My Adventures

Swimmin' with the Whale Sharks in Oslob

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is the world's largest fish.  For me, it is as big as a whale but not as monstrous as a shark.  Whale sharks are found in tropical oceans and we are so blessed here in the Philippines for having them live freely in the open sea of Oslob, Cebu.  With that, we attract tourists from all over the country and the world for whale shark watching which contributes to the source of employment to the locals of the municipality.  Additionally, whale sharks have also become one of our country's pride as we call 'em our butanding!

Whale Shark in Philippine Peso Bill (Photo from Web)
Since whale sharks are gentle and friendly as dolphins, snorkelers and scuba divers are fond of swimming with them.  Sometimes, whale sharks can also be playful and take them for a ride at the back but this is already prohibited by law so not to harm the fish.  Whale sharks are listed as "vulnerable" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected by Philippine laws namely, FAO 193, RA 8550, and RA 9147. (Source: Municipality of Oslob)  So before watching and swimming with the whale sharks, an orientation was given by the municipal hall employees to the snorkelers, scuba divers, and even non-swimmers who will just be in the boat watching the fish.

If you want to watch or swim with the whale sharks in Oslob, take this advice:  

Right after the orientation, race to the table by your left to pay for the fees because whale shark watching is in first come, first served basis.  Even though you already registered in the log book, that won't be honored 'coz it is the government official receipt that'll serve as your ticket.  Thanks to Sir Dominic for assisting us!

Boatmen Prepping Up
The De La Torres Gearing Up
And there goes one butanding welcoming us!
As our boat steadied into the deep, we jumped into the waters to have our photo taken with the whale sharks.  It was a great thing that the boatman who was assigned to us is camera-literate whose hands are not shaky at all.  Hehe..... So we had good shots!

However, taking underwater shots is not as easy as what you're seeing and might be thinking.  It is so hard to hold your breath underwater!  So aside from the best shots we have, we also have our flops and allow me to show 'em to you just for laughs.  Haha!

Orientation starts at 6 AM every day, whale shark watching ends at 12 NN.  Again, it is in first come, first served basis so better be early.  In our case, we arrived before 6 AM which made our 30-minute whale shark encounter more enjoyable because the boatmen are still in high spirits, the sun is just rising, and the area is not yet packed with people.  On Sundays, the area is actually crowded.  Watching is P300 per pax and swimming is P500 per pax.  Save some tip for the boatmen 'coz they are really friendly and hospitable who gives in to all your whims!

Watch out for more posts as we took an adventure off the beaten path of Cebu's South!  So stay tuned only here on The Other Side of Mae! :)  #tosomtravels

Kagay Whitewater Rafting

When in Mindanao, never fail to experience our adventure pride which is whitewater rafting!  Whitewater rafting is a leisure sport which uses a raft to navigate a river with too many rapids.  The more rapids you'll pass by and get through, the more fun you'll have.  And there's no other legit company who could give you the best ride of a lifetime than Kagay!  

Kagay is Cagayan de Oro's premiere whitewater rafting outfitter.  It has been in the biz for over six years now and still continues to give the safest adventure and most valuable customer satisfaction.  They always see to it that their staff and guides are well-trained and well-equipped in every voyage.  So before hitting the rapids, they give orientation to the troops for they do not do voyages with 2-3 rafts only.  As they say, the more the merrier so as to have plenty of eyes to watch for each other too.    

Then off we hit the rapids!  The secret in safeguarding your raft in order for it not to topple upside down is proper coordination within your troop's members. 

Everybody must listen to the guide very well and must follow his instructions properly.  The paddling must be done in perfect unison to the left, to the right, back, front, and in right number of counts as the guide commands.  Proper positioning was also directed for a more adventurous ride!

Aside from rafting, you may also enjoy swimming in the cold still waters that we didn't hesitate but just jumped into it.  The water was so clean when we were there because of the fair weather.  

Additionally, the Cagayan de Oro river is deep and wide with nature preserved at its best.  You'll not only enjoy rafting and swimming but you'll also enjoy its surrounding breathtaking sights.

Our tour lasted for half a day which was the beginner's course and we were famished by early afternoon upon finishing it.  So if you're planning to go for rafting, bring some snacks in a water-proof plastic bag to go along the journey.  But I guess you cannot think to eat with too much adrenaline rushing in your veins already.  Hehehe.....

By the end of the cruise, a swimming pool awaits if you want to do more swimming.  But us, we ended up with more eating.

Extreme sports such as rafting is not dangerous at all if we observe proper precautions by listening carefully and following our guide's commands religiously.  If you want to have an experience of a lifetime, visit Kagay's official website here for they also offer other adventure packages in Cagayan de Oro City!

Fast Facts on Zorbing

Zorbing is also known as globe-riding, sphereing, or orbing.  Orb means circle.

There are two types of orbs, harnessed and non-harnessed.  Harnessed orbs are for one or two riders while non-harnessed orbs carry up to three riders.

The makers, Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers conceived the idea of zorbing from hamster balls which are made for small rodent pets in 1994. 

The first ever zorbing site was established in Rotorua, New Zealand by brothers David and Andrew Akers.

In June 2009, a teacher died in the Czech Republic while trying zorbing.  In December 2012, a woman died from zorbing in Boracay, Philippines.  And in January 2013, a man died from a broken neck in Dombay, Karachay-Cherkess Republic.

But one cannot die zorbing if you would only take extra precaution and pray to God for a safe landing and fun adventure! :)

Visit Dahilayan Forest Park and experience an adventure of a lifetime!  Visit their website here.


I Faced My Fear and Conquered It!!!!!

I just conquered my fear of heights (acrophobia)!!!!!  I survived a minute-or-so dare zipping!!!!  Hurrah to Dahilayan Adventure Park for helping me unravel an other side of me!!!  And that is being brave in facing my fear and really beating it!!!!  

This is Asia's longest dual zipline!  Oh my gosh, my knees were literally quivering.  But as an acrophobic, it's my greatest pleasure to brag to you that I really did survived it.  Oh, what an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience!  Thanks to Ma'am Sherile for the encouragement. :)

It's More Fun to Wakeboard!
Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC)
Wakeboarding had its beginnings in the 1980s which was developed from a combination of water skiing and snowboarding.  It is a surface water sport that involves riding on a wakeboard while being pulled through a cable over the surface of a body of water.

As a sport-nonloving and sun-hating person, wakeboarding doesn't sound appealing to me.  But as we arrived in CWC, I was thrilled!  Just one look at a certain person wakeboarding made me think that I've got to try it!  So without any second thought, I rushed into the registration for some wakeboarding paraphernalia!
Gearing-Up for Adventure!
Then I was off to my first try!
The Sitting Stride
Unfortunately, the first try was unsuccessful so I went for my second try.....
The Water Stride
Surprisingly lucky, I got a success from my second try!  I was elated by the moment I stood up!  I felt like a pro and was so overwhelmed with the very good outcome as a beginner.  Now I experienced a "beginner's luck"!  And thank heavens I got wonderful shots!
Another Simple Wish Granted
On the other hand, success comes with failures.  So want some behind the scenes of this wakeboarding beginner's luck?  Have a glimpse of my semplangs and just imagine all the water that entered my nose and swallowed!
Not So Epic Fails
With the not so braveheart I have, it was good enough there's water to catch me.  'Coz in contrast with zipline in which I consider death-defying, there's really nothing to catch you when you fall.  Thus, it's more fun to wakeboard and you better try it!  Visit CWC in Pili, Camarines Sur for that totally awesome adventure!

Credits to Atty. Hadji Hidlao for the Photos


As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, Singapore has established world-class recreational parks.  These are must-see and must-experience places once one set foot on Singapore shores.  Among the fantabulous places I visited were:

National Orchid Garden

Location:  Singapore Botanic Gardens
                1 Cluny Road, Singapore 259569   

Getting There By Public Bus:  Via Holland Road
                                            SBS Transit 7, 015, 123, 174
                                            SMRT 75, 77, 106

                                             Via Bukit Timah Road
                                             SBS Transit 48, 66, 151, 153, 154, 156, 170
                                             SMRT 67, 171

A country of blooming flowers
Orchids are its super powers
Come and smell the sweet blossoms
Until you’ll fill your heart’s bottoms

Night Safari

Location:  80 Mandai Lake Road, Singapore 729826 

Getting There By Public Bus:  From the city, take service 171 then alight at the first bus stop along Mandai Road and transfer to service 927 or 926

Wild animals come and roar
Roaming around freely to explore
The wilderness that’s ferocious and savage
Never flash your cameras to prevent some wreckage

Mount Faber

Location:  109 Mount Faber Road, Singapore 62708855

Getting There By Public Bus:  SBS Transit 409

A hill overlooking the city
Everything seems itsy-bitsy
Ride on the cable car
To reach Sentosa without a scar

Sentosa:  Underwater World

Location:  80 Siloso Road, Singapore 098967

Getting There By Public Bus:  Take Sentosa Bus from Seah Im Bus Interchange (just next to Harbourfront MRT station).  On Sentosa, take the monorail to Station M2.

Fishes, fishes everywhere
Feel like a mermaid as you were
Gotta know each one of them
For you to be able to find your gem

Sentosa:  Dolphin Lagoon

Location:  80 Siloso Road, Singapore 098967

Getting There By Public Bus:  Take the monorail and alight at Station M6

Meet the dolphins
Do the win-wins
Flippin’ forward
Flippin’ backward
You’ll surely enjoy
With the dolphins’ ploy

Sentosa:  Siloso Beach

Location:  51 Imbiah Walk, Singapore 099538

Getting There By Tram:  Take the green line at the tram station

Sun, sand, and sea
There are a lot more to see
Be a beach bum
While having some bar's rum

Sentosa:  Musical Fountain Show / Songs of the Sea

Location:  Siloso Beach

Getting There:  See Siloso Beach

“La la la la,” the singing Li sings
See what his beautiful voice brings
A sleeping Princess Ami had awakened
From the spell of the village chastened

Sentosa:  Fort Siloso

Location:  33 Allanbrooke Road, Singapore 099981

Getting There:  Take the Fort Siloso Tram from Imbiah Lookout

Mighty soldiers who fought in wars
Deserve good tribute and stars
Filipinos helped the Singapore army
So the word "siloso" was adopted as homey

Resorts World Sentosa:  Lake of Dreams

Location:  12 Artillery Avenue
       FestiveWalk, Resorts World Sentosa

Getting There:  Just walk from the entrance of Resorts World Sentosa

Flaming dragons
Water cannons
Delight your eyes
And you'll hate goodbyes 

Resorts World Sentosa:  Universal Studios Singapore

Location:  8 Sentosa Gateway, Resorts World Sentosa

Getting There:  Just walk from the entrance of Resorts World Sentosa

Blockbuster hits come to life
Happiness is rife
Prepare yourself for awesome rides
Brace yourself with the tides

Other Sentosa Faves:

Photos Taken by Mark Rimmon Sila

“Going for a walk is an invitation for surprise.” – William Wordsworth

I always love walking!  I started to love it when I was in college as I tried to lose some weight (see Home – Fitness First).  It was an exercise for me and now, it is a recreation!  I prefer walking than just sitting in the pedicab or motorcab.  Well, it just depends on how far the distance is and the weather condition.  But all in all, I just walk and walk and walk.

So, I didn’t have a hard time keeping up with the busy streets of Singapore.  I already had so much training that my feet won’t easily give up with their toils.  Much more, walking in Singapore is just like walking through a postcard.  It has plenty of picturesque sights to see, shops to hoard, foods to taste, noises to hear, and people to watch!  As promised in My Adventures – Uniquely Singapore, it is my honor to take you to a tour to this Lion City of Asia.

Public transportation in Singapore is very good.  It covers a variety of transport modes such as the air-conditioned MRT (Mass Rapid Transit), air-conditioned bus, and air-conditioned taxi.  It is so easy to go around the city for all transport modes are really accessible.  The EZ Link Card is used as a means to pay for your fare so you need not worry carrying coins or getting your change back.  Unlike here in the Philippines, you must give the exact amount of money for Filipino drivers’ technique is walang barya meaning, “no change”.  Aside from that, the card can also be used in Singapore’s #1 fast food chain, McDonald’s.

Though Singapore has accessible public transport, you cannot be delivered door-to-door just like here in Ozamiz.  So, you need to walk some distances in order for you to reach your destination.  But you cannot feel the stress of walking for there are fast walkalators and escalators in the city’s streets.  You can’t also have your feet dirty for the city is not dusty.  In fact, a big part of it is also air-conditioned for you pass by department stores.  That’s how modern the city is.  Now let’s start walking at the very heart of Singapore – the Singapore River where the country’s civilization started!

Singapore River flows from the Central Area of the southern part of Singapore to the Marina Channel then to Singapore Strait.  There are two classic bridges over the river – the Anderson Bridge and the Eldin Bridge.

North of the mouth of the river lies the Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay which is the main venue of performing arts in the country.    

Just a few meters away from the Esplanade is the Merlion Park and One Fullerton, a host of offices and restaurants that have the terminal for the river taxis which cruise the Singapore River to-and-fro Clarke Quay or Riverside Point, another host of restaurants.

As I’ve said, Singapore River empties to the Marina Channel.  The reclaimed area of the Marina Bay houses the newly-built Marina Bay Sands, an integrated resort.  It has the mall, hotel, and casino in three towering buildings with a ship’s replica on top connecting them!  You can get there by feet from the Esplanade through the ingeniously-engineered Helix Bridge wherein you can also pass by the Singapore Flyer, the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel! 

And once you get to the Marina Bay Sands, don’t forget to drop by the ArtScience Museum that showcases major international touring exhibits from the most renowned collections in the world.  Moreover, there’s also a mesmerizing light and fountain show to entertain the tourists for free every night!

From modern to ancient.  The country has the National Museum of Singapore which is its oldest and the Asian Civilisations Museum that specializes in pan-Asian cultures.  Material history of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and West Asia from which the diverse ethnic groups of Singapore trace their ancestry are being exhibited in the museum.

A little distance from the National Museum of Singapore is the Istana Park that serves as a landmark for the Presidential Residence, the Istana.  It is a gateway to Singapore’s Civic District Trail which aims to educate visitors of the rich history of Singapore.

Speaking of rich history, there’s also the Civilian War Memorial that was built in memory of the civilians who were killed and massacred during the Japanese Occupation of World War II in the country.

The Supreme Court also has its British-inspired building wherein lawsuits and hearings are held.

Done with the tour?  Now let’s go shopping!  Singapore is famed for its mid-year Great Singapore Sale when prices come down heftily in all precincts!  Designer shops are along Orchard Road but only the well-off ones can afford here.

For those on a budget, there are plenty of good bargains at Bugis Street anyway! 

Aside from Orchard and Bugis, the Suntec City Mall that has the Fountain of Wealth, the world’s largest fountain is also a very good place to shop! 

The country is also famous for its cheap jewelries.  You can get luxurious items at factory-price at the Singapore Gems and Metals Co. 

Of course, don’t miss the night markets along selected streets that are also so inviting for a visit!

Already hungry because of the walk?  No worries!  Singapore has hawkers everywhere!  Hawkers are food stalls that serve foods ranging from 1.90 SGD to 5 SGD only!  Among the country’s signature dishes are the laksa and hokkein mee (Correct spelling.  Spelling in photo is incorrect.  Sorry...).  I so love the laksa!  It has noodles, coco milk, seafoods, chili, mongo sprouts, and squid rolls.

Laksa is Katong’s signature dish.  Katong is a residential area in the east of Singapore that was the location of many villas and mansions of the wealthy elite in the late 19th century.  Because of that, the country’s oldest bakery is located here which was the Katong Bakery and Confectionery Co.

And to quench your thirst a bit, ice cream carts are also camping in selected corners of Singapore.  They serve ice cream sandwich – a block of ice cream sandwiched in wafers.

If you’re tired of walking already, there are coi ponds everywhere that could relax you while watching the fishes swim!

For a good rest, you may check-in at hotels.  There are 7 stars and 5 stars hotels.  But for those who are in a budget again, there are backpacker hotels.  Just be careful on what street you’re in ‘coz you might be mistaken as a call-girl.        

It is best to visit Singapore during the Happy Ghost Festival for the whole month of August and Chinese New Year on late January or early February depending on the Chinese calendar. 

Visit Singapore and also experience walking around the country for great surprises!

Singapore is derived from the Malay words Singa meaning lion and pura meaning city.  It was a Srivijayan prince, Sang Nila Utama from Palembang, Indonesia who named the land for he saw a beast that looked like a lion when he landed at the mouth of the Singapore River in 1324.  Thus, the Merlion was designed as the state symbol of Singapore.  It is half lion that represents Singapore’s name and half fish that represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village.

In 1819, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore.  He founded a trading post of the East India Company with permission from the Sultanate of Johor (see My Adventures – Johor Bahru Side Trip).  Eventually, the British obtained full sovereignty over the land that changed the destiny of the country from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis.

As only a dot at the end of the Peninsula Malaysia, Singapore is among the 20 smallest countries in the world.  Yet as the saying goes “small is terrible”, it has bagged a long list of superlatives – no. 1 airport, world’s busiest transshipment port, world’s first night safari, world’s largest fountain, etc. 

Now, Singapore has become one of the most visited countries in the world.  It is a dynamic country rich in contrast and color where you can find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts, and architecture.  It is because there are four races in the country – the Chinese, Indian, Malay, and Filipino. 

With that, Singapore also has diverse languages and religion – Buddhism for the Chinese, Hinduism for the Indians, Islam for the Malays, and Christianity for the Filipinos.  Being the majority group, there are plenty of Chinese temples in the country.  Second in number are the Hindu temples and third are the mosques.  And being the minority group, Christian churches are only a few.  I was given the chance to visit these various houses of worship and witness an assortment of tradition!
Buddha Tooth Relic Temple
Even an Indian Prays Inside a Chinese Temple
Loyang Tua Pek Kong Temple
Jamae Mosque
Singapore's Tallest Hindu Temple

Additionally, there are two villages of culture concentration in Singapore.  There’s the Chinatown for the Chinese wherein there are plenty of bazaars that sell cheap Chinese goods and food centers that serve Chinese cuisine.  There’s also Little India for the Indians wherein there are shops that sell Indian goods as well as little restaurants that serve pure Indian cuisine.  Aside from that, the Malays also have their share of the land by having big fairs during Ras as-Sanah al-Hijriyah or the Islamic New Year.

Common people in Singapore live in Housing Development Board flats (HDB’s).  With the country’s high cost of living, these are the most affordable ones.  Those who have higher salaries live in condominiums.  These condos are just the same as HDB’s but they have additional facilities like swimming pools, gym, playground, etc.  But for the millionaires, they can have the landed houses with garage.  These are just like the townhouses in the Philippines that have limited space.  Moreover, there are also shophouses in the business districts wherein the ground floor is used as a shop and the second floor is used as a house.

I had experienced living in Singapore for a while.  I was surprised with their sunrise at 7am and sunset at 7pm.  I had also observed that it rains continuously for long hours but rain doesn’t pour heavily.  All people are always in a hurry but the youngsters are so respectfully that they always give way to the elderly.  Even the government prioritizes the elderly by providing them jobs and health care. 

Singapore is a very clean country – clean for no corruption, no pollution, and no crimes.  There are plenty of rules and all people living there are so disciplined.  I love being there because I feel so safe even at the most isolated and darkest corner of the country for it has CCTV’s everywhere that I fondly call it as the Big Brother Country.

With that, Singapore is very unique not just with its diverse people, culture, and religion but also with its good governance and lifestyle.  Know more about Singapore as I will take you to a tour around the country in my next post! 

For My Third Visit in Singapore

My generous aunt, Mommy Becky always treats us with travels (see My Adventures – My First Remembered Travel and Bohol Day Tour).  She always wants us to also experience her vonggacious life (see Home – Fitness First)!  In this regard, she gave my cousin Vian and me a trip abroad as a gift for our graduation in 2005!

Our destination – Singapore!  I was so excited upon hearing the news!  Wow!  Going out of the country!  What a great privilege!  Then we were booked to travel on June 9, 2005 with Danica Nikka San Diego, our neighbor and Vian’s classmate.  She was also given by her aunt the same gift as we had.

But I won’t be writing about Singapore now.  I was more privileged enough to visit this country thrice so better watch out for my SG stories next week!  What I’m going to tell you now is about our little side trip to a city of another country adjacent to Singapore – Johor Bahru, Malaysia!

Malaysia is composed of 13 states that has a Partial Monarchy Government.  Partial because aside from its King (having a term of 5 years only), it also has a Prime Minister with the Cabinet.  Moreover, the 9 Sultans from the 9 royal families also dominate the country.  According to our tour guide, it is a complicated thing to discuss so she didn’t elaborate any further.  I need not elaborate this also because it is beyond my capacity to discuss politics.  Being a who-cares-about-politics person, I think I don’t have the right to do so.  And if you wish, just visit for more information about it.

Anyway, what we had been to was just a tiny part of Malaysia.  Johor Bahru comes from the Arabic word jauhar meaning precious stone or jewel.  It was founded in the early 1500s by Sultan Ahmad Shah.  It only has a population of 1,855 people dated June 2005 (good thing I took notes of our tour guide’s fast facts).  It is located in Peninsula Malaysia and is easily reached from Singapore through the linking bridges and roads.  Because of this, it receives 50% of Singapore’s annual 22 million foreign tourists up to this day.

Our first stop was the Cottage Industry Center for Batik-Making.  Malaysian Batik is exceptional not just for its large floral motifs and leaves but also for its use of animal images (Islam norms forbid animal images as decoration).  Aside from this, it is also famous for its geometrical designs.  Nowadays, Malaysian Batik is used as a national dress to every level of the general population in the country.

Our second stop was the Masjid Sultan Abu Bakar, the state mosque of Johor.  The mosque was built in between 1892 and 1900 under the direction of Sultan Abu Bakar, Johor’s Sultan during those years.    It was inspired by English Victorian architecture with more of the Moorish architecture elements.  It has very colorful glass mosaics inside.  Plus it sits on top of a prominent hill overlooking the Straits of Johor that gives a breathtaking view.

Our third stop was to visit a Malay Common House.  It was just like a typical Filipino house for we are almost the same with Malay people (take note, we originate from them).  Inside the house, we were being introduced to Malay kitchen utensils and the manners they do before, while, and after eating.  They just wash their hands in the table wherein they use the kendi, a water vessel that is being passed around from person to person.  They eat by their bare right hand while their left hand is used to handle the serving spoons provided for each dish.

Along the way, we also had a glimpse of the Tower Clock at Dataran Bandaraya that was built to commemorate the proclamation of Johor as a city in January 1994.  Since then, important public events are being held and celebrated here wherein cultural performances are presented. 

We also passed by Sultan Abu Bakar Mausoleum.  As a whole, Malay cemeteries possess a unique tranquil beauty of their own but this mausoleum symbolizes the luxurious and splendid lifestyle of the royalties.  The elaborate burial chambers of the members of the royal families are one of a kind.  Unfortunately, sight-seers couldn’t get inside the gates.

With all the significant places I’d been to at Johor, I could say that my side trip in Malaysia was worthwhile.  I had experienced a little bit of the country for a while – from culture to food and people.  It was great visiting a foreign land and Johor Bahru had made my first trip abroad a memorable one!

For more information about Johor Bahru, visit

Gold Leaf Gilding and Japanese Calligraphy Workshops

Japan is a country rich in arts and crafts.  Among the famous Japanese arts are:

Bonsai – the art of cultivating miniature trees
Ikebana – the art of flower arrangement
Origami – the art of paper folding
Haiku – the art of Japanese poetry
Gilding – the art of decorating objects with gold in leaf or powder form; and
Calligraphy – the art of writing Japanese characters beautifully

I was first introduced to one of Japanese art forms when I was in preschool.  Of course, we had the never-ending paper folding!  Me and my classmates made paper airplanes, paper balls, paper flowers, etc.  We were fond of making them that when we turned elementary, our teacher required us to have it as a project for the whole year.  And that time, she taught us advanced Origami.  Then it became very hard for us that we had to purchase Origami manuals.  Each object from the manual was so challenging to make  that once we did, we considered it as our trophy!

When high school came, we studied Japanese literature.  Our Japan-inclination leveled up that our teacher made us write 100 Haikus!  Those were more than enough compositions!  But we did the project diligently and take note, we didn’t have Mr. Google during those years so we didn’t have any means to cheat.  We did our compositions all by ourselves and I enjoyed it for I always love writing.  Some of my classmates even asked for some Haikus from me.

Then years in engineering and sciences deprived me of my artistic penchant until last summer when I attended the 2011 JCI Asia-Pacific Conference in Manila.  Our brothers from JCI Japan offered to give us free Gold Leaf Gilding and Japanese Calligraphy Workshops.

Since the 16th century, the tradition of creating art using gold leaf has been preserved and continued in Japan.  Gold leaf has been used to enhance the beauty of many traditional Japanese arts and has been used in castles, shrines, temples, and on Buddhist altars.  It is also used in lacquerware, porcelain and folding screens.
While gilding gold on a mini plate
The thickness of the gold leaf is 0.1 micrometer.  When taking out the gold leaf, be careful.  Pick it up with a toothpick and slowly put it into your object.  Then a certain chemical is used to let the gold adhere into it permanently.
Successfully gilded a gold rabbit.  Thanks to my sensei (teacher)! 
99% of Japan’s gold leaf comes from Kanazawa, the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture.  The name for Kanazawa in Japanese is formed by two Chinese characters Kane meaning “gold” and sawa meaning “marsh”.  According to a legend, this name is derived from a marsh from which gold appeared.

You can try out gold leafing by visiting Kanazawa which is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated city of crafts and folk art!    Just for stopping by at Kanazawa, you’ll get a piece of Kanazawa gold leaf and a yummy gold leaf candy for that taste of luxurious gold!
Arigatou gozaimasu, JCI Kanazawa!:)
On the other hand, Japanese Calligraphy is an artistic writing of the Japanese language.  It is called shodou, or “the way of writing”. Though it shares its roots with the Chinese calligraphy, it has its own styles intrinsic to Japan.

There are three basic writing styles namely:

Kaisho – literally means “correct writing”.  Each stroke is made in a deliberate and clear way.  Below you can see the character for “dream” in kaisho style:
Gyousho – literally means “traveling writing”.  This is the semi-cursive style.  It is more flowing and artistic.  The same character is written in gyousho below: 
Sousho – literally means “grass writing”.  This is the flowing cursive style.  It supersedes readability as the artist rarely allows his/her brush to leave the paper, resulting in graceful, swooping shapes.  It is a more stylized work of art than a vehicle for conveying information.  The same character is written in sousho below:

My calligraphy sensei told me that I write good in Japanese calligraphy that he included my name on my mulberry paper for the Japanese character of love.  Maybe he must see my English penmanship too.  Hehe…
Trying out to spell L-O-V-E

My sensei writing my name in Japanese characters
With my experiences, I can say that Japanese arts are indeed traditional and unique.  Japanese had perfected a myriad collection of art forms that reflect Japan’s rich culture.  So I encourage you to try one of their arts and get that trance of artistic "Japanesa" in you!

Arigatou gozaimasu for sharing your arts with us, JCI Japan!:)

For more information about Kanazawa, visit,_Ishikawa.

PBB (Private Baliw-Baliwan)
It was August 2005 when a new TV show was launched in ABS-CBN Channel 2. It was an interesting TV show for the cast were not celebrities but ordinary people. It was an intriguing one for they had to live in one house for 100 days wherein all their moves were being captured by a number of cameras and in no time, aired on national TV. It was the Philippine version of the most celebrated TV show worldwide, the Pinoy Big Brother (PBB).

It was a very unique show because it was reality-based. It was the very first in the Philippines and Filipinos were astonished with all the surprises the show brought. Even me, I was hooked on it.

I was having my review for the Chemical Engineering board exam in Cebu at that time. Me and my classmates/boardmates religiously watched PBB everynight. We loved it because we were always entertained by the housemates. We also got carried away by each housemates’ emotions. We reacted and we commented on their behavior that led to debates sometimes. In fact, we also felt that we were also Kuya’s housemates.

After the 100 days, Filipinos couldn’t just get over the show. So the network decided to open a second season and started to scout for possible housemates.

By June 2006, there was an audition in Cebu. This time, I was already working. It was a rainy early morning when I rode a jeepney to work. I lived in Labangon and I had to take one ride to the city proper wherein our company’s shuttle is waiting to fetch us (the company where I worked in offered free rides for the plant was located at Mandaue City).

But before my jeep reached our meeting place, I stopped it, went down, and hopped into another jeep to SM Cebu. I brought my biodata with me as well as food and water to get me through the day. On impulse, I decided to have the day off and line up for PBB audition.

When I arrived at SM, the mall was still closed but there were already a number of people outside. The people were diverse from all walks of life. Some were students, some just graduated, some were young professionals, and some were “tambay”. Then I asked myself, “Do I really have to be here?” I thought that if I would commute to the plant, I would already be late. Better be absent than to be late. "You’re already here. Just carry on,” I answered myself.

After a few minutes, the ABS-CBN staff arrived and motioned us to go at the back of the building for the entrance. After the security guards checked our bags, we lined up. Upon lining up, I came to meet a few people.

One was a very friendly guy who was so loquacious. He was so excited for the day. He initiated the conversation first and opened up himself for everybody. He also attracted two other persons aside from me to listen to him. According to him, he was a musician. He hadn’t finished college for the love of music. His father actually disowned him for his stubbornness. So he lived alone and made music his living.

However, being in Cebu meant having a lot of competitors. He just had small “rakets” in small-time bars. His earnings were not that good but it was fine with him. I understood. His battle was for the pursuit of his happiness and being happy is not that always easy.

The other two persons were students - one girl and one gay. Both were good looking and I could see some potential in them. They were just silent and like me, they were also unsure of what were they doing there.

After a while, another loquacious person came into the scene. Her name was Angel – the only person I knew of the name. She was such in a hurry to catch up for she just came all the way from Bacolod. “My God! She traveled just to audition? So, I was not the only stupid person there,” I realized. Then she told us that she already auditioned in her hometown but unfortunately didn’t get in. So she opted to try again in Cebu. It was just a ferry boat ride for her so why not take the risk? She talked about her audition experience and while she did, I thought to myself that I didn’t belong there.

Based on the people I met, there was one with talent, two good lookings, and one with experience. I didn’t have any one of those. So I must not be there.

Then the staff gave us numbers and branded us with a stamp that we were aspiring housemates. There were cameras around us. They took a fanning of the very long queue.Everytime there were cameras, I turned my back from them because I didn’t want anybody to know that I auditioned. It would be a shame!
An Evidence
Eventually, the audition started. The process was so fast. Ten people would go to the stage. They would just stand there without nothing to do. Only the cameras were moving. With the scrutinizing eyes of Derek Laurenti Dyogi, he would select those who would pass his taste.

Ten after ten, and only a few were chosen. Then came our turn. The only one who got in from our group was the pretty student. So I just laughed. If I had wasted my time there, it was much more for Angel. She then told me not to go home yet. She requested me to stay with her and I said yes immediately for I already had the day off. We agreed to just watch the audition.

I didn’t know how Derek Lauren did the selection. Definitely, looks mattered most as always but there were also instances when he didn’t choose the pretty and the handsome ones. Maybe, it was the charisma. You know that sort of thing that makes you stand out and shine from the others? The X factor as they said!

After phase 1 of the audition, ten people (from those chosen) were hailed to the stage. The same thing happened. Those numbers that were mentioned stayed while those that were not were eliminated. How pitiable. They were already given hope but it vanished instantly.

When they were done, ten were called again. This time, Derek Lauren gave them a thing to do. They were asked to sing the PBB theme song with their tongues out! Then he selected and eliminated. Another ten came and he just let them twirl and twirl. Another ten and he let them bark – just any task that first comes out from his mind, he let the aspirants do. And he selected and he eliminated.

For phase 4, the group of ten was given a situation to act out. It was so funny for everything was impromptu. It was a test of quick thinking of what to say and do. Angel and I enjoyed watching “the show” so much until it was time for lunch. Then we took a break and ate at Chowking.

There, we had a chance to talk. She told me that she was desperate to get into Big Brother’s house for she had just broken up with her long-time boyfriend. They were about to get married when her boyfriend had another girl pregnant. As she was relating to me her sentiments, I almost cried. I felt her pain and her lost. She was so disheartened and frustrated with her life. That was why she was trying to do various things to let her forget the dreadful thing that happened to her.

After eating, we went back to the activity area. As we went down, we noticed that the line shortened. Angel and I looked at each other and she said, “Let’s try again!” I laughed and agreed with her. With hope in our hearts again, we lined up. The same process happened and luckily this time, Angel passed phase 1. We were so happy! So I didn’t have any business there anymore but I hadn’t said goodbye to my new friend. So instead of going home, I stayed there as a supporting friend. Phase 2 came and Angel passed again. For phase 3, the group was asked to sing the PBB song like a crazy person. Perhaps Angel’s acting was not that quite good and she got eliminated. So I just met her down the stage and hugged her. Then we laughed hard – so hard that the people were staring at us.

After getting back to our senses, tears fell down her cheeks. She then told me that it was the happiest day in her life after her break-up. For months, she hadn’t laughed and even smiled heartily. She embraced me and thanked me for the company. I was so touched and thanked her also. People were again watching of the drama that was happening. And we laughed again! They just didn’t have an idea of the realizations that we just both had.

Alas, she had to go. Bacolod was too far a place to go home to. We said goodbyes and good lucks. We wished each other happiness in our respective lives. Both of us left SM with light hearts though we didn’t passed the audition.

It was already twilight on my way home. It was just like an ordinary day computing home from work. But before I went to bed that night, I laughed at myself for the craziness I made that day. Though I felt like an idiot for lining up just like the others who had nothing to do with their lives, I felt fulfilled. At least, I did it! At least, I tried.

Like Angel, I had at least risked a day in my life for the pursuit of happiness like the musician was doing. And the good thing was, I had shared with the lives of strangers. They came in an instant and they were only passers-by in my life but I couldn’t forget them. From them, I learned to be true to myself and to follow my heart as the theme of the show, “Ang storya ng totoong buhay.” Though I hadn’t got into Kuya’s house, I had found my housemates with whom I had bonded with in just a very short time.

As PBB opens again today, I hope that it would touch plenty of lives as it had. For everything that we do with an eager and pure heart would never end up in vain. As what I did, lining up five years ago for the show had not come in vain. So I’m sharing this story to you for the lessons learned. Henceforth, my private baliw-baliwan had now gone public!
Finally Got Outside the PBB House!

Nearby Cebu is the island of Bohol.  Bohol was named from a medium-sized medicinal tree Bo-ol (Exora philippinesis) that predominantly grows in the island.  It is an island of gentle and rolling terrain with its mountainous interior acting as home to rare and endangered flora and fauna.  It is an island of breathtaking sights, an island of relevant history, an island of rich culture, and an island of hospitable people.  Let me take you to a ride for a day tour in Bohol!         

Bus Stop #1  Chocolate Hills

The Chocolate Hills are Bohol’s most famous tourist attraction.  There are 1,268 hills having uniform shapes and sizes.  They are covered with grass but during dry season, the hills turn brown thus it was given the name chocolate.  One legend says that there were two giants who fought by throwing stones and sand at each other for days.  After they became exhausted, they reconciled and just left the island as well as the mess they had made.  Another legend says that there was this giant named Arogo who fell in love with the mortal, Aloya.  When Aloya died, Arogo mournfully cried and his tears turned into hills as a proof of his everlasting love to the girl.  What a romantic gesture this could be!

Bus Stop #2  Tarsier Sanctuary

The Tarsier Sanctuary serves as a protected habitat for Tarsius syrichta which is considered as the world’s smallest primate.  These are nocturnal animals whose heads can turn 1800.  With really big eyes, each is bigger than its brain.  These animals had been the inspiration of Steven Spielberg's E.T.

Bus Stop #3  Baclayon Church

The Baclayon Church is the second oldest Catholic stone church building in the Philippines.  It was constructed by the Jesuit priests during the Spanish era.  Nowadays, it is one of the most visited historic churches in Bohol.  It has an old convent and a museum which houses important relics and images reminiscent of the Roman Catholic religion in the country.

Bus Stop #4  Blood Compact Site

The Blood Compact Site is the exact location wherein Datu Sikatuna, a native Boholano chieftain made friendship with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, a Spanish Conquistador.  They strengthened their pact by cutting their wrist, pouring their blood into a cup filled with liquid and drinking each other’s blood.  If Cebu has its Mactan Shrine for Lapu-Lapu and Magellan’s Battle, Bohol has its Sandugo Site for Sikatuna and Legazpi’s Treaty of Friendship.

Bus Stop #5  Loboc River

The Loboc River plays a significant role for the early inhabitants of Bohol called the Pintados or the tattooed ones.  They made homes along its banks and survived from the river’s produce.  Nowadays, cruises along the winding river are a tourist attraction.  Visitors go on board motorized bancas wherein they are treated with Boholano songs and a buffet of Filipino cuisine thus they are called as floating restaurants.

Bus Stop #6  Bohol Tropics Resort

Bohol Tropics Resort offers an indulgence to the Tagbilaran Bay.  It has a beach, pools, and luxurious guest rooms.  After a day’s tour in Bohol, you gotta check-in here for a while to relax.

Those are only a few of Bohol’s tourist attractions.  There are still more that you have to stay in the place for three days in order to have a fill.  But one really great thing Bohol has is its very grand and sumptuous fiesta!  There’s no need for an invitation for all houses open their doors and windows to those who wishes to come in.  Boholanos offer great food that you could also get some take-outs of the yummy calamay and peanut kisses!

Visit for more information about Bohol! 

“a doulos for Christ” – a phrase oftenly uttered by Nathan Ian Demecillo, a youth pastor of the church I attended in Iligan, the Faith Christian Fellowship.  He always encouraged us to be in service to Jesus, building the Kingdom of God among us and in reaching out to the others.  But that is no easy job.  Carrying Jesus’ cross means laying down everything we have and leaving ourselves behind.  Being in the human flesh, we’re literally weak (as I’m guilty of) so as a frequent reminder, Pastor Nathan would tell us “be Christ’s love slave”.

Doulos is a Greek word for servant.  For us Christians, it is a word for love slave.  Love slave is a very profound word, not commonly used in everyday language.  It is ought to be respected, it is hallowed.  Love slave means a person that, usually, would do anything for affection from their “master” in Wikipedia but love slave for us means being enslaved for Christ out of love, a total surrender of ourselves for the ministry.  It is an offering of our total being as a sacrificial lamb to the Lord God Almighty.  And this is the ministerial work of the ship, MV Doulos who seeks to bring knowledge, help, and hope to the people of the world.
MV Doulos Visited Cebu in 2007

MV Doulos was built in 1914, two years younger than the most celebrated ship, the Titanic.  She was built as a freighter serving the Atlantic and during the Second World War, she served with the United States Coast Guard bearing the name SS Medina.  Afterwards, she was converted into a passenger ship bearing the name SS Roma then into a cruise liner sailing the Mediterranean seas bearing the name MS Franca C.  And when she was acquired by the German charity Gute Bϋcher fϋr Alle (Good Books for All), she was converted into a floating bookshop.  

By then, MV Doulos had become the world's largest floating bookshop that carries Christian books and other good quality literature.  She sails all around the globe with her hundreds of Christian volunteers from different countries.  She doesn't just bring forth books but also the message of love and salvation to the people.  I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not just to visit the historic ship but to experience the life inside it for two whole days!

The ship docked in the port of Cebu last January 27, 2007.  Being a book lover, I was so excited to visit her for her huge book sale!  On its opening day, I hurriedly went there with my high school classmate, Sandra Loayon.  While on the boat, we were amazed with how cheap the books were.  And after spending a few minutes inside, we heard that there’s gonna be an International Night on February 16 so we saved the date for it.  We tagged along another high school classmate, Loraine Angot.

The International Night was really great!  People from all over the world were there in their national costumes.  They had a variety show which conveyed the message of God’s love.  MV Doulos’ heart is to spread the good news on which Jesus came to this earth for.  I was so enthralled by the Doulos life and I was not satisfied with the ship visitation alone.  I was so eager to learn more about the ship and her ministry.  With this desire in my heart, I prayed for a chance to be given to me.

One Sunday morning as Sandra and I attended church at the House of Worship, the Doulos staff was there.  They were inviting volunteers for a two-day work in the ship.  I was so glad upon hearing it and I urged Sandra to sign up with me.

On that week, both Sandra and I were called for an interview by Operation Mobilisation (OM) Cebu.  I was shocked!  We volunteered to work but why are they requiring us an interview?  It was like applying for a job but we reported anyway.  The interview was all about our inclination to any ministerial work.  And days after the interview, we were called for the orientation.  We were so happy that we got in despite from our lack of experience in doing ministries compared to the other applicants for they were Bible school students and they handled ministries by themselves already. 

Finally, we were scheduled for The Doulos Inside Out Programme!  On our first day, February 17, we arrived at 9 AM sharp at the port for our call time was 10 AM.  We had to be early because we were working with foreigners who are always time conscious.  At exactly 10 o’clock, we were already inside our cabin that served as our headquarters for the briefing with the Indian, Shibu.  Then we were grouped according to the workload that we’re going to have that day.  I was assigned in the housekeeping department.

Before going to work, each of us was given our complete uniform – from shirt to shoes.  Then we went to the storage room and got our cleaning materials.  Our team leader was the Australian, Eleanor and my team mates were Rhona, Cookie, and Irish.  We were happy with each other’s company while scrubbing the walls of the ship’s corridor.  We did that for the whole day and we just stopped during lunch break and tea breaks.  Though the day was exhausting, I felt super fulfilled!  In my own little way, I had imparted some of my love to Doulos.

On our second day, we were surprised that we were not given any task.  Instead, Shibu told us that we’re gonna have the day off just touring inside the ship!  We were so glad upon hearing that and got really excited!  First stop was the open-cabin.  A family would adopt us for a while to get to know them and their Doulos life.  They were Glenn and Fiona Leaver with their baby Callum. 

Glenn is a Norwegian while Fiona is an Australian.  They met in the ship, fell in love in the ship, and got married in the ship eventually.  Their whole lives were all about the ship.  They sacrificed a lot to be far away from home all for the love of the Doulos ministry.  I just couldn’t imagine myself raising a family inside the confinement of a boat so I really admired them.

After the open-cabin was lunch and after lunch was the fellowship.  The Doulos staff prepared a reality play for us entitled Mission Possible wherein we were the subjects.  They gave us roles as missionaries and our mission was to reach a far-flung country wherein we’re going to bring in the good news.  On our way to that country, we had to undergo tests like getting our passport, visa, and ticket.  They also gave us a tight budget so we had to be clever on how to travel without running out of money.  Our path was so perilous because everybody was so rude - the migration officer, the ticketing officer who tricked us, and the policeman who misled us.  We even had our plane crashed!        

Upon arrival to the country by a sailboat, the locals intimidated us.  We couldn’t understand their language and it was so hard keeping up with them.  We had no idea how to give them the message of God’s love.  Thankfully, after a while of ignoring us, they considered and accepted us.  They also accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour.  Then the reality play ended teaching us big lessons - lessons on how life could be if you are in the reality of doing the works of Christ.

After the activity, we huddled up in the ship’s function room.  The Doulos staff told us their various experiences on how hard it is to be in a mission.  Doulos is not just about the cheap books but Doulos is all about love.  Every day and every night, the Doulos crew and staff go out to spread God’s word into the world! Sufferings, hunger, humiliations and worst, persecutions were their constant battles but every mission is possible for they have Christ as their companion. 

By the end of my Doulos days, I realized that I have plenty of shortcomings.  I hadn’t done a real thing for the Kingdom of God.  Until now, I always fall short of His glory.  But God is forever faithful!  He had sent into this world faithful servants as my Doulos friends who never get tired being in service to Him.  And with that, I salute them, look up at them, and inspired by them to be A DOULOS FOR CHRIST!    
Godspeed, My Doulos Friends!
For more information about MV Doulos, visit and to have a glimpse to be in missions, visit   

Everytime I hear the word “Sinulog”, I equate it with Cebu.  For only Cebu has this really big festivities every third Sunday of January of each year.  People from all over the Philippines and around the world visit Cebu just to celebrate this feast of the Sto. Niño.

My parents among the numerous people were also hopeful pilgrims asking for healing from Sto. Niño (see My Adventures - My First Remembered Travel).  They brought me to Cebu every year during Sinulogs (aside from my weekly check-ups at Chong Hua Hospital and Cebu Doctors’ Hospital) to pay homage to the miraculous child Jesus.  But my Cebu visits during those trying times were only limited to the hospitals, Gaw (an old department store at Colon), and the Sto. Niño Basilica.

The Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu was built on April 28, 1565 under the instructions of the Augustinian priest, Fr. Andres de Urdaneta.  It houses the oldest religious relic in the Philippines, the image of the Sto. Niño.  This holy sculpture was presented as a gift by Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon and his wife Humamay (also known as Queen Juana) during their baptism to Christianity on April 14, 1521.  As recorded in Philippine history, this year was the year of Philippines’ discovery by the Spanish Conquistadors headed by Magellan.  And for this, Cebu is acclaimed as Philippines’ oldest city.

Just beside the Sto. Niño Basilica is the Magellan’s Cross that is being housed in a small chapel.  It was planted by Magellan, marking his arrival in the Philippines.  The original cross is encased in a tindalo wood cross to protect it from the devotees who had started chipping the cross for souvenir purposes.

A few meters away from the Sto. Niño Basilica-Magellan’s Cross complex is the Fort San Pedro which was built in 1738 by Spanish and Cebuano laborers under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, the first Governor-General of the Philippines to repel Muslim raiders.  I had the chance to visit this historical place when I stayed in Cebu for my job (see My Adventures - Me As An Engineer and My Homes Away From Home).  Inside the Fuerza de San Pedro were a park and a museum that showcases the shipwreck remains of the Spanish galleon, San Diego. 

Cebu became a charter province on February 24, 1937 and with this, the Cebu Provincial Capitol was built on the same year during the incumbency of Gov. Sotero Cabahug.  It is located at the north end of Osmeña Boulevard.  When I worked in Cebu and lived in Escario, I always passed by here everyday. 

Aside from the rich history Cebu has, it is also a seat of renowned people.  One of these people is the Philippines’ fourth president, his Excellency Sergio Osmeña.  After the Philippines’ liberation from the Japanese Occupation during World War II with the aid of the US troops headed by General Douglas MacArthur, Pres. Osmeña restored the Commonwealth government in the country.  His term marked the Philippines’ new beginnings.  In honor to him, his ancestral house became a museum that is open to public viewing nowadays and called as the Osmeña Museum.

Just steps away from Osmeña Museum is the Fuente Osmeña Circle that is the landmark of Cebu.  Public events are being held here that is located right at the very heart of the city.

Now off to the island where Magellan was killed by Lapu-Lapu – the Mactan Island.  It is located just a few kilometers from mainland Cebu.  In the island were the monument of the great Lapu-Lapu and the Magellan marker which is a tower to commemorate his death.  The whole place is commonly called as the Mactan Shrine

In order for the people to have better and comfortable access to the historic island, a bridge was built in 1970 during the term of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos that was called as the Mactan-Mandaue Bridge.  Eventually, traffic jammed due to the growing industries in the big city so another bridge was built in 1999 donated by the Japanese government.  And this was named in honor of Senator Marcelo Fernan, a political figure from Cebu City, thus the Marcelo Fernan Bridge.

Then off we go south and there’s this Monastery of the Holy Eucharist at Sibonga.  The monastery was built for the Marian devotees and Marian Monks.  It is a place of prayer wherein people visit to light their candles for their prayer requests.  I, myself tested this by visiting and praying there with my co-reviewees for wisdom to pass the board exam.  God answers prayers and all five of us indeed passed the really tough exam.

But Cebu is not just for the Christian community.  It is also for the Chinese who had inhabited the land since 1590.  Chinese, as they always do, had flourished businesses in Cebu.  Once upon a time, there was this old Chinese woman who had dreamt of putting up a temple for their gods.  And to keep their faith, the Chinese community supported her in her vision thus the Taoist Temple was built in Beverly Hills, Lahug in 1972.  Nowadays, Chinese come to the solemn place for prayer and enlightenment as well as Filipinos.  It has also become one of Cebu’s tourist spots wherein you can take scenic pictures but just outside the temples as respect to their gods. 

And just recently, a multi-million infrastructure was built in Cebu’s reclaimed area, the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).  It was purposely built in 2005 for the 12th ASEAN Summit and 2nd East Asia Summit in 2007.  Leaders from all over Asia came to Cebu.  There were presidents, prime ministers, and sultans.  It was a pride and honor for Cebu to have had hosted such an international event.

With its historic significances, rich culture, and hospitable people, foreigners just couldn’t exclude Cebu from their list of places to visit.  It has a lot to offer including world-class hotels and resorts like the Waterfront, Marriott, Hilton, Shangri-La, etc.  World-class shopping is also offered in the city.  It has SM and Ayala with designer signature shops to hoard. 

Marriott Hotel

Cebu indeed is world-class that is why it is called as the “Queen” City of the South.  And it is also a great honor to me to have had experienced Cebu for almost two years and for that, I have these
                                          10 Things I Miss About Cebu:

                                          1.  Sundays at Ayala
                                          2.  On-Stage (Cinema 1) at Ayala
                                          3.  Sbarro's Pizza and Pasta
                                          4.  Dinners at Krua Thai
                                          5.  Coffee at Offroads' rooftop
                                          6.  Closing times at SM
                                          7.  Laughters and margaritas at 22nd St.
                                          8.  Hoarding Watson's
                                          9.  Radical talks with my gay friends
                                         10. Very long convos with my girl friends

For more information about Cebu, visit

“There’s no place like home.”  That’s a very common saying.  I strongly agree with that for there really is no other familiar and comforting place like home.

But I left home at the age of 17.  As always mentioned, I went to Iligan for college.  There, I stayed at the humble apartment of the late Tatay Rizalda.  There were 3 bedrooms in the apartment, 2 upstairs and 1 downstairs.  There was a bathroom/comfort room, laundry area, small kitchen, and a terrace.  For the occupancy of 12 people, it was rather small.

I shared in the room of 6 people.  My ever first roommates were Hermisa “Mimi” Bunayog (my high school classmate), Daisy Maur, Loueli “Toti” Talam, and Charlotte (sorry I forgot her surname).  We were living harmoniously with each other but with our other boardmates, nah.  They were just too different from us.

Before half the semester, two Ate Cherry’s went back to the house.  One was Ate Cherry Tabada who was finishing her master’s degree and the other was Ate Cherry Manisan who was starting to study law at MSU Marawi.  Their room was already occupied by the other boardmates so they just shared in our room.  They just slept on the floor for there was only 1 bed left.  With them, we were much happier against the other group of boardmates we had.

Charlotte, Mimi and I at My First Upper Deck Bed
After not bearing our situation in the house, we searched for another place to stay.  Luckily, the siblings Manette and Carlo Lasiste gave up their bachelor’s pad at Norjanah’s Row Houses.  The two Ate Cherry’s didn’t move in with us because they were called by their respective jobs so they had to stop schooling.  Charlotte also stopped school for some financial reasons.  On the contrary, we had to be 6 in the pad so we could only contribute P500 each for the rent.  So we recruited Elvie Crisostomo (Mimi’s classmate) and Bunny Lou Marie Ocampos (Mimi and I's schoolmate in high school).
Toti's 18th Birthday Harana and My Kiddie Study Table

At Norjanah’s, we made good and happy memories again wherein we stayed for 1 summer and 2 semesters.  But time came when the others didn’t like to stay there anymore so we parted ways.
My 18th Birthday Surprise from My Boardmates

But Mimi, Elvie, Bunny, and I were still together at another house owned by Ate June Rose “JR” Inocian.  It was an old bungalow house but Ate JR made it inviting through her artistic decorations.  She just filled the house with her collection of suns after she married Kuya Em Sun who proposed to her through the game show, Game Ka Na Ba hosted by Kris Aquino.

Kuya Em & Ate JR's 1st Wedding Anniversary Party, Wedding, and Christmas Party 2004 
At Inocian’s, my circle of friends got bigger.  I got to be friends with girls from Lanao del Norte namely Janet Marie Cabatic, Emily Edpalina, Diwani Lamama, and Jacky Lou Hera.  In addition, Mimi’s other classmates also joined us namely Jennifer “Jenn” Felisilda and Theresa Blanca “Teray” Rellon.  Though we parted with Daisy, her cousin Jeizllie Peregrino stayed with us together with her best friend, Richelle Rolloque.  There were other boardmates but I couldn’t name them all.  Staying at Ate JR’s for a total of 4 years was really good.  We became a “one big happy family” that we always ate together, crowding the dining table.  After dinner, we spent time together just talking about life and things while watching the moon and the stars in the balcony where we had what we called as “the meteor garden chair (actually a bench)”.

In my last year there, I threw a big birthday party for my classmates, teacher, OJT friends, some other friends, and boardmates.  I asked each classmate to bring a rose and each boardmate to bring a balloon.  Nang Eling (Ate JR’s secretary) also brought balloons while Kuya Em and Ate JR sponsored a tube of our favorite dirty ice cream.  It was one of my most unforgettable birthdays!  
Ma'am Carnaje's Wish and Enjoying Unlimited Ice Cream
Classmates, OJT Friends, and Special Guest Jamie with Her Boyfriend and Other Friends 
Inocian Boarders w/ Other Guests, Nong Andy (Carpenter) and Nong Lalak (Suki Eatery Owner)

Ate Jr’s place is my most beloved boarding house ever!  On the other hand, Ate JR also regarded us as her most beloved batch of boarders because we had been through a lot (including floods!  Hehe) together as a family!
Visited the House After Getting My License (w/ Roommate Emily and Ate JR's Maxxis)
After graduation, off we went to Cebu for review classes.  We had a hard time finding a boarding house.  All places were cramped and hot.  There were good ones but the cost per head was too high.  My classmates Maria and Ikang found this place at Colon but I didn’t like it for it was too far a distance to walk from the review center.  So Mama, Mama Dita, and I searched at the houses near our review center which was located beside San Carlos University main campus.  Luckily, we found Ma’am Neneng Inot’s apartment.  There were 3 bedrooms, one for Ma’am Neneng, her husband, and son Ralph, one for Popos (boarder), and the other one vacant for 4 people occupancy.  The room was good enough so I invited Maria and Ikang to stay with me.  But they already paid in advance in their boarding house and it was non-refundable.  Later on, Cathy and Joel Handugan followed us in Cebu.  Joel had no place to stay so we requested Ma’am Neneng to let him stay with Cathy and I in the room.  He was harmless anyway! 
Fused Birthday Party of Cathy and I
Popos Invaded Our Room

At Inot’s, we lived together with laughter all the time with Ralph as our entertainment.  He just loved to become a showbiz heartthrob so he practiced a lot.  Sometimes, Joel would ride on Ralph’s wackiness that always made Cathy’s stomach and I ached. 
The Afternoon Before Leaving Cebu w/ Our Classmate and Ma'am Neneng's Next Boarder, April
Though it was also hot in the apartment with a very big rat scavenging by night, my stay there was also unforgettable for we were very well taken cared of by Ma’am Neneng and Sir Inot.  They cooked well for us that we gained pounds during our 6-month stay with them.  They also treated us family that Ma’am Neneng cried when we bade goodbye.
After a long vacation, I went back to Cebu for job hunting.  This time, I temporarily stayed at Mama Dita’s house.  There, I had a room all by myself.  Mama Dita took care of me by feeding me a lot.  As in, a lot!  (See Home – Fitness First)  I also enjoyed staying with her and her family that I also helped her children Cattleya May “Bayang” and Morishka Nicole “Cangcang” with their homeworks.  I stayed with them for free and that I owe a lot to them.  Eventually, I got tired of commuting for Labangon was too far from Mandaue (see Home – PBB (Private Baliw-Baliwan)) so I decided to transfer to a nearer place.  

Celebrating My 23rd Birthday at Mama Dita's
Then I stayed with my former boardmate, Jennifer.  We shared a room at Escario.  It was a big house with 3 rooms upstairs - each big room with only 2 people in it.  We also had big double decks.  It was of high cost but it was worth it.  But Jenn and I didn’t see each other much for she was working at a call center.  I was the only one sleeping by nighttime and by daytime, she was also the only one sleeping.  There, I got lonely.  I ate alone, watched TV alone, and just alone.  The other boardmates also just stayed in their rooms for each got its own TV.  We occasionally saw each other and once we did, we usually dined out.  Then my homesickness worsened that added to the decision I had in resigning and in going back home (see My Adventures – From One Career to Another to Another).

Dinners w/ Jenn and Ate Ye
Officially, I’ve been staying here in Ozamiz dated May 7, 2007 (if I’m not mistaken) after 7 years of being away!  It was never my intention to stay this long enough but staying here is just so different.  I have better access with everything!  I just walk around the small city and I have connections with “some” people.  My life is better here than ever!  It is just simple and laid-back, no fuss and no worries!  I just love being here that it’s already hard for me to leave (see My Adventures – Me as an Engineer).  Though I had 6 places that I considered homes, still there’s no place like my real home.  And for me, there’s no other place like the big OC!
My First Birthday Home After Celebrating Birthdays At Other Places

 P. S.
The moment of writing this, an old friend from high school whom I haven’t seen for ages surprisingly stepped into my store’s door.  He’s been staying here since September with his wife and baby.  I asked him, “for good?”.  He replied, “hopefully”.  So I dedicate this post to him, Francis Glenn Barbon.  I hope that he’s gonna love being “home” the way that I do.

My first exposure of having a glimpse of an engineering career was during my On-the-Job Training (OJT) at Mabuhay Vinyl Corporation (MVC) in Iligan City.  It was the summer of 2004 when Maricel “Maria” Andig, Catherine “Meow” Otero, and I got accepted at the plant that sort of opened our eyes to the real world of engineering.

On our first day, we had a tour inside the whole plant.  The plant manufactures hydrochloric acid, HCl (muriatic acid) and sodium hydroxide, NaOH (caustic soda).  It has two main parts – the old manual plant and the new high-tech plant which was the Ion-Exchange Membrane (IEM) Plant.  The old plant was so dirty.  It was filled with worn-out massive machines and equipments.  It was too noisy inside that the workers there wore earmuffs.  I didn’t withstand being inside so I made an excuse to the Human Resource Manager, Sir Raul to get out.  Then I just waited outside for the others.

After touring the old plant, we went to the Quality Control Room.  It was also topsy turvy inside.  Piles of papers were everywhere and there was only little work space for the analysis.  The QC head at that time was quite strict so I prayed that I won’t be assigned there.

Next stop was the IEM Plant.  This time, I found orderliness and cleanliness.  The plant was so brand new and the workers there were doing their best to maintain its good shape.  All equipments and machines were state of the art that the job of the workers was just merely pressing buttons.  It was also so cold inside the control room for the air condition must always be in full blast to cool the machines.  I made a secret wish for Maria, Meow, and I to be assigned there.  With fingers crossed, Sir Raul did assign us in this haven.

At the IEM Plant, we learned a lot about unit operations and unit processes.  Unit operations refer to the physical changes in converting raw materials into products while unit processes refer to the chemical changes.  In making HCl and NaOH, the raw materials are only mineral salt (NaCl) and water (H­2O).  When the two mixes, it is called brine.  Brine passes through an electrolyzer wherein Na & Cl from salt separates through the process called electrolysis.  Then the Na reacts with H­2O to form NaOH and the Cl reacts with H to form HCl.
With Friends at the IEM Plant
For 320 hours, we mastered all the unit operations and unit processes of the entire plant.  At the end of our OJT, we reported what we had learned and we had answered the questions our manager, Sir Steve SC Pangilinan threw at us. 
Successfully Passed My OJT
In our fifth year, we were obliged to have a Plant Design for our thesis.  We were grouped by three’s and I was so lucky to have Benedick “Dodong” Pagarigan and April Rose “April” Malagum as my groupmates.  We had to design a plant that is feasible to put up.  Having been to Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation (PASAR) for his OJT, Dodong suggested to us an ammonia plant.  PASAR has this air-separation plant wherein they only use the oxygen (O2) while throwing back the nitrogen (N­2) into the air.  For all we know, air is composed of 79% 2 and 21% O2.       

He strongly recommended that our plant would be so feasible.  We’re gonna use the waste N­2 into making ammonia (NH3).  For N2 upon reaction with H2 produces NH3.  Why not?  It would be an additional income to the plant in the future.  So we had it.  We went to Isabel, Leyte just to study the air-separation plant and its vicinity.  I was so glad when we went there for I had the chance to wear a complete plant uniform formally known as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  I just looked drab in the suit!
Air-Separation Plant of PASAR
Then off to my first job at Rezcoat Incorporated in Taguig City with Maria and another classmate, Marivic "Ikang" Abucayon.  It is a resin manufacturing company.  Resin is used as binder for paints.  For me, it was a very risky plant for two reactors were in used.  As a Process Engineer there, I had to oversee the weighing and pouring of raw materials into the reactor.  I also had to check the pressure and temperature of the reactor. 

From time to time, quality control must also be done.  It was a manual plant so there was no room for mistakes.  Being a paranoid, I always thought of explosions and fire.  Only one incorrect reading of pressure or temperature would create a very big bang in the plant!  So, I only spent 11 days there.

And to my second job at Treasure Island Industrial Corporation (TIIC) at Mandaue City, Cebu.  This time, I worked as a Research and Development Laboratory Assistant.  I didn’t like my job there.  I always made paint formulations.  Paints are so stinky especially the acrylic one and everyday of my life there, I went home with headache and fever.
In My Grimy Suit at TIIC
After six months, I was assigned to develop colors with the help of the color dispenser and Gretag-Macbeth technology (machine that reads colors).  For a little while, I was happy being a colorist.  But time came when I heard that I was groomed to be the next Quality Control Head, I freaked out.  I was not ready for such great responsibility and I feared it.  In anyhow, I never intended to become a master of paints so I just left without thinking twice.  And that was it – the end of my engineering career!
Me with My Colors, Weathering-Test Machine, Color Dispenser, Forklift, and Computer
As for the moment of writing this, I’m still considering of giving engineering another try.  I’m still taking into account all my hardships in passing my course and in getting my license as a chemical engineer.  But I don’t know why I am not doing anything about it.  Maybe I got traumatized with my first job that’s why I don’t want to go back and work in a plant again.

Aside from that, I’m still here in Ozamiz wherein there are no industrial plants to get into.  I’m not yet ready to leave yet for this is my comfort zone.  Then I think that I’m just wasting my time.  I’m already 29 and I’m not yet decided with what I want to do with my career.  But then again, somebody told me that age is just a number.  So, why think too seriously?  If I’m going to die tomorrow, at least I’m happily doing the things I’d love to do now!:)
At SCC Innovasia, Parañaque City - contract manufacturing plant of Johnson & Johnson, Belo Essentials, Avon, Natasha, Myra and Personal Collection Products

Field trip always plays an integral part of the school’s curricula.  It is the time when students are exposed to the real world outside the school premises.  It is an application to the lessons taught in the classroom.  It is a chance to experience what were written and told.  And it is an opportunity to discover further knowledge and even skills.

The first field trips I had were playing outside our house.  Through it, I learned to deal with other kids.  I learned to be friendly to those kind kids and I learned to defend myself from the rude ones.  I learned to be competitive in our games.  Sometimes I won and many times I lose.  I always wanted to be on top but when I couldn’t, I just accept defeat, just let go, and just let it be.  Even as a child, I had already portrayed as the timid type.

Conversely, the first real field trip I had was in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental.  It was October of 1998 before our semestral break when all fourth year students of ICC-La Salle had it for our Science and Morality classes.  It was just a humble field trip.  We just rode on a non-aircon Lillian Bus to get to Baliangao. 

Upon arrival, we then walked for a kilometer or more to get to the mangrove forest.  When we got there, we listed all the living and non-living things that we saw in the mangrove.  We also observed the activities going on with its organisms.  We figured out the kind of relationships the different organisms and their habitat have.  

After doing what were ought to be done, we walked again to get to the white sand beach.  I was so glad for it was my first time to see white sand, much more to experience it!  All of us were so happy that the others swam into the waters immediately.  We also observed the organisms in the sea and the beach as what we did in the mangrove.  Then, we compared the two habitats regarding to the organisms and the relationships between them.

After working, we ate our own “baon” (packed food) for lunch.  It was just a simple lunch but we enjoyed it a lot for we shared our respective “baon” with each other.  After eating, we then cleaned the beach from the mess we had done.  We learned the value of saving the environment.  Mother Nature made us happy so we have to make her happy also.  At the end of the day, we concluded that our field trip was a lot of fun!  We just didn’t learn a lot by mind but we also learned a lot more by heart.  A fusion of Science and Morality may be contradicting at times but this trip proved that the two can be in one accord.
With Our Class Adviser, Mrs. Mercedita Marci
When I reached college, I got dizzy with all the field trips that we had.  The first one was in Camiguin for our Biology 1 class.  This time, we stayed for three days and two nights in the island/s.  With a lot of habitats, we needed ample time to observe. 

On our first day, we went to Mantigue Island wherein we were tasked to observe the corals.  I was so happy for it was my first time to see real and alive clown fishes (I had this animal encyclopedia when I was little and I always visited the clown fish page because they look so cute).  I spent all my time watching the clown fishes and just let my group mates do the work.  Luckily, they considered and assigned me to do another task.
The following day, we visited Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) at Mt. Hibok-Hibok wherein we had the chance to know some gadgets that could predict earthquakes.  We also found out that the whole island of Camiguin is actually sitting on top of a sleeping volcano. 

Then we went to Katibawasan Falls.  In its vicinity, there were plenty of butterflies.  We caught butterflies and tried to identify their species.  I so wished to bring them home but we were not allowed.  So I just enjoyed chasing them and watching their vibrant colors.

Next stop was the Sunken Cemetery.  At the sound of it, I was literally scared.  Imagine that, a cemetery under the sea?!  But that was only a part of the old capital of Camiguin.  The whole area sank during the fatal volcanic eruptions of Mt. Vulcan from the years 1827-1875 (  Plenty of lives and properties were lost and I felt the melancholy of the past as I was watching the large cross that projects out from the sea.     
And off we went to the White Island.  We rode on a pump boat taking pleasure in the sea that was so blue and so crystal clear.  The island was made up of pure and fine white sand.  There were no trees, no houses, and no other things in the island.  It was just plain nature and it was too hot.  We did our observations in haste and didn’t even bother to swim leisurely for the sun was up at high noon.  After a few minutes, we complained to our teacher that we were already hungry so we could leave the island.  It’s best to go there by sun down but it’s dangerous when it’s high tide for the island would vanish by then.   

Lunch time came and we went to Sto. Niño Cold Spring.  We ate first then did our observations again.  There were other organisms in the cold spring that we haven’t seen in the sea.  It only took us for a while to get our data and packed up.
After that, we went to the Walkway or Via Crusis (Stations of the Cross).  We visited 15 stations as we went uphill!  Me and my classmates were joking that the one who reached the top last was the one with big sins.  So, I did all my best not to be last.  However, it was so hard for me to finish the journey for I have only short breaths.  Fortunately, I had a fat classmate that had shorter breaths than mine so I wasn’t the last person to reach the Resurrection.

The last stop for the day was the Ardent Hot Spring.  It was twilight when we got there for we had a problem with our jeepney’s engine.  We got stranded in the area that was previously stricken by a tornado.  Then the “kababalaghan” (preternatural happening) began! 

A student from the other section saw inexplicable figures in the place.  But he didn’t tell anyone of us at first.  When the engine roared to life again, everybody shouted that startled the quietness of the place.  Subsequently, that student saw more of the “not like us” people.

In the hot spring, we only gathered a few data for it was already dark.  Aside from that, other students also experienced seeing supernatural things.  But they also didn’t tell anybody.  They just subtly told us to hurry so we could have our dinner.

At Islet Beach Resort where we stayed, we ate dinner after we freshened up.  We had a bonfire and our classmates started telling us the “out of this world” figures they had seen.  I was shocked for not seeing those for I have a third eye.  Anyway, I was happy for I thought that I had already closed it, the reason why I didn’t see a thing.  Then the student from the other class shouted from the bedroom nearby!  All of us hurried to see what was happening but our teacher didn’t permit us.  She told us to go to our room instead.  After an hour, she went into our room and explained that we had to get out from Camiguin early the following day.  The student from the other section saw a foreboding that anyone of us might be harmed if we will stay longer.  The ghosts in the devastated area to the Ardent Hot Spring were disturbed by us.

So, we left Camiguin without visiting the Tuasan Falls which was supposedly our last stop for the whole trip.  With or without our horrific experience, Camiguin is such a place to be!  It got everything to offer – from land, upland, sea, under the sea, cold & hot springs, and waterfalls!  It also got an overabundance of flora and fauna which is ideal for Biology studies.          

From nature to industry, fourth year and fifth year college were filled with industrial plant tours.  This time, we were being introduced to the future workplaces that we were about to have.  We first visited the plants in Iligan one by one.  We went to Fil-Eslon (a PVC Pipe Company) wherein we were amazed how pipes were being made.  We experienced watching how “copra” (dried coconut meat) was pressed to extract its oil at Granexport Manufacturing Corp. (producers of Minola Oil, Lard, & Shortening).  We also saw how cement is being made at Alson’s Cement (now Holcim).

We found out how muriatic acid and caustic soda are manufactured at Mabuhay Vinyl Corporation (MVC) and also visited its adjacent plant, Ma. Cristina Chemicals, Inc. (MCCI).

After Iligan, we went to its neighboring province Misamis Oriental.  At Villanueva, we went to Philippine Sinter Corp. (an iron ore smelting plant).
We also went as far as Visayas.  In Cebu, we visited the Chemical Engineering Laboratory of the University of San Carlos, CENAPRO (carbon manufacturer), Virginia Foods (makers of Winner food products), and Philippine Spring Water Resource, Inc. (makers of Nature’s Spring).

We also had side trips at Mactan Island to visit the Lapu-Lapu Monument, Marcelo Fernan Bridge, and Taoist Temple.

In Leyte, we went to Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corp. (Philphos), a fertilizer company and Philippine Association of Smelting and Refining (PASAR), another iron ore smelting plant.
In addition, we went to Leyte twice for we also took an exam for an application to an on-the-job training at PASAR.  Sadly, I didn’t pass it.

After all the industrial plants I had entered, I never ambitioned to work in any one of them.  I didn’t want to get myself exposed to the dirt of making finished products from raw materials.  But after years of keeping myself away from the chemical engineering world, I had an opportunity to visit industrial plants again.  This time, I was already the captain of the ship.  

At first, I was so hesitant in bringing twelve high school students to Cebu.  The field trip was never in my curriculum but the students were so eager that I was obliged to have one.  Though I had been to a lot of industrial plants, educational field trip with my Forever Junior Griffins was different.  Despite the apprehension I had that there might be something bad to happen to us, I enjoyed it for my students were all fun to be with.  They were so “kulit” (pesky for me) but when I told them to behave, they obeyed anyway.  They were the most generous students I had and I could never ever forget them.
Whatever I learned from the educational field trips I had, I keep.  Though I enjoyed more of the nature tripping side than the industry, I cherish them all.  It’s always great to have a personal touch with everything that were written and told.  So if we may and if we can, let’s all experience whatever this world offers and make the most out of it!

62.4 kilometers away and northeast of Ozamiz City lies an industrialized city that still manages to preserve and protect Mother Nature (data from  It is a city endowed with mountains, rivers, beaches, springs, and waterfalls.  It is a clean and green city.  It is no other than Iligan, the City of Majestic Waterfalls!

I, myself had experienced Iligan's bounty personally.  I had spent 5 1/2 years there for my engineering studies.  I never liked to live there but I had no choice.  So, I just did my best to survive there.  Surprisingly in my survival quest, I had unraveled the beauty of Iligan and came to enjoy another hobby - nature tripping!

The first outing I had in Iligan was of course, at Timoga.  When I was a kid, we went swimming there with my whole family.  I always thought as well as many people do that the swimming pools there were called "Timoga".  But, I found out that it's actually a name of a place at Brgy. Buru-un that has the cold springs.  Five resorts with swimming pools were then established.  The pools overflow with crystal clear and cold water coming from the springs.  It's always great to go swimming there for the water is fresh and not chlorinated.  Moreover, adjacent to the resorts is the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House, childhood home of the Philippines' 14th President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 
My Last Outing at Timoga with my College Classmates
Aside from the resorts in Timoga, there are other swimming pools in Iligan like the Taytay Swimming Pool at Ditucalan and Maze Parks and Resort at Buru-un.  Water from these pools also comes from the cold springs that these barangays are blessed with.
Chemical Engineering Acquaintance Party 2004 at Taytay Swimming Pool
A Bonding Made in Heaven with Diwani at Maze Parks and Resort
From swimming pools, Iligan also has various beaches.  Thanks to Iligan Bay, the city has been lined up with beautiful beaches.  Among the rendezvous I frequented with my friends were Pajo Beach Resort, Villa Lacida, and the Centennial Park where the tallest flagpole in the Philippines is located.        
Overnights at Villa Lacida with my OJT friends were Always Full of Crimes!
For a Breathe of Fresh Air, Centennial Park is Highly Recommended
Rivers are also abundant in Iligan.  The most famous is the Agus River that provides an ideal site for hydroelectric power plants.  The National Power Corporation (NPC) which powers the whole Mindanao is partly located here.
One of the Tanks at Agus
On the other hand, Iligan is not just about water.  It also has Mount Agad-Agad that gives a full view of the entire city by night or day.  It is very accessible and safe that you can go mountain climbing and camp there overnight.
Mountain Climbing and Overnight Stay at Mt. Agad-Agad
Saving the best for last, the waterfalls!  The first I visited was the Tinago Falls when I was still in high school.  "Tinago" is a Visayan word for hidden.  The falls is actually hidden in a deep ravine.  It is high and the water is very cold.  When I was in fifth year college, I went there again with my classmates.  This time, I had the chance to climb up the falls and jump into the blue lagoon.  I also loved to just sit in the small cave behind the falls where I can hear the rumbling waters that accelerates my heartbeat.
Sidetrip at Tinago Falls After Our Solid Waste Management Seminar 
There's also the Mimbalut Falls that is just simply humble.  Opposite to the Tinago Falls, it is not so high but it is still a picturesque site.  The water is calm where you can just enjoy watching its gentle flow.
OJT Culmination at the Mimbalut Falls
Of course, there's the great Maria Cristina Falls.  Together with the Agus River, this is the mother of the NPC.  Waters that are in full blast cascading down and moving the turbines underneath the river, mechanical energy is being converted into electrical energy.  With 130 cubic meters per second, the power plant can generate a 200-MW potential capacity (data from  Without Maria Cristina, power in Mindanao would be very costly.  
The Twin Falls of Maria Cristina
Located at Lugait, a town nearby Iligan is the Aya-Aya Falls.  Honestly, I didn't see the falls for we arrived there at night time already.  Me and my boardmates had an overnight there with our ECE (Electronics and Communications Engineerig)  guests.  Ate Cel, our eldest and married boardmate organized a dating escapade for us.  We all had fun with the games but ended up having no ties with the boys.  Only friendship flourished which was ideal for us, engineering students.

Also nearby Iligan is the Initao-Libertad Protected Landscape and Seascape.  It has the virgin forest, the cave, and the cove.  It was my first time to go caving that thrilled me a lot for I saw a lot of bats!  Part of the adventure, me and my friends got lost in the forest.  At the end of our trip, we concluded that the old lady whom we met was a witch who bewildered us for our boisterousness.       
Land, Beneath the Land, and Sea Escapade
Indeed, Iligan City is a place to behold.  It got a lot to offer from nature, to industry, to shopping, and to night life if I must say.  Just take a day or two off to visit Iligan so you'll see for yourself!
For more information about Iligan, visit  

As high school was about to end, we had to decide what course are we going to take up and what college or university are we going into.  One thing was for sure, I'm never gonna study in Ozamiz and I'm never gonna take up a BS in Commerce course.  I had big dreams!  I wanted to be in the University of the Philippines and take up BS in Journalism so badly!  Unfortunately, I didn't pass the score for Journalism in UPCAT and that shattered my dreams into pieces.  

Aside from UPCAT, I had also taken entrance examinations in Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City and Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, Iligan City.  This time, I had passed the score for BS in Accountancy course in both universities.  As mentioned, I didn't want a Commerce course or anything related to that field.  All I wanted was Journalism but these two universities didn't offer this course.  As a result, I enrolled at Misamis University, Ozamiz City for they offered Journalism and this is what I'd loved to learn.

Frustrated Journalist
Being in MU, I was not challenged.  I was the smartest in all my classes and I realized that I didn't belong there.  I was used to surround myself with people smarter than me in high school.  I had them as my driving force for me to strive to learn more.  So, I decided to transfer in MSU-IIT for the second semester.

I never liked to study in IIT.  But I thought that by being a state university, it would be my backyard entrance to UP.  As I enrolled there, the Accountancy slots were already full.  Thank God, I won't be taking up this course anymore.  So I selected AB in English.  This would be my stepping stone for my transfer in UP the following semester.  But the registrar didn't allow me to enroll AB in English.  According to her, my entrance exam score was too high for the course.  She told me and my mom that engineering was IIT's cream of the crop and she suggested that it would be best for me take up an engineering course.

Then she let me choose from a list of engineering courses.  Among the courses were:

         Civil Engineering
         Mechanical Engineering
         Electrical Engineering
         Electronics and Communications Engineering
         Computer Engineering
         Metallurgical Engineering
         Ceramics Engineering
         Chemical Engineering

Honestly, I never had any idea of what these courses were all about!  Ever since childhood, engineering was never in my wildest imagination that I would ever enter into.  (Not to mention, my first dream job was to be a nurse.)  As I looked at the list, I just deciphered what each of these courses were all about. 

Civil – making roads, bridges, and houses.  (Too boyish!)
Mechanical – dealing with machines.  (Too dirty!)
Electrical – of course, electricity.  (I never wanted to be an electrician!)
Electronics and Communications – still about electricity (by that time, that was what I thought)
Computer – computer is a must.  (I didn’t have one)
Metallurgical – the hell with this!  (I didn’t know the meaning of the word)
Ceramics – making pots (Nah, I wouldn’t go to college if that is so…)
Chemical – sounds good (I remembered our valedictorian, Alan Odelon Lomanta that he wanted to take up this course)

Thus, I chose Chemical Engineering because it sounded “sosyal”! 

My first semester in Chemical Engineering was fine.  I had Math 17 (College Algebra & Trigonometry) which was the screening subject for all engineering courses.  Luckily, it was just a bit hard for me since I had already taken up Math 1 (College Algebra) in MU.  I did well for my first semester and I was in the DEAN’s list making me a scholar in the university.  From my relatives and friends’ advices, I didn’t pursue my plan in transferring to UP.  I had decided to try my luck again in engineering for summer. 

During summer of 2000, I took Math 51 (Analytic Geometry and Calculus 1).  I thought it was hard.  That was my first exposure to higher Mathematics.  But, I passed it.  From then on, my engineering journey started.  I literally cursed it!  I never dreamed of it but I was doing it.  I always told myself that if I fail just one subject, I will shift to another course.  In contrary, I still studied.  Even though I never loved my course, I still labored hard to pass all the subjects I had taken.  Weird, isn’t it?

Semester after semester, I had survived in MSU-IIT.  So, I graduated from the course I never dreamed of taking up and from the university I never dreamed of entering into.  After graduation, I knew what I would do - I would be reviewing for the Board Exam.  But after the Board Exam, I didn’t know what I would do with my life anymore.  Because all I wanted was to get out from the Chemical Engineering world! 

Chemical Engineer
But still, I gave it a try.  I had worked as a Process Engineer in a resin plant in Taguig, Metro Manila for 10 days.  I didn’t stand the boyish, no poise job there so I hurriedly quitted.  I told myself I would never enter an industrial plant again!  But thinking of all the hardships I had gone through, I wanted to give my engineering license a try again.  Then I worked as a Research & Development Laboratory Assistant in a paint manufacturing plant in Mandaue City, Cebu.  Everyday my heart cried for this job.  Yes, I earned good but I was not happy.  I always made stinky paint after paint after paint.  I just spent 11 months for this job.

Data-Entry Encoder
Call-Center Agent
Finally, I gave up!  I went home without knowing what to do.  I wanted to escape far far away from chemical engineering.  So, I had the simplest job – I became a data-entry encoder at Medina College and Ozamiz City Hall.  Those were just contractual jobs.  I also became a call center agent at Medina.  But we just ran for only two months. 

After these short-time jobs, I became a high school teacher at Misamis Union High School for two years.  This was the most experimental thing I ever did in my entire life!       
Secondary Science Teacher
Together with this, I also became a Chemistry instructor at Medina College.  Then I thought that I couldn’t get out from the chemical world anymore for I also have Fascino wherein I manufacture my own line of scents and body essentials.
College Chemistry Instructor
Until now, everybody says that I was so smart and so blessed for having graduated a very tough course in a very prestigious university.  Much more, I had passed the Board Exam in just one take!  They say that I’m just wasting my time pursuing my chosen path now.  I could have done better, I could have earned thousands to millions of pesos, I could have conquered the world with my potentials, and so on. 

Honestly, I ponder this to myself.  But what can I do?  I am happy with my state of being now.  I am contented with what I have and I find fulfillment every time one customer buys another Fascino product again.  Perhaps it’s not all about being that great “somebody” to be happy.  It’s doing the things that you love that by the end of the day you can say, “Thank you, Lord for all the accomplishments today!”          
My Current Career, My Own Way


When junior high came, many new classmates were promoted to our class and many old classmates were demoted to the lower sections.  Among the new classmates were Ruth Galarita, Jamie Terry Anne Raagas, and Cherry Anne Tuba.  In our first seating arrangement, we became seatmates with Ruth while Cherry Anne was seated right in front of me.

Ruth was such a bubbly girl.  At first, I got intimated with her because she's a Chinese.  I always thought of Chinese people as rich people and I didn't want to be friends with rich kids.  However, Ruth reached out to me by saying that she liked me a lot and wanted me to be her friend.  I was flattered being liked by a socialite and who am I not to befriend her?  So, we started to become friends and we started to talk a lot!

On the other hand, Cherry Anne was shy and quiet at first.  I found her so "maarte" by the way she talked and acted.  In that view, I concluded that she was also rich and I didn't want to be friends with her too.  But Ruth befriended her for she and Cherry Anne's relatives were neighbors at La Purisima St.  Then I just realized one day that there were already the three of us talking and laughing!

At the back of our seats was Jamie.  Jamie was the tall and beautiful sorority girl with Freemason parents.  Being so, I didn't want to be friends with her also for the same reason - my issue with rich kids.  But she became the girlfriend of Ruth's cousin.  With that, Ruth wanted to know Jamie more so she also befriended her.  Left without a choice, I became friends with three beautiful and rich socialites.  Thus, the story of the "chogs" begins!

For our second seating arrangement, we were so lucky that our adviser, Mr. Lariosa did not separate the three of us.  Instead, he assigned Ruth to sit next to Cheery Anne and Jamie right beside me.  We were so happy that Jamie was already sitting near us so she won’t miss any of our chit chat sessions.  Then we would go together for recess and we always looked forward to our afternoon escapade!

After classes in the afternoon, Ruth would be fetched by her “suki” (constant tricycle driver) hired by her parents.  We would ride with her so we could be together in going home.  But before riding on the “sikad” (tricyle), we would eat bananaque (caramelized banana in stick).  This is a native Filipino snack that can satisfy every hungry stomach.

After eating our bananaque, we would race on who would get the best seat in the sikad first.  The last two persons to reach the sikad would be seated on its extension making them our “rayna” (queen/s).  Eventhough my house was the nearest from our school, we would take a detour to Gaizano making Cherry Anne as our first drop-off having lived at the Cotta Area.

At Gaizano, Jamie would buy a magazine at the magazine stand while Ruth would buy green mangoes with “uyap” (dried shrimp paste) at the stalls outside.  We sat for a few minutes in the sikad as we enjoyed the latest updates of showbiz news in Jamie’s mag while eating Ruth’s sour mangoes.

After having our fill, we would signal suki to move on to our next journey.  At Cherry Anne’s, we would stop for a while again for a breath of fresh air coming from the sea breeze.  It was so relaxing after a hard day’s work at school.  When Cherry Anne’s mom called up for her, suki would again drive to drop Ruth off at La Purisima St.  After Ruth, to Jamie’s place at Ledesma Ext. and finally to mine at Las Aguadas Ext.

We did this every afternoon but sometimes, we varied.  There was an instance when we escaped from suki and took a walk from our school to Calalang to eat kikiam (a Chinese dim sum).  It is so delicious that I’m still eating this at Calalang even up to this day.  We enjoyed the freedom of just us walking but when Ruth arrived home, she got scolded by her mom.  Her parents were so worried of her missing in action.  After that, we learned our lesson to ask permission first whenever we wanted to go out by ourselves.

In addition, we would also treat ourselves and eat at Jollibee if we had enough money.  The burger-fries-soft drink meal at that time cost only P30 which was not too heavy for our pockets.  We would sit there talking and laughing about stuffs we couldn’t discuss in school.  We just let time pass by without any worries but we would go home just before twilight.

After several days of hanging out with my new friends, I realized that they were easy to get along with.  Though they were rich, they treated me as their own kind.  I realized that they were also normal people who eat “ginamos” (little fishes in salty syrup) like me.  We had this once as our snack with rice at school.  Ruth requested Cherry Anne to bring some and we enjoyed eating it at our classroom’s corridor.  Then, my issue with rich kids vanished.  With my chogs, status quo was never an issue!

Indeed, every afternoon with my chogs at that time was filled with fun, food, chit chat, and laughter!  Those were afternoons of delight that I am looking forward to have one of these days again….


You might be wondering why we called ourselves “chog”.  This was derived from Jamie’s green joke about a promiscuous guy confessing to a priest but eventually, it was the priest who ended up confessing to him.  Chog chog chog!!!

Jamie, Cherry Anne, Me, and Ruth during our graduation
Our first celfone pic during college
Our latest pic during Ruth's wedding last July 7, 2007


High school days are always full of fun and excitement!  We meet new faces, do new activities, and learn new things.  We go to school with a bit of seriousness already wherein we now make our own assignments and projects.  Sometimes we get ashamed to come to class unprepared because we might get laughed at by our classmates when we do not know the answer to the question our teacher asks us.

Those days are also the times when we start to choose our friends.  Unlike before when we were kids, we wanted everybody to be our friends so that we would have plenty of back-ups when somebody bullies us.  But in high school, we tend to experiment on different groups of friends because we’re desperate to fit in.  We always want to be a part of the “in” group and want to be an “it” girl/boy.

As for me, I didn’t want to be friends with the rich kids.  I knew we were not that rich and could not afford the stuffs they had.  I didn’t want to be left out and feel inferior just because of the status quo.  So, I just went with the kids of my level – not that rich but also not that poor.  We were just “regular” as we called it.

My friends in sophomore year were Pag-asa Merdeka Paquera, Mary Jul Yuson, and Cecile Padayhag.  Our friendship started when our class adviser, Mrs. Marci made us seatmates – me and Merdeka with Cecile and Mary Jul at our back.  We formed a square that gave us easy access for talking.

At first, it was just merely talking with each other.  We just talked and talked during class gaps.  Then we started going to recess together and also having lunch at school.  We enjoyed each other’s company until such time that we called ourselves a group.  We didn’t have a group name as our other classmates had but we considered our group as one entity different from them.

In our group, we were just simple.  We were not the very intellectual type but also not in the failure bracket.  We were not the “in” group but also not an outcast.  We just blended well and can mingle with the other groups without complications.  In short, we were betweeners living in harmony with everybody!

One day during our talking session, Cecile told us that she transferred to a boarding house at Annex.  I asked her where in Annex since I’m living in Annex.  She answered at Maggi’s – a person’s name whose house had become the landmark of a certain area in Annex.  It’s a bit distant from our house.  Then Cecile said that her boarding house was actually a floating house.  It was not built on ground but built on water.  Cecile was living in a coastal area at Brgy. Annex.

Suddenly, Mary Jul got excited with the “sea” thing.  Being gone to Manila for years, she missed swimming at Cotta Beach.  She asked Cecile if we could bathe there and Cecile said yes instantly.  And this was my first adventure in high school!

We planned an outing to Cecile’s “beach” on Saturday of that week!  Merdeka suggested that we will bring barbeque and puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) for lunch.  Cecile volunteered that she’ll buy our softdrinks.    We were so excited with our plan especially Mary Jul.  We were always discussing how to get there and we literally counted the hours for 9 AM of Saturday to come!

Finally, Saturday came.  Merdeka and Mary Jul were together buying our foods on their way at Cecile’s.  On the other hand, I only got there by myself since I was the nearest to the place.  Even without texting and calling, without any warning we all arrived at the same time!  Just before 9 AM, an evidence of our too much excitement.

We walked through bridges first – made of only single wood about half a foot in width.  It was just enough for a foot landing at a time.  But we didn’t mind because we were looking forward for what lies ahead.  As we arrived at Cecile’s boarding house, we were welcomed by her landlady and landlord.  They brought us at their house’s backdoor wherein there was a table and chairs and open to the sea.  It was like a cottage in a beach.  It was so relaxing with the view of the sea that was so inviting.  Luckily, it was high tide at that time.  Then they instructed us how to get down to the water and how to get back up.  After that, they left us alone by ourselves.

All of a sudden, Mary Jul jumped into the water!  The three of us were left astonished with what she just did but she was enjoying so much that made us all laughed.  Then she started splashing water at us.  Consequently, we followed her into the sea and into her bliss.

We swam from post to post of the house’s support.  We exchanged swimming techniques and had a contest of who can submerge herself in water the longest time.  We were really having a great time until we got bored with our space of swimming.

Looking at the open sea, I asked them “What if we go farther?”  Mary Jul’s eyes were delighted with the idea and she supported my suggestion.  But Merdeka said a firm “no”.  Fortunately, Cecile said “We can use the lifebuoy”.  With only one versus three, going farther won so Cecile took the lifebuoy from the cottage.

The lifebuoy was only a rubber tire.  Cecile instructed us to hold the tire with one arm and paddle with the other arm.  We followed her instructions and positioned ourselves around the tire with equal distances.  And off we went farther!

First few meters, we did great.  We were talking and laughing then laughing and talking.  Thoughtlessly, we went already far enough!  As we looked at the house, it was so far that we realized if we could ever get back through swimming again.  Abruptly, Mary Jul panicked!  She moved and moved, paddled, and kicked.  At any rate, Merdeka also scolded us for being stubborn.  She said that we should have listened to her.  With all the commotion, we got unbalanced with the lifebuoy.  Cecile and I also panicked and we went unsynchronized with our movements.  Mary Jul lost air in her too much movement and she started to gulp in water.  I saw her struggling and I shouted “Help!”

Unfortunately, nobody was there to help us.  The coast was clear as crystal for mischief to be done.  By chance, Cecile told us to stay calm.  She held Mary Jul by her one arm so she could support her to have her face at the surface.  Merdeka had stopped grumbling also so we could concentrate on what to do.  Then I motioned to bring us to the direction of the house.  Mary Jul was already relaxed and composed so she paddled with us again.  Little by little, we were moving towards the house already.  Alas, we arrived at the foot of the ladder that hung down from the house.

Immediately, we got up one by one.  We were so silent and Mary Jul started to cry.  Then I said sorry to her for my idea of going farther.  But she just cried and shook her head.  Cecile also said sorry for bringing in the lifebuoy.  But Merdeka said that what happened was nobody’s fault.  Despite her grumblings earlier, she said calmly that it was just an accident.  Mary Jul butted in that all four of us were idiots for not noticing our distance from the house.  It was all because we enjoyed each other’s company and that was what mattered most.  We should just be thankful that nothing that bad had happened to us.

Indeed, it was another reckless adventure that I had initiated.  All four of us could have drowned!  But again, I could not have ourselves being in danger all by myself.  I also had them accountable for this crime of risky adventure!
My Sophomore Best Friends


My childhood was marked by a plethora of adventures!  I always wanted to explore everywhere!  Of course I was always the home-buddy type but when my blood rushed for adventure, I really did go out without letting anyone stop me!

When I was in Grade 5, our TLE teacher at Pilot Laboratory School was the late Mr. Efren Poloyapoy.  He was a fierce teacher as I can remember and as an 11-year old, I feared him.  He always wanted our projects to be of high quality and excellence.  He didn’t want us to submit “just-for-the-sake-of-getting-a-grade” projects.  If you submitted something that met his standards, you’ll get a 100%.  But if you submitted something that did not qualify, automatically you’ll get zero.  In anyway, he was the teacher who first taught me perfection in everything I do.

One day, we had a lesson on plants.  He taught us how to grow plants and how to take care of them.  Then he gave us a project on grafting.  He assigned three persons in a group.  My groupmates were Susie Ponce and Alma Grace Terez.  Having lived in the city proper, Alma and I didn’t have gardens in our home.  So we considered doing our project at Susie’s place since they have a vast lawn/backyard/garden in Malaubang.  

Malaubang is located some 20-minute motorcycle ride from the city.  It is the elevated part of Ozamiz where the air is cool and fresh, trees grow green, flowers bloom, and butterflies flapping everywhere!  It is a place that offers calmness if you want to have a quick escape from the city hassle.

I was so excited on the day we’ll be going to Malaubang!  It was my first time to go to a distant place with only my classmates as my company. It was really an adventure since Susie only left us a sketch of her house.  Meaning, we have to go to a place unknown by ourselves and I was so thrilled by the idea of getting lost!   

So Alma and I met in the school and together, we hailed a motorcycle to Malaubang.  Then the adventure begins!  8 o’clock was our call time to be at Susie’s place for on that time, she’ll already be waiting outside her house for us.  During the motorcycle ride, we were always looking at the sketch.  I couldn’t remember exactly any landmark that leads to Susie’s but we managed to get there.  The motorcycle driver dropped us at the Ponces’ compound.  They were living in a compound and their surname was famous so we didn’t have the chance to get lost.  Too bad, I thought! 

Indeed, Susie was there waiting outside their compound.  We greeted each other and went inside their house.  She and her younger sister/brother (I couldn’t really remember) were the only ones left in the house.  Their parents were both teachers and perhaps they were called for duty although it was a Saturday. 

After discussing some plans on the grafting, we went to their backyard to see the plants that we’re going to work with.  We cut a stem of one plant, then one of another plant and connected them.  We had a hard time connecting them.  We had trials and we had mistakes.  We told each other that we should get it done very good so that Mr. Poloyapoy would approve our work.  And after cuttings and connections, we finally had a somewhat “good” stock-scion connection.  Then we said, “Let’s wait and see if this will stay alive after a few days.”    

Looking at our work in satisfaction, we smiled at each other and I told them that we were so lucky that we finished early.  Then Alma asked if it is true that Bukagan Hill is located in Malaubang.  Susie replied, “Yeah, it’s just there nearby.” 

Bukagan Hill?!  I’ve heard of it already!  I haven’t been there and I definitely wanna go there!  At that instant, I asked Susie to get us there!  But she insisted ‘coz it is dangerous for only kids to go.  Luckily, her cousin heard us and he said, “It’s OK, I will accompany you.  I always go there, anyway.”  Her cousin was just as our age (also a kid) and Susie said no again.  I pleaded her and this time, she was convinced. 

So she asked permission from her younger sister/brother, locked the house, and off we went uphill!  I was so exhilarated by the little trekking that we were about to do.  We brought with us walking sticks to assist us ‘coz her cousin told us that the ground might be slippery. 

As we were walking, Susie and her cousin talked about some cave in the hill and a tunnel that connects the hill to the Cathedral.  Really?!  I wanna go to the cave and the tunnel also!  I imagined ourselves crawling inside the cave and maybe we’re gonna see some bats!  I also thought of walking inside the tunnel and coming out in the Cathedral’s convent!  Then I urged them to hurry and together, we were so excited to reach the top of the hill.     

When we arrived, we were panting and catching our breaths so hard.  We were so tired and our t-shirts were so wet with sweat.  But as we looked around, our exhaustion instantly faded away because of the marvelous view atop!  We could see the entire Ozamiz.  We could see the Panguil Bay.  We could see the ferry boats that traveled to and fro Ozamiz-Kolambugan and Ozamiz-Tubod.  I was so so happy!  It was my first time to experience such a wonderful achievement in my life!  I laughed because I could see how gigantic things could be so tiny if you’re looking on top!  I felt like I was powerful making them little at my sight! 
Bukagan Hill by the Panguil Bay (Photo from Gi's Fotothing)
Then Susie’s cousin pointed the bells!  There were four big bells at Bukagan.  These were the bells that were supposedly to be installed at the Cathedral but the Cathedral’s belfry is not that sturdy to hold the hefty bells.  So, the priests and the local government just installed them at Bukagan for tourists’ attraction purposes.   

I was mesmerized by the bells.  I wanna hear them sound.  I wanna hear them make that big ding-dong!  But, we couldn’t have them sound.  Instead, we just sat at the bells tower’s foot and stared at them, making up stories that if we ring the four bells, the whole Ozamiz would be in great chaos of what must be happening!
Great Bells Tower of Bukagan Hill (Photo and Artwork by Gieward Jadman Hulagno)
Suddenly, there were kids interrupting our daydream.  They were in a haste shouting that all four of us must go down because Susie’s parents were already home and were looking for us.  To our horror, we instantly got up in our feet.  Susie was so worried that she might get reprimanded.  But I quipped about the tunnel and the cave.  Even as a child, I was wreckless.  We were already in a life-and-death situation but still, what was on my mind was another offense.  Gladly, the three of them didn’t listen to me.  So I just followed them in going down.

Finally, we arrived at Susie’s backyard and both her parents were boiling in anger.  I was so frightened!  Maybe they’re going to beat us up!  Maybe they will call our parents so all of them would beat us.  Or worst, maybe they will hand us down to the police!  My heart thumped as if it’s gonna get out from my body!

Indeed, they reprimanded not only Susie but all of us.  They said that it’s very dangerous to go to the hill by ourselves.  They said that we should never leave the house without telling an adult where we’re going.  They said that they will be the ones who’s gonna be in big problem if something bad happened to us.  They said that they were accountable to our parents because we were supposedly at their premises.

And, they were right!  I was so ashamed with my self.  I should not have initiated the idea of going to Bukagan.  I should not have convinced them for us to go.  No words came out from our mouths.  We didn’t have alibis.  We didn’t have reasons of going.  We were so quiet, so ashamed, and still so frightened.  Without a choice, Susie’s mom prompted us to get inside the house and she instructed Susie to serve the pork sopas she cooked for us.  Then she left us together with her husband.

As Susie was serving us, I was gonna cry.  I felt so bad with the mishap I did.  I said sorry to them and Alma told me that I was not the only one who’s responsible for what happened.  Susie also agreed and she said that all three of us were liable.  We then smiled at each other and enjoyed the homey pork sopas that was really good!  I never had a sopas that good in my entire life.  I wonder if I could ask Susie’s mom for its recipe.  Anyway, Susie’s mom and I met a year ago at Misamis Union High School.  I also wonder if she remembered me being the girl who influenced her daughter to go to a dangerous place by ourselves only. 

However as I look back now, I don’t have any regret of getting to Bukagan Hill because until now I never had the chance to be in that place again.  All the way through, it was an experience worth to cherish and remember!  And about our project, the plant did lived!  We got a 100% from Mr. Poloyapoy!

For more information about the bells of Bukagan Hill, click on its story written by Dr. Emma Villaseran at 

For more artwork of Gieward Jadman Hulagno, click on and for Gi's Fotothing photos, click


In this short-lived life, I always thank God for giving me the chances to see and be in different places.  I was already traveling even before I could remember a thing from those travels.  Before I turned 1 year old, my parents had brought me to Cebu for Sinulog.  
As we all know, Sinulog is the feast for Senior Sto. Niño.  Pilgrims celebrate with Cebuanos giving thanks to the child Jesus for the bountiful blessings they received the whole year through.  But for my parents, aside from giving thanks for having me as their first-born, they were fervently praying for my health.  I was so frail as a child.  I was so sickly and my parents always brought me to places wherein they hear that offers healing.  Thus started my traveling spirit!
The travel that I could remember was when I was still 6 years old.  This time, I was not with the company of my parents.  Perhaps that's the reason why this has become the first travel that I can remember.  I was with my Gpa, Auntie Bebot, and cousin Vian.  They were bringing me to Manila for check-ups.  
Our trip was via Iloilo because Gpa had to visit his relatives there.  I enjoyed our flight since it was my first time to ride on an airplane.  I could see the clouds up close, I was amazed of houses becoming matchboxes, and I was mesmerized by the very tall, very pretty, and very kind flight stewardess.  I could remember that I wanted to be like her when I grow up.  
Anyway, Iloilo was such a tranquil place.  I loved being there because our relatives were so accommodating.  We ate a lot from the harvest of our fish pond and hopped from house to house (it seemed like the whole village were all Olandescas).  
Suddenly, on the night before leaving for Manila, my stomach ached again.  Auntie Bebot put some Efficascent on my stomach but it didn't stop aching.  Then a relative there called up a witch doctor so we will know the root cause of my illness.  

I was afraid of the witch doctor - she really looked like a wicked witch!  She put an egg on my stomach and lit a candle.  She let the candle dripped on a basin of water.  Surprisingly, the drippings formed into a girl! And when she cracked the egg, it also formed into a girl! She then said that there was this relative who already passed away that was constantly bothering me.  As an antidote, she let me wore a black cloth with various leaves around my waist like a belt.  Then yes, the aching had stopped.    
The next day upon arrival at Manila, Mommy Becky asked why I smelled bad.  With the warning of Auntie Bebot not to tell her that we consulted a witch doctor, I just showed her the belt that I was wearing.  Then she laughed!  So I understood.  The witch doctor didn't heal me.  Mommy Becky is a doctor herself and that's the real doctor that I needed.  
My 1-month stay with her in Lipa City, Batangas was so sad.  I was away from home; I was away from Papa and Mama.  I also missed going to school for I was already in Grade 1 at that time.
Then Mommy Becky and Daddy Charles always brought me to Manila for check-ups.  I was always being exposed to X-rays, had Ultrasounds, stools and urine tested, and blood siphoned.  I hated the check-ups for I couldn't eat breakfast.  We usually left Lipa at 6 AM, arrived Manila at 9 AM, and finished the tests by 12 NN!  But Mommy always treated me with the foods I couldn't eat in Ozamiz like Pizza Hut's pizza and some Chinese restaurant's siomai!  She also brought me to Manila Zoo, Luneta Park, some carnival, and malls - places of recreation that were not yet in Ozamiz. 
After a month of tests, the doctor suggested a surgery of my stomach or intestine or spleen. Honestly until now, I don’t understand and I don’t know what illness was that.  Papa didn’t agree with the surgery so Mama fetched me.  Maybe Mommy also thought and saw that my sickness was not lethal so she just let me go.

Finally, miracle did happened and I was totally healed when I was 8 years old!  But I am forever thankful to Mommy Becky who not only shouldered my medical expenses but also treated me with the sights, experiences, and foods in Manila!
Gpa treating us (me, Vian, and Rio) ice cream at a mall in Manila.  Auntie Bebot at our back.