HomeBrew Café

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Inside the Homebrew Cafe. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

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Text by: Rex Godinez Ortega

(Photos by: Bobby Timonera)

ILIGAN CITY—We all take that alternative route whenever we try to avoid traffic. Most of the time we do not mind this longer drive as it takes us through a more scenic route. The open spaces allow our eyes to breathe, and we relax in our seats—we might even wish there was a nice stopover, like a café, along the way.

For those driving down the B. Andrada road along Andrada Heights here towards the Tambo exit (where the bus terminal is located), consider that wish granted.

Sitting quietly on a rise by the road is the almost unobtrusive Homebrew Café. If not for the parked cars before it, it would not be impossible to miss it.

Homebrew Café is a new and very welcome addition to Iligan’s culinary establishments that is owned and operated by Ms Erla Bansuelo Tan, a physical therapist  who opted, instead, to heal the body through a different skill she acquired—the preparation of healthy, organic food and beverages.

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Homebrew Cafe invites you to come up. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

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The café’s location may raise some eyebrows from those who subscribe to the sound business dictum of success having a lot to do with “location, location, location”.

However, for those looking to sip coffee or have a nice light meal in a quiet and clean, well-lighted place, then Homebrew Café couldn’t be located at a better spot.

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The author (left) with photographer-friend, Bobby Timonera, enjoying their drinks al fresco. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

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One could half expect to find Ernest Hemingway’s deaf old man sipping brandy by the shadow of a tree when he approaches the cogon grass-roofed open air café from the road.

Walking into the main part of the café would reveal a mishmash interior that is reflective of owner Erla’s eclectic taste.

Erla is a confessed awatera (imitator) who makes no secret of taking ideas from cafes and restaurants she encounters wherever she may be, and incorporating them into her dream establishment.

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(Photo: Bobby Timonera)

Notable also is her ability to innovate. Being unsatisfied with the bareness of the café’s iron-wrought walls, Erla had vines and flowers that she designed and personally painted added to the walls.

She further displayed her creativity  by fencing off the café grounds with pallets, which just happened to be available to her.

This creativity is also best displayed in Homebrew Café’s specialty, which is the Jars of Greens.

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Homebrew Cafe’s delicious and nutritious Jars of Greens. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

Jars of Greens might just be this newly-opened café’s strongest selling product. It is an organic juice made from a blend of those delicious and nutritious vegetables and fruits like spinach, carrots, cucumbers, apples, pears, and lemons.

“I call them my Daily Dose of Greens,” Erla said.

This writer and photographer-friend, Bobby Timonera, were served this juice inside a vintage Libbey Ball Mason jar by Erla, and both agreed it was worth coming back for more.

“I also plan to serve Kamonade, it is what is called Magic Juice,” she added, “ It is made from kamote tops and lemonade.”

Also in the works, according to Erla, is the Homebrew Power Drink that will target bikers who are starting to drop by the café on a regular basis.

“This power drink will contain whey protein, oatmeal, fruits, and chocolate,” Erla said with an obvious nod to the nutritious shake popularized by Herbalife.

Aside from the Jars of Greens and the fresh strawberry juice, Homebrew Café also serves yema cupcakes, pancakes, waffles, and a variety of popular sandwiches. The colorful nachos is also a joy to have.

The love for cooking came to Erla while in high school at the Developmental High School (now Integrated Developmental School) of MSU-IIT, and she mentions with fondness her home economics teachers: Prof. Rosalina Gonzaga and Dr. Lydie Paderanga.

“I really learned a lot from our food trade classes back then,” she said.

Of course, Erla also enrolled herself later on in short cooking courses in Manila under the tutelage of the likes of Sylvia Reynoso Gala and Heny Sison.

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Colorful nacho chips with jalapeno sauce. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

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Homebrew Cafe uses recycled paper straws. (Photo: Bobby Timonera)

However, all that training and skills-acquisition were originally just meant to benefit  Erla and her family.

“It was all just for the house, and for our guests,” she revealed.

And guests did tend to arrive at their home as Erla is married to a scion of one of Iligan’s biggest families, the Andradas. Erla’s husband is Renato Andrada Tan who runs Rene’s Diner, a popular restaurant and pension house in Iligan.

He studied at the Ecole Les Rouches, an international school of hotel management in Switzerland, and worked in the Philippines as a sous chef for the Hyatt Hotel, La Primera Vera, and Larry Cruz Bar & Restaurant.

Erla and Renato have two children, Beatrice, 18, and Alessandra, 11.

Despite the long shadow cast by Erla’s husband, Erla is coming into her own in the restaurant business with the apparent  steady flow of patrons who do not mind the drive to her café.

Homebrew Café opened with little or no promotion on December 10, 2013. (Rex Godinez Ortega)

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Finding Limunsudan Falls

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by Rex Godinez Ortega

ILIGAN CITY–What do you call people who visit waterfalls?

Waterfallers?

According to the World of Waterfalls site, “waterfallers” is the term being used nowadays to describe people who like to go “waterfalling”.

“Waterfalling” is, of course, the act of collecting waterfalls sightings; and I consider myself as one who likes to do just that.

As a “waterfaller” who lives in Iligan, I have plenty of waterfalls to visit. In fact, there are 23 of them here. (Some say more.)

Chief of these waterfalls that I have visited, and that any self-respecting “waterfaller” should see (should he be in Iligan), are the legendary Maria Cristina Falls and the famous Tinago Falls.

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The road from Talakag, Bukidnon to the remote Brgy. Rogongon in Iligan City where Limunsudan Falls is located is in such a condition that even this truck got stuck. We had to wait nearly an hour for it to get out of the way. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

The adjective “majestic”—which is attached to the names of both waterfalls—is there not as another ploy to bring in tourists, but to actually serve as a description of them.

However, as awed as I am at the size and power of the 320-foot twin waterfalls, Maria Cristina, and the hidden beauty that is Tinago Falls, nothing did prepare me for the monstrous wonder that waited at a remote corner of Iligan.

Tucked away in the jungles of Barangay Rogongon here is the little-known two-tiered Limunsudan Falls.

(If you are an Iliganon and you have not even heard of this waterfalls, do not be embarrassed. Limunsudan Falls has managed to stay hidden from the public due to its location.)

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The trek through the jungle. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

In 2008, I happened to join a party that consisted of photographers Rene Pernia, Ace Reston, and Roger Marcelo, and led by Ms Agnes Clerigo of the Tourism Office that was headed for Limunsudan Falls.

Despite the fact that Limunsudan Falls was just 55 kilometers South-East of downtown Iligan, the journey took several hours.

In fact, we had to exit Iligan in Lanao del Norte, drive to Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, make the turn to Talakag in Bukidnon, and then re-enter Iligan just to get there.

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Ritual being performed by an Higaunon elder to ask permission to view Limunsudan Falls. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo)

The long circuitous route took us through three provinces!

Of course, the alternative was a trek through the jungles of Brgy. Rogongon. A trek that would have taken days—not to mention expose us to more dangers (and I’m not talking about the wildlife).

Rogongon is a vast hinterland of mountains and jungle (35,555 hectares in all) that sits next to Bukidnon and Lanao del Sur. It is home to the lumad Higaunon tribe. Moro rebels and armed groups are said to be sighted crossing the area from time to time.

Anyway, I say “more dangers” as the route we took also posed dangers of its own.

I remember feeling very uneasy in the last few kilometers of the journey as we were clearly passing through empty open places where there were no semblances of authority.

The sight of people on the road could actually make one nervous.

The unpaved road itself was dangerous, too. It was more suited to vehicles with large tires like dump trucks, not beat-up old pick-up trucks like the one we used.

After nearly four or five hours on the road, we arrived at Sitio Limunsudan—the farthest of the seven Sitios of Brgy. Rogongon.

Our lumad guides, who were armed with bolos and pistols, immediately took us on a trek through thick jungle foliage.

After about only a few minutes, and as we brushed aside the remaining vegetation that was in our way, we suddenly found ourselves on a small clearing.

And the roaring creature we had been hearing during the short trek came into view.

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At last, there it was. The two-tiered, 870-foot Limunsudan Falls. It is perhaps the biggest and tallest waterfalls in the Philippines. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

As our jaws dropped in amazement, I noticed that at the end of the small patch of grass we were standing on was a drop of several hundred feet. And directly across from us was Limunsudan Falls—a massive watery monster that fell, flowed, and fell again into the bottom of the gigantic bowl.

