Category Archives: Occasion

International Day of UN Peacekeepers 2022

The Armed Forces of the Philippines commemorates the bravery and sacrifices of all uniformed personnel assigned as United Nations Peacekeepers on this International Day of UN Peacekeepers for peace and security of the world. #AFPyoucanTRUST

Photo and text lifted from the AFP Page

In observance of the International Day of the UN Peacekeepers this year, I’m reposting an article based on my interview with former Technical Sergeant Noel Añain, who served as part of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Haiti.

Añain at the UN Headquarters in Haiti during his deployment in 2005

Prayer and Bulletproof Vest in Haiti

Prayer and a bulletproof vest were Technical Sergeant Noel Añain’s best weapons while he was deployed in violent-stricken Haiti for six months as part of the 200-man peacekeeping mission.

“Natatakot din ako kasi ang baril doon nagkalat…Nagiingat na lang tsaka suot ko parati ang bulletproof vest ko,” Añain said when asked how he felt about the street fighting and rampant kidnapping incidents in Haiti.

Añain, whose group arrived in Haiti last January, said that not less than 20 people are killed in crossfire between warring groups comprising mostly of young natives.

“Itong April (2006), election ng Presidente medyo natahimik kaya puro patrolling ang ginagawa namin. Nang hindi nila (natives) nagustuhan ang nanalo laganap na naman ang gulo at kidnapping. Matindi doon mga bata pa ang involved (gang members),” said the 43-year-old member of the Marine Security and Escort Group in Fort Bonifacio.

The kidnapping activities were reportedly manned by former military personnel who were booted out from their post when the provisional government took place.

“Ang dati nilang military na naabolish ang mga nangingidnap doon. Sila ang mga gangs ngayon doon. Puro gang war, street fighting. Kaya malas ka kapag inabot ka ng crossfire. Madami na ngang namamatay na locals,” Añain recalled.

He said about 20 people, including two Filipinos, have been kidnapped last May. The two men were released after a Filipino community paid the kidnappers $6,000 in exchange for their freedom.

Añain or Noel to family and friends was assigned to provide security to a United Nations diplomat billeted at the Christopher Hotel-turned-headquarters in Port-AU-Prince.

The other members of the Philippine Contingent are posted in other government facilities, some do clerical jobs, while others are assigned to the transport section of the UN headquarters.

The UN diplomats are providing security to a provisional government installed after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled into exile under international pressure.

The peacekeeping team from the Philippines and other member countries of the UN are helping curb the violence and restore stability in Haiti.

“Naka-assign ako as security at escort sa bahay ng representative ni Koffi Anan sa Christopher Hotel sa Port-AU-Prince. Ginawang headquarters ang hotel at dose kaming military ang naka-post doon,” said Añain who belongs to the third batch of the contingent.

The native of Binangonan, Rizal has been serving the Philippine Marines for the last 20 years. His deployment in Haiti was an added experience as it improves his personal and professional growth.

Despite the danger his new assignment entails, Noel had accepted the job to augment his family income. He’s been receiving P19,000 or less monthly including allowances. His salary in Haiti is triple that amount.

“Number one ang kumita dahil puro loan ang marami dito sa amin,” Noel tells about his motivation to apply for the post.

“Maraming gustong mag-apply mahirap lang talagang pumasok marami kang dadaanan. Sa small unit magsisimulang maghanap…parang Grade 1 sa simula marami kayo, pabawas ng pabawas habang tumaas ang level of training. Lahat ng post for deliberation. Ang matitira at makakapasa sa training ‘yon ang ipapadala…,” he added.

Añain takes pride in how well Filipino contingents are appreciated by UN diplomats as well as their foreign counterparts from Brazil, Jordan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Argentina, the U.S., Morocco, and Hungary.

“Gustong-gusto ng UN ang mga Filipino sa headquarters kasi nga madali tayong mag-adapt ng mga wikang ginagamit doon gaya ng English, Spanish, French. Pero kung kinakapos ka naman ng English, senyas lang ay okay na. Ganun ang mga Filipino madaling mag-adapt,” he mused.

One experience that will be forever etched in Añain’s memory was how natives of Haiti beg for food to survive a day.

“Nakakaawa ang mga tao doon…tag-gutom sila…kapag makikita ka nila pagkain ang idinadaing nila sasabihin `no food’. Kaya kahit bawal na magbigay ng pagkain na supply ng UN binibigyan namin,” he said.

Many business establishments were forced to close because of the escalating violence in Haiti leaving thousands of people jobless. And joblessness drives many natives to resort to kidnapping and other illegal activities.

Añain is also saddened by the death of a fellow contingent from the Philippine Army who was killed by a sniper while performing his job.

“Dalawa silang naka-duty, sine-secure nila ang isang VIP nang barilin sila ng isang sniper. Namatay on the spot ‘yung isa samantalang nakaligtas naman ‘yung isa pa dahil sa vest niya tumama ‘yung bala,” he said.

More troops will be deployed in Haiti until the situation normalizes, Añain said.

When asked if he’s willing to go back to Haiti, he replies: “Willing naman akong bumalik, parang dito rin naman sa Pilipinas basta mag-ingat ka lang.”

For those who are willing to work as part of another peace keeping mission, the true-blue soldier has this advice: “Basta sumunod ka lang sa utos kung naka-duty ka. Gawin mo lang ang trabaho ng bukal sa puso mo para hindi ka mahirapan. Makakaraos din eh (smiles).”

This was originally published by People’s Tonight and posted on my other blog.

Youth Workers’ Five-Point Call to Action amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

In celebration of Labor Day on May 1, the Associated Labor Unions (ALU)-Associated Philippine Seafarers Union (APSU) Youth called on national leaders to protect young workers who have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

Young workers aged 15-34 made up 45% of the Philippines’ labor force in 2019. They are employed in wholesale and retail trade, accommodation and food service activities, construction, and transportation and storage. These are sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

One out of six young people in the world has stopped working since the start of the COVID-19 crisis according to the International Labour Organization in May 2020. In April 2020, the Philippines reached its highest unemployment rate of 17.7%, of which 60% were young workers. 

ALU Southern Mindanao Region Education and Information Officer, Melba Tampakan said “young workers are the first to experience job insecurity, income reduction or loss, and precarious work arrangements. The pandemic also disrupted education and training.”

ALU National Education and Information Officer Geraldine Grace Hoggang added that these impacts on young workers also affected their mental well-being.  

“The fear of contracting the virus, work-life imbalance caused by new work arrangements, and economic losses have caused stress and anxiety among young workers, affecting their mental well-being. Young workers are also more vulnerable to violence and harassment,” Hoggang said. 

The young workers five-point call were for the government to:

1.         Preserve employment and create new jobs especially those that respond to the public health crisis; ensure just transition to a green economy; and expand opportunities in science and technology, engineering, math, and other fields that address the impacts of Industry 4.0.

2.         Enforce labor standards especially on wages and wage-related benefits, safety and health, social protection, and uphold rights to organize and collective bargaining to protect workers, especially young workers against exploitation, unsafe work conditions, unfair labor practices, and red-tagging. 

3.         Effectively prevent, detect, isolate, treat, and control COVID-19 infections; and address the challenges in the country’s medical and health systems and infrastructures to save lives and for the economy to recover. 

4. Include young workers’ representation in decision-making structures and processes, including in COVID-19 response and recovery planning, monitoring, and evaluation. 

5.         Promote gender equality and end gender-based violence by ratifying the ILO Convention 190.

Aside from calling on leaders, APSU Industrial Relations Officer Mark Angelo Tolentino also reminded that young workers should also organize into unions which would help them protect their rights. 

“We call on employers, managers and government officials to heed and act on these demands for a better normal. More importantly, we call on our fellow young workers to unite and stand up. Join the trade union movement and amplify young workers’ issues and influence change,” Tolentino said. 

Philippine Holidays 2021

The following regular holidays and special days for the year 2021 shall be observed in the country as per PROCLAMATION  NO. 986 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 30, 2020.

Please note the following dates if you have important travel plans for the new year. Also, please be aware of Covid19 safety and health protocols when traveling to avoid getting infected with the dreaded infection.

Date NameType
1 JanFridayNew Year’s DayRegular Holiday
12 FebFridayChinese Lunar New Year’s DaySpecial Non-working Holiday
25 FebThursdayPeople Power AnniversarySpecial Non-working Holiday
1 AprThursdayMaundy ThursdayRegular Holiday
2 AprFridayGood FridayRegular Holiday
3 AprSaturdayBlack SaturdaySpecial Non-working Holiday
9 AprFridayThe Day of ValorRegular Holiday
1 MaySaturdayLabor DayRegular Holiday
12 JunSaturdayIndependence DayRegular Holiday
20 JulTuesdayEid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)Regular Holiday
21 JulWednesdayEid al-Adha Day 2Common local holiday
21 AugSaturdayNinoy Aquino DaySpecial Non-working Holiday
30 AugMondayNational Heroes DayRegular Holiday
1 NovMondayAll Saints’ DaySpecial Non-working Holiday
2 NovTuesdayAll Souls’ DaySpecial Working Holiday
30 NovTuesdayBonifacio DayRegular Holiday
8 DecWednesdayFeast of the Immaculate ConceptionSpecial Non-working Holiday
24 DecFridayChristmas EveSpecial Working Holiday
25 DecSaturdayChristmas DayRegular Holiday
30 DecThursdayRizal DayRegular Holiday
31 DecFridayNew Year’s EveSpecial Working Holiday

Update: I’ve made some adjustments to the following dates; November 2, December 24, and 31, being declared by Malacañang as Special Working Holidays. A no-work no-pay policy applies on the said dates, according to the government.