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Iloilo Freedom Grandstand perfect!

“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” –Michelangelo

By Alex P. Vidal

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NEWARK, New Jersey — The present location of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on J.M. Basa Street in downtown Iloilo City in the Philippines is perfect.

Some Ilonggos find it difficult how to locate the Hoskyn’s Compound, the Iloilo Sports Complex, the Plaza Libertad, the Fort San Pedro, the Nelly’s Garden, the Jaro Belfry, the Rotary Ampitheater, Camp Martin Delgado, among other major destinations in the “City of Love”, but they know how fast to reach the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

It is the only public grandstand in the Philippines known for its easy access to the regional government offices, universities, parks, landmarks, churches, seaports and arrastre services, a shopping center, media institutions, a business center, a police camp, and the Filipino-Chinese community.

It is the only public grandstand in the Philippines where all types of vehicles and other modes of transportation, except airplane, can enter and park (the archaic Panay Railways used to operate in the back).

When Ilonggos seek redress of their grievances, they march to the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

There, they easily attract public and media attention.

The issues they bring before the bar of public opinion reverberate all over the metropolis and are easily circulated.

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When Ilonggos hold ungated mammoth cultural, political, sports and religious programs they easily attract national and international attention when they hold them at the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand like the Dinagyang Festival, which recently commemorated its 50th year, miting de avance of political parties, and evangelical fellowship prayers of various religious denominations.

Red cross volunteers, social and health workers find the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand as the perfect venue to distribute truckloads of goods, medicines and other donations that need to be expedited for victims of typhoons, fire, and other natural calamities.

Because of its location, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been considered as the epitome of public service, the vanguard of freedom of expression, the sanctuary of the voiceless and oppressed, the mecca of tourism, the show window of the Ilonggos’ character and cultural heritage.

Bonifacio Drive is not a Bonifacio Drive without the Iloilo Museo and Iloilo Capitol, in the same manner that Calle Real is not a Calle Real without the Iloilo Ampitheater and the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand.

The J.M. Basa-Mapa-Aduana-Ortiz-Guanco rectangle would be arid and lifeless if not for the presence of the majestic Iloilo Freedom Grandstand, the pride of all Ilonggos.

 

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What has the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand done to deserve death?

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.”

–Branch Rickey

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — What have I done to deserve death? Did I humiliate the Ilonggos?

Did I commit a heinous crime against humanity?

Did I play host to scandalous and violent activities?

Did I pose a threat to national security?

Did I obstruct traffic and the pedestrians’ right of way?

Did I pillage the environment and natural resources?

Thus would have been the valid laments of the condemned Iloilo Freedom Grandstand in Iloilo City in the Philippines if it could only speak and protest its imminent extermination.

Instead of being “rewarded” for bringing pride and honor to the Ilonggos since it was built some 60 years ago, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand faces demolition in the modern era when men are equipped with scientific knowledge and expertise to build and renovate.

Instead of being preserved and restored to its old glory for helping showcase and sustain the Ilonggos’ spirit, aesthetic and ingenuity in the global village, the grandstand will be blown to bits in the age of technology when innovation and state-of-the-art infrastructure are at fever-pitch.

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand has been known to be the Ilonggos’ version of Munich’s Allianz Arena, Rome’s The Colosseum, Milan’s San Siro, Barcelona’s Camp Nuo, Portland’s Providence Park, New Zealand’s Forsyth Barr, Poland’s Stadion Energa, Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana, Boston’s Fenway Park, and Hungary’s Pancho Arena.

It is a source of their hope and pride, not shame and scandal.

Where is our gratitude?

But, wait a minute.

Proponents of the move to dismantle the grandstand and transfer it to Muelle Loney facing the Iloilo River, will argue that the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand will not be actually wiped off the face of the earth.

It will only be transferred to pave the way for expansion and improvement of the Sunburst Park, where the present Iloilo Freedom Grandstand on J.M. Basa Street stands.

From its present location where it faces the giant eagle in a building across the street, pedestrians, and passing vehicles to Muelle Loney, where it will face the river, the boats, and the fishes.

In simple explanation, it will be “demoted demographically.”

