More evidence that “AlDub” is making waves internationally — the venerable BBC has just published a lengthy article entitled: ‘AlDub’: A social media phenomenon about love and lip-synching

Here’s what it says:

It is a surreal and wildly popular show which has smashed global social media records. But few outside the Philippines have even heard of the phenomenon called AlDub.

What follows is everything you need to know about lip-synching, being in love with somebody you have never met and how to break records on Twitter.

What or who is ‘AlDub’?

For several months, viewers across the Philippines have been tuning in to watch ‘Eat Bulaga!‘, a popular afternoon variety show, which features a skit with a pair of lovers who have never met in the flesh.

On the show, their romance is conducted via a split screen and as it developed, obstacles after obstacle cropped up to prevent the onscreen duo from meeting.

‘AlDub’ is a play on the first names of Filipino actors Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza (who plays the character Yaya Dub on the show), both stars with huge followings on social media.

Read the rest at BBC.


Warriors of Samar is also available via Amazon at this link — but as with Daughters of Samar, we decided to make it available to read online so if you go to Warriors of Samar, you can read it there. It’s the story of the Balangiga Encounter, told exactly as it happened,  and it attempts to portray both perspecti ves, American and Samareno, as honestly and fairly as possible.   It’s not too long — only about 120 pages. You can also learn more about the Balangiga Encounter if you read this post — The Balangiga Massacre, 114 Years Ago Today — and finally a highly recommended source for a fair, in-depth analysis is Bob Couttie’s book Hang the Dogs.

From the Author



The Story

American Prologue: The News

Philippine Prologue: The Letter

The Americans Arrive



Bumpus and Betron

Lukban and Daza

The Samarenos Prepare

Eve of the Attack

The Attack

The Counterattack




The Bells


Well, while we’re on the topic of AlDub and Filipino pop culture. . . as a foreigner with a longtime relationship with the Philippines,  I still struggle a bit keeping up what’s going on in Manila,  and so just as I was getting comfortable with Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards  and all that’s going on with them —  my wife Rena came along and told me that people are talking about Pastillas Girl too as a a dubsmash rival to Maine.  So I did some googling and checked it out.  This motivates me to talk about something I’ve been thinking about as I watched Maine’s videos — her film-making skill and technique.

First of all — take a look at the matchup below, then scroll down and I’ll have some comments about it:

Now . . . Pastillas girl is fine. He dubsmash technique is good; her lipsynch is fine. And I realize this is only one example — so maybe she has others that are more expressive, more impactful.

But basing it just on this sample — why is it that Maine is so much more “alive” and you can “feel it” with her?

Yes, Maine’s face is more expressive. But look a little deeper. See how she practically dances with the camera. All the little (and not so little) camera movements are timed with what she’s saying so that they act like punctuation marks, bold letters, italics — they give emphasis and shape to what she’s doing. It’s not just the movements. Look also at the choice of angles — she’s constantly searching for the right angle for the camera and has a great feel for what conveys the feeling she’s trying to convey. And finally the background — there’s a reasons she does a lot of them in a moving car, or otherwise in motion.

So Maine has four things going: 1. More expressive, 2. Camera moves, 3. Camera angles, and 4. Lively, kinetic background.

Having said that — Pastillas Girl is great and a welcome addition.  There’s room for more than one!

But Maine’s the master…..

Just sayin’……


Here is the next installment of Frank Kresen’s biography of John Stewart.

John Stewart 4th Installment Ch 1

and previous installments if you missed them:

Prelude: Flashback and Foreshadow
Introduction: “On Becoming a Household Name” — or, “One Amp Short”
Johnny They Hardly Knew Ye by Frank Kresen


Frank Kresen and I share a deep, lifetime affection for unique songwriter John Stewart, who died six years ago on January 19, 2006. Frank is writing a book about John, and we will be publishing it here in installments.  This is the third installment – enjoy!  You can click on it and read it online, or right click (control click on a Mac) and download it.  Many thanks to Frank Kresen for sharing this with all of us.


Prelude: Flashback and Foreshadow

Introduction: “On Becoming a Household Name” — or, “One Amp Short”

Johnny They Hardly Knew Ye by Frank Kresen


Frank Kresen and I share a deep, lifetime affection for unique songwriter John Stewart, who died six years ago on January 19, 2006. Frank is writing a book about John, and we will be publishing it here in installments.  This is the second installment – enjoy!  You can click on it and read it online, or right click (control click on a Mac) and download it.  Many thanks to Frank Kresen for sharing this with all of us.

Introduction: “On Becoming a Household Name” — or, “One Amp Short”

If you missed part one of this bio  here is the link to Part One

Johnny They Hardly Knew Ye by Frank Kresen


Three months after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, the destruction and relief struggles are no longer dominating headlines — but a filmmaker from Hawai’i is hoping to change that. “Bayanihan: The Spirit of Community” is a documentary film by Antony Begonia which is composed primarily of footage shot by the filmmaker when he went to the Philippines in the immediate period after the typhoon struck.

“The world needs to see what happened and the world needs to know they can still support what’s going on,” said Anthony Begonia, documentary producer of “Bayanihan: The Spirit Of Community”.Without any order or communication, many people were unable to verify the safety of their families and loved ones after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Two cadets, from The Salvation Army College for Officers Training in the Philippines, embark on a journey to the far corners of the country in hopes of locating missing family members

Here is the 26 minute documentary:


Frank Kresen and I share a deep, lifetime affection for unique songwriter John Stewart, who died six years ago on January 19, 2006.  I have written about John Stewart here, and I’m pasting in a link below to a post I wrote two years ago.  But the real treat in this post is the PDF Preface  — Johnny They Hardly Knew Ye — by Frank Kresen.  Here it is.  Frank is writing a book about John, and we will be publishing it here in installments.  This is the first installment – enjoy!  You can click on it and read it online, or right click (control click on a Mac) and download it.  Many thanks to Frank Kresen for sharing this with all of us.

For those who know nothing about John, start with the realization the Rolling Stone named him one of the 100 most influential songwriters of the modern era.  He was a member of the Kingston Trio before going single, and wrote Daydream Believer, which is a nice song but not representative of who he became. His most famous songs are California Bloodlines, July You’re a Woman, Kansas, Survivors, Mother Country, Big Horse, Eighteen Wheels — I could go on, but those are the first ones that come to mind.

Without further ado, here is the Preface to Frank’s book.  Try reading it with some of John’s music playing int he background.  Theoretically you can open it and read it online, or left click and download it, or left click and choose “Open in New Tab”.

Preface: Johnny They Hardly Knew Ye

My article remembering John:

Remembering John Stewart, a Visionary Songwriter, A Great American, and a Good, Good Man

And some YouTube Videos of some of his best songs (and there were many) — just go to Youtube and google “John Stewart”.


January 15, 2014 was the first day back to school at Divine Child Academy in Lawaan, Eastern Samar, Philippines. That is — the first day back after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ripped through Lawaan and the other nine “ground zero” municipalities of Eastern Samar that were the first ones to bear the brunt of the typhoon. Some of the looks on the kids’ faces brought tears to my eyes. It’s great to see them back in school again, and so obviously happy to be there. Our niece Anna Marie Llevado goes to DCA and is in some of the pictures…..  It’s a big step toward a return to normalcy, but just a step. Thousands in Lawaan are still living in temporary shelters, without means of livelihood — no boats, no coconut trees. But school’s open and that’s a good thing!

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And here are a couple of pics from the Divine Child Academy Facebook Page. The school was created in 1962 by Father Dionisio Chinel, the first Parish Priest after government officials from the newly formed municipality (it had previously been a barangay of Balangiga) suggested it, and Father Chinel petitioned the Diocese of Calbayog for a permit to open a high school in the town. That high school is now Divine Child Academy.

DCA Cover Photo DCA Majorettes



And while we’re taking a little visit to Lawaan — check out this music video of “Destiny’s Ticket”, the official song of Binibining Lawaan written by Fr. Neil Tenefrancia and Norberto Gacho of Lawaan, and performed by Liezl Elipe, also of Lawaan. The song for me evokes just the sweetest sense of innocence and longing ….. and of course now, after Yolanda, it evokes a lot more . . .



One of  the most fundamental tenets of rehabilitation after disasters is “Build back better” — yet in the Philippines, due to a massive funding shortfall in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), the opposite is happening, with Filipinos sifting through rubble for corrugated sheets and nails and other damaged materials as they try to patch together makeshift shelters.

