Late-night landing at Villamor

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

Volunteers waiting for Typhoon Yolanda survivors at Villamor Airbase (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

At the point where the tarmac meets the driveway, dozens of volunteers stood in wait like an army bracing for the enemy’s charge.

Their eyes were on the C130 plane taxiing the runway. It landed just before 11 p.m., an hour after another C130 came in, dropped its load, took in a different load, and flew out again.

The volunteers were huddled against an invisible line straddling that point. Their arms and hands full: on some, piles of fast food meals, on others, small bottles of mineral water. Some grasped folded shirts with both hands.

As they looked on, a woman’s voice boomed on a loudspeaker: “Volunteer drivers, please stand by.”

Then, the C130’s cargo unloaded. People stepped down the ramp into a curved line to where the volunteers waited. Most walked. A few were pushed in wheel chairs. The worst were carried in stretchers.

C130 plane from Tacloban City arrives at Villamor Airbase (Shot by Nestor Conato, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Nestor Conato, ABS-CBN News)

As the walkers approached, the arms and hands sprang to action. The arrivals were handed food, water, and clothes. All that as a cheer and applause rose from the volunteers welcoming them. The volunteers were not greeting an enemy, but compatriots in distress.

The scene happens nearly every hour at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, which is the entry point of those who survived super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). To some, Villamor is a gateway to respite from the chaos. For others, to a new life far from the devastation.

As relief is brought in droves to Eastern Visayas and kind hearts spend money and time for efforts being sent there, others are helping out closer to home by meeting the exodus of survivors to Luzon.

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Ra(n)ge of reactions at the Coastal Terminal

By Andrew Jonathan S. Bagaoisan

The Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal in Coastal Mall, Paranaque (Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

(Shot by Anjo Bagaoisan)

We showed peeks of it on live TV. We heard officials hint and warn of the changes it would make. But only when the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal opened at the Coastal Mall in Parañaque did we see its full impact.

The people behind it saw it as another step in solving the metro’s traffic problem so prominently mentioned in the President’s 2013 State of the Nation Address.

For a number of the commuters it affected, it was nothing but another strike in a series of poorly-thought-of and inconsiderate policies that gave more problems than they solved.

On August 6, bus-riders from Cavite and Batangas were surprised to find that their trips to Manila and EDSA now ended at Parañaque. They knew about the week-long ruckus in Manila when City Hall blocked buses from entering the city. But hadn’t some buses been allowed back in so long as they had terminals there?

A woman who boarded a bus in Cavite was told by the conductor that they were now only going so far. She loudly began decrying Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, little knowing that the man behind this new move was also aboard that bus. Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Francis Tolentino simply smiled as the reporters traveling along turned to see his reaction.

Commuters occupy Roxas Boulevard during first days of the Southwest bus terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

Morning rush at Roxas Blvd. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

The MMDA had long been planning to cut off buses going into Metro Manila from the surrounding provinces, and the Southwest Terminal was its corner for southern buses.

But for the terminal’s first three days, the morning rush saw a mass of ride-less travelers occupy the northbound side of Roxas Boulevard and joust for trips. The connecting rides to the metro they expected were either missing or sparse.

When reporter Pia Gutierrez asked them, their reactions were heated and impatient. Their rides were stunted, their pocket money drained, their appointments delayed.

“Sana matupad ang gusto nila, pero sa amin pahirap ito,” one said.

‘Pahirap’

“Pahirap” was the recurring retort of exasperated interviewees trudging the overpass between Coastal Mall to Roxas Boulevard —from an elderly man hauling a sack of belongings to a diminutive woman with a limp forced to join the procession up and down the stairs.

Commuters react to the implementation of the Southwest Integrated bus terminal (Shots by Nestor Prillo & Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Watch some commuter’s reactions in Pia’s TV Patrol story. (Shots by Nestor Prillo & Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Good thing the weather was dry, some said. Didn’t anyone anticipate what would happen to them during typhoon season?

One man lost his wallet in the tussle for rides and kept repeating to Pia iterations of “Manila’s not safe anymore.”

Even passers-by could not hold off shouting angry asides. Others just saw our camera and volunteered their condemnation.

One interviewee was drenched in sweat after lugging two boxes to the terminal with no idea where to ride next. A bus worker beside him irately urged: “Pare, sabihin mo mas maganda yung sistema dati.”

A sign board at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal showing directions to its facilities (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Clearly, the terminal was still in beta phase. A signboard advertised a food court yet to be built. There was already a prayer room and a waiting area that boasted digital monitors of the buses coming in and out. Many commuters, however, told us there must be a better option than this.

On the first night, commuters trying to go home scrambled to cram into the buses. With the heat, smoke, and rising tempers, some fainted. No one paid heed to MMDA personnel striving to put order to the lines. Later, marshals and cordons were put in.

What would you expect when you put 1000 buses in one place, Tolentino asked reporters. He admitted that they were still ironing out the snags, among them the long turnover of buses.

Commuters going home jostle in an attempt to board a bus at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal on its first night of operation. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Click to watch Jasmin Romero’s report on the first night of the terminal. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

For three days, Tolentino faced commuters who vented out their frustrations on him. The signboards were wrong. They were being dropped too far. Some rides refused to take them.

They also raised suggestions. Maybe senior citizens and disabled persons can have their own lounge. The terminal could use more ventilation. And bigger rest rooms.

The chairman did not escape that even during interviews with the media. But he welcomed it. When 15 people held a protest there, he said he even wanted to meet and thank them.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino talks with a commuter about the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

As buses go out, Tolentino hears out a commuter. (Shot by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Tolentino, a former mayor of Tagaytay, told reporters he himself rode buses from Cavite before.

But he insisted he was on the right track. “Basta ginawa mo yung tama, kailangan talaga panindigan mo rin.”

To a commuter, he said: “Kung mali ako, hindi ako haharap sa inyo.”

Lacking concern

A man who only introduced himself as Jun walked around the terminal one night looking for Tolentino. He said he was a businessman who returned to the Philippines after 13 years managing workers in Japan.

Jun did not commute to Cavite, but he visited the terminal right after seeing the situation on TV.

“Kung Hapon ang gumawa nito at ganito ang nangyari, nagpakamatay na siguro siya,” Jun said.

For him, it seemed the problem was that policymakers lacked concern or even love for the citizen’s welfare. Thus it was easy for them to implement guidelines without thinking about its consequences for the ordinary person.

Long lines and packed entrances to the buses at the Southwest Integrated Bus Terminal. (Shots by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

(Shots by Evart Villar, ABS-CBN News)

Jun had his own ideas to offer to the MMDA chairman. One was letting one bus company run rides for a week. There was no indication though that the two men met.

Indeed, transportation is one issue aside from commodity prices that makes Filipinos opinionated about how their government is working.

If the loud cacophony of criticism at the terminal was not enough, there were others elsewhere. That week, a petition demanding that officials ride public transportation at least once a week made the rounds online.

Commuters climb the overpass from Coastal Mall to Roxas Boulevard looking for connecting trips to Manila. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

(Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

To one opinion writer, government may be focusing too much on fixing traffic rather than improving public transit. That’s considering 80 percent of Filipinos in the metro commute rather than drive privately.

At least the responses were not all flak. Chairman Tolentino was also approached by people happy about the reduced congestion. One gave him a thumbs up. “Sa una talaga may problema,” said another.

How did Tolentino feel getting these little boosts? “Lumalakas ang loob ko,” he said. His assurance, after all, is: “Masasanay din sila.”

But if the long lines there at the end of that first week are any indication, it will take more tweaks and renovations before metro commuters get used to a change in their trip routines—all in the name of discipline.

Provincial commuters are now dropped off a walk's distance from the City Bus Terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

Provincial commuters are now dropped off a walk’s distance from the City Bus Terminal. (Shot by Nestor Prillo, ABS-CBN News)

New nursing schools open despite ban

By ANDREW JONATHAN BAGAOISAN and MARK ANGELO CHING

Note: This two‐part report was the output of my thesis with Mark Angelo Ching, which was supervised by Prof. Yvonne Chua and edited by Prof. Chit Estella. We chose to investigate the state of our nursing schools partly due to our concern with the increasing number of jobless nurses. We also saw that the media has not looked deeper into this issue since the 2006 exam leakage controversy. For our research, I took care of interviewing most sources and researching the Congress archives, while Mark compiled and analyzed nursing board exam performances of schools. Our work on this thesis familiarized us with the dealings of the Commission on Higher Education and the problems that still need to be addressed in nursing education. Vera Files (Part 1 & 2), The Manila Times, GMANews.tv (Part 1 & 2), and The Philippine Graphic magazine released the report.

First of two parts

(First published Monday, 15 June 2009)

NURSING schools all over the country will be opening their doors this week to thousands of students with the great white cap dream—getting a nursing degree, working in a hospital abroad and earning a comfortable living.

But not all these schools are qualified to offer the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program. In fact, some of them were supposed to have been shut down years ago for failing to meet the requirements of the Commission on Higher Education, while some new ones were not supposed to have opened at all.

The fact is, many students are spending their parents’ hard-earned money on substandard nursing education because CHED has been unable to weed out the poorly performing nursing schools.

In 2004, CHED declared a moratorium on the opening of more nursing schools after professional nurses complained that nursing schools were sprouting like mushrooms, even as more students were failing the nursing licensure exams. The problem reached tipping point in 2006 when news of a leakage in the exams made headlines.

But political and business pressures exerted on CHED have been preventing it from effectively regulating nursing schools and closing down those that perform badly.

CHED records show that from 2004 to 2007, more than 120 schools began offering nursing courses compared to only 98 new schools in the same time span before the moratorium. A total of 459 nursing schools operate in the country today.

Number of Philippine nursing schools from 1998 to 2007 (Source: Commission on Higher Education)

Number of nursing schools in the Philippines, 1998 – 2007 (Source: Commission on Higher Education)

CHED officials revealed that the commission even allowed more schools to open by continually processing pending applications. As recent as August 2008, CHED exempted certain schools from the moratorium through a verbal agreement among the commissioners. This agreement was not made public by CHED. Even now, a number of schools are reportedly applying to open, one of them with up to 17 new campuses.

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