It was the biggest waterfalls I had ever seen in my entire life as a “waterfaller”.

As an Iliganon, I felt it almost sacrilegious to think this was more awesome than the truly majestic Maria Cristina Falls. (Limunsudan Falls was indeed way bigger. Each of its tiers was taller than Maria Cristina’s twins.)

However, I quickly dismissed the thought as I reminded myself that Limunsudan Falls was also in Iligan. And like Maria Cristina Falls, it was unique in its own way. A big unique; that’s what I like to call it.

To my mind, this WAS the holy grail for waterfalls tourists. Well, at least, to “waterfallers” in the Philippines. This is because Limunsudan Falls could very well be the biggest and tallest waterfalls in the country.

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Our lumad guides. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

Limunsudan Falls is an 870-foot wonder of nature, I’ve been told. However, seeing it with my own two eyes, and from such a wonderful vantage point, made me believe it was even more.

Aside from its beauty, one could not escape thoughts of power to be generated while in the presence of such a huge waterfall.

The might of the Maria Cristina Falls, which has been harnessed by engineers through the Agus VI Hydro-Power Plant, has been estimated to have a “potential capacity” of around 200 MW.

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Sign at a waiting shed in Sitio Limunsudan, Brgy. Rogongon. (Photo: Roger Marcelo.)

I am not an engineer, but seeing the size of Limunsudan Falls, I believe it could easily rack up that same number (even much more) if ever it is harnessed.

Many Iliganons today truly feel it is ridiculous for them to be paying so much for electricity with the presence of Maria Cristina Falls.

With the continuing threat of power shortage plaguing Mindanao, I cannot help but wonder how much longer this untapped natural resource could sit there in the jungle undisturbed.

I got my answer very recently during my visit to the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) Provincial Office here in Iligan.

According to Wilma Sihagso-ong Wade-Bado of the NCIP, a hydro power company has already conducted a feasibility study on Limunsudan Falls.

Wilma, who is the descendant of a Higaunon princess from the area, said that the company was in the process of securing a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the Higaunons.

Securing this certificate is required by law since it involves the lumad Higaunon’s anscestral domain.

Thus, it would seem that Limunsudan Falls is to share the same fate as Maria Cristina’s. Perhaps it could also generate revenues from tourists and “waterfallers” like Maria Cristina.

The Limunsudan Party with guides: Ms Agnes Clerigo (woman in white shirt); Mr. Rene Pernia (in white shirt with camera); the author (in red bandana); Mr. Ace Reston (in orange shirt with backpack). (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

The Limunsudan Party with guides: Ms Agnes Clerigo (woman in white shirt); Mr. Rene Pernia (in white shirt with camera); the author (in red bandana); Mr. Ace Reston (in orange shirt with backpack). (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

After taking pictures and admiring Limunsundan Falls for several minutes, our party decided it was time to leave as we didn’t want night to catch us on the road.

The drive back proved to be another adventure.

As we were passing through a lonely stretch of dirt road framed by tall cogon grass, three armed men suddenly appeared, and they motioned for us to stop.

One was carrying an M-16 Armalite rifle, the other was holding a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), and the third was carrying a Springfield carbine rifle.

Given the firepower these three were carrying, we had no choice but to stop.

The armed men’s accents told us they were Maranaos.

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The author poses with some lumad children outside their village school in Sitio Lumunsudan during a brief visit. (Photo by: Roger Marcelo.)

As we nervously wondered what they wanted from us, they informed us, in gentle voices, that they only wanted to hitch a ride.

It turned out they were security men from a nearby plantation. They got off a few minutes later.

As we continued on, we ran into another group of three. This time, they looked lumad.

We slowed down to avoid kicking up too much dust as we got closer: a courtesy rarely extended by drivers nowadays.

However, once we were close enough, one of the men suddenly pulled out a gun.

Wearing an I’m-gonna-kill-you look on his face with the eyes flashing with anger, the man threateningly waved the gun in the air and then pointed it at us.

We all turned shades of white. Our driver floored the accelerator and everyone dove for cover.

However, no shot came.

Perhaps the man’s gun jammed. Or maybe he only meant to scare us.

Whatever the reason, I clearly remember I was the one seated by the window and the first to have been hit. I also had the unfortunate pleasure of admiring his ugly mug the most from that side.

