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Savoring the air of Christmas

There is whiff of Christmas after the Thanksgiving holiday. Everyone seems laden with the feasting, including the news – as this editor struggles to find a respectable enough headline for this edition of our paper. My wife observed that could be because most newsmen tend to veer toward the sensational, glossing over “positive news” even when readers have become weary of the relentless political battles here and back home, wars, diseases and calamities. No, we tell her, it’s just that “news” focuses on the man biting the dog, on impossible struggles, the absurd or the kind of hilarity that challenges control of our bladder. But in the spirit of the coming holidays, perhaps it’s time indeed to look at our world in a more positive light.

Last October, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to take the lead role in the government’s campaign against illegal drugs. Most believe that’s backlash from widespread criticism of the graft-prone Philippine National Police (PNP) which has been blamed for most of the 3,000-9,000 (depending on who you’re asking) drug suspects killed in the “war on drugs”, including teens allegedly killed in cold blood.

PDEA chief Aaron Aquino, a retired police general who took over the post last August, has vowed to prosecute Pres. Duterte’s “war” based on the rule of law. Since taking the lead role, reports from Manila indicate only one drug suspect has been killed in 1,341 anti-drug operations. One out a thousand! Though some have found that miniscule “body count” disturbing and are moving to “rectify” the situation, we will end it there as we promised to be “positive”.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana visited Washington recently to receive the thanks of so many who have benefitted from his tireless work as the country’s special envoy for Filipino veterans of World War II. He also didn’t lose any time dropping by Tito Al’s “Wednesday Club” in Oxon Hill, Md. – a favorite karaoke haunt while he was DC resident (for over 11 years) just like many active-duty and retired soldiers and policemen who’ve either settled down or been posted to the American capital.

Tito Al Alpapara has built a virtual shrine at a corner of his sprawling office where would-be minstrels can pay homage to the great crooners of their generation, and Sec. Lorenzana, with his baritone voice, has demonstrated that he is a worthy compeer of this community.

Fresh from the hard-earned victory at Marawi, Sec. Lorenzana has proven to be a moderating force in the Duterte administration. At the start of the siege, he ringed the one-time “Pearl of Lanao” with thousands of troops, tanks and planes. And yet amid the overwhelming firepower, the army placed the life of civilians above military expediency. The official death toll is 1,225 – 973 terrorists, 165 soldiers and 80 civilians (40 of them reportedly from illness). With the amount of carnage we could see on nightly TV news programs, it seemed obvious it could’ve been a lot worse for civilians. It was a brilliant strategy if only because it acknowledged the socio-political, moral and propaganda ramifications of the struggle in Marawi City.

The Department of Tourism has revived a program that rewards overseas Filipinos to convince their foreigner friends to visit the Philippines. They could win a top prize of a condo unit from Megaworld. The come-on was introduced in 1994 by former trade whiz Mina Gabor but abandoned after only a few years. Now, Tourism Sec. Wanda Teo is bringing it back (the promo runs until April next year) after a survey that showed that every other tourist who visits the country was enticed by a friend’s recommendation. The Tourism Department is aiming for seven million visitors for 2017 (they hit 3.5 million at the end of June). With 10 million overseas Filipinos, they reckon they can hit their target, with change to spare.

Cheryl Nakanishi was crowned “Miss Universe” in Hamburg, Germany last month – no, it’s not the pageant you might be thinking of (the country’s bet Rachel Peters finished in the top 10 of that “other” contest held in Las Vegas last Nov. 26). Cheryl was the 1st Filipina to win the NAC International Mr. & Ms. Universe bodybuilding championship last Nov. 25, proving that Filipinas are masters of many universes.

The Philippine economy grew 6.9 percent as of the 3rd quarter of 2017, one of Asia’s best performing economies just behind Vietnam but slightly ahead of China.

Like a fairy tale, American biracial actress Meghan Markle has found her Prince, Harry and they announced plans to wed in the spring.

And speaking of weddings, our warmest congratulations to lawyer Arnedo Valera and Elizabeth Babiera-Valera who wed in church rites in Davao City a few days ago. They have two grown sons and have weathered, in the eyes of the state, years of bumps and bliss. Before flying home, Atty. Valera said it was time to give Beth the church wedding, thoroughly convinced he’s already given her enough time to back out. Mabuhay ang mga bagong kasal!


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