A Smile to Risk: The Continuous Use of Amalgam Filling (Investigative Report)

October 19, 2012 1 comment
A Smile to Risk: The Continuous Use of Amalgam Filling
Tesnado, Fatima Abegail H.
Tobongbanua, Aljon F.
Ylarde, Tabitha Andrea V
          Dentistry, one of the noblest professions in the world which offers a chance for its practitioners to touch, treat and even do up one of many people’s asset and obsession – teeth. Many people go to dentists to have their teeth cleaned and fixed, put braces, add dental fillings, etc. But an alarming issue has already started to startle the field of dentistry – the issue concerning the practice of dentistry in the country has something to do with the use of amalgam filling in the restoration processes of our teeth. 
          Dental fillings are used to prevent the removal or extraction of teeth affected by cavities. There are three kinds of dental fillings that dentists use. These are: Glass Ionomer filling, Light Cure filling, and lastly, Amalgam Filing.
         Photo retrieved from http://www.uib.no/rg/biomaterial/en/research/clinical-studies-of-oral-restorations/effects-of amalgam-removal on October 19, 2012.
         Glass Inonomer filling is made up of silicate glass powder which is combined with water-soluble polymer to produce a cement-like mixture that is used to fill in the spaces acquired through the removal of cavities from the teeth. It is said to be the most expensive among the three dental fillings. It releases fluoride ions which are believed to improve the strength of our teeth. Also, it has the same colour of our teeth that makes it looks natural.
          Like Glass Ionomer filling, Light Cure filling or commonly termed as White Composite Dental filling has the same colour of our teeth. Composite cement is treated with light so that the composite filling placed on the teeth will dry faster.
          Compared to Glass Ionomer and Light Cure filling, Amalgam filling is silver in colour. It is made up of pounded silver alloy that is mixed with Mercury (Hg) which binds the silver alloys altogether – a process called trituration. In present, dentists use Amalgamator, a machine used to prepare Amalgam in a faster and easier way. Among these three, Amalgam is the cheapest and most durable. It is said to last up to three years or more.
          As the cheapest amongst the three dental fillings, Amalgam filling ranges from P200-P300 pesos per surface of teeth compared to Light Cure and Glass Inonomer filling that range from P500 to P1, 500 per teeth surface.
          Amalgam filling is said to bring harmful effects to the human body because of its mercury content. It is assumed to affect the mind processing of people, especially on children. Likewise, it can also cause Alzheimer’s disease and is harmful to pregnant women. The big question now is that, does the public know of this issue? And how do the dentists across the country cope up with this concern?
          Rodelio Garcia, 24 years of age and a native of Balete, Batangas, is one of the many patients who undergone amalgam restorations. He said that it was October last year 2008 when he went to a dentist at the town of Balete to put fillings on the two surfaces of his teeth. He let his dentist put Amalgam filling on his teeth as it is the cheapest among the three dental fillings that his dentist offered him.  He was caught unaware of the effects that amalgam may cause to him. 
          Garcia however said in a one on one interview that he hasn’t experienced anything wrong or any side effects of the amalgam fillings used in his teeth. But he wanted it replaced immediately right after he knew about its harmful effects to human health to avoid any complications. 
Six dentists were interviewed and asked about their opinion and insights about Amalgam filling.
          “Even now, I still use Amalgam fillings to my patients,” said Dr. Immacculate Venus Tesnado, a dentist in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. She graduated from Centro Escolar University in 1995 and has been a private practitioner for 11 years.
           “Silver filling (Amalgam filling) is much cheaper compared to composite filling (white dental filling) that’s why people prefer to use it,” Dr. Tesnado said when asked why a lot still use amalgam. She said that for eleven years, she still prefers using amalgam because it is more durable than any other dental filling, and it lasts for a long time.
           Dr. Tesnado did hear about the controversy of amalgam filling but she never encountered any case about amalgam causing certain diseases to her patients yet.  “Even in licensure exams, the government still requires the use Amalgam filling,” she added.
          “Aesthetically wise, it is better to use Composite filling (white dental filling) and Glass Inonomer filling since it has the same color of our teeth. Mostly, yung tumatangkilik ng Light Cure tsaka Glass Ionmer ay yung mas tinitingnan yung aesthetics. Katulad nung mga stewardess na patients namin, mas gusto nila yung kakulay ng ngipin para daw malinis tingnan,” Tesnado said. “But when it comes to durability and strength, mas ginagamit ko talaga yung Amalgam,” Tesnado added.
         Same as Dr. Tesnado, Dr. Anthony Kim Dian M. Ong Jr., a dentist from Oriental Mindoro, said that he still uses amalgam. In his 27 years of private practice, he said that he knew the issue about Amalgam filling bringing harmful effects on human health, but he objects and said that it is not yet proven. 
“I prefer Amalgam filling because it is easy to prepare and handle. At the same time, it is long lasting as to dental restoration is concerned,“ Ong said. “If amalgam is used in proper ratio, it is not harmful and hazardous to our health,” he added.
          Dr. Celestine Mogol Jr., a dentist, also from Oriental Mindoro, also claimed that he still uses and chooses to use Amalgam Filling. He said that he only read the Amalgam controversies over newspapers and has no much knowledge about it. “I prefer Amalgam because it is durable and it lasts for years not like Composite Filling,” he said.
          While Dr. Rizza Cruz, a dentist in Balete, Batangas, who has been a private practitioner for eleven years, said, that she stopped using it a year after she started her practice and Amalgam Filling had been pulled out to her clinic since year 1996.
           She said that Amalgam filling is said to contain Mercury which may cause unwanted side effects to her patients. 
           “Mercury is a heavy metal and it is very possible that it may bring harm to my patients,” Said Dr. Cruz. However, she said that there are a lot of people who prefers amalgam filling than white dental fillers since it’s stronger and cheaper. “When I was still on training (OJT), our Head Dentist doesn’t use Amalgam. From there, I also stopped using Amalgam when I started my practice,” she added. “Tsaka, I don’t want to risk my profession, syempre kahit na wala pang proven na effects yung Amalgam, mas mabuti na yung sigurado,” she explained. 
            Like Dr. Cruz, Dr. Joyce M. Ng, 42, a dentist from Oriental Mindoro,is no longer using Amalgam filling anymore. “I actually didn’t stop (using amalgam) immediately, but I started shifting from Amalgam to Light Cure filling since 2003,” said Ng. “Nabasa ko sya dati sa isang newspaper,” she added.
“I use Light Cure filling because its strength is comparable with Amalgam. Sabi nga nila, pinakamatibay yung Amalgam, pero halos ganon na rin naman yung durability ng Light Cure,” Ng added.
            Dr. Marites Mercene – Custodio, 50, also from Oriental Mindoro, discontinue using Amalgam filling since 1992. She explained that she knew the issue of Amalgam. She also added that Light Cure is better in use than Amalgam, specially, in its aesthetic components where Light Cure feeling looks like a real teeth. 
            Last 2008, the Department of Health (DOH) released an Administrative Order No. 21 about the Gradual Phase-out of Mercury in all Philippine Health Care Centre. 
            Health Care Centres covers hospitals, infirmaries, birthing home, clinics including Medical, Ambulatory, Dialysis, Health Centres and Dispensaries, Surgical, Alternative Medicine, and Dental.
            It described Mercury as highly-toxic that may cause harmful effects to the nervous, digestive, respiratory, immune systems and to the kidneys and lungs. Exposure to mercury can also cause tremors, impaired vision and hearing, paralysis, insomnia, emotional instability, developmental deficits during fetal development, and attention deficit and developmental delays during childhood.
            As stated in the Administrative Order, as early as 1991, several European countries like Sweden, France, Denmark and Norway already banned the use of mercury-containing thermometers.

