City Life vs Provincial Living

Coconut farmers bringing their produce from the hills of Sorsogon City. They do this daily, rain or shine.

Coconut farmers bringing their produce from the hills of Sorsogon City. They do this daily, rain or shine.

This is a heart-breaking story, but does drive a point that it can better to live in the province than to go for the big dream in the city.

San nag-sideline ako sa mga saro na eskwelahan sa Sorsogon, ginhaput ko an mga estudyante kung pira sa inda an batit san parauma. Almost a third of the class raised their hands. Ginahput ko sinda nano kay Information Technology  an gusto ninda matapos na kurso – kay damu kuno an gin kikita. 

I told them that how lucky they are to be family of farmers – not all are successful in the IT field. Heck, it’s like the elusive American dream that everyone tries to go for. San ginsabi ko idto, an mga bayhun san mga estudyante bagan dili makapaniwala. Siguro, gin isip ninda na buang buang lang ako.

Rappler’s story is not new.  In my opinion, we need agriculture more than ever considering the fact that the area of agricultural land is decreasing due to increasing population. Furthermore, farmer tend to flock to the city for a better life – pati an mga parauma, nauubos man.

I fully understand that it’s not as simple as that, nonetheless, I still hope that our farmers realize that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

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Lewis calls for “people power” to resolve electric coop woes

Loida NIcolas Lewis. Image is via

Loida NIcolas Lewis. Image is via

LEGAZPI CITY, June 23 (PIA) – Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis, who also hailed from Sorsogon province, has rallied her fellow Sorsoganons to mount a sort of “people power” movement to help resolve the woes faced by the Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (Soreco II).

“I am calling on my fellow Sorsoganons to do a people power for Soreco II and push for a public and private partnership for its operations,” Lewis told the local media in a briefing Friday night and said in interviews of television and radio programs based in this city over the weekend.

Lewis urged member-consumers of the power cooperative to attend the special general assembly on July 12 to select the new members of the Ad-Hoc Election Committee (AHEC) which will administer the election for the new set of the board of directors which was moved to August 2.

Soreco II logo. Image is via

The present leadership of Soreco II drew flak from irate member–consumers and candidates with previous postponements of the election of the board.

Majority of the members of AHEC filed their resignations prior to the re-scheduled board polls last June 14. With sole AHEC member remaining, the management decided to defer the election on August 2.

Confusions also arose during general assembly last June 7 on controversial motion to amend the qualifications for the candidates to the board by allowing those who did not finish a college degree to run as candidate that divided the house.

Lewis meanwhile pushed for a new set of board of directors who will support for a public and private partnership for the electric utilities’ management.

“I already had an erlier talks with a power distribution firm that is willing to manage Soreco II,” Lewis confirmed.

However, Lewis clarified that the move is not for privatization of the electric cooperative wherein the private company will only run the operations of the coop to introduce reforms and corrective measures in its administrative and financial management and will not become as new owners of the utility, but the member – consumers will remain as owners.

“The objective is to make the coop viable with efficient electric service with lower rates,” Lewis added.

Lewis also assured the public that the move only intends to revamp the coop’s top management and the middle management team will be retained if they are proven free from corruption and inefficiencies.

Lewis is co-owner of some businesses in operating in Sorsogon such as the Fernando’s Hotel, Fernando’s Mall including The Lewis College. After her media sorties, Lewis had a meeting with Sorsogon’s top political leaders Saturday afternoon. Talks are circulating that the private firm that Lewis is endorsing is engaged in power distribution and telecommunications. (MAL/JJP-PIA5)
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Old settlement relishes historical past

As an old settlement with archeological finds dating back to the Stone Age and historical accounts from pre-Hispanic to the Japanese Occupation periods, the coastal town of Gubat, Sorsogon province, at the southernmost tip of Luzon Island relished the wealth of its past as the 116th Independence Day was celebrated nationwide.