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The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand is a legitimate asset. Demolishing it doesn’t make sense.

Preserving it is one aspect of paying homage to our heritage with which we can interact and adapt.

The grandstand, which has survived the test of time, has specific historic context.

It should have been meticulously and exactly preserved.

Since it has become part of our character and identity over the years, the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand must be lived in, interacted with and maintained by the public.

The outdoor structure, conceptualized after the Ilonggos’ right to elect their local officials commenced in 1950, has changed with us, thus recording a piece of each generation’s story from circa fifties to Internet Age.

Ilonggos are morally and patriotically obliged to respect this community resource and preserve it for future generations.

Owing to its colorful history, the preservation of the Iloilo Freedom Grandstand can help strengthen the community’s future.

The Iloilo Freedom Grandstand’s imposing presence in a piece of property of the former Customs House Plaza, would have helped create vibrant, cultural downtowns that will further draw art, festival, tourism, and other activities which in turn draw investment, revenue, and economic growth for Iloilo City aside from solidifying a community’s past.

 
 

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Bizarre Dinagyang crime stories

“In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey –– After witnessing the cold-blooded murder of a plainclothes cop from Arevalo district during the  1990 Dinagyang Festival final night in Iloilo City in the Philippines, I became convinced that there should be a gun ban when the Ilonggos celebrate the feast of Señor Santo Niño every year.

The cop (I can remember him only as “Ben”) was gunned down while answering the call of nature on the rear tire of an owner type jeep where I was sitting and parked on corner Valeria and Ledesma Streets in the City Proper, a stone throw away from our News Express editorial office.

“Ben” died on the spot from multiple gunshot wounds fired by an unknown assailant at past seven o’clock in the evening.

I was holding my friend Emmanuel “Boyet” Carillo’s state-of-the-art camera (which was burned in a fire that gutted their house in Kalibo, Aklan weeks later), thus I was able to take some photos as “Ben” sprawled on the pavement bathing in his own blood.

The case has remained unsolved.

We also support the move of the Police Regional Office 6 (PRO-6) and the Iloilo City Police Office (ICPO) to prohibit glass bottles and cans during the revelries.

Glass bottles and beer or soft drink cans can become deadly if used by drunken revelers as weapons.

Senior Inspector Shella Mae Sangrines, ICPO spokesperson, said in a recent press conference they did not want revelers to carry illegal weapons, drugs and other harmful contraband, thus they would inspect all backpacks.

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The police may also check belt bags aside from backpacks.

Drug dealers and gang members carrying deadly weapons and illegal substances will eschew backpacks now that the police have announced what type of bag to be strictly perused during the festivities.

Some thugs who use backpacks are not really members of drug syndicates, terror groups and street-level fraternities engaged in riot.

Some of them are small time robbers or pickpockets.

One afternoon during the 1998 Dinagyang Festival, I “saved” a 17-year-old out-of-school teenager from being lynched by an angry mob near the Ledesma Street gate of Mary Mart Mall in Iloilo City.

“Randy” was being punched and kicked by male and female attackers while tightly embracing his backpack.

I intervened and was able to stop the carnage. When I checked the victim’s backpack, it contained several Nokia and Philips  analog cellular phones.

He was a “snatcher” cornered by some of his victims.

I negotiated with the maulers and helped them recover their cellular phones right away. I escorted the “snatcher” away from harm after he promised to go straight.

Since I was into sports, I encouraged him to train as amateur boxer in the YMCA gym. After a series of bouts in our weekly boxing tournament at the Iloilo City Freedom Grandstand, I introduced him to the late then City Administrator Angelo “Bebot” Geremias and brought him to Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu thereafter where he won a bronze medal in the inter-city youth slugfest.

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Drunkenness should also be regulated if not avoided during the Dinagyang revelry.

In the 1994 Dinagyang, the grandson of a prominent Filipino-Chinese tycoon hogged headlines when he was “drugged and molested” by two gay hairdressers who befriended him at the Freedom Grandstand, the main judging area for ati dance competitions.

“Anthony”, who once worked with former Sen. Joselito “Lito” Lapid as stuntman in an action film shot in Cebu, alleged that he passed out and wasn’t able to go home after a drinking session with the two hairdressers while waiting for announcement of winners Sunday evening.

