On the problem of crowd estimation for the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA prayer rally: an interview for CBCP News

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

Crowd size estimate during the Aug. 4, 2012 EDSA Prayer Rally

My estimate of the crowd size during the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was featured in CBCP News.  I was then asked by CBCP News to answer a few follow-up questions.  But since I tend to answer in paragraphs and not in sentences, I think my response would not fit into a regular news column.  So I’ll post my responses here and CBCP News can simply copy parts of it or repost the whole thing:

1.) Why did you feel you needed to come out with this crowd estimate, considering that other groups had come out with their figures?

After coming from the Aug. 4 EDSA rally, I read in Facebook about the estimates published in newspapers which give figures of 7,000 and 10,000 persons for the rally. My hunch is that newspaper writers have a deadline for sending their articles before 3 pm, so that it can be part of tomorrow’s headlines. Thus, the crowd present during the 5 p.m. mass was not counted. So I made my own estimates and came up with 45,000 to 60,000 persons

2) What is your field of expertise and how long have you been with the Manila Observatory?

My expertise is in theoretical physics, particularly in the use of Clifford (geometric) algebra in many branches of physics: mechanics, optics, and electromagnetics. I am an Assistant Professor of Physics at Ateneo de Manila University. I do my research on ionosphere and magnetosphere at Manila Observatory’s Ionosphere Research Building, now known as ICSWSE (International Center for Space Weather Science and Education) Subcenter. I was with MO since 2008 when I was still writing my Ph.D. dissertation. But I do not speak in behalf of the Ateneo Physics Department or of Manila Observatory. I speak only on my own as a theoretical physicist.

3) Are there other methods of crowd estimation? What limitation could these methods have?

Ideally, there should be a camera at the top of Robinson’s Galleria or aboard a plane or a satellite, so that we can get pictures at different times and determine the exact extent of the crowd in time.  Here is a good example of how crowd estimation is done from wired.com:

At President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration ceremony, the high-resolution, Earth-orbiting GeoEye-1 satellite took pictures from 423 miles away, and another camera was hanging from a balloon 700 feet off the ground. After examining pictures from both of these sources, researchers put crowd estimates at anywhere from 1 to 2 million.

In the manual method of crowd estimation, you can mark out the areas with similar crowd densities by encircling the areas with a colored pen or by subdividing the areas into a regular grid of square boxes. Areas with similar crowd densities we can refer to as clusters. You can then zoom in to one part of the cluster, count the number of persons per square meter, and multiply this by the area of the cluster. The result is the number of persons per cluster. Then you add all the number of persons in each cluster to get the size of the crowd. The only difficulty is to determine which group of people belongs to in a particular cluster. The more cluster types you use, the more precise your estimate becomes, but it also makes distinguishing one cluster from another more difficult. The fewer clusters you use, the easier it is to distinguish each cluster, but the margin of errors in crowd size estimates would be bigger.

In the computer method of crowd estimation, one way is to get the total area of the black parts and divide it by the average area of each black head in the image. The principle is straightforward and there are computer programs that can do this, depending on the threshold level for the gray scale. But what makes this method difficult is the possibility of counting black shadows and black shirts, too, which would increase the crowd estimate. Furthermore, umbrellas and blondes would make the method useless.  There is also the problem image distortion due to perspective (areas closer to the camera appear larger) and camera lens imaging (straight lines becomes curved due to pincushion and barrel distortion).  And as your camera goes higher and higher to see the whole crowd, image resolution deteriorates, making it difficult for the computer and even for human crowd estimators to distinguish one person in the crowd from another.  To write a computer algorithm for crowd estimation that can handle all these problems is a very difficult challenge.

I am using the manual method. Since I don’t have a picture of an aerial view of the whole crowd, I have to make estimates on the extent of the crowd based on the pictures available, and assume there is only one cluster for the whole crowd for simplicity–an assumption which I think is a valid if you look at the pictures by Anna Cosio in Carlos Palad’s blog, Catholic Position vs the RH Bill. I computed the total estimated area covered by the crowd by dividing the area into strips with the same 17 m width, and added the area of each strip.  The I used some rules of thumb in wired.com. I verified these rules by drawing on the floor a square with one meter on each side. I stood inside the square and found that 4 people can fit there with enough elbow room as I saw in the pictures. So I used 4 persons/sq.m. and came up with 60,000 persons. Even if I assume only 3 persons/sq.m., that is still 45,000 persons. I doubt that the crowd density is only 2 persons/sq.m., but even that gives 30,000 persons, which is still three times the estimate of 10,000 in newspapers.

