The Ninth Coffin

Her death was set.

Nine coffins were brought to Nusakambangan island in Central Java earlier that day; they were to be filled with bodies of whom Indonesia considers the worst criminals.

So bad that they deserved to face a firing squad of 10 and have a bullet pierce through their heart, and then through the head at close range should their bodies survive the first blow.

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Why We Go Away

The first time I paid for my own travel, with my friends, outside of the country, was in 2013. It was Bangkok, Thailand and I thought then that the main reason we go away is to learn about others.

Thailand looked exactly like the Philippines, except when it came to religion. Where we have our stone churches, they have their temples and pagodas. In Ayutthaya, their elephants roamed free, whereas our elephant is growing thin inside a poorly-maintained zoo.

My friend Toni told me of political backstories while in Thailand. That being a monarchy has instilled a strong sense of obedience in the people; they were disciplined, they followed orders, and respected authority, for which we can only say so much of our democracy.

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Bantayan Island will never be paradise lost

This essay was first published on

On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made its fourth landfall on Bantayan Island, the northernmost tip of Cebu. For days, the remote island had no communication to the world beyond the sea. The storm destroyed 90% of houses, including resorts and other establishments that sustained tourism in the island.

In the days that followed one of the most catastrophic calamity the world has seen, Bantayan Island was hopeless.

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In Albay where things do not end

The sun over Legazpi Boulevard in Legazpi City, Albay is unforgiving at daytime. The sea breathes hot wind and the mountain beside it is not tall enough to cover you from the sun.

This is not the Albay Gulf that my friend, Ephraim, grew up to.

While we were walking under the merciless heat that Sunday afternoon, Ephraim told me to observe the hill beside the road. It is called the Sleeping Lion, he said, because of its form.

He used to climb it when he was a boy, overlooking the vast sea that twinkled so gloriously at that time of day. Except there were no roads, no malls, and no bar strips unlike what I was seeing.

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Saktong Buhay

Saktong Buhay: Sa De-Kalidad na Edukasyon Pinanday” (An adequate life: Molded through Quality Education) is  the Department of Education’s slogan this year for graduating students.

I first saw it when I shot the graduation rites at the Bgy. Maniango Elementary School in Minalin, Pampanga. The graduating students are children of fishermen; they arrived at the inland in their togas riding boats. There was a vibe of optimism on that day, the class’ salutatorian Mialen Isip told me she wanted to be a Teacher and she hoped that none of her classmates would settle on becoming fishermen, like their parents.

There was something wrong looking at DepEd’s slogan as I talked to Mialen. Somehow, her dreams didn’t align with what DepEd wanted for her.

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