My first visit to Stockholm
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

STOCKHOLM, Sweden — We left Copenhagen Monday afternoon and spent an entire day sailing towards Sweden, which is why we couldn’t send a Tuesday column. Anyway, we got into Stockholm early morning and it was amazing to see thousands of islands that our cruise ship had to pass through. We travelled slowly so as the wake of the vessel wouldn’t disturb the islands.

 In the afternoon, we boarded a tour bus to go and see the sights of Stockholm and, yes, this was a city that didn’t have any traffic problems like what we have back home. I can only second-guess that the entire Swedish population was pegged at 10 million Swedes and in metropolitan Stockholm, they only have two million people. So traffic was not a problem at all.

The last stop of our bus tour was to see the Vasa Museum. This was the Royal Swedish Navy’s flagship built between 1626 and 1628. But when the vessel held its maiden voyage on Aug. 10, 1628, it travelled only about 1,400 yards and sank. It was truly a ship built without care whether it was going to be seaworthy or not. The Vasa fell into obscurity after most of her valuable bronze cannons were salvaged in the 17th century until it was located again in the late 1950s in a busy shipping lane just outside the Stockholm harbor.

The ship was salvaged with a largely intact hull in 1961. It was then I learned about this vessel reading my National Geographic Magazine at that time. Who would think that the Swedish government would salvage this vessel and turn it into a major tourist destination? By now, some 35 million visitors have toured the Vasa Museum. The ship was built on the orders of the King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus as part of the military expansion he initiated in a war with Poland-Lithuania (1621–1629). This was a religious war between Catholic Poland and Lutheran Sweden.

From the looks of its present state where 86 percent of the vessel was recovered, the Vasa was supposedly one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. However, Vasa was dangerously unstable and top-heavy with too much weight in the upper structure of the hull. Despite this lack of stability, it was ordered to sea and foundered only a few minutes after encountering a wind stronger than a breeze. The Swedish king put so many decorations on board, it became top-heavy, which was why it sank.

By late afternoon, we continue sailing to Tallinn, Estonia and off to St. Petersburg, Russia. Perhaps by the weekend, this cruise vacation might already be over. But I will continue to write this travelogue until it ends.

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 I’ve been missing in our local news, especially in the political front and I couldn’t help but notice that Minority Sen. Francis Kiko Pangilinan apparently announced that he has resigned as president of the Liberal Party (LP), saying “he was taking full responsibility” for the defeat of opposition bets in the Senate race. Sen. Pangilinan said he handed his letter of resignation to Vice President Leni Robredo, who is also the party chairperson. “As campaign manager for the Otso Diretso slate, I was unable to ensure our victory in the elections, and I therefore assume full responsibility for the outcome and hold myself primarily accountable for this defeat.”

I salute Sen. Pangilinan for giving this honorable resignation. But in fairness to him, the first sign of defeat was when the opposition no longer used the LP as their political party and called itself as Otso Deretso. It only led the people to realize that during the presidency of Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III, he made so many disastrous decisions that made the LP completely hated by the Filipino voters. Well, this is Pinoy politics for you.

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Now for some good news, the House of Representatives apparently approved on third and final reading a measure that seeks to establish a mandatory basic Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) for senior high school students in public and private schools. House Bill 8961 or the ROTC Act institutionalizes or mandates ROTC training program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 in all educational institutions. I’ve always supported this move and with the dramatic win by the dominant party supporting President Duterte, then we can say that finally ROTC is back.

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