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Tagoloan VM Sabio and the food aid controversy

April 9, 2020

Charlotte, North Carolina—Even before he got his start in government service as an elected councilman in the Tagoloan town council, Vice Mayor Robinson V. Sabio is a low-key person who refuses to be interviewed by local media. I remembered that it took his sister to convince him to be interviewed by me for another paper I used to write for. This year I chanced upon him online and our casual greetings led me to ask questions to him concerning his distribution of food aid to constituents without ensuring the physical distancing requirement set by the Department of Health (DOH) in the wake of the state of public emergency and subsequent quarantine declared by President Rodrigo Duterte to combat the dreaded COVID-19. I told him that I will use his answers in my radio program at 105.5 FM Bay Radio Way Kurat Balingasag and in my column here at Mindanao Daily.  This time, Vice Mayor Sabio said he had no choice but to reply. Through his sister Dedith Arellano online, he replied that he could have handled the situation better were it not for the crowd that waited outside his house to ask for food aid that consisted of rice, noodles and other basic items. Vice Mayor Sabio said the day before two women knocked on the gate of his house and asked for rice. He said he pitied them and asked his wife to give the women rice and other food items. Word spread by these two women caught the attention of other Tagoloanons who crowded outside his house, forcing the vice mayor to call his siblings and ask for money to buy sacks of rice. As backgrounder, the 46-year-old Sabio was elected councilman in 2007 and then became a vice mayor by succession in 2010. In 2013 he elected vice mayor and three years later became acting mayor upon the death of Tagoloan mayor Paulino ‘Oloy’ Emano. He was elected vice mayor in 2016 and again last year. Since it is Holy Week, Vice Mayor Sabio said he contemplated about his life and career in public service. ‘Prepare nata sa panahon moatubang kita sa ato magbubuhat (We prepare for the time when we will face our maker),’ he said as he believed that it was God’s plan for him to become a public official. He recalled that his late father Manuel Valdehueza Sabio was a fierce opponent of the entrenched Emano clan in Tagoloan and he wondered why he ended up at the Padayon Pilipino party. Sabio said it was his uncle Teling, father of incumbent Tagoloan Mayor Gomer Enan Sabio, who told him to run under the Emano-led Padayon Pilipino party in 2007. Fast forward to 2020 and Vice Mayor Sabio said he managed to receive the money sent to him by his siblings to buy rice, sardines and noodles for those who waited outside his home. He said he wasn’t selective in distributing the food as he gave to all those who asked for aid. ‘Kong pilion nimo ang pagpanghatag morag pamolitika walay grasya ana gabaan ta ana (If we are selective in giving it’s politicking and there won’t be any blessing, we would be cursed),’ he said. Of the 1,400 who trooped to his house, a lot of them are women.  Vice Mayor Sabio said he called on the residents to observe physical distancing while lining up to receive the food aid but the eventual beneficiaries didn’t want to move at all. ‘They wanted to stay where they stood. I realized how desperate their situation is and so I proceeded to distribute the food to them,’ he said. It remains to be seen if any action will be taken against him. By the way, I am forever grateful to Vice Mayor Sabio’s father who served as Municipal Administrator during the term of the late mayor Ariel Valdehueza. It was Ning Manuel who recommended me to work at the 6th Municipal Circuit Court of Tagoloan and Villanueva towns in Misamis Oriental province. I think it was also God’s plan to put me there as it paved the way to where I am now, a semi-retired media practitioner based in the US that is now in touch with her audience in Cagayan de Oro City and the rest of Misamis Oriental province and the world through one of the wonders of technology that is Facebook, the current leading social media platform in the world. Have a belated Happy Easter (For comments and questions email me at susanap.dennis@yahoo.com)

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CDO native sews face masks for family, friends at the Carolinas

