Tuesday, March 29, 2011


JONES, Isabela- For this quiet town of almost 50,000 population; the event of the execution of Kababayan Sally Ordinario-Villanueva 33 is an ordinary day like any other. This 2nd class municipality is her birthplace.
In the doomed Filipina's family home in the remote barangay Tupax; the latter's children ages 12 and 10 were secretly moved to an undisclosed place in the adjacent Quirino province.

The weeping Virgin of La Salette of Jones Parish in Jones, Isabela

“We want to spare the children from being interviewed by the media,” says a relative Edith Bueno. She added that the Villanueva children have already undergone traumatic experiences,”they hide whenever they hear vehicles parking nearby” Bueno complained.
Princess Joy who will graduate salututorian this April 6 here earlier said she is dedicating her graduation from elementary to her mother. She hopes to be a lawyer someday.

The quiet landscape of Jones Parish, mute witness to Sally's fate

Mayor Florante Raspado sent representatives of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office supposedly to mitigate the sufferings of the Villanueva siblings. The children's father- Hilarion who works as a driver for a bus plying the Isabela-Cagayan route is said to have secluded himself in Santiago city.

The landmark of heroes, dedicated to the forefather's who waged blood and sweat for Liberty

In a media interview; Bueno said their family could not blame Hilarion for refusing to go with his in-laws to China to bid goodbye to his wife during the execution. “Alam namin na masakit para kay Hilarion ang sumama pa sa China at pagkatapos ay yaong pagbitay lang ng asawa ang kanyang mangyayari,” Bueno laments. She said Hilarion has always been drinking and crying as he repeatedly murmurs his wife's innocence.

Centuries old tress, adorn the serene landscape of this quiet town

Whatever happens, Hilarion's decision still follows pertaining to the wake and funeral arrangement of his wife; Bueno said.
“Wala na kaming magagawa kundi ipasa-Diyos at tanggapin na ang lahat, subalit darating ang panahon na lalabas din ang katotohanan,” She added.

The working hours of the Local Government commence with the usual daily “dancercsise” along the corridors at the Jones Municipal Hall. However, Conchita Sanchez who is private secretary of Mayor Raspado said the whole employees of the local government are very sad to hear of Villanueva's execution.

Parish Priest Arnold Sadya-as offered mass for Villanueva and her fellow condemned “kababayans”in the afternoon at the Holy Rosary parish here according to lay workers.

Monday, March 28, 2011


ECHAGUE, Isabela- The Sangguniang Bayan has offered a minute of silence prior their regular session Monday to invoke the lord's intercession in the fate of “kababayan” Sally Ordinario- Villanueva and her fellow Filipinos condemned to death for drug trafficking in China.

'No ones home.." neighbors tell whoever visits the Villanuevas in their residence in Habitat Homes, Barangay Gummaway in Echague town

Sally's 12 year old daughter Princess joy, the eldest of the brood of 2; has learned to accept the bitter truth and vowed to be a lawyer someday so she would have something people will look upon. The young Villanueva is reportedly graduating elementary this April 6.
Councilor Jesus Babaran who moved the floor for the solemn instance later told STAR the Municipal council could do nothing at the moment but to pray for miracles. He said he and fellow councilors could not do any better but to extend financial help from their own pockets

Sangguniang Bayan Member Jesus Babaran (center) and his peers in the Municipal Council: Going to shell out personal funds to help Sally's family

Congressman Giorgidi Aggabao, Isabela 4th District Congressman, said he feels sorry for the situation being helpless to save Villanueva and her fellow condemned Filipinos -all three from the lethal injection tomorrow. He however offered to assist Villanueva's family to shoulder the expatriation of Villanueva's remains should the execution pushes through.
Echague Mayor Melinda Kiat said she has sought Villanueva's relatives to offer possible assistance she could extend. However, Kiat said she was instead informed that Villanueva was a resident of the adjacent Alicia town and not in her turf. “Wala kaming nagawa kasi hindi naman siya tagarito sa Echague,” the Mayor said when asked of any moves done by the local government to mitigate the sufferings of the family of the condemned kababayan. Kiat said the Villanueva's stayed in less than a month in a low-cost subdivision in her town prior to her arrest in Xiamen in 2008.

