Created by God to be wise

“The four characteristics of humanism are curiosity, a free mind, belief in good taste, and belief in the human race.”E.M. FORSTER

By Alex P. Vidal


FAIRFAX, Virginia – In October 1521, five years before Martin Luther was to begin to shake the very foundation of the Roman Catholic Church, the great Renaissance painter and humanist Michelangelo had just finished decorating one of its ceilings.

“And what a ceiling it was!” exclaims Portland-based Ronald B. Allen, professor of Old Testament and Exegesis, in The Majesty of Man.
The Sistine Chapel in Rome, named for Pope Sixtus IV, who had begun its construction in 1473, has a ceiling that measures approximately 133 feet by 43 feet, with the crown of the vault some 70 feet above the pavement.

In conditions of terrible discomfort, Allen points out, the great artist Michelangelo spent nearly four years painting in the fresh plaster on the ceiling.
“He lay on hard scaffolding board, breathing intolerable air and having eyes and skin constantly inflamed with plaster dust. All the while, the impatient Pope Julius II would periodically climb the scaffolding and threaten to toss the master to the ground if he did not finish his work more quickly,” narrates Allen.

The formal unveiling took place on October 31, 1512.
What an event in the history of man this unveiling was—one of the finest artistic achievements of the Renaissance.
Here Christian theology and humanism learned to hold hands.
In his recital of the significance of this event, Charles H. Morgan says Michelangelo “had joined two powerful philosophies, the Christian ethic and the perfect human, at the moment of their most sympathetic coexistence.”




This blending of the Christian and the human strains was perhaps nowhere more evidence than in Michelangelo’s portrayal of the Creation of Man.
One of the most famous panels of the masterpiece is the scene of Adam reclining inertly on a brown field, his left arms stretched out languidly over his upraised left knee. Rushing toward him is God, surrounded by storm and cloud, attended by cherubim, and stretching out his hand in a dynamic gesture to the extended finger of Adam.
Our attention is drawn to the rushing power of the finger of God and the small space left between God’s finger and that of man.

“In this painting,” suggests Allen, “we are there a microsecond before the giving of life!”

What are we to make of this imagery?
Morgan sees in it the notion that the church had given nourishment to humanism, and that in this painting they both meet on an equal scale.
Despite the tranquility of the scene, Morgan senses the irony in the painting, for a struggle was about to burst out between the church and humanism in which the power of God would be challenged by man whom heaven had empowered.

Allen says another view of the significance of the Creation of Man fresco is presented by the renowned American biblical theologian Samuel Terrien of Union Seminary, New York.

“Dr. Terrien, in a meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in San Francisco several years ago, observed that there is another figure in the painting in addition to God, Adam, and the cherubim,” Allen observes. “This other figure is a beautiful woman whose head is nestled in the left arm of God, and who looks with anxious interest on man whom God was enlivening.”




We almost miss this woman because of our interest in the latent energy in the space between the finger of Adam and the finger of God. “But there she is!” Allan stresses. “And her presence causes us to ask, Who is she? Is she the as yet unformed Eve, awaiting the awakening of need for her in her mate?” Is she, as some Catholics have imagined, the Blessed Virgin Mary, anticipating a significant day long in the future when God would have a ministry of mystery for her? Terrien brushes away these and other conceptions with his great discovery: This woman is wisdom. It was with his arm around wisdom that God created man, his finest creature.”

Allen observes further: “I suspect that Morgan’s point of view more accurately represents art history. But I am convinced that the viewpoint of Terrien is the one who need in order to understand theology rightly. For this painting points us to one of the most significant elements in our understanding of what it means to be truly human: We were created by God to be wise.”

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Posted by on July 1, 2017 in Uncategorized


Capitol brawl not related to war on mistresses

“No violence, gentlemen–no violence, I beg of you! Consider the furniture!”
― Arthur Conan Doyle


By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Friendship ends where attraction to sex objects begins.
There are quarrels among some macho du jours in government that are job-related and not necessarily sparked by a tug-of-war on nymphets like in the case of playboys Bebot Alvarez and Tonyboy Floirendo.
We recall an incident I witnessed as a capitol beat reporter in Iloilo 27 years ago.
The brawl between then deputy governor Ruben Bermudo and provincial tourism chief Manny Benedicto at around 11 o’clock in the morning on July 3, 1990 exploded while DYRI “Radyo Agong” reporter Arsenio “Kamlon” Ang and this writer were doing interview inside the governor’s office with Vice Governor Robert “Bob” Maroma, then the acting governor.
There were only five of us inside the governor’s office present– Maroma, Bermudo, Benedicto, this writer, and Ang, who had just won a labor case in the Supreme Court against the defunct DYRP “Radyo Tagring.”


Even before the interview with Maroma started, we noticed Benedicto and Bermudo, then in their mid-50’s, swapping dagger looks like Crassus and Spartacus.
At one moment, Bermudo removed his eyeglasses like Eddie Garcia to plant a sharp stare at Benedicto, who reciprocated with his own Pacquito Diaz-style look.
While Maroma was answering our questions, the two disappeared surreptitiously. They entered inside the conference room about four meters away on Maroma’s right side.
Minutes later, we heard a loud commotion.
The noise didn’t stop Maroma from talking but our eyes–Maroma’s, Ang’s, and mine–started to exchange tacit signals alternately like actors in a silent movie.
When the conference room’s divider started to shake violently and two angry voices dished unprintable, Maroma stood up and rushed to the scene.
I grabbed my camera and followed suit. Kamlon scrambled to prepare a tape recorder.


Inside, we saw two gladiators literally holding each other’s throats on one hand, and throwing rabbit punches on the other hand.
The sight was reminiscent of two Tokyo Dome somo wrestlers.
Blows rained from all angles–a chaotic scene.
Maroma tried to separate the two but was in awkward position, and could receive one of the flying fists on the face if he forced the issue.
So determined were the two Capitol bigwigs to maim each other they refused to let go of their grips–Benedicto’s shaking fingers came closed to drilling holes on Bermudo’s neck; Bermudo locked Benedicto’s jaw with a tight Steven Segal grip.
Both were gasping for breath like sprinters in the 100-meter dash, their false teeth threatening to jump out.
Maroma lost balance on his second attempt to act as third man in the ring.


Instead of taking photos, I grabbed Benedicto’s hand to prevent his fingers from committing cannibalism.
Having lost much energy, he obliged.
Bermudo, also fighting for air in his lungs, let go of Benedicto’s jaw–but not after leaving some souvenirs on his skin.
“Tama na ina!” (That’s enough),” Maroma, who was himself losing some energy–and patience, shouted while scratching his head in disgust.
When the smoke had cleared, the protagonists could manage to release Mona Lisa-like smiles as if King Kong did not vandalize their mangled faces.
Either the pain from their violent physical activity did not yet take its toll, or they were ashamed for acting like kindergarten pupils and tried to suppress it.
No arrest was made even as Maroma hinted of slapping the misbehaving officials with administrative cases.
Kamlon, who hit a jackpot with his tape recorded “eye-witness account”, had a field day repeatedly playing the violent episode to friends and politicians, including Bermudo and Benedicto, who just grinned to hide their embarrassment.


We found out their conflict emanated from the province’s preparations for the arrival of the Miss Philippines-Guam in Iloilo that year.
As tourism boss, Benedicto, of Dumangas, Iloilo, begrudged Maasin, Iloilo-based Bermudo’s decision to bypass his authority and disapprove some items in the budget, among other reasons.
If there was one person so terribly upset and mournful that awful morning, it was neither Benedicto nor Bermudo, who had kissed and made up.
It was Maroma, whose interview with us had been cut off unceremoniously, thus he failed to deliver an important message to people as news the following day was dominated by the skirmish of his warring subalterns.

