Less Is More: The True Value of Vote-Poor Places Like Batanes


Less Is More: The True Value of Vote-Poor Provinces Like Batanes. Written by Hon Sophia Balod for SubSelfie.com.[Entry 122, The SubSelfie Blog]

In a faraway province in the northernmost parts of the Philippines, Ryan Cardona is excited for the month of May. The clear blue skies, pristine waters of the Pacific, and the warm winds from the ocean during this month are all good signs for his business. Ryan works as a tourism officer in Batanes, ushering in visitors from all parts of the country and around the world to visit the Land of the Winds.

This year, however, Ryan does not only look forward to tourists flocking in during summer. “The coming months are very important. On May, another presidential elections will be held after six years,” he said.

What Is at Stake?

More than 18,000 elective seats are set to be filled, which includes the most powerful posts a person can hold in a democracy: President, Vice-President, 12 Senators, 59 party list representatives, and 238…

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Post-Yolanda, What Have We Built Back?


Where Are the Yolanda Victims Living Now? Written by Sophia Balod for SubSelfie.com

[Entry 90, The SubSelfie Blog]

Nestor pointed at a 15-foot coconut tree standing by the sea shore. Its leaves have fallen off and the trunk shows chipping and cuts from children trying to reach for a fruit.

“Mas mataas pa dyan ‘yung alon” (The waves are higher than that tree), he recalled.

The tree reminded him of November 8, 2013 when super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck the islands of Visayas leaving their little town of San Jose, Tacloban in shambles. The calamity claimed over six thousand lives, displaced more than four million residents and affected 14 million people.

As the storm surge hit Nestor’s house, he clung onto a fallen trunk, desperate to save his life. He muttered a little prayer: “Sana patawarin ako ng Diyos, hindi ko mailigtas ang pamilya ko ” (I hope God forgives for not saving my family).

On the same day, he lost his wife and…

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Lumads of Davao del Sur: Students without a School


Lumads of Davao del Sur: Students without a School. Written by Hon Sophia Balod for SubSelfie.com

#TanawMindanao Part 2 [Entry 92, The SubSelfie Blog]

Editor’s Note: Our brothers and sisters in Mindanao have always complained of isolation, and of being painted a negative image in the media.#TanawMindanao is a series of content dedicated to mainstream their issues, demystify their stories and show that we are all the same. They just have a harder battle to fight towards peace, and this is the contribution of SubSelfie.com to that effort.

“Tak tak tak”

It’s the sound of a bolo hitting the chopping block, reducing rotten and rejected bananas from the plantation into small, circular pieces. The chopping would go on all afternoon until the sun turned golden and the shadows of the banana trees envelop the little town of Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

Three boys would fill the sack with chopped bananas, the sour stench of decay prominent as the boys sealed the bag. Tomorrow these will…

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Autumn and Winter in South Korea


Photo Essay: Seoul, South Korea. Written by Sophia Balod for SubSelfie.com

[Entry 63, The SubSelfie Blog]

Sidebar: One Korea. Two countries at war. What separates them? —
The Border of Nowhere: Between North and South Korea

It’s true what they say: We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

I have walked and wandered with only crumbs to guide the path. In the end I found my way home, only to realize nothing would make me happier than to get lost again. I have walked and wandered with only crumbs to guide the path. In the end I found my way home, only to realize nothing would make me happier than to get lost again.

It was the end of the November and autumn leaves had just started to fall. The ground was covered with the color of decay, the soil moist from the occasional rain, the air heavy with scent of petrichor.

I breathed in my first autumn and I sighed:

There was poem in my mind I couldn’t seem to form. Or was I lost in translation?

Nature is more eloquent and here’s how she defined “transition.”

No. 14 Bukchon Hanok Village No…

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Photographing Seoul

It’s true what they say: We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

I have walked and wandered With only crumbs to guide the path In the end I found my way home Only to realize nothing would make me happier Than to get lost again

It was the end of the November and autumn leaves had just started to fall. The ground was covered with the color of decay, the soil moist from the occasional rain, the air heavy with scent of petrichor. I breathed in my first autumn and I sighed: there was poem in my mind I couldn’t seem to form. Or was I lost in translation?

Nature is more eloquent and here’s how she defined “transition.”

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No. 14 Bukchon Hanok Village

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10382877_10152515949150794_5900405231187863662_nPeople walk past each other everyday Never minding, never knowing Who they might collide into

Even the night held a certain charm, the leafless branches casting their long pointy shadows on the ground.

The N Seoul tower, originally built to transmit radio and television signals, houses a revolving restaurant, a viewing deck and thousands of padlocks from cheesy lovers all over the world.

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The night market, of course, was brimming with life. Everywhere I look was a new sight, and my eyes couldn’t seem to keep up with all the excitement.

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Myeongdong at night

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The morning stroll was not so bad too. The streets were filled with quaint coffee shops and Kitty invited me over. It cost me a few thousand Korean wons but I didn’t mind.

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I roamed the streets of Seoul like the usual avid tourist, keen to take photos and experience new adventures. But despite all the distractions, one story caught my attention: the story of how North and South Korea were separated.

This is the Demilitarized Zone, a military demarcation between two divided countries sharing a common language, history and ethnicity. The two countries have flagpoles built in their respective zones. Over the years, North and South Korea have been building against each other, raising the height of the poles a few meters above the other. The final score: 160-100 meters in favor of the North.

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On the first of December, the clouds decided to pour snow. It was my first time to see snow and I ran outside like a little girl without putting my stockings on. My fingernails were turning a pale shade of violet from the cold; good thing it didn’t show.

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For the first time in forever, there is snow in my hair.

Being the typical tropical islander stuck in a cold country, my favorite part of the trip was skiing on ice. I tripped and fell a few times, got a few bruises here and there, but it was all worth it.

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Goodbye, Seoul. You’ve been good to me.

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Your body’s amazing reaction to water


Featured image: Photo of freediver Hanli Prinsloo by Annelie Pompe.

Writer James Nestor explores the science of the “mammalian dive reflex,” the phenomenon by which water triggers an immediate decrease in heart rate.

In 1949, a stocky Italian air force lieutenant named Raimondo Bucher decided to try a potentially deadly stunt off the coast of Capri, Italy. Bucher would sail out to the center of the lake, take a breath and hold it, and free-dive down one hundred feet to the bottom. Waiting there would be a man in a diving suit. Bucher would hand the diver a package, then kick back up to the surface. If he completed the dive, he’d win a fifty-thousand-lira bet; if he didn’t, he would drown.

Scientists warned Bucher that, according to Boyle’s law, the dive would kill him. Formulated in the 1660s by the Anglo-Irish physicist Robert Boyle, this equation predicted the behavior of gases at…

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India’s ‘Untouchables’ Are Still Being Forced to Collect Human Waste by Hand


The practice of forcing low-caste people in Indian communities to remove accumulated human waste from latrines is continuing despite legal prohibitions and must be stopped, says a leading advocacy group.

In a report released Monday, the New York City–based Human Rights Watch (HRW) detailed the practice of “manual scavenging” — the collecting of excrement from latrines by hand. The job is done by those considered to be of the lowest birth. These Dalits, or untouchables, often face threats of violence, eviction and withheld wages if they attempt to leave the trade.

“The first day when I was cleaning the latrines and the drain, my foot slipped and my leg sank in the excrement up to my calf,” Sona, a manual scavenger in Bharatpur, a city in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, told HRW. “I screamed and ran away. Then I came home and cried and cried. I knew there was…

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Entry 13: The Fifth Rapid of Cagayan de Oro River


Two days ago, the body of a missing tourist was recovered in Cagayan de Oro River, Mindanao. This was the first accident since CDO began its commercial white water rafting operations in 1995.

I was shocked to hear the news. After all, we did have a great time rafting in the river in 2013. It was a “memorable” experience for me as well: I almost drowned and died in the same river too.

It was the first of June. My batchmates from the UP CMC Broadcasting Association and I just had our first out-of-town summer getaway. Although we wouldn’t really call it a “summer” vacation because the rainy season just started. Thankfully, on June 1, the sun peeked and we knew that we were in for great treat.

Raft on a Jeepney Raft on a Jeepney

We arrived at the river bank a few hours before noon. It was scorching hot and I was…

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Entry 24: Abortion in the Philippines — A True Story



Three girls were about to meet in a fast food chain. A girl in a jacket arrived with her boyfriend, planted a peck on the boy’s cheek and wished him a safe ride home. The other girl was carrying a box of blueberry cheesecakes with a note that said:

“It gets worse before it gets better.”

The two girls chatted like avid gossipmongers and from afar you’d know easily they were close friends, bestfriends even.

Blueberry cheesecakes: a doughnut for each girl Blueberry cheesecakes: a doughnut for each girl


A few minutes later, the last girl arrived. She was carrying a backpack. She was also carrying something else.

It would have been the perfect reunion — except this was no reunion. The girl in jacket exclaimed:

“Hoy, ang taba mo! (You got fatter!).”

She may have gained weight but she looked rather pale, her eyes tired and swollen. She wore a pair of small silver hoop…

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Bullies Everywhere

Confession: I was once a bully.

In my first year in high school, I used to put freshly-picked grass on my classmate’s desk and call him “Potro.”

Potro is a name of a horse in one of the stories I read in our Filipino class. I called him Potro after he was assigned to act as a horse in a class role play. 

I had a good laugh every time I see my classmate’s reaction each morning when he finds fresh greens on his desk: a perfect mix of horror, disbelief and a little bit of humor. I thought it was okay. After all, it was meant to be a joke, right?


Bullies take many forms. He might be that big stooge who’s responsible for broken underpants and walks of shame. Or the teacher who forcibly sells cured meat and pinipig polvoron for a “plus point” in class. He might be that colleague who constantly defaces your Facebook with unwittingly harsh comments.  She might even be the mindless name-calling classmate sitting next to you.


For my 10-year-old brother Kobe, he is the fat boy who eats his packed lunch. “Tani, don’t pack delicious baon kasi kakainin lang ‘yan ng classmate ko.”

It broke my heart. Saan napunta ‘yung mga niluto kong tuna & mushroom pasta, o ‘yung ginawa kong grilled cheese sandwich? Sinong uminom ng Chuckie? Sayang lang pala ‘yung Yakult at jellyace. Punyeta.

This is the reason why I wrote a report about bullying. (Watch: http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/video/205711/balitanghali/mga-batang-bully-at-kanilang-biktima-kapwa-kailangan-ng-tulong)

Bullies are loud, egocentric and aggressive. They feel entitled, drawn to power and authority. They may have deep-seated issues that they can not release so they turn to their victims for some sick refuge.

Victims of bullies, on the other hand, are introverts–meek, perceived weak and have low confidence.


These are the generic, textbook characteristics as described by a psychiatrist I interviewed. But there are two crucial things that victims do not often know about bullies: 

1. The victims themselves are the bullies’ source of power. Walang mang-bubully kung walang nagpapa-bully. That is why the first step in overcoming bullies is to say NO.

Pumalag ka. Lumaban ka. Sabihin mong ‘di mo gusto ang ginagawa niya.

2. Bullies are afraid of authorities. They are afraid of people who have greater influence and power. ‘Wag matakot magsumbong. If you don’t have the muscle to fight, then look for someone who can back you up. There’s no shame in seeking help.

For some, bullying might be a petty problem. Biruan lang ‘yan. Mga bata lang ‘yan.

But that’s where they are wrong. Bullies, with their unstable temperament, flashes of anger, lies and manipulation are more likely to become criminals in adulthood. Sometimes they grow up to be the horrible bosses we know; or the racist, gender-discriminating scumbag we all hate; and even turn out to be the hot-headed, violent wife-beater your aunt talks about. (Read: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-23756749)

Victims of bullies, on the one hand, grow up with self-esteem issues like inferiority complex. If this isn’t serious enough, being bullied as a child can even raise the odds of having heart attacks! (Read: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2626747/School-bully-victims-higher-levels-blood-protein-linked-strokes.html)

So you see bullying is real and its effects are even more so. Bullying can scar children pretty bad, and it may take years, even decades, for the wounds to heal.


P.S. To my classmate, please consider this blog post as my apology. Sorry na po. 😦