An act of God or bungle of the people?

SM Megamall
SM Megamall, One of the world's biggest malls
Shanties along rivers
Shanties along rivers
Beautiful Makati Skyline
Beautiful Makati Skyline
Woman being rescued from flood
Denuded Mountain of Sierra Madre
Denuded Mountain of Sierra Madre

Last Saturday’s disaster that swept the my country really made me feel sick, saddened, sorry and seething; all at one time. Typhoon Ondoy sure made a hell-of-a-mess in my own beloved Metro Manila. All of these, courtesy of our own beloved people.

Wala po tayong dapat sisihin sa mga nangyaring ito kundi tayo din. Huwag na nating idamay ang Dios dito! Nitong mga nakaraang dekada, gumawa tayo ng mga pinakamalalaki at pinakamagagarang mga malls, subdivisions and skycrapers – katabi ng mga pinakamaruming estero at napakasalaulang kapitbahay. Pinakamarumi na sa Metro Manila.

Nakarating na ako sa ilang bansa dito sa Asya. Pero ang layo talaga ng kaayusan na meron sila kumpara mo dito sa ating capital city. Di na makontrol ang mga squatters. Halos lahat sa kanila ay tumira na malapit sa mga esteros. Di naman sila mapaalis dahil sila ay kinakanlong ng mga hayok na lokal na opisyal na magagamit ang kanilang boto para sa kanilang kapakanan.

Ang mga kagubatan at bundok natin magmula sa hilaga hanggang timog ay kinalbo na ang mga puno. Ito pa naman ang makapagpipigil ng anumang bagyo na dumapo sa ating napakagandang bansa. Ika nga ng isang Catholic Priest sa Quezon province, “Kung nakinig lang sana ang ating Pangulo, di na sana magkakaganun ang ating mga bundok”.

Ang mga ilog natin, lalu na ang Ilog Pasig, sobrang nakakasulasok ang amoy. Ang pinakamaraming nasalanta ay nasa bayan ng Pasig at Marikina. Tignan nyo ang Manila Bay, makakakita kayo ng puro plastic bag at kung anu-ano pang mga lumulutang na dumi!

Napakaraming pera ang pumasok sa ating kaban ng yaman. Pero napunta lang ito sa kakaunting tao. Korupsyon at pansariling kapakanan lang ang inuna. Isinaisantabi ang kapakanan ng kalikasan. Napakagahaman naman ninyo!

Alam nyo, di naman ganyan sa ibang lungsod at bayan dito sa Pinas. Pumunta ka sa Davao City sa Mindanao, sa Puerto Princesa sa Palawan at maging sa ilang bayan sa Norte. Di naman ganito kagulo at karumi. Kaya naman nilang ayusin ang kanilang nasasakupan. Bakit dito sa kapitolyo, di natin ito magawa?

Nakapangngingitngit mang isipin, tayo din ang may kasalanan. Kailan pa tayo matututo? Malapit na ang 2010! Mamili naman tayo ng mga mamumuno na may “political will” na baguhin ang sistema at “honesty” na hindi nabibili ang integridad dahil lang sa salapi. Maawa naman tayo sa ating mga sarili! Saan na pupulutin ang bayan natin?

What’s going on with

After experiencing probably the busiest months of my life, I again headed towards WordPress and updated my blog. The first one I made after a long hiatus was about congratulating myself in reaching my first 70,000 visitors. The next one was my travelogue to a world famous underground river.

I know these two won’t count as deaf related blog posts. Although they both contain some deaf personalities, still they don’t focus on deaf persons and their issues. So I don’t expect them to appear on DeafRead’s main page.

But when I opened my WordPress Blog Stats, I was pleasantly surprised that a significant number of visitors came from DeafRead. I know that the topics posted there are moderated. But why did my post appear there?

For the rest of my readers who are not familiar with the site, DeafRead is an

aggregator that gathers blogs from all over the internet into one central location.

In other words, DeafRead collects all subscribed feeds from different bloggers who blog about deaf related contents and issues. It then has a panel of team and human editors who read those blogs and select what posts would occupy the main page and those that would appear in their Extra page. They also separate those that are text blogs and video blogs which is commonly called as vlogs. It’s a “Thankless job” according to its founder Tayler Mayer. But somebody has to do it and they are doing a swell job in there! πŸ™‚

I often go to DeafRead when I blog about a deaf related issue and wait until it is posted there. They provided a special page for all my blog posts. I occasionally go there to read other equally interesting blog posts. However, I was wondering why my last two posts appeared on the main page. I thought probably it’s one of those glitches in the feeds.

When I paid a visit to the site, I saw this top post right after my entry. It’s entitled “On DeafRead losing Bloggers” by one of my favorite blogger Dianrez. She mentioned about her sadness on the influx of bloggers and vloggers leaving DeafRead. She cited about the invasion of CI and oral blogs. She also surmised about the exodus of some Deaf bloggers and the neighborhood’s changing character.

One solution offered by Tayler was to use the DeafRead Hide. DeafRead Hide was created to allow you to personalize DeafRead. By registering for a dashboard account, you can control which blogs you want and don’t want to see on DeafRead.

That may be a good alternative. But in my case, I don’t want to be bothered by creating a list of what to read and what not to read. It’s like reading a newspaper. You see all the headlines at a glance. It’s your choice to continue reading the rest of the news article. I suggest DeafRead creates a separate category for those who blog about their CI experiences and being an oralist. People who write about these topics are, in my opinion, already considered as non-deaf or hearing people. As such, they don’t belong to DeafRead anymore.

I am a hearing person. But I want to see blogs that focus only on topics which I’m interested to read like sign language, closed captions, deaf education and deaf culture. A separate category or an entirely new website that deals with these topics might even be better.

I appreciate the good work they are doing there! My all time top referrer was from DeafRead. Nearly half of my American visitors came from DeafRead. I just hope that they would continue doing their work and promise to maintain impartiality and credibility. πŸ™‚

Puerto Princesa Underground River, One of the World’s Wonders

I promised myself, “I have to blog this place!” This splendid river is purely awesome! This is God’s wonderful creation in progress!

Underground River
When Sister Sarah Sta. Ana, the lovely hearing wife of Deaf Pastor Isagani Sta. Ana texted me inviting me to conduct sign language training in their province from August 19 to 22, I immediately said yes. I could not let this pass. She personally asked me to teach sign language to the faculty, staff, social workers and other special education teachers in Puerto Princesa City.

From left: Me, Ptr. Isagani and Ma'am Sarah Sta. Ana
From left: Me, Deaf Pastor Isagani and his wife Ma'am Sarah Sta. Ana

She apologized for the abrupt invitation but she countered that their school in partnership with Christian Blind Mission, will sponsor all of my expenses including plane fare and hotel accommodation. However, she explained that I won’t receive any remuneration from the training. I said, it’s not a problem. But I requested that my deaf brother Ervin Reyes would accompany me while I pay for his plane ticket and tour expenses. That, we both agreed.

Off to Palawan

Zest Air
On board Zest Airways, we arrived Puerto Princesa City airport after nearly an hour. There, we were happily greeted by Ma’am Sarah. At first glance, Puerto Princesa is a clean and orderly city. There are porters roaming outside the parking area taking their share of work in assisting travelers for a fee. But they are very cordial and organized. The airport is new and well-ventilated. You won’t feel threatened. The place is comfortable for tourists.

Puerto Princesa TricycleThere were unusually few taxicabs lining up. What caught our attention are tricycles that looked like mini-cars complete with two headlights protruding on its main nose. Its inside is uncrowded unlike some filthy and unkempt tricycles we have here in Manila.

