Updated October 23, 2014: SC junks Cebu ‘bikini students’ plea vs. school : In an 18-page decision, the SC’s Third Division denied a petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas data filed by parents of two of the five sanctioned students.

Update April 1: Is STC Cebu placing itself above the law by defying the TRO?

Check STC Student Manual Sec V. High School Policies on Discipline

Open Letter to St. Theresa’s College

The other side of the Coin: St. Theresa’s speaks out

Update March 31: Cebu school defends action

Update March 30 RTC Branch 19 Sheriff Manuel Gimeno and process server Rey Christian Matta (left) are denied entry at the gate of St. Theresa’s College where they were supposed to serve a temporary restraining order on school officials who blocked five high school students from participating in the graduation ceremony. Gimeno and Matta were unable to serve the order. The school turned away the five students involved in the controversy of photos uploaded to Facebook showing them in bikinis and allegedly, with alcohol and cigarettes. They were not able to participate in the baccalaureate mass and the graduation rites that would have capped their high school lives. See photo of sheriff turned away and this No graduation rites


Virtue, science, and the arts are the seeds carefully planted in the student’s mind and heart – STC motto

That’s me 38 years ago after my High School graduation. A loyalist Theresian. I walked down the aisle of the St. Theresa’s College (STC) Cebu Chapel giddy with excitement that a new life awaited me in College. Nothing extraordinary happened the weeks before this momentous occasion.

It pained me to read the story of five girls who were initially not allowed to march on graduation day. My alma mater banned the girls from attending even pre-graduation rites because they were posing in bikini and posting their pictures online. The mother of one girl petitioned the court on behalf of her daughter. On Thursday, Judge Wilfredo Navarro issued a temporary restraining order on the STC’s sanction that applied to all the 5 students. The TRO said that STC must ““treat the minors with kindness and civility befitting true graduates of a respectable institution sans any discrimination for the entire duration of the commencement exercises.”

The offensive photos in Facebook

Having been in STC, I am aware how strict the school can be. During my time, someone had to measure how short our skirts were…that we should wear pantilets under our skirt and many more. I think shorts were not even allowed to be worn under our skirt. It was not feminine. Modesty was taught early on. I recall we had to wear a chemise or sando so that our bras will not be seen through the blouse. I think most Catholic girl schools have these rules.

Despite the strict rules, I appreciate the values and knowledge that prepared me for life.

Anyway, the school officials scolded the girls for posting their photos of themselves clad in bikini at their Facebook accounts. . The students said they ““were deeply hurt and cried” after being scolded by the officials whom they accused of humiliating them with abusive language calling them ““easy, drunks and addicts.” The girls say the photos posted in their Facebook accounts were about past events held outside the school and were not offensive. The school officials say the photos were considered by the school as ““offensive to the virtues” espoused by the Catholic school.

The sanction imposed on the students was based on the provisions in the STC Handbook. I am not sure if we had the handbook back then. I do recall we couldn’t go around town with our school uniform. In the handbook, STC bars students from drinking outside the school, engaging in lewd behavior and dress in clothing that exposes underwear.

Vague standards

Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (Scap) believes that STC’s Student Handbook violates students’ rights and the Constitution.

“One of the rules stipulates that students should not be ‘posing and uploading pictures on the Internet that entail ample body exposure’ among numerous provisions that impede on the private and personal affairs of their students.” Scap said in a statement.

University of the Philippines Center for Women’s Study director Sylvia Estrada-Claudio explained that the issue is an ““institutional problem.”

““Every institution, even private religious ones, need to think disciplinary rules through so that they do not end up with institutional mechanisms that provide vague standards for discipline that lead to discriminatory and cruel interpretations,” Estrada-Claudio said.

““The vagueness of ‘ample body exposure’ leaves the interpretation up to whoever is looking at the pictures. This allows school authorities such a broad latitude that it allows for arbitrariness. In this case this arbitrariness is now the subject of controversy and like many others, I think the student’s rights have been violated.”

Jerbert Briola of Human Rights Online Philippines said the sanction is a violation of Republic Act 9262 or the Anti-Violence Against Women and Children Act ““for causing psychological violence to the student” and that the school was ““harsh” for not allowing her to march on graduation day.

The parents plan to file charges of child abuse and “grave oral defamation” against the school and school officials.

Academic freedom

Academic freedom covers standard of conduct. The concept of academic freedom includes not just standards of academic performance but also of conduct and decorum. Every educational institution has the right to prescribe proper behavioral requirements.

