133 years ago today

(Originally posted under Facebook Notes on August 19, 2011. Today is the 144th birth anniversary of Manuel Luis Quezon, first President of the Philippine Commonwealth).

Kaunting bato, kaunting semento – monumento. Who hasn’t heard of this playful saying before? But for truly great men and women, cement and pebbles just won’t make the grade. The Quezon Monument at the historic Perez Park in Lucena consisting of a larger-than-life size bronze statue standing on marble base is one beautiful symbol of greatness, not only of the person being honored, but also of the little-known heroes who helped shape the structure.

The statue was built out of one-centavo bronze coins donated by young school children all over Quezon Province. The collected coins were sent to Italy where they were melted and molded into its current form by an Italian sculptor. Conceived in 1950, the monument was finally erected in 1954 at the expansive Perez Park, a popular historical destination in Lucena. A marble wall inscribed with President Quezon’s “Message to My People” serves as a perfect backdrop.

The full text of the message follows.

Message to My People

My fellow citizens: there is one thought I want you always to bear in mind. And that is: that you are Filipinos. That the Philippines is your country, and the only country God has given you. That you must keep it for yourselves, for your children, and for your children’s children, until the world is no more. You must live for it, and die for it, if necessary.

Your country is a great country. It has a great past, and a great future. The Philippines of yesterday is consecrated by the sacrifices of lives and treasure of your patriots, martyrs, and soldiers. The Philippines of today is honored by the wholehearted devotion to its cause of unselfish and courageous statesmen. The Philippines of tomorrow will be the country of plenty, of happiness, and of freedom. A Philippines with her head raised in the midst of the West Pacific, mistress of her own destiny, holding in her hand the torch of freedom and democracy. A republic of virtuous and righteous men and women all working together for a better world than the one we have at present.

                                                                                            –   Manuel L. Quezon*

*born August 19, 1878

Have a CAREWELL Christmas!

Christmas is about showing how much you care. It’s about sharing and giving gifts to celebrate your special bond with your loved ones, dear friends, and trusted associates.

This coming Christmas, allow one group known for ‘caring well’ to help spread Love and Hope – the most precious gifts ever!

Carewell (short for the Cancer Resource and Wellness Community) is a nonprofit foundation that provides support, education, and HOPE to persons with cancer. Members participate in support group meetings, informative talks, counseling, and various wellness activities – all free of charge. For over 15 years, Carewell incorporators, sponsors, volunteer healthcare professionals, office staff, and members have committed themselves to the mission of managing the challenges of cancer through holistic means. Despite the pandemic, Carewell continues to provide its activities via the virtual platform.

In its latest fundraising campaign, Carewell invites friends and supporters to help in its mission through donations in exchange for gift packages as described below.

Please consider this opportunity to help Carewell while expressing the true meaning of Christmas – making others happy – as we celebrate another season of Love.

To express your support, kindly fill out this form.

You may click here to know more about Carewell and its wellness advocacy.

‘Onwards and Upwards’ virtual event streams on August 21

What if, for a few hours, you are given a chance to leave behind uncertain and distressing thoughts and make room for fresh and creative concepts? All you need to do is watch, listen, and allow yourself to be fascinated by a group of multitalented high-achievers from across several disciplines, who will discuss topics of interest to the youth.

As it is, luck is on your side because TEDxYouth@Fitzrovia led by Nicola Allen, a student at King’s College in London, will independently host a virtual event on 21st of August 2021 allowing young people like her to participate in great conversations revolving around the theme “Onwards and Upwards.” It will livestream from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm BST in London, and from 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm PHT Manila.

A senior panel of experts who draw inspiration from London’s cultural diversity and vast capacity for innovation will lead the discussions with topics ranging from filmmaking for social causes, communication coaching, business and professional ethics, and space architecture or the inevitable colonization of the planet Mars!

The carefully curated panel of speakers is an impressive composite of experts in their respective fields.

Here’s a quick view of the speakers and their chosen topics.

To know why they are uniquely qualified to speak on those subjects, check out their career backgrounds here.

The event is open to the public, but registration will be open only up to August 14.

Click here to get your tickets now at Eventbrite.


A personal note about lead organizer Nicola Allen:

In the TEDxYouth@Fitzrovia web page, Nikki describes herself as an Activist, Brainstormer, Explorer, Performer, Student.

Well, she is all that and a lot more! Find out about her long list of other interests in this 2018 post. And, I might run the risk of being disowned 😊 if I fail to mention that she is the daughter of my friends Marites Allen, an international feng shui master, and Nicholas Allen, a British international executive. Nikki has three other siblings: Kirck, Kevin, and Shannen, who are all high-performers in their own rights.

Something to moo about in the Year of the Ox

(Banner image source: Vecteezy)

The Chinese New Year starts on Friday, February 12. As we may all know, each lunar year is associated with a zodiac animal, and 2021 is designated as the Year of the Ox. Based on the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac, this year’s Ox sign is also linked with the Metal element; thus, 2021 is specifically the Year of the Metal Ox.

In Chinese culture, the Ox is considered a power symbol, and an Ox year is usually seen as a more hopeful year. Just like the Gregorian New Year, the equivalent Chinese celebration should be the perfect time for us to rewire our thoughts and life intentions based on what we have learned from the previous year.

How may the Metal Ox help us pull through in uncertain times?

Chinese people associate each animal sign with certain characteristics. Those born in the year of the Ox are generally known to be traditional and conservative. They may be slow to act but are very persistent and hardworking, such that once they have made certain decisions, they will hammer away despite difficulties. And given their unquestionable will power, they may be expected to almost always achieve their goals.

The Metal Ox, in particular, oozes with confidence and is strong-willed. This Ox is quite frank and may not always care about what others think or feel. But one good thing about this Ox type is that they will always deliver on what they promise to others. Although not very social in nature, they keep a circle of loyal friends who are always ready to help during difficult times. The metal element represents firmness, resistance, and clear thoughts. In relation to human nature, this symbolizes inner strength and discipline.

The Ox is also associated with the Yin energy, generally associated with feminine attributes, nurturing of family, and compassionate towards those in need. This trait will be very helpful in times when we have to rebuild emotional and spiritual strength during difficult times.

In whatever way we decide to navigate the Year of the Metal Ox, may we be inspired by the winning characteristics of its ruling animal:

  • Focused and Determined — with a clear vision of the things that are really important to us and to achieve them given the resources available without doing harm to anyone.
  • Stable and Persistent in executing our plans of action even when things seem impossible to overcome; and whenever difficulties arise, keeping faith that they will be resolved through hard work — and at times, with the help of family and true friends.
  • And most importantly, by being Compassionate. This mindset is grounded in the principle of seeing beyond our personal needs — and perhaps placing the good of others, if not on equal terms, even higher than our own. This caring for others could be seen in many forms during the past year, and if maintained even after the pandemic, could be a true agent of change. It is, perhaps, the most critical factor in the reprogramming we need for the years ahead.

It is believed that people born in a given year have the personality of that year’s animal. That should sound good for Ox-born people (like me 😊).

Let us take to heart the ideal attributes of this zodiac animal — Focused, Determined, and Compassionate. We may have different personalities and life pursuits. But it may not be such a stretch to believe that there’s a bit of an Ox in each one of us.

Happy Lunar New Year!


Where the sky meets earth – yes, the horizon – is a whimsical space. It evokes varying perspectives, depending on the viewer’s mindset and how he looks at what’s before his eyes.

“On the Horizon,” the first exhibit hosted by the Ocular Gallery, sets the stage for a vibrant mix of young, emerging, and established Filipino visual artists, where each one reveals his or her personal experiences with, and affection (or lack of it) for certain objects or events affecting our physical, social, and political milieu.

Expect to see varying and unique aesthetics in this maiden event curated by young art enthusiasts. The exhibit will run until November 10, 2020 at the Ocular Gallery, #240 Aguirre Ave., BF Homes Paraňaque City.

Some of the Featured Artists and their Works:

Farley del Rosario is a young contemporary artist known for his faux naïf style that exudes childlike simplicity and frankness. He has been commissioned to do cover illustrations for prestigious publications and many children’s books that have been nominated for special awards. He was named one of Nokia’s 10 Most Exciting Young Artists in 2009. Now based in Olongapo, he was instrumental in the launching of PICASO (Pro-Community Initiatives of Concerned Artists in Subic (Bay) and Olongapo). The group is involved in uplifting the local arts and culture through meaningful advocacy, such as livelihood, conservation, and community development projects.

Archie Oclos knows whereof he paints. Many of his large-scale works depict socio-political issues and the plight of farmers and indigenous people. Coming from a family of farmhands and fisherfolk and growing up in a working-class family in Catanduanes, he had seen the struggles of the underrepresented, facing issues such as land ownership and even fatal encounters with armed forces. He brings this truth to the public through street art — a free, very accessible, and very powerful medium. Archie has participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions over the last few years. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in Painting from the University of the Philippines. He was a recipient of the 2018 Thirteen Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

The artist’s depiction of the sad plight of our farmers — that overworked and underpaid segment of our societyand local agriculture, in general.

Dex Fernandez is an artist who has successfully balanced both street and gallery art into producing socio-political mind trips. Through “Garapata,” a cartoon character inspired by a dog tick, he has showcased his art in street murals, stickers, and coffee bags – mixing deep and superficial views infused with his characteristic humor. He has participated in gallery exhibits not only in the Philippines, but also in Paris, Berlin, Taipei, and Hong Kong.

Anton Belardo, also known as Jellyfish Kisses, asserts herself as “trans” and “queer.” The self-affirming pronouncement also brings to light the numerous discriminatory issues faced by the LGBTQ community, which she represents. Creating art helped her fight depression as early as high school, with the full support of her father who indulged her interests, even for overtly girly things. Sadly, her father died when Anton was just 11.  On to adulthood, Anton felt the full impact of bullying, humiliation, and trauma related to her gender choice. Jellyfish Kisses has thus become her alter ego, to courageously project her inner self to the world – vulnerabilities and all — without fear of judgment.

View the rest of the featured artists and their works at https://www.facebook.com/oculargallery

For inquiries, call +63 956 7625 793 or e-mail oculargallery@gmail.com

I Went Loca in Gumaca

(NOTE: This is a throwback piece, originally posted under Facebook Notes, May 2011)

Until I got invited by the Quezon Tourism Office to join their San Isidro Festival Cultural Trail, I had always associated the May 15 celebration with just the Pahiyas in Lucban. But three more exciting harvest festivals on the same day? Of course I said yes in a heartbeat!

May 15th this year fell on a Sunday, so the humongous crowd was expected. Pahiyas in the morning didn’t disappoint with its dazzling colors and the aroma of longganisang Lucban. It would have been fun to experience Agawan Festival in Sariaya and grab at goodies hanging on bamboo branches called bagacays; but we had been there on the 13th for a walking tour of the ancestral houses and the Buri Products Fashion Show. The prospect of scuffling for suman at the Mayohan Festival in Tayabas had to be skipped; we spent the previous day there visiting many historic landmarks, including the awesome Malagonlong Bridge, the oldest stone bridge built in the province in 1840.

The Araña’t Baluarte in Gumaca more than made up for the missed Sariaya and Tayabas Festivals. The festival got its name from Spanish terms referring to the farm produce neatly arranged in chandeliers (arañas) that hang on bamboo arches (baluartes).

A typical arana set-up
A typical araña set-up

This year, the people of Gumaca put up 17 creatively decorated baluartes along selected streets as their usual way of thanking their patron saint San Isidro for a bountiful harvest. Earlier in the afternoon, we joined the pamasyalan, a leisurely walk through all the baluartes. Along the way, various groups offered fruits, drinks, and all sorts of native delicacies to the promenaders as part of their thanksgiving ritual. I sensed this was a prelude to something even more exciting.

Some of the good stuff that await promenaders during the Pamasyalan
Some of the good stuff that await promenaders during the Pamasyalan

All arañas are fair game during the festival. At around 4 pm, a procession passes by all the arches; once the image of San Isidro goes past, it is the signal that the crowd can jump, tug, and grab at whatever produce they fancy.  I couldn’t imagine myself joining the fray and I didn’t want to risk getting a serious bump from a 2-kilo squash falling on my head, so I was prepared to just watch and take pictures of the free-for-all.

Baluarte No. 16 before the agawan
Baluarte No. 16 before the agawan

And then someone made this PA: “Pakiusap lang po sa lahat, huwag na po sana kayo makipag-agawan sa baluarte 16. Ipaubaya na po natin ito sa mga bisita nating mga taga media. Yung mga barangay tanod po, paki-alalayan lang po ang mga bisita natin.”

Such a thoughtful gesture. But there was a problem.

Wala raw pong dalang lalagyan ang mga taga media. Mga barangay tanod, pakibigyan lang po sila ng mga sako.”

Before I could say OMG, sacks were passed around and someone handed me a huge plastic bag, the size used for a week’s worth of laundry.  From a distance, I could see the procession approaching and I almost missed a barangay tanod’s question. “Ma’am, ano po ang gusto ninyong kunin”?  “Maski ano,” I replied, but then my eyes fell on a nice walis tinting tied to a pole. Mamang BT saw that look on my face. “Ilan po gusto ninyo”? “Ay, isa lang,” I said. Mamang BT was not convinced and quickly bundled three walis tintings.

In the commotion, I didn’t notice who handed me a buri hat, and then another offered a flower fashioned from wood shavings. Cool! I posed for a picture with Kelly Bautista, Culture and the Arts Promotions Officer of the Provincial Tourism Office.

Clueless me with Kelly Bautista of the Quezon Tourism Office
Clueless me with Kelly Bautista of the Quezon Tourism Office

By this time, the image of San Isidro was just a few feet away. Heads were alternately looking up to mark their target harvests, and down to check the procession.

The image of San Isidro passing through Baluarte No. 16
The image of San Isidro Labrador passing through Baluarte No. 16

When the image finally went past our baluarte, mayhem broke loose. I decided to stay on the sides for fear of being crushed, but then things started to find their place into my plastic bag. Mamang BT threw in a big bunch of sitaw; a woman dropped an armful of suman, some student volunteers dunked in corn, then  tomatoes, eggplants, squash, more sitaw, bananas, sweet potatoes. I went crazy!

Shoot mo dito!
Shoot mo dito!

No, I got nervous! The bag was almost full and I figured I’d need at least five people to carry my loot. I begged my well-meaning friends to not add any more stuff. A woman tried to reassure me that things will be OK once the bag finds its way into the van.

Oh, my gulay! Masakit na ulo ko sa dami nito!
Oh, my gulay! Masakit na ulo ko sa dami nito!

But I just did what I had to do. To a young boy holding an empty sack, I gave as much sitaw and other veggies I could grab from the bag; soon his companions were asking for their share, so the eggplants and bananas had to go. An old woman asked for some tomatoes; but those tomatoes were so nice and plump…what the heck, good-bye salsa!

Mamang BT noticed the small crowd forming around me and promptly sealed my bag. “Tama na po, wala nang matitira sa bisita natin.” I checked my walis tintings. They’re still there. So I’m OK.

It’s been more than a week, but I still couldn’t help chuckling at this experience. It was such a blast!

And everything in that bag tasted good! Thank you, Gumaca. Thank you, Gillian and Kelly for the invitation. Thank you, San Isidro.

Hope you invite me again next year. I promise I’ll bring my own heavy-duty sack, and at least five able-bodied carriers.


When love is mightier than the COVID-19 threat

Dr. Oscar Enriquez is a US-based Filipino who perfectly embodies the expression “You can take a man out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of a man.”  He has settled in the US for half of his life, but won’t miss any chance to go back and help out the less fortunate in Catanduanes, his place of origin.

In December 2018, as president of the United Catanduanes San Diego (UCSD), a nonprofit charitable organization, he met with other concerned Catandunganons based in California, and proposed to organize an independent medical and humanitarian mission that will bring its services to the remote areas of Catanduanes. The project will be funded through sponsorships and donations from charitable groups and friends. It was targeted to be held in February 2020;  hence, the name “Gift of Love” Medical and Humanitarian Mission.

A Gift of Love from United Catanduanes San Diego and Friends (Photo by Rodolfo Go Alonte, UCSD)

Shortly after that meeting, the system was set in motion. Fundraising activities yielded overwhelming support from family and friends with roots from Catanduanes. Sponsorships were arranged with UCSD, Catanduanes Association USA, Texan Friends of Catanduanes, and the Waraynon Initiative Network. A gesture from UCSD supporters Rod and Rose Alonte was particularly heart-touching. The Alonte couple, who lost their daughter just before Thanksgiving, chose to graciously channel the bereavement cash donations into the mission.

Dolly Dalusong, a UCSD member from Los Angeles, connected with Isaiah’s Rock, a nonprofit Christian Ministry in Chino, California, which generously responded with boxes of T-shirts and toiletries. She personally sent the items in balikbayan boxes to Catanduanes months before the start of the mission.

The generated funds were used to procure medicines and various basic goods. Dr. Enriquez shares that “countless times we had to go to different discount stores to check what were on sale and send them to Catanduanes.” This went on for almost a year, until it was time for the US-based volunteers to fly to Manila.

And then, the unexpected happened.

A few days before the mission’s scheduled kickoff, a provincial memorandum was issued ‘momentarily’ suspending all foreign-assisted medical and humanitarian missions until proper health authorities declare the country free from the threats of COVID-19. Faced with the odds that all the time and resources they put into their first project might come to naught, Dr. Enriquez, was in total shock.

Fortunately, Msgr. Manolo de los Santos, Bishop of the Archdiocese of Virac, intervened in their favor. He allowed the group to use the different parishes in the province as distribution hubs for their non-medical “Gift of Love” packs filled with health kits, toiletries, school supplies, T-shirts, slippers, reading glasses, and other goods. In compliance with the memorandum, medicines and medical-related supplies were to be dropped at each town’s rural health unit (RHU) to avoid mass gatherings that could cause health risks.

Another divine stroke came in the form of support extended by the couple Manuel and Sonia Romero, who offered their warehouse as a repacking venue for the various goods. The couple also allowed their construction trucks to be used for mobilization during the mission.

The organizers and volunteers wasted no time in changing the distribution strategy to cover as much ground within their five-day mission. Day 1 was slotted for the capital town of Virac where they visited the provincial jail and entrusted to the jail warden personal hygiene kits meant for detainees awaiting trial. Their visit to an elementary school in this town, upon the request of the school principal, brought priceless smiles on the faces of children who were gifted with new backpacks, school supplies, and imported sweet treats.

All 11 municipal health offices, including this one in Virac, received several boxes of medicines and medical supplies. (Photo by Rodolfo Go Alonte, UCSD)
Priceless smiles from the benefactor and the recipients. UCSD president Dr. Oscar Enriquez with some of the children who got new knapsacks and school supplies. (Photo by Biet Pastor, UCSD)
They got new school bags, slippers, and chocolates, too. A young girl eagerly awaits her share of sweet treats from a volunteer. (Photo by Rodolfo Go Alonte, UCSD)

Day 2 brought the group to Gigmoto and Baras towns. In Baras, they combined logistics with the LGU’s “Konsulta sa Barangay” healthcare project initiated by Baras Mayor Paolo Teves and TGP Partylist Cong. Bong Teves Jr., where medicines and related supplies intended for this town were put to valuable use. In two fishing villages in Baras, families were visibly pleased with the timely assistance they received, which included staples such as rice and sugar. For several days, strong waves had prevented them from fishing and earning from their trade.

Working in tandem with the LGU-initiated “Konsulta sa Barangay” to render basic health services in Baras (Photo by Rodolfo Go Alonte, UCSD)

 Day 3 was set for Viga, Bagamanoc, and Panganiban towns. Day 4 covered Caramoran, Pandan, and San Andres. The last day of the humanitarian mission was spent in San Miguel and Bato. A grueling schedule that did not leave out any of the 11 municipalities —truly, a tough act to follow. Each town was given its share of material assistance in various forms. Even after the mission, boxes of medicines, school bags, health kits, including dental supplies that were not used, had to be stored for safekeeping and future use.

The coronavirus threat that presented itself at a most inopportune time turned out to be a catalyst for even better outcome. In similar undertakings in the past, people from far-flung barrios had to start out early, spend for their travel to the capital town, and wait in long lines before they would be attended to. The “Gift of Love” project enabled the resources to be delivered to them at the expense of the mission team. The RHUs, for some time after the mission, will have stocks of medicines at their disposal.

All told, hundreds of families benefited from the love and compassion shown by this group of Catandunganons who may have chosen to settle in the Land of Uncle Sam, but have no qualms about sharing their blessings with their kababayan.

The mission had its challenges. Lessons were learned. Yet, ultimately, the humane objective was met. The “Gift of Love” prevailed, because in most happy stories, love conquers all. It was a first for UCSD and Friends, but it certainly won’t be the last.

They love Catanduanes! Project organizers join local volunteers in a souvenir photo during the “Gift of Love” humanitarian mission. (Photo by Rodolfo Go Alonte, UCSD)

(Those who want to participate in the next Gift of Love Medical, Dental, Surgical, and Humanitarian Mission as sponsors, donors, or volunteers, please visit the United Catanduanes San Diego page on Facebook.)

Is your animal sign lucky or unlucky in 2020?

Trust international feng shui master Marites Allen to raise the bar on knowledge sharing and excitement in her annual Feng Shui Convention. In the 15th staging of the event at Novotel Manila Araneta City last November 24, participants got interesting insights to new ways of attracting good fortune in the Year of the Metal Rat.

One segment of the presentation was devoted to a discussion of how vision boards, affirmations, and miracle mornings help increase our chances of manifesting our life goals. A wealth vase, which she put together with the help of co-host King of Talk, Dr. Boy Abunda, was raffled off later to a lucky delegate.

The merchandise area also offered a visual feast of fresh ideas to capture auspicious luck. Rows upon rows of colorful displays which, even for those who don’t practice feng shui, will be fascinating conversation pieces when placed in different sectors of the home or office.

But let’s cut to the chase and talk about which animal signs will be lucky or unlucky next year.  The Feng Shui Queen ranked the 12 animal signs based on their luck potential for 2020. And yes, I am absolutely pleased with her choices, which were clearly based on the Flying Stars Chart for the Year of the Metal Rat.

Here’s why: She ranked Ox, Tiger, Rooster, and Dog as the Top Four in the hierarchy of lucky animal signs for next year.

Why am I so stoked? My youngest son and I are both Ox-born. My husband is a Tiger. My eldest son is a Rooster, and my second son was born in the year of the Dog. So, it’s a big GO for my Team!

The Ox is the secret friend of the Rat, the ruling animal sign of 2020. The Northeast sector, which is the direction of the Ox and Tiger, hosts the Victory Star No. 1. New opportunities and financial gains await the Ox and the prospects may be enhanced by symbols of the Victory Horse, Golden Dragon and Horse, Wealth Vase, and many more wish-fulfilling accessories.

The Tiger shares the Victory Star with the Ox and is advised to display the Bejewelled Arowana, Wealth Ship, Laughing Buddha, and Ruyi in the NE direction. Tigers will also get a lot of help by wearing luck-enhancing amulets.

The Rooster enjoys the blessings of the Magnifying Star No. 9, which symbolizes future expansion, fame, and prosperity. This energy has flown to the West sector and may be boosted by placing images of the Prosperity Rooster and Monkey on Horse in this direction.  Wearing or carrying personal accessories, such as the Lucky 9 mantra charms and Victory Banner with Mantra, will be effective luck-boosters.

The Dog (and the Boar)  benefit from the Wealth and Success Star No. 8 located in the Northwest. To help manifest this type of luck, Dog- and Boar- born people are advised to display water fountains and infinity figures in their lucky sector and to always wear their wealth and success medallion.

The Dragon and Snake share the fortune brought by the Heaven Luck Star in the Southeast. This type of energy brings potential windfall and overall good fortune. They can also count on the help of influential people next year. Their must-have luck enhancers include the Endurance mantra and their Allies and Friends amulets.

The Sheep and Monkey are blessed with the Romance, Education, and Travel Luck in the Southwest. This star governs love relationships, travel, and self-development. To boost their luck potential for the year, these animal signs must display the Bejewelled Mystic Knot or Lotus, especially if they want to expand their family, or wear Peony-inspired accessories to boost their chances of finding their life partner.

The not-so-lucky Horse, Rat, and Rabbit, however, may have to face certain challenges in 2020.

The Horse faces health risks brought by the Illness Star No. 2 in the South. To counter the negative effects of this energy, the Horse-born must have anti-illness charms and Wu Lou-inspired amulets for health and longevity.

The Rat is seen to face the effects of the Conflict Star No. 3 in the North. If not controlled, this type of energy will manifest in arguments, betrayals, and even legal problems. To subdue these negativities, The Rat-born should carry Tai Sui protection and other peace and harmony accessories.

The Rabbit may be troubled by the afflicted energies in the East. The most dreaded Misfortune Star No. 5 brings risks to health, relationships, wealth and career. The best protection for these possible afflictions are the 5-element Pagoda (either as placement or personal amulets), Rhino and Elephant Plaque, and Allies and Friends symbols (Rabbit, Sheep, and Boar).

Fair warning to all animal signs: The Violence and Robbery Star has flown to the Center sector in 2020. The negative influence of this energy may cause loss of material things and good reputation, possible break-ins, betrayal of trust, and possible lawsuits. Everyone must have the proper feng shui cures, especially the Rhino and Elephant symbol in the Center. Wearing anti-robbery accessories, such as special medallions with mantra and the ultimate mantra protection ring will also help shield you from negativities.

All told, the Year of the Metal Rat may bring favorable and not so favorable prospects for each animal sign next year. Having been presented with the forecasts, the task is upon us to boost our chances for success and to address potential challenges where they appear.

For a more comprehensive reading of your luck prospects for the Year of the Metal Rat, check out the 2020 Marites Allen horoscope books, Feng Shui Planner, and Almanac at your nearest Frigga shop:   SM North Edsa: (+632 442 0113), SM Mall of Asia: (+63922- 4241219), SM Mega Mall: (+632 470-7661), SM Cebu: (0907-8198993 / 032 343-2062) or shop online at www.frigga.com.ph

As always, I take this proactive mindset at the start of every Lunar New Year:

Some things may be written in the stars,

but we have the power to reconfigure our own destiny.


Hashtag: Beyond Beauty

For pageant-crazy fans, the long wait ends on June 9 when six beauties from all over the Philippines will be named the country’s fairest. During the Bb. Pilipinas 2019 coronation night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the next set of Filipina beauty queens will be chosen to represent the country in six different competitions abroad, including the Miss Universe and Miss International beauty pageants.

Interestingly, Bicolandia is well represented with at least six of the 40 official candidates coming from this region. Probably the influence of Catriona Gray, the reigning Miss Universe, who traces her maternal roots to Oas, Albay. Ms. Gray has clearly upped the standards for missosology not only with her beauty of face and form, but more importantly with her wit, confidence, and social awareness. And yes, her lava walk.

Wanting to follow Catriona’s footsteps, these Bicolanas are out to prove that beauty contestants can also be relevant and essentially ‘woke’ to current local and global issues.

Events host Shane Tormes, 27, from Polangui, Albay is currently working as an events host and singer. She, however, wants to use her voice for more important causes such as HIV-AIDS awareness.

Aside from her interest in films, Daraga, Albay’s Julia Saubier is also into martial arts. The 24-year-old Master’s student says she is now working with a group that teaches Filipino martial arts to enable women, children and LGBTQ members to protect themselves.

Raised by her father who is a farmer, travel show host Francia Layderos feels strongly about the role of farmers and agriculture in the country’s economy. She says that if farmers were appreciated more and respected, the country’s progress will be sustained.

Online English teacher Hannah Arnold of Masbate has a degree in Forensic Studies. This 23-year-old wants to be able to move people to provide educational supplies to students so that they will be motivated to study hard and pursue their dreams.
Representing Sorsogon, Maria Isabela Galeria is a 20-year-old Registered Nurse. As a Binibini, she wants to convince people to take care of those suffering from mental health issues and realize that they can still be productive citizens.

And of course, our local bet from the Happy Island!

Denise Omorog, 24, from Baras, Catanduanes is a recent graduate of Consular and Diplomatic Affairs and dreams of becoming an ambassador in the future. For now, she wants to use her voice to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.

Two other contestants, Sigrid Grace Flores and Joanna Rose Tolledo, also have their origins in Catanduanes, but are representing Iloilo and Caloocan City, respectively.

An entrepreneur and missionary by profession, 26-year-old Sigrid Grace Flores from Iloilo likes that she gets to inspire people through her work. She has joined a movement called Sons and Daughters, which motivates people.

A guidance counselor by profession, Joanna Rose Tolledo says that she has always had a soft spot for children with special needs. This 25-year-old from Caloocan City aims to raise awareness about their condition and urge people to become more accepting of them.

I feel inclined to ask the question again: Do Bicolanas have more fun? Please click here for some insights.

(Photos and captions sourced from https://www.bbpilipinas.com/2019-official-candidates.php)

Catanduanes: Raising its happiness index via abaca farming

The tourism tag ‘Happy Island’ suits the province of Catanduanes to a T. It is blessed with unspoiled beaches, rolling terrain, and many idyllic spots that continue to attract foreign and domestic visitors. Its latest tourism figures showed an increase of 11.31% from 2016 to 2017 driven by visitors seeking new travel experiences.

Catanduanes also takes pride in being the country’s top producer of abaca. The Bicol region contributes about 40% of the roughly $130.3 million annual abaca exports to major global markets. At least 90% of the regional share comes from the rich soils of The Happy Island.

Abaca has been traditionally turned into twine, cordage, textiles, and handicrafts. Its more modern applications now include manufacturing various items such as automotive parts, paper and currency notes, and many fashion and lifestyle products.

The quest for organic and eco-friendly raw materials has further contributed to the preference for abaca over synthetic materials. The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) has recently developed a technology that combines abaca and resin to form a composite that is lightweight, cheap, and corrosion-resistant. ITDI used this technology to form the roof and sidecar of a motorized tricycle to demonstrate the unique qualities of the composite.

The global demand and prospects are obviously huge; but the challenges faced by abaca industry players in meeting this demand are equally daunting. There has to be massive expansion and rehabilitation of abaca farms throughout the country. The aging population of abaca farmers needs to be addressed by encouraging the younger generations and convincing them that farming can be profitable. Economic losses have been reported owing to low productivity and deteriorating fiber quality resulting from viral-borne plant diseases. Thus, new methods are needed to improve not only the yield but also the quality of the fiber.

banner.jpgDuring the recently held Abaca Festival in Virac, Catanduanes, local farmers had a chance to convene with Catanduanes Governor Joseph Cua and Mr. Kennedy Costales, Executive Director of the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA), for vital updates affecting their trade. In this gathering, 107 farmers from the 11 municipalities of the province were awarded cash incentives to help rebuild abaca farms that were devastated by Typhoon Nina in 2016. The awarding was part of the PhP50-million ‘Cash for Work’ program set by the Department of Agriculture aimed to gov cuabenefit around 15,000 Catandunganon farmers.

For his part, Governor Cua assured the farmers of government support in propping up abaca planting in Catanduanes while reminding them of the need to improve the quality of their produce. Noting the loss of interest in farming among millennials, he said that initiatives are being taken to make farming easier, requiring less brawn activity, but with the potential for workers to rake in decent income.

ceremonial awarding








Ceremonial awarding of cash incentives


Representing PhilFIDA, the attached agency of the Department of Agriculture tasked with developing and sustaining the fiber industry in the country, Executive Director Kennedy Costales cited the latest initiatives to double, even triple, the country’s abaca output in the following years. As stated on its official website, PhilFIDA “pursues a range of programs particularly for the development of disease-resistant and high-yielding planting materials, sustainable disease management program, improved fiber extraction machines and the acquisition of sustainability certification for the production of high-quality abaca fibers.”

Director Costales reiterated PhilFIDA’s vision to mechanize abaca production in Catanduanes and the rest of the country. Additionally, in the next few years, abaca farmers in the province will be organized into cooperatives to be run corporate-style by professional management teams.

This is the core of the Abaca Tuxy Buying Special Project (ATBSP), a new trading system meant to eliminate the traditional “all-in” buying scheme where unorganized farmers sell their produce in an individual and fragmented manner. The farmers are at the losing end of this arrangement, as the grades and standards of abaca are applied only at the level of the Grading and Baling Establishments (GBE), who get the premium for high-quality fibers. The farmers are thus constrained from improving the yield and quality of their products.

Given the same grade of abaca, the machine-stripped fiber tends to be whiter, finer, and more lustrous than the hand-stripped fiber

The ATBSP aims to improve the marketing arrangement by clustering farmers into cooperatives with 50 to 100 members each. The project takes half the burden off the farmers’ back by simplifying abaca processing from the traditional 12 steps down to 6, allowing farmers to focus on the quality of the fiber. They will be trained in all aspects of production, including warehousing and fiber trading, grading and classification of fibers that meet market standards.  “This shifts their mindsets from being mere farmers to being entrepreneurs,” says Dir. Costales. The cooperatives will handle the rest of the steps, including stripping the fibers using spindle-stripping machines, drying, classifying, bundling, and selling the fibers in bulk directly to GBEs and local processors.

The farmers present were then shown how a  spindle stripping machine works. Compared to hand-stripped abaca fibers, which are coarse and priced at PhP55.00 per kilo, fiber produced mechanically are of higher quality and can be bought at PhP110.00 per kilo on average.


A ceremonial turnover of heavy equipment (a 6-wheeler and a 10-wheeler), a forklift, weighing scales, among others, to the Pinoy Lingap-Damayan Credit Cooperative (PLDC) capped the day’s event. These were funded by the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Earlier this year, Congressman Cesar V. Sarmiento, Representative of the lone district of Catanduanes, filed House Bill No. 7369, declaring the province as the Abaca Capital of the Philippines. The Bill seeks to promote and support the abaca industry in the province, while safeguarding it from destruction caused by plant diseases and calamitous events.

The Bill also stipulates the creation of an Abaca Research and Development Center attached to the Catanduanes State University – College of Agriculture and Fisheries. The Center shall conduct researches and studies on the development, production, management, and marketing of abaca fiber; provide technical assistance and support to abaca farmers; and develop technologies beneficial to the abaca industry.

Favorable events are coming together for the benefit of the soil tillers and the parahagot (abaca strippers) of Catanduanes. It’s about time they got their share of good cheer on The Happy Island.