Roxas of Palawan and Tabon Birds of Stanlake Island

Roxas of Palawan

And Tabon birds of Stanlake Island

By Apolinario Villalobos


When one mentions Roxas, what comes to mind is the Roxas City of Capiz on the island of Panay. Palawan has its own Roxas,too, but not known as is, unlike Tabon cave and its exotic species of bird, the tabon bird.


When I visited Roxas, I did not expect the arduous travel that involved different modes. The curious in me, however, prevailed so that I took the risk of being bitten by the dreaded mosquitoes that were infected with malaria virus (today, this has been checked by the local government) and went ahead with my unplanned trip to Palawan. It happened during the summer of 1980…


Puerto Princesa was just a fledgling city during that time but took phenomenal metamorphosis to become what it is now, practically, declared cleanest city in the whole of Philippines several times, and virtually bloomed with structures- signs of fast development.


My trip to the town of Roxas from Puerto Princesa City was made on a bus, early the following morning after the day I arrived. The sights along the way were splendid, as we passed by white sandy beaches fringed with swaying coconut trees and tropical fruit trees. We negotiated winding roads until we reached Langogan River where we were ferried across it. But we got off the bus first, although, the ferrying was made at the same time.


Upon reaching the other side of the river, we went on with our journey over winding roads that cut through verdant hills and forests. The panoramic view from the mountainside road overlooking the North China Sea was just fantastic. The expanse of water was dotted with green canopied islets ringed with white beaches.


Finally, we reached Roxas, a coastal town of abundant coconut groves and white sandy beaches. It covers 608 nautical miles or 142 kilometers of distance northeast of Puerto Princesa City. It is bounded on the northeast by the Ilian River, north to northwest by the Pagdanan Range and in the south by Langoyan. Its total land area is 122,030 hectares.


The evolution of the town into what it is now is interesting. The town was once noted for its small-scale shipbuilding industry of a community of Cagayanos. The cutting of amorawin tree however, the wood of which was used and abounds in Araceli, was strictly regulated. As most of the time, such wood was not available, they left the place but later returned and settled at Retac which they found not to their liking later on. They found another site marked with a boton tree on which they tried to settle….this, they named Sanboton. With the influx of other settlers, the simple settlement became a barrio that later on became known as del Pilar, in honor of the Filipino hero, Gregorio del Pilar. Finally, it became the municipality of Roxas, after the late President Roxas, by virtue of Republic Act No. 615 signed in September 30, 1951.


Roxas is endowed with minerals such as silica and quartz. San Miguel Corporation discovered high-grade silica in the area and established the Palawan Silica company which was later renamed Nin Bay Mining Corporation. The company developed the town by building roads and an airport, as well as, housing units for its employees. During my visit, the town was practically booming industrially with four companies operating for its mineral deposit. These were the Nin Bay Mining Corporation, Republic Glass Corporation, Roxas Silica Company, and Vulcan Industrial and Mineral Exploration Corporation.


Wild honey, a cottage industry also adds revenue to the coffer of the town. But the most famous of its backyard industry, though, strictly regulated is the gathering of tabon bird’s eggs. Tabon, means “to cover”, which is the habit of the birds to protect their eggs, that they bury in the beach, covered with sand. The scientific name of the bird is Palawan Magapode and found on Stanlake Island.


An adult Tabon bird has gray feathers tainted with green, with the male slightly bigger than the female. For a clearer comparison, the male bird is bigger than an ordinary chicken. Its bead is stout and pointed, with claws that consist of three toes that are blunt, two in front and one at the back. Interestingly, the bird’s call resembles that of a dog’ howl.


The birds bury their eggs in holes with depths of four to six feet, after which, they cover them with sands. The digging usually takes two to three hours and done during rainy days. The egg is twice the size of a chicken’s, oval-shaped and with color that ranges from white to pink and light red, with the shell so fragile that it breaks easily. Hatching takes from 16 to 18 days, during which the chicks struggle their way out of the hole. The chick reaches it maturity in eight to ten months, during which it takes it turn to mate and lay eggs.


Other interesting touristic areas of Roxas, aside from Stanlake Island which has been declared as a bird sanctuary, are those around the Barbacan and Matalangao rivers where birdwatching can be rewarding. Less than a kilometer away is the Matalangao Waterfalls that drops to 80 feet. Practically, the beaches that fringe the coastal town are haven for those who long for a peaceful recluse.


Puerto Princesa City, the capital of Palawan is accessible via flights from Manila. Typical tourists need more than a week to enjoy their visit of the province, as aside from Roxas, they may find the call of El Nido, the Underground River, and white sandy islets just too strong to ignore.