4. Does the Manila Observatory do crowd estimation regularly? When?

No, Manila Observatory as an institution does not do crowd estimation, because its focus is primarily on geophysics and disaster science–earthquakes, typhoons, pollution, and space weather–and how these disasters can be quantified, predicted, mitigated, and avoided to save more lives. Some of my colleagues at the observatory–three of them also my fellow physics faculty in Ateneo–are working on satellite and ground data to map out climate change, rainfall patterns, and land use. But the techniques in satellite and ground data processing can easily be applied to crowd estimation, provided sufficient data such as aerial and street level photos are available. In Ateneo de Manila University, there are undergraduate students who are writing software for monitoring pedestrians and for counting fish fingerlings. There are also researchers working with cameras on toy planes to map out flooded areas. Many of these researchers are members of the Ateneo Innovation Center under Dr. Greg Tangonan, who is also the Director for the Congressional Commission on Science and Technology and Engineering (COMSTE). In short, there is expertise in Manila Observatory and Ateneo de Manila University to do crowd estimation. It is only a question whether they are interested to do it for street rallies and whether they have the manpower to do the research.  The harvest is great but the laborers are few.

As a theoretical physicist, I only do crowd estimation using pen and paper, and the Aug. 4 EDSA Prayer Rally was my first work. I am willing to do crowd estimation regularly as a service for the Church, provided I am given sufficient data consisting of time-stamped pictures in aerial and street level views. The results of the analysis can be published in the web, i.e. in my blog. Other researchers can then challenge the methodology and assumptions, and come up with their estimates using the same or more comprehensive data set. If there are more researchers working on this problem, we can create a Philippine Journal on Crowd Estimation. The results can be applied to any type of crowd–armies of ants, schools of fish, flocks of birds, herds of cattle–even if they would be as numerous as the stars in the heavens or as the sands in the sea.  For this is how science is done: a continuous dialogue in search for truth.

View of the EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally

View of the crowd at EDSA Shrine during the Aug. 4., 2012 Prayer Rally (picture by Quirino Sugon Jr.)

5) Do you think your personal convictions affected your scientific work on this particular crowd estimation? Why or why not?

I am a Catholic who loves the Church in the same way as Faramir loves Gondor: “And I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise” (Two Towers, p. 314-315). I read the Bible, the Catechism, the lives and writings of saints, and the history of the Church. I organize Latin masses and promote the rosary. In the case of the RH Bill, and of all other issues such as women ordination, same-sex marriage, and human evolution, I only follow what St. Ignatius of Loyola laid down in his Spiritual Exercises–The Rules for Thinking, Judging, and Feeling with the Church:

Rule 1: With all judgment of our own put aside, we ought to keep our
minds disposed and ready to be obedient in everything to the true
Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our Holy Mother, the hierarchical

Rule 13: To keep ourselves right in all things, we ought to hold fast
to this principle: What I see as white, I will believe to be black if
the hierarchical Church thus determines it. For we believe that
between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, his Spouse,
there is the one same Spirit who governs and guides us for the
salvation of our souls. For it is by the same Spirit and Lord of ours
who gave the ten commandments that our holy Mother Church is guided
and governed.

But I am also a physicist with a passion for precision as the data allows. My model for a scientist is St. Ignatius who counts the number of times he fell into a particular fault per day by writing dots in a paper and observing how the number of dots decrease as the days go by. St. Ignatius is one great observer of the motions of his soul that the Society of Jesus he founded became one great network of observatories for observing the motions of the world–the oceans and winds, the moon and stars. The Jesuits are the pioneers in many branches of physics because their mission is to go to the frontiers of knowledge and the crossroads of cultures in order to convert the world for Christ. Seismology was dominated Jesuits during its early development and Padre Faura of Manila Observatory made the first prediction of typhoon tracks in the country. As a tribute to their scientific work, 35 lunar craters are named after Jesuits, with one of the largest named after Fr. Christopher Clavius, SJ, the architect of the Gregorian calendar we now use and a scientist who was treated with great respect by Galileo.

