Stories written by Kara Santos
Kara Santos is the IPS correspondent in Manila, Philippines. A freelance writer and photographer, she also contributes lifestyle and travel features to various magazines. | Web

Building with plastic bottles. Credit: Kara Santos

PHILIPPINES: Building Schools From Soda Bottles

It takes roughly three to five centuries for the average plastic bottle to biodegrade. But some environmentalists have found new uses for it, turning it into durable material for building classrooms.

On the beach, the rest of the world comes in closer. Credit: eKindling/Lubang Tourism

PHILIPPINES: Island Kids Get Connected

In a remote island community where fishing is the main source of living, one would expect children to be surfing the waves and not surfing the net.

Snapshot of a mother with her family. Credit: Kara Santos

PHILIPPINES: ‘Wanted, Full-Time Mothers’

It’s definitely not your typical job advertisement. "Wanted: Mothers; must be mature, strong and stable, self-confident, humorous and know how to cook; must have a positive and cheerful attitude towards life; must be willing to work as a full-time mother for the long term."

Beating climate change through design gathers momentum. Credit: Kara Santos

PHILIPPINES: Designing Defence Against Climate Change

As the impact of climate change worsens around the globe, a disaster-resilient village is poised to be a solution for urban poor battling the constant floods and typhoons that hit the Philippines.

Challenging the Church over reproductive rights. Credit: Kara Santos

PHILIPPINES: Catholics Risk Excommunication Over Reproductive Rights

Support for reproductive health legislation, popularly known as the RH Bill here, has snowballed on social websites and among peer networks, yet passage and funding of the bill remain uncertain. Catholic bishops have long used the threat of excommunication in the raging debates over use of modern contraceptive methods - such as pills, IUDs and condoms - in the Southeast-Asian nation of over 92 million, 85 percent of whom are Catholic.

Women Fight Assault Over Internet

Millions use Facebook to keep in touch with their friends, post photos of reunions and parties and share links to interesting articles and videos. But for 24-year old Maria (not her real name), the popular social networking site became a source of public shame when a former boyfriend posted nude photos and videos of her in an account he had created under her name.

The cost of the trash collected by students will be deducted from the class scholar

PHILIPPINES: Students Turn Trash into Tuition

Most people would not think twice about throwing out old plastic bags, empty soda cans, scrap metal and used shampoo bottles. But for the students of Cavite Institute in the Philippines, trash like these have become their ticket out of poverty.

PHILIPPINES: When A Typhoon Comes, Turn to Twitter

Disaster time is social networking time for a growing number of humanitarian agencies, weather agencies, volunteers and individuals in the Philippines, one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.

Survivors of Typhoon Ketsana remember the loved ones they lost on the 1st year anniversary of the disaster. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: A Year On, Typhoon Ketsana’s Lessons Far from Forgotten

Filipinos are used to having their country soaked by rain six months of the year, but these days worry is on many faces whenever raindrops start falling.

PHILIPPINES: Media Take a Hit in Hostage Crisis

In the wake of the bungled hostage-rescue operation that left eight Hong Kong tourists and the gunman dead, the Philippine media are finding themselves a target of anger by many who say that sensationalism and no-holds-barred coverage added to the bloody end to a crisis they call an international embarrassment.

There may no cigarette brand overtly advertised here, but this adventure tour was called the ‘Marlboro Road Trip

PHILIPPINES: Despite Ad Ban, Tobacco Industry Seduces Customers

Adventure motorcycle tours, and driving and racing events organised by tobacco firms. Canopies bearing cigarette brands in popular restaurants. Tobacco brands appearing beside the signages of convenience stores, whether along the Philippine capital’s urban alleys or provincial roads.

University students volunteered as poll watchers to ensure a clean, honest and transparent election. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

MEDIA-PHILIPPINES: Citizen Journalism Gets Public Involved

Television news images of a phony policeman on a motorcycle escorting a sedan travelling against the flow of traffic – submitted by a passing motorist – is a sign of the changing face of journalism and public involvement in the Philippines.

Mobile phones are increasingly becoming an important newsgathering tool in Asia. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

MEDIA: Mobile Journalism on the Rise in Asia

What do the protests in Burma, bombings in Jakarta, the recent earthquake in Haiti and the massive devastation left by typhoon Ketsana in the Philippines have in common?

Migrant rights groups hold a protest against the strong labour export policy of the Philippine government. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: Death Penalty Dashes Migrant Workers’ Hopes

Every day some 4,500 Filipinos leave their homeland in search of the proverbial green pastures. But some of them end up facing death instead.

POLITICS: Glitches Mar Historic Elections in the Philippines

Technical glitches, intense heat and long lines marked the historic first-ever nationwide automated elections in the Philippines as more than 50 million voters trooped Monday to over 76,000 voting centres across the country.

Behind this boat is a typical Pasig River scene - shanties and factories that line its banks.  Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: Revival of Filthy River Flows from Changed Habits

While more developed countries consider waterfronts prime property, most Filipinos have regarded rivers and creeks as their "backyard" and sewage system.

'Unlearning' gender stereotypes starts with young students.  Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: Women’s College Corrects Gender Miseducation

Flip open a typical textbook used in many Philippine schools and you will likely find images of women illustrating verbs such as ‘cook’ or ‘clean’, but hardly appearing anywhere much in economics and history textbooks.

A basket of condoms passed around during International Women

PHILIPPINES: Reproductive Health Tests Candidates’ Political Guts

Filipino voters who have yet to make up their minds about their choice for their next president are being advised: look at each aspirant’s stance on reproductive health to help them gauge the candidate’s leadership mettle and political guts.

Donor funds may be falling, but children's needs are rising. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: Children’s Charities Feel Economic Crunch

Children's charities and non-government organisations (NGOs) in the Philippines face tough times ahead as major overseas funders cut back on financial support due to the global financial crisis, against a backdrop of donor fatigue.

Shanties near waterways are a common sight in Manila. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

PHILIPPINES: Green Measures Expose Bias Against Urban Poor

Edgar Borras sifts through his remaining possessions in a demolished shanty beside a Manila waterway, preparing to bring them to his wife and 12-year-old son who now live in a remote relocation site in a province outside the Philippine capital.

A cigarette vendor in Manila sells a pack of 20 sticks for less than a dollar. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

HEALTH-PHILIPPINES: Young Lives Up in Smoke

Whether they choose to light up their first cigarette on their own or are unwitting victims of passive smoking, Filipino youth are increasingly at risk from tobacco exposure.

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