Helping hands across the seas lift up the future of Marawi Siege kids

Partner institutions from the Philippines and Malaysia have come together to help bring a brighter future for the children victimized by the siege of Marawi City.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Mindanao State University (MSU) have joined forces with the Embassy of Malaysia in Manila and Kuala Lumpur-based Big Bad Wolf Books to help mainstream the education of children in Marawi City’s torils (madrasahs), Islamic non-formal learning institutions with stay- in learners who are mostly orphans and other survivors of the Marawi Siege. An estimated 20,000 children have been  affected by the siege.

“One of DSWD’s major mandates is take care of the children, their social protection and welfare,” said Fatima Aliah Q. Dimaporo,  DSWD Undersecretary for Legal Affairs. “Because many died in the siege, many children who were orphaned or whose families were rendered destitute have found refuge in torils.”

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary for Legislative Affairs Fatima Aliah Dimaporo (3rd from left) expresses her appreciation to the executives of Big Bad Wolf Books for donating an initial 1,000 children’s books for Torils in Marawi through the DSWD and Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City during the ceremonial turn-over of donation on Thursday (February 1) in Cagayan de Oro City.
Also present during the turn-over are (from left to right) Dr. Abdulcader M. Ayo, Dean of King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies, MSU Main Campus, Marawi City; Atty. Rashid Pandi, Director of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Office of the President-MSU Marawi; Mr. Andrew Yap, Co-Founder of Big Bad Wolf Books; Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines H.E. Dato’ Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino; and Ms. Carolyn Chuaying, Managing Partner of Big Bad Wolf Books Philippines.

However, she noted that while the children in torils were learning Arabic and the Qur’an, they faced an uncertain future in aspiring for higher education and employment since they didn’t know how to speak English (the medium of instruction in mainstream colleges and universities) and employment is scarce for teachers of Arabic and the Qur’an.

A Toril in Marawi City. (image courtesy of Moral Governance para sa Bangsamoro ni Chief Minister Al Haj Murad Ebrahim ) (Via MP Maisara Damdamun Latiph)

“When we went to the torils, we realized a lot of them don’t speak or read English, and that is problematic for the future. So it’s hard for them to find employment because of the limited jobs available for Arabic or Quran teachers. However, the teachers and students we interviewed are open to learning western/mainstream education with the understanding it can widen their employment opportunities,” she said.

Tasked by DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian to assess how the agency can help alleviate the children’s plight, Usec. Aliah pitched to replicate Sec. Gatchalian’s Tara, Basa! Program in the torils of Marawi.

Tara, Basa! is an innovative collaboration between the DSWD and Department of Education (DepEd) that seeks to help and assist college students from low-income families by having them tutor struggling or non-reader grade school learners who are vulnerable, at risk.

DSWD Sec Rex Gatchalian & Usec Fatima Aliah Q. Dimaporo met with Malaysian Ambassador H.E. Dato’ Abdul Melvin Castelino, Counselor Nurriha Ahmad & Big Bad Wolf PH Managing Partner Carol Chuaying to discuss the plight of orphaned and destitute children displaced by the Marawi Siege. (DPWH photo)

The proposed Tara, Basa! Program for the torils of Marawi is a component of the government’s Project Rieaya ( رعاية, an Arabic word for Care) which aims to improve the living conditions of the children in the torils, and teach them how to read in the more mainstream language, in order to prepare them for integration into formal schooling, or future employment.

“Tutors can be youth development workers or the parents themselves. The most important thing about this is engaging the youth development workers. College students who can tutor younger kids and they will  be paid through our work for cash program,” Usec. Aliah explained.

DSWD Usec. for Legal Affairs Fatima Aliah Q. Dimaporo, graced the opening of Big Bad Wolf’s Book Sale in SM CDO Downtown on Feb. 1, 2024. With her are some children and their parents from the torils of Marawi City. (photo by Raphy M. Arcaina)

College students trained by the DSWD to become tutors and youth development workers, will also conduct Nanay-Tatay-Teacher sessions for parents and guardians on effective parenting, with topics such as understanding the self as parent, dynamics of the Filipino family, challenges in parenting, child development, and children’s rights, among others.

Parents and guardians of struggling or non-reader elementary learners will also receive cash aid for helping prepare their children for learning and reading sessions, assisting them in their after-reading session assignments, and attending parent effectiveness sessions.

With Mindanao State University’s King Faisal Center for Islamic, Arabic and Asian studies help to prepare different Tara, Basa! modules that fit Islamic teachings, the program next linked with the Embassy of Malaysia, Manila headed by Ambassador H.E. Dato’ Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino and Kuala Lumpur-based Big Bad Wolf Books to bring in Islamic books in English and Arabic since these cannot be found anywhere in the Philippines.

“As informal learning institutions, torils are currently not recognized in mainstream academia but MSU is preparing a program to integrate them into their system. So they’re really the best partners for us to seek a greener future for these children,” Usec. Aliah explained.

“Meantime, we are still in talks with the embassy because the Ulamas in Marawi need to understand how a government is properly run, or basically why regulation is not bad, so they need to be exposed to productive Islamic Society like Malaysia,” she added.

H.E. Dato’ Abdul Malik Melvin Castelino, Ambassador, Embassy of Malaysia, Manila graced the launch of Big Bad Wolf Book Sale at SM CDO Downtown on February 1st.
(photo by Raphy M. Arcaina)

“One of the things we realized was the torils lack Islamic books in English since they only teach in Arabic which will not support the development of the children especially  if they wish to proceed to higher education,” Ambassador Malik said in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the VIP Day Launch for Big Bad Wolf’s Book Sale in Cagayan de Oro on February 1st. “For us the system would also be good if it also teaches Islam in English. So with the help of DSWD, MSU, and the King Faisal Center, we hope to inculcate the use of English reading of Islamic books in torils across Marawi and other areas of Mindanao.”

“So we partnered with Big Bad Wolf and their mission is to change the world one book at a time. I am very to partner with them and its one for Malaysia and the Philippines to work together to develop relations in many fields and also for Malaysia to play a bigger role in  the socio-economic development of  Mindanao. So this is part and parcel of what we are doing,” the envoy added.

For Andrew Yap, Co-founder of Big Bad Wolf Books, their engagement in the project has an emotional link since he managed to visit Ground Zero a few days after the Marawi Siege ended.

“It was so touching for me because when I had the opportunity to go to Marawi right after the siege, I visited the tents of the displaced people. I offered to give books to the children, but they said what they needed was food because they did not know if they can have dinner or not.”

Children from Marawi City’s Torils browse through the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale during its Cagayan de Oro launch on Feb. 1, 2024. (photo by Raphy M. Arcaina)

“The launch today is so heartwarming compared to what we normally do, because this is the first time we had a project like this I felt so close to. Because I was there in Marawi and I could not give them what they needed, but now they are ready,” he exclaimed.

BBW Books Founder Andrew Yap explains their mission to change the world one book at a time. (RMB)

“On top of donating an initial 1,000 books for the project, BBW will also be publishing Islamic Books in English which are very rare and hard to find, because the majority of children’s books are in Arabic. You usually can’t find these at all,” he stressed.


