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

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Magical Journey With Lea Salonga

It was the kind of magical, memorable, musical evening that you remember for the rest of your life.

"Lea, My Life On Stage" was a one-of-a-kind musical experience wherein you are left with a high that reverberates into your very soul for several days long after you had left the theater. God knows how much I needed to see that show and how it was a badly needed break after several harried days. Music is truly a balm to one's soul -- soothing and healing.

What an awesome talent! I pray that you use it even more over the next three decades -- bringing joy to your legions of fans, and that includes me. Congratulations to your momma for raising you and Gerard so well. I can only imagine how Ligaya's heart must have been brimming with joy on those nights. In fact, I overheard her say to our seatmate, "I couldn't ask for anything more..."

Yes, it's been such a blessing to journey through life with the music of Lea Salonga.

More pictures from Lea's show here in my Multiply site.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Robert Redford To Tie The Knot With Long-time Girlfriend

All good things come to those who wait..

And love is possible at any age. After dating for a decade, Robert Redford is finally engaged to long-time girlfriend, visual German-born artist, Sonia Szaggars. The two artists share a love for the environment. Shared passions, always help cement relationships. In recent history, think, Brangelina.

Szaggars is a highly-talented artist whose works center on nature and the environment. Her website says -- "Eventually her travels would bring her to the USA in the late 80's. Her continued interest in old cultures and traditions would lead her to the mysteries of Native American culture. She found especial power and magnificence in the arid mesas of Arizona and the Hopi traditions. In residence on the mesas for some time, she learned about the Native Americans' spiritual connections to life, the land and the world, and was deeply touched by it. The result of this experience was a large series of paintings which were marked with a spiritual resonance.

Szaggars moved to Utah full time in the early 90's where she set up her painting studio in the mountain village of Sundance." Redford and Szaggars began dating in 1995. It's probably a case of one artist being drawn to another one's art.

Redford, now 71, continues to cut a respectable and dashing figure. I remember being nine years old and watching him and Paul Newman in "The Sting" and I was eternally hooked. When I think of that now, I realize he's just about as old as my father! Which only proves to me once more that I've had this long-standing attraction for older men. Hahaha.

Redford divorced his wife Lola van Wagenen in the mid-1980s and was previously linked to actress Sonia Braga.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Two Music Greats In Manila This Month

I'll be broke by the end of the month...

So excited to watch this...

Lea is luminous in this photoby Ronnie Salvacion which I borrowed from family friend, Girlie Rodis. Lea will be at the PICC on May 23 and 24 for "Lea, My Life On Stage" - a celebration of her thirty years in the entertainment industry.

And this...

My all-time favorite, Steve Tyrell (he of "The Way You Look Tonight" in "Father of the Bride") is coming to Manila for a one-night show, also at the PICC. Tyrell has been my writing, thinking, musing "companion" for many years now. Wonderful voice and even more wonderful rendition of standards. Haaaaay.

I know, I just said that there is so much sadness in the world but I need to de-stress and music has always done that for me. Listen to Steve here singing songs from my childhood days...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

"Caregiver" Looks Like A Promising Blockbuster

At heto ang isa pang panalo...

Another Filipino movie to watch out for in thenext few weeks is Chito Rono's "Caregiver" starring my mega friend, Sharon Cuneta. I'm sure a lot of people will be able to relate to this film in the sense that we all know of a Filipino family who has a relative working overseas, right? In my own family circle, we have two. And yes, one of them is in the U.K. -- just like Sharon's character, except that my sister in law is a nurse in Oxford.

View the trailer below. Can't wait to see this movie!I hope it's as good as "Milan". Hopefully, even better. Mabuhay ang Pelikulang Pilipino!

"Ploning" Is Your Must-See Movie of the Month

Haunting. Lyrical. Poetic. And yes, it lived up to ALL my expectations.

"Ploning" is a beautiful, beautiful and sad movie that leaves you breathless with its amazing cinematography. I think that this has to be the most beautifully photographed Filipino movie I have ever seen.

However, it also leaves the viewer with soooo many questions long after you have left the cinema. For example, sino talaga ang nanay ni Digo? The film can be viewed through somany layers and can be interpreted in a hundred and one ways. I am sure the next time I watch it, I will see something that I did not see the first time. Feel something that I did not feel the last time.

If only to see the beautiful Cuyo, Palawan, this movie is worth watching over and over again. Judy Ann Santos was soooo good as Ploning. You were watching Ploning with nary a trace of Judy Ann. And the little boy who played Digo? I wanted to take him home with me.

This is the type of movie that should be entered in the Oscars foreign film race and I am pretty sure will have a great chance of winning. Simple yet haunting and so well-crafted. Okay, some glitches in the dialogue. Like, bakit biglang nag Tatagalog sila in one scene. The shift from past to present was initially confusing but after a while you start to get it.

Congratulations to the Panoramanila production team. Director Dante Nico Garcia and cinematographer Charlie Peralta are Philippine cinemas newest wonder boys. Thank you for giving us the gift of this beautiful film.

Watch the trailer here.

P.S. If you've seen the film, please tell me how you think it ended. Who Digo's real mother is? And is there any relevance or symbolism at all to the cans of lychees? And where do you think Tomas went? See, I told you it would leave you with so many questions. Or am I just over-analyzing it as my daughter likes to say :)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Best Tagalog Movie For Summer '08

When commitment starts, does the passion end?

Such is the premise of the latest Aga Muhlach-Anne Curtis starrer, "When Love Begins", written and directed by my favorite Director Joey Reyes. If it's a Joey Reyes movie you can be assured of great chemistry between the lead stars, and crisp, witty and memorable dialogue. Sa trailer pa nga lang, makikita mo na :)

And oh my, the theme song - "One Hello" by Randy Crawford sent me reeling down memory lane. A huge hit in 1982 when I was fresh out of high school and in love for the very first time. O diba, when love begins...

And how time flies, the year after "One Hello" became a hit, a young mestizo was creating aves of his own and zoomed to stardom by way of a hit, youth movie called "Bagets". Guess who?