As we got closer to civilization, our driver put on the radio, and the song by The Three Degrees: “When Will I See You Again” came on.

As the significance of the song sunk in, we all smiled and wondered to ourselves: When indeed would we ever see Limunsudan Falls again?

Given the distance, the difficult terrain, and the guys with guns on the road, I believe it would be for quite some time again. (Rex Godinez Ortega)

The author striking a "pang-Facebook" pose w/ Limunsudan Falls in the background. (Photo by: Mr. Roger Marcelo. Taken in 2008.)

The author striking a “pang-Facebook” pose with Limunsudan Falls in the background. (Photo by: Mr. Roger Marcelo. Taken in 2008.)

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Iligan City nursing grad is No. 1

[Writing this article, which came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net on Feb. 2, 2010, was a joy as I knew the subject: Clarie Bontol.]

By Rex Godinez-Ortega

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Photo from iligan.gov.ph

ILIGAN CITY–Her nickname alone can disarm you. It is Bogging.

And she made it clear right off that if we were looking for a blood-sweat-and-tears story, we came to the wrong place.

“I assure you, no family kalabaw (carabao) was sold to support my studies,” the 28-year-old Clarie Morales Bontol joked when interviewed Monday, hours after the results of the November 2009 nursing board exams were released showing she was the topnotcher.

“My life is so normal, no drama. My parents are not farmers,” Bogging, as she is known to friends and family, laughed.

Of the more than 94,000 examinees, less than 40 percent passed. Bogging got an 87.8 percent score.

There was no doubt the results of the exams made her happy, but it was a kind of happiness not unlaced with some sadness.

“I’m happy that I made a lot of people happy,” she said in response to the expected how-does-it-feel-to-be-No.-1 question.

“But I’m not that happy,” she added, “because I know many who did not make it.”

Only child

Bogging is the only child of Jude Bontol, a retired government employee, and Dr. Della Bontol, a well-known obstetrician-gynecologist here.

Dr. Bontol, in a phone interview, described her daughter as “diligent” in her studies.

Bogging said she had chosen to take up nursing after she hit a point in her life where she just had to ask someone for directions.

“I asked my Tita, who was a nurse in Texas, what to take up and she said ‘Nursing.’ At that time, it felt like a good idea,” she said.

Now, nursing seems to define her life.

“I’m proud to be a nurse,” she said.

Soon after the results of the board exams came out the other night, Bogging’s alma mater, Iligan Medical Center College (IMCC), offered her a teaching job.

Victoria Elizabeth Lepiten-Alagar, dean of the nursing college, said Bogging graduated at the top of her class last year.

As a student, Bogging was hard working, punctual in meeting requirements and always respectful of her teachers, Alagar said.

During the re-accreditation, or re-evaluation, of the IMCC, which raised it from Level 1 to Level 2, Alagar said one of the accreditors remarked that the school’s students should not go to Manila anymore because IMCC was a top performer.

Another high-performing school in Iligan, the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), posted an 86-percent passing rate, according to Dean Clowe Jondonero.

Despite her proficiency in Nippongo, Bogging has no plans of working as a nurse in Japan or anywhere else outside the Philippines for the moment.

She made a special request during the interview: that the article mention that she is “a proud member” of presidential candidate Nicanor Perlas’ Pangmasa party (Partido ng Marangal na Sambayanan).

She said she hoped to emulate Perlas by choosing to stay to serve the Filipino people.

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Bar exam No. 2 standing up for Muslim women

[This came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Inquirer.net on April 5, 2009. This was also carried by the MSU-IIT website.]

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Atty. Mylene Amerol Macumbal

By Rex Godinez-Ortega

ILIGAN CITY, Philippines — Mylene Amerol-Macumbal, the second-placer in the 2008 bar examinations, hopes her achievement will help to prove that the “veiled woman” is not repressed.

“She is actually capable of doing great things while staying within the bounds of her faith,” she said.

“I have never been prouder that I am a Muslim and a Moro,” said Mylene, 28.

A graduate of the Mindanao State University (MSU) College of Law Extension at the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), Mylene became the first Muslim woman to place second in the bar exams.

This is also the first time that the MSU law college in Iligan City has succeeded in placing a graduate on the top 10.

Iligan City was abuzz with the news of Mylene’s feat, especially resonant as it is also the home of the country’s first Muslim woman lawyer, Lindao Macarambon Boransing.