April 7, 2020

Charlotte, North Carolina—Due to the ongoing global pandemic, I decided to feature Filipino Americans here in the Carolinas who have stories to share and tell under my ‘Straight From The Carolinas’ series if only to provide a connection to Filipinos back in the Philippines who are struggling like the rest of humanity in fighting this unseen enemy called COVID-19. Knowing Filipinos to be gregarious and social animals who love to be in groups, this pandemic had forced all to stay at home to avoid contracting this virus. There are those who struggle with the boredom and the constriction of being quarantined and there are those like Carol Mathewson formerly Carol Japitana of Sitio Bantilis, Barangay Bugo in Cagayan de Oro. To this day, she can still recall the zone where she was born, which is Zone 5. Now Carol Japitana Mathewson lives with her growing family at Mint Hill, North Carolina. Her lovely home is now a school, restaurant and an art gallery.  Being stuck at home prodded Carol to make 20 face masks for her family—eight for her household and 12 divided equally among friends. ‘It is good to share especially since it is hard to find face masks anywhere,’ Carol said. If there are still more being sold, she said they should be reserved for the frontliners. A mother of six, Carol loves to stay in the kitchen and cook for her family.  In making her face masks, Carol said it’s better to make them at home rather than buy commercial since they fit better. After sizing up their faces, Carol places filters into the mask to help users breathe better and to keep out germs. ‘I used micro fiber because it is thick. Times like this we need to be resourceful. That is one of the reasons why I posted my finished product at Facebook  so I can give ideas to others,’ Carol said. She couldn’t make more because supplies ran out, she said. Carol studied at the Cagayan de oro Bugo School of Arts and Trades (COBSAT) which is accredited by the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA). She studied Home Economics and on her third year she chose Garment Making. Carol recalled struggling at first to use the sewing machine but eventually adjusted. ‘Maayo na lang kay nagamit nako akong natun-an sa una (Good thing I used what I learned before) and help save lives,’ Carol said. She used a Brother XM2130 sewing machine and spent two days to sew the face masks after caring for her two-month-old baby and finishing household chores. The face masks are washable and Carol said it is double sided with filters. These have three layers to allow the users to breathe. Carol said she ironed them to flatten the fabric. The face masks for kids measure 21cmx17cm while the adult face masks measure 21cmx24cm. She felt happy after finishing the face masks saying it would help protect her family and friends. Carol said while she is affected like the rest of us with the quarantine, it is to our best interests to stay inside and wait for COVID-19 to run its course. ‘Kung maka gawas murag feel nako naay mga virus naglupad lupad...pag tan aw nimo sa ubang tao nag mask pod morag feeling nako naa sa lain na kalibutan (If I go outside I feel like the virus is just floating out there and when you see people wearing masks I get the feeling that the world is different now),’ Carol said. While she agreed that the pandemic can affect one’s mental well being, Carol said the best thing to do now is to stay at home, pray to God and monitor what the country’s leaders announce. “I had to adjust a lot especially since the kids are at home school. I kept reassuring them and I also entertain them through arts and crafts so they won’t get depressed and bored,’ she said in Filipino. Carol is happy about two things though; her husband now works at home and she gets to listen to my program ‘Barangay S’ which is broadcast online over at 105.5 Bay Radio Way Kurat FM Balingasag from Monday and Wednesday to Friday (except Tuesday)at 7 am to 8 am Philippine time and 7 pm to 8 pm Eastern Standard Time. (For questions and comments email me at susanap@yahoo.com)

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Academe mobilizes urgently needed supplies for front liners (MSU-Marawi City)

April 7, 2020

Three of Northern Mindanao’s leading universities are in the thick of the fight versus the COVID-19 pandemic through their campus laboratories. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) in Cagayan de Oro City, Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon, and Mindanao State University (MSU) through College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at its main campus in Marawi City and  the Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, have mobilized their available resources to supply hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies like alcohol and disinfectant. We continue our four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. MSU-Marawi City Faced by a shortage of disinfectants, the provincial government of Lanao del Sur has tapped chemists from Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City to formulate alcohol-based sanitizers to be used by health workers in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Provincial Board Member Jeff Adiong, president of the Sangguniang Kabataan provincial federation that initiated the project, said the shortage prompted his office to post an online call for local chemists to come forward and help the provincial government produce sanitizers. A netizen responded by putting a link that immediately connected them to the MSU chemists. “Our post on social media caught the attention of the Department of Chemistry of MSU Marawi,” he said. “We immediately had a meeting with the university president and the four chemists willing to help us,” Adiong said in a phone interview Wednesday. After the MSU chemists agreed to produce the sanitizers with funds from the  provincial government, several hurdles remained before actual work could begin. For instance, the chemists first had to wait for two days before the  approval and guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to formulate the compound was secured. Then the laboratory had to be disinfected  but some of the needed raw materials like glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and ethanol were in short supply as well, so these had to be secured from suppliers in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities. The workers who picked up the supplies had to pass through tight checkpoints on their way back to Marawi. "They had to hurry to avoid getting caught with the curfew hours. Supplies of raw materials are limited," Adiong said. “We need distilled water for dilution and [water] supply is not a problem,” Jomarie Seclon, one of the chemists, recalled. “If all the materials are available, we can formulate 240 liters in five days.” But finally, on Tuesday, the chemists finished formulating the first 50 liters of the disinfectant, Seclon said. The provincial government plans to distribute the finished product to each of the 39 towns in the province and in Marawi. Twenty liters has been allocated for Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC), the only public hospital in Marawi caring for COVID-19 patients. As of April 1st, Lanao del Sur has six confirmed coronavirus with six fatalities. All of the patients were confined at the APMC. (Report by Divina M. Suson)

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Academe mobilizes urgently needed supplies for front liners (CMU-Bukidnon)

April 7, 2020

Three of Northern Mindanao’s leading universities are in the thick of the fight versus the COVID-19 pandemic through their campus laboratories. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) in Cagayan de Oro City, Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon, and Mindanao State University (MSU) through College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at its main campus in Marawi City and  the Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, have mobilized their available resources to supply hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies like alcohol and disinfectant. We continue our four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Central Mindanao University in Bukidnon. CMU-Bukidnon Higher up at the University Town, in Musuan, Dologon, Maramag, Bukidnon, the Central Mindanao University (CMU) has been producing hand sanitizers, disinfectant solutions and PPEs like face masks and face shields for hospitals, government offices, parishes and checkpoints. CMU is a research state university and is one of the oldest premier universities in southern Philippines. Dr. Melania Enot, Director of NPRDC, disclosed that this is a collaborative effort of CMU’s faculty researchers and science laboratories to formulate an alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a preventive measure to curb the spread of the virus. Enot said that the hand sanitizers are based on the recommended formulation of the World Health Organization (WHO) of 80% alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, double distilled water, and glycerol. On the first wave of CMU Cares campaign, CMU distributed hand sanitizers to the cities of Malaybalay and Valencia; and the municipalities of Don Carlos, Impasug-ong, Kadingilan, Manolo Fortich, and Maramag. As of April 2, 2020, some113 liters of hand sanitizers have been distributed to the Bukidnon Provincial Medical Center, Bukidnon Provincial Hospital-Maramag, Bukidnon Provincial Hospital-Manolo Fortich, Impasug-ong Municipal Hospital, some hospitals in Valencia, and CMU University Hospital.   Hand sanitizers were also distributed to the Office of the Provincial Governor, Provincial Veterinarian, , Municipal Agriculture Office-Impasug-ong, San Isidro Parish, LGU-Dologon, Maramag and checkpoints in Valencia City. “CMU is always a partner of the country and the surrounding communities. The expertise of the faculty and staff become more valuable in situations like what we are currently in. We are here to serve because we absolutely care,” she added. The CMU Ethanol Production Team  producing ethanol from molasses includes Dr. Gina Barbosa, Dr. Melania Enot, Prof. Ailene May Ang, Dr. Florfe Acma, Dr. Myrna Pabiona, Dr. Melania Guiang, Dr. Queenie Ann Curayag, Engr. Emmie Reyes, Chemist Leonar Jun Gabiana, Chemist Rainear Mendez, and Dr. Joy Jamago. According to Jamago, the production of hand sanitizers can be sustained when the team can produce its own absolute alcohol. Since the distillation systems at the university are not designed for large scale production, the team suggested fabricating a large-scale distillation unit in partnership with the Bukidnon Sugar Co. (BUSCO) and Dr. Rodolfo Espinosa, an alcohol expert from Guatemala (through Ms. Jasmin Tan-Lao, BS Chemistry alumna) who provided the team with a method and design to fabricate the distillation set-up. While fermentation and distillation efforts are still on-going, the team continues to source ethyl alcohol within the university to sustain the production of hand sanitizers. The team is accepting donations of raw materials like ethyl alcohol (95%), glycerol, hydrogen peroxide, and distilled water to maximize production. The CMU Team is willing to extend technical assistance to other municipalities provided they supply their own raw materials. CMU community is grateful for the efforts of the following individuals and offices: Natural Products Research Center (NPRDC) headed by Dr. Melania Enot; National Science Research Center (NSRC) headed by Dr. Gina Barbosa; Food Research Development Center (FRDC) headed by Dr. Queenie Ann Curayag; Soil and Plant Analysis Laboratory (SPAL) headed by Dr. Myrna Pabiona; Chemistry and Biology Department; Agricultural Engineering Department headed by Engr. Emmie Reyes; Dr. Joy Jamago of Agronomy Department; Prof. Ailene G. Ang; and Tuklas Lunas Development Center headed by Dr. Reggie Y. Dela Cruz. Aside from hand sanitizers, CMU will also be providing chlorine solution for foot baths and tire sprays in checkpoints and hospitals. Through the efforts of Dr. Rolito G. Eballe and Dr. Alan P. Dargantes, CMU received gallons of purified water, and bulk amounts of chlorine powder from private companies like MGM Resort of the Panganiban Family. The donated raw materials have  been forwarded to the Natural Science Research Center and will be handled by CMU chemists to formulate a chlorine solution  following the preparation protocol mandated by the WHO. As of April 1, 2020, ten 18 liter containers of chlorine solutions have been forwarded to the University Hospital ready for distribution. Eballe advised municipalities who wish to avail of the  chlorine solutions to bring their own containers. (With Iyren A. Dalipe-Neri, PRIO-CMU)

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Academe mobilizes urgently needed supplies for front liners (Xavier Ateneo)

April 7, 2020

Three of Northern Mindanao’s leading universities are in the thick of the fight versus the COVID-19 pandemic through their campus laboratories. Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) in Cagayan de Oro City, Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon, and Mindanao State University (MSU) through College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at its main campus in Marawi City and  the Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, have mobilized their available resources to supply hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies like alcohol and disinfectant. We start this four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Xavier Ateneo in Cagayan de Oro City. Xavier Ateneo-Cagayan de Oro From March 24-April 6, Xavier Ateneo’s Social Development (SOCDEV) office headed by Vice President Roel Ravanera distributed 105 bottles of isopropyl and ethyl alcohol produced by the XU Chemistry Department to various beneficiaries such as the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), J.R. Borja General Hospital, Bukidnon Hospital, Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital, PNP Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro Police Office (COCPO) and the Loyola House, official residence of Jesuits in Northern Mindanao. “Soc Dev (SD) Cluster is coordinating #XUKontraCOVID19, XU's institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ravanera said. “We have formed various committees and Gail Galarrita handles the Information Consolidation and Sharing Committee.” “The alcohol formulation by the Chemistry department of Xavier University immediately started upon hearing that the NMMC had limited to no supply of alcohol due to the increasing number of referred CoVid-19 patients,” said Analyn C. Asok, Ph.D., chair of Xavier Ateneo’s Chemistry Department. “Knowing that commercial alcohol in the market was nowhere to be found, we thought of ways to help and that's when our profession as chemists came into use,” she added. Initially, the lab used its analytical grade absolute ethyl and isopropyl alcohol available in the Chemistry and Biology departments. Later, additional absolute ethyl alcohol was bought using the chem department and the university's fund. XUCCCO, a campus-based cooperative also donated absolute alcohol.   “We also received a number of calls from people willing to donate but sad to note that even the supply of absolute alcohol is now depleted. At present, we are still waiting for the next batch of absolute ethyl alcohol to arrive,” Asok said. “We are also expecting the arrival of absolute ethanol donated by Xavier University Chemistry Alumni Association (XUCAA) and ICP-X/XII/BARMM/CARAGA Chapters within this week.”  “Please note that the alcohol formulation from absolute alcohol is indeed very expensive. But in these times, to save lives is more important,” Asok stressed.  The all-volunteer team of the XU Chem Lab headed by Asok includes Higinio R. Barros Jr, Ann Marian Lou O. Eslopor, Renebelle L. Flores, and Don Vic L. Obaob, who designed the labels for the final product working from home.  The team is also working to produce surface disinfectant with two partners.  Through former Academic VP and  retired Chem Dept faculty Dr. Lina Kwong, Chemisol Inc. through General Manager Jerry Dy donated calcium hypochlorite for use as a surface disinfectant (not to be used as spray).  Mr. Dy needed a chemist to accept the donation so that the correct concentration of the disinfectant could be provided to LGUs and CDO hospitals. The donated disinfectant was earlier transported from Davao by Robert De la Serna.  “The chlorine content of calcium hypochlorite may deteriorate over time, especially when it is exposed to heat. So it’s necessary to determine the actual chlorine concentration to calculate the exact mass for the proper final disinfectant concentration. Since it is in solid form, we don't need to dissolve it before distributing it to hospitals and LGUs. We will repack it following specific mass and label it accordingly so even non-technical people can easily understand how to use it properly and safely.”  Asok said the analysis for actual chlorine content will be conducted by DOST-X personnel at their lab this week. If the materials need for repacking would already be available after the analysis is completed, the surface disinfectant can already be distributed by Xavier Ateneo’s SocDev headed by Roel Ravanera next week.  The team is also working on another disinfectant project with former Xavier Ateneo Board of Trustees President Elpie Paras.  However, Juliet Q Dalagan, PhD., XU Vice President for Higher Education and also a faculty of XU Chem Dept. said the project with  Paras has not yet officially started  since the Chem Dept is still discussing with Paras how to best move forward. (See related story).

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Moreno’s foresight in using funds amid ongoing health emergency

April 5, 2020

Charlotte, North Carolina—Good day friends and followers I hope you’re all doing well in your home quarantine in whatever part of the world you live in and that all of us find the light in the end of the dark tunnel that is the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve had two podcasts/online voice broadcasts posted so far this week, the latest on Thursday April 2 at 7 am to 8 am Philippine time over at the Facebook page of 105.5 Bay Radio Way Kurat FM Balingasag, the station based in Balingasag town, Misamis Oriental which is the birthplace of former congressman, former Misamis Oriental governor and now last term Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno. Speaking of Mayor Oscar Moreno, my Thursday online broadcast centered on the noise generated over the Cagayan de Oro City Council’s approval of the P658 million budget for the city’s response to the COVID-19 threat  The FB post drew attention from local netizens who joined in on the online uproar, venting their ire on what they perceived was the slow response of the Moreno administration in allocating funds for the distribution of relief goods to the households affected by the ongoing citywide quarantine. And rather than be dismissive of the online furor, let me be clear that Filipinos are guaranteed free speech under the 1987 Constitution even if a lot of them tend to be abusive of this right to the point of being outright malicious. Yes lest we forget the social media landscape had been populated by bashers/trolls or paid hacks who dish out verbal abuse on their designated targets who are usually public officials like Mayor Moreno.  And the last two elections had witnessed the rising weaponization of social media by scheming politicians who pay these trolls to bash their rivals and ride the resulting wave of dissatisfaction to score political mileage.     ************** That is where Mayor Moreno finds himself in, a very volatile spot in which he is being circled by detractors and bashers out to poke holes on his stance to maintain a calibrated citywide quarantine rather than a lockdown that they continue to insist on demanding to this day. Elected public officials made of less sterner substance would have caved in but not Mayor Moreno and so far I admire him for it. Proponents of an ‘enhanced quarantine’ in Cagayan de Oro City similar to what is imposed in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon by the national government may have conveniently overlooked what is happening in these areas right now with the local governments there are barely keeping order as it was amid the riots erupting over the distribution of relief goods. Again, anyone has the right to question and require transparency from government in their dealings and programs that affect their welfare and interest with exceptions of course on public security that may be compromised should details be disclosed and made accessible to enemies of the state. But such demands for transparency and accountability from government unfortunately are being exploited by those with a political agenda in order to score brownie points with the masses. The same thing applies here. The Moreno administration should ensure that they are transparent and accountable to its constituents in the allocation of relief assistance and to be fair, City Hall officials exerted every effort to be transparent to city residents through the daily press briefings at the mayor’s conference room that had been unfairly judged and sneered at by online trolls and paid hacks of these opportunistic opposition politicians. All that these bashers and trolls have produced so far is online noise, screaming ALL CAPS RANTS and sanctimonious indignation signifying nothing of substance, not even a shred of evidence to back up their vitriolic attacks. And I am at a certain age when I get tired and furious at these pathetic trolls who must now work harder than ever to earn their daily bread from their masters.          ************** Let’s try to do it by the numbers okay? City Budget Officer Percy Salazar said City Hall sourced P90 million from the city’s five percent calamity fund or quick response fund amounting to P340 million as initial fund for its response to the COVID-19 threat. About P28 million out of the P90 million had been spent so far which included P111,000 assistance to each of the city’s 80 barangays or more than P8 million in barangay assistance alone. The P28 million also went to the acquisition of thermal scanners or zero contact thermometers that looked like those radar guns used by the police to measure the speed of incoming vehicles which aren’t cheap, along with the purchase of medical supplies for barangay health centers and health workers or frontliners assigned at either the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC) and the JR Borja City Hospital. No specific amounts were mentioned but owing to the sharp demand by other hospitals around the country for alcohol, hand sanitizers and other essentials that are in now short supply, it’s safe to assume that the city government spent a lot to maintain this daily supply to their frontliners. Also add in the daily disinfection of public places, the salaries and meals of personnel (we can’t reasonably expect them to work all day for free now, do we) and the picture becomes a bit clearer. And Mayor Moreno made it a point to emphasize to anyone who cared to understand that while the city has money it still has to fully source the P658 million it needs for its COVID-19 response and due to the citywide quarantine that shut down hotels, malls and other businesses that attract large crowds, City Hall expects revenues to decline. I just hope that the P658 million standby fund won’t have to be used so the money can be reverted back to its intended items like school building projects and more, but people’s lives are at stake and Moreno has the foresight and wisdom to calibrate the allocation of funds for as long as the state of public health emergency remains in effect around the country due to the COVID-19 threat. (For questions and comments email me at susanap@yahoo.com and also keep an eye out and hit the notification button for my online broadcasts at 105.5 Bay Radio Way Kurat FM Balingasag by liking, following and sharing the station’s Facebook page).

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