city hall.

But the city candidates (there since noon) were not the only reason for the excited crowd. Even the subdivision guards and barangay watchmen outside were racking their heads over the flow of vehicles entering the already-cramped subdivision from the narrow main road.

Welcoming streamers announced the main attraction—Cavite reelectionist governor Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla, vice-gubernatorial candidate Jolo Revilla, and Revilla’s girlfriend, actress Jodi Sta. Maria.

The hot afternoon meant good business for nearby home-based stalls selling cold refreshments. One heavyset owner already took on blending halo-halo ingredients as the orders piled up. But she laughingly told her vendors, “Kapag dumating na si Jodi Sta. Maria iiwan ko na kayo!”

Revilla and Remulla arrive at Imus sortie (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News, April 4, 2013)

Candidates Jolo Revilla and Jonvic Remulla (Shot by Angelo Valderama, ABS-CBN News)

By 4 p.m., the motorcade of Remulla and Revilla arrived. The governor, wearing a personal collared blue shirt, his running-mate in white, met screams in the court. The band struck up “Mangarap Ka” as the tandem walked to the stage.

The opening melody of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” accompanied Saquilayan as he handed the microphone to Revilla.

Female shouts of “Jolo! Jolo! Jolo!” met the actor, who smiled and quickly replaced the chant with Jonvic’s name. Soon the band joined in with a beat.

Revilla held forth on his accomplishments as a barangay captain in Bacoor for the past three years and the problems in Cavite he assured the crowd he and Remulla would solve if elected.

But seemingly he saved his biggest pitch for their votes for last.

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PinoyJourn’s 2011 in shots

Three's companyCouzins' lazer tagStopover snapshotBus blast respondersUnderneath tragedy11 roses for 11
Clicking at the grievingAll dressed upSOW graduatesFirst 2011 family shotLive sidelineApproaching home
A point with DavidLate night photoboothLigot stakeoutNo-to-RH rallyJumping Saquido boysLacson one-on-one
Stony uphill driveThank you for waitingA moment with XyrielNot enough questionsShow of forceBefore the final march

For more, click 2011 yearend photos, a set on Flickr.

Many of the stories not told on this blog were captured through clicks and flashes in photos that bare their own tales.

Most of the shots were taken by my worn but trusty Nokia 6730 Classic phone.In 2011, its lens have already seen both the northern tip of Luzon and one of our southernmost islands. It has gone through at least 5 typhoons last year and a number of reunions.

I’m mentioning the gadget since I’ve recently parted with it for a newer one. But the phone’s still with the family.

Of course, many of the memorable shots of 2011 were taken by friends with other cameras. Many thanks to them for sharing.

So, here are the 100 images of my 2011. They’re up on the link at the end of the gallery above. You may also view them in this slide show.

And if you’re one of the faces here, why not type in your memories at the comments section below? Thanks!

Why we wave each New Year

Way back, I didn’t get why they had to show those live shots of greet-toting, hand-waving news personnel on the Christmas and New Year telecasts.

I thought the cameos too self-indulgent, especially when the waving became rowdy.

But when duty forces one away from home at a time most people bond with their loved ones, how could one resist the chance to be one with the celebration despite the distance?

I only got to appreciate that window on my first New Year Salubong assignment. And in the most incongruous of places.

Amid the expected influx of firecracker-caused injuries at a government hospital, count on the staff and temps to still join in the merriment even for a few minutes.

For a first time to celebrate the new year without family, I made it a point to join the virtual feeler to loved ones watching.

And so for three years…

New year greetings at Jose Reyes Medical Center 2010

Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, 2010.

New year greetings at Jose Reyes Medical Center 2011

Again, Jose Reyes, 2011

New year greetings at Resorts World Manila, 2012Jan 1 kawayan Resorts World

Resorts World Manila, 2012

…it’s been “kawayan na”, with no sign of tradition ending.

The call home to turn on the TV and watch out has been a way of letting family or friends know the working person was thinking of them.

Kind of how the web cam has greatly reconnected Filipinos here and overseas. Only in this case, national television–still the big league this side of the world–heightens the experience, to wit.

It’s characteristic of a very Pinoy quirk that I forget when I think of times like these.

Once a camera pans, the immediate reaction is a smile and a wave. When it comes with a mic, the first word out is a greeting to practically everyone.

And it happens even if the scene is no party.

That’s why we’ve always had to deal with bystanders and onlookers “barging” into our live shots for 5-10 seconds of mini-fame at locations struck by crimes and deaths.

But once or twice at the end of the year, we allow the extra people and the waving, and we add ourselves in.

It’s not just us, after all, who want a shot at letting loved ones see that we’re thinking of them and that we’re doing fine.

Happy 2012, PinoyJourn readers!

P.S.: Still not through with 2011 though. Stay tuned for the top points of this blog and this writer’s year.