GENERAL SANTOS CITY – The communist-led New People’s Army claimed it is holding an army soldier in custody after he was ‘arrested” in Tboli, South Cotabato almost two months ago.
Alejandro Magiting, spokesman of the NPA-Far South Mindanao Region Sub-Regional Operational Command, said Pfc Khen R. Subere was arrested on April 12 while “conducting civic military operations within (our) guerrilla zone.”
The NPA made the announcement only on Tuesday, June 2.
Subere is a member of the 27th Infantry Battalion which headquarters is located in Tupi, South Cotabato.
Lt. Col. Ronald Alcudia, commanding officer of the 27th Infantry Battalion, however declared Subere an AWOL (absent without official leave) when they lost contact with the Army man on April 13, the day after he was abducted by the rebels.
“Subere was dropped from the roster of troops effective 23,” Alcudia said in a statement.
The Army man reportedly expressed “interest to discontinue his military service” even before he went missing, according to the Army official.
But Alcudia said they will exert efforts to work with law enforcement authorities and Subere’s family to locate the missing soldier.
He said Subere will be investigated for his ‘unauthorized’ disappearance.
The NPAs are demanding a suspension of military operations in South Cotabato to facilitate the release of Subere who they said has not committed “crimes against the people.”
“The Mt. Daguma SROC assures the family and loved ones of POW Subere that he is being accorded with his right to due process and humane treatment while in detention in keeping with the CPP – NPA’s legacy in abiding by international humanitarian laws,” the NPA further said.
Subere’s abduction is the first case of the NPAs in the region taking a ‘prisoner of war’ (POW) since 2001.
The NPA rebels under the Valentin Palamine Command seized Rosete and the three alleged military assets — Herminia Sorongon, Wifredo Maldecir and Pepito Simbulan — on September 4, 2001, in barangay Datal Blao in Columbio , Sultan Kudarat.
The rebels later executed the four captives after the government refused to negotiate with the NPAs.
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Local tuna catch in the first 4 months this year is down by 13 percent although total volume was slightly up due to an increase in frozen tuna imports.
Fresh fish landings at the General Santos City Fish Port dropped 25,849.90 metric tons from January to April this year – down from the 29,702.77 MT figure over the same period in 2014.
At least 90 percent of total fish landings here are tuna and tuna-like species.
The biggest drop in landing was in Market 3 where purse seine operators unload their fresh catch.
Market 3 landing figure was down 3,337.84 MT at 8,296.10 MT or a 29 percent drop in production over the same period.
Yellowfin tuna landings were likewise down 27 percent at 2,444.78 MT from 3,367 MT last year.
At the Market 2 building, fish landing area for municipal fishermen and small purse seiners operators, was however up by 3 percent – from 14,701.84 tons in 2014 to 15,109.03 tons.
On the other hand, frozen tuna imports posted a dramatic 7,790.78 metric ton increase with a total of 45,353.13 metric tons.
The frozen tuna landing made up for 64 percent of the 71,203.03 MT total landings for January to April.
Frozen tuna landings for the first 4 months last year was 37,562.35 metric tons. Last year’s frozen tuna imports was just 54 percent of the total fish landings in the city.
Last year, General Santos City fish port posted total landings of 193,867 metric tons, a 12-year record since fish port authorities began monitoring local tuna landings.
General Santos Fish Port Complex manager Custodio Balaoing Jr blamed prolonged dry spell for the decline in tuna catch this year.
But local fishermen here said Indonesia’s renewed crackdown on illegal fishing has affected local tuna landings.
On May 20, 11 Filipino fishing boats were blown up by Indonesian authorities, together with 30 other foreign fishing vessels that were caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.
Most of the Filipino fishing vessels were single-engine outrigger boats engaged in handline tuna fishing.
In February, the Indonesian consular office in Davao City reportedly served notice to the local fishing federation here that they are on the lookout of Indonesian-flagged vessels to verify reports their catches were being unloaded in General Santos.
Indonesian authorities also reportedly used a report from AsianCorrespondent to support it campaign against Filipino illegal fishers.