As a Jesuit-trained lay physicist, I am married to my profession, so to speak, and I am faithful to my craft. What I write as a physicist, the others can verify even if they are not Catholics. What I compute is to the best of my knowledge using the available data and the time constraint–I have to publish my estimate the next day.  More precise estimates require days or weeks of work. I hope somebody can correct me and present a more precise estimate of crowd size during the Aug. Anti-RH Bill rally using more accurate data and better methodology.


Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J. on the Devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Secularization of Ateneo de Manila University

Last week, I was able to attend a novena mass for the Sacred Heart of Jesus at the Church of the Gesu at Ateneo de Manila University. The priest celebrating the mass is Fr. Catalino Arevalo, S.J. He is an old priest and a confessor to the late Pres. Corazon Aquino. A friend told me that when Cory died, Fr. Arevalo’s homilies for several days was about Cory Aquino.

Fr. Arevalo is a familiar face to me. He was also the one who celebrated a novena mass last year for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I think this devotion is very dear to him and I think he will spend the last of his days propagating this devotion.

The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is distinctively Jesuit devotion, because the confessor of the St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690) is the Fr. Claude de la Colombiere, S.J., who made a consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and directed her to write an account of the apparition of our Lord to her. On May 15, 2006, also Pope Benedict XVI sent a letter to Father Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, on the 50th Anniversary of the encyclical Haurietis Aquas, about the Sacred Heart, by Pope Pius XII. In his letter to Father Kolvenbach, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the importance of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Wikipedia).  And the pope blessed the Jesuits:

“As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.”

In his homily, Fr. Arevalo spoke some length about this letter by the Holy Father to the Jesuit Superior General.  Then Fr. Arevalo mentioned that there are some teachers in Ateneo de Manila University who taught that the Vatican II already removed these devotions.  This is not true, Fr. Arevalo said.  Vatican II only wishes to extend the work of salvation to the social order, but this does not mean we abolish the individual devotions.

Fr. Arevalo planned to lead the consecration to the Sacred Heart in the middle of the mass.  But when he found that the pamphlets were not given out, he decided to make the consecration at the end of the mass.  And Fr. Arevalo spoke against the growing secularization of the Ateneo de Manila University, which he said cannot anymore efficiently organize a novena to the Sacred Heart.

I think there were about thirty people who attended the 6 p.m. novena mass that day.  I was not able to attend the novena mass for the Feast of the Sacred Heart because our departmental meeting stretched from 4:30-7:00 p.m.  Fr. Arevalo should have been the presiding priest that day.

An encounter with a New Age believer: the New Testament is the work of Jesuits to put the world in slavery

In my post entitled, Iglesia ni Cristo Logo: Christian or Masonic Symbol?, one commenter asked me to prove that Jesus, the Son of God, is God the Son.  During our conversation, I learned that he is not a member of Iglesia ni Cristo but a believer in New Age.  As a revert from the New Age to Catholicism, I can sympathize with him.  The attraction of esoteric knowledge is too strong for those with intellectual leanings.  Even St. Augustine succumbed to Manichaenism.  I am familiar with New Age writings, like energy and electromagnetic waves in the form of light, electricity, plant, animal, and planets.  I told him that I am a theoretical physicist: I know that he is not a scientist.  But there are some things he said that are really new to me: the Jesuits fabricated the New Testament.  I wonder where he got this idea.  This, of course, can easily be disproved by evidence of history: the Bible already existed long before St. Ignatius founded the Jesuits.

I prayed for him during a mass last Sunday evening.  I also prayed for him when I stayed for an hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament after the mass.  My Baronius missal really helps me to pray.  Who knows this guy might convert someday and become one of the defenders of the Catholic Faith.  Apologetics must really be united with prayer.  It is easy to fall into pride.  Without prayer, apologetics is like planting a rose in a desert.  In prayer, we ask God for rain, for graces.  We can never predict the movements of God’s grace.  Let us pray without ceasing.

Below is what he wrote concerning his beliefs.  Let us pray for him.

On the issue of who Jesus Christ really is, it’s easy to verify that the story of Joseph of Egypt (old testament) is exactly analogous to that of Jesus:

– Joseph had 12 brothers; Jesus had 12 disciples

– Joseph was sold to the Egyptians by Judah; Jesus was sold to the High Priest by Judas

It’s not surprising that Jesus’ birth falls on a Pagan holiday because Christianity is a Pagan Religion. The Cross is actually two sun rays crisscrossing each supported with a halo circle.

