Cebu, my hometown how I missed my birthplace, the city where I grew up till I left for Manila at the age of 17 years old to study at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.

I spent seven days in Cebu with my two girls to celebrate the Sinulog 2012 festival. If I remember right, this has been the longest I have ever stayed in Cebu since my wedding in May 1985. It was also the last time I watched the Sinulog with my dad who was then the over-all organize.

Bitter-sweet memories filled me as I visited every spot of the city. Each old spot held a memory so dear to me. Visiting Cebu for the past years meant burying two siblings, a father and even my precious child. Starting 2009, I made it a point to visit Cebu just because I wanted to reunite with friends. The thing is I managed to stay only for two to three days, never long enough to get used to new places. Everything looks different. The streets, the signages and the buildings. I get to recognize a street whenever a “deja vu” feeling overcomes me. I fire up my google maps just to discover the street name or my exact location.

Home for this trip was Radisson Blu. Our ancestral home was sold years ago when we could no longer keep up with the maintenance. My daughter wanted to explore Cebu so I brought her to the Sto. Nino Church, the Magellan Cross, my dad’s old office at the vacant Gotiaco building , the La Nueva Supermarket, Colon street . It was at this point when I wanted to find out a Ngo Hiong House. I tweeted. To my delight @maxlimpag suggested a Ngohiong near University of San Carlos – Main Campus. Someone else suggested Doming’s Ngohiong inside Fairlane Village in Guadalupe.

Max Limpag, a well known writer and blogger based in Cebu also suggested I take a short heritage walk in Paria-an to demonstrate the viewing of information through QR code scanning of selected tourism spots in Cebu. Smart and placed special markers on tourism and heritage sites in selected areas. More markers coming soon. These markers contain a snippet of information about the site and a QR code that, when scanned, will open an article about the landmark.

Just recently, Max informed me that an automated system displays the markers on an interactive map. The system is automated and all QR-related articles in the contain embedded geographic information so that they can be automatically displayed on the map.

I was excited to try it. In all my years in Cebu, I have never been to the Pari-an district or stayed long enough to know it was Pari-an. I first came across Pari-an from a book about my Veloso lineage during my twenties. My mom belonged to the large Veloso clan while my dad was a migrant from the Quezon province in the early 50’s.

My girls are often proud to say they are half-Cebuanos. As a teen, I used to think Manileños were “mayabang”. After living in Manila for 38 years, I have come to the conclusion that indeed Manileños tend to be “mayabang” because the national language is based on Tagalog. Oh I see it often in twitter…”Let’s speak Tagalog” forgetting that most of us Pinoys speak Bisaya.

(I digress)

I met up with Max at the Cebu Heritage monument at Barangay Parian, which was where the wealthy and influential Chinese mestizos lived during the Spanish period. As I scanned the QR Code with my Samsung Galaxy note, a web address leads to an article about the Parian monument.

An excerpt of the site describes the origins:

Conceptualized by multi-awarded sculptor Eduardo Castrillo, the mammoth structure depicts significant moments in Cebu’s history beginning with that fateful fight of April 21, 1521 in the island of Mactan where native chieftain Lapu-Lapu killed Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.

Devotion to the Señor Sto. Niño is one Cebuano trait depicted in the Heritage of Cebu Monument in Parian.
The monument also portrays as well the conversion of Rajah Humabon and his followers to Christianity, local revolution against Spanish rule, Cebuano veneration of Sto. Nino, and beatification of first Filipino saint Pedro Calungsod.

A few meters away from the Parian Monument is the old Parian Church , San Juan Bautista Parish Church, once Cebu’s most opulent church. Sadly, the church was destroyed for some reason. “It was torn down in the late 1870s during a conflict between the Pari-an community leader and a Spanish priest.”

Our next stop was the Yap-Sandiego Ancestral Home that “holds the distinction of being one of the oldest houses in the Philippines and possibly the oldest Chinese home outside of China.”

The house is lovely and quaint. Scanning the QR code brings you to the website, Yap-Sandiego ancestral home: Soul of old Cebu. “The house’s roof and walls are 95 percent original, according to Sandiego, making this edifice that he and his family continue to live in during weekends a little over 300 years old.”

Max told me about this mirror that “now adorns the second floor wall of the Sandiego ancestral home was used on several occasions by Negros native Pantaleon Villegas, better known as Leon Kilat, who led the revolution against the Spaniards in Cebu in 1898.”

Some of the things inside the home are not as old as the house. The current house owner, Val Sandiego “acquired ownership of the house in early 2000, did an expensive restoration work on the structure in 2003 and has since opened it and his antique collection to the public.”

I noticed that the owner seemed to put a lot of art work of their faces in most of the rooms.

I believe they are also the same Sandiego family that participated in Sinulog 2012 parade.

The house owner explains that ““in 1614, the church of Parian was built. Then after around 60 years later, the house was put up,” said Sandiego, who is a descendant of original owners Don Juan Yap and his wife Doña Maria Florido. The couple’s eldest daughter married Don Mariano Sandiego of Obando, Bulacan–who was then the cabeza de barangay (barangay chief during the Spanish colonial period) of Parian where the structure is located.”

And I never knew this house existed. Where were my History teachers?

The next stop was the Cebu Jesuit House just a few meters away. I later found out that a high school classmate used to live here in the early sixties.

Scanning the QR code leads you to 280 year old Jesuit House in Cebu.

Jaime Sy now owns the house with their Ho Tong Hardware within the compound. They bought it from the Alvarez family (owner of Montebello Villa Hotel) who had it since the late 19th century. Mr Sy ( to the left) is the architect in charge of the restoration. They had no idea at first that this was once owned by the Jesuits until one day, the owner read a library book in Ateneo.

Fr. William Repetti, S.J., a seismologist and archivist of the Jesuits, identified this old structure as the ““Jesuit House of 1730″ and pictures of his visit hang on its walls today. Repetti noted the existence of the house in his book published in 1936.

There is relief plaque bearing the date ““Año 1730” on the inside wall above the main house’s entrance door.

Sy believes the Jesuit house is even older than the Yap-Sandiego ancestral home because its second level, like the ground floor, is still made of coral stones.

A little bit of trivia from Mr. Sy. See that bed behind me? That is a Giatay bed. The word giatay (people who are condemned to eternal punishment) was derived from that bed which was originally crafted by a Chinese that sounded like “Gi Athai” . The word has since been associated with this bed and being sick.

Jaime Sy said he intends to preserve the Jesuit House, eventually transferring the bodega to another location.

Below the Jesuit House is the Sugbu gallery which is a must for those interested in Cebu history.

I am really glad Max took me to this short heritage tour along with my daughter. Now I know I can never forget Cebu. It is where my heart belongs. My two daughters even want to settle down in Cebu. In fact, one of my daughters booked another trip on April so she can travel with a friend.

There is still so much to discover about my roots. A tour guide can be quite helpful but sometimes the information get lost somewhere as one maybe too preoccupied with the sights and sounds. Scanning the QR codes is one way to retain that information. Kudos to Max Limpag for initiating this project. Max stressed that the project isn’t purely historical or heritage. ““Tourists can also get tips on how to get the most of their stay right at the tourist spot they are visiting.”

Thank you once again Max.

After I left the short heritage tour, my daughter and I hied off to the IT park. At first I was unable to recall what this place used to be. Then something rang inside my head “Lahug airport”. Oh I remember those days, my dad would bring me here just to romp around. I can’t recall now what we watched. Was it kite flying? I just remembered the wide space and just being with my siblings.

Now it is all buildings. Sad.

Next time, I visit Cebu, there will be more markers. There will be more things to discover about myself and the city that I grew up.

I am going home once again.

Yes I am one of over 50 million people all around the world who have fallen in love with the characters, the story and the music that make MAMMA MIA such a hit! It is (to me) the ultimate feel-good show. Cast members of the hit musical ““Mamma Mia!” will deliver a ““great” performance every single night of its four-week run in Manila which started January 24. I was lucky to get three tickets to the Partierre box for the Opening night at the Cultural Arts Center of the Philippines. (Thanks Tim Yap and Concertus) Good thing my husband and daughter were eager to watch it with me.

I was 19 years old at the time Dancing Queen became a hit in the seventies and I remember twirling around and around to the music. I loved the music!

This time around , writer Catherine Johnson’s creates a sunny, funny tale that unfolds on a Greek island paradise. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings 3 men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago. Since I knew the story from the Mama Mia movie in 2008 already, I found the musical a bit boring except when the ABBA songs were sung. There’s also something striking about watching a live musical that cannot be captured in film.

The show is definitely a feel-good story, a nostalgic trip to my free-spirited and dancing years.

The best part of the musical is the finale where all the cast members dance and sang. It felt like a mini- concert. The audience stood up and even danced along with the cast. That was so much fun. I wanted my husband to dance with me but he was too shy. My daughter wouldn’t let me either and I didn’t want to be a source of embarrassment. I looked around me and spotted much older women swaying their arms and shuffling their feet to the beat of the “Dancing Queen”.

Holding my husband’s hand, I pretended to sashay to and fro on an imaginary dance floor.

Mamma Mia evokes those warm and feel-good feeling that makes you want to jump up from your seat and dance along with the cast.

Expect a great night with a lot of glitter, a lot of glamour, and a lot of beautiful ABBA songs. When I left CCP , I felt like singing (and dancing) “Dancing Queen”, the theme song of my life…Having the time of my life.

You can dance
You can jive
Having the time of your life
See that girl
Watch that scene
Dig in the dancing queen

Check out ticket and show information of Mama Mia in Manila.

Some photos from Mama Mia website

One wish I have for my family is to travel together this year. It is a work in progress. It can be a bit of a challenge because my second daughter will be leaving for Australia next month to pursue her post graduate studies. Now if plans don’t push through for everyone of us to travel together, it is not a big deal. I can adjust. Maybe three out of four can travel at certain points in time.

Like I told you before, my SUPERWISH for my family is simple: good health and happiness. It is important for us to be connected. No matter where we are, communication is always there. Safety is my number one concern and I need to know how my family members are whether they are in or out of the Philippines.

What’s better than owning a BlackBerry especially since it has the BB Pin. Owning a BlackBerry powered by Globe Telecom’s My Super Plan, a nifty new offering that lets you build your own plan so you can enjoy unlimited calls, text messages, and mobile data! Three of my family members own Blackberry units bought at different times of the year . All I can say it is quite convenient with its QWERTY tactile keypad and BB Pin.

You too can take advantage of My Super Plan Family Combo because it is the perfect family postpaid plan. Imagine three devices under one bill.

How to get My Super Plan Family Combo?

Getting a My Super Plan on the BlackBerry is super easy. First, select from a range of ““unli” services – unlimited text messaging to all networks or unlimited calls to landline numbers, to name a few. Then pick your BlackBerry data service, which starts at only P99 for unlimited access to BlackBerry Messenger, or P299 for unlimited access to Twitter, Facebook, and instant messaging, and unlimited surfing with access to your social networks for P599 a month. The combinations of unli plans are endless, so you can design one that suits your digital needs. When you’re done choosing, you get a BlackBerry Curve 8520 for free!

You can still enjoy the My Super Plan and BlackBerry promo with the My Super Plan 499 and Family Combo. Simply add the P99/month BlackBerry service to your My Super Plan 499, and you get the BlackBerry Curve 8520 for free! The same goes for the Family Combo, Globe’s customizable group post-paid plan. Just add the BlackBerry service to your three lines and three unli services, and everyone in the family can enjoy their new free BlackBerry Curve 8520 devices.

The great thing about the My Super Plan is that it’s very flexible. You can change the unli services each month to suit your needs. So if you find the BlackBerry more useful for Twitter and Facebook rather than surfing, you can downgrade from paying P599 a month to just P299.

As a postpaid user of Globe Telecom for the past thirteen years, this is the first time I am seeing such a great plan for the family and Blackberry at that. With My Super Plan Family Combo, I feel it is is the perfect plan that suits my wish to communicate good health and happiness 24/7.

Kung Hei Fat Choi !

Kiong Hee Huat Tsai!

Congratulations and wishing you prosperity!

It never occurred to me that 2012 is the sign of the water dragon. They say everything relating to water will bring me luck in the New Year.

And I did I just that during my seven day vacation in Cebu.

There I was lounging on the couch of the Island Banca Cruise boat as my two daughters took a nap behind me.

“To find the way, close your eyes, listen closely, and attend with your heart.” It was my “me” moment.

I was by my lonesome self just enjoying the wind and the lapping of the waves when soon my daughter took notice of my position and joined me.

I love these quiet moments. To truly hear you must quiet the mind.

Of course, the water dragon escaped me at that moment when we were on the boat. What is in store for me in 2012?

It is not that I am into Feng Hsui. I believe in charting my own destiny yet I am always curious what the Chinese have to say.

Joseph Chau, a geomancy expert from Hong Kong declares that the year 2012 will be a transformative year which means it will be a better year than last year. I wonder if that includes the Philippine economy. He adds that “whether it be in business or your love life, expect no small change from the Year of the Water Dragon, also called the Celestial Dragon if you happen to come from northern China. However you call it, expect bigger developments.”

One must be ready to adapt to changing game rules. Innovation will be a key word this year. And therein lies the challenge: will it be a transformative year for richer, for better or for worse, and how do we innovate to achieve the better?

I LOVE challenges and am always willing to innovate or transform, whatever the key word is for 2012.

How do I innovate? I listed a few in my day-to-day goals for 2012. Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As I go doing about my business, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one.

I am an infinite work in progress.

““Any revolution has to start with the transformation of the individual, otherwise individuals are corrupted by the power they get if their revolution succeeds.” Wes Nisker

Forecast 2012 for the Year of the Water Dragon

Is there a perfect plan? Maybe but sometimes things don’t go as planned. It is one lesson I have learned when making travel plans. It was Lao Tzu that said ““a good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

When my daughter made plans to take a short vacation back to the Philippines,I started to create travel itineraries for Cebu and Baguio. It’s been my SUPERWISH to travel together once again as a family, after all my second daughter has been away for a year now. Baguio is my husband’s place of birth while it is Cebu for me. Visiting our birthplaces is something I want my daughters to experience once again. They used to visit Cebu and Baguio as kids but this time around, they are adults. Since my father-in-law turned 80 this month , a reunion was planned way ahead of time for Baguio on the first week of January. Sadly, my eldest daughter got the flu and didn’t want to travel to Baguio as she recuperated. It was more important that my daughter recovered quickly than insist that she travel along with us. Her grandfather would understand.

It was just my husband, my second daughter and myself. My father in law’s birthday celebration brought a lot of good cheers and laughter among the family members. The cold Baguio air added a more holiday feeling to our vacation as we warmed ourselves by the fire. I was missing my eldest daughter yet it has always been my wish that my family members are well. We can always travel some other time. There was Cebu.

Our Cebu vacation was planned by my second daughter. Much as I wanted my husband to join us for the Sinulog Celebration, I was unable to book a ticket for the weekend. This time around, it was just me and my two daughters. Our plan to travel as a complete family fell through again but it was still no big deal.

My two daughters do not really know Cebu , my hometown. The last time we stayed here for a long vacation was when they were toddlers. Sinulog is also something they have never experienced. In fact, the last time I experienced the Sinulog was twenty seven years ago when dad was one of the organizers. I made sure to get them photo IDs to capture the festivities. It was overwhelming to see the huge crowds that gravitated to Cebu. Never have I seen so many people in Cebu. I explained to my daughter that Sinulog festival is recent but the “Sinulog dance” existed a long time ago.

Visiting the Sto. Nino Church, I showed the woman vendor selling candles offering prayers to the Sto. Nino. The vendor does the traditional version of the dance when lighting a candle with a prayer. I asked the woman for prayers for my family. As I watched her dance, all I could think of is my wish that my family is healthy and well.

Check this video that I took of the prayer-dance.

With a little help from Wikipedia, I found the origins of this dance.

The Sinulog dance steps are believed to originate from Rajah Humabon’s adviser, Baladhay. It was during Humabon’s grief when Baladhay was driven sick. Humabon ordered his native tribe to bring Baladhay into a room where the Santo Niño was enthroned, along with the other pagan gods of the native Cebuanos. After a few days passed, Baladhay was heard shouting and was found dancing with utmost alertness. Baladhay was questioned as to why was he awake and shouting. Pointing to the image of the Santo Niño, Baladhay explained that he had found on top of him a small child trying to wake him and tickling him with the midrib of the coconut. Greatly astonished, he scared the child away by shouting. The little child got up and started making fun of Baladhay. In turn, Baladhay danced with the little child and explained that he was dancing the movements of the river. To this day, the two-steps forward, one-step backward movement is still used by Santo Niño devotees who believe that it was the Santo Niño’s choice to have Baladhay dance.

It was fascinating to watch .

The prayer dance is so paganistic despite the Catholic origins of the Sto Nino but I believe it is faith too.

As I reflect on our two vacations this month, it may not seem perfect but what is most important to me? True, I still wish to pursue travel plans this year with my family. Now if it doesn’t push through, it is not a big deal. I can adjust. I’d rather get up in the morning, knowing they are happy and well.

My SUPERWISH for my family is love, good health and happiness.

“FUN is a very simple word that everyone in the world understands.” Secretary Jimenez

My husband and I hied off to Boracay last Summer. We had so much fun. It was just the two of us having fun. Our children are all grown up and it gives us the chance to travel places in and out of the Philippines. Just the two of us makes it even more enjoyable as we venture out to new places in the Philippines. I have been to Boracay alone but never with my husband. Lounging by my chair and enjoying the soft cool breeze , I spot him strolling along the shoreline of the white sandy beach. Walking barefoot on this powdery white is therapeutic.

Just the two of us, strolling and letting our feet enjoy and sink into the fine white sand as our eyes feasted on the crystal blue ocean and the coastline of the other island. So much fun to be together in a beautiful place.

When my siblings visit me here, I hear the words “oh it was so much fun.”

Department of Tourism announcement of the slogan “It’s more Fun in the Philippines” last Friday felt true. What is even remarkable is that the campaign slogan is we are all part of the campaign. You and me define the true meaning of fun and happiness. It does not mean closing our eyes to the sad realities of the Philippines. It does not mean that our government shouldn’t fix our airports, the infrastructure and other support systems. There is nothing wrong about the showing truth. There is nothing wrong about highlighting what is GREAT in our country.

“It’s more Fun in the Philippines” works especially when you know how to balance work and fun. When you know how to be part of the solution

The Filipinos are already known around the world to be one of the happiest and warmest people on earth. The campaign hopes to enjoin the whole country in creating positive buzz of the tagline. We can fix the negatives and focus on our positives. There’s more than 7,107 awesome reasons to love the Philippines, so my friend Ryan says.

I support it because I travel a lot and know how to have fun. “It’s more Fun in The Philippines” works especially when you know how to balance work and fun. When you know how to be part of the solution

The response of most netizens have been overwhelming and enthusiastic that creative ways of showing how #itsmorefuninthePhilippines are being displayed here.

You can also do it like my image above. Try the (If you have photoshop skills, check out Jayvee’s How to make your own ““It’s More Fun in the Philippines” Meme.

What about you? How can you make the new Philippine slogan work?

How can one be involved?

To Join in the Campaign, just tweet about things that are more FUN in the Philippines and tag it with #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines #1ForFun

Be part of the solution. It is up to Filipinos themselves to defend and make the campaign true.

A rape victim describes it…as ” something that happens to other people. We read about it in the newspaper, see reports of it on the TV, but once read or seen we move onto the next item of news. We dismiss it, forget about it. Yes, at the time of reading it or seeing it we may think “oh how awful” or “poor thing” but because it isn’t happening to us we can’t even begin to understand how it must affect someone’s else’s life, so it is easier to just dismiss it as just another tragic event. It happens.”

It happened to an extended family member.

ACV (let’s call her ACV), the wife of my nephew (the son of my paternal first cousin) is beautiful. Being sweethearts for three years, they decided to get married last year. Now with a two month old baby, they moved to a new place in San Pablo on January 1 this year. The year must be so promising as they chose January 1 as the move-in date. The transfer made sense since it is closer to their work. On their second day, A went outside their subdivision to buy cellphone load . It was only 8:00 PM. My nephew got worried when his wife did not return home. He could not leave their two-month old baby so called my uncle and aunt to help look for his wife. They arrived at 1:00 AM and started their search.

At 7:00 AM, my cousin (the uncle of my nephew) found A’s naked body in a vacant lot just 10 steps away from their home. I cannot begin to imagine the horror on my relatives’ faces.

Reading the news in the Inquirer website is even surreal. Rape is something I only watch on TV or read in the news.

“CAMP PACIANO RIZAL, Laguna, Philippines’ woman was found dead in a vacant lot in San Pablo City, Laguna, the police said Wednesday.

In a phone interview, De Castro said …. was last seen Monday evening when she left their apartment in Green Valley Subdivision in Barangay San Francisco to buy load credits for her cell phone.

At around 7 a.m. on Tuesday, a relative found the victim’s body dumped in a vacant lot inside the subdivision.

De Castro said … body bore bruises in the chest and head which may have been inflicted using a blunt object.

He said the victim was also found naked, leading police to suspect she was raped…

Police were conducting an investigation to find a suspect in the killing.”

I visited ACV yesterday. Speechless. Devastated. Horrified. No words.

Her chest bones were broken and her death was caused by the internal injuries. The criminals meant to kill her. I think two criminals were involved here.

In Philippine society, rape is a heinous crime but only punishable by reclusion perpetua, and not life imprisonment. Reclusion perpetua is prison for 20 to 40 years. There are still no suspects but A’s father told me they will certainly pursue a case.

Will ACV ever get justice? Will she be another statistic of unresolved crimes?

I will see what I can do to help. This blog post is a start.

““Hope never abandons you; you abandon it” George Weinberg

hopeThe new year always promises hope for all of us. Hoping for something is personal to us. Aside from being the project editor for (a Citizen advocates’ site), I hope for many things on a personal level to keep me on track for 2013.

1. I hope to continue my healthy lifestyle and keep my weight to my ideal limit (not beyond 125 pounds). A relaxed and productive mind starts with a healthy body so being fit and right is my number 1 priority. I need to take care of myself first and foremost, and the rest follows.

2. I hope for clarity.

When I am caught in the midst of an experience, it is easy to forget that there is a Plan. Sometimes all I can see is today. I hope for a perspective whenever I undergo confusing, difficult learning times.

3. I hope for balance.

Sometimes I can get too obsessed with work because I love it so much. I need to seek balance. Balance emotions with reason. Balance giving with receiving. Alternate work with play, business with personal activities. Juggle responsibilities to others with responsibilities to ourselves.


4. I hope for courage.

I need lots of courage for the upcoming May 2013 elections. It can get tiring to monitor the candidates and the #epalwatch. Whenever I get compliments from my work, I often thank the person and say that I am a work in progress. I know as a project head, I need to know the way and show the way. I am constantly learning by researching and being open to new ideas as well as old and tired ideas. My courage comes from my passion to make a difference in this world and I call upon God to help me go through the day. I am aware that courage won’t be a loud roar at every step of the way. With each step I take, I know I will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.

I know that sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day telling me, “I will try again tomorrow.”

5. I hope for change.

I am doing my part as a citizen of the Philippines with the new media initiative for Elections 2013. When I talk of change, it means moving in the right direction. Change starts in us. I hope that more voters select their candidates based on informed choices and not on popularity alone. I hope they take it upon themselves to study Five ways to make a difference in the 2013 Elections.

Spread the word that voting criteria should consider a candidate’s coherent platform, clear vision, character, competency

I know I can’t control actions of people, places and things so I can only hope for the best.

That change starts in me. I will continue to be empowered and to learn more about the intricacies of the Philippine Electoral system.

Let’s all hope for the best in 2013. Sometimes things do not look too optimistic and we often feel helpless.

When you do nothing, you feel overwhelmed and powerless. But when you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment that comes from knowing you are working to make things better.

As Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.