“There is still discrimination in this country against Muslims and Muslim women due largely to misconceptions,” Mylene said.

“I hope to help erase those misconceptions,” she said.

Mylene taught accounting at MSU-IIT before settling down to becoming a full-time mother to five-year-old son Rocky.

She is married to Arassad Macumbal, the municipal trial court judge of Bacolod town in the province of Lanao del Norte.

The Macumbals are a family of achievers.

Mylene graduated magna cum laude when she took her accounting degree, also at MSU-IIT, in 2002. She placed 18th in the CPA board exam the following year. She also graduated magna cum laude from law school in 2008.

Her husband, Arassad, is a lawyer and civil engineer and placed 9th in the civil engineering board exams of 1993.

Son Rocky is also at the top of his class at Kumon Philippines, a tutorial school for young achievers, in Iligan City.

Mylene’s father, Tammy Amerol, a former internal revenue regional director who died recently, placed 12th in the CPA board examinations in the 1970s.

It was her father who got Mylene interested in the law.

“He was a frustrated lawyer. He stopped during his first year at law school because he was so busy with work and he had me and my three brothers to always bother him when he was studying,” Mylene said of her father.

“His law books were just there in our home library, together with the encyclopedias I loved to read. So I could not help but open them, and the rest is history,” she said.

Mylene said her mother, Nora Amerol, also instilled in her the value of studying.

But she pointed to her husband, Arassad, as her inspiration and mentor.

“He really pushed me to study, since day one. He told me, ‘Don’t just study for class, study for the bar.’”

Mylene’s husband said he convinced her to study law in Iligan as he believed in the professors of the law college there. She wanted to apply to a law school in Manila.

“We use the same books and our teachers know the same laws. There really is no difference. Now, I guess my theory was proven correct,” the judge said with a smile.

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Bangsamoro Band: Warna

[This is a feature on a Maranao rock band named Warna. I noticed this band in April, 2004 while covering a rally in Marawi City. I wonder how the band is doing now.]

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Foto: myspace.com

Marawi City (April, 2004)– There is a big rally in the town center here. Emotions are high, and the sun is, too, but for the five young Muslim men standing quietly on the sides, conditions couldn’t have been better.

After a series of fiery speeches criticizing the national government’s alleged anti-Muslim stance, and with the placard-carrying, Allahu akbar-chanting crowd already worked up, the young men make their move.

They take over the stage, lay down some wires, throw some switches, and with “weapons” in hand, start blowing everyone away — with rock music.

warna-dino2But it’s not just your usual rock music — it’s Maranao rock music for peace and love with a serious betel-nut-juice-spitting attitude.

It hits everyone in their soft spots. Even raging rallyists at the rally here (in support of the one led by Robin Padilla in Manila April 6) are reduced to tears.

Such is the power of Warna’s music, an up and coming Maranao alternative rock band, that Maranaos here are taking notice.

Composed of Dino Mamangconi on vocals, Yasrani Ibrahim on bass, Alexander Alag on lead guitars, Carding Ali on rhythm guitars, and Fahmie Aguam on drums, Warna is taking Marawi and Lanao del Sur by storm.

And with their catchy riffs influenced by alternative greats like Greenday, Creed, and the Foo Fighters, and meaningful lyrics that tell of real experiences in the land of promise, Warna is not having a hard time winning Muslim fans.

Frustrated over the decades-long conflict in Mindanao, the members of Warna, who are all residents of Marawi and are still in their twenties and early thirties, decided to use musical instruments instead of guns to try and make Mindanao a better place for everyone.

Hindi namin kaya makipagbarilan o ano, so we just do it through music, through the words,” says 21 year-old Yasrani who is taking up a management course in MSU-Marawi.

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Yasrani says that every moment on stage is a chance for the band to spread its message of peace.

Also, according to lead vocalist, Dino, 31, the band’s other purpose is to let the rest of the country know about the Muslims and the Maranaos, the great people of the lake.

“That is what the name, Warna, is all about – color,” Dino explains. “We show the true color or characteristics of the bangsamoro people through our songs.”

Dino, like Yasrani and rhythm guitarist, Carding, also study at MSU-Marawi. He is studying to be an accountant, while Carding, the eldest of the band members at 33, is still mulling whether to finish his Management course or not.

Lead guitarist Alexander is 27 and a computer science graduate of the IliganCapitolCollege in nearby IliganCity. He works as a DJ for 96.9 dxEM FM radio in Marawi.

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The band’s drummer, Fahmie, 21, is a third year accountancy student in MSU-IIT also in IliganCity.

warna-phamie2Warna was formed in 2001 and already has an album out with copies of it being circulated only in Marawi.

However, Warna only began playing at rallies recently. And a very strong influence on the band’s choice of gig venues and ultimately, change of heart, is Doc. Norma M. Shariff and her son, Aga Khan, who write songs for them to play.

Doc. Shariff is the head of the Meranaw Ethno Cultural Institute while Aga Khan is an aspiring politician. Mother and son write songs to inspire the bangsamoro people.

Dino is close to the Shariffs and it wasn’t long before Doc. Shariff began asking Dino to play the songs she composed. Soon after, members of the band also started writing songs that reflect the Maranao world view.

“We used to play covers only but after we tried playing relevant songs, parang iba na,” says Yasrani, “I realized merong i-cocontribute pala.

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Warna is now busy playing at rallies all over Lanao del Sur because, “Medyo in demand,” drummer Fahmie explains with an embarrassed smile. (Rex Godinez Ortega, 2004)

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Rex Godinez Ortega

All pictures taken from myspace.com.

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Those humpy-bumpy Lanao del Sur highways

caution speed bumps

[I believe I wrote this during an election season. We were roaming around Lanao del Sur looking for stories when we kept running into these irritating speed bumps on the road. This article came out in the Phil. Daily Inquirer in April 2004.]  

Masiu, Lanao del Sur – If you’re a politician on the campaign trail and are about to hit the road in this province, be warned: prepare for a humpy-bumpy ride.

The reason? Concrete humps. Lots of them.

In a recent 40 kilometer drive from MarawiCity to Masiu  town, on the eastern side of LakeLanao, we counted 60 concrete humps (and this without a subdivision in sight).

That is like three humps for every 2 kilometers of the highway. The national highway, that is.

Most of these concrete humps tend to be located on a stretch of highway passing through a clump of houses or a town. They come in twos or threes and are usually placed five or 10 meters apart.

Concrete humps get the attention of motorists because they hurt both vehicle and its occupants when hit at high speed. Their purpose is clear: to discourage overspeeding.

And in this part of the province where traffic cops are like hen’s teeth, there is an over-abundance of Schumachers and Andrettis zooming by in their jeepneys and fave FX vans.

In fact, they say the Maranao public transportation driver is a true blue speed demon. They like to overtake all the vehicles in front of them, overtake on curves, honk their horns, and terrify their passengers with their racing antics. They also tend to look very young.

With all these screaming through the highways on a daily basis, and with the authorities allegedly doing nothing about it, residents are taking the law and the highway construction work into their own hands by making all these concrete humps — all  in an effort to avoid becoming road kill for the speeding motorists.

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Farmer Kalid Alip, who lives along the highway in Masiu, said that the concrete humps are there to prevent accidents because there have a been lot in the past.

“Hindi natin sila masisi dahil maraming mga bata naglalaro sa daan (We can’t blame them (the residents) because there are a lot of kids who play along the road),” he said.

Hitting pedestrians is of course an incident any motorist would like to avoid, but to hit a child on the highways of Lanao del Sur would indeed be catastrophic for him. And motorists here are aware of that.

Alip said that the residents put up the amount needed to construct the concrete humps or a more moneyed member of the community, like a Sultan, shoulders the cost.

If no money is available, wooden humps are used. They are usually strips of a coconut tree trunk but they feel pretty much like the real thing, nonetheless.

Hump-making has become part of the people’s “highway survival” culture, but many motorists are still concerned about the danger concrete humps pose to them and their passengers.

“If you don’t see them on time you might lose control of your vehicle and, well… you fly!” Bobby Timonera, a photojournalist who travels a lot, said.

“Those concrete humps can also damage your vehicle’s suspension,” he added.

There is also evidence of some of these concrete humps being removed. This is usually the case near military detachments. Soldiers seem to dislike humps more than the average motorist. In fact, there is a story that may explain this.

