Friday, 26 October 2012

COMMENTARY: Why we at MWBuzz feel good

Mayor Dong inspects the progress of a recent community cleanup job at Parang beach. - JPLGUpic

Picture of the beach which is just a stone’s throw away from the poblacion of Jose Panganiban, taken in April 2011. - MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ


THIS edition, which I label Year 2 Volume 1, marks the start of MWBuzz’s second year of journey across the cyberspace.

It has been a grueling one year for us here in the news tunnel that began in November 2011. 

When I say “us”, I am referring to myself, my buddy Percy A Ostonal of Michigan, USA, and Dr Emma P Valencia, MD, of Metro Manila, herself a writer-journalist who squeezes an occasional charity gig in her schedule diary in between writing and working.

Putting together twice a month an online news outlet that tries its best to focus on the affairs of Mambulao, aka Jose Panganiban, is no joke.

We know that we continue to miss out on more stories arising from Mambulao that are very important to our readers.

We regret to tell our esteemed readers, the netizens from Mambulao, that we’re truly handicapped but we’re doing our best. That’s one we can assure you of.

Of the many stories that MWBuzz reported in the past 24 editions covering 12 months that began in November 2011, two issues stood out: The appalling condition of pollution on the beach of Parang and the equally-disgusting gold mine tailing pollution that is now choking Mambulao Bay to death and the “scandal” that has tainted the name of Western Union, a global remittance company, in the eyes of many Mambulaoans because of the actions of its paying agents – LSP-LGU-SGV pawnshops.

Of course, I don’t want to grab the thunder from the baranggay road cementing project of Mayor Dong Padilla; this is one that has truly captivated the fancy of Mambulaoans who are overseas and those elsewhere in the Philippines. And we wrote about it – passionately at that -- with flourish.

One may ask why I am highlighting the Parang beach and the Western Union “scandal”.

These are two issues that put MWBuzz to the test: whether it can move heaven and earth to make people realize why they should do something about the filth that the Parang beach has been thrown into and whether the complaint of one Mambulaoan resident against one of Western Union’s erring paying agents would find a happy resolution (for the aggrieved party) – via MWBuzz.

In both instances, MWBuzz succeeded in doing so – and with flying colors.

The beach in April 2011. - MWBuzzpic

The beach recently with Mayor Dong pausing to appraise the extent of cleanup. Notice the three cell phone sites in the background -  JPLGUpic 
MWBuzz first posted the pictures of the filthy beach of Parang in its first edition, at the same time accusing the municipal government of Mayor Ricarte Padilla of turning a blind eye on the dying beach resource.

I have one valid reason: When I walked this beach in 2007, it was as good as it was when I was a kid in the 50s swimming its waters while snatching “galunggong” and “sapsap” from the “banyeras” and “tiklis” that were being unloaded from the many “basnigs” that called on our beach every morning of that summer.

Padilla became mayor in July 2010 and I came back to Parang for a holiday in April of 2011, only to see a thick carpet of rubbish – all sorts of rubbish – along the 1.5km stretch of the beach.

The first question I asked: Is there a government here supposed to take care of this beach?

The first reaction I had was to come back early next morning (our ancestral house is just about 700 meters from the beach) to the beach, armed with a camera and a resolve to post these nightmarish pictures on the internet for all Mambulaoans who would care to send in their input on how the dying beach could be saved.

Back in Metro Manila after a few days’ sojourn in Parang, I launched a crusade to save Mambulao Bay and Parang beach from rubbish pollution through the Facebook. 

On my personal/group account “Taga Jose Panganiban Ka Ba?” which I registered in May 2011, I posted all the pictures I took of the beach, appropriately captioned, showing my disgust.

I also opened an account with Flickr and posted the same pictures.

After seven months of hammering on the Parang beach issue on Facebook, nothing happened so far.

The volume of rubbish that carpeted Parang beach seemed to have doubled.
When I had the chance to launch Mambulaoans Worldwide Buzz or simply WWBuzz in November 2011, I took it an opportunity to push my beach crusade/campaign further. 
Once again, I posted those pictures that I took in April on MWBuzz, where it ran with an article ventilating my frustrations.

Last April, when I came back to Parang for my annual holiday and at the same time to attend the alumni homecoming of JPNHS, I once again took pictures of the beach. 

Things had not changed for the better, to my sheer dismay. The rubbish was still there and much thicker this time, sitting side by side with human excreta dotting the sand.

And I had an opportune day for an audience with Mayor Dong, whom I was seeing for the first time in flesh and blood. 
I immediately brought up the issue.

The mayor was peeved – annoyed, irritated, pissed off and the like adjectives listed on my cyber dictionary – to hear about the dirty beach from someone he never knew from Adam. 

He told me, as he looked straight in my eyes: “Mr Hernandez, alam mo ba ang tunay na estorya ng basura diyan sa Parang beach? Walang nakakalam niyan … o kaya ay iilan lang …”

So what’s your story? I asked him.

And he spewed out this litany: “Alam ninyo, hindi lang naman galing sa Parang ang mga basurang nakalatag diyan sa baybayin … malaki rin ang kinalalaman ng mga baranggay along the coasts – from Larap, Pag-Asa, Sta Milagrosa, Calero, Osmena, Bagong-bayan, Poblacion, Plaridel, pakatan community and many more …”

“Pag-high tide, kakabigin ng tubig-dagat ang mga basurang itinapon ng mga taga-baranggay na ‘yan – patungo sa Parang beach.

