Archive for June, 2008

The Princess of the Stars’ Sinking

June 30, 2008

The Princess of the Stars which sank off Romblon was by no means a “floating coffin” as some quarters alleged.  It isn’t a rust bucket either.  It is in fact the flagship of Sulpicio Lines and it can easily match the amenities and comfort of any local ship.  However, Sulpicio ships never match the cleanliness of the SuperFerry ships.  It was the biggest local passenger ship ever, both in terms of Gross Registered Tonnes and in dimensions.

It is also not an old ship by local standards.  Actually it is one of the newest among the local ferries. At 24 years it is not really that old even by international standards.  Even in Europe, where standards are stringest by continental comparisons, a ship must be over 35 years old before it is refused registration.

The Bureau Veritas (BV), an international ship inspection and certification organization recognized worldwide confirmed that the ship was BV-certificated.  It was also IMO (International Maritime Organization, a UN agency)-compliant according to a report.  Most local ships are not internationally certificated.  I don’t think there’s a about the seaworthiness of the ship. 

So what went wrong?

I don’t think the fault lies in the lack of government regulations.  As it is, government rules regarding sailing of ships when there is a weather disturbance are already over-restrictive.  Small ferries can’t sail when storm signal #1 is hoisted.  One must understand that storm signal indicates not just storm strength but also distance.  The typhoon might be strong but it is still of some distance so only signal # 1 is raised.  So you always have the scenario that it is still calm and shining in Matnog, Sorsogon and Allen, Northern Samar but the ferries are already grounded and the passengers are stranded on both sides of San Bernardino Strait.

I think our local weather service, the PAGASA is already passe.  In a world where local weather conditions to the level of barangays can already be predicted (like and where predictions are changed every 3 hours or even more often PAGASA forecasts are already an anachronism.  One does not need PAGASA to track storms.  So many weather agencies, government and private do forecasts and it is available on the Net.  Even our own Mike Padua can do a better and more timely forecast than PAGASA at much, much lesser cost.  I do not know if PAGASA responds to text inquiries but Mike Padua’s service certainly does.

It is clear from 2007 government guidelines that the final responsibility in sailing under storm conditions lies with the master (or captain) of the ship.  PAGASA, JMA and JWTC has storm trackings from 3am and  every 6 hours thereafter and it is available on the Net.  aside from these satellites pictures are available almost every hour and it is also available on the Net. 

When the ship sailed out of Manila on Friday at 8pm it still had the chance to check the 9pm weather bulletin.  The ship then was still near Corregidor island.  At 3am Saturday it is still just leaving Mindoro island of the coast of the municipality of Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro. By plotting the known positions of the typhoon from the late afternoon of Friday to Friday evening and Saturday dawn, the ship’s navigators should have already sensed that the typhoon has changed course.  The ship could then have turned back and hide somewhere in Batangas and Mindoro (yes, the Princess of the Stars is faster than the eye of the typhoon because it has a speed of 20 knots or about 37 kph whereas a typhoon seldom moves faster than 20 kph) or it could have turned south towards Antique.  Many ships going to Cebu take a detour and pass around the southern tip of Panay island when there is a weather disturbance in Eastern Visayas or in Bicol.

In here one must already suspect negligence on the part of the navigation crew and on the Sulpicio port captains who also have authority to change the course of the vessel.  I do not know if there was a gung-ho attitude on the part of the ship’s navigation crew especially the captain.  They must have known that in Japan ships of that size and construction are designed to sail in near-gale conditions.  But signal #3 typhoons in the Philippines are much stronger than near-gale conditions.

I have plotted the course of the typhoon and the ship.  At 7:30am when the ship was buffeted by very strong winds and mountainous waves it was just 70kms from the eye of the typhoon and definitely within the storm radius and they were in a collision course.  Maybe the ship’s navigation crew was lulled just before that time because they were being partially sheltered by the island of Sibuyan.  They might not have known it but they were already in danger then.  At that point I am not sure if they can still safely turn back.

At 12:30pm when the ship sank the typhoon’s eye was just 35kms away from the wounded ship.  At 3pm when the ship already sank, the storm’s center passed very near the ship’s grave.

I cannot express my appallment at such kind of navigation both on the part of the captain and on the part of the port captain.  They are on the path of the typhoon and the ship and the company does not know it?  And now they have the gall to blame PAGASA? And attribute it as an “act og God”?  Who’s God, by the way?