But these standards must be reasonable, clear and made known to the students and parents beforehand. The standards of conduct of a respected institution like my alma mater STC Cebu which has been in existence for generations were crafted at a time when there was no social media as we know it today. Who could have foreseen the impact of Facebook?

Ideas of propriety and privacy are continually evolving and it now seems that the standards prescribe by STC are outdated. It might be time to review the code of behavior required of STC students. In the meantime, maybe a less rigid penalty can be imposed.

In this age of social media, this will not be the last instance of STC students posting comments , pictures in Facebook or other social media sites. It might be time for STC Cebu to accept certain realities and adjust to them in a positive and constructive way. Why call them out with abusive language as ““easy, drunks and addicts”? Name calling will not result in constructive engagement.

After all the values instilled by STC will remain with them for life and will not be destroyed by a mere error in judgment.

To this day, I carry the values that STC instilled in me. The school’s rallying cry is ““Let your light shine. Be a blessing to those in need, especially the underprivileged.” I hope these girls will not be traumatized and will rise above this pain. After all, a Theresian is a “woman of faith and a seeker of truth with a strong sense of mission” and as such will respond “creatively to the cry of justice and fullness of life.”

Come, Theresians, and acclaim,
St. Theresa’s glorious name.
Grateful hearts their tribute bear,
Loving lips shall sing for her,
For she stands among the rest
As a leaven for the quest.
Dearest home we stand for you.
Far or near our song rings true.
And our theme fore’er shall be,
“St. Theresa, hail to thee!”
And our theme fore’er shall be,
“St. Theresa, hail to thee!”
Photos via Chokyuhyn and tumblr post

How did I end up covering the Impeachment trial? Has it all been worthwhile? How did I end up sitting it out for 5 hours or so 4 times a week since the middle of January 2012? I could be doing something else, travel around the Philippines, start a new home project or write a book. But no…I got hooked and never stopped watching, tweeting and writing.

All I know was I would be in Cebu with my two girls, enjoying the sunny blue skies and festive Sinulog Celebration. It never occurred that I should do a coverage . I blame Tonyo Cruz for asking if Blog Watch was covering the Corona Impeachment trials. When I told him there were no plans, he suggested we should do it to complement traditional media. I thought, “hmm maybe awareness of the impeachment process and being open minded”. I took the challenge.

Instead of the walk to the mountains on January 16, I cuddled up on my comfy bed at my hotel room covering Day 1 to day 4 of the Corona Impeachment trial in the afternoons. In all the 34 trial days, I think I only missed hearing it once. Well, I am not going to talk about the trial but about how it was in those 34 days. (here is Blog Watch Impeachment Watch coverage)

I never imagined myself covering the trial inside the Senate session hall. First of all, the Senate is at least an hour’s drive away. Secondly, I am not after news. Commentaries or features work best with bloggers like me. But I thought watching it in the Senate would give me the pulse of the audience as it goes live.

My first visit was showing my daughter (who was bound for Australia in a week) about the impeachment process. I liked that she was interested in our current affairs. It was also this day when PSBank President Pascual Garcia first testified at the Senate. It felt like watching a movie, filled with suspense as Corona’s account details were announced. I thought I’d hear 100 million pesos or something. It was just 20 million pesos best explained as Defense presents its evidence.

It isn’t a bad idea after all to be at the Senate Impeachment trial . I tried my luck applying for media accreditation. It was the first week of February and it seemed media dwindled inside the session hall. I got it without a problem since Philippine Online Chronicles (Of which I am features editor) issued me a media ID.

In early February , not many bloggers I knew were covering it inside the Senate Impeachment trial. I often came in early so I could get a parking slot. Media room is almost empty just before the trial. I use this when I arrive at 10:00 in the morning.

After the trial the corridor is lined with journalists waiting to interview the senator-judges or the lawyers. I don’t join the frenzy. I’d rather snoop a bit to hear if there is anything interesting.

Cameras line up for a press conference.

I just take a peek at the prosecution press conference.

Aside from being there as it happens , I wanted my own photos in my posts. Too bad I am not allowed to take photos as soon as trial starts. There is pool of photographers allowed to take photos during the session.

Watching the trial became more interesting when Leslie Bocobo and other social media users came regularly at the Senate. There’s nothing like sharing comments while the prosecution or defense asks questions.

Wenchie, another Blog Watch blogger drops by the Senate every now and then. It is good to exchange notes. Not all of us in Blog Watch share the same views. We do agree to hear all sides first before making a conclusion.

When Justice Cuevas came back after two days of rest, I asked how he was and told me he was getting better. I told him people in Twitter were praying he recovered fast. I then requested a photo so I could share it in twitter. He turned around gamely for this shot.

