Category: Uncategorized

Malcapuya Island (Coron, Palawan)

I went back to work the other day, summer vacation over for us teachers. Though I loved seeing my colleagues and friends from work after almost a month of not seeing them, I caught myself a couple of times today wishing for a much longer vacation. Would have loved to enjoy more staycationing time with my family or travelling to distant places.
I had a super great summer.  Though I did not do some overseas travelling this summer, I was able to visit one of the must-see places in my dream journal, Coron. I can just go on and on about how beautiful Coron is till your eyes fall off their sockets from reading for the place is simply amazing. But then again, I will just let these photos speak for themselves as words cannot clearly give justice to the beauty of Coron  the way these pictures can.
These are all photos of Malcapuya Island which we visited on the second day of our Coron Trip. This is a good 30 minute boat ride from Calanggaman Island where we spent our first night.

It has the finest white sand.

 
lost in tranquility

 
the clearest azure water

 
the cove in Malcapuya Island where we snorkeled and saw littles sharkies and clown fish

 
stunning view from the cliff

 
you can see how clean and clear the water is from the cliff

 
view of the beach from the cliff

 
simply breathtaking

I enjoy visiting new places, immersing myself in different cultures, and getting lost in a new city. I like feeling the excitement of being in a foreign country and relish  the thrill and giddiness of being in kiddie amusement/theme parks. But, I feel happiest when I am walking barefoot on sand, swimming freely in the sea  and discovering the treasures that lies beneath it. I’ve always imagine myself a dolphin in my past life since I absolutely love the sea so much. If there’s one place I rather live, it’s definitely beside it so I can ride the waves anytime I want to, pick as much seashells by the shore whenever I feel like it, and swim to my hearts content. My heart absolutely sings whenever I see even just a glimpse of the vast blue sea.
It’s very fortunate that we were able to visit Mulcapaya Island this summer.  There’s a big buzz going around in the that the owners would turn it into a private one and close it to tourists two years from now. Hopefully they will change their mind so a lot of people can still have the chance to visit this little island paradise.
Now I only see a vast sea of papers ahead of me. I had to wrestle with work and MA school for the next ten months before I am reunited with  my precious  sand and sea again. I guess in the meantime, I will just have to content myself with pictures of Malcapuya Island and of the beautiful places in Coron and hope that these will get me through the rough long months ahead.

Random Thoughts This Mother's Day

I have been contemplating since yesterday if I am going to write a Mother’s Day post or not. Not because I have ran out of nice things to say about my mom or my experience as a mother but because as it is, much have been said about motherhood.
It is ironic how people put so much effort on this day given the fact that for the rest of the 364 days a mother consistently puts in the same amount of time and effort in providing, giving, and loving.

I think we should all the more be doing these sweet gestures to our mothers during ordinary days since it is during this period that our mothers do these small and big things that never fail to make us feel really special.
I received the best Mother’s Day gift today but I must say that what I will remember most about it is not so much the gift itself or the ceremonial way it was handed to me but the thought that my daughter took notice of the many things that make me happy during the days that we spent time together. And armed with these thoughts, she sought to find the perfect one that would delight me the most. I guess the fact that it wasn’t just any random gift but a well thought out one makes it really special.

My Mother's Day Gift: Cath Kidston In Print (a book)

My mom specifically requested for us not to go out today to celebrate Mother’s Day. She wanted us to just stay at home so she can cook for us our favorite Kare-Kare. Cooking has always been her source of joy. She does this ordinary task daily with so much love and passion that every meal is always a special one. Today, we just had to indulge her. But not after stopping by McDo for a simple breakfast.
Mother's Day breakfast with mommy

She is at her happiest when she is in the palengke, picking the best choice of meat, walking along the vegetable aisle, and surveying the wide array of fruits. She is in her best element when she is haggling with the vendors or cooking behind the stove. As usual we had the best Mother’s Day lunch courtesy of our very own in-house Chef, Mommy. You see, the best thing about my mom is, she always manages to make each day extraordinary with her cooking and loving and given that, we have learned to surprise her with little gifts or bring her out on dates even when there is no special occassion.

In the end, what matters most to us mothers is not so much the gifts and the fanfare that come with the celebration of Mother’s Day but those little thoughtful things that you will do with great love for us Mother’s Day or not.

The Villar Foundation: 20 Years of Transforming The Community Through Its Various Green Social Enterprises

Yesterday, I had the chance to revisit my old hometown, Las Pinas. I now live in Molino, Bacoor Cavite, literally a stone’s throw away or should I say a river’s throw away from neighboring Las Pinas but it has been years since I last explored the place and took notice of the many changes that happened here.
I grew up in Baranggay Manuyo, the first district of Las Pinas that would welcome you if you are coming from Paranaque. It is the home of the famous Bamboo Organ Church. I had a memorable childhood in Las Pinas.  My lolo used to take us to the “beach” near Villa Manila every morning when I was a child. This was actually a portion of Manila Bay before it was reclaimed and made into Coastal Road. I remember that we used to gather clams and swim there. I also have a good recollection of afternoons spent playing at our family’s Irasan (salt bed) which had been the primary source of living of my dad’s family. The river back then was healthy and teeming with aquatic life. My family even owned  a small fishpond too where fresh supply of sugpo and tilapia can be harvested.
Everything changed though when development came and they started reclaiming the “beach” to construct  Coastal Road. Flooding grew worst in Manuyo. Businesses started cropping up everywhere and people started setting up homes there as well. Uncontrolled dumping of garbage in the river eventually caused it to die and down came with it our Irasan and our fishpond.  As much as we hate leaving the place that we love so much, we knew that moving to a less crowded place like Molino was inevitable. Summer of 1995, after graduating high school from St. Joseph’s Academy, we made the move to Cavite but I guess you could say that I left my heart in Las Pinas. Six years after we left the place, I came back to march and meet my groom at the altar  of St. Joseph’s Church while the sweet melody of the Bamboo Organ was playing in the background.  Yes, I got married in the church where I was baptized and confirmed. In my hometown that I love so much.
But then life happened. Though I can say that I never totally forgot about Las Pinas, it was easy to take for granted this place especially when you need not pass the route leading to Old Town Las Pinas where I grew up and just conveniently head straight to Coastal Road to go to Manila or to Daang Hari and SLEX to go to Makati.  I was aware of the developments and changes happening in the city but I wasn’t too keen on learning more about it until the other day.
In line with The Villar Foundation’s 20th Anniversary, I was invited by the group of Mrs. Cynthia Villar  to visit the sites of the different Green Social Enterprises of the foundation as well as learn more about the different Solid Waste Management Practices that the city has been conducting.  The Villar Foundation’s Social Enterprises aimed to: (a) reduce proverty, (b) manage the city’s garbage problem, and (c) preserve and conserve the community’s natural resources.
It all started with Mrs. Cynthia Villar’s fond recollection of a clean and healthy river from her childhood too. When she won the 2001 election as the lone congressional representative of Las Pinas, she vowed to clean up the Las Pinas-Zapote  River.  Amidst negative predictions and speculations that the project won’t see its completion, she bravely took the plunged and launched the Sagip Ilog Program under The Villar Foundation. Supported by a team of engineering experts headed by Engr. Dexter Gonzales and strong financial backing from Senator Manny Villar, Sagip Ilog was set into action. Mrs. Cythia Villar recalled that, “Nung umpisa kinausap ko ang mga tao ko, sabi ko kaya ba natin to, ayaw ko naman na sa bandang huli magiging ningas-cogon lang kami. Kaya tinutukan ko talaga ito hanggang matapos. Iba  iba ang standard ng tao e kung minsan yung sinasabi nilang okay na, ayos na, sa akin hindi pa kaya ako mismo binantayan ko ito.”

10 years after, the historical Las Pinas-Zapote River whom others considered dead and beyond hope, lives again. Through the concerted efforts of concerned residents and through viable engineering solutions, the clean up was completed. Up until now the residents continue to live up to the challenge of  preserving  and conserving the river long after after the clean up ended for they have successfully shed the uncaring attitude and have taken it upon themselves to look after this community resource.
Dam in Las Pinas Zapote River constructed by St.Ezekiel Moreno, former parish pries of Las Pinas
Just like how the river served as the backbone of early communities before, the birth of The Villar Foundation’s Green Social Enterprises and Solid Waste Management can also be traced back to their efforts to revive and sustain the Las Pinas-Zapote River while at the same time providing livelihood assistance to the marginally poor sectors in their district.
The Coconut Coir and Peat Enterprise
Engr. Dexter Gonzales shared that, “Nung nililinis namin yung ilog natuklasan namin na isa sa  duming naipon sa baba ng ilog  ay ito mga coconut husks na ito.” Coconut fruit has been popular among city dwellers and these accounts for the pile of coconut husks that inevitably found its way to the river bed and later became garbage that clogged the river.

Engr. Dexter Gonzales, Project Coordinator of The Villar Foundation

 
At around that time also, soil erosion along the river banks has alarmed The Villar Foundation. Mrs. Cynthia Villar fortunately learned about former dean of Bicol University, Dr. Justino Arboleda’s work on coco nets, a low cost biodegradable netting material that arrest soil erosion. After seeking him out and getting his commitment to share his knowledge, The Villar Foundation set the motion for the establishment of The Las Pinas Coco Coir Enterprise. Instead of utilizing it only as a means to deload the river from coco nut husks garbage and to build coco nets that would address the problem of soil erosion in the river, they decided to make it  a livelihood project as well.  They made it a venue where underpriviledged families in the community can have the opportunity to earn money.
The Villar Foundation trained families in the branggay with the skills necessary to twine and weave coco nets. To date, there is one Coconet Weaving Center in each of Las Pinas’ 20 baranggays where housewives and their family members can go to and weave nets. The Coconet Weaving Centers are strategically placed in the heart of each baranggay so mothers who want to work can simply walk going there anytime it is convenient for them. A family can earn a minimum of 3, 300 pesos per week by twining and weaving coconets alone. When we were there, several mothers with their children in tow were working. I asked one mother how she felt about working there and she shared that, “Gusto ko po dito kasi malapit at tsaka di ko na poproblemahin yung magaaalaga sa anak ko kasi open naman sila dito sa mga bata, puede din sila tumulong dito.” The coco nets are preventive measures against soil erosion. They are used to hold the soil down. Plants are  grown on the eyelet spaces to establish a root system that would hold the soil further.


Coconut Husk Decorticating Machine

a mother preparing coconut fiber for twining

twining coconut fiber

weaving twines in the coco fiber loom

The Villar Foundation’s Coconut Coir and Peat Enterprise has successfully woven the perfect economic and ecological solution that would provide livelihood opportunities to housewives and their families. At the same time, it presents the perfect rehabilitation solution that would sustain the river in the years to come.
The Water Hyacinth Fiber Enterprise
One of the problems that the group encountered while cleaning up the river was the presence of water hyacinths there.  These have impeded the clean up efforts as they have prevented barges from moving and collecting trash easily. Though a beautiful sight, these water hyacinths, which are commonly known as water lilies, have long been considered a pest. Since they are virtually indestructible, they trapped garbage and clogged the river. They also served as breeding places for the dreaded dengue mosquitoes.
The idea of using water hyacinths to make baskets and other things came from Mrs. Ophelia So, an exporter of hand woven baskets. When Mrs. Cynthia Villar learned that there is a market for hand woven baskets made of water hyacinth, she set out to form a skills training program  in weaving dried water hyacinth stalks for women who live near the center and didn’t have a steady source of income. Townfolks who concentrated their efforts in harvesting and drying the water hyacinths to supply the Las Pinas Basket Weaving Center were also paid for their efforts. To date the women and men who chose to stay in the program cite water hyacinth weaving as their families’ main source of income.
housewives weaving baskets

world class products

water hyacinth products


christmas tree made of dried water hyacinth stalks

 
Though there are no water hyacinth to harvest anymore since the river has long been cleared out of these pests, The Villar Foundation’s Water Hyacinth Weaving Enterprise still sourced out water hyacinths from the nearby Laguna Lake to sustain this thriving livelihood.  This has manged to turn  what once was considered an environmental pest into a medium where housewives’ excellent  artistry and craftsmanship and love for their community resources come together.
The Handloom Blanket Weaving Enterprise
To revive the dying Filipino tradition of weaving fabrics and to help out a group of women who were earnest in their desire to learn the handloom weaving skill in order to earn a living that would augment their families’ expenses, The Villar Foundation, put up the Handloom Blanket Weaving Enterprise. Currently the blankets are not for sale and are distributed  as part of relief operations for people rendered homeless by a typhoon. The money that is supposed to be used by the office of Senator Villar to purchase mats for relief operations is being used to buy the thread that will make these handloom blankets. The surplus income from the Coco Coir Enterprise is used to pay for the blankets made. Mrs. Roda Rodronio, project coordinator of the Handloom Blanket Weaving Enterprise shared that, “A weaver can make 3 handloom blankets a day and she is paid 165 pesos for every handloom blanket she makes.”




Through the Handloom Blanket Weaving Enterprises, The Villar Foudation has not only given these women a chance to earn money but the satisfaction in knowing that they can be productive members of the community as well. It has managed to uplift the quality of life of these women by arming them with the necessary skills needed to succeed in this enterprise. These women clearly are hanging on a thread where their futures seem to be pretty much laid down like a blanket of big possibilities. They have indeed proven that with their perseverance and diligence, they can  weave a bright future for their families.
 Solid Waste Management City Wide Practices
As part of their desire to come up with sustainable solution to the mounting garbage problem of Las Pinas, Mrs. Cynthia Villar through The Villar Foundation during her term as Congresswoman of Las Pinas, enjoined households to segregate their trash properly. Undaunted by the strong resistance from the people, she continued to mobilize this project with the help of priests, baranggay captains, and other concerned groups who set out to educate the residents of their moral and civic responsibilities to the environment.  House to house education campaigns by different association were done.  The plan was to turn the biodegradable into compost.
Bio-digesters were placed in each barangay. To provide livelihood assistance, each baranggay hired “bio-men” who will collect kitchen wastes from Monday to Saturday, starting at 7 o’clock in the morning. The wet garbage collected are then brought to the Bio-digester where they are processed and mixed with coco peat (coconut dust gathered from the coconut husk) and trichoderma enzymes to create organic fertilizers that condition the soil to become healthy. Part of the compost generated is used for the regreening and tree-planting programs in Las Pinas while the rest are bought by farmers from far provinces like Nueva Ecija to produce organic vegetables. The income derived from the sale of the composts are awarded to the barangay or subdivision housing association to support their environmental activities. Residual wastes such as those that cannot be recycled, reused or composted are manufactured and turned into construction materials like hollow blocks and pavers that the city government itself uses to beautify the whole of Las Pinas.

composting machines

the by products

composting process

Vermi Composting

tiles made from shreded plastics

hollow blocks from residual wastes

Pamplona 1 Baranggay Capt. Roberto Rodronio

 
As what Barangay Captain Robert Villalon said, “Dito sa Las Pinas we use ecologically sound practices to manage our garbage.  All our projects are designed to protect the environment.” From the looks of it, the residents of Las Pinas through the efforts of The Villar Foundation have indeed mastered the art of segregating sound environmental practices from those that are not thereby making Las Pinas not only a clean and green city but an Environmentally Friendly one at that too.
The Villar Foundation has indeed come a long way since its establishment in 1992 but for Mrs. Cynthia Villar, the work is far from over, she still has big dreams for Las Pinas and the Zapote River, “Pangarap ko magkaron ng sort of like River Cruise ang Zapote River. We plan make it a top tourist attraction. We will create a road along the river and eventually restaurants para maging river park sya. This would also generate more income opportunities for people. Gusto ko magkaron ng mga cultural presentations din like the one in Loboc River but something different something unique, something that we would really call our own.” As for advice on how to make a project a success, she has this to say, “Kailangan pasensyosa ka. Projects take time to complete, hindi mo dapat madaliin. You should have a clear vision and a plan on how to go about it and kailangan ikaw mismo tumututok sa project mo.”
The Villar Foundation, now on its 20th year, has successfully managed to transform the community and the lives of its people by creating various interpendent social enterprises that are specifically designed to empower them to live a life of economic independence while striking a balance between successful urban development and strong ecological management. Through the sound leadership of its Managing Director, Cynthia Villar, it has indeed proven that sustainable living right in the middle of the city is possible and that sustainable development can be achieved through the concerted efforts of each individual.

The Villar Foundation And Its Two Decades of Continued Efforts To Protect the Welfare of OFWs

This morning I was with the group of former Las Pinas representative Cynthia Villar to witness the reunion of 3 repatriated OFWs  from Dubai with their families.  The Villar Foundation, with Mrs. Cynthia Villar at the helm as Managing Director, has been at the forefront of repatriation efforts as part of its commitment to help distressed Overseas Filipino Workers abroad. The foundation in coordination with the Office of Senator Manny Villar as well as related government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Association (OWWA), and the Blas Ople Center and Migrante  have repatriated close to two thousands distressed OFWs for the past 2 decades. The group who arrived today from Dubai has been the second batch of OFWs that were given aid by The Villar Foundation this year.

 

Jacquelyn reunited with her family

The distressed OFWs had the sought the help and protection of POLO OWWA (Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Association) in Dubai and The Villar Foundation as they have suffered from different forms abuse and maltreatment from their Arab employers there.  Here are their stories:
31 year old Romilyn Daglupo who worked as a domestic helper in Dubai, UAE left the country pregnant last year.  Upon learning that harsh punishment awaits pregnant unmarried women in  UAE, she ran away from her employer out of fright.  It was her friend’s mother who sought financial assistance from The Villar Foundation’s Sagip-OFW for her safe return to the country. When asked how she feels about returning home, she shared that, “Masaya po ako at nagpapasalamat kay Maam (Mrs. Cynthia Villar) sa pagtulong sa amin.”
Romilyn Daglupo

Joanalin Pascua, also sought refuge at POLO OWWA in Dubai after experiencing hardships in the hands of her foreign employer. She recounted how her female employer overworked, underpaid, and physically abused her. She related that, “Yung amo kong lalaki mabait sa akin, yung amo kong babae ang lagi akong sinasaktan at pinagiinitan.” When asked if she is still willing to work abroad again if given the chance, she confided that, “Hindi na po, dito na lang po ako sa pamilya ko.”
Joanalin Pascua

24 year old Jacquelyn Costuna ran away from her employer because of the way her Arab employers maltreated and verbally abused her. She described her experience with them as,  “Mahirap po doon, lalo na yung alagaan yung bata. Pagnagkamali  ako, sinasaktan ako agad. sinasabunutan, binabatukan, sinisigawan.”  She stayed at POLO-OWWA refuge house together with Joanalin until their repatriation.
Jacquelyn Costuna

Four repatriated OFWs were expected to arrive today but only three made it as the other one was detained at the immigration when they were about to leave due to the pending unresolved case of the agency where she was connected. Mrs. Villar shared that as much as they would like to help all distressed OFWs in POLO-OWWA – Dubai, due to limitations in the budget and the gravity of their cases, they can only help as much.  For OFWs who seek the foundation’s assistance but had to settle formal court cases or complaints filed against them by their foreign employers, the foundation leave it to the OFW’s employment agency to do an action on the matter or course them through the proper government body who is more in the position to help them in such cases. Mrs. Cynthia Villar related that, “Yung mga me kaso don mahirap sila matulungan agad kasi of course ibang bansa yon, me sarili silang rules and laws that we have to abide to and respect also. At sa mga ganong kaso, we leave it to the DFA to handle such cases, sila ang mas me jurisdiction don.”  
Mrs. Cynthia Villar

Mrs.Villar shared  that Overseas Filipino Workers have always been close to her and Senator Villar’s hearts because it was a wife of an OFW, a seaman, who first bought a house from them . Their first clients in their housing business were in fact these seafarers. They have always admired the OFWs’ tenacity to improve the lives of their families, heroism, and courage. And for this reason, they have made it their mission to help and protect them through the The Villar Foundation’s Sagip OFW/OFW Assistance.  Aside from shouldering the repatriated OFWs airfare, return tickets to their provinces  and exit pass expenses, The Villar Foundation also provide them with livelihood opportunities through its Skills UP & Livelihood Assistance Package. In partnership with various organizations, The Villar Foundation under this project  helps the repatriated OFWs gain the necessary skills that would allow them to find employment locally.  They are also provided with livelihood skills training in case they want to jump start their own business.  The foundation also extends medical assistance to returning physically abused and maltreated OFWs to ensure that they are in good health.  Burial assistance and legal aid services are also extended to those OFWs in need of such services.
Each day millions of Filipinos face the stark reality that the money that they are earning sometimes does not even compensate for half of their families’ basic needs. We cannot blame them for wanting  better lives for their families even at the cost of their own welfare and safety.
Nearly two million Filipinos leave each year to work overseas and a big margin of this number, sad to say, are non-professionals.  They are domestic helpers like Romilyn, Joanalin, and Jacquelyn who easily fall prey to the opportunistic demands of foreign employers. The government can only do little to help them as it battles with other humongous problems here at the home front.
The Villar Foundation clearly knows that the task of protecting fellow citizens especially the ones off shore does not only lie on government efforts alone. They have a good grasp of  what nation building is. They have proven this again and again by doing their best in providing whatever help they can extend to distressed OFWs and by closely working hand in hand with the government in an effort to deliver services that would not only address the OFWs’ immediate needs but uplift their lives as well.

Naya Rivera Goes Proactiv

If you are a big fan of Glee, you definitely won’t miss the raven haired cheerleader, Santana Lopez, played by Naya Rivera, as she not only sings and dances really well but exudes a quiet charm and beauty about her on cam.  But did you know that she had struggled with adult acne for quite sometime and only when she decided to go Proactiv that drastic improvements on her skin happened?! She absolutely swears by the product so much so that she personally approached Proctiv Solutions and offered to spread the love for the product herself.


Yes you heard it right, Naya Rivera is the newest Hollywood star to join the Proactiv Family alongside Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Mandy Moore etc. Before joining Glee to play the role of a fictional lesbian cheerleader, she has appeared on the now defunct TV Hollywood shows,  The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and Baywatch.  She related that, “I really wanted to work with ProActiv because I really do use the product, and it really did help me. So I was like if I put myself behind the product, it has to be something that I really use.” Here’s a video grab of Naya’s fun photo shoot with the Procctiv team:

You might be wondering why Hollywood stars seem to be joining the Proactiv bandwagon lately. Well because it has proven to be very effective in killing ance-causing bacteria as it leaves users with a clear and smooth skin after continued use. It has fast acting micro-crystal benzoyl peroxide that gently exfoliates and removes dirt, excess oil and dead skin cell which often are the main reasons why pores clog.
It also uses natural botanicals that proactively clean the face from all impurities and excess oil leaving the skin soft, fresh and clean.
Proactiv Solutions also addresses different forms of acne since it uses a combination therapy system where more than one of the common acne medications were combined to heal the previous acne blemishes while preventing face from forming further lesions.
And what’s more, it is the only skin care product that can confidently assure one of success in acne treatment and after sales assistance and service as they are the only one who provides a Money Back Gurantee. If for any reason Proactiv fails to meet your expectations, you can simply return the containers (even if empty) within the allotted period together with the original receipt for a complete refund. It is that serious in giving you a lifetime of smooth, clear skin without the risk.
ProActiv takes particular care in giving its customers the best and safest skin care solution that would address their different skin needs and concerns that is why it constantly warns the public against the use of fake Proactiv Solutions products that have been proliferating in the market right now. It wishes to remind its customers to buy only from their authorized distributors and outlets namely All Watsons Stores, All SM Department Stores, and ProActiv kiosks located at Glorietta, Robinsons Galleria,Trinoma, Marquee Mall, Alphaland Southgate Mall, and Eastwood Mall. Though cheaper in price than the original, these counterfeit or fake ProActiv products can cause severe skin irritations that might have lifelong damaging effects. They also don’t come with a Money Back Gurantee.

Proctiv Solutions comes in a 30 day and 60 day Kits. Head over to the nearest Proactiv outlet near you, and purchase your own Proactiv Solutions skin care kit so you can start saying goodbye to your acne and enjoy a clear and radiant skin just like Naya Rivera.



For door to door delivery, dial (729-2222, 1-800-8-729-8888, 1-800-10-889-4444, 0917-801-8888).

OFWs, Are They Really Lucky?

Last week I was standing at the waiting area of NAIA Terminal 1 when my attention was caught by this family who obviously can’t seem to contain their excitement upon seeing a family member emerged from the airport. I can’t help but smile at the way they were shouting her name, Anna. An old lady, who clearly was Anna’s mom was even jumping with joy together with Anna’s nephews and nieces or children, while an old man, who I presumed was Anna’s dad, was wiping his tears with a hanky. If there were no metal barriers, I would have imagined them running and engulfing Anna in a tight big hug right then and there. But with the guards and the metal barriers restraining them, they just contended themselves with waving furiously and shouting her name over and over until she was finally with them. Anna I believed was one of the hundreds of OFWs arriving that day to be with their family.
Funny but after a few minutes, that scene was replaced by me and my family jumping with joy too as my sister came into view. Yes, she is part of that hundreds of OFWs arriving that day to spend a week with us. Though she only works in nearby Singapore, the reality of not seeing her everyday and not being with her whenever she is sick or lonely is really quite hard. It didn’t help that she is living there by herself since she doesn’t have a family of her own yet and is she sick of diabetes. I imagine that it is a lot worst for other families though whose husbands/fathers work in far away Middle Eastern countries that have much stricter employment policies than Singapore and can only go home after two years.
The difficult plight of our OFWs in foreign countries is not something new to us. We oftentimes hear in the news how some of them have fallen into the wrong hands of drug mules and were being used as drug traffickers. How some have become victims of sex slavery and abuse. And how some have been forced to sign contract substitutions by their foreign employers that make them easy victims of employment malpractices. Aside from these, there are of course safety and protection issues that they have to deal with everyday. Like the case of our OFWs in Syria who have been the center of repatriation efforts by the government lately due to continued violence in that country.
Working overseas as I imagined it is indeed difficult as it leaves our OFWs vulnerable to cruelty and mistreatment everyday. I remember how I sat in horror as I listened to one of my closest friends in college share how she was aggressively stalked by a Lebanese admirer and how she was emotionally bullied and harassed by the guy’s powerful family after she had him put in jail in Doha, Quatar. It took the intervention of the Philippine embassy there, who secretly brought her back to the Philippines, to put an end to her ordeal. My friend obviously had the good sense to seek the help of the Philippine embassy but it made me wonder, what about the others who had no means of escape and had no way of knowing where to go to seek help. I am sure there are many of them who have the same or even worst case than my friend who have not been reached by help yet.
My cousin also relayed once in email how she and her companion were brought to the dark dessert when they rode a taxi in Dubai, and how the taxi driver took all of their belongings and made them walk the dark way home. It left her traumatized and it got us thinking, thank God they were only held up, it could have been worst.
And there are of course those OFWs who get sick in these foreign countries as work stress takes a toll on their body. My sister’s diabetes became worst when she started working in Singapore five years ago. My cousin’s husband has been battling cancer for the past months now in Kuwait too. Not to forget also Alfredo Salmos who got electrocuted while performing his job in Saudi Arabia late last year. Though there’s no denying that these countries probably have more advanced medical treatment facilities, being sick in a country without your immediate family by your side and without the necessary financial means are clearly daunting.
Threats to employment, protection, safety, medical issues as well as loneliness, alienation, stress, these are just some of the things that our OFWs face everyday in their earnest desire to provide their family a better life. People often think that OFWs are lucky for having that opportunity to earn dollars as compared to the others who are left working here. But it makes me wonder, are they really? Would you call it luck when the ones left working here enjoys the comforts of being with their family, of working with people who comes from the same race as them, and of living in the safety of their own country? It’s not luck really if you think about it but more of perseverance and sacrifice, for they obviously have to give up a lot just to earn the dollars.

Bedazzle Accessories' Pinwheel Party

I like today because I had fun. I went to the Press Launch of iButterfly Asia this morning at SM North Edsa, The Block (will blog about it soon) and then attended my friend Cathy of Bedazzle Accessories’ Pinwheel Party in the afternoon. It wasn’t really a big party but more like an intimate gathering of some of her blogger friends to celebrate Bedazzle Accessories’ success for the past five years and Cathy’s upcoming birthday!

havin' fun

The Pinwheel Party was held at Cerealicious, University Mall in Taft Ave. It was my first time to dine in a Cerealicous restaurant that is why I was surprised to learn that they serve good pasta dishes as well.
yummy food

What made the Pinwheel Party super fun were the DIY stations that Cathy set up so we can try our hand in beading. It got all of us super engaged and excited. Now I understand why Cathy find happiness in creating wonderful bead accessories, it can be quite addicting.
bloggers at one of the DIY stations

beads!

Cathy's angels

my daughter Bianca beading

our arm candies from Bedazzle

Cathy is the type of person who likes to do something with her hands and her creativity is endless the way she always come up with new collections and designs.
handmade with love

Aside from creating fab accessories, she also conducts workshops. She is after all a teacher by heart. She will be having a felt workshop entitled, Felt Unlimited, on May 20 at Fully Booked BGC. The workshop promises to offer participants the chance to learn how to create fab accessories using felt cloths. To register, email Cathy at cat_limson@ yahoo.com or call her at 09213574735.

Cathy has come a long way from selling her stuffs online to having her own Bedazzle store at University Mall. And from the looks of it, there’s no stopping her. Like a Pinwheel that keeps on turning as the wind blows, she sure will continue to string happiness as long as there’s beads and girls who love all things beautiful.:)

Kumon: Readying Children For The Future

Last week, I was invited to the Press Launch of Kumon Philippines’ upcoming Education and Parenting Seminar which will be held on May 19, 2:00-4:30 pm at SM North Edsa, The Block. With this year’s theme, “Achievers of Today, Ready for the Future!” (How Parents Can Guide Their Children Amidst the Changing Landscape of the Philippine Education), Kumon aims to impart once again values and insights to parents and educators that will help them effectively support their children in achieving their full potential despite current changes in  Philippine education.

The press launch was held at Chateau 1771 at Greenbelt 5. Over sumptuous buffet and delicious dessert,  Mr. Tadashi Nakatsuka, President of Kumon Philippines and Ms. Inna Duller, Kumon Philippines’ Public Relations Leader, shared with us the  mission, vision and thrust of Kumon Philippines as well as how it can help students withstand the challenges of the K12 curiculum.

Chateau 1771

sumptuous buffet

delicious dessert
Ms. Inna Duller
Mr. Tadashi Nakatsuka
Kumon is not something new to me. In fact, I often hear it said and mentioned by my students and their parents.  But then it was only during the press launch that I fully grasp the extent of Kumon’s commitment in instilling the right values and discipline among children. Values and discipline that would help them develop their love for learning and in the process make them independent and responsible for their own studies.

In order to fully understand the Kumon Method, Ms. Inna Duller explained it  in the context of what KUMON stands for:
K.   Kindness Movement.
Kumon Method of Learning was founded by Mr. Toru Kumon. It  started when he decided to create arithmetic materials for his own child to help him improve on Arithmetic, the subject that he was struggling with. He designed original math problems that allowed his child to progress on his own and improve his math skills gradually. Through his method, his child discovered for himself his own abilities and gained confidence in his own capabilities. Mr. Toru Kumon was a firm believer of  the undiscovered potential and abilities of children that surpass even the expectations of adults.  He also believed  that what was possible for one child was possible for others too and so he set out to offer to others the opportunity to study with his Method.
U.  Understanding the child.
Kumon’s key factor is individualized instruction. Kumon believes that the key to individualized instruction is studying at the “just the right” level where at any time, with maximum effort, a student can progress on his own without being specifically taught. It aims to develop among children the joy of learning and of achieving something so the starting point of each Kumon student is determined individually at a level where they can attain a perfect score of 100 on their own. And from there, he would gradually progress until he reach his optimum level.
M.  Mastery of the basic skills.
O.   On their Own.
Kumon empowers, at first hand, the child to attain mastery of the basic skills needed in order to move to higher content. The worksheets are designed in such a way that a student progresses in small steps until he advance smoothly at the level appropriate for him. The examples and explanations provided encourages a student to self-learn and be independent.
N.   No Two Children Are Alike
Kumon sees each child as unique thus, the Kumon instructor observes each student’s study behaviors. Every Kumon Instructor’s primary concern is to ensure that the student experience over and over the sense of accomplishment and confidence that resulted from thinking through and solving problems independently. Careful observation of each child is done by every Kumon instructor in order to provide the appropriate instruction and proper guidance that each child needs.
Kumon’s Logo is a child’s thinking face because it represents the faces of children who learn, think and grow within KUMON Centers.

Since 1954, Kumon Method of Learning has been equipping children with important life skills needed to help them face challenges in the future proactively and with the right attitude. They have been instilling values of self -confidence, perseverance, positivity and independence among children. Values needed to make them ready for the future.
If you want to know more about the Kumon Method, you may visit them at this website. And if you want to know more about how you can help your child be ready for the future, you can join us on May 19 at SM North, The Block for Kumon Philippines Education and Parenting Seminar. The event is free of admission. It will be hosted by Ms. Chiqui Roa Puno. Come and listen as Mr.Henry Tenedero, an Education and Reform Advocate and President of the Center for Learning and Teaching Styles Philippines (CLTS, Phils.) talks about the different challenges in our education system and Ms. Susie Tsoi, Kumon Instructor of 10 years, gives helpful tips on how you can effectively guide your children in facing the current challenges in the educational system.

Mr. Henry Tenedero

Ms. Susie Tsoi

 
To register for the said event, email your complete name, mobile no., and general address to parentingseminar@kumon.ph or call 8850226.
See you there!

Best Snorkeling Sites in Coron, Palawan

Last week I had the chance to visit Palawan again, this time my friends and I explored the northern islands of Palawan. While Puerto Princesa left me in awe when I visited the place two years ago, Coron simply took my breath away. I have been reading much about the place from travel blogs but still, nothing compared to seeing it with your own eyes.  The sheer beauty of the different islands of Coron as we toured and explored them truly captivated us. The limestone cliffs and pristine white beaches are simply breathtaking and so are the coral gardens underneath the sea. There simply is a whole new world out there and I was glad that I was given the chance to see that world myself.

 



We set aside one whole day for our snorkeling activity. We went to three of the best places  to snorkel in Coron and made two fantastic stop overs in between.

First stop was Coral Garden in the vicinity of Atwayan Beach. Here you will find corals of different kinds as well as  whole schools of fish  in different shapes and colors. We had fun throwing in some bread so they can come near us.


 

Photos by Carmela Hernandez

 
Photo by Mildred Ravalo Yap

Second stop was the Skeleton Wreck where you can go about 5 miles deep into the sea to see the wreckage of a fishing boat that sunk during the 1940s. It looked kinda eerie down there so some of us  just contented ourselves with feeding the fish while others in our group had fun testing how far they can go deep by diving down the wreckage with the help of the bouy rope.
Skeleton Wreck


After Skeleton Wreck, we made a stop at Atwayan Beach for our lunch. It is actually a small beach, perfect as rest stop if you want to dock and eat in decent cottages in the middle of your snorkeling trip. There are a lot of these pocket beaches around Coron as I would later realize.
Atwayan Beach

 Before heading off to our third and last snorkeling site, we stopped by Twin Lagoon to check out this interesting site. On the way, we saw a lot of beautiful limestone formations. The Twin Lagoon are both accessible through this little hole on the cliff, an underwater tunnel. Since it was low tide when we reached the second lagoon, we were able to pass by the tunnel easily to go to the first lagoon. We had to get back though since the first lagoon is where the bancas usually stay. The water in the second lagoon was calm and tranquil so we were able to  enjoy a leisure swim around before we headed to our final snorkeling stop.


Twin Lagoon


Last stop for our snorkeling adventure was Twin Peak near the Barracuda Lake. This spot is much deeper and has more corals than the Coral Garden in Atwayan Beach. You have to be careful not to touch the corals or stand on the rocks though since sea urchins are all over the corals. There are a lot of different fish species here around too. Fish wise, this spot is much better than Coral Garden.
Twin Peak

Photos by Carmela Hernandez

Photo by Mildred Ravalo Yap

Photo by Mildred Ravalo Yap

It was my first time to snorkel that long, imagine a whole day. It was a great great experience. I was taken by the wonderful treasures that lie underneath the sea of Coron. It felt surreal being there, snorkeling there. I felt humbled, lucky, and blessed to be given this opportunity to see these wonderful sea creatures up close.


I know that come June, when I get back to the classroom and start teaching the natural resources of the Philippines to my class again, I will talk about it differently. I will be more passionate as I talk about preserving and conserving our natural resources. I will be more intense as I talk about safeguarding our waters against things that might destruct the marine life. For I swam with the fishes and paid homage to the corals. I bore witness to the beauty that God has blessed and entrusted us with. Coron definitely changed me.

Summer Lovin' With Footzy Shoes + A Giveaway

One of the things I am most crazy about is shoes–sandals to be exact. I get excited whenever I chance upon pretty and stylish sandals. I sure am a sucker for these feet candies especially when they come in pretty floral designs or cute candy colors. I like the way they make me look all girly, playful and fun.
Summer for me is the best time to bring out these shoe gems as sundress and beach wear are never the same without them. Somehow finding the perfect pair that fits you just right sets the tone of the whole fab summer experience.
If you haven’t found the perfect sandals for your wanderlust feet yet though, fret not, there sure is a pair of Footzy Shoes meant exactly for you. Made of unique fabric and excellently crafted to make you totally ready for those fun, fabulous summer escapades, Footzy Shoes sure is your summer best friend.

What I love about Footzy Shoes is that its screaming comfort fun with its simple yet elegant designs and bright summer colors. It will definitely not fail you I tell you. To date, it has two designs in its collection with a promise of more to come in the next few months.
I love the A Thong of Life (Thong Sandals) collection for its fabric straps which goes perfectly well with the tan leather. They will surely make any feet happy. Perfect for a moonlit stroll along the beach or a day of frolicking in the sun in your gorgeous print dress.




If you dig total wrap around like me though, Strap Way to Heaven is for you. It’s two toned colors will give you more room to experiment with outfits as you go on a casual summer date with hubby or a fun day or night out with friends.




Getting your own pair of Footzy Shoes is easy, simply log on to their website and fill out an order form there.  You can pay via BPI Savings Bank.  You have the option to have your footzy shoes shipped to you via XEND/LBC or meet up with Ms. Nikki Teves in Paseo Center.
And as a treat, Footzy Shoes is giving away five 500 pesos GCs to five lucky followers of Footzy Shoes and Blancnotes! Winners can use the GCs when they purchase their very own Footzy Shoes.

To qualify for the raffle, simply follow all four steps.
1. LIKE Footzy Shoes on facebook.
2. LIKE Blancnotes on facebook.
3. Share this giveaway on your facebook wall and tag two of your friends with the following message:
“@Footzy Shoes and @Blancnotes are giving away five  500 pesos Footzy Shoes GCs. Join now! @Friend1 and @Friend 2. Giveaway ends on May 5.”
Note: Make sure to set your account to public and tag Footzy Shoes, Blancnotes and your two friends properly.
4. Leave a comment on this blogpost using the format below:
“I am totally ready for a have a fab summer with Footzy Shoes!”
Your Name:
Facebook URL of your post:
Your Email address:
Important Reminders:
* This contest is open to Philippine residents only.
* This contest is from April 29 to May 5 (11:59 pm).
* For your entry to be valid, you have to follow all four steps
* Winner will be picked randomly using random.org.
Have a great summer with Footzy Shoes everyone!:)