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Facebook’s Project Aquila: flying to beam down an internet connection

Project Aguila





welcome By: Elena Grace Flores
It is not clear why Facebook named their newest venture that involves a high-powered solar aircraft flying remotely for months to beam down an internet connection – to the Philippine Eagle, Aguila but one thing is for sure, like this strong bird, Project Aguila will fly up in the sky and grace it. Facebook is indeed unique because it never stopped to innovate for their users’ benefit without members spending a dime.

BBC wrote: In a warehouse in Somerset, the latest phase in Facebook’s bid for world domination has been taking shape. Or, to put it less dramatically, the social network’s plan to connect millions in developing countries is proceeding. It is called Project Aquila and involves building solar-powered aircraft which will fly for months at a time above remote places, beaming down an internet connection. Two years ago Facebook bought small British business Ascenta, which specialises in solar-powered drones, and its owner Andy Cox is now the engineer running Project Aquila.

It added: At the end of June, the first aircraft produced in that warehouse on an industrial estate in Bridgwater was dismantled and taken in pieces to Arizona. There, it was reassembled for its first flight. The unmanned aircraft, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 but is only a third the weight of a typical family car, stayed airborne for 90 minutes and performed well. The fragile structure did suffer some damage when it landed in a stony field some way short of the runway. When it finally goes into service the idea is that it will come to rest on grassland.

Reference: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36855168http://www.new.carelinkwebpr.com/cookie-policy/

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Malaysia Masterminding Mindanao Instability to counter Sabah Claim Possible


welcome By: Elena Grace Flores
Malaysia’s deputy prime minister claimed that the RM12 million was handed over to the Special Branch for contribution to Philippine organizations who helped with the negotiations to free the four Malaysians hostaged by Abbu Sayyaf. He denied that it was ransom. However, the Filipino groups have no links to the terrorists. The Special Branch mentioned is Malaysia’s intelligence service.

As Manila Times reported; “The ransom payment has triggered a political firestorm in Malaysia because of the contradictory statements issued by government officials. Home Minister Hamidi disclosed that the funds were turned over to the Special Branch, which presumably turned them over to the Abu Sayyaf. Lau, who represented the families of the four hostages, even narrated that two Special Branch officers, with an approval letter from Bank Negara, withdrew the sum and carried them in 12 metal cases to the police station.”

The first claim was denied by Malaysia’s Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar that the Special Branch did not receive such money, and he insisted that no ransom was paid. He explained that the Abu Sayyaf released the hostages after the Malaysian government threaten to stop the Malaysia-Mindanao barter trade – which no person in his right mind would believe. Can the Malaysians be funding the Abbu Sayyaf to create instability in Mindanao to instill their illegal Sabah ownership? Very possible indeed!

Reference: http://www.manilatimes.net/malaysians-fund-abu-sayyaf/269241/

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US$1,305 Annual Sabah Lease: A Mockery


welcome By: Elena Grace Flores
It’s ironic and a mockery for Malaysians to boast for the slight increase of Sabah lease from US$1,305 to an undisclosed amount – since the issue has not been resolved among its heirs from the Sultanate of Sulu. Actually, there’s no actual confirmation yet from Sultan Phugdal’s side, who replaced Sultan Jamalul Kiram after his death on how much the increase was and if it’s accepted or not. It has been known by this writer that then Crowned Prince Adbimuddin Kiram’s direct family did not agree with the said increase prior to his death as narrated to me by his son Datu Sayed in Zamboanga City in 2005.

The irony is, the Malaysian government publicly attest to the said lease but they denied Sabah being a property of Sultanate of Sulu which is a Philippine entity. Therefore, not acknowledging that it’s a Philippine territory. Can’t they understand the meaning of lease?

Duterte’s stake: “What has been the policy will always be the policy of the government, especially those for the interest of the country. We have to stake our claim. His administration recognized Sabah as the territory of the Sulu sultanate, as is claimed by the Kiram clan, who are citizens of the Philippines.

Details of Duterte’s stake are from here: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2016/05/philippines-sabah-dispute-duterte/

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Saycon on Sabah Claim: Malaysians can dream all they want


welcome By: Elena Grace Flores
The Sultanate of Sulu now headed by Sultan Phugdal will no way compromise the Sabah claim after all that they’ve been through. The Malaysian government can resume their yearly lease but following present market value and under the conditions of the Sultanate. The BBL law can also take effect for the peace process to materialize but can never make Sabah as the reward for their efforts.

Circumstances are now favoring the sultanate with President Rodrigo Duterte’s support, Bongbong Marcos’ scrutinizing the details of BBL and many concerned Filipinos cheering for this historic event to take place especially those who have loved ones tortured while being deported from Sabah to Zamboanga despite insisting that they are in their homeland.

Pastor Boy Saycon said after seeing the media propaganda by the Malaysian press; that they can dream all they want but the Sabah claim cannot be compromised – they have to return it to the Philippines no matter what. Saycon is an adviser to the sultanate when it comes to the Sabah claim. He helped them gather evidence and documents that will help the move to push the Sabah claim in the United Nations – thus prompting the UN to issue a resolution to settle the claim in a peaceful manner. Formulating strategies are also Saycon’s notable skill thus giving him the title; Political Hing Maker – as the man behind Noybi!

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The 5th Filipina to Win the Miss International Title

welcome By: Elena Grace Flores

2011-07-28 Miss International Interview Day
2011-07-28 Miss International Interview Day (Photo credit: pageantcast)

Bea Rose Santiago is the 5th Filipina to win the Miss International title. She was crowned recently as  Miss International 2013 in Tokyo, Japan. Past winners from the Philippines in the Miss International pageant were Gemma Cruz – 1964; Aurora Pijuan -1970, Melanie Marquez – 1979 and Precious Lara Quigaman – 2005. Read this wonderful news:

Miss Philippines wins Miss International 2013

By: RAPPLER.COM

MANILA, Philippines – Miss Philippines Bea Rose Santiago was crowned Miss International 2013 on Tuesday, December 17, at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel Hall in Tokyo.
This is the 5th Miss International title for the Philippines and the 3rd major crown by a Filipina this year, following wins by Megan Young at Miss World and Mutya Datul at Miss Supranational. http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/46111-miss-international-2013


Bea is not only beautiful from the outside but also in the inside. No one can ignore her grace and charm – and most especially her genuine outlook on the aftermath of the devastation brought about by Typhoon Yolanda. This is a clear example how beautiful it is to hear positive things from a tragic experience. It is evident that in her capacity as Miss International 2013, she can definitely bring nations together!

Web Design by:Miracquel Puelong
 

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President Noy’s Indifference when it comes to Sabah?

Hassanal Bolkiah 2002
Hassanal Bolkiah 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it is quite understandable that Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei’s state visit to the Philippines is for discussions over the ASEAN Summit where Brunei is the host country; but if the President is really concerned about the Sabah conflict, he will take the initiative to insert in the agenda the Sabah issue – even just to get the side of the Sultan of Brunei, since they originally owned the ancestral domain – and their royal ancestors were the ones bestowing it to the Sultanate of Sulu. What is he trying to prove for not lifting a finger over it – and instead just lifting an eyebrow? This is definitely a missed opportunity as per this news:

Sabah, sea row not on Noy-Bolkiah agenda

By: Aurea Calica

MANILA, Philippines – President Aquino is not likely to raise the issues of Sabah and the West Philippine Sea with Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei during his two-day state visit, Malacañang said yesterday. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda flatly said “no” when asked whether Sabah would be discussed with Bolkiah. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/04/16/931186/sabah-sea-row-not-noy-bolkiah-agenda



We can surely feel the sentiments of Sultan Jamalul Kiram’s people – asking what kind of President do we have who will just give a cold shoulder when many Filipinos are already slaughtered in Sabah – plus the sufferings of the regular deportees who will remain homeless whether they are in Sabah or in the neighboring islands of the Philippines. Mr. President, where is your heart?

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Human Rights Violation Over Sabah Crisis

English: Coat of arms of the Philippines
English: Coat of arms of the Philippines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When do you know that your human rights are violated? Where do you turn to when your government that is supposed to protect you will not do anything to give you justice? Perhaps, we should learn from what the concerned citizens of the Philippines are doing based on this article:

PH lawyers, civil society groups seek UN intervention on Sabah crisis

By:

MANILA, Philippines—Philippine lawyers and other members of civil society groups have sought the intervention of the United Nations over alleged human rights violations in Sabah. http://globalnation.inquirer.net/70909/ph-lawyers-civil-society-groups-seek-un-intervention-on-sabah-crisis



At last, the affected Filipinos can now be rest assured that they are not alone in their quest in reclaiming their ancestral domain. Hopefully, there will be more human rights groups that will follow suit.

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Backpacking from Border to Border in Southeast Asia





By: Elena Grace Flores

 

Southeast AsiaIt must have been the narrow escape from death surviving a car accident that finally led me to follow my conscience of going back to my roots through basic traveling and see for myself what has become to the lands that my forefathers entrusted me. Life is too short. It’s now or never. Never mind the 15 years of living and working in Thailand. The time has come for me to embrace the challenge.

I have always lived with the motto, “A man who risks nothing- gains nothing” and, I always deepen the stakes. So be it. Remembering Cebu and Mindanao how they were during my childhood days and the capabilities I had in terms of public relations, I was determined to show to my International media friends how these destinations really are, bearing in mind that I could raise funds for a good cause through sponsors to support this adventure travel project and I could put this on T.V. and get media attention to project the actual situation of at least a part of mainland Mindanao on a different angle away from terrorism and Cebu as the gateway to Visayas and Mindanao.

I’ve always thought what life each soul is assigned to, is a game of chance. My running buddy Finn Sorensen, an ex-Danish commando, who gained his expertise dealing with terrorism from the military just agreed in escorting me to this ultimate trip without too much convincing. He took it as a holiday offer to also visit his friends in Manila. So, Finn took the direct flight to Manila to have some time with his friends and off I went starting my backpacking spree from Bangkok’s “Hua Lumpong” Train Station going to Hatyai with the intention of visiting my younger sister quickly in Brunei after sorting some routes out in Malaysia.

Going out of Thailand…From Hatyai to Butterworth, Malaysia Getting to Hatyai by overnight sleeper train is easy, should you need or want to go there on a budget; it leaves Bangkok at 2.00 pm and arrives in Hatyai at about 7.00 am the next day. You could also order meals from the train’s menu at a very affordable cost. It is located in the south of Thailand, about 25 km inland from the east-facing coast of the central isthmus. The stopover in Hatyai was pretty fast considering the immigration procedures that passengers going to Malaysia had to undertake.


The train proceeded to its destination and arrived in Butterworth, Malaysia at around twelve in the afternoon. The normal “chopping” of passports continued and there were transports available as soon as we were heading out either going to Penang by ferry or to Kuala Lumpur by bus. I chose to continue my trip to Kuala Lumpur since I really wanted to try out these “low-cost airlines” that made KLIA (Kula Lumpur International Airport) as their hub. In a matter of 5 hours or so, I found myself in the KL Bus terminal looking for a taxi that would take me to KLIA for 30 Ringgit.

Once in the airport, I shopped around for the most convenient and affordable flight to Brunei to the point of befriending the very helpful airline counter personnel of Malaysian Airlines who was kind enough to refer me to “Air Asia”, the most successful low-cost airline in the region with the motto, “Now, everyone can fly! It could have been more convenient, immigration wise as I was told if there was a flight to Labuan which is 45 minutes by ferry away from Bandar Seri Begawan, the modernized capital of Brunei but the only choice I got at that time was to fly to Miri which is 3 hours away by land from the capital.

Without any reservations, I just lined up to get my ticket, checked in, and for 80 Ringgit (35 Ringgit if I had a reservation well in advance), I was promptly on board Flight no. AK 312 departed at 7 pm and arrived in Miri at 9:15 pm. I was lucky enough to be talking to a Malaysian woman with her two children during the flight who offered me to share their reserved car to Bandar Seri Begawan for 50 Ringgit. The picturesque sights from Miri made me realized that Miri is more than just a booming oil and timber town; it is the gateway to the northeast region, rapidly becoming Sarawak’s most popular tourist area.

Visa to Brunei is not required for visiting Filipinos if staying for not more than 15 days provided that you have a “show money” of 600 Brunei Dollars and a return ticket. At the immigration checkpoint, I got away from the show money requirement after the driver of the car lent me some Brunei dollars to show to the officer but I was not ready for my return ticket because I have not thought where to return at that time; to Thailand, my country of residence or to the Philippines, my home country. Although after a thorough investigation and too many documents I have to dig from my luggage to show that I am a desirable tourist, I was able to finally enter Brunei. Definitely not my first Brunei visit but obviously, first time coming from the “back door”, as they say.

My sister, who was fascinated with my adventurous ordeal, pampered me for two days and even bought me a direct flight ticket to Manila to catch up with my colleague, Finn Sorensen. It was during this flight that I met Jerry Manego, a Brunei based Filipino- Korean Foreign Diplomatic Missions Officer who got me acquainted with traveling from Brunei’s Serasa Ferry Terminal close to the city of Muara, to Kota Kinabalu – Sandakan – Mindanao via Zamboanga, at least for my next adventure trip.

I found Finn in Manila anxious to do the adventure in the wilderness and not even his tremendous stomach upset could stop him from traveling with me to Cebu the next day via Cebu Pacific. Upon arrival, my cousin Lani Dakay, drove us to the Northern part of Cebu, the origin of my mother’s family, passing Danao, then to Luyang, Carmen Cebu. Luyang is a fishing village rather than a tourist destination and I was amazed that our provincial way of life was enough to have this appealing effect from a foreigner like Finn, an experienced traveler. He was fascinated by the simple but happy life in the village where laughter and pure hospitality from men and women alike really excel, the exciting cockfighting gatherings also amazed him, the nipa huts also attracted his innermost sight and even just the short nap at the beach seemed like boasting his spirit is experiencing another local custom late at night – the “baile” or outdoor disco featuring the town’s after fiesta fundraising event; the Coronation of the barrio Queen and her consorts. Showing once again, one of the secrets to the seemingly boundless energy of many Filipinos is the love of music and dance.

Basic accommodations along the beach for as low as PHP 800 per night were good enough but we cannot refuse the humble offer of our host to spend the night at the comfort of their own house with full board meals for free. On the way back to Cebu City, we managed to take some artistic shots of the Magellan’s cross before embarking on the overnight Cebu Ferries Trip to Cagayan de Oro since the Superferry was not going to Ozamis that day. It was also a real experience on board the ship. The Tourist Class was not bad at all. In fact, Finn commented that it was actually too good for a back to the basic adventure. While having some beers in the entertainment outlet of the ship,

I have learned some jungle tips from Finn. To summarize, the most important thing to take on a mountain adventure is your brain – good decision-making skills, the ability to adapt to changing, even life-threatening, situations, and to make the most of the equipment and resources that you have with you.” Sometimes it takes a few mistakes to reach that ideal.

The early docking of the ship at the arrival pier was greeted by native people on bangkas (small boats) asking for some “pasalubong” (gifts) perhaps. Some passengers threw coins to the sea and to our great astonishment, the natives hurriedly dived down to the deep to search for it and they seemed to have collected them all; coins, snacks, candies, and personal items. Bornean Access to the Philippines Backpacking Tips The beauty of the trip to Ozamis was actually not the destination but certainly “the way” to the destination. It was not at all a problem asking our way around and we were never in trouble due perhaps to our casual but decent looks and politeness. The “Rural” bus brought us down passing Iligan halfway of the trip and as far as Tubod where we have to cross the barge to Ozamis. It helps traveling light with a knapsack by land wearing a comfortable shirt and pants with a hat. It fits rain or shine and enhances easy mobility under strenuous circumstances.

Few more hours on the bus going to our destination in Mindanao, Calamba, Misamis Occidental really gave me much pride in how beautiful Mindanao is. Abundant rivers with clear waters, green, natural forest, endless rice plantation, orchards, and ambiance very close to nature that you can smell the freshness of the earth. The house that I remembered as my grandparents’ big house on my father’s side is now a ruined old house. Nevertheless, familiar faces still linger, only, they are a lot older plus many more young additions. To make the most of our trip there, it was crucial to start moving to the forest so that we could accomplish something before sundown. The family’s over 17 hectares-Bitibut hills in Sapang Dalaga was my favorite. This is where I dreamed of having my native resort someday. It was composed of seven hills with a source of spring water dripping the whole year round since time immemorial. On the second hill, we met one of the families looking after the land.

The picture of the old man riding his young horse with his family on the background was a breath-taking angle. The reward of reaching the peak of the 3rd hill was the spectacular view of the island of Siquijor. As we hurtle down the hill to get to the next one, we came across men harvesting some of the coconuts for copra trading. The only surviving means of income of the land. Enough to pay land taxes and the shares of the people looking after them. The combination of lush forest, hilly slopes, creeks, and plateaus could make this place an ideal site for an adventure run. A refreshing fresh young coconut break was our reward that afternoon, which we gleefully shared with the locals.

The night set in and our intention of sleeping under our tents did not materialize since it was safer from the snakes to take a nap in the nipa hut but only after having our survival dinner – bread and canned goods. The journey continued early that morning surveying other adjacent family properties such as the 28 hectares shrimp farm area, orchard sites, and paying respect to the private grave of my grandparents. At last, we were treated to a sumptuous seafood home-cooked meal that did justice to our energy-draining schedule. The smooth sailing

WG& A’s Superferry trip from Ozamis back to Cebu allowed us to regain our inertia. Here, we re-counted our backpacking experience summing up the most convenient route for the planned trip of our adventurers from Bangkok over a few bottles of San Miguel beer in the music and disco lounge of the ship. Finn went back to Thailand pretty much the same as when he came into the Philippines but I still had to sort out going back to Brunei by sea via Zamboanga, then, hopefully back to Thailand. This was not as smooth as by land coming into Brunei.

At first, I was a little hesitant about doing most trips alone, but I took a chance and found it to be the most rewarding experience of my life. It has changed me in a way that I never thought possible. It opened up my eyes to a lot of new things in life. It’s amazing how much we can learn from other cultures and re-discover our own, seeing through the gradual transitions of the travel from borders to border. I encourage everyone that reads my travel experience to go and find your roots by means of basic travel modes and backpacking to gather the most detailed information. THE BEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE!!! Unbeatable freedom in exploring our very own and great way of knowing what we could offer in terms of tourism and discover our uniqueness from our neighboring countries. If we do not explore our country first,who would?

Backpacking Tips

  • Never leave without a map
  • Make a research about your destination before going
  • Know most if not all of the transport means of the area and its alternatives
  • Budget your trip. Do not bring excessive cash and do not rely on credit cards
  • Be fit. Exercise daily. Stretching and meditation helps
  • Travel Light
  • Include Diarrhea tablets in your medical kit
  • Take daily dosage of Vitamin C
  • Bring food and water supply
  • Wear comfortable but decent gear
  • Be flexible
  • Wear a hat
  • Bring a rain coat
  • Bring extra footwear
  • Do not wear jewelries or bring expensive accessories
  • Never leave your belongings unattended
  • Do not trust a new friend you happen to meet along the way
  • Travel with an open mind
  • Do not hesitate to ask the locals for any information
  • Be friendly and polite
  • Bring small tokens for the nice and helpful people you meet along the way

Please note that this article was written in between 2005 to 2006 – so, the details may differ slightly compared to the present time – but the whole essence should be the same.

Image Source: MTholyoke