Sunday, January 31, 2021

Snow world

“There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.”

Bill Bowerman

 


By Alex P. Vidal

 

AS I write this article, a major snow storm—the worst in five years—was barreling toward the northeast cities, including New York City and Boston, as reported by the National Weather Services (NWS).

When we are told that the storm is a “major” one it could turn into a blizzard, and that means it would produce a thick or abundant snowfall and will give us a “snow world.”

We had been warned two days earlier, thus we aren’t expected to go out until February 2 (Tuesday, U.S. time). 

Appointments and other regular jigs and gimmicks will have to be cancelled altogether.

Snow storm in the middle of a pandemic means another self-imposed “solitary confinement” until everything is back to normal—when ice in the sidewalks starts to melt and won’t pose a threat to those who hit the road to beat the rush hours.

No big deal actually. 

Nowadays when most of us are inside the house, we spend a big chunk of our free time in the Internet and rearranging some stuff.

There’s plenty of domestic chores to tackle, online games to play, books to read, and articles to write.

When the first drop of snow arrived at past four o’clock in the afternoon on January 31 (Sunday), I was rushing to my favorite Chinese restaurant, New Fu Fan & China, on Whitney Avenue in Elmhurst, Queens to secure a take-out order of fried half chicken (good for two days for one person). 

I also dropped by the nearby Walgreens to secure a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

The NWS advised that “treacherous” travel conditions are expected throughout the northeast for a few days, as wind gusts of up to 50 miles per hour are forecast for Monday, February 1, creating blinding, blowing snow. 

 

-o0o-

 

It would be the first snow storm in 2021, a “long duration” major winter storm headed toward the U.S. coast; and we could be blanketed with nearly two feet (60.96 cm) of snow on February 1 (Monday, U.S. time).

Snow was expected to begin late Sunday night (January 31)across a wide swath of the northeast, with “in excess of 20 inches of snow in parts of eastern Pennsylvania, northern New Jersey, southern New York, and into southern New England,” the NWS said in bulletin.

The storm could paralyze New York City, which as of Sunday night was forecast to be at the center of the Nor’easter’s bluster, said meteorologist Brian Hurley, of the National Weather Service in College Park, Maryland.

“It’s a widespread area with 10 to 20 inches of snow coming,” Hurley said. 

“The sweet spot looks like it will be right around New York City.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sunday press conference that schools would be closed on Monday and that officials are rescheduling appointments for coronavirus vaccinations.

“There’s going to be tremendous danger and difficulty getting around on Monday,” de Blasio warned. “The last thing we want to do is urge our seniors to come out in the middle of a storm like this.”

He added: “This storm is growing all the time. We’ve got a much more intense situation.”

 

-o0o-

 

The American Res Cross, meanwhile, has warned us to be cautious and “stay safe during a winter storm or blizzard” and to observe the following:

-Stay indoors and wear warm clothes. Layers of loose-fitting, lightweight, warm clothing will keep you warmer than a bulky sweater. If you feel too warm, remove layers to avoid sweating; if you feel chilled, add layers.

-Listen to a local station on battery-powered radio or television or to NOAA Weather Radio for updated emergency information.

-Bring our companion animals inside before the storm begins.

Move other animals to sheltered areas with a supply of non-frozen water. Most animal deaths in winter storms are caused by dehydration.

Eat regularly. Food provides the body with energy for producing its own heat.

-Keep the body replenished with fluids to prevent dehydration. Drink liquids such as warm broth or juice. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine, a stimulant, accelerates the symptoms of hypothermia. Alcohol, such as brandy, is a depressant and hastens the effects of cold on the body. Alcohol also slows circulation and can make you less aware of the effects of cold. Both caffeine and alcohol can cause dehydration.

-Conserve fuel. Winter storms can last for several days, placing great demand on electric, gas, and other fuel distribution systems (fuel oil, propane, etc.). Lower the thermostat to 65° F (18° C) during the day and to 55° F (13° C) at night. Close off unused rooms, and stuff towels or rags in cracks under the doors. Cover the windows at night.

Check on relatives, neighbors, and friends, particularly if they are elderly or if they live alone.

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

 

 

 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Not in the Philippines

“I can take it. The tougher it gets, the cooler I get.”

Richard M. Nixon

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

NO Filipino politician will give up his post to show remorse for a wrongdoing while in public office.

So far, only the Japanese are known to commit seppuku or “cutting the belly” which is sometimes known as harakiri to die with honor as a form of capital punishment for samurai after they had committed serious offenses, or brought shame to themselves.

But not in the Philippines.