Several years ago, an Army truck was racing through the highway on the western side of lakeLanao carrying a wounded soldier in the back when it hit one of these concrete humps.

The wounded soldier fell out of the vehicle and as coup de grace — he died. Several other soldiers were also allegedly injured in that accident.

But soldier or not, if you’re a motorist driving on the highways of Lanao del Sur, be prepared for a truly bumpy ride.

As one Maranao jeepney driver put it: “Ay do, masakit! ” (Rex Godinez Ortega)

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Rex Godinez Ortega

Phil. Daily Inquirer (2004)

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Empty seat, love song for missing ferry passenger

[This is about a brilliant high school kid who died in the SuperFerry 14 bombing last 2004. I made a big journalistic mistake with this story as I didn’t bother to check how his first name was spelled. Thus, Rodel’s name came out as “Rodil” in the Phil. Daily Inquirer’s feature on him. A thousand apologies to Rodel and his family.]

Empty seat

foto: Terry Yarrow

ILIGAN CITY — They kept an empty seat for him, laid a toga on it and, with tears in their eyes, sang the love song “Rainbow” which Rodel Filipinas loved so much. 

Aged 17, Filipinas “graduated” salutatorian of his high school class during last Wednesday’s ceremonies at the Integrated Developmental School (IDS) in Iligan City.

But Rodel wasn’t there. Nor was his English teacher, Ms Daisy Atienza.

They were among 111 people believed to have perished in the Feb. 27 explosion and fire that ravaged the SuperFerry 14 near Manila Bay.

“I’m still hoping my Rodel will come back to us alive one day,” Rodel’s mother, Dr. Cynthia Filipinas, told the Inquirer, still unable to accept her son’s fate.

Had he survived the ferry disaster, Rodel would have had a good chance to become the class valedictorian, his family and some of his classmates said.

At the graduation ceremony, officials of the IDS, the laboratory high school of the MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology, reserved a seat for their high achieving student and placed a big framed picture of him and a white toga on the chair, his name on it.

SuperFerry14Bombing

The battle to put out the blaze after the explosion that hit Superferry 14.

A day before, during recognition day at the school gymnasium, IDS officials, teachers, relatives and classmates took turns in paying tribute to Rodel.

In a gesture of farewell, classmates sang “Rainbow.”

Letter for Rodel

A recorded song sang by the their teacher, Atienza, was also played.

Rodel’s classmates read out a letter they had written him, telling him how he was missed, and urging his mother to accept what had happened.

“I really felt that they loved my son and missed him,” Rodel’s mother said.

The honor and the many awards Rodel brought to IDS — coming from local, regional and national schools press conference competitions — were cited during the ceremonies.

Rodel’s parents and brother, Cyril, climbed the stage to accept the plaques and the certificates of recognition.

They then placed the awards on his empty seat.

The plaques of recognition came from the IDS, the MSU-IIT Administration, the City Mayor’s Office and the Department of Education.

Awards

The IDS named Rodel its Campus Journalist of the Year and recognized him as one of its 10 best researchers for his work on the effects of sponge extracts on the fertilization process and mitotic activity of fertilized eggs of sea urchins.

Rodel had also received the International Credit Award for correspondence in the Australian mathematics competition held at the University of Canberra.

Rodel, accompanied by his coach Atienza, had gone to the National Secondary Schools’ Press Conference held in Sta. Cruz, Laguna last Feb. 23.

They were on their way home on board the Superferry 14 when tragedy struck.

On the boat — apparently before the explosion rocked it — Rodel even called his classmate to say he had won at the national conference.

flowers

Flowers into the sea

He sounded ecstatic: he had captured first place in the oral communications competition and second place in the Tagisan ng Talino.

None of them knew that was the last time they would hear his voice.

“We were shocked but we still hoped that he would still be found alive,” schoolmate Jerome Gomez said.

Classmates’ memories of Rodel were of a bright boy who always smiled and laughed.

“A happy kid” was how Rachel Daigdigan described her long-time friend.

After the graduation ceremonies, the Filipinas family heard Mass on a beach and rode on a boat.

Then they released white, red and yellow blossoms — roses and chrysanthemums — into the sea. (Rex Godinez Ortega)

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Originally Posted: 2:17 AM (Manila Time) | Apr. 04, 2004
By Rex Godinez Ortega
Inquirer News Service

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