He woke up the following morning in the sidewalk of J.M. Basa Street without a shirt. His other personal belongings went missing. He confessed to police he suffered a “swollen penis” and was treated in the hospital.

When one of the hairdressers was stabbed dead by an unknown suspect in Brgy. Tanza-Baybay in the City Proper weeks later, “Anthony” disappeared in Iloilo City.

“Anthony’s” cousin, “Jaguar”, who owns a resort in Boracay in Caticlan, Aklan, got mad when police coaxed him to cooperate and pinpoint his cousin’s whereabouts.

I accompanied the cop who went to the cousin’s office, a lending firm, in downtown, City Proper. The cop managed to enter and talk to “Jaguar” briefly before being rebuked.

I was left outside “Jaguar’s” office after being denied entry by “Jaguar’s” secretary.

“Anthony” hasn’t been seen again.

 

 

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The man Mayor Joe III respects most

“This is the person you think is your antagonist, who ends up being your greatest ally: the person who pushes, criticizes, and challenges you to meet a standard of excellence you might not otherwise achieve.”

— Bonnie Hammer

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — If some allies and confidants of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III in the Philippines find it hard to make him agree on certain matters that are clearly correct and lawful, they shouldn’t feel bad about it.

They shouldn’t be quick to pillory him; refrain from antagonizing him and get their fingers off the trigger.

Mayor Joe III is now his own man; no one can compel him to follow suggestions and pieces of unsolicited advice even from his contemporaries and advisers.

If he will adopt some of their sensible suggestions, it’s a bonus. If he doesn’t, no hard feelings.

The city mayor is the master of all ceremonies; he has the final say on every crucial matter that requires a critical judgment of the city hall chief executive.

Whether he fails or succeeds, the buck stops on his table.

For sure, there were those who did attempt to tell him to go slow on the issue against the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD).

But he didn’t.

Public opinion showed the odds were stacked against him. Some were saying it backfired.

Mayor Joe III’s unfortunate bicker with the water utility’s board of directors, his baptism of fire after clinching the mayoral post on October 30, 2017, has remained unresolved before 2018 came.

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Recently, for sure, there were those within his coterie of consultants who tried but failed to dissuade him from closing the Plaza Rizal Street in Jaro district for vendors on January 8, 2018 through an executive order.

Not all his recent decisions were popular, in the same manner that not all the suggestions or opposition from his acolytes were reasonable and acceptable.

Because of the city mayor’s executive order, vendors have erected kiosks on two lanes of the four-lane road as part of the 2018 Jaro Agro-Industrial and Charity Fair from Jan. 8 to Feb. 8. The fair is part of the Jaro fiesta celebration that will highlight on Feb. 2.

The closure order didn’t sit well with pedestrians and motorists caught in traffic jam as a result.

But because the city mayor has the solid backing from City Administrator Hernando Galvez and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), he won’t believe Councilor Plaridel Nava, a lawyer like him, who considered the executive order as legally infirm.

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Ilonggos will have to brace for more surprises on Mayor Joe III’s brand of leadership as he completes the remaining term of office of his predecessor, Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, in 2019.

Some of his detractors may be waiting for Mayor Joe III to slip in the banana peel or to commit bad and unpopular decisions while in office and kiss goodbye his chances to win the same position in May 2019.

But there are also strong chances he will finish the remaining 15 months of Mabilog’s unfinished term with flying colors.

This was made possible after he reportedly retained some of Mabilog’s best consultants, not to mention his built-in rapport with his former peers in the city council.

Among those who are reportedly helping rev up his engine in public service are former vice mayor, Dr. Guillermo dela Llana, and former city councilors, Victor Facultad and Dr. Perla Zulueta.

Dela Llana is one of the only few consultants that Mayor Joe III respects most when it comes to running a public office.

Back in 1990s when Dela Llana was vice mayor and Mayor Joe III was senior member of the city council, they worked together like father and son. So closed were Dela Llana and Mayor Joe III that they would sometimes swap some trusted staffers.

Then Councilor Joe III also “accommodated” casual workers handpicked by then Vice Mayor De Llana.

When Dela Llana, Joe III, and the late former Councilor Eduardo Laczi formed a triumvirate in the city council, they became Mayor Mansueto Malabor’s “headaches.”

Facultad and Zulueta were also his most trusted and long-time allies and some of the only few remnants of their dreaded bloc in the city council that brought nightmares to the Malabor administration.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2018 in POLITICS

 

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Treñas, Joe III shutting the political doors

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

-George Orwell

By Alex P. Vidal

NEWARK, New Jersey — As expected, those who are for and against Iloilo City lone district Rep. Jerry P. Treñas couldn’t hide their emotions when he disclosed over the weekend his intention to run again for city mayor in 2019.

For those who admire Treñas, the announcement was like a Broadway music to their ears.

For those who hate him, especially those intending to run for city mayor but are nervous to square off with him owing to his “vast” machinery and name-recall edge, the disclosure of Treñas 2019 candidacy was like a rhythmic sound from a horror or zombie film.

In fact, the announcement of Treñas’ candidacy was already “too much to bear” for the opposition.

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The unexpected ascension to power of Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa III in October 2017 was already a big blow to the opposition which was having a field day watching Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog being destroyed by President Duterte’s repeated but unfounded accusations of being a “narco politician.”

The opposition waited on tenterhooks for Mabilog to capitulate from Duterte’s demolition apparatus and deliver their own coup de grâce in time for the 2019 political derby.

The opposition believed that during election time, it’s easy to clobber the badly battered Mabilog just in case he aspired for congress.

But the picture changed abruptly when the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Mabilog and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) installed then acting city mayor Espinosa III in a full-fledged capacity.

By being given the chance and privilege to become “instant” mayor and finish Mabilog’s remaining term, Espinosa III was able to expand his wherewithal and pull ahead of his potential rivals in 2019 in the event he decides to run for mayor.

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If Espinosa III will run for congress in tandem with mayoral bet Treñas next year, it’s tantamount to shutting the door on lesser-known aspirants for the same positions.

In terms of logistics and name-recall, the incumbents always have the peripheral edge in any election.

And if they are the administration candidates, their opponents would need a stairway to heaven to mount a miracle to win.

Not to underestimate them, the opposition still parades a wealth of quality leaders the Ilonggos can be proud of like Dr. Pacita Trainidad-Gonzalez, her daughter Dr. Marigold “Gold” Gonzalez, Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon, Councilors Joshua Alim and Plaridel Nava, businessman-journalist Rommel Ynion, former councilor Rolando Dabao, and former Erap impeachment trial prosecutor Daniel Cartagena, to name only a few.

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Treñas’ candidacy will, however, bring additional agony and headache for the opposition which, for the past four consecutive elections, could not find the magic key to unlock the path to the winning column.

After absorbing defeat after defeat, the opposition continues to scramble for politically sturdy candidates who can match the ferocity of the Mabilog-Treñas-Espinosa III triumvirate.

Minus Mabilog, Treñas and Espinosa III appear to be capable of closing the gates for other aspirants.

All they need is to swap.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2018 in POLITICS

 

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Mayor Joe III can’t interfere in daughter’s happiness

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
-John Wooden

By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — A father can’t interfere in his daughter’s love affair.
He can only give advice and suggestions, but a father can’t control or halt a daughter’s heartbeat.
He can’t prevent her either from marrying the love of her life–unless it’s a shotgun marriage; unless the marriage is fraught with fraud and impropriety.
Such was the case when the Metro Iloilo Water District (MIWD) defied Iloilo City Mayor Jose “Joe III” Espinosa and proceeded with the issuance of notice of award to the MetroPac Water Investments Corp (MWIC) for their P12.349-billion joint venture December 21.

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MIWD showed Mayor Joe III that its love affair with the MWIC is “none of his business” to say the least.
That the deal underwent transparent process, legitimate and aboveboard.
Therefore, the city mayor has no right to halt the MIWD-MWIC romance.
As a father, Mayor Joe III can’t stand in between his daughter and her happiness.
As long as they are both happy and satisfied, their understanding is mutual; and the marriage doesn’t have any legal impediment, couple MIWD and MWIC can live happily ever after.
Mayor Joe III can always run to the court if he still wishes to uncouple the lovers.

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News is when a man bites a dog. Dog biting a man isn’t news.
News is when a cabbie or a driver of any public or private vehicle fatally attacks a pedestrian or a fellow driver in a traffic altercation.
They call it “road rage.”
A mere exchange of heated words isn’t news. A road scene where an angry motorist flashes “f” sign to another motorist or a pedestrian vice versa, isn’t even earthshaking.
When irate drivers and passengers tangle in chaotic traffic snarl during rush hours, it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Just like when we see beggars wearing rugged cloths in the sidewalks or a cop placing cuffs on a thief. They are normal events.

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But when a sweet-looking young lady, who seems can not hurt a fly, punches an elderly driver in broaddaylight over a traffic snafu and the victim reels away like a groggy pugilist about to hit the canvas, it’s not only news, it’s viral especially when the tumult is caught on video.
In our culture, elderly persons are treasured, loved, and respected regardless of status in life.
Even if they commit slight trespasses or simple misdemeanor, we don’t lay our hand on them.
If they misbehave or commit unplesant acts sometimes due to dementia and other age-related ailments, we can chide them surreptitiously but not harm them physically.
We don’t assault our own parents.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2017 in Family, MEDIA, POLITICS

 

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Did Fr. Boy Celis err?

“If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”

–Saint Augustine

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By Alex P. Vidal

NEW YORK CITY — Was the move of Fr. Espiridion “Boy” Celis Jr., parish priest of Saint Anne’s Parish in Molo, Iloilo City in the Philippines, of calling for a press conference to voice out his rancor with Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, correct?
The press conference at the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) on November 28, 2017 came days after Bishop Lagdameo supposedly rejected Fr. Celis’ appeal to postpone his transfer to Saint Anthony’s Parish in Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo effective December 3, 2017.
Fr. Celis lamented that his appeal during their private meeting “fell on deaf ears.”
Since the issue Fr. Celis raised against Bishop Lagdameo was intra-congregation, we suspect the move to call for a press conference was not only incorrect, but also a bad move.
We suspect Fr. Celis erred when he decided to bring the matter to the media instead of waiting for the result of his petition before the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome, Italy.
We respect though Fr. Celis’ right to seek redress of his grievances in the “proper forum.”

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Still, media can’t coax Bishop Lagdameo to change his heart. The glitzy publicity can’t swivel the bishop’s mind.
The public can’t help either. After monitoring the press conference, it can’t hold a “people power” to compel the bishop to favor Fr. Celis.
Any press conference of that nature, in fact, could produce a surfeit of belligerence, thus it would only exacerbate Fr. Celis’ enmity with the Jaro archbishop instead of appeasing the church bigwig.
The issue was about an edict for reshuffling of priests, which falls under the Roman Catholic Church authority.
In the church’s hierarchy and in its chain of command, Bishop Lagdameo is mandated to dispense the clergy’s reassignment.
Shall a professional police officer denounce his superior officer and get sympathy from the press for transferring him from one police precinct to another? If the police officer can’t stand the heat, he can always run to the kitchen’s nearest exit.

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Fr. Celis was quoted in the report as saying that “I presented the case as plainly, as lovingly, as quietly as possible, and it was just explaining to him (Lagdameo) why it was important to let me stay with my parishioners (in Molo) for a while. But, unfortunately, (his) ears were closed.”
Fr. Celis added that he was prompted to bring the matter to the church’s higher authorities in Rome after he was allegedly “dared” by the archbishop to do it.
He also compared his predicament to the historical Jesus Christ, maltreated by his fellow Jews despite his goodness, according to report.
From the way Fr. Celis expressed his sentiments, it appeared he was already exasperated. After being spurned by Bishop Lagdameo in what could have been his last-ditch effort to save his present post, he probably became distraught and must’ve thought that, by bringing the matter to the media, it would, at least, mollify his pain and frustration.
Our heart goes out for the good priest who is arguably one of the most respected and highly admired church authorities in Western Visayas today.
Ignosce mihi, pater, quia peccavi or forgive me Father for I have sinned.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in RELIGION

 

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