Politics, Greed and Misery…sad picture of Filipino Society

Politics, Greed, and Misery

…Sad Picture of the Filipino Society

By Apolinario Villalobos


A big chunk of humanity that prefers freedom should have been enjoying the best organizational principle or system – democracy. With it, every member of the group is given the opportunity to bring out what is in his mind. What is good for the majority is chosen, and everybody has a fair chance of participation. The role of making policies are given to the members chosen by the majority, and those chosen are supposed to be worthy of their job. That is supposed to be the clean politics under democracy…under the shadow of freedom.


Before the arrival of the Europeans, the archipelagic makeup of the Philippines was effectively ruled by chieftains or datus – by cluster of islands which was effective. It was our kind of “democracy”, although, fraternal of sort. When foreign powers such as those of Spain and America tried to subdue these islands and islets to become one country, their kind of “democracy” was introduced. Spain even made use of the cross to do it. The Americans, on the other hand, made use of their educational system to “educate” the Filipinos on how to live under their own kind of democracy.


The Filipinos wanted freedom, but what the democratic government that the early leaders copied was that of America’s, a country which is geographically cohesive. The system calls for a central governing body which in the case of the Philippines, unfortunately, got based at its northern part. The Philippines as a country of more than seven thousand islands and islets is regionalized and for convenient governance, it is divided into provinces. Expanding provinces are subdivided and the same is done with the regions. The greatest set back of this setup is the lack of unifying structures and communication system. Coordination among agencies and local government modules is not smooth, hence, ineffective, and worse as found out most often – absent! The total system is seen with loopholes and weak points. There is no cohesive system in the governance of the country. It seems that the media is more knowledgeable of what are happening through interviews of officials that they conduct and concerned agencies know about them only from their printed broadsheets and tabloids. On TV, even lawmakers are caught saying that they only know of important matters from newspapers!


The feeling of being neglected developed among the Filipinos in the far-flung southern islands of Mindanao, as well as, those in the Visayas regions. This animosity bred the desire among the Muslim Filipinos to have their own governing body, albeit, still “within” the scope of the existing Constitution. Differences in religion and culture are made as alibis. Those in the Visayas are beginning to develop the same line of thinking, although, religion and culture are far from their mind as reasons.


Unfortunately for the Filipinos, the loop-holed government system has bred abuse and greed among the representatives, the lawmakers, the policy makers that they chose to represent their ideals. Some of these people’s representatives wisely thought that they can propose projects for their far-flung provinces, far from the prying eyes of the central offices of the concerned agencies located in the far north of the country. Without the regular checks, ghost projects proliferated. The local branches of the agencies are themselves weak, hence, the poor implementation of policies. Policing has practically become inutile. Worst, the people who are supposed to be monitoring projects, are themselves, involved in anomalies. The “opportunity” of making money, bred the idea of coming up with NGOs and Foundations. And, because of the laxity in securing the government coffer, a free-for-all exploits ensued. Investigations are ongoing. But will justice be achieved, when those investigating, are themselves accused of involvement? Both Congress and Senate have practically lost face and dignity in view of the surmounting anomalies. The Filipinos in general have lost their respect to the aforementioned institutions.


Simply put, the misery of the Filipinos today, grew out of the abuse of lawmakers, and politicians, nurtured by their boundless greed for money. Their abuse on the other hand, developed from the knowledge that the country is not effectively welded by the so-called democracy copied from the by-laws of America, so they seem to see loopholes just in every provisions of the copied system that gave them the opportunity to exploit their fellowmen!


Families of politicians just do not have the heart to let go of their hold on the reins of power, so that, after the father, the wife takes over, then the son, then the daughter, and so forth. These greedy families invest millions of pesos that they were able to stash away for coming election days, to be used as “compliments”. There is no letup in how they spend the money that is actually people’s money stolen from the government coffer. The popular consolation among these greedy politicians is the thought of a much bigger “return” for such “investment”.


Finally, with the sickening system, the poor Filipinos are left gasping for breath while exerting much effort to survive in the deepening muck of misery.



Intramuros: Magnificent Old Manila

Intramuros: Magnificent Old Manila

By Apolinario Villalobos


For investors, especially, those who are the optimistic type who see gold even underneath a hill of debris, the remnants of Intramuros are an eyesore that should be leveled to give way to structures that could ensure a fat financial return, say, a commercial complex. The strategic position of this once Spanish glory, has made it more attractive to this kind of scheme.