Roderick Quiñones Co, 42, first-time mayor of the quaint town rimmed by the eastern side of Pacific Ocean, had all the reasons to celebrate Freedom Day on June 12, the bispera (eve) of the town fiesta in honor of its patron saint, Anthony of Padua.

Co was proud to highlight the “grand heritage parade” of floats that depicted the development of Gubat from the Stone Age to the present.

Professor Luis Camara Dery, a doctor of philosophy in history from the University of the Philippines who specializes in Philippine history from precolonial to World War II periods, distinguished Gubat as one town that elected its own officials under the revolutionary government from Dec. 13-14, 1898, or barely three months after the Spaniards left Sorsogon.

Dery said the revolution in Sorsogon, which broke out on Aug. 23, 1896, started with a workers’ uprising in the shipyard at Panlatuan, Pilar town, until the Spanish colonizers fled two years later.

At that time of the election, revolutionary forces led by Gen. Ananias Diokno had already occupied the province.

‘Footnotes to history’

Elected to the highest position of presidente local was Don Angel Camara, with Don Florentino Escurel as vice presidente. The residents also elected the cabezas (heads) for the villages, Don Luis Silvestre as delgado de policia (chief of police), Don Rafael Hernandez as delgado de justicia (local magistrate), and Don Santiago Camara as delgado de rentas (treasurer).

Dery, currently a lecturer of De La Salle University (DLSU) history department, said that archeological evidence unearthed in various places in Gubat showed the presence of inhabitants there since the Stone Age.

An essay Dery wrote, titled “Footnotes to the History of Gubat, Sorsogon,” pointed to two stone-bark beaters and four stone axes that were recovered in the village of Bulacao, which resembled the pottery stone tools dated to be about 91 B.C. that were discovered from Bato Caves in the neighboring Bacon District of Sorsogon City.

Boholano ancestry

Dery cited another archeological find of earth jars for burials covered by flat stones in the upland village of Tigkiw that were dated to be between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200.

Artifacts from Ariman, a coastal village southeast of the town, where “an assemblage of New and old Stone Age tools, burial jars, porcelain wares and a fossilized smoke pipe” were recovered, also document the antiquity of the town, he added.

During the Spanish conquest, he depicted the town to have suffered from “the bloody military campaigns launched by Spanish conquistadores,” which resulted in the destruction of the pre-Hispanic settlement of Gubat.

According to Dery, Pedro Manook, a native Boholano ally of the Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, also arrived in Gubat. “He (Manook) brought with him many kinsmen—and helped the Spanish conquer and Christianize Sorsogon and many other places.”

It became one of the major bases of the Spanish rule in the country, and together with Bacon, now a district of Sorsogon City, Gubat was made an alternate port for the Manila Galleon, with the nearby Magallanes town then hosting a Spanish shipyard.

Dery said that as a Spanish base, it drew Moro raids and invasions during the long-running Spanish-Moro War (1521-1898), thus, its name “Gubat,” which means “war or to invade, attack or raid.”

Abaca trade

The village named Daku na Kuta referred to fortified stockades the inhabitants built against the Moro invaders. The attacks, however, declined over the years until the 1820s.

As a consequence of Governor General Pascual Enrile’s Decree of Dec. 12, 1831, directing all Spanish provincial governors to establish a regular weekly market day in every town, the abaca production and trading boomed. Gubat became a major trading center of the abaca industry.

Dery wrote: “Almacenes (collection houses where abaca were stored and processed) dotted the Pacific coastline of Gubat from Balud to Pinontingan. Batels (large sea vessels) loaded with abaca from Samar and Leyte weekly docked at Gubat.”

When the Americans colonized the Philippine archipelago, Gen. William A.  Kobbe led the military expedition to Bicol which occupied towns in Sorsogon, Albay and Catanduanes.

But it was not a walk in the park for the foreigners because an official of the revolutionary government, Lt. Col. Emeterio Funes, a native of Bulusan town, about 30 kilometers south of Gubat, reorganized the revolutionary forces in Sorsogon and put up armed resistance.