“Building back better means people are less vulnerable than before the typhoon. But with a lack of funding, people are going to be more vulnerable than before. This would mean that in a year or two we may be back here doing this again,” said Timo Luege, spokesman for the group coordinating international aid agencies’ work on shelter under the U.N.’s “cluster” system

Luege said people are finding alternative ways to repair their homes instead of waiting for help from relief organizations. Aid workers say that in a country hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year, it is essential that buildings are constructed using the right materials and in the right way.

Read more from Thompson Reuter.


Can these numbers be real?  They don’t seem right.   If this is true it’s very, very disturbing.

Rappler and other outlets are reporting that two months after Typhoon Yolanda (International Name Haiyan) ripped through the PHilippines, international promises of aid are failing to materialize, with only 21% of the cash that was promised actually reaching the Philippines. This is a pattern that mimics what happened in Haiti, where years after the earthquake, only a little more than 50% of the pledged cash has been received.

The Philippines’ Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAITH) says the international community pledged P2.8 billion ($63.418 million) in cash and P20.998 billion ($475.56 million) in non-cash items. Of the cash pledges, the country has received P592.58 million ($12.337 million). That’s only 21.16% of the money vowed by the rest of the world.

Folks, think about those numbers. Only $12M in cash has been received. That’s about 1/10 of what it takes to make one studio movie.

“What we heard them say at the height of the Yolanda relief operations versus what you see them now delivering by way of cash, there’s a big disparity,” Budget Secretary Butch Abad said.

Very upsetting stuff, but can’t say I’m surprised.

Read more at Rappler.


This was online many years ago, but seemed to have disappeared — and now History Channel has put it back up. It’s a great thirty minute overview of the Philippine American War. Highly recommended.


UPDATE: DIOCESE OF BORONGAN & LAWAAN & nearby Parishes From Fr. Neil Gavan Tenefrancia

LAWAAN: For installation at Lawaan Parish Rectory: ONE SET of ICOM RADIO TRANSCEIVER to facilitate communication along the “appendix” towns. (this includes Balangiga) Donation from the Mary Help of Christians National Shrine in Paranaque City through Fr. Chito Dimaranan.

DIOCESE OF BORONGAN: Thanks to “Don Bosco Mondo” for donating a LARGE MOTOR BOAT to the Diocese of Borongan. It will be used, initially, for transport of relief/rehab materials along the Guiuan coastal & island communities. Later on, it will be turned over to a fishermen cooperative to provide livelihood.

LAWAAN, BALANGIGA and Nearby Parishes: Relief packs distributed this afternoon in Lawaan & neigboring parishes by ‘Rosary Crusade Since1980-Germany’. Big thanks.

EASTERN SAMAR: Ordered almost 100k pesos worth of medical supplies and essential medicines to be part of the load that will be brought to Eastern Samar early next week. Here’s hoping I can get a truck soon to bring them on schedule to where they are needed. – from Fr. Chito Dimaranan


Nanie Vallejera Ragay  is a DILG Governance Broker in Palo, Leyte, just south of Tacloban. Palo was one of the hardest hit towns, and like elsewhere in Eastern Visayas, life after Yolanda is … well, a little different than it was before.  Nanie decided that after a month of sampling the different brands of sardines, it was time to celebrate the post-Yolanda food fad …. Mabuhay ang pagkaing sardinas!

by Nanie Vallejera Ragay

Screen Shot 2013-12-23 at 8.45.00 AMI am no Doreen Fernandez but with sardines being the hottest food fad in town, I will attempt to present an objective and honest narrative description of these canned delicacies that have served as the main cuisine in each dining table (well, at least for us) these past few weeks after Yolanda.

555 – the fish in this brand is full of scales that stick to your teeth and gums upon eating

Hakone – good fish quality, good sauce too.

Golden Cup – the fish is a bit ok but the sauce is too diluted and pale

Swan – the fish is ok too and the sauce is muggy or thick in consistency but falls a bit inferior to Hakone

King Cup – the manufacturers use tamban fish and therefore, very scaly and malangsa but can be removed by putting in at least three big onions upon sautéing.

Mega – not so appealing to the taste buds and there is fewer volume of fish copared to other brands.

Ligo – this is the most challenging brand ever. No matter what condiments or spices you put, the fishy smell is still there. Seems no culinary trick can ever fix this stuff. Perhaps Marcy Ramos has a secret trick, who knows?

Youngstown – there is something in the way the fish are processed that characterizes this brand. Why, the bones of the fish are still hard that they prick your gums and throat. In the dialect, nakaka bukog.

People are absenting themselves from their jobs and spending long hours falling in line, rain or shine, just to get their packs with these canned delicacies. Pinagpipilahan to, so who would say they don’t taste great?

Mabuhay ang pagkaing sardinas!


And here, just for fun, are some sardines commercials from the Philippines


This was spotted by TV Patrol in Tacloban — a huge Christmas Parol among the ruins.


Twenty-five years ago I was a young officer at the US Embassy in Manila, and in my “spare time”  I produced records in Manila with some really great artists as a kind of hobby and what I hoped would be a bridge to a different future.  My first project was an album by Odette Quesada — and the second project was an album by Freddie Aguilar, called “Heart of Asia” in which I wrote English adaptations of some of Freddie’s songs and we recorded them in English.  Those were wonderful days, and whatever deeper connection I have to the Philippines can probably be traced to my connection in those days to the music — not just Freddie and Odette, but Bodjie Dasig, Louie Ocampo, Jo Mari Chan, and others.  In fact Jo Mari was kind of an inspiration to me as a businessman/musician — it made my moonlighting as an Embassy officer by day, record producer by night seem to make at least a little bit of sense.

A Tribute to Overseas Filipinos

On that album I did with Freddie, one of the songs that completely captured my imagination was, in English, called “Home” — and was from the point of view of an Overseas Filipino Worker as he comes home after many years abroad — not just for a visit, but forever.  This was it — he was coming home for good.  And the song was about what was going on in his head as the plane approaches Manila.

When we recorded it in the studio, Freddie had trouble getting through the chorus — he would get choked up, and so would I, and so we recorded the chorus line by line.  Even now, just writing the words to the chorus causes me to get ridiculously teary eyed.  To me the Filipino OFWs were heros then — and the idea of getting inside the head and heart of an OFW coming home after many years abroad — home to stay, home forever — was very powerful.  The chorus:

He’s going home today, home to stay
Home to build his dreams.
He’s going home to where the land is always green
He’s going home to where his family waits
Back home to all his friends
He’s going home and he will never leave again . . . .

Now … I’m not an OFW, or even a Filipino, but my wife is an “abroad”, and by marriage I suppose I am — so I’m at least an “OFW-in-law” of “abroad-in-law” or somehow part of that community.. . . . and this entire experience of trying to regroup after typhoon Yolanda has made very proud to be even an “in-law” member of that community, and here’s why.  Never in my life have I seen anything remotely approaching the way the Filipino abroad community (including those in Manila, who are “abroad” from Visayas) have rallied to help their brothers and sisters in Visayas.  I have been watching, somewhat awe-struck, and truly moved to be able to pitch in and try to help the process.  But I have also wondered — how unique is this?  Did anything like this happen after, for example, the tsunami in 2004?

I found a lengthy, comprehensive Brookings Institute Report on the Tsunami response in 2004 and there is no mention of the “abroad” community playing a major role. Now, I realize it’s possible that they just missed this — but I don’t see how anyone could write a report like that on Yolanda/Haiyan and ignore the incredible contribution of fellow Filipinos.

As I was in this state of mind, I came across this on the  Maalaala Mo Kaya Facebook page:

filipinos abroad


Translated, it says:


The final decision for
The future for families
In pain
But we do not give up because of god
We draw strength

 And aside from the graphic, it says:

I salute those who are willing to sacrifice for his family. No personal happiness regardless sometimes just give families a better future.

OFWs wherever corner of the world, live please you! God bless ..

Me too.

OFW’s and Filipinos abroad are always heros to their families — but Yolanda has taken it to another level. And it’s a blessing, really, that there is this amazing Fililpino diaspora that means that in every municipality, even every barangay — there are overseas brothers and sisters who are able to step up and help in this time of need.  Other countries don’t have that — at least not to the extent the Philippines does.  It’s as if there is a shadow population of each barangay made up of the members of the barangay who are abroad, and who are now in a position to help not just their own family, but the other families as well.