Did the ship’s engine conk out during the storm and as such is the proximate cause of the sinking as others asked?  No, it isn’t as simple as that.

The ferry was a Ro-ro (short for roll on-roll off) vessel.  But more exactly it is a Ro-pax (roll on-passenger) vessel.  Ro-ro vessels have one critical weakness.  It has a flush cargo deck inside the ship just above the water line.  It is designed for ease in loading and unloading rolling cargoes (such as container vans mounted on truck chassis and vehicles).  It might be convenient to load a Ro-ro but its design does not permit compartmentalization of the ship.  Thus, when water enters the ship it cannot be localized and under a storm if the rolling cargoes break its lashings the cargoes will move.

When the ship was hit by monstrous waves, it tilted to one side.  Obviously the lashings broke when that happened and the cargoes moved.  That’s why the ship cannot recover from lying on its side.  When this happened it is finis to the ship no matter what the crew does.  It is just a matter of time before it sinks.


When the ship lies on its side and cannot recover, only half of the water pumps will be effective because the other half is already out of suction with the water.  And lying on its side the ship will take in water faster because some of the openings will then be in the water.  In a short time the remaining pumps will become submerged in water conking them out.  Soon the engine room will flood and the main and auxiliary engines will fail.  All the power of the ship will then be gone and there is no way anymore to steer the ship.  Actually, having a ship lying on its side is already very difficult to steer especially if one propeller is sticking out of the water and the rudder is also partially sticking out.  Tha’s why a ship lying on its side is already a dead ship.

A Ro-pax is more top-heavy than a normal ship because of the relatively empty cargo deck below and several passenger decks have to be built above.  A Ro-ro lying on its side when it capsized has the tendency to sink upside-down if it is top-heavy.  A passenger ship that capsizes upside-down has the tendency to trap passengers inside.

Once trapped the portholes (windows) and doors are very difficult to open because it is designed to open to the outside and the weight of water is simply too heavy to push.  The passenger areas are then very dark because it is already under water and the ship’s lights are no longer working.  It is simply a matter of time before the trapped inside the ship is exhausted.

It is a grim death.


A Postscript To Manny Pacquiao’s Outstanding Wins

June 30, 2008

When Manny Pacquiao said he’s dedicating his boxing match with WBC lightweight champ Mexican American David Diaz on June 28, 2008 to the victims of the Typhoon Frank, it’s the best the fighter can do for the Filipinos. At a time when there has been much to despair about in a country rocked by unsolved scandals and natural calamities, Pacquiao dashed out in the wind to stand firmly on his word.

On Saturday, in the Mandalay Bay Events in Las Vegas, Nevada, the boxer from Gen. Santos City electrified the nation anew with a record-breaking performance.

“Manny Pacquiao knocks out David Diaz in the ninth round to become the new World Boxing Council lightweight champion. Pacquiao has made history as the first Asian to win world titles in four different weight classes, and the first Filipino to become a lightweight champion. Inquirer (06/30/08)

“What a masterpiece,” the president said after watching Pacquiao demolish his opponent. “Manny once again showed the sterling quality of excellence of a Filipino at his best. We rejoice with the whole nation in his victory,” Mrs. Arroyo said in statement released by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza. Philstar. (06/30/80, Romero.P.)

Sen. Benigno Aquino III said Pacquiao’s win also boosts the country’s “wounded pride,” after having landed in the top list of most corrupt nations. Malaya (06/30.08, Vigilia al)

Surely Manny is great! (see AP/Reuters photos) Millions of people simply adore him. His phenomenal boxing record makes his fans forget their failures and despair. Because of his winnings, he is rich in almost all counts. His triumphs and fame attract all kinds of people whose motives anyone could guess. In spite of his meager education, politicians think he’s a good material for an elective post in the government. In May 2007 elections, he ran for a congressional seat in his town but lost.

For all the thrills and allure of boxing, there’s a price to pay. Adding to the face-disfiguring cuts, bruises, and scars a boxer endures, there is his brain, like a jello, that’s repeatedly jabbed, rattled, and whacked by a pugilist’s glove. There are those who die with lethal injuries in the sport. This is a reason why boxing, like bloody cockfighting, is such a controversial sport. You only need to watch the great Muhammad Ali wobble with tremors, fidget in his festinating gait, and put up that wry smile with mask-like plasticity to understand why. =0=

Part I: The Mighty Guy of UP Ibalon

June 29, 2008

Apolonio (Mighty) Baylon carries different tags like admirable multicolored feathered ribbons on his sleeves. Many call him the “father of UP Ibalon.” Some think he is the “Yoda of the Bicol group in Diliman.” Others assume him to be the “college day’s vessel of poignant memories,” and another the “merchant of friendship and goodwill.”

Once the indefatigable leader of Bicolano students, the mighty “idealist-CEO-enforcer” from Guinobatan, Albay takes real life head-on. In a two-part interview, more than 30 years after UP, here he is—cogently enlightening, down-to-earth, and thought-provoking.

Sabi ninda, ika da’a an “Ama kan Ibalon.” Ano an si’mong komentaryo?-Magayon dangogon. Maski bako lang ako an founder ta 20 man kita kaidto (o 24 ngani ta me nagtarabang na invitees na dai nag-member arog ki Dr. Jean Cortes o naghale like Prof. Egay Rosero.)

Baka dakula man su naging papel ko in setting the vision, setting the tone and the oplan/concept on how to establish UP Ibalon amidst a very difficult situation. Kadto dae baga mai-deklara tulos ang threats hale sa ibang grupo.

Mga siisay kadto saimo an nakatabang sa pagpundar kan Ibalon?
-An sarong leader siguro tata’o man magpalataw kan maitatabang kan iba. I recall the admirable contributions of the likes of Nestor Raneses and Steve David. The original members had their valuable inputs. And so was the support of the Molave Kurahaw. Si Grace Princesa-Escalante, pasalamat ako sa mga tabang satuya, an Mata Hari kan panahon.

I also want to recognize the subsequent contributions of Dr. Yasmin Paje-Banzon in normalizing relations with Alpha Phi Beta (APB.) Her effort eliminated the threat of another group, assuring us that there’ll be no other varsitarian except UP Ibalon.

Mac Pavia was helpful in defining relations between the politicals and the non-politicals. He was partly responsible for fostering the goodwill and friendship which brought unity to all the personalities in the group.

Sa mati mo, sobra daw su panahon mo na tina’o sa UP Ibalon?
-Dae. Pero iguang nagsasabi na sobra-sobra da’a an itinao ko. Dae ko aram kun ano an tama. But history spoke later ta in later years whenever I’m recognized for my role in the group, namamate ko an trust, respect, and love na itinatao sako kan meimbros lalo su mga naka-iba ko sa UP.

An confirmasyon kaini iyo su pag-aasikaso ninda sakuya whenever may problema ako sa health. Nagiging mover pa man guiraray ako maski mayo akong gayong resources. An puhunan ko lang: naipundar ko an tiwala sagkod respeto. Nakua ko siguro ini, hale sa pagta’o ko nin oras para pakusugon an pag-aramigo sa grupo.

Ngonian yaon kana sa cuidad de Davao, may pagbag’o an hiling mo sa grupo?
-Sa pagrayo ko sa Bicol, lalo kong na-appreciate an UP Ibalon.

Dae ka man napupung’aw, harayo kana sa lugar na si’mong guinikanan?
-I miss Bicol terribly. You can only understand this if you know my history. I was denied normal freedom of movement or travel. Nag-iwas ako kan yaon ako sa lugar na yan.

Living in other places made me feel like an exile. Kun saen naghaloy nag-grabe su longing ko sa satuyang native place, tongue and taste. Not hearing our language for a long time, any spoken Bicol feels like music to my ears. Pag nasa Bicol nahanap tulos ako nin Bicol na kakanon.

Yaon pa su copya mo kan constitution ta? Ano, iguang kaipuhan bag-o’hon duman?
-I think may copya ako kan iba’t ibang constitutions kan Ibalon alumni. After all these years kan pagtabang sa Ibalon, I realized an magic sa pagbuhay nin grupo dae masusumpungan sa constitution. Nasa vision yan, nasa mga tawong nagpapadalagan.

Hil’nga an chapter sa Naga. Nadalagan baga maski kadaklan dae man nahiling na constitution. Uyogon mo, mayo nganing regular set of officers may naguiguinibo sinda. The constitution is secondary. Padalaganon ta na ngona an pag-iriba.

Ano an prosopuesto mo para abuton su mga Ibalonians na dae pa nakakabalik sa grupo?
-Primero, kaipuhan ta an marhay na database. Natapos ko na su sa generasyon ta pero kulang kitat duman su mga masuronod. Segundo, kaipuhan na mag-assign nin mga respetadong personas na ma-reach out duman sa mga mayo.

Importatent ibalik su dating pag-aramigo, recuerdos, pagka-buronyog, dangan, siempre—an interes sa organisasyon. An pag-kaigwang mga proyecto arog kan naguinibo na Butch Robredo, Dr. Andy Gimpaya, Ann Mariano, Alaine Alberto, Dr. Eden B. Fernando atbp.(halawig an lista) an makakatabang makaburunyog satuya.

Iguang mga Ibalon na yaon sa Diliman nag-aadal pa, ano an dapat guibohon para sainda?
-Complikadong hapot. I-reserve ko na lang an pagsimbag digdi. This is a weighty and controversial topic. Although nasabi ko ki Butch Robredo minsan na we can act like a donor agency. Aram ta man na nata’o lang an donor agency kun gusto—if someone is deemed worthy to be given assistance. Sabi ko okey lang na mapa-rani an mga jovenes kan UP, para madangog man ninda an senior members.

Igua kang gustong ipa-abot sa mga jovenes?
Kaipuhan ma-araman ninda na bakong totoo an naglalakaw na kaputikan—idtong pigsarabi na an Ibalon da’a “po’on-sa-po’on ay political organization.” Iyo ini an saro sa mga razon kun ta’daw nagka-igua kita nin ibang provincial Bicol orgs.

Sa UP, ano an pinakadefisil mong inaguihan?
-Maski bright ka, dae mo puwedeng biruin an academics sa UP. Madali lang ang ma-cinco. An mga teachers duman sanay na sa pagbaragsak nin estudyante. Hard if one is a student leader. (to be continued…) =0=

Toxic Cargo

June 28, 2008

After Sulpicio Lines blamed God for the sinking of the passenger ship “Princess for the Stars,” an illegal cargo of 10 metric tons of endosulfan, a highly hazardous neurotoxic organochlorine insecticide was found in the shipwreck, prompting divers to stop their mission of retrieving bodies from the ship’s hull.

According to Philstar (06/28/08, Berondo, W. et. Al)

They (Sulpicio Lines) only told Del Monte on Wednesday, in writing, that the cargo had been switched to the passenger ship. That was five days after the ferry sank. This type of chemical is not allowed on board passenger ships. ” Norlito Vicana, the director of the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority told ABS-CBN.

Del Monte said Sulpicio Lines loaded the endosulfan on the Princess of the Stars instead of the Princess of the Paradise “ without the knowledge and consent of Del Monte Philippines, Inc. (DMPI.)”

“ Upon learning that our cargo was loaded on the ill-fated Princess of the Stars, we immediately informed the FPA, ” a DMPI statement read.

With a clamor to ban the dangerous chemical worldwide, the use of endosulfan (thiodan) is prohibited in the European Union (EU) and other countries; its use in the Philippines is restricted. The United States still uses the pesticide which was first registered in 1954 for agricultural use, mainly to control insects and pests on fruits and vegetables.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) did not have knowledge of the toxic cargo placed inside a container van until it learned from DMPI, the insecticide consignee. Although no evidence of leakage has been detected, some divers had their blood checked for exposure in a laboratory in Singapore.

When ingested, inhaled or absorbed in the skin in significant amounts, acute endosulfan poisoning causes hyperactivity, nausea, dizziness, headache, tremors, seizures or even death. Chronic exposure can affect endocrine function as reproductive maturation delay and it can bring damage to the kidneys, testes and the liver. There is no antidote for endosulfan poisoning, and treatment is basically supportive (i.e. anticonvulsants for seizures.)=0=

The Ferry Tragedy: Lack Of Body Bags And The Dearth Of Forensic Expertise

June 27, 2008

The advice of UP pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun that “there must be a detailed external examination of all remains recovered while the soft tissues are still intact for documentation and proper identification” seems to be what we know from a pathology textbook. But for those who are aware of how forensic science is practiced in the Philippines, this recommendation is a pipe dream, especially for those who lost loved ones in the Princess of the Stars tragedy.

In spite of advanced forensic technology currently in use today, our investigators are mostly operating on antiquated scientific grounds, very much like the outdated travel guidelines Sulpicio Lines followed which led to the ill-fated ship to its seabed grave. Our forensic doctors may well be 50 years behind in what modern science normally does to deal with deaths of this magnitude.