Only last week, 17 Filipino fishermen were repatriated after spending 2 years in Indonesian prisons.
In February, 43 Filipino fishermen were also sent back home after 6 months in jail for also fishing illegally in Indonesia.
More than 150 Filipino fishermen are reportedly still languishing in Indonesian jails for illegal fishing.
The local fishing industry here has refused to comment on the reports that Filipino fishermen continue to operate in Indonesia illegally.
Several big fishing companies in General Santos have invested in manufacturing and processing plants in Indonesia to gain access to the latter’s fishing grounds.
An industry source who declined to be identified however said they have acceded to the Indonesian policies in vessel manning and flagging.
Filipino-owned fishing vessels issued with license to operate in Indonesian have flown flags of their host country.
They are also now majority manned by Indonesian crew and are registered as Indonesian fishing companies.
Days after a New York-based human rights group issued a call for the Philippine government to investigate him, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte dared everyone to directly file criminal cases against him in court.
The catch, however, is: wait till he gets the chance to cross-examine his accusers.
Duterte has been linked to a clandestine assassination squad that has been targeting criminals and known drug pushers in Davao City.
“I will cross examine. Each and every case of 1,000 deaths. I will let you shit in your pants. You want to experience it. Come to Davao and take hold of shabu (methamphetamine). I will execute you in front of city hall,” said the colorful mayor who has been described by Time magazine as ‘The Punisher’.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) however said, ““Duterte’s public support for the extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals should prompt a long overdue investigation into Duterte’s possible role in those deaths.”
“Duterte has a long history of inflammatory public statements that would seem to encourage the extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals,” HRW added in a press statement.
HRW claimed more than 1,000 people had been executed in Davao City since the late 1990s.
“The Philippine government should take a zero-tolerance approach to any public official who publicly endorses extrajudicial killings as an acceptable means of crime control,” said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Duterte, a former city prosecutor, has been mayor of the Philippine southern city for more than 20 years.
The controversial Philippine mayor has been making inroads in Philippine national politics after he crashed into the list of probable presidential candidates next year.
He is advocating federalism in his ‘listening tour’ that has brought him to several key cities in the country including a quick visit to the large community of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong.
He is running third in at least 2 major polling firms making surveys on probable presidential candidates.
His supporters have been pushing Duterte to announce his presidential bid but the mayor has been playing coy.
The Davao City mayor once said he will rebel against his own government if elected president.
“I will declare a revolutionary government,” he previously declared.
On Sunday during his regular TV program, he said he will turn Manila Bay into a dumping ground of executed criminals and thugs.
“I don’t want to be president. I don’t want to kill people. So don’t elect me as president,” Duterte added.
Despite his links to extrajudicial killings that have already spread in major cities and urban centers in the country, Duterte still enjoys popular support of Davao residents and is believed to corner the bulk of Mindanao votes should he run for president.
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – In a place wretched in poverty, surviving the daily grind is already a struggle for a member of the Blaan tribe, one of the handful of indigenous tribes in Sarangani.
Along with the Tboli and the Tagakaolo, the Blaans have lived in this this province for as long as time can remember.
The Blaans used to lord it over the plains and valleys of Koronadal and Allah Valleys until the settlement program of the Commonwealth government of President Manuel L. Quezon pushed them further into the uplands.
(Sarangani then was part of the undivided Cotabato Empire until it became part of South Cotabato. In 1992, Sarangani was carved out of South Cotabato as a new province)
The Blaans were eventually geographically separated from their close tribal neighbors, the Tboli. They are mostly concentrated in Sarangani and Davao Occidental and Davao del Sur.
According to scholarly researches, the word Blaan, which was coined from bla and an, means counterpart or pair and suffix of an expresses ownership or possession. Its other counterpart was to bali (now Tboli), meaning people of the other side.
Thus, the historical closeness of the Blaans and the Tbolis.
There are very sparse seminal accounts of the Blaan as a tribe although its traditional weaving (mabal tabih) is among the intricate and colorful in Mindanao – some say even better than the more popular tinalaks of the Tbolis.
They are historically nomadic which explains the lack of literature and history of their tribe.
Story of two
It is their lost history and vanishing culture and tradition as a tribe that brought Annalie Edday and Monique Kawari together.
They are in their early 30s, both are still single but not for long.
They are among the younger generation of their tribe that were able to go and finish college, albeit in different circumstances.
Annalie worked her way into an academic scholarship using her intelligence. She took up Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education.
Monique availed of scholarship given to lumads and finished her Business Administration as an accountancy major.
Both graduated college at the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.
They were already making headways into their respective careers when they were introduced to each other by a common friend, Arjho Cariño-Turner, who is now living with her American husband in Georgia, USA.
Arjho is also a Blaan and was Annalie’s co-worker at the provincial government.
By then Monique already had a flourishing beauty parlor while Annalie was working as program director of the Quality Education for Sarangani Today (QUEST) program of former Gov. Miguel Rene Dominguez.
“My first work in the government is serving as Project Development Officer in the Indigenous Peoples Development Program of Sarangani in 2006,” she recalled.
Annalie was then 21.
The following year, she was tasked to head the Galing Pook-awardee QUEST program at the age of 22.
Today, she prides herself for having been part of QUEST which helped built and opened of more than 600 new classrooms in the province over 9-year consecutive term of Dominguez.
Annie’s stint with the local government of the province also opened her up to numerous opportunities.
In 2011, she was among the Filipinos fellows to the Asia 21 Young Leaders Initiative.
“I was (also) chosen to be part of the Philippine Youth Leadership Program in 2009 and the Asia Pacific Leadership Program in 2013,” she added.
The Asia Pacific Leadership Program a fellowship grant by the East-West Center brought her to Washington, DC for where she stayed for over a year.
Annalie said she could have explored an opportunity to work for a United Nations program for indigenous people but she chose to return to her village.
“I always want to see successes in a micro level. QUEST had taught me to focus and to work directly with my communities because results will be transformative and will provide long-term gains. Above all, I always had that energy boost and deep sense of fulfillment once I am deeply involved not only in planning but of making things happen,” she explained of her decision.
Annalie added, “I find my deeper value of being with my community than of anywhere else.”
Eloquent and intelligent despite her diminutive 5’0” height, Annalie is nearing the libun funday stature, a status granted to Blaan women who are sought for their sage and intelligence.
Many viewed here aggressive development work in the community as an asset.
Annalie, who is the youngest among the Edday siblings, has been goaded to run for town councilor.
But Annalie said joining politics is farthest from her mind.
“I am contented with helping the tribe restore their pride. To build the Blaan People’s Academy,” she said.
“It,” she explains, “aims to educate and empower the younger Blaans while strengthening their cultural identity.”
It is a passion shared by Monique Kawari, 31.
Monique knows how it is to be discriminated as a lumad (tribe).
“Kasi nuong nag-aral ako ng college grabe ang discrimination sa amin mga tribu,” she recalls.(The discrimination was worse when a I was studying in college)
She vowed to finish her school to prove that they are entitled to the opportunity of finding a better place in society.
But she didn’t finish her college until 2010, when she was already 26.
Monique and her other siblings in the brood of 12 had to quit school after her mother died that zapped his father’s buy and sell business.
Determined after a year of foregoing college, Monique applied as a working student at the Notre Dame of Dadiangas University.
“Science lab. Computer lab,” she said of her time as working student.
Another challenge befell her. She developed a cyst in her lungs and had to be operated on. She again quit college for a year and a half.
When she finally graduated in 2010, she landed a job in Manila as member of the accounting staff of a TUBU Foods Corporation.
Her sister Saturnina however told her that an opening for a job in Australia is being offered if Monique is interested.
It took a while before she accepted the offer. Unknown to her, the job would take her farther to Solomon Islands, in the world class Tavinapupu Island Resort where Princess Kate and Prince William used to go on vacation.
“Hindi ko nga alam na may bansa pala na ganun. Basta tinanggap ko ang work na hindi ho alam kung ano ba ang magiging buhay kodun,” she now reminisces.(I didn’t know a country like that existed. I accepted the job not knowing what awaits me there)
She did not regret it.
“Simula noon naging maganda naman ang takbo ng buhay dahil sa pagtiyaga,” Monique added of her stint.(Since then, my life turned for the better because of my patience)
She stayed with her job for 2 years and invested her savings to put up a beauty shop.
“Yan na ang (It is now) Orchid Infinity Salon and Fashion,” Monique said.
The bond that put them together
It is in the salon where she met Annalie, who had her hair fixed for the latter’s trip to the US.
Before the two parted, they agreed they agreed to put up a wedding gown boutique that fuses and adds a touch of their tribe’s elaborate and intricate weaves.
Annalie returned in 2013. Last year, they put their dreams of a partnership into a reality.
The shop is now called International Touch.
Not only was Monique’s life changed with her decision.
She is soon marrying one of the owners of the resort, her boss, who became her boyfriend.
She and John are getting married in October. It will be a dream beach resort wedding, according to Monique who just arrived from a pre-nuptial photo session in Coron, Palawan.
Annalie is not getting herself left out. She made a promise to herself to marry when she reaches 30. Her boyfriend, a mechanical engineer from Batangas probably is excited.
While Annalie is deep into her development work and giving back her time to her tribe, Monique is a patron of arts and works of her fellow Blaan.
Last year, Monique bought a pair of dress – worth P15,000. Not much for a woman who will soon wed the highest paid lawyer in Solomon Islands and who is the major controlling partner of a top law firm in the island.
Annalie turns emotional when fellow members of the tribe are no longer ashamed wearing their hearts on their chests.
The dresses that symbolize their ingenuity and creativity have become emblems of their honor and pride.
Whenever one is asked what is there that General Santos City has to offer for travelers seeking adventure, the first to instinctively come to the mind is the fishport.
After all, this city did not get its moniker as the Tuna Capital of the country for nothing.
Largely located in a humid plain that is exacerbated by the heavy hot sea breeze, the first thing that comes to the mind of a visitor is to hie off to faraway beaches or mountain resorts.
Or beating the afternoon heat with a visit to the mall.
But are there no other places to cool off without going out of the city?
Go look for mountaineers and trail seekers and they will tell you that in less than an hour you can cool off you heels and get some chills without somebody ripping off your pockets and wallets.
Up Sanchez Peak or Leyson Hill Park, one can enjoy afternoon breezes like they should be and have a panoramic view of the city’s skyline when dusk envelopes the horizon and the city lights begin to flicker.
Group junkies and outdoor geeks can camp overnight where the temperature drops to 12-19 degrees Celsius.
If one is a professional photographer, these twin sites are excellent for pre-nuptial and concept photo sessions. On a clear night, one can shoot the Milky Way using long exposures. Be sure to bring a tripod though. And always be ready to protect your equipment in case it rains.
Best time to be at the top of these hills is between 4pm and 7am when you can shoot the photographers’ golden and blue hour delights.
And the thrill will not cost one over P300 per head (to include food and other stuff).
Sanchez Peak is said to be the highest elevation in General Santos City rising up 800 meters above sea level (asl). It can be reached through two points by trail – through Balakayo in Conel or Balsinang in Olympog – or by utility motorcycle that reaches the top.
At the apex is a little house owned by Jun and Mising Sanchez who will gladly cook a free-range ‘native’ chicken for P250 and collect P20 for entrance and camping fee.
As there are not cottages to be billeted, an outdoor tent is a must for adventurers who wish to spend and enjoy the night.
Leyson Hill Park
Some 4 kilometers away atop Nopol Hills is Leyson Hill Park.
It is nearer the city and is slightly lower in elevation at 501 meters. But it offers a clearer and closer view of the city.
It is more accessible and can be negotiated by 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Unlike Sanchez Peak, Leyson Hill offers more than just camping at the top. With some forest covers still untouched, games abound the ravines with monkeys, wild boars and wild dogs hiding deep but away from sight of humans.