So I salute you buys.

Is there a different from an “OFW” and an “Abroad” ?  You are rockstars and yes, I think that in some very meaningful way, the future of the Visayas is in your hands.  You are making an incredible difference every day ……


Your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, and nieces and nephews all need you.

And you’re getting it done.



by World Vision Philippines

The Philippines has the longest Christmas celebration in the world. As early as September 1, you can hear Christmas songs over the radio. People start to put decorations in their houses, commercial and business establishments.  Everyone looks forward to the holiday, but children are the most excited.

In the communities where typhoon Haiyan caused death, destruction and despair, it’s almost impossible to see and feel the significance of the season. Yet these people remained resolute that amidst the rubble, Christmas hasn’t lost its real essence. On the contrary, it becomes more meaningful.

Join us in making Christmas memorable for children, families, and communities in the Philippines.
by Leoniza O. Morales, World Vision Philippines
Photos by Chris Lete & Eugene Combo / World Vision ©2013


Christmas Among The Rubble by World Vision Philippines


Normally when hired to make a promotional video for a Hollywood feature film, you focus on promoting the film. Instead, filmmaker Casey Neistat spent the entire $25,000 budget he was given to promote “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” to fly to the Philippines and help the victims of the recent typhoon which devastated the region. Renting two buses filled with supplies, Neistat ended up delivering 10,000 meals, tools to 35 villages, and basic medicine to local organizations.

The New York based filmmaker is the writer, director, editor and star of the HBO series “The Neistat Brothers” and has released dozens of short movies on his YouTube account.

Watch Neistat’s video documenting the relief effort below.  And scroll down for his description of the whole process.

(And thanks to John N Nida Dalldorf and Jacob Mosler for the tip on this one….)

About the Video — by Casey Neilstat (from YouTube “About”)

no crew traveled with us, it was just Oscar and me. we filmed this ourselves, with a tripod, using my personal cameras.

the whole story; i often get solicitations for work, all kinds of companies, people, organizations etc asking if i would be interested in making a video for them. i was really concerned after the typhoon, as anyone with a heartbeat was. left with the frustration and guilt i often feel when i learn of other people suffering, a guilt for not being able to help more. i had made donations but it’s hard to see or feel the effects of ones contributions. a few days later i was contacted by 20th Century Fox, they wanted to know if i could make a promotional film to get the word out about Ben Stiller’s great new movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Mitty is a movie about chasing a dream and they wanted me to make a movie about chasing a dream. I am a big dreamer but at that time only one thing came to mind; if i could do anything in the world right now what would it be? that’s to help the victims of the typhoon. i, someone crassly, replied to 20th Century Fox that the only movie i wanted to make is one where i give away the budget to those in need. i still don’t understand how or why but they agreed. i jumped on a plane with my best friend and fellow adventurer Oscar and we flew to Manila. there was little time to think or plan before we left, actually we did zero planning before we left. my original thought was that we’d connect with an NGO already in place, a non-profit that’s already doing a lot of good, and i’d simply hand them a check. but that turned out complicated and it sort of felt like the non-profits we contacted did not want to link up with us. so on a whim we decided to launch our very own relief mission. it was complicated and at first improbable but with the help of an extremely loving group of locals, all who were total strangers, we were able to stretch the production budget really far. beyond the food distributed in the video we also worked with a local nurse and purchased a lot of medicine and medical supplies, as well as providing tools to village leaders to be shared within the village and aid in the rebuilding process.

never have i met such people with the resilience of these typhoon victims. there was one thing that stuck out, one big huge tiny thing, that was; of everyone we were face to face with, thousands of people, not once, at anytime for any reason did anyone complain. no one. their focus was on rebuilding and healing, not sympathy.

big thank you to Fox and Ben Stiller for not freaking the fuck out when they saw what i did with their money.

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Following is an update as of December 14, 2013 on the Maslog Relief project being spearheaded by native daughter Josie Advincula Desmond and her husband Tim Desmond, and Ocean Adventure Marine Park of Subic Bay Freeport.    I want to put the report’s summary right up front: “We have raised and spent over $40,000 to date and probably another $30,000 in donated goods.  I want to thank each and every one of your for your help.  Our actions to date have had a huge impact on the welfare of @2500 people.  If we hadn’t acted they would be in much worse shape.  They still need our help.   If you can find it in your hearts, help us keep this going.  Again we are a private relief group focused around a particular community and extended family.  No tax break and we are doing this using an extended family and close friends to deliver and control the process.  We’d like to give these people something to look forward to for Christmas.  We’d appreciate if you help us do that. Tim Desmond”


Josie Advincula Desmond – Ocean Adventure Maslog Relief Project Update as of 14 December

Reported by Tim Desmond

I just returned from Maslog yesterday.  We delivered the 10 tons of supplies to Maslog successfully on Wednesday.

Earlier in the week we had loaded three vans with a 10-ton payload.  Aside from food, clothes, and medicine, we sent Chain saws, tarps, nails, tools, two life rafts/ emergency shelters,  two generators and a hollow block making machine.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.12.00 PM

Due to the large amount of goods,  we rented a enclosed van that could carry 7.5 tons of payload.  After we loaded it to the maximum allowable, we filled the FB300 van and still had almost a ton of water and sodas and water purification equipment.  Luckily, we had our PNP neighbors who would be traveling to Samar about the same time escorting another relief mission and they agreed to take our last ton of supplies if we split the load with them.  So half that load went to Maslog and half to Borongon

The convoy left on Satuday afternoon. After some flat tire trouble in Quezon province which cost them a day to repair,  they made it to the Matnog ferry about midnight Monday night.  They crossed to Samar and then slept until morning. Late morning Tuesday they proceeded to Paranas where they rested briefly and then proceeded to Maslog.

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Loading the trucks at Ocean Adventure         .

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FB 300 Van ready to roll                                .

 Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.06.21 PM

7.5 Ton Payload

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.06.29 PM                               .

PNP assistance taking 1 ton of water and water purification gear.

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Tacloban Airport Departure Area with the walls blown out by the storm surge.                     .

Wilson and I flew in Wednesday morning after staying the night near the airport when our flight to Tacloban was cancelled.  The airport itself was in tatters.   There was no power, no water, the roof was unable to hold out the rain.  The chair in the waiting room were those that had been torn from the brackets and were just sitting on the floor at a wacky slope

Transportation systems are coming back on line and we caught a fast van that took us through Tacloban, across the San Juanico Bridge and down the coast of Samar and Eastern Samar to Maslog

The drive was a sobering and absolutely unforgettable experience.  The scale of the destruction is something I have never experienced.  I am very familiar with Tacloban.  However, for most of the drive through town I couldn’t place where I was.  As the news reports have shown, the area around the airport was totally devastated. What the TV image can’t show is the scale of the destruction.

Relief agencies have been active in the area and tent cities cover the areas that have been bulldozed free of debris.  Aside from the tents, little sari-sari stores made from collections of usable of debris are popping up.  Life is going on although with great difficulty. It is nowhere near normal even in the heart of Tacloban.  The only electricity being provided is for the street lights of Tacloban proper.  All the businesses operate on generator power.  Below is a shot of the immediate area outside the airport.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.06.46 PM

After passing over the bridge we drove through Basey where so many died in a flat lowland area.  Most of the houses in this area   were simply erased when the 20 foot wall swept through the area.  There were scattered new houses made of pieces of destroyed houses and tarps. Two or three families would be jammed inside these spaces.  There is no power anywhere in Samar or Eastern Samar that we saw.  When we got our generator up and running it was a huge hit.  There is limited fresh water in the big towns and most small towns. Luckily Maslog has a good deep well that provides adequate water for the town.

The farther we traveled into Eastern Samar the worse the wind damage became.  I saw towns that I had passed many times before.  Prior to Yolanda, I would just get a glimpse of them as I sped past in a van.  This time I could see each town long before we arrived because all of the coconut trees that hid them were gone. They seemed naked almost   We passed through miles and miles of total destruction.  It was quite depressing because it made me feel that our effort was so paltry.   I had to remind myself,  looking  at the vast scene,  that we need to “think global and act local” in situations like this.   Then I noticed all the people trying so hard to put their lives back together.  That brought me around.

