This prized Amorsolo portrait of Rizal’s cousin is a peek at how super rich Filipinos lived

by Augusto Marcelino Reyes Gonzalez III | Nov 21 2021

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Her name is Leonila Mercado Yatco–Yaptinchay, or Doña Ilay to some, the Chinese mestiza matriarch of the affluent Yatco and Yaptinchay families of Biñan town in Laguna. She is the lady visitors of Leon Gallery’s Eurovilla address in Makati have been inquiring about the past few days, and understandably so. A portrait of her, done by the great National Artist Fernando Amorsolo, hangs in the space that displays the highlights of the upcoming year end auction. And it’s an impressive work—in size, in intricacy, in its depiction of a lady of affluence, so different from the rural lasses we are used to seeing from the master’s oeuvre. 

Fernando Amorsolo's
Fernando Amorsolo’s “Portrait of a Lady in Maria Clara Dress”. Portrait of Doña Leonila Mercado Yatco-Yaptinchay, signed and dated 1955 (lower right), oil on canvas, 70″ x 52″ (178 cm x 132 cm)

The finery she is wearing alone will have one spending an inordinate amount of time inspecting the portrait. She is dressed in an elegant “traje de mestiza” of the 1880s with a traditional camisa and panuelo of very expensive, fully–embroidered “pina” textile. She wears these over a skirt of shimmering turquoise French Lyons silk, overlaid with a “sobrefalda,” or tapis, of black French Chantilly lace. She is also wearing a large gold “tamborin” necklace of the 1890s type, matching earrings of large filigree gold beads, a bracelet of Isabel II 4 P gold coins, and hanging from her waist is a “porta abanico” (fan holder) of alternating Isabel II 4 P gold coins and gold beads.

The Biñan rich have a lot of exquisite gold medallions containing miniature paintings of religious figures and scenes by the talented Justiniano Asuncion y Molo aka “Capitan Ting.” The lavish ensemble of gold jewelry in the Amorsolo portrait is just among the many gifts of Ysidro Yatco and Bonifacia Mercado to each of their three daughters of which Leonila is the second. Much of the Spanish colonial gold jewelry of Binan’s “principalia” families are sourced from the famous Paterno Molo de San Agustin atelier in Santa Cruz, Manila.

Photograph of an unidentified client of Amorsolo with the half-done portrait behind him.
Photograph of an unidentified client of Amorsolo with the half-done portrait behind him. Photo courtesy of Leon Gallery

Apart from the finery previously mentioned, Leonila is also wearing embroidered silk gloves from Paris in the painting, and holds an exquisite French ivory piercework fan with handpainted silk and lace. The predilection for all things Parisian and elegant was inherited from her father Ysidro, the first in the family to travel to Paris in the 1880s. He brought home French creature comforts, not least of which were Cristal Baccarat chandeliers and table lamps, decorations, and furniture for the family’s Biñan residence.  

The imposing oil portrait, however, was commissioned by Leonila’s youngest and favorite daughter Flora Yatco Yaptinchay–Evangelista, or Flory. She asked Amorsolo in 1955, following the commission of her own portrait in a Ramon Valera wedding dress the year prior. Leonila’s granddaughters recalled Amorsolo arriving and staying for most of the day, from lunch to merienda, as the artist discussed lengthily the new portrait commissioned by their Tita Flory, who was as loquacious and demanding as could be. The young girls aged 7 to 10 were tasked by their Tita Flory to serve Amorsolo lunch and merienda.

Exterior corner of the Yaptinchay-Yatco ancestral house
Exterior corner of the Yaptinchay-Yatco ancestral house in Binan, Laguna, 1960s.

The painter enjoyed his weekend visits to the Yaptinchay–Yatco ancestral house in Biñan as it was a perfectly preserved time capsule from the 1800s, the way Flora’s good friends top collector Luis Araneta and heiress Chito Madrigal regarded it. The artist charged Flora 5,000 pesos for the full–length portrait of her mother, a very considerable amount at the time. It was based on a small, hand–colored studio photograph of Doña Ilay from the 1880s (the antique photograph remains in the possession of a very knowledgeable Manila collector).  

The patriarch Ysidro is representative of Binan’s oldest Chinese mestizo fortune derived from ricelands, sugarlands, and dry goods trading. His wife Bonifacia Mercado, meanwhile, was reputedly an elder sibling of Francisco Mercado (son of Juan Mercado and Cirila Alejandro;  the name Bonifacia does not appear in that listing so perhaps she had another name, or was a half–sister, a first cousin, or a second cousin), the father of our National Hero, Jose Rizal.

Both Ysidro and Bonifacia were closely related by blood to Francisco Mercado, hence the relations to the Rizals were twice over. The pretty Leonila was the favorite daughter. She always acknowledged that Pepe, Paciano, and the sisters were her cousins as well as uncles and aunts, albeit not as rich as she was. In her parents’ memories, cousin Pepe was an unusually intelligent, rather smart–alecky, talkative, and “malikot” child, at least when he wasn’t sick with something.  

Elegant “caida” or entrance hall of the early 1800s Yaptinchay-Yatco ancestral house in Binan, Laguna. A young Jose Rizal—cousin Pepe—used to run and play all over his cousins’ big house. Photo courtesy of Lito Ligon

Relations between the Yatco sisters and their younger Mercado–Rizal cousins were close and cordial. As children, the cousins played in the Yatco–Mercado “azotea,” “cocina,” and “antecocina,” right beside the “comedor” dining room and “caida” entrance hall.  They liked to sit on a long bench and gather around the “dulang,” a low dining table. 

Leonila related to her children that after cousin Pepe’s execution in December 1896, his younger sisters had come to the house requesting financial assistance; the Rizal family’s assets having been confiscated by the Spaniards. The sisters had to pass surreptitiously through the “voladas” (galleries) of the house like servants to avoid the attention of the household staff and possibly of the roaming guardia civil.

Leonila’s parents did extend financial assistance to their beleaguered Rizal relations, but they did so at great risk to their lives, livelihood, and reputation. 

Lavish interiors of the Yatco-Yaptinchay ancestral home
 Interior shots of the Yatco-Yaptinchay ancestral home. Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery

Cordial relations between the families continued up to the prewar, with the younger Rizal sisters visiting their affluent Yatco–Mercado cousins in Biñan. 

During World War II, Leonila’s son Isidro (“Sidring”) offered the hospitality and relative safety of the house to his good friend Jesus Amado “Amading” S. Araneta and his family, including an eccentric aunt who did not like to be kissed nor touched. Amading’s youngest daughter Maria (“Baby”) brought her beautiful American and European dolls, to the delight of the young Yaptinchay granddaughters.    

The Ysidro Yatco–Bonifacia Mercado residence (which later became the Pablo Yaptinchay–Leonila Yatco residence) was composed of the original 1820s bahay–na–bato connected by a commodious stone azotea to a newer, larger, 1840s bahay–na–bato which served as the residence’s principal façade. Another story went that the couple had built the 1840s house in front and then purchased the old 1820s house at the back to connect the two properties, a common practice at the time. In any case, the residence was large, composed of two houses connected by a stone “azotea.”    

Lavish interiors
Interior shots of the Yatco-Yaptinchay ancestral home. Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery

Leonila and her two sisters lived in then unheard–of luxury as the daughters of Binan’s preeminent citizens at that time (1870s and onwards). Imported French, English, American, and Chinese furniture graced the reception rooms. Elegant furniture from the redoubtable Chinese cabinetmaker Ah Tay in Binondo, Manila appointed the various rooms (there were four marbletop “lavadoras” (washstands) and four “peinadoras” (dressers) in the house when the usual grand residence usually had only one of each. European crystal chandeliers, hanging lamps, and table lamps lit the rooms.  

The “caida” entrance hall was furnished with comfortable local and imported armchairs, round marbletop tables and side tables; memorable was a French Empire–style completely gilded marbletop console supported by an eagle. There were tall mirrors over the console tables. An American Victorian gasolier hung from the painted ceiling secured with buttonlike discs. There was also a tall German grandfather’s clock. Casually placed everywhere, on tables and on the walls, were the family’s travel souvenirs from times past.

Sala of the Yaptinchay-Yatco ancestral house
Sala of the Yaptinchay-Yatco ancestral house in Binan, Laguna (after 1955, when the F Amorsolo portrait was commissioned). Photo courtesy of Lito Ligon

In the commodious sala, large, lifesized oil portraits of Ysidro and Bonifacia by Antonio Malantic y Arzeo of Tondo hung on the far walls; a seated oil portrait of Pablo Yaptinchay y Gana by Justiniano Asuncion y Molo of Santa Cruz, Manila hung on one narrow wall. The walls were covered in canvas painted with arcadian scenes of trees and forests, hills and mountains by theater artists. A large grooved marbletop table with C–scroll legs occupied the center of the “sala,” with marbletop console tables in the same style along the walls set under large mirrors.

Seating in the sala was originally of traditional “Luis Quince” and “Carlos Trece” style armchairs and sofas as well as the erstwhile fashionable Thonet “Vienna” bentwood chairs of the 1800s. These were, however, replaced during the prewar with sturdier chairs and sofas in the geometric Art Deco style by Gonzalo Puyat. A big Eastern rug covered the center of the floor. A pair of Cristal Baccarat chandeliers hung from the painted ceiling, matching the sconces on the walls; they were purchased by Ysidro in Paris in the 1880s. A pair of antique Chinese Ch’ing dynasty ceramic Foo dogs sat on the console tables; in a nod to Chinese ancestral traditions, the pair was brought to the Yaptinchay–Yatco family mausoleum as decor every first of November.

Lavish interiors
Interior shots of the Yatco-Yaptinchay ancestral home. Photos courtesy of Leon Gallery

The bedrooms had elegant 1840s tester beds in “kamagong” wood as well as ornate 1870s tester beds in “golden narra” wood, not to mention the prestigious “calabasa” beds of Ah Tay. There were many “aparadores” of various styles to store personal possessions; one aparador contained Leonila’s old issues of “La Moda Elegante,” an 1800s fashion magazine. The master bedroom had a grand matrimonial bed elaborately carved with swallows, cranes, incense burners, phoenixes, and dragons with solomonic testers. This was fronted by a comoda–altar with a magnificent tableaux of the Crucifixion in ivory encased in a kamagong urna, and flanked by ivory images of “San Jose Patriarca,” “San Roque de Montpelier,” and “Santa Barbara, virgen y martir.”  Most of the ivory santos in the Yaptinchay–Yatco house were by the Biñan crowd favorite, Leoncio Asuncion y Molo of Santa Cruz, Manila, brother of the painter Justiniano Asuncion y Molo.  Several of the “aparadores” were by Ah Tay of Binondo.

solid ivory santos
One of the magnificent 18th century, solid ivory santos of the Yaptinchay-Yatco family of Binan, Laguna. Photo courtesy of Lito Ligon

The Yaptinchay–Yatco “antecocina” and the “cocina” had an “aljibe,” a stone water cistern.  A plain “aljibe” was a common feature of a bahay–na–bato. It was usually part of an azotea, and at that time of no running water, it stored rainwater necessary for household chores. However, to have an elaborate “aljibe” with a stone turret concealing the well, tiled roof, and an earthenware pineapple finial as part of the water filtration system was entirely another matter of finances altogether. Few Filipino bahay–na–bato had elaborate “aljibes,” among them the Yaptinchay–Yatco house in Binan, Laguna, and the Constantino house in Bigaa, Bulacan. 

To contextualize these domestic, seemingly trivial matters, one should understand that well–off Filipino houses were sparsely furnished up to the end of the Spanish period in 1898. Fine furniture, both imported and local, were expensive, and imported lighting and decorations much more so. To have a houseful of European luxuries was a great economic and social feat up to the end of the Spanish regime. The Yaptinchay–Yatco residence in Biñan, with its neoclassical architecture and elegant furnishings, represented an ideal example of the Filipino “bahay–na–bato” by the high standards of the late Filipiniana authority Martin Imperial Tinio Jr.        

Leonila married Pablo Gana Yaptinchay in the 1890s and they had three sons and four daughters: Jose “Pepe,” Francisco , Isidro Sidring, Nicasio Chiong–Veloso Osmena (“Nick”) Trinidad “Ate,” Tita “Tating,” Macaria “Nena,” and Flory who married the eminent Teodoro Evangelista Sr. the Executive Secretary of President Elpidio Quirino; Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of Education; and Far Eastern University President. The high–profile Sidring, meanwhile, parlayed his inheritance to a large fortune in the heavy machinery business, had his offices in Hong Kong, and lived at The Peak. The house was designated as “comunidad” in Leonila’s last will and testament but Flora paid off her six siblings and it became solely her property.  

[The Amorsolo portrait in this story is open for viewing from November 27 to December 3, Saturday to Friday, from 9 AM to 7 PM, at León Gallery, G/F Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legazpi Streets, Legaspi Village, Makati City. The Kingly Treasures Auction 2021 is co-presented by, the urban man’s guide to culture and style, and the lifestyle website of the ABS-CBN News Channel. 

For further inquiries, email or contact +632 8856-27-81. To browse the catalog, visit For updates, follow León Gallery on their social media pages: Facebook – and Instagram @leongallerymakati.]

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In eulogy for daughter, Henry Sy Jr. describes Jan Catherine’s spirited life

( – March 21, 2021 – 2:16pm

Equestrienne Jan Catherine Sy, daughter of SM Prime chairman Henry “Big Boy” Sy. Jr. and granddaughter of late tycoon Henry Sy, passed away on Thursday night, March 18, 2021.

She suffered from a serious infection that caused sepsis, a condition that damages the tissues and potentially lowers blood pressure to a life-threatening level. She was 29.

Besides being a competitive horse-rider, Jan served as assistant vice president at SM Development Corp. the real estate arm of her family’s vast holdings linked to the SM brand.

I wish to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support, prayers and striving beside me and my family, the doctors and medical teams, in the effort to save the life of my eldest daughter, Jan Catherine Sy. Many of you responded to the timely need for transfusions over and over. For this we are deeply touched and grateful.

Jan being on lockdown with us during the past year in this pandemic was truly a gift.

She took care of us her parents as most young people do especially of our health and well-being, our IT needs and driving for us whenever needed, making sure we exercised as she skated beside us on our daily walks.

She bought us bikes and helmets, encouraged us to swim, herself being such a disciplined health buff and athlete. She nagged us to eat healthily and sleep early. She was joyful, kind and patient with us her parents and the most wonderful to be around especially in the past few months even as she prepared for her wedding to Jack.

I cannot begin to explain the extraordinary turn of events that struck my family.

All I can say is, it has broken me.

The proud man that I was was focused on three things of this earth.

  1. Money, which always was my main concern.
  2. Relationships—perhaps my intense attachment to my family was also another form of idolatry.
  3. Prestige. I took pride and satisfaction in accomplishments and being the best at what I do.

Jan, since she was a little girl, was the one who would keep asking me to come with her to church.

She grew up to be my [executive assistenat] at work and at home, and more so the past year, made life so pleasant under the circumstances we all now face because of the pandemic.

By God’s grace and compassion, He allowed us to speak to Jan moments before she was intubated and she said she was ready to meet Jesus, giving a double thumbs up and then pointing to the sky saying “with Jesus.”

Jan loved God and she loved everyone around her. She had so many plans to build places and spaces where those less fortunate can experience and enjoy things she herself being privileged, enjoyed growing up with.

She often told me how it pained her to see the sufferings of the poor and how she wanted to be able to do her part in alleviating such. She wanted to build hospitals, schools and other facilities for them to help restore the dignity of human life God intended.

At this moment, I cannot see and understand why the Lord took her home at this point in her young life, but God’s message to me these past few days is clear—to trust Him with all my heart [and] not to lean on my own understanding, but in everything and all my ways, to acknowledge Him.

Yes, Jan was never mine to begin with. She was loaned to us for 29 years and what a beautiful gift she was from God.

Her earnest desire was for all to be saved for eternity. To come to personally and experientially KNOW and TRUST in her Saviour Jesus Christ, just as she did, when she accepted His free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9) through the forgiveness of all her sins… through the Cross, believing in the finished work of Christ Jesus. (John 19:30)

Just like myself, during this pandemic, through the GoViral movement, she began leading a number of small groups in Bible study among her co-workers and friends and even in our own family devotions, encouraging others to do the same and get to KNOW the Jesus of the Bible.

We are comforted by the knowledge that she is rejoicing now and safe in His presence in heaven. She had this confidence and assurance from the very start. God took her at the peak of her spiritual life, a life of fullness and abundance and no regrets.

Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in Me shall live, even if he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

My daughter Jan lives and will never die. We can never lose her because she has eternal life in Jesus and no one can snatch her out of His hand. (John 10:27-30) Her physical body may have died but her soul and spirit now live safely in her new home in heaven where there are no more tears.

In this I and my family rejoice, take comfort and strength, and look forward with expectation to celebrating Jesus together with her someday in His perfect and appointed time.

Meanwhile, being here on earth, the pain of separation, as sudden and frightening as it was, is real and unbearable. If not for the grace of knowing God’s promises, and the love and prayers and support of the body of Christ, we would be completely lost.

Please do continue to pray for me and my family as we go through this difficult time in our lives. Thank you once again and we give all glory and praise to our good God and Heavenly Father. May He remind us truly to number our days and grant us a heart of wisdom. Cherish His blessings of family and loved ones.

He gives, He takes, my heart will choose to say, LORD BLESSED BE YOUR NAME! (Job 1:21)

Asuncion Paintings at the National Museum of Art

The Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas has loaned its collection of the Asuncion Artists’ Paintings to the National Museum of Art and are now available for viewing until December 2018.

This is a sensation as it includes the portrait of our patriarch Ming Mong Lo, also known us Jose Molo, a Chinese immigrant whose daughter, Maria de La Paz, became the wife of Mariano Asuncion, Sr. Ming Mong Lo is the common ancestor of the Paterno and Asuncion families of today. This portrait was done by Severino Flavier Pablo (1805- 1875), a contemporary of our own Justiniano Asuncion (1816-1896).

Here is the pdf. list  artworks to be showcased in this exhibition as provided to us by REGINA MERCEDES C. CRUZ ,Special Services Group Corporate Affairs Office
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas A. Mabini Street, Malate, Manila 1004

BSP Coll Asuncion paintings at NM

Old Master found again: He had fun

by: Eric Torres

from The Times Journal, Sunday, October 26,1975


Any one who wants to study the works of early Filipino painters will find a small if lacklustre collection in our National Museum to start with. The real glories, unseen by many and unknown even to connoisseurs, hang in ancestral homes – or are kept in the garages – of some of the premier families of Manila and neighboring provincial towns. Just to see these masterpieces in a house –to-house quest is a matter of such Odysean resourcefulness and frustration to make one imagine that a camel’s passage through the eye of a needle simpler.

The relative obscurity today of painters born in the early decades of the 19th century is undeserved though explainable. Perhaps the cultist attention to those late 19th-century laureates who made it to the fashionable salons of Europe, Juan Luna and Felix Resurrection Hidalgo, has made many lose sight of the genuine, and no-less-brilliant, achievements of such artists who stayed home and contributed to the development of a native aesthetic tradition as Antonio Malantic, Lorenzo Guerrero, Simon Flores, and the legendary Justiniano Asuncion, alias Capitan Ting.

At the peak of his creative life Capitan Ting enjoyed a reputation matched only by that Master of Tondo, Malantic. A work done in his prime, which has been in the possession of the Castrillo sisters of Biῇan, Laguna, for generations, is an oil portrait of his grandniece, Romana Asuncion Carrillo, dated 1870 and signed “J.A.” is a florid script. It is as sophisticated as one could ask for, in late Renaissance style characteristic by a mirror-image illusionism, classical clarity of outline, and veristic modelling. It is certainly more full-fleshed than any portrait by Damian Domingo, the mestizo who directed the first school of fine arts in Manila; by comparison, Domingo’s portraits look like whimsical dolls or mannequins.

Idealized Rendering

The portrait of Romana tells us much about the conventions of portraiture at that time. The subject is idealized: forehead, nose and mouth are rendered with pearly smoothness; no trace of epidermal imperfection is allowed to appear; eyes peer at the beholder in a manner piercingly limpid and alive; not one strand of the well-combed hair is out of place.

One convention demanded that the appearance of the sitter be impeccably correct, in unimpeachable taste, for the portrait was meant not merely to decorate the growing expanse of the walks in the house of Indios whose wealth derived from trade and commerce. It was also a cachet of status for the rising ilustrado class eager to win the respect of everyone and to perpetuate an image of superior education and breeding in the best possible light.

As in Renaissance icons of European nobility, the portrait of a lady was calculated to show the comfort and leisure of her class, and to show these by her putting on the finest and most expensive clothes – fulsome panuelo and camisa of piῇa, billowy skirt of brilliant silky stripes and such accessories as perfumed lace handkerchief and ivory fan. Sitting for a portrait also provided a splendid excuse to deck herself with the treasures of her jewel box, and these consisted of comb, petache (a hair ornament), earring, tamburin (pendant) or rosary – all studded with pearls and diamonds – and rings on most fingers (three for each hand was a standard number). Each exquisite detail of rococo embroidery and filigree was delineated with a virtuoso precision designed to astonish.
Above all the artist was expected to capture an ambience of decorum and highmindedness, which among other things meant keeping the sitter’s mouth shut.

Delicate tension

What gives pictorial clout to early portraiture by painters of Capitan Ting’s calibre was a certain delicate tension created between the exuberant linear and textural details of finery on one hand, and the rather plain Pilar expression of the face on the other – and again between the stiff transparent planes of dress and the roundly sensuous modelling of the face, hands and sometimes forearms, if shown at all. Evident in Capitan Ting’s best portraits is a wide-eyed, provincial curiosity about the status-seeking attitudes and material splendour of his ilustrado patrons, whom he saw at their Sunday best – a curiousity mixed with just the right measure of enthusiasm and detachment, which accounts for the crisp sentimentality in the portraits he did of the women in the Paterno family of Quiapo.

Capitan Ting was born in Sta. Cruz, Manila, on September 23, 1816 to a family of Chinese extraction. (In a double portrait he did of his parents, his father strikes a pose which clearly displays his Chinese queue.) He was second to the youngest of 12 children. Five of his brothers were all-around painters and sculptors, the most gifted of whom was Leoncio, who carved fine religious images in ivory and baroque furniture as well.

Barrio captain

About 1855 he served as barrio captain for Santa Cruz, and was well liked for his worldly wisdom and congeniality. That he had a stone house built on Calle Quiton is a sign that he enjoyed some measure of economic prosperity from commerce. There he lived most of his long life, raised six children, and supported a number of relatives. In his late years, he retired to Bulan, Sorsogon, where two of his sons, also painters, had settled down. In his Bicol retirement, he raised some of the best fighting cocks in the region. He died in Bulan in 1896 at the age of 80.

A self-taught artist, he painted for pleasure rather than for money. Like the other masters of his time, he applied his prodigious skill to all kinds of art work, including colourful genre illustrations depicting such local types as a mestiza cooling herself by the river, a vendor of mats, an aficionado of the cockpit coddling his gamecock, and so on, which must have delighted foreign visitors.

Miniatures, too

He did works of monumental scale as well as miniatures no larger than the size of one’s palm. His one magnum opus of imposing dimensions depicting bigger-than-life figures of four saints, Jerome, Agustin, Gregory, and Ambrose, painted on the pendentives of the Santa Cruz church, was destroyed by fire, before World War II.

But the miniatures have survived as heirlooms among fourth generation Asuncions. These are portraits in oil or watercolour on thin, flat pieces of ivory whose texture was used to enhance the luminescent quality of his hues and to give the superfine rendering of the skin and hair the highest degree of verismo.
A branch of the Asuncion family tree, the Gomezes of Ongpin street, has a few examples which clearly reveal the miniaturismo method. This consisted of first polishing the surface of the ivory to a fine sheen and then drawing the outlines of the figure in pencil. The last stage, the most painstaking, called for the application of paint by means of a tiny brush (which appears for all intents and purposes to have had no more than three or four hairs) in a pointillistic system of dots, or points.

The result was a pellucid illusion of the model which no mere photography could possibly achieve.
“He must have had a sense of humor,” comments one of his descendants, Mrs. Corazon Galang of Cubao, Quezon City. Compared to Capitan Ting’s, Malantic portraits look glum, somber and unsmiling. A quiet cheer or optimism pervades the canvases of the Master of Santa Cruz, especially when he painted women of all ages, of which the portrait of Dolores Paterno, the composer of the languid “Sampaguita,” in the Carmen Gabriel collection, is a fair example.

Good cheer

This optimism radiates with an inspired luster in a portrait of a favourite niece, Filomena Asuncion, a moon-faced beauty whom he painted with a robust sensuousness and a discreet smile ready to break out from her moist lips – a relief from the general uptightness of portraits by his contemporaries. This one, signed “J.A.” and dated 1860 carries a matter-of-fact notation, “A los 22 aῇos y 10 dias de edad,” as if to twit the vanity of human wishes, especially for recuerdos of one’s youth. In doing her portrait, perhaps the best he ever did, Capitan Ting raised the quality of lifelikeness to the level of trompe l’oeil.

His facility for the fool-the-eye lifelikeness was once put to a severe test when he chose for a model the image of no less a celebrity than Our Lady of Antipolo. The final version he did, now in the possession of a descendant who lives in Paco, is in pencil and opaque watercolour. Earlier versions were dismal failures. Each time he painted her the trompe l’oeil turned out gloriously for the rich gold embroidery of the cape and gown and the numerous diamonds that studded her apparel and the gold jewelry she wore from head to fingers. But he just could not get the cool, aristocratic face right. Somebody suggested the reason why she was so elusive was that he was not approaching her properly enough. He had better paint kneeling down, he was told. And that was how he painted the face in the final version, on his knees.

Two anecdotes show Capitan Ting’s humor to advantage, and both deal with his reputation as a magician of visual effects.

Gasps and giggles

He used to hang an oil painting on a wall in his house facing the street and visible to pedestrians (through an open door). Its purpose? To gull the unwary passerby into seeing a baby falling off a split-bamboo bed, or papag, as much as to draw gasps of amazement from the unsuspecting witness of the “accident” – and giggles from the painter and his household who were in on the joke, of course.

Another Capitan Ting fool-the-eye steals a leaf from the Zeuxis, that hyper-realistic painter of ancient Greece who was said to have painted a bunch of grapes so accurately that birds came to peck at them. For want of something better to do in his late years, he painted on the flat top of a wooden trunk, or baul, a scattering of coins painted with such finicky fidelity to the real thing that house guests would try to pick them up.

Did he leave any self-portrait?

Mrs. Galang recalls one which he painted of himself as a gaunt-looking old man with thinning gray hair, deep-set eyes, and mouth unceremoniously open. The children of her sister, who inherited the autoretrato, used to play with it as a means of scaring other kids in the neighbourhood with cries of “Mamaw!” When last heard of, it lay in the basement of her house, a rolled-up piece of canvas gathering dust. And now this sister thinks it might have been inadvertently thrown away.

Tracking them down

One of these days, a great grandnephew of Capitan Ting, Rafael Asuncion, a painter in his own right (whose father, Jose Asuncion, a painter of prewar renown, was the grandson of Leoncio Asuncion), intends to carry out an ambitious plan: a family reunion of all living Asuncions in an attempt to track down and recover extant works by their illustrious ancestor. “None of Lolo Ting’s relatives ever paid very much attention to his paintings,” confesses Mrs. Galang. “None of us ever imagined he would be historically important someday.”

What might yet turn up, if ever the project pushes through, is that missing self-portrait of an artist who is all but forgotten in our time and who, in his peak years, painted masterpieces which now deserve to be declared National Treasures.

A tale likely to be recounted in this planned grand reunion has to do with the last years of Capitan Ting in his Bulan retirement, the best I have heard yet.
His fighting cocks proved to be such persistent winners in the pit that in time (so the story goes) nobody wanted to put up a fight against his champions, as though they had charmed lives. So he decided to employ a little cunning. He changed the colors of his champions by dyeing (one version says “painting”) their feathers so nobody could recognize them, and this way managed to con his fellow cockers – a master of illusion, or deception, to the very end.


Transcribed from the clipping by Anna Rojas, September 28, 2017.

Otilia Olica Gustillo.. an Asuncion

Pre-halloween Spooky Discovery

by budji


I went to research the paintings in this seminary (please see previous story). There is this very old religious painting, nearly 150 years old, of St. Anthony, The Abbot. This painting is said to be the work of Mariano Asuncion, El Menor (that ‘Junior’ for you 21st century people!) ca. 1865. But the painter’s signature and date cannot easily be seen in this oil-work.
The story of this saint is very interesting, he was born in the 3rd century in Egypt. He decided to become a hermit to devote his time contemplating and praying for God. He gave away his inheritance and as an ascetic, he was tempted for 20 years by the Devil. He was tempted with different forms, afflicting him with diseases, boredom, laziness, even phantoms of women, elementals, scary shadows, poltergeist, etc. One day, as he was always successful with his resistance of all these trials and temptations thru prayers and his faith in God, the devil actually had him beaten by his minions. The poor saint was found nearly dead inside the cave he was living in. In the CIN website here was the story goes: “When he began to come to himself, though not yet able to stand, he cried out to the devils whilst he yet lay on the floor, “Behold! here I am; do all you are able against me: nothing shall ever separate me from Christ my Lord.” Hereupon the fiends appearing again, renewed the attack, and alarmed him with terrible clamors and a variety of specters, in hideous shapes of the most frightful wild beasts, which they assumed. to dismay and terrify him; till a ray of heavenly light breaking in upon him chased them away, and caused him to cry out, “Where wast thou, my Lord and my Master? Why wast thou not here, from the beginning of my conflict, to assuage my pains!” A voice answered: “Anthony, I was here the whole time; I stood by thee, and beheld thy combat: and because thou hast manfully withstood thy enemies, I will always protect thee, and will render thy name famous throughout the earth.” The devil then ceased to tempt he no more. He then established a monastery as his ‘devotees’ had increased. After establishing the monastery he went back to the wilderness. St. Anthony, the Abbot is said to be the Father of Christian Monasticism. (source: Catholic Information Network)

The painting I saw was partly restored yet more has to be done as the back of the canvas was nearly covered in molds. We placed the painting on a chair fronting an open window since we cannot take any photo with flash bulb. We first took a photo of the painting then the back part to document the condition of the canvas. I was interested of the parts where the restoration was done, we then took the photo of the painting with its back on the light-source: daylight.

Now here is the tickler, when we got home to my parents’ house, I showed the photos to my sister, while we were intently looking at the 2nd photo, we noticed that more images of evils, elementals have appeared. And this 2nd picture shows about, as of last count, there are 6 more ‘evil-looking’ entities on the painting. There is even 1 more that seemed to have appeared on the back of the canvas!! From the front the painter has painted 7 including the yellow crocodile and the blond woman. The ‘tikbalang’ is more like a shadow but the figure of a horse still appears. Anyway, we think there are 6 more in the ‘shadows’ plus the one at the back!!

One can only surmise what was going on to the painter while this painting was being painted! That question wasnt raised by me, but of the person very much familiar to the painting. I had the same thought, mind you. If you are not convinced about my ‘superstitious’ findings (and not scholarly, mind you! So I hope I am excused by all scholars and academicians, esp. by my professor) I hope you will indulge me. Its just the ‘gossipy’ side of me thinking of these things.

So judge for yourself! Happy Halloween!

Indonesian Soldiers, be gentlemen, don’t shoot Mary Jane Veloso!



VelosoYes, you are not at war with Mary Jane Veloso, she is not your enemy! So please don’t shoot somebody who hasn’t killed anybody, who hasn’t hurt anybody and who was not proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This is unfair to a fragile human who did not commit a crime to humanity to be shot by a handful of men with their rifles. How could you ever overkill a woman like Mary Jane Veloso? This act would be over barbaric! Consider the human in you and the grave insult to all of you soldiers  and to all your Indonesian women if you would shoot a helpless woman and mother of two little boys. veloso sons

Be a fair neighbor, Indonesia. In the Philippines, we try criminals and corrupt politicians, imprison when proven guilty but we don’t kill them by firing squad anymore. A brutal and undifferentiated  justice system wouldn’t sustain a modern society. The death of Mary Jane would only quench the bloody thirst of a few people in Indonesia, but it would never put Indonesia morally forward, Indonesia would never be a wonderful democratic nation after her death or a model of humanity. So don’t pull the triggers, soldiers! Be gentlemen.

I ask President Joko Widodo and the Attorney General  to be  gentle and consider other  civilized punishment than death through firing squad. Likewise, her death would never make you better people and leaders of Indonesia. Respect a mother, don’t kill her. Killing a human being is an insult to all Religions!

Peace be with you- and to Mary Jane Veloso and her family


jun asuncion






(© 2014 Journal GlocaLinks)

CHICAGO (JGL) – It was an unseasonably warm morning of February 4, 1985 when Tim M. Olivarez, correspondent of Tempo, a sister publication ofManila Bulletin, accompanied me in covering a murder case in Bulacan.

On our way back to the Bulletin, Tim told me that he was going to see a smuggling lord, Jose “Don Pepe” Oyson, that night. I asked him if I could join him.

Tim agreed provided I met him at about 7 that night inside our common beat – the Makati Police headquarters. For some reason, I forgot all about our rendezvous that night.

Two days later, Tim’s distraught wife, Cecille, called me up, asking for Tim’s whereabouts.
I told Cecille, “I had no idea.”

A Bikolano, like myself, Tim was also editing a community newspaper in Bataan province. Tim was never to be seen alive again since.
When I pored over the mechanics of Republic Act 10368, the law bestowing reparation and recognition on human rights victims under martial law, I just realized that Tim’s survivors could qualify as human rights claimants under the “Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012.”

First of all, the law covers the violations during the period from Sept. 21, 1972 to Feb. 25, 1986. Tim disappeared on Feb. 4, 1985. And

Secondly, the violations should be committed by “agents of State, including President Marcos, his spouse Imelda R. Marcos, their immediate relatives by consanguinity or affinity, their immediate and close relatives, associates, cronies and subordinates.”

On board my car, Tim was telling me that Don Pepe was upset that he described in his Tempo article days earlier the modus operandi on how Don Pepe smuggled goods from Hong Kong to his turf in Paranaque beach.
According to Tim, Don Pepe was holed up in one of the high-rise hotel rooms across the U.S. Embassy on Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Using a telescope, Don Pepe would follow several boats, carrying smuggled goods unloaded from a ship moored in either the north or south harbor and would take the goods to Don Pepe’s Manila Bay beachfront.

At the beachfront were several guards, some of them were subordinates of then Maj. Roberto (Bobby “Bungo”) Ortega of the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Police Command (Metrocom) Strike Force, waiting for the smuggled cargo.  Major Ortega and his men were there to protect the delivery of the Don Pepe’s smuggled goods.

“After my story was published in Tempo, Bobby Ortega went looking for me,” Tim told me. “Bobby even called up the Tempo offices. But it was Ruther (D. Batuigas, chief of reporters of Tempo), who answered the phone. Ruther told me Bobby sounded upset about me writing the smuggling story.”

As crime reporter for Manila Bulletin, I personally came to know Bobby Ortega during my coverage. Every time, there was bank robbery in Quezon City, whenever police reporters, including myself, rushed to scene, I always saw inside a bank a mestizo (light skinned) guy, who was oftentimes wearing civilian clothes, beating the Quezon City police first responders to the bank robbery scenes. I had a suspicion Bobby was part of the bank robbers.

I found out later that the “mestizo” guy was Bobby Ortega.

I also later learned that Bobby Ortega was the son of Carmen Ortega, said to be a “mistress” of President Marcos.

That is why when charges were filed against Don Pepe Oyson and others for murder for the disappearance of Tim, I never volunteered the name of Bobby Ortega as Don Pepe’s conspirator in the Tim’s murder because I was scared of “Bungo” (skull in Filipino language). Neither could I write it inManila Bulletin because all the newspapers under martial law were controlled by the Marcoses. Oyson was later convicted of murder and was later reportedly  “salvaged” (extra-judicially executed) by men under Gen. Alfredo Lim when Lim became director of the National Bureau of Investigation.

As I desperately tried to have an audience with President Marcos, I asked a friend, the late Deputy Metro Manila Governor Mel Mathay, to have me and other officers of The Rizal Metro Tri Media, Inc. (Tri-Media) be inducted by the President in Malacanang. I wanted to whisper to President Marcos that his “nephew,” Bobby Ortega, was the mastermind in the disappearance of Tim. But I wimped out at the last minute.

I only told the President to provide my group reward money of P100,000 (US$25,000 at P20 to US$1 exchange rate in 1985) for information that could lead to the suspects behind Tim’s disappearance.  President Marcos told then Director Greg Cendana of the National Media Production Center to source the P100,000 from the Marcos Foundation. Even after running a Malacanang press release that President Marcos ordered a grant of P100,000 reward money to our group, Director Cendana never handed me the P100,000  reward money.

Fortunately, nobody came forward with credible information that will compel us to release the reward money.

The only benefit that my Tri-Media was able to give to the wife of Tim was the P25,000 (US$1,250) insurance coverage that my group was able to buy with premiums provided us by some of our friends, among them then San Juan Mayor and later President Joseph E. Estrada, now Manila mayor.

When I left Manila to join my parents and siblings in Chicago, I later learned that the officers of Tri-Media discontinued the insurance coverage of its members and decided to divide among themselves about P100,000 (US$25,000) that I left in the bank so they can continue paying premiums for their insurance coverage.

I will be losing sleep if I will not write about my personal knowledge of Bobby Ortega’s link to the disappearance of Tim now that the deadline for filing of human rights claim is coming up on Nov. 14, 2014.

Another newsman reportedly told Bobby Ortega that he is one of the suspects in Tim’s disappearance but Bobby reportedly denied it.

But I want to hear it myself from Bobby Ortega. I tried to reach out to Bobby Ortega in Baguio City, where he reportedly later became a city official, to ask him why Tim mentioned his name before Tim disappeared. But I did not get any response. Hopefully, Bobby Ortega will get in touch with me if he reads this column.

And if Cecille Olivarez can read this column, too, she or Tim’s heirs can clip this column and use this as a supporting document that will testify that Bobby Ortega, the “nephew” of President Marcos, has blood in his hands in the disappearance of Tim Olivarez. If not, Cecille or Tim’s relatives can send me a sworn statement that I will sign before the Philippine Consulate in Chicago to testify that Tim Olivarez was a victim of human rights violations by the “agents of State, including President Marcos, his spouse Imelda R. Marcos, their immediate relatives by consanguinity or affinity, their immediate and close relatives, associates, cronies and subordinates.”

Cecille Olivarez, you or Tim’s heirs, have on or before Nov. 10, 2014, to get in touch with me thru my email address: or thru my Facebook, Joseph G. Lariosa.

Or Cecille or Tim’s heirs can file your claim before the Human Rights Violations Claims Board, chaired by Gen. Lina C. Sarmiento. The HRVCB is accepting applications thru its Secretariat at E. Virata Hall E. Jacinto St., U.P. Diliman Campus Diliman, Quezon City1101 Philippines. It can be reached thru Tel. No. 373.4847 or thru email address at E-mail: or access this link:


Photo of Tim M. Olivarez (JGL File Photo)



President Marcos (fifth from right) inducts a group of journalists led by Joseph G. Lariosa (to Marcos’ right), president of The Rizal Metro Manila Tri-Media (Tri-Media) and now a Chicago, Illinois-based correspondent of Journal GlocaLinks. Lariosa asked President Marcos to help his group locate the whereabouts of missing Tempo correspondent Tim M. Olivarez. Lariosa wanted to whisper to the President that it was his “nephew,” Maj. Roberto “Bobby” Ortega, who was behind Olivarez’ disappearance but wimped out on the last minute. Olivarez went missing on Feb. 4, 1985 and is still missing to this day. Olivarez’ wife, Cecille, if she reads this, you or Tim’s heirs can still file a claim on or before Nov. 10, 2014 for reparation for her husband’s disappearance. (JGL File Photo)


Filipino journalist Joseph G. Lariosa (fifth from left) celebrates after his party slate won in an election of officers of reporters group, The Rizal-Metro Manila Tri-Media, Inc. (Tri-Media), in early eighties. Raising his right hand (to his right) is then San Juan, Metro Manila Mayor and later Philippines President Joseph E. Estrada, now Manila mayor. Estrada was there to extend financial support for the survivors of missing newsman Tim M. Olivarez ofTempo, sister publication of Manila Bulletin. Olivarez’s wife, Cecille, if she reads this, you or Tim’s survivors could still file for reparation on Tim’s behalf on or before Nov. 10, 2014. (JGL File Photo)

Joseph G. Lariosa
Journal GlobaLinks
P. O. Box 30110
Chicago, IL 60630
Tel. 312.772.5454
Telefax 312.428.5714


A minute of silence, long hours of work

by junasun

Two weeks after the super typhoon Haiyan, we are faced with the herculean task of recovery and rebuilding. How do we build homes to the hundreds of thousands of homeless people and how do we give medical care to the wounded and sick among them without water and electricity and existing hospitals – and even medical staff for they, like all others, were victims themselves. This is such  an unimaginable logistical problem. Though help and support of all kinds are coming from the international community and the national government, still it takes time to build the most needed infrastructures like roads, hospitals, water and electric plants, bridges and the hundreds of thousands of homes needed. Many have died the day the typhoon hit these areas, but many more will die in such conditions of hunger, shock, trauma, homelessness and zero infrastructures, services and facilities. The government is doing everything but it needs time, – and time is running out to save the weakest and vulnerable among the survivors.

Most of the dead were buried by now. And while we still have hundreds of hours of work before us, to take a minute of silence that will bring us to that quiet place in us where no typhoon can ever penetrate, a place where we all feel at home together as a people, will do us good.

In the face of all these  destructive calamities that have recently befallen the country, we shall all agree that life shall go on and that the life and dignity  of every human shall be respected and protected. And also, as we now pick up our tools to start rebuilding, we should not neglect to treat nature with respect  and consider her in our planning so that she will treat us the same way. We are inseparable from nature, therefore, it’s just wise to live by her rules.

The Philippine archipelago is endowed with natural beauty, but beauty has its price. The Philippines is on the front line of natural calamities and danger may come from above and below. Danger from above are the typhoons. The Philippines is the only large country that is geographically very exposed to tropical cyclones. There are about 20 to 24 typhoons that hit the Philippines, and a few of them are devastating. The most recent one, super typhoon Haiyan, has occurred just two weeks ago and which has practically obliterated Tacloban city and many more places in this region. Around 44,000 of 55,000 houses were wiped out, the rest may still be standing but heavily defaced. Those buildings near the shore just disappeared with the storm surge and over 5,000 people disappeared in a wink of the eye of the storm.

Typhoons are just normal  for Filipino people that a child by the time he is ten years old will have already experienced around 240 typhoons. But this month’s typhoon has surpassed them all. And this typhoon Haiyan has given us a glimpse of the probable nature of typhoons yet to come, – that some of them could be as strong or even stronger than Haiyan. That’s a grim reality to come we have to brace ourselves for.

The danger from below our feet and houses are the earthquakes. The Philippine islands lie in the so called Pacific Ring Of Fire, hence, many earthquakes occur in the islands. The last one just last October 2013 which damaged among others Bohol and Cebu. If this happened that a strong earthquake and a super typhoon occurred in  just a few weeks of interval, the worst that one could imagine is if they would happen at the same time sometime in the future. Better not.

If beauty has its price, then it’s a high price. A single typhoon costs millions or billions of pesos. This typhoon Haiyan alone has cost around P25 billions. But that’s the loss and how about the cost of rebuilding? Aside from thousands of human lives, the country losses therefore tens of billions of pesos from typhoons and earthquakes alone every year.  And we  don’t even add to that the cost of the damages of the typhoons of political corruption that befall our senate and house of representatives and the provincial and municipal buildings. A total shame.

One thing is clear: We cannot move the Philippines away from these typhoons and earthquakes.The people have to  live with it, have to stay in their homeland and rebuild their cities and homes. For the responsible and sensible world citizens (or Netizens) who live in fortunate locations, their only option is to help. The Philippine islands have a life-saving role to play, – as a typhoon shock absorber or shield because after a typhoon has hit the Philippines with its full impact,  it normally continues its course to Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia but already weakened to a certain degree, hence, saving countless lives in these neighboring countries. Haiyan was already over 100 km/h slower when it approached Vietnam. Tha’s a big deal.

Typhoons here, earthquakes there, still life must go on like that of one father in Tacloban who lost his wife and five of his children instantly as the killer waves surged into their village that he is now left with only one child who survived with him. He said that the pain of loss was  hard to bear but he still has a child who needs him that’s why he chose life.

For us then who are not regularly affected by such devastating natural calamities, let’s choose to help them recover from their severe nightmare.


Open Government Partnership: The Winds Have Changed In Our Country

The launching of  Open Government Policy as initiated by Pres. Obama  and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff a couple of days ago wherein the Philippines is a member of the Steering Committee is a clear signal of Pres. Aquino’s unquestionable commitment to steering our country to higher standards of governance. “We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,”  President Aquino said.

This is good music to the ears. Finally, I think I can proudly identify  myself with our government for now I feel that my clamor for reforms in our politics is being realized. Hence, the winds have changed in the Philippines. When before we were just being insulted by the President and the people around her, when before we were almost worn out reading and writing about  all the scams  of the syndicate Arroyo administration,  their plundering of the national and local treasuries, the rigging of elections, etc., when in the past we have lost our trust to our national government, now it seems that these are being blown away by the winds, that now we feel good when reading about the developments in our country. It’s hard times and harsh winds now for those who enriched themselves in the past  at the expense of the people. Again, crime  against the people doesn’t pay.

If President Obama can applaud our President Aquino for his reforms, then why shouldn’t I? Hence, I have found it necessary to reprint here the articles below on Open Govenment Partneship, specifically our government’s  draft of its Action Plan 2012.

Regarding our town Bulan, I specifically highlight 2 points, the one under Starting the Tradition of Transparency which reads:

  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix

For those interested in examining in details the  THE ANNUAL BUDGET OF THE LOCAl GOVERNMENT UNIT OF BULAN FOR FISCAL YEAR 2011 please click here.

The other point is to be found under Institutionalizing Public Accountability which reads:

  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

May we know from the Mayor of Bulan Helen de Castro if our town has obtained this Seal Of Good Housekeeping?

jun asuncion


Country Commitments


20 September 2011
Commitments Delivered
  • Introduction
  • Efforts to Date
  • Commitments

Philippine Government Action Plan 2012
for the Open Government Partnership
1 January to 31 December 2012.

A Discussion Document


Note on Status (as of 15 September 2011): this is a working draft of the Philippine Government Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). This was crafted after soliciting inputs from Cabinet officials1 and after conducting initial consultations with stakeholders. 
During the preparatory period of October to December 2011, this Philippine OGP Action Plan will be subject to further refinements as well as to broader public consultations with stakeholders. After a final plan has been approved by the President, implementation will commence in January 2012. 
* * *

Institutionalizing People Power in Governance To Ensure Direct, Immediate and Substantial Benefits to the Poor

On February 25, 1986, the Filipino People toppled a dictatorship after four days of nonviolent protest. Crying out “tama na, sobra na!”ii  the people poured out into the streets after heeding the call of religious and civic leaders to protect rebel soldiers and thereby end the decades-long dictatorship of Ferdinand E. Marcos, with its corruption, human rights violations and worsening poverty. The EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986 culminated in the inauguration of Corazon C. Aquino—housewife of a martyriii of Martial Law—as President of the Philippines.
Twenty-five years after this historical milestone, the Philippines has a new opportunity to put the aspirations of People Power for reform back on track. With a resounding mandateiv, President Benigno S. Aquino III won in the last May 2010 elections to replace an administration plagued with allegations of massive corruption, a lack of political legitimacy and an inability to address the widening gap between rich and poor. His campaign message, “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,v resonated with an electorate yearning for change.
President Aquino made a Social Contract with the Filipino People, where he committed to be the nation’s first and most determined fighter of corruption, and where he envisions the rebuilding of public institutions that operate under the highest standards of integrity and on solidarity with the people. The Philippine Development Plan,vi which fleshes-out this Social Contract, is anchored on fighting corruption and establishing transparent, accountable and participatory governance as necessary preconditions to achieving poverty reduction, inclusive growth, enhanced peace and ecological integrity.
The motive force for these reforms is People Power: a paradigm for achieving the nation’s progress by ensuring the active and meaningful participation of citizens in public policy and programs. The Philippine Government aims to transform People Power from a nonviolent form of street protest to a means for citizens and workers in government to collaborate in the halls of government to ensure that the benefits of governance reaches the poor in a direct, immediate and substantial way. In contrast to the secrecy, impunity and collusion among selfish factions in the past, People Power seeks to widen the democratic space for citizens in their very own government.
The Philippine Government sees open government as a means to operationalize and institutionalize People Power. It will take on the vital challenges of improving public services, increasing public integrity and more effectively managing public resources: so that the Aquino administration’s vision of kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap can be fulfilled.
In crafting this Action Plan, the Philippine Government consulted with national networks of civil society organizations (CSOs)vii. This Action Plan is for implementation starting January 1, 2012; and the period of October to December 2011 will serve as the preparatory phase.

i Agency submissions so far: DBM, DepEd, DoE, DENR, DoF, DILG, DoJ, DoLE, DoST, DPWH, DND, NEDA, PCDSPO, PCOO, DSWD, DoT, DTI, NSA, OPAPP, PLLO, DAP. CSO Submissions so far: PinoyME, Right to Know, Right Now! Consultations with CSOs have been conducted on 26 August and 10 September, 2011.
ii Roughly translated as “enough is enough!”
iii Senator Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., a staunch critic of the Marcos regime, was assassinated on August 21, 1983 upon returning from exile from the United States.
iv Candidate Benigno S. Aquino III won as president with 15.2 million votes or 42% of all votes cast; with a lead of 5.7 million from the next contender (there were eight other candidates).
v Roughly translated as “No Corruption, No Poverty.”
vi The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, as operationalized by Executive Order No. 43.
vii Namely: CodeNGO, BAG, SWP/ABI, TAN, ANSA-EAP, ATIN/Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, PPVR, PinoyME, MBC, CAC, Integrity Initiative and NCC.

Open Government Efforts to Date

Since the new Aquino administration took the helm on June 30, 2010, the Philippine Government has embarked on several initiatives to institute transparency, accountability and participation in governance, with the help of information technology.

Starting the Tradition of Transparency

  • Mandatory Disclosure of Budget Information. The Government has embedded provisions in the 2011 National Budget—its first financial blueprint—that mandate the publication of major information on budgets, finance and performance indicators in the websites of national departments and agencies.viii
  • Transparency in Local Governance. The Department of Interior and Local Government department has required in August 2010 all Local Government Units (LGUs) to post in local bulletin boards, newspapers and websites information on their utilization of funds and implementation of projects. As of August 26, 2011, 70 provinces, 130 cities and 1,305 municipalities have complied with this policy.ix
  • Official Gazette Online. The Government has embarked on placing the entire corpus of Laws and Supreme Court decisionsx and Presidential issuancesxi online for the first time,xii as well as daily updates from agencies.

Jumpstarting Citizen Participation

  • Participatory Budget Process. In crafting the 2012 National Budget, six departments and three government corporations piloted a consultative budget preparation process with CSOs.xiii To support citizen engagement, the Budget department has begun publishing the People’s Budget, a summarized and layman’s version of the annual National Budget.
  • Participatory Development Planning. The Government, through the National Economic and Development Authority, has conducted a series of public consultations in the crafting of the Philippine Development Plan for 2011 to 2016xiv. Citizen participation was also tapped for sector development planning; for instance, the Labor department has conducted consultations with labor, business, youth, academe and other stakeholders in crafting the Labor and Employment Plan for 2011-2016.
  • Partnerships for Effective Service Delivery. Agencies have entered into partnerships with stakeholders in monitoring program and project implementation. For instance, the Public Works department has partnered with a broad coalition of CSOs and other groups in monitoring public works projects.xv The Social Welfare department has entered into partnerships with 222 national and local CSOs and other groups for the monitoring of social protection programs including the conditional cash transfer program.xvi The Interior and Local Government department has also partnered with 28 national and 124 regional CSOs to help monitor transparency and accountability of LGUs.xvii

Institutionalizing Public Accountability

  • Results-Oriented Fiscal Management. Fiscal reform in the Aquino administration began with the reintroduction of the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) approach in 2010. ZBB enables the government to review and terminate programs and projects that no longer deliver on intended outcomes, and to realign funding to other priorities especially in education and healthcare.xviii ZBB, together with the Medium-Term Expenditure Frameworkxix and the Organizational Performance Indicator Frameworkxx, paves the way for results-oriented fiscal management.
  • Accountability of Government Corporations. The Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations (GOCC) Governance Act of 2011 to address past abuses and patronage that made GOCCs virtual cash cows of previous government officials; promote their financial viability and fiscal discipline; and make GOCCs truly accountable to the people.
  • Citizen’s Charters and Citizen’s Report Cards. The Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 requires all agencies to craft a Citizen’s Charter to simplify procedures and facilitate transactions. To date, 71% of agenciesxxi have issued a Citizen’s Charter. It also provides that all government agencies providing frontline services shall be subjected to a Report Card Survey to obtain feedback regarding their implementation of the Citizen’s Charter.
  • Revenue Integrity. The Finance department has intensified its revenue integrity campaignsxxii, and has filed 184 tax evasion cases, 39 cases against suspected smugglers and 86 cases against suspected corrupt collection employees as of July 2011.xxiii
  • Performance Challenge for Local Governments – The Interior and Local Government department launched the LGU Performance Challenge Fund program in 2010 as an effort to institutionalize transparency, accountability, participation and performance in LGUs. Under this program, LGUs that exhibited strong performance in key areas of governance earned a Seal of Good Housekeeping and a chance to avail of additional budgetary support from the Fund. As of 2011, 44 provinces, 60 cities and 758 municipalities have obtained a Seal of Good Housekeeping.xxiv

Leveraging Technology and Innovation

  • Electronic Procurement. The Philippine Government E-Procurement System (PhilGEPS), which started in 2000, is mandated by law as the central electronic portal for government procurement. Key features at present include an electronic bulletin board for posting of bid notices and awards; a registry of more than 47,000 suppliers; automatic bid matching of opportunities with suppliers; and a virtual store of common-use supplies available from the Procurement Service, the government’s bulk buyer.
  • Targeting Social Protection Beneficiaries with Precision. The Government has an existing National Household Targeting System (NHTS) which identifies the poorest of the poor and aims to improve the service delivery systems to them. Such system, which is being used in identifying beneficiaries of national social protection programs, is expected to reduce the rate of leakage of resources and lessen exclusion of beneficiaries.
  • Digitizing Releases from Congressional Allocations – The Budget department has launched on June 2011 the Electronic Transparency and Accountability Initiative for Lump Sum Funds System (eTAILS), an information system that digitizes the processing of releases for Congressional Allocations and supports their timely online disclosure.xxv
  • Online Avenues for Public Feedback and Communication – The Finance department has launched its Pera ng Bayanxxvi  website where citizens can file anonymous reports or leads on possible tax evasion, smuggling and government collusion cases. Various other government agencies have tapped their websites and social media (Facebook and Twitter) in disseminating key information and soliciting public feedback.

viii Section 97 of the General Provisions of the 2011 General Appropriations Act (Republic Act No. 10147) requires agencies to post the following information on their official websites: approved budgets, performance measures and targets, major programs and projects to be implemented, annual procurement plan, contracts awarded and names of contractors, targeted and actual beneficiaries, utilization of funds, status of implementation, program/project evaluation reports.
ix State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG
From 1901
xi From 1935
xii Memorandum approved by the President on editorial policies of the Official Gazette, 7 September, 2010; Budgetary Requirement for Fiscal Year 2012, submitted to the House of Representatives by the PCDSPO, August 10, 2011.
xiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 9-10. Departments which piloted the consultative process were those in the social and economic services sectors with the biggest budgetary allocation, namely: Education, Health, Social Welfare, Public Works, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Pilot government corporations were those with large government subsidies, particularly the National Food Authority, National Housing Authority and National Home Mortgage and Finance Corporation.
xiv NEDA input
xv SONA 2011 Technical Report
xvi Ibid.
xvii DILG Inputs
xviii SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 2
xix MTEF is a planning-budgeting framework which provides a three-year perspective to budget preparation.
xx OPIF is an approach to expenditure management that directs resources towards results or major final outputs and measures agency performance by key quality and quantity indicators.
xxi Of 2,266 national departments and agencies nationwide
xxii In particular, the Run After Tax Evaders of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; the Run After The Smugglers of the Bureau of Customs; and the Revenue Integrity Protection Service of the Finance department.
xxiii SONA 2011 Technical Report, pages 11-12
xxiv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 4, with updates from DILG.
xxv SONA 2011 Technical Report, page 3
xxvi Translated as “People’s Money”

New Commitments for Open Governance

Every gain, including the gains mentioned above, paves the way for increasing transparency, accountability and citizen’s participation. The Philippine Government believes that open government will curtail the ability for corrupt officials and those interested in political patronage at public expense, to operate with impunity. Open government also plays a key role in empowering the poor and strengthening the constituency for reform. The Government will embark on the following beginning January 1, 2012:

Improve Transparency of Government Agencies

Escalate Fiscal Transparency.
By the end of June 2012, the government will improve the compliance rate of departments in the Executive branch in the disclosure their approved budgets, utilization of funds, awarded bids and annual procurement plans to 100 percentxxvii. Agency compliance will be measured by an index, to be developed and published online within 90 days, and to be co-managed with CSOs.
Promote Access to Government Information.
Throughout 2012, the Government will move towards adopting a policy for citizens to freely access government information in a timely, relevant and meaningful way, subject to certain limitations such as national security, foreign diplomacy and privacy concerns. It will work with CSOs and the private sector in broadening the scope of access to official information through all possible means; as well as in improving the compliance of government agencies to existing standards of information disclosure.

Deepen Citizen Participation

Organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership.
During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, the Government will organize a Philippine Open Governance Partnership that will be tapped in plotting open government reforms in the medium-term, in monitoring performance and in surfacing broader areas where interventions need to be escalated. Government will engage a broad spectrum of national and local CSOs, business groups, academe and other stakeholders; as well as reach out to the Legislature, the Judiciary, Constitutional Bodies and Local Governments for them to take part in open government endeavors.
Expand Participatory Budgeting.
By the end of June 2012, in time for the preparations for the 2013 National Budget, the Government will expand the coverage of participatory budget preparation to at least 12 departments and 6 government corporations, and enhance the process to address issues experienced during the pilot consultations for the 2012 Budget. Before end-2012, the Government, in consultation with CSOs, will craft a roadmap to expand and institutionalize participatory budgeting to the other phases of the budget cyclexxviii and to the national, regional and local levels.
Forge Partnerships for the Development of Local Government-Level Poverty Reduction and Empowerment Plans.
The government will push for stronger collaboration between national agencies, local government units (LGUs) and community organizations in localizing poverty through LGU-level poverty reduction and empowerment plans. During the preparatory phase of this Action Plan, 600 qualified LGUs and partner-CSOs will be identified; community facilitators will be recruited and trained; and manuals for the training the community organizers. From January to July 2012, community workshops will be conducted in drafting community poverty reduction plans that will be incorporated into the proposed National Budget for 2013.
Establish an Empowerment Fund.
To support the bottom-up approach in development planning and budgeting, the Government will establish a facility to support CSOs in organizing citizens and communities to engage government in the implementation and audit of poverty reduction programs. A mechanism will be developed to safeguard the independence of CSOs from the agencies they engage. Such facility will be established during the fourth quarter of 2011. Screening, selection and provision of funding to qualified CSOs will be undertaken throughout 2012.
Institutionalizing Social Audit for Public Infrastructure Projects.
The A partnership between the Audit commission, Executive departmentsxxix and CSOs will craft a roadmap for institutionalizing social audit for general public works and agriculture infrastructure projects by end-2011, for implementation throughout 2012.

Escalate Accountability to Ethical and Performance Standards

Harmonizing Performance Measurement Systems in Government.
To ensure a single approach in measuring government performance—at the institutional, financial or individual level—the government will design and begin cascading a harmonized performance measurement system from the disparate systems at present. A Task Force will be constituted before end-2011 to formulate such a consolidated and harmonized performance measurement system by March 2012. Implementation of this system will begin in April 2012, for review by December 2012.
Install Results-Oriented Budgeting in More Agencies.
The Organizational Performance Indicator Framework (OPIF) will be further mainstreamed into the budget and planning processes of all agencies and harmonized with existing performance measurement systems in government. By end-2012, 10 Departmentsxxx will have fully-developed OPIF systems, with clearly defined agency outputs and performance indicators that are linked to the Philippine Development Plan.
Meanwhile, the Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) will again be used, and in an expanded manner, in crafting the proposed National Budget for 2013. From January to June 2013, at least seven additional programs and projects would have been subjected to ZBB.
Increase Compliance with Citizen’s Charters.
By the end of 2012, Government will ensure that 100% of national government agencies have published a Citizen’s Charter. Agencies shall also strive to improve their Citizen’s Charters—as well as their processes for frontline and other services, and response mechanisms to complaints and reports—in consultation with CSOs.
Roll-out Internal Audit and Internal Control Manuals.
Before the end of 2011, the Government will issue a Philippine Government Internal Audit Manual (PGIAM). From January to December 2012, the PGIAM and the National Guidelines on Internal Control System (NGICS) will be rolled-out in nine critical departmentsxxxi. This is in line with the target of all agencies adopting the PGIAM and NGICS by 2016.
Embedding Accountability in Local Governance.
In line with the goal of making all lower-income municipalities and citiesxxxii pass the Seal of Good Housekeeping by 2016, the Interior and Local Government department will increase the compliance rate to existing standards from 50% to 70% before the end of 2012. Furthermore, new standards that link performance in social development areas to the awarding of Seal of Good Housekeeping and Performance Challenge Fund grants would have been developed.

Maximize Technology and Innovation

Establish a Single Portal for Government Information.
The proposed Single Portal for Government Information is envisioned to be a central government website where citizens can access government information as well as provide feedback on government performance. Throughout 2012, the Government, in consultation with stakeholders, will craft a roadmap and develop a Single Portal for Government Information which complies with basic open data standards.
Install a Government Integrated Financial Information Management System.
To ensure the efficiency of government financial management procedures, the Government will develop a complete Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) by 2016. By August 2012, the first track of GIFMIS, which will serve as the single data sharing platform of government’s oversight agenciesxxxiii, will be developed.
Pursue Electronic Bidding and Procurement.
In line with the medium-term goal of digitizing the bidding process, the Government will develop additional features of PhilGEPS by December 2012. These new features include a facility to enable the online submission of bid documents; a module for CSOs to monitor tenders online; an electronic fee payment system; an expanded supplier registry and a module for agency posting of their annual procurement plans. The Government will also develop and pilot a system of procurement cards, in lieu of the often-abused system of cash advances, by June 2012.
Establish a National Justice Information System.
In line with addressing the slow pace of justice that has compromised poor victims and poor suspects, the Government will develop a National Justice Information System (NJIS), an integrated criminal justice database system that will facilitate the efficient recording, monitoring, tracking and reporting of crimes, cases, offenders and victims. By December 2012, the Justice department will develop and implement an online registry of opinions, issuances and other legal documents that will easily be accessible to judicial agents. The first phase of NJIS, which will integrate the systems of law enforcement, prosecution and corrections agencies, is envisioned for completion by the end of 2014.xxxiv
Establish a Manpower Information System and Central Payroll System.
To better manage government manpower requirements and improve accountability in the disbursement of funds for personal services, the Government will enhance its Government Manpower Information System (GMIS) as a comprehensive database of government manpower by the end of 2014. By December 2012, a National Payroll System that is linked to GMIS will be developed and pilotedxxxv.
Develop a Registry of Farmers and Fisherfolk.
The Government envisions a full database-registry of farmers and fisherfolk that will more accurately identify and reach beneficiaries of government interventions for agricultural and fisheries development, and to reduce the past massive leakage of government funds for this purpose. In the first quarter of 2012, a pilot registry will be developed covering 20 provinces with the high poverty incidence and high vulnerability to natural calamities.
Electronic Transparency for Congressional Allocations and Lump Sum Funds.
By the end of 2012, the Government will expand the eTAILS so that 1) other often-politicized lump-sum fundsxxxvi are processed through it; and 2) where citizen reportage on the implementation of projects funded by Congressional Allocations is enabled.
Interactive Fiscal Transparency.
The Government will develop and launch a Budget ng Bayanxxxvii website, which will serve as an interactive platform for citizens to learn about and find information on the National Budget as well as to file citizen reports on its implementation. Such a website will be activated by March 2012 and it will be fully operational by December 2012.
During the period of October to December 2011, prior to the commencement of the implementation year, the Philippine Government shall continue looking into further improving this 2012 OGP Action Plan. More importantly, it shall broaden public consultations and cooperation with other branches of Government in ensuring the sustainability of open government reforms over the medium-term.

xxvii Of 22 Departments of the executive branch, 6 have posted their approved budgets on their websites (DBM, DoH, DILG, DND, DPWH, DoTC), 3 have posted their fund utilization reports (DBM, DILG, DSWD), 13 have posted their awarded bids (DBM, DepEd, DENR, DoF, DFA, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA) and 10 have posted their annual procurement plans (DBM, DoH, DILG, DoLE, DND, DPWH, DSWD, DoTC, NEDA, PCOO).
xxviii In particular, in the budget legislation, execution and accountability phases.
xix In particular, the Budget, Public Works and Agriculture departments.
xxx The OPIF has already been cascaded in 10 Departments: DA, DAR, DENR, DSWD, DoT, DPWH, DBM, DoF, DoH, DepEd.
xxxi In particular, the Public Works, Education, Finance, Justice, Health, Social Welfare, Budget, Labor and Environment departments.
xxxii Lower-income municipalities are those belonging to the 4th-6th classes. There are a total of 619 municipalities under these classes. Lower-income cities are those belonging to the 4th to 5th classes. There are a total of 28 cities under these.
xxxiii Particularly, the Finance and Budget departments and the Commission on Audit.
xxxiv DoJ Inputs
xxxvIn accordance with Executive Order No. 31 series of 2011
xxxvi Modules for the School Building Fund and the Internal Revenue Allotment of Local Governments are slated for development.


Obama lauds Phl reforms
By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments
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US President Barack Obama shakes hands with President Aquino following the Open Government Partnership forum at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. AP
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NEW YORK (via PLDT) – US President Barack Obama congratulated President Aquino on Tuesday for the reforms he has set in motion in the Philippines, and expressed hope that they could talk longer next time around.

The two heads of state met at the launch of the Open Governance Partnership (OGP) here. They sat next to each other during the event, which was attended by representatives of 46 other nations. The new partnership aims to promote transparency and accountability in government service.

“When the session was over, he congratulated us for our achievements in our first year. He (Obama) said, ‘I understand there have been those that have been pushing you back,’ ” Aquino told Manila-based reporters.

He said Obama was apparently referring to officials of the previous administration who are under investigation for corruption and who are blocking the administration’s reform efforts.

“He gave a compliment on the achievements that we’ve brought the first year. I guess Honolulu would be a smaller group and we’ll have more time to talk there,” Aquino said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Hawaii in November.

Aquino said he invited Obama to visit Manila but the US president, pressed for time, made no commitment. Aquino said the matter was best left to the foreign affairs departments of the Philippines and the US.

“I understand he talked before the UN here and everybody wanted to have two minutes with him,” Aquino said.

To prove that his administration means business in its fight against corruption, President Aquino declared here at the OGP forum that he has formulated an action plan to be unveiled in January next year.

In his speech, Aquino said heads of state that included US President Barack Obama, Aquino said government institutions would eventually comply with international standards regarding transparency in transactions.

“We have created a roadmap called the 2012 Philippine Government Action Plan to ensure that our government institutions are at par with international transparency standards,” he said.

Obama and Aquino sat next to each other during the OGP forum.

The Philippines is one of eight countries that are members of OGP Steering Committee. The OGP forum is co-headed by Obama and Brazil President Dilma Rousseff.

The other members are: Indonesia, Mexico, United Kingdom, Norway and South Africa. Members of the steering committee were selected based on fiscal transparency, access to information, and disclosure of officials.

An advocate of good governance that underscores anti-corruption agenda for countries, the OGP is a new multilateral initiative to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

Aquino said the action plan is a product of consultations made by his officials with civil society organizations and business groups that promote open and good governance, and acknowledged that “this action plan is a work-in-progress.”

“The long-standing culture of corruption and concealment that had taken root will take time to change. But rest assured, before its implementation in January 2012, the plan will have gone through even deeper consultations,” he said.

From the time he started a so-called house cleaning in June 2010 since he assumed office, Aquino disclosed that his government intends to correct the mistakes of the past and prevent them from happening again in the future all in the name of accountability.

“We have taken a two-pronged approach, focusing on the curative and the preventive. As we vigorously pursue our campaign against those who abused power in the past, we are also strengthening institutions through Open Government,” Aquino explained.

He said that these efforts are indicators of how serious the Philippines is in transforming the system from one that operates through secrecy, impunity, and collusion, into a government that embodies transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement – a government that truly exists for its people.

“If our citizens could engage in this way, then I am certain that we will achieve our collective goals sooner rather than later. I believe that if any citizenry can be actively engaged by its government, then it can only have positive effects on the people,” said Aquino.

Aquino also told guests at another forum dubbed as “The Power of Open: A Global Discussion” that was held at the Google headquarters in New York, that allowing constituents to engage in a feedback mechanism among government programs would remove doubts about misfeasance and create an environment where trust is established.

“A continuing conversation between government and its citizens builds a positive, powerful connection between individual leaders and citizens, fostering the reintegration of government with society as a whole,” he pointed out.

He said a policy for transparency, like what he is doing in his administration, prevents temptation among those in power to engage in crimes.

Aquino said technology, particularly the Internet, could be an avenue to give the people updates on government’s affairs, and allow citizens to give feedback.

“This sense of partnership makes us better equipped to navigate the turbulent waters in our age of flux. We have seen the manner in which social media can expose corruption and other abuses, and arouse public opinion to mobilize and reclaim their government.”

Aquino enumerated several programs that his government undertook to keep the citizens informed, among them a website where people can report public officials’ misuse of funds, a Palace portal and another one that details government allocations.

He cited the case of National Hero Jose Rizal who warned of the consequences of government being “blind and deaf to the grievances of the people.”

“His (Rizal) exposing the injustices in Philippine society ignited the Philippine Revolution


‘Let us not forget the mistakes of the past’
(The Philippine Star) Updated September 22, 2011 12:00 AM  View comments

NEW YORK (via PLDT) – Those who forget the mistakes of the past are condemned to repeat them.

President Aquino paraphrased the writer George Santayana here Tuesday, saying that martial law imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos 39 years ago should be instilled in the Filipino memory, the better to learn the lessons of history.

The President said the dark days of authoritarian rule should never be ignored much less forgotten, since that was the time that military officers committed human rights violations with impunity, sanctioned by the commander-in-chief.

Aquino’s father, former Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., an opposition stalwart who was a vocal critic of the Marcos administration, was imprisoned on trumped-up charges and later lived in exile in the United States. He was assassinated when he returned home in 1983.

The President said the person who declared martial law had been allowed by the Constitution to do so and stayed well beyond his term of office.

“He was supposed to be a Bar topnotcher but he trampled human rights by sending civilians to be tried in military courts,” he said, referring to Marcos, whose son, Ferdinand II, is now a senator and Aquino’s former colleague in the Senate.

The President also hit the former strongman and the people around him during that time for his decisions that according to him resulted to the country’s external debt that reached $25 billion since 1974 and the futility of having to establish the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant whose loans were paid by Filipino taxpayers for several years, among others.

“There was a study that came out before martial law that we almost have no external debt. I believe I saw a record that we started in 1974, that is when they started talking about the $25 billion,” the President said in Filipino.

He, however, reiterated that there were suggestions that Asian nations should have a paternalistic system and a strong leader.

In Manila, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda defended the Aquino administration’s human rights record and emphasized that the compensation bill that would give monetary assistance to martial law victims is still being worked out.

The human rights compensation bill seeks to provide assistance to some 10,000 victims during the martial law years.

Lacierda said there was a discussion on the bill prior to the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council but the terms and provisions were so broad that those present were not able to determine who exactly should be considered a rights victim.

Different points of view

Meanwhile, militant groups commemorated the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law by holding a rally at the foot of Mendiola Bridge in Manila, the site of many demonstrations during the Marcos regime.

“Justice remains elusive for the thousands of victims of the Marcos dictatorship and the fascist regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Martial law’s anniversary reminds us not just of the atrocities committed in the past, but also of the difficult struggle for justice being waged by victims of the past and present,” said Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr.

Bayan lamented that while the compensation of Marcos victims was mentioned during the President’s State of the Nation Address, there has lately been no pronouncement or update on the matter.

The group also said the Aquino government has been slow to release more than 350 political prisoners, most of them arrested on trumped-up charges during the Arroyo regime.

“The AFP continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the Philippines. The government doesn’t even have a working definition of who these prisoners are. It’s as if the 350 prisoners do not exist at all,” Reyes said.

Akbayan party-list, on the other hand, filed a resolution yesterday urging the House of Representatives to officially declare the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos an “enemy of democracy.”

In filing House Resolution 1756, Representatives Walden Bello and Arlene Bag-ao called on Congress to condemn the atrocities committed by Marcos. It also called on Congress to “strongly oppose” the revival of any proposal that would portray him as a hero.

The lawmakers said the Marcos dictatorship “was perhaps one of the darkest parts in the country’s political history.”

They said the Marcos dictatorship, through the utilization of a brutal military establishment, was responsible for 3,257 murders, 35,000 torture cases and 70,000 incarcerations.

But Marcos loyalists disagreed.

Lawyer Oliver Lozano, a staunch supporter of the fallen dictator, justified the implementation of martial law, saying Proclamation 1081 brought peace and development and made the country among the leading economies in the Asian region.

“It was an act of self defense against mob rule. There was no dictatorship only constitutional authoritarian rule against the enemies of the state that were on the verge of taking over the government. Crime rate went down, progress and development began reaching the countryside,” Lozano told The STAR.

He said aside from the restoration of law and order, martial law also sped up implementation of infrastructure projects and instilled discipline among the citizenry.

Lozano, whose son and driver were killed by carjackers early this year, said he would support the declaration of a modified “martial law” provided it is within the bounds of the Constitution, to address the worsening crime situation.

 Martial law documents

In a related development, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin turned over yesterday to civilians previously confidential martial law documents in a simple ceremony in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Gazmin said the documents, enough to fill up a room, will be preserved to allow Filipinos to learn from the past.

“Your defense and military establishment fully commit to turn over all declassified martial law documents in our possession to our Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for preservation and for the sake of posterity,” he said.

The Department of National Defense (DND) and the CHR would coordinate with the National Archives and the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) to preserve and digitize the documents.

The two feet thick documents include news clippings about former Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, a key figure of the popular revolt that ousted Marcos and reports on former senator Ninoy Aquino.

Other declassified documents include various security assessments, political leaflets of Aquino, feasibility studies on lifting martial law, a briefing manuscript about detainees dated 1980, a compilation of media accounts of the assassination of Aquino in 1983, news clippings on student activists dated September 1969, and various presidential decrees.

The documents covered the period from 1972 to 1986. – Delon Porcalla, Rhodina Villanueva, Perseus Echeminada, Michelle Zoleta, Alexis Romero, Paolo Romero, Aurea Calica


jun asuncion


Just a few days before the end of 2010, a sister of mine asked me why I did not respond to her Facebook invitation. I told her I’m not a Facebook fan and that blogging is more interesting and is more than enough to consume the remaining time of my otherwise very busy life. “But you’ve  got a Facebook account that I discovered and with your Bulan Observer photo on it!”, my sister exclaimed.
“No, I don’t have one” I repeated and thought she was just joking.
To prove her point, she opened her Facebook and there I saw it crystal clear –  the Facebook supposed to be mine!

Dear friends, that Facebook account bearing my photo is not mine and has nothing to do with me.

It is, I think, a work of a lost soul who has no face of its own to attach to its own Facebook; a person who has not the courage to discuss with me in Bulan Observer the corruption issues that hurt him.

We have discussed this in the past that a man without a valid and decent argument to present resorts to such primitive form of language – and I pity such a primitive and faceless being who roams around the net without a concept of civilization.

Again, as a netizen my home is Bulan Observer and nowhere else.

Thank you and have a fruitful and blessed 2011.

jun asuncion


2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers


Madison Square Garden can seat 20,000 people for a concert. This blog was viewed about 62,000 times in 2010. If it were a concert at Madison Square Garden, it would have performed about 3 times.

In 2010, there were 39 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 255 posts. There were 25 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 87mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was May 11th with 634 views. The most popular post that day was Update: SORSOGON PROVINCIAL CANDIDATES FOR 2010 ELECTION.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for impormasyong pang-turista ng bern, bulan observer, cactus, loren legarda, and business and politics family dynasties.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.




Strengths And Weaknesses Of The Filipino Political Character February 2009


The CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM in the Country: April 2008


Local Archive December 2009


About Bulan Observer December 2007


A Better Place


by jun asuncion


The Solis event was for sure a big political event nationwide so we have allowed these emotional discussions to go on for a while since they’re in a way a part of the whole event.

But now it’s time to bring the discussions to a higher level after all these purely personal squabbles or family feud.

For though we react to political corruption cases, Bulan Observer remains a place for constructive dialogue and criticism and was never meant to be a hate site.

Again, we ask for more cultured reflections in relation to the Solis’ case after we had allowed enough room for the most basic of human emotions and after we had realized that we couldn’t achieve more if we have to remain in this level of discussion or in dealing with one another.

Joanne Solis has of course the right anytime to counter any hurled criticisms or insult to her or her family. But I ask the others now to refrain from posting purely personal attacks. In this way, we help one another break this cycle of aggression and hate and give way to a more civil and intelligent cycle of discussion.

Young people grew up in this kind of political system and, as expected, we have seen it mirrored in their dialogues. You cannot blame them. As I mentioned long ago, the younger ones suffer the most in this dog-eat-dog political landscape.

But remember that if we continue this way, we are voluntarily supporting the system that we oppose. That would be an insult to all of us.

So, we all are wanting to do a new landscaping for our younger people so that they grow more in an atmosphere of trust, which is healthier I supposed; for the minds of the youth reflect only the social reality that they perceive. And the fact that social perception differs from society to society, it gives us an important hint that a change in landscaping will change the social perception of the younger people.

But truth be told, this is a very complex issue, too vast that we don’t even know when or where this new landscaping (or social change) can start. We have talked about electoral reforms, etc., but all of these require time and many other factors to happen.

For the meantime we just forget its complexity and begin this new landscaping in the way that we treat one another here in this column with respect without sacrificing our right to freely express our own opinions on issues that matter to us all.

The Solis’ case is a matter of public interest and so we will observe its continuation. It’s also a chance for us to start this new landscaping.

With this in mind, I also personally hope that the people who post their comments here also learn something better about themselves- or experience new landscaping- every time they come back to review them.

Let’s all work for a better place.          


Choose Freedom First

by jun asuncion


The year 2010 is finally here- and lucky are those who survived because 2009 was a year of calamities and human tragedies for the Filipinos.

Still, the tired Filipinos have the right to wish for a better year this time, a year with less natural devastations and a new national leadership that would give them back the face of dignity that they have lost and inspire them to continue fighting for the virtues they dearly hold.

Hence, this new year is our chance to go a step forward by choosing a president that has a stately character and the intelligence that’s focussed on how to improve our situation. That’s why choose freedom first above everything else and then choose your president this year.

I can no longer imagine another four or eight years of weak national leadership , another years of deception and series of insult to the Filipino mind. That’s why be wise this time, protect your mind, consider a bigger cause and then choose your president this year.

The Philippines is still not the nation we have envisioned. It is deep within it fragmented and has no direction- the reason why there is no peace and progress.

Though we may proudly declare ourselves anytime and anywhere of being friendly and hardworking Filipinos,  in truth we have no common defined goals on how to change the situations that for decades have been hindering our progress. That’s why we need a national leader that will give us this definition that we need and support our personal struggles for a nation. A multi-ethnic place like the Philippines needs a strong and incorruptible national leader who will work for and not against a Filipino nation, who will put to end this culture of impunity and replace it with culture of justice and human rights; a national leader that places national interests first than  patronage politics.

This could be too much of an expectation for this means to go against the flow of the Philippine real politik. But this is exactly we need in this socio-economic dead-end, somebody who will break the old wall and lead us to the other side where there is more space for positive growth and development.

The same way with our local governments: Choose freedom first and then choose your mayor and governor. Respect your local officials  and political candidates but don’t trade freedom for slavery. It’s more human to be poor yet free than to be poor and be a slave. Avoid manipulation of all kinds, fight for your integrity and choose freedom first.

This is the privilege we enjoy each start of the year – to reset ourselves inwardly and  to dream again for a better Philippines. Indeed, it’s a new beginning for each of us, but an end to those who choose to remain un-free and who have stopped dreaming.

Personally, you might have lost good friends and/or failed to reach your goals you have set for yourself last year. But this should not stop you from dreaming anew. The new year will also bring you new friends when old ones are gone and a new hope so that you can set up new goals again.

Friendship and politics are two things that go hand in hand: Good friendship stays and endures the test of time and expectations, hence has a deeper  quality and meaning. Good politicians are friends to the people for they work for the people’s welfare and never turn their back on the people once they have secured the power but maintain this friendship in an atmosphere of freedom and trust. The result is good governance.

To talk about freedom may sound altmodisch or old style. But for all we know- or for all that we don’t know- freedom needs to be defined and redefined constantly in a society that’s changing and struggling  like the Philippines. It is as old as philosophy itself but still remains the sine qua non of our political dasein and humanity. I’m experiencing that even in places considered to be the most free, progressive and democratic ones in the world, the people’s fight for freedom has never ceased. On the contrary, it’s omnipresent in their daily political debates and in their everyday dealing with one another.

 As a matter of fact, freedom is an issue as pressing as the issues on global warming and climate change and in a way, these issues affect one another: People who choose freedom first and whose freedom is respected have more impact on industries and government decision-making, hence can achieve more in their fight for a cleaner environment than their less-free counterparts in countries that don’t acknowledge such freedom.

The bottom-line now  is to keep your dream  and your passion for a free life. There, exactly in that place where you feel you’ve reached your own dead-end, break that wall and start again. This is really the only way to go to another higher definition within your self. Avoid people and situations that seem to compromise your inner balance or people who attack gladly your own weaknesses. Ignore them and focus on your own strengths so that you’ll be more happy and successful in your own ways.

And finally, don’t underestimate the value of dreaming for a better world for yourself because it is actually your good dream that keeps you alive in this world and keeps you breaking the walls.


We’ll Remember You Always, Manay Edna!(1950-2009)


Yesterday, the 22nd of April 2009, Wednesday morning, our eldest and beloved sister Edna Asuncion Penos passed away totally unexpected.

We greatly mourn the loss of a loving and caring sister who dedicated her entire life to her family and to teaching our young Tagabulans. These children above were once her pupils in Bulan North Central School. She herself was the most loyal Tagabulan among us for she never left Bulan except during her college years in Legazpi city. She passed away a few days after her arrival in Cubao, Quezon City on her regular visit to her own family- husband Danny Penos and two grown up sons Bonbon and Jay who are all working in Manila.

I cannot describe in words the importance of Manay Edna in my own life and how this sudden not-being-with us-anymore pains us  all. Again, I rebel inwardly, will not accept that death is such a harsh reality. We would have loved that she stayed with us for many years more…


Manay Edna will be brought back to our town Bulan for her final rest. Bulan, you are just too near for us…

We’ll remember you always, Manay Edna!

jun,  with menchu, jerry, malou, dennis, judy- and families, and mama with our youngest brother roy.


The melody that reminds me  always of Manay Edna:

Response To Timothy- or The Pillar Of Truth


It was the result of my observations that led me to question the role of Roman Catholic Church in nation building, recognizing the fact that Religion and the Church plays a crucial factor in character building of the individual. But why then is a society that is composed of such Roman Catholic -raised and Roman Catholic- educated people is susceptible to moral corruption as expressed in their daily business with one another and most obviously in their political affairs which begins from the national down to the local government officials and extends down the line of traffic policemen. Of course there are still some honest public servants, but they are little exceptions to the rule.The fact is Corruption -and not Religion- has long been accepted as a way of life in the Philippines (and in other Roman Catholic nations as well) since the coming of the Spaniards. Is this but a reflection of the inherited corrupt nature and tradition of the Roman Catholic Church that infiltrated the collective  unconscious (C.G.Jung) and psyche of the Filipino (and of other catholic nationalities ) after centuries of Roman Catholic dominion? Take note that here I’m talking about the man-made institution (Government?) of the Roman Catholic Church, and not the Religion of Christianity as founded by Christ himself.

Observing that many other Roman Catholic nations are also very corrupt like the Philippines has led me to conclude that Catholicism has failed to be a tool for building a better society. I do not accuse but merely reflect back the facts observed and the documented records of the Roman Catholic Church herself. Then, what is a supposedly grandiose and forcefully imposed foreign church worth for if it had no function in the society it had willingly conquered? Is it just there to gather the flock every Sunday, collect money from the “Faithful” and send it to the Bishop of Rome? In any case, there is just this missing factor in the Roman Catholic culture and system of education which hinders the individual to transfer positively the Christian teachings he learned in his interaction withthe society, particularly the way that he handles the public office entrusted to him if he is a public servant. Or is the Roman Catholic Church nothing but an edifice of corruption and therefore do not possess the moral authority, hence ineffective, in preaching the pure gospel of Jesus Christ which is characterised mainly by love of God and His Commandments (Thou Shall Not Steal, Though Shall Not Kill…) and love and compassion for fellow men and all creations?

In my studies I came to realize that Christianity was shamelessly corrupted and politicized the day when the Roman Emperor Constantin 1 showed interest in Christianity through the Edict of Milan in 313 which now treated nicely the long time persecuted Christian communities and his calling to life the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD which decreed which books must be or must not be included in the Bible and the adoption of Catholic Christianity as official state Religion of the Roman Empire in 380 by Emperor Theodosius I in Thessalonica. The Edict of Milan which ended the persecution of the early Christians would not testify to the genuine personal appreciation of Constantin of Christianity for he himself remained worshipping the Deus Sol Invictus-the Unconquered  Sun God-and continued his working on the falsifications of Christian religious history, allowing himself only be converted to Christianity through Ambrose just moments before his death. It was rather clear from the outset that everything was a politically-motivated move of these emperors who realized the unifying potential of the growing Christian population at a time when the pagan Roman Empire was declining (The crisis of the 3rd Century in the history of the Roman Empire) and from this date on, the corruption of Christ’s teachings started, beginning with the incorporation into it of many pagan practices of ancient Rome, to the horrible abuses of perverse Popes acting in the name of Christ, the series of Roman Catholic Church-led Crusades, notably the 35- year crusade against the Cathars beginning in 1209 that killed thousands of people, the permanent institution of Inquisition in the 12th Century (Malleus Maleficarum- The Hammer Of Witches !) that led to the burning of heretics (people holding a different opinion ) at the stake (remember Savonarola?), persecution of scientists including Galileo, and finally the confiscation of the properties of these accused and/or murdered people. This gruesome burning and crusades lasted for 475 years, the last woman in Europe to be executed on suspicion of witchcraft was Anna Göldi, in Glarus, Switzerland in 1782 who was finally rehabilitated last year by Glarus local authorities.

  • With this background of brutal corruption and the failure of Roman Catholic educators to recognize this cruel past of the Roman Catholic Church, no sane man could expect that Roman Catholicism is the answer to the quest for Truth (” no matter how the Roman Catholic Church of today presents the “sweetness and light” that Roman Catholic Christianity brought to the world”) and therefore could contribute to Filipino progress, morally and politically. There is danger in denying history. You surely know George Santayana’s warning with respect to this.
  • The founding of schools and hospitals was no way a sign of progress for the Spaniards who came in 1521 and founded them came not really to introduce the real Christianity but they came to introduce and to represent the corrupted version of Christianity (which actually became a form of government known us Theocracy, with the Pope as the absolute authority ) dating back 325 ( and not the Christianity before this date as taught by Christ himself, his Apostles, the Apostolic Fathers and the ante-Nicene Church fathers i.e.,before the council of Nicaea, who, though defending (Apologia) the Christian faithfrom false doctrine, were still dedicated in transmitting the gospel in its true and pure form, in contrast to the post-Nicene Church Fathers who were now just interested in the writings of Articles of Faith( or better, Constitution Of Faith?) and Theology (the most famous being Augustine), all of which were geared at cementing the power and authority of the pope ( a title of pagan and pre-christian origin itself ) and the church of Rome and its pagan-soaked catholic rituals. One such man-made Article of Faith is the Doctrine of Infallibility which was decreed by the Vatican Council (Vatican Senate ? ) in 1870.
  • The Spanish Conquestadores who, in 1521, came, saw and conquered the Philippine islands, allegedly to “Spread Christianity”, came in fact to spread Terrorism, for they were no doubt acting in the spirit of Inquisition, echoing the notorious Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 15th century under Ferdinand and Isabel. Thus they came to conquer, to kill and enslave the natives and to sequester the whole of Philippine Archipelago.
  • Timothy, Progress is not measured in terms of roads, schools, hospitals and bridges built but in the upgrading of the moral and political consciousness of the Filipino people. Were colonisation, oppression, aggression, murders, suppression of truth, slavery, pillage and denials part of the teachings of Christ himself, and were they conducive to socio-economic and moral upgrading of the Filipinos during this entire Spanish occupation which lasted for almost 400 years? Surely not.
  • Was the public execution by firing squad of the then strongest intellectual critic Dr. Jose Rizal in 1896 not enough to show the intention of the Roman Catholic Church in preventing the Filipinos from developing and, above all, from using their own intellect? I declare once again that the message was clear. During this occupation time, the Spanish civil government and the Roman Catholic Church were one and the same in their intention, though the Catholic friars were much more feared by the Filipinos (Indios, according to them) than the Spanish civil authorities.
    The inability of the Catholics to pray a spontaneous original prayer is not the failure of the individual Catholic but a symptom of the authoritative, truth-denying and dogmatic system of teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (only the Catholic clergy, and not a lay Catholic, is allowed to interpret the Bible to prevent “misinterpretation” ) which does not take pleasure in the development of individuality but in the passive submission of the flock, which is understandable in light of the undisputed Roman Catholic history of persecuting heretics, meaning people who use the brain given to them by God and who think in the opposite direction.
  • The 1 Tim 3:15 was referring to Jesus Christ’s Church as the Pillar Of Truth, not to the Roman Catholic Church that for a long time in its history were presided and represented by indecent people, impostors and murderers, people not worthy an inch of Christianity. If you look back to the old written pages (profile?) of this Church, you cannot help but shudder and admit that it is built neither upon Jesus Christ nor Simon Peter the Rock but that it is built upon the rock of Gotteslästerung-of Blasphemy- itself.
  • Your statement that “the fact that most of the lawyers, teachers, doctors and nurses (priests, engineers and psychologists as well? ) are Catholic clearly refutes the idea that the (Roman ) Catholic Church prevents developing and using your intellect”.
  • Well, the mind is the only thing that cannot be caged  even if threatened with crucifixion as what the Romans did to Christ in Golgotha or to Simon Peter in Rome, the beheading of Paul (also in Rome) or the immersing of an Apostle named John in boiling oil, or the beheading of  that poor Swiss woman Ana Göldi. And besides the Roman Catholic Church has nothing against teachers and nurses as long as they don’t question the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church, its dogmas and canons, the Infallibility of the Bishop of Rome and naturally its gruesome medieval history. This is the truth Timothy that you are tasked to protect- and I hope you’re enjoying it.
  • Now, to your last statements “we’ve already established that there is no fact, but just a common myth, an urban legend”,  and “Hopefully, you are open to the truth which is far different.”
  •  Here, you sounded like those typical Catholic religion teachers who were so dogmatic and not open to the truth which is far different by not allowing us to study the Bible (I haven’t seen one in the classroom) but instead devoted their time in teaching us the Articles of Faith of the Roman Catholic Church authored by Vatican Senate (not by Chirst or Simon Peter), and by not mentioning a word about the history (and secrets) of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Ignorance of History, or were they victim themselves of such method of instruction? You know you cannot defeat facts with philosophical syllogisms alone, a subject you surely love so much, for you need this tool in speaking in defense of (Apologia) the Holy Roman Catholic Church- and you will have more such occasions that will keep you busy for the rest of your life in view of the Roman Catholic scandals now coming more and more to light. You can continue on arriving at a beautiful logical proposition  after inferring from two premises, or throw up Bible verses here and there to make your point. But the fact that Roman Catholic nations are mostly corrupt-like the Philippines or Italy or, for this matter, the Vatican City itself, remains simply a fact, only it is not beautiful. The Truth is simply there to be seen , there is nothing to hide.

In Christ Alone,

jun asuncion