The Tiger City in the Year of the Dragon

Cagayan de Oro’s Prospects for 2024

By Tito Mike

The Year of the Wood Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac appears to be both promising and challenging for the capital city of Northern Mindanao.

Cagayan de Oro City became a chartered city on June 15, 1950 which (are you ready for this?) believe it or not, a Gold Tiger Year!

A most auspicious coincidence indeed for a City with de Oro in its appellation and The City of Golden Friendship as its tagline!

Ready for another surprise? There is actually a Gold Tiger in the Animal Kingdom!

According to the Zoological Wildlife Foundation, a golden tiger is one with an extremely rare color variation caused by a recessive gene that is currently only found in captive tigers. Like the white tiger, it is a color form and not a separate species.

Golden Tiger (image courtesy of the Zoological Wildlife Foundation)

The golden tiger’s white coat and gold patches make it stand out from the norm. Their striping is much paler than usual and may fade into spots or large prominent patches. Golden tigers also tend to be larger and, due to the effect of the gene on the hair shaft, have softer fur than their orange relatives.

But we digress. On February 2 and 3, 2024, SM Supermalls hosted Feng Shui Expert Richard Yu in two events at their SM CDO Uptown and SM CDO Downtown Malls. A freelance geomancer for the past 20 years, Master Yu has been a frequent guest of SM Supermalls during  the Chinese New Year holidays.

Master Richard Yu presents the prospects for those born in the Year of the Tiger (RMB)


Asked about the prospects for Cagayan de Oro City in the coming Year of the Wood Dragon 2024, Master Yu said its economy should continue to flourish.

“Economy, iyon ang maganda. Although it’s not that well, it’s also not that bad. Dragons can only give luck but they do not have it by themselves, so it’s the signs on the lower six like the Tiger who will share luck with other people.  Economy is good. but you will have to share your benefits with others, and that is where the gray area may happen,” noted Master Yu.

The bustling Uptown Cagayan de Oro best exemplifes the economic boom powering Northern Mindanao’s resurgence from the effects of the global pandemic. (image Project LUPAD)

Statistics from the past two years from the Philippine Statistics Authority Region X (PSA-10) office bear this out: Cagayan de Oro City recorded the fastest growth in Region X in 2022 with a 9.4 percent growth, powering the regional economy’s resurgence to 7.2% from 6.3% in 2021. It ranked 10th in growth rates among the Philippines Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs) for the period 2021-2022.

Cagayan de Oro City was also the main contributor to the 7.2 percent (P 935.3 billion) growth of the Normin economy in 2022 with a growth contribution of 2.6 percentage points, and had the largest share of region’s economy at 28.0 %.

It contributed the third biggest share among the country’s Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs) to the 2022 National Gross Domestic Product with 1.3%, trailing only the cities of Davao (2.5%) and Cebu (1.4%).

The city also had the highest Per Capita GRDP in Region X with P 343,936, (the per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) describes the GDP value accounted for each individual in the region).

Furthermore,  Cagayan de Oro City led Northern Mindanao’s predominantly Services-based economy (54.5 %), accounting for more than half of the economy of Cagayan de Oro City (75.4%). The City of Cagayan de Oro was the top growth contributor in 8 out of 11 sub-sectors under Services: Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (TRD); Accommodation and food service activities (AFSA); Information and communication (IAC); Financial and insurance activities (FIA); Real estate and ownership of dwellings (REOD); Professional and business services (PBS); Education (EDUC); and Other services (OS). (Table 2

Peace and Order

“Tiger is in the Middle Six so Peace and Order will be challenging, may konting issue kasi nasa Middle Six lang si Tiger(or Middle Ground) so technically there will be some issues, so compromises will have to be met.”

“The same goes for Food security. Food is not a problem and that is good but  you will be forced to share your abundance with others who have less, so there will be some compromises will have to be made.”

Hala Kumbira! 1st Inter-Barangay Culinary Competition at the 5th Level of SM CDO Downtown
(image courtesy of Viajero Series)

Gold Tigers get along well with their colleagues and neighbors in life and, as a result, can have a smooth career due to the help and support received from colleagues. This should augur well for the city and its neighboring provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon.

For people born in the Year of the Tiger, Master Yu said their lucky colors for the year will be Blue and Black; Lucky number: 12 (“So sa12th day, 12th Month doon ka tumulong) and its Helpful friend are people born in the sign of the Boar. In case they don’t have such a friend, Master Yu recommends getting a stuffed toy or figurine and placing this in an auspicious place in your home.

Feng Shui Master Richard Yu conducts a one-on-one consultation with a lucky patron at SM CDO Downtown (RMB)

Most important perhaps, not only for this born in the Year of the Tiger, but everyone else as well, Master Yu stresses there’s one thing they should always remember: “Don’t become lazy due to good luck”.


Kagay-anon named one of Tiktok PH’s Outstanding Campaign Performers

By Tito Mike

An Official Tiktok Live Host based in Cagayan de Oro has been recognized as one of Tiktok Philippines’ ‘Outstanding Campaign Performers’.

Vahjna Mae Babia Flores, whose Tiktok Handle is Hustlin’ Wife, received the recognition during the BEST OF TIKTOK PHILIPPINES 2023 Tiktok Philippines’ Creators  Night held December 23, 2023 at the Rizal Park Hotel in Ermita, Manila.

Vash, as she is fondly known to her viewers, is one of Tiktok Philippines Official Live Streamers whose LIVE Speed Dating for Singles Campaign stood out during the platform’s monthly campaign last November 2023.

As a Fairy Matchmaker in Tiktok PH, Vash has successfully paired more than 20 couples in the Philippines and overseas, who have now become couples. In fact, two of her OFW matches have already tied the knot.

“Tiktok PH had this campaign every month Tito, and then there’s one campaign that I participated in and luckily I got good results and was able to perform creditably with the help of my supporters/viewers and followers,” she shared.

“Two of my matches have already got married,” she happily reported. “An OFW in Spain and another in Italy had their civil wedding in Spain last July 14, 2023 and they are now expecting a baby! Another pair of OFWs from Spain and Israel have also married in civil rites when they came home to the Philippines.”

Vash with fellow TikTok Content Creators Lee Mark Alburo, Jeric Navarro, Jeanne Pauline, Krizel Yuzon & her Tiktok PH Manager Sydney Crespo (foreground)

“Sitting at the same table and being with some of the content creators and my fellow live hosts on Tiktok was such an overwhelming experience. One for the books, indeed!” she recalls. “Still surreal.  Again, this recognition is not taken lightly (OUTSTANDING CAMPAIGN PERFORMER).Thanks for inviting me, Tiktok Philippines!”

Vash with the Ms. Universe Philippines Cagayan de Oro 2024 Team.

Aside from her engagement with TiktokPH, Vash has also been busy lately serving as Marketing Manager/ Pageant Coordinator for the search for Ms. Universe Philippines Cagayan de Oro 2024 which recently crowned Lynn Eirene Lomongo as Miss Philippines Cagayan de Oro 2024.

“It’s essential for us to recognize and celebrate the progress we’ve made. I don’t claim to have achieved this alone; it required the support of my husband, my family, a few of my friends who watch and enjoy watching my TikTok live stream, my TikTok Manager, Ms. Sydney (you rock), and, of course, my team VASHERS who believe in the unconventional and unexpected.”

Those who want to participate in Vash’s Speed Dating for Singles can check out her Hustlin’ Wife account on TikTok. She is online every 3AM PH/7PM UTC/2PM EST from Tuesday to Saturday.


‘Kauban’ chatbot expands access to legal guidance in CDO

By Stephen J. Pedroza

CAGAYAN DE ORO, PHILIPPINES – In a groundbreaking move, the City Government of Cagayan de Oro proudly introduced the Klarex Uy Bot Accessible Information or “Kauban CDO” chatbot to provide free legal information 24/7. 

Designed as a comprehensive platform, Kauban CDO chatbot serves as a pioneering initiative led by a team of legal professionals, including Atty. Albert Daba III, Atty. Angeline Marie Carrasco, Atty. Evangeline Carrasco, Atty. Al An Geñoso, Atty. Cedric Bantilan, and Atty. Joshua Rey Achas.

Their mission is to make legal information easily accessible to Kagay-anons, addressing common queries about LGU services.

– THE TEAM BEHIND THE KAUBAN CHATBOT. L-R: Atty. Cedric Bantilan, Atty. Angeline Marie Carrasco, Atty. Evangeline Carrasco, Shiela Lumbatan (chief of staff of CDO Mayor Klarex Uy), Atty. Albert Daba III, Atty. Al An Geñoso, Atty. Joshua Rey Achas, and Ivan Joseph Gabutina. (Photo courtesy of the Office of the City Mayor.) 

“The Philippines’ first fully automated Legal Information chatbot, Bots Legis, started way back in 2017 when I was still a law student, as a way to offload the repetitive task of guiding my Titas with filing small money claims and dissuading them from shaming debtors online,” said Daba, the creator of the chatbot. “Then I had the idea of turning the information into a chatbot.”  

CREATOR OF KAUBAN CDO CHATBOT. Atty. Albert Daba III officially presents the Kauban CDO Chatbot on January 8, 2024, at the Cagayan de Oro City Hall. (Supplied photo). 

“Fast-forward to 2024, now conscious perhaps of my new roles as resident lawyer for CyTech, a multinational Cybersecurity company, and HSi Technologies, a leading Digital Banking Services provider, I believe that I take on this endeavor now with a more mature and conservative perspective, quite clearly reflected on the legalese of the lengthy Data Privacy consent forms of the chatbot, as it would be the height of irony if their own legal adviser commits privacy blunders with his own app (knocks on wood),” he added.

Kauban CDO chatbot is accessible on Facebook Messenger and features a small money claims guide, offering free assistance on debt collection.

KAUBAN CDO CHATBOT. The Klarex Uy Bot Accessible Information or “Kauban CDO” chatbot provides free legal information 24/7 on Facebook Messenger. (Image courtesy of the Kauban CDO Chatbot Facebook page).  

It includes additional features and translations, with special emphasis on consumer complaints.

Collaborating with Atty. Fel Lester Brillantes of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the chatbot enlightens consumers about their rights pertaining to purchases.

Daba’s Consumer Complaint Guide on Bots Legis was developed with the assistance and approval of DTI Region 10Consumer Protection Division headed by Atty Fel Lester Brillantes (right).

Daba, currently serving as a lawyer and consultant for the local government unit of CDO under the leadership of Mayor Rolando “Klarex” Uy, officially unveiled the upgraded version of the Kauban CDO chatbot on January 8, 2024, at the City Hall.

“The chatbot does not rely on ChatGPT and all of its responses are pre-programmed and reviewed by lawyers, so it is not prone to Large Language Model AI errors, such as hallucinations,” Daba assured.

The new iteration aims to enhance accessibility for all Kagay-anons, featuring specific additions of LGU services.

Kauban CDO also directs to the FAQs of the City Finance Office and promises more upcoming features.

The initiative aligns with the commitment of the Cagayan de Oro City Government to provide accessible and efficient services to its residents.

Kauban CDO chatbot is poised to become an invaluable resource for Kagay-anons seeking reliable legal information and assistance.

“Today, Kauban CDO is a source of simple legal information and a guide for LGU services available 24/7 for Kagay-anons,” said Daba. “In the future, we hope the technology can assist in other tasks, such as assisting in city scholarship applications.” “I thank Mayor Klarex Uy for supporting this revamped chatbot initiative, as well as all our supportive colleagues who contribute their time and effort to this cause. We hope to see more homegrown Access-to-Justice initiatives!


Cagayan de Oro Economy grows 9.4 percent in 2022

Grows fastest, tops Per Capita GRDP in Normin

Cagayan de Oro’s economy continued to lead Northern Mindanao’s rebound from the debilitating effects of the global pandemic.

The City recorded the fastest growth in Region X with a 9.4 percent growth, powering the regional economy’s resurgence to 7.2% from 6.3% in 2021.

It ranked 10th in growth rates among the Philippines Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs) for the period 2021-2022.

The bustling Uptown Cagayan de Oro best exemplifes the economic boom powerng Northern Mindanao’s resurgence from the effects of the global pandemic. (image courtesy of Project LUPAD)

Along with Misamis Oriental (9.1%), Camiguin (8.0%), Iligan City (7.6%) and Misamis Occidental (7.4%), the five economics exceeded the 7.2 percent regional growth. Bukidnon (4.4%) and Lanao del Norte (3.0%) economies still grew albeit at a slower rate.

It was Misamis Oriental’s economy which accelerated the fastest, surging by 5.2 percentage points from its 3.9 percent growth in 2021. Misamis Occidental (3.5 p.p.), Camiguin (3.3 p.p.), and Iligan City (1.4) likewise exceeded their growth rates in 2021.

Contribution to GRDP Growth & Region X economy share

Cagayan de Oro City was also the main contributor to the 7.2 percent (P 935.3 billion) growth of the Normin economy in 2022 with a growth contribution of 2.6 percentage points. In addition, the regional capital accounted for the largest share of Normin’s economy at 28.0 %, followed by Bukidnon (26.6 %), and Misamis Oriental (16.8 %. (Figure 2)
It contributed the third biggest share among the country’s Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs) to the 2022 National Gross Domestic Product with 1.3%, trailing only the cities of Davao (2.5%) and Cebu (1.4%).

Per Capita GDP

The per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) describes the GDP value accounted for each individual in the region. In 2022, the per capita Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) of Region X increased by 6.0 percent to P182,356. Cagayan de Oro City had the highest Per Capita GRDP at P 343,936, followed by City of Iligan at P 214,680, and Misamis Occidental at P 187,824, all higher than the regional per capita GDP. (Figure 7)

Economic Structure

Northern Mindanao’s economy is predominantly Services-based (54.5 %), and all its provinces and Highly Urbanized Cities (HUCs), accounting for more than half of the economy of Cagayan de Oro City (75.4%), Misamis Occidental (74.6%, and Camiguin (60.2%). (Figure 6) Cagayan de Oro (38.7%), Misamis Occidental (17.5%), and Bukidnon (15.6%) accounted for 71.8 percent of the total Services. (Figure 5)

Phividec Industrial Authority Headquarters at the Phividec Industrial Estate in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

In Industry, Misamis Oriental had the biggest share of 26.8%, driven mainly by the Phividec Industrial Estate at Tagoloan and Villanueva.  (Figure 4)

As the region’s food basket, Bukidnon shared more than half of the region’s Agriculture-Fisheries-Forestry (AFF) output at 67.2% (Figure 3), with the AFF sector making up 50.4% of its provincial economy.

The Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in Bukidnon is the world’s largest. (image courtesy of Project LUPAD)

AFF) grew by 0.5% with a  Gross Value Added (GVA) value of P186.6 billion. Bukidnon was the leading contributor with 1.2 percentage points, followed by Misamis Oriental (0.2) and Cagayan de Oro (0.1), respectively.

Contribution to the Gross Value Added (GVA) Growth by Major Industry

Among the major industries, Services grew the fastest in the region by 10.1% with a Gross Value Added (GVA) of P 509.9 billion, with Cagayan de Oro accounting for 3.9 percentage points as its top growth contributor, Misamis Oriental (1.8 percentage points), Bukidnon and Misamis Occidental (1.5 percentage points), Iligan City (0.7 percentage points), Lanao del Norte (0.4 percentage points), and Camiguin (0.2 percentage points). (Table 2)

Industry expanded by 6.6 percent with a GVA of P 238.8 billion, again driven by Cagayan de Oro with 1.9 percentage points, Misamis Oriental (1.8 percentage points), Misamis Occidental (1.1 percentage points), Iligan City (0.9 percentage points), Bukidnon (0.6 percentage points), Lanao del Norte (0.2 percentage points), and Camiguin (0.1 percentage point). (Table 3)

The City of Cagayan de Oro was the top growth contributor in 8 out of 11 sub-sectors under Services: Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (TRD); Accommodation and food service activities (AFSA); Information and communication (IAC); Financial and insurance activities (FIA); Real estate and ownership of dwellings (REOD); Professional and business services (PBS); Education (EDUC); and Other services (OS). (Table 2)

Misamis Oriental with was the top growth contributor with 10.5 percentage points in the Transportation & Storage sub-sector, and also had the biggest share of 33.2 percent. (Table 2)

On the other hand, Bukidnon was the main growth contributor to Public administration and defense; compulsory social activities (PAD) with 2.4 percentage points, and to Human health and social work activities (HHSW) with 1.6 percentage points. (Table 2)

Under Industry, the main growth drivers were Iligan City (3.3 percentage points in Mining and Quarrying, Cagayan de Oro (1.8 percentage points through Manufacturing), Misamis Oriental with 2.2 percentage points in Electricity, Steam, Water and Waste Management, and Misamis Occidental (3.1 percentage points in Construction. (Table 3)

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AFF) grew by 0.5 percent translating a GVA value of P186.6 billion. The Province of Bukidnon was the leading contributor with                1.2 percentage points. Misamis Oriental and the City of Cagayan de Oro also shared positively with 0.2 percentage point and 0.1 percentage point, respectively.

About the PSA

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) established through Republic Act No. 10625, otherwise known as the Philippine Statistical Act of 2013, is tasked, among others, to compile and maintain macroeconomic accounts and indicators, at the national and subnational level.

The Provincial Product Accounts (PPA) is a mechanism of the PSA to compile the annual estimates of Gross Domestic Product by province/HUC, which is consistent with the National and Regional Accounts of the Philippines.  In 2023, all provinces and HUCs of Northern Mindanao continue to implement the PPA since its inception in 2021, together with other pilot regions. As of 2023, there were a total of 82 provinces and 17 HUCs compiling the PPA.

Full data series, charts, and data visuals of PPA Northern Mindanao can be accessed at the PPA landing page of the PSA website at


Stars on 45: 80s Oro DJs reunion reminisce the good old days

By Tito Mike

Stars on 45 was a Dutch novelty pop act that was successful in Europe, the United States, and Australia in the early 1980s. The band recorded medley recordings made by recreating hit songs as faithfully as possible and joining them together with a common tempo and underlying drum track. The ’45’ refers to the playback speed of a vinyl record single — 45 rpm; such singles were often simply called “45s.”

This, and other memories were the topics of a mini-reunion of Cagayan de Oro’s Disc Jockeys (DJ) from the 1980s when FM music radio held sway in the city’s airwaves with the likes of Ray Cid, Lady Love, Cousin O, QBreaker, and other DJ handles which bring forth a puzzled look among millennials and Gen Zs these days.

(L-R) Ray Cid, Tito Monterde, Rito Estrella, Dolly Ilogon, Tony Uy , and Bong Montalban. 

“During our time, it was an era in radio when FM (or frequency modulation) radio broadcasting was done in English,” recalls Dolly B. Ilogon then known as Lady Love. “FM stations with live disc jockeys played jazz, disco, soft rock, OPM, and pop music from sign on to sign off . We played 45 and LP records provided by Dyna Products and Vicor Corporation on two turntables.”

Back then, FM radio was dominated by music format patterned after the US American Top 40,  an internationally syndicated, independent song countdown radio program hosted by the immortal Casey Kasem from its inauguration on July 4, 1970, until August 6, 1988. Practically all FM stations across the Philippines during this time adopted its English language format, and Arneow and other “Ivy League” grads with their wersh-wersh accents were in demand, and most DJs also adopted their spiels to the prevailing American slang idioms.

During the 1980s, Cagayan de Oro only had 3 FM stations: DXRK 99.9 (PN Roa Broadcasting System); DXVM 99.1 (Radio Mindanao Network), and DXRL 101.5 (Nation Broadcasting Corp) which was essentially a relay station with a music and news format with programs originating from Manila via satellite.

Last January 21st, Dolly hosted a gathering of her former colleagues from that era. Present were Ray Cid (now FM Win Radio station manager), Mikael G. Montalban (aka Michael Gray), Tito Monterde (Wild FM), and Rito Estrella (aka Harry Harrison of DXMO, the only AM pop music station in Cagayan de Oro before the FM stations). Lawyer Annemarie Acosta Quiros, wife of the late Ernesto “Boy” G. Quiros, traveled all the way from Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental to join the group.

“In the early 1980’s me as Lady Love, Ray Cid (as Ray Cid), Omar Labuntog (Cousin O) and Boy Quiros (QBreaker) started as pioneer DJs of 99. 9 RK -FM, then known as the Music Authority in Cagayan de Oro, which was owned by PN ROA Broadcasting System. Boy Q passed on to the other world a year ago, and Omar 2 years ago,” she recalled.

(L-R) Annemarie Acosta Quiros (wife of the late Ernesto Boy G Quiros or QBreaker on DXRK-FM), Dolly Ilogon, with Marilou and Tony Uy.

Also joining the group were Tony Uy and wife Malou of MusicVision and Oro Record Center, who used to be the official dealer and distributor of Universal Records Philippines who kept the FM stations humming with the latest music hits on 45 and LP vinyl records, and later cassette tapes.

Actually, this was the fourth reunion of the 99. 9 DXRK -FM originals (Lady Love, Cousin O, Ray Cid, and QBreaker over the past 13 years. The first on September 29 , 2011 was attended by the 4 and other staff from DXOR, AM sister station of DXRK.

Sept. 29,2011 DXRK-FM Originals Reunion (L-R) Omar Labuntog (Cousin O), Ray Cid , Dolly Ilogon (Lady Love) and Boy Quiros (QBreaker).

The next on Nov. 9, 2017 was joined by Boy Quiros, his wife Anne and Omar Labuntog.

Dec.26,2019 3rd reunion with Omar Labuntog, Ray Cid, Luz Pangan, Tony Uy, Dolly Ilogon, Boy Quiros, and Bong Montalban.

Dec. 26, 2019 was the third reunion, also joined by Bong Montalban (Michael Gray) who started his DJ career at DXRK -FM, then went on to DXVM -FM and later to Killer Bee, Luz Pangan (Missy Clark) also of DXRK, now based in California, and Tony Uy. Among the originals of DXRK, only Dolly and Ray Cid are left.

Just the two of us, Ray Cid and yours truly Lady Love. Survivors of the originals of 99.9 RK FM , then the Music Authority of Cagayan de Oro.

 “Feelings of nostalgia and gratitude. Reminiscing and longing,” Tony said of the reunion. “Answers to long forgotten questions! Lots, lots. lots of fun and laughter. Especially the funny moments. How today’s technology has totally changed the entire industry.”

“The mini reunion of the former deejays, of Cagayan de Oro were filled with great memories of the golden days of radio, when the radio announcers were ad-libbing in straight English, and not in the vernacular,” recalls Tito Monterde, Managing Consultant/Acting Station Manager of UMBN’s Wild FM.

Stars on 45: Rito Estrella, Bong Montalban, Dolly Ilogon, Annemarie Quiros, Ray Cid & Tito Monterde.

“We were so nostalgic in remembering the use of the vinyl, in 33 and 45, the DAT, the cassette tapes, and other vintage broadcast equipment. We enjoyed our fun and laughter, as we reminisced about our experiences in answering the requests of the listeners through landlines       (Misortel and Philcom),” he mused. “We were a little bit sad, remembering the other jocks, who passed away, and missed them in gatherings like what we had.”


CDO in Agoda’s Top 5 most searched PH Travel Destinations in 2024

Cagayan de Oro is among the Philippines top 5 most searched travel destinations for  2024, according to the travel booking online platform Agoda.

Agoda’s 2024’s “Philippines’ New Horizons is a list of local destinations most searched by travelers year-on-year, who used for search, travel and hotel bookings.

“While the Philippines’ well-loved destinations continue to attract their fair share of travelers, we have seen spikes in searches in lesser known tourist destinations as people expand their horizons and more people are exploring these locales,” said Enric Casals, Associate Vice President at Agoda.

Bohol topped the list, followed by Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte, Davao City, Iloilo City and Cagayan de Oro City at fifth place.

Cagayan River is the venue for various adventure aquasports in Cagayan de Oro
(photo by Carlo Antonio Romero MD)

These emerging travel spots are “fast growing in popularity,” Agoda said, based on a “significant growth in interest” from users in the Philippines and abroad. The data shows a keen interest in destinations that have multiple attractions and activities for travelers to experience.

“The Philippines New Horizons list opens travelers up to new experiences, as well as to new opportunities to travel sustainably—with new destinations to explore while at the same time alleviating some pressure on the most popular destinations. Agoda is here to support them with some of the best deals on flights, accommodation, and activities so they can explore the best of what these destinations have to offer,” added Casals.

As the Philippines gateway to Mindanao, Cagayan de Oro is strategically located with air, sea and land thoroughfares which link it to a plethora of attractions not only in Northern Mindanao, but to all of Mindanao’s other regions as well which validates this observation.

Significantly, it draws almost exclusively domestic tourists from its adjacent provinces as figures from the Department of Tourism Region X (DOT-X) for the past few decades show, with its share of foreign tourists hovering around one percent.

Amaya View at Bgy. Indahag is a family oriented resort with fun thrills for all ages.

“It’s mostly local tourists, mainly from nearby cities and provinces, who like, comment and share on my posts about local attractions,” said Eldie Aban of Travel Ta Bai blog, a member of the city’s premier social media group CDO Bloggers. “Most of the reactions are also in Bisaya.”

DOT-X statistics show that although tourist arrivals for  2019 in Northern Mindanao (Region X) declined by 9.65 percent from 3.1 to 2.8 million, these declines were mostly incurred outside Cagayan  de Oro, notably Misamis Occidental (-79.60 percent), Oroquieta City (-80.60 percent), and Malaybalay City (-78.50 percent). 

Significantly, Cagayan de Oro tourist arrivals for 2019 crossed the million threshold to 1,003,324 (+15.10%) from 871,698 in 2018, and accounted for the lion’s share of tourist arrivals in Region X (35.87%). Cagayan de Oro and the adjacent province of Misamis Oriental, Ozamiz City, and Camiguin actually recorded increases in tourist arrivals for the year.

“We have multi-day visitors mainly from Luzon, very seldom from the Visayas,” said Nilo Allado Lazarito, president of the Giya Amihanang Mindanao Association (Northmin Tourguides Association). “But domestic tourists still make up the bulk, mostly day trippers from around the region, balikbayans, and Filipinas married to foreigners.”

Like everywhere else in the world, tourist arrivals in Region X plummeted to only 597,577 in 2021, but staged a spectacular 175.23% comeback to 1,644,708 in 2022, though still short of the pre-pandemic level of 2.8 million  in 2019. Cagayan de Oro’s adjacent provinces of Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon likewise experienced spectacular rebounds from 2021 of 52.22% and 144.70%, respectively.

“Obviously, Bukidnon’s high numbers are due to revenge tourism after the pandemic. The parks and resorts in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich and surrounding attractions in Impasugong, Malaybalay and the Bukidnon Davao areas experienced a deluge of adventure seekers and sightseers, visiting the latest social media worthy destinations,” observed Engr. Elpidio M. Paras whose family owns and operates the pioneer Dahilayan Adventure Park in Bgy. Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. “Most of the tourists were local from as far north as Baguio and south from the BARMM areas. Very active ang mga bloggers in posting the latest resorts and tourism destinations.”

Karen Chayne Sanchez, president of the CDO Bloggers, notes that the viewers who comment on the local attractions featured in her CDO Lifestyle blog are mostly interested in Cagayan de Oro’s cafes and restaurants, with many expressing their satisfaction from the nice place, ambience and food.

Food tourism via KUMBIRA

This focus on food tourism can be traced to KUMBIRA, a culinary show and live inter-school competition organized by the Cagayan de Oro Hotel and Restaurant Association (COHARA) which celebrated its 27th year in 2023.

A two-part event starting with Hala Kumbira! on August 19 which featured the 1st Inter-Barangay Culinary Competition, and the main festival and competitions on October 11–13 which featured the 1st Mindanao Coffee Festival, it has spawned several generations of student and professional participants who have looked to Cagayan de Oro in the past 3 decades for their culinary inspirations and gourmand inclinations. Its 1st Coffee Festival celebrated the explosion of coffee shops in the city which at the last count already stood at 250 and counting.

The city also boasts a plethora of seventeen food parks (and counting), upscale restaurants, and niche bistros which give their patrons the choice of a mind-boggling array of cuisines and menus from around the Philippines and all over the world.

MEGA Events

Besides Kumbira, the city has also made its mark in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibits (MICE) market niche, and is now attracting events from as far as Malaysia with the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale scheduled this February 2-18, 2024 at the SM CDO Downtown Event Hall, and the 75th Diamond Edition of the PAL Interclub, the country’s largest golf competition, to be hosted by Pueblo de Oro and Del Monte in Cagayan de Oro and nearby Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, respectively, on February 19-March 4, 2024

64th PAL INTERCLUB CHAMPIONS / 26 February 2011. Members of the victorious Del Monte Golf Club carry Noel Langgamin in a victory ride after winning the 64th Philippine Airlines Golf Tournament held at Pueblo de Oro, Cagayan de Oro City. Other members of the team are Coach Ramon Velez (rightmost), Clyde Mondilla, Banny Abano, Magno Arancon, Julius Bautista, Mellurence Cubillo, Leonard Lofranco, Vince Lusterio and Mark Mondilla.

History Trails

The City of Cagayan de Oro was also active in the History and Heritage scene, hosting the National Historical Commission of the Philippines’ (NHCP) 2023 National Conference on Local History and Heritage (NCLHH) in 8-9 August 2023 at the Capitol University Mini-Theater, Cagayan de Oro City, and the Local Historical Committees Network (LHCN) General Assembly at New Dawn Plus Hotel on 10 August 2023.

Local historian delegates from all over the country were treated to tours of the city’s four museums, the city’s 3 Philippine-American War Battle Sites, a World War II trail in nearby Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, and the MacArthur Memorial Markers in Bgy. Macabalan and Manolo Fortich.

A highlight of the closing plenary of the two day NCLHH was the launching of Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus B. Rodriguez’s new book, Cagayan de Oro-Misamis Oriental-Camiguin History Trail, which lists 37 historical sites in the three locations, at the Ayala Centrio Mall.

Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour 2024

And perhaps to underscore its rising popularity as an emerging travel spot, the Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour (formerly known as the Ambassador’s Tour) has finally included Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon in its itinerary for 21 to 30 July 2024. Over 300 Filipino-Americans from the various Philippine consulates and communities in the US will join the annual tour which will also visit Metro Manila and Bacolod.

Consul General Senen T. Mangalile welcomes close to 100 guests to the launch of the 2024 iteration of the Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tour. The Philippine Consulate General in New York is the lead coordinator of this year’s tour. (Photo by Nikka Arenal)

 “I encourage you to view the VIP Tour as a homecoming—a chance to learn or rediscover the Philippines,” said Consul General Senen T. Mangalile during the Event Launch held on 23 January 2024 at the Kalayaan Hall, Philippine Center in New York in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate General in New York, and the Philippine Department of Tourism’s New York Office. “This year’s VIP Tour is particularly noteworthy, as it will be the first time the itinerary has been expanded to include destinations in Mindanao and opportunities to interact with the local community.”

Cagayan de Oro hosts the 2nd Mayor’s Cup Spring Festival Dragon Boat Race on the Cagayan River on Feb. 17-18, 2024 . (photo by Gerry Lee Gorit)

“Cagayan de Oro is an important air and sea hub and a top destination by land from those in Mindanao,” noted veteran tourism consultant Charles Lim. “It appeals more to the young, adventure market. Stakeholders must turn these searches and interests into actual bookings. More infrastructures and upgrade of tourist attractions is the essence of remaining competitive. Be bold; be innovative. More attractive inbound packages are needed.”


MCT Phase II Expansion remains PHIVIDEC IA’s Topmost Priority

The expansion of the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) remains the topmost priority of the Phividec Industrial Authority (PHIVIDEC IA) as it marks its 50th Anniversary in 2024.

Atty Joseph Donato Bernedo
PHIVIDEC IA Administrator & Chief Executive Offficer

“Our MCT has already reached its maximum capacity of 270,000 TEUs,” said Atty. Joseph Donato J. Bernedo, PHIVIDEC IA Administrator and Chief Executive Officer, during a January 23 press conference on the occasion of its 50th Anniversary kick-off and Parapet Signage Ceremony at the estate’s administration building. “By 2030, the traffic is projected to reach 500,000 TEUs. So we really need to expand the capacity.”

A TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) is the international unit of measurement used to determine cargo capacity for container ships and terminals. This measurement is derived from the dimensions of a 20-foot standardized shipping container. Because shipping containers can be 20 or 40-feet in length, the capacity of a container ship can depend on the ratio of the two sizes. 

The Mindanao Container Terminal at Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. (ICTSI photo)

In order to avoid confusion and standardize a ship’s capacity, the number of containers a ship can accommodate is translated into a measure equivalent to the number of 20-foot containers known as TEU. For example, one 40-foot container is equal to two TEUs.

In an earlier interview, Atty. Bernedo stressed the crucial role the MCT plays in the regional economy and the urgency of undertaking the MCT Phase II Expansion as soon as possible.

“I’m very keen on pursuing the expansion of our port. I want to have it finished during my time or at least get it going because this is long overdue. We already reached maximum capacity in 2018,” Atty. Bernedo stressed.

The MCT already surpassed its designed capacity of 270,000 TEUs in 2018. (ICTSI photo)

With a 24-hectare terminal area for infrastructure, equipment and support facilities, a 300-meter berth originally designed to handle one international vessel measuring up to 200 meters, and an annual capacity of 270,000 TEUs, MCT is regulated by PHIVIDEC-IA and has been operated by ICTSI since 2008 when the Manila-based terminal operator signed a 25-year concession.

The US$ 85.34 Million (P 3.24 Billion) MCT was 85% funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and 15% by PHIVIDEC IA, and designed and managed by Pacific Consultants International (PCI), and Japanese Contractor Mitsubishi-Kawasaki-Toyo Joint Venture (MKT-JV).

JBIC is a policy-based financial institution of Japan, and conducts lending, investment and guarantee operations while complementing private sector financial institutions.

Importance of MCT Phase II Expansion

In his discussions with ICTSI, Atty. Bernedo disclosed it was determined that the port’s expansion is urgently needed because the berthing windows when the ships dock have become very tight. This, on top of several expressions the authority has received from big international shipping lines who wish to ship through MCT, but whose preferred berthing windows cannot be accommodated, further stresses the need to immediately undertake the Phase II expansion.

PHIVDEC IA’s share of the income from ICTSI’s MCT operations and regulated ports accounts for approximately 60 percent of the authority’s annual revenues.

“If we don’t expand there may come a time where we may also have to turn away the domestic shipping market, but we do not want that to happen, and we will do everything in our capacity to accommodate all the players,” Atty. Bernedo noted.

Project Status

The proposed US$66 million (P3.392 billion) MCT Expansion project includes the expansion of the berth length by 300 meters, expansion of container yard and construction of loading and unloading facilities.

The Phase II Expansion Project has already been favorably endorsed by the National Economic & Development Authority and Regional Development Council Region X, which have named it as a priority project in the Northern Mindanao Regional Development Plan.

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) visited the PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority (PHIVIDEC-IA) last November 9, 2023. The JICA delegates were led by JICA Headquarters – Senior Deputy Director, Mr. Nishii Yosuke, and were welcomed by PHIVIDEC-IA Administrator/CEO, Atty. Joseph J. Bernedo. 
(Phividec IA photo)

Atty. Bernedo said he already met with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to explore getting a grant for funding of the feasibility study, and received positive reaction from the evaluators who noted the authority’s compliance with most of the factors they look for,  which should help in the approval process and identification of funding sources. The JICA team has so far made four land-side and sea-side inspections of the proposed expansion project site.

According to Atty. Bernedo, the project has likewise received a favorable endorsement from the Department of Transportation (DOTr) which listed it in the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028.  Through Phividec’s efforts, the DOTr has issued a “Confirmation of Endorsement to Secure a Feasibility Study Grant”, to which Phividec has signed its conformity.  Because of this, the MCT II expansion will be part of the roll-out for the DOTr Priority Projects for the coming years.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) with the representatives from the Embassy of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), visited the PHIVIDEC Industrial Authority (PHIVIDEC-IA) on November 13, 2023. The DOTr delegates were led by Asec. Leonel Cray P. De Velez, Embassy of Japan, Mr. Kudo Hiroyuki, and JICA Philippines – Mr. Fukui Keisuke. The delegates were welcomed by PHIVIDEC-IA Administrator/CEO, Atty. Joseph J. Bernedo. (Phividec IA Photo) 

As a government-to-government project, PHIVIDEC IA and the DOTr team have made representations with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) because as a gov’t. to gov’t. project, the DFA will need to endorse the project to the Embassy of Japan and the Japanese government that it is a viable project and is something JICA can help with.

“On the other hand, we are still entertaining other options in terms of expanding the port, not necessarily through an Official Development Assistance (ODA),” Atty. Bernedo clarified. “We remain open to PPP arrangements, unsolicited proposals and such other BOT arrangements and in fact, have already received feelers from interested parties on that side.”

“So on either option, there is a good potential that this project will be rolled out very, very soon and we are not going to stop until this happens,” he emphasized.

Impact on Metro Cagayan de Oro

As a cornerstone of the Northern Mindanao Regional Development Plan, the MCT Phase II Expansion project is expected to have a substantial multiplier effect on the emerging Metropolitan Cagayan de Oro area which NEDA projects to become the Philippines next metropolitan center by 2025 after Manila, Cebu and Davao in its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

Based on its projected population growth, strategic location as gateway and logistics hub for Northern Mindanao, and role as a key education center in the south, it is expected to join Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao in serving as the economic and administrative cores of the three main island groups of the country, the NEDA said.

As the regional center and business hub of Northern Mindanao, the emerging Metropolitan Cagayan de Oro area includes the cities of Cagayan de Oro and El Salvador; eleven municipalities of Misamis Oriental (AlubijidClaveriaGitagumInitaoJasaanLaguindinganLibertad,  OpolTagoloan, and Villanueva);  and the municipality of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. 

“If we have a bigger capacity volume port, more business will come in, more trade will be conducted, and there is a higher possibility for our locators and investors to increase because we have a bigger port,” Atty. Bernedo affirmed.

“Once our locators/investors increase, the multiplier effect will bring more employment opportunities for our people, more revenues for the province, the LGUs around us, and it will give birth to other ancillary businesses that might be on the supply chain, so it is one of the biggest projects embedded in the regional development plan. And that is why it is also quite expensive.”


COWD seeks to resolve rate row with majority partner

The Cagayan de Oro City Water District (COWD) is actively seeking an acceptable compromise with its majority partner regarding the price of bulk water it sources from their joint venture company.\

Engr. Antonio Young, COWD General Manager

During a media press conference held 16 January 2024 at the COWD Board Room, Engr. Antonio Young, COWD General Manager, said the dispute arose when COWD requested a deferment of the scheduled rate increases for the bulk water supplied by majority partner Cagayan de Oro Bulk Water Inc. (COBI).

COBI is a joint venture created on August 14, 2017 between Metro Pacific Water which holds a 95 percent equity, and COWD 5 percent. The joint venture is envisioned to provide 100MLD of bulk water to the water district for the next 30 years, renewable for another 20 years, as well as construct transmission lines, and rehabilitate COWD’s Camaman-an Reservoir to supply the COWD, which currently has more than 100,000 service connections.

Metro Pacific Water officially signs the joint venture agreement with the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) to undertake the supply of 100-MLD of treated bulk water to address the needs of the city.

The JV Corporation now supplies 60 MLD of treated water to the western sector of Cagayan de Oro City, and 40 MLD to the eastern sector of the city. Since December 31, 2017, COBI has been supplying water to the western parts of the city, marking the end of the decade-old relationship between COWD and Rio Verde Water Consortium Inc. which used to sell at P10.45 per cubic meter.

Rio Verde Water Consortium Water Treatment Plant

However, Rio Verde still retains ownership of the 100MLD  water treatment plant in Baungon, Bukidnon, and supplies COBI with treated bulk water at P13.00 per cubic meter. In turn, COBI sells the water supplied to COWD according to a schedule of bulk water rates stipulated in its Bulk Water Supply Agreement (BWSA) starting at P16.60 with a proviso for a rate adjustment every 3 years based on the average Consumer Price Index of the previous three years.

Rate Row

The present row arose when COBI increased its rate from P16.60 to P20.57 per cubic meter in 2021 as scheduled in the BWSA with COWD. COBI sent COWD a billing dated December 15, 2023 in the amount of P437,057,627.52 warning it be paid within 30 days from receipt, otherwise delivery of further bulk water would be suspended.

However,  the COWD invoked the Force Majeure Event clause in the same document during a January 12, 2024 meeting of its board of directors, citing the adverse effects of the global pandemic and requesting a deferment of the scheduled increase.

Thus, COWD continued paying COBI P16.60 per cubic meter for the period 2020-2023, with the P2.97 difference between this and the P20.57 charged by COBI since 2021 constituting the bulk of the P437-M bill.

COWD Administative Building

Young added that they already settled their September and October 2023 bills last December, and will settle their November bill received mid-December, before the end of January 2024.

Unless the row is amicably settled within 20 business days, the case will proceed to mandatory arbitration as specified in the BWSA. Meantime, COWD has requested the Cagayan de Oro City LGU for assistance in settling the dispute.

Force Majeure & the CPI

Force Majeure Events as defined in the BWSA between COBI and COWD includes epidemics, quarantine, closing of harbors, docks, canals or other assistance to or adjuncts of shipping or navigation, rationing or allocation, whether imposed by law, decree or regulation by, or by compliance of industry at the insistence of, any government, or any other event, matter or thing, not within the reasonable control of the Party affected, all of which were experienced by the COWD and its concessionaires in its service areas during the recent global pandemic.

City government employees disinfect one of Cagayan de Oro’s main streets at the height of the pandemic. (CIO)

Young said they invoked the Force Majeure Event clause in the BWSA since the CPI on which the step increases in the bulk water rates are based was adversely affected by the global pandemic.

Aside from the issues COWD were subjected to like not being allowed to cut non-paying customers and collecting from them, the Consumer Price Index for Cagayan de Oro for 2020-2023 abnormally increased during the pandemic period because of the complications arising from the decreased productivity arising from work shutdown and layoffs of consumers, decreased purchasing power of the concessionaires (all commercial, industrial and residential were affected), the drastic reduction in the flow of goods due to mandatory health protocols. 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Income Households by Commodity Group (2018=100) from January 2018 to December 2023 from the Philippine Statistics Authority Region X (PSA-X) show that the average consumer price index for all items rose from 105.7 in 2020, to 109.5 (2021), and further to 116.1 (2022). The Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels Commodity Group likewise rose from 109.5 (2020) to 110.4 (2021) and 116.2 (2022).

Inflation in the fourth quarter of 2022 averaged 7.5 percent, higher than the 4 percent posted in 2021, and well above the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ target range of 2 to 4 percent. On an annual basis, inflation rate accelerated from 3.9 percent in 2021 to 5.8 percent in 2022.

Higher prices of food (+6.1%) and transport commodities (+14.7%) buoyed inflation in 2022. All provinces, except Lanao del Norte, recorded higher inflation rates, year-on-year.

Business Closures

Furthermore, the Department of Labor & Employment Region X (DOLE-X) recorded the total number of recorded permanently closed businesses to 148, displacing 1,815 workers for the period July 2020-December 2021 alone. Cagayan de Oro City recorded the most number of affected establishments (mostly micro scale) at 110 (74%) and workers at 1,331 (73%) across the region. Wholesale/Retail, Accommodation, and Other Services were the most affected in terms of economic impact.

By the end of 2021, a total of 2,052 establishments had temporarily ceased operations, affecting 36,084 workers. Cagayan de Oro City accounted for almost half of the closed businesses due to the concentration of industries in highly urbanized city.

 Retrenchment / Reduction of Workforce

Over the course of the pandemic, 857 businesses opted to reduce their workforce to save on operational costs. This affected 10,564 workers from July 2020 to December 2021.

Cagayan de Oro City was the center of retrenchment with 444 (52%) establishments affecting 5,078 (48%) workers.  The industries that reduced the most number of workers were Construction, Other Services, Accommodation, Administrative Support, and Financial.

Gross Regional Domestic Product

From 2010 to  2019, the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) was growing at an average of 6.4 percent from 2010 to 2019. However, when the global pandemic stuck in 2020, it caused massive disruption to people’s lives and economies. Strict community quarantines were imposed, which restricted the movement of people, goods, and services.  This led to a P36 billion drop in household spending of Region X or an average of P9.6 million per day.

As expected, the pandemic severed the region’s growth momentum as the economy contracted by 5.2 percent in 2020.  The steepest contraction was recorded in the services sector at nine percent, owing to output declines in the hard-hit sectors:  accommodation and food service activities (-49.6%) and transportation and storage (-39.5%). Wholesale and retail trade which accounted for 26.8 percent of the regional economy contracted by 5.7 percent.

Although the industry sector had a smaller contraction (-1.9 percent), the construction subsector declined by 21.7 percent as several infrastructure projects were suspended or regulated in the first part of the year amid community quarantine.    

2020 Provincial Labor Statistics 

The socioeconomic effects of COVID-19 pandemic led to the record-high unemployment figures in the last 15 years. In 2020, annual unemployment across all provinces and highly urbanized cities (HUCs) except Lanao del Norte, increased with Misamis Oriental (including Cagayan de Oro City) registering the highest rate at 8.4 percent.


Biggest Book Sale Ever Opens At SM Downtown February 2nd

Big Bad Wolf Books

Changing The World, One Book At A Time

By Tito Mike

The world’s biggest ever book sale is coming to Cagayan de Oro at the Event Hall of SM Downtown at the 5th Floor.

From February 2, 2024 to February 18, 2024, Cagayan de Oro residents and visitors from neighboring cities alike will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in an unparalleled book-shopping experience.

A sampling of the books in the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale to be held February 2-18, 2024 at the SM Downtown Event Hall, 5th Level, Cagayan de Oro City. (photo courtesy of Kentot Travels)

Big Bad Wolf Books (BBW Books) aims to cultivate reading habits, increase English literacy worldwide, and build a new generation of book lovers by making books more affordable and accessible to everyone.

“How many restaurants do you have in Mindanao,” asked BBW founder Andrew Yap during the 16 January 2024 media launch held at SM Downtown. “If you need food for your body, so do you also need food for your mind!”

(Left to Right) Centaur Marketing’s Will Hsu, Big Bad Wolf Founder Andrew Yap, and Big Bad Wolf Philippines Managing Partner Carolyn Chuaying.

One of the company’s best highlights is its Book Sales, which is popular among book lovers around the world. As a global reading advocacy initiative, it aims to encourage people of all ages to discover the joys of reading, inspire them to pursue their dreams, and, importantly, empower them with the knowledge to realize them.

The brainchild of BookXcess founders Andrew Yap and Jacqueline Ng, the first Big Bad Wolf Book Sale was held on 13–18 May 2009 at Dataran Hamodal, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia and proved to be a tremendous success. The books are mostly sourced from the stocks of BookXcess, a book store dealing in excess or remaindered books from international distributors.

Big Bad Wolf Founder Andrew Yap explains the advocacy behind their Book Sales. (RMB)

In 2016, Big Bad Wolf went global, holding its first overseas book sale in Indonesia, and has now visited more than 30 cities in 12 countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates. Millions of customers have attended these physical book sale events offering a huge range of great books at affordable prices. The company has also begun branching out to book readers outside the Asia Pacific, having held book tours in Tanzania, Kenya, and the United Arab Emirates.

“BBW is bringing more than 50,000 book titles and over 2,000,000 books to Cagayan de Oro,” said Carolyn Chuaying, managing partner of BBW Philippines.  “They don’t call us the biggest book sale in the world for nothing!”

Interviewing Carolyn Chuaying, managing partner of Big Bad Wolf Philippines.
(Photo courtesy of Papi of TJ the Explorer)

The arrival of Big Bad Wolf in Cagayan de Oro is not merely a celebration of the city’s vibrant culture and rich history but also a testament to the company’s never ending commitment to spreading the joy of reading to every corner of the globe.

“Of all the places we’ve gone to in the Philippines, Cagayan de Oro seems to have the greatest passion for reading books among its people,” Andrew noted.  (RMB)

As book enthusiasts in the region eagerly anticipate the event, BBW promises its Cagayan de Oro tour to be a momentous occasion, fostering a deeper appreciation for literature in the region, and embracing the ever-expanding community of avid readers.

Big Bad Wolf’s low prices encourage customers to take a chance on new authors and types of books they might never otherwise try. Readers will find an incredible range of titles across genres as diverse as science-fiction, thrillers and literature, business, cookbooks, art and design, and children’s activity and reference books. Many other sought-after books to suit all tastes can be found, so everyone can experience the joy of reading.

What’s more, the event will also have exclusive perks and unbelievable deals that add an extra layer of excitement to those stopping by.

“With so many titles up for grabs, attendees can enjoy price discounts of up to 95% off on different books, collections, and series, and books as low as P20 a copy,” said Will Hsu of the agency promoting the event. “Not only can residents of Cagayan de Oro find their next big read, but they can also enjoy them without breaking the bank.” (Kentot Travels)

More than just a sale, Big Bad Wolf Books is a global reading advocacy programme. Its mission is to cultivate the reading habit around the world and build a new generation of readers by making books affordable and accessible to everyone. In this way, the World’s Biggest Book Sale inspires people to chase their dreams and empowers them with knowledge.

…and They Read Happily Ever After.

For more information regarding Big Bad Wolf Books’ grand return to the Philippines, please visit: