Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Organizers of Ecija’s “Taong Putik” Festival eyes Guinness Record

ALIAGA, Nueva Ecija – Organizers of Tuesday’s “Taong Putik” Festival are seeking another milestone : the event’s inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records (GBWR) for having the most number of people who bathed in mud in one single occasion.

          Father Carlos Padilla, parish priest of the St. John the Baptist Parish in Barangay Bibiclat which organized the festival, said the event is unique in itself and deserves to be recognized by appropriate world-renowned bodies such as the  GBWR.

          “It’s possible that we may apply it with Guinness. Anyway, it is something that is unique, a religious ritual involving mud people and devotees,” Padilla said.

Mayor Beth Vargas agreed, saying the event has distinguished itself from other events in the country. “But of course, we have to consult the organizers because as far as we know, they don’t want to commercialize the event,” she said.

The possible application of the “Taong Putik” Festival in the GBWR was raised after it drew 7,000 mud people and St. John devotees Tuesday which was covered by national media and wire agencies.

Every 24th of June, Bibiclat, a rustic barangay some 30 kilometers from Cabanatuan City, welcomes hundreds of tourists and devotees of St. John. They were welcomed by a uniquely-dressed group of devotees whose faces and bodies were smeared with mud and covered with dried banana leaves, a form of religious ritual of humility, penance and vow.

By turning themselves into mud people, participants emulate St. John the Baptist, who hid his role as the chosen one to baptize Jesus Christ by appearing in most biblical tales dressed like a beggar, wearing animal skin to deceive those who were after his head.

Among those who took part in Tuesday’ festival were elderlies and children as young as three years old.

Vargas said the oldest participant in the event is a centenarian whose name she could not recall.

Asked if the festival could also be declared as an international pilgrimage site, which is being lobbied by the city government of Manila in the case of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Padilla said the St. John parish has been declared a diocesan shrine of the Archdiocese of Cabanatuan and thus, is a pilgrimage site in itself.

He explained that a parish can be declared as a diocesan shrine when its patron saint is a miraculous patron. 

Vice Mayor Alfredo Domingo and his wife Leny, who go to Church in the morning said the event has enhanced the town’s image as tourist spot.

The patron saint, St. John the Baptist, is said to perform numerous miracles, including the healing of fatal diseases and ailments.

But the single biggest miracle associated with the patron saint was believed to have occurred sometime in 1944 shortly after a group of Japanese soldiers was ambushed by guerrilla rebels.

In retaliation, the Japanese officers ordered all the men of the community arrested and brought to the chapel grounds in Bibiclat.  Filipinos were about to be shot at noon when their relatives went to the church and prayed hard for their safety.

Suddenly, it rained hard and the Japanese officers - interpreting this as a sign of disapproval from heaven - ordered the execution stopped and set the men free.

The people then danced in jubilation and played in the mud. They attributed the miracle to St. John the Baptist.

As in rituals past, the festival starts before the crack of dawn at 4 am when participants wake up and go to the nearest rice paddies to smear mud on their bodies and wear the grass or dried leaves.

Then they walked around the community and begged for candles or money to buy candles, which they lit before praying.

House owners give them money or candles, believing that this gesture would be paid back with blessings.

Afterwards, they proceed to the church yard to hear Mass. The saint's statue is then paraded around the community, with the devotees carrying lit candles and roses, offering prayers before they wash themselves and join their families for the fiesta celebration later in the day. (Manny Galvez)

Noy wants world-class Bilibid by year-end in Fort Magsaysay where pa was detained

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija–President Aquino wants to have the New Bilibid Prisons, now in Muntinlupa City, to be transferred by year-end to the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) in Nueva Ecija where his late father, former senator and democracy icon Benigno Aquino was detained during Martial Law. 
          Armed Forces of the Philippines vice chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. told newsmen that the Chief Executive wants a modern national penitentiary, reportedly worth P40 billion, to be included in his accomplishment report for 2014.

          “The President wants it done by the end of 2014,” Catapang stressed, adding that the site being eyed is in the municipality of Laur covered by the 44,000-hectare FMMR.

Considered the largest military camp in the country, the reservation - named after another democracy icon - former President Ramon Magsaysay, houses the Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7th ID), the Scout Ranger Regiment, the Special Forces and the Airborne Forces.

It was also in this reservation where the elder Aquino and his fellow former senator Jose Diokno were placed under solitary confinement for one month during the Martial Law years.

Catapang said the transfer is now being worked out in coordination with other government offices such as the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

He said it is being eyed as Public Private Partnership Project of the Aquino administration.

Early this month, DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, its supervising official on the BuCor and the NBP, said the new facility being eyed is a modern one that will follow international standards and will cost P40 billion.

Baraan said the 551-hectare NBP in Muntinlupa , which opened in 1940, is now heavily congested as it houses 14,500 prisoners in its maximum security detention area alone although it was programmed to accommodate only 8,400 inmates. All in all, the NBP houses around 20,000 inmates.        

 Recently, a controversy broke out in the NBP over the alleged unauthorized hospitalization of high-profile inmates, including convicted drug lord and Sigue Sigue Sputnik gang leader Ricardo Camata, Pasig drug flea market operator Amin Buratong and bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colangco.  

Baraan said the plan is to convert the Muntinlupa penitentiary, valued at around P42 billion,  into a mixed-use commercial area.

As early as May 2012, the Aquino administration has been working to carry out the transfer of the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) to Fort Magsaysay.

Gaudencio Pangilinan, then-BuCor director, said the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council was also involved in the negotiations. 

The plan to transfer the 20,000 inmates from the NBP and 2,000 inmates from the CIW was pursued after local officials in Tanay, Rizal opposed an earlier order to transfer them there.

In 2006, Aquino’s predecessor, then-president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order 568 authorizing the transfer of the NBP to a 272-hectare reservation in Barangay Cuyambay in Tanay.    

Legarda Hails Declaration of Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary as UNESCO Heritage Site

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today hailed the inscription of Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary in the UNESCO World Heritage List and renewed her call for greater protection of the country’s natural and cultural heritage.

“I am happy that we have our new UNESCO World Heritage Site. I commend the agencies, local government units and communities for working hard to preserve and protect the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary,” said Legarda.

“This triumph should also remind us of our role as stewards of our natural resources and cultural heritage. Every citizen should be aware of our collective responsibility to protect our heritage not only for the sake of recognition or inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List, but more importantly as part of our sustainable development goals,” she added. 

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is officially the 6th World Heritage Site in the Philippines. Other UNESCO Heritage Sites in the country are Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Baroque Churches of the Philippines, Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and the Historic City of Vigan.

The official description of the site states that “the property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevations, and includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found only at Mount Hamiguitan.”

Legarda said that the declaration of Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary as a World Heritage Site further highlights the need to safeguard the biodiversity in the area.

“This wildlife sanctuary and many other naturally abundant areas make the Philippines a mega diverse country, but it is also one of the world’s top biodiversity hotspots, with a large number of species either endangered or threatened of extinction. Thus the need for collaborative efforts among government agencies, local government units and citizens to conserve our heritage and if possible, rehabilitate the natural resources that have been damaged by our irresponsible acts,” Legarda concluded.

Drilon backs DOJ for administration of WPP

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon said he is opposed to a proposed legislation which seeks to remove the Witness Protection Program (WPP) from the Department of Justice, saying that it is part of the agency’s mandate as the government’s primary prosecution arm to search out for witnesses and ensure their safety to aid in effective disposition of justice.  

The Senate leader threw his support behind Secretary Leila de Lima who sought to retain jurisdiction on the WPP under the DOJ which is the subject of House Bill No. 4583 seeking to transfer administration of WPP to lower courts.

As former justice secretary, Drilon said he fully understands the need for the DOJ to retain control of the WPP.

“It is the duty of the DOJ being the lead prosecutor to gather credible witnesses who have knowledge about the crimes committed. But to persuade a witness to speak out is not an easy task. It is where the WPP plays an important role because it is being used by prosecutors to convince a witness to testify against a criminal offender,” said Drilon.

“The WPP is a factor that convinces witnesses to cooperate with the DOJ in its duty to prosecute criminal offenders and provide justice. It is also therefore the obligation of the DOJ to give 24-hour protection to the lives of state witnesses and provide for their needs while they are in government’s custody,” he added.

Drilon pointed out that there are standards the DOJ follows to enroll a witness into WPP and “politics is definitely not a consideration.”

“The primary considerations are the relevance of the testimony and the threat to the life of the state witness. Politics does not and should not play any role in determining who qualifies as state witness,” he stressed.

During his time as justice secretary, Drilon said the WPP became effective in the conviction of then Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

The Senate leader concluded that the WPP has been an effective government mechanism for the administration of justice in the country. 


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