We don’t have enough freezers and body bags to keep our cadavers. There is no central repository of bodies that’s needed to secure material evidence and specimens for testing. We lack the manpower and logistics to deal with such a catastrophe which upsets all of us. With no time to put up a coordinated team, pressure to bury decomposing bodies builds up. The public is afraid of potential contamination and outbreak of diseases.

Since I left UP-PGH in the 1980’s, little had changed in our way of medico-legal investigation. In those days, as member of the Department of Pathology, I volunteered to help examine remains—a thankless job I did for free, because few pathologists in the academe were willing to do it. I believed it was a calling which I must sustain for those who sought justice. I joined the National Bureau Investigation (NBI,) Commission on Human Rights (CHR,) and some cause-oriented groups perform autopsies and identifications, mostly for victims of violence and killings during Marcos’s time.

The reasons for the dearth of interest in forensic science are largely predictable. For years, the systemic lack of budget has spawned a culture of waiting, inaction, and helplessness on the part of the government. Gruesome and messy as necropsies may be, forensic science is a tedious job. Few doctors go into the specialty for lack of appreciation of its contribution to our society. It appears a sizeable number of medico-legal doctors stick to their jobs as their source of livelihood, not because they gain professional satisfaction in caring for the dead and in seeking the truth behind a person’s passing.

Many medico-legal doctors in the Philippines are trained on the routine crime scene investigation, identification of bodies and autopsy, but they sorely lack support. As basic as a steady supply of gloves, sharp scalpels, or a good morgue assistant, pathologists don’t have standard modern autopsy facilities. Besides, they have only a few credible laboratories with state-of-the-art capabilities which can help put their cases to rest.

The routine death investigations do not usually pose problems. It is the sensational demise, those that hug the news and cause public controversy and pain that bring embarrassment to our medico-legal capabilities. In our ranks, we have forensic workers who are slowed by the endemic problems of the profession: job-overload, lack of facilities, inadequate budgetary support, turf wars, and a dearth in trained manpower.

There are times when we don’t believe what our medico-legal investigators say. Questionable results of past cases make them appear untrustworthy. The question of competence and honesty often crop up, making them cynical and defensive. Burdened by their deficiencies, they end up as apologists and defenders of an institution that needs total overhaul.

Body retrieval and identification disturb us. In mass deaths, our instinct is to ask help from forensic experts abroad, believing that it’s the only way a reliable medico-legal investigation can be carried out. Our unending dependence on foreign assistance makes us lose our drive to learn, work hard, and trust in ourselves.

Who then will do the examination, documentation, procurement of tissue samples that may aid in identifying the dead? Who will provide the freezers that Dr. Fortun asks for (Inguirer, 06/27/08, Uy, J.)—so that the NBI and medico-legal experts like her could do their job to the satisfaction of the grieving public? When will we get the central repository of remains and tissue samples of unidentified victims?

The main purpose of postmortem examination in the tragedy is to recognize the dead as quickly as possible so that their relatives can give them decent burial. Body retrieval and identification will help bring closure to the grief of loved ones. Necropsy is important in the prosecution of case(s) against the culpable. It’s vital in pursuing justice for the victims.

At this time, it is less important to know the victim’s circumstance and manner of dying, for without the ship’s sinking, all the passengers could be presumed alive to reach their destination. Most of those who perished probably drowned.

More than 20 years after I left UP-PGH, I doubt if precise identification could be done on many victims of Sulpicio Lines. An overwhelming number of decomposing bodies, in various stages of decay, at different sites in the islands, some drifting from the shipwreck have been found floating or washed to shore. It appears the manpower and forensic expertise to do a credible job on these bodies, are meager and inadequate. =0=

From The Underbush, Some Notable Numbers

June 25, 2008

-Sulpicio Lines, the operator of the sunken Princess of the Sea, pegged the approximate insurance value (less than $4,000) of a dead victim’s life in the Philippines.

9 years
-The length of time it took Sulpicio Lines to know of the new guidelines on ship travel which was revised in June 27, 2007. Edgar Go, representing the ship company said they were not informed of the revision that could have avoided the sinking of the Princess of the Sea. =0=

P331.5 billion
The amount paid by the Philippine government (P133 billion in interest and P198.53 billion in principal) on maturing debts from January to May, 2008 according to the Department of Finance. As of April 2008, the country has a trade deficit of $531 million (approx. P24 billion.)

-The monthly travel allowance of a Philippine congressman in trips, local and abroad. This taxpayer’s money could be the source of cash used by 59 representatives (1/4 of the entire Congress,) in accompanying Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo in USA on July 21 to 30, 2008, a junket which critics call “extravagant and insensitive.”
The overall percentage of improvement in the National Achievement Test (NAT) for grade 6 Filipino public school students—from 43% in 2003 to 2008’s’s 65%; DepEd’s Jesli Lapus eyes a 75% mark by 2010.

1 month
-It took the media to correct the misleading news about the “lost Amazon” tribe, not having contact with civilization (mentioned in mesiamd’s blog on 05/31/08: “The stonehenge’s secret revealed, a lost Amazon tribe discovered…) The disclosure brings to recall similar hoaxes woven around indigenous forest-dwellers, like the Philippine Tasadays whose made-up secrets were revealed after Marcos was driven out of the country.

10 million
-The number of millionaires in the world with an asset of at least 1 million dollars; representing 1/5 of 1% of the world’s 6.7 billion people; a rise of 6% from 2006 to 2007; a third of these millionaires live in America.

24 million
-Center for Disease Control (CDC’s) estimate on the number of Americans afflicted with diabetes, representing 8% of the total US population; based on a 2007 data; another 57 million have deranged (prediabetic) sugar levels putting them at risk to have the disease.

-The average home price in America. According to the US Department of Commerce, May 2008 home value dropped 5.7% from last year’s prices, dragging down the economy and firing fears of a recession.

-Today’s percentage point advantage of Barack Obama against John McCain in the US presidential race. This double-digit (06/25/08) lead may not hold until November’s election.

-The price of Claude Monet’s impressionist painting “Le bassin aux nymphéas,” or “Water Lily Pond,” an exquisite artwork auctioned off at a highest price so far by Christie’s in Europe (see photo by Lefteris Pitarakis, AP)

Recurrent Shipwrecks And The Horrific Maritime Record in the Philippines

June 24, 2008

The reason why there is the repeat of negligence among these shipping lines is because the law takes such a long time. We need to execute a swift prosecution and conviction of the guilty on this case,” -Sen. Francis Pangilinan. Malaya (06.25/07, Montemayor, J.)

Sulpicio Lines—that’s the company! The recurrent shipwrecks befalling this shipping outfit are disgusting entries in the bloody maritime record of the Philippines. The inter-island company has the hideous distinction of being involved in several of the world’s unforgettable ship mishaps, one of them, the history’s worst sea disaster which claimed the lives of innocents, larger in number than those who perished in 911.

Princess of the Stars keeled at the height of Typhoon Frank (see pictures by Reuters.) With shifting inaccurate numbers of passengers which cast doubt on the veracity of the manifest, the ill-fated ship was whacked and swallowed by the churning waves—bigger and more fearsome than the rugged tall mountains nearby. Disaster-prone Philippines had been in a state of temporary shock, begging for international aid.

Pray for those who died. They need justice. Think of the victims’ families who shed tears, their eyes red in seething anger. In grief, they know their poor loved ones are gone, never to set foot on dry land again. Perhaps they’ll not get the justice they deserved. Think of the good works the hapless 800+ victims could have contributed in their lifetime if they weren’t cut silent by negligence, bad luck, or act of God.

MV Princess of the Stars, sank during Typhoon Frank, 800 plus missing or lost, June 22, 2008
MV Dona Marilyn, sank during Typhoon Unsang, Oct 24, 1988, 250 lives lost
MV Princess of the Orient, sank during Typhoon Guding, Sept 18, 1988, 150 lives lost
MV Dona Paz, sank after a collision with tanker Vector, Dec 20, 1987, 4000+ died (worst maritime disaster in history)

How can we rest our thoughts with this? We have ample blame to spread around. The “royal” liner sank with several capsized smaller boats at the height of the storm. Littered bloated bodies in the sea soon commingled after Typhoon Frank left, making it hard to know from which sunken ferry they came from. Does God bear grudge on our people?

Not learning its lessons, Sulpicio Lines pulled through (with least accountability) in the past. The rulings on earlier shipwrecks placed little blame on this company whose victims, too poor to wage protracted legal battles, hungered for justice.

Since the storm’s path could be ascertained in real time, its progress could be accurately charted. There should have been ample wiggle room to successfully escape the typhoon if caution was observed.

Negligence and incompetence were more likely when too frequent mishaps recurred in the hands of the same people—the ship’s crew and the Coast Guard. Whether Sulpicio Lines and the Coast Guard took safety and human life for granted was something the whole nation deserved to know.

The United States donated $100,000 to the ferry disaster fund. The French government also offered help. In appeals so familiar, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP,) Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo and the swanky troop of 59 senators who joined her to the White House, begged for more generous donations.

Who will ascertain that these dole-outs will go to the right beneficiaries? How much will the ferry company spend as aid and compensation? With taxpayer’s money, how much will the government spend to put this avoidable tragedy far in the backstage— so that the next national disaster in the offing can catch our attention? =0=

In A Male-Bashing Culture, The "idiots" And "numskulls" Are Still Worth Saving

June 23, 2008

In New York Post, on June 8, 2008, an article by Christine B. Whelan, a University of Iowa sociology assistant professor caught my attention. She wrote about the weakening of the male’s traditional role in American society, partly as an offshoot of the female liberation movement. Whelan touched on Kathleen Parker’s book: “Save the males: why men matter, why women should care.”

Two weeks later, I saw Parker talked about her witty insights in O’Reilly Factor at Fox News. Her social critique on the American male-bashing culture which deludes us into thinking that men are dull and short-witted was convincing. She said society’s put down on the male gender which has influenced our media and school, is part of the feminism’s collateral damage. This leads us to undervalue the role of fathers and mislead us to believe they’re unnecessary.

Far beyond the days when oppressed mothers fought hard to gain their right to vote, the feminist movement seeks to redefine the role of women in terms of gender equality. It covers issues like employment, reproductive rights, abortion, domestic violence, discrimination, same-sex marriage, divorce, maternity leave, and sexual harassment.

Though majority of the feminist movement’s agenda has led to the betterment of society, there are unintended adverse consequences. The goal of equality in some places has been exceeded, and men find themselves gradually waylaid in the curb, feeling less equal and less appreciated than before.

In America, feminism has resulted to some marginalization of the male. The normal rambunctious boys who have been stereotyped as loud and unfocused are taught to assume girlish roles which efface and deride the differences of the sexes.

With women’s success in the workplace, men’s role has been trivialized. The belief that the “father knows best,” is becoming a thing of the past. Seeing the male role as dispensable, women enter into same-sex marriages; they conceive children using sperm donors and raise families as single parents. These make men appear less important.

In the Philippines, the same male-bashing culture exists. We have a clever woman president in the person of Gloria M. Arroyo. We have a sluggish senate and ineffectual congress dominated by men whom Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago disparagingly calls “idiots and numskulls.”

Like Santiago, more of our women with higher education compete for positions high in the job ladder. Asserting their independence, Filipino women have bolted out of the house in huge numbers to seek jobs locally and abroad, leaving their husbands at home to care for the children.

How many times do we see Filipinas become the family breadwinners, their husbands assuming the roles of house-fathers? What could be the consequence of men not taking their responsibility at heart—acting like perpetual “little boys” who refuse to grow? When did we notice the emasculation of men in doing kitchen-work and laundry while our women read, think, and assume complex decision-making tasks? In rising numbers, why are the men, content to act as drivers, errand boys, and companions, ready to follow the female “commander” of the house?

Parker doesn’t only blame feminism for this attitudinal change and “role reversal.” She thinks there are adult males out there who remain immature, preferring to hang around with friends, refusing to work. Averse to take responsibility, these men indulge in idle talk, do leisurely text messaging, play cards, videos, or watch TV.

Yet Parker cautions this should not be. For without the strong male figure, the traditional provider and society’s pillar, our families are bound to suffer. There is a chasm in not having fathers in the household. That’s why she (as most of us do) believes men, the bulwark of the nation, are certainly worth saving. =0=

Wicked Weather In The Philippines: A Ship Capsizes, Hundreds Die

June 22, 2008

When the rainy season came, we felt a sense of foreboding. The intense heat of summer had given way to heavy rains which slowly brewed into a storm. Typhoon Frank battered the emerald islands, pushing Filipinos into new heights of peril and death.

According to Associated Press (06/22/08, Alexander,P,) more than 700 people are missing when a ship capsized in central Philippines. A hundred plus more died in various parts of the country during the typhoon. Like a recurrent déjà vu, the storm’s aftermath left a footprint of damage and misery that could only make us cry.

Presumed safe to ride the waves, the lissome passenger ship called “Princess of Stars” went aground in bad weather. Part of the Sulpicio Lines fleet, the ill-fated ferry had more than 700 passengers and crew members unaccounted for or presumed dead after the ship’s engine failed at the height of the storm. Such deaths during a typhoon are flat reminders of how fickle the earth’s climate could be.

Before accounting for the millions lost, we think if human error or negligence plays a role in the ship’s sinking. With travel safety and weather advisories sometimes ignored by transport operators, we’ll soon learn more about the tragedy at a time when it’s too late to make any difference for those who perished. We can only guess how risky it would be to ride a boat together with incompetence and bad weather.

Only 10 are known to have survived as of this writing. Those who know someone in the ill-fated ferry are visibly distraught and madly resentful. They grieve over their loss—loved ones who won’t probably go home to tell their ordeal at sea. The people vainly seek for answers, waiting for help, hope, and consolation from the authorities.

But in spite of the emotional woes and material losses that the victims bear, Typhoon Frank’s riveting pictures by Reuters and Associated Press show the people’s resilience, their way of coping when a disaster strikes.

A slow but heavy bulldozer served like a bus which carried distressed villagers to safety. The poor folks braved the rising flood, bringing along any possession they could save from damage homes. After the water subsided, families gathered what was left of their possessions. Innocent children waded in murky cesspools that formed, unmindful of the grime, germs, and floating debris which inundated their neighborhoods.

It’s unclear how far we can prepare for the next wicked weather. But we need to ready. As disasters do not discriminate between the rich and poor, for the most part, it is often the poor who suffers most. We still have a long way to go in making disaster-preparedness part of our lives. We have yet to learn from the 4,000 plus deaths in our worst ship disaster in history, the sinking of Dona Paz in 1987.=0=

New Immigration Laws Worry Illegal Aliens In Europe

June 21, 2008

After some delay because of differing positions among the 27-member countries, the European Union (EU) has finally set up stricter immigration laws which guide the handling and expulsion of apprehended illegal aliens. This is part of an effort to come up with a uniform European immigration and asylum policy by 2010.

With rising tide of resentments over lack of jobs, crowding, surging crime, and slowing of the economy, EU parliament on June 19, 2008 overwhelmingly passed the tough controversial measure. Here it is at a glance:

European Union Rules on Illegal Aliens (2008)
-Option to leave voluntarily within 30 days of apprehension
-Illegal aliens confined in special detention cells, not jails.
-Provide for basic human rights and access to legal help
-Maximum detention of 18 months (1.5 years)
-Reentry ban for those forcibly expelled
-2 years for governments to implement
-Workplace raids vs. illegal aliens not permitted

The new measure had been criticized by Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights groups asserting that the rules do not guarantee the return and dignity of the migrants. (USA Today, /AP (06/21/08)

Migrante-Europe’s chairman of the board, Rev. Jaime Taguba opined, “”We believe that enforcing these rules on undocumented migrants is counterproductive and would only exacerbate the crises in the EU and the countries of origin of these undocumented migrants because these rules go against social justice and progress, and are inhumane.” Taguba asked the EU to “adhere to conventions, treaties, and agreements, institute measures to de-criminalize the undocumented and take measures to remove the basis of ‘illegality’ by, among others, adopting regularization programs.” Inquirer (06/21/08, Uy,V.)

European Union (2006):
-8 million illegal aliens
-1 million apprehended
-500,000 caught inside EU
-200,000 deported mostly from Spain, Italy, Greece

-124,000 undocumented Filipinos in EU
-40,000 in France, 20,000 in Italy

-11 million illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico
-273,000 deported in 2007
-Workplace raids permitted

The controversy behind illegal immigration opens anew fresh wounds on countries like the Philippines which depend on overseas workers’ foreign money remittances to boost its local economy. In the short term, Filipinos hail jobs abroad as boon to survival, but as employment abroad grow scarcer, workers are displaced, exploited, and fall prey into a life of illegality. Separated from their families for years, they go through untold suffering and pain. There is little the government can do.

As Rev. Taguba pointed out, the long term solution to forced migration is to “fundamentally address the structural problems of economic backwardness, political dependence and neo-colonial enslavement of the home countries of these undocumented migrants.”

It is clear the Philippines need to make local employment more available so its citizens can resist the lure of going abroad to find jobs. The government must work doubly hard to convince its citizens that there is a future in the country—They can work and build meaningful productive lives while waiting for a chance to immigrate legally abroad. =0=