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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Uncategorized


Google it, kapitan

“Social media is not about the exploitation of technology but service to community.”

— Simon Mainwaring


By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — We won’t be surprised if President Rodrigo Duterte will next invite detained Senator Leila de Lima to dinner after Vice President Leni Robredo.
The President might also invite in the future his chief critic Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and all those who have tasted real terror from his cussing and threats.
It’s another story if they accept the invitation.
After all, Judas dined with Jesus. Voltaire had a sumptuous meal with Catherine the Great.
The President has always been unpredictable. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.
The right had accused him of siding with the left when he allegedly made a “sweetheart deal” with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. Sison during the campaign period.
But when President Duterte terminated the peace talks with the rebels, their doubts about his being a pro-communist were gone.


LEADERS of the smallest political unit in the Philippines are in the news nowadays now that there is a proposal that instead of electing them in October, President Rodrigo Duterte intends to just appoint 340,000 of them nationwide.
The number includes both the village chiefs or barangay chairs and council members.
The proposed appointment process is facing major legal obstacles, but whether they will be appointed or elected, it’s certain, barring unforeseen circumstances, that we will have new or reelected barangay leaders before end of the year.
We suggest to all those aspiring to become village chiefs to at least study the rudiments of technology.
It may not be mandatory for them to have college degrees, but in this age, they have to be at least technology-literate. Especially those living in urban areas.
Everything is now operated by technology — communication, transportation, monitoring systems, financial transactions, among other basic necessities and services.
They can expedite their transactions and important messages to their constituents, their mayors, and the police if they are updated with the latest wonders of technology.


Our village leaders will be left behind–and basic services will be delayed and stymied–if they don’t even know how to use or operate a smartphone, a mobile phone that performs many of the functions of a computer, typically having a touchscreen interface, Internet access, and an operating system capable of running downloaded applications.
There are instances when village officials can’t immediately rely on their secretaries like when a visitor suddenly goes directly to them to inquire about some important information.
With the use of Google in their laptops, tablets, or mobile gadgets, the matter is addressed with alacrity and dispatch.
It’s understandable though that there are incumbent village officials in far-flung barangays, or in places with no electricity and concrete roads, who haven’t even touched a computer.

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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in ELECTION, POLITICS


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An immense organism

“All through my boyhood I had a profound conviction that I was no good, that I was wasting my time, wrecking my talents, behaving with monstrous folly and wickedness and ingratitude–and all this, it seemed, was inescapable, because I lived among laws which were absolute, like the law of gravity, but which it was not possible for me to keep.”
–GEORGE ORWELL, A Collection of Essays

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — In a follow up to his ground-breaking book Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, James Lovelock, an independent scientist and inventor, describes, for both scientists and non-scientists, his new theory of evolution.
He explains how the appearance of life on Earth nearly four billion years ago irreversibly changed our planet so that life and the material Earth evolved together as a single system, Gaia, and not separately as conventionally taught.
Lovelock explains his inspirational Gaia theory in detail and outlines the history of the Earth from a geophysiologist’s point of view, from the first signs of life in the Archean to the present day.
He also warns us of the damage man is causing to natural ecosystems as well as the physical threats of greenhouse gases and depletion of the ozone layer to our planet.
In a forward note, Dr. Lewis Thomas, editor of The Commonwealth Fund Book Program, emphasizes that “most working scientists have an awareness and respect for the history of the fields in which they labor, but what they generally have in mind is a series of endeavors strung through the volumes of their specialized journals that are still held in the library stacks–not at all the much longer stretch of time and work that professional scholars would require for a proper history of science.”


According to Thomas, it is not that researchers have short memories, but that “they learn and retain only the events that set their fields atremble in the first place.”
“And for most of science these days, perhaps all of it, the great changes that launched this century’s vast transformation of human knowledge began within this century, or at least seemed to,” Thomas explains. “The modern postdoctoral student in a laboratory engaged in molecular biology, for instance, feels no dependence on generations of forebears more than 20 years back.
“The contemporary physics may track their ideas back almost a century, to the beginnings of quantum theory, but it is the concepts emerging in only the past decade that are regarded as the real history. The cosmologists are out on totally new ground, looking in amazement at strange, unanticipated kinds of space and time, making educated guesses at phenomena far beyond the suburban solar system or the local galaxy, even speculating about universe bubbling out at the boundaries of this one.”


The editor believes that “we are, quite literally, in a new world, a much more peculiar place than it seemed a few centuries back, harder to make sense of, riskier to speculate about, and alive with information which is becoming more accessible and bewildering at the same time. It sometimes seems that there is not just more to be learned, there is everything to be learned.”
He points out that “this is far from the general public view of the matter, as reflected in the science sections of newspapers and newsmagazines. The non-scientific layman tends to take technology to be so closely linked to science as to be the center of the enterprise. The progress of science and that of technology seem to be all of a piece–machines, electronics, computer chips, Mars landing, nonbiodegradable plastics, the ozone hole, the bomb, all the rest of what now looks like twentieth century culture.”
What is so clearly seen is the newness of the scientific information itself, the strangeness, and, where meaning is to be discerned, the meaning, Thomas stresses. “There is a great difference between the intellectual product of modern science and the various technologies that are sometimes (nothing like as frequently as the public might guess) derived from that product.”


The books in this series represent an attempt to clarify this distinction, as well as to provide a closer look at what goes on in the minds of scientists as they go about their work, says Thomas.
He concludes: “The book by James Lovelock describes a set of observations about the life of our planet which may, one day, be recognized as one of the major discontinuities in human thought. If Lovelock turns out to be as right in his view of things as I believe he is, we will be viewing the Earth as a coherent system of life, self-regulating, self-changing, a sort of immense organism.
“This is not likely, in my opinion, to lead directly or indirectly to any specific piece of new technology to be put to use, although it may very well begin to influence, in new and gentler ways, the other sorts of technology we might be selecting for use in the future.”

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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in Uncategorized


Who’s telling a lie in the Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge project?

“It is not good to cross the bridge before you get to it.”
–Judi Dench

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — It’s a white lie.
I have serious misgivings on reports that Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar had “confirmed” to Mayor Eugene Reyes of Buenavista, Guimaras that the construction of the much-ballyhooed Panay-Guimaras-Negros or Western Visayas bridge “will start under the Duterte administration.”
If Villar did say this, then he is phony.
Politician Villar only probably wanted to take fellow politician Reyes for a ride.
Without a latest feasibility study, how can a project begin?
Can a cart move ahead of the horse?
To add confusion, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-6) Regional Director Ro-Ann Bacal reportedly said that the construction of the inter-island bridge “is among the priority projects of the DPWH.”
The proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge is not among the priority projects of the DPWH this year, madame director.
Therefore, there can be no construction in the radar this year and in 2018.
It’s actually back to dreamland.