The decision of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to resign as chief contact tracer in the National Task Force Against (NTF) Covid-19 came after he was under fire for attending the birthday party for celebrity Tim Yap at The Manor, a hotel in Baguio City’s Camp John Hay, last January 17. 

Because of his resignation in the task force, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez praised Magalong as “a true professional and an excellent mentor,” and a “big brother to everyone” who “has never hesitated to share his experiences, knowledge and expertise especially to LGUs who needed his advice on how to effectively contain local transmissions.”

Activist actress Angeles Locsin also joined the fray lauding Magalong for his “sense of accountability.”

“I know he’s [Magalong] all over the news lately, so, I just want to share our experience with him. He reminded us to wear our masks and face shields and to respect the locals by following safety protocols,” said Locsin. “He also wore his mask the whole time. Just putting this here not to justify pero para may ibang side naman :) (so that we see another side.).” 

Really? 

 

-o0o-

 

If Magalong were Japanese, he would have resigned as mayor, not just as chief COVID-19 contact tracer.

As of this writing, the Baguio City mayor reportedly nixed suggestions from those who did not agree with his decision to resign for him to reconsider his resignation saying it was “irrevocable.”

“It pains me to see my family, and my constituents, in anguish over this but I am committed to hold myself accountable and do what is necessary to rectify this misstep,” Magalong said in his resignation letter to Galvez Jr., the chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF).

“Much as I have given my best to discharge my duties for the task force, this incident has been a reminder that a higher standard is always expected of me.”

It’s not a big loss for Magalong to quit in the NTF. 

In fact, his role in the NTF can be viewed as an “additional burden” for somebody who runs a premier city as chief local executive like Baguio and who doesn’t want additional responsibility other than his role as mayor of a big city.

The resignation could be a blessing in disguise if Magalong didn’t want anymore to go around the country “tracing” COVID-19 infected groups or individuals while at the same time running the affairs of Baguio City Hall.

Thus, I don’t agree that he should be heaped with accolades for “having the delicadeza” to resign his post in the task force against COVID-19.

He deserves to be praised to high heavens if after admitting his fault he at the same time gave up his position as city mayor. 

No ifs. No buts. 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Talk between Biden and Duterte

“We believe that transparency is needed to create trust, and it's also needed to create a dialogue.”

Julie Sweet

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

IF ever President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and President Rodrigo R. Duterte will talk over the phone for the first time since Mr. Biden became the 46th President of the United States, Mr. Biden may not immediately tackle the issue about alleged human rights violations in the Philippines.

The two leaders will certainly discuss primarily their commitments for a traditional “mutual support” as ties between the U.S., a super power, and the Philippines have been reportedly tested since Mr. Duterte assumed the presidency in 2016 and embarked on months of expletive-laden tirades against the U.S.

He had also threatened repeatedly to scrap their bilateral military agreements even when President Barack Obama was still in office.

Mr. Biden would be very careful not to appear like interfering in the domestic affairs of the Philippines as Mr. Biden is probably aware the Duterte administration continued to belie accusations it violated the human rights of its citizens in the Philippine government’s “all-out” war against illegal drugs.   

Even top Philippine officials have assured that the “Philippines will maintain close and friendly relations with the United States under Biden” amid a period of strain in their decades-old alliance.

 

-o0o-

 

US News had earlier reported that Duterte “sought warmer ties with China and Russia, and took particular aim at former counterpart Barack Obama, to whom Biden was vice president. He once said he would not visit the United States, calling it a ‘lousy’ country.”

Duterte, who had asked Filipinos in the U.S. to vote for former President Donald Trump, had spoken positively about Mr. Trump but reportedly remained critical of American foreign policy.

Philippine political analysts reportedly expect the Biden administration to be “more vocal than its predecessor about human rights issues in the Philippines, including Duterte's signature war on drugs, during which thousands of people have been killed.”

Fears that Mr. Biden will open up the issues and concerns on human rights violations with  Mr. Duterte was fueled by reports that in Mr. Biden’s first phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin since being sworn into office two weeks ago— a conversation that comes amid heightened U.S.-Russia tensions and after Putin initially refused to recognize Biden's election win, Mr. Biden “called Mr. Putin’s attention” on the reported Russian involvement in the recent massive cyber attacks on the U.S. government.

It was reported that the agenda for the Biden-Putin conversation was “long, running from areas of cooperation, such as nuclear arms control, to areas of contention, such as Russia's military aggression toward Ukraine.”

