Thursday, May 14, 2009

Terra Spa : Hideaway In the City

There are places from where I seek comfort from time to time when I want to shut out the rest of the world and just be with myself.

One of these little hideaways is a lovely spa tucked away on the fourth floor of Discovery Suites in Ortigas. Terra Spa - the name means "earth" in Latin, and true to its name, everything in this place is natural and organic. From the interiors which is predominantly wood and glass, and the use of green, white and brown throughout the spa is enough to relax you as soon as you step into Terra Spa.

A feast for the senses, the spa lives up to its philosophy by using its own range of skin care products which fuses science with the healing properties of Nature's gifts. Each product has been infused with Asian holistic wisdom through the use of the finest natural oils harnessed from a select range of leaves, flowers and fruits.

Walking through the corridoor that leads to the private rooms is an exercise in serenity. Unlike other spas where you hear the shuffle of feet or the giggling of therapists from a distance, or the chatting of clients elsewhere, at Terra, all is quiet and peaceful. You get a room all to yourself and the stillness enfolds you as you prepare for your treatment.

My personal favorite is Terra's Touch, a 90-minute treatment that is their version of the Swedish massage that incorporates pure Virgin Coconut Oil blended with the right proportion of various therapeutic grade essential oils to attain the powerful synergistic efficacy. The hour and a half treatment never fails to relax me and after a session with their highly skilled therapists, I always end up requesting for a few extra minutes of shut-eye (which they always indulge me in) and leave the spa refreshed and ready to face the world again.

I like going back to Terra because there are many different kinds of Terra's Coco-Moringa Facial which makes use of Moringa (malunggay) has powerful anti-oxidant properties that protect the skin against environmental damage; add to this pure Virgin Coconut Oil which helps prevent premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. This all-natural facial treatment helps heal minor skin complaints, and prevent visible signs of aging. Once in a while, when I feel like pampering myself, I head to Terra and spend the better part of the afternoon there. All of their products, by the way, are available for purchase. They are much more reasonable than the imported brands that sell in the department stores, and best of all they are all organic, 100%natural, proudly Philippine made, and very effective!

I love their Terra Coco-Moringa Renewal Face Serum for mature/dry skin because of its deep emolient, anti-oxidant rich properties that helps me combat the drying effects of aging. The combionation of pure VCO and Moringa does magic to my skin. I also like their Terra Aroma Bath and Body Massage Oil Sleep variant because, and this is true, the scent of Lavender and Ylang-Ylang essential oils never fails to lull me to sleep. If you have difficulty sleeping at night, this beats counting sheep.

Books and trips to the spa are my greatest indulgences. I'm glad that I need not travel far from my home when I feel the need to get away and pamper myself, even briefly. Thank God for places like Terra Spa.

For more information on Terra Spa and their wide array of services and products, visit their website at or call 638-2977 and 683-8222 loc 3804 for reservations.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Meeting Jericho Rosales

Meeting Echo was a nice way to begin the month.

It was a welcome respite from a busy, emotion wracked but neverthless blessed February. We were at the Discovery Suites yesterday afternoon on assignment from the paper. What can I tell you -- he's real, he's nice, very well-grounded and such a simple and sensible young man.

P was with me, she took these pictures and she was quite impressed with him too. Very articulate, he made no qualms about his background and says he lives his life with no regrets. Turning 30 this year, three things he is very passionate about -- acting, singing and surfing. The latter he indulges in everytime he has two free days off in a row - "I'm off to Baler this week-end," he grins.

Ah Baler. I tell him that we fell in love with him in that movie and that he was so deserving of the best actor award. "You really should have gotten it," I tell him. He grins and replies, as he acknowledges my unabashed compliment of his portrayal of the ill-fated and dashing Celso Resurreccion -- "Well, there's my trophy right there." *sigh

These Bicolanos sure know how to flatter. I know. I married one :)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sulpicio Lines and the Art of Disaster Mismanagement

Published in my Roots&Wings column in the Lifestyle Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 June 2008

"Grief is a journey, often perilous and without clear direction, that must be taken. The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied."~ Molly Fumia

The manner by which Sulpicio Lines has handled the tragedy that is MV Princess of the Stars is a classic example of what disaster management should not be.

The actions shown by this shipping company whose track record for accidents and mishaps is now perhaps the worst in the Philippines has been deplorable, to say the very least. Sulpicio has not shown an ounce of compassion to the families of those who have died, the survivors, and those who continue to be missing.

As I write this, no clear-cut measures have been made to ensure proper identification of those bodies found floating days after the tragedy. Family members of missing passengers have not been properly housed, ferried, shuttled and advised about what is going on. Yes, as one banner story in this paper announced last Friday, ‘World stops for grieving kin of missing passengers”. When tragedy strikes, especially when it concerns the life of someone whom you love, everything else in your life becomes meaningless.

I ask myself, what kind of bereavement support is being provided for these families? At least over in Cebu, through the DSWD, the local government has been offering some form of debriefing or grief support to the survivors and those whose loved ones have yet to be found. Their loss is ambiguous, the kind of grief that takes forever to heal from, one where it is very difficult to find closure.