On the other hand, those who value culture that is affected in a great extent by the past, see many reasons beyond the understanding of an ordinary person, why the partly ruined once walled city has to be reconstructed instead. This advocacy prevailed, so that a Presidential Decree was issued on April 10, 1979 for the creation of the Intramuros Administration which has been mandated for the restoration of the whole area. The first Chairperson of the said agency was no less than the former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and Jaime C. Laya as Action Officer. Management consultancy was extended by Esperanza Bunag Gatbonton.


The agency lost no time in reconstructing the Walled City, by building some new structures to house offices. As Intramuros has been habituated for so many years by informal settlers, clusters of makeshift homes had to be demolished.


Two guidelines were set for the rehabilitation program: reconstruction that necessitates the rebuilding of the Walled City, and the restoration of what could still be brought back to their original forms with the use of the same materials, a very delicate job requiring meticulous research and laboratory control of consistency.


Then, there’s the responsibility of assessing the e4xisting structures, their chances of withstanding atmospheric pollutants such as dust and carbon monoxide as well as natural calamities. The understandably difficult reinforcement of the standing structures with the use of available materials without altering their character and appearance is another thing to consider. Not to forget also is the problem posed by its modification in the form of electrification. There’s the question of where to install writings in a very inconspicuous way.


Intramuros is a vast repository of invaluable heritage. Within its confines are the two centuries-old churches, the Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church that contain images of saints, painting, sculptures, religious vestment, and ancestral homes that contain family heirlooms.


The Puerta de Isabel four-room museum contains family heirlooms such as intricately-carved hardwood chests, furniture, marble basin, images of saints, paintings, religious vestments, models of colonial houses, enlarged pictures of the early Intramuros and even cannons.


The Intramuros project has been schemed to be self-liquidating, so that hostels for students studying within the confine of the walls were built, as well as, economy class hotels for tourists, antique shops and restaurants.


The once walled city is trying to rise again. But what was it during its glory days?


The walls were intended to fortify the Spanish City of Manila which was developed from a tongue of land that extended out into the bay. This was what Matin de Goiti and Juan de Salcedo saw in 1570 upon their arrival from Panay. Guiding them past Mindoro and Balayan Bay was a trader, a Christia convert from Manila who also acted as their interpreter. The Spanish fleet consisting of a frigate, a junk and fifteen native boats sailed past Mindoro and Balayan Bay until they reached the busy port of a palisaded settlement.


Colonization was difficult but with the help of the Cross, the Spaniards were later settled. The settlement was followed by modification of Manila which affected even the natives’ way of life. Pallisades at the mouth of the river were enlarged. A defensive wall encircled the new settlement, improved by each succeeding governor-general.


The massive walls, built based on the Spaniards’ foresight was tested in the years to come, when the settlement was attacked by various forces. There was the notorious fleet of the Chinese pirate Limahong, the Dutch, rebels from the Chinese parian outside the walls, and the British. Each attack proved the formidability of some parts of the walls and vulnerability of some. It came to pass then, that the walls which were began by Legazpi himself in 1870, were improved by each succeeding governor-generals.


After so many years of improvement, the walls became a sophisticated fortress, surrounded with moats, ramparts, gates, bastions and lookout towers. Capping all these was the strict observance of curfew hours, as the gates were closed at eleven in the evening and opened only at dawn.


The sophistication of the walls was not limited to the surrounding structures. Even the buildings within were required to use non-combustible materials. Houses with thatched roofs went down. So that in no time at all, roofs of tiles, became the fashionable style as dictated by necessity. The Spaniards, likewise, used materials and methods familiar to them but with some changes adaptable to the tropics. Massive foundations of adobe gave strength to houses to withstand earthquakes. Convenient large windows made use of translucent capiz shells, and wooden parts were dovetailed to prevent splitting.


The Walled City was crammed with schools run by religious people of different orders, churches, dormitories and shops selling European items. It was an exclusive Spanish City, but there were times when a Chinese trader or two, or a native servant were allowed to reside within its confines.


Meanwhile, outside the Walled City, the parian, bustled with commerce dominated by the Chinese. Foreign merchants still came to sell their wares, some of which were patronized by Spaniards, themselves.


As time passed, however, the wall of exclusiveness was broken down, so that by the time the Americans came, the city had grown well beyond the thick structures. Gone was the sophistication. Development outside them was fast-paced and whatever left inside were the churches and schools, as well as, convents. The mestizos together with the friars were left to live with the somewhat deteriorating city.


