PSHS-EVC celebrates SMT Fair 2023 

by: Frances Katharine Manalo || Photo Credit: Kiara Gaut

After two years of online learning amid the pandemic, the Philippine Science High School – Eastern Visayas Campus (PSHS-EVC) is back-on-track as it launched its face-to-face celebration of the annual Science, Math, and Technology (SMT) Fair 2023 on March 28-31, 2023, with the theme, “Sustainable, Renewable, Inclusive.” 

This year’s affair was organized by the SMT Unit. 

The three-day event commenced with a program that formally opened the community fair. The Plenary Talks then followed, graced by seven speakers, namely Hillary Diane Andales, Batch 2018 Alumna, Lord Byron Torrecarion, Office of Civil Defense Director, Sofronio Agustin, Balik Scientist, Jay-Ian Camposano, Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) Weather Observer I, Franz Louis Cesista, Software Engineer, Leni Yap-Dejeto, University of the Philippines (UP) Tacloban College Biology Professor, and Jon Michael Mancao, Batch 2009 Alumnus. 

On the second day of the fair, scholars from Grades 10 and 11 gathered for the Research Congress, wherein Grade 12 students presented their research studies to panelists and willing audiences. Simultaneously, Grades 7 to 9 scholars participated in two conferences, the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) Talks and the Meet Your Scientist: Empowering Women and Girls for Science.

On its last day, the SMT fair festivities pushed through with the Science Olympics and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Quiz Bee, where PSHS-EVC scholars took part. Furthermore, the Regional SMT Quiz Bee was participated by elementary students from around the region (Eastern Visayas) and was also held on the campus. 

The event concluded in the evening with this year’s Blaze: Rekindling of the Scholarly Flame, which was hosted by the Society for the Advancement of Research in Science (SARS), the official STEM organization of PSHS-EVC. The scholars gathered in the school quadrangle to witness the tradition of lighting a bonfire and pledged to their duties as scholars of the Filipino people. 

The SMT Fair is an annual tradition in the PSHS-EVC community held to demonstrate the school’s commitment to the development of science and technology. It ignites the fire of the scholars in their passion for the field.

Earthquake strikes Turkey and Syria, more than 40,000 killed

by: Aya Ecaldre || Photo Credit: Erdem Sahin/EPA-EFE

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by a series of aftershocks, devastated southeast Turkey and northwest Syria last February 6, 2023, at 4:17 A.M (GMT+3). More than 10,000 injuries have been recorded, and the death toll has surpassed 40,000. 

The earthquake’s epicenter was near Nurdağı and Gaziantep, home to approximately 3.5 million Syrian refugees, according to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). Several provinces with significant hubs for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) supporting Syrians have been heavily affected in Turkey. Syrian cities of Allepo, Latakia, Hama, and Idlib, which relied on humanitarian aid after the civil war, have also been affected. 

Rescuers have been aiding the victims, but the cold weather and shortage of fuel and vehicles are currently slowing down efforts. 

The aftermath has left hundreds of thousands of families homeless, facing a significant risk of hypothermia as they struggle to survive in sub-zero temperatures. Children are now at a heightened risk of catching diseases such as cholera and Hepatitis A due to shelter and water infrastructure damages. 

The authorities of Turkey have arrested at least nine contractors for violations of building codes that may have caused the collapse of several buildings leading to an increase in deaths. 

According to the United Nations (UN), Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to open borders to allow and accelerate relief operations. In line with this, the UN announced the launch of USD 397 million humanitarian appeal for Syria and Turkey. Additionally, the organization has also released USD 50 million from its emergency funds for earthquake relief. 

At the same time many international rescue teams have left the vast quake zone, survivors were still being found from under a multitude of flattened homes and buildings.

Several humanitarian organizations working in Syria also called for an increase in international support and relief operations to grant aid for the earthquake victims.

PSHS-EVC Sportsfest 2022: The Charitesia commences

by: Frances Katharine Manalo || Photo Credit: Kendra Osias

With the theme “Unity in the Spirit of Camaraderie,” the PSHS-EVC finally kicked off Sportsfest 2022: The Charitesia last January 30, 2023, in the school gymnasium. Hosted by Batch 2025, the week-long event will end on February 3.

On Monday morning, the opening program, hosted by Benj Salvatierra and Max Phipps, began with a prayer and the singing of the Philippine National Anthem. This was followed by an opening message delivered by the Campus Director, Ms. Yvonne Esperas, who then voiced the declaration of this year’s Sportsfest.