            Administrative Order No. 21’s General Provisions are the following:
            1. All Hospitals shall immediately discontinue the distribution of mercury thermometers to patients through     the distribution of hospital admission/discharge kits.
             2. All Hospitals shall follow the guidelines for the gradual phase-out of mercury in health care facilities described in this document in the timeline specified. 
             3. All new Health Care Facilities applying for a License to Operate shall submit an inventory of all mercury-containing devices that will be used in their facilities and a corresponding mercury elimination program.
             4. All other Health Care Facilities other than hospital shall make a Mercury Minimization Program based on the guidelines set by this administrative order.
             This order from DOH gave six months of preparation to all health care facilities to gradually eliminate any materials containing mercury. And within twenty-four months from the order’s effectivity, health care centres should remove/minimize these mercurial materials. 
             As Amalgam filling is known to contain Mercury, its usage is still common in dental restoration, nowadays. Here, Amalgam filling falls under those mercury-containing materials that AO No. 21 prohibits.
             During an interview with Engr. Gaudencio T. Twing of DOH, he said that Amalgam filling is the most commonly used mercury-containing material in dental clinics here in the Philippines. “As much as possible, Administrative Order No. 0021 prevents the use of these mercurial products in dental restoration,” he said. “Pati yung mga Amalgamators na ginagamit nila para gawin yung Amalgam filling, kasama dun sa dapat i-phase-out,” he added.
              He also mentioned that Mercury was already banned as a tool for mining. Here, he disclosed that small-scale miners even get mercury supplies from dentists and dental clinics.
              As DOH already released an order of phasing-out materials containing Mercury since 2008, a lot of health care facilities/facilitators should have known about this order. If so, why do a lot of dentists still use Amalgam filling in dental restorations in present?
              In this, phasing-out of Amalgam fillers had already started since 2008, but until now, not all Filipinos are aware that the use of Amalgam fillers is hazardous and poisonous to us.
              The government should take this issue into consideration as this creates a big impact on the health of every Filipinos. Information dissemination and a stricter government should take action on this matter. As they say, “Health is wealth.” So, why risk our health into Amalgam Fillings? 
Categories: Uncategorized

Modern Abuse: Cyberbullying in the Philippines

March 13, 2012 2 comments

by Ana Phyllis Isla

Rose, 16 years old & currently a 3rd year high school student in Baguio city, likes posting photos of herself on Facebook. One afternoon, when she checked her profile page, she found some very offensive comments from a particular group of her classmates. She decided to brush it off as she wasn’t friends with any of them but the same thing happened again after she updated her status and again when she posted another photo. “Nagets ko kagad na hindi nila ako lulubayan” (“It didn’t take me that long to realize that they weren’t planning on stopping any time soon,”) she said.

Peter K. Smith and Sonia Sharp explained that bullying is a systematic abuse of power. It is a repetitive and aggressive behaviour carried out by a person or a group of people against an individual who cannot readily defend themselves. According to StopBullying.gov, bullying is a frequent and serious problem but the rise of technology also gave rise to a new and more potent method to the abuse – Cyberbullying.

Dr. Sameer Hinduja and Dr. Justin Patchin of the Cyberbullying Research Center described the Cyberbullying phenomena as “wilful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” It has been also defined as a situation when an individual is repeatedly tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another person using text messages using the Short Messaging System (SMS), e-mails, or any other type of digital technology.

Here in the Philippines, Filipinos are definitely enjoying the perks that technology brings. In fact, we are often dubbed as the “Texting Capital of the World” as Filipinos send billions of SMS messages per year. Also, according to the report released by the SocialBakers.com, an analytics and statistics monitoring web page, as of February 2012, the Philippines ranks eighth in the most number of Facebook users in the world, with approximately 27, 720, 300 Filipino Facebook users. Facebook’s penetration in the Philippines is about 27.75% of the country’s total population, with the youth, ages 13 – 17, comprising about 20% of the Philippine Facebook population.

Technology and the Internet have improved the lives of people, communication is easier and entertainment can be achieved in just a few clicks. However, the advent of the ‘modern world’ also brings with it adverse effects. Although Social Networking sites such as Twitter & Facebook were created to ‘bridge the gaps between people’, they have been an ideal, ‘virtual playground’ for cyberbullies. According to a survey by the Cyberbullying Research Center, about 20 percent of students from ages 11 to 18 surveyed last year said they’d been cyberbullied at some point in their lives. According to the National Crime Prevention Center, over 40% of all teenagers with Internet access have reported being bullied online on 2008.

Facebook has opened many opportunities as a communication tool, however, it also paved a new way for abusers to expand the reach and the extent of the harm they do. As many as the ‘fan pages’ that runs rampant through the Facebook groups feature are the ‘hate’ groups  or the ‘Anti-’ groups of such pages. One example is 16-year-old Chienna Filomeno’s “We hate Chienna Filomeno” group. Her hate group’s posts are always derogatory to young Chienna and the comments even more so. The moderator of the hate group would post pictures of her in compromising positions and encourage the commenters to post their opinions, which are usually mean and unforgiving. Chienna Filomeno is a cosplayer from a prominent high school in Manila and sometimes people claiming to be her schoolmates would post there and say thing like, “Ay! Kilala ko yan sa school! Malandi talaga yan!” (Oh! I know her from our school! She really is promiscuous!) One of the posts on the group showed Chienna on a bed with her former boyfriend, followed by a post of her former boyfriend implying that Chienna is no longer a ‘virgin’. There were no holds barred on the virtual audience. Many were calling her names and questioning even her parent’s values, some pitied her and tried to vindicate her actions but they were soon met with malicious replies enough for them to give up.

There are many detrimental outcomes of cyberbullying. Many targets of cyberbullying report feeling depressed, sad, angry, and frustrated. And some victims who experience cyberbullying are also afraid or embarrassed to go to school. Victims of cyberbullying also tend to develop low self-esteem. Research also shows that there are links between cyberbullying and family problems, academic problems, school violence, and delinquent behaviour. And while the cyberbully rarely inflicts physical harm to their victims, the psychological damage they cause, if bad enough, can compel the cybervictims to inflict physical harm on themselves. In fact, there have already been a number of young people around the world taking their own lives due to cyberbullying.

Derrick, a 14-year-old highschool student, confessed that ever since he realized his gender preference in Elementary, he has long since accepted the fact that there would always be people who would be critical of him. However, he still gets pretty upset whenever some people call him names online. Some even text him using a number he doesn’t recognize and slams him for being a homosexual. He said that he is not sure about the identity of his attackers and that the sense of not knowing who his attackers are has developed into some sort of paranoia. “Paminsan-minsan hindi ko na kilala kung sino ang mga kaibigan ko at sino ang mga kaaway ko.” (Sometimes I don’t even know who my friends are and who my enemies are.) One time, the abuse got so bad that he refused to go to school for two days. His parents were worried but he never told his parents about what he was going through because he was afraid that they would not understand his situation. Also, he thinks that telling them won’t do anything good anyway.

Cyberbullying can be much worse than the ‘traditional’ bullying as it has more vicious characteristics. First, of course, is the anonymity of the cyberbully. Although in reality the victims of cyberbullying may actually know who their attacker is, it will just be lost behind the cloak of anonymous email addresses, pseudonymous screen names, or private cellphone numbers. The very small likelihood of tracing where the message came from actually encourages the negative behaviour. It strips the cyberbully of his inhibitions and frees him from the constraints of consequences. It can be very easy to be cruel with the use of technology. A study by Michele L. Ybarra and Kimberly J. Mitchell, which examined youth engaging in online harassment, found that adolescents who would not act aggressively in the traditional bullying scenario might feel less constrained on-line. The “anonymity associated with online interactions may strip away many aspects of socially accepted roles, leading the Internet to act as a potential equaliser for aggressive acts”. As communication is no longer bound by time or space, a cyberbully can send an untraceable offensive message from any computer in any café or private laptop or cellphone at whatever time of day or night.

In today’s world where communication is 24/7, it is becoming more and more difficult to be separated from your own mobile device. It has come to the point where not owning one can lead to ostracism. As Hinduja & Patchin has observed, the youth has completely embraced interactions via cellphones and computers.  And since the victims themselves cannot be parted from their own handheld gadget, they become more vulnerable to the abuse. They always have the option of leaving their mobile gadget off but then it isolates them from the incoming messages that are actually of some importance or relevance. Mario, a 3rd year high school student here, said, “Paano ‘pag biglang tumawag si mama? Paano ‘pag emergency? ‘Pag naiwan ko wallet ko sa bahay, ok lang sa’kin kasi pwede naman ako mangutang sa mga kaibigan ko. Pero ‘pag cellphone ko na yung naiwan…kulang na lang liparin ko yung bahay namin.” (What if my mother calls? What if there’s an emergency? I’m okay with accidentally leaving my wallet at home because I can always borrow some money from my friends but if I leave my cellphone at home…I have to go back even if I need to fly home.)

In the Philippines, we often hear celebrities like Sarah Geronimo being victims of cyberbullying. Celebrities are often the victims of identity theft as people use their names and pictures to create an account for their personal use. But even from the stars themselves, there are cyberbullies. Ampalaya Anonymous is a clique formed by popular actresses who recently gained popularity for reportedly bullying a fellow actress via Twitter. And although she has vehemently denied it, Kim Chiu and her group of friends were put on a spot for reports of cyberbullying. University of the Philippines Diliman Sociology and Anthropology professor, Dr. Virgilio Binghay, explained that the rampant identity stealing and cyber-bullying is a form of crab mentality. Cyberbullies pull other people down for their own personal agenda.

