Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating 50 golden years of BenCab’s visual arts

Note:  This photo-essay was in the 'living' section of the 26 Jun - 02 Jul 2015 issue of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA. This author/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent of the paper.

National Artist BenCab in front of Soldiers (Heroes of the Past IV),
his work in the Lopez Museum and Library collection.

It’s been fifty years since National Artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera, the popular BenCab, had his first exhibit in a three-man show at the Art Association of the Philippines Gallery. The next year, 1966, he was 24, and he had his first solo exhibition of oil and acrylic paintings at the Indigo Gallery in Mabini.  In celebration of his half-a-century of art practice, these three exhibitions are ongoing for public appreciation of his achievements: Frames of Reference at the Lopez Museum and Library (until 04 July 2015), BenCab in Multiples: A Print Retrospective at the CCP Main Gallery (until 16 August 2015), and Ode to the Flag at the BenCab Museum in Benguet (until 02 August 2015).

The Philippine Ballet Theatre (PBT) has staged 'Sabel: Love and Passion', a musical inspired by BenCab's Sabel, his most iconic subject, with music by Louie Ocampo, and book and lyrics by Freddie Santos. She also inspired Agnes Locsin, back in 2010, to create the dance 'Sayaw, Sabel.'

Sabel, 2005
The Sabel theme can be seen in various transformations in the artist's paintings and prints. She dates back to 1964 when she was a bag lady, a scavenger that he observed and sketched from the window of their family house in Bambang in Tondo. To BenCab, according to the BenCab Museum webpage, Sabel is "a symbol of dislocation, despair and isolation - the personification of human dignity threatened by circumstances."

Sabel is not the only element of BenCab's personal interest that permeates his art.

The Frames of Reference exhibits enable us to look at BenCab as artist (photographer, painter, printmaker), lover, family man, bibliophile and collector of historical and cultural artifacts. 

Glimpses into BenCab’s life can be gleaned from about 15 of his art-books that comprise compilations of collages (clippings and cut-outs), drawings and sketches interspersed with his handwritten notes. These prominently feature his love for nostalgia, handmade paper and bookbinding. His small scrapbooks look like diaries containing his aesthetics, letters, mementos and other keepsakes.  

Rizal’s and Leonor’s Letters. 1998. 
Lopez Museum & Library Collection.
His other hand-crafted books show early studies and iterations of some of his most important series of works: Sabel, Larawan and Japanese Women (ukiyo-e). Also on exhibit are his early folios of prints he was a part of, along with other Filipino and foreign artists.

We had an amusing time poring through BenCab’s notes, scribbles, and studies, which he did in a playful or studied manner, by using a magnifying glass or viewing the enlarged screen images of pages of his digitized art-books: Embossed Prints, Book of Collages, Small Prints, and An English Scrapbook. 

Among the Collages was one of Ninoy Aquino with the Philippine flag and the date Agosto 21, probably his memento of his participation in the EDSA  I revolt. We chuckled when we saw a picture of Stalin among those he clipped from newspapers in his English Scrapbook.

Postcard to Annie Sarthou, 08 Feb 1988.
We were delighted listening to him in his two postcards dated February 1988, one with a sketch of himself in a crowd in freezing London, and the other, carrying in the cold a painting. He was speaking of his anxieties in setting up his art exhibition (carpentry work, framing, invitations, guests list, etc) at the October Gallery in London. And here he is being very  fatherly: “The kids are doing fine. Mayumi might do a front cover for Elle Mag. I have to think of what to give to Jasmine for her birthday. She is learning piano. Elisar and I share the evening usually. After cooking meals for him, I watch TV. But usually his choices. Also got hook on his comic books.” 

That exhibit was of his Recent Works that included ‘America Is in the Heart,’ a large painting in oil, “inspired by Carlos Bulosan’s autobiography which describes the racial discrimination against Filipinos in the United States.”

1081. Print, 1975.
He was actually returning to London in 1988.  He had been back for good in 1986 and chose to stay in Baguio.  He arrived in time for the EDSA Revolution, which he chronicled with a painting of two women standing in a rain of yellow confetti.

BenCab’s large Soldiers (Heroes of the Past IV) painting in the Lopez Museum and Library Collection,  which he did in 1998 with charcoal, chalk, acrylic on hand-made paper, reminded us that we have seen the two historical pictures, which  inspired the work.

The biography cited earlier tells us that “a turning point in his work is his discovery of rare Filipiniana prints and photographs in London’s antiquarian bookshops.” Filipiniana materials such as photographs, maps, prints, and illustrated travelogues inspired him to start Larawan series comprising portraits of the Filipina in 19th century attire, nostalgic images of colonial Philippines, Filipino migrants, expatriates and exiles, that explored “themes of cultural alienation and spiritual distancing.”

Painting detail echoing the From Hillsman to Sergeant theme
of a 1978 print.
His other collections comprise Cordillera artifacts like the bulol (representation of the rice god) and tabayag (carved lime container for the areca leaf chewable), among others.  These are housed at the BenCab Museum in Tuba, Benguet, which can easily be reached from Baguio City. 

The Cordillera people and its culture have also been subjects of the national artist’s paintings and prints. He has also documented the Cordillera insurgency. 

In his Ode to the Flag exhibit at the BenCab Museum, the national artist portrays the "flag -- draped, wrapped and displayed with the likes of Andres Bonifacio ... [and] on anonymous human forms that are not seen, suggesting the countless, nameless Filipinos who fought for freedom." It also reminds "that the fight is not yet over, and suggests that our flag, as yet, does not fly in skies that are truly free." This affirms why he has been called an "artist-activist."

Pictures of BenCab’s paintings in the Ode to the Flag exhibit.  (From the BenCab Museum Facebook album).

In 2006, he was conferred the Order of National Artist for Visual Arts by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The citations he received when he was conferred the degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, by his alma mater, the University of the Philippines, in 2009, basically sum up his achievements in 50 golden years: "his incisive contribution to Philippine Art, lavishly expressed in a visual granary of Filipino imagery, gleaned from the country's inspiring historic past to the penetrating banalities of contemporary art ... and for his pioneering work to uphold the cultural being of the country's indigenous peoples and for spearheading initiatives to benefit the cultural, economic and social life of the underprivileged."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Propaganda in quest of Philippine nationhood

Note: This photo-essay is in the 'living' section of the 19-25 June 2015 issue of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America published in San Francisco, CA. This author/blogger is the Manila-based special news/photo correspondent of the paper.

Propaganda exhibiit at the Lopez Museum & Library: 
The Sol issued in Madrid on 31 Decenver 1892.

As prelude to our personal observance of the 117th anniversary of Philippine Independence, we pored through the Propaganda exhibit at the Lopez Museum & Library, and listened to historian Ambeth Ocampo’s discourse on “(A)lamat at (H)istorya sa Paghahanap ng Kalinangan ng Sinaunang Filipino” during the inaugural Lekturang Norberto L. Romualdez  of the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) at the Court of Appeals auditorium in Manila.

“Propaganda” immediately brings to mind patriotic Filipino expatriates in Spain who fought for reforms in their native land through their fortnightly newspaper La Solidaridad (Sol), which they published in Barcelona and Madrid for almost seven years, from February 1889 to November 1895.

Picture from the Biblioteca Nacional de Espana.
Juan Luna painting can be seen at the Lopez
Musuem & Library.
The reform and propaganda movement of Graciano Lopez Jaena, Marcelo del Pilar, Jose Rizal and Mariano Ponce, among many others, however did not succeed in emancipating “the nation of eight million souls [from] the exclusive preserve of theocracy and traditionalism,”  borrowing from the first Sol editorial.  None of these were realized:  secularization of parishes; freedom of speech; equality of indios, Filipinos and Spaniards before the law; and representation in the Spanish Cortes, among their other aspirations.

Juan Luna expressed the vision of the reformist ilustrados in his España y Filipinas, which he painted in 1886. The Lopez Museum & Library has a copy of this painting that shows a woman in red classical dress (Spain) holding a lady in white baro and blue saya (Philippines) by the waist,  and leading her toward a bright horizon as they ascend a staircase strewn with flowers.

This painting was adapted by the Spanish colonial government as the cover illustration of the catalog of the Exposicion Regional Filipina held in Manila in 1895 to showcase the social, cultural and economic activities in the colony. Propaganda indeed for Spain guiding her colony to a bright future!

The revolutionary movement that came also had its own propaganda press to spread cause for independence from Spain to the Filipino masses. The Katipunan propagated its ideals through the writings of Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in the Kalayaan, their newspaper in Tagalog. Thus, the Katipunan gained many adherents in the provinces in Southern and Central Luzon.

After Kawit 1898, the new republic also needed propaganda media to get the respect and recognition of foreign powers and to announce the nation’s aspirations. Its official organ (1898-1899) published the decrees of the government and patriotic literature. The most famous propaganda paper was edited and privately owned by Gen. Antonio Luna: La Independencia. When the Aguinaldo was on the run from the Americans, so was La Independencia with its few fonts of type, and its old Franklin handpress, packed into a carabao cart.

Propaganda exhibit:at the Lopez 
Museum &; Library:
La Independencia of 25 December 1898.
Back in the U.S., the propaganda mills worked to gain public support for their troops at war with Spain in Cuba and in the Philippines.  Harper’s Weekly provided pictorial accounts of how their volunteer troops engaged the insurrecto Filipino armies. [Thomas Alva] Edison’s Manufacturing Company churned out movies at location sites in the Orange Mountains in New Jersey purportedly to re-enact American victories in the Philippine battlefields.  In May 1899, Edison produced U.S. Troops and Red Cross in the Trenches Before Caloocan; Advance of Kansas Volunteers at Caloocan; Colonel Funston Swimming the Bagbag River; Filipinos Retreat from Trenches; and Capture of Trenches at Candaba (‘full of exciting action and excellent detail,’ according to the Edison catalog). Afro-Americans in what seem to be long Johns depicted Filipino rebels.

With the onset of peacetime in the American colony, the Filipinos began exercising their new freedoms, particularly freedom of speech.  The famous “Aves de Rapina” libel case of 1908 was brought about by attacks on the Secretary of the Interior Dean Worcester in the nationalist paper El Renacimiento.

The publicity campaigns of the Philippine Press Bureau in Washington greatly helped the Philippine missions for independence to the United States from 1919 to 1924. The campaigns were intended to develop the interest of the U.S. Congress and the American public in the Philippine issue.  A privately owned monthly magazine, The Philippine Republic (1924-1928) publicized the independence agenda and played up achievements of Filipinos here and those in the United States to highlight their capabilities for self-government.

Picture from the Lopez Musuem & Library.
A poster of great interest at the Lopez Museum is “The Fighting Filipino” that depicts a wounded Filipino about to hurl a grenade while he holds aloft with his left hand a tattered Philippine flagIn 1944, he Commonwealth-in-exile commissioned artist Manuel Rey Isip, who settled in the U.S. in 1925, to make this propaganda poster. According to historical accounts, fifteen thousand copies were smuggled into the Philippines, which provided a boost to the fighting spirit of the guerrillas.

Japanese counter-propaganda in various media vis-a-vis Isip’s Fighting Filipino are on exhibit at the Lopez Museum. Among these are posters hyping on the Asian co-prosperity sphere, movie posters glamorizing Philippine-Japanese partnerships, and cartoons depicting happy relationships between the masses and Japanese soldiers.

Up on the walls too are the editorial cartoons of Gatbonton in the pre-martial law Manila Chronicle. These are drawn commentaries relating usually to current events or personalities.  Gat’s cartoons on our election system and Filipino politicians remain relevant today as ever.

Woven into the Propaganda exhibit are artworks in the museum collection done by our famous 18th century masters, national artists, and contemporary artists.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines propaganda as “ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; [and] also a public action having such an effect.”

Today, we are confronted with propaganda, whether we discern them as such or not, in the social media we seem to have become addicted to.  These may be our own or those of friends or friends of friends shared through various media streams.

Propaganda exhibit at the Lopez Museum & Library: Recreation of installation art
"Pasyon at Rebolusyon", mixed media by the late Santiago Bose.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

1734 Philippine map by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, SJ

Note: This is an expanded version of my front page story in the 12-18 Jun 2015 issue of FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in America' where we are the Manila-based Special News/Photo Correspondent. 

The map was downloaded from the collection of the US Library of Congress [Catalogue No. 2013585226; and Digital ID g8060 ct003137].  The detailed pictures were cropped from this same map.

This copy was downloaded from the U.S. Library of Congress map collection.

The map of the Philippine Islands (“Carta Hydrographica y Chorographica de las Islas Filipinas”)  published by Jesuit Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde in Manila in 1734, is coming home in July. This was reportedly the assurance of Mel Velasco Velarde, chief executive officer of Now Corporation, who acquired the almost 300-year-old map from an auction at Sotheby’s in London on 17 November 2014 with his winning bid of GBP170,500 (USD$266,869.46 or Php12,014,463.09).

Sotheby’s announced that the sale was upon the order of the duke of Northumberland and the trustee of the Northemberland estates. There are still other existing copies: one at the U.S. Library of Congress and another at the Bibliotheque national de France, both of which can be accessed online.

Velarde, according to reports, will donate the antique map to the National Museum on condition that the government would take care of it and allow anyone to see it.  He will also present a certified true copy to President Benigno Aquino III on Philippine Independence Day.

At the lower portion of the map is the notation “Lo esculpio Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay, Indio Tagalo, Manila año 1734,” which refers to the Filipino who did the engraving. Another indio Tagalo name is written below the notations to the map of Manila on the right side: Francisco Suarez, with the note "lo hizo", meaning he made or drew the said map.

The Carta is very relevant today. It graphically affirms the historical fact that Panacot or Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal has always been a part of Philippine territory. Thus, it is a strong rebuttal to the nine-dash-line territorial claims of China in the South China Sea. A copy of this Murillo map may have been included in the Memorial reportedly comprising around 4,000 pages of arguments, documents and maps that the Philippines submitted to the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal on 30 March 2014.

For anyone who would like to look at their provinces around that time, enlarging the U.S. Library of Congress copy would reveal the towns that were already existing at that time.  The boundary between Pangasinan and Zambales was not indicated here, We know however that Zambales extended from Bolinao in the north to Subic in the South during the Spanish colonial times. In this map, Pta. [Puerta?] de Bolinao and Pta. de Agno were marked, and likewise, the barrios/towns of Cabatugan, Balca, Sagayan (which became Sta. Cruz), Tambobo, Bani, Masigloc (Masinloc?), Tugui, Castagan (Caslagan?), Banganalala, Playa Honda o Paynauen (Iba today), Banganbucao, Cabangoan (Cabangan today), and Subic. Panacot is shown off Zambales, opposite the towns of Tugui and Castagan. In modern maps, the shoal is opposite Palauig and Masinloc towns. Obviously, the Murillo map erred in the location of Masigloc/Masinloc.

The Murillo is very detailed map.  There are six pictures on each of the vertical sides. The drawings include scenes from the daily lives of the inhabitants of islands at that time, and small maps of Manila, Zamboanga, port of Cavite and the island of Guam.  

There is also medallion at the bottom left of the map which contains a historical line about the arrival and death of Magellan and the foundation of Manila, enumeration of flora and fauna found here, products from Mindanao like pearls, and, most significant of all, the state of the colony as of 1734 --  one archbishopric, three bishoprics, one chancery, three governments, 21 provinces or jurisdictions, etc., and number of towns and total population of the provinces administered by the various religious orders.

In 1894, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera devoted a book to the Murillo maps, the original of 1734 and its subsequent editions. He lamented the loss of valuable documents such as this in the country due to termites but noted that, thankfully, these can be found in archives or libraries abroad. He called the 1734 Murillo the ‘first map of the Philippines.’ In his lectures on the historical truths and lies in the West Philippine Sea, Justice Antonio T. Carpio called it the “mother of all Philippine maps.”

Monday, June 15, 2015

Propagating 'mestizo' carabaos

Note:  This photo-essay appeared as the 'living' feature of the 12-18 June 2015 issue of  the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA. This blogger/author is its Manila-based Special News/Photo Correspondent.

Haw, haw the karabao, bantuten! - From a popular Filipino folk verse

For fun, the man knelt instead of his carabao during the recent
Kneeling Carabao Festival in Pulilan, Bulacan.
There were at least a hundred carabaos, some from Pampanga and Nueva Ecija, that were brought to Pulilan, Bulacan for the Kneeling Carabao Festival on 14 May 2015, eve of the feast day of San Isidro Labrador, patron saint of farming folks. The gathering place teemed with dark ‘Tagalog’ and ‘Bulgarian’ bodies, the names that the owners called their animals, which had short or long, curved or twisted, horns. 

The native ‘Tagalog’ may be generic to Central Luzon. It is simply ‘nwang’ to us Zambales Ilocanos. The non-native is either pure breed or hybrid, a mestizo born of a native inahin (mother) and a foreign bulugan (bull), both darker and taller than the native. There’s no malicious cultural insinuation here.

The carabao lore we learned from the farmers added significant value to the entertainment from the animals on parade.  Only a few actually knelt along the way, when they paused for a dousing of cold water, or in front of the church.  You could actually count which would kneel because they had pads around the knees.

The native is the typical swamp buffalo, the water buffalo to the first Americans who set foot here. They need water, they are averse to heat, said the farmers, and they may also succumb to heat stroke, hence, the dousing. Probably the rains are most welcome to them when they get yoked for the plowing during the wet season.  In our mind’s eye were our grade school days when we took the school carabao to the river for a good bath. Otherwise, it just wallowed in the muddy pool under the cashew tree in the school garden.

While on his knees, this carabao got doused during the
Kneeling Carabao Festival parade.
The farmers prefer that their male carabaos are castrated. They do not want their bulls getting wild in heat at the sight of an inahin.  If there’s another bull around, they may end up rivals, duelling with their horns.  The farmers described their unorthodox non-surgical method of castration; we are omiting details since they are not for the squeamish to read.

Regarding income from carabaos, a farmer said he gets Php500 for the swift encounter of his bulugan with an inahin. He would get around Php10,000 for the bulo, the young offspring, and around Php50,000 for an eight-year-old.

While looking at the predominantly mestizo horde of carabaos in the Pulilan festival, we remembered the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) in the Science City of Munoz in Nueva Ecija, an agency attached to the Department of Agriculture.  It was established by law in 1992 to answer the need “to improve productivity of the carabaos not only in terms of draft but more importantly for milk and meat to increase income, nutrition, and the general well-being of farmers. “

The mestizo carabaos could be the live products of PCC’s successful implementation of its major services in the national carabao development program, particularly, artificial insemination (AI), bull loan program, frozen buffalo semen distribution, and provision of superior breeding animals.  Alongside are training programs and extension services on feeding and management of dairy buffaloes, milk and meat processing, among others.

To carry out these services, PCC has 13 branches nationwide comprising state universities, and the stock farms and breeding stations in La Carlota (Negros Occidental) and Ubay (Bohol), which the government built in 1902.

A pale-skinned carabao - not the typical dark mestizo,

The farmers we met in Pulilan could have benefited from the artificial insemination performed by trained private village-based AI technicians (VBAITs) or those from local government units, regional field units of the Dept. of Agriculture, and the PCC regional centers.

The PCC info comics ‘Artificial Insemination sa Kalabaw’ informs that while the natural way of propagation is still the best, there are not many bulls to do the job. Hence, it explains the whys and hows for implanting semen from superior bulls like the Murrah buffalo into the inahin cervix.

The importance of AI is emphasized: use of superior male specie for propagation; increase of production of better breeds; prevention of diseases through natural reproduction; avoiding costly maintenance of bulugan; and the semen can be preserved for use for a longer time.

Some of the farmers could also have qualified for the bull loan program if the AI was not available in their areas. 

The PCC info comics ‘Pagpapahiram ng Bulugang Kalabaw’ explains how deserving farmers can join the program.  They get purebred dairy-type Murrah bulls for the natural mating with native or crossbred carabaos. The aim is to procreate animals with improved productivity for milk and meat.

A farmer does not pay for the loaned bull. If he gets a junior bull (2.5 years old and below), the loan is paid once it has produced 25 calves. On the other hand, if it’s a fertility-tested bull (three years old and above), full payment will after producing 50 calves.

A Phil. Carabao Center photo of their mestizo carabaos.

Historical memories tell that, once upon a time, carabaos roamed in the wild, and they were game like the boar, deer and tamaraw for Spanish, American and other foreign hunters. The typical carabao of olden days had very long horns.

The carabao was an unsung hero during the Philippine-American war. Edwin Wildman (1901) wrote that the propaganda war against the Americans could not have been pursued on the run without the reliable carabao.  “When Aguinaldo retreated,” he said, “La Independencia, with its few fonts of type, and its old Franklin handpress, was packed into a carabao cart, and dragged along.”

It was an apolitical animal nonetheless. While it was an insurrecto, according to John Bancroft Devins (1905), it was harnessed by the American military forces to serve them too. After the fall of Aguinaldo in Palanan, the Americans used carabaos in building peace-time Philippines.

Written in carabao Spanish-English, the folk verse “Haw, haw the karabaw, bantuten”may have an amusing historical lore for explanation.

The carabao’s delight for muddy water or the esteros of Old Manila made them smell repulsive (mabantot) to American visitors in the early 1900s. But they were surprised or shocked to find that the animals also were disgusted with them. They thought the animals hated their 'American' smell (Devins, 1905) or 'white man' smell (Campbell Dauncey, 1906).

The official handbook (1903) for the Philippine exposition exhibit noted that "in the more remote towns, [carabaos] sometimes display a violent dislike for white men, occasionally stampeding at the mere smell of one."  Charles Morris (1906) thought so too, that the buffalo  was "prejudiced against white men, the scent of an European traveller being sometimes sufficient to set all the buffaloes in a village on the stampede," clarifying that this applied to "villages rarely visited by the whites."  George Waldo Browne (1900), on the other hand, thought it was "an overmastering fear of foreigners, and the mere sight of a white man [that] has been known to stampede every buffalo in town."

Whether they are still bantuten or not, the mestizo carabao meat today is said to be comparable to beef in its physicochemical, nutritional and palatable characteristics. PCC tells us that meat from properly fed carabaos aged 18 to 24 months is equivalent to beef in tenderness and juiciness. Well, carabao meat is now used in meat products like meat loaf, corned beef and sausages. “Pen, pen, the sarapen!”

Cited references:
  1. Devins, John Bancroft. (1905). An Observer in the Philippines or Life in Our New Possessions.  Boston, [others]: American Tract Society.  Retrieved from;idno=sea185
  2. Dauncey, Campbell.  (1906). An Englishwoman in the Philippines.  London: John Murray. Retrieved from;idno=sea186
  3. Morris, Charles. (1906). Our island empire: a hand-book of Cuba, Porto Rico, Hawaii, and the Philippine Islands.  Philadelphia: Lippincot.  Retrieved from;idno=sea200
  4. Browne, George Waldo. (1900). The pearl of the Orient : the Philippine Islands. Boston: D. Estes and Co.  Retrieved from;idno=sea210

Monday, June 8, 2015

Flores de Mayo with a political twist

Note: This appeared as a short item titled 'Santacruzan makes a political statement' in the 'Filipinos all over the world" section of the 05-11 Jun 2015 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in maintream America.'  The blogger/author is the paper's Manila-based special news/photo correspondent.  This is a slightly different edition,

Human rights advocates from the non-government organization Hustisya set up a different kind of Flores de Mayo at Plaza Miranda in front of the Quiapo Church on 30 May 2015.

The traditional Flores is a month-long veneration of the Virgin Mary with offerings of flowers to her image in the Roman Catholic churches in the country. In this event, the young boys and girls carried the customary bunches of flowers, which they offered instead to political prisoners, the desaparecidos, the victims of the Kentex factory fire, and OFWs in the gallows. There were also the familiar arches adorned with flowers but each carried a streamer with a political statement or slogan.  

The arch with “Iligtas at palayain si Mary Jane Veloso” was carried by her parents Cesar and Celia. Her young children Daniel and Darren, both grade school boys, stood under the arch.  The Velosos said they are in constant touch with Mary Jane by text or call.  They were all in the Indonesian island of Nusakambangan when Indon president Joko Widodo granted Mary Jane temporary reprieve from execution. She was accused of being a drug mule. 

Three young political prisoners are named in two “palayain” streamers: Miradel Torres, four-months pregnant when she was arrested, and Guiller Cadano and Gerald Salonga, both UP Pampanga alumni.  They have been in police custody since last year. According to Cadano's father, who was at the Plaza Miranda event, his son and Salonga were not subjected to physical torture. The young men are charged with illegal possession of firearms. 

The empty baby stroller beside the sagala could have been incidental or an intended metaphor. It was under the arch with the streamer seeking to “Ilitaw ang mga desaparecidos!” 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Home along the West Valley Fault line

Note:  A slightly different version of this photo-essay appeared in the 29 May-04 Jun 2015 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly 'newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America' published in San Francisco, CA. The author/blogger is the Manila-based Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper.

The Philippines appears bounded by principally 
by the Manila Trench and the  Sulu Trench in
the west, and the Philippine Trench in the east. 
The archipelago is traversed by active faults such
as the Valley Fault System (VFS).
Soon after the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology of the Department of Science and Technology (PHIVOLCS-DOST) launched and distributed hard copies of the Valley Fault System (VFS) Atlas to local government officials on 18 May 2015, we went to the institute’s webpage and downloaded the online version.

We wanted to verify what we have known in 1998 – that we were building our house in a housing village in barangay Matandang Balara (now Batasan Hills) near the Marikina Fault, which was how the West Valley Fault (WVF) was called before. Political sensitivity appears to have made the government rename the fault to help dispel scary earthquake thoughts among the people of Marikina City.

Our geologist friend also built their house in the next village on the other side of the fault. He was involved in the geological survey during the development of the housing areas. He said not to be scared because our houses do not sit on top of the fault line. After looking at our area map in the Atlas, we estimated that we actually live just about a street block away from the line.

The Atlas is a handbook of 33 large scale map sheets of varying scales, arranged from north to south, showing in detail the areas traversed by the VFS. For the 22 Metro Manila map sheets, the scale is 1:5,000. For Laguna and Cavite (10 map sheets), it’s 1:10,000, and for the sole Bulacan map sheet, 1:50,000.

The map index shows the areas traversed
by the East and West Valley Faults.The
color-coded boxes indicate magnification
scale of the Atlas map sheets.
The VFS mapping is one of the component activities of the Australian Aid (AusAid) Program-funded Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) Ready Project under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the member agencies of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).  The Atlas can then be used for land-use planning, engineering and construction, scientific research, disaster risk reduction and mitigation programs, and other activities geared towards the promotion of safer and more resilient communities.

PHIVOLCS says that the EVF “can generate an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 that may result to a very destructive ground shaking, with intensity VIII on the PHIVOLCS Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS), in the epicentral area ... [and the WFV] can generate an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 that may result to a very destructive ground shaking, with intensity VIII on the PEIS, in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.”

The PEIS in Roman numerals ranges from I (Scarcely Perceptible) to X (Completely Devastating). V is ‘Strong’ and VIII is ‘Very Destructive’.

PHIVOLCS Director Renato U. Solidum reportedly said that the WFV has moved four times in the past 1,400 years, and on the average, every 400 years, plus or minus 10 to 100 years. The last earthquake from the WFV was in 1658, around 355 years ago.  Earthquakes are not predictable but the possibility of its occurrence should make us adequately prepared for it.

Barangays in Metro Manila transected by the VFS. Cities not transected are also shown.

In a radio interview, Solidum revealed that, in a night time scenario, around 33,500 people will die and around 113,600 will be injured in areas within the vicinity of the WVF when this moves and causes a magnitude 7.2 earthquake. He said that PHIVOLCS and other agencies based their estimates on the population of the said areas, the quality of buildings and houses found near the fault line, and damage percentages in past earthquake records here and abroad. 

Ground rupture resulting from an earthquake may damage buildings and structures built directly above the active fault. PHIVOLCS recommends a minimum distance of at least 5 meters from both sides of the active fault against ground rupture hazard.  This should be a consolation for us who live near the WVF line.

Barangays in Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite that are transacted by the VFS.

PHIVOLCS has been distributing the material titled “How Safe Is My House?” to enable people to evaluate the integrity and vulnerability to strong earthquakes of their 1 to 2-story concrete hollow block (CHB) houses. This “House self-check” is based on a “full-scale shaking table experiment on CHB masonry structures conducted in Japan to two types of CHB houses.” Anyone who wants to evaluate their house can download the material from the PHIVOLCS website.

The self-check comprises twelve questions, each with a set of three possible answers, the best scoring a “1” and the two others a “zero”.

This Atlas map shows the West VFS traversing
areas in Marikina City & Quezon City. The 
author lives in the blue-circled area .
The self-check tells that the earthquake-safe house is one that was built or designed by a licensed civil engineer/architect, built in or after 1992, not damaged or was repaired after a past earthquake or disaster, of regular shape (symmetrical, rectangular, box-type, simple), has not been extended/expanded or a civil engineer/architect supervised the extension/expansion, the external walls are 6-inch (150mm) thick CHB, the steels bars are of standard size (10mm diameter) and spaced correctly in the walls, there are no unsupported walls more than 3 meters wide, there is no gable wall or the gable wall is made of light materials or properly anchored CHBs, the foundation is reinforced concrete, the soil under the house is hard (rock or stiff soil), and it is in good condition overall.

A score of 11-12 may indicate that one’s house is safe now, but just the same, these findings should be confirmed by experts.  As we write, there are several classy houses being constructed in our village closer to the WVF line. We suppose that design and construction standards are being followed to ensure that their families are safe when the nearby fault moves.

PHIVOLCS photos of lateral spreading in Bagtic, Catigbian, Bohol (left), and of the ground rupture 
in Anonang, Inabanga, Bohol (right) from the Magnitude 7.2 earthquake of October 2013.