What grabbed my attention from the films stills and trailer was the VERY fit and hot Aga Muhlach who only a year and a half ago was admittedly a blob. Look at him now! Naku, super vindication! I was telling my friend Girlie Rodis when I saw a photo of Aga and Anne on her site -- "Pabata ng pabata ang mga leading lady ni Aga". But hey, the man can carry it off! Super! He doesn't look like a day over 25. Seriously. I would love to see a Gabby Concepcion-Aga Muhlach-Edu Manzano starrer. Box office hit sigurado. Ageless men who have it all.

View the trailer below to see why "When Love Begins" is looking to be truly, the must-see Tagalog movie of the summer. Hardly anyone makes decent Tagalog films nowadays, we al need to go out and support a dying industry everytime it produces a good one. See you at the movies!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kris Aquino Confirms Third Pregnancy

In a May 15, 2007 online article on the Philippine Entertainment Portal, Kris Aquino says -- "Kasi na-realize ko nung sinabi ng mga doctors na never na ako pwedeng magkaka-baby, so sabi ko okay na..."

Today, on ABS-CBN News Online, it's just been confirmed that Kris is pregnant with her third child! Wow, never say never. I must say though that it's pretty daring for Kris to have a baby at this point in time. Baby James is hardly a year old yet -- hu turns one on April 19 -- and her doctors had already warned her about the dangers of having another child. In fact, during her last pregnancy, she had to undergo a second operation to remove a life-threatening blod clot in her lung causing her to bleed internally. The report on that last year, is on this PEP site. On her last pregnancy, Kris had a condition called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which resulted in her having Pulmonary Embolism. This is the reason why doctors had to do a second surgery on her. Pregnancy increases the risk of DVT developing because of the body's natural tendency to prevent excessive bleeding during childbirth.

Kris is now 37 and really, because of her history, will definitely be placed under the high-risk pregnancy category. She must have really want another baby so much in spite of the dangers and the pronouncements she made less than a year ago. Then again, on the other hand, maybe she was not expecting to get pregnant. It happens. I never expected my ectopic pregnancy to happen two years ago.

Every child is a gift and every pregnancy is a special journey where there are lessons learned. Let's just pray that this pregnancy of hers is not as complicated as her last one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

First Daycare-Breastfeeding Center in a Private School in Manila

The Miriam College Daycare & Breastfeeding Center is the first of it's kind in the country. Located inside the grounds of the Miriam College campus in Quezon City, it is the first private girl's school in the country to have a daycare cum breastfeeding center inside its grounds.

The project is a batch gift of the Maryknoll High School class of 1982 in partnership with Migi's Corner Foundation in cooperation with the Superferry. Below is the text of my message delivered today, March 10, 2008.

As a young girl here in the grade school, there was a little blue picture book that we were made to read every school year for our Christian Living classes. In it were photographs of different grade school students shot in different areas of the campus doing various school activities. Throughout its pages was the verse from Ecclesiastes 3: 1- 15 more popularly known as the A Time for Everything piece. Its first verse goes -- There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven"

Working on this project has been both a source of great joy and sadness. Because this is a happy occasion I will choose to focus on the great joy that I found in collaborating with some of the best minds in my batch, the Maryknoll High School Class of 1982.

I believe it is no coincidence that I happen to be a member of this class. Like many other things and circumstances in my life, I’ve always believed that God has a reason of putting you at specific points in time with specific persons -- to mold you perhaps, to strengthen you, to learn lessons from each other, to give back. Today’s blessed event is an example of that, let me explain…

Architect Boots Belmonte, whom I like to call the captain of this project and I were batch mates in high school and knew each other fleetingly. Through this project I got to know her up close and personal and was awed by her immense talent, dedication and perseverance to see this project through. The daycare would not have been made possible without Boots’ unstinting devotion and generosity of talent and spirit.

Atty. Mylene Yumul- Espina, another batch mate of ours, put in many hours to iron out the kinks and legalities of the MOA for this project that will finally be signed today. During meetings, Mylene would never fail to dazzle us with her brilliance, her wit and humor.

Loudette Halili and Katrina Gumaru, were instrumental in ironing out the financials for this project. Their being sticklers for details impressed me most and it was a skill that was much-needed for a project such as this.

Jayjay Pulido, our self-confessed OC batchmate, has always been there with her suggestions and eagle-eye for the seemingly small but important details.

Milen Galang, who put together a heart-warming and touching video on the daycare project. Her gifts and talent for communication is very much appreciated.

Jorja Santos, whose company JJMAC helped put the entire daycare together.

Maricris Nicandro’s passion and breastfeeding advocacy will certainly be a huge help these coming months as we create programs that will highlight the importance and benefits of breastfeeding to the young mothers who work and study here at Miriam.

My childhood friends, Carissa Singson, Larcy Morales and Ginny Guzman who have been my friends for the last 30 plus years. I want to thank you for sticking by me, for all the support that you have given to this project – emotional, spiritual, financial. For that I am truly grateful and blessed.

I also want to thank the MMCAA for their support of this project, thanks to Atty. Mari Fabian for putting up with all our changes in the MOA.

Thanks too to Miriam College , especially to Mrs. Cynthia Morales for being such a great help and support from start to finish. Natapos din ma’am and today we turn this over to your care. Thank you for the landscaping, the white picket fence and the food that you have served us on countless occasions including today.

To the MCHS ’82 core team headed by Mary Rose Ramoso and every member of my batch who gave unselfishly – through your time, talent, wisdom or finances, so that the project may be completed, today is a second homecoming for you too. Through this project, you leave a part of yourselves in the school that helped mold you into the woman that you are today.

I would also like to give special thanks to the Aboitiz Transport Group, specifically the Superferry, for their generosity in donating the 40-ft container van that now houses our daycare.

