04/24/14

Closure To A Crisis

Almost four years have passed since the tragic events of August 23, 2010 at Quirino Grandstand. It was a hostage situation gone horribly wrong as it resulted in the death not only of the perpetrator/suspect, but also of 8 tourists who came from Hong Kong.

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Urban Roamer file photo, 2010

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Urban Roamer file photo, 2010

It was a case of crisis mismanagement on the part of various parties, from the police to the local executives then of Manila, (especially the then “yellow” mayor of the city) as well as the concerned officials on the national level. It marked a new low in Philippine-Hong Kong relations as it resulted in getting the Philippines placed under the Hong Kong travel blacklist as well as the suspension of the visa-free entry privileges of Philippine officials and diplomats.

Hong Kong long stressed that the key in resolving this issue is a formal apology from the Philippine government for the handling of the situation. It was something the national government insisted it would not do, which was a factor why PH-HK relations went sour for almost four years.

But then some changes happened during the time, most notably in 2013 when former president Joseph Estrada defeated the then-incumbent “yellow” mayor in a tough electoral contest. With Estrada now as Manila mayor, he wasted no time in trying to rebuild relations with Hong Kong as he made an apology on behalf of the city for what happened.

At the same time, some talks have been going on behind the scenes as well as national government officials headed by secretary to the cabinet Rene Almendras as well as the Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima.

The efforts finally paid off when it was announced on April 23, 2014 that Hong Kong and the Philippines finally agreed to resolve the long-standing issue as the victims’ families accepted the “profound regret and sympathy” expressed by the Philippine government as well as an undisclosed sum in compensation.

With the issue finally resolved in a positive and peaceful manner, we look forward that this would usher in a renewed strengthening of ties between Hong Kong and Manila, notwithstanding of course the present troubles we still have with China.

with reports from the South China Morning Post

04/21/14

Goodbye For Good, Pandacan Oil Depots?

While so much was going for the past few weeks or so, the Urban Roamer feels so ashamed to miss this news item that came out on April 3.  My apologies for the oversight.

Mayor Estrada with the letter to one of the oil companies asking them to move their oil depots out of Pandacan by 2016 (photo courtesy of GMA News)

That piece of news concerned about a new development in the continuing saga of the Pandacan Oil Depots as former president turned Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada issued an ultimatum to the 3 oil companies (namely Shell, Chevron, and Petron) who have operations in the district that they only have until January 31, 2016 to move out their operations there or else the city government will do the shutting down for them.

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04/21/14

After a Long Holiday Break…

The long Holy Week holiday is now over. It is now back to regular programming, so to speak, for many folks here.

This means back to seeing those crowded scenes, the heavy traffic along the roads, especially aggravated by delayed road work projects.

I hope the past Holy Week break made you appreciate how orderly and nice the city can be and we can only hope we do not see it just once a year.

Until then, as they say: just keep calm and carry on.

04/16/14

Roamer’s Roundup: Holy Week 2014 Edition

It is that time of the year once again as the Holy Week is being commemorated by Christians around the world, especially among the Christian faithful in the Philippines, to remember the events in the life of Jesus Christ from his triumphant entry to Jerusalem, celebrating the Last Supper, leading to his passion, death, and resurrection.

While the celebration of Holy Week came from the influence of Spanish Catholicism that was introduced in the country in the 16th century, it has certainly evolved over time as Filipinos, especially the Catholicized ones, not only embraced this celebration but also added their own flavor into it, so to speak. These traditions still remain strong today even in a place as urbanized as Manila, from the pabasas you hear being blared via loudspeakers to the men who cover themselves while beating or whipping themselves. Continue reading

04/14/14

Reminiscing Manila’s Magellan Monument

We all know of the (in)famous Lapu-Lapu monument found in the middle of Rizal Park’s Valencia Circle. Sure, there has been some controversy due to concerns of it overshadowing that other famous monument in the park we all know about, but there is no dispute that he deserves such an honor. After all, he is known as the first Filipino hero who managed to successfully thwart a foreign power’s first attempt to colonize us.

Lapu-Lapu monument in Rizal Park

On the other hand, and understandably, there is no monument in the city for Ferdinand Magellan, the antagonist in the story who tried to colonize us in the name of the Spanish crown but failed to do so and got killed in the process. While that historical tidbit should not be ignored, the aspect of Magellan the colonizer is the one Filipinos are more fixated upon while overlooking, if not ignoring, the aspect of Magellan as an explorer and navigator, the one who after all spearheaded the first successful trip around the world even if he did not live to complete it.

Ferdinand Magellan, or Fernando Magallanes as he is known in Spain

It is interesting to note though that a century ago, the situation was different in Manila. No Lapu-Lapu monument was seen (perhaps because the Spanish, then American colonial governments did not know about him yet) but instead the city boasted a grand monument dedicated to the Portuguese-born explorer. Its origins date back to 1848, when Spanish Governor General Narciso Claveria sought to have it built. It was originally to be erected in Cebu, but it was decided that such a prestigious monument should be erected in Manila instead.

the Magellan monument (courtesy of Nostalgia Filipinas)

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