When Villar lobbied for DPWH’s P458.61-billion budget for 2017 before the House Committee on Appropriations in August 2016, the Western Visayas bridge was not among those listed in the country’s “most ambitious infrastructure program” Villar enumerated that would benefit from the expanded budget (the amount is P61 billion higher than last year’s P397.108 budget.).
DPWH’s priority projects are the following: Taal Lake Circumferential Road, San Nicolas-Sta Teresita, Alitagtag, Batangas; Gurel-Bukod-Kabayan-Buguias Road (leading to Mt Pulag, Bulalacao Lakes, Kabayan Mummies), Bokod, Kabayan and Buguias, Benguet; Cagaray Circumferential Road, Bacacay, Albay leading to Misibis Resort and white beaches in Albay; Tatay-El Nido Road, Palawan; Jct (Tagbilaran East Road, TER) Guindulman-Anda-Badiang Cogtong -Road leading to beaches and resorts, Anda, Bohol; Borongan, Llorente Closed Canopy Forest Area, Maydolong, Eastern Samar; and Island Garden City of Samal Circumferential Road, Davao del Norte.
NAIA Expressway; Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway; NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 10; Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3; Plaridel By-Pass Road, Phase II; NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 8.2; Central Luzon Link Expressway – PHase I (Tarlac-Cabanatuan); Cavite-Laguna Expressway; SLEX TR4, Sto Tomas-Lucena; C6 – Phase I, Southeast Metro Manila Expressway; and NLEX-SLEX Connector Road.
Candon City By-Pass Road, Ilocos Sur; Laoag City By-Pass Road, Ilocos Norte; Plaridel By-Pass Road, Phase II; Carcar By-Pass Road, Carcar City, Cebu; Palo West By-Pass Road, Palo, Leyte; Tacloban City By-Pass Road, Leyte; Cotabato City East Diversion Road; Alae By-Pass Road; and Davao City By-Pass Construction Project, Mindanao.
There’s no Panay-Guimaras-Negros bridge project on the list, which would have eaten up an estimated 30 percent of the DPWH national budget.
Villar did mention, however, that his department was “studying the feasibility of proposed P21.67 billion Panay-Guimaras-Negros Island Bridge Project.”


The inter-island bridge project, conceptualized way back during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos, doesn’t have a detailed budget yet despite the spirited lobbying of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and almost all congressmen and women.
There’s also a misconception that China, which maintains a shaky relationship with the Philippines owing to its repeated intrusion in the Panatag Shoal, will fund the project that could cost up to an estimated P65 billion.
What Chinese Vice Minister Fu Ziying of the Ministry of Commerce and Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez had agreed, and which was covered by a memorandum of agreement (MOA) in their March 18, 2017 meeting, was for the Chinese government to help fund the feasibility studies of at least two of the nine Philippine projects China had pledged to support.
A feasibility study does not commence the construction of any project.
Last year during the Aquino administration, the government had also sought the help of South Korea to fund the project’s feasibility study, as revealed by Senator Franklin Drilon, to no avail.


Experts, meanwhile, have cautioned the Philippine government of the scale of risks in the provisions of megaprojects like the 23.19-kilometer-long Western Visayas bridge.
Nicanor R. Roxas, Jr., who drafted the Cost Overruns and the Proposed Panay-Guimaras-Negros Inter-Island Bridge Project, confirmed that the Western Visayas bridge project has been studied by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and DPWH with varying projected costs and designs.
The costs reportedly range from P53 billion in 1999, P28.5 billion in 2010, and P54 billion in 2011.
“This just reflects the uncertainties in cost estimation for this kind of project. Different designs and alignments have different associated costs, but even if everything has been finalized, there is still no guarantee that costs will not change. Unforeseen problems will be encountered along the way, and together with these problems are unpredicted cost adjustments that pile up resulting in large cost overruns,” Roxas warned.


He added: “The Philippines does not have any experience in constructing a project of such magnitude. Thus, we have no formula for success, just like most of the other failed projects completed in the past.”

Roxas explained that “it is easier to enumerate projects that failed than projects which have succeeded. Therefore, it does not look promising and all the more the need to look into the experience of others in megaproject construction. It is clear that the effects of megaproject provision are extensive. If the megaproject construction fails, which is highly probable, other sectors are getting adversely affected.”
Roxas, a master of engineering specializing in Transportation Engineering from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand and member of the Transportation Science Society of the Philippines (TSSP) and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), further warned that “it does not look promising and all the more the need to look into the experience of others in megaproject construction.”

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Posted by on March 22, 2017 in NEWS!!!NEWS!!!NEWS!!!


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‘Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here’

“The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.”