MAYOR MELINDA KIAT: "I have sought people to seek for Sally's family for assistance"

On the contrary, Kiat's informants proved otherwise in a visit by the STAR at the Villanueva's residence at the Habitat Subdivision, a low cost housing project in Barangay Gumbawan,Echague.
“There is no one in there,” according to neighbor Celia Sargado 41 saying the Villanuevas were not at home for weeks now. Sagrado herself is a former Overseas Filipina Worker who worked in Singapore during the late 1990s like Villanueva. She described the Villanueva's as a silent and peaceful family. She said she could not imagine that her best friend would be implicated to a dreaded international drug trade as a mule.

Sally's neighbor, Celia Sagrado: a former OFW in Singapore herself: "the Villanuevas are peaceful neighbors"

Sally's husband, Hilarion is a bus driver of an ordinary bus plying the Isabela-Cagayan route; Sagrado said.
“We are extremely sad in the neighborhood about Sally's fate, all we can do is to offer her our prayers,” Sargado told STAR, she refuted Kiat's informants that Villanueva did not stayed long in the remote Echague subdivision. Habitat housing can be reached by passing through the jurisdiction of Alicia town a kilometer away from the Echague Municipal town hall.
“The Villanuevas have been staying here since 2001,” according to Sagrado contrary to mayor Kiat's claim that the family stayed in the place for less than a month and moved back to the Sally's hometown of the Ordinarios in Barangay Tupax, Jones.


HACIENDA SAN ANTONIO, Ilagan- Walking through the centuries old acacias lined along the path to the historic administration house of the first ever business empire in the Philippines -the Companias General de Tobaccos de Filipinas or simply “Tabacalera”; is like going back in time when you have to be cautious being accosted by the dreaded Guardia Civil in the Spanish era for loitering during working hours.
In fact, 40 years ago during the Marcos regime; this hacienda has been a place marred by violence and human rights violations having been occupied by a crony business until then Governor Faustino Dy Sr., lobbied Malacanang to cause the distribution of this vast track of Spanish estate to the native tenants through the agrarian reform program of the government.

An old bell that speaks of its age; once a loud herald is now a mute witness to the changing times in the former hacienda

At present, the issue of the day lies whether this remote and former Spanish Tobacco Hacienda should likewise vouch for Cityhood of this capital town being far-flung from the amenities of an urbanized poblacion area.
The man in charge here- Vice Mayor Vedasto “Ka Piding” Villanueva calls the shot whether all 30 barangays under the jurisdiction of this former hacienda rally to the second time since cityhood proponents lost their bid in the first plebiscite held in 1998.
The facade of the old administration house dating back to more than a century but still defied the lashes of several signal number 4 typhoons unlike its neighboring houses. Note the fancy designs

Villanueva, a fierce and respected old timer who lives in the heart of the Hacienda (Barangay Centro San Antonio) at the moment says he is a team player and would vouch to support the cityhood bid.
“Once this guy is pissed off,” according to local Businessman John Reniedo; Villanueva could be seeking to severe his turf and form a new town instead. If the case pushes, the officialdom of Ilagan led by a hot-headed Mayor Josemarie Diaz is like riding on a sinking boat.
An old statue of San Antonio to whom the Hacienda is named after carrying the child Jesus

However, the humble Vice Mayor commented that this hacienda realm does not really contribute much to the present P206 million annual revenues it profits to qualify into cityhood. “Maraming taga rito ang hanggang sa ngayon defiant magbayad ng almeyar dahil nasanay sila sa mga indoctrination ng mga NPA nung martial law,”(Many people here are still defiant to comply in paying their real estate taxes since most people here still have martial law hangovers brought by the indoctrination of the NPAs), Villanueva commented.

