July 4, 2011

I was one foot away from Joseph Estrada

Eleven years ago, I stood one foot away from Joseph Estrada outside the Sandiganbayan. Here's my story.

I was in journalism school when former Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson squealed that then incumbent Philippines President Joseph "Erap" Estrada was the "lord of all jueteng (a form of gambling) lords." The accusation to the president of accepting payola led to one gripping plot in Philippine history and students like me were in the midst of a good training material.

Four months after Edsa 2 revolution toppled Joseph Estrada, "Erap fans stage Edsa 3" (as one broadsheet splashed on its front page) in reaction to the arrest of the deposed leader.

The president was tried and was eventually deposed by a "popular coup." He would now had to face criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan (the special Philippine court that have jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases involving graft and corrupt practices committed by public officers and employees).

I have no idea of what exactly was going on inside the building. I have no connections whatsoever. All I knew then, the most popular elected official in the country was inside and I just had to be there too... with a borrowed film camera to shoot.

Edsa 3 gathered the masses for an indignant call to reinstate the deposed Joseph Estrada, but to no avail.

So I arrived at the vicinity on a rainy afternoon and people from both sides of the political camp were reclaiming the highway for their Constitution-guaranteed freedom of expressions and of assembly.  

Then after about an hour or so, word went about that the arraignment was done and the former president will come out from the building through the front left gate. Quickly I ran towards that gate along with some press people and bystanders. I got a spot and secured my vantage point for whatever photo opportunity the situation would bring. 

Minutes later, no Erap yet. 

Until I noticed someone from the compound murmuring to, perhaps, a colleague. The direction of their eyes gazed towards the other side of the building. I forget what really prompted me to dash towards the other side of the compound but my quick reflex gave me a spot by the gate at the right side of Sandiganbayan building.

There were guards and patrol motorcycles with their blinkers on. There were some sort of commotion, too. Supporters and fans were eager to see the accused. Some press people had also stationed themselves there.

Then finally, a vehicle emerged from that gate. I was already in a fighting form when I heard a man with a television camera on his shoulders told the supporters to "oh kawayan nyo (wave your hands)." 

As if in perfect timing, the vehicle stopped then the left side door opened with Estrada smiling and waving to everyone. His well-scrubbed face gleamed in the now sunny sky, spectacles and the signature moustache; well-pressed barong tagalog and that undefinable Erap charisma. 

A roll of Kodak ProImage 100 color film wound inside the Canon camera strapped to my hand. Shrieks of women filled the air. Estrada welcomed the mob. That was a photo op I could never forget. All of 10 seconds of it, as close as one foot away from Erap.

When the film was developed, I was thrilled to capture Erap on my photographs. But it would be better if I got his entire face neatly composed on my frames... Not just his wristband, his lips smiling and that signature moustache.

Written as Assignment 4 for News Gathering and Reporting class of Diploma in Photojournalism at ACJF-AdMU, under Prateebha Tuladhar.

February 22, 2011

Teacher, the Doctor is in

Doctors regularly visit day care centers in Valenzuela City where children enrolled in Kinder 1 and 2 are given medical check ups and receive supplements and medicines as part of the city's aggressive Early Childhood Development Program (ECCD). Here's a sneak peak at Purok 4 Day Care Center in Brgy. Mapulang Lupa.

Video taken by Mark Lester Cayabyab/Valenzuela City PIO


February 7, 2011

Me, lomi, děng

2011 Year of the Metal Rabbit ushers in with a piping hot bowl of lomi, some goodies from the famous Chinese deli, the towering structures along with the old and newly-refurbished structures on such a narrow street, and just available light to see things as they are.

The district manages to retain its charm in spite of changes that hop from one corner to another.

February 2-3, 2011

January 26, 2011


Natapos nanaman ang isang araw

sa panimula ng isang bagong linggo.

Uuwi, sasakay sa bus,

matatanaw ang mga nasa labas

kasalubong ang hangin mula sa bintana.

Ipapasyal ng bus ang diwa,

ipaparada ang sarili sa madla.

Masisilaw ang paningin sa liwanag ng LED

habang nakamasid din ang mga mata sa EDSA.

Ayoko sanang pumara

kung sa pag-uwi sa dormitoryo'y

ang anino ko lamang ang makakasama

at ang cellphone na walang kaimik-imik

kanina pa.

January 25, 2011

2:02 am

January 19, 2011

Private Facility in Valenzuela Plays Vital Role in PDEA’s Anti-Drug Efforts

A waste conversion and disposal facility in Valenzuela City now plays a pivotal role in the government’s drive against illegal drugs and other substances.

Tucked inside the Pearl Island Industrial Compound located in Brgy. Punturin, the Green Planet Management , Inc. (GPMI) was tapped by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) thru a medium term agreement to convert and destroy illegal drugs and other chemicals used to make dangerous substances.

The Republic Act  9165, otherwise known as “The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 1992, states that confiscated or surrendered dangerous drugs should be burned or destroyed upon the court’s order.

PDEA public information office director Derrick Arnold Carreon said that in this facility “the guidelines on the disposal of seized dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs), and laboratory equipment are complied with to assure the public they will not fall to unscrupulous hands.”

Last Jan. 14, newly-installed PDEA Director General Usec. Jose Gutierrez Jr. led the destruction of some P3 million worth of CPECs and equipment at the Green Planet premises. 

“We want the public to witness the latent gains of illicit drug trade be reduced to ashes, thus cutting off the cycle before it reaches its destructive market,” PDEA Chief and member of the PMA Class of 1973 said as he vows to continue strengthening the government’s “concerted and decisive efforts.”

The former District Director of Southern Police District (SPD) also claimed that “this is one tool of transparency that dismisses any communal inkling that illegal drugs seized by authorities are being recycled or peddled back in the streets.”

Witnessing the ceremony were Lt. Col. Angelito Santiago, group commander for administration of Bureau of Customs, representatives from Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Public Attorney’s Office (PAO), Valenzuela City police chief P/SSupt Eric Serafin Reyes, Valenzuela Anti-Drug Abuse Council (VADAC) action officer Coun. Tony Espiritu, non-government organizations and the press.

PDEA laboratory services head Cesar Jose said a total of 799.3500 liters of various chemicals consisting of Toluene, Methanol, Hydrochloric Acid, Nitric Acid, Chloroform and Ethyl Acetate; 64.3175 kilograms of solid chemicals composed of Sodium Chloride, Red Phosphorus, Sodium Acetate, Iodine and Sodium Chloride, Potassium Hydroxide and Carbon; expired CPECs and a multitude of laboratory equipment were incinerated.

GPMI general manager Edgardo Aglipay disclosed that liquid chemicals are mixed with oil sludge and can be used to fire up industrial requirements as fuel.

The stash of evidence was seized from operations conducted by PDEA, the police, National Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Customs and private companies.      

Undersecretary Gutierrez lauded the efforts of different Regional Trial Court branches in Metro Manila and in the provinces for the speedy prosecution and disposition of drug cases that led to prompt destruction of these chemicals and equipment.

-Mark Lester Cayabyab / Valenzuela City Public Information Office

January 12, 2011

Eternal affair

With images of clouds embracing the cold mountain caps of the Cordilleras still burning in my memory, I went to this lakeside park in Angono and saw 2011's first sunset with serene glee.

There's an undescribable drama that fills the air whenever the sun rises from the east and when it settles down towards the west. People would find the best spot during these times and would tag along their loved ones to appreciate together the two best shows in the world.

But in this case - at the town known for Higantes, the reverie that envelops everyone during the feast of San Clemente, and that thousand-year old engraving on a cave's wall - the blazing sunset was all mine.

It's fine if they turned down my offer for that special sunset. There will always be sunsets.

- redmark
January 1, 2011

December 3, 2010

Walk with the Giants

As devotees brought the Black Nazarene in town for the yearly pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage on November 29, Angono's signature Higantes - eight of them, plus Santa Claus - strolled along the streets of poblacion at dusk. A band set the pace of merriment; strains of that old folk song tells they are visitors also to the land known for kasuy and the once pristine waterfalls.

The visit of the Black Nazarene ushers in the feast day of the Virgin on Dec. 8. Both religious icons share a symbiotic history during the time of the war. And the devotees have kept on the tradition over kilometers of road between Antipolo and Quiapo and clung on to their faith throughout years of change.

-redmark video
Nov. 29, 2010
Antipolo City