Funes established his headquarters in the village of Jupi north of Gubat in the 1900 but later moved the headquarters farther to his hometown in Bulusan on the shoulders of Bulusan Volcano, after a crushing defeat of his men led by Valentin San Miguel.

“Betrayed by a collaborator, San Miguel and his valiant soldiers were slaughtered by the American troops,” Dery noted.

Funes finally surrendered to American colonizers on Feb. 22, 1901. But two of his men, Francisco de la Cruz and Antonio Colache, revived the guerrilla resistance, mobilizing about 400 men and women. They included Margarita Fullio and Catalina Purical, Esteban Diño, Francisco Estipona and Pablo Encinares.

The resistance did not last long and the people behind it gave in to the pressure of “military campaigns and reconcentration of the inhabitants.”

With the new colonizers, the people of Gubat embraced the American education through the first American teacher in the person of a certain Sergeant Daly, commanding officer of the American troops in Gubat.

Dery said two Thomasites (American teachers aboard USAT Thomas who reestablished the public education system in the Philippines)—Clarence McDonald and Glenn W. Caulkins—replaced Daly in continuing the educational instructions to the pupils of the town on Oct. 7, 1901, three days after their arrival.

Original article is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 19,2014.

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Sorsogon City re-launches Pili Festival; kicks off today

Sally Lee, the new Sorsogon City Mayor for 2013-2016. Image is via

Sally Lee, the new Sorsogon City Mayor for 2013-2016. Image is via

SOROGON CITY, June 23 (PIA) – The city government of Sorsogon, under the present leadership of Mayor Sally A. Lee, has re-launched the Pili Festival, a celebration of abundance, blessings, peace and bounty, commencing today.

Sorsogon City Mayor Sally A. Lee said that this year marks the re-launch of the Pili Festival, adding that since 2000, the festival has been synonymous with Sorsogon, and it is but fitting to revive it to showcase the best of Sorsogon and the Sorsoganons.

Pili festival officially kicked off today, June 23, with a concelebrated Holy Mass, Pamarahaw Fiesta Festival, Tiriladan sa City Hall, Opening and Blessing of House Expo and Street Showdown Competition.

Pili Festival will culminate on June 30 in time for the State of the City Address and the declaration of Sorsogon City as Character City.

Both dates were declared as local and special non-working holidays for Sorsogon City by virtue of Executive Order No. 10 series of 2014.

According to Lee, Pili festival showcases Pili Tree, which is indigenous to the province of Sorsogon.

“The primary purpose of this festival is to emphasise the importance of pili and to increase the awareness of the public on its various economic uses,” she added.

During the press conference held on Saturday, June 21, Lee urged the Sangguniang Panlungsod through Vice Mayor Ma. Charo Dichoso-Logronio and committee chair on Tourism City Councilor Inigo Destacamento to come up with legislations and ordinances supportive of the institutionalization of Pili Festival.

This year’s theme “A Festival of Abundance… a Festival of Blessings… a festival of Peace… a Festival of Plenty…” coined by Mayor Lee herself will highlight Sorsogon City’s heritage, resources and aspirations as a community and as a people.

To shower abundance and make Sorsogon City people enjoy a festival of blessings and peace, Mayor Lee said series of activities like distribution of land titles to Urban Poor Beneficiaries, distribution of Livelihood Assistance for Coastal Barangay Fisherfolks, turn-over of a river cruising banca to Brgy. Buhatan as part of the City Community Based Tourism Programs, launching of “City Green Garden” and the declaration of Sorsogon as Character City will be conducted.

The Pili Festival in its re-launching this year will become an annual event in the City of Sorsogon in line with the celebration of the city fiesta in honor of the Patron Saints Peter and Paul whose feast day falls on June 29.

More sports events will also add to the fun and excitement of this year’s festival which include Pili Festival Airsoft Competition, Inter-Department Billiard Tournament, Celebrity Volleyball Exhibition Game, Inter-Barangay Marathon, National Motocross Challenge, and Sea Water Sports among others. “We encourage all Sorsoganons to take an active part during this week-long celebration”, said Lee.

A Street Dancing Showdown depicting the stages of pili development also gave way to an additional participation of the on-lookers and the public in general. (MAL/BAR-PIA5/Sorsogon)

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Sorsogon City folks enjoy two-day special non-working holidays

SORSOGON CITY, June 21 (PIA) – Locales here will enjoy a two-day special non-working holidays in time for the celebration of the Pili Festival on June 23 and the State of the City Address and the declaration of Sorsogon City as Character City on June 30.

Lee issued Executive Order No. 10 on June 17, 2014 declaring June 23 and 30 as local special non-working holiday to ensure a full and active participation of the people of Sorsogon City during the Pili festival’s opening and closing ceremonies.

Pili festival is a yearly event in the City of Sorsogon in line with the celebration of the city fiesta in honor of the Patron Saints Peter and Paul as well as the promotion of Pili, a well known product of the city.

The same EO stated that the Pili Festival begins on June 23, 2014 with a Holy Mass, grand parade and a street dance competition depicting the customs, culture and tradition of the Sorsoganon, while, the closing ceremony of the festival conicides with the State of the City Address by the City Mayor on June 30, 2014.

According to Lee, the people here would like to take part of the activities during the festival, but most of them cannot leave their offices or schools during the hours when the main presentations are on-going, but with the issuance of the said Executive Order, a full and active participation will be ensured.

The festival depictsthe celebration of the city fiesta which is a day for activities dedicated to the people of Sorsogon, hence, the people’s presence and participation is indispensable. (MAL/BAR-PIA5/Sorsogon)

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5-hour fire razes public market in Sorsogon town

NAGA CITY–A five-hour fire that started at  9:30 p.m. Sunday burned down the whole public market in Gubat town in Sorsogon, affecting at least 150 stall holders and establishments.

Gubat Mayor Roderick Co said by phone that the fire, which started in a carinderia (eatery) for still unknown reason, spread so fast that the lone fire truck in the town with 4,000 liters of water was not able to contain it.

Co said he asked help from fire fighters in the neighboring Barangay (village) Abuyog of Sorsogon City and Pilar town but they were not able to control the fire until past 2 a.m. Monday.

Original article is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 23, 2014.
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Feature: People behind the scenes that make UNWTO ASEAN Summit a success

LEGAZPI CITY, May 26 (PIA) – They made the recent United Nations World Tourism

Organization (UNWTO) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) International Conference on Tourism and Climate Change a success but they did not make it to the headlines.

At least 250 and probably more manpower served as the summit’s protocol officers, ushers/usherettes, tour guides, drivers, chorale members, dancers, members of the secretariat, emergency response and medical teams and media center staff who worked day and night prior, during and even after the weeklong international event that commenced on May 15 and ended on May 20 that happened for the first time in Albay and in the entire Bicol Region.

Roxanne Joy Jesalva, a 21 year-old business administration student of Bicol University, is one of them who served as usherette .

“I was assigned at the Legazpi City Airport to welcome and guide guests,” Jesalva said.

Jesalva belongs to the Albay Pageant Academy, a local institution that trains future beauty titlists supported by Albay Governor Joey Salceda. She is a local beauty queen who won many titles such as Miss Sosogon 2010 (Sorsogon City’s festival), Mutya ng Magayon 2011 (Albay’s festival), Miss Bicolandia 2011(Peñafrancia Festival), and Mutya ng Ibalong 1st Runner Up 2013 (Legazpi City’s festival).

“Being part of the academy and a title holder, I was among the 20 ladies and 10 gentlemen handpicked for the event,” Jesalva revealed.

Ashley Himor is a member of the Bicol University (BU) and Albay Magayon Dancers of the provincial government Albay who entertained guests with different genres of dances upon their arrival and during parties of the weeklong event.

Prior to the UNWTO ASEAN preparations, the group was already on their toes the previous month with the month-long celebration of Albay’s Magayon Festival in April this year.

Greg Naz meanwhile was behind the wheel transporting representatives from different media organizations.

“I belong to a transport service company accredited and tapped by the Department of Tourism (DOT) to provide vehicles and drivers for the event,” Naz said.

Jesalva, Himor and Naz all affirmed that the trainings conducted by the DOT prior to the international event boost their confidence in dealing both international visitors and VIPs.

In accomplishing her tasks, Jesalva followed this simple mantra: Be patient, act professionally at all times and smile always.

Himor also learned that being hospitable, warm and kind is necessary for her task as dancer.

“Having all these I believe we could attract more tourist come and visit Bicol most especially Albay. The character of every people here is the best thing that we can be proud of,” Himor added.

“I have met different people with different personalities and culture and I need a lot of patience and flexibility in dealing with them,” Naz said.

Being part of the ground staff had some perks though, and “my most memorable experience was when I saw President Aquino face to face, not everybody is given the opportunity to see the President in person,” Jesalva smiled.

Himor candidly admitted that she really enjoyed all the activities of the UNWTO, “but the most memorable for me was the Retro Party when I played the role of Marilyn Monroe who was a very popular international movie icon.”

“I had the chance to meet media personalities that I only listen on radio and see on TV,” Naz revealed.

Bob Gigantone, DOT project coordinator for UNWTO ASEAN events revealed that DOT lined up trainings that they required for the working groups such as effective customers service, tour guiding techniques, food and beverage training, social graces, protocol Training and personality development, among others.

“We invited experts on the specified areas among them Ambassador Fortunato Oblena for Social Graces and Protocol,” Gigantone said.

Gigantone admitted that the selection process of personnel for different groups was tedious and meticulous, wherein a selection committee from the provincial government and DOT was formed to scout people based on international standards required and specified by the UNWTO-ASEAN organizers.

In a letter sent by UNWTO Regional Programme for Asia and the Pacific Director Xu Jing to DOT Assistant Secretary Rolando Cañizal a month prior to the event, he specified the requirements for reception of participants, transportation, ground arrangements for registrations, invitations, recording of proceedings of the meeting, venue arrangements, ushering and a lot more.

“It is therefore essential that the staff deployed should be enthusiastic, motivated, responsible, patient and responsive to the participants’ needs,” Xu wrote Cañizal.

Gigantone meanwhile said thae greatest challenges that he encountered were during the lobbying for approval of plans, converging and synchronizing specific tasks, and responsibilities of the Joint Inter-Agency Task Force (JIATF) which was created by Governor Salceda through Executive Order No. 6 last March 14 to manage and supervise all tasks and activities related to the hosting of the said conferences and meetings.

“We did some trouble shooting outside the master plan, when some unexpected events happened,” Gigantone admitted.

Gigantone was thankful for the persons he encountered especially those who gave him encouragement to fulfill his tasks.

“They kept me going, reminded me to be strong and never be afraid to start over and rebuild things or do better the way people want it to be,” he said.

“I salute DOT Bicol regional director Maria Ravanilla for her strong leadership and management style and for giving me the opportunity to handle this event, and most especially to the competent leadership of Governor Salceda” Gigantone added.

Ravanilla expressed her gratitude to the provincial government of Albay, the member committees of the JIATF, and all those who provided their support for the success of the UNWTO ASEAN international meetings and conferences.

“This will not be successful without your support and help. We look forward for our unending support for one another in our future endeavors,” Ravanilla said in an official statement.

Salceda also confirmed through the social media that the UNWTO ASEAN top officials and delegates especially Xu were so impressed with Albay’s hosting and staging of the weeklong event.

For the meantime, Governor Salceda and the province of Albay are looking forward to its next international hosting, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference in 2015. (MAL/JJP-PIA5)
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