At this point in time, the best that Sulpicio Lines can do is get their act together and provide for the families of the 800 or so passengers that have yet to be found. Thank God for organizations such as the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) for stepping in and giving the bereaved families form of direction.

Sulpicio Lines offer of 200,000 pesos per victim is not the way to go with these families. In addition to this, or even over and beyond the financial assistance, genuine compassion, care and concern towards the families waiting would have been much laudable. Instead, these family members have gotten the opposite.

Gina Virtusio who was the Public Relations Manager at WG&A Superferry (now Aboitiz Transport Group) told me that the gesture most appreciated by families affected by a tragedy of this magnitude is the support and care shown to them by the shipping line. She recalls how when in February 2004, Superferry 14 was bombed by the Abu Sayaff, the entire company involved themselves in primarily caring for the victims families. “It was really tough and as employees you are only human too and so you are prone to break down. At first you will really get yelled at, cursed, almost to the point of being beaten, but you just have to ride it out and show them that you care,” she says. In the end, Virtusio says that the families eventually became very close to them and that she even remains in touch with some of those affected by the tragedy. “You must show compassion, there is just no other way,” she stresses.

I am reminded of what former New York Governor George Pataki said after TWA 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996, he said, “It became clear to me that, as Governor, I was going to make a difference – and in more ways than one. I began to realize that even in the darkest moments on the job, I could somehow bring light to someone, somewhere… When I heard the news, everything that seemed important just minutes before, suddenly became irrelevant. It occurred to me that one of the most important functions a Governor can fulfill,is to extend a caring hand to people in despair, and give them what they need most in times of sorrow: comfort, understanding, and a shoulder to cry on.”

Days after this horrible crash, a memorial service was held at the site attended by all the family members of the crash victims. The ceremony was broadcast all over the world, allowing others as well, to show love and support for the family members who needed it so desperately. Pataki says that he has never stopped thinking of those people. “The moments I spent with them are forever etched in my mind and in my heart. Many of them told me that the service and all of the state’s efforts on their behalf, helped ease their pain…One of the most important things we can do in life is to give a piece of ourselves to lighten the burden of others.”

You would think that after a spate of tragedies that began with the MV Dona Paz, Sulpicio Lines would have mastered the art of crisis and disaster management. Apparently, this is not so. Pain and anguish cannot be swept under the rug by 200,000 pesos. Compassion and care far outweighs money in times of tragedy.

I think of the 800 families affected by such a deep and searing loss that will change their lives forever. I end this by sharing with them a poem written by Janelle Davis whose sister Rose died in an Alaska Airlines crash in January, 2000.


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the sweet uplifting
rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How Ces Drilon's Mom Survived Her Abduction

“I was always against her going to Mindanao because I knew it was very dangerous,” Lulu Orena tells me with a smile a few hours before Ces was to check out of The Medical City. “But Ces has always had a mind of her own. Minsan she will tell me that she’s going there for an assignment, when she does, I always remind her – ‘Ces, paano na ang mga anak mo pag may nangyari sa iyo?’”

Dressed in a white cotton tunic over slacks, Lulu was still visibly tired but terribly relieved that the worst was now over for her eldest daughter, Ces. She recalls how on she became hysterical upon finding out on the morning of June 9 that Ces had been kidnapped. “Chary Villa called me to confirm that she was missing and that she had been kidnapped. When I heard the news I knew that my worst nightmare had just begun.” On the ride from her home in Fort Bonifacio, all the way to the ABS_CBN studios in Quezon City, she says she was a wreck. “I was shaking all over and having palpitations like crazy. Nanginig talaga ako,” she recalls.

On day one of her abduction, she had the chance to speak briefly to Ces, whose first words to her were, “Mommy, mommy, please don’t cry,” Lulu shares. The nine days that followed were the most difficult days of her life. “One more day was just a day too long,” she says looking back. “I was so hungry for news the whole time that I kept the television on at our house 24/7. One television was tuned in to ABS-CBN and another one to GMA-7. The radio was constantly tuned in to DZMM. “I really wanted to go to Sulu. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be near my daughter. To be in the same place with her. When I saw on television, the things she had left behind in her room, it really broke my heart and I wanted to board the next plane to Sulu but my children would not let me.”

Lulu is grateful for the blessing of her children. Daughter Grace kept her company all throughout, while only son Frank and youngest daughter Joyce were busy with the negotiations. The rest of the Orena brood had been tucked away in a safehouse with Ces’ three sons, while Lulu and Joyce, opted to remain at home. “I would just be crying at makakagulo lang ako sa negotiations.” Each day that came and went was sheer torture she says. When nightfall would come, she would break down in tears, thinking of how Ces was faring in the jungle. “Pag uulan, lalo na akong nalulungkot and I would really storm heaven with my prayers. I would ask God, all the saints, Mama Mary, Ces father (who passed away in a helicopter crash in 1993) to please keep her safe from harm.”