Centuries old Acacias, the silent witness to the past events that transpired in this Haciendas from the Tyrant Spanish times to the Terroristic Martial law regime to the Logging Frenzy in the 21st Century. The Acacias here begin to bloom its leaves after being blown by typhoon Juan winds late 2010.

Tabacalera first established its base in the former Capital of Cagayan valley then known as Nueva Segovia in Lallo, Cagayan. It is where the industry played the vital role in the economic development of the Alcadia (Then comprises the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya as a whole).

An antique paper binder left in the open beneath the front stairs and exposed to entrepreneuring thieves who would make use of its copper parts for sale to scrap metal buyers

In 1895, Tabacalera expanded and opened its factory – the “La Flor de Isabela” in what is known before as San Fernando de Ilagan. It acquired properties in what is known as the Haciendas San Antonio, Sta. Isabel (Ilagan) and Hacienda San Luis (Cauayan). The business empire owned by Antonio Lopez-the first Marquis of Comillas; flourished as it also established the Tabacalera Insurance Company and its own shipping business- the Compania Trans-atlantica.

The company enjoyed privileges from the Spanish Monarch until the outset of the Philippine revolution in 1898. Tabacalera lost its special status with the entry of the American occupation where the company has to adjust and compete with other world market players in the industry.
At present the old Tabacalera administration house and its immediate backyard have been sold by its Spanish stewards to the Parish of Ilagan and is now being used as a staff house to priests, lay workers and church leaders.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Magat High Dam has rising water level this summer

MAGAT HIGH DAM, Ramon, Isabela- What was 40 meters higher today is 40 meters lower on the same period last year.

Atty. Mike Josillos, Corporate Secretary of the Aboitiz Power Corporation; is referring to the Magat Dam Hydro power plant here. Aboitiz power is now managing this dam touted as the largest in southeast Asia.

Josillos attributed the rising water level to the inflow of scattered rains brought by the wet summer. The water level measured 180 meters height compared to the 140 meter level it registered in the same month last year.

Josillos said since November 2009; the rains have stopped due to the La Nina havoc triggering the exposure of several “islet” in the Magat reservoir due to the critical low water level. As a result, other than the barren agricultural soil; the La Nina calamity effect massive fishkill in fish cages maintained in the reservoir's realm. He said.

The Homeless Journalist with Bombo Radyo DZNC Anchorman Neil Galapon

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Alternative livelihood for a mining dependent village

DIDIPIO VALLEY, Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya- Settlers here have been encouraged to venture in agriculture to provide an alternative to the mining industry here.
Librado Villamayor, Community Relations Officer of the New Zealand-based Oceana Gold Mining Company operating in this remote village said the move will provide other means of industry in this realm of central Sierra Madre wilderness.

The Village population has almost doubled since the 2007 census from almost 3,000 to nearly 6,000 settlers, mostly from nearby towns and villages since the strike of the Gold Rush early last year.
Villamayor said the company has supplied local farmers with fertilizers and farm implements to include multi-purposed engine sets, grass cutters, portable sprayers and Lakatan variety banana plants for the community's proposed plantation site here.
He said the grant is part of the social development commitment of the company to uplift the living conditions of the villagers. The Company after establishing the electrification of the village is currently improving the water system.

Oceanagold has been allowed by President Benigo Aquino III despite serious opposition from anti-mining groups in the urban centers. “In large-scale mining, you have more or less an idea of its effect on the environment. They have the capacity to pay for the clean-up among other things,” Aquino explained. The President said the mining permitees with the concurrence of the communities affected are held liable if damage has been done to warrant the revocation of the mining permit.

“We do not want the villagers to be solely dependent on mining operations,” Villamayor said stating the company is also improving the road networks and facilities in the community to further introduce this village to tourism industry for its numerous waterfalls all over the area.


Barangay Chairman Erenio Bobola however said the company is religiously complying with the community development aspect of its commitment in order to cope with the fast phase development of his village.
The handful huts seen in the terrain of the village three years ago has grown into several communities of newly constructed dwellings sporting gleaming galvanized roofs. Bobola said the company has been subsidizing the elementary and secondary school maintenance, salaries of teachers and day-care programs in his turf. Over the weekend; the company has turned over computer sets and other instructional materials to the local school he added.

The overview of the fast developing village of Didipio once a realm of a handfull of native huts.

The entry of electricity, water impounding systems drawing source from several mountain springs have significantly improved the lifestyfle of this dominantly ethnic Ifugao village. Farmer Luis Buyayo in his senior years said he got a text message from the company informing him of the award of farm implements to the farming community consisting of multi-purpose engines, knapsack sprayers, fertilizers and “Lakatan” variety banana plants. The company is assisting the local banana plantation venture.
Instead of gongs and the tribal Tadek performed by the natives as welcome and gratitude during special occasions; high school girls who view latest dance craze via satellite cable television performed a “Pussycat Dolls” number as the community's way of saying “thank you” during the turnover of program over the week.

Native Ifugao Native Children

Children play at the backdrop of the mountain of gold.

A mini waterfalls, one of the breathtaking roadside attractions going to Didipio; a sitio called "waterfalls"

My host in Kasibu- Ms. "MJ" Josue

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


DIDIPIO VALLEY, KASIBU, Nueva Viscaya - Until the tragic accident of a dump truck which fell into a deep ravine in Kayapa town that killed five last March 17, the word “Luyot” became a byword for the ongoing Gold rush discovered in this obscured sitio in the central Sierra Madre mountain ranges known hub of fierce head hunters in the early days.
Local radio stations have reported the gruesome accident as transporting a hot cargo of “Luyot” unknown to most listeners that even the newscaster did not understand its meaning. They merely quoted the Police blotter report transmitted by the local police in Kayapa.
Luyot is an Ifugao word for mine tailings. These tailings which appears to be ordinary soil rake as much as 50 to 80 pesos per kilo depending on the quality of the mining waste. Natives said buyers, mostly Koreans; procure these seemingly insignificant debris by the tons. A dump truck filled of the said mining waste would cost at least P50,000.
The ill fated truck carried tons of “Luyot” that skidded in the steep mountain side of the infant Kasibu-Benguet road- a newly developed access road to Baguio city which is only four hours travel from the Maharlika highway in Aritao town.

The ill fated truck, five people died here.. mostly from Cabarroguis, Qurino. Photo by Victor Martin

The cargo was traced here; a small valley in the central Sierra Madre which is itself isolated by mountains from its mother town of Kasibu. It takes about four hours of straight drive from the capital of Bayombong traversing the provinces of Isabela and Quirino only to reenter the forested jurisdiction of Nueva Vizcaya.
“Residents gather Luyot as much as they want, it requires no mining permit but an equivalent tribute to the Provincial Government when transported outside,” says Simplicia Annayon; Community Relations Supervisor of the New Zealand-based Oceanagold Mining Company which is dumping the precious mine waste.
She said locals who own “ball mill” in their backyard extracts gold and copper ore leftovers from the previous processing by the mining company. “There are still leftover ore not seen by the naked eye which is usually 50 percent of the original extraction,” Annanayon said. The locals sell the extracted high grade gold at an average 1,500 per gram.

Locals in the mining Village of Didipio are now up to date with the latest events and trends in the urban world having installed and subscribed their own satellite cable television. Villagers attributed their improved lifestyle with the entry of mining operations of New Zealand based Oceanagold mining company which established road, electricity and water system in the obscured village once dreaded for its fierce head-hunting natives in the past.

The process is less taxing than gold panning in Mount Diwalwal in the south specially when the “Magluluyots” smuggle the raw materials through sinister means. Last year Police Chief Insp. Maciste Serrano, Kasibu chief of police said the 60 sacks of "Luyot" were seized in a checkpoint manned by local environment enforcers and his men.
Oceanagold is one of two mining permitees operating in the province and employs 70 percent of the village residents. From the latest census in 2007, Didipio's population has doubled to date.