“Pag-hibas ng tubig, maiiwan po ang mga basurang iyan doon mismo sa baybayin ng Parang.

“Pagbalik uli ng high tide sa gabi, the same process of collecting the waste materials from these coastal baranggays will take place … all ending up at Parang beach.

“Madalas, ang mga nasa tabing dagat at talagang ibinabaon na ang mga basurang iyan para lang wag na nilang makita.

“Pero, itong tubig naman paghigh tide sa gabi, eh hahalukayin hanggang lumitaw… kaya paggising mo sa umaga andoon na naman ang mga basura….”

“Kaya nga nang pumunta ako sa mga baranggay … sinabi ko na huwag po tayong magtatapon ng basura sa likod ng ating mga kabahayan dahil ang likod for natin ay tubig na … kung pwede lang po ay ilagay natin sa isang sisidlan at itapon sa isang tamang lugar, pero wag po lamang sa tubig-dagat …”

I also talked to some Parang beach squatter residents about the rubbish.

Said one: Kami naman po ay naglilinis din ng aming paligid lalo na po yong likod namin na tabing-dagat… ang problema po ay darating po ang ta-ib sa gabi… paghibas po sa umaga, maiiwan po ang mga duming dala nito galing ibang baranggay – sa Larap, Calero, Bunog, Osmena …”

“Kaya mapapansin po ninyo sa umaga ang linya o guhit ho ng basura sa buhangin na magkakapatong pagkatapos pong iwanan ito ng high tide …”

In his remarks at the alumni homecoming, Mayor Dong made a hit-and –run by accusing some groups of making a show of the beach cleanup that took place prior to the homecoming: 

“Those beach cleanups are just palliatives … just for a show … dahil pagbitaw nila sa tabing-dagat, sino ang magpapatuloy? Kaya nga ang madalas kung sabihin sa mga baranggay na dapat sa inyo mismo manggaling ang initiative to clean Parang beach with the involvement of the people, because it is more practical, realistic and sustainable.”

The succeeding editions of MWBuzz dramatized the situation along the beach and its waters that have been marred by mud and silt from gold mining operations along the coastline. 

Turning murky and brownish/reddish, the shoreline waters have become a no-no for swimmers.

THEN VERY recently, Mayor Dong was snapped in a picture where he was on the beach of Parang, marching like a soldier and later, pausing to assess the progress of the cleanup that the JPLGU and the community carried out over a period of time.

Seeing Mayor Dong walking along a clean beach – the beach of Parang – I was heartened, I felt elated, and nearly proud that MWBuzz has done its share of ridding the beach of almost 95% of the rubbish.

I hope, the community – with occasional needling from Mayor Dong -- could continue protecting this important natural resource as this is the only one we can have in Parang. 

THE Western Union saga took 11 months to get resolved.
And obviously, it had become so frustrating for the parties involved after a few months of trying to find the right parties who could help bring justice to the aggrieved individual – Evangeline B Demasayao, who lost P882.37 to one Western Union paying agent who took the liberty of making an unauthorized extra charge on the Christmas remittance she received from her husband in Canada.

Demasayao went to the municipio and lodged her complaint against LSP/LSG pawnshops – the remittance paying agents of Western Union – in one of its offices that she felt could help. There was neither response now action -- to say the least – to her complaint.

The complaint was posted on Facebook, where I chanced on it. It called all Mambulaoans to avoid the two pawnshops. And the reactions from cyberMambulaoans ranged from being weird to sensible. 

But the most that was said was that “just avoid claming your money from these two pawnshops”, because involving the municipal government to resolve the issue could be a “political suicide” 


MWBuzz picked up the controversy last August and called the attention of some contacts at Western Union’s international operations in Kuala Lumpur.

Immediately, I was referred to the head of operations for South and East Asia covering the Philippines, which launched in no time a probe on Susan Galleta, the owner/operators of three pawnshops accused of so-called “malpractice” that put the name of Western Union in great jeopardy.

Roy Fernandez, director for operations, South and East Asia, told MWBuzz in an email a few days ago: “Our investigation concluded that the operator of the paying agent made an error during the transaction process, as a result of which Demasayao was paid out less than she was expecting (paid out peso 20,294 instead of peso 21,186.37).”

 “We regret this error and our paying agent (Galleta) wishes to rectify this matter immediately.

 “Western Union takes every consumer complaint seriously and would like to thank you for bringing critical issues to our attention so that we continue to better our services,” Fernandez told MWBuzz.

The case is now history.

Western Union said the paying agent will return the money amounting to P892.37 to Dimasayao, which she wants to offer to the local church.

SO TO all cyberMambulaoans who had visited our site at the rate of more than 7,000 times a month (or an average of 230 a day) since September, a BIG THANK YOU!

We will continue to strive bringing you relevant stories from our beloved community Mambulao.
The task is daunting, but it’s doable.

When you’re feeling blue, homesick and clueless, all we ask of you is click on our alternate website 

We may have something to light up your day.

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