“Kasi, Ate, alam mo yung Gossip Girl? Parang ganun yun feeling,”(Ate, do you know Gossip Girl? That’s what it feels like,) Apple, a 15-year-old high school student, replied when asked why she was posting rumours about her on classmates on Facebook. She said that her classmates go to her ‘Gosssip Girl’ page to know what other people’s dirty laundry are. She said that she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong because she’s just simply posting the things that everyone’s saying. “Pinaguusapan naman ng lahat sa school, nilalagay ko lang naman sa FB.” (Everyone’s talking about it at school anyway. I’m merely posting the stuff on FB.)

Gossip Girl is an American TV series that revolves around a virtual entity called ‘Gossip Girl’ who posts rumours in a blog about Manhattan’s Upper East Side. After the show launched in 2007, it also started the trend of internet ‘Gossip Blogs’ where you can find rumours about the ‘people in your neighbourhood’. Perhaps there is no single answer as to why people act as cyberbullies. As James Lehman points out, some people simply bully other people because it solves their social problems. It might satisfy their need for attention or it might be the one gaining them respect. In adolescents, bullying is a means to finding one’s identity and establishing their place in their clique. But of course, bullying is never right.

In various parts of the world, many governments are acting to criminalise cyberbullying. There are also efforts to do the same here in the Philippines. Last year, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had filed Senate Bill no. 2677, or the Anti-Bullying School Policy Act. In an explanatory note, she acknowledged the existence of cyberbullying and its long-term threats. The Anti-Bullying School Policy Act would require all schools to create policies that would address and increase the awareness on the issues of bullying and cyberbullying in their school. “A direct correlation with the reduction of bullying incidents is the increase in awareness and concern among school administrators of these incidents, and the positive action of providing venues for parents, faculty and school officials to report such incidents to authorities,” she said.

Cyberbullying here in the Philippines doesn’t get much attention as there are no official reported cases about it. But just because it remains unreported doesn’t mean that it is not happening. Interviews with the local high school students here show that the youth are aware that cyberbullying is a serious issue. However, most of them do not know how to react when faced with those kinds of situations. Majority of the students just keeps mum about it because they think that it is a ‘normal’ part of the ‘online experience’. Cyberbullying affects many adolescents on a daily basis and while it may be difficult to stop, it is not impossible. Everyone can help stop Cyberbullying by making other people, especially the youth, aware about the real deal on Cyberbullying. The first step is to educate the youth on what can be classified as cyberbullying and that cyberbullying is wrong and is not a ‘normal’ behaviour or experience. It is also good to encourage victims of cyber bullying to talk to adults or other people when they are experiencing cyberbullying instead of merely putting up with it. Of course, the youth themselves also have to be more responsible with what information they post online. As a user of a social networking site, what the content of their site would be on their own jurisdiction. However, they should be more aware on what could be considered as inappropriate content. As a campaign of a local media here in the Philippines say: Think before you click.

Mantika ng Kahapon: An investigative report on the streetfood vendors of Burnham Park

March 12, 2012 12 comments

by Joana Danielle Sanidad, Micah Jemima Quirimit, Kezia Marris Guerrero

For Andrea (not her real name), a university student here in Baguio City, going to Burnham Park every afternoon is not a hobby but, a routine already. At 5:30pm, her favorite carts are already out on the streets selling her favorite past-time food—street foods.

Upon arriving, the vendor—Kuya Ryan (his real name)—would greet her with a smile. Andrea had been his customer since her freshman year. She would then pick up whatever she feels like eating for that afternoon.

Kulang pa nga sakin ‘to e, (Actually, this isn’t enough for me)” says Andrea, holding out a bowl full of fishball, kwek-kwek, and squidballs. “Mga tatlong round pa ng ganito, hehe, (About three more rounds of this)” she adds.

Andrea is just one of the many students, people, who find street foods delicious and won’t also mind if these are clean or not. These street food carts are located almost everywhere. At first glance, you wouldn’t really think that something wrong is going on in these carts, until you look closely enough to notice.

Closer look on this business

Street food vendors in Burnham Park, Baguio City do not have business permits and sanitary permits but are still allowed to be in operation and are not restrained by the local government, thus, giving them the chance to market their goods to the people around the city. There are certain laws implemented by the government which are made to ensure the safety of the public when it comes to the food that they are consuming.

According to Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, the health of the public is prioritized subject to protection and promotion. First section of the decree states matters regarding sanitary permits which business establishments, specifically food vendors and handlers are required to acquire.

Sanitary permits are necessary in ensuring the public that the food establishments, or any place where food and beverages are served, manufactured, processed, stored or sold, that they are patronizing are clean. Also, these sanitary permits must be posted in a noticeable or visible area in that certain food establishment. These are some of the laws under Section 14 (Sanitary Permits) of Presidential Decree No. 856.

Almost all of the street food vendors that are around Baguio do not have the necessary permits for operation. One would not find a sanitary permit posted on any of these street food vendors’ food carts.

There are two officers who are in charge of screening applicants for business and sanitary permits and of releasing those permits from Baguio City Hall. The first one is Cristio A. Lagyop, Permits & Licensing Officer of Baguio City Hall. Regarding the securing of permits of street food vendors, he said that there are no special permits issued to them and that; first, they must get an endorsement from Burnham Park since it is where they are located.

Another officer from Baguio City Hall, Mr. de Guzman, the Division of Health Head, was asked about the street food vendors and how their permits are released and processed. He said that permits are not released for the street food vendors because they have no permanent structures which are a requirement when you are asking for a sanitary permit. Vendors who have permanent structures or those who have distributors can apply for the necessary permits that they need in order to have their businesses legalized. He mentioned that these vendors should go to different agencies and establishments to be able to have all the requirements they need to apply for business permits.

For every law abided for the food handlers in the decree stated, there are also laws provided for the law enforcers in disciplining the food handlers/vendors. They shall be the ones to inspect and prevent the marketing of food which are already not consumable and edible for the consumers. They are also responsible for checking the unsanitary environment and tools used by the vendors. And most of all, they are responsible for enforcing the laws stated in the Presidential Decree No. 856, Code on Sanitation, these are according to Sec. 33 (Responsibility of the Local Health Authority).

Until now, these vendors are still out on the streets selling street foods to the people. They have been there for a couple of years and they have been operating even without the necessary permits that the law is requiring. Consumers’ health are put to danger because food inspections are not conducted and the environment these street food vendors are situated is not checked.

Time-Consuming or Money-Wasting

These street food vendors are not allowed to station themselves out on the public until 5:30pm. Reasons for this weren’t stated but, if they go around about before the given time they are arrested by the police. This was an agreement made between the vendors and the police.

Why do they settle with this kind of business when they can get permits and have their stations permanently positioned? According to Section 14 of Presidential Decree No. 856, there are fees that permit applicants are supposed to pay when having issuance, renewal and noting of certificates. The amount of the fee depends upon the capital that the business used for the operation. Ideally, one food cart gains P1000.00 a day from street foods which cost P5.00 – P25.00 per stick. The operators would still subtract the money they would use for gas and lard from that P1000.00. P200.00 would go to the person who was in charge of that cart that day. This could be one of the reasons why they would rather settle with having no permits and have a certain time when they can start selling street foods than get permits, pay taxes and get lesser profit.

Street Food

Street food vendors are referred to as the people who sell fishballs, squidballs, kwek-kwek, and one day olds who are located in most places where people would most likely go. These vendors use cooking oil repeatedly which is dangerous to the consumers’ health. University of the Philippines Baguio Clinic Physician Leila Jara said that anything that is heated up can produce chemical reactions. When cooking oil is repeatedly heated up for cooking street foods, chemical reactions take place which produce toxic chemicals which can be harmful to the health. In addition to Jara’s statement, a licensed doctor based in Japan, Dr. Akihito Kaga, MD., said that it is not healthy for people to consume foods cooked with overused cooking oil. Unhealthy fats and salts could be obtained from overused cooking oil. These unhealthy fats can cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity while the unhealthy salts can cause kidney stones and bladder stones.

Photo 1. Street food: fish balls, chicken balls, kikiam, one day old


De Guzman was also asked about his opinion on the sanitation of the foods being sold by the street food vendors. He said that the public is not sure on how they store and prepare these types of food, they might get typhoid fever, or the ingestion of food which is contaminated or which have salmonella virus. If the people really want to eat these types of food, he said that they should be the ones preparing and cooking these in their respective homes to ensure their safety and sanitation.

When asked about his opinion on overused cooking oil, he said that the cooking oil should only be repeated twice. He mentioned that when cooking oil is more than twice, the oil should now be used for other purposes like fuel for vehicles, and for advertising techniques.

To guarantee that the food handlers are free from any kind of disease that may harm their customers, health certificates are issued to them. Examinations are conducted to test whether these food handlers who are applying for sanitary permits are free from infectious diseases. These are according to Section 15 of the same Presidential Decree (Health Certificates).

Health certificates are only issued to the vendors or food chain/establishment employees who are complete in the sanitation requirements that are necessary. Street food vendors do not have this certificate mentioned because they are vendors with no permanent structure (ambulant vendors) and they do not have plans on making this as a permanent business.

Ambulant Vendors & Food Handling

These street food vendors use kitchen utensils to be able to cook the foods that they are selling while they are on the streets. The foods they are selling are raw ones. Some may be cooked but some customers ask them to reheat the food that they are buying. Ambulant food vendors are prohibited to sell food that requires the use of utensils according to Section 32 (Special Provisions), e. (Ambulant Food Vendors) of Presidential Decree No. 856. Also, the only kinds of food that they are allowed to sell are bottled food drinks, biscuits and confectioneries.

Clean working garments must be worn by food handlers, like prescribed caps and hairnets, especially female food handlers. Some of these street food vendors do not wear the working garments recommended by the law while they are out on the streets cooking their customers’ foods. They are also unable to wash their hands before they cook and one could see that their hands are really dirty.

According to Section 19 (Food Handlers) of Presidential Decree No. 856, health certificates are required for every food handlers before they get employed. Food handlers are also required to wear clean working garments, specifically caps or hairnets, especially for female employees, in addition to that they are required to observe their personal hygiene, and lastly, wash their hands with soap and water and dry them thoroughly.

 Ryan Ramos is a street vendor for 2 years now. He was under a supplier/handler for one year and has been handling his own for one year now. Ramos’ handler is named Danny Panimbatan. When asked whether his supplier had the necessary permits, he said that there was none. Ramos also said that when he was able to have his own cart of street foods, he wanted to apply for permits but the Baguio City Hall did not let him get his own.

Ramos, when asked about the cooking oil that he has been using, he mentioned that he does not exactly overuse it. What he does is that he adds new oil to what he has recently used. He buys 2 kilograms of lard then mixes it to the oil left from the last time he fried street foods.

The reason behind this could be the amount of money that he could save if he chooses to reuse the cooking oil. In here, the safety of the consumers is sacrificed just so these vendors could gain more profit.


Photo 2. Fish balls being soaked and cooked in overused cooking oil


Kwek-kwek, squidballs, fishballs and other street foods taste really good and they can fill one’s stomach at a very low price. These street foods can give people satisfaction but, as consumers, you should know the risks of eating such foods. These can sustain people’s energies for quite a while and they could save a lot from buying these foods instead of other foods but these could also cost people a lot of money once these people get sick due to the dangers of such kind of foods.

As for the vendors’ practice of overusing cooking oil, consumers’ health are put to risk without them directly knowing it. It might be because of the profit that they might lose or gain if they follow the correct ways and process of having a legal business. For a day, they will only get a small part of the money that they have earned for a day, still considering all the bills that they have to pay.

The “Limits” of Freedom: Two Student Editors’ Views On The Campus Press Situation

March 12, 2012 3 comments

Two ladies named Grellyn and Jesusa studied college in a chilly city named Baguio. According to them, they have lived a simple life, trying to balance their academic requirements with their responsibility – responsibility which can be hard for many. These two ladies are students, as well as campus journalist.

It is a tough job to be a campus journalist. Unlike high school days, tertiary student publications can be considered as a microcosm of the practice and the society – they reflect the real – life situations of the people in the community.


In July 1958, Saint Louis University published the White and Blue’s oldest issue which can be still accessed. It was a community newspaper back then – with news, researches, news, articles, poems and essays in English, Filipino, Ilocano and Spanish.

A shift from community to academic newspaper took place in 1959 wherein the paper primarily consisted of news and features from all the sectors of the Louisian community. Literary works served as a way for students to express themselves during this time.

In 1961, innovations such as photojournalism and cartoons served as an improvement presented by White and Blue.

A supplement in the newspaper’s existence came in the first semester of 1968. It was named Sapientia, which means wisdom. Sapientia served as a magazine – featuring students’ lives inside and outside the university.

In 1972, Martial Law impeded the publication of almost all the newspapers in the country – arrested journalists left and right and padlocked printing presses. This did not give exception to the White and Blue. During that time, only the Chronicle was said to be circulating around the campus.

The dark years passed and the restoration of the democracy happened. In 1993, the publication was alleged to be bias, leftists and radicals. The newspaper emphasized their primary duties to the Louisian community – to serve as mouthpieces of the Student Body and venue for exchange of ideas in the university.

However, self – interest and power struggle over the staff made the publication suffered more. With this, the administration decided to discontinue the publication without resolving the issue. For three years since then, SLU had no publication.

In December 1996, White and Blue picked up the pieces and initiated a screening for the staff.

After years of being mum, the Valentines’ day of 1997 marked the re-birth of White and Blue. The new staff members published an issue.

Years passed, White and Blue continued to improve their publication to cater the Louisian community. Supplements like Sapientia, Kwaderno (literary portfolio), Iglap (photography portfolio) and Guhit (comic strip portfolio) came into existence.

Up to this day, the publication still maintains their passion for truth, justice and campus freedom.


According to Batayang Oryentasyon ng UP Baguio Outcrop 2008, the word Outcrop was defined as “a coming out of bedrock to the surface of the ground; also; the part of a rock formation that thus appears.”

The publication started roughly around 1962 as a tri – weekly newsletter which showcases news articles and few student and organizational ads.

The picture above was an Outcrop’s front page in its edition in 1963. (Courtesy of Outcrop)

During the First Quarter Storm, the publication was recognized as an alternative newsletter. Martial Law came and the publication ceased its publication. Despite this, Outcrop managed to release an underground publication.

Later on, the student publication became a mosquito press which served as the mouth piece of the people – writing news and issues which cannot be found on the crony press.

After the dark ages brought by Martial Law, Outcrop came back to continue its tradition and watchdog function – breaking issues about the university and the government and mobilizing movements for students, teachers and employees of UP Baguio.

The picture above was a part of Outcrop’s Edition on 1986. (Courtesy of Outcrop)

Outcrop’s alumni include Chancellor Priscilla Supnet – Macansantos and Professor Rey Rimando.


Fourth year BS Information Technology student Grellyn Paoad defined campus press freedom as having the chance to do one’s functions as a journalist without being harassed or manipulated. She also seen its importance and firmly believes that their publication, White and Blue, has it.

Journalism is already a familiar craft for her. She was former Editor – in – Chief in elementary and former Managing Editor in high school. She also garnered awards from various conferences such as RSPC and NSPC. At present, her only affiliation is SLU’s White and Blue.

“Strenuous yet fulfilling task,” Paoad described her take as a campus journalist. “Mahirap kasi kailangan mo talaga ng time-management skills. At the same time, fulfilling kasi alam mo na may nagagawa ka na kapaki-pakinabang. At marami ka ring natututuhan at nakikilala na mga tao.”

When asked why she continues to be on the publication, she said: “Passion ko ang pagsusulat. Atsaka gusto kong ituloy ang nasimulan ko noong elementary.” 


Second year BA Social Sciences student Jesusa Paquibot said that campus press freedom is a critical aspect in one’s university life. Furthermore, she said “Dito [campus press freedom] nagsisimula ang ating tuwirang pagtatanggol ng ating karapatan sa pamamahayag bilang mag kabataan-estudyante.”

Like Paoad, Paquibot also had a taste of publication writing long before entering Outcrop. She became News Editor and Photojournalist during her high school days. In 2009, she also participated in Photojournalism category at RSPC. Currently, her only affiliation is the UPB Outcrop.

Maaring mangahulugan ito ng isang buhay estudyante na may mga karagdagang gawain para sa hinahabol na “deadline” ng bawat nilalabas ng publikasyon.” Paquibot defined what really a campus journalist is.

When asked why she continues to be on the publication, she said, “Upang mahasa sa pagsulat at magkaroon ng kaalaman sa mga pangyayari at isyung kinahaharap ng mga Pilipino.


In terms of the publication process, Paoad claimed than in SLU, it “is case to case basis.” Talks were made between the two parties in order to arrive at an issue’s conclusion which will be published. The publication has an adviser which oversees the publication from time to time.

Answering the issue that private schools were repressed and did not have campus press freedom as much as state universities have, Paoad said: “…hindi naman kami sinisikil ng admin sa pag-release ng mga publication. Kung sakali, kinakausap lang nila kami kung may gusto sila i-clarify. Also, added factor na wala naman kami nareceive na scholarship or benefits sa pagsali namin sa organization kaya wala rin sila panghawak sa amin kung nagkataon.”

She said that there are no forms of repression, as far as she is concerned.

On the other hand, she said past editorial boards experienced harassment but not to the extent that a libel case was slapped against them.

Meanwhile, Paquibot said that there are no consultations happening between them and their adviser in every publication’s issue. The publication believes that Outcrop is an independent institution and thus, members of the publication should choose what articles must be on the paper.

However, Outcrop sees the need of having an adviser. Paquibot said “…ang kahalagahan naman ng Adviser ay hindi rin maikakaila dahil isa sa mga tungkulin ng bawat student institution ay magkaroon rin ng ugnay ang mga ito sa iba’t ibang sektor sa loob ng unibersidad. Ang adviser ng Outcrop ay nagsisilbing representante ng mga kaguruan sa mga maaring gawing hakbang ng student publication sa mga aktibidad nito.”

Paquibot also commented about the presence of repression in UP Ang mga insidenteng masasabing may porma ng represyon ay hindi palaging nararanasan sa loob ng unibersidad, lalo pa’t ang UP ay isa sa mga institusyon sa ating bayan na nagtatanggol dito.” However she also added, “Sa kabila nito, hindi lubos na buo ang seguridad na hindi maranasan ng mga publikasyon sa loob ng pamantasan, gaya ng Outcrop, ang represyon maging sa UP. Sa tuwing dumadating sa puntong tila nagiging magkaiba o magkabaligtad ang interes ng administrasyon at ng mga institusyon ng sangkaestudyantehan, halimbawa.”

When asked if she already experienced harassment, she says “Nagpapasalamat ako kung gayon dahil sa ngayon, hindi pa naman ako nakararanas ng harassment. Kinalulungkot ko naman na ang iba kong kakilala na ginagawa rin ang aking mga tungkulin sa loob ng UPB at mula sa iba pang unibersidad ay direktang nakaranas na ng harassment, at kadalasan dahil hindi din madaling ipagtanggol ang ating sariling karapatan kung minsan dahil sa mga limitasyon, hindi agad-agad na nahaharap ang mga ito.”

Philippine Daily Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau Chief and CAC Professor Rolando Fernandez tackled in Journalism 107 class the essence of campus journalism in colleges and universities. Sir Rolly, as students and faculty members call him, argued that UP has campus freedom – for the members of Outcrop can freely choose and write topics which can voice out the interest of the students. However, private schools such as Saint Louis University may not have this will exercised – as the publication was confined to the stories that were purely positive and favorable to SLU’s administration.


A popular quote said that “With freedom comes with responsibility.” These two concepts cannot be separated from one another, based on a existentialist point of view. In spite of the issues surrounding these two newspapers – Paoad and Paquibot claimed that their respective student publications have campus press freedom. However, are they responsible?

Quoted from Paoad “Responsableng pamamahayag – wala kang kinikilingan, walang prinoprotektahan, at katotohanan lahat ng sinulat mo. Oo, sinisigurado namin na nasusunod ang Code of Ethics ng mga mamamahayag, dahil dapat din mabalanse mo ang mga karapatan mo bilang isang mamamahayag sa mga responsibilidad mo.

On the other hand, Paquibot said “Ang responsableng pamamayahag ay pamamahayag nang matapat, walang sinusundang pansariling interes, nagtatalakay sa isyu ng mamamayan, at gumagamit ng kritikal na pag-aanalisa sa mga isyung ito. Ang mga nabanggit, sa totoo ay, ay kulang pa upang buong mailarawan ang responsableng pamamahayag. Sa huli at simpleng sagot, ang responsableng pamamahayag ay hindi paglalathala ng bulag na kagustuhan kundi matapang na paglalathala ng mga katotohanan, gaano man kabigat ang mga ito.

In addition, she said “Ang Code of Ethics ay sinusundan ng mga mamamahayag ng publikasyon sa abot ng makakaya at rasyonal na pagpili ng mga hakbangin… At gaya ng lahat ng nagpapatuloy na institusyon, hindi maiiwasan ang mga pagkakamali, ngunit ang mga pagkakamaling, kung mayroon man, ay pinanghahawakan bilang dahilan ng pagbabago at patuloy na pag-unlad.”


One optimistic college student may infer some idealistic perspectives on viewing himself and the world. An example of a perspective being idealistically seen upon is the concept of freedom.

What really is freedom? Like any ideology believed in, there is no such thing as absolute ideology. According to Ms. Sabrina Nikki Ramos, a former UPB Social Sciences instructor, there is no such thing as absolute freedom. We are all free, yes, but we are grounded by rules. And these rules restrict individuals in doing acts that are not socially acceptable. It is because grave consequences may follow if these rules are not pursued.

Going back, do these publications have Campus Press Freedom? Yes, as stated. However, again, it is not absolute. #


It’s Not Always the Case: Breaking Pedophilia Myths and Misconceptions

March 12, 2012 24 comments

by Isha Marie Maganis, Angela Louise Rosario, Dyan Eliza Sipcon

A pedophile is defined as an uneducated, poor, foreign, and mentally-retarded male. According to Merriam-Webster, pedophilia is the “sexual perversion in which children are the preferred sexual object,” while a pedophile is the “one affected with pedophilia.”

This is also how the society perceives pedophiles. However, in reality, this is not always the case.

According to Jannie, a graduate of family science and founder of http://www.Child-Safety-For-Parents.com, a qualified pedophile must “have repeated urges to be sexually involved with a child, fantasize to the point that relationships with other adults are damaged or destroyed, and be so obsessed that the person can’t function well in society anymore.”

Reported pedophilia cases in the previous years are noted in Baguio City blurring people’s perceptions of pedophiles.

Case # 1

“Carlo*” was a teenager at that time. He was staying at their house when he suddenly heard a knock. He went to the door to find out who it was. When he opened the door, he saw a group of alleged missionaries. They were going from one house to another, “spreading the word of God.” The moment they learned that Carlo was alone in the house; they pulled him in and raped him.

Case # 2

“Margot*” was five years old then. Her mother was an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and she was not there to take care of Margot most of the time. Margot’s mother needed to hire a caregiver to look after Margot. “Macy*” was a male homosexual. He liked children and was known to be nice and close with the kids. With that knowledge, Margot’s mom was confident to leave her children with Macy. Macy took advantage of the situation and sexually-abused Margot. The mother learned of the situation but it was too late.

Case # 3

This case took place in a computer shop that happened last year. “Dino*” was a local government official, who was alleged to be walking around a computer shop at night, convincing boys to go with him to his house. Fr. Geraldo Costa, a Brazilian priest expert in child psychology and director of Sunflower Children’s Center, a center in Baguio dedicated for the welfare of children, believes that Dino has more than one strategy in getting the boys’ trust. Fr. Costa added that Dino played with them, gave them food, and such. Dino was giving what the boy needed at the moment, which was because he has the money to lure them. He pays for the boys’ gaming hours and then the latter will forget about their curfew.

*names have been changed for privacy

 Myths and Misconceptions about Pedophilia

Every day, people hear different news disseminated by media. People are already used to different facts due to the usual occurrence of news. People come up with misconceptions and myths, and develop their own definitions according to what the news tell them, without further understanding. This is the same with pedophilia.

1. If a person is normal, he is not pedophiliac.

People like to watch the news and comment afterwards. We always hear people saying, “If a person is in his right mind, he would not even think about doing such a thing.” They may not say it directly but people look at others in the shades of black and white. There is no compromise. In the case of pedophiles, people often perceive ‘normal’ people as ‘not pedophiliacs’ and ‘crazy’ people as ‘pedophiliacs.’

2. Pedophiles are always foreigners.

Media sensationalize news involving foreigners. The Philippines is a developing country that looks up to people coming from other countries. Having foreigners as violators or abusers is already a big issue for most media people. It has also been perceived that since foreigners have the money, they are the only ones capable to lure children.

3. All pedophiles are males, whereas all their victims are girls.

The Philippines is a patriarchal society. Male dominance is still evident in families, media, politics, and such. Although females of this generation try to equate themselves with males, what continues to emerge is the stereotype that they are physically, mentally, and emotionally weak. Thus, it makes males the qualified gender to be pedophiliac and seemingly impossible for females.

Also, in most reported cases girls are victims because they are perceived to be weaker and an easier target. They are also more vocal than boys.

4. All pedophilia cases include sexual activities.

Almost all reports in police blotters and in news accommodate pedophilia cases having sexual intercourse. When you say sexual pleasure, words such as intercourse and penetration of the genitals come to mind. Verbal abuse and other forms of abuse were not put into consideration because of its rarity. The general public was not completely informed of different cases wherein children can be abused. People also usually avoid talking about these conservative issues.

5. Pedophiles are usually middle-aged men.

Father figures like stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, and whoever close to the victim were the ones usually reported as the perpetrators. Some were even described to be as Dirty Old Men.

6. Victims are always forced by pedophiles.

Their perpetrators are usually dominant and connected to being a father figure. As such, the victims were always perceived to be forced, that they did not want everything that happened between them and their perpetrators. The victims usually appear that they are sad and devastated, and that they are used, manipulated, and violated.

Breaking the Myths

Fr. Costa, generally described pedophiles as a person “…that is normal, heterosexual, with a partner, who is of the same age but at certain times he becomes a child abuser.” He also added that children are used for sexual purposes.

“Anyone can be a pedophile with enough psychological disturbances,” said Fr. Costa. A number of pedophile cases in Baguio City have been turned over to his care over the years. The worrisome fact is that these pedophile cases do not include incest cases.

People consider persons who have illnesses or diseases as not ‘normal,’ however, ‘normal’ is relative. As a reiteration of what Fr. Costa said, anyone could be a pedophile. A person can be sane even if he is pedophiliac. Pedophilia only develops when triggered by something he needs at the moment─ psychological, emotional, or physical needs. Reasons could be personal, like marital affairs, when the husband is no longer satisfied with his emotional and physical relationship with his wife. Pedophilia can also be triggered when he had experienced and witnessed abuse and violence in his early years.

People may think it is not normal, but pedophilia is a common deviation a person can experience. The act could be a release from stress.

Foreigners are involved in pedophile cases; however, reported cases in Baguio City also include local people. Surprisingly, these pedophiles are not only foreigners, but also the Filipinos’ own kababayans. The local media tend to sensationalize reports involving foreigners because they are the aliens of the community.

Another myth that people still believe is that males are the only perpetrators and girls are their victims. There are some cases that actually comprise women that were mentioned by a social worker, but the cases cannot be disclosed for confidentiality. Also, because the perpetrators are women, their identities cannot be revealed by media.

A news article entitled “Barriers to Solving Child Abuse in Community Cited,” published in Baguio Midland Courier last March 20, 2011, and written by Leia Castro discussed a forum that was held last March 16, 2011 at St. Louis University CCA Theater. The said forum, “Boys are Abused Too!” brought out the issue regarding the public’s lack of awareness on child abuse, especially on boys.

In an interview with Mrs. Liza Balao, Social Welfare Officer III of the Silungan Center, mentioned that there were no pedophile cases, having boys as victims, in Baguio City last year. She said that the only case reported was last 2007. The incident involved a foreign national and two minors aged 15 and 16. The boys were recruited by the foreigner from Mindanao, took them to different places in the Philippines, and eventually ended up in Baguio City. The foreigner promised them things in order to gain their trust so they would go with him. They rented a place somewhere in Baguio City. The boys were just staying in the house and the foreigner was the only one going in and out. He was the one who provided their needs. Their landlady noticed that something suspicious was going on and reported it to the police. The foreigner was charged for child abuse. He is in jail up to the present, however, according to Mrs. Balao, he is doing everything to be released. She added that he even filed cases against her and other social workers.

Another instance related to the abuse of boys was posted in the internet. That instance showed more reason to advocate awareness on the abuse. Bulatlat.com, an alternative online publication, posted a letter from Mr. Angelico Mercader, a former Department of Education (DepEd) officer. He narrated how his kids were sexually harassed by SM security personnel during an inspection. The incident happened last April 29, 2006. He stated in the letter, “After I was inspected, I saw the guard frisking my sons from the waist down to their private parts, one after the other. I freaked out when I saw what the guard did, as I also saw him smiling while my two sons were looking at me helplessly. I reprimanded him and said that he had just sexually harassed my children. Instead of apologizing, he argued that he was only joking and that he wasn’t gay and that my children were boys anyway.”

In the same letter, he mentioned about their advocacy against child abuse. During that time, people were still in denial and oblivious on cases involving sexually abused boys. Unfortunately, the incident was not taken seriously. SM Baguio did not do anything about it. Mr. Mercader filed a complaint to the police and continued the fight in court. He won the case; however, he believed that the court’s decision was not enough. The decision stated that the security guard was charged for crime of unjust vexation. He added that unjust vexation is a minor offense and, at that time, the fine was only Php 5 to 200 or imprisonment of 1 to 30 days. Another thing, if a case does not fit descriptions of a specific abuse, the case would fall under unjust vexation.

Penetration of genitals is not always present in pedophile cases. Fr. Costa explained the reason behind pedophilia. He said, “I believe that it is not sexual or genital pleasure. It’s power. That’s why in Europe there are several cases wherein they hide children in their houses (in the roof or a very secretive place). It is the power of handling. That’s why authorities, sexual related or political related, are very much into sexual abuse with children. You see the whole game of power. They are stimulated with the hold of power they can impose. To have a child or meaning individual completely under their control. It is a sickness. It’s a psychotic element. The individual thinks that he can do anything to that individual because he has him under full power.” Unknown to many, the sexual or genital pleasure they get is only a bonus.

According to Fr. Costa, there are people who are called, “consexuals,” “who get the trust of boys in difficult situations, usually in Maharlika area.” In the Urban Dictionary definition, consexual means, “a sexual identifier indicating a preference for mutually consensual sexual contact.” They blatantly express their sexual identity and preferences. They ask the boy to live with them and, in return, give them sexual favors.

In some instances, boys are willing to sell their flesh in the areas of Burnham Park and Maharlika. However, there were no reported cases in Baguio local police from 2010 to 2011. Most reported cases were boys as victims of physical abuse. The closely related case filed was unjust vexation. In short, there is a whole market of prostitution in Baguio City.


In the end, it all boils down to power. Power over another human being has becoming an addiction. Gaining power has become an achievement or a game to be won. The chase is the thing that stimulates the pedophile and sexual contact is just a freebie.

Fr. Costa stressed that a pedophile often attempts to get the boys’ trust through promising and/or giving things. Victims are usually from poor communities and, sometimes, with a history of neglect.

Fr. Costa stated that there is no medicine or permanent treatment for pedophilia because it is a psychotic tendency. On the other hand, the victims can undergo psychotherapy. The duration of the treatment depends on factors such as the extent of trauma and age of the victim. The younger ones are more resilient that the older ones. There were cases that the trauma comes back, most especially during their puberty stage. Sometimes, after the treatment, when another incident of sexual abuse occurs, trauma comes back.

According to Fr. Costa, the children sometimes tell the incident to their parents. However, the parents sometimes do not always pay attention. The child does not do anything anymore because he tends to think that he is wrong because his parents did not mind him. He felt that his parents did not trust him.

More advocacies are also needed to protect and promote peaceful youth of the children. Boys and girls alike are afraid to talk since their parents usually do not mind them. Another, to save the family’s reputation, the issue becomes confined and justice is not given to the child.

Irisan Dumpsite: The Inconsistencies of the Government’s Plans and Actions

March 12, 2012 21 comments

by Francis Blaise Acorda, Jon Viktor Cabuenas, Carly Ymer Lemence

Rebecca Martin is a working woman in Purok 17, Irisan, Baguio City. She works as a garbage picker in the new Irisan dumpsite and she has already been working for 15 years. As the old dumpsite is now closed, Rebecca now works in the staging area to continue her work. Unlike others who take trash for granted, she earns her living from trash.

Rebecca, together with other family members, goes to the dumpsite as early as 5 o’clock in the morning every day. With the use of long sticks, they search within the trash for plastics and other biodegradable materials. They segregate everything they can find – bottles, plastics, wrappers, etc. At the end of the day, at around 7 o’clock in the evening, they sell everything they get to the nearest junk shops. They earn around 100 Php per day.

Although the Irisan dumpsite was permanently closed since the trash slide last August 27, 2011, Rebecca and her co-workers still feel glad about having a staging area in Purok 17, Irisan. According to her, this is the only place where they can work and the only place where they can earn money for a living.

Rebecca and her family are not the only ones who live near the Irisan dumpsite but they lucky, having not been affected by the trash slide. According to her, she has friends whose houses were buried in trash but the government helped them and gave them housing in Pacdal, Baguio City.

As a consistent observer in the Irisan dumpsite and the new staging area, Rebecca is aware of the everyday cycle of the garbage in Baguio City.


Rebecca Martin, wearing the blue cap, with her fellow garbage picker.

(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)


The Garbage Pickers (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

 The Irisan Dumpsite then and after the trashslide

The Irisan dumpsite has already been the area for Baguio City’s garbage since 1972. Prior to being a dumpsite, the area used to be owned by the Smith clan, an American family. It was then passed on to a local family from Baguio, the Caguioa family who finally decided to give the land to the city.

Before the implementation of the Republic Act 9003 in the year 2000, the segregation of the biodegradable and non-biodegradable wastes was not strictly implemented, leaving an assortment of both biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste materials in the dumpsite.

After the trash slide that affected families from the residential areas along Irisan and Asin Road, Baguio City, Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti says that as far as he knows, the city government of Baguio is liable for 20,000.00 Php for every death incurred in the incident and another 20,000.00 Php for every household affected. As help, the barangay solicited funds and relief goods to the affected families.

Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan said that the affected families, including those whose houses were buried by trash, were not given relocation homes by the government. Tanawe added that some families resettled to their relatives living along Baguio while others stayed as they had no other place to go. According to Ruben A. Cervantes, Public Services Officer IV of City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO), they are not responsible for giving these families resettlement homes as these families are informal settlers.

Ceferino Nariz, an Irisan resident, said he and his family have been staying in the area since 1982. He said that they have no plans of leaving their home as it is where they earn their living. When it comes to issues and concerns, Nariz said that they do not have any problems, even if they live just beside the dumpsite. His only wish is for the garbage to be permanently removed for the government’s plans of rehabilitating the dumpsite to push through.

Is the dumpsite permanently closed?

The dumpsite was only permanently closed on January 28, 2012 after the Supreme Court released an order for the area to be permanently closed. Although there are rumors that the dumpsite is not really closed, the residents along the dumpsite, the garbage pickers, and Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied this. Cervantes added that the old dumpsite is where the recycling machines are located. Biodegradable materials collected from the city are brought there to be grinded and converted into fertilizers.

Today, part of the Irisan dumpsite is now covered by soil and according to Kagawad Tanawe, in time the whole site will be covered with soil, serving as the first step in rehabilitating the dumpsite.

As the dumpsite is now permanently closed, the city government eyes total restoration of the land. By the process of retrofiling, all the trash left in the site will be covered up by soil. Development started last January 28 and as of now, the topmost part of the area is now completely covered.

Since the site is not evenly levelled, parts of the area will be terraced as to avoid landslides. Regreening of the area will also be imposed as the site is set to be made into an eco-park.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO denied rumors that the money for the rehabilitation of the dumpsite was given to the victim of Sendong in Mindanao. He said that the financial donation said to have been giving to these victims, is from the contingency funds of the city.


The Irisan Dumpsite. Half of its top part covered with soil. (Photo taken by Kagawad Philip Tanawe of Barangay Irisan)

Kagawad Tanawe said that the dumpsite has minimal possibility of erosion as it is no longer in a slope.

Implementation of R.A.9003 and the New Staging Area

Although the Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Waste Management Act was implemented as early as the year 2000 during the term of Mayor Braulio Yaranon, people in Baguio City did not practice this. The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” was only implemented after the Irisan trash slide. Since then, garbage from different houses and barangays are to be segregated. If not, these are not to be collected

Republic Act 9003, otherwise known as the “Philippine Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,” states that “it is the policy of the State to adopt a systematic, comprehensive and ecological solid waste management.” Residents are to segregate trash between biodegradable and non-biodegradable materials.

As the Irisan dumpsite is now permanently closed, the government opened a new staging area for the city’s garbage. This staging area is located in Purok 17 of Barangay Irisan.

Ruben Cervantes of CEPMO said that the city’s garbage is supposed to be dumped in the staging area for only 24 hours then transported to Tarlac but according to Kagawad Tanawe, the garbage stays in the staging area for about two to three days before being transported. Tanawe also doubts that the recycling machines are being used by the city government because according to him, the machine cannot process all the biodegradables in converting it into compost materials. According to Cervantes, these machines are still being used.

Irisan Barangay Captain Thomas Dumalti said that for the garbage to be transported to Tarlac, it must first be transferred to larger trucks as the smaller trucks are not practical, being unable to transport large volumes of trash. Dumalti also believes that there is another staging area in Barangay Sanitary Camp but Kagawad Tanawe has contradicting information as he said that the Sanitary Camp is already clean and it only served as a staging area way before the Irisan dumpsite. Cervantes confirmed that Sanitary Camp is no longer a staging area and it now serves as a residential area.


(Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/06/12) Staging Area in Irisan

Now that the city’s garbage is currently being dumped in the staging area, residents along the site have different opinions and views.

Feliza Uyam, a resident living near the staging area said that she sometimes works in the site. According to her, the staging area is open for everyone who wants to work there as a garbage picker, as there is no contract. She said that most of the people who work there need to earn money to buy food for their families.

Uyam said that both biodegradables and non-biodegradables are thrown in the staging area. Some of the biodegradables are brought to the closed Irisan dumpsite where the recycling machines are located, some given and found by the garbage pickers for them to sell, and the remaining biodegradables are collected by the large trucks to be brought to Tarlac.

With the staging area just a few steps away from her home, Feliza said that she is fine with the staging area being close to her home as it gives her and her neighbours a place to earn money to be able to help their families.

A store owner whose store is also a few steps from the staging area said that according to the government, the site will only be used as a staging area for six months but up until now, the staging area is still operating for even more than six months, allegedly, while some of the residents in the nearby area do not have any idea what the government will do with the area and how it is going to operate.


Residential Area near the Staging Area (Photo taken by Carly Ymer Lemence 03/05/12)

Land used for the staging area: Owned by the BCNHS

The land used for the staging area in Irisan where the garbage is currently being held, was originally owned by the city government but the land was later given to Baguio City National High School. When the news broke that the city government was using the land of BCNHS as a staging area, Dr. Elma D. Donaal, BCNHS Principal IV, immediately called the attention of CEPMO. Donaal learned the news from media who asked her to comment regarding the matter. Although the land had already been given to BCNHS, the government did not inform Donaal about the plan of making the land as a staging area for the city’s trash. Although a bit taken aback on the matter, Donaal agreed to the plan of the government and thought that it was a way to help the city.

The staging area is the proposed site where BCNHS and the Philippine Science High School plan to construct buildings for the expansion of their schools. As funds are not yet available for BCNHS, they have leased less than 50% of the land to the Philippine Science High School which is set to construct their school building as soon as possible. As of now, Principal Donaal agreed with CEPMO for the city to temporarily use their land as a staging area. “I am not complaining because it’s for the good of the city,” she said.

Donaal explained that the city hall is not to be blamed because it is not only the government’s garbage but it is also the garbage of the citizens of Baguio.

The “No Segregation, No Collection Policy” is now being strictly implemented in the city. Every day, 15 garbage trucks collect the trash once a day in the residential areas and thrice a day in the central business district of Baguio.

Rehabilitation of the Dumpsite

If the rehabilitation of the Irisan dumpsite and the planned eco-park pushes through, Barangay captain Dumalti wishes that the government prioritize the residents along the area, giving them jobs, as the government has now plans to make them leave the area.

A Notice to the Public: Baguio City Road Construction

March 12, 2012 30 comments

by Shiela May Aballa, Shekinah Angiwan, and Kimiyo Meadows

The Department of Public Works and Highways – Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (DPWH- BCDEO) stands by three principles:

(1) Right Cost – reasonable and fair budget allocation
(2) Right Project – constructions, rehabilitation and improvement where most needed
(3) Right Quality – durable and safe roads

Right Quality: Complaints on Road Construction

Salamat DPWH – Baguio is new “bungkal city” of the Philippines – Instead of the official page of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Baguio, this page is the first to appear if you search for “DPWH Baguio” on Facebook.

There are only two posts on this page. The first one is by Mark Anthony Molina. On August 27, 2011, he wrote:

can i know who is the officer in charge of the DPWH baguio!!! because last night i have accident i was running 20kph with my motor then suddenly i struck a gap on the road it is deep now my motor and my self flown away on the road my question is why do the DPWH construct a gap on the road and didnt coverd with cement that gap on the road is located at burnham road infront of ganza restaurant im the 3rd motorist who got accident in that area im lucky to survive and only minor bruises on my body is what ive got!!! can the damn DPWH fix that road u make people die!!!! im concern not only i got accident but im concern to my fellow motorist who are riding in that area!!!! baguio is on heavy traffic ryt now because of construction everywhere why do DPWH construct it on rainy season and during class season why dont they do it on summer times where baguio is not totally populated!!! WHY DPWH i need an answer!!! freaking road construction!!!

The DPWH is the first government agency that comes to mind when the topic is road construction. This is typical because the word “highways” is in the name and a responsibility of the department. But does this department accommodate complaints such as Molina’s?

Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato explained that many complaints were addressed to their department, but actually some complaints were not in their area of responsibility. Engineer Gallato clarified that their office’s concern is only the national roads in Baguio City. The Baguio City District Engineering Office (BCDEO) is not responsible for the complaints about the local roads, so not all traffic-related problems are their fault.

Engineer Gallato claims that they receive a lot of complaints, but when asked for the records of complaints, he said that they require a formal letter. Assistant District Engineer Romelda Bangasan did not show any record of complaints either, but she offered copies of the procedural response to complaints. The same reply can be found in local newspapers, they said.

When a taxi driver, who asked to remain anonymous, was asked to comment on the road construction in Baguio, he said that negative feedback is pervasive because of traffic and repetitive and simultaneous construction of the roads. He added that although they are upset, they cannot do anything about it. BCDEO claimed that they inform relevant agencies, like transportation offices such as the Traffic Management Branch (TMB), before a project is implemented, but the public utility drivers are not aware of this. The drivers also said that even if they were informed, it would still be an inconvenience.

Most of the time, “nagkikibit-balikat na lang kami,” one of the taxi drivers said. They passively live and work with what the higher offices implement.

“Paulit-ulit ginagawa ang Bokawkawan, halos yearly. Pero sabi ng engineer na kakilala ko, ‘pag concrete, tumatagal naman nang more than 10 years,” said another taxi driver. It is all about money because there are millions in the roads, he added.

BCDEO explains that they use a machine, Highway Development Management (HDM-4) System, to examine the roads and they base potential and ongoing projects on the results of the database. The treatment of the road depends on the level of damage to the road. Some roads need only a concrete or asphalt overlay. Others must be reconstructed completely.

One of the projects of the BCDEO for 2012 is to rehabilitate the bus terminal on Governor Pack Road. To accomplish this, the bus terminal will have to be transferred temporarily to the vacant lot beside Baguio Convention Center. One taxi driver said that the space in that vacant lot is not enough to use as a bus terminal and as far as he knows, that lot is property of another government agency.

Despite the criticisms that DPWH, especially BCDEO, faces, they still receive positive feedback. For example, Ayra Batore Laguitao’s post in the previously mentioned Salamat DPWH Facebook page from August 21, 2011, says “Please know first d reason behind it.” In addition to this, a taxi driver praised the contractor of the Marcos Highway project for finishing earlier than expected. He added that Marcos Highway is better now than before.

Many of the citizen’s complaints should not be directed to DPWH-Baguio. The residents and drivers are at fault as well in assuming that the DPWH is simply not doing its job.

Right Project: The Road Construction Process

When the public hears ‘DPWH’, they immediately think of Photoshop and shame, incompetence, and most of all, inconvenience. For the people of Baguio especially, because of the simultaneous road constructions during the rainy season, 2011 was both challenging and frustrating, resulting in what may have been maximum inconvenience for the travelling public. This is a fact, but maybe it’s time we understand the process involved in road construction, and maybe it might result in lenience for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) if it happens again.

The DPWH operates on national roads only. To most of the public, as long as it is a road construction, DPWH is behind it. But actually, the local roads are handled by the local government, under the City Engineer’s Office, with a totally separate process and budget.

DPWH gets its budget from the Regular Infrastructure Fund, which is supposed to be released at the start of the year. Last year, the Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (BCDEO) received a lot of complaints concerning the simultaneous road constructions conducted by DPWH-Baguio. The road constructions that were most disruptive, being simultaneous and in close proximity to each other, were on Bokawkan Road, Ferguson Road, and Quezon Hill Road. Not only were the road constructions simultaneous in the busiest parts of the city, they started the road constructions in June, which is the start of classes, and also the start of the rainy season.

There were articles about the typhoons delaying the road constructions, but then why start the road constructions at a time that is known to be prone to strong rains and typhoons? For last year, the problem lies in the release of the budget. The DPWH budget for 2011 was released in March, instead of January. According to Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato, it takes up to two months to finish processing all the papers required to start the road constructions. It is easy to put the blame on the national level, but Gallato and his office acknowledge that they were at fault as well.

DPWH had 10 projects in Baguio City last year. They were two projects at Magsaysay Avenue, Quirino Highway, Major Mane Road, Outlook Drive, Ferguson Road, two projects at Loakan Road, Bokawkan Road, and Quezon Hill Road. They have all been completed by the end of last year. Compared to last year, the minimum inconvenience and speed with which the road constructions this year have been finished is commendable. DPWH has 18 projects in Baguio City for 2012. They are the roads along the stretch of Abanao Road, Kayang Street, Harrison Road 1, Governor Pack Road, Government Center Road, Leonard Wood Road, and Marcos Highway. By February, seven road projects have already been completed. What made the difference between this year and the last?

Road construction is not an easy job. It is a long process and is never appreciated by the travelling public while it is ongoing, sometimes even after. Aside from allocating budget, DPWH has to do a public bidding for the contractors, and once a contractor has won the bid, they need a month for implementation, which requires testing the road and processing the contract and other papers.

Road constructions this year started in January. Some of the ongoing projects have been delayed due to the Panagbenga Festival and the anticipation of graduation, but unlike last year, DPWH was very much prepared for 2012 because of so much negative feedback from the travelling public. As early as November 2011, they conducted detailed engineering pre-construction activities, where they identified the projects that have to be done for 2012. In December 2011, they had already finished the papers for pre-construction, advertisement, notice of award, and notice to proceed. So come January 2012, when the budget was released, they started immediately.

DPWH can also be commended for the informational boards that they have put up at the sites of ongoing and impending road constructions. Now, not only do the public know the budget for the road construction, they also know who the contractor is, where the road construction starts and ends and how long the project might take. Apparently, the road signs and traffic signals are part of the budget given to the contractors, so the public can make a formal complaint if the site lacks these.

So why do we only now notice the effort that DPWH is making? While the road constructions are ongoing, DPWH gets so much negative feedback, but after the roads are done, they get practically no praise. DPWH has done a lot for our city. It cannot be denied that they could have done so much better last year, but it is apparent that they quickly learned from that and recovered. For example, they anticipated how their projects would affect traffic, so they finished the smaller constructions before the Panagbenga Festival. All that’s left now are their projects in Governor Pack Road, Abanao Extension, Chanum Street, Kayang Extension, Kisad Road, A. Bonifacio Road, two projects in Quirino Highway, M. Roxas Road, PMA Cut-off Road 1, and PMA Road.

If DPWH-Baguio can do it fast and with less inconvenience, why did they not do it that way in the first place? There are other factors that affect their efficiency. Some of them are: they do not control the release of the budget, or sometimes the contractors have to re-bid because they cannot comply with the government’s requirements, or there might be some unforeseen complications like the soil eroding or a sewage breaking, or sometimes the problem lies with the contractors, like if they lack materials or manpower.

Speed and minimum inconvenience may have developed late on the part of DPWH-Baguio, but as the saying goes, it’s better late than later.

Right Cost: Budget Allocation

The concerned public often asks, “Where do our taxes go?” This is justified by the fact that funds for government projects are partly comprised of citizens’ taxes, and naturally, these citizens want reassurance that they will get their money’s worth. In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), budget allocation is a matter given much serious consideration.

In the year 2011, the budget allotted to the DPWH amounted to Php 208 million. This year saw an increase of Php 3 million, bringing the total up to Php 211 million. The sum of money that the department receives yearly is based on a proposed amount from the central office of DPWH, but the amount given will not necessarily match the proposal. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether as much as is being asked is actually needed, based on the gravity and number of projects the department will undertake and the inflation of costs of raw materials and equipment.

How, then, is the money actually spent? For each project of the DPWH, a contractor must commit and sign an official contract before beginning actual road work. Contractors are not randomly chosen but enjoined in a bidding process for the project. The DPWH aims for the lowest price of labor and materials without sacrificing the quality (especially for safety and longevity) of road work. Once bidding is finished, the project is awarded to the winning contractor and the manual labor can begin. In sum, pre-construction activities take only one month.

For the year 2012, Engineer Gallato said, “We are allowed to conduct a pre-detailed engineering … as long [as] naidentified na ang project …. Last 2011 … I think that was October, we started the detailed engineering of this project, and … by the end of December, almost all our projects, natapos na ang bidding. Ready for implementation. Hintayin lang namin ‘yong pagdating ng pondo, ‘tsaka namin inaward dahil hindi kami pwede magaward ng project sa contractor kung wala pa ‘yong pondo.”

In the interest of the public who will use these roads, the payment for the contractor is withheld until the project is completely finished. However, if there is a lack of materials, the contractor may ask for partial payment in order to continue working without interruption. Complete materials and equipment of good quality are also important to road quality, hence the allowance of partial advance.

Another scenario in which the payment might be docked is if the team does not finish the job on time. Because of the urgency of their task, they may be asked for liquidated damages if they exceed the deadline agreed upon. The amount deducted depends on the contract. This is also the protocol for any other shows of poor performance. Contractors must rectify unsatisfactory jobs at their own expense.
Once the project is completely done, the contractor is asked to submit an accomplishment report to the Department of Budget Management for billing. This must include the statement for work and other supporting documents. Given that there are no discrepancies or any kind of problem with the paperwork, the full payment will be released 20 to 25 working days after submission. Savings from DPWH projects are utilized for the continuation of still ongoing projects or starting of new ones.

It is not commonly known that the DPWH-BCDEO is responsible only for national roads. Hence, not all road constructions going on in the city are under their command. Their efforts and funds are dedicated only to national roads. Any construction on roads besides national roads is the work of local government: the City Engineering Office (CEO). Both offices manage road construction, but because of the differentiation, the budget of the DPWH-BCDEO is separate from that of the CEO. Each agency also has its own set of officials and, depending on its scope, its own projects.