Palawan Map
Palawan is a long island southwest of Manila. Considered as the last frontier of the Philippines, this majestic island is shaped like a folded umbrella. It is bordered by South China Sea on the east and Sulu Sea to its right. Puerto Princesa is its capital city. It’s now the largest city in the country in terms of its land area. It’s also very clean and orderly. You can see green-painted garbage cans in every few meters and it’s strictly prohibited to just throw your wastes anywhere. The place is also very secured. Ervin and I went outside of our hotel even at 2 o’clock in the morning without fear of being mugged.

Off to the Mangrove River

The following day, we headed to the world famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. It’s some 80 kilometers on the other side of Puerto Princesa City even though it’s still part of greater Puerto Princesa. It’s located at St. Paul’s Bay connecting through the South China Sea. There were nine of us in a uniform tourist van including the tour guide. We were informed that the tour package fee is the same in every travel agency. This is in order to protect the tourist and give every tour owner a chance to make a living without going into bad business tactics.

mangrove parkMangrove Paddleboat Tour
After nearly two hours of travel time, we have reached St. Paul’s Bay. Although it’s not part of our itinerary, the tour guide asked us if we want to add the Mangrove Park in our tour package. We simply add P150. All of us agreed. We weren’t let down.

After a few meters of walk by the Daluyon shore, we were led to a beautiful yet tranquil mangrove forest. We rode a small banca and was toured by volunteer workers who protect the sacredness of the forest. We saw wild lizards, snakes and even worms that are endemic to Palawan. At the middle of the mangrove river, the tour guides got us to hear their lullaby anthem. πŸ™‚

Off to the Underground River

Filipino DishAfter a sumptuous meal of Filipino dish in buffet style, we all headed to where we came for, the famous Underground River. We first rode a mid-size motorized boat which brought us near the mouth of the cave.

Motorized BoatAfter nearly 30 minutes, we stepped on the sandy beach of St. Paul Bay. We then traversed a man-made pavement for nearly 10 minutes. Lo and behold, the main cave entrance was in front of us!

Underground River Facade
For safety purposes, we were asked to wear life vests and helmets. I know that life vest is essential, But what is the helmet for? They explained, in order to protect our heads from bat poops! Ah ok. πŸ™‚

Inside the Cave

Protective Vest and HelmetThe seven-man passenger alighted the small banca. Ervin sat in front and was given the chance to hold the battery-operated light and navigate the cave. Then, he got scared. So I volunteered to replace him and sat in front. Woooo! Scary!!!!

The main man, the one paddling our tour, started his work. As he paddles us inside the cave, he tells us of many stories about the cave and what we expect when we go inside.

Bell-shaped Rock FormationAs we go deep into the cave, everything is in pitch black. So I turned on our light. The place is so damp and cool yet dreary and eerie at the same time. The waters were so calm while the ceilings were so noisy with the chirping sounds of bats and what other beings that we can’t see. I know everybody is scared although we were too careful not to show it. A panicking passenger would turn our banca upside down.

As we traverse the whole 1.4 kilometers of dark, damp and dreary place, the main man, was pointing into rock formations, stalactites (limestones that fall from the ceiling) and stalagmites (limestones that are collected at the floor). The highest ceiling was around 10 meters. We saw many familiar figures like a huge lizard, some popular vegetables like carrots, pechay and cabbage. We also find rock contours of a lady with long hair, the Nativity scene, Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. You can see almost anything as far as your imagination can figure it out.

There were other tourists whom we crossed as shown by the beacons of their lights. As we make our way deeper, my mind plays dirty tricks on me. Since I was seated in front, I can’t help but think, what if a sea creature would just appear from beneath us and eat us all alive? Sounds like a scene from a horror Hollywood film. But the main man calmed us about these things. He said that he never saw a live crocodile inside the cave. The only living creatures that live inside are bats and small blind fishes. Animals with clear eyesight can never survive that pitch black cave except of course, Batman. hehehe

Out of the Cave

Cave mouth from the inside looking outThe whole river stretch is around 8 kilometers. The end tip flows directly to the sea. We only traveled nearly 1 and a half kilometers because the rest of the river has a very small opening. Our boats cannot pass through those. But there are some tours that go as far as 4 kms.

Main Man and Me
Main Man and Me
As we see a dim light shining in the horizon, we are getting more excited and relieved that we are nearing the end. I believe claustrophobic people must not go to this place. But for the rest of us, this is a challenge and a great place to be.

Invitation to Visit and Vote

I congratulate the sincere efforts of Mayor Edward Hagedorn and the local government unit of Puerto Princesa for successfully transforming this majestic place into a tourist haven. The pavement leading to the river was 90% cemented. The people were very cordial and helpful. The volunteers were really doing a swell job in protecting the diversity of the place.

If I were you, I invite you to come and visit Palawan. It’s a great place to be! Aside from the river, there are other equally attractive places where you can go. There is the El Nido beach, the Honda Bay, dolphin and whale watching site and many more.

I also encourage you to come and vote for the only Philippine entry that made it as one of the top finalists in the New Seven Wonders of the Natural World. You may vote for it at New Seven Wonders of Nature. You may promote this wonderful God-given treasure from the Philippines and help boost our tourism. “Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bansa.” πŸ™‚

Yay! First 70,000 visits!

I promise to mark my 10,000th visits with a blog post so here I am! In less than two months my blog had been visited 10,000 times! Hooray for me! hehehe

So far this is the only time when I blogged the least number of posts (only eight as compared to nine two months ago and 18 for the previous two months). Still, I was able to entice 10,000 visitors to read my blog. Sorry for this.

Wow! These two months have been my busiest in terms of attending workshops and travels. I was in two countries and one out of town trip. In between, I attended two seminars. Tomorrow, I am again scheduled to attend another two-day seminar.

For the first time, my Filipino viewers exceeded their American counterpart. They now comprise 41% of my total viewers. People from USA are now 38% of the total. The rest (21%) came from other countries. I am now penetrating my Filipino readers. πŸ™‚

My WordPress dashboard says that I already made 178 posts with 437 comments and 419 tags. Election fever is starting to engulf our beloved country so my post about Isabela Governor Grace Padaca is now my second topnotcher although the international deaf icons were unscathed in the top.

Now, on to my next 80,000 visitors!

Deaf Athletes Debut in Deaflympics

The Philippine Deaf Team participated for the first time in the Summer Deaflympics. Now on its 21st year, this game was held recently in Taipei, Taiwan. More than 100 countries participated in this year’s games.

Despite having a shoestring budget, which is a common situation for sports athletes from the Philippines, our country was able to field in the 6-man team. Although they were not able to bring home the medals, they were able to experience first hand the Olympics for deaf people.

History of Deaflympics

Held every four years, the Deaflympics were first organized in Paris, France with 145 participating athletes from nine European countries.

Sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, the Deaflympics have 20 sports events which include athletics, badminton, basketball, bowling, cycling, football, shooting, swimming, table tennis, tennis, volleyball, water polo, wrestling, karate, judo and taekwondo.

The 20th Deaflympics were held in Melbourne, Australia in 2005 with more than 3,000 deaf athletes from 67 nations.

For this Deaflympics, the Filipino participants include Ariscel Lobo, Louvella Catalan, Jorelle Faytaren, Cecilia Villacin, Paul Pacis and Christopher Uy Richard Jay Sunico, the team’s coach, Carolyn Dagani and Sansan Ong.

Despite not winning any medals, this blogger remains proud of you and holds you in high esteem. Congratulations! πŸ™‚

Probably if our government would focus more on supporting sports and our athletes and not putting all their efforts on corruption and scandals, we may be able to produce more gold medalists and make our country proud.

To know more about the plight of our Filipino deaf athletes, please go to this Philippine Daily Inquirer link.