“Tree tunnel” in Sorsogon lost to road widening

  Yahoo South East Asia Newsroom  by Kim Arveen Patria

Trees in this portion of the highway in Bulan, Sorsogon, have grown big enough that their branches meet, as if creating a tunnel. The so-called tree tunnel is threatened by clearing operations for road widening projects. (Photo from Bulan's Facebook page)
A tree-lined portion of the highway is among the most photographed spots in Bulan, Sorsogon, but some fear the so-called “tree tunnel” will soon be seen only in photos.

Hundreds of almost century-old trees are set to be cut down to make way for wider roads in the coastal town, which is among the busiest and richest in the province.

Angry locals have questioned the government’s road widening projects. An online petition has been launched to stop the tree-cutting. Others have taken to the streets.

“Bulanenos should unite now to save the trees that have yet to be cut down by the Department of Public Works and Highways,” a Change.org petition read.

Bulan resident Ramil Agne, who posted the petition, told Yahoo Philippines that the DPWH has temporarily stopped the cutting of trees, pending a consultation.

He noted that the move came too late, however, as about 185 have already been cut from May 14 to 21. A total of 235 trees would be cut for the road work.

Officials have claimed that the roadside had to be cleared of trees to expand the highway to 20 meters from 15 meters, by adding 2.5 meters to each side.

“The traffic volume on our highway does not warrant a road widening project,” Agne said. He added that the 5-meter expansion “is not enough to call progress versus cutting trees.”

Many residents have also wondered why the road will be expanded when the local airport it leads to has been idle for decades. DPWH has not responded to requests for comment.

“I don’t want the trees to be cut down for the sake of useless road widening project. Road widening project will benefit only few people specially in terms of corruption,” said Andrew Zuniga, who signed the petition.

A “selfie campaign” has also been launched against the project, with netizens posting photos of themselves holding up appeals to save the town’s “tree tunnel.”

More than 100 trees have already been cut to make way for wider roads in Bulan, Sorsogon. (Photo by Karl CK)

Bulan’s case is the latest in what netizens have taken to calling a tree-cutting rampage by the DPWH, most of them tagged unnecessary by the areas’ locals.

Earlier this month, locals in Los Banos, Laguna, protested the cutting of trees for a widening project covering a 5.6-kilometer stretch of road near Mt. Makiling.

Local officials in Iloilo City have meanwhile asked the DPWH to explain why so-called “heritage trees” have been cut down along the city’s General Luna highway.

In Naga City, the local government is also leading efforts against a plan to cut down at least 650 trees along the Maharlika Highway in Camarines Sur province.

“Thousands of trees all over the Philippines, many of them century-old, have been cut for road widening… Many more trees face the same fate,” a separate Change.org petition said.

The petition, posted by Ivan Henares, called on the DPWH and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to stop cutting trees and review the policy.

“This review should provide a mechanism for genuine public consultation and a detailed scientific assessment the cutting of trees may have on the environment,” Henares said.






CHICAGO (jGLi) – In his diary, Philippine national hero Jose Rizal described Missouri River as twice the size of Pasig River in its widest part. Missouri is just the second largest tributary of the Mississippi, the largest river system in North America.

In my youth, I considered Kawayan (spelled with a “k” since there is no “c” in Tagalog nor Bikol alphabets) River in Basud, Sorsogon in the Philippines just as big as the Pasig River if not half as big in its narrowest part.

When I was in grade school, I always cherished the days when we visited our relatives living near Kawayan River so we could swim in the white water the whole day.

If we could leave early in the day, we would even walk upstream of Kawayan River called “Rangas” for a picnic to visit one of my uncles, Felipe Lariosa, who would guide us to a pool of water which was so clean it was safe to drink. We did not care if we took on water while we bathed.

Today, Kawayan River is like a swamp that may soon become a dry and barren land.

Thanks to what Los Angeles, California activist and former Sorsogon resident Bobby Reyes describes as an “ecological rape” of Kawayan River perpetrated formerly by the Philippine government when it was operating the Philippine National Oil Company, which later became National Power Corporation. The NPC ceded its interest to Energy Development Corporation after submitting the complying bid for the 150-MW Bacman (Bacon-Manito) geothermal plants last year for 1.2-billion pesos (US$26-million) during an auction hosted by PSALM (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp).

While geothermal is considered “cleaner energy” than coal- or oil-fired power plant because each kilowatt-hour of electricity it generates only emits about 5 percent of carbon dioxide, along with the area’s “rotten-egg” smell as well as ammonia and methane that it emits, geothermal still raises environmental issues such as air and water pollutions along with safe disposal of hazardous waste, silting, and land subsidence.


One of the residents near Kawayan River, Sonia Lariosa, a cousin of mine, informed Mr. Reyes that in her Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150294889948968.379581.720778967, everyone can see the effects of how huge power companies bring ecological nightmare to the rivers like Kawayan and nearby farm lands when these powerful companies disregard environmental safeguards as they go about with their business.

Sonia complains that Kawayan River is now a very small tributary and from the photos, it seems it is no longer empties into the Sorsogon Bay.

She said her small rice fields are no longer irrigated with water from up streams but with muds “with cement” that can only come from nearby “Bacman II, a geothermal facility that operates two 20-Megawatt-unit turbines “commissioned in 1994.”

The word “Bacman” was taken from the towns of Bacon, Sorsogon and Manito Albay in the Bikol region. It has a steam plant (BacMan I) located in the boundary of Bacon and Manito.

“When my father was alive (Cerelo Lariosa, a World War II veteran), these PNOC people had been bulldozing our small patch of land. My father protested but because nobody can sue the government without its consent, my father gave up and let them do what they wanted,” Sonia recalls.

While the PNOC was building their facility, quarrying of the river went into high gear. Today, when there is rain, there are no more stones to hold the soil and there are mudslides all over the place.

Sonia is not the only one affected. Her neighbors about 200 of them have signed up a petition to put into stop to the unmitigated exploitation of their natural resources that used to irrigate their rice fields, which are the main sources of their livelihood. “We can no longer grow palay in our rice fields,” she wailed.


She said she could not get the cooperation of her Barangay Captain so their complaints will reach the higher government authorities (the local “representathieves” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources), who are conniving with the Energy Development Company people.

They are now enlisting the help of senior law students from Aquinas University in Legazpi City so they can file complaints.

They have formed a group called “Bacman Geothermal Multi Monitoring Task Force,” which will file a complaint against EDC before the United Nations for violating the KYOTO PROTOCOL, an environmental treaty, of which the Philippines is a signatory.

The Task Force realizes that they are up against a behemoth in the industry in EDC, a geothermal leader whose Chair Emeritus is Oscar Lopez of the powerful ABS-CBN international conglomerate. Last May 15, EDC reported a net income of 1.45 billion pesos (US$31-Million) for the first quarter of the year alone. Thru its subsidiaries Green Core Geothermal, Inc. (GCGI) and Bacman Geothermal, Inc. (BGI), EDC acquired the geothermal power plants owned by National Power Corporation, which sources steam from Company’s steam field assets.

Oscar Lopez is a sister of Gina Paz L. Lopez, the managing director of ABS- CBN’s Foundation, Inc.’s Bantay Kalikasan (nature protector) that “envisions a responsibly protected and preserved Philippine environment where children can live safer, healthier and more bountiful lives.”
Sonia said she wrote Gina about her complaints against EDC. But Sonia is afraid Gina is going to be placed in a “conflicting role.”

EDC remains the largest producer of geothermal energy in the Philippines, accounting for 62 percent of the total country, the largest integrated geothermal power company in the world.

Last year, Bacman plants generated 1,199 MW. To appreciate better the power of an MW, a 3-MW plant can supply electricity to Ormoc City, which has a population of 177,524 people and Ormoc’s nearby towns. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)


A Man Named Omar



by Michelle Dayrit- Soliven*  

I had never known the joys of the ocean until I came across a man so at ease with the earth’s most awesome sea creatures. His persistence led me to a deeply moving encounter that gave me a richer appreciation of the gifts of God to Mother Nature. I arrived with a fearful heart and left with an electrified spirit, courtesy of our newfound family friend, a man named Omar.  

Omar Nepomuceno


God equips His children with specific talents and abilities in order to pursue their purpose in life. It is therefore no coincidence that Omar Nepomuceno was born in the seaside town of Donsol in Sorsogon, a blessed haven where the world’s largest concentration of butandings (whale sharks) abound.  

A strong self-taught swimmer, Omar’s fondest childhood memory is that of his grandfather Isidoro taking two styrofoam ice chest covers used in his ice candy business. Using rope made of straw, he securely tied one onto his grandson’s back, the other onto his stomach. Then he would say to his apo: “O, sige na hijo, maligo ka na.”  

His parents Rosalina and Isidoro Jr. watched over their fearless little son joyfully swimming around the river.  

He describes himself as “taong dagat” because he adores, protects and  

respects the ocean and everything in it. Omar completed a Marine Engineering course at Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation in Legaspi City. When the Department of Tourism and the WWF conducted training for butanding interaction officers (BIOs) in Donsol, Omar emerged on top of his class. He loves butandings and he loves his job with a passion!  