Then candidate Biden promised to take a tougher line with Mr. Putin than ex-President Donald Trump did, during the campaign.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin reportedly discussed their shared goal of renewing an expiring U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control agreement, during the phone call, as reported by White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki during a briefing on January 26. 

 

-o0o-

 

That major arms control pact reportedly expires on Feb. 5, so it’s an urgent matter. 

“They also agreed to explore strategic stability discussions on a range of arms control and emerging security issues,” the White House said in its read-out of the conversation.

The rest of the call reportedly focused on U.S.-Russia flashpoints, according to the White House, starting with Russia's ongoing aggression toward Ukraine, a pivotal U.S. ally.

Mr. Putin was among the last major world leaders to acknowledge Mr. Biden's victory in the Nov. 3 election, waiting until Dec. 15 – after the Electoral College certified the results – to wish the new president success and to welcome engagement.

There’s no schedule phone conversation yet between Mr. Biden and Mr. Duterte as of this writing.

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

 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Incredible conspiracy theories make some people nuts

“Incompetence is a better explanation than conspiracy in most human activity.”

Peter Bergen

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

I HAVE warned some friends in the Philippines to ignore and not to share the videos being circulated mostly through the social media’s private message by merchants of conspiracy theory.

Most decent and educated people in America aren’t anymore deceived by these fallacious videos, and they are aware these videos only add fuel to the conflagration and propagate innuendos, outright lies and disinformation meant to confuse and subjugate the minds of the people.  

For instance, a friend from Lambunao, Iloilo recently shared via private message a conspiracy theory-inspired video he received from friends in the social media, which repeated and enabled the lies and a very familiar canard that circulated before and after the November 3, 2020 U.S. presidential election: the election (will be) was rigged and “several prominent oligarchs from all over the world” conspired to cheat former U.S. President Donald Trump.  

The video alleged that the “massive cheating” was “traced” from Rome, Italy and that several prominent world leaders, including Pope Francis and Queen Elizabeth of U.K., “conspired” to deny Mr. Trump a second term.

I know a Filipino woman and a Latino man in Queens who swallowed hook, line, and sinker all the absurd conspiracy theories authored and spearheaded by the weird QAnon group and tried to convince me to believe their myopic views to no avail.

Even after President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has already been sworn in as president, the couple continued to badger relatives and friends in the Philippines and Mexico that “(President) Joe Biden will soon be arrested for being an impostor and Mr. Trump will soon return in the White House to serve his second term.” 

A conspiracy theory can actually be defined as the belief that a secret, but influential organization or individual is responsible for a circumstance or event. 

 

-o0o-

 

People often think that these beliefs are rare or sometimes absurd, but research shows they may be more common than we thought. 

A study has been found that about 50 percent of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory. 

“Conspiracy theories come in all forms, but most theories involve political and social events. Some examples include the belief that certain celebrities are immortal vampires, and controversial topics such as the belief that a small group of people are planning to overthrow the government,” explained the Addiction Center.

“Often, one theory will have accompanying and sometimes contradictory conspiracy theories which can be dangerous if not challenged. On the other hand, it can be noted that some conspiracy theories have been proven to be true. With the increased popularity of conspiracies and exposure to information, it is possible to harm your mental health and relationships by developing a conspiracy theory addiction.”

The study indicates that “conspiracy theory addiction is a behavioral addiction that can have a hidden impact on the way you perceive events and has been linked to having more negative attitudes.”

Rather than helping one cope with their negative feelings, the belief in conspiracy theories can reportedly create “a cycle of distrust and disempowerment.” 

As a person encounters different sources, it is important to be able to analyze the information and distinguish between false theories and real threats.

 

-o0o-

 

Meanwhile, Addiction Center explained that people who strongly believe in conspiracy theories and become addicted may experience some of the following:

-Feeling anxious or fearful for no particular reason.

-Feeling a loss of control.

-A need to make sense of complex topics or unrelated events, even with little or no topical knowledge.

-Low self-esteem.

-Strong urge to make connections between a series of unrelated events or behaviors.

-Belief in paranormal explanations for scientific phenomenon.

A sense of not belonging or isolation.

A great alienation, disengagement, or disaffection from society

If the presence of the previous feelings and behaviors significantly impact a person’s ability to function in their daily lives, they may have a conspiracy theory addiction.

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories? Addiction Center explained that conspiracy theories occur when people create links between one or more unrelated events, emerging from the need for the human brain to find “patterns”. 

New research also shows that people with certain personality traits such as low self-esteem are more likely to have a conspiracy theory addiction. Researchers have studied the different reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories and many of the explanations include the following factors:

-A need for understanding and consistency.

