Archive for the ‘traveler’ Category

Migration tragedy: 21 dead and hundreds missing as boat sinks in Mediterranean sea

April 1, 2009

In the cold waters off Libya, a frail fishing boat carrying about 250 aspiring migrants to Europe sank during stormy weather on Friday, March 27, 2009. At least 20 illegal aliens drowned and more than 200 hundred were reported missing. Mostly from Africa and Middle East, the victims were part of an undetermined number of illegal travelers who perish each year in their bid for a better life.

“Thousands of African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing wars and poverty use Libya and other North African countries as a launching pads for the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to southern Europe — often in rickety, overloaded boats. Another flimsy vessel with about 350 migrants was rescued about a day later in the same area where the fishing boat capsized.” AP (03/31/09, Fergany, AM; Santana, R)

Although 350 migrants in a second boat with no casualties were rescued and brought back to Tripoli, Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland said this sea mishap could be the biggest in terms of the number of dead and missing of a sea vessel leaving North Africa to Europe.

The cause of the sinking has not been known, but a Libyan police officer said the boat was overloaded, and bad weather could be a contributory factor. Some survivors however spoke of a hole that caused the boat to capsize.

The death of the migrants brings to light the growing problem of illegal immigration. In spite of efforts to curb unlawful movement of people in Europe, nationals from impoverished countries worldwide risk their lives in search for better economic opportunities.

Even those who travel with valid papers also face hardships and alienation in their search for jobs. A recent case is the humiliation and abuse by Chip Tsao, an arrogant HK journalist who disparagingly insulted overseas Filipinos whose country he referred to as “a nation of servants.” (Photo Credit: Holvic) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “New Immigration Laws Worry Illegal Aliens In Europe ” Posted by mesiamd at 6/22/2008

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Kazakhstan’s Caspian Seascape

March 8, 2009

by Pitoy Moreno

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime? It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset?”

I may rarely see the flight of fireflies at dusk, the feel of warm air coming from a buffalo’s nostrils in the cold of winter, or the shadows that moves when nightfall sets in, but I can show you some breath-taking views of a place known for its taigas, flatlands, snow-capped mountains and picturesque seas.

For a time I thought I was the only Filipino living here in Kazakhstan, but diaspora made sure it wasn’t true. The saying that “in every nook of the earth, there is a Filipino” came real. As one among the few expatriates working in an enchanting place somewhere in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, I could say so.

About the size of Texas in the USA, Kazakhstan is nestled south of Russia. On its eastern border is China while Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are located in the south. The Caspian Sea and part of Turkmenistan are in the west.

The territory is rich in mineral resources. From out of the 1,177 mi (1,894 km) of coastline of Caspian Sea, is a huge deposit of oil discovered in 2000, the largest ever found in the last 30 years. A fuel pipeline connects the Tengiz oil field of western Kazakhstan to the Novorossiysk, a Russian Black Sea port. Another pipeline brings oil to China.

From the beginnings of human history, it is in this country where the first horses have been first domesticated. From the tribes of the once nomadic Kazakhs and their neighbors has evolved the distillation of a cultures so diverse and interesting.

Sparsely populated through the ages, Kazakhstan has been part of the Soviet Union until its independence in December 16, 1991. In this beautiful locale are memorable awesome red sunsets, pristine blue skies, and numberless grains of sand on the seashore—among the most wonderful scenes I have seen. In addition, there is this buzz of industrial and cultural activity that spurs the country’s growth and hope for the 21st century. They make me remember our country, the Philippines. (Photo Credits: Pitoy Moreno,Xhancock; Anguskirk)=0=

Republic of Kazakhstan

National name: Qazaqstan Respublikasy
President: Nursultan A. Nazarbayev (1990)
Prime Minister: Karim Masimov (2007)
Land area: 1,049,150 sq mi (2,717,300 sq km); total area: 1,049,150 sq mi (2,717,300 sq km)
Population (2008 est.): 15,340,533 (growth rate: 0.3%); birth rate: 16.4/1000; infant mortality rate: 26.5/1000; life expectancy: 67.5; density per sq km: 5
Capital (2003 est.): Astana, 288,200 (formerly Aqmola; capital since 1997)
Largest cities: Almaty (former capital), 1,045,900; Karaganda, 404,600; Shymkent, 333,500; Taraz, 305,700; Pavlodar, 299,500; Ust-Kamenogorsk, 288,000; Aqtöbe, 234,400
Monetary unit: Tenge

Languages: Kazak (Qazaq, state language) 64%; Russian (official, used in everyday business) 95% (2001 est.)
Ethnicity/race: Kazak (Qazaq) 53.4%, Russian 30%, Ukrainian 3.7%, Uzbek 2.5%, German 2.4%, Tatar 1.4%, Uygur 1.4%, other 4.9% (1999)
Religions: Islam 47%, Russian Orthodox 44%, Protestant 2%, other 7%
National Holiday: Independence Day, December 16
Source: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107674.html

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Buhi-Malinao road ushers in more commerce for Bicol

February 27, 2009

Linking communication is the most obvious benefit of having a road between towns and villages. Alternative routes of trade and commerce are made easy. These are expected in the recent completion of the 35 kilometer road (about half of 66 kilometer highway) which connects the 2nd and 4th districts of Camarines Sur to that of 1st district of Albay.

Leading to the port area of Tabaco, Albay, the highway makes it easier to reach Catanduanes Island in Bicol. Travel from Manila will be shorter than before.

The new road starts from Hanawan Ocampo, Camarines Sur onwards to Barangay Burokbusoc and Sagrada in Buhi, Camarines Sur, reaching up to Malinao, Albay. It is heralded as an accomplishment by LV Castaneda of the Department of Public Highways, (DPH.)

But Buhinon Jesus Valenciano (in a letter to Bicol Mail’s editor,) writes to question the integrity of the road. He fears that the “all-weather road” in some sections need cementing or asphalting. He says, without good maintenance, this road can easily fall into disrepair. —-Bicol Mail (02/19/09; 02/26/09) (Photo Credit: http://www.freewebs.com/infocenterbuhi/) =0=

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US-Mexican drug bust yields 750 suspects, $59 million worth of drugs & weapons

February 26, 2009

Affirming the gravity of the drug wars in Mexico, federal agents from the United States have rounded up 750 suspected members of narcotics cartels from south of the border. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) picked up more than 50 drug gang members in separate overnight raids in California, Minnesota, Washington DC, and various US cities.

The arrests were mainly Sinaloa cartel members who were linked to the bloody drug wars over controls of narcotics smuggling routes in Mexico and USA. In a international law enforcement operation which spanned for about 2 years in Mexico, USA and Canada, had earlier snared 700 notorious law-breakers in the crime wave. $59 million worth of drugs and weapons, $12,000 kg. of cocaine, 1200 kg. of methampethamines, more than 1,300 ecstasy pills and 160 weapons were recovered.

“The department (US State) warns of the increased border violence and advises revelers to several destinations, including Matamoros and Nuevo Progresso, popular destinations for spring breakers on South Padre Island, Texas, to ‘exercise commonsense precautions such as visiting only the well-traveled business and tourism areas of border towns during daylight and early-evening hours.’“ —AOL News/ AP (02/25/09, Barrett, D)

Attorney General Eric Holder says the illegal narcotics trade, kidnappings, and murders have crossed over into the US territory. The problem can be minimized if the ban to sell assault weapons which are used in turf wars of drug kingpins is reinstituted.

About 6,000 people died in drug-related violence last year. American law enforcers laud Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s on-going campaign against narcotics cartels which exert influence over corrupt government officials.

Because of the dangers brought about by illegal drugs, money laundering, and narctics traffic, the US State Department has issued warnings of violence, kidnappings, and murders to prospective American travelers. This advisory is extended to an estimated 100,000 US students who’re planning to come to Mexico in the coming spring break. Private individuals have to take responsibility to counter the drug problems in their community. (Photo Credit: Aziritt) =0=

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“Osama Bin Laden” among the 11.000 job applicants for "the best job in the world"

February 9, 2009

Unemployment is common and rising worldwide. The recruitment to fill in the “best job in the world” drummed up by the Queensland Department of Tourism drew 11,000 applicants who expressed interest to be a promoter of Hamilton Island, a picturesque tourist spot destination in the eastern coast of Australia.

Among the earnest job seekers is a prankster named Osama Bin Laden (OBL) who submitted a video application at http://www.islandreefjob.com website showing the real bearded fugitive OBL in his night gown justifying his qualifications to be an island caretaker.

“One of the applications was a 30-second prank video showing the world’s most wanted man, with nonsensical sounds dubbed over his real voice. Using subtitles, bin Laden argues his case for the six-month contract, describing himself as “outgoing,” “familiar with sandy areas” and experienced with ‘large scale event coordination.’ “—Yahoo. News (02/05/09, Goldsmith B, Fahmy, M)

The tourism job which offers $150,000 for a six-month outdoor stint in an island with enchanting coral reefs and unspoiled beaches attracted unusually high number of eager applicants from 162 countries. The successful employment seeker will be chosen at the conclusion of the $17,000-tourism campaign which offers a rent-free, stress-free stay in a villa in Australia’s Hamilton Island. (Photo Credit: Nattus x 2) =0=

RELATED BLOGS: “Best job in some enchanted island: Is it for you?” Posted on Tuesday January 13th, 2009 by mesiamd; “‘Best Job in the World’ website crashes in a deluge of interested applicants” Posted on Wednesday January 14th, 2009 by mesiamd.

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Wicked Weather Count: 2,500 stranded in Bicol, 50 homes destroyed in Cebu, 16,000+ flood evacuees in Agusan del Sur

January 15, 2009

Barely 3 days after reports of floods in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental, and Northern Samar left a trail of death and inundation, about 2,500 passengers were reported stranded in Bicol, mostly in Matnog, Sorsogon. The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) temporarily interrupted the people’s sea travel due to dangerous weather conditions sweeping the country.

In Cebu, huge waves and ensuing floods destroyed at least 50 homes in coastal villages. Mayor of Ginatilan town Dean Michael Singco said people in these places were forced to move to safer grounds. They were transiently housed in schools and public buildings, before dawn on Wednesday, January 14, 2009 to avoid injuries and loss of life.

In Davao de Norte, 9 fishermen were rescued in rough seas after their nine unregistered boats ventured to open waters. Similar wicked weather caused flooding in Agusan del Sur when Agusan river rose, forcing about 16,267 people from 2,546 families to evacuate in temporary shelters. The towns of San Francisco, Prosperidad, La Paz, Veruela, Bunawan and Esperanza.—GMATvNews (01/15/09, Pantaleon, A)

A motorboat bringing passengers close to Bantique, Panay in the Visayas Islands sank killing Sylvia Cerezo, 63. Five other passengers namely, Godofredo Roxas, Rowell Baaquilar, Nida Baquilar, Jocelyn Baquilar and Margarita Dizon were plucked out from sea and led to safety. The small boat had Butacal and Pontevedra, Capiz as its usual passenger route.

The spate of wicked weather and calamities remind us of the importance of disaster preparedness in the community. People need to be pro-active in helping themselves for the government assistance is too limited. Needing our commonsense decision, we can’t completely rely on others concerning safety during travel particularly when the weather isn’t good. (Photo Credits Gahenty; Lino Almueda) =0=

RELATED BLOGS: “Floods in Gingoog City, Northern Samar, and Misamis Oriental drive thousands to evacuate” Posted by mesiamd at 1/12/2009; “With 17, 000 islands, Indonesia shares maritime woes with the Philippines” Posted by mesiamd at 1/13/2009

In the Aftermath of the Naga Public Market Fire

November 17, 2008


I was in Naga City last Saturday and instinctively I headed for the burned supermarket that prominently figured in the local and national news recently. I knew the location as well as the market’s general lay-out having visited it or passed around it several times in the past. I was curious on the extent of the damage and how things are different now. Knapsack and camera in tow, I just walked my way towards the market oblivious to the slight drizzle and the sky that is turning dark. I could have easily taken a jeepney or tricycle but there is something about walking the streets of familiar and not-so-familiar places that fascinates me. The few pesos that I would save wouldn’t hurt as recession lurks just behind the corner.

The first thing that caught my attention was the blackened 2nd floor and the crowd of vendors that occupies the street beneath it. The traffic was beginning to build up as tricycles and jeepneys slow down trying to avoid the various obstacles that used to be minimal in the past. Looking at the market from end to end, I realized it’s really huge occupying two big blocks.


The fire that destroyed the Naga Public Market has displaced hundreds of vendors that used to occupy the 2nd and 3rd floors. They are mostly those occupying stalls in the wet market selling meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. They now occupy both sides of J. Hernandez street housed in makeshift tents selling their wares. Both the vendors and the buyers are exposed to the sun and the rain with only their flimsy trapal and umbrellas to protect them. They are also exposed to the carbon monoxide and pollution that are ever present in the street as jeepneys, tricycles and other motorized vehicles inch their way through the narrowed and crowded streets made worse by the rain.


When I asked the vendors how long they will be back to their previous stalls, nobody can give a definite answer. Looking at their faces, I experienced a surge of emotions. I was happy to know that they are still able to sell and earn a living for their children and family. At the same time I felt sad because they have to endure harsh conditions and nobody’s sure for how long this will last. These are simple people with simple dreams, honest and hardworking who deserve every hard-earned peso they earn. I felt great admiration for them but words weren’t coming out.


Those occupying the ground floor of the supermarket were not as affected. It’s business as usual for them except for the fact that they now have to share their frontage with the hordes of displaced vendors that are also trying to make a living in the aftermath of the tragedy. A significant portion of the second floor housing ukay-ukay stalls was spared from the fire. In the inner portions of the ground floor, the beauty and barber shops are still intact. I did not find those barbers whom I used to play chess with many years ago. I wasn’t even sure if they are still there or if I can remember their faces. The row of carinderias still serve snacks and meals, each one trying to entice customers to try out their menus. After a light snack I exited through the rows of stalls selling clothes, dropped by the newsstand and bought a copy of my favorite local newspaper. I used to browse the headlines in this particular newsstand and somehow it felt reassuring that they are still there.


With the commitment of several high ranking Bicolano government officials to reconstruct the damaged Supermarket, I’m optimistic that in no time the Maogmang Lugar public market with its myriad of native attractions and local charm will be back to its feet and will continue to serve the people of Naga City and the surrounding towns as well as continue to fascinate simple travelers like me.

In the Aftermath of the Naga Public Market Fire

November 17, 2008


I was in Naga City last Saturday and instinctively I headed for the burned supermarket that prominently figured in the local and national news recently. I knew the location as well as the market’s general lay-out having visited it or passed around it several times in the past. I was curious on the extent of the damage and how things are different now. Knapsack and camera in tow, I just walked my way towards the market oblivious to the slight drizzle and the sky that is turning dark. I could have easily taken a jeepney or tricycle but there is something about walking the streets of familiar and not-so-familiar places that fascinates me. The few pesos that I would save wouldn’t hurt as recession lurks just behind the corner.

The first thing that caught my attention was the blackened 2nd floor and the crowd of vendors that occupies the street beneath it. The traffic was beginning to build up as tricycles and jeepneys slow down trying to avoid the various obstacles that used to be minimal in the past. Looking at the market from end to end, I realized it’s really huge occupying two big blocks.


The fire that destroyed the Naga Public Market has displaced hundreds of vendors that used to occupy the 2nd and 3rd floors. They are mostly those occupying stalls in the wet market selling meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. They now occupy both sides of J. Hernandez street housed in makeshift tents selling their wares. Both the vendors and the buyers are exposed to the sun and the rain with only their flimsy trapal and umbrellas to protect them. They are also exposed to the carbon monoxide and pollution that are ever present in the street as jeepneys, tricycles and other motorized vehicles inch their way through the narrowed and crowded streets made worse by the rain.


When I asked the vendors how long they will be back to their previous stalls, nobody can give a definite answer. Looking at their faces, I experienced a surge of emotions. I was happy to know that they are still able to sell and earn a living for their children and family. At the same time I felt sad because they have to endure harsh conditions and nobody’s sure for how long this will last. These are simple people with simple dreams, honest and hardworking who deserve every hard-earned peso they earn. I felt great admiration for them but words weren’t coming out.


Those occupying the ground floor of the supermarket were not as affected. It’s business as usual for them except for the fact that they now have to share their frontage with the hordes of displaced vendors that are also trying to make a living in the aftermath of the tragedy. A significant portion of the second floor housing ukay-ukay stalls was spared from the fire. In the inner portions of the ground floor, the beauty and barber shops are still intact. I did not find those barbers whom I used to play chess with many years ago. I wasn’t even sure if they are still there or if I can remember their faces. The row of carinderias still serve snacks and meals, each one trying to entice customers to try out their menus. After a light snack I exited through the rows of stalls selling clothes, dropped by the newsstand and bought a copy of my favorite local newspaper. I used to browse the headlines in this particular newsstand and somehow it felt reassuring that they are still there.


With the commitment of several high ranking Bicolano government officials to reconstruct the damaged Supermarket, I’m optimistic that in no time the Maogmang Lugar public market with its myriad of native attractions and local charm will be back to its feet and will continue to serve the people of Naga City and the surrounding towns as well as continue to fascinate simple travelers like me.