Thursday, May 24, 2018

MARAWI One Year Later: The Commemorative CELEBRATIONS and Current SITUATION

May 23 marks one year having passed since the dark surprise that befell a year ago, when Muslim extremists appeared from the shadows to foil the attempt by authorities to arrest a notorious international terrorist in Marawi, capital of the province of Lanao del Sur. Within a day, the insurgents have driven off government forces from the city and did the formerly unthinkable event in recent Philippine history: the establishment of a “wilayat” territory that is part of the Global Caliphate of terror group ISIS. The terrorists were driven off months later; but to this day, not much has changed.
The first anniversary of the start of the Marawi Siege, or Battle of Marawi, took place on Wednesday, May 23. It was commemorated in several ways. For instance, reports that the Philippine Army paid tribute to all its combat dead during the five-month crisis at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig. The ceremony consisted of a wreath-laying on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument, to represent the 168 military personnel and police officers who were killed in action to dislodge the ISIS-aligned terrorists from Marawi, which also resulted in 47 civilians and over 900 insurgents dead.
A pageantry of even that level seems utterly alien compared to the current condition of the city where everything happened in 2017. Marawi remains a ghost town according to ABS-CBN News; its center portion – designated the “Main Affected Area” – remains cordoned off from the public as final sweeping operations to find and detonate unexploded ordinance continues. Afterwards, demolition works will take care of the ruined buildings to make way for reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts, plans that may not see completion until the start of the next decade. The Red Cross estimates 230,000 refugees from Marawi, only few given temporary-built shelters nearby.
The Marawi Crisis which briefly established ISIS territory in the Philippines was the brainchild of Isnilon Hapilon, leader of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist bandit group, and the Islamist group headed by brothers of the Maute Family. Before the Army and Philippine National Police started its operation to capture Hapilon, he and the Maute group have already formed a plan to seize Marawi as the foundation of ISIS territory in Southeast Asia, with Hapilon as its “Emir”. The battle to eliminate local and foreign ISIS fighters eventually saw the deaths of Hapilon and the Maute brothers when hostilities ended October 2017.
Interestingly, President Rodrigo Duterte, who oversaw military operations during the Marawi Siege, elected not to join anniversary commemorations of the event on Wednesday, according to CNN Philippines. This is because, as Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go states, Pres. Duterte will only celebrate the Marawi liberation on October 23.
Photo courtesy of Inquirer


When it comes to “reality television”, one title can be argued as the one that made the genre a significant presence on US TV. This is “Survivor”, a reality competition produced by Survivor Productions LLC and Castaway Television Productions, and airing on CBS since its first season in 2000. Since then a massive 37 “Survivor” contests were aired, several of them special seasons that brought back past competitors for another chance of winning the million-dollar grand prize. The latest season, “Ghost Island”, ended Thursday with a historical milestone for the show: a final tie vote before the winner was picked.
Entertainment Weekly tells us that “Survivor: Ghost Island” contestant Wendell Holland Jr. won the 37th running of the classic survival reality show following the unforeseen development of a tie vote during the finale, which aired on May 23. It had been a surprised for the Survivors at the contest location in Fiji that, rather than hold the results of the last Jury vote for the winner until the production returned stateside (which happened several times in the past), longtime host Jeff Probst went on to tally the results at once.
The ten-man jury for the Ghost Island contest was left with a choice between three Survivor finalists: Domenick Abbate, Laurel Johnson and Wendell Holland Jr. In the ensuing poll, the jury was split evenly between Holland and Abbate, 5-5. This was the first tie vote ever achieved during the final vote for Ultimate Survivor in the competition’s history. The way it was resolved was also novel: Johnson, who got no votes, was named the eleventh member of the jury, and her vote is guaranteed to give the win to one of the remaining two. This last vote was held in reserve until the live reveal on an LA sound studio.
Said vote remained unread for almost a year after “Ghost Island” was shot, with the episode broadcast starting only this February. Johnson cast her deciding vote for Holland, who had the distinction of almost not making it to the end, with his closest to being eliminated was during the challenges to determine the final four, where he beat out Angela Perkins. He and Abbate were also antagonistic towards one another, with the concluding Tribal Council being a stinging verbal showdown between them. Johnson’s decision may have been influenced by Holland giving her an immunity necklace for the “final five” episode.
At the end of things, the final struggle to win “Survivor: Ghost Island” was considered an exciting finish with two strong finalists being so evenly matched that they got the Jury deadlocked. Ultimately a past kind gesture may have contributed to the choosing of Wendell Holland Jr. as Ultimate Survivor.
Photo courtesy of NY Daily News

NINTENDO Offers Cheaper SWITCH System in Japan by Forgoing “Dock”

Legendary videogame hardware manufacturer and title developer Nintendo has been a pioneer in innovation and advances in the electronic entertainment market. From the NES game console, to the portable Game Boy, to the brilliant control scheme introduced by the Wii they were able to impress many gamers old and new. The Nintendo Switch, introduce March last year, was another stroke of genius with its promise of a hybrid gaming experience ranging from home console to portable handheld. With the first anniversary of the Switch now behind it, Nintendo is ready to propose new developments for the system, like this one.
As The Verge tells it, Nintendo in Japan has begun to market a cheaper variant of the Nintendo Switch system – very affordable indeed. That is because the new package consists only of the tablet-like main unit, plus a pair of Joy-Con controllers with optional strap attachments, doing away with the console-like docking port. This is the “Switch 2nd Unit Set” product, and Nintendo has advertised it as an additional purchase for gamers who already have the original complete Switch system, ostensibly as an extra control system. However buyers have cottoned on that this pared-down Switch makes for a functional handheld.
The Switch dock that the main game unit slots into serves as a port to connect the Switch gaming system to a TV, as well as provide a power cable to a wall socket. Some might wonder how the Switch 2nd Unit Set can operate without the dock to keep the Switch unit charged, but there is actually a USB-C port on the unit itself that can be used with any compatible USB-C charger. Thus, the pricing of the 2nd Unit Set comes down to ¥24,980/$226, which means the bundle is cheaper than the complete Switch system by only ¥5,000/$45.
Note however that the Nintendo Switch 2nd Unit Set is currently available only in Japan, and the company has yet to announce whether this stripped-down bundle will also make the rounds in the international market. There is a possibility that this package was tailor-made for Japanese households that generally do not have multiple TV sets, which the 2ndUnit can address by giving a second player access to a videogame’s action on its own screen. Still, despite the almost negligible price reduction, some players may be encouraged to buy the Switch 2nd Unit Set as a portable gaming system anyway.
Photo courtesy of