I felt this when I met Omar last month in Donsol. I had been hearing his name from my younger sea-loving sisters Yvonne and Christine who had gone several times before me. For a very safe and enjoyable experience, they highly recommend Omar as my guide. Indeed they were right, but I experienced much more than they prepared me for.  

All butanding encounters are different and everyone has his or her own story to tell. Mine began on the morning of March 27.  

Incidentally, we were in Sorsogon the day before to attend the first graduation rites of The Divine Healer Learning Center. This is a school that provides quality education for underprivileged but deserving students founded by Father Gerard.  

It was a perfect day. Clear blue skies and glorious sunshine accompanied us on the scenic drive to Donsol. Upon our arrival on Vitton Beach, we received an enthusiastic welcome from a man named Omar, introduced as our BIO. He accompanied us to watch the orientation video in the registration office. “So it is you my sisters were talking about,” I told him as we walked into the boat and set off into the azure waters of the bay.  

He asked if we had with us some snorkeling gear. My son and husband nodded and showed it to him. He checked on them and seemed satisfied. Then he looked at me. The moment I dreaded came and I felt I just had to tell him: “Omar, there is something you need to know. I have never ever in my life used a mask and snorkel. This will be my very first time.” Instinctively he probably felt the fear I had because he immediately assured me that it was very easy. “Kaya mo yan, ma’am. Don’t worry, I will teach you now,” he told me.  

He put the mask over my face and adjusted it comfortably. Then he gently inserted the snorkel into my mouth and showed me how to breathe. “Now, remember, do not worry. When I say jump, just jump in and hold on to me when you get into the water,” he said. I nodded, trying to keep a brave front. Suddenly, I heard the boatman pointing and excitedly saying: “Ayan na! Nandyan na yung butanding.”  

I froze in fear! So soon! My sisters told me that they had to wait an hour or two to find a whale shark. I thought I would have more time to get used to the use of a mask and snorkel. They stopped the boat. I watched in horror as my hubby and my son jumped in. Omar was looking at me. “Ma’am, it’s time to jump. Let’s go!” I panicked! My heart was pounding as I hoisted myself unsteadily onto the edge of the boat. I was shaking while the boat bobbed up and down. I fought to keep my balance. Like a rag doll I was awkwardly teetering back and forth, so afraid to hit the water and almost fell back into the boat instead. I was trying to open my mouth to say, “I’m backing out! I changed my mind! I cant do this!” Suddenly I felt Omar’s strong hand taking mine as he jumped in pulling me into the water with him.  

I wanted to scream but the snorkel was in my mouth. I closed my eyes. Terror gripped me as we hit the water. But I heard Omar saying, “Ma’am relax ka lang. Just hold on to me and do not be afraid.” He readjusted my mask and snorkel and said, “Ready? Let’s go!” He held my hand firmly and swam away, not giving me time to think.  

“Look down,” Omar told me. “Just put your head down.” I obeyed… put my head down. And opened my eyes… and gasped! The sun’s rays penetrated the waters revealing a humongous blue gray figure with round white spots swimming gracefully beneath me. I was right smack on top of the butanding and the water was so clear I could see it breathing. Omar swam and supported my elbow lightly so that I could interact with this gentle being. As the silence enveloped me under water, a sudden peace pervaded my soul. I felt a deep spiritual connection between the whale shark and Omar as we all swam together side by side, basking in joyous tranquility.  

It was a successful conspiracy. These two soul mates (Omar and the whale shark) sensed my fear of the sun and the ocean kept me with them for a blissful 30 minutes, emptying me of all my fears.  

That was only the first of the six butandings I would encounter that day. We all emerged triumphant and invigorated. Omar was elated. BIO Florante Trinidad did such a good job with Lucy Lee’s new underwater camera that we each had a video of our interaction with these colossal yet amiable beings.  

We then enjoyed a sumptuous lunch courtesy of Sorsogon’s very gracious Gov. Sally Lee. Over succulent seafood and the best ginataang langka, Omar shared his stories.  

Very protective and caring in nature, Omar wants his visitors to make the most of the time and money they spend to come to Donsol. “I want everyone to be comfortable in the water and go home with wonderful stories to tell.”  

His most unforgettable experience in the ocean was the day in 2001. He had some American guests who flew all the way from Pittsburg wishing to see a whale shark. They didn’t just see one but a whole school of them, about 50 on a feeding frenzy. They were ecstatic!  

Another glorious moment was the day Omar and Florante successfully rescued a trapped butanding in Batangas. Asked how they did it, when several others before them failed, he humbly said, “I prayed for God’s assistance.”  

He takes every opportunity to share his insights to protect the precious butandings. “If a group of six fishermen kill a butanding, six families may have enough to live on for six months. But in exchange the rest of the other families in the community will all go hungry for years to come. Why? Because this brutal act could scare the butanding population away. And what do you think will happen to the van drivers who pick up guests, resort owners and restaurant owners, their employees, souvenir stall owners, boatmen, BIOs? With their livelihood gone, their families will go hungry,” he said.  

He prays often for the safety of his wife Yvette, a nurse in the Middle East, and is most grateful that his daughter Rayven graduated grade school at Aquinas School in Legaspi with honors. This nature lover feels God’s presence in the sunshine, the calmness of the sea, the magnificence of the gentle butandings. “I always ask God to please let my visitors see the butanding.” He is happiest when he sees his guests enjoying.  

“I always want to spread the sunshine,” he says of his motto in life. “Whatever blessings and gifts I receive from God, I must share.”  

To Omar, this means teaching others the skills he has mastered like swimming, being a good BIO, training others who want to be guides of other natural attractions, giving talks to the fishing community on the importance of not harming but preserving their environment, finding new activities and exciting destinations that guests to his beloved province of Sorsogon can enjoy and his fellowmen can benefit from. /  


*Asking Michelle to publish her article in Bulan Observer, she replied :  

“Sure Andres! ( Andres?- that’s me, jun!) That was one experience I will never ever forget. Omar is the best. I am so glad you did not drown (she’s referring to my story of almost drowning in the sea of Donsol when I was 8). You must have a mission in life to fulfill. I am sure it is something that will be most rewarding. Be blessed in all you do.” MICHELLE DAYRIT-SOLIVEN  

Thank you Michelle!  

 Omar is my first cousin (mother’s side), he lives and works in Donsol. I have good memories of Donsol as I also partly spent my childhood there. The beautiful sceneries with Mt. Mayon against a lovely sunset, the quiet sea and the loving people and of course my dear grandparents Doro and “May” (mother) Nepomuceno with whom I used to go for a walk along the sea after dinner. I met Omar  last April 2009-  in Bulan!   

 jun asuncion  







Bulan Observer Supports Swiss-Asian Chamber Of Commerce Task Force Asia

by jun asuncion


The devastation of  typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng to the Philippines was unprecedented in scale and magnitude. The whole world was witness to this natural catastrophe and the drama of the Filipino people as they fought to survive. Videos and  photos uploaded in internet platforms are documents of our suffering: A whole family on a roof that has been violently carried away by the gush of the swollen river only to be smashed against the concrete support of the bridge and be drowned as others were helplessly watching; a woman and a child carried by the strong current crying out for help. We can only wonder what she said to her baby before they were swallowed down the depths of the river…

 Now that the storm is over, the only thing left is to help those victims  make their miserable destiny bearable to them-  and to us. We know that catastrophes do not distinguish between rich and poor. The only difference is that the rich may recover materially much easier than the poor ones. The rich victims may already be under the shower and dressed with fine clothings  dining in fine restaurants and sleeping in comfortable rooms in hotels or fine apartments provided by their rich friends. But where are the poor? They are still there with their poor companions, stuck in the muds among the debris and sleeping in evacuation centers- if these were quickly provided by the government. Otherwise they are still  in the streets, wallowing in muddy waters, hopelessly lost, hungry and cold.

We may have been thousands of  miles away from Ondoy and Pepeng, thousands of miles away from the deep waters of Marikina and from our drowning citizens. Yet their crying voices seemed to have been heard in the farthest reaches of the universe. It is painful for those who heard them, even to those who do not share the color of our skin.

These crying voices echoed also in the alps of Switzerland and in the noble streets of Zurich. The Swiss were quick to respond, the humanitarian tradition being firmly rooted in their heart and soul. A Swiss lawyer, Dr. Martin Kurer, chairman of the Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce- Philippine Chapter and co-founder of the Taskforce Asia, quickly connected himself with two Filipino nurses here in Zurich, Franklin Patricio and Milagros Asuncion, who are both working in Hirslanden Clinic, to ask for  their help on fundraising for our fellow Filipinos who are still stuck in the miry streets of Manila. Milagros Asuncion is a photographer of Bulan Observer. She also had a taste of flooding  when Storm Dante battered Bulan last May. Now the engagement to flood victims continues even when far away from home.

 In order to help raise funds, she endorsed SACC by way of offering her  testimonial to the Taskforce Asia, appeared in the Caritas, a humanitarian organization with seat in Zürich, will be appearing on  a radio interview and will be- together with Franklin-  organizing a piano concert in Zürich. I am, on the other hand, just sitting quitely at the background with my laptop-, writing for some websites here and writing letters for donors. All for the benefits of our bedraggled homeless Ondoy victims in the Philippines.

The SACC Task Force Asia was set up by the Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland, H.E. M aria Theresa P. Lazaro, and Martin Kurer, Chairman of the SACC Philippine Chapter.

Here’s the Website of the Swiss-Asian Chamber of Commerce with our two  Filipino “ambassadors of goodwill” Mila and Franklin:


Milagros Asuncion, Nurse at Hirslanden Klinik in Zurich, Heart-Thorax Surgery Station.

Mila SCC “My name is Milagros Asuncion. I am a nurse at Hirslanden Klinik. For the past 28 years I have been working as a nurse in Switzerland. We have experienced very bad storms in the Philippines before, but this Ketsana, or Ondoy, is worse than anything I…( click here for more…)




Franklin Patricio, Nurse at  Hirslanden Zürich, Heart-Thorax Surgery Station

22I am Franklin Patricio. I am working as a nurse in a hospital in Zurich. The Philippines are very much affected by the storm which has hit Metro Manila and Northern Luzon, as the fate of my sisters’ family shows. Please support the… (click here for more…)




Bulan Observer will be supporting more humanitarian projects of the Swiss-Asian Chamber Of Commerce  in the future.

(Photos supplied by Swiss-Asian Chamber Of Commerce- with special thanks to Dr. Martin Kurer!)


Realted Articles


But we are not destroyed (as published in Taskforceasia.ch)

 by Maribel Oana, Zurich, Switzerland

I still have my family: my mother, a widow for 43 years, who has been blind for almost 15 years, and crippled- because of a car accident last 2005- but saved; with her is my youngest brother with his wife and their 3 children, they are the ones taking care of my mother. Venue:  our  two-floors Residential house in Vista Verde Executive Village in Cainta Rizal, one of the most devastated areas hit by Typhoon Ondoy.

This is their story, as related to me by my mother and my sister-in-law.

September 26, 2009, Saturday at about 8 o’clock in the morning; the water in the streets were we lived were already ankle high (our house is one meter elevated from that of the street). After less than 15 minutes, the water rose and have reached our main gate and Garage, so my brother told my mother that he will accompany her in going to the second floor because the water is rising fast. My mother didn’t took this seriously because she knew that it never flooded in our house even when our neighbor subdivisions are under water, ours never was.

My brother and his 2 sons started putting the appliances such as the Refrigerator, washing machine and electric cooking range on the dining table while my sister-in-law and her daughter brought some biscuits, rice, noodles and water upstairs and nothing else (they were caught unprepared for this situation). Another 15 minutes gone by, the water was already inside our house on the first floor and 1 inch below the knee. My brother hurried to my mother and let her stand on her feet to make her believe that the water is truly inside our house and she was very much frightened and shocked as she felt the water on her knees.

My brother carried my mother upstairs for there is no more time left because the water is rising up every minute. Then he and his sons took the light furniture upstairs as fast as they can and that within 5 minutes then after that is history: a huge amount of water flooded our first floor.

My brother was nearly drowned for he was caught unaware, because the appliances that were on top of the table fell on the water and bumped him, he was trap in the middle of the swimming appliances and the swimming piano, thanks God, his sons pulled him up.

Not long ago on the second floor, they heard voices from outside calling for help; they saw our neighbors swimming outside crying and shouting for help. Their houses (only one floor-Bungalow style) were under water with only the roofs seen. My family welcomed our neighbors

(2 families and the youngest was a 5-year old boy). Before 9 o’clock (within less than one hour), the whole place was flooded 2 meters high, and remained there 2 days and 2 nights, with no electricity, 3 liters of water and only biscuits to eat (for they cannot cook without electricity). We were able to communicate with them through cellphone on a limited basis, since cellphones need to be recharged, too.

We may not be with our family physically during this Ondoy Tragedy, but they were always in our prayers and we motivated and encouraged then to pray, too and continue to trust in God even this times of suffering, for we know that God is still in control! My eldest brother and his family, and my eldest sister’s family were saved, but we are still looking for our cousin living in Provident Village in Marikina who until now is missing. My mother is a prayerful woman and she told me this; “my child, we may be struck down, but we are not destroyed, Praise be the name of the Lord!

The Aftermath: as of now death toll is rising up, a lot of people is still missing and thousands of people are homeless and hungry. In behalf of my countrymen, I’m asking and pleading you to please help us in cash of any amount or in kind (any old clothes, old shoes, old linen)./



Submitted on 2009/10/04 at 9:41am

PIO- Bulan

Bulan, Sorsogon, October 3, 2009, PIO-BULAN: Bulanenos heaved a very deep sigh of relief, and offered prayers of thanksgiving to God, after the Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council officially declared, in its October 2, 3:00 PM Advisory that the dangers and risks posed by Supertyphoon Pepeng to the town of Bulan is over. The Supertyphoon, packing winds of between 185-230 KPH, is on its way to the northern part of the Philippines on a west-northwest track as forecast by PAG-ASA. The MDCC Action Officer, Luis De Castro, however, appealed to the public to continue praying for other Filipinos who might be affected by the storm and that they too be spared of this calamity.

Supertyphoon Pepeng endangers the Philippines once more a week after Tropical Storm Ondoy, on September 28-29, brought death, devastation and havoc to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in Metro Manila. Hundreds died and many more were missing from the floodwaters as high as ten meters, due to the record high volumes of rain by this malevolent weather. As of this writing, rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts are still on-going in Manila. Not a single family in Bulan is without a relative in Manila.

When news from PAG-ASA and from the Internet about Pepeng was received by the Office of the Municipal Mayor, Mayor Helen De Castro, Chairman of the MDCC, immediately called, on Wednesday, September 30, an emergency meeting of all members of the MDCC and other stakeholders to put into action and implementation the Municipal Disaster Risk-Reduction Plan.

By evening of October 1, Sorsogon Province was placed under Public Storm Signal No.1, and by then, the Bulan MDCC and all the BDCCs were already activated. Other parts of the Bicol Region were ready, and so were all other Philippine regions. Great were the lessons learned from the tragic experience of Storm Ondoy.

In the whole town of Bulan, residents were properly informed, hand-outs on readiness were distributed, operation capabilities checked and re-checked by local authorities. All the four radio stations played very responsible roles in the public information. In flood-prone barangays like Managa-naga, Obrero, San Vicente, barangay officials prepared rafts from recycled ice chests or styrofores. Managa-naga Barangay Chairman said they also prepared a kilometer-long rope for their residents in case flood waters rise.

The spirit of Bayanihan and volunteerism once more came to the fore as several groups and organizations came to help the MDCC in monitoring , in the voluntary and pre-emptive evacuation of citizens in hazard areas, and in the relief operations in evacuation centers.

Groups like USWAG-Bulan, TOFY, Kabalikat-CIVICOM, BANWA, MAGIC 5, BEAT, and the Bulan Rescue Team were all in hand to do varied roles necessary for the safety of the citzenry

During the storm, 14 houses were partially destroyed by storm surges in Barangay JP Laurel. There were also 56 families or 188 persons attended to by MSWDO/RHU personnel and by the volunteers. The Bulan Integrated Terminal became a refuge center for 125 stranded passengers bound for Masbate and Ticao Island. Hot meals were given to them while they are staying at the terminal. Sadly, one passenger from Palanas , Masbate died of a heart attack upon arrival at the terminal. He was attended to by the Bulan PNP.

Fortunately, there were no reports of damage to public infrastructure. Farmers were also thankful that there was only minor damage to crops , especially that this is now the palay-harvest season in Bulan.

The MDCC, thru the Municipal Mayor and the Municipal Action Officer, extended thanks to all those who, in one way or another, did their share in making sure that the Bulan community was safe.





Bulan, Sorsogon, October 3, 2009 – Several passengers, before boarding their tricycles that will bring them to the Bulan Pier today, extended thanks and praises to the Local Government Unit of Bulan and the Bulan Terminal personnel, for the attention and care given to them while staying here at the local government facility at the height of typhoon Pepeng.

Yesterday, a total of 125 passengers bound for Masbate and Ticao Island were stranded at the Terminal, Of these, 54 were males, 54 females and 17 children.

The MSWDO gave out hot meals for dinner yesterday and another breakfast pack this morning to all the passengers before they left for their trip to Masbate, after Typhoon Signal No. 1 was lifted by PAG-ASA.

These were sad moments however for the family of one of the passengers, a 60-year old male resident of Palanas town in Masbate, who died of a heart attack, 20 minutes after debarking from the MegaBus, due to fear brought about by announcements on the typhoon. He was immediately attended to by terminal personnel and the PNP..

According to Terminal Manager Ruel Gimao, the Bulan Integrated Terminal, since it started operation, has always been a holding center to hundreds of Masbate passengers, everytime the Coast Guard suspends inter-island vessel trips to and from Masbate and Ticao or Northern Samar.

Gimao said that many passengers texted him after reaching their destination in Masbate and Ticao thanking local authorities for attending to them while staying at the Terminal. They say that they felt safer at the new facility unlike before that they were exposed to many elements in private terminals in the Poblacion.

THE Local Government Unit has in the past purchased several beddings and utensils to be used especially by children and old people stranded at the Terminal. A holding room has also been especially furbished for use by these passengers. The Terminal Manager reported that in many instances in the past months, they have already helped several persons with mental illnesses, and who were on their own when they arrived at the Terminal. These people were properly referred to the police and health and social welfare authorities.



The Way To Bulan Eco-Park

By: jun asuncion +* LGU- Bulan Mayor Helen De Castro and Tony Boy Gilana


We have taken all these photos by ourselves on that sultry summer morning last April 2009.  As I was sorting out the photos for this documentary article, I realized that I couldn’t provide myself  the necessary informative captions for each photo.  So I called up Mayor Helen De Castro and asked her if she could help provide the needed information. I caught her right in the middle of a meeting about H1N1 Virus (Swine Flu) but she was really  kind enough to listen to my concerns and promised she would send Bulan Observer the materials. I also knew how busy her team was at this point because of the upcoming town Fiesta. So it took awhile, but we have patience for good things.

The purpose of this little documentary is to give readers of  Bulan Observer especially those who are away from home a visual tour of the Bulan Eco-Park so that they will have a concrete image of it. Interestingly enough, my own mental picture of the Eco-Park before my visit did not diverge far from the real picture of it – at least as far as I could roam around and shoot photos and videos of it. Lack of a guide and time prevented me from exploring the whole park for it is really big.

Now, with the additional captions written in our Bulan dialect and other article-related substantial information in English sent by LGU-Bulan, it is practically a guided tour as you go from one photo to the next. The added facts and updates  at the end of the report will  round up your knowledge about the park. So enjoy your way to Bulan Eco-Park!  jun asuncion


It was a nice April morning when we drove to  Calomagon  to visit the BulanEco-Park. It’s not far from the center of the town. After Somagonsong  we found the signboard on the left side. We were excited and took photos along the way to -and from the Eco-Park. (For your sound as you travel, click the first photo and then minimize your media player)
















 A local Kiosk with young bystanders just passing the time, curios-looking eyes to passing strangers.









  Yet friendly and smiling faces.









 Turn left again to a long and winding – and rough road, naturally.









 Here’s the road in front of us, looking  quite and deserted, windless day, indeed a calm before the storm.










 (A quarry pit over there?)

Photo No. 6:

*Mao tabi ini an inkukuwaan ta baras na pangtahob ta sa mga basura saato dumpsite. Regular (weekly) tabi na in-uusong, hinuhulog san heavy equipment unit an basura sa bangin. Pakahulog tabi, tatahuban ini san baras (soil cover).









Looking like a natural gate marking the border to another town.









 Coconut plantation, an almost magical ambiance, like an oil painting from afar, palm leaves silvery and shining.









 Here we are, the Welcome signboard.









The certiicate of recognition to our Mayor De Castro  for excellence in environmental governance on Solid waste Management.










 A symbol for natural harmony- at least the way I see it.









Photo No. 12:

*Mao tabi ini an demo garden para saurbanagriculture o container gardening. Laom tabi sini na maipaimod sa mga tawo na sa halip na itapok an mga old containers o butangan (plastic, empty milk cans, platic cups, sako, nan iba pa) sa basurahan, pwede pa tabi ini gamiton bilang plant pots para sa mga ornamentals nan gulay). Intended/designed tabi ini lalo na sa mga urban areas o poblacion areas kun haen limitado o wara na tabi lugar para pagtanuman.








Photo No. 13:

*Parte tabi ini san kampanya san Lokal na Gobyerno sa pag-implementar san waste segregation








 A cow discretely resting beside a bahay kubo, seems to be observing us.








Photo No. 15:

*Mao tabi ini an istruktura kun haen tabi naka locate an Materials Recovery Facility. Pagsakat tabi sin trak para magtapok basura, didi muna tabi ihuhulog an mga basura na puede pa pakinabangan nan ipabakal. Ini tabi na istruktura, hinati sa tolo na kuwarto (Lecture Room, Materials Recovery Facility, Ecology Center).








Photo No. 16.

*Lecture Room. Didi tabi inhihimo an briefing o orientation sa mga bisita (LGU, estudyante, empleyado, o grupo na interesado maaraman an programa san Municipio sa Solid Waste Management) sa Ecopark. Didi man tabi inhihimo an demo san paghimo san mga manalaen-laen na activators para sa composting.








Photo No. 17.

“An sulod tabi san Lecture Room








Photo No. 18.

*Mao tabi ini an section para sa Materials Recovery Facility.








Photo No. 19:

*Mao man tabi ini an section para sa Ecology Center. Showcase room tabi ini para sa mga recycled products, information, nan mga pictures/documentation san programa sa Solid Waste Management.








Photo No. 20:

*An nasa left side tabi na structure, sayo po sa mga rest areas o cottages sa Ecopark. An sa right side tabi, mao an vermiculture nan vermicomposting facility. Sa sulod man tabi sini nafacility an shredding area kun haen naka takod po an shredder.

An vermiculture nan vermicomposting facility tabi, sayo na proseso san composting kun haen an ginagamit tabi ulod. Sa Ecopark tabi, an species tabi na may-on, mao an African nightcrawler. Pinapakaon tabi ini na mga ulod sin shredded na mga nabubulok na basura (market waste, grass clippings, etc.), an manure tabi nira, mao an produkto san composting. Mao man tabi ini an ginagahoy na vermicompost na pwede gamiton bilang soil conditioner o fertilizer sa mga tinanom.

An kulay blue tabi, mao an sayo sa duwa na tanke tabi san tubi sa Ecopark na ginagamit pangsaribo sa mga tinanom nan sa operation san MRFnan composting facilities.

An kahiwasan tabi na nasa letrato, mao an inkokonduktaran san mga programa sa Ecopark pareho san Fiesta sa Kabubudlan (film showing, games, concert, disco, nan iba pa).








Photo No. 21:

*Mao tabi ini an tanke san tubi sa Ecopark. Ini tabi na inguguyod na tanke, mao tabi an nagdadara san tubi sa Ecopark








Photo No. 22:

*Mga nakasako tabi ini na mga nabubulok na basura (balat nan iba pa na parte san prutas nan gulay, dahon, buto, nan iba pa) na hale sa Public Market. Ini tabi kukuwaon san in-charge sa composting facility para darahon sa shredding area para gilingon, paaguihon sa 2 weeks na anaerobic decomposition saka ipapakaon sa mga ulod.

Maiimod tabi sa upper left side san letrato an shredder. Sa upper right side naman tabi, an mga composting beds o vermi beds.








Photo No. 23:

*Mao tabi ini an mga tanom na puno san gmelina (about 2 years old). Sa likod tabi ini san vermiculture nan vermicomposting facility.

May-on man tabi didi sin hukay (0.75m x 0.75m x 0.50m) na pag nag-uuran, nabubutangan tubi. Ini tabi nakukuwaan man tubi pangsaribo sa mga tinanom nan compost piles sa likod..








Photo No. 24:

*Mao tabi ini an vermiculture nan vermicomposting beds. Kapag an shredded na basura tabi na binutang sa bed, halos puro manure na tabi san ulod, ibubutang na tabi ini na mga sako na may laman na fresh (although nag-agui na tabi ini sa 2-week na anaerobic decomposition process) na pagkaon para sa mga ulod. Mao tabi ini an paagui para makuwa an mga ulod nan mabalyo sa iba naman na beds.

Ini tabi na mga manure na, hahayaan mun-a tabi for 1 month sa lugar para maka-recover pa sin mga baby worms sa bed. After 1 month, pwede na tabi ini sakuhon nan i-stock sa bodega.








Photo No. 25:

*Mao tabi inian shredding machine na ginagamit sa shredding process. Sini-shred tabi an mga basura para mas madali malupa nan makaon san mga ulod.








Photo No. 26:

*An inkukuwaan tabi letrato san photographer mao tabian tree planting site san naka-agui na Fiesta sa Kabubudlan 2008. Sa left side tabi sini na lugar, mao man an campsite.








Photo No. 27:

*Mao tabi ini an close up picture san demo garden para saurbanagriculture o container gardening. An bubong tabi sini mao an pakanapan para sa ampalaya, karabasa, nan iba pa na nagkakanap na tinanom. Maiimod tabi an mga lata, sako nan plastic cups.








Photo No. 28:

*Sa sulod tabi ini san urban agriculture demo garden. Talong tabi ini na nasa sako. Pina-paimod lang tabi na an mga sako san semento, pwede man gamiton na patubuan san gulay/tinanom.








Photo No. 29:

*Sa sulod man tabi ini san urban agriculture demo garden. Mga kamatis tabi ini na nasa sako man san semento. An kawayan tabi sa taas san tinanom, mao an pakanapan.








Photo No. 30:

*Sa sulod man tabi ini san urban agriculture demo garden. Manlaen-laen tabi na gulay an nakatanom didi sa mga sako.








Photo No. 31:

*Tanuman man tabi ini na kawayan. Naka-design lang tabi siya na A-Frame. An mga irog tabi sini, pwede ibutang sa mga roof top san balay.








Photo No. 32:

*Signage tabi ini san Opisina.








Photo No. 33:

*Mao tabi ini an Ecopark Office. Nagsisirbi man tabi ini stock room san Ecopark.









Photo No. 34:

*Signage tabi pakadto sa Campsite. Kaupod tabi sa letrato an mga Acacia mangium trees (about 1 ½ years old).








Photo No. 35:

*Pathway pakadto tabi sa rest areas o cottages. Maiimod man tabi an mga puno san Gmelina arborea nan Acacia mangium sa palibot.








Photo No. 36:

*Pathway pakadto tabi sa campsite








Photo No. 37:

*Sayo sa mga rest areas/cottages. Kada rest area tabi, may signboard manungod sa solid waste management / waste segregation to inform the park goers about the policy of the LGU.








Photo No. 38:

*An sayo pa tabi sa duwa na tanke san tubi sa Ecopark. Naka-locate man tabi ini harane sa bungad san Ecopark. Inbubutangan man tabi ini tubi para pangsaribo man sa mga tinanom na nakatanom sa parte na ini san Ecopark.








 Driving back after a relaxing time inside the park.









A good segment of the road, smooth driving.









 This time a quintet of Calomagon boys. I’m very happy to see them as they look very natural, uncontaminated and safe from the dangers of  too much civilization.










Towards the end of our journey before the exit to the town, a nipa hut  surrounded by flowering birds of paradise! They would cost a fortune in Europe.


If you would see the Eco-park as it is, it is surely a big accomplishment for our local government knowing that it is also a place where environmental agendas are being held every year. I would be very glad to see the Feast Of the Mountains, or to attend a lecture or workshop on solid waste management or global warming. How about a Music Festival- or a Jazz Festival? My own fantasy, as I walked on the ground of  Bulan Eco-park with my mind filled with ideas on how it could be improved  with time as Bulan progresses.

I would have wished it was a guided tour when I was there so that I could ask questions about things that were not clear for me. Maybe next time I would have this privilege. One thing that would make you happy are the young trees planted all over the Campsite and the well-kept paths. I wanted to know the names of the trees so I suggest that they’d be written in their local and scientific names. Included would be short information about each specific tree like distribution, importance to Bulan ecology, status ( endangered or not yet), etc.

I haven’t seen a source of drinking  water like a faucet , a well, water pump or  a grilling area , a multi-functional pavilion, garbage cans, a toilet and wash room for Park visitors. And I haven’t seen anybody there- except for a cow behind the signboard which says “Waste Segregation Suportado San KadaBulaneño”. Was that cow segregating also her waste? Cows by the way are one of the biggest culprits of this global warming. /  jun asuncion


*LGU-Bulan Mayor Helen De Castro and Tony Boy Gilana



Gmelina arborea (Gmelina) – exotic

Acacia mangium (Mangium) – exotic

Acacia auriculiformis (Acacia auri) – exotic

Swietenia Macrophylla (Big Leaf Mahogany) – exotic


Tinanom tabi ini na species maski aram ta na exotic tabi ini sa dahilan na ini tabi, fast growing kaya sa panahon tabi na nagbabatog pa lang an pag-develop san Ecopark, kaipuhan tabi shade. Although exotic tabi, widely distributed naman na tabi siya sa Pilipinas for how many years.

Pterocarpus indicus (Narra)

Albizia saman (Acacia, Rain Tree)

Leucaena leucocephala (Ipil-ipil)

Fruit trees:

Artocarpus heterophyllus (Langka)

Mangifera indica (Mango)

Carica papaya (Papaya)

Annona squamosa (Atemoya)

Canarium ovatum (Pili)

Cocos nucifera (Coconut)

Theobroma cacao (Cacao)



Mac Arthur Palm

Yellow Bell






None yet, pero may plano na.


Sa niyan, an ginagamit lang tabi na area para sa mga activities, an kahiwasan san lugar na kahampang san vermiculture nan vermicomposting facility. Nagbubutang tabi stage nan big tents kun may mga lecture, demonstrations, programs, etc.

4. Garbage cans

Dire tabi kami nagbubutang san basurahan sa mga rest areas o cottages dahilan sa ini-encourage namo na paghale san mga park goers sa cottages, dara tabi nira an basura nira para ibutang sa garbage receptacles na naka-locate sa gilid san tinampo.

5. Toilet

Dire lang tabi siguro nakuwaan letrato an mga toilet rooms. May 3 sets (one cubicle for men, one cubicle for women) tabi na toilet strategically located tabi sa Ecopark. Pa-triangle tabi an location san mga toilet since masyadong malaki ang lugar. An sayo sa may campsite banda, an sayo sa may durho na cottage, an sayo sa may centro san Ecopark.



The “Bulaneño Ako, Basura Ko, Sini-segregate Ko!” Program is one of the priority thrusts of the Local Government Unit of Bulan. It was first conceptualized in 2004, launched in 2005 and strictly implemented in 2008. The program encompasses the whole solid waste management program of the LGUandwas designed for: a.) sanitation and environmental protection, b.) sound solid waste management systems, c.) provision and enhancement of livelihood opportunities through intensive resource recovery and recycling, and d.) minimization of public expenditures.

Prior to the program implementation, there were clear violations of RA 9003 which were really detrimental to the environment and lives of the people. Rampant burning of solid wastes in the household and in the municipal dumpsitewas prevalent. Throwing garbage at the different waterways seemed to be a normal scenario. Moreover, dumping of unsegregated wastes at the municipal dumpsite posed hazards not only to the environment but also to more than thirty (30) scavengers in the dumpsite seekingfor possible resources. Although Republic Act 9003 mandating all LGUstoimplement waste segregation and close all the existing open dumpsites was passed into law in 2001, implementation was difficult to materialize.

In 2004, the call for the execution of the mandates of the Act was very intense. It is the time when incumbent Mayor Helen C. De Castro decided to include Solid Waste Management (SWM) as one of her priority thrusts. To immediately act and address the existingsituation, Mayor De Castro formed a Technical Working Group (TWG). A plan of action was made and a series of multi-sectoral meetings, orientations and seminars for LGU key implementers and other stakeholders followed.

On June 30, 2005, the “Bulaneño Ako, Basura Ko, Sini-segregate Ko!” Program was officially launched. A month after, Mayor De Castro spearheaded the launching also of the Bulan Ecopark, with an aim of transformingthe existing open dumpsiteinto an ecological park. However, the first implementation of the program had not been successful. The problems were eventually traced to lack of regular monitoring and evaluation coupled with some operational deficiencies on the part of the LGU. Mayor De Castro realized the problem and tried to address it.

On November 2005, the Municipality of Bulan was enrolled to the DILGGO-FAR Project. In 2006, Mayor De Castro along with four (4) members of the TWG went to Linamon, Lanao Del Norte to attend the Replication Inception Workshop (RIW) on SWM. The good practices to be replicated then were the operation of Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and the preparation of two (2) compost activators. On the same year, Mayor De Castro spearheaded the replication process. Relevant facilities were established and more intensive IECs on RA 9003 and Municipal Ordinance on SWMwerere-packaged. Finally, on March 24, 2008, the program was strictly enforced givingemphasis on the following; a.) strict implementation of waste segregation-at-source, b.) collection of segregated wastes-at-source, c.) application of waste treatment (4Rs) / alternative technologies, d.) implementation of segregated waste disposal system, and e.) conversion of waste disposal facility into an Ecological Park.

With the efforts of the LGU and the massive participation of the community, the program earned various awards and recognitions both from the local and national levels. In 2007, the municipality was an awardee of the prestigious DENR Saringaya Awards, LGU Category for excellence in Local Governance and Environmental Protection on the field of SWM. In 2008, the DILG through its Secretary, Hon. Ronaldo Puno declared the Municipality of Bulan as Model Town on SWM. In view of being a Model Town, Bulan was expected to host RIWsfor interested replicating LGUs all throughout the country. At present, four (4) LGUsfromfour (4) provinces and two (2) schools including the U.P. Diliman – National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) have already visited Bulan for its SWM Program. In 2008 also, Mayor De Castro reaped the Punong BayanAward of Excellence for championing the program. No less than the Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines, Hon. Noli De Castro and LMP National President Hon. Ramon Guicogavethe award at the Manila Hotel during the LMP General Assembly.

At present, the program is workingand regular monitoringand evaluation is being observed. The Bulan Ecopark, a brainchild project of Mayor De Castro is continuously building a big space of hope in the big wide face of Mother Earth.


The program since has been enrolled and awarded by the DILG as Model Town on Solid Waste Management on October 2008 caters LGUs, barangays, schools, and other groups interested to visit, observe and replicate the program. Some of the LGUs and groups who have already visited Bulan for its SWMProgram are the following:

a. Personnel from Cataingan, Masbate

August 2008

b. Students from U.P. National College of Public Administration and

Governance (NCPAG), Diliman Campus

September 19-20, 2008

c. Youth for Environment in Schools Organization (YES-O)

Division of Sorsogon

October 28, 2008

d. Sorsogon National High School Students

November 20-21, 2008

e. Liga ng mga Barangay, Tigaon, Camarines Sur

December 15,. 2008

f. Barangay Officials of Poblacion, Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte

December 22, 2008

g. LGU Officials of Prieto Diaz, Sorsogon

January 9, 2009

h. South East Asia – Urban Environmental Management Application Project Executives

March 2, 2009

i. Members of Provincial Solid Waste Management Board (PSWMB), Sorsogon

March 20, 2009


Video Of BulanEco-Park coming soon.


Part II: The MDCC And The Bulan Rescue Team

The Municipal Disaster Coordinating Council or  MDCC and the Bulan Rescue Team deserve once again the highest respect for their selfless efforts and efficient performance in saving the lives of many Bulaneños and of coordinating the whole disaster management at the height of  typhoon Dante last May 1 and 2.

Under the leadership of  Vice-mayor Gogola and the young  and competent Municipal Administrator Luis De Castro, Jr., the dangerous risks  to the lives of our town people had been maintained to the minimum. I’ve observed these men at work in a situation where I know would also have triggered the highest emergency alarm and stress even among most advanced cities in the world. Our men worked with the serenity of spirit, bravery and heroism of a real Bulaneño amidst the chaos in the whole of  Bulan and the limited technical resources they have at their disposal. And I approached them and talked with them to know more about the disaster from their own perspective-  with Vice-Mayor Gogola as he inspects the evacuees in Bulan South Central School and with Mr. Luis De Castro in the MDCC office which is  housed in the old Municipal vicinity as he instructs the men of the rescue Team.

Mr. Luis De Castro has retained this  attitude of thankfulness in the midst of a disaster for the very little effort our Canipaan Team has done to the very first wave of evacuees that occupied the Bulan North Central School in the early hours of May2. I sensed also a deep sincerity in him when he told me ” sana walang maging casualty” (we pray that there will be no casualty).

These words had warmed my wet body and wearied soul for actually I came to bury my sister this very day- and not to roam around in the flooded streets of Bulan, an experience I never had for the last decades. Bulaneños still care for Bulaneños is the insight I have learned in my short exchange of words with Mr. Luis De Castro, Jr. I also somehow felt rewarded in return for the indignation and caring that I felt when as a young boy our then mayor Mr. Luis de Castro, Sr. met his tragic end. I think this inter-connectedness-in some-ways- in -a -deeper -level is the essence of being one people.

Our Kudos then to our competent young leaders who can practically manage the town on their own and who are present not only in peaceful and joyful times but in times of great calamities that even reached international news reports. Born good leaders seem to be always  at the right place and time and are there when the whole town is in distress and when  the padabas need them the most.

I violated my argument that if pictures speak louder than words, then let them be, which means words are unnecessary. My defense is that I cannot photograph my thoughts and feelings so again, I used words to convey them in this short tribute to our leaders.

For now let these following images speak louder than me:











Municipal Adninistrator Luis De Castro, jr.  instructing his men.

















 The silhoutte of Vice -mayor Gogola (middle figure) as he inspects the evacuees in Bulan South Central School.










Some of the rescue men having their briefing.









Getting set…









One of the rubber rescue boats.









Rescue men in action.


















Hold on tight, children! The water is wall-high.









A race against time.









Clearing the waters from dangerous objects.


















and pull…









Young boys on the look out,  ready to help.


These are some of images of Bulaneños’  fight for survival on that stormy days.


jun asuncion

Bulan Observer                                 (photos by jun and mila asuncion)

Part I: The Storm Dante: Images Of Survival


Tuloy Po or Please Come In  is unmistakably Bulaneño hospitality…

 Tuloy Po

 Even when Bulan is  under water brought about by the devastating typhoon Dante last May 1-2.


 But who will come in, what kind of guests when pupils are on vacation and  who will dare when it is flooded?



 They are the guests- evacuees; children from Managanaga fleeing from high waters that swallowed their bamboo huts,

spending the night of heavy rains awake,  fearful and anxious about their situation.

Storm Dante shows no mercy as it pounded Bulan with strong winds and heavy rains overnight.


The classrooms are  still closed and so they find their first refuge under the staircase;

children and even a baby are wet, shivering from cold- and hunger.


Young Bulaneños- pretty girls and handsome boys- soaked in water, sleepless and hungry.


We come to their rescue during the first hours in the morning of May 2; nursing and comforting them.


 As some fathers are  in great stress running and swimming back and forth

 to Managanaga to rescue their other children who are left behind.



 And this is how it looks by now outside the Bulan North Central School;

more families coming,  taking with them  their most important belongings as the waters continue to rise.




 whole family…


 And an old man escorted by his young ones.


 A pig is precious, too.


 I am astonished by the gracefulness in their bearing; they retain their dignity and calmness,

as many walk through waters in a meditative posture- which shows that experience

with floods is not extraordinary in the town of Bulan.


 A boy joining his family somewhere, behind him the man

 in a meditative rhythm opposing the currents.


 The day when boats are in the streets of Canipaan…


 and a raft made of banana trunks, in place of cars and tricycles.


 Meanwhile, these families are now inside a classroom, given towels, hot drinks and biscuits. etc.


 Children now dry, visibly feeling better -at least for the time being-,

and mothers continue watching over them.


P1070979(click this photo to view Part II, or  the whole album)

A shy boy with sadness in his eyes in this dark room

with no electricity and drinking water.

If pictures speak louder than words, then let them be.


jun asuncion        

Bulan Observer                                                          ( photos by jun asuncion)



My Dogs Georgie Boy And Lucie


By: Dora the Mouse

It was unusually cold in this particular winter night. The temperature tonight dropped down to – 17 degrees. I went out to get some firewood at the backyard and it was freezing cold. I live alone and no one is there to help me haul a few logs of firewood for the fireplace. My little Chihuahua dog was shivering from cold and stayed inside the house. I was a little bit scared going outside in the dark by myself getting the firewood. It was in this situation that I thought of getting a big dog for companion and as a guard dog.

Today I went to the dog pound and look for a big dog that I can adopt. I want to adopt a German shepherd but this German shepherd I was looking at was noisy and continuously barking and wants to bite me, on the other hand, there was this Samoyed white dog looking at me and was very quiet. He was looking at me with a sad look in his eyes as if telling me to adopt him. I went ahead and adopted this gentle white dog and took him home after paying a fee and getting his shots. I named him George.

George and I had been inseparable since then. When I watch TV, George watch the TV too. Everywhere I go, George went with me. One day, I decided to go to see my little (Ranchito) orchards up in the mountain. I planted a lot of fruit trees like peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries and pears. The trees started to have tiny buds of fruit and need some clearing of grass around the trees. I was so engrossed with what I was doing that it was already dark. George, my dog, sat right in front of me to protect me from anybody who was foolish enough to approach us. When my son finally arrived to pick me up, George gave a big growl and was ready to attack my son  and if he didn’t identify himself early enough, he could have been bitten. Samoyed dog are normally gentle, happy- go-lucky dog. That’s how protective this dog is.

I did a research about my Samoyed dog and this is what I found. The Samoyed derives its name from the Samoyedic people from Siberia. Samoyed dog is an all-white dog with a fluffy coat, upturned tail, and a characteristic smile. They were breed by a group of nomadic Samoyed people for herding and hunting deer. They were also use for pulling heavy carts and sleds. It is rare to find a Samoyed dog, aggressive, angry, and irritable. In 1889, they were brought to Europe for breeding but they mostly use for sole companion. They are very loyal and very friendly breed of dogs. I am very lucky to have my dog George with me.

One summer morning, I woke up feeling very sick and unable to get up. I was so sick that I can not even stand up. I called my son to come and see me. He lives about 30 miles from my house. Meanwhile, my little Chihuahua Lucie and George suddenly got on top of my bed and surrounded me. They normally don’t do this. I never allowed them on my bed, but this time, I think they can sense that there is something wrong with me. My son and the paramedics arrived and were trying to get me into the gurney, my two dogs were growling and refused to leave me. My son literally has to bodily take George and Lucie from me. I can sense that George was panicking and don’t want to leave me until I assured him that everything will be alright. I was confined in the hospital for five days. My son went back to my house to put some dog food and water for my dogs. Three days later, when my son went back to check my dogs and my house, the dog food was not touch. My dogs were very depressed and were not eating. I never realized how much dogs can love their master. I talked to my dog’s veterinarian and I was told that dogs can get depressed. I finally got better and went home after a few days. My dogs were very happy and I was very happy too. They started to eat and play again. Our lives went back to normal. I go to work early in the morning somehow, my dogs know exactly my time of arrival. They were all waiting and looking out the window. I can hear their happy barking. It’s a wonderful feeling to see these two dogs eagerly waiting for me.

I had been working for the past many, many years and had been supporting my relatives in the Philippines and my other charitable projects. I thought, I will spend a part of my life for myself and my dogs. It’s been my dream to travel and explore the 50 states of USA but never had the time or money to do it. I was busy raising my three children, helping my folks in the Philippines and my other projects. My children are now grown-ups and on their own. I have this charity project that I am happy to maintain and support that keeps me going too. I finally got the courage to realize my dream. I bought this 30 ft. motorhome big enough for my dogs and me. It has two separate beds in the back room, one for me and one for George and lucie. It has dining room with adjacent kitchen complete with microwave, oven, stove and a nice double sink, plenty of storage cupboard and it also has a refrigerator, a separate shower and a bathroom. It is like a self-contained home away from home. I gathered all the fishing gears, my late husband had accumulated for many years, cleaned them, bought some more baits and a big tackle box. Now I’m ready to go fishing. I went to the grocery to shop for non-perishable food and dog food. My children gave me a GPS system to help me find my way around. I am very poor in directions, it is pathetic. My children were worried for me to be traveling alone in this motorhome. Well, to relieved their worry, I bought this life size used manikin ,dressed it with a man’s clothes and put on an old man’s boots, complete with cowboy hat and sat it on the passenger side of the motorhome. See, I have a companion! They were all laughing. But you know what, it looks so real.

We went out on our first fishing trip in the motorhome. My dogs and I went to Gaviota, a seaside city park where they allow fishing where we stayed overnight. My dogs were restless and were vigilant. Every little noise, they bark and go to my bed and try to wake me up. It was an all night activity. I didn’t get enough sleep neither my dogs. But, after I had my first cup of freshly brewed black coffee, I realized that my dogs did a very good job of guarding the motorhome and me.

Well, this is what I can say about dogs in general. Whether the dog is pure breed, half mixed, native, or any kind of breed, dogs are generally very loyal animals. If properly trained and given a loving care, these dogs can give you back a thousand times more of love, loyalty and ready to be on the frontline for you. There were some instances that when a person was angry, he/she goes home and kick the dog instead. Please don’t do that. Kick the brick wall or a trunk of a tree to express you anger or frustration, not the dog. Dogs are precious like my dogs, Georgie Boy and Lucie. That is why there is this saying “Dogs are Man’s Best Friend” and it proved to be very true. Maybe, some of you can share wonderful dog stories, too.


Loren Legarda: Avenue Of Green Trees, Poetry And Dreams

by: jun asuncion                                                                           



Loren Legarda, Joyce Kilmer and The Sniper – What connects them together? It’s their love or need for trees.

loren1Loren Legarda, a  Filipina senator. Loren’s love for trees is known,  a love which manifested itself early in childhood. She claims to have had a happy childhood “climbing trees and playing jackstones” in that Malabon compound where she grew up. She took this love for the trees with her all her life. Last year,  her “Luntiang Pilipinas” (Green Philippines), the urban forestry program founded by Loren which has already planted millions of trees across the Philippines, celebrated its 10th Anniversary launching at the same time the 10 million trees campaign. It’s a plus for all of us Filipinos, for nature and for  the other species dependent on trees. Indeed, it’s much more pleasant to imagine to have 10 million trees more, than to have 10 million trees less in the few years to come.






kilmer_joyceJoyce Kilmer, an American writer, poet and soldier, a man from another place and time. He was born on December 6, 1886 in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Joyce Kilmer wrote the famous poem  “Trees” on February 2, 1913, in the Kilmer home in Mahwah, New Jersey. Every pupil on earth taking up American literature  knows this poem- or has to memorize this poem at one point in his elementary years. Let’s visit this poem again: 


                  –  Trees –

   I think that I shall never see
   A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.




sniperThe Unknown, a German sniper.

He, too, was sent to France probably the same year as Kilmer. The training of a sniper was hard and demanded precision in all kinds of situations. Imperial Germany was the first to use snipers in war and they were dreaded by their enemies for their deadliness and efficiency because of their training and their high-quality manufactured scope lenses mounted on their equally high quality rifles. Yet snipers were taught not only to pick off their targets but above all to respect and be one with the environment that conceals them, with the stones, grass, vines and green trees.


 A Filipina legislator between an American Poet and a German Sniper. Three for the road, three kinds of trade, three nationalities that met in the avenue of green trees, poetry and dreams.

The End. The poet and soldier Kilmer fought for the United States during the First World War against Germany and was killed in France on July 30, 1918 at the age of 31-  by this  unknown German sniper who probably was himself on a tree or beside it when his scope spotted the scouting Kilmer somewhere  on a hill. His bullet pierced through Kilmer’s soft, poetic head, killing him instantly.

“It was a dirty way to die!
To put a bullet through your head
And make a silly woman cry!”

The irony of fate never dies. These lines above were authored also by Kilmer before he went to war, from his poem “To a Young Poet Who Killed Himself”. Time  and space transcending, this German sniper would have  cried out himself:

“It was a dirty way to kill!
To shoot a bullet through your head,
Oh, poor poet Kilmer.
And make a woman senator cry!”

Three events in history, three people doing their duty- and a love that connects them, the love for the tree. The poet Kilmer immortalized the tree with his poem, and if the target in his scope shared his love or need for the trees, that German sniper had no way of knowing it. He was  just doing his duty.

The Beginning. And so is Loren until now, just doing her duty as she keeps on planting trees. For her, it’s a sacred duty, a homage to that old love for the trees in Malabon compound that gave her coolness and shades during those hot summer vacation days, trees that she climbed and in whose bosom she perhaps dreamed of the possibilities that life would offer her once she gets to Manila to study- and to work.

Dreams came true but this was no reason to stop working for long ago she was saddened by the fact that Kilmer’s Trees were disappearing, landslides and floods were taking the lives of farmers and that  the global warming has now come to take its toll.

But now is no time for tears but is high time to act,  to resort to the power of the pen by writing legislation and to take up the shovel and help plant trees. Loren authored a number of legislation including those for our environment which have been passed into laws and her Luntiang Pilipinashas been building urban parks for years already. As she admits, her greening campaign is not aimed at competing the tree planting program by other organizations from other sectors or the annually held Arbor Day but to supplement them by focusing on restoring green in cities and municipalities by developing Forest Parks and planting trees along roadsides.

Sincerity is seen in the constancy of action over long period of time, a moral value that is scarce in a ningas-cogon infested political landscape. We all know that politics is never an easy arena in the Philippines and it is virtually impossible, if not naive, to expect to find a spotless, angelic public servant. For no matter how a politician tries to stay honestly to his belief and good principles, there are just moments in a politician’s life where principles and values collide with each other, where one has to make compromises even between two or more good arguments that seem to contradict each other at a given point in time and situation. But what counts is that the politician stays by his  duty and good intentions for his constituents- which he cannot always please- and that he  is aware that he is sacrificing a good principle for a more higher one. This is not always easy to explain to the conditioned public mind. For man’s perception of things around him is greatly influenced by the past and current events and that man even tends to re-interpret the past differently depending on the current events, also the reason behind why Luntiang Pilipinas is becoming more and more of a necessity than just a style and why Kilmer’s poem- which turned ninety-six years old this month-  is gaining popularity again because of current destruction of trees and the life threatening effects of global warming.

Be that as it may, today’s Filipinos should free their mind from the myriad of trivial things that divert it from the most essential in Philippine politics. Our judgment should never be based upon trivialities that we hear and see that only muddle our mind but on the essence and substance of a political argument or result. Loren’s legislative achievements, the laws and pending  Bills which she authored for us and her staunch engagement to ecological preservation and restoration are solid facts that attest to the essence and substance of this lady senator. These facts should simply guide our judgement when we contemplate about our future.

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 Bulan Observer


Note: Official photos provided to Bulan Observer by Senator Loren  Legarda through her press relations head Jing Magsaysay. / jun asuncion


  For The Record:


Loren seeks Senate probe on relief aid for Bicol folk.

Publication: Manila Bulletin
Date: Sunday, August 12 2007
Senator Loren Legarda said the other day she would call for a Senate investigation into complaints by Bicol victims of last year’s disastrous typhoons and floods that the foreign relief assistance intended for them had not been sufficiently distributed.
Loren was reacting to an interview
over radio DWAR in which she was asked to react to the report of Bicol Bishop Lucilo Quiambao that many victims of the previous year’s typhoons and floods in Bicol had complained that foreign and local relief assistance intended for them did not reach them.
“I think this calls for a Senate investigation,” Loren said.
In the same interview, Loren also urged the government and civil society to step up the program of reforestation and dredging of rivers to prevent floods that cost heavy damage to lives and properties during the rainy season.
Loren said that more trees should be planted in urban and rural areas, as well as in deforested localities, to control floods during the rainy season.
She also declared that the national and local governments, as well as the barangays, should conduct sustained and intensified efforts to clean canals, rivers and other waterways of garbage and other debris so as to enable rainwater to flow smoothly.
Loren said she would intensify the activities of her Luntiang Filipinas (Green Philippines) Foundation which has already planted two million trees throughout the country to improve the environment and prevent floods.
Informed about complaints by Bicolresidents that millions of pesos in foreign and local financial assistance given to them in connection with last year’s disastrous floods have not reached them in adequate amounts, Loren agreed that there is indeed need for a Senate investigation on the matter.
Loren said that the Department of Welfare and Social Development and other government relief agencies should see to it that relief assistance to victims of typhoons, earthquakes and other natural or man-made calamities should be fully and immediately given the victims to accomplish the desired relief.
“I think Congress should pass legislation that would ensure that disaster and emergency relief aid should be totally and properly distributed to calamity victims by providing for penalties for fraud and negligence in the distribution of relief goods,” Loren explained.
Asked to react about the latest survey finding of Pulse Asia that she was the “most trusted” public figure in the Philippines, Loren declared that she was indeed thankful to the people for giving her this distinction. “I consider this a great responsibility and a further obligation to work harder for the good of our people in order to fulfill their expectations,” Loren told radio station DZAR.
Informed that the survey could encourage moves to make her run for president in 2010, Loren said that she is not at present thinking of the presidential elections.


7  of 30 measures passed by Senate penned by Loren                                                                      


Sen. Loren Legarda authored seven of the 30 bills that had been passed on third reading by the Senate, just one year into the 14th Congress.
“I’m inspired and elated considering the number of my colleagues who are all pushing for the passage of their respective pet bills,” said Legarda.

She stressed that the passage of her bills and the veritable adoption by the House of bills for which she had filed counterpart measures at the Senate are motivating her to work doubly hard.

“It’s work, work, work for me, in and out of the Senate session halls. If it’s not physically impossible, I’d like to be a 24/7 senator since there’s no end to what we can do, in and out of the Senate, to fight poverty and improve the quality of life of our people,” Legarda said.

Legarda is also an environmental advocate, being the chair and founder of Luntiang Pilipinas. Likewise, she’s been working to alleviate poverty, improve education, and push women’s health and empowerment through foundations she had established.

Her seven bills that had been passed by the Senate are the Batas Kasambahay Act, the Cheaper Medicines Act, Environmental Awareness through Education Act, Decriminalizing Vagrancy, Strengthening and Expanding the Special Program for the Employment of Students, the Pre-Need Code, and Act Lowering the Amusement Tax on the Film Industry.

Of the 52 bills passed on third reading by the House, seven have Senate counterparts that Legarda also authored.

Theseare House Bill 375 or the Billion Trees Act, HB 3293 on amendments to the Bureau of Food and Drugs Act, HB 4114 amending the Provincial Water Utilities Act, HB 4253 creating the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, HB 3956 or the Career Executive System Act, HB 4193 or the Renewable Energy Act, and HB 1387 creating the Disabilities Affairs Office.


RP’s Sen. Loren Legarda: The first to be appointed “Champion” for disaster risk reduction
December 2, 20086:44 pm by pna
KUALA LUMPUR, Dec. 2 – The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) secretariat has appointed Senator Loren Legarda of the Philippines as the first “champion” for disaster risk reduction.
The is the first time UNISDR, the UN body which promotes disaster prevention, is engaging a high level parliamentarian to champion and support its advocacy work.

UNISDR Director Salvano Bricenoannounced the appointment at a news conference in conjunction with the Third Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which began here today at the Putra World Trade Centre.

Speaking to reporters, Legarda said, the appointment would inspire her to work harder.

“There is no more fitting time to say that reducing disaster risks is a moral imperative, a social responsibility, than in these times of growing vulnerabilities and persistent poverty and suffering caused by disasters,” she said.

She said now was the time to translate political commitment into concrete actions at national and local government levels, as countries were still far from achieving the goals of the Hyogo Framework for Action.

Legarda, a former broadcast journalist, among other things, founded the “Luntiang Pilipinas” (Green Philippines) in 1998 to promote public awareness on various issues concerning the environment and had also received the Philippines’ Ten Outstanding Young Men and Women Award.

More recently, in October this year, Legarda, together with UNISDR, convened the first consultative meeting with parliamentarians on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in Manila.

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. (PNA/Bernama)


People urged to remain vigilant on Cha-cha drive

Sen. Loren Legarda called on the people yesterday to be vigilant in discerning the true intentions of those pushing to amend the Constitution.
Legarda said Filipinos have reason to be wary that the government may be floating the idea of Charter change anew to extend the term of the present administration.

She lauded the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines led by its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, for taking a stand against tampering with the organic law of the land to serve ulterior motives.

“Charter change per seis not bad, but because of the seeming underhanded intention of the government, people are left wondering why Charter change is being pushed,” Senator Legarda said.

The senator was among the first to question the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) on Ancestral Domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). She said the Arroyo administration may have seen it as an opportunity to revive the call for Charter change when constitutional issues were raised on certain provisions in the MoA.

“Now that the MoA is scheduled for a thorough review, there is no apparent necessity to revive the call for Charter change at this time” Legarda said.


Manila Bulletin Online

Loren wins Indian environmental award

Former senator Loren Legarda will be conferred the prestigious Global Award in the Field of the Environmentby the Priyadarshni Academy of India during its 20th anniversary celebration at the Hotel Oberoi Towers in Mumbai, India on Sept. 19.
Listed in 2001 in the Global 500 Honor Roll of the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Legarda was recognized by the Indian organization for leading a successful environmental conservation program and helping craft Philippine conservation laws while serving as senator.

“It affords us great pleasure to inform you that the Priyadarshni Academy has decided to confer upon you its prestigious Global Award,” said academy chairman Nanik Rupani and Global Awards advisory committee chairman Dr. Ram Tarneja in their letter to Legarda.

“The Academy�s awards function is an opportunity for us to accord acknowledgment and felicitate outstanding achievements of distinguished individuals in their respective disciplines like literature, fine arts, athletics, environment protection, science and technology and such endeavors that promote social welfare and contribute to national and global development,” they said.

Legarda would be joining the ranks of Priyadarshni honorees like Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri, former British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, Sir Adrian Cadbury of Cadbury Schweppes, and Sharp Corp. Japan President Katsuhiko Machida, among others.

The academy is a sociocultural organization founded in 1985 to promote internal relations, national integration and brotherhood, adult and children�s literacy, nutrition, and care for the handicapped and to raise awareness about drug addiction and diseases like AIDS.

Like the UNEP, the Priyadarshni Academy has decided to make Legarda its honoree for the protection of the environment for her highly successful environmental campaign that includes planting over a million trees all over the country through her Luntiang Pilipinas Foundation.

She was also cited for her active participation in the enactment of significant environmental legislation like the Philippine Clean Air Act (RA 8479), Mt. Kitanglad Protected Area Act (RA8978), Batanes Protected Area Act (RA 8991), and the Integrated Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003).

Among her priority measures when she was a senator were the Clean Water Bill, Sustainable Forest Management Act, and the National Landmarks Conservation Act.



Loren tops Pulse Asia survey on RP’s most trusted public figures

Senatorial candidate Loren Legarda, a consistent survey topnotcher, is also the most trusted public figure in the country, according to the latest Pulse Asia nationwide poll conducted from April 21 to 25.
The Genuine Opposition candidate garnered 65 percent of the votes of 1,800 respondents.

Legarda is followed by Senator Manny Villar, 57 percent; Representative Francis Escudero 54 percent; Senator Francis Pangilinan, 52 percent; Representative Noynoy Aquino, 51 percent; Senator Panfilo Lacson, 50 percent; Representative Alan Peter Cayetano, 48 percent; Senator Edgardo Angara, 48 percent; Senator Mar Roxas, 47 percent; and Senator Joker Arroyo, 44 percent.

“I am honored by this survey result as it is not easy to earn someone’s trust, much more the trust of the entire nation,” Legarda said.

Like Legarda, Villar, Escudero, Aquino, Lacson and Cayetano are running under the opposition slate.

The former senator also topped the Pulse Asia survey held on the same dates getting a 59.6 percent acceptance rating.

In the same trust rating survey, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo only got 26 percent while former President Fidel V. Ramos was two points lower with 24 percent.

On the other hand, former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada got 42 percent, and 38 percent respectively.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) scored 32 percent, but Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. got a measly 18 percent.

The election watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) got 33%.

Independent senatorial candidate former Senator Gringo Honasan and 1990 bar topnotcher Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III have trust ratings of 43% and 39%, respectivel

For more Facts about Senator Legarda, please click here  for the Archives of Manila Bulletin Online

or here  for the Senate Press Release Archives.

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