When we arrived in Maslog, things were no different.  Destruction everywhere, but people were busy rebuilding with whatever was at hand.  The biggest problem was that the entire town is clogged with debris.  When we pulled into the town, the streets were in fact clear and the habitable houses had been cleared around them just enough to function.  Everything else was just a trash heap. The areas that we wanted to use had to be cleared of a huge amount of debris just to gain access to the site.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.06.55 PM

When we started working,  people came out of nowhere to help us with the scut work.  After clearing debris around the skeleton of a house we set up a shed using the old slab, columns and beams of a destroyed house, bamboo poles and tarps.   Luckily, there was a low hollow block wall that  kept the mud and debris from infiltrating into the shed.  Only half the shed had a concrete slab so we covered with entire floor with pallets made of coco lumber cut with the saws we provided.   In the end, we were one of the few “houses” that was substantially dry.   Inside Jo’s grandmother’s house, which is tilting crazily, only about 25% of the space is really dry.  The rest is covered with tarps.  It is the start of the rainy season and it is raining about half the time. It is really miserable inside these homes as they scurry around trying to put away things that were in use away when it started to rain.

Once the area was cleared and the “house” was up,  we cleared a space beside the house to place the generator that would provide light to the area.  Then, It was time to unload the truck. It was hard work but pretty fun as well.  The mood was like a party.  Somebody had some music going. Lot’s of laughing.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 5.07.03 PM

After unloading the truck, Wilson and his team began to set up the generator and string out the lights  for the immediate area surrounding our relief station.   We  took a walk around the area while  they were working.  The following are a few shots of the area.   Below, the surge blewout a second story walls on this house.

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Above, Jo and her mom take in the new “open air” motif  of mom’s house courtesy of Yolanda.  Below Leo, a master woodsman and furniture maker who worked for us before ( he made my  dining room table)  cuts “1×2” nailers from coco lumber with one of our chain saws.  The other saw was already in the field planking lumber for his and other homes.  A beautiful, handmade two-story home stood on that site before.  It was wiped clean by the surge.

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Below is the kitchen used by Jo’s mom and sister.  Her sister’s house, which was located behind her mother’s was lightweight wood and was erased.

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One of our strategies to help rebuild over the long term is to establish a hollow block factory operated by local villagers (livelihood) and sold to contractors rebuilding the more substantial homes in the area.  The revenue earned will be used to fund construction materials for rebuilding the homes (in concrete) of many of Jo’s relatives and others who can not afford a hollow block home.  Wilson has placed the hollow block maker and its foundation is poured.  It will to set for a couple of weeks before operations begin. He already has interested customers.  He will place our skilled hollow block maker in Maslog for a couple of weeks to train locals to operate the factory.

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We returned before dark and set up the camp.  We cleared an area and inflated the two liferafts which were immediately used to get the remaining supplies out of the rain that couldn’t fit in the supply shed.  We also moved all the personal gear for Jo, Wilson and my self out of her grandmother’s house and into the tents.  The little red light above is the generator at work on its first night.  The tents and the light made our site a huge attraction after dark. It was quite amusing.  Other than our team, a large number of people gathered just at the edge of the light.  After a while the kids started walking through the lighted area to take a peek at our stuff and the tents.  It was a little like people cruising a popular street market. Fun to watch.  Intense curiosity mixed with a “we’re cool” posture.

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I got up at 2 a.m. and headed back to Tacloban.  I did not see one light as I passed through two provinces.  We had an  exciting moment when our accelerator cable broke in the middle of nowhere at about 4 am in Eastern Samar, we flagged down the first vehicle and it turned out to be a van for hire on its way to manila with two seats available.  We got a ride to the airport for p1000. Lucky us.  This last shot is of the check-in counter for Philippine airlines in Tacloban

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What Now?

After this visit it became clear that we need to continue the food aid.  There is only one shipment a week arriving in Lawaan from a local source who is passing along Caritas Aid sacks. Quite clearly, there is a heavy “friction” cost from local politicians, when it comes to passing along aid from relief agencies.  As we suspected Maslog is far down the food chain.  Some tents and tarp materials have arrived in sufficient quantities to eliminate the need for us to provide more.    The nails and hand tools are in great demand.  Fuel to power the generators and provide light at night is a must.  Power will not be restored for some time and when it is, only the basic main power will be restored. The neighborhood needs to be completely rewired for power. It will be several months before the generator will not be needed anymore for lighting.  That means we need fuel  for lighting for 6 hours a night.  The big generator will use about 2.5 liters of fuel per night.  The little one is half that.  The vehicles will be making runs to collect materials and fuel.  Fuel will be the major operating cost.

There is better news on the transportation front. With our  vehicles in place in Maslog now.  We don’t need to send large trucks any more.  We can send food and supplies as cargo on commercial buses and we can pick it up at the bus stop with our van. Things like rice, other foods and nails can be sent in this way.

Security is much improved.  There is no further need to provide security on the roads because we won’t send trucks.  We just need security on the storage shed, generator and the hollow block factory.  Once the hollow block factory starts operating the employees will sleep there and secure it.

People have been planting crops and more locally grown food should become progressively more available in the next several weeks

We would like to assemble gifts for the kids and distribute them before Christmas.

In kind donations:


Canned goods
Soap hand and laundry
Nails (large boxes)
Zip Lock Bags

Our budget for the next two months has been amended after the visit to look like this.   It  will develop further when Wilson returns.


  1. Fuel needs:  p100,000/month for two months
  2. Hollow Block plant start up p 50k
  3. Shipping fees p25,000 (bus)
  4. Security Services:  p30,000/month for two months
  5. Jo’s operating team budget – p25,000 for two months (food, vehicle repair, etc)
    1. Food Supplementation:
    2. Rice 120k (3 tons)
    3. Canned goods 60k (4,000 cans)
    4. Misc Dry goods – 50k
    5. Medical supplies 150k – 50% of initial purchase
    6. Clothes (Donations)
    7. Construction materials 100k (nails, etc.)
    8. Christmas gifts for the kids (donations)


What we need to accomplish this is @850k plus cash donations to buy toys to maintain.  A 100 peso toy for 500 kids is p50,000.

All in we need @900,000 from this point forward to maintain what I have laid out.  That is a little over $US20,000.

We have raised and spent over $40,000 to date and probably another $30,000 in donated goods.  I want to thank each and every one of your for your help.  Our actions to date have had a huge impact on the welfare of @2500 people.  If we hadn’t acted they would be in much worse shape.  They still need our help.   If you can find it in your hearts, help us keep this going.  Again we are a private relief group focused around a particular community and extended family.  No tax break and we are doing this using an extended family and close friends to deliver and control the process.  We’d like to give these people something to look forward to for Christmas.  We’d appreciate if you help us do that.

Tim Desmond

Send your donations to:

Please wire US dollars to:

Account name:  Josephine A. Desmond

Account #:  8333015413

Rizal Commercial Bank Corp.,

Subic Bay Freeport Branch


Subic Bay Freeport Zone

Philippines 2222




For online money donations only:


For local donations including bank deposit info and food, supplies, etc:





A question that is starting to take shape as we begin replacing fishing boats in Samar and Leyte that were lost to Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) is — does it make more sense to replace the boats locally, with motorized bancas constructed locally in the traditional way, or replace them with fiberglass motorized bancas which, unless something changes, would be produced outside the storm zone and trucked in after completion.

For the sake of discussion and analysis,  let’s assume that the bottom line price is the same — P25,000 for either option — but the fiberglass boats would be built in Manila and delivered to Samar, while the wooden boats would be built locally in Samar.

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Fiberglass Bancas at a Factory in Bulacan, Near Manila


I have to admit that the idea of fiberglass bancas is intriguing.  They are eco-friendly, they last longer — and going that route conforms to the “build back better” dictum which is mantra for best practices in post-disaster rehabilitation.

But there is a counterargument that favors rebuilding the fleet traditionally on site in Samar.

The counterargument goes as follows.  Although the price is P25,000 for each, the locally built native boat includes, within the cost of P25,000, about P8,000 that will go to local artisan boat builders for their labor contribution to the boat that is created.   Here is a breakdown of the budget for a boat, dividing it into supplies purchased from stores/commercial outlets (currently in Catbalogan, which is a little bit outside of the main affected area, but soon perhaps these purchases could be made in Guiuan, which is within the affected area and thus the purchases in Guiuan stores would directly benefit the affected region)

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The question is this: Is the payment of P8,000 in local labor costs a big enough benefit to offset the benefits of fiberglass?

How do we measure the benefit?

First, there is the actual P8,000 paid.