-A need for control.

-A need to belong or feel special.

-Need for Understanding

When a person experiences distress over uncertainty or witnesses a large-scale event, the mind will reportedly start to look for explanations that connect the dots. 

Those with lower analytical abilities and less tolerance for uncertainty are more likely to believe a conspiracy theory. 

“This is because conspiracy theories can often provide explanations for events that seem confusing or frightening and believers can assume that they are being intentionally deceived. People are also naturally inclined to search for information that confirms their existing beliefs, this is known as a confirmation bias,” explained the Addiction Center.

The ability to easily share and spread information over the internet has increased belief in certain conspiracy theories. 

Someone with a conspiracy theory addiction may reportedly “seek out information to support something they already think is true, rather than seek out new information or challenge their beliefs.” 

A need for understanding and consistency can reportedly lead to addictive behaviors such as spending excessive time on the internet and ignoring relationships and responsibilities.

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

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Britanico ‘identifies’ cops in son’s murder

 “If you look in general at people who live in anarchy, they have quite high rates of death from either homicide or warfare or both. Anarchy is one of the main reasons for violence, and it may be the most important.”

Steven Pinker

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

THROUGH the sworn statement of a cop who reportedly drove the car of the alleged killers of his son one year ago, former Banat Partylist Rep. Salvador “Buddy” Britanico identified four more cops that may have participated in the sensational broad daylight murder.

In a statement released “on behalf of the Britanico and Lao families” on the first death anniversary of his son, Delfin Celestial Britanico, the former lawmaker from Oton, Iloilo pointed to Philippine National Police Corporal Joseph Andrew Poneles Joven, who allegedly named his companions in the Mitsubishi Adventure as Police Staff Sergeant Ricardo Cabrera Morante and Police Master Sergeant Vernie Lui Escorial.

Former Congressman Britanico said Morante and Escorial are the ones who allegedly shot Delfin dead on Iloilo River Boulevard in Brgy. Nabitasan, La Paz, Iloilo City on January 19, 2020 based on Joven’s sworn statement.

DELFIN C. BRITANICO

Joven, according to the former congressman, “was earlier identified in the investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as the driver of the Mitsubishi Adventure used in the killing of Delfin.”

 

-o0o-

 

The father Britanico said Joven named his son’s alleged killers in his sworn statement together with his application to be a state witness filed with the Office of the Prosecutor General in the Department of Justice in Ermita, Manila.

“Joven further stated that their other companions in the vehicle were Police Staff Sergeant Michael Demegillo de Felipe and Police Staff Sergeant Freddie Hibalo Libo-on,” former Congressman Britanico further stated.

“Delfin, a businessman, was shot dead after conducting his wife, Katrina, home after Sunday Church Service and then taking a random Sunday noon drive on his motorcycle in Bgy. Nabitasan, La Paz, Iloilo City last January 19, 2020,” recalled former Congressman Britanico.

“Justice is rolling!”

He further stated: “The Britanico and Lao Families pray and trust that justice will take its course.”

Morante, Escorial, De Felipe, and Libo-on haven’t yet made a press statement to refute the allegations against them.  

 

-o0o-

 

Boxing scribe Scott Christ has started conducting an on-line survey on who will win between Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Ryan Garcia, a new ring sensation who has been making headlines even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of this writing, fans overwhelmingly picked the former 8-time world champion despite his age.

It was not yet actually official, but Christ confirmed that “things seem to be moving toward Pacquiao-Garcia becoming a reality.”

For Pacquiao, it’s a big fight to be made that wouldn’t see him coming in as a substantial underdog, like bouts against Errol Spence Jr or Terence Crawford would, observed Christ.

The 22-year-old Garcia is talented and has the size to fight Pacquiao, whether it’s at 135 or 147 or 140 or whatever, he’s fast and can punch, but Pacquiao obviously has a metric ton of experience going for him. According to Christ, “There’s nothing Ryan Garcia can do that Manny Pacquiao has not seen, and that’s whether you’re a believer in Garcia or not.”

 

-o0o-

 

Analysts, including Christ, pointed to Pacquiao’s age at 42. “He hasn’t fought since the summer of 2019. He has without question lost a couple steps; this makes him still very good last we saw, but he’s not the phenom of 2009, that guy’s long gone. It’s not a knock, he just got older. It happens,” observed Christ.

“Assume the fight happens at at least 140 pounds if not a bit north or even a full 147, as I cannot imagine Pacquiao is going to go down to 135 for this, he hasn’t fought at that weight in 13 years, when he smashed David Diaz to bits.”