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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY –– Plato was 29 when Socrates died, but it is not known when he started to write his many dialogues (most of which we still have) featuring Socrates as their central figure.
Socrates had a profound effect upon Plato whose own ideas only become clearly distinguishable from Socratic thought in his later works.
He may have been in his 50s when he co-founded his school with the mathematician Theaetetus. The school was named the Academy after the legendary Greek hero Academus.
Though the Academy Plato hoped to provide a good education for the future rulers of Athens and other city-states. The subjects taught were philosophy, astronomy, gymnastics, mathematics and especially geometry.
The inscription over the door of the Academy read “let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.” Amongst his pupils was Aristotle who, like Plato, was to be one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived.


Plato (427-347 B.C.) believed that everything tangible in nature “flows.” So there are no “substances” that do not dissolve. Absolutely everything that belongs to the “material world” is made of a material that time can erode, but everything is made after a timeless “mold” or “form” that is eternal and immutable.
Why are horses the same? There is something that all horses have in common, something that enables us to identify them as horses. A particular horse “flows,” naturally.
It might be old and lame, and in time it will die. But the “form” of the horse is eternal and immutable.
That which is eternal and immutable, to Plato, is therefore not a physical “basic substance,” as it was for Empedocles and Democritus.
Plato’s conception was of eternal and immutable patterns, spiritual and abstract in their nature, that all things are fashioned after.

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Posted by on March 20, 2017 in CULTURE AND HERITAGE, HISTORY



Ilonggo solons not (yet) rubber stamps

“Enjoy your time in public service. It may well be one of the most interesting and challenging times of your life.”
–Donald Rumsfeld

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Even members of the Iloilo City Council are getting annoyed and embarrassed that Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has become the most favorite punching bag of President Rodrigo Duterte each time the president unleashed his irascible wrath against some Liberal Party (LP) bigwigs.
So alarmed and disturbed were the city aldermen and women that they are now willing to help Mabilog collate the city government’s programs and/or accomplishments against illegal drugs and make a common stand.
They, too, must be hurting while seeing Mabilog reeling from absurd allegations that the city mayor, ranked No. 5 in the World Mayor two years ago, is a protector of merchants of prohibited substance.
Guided by an impermeable moral compass, the city councilors, led by Vice Mayor Jose III Espinosa, must have felt they could no longer afford to sit down and act like kibitzers while Mabilog was being pounded from pillar to post by a heavy bone-crusher.


We still have faith with our representatives from Western Visayas in the Philippines even if their independence was recently subjected into a microscopic sleuthing by some of impatient constituents who thought their unanimous yes votes for death penalty was a tell tale sign of their implied subservience to the Duterte administration.
As if their acid test was not enough, our congressmen and women will again be tested in at least two major issues that will soon be tackled in congress: the impeachment cases versus President Rodrigo Duterte (already filed) and Vice President Leni Robredo (still being floated).
If they reject both impeachment cases (granting that an impeachment case will be officially filed against Robredo), their constituents will never badger them. Life must go on.
Ilonggos are known to always decry any attempt to destabilize the incumbent administration. If any of the two–Duterte and Robredo–will be removed from office, a power vacuum can’t guarantee a sustained or immediate political and economic instability.


If government is on wobbly legs, life for Filipinos will not be normal.
Nobody would want to have this kind of environment especially if our priority is to provide our children with three square meals a day and send them to school.
If our solons will reject one impeachment and support another, their constituents will suspect that they are playing political favorites and are not taking their mandates seriously.
The Ilonggo constituents will be watching you, Reps. Sharon Garin (Ang Asosasyon Sang Manguguma Nga Bisaya-OWA Mangunguma Inc.); Atty. Jerry Trenas (Iloilo City); Richard Garin (Iloilo, 1st District); Arcadio Gorriceta (Iloilo, 2nd District); Atty. Arthur Defensor Jr. (Iloilo, 3rd District); Dr. Ferjenel Biron (Iloilo, 4th District); Raul Tupas (Iloilo, 5th District); and Maria Lucille Nava (Guimaras).


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