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This article was written by a BGC resident on March 11, about one month after Covid-19 became a global concern, and a few days before the start of the Community Quarantine of Metro Manila on March 15, 2020.

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The effect of COVID-19 has seeped into our daily life in Manila. All three of my children have started distance learning due to the school closure. While I feel fortunate that our children can continue to learn amid school closure, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the load handed over to parents. Distance Learning is not as hands-off as you may imagine. In such disruptive environment, parents are required to stay strong in order to support our children.

Meanwhile, the fear seems to have taken over the minds of people all over the world. In such unstable time of news filled with negativity, I saw a light of hope when I encountered the following statement posted on a Facebook account which went viral.

Below is the Facebook post about COVID-19 that was written and published by Dr. Abdu Sharkawy in Toronto, Canada. I find it important that everyone read his message. Thus, I decided to share it here.

You might have already read it, but in case you haven’t, here it is.  If you don’t have the time, maybe you can see his interview on CBC.

Facebook Post That Everyone Should Read

I’m a doctor and an Infectious Diseases Specialist. I’ve been at this for more than 20 years seeing sick patients on a daily basis. I have worked in inner city hospitals and in the poorest slums of Africa. HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis,TB, SARS, Measles, Shingles, Whooping cough, Diphtheria…there is little I haven’t been exposed to in my profession. And with notable exception of SARS, very little has left me feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed or downright scared.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am concerned about the implications of a novel infectious agent that has spread the world over and continues to find new footholds in different soil. I am rightly concerned for the welfare of those who are elderly, in frail health or disenfranchised who stand to suffer mostly, and disproportionately, at the hands of this new scourge. But I am not scared of Covid-19.

What I am scared about is the loss of reason and wave of fear that has induced the masses of society into a spellbinding spiral of panic, stockpiling obscene quantities of anything that could fill a bomb shelter adequately in a post-apocalyptic world. I am scared of the N95 masks that are stolen from hospitals and urgent care clinics where they are actually needed for front line healthcare providers and instead are being donned in airports, malls, and coffee lounges, perpetuating even more fear and suspicion of others. I am scared that our hospitals will be overwhelmed with anyone who thinks they ” probably don’t have it but may as well get checked out no matter what because you just never know…” and those with heart failure, emphysema, pneumonia and strokes will pay the price for overfilled ER waiting rooms with only so many doctors and nurses to assess.

I am scared that travel restrictions will become so far reaching that weddings will be canceled, graduations missed and family reunions will not materialize. And well, even that big party called the Olympic Games…that could be kyboshed, too. Can you even imagine?

I’m scared those same epidemic fears will limit trade, harm partnerships in multiple sectors, business and otherwise and ultimately culminate in a global recession.

But mostly, I’m scared about what message we are telling our kids when faced with a threat. Instead of reason, rationality, open mindedness and altruism, we are telling them to panic, be fearful, suspicious, reactionary and self-interested.

Covid-19 is nowhere near over. It will be coming to a city, a hospital, a friend, even a family member near you at some point. Expect it. Stop waiting to be surprised further. The fact is the virus itself will not likely do much harm when it arrives. But our own behaviors and “fight for yourself above all else” attitude could prove disastrous.

I implore you all. Temper fear with reason, panic with patience and uncertainty with education. We have an opportunity to learn a great deal about health hygiene and limiting the spread of innumerable transmissible diseases in our society. Let’s meet this challenge together in the best spirit of compassion for others, patience, and above all, an unfailing effort to seek truth, facts and knowledge as opposed to conjecture, speculation and catastrophizing.

Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts.

Our children will thank us for it.

By Dr. Abdu Sharkawy

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The article was originally posted in www.chuzailiving.com on March 11, 2020.


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newbie

It is probably like living in a desert city. Like sand, the ash can be felt if you are on the street and a vehicle passes by, disturbing the ash on the ground.

Taal Volcano in Batangas, 90 kilometers from Fort Bonifacio, has been recording tremors as early as 11 am on Sunday, January 12. It started spewing thick ash from 5pm on January 12, 2020. It erupted at 3AM the following day.

We were playing near De Jesus Oval in Bonifacio Global City, near Pacific Plaza Towers, at around 4 pm on Jan 12, and did not feel anything unusual.

We went home and then only went out for a little at around 8 pm. At that time, we could feel something like a light drizzle on our hair, but ash fall was not visible. We went to a pharmacy at 1st Street to buy something, and kept seeing people asking for masks. They were told that masks were sold out. At night, we received news that there would be no school in the whole of Metro Manila the next day. 

This morning, we looked out of the window, and did not see any ash fall. We waited until 11am and decided to take a walk around BGC.


Some people were still wearing masks to filter out the ash.

A thin layer of ash could be seen on the street.

But we saw workers had started washing away the ash in some areas.

In the One Bonifacio Park, plants looked unaffected. Only a thin layer of ash covered the art installations.

In the swimming pool of our condominium, we could see and feel the ash that sunk to the bottom of the pool.

Then we went to lunch at One Bonifacio High Street, and saw the impact of the volcanic eruption in the retail sector. About 40 percent of the shops were closed. At the food court at basement, which usually would be packed with lunch goers, there were still a lot of empty tables. We had no trouble in getting a table.


In all, the impact of the eruption of Taal Volcano on the Fort is small, and hopefully it stays this way.

We actually checked the air quality a day after the volcanic eruption.



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greenurban

There is a looming waste management crisis in Metro Manila and if we do not do something about it now, one day when we wake up, we will find trash rotting at our doorsteps.

The best action is of course to reduce the production of waste. When that cannot be done, the next approach is to reuse or recycle the materials that we do not need any more. Many residents in the Fort are environmental conscious, but lack the information about the places that support recycling.

This blog is prepared by the Green Urban Network, a residents' group based in Bonifacio Global City, as a resource page for residents in the Fort who care about the environment.

Places to Recycle

In most buildings in the Fort, there is no proper garbage separation facilities. Thus, materials that, if kept clean and dry, could have been recycled are instead being transported to the landfills. Luckily, there are places in the Fort that we can bring our used items to, so that less goes into the landfill.

Plastics and Paper

1. SM Aura Premier

Materials to recycle: cardboard, paper, plastic bottles, metallic cookware

Collection point: "Trash for Cash" project, basement 1 of SM Aura Premier, first Friday and Saturday of each month during mall hours (not 8am to 2pm as shown in the banner). 

They pay a small amount for the materials accepted for recycling, such as 5 pesos per kilogram of plastic water bottles, 2 pesos for each kg of cardboard and so on.

They also collect Eco-Bricks, which are plastic bottles stuffed with shredded plastic wrappers and packaging that will be used as construction materials.

Next collections:

November 1 and 2, December 6 and 7, and subsequent first Friday and Saturday of each month.


2. R.O.X.

Materials to recycle: plastic wrappers and packaging materials. They need to be stuffed into used plastic bottles for use as Eco-bricks.


R.O.X. has a collection box for Eco-Bricks. SM Aura Premier Mall also collects Eco-Bricks on the first Friday and Saturday of each month. 


Clothes recycling

2. H&M store at Uptown Mall

Matierials accepted: H&M Foundation accepts clothings of all makes, not just their own.

Collection point: H&M at ground floor, Uptown Mall.


Printer cartridge


3. Canon at 4th floor of SM Aura accepts empty ink cartridges of their own brand.

4. Brother at Marajo Tower, 26th Street, BGC, takes back empty toner and other printer consumables from their printers.


Tetrapak recycling

5. Collection point is in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf's Bistro at 26th Street. See featured photo.


General Household items

6. Segunda Mana at 2nd floor of Market!Market! mall.

Segunda Mana accepts the following items:

– OLD ITEMS that can still be used

– USED ITEMS that still have value

– NEW ITEMS

– OLD STOCKS and NON-MOVING INVENTORIES

They will resell the items and then use the proceeds to fund their charitable projects.

For inquiries and scheduling of pick up of the items you want to donate, you may call them at (632) 564-0205 to 562-0020 to 25 or email them at segunda_mana@yahoo.com.


Schools that facilitate recycling

Many schools in the Fort have set up mechanisms for students to practice recycling.

For example, Chinese International School Manila at McKinley Hill accepts clean and empty tetrapaks, plastic bottles, and cardboards. Plastics will go to Plastic Flamingo and Unilever. Paper and metal wastes will be given to Tsu Chi for recycling.

British School Manila has a Green Team After School Club. They collect and sort clean plastic for shredding, melting, sanding and these are made into new products. Email: communications@britishschoolmanila.org if you want to give them cleaned plastics.

If you have friends whose kids go to such schools, you may be able to give them your clean and dry empty tetrapaks, plastic bottles, paper and cardboards.


Visit the Facebook page of the Green Urban Network to participate in the discussion or work for a green environment.




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cywong

There are household items that we need to replenish all the time, like cooking oil, clean agents and so on. Every time we replenish, we have to buy new bottles containing the stuff that we really need, and dispose of the old containers, many of which are made of plastic.

We know we need to reduce the use of plastic for environmental reason, but we often do not have a lot of choices. Until now. 

A producer and distributor of sauces and condiments in the Philippines, NutriAsia, has taken an initiative to give us the option to refill containers for cooking oil, and vinegar. Their pop-up store is in front of The Mind Museum, and is called "BYOB", as in Bring Your Own Bottle.


I have been looking for a facility like this for a while, so I was determined to give it my support by becoming its customer. This morning, the second day of its opening, I visited the pop-up store, bringing two empty bottles with me. I read their requirements for bottles the day before (it must be clean and dry, and previously contained food only and so on), so I was well prepared.

When I got there, the door was closed, because there was a media interview going on. Since I am a sort-of blogger, I asked to be allowed in as well. So I got in after their interview with GMA was done.

Lucky for me, NutriAsia's Corporate Marketing and Communications Head, Mr. James Lim, was at hand to guide me through the process of refilling. Not that it was complicated.


First the employees checked my bottles to make sure they are clean and so on. Then I had to sign a waiver on a digital device which basically says that they would not be responsible for problems caused by the containers.

Next they weighed my empty bottles to record the weight of the bottles. We should not have to pay for the weight of the bottles.

Then I chose the products to be put into the bottles. The price list was simple enough. Price per gram of weight ranges from P0.014 for vinegar, to P0.162 for corn oil. Currently, they only have 7 products to refill (vinegar, soy sauce, banana ketchup, palm oil, canola oil, soy oil and corn oil).

They filled each bottle according to my order, and then weighed them. My small bottle of vinegar came to 6 pesos, my soy sauce of about 750cc came to about P25, and my one liter of canola oil was P120. They were about 20% cheaper than if I purchase the items from a supermarket. 

Photo above : store worker filling up my bottle with vinegar. Inset is a poster on their plastics repurposing project.

Saving the environment while saving money! Actually, since they were doing a media promotion, they did not accept my money. But my positive view of this facility has nothing to do with their freebies to me.

Apart from refilling bottles, the pop-up store has another pro-environment function. It also serves as a drop-off point for plastic materials for repurposing. The BYOB store is made from eco-bricks produced from Arca South Eco Hub using plastic discards.

According to James Lim, all proceeds from BYOB, along with the plastic materials donated, will be used to produce upcycled furnishings for their beneficiary, GAT Andres Bonifacio High School.

BYOB is set to run only until September 12. It opens 7 days a week, 12 noon to 8PM, in front of the Mind Museum, Rizal Drive, Fort Bonifacio. I asked James if NutriAsia will open a permanent refilling store, and he was hesitant to reply. Perhaps NutriAsia is assessing the response from this store before making a decision. If so, we need to show our support for this initiative by buying from it as often as possible.

Photo above: I clicked the bottle counter. Inset is James Lim, NutriAsia's Corporate Marketing and Communications Head

Each time a bottle is refilled, the customer gets to press a button, and this will activate the counter outside the store that shows how many bottles have been saved.  When I finished my refill, I pressed it three times, and the number went up by 3 to 73. Let us show them we want the store to be permanent, by maxing out the counter!

Photo above: the counter for the number of bottles refilled. Let us max it out! Only 99,927 bottles to go!




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tiffanyl

What happens if you’re stuck in the Fort with hours to kill? I encountered this dilemma when my flight was delayed by 5 hours and had nothing to do. Luckily, however, I was stuck in one of the busiest cities in Manila with plenty of activities to do. 



For my first stop, I decided to spend my time catching up on the new movies in Central Square cinema. Always updated with the newest showings, this cinema is one of the best in the city, with affordable prices and delicious vendors and snacks for the movie. This was one of the most efficient ways of killing time without having to do much, as the movie took around 2 hours.

 

While watching a movie was efficient, it was a little too ordinary so I tried out Breakout in Serendra. Breakout is a unique experience where you and a group of friends work together to escape a room. The room and experience are themed depending on the one you choose. Luckily I was traveling with my friends and we took on the challenge to break out. This was a fun and thrilling experience but it wasn’t as efficient since the maximum time given was 45 minutes. Going with friends also has an advantage because, on Fridays to Sundays and Holidays, the price per person decreases as the number of people increases. However, the experience is more affordable on Mondays to Thursdays, when the price is fixed.




To finish, I visited one of the busiest areas in BGC with the best food, Mercato Centrale. Mercato Centrale is located on 25th St. and is a giant food market with tons of vendors serving delicious food. Open from 4pm to 2am on Thursdays and Fridays, it was the perfect place to grab some food before leaving. I was able to have a unique experience while tasting a variety of cuisines and food for an affordable price. 


Although it wasn’t available this week, another good option to kill time with is Gourmand Market in Central Square. Similar to Mercato Centrale, it’s a food market with numerous vendors and delicious food. However, the market isn't as regular as Mercato Centrale and only pops up occasionally.


While a long delay is normally terrible, I surprisingly had a pleasant experience. So maybe being stuck in a city for 5 hours isn’t as bad as it seems, especially if you’re lucky and stuck in the Fort where there’s plenty of activities to do and try.   

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KarlEscobar


Potted Potter makes a triumphant return in BGC Fort! The have 9 shows from March 20-24 at the Maybank Performing Arts Theater, BGC Arts Center. The 2 man play hilariously summarizes all 7 books in 70 minutes. I was fortunate to watch the opening night and I was laughing from start to finish. The actors James Percy and Joseph Maudsley inject pop culture jokes that differ from previous Potted Potter that's why it's a must watch even if you've seen it before.

The jokes included "Game of Thrones,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” other Broadway plays, no ones was sparred including President Donald Trump. The actors interacted with the audience including having a Quidditch and a lot of impromptu jokes. This is definitely a must watch even if you are not a Potterhead like me. Get your tickets now!

https://www.ticketworld.com.ph/Online/default.asp?SessionSecurity::referrer=PottedPotterfromMarchEDM&doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=DCFDCA3B-5918-49C4-AF7B-8B3C7A792AFC&utm_source=TicketWorld+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b0dde62e9f-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_04_10_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_25835544b8-b0dde62e9f-13489085

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newbie

Don't worry, this is not a statement extracted from an internal memo of an email marketing company.

It is a summary of my review after watching the theatrical performance of Spamalot, a stage play produced by Upstart Productions and performed at BGC Arts Center last Saturday. Upstart Productions is a local theatrical show production company that has very good reputation. I have always enjoyed their shows.

When I got the tickets to the show, I wondered if I had made a mistake. While I am familiar with British humor, I was not sure if my 10-year old could get the jokes. Would she need to have knowledge of British history to enjoy a show the title of which is a word play on a place in British history called Camelot? In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I know much about Camelot except that it was a name of a place in British history in medieval times. There was a legend about how a boy became king with the help of magical power.

And what the heck is Monty Python? The show is called Monty Python's Spamalot. I vaguely remembered that it was a term associated with a group of British comedians in 1970s, the most famous of whom was a guy named John Cleese. He is the British version of John Lithgow (a US actor that has starred in many movies as well as a successful comedy series called 3rd Rock from the Sun).

After the show, I was glad that I brought along my 10-year old. She was glued to the show the whole time, and talked about dressing up as King Arthur at Halloween, her most favorite annual event.

It was an outrageous comedy.

Audience eagerly lines up to get into the theater.

The show started with a scene set in a mental hospital. One of the patients became the lead character of the play, King Arthur, in the next scene. So everything in the play was supposed to be a dream in the head of a mental patient. Craziness was therefore expected.

The story line is not very important, because it only serves as a vehicle for a lot of silliness. Everything just happens. 

Briefly, the story was this: King Arthur, a king of England in medieval time, needed to recruit some knights to join him in a quest to find the holy grail. A lot of the jokes were about how King Arthur and his knights interacted with strangers and among themselves.

Photo above: Some of the cast of Spamalot and a fan.

A bunch of silly men running around could become bland after a while even though they were hilarious. Luckily, in the British legend about King Arthur, there was a beautiful sorceress called Lady of the Lake. This provided an opportunity to add some glamour to the play.  The Lady of the Lake, played by actress Rachel Alejandro in the show that we watched, was not only very pretty, but most of all, could sing silly songs and act silly very well.

While Spamalot is a British play that was written probably many years ago, the audience could still connect with it. One is because many of the jokes were about the misunderstanding of simple instructions by idiots. Second, some of the songs sang in the show that we watched, especially one that was sung by the Lady of the Lake, had been updated to incorporate bits of pop songs in it.  The young audience cracked up when they watched these songs being sung and dance in a comical way. 


T-shirt bought at the merchandise booth of the show shows the most evil villain in the plot, a murderous bunny.

Although one may miss one or two jokes that required a knowledge of British slangs in the 70s (such as the one about 'fairy', which means feminine man), or a few rude words that are probably not used any more, everyone will find this production of Spamalot a well performed comedy that delivers.  The acting and directing were superb, the venue of BGC Arts Center was great, and the dresses worn by the Lady of the Lake were enchanting.

Spamalot is directed by Joel Trinidad and Nicky Triviño of Upstart Productions. It is showing at BGC Arts Center until April 22, 2018. Get your tickets now if you want to have a tummy splitting experience this weekend!

My kid is begging me to bring her back to watch again with a friend. I may just let her do that if she promises to study hard, and continue to make jokes in a British accent.

(Btw, don't think too hard on why the show is called Spamalot, because that's not the way Monty Python people work. It was chosen probably only because it rhymes with Camalot).

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newbie

"Loss of Taguig park cats sparks outcry" - headline of national newspaper, Inquirer Philippines on Feb 19, 2018

"Outrage over 20 missing cats" - top story of Manilastandard.net on Feb 20, 2018

More BGC cat stories in national TV channels in the following days, including GMA Network and ABS-CBN.

I was made aware of this outcry over the removal of cats from a park adjacent to Shangri-La at the Fort Hotel when someone in a messenger app circulated an emotionally charged Facebook page about it.



One Bonifacio Park was opened in December 2015. It is an amenity that is much welcomed by residents like me. For one, it provides a green access between Bonifacio High Street and Crescent Park west, a residential area in the western part of Fort Bonifacio. It is a good place to get a respite from the traffic polluted streets in BGC.

In the first year of its opening, only a handful of cats were seen in the park. They were super adorable and attracted the care of many passerbys. I found them cute and was happy that they were there so that we would not have mice in the park. At the same time, I did not interact with them because I had been bitten by ticks before, and I suspect that the ticks were from cats.


I took this photo in August 2017, when the Book Stop was still located in Bonifacio High Street

As time went by, I noticed more and more cats in the park.  I began to feel uneasy about the presence of the cats in the park. They sometimes occupied a large space in the park when they waited to be fed, and I would not want to go near that space. I also believe that many parents with young children would not let their kids go near that area because of hygiene as well as safety concerns.

Around November 2017, the Book Stop was moved from Bonifacio High Street to Bonifacio One Park. One month later, one could sometimes spot a few cats sleeping on the book shelves. They looked very cute, and I took a photo of them, but somehow something bothered me, and I did not keep the photo.

Photo above: The Book Stop was moved to One Bonifacio Park. This photo was taken before the pillows and milk bottles were placed inside it.

Then soon, I saw pillows placed inside the Book Stop, presumably to make life comfortable for the cats, but books were displaced.  Furthermore, milk bottles and other food items were placed in a cardboard box inside the Book Stop, apparently to feed the cats. It was no wonder that the cat population exploded, to the degree that they became bothersome to people who passed by the park.

After a while, the cardboard box and its contents were torn and broken by the cats. They became quite unsightly, and the food remnants became a source of nuisance.

When I saw a post in a messenger app that referred me to a Facebook post about the removal of stray cats at the Bonifacio One Park, I got the impression that the worst had happened to the cats. "I could not hold back my grief, my panic, my heart sank to my stomach....it is the Lunar New Year today, but I feel no sense of happiness, it feels like the day my daddy died..." (full message reproduced above).

This Facebook post was so powerful that an outrage was sparked against the authorities who removed the stray cats. All the national media reported about it. Many took the side of the Facebook post's author.

Then the PR management of the establishment concerned, Shangri-La at the Fort Hotel, countered the allegations. They issued a press release, saying that some of the cats were adopted by their employees, and others were relocated to another place, and that no cat was killed. An animal concern group asked for proof that the cats were indeed adopted and relocated.

When one reads the comments on the articles reporting this issue, one can see a lot of angry words on both sides. Only a few were constructive suggestions, asking the authorities to offer the public a chance to adopt the cats before removing the cats. There was a lot of animosity and some comments descended into personal attacks and name-calling. It was ugly.

At the risk of antagonizing people who feel passionate about the cats, I would say that it was the wrong kind of human intervention that created this tragedy from the start. It was fine that cats came to BGC to look for food. Most people will agree that it is good that some cats are here, as they will catch mice so we do not have to apply dangerous chemicals. However, actively feeding them had caused the cat population to reach a level that many of us considered too invasive of the limited public space that we have. Too many people enjoy interacting with the cats, but do not care for them enough to take them home. Instead, public space is used for keeping their pets.

The fate of the cats was sealed when their patrons started turning the Book Stop into a cat home. They ignored the need of other users of the park, the owner and supporters of the Book Stop.

 At first glance, it may seem that the outcry was caused by too much love for the cats. However, if we think more about it, I think it was because there was not enough love for the furry animals. Not enough love to take them home to care for them. Not enough love to think for the future of the cats, and to restrain ourselves from feeding them just in order to get instant gratification from the interactions.


* * *

Like the author of the powerful Facebook post, I also experienced a heartbreaking event recently. At the end of last year, I received news from a friend that an orphanage that she had been running for many years had to close. The reason? long delay in processing the adoption cases by the authorities.  This made it too costly to care for an orphan. It was hard for the orphanage to raise funds from donors, as donors felt that the impact of their donation was small.

It was a dreadful news. I was saddened not only by the closure of the orphanage, but the thought that orphans in all of the orphanages in the Philippines have to endure long waiting time before they can reach people who are ready to give them the love and attention of parents.  In most orphanages, the resources are stretched. Babies have to wear soiled diapers for hours. Toys, if available, are worn out and not cleaned that often. There is insufficient attention, let alone love, to give to each child.

I do not know the real reason for the long processing time, which can be over two years in some cases, but from the information that I obtained from my friend, it seems that it used to be the court system that delayed the processing of adoption cases. Not only did adoption cases had to wait in line with all other court cases, adoption cases were often handled in the same way as trial cases as if it were a criminal or civil case where prospective adoptive parents were interrogated as if they were on trial. 

Then the procedures were changed, and the Department of Social Welfare was given the authority to approve adoption applications. Long delays continued because the social workers were afraid of making mistakes and asked for repeated assessments of each case.

Now a law is being considered to revert the approving authority back to the court. But according to people running the orphanages, the new law does not provide any solution to shorten processing time.

There is no cute photo to show babies languishing in orphanages, no moving photos to tell people that the babies do not get cuddled when they are crying, thus no outcry on how these babies are delayed from getting the care and attention from people who are ready to love them as if their own children.

These babies were not only abandoned once, they are again let down by the society. Their cries are not heard, and no one speaks for them.

If I were a real journalist, I know which subject I would prefer to write about.