All posts by emmanuel roldan

Positive Community – A World Aids Day Post from Davao City

world aids day 2 Positive Community   A World Aids Day Post from Davao CityToday, December 1 is World Aids Day.   In solidarity with all those involved in putting a human face to this affliction,  we feature a post contributed by Emmanuel Roldan about his encounter with persons living with HIV(PLHIV) and  what they are doing to increase awareness about HIV infection.

 

DAVAO CITY – One good thing about being in news writing is to be able to write about the lives of different people. A few days ago I interviewed three persons living with HIV (PLHIV); two gentlemen and a young lady. This activity was part of my internal program assessment commissioned by the Alliance against Aids in Mindanao (ALAGAD-Mindanao).

This was not my first time to meet PLHIVs, but this one was rather up close and personal. The 3 persons I interviewed,  were in their late 20’s and early 30’s. And contrary to our notion of them being skeletal and sickly, my new friends exude life, beauty and hope. They are no different from people I see everyday: those waiting for jeepney rides; those pushing carts in grocery stores; those swimming in pools or beaches;  and, those seating me in the church.

I did not bother to ask them about how they got infected. Rather, we talked about their lives as members of the positive community. Sometime in 2009 about 60 PLHIV formed themselves into what is now Mindanao AIDS Advocates Association (MAAA), Inc. with support from ALAGAD-Mindanao. The objective is to give a local face to the dreaded disease that has no known cure yet.  It used to be that the face of HIV and AIDS was represented by a former overseas Filipino worker in the name of Sara Jane.  But now, this group proudly stood on her behalf and those of hundreds more in Davao found positive with HIV. They want to tell the people about it and prevent them from being infected.  The latest report says Davao ranks second to Cebu as having the most number of HIV positive and their number is growing everyday.

Organizing the positive community is hard. Even my three friends who are now seasoned volunteer peer counselors of ALAGAD-Mindanao concur that they have difficulty in reaching out to PLHIVs. Most difficult are those who are still in the denial stage; those who are professionals and athletic type; those who belong to well-to-do families; and, those who are hiding the truth from their families and loved ones.  They told me that they too underwent the same stages in their lives after being diagnosed positive but later they realized that there is life beyond HIV and they have a mission to tell the people, particularly children and young people about their journey.

Definitely there is future for PLHIV because most HIV positive die from complications rather than from the virus itself, and we know that researches for medicinal cure of AIDS are underway.  I was moved by their candidness so I asked them about their frustrations and fears being in the positive community.  They told me that it could have been better if they had information about HIV and AIDS before.  With a smile on her face, the lady in the lady in the group said she was worried about what will eventually become of her looks and her figure.  They also stressed the need for family support and understanding of their situation as well as community support because HIV is not only an issue for gays, OFWs, sea fearers, prostituted men and women, but an issue for all sectors of society.

Correct information about HIV is a key to the prevention of being infected. Filipinos have yet to get rid of the stigma and discrimination that are associated with HIV and AIDS. I am happy though that the government is starting to show seriousness in the implementation of the national AIDS program and putting resources for its education, care and support with the help of private sector.  Creation of positive communities, like Mindanao Aids Advocates Association (MAAA), is also an important component of our care and support to PLHIV.  It is a way of strengthening them to overcome stigma and discrimination and to help educate the public about the infection.

Thank you and good luck to my PLHIV friends, to MAAA and to ALAGAD-Mindanao.

About Emmanuel Roldan:

emi roldan 225x3002 Positive Community   A World Aids Day Post from Davao CityEmi is my kababayan from Padada, Davao del Sur. We went to the same high school and were altar boys and choir members in our parish church. Today, Emi is a news editor/columnist of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily – a member of the Sunstar Group. Aside from being a journalist, he is also a development worker and a human rights advocate having served in various organizations engaged in human rights protection and development work. At work and at play, Emi was able to nurture his childhood love for music. He still plays mean tunes on his guitar and sings very well.

Emi can be reached via email at: emmanuel.roldan@gmail.com)

 

 

 Positive Community   A World Aids Day Post from Davao City
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St. Matthew

St.Matthew: tax collector, sinner

 

Bureauofcustomslogo St.Matthew: tax collector, sinner
Bureau of Customs

DAVAO City – I came early in the morning of September 21 at the Bureau of Customs District XII Office located at the Port of Davao, Barangay Sasa.  This was my second time to be inside the compound of one of the most important revenue-raising agencies of the government. It  is also perceived to be one of the most corrupt.  (An insider told me their agency is in the fifth place.)  I learned later that the District XII Office has consistently surpassed its collection targets for about 10 years in a row.  Year-to-date collection level is already Php134 million above its full year target of about Php 5.2 billion.  A great feat indeed, but not many people know or even care to know.

My first visit to Bureau of Customs’ District XII office was sometime in 1988.  I was to pick up two boxes of used reference books donated by Oxfam-UK for our newly-established Halad Foundation, a voluntary organization for relief and rehabilitation of disaster victims.  It was only two years since EDSA,  so  I thought that the culture of corruption disappeared with Marcos in Hawaii. But I was wrong.  An overweight customs officer asked me to pay  US$450 for the release of the books. I was surprised because  our expatriate friends in Manila  had already paid for the freight and other custom duties for the books. The officer said he made the computation based on the tag price of the books which were in US$ and UKpounds.

I do not have U$450,  so I asked him to reconsider his computation. I insisted that those were used books donated by a charitable institution for charity purposes.  Later he came back with a new computation of Php 450 which I immediately paid thinking it was a fair bargain.  But on my way out, he brought me to a corner and handed me raffle tickets for a coronation event and whispered in the vernacular “donasyon po Sir para sa anak ko na kandidata.”

My second visit would be different, I thought. I was not there to get a package.  I was there to interview retired Brig. General Danilo Lim, the newly appointed Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence who was to fly from Manila to Davao that day for an unspecified mission.  Our Gold Star Daily publisher Mr. Ernesto Chu called me up a day earlier to secure an interview with one of the most decorated and colorful generals in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

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Deputy Customs Commissioner Danilo Lim

A  few years ago General Danilo Lim refused to be used as pawn by some politicians in the game called high corruption. He chose incarceration rather than tarnish the honor of his name and his command.   He is among the few men in uniform who have the guts to spill the beans, so to speak against the excesses of their high command, much more against their commander-in-chief.

There were no big billboards and tarpaulins announcing the visit of the number 2 guy of the Bureau of Customs. There were no banquet preparations either.  Instead, the people at the lobby of the main building were preparing for the 11:00 a.m. Wednesday Novena Mass for office employees. It appears that only a few officials in the bureau knew that he is coming over. General Danilo Lim sent me a text message confirming the date and time of his arrival and asked me to meet him at the customs office.

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St. Matthew

While waiting for his arrival from the airport, I decided to attend the Mass at the lobby of the Customs Office.  I don’t know if  it was providential or not, but the Gospel of the day was about St. Matthew, the tax collector who later became an Evangelist and whose house was visited by Jesus to the dismay of the Jews.  For them tax collectors are sinners because they enrich themselves for their Roman masters. This is very much like how most people today view custom collectors and BIR examiners.  But of course the end of the Gospel spoke of Jesus’ mission of saving not just the good ones but also the sinners.  A sigh of relief seems to reverberate on the walls of the lobby.

A few minutes after the mass, a convoy of five cars entered the gate of the customs office.  Excitement grew when the bespectacled General Lim wearing his signature immaculate white short-sleeve polo shirt alighted from the black Toyota Land Cruiser.  He was led to the office by the out-going customs collector.  Later in the afternoon, we joined him to the container yard to open 17 confiscated vans full of smuggled cargoes of premium rice and assorted personal goods from Taiwan and the US. That was a good “buena mano” for Commissioner Lim and his local team at the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Section. That  morning’s “catch” was Php 21 million-worth of misdeclared goods.

Kudos to Deputy Commissioner Danilo Lim  and his local team. Good luck also to incoming district customs collector Atty. Martiniano Bangcoy who promised a “new beginning” for the entire bureau of customs family in Davao. We will be counting on you Sirs!

 

(This article first appeared on September 24, 2011 in  Emmanuel Roldan’s column Davao’s Peak at Mindanao Gold Star Daily (www.goldstardailynews.com) The author can be reached via email at: emmanuel.roldan@gmail.com)

 

About Emmanuel Roldan:

emi roldan 225x3003 St.Matthew: tax collector, sinnerEmi is my kababayan from Padada, Davao del Sur. We went to the same high school and were altar boys and choir members in our parish church. Today, Emi is a news editor/columnist of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily – a member of the Sunstar Group. Aside from being a journalist, he is also a development worker and a human rights advocate having served in various organizations engaged in human rights protection and development work. At work and at play, Emi was able to nurture his childhood love for music. He still plays mean tunes on his guitar and sings very well.

 

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The Grand Palace, Bangkok

Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel Roldan

Bangkok Tourism 101

DAVAO City — Lately I visited Bangkok, the “City of Life”.  It looks like Manila where the old and new cultures collide but with a different touch and ambiance of exotic Asia where Westerners are lured to discover.  It is indeed a city busting with life because it is the center of trade and commerce and a prime tourist destination in Asia.  Despite of the heated political climate obtaining in Thailand lately, where a regime is replaced by another through both violent and non-violent uprising just like our EDSA revolt,Bangkok is still a magnet for tourists.

I think Davao and Cagayan de Oro can learn much from Bangkok because  unlike Manila and Cebu, they have immense potential for tourism, infrastructure and industrial development.  I do not claim to be an expert in urban development. But I am a keen observer of things, people and situation so that I can share my observations to others who have the “K” and power to accomplish things.  The people from the University of the Philippines, Asian Institute of Management and Development Academy of  the Philippines, etc., must have such collective expertise to turn around our sleepy economy into a robust one if they can just learn to work together as a team.  Of course they cannot move without the political will of the government to keep this team going.

I arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport on an evening flight from Manila in August 22. I had to attend a week-long regional workshop on engaging the UN Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review at Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok sponsored by Save the Children Sweden. I would not delve much about the workshop but on what I observe there that makes the city a prime tourism destination in Asian region.  Here are some of the features of Bangkok that are interesting:

Suvarnabhumi International Airport  300x224 Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel Roldan
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (photo courtesy of www.bangkokairport.online.com)

First is the airport. They say that first impression lasts. Air and sea ports are the first “line of sight” of any visitor. As a rule of thumb, they must be impressive to attract visitors to discover what lies behind the gold linings of the ports. Bangkok Airport may not be grand as the Hong Kong International or the Paris International which I also visited some years ago but definitely it’s one of the best in Asia.  Our NAIA pales in comparison with Suvarnabhumi in terms of its overall design and amenities.  Our Davao International Airport looks like a tiny wing of its multi-layered and multi-faceted airport. One can literally waste his time in the mess of boutiques and stores selling souvenirs and duty-free gift items. The airport also offers luxury restaurants, gyms, games area, internet stalls, clinics, chapels and prayer rooms.

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Bangkok's Sky Train (photo by nicanor gabunada)

The second point of interest is the efficient railway system. Bangkok airport is connected to the center of the city by two railway airport links aside from the usual public taxi and airport limousine which are appropriate for those with big luggage but are quite expensive.  The traffic condition of Bangkok is terrible, to say the least, so travel organizers prefer the railway system for traffic-sensitive and budget conscious visitors.  One railway is the non-stop Airport Express from the airport to Makkasan station in the East and the City Line which is heading to the Phayathai station to the West.  It took me about 40 minutes to reach Phayathai for a fare of 40 Baht (around Php 60). From these stations you can transfer to the elevated Sky Train, also called the BTS to skirt the heavy traffic below and to proceed to any places in the city at no time at all.  Our traffic congestion in Manila, Cebu and eventually Davao will surely ease with such an efficient railway system.

The third point of interest is the lodging and function amenities like hotels and convention halls. Visitors come because they want ease, peace and fun. I was booked at Room 411 of Holiday Inn Bangkok which is just a stone throw away from the ravaging BTS railway but I could not hear any roar and thunder as it passed by.  The place was cozy yet homely, a great place to rest from all the day’s work and worry. Our workshop venue was at the Presidential I and II suites of the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel.  If you take pride of Marco Polo and Insular Waterfront as the best that Davao can give, you might change your mind if you would see the Intercontinental at973 Ploenchit Road and other plush hotels in their category in Bangkok.

grandpalace bangkok 300x225 Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel RoldanThe Grand Palace, Bangkok (photo courtesy of www.thaiwebsites.com) 

The fourth is people and places of interest.  For those who are more culturally-inclined, they can visit many religious and cultural sites where distinct Thai arts are displayed and dances and songs performed. No wonder Bangkok is also called the “City of Temples” because of its numerous Buddhist shrines and images found even in the city’s busiest streets. There is one fronting the street from the Intercontinental complete with priests and dancers in ethnic costumes doing their thing almost 7/24. If you are lucky you can get a glimpse of the royal life of the revered King and Queen of Thailand doing their ceremonial functions in one of the state’s offices in Bangkok. Those who love outdoors can try the Koh Samui’s crystal waters of the Amari Palm Reef and other resorts to have a good tan. Shopping complexes selling hi-end i-Pods, 4G cell phones to second hand “ukay-ukay” are everywhere.  Just make it sure you get the “best” of those fake gadgets for your money and not get skin rashes from those fancy clothes sold in the “bangketa”.

Street Food in BangkokSmall 300x200 Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel Roldan
Street Food in Bangkok (photo courtesy of www.bkkbangkok.com)

The fifth is food.  If I am right, Buddhism, the prominent religion of Thailand like Christianity, has no food restrictions. Authentic Thai restaurants like the Kum Poon and dumpling king Din Tai Fung located at the 7th floor of the Central World Plaza have a small stove and wok or pot on each table where customers can fry and boil their dishes as they wish.  Thai food is usually spicy but visitors can always have a choice of their usual fare of burgers, spaghetti, salad and long array of Chinese dishes.  For curiosity, I tried a pack of two sticks of ball-shaped street-made “longanisa” for 20 Baht near the Siam Train station. And lo and behold, it tastes exactly like the ‘longanisa” of the barbecue shanties at Magallanes and Claveria streets of Davao.  The only exception is that the pack of Bangkok “longanisa” is not complete without shreds of cabbage and 10 pairs of raw “siling labuyo” which you ought to eat with your meal.  What a hot experience indeed. Chow!

 

(This article first appeared on September 02, 2011 was published 2 at Mindanao Gold Star Daily (www.goldstardailynews.com) Emmanuel Roldan’s column Davao’s Peak . The author can be reached via email at: emmanuel.roldan@gmail.com)

 

About Emmanuel Roldan:

emi roldan 225x300 Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel RoldanEmi is my kababayan from Padada, Davao del Sur. We went to the same high school and were altar boys and choir members in our parish church. Today, is a news editor/columnist of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily – a member of the Sunstar Group. Aside from being a journalist, he is also a development worker and a human rights advocate having served in various organizations engaged in human rights protection and development work. At work and at play, Emi was able to nurture his childhood love for music. He still plays mean tunes on his guitar and sings very well.

 

 

lg share en Bangkok 101 by Emmanuel Roldan