Does the age gap favor Garcia? 

Though his speed and power won’t be unseen to Pacquiao, is Manny now too old to handle what Garcia can bring? 

Or does the experience give Manny the big edge? 

Is Pacquiao still good enough, with too much skill and too many tricks of the trade, to be overcome by any physical advantages Garcia holds?

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

 

Monday, January 25, 2021

I was asked to confirm Kobe’s death

“There's been a lot of talk of me being a one-man show but that's simply not the case. We win games when I score 40 points and we've won when I score 10.”

KOBE BRYANT

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

I JUST arrived in New York City’s Flushing district from Connecticut when I received calls from colleagues in the Philippine broadcast media while still inside the bus at past seven o’clock in the evening on January 26, 2020.

They were asking about the veracity of reports that Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in California earlier that day.

Exactly two hours earlier while in Ledyard, Connecticut, I monitored the “flash” report and the news was so shocking every news outlet was focusing on the big story. 

I convinced myself the footage taken on the crash site was real and could not be manufactured, otherwise leading news networks wouldn’t report it like there was a national emergency.

Others thought it was a hoax or a “fake news” but I knew it was real.

From the bus, I sought sanctuary inside a commercial bank in Flushing pretending to use the ATM machine, but my intention was to use the area in order to focus on the long distance inquiries and be able to give a detailed report.

I confirmed the news and answered some of the questions from my Philippine broadcast media colleagues who started airing the “major” news in their respective radio programs.

The stories about COVID-19 weren’t yet earthshaking at that moment since it wasn’t yet a pandemic, thus the news about Bryant’s death sent shockwaves all over the world where basketball is a religion.  

 

-o0o-

 

Bryant's death in that helicopter mishap was one of those moments people will always remember where they were when they heard the news.

"A lot of guys dropped to the floor and started crying," said Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr of his team's practice that day. "Nothing happened for 10 minutes. We all just sat there in silence. It was one of the worst moments of all of our lives. I don't think any of us will ever forget that day."

To mark the first anniversary, USA TODAY Sports looked back at that day and the days since It happened. 

Those who knew Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and the seven others who died were still reportedly trying to make sense of the crash, as are those who were fans of the NBA legend.

When the helicopter careened into a California hillside on the morning of Jan. 26, 2020, killing Kobe Bryant and the eight others on board, the initial response around the world was shock.

There were so many hows: How did this seemingly routine trip to a youth basketball game end in tragedy? How did the helicopter that Bryant used for years suddenly crash? How could this possibly have happened?

The facts surrounding the crash – from the pilot's experience, to the weather conditions, to the helicopter's safety features – are known one year later.

And a final determination on what caused the crash is now reportedly just weeks away.

 

-o0o-

 

It was reported that the National Transportation Safety Board was set to release its final report on the incident on Feb. 9, including a proximate cause and subsequent safety recommendations.

The board has released 1,852 pages of factual evidence collected during its investigation, including interview transcripts, email records, text messages, photos, meteorological reports and video footage from cameras in the area, in the meantime.

"Accident investigation is really like putting a puzzle back together," said Anthony Brickhouse, a former NTSB investigator who is now an associate professor of aerospace safety at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University as reported in USA TODAY. 

"(It's) really a meticulous process. It’s not something that happens overnight. It requires a lot of digging, a lot of research."

As investigators put the finishing touches on that final report, here's everything we know about the crash, based on documents released by the NTSB to date as reported by the USA TODAY:

At 8:39 on the morning of the crash, pilot Ara Zobayan sent a text message to the small group of people coordinating Bryant's trip – including his drivers, concierge and a representative from the helicopter company.

"Heli at OC," Zobayan wrote. "Standing by."

 

-o0o-

 

Thirty minutes later, the helicopter was in the air, traveling from John Wayne-Orange County Airport to Camarillo, California, where the passengers would then be driven to a youth basketball game in nearby Thousand Oaks. Bryant was joined on the flight by his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna; John and Keri Altobelli and their daughter, Alyssa; Sarah Chester and her daughter, Payton; and Christina Mauser, an assistant coach. 

The helicopter flew north for about 15 minutes before slowing down and circling near Glendale to make way for air traffic at a nearby airport. Then it followed a highway into the hills near Calabasas, flying between 400 feet and 600 feet above the ground.

"You just going to stay down low at that for all the way to Camarillo?" an air traffic controller asked Zobayan.

"Yes sir," the pilot replied. "Low altitude."

