Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Another subway murder; but I fear the lunatics no more

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” Isaac Asimov


By Alex P. Vidal


AS a daily commuter in New York City’s subway, I feel “safer” now even if close to a year ago, the video showing I was being verbally attacked by an emotionally—and, perhaps, mentally—disturbed male black passenger inside a running subway train, went viral at the height of the Asian Hate Crime attacks in the United States.

Safety in the New York City subway was again brought up in the conversations over the week following the killing of 40-year-old subway passenger, Michelle Alyssa Go, January 15 morning after being pushed onto the subway tracks at about 9:30 a.m. at the 42nd Street Times Square station by another mentally deranged black man.

We feel safe only if we’re awake and not dozing off especially during a long trip.

In my case, I had to travel daily via subway on R or Q train for more or less two hours from Queens via Manhattan vice versa when I used to work in Brooklyn.

In my new workplace in Manhattan, distance is no longer a major concern; F or E train brings me to my destination from Queens vice versa for less than 20 minutes, barring unforeseen incidents.

I feel I can now handle the lunatics and racial haters; I’m no longer intimidated and scared of them, not after living in the Big Apple for seven years now. 

My horrible experience during the turbulent waves of Asian Hate Crime attacks last year has taught me one lesson: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” (This is actually a phrase from the 1933 inaugural address of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.)

Sun Tzu once said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”




My instinct reminds me to be always alert and, as what we referees in the professional boxing always tell the two ring titans before the bout, “protect yourself at all times.”

If we are tatanga tanga and complacent, we will only have ourselves to blame if one day we will again be featured on CNN and other news networks after being tormented and terrorized by another episode of violent physical attack—while sleeping inside the train.

But even if we are awake, random attacks could still happen anytime and anywhere—in and outside any public transportation.

It pays to be alert and vigilant all the time. 

We can’t be paralyzed forever by irrational fear, or the disturbing thought of being mugged and physically violated anew by losers and haters who blame us not only for the spread of Covid-19 virus, but for being “successful and productive immigrants.”  

What I fear most actually is being “trapped” in the tunnel (the train crosses underneath the rivers) when the train sometimes suddenly stopped or “malfunctioned” (it happens from time to time but rarely).

It’s “easier” to tackle an attacker inside the train (running away is the best option if we can’t land the knockout punch first in a worst case scenario), but to be “suffocated” when the train’s engine stopped while crossing the tunnel and the lights went off is real hell; I could die of panic attack (I have a fear of close spaces). 




When he recently made an ocular visit, New York City Mayor Eric Adams admitted January 18 that even he didn’t feel safe on the subway. 

Adams, who has been mayor for a little over two weeks, has noted that a perception of danger could drive more people to eschew the subway, complicating the city’s economic recovery as it tries to draw people back to offices, tourist attractions and more.

“We want to continue to highlight how imperative it is that people receive the right mental health services, particularly on our subway system,” the mayor said. 

“To lose a New Yorker in this fashion will only continue to elevate the fears of individuals not using our subway system.”

A high-profile killing at New York City’s busiest subway station has injected fresh unease into the perception of whether the lifeblood of the nation’s largest city is safe.

Mayor Adams, who has been in office for just over two weeks, made a point of taking the subway to City Hall on his first day to work and had announced plans to boost the presence of police officers in the subway and reach out to homeless people in the stations and trains as part of a mission to combat “actual crime” and “the perception of crime.”

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Let’s be kind even to anti-vaxxers

“Conflict is drama, and how people deal with conflict shows you the kind of people they are.” Stephen Moyer


By Alex P. Vidal


THE chief sources of conflict and quarrel are always arrogance, greed, pride, hot temper, feeling superior or dominant, being irrational, and being insanely perfectionist.

Relationships among political partymates, classmates, officemates, churchmates, among other fraternal and even blood ties, can be wrecked if we allow any of the above-mentioned character defects or aberrations to get the better of us.

Even in the decision on how to handle and treat those who have shunned the mandated Covid-19 vaccinations, family members and friends end up at each other’s throats. 

A very basic subject matter on health that has transformed into a tsunami of animosity and violence when what is needed to resolve the issue is a simple common sense.

But it brings us to a basic contention that not all those who have refused Covid-19 vaccinations will die. 

In fact, not all of them will be infected with the deadly virus as long as they don’t mix with the crowd, their immunity system is really durable, and they don’t lower down their guards.  

Their should be no quarrel as long as they will wear the mandatory face masks and follow the rules. To be vaccinated is a personal choice. A mask mandate, after all, is already a law in many parts of the world afflicted by the pandemic. 

Amid the pandemic, there’s no harm if we continue to be kind and good, be patient and understanding, especially if the bone of contention in any argument will redound to the common good of everyone.




Some anti-vaxxers, actually, have landed in the hospitals; many didn’t survive after being horrifically taken out by Delta variant and, in rare cases, Omicron variant. 

But these true-to-life stories and realities will never intimidate them. 

Once they have decided they would not avail of any vaccination, that is it. No one can change their decision. Nothing can influence or coerce them to reconsider their stand. 

They will stand by their being anti-vaxxers no matter what their anxious and terribly worried family members and friends tell them. 

But this doesn’t mean, however, that we discriminate and treat them like dregs.

On the the hand, those in the majority—the ones who made major sacrifices in their day to day life and have been religiously following all the guidelines and protocols to help prevent the spread of coronavirus—must also be protected if the anti-vaxxers’ continued recalcitrance has compromised their comfort, safety, and well-being.




Writer Carrol Baker believes that kindness can change the world.

We will just imagine if the whole world was a kinder place. What a difference that would make. 

Practicing the art of kindness and giving isn’t just about digging deep for charity: it’s showing compassion and thoughtfulness towards others; a spur-of-the-moment act of generosity or a valued commitment to volunteer for a cause you believe in, according Baker.

She wrote: “Being kind to others not only makes you feel good—sometimes a simple act of kindness can have a ripple effect; your good deed flows into the receiver’s stream of consciousness and they, too, can look for opportunities to pass it on.”

“At its very core,” Baker added, “kindness is about empathy, being aware of your environment and seeking ways to selflessly enrich the lives of others. And giving to others benefits the giver as well as the receiver; it nourishes the spirit as it shifts our inner focus from ourselves to others. Researchers call this sense of inner warmth and satisfaction that results from doing good deeds for another a ‘helper’s high’”. 

This euphoric state produces physiological sensations that reduce stress levels, and regulates the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, Baker concluded.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

Monday, January 17, 2022

City dads hail Joshua Alim as ‘man of many talents’

“This is how memories are made... by going with the flow.” Amanda Bynes


By Alex P. Vidal 


JOSHUA Alim, Danny Fajardo, Rommel Ynion, Restituto “Agent Kurantay” Jotis, Jr., Rene Monteclaro, Leo Dumagat, Armand Parcon, Marcos Villalon, Teddy Sumaray, Eddie Laczi, Tony Laniog, Bob Bacaling, Ernie Dayot, Fernando “Kapid” Gabio, Danny Baby Foz, Lydia Pendon, Ben Palma, Lito Jimena, Bert Montilla, Rey Alcalde, Ely Suyom, Jigger Latoza, Bert Mamora (I hope I didn’t miss anyone). 

They were some my fellow Ilonggo colleagues in the print and broadcast media who were alive and kicking when I was in Iloilo, except for Laczi, who signed off on October 27, 2013 in Connecticut, and Dumagat, who died on April 17, 2021 and was cremated in New York.

Aside from being my colleagues or former colleagues, most of them were also my good friends for so many years. 

Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to pay my last respects to them because of my distance, except for Dumagat, who had resided a few blocks away from my apartment in Queens.

There were times when I thought they weren’t yet dead; that we could still, once again, interact face to face and sit down for a cup of coffee in Iloilo to reminisce the past. 

But they are now gone for good. My wishful thinking.




Back in the late 80s and early 90s as a newsman in Iloilo City, I almost memorized the faces if not the full names of my media colleagues in TV, print and broadcast, especially those from different media outlets I worked with in many beat assignments and unforgettable events inside and outside Western Visayas.

That’s how they became so important to me, once in my life.

I was familiar with their talents, styles, weaknesses, strengths, characters, background and, to some extent, political plans—some of them did make waves in the political arena when they became elected officials. 

Many of those with me in all those boisterous but fun-filled press corps activities and slam-bang out-of-town coverages, became my personal friends and extended family. 

When I suddenly learn they are gone, it feels like a big chunk of my exciting memories in community journalism is suddenly swept away.

Joseph B. Wirthlin once said, “Some memories are unforgettable, remaining ever vivid and heartwarming!”




I SALUTE the Iloilo City Council led by Councilor Ely Estante, proponent of the resolution that mourned the “untimely demise of former colleague Joshua Alim.”

Indeed, Pare Joshua was a multi-talented human being. He had a special gift and he could touch the life of even ordinary people by his sympathetic words for those who are in dire straits and his charisma. 

Estante is one of the only five former DYFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo reporters who made it in the Iloilo City Council.

The four others were: the late former councilor Armand Parcon, the late Restituto “Agent Kurantay” Jotis Jr., the late Atty. Joshua Alim, and Rodel Agado.

I am sharing the press release recently sent to us by our esteemed senior colleague Limuel Celebria entitled, “Estante, SP mourn departed colleague”.

In its first order of business today, the Iloilo City Council, through a resolution proposed by Councilor Ely Estante Jr., mourned the untimely demise of former colleague Joshua Alim.

Alim, who served the city council for a total six terms from 1998 - 2019, recently died of cardiac arrest. He was 57.

Estante described Alim as man of many talents: he was a lawyer and law professor, a broadcaster, realtor, Dangal ng Bayan awardee, and President of the CPU Alumni Association.

Estante further described Alim as a "leader of men with a big heart and helping hand for the poor and under privileged.

The Estante resolution also expressed the SP's heartfelt condolences to Alim's family. He left behind a wife and two daughters.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)

Anti-vaxxers: We are victims of bigots

 “Vaccines save lives; fear endangers them. It's a simple message parents need to keep hearing.”

Jeffrey Kluger


By Alex P. Vidal


REELING from pressures and being banned from transport services, some anti-vaxxers have used the social media to “ask for your support and understanding…” insisting that “our rights and freedom are being violated.”

At least four anti-vaxxers from Iloilo have requested us through private messages to “please help us disseminate our cause in order to protect us from harassments and discrimination.”

Ramil, an event organizer from Bo. Obrero, Lapuz, Iloilo City, who is not a doctor, protested in local dialect: “They don’t listen to us. Covid is a myth meant to control, confuse, and strike fear in the hearts of the people. Vaccination is not the answer; it’s not the solution to pandemic. On the other hand, vaccination will endanger our lives if we have medical history that doen’t jibe with vaccination.”     

“Only people in the media can help us spread the real and true story behind the spread of Covid and this so-called Omicron,” submitted Rosanna, a single mother and campaign worker of a presidential candidate from the City Proper. 

“It is not true that if we vaccinate we will be protected from the pandemic. Vaccinations are part of a global business and those who push for it are the ones who benefit most like Bill Gates,” added Rosanna, who also doesn’t have any expertise or background on medical matters.




“Ginigipit kami. Ngaa kami lang? Ngaa gina pilit gid kami magpa-vaccine bisan indi fit sa amon gina batyag (We are being pressured. We are being forced to get a vaccine even if it is not the answer to what we feel),” bewailed Erlinda, 49, a city hall employee.  

The anti-vaxxers have been sending links of articles and videos to friends and relatives that “explain everything” to support their “predicament” in private messages.

Diri lang nila kami maintindihan (These are the only informations that they are going understand us) if they care to read the links and spare a time to watch the videos,” Ramil insisted. “The authorities are panicking; we are panicking, too, because the restrictions and bans like using the public transport system are making life difficult for us.”

They rued that they were being attacked by “bigots” who have developed “deep animosity” toward them because of their stand on the vaccination.




Ramil and Erlinda admitted they are fighting an uphill battle.

“Many of our relatives and friends don’t believe us and, in fact, have ignored us. Some of them argued with us angrily as if we were just inventing stories that aren’t true,” Erlinda complained in Hiligaynon.

Meanwhile, writer Michael Hiltzik admits that among all the ways that COVID-19 affects our lives, the pandemic confronts us with a profound moral dilemma: How should we react to the deaths of the unvaccinated?

Hiltzik added: “On the one hand, a hallmark of civilized thought is the sense that every life is precious. On the other, those who have deliberately flouted sober medical advice by refusing a vaccine known to reduce the risk of serious disease from the virus, including the risk to others, and end up in the hospital or the grave can be viewed as receiving their just deserts.”

That’s even more true of those who not only refused the vaccine for themselves, but publicly advocated that others do so.

It has become common online and in social media for vaccine refusers and anti-vaccine advocates to become the target of ridicule after they come down with COVID-19 and especially if they die from it.

Paano naman ang rights sang mga victims of Covid? (How about the rights of the Covid victims),” asked Charina, wife of a medical practitioner in Iloilo City, who was once affected by an extended lockdown when she was in New York.

“What they are spreading are false informations from unreliable sources and poisonous internet links with no scientific explanation and they expect us intelligent people to believe them? O c’mon,” Charina concluded.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)











Saturday, January 15, 2022

Pare Joshua literally ‘pulls me out’ of jail

“Don't be dismayed by good-byes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

Richard Bach


By Alex P. Vidal


SOMETIME in June 1993 noontime, I landed in the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) Police Precinct 1 jail after I was involved, believe it or not, in a fistfight. 

Then PP1 commander, Chief Inspector Dionisio Duco, didn’t order his men to bring me inside the jail, but I volunteered to enter a vacant cell adjacent to a packed cell after the booking.

The police didn’t padlock the empty jail but it remained closed while I was inside.

After about 30 minutes, Atty. Joshua Alim, my former media colleague and kumpare, arrived at past 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

Gaano ka dira p’re man? (What are you doing there, buddy?),” Alim, clad in Barong Tagalog, gushed.

OK lang p’re. Wala ako reklamo ma stay lang ako diri (It’s okay, buddy. I have no complaint and I’ll just stay here),” I replied.

Batian ko sa radyo ang natabu. Gua dira p’re a. Indi ka dira ‘ya angayan (I heard what happened on radio. Get out of that place. You don’t belong there),” he insisted.

Pare Joshua’s gesture showed his true character, how he valued a friend in distress, and how he cared. 




Chief Inspector Duco didn’t press charges against me. I was allowed to go but only after “posting” a bail in the Hall of Justice.

Pare Joshua, who served as Iloilo City councilor for 18 years, and I knew each other since 1989 when he was reporter of DYFM Bombo Radyo Iloilo while I was reporter of News Express.

In 1990, Bombo Radyo Philippines became the first network to mandate a Barong Tagalog uniform for all field reporters, thus we always addressed Pare Joshua as “attorney” when we attended the press conferences at Camp Martin Delgado, among other beats.

He took the bar exams in 1990. 

One morning in April-May 1991 in Pagsanjan, Laguna, our other kumpare Nereo Lujan (Panay News) broke the news to the three other Iloilo delegates in the Graciano Lopez-Jaena Community Journalism Fellowship hosted by University of the Philippines (UP)-Los Banos: Runji Jamolo (Radyo Ng Bayan), James Cabag (Philippine Information Agency), and me that Pare Joshua had passed the 1990 bar exams.

Back in Iloilo, Pare Joshua’s “victory” inspired his media colleagues.

In 1992, or a year before he “pulled me out” of the city jail, balikbayan Pet Melliza (now Atty. Teopisto Melliza) and I became Pare Joshua’s first media clients in a labor case when he was associate of the Bedona Law Office. 




He initially wanted to withdraw when he learned that the legal counsel for the defendant was his law professor in the Central Philippine University (CPU), now Judge Neri Duremdes.

But Pare Joshua changed his mind and won his first case against his law professor.

Even before he became a city councilor, Atty Alim joined forces when the late Councilor German “Kuya Germs” Gonzalez and Atty. Romeo Gerochi fought the Panay Electric Company (PECO) with tongs and hammer.

He also picked up the cudgels for the urban poor and became a household name in Iloilo, aside from his media background, which was instrumental in his impressive election victories.

Pare Joshua never missed some major events in the media, including press club activities even if his presence wasn’t mandatory owing to his schedule and activities while “on the other side of the fence.”

When he became a full-pledged politician, we rarely mingled and would meet only in the coffeeshops. 

When I relocated to the United States, social media became our most convenient meeting place. 




Pare Joshua was aware of my reputation as a media practitioner who never maintained close friendships with some politicians. 

There were times he was tempted to doubt if my being a “hard-hitting” journalist and his “vulnerability” as a public servant would threaten the sacredness of our friendship.  

Even if he knew I was among his few former media colleagues not afraid to lose a politician as a friend especially if the politician is corrupt, abusive and evil, he was somebody I can’t afford to lose because he wasn’t corrupt, abusive and evil.

Hours after his demise was made known, the social media burst with sorrow and emotional pain like Iloilo lost a great son and leader.

As a colleague, Pare Joshua was trustworthy who never took advantage of any media practitioner. He wanted to be a friend of all the rank-and-file and the bigwigs in the industry that first gave him a name. 

As a public servant he had the charisma of the late Mayor Mansing Malabor, populist but down to earth and sincere. As a friend, he was the type who would leave last when the captain called for abandonment of the ship.  

Even in death, he continued to amaze and make us proud of him.

Farewell, Pare Joshua. Let’s resume our coffee session in the Kingdom of God.  

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)



















Thursday, January 13, 2022

I had five swab tests in four days

 “When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases.”

Donald Trump


By Alex P. Vidal


I MADE a total of five swab tests in four days over the week. 

Overkill? Maybe. Over acting? Possibly. Panicking? Probably. 

I already have full Covid-19 vaccinations, a booster shot, and a flu shot. But why did I have to do that? Is one swab testing not enough? 

First, swab testing is free in New York; testing centers are everywhere, and are mushrooming in the main thoroughfares in all the four boroughs: Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island, Staten Island.

Second, we are required to submit Covid-19 swab testing results in our workplaces because of the record-breaking Omicron variant, which has eclipsed Delta variant in terms of number of persons infected in quick succession.    

Ideally, yes, one swab test is enough. Two to three times in a short interval may not be necessary, at least from the point of view of ordinary observers. 

Why five times? While strolling around, I took advantage of the accessible testing centers especially when there were few people queuing. If the line was kilometric long in one testing center, I backpedaled and left. 

As a result of my testing spree, I got three PCR and two rapid tests.

As of this writing, all my two rapid tests were negative (from Illinois-based Excel Labs and Astoria, New York-based Steinway Hope Medical).




I’m now waiting for my two PCR results from the same testing centers and one from Sylhet Pharmacy, based in Ozone Park, New York, which promised to release my result in five to seven days.

With or without an insurance, anybody can walk straight to any Department of Health and New York State-accredited testing centers and get rapid and PCR testings simultaneously.

PCR testing is considered the “gold standard” in SARS-CoV-2 detection. This test actually detects RNA (or genetic material) that is specific to the virus and can detect the virus within days of infection, even those who have no symptoms. The test can be done in a clinic, hospital, or even in the car.

In Queens, where there is a large number of multi-racial communities, it’s easy to locate the testing centers in the parked vans and buses, and in various kiosks in the sidewalks.

I heard that people in the Philippines who want to take a Covid-19 swab test will have to shell out cash and wait for available schedule.

Sometimes they have to reportedly elbow each over for the limited slots, far cry from what is happening in the United States, where testing centers are the ones swooping down to the communities and enticing the people to take the test—for free.