Thank you also to my friends, three talented artists – Fen, Vena and Raf for their beautiful mural of Migi at play. This is the 11th they have done for Migi’s Corner. Again, it is no coincidence that if my son were alive today he would be 14 years old and this daycare is the 14th project that the foundation has helped set up. The project is extra meaningful because it was built in the year when Migi marks his 10th year in heaven. Even the message, in the mural, one that I had written about two weeks ago in my Inquirer column – of how God is good all the time, is not at all accidental.

So like I said at the beginning of this message, God has a purpose for everything, and HIS timing is ever perfect, it never misses. Let me end this with rest of the passage from Ecclesiastes…

A time to give birth, and a time to die; A time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; A time to tear down, and a time to build up.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
6 A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep, and a time to throw away.
7 A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; A time to be silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; A time for war, and a time for peace.

It wasn’t by accident that I was born to be a member of the high school batch of 1982, as every other member who has given unselfishly of her talent to this project is. I know in my heart too that it wasn’t by accident that I happen to be Migi’s mom. Through synergy, our individual talents and collective life experiences over the last 25 years since we left Maryknoll has now served a higher purpose – in this case, to provide a haven of comfort for children and breastfeeding mothers. We thank the Lord for our Maryknoll education, and for all the gifts He has bestowed on us individually as women and collectively as batch. Everything has its rhyme and reason and today is just another proof of that. Thank you very much. To God be all the glory.

Cathy S. Babao Guballa
March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Meet Ken Lee, Singing Sensation!

Mariah Carey, eat your heart out!

Now comes, the newest singing sensation -- Ken Lee aka Valentina, the most popular singer in Bulgaria!
If you think American Idol is fab, wait 'til you see this lady belt it out with such heart and soul :)

Ang punchline, nasa huli. Laughter is great therapy.
Feel free to pass and link back to me :)
Have a great week everyone!

CAV, Newest, Hippest Wining and Dining Place in Manila

CAV, the newest wine bar and restaurant located on Bonifacio High Street takes its inspiration from "cave" which is French for cellar. Owned by Markus Gfeller of "Grassi's" fame, CAV promises an evening of great food and wine served in the most interesting manner.

I first heard of this place from my friend Griffith Go who is part of the team that brought the wine MACHINE into the country and set it up at CAV. My students at the world-class ENDERUN college were also raving about this new dining hot spot in Manila. When the kids from Enderun rave about you, you must really be good.

So H and I decided to have his birthday dinner over there a few nights ago and we were very happy with what we found. The interiors were posh and elegant but not intimidating. The food, coming from the genius that is Markus Gfeller did not disappoint. The place though goes by a PRIX FIXE menu which means that diners must choose from a three or four course meal, nothing less. Average price therefore, minus the wines would be at 1,000 to 1,500 per person at a minumum.

I started off with the Heart of Organic Baby Romaine with Jamon Crisps, Caper Berried and Truffle Aioili. It was sheer delight as I slowly bit into the succulent greens and crunchy bits of young jamon. H got a young Arugula salad with watermelon tomato confit and parmesan crisp. He was equally delighted with his selection as he munched on the start of what seemed to look like a fabulous birthday meal.

We then followed this up with a Salmon Pastrami with pistou and sweet corn emulsion for me and a Potage Parmentier with Greygoose vodka and lumpfish caviar for him. For the main course, I had a Grilled Tuna steak with Tapenade spread, Arugula mash and herbal tomato broth. He opted for the Crispy Skinned Salmon Darne with Mediterranean Saffron Pimiento Nage. I wasn't too joyful over my tuna steak but that could just be me because I prefer tuna cooked in a different way or taken raw like sashimi. There were other entrees to choose from like lamb, pork or beef but since I was already stuffed from having a feast at Las Paellas the night before, I opted to take something lighter.

The main attraction at CAV though, for me, personally, is the wine-vending machine for lack of anything better to call it. It's quite amazing really and a novelty for us Manila diners. You get, what is called a table card, put it into the machine, and voila, it dispenses the wine in the perfect temperature, straight into your glass! There are 24 varieties to choose from, usually 16 red and 8 white. You can opt to get a tasting portion which is approximately 25 ml, half a glass at 75 ml and a full glass which is around 125 ml. The prices are displayed immediately when you make your choice, so there are no surprises.

I must tell you that the wine selection is pretty impressive! These guys know their job and do it well. I tried out a Shiraz that my students had told me about called "The Dark Side of the Moon" and it was terrific. However, since I'm really a white wine woman, I chose a Chardonnay from the Beringer winery which was excellent.

If you're looking for something different to try on a date night, or just want to try something new, CAV is the place to go. Do make reservations though as the place is packed almost every night of the week. The guest list there looks like the pages of "Town & Country" or "The Philippine Tatler" but there are also a lot of regular folks like myself who are just plain curious foodies or wine enthusiasts.

Right next door to CAV is the newly built The Spa with snazzy, sleek interiors and whose treatment range is fantastic way to end the night after a great meal with wine. That however, will be reserved for a different blog entry, sometime soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

KC Concepcion's Double Exposure

I look at these images and suddenly I cannot help but feel old :)

Sharon and Gabby married when I was in college. KC is the best thing that came out of that short-lived union.

Look at her now. How she has grown and evolved! These photos are courtesy of my friend Juan Sarte who did her make-up in all these photos which were shot by the super talented Marc Nicdao.

On the cover of ROGUE this month...

And on the cover of "Tatler"

This KC is so lovely.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Thousands Attend La Salle Greenhills Mass for Jun Lozada

"Even if I'm not the light, I can be the spark -- in faith, service, and communion. Let us start the change we want to see, the change that begins with me," -Jun Lozada at LSGH this morning

While at church service today, a part of me wondered what was going on over at La Salle Greenhills (LSGH). Today, Holy Mass was celebrated for Jun Lozada and his family. Bumping into some friends at Robinson's Galleria, they said that there was really a huge crowd that gathered at LSGH this morning.

Upon reaching home, I was happy to find these photos in my mailbox. The photographs were shot by my friend Nina Lim Yuson who was at LSGH this morning. Tomorrow, Monday, there will be another mass, this time at the Church of the Gesu at the Ateneo de Manila University, to be presided by the acting Provincial of the Jesuit Order, Fr. Mario Francisco. A candlighting ceremony will follow on Katipunan.