There are times I cannot help but nod off while watching the Corona Trial especially if the voice is in monotone. My coat does not warm me enough from the chilly temperature inside the Senate. I leave the session hall and wait it out at the lounge so I don’t get caught live on TV. Yes, I have been caught live once , frowning on something I read in my Tweet deck.

Cuevas the rock star is the most requested person to have a photo taken with.

Here I queue just to have one with him. I will not pass up my chance.

The sweet Justice Cuevas held my hand tightly as this photo was taken. I was visibly touched as he reached out for my ID tag and asked for my name. I guess because I kept asking him if he felt better.

One of the most confusing things that happen during recess or the trial ends is when prosecution and defense lawyers mingle. I always thought there was a dividing law somewhere in the center between these two groups. At the end of the day, all the lawyers are buddies. It is work after all.

I alternate sitting at the prosecution and defense gallery. When PSBank President Garcia took the witness stand, exasperated sighs could be heard short of saying “reveal the dollar accounts” or “why are you taking so long to reveal the numbers?”. While at the Defense gallery when LRA head Atty. Diaz testified, I chuckled over a comment “Ang computer na ang mag-impeach” to which a twitter user piped in and said “much like the plagiarism where Word was accused for it”.

At the end of every trial, it is a time to unwind , take more photos or just mingle with the people I know. I take the hot seat , imagining what it is like to sit it out there for hours on end.

But Rep. Farinas breaks my fantasy into “real-life” drama as he acts out the part of the prosecution. How funny he is. This could be his FAMAS best actor award.

I pretend to be in the Defense team.

I do the same as I sit in the prosecution desk.

On the last day , I bumped into Roxanne at the gallery. As a balikbayan graduate on vacation, I didn’t know the impeachment trial could be a tourist spot. Another pleasant surprise is she reads this blog. Such a sweet girl, she hugged me because she read my son’s story.

This lovely lawyer is someone close to my sister-in-law (a lawyer herself) so it is easy to talk to her. She also gets a lot of requests for photo ops.

My husband has always been telling me to talk to his friend and fraternity brother Prosecution spokeperson Rep. Miro Quimbo. I thought he was too intimidating so I never bothered. Well one day, I bumped into him at the elevator and introduced myself. Blame it on senior moment, I do not recognize Miro in a suit. He was always in t-shirts back then. Miro told me my husband was his mentor in Law School . Miro and my husband seems to be members of the Mutual Admiration society as they both have good words about each other. It totally escaped my mind that the last time Miro saw me was at the wake of my beloved son in 2000. (I was a recluse for many years) He said I look different now. Perhaps because I have moved on to this new normal. A lot of small talk and laughter as we talked about my dear old husband. He introduced me to Rep Sonny Angara who recognized me as @Momblogger in twitter. Awkward! I think I am quite critical when @sonnyangara tweets.

Talking to Miro made me reflect on how much I have indeed changed from 11 years ago. He saw the difference. How my grief must have evolved to doing something meaningful today. Like I often say, the death of my son gave me the courage to pursue and fight for my goals in life..

So perhaps I was meant to cover the Impeachment trial for a reason. This impeachment trial is a momentous and defining moment in the growth of our democracy. It is a significant opportunity for me to be a part of building on the gains we have made as a democracy.

But now, it’s time for a break.

“In the end, dear friend, it is always between us and God, not between us and them.” Mother Teresa

Pain has been a great teacher. I guess I can relate to pain of others. Losing my precious son, my mother , father and two siblings opens my heart to others in similar pain. Last wednesday , I arranged a meeting with Chief Justice Renato Corona and Blog Watch. Many things have been said about this man. Mostly horrible things. I wanted to know what he was like. CJ Corona does not appear charismatic in his public appearances. Perhaps that should be the case because he is not an elected official. A friend thinks that CJ Corona ” acts and speaks like a chief justice should – with utmost respectability and decorum after all, he is NOT a politician, concerned about “facade” or image.”

Talking to him offered me a glimpse of a mild-mannered man with soft spoken voice, but hurting from the demolition attacks from various interest groups. When asked how he felt from all these attacks, he said

““Nasaktan ang pamilya ko. Tao lang kami. Hindi ito madali. We are just human beings. We were insulted. Nilait kami on TV, on radio, in the papers. We were demonized. We were called names. My wife was demonized and we do not deserve this.”

My heart fell. Here was a man vilified by the Court of Public Opinion. How does he cope?

““Napalapit kami sa Dyos. We used to pray individually. I have become spiritual.”

Prayer was something that they used to do as a family but as the children got older, the practice soon fell through. Their US-based daughter joins the family prayer via Facetime. A priest advised him that to be blessed by God, one must learn to forgive. It must be difficult forgiving those that besmirched your private life and the family.

I believe in prayer. It’s the best way we have to draw strength from God. I also know how it is to turn to God when things are beyond our control. I have been there, helpless with the grief engulfing my life. Lifting the pain to God makes one feel the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. Turning our worries into prayer works, but we must leave it in God’s lap and refuse to allow it to plague our minds. When things happen to me that are out of our control I try not to worry about it excessively, instead I offer my worries to God and trust that He will make things better for me.

This time around, I see Corona and his family are hurting from all the mud thrown about their private life , ““rather than a process to determine his guilt or innocence based on due process according to the rules of court.”

In those two hours I spent time with him, I was visibly moved with his sincerity that I almost teared. How could these unseen forces judge him when he has yet to present evidence? The horrible things said of Corona will have its day in the Senate Impeachment Court. Innocent until proven guilty. I just do not feel any bad vibes from this man. Now I understand the reasons why employees of the Supreme Court defend their Chief Justice. CJ Corona is highly likable person. I even met his wife , son and eldest daughter before the meeting and were all gracious and easy to talk to.

I am not saying CJ Corona is innocent. Let’s distinguish between Corona the person and Corona , the public servant here. It is not my place to ascertain if he is guilty of the Articles of Impeachment. That is the job of the Senate Impeachment Court.

Whether the Senate Impeachment Court delivers a verdict of acquittal or conviction, CJ Corona will accept it. He said, this is not a decision of men. In the end, he says ““God will decide.”

(Hope you read the posts written by other bloggers who got to talk with Chief Justice Renato Corona)

“What if?” “If only…” and “Why Me?” are words that ring true when faced with unimaginable loss.

A traumatic death shatters the world. It is often a loss that does not make sense. Life is not always fair and that sometimes bad things happen to good people. The sudden death leaves us feeling shaken, unsure and vulnerable. Losing someone you love is not an easy journey. Each one will surely face its own grief journey in their own unique way.

My husband and I watched “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” yesterday because we know it deals about death. Anyone that is faced with devastating loss can relate to lost souls who are in a process of traumatic recovery. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close tells the unflinching story of a boy trying to make sense of the world after his father perishes in 9/11.

After a year of his father’s death from 9/11, eleven year old Oskar ventures to his father’s closet and finds a key in a small brown envelope labeled “Black” within the blue vase. The boy, who shakes a tambourine to calm himself embarks on a “reconnaissance expedition” in which he contacts every single person named Black in New York’s five boroughs. It is not mere trivia Oskar yearns to conquer but inside, it is the quest to find the meaning of life (and death) itself. He goes on a relentless quest to open a lock that he believes will reveal a message from his father that will help him make sense of a senseless world.

While this story is about the unimaginable loss as 9/11, it made me think about my own loss in life…the death of my mother, my two brothers, my precious 6 year old son, then my father. All five family members.

How does one make sense about the death of a loved one? In the process of seeking the answers, the search for meaning of the loss can challenge a survivor’s religious and spiritual beliefs. Survivors are forced to look at and re-evaluate life priorities. I feel the pain of Oskar’s frustration in trying to reconnect with his dead father.

Trying to make sense of or understand sudden losses can be difficult. Survivors are left asking “Why?” “Why did this happen?” Yet events such as the September 11, 2001 tragedy were beyond anyone’s control; they are a sudden, unexplainable loss.

It is human nature to want to answer the question “Why?” yet it may be difficult if not impossible to find an answer. Instead the question “Why?” is more of a plea for meaning and understanding. The thoughts of Rabbi Earl Grollman provide a useful perspective for coping with this difficult question:

Now death has shaken your faith, “Why?” “Why must life be one of sorrow?” “Why?” There are no pat answers. No one completely understands the mystery of death. Even if the question were answered, Would your pain be eased, your loneliness less terrible?

“Why” may be more than a question. It may be an agonizing cry for a heart-breaking loss, an expression of distress, disappointment, bewilderment, alienation, and betrayal. There is no answer that bridges the chasm of irreparable separation. There is no satisfactory response for an unresolvable dilemma. Not all questions have complete answers. Unanswered “Why’s” are part of life. The search may continue but the real question might be “How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?”

One day, we find out there is no use making sense of death but there is hope in making sense of our life. It is best ask to “What can I do about it now?” “How can I help?” or “How do I pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful as possible?”

All of these thoughts came back to me as I watched this film. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, the movie is a wonderful and moving story about coping the death of a loved one.

Consider the cold facts of women around the world. Up to 70% of women experience physical and or sexual violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. You might ask what is sexual violence?

Sexual violence includes a wide array of non-consensual sexual activities, which may be perpetrated by partners, friends, family, acquaintances, or strangers. Consent is commonly recognized as approval or agreement given without force or coercion. One’s ability to consent is affected by age, disability, self-induced or forced intoxication of alcohol or drugs, and language barriers. Legal minors are unable to consent, as may be others who are incapacitated. Sexual violence victims represent a range of ages, but the focus of this article is adults and adolescents.

Sexual violence may include but is not limited to Sexual Assault, Exhibitionism, Voyeurism, Sexual Photography or sexual Harassment. I already talked of physical violence against women. This cycle of abuse can be broken if women know how to empower themselves. The law, Republic Act (RA) 9262 Anti-Violence Against Women and Children is not against men. It is against men who treat their women as property.

What is a little known fact is that the Philippines has an anti-sexual harassment law passed in 1995. Too bad it came late because when I used was single and employed, I often heard inappropriate sexual remarks addressed to me. I got my fair share of wolf whistles and leering stares. There were times I wished the floor would just open and swallow me up. It is not a comfortable feeling. And no , it is not flattering.

Oh yes, sexual harassment comes in many forms such as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, inappropriate sexual comments and any hostile environment (workplace, school, etc.) where sexual joking, viewing of pornography, and/or degrading images are present.

It is but right that Cristina Ramos filed sexual harassment complaint vs Azkals Moy, Guirado. She elaborates below:

Ramos, a FIFA official who served as commissioner for the friendly, said that the incident happened when she conducted a team check in the Azkals’ locker room prior to the match.

““As I called the players individually so that we could check their accreditation cards and kits, Philippine player LEXTON MOY (no. 25) stood by my right side and said in a loud voice ‘Must be a B cup,’ to which the players laughed loudly,” said Ramos in her letter to the AFC. ““As I was the only female in the room, he was apparently referring to my bra size.”

““Additionally when I checked Philippine player ANGEL GUIRADO (no. 12) he stood in front of me purposely just wearing his briefs and made no attempts to wear shorts or cover his underwear. Again, the players loudly laughed while I was checking this player.”

Senator Pia Cayetano is calling for an investigation “of this incident so this can be put to rest, not only because this is a serious allegation made by Match Commissioner Cristy Ramos, who is a sports official, but also because the Azkals are looked up to by the youth as modern-day heroes and role models” . I bet these men were unaware that their inappropriate sexual comments were against the law. Sexual harassment also applies to all genders and sexual orientation. Look at the following examples.


  • Sexual innuendo
  • Gender specific insults
  • Suggestive and/or derogatory humour, jokes or comments emphasizing sex, gender-specific traits or sexual orientation
  • Sexual propositions or invitations
  • Threats of a sexual nature
  • Homophobic remarks
  • Inappropriate or uncalled for comments about one’s body or dress
  • Persistent unwanted contact after the end of a consensual relationship


  • Suggestive staring or leering
  • Suggestive and/or derogatory sounds or gestures emphasizing sex or sexual orientation
  • Inappropriate displays or distribution of sexually suggestive and/or derogatory pictures, objects, writing or graffiti, including electronic and hard copy forms
  • Unauthorized distribution of sexually-explicit material involving specific individuals
  • Persistent unwanted contact after the end of a consensual relationship
  • Stalking


  • Unnecessary or unwanted physical contact of a sexual nature such as patting, touching, pinching or brushing against a person’s body
  • Persistent unwanted physical contact after the end of a consensual relationship

Sexual harassment is NOT about interactions between consenting adults, mutual attraction or flirtation , consensual relationships and expressions of affection between friends.

It does not mean sexuality or sexual issues may never be discussed in a work or study area or that they cannot be areas of legitimate academic inquiry. Discussions of scholarly research on sexuality in the classroom, for example, would not normally constitute sexual harassment. Of course when the discussion of sexuality veers towards inappropriate in content or presentation style to the setting or the individuals involved, this might create a situation in which sexual harassment may happen.

Cristy Ramos and I are about the same age. I would feel very offended, like any woman would be if that happened to me. So what if you are a handsome man? or an Azkal team member! It is not a comfortable feeling. I bet some men do not want to be sexually harassed too.

However, sexual harassment is most often directed towards women and can sometimes lead to violence. Since it is Women’s month in March, I dedicate this entry to all the women in the world. Help us stop violence against women.