Ballerina Dreams Do Come True ✨🙆🏻💖

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Ballerina Dreams Do Come True ✨🙆🏻💖

The last time I danced ballet was in kindergarten. That’s pretty much the only dance background I can brag about. I love to dance but just never had the chance to pursue it. For as long as I can remember, I’d watch in awe at dancers and how they moved with so much passion and grace. It was all aspirational for me. Up until now.

When I turned the big 4 – 0 last year, I vowed I would pursue my passions while I still can. Dancing was one of them. So I signed up for ballet classes. The only thing was, my classmates were kids and teens, while the adult teachers were my batch mates from way back in high school!

Blending in with young people is less about looking young but more about having a childlike spirit. Here’s the Ballet 2 batch carrying our only boy and baby in class, Dalton. If you haven’t spotted the Hidden Tita yet, I’m the one on the left with the Minnie Mouse ears. 🤣

 

The classmate I am most fond of in ballet school is 11-year old Dalton. He’s such a joy in class, just a generally happy kid. You’d always catch him giggling and skipping about with a carefree gait, but come performance time he’s got his game face on. Dalton is the one assigned to stay in front of Tita Ballerina (me) in class, so I can follow the series of steps during exercises. Whenever I can’t follow the steps, he coaches me like a little teacher. Compared to me, Dalton’s a pro, considering he has already been dancing for five years now, having started at the age of seven.

I think the kids in class are partly amused and partly inspired that they have this Tita (auntie) in class who is trying mighty hard memorizing steps and struggling to coordinate body movement, things they most likely take for granted.

Tita Sankie with my little ballet coach Dalton

Stage Performance

I have only attended a few ballet classes but I was determined to join Dance Basics ballet studio’s summer recital since I knew it would give me the opportunity for accelerated learning through repetitive practice.

The kids were all so excited when the teachers announced the recital theme: Disney!

Tita Ballerina was equally excited, imagining how lovely it would be to dance like a Disney Princess. But the dance given to us was Avatar. I fell in love with the dance just the same. We wore a vibrant blue unitard with a feather necklace. The final steps of Emboite and Ballonne (which I call horsey steps because they are fast and in succession), where extra challenging for me but I am always glad to learn something more advanced (but safe) as I have lots of lost time to make up for.

With my “Pandora: The World of Avatar” ballet recital dance group

There were two of us who were beginner adult ballerinas. The other one is Yosh, who just graduated from college. She has been dancing ballet for a year. We joined two more experienced teenage ballerinas in our Avatar recital number, Kyla and Katarina. We tried our best to blend in with these two true-blue dancers. I think Yosh and I did a pretty good job considering we were only beginners. We did our homework and practiced the steps. Being a dancer takes a lot of actual experience dancing. It is largely muscle memory.

Full performance below of my first recital as an adult ballerina (I am at the back, left)

I didn’t get to do the recital number with absolute perfection but I did my mighty best as a beginner adult. Of course, there’s the jitters that come with performing on stage in front of a live audience. Even stage presence only grows from experience that’s why I take every opportunity to perform on stage. As my best friend tells me, “You guys are admirable. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there”. 

The Magic of Childhood

For the ballet recital’s Finale’s dance number, we were told we could be any Disney character. I still wanted to be a princess but no ready-made Disney princess outfit would fit this Tita anymore so I decided to just go generic and wear a pretty tiara and tutu instead. One of the kids came up to me backstage and asked with innocent curiosity, “Who are you supposed to be?” I said, “Guess?”. She gave it some thought and said, “A ballerina?”. I just had to laugh. These kids know their Disney characters all too well and for them, if you’re a Disney princess, you must be precise with your costume! Haha.

Another kid, who spoke with a British accent (maybe from watching too much Peppa Pig cartoons) proudly declared during technical rehearsals, “I love the stage!”. Amusing considering she is only four years old.

One eight-year old kid also asked me excitedly in class, “Will you be wearing pointe shoes (toe shoes) next?” I wanted to tell her, “Kid, I just started. You even have more ballet experience than I have”. But yes, wearing pointe shoes is every ballerinas aspiration, even for me.

Beginner Adult Ballerinas. Yosh and I wearing our Disney Finale costumes. Me as a Princess and she as a Fairy Godmother.

Kids are just like little adults, except they are always in the spirit of play and fun. Something we can all learn from. It’s so refreshing to be around them.

The title of our Disney-themed recital was “Step Into the Magic” and I’m sure that for these kids, as it was even for a late-bloomer dancer Tita Ballerina like me, it was a truly magical experience. The colorful costumes, the burst of silver and all-shades-of-blue confetti, the creative dance numbers from Alice in Wonderland to Tangled, it is every bit experiencing Disneyland through dance. And nobody, whether the dancers, teachers or the audience, is ever too old for Disneyland. I invited my family to watch the show and they, too, stepped into the magic.

Magical finale number. I am the third from the left, wearing a white skirt (tutu).


Special Show

This year’s Dance Basics recital was special because it was also the sendoff for two of their dance scholars who passed the tough auditions for a dance scholarship to the Philippine High School for the Arts, where the creme of the crop of young artists (dance, music, theatre, visual, creative writing) from all over the Philippines are honed to master their craft. Classes start in June so this is their last recital with Dance Basics. These two talented dancers, Camille and Jazailah, have been scholars of Dance Basics since they were around eight years old and now they are off to high school on a full dance scholarship, pursuing their dream of becoming professional ballerinas and conquering the world stage. I’m going to miss these two girls, who are one of the most humble, down to earth and dedicated young dancers I have been blessed to meet. It would be our pride to see them represent the Philippines in national and international ballet someday. Cheering for you two, Camille and Jazailah! Make us proud.

Yosh and I, together with Jazailah (leftmost) and Camille (2nd from right), Dance Basics scholars since they were little kids. These two talented dancers have just received full scholarships from the Philippine High School for the Arts and start their schooling at the prestigious national arts school this June. They were very emotional because this was their last performance with Dance Basics.

Never Too Late

Joining a ballet recital was one of my goals this year. It’s definitely a huge check on my bucket list. It’s never too late to pursue your passions. Even if you have to start with the basics and be among kids. This has been one of my most enriching experiences and one that earns its place in this Tita’s memoirs. Always live the magic! Be free like a child. And just dance and fly!

[You can also follow my aerial and dance journey as a late bloomer aerialist and dancer on Instagram @justdanceandfly]

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Photo after the successful 2017 summer ballet recital with my ballerina friends and schoolmates from Poveda who all put together this magical show! From left: Dr Sunshine Tady and Teachers Day Estrada (my ballet teacher), Nesa Tanyag and Trina Tanyag-Zafra, career women who founded Dance Basics dance school as a passion project

 

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“We should never give up on our dreams.”
~ Victor to Félicie in the animated film ‘Ballerina’ 💖

+D.O.G.

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My Top 20 for 2016

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I am overflowing with gratitude for all the wonderful experiences of 2016. Let this year not pass without my recounting the Top 20 highlights of 2016 and paying tribute to The Author of my life, Who continues to bless me with such awe-inspiring moments. Thank You, Father in heaven! I continue to trust in Your constantly bountiful grace and claim yet another fruitful and blessed year ahead in 2017, filled with joy and wonder. The best is yet to come!

# 1 Fab@40 Milestone Birthday Talent Gift Shares

Milestone “Fab@40″yearlong birthday celebration and the over 40 (and counting!) talent gift shares I have received from people I have been blessed to meet in my life’s amazing journey.

Click here for the #BirthdayProject #TalentGiftShares !

#2 Beginning of my journey as an Aerialist

Starting my journey as an Aerialist and falling in love with the artistic and challenging aerial hoops (the aerial lyra). Also began intense training to perform on stage for my first aerial recital within just four months!

#3 Successfully leading the third and last Shell “Powering Progress Together Manila” international conference

#4 Stargazing Camp 

Gazing at the Milky Way with its multitude of stars over a clear night at Lake Caliraya. Pitched tents by the lake for an overnight camp with fellow stargazing enthusiasts. The event was organized by the Mind Museum, with their resident astronomer sharing cool about the cosmos.

#5 Meeting my Good Vibes group 

This year, I met an awesome group of positive individuals all dedicated to spreading good vibes and attracting the good. We were brought together by the Law of Attraction Workshop led by Life Coach Mario Now and organized by Holistic Retreats.

#6 Japan cherry blossoms, old and new friendships

Experienced Hokkaido’s beautiful cherry blossom season; met with lifelong Japanese friends I last saw 15 years ago, and made some new friends who I also hope to keep for life.

#7 Snorkeling in Tubbataha

Yes, snorkeling! When we visited Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site in Palawan, Philippines) towards the end of summer this year, the waves were already too rough. I was too scared of the waves so instead of diving, I experienced Tubbataha in a different way – snorkeling, with no less than the Captain of the Navorca, the research vessel used by the Tubbataha Management Office. We were able to get near the sea birds and even saw one up close trying to catch fish!

#8 Lighting Up Homes, Lighting Up Lives

Continued delivering access to clean energy to remote islands in northern Palawan inhabited by indigenous people and fisherfolk as part of Shell’s Access to Energy program, which has received external recognition (Quill and Anvil awards).

#9 Celebrating Mindoro island’s biodiversity 

Celebrating Mindoro’s rich biodiversity with conservationists from all over, during the 25th Philippine Biodiversity Summit.

#10 Diving in Barracuda Lake (Coron, Palawan) 

My first time ever to dive in a lake. So liberating! No heavy and tight dive suit, just sando and shorts. Barracuda Lake has prehistoric rock formations, with water temperatures that can get really hot (up to 39 degrees celcius) because it is actually a lake on top of a volcano crater! Also experienced the “thermocline” for the first time, where the hot and cold water meet underneath, and there is a stillness (I could see a faint line marking the waters) where the little silver fish look like they are dancing in frozen time. Amazing.

 #11 Honoring our Dad on his milestone birthday 

We put together a surprise birthday celebration for our dear Daddy Groovy: bodybuilder – Mr YMCA during his younger days, champion bowler (was part of the Philippine Team), loving father.

 #12 Brother Island  

Happy to have stayed in this beautiful little island in El Nido that is a home away from home, and a breathing space from the fast-paced life at the metropolis. My musically talented friend Alee owns the island and he has many plans of making it a case study of sustainable island development using renewable energy and recycled rainwater, and providing jobs for the locals in the nearby towns.

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 #13 Hundred Caves  

Explored one of Puerto Princesa’s hidden treasures – a new site being developed for adventure tourism. Not for the fainthearted, the Hundred Caves is quite daunting to navigate, especially since we were not prepared for the unexpected challenge!

#14 Physical Fitness in all its exciting forms!  

From hip-hop and modern jazz, to classical ballet and contemporary pole dancing, I think I have tried it all this year. I even attempted to be a Ninja, but did all the moves in Lola Mode (slow motion!) and with the occasional ’tili’ whenever I made a wrong move (pinky finger up, of course!).

#15 Epic trip to the majestic Philippine mountains – UNESCO World Heritage Sites Banaue and Batad Rice Terraces

Finally got to fulfill my dream of beholding the beauty of the Philippines’ famous Ifugao rice terraces in Banaue and Batad which, until now, I have only seen printed on the peso bill.  I was accompanied by my French friend Amael who visited the country for the first time. He and I share the same love for nature and adventure!

#16 Canyoneering Adventure

Hiking, jumping and floating through the beautiful canyon of Badian, leading to Kawasan Falls, southern Cebu, Philippines. I consider it a miracle (and answered prayer) that I was still able to experience this enchanting canyon hidden in the mountains of Cebu, after I suffered an injury from a bad aerial hoop fall. Thank You, Lord! I live to marvel at Your creations. 🙂

#17 Sardine Run

Witnessed the amazing dance of a multitude of sardines moving in unison at Moalboal, Cebu’s Panagsama Beach reef.

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Photo by Paul Cowell

#18 Whale Shark Encounter

Close encounter with the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines. Having read that the whale sharks can be as big as a bus, I thought I would be overwhelmed with fright. But these creatures are really gentle giants and are a sight to behold.

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#19 Reaching Mount Pulag’s Summit

Ever since I was 22 years old, when my first Supervisor kept raving about his experience climbing Mount Pulag, I have placed it on my bucket list. Imagine, it took me close to two decades to fulfill this dream! As they say, it’s never too late. Mount Pulag is the highest mountain in Luzon, third highest in the entire Philippines, standing at 2,922 meters above sea level. It is my first mountain summit. My recent physical activities have helped me survive the climb but I do not think it was not enough and I seriously was able to finish the climb because of sheer willpower. I reached the summit after hours of hiking through the cold, dark, rainy night. The view that revealed itself in the daytime was awesome. All worth it! Special thanks to our guide, Mang Lino, for his encouragement, and my trekking poles (without which I would have slid and fell). We were not fortunate to see Mount Pulag’s famous sea of clouds sunrise, so my group and I are planning to come back again one day!

#20 Completing the Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage and the Nine-Day Simbang Gabi

This year has been a year of grace for me. As I close the year recounting all the wonderful experiences I have been blessed with, I thank the Lord for His grace. May I deepen my relationship with Him in 2017 and onwards, and whole-heartedly live the life He wants me to live. For truly, we cannot improve on God’s plans. =)

+Deo Omnis Gloria. All for Your Glory, O Lord! Amen.

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The #BirthdayProject

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The #BirthdayProject

A compilation of talent gifts received from family & friends to celebrate my #40&Fab birthday!

40 & Fab

Four days before my birthday, I woke up with a little panicked feeling and thought, “Oh em gee, I am turning 40!!! This milestone year marking my entry into middle age cannot just go by without some kind of special commemoration!”

I hadn’t really planned anything spectacular, unlike others who celebrate their 40th with a big bang (one friend even produced her own major concert where she did multiple song and dance numbers that would rival even Vice Ganda – and yes, I bought tickets to watch it!), I thought of celebrating mine in a way that was especially meaningful to me. My idea was to ask family, as well as friends I have met at different stages of my life, to share their special talents as a gift to celebrate life. I would then compile all of these and share it here on my blog, for me and for everyone else to enjoy for posterity.

You will see that these talent ‘gifts’ I have received for my birthday are as diverse (some even crazy!) as my colorful life, which is made so precisely because I am surrounded by people who are blessed with unique abilities and special talents, whether it be writing, singing, playing musical instruments, drawing, dancing, cooking, mentoring, rewiring the mind, and even making funny voices (haha, see #12). They pay tribute to the 40 me, but I also pay tribute to them, who represent all of you, whom I have encountered in my life, and who have made this journey so far one that is truly worth celebrating.

Now time to share The Gifts!!! Hope you enjoy ‘opening’ these as much as I did. Let’s go celebrate my #40&Fab Birthday!

#1
Tula (Tagalog Poem)
by Jennifer de Jesus

Jennifer (Faye) is my UP college friend (one of the original four K1 Block besties), fellow corp comm professional in the energy sector, and one who shares with me the love for the Filipino language. She writes a poem in Tagalog for “Juzzara” (for those who don’t know, that is my real name! Sankie is just my nickname. :)), alluding to my love for fashion, travel and words; and my smile (attitude of positivity), which leads to a path of heavenly blessings.
Tula ni Faye 2

#2
Favorite Travel Photograph
by Dennis Kudo

Mr Kudo is one of the many nice people I have encountered in one of my travel adventures. He loves taking pretty photographs and I was fortunate enough to have him take a photo of me yoga posing on top of a cliff overlooking Halong Bay, Vietnam (while he was resting and trying to catch his breath from the hike to the top. Yes, I took advantage of the opportunity because I AM a maximiser, hahaha). He has yet to add the Philippines to his travel destinations.

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Yoga Pose, Halong Bay

Sankie,

Happy birthday my friend, I’m so happy we crossed paths that one fateful night instead of ships passing in the night.  Although we met less than 2 years ago,  I feel I have known you much longer considering we don’t talk very often.  Below is one of my favorite pictures as it also brings back memories from where we met in Halong Bay.

Have fun and celebrate with your friends, I’m sure you will have the best-est birthday ever.   BTW, if you said it’s your 29th, I would have totally believed you!

Dennis

#3
Doodle Mind Map
(What goes on in the mind of Sankie)

by Suiee Suarez

Suiee is my colleague and fellow social and environmental resilience advocate. We call him Mr ‘Sensitive New Age Guy’ (he’s the only guy in our “Atengs” Viber Group) as he must be several steps ahead of other men in understanding us women (special recognition also for being supportive of our long hours of shopping :)) and knowing what goes on in our mind.

Doodle Mind Map by Suiee

#4
’80s Music Dance Party Mix 
by Kuya Judd (KJ)

My Kuya (older bro) Judd is 7 years older than I am. He, along with our eldest Kuya Jorel and my older sis Ate Jovan, influenced my love for ’80s music. I still have vivid memories of Kuya Judd as a cool spinner of new wave records (yes, mga plaka pa nun! haha) at parties. Now he has a high-tech gadget for mixing music, but which he doesn’t get to use because of his hectic work sked. This is his first attempt at using the mixing gadget. Hope you had fun putting this mix ‘tape’ together, KJ!

#5
Ballet Dance 
by Nesa Tanyag

My colleague Nesa Tanyag is a professional ballerina and our in-house choreographer for office dance performances (including our crazy fun Austin Powers Christmas party dance). For Nesa, who is a ballet teacher, dancing is her life. Here she is showing her graceful moves at the supermarket, while buying stuff needed for the surprise cupcake-themed birthday party they threw for me at the office. =)

#6
Poem  
by Quintin Pastrana

My friend Quintin Pastrana, who has lived my dream of studying in Georgetown and with whom I share the love for the written word (and furry creatures), recently completed his Masters (his third one!) in Creative Writing from Oxford. His mission is to spread literacy to the farthest reaches of the country by setting up at least 200 community libraries by 2020 through the Library Renewal Partnership project.Poem by Quintin, rev2The reason I like this poem and greet you with it, is because you’ve been such a gracious person who pays forward without calling attention to yourself, and that bodes well for all your pursuits and happiness in the years to come.

Advanced happy birthday and thanks for your friendship!

– Quintin

#7
Collection of Movie Lines for Sankie
by Hazel Reside

Below is a collection of movie lines depicting my idiosyncratic self and our friendship, from one of my best friends in college Hazel Reside (Chow), with whom I’ve exchanged countless loooong handwritten letters (only she can match and even outdo my kilometric letter-writing!) and share the love for films and plays. I hope we both find a boyfriend -husband who can write us equally long, beautiful letters (with perfect spelling and grammar, haha!).

Movie Icons

Scene – I first met Sankie one hot June morning at the UP-CMC.  It was 1994.  We were blockmates, though I was in Film and she in BroadComm.  We would eventually spend a number of lunches together, ruminate on our favorite Louie bench, leave notes for each other (hers written with colored ink and included lovely hand drawn butterfly drawings on the margins) – even when I left CMC for Econ, we made sure to stay friends.  She was my college friend who unabashedly wore sunflower accessories and chunky shoes.  She was one in a million.

“Okay, so she is deranged, but so, so playful.”  (Alex, Everything Is Illuminated, 2005)

She ended up working in jobs that I could only dream about – producer, communications specialist, hotshot Shell exec.  Jetting the world, working that yoga pose in the middle of tourist spots and industrial zones.  Her successes have been well-earned, and that she is a Fortune magazine cover story waiting to happen.  (Or Yes! cover story – you’ll never know.)

“The secret, I don’t know… I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life.”  (Max Fischer, Rushmore, 1998)

I think, for someone who has achieved so much, it should not come as a surprise that Sankie’s on the receiving end of so many blessings and good will.  For she has surrounded herself with people who love and support her, and possibly those who are willing to catch a bullet for her (that would be me – provided I have a Kevlar vest on).