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Artisan boat builder working on the onayan (hull) and legason (vertical rib) assemby of a traditional fishing boat.

But we also have to consider the full “life cycle” of that P8,000. What happens to it and how does that affect the community> This is normally thought of as the “multiplier effect”. The P8,000 goes to two different parties — first, P4,000 goes to the person or family who gets the contract to go into the forest and “harvest” the onayan (hull) — a process that is largely labor except for the cost of food for the team doing the work. (A chain saw rental is a cost if a chain saw is used, which is optional.) Typically the same person or team that obtains the onayan, then also creats and provides the legason (vertical ribs), batayola (horizontal ribs), and pamarong (prow) — then delivers the hull, legason, batayola, and pamarong as a complete kit for P4,000. The reason this is counted as labor is that the materials are all “harvested” — not purchased. (I am not sure what the legality of this is but it’s the traditional way of doing it.)

The second P4,000 goes to the artisan boat-builder who takes the onayan kit and all of the other boatbuilding materials and puts the boat together to completion.

What do these two parties do with the money?

Generally, they spend it in the community for food and other necessities, paying it to others who in turn also spend a portion of it in the community.

In this way, so the theory goes, the P8,000 paid for local laboar actually has an economic impact within the community of somewhere between 16,000 and 24,000 pesos of economic activity/transfer that would have not happened otherwise.

Does this additional economic benefit rise to the level of something that justifies going the traditional route, rather than fiberglass?

Creating a Local Fiberglass Manufacturing Capability

The longer term option that seems attractive would be to create a local fiberglass boat-building capability in Samar.  That would allow the best of both approaches — there would be local labor payments that would stimulate the local economy, plus the fishermen would get a fiberglass banca that lasts 15-20 years.

From what I can tell based upon the reading that I’ve done and videos I’ve watched — the investment required to create a fiberglass boat building capability in Samar would be quite small, and the market is apparently quite huge.  How much, exactly?  I don’t know yet but I’m looking into it.

Stay tuned …. ( and I welcome troubleshooting/debugging of the arguments either here or on Facebook).




Since Yolanda hit, I have been in awe of the way the Estahanon — natives of Eastern Samar–around the world and in Eastern Samar have come together in extraordinary ways to help those whose lives and livelihoods have been put in jeopardy by the storm. Today, as I woke up and began through social media for updates and developments — I found myself being simply overwhelmed by the caring and love that is exhibited everywhere I look on a simple people-helping-people level — not government-to-people, or even formal NGO-to-people.  I know that this is just the observation of an outsider — an Estahanon by marriage, not birth or upbringing — and it may be that to anyone who is a native Estahanon this is just “community as usual” — but  to me, on this particularl morning as I browsed on Facebook and Twitter, I truly felt something extraordinary is going on.

Here is an attempt to capture just a small fraction of what I saw, that made me feel that way.

From Kage Gozun’s Siargao Group.

Sulangan School
Their Words:

This is the school in Brgy Sulangan, Guiuan Samar that we will be helping. It is totally damaged and right now the kids are using donated tents as temporary classrooms. Currently we have about half a million pesos in funds and we are hoping to raise more so that we can rebuild this school in January. A second batch of guys from Siargao will be going there to bring roofing materials, plywood, nails, paint, and cement, all other stuff the school needs. We hope to go there with more materials and more guys this time so we can personally start rebuilding this school. We are directing all our efforts and aid to the school, as we believe that it is the key for the children’s recovery, and of course their future. So that they may have a chance to forget about the wrath of typhoon haiyan, and start living normal lives once again. We know a lot of you have donated already, thank you so much. But you may still have friends who are willing to help. Please tell them our story. Help us help the kids of Guiuan, Samar.

— at Sulangan, Guiuan Eastern Samar.

From Operation Santa

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SANTA just got a call from Elf Niknik and ELF CJ who was in the midst of kids he had just given gifts to at Catbalogan. He was absolutely overpowered by the extremely happy kids shouting THANK YOU in the background. How wonderful!

Group Link:

PAGTOO HA LUYO HAN BAGYO – from: Fr. Neil TenefranciaGuiuan Church Prayer

I saw this man praying before the ruins of Guiuan church one late afternoon. Realizing the profundity of his act of faith, I immediately snapped a few shots.

I then realized what “heroic faith” can mean: it is the tenacity to persevere, through thick-and-thin, in one’s relationship with God who, despite the horrors of the superstorm, remains steadfast in His goodness and love.

This SURE LOVE becomes the basis of our HOPE: What ultimately governs our destinies is his love and not any malignant force, not even natural calamities.

And because truly and crazily loves us, our future will certainly hopeful.



Balangiga Needs Your Help Too


Hello family, A quick update with what’s going on. Archie Amanois on his way to Naga to arrange the pick up of more food items to load onto our truck to Balangiga and we expect a full truck of goodies to give away. The GBBC members and the Knights of Columbus are on stand by for when the truck gets there, when they will start repacking clothes, food, bottled water etc and also take care of the distribution themselves. The school supplies Christmas give away for the upper barrios is also on the truck and will also be given away as soon as possible. Thank you Archie for everything. This will not be possible without you. Thanks also toKendi A Payot for purchasing the school supplies in such short period of time alloted. Kaizan A. Acedillo for the assistance, thanks very much. You and Kendi gave Archie an energy boost he needed. Everyone involved with the discussions in the background, thanks to all of you, you know who you are, he he he. Every donor and all who worked to raise funds, thanks to everyone. Good luck and more blessings! Archie please be safe on your travels and Godspeed! Go GBBC!



This is a curiously compelling little video by Gloria B. Sommer I found on Youtube of an early morning walk through the seaside barangay of San Miguel in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.  Moreso that most videos like this — this one really makes you feel like you’re there.   Interesting, and sad when you think about the boats, the barangay, and what Yolanda did to it.  Hopefully it can be like this one day again.   

by Gloria B. Sommer via YouTube

About the Video
During summer vacation in April I visited my mother’s home town. My family lives in the commercial center of the town close to its shops, schools ect…

I asked my cousins to take me to the barangay where the fisher-folk live, since I love seafood but had no idea where in this town the same comes from. I was also hoping to get some good shots but eventually I ended up taking videos.
I have family in Europe who have never seen their parent’s home town, so I decided to post this on youtube to share with but anyone watching this can see and learn something about a different way of life.

And here are some before and after pictures that Gloria put together.  You can see more on Gloria Sommer Facebook Page

Barrio San Miguel Before After

San Mig 2




Yesterday the news came from Nicole Reichenbach that her father and my great and true friend Bob Reichenbach died on December 10th from complications from the stomach cancer he’d been fighting with incredible grace and courage for the last year.  I knew this was coming — but it has come too soon, and too unfairly.  A great human being with an absolutely unique quality of warmth, playfulness, and an irrepressible generosity of spirit is gone.  He leaves behind the his extraordinarily strong and gentle wife Ginny, and two exceptional grown daughters, Nicole and Noel.

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Subic Bay Freeport 1993

Bob and I first met in Subic, Philippines in the fall of 1993 where he had been brought in from the US to oversee the establishment of Royal Duty Free Mall, one of a handful of duty free operations that were then springing up in the newly formed Freeport after the departure of the U.S. Navy a year earlier.   I  had line produced a movie called Fortunes of War in Subic in the spring of that year which had involved some disastrous decisions that had left me broke and spiritually depleted, and so I was hunkered down in a bungalow provided by Dick Gordon and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, doing work as a consultant to the SBMA and trying to scratch out a living in whatever ways I could while I recovered from the movie debacle.  Bob, it turned out, needed somebody with a little bit of hustle and energy to help promote the grand opening of Royal Subic, and somehow we hooked up and with the able assistance of Lou Degg we worked together making posters, flyers, hanging banners, and otherwise raising as much ruckus as we could to get Royal Subic off to a good start.  I used the money from that contract and another small contract with the SBMA to start a restaurant in the clubhouse of the golf course called The Hollywood Steakhouse, with Bob as my greatest supporter and–being a world class retail and marketing expert which I most certainly was not–advisor on how to get the business off the ground successfully, which with his help and counsel, happened.

It was the beginning of a lifetime friendship.  Bob was in his early forties and I in my late thirties — we had boundless energy and a sense of fun and appreciation for the moment — and we just hit it off.  For a half dozen years in Subic we found more ways to have fun than I can even remember.  There was golf — round after round at the old Subic golf course, Bob with his towering fade and latest hi-tech driver which, I insisted then, was the only possible explanation for the fact the he could consistently outdrive me.   There were jet ski rambles, and then at some point Bob got a sleek and sexy motorboat which we used to scoot around on Subic Bay.  Not to be outdone I put together a group who bought a deep-sea fishing boat that led to some additional adventures on the open seas.

In 1995 Bob opened a Royal store at Clark Freeport (the former Clark Air Base) and asked me to open up a Hollywood Steakhouse inside the premises there — which I did, and which led to more hilarity, more golf, more San Miguels, this time with Clark s the venue.   Then he said he had decided to open an “office superstore” at Clark which I, somehow, over a half dozen beers,  christened with the name “A-0k”.   Bob didn’t need a partner but what the hell, we thought we might as well be in it together so I came in and we managed to lose some money together but have plenty of laughs as we tried to figure out a business that neither of had any particular knowledge about. At some point I left the business but Bob persisted and eventually made it work, which led to  another discount office superstore, Rockbottom, at Subic. Through it all Bob was electric with his energy, intellect, and what seemed to be just an endless supply of good humor and playfulness.  Whether it was planning the next business venture, playing golf, shooting pool (he also kicked my butt at that game, and never let me forget it), or just hanging out and laughing at life — Bob had the most life, the most fun, and the most optimism of anyone I knew, and I treasured our time together.

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A Friend of the Philippines

One of the things that set Bob apart was his love of the Philippines.  Bob wasn’t the typical expat who lives the high life and enjoys the fruits of the country while criticizing and constantly comparing to home, where things are supposed to be better.  Bob loved and respected the Filipinos he worked with and played with — he had married into the culture ad saw the strength and beauty and creativity and wisdom of the Philippines.  I never once heard him make the kind of caustic comments that were typical among expats–he enthusiastically embraced the country, respected and loved the culture, and was deeply proud of his blended family and the fact that his daughters would grow up with the perspective and blood of both cultures.

Bob embraced my own adventures as his own. When I set out to make a movie about Subic called Goodbye America, Bob helped put together a group of investors and endorsed me to them with a fervor and conviction that I don’t think anyone else could match.  He had a way of talking about me to other people that was so enthusiastic as to be infectious — and to talk about anyone with such enthusiasm is just an indicator of how generous of spirit Bob was, and how outwardly directed his energy was.  He didn’t hold anything back — he shared, and he enjoyed.

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Our Paths Separate

Eventually Bob and his family relocated back home to New York, while Rena and I moved to Los Angeles.  Those Subic years were over for me, but not for Bob — he maintained a house there and continued traveling there every year on business trips, maintaining his ties to the community there.   Every time he came back from a trip to Subic he would send me pictures and update me on things there, always showing that same warmth and commitment to it that had been on display when we were both their during Subic’s (and our) heyday.

Every time I checked in with Bob over the last ten years of so, it seemed he had risen another notch or two in the retail world.  The last time we got together was a little over a year ago while he was on a visit to Los Angeles.    He took a room at the Holiday Inn across from our apartment in Burbank, and he and I met for golf in the early afternoon at Wilson-Harding Golf Course in Griffith Park.  We played 18 glorious holes and ended up deadlocked — each shooting an 83 which wasn’t bad for what was now a couple of old guys.  We decided that we couldn’t let the epic match end like that, so we set out on an “emergency eighteen” — a second round that took us into almost total darkness, using the light from our iPhones to see the ball on the last hole — and the match ending with an outrageous flop shot that went high over  trap, landed on the downslope and trickled into the hole, leaving both of flat on our backs in the grass, laughing uproariously and ridiculousness of it all — sixty-something kids lost in a moment we would never forget.

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Facing the End With Courage and Humor

Bob called me a few months ago with the news that he’d been given a diagnosis of stage four stomach cancer.  I was devastated but he was upbeat.  He wasn’t entertaining the possibility of a miracle — he knew the hand he’d been dealt was going to end things for him , but he was philosophical.  “We had a helluva run,” he said, and meant it — because his life really had been an exhilarating ride, not a plodding journey.   He talked about his beloved Ginny and how she was  a rock and would be okay, and how Noel and Nicole had turned into the best kind of daughters he could have ever imagined, and how he knew they would be fine, and how he had been blessed in so many ways to have had the life he’d managed to have.   Typically,  his reason for giving me the news when he did, rather than waiting, was because he knew I was facing some difficulties and he knew — rightly — that his news would provide some much needed perspective to me, that my troubles were nothing more than a mere nuisance and that I had so much to be thankful for.  That was Bob — facing a death sentence that he didn’t deserve at a time when he had every right to expect another twenty-five years out of life, he thought of me and my travails and tried to lighten my load — which, in fact, he did, not just by sharing his news, but by being him, and sharing his perspective on life, and death, and what it all meant. We talked for an hour that day as he sat in the hospital, getting a blood transfusion — a conversation filled with laughter and jokes, interspersed with moments of poignancy and remembrance.  There were no tears, not on the call, athough when I hung up I needed  a private moment to adjust to the new reality that Bob wasn’t going to be with us much longer.  Two months later – he’s gone.

If we’re lucky, each of us, in our lives, will have a few great friendships that we take with us to our own final moments, and treasure as the stuff that, along with the sacred joy of family,  makes life worth living.  My friendship with Bob Reichenbach was one such relationship, and I know that my life has been richer, and my character is better and more evolved, for having known him.  May he forever rest in the kind of gentle, irrepressible, generous peace that he shared with us in his lifetime.

The Family’s Online Memorial for Bob

Bob Reichenbach — Official Obituary


As reported previously, we are engaged in a pilot project to replace the 28 fishing boats of our home barangay of Guinob-an, which were lost in the storm.  We have ordered the first five and building will start in the next day or two.   Meanwhile, although helping the fishermen of Guinob-an helps our family and village — there were 12,000 barangays badly affected by the storm, so the problem of getting fishermen back to the sea is enormous when looked at on a macro scale.

In this earlier post I went through in detail the process of building a boat, and the costs.  You can see the complete breakdown on that earlier post, but here’s a quick round figure summary:

  • P4,000 for the Onayan assembly including the onayan (dugout hull), legason (vertical ribs), battayola (horizontal ribs), and pamarong (prow).
  • P4,600 for materials including marine plywood, bronze nails, epoxy, alcohol (to mix with epoxy), and paint.
  • P9,000 for a Number 5 Engine
  • P3,200 for propeller-rudder assembly
  • P4,000 for labor at market rates
  • Outriggers, oars, etc are labor only.

So all in, paying regular labor rates, P25,000 is what it costs — in US Dollars, that’s $600 to get a fisherman back on the water earning his livelihood.

The two areas where a savings can be made are the cost of the onayan and the labor costs — both of which are actually mostly labor costs since the onayan is “harvested” from the forest and payment goes to the team who goes in and harvests it.  There are some replacement boat projects that are trying to get it done with no labor costs — just material costs.  And a case can be made for that.  On the other hand,  payments made for boatbuilding labor have a multiplier effect within the community as the money is spent ad re-spent locally in the affected community, and thus there is an added benefit, beyond getting fishermen back on the water, if labor payments are paid.  It also provides a much greater measure of manufacturing control and so our inclination is to pay for the labor, perhaps at a modestly discounted rate — but not for free.

What About Fiberglass Bancas

As the foregoing suggests — traditional bancas (and I’m using the word banca generically — in Samar, “baloto” and “binigiw” are traditional terms for fishing boats and nowadays they call motorized fishing boats by the name “motor”) are made from a harvested tree hull, marine plywood, epoxy, bronze nails, paint, and an engine/propeller assembly.

What about fiberglass?

Facebook pal Blueboy Hagonoys visited a fiberglass banca factory in Bulacan, near Manila, and took pictures:

Fiberglass Bancas

According to Blueboys, these cost P25,000 and I’m pretty sure that’s without the motor. If by any chance that’s the price with the motor, then it seems almost like a no-brainer that moving from wood to fiberglass would be the way to go. If the motor is separate — then the cost comparison would be, by my reckoning, 25,000 for the traditional motorized banca and 35,000 for a fiberglass model. Advantages to the fiberglass version are obvious but I’ll state them: first, you don’t kill trees to make it, and second, it lasts longer. There’s a reason they’ve been making small boats with fiberglass in the US since forever ….

Here is an example of a hull in process:
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Now there are still many unknowns in the equation. Do the fiberglass bancas perform in a way that suits the fishermen? Are there other factors that come into play and might cause these boats to be less attractive? We will need to explore that further.

There is also the question of whether the idea would be to contract with one or more factories like this who are already doing it — or, given the scope of the problem caused by Typhoon Haiyan,  look into getting an outfit like this to set up a satellite operation in Samar, or even crating such a capability from the ground up.

What About A Fiberglass Boat Factory in Samar?
What, exactly is needed, to build fiberglass bancas?

You need a mold, for sure. I’m assuming you could buy a mold from someone who’s already created one, or you could create one.
Here is a video showing fiberglass boat building in India

Here’s a video showing artisan fiberglass canoe construction

And here is a WikiHow – How to Fiberglass. It’s not a boat, but it shows the simplicity of the basic process:

And here is a WikiHow — How to Fiberglass a Boat

From EHow — How to Build a Fiberglass Canoe

Much to think about …. any fiberglass boat builders who can shed some light and help with the learning curve, please come forward.


There are times when you really have to pause, think, and DO THE MATH.  This is one such time.

The Philippine government on December 11 announced the release of P238.6M ($5.6M) for housing aid for Typhoon Yolanda victims under the  Housing Materials Assistance (HOMA) program, saying that this program will provide  P5,000 in housing materials  “for every family whose home was partially damaged by calamities, but who will not require resettlement.”

This is a good thing, and is a step in the right direction.

The “takeaway” from the release is that the P238.6M actually does that — gives P5,000 to each family in need.

But does it?


Let’s do the math.

P238.6M is to be used at a rate of P5,000 per household that has suffered a partially damaged home but does not need resettlement.

So how many homes is that?

P238.6M x P5,000 = 47,720 homes.

But how many homes are we talking about to reach everyone in need after Yolanda?

Well, elsewhere, the NDRRMC gave the following numbers yesterday for destroyed and damaged homes:

  • 593,787 Destroyed
  • 598,306 Damaged
  • Altogether — 1,192, 093 destroyed or damaged homes

Time for some more arithmetic.

47,720 homes = 4% of 1,092,093.

So that’s it — the P238.6M will yield P5,000 for 47,720 families, or 4% of the families in need after Yolanda.

Don’t get me wrong — 4% is a start.  But numbers only have meaning when you actually take the time and expend the effort to crunch them — if you just hear “P239M” it sounds like a lot, and then when you read a statement that says it will provide P5,000 “for every family” maybe you just accept on face value that the P239M will in fact yield P5,000 per family.


But this is money, not loaves and fishes, and it doesn’t add up.

And by the way,  I’m not picking on the Philipping government as if they are the only ones who do this.  Far from it.  US Politicians and the US Government does the same thing when announcing release of funds to disaster stricken areas.   They leave it up to the reader to “do the math”.

So we must do the math.

Bottom line is that the P238.6M is a good start but that’s all it is — a start.

It’s 8% of what is needed to provide P5,000 to “every family whose home was partially damaged by calamities, but who will not require resettlement.”

And then, there is the “resettlement” issue . . .

Let’s look at that.

The release says that:

  • The full P239M is for HOMA assistance at P5,000 per family
  • The P239M is part of a larger 350M EHACVP program (a crazy acronym for emergency housing for calamity victims)
  • Thus there is an additional P111M a(239 + 111 = 350) but this is earmarked for  for “households affected by previous calamities, including typhoons Vinta, Santi, Laguyo, Yolanda, Quinta, and Pablo, as well as other disasters, such as fires and earthquakes. –
  • And, regarding the P111M: “Under the program, beneficiaries will be relocated to permanent dwellings in safe areas.”

Again — do the math:

P111M would, if it was applied solely to the Yolanda victims whose homes were totally destroyed, yield exactly P187 per family, which is obviously not enough to resettle a family.

But it’s not being applied solely to Yolanda victims — it’s for “households affected by previous calamities”….

And finally — what about the idea of resettling people to “permanent dwellings in safe areas”.

Resettlement is a pretty delicate matter.

People don’t generally want to be moved away from their home area.

Does this refer to moving someone a few hundred meters away from the coastline?

Or to someplace altogether different?

Lots of questions.

I’m not saying what the goverment is doing is bad, or that the government has been egregiously misleading.

I’m just saying that it’s up to everybody who has homeless families to worry about (as we do) or who has a stake in the situation some other way — it’s up to all of us to do the math and ask the questions, and if possible try and contribute to solutions.

I’ll come back to where I started — P238.6M is a good start but it only reaches 4% of those in need.

Much, much more is needed and it’s not just up to the Philippine government to provide it.

It’s up to everyone — governments, NGOs, ordinary people.

The work has hardly begun.


Via Philippine Information Agency. MANILA, Dec. 11 — Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad has released P238.6 million to the National Housing Authority (NHA) to support the Housing Materials Assistance (HOMA) to victims of Typhoon Yolanda under the agency’s Emergency Housing Assistance for Calamity Victims Program (EHACVP).

The release—sourced from Budgetary Support to Government Corporations under the 2013 National Budget—is part of a larger P350-million rollout for the EHACVP, a nationwide program designed to respond to the permanent housing needs of low- and marginal-income families and informal settlers affected by calamities, including typhoons, landslides, earthquakes, and fires, DBM said in a statement.

Under the program, beneficiaries will be relocated to permanent dwellings in safe areas.

NHA implements the EHACVP with other LGUs in need of housing assistance for their affected communities. Through the HOMA component of the program, the NHA will provide housing materials assistance of P5,000 for every family whose home was partially damaged by calamities, but who will not require resettlement.

“Rehabilitation activities for Yolanda-hit communities are in full swing, as the Aquino administration continues to coordinate with aid groups, civil society, and affected LGUs in restoring normalcy in all typhoon-stricken areas. We’re facilitating the prompt release of funds that will aid our recovery efforts, especially with respect to providing secure shelter to low-income families and informal settlers who cannot otherwise afford rebuilding their own homes,” Abad said.

The DBM also announced that the rest of the P350-million release—amounting to P111.4 million—will also be used to help households affected by previous calamities, including typhoons Vinta, Santi, Laguyo, Yolanda, Quinta, and Pablo, as well as other disasters, such as fires and earthquakes.

However, HOMA beneficiary-families affected by Typhoon Santi will receive only P2,000 worth of aid for roof repairs, as noted by NHA.
“The Aquino administration is prepared to complete the arduous but necessary work of rebuilding all communities affected by disasters and calamities. Besides ensuring secure housing for families who now have to recompose their lives in the wake of these tragedies, we’re also poised to bring immediate aid and recovery assistance in the form of key social services, including the resumption of health and education services, as well as the provision of other public services that calamities like Yolanda temporarily cut off,” Abad said.(
– See more at:


In its situation update for December 10, 2013, the Phiilppine government’s National Disaster and Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) completely destroyed 593,787 houses and damaged another 598,306. The number of affected barangays is now reported as 12,122.

Full statistics and information from NDRRMC:



5,936 dead

27,022 injured

1,779 missing

*Number of affected areas

12,122 barangays in 44 provinces, 591 municipalities, and 57 cities of Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, and Caraga.

*Evacuation centers

A total of 21,379 families (103,604 persons) are being served inside 386 evacuation centers. While 860,806 families (3,952,667 persons) who are not in evacuation centers, are also being served.

*Damaged houses

There are currently 1,192,093 houses (593,787 totally / 598,306 partially) tallied in the affected provinces.


As of 6:00 p.m., November 13, 2013 all bridges and roads that were previously affected are now passable.


Operations in Tacloban airport are still limited.

As of November 13, all airports under CAAP control are now operational.


The Philippine Ports Authority has taken over the Port of Tacloban.

A total of 16 barges are now operating and travelling from Matnog, Sorsogon Port to Allen, Northern Samar, while seacrafts taking off from Bulan Port, Sorsogon to Allen, Northern Samar are solely for mercy missions

*Cost of damages

A total of P35,527,886,330.67 worth of damages (P18,206,735,334.29 to infrastructure and P17,321,150,996.38 to agriculture) were reported in Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, and Caraga.

*Damages to Infrastructure:

Roads/Bridges and other structures: P14,482,253,884.29
Flood Control: P230,393,000
Health Facilities: P1,184,264,800
Schools: P2,309,823,650

*Damages to Agriculture:

Crops (rice, corn, other crops): P7,277,150,764.29
Irrigation Facilities: P212,700,000
Other agricultural infrastructure:P1,650,862,530

*Power interruptions

Power outage is being experienced on various areas in the following provinces:

Palawan (2 towns unrestored)
Aklan (13 towns unrestored, Target Dec
Antique (3 towns unrestored)
Iloilo (9 towns unrestored, Target 1 town on Dec 7, the other 10 towns on Dec 20)
Capiz (14 towns unrestored, Target Dec 19)
Cebu (5 towns unrestored, Target 2 towns on Nov 27, the other 3 towns on Dec 16)
Leyte (24 towns unrestored, Target on December)
Biliran (7 towns unrestored, Target Dec 7)
Samar (13 towns unrestored, Target Dec)
Eastern Samar (14 towns unrestored, Target Dec 22)
Northern Samar (24 towns unrestored)

As of November 22, 2013, NGCP reported that there were a total of 1,959 transmission facilities that were damaged including backbone transmission lines, steel poles, and converter stations.

Power in Bohol, Mindoro, Masbate, Negros Occidental, Ormoc City, Leyte; and in the municipalities of Anilao, Banate, Barotac Viejo and Ajuy, all of Iloilo have been restored.

*Water supply

Palawan – Busuanga town proper is functional. Coron is implementing a rationing system.
Capiz – Metro Roxas Water District and Municipal Water District has resumed services, but water supply remains limited
Antique – 40% of municipal water districts operational
Iloilo – 70% of municipal water districts operational
Leyte – supply is sufficient as of 15 November 2013. 22 towns and 3 cities have access to water
Western Samar – 7 towns and 1 city have access to water
Eastern Samar – 11 towns have access to water

*State of Calamity

Presidential Proclamation No. 682, s. 2013, Declaring A State of National Calamity in Samar provinces, Leyte, Cebu, Iloilo, Capiz, Aklan, and Palawan.

*Cost of assistance

A total of P1,046,969,910.67 worth of relief assistance was provided to affected families in Regions IV-A, IV-B, V, VI, VII, VII, X, XI and CARAGA:

DSWD (P751,871,761.44)
DOH (P121,178,285.04)
LGUs (P115,966,065.40)
NGOs (P56,928,448.79)

*Prepositioned and deployed assets

A total of 35,381 personnel, 1,351 vehicles,112 seacraft, 163 aircraft, and other assets / equipment from National and Local Agencies, Responders and Volunteer Organizations were deployed to strategic areas to facilitate response and relief operations.


The Philppines has been buzzing all day in reaction to testimony given Monday in the Philippine Senate by Tacloban City Mayer Alfredo Romualdez that included tearful accusations that DILG Minister Mars Roxas and President Benigno Aquino had withheld vital support for Tacloban during the worst of the disaster on political grounds — “You’re a Romualdez, and Aquino is President” Roxas allegedly said, according to Romualdez

How juicy is that?  And how sad?

What is one to make of this?

First, a tiny bit of history for non-Filipinos who may not know the background.

  • Tacloban City Mayor Alfredo Romualdez is a nephew former First Lady Imelda (nee Romualdez) Marcos, whose husband Ferdinand placed the country under Martial Law in 1972 and went on to rule as a dictator for 14 years.
  • President Aquino is the son of  Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., who had been imprisoned in the early years of the dictatorship, returned to the country from exile but was assassinated immediately after his plane touched down at the then Manila International Airport, since named after him.  The elder Aquino’s death helped spark the popular movement that would eventually oust Marcos in 1986 and replaced him with Ninoy’s widow, Corazon, mother of the incumbent president.
  • Mar Roxas, the DILG Minister (Department of Interior and Local Governments) is the grandson of  former Philippine President Manuel Roxas.  (And just for fun — let’s not forget that Roxas is the husband of Philippine news anchor Korina Sanchez who famously attacked Anderson Cooper for negative reporting on the typhoon.)

In  the interest of letting people make up their own minds, here is the full-length video of Romualdez’s testimony.

And assuming you don’t have 40 minutes — here is the 3 minute version:

So what we have, basically, is the following:

  • Tacloban City is hit with a once-in-history storm surge that destroys the city, takes thousands of lives, and almost took the life of Romualdez and his wife who, oddly, choose to ride out the storm at their beach house.
  • President Aquino wastes no time criticizing Romualdez for not being more forceful in evacuating residents — he cites the performance of Guiuan Mayor Christopher Gonzales as an example of what Romualdez — his clan rival — should have done.
  • In the aftermath of the storm, Tacloban is racked by looting; bodies remain undiscovered for weeks; post-apocalyptic chaos descends on the city.

Fast forward one month to the hearing at the Philippine Senate.

Romualdez shows up, Roxas does not.

Romualdez, speaking in a manner that certainly appears heartfelt and unscripted, claims: “We kept begging for more help, in fact I asked the President directly the second time we met . . everybody there was frustrated …. they saw if you can muster up on Sunday . . . thousands of military personnel, including PNP for the security of the President, why can’t you provide troops to help us secure the city?”

Elsewhere in the testimony, Romualdez talks of  Roxas saying that the national government was hesitant to come in without a letter inviting them in from Romualdez, who testified: “As far as I know, the President is the President of the Philippines and he’s also President of Tacloban city. I don’t see anywhere in the law that you need a letter, an ordinance from me, for you to come in, and do what you’re doing. And he answered me and told me, you have to remember, you have to be very careful, you’re a Romualdez, and the President is an Aquino.”

“Not surprisingly, Mar Roxas doesn’t see it that way.  But Roxas avoided testifying — although he was pursued by the Senate, he — according to the Senators — refused to attend the hearing, and at the last minute failed to send a representative.  Instead, Roxas did a television interview which you can view here  in which he claimed that Romualdez is “lying”, and it is Romualdez who is injecting politics into the relief effort.

What Does It All Mean?

So the question is — do you believe Romualdez?  Or Roxas/Aquino?  Is this a situation where you just say shame on all of your, people are dying?  Or do you take sides?

I’m not really sure where I come down but I have some impressions.

First, I’ll concede that Romualdez did not seem to have his act all the way together when the storm hit.  I’m not completely sure what options he had as far as moving people to safety — but could he have performed better? Yes, I think so.  But . . .

Aquino’s sniping at Romualdez in the days after the storm hit was unseemly and inappropriate.  It was not what you could by any stretch call “inspirational leadership” at a time when inspirational leadership was called for.  Moreover, Aquino’s ill-considered snipes at Romualdez seemed to betray a political orientation to the situation that permeated many of his statements and actions.  I hasten to say — I had not paid much attention to him before the storm, and was not caught up in the Philippine political scene.  I hardly knew who Janet Napoles was.  So my reaction to Aquino is not a matter of projecting my pre-conconceived notions onto him.  I am only reacting to what I saw.  He clearly seemed to be very anxious to score political points and had trouble rising above the politics.

Roxas comes across to me as extremely smart and savvy.  He is articularte and could argue almost anyone into oblivion.   I can definitely hear him saying:  “”You’re a Romualdez, and Aquino is President” and saying it sincerely, as a way of justifying Aquino’s hesitation to move in without the kind of invitation that would protect him from recriminations later.  But were those concerns real?  Was it a play, as Romualdez suggests, to in essence entrap him into an admmission that would be construed as a resignation?  I think that’s plausible too.

But why did Roxas dodge testifying at the Senate today?

As they say on SNL, “whassup with that?”

I don’t like it.

The Way Forward — Is There One?

Sadly, I can’t see it. Roxas, by flat-out calling Romualdez a liar, has drawn the battle lines  Aquino isn’t saying anything, but it’s clear where he will come down.

Meanwhile, who are the losers in all this?

Oh yeah, the Filipino people.




It was where Magellan first landed when he arrived in the Philippines. He landed on the island of Homonhon on March 16, 1521, and dispatched crew members, who  gathered on the uninhabited island.  Magellan was detected by the boats of Rajah Culambu of Limasawa, who guided him to Cebu — and the rest of that episode is history.

In our family, Homonhon has a special place.  It was there, in 1983, that the Llevado family and a handful of other families from Guinob-an evacuated to escape the uncertainties of martial law.  Rena and her family lived there for almost a year as refugees, at first living largely off of shellfish that they gathered.

Now the Philippine Navy reports the delivery of aid to the island, and nearby Manicani and Suluan, all part of the municipality of Guiuan.

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