Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Vicente de Lara Park

One of the oldest parks in Cagayan de Oro City is Vicente de Lara Park. It is used to be named as MacArthur Park in honor of General Douglas MacArthur, the legendary American general in World War II who spent a considerable time of his military service in the Philippines. The renaming of the park is a fitting tribute to the late Honorable Vicente de Lara who served as governor of the province from 1954 to 1961. During that time Cagayan de Oro City was administratively and politically a part of Misamis Oriental.

The Park is located in front of the provincial capitol building, the seat of the government of Misamis Oriental. Although it is inside Cagayan de Oro, the park is owned and administered by the province of Misamis Oriental. Old nara, mahogany and other hardwood trees are the park’s main sight. Those trees provide pleasant atmosphere to people who have official dealings in the capitol, to visitors and to other people who want a respite from the sweltering heat of the sun especially in summer days. The park also serves as an ideal place to stroll in the evening, to jog, to do other physical exercises especially in the early morning or to pass the time while enjoying the park’s amenities  such as the low concrete benches and the shade that is provided by trees.

                                          The park at night

Improvements have been made by Governor Oscar Moreno to do a makeover on the park. The pathways are paved, a fountain was built, and trees are adorned with lamps that emit decorative lights in the evening. There is an open structure where the public can play chess, and more significantly the Press Freedom and The Heritage monuments were constructed.

The Heritage Monument is a main attraction of the park that occupies a central place that is fronting the provincial capitol. The monument which was designed and constructed by Eduardo Castrillo honors the tradition, culture and the people that contributed to the development of the province.

A major addition to the park is the Press Freedom Monument which has three bronze cast figures symbolizing the broadcast, print and photojournalism media. The monument was also constructed by Eduardo Castrillo, a prominent Filipino sculptor. Since its completion, the area at the monument has become the venue for the press people to redress their grievances against the killing of journalists, the curtailment of press freedom and the other significant issues that are of public interest. Some major current issues that the press people of Cagayan de Oro actively protested at the Press Freedom Monument are the Ampatuan Massacre and the Anti-Cybercrime Law.

Related posts:

Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism Village, Cagayan de Oro City
The MacArthur Memorial Marker of Cagayan de Oro, Philippines
Mount Hibok-Hibok, a Natural Monument in Camiguin
A Taste of Nature at Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape
The Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in Bukidnon, Philippines
Camiguin Island: a Tourist Destination
The Divine Mercy Shrine of El Salvador, Misamis Oriental, Philippines

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Passage of RH Bill: Has the Catholic Church Become Irrelevant?

Pres. Benigno Aquino III

The Philippine Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill on third and final reading in the evening of December 17, 2012. A joint senate and house bicameral committee will reconcile their respective versions of the bill, and it becomes a law after President Benigno Aquino III signs it.

The passage of the bill is hoped to usher a better future for Filipino families and put into rest one of the most contentious issues that has divided the Filipinos. Introduced in 1995, the bill has been languishing in congress for 13 years because lawmakers feared of a Catholic backlash. The Catholic Church has been campaigning for its passage and reaching out to its faithful to oppose it.

Proponents of the RH bill said it contains provisions that are pro-life, pro- women and anti-poverty that will provide Filipinos sexual education, maternal care and access to modern methods of family planning with government support.                                                                                                           

For his support of the RH Bill, President Benigno Aquino III has been the object of criticism especially from the Catholic Church which views the bill as anti-life and immoral because the use of contraception kills a fertilize egg which the church considers as a human life. But Aquino said that family planning will not be forced on the couples who do not want it. Family planning and spacing of children will be a matter of couples’ own choice. However, those couples who seek support in connection with family planning will be helped by government such as giving them free contraceptives.   

Those people who are against the RH bill attributed its passage on the endorsement of the president and his certification that the bill is urgent. Many Filipinos including the Roman Catholics view the bill as a necessity whose time has come. They see the burgeoning population of the Philippines, the 39th most populated country on earth and the lack of appropriate measure on family planning as hindrance to the country’s economic progress.                   

The voting of the RH Bill by the lawmakers is indicative of the thinking and sentiment of many Filipinos on the issue. And they are not one with the church on it. Overpopulation, poverty, ignorance and women’s and child care are matters that cannot be addressed by the Catholic Church’s emphasis on the moral and spiritual dimension of the issue alone. Sexual education of couples, access to modern method of family planning and government support can help couples raise a family that is within their means to support its basic needs such as the education of their children.

The passage of the bill however, is not a rejection of the Catholic Church by its faithful. Although it failed to get the support of the majority of the lawmakers to support the bill, the Catholic Church and its leaders are still treated with high respect by some people including those who voted in favor of the RH Bill. For them, the church is just doing what it is supposed to do.                                                                                                                                                                       

Filipinos still look up to the Catholic Church as one of their vanguards against government abuses and corruption and in other matters where spiritual and moral issues on government policies are involved. Despite the criticism leveled against it, the Catholic Church has been instrumental in the ouster of past presidents who were perceived to be tyrant and corrupt. The church is also a consistent advocate for free and honest election and the defender of the rights of the poor. It is a fact that the church and its leadership have contributed to the good of the society. The late Jaime Cardinal Sin was at the forefront of leading the people against what he saw was the excesses of the Marcos regime. He was actively visible and vocal in his crusade against the administration of Marcos.  To his credit Cardinal Sin never interfered in the people’s right of suffrage. He never told his followers who to vote for during election.                                                                                                             

Although Catholics are always respectful to their church and its leaders, there are instances when their views run in conflict with the desire of their priest and bishops. A case in point is the call of some Catholic groups for a “Catholic vote” in the coming May 2013 election to penalize those lawmakers who voted for the RH Bill. In most likelihood such a move will not be heeded by most Catholics because they will most probably vote for those politicians whom they believe as the most deserving to put their trust on regardless whether they voted for or against the RH bill.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bridge Cameras, the alternative to DSLRs

Modern point-and-shoot camera can take quality pictures that are suitable for printing and posting in blogs and social media site such as Facebook. The good thing about most of that kind of cameras is that they are cheap, compact and light so that they can fit in one’s pocket. Because it is compact, it can be easily brought anywhere when one wants his activities to be taken picture of. Point and shoot cameras are ideal for taking family, landscape, portrait and other pictures. However, they have limitations such as having a small sensor and a small, fixed all-around lens. Digital Single-Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLRs) can take better quality pictures than point-and -shot in different shooting situation such as the brightness of light and the distance of subjects from the photographer. To satisfy his desires, a DSLR user should have an array of various lenses such as prime and zoom lenses that can take wide angle, macro and telephoto shots. But DSLRs are not for everyone because they are more expensive, bigger and heavier. Some camera lenses are even more expensive than a DSLR body. Moreover, it will take a little longer for a total beginner to familiarize himself with the use and operation of a DSLR than he does with a point-and-shoot camera.

In between the point-and-shoot and the DSLR is the bridge camera. However, there is another camera type which is called hybrid or Mirrorless, Interchangeable Lens Camera (MILC). But like DSLR, MILC uses interchangeable lenses. Maybe bridge cameras are called as such because it is some sort of a “bridge” between a point-and-shoot camera and a DSLR. The main characteristics of bridge cameras are that most of them have a DSLR-type body with no viewfinder, and a fixed all-around lens. Because of its powerful lens the term bridge camera is often used interchangeably with mega zoom, super zoom and ultra zoom. Bridge camera’s image quality may not be on par with the DSLR’s because of its small sensor size. But its small sensor size enable it to have an extremely high crop factor, thus allowing it to achieve zoom range that are physically impossible on DSLR cameras utilizing large sensors. This makes the bridge camera much more compact and versatile than either DSLR or MILC.

I have a bridge camera which is an Olympus SP-800UZ with a fixed lens of 4.9-147mm and maximum apertures of f1:2.8-5.6.  This is equivalent to 28-840mm in a 35mm film lens. It has a very powerful 30x zoom lens that is indeed very effective in taking photos of distant subjects.  Its drawback is that it is weak in taking pictures in low light so that at ISO 800 or higher the pictures are noisy. Another problem is that it has no built-in viewfinder so that it is difficult to see the subject on the LCD screen on a bright sunlit day. I like my camera for its small, light and sturdy body and its powerful fixed all-in-one lens which is highly effective in taking pictures of distant subjects. I also use that camera as a backup to my entry-level Pentax K-r DSLR. 

Above are sample pictures taken with my Olympus camera
Over the years camera companies have made improvements on the features of some of their bridge camera models. These include having an electronic viewfinder, a sensor size similar to entry level DSLRs, a hot shoe for external flash, and a PSAM mode (program, shutter, aperture and manual) in addition to the auto. The PSAM mode means that the photographer can manipulate a bridge camera to take picture similar to a DSLR. In addition latest model bridge cameras have the ability to enhance the macro, telephoto and other features of the primary lens by attaching secondary lens to it. This can be done by screwing the secondary lens onto the front of the primary lens either directly or with the use of an adapter.

There are many good bridge cameras available in the market that the buyer can choose from. And the good thing is that their price has gone down and their qualities and features have improved because of the competition of camera manufacturers. Some examples of bridge cameras are Nikon Coolpix P500, Canon PowerShoot G15, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, Fuji Finepix HS20 EXR, Sony CyberShoot DSC-HX100V, Olympus SP-820UZ and others.     

With a bridge camera a photographer can take some pictures that are beyond the capabilities of a point-and- shoot without spending much money on different lenses and other camera accessories.      

Related post:

Are Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Cameras (MILCs) the Wave of the Future in Digital Photography?          

Friday, December 7, 2012

Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Event That Precipitated US Involvement in WWII

Photo via Wikipedia

On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of United States declared war on Japan. The president described the Japanese attack the day before as “a date which will live in infamy” during his speech in congress.

United States enmity with Japan was caused by the latter’s expansionist and militaristic policies in China and Indochina. To sanction Japan, the United States, Netherlands and Great Britain froze Japanese assets in their countries. On top of it, the United States imposed a petroleum embargo on Japan to deny her military the sources of vital raw materials from Southeast Asia.

Japan had two courses to deal with the tense situation involving her and those hostile western countries. One was to have the petroleum embargo lifted by making a semblance of withdrawal from some conflict areas but all the while maintaining control over other areas that she already occupied. And the extreme measure was to prepare for war.

The United States thought that Japan would not launch an attack against her because Japan was too weak to initiate an attack considering that it had committed a large part of her forces in the occupation of China and Indochina. Because of it, Japan’s forces were so overstretched that it would be unlikely that it could mount a large scale attack against the United States.                                                                    

The rise of General Hideki Tojo as premier pushed Japan further to militaristic tendencies. He set November 29, 1941, as the last day on which Japan would accept a settlement without a war. Tojo’s deadline which was kept secret meant that war was inevitable.                                                                                                   

Japan thought that the US presented a clear threat to its plan to seize petroleum and other resources from her neighboring Asian countries. In that connection, she had to neutralize the US Pacific Fleet which was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. If it would attack the naval base at all, Japan expected the United States to declare war, but would not be willing to fight long and hard enough to win.

Photo via Wikipedia
On December 7, 1941, the first wave of Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor came at about 7:53 a.m.  Carrier-based Japanese torpedo planes attacked the American airfields in the Hawaiian island. Shortly thereafter the ships at the “Battleship Row” were also struck by the torpedo planes.                                   

The second wave of attack by the Japanese torpedo planes was launched at about 8:55 a.m. It hit ships that were already damaged by the first wave of attack and also attacked other targets. The raid was all over by 9:55 a.m. or just in about two hours. As a result, 18 US battleships were sunk or badly damaged, 188 US aircrafts were destroyed and about 3,000 American naval and army personnel were killed or wounded. The Japanese on the other hand had only negligible casualties.

The Japanese forces however were not able to destroy any US aircraft carrier because during the attack all were out at sea. Neither did they destroy submarines, maintenance areas and oil storage facilities. Had the Japanese hit those targets, the damage sustained by the US could have been very substantial.

Lapse in intelligence on the part of the United States contributed to the Japanese military success in Pearl Harbor. In October 1941, US naval authorities disseminated intelligence information to its fleet commanders of an imminent Japanese attack. However, Washington disagreed with the warnings.                                                          

US authorities were able to break the diplomatic code and knew that an attack was imminent just several hours before it happened.  But because of problems in communication, the information was only relayed to Major General Walter C. Short and Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the military commanders of Pearl Harbor, one hour after the incident happened.

There were also other signs of an impending attack. One was the sinking of a Japanese midget submarine which was spotted at the entrance of Pearl Harbor at 6:30 a.m. However, the naval authorities failed to appreciate the significance of that sunken submarine. The Army Radar Station in Hawaii also reported sightings of planes that were 50 miles from it. But the lieutenant who was told of that information believed that they were US planes returning from reconnaissance flight or they were B17s scheduled to arrive from California.

The attack on Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii forced the United States to join the war on the side of the allied forces. Germany and Italy declared war on the US on December 11, 1941, which escalated the worst global armed conflict the world has ever known.