Sleep would come fitfully and only when her body could no longer take the tiredness. “They gave me sedative but it did not work,” she smiles. A mother’s anguish and worry, far surpasses the effects of any drug. Lulu clarifies that there is no truth to the news that she had a stroke or a nervous breakdown. “I was close to it, I guess. I became very depressed and lost all desire to eat and exercise – things that were part of my daily routine. All my thoughts were focused on Ces.” Respite would only come briefly when her grandchildren would return home from school and wrap her in their hugs, saying that it was going to be okay and that their aunt would be home soon. “I don’t know what I would have done if my children and grandchildren were not around. Siguro patay na ako ngayon,” She shivers at the recollection.

At the time of our interview on Friday afternoon, Lulu was still feeling the effects of the stress from the last nine days. “Medyo nanlalambot pa rin ako but I cannot stop thanking God for carrying us through,” she shares, her tired eyes, beaming with joy. She is also very grateful to everyone who prayed for her daughter’s safety. She made special mention of her late husband’s classmates, members of PMA Class ’61 and their wives who threw their full support behind her. “I am just so grateful and having gone through an ordeal such as this, I realize that the most important thing in life is really just family. Money will come and go. You can always earn it. Material things will lose their value. To have a strong faith in God and having your family intact, safe and sound, that is what’s most important.”

When the chopper carrying Ces finally landed on the helipad of The Medical City that rainy Wenesday afternoon, Lulu says that it was a miracle made real. She shares that the very first thing a tearful Ces whispered in her ears when they hugged was, “Mommy, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Forgetting all the anguish she had just been through, just like any mother faced with a repentant child, she told her eldest daughter, “Don’t say sorry. It’s all right. You’re home now and that’s all that matters.”


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Raphe, Renz and LT Remember Rudy, the morning after

Published in my Roots&Wings column on June 15, 2008 in the PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

My heart broke when I saw photos of Raphe and Renz Fernandez as they spoke at their father’s necrological service. In the same breath, I was in awe of his widow, Lorna as she sat listening to her husband’s speak of their fond memories of him – clearly a picture of beautiful grace and faith under pressure.
To grieve in itself is a difficult process to go through. So much more when you have to do it under the public eye. The Fernandez family is blessed in the sense that Rudy was able to prepare them and prepare himself to meet his Maker. Rudy had been quoted as saying that he was often in deep conversation with the Lord because he wanted to get to know him better. “After all, I will be meeting him soon,” he quipped.

Speaking to Raphe, Renz and Lorna the day after Rudy’s burial, my heart was warmed by the genuine closeness this family possessed. Raphe’s professor and thesis mentor at the Ateneo, Dr. Rofel Brion, had introduced me to him a few years back when he was working on a paper about his grandfather, the late great movie director Gregorio Fernandez. He had always struck me as a bright, young and sensitive young man. The morning we spoke, he seemed fully in control as kuya and now the man of the family.
The Fernandez’s had decided to sleep in the same room after Rudy’s wake. Choosing to cocoon and stay together, finding solace in one another.

The boys were still both groggy when I talked to them, still reeling and tired from the week’s past events. Lorna says that Rudy had indeed prepared them well and for that she was very grateful. She paused when I reminded her that Sunday was Father’s day and I could hear a slight sigh from the other end of the phone. “It’s his 9th day….” She said. It was comforting for her to know that all these “coincidences” seemed to be orchestrated from above. She said that she was very proud of her boys and the way by which they were handling their loss. “We really did not have that much time to talk to one another while we were at Heritage until one night when Raphe approached me with a problem and so finally we had to sit down as one family. I was tired and a bit upset and I was thinking to myself quietly, diba dapat ako naman ang alagaan nyo muna… until Renz said something that made me stop – sabi niya, “Mama, mag-alagaan na lang tayo.” Lorna said. I smiled when I heard that, and thought to myself, yes, Rudy had prepared his boys very well.

I asked Raphe why he opted to do an extemporaneous eulogy and he said simply that it was because he wanted it to just flow. And flow it did. As well as the tears of the thousands who had come to mourn their very public loss as they listened to him talk. When I asked him what he would remember the most about his father, he said that there wasn’t a single lesson he could his place his finger on because there were just too many. “To place a number on it would diminish the importance of the others. It was really in the way he lived, the way he loved us and showed us that he cared. It wasn’t really through words, but more through actions. Whatever legacy he has left us, nasa dugo na namin. These lessons will be easily remembered and called upon when the times become tough.”

For now, Lorna says, they just want to rest and be by themselves. Travel maybe to some quiet place where they can be refreshed. Sleep still does not come easy to her or the boys and every nook and cranny of their home carries with them some portion of Rudy. The emotions, she shares are so intense, some moments she cries out for him, on others she is as still as she normally is. “It’s really more the loss of the person himself that drives you to sadness,” she says. As in any other loss of a loved one, it is the longing for the one who is gone that is the most painful.

Coming home after the funeral, upon entering the den, Lorna says, it finally hit her that her Rudy was truly gone. For now it is just her and the boys who fill her world. It is a long process yet, she knows, and this brave family’s grief work has just begun. The manner by which Rudy prepared his family for his loss is a poignant example on dying well, one, that many of us can learn from. And his widow and sons openness and care for each other under the most stressful of times, is a gift and a beautiful lesson to us all on how to grieve well. Rudy, would certainly be proud