Upon the opening, the Lighting of the Torch was done by the Athletic Council Presidents of Batches 2023, 2024, and 2025, namely Alchris Ceballos, Charles Uy, and Maud Mejias, respectively. The program then proceeded with an opening salvo performance by PSHS-EVC’s official dance ALA/Club “Pisayaw” and an Oath of Amateurism led by the Athletic Council Vice President, Gabrielle Cordeta.

Various competitions also took place during the opening, where Houses Aglaea, Thalia, and Euthymia earned their first house points. Each house showed their uniqueness and unity through the lively cheers roaring through the whole gymnasium, the shining vocal solo performances, the energetic cheerdance stages, and the dramatic vocal duets.

The winners were immediately announced at the end of the morning program. For the cheer competition, House Aglaea was awarded first place, House Thalia second place, and House Euthymia third place. In the vocal solo performances, House Aglaea once again claimed the first spot, Thalia in second, and Euthymia in third. For the cheerdance competition, House Euthymia was awarded first place, House Thalia second place, and House Aglaea third place. Lastly, in the vocal duets, House Thalia came in first place, House Euthymia in second, and House Aglaea in third.

The Charitesia continued in the afternoon with the long-awaited and much-anticipated Sportsfest games and festivities, such as the booths conducted by Batches 2023, 2024, and 2025.

China experiences an upsurge in COVID-19 cases after dismantling stringent “zero-COVID” policy

by: Gabriel Vinci Tamayo || Photo Credit: REUTERS/Aly Song

China scrambles to accommodate patients as the nation undergoes a new wave of COVID-19 cases right after the rollback of the most significant restrictions through its “zero-COVID” policy, forcing residents to stay inside their homes and subsequently resulting in the desertion of streets in major cities. By the end of 2023, the country’s COVID-19 death toll is expected to soar past 1 million.

Last December 7, China announced to lighten its current COVID-19 prevention and control protocols. This is due to the protests in cities across the country calling for an end to the stringent restrictions brought about by the “zero-COVID” policy. However, toning down the protocols has proven to have a more negative effect on the nation as the number of COVID-19 cases has reportedly increased. The rise in cases is currently unknown due to the discontinuation of mandatory testing in several areas. 

Worrying predictions made by researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) have also recently surfaced. It is estimated that the country’s COVID-19 death toll will breach 322,000 by April 2023. An analysis of this report performed by Reuters also found that China might see upward of 1 million COVID-19-caused deaths in the next year.

This swell in cases has led to overloaded hospitals, causing numerous cities across China to install more hospital beds and set up clinics for fever screening. It has also caused panic buying to surge, leading to the exponentially significant and sudden rise in demand for pain-relief medicine, flu drugs, vitamin C-rich products, electrolyzed water, and COVID-19 testing kits. Concerned authorities are already preparing health kits and medicinal products, following the nation’s call. The vulnerable groups, such as the elderly of Wuhan, China, are already receiving packs containing medicines, antigen tests, and throat syrups.

Alleged inconsistencies in the death toll are also being found, with the increased number of hearses entering crematoriums every day raising suspicion as China has not reported a single death from COVID-19 since December 4. One witness from Reuters revealed that they saw 40 hearses queuing to enter a crematorium in Beijing.

Along with these suspicions came a massive wave of misinformation on COVID-19. The views of several experts seemed to have drastically shifted, such as the opinion of the architect of the “zero-COVID” policy, Dr. Liang Wannian. He went from supporting the policy, stating that China “cannot tolerate” another massive wave of cases, to stating that “the virus is much milder now,” suggesting that he supports making the policy more lenient. 

Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a seasoned pulmonologist who helped combat the SARS outbreak, took it a step further by spreading information that is not only misleading but also outright wrong. Dr. Zhong stated that he has not seen COVID-19 do long-term damage to a patient’s organs and that 78% of patients infected with the Omicron variant will not be infected again for a long time. Nevertheless, such claims have already been proven wrong by studies and general observations. 

“It doesn’t matter whether [the sources] are reputable or not,” stated Huang Yanzhong, a senior for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, when asked about the rising amount of COVID-19-related fake news. 

“They find anything that they thought would be useful to them, they start to translate that into Chinese, and start to spread it, and it becomes viral,” Huang added.

Maharlika Investment Fund bill swiftly approved by the House of Representatives

by: Daneil Anthony Cerdeña || Photo Credit: Rappler

On December 15, 2022, House Bill No. 6608, also known as the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill, was approved in its third and final reading at the House of Representatives. The MIF bill is a policy that employs citizens, promotes trade, expands infrastructure, and aims to establish the role of various investments in financial assets. With a staggering approval rate of over 95%, the bill was approved days before the Congress’ recess from December 17, 2022, to January 22, 2022. Notably, all legislators voted on this bill and had no abstaining voters.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Majority Floor Leader and Zamboanga City 2nd District Representative Manuel Jose Dalipe, Ilocos Norte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos, Marikina 2nd District Representative Stella Luz Quimbo, and Tingog-Partylist Representatives Yedda Marie Romualdez and Jude Acidre are among those who authored the MIF bill. Their association led to the establishment of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) Corporation.

“The proposed sovereign wealth fund will help President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. keep the country on the high-growth path,” principal author Martin Romauldez stated.

As a sovereign wealth fund of the Philippines, the MIF Corporation will have a capital of over 75 billion pesos coming from the Land Bank of the Philippines, the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), the Philippine Gaming and Amusement Corp (PAGCOR), and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) as the MIF contributors. 

However, the MIF bill has met criticism from its content to its approval. President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. categorized the MIF bill as something urgent, leading to its swift approval in the House of Representatives due to the provisions of Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution.

“There is no necessity to certify as urgent the Maharlika Investment Fund. It is not needed by the people who are already deep [in] debt,” voiced France Castro, representative of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers Partylist. She also highlighted the public’s outcry by expressing that organizations, economists, academics, and more have opposed a bill “that prioritizes an investment fund over budget for social services even with a deficit budget.”

In an interview, Co-author Sandro Marcos remarked that although the President favors the bill, he did not spearhead its proposal.

“Yes, it became apparent that the President was in support of creating a sovereign wealth fund, but it didn’t— the idea did not come from him per se because this is something that has been in the works or something that has been pushed by not even this administration but administrations past,” he expounded.

“The intention of sovereign wealth funds is very laudable,” Camarines Sur 3rd District Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. expressed his views. 

“Indeed, Mr. Speaker, putting up a sovereign wealth fund through Maharlika Investment Fund can be beneficial to the country IF done properly and [at] the right time,” Bordado Jr. added, pointing out that the MIF bill was created at the wrong time.

PasKoral and Pasko Jingle kick off EVC’s Holiday Season 

by: Aya Ecaldre || Photo Credit: Paskorus Technical Working Group

To celebrate the holiday season, the Philippine Science High School – Eastern Visayas Campus (PSHS-EVC) held the annual competition for the PasKoral and PaskoJingle virtually last December 19, 2022, via Facebook Live. Organized by the PEHM unit, together with Musikanta, the event showcased video outputs by the students. 

The event was formally opened by Mrs. Leslie Cruto. She mentioned that this yearly tradition allows us to discover students’ talents and skills. 

“Traditions are important in the Filipino culture, and all Pisay scholars go through this celebration year after year to tell us their stories,” she added.

Ms. Cindy Campanero then introduced the board of judges. The board consisted of three members, namely the chair, Ms. Maricar Tegero, together with Mr. John Mark Esperas and Mr. Jelf Seberre. Tegero graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Music, Arts, PE, and Health from Leyte Normal University (LNU) and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education Major in Physical Education at the University of Visayas, Cebu City. She was also a former PSHS-EVC PEHM mentor, A.Y. 2013-2014. 

Esperas is also a graduate of Bachelor of Secondary Education Major in Music, Arts, PE, and Health from LNU, an instructor at Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU), and is the assistant choirmaster of Sinirangan Chamber Singers. On the other hand, Seberre is a musician, song accompanist, band and liturgical keyboardist, violinist, and choir trainer who participated in 11 local and three international tours overall. 

The PasKoral and PaskoJingle were both conducted by house and category. Houses Aglaea, Thalia, and Euthymia prepared one entry for each contest under Category A, consisting of students from Grades 7-9, and Category B, composed of students from Grades 10-12. 

The criteria for judging include the engagements garnered for each video entry posted on the EVC Direct Facebook Page. The competition results will be released on Christmas Day, December 25, 2022.

Briella Acala, a freshman, shared how fun and enjoyable her PasKoral experience was since it was her first time participating. 

Grade 8 student Joxyne Gravoso also stated that the event was a fun experience. She expressed their gratitude to their Grade 9 seniors, who facilitated and guided them throughout the preparation period. 

Jhun Kenneth Iniego from Batch Arimo (2023) quoted that they had fun while practicing for PasKoral. He also highlighted that their overall cooperation together as a house resulted in their majestic output. 

“Because the PasKoral was by category, I was able to interact with a few lower year [students] which I loved! The practices and recordings allowed us to bond and overall, it was an event that I’ll look forward to happening again,” Ariadni Palomo, a Grade 9 student, said. 

The event was then concluded with a closing message from the Campus Director, Ms. Yvonne Esperas. In her message, she thanked the PEHM unit and those involved in making the event a success. 

“It is with utmost sincerity that I wish you all the love from your family and friends, the joy and harmony of being together with your loved ones, and peace in your hearts,” she noted. 

US Vice President Kamala Harris visits the Philippines

by: April Princess Closa || Photo Credit: Rappler

In an effort to bolster the US-Philippines alliance, US Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the Philippines for a three-day official trip from November 20 to 22, making her the highest-ranking US official to visit the country under the Marcos administration.

Harris arrived on Sunday night, November 20, after participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand. 

On Monday, November 21, she met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte. During the talk, Harris underscored the mutual commitment of the US-PH alliance regarding economic prosperity and the climate crisis in the country. She also stressed the mutual concerns regarding security for the region and highlighted the US’ commitment to the Philippines concerning the South China Sea dispute. 

“We stand with you, in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea; and armed attack on the Philippines, armed forces, public vessels, or aircrafts in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments. And that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines,” Harris stated.

According to the White House, the Vice President emphasized the importance of human rights, which encompassed press freedom and freedom of expression, as well as the importance of reinforcing democratic principles. These matters were also discussed in her talk with 16th Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in addition to discussions about the strength of the US-PH alliance, education policy in the country, skills training and internet connectivity, and economic partnership and investment ties.

Harris also connected with Filipino activists, where she expressed solidarity in support of human rights and democracy. She also held a quick town hall with young Filipino women regarding gender equality and women empowerment.

To conclude her stay in the country, the US Vice President visited Tagburos village in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where she delivered a speech aboard the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Teresa Magbanua, situated along the highly disputed South China Sea. She acknowledged the fisheries of Palawan as the “economic lifeblood” of the island, highlighting the threat of illegal fishing on the livelihood of local fishers. Furthermore, she emphasized the US-PH alliance by pledging defense against unlawful behavior in the region and reaffirming the US’ commitment to upholding international laws to protect lives and coastal ecosystems.

“The United States-Philippines alliance is strong. We are committed to you. We are committed to your success. And to all the lives and livelihoods that rely on your work,” Harris expressed.

President Marcos attends the APEC CEO Summit 2022

by: Johanna Macababbad || Photo Credit: PBBM’s Official Facebook Page/Xinhua

“Dark clouds loom large if we are not to be prepared. They loom on the economic horizon, and now, more than ever, our governments and economies must work closer and better together as partners in order to find that break in the clouds where the light of hope and progress can shine through.”

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. opened during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit 2022 held in Bangkok, Thailand, last November 17, 2022, with the theme “EMBRACE, ENGAGE and ENABLE.”

The APEC CEO Summit is a three-day open forum held from November 16 to 18, where CEOs and top executives discuss issues and possible solutions with APEC leaders. It is an economic forum where 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific gather and discuss economic integration in their respective regions. As for this year’s event, it focused on the plans for a post-COVID-19 economic climate.

Marcos stressed that there are three main hindrances to fostering growth; thus, addressing their structural and policy issues can aid the economy in rapidly recovering from the pandemic.

“Food security must be a top priority for all governments, and developing economies especially must have the policy flexibility needed to ensure an increased domestic food production and diversification, and to improve the local agricultural supply and value chain,” he said regarding the first issue.

He also emphasized the importance of establishing and strengthening global health systems against emerging infectious diseases and improving governments’ pandemic response, in which he proposed ratifying the One-Health approach and improving the health surveillance of new or re-emerging illnesses.

“Climate change, the most pressing existential challenge of our time… Stronger action is required… Diversification into renewables and other resources is imperative… The Philippine government will work closely with the private sector to improve the resilience of people and businesses by leveraging the tools for sustainability,” Marcos noted while referring to programs such as Thailand’s Bio-Circular-Green Economy model.

The Philippine President concluded his talk by recognizing the purpose and importance of the APEC and its open environment in formulating economic and trade ideas and solutions to pressing global problems. 

“Prosperity and progress is [are] only possible in a world that is at peace because we, as nations of the world, can never reach our full potential unless we do it together,” he added.

Paeng leaves PH in ruins after making landfall as a severe tropical storm

by: Vinci Tamayo || Photo Credit: Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

After plowing through the Philippines and affecting the lives of over 3.96 million individuals, Severe Tropical Storm “Paeng” — internationally known as Nalgae — left the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) on Monday noon, October 31, leaving 6,542 damaged residences. The death toll also now sits at 150 as of November 3, 2022, with 63 verified fatalities from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 23 from Western Visayas, and three from Soccsksargen.

The storm first entered the PAR as a tropical depression, 965 kilometers east of Eastern Visayas at 12:30 PM on October 26 and was given its local name, “Paeng.” It then intensified into a tropical storm a day later. Its first landfall took place in Virac, Catanduanes, as a severe tropical storm at approximately 1 AM on Saturday, October 29, while sustaining winds of up to 95 kph and a gustiness of 160 kph.

During its time in the PAR, STS Paeng made landfall in a total of five different places: Virac, Catanduanes; Caramoan, Camarines Sur; Buenavista, Quezon; Santa Cruz, Marinduque; and San Juan, Batangas, while maintaining its strength and status as a severe tropical storm throughout. After its recent departure from the PAR, however, its winds intensified further in the West Philippine Sea, reportedly packing winds of up to 110 kph and a gustiness of 135 kph on the afternoon of Monday, October 31. This increase in strength led to the expansion of the area covered by the storm, causing numerous regions in the northwestern parts of the country to remain under Signal No. 1 despite STS Paeng already being outside the PAR.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), STS Paeng was one of the most destructive storms to hit the Philippines this year, with infrastructural and agricultural damages reaching an estimated ₱2.83 billion and ₱2.44 billion, respectively as of November 3. 

During a council meeting of the NDRRMC on October 29, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. highlighted his concerns regarding the number of deaths, expressing that the death toll seemed “very high for a flooding incident” and wondering why affected individuals were not evacuated immediately.

“I would like to start with the flooding in Maguindanao, simply because we have to already look at it dahil ang daming casualty. It will be important to us to look back and see why this happened, na hindi natin naagapan ito na 67 ang casualty, that seems very high for a flooding incident,” Marcos said during the meeting.

[I would like to start with the flooding in Maguindanao, simply because we have to already look at it because there are many casualties. It will be important to us to look back and see why this happened, that we could not prevent this 67 casualties, that seems very high for a flooding incident.]

“So maybe if we could start with there first, just to give me a better idea of what happened, what caused the flooding and bakit hindi natin sila na-evacuate at nagkaganyan ang casualty, napakataas [why were we not able to evacuate them and that the casualty turned out to be so high]?” the Philippine President expressed.

Horror in Seoul: At Least 151 Killed in Itaewon as Halloween Night turns into Deadly Crowd Crush

by: Frances Katharine Manalo || Photo Credit: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP

An estimated 100,000 people in a surge, costumed partygoers fleeing in terror, desperate first aid attempts on sidewalks, and dead bodies lined up in narrow streets—these were the scenes in the nightlife district of the South Korean capital as a Halloween celebration turned into a tragic night.

At least 151 individuals were reported dead, including 19 foreign nationals, and a further 82 were injured in a crowd surge and stampede in Itaewon, Seoul, on Saturday night. Most victims were teenagers and young adults in their 20s who attended the first major Halloween celebration after 3 years as the country lifted the COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing protocols.

According to Choi Seong-beom, Chief of the Yongsan Fire Department, the death toll could still rise, and the exact number of those in critical condition remains unclear. 

South Korean authorities have not yet provided exact details and are still investigating the specific cause of the incident. However, Yonhap News Agency reported that according to fire officials, dozens of people suffered from “cardiac arrest” and breathing difficulties.

Witnesses and survivors described that it was difficult to move around as partygoers were packed in the narrow streets of Itaewon. Additionally, the police were having trouble maintaining control of the crowds.

“You would see big crowds at Christmas and fireworks … but this was several ten-folds bigger than any of that,” said Park Jung-hoon, a witness from Reuters.

A CNN witness, Sung Sehyun, described the space and chaos in the scenes as a “jammed subway.”

“I saw people going to the left side and I saw the person getting to the opposite side. So, the person in the middle got jammed, they had no way to communicate, they could not breathe,” he stated.

“I was lucky to get through (but an) hour later, I heard people got killed. Because people got stamped on… and people got jammed together,” Sung added.

Many others were similarly unaware of the risk until it was too late.

“There was also a police officer screaming but we couldn’t really tell (if it) was a real police officer because so many people were wearing costumes,” Ah Su Jo disclosed to CNN. 

She elaborated that she had only realized the gravity of the situation when she took a detour and fled to safety, seeing people climb buildings in an attempt to survive. 

Addressing the nation early Sunday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol declared a period of national mourning “until the handling of the accident is concluded.” Afterward, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo stated that the mourning period would conclude at midnight on November 5.

The last time South Korea encountered an incident leaving a high death toll was the sinking of Sewol last 2014, killing 304 individuals, mainly high school students.

“A tragedy and disaster that should not have happened took place in the heart of Seoul last night,” Yoon expressed.

via CNN, Reuters, and Voice of America