At dusk, however, huge fruit bats begin to appear in the skies for their nocturnal hunting.
Acoustic performances to cap a ‘KatKat Nopol’ weekend adventure are now occasionally being organized by Martin Leyson who manages the family-owned hill park.
Leyson Hill can be reached via Mabuhay Road. One can securely park his or her vehicle at the foot of the hill and trek or ride up the site. The distance from the foot to the peak can be negotiated in one and a half hour at a pace urban trekkers are likely to adopt.
Otherwise one can ride a motorcycle or, on occasions, an off-road jeep or 4-wheel drive pickups.
Both however charge P200 round trip per head.
Camping fee is P100 per head.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera said these accessible but largely untapped attractions can help the city find its own niche in the tourism market.
He has ordered the city environment and natural resources office to protect and preserve the areas.
“Not all urbanized cities have these kinds of attractions,” he said.
How to get there
There is no established protocol going to Sanchez Peak but the city government is encouraging trekkers to coordinate with local barangay where the adventurers commence their trail.
The city government recently held a meeting to address concerns over litters and trashes left behind by mountaineers and trekkers.
To get to Leyson Hill Park, parties can call 09088103747 for bookings or through Facebook Account @Katkat Nopol. They also accept reservation at JGG ticketing office corner Champaca and Kadulasan Sts.
Triathlete Ingemar Macarine triumphantly emerged from the waters some 5 hours and 55 minutes after he swam the shark-infested Sarangani Bay to become the first man ever to cross the 12.95 kilometer channel – solo.
It was also the first ever solo swim attempt ever at the treacherous Sarangani Bay.
The exploit further added to the long list of Macarine’s conquests which included crossing Alcatraz Island Penitentiary to San Francisco City, California, USA and a failed attempt as the first Filipino to ever to cross Visayas and Mindanao by swimming unaided.
Although the bay has been conquered before during the annual marathon Swim Across the Bay event of the Sarangani festival, this came through a 5-man team open relay and in a competition participated by accomplished amateur swimmers.
Macarine’s time was more than one hour off the course record but no less extraordinary.
He took off in Tinoto in Maasim and swam across the bay to supposedly reach Tango in Glan. But strong and shifting currents drifted him off course.
“There were shifts in current and they were strong. He ended up in Sumbang Point, Taluya village instead of Tango, Glan,” said Michelle Solon, wife of Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon.
He was watched by several spectators who rode motorized bancas.
“Conquered Sarangani Bay by swimming 12.95KM in 5Hours and 55minutes,” Macarine said in his Facebook account.
Macarine’s long-busting feat served as opening spectacle for the 2015 Sarangani Bay Festival which now enters in 9th year.
He thanked Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon for sponsoring his exploit.
“(The) swim is to promote tourism in Sarangani Bay and for clean seas and beaches,” Macarine added.
Macarine is a lawyer and works as election officer of Tubigon in Bohol.
(Photos below were from the 2014 Sarangani Bay Festival taken by Edwin Espejo)
The Sarangani Bay Festival is billed as Mindanao’s biggest beach party and has attracted thousands of beach and party goers.
Last year, more than 20,000 visitors partied from dusk to dawn that regularly features popular performing bands and artists from Manila.
The main festival events are held in Gumasa, Glan where some of the finest white sand beaches are often compared to the world-famous Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan.
The festival, now popularly known as Sarbay Fest, is happening this weekend May 15-16.
The local government of Sarangani is pushing for a clean Sarbay Fest this year after beach goers left behind heaps of garbage in 2014.
GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Rising boxing star Harmonito dela Torre was a late scratch after he injured his right shoulder and instead will be replaced by Adam Diu Abdulhamid in the main event of Sanman’s initial offering for the year.
Dela Torre pointed to his right shoulder when asked by Sanman co-promoter Dexter Tan during lunch inside SM Mall after the weigh in Friday morning.
He was supposed to meet JR Mendoza in the main event of Saturday’s boxing card at the Oval Plaza Gym here.
Dela Torre totes a perfect record of 14-0 with 9 of those victories coming via stoppage.
JC Manangquil, the other half of the Sanman Promotion duo, apologized for the dela Torre’s injury.
Sanman Promotion however said the Abdulhamid-Mendoza promises to be an exciting fight after the two figured in a close fight which Mendoza won over 8 rounds.
The night’s other featured bout is the pro debut of New Zealander Benne Jade Slight who goes up against Michael Manambay. The bout is slated for 4 rounds and at 140 pounds.
Slight is the lone foreigner in Sanman’s growing stable of 15 professional fighters.
Other Sanman boxers seeing action are Ronnie Tanallon, Romero Duno, Markquil Salvana, Reymart Gaballo and Mike Angelo Plania who will go against separate opponents.
Sanman’s Tan was earlier voted Promoter of the Year by the World Boxing Federation (WBF).
Sanman was among the busiest promotional outfits in Mindanao in 2014 with 6 boxing cards tucked under its name last year.
Among its notable boxer is Randy Petalcorin who captured the World Boxing Association interim flyweight title via a 7th round technical knockout victory over Panamanian Walter Tello in Shanghai last year.
Tomorrow’s bout will be held at the Oval Plaza Gym and preliminary bouts featuring the finest amateurs in the city will start at 5:30 pm. Admission is free.
Recent setbacks and losses in the battlefield did not deter communist rebels in Far South Mindanao Region (FSMR) from gathering and celebrating the 46th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Friday, December 26.
Inviting a handful of media from Davao and General Santos, the spokesman of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Far South Mindanao Region said despite the loss of several New People’s Army rebels, they were still able to increase both the number of their armed regulars and high powered firearms.
“We have a netted a 20 percent increase of more than 70 rifles in close to 80 tactical offensives and other non-military operations in 2014,” said NDF-Far South spokesperson Ka Efren from the sidelines.
Ka Efren said they were able to seized 100 high powered firearms in those tactical offensives and other rebel acitivities.
But he admitted losing 23 rifles in 2 separate occasions where 8 NPA regulars were slain.
Among their setbacks was the Sarangani encounter that led to the death of young Rendell Ryan Cagula, former chairman of the student council of the Mindanao campus of the University of the Philippines who joined the NPA in December last year.
Ka Pitpit, commanding officer of the NPA company that showed up during the rebel celebration of the CPP anniversary, said their comrades were about to move out from their position but were raided by a platoon of Philippine Army soldiers shortly after midnight on November 5 in Maasim, Sarangani.
Three NPA rebels, including Cagula, were slain in the military raid in which the Philippine Army was able to seized 9 rifles.
One other NPA member was also killed in another encounter involving a separate NPA platoon a day earlier.
The other major rebel setback was the death of four NPAs, including top ranking rebel leader Mark Bryle Garduque, in October in Malita, Davao Occidental.
Garduque headed one of the NPA platoons under the Front 75 guerrilla unit of the Far South Mindanao Regional Command.
A rebel source confirmed the death of one of their top ranking commanders, including the loss of several firearms.
Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesman of the Army’s 10th division, said 11 high-powered rifles were seized from the rebels during the October encounters in Malita.
Ka Eferen said the death of Cagula, alias Ka Lucas, has inspired many young and new recruits to join the NPA.
“That is the positive side of his (Cagula’s) death,” Ka Efren narrates.
The rebel spokesman said the company of NPA regulars present during the CPP founding anniversary was a newly-formed unit.
The 34-year old Ka Pitpit, who is in his 12th year as an NPA combatant, said most of the new recruits have not been tested in actual combat but are determined and already battle ready.
Ka Efren declined to disclose the armed strength of the NPA under the FSMR committee of the NPA.
Another rebel source however said a bigger formation of NPA regulars also gathered in another guerrilla front in the region while a modest rebel assembly was likewise held in Maasim where they suffered their recent loss.
Ka Efren, meanwhile, said they are willing to resume the stalled peace talks with the Aquino administration provided the Philippine government shows sincerity in resolving the four-decade old armed conflict.