Minutes later, there was a shift change at the Southern California TRACON, which provides air traffic control services to airports in the region. And the helicopter was heading into increasingly mountainous terrain, where visibility that morning was poor.

When the new air traffic controller contacted Zobayan, the pilot said he was climbing above the clouds, to 4,000 feet. Instead, the helicopter got no more than 1,600 feet above the ground before banking left and descending rapidly, crashing into the hills. 

"That combination of the low-lying stratus layer, and also the relatively high-rising terrain – (it's) a common and, really, a deadly combination," said Jack Cress, a former helicopter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps who is now an instructor in the Aviation Safety & Security Program at the University of Southern California.

Bryant regularly traveled by helicopter during and after his NBA career, in part to avoid the oft-gridlocked traffic in Los Angeles. And he regularly chartered flights with Island Express Helicopters, including 13 trips in 2019.

In fact, the helicopter involved in the crash – a Sikorsky S-76B – was the same machine that transported Bryant to his final game with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

Cress said the Sikorsky S-76 is generally well-regarded among pilots and has a strong safety record over decades of use. He noted that it has been the "helicopter of choice" for Queen Elizabeth II, among other top dignitaries, since 2009. Rest in peace, Kobe and all victims in that fatal chopper crash.

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

 

Alex P. Vidal Quotes

 


Sunday, January 24, 2021

The only festival COVID-19 couldn’t eliminate


“After all it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.”

Margaret Chan

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) halted all major cultural, religious, business, political, academic, and sports events in 2020, except the amazing Iloilo Dinagyang Festival, now also known as the “Iloilo Dinagyang Digital 2021”, in Iloilo City.

Before COVID-19 could sweep and sink all the titanic festivals in Western Visayas last year, Iloilo Dinagyang Festival 2020 had escaped the pandemic’s murderous rampage. 

Truly the spirit of Señor Sto. Niño was there to guide the Ilonggos as they celebrated and venerated the Catholic patron saint like no other community of Christian believers around the world did.  


As the “Iloilo Dinagyang Digital 2021” and launched amid the onslaught of mind-blowing coronavirus, Iloilo City’s premier annual festival was successfully held this year from January 17 until 24 under a unique and head-turning “virtual” style, the first since the festival was launched officially 53 years ago. 

If not for the innovation, strategy and geniuses of people behind the staging of the Iloilo Dinagyang Digital 2021 spearheaded by the  

Iloilo Festivals Foundation, Inc. (IFFI) and the Iloilo City Government, backed up by the Iloilo Provincial Government and the Department of Tourism-Western Visayas or DOT-Region 6, there would’ve been a gaping vacuum in the festival’s magnificent history.

 

-o0o-


If we could’t mark them in the way we might have in the past, it is important that we held onto the meaning of most of the religious and cultural festivals around the country pigeonholed since 2020 and at this time of year especially when we celebrated prosperity, hope and light. 

It could help if we accepted the reality of the situation without holding on to the hope that maybe things would return to normal in time. 

And if we couldn’t reduce the gap between our expectations of the perfect holiday and the reality of what was possible, we could plan how to balance safety and celebration.   

According to a report by the Daily Guardian’s Joseph B.A. Marzan, the main highlight of the program was the Dinagyang 360 Tour, dubbed “One Dinagyang, One Iloilo, Halad Kay Señor Sto. Niño”, a pre-taped performance of 7 “tribes” from the districts of Arevalo, City Proper, Jaro, La Paz, Lapuz, Mandurriao, and Molo.

Marzan reported that “360” was derived from how this performance was conceptualized—a “360 View”, wherein Dinagyang can be seen from various vantage points and from various sites in Iloilo City, a “360 Turn-Around”, showing a new way of seeing Dinagyang, and “360 Platform”, as it can be seen from everywhere across the globe.

Meanwhile, Iloilo City Mayor Geronimo “Jerry” Treñas said that the push for the Dinagyang Festival to continue amid the current pandemic was a “show of gratitude” to the Señor Sto. Niño for the blessings it had bestowed upon the city, according to Marzan, who quoted the mayor while speaking during the program.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may have altered our plans and changed our way of life. But our faith as Ilonggos has remained intact, and in order to cope with the new normal, as a way of showing our unwavering faith, we celebrate Dinagyang Digital 2021. Despite the current pandemic, we cannot stop from celebrating Dinagyang Festival in honor of our patron saint, Señor Sto. Niño, as a show of gratitude for all the blessings he has bestowed upon us, even in the face of adversity,” Treñas said.

 

-o0o-

 

Marzan added in his report that Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. “highlighted how the ‘uniqueness’ of this year’s Dinagyang is a testament to the resilience of the Ilonggos.”