NO WONDER MY REFUND HASN’T ARRIVED UNTIL NOW. The number of unprocessed tax returns the Internal Revenue Service (IRSA) has left over from the "most challenging year" taxpayers ever experienced is 11 million. 

The backlog has been reportedly compounded by the coronavirus pandemic and longtime underfunding of the agency, forcing the IRS to head into the new filing season already behind. 

The Treasury Department is already warning that taxpayers might experience processing delays filing their returns this year.




COVID paid sick leave is still in effect. That’s according to the New York State Department of Labor in its January Newsletter.

It said, “In New York State, COVID Paid Sick Leave is still in effect for employees ordered to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19.”

Depending upon the size of the business, employers may be required to provide COVID Paid Sick Leave to employees without the use of regular accruals, it added.

“All employees, regardless of the size of their employer, are entitled to job protection upon return from COVID sick leave. Employees asserting these rights are protected under New York's anti-retaliation laws,” explained the NYS DOL Newsletter.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)




Wednesday, January 12, 2022

It’s a movement, not a campaign

“Each new generation is reared by its predecessor; the latter must therefore improve in order to improve its successor. The movement is circular.”

Emile Durkheim


By Alex P. Vidal


THERE are signs that the astronomical ascension of Vice President Leni Robredo in Philippine politics from an unknown wife of a not-so-famous cabinet secretary who died in a plane crash during the previous administration, can be compared to that of the late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino.

When the late strongman former President Ferdinand Marcos was the dominant figure in Philippine politics from 1965 to 1986, no one saw the demise of his political power—until the unknown housewife of a charismatic opposition icon murdered in the tarmac three years earlier, came from nowhere to trounce him in a pre-EDSA uprising snap election.

All the surveys dismally showed “Tita Cory” in the rock-bottom even if it was unanimously predicted Marcos would anyway retain his power “by whatever means”. The rest is now history.

Let’s forget the survey. Fidel V. Ramos never topped any of the many surveys dominated by Ramon Mitra, Danding Cojuangco and Miriam Defensor-Santiago during the 1992 presidential election.

Robredo never topped or has not ruled some of the recent reputed surveys except those done in the universities, media institutions and in foreign lands with large Filipino communities.

But what we are witnessing these past months is no longer an ordinary campaign. What has been unfolding is a movement. I don’t need to elaborate something that is so obvious and palpable.  

These were the same “handwritings on the wall” many of us saw when Mrs. Aquino launched her presidential bid in 1985, a year before the February snap election that pitted her against one of Asia’s most powerful dictators.

I will stop from here. I leave the rest of reckoning or calculation to the intelligent readers and let history take its course once again.




IN the past two years, news in the Philippines has been dominated only by two major stories: Covid-19 and illegal drugs bust.

The other news was about politics—the preparations for the May 9, 2022 election—followed by crime stories or about the peace and order. 

The rest was about entertainment, sports, economy, animals and climate change.

Covid-19, how the government has been fighting it and how the people have been responding to the vaccination and the travel restrictions and other pandemic-induced protocols; and illegal drugs, how the police have been busting and arresting traffickers, completely were in the prime time news and front pages of major dailies for the last 24 months.

It seems we might soon see the decline of news about Covid-19 once Omicron, the No. 1 producer of a flurry of pandemic stories, will start to move away (it can’t stay in our life forever, for heaven’s sake) but news about illegal drugs has no ending in sight.

It appears illegal drug trafficking is here to stay and stories about major busts and shooting to death of “armed” traffickers will have a permanent space in the daily news.     

With 2022 as the election year in the Philippines, coming second to Covid-19 in as far as major news is concerned, is now politics. Once the official campaign period unwraps, political news will give the pandemic news a run for its money.




That's the width of an asteroid expected to fly by Earth next week is 3,451 feet . 

On January 18, the kilometer-wide asteroid known as 7482 (1994PC1) will pass within 1.2 million miles of our planet, moving at a speed of more than 47,000 miles per hour. Scientists are confident the asteroid will not hit Earth, but it's the closest it will come for the next two centuries.

(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)