Crucifixions, They're More Fun in the Philippines Created on April 1, 2013, 3:01 am Posted by nup

During this Holy Week like others in the past, for as long as this author can remember, a small minority of Filipinos have been whipping themselves raw or nailing themselves to crosses in a supposed show of atonement and piety. This odd spectacle now draws worldwide interest with curious tourists flying in from all over to witness firsthand flagellants who whip themselves to down to raw flesh or penitents who are nailed to wooden crosses on Good Friday.

And while these individuals may have the purest of intentions, their bizarre acts have been turned into a carnival act that actually cheapens and disrespects the actual suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The fact that these penitents can go through a “staged” crucifixion on a yearly basis gives some the sense crucifixion was not all that hard after all. The thin and sterilized stainless steel nails these misguided penitents use keep hand wounds small and prevent infections.  They also stand on a pedestal and are harnessed to prevent them from ever hanging from the actual nails and getting seriously hurt.

At the end of the day, it is a circus act—a crude and distasteful circus act most civilized cultures are repulsed by. The day we Filipinos develop an ounce of common sense, we too will likely put a swift end to this sheer and utter nonsense.

It is important to note at this point that the country’s credit rating was recently raised to BB+ or investment grade by Fitch Ratings. This is the first time the country has held such a rating. And if we Filipinos are to maintain or even raise that rating, we have to start acting the part. Continuing many of these strange and peculiar practices will certainly not endear us to foreign investors looking for a serious place to park their money. The country will instead be seen as that strange place with a backward people who engage in bizarre and distasteful practices.

The Catholic Church has for the most part simply stood on the sidelines mumbling under their breath that such practices are not church sanctioned. But they make it a point not to object too loudly least they incur the wrath of the multitudes that weekly fill their collection plates.

With the Church unwilling or unable to stamp-out these practices, our present good economic fortune as well as our investment-grade rating may be nothing but a flash in the pan. In the end, the weird and wacky things some of us do will eventually drag the entire country back down to a third-world curiosity where strange things take place. At that point we’ll be more likely to find ourselves on the cover of tabloids like the Daily Enquirer than the pages of the Wall Street Journal or Fortune Magazine.

Cleaning up an election Created on March 26, 2013, 4:15 am Posted by nup

More than a month of the national electoral campaign has passed—and the words that come to mind are: boring, pretentious, and, surprising, clean. Except for some TV ads and the usual sorties, nothing much was heard or seen of the campaigns. Unsurprisingly, what became the stuff of news were the feeble attempts at issue positioning and debates, mudslinging, the fluctuating surveys, and the intramurals within and among senatorial and party-list candidates.

New general instruction on automated elections Created on March 26, 2013, 4:14 am Posted by nup

MANILA, Philippines - The new general instructions (GI) on the Election Automation Law – considered the bible for all candidates, poll watchers, lawyers and other practitioners in the campaign and election exercises – has recently been released by Commission on Elections (Comelec).

The Center for Global Best Practices invites all candidates and stakeholders who need to protect their ballots in this election exercise to a pioneering one-day seminar entitled “New General Instructions on Automated Election:  2013 IRR on voting, counting, canvassing, transmission, protest mechanisms and Continuity Plans for Board of Election Inspectors, Board of Canvassers and poll watchers,” scheduled on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at the Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City. For details and a complete list of seminars, you may log on to www.cgbp.org or call (02) 842-7148/59 and 556-8968/69; Cebu lines (032) 512-3106 or 07 or Baguio line (074) 423-5148.

In any question of law and procedure, the official reference for this election exercises will be the GI. This special one-day seminar is the only and most comprehensive program that will lay down its entire blueprint and will provide the complete guide on its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) on the poll automation law.

Listen and learn from the authorities who crafted and are implementing the GI and IRR regarding its interpretation especially on voting, counting, canvassing, transmission, protest mechanisms, continuity plans and other very important issues that everyone must know. This seminar will feature lawyer Ferdinand T. Rafanan, director IV, head of the law department and concurrently the planning department of Comelec. He will be joined in the panel by lawyer Rene V. Sarmiento, commissioner of the Comelec from 2006 until Feb. 2, 2013. He played a central role in the crafting of the general instruction for automated election for 2013.

Ignorance of the law and its IRR can cost a lot of votes.  Attend and empower yourself and your poll watchers, lawyers and people on the ground in the May 2013 election. Interested participants are encouraged to avail of the early bird and group discounts.  This is a limited-seats-only event and pre-registration is required.

Catholic educators: K to 12 curriculum could lead to layoffs Created on March 25, 2013, 5:02 am Posted by nup

With the expected drop in enrollment starting in 2017 due to the government's K-to-12 basic education curriculum, Catholic school leaders are concerned over the possibility of manpower displacement, even as they are searching for ways to cope with the effects of the new program.

 "[Layoffs] are possible kasi mawawalan ng First and Second Year [levels]," Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) president Fr. Gregorio Bañaga said in a telephone interview with GMA News Online on Sunday. Bañaga is also president of Adamson University.

Earlier, Department of Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, FSC, said colleges and universities can implement a senior high school program that will serve as the Grade 11 and Grade 12 or the two additional years of the students.

However, Bañaga said while CEAP is considering adopting the senior high program it will not be able to absorb all the affected professors.

"'Yung mga professor kasi, mayroon silang specialized [field], at 'yung sa [senior high school] program kasi, puro general subjects lang," he said.

"Halimbawa na lang 'yung mga mechanical engineers," he said... "unless magturo sila ng Math."

Asked how long the effects of the transition to the new curriculum will be felt, he said, "around 10 years."

Bañaga said they are looking at other possibilities to retain professors in the universities and colleges.

"We can retrain professors to get TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) certification so they can teach grade 11-12," he said. "We can also employ them to do research for the university."

In an article posted Saturday on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines website,  Bañaga said CEAP members may come up with a list of proposals to cope with the drop in the number of students, which by his estimate could go as high as 50 percent.

Bañaga said private school administrators are strategizing together on how to address the financial challenges that their schools will face given the expected decrease in enrollment starting 2017.

Under the government's K-to-12 system, students can forgo going to college after undergoing two more years in senior high school.

Technical and vocational skills will be taught to students to help them land a job or engage in entrepreneurial endeavors after graduating from high school.

As a college degree will remain an option for selected students, freshman enrollment may generally decrease, with the drop more felt by private schools than state universities.

Still supporting K to 12

The CBCP article, however, said the CEAP’s 1,345 member schools nationwide are still supporting the shift from the previous 10-year basic education program to the new 12-year curriculum.

CEAP members in Luzon held a conference on K to 12 transition last January 21 and 22, while the Visayas leg of the conference was held Feb. 11 to 12 at the Sarabia Manor Hotel in Iloilo City.

The Mindanao leg was scheduled February 21 to 22 at the Ateneo de Davao University (Jacinto Campus).

CEAP said the conferences were organized to address critical issues of the coming K to 12 transition, including the labor and legal implications, and the senior high school (SHS) curriculum. — with Amanda Fernandez /LBG, GMA News

Pastor carries PH hopes to Nascar Created on March 25, 2013, 5:01 am Posted by nup

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino Enzo Pastor, whose racing monuments stand upon the battlefields of Europe and the US, sets out for a new challenge, the Euro NASCAR Touring Series, which zooms off March 30 in Nogaro, France and visits Clark in November.

"I haven't felt this excited going into a race in a long time," said Pastor before his departure for France, the first of 12 stops he is competing in over the next 10 months.

For the first time in nearly 10 years, Pastor, who has raced on various tracks, goes up against foreign competition in a race that requires one-make cars for participants, eliminating the advantage in power and technology which had made him an underdog in international racing.

"I've never had the best car or anything like that. My past few stints in Macau would see me always being down on power or technology-wise."

In NASCAR racing, homologated cars level the playing field, putting premium on skill and experience.

"Everyone has the same equipment," says Enzo. "If there are any disadvantages, they are very minimal."

Pastor will be guided by legendary former Formula One visionary Ted Toleman, who discovered and guided the career of Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna.

"He said I'm his last protégé," Enzo shares. "Everyone knows Ted in the industry and I don't think he’d be wasting his time on promoting and helping just anyone."

Even as Pastor prepares for the Nogaro race, he can't wait to race in the November stage where he will be showing his skills in front of his countrymen at the Clark International Speedway.

For the first time in Asia, and through the efforts of the Philippine Formula Autosport Foundation, Inc. (PFAFI), Clark is hosting the Asian leg of the Euro Racecar NASCAR Touring Series.

Supporting Pastor in the series is the Department of Tourism, which, together with Petron, Resorts World, and Fox Sport, will serve as co-presentors for the first Asian-Philippine NASCAR leg.

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