Photographs speak a thousand words. See for yourself...

Lozada enters from the side and the crowds cheer

La Salle Brothers In Full Support Of Lozada

Part of the La Salle Crowd

Lozada Reads the prayer that has given him strength

Part of the crowd after the mass

My friend (cousin in-law), and PDI columnist John Nery, wrote in his blog, "Newsstand" -- "Witnessing to one's deepest convictions, notwithstanding the consequences, is the measure of our humanity. Proclaiming the truth to others, whatever the cost, is the mark of authentic humanity.

Jun, we know you have feared for your life and continue to do so. But in
transcending your fears for yourself and your family, you have reclaimed
your humanity. And your courage and humility, despite harassment and
calumniation by government forces, embolden us to retrieve and reclaim our
humanity tarnished by our cowardice and complicity with sin in the world.
You have inspired us to be true to ourselves and to submit to and serve the
truth that transcends all of us."

Read the Inquirer's coverage of the mass at LSGH here.

Raising Our Children To Be Truth-Tellers

Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, "Roots&Wings", February 17, 2008
The headlines over the past few weeks have put many parents like me in a deep quandary about the state of this country. What does the future hold for our children as this mad circus takes place? I choose to view this whole chain of events as an opportunity to teach my child about the importance of seeing what is real and of how I can raise them to become truth-tellers.

I remember as a child, there would be only one instance that would merit spanking from my father – if I would tell a lie. Lying, in any form was tantamount to receiving corporal punishment in our household. Looking back, and seeing where we are now, I am glad that my dad was very harsh when it came to telling the truth.

I spoke with noted family psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang about what we as parents can do in helping our children understand the current muddled state of the nation and what we can do in practical ways to ensure that our children grow up to become truth-tellers. Back in 2004, Dr. Carandang had delivered a speech to the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society at the University of the Philippines on the subject of truth-telling and national healing. In speaking to the esteemed audience she said, “It takes a high level of intellectual ability to do truth manipulations and clever deception. This subtle insidious process of truth distortion needs constant awareness because even the most honorable can be caught off guard & unaware and then it is too late.”

I recall how in that particular lecture, Dr. Carandang quoted from Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who referred to Vaclav Havel in saying that, “The intellectual should constantly disturb, should bear witness to the misery of the world, should be provocative by being independent, should rebel against all hidden & open pressures & manipulation. This role is very important for we are the ones who will bare the truth, open people to new ideas & push them along new heights?”

As parents, we have the responsibility to steer our children in the right direction. Dr. Carandang says that nowadays the youth is in desperate need of role models that they can emulate and learn from and this is where parenting plays a pivotal role. “You cannot raise a truth-teller, if you are not one yourself,” she stresses. She then shared with me what Aung San Suu Kyi said when asked how she developed such a great love for truth. She said that her mother had always placed a high premium on honesty. “She did not always explain but she made it very clear that honesty was good and dishonesty was wrong. It was something I accepted at a very early age. My mother was naturally honest. That was really good for me because it gives me confidence that other people too can work to have such quality.”
Dr. Carandang stresses that it was by role-modeling and not didactic teaching that Aung San Suu Kyi became a truth-teller. “She lived and breathed it, all her life.” However, she adds that we, Filipinos, because of our history, have been traumatized and re-traumatized. “From colonization, to Martial law… Just when we feel that we are about to recover, once again, we find ourselves again betrayed and then a sense of powerlessness overcomes us.” Carandang cites a 2005 column by Dr. Randy David where he compares the state of our country to the dilemma that a wife faces when she discovers that her own husband has raped his daughter. “To ask him to go away because of the unspeakable betrayal is to expose the family to economic insecurity & ruin from which the family members cannot recover. This is how countless families end up staying silent . . . under the situation or regime of mendacity, abuse, and pretense. They abhor this person in their midst but they fear the unknown even more. They invent all kinds of rationalizations to justify the arrangement. They hang on to the hope that someday he may reform. It’s a no-win situation for the mother. Only the thought of her child’s future makes her break her silence. When one is dealing with the pathology of the family or that of a nation, therapy must begin with the recognition that there is a problem.”

Thus, Dr. Carandang says, there are four essential keys parents must remember in order to raise children who will become truth-tellers. First, a parent needs to validate his/her child’s truth. For example, when a child comes home saying that his teacher has unnecessarily yelled at him, don’t just say that “Well, that’s your teacher; you have to just take it.” As a parent, you need to probe and affirm what happened. If indeed the teacher was wrong in doing so, you can say, “Yes, okay, I understand, you have the right to feel angry too.” Do not just set aside your child’s feelings because it will erode his/her self-worth.

Second, don’t be impulsive. The reason many children lie is because they are fearful. Your child should be able to trust you, to know that you will accept the news and be non-judgmental. When your child brings home a report card that is not up to your standards, do not just lash out at him/her. Find out what happened and try to find solutions together. Third, when you catch your child lying, confront it and try to get the truth out. Don’t be in denial. Last, but most important of all, is that you must be a truth-teller yourself. Carandang says that children always watch and learn so parents need to be vigilant about their behavior because children pick-up signals so quickly and take these as gospel truth. Thus, if there are issues within your family, confront them, no matter how painful. It is only by accepting them that you are able to move on and remain true to yourselves.
In light of what is happening in our country, she emphasizes that as parents, we must inculcate in our children, the values of truth and inner strength for it is the only means by which we can achieve hope and get out of our predicament. Once more she refers to Aung San Su Kyi who defined truth and inner strength as “a spiritual steadiness that comes from the belief that what you are doing is right even if it doesn’t bring you immediate concrete benefits. It’s the fact that you are doing something that helps shore up your spiritual power. It is very powerful.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Celebrity Children on "Sharon"

If you've always wondered what it's like to grow up under the shadow of a celebrity parent, go and watch "Sharon" on Sunday, February 24 and catch these famous celebrity offspring talk about their moms and dads.

Featured on the show are Celeste Legaspi's daughter Waya, who did a mean rendition of her mom's "Tuliro" and "Saranggola Ni Pepe" accompanied by Jomari Chan's son, Mike. Then there is the very talented Ina Feleo, daughter of Laurice Guillen and Johnny Delgado; boy-next-door Alfonso Martinez, son of Albert and Liezel and Raf Fernandez, Daboy and Lorna's eldest son who graduated from the Ateneo.

It warms my heart to see these second-generation children of celebrities shine. One can really not ignore the genetic factor when it comes to talent. Congratulations to Shawie and her staff for putting together such an interesting show! Thanks to my friend Girlie Rodis for the photos on this page.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

"The Bucket List" Is A Must-See Movie

"There are two questions to be asked of you when you get to heaven's gates -- first, have you found your joy? And second, has your life brought joy to someone else's?"
-- Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) to Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson)

I don't usually make movie endorsements but this one I could not pass up.

Lat night, H and I caught the first-day screening of "The Bucket List" at the Powerplant Cinemas. Oh my gosh. It's such a beautiful, beautiful movie that I've been recommending it to friends since I got out of the movie thater last night. The dialogue is fast and witty, the acting is terrific (hey, it's Freeman and Nicholson), the story is one that will warm your heart and get you to think about your own life.

It's a movie that will probably appeal to the 40plus something age group or even to younger people who have gone through life-changing experiences. You have to be at a certain point in your life, to have gone through something life-altering, to fully appreciate the message of this warm-hearted film directed by Academy Award winning director Rob Reiner.

Edward Cole is a corporate billionaire and Carter Chambers is a middle class mechanic. They have nothing in common except for a shared experience with cancer that is terminal. While sharing a hospital room together, Carter decides to draw up a Bucket List -- things to do before you die or "kick the bucket". After learning that he only has 6 months to live, he decides to abandon the idea. His romm mate, the ever cynical Cole, convinces him that they should go ahead and set out to do the things they have always wanted to do. In the process, both of them heal each other, become unlikely friends, and ultimately find the joy in life.

Try to catch this movie, and pardon the pun, but make sure to bring a bucket for your tears. You have to be made of stone not to weep, even a bit.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Martin Nievera's XXV Concert Rocks Araneta

Martin and one the best talents to come out of La Salle :)-- Gary V!

I wasn't there because I had to be somewhere else important that night. Martin Nievera marked his silver jubilee in show business with one helluva show at the Araneta Coliseum. Here are some shots taken by my friend Girlie Rodis - a huge Martin fan herself.

Ooooh. Mr. Lobo himself :)

Midlifers eh. She was his first girlfriend here, 25 years ago.

With Zsazsa Padilla...

To view more photos of the concert, visit Girlie's site here.
Thanks again for sharing GR!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lovely KC Concepcion At Puey Quinones Gala

Found this on my friend Juan Sarte's site and got his permission to post it here. Isn't she just lovely? And even slimmer from the last time I saw her!

This was taken at a shoot for the Puey Quinones Gala.
Photography was by the highly artistic Mark Nicdao and fashion styling by Michael Salientes who is a childhood friend of mine, and makeup by the super talented Juan Sarte III. Put together these four geniuses and this is the kind of look that you get. Of course you need to have the Gabby Concepcion-Sharon Cuneta genes to carry it off just as KC does.

Juan did KC's makeup for this shoot and it was not by Chanel as wrongly credited in this fashion event's press release. Juan writes, "I did not use any Chanel product on her face. KC endorses Colour Collection Cosmetics by Fuller Life."

Friday, January 25, 2008

Happy Slip Arrives In Manila!

Oh I am so thrilled and I wish I could get to meet her personally...

Back in December 2006, I had written an article on Christine Gambito of Happy Slip fame. Even back then, I was already such a HUGE fan and when I discovered her videos on YouTube, grabe, naloka ako sa kakatawa! My all time favorites are her "Mixed Nuts" and the hilarious "Boypren" videos. I wrote her and asked if I could interview her for Global Pinoy in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and she agreed! In several subsequent email exchanges, I had told her that I wished she would be able to come one day and visit the Philippines to do shows. And now she is here as an ambassador for the Department of Tourism! A really perfect choice if you ask me.

Read my December 2006 Philippine Daily Inquirer interview (in Global Pinoy) with Christine Gambito here and view her latest thoughts on coming home -- quite a sentimental video that will make you teary-eyed. Welcome home Christine! Tunay ka pa ring Pinay :)

Watch this introductory Vlog by Christine --

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Protect Yourself Against Dengue All-Year Round

Prevention is still the best protection against dengue.

Doctors and the Department of Health say that dengue now knows no season so it is always best to be prepared and protect ourselves against it. Here are a few emails I received with very helpful tips that everyone can benefit from.

Where dengue breeds [published in CONSUMERLINE By Ching M. Alano.Philippine Star, 15 Jan. 2008]

Many a grim tale has been told about the dreaded dengue. Here's another one, as shared in an e-mail:

Dear Consumerline,
This evening, we attended the wake of Natalie Corrales Feist, only 17 years old. Her mother Rosa is the sister of Pilita Corrales and her father Ed Feist is the head of a big pharmaceutical company in Manila.
Natalie was studying in Australia and had come home to Manila to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. What started only as a stomachache progressed to
malaise and fever that turned out to be the deadly dengue fever which snuffed out Natalie's life in such a short time. Natalie was an only daughter and the youngest of three children. It was indeed so sad to witness the grief, the sadness, and the pain of losing such a wonderful daughter and so pretty at that. The priest saying Mass also mentioned about another young girl of 15 who also died recently.
A couple of years ago, my nephew who was only 28 years old and was to be married, also died within a short time after he contracted dengue. He was an only son.
Dengue kills. Let us not wait for it to get out of hand and claim more young lives. As my own small contribution to help increase people's consciousness of this disease, allow me to share the warnings below. Many people are not aware that in their own homes, there are dangerous places where mosquitoes breed. Please take note:

• The bromeliad plant has beautiful flowers, but they are deadly, because in between are pockets that collect clean water, which is where the dengue mosquitoes breed. If you have them, get rid of them or place them in pots so that after watering them, the pots can be turned over to remove the excess water.
I have noticed that along Ayala Avenue in Makati and other roadsides, the bromeliads, which are very colorful, are often used by landscapers to brighten areas, etc.
The landscapers must be discouraged from using these plants, especially when they are planted in the ground, because they can cause an epidemic, as what happened in Cebu many years back. It was discovered that these plants were the culprits.
• Those that have bamboo fences placed over their concrete fences (as in many subdivisions) must see to it that the top is covered, because the bamboo crevices hold water and again become breeding places for dengue mosquitoes.
• I have just read on the Internet about a tip that was given at a recent gardening forum. Here it is: Put some water in a white dinner plate (I suppose a small white platito will do) and add a couple of drops of Lemon Fresh Dish Washing Liquid. Set the dish on your porch, patio, picnic table, park bench, or other outdoor areas. I'm not sure what attracts them — the lemon's smell, the white plate color, or what. But mosquitoes flock to it, and drop dead shortly after drinking the Lemon Fresh Dish Washing Liquid and water mixture and usually, within about 10 feet of the plate.
Try it, it works just super! It may seem trivial, but it may also help control mosquitoes around your home (especially in areas where the dengue- and malaria-carrying mosquitoes have reached epidemic proportions) . It's safer than mosquito coils ... no offensive odor and harmful fumes, no risk of fire.
This is all I can say, which may be helpful in controlling the rise of the deadly dengue mosquitoes. Let us all try to do our part in our own homes and surroundings, so that by doing so, we can lessen dengue's breeding places and save more lives.
Isabel F. Guevara
Magallanes Village, Makati City

Speak out: Cure for dengue? By Bernardo Rocha Calibo Director, National Police Commission 7

THERE is hope that the dengue scourge will be obliterated. I was in a meeting in Manila recently with other Napolcom officials. While waiting for my flight back to Cebu, I happened to talk with friends. The conversation eventually turned to dengue. Some of their statements shocked me. I called up the persons concerned and they confirmed these revelations. Computer technician Wenceslao Salesale Jr., 27, was downed by dengue. His platelet count plunged from 180 to 80. He was rushed by ambulance from Novaliches to Manila . Inside the ambulance, a relative, acting upon the advice of a missionary priest, made him drink soup made from camote tops. The following day, his platelet count was normal.

Dengue attacked the 7-year-old daughter of engineers Mar and Lita Budlongan of Kaloocan City . Her platelet count read 80. The same treatment was used. The following day she was back to normal.

The 15-year-old daughter of businessman Nepomuceno Salaga of Sampaloc, Manila had a dangerous platelet count of 80 due to dengue. The same treatment was followed. The following day she was back in school.

I asked a doctor of medicine about herbal cures and he said that many, if not most, medicines come from plants. He also said that under the Hippocratic Oath, doctors are bound encourage anything that can cure a patient. We need not do research deep in the rainforests of the Amazon or venture into the ocean depths in search of the elusive cure for dengue. It is right there in the backyard.

The following information is from Wikipedia: "In 1992, the Center for Science in the Public Interest compared the nutritional value of sweet potatoes to other vegetables. Considering fiber content, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium, the sweet potato ranked highest in nutritional value. According to these criteria, sweet potatoes earned 184 points, 100 points over the next on the list, the common potato (NCSPC)." "…Sweet potato tops are excellent sources of antioxidative compounds, mainly polyphenolics, which may protect the human body from oxidative stress that is associated with many diseases including cancer ad cardiovascular diseases. Sweet potato greens have the highest content of total polyphenolics among other commercial vegetables studied. "Sweet potatoes contain protein, dietary fiber, lipid, and essential minerals and nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, aluminum and boron. Sweet potatoes are also important sources of vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and ascorbic acid." Camote In the case of Salaga, he bought five sheaves (bugkos/ bigkis) of camote cuttings. Each sheaf consists of about 12 cuttings. Each cutting measures about one foot. A sheaf costs about P5. Camote tops are boiled in water to extract the juice. The boiling lasts for about five minutes. A little salt is used to give flavor to it. The patient is made to drink slowly and gradually. The body's immunity system is thus revived, making dengue helpless against the body's natural defenses. Camote enables the body to heal itself.

Now you know why I earlier said that my friends' revelations shocked me. They were shocking because people are needlessly dying all around us from dengue, while their very cure is also all around us. In the past, many were fond of using the derogatory statement, "Go home and plant camote." Now, camote is big news. It can save lives. What could be bigger than that? So, to fortify your family against dengue, "Go home and plant camote!"
(Engr. Lita Budiongan and Mr. Nepomuceno Salaga personally related to me their experiences with their respective daughters. I asked their permission to use their names.)

Man From The East is New Society of Jesus General

The new head, or the General, of the Society of Jesus is a man who has spent many years of his life serving in the Philippines. The Society of Jesus elected Fr.Adolfo Nicolas as the 29th successor to St. Ignatius of Loyola. As you can glean from parts of the insightful essay below by Fr. Danny Huang, he is a man well-loved and highly-respected by his peers.

"To lead the Society as General clearly requires many other gifts. "He ought to be endowed with great intelligence and judgment," Ignatius writes. "Learning," "prudence," "experience," are among the necessary qualifications for governance that St. Ignatius adds to his list.

Fr. Nico, the "wise man from the East," as some are already calling
him, is richly blessed with such gifts that are both personal and the
fruit of his broad experience of many cultures and governance on many
levels. "Nowhere was it written that we wanted someone from the
Orient," Fr. Gendron observes. "But for the third time in a row, the
Society has elected a missionary, like Fr. Kolvenbach and Fr. Arrupe,
a Westerner who has spent most of his Jesuit life in the Orient."
There is something providential, surely, in this pattern.

Fr. Nico, European in origin and training, yet with such
breathtakingly broad cultural exposure, and indeed exercising
leadership for over forty years in various parts of Asia, brings with
him crucial perspectives and sensibilities at a time when the Society
of Jesus finds itself in major demographic transitions.
As a professional theologian of depth and creativity, he is also well
equipped to help articulate for the Society faithful yet fresh and
inspiring visions of our mission and religious life today. His years
as Director (and at present, Chair) of the East Asian Pastoral
Institute in Manila involve a rich experience of respectful and
fruitful cooperation with the hierarchies and local Church leaders of
many continents. Moreover, because he worked for several years in the
pastoral care of vulnerable Filipino and Asian migrant workers in
Tokyo, he brings to his office a special care for the poor, whom the
Church and the Society of Jesus call Jesuits to have a preferential
love for. At the same time, because he has labored for many decades
in the increasingly secular milieu of Japan, he also has a profound
sensitivity to the challenges of unbelief and religious indifference
that are the context and challenge of many parts of the developed
world. Finally, as one who has been Provincial of Japan and President
of the Conference of Provincials of East Asia and Oceania, as well as
former Major Superior of our Jesuit missions in Cambodia, East Timor
and Myanmar, Nico is no stranger to the requirements of governance and
administration, and brings this rich administrative and leadership
experience with him into his new office.

Young at 71

Yesterday, with a glint of mischievous humor in his eyes, Fr. Nico
told me that he had never experienced so many Jesuits asking him with
such concern about his health. This is, of course, entirely natural.
Ignatius realistically lists sufficient "physical strength demanded by
his charge," as the final qualification of the General. And Nico is
71—72 by April.

His age was, frankly, a concern. But interestingly, it became clear to
many of us that chronological years were not the most reliable measure
of age where Nico was concerned. Paradoxically, one of the oldest
among us was also one of the most youthful in energy and spirit. "He
has the mind of a young man," someone told me in admiration. "I have
never walked with anyone who walked so fast. I have to tell him to
slow down when I walk with him," a Latin American Jesuit told me.

But perhaps it is best to let the young speak. Bishop Francisco Claver
writes: "I was at LHS [Loyola House of Studies, the Philippine
Province scholasticate] for supper when we got the news--everybody
cheered like we were winning a basketball game!" In nearby Arrupe
International Residence, the seventy or so scholastics there have been
excitedly gathering to share stories and experiences of the General
who, until yesterday, was their Major Superior. Scholastics, mostly in
their twenties, from East Timor, Myanmar, China, the Philippines,
Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand have expressed their delight
in and appreciation of the choice of the Congregation. Isaias Caldas,
a junior from East Timor, wrote to his Regional Superior, Fr. John
Mace, thus: "Personally I am excited and overjoyed because this
General is someone whom I know personally, a General who always passes
by in front of AIR after his lunch in EAPI, a General who once told us
during one of his exhortations to the community to make our religious
struggles become "big," [broad in apostolic horizons] not limited only
to our worries about prayer and chastity, a General who wants us to
think now about what we can do in the future, a General who wishes us
to be very good at one thing for, if that is so, we would be very
useful in our ministry later, a General who has good humor and is
friendly to us scholastics, a General who encourages me to read more
and watch good movies like a good Jesuit."

"Because we are poor, God is our only strength."

Yesterday morning, in the Aula, when it became clear that Adolfo
Nicolas had been chosen, and when he finally left his place among the
electors to stand and then kneel in our midst to make his profession
of faith, I found myself, to my embarrassment, unable to control my
tears. I felt such pity for Nico, as we placed the enormous burden of
the governance of the Society on him, and also such gratitude to him,
too, for his willingness to accept this office for the sake of the
Society. As I wept, I found myself repeatedly praying a single
sentence: "Lord, help Nico."

Today, however, I am more at peace, mostly because I see that the
General is at peace too. This evening, Fr. General led us in a Mass of
Thanksgiving at the Church of the Gesù. His homily (in Italian
interspersed with a few "Italianized" Spanish words!) was deep and
moving, radiant with "Evangelical simplicity," one European Jesuit
told me, "without a single excess word." He reflected on the Servant
of Yahweh in the book of Isaiah. Where does this humble servant get
his strength to serve? To answer this question, Nico shared an
experience he had during his ministry to migrant workers in Japan. A
woman, a Filipina, overwhelmed by her many problems, confessed to her
friend her confusion and near despair. Her friend, also a Filipina
migrant worker, simply said to her: "Let us go to Church. Because we
are poor, God is our only strength." Once again, when I heard these
last words, I felt tears rush to my eyes, because it seemed to me that
Fr. General had borrowed the words of this poor, vulnerable,
faith-filled woman to speak of himself.

"Because we are poor, God is our only strength." It is surely
appropriate, that as we pray in gratitude to God for the gift of our
new General, we pray too for him. May God be Nico's only strength, as
he leads us, in wisdom, courage and compassion, in the Society's
service of "God alone and the Church, his spouse, under the Roman
Pontiff," ad majorem Dei gloriam." - Daniel Patrick Huang, S.J.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Pinoy Pride - Arnel Pineda Chosen As Lead Vocalist for "Journey"

If you thought Charisse Pempengco's appearance on "Ellen" was fabulous, wait 'til you read this story.

If you've ever tried to apply for a U.S. Visa you know how thick the tension is in that waiting area - it is so thick and palpable, you can almost slice through it! Consuls are trained to sniff out the fakers from the real ones. Most of the time they get it right though they have their share of hits and misses as well.

This is the "fairytale" of Arnel Pineda who is now a singer for the band "Journey". For me personally, it is a case of major Divine intervention! Can't explain it any other way. Found the story on my friend Dennis's blog. Read about this amaaaazing story --
"The Greatest Manila Visa Story Of All Time" here.

Thanks for sharing this story Dennis! God bless that consular officer and what cam I say - ang galing ni Lord at ang galing talaga ng Pinoy!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Danger At The Ark Of Avilon Zoo At Tiendesitas

It's hard to find good alternatives to the mall for parents to amuse and entertain their children. The Ark of Avilon (AoA) over at Tiendeseitas looked really very promising. I was all set to take L and some of his classmates over there next week on a mini-field trip of sorts. The AoA is some sort of petting zoo, the structure built like a Noah's Ark of sorts.

Unfortunately, but very timely, thank God. I received an email from a high school classmate of mine, Dr. Amie Beloy, a pediatrcian practicing in Virginia. I was alarmed by what I read about what happenned at AoA very recently. To my surprise, the forwarded email was written by a church-mate, Jerry Liao. H and I confirmed if it was indeed the same Jerry. And it was. Please see below the full text of Jerry's email...

My Family and I visited the new Arc of Avilon (AoA) Zoo located at Frontera Verde near Tiendesitas in Pasig last January 5, 2008. The highlight of the said zoo is they allow people especially kids to touch their animals like orangutan, parrots, eagles, rabbits, tortoise and snakes.

And when you allow your kids to touch these animals, you trust that the animals are harmless and are trained not to hurt its visitors.

Unfortunately, my 2nd daughter was bitten by an Albino King Snake. Her finger was bloodied so I quickly ask where the clinic was located. I saw a sign that read Hospital/Quarantine, I quicky open the door but found nothing inside but some cages and two people talking. I ask if there's a doctor there and they said none. Then the king snake handler came over and directed us to follow him. I thought we would be brought to a clinic. To my dismay, we were brought to a dirty pantry full of flies. And the handler administered Betadine to my daughter's finger, which was stored in a soy sauce gallon container. A park with no clinic, no doctor and no medicine.

I took my daughter to the hospital, and upon reaching the hospital the first question was what kind of snake bit my daughter. I told them its an Albino King Snake. They were not sure whether the king snake is a venomous or a non-venomous snake. They said they had to consult an expert about this. After awhile, Thank God that the king snake was a non-venomous one. But the doctors wanted to be sure so they gave my daughter an anti-tetanus drug and ask her to take anti-biotics for seven days.

After reaching home, I texted both Jake and Tina Gaw (owners of AoA) that the doctor asked us to observe my daughters condition. I also told them that I am going to write about this horrible experience. Tina texted back and said: "Jerry, if thats how bad you felt, I respect your personal feelings concerning the incident. I wish she (my daughter) could have been more careful in handling the snake or other pets as well especially this one is exotic. Even tame ones, rabbit, tortoise, mouse, pig bite when they felt hurt or frighten when not properly handled. And its really sad when you felt it became a horrible issue."

Now it's my daughter's fault to be bitten by the snake? AoA never bothered to offer their help and now they blame my daughter for the incident. That was a very insensitive remark by Tina. I don't think the snake was hurt or frighten, they were tired and irritated because they were being used to entertain people.

Exotic you say? Why allow them to be touched by people? Yes, I agree that animals bite when they felt hurt or frighten, but let me remind the management of AoA that most of your audience are children, I even saw some as young as two years old. They will just touch and play with the animals without knowing whether they're hurting them or not. It is AoA's responsibility to make sure that none of their animals be hurt or frigthen so that biting won't happen.

And since accidents happen, how come Arc of Avilon don't even have a clinic to at least administer some first-aid soluton. What if the eagles decided to peck the visitors, or use their big claws to attack the visitors. Donkey or horse suddenly kicking. And snakes biting. There shoud be a doctor, a clinic and first-aid kit to address this kind of unfortunate incidents.

Arc of Avilon should not allow people to touch a snake that bites plus they should have expert handlers to assist its visitors. All the Arc of Avilon management can say is that the snake is a non-venomous one. No other help was offered, and then they will blame the visitors for mishandling the animals.

Am I overacting? I don't think so. What are the chances that you will get bitten by a snake in the metropolis? Worst in a theme park like Arc of Avilon. As a parent, will you take it sitting down? Will you just take their word for it that it's non-venomous? Remember, its a snake-bite. Let this be a warning to all my readers who are planning to visit Arc of Avilon at Tiendesitas or any other zoo for that matter.

Let my story be a lesson to all. You can ask your kids to look but as much as possible DO NOT TOUCH. Better yet, DO NOT VISIT the Arc of Avilon totally, until they improve their facilities. Never again will we go to the Arc of Avilon.

Thank you and more power. God Bless us all!

As a parent, this strory is certainly quite alarming. I have ditched my plans of taking the boys there. God knows what might happen. The establishment certainly does not give justice to it's name. Noah would most certainly not be pleased.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Buon Giorno -- Great Italian Food In Tagaytay City

Tagaytay has a treasure trove of new restaurants that line the Aguinaldo Highway.

Last week-end, my family and I were there to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of some good friends and at the same time celebrate our own 18th wedding anniversary. After an overnight stay at Canyon Woods, the following day we decided to have brunch at a new restaurant before driving down to Manila.

Our choice was Buon Giorno (Italian for Good Morning) located at the Cliffhouse in Tagaytay City. It's cheery interiors immediately put us in a gustatory mood and we were very eager to try out the different dishes on the menu. The cool air and the lovely view of Taal Lake visible from where we were seated, only served to whet our appetites even further.

We decided on some mushroom soup which we had split into two - just right to warm mine and my daughter's tummies. Then for appetizer, we had delicious parma ham with grapes and melons - this was wolfed down by the three hungry adults at our table.

For the main course, L decided to have his usual Pepperoni pizza of which he chose to segregate the pepperoni and his daddy ended up eating them! P had the tasty mushroom ravioli (as you can see, we are a mushroom loving family), I chose to have the asparagus and salmon risotto and H had the seafood risotto. All the dishes lived up to our expectations and we are now looking forward to going to the Manila branch of this great, reasonably priced restaurant, located at the Liberty Center on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong.

If you find yourself in Tagaytay or Shaw Boulevard over lunch or dinner, I suggest you try out Buon Giorno -- you will not be disappointed. Buon Apetito!