Archive for the ‘Bicol Mail’ Category

The Death Clock and the Dangers of Smoking

October 21, 2008


In the last week of September 2008, Mar Arguelles wrote in Bicol Mail about a “death clock” which ticks for millions including Filipinos who use tobacco. In support of the anti-smoking initiative, I thought I must blog on smoking because it is truly a menace that is linked to a myriad of respiratory illnesses notably lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia and other airway diseases. The adverse effects of smoking go beyond the lungs. The heart, blood vessels, gastrointestinal tract, the nervous and urinary systems are among the body organs that bear the brunt of continued exposure to the hazardous biochemical pollutants in cigarette smoke.

In Legazpi City, Philippines, the local government in coordination with the Department of Health (DOH,) multisectoral organizations and preventive medicine advocates introduced the “Death Clock,” a graphic count and warning system on the danger and lethality of smoking. It aims to discourage smoking and urge people to stop the habit. According the World Health Organization (WHO,) smokers in ASEAN countries account for 10% of the 1.25 billion smokers worldwide.

PHILIPPINES IS SECOND IN THE MOST NUMBER OF SMOKERS AMONG ASEAN NATIONS
Country/%/# of Smokers in Millions
Indonesia———-46.16%———–58.07
Philippines———16.62%———–20.91
Vietnam————14.11%———–17.75
Burma————–8.73%————10.98
Thailand————7.74%————-9.74
Malaysia————2.90%——– —-3.65
Cambodia———-2.07%————–2.60
Singapore———-0.04%————–0.05
Others————–1.63%————–2.05
ASEAN Countries–Total————- 125.8
Source: Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) Philstar (09/04/07, Crisostomo, S)

The “Death Clock” is a visual countdown on the number of smoking-related deaths since House bill 3364 or the Picture-Based Health Warning Bill was filed in December last year. The visual countdown indicated that 66,960 Filipinos have already died due to smoking-related diseases as of September 24, 2008. At least 1,680 are expected to die within the next seven days. DOH statistics showed that at least 240 Filipinos die every day, or 87,600 every year, due to smoking-related diseases.” Bicol Mail (09/25/08, Arguelles, M)

The smoking problem in the Philippines can be traced to the active promotion of cigarettes in the early 1960’s. As such it is a problem that can be solved by behavior modification—educational campaigns, designation of non-smoking areas in public places, tobacco warning labels, imposition of high cigarette taxes, regulation of tobacco advertising especially among minors, control of cigarette importation, disincentive to those who cultivate and sell tobacco, assistance to those who seek jobs away from the tobacco industry and prosecution of violators of anti-smoking laws.

A sharp drop in the smoking habit has been realized by wide anti-tobacco campaigns in developed countries, yet a sustained drive must be done to totally eradicate the dangerous habit. These approaches have applications in other health problems as well like alcoholism and obesity. (Photo Credits: CRDancer; FranklinParkLibrary.com; sunnyUK) =0=

Buried for 21 years in mud, a Virgin’s crown is recovered

September 12, 2008

Lost in the muddy confines of the river where the fluvial parade passes during the annual Penafrancia fiesta in Naga City, Philippines, the crown of Ina was finally recovered during last month’s waterway clean-up.

Shown by Rev. Msgr. Romulo A.Vergara, Rector of Penafrancia Basilica (right photo) is the valuable piece of Marian history—the once-missing bejeweled crown of the miraculous image of Ina, the Virgin of Penafrancia which disappeared when the icon tumbled into the river in the penultimate day of the feast, 21 years ago on September 19, 1997 during a fluvial procession.

Surrounded by myth and folklore, the crown’s disappearance had been blamed for calamities that swept Bicol. The crown was returned to the local church authorities of Nueva Caceres. Source: Bicol Mail (09/12/08) =0=

P263K of bills detain a patient in a Bicol hospital?

August 23, 2008


After weeks of treatment following wounds and fractures sustained in a vehicular accident, injured-patient and cancer-sufferer Elizabeth Evangelio, widow of Ibalonian George Evangelio who died in the road accident last month is allegedly being held by the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTHH) of Albay for nonpayment of bills (P263,000.00)in spite of guarantees made by the bus company involved in the accident. (PhotoCredit: BRTTH after Reming by Bibal, J) Through a text message however, Joshua Evangelio, the son, said his mom’s release from the hospital may be granted next week.

A test case for the law’s implementation, Evangelio’s situation demonstrates the pros and cons of having a legislation which puts innocent citizens and hospitals in hot water over the financial aspects of catastrophic illnesses and injuries. The Philippines passed the Hospital Dentention Law last year. On a medical standpoint which BRTTH probably subscribes to, there’s no benefit keeping a patient longer than necessary especially in so far as finances are concerned. Hospital detention exposes a patient from hospital-borne disease and uses up beds that can be used by other patients. It’s unclear whether this legislation is ever followed or is subject to negotiations in healthcare centers all over the country.

In a separate post, I’ll share with you an article entitled “Hospital Detention Act: Pro-Poor or Anti-Hospital” I wrote which was published last year in New York Filipino Reporter and Bicol Mail in Naga City. I hope it can provide some information about the healthcare problem on which you can frame your opinion and course of action. =0=

A Torture Chamber, A Safe-house For Travelers, A Street Named After A Bishop…Some Of Naga City’s Notable Landmarks

July 27, 2008

Jose V. Barrameda, Jr.’s interesting account on some memorable landmarks in Naga City published in Bicol Mail this week (07/24/08, Barrameda, J.V.Jr.,) includes Penafrancia Avenue, the genteel paved road from Plaza Quince Martires at the city proper to the old Penafrancia Church. Though he didn’t describe much of what is in the stretch of the famed avenue, he gave us a glimpse of the old buildings that dotted the city in the past. Their historical significance proved very enlightening.

The Naga Police Station in Barlin Street served as an infamous torture chamber where brave Bicolano heroes and martyrs met their unjustified deaths during the Spanish time. Barrameda wrote:

During the mass arrests in September 1896, Florencio Lerma (who was also held in the Casino Español); Cornelio Mercado; Don Tomas Prieto, alcalde of Nueva Caceres; and Macatio Valentin were brought to and tortured in the cuartel by Civil Guards under the direction of Captain Francisco Andreu, chief of the Guardia Civil in Ambos Camarines, and Don Ricardo Lacosta, Spanish civil governor of the province. The horrific torture wrenched the first of two legally infirm confessions from the frail pharmacist Prieto which the authorities used as basis for the arrest, torture and prosecution of scores of Filipinos in the province, some of whom were also subsequently forced to sign fabricated confessions under extreme duress.”

The author then clearly described Casa Tribunal along Elias Angeles Street, an edifice of brick and wood where the municipal council (ayuntamiento) similar to that in Spain, transacted government business in Naga in the last quarter of the 1800’s. The building also provided free accommodations to travelers who came to the city. After the Spanish and American occupations, the Casa Tribunal served a different purpose:

“Destroyed by American bombs in World War II… it was eventually rebuilt as a smaller wooden building that became the city police headquarters. After the century-old Spanish cuartel being used by the PC-INP burned down in 1978, the city government constructed a new building at the cuartel site which housed the Naga City Police Department. The former police headquarter building on this site became the Naga City Library until the latter’s transfer to its new, modern building in the City Hall complex.”

On the other hand, the Casa Espanol of Arana Street which was a social and recreational center of people of Spanish descent in Naga and neighboring towns had disturbing incidents when the Katipunan was discovered in Manila:

Civil Governor Ricardo Lacosta ordered to mass arrest all over Camarines starting in September 1896. The Casino Español became one of several holding areas for harsh interrogation and violent torture. Among those taken to the Casino were Antonio Arejola, Camilo Jacob (from the infirmary of the San Francisco Church), Florencio Lerma (who was subsequently transferred to the nearby Cuartel General of the Guardia Civil), Macario Melgarejo, Mariano Ordenanza and Manuel Pastor, and from Daet, Roman Cabesudo, Ponciano Caminar, Diego Liñan, Valentin Lipana, Gregorio Luyon, Adriano Pajarillo, and Pedro Zenarosa. Many arrests were made on mere denunciation by Spaniards in meetings in the Casino.

Two years after, in 1898, enraged Nagueños violently trashed the clubhouse during the bloody uprising led by Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo.”

Today, our young generation of Bicolanos may never know of Casa Real in General Luna Street where as early as 1588, the place, facing Naga River, served as the residence of the alcalde mayor of Nueva Caceres who had jurisdiction over the entire Bicol peninsula and Catanduanes. Unfortunately, like the buildings Barrameda described, the Casa Real had been razed, torn down, and largely forgotten.

Penafrancia Avenue was once called Calle Via Gainza, a famous city street memorializing Francisco Gainza, the illustrious Bishop of Nueva Caceres credited for establishing Colegio de Sta Isabel (Universidad de Sta Isabel) in 1868, the nation’s first normal school for girls. The great bishop also made curriculum improvements for the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary which became then, Bicol region’s top study hub for priests, religious, and lay citizens. As a pope delegate, Gainza was with the Bishop of Manila in opposing the stripping of the religious affiliations of rebel priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora (Goburza) as sought by the Spanish government in Manila.

What was unclear though was why Calle Via Gainza which aptly pays tribute to the bishop’s admirable contributions to Naga City was renamed as Penafrancia Avenue. The reason for the change was unclear.

In our minds, street names like Calle Via Gainza could have been better left alone. In a way, they are sentinels of a period in history gone by. Retaining old street names helps preserve our cultural linkage with the past. In simple practical terms, the postman’s job of delivering letters is made easy when old street names are retained. Unless there’s an imperative to make changes, old names better stay as they are. As invaluable remnants of the old, they make us remember the richness of our past; they make us feel the meaning of history. =0=

Decaying bodies at sea, an inflation rate of 11.4%, and a cascade of woes for Filipinos

July 4, 2008

Barely three weeks after the negligent grounding of the Sulpicio Lines ferry at the height of typhoon Frank, a cascade of adverse effects has surfaced adding more injury and pain to untold number of people, near and far from Romblon, the site of the tragedy.

As evidence of negligence surface, decaying bodies float in the sea, making retrieval difficult. As days go by, the burden to identify these bodies has overtaxed the forensic experts, raising anew the lack of preparedness of the nation to tackle a catastrophe of this magnitude.

Relatives of those who died have lost sleep grieving their lost loved ones. They’re confused about their legal rights—what options they have to pursue justice for those who perished. Rather than fight the gargantuan obstacles posed by the sluggish legal system, can they be appeased by measly settlements by the owners of the ferry company? They mull on whether the P200,000 being offered by Sulpicio Lines to each victim is the right compensation for each human life.

A hideous find of toxic insecticide in the sunken ferry has posed problems on how to contain a potential contamination that could sicken people in the area and destroy the livelihood of countless fishermen dependent on the resources of the sea. Time is of the essence. It isn’t easy to remove the 10-ton illegal cargo that’s sitting dangerously in the hull of the Princess of the Stars. Endosulfan (thiodan) is highly dangerous and a significant leakage of the chemical poses destructive possibilities that could last for years. It poses health risks for those working to recover anything from the ill-fated ferry.

Hundreds of miles away, like in poor Bicol villages of Balatan and Pasacao in Camarines Sur, innocent people bear the brunt of the disaster. In Naga City, a sharp drop of fish consumption on fear of contamination has driven down price of fish to 80% below its normal value while the cost of rice rose to 43%.

Before the news of dead bodies floating in Ragay Gulf broke, fish sales were okay. Of the 100 customers who buy here during normal times, you could only have one today who would dare to buy our products,” Corazon Diaz, vendor of Naga City said, dramatizing the immediate impact of dead bodies in the seas to their business even as the Department of Health has officially announced that there was no immediate danger on people’s health. Bicol Mail. (O7/05/08, Escandor, J. Jr.)

Parallel to the damage wrought by storm, the effects of fuel price increases continue to batter the nation. The rainy season has set in and more typhoons and landslides are expected by the weather watcher PAGASA. Mayon volcano in Albay has shown signs of activity which augurs a possible eruption. The dollar exchange which hovers at P45.70 per dollar has weakened, prompting central bank to prop up the currency from further devaluation. In June, the inflation rate has risen to 11.4%, pegging a record high in 14 years.

“The price of rice soared by 43 percent because of growing demand and increased costs of inputs. This means that the rice a consumer bought for P100 in June last year may be had for P143 last month.

Prices of food products included in the Filipino consumer basket rose by 17.4 percent. This means food products that had cost P100 in June last year, cost P117.4 last month.” Inquirer (07.05.08, Remo, M.)

The hideous chain of events is nothing that anyone could have imagined, but it has happened— wrecking havoc to the entire nation. To what extent the public will cope with these calamities (natural or man-made, local or global) is something for now and the future. Certainly, there’s enough blame to spread around, but in this situation, it’s the poor, the young, and elderly who suffer the most. =0=