“This year’s unique Dinagyang celebration is a clear manifestation of the resilience of the Ilonggos. After 53 years, Dinagyang Festival has shown to the world that it can survive the challenges that come along the way. This is because Dinagyang Festival is not just about fun and revelry, but a testament of our devotion to the Child Jesus. We may not hear drum beats as loud as before or feel the festive mood that characterizes the usual Dinagyang celebration, but we still have to be thankful that we are given the chance to celebrate our devotion to Señor Sto. Niño, even in these trying times,” Defensor said.

Iloilo City lone district Rep. Julienne Baronda also raised the bar of this year’s festival, as quoted by Marzan: “As seen by our own eyes, Dinagyang has evolved from a simple festivity to a global festival. (sic) As an Ilonggo I am more than proud to say that, indeed, it is the festival of all festivals, but let us not forget that the birth of this festival was because of the devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño. As we shift into a virtual celebration due to the unfamiliar situation we are in, I feel that we should focus more on its meaning and relevance than the pageantry.”

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

 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

‘They are so heartless’

“My folks came to U.S. as immigrants, aliens, and became citizens. I was born in Boston, a citizen, went to Hollywood and became an alien.”

Leonard Nimoy

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

SOME Filipinos in a community in Queens, New York City who support the proposed measure by the Biden administration to give legal status to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, including some Filipino TNTs (“Tago Ng Tago”) in the United States, have blasted their fellow Filipinos who earlier deplored President Joseph Biden’s proposal.

“They are so heartless,” boomed Federico Catindig, 48, a nursing assistant from Tanauan, Batangas who became a U.S. citizen in 2015. “Hindi na sila nahiya kapwa nila Pinoy dina downgrade nila (they have no shame at all. They downgraded their fellow Filipinos)!”

He was referring to the Filipino-Americans who questioned the Biden administration’s plan to pave the path to citizenship for the immigrants who are here in the U.S. illegally.

Catindig said some of the 11 million illegal immigrants who will be benefited if Congress will soon tackle and approve the measure before being signed by Mr. Biden to become a law, are his friends and compatriots.

Most of those 11 million were Latinos and Asians, it was learned.

“They (Pinoy illegal immigrants) are not drunkards and lazy contrary to what those heartless Fil-Ams had alleged. In fact, they are some of the most productive and talented Pinoys here in the US; and, by the way, they have been paying their taxes even if they didn’t have the green cards yet,” Catindig said.  

 

-o0o-

 

“They (fellow Pinoys who spoke harshly against Mr. Biden’s immigration plan) are so cruel and motivated only by envy,” Bacolod-born Jeprey Libdan (not his real name), 43, a part-timer construction worker who overstayed his temporary visitor’s visa since 2013, said in vernacular.

“They think we are like useless people who decided to stay in the U.S. for no reason at all. They disregard the fact the we also have families to feed in the Philippines. We work hard and are also willing to pay taxes that’s why we want to legalize our status.”

Simproniano “Bebot” Recate, a born again Christian who assists illegal immigrants obtain temporary shelters and part-time jobs in Long Island, said “it’s too premature” to criticize Mr. Biden’s proposed immigration reform “because it is still a proposed bill and was not even debated yet in Congress.”

“They (fellow Pinoy critics) claim that walang trabaho ngayon sa Amerika dahil sa pandemic at hindi dapat e legalize ang mga 11 million immigrants dahil maraming citizens ang walang trabaho. Bakit nakakasiguro ba sila na kung maging batas na ang bill na pino-propose ni President Biden, may pandemic pa sa Amerika?” asked Recate, a former accountant in Makati, Metro Manila.

“Paano kung matapos na ang pandemic at bumalik na sa normal ang ekonomiya ng Amerika? (What if the pandemic will disappear and the U.S. economy will be back to normal?)”

The citizenship process in Mr. Biden’s plan would reportedly take as little as three years for some people, eight years for others. 

 

-o0o-

 

It would reportedly make it easier for certain workers to stay in the U.S. temporarily or permanently, provide development aid to Central American nations in hopes of reducing immigration and move toward bolstering border screening technology.

Under the immigration bill that President Biden was expected to send to Congress, known as the U.S. Citizenship Act, undocumented immigrants would be given an eight-year path to citizenship if they pass background checks and prove they have paid taxes.

Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald wrote the issue “would be anathema for Republican anti-immigration zealots. 

But here are the reasons why Biden may succeed, according to Oppemheimer: 

“First, Biden will enjoy a big advantage over former President Obama on immigration issues, because public opinion has changed in recent years. Polls show that most Americans may be ready for more pro-immigrant policies.

“Perhaps it’s because Americans have grown tired of former President Trump’s and Fox News’ constant demonization of undocumented immigrants. Or maybe enough Americans have been shocked by the Trump administration’s cruelty when they saw pictures of immigrant children kept in cages or learned about the separation of babies from their migrant parents.”

A Gallup Poll reportedly showed that Americans’ support for pro-immigration policies is at its highest level in half a century.

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

 

 

 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

‘No to legal status for 11 million illega immigrants’

“My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.”

Barack Obama

 

By Alex P. Vidal

 

NOT all Filipinos in America are enthusiastic and supportive of U.S. President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s plan to grant legal status to an estimated 11 million undocumented aliens or illegal immigrants, including some Pinoy TNTs (“Tago Nag Tago”) now living in the United States.

“Bad timing yan. Marami ang walang trabaho ngayon sa Amerika dahil sa pandemic. Paano naman ang mga citizens na walang trabaho kung idadagdag pa ang mga illegal immigrants sa labor market? (It’s bad timing. Many American citizens nowadays are unemployed because of pandemic. What will happen to these unemployed citizens if the illegal immigrants will be added in the labor market?),” protested Eduardo, 63, former branch manager of a remittance company in Malolos, Bulacan, who lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in New York City.

“Pasikat lang yan si (President Joseph) Biden. Hindi siya susuportahan ng mga Republicans sa isyu na yan. Dapat e propose nia yan sa huling taon ng term nia. Hindi naman ito urgent eh. (President Biden only wanted to look good, but the Republicans will not support him on this issue. He should have proposed this in the last year of his term since this isn’t an urgent matter),” quipped Ruben, 70, a retired commercial inter-state truck driver, who lives in the same New York City neighborhood.

 

-o0o-

 

“Napaka unfair naman yan sa mga may papel na at matagal na nagbabayad ng tax dito. Bigla na lang magka papel sila eh karamihan sa kanila mga lasinggero naman at tamad mag trabaho. Dumaan muna sila sa proseso. Huwag yung short cut lang.(It is so unfair for those who are legal residents who have been paying taxes. Many of these illegal immigrants are drunkard and lazy. They should go through the process first and not to short cut their way here),” bewailed Arnulfo, 62, an independent contractor from Corona, Queens.

“Hindi naman maipasa kaagad yan. Dadaan pa yan sa congreso at doon palang marami ang kokontra diyan. Majority nga ang mga Democrats sa congreso pero hindi naman sila lahat papayag diyan. Sa social security lang at health services magka problema na. (The bill will not be passed immediately as many lawmakers will oppose it. Although the Democrats control the congress, not all of them will favor it as it will cause problems to the social security and health services),” enthused Albert, 49, a hospital worker who acquired his citizenship in 2016.

Democrats control the House of Representatives, but by a narrower margin than in the previous Congress.

The challenges in the divided Senate are already on display as Democrats and Republicans negotiate the terms of their power-sharing agreement. 

These reactions from pessimistic and downbeat Filipino-Americans in our community here came a day after President Biden made the opening salvo in his first day in office on January 20: an immigration bill he said he would introduce in Congress that would open a path to citizenship for roughly 11 million people living in the country illegally.

 

-o0o-

 

The Biden administration described its package as “a common-sense approach to modernizing and restoring humanity to the immigration system after four years of President Trump’s systematic crackdown on both legal and illegal immigration.”

The U.S. Citizenship Act, which Mr. Biden sent to Capitol Hill on Inauguration Day, offers an eight-year road map to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants in the United States without legal status.

If approved, it would prioritize three categories of people to immediately receive green cards: farm workers, those with temporary protected status and beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the U.S. as children.

To qualify, immigrants must have entered the U.S. no later than Jan. 1, with some exceptions.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican, reportedly sought assurances that the Senate will retain the filibuster.

Another Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas tweeted earlier before Biden was sworn in that the new president was “wasting no time trying to enact his radical immigration agenda.”

Cotton called the bill “total amnesty” with “no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement.”

Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who was involved in bipartisan immigration reform talks in 2013 before ultimately abandoning the effort, called Mr. Biden’s bill a “non-starter” in a statement this week.

Republican Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said he had “reached out to half a dozen Republicans on immigration and they’ve been open to the conversation.”

Democrats could have more success with narrower immigration measures tied to must-pass spending bills or pandemic relief packages than trying to attract Republican support for a broad bill, said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigrant America’s Voice.

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