Jesus is just a personification of the zodiac sign Pisces. That’s why he is considered the “fisher of men”. The three kings are actually the three stars on the Orion Belt. Science started on Astrology. The problem we have today is caused by the tendency of some to stay that way.

The Old Testament is a hybrid of history and legends or myths. The New Testament is the work of Jesuits to put the world in slavery as it is now.

Marcos was deceived by these con men to send 600,000+ tons of OUR gold bars, not Yamashita’s, to Switzerland (Vatican Treasury) in exchange of Gold Certificates, which are mere papers that have numbers and fancy decorations on it, which the Jesuit by all indications will not honor it.

Now, they are positioning another Jesuit Puppet to become the next president. The Jesuit Council of Trent based in Makati are in full force.

So if you want real change, get rid of the religion that’s not ours to begin with. Let’s all get back to our senses (that state prior to 1521).

If you study and dig deeper into Science, you will find:

Life = Energy

Energy (in the form of Electromagnetic Waves) “broadcast” itself at different frequencies (vibrations per second).

Each frequency may manifests as Light, Heat, Electricity, Magnetism, etc. Other frequencies may manifest as Matter planets, men, plants, etc), Thoughts or Intelligence.

In this case the bible is right when it said that in the beginning there’s nothing but the Thought. But in the final analysis, there’s really no beginning and therefore no end. Everything will just transform from one type of manifestation into another.

We don’t really die. We only have One Body. We all share in the divinity of Nature, the one true God that we all fail to understand.

Bible shun idolatry. And yet the Vatican promotes it.

I understand this:

1. Energy cannot be created nor destroyed. So is God.

2. Energy can only be transformed. So is Nature.

3. It’s easy to understand that Life is Energy.


Life = Energy = Nature = God

Life = God or

do we prefer, “God is Life”?


But those with ulterior motives tried to complicate things, so that we won’t see the forest, just the trees.

Again, it’s not a coincidence when:

– Joseph of Egypt have 12 brothers, and Jesus have 12 disciples;

– Joseph was sold to the Egyptians by Judah, and Jesus was sold to the High Priest by Judas

Jesus is just a personification of the Zodiac sign Pisces – “The Fisher of Men”. Christianity is a Pagan Religion.

Virgin birth, resurrection, are common features in almost all past religions.

The New Testament is just a fabrication. Look at the big picture:

Q1: what could happen if you tell the people that even though they’re poor, they need not worry for they shall inherit the Kingdom of Heaven?

A1: Submission.

Q2: what could happen if you encourage them to repeat the same lies over and over again thru the “Holy” Rosary?

A1: Mind Control. Hypnotism is done thru repetitions.

That’s the purpose of Religion. Preserve the Body, but Take Away the Mind.

Sometimes, we are compelled to ask if there’s a need for religion.

St. Josemaria Escriva’s Opus Dei and St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Jesuits

January 08, 2002

Interview by Lola Galan, El Pais, Madrid

Javier Echevarria, 69, has been at the top of the Opus Dei hierarchy since April 20, 1994. He is currently preparing to celebrate the centennial of the birth, on January 9, 1902, of Blessed Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei’s founder. The centennial will have its culminating moment in the canonization of Escriva, already announced by the Pope. Bishop Echevarria agreed to answer a questionnaire sent by this correspondent, whom he received at the Roman headquarters of Opus Dei.

Q. Opus Dei and the Society of Jesus are Spanish religious initiatives with their own personality within the Church. The Jesuits are considered liberal and Opus Dei conservative. How are their relations?

A. If you will allow me to make a clarifying statement, I would like to say that I discovered Opus Dei in 1948 and have been one of its many faithful ever since, but I have never seen this reality as something Spanish rather than universal. It was born in Spain, but it was planned by God for the whole world. Additionally, some words that are useful for simplifying matters – such as conservative or liberal – must be used carefully, because the effect they have is that many people, for fear of being labeled or pigeonholed, will not say what they truly think. What do I think? That the Society of Jesus has had and continues to have a great mission in the Church and in the world. The Society and the Prelature are different in nature and arose from different charisms. I would not interpret them with terms that are alien to their deepest ecclesial reality, nor would I dare to compare them. Josemaria Escriva had a great devotion to St. Ignatius Loyola. What a big embrace they must have given each other in heaven!

Source: Opus Dei Newsletter June 12, 2009