Then, came the WWII in 1941 which flattened the Walled City, leaving only the sheels of what has been the glory of Spanish architecture. Some seventy-five percent of the walls withstood the bombings and a few of them, still stood intact, complete with lookout towers. The intricately beautiful gates of Fort Santiago and Sta. Lucia were rammed by American tanks during the liberation. Practically, the beautifully landscaped city was a mess when bombings ceased. It was sorry sight that greeted Manilans when they went out of their shelters.


For a long time, this particular section of a fast developing metropolis was neglected. Shanties mushroomed where mansions once stood. One-storey box-type buildings took the place of once elegant edifices. Big cargo vans and containers clogged its streets.


During its rehabilitation, the first to be touched was the Fort Santiago. Trees were planted to shade its lanes, a fountain was built and the cells were cleaned and converted into showcases of vintage cars. Canteens were also put up to serve promenaders and piped-in music system was installed. The fort was converted into a small park.


Other structures were reconstructed such as the Puerta de Isabel which now houses a museum and the offices of the Intramuros Administration. The San Agustin Church was restored to its once exquisite form, together with the Manila Cathedral. Other structures, even the privately-owned residences were rehabilitated in line with the plan to make the area as a veritable touristic nook within the city of Manila.


Today, Intramuros proudly stands, almost completely rehabilitated, except for some portions which are occupied by old houses. Overall, the once Walled City is now regaining its lost glory.

From Intramuros, one can have a leisurely walk to Fort Santiago, from which a jeepney can be taken for Luneta or Rizal Park.




Hindi na Biro ang Sitwasyon ng Pulitika sa Pilipinas

Hindi na Biro ang Sitwasyon

Ng Pulitika sa Pilipinas

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Ang korapsyon na siyang sinisisi palagi sa pagkasira ng pulitiko o opisyal ng isang bansa ay kasing tanda na ng pinakamatandang panahon. Kung babasahing mabuti ang mga kasaysayan ng iba’t – ibang lahi at mga kaharian, noon pa man ay may mga tiwali nang mga opisyal, yon nga lang hindi binoto, kundi itinalaga sa pwesto.


Sa panahon ngayon, maski ang mga kagalang-galang na mga bansa ay may bahagi din sa isyu ng katiwalian. Yon nga lang, ang mga nahuli at napatunayang involved ay tumatanggap ng kasalanan, at may nagpapakamatay pa nga, subali’t ang pinakasimpleng parusa ay pagtanggal na lang sa pwesto or pagkulong.


Sa Pilipinas, ang mga korap, makapal ang mga mukha at “matatalino”, pilit pinaiikutan ang mga batas, kaya karamihan sa mga pumapasok sa pulitika ay naghahanda sa pamamagitan ng pagkuha ng kursong abugasya o ilang unit man lang ng karerang ito upang maski papaano ay magkaroon ng ideya kung paanong makasilip ng butas sa mga batas.


Dahil sa talamak na ugaling korap sa gobyerno ng Pilipinas, hindi na biro ang isyung ito. Dahil dito, nawawalan ng mukhang Pilipino ang ating lahi, ang ating kultura, ang ating bansa dahil pinagpipilitan ng mga tiwaling mga mambabatas na baguhin ang mga batas upang lalo pang dagsain ng mga dayuhan ang ating bansa upang makinabang sa ating mga likas na yaman. Nakakalungkot isipin na maski hindi na nga magkaroon ng mga batas tungkol sa ganitong bagay ay hayagang naaabuso na tayo ng mga illegal na dumadayo upang minahin ang mineral sa ating kalupaan, at walang magawa ang mga lokal na opisyal. Paano na kung mabago pa ang batas tungkol dito na nakalagay sa Saligang Batas o Konstitusyon na dapat ay nagbibigay proteksiyon ng mga karapatan ng mga Pilipino?


Talamak ang korapsyon sa gobyerno at lahat ng may ambisyong maging pangulo ay nakulapulan na nito. Nagkakaroon ng kalituhan dahil pinagpipilitan ng mga pulitikong sangkot sa katiwaalian, na hangga’t hindi napatanuyan sa husgado, sila ay walang kasalanan kahit hayag-hayagan ang pagbuyangyang ng kanilang pastisipasyon. Batay sa mga naunang kasong inihain sa Ombudsman at iba pang korte, halos walang umuusad ni isa man. Paano ngayon mangyayari ang pinaggigiitan ng mga tiwaling opisyal na dapat ay “umusad ang hustisya”? Hanggang kaylan maghihintay ang bayan upang makamit ang hustisya?