“I am acting my age. I’m in the prime of my youth and I’ll only be young once!”  (Teddy Duchamp, Stand By Me, 1986)

I would like to think that she’s the sum total of all the people and fur babies who love her.  And all the pop culture references that her brain can process and love.  Like that one time she pestered me to watch “My So-Called Life” with her because no one else would (Brian-Angela forevah!).  Or that time her FB feed was literally an homage and shrine to this guy named David Gandy.  She is both classy and kikay, cultured and jologs at the same time.  It’s an odd mix, but we love her just the same.

“You are what you love, not what loves you.”  (Donald Kaufman, Adaptation, 2002)

Water for Elephants

Sankie dear, I know you only asked for a couple of movie lines, but it’s hard to encapsulate you in just a few lines.  So here’s what I thought to dedicate to you.

“May I admire you again today?” (Duckie Dale, Pretty In Pink, 1986)

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”  (John Keating, Dead Poets Society, 1989)

“You’re a beautiful woman.  You deserve a beautiful life.”  (Jacob Jankowski, Water for Elephants, 2011)

“Next time kiss with your eyes open. It’s a whole different experience!”  (Stef Steinbrenner, The Goonies, 1985)

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend.”  (Spock, Star Trek:  The Wrath of Khan, 1982)

Happiest birthday, my dear friend !

– Chow

#8
Magical Keyboard Performance 
by Mitchell Gimena

I knew Mitch could play the keyboards but it wasn’t until recently, when he posted a video performance on Facebook, that I realized how absolutely amazing his musical talent is!!! In fact, this was how I came up with the idea of requesting family members and friends from different circles to share their talents as gifts for my #40&Fab #BirthdayProject. Mitch performs two love songs for me, which he hopes I can someday “sing to my husband, or that he can sing to me” (I hope so, too, Mitch 🙂 And will you perform at our wedding? Groom na lang po ang kulang!). Here’s Mitch with a mashup keyboard rendition of “The Gift” by Jim Brickman and “Kahit Kailan” by Southborder. This is a treat to watch. =)

#9
Hamsa Hand Artwork 
by Jizelle Simbulan

My niece Jizelle, or Gige as our family calls her, has a talent in drawing. She made this Hamsa Hand Symbol for my birthday. It is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths it is a protective sign. It brings its owner happiness, luck, health and good fortune. Gige is studying to become a doctor and I pray that she gets to accomplish her dream. =)
Hamsa Hand

Gige and Tita Kie, Hamsa Hand

#10
Healthy Meal Preparation
by Lourdes Ruiz

Lur has been my best friend since grade school. Living on her own in Dubai, she needed to learn how to prepare her own meals and has now grown to be an expert at cooking, especially healthy meals. We are both trying to cut down on sweets. When I visited her two years ago, she was the perfect host, cooking for me and making me libre all the time, hehehe. Miss you, Balur! Pero alam ko tanggap mo na mas miss ko talaga si Addie, your dog, hehehe! =)

For my birthday, Lur cooked a healthy meal to celebrate both our journey to wellness (and sexiness – haha!). Sharing the recipe links below:

Lur and Addie

# 11
The Gift of Gab:
Top 5 Memories of Sankie in College 
by Tina Bayhon-Garcia

Tina was my best buddy in college. We had such a blast in UP Diliman and were practically inseparable. Below she exposes my boy craziness and other idiosyncrasies, coupled with my drive to excel!  Tina and I both share the gift of gab – we can hold a marathon conservation all day and still wouldn’t run out of things to talk about. Also, for the record: I still love Keanu Reeves! But have also added David Gandy to my obsession. Hehe.

“My Top 5 Memories of Sankie Back in College”

1. Sankie’s crushes

She loooooves Keanu Reeves! Look, she even signs her name as Sankie Reeves! Intense. She was also crushing on her Pysch classmate. Itago natin sya sa pangalang P.G.

Sankie 1

2. That time Sankie invited Jon Santos

We were required to produce a talk show for radio and most of us just dragged, bribed or threatened unwilling friends as interