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Albay News

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List of Municipalities in the Albay Province within Region V in the Republic of The Philippines
Bacacay | Camalig | Daraga (Locsin) | Guinobatan | Jovellar | Libon | Malilipot | Malinao | Manito | Oas | Pio Duran | Polangui | Rapu-Rapu | Santo Domingo (Libog) | Tiwi
Cities in the province of Albay: Legazpi City (Capital) | City Of Ligao | City Of Tabaco

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List of Provinces and Cities in each of the 17 Regions of the Philippines.
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Contents

Measures eyed to make bus trips more friendly to elderly in Albay

By Joel Locsin / LBG (GMA News)

The Albay provincial government is considering ways to make bus trips friendlier to the elderly and people with disabilities, following an unpleasant experience by one such passenger earlier this month.

Albay Governor Jose Salceda said Vice Governor Harold Imperial will "act on this expeditiously" since the experience has "province-wide" consequences.

Salceda posted on his Facebook page a scanned image of a letter from Oas town resident Don Orido narrating the experience of his mother, Barangay Captain Lilia Orido.

Orido said the incident occurred at about 8:30 p.m. of Dec. 11, as the bus reached the boundary of Oas and Polangui towns.

He said his 71-year-old mother had just undergone an operation in her right foot and is unable to walk, and requested the driver to drive toward the Poblacion area so she can easily disembark in front of her house in Barangay Rizal.

But he said the driver denied the request, saying the other passengers cannot be inconvenienced.

Instead, he said the driver let them disembark along the diversion road near Oas East Central School.

"The DLTB Bus Ticket Booth personnel later informed my wife that the 29-seater bus is not really routed to enter Oas Poblacion Area, not even considering my mother's condition," Orido said.

After the incident, Orido suggested that public utility buses from Manila be "compelled" to enter the Oas Poblacion area where they can disembark safely.

"It is to be given emphasis that the Diversion Road is not a safe disembarking area especially at night hours or during rainy times," he said.

He also called for a covered or roofed passenger waiting area in Centro Poblacion, with toilets for male and female passengers.

Mayon volcano warning declines

By Rudy Brul

LEGAZPI, Albay—The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has lowered to Alert Level 2 from Alert Level 3 the status of restive Mayon volcano in Albay due to the general decline in its activity since the last recorded seismic swarm on Nov. 29.

For nearly three weeks, the volcano has shown a considerable drop in its volcanic activity, ground deformation and gas emission, while an aerial survey on Nov. 28 confirmed no new lava deposit at its crater.

Alert Level 2 was declared on Aug. 15 and was raised to Alert Level 3 on Sept. 15 this year after Mayon showed signs of restiveness.

The status backslide means the likelihood of a hazardous eruption within days or weeks has lessened, but “this should not be interpreted that the volcano’s unrest has ceased, considering that deeper beneath it lies eruptible magma accumulation,” according to the bulletin released by the Phivolcs’ Volcano Monitoring and Eruption Division.

“The public is still reminded to avoid entry into the six-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone due to the perennial hazards of rockfalls, avalanches, ash puffs and steam-driven eruptions at the summit,” volcanologist Ronald Pigtain said.

He said the prolonged and heavy rainfall could still send sediment-laden stream flows and lahar in valleys and active river channels.

The last three weeks has shown that Mayon’s volcanic activity has dropped to 2 to 3 daily earthquakes due mainly to rock fracturing beneath the northern flank of the edifice.

Pigtain said intense rainfall had been pinpointed as the cause of minor rockfalls rather than by lava extrusion at the crater, indicating no active transport of eruptible magma to the crater from its base.

Ground deformation data also showed no absence of occurrence in nearly three weeks. Ground inflation or swelling would indicate the abundance of hot magma at its base that is ready to rise up to the crater.

DOTC earmarks P781M for Bicol international airport

(Rappler.com)

The amount is for the construction of several buildings, including the operation and control tower

MANILA, Philippines – As the government pursues the development of provincial airports, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) earmarked P781 million ($17.46 million) to develop the Bicol international airport in Daraga, Albay.

The project includes the construction of landside facilities and several buildings, including the operation and control tower.

Administration, cargo terminal, crash fire rescue, power house, and maintenance buildings will be constructed, including material recovery facilities, pump house and water tank, chilled water pump house, fuel storage tank, and chlorination house.

Those interested in the project have until January 21 to submit their bids.

In August, Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that the province needs a new and bigger airport, with night landing and international features, since Albay's tourism is growing rapidly.

Salceda said that from 8,700 foreign tourists in 2007, Albay welcomed 339,000 in 2013, leaping by 47% in 2012; 66% in 2013. After a flat first quarter, this increased by another 52% in the 2nd quarter of the year.

On December 15, DOTC and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) rolled out the bidding for the operation and maintenance of 6 provincial airports in a proposed bundled contract of P116.2 billion ($2.61 billion).

Those interested are invited to pre-qualify and bid to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain the Bacolod-Silay, Davao, Iloilo, Laguindingan, New Bohol (Panglao), and Puerto Princesa airports.

DOTC said the 30-year concession contract would be awarded through a competitive bidding as prescribed by law.

DBP lends P95.8m to Legazpi water firm

By Julito G. Rada

State-run Development Bank of the Philippines has extended a P95.8-million loan to support the expansion project of Legazpi City Water District and improve its services to residents.

“The expansion project will involve the installation of pipelines that will address the problem of low water flow in elevated areas, ensure continued water supply, and improve health and sanitation in Legazpi City especially in remote areas,” DBP said in a statement.

DBP said the financing would benefit more than 5,558 unserved and underserved households. The water district also aims to increase the number of concessionaires to 25,387 by 2020 and to more than 30,000 by 2029, with the help of the DBP assistance.

The water district covers the entire city of Legazpi, with a total population of 182,201 as of 2010. It presently serves 53 of 70 barangays, or equivalent to 113,727 out of the 188,836 serviceable population.

DBP has already assisted more than 10 of the 37 water districts in Bicol region, with additional financing for the other water districts in the pipeline next year.

DBP granted a P200-million loan in November to the municipality of Virac in Catanduanes to finance the construction of a business complex expected to create economic opportunities in the province.

The business complex will feature a new public market building and integrated transport terminal. It will also have a One Town, One Product center building, cafeteria and market administration building.

The project is seen to address the growing demand for a modern transport terminal and a new, more spacious public market to replace the existing one that has been found hazardous and unsafe for occupancy.

DBP posted a net income of P3.95 billion in the first 10 months or, 12 percent lower than the P4.47-billion income recorded in the same period last year.

DA releases Php70M for agri-development projects in Bicol

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/]

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 17 (PNA) – The regional office for Bicol of the Department of Agriculture (DA) bade year 2014 goodbye with the recent release of some Php62 million in funds for agricultural development projects of 30 local government units (LGUs) in the region.

The money was provided through the DA’s Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP), formerly the Bottom-Up Budgeting scheme, being applied by the administration of Pres. Benigno Aquino III as a modern approach to planning in the use of government’s financial resources that is different from the usual top-down budgeting where the high-level executives make all the decisions in fund dispensations.

It makes the national budget more responsive to local needs, provide incentives for local good governance, strengthen the devolution of basic services delivery, create conducive environment for people’s participation and generate demand for good governance at the local level.

This scheme also provides the opportunity for grantees to be involved in setting their own goals and expectations for a given financial period and gives them ownership of the decisions, motivating them to meet budgetary constraints that otherwise might seem unattainable or unrealistic if they were delivered by someone without as much understanding of their day-to-day operations.

Under this process, the national government has assured 79 of the 120 LGUs in Bicol of Php45 million in extra funding for three years.

This funding will on installment of Php15 million per year to be used in GPBP-driven initiatives such as projects which include agri-livelihood projects, farm-to-market roads, irrigation and other agri-infra facilities, among others.

These LGUs that are considered qualifiers to the fund are composed of five of the region’s six provinces—Albay, Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon; all the seven cities--Naga, Iriga, Legazpi, Tabaco, Ligao, Masbate and Sorsogon; and 68 of the 105 municipalities.

Of these municipalities, Albay, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes have 11 each; Camarines Sur, 16; Masbate, 10; and Sorsogon, nine.

These LGUs automatically qualified to the GPBP for having met the requirements, such as being the recipient of Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Seal of Good Housekeeping (SGH) and implementation of Public Financial Management Improvement Plan (PFMIP) as determined by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Introduced in 2012 by the late DILG secretary Jesse Robredo before his death in a plane accident in August of the same year, SGH is an award system to LGUs that successfully met the requirements of full disclosure policy, have exemplary standards of front-line services and procurement and proven to have no adverse or disclaimer audit findings by the Commission on Audit (COA).

The Bicol list of GPBP qualifiers were identified through evaluations of their budgeting process and the selection of Local Poverty Reduction Action Teams (LPRATs) consisting of both LGUs and civil society organizations (CSOs) and the updating and validation to form the basis for the Local Poverty Reduction Action Plans (LPRAPs).

The national government has allocated this year Php20 billion to fund various poverty-alleviation projects that were identified by LGUs in coordination with CSOs in their communities under the GPBP.

The amount has been allocated for 19,533 projects identified through the GPBP in 1,226 local government units nationwide.

The bulk of the PHP20-billion budget was sourced from Department of Agriculture (Php9.286 billion); Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD); (Php2.638 billion); DILG (Php2.476 billion); Department of Education (Php1.449 billion); and Department of Health (Php1.355 billion).

Other agencies that contributed to the fund include Department of Agrarian Reform (Php574 million); Department of Trade and Industry (Php549 million); Department of Labor and Employment (P507 million); TESDA (Php423 million); Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Php417 million); Department of Trade (Php175 million); Department of Energy (Php97 million); and National Electrification Administration (Php78 million).

Abelardo Bragas, the DA regional executive director ,on Wednesday said in a statement reaching the Philippine News Agency here that a total of Php62.139 million intended for GPBP agri-related projects, including farm-to-market roads, have been recently released by his office to the equal number of Bicol LGUs.

It was the last tranche for this year of releases by DA-Bicol representing its counterpart in the GPBP.

Among its recipients are the city government here, the municipality of Caramoan, Camarines Sur and Sorsogon City, Bragas said.

City Mayor Noel Rosal confirmed that he received last week the amount of Php4 million from the DA, which will be used for the construction of a farm-to-market road in Sitio Calawog, Barangay Cagbacong at the southern part of the city.

This amount is a big help for the infrastructure development of the upland portion of barangay that will benefit farmers and landowners through easy transport of their produce to the market.

According to city agriculturist Jesus Kallos, Barangay Cagbacong is being developed by the city government into the city’s leading producer of cacao and root crops such as camote and cassava to help improve the economic conditions of its residents who are mostly farmers.

Bragas acknowledged that without the LGUs, implementation of the government’s agriculture programs will not be effectively realized and fasttracked.

Bicol’s agriculture has posted a tremendous growth in the past three years, especially in rice production to where the rice-self sufficiency that the region has achieved this year is being attributed.

“I am very much grateful to the Bicol mayors for their support in the effective implementation of the various projects of DA in their municipalities and with the release of these fresh funds, more projects are to be realized and more farmers will benefit from it so that we are able to address poverty that confronts most Bicolano families particularly those that belong to the agricultural communities,” Bragas added.

Albay power provider cuts off service to mariners training school

By Manilyn Ugalde [(PNA), CTB/FGS/MU/CBD/]

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec.16 (PNA) –The Albay Power and Energy Corp., a subsidiary of the San Miguel Corp., has disconnected power supply to the Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation (MPCF) here due to unpaid electricity bills for eight months since March amounting to Php2.2 million, APEC general manager Manuel Imperial said Tuesday.

The MPCF is among the proponents to boycott electric bill payment to APEC, which acquired the former Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco) in January, making the power cooperative the first such entity to privatize.

The APEC disconnected the power lines of MPCF in Barangay Rawis here on Dec. 4.

But four days after the MPCF power line was disconnected, terminated employees of the Aleco, who are mostly members of the Aleco Employees Organization (Aleo), restored the school’s power line.

The APEC tried to disconnect the reconnected lines but failed.

Aleo vice president Ephraim De Vera said the terminated employees have the authority to reconnect MPCF’s power line because they have a “return to work order” (RTWO) from the Department of Labor issued last March but the APEC would not honor the RTWO and instead offered a separation pay which the concerned employees, at least 70 of them, refused to honor.

De Vera claimed that the terminated employees have not been receiving their salary for almost a year now and that the APEC has begun harassing boycotting consumers.

MPCP president Dante Jimenez, also the founding chair of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, claimed that upon receipt of disconnection notice from the APEC, he paid MPCF’s electric dues to the Aleo-reconstituted Interim board of directors (IBOD) headed by lawyer Bartolome Rayco as chairman following a constituent assembly.

Jimenez said he does not recognized the IBOD created by the National Electrification Administration in 2012 that formulated Aleco’s privatization.

The reconstituted latest IBOD, which the APEC would not recognize, was a result of the unending consumers complaints against APEC’s dismal performance, resulting in the company’s poor average collection efficiency of only 40 percent.

De Vera confirmed Jimenez’s electric bill payment made through the Aleo-backed IBOD amounting to Php2.2million.

A case has been filed by the Aleo-backed IBOD for the annulment of the Aleco privatization scheme, alleging that the acquisition of Aleco by SMC through a public bidding was a farce and was conducted through a highly manipulated constituent assembly.

Jimenez has actively joined protest rallies and legal actions led by Aleo and the Aleco Multi-Sectoral Stakeholders Organization (Amsso) against the APEC.

Late last week, he filed a case against the APEC for theft and illegal disconnection while Imperial disclosed that the APEC is readying charges against MPCF for illegal connection.

DOT Bicol expects influx of foreign tourists in 2015

By Michael B. Jaucian (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

LEGAZPI CITY—The Department of Tourism (DOT) in Bicol said they expect P1.2 million foreign tourists to visit the six Bicol provinces of Albay, Masbate, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte and Catanduanes in 2015.

Milo Oropeza, officer of DOT-Bicol, gave this projection during the regional launch of “Visit the Philippines 2015” campaign here on Friday.

He said DOT-Bicol is optimistic its comprehensive promotional strategies to market the region’s tourist destinations would help it realize its target number of foreign tourist arrivals next year.

Oropeza said their target of 1.2 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2015 is double the 670,000 arrivals they have recorded in 2013. (He said they have yet to complete the documentation on foreign tourist arrivals for the third quarter of 2014.)

The local chief executives of the six provinces have been taught by the Tourism Promotion Board how to best showcase their assets and offer the best activities to the tourists, he said.

Maria Ong-Ravanilla, DOT Bicol director, cited as come-ons to the tourists the calendar events in Bicol like the traditional fiestas, authentic food and unique sports activities to be offered by each province and city.

Sorsogon tourism officer Cristina Raciles said the presence of the “butanding” in Donsol town has always been drawing tourists while Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal added the city is keen on being host to local and international conventions next year.

Rosal added another triathlon event would be held next year in Legazpi City while Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lanete (3rd district) said the province would have its first international rodeo competition in April 2015.

Ravanilla said the 2011-2016 National Tourism Development Plan of DOT-Bicol has identified two clusters of Tourism Development Areas that would help spur the growth of tourist arrivals.

The first cluster is the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon Tourism Alliance and the second is the 3Cs (Catanduanes, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur).

DOT-Bicol has done roadshow events in Malaysia, Thailand, London and Hong Kong to encourage the people to visit the Philippines, particularly Bicol, Ravanilla said.

To promote the year-long events in their provinces, interested parties could register and submit their activities using DOT’s website www.visitph2015.com, Oropeza said.

DENR says Bicol done with measures to face challenges of climate change (Yearender)

By Danny O. Calleja [(PNA), CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD/SSC]

LEGAZPI CITY, Dec. 14 (PNA) -- Measures that would keep Bicol ready to face the challenges of climate change are now in place, according to the regional office here of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The first four years of President Benigno Aquino III in power saw the DENR instituting sustainable precautionary measures that are now in place through comprehensive programs implemented to fortify the region’s line of defense and facilitate its preparedness against the negative impacts of the climate change phenomenon.

One of the most important components of these programs is the massive restoration of local watersheds and forest lands, including mangrove areas to serve as the first line of defense against typhoons, floods, sea surgesand landslides during the wet season and drought taking place during the dry season.

Bicol has a total of 543,000 hectares of forest land, out of which only 155,689 hectares had remained forested as of 2011.

Of these forested areas, 86,931 hectares are in the province of Camarines Norte and 68,758 hectares in Catanduanes province.

Camarines Norte plays host to the Bicol National Park (BNP), a government-protected area which is considered as one of the region’s remaining natural forests once confronted with rapid deterioration, even as it is a natural heritage site for its endemic tree and wildlife species, pristine rivers and other ecological wonders.

BNP covers 5,700 hectares of forest and considering that only 15 percent remains of the old growth, meaning only 760 hectares of its original grandeur had been left as of 2011 due to past illegal forest activities, its dwindled vegetation could have endangered the watersheds that also supply water to some 40,000 hectares of rice fields in the province.

These wrongdoings have already been checked; reforestation efforts are showing good results and the area is now regaining life towards its old vibrant form, according to DENR Regional Executive Director Gilbert Gonzales.

In Catanduanes, the region’s island-province most vulnerable to typhoons -- being the first landmass to be kissed by the waves of the Pacific Ocean, protection of the substantial forests, which stand still as the largest remaining forest block in the whole of Bicol, has been heightened, he said.

These forests include the Catanduanes Watershed Forest Reserve covering 26,010 hectares, which is now being evaluated to become a natural park with an expanded protected area of 49,000 hectares.

The density of forest cover in Albay has also been increased to almost double owing to relentless reforestation activities and vigorous environmental advocacies over the past four years.

The growth is measured by the DENR based on satellite imagery which indicates that the province’s forest cover increased by 86 percent between 2010 and 2014 resulting from robust environmental advocacies and activities despite the massive destruction inflicted by typhoons especially "Reming" and "Milenyo" that hit the province successively in the last part of 2006.

Albay has a total land area of 256,677 hectares, of which around 80,000 hectares covering key mountains and protected areas like the Mayon Volcano Natural Park (MVNP), Mt. Pocdol, Mt. Malinao, Mt. Masaraga and Mt. Manaet are considered forest land.

Gonzales said, Albay’s forest cover was measured at only 26, 298.71 hectares or 10.25 percent of the province’s entire land area in 2007.

Over the next seven years or until this year, it grew to 44,891.16 hectares or 17.49 percent to post an increase of 18,792 hectares or an expansion of 41.42 percent over the total for a growth rate of 5.92 percent or 2,656.06 hectares per year.

“This is a very remarkable achievement for Albay, a province where about 73 percent of total land area is vulnerable to landslide and soil erosion due to its mountainous terrain,” Gonzales noted.

The DENR’s anti-climate change comprehensive programs on forest and watershed revitalization also cover Mt. Isarog Natural Park and Mt. Asog, both in Camarines Sur, as well as Bulusan Volcano Natural Park in Sorsogon, which are all part of the 25 protected areas in the region covering about 59,000 hectares of terrestrial, wetlands and marine or coastal ecosystems.

The National Greening Program (NGP), one of Pres. Aquino’s flagship environmental programs, generated the biggest impacts on these forest restoration achievements wherein nearly 15 million new trees, including mangrove propagules, have been put in place over the past three years largely through voluntary public participation.

NGP is a nationwide re-greening campaign launched by Pres. Aquino through his Executive Order No. 26 issued in February 2011 that intends to percolate the country’s green renaissance towards a more focused and unified interventions to achieve sustainable rural development.

The total log ban policy of the present national administration is another big help, Gonzales said.

Another key component of the DENR comprehensive anti-climate change programs is geohazard mapping that has provided local government units (LGUs) with maps that enable them to pinpoint specific areas where to focus disaster preparedness and mitigation measures for zero casualty during natural calamity situations.

The maps, technically prepared by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the DENR, are now in the hands of Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (MDRRMCs), particularly in 83 of the region’s 107 municipalities classified as highly vulnerable areas.

These geohazard maps, whose preparation and distribution are under the government’s Ready Multi-hazard Mapping and Assessment for Effective Community-based Disaster Risk Management Project, are designed according to geographic and tectonic settings with emphasis on areas highly exposed to natural hazards, Gonzales added.

Laity can contribute more than just money – cardinal

By Natalie Hazel P. Quimlat (CBCPNews)

LEGAZPI City, Dec. 13, 2014 — The laity or “regular people” have more than just their monetary contributions to offer the Church, said a cardinal at recent Bicol Congress of the Laity held in Legazpi City.

“Money is not the only contribution a lay can give,” said Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, who gave the keynote of the event, which ran from Nov. 28 to 29.

According to him, if lay people are empowered and educated, they can change the world, even the Church for the better.

The prelate, the country’s newest cardinal, also noted how Filipinos are a people of culture and in this culture, there exists a social distinction between the clergy and the laity.

Quevedo explained in his address, entitled “Laity: Called and Sent to be Saints and Missionaries”, that the clergy and religious are “on a pedestal” while the latter is often “underestimated and [usually] ignored”.

Through numerous jokes and stories, he stressed the importance of lay participation in the Church.

Witnessing, alongside education, is the core component of evangelization, he added.

While observing the sacraments is essential, Quevedo explained, being holy through one’s life is what will bring personal fulfilment.

He mentioned the gap between people’s faith and how they live their lives, describing the regular Filipino Catholic’s faith to be “deep, solid yet uninformed.”

“How do you get people to live their lives in faith?” the cardinal asked, especially now with Sunday Mass attendance reportedly dwindling.

The fundamental calling of a lay person is to “proclaim the Lord and transform the world to a better reflection of the Kingdom of God,” said Quevedo. “We cannot change [Catholic] doctrine but we can change our practices and procedures.”

Caceres lay reactor Atty. Eusebio Albina, said he learned the importance of being humble; of possessing the right attitude, more than just the structure; and of learning from the poor instead of making them the “object of [one's] focus”.

In closing, the cardinal from Mindanao applauded the first Regional Congress of the Laity in the country and even suggested that a repeat be made every three or four years with “dialogue between [the] local Churches”.

Man with cerebral palsy to see Pope

By Michael Jaucian (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

TABACO CITY, Philippines—Meeting Pope Francis is every Catholic’s dream and it will come true for John Angelo de Dios Ortiz when the Pontiff visits the Philippines next month.

The 27-year-old native of Albay province has been chosen one of the delegates from the Diocese of Legazpi who will meet with the Holy Father because of his extraordinary story of faith, resilience and belief in himself despite a disability.

Ortiz has cerebral palsy but it does not stop him from being productive. He does cross-stitch using his feet, as well as normal people who do it with their hands.

Ortiz is now completing a cross-stitch of the Madonna Dolorosa that he will present to Pope Francis.

He has been praying hard that he will get to personally hand it to Francis during the Pope’s audience with various delegations from all over the country at Mall of Asia on Jan. 15, 2015.

The Madonna Dolorosa cross-stitch has been occupying most of Ortiz’s time in the last two months. At one point, when he was running short of thread, his mother, Herminia, traveled to Metro Manila to buy the materials he needed.

Asked what he would say to Francis if given the chance to meet the Pope, Ortiz paused then, teary-eyed, said: “If it will happen, I will be the luckiest person in the world. If I had the chance to give my masterpiece and talk to the Pope, I would ask him to pray for the sick, especially for people with disabilities and women being battered by their husbands.”

Meeting with Pope

Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi said a meeting between Ortiz and the Pope was being worked out.

“The chance is high that he’ll be able to have the privilege of personally giving his work to the Pope,” Baylon said.

Baylon said the diocese decided to include Ortiz, his parents and siblings in the delegation when it learned that it was allowed to bring up to 100 delegates to the audience with the Pope.

Ortiz’s parents—Edgar, 56, and Herminia, 60—operate a family-owned fashion jewelry business.

He has two siblings, John Carlo, 28, and Cathy, 25.

Ortiz, the middle child, was born premature on Feb. 27, 1987, and was later diagnosed with celebral palsy.

Although wheelchair-bound since childhood and unable to move most parts of his body, Ortiz has never been one to just do nothing. He attended a special school without much prodding, according to his mother.

He graduated from the Special Education (SPED) Center of San Lorenzo High School in Tabaco City.

Herminia said her son had always been interested in the arts since he was young, but it was not until he was about 12, or in Grade 6, when he showed interest in cross-stitching.

With encouragement from his cousin Maria Theresa de Dios Laco, he began to do cross-stitching using his feet, which he uses for anything that requires the use of the hands.

Laco said Ortiz started with simple and small patterns. He seemed to be enjoying the activity and his work progressed to pictures of animals (particularly dogs), cartoon characters (Snow White and Hello Kitty). Then he shifted to religious characters, particularly images of saints and angels, she said.

“I feel my life is complete when I make religious patterns,” Ortiz said.

His livelihood

Not long after he mastered his craft, Ortiz sold one of his works for P6,000. Since then, it has become a source of livelihood for him, Laco said.

Aside from cross-stitching, Ortiz is also good at painting, drawing and writing, using his feet.

Herminia said that despite her son’s disability, he always wanted to be of help to their family.

And when his talent was developed, the family supported him by providing him the materials he needed for his work, she said.

“The [proceeds from the] sale of my artwork go to my family, excluding the cost of materials. I treasure my family. This is the very reason why I’m acting like a normal person even it is the opposite. My principle in life is life must go on. Go, go, go despite my disability,” Ortiz said.

Christmas tree of camote tops

By Ma. April Mier and Michael Jaucian (Inquirer Southern Luzon)

Albay is going camote this Christmas. A 40-foot Christmas tree layered with 3,000 black nursery bags of camote (sweet potato) tops and adorned with huge white lanterns and lights has been put up at Peñaranda Park in front of the provincial capitol in Legazpi City, ushering in the monthlong holiday celebration in the province.

Known as Karangahan Festival, the celebration features indigenous materials as a way of raising awareness on a clean and green environment, according to Gov. Joey Salceda. Karangahan was coined from the Bicolano root word ranga, meaning endearment, and when used to refer to the festival, it means “endearment to culture, arts and nature.”

For its Christmas tree in 2011, the first time the festival was held, the provincial government used empty fuel drums. In the next two years, it tapped pili saplings and coconut shells.

This year’s tree design on frames of coconut lumber highlights Albay as the top camote-producing province in the Bicol region and the second in the entire Philippines, next to Pampanga province.

Eighty-five percent of Albay’s farmers plant camote, an alternative crop to rice, provincial agriculturist Ernesto dela Torre said. The province plans to expand its camote fields, he said, pointing out that climate change has affected rice production in recent years.

Besides, Albay’s rich soil allows camote to survive even without fertilizers, Dela Torre said.

Since the first week of November, the provincial engineering office, which is in charge of installing the camote Christmas tree, had been coordinating with one of the sweet potato farmers in Sto. Domingo town to prepare the leaves for the decoration, according to its employee, Famirose Eva.

The project was conceptualized by Manny de Vera, a provincial employee, Eva said.

Last week, the Christmas tree was dismantled as the province braced for the onslaught of Typhoon “Ruby.” After the storm, Salceda ordered the tree reassembled on Monday afternoon, in time for the opening of Karangahan on Wednesday. The festival’s launch was earlier set on Dec. 5.

A culinary event showcasing the various ways of preparing camote—fried as “camote cue” (fritters), boiled or processed as ice cream—was expected to be held that day.

Tourists can also taste authentic Bicol delicacies in 12 booths near the tree, said Dorothy Colle, head of the provincial tourism, culture and arts office.

Albay Archived News

The older news reports are kept here.

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