WHAT if you could work from a cozy cabin in the forest, where nature’s beauty and tranquility surround you? You could listen to the soothing sounds of birdsong and the breeze as you focus on your tasks. Imagine the possibilities: a cozy desk, a fast internet connection and a hot mug of coffee. Well, that’s my life now when I am at my coffee farm.

Thanks to Starlink, a satellite-based internet service, underserved regions can now enjoy high-speed broadband connections. This innovative technology has transformed my workspace. In the past, I had no choice but to rely on Globe or Smart mobile data tethered to a pocket Wi-Fi, which was far from ideal in the heart of the forest. Previously, sending this column required a trek to the windy side of the ridge, bundled in warm clothes or waking up at dawn.

Initially, I was unsure if Starlink would work in a forest-surrounded location. However, I stumbled upon a YouTube video titled “Will Starlink Work in a Forest?” by a content creator named ttthefineprinttt. His answer was a combination of “yes” and “no,” depending on the user’s intentions. He explained these speeds are excellent for remote work, uploading and downloading files, but might not be the best option for livestreaming, video calls or playing video games because of obstructions.

My home is situated across a meadow, surrounded by thick pine trees, so I ordered a 150-foot cable to reach a spot with fewer obstructions. Understanding the importance of having a clear view of the sky to connect to satellites, I used the Starlink app to check obstructions and identify the best location for the Starlink dish or “dishy.”

Starlink provides users with an estimated score, showing whether their view is obstructed and where the obstruction (north, south, west, or east) originates. Average obstruction scores for my dishy’s location ranged from 3 to 7 percent, with a Starlink notification to expect interruptions every 3 minutes.

After using Starlink for several days, I experienced 11 minutes of obstruction across 12 hours of use. Obstructions lasted 2 to 10 seconds, not significantly affecting my internet usage. Despite these limitations, browsing has become faster. I can even watch Netflix and YouTube videos without disruption, which never happened with a mobile data connection. My husband reported that the NBA app was working intermittently. FaceTime calls with my siblings would sometimes drop out, but they would always reconnect quickly. Such minor annoyance didn’t affect the overall quality of the service.

While using the built-in speed test app, results showed the Wi-Fi speed at 150-250 Mbps download and 16-49 Mbps upload. Latency can reach as high as 226 milliseconds (ms). Even the fast.com app, powered by Netflix, displays the same Wi-Fi speed range.

Wilson Chua, one of the founders of BASS (Bandwidth And Signal Strength monitoring tool), informed me that Starlink’s median speed is 17 Mbps as of April 24, 2023. The speed of Starlink is limited when it involves local content.

Source: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectBassApp/photos/a.183920585450436/1544396752736139/?type=3&mibextid=cr9u03

Chua explained that this speed is because the ground station is in Japan, and their Philippine station in Pampanga is not yet activated. Data reveals Starlink is much faster than Kacific Broadband Satellites Pte (7.5 Mbps). The median Wi-Fi speed surpasses that of Smart (15 Mbps), DITO (12 Mbps) and Globe (6 Mbps). Smart displays a median speed of 15 Mbps, but I don’t experience it here from the meadow. Only the mountain ridge or waking up at 4 a.m. allows me to experience Smart’s median speed.

BASS (projectbass.org) aims to compile actionable data that will be used to improve the state of local internet quality in the Philippines. Some Starlink users from as far as Batanes to Tawi-Tawi provide data to the BASS app.

To accurately represent the Starlink speed, a higher number of records are needed. The BASS app is a free app that can be downloaded from their website, and measures your Starlink or carrier’s bandwidth and signal strength.

Considering the limitations and occasional obstructions, the overall improvement in internet accessibility has been nothing short of remarkable. This groundbreaking solution holds the promise of dramatically improving the lives of many people living in rural areas by offering them dependable internet connections and a wealth of opportunities.

First published at The Manila Times, April 30, 2023.

Being a mother to young children in the mid-1990s, I witnessed how the internet could be a powerful tool for my children to connect, explore, learn and engage in creative and empowering ways. The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of the Child in General Comment 25, adopted in 2021, emphasized the importance of the digital environment to children’s lives and rights. Spending time online, as stressed in the General Comment, brings unacceptable risks and threats of harm, some of which children also come across in other environments and some of which are unique to the online situation.

In 2020, about 2 million children in the Philippines were exposed to content that was inappropriate. The report “Disrupting harm in the Philippines: Evidence on online child sexual exploitation and abuse” indicated that 1 in 5 children in the Philippines ages 12 to 17 encountered child sexual abuse material while using the internet.

According to Disrupting Harm household survey data, 20 percent of internet-using children ages 12 to 17 in the Philippines were victims of grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse. Such abuse consists of being “blackmailed to engage in sexual activities, someone sharing their sexual images without permission, or being coerced to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts.” Children were most commonly subjected to Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children via social media. Online child sexual exploitation and abuse (Ocsea) “refers to situations involving digital, internet and communication technologies at some point during the continuum of abuse or exploitation. Ocsea could occur fully online or through a mix of online and in-person interactions between offenders and children.”

Several promising awareness-raising initiatives in the Philippines touch on Ocsea, such as #BeCyberSafe by the Department of Education; the Child Protection Seminar initiative with internet café and computer shop owners, or the annual Safer Internet Day, among others. The report added that “these initiatives reflect a commitment by the Philippines Government and other stakeholders to improve the visibility of these crimes against children.

However, comprehensive evaluations of these campaigns are needed to measure their effectiveness.” One stakeholder is the partnership of Palo Alto Networks (Nasdaq: PANW), the global cybersecurity leader, with PLDT Inc. and its wireless unit, Smart Communications Inc. The objective is to strengthen the two telcos’ Child Protection Platform and enable a safer online experience for children. Over 1 billion attempts to access URLs with child sexual abuse material (CSAM) have been blocked by the platform since November 2021. Their Child Protection Platform is a cybersecurity solution developed to address the CSAM problems by blocking illegal traffic at the content level, which then restricts access to CSAMs that have found their way into legitimate domains. Palo Alto Network Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFWs) and Cloud-Delivered Security Services including Threat Prevention, Advanced URL Filtering and WildFire scrutinize the content and convert URLs for redirection if CSAM-related traffic is found.

PLDT and Smart have also joined peers and other stakeholders from the private and government sectors in calling for the immediate passage of the Anti-OSAEC bill. The proposed law would institutionalize the taking down of websites that stream or host CSAM, as well as impose stiffer penalties against parties involved in child abuse cases.

Meanwhile, caregivers, teachers and social support services should be proactive. Understand what their children are doing both online and offline. Among children who experienced Ocsea on social media, the most common platforms took place on Facebook or Facebook Messenger, accounting for over 90 percent of cases. To a much lesser degree, other platforms cited were TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Among the insights presented, is to foster safe and ongoing communication between children and trusted adults about their lives online. Another is to ensure that responses to disclosures of Ocsea always convey that it is never the child’s fault, whatever choices they have made. Most of all, children should be informed about their right to be protected from all forms of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse and exploitation.

The report “Disrupting harm in the Philippines: Evidence on online child sexual exploitation and abuse,” published by the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Ecpat, Interpol and Unicef (2022), can be downloaded from https://www.end-violence.org/sites/default/files/2022-04/DH_Philippines_ONLINE_FINAL.pdf

First published at theo. August 7, 2022

I have a confession to make. In 2016, Ayoko Kay leni Robredo because Dilawan siya. But I got to interview her with my fellow bloggers for almost 2 hours . In our interview she said she had plans for anti poverty program.

At ginawa talaga niya. Angat Buhay started in October 2016. Mas lalo ako bilib sa kanya.

Angat Buhay is her anti poverty program under the Office of the Vice President.

As of December 2021, the OVP, through Angat Buhay, has partnered with 372 organizations mobilizing a total of P520 million worth of resources to assist 321,001 families and 305,223 individuals in 223 communities nationwide.

Some of the projects under the program are the Angat Buhay villages in Bicol and Marawi, medical assistance, and the construction of health centers and classrooms, among others. Imagine if she is president. She will make ANGAT Buhay lahat even bigger.

Two out of many reasons “Why Leni”. If president , she will push for a bill for a P100 billion stimulus package for MSMEs to help rebuild our economy while also making sure people don’t lose their jobs. Meron din balak ng Unemployment Insurance Program where you will get 80% of 3 months worth of their previous salary . This is what I will campaign when asked about her concrete plans.

Marami nag sabi wala siyang ginawa. I only knew of her achievements last year. Hindi siya epal. Her weakness and strength is she didn’t want to publicize her achievements. At that time, she had no intentions to run for President. She just kept on working.

These are her achievements

1. P503 Million COVID-19 Response.
2. P58.84 Million Testing Kits.
3. P64.70 Million PPES.
4. P43.98 Million Dormitories for Frontliners.
5. P35.60 Million Disaster Relief Operations.
6. P20.43 Million Gadgets for students.
7. P17.28 Million locally funded projects.
8. P14 Million Hot meals for Health workers.
9. P2.5 Million support towards employees exposed to COVID-10.
10. P1.4 Million Hazard Pay for regular employees.
11. P817,000 Hazard Pay for the contract of service employees.
12. P249,500 Hazard Pay for contractual employees.
13. 23,345 Frontliners served through Vaccine Express, Cab Swab, Free Shuttle.
14. Community Mart sa Quezon City at Pasig para sa mga small-time market vendors
at tricycle drivers na naapektuhan ng pandemya.
15. Vaccine Express initiative that inoculated 500 Aetas in Barangay Sta. Juliana.
16. Leni backed the passage into law of the Unemployment Insurance Bill that will create an unemployment insurance system to protect Filipinos who have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

17. P12.3 Billion total value of given help to families.
18. P42.17 Million worth of help given to communities.
19. P12.80 Million contribution towards transitory shelters and shelter kits for Marawi
20. P207,244 or 1,022 individuals given relief ops.
21. P23.86 Million from the VP fund was shelled out for the victims of the Taal
Volcano, Typhoon Quinta, Super Typhoon Rolly, and Typhoon Ulysses.
22. P8.841 Million donations were collected for the Taal eruption.
23. P2.360 Million donations were collected for Typhoons.
24. 12,489 families’ homes were repaired due to disaster-related damages.
25. 92,600 Light Bulbs given to homes in Metro Manila.
26. 3,776+ Households have been given electricity through the OVP’s Angat Buhay.
27. Assistance to at least 11 towns in Batangas, 1 in Cavite after the volcanic eruption, reaching at least 22.047 families in the two provinces.
28. 87 municipalities across 11 provinces were given aid that reached at least 56,148 families after the typhoons.
29. The OVP turned over pet supplies donated by different organizations to the
Philippine Animal Rescue Team. This is to help in taking care of around 600 animals.
30. Leni has proposed the construction of stronger evacuation centers that not only
will withstand natural calamities but will also accommodate pets and livestock.
31. Leni wants to strengthen the rescue capabilities of barangay officials.
32. In 2020, Leni together with the OVP’s partner-agencies provided boats for Aurora fisherfolk affected by typhoons.
33. After the Typhoon Ulysses calamity, Leni says that climate change should be taken seriously.
34. Leni recognizes that there is a “global climate emergency,” and values conversations on the issue. She supports instructional changes towards fossil fuel

35. Leni was a practicing lawyer who focused on cases involving the marginalized sector.
36. P441.14 Million worth of resources mobilized through the OVP’s Angat Buhay with 330 partnered organizations.
37.341,779 families helped or 221,122 individuals in 381 communities nationwide
through the OVP’s Angat Buhay.
38. P8.93 Million worth of projects, farm inputs, livestock, development and training
wherein 127 individuals and 18 accredited Civil Society Organizations were assisted.

39. P122.96 Million worth of Educational infrastructure built.
40. P8.27 Million worth of School kits.
41. P4.49 Million worth of Scholarships and technical training.
42. P19.75 Million appraised value of gadgets and items raised via Kaya Natin donation drive for Bayanihan E-skwela, Community learning hubs, instructional videos for
teachers and parents.
43. Leni wants SPED centers in all public schools.
44. Noong siya ay Housing Chief, she pushed to build communities that are friendly to persons with disabilities.
45. The OVP partnered with USAID and PBEd to provide free technical-vocational skills and employability training for over 1,000 unemployed and out-of-school Filipino youth.

46. Principal Author of HB 19 or the Full Disclosure Bill.
47. Principal Author of HB 3905 or the Participatory Budget Process Bill.
48. Principal Author of HB 4911 or the People Empowerment Bill.
49. Co-author of HB 3432 or the Comprehensive Anti-Discrimination Bill.
50. Co-author of HB 3587 or the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill.

It has nothing to do with age. I was in my early 60s when I embarked on my journey as a coffee producer. Knowing nothing about coffee production , I was able to overcome my insecurities by just doing it. It’s never too late to start something out of your comfort zone.

Women have long fought for equality and while the road has often been filled with ups and downs, stories of women finding strength within themselves and using it to help other women find theirs has always been at the forefront of the journey towards women empowerment.

This Women’s Month, YouTube celebrated women content creators who were able to break the bias and chart their own journeys of equality in an online event titled Breaking the Bias: Online and beyond on March 30.

“The theme for this year’s Women’s Month is ‘Break The Bias’ which resonates so much with me. I myself experienced this. I felt that I had to break the biases that are attached to being a woman back in the day when I was just starting in the tech industry,” said Bernadette Nacario, Google Philippines Country Director.

“I believe that in order for us to break the bias, one of the steps we have to take is to  ‘Ask Her First’. The simple habit of asking, rather than assuming, can lead more women to realizing their full potential and succeeding in what they choose to do,” Nacario added. 

Hosted by Nikki Gil-Albert, the event highlighted the challenges women face–from body-shaming to dealing with disabilities–how they rose above it and how they encourage others to do the same.

Breaking biases online and offline

“Growing up, the beauty standard was all about being sexy and in order to be sexy, you needed to go on a diet. As a plus-size woman, I did not fit those standards,” said Helen Payawal of Helen On Fleek.

Helen On Fleek

Helen is a beauty and lifestyle content creator who runs her own clothing and swimwear line. When she became a content creator, she revealed that she often came across comments about her size and how “it’s embarrassing” seeing a person like her wearing swimsuits.

That didn’t stop her from doing what she loves–vlogging and traveling–and if that didn’t stop her, her “curvybabes” shouldn’t either.

“A lot of us felt insecure growing up. But there’s this one quote that a friend shared to me that I will never forget — ‘Be someone who you needed when you were younger,’” she said. “I want to be someone who can inspire my fellow plus-size women that once you get over the shyness and what people would think about you because you are different, you will be limitless. At the end of the day, it’s your happiness that matters.”

For Jozelle Tech, a content creator and CEO of her own brand creative consulting firm The Rolling Media, living as a differently-abled person sometimes has challenges beyond the disability itself. 

“Living as a physically-challenged person, people are prone to assumptions: that I would need help or that I won’t be able to do certain things,” Jozelle said.

Jozelle Tech

Jozelle was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses a wheelchair to move around. This has led to many instances of people talking over her or asking her companion about her instead of directly asking her.

“They think I can’t handle the conversation on my own. The crazy thing about this is I’m right in front of them,” she explained. “By approaching my companion first, I’d feel like you see me as someone unequal or incapable.”

“This is why it’s very important to educate people about the right approach or way of asking questions. Sometimes comments like ‘can you do that’ can do more harm than good,” Nikki pointed out.

This is why Jozelle, through her YouTube channel, seeks not only to inspire others like her into following their passions but also helping people to change how they treat differently-abled people.

Building a world of strong, confident women

As a Muslim Filipina, Egypa Balindong felt that while being a woman is struggle enough, being a young Muslim woman and a minority is an even bigger struggle.

“People will always question your talent, capacity, and credibility and they will discredit your achievements just because you’re a woman,” Egypa said.

She was able to turn these challenges into opportunities as the filmmaker used her YouTube channel to show her life as a Maranao, as a Muslim, and most of all, as an empowered woman.

Egypa Balindong

“I had to be brave enough to educate people about my culture and religion. By simply sharing my daily life with my friends and family, I was able to make people see that we are not different,” she said.

The world has come a long way but there is still more that needs to be done, especially when it comes to creating a world where women are empowered.

Mothers like Arra Solis (Rookie Mommy PHplay a major role in that regard. As mother to her young daughter and as a businesswoman, she has taken it upon herself to set an example that a woman can do anything she sets her mind on doing.

Before being a work-from-home mom and entrepreneur, Arra used to have a regular office job. She recalled that one of the difficulties she faced was being passed over when it comes to leadership positions or having decisions made for her.

“I was never really asked first if I wanted to do something or if I’m able to do it. This is when I learned to speak up and have people listen,” she explained before adding that she wishes her daughter would grow up in a world where such challenges are no more.

“I’m hoping that we get to a place where gender, skin color, religion, etc will not hinder her from getting the career path she wanted, may it be to take on a leadership role in a company or to start a business,” she added.

Learn more about how to #AskHerFist and #BreakTheBias to create a more inclusive place for women. Listen to their stories on the Google Philippines YouTube and Facebook pages. 

There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

Listen to my podcast.

A few Christmases ago, I received an email from my husband about how he suddenly felt pangs of holiday blues hitting him once again. For the past years, the Christmas season has been a dreaded holiday for my husband. When he is in that mood, he can’t stand those Christmas carols, bombarding him from the car stereo, malls, restaurants and even in our own home. Like most of us, the holidays bring pleasant memories, laughter, family togetherness, the element of surprise, and lots of holiday cheer. Holiday blues hit those wishing to recapture feelings associated with past , real or fantasized past holidays.

I know my husband is not alone and thought of some of you who may feel the holiday blues.

Who gets affected by the holiday blues?

  1. Victims of disaster areas. For instance, those who lost their homes and work because of Typhoon Odette.

    Photo source: Twitter account of VP Leni Robredo. Scene is from Cebu

2. Families of overseas workers. They see other happy families who are together on Christmas day and wonder when they will be all together one Christmas day. The song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas is a classic for all those living from a distance.

3. Soldiers, doctors, nurses and medical staff who have to work on Christmas day.

4. Those who have recently lost a loved one.

5. Couples who are estranged or are apart during the holidays. Now we know where the song, Pasko na Sinta ko is dedicated to.

6. Individuals who are single and lonely and see other couples so sweet and cuddly as they walk past them.

7. Those who experience financial pressures on the holidays including purchase of gifts, clothes and party items.

8. Those who experience unrealistic expectations from friends, church or work associates to take part in seasonal activities outside of your normal routine.

9. Those who feel conflicting family expectations and demands that create guilt and resentment.

and many more who are separated from loved ones, because of death, distance and illness.

My beloved son, Luijoe and my two girls

That night I gave my husband a hug as we cuddled in bed , then told him that I have been writing the Holiday Blues and Coping and Surviving Christmas on the month of December for the past years. I fired up my browser and read those two entries to him. He smiled. “your entries are still relevant even if it is old”. What caught his attention is this portion:

You or your loved one might have a temporary spell of the blues without knowing it. There is nothing abnormal about having the “holiday blues,” which are more like a mood than any sort of lasting condition. Depression, anxiety, and other psychological symptoms are associated with the holidays because this season brings back memories of a happier time in our lives.

Then we talked of our progress the past years, especially in creating new holiday traditions, one of which was to start and take part in comforting other families in grief and even starting this blog.

I continued to cradle my husband in my arms. As I droned on and on, I suddenly heard unearthly sounds of his snoring. He must have felt some bit of comfort knowing that this too shall pass.

Not that I don’t miss my son or feel any holiday blues. I feel the pangs now and then and tears fall. I just say to myself, “this will pass. Go with the flow”. December 5 was my dad’s 13th death anniversary and I feel a tug in my heart but I also recall his booming laughter that never fails to lift my spirits.

Yes, despite the blues, it is still possible to sing ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la.

How you can beat the blues?

First, How will you recognize you have the blues?

holiday bluesHow will you recognize you have the blues?

  • Headaches
  • An inability to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Changes in appetite that cause either weight loss or gain
  • Agitation and anxiety
  • Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt
  • Diminished ability to think clearly or concentrate
  • Decreased interest in activities that usually are enjoyable, such as: food, sex, work, friends, hobbies and entertainment.

Second, How does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

blue christmasHow does one cope with the Holiday Blues?

For anyone feeling blue during the holidays can follow some very basic, common sense steps to help in coping with the blues.

  • Take things one day at a time and if need be one hour at a time.
  • Try to maintain a normal routine. Keep doing your normal daily activities.
  • Get enough sleep or at least enough rest.
  • Regular exercise, even walking, helps relieve stress, tension and improve moods.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Limit high-calorie foods and junk food.
  • Avoid using alcohol, medications or other drugs to mask the pain.
  • Do those activities or things and be with the people that comfort, sustain, nourish, and recharge you.
  • Remember the healthy coping strategies you have used in the past to survive challenges. Draw on these strengths again.

What does one do to feel less blue during the Holidays

There are several things that can help in making it easier to manage the blues.

  • Determine your priorities and establish realistic goals for the holidays.
  • Delegate some responsibilities to others.
  • Take time for yourself.
  • Minimize financial stressors by setting a budget and sticking to it.
  • Enjoy free holiday activities.
  • Think about giving a free gift from your heart. Your time or your presence.
  • Be around supportive people.
  • Volunteer and help someone else.
  • Create a New Holiday Tradition.
  • Find a new place or a new way to celebrate.

Just take baby steps if all these overwhelming.

Source: Holiday Blues – Feeling Sad, Lonely or Depressed During the Holidays?

Image via steamboatcounseling.com

I never imagined dabbling in video production much less being a program participant of the YouTube Creator Program for Independent Journalists. I just arrived in my hospital room after an angiogram procedure on July 15 when I checked my emails with my left hand. My cardiologist told me that I shouldn’t move my right hand until I got the clearance.

I thought, “wow, they had to inform me I didn’t get accepted”. I applied two days before the deadline, and went through an interview and heard nothing since June. I really thought I was not accepted so why was the email congratulating me. It was the second good news within one hour. First, the angiogram showed I had no blockage in my heart. Second, this news saying I am IN . Though I have a YouTube channel for 14 years now, I never made any effort to create interesting videos. I concentrated mostly on short form and long form written content. All of my videos were raw files from my coverage. Also, for the past four years, I concentrated on being a budding coffee producer. In fact, I started creating videos of our Agnep coffee farm but not for social issues.

Listen to my podcast:

I couldn’t tell the good news until a blog post was released on August 5 entitled “Supporting the news industry and next-generation journalists on YouTube”

Imagine my surprise! Part of announcement :

We’re excited to announce today the selection of nearly 50 independent journalists and over 40 digital-first newsrooms across the programs. Our Creator Program for Independent Journalists aims to give the growing number of reporters publishing independently the tools needed to succeed on YouTube. And the Sustainability Lab for Digital-First Newsrooms provides support for digital native newsrooms to start and expand their video operations.

While I am happy to be one of the 50 participants, I am disappointed to be the only one in the Philippines. It would have been fun to learn from each other. Still, I am grateful to learn from my cohorts. Training started on basic video production. More will come during the year.

YouTube said that “over the course of the next year, we’ll offer journalists in the Creator Program training in industry best practices, including comprehensive sessions on video production and editing, audience development, entrepreneurship, and achieving financial sustainability on the platform. Participants will receive grants to help fuel their new video operations.”

So I am thinking of my content for the years to come. Developing a social media campaign requires a lot of thought, time and effort, especially in human rights work and social advocacy. Underrepresented stories I have covered are the victims of extrajudicial killings and the harassment of indigenous communities. The needs of our farmers, laborers and the marginalized sectors are issues I have covered and continue to write. Let me know if there are urgent issues I need to cover.

If you have been a regular visitor of my blog for the past 15 years, you would have known my journey. This latest gig is another chapter of my new normal in honor of my beloved son who made sure I had some mission to fulfill in this mortal world. This is my journey

Update: Last February , 2018 the City of Cebu honored the composer, Vicente Rubi for his Contribution to Music. Ludivina Rubi Najarro, his lone surviving child received the award.

Tita Luding Rubi Pleños with Ka Bino Guerrero

Kasadya Ning Takna-a (“How Joyful Is This Season”) is a classic Christmas Carol and my favorite Filipino Christmas Carol. I still remember the lyrics by heart because I used to sing this upbeat Christmas song as a little girl while caroling with my friends in Cebu.



Listen to Kasadya ni Takna-a on Spotify.

classic Filipino carol


Kasadya ning taknaa
Dapit sa kahimayaan
Mao’y atong makita
Ang panagway’ng masanglagon
Bulahan ug bulahan
Ang tagbalay nga giawitan
Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko

Repeat Preface
Bag-ong tuig
Bag-ong kinabuhi
Duyogan ‘ta sa atong gebati
Atong awiton aron sa kalipay
kita makaangkon!

Awit nga halangdonon ug sa tanang Pasko magmalipayon

I am sure the song is more familiar to you if sang as Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, a popular Filipino Christmas Carol and the Tagalog adaptation of the 1933 Cebuano carol. Ang Pasko ay Sumapit first hit the airwaves when I was a teenager but I was horrified to hear my favorite carol sang in a different accent and beat. It’s not the same., I cried inside. I don’t hear the rondalla introduction of the song. It sounds horrible. I thought. The heavy (maragsa) accent that added vigor and festiveness was just not there in the Tagalog version. I’m sure if you heard the Tagalog version, you would appreciate Ang Pasko ay Sumapit but I first heard it sung in Visayan!

Listen to this:

For me, Ang Pasko ay Sumapit is NOTHING compared to the joyfulness of the carol if sang in Visayan. The closest Tagalog version that follows true to the original version is the one sang by the Mabuhay Singers. Even the meaning of the lyrics are different.

But what makes the song even pathetic is the composer was paid a measly price for the Tagalog version. Here is the story of the Cebuano composer, Vicente Rubi.

A gentle Cebuano composer Vicente Rubi jotted down the notes of this daygon (carol) for a Christmas festival that year. Mariano Vestil, another Cebuano, wrote the lyrics. Forgotten Today, carolers in Cebu still sing the lilting beat and lyrics that the now-barely-remembered Rubi and Vestil blended 70 years ago. Bulahan ang tagbalay nga giawitan (“Blessed the homes that carolers sing to”). ….”It’s the supremest of ironies in a country that boasts of the longest celebration of Christmas,” Jullie Yap Daza wrote in the Times Journal in 1978. “But not a trace of effort has been made to attribute the beloved carol Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit to its author, Vicente D. Rubi.” By then, Rubi was an old impoverished widower, confined in a Cebu hospital. His carol had been hijacked by a recording company for 150 pesos.

Cebuanos recall the frail old man would shuffle to teach carolers, at his gate, how to sing his carol right. “Nong Inting” died in 1980, denied “what is due him in royalties,” now Manila Standard editor Yap-Daza wrote. This is raw exploitation. Today’s jargon calls that “Intellectual Property Rights” theft.

I heard Kasadya Ning Takna-a sang a few years ago and nearly choked in tears at the thought of Vicente Rubi never being paid royalties by that greedy recording company. Whenever I listen to Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, not only do I feel strange hearing it sung in a different tone but I feel history should give more credit to Vicente Rubi.

Bagong tuig, bagong kinabuhi, the Cebuano original, and its Tagalog adaptation, proclaim. It echoes the Advent cry of Isaiah: “Break the fetters of injustice … and break every yoke/ Then, will your light break forth as the morning.”

Where is the justice due Vicente Rubi?

Though more than 70 years have lapsed and royalties are way past the 50 year mark, I will honor Vicente Rubi in this blog for all the world to know him as the composer of Ang Pasko ay Sumapit, the Tagalog version of Kasadya Ning Takna-a.

One day, I hope a music producer will come out with the Kasadya Ning Takna-a , the original daygon version. Hopefully, this forgotten Cebuano Carol will once again claim its rightful place in Philippine music.

How joyful is this season if we remember Vicente Rubi.

What is your favorite Christmas song?

Last year, I wrote about “Social Media and Suicide.” The World Health Organization (WHO) states that close to 800,000 people kill themselves every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. Suicide among young people is increasing, and social media is pointed out as the cause due to documented research.

Research findings published in the medical journal JAMA on July 2019 found that “adolescents are of particular concern.“ Increase in screen time have been found to be associated with increases in depressive symptoms. More evidence also points out to social media use. The 2012 study on “Social Media and Suicide: A Public Health Perspective” (David D. Luxton, PhD, Jennifer D. June, BA, and Jonathan M. Fairall, BS) cited the role social media might have in suicide-related behavior. The rise of pro-suicide, social media sites may pose a new risk to vulnerable people who might not have been exposed to these potential hazards. Media also plays an influence on suicidal behavior and suicide methods used. Cyberbullying and cyber harassment are prevalent problems. An increase in publicized cases of suicide in 2011 involved social media.

Another paper came out, “Increases in Depressive Symptoms, Suicide-Related Outcomes, and Suicide Rates Among US Adolescents After 2010 and Links to Increased New Media Screen Time” (Jean M. Twenge, Thomas E. Joiner, Megan L. Rogers, Gabrielle N. Martin), in 2017. The study discovered that adolescents who devoted more time online were more likely to report mental health issues. Psychiatrist Dr. Dinah Nadera said “that sense of lack of social connectedness is very, very prevalent…. They’re connected, but they couldn’t seem to have a trusted person.”

The relationship between social media use and depression remains a controversial topic. A study in 2018 by San Francisco-based social innovation group called HopeLab did not find a correlation between use and self-reported depressive symptoms. Despite the lack of conclusive studies, I couldn’t stress enough that our digital well-being matters. It is best to disconnect when called for and create healthy habits for our family.

Suicide prevention is everybody’s business. Educate our community that suicide is a preventable public health problem in the Philippines. Suicide should no longer be considered a taboo topic, and that through raising awareness and educating the public, we could SAVE lives.

To prevent suicides, the whole community from the school, family, church, government, netizens and media are involved. WHO said responsible reporting of suicide in the media to decrease suicide rates. Responsible reporting include: avoiding detailed descriptions of suicidal acts, avoiding sensationalism and glamorization, using responsible language, minimizing the prominence of suicide reports, avoiding oversimplifications, educating the public about suicide and treatments, and providing information on where to seek help.  Every person, as a part of that community, need to take responsibility.

The Lancet published research on “What Works in Youth Suicide Prevention?” and the review identified many studies testing a broad range of interventions across multiple settings, which could reduce the frequency of self-harm and suicidal ideation, “although it is likely the size of these studies that is driving the effects.”

The question is are Facebook, Twitter and Google, the most popular platforms doing enough to prevent suicide?

Facebook announced during World Suicide Day on Sept. 10, 2019 that it is taking steps to fight the youth suicide epidemic, including sharing data about how its users talk about suicide and self-harm and hiring a safety policy manager focusing on health and well-being. Some changes in policy is Facebook’s decision to “no longer allow graphic cutting images.” Even Instagram which they own would also make “it harder to search for this type of content and [keep] it from being recommended in Explore.” Whether you’re worried about someone you know or you’re struggling on your own, Facebook provided a Suicide Prevention Page (http://facebook.com/safety/wellbeing/suicideprevention).

In Google’s Suicide Prevention page (https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2802245?hl=en), content that promotes self-harm or is intended to shock or disgust users is not allowed on YouTube. Google allows users to post content discussing their experiences with depression, self-harm, or other mental health issues. Instagram also has a page on those who spot content about suicide or self-injury (https://help.instagram.com/388741744585878 ). Twitter’s approach to self-harm and suicide threats is explained in their “About self-harm and suicide” (https://help.twitter.com/en/safety-and-security/self-harm-and-suicide). After Twitter assesses a report of self-harm or suicide, they will “contact the reported user and let him or her know that someone who cares about them identified that they might be at risk.” Twitter would also provide the reported user with available online and hotline resources and encourage them to seek help.

One couldn’t just rely on social media platforms to moderate the content. Let’s take time to understand the social media platforms and potential warning signs or indicators for self-harm or suicide.

First published at the Sunday Business & IT, Manila Times on October 6, 2019.

“VR combined with music improves exercise retention, study shows” was first published on Sunday Business &; IT, June 28, 2020

I wouldn’t have been a member of Fitness First for the last 15 years if not for my daughter who insisted on attending yoga classes. Too bad the gym closed temporarily since the coronavirus pandemic.  Fitness gyms would probably open soon, but with a lot of limitations such as the number of members allowed inside. Booking a class through the app would be required. Sauna and steam rooms would be closed. I would say goodbye to my membership and continue with alternative workouts I have been doing at home since the pandemic.

Some of my friends watch YouTube videos to dance along with the group instructor. Others attend online classes on Pilates and yoga. Home gyms will be the future of fitness. There are pros and cons. I waste less time in getting to and from the gym, not to mention the additional expense of parking fees. Savings in membership fees are significant. A home gym would take some investment to get it built. Not everyone has space for a gym at his or her house. The only equipment I own is a stationary bike, and some weights and a yoga mat. Walking outdoors is an ideal exercise if only I didn’t have to wear a mask.

READ: A virtual workout on my stationary bike, using VZfit with the Oculus GO.

Biking in physical reality

In the past, I watched TV, or videos while biking so I would not get too bored. Discovering VZfit means goodbye to my boring workout. Developed by Virzoom, VZfit allows any stationary bike to be connected to an Oculus Quest or Oculus Go Virtual Reality (VR) headset when paired with a compatible BlueTooth 4.0 cadence or speed sensor. MageneS3+ Speed/cadence Dual sensor was one of the compatible devices, which I attached to the crank arm on my stationary bike. Since I am not paying for a gym membership, I subscribed to the VZfit Premium membership for $9.95 a month or about P500 a month after the free 7-day trial. The upgrade of my stationary bike to Virtual Reality has made my workout so much fun and exciting. Oh, the places I’ve been. Every day, I ride for 30 to 60 minutes anywhere I fancy in the world, like in the Yosemite National Park, Westfjords, Iceland or the Magallanes y la Antartica, Chile. With real-world scenery using Google street view imaging, this app takes the monotony out of using my stationary bike. The drawback is Google street view imaging could be glitchy and distorted. Time flies by so fast that I don’t realize I am getting a cardio workout as I ride my bike and listen to the music in my headset.

LOOK: VZFit album of snapshots taken during my virtual rides

Findings in a recent study published in the British Journal of Health Psychology on the “Ready Exerciser One: Effects of music and virtual reality on cycle ergometer exercise” validates my experience. Yes, VR makes exercise more enjoyable and less tiring. Professor Costas Karageorghis from Brunel University said their findings show the abundant potential for the use of virtual reality combined with music to get people more physically active in their own homes. “The exerciser’s mental bandwidth to process fatigue is reduced by the virtual world and soundscape provided by the immersive technology,” explains Dr. Jonathan Bird from the University of Exeter Business School. “Participants appeared to thoroughly enjoy the virtual reality exercise, and enjoyment makes people more likely to stick to a routine.”  In the past, I could never ride the bike, even for 10 minutes. I usually take breaks, but for the past weeks, I could even go over 30 minutes.

A range of VR fitness apps and games is available for other VR headsets that are not available in the Oculus Go. The rhythm VR game Beat Saber is one of the most popular VR apps. BoxVR is another virtual reality app that provides players with a high-impact workout. Then, there is Sprint Vector, Holodance, Dance Central, Thrill of the Night, Sprint Vector and Creed: Rise to Glory. With the coronavirus pandemic keeping me at home, my virtual reality exercise would go on. If you haven’t tried the VR fitness revolution, perhaps now is the time to get started.

The recent surge in “Facebook clones” or dummy accounts or fake Facebook profile pages caused alarm among many netizens, including my friends and family members. Imagine, my husband had to report five blank and duplicate Facebook profiles that were “pretending to be me.” As of this writing, Facebook removed only one of my three clone accounts.

National Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said it was too early to establish the cause of the sudden proliferation of the fraudulent Facebook accounts because of an internal glitch or by external factors.

The activists arrested at the peaceful protest held at the University of the Philippines Cebu campus were the first to mention that their accounts were “duplicated”. Netizens voiced out their concerns over these fake profiles using the hashtag #HandsOffOurStudents. Other reports pointed out the targets of the spoofing attacks were outspoken of the Anti-Terror Bill of 2020, but even pro-administration netizens claimed they were victims, too.

Jonathan Ong, who co-authored several studies on local troll armies, believes fake Facebook accounts’ creation could be a ploy to gain access to people’s data and information. Ong mentioned in his interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that “the creation of dummy accounts was widely used in the 2016 National Elections, but Facebook has since made it harder to create these accounts, causing disinformation campaigners to abandon the tactic.” It puzzles him why this happened. “It might be around control of people’s data, that’s what’s more concerning for me,” he told ANC. The organizations or people behind the sudden surge of fake Facebook profiles could be showing off that they have access to people’s data and information.

Lawyer JJ Disini, an expert on IT law, shared the dangers of a fake Facebook profile. When a target is identified, a fake Facebook profile is created with the same name as the former.  At the right time, the fake profile page would be made to appear identical. Disini warns that the user’s photo and banner of the real account could be copied and pasted.  A target could be locked out of his legitimate Facebook page by filing bogus complaints against the target with Facebook. While the target is locked out of his page, a post is created on the fake page where target commits a crime, for example, a threat on the life of the country’s president. The next likely scenario would involve taking a screenshot of the fake account with the incriminating post, then followed by deleting the fake page. Charging the target with a crime based on the screen shot could follow next. I don’t know if we could use the screenshot as evidence. When I filed a complaint against Facebook on the Cambridge Analytica data breach, the National Privacy Commission asked for the link to my Facebook post exposing the breach.

What could you do to protect your identity on Facebook? Ensure your Facebook account is secure. Enable the Two-Factor Authentication. If you are using a pseudonym or nickname, enter your birth name as optional information (under Settings, Personal Information, Name, Other Names) in your Facebook account. You could add your nickname and birth name. Under the Settings, Personal Information, you could submit proof of identity under “Identify Confirmation” as another layer of security. If you run ads about social issues, elections or politics, Facebook might ask you to provide proof of your identity. I complied with the “Identify Confirmation” because I handle many Facebook pages. All this precaution might not be a guarantee that your page won’t get disabled from a malicious takedown.

I also suggest documentation of your Facebook clones. Aside from screen shots, get the links and keep them on file. The open-source web app, http://doppelbanger.now.sh could search duplicate fake accounts on Facebook. Not all are fake, though. The results on Facebook Search revealed I had three clones. Using this web app showed five more.

Publish your social networks in your blog or LinkedIN so people would know where to search for you instead of using Facebook Search. Continue to write content that shows your “personal branding,” or how you want to establish and promote what you stand for.

While we continue to demand answers from Facebook and investigators, let’s secure and protect our personal data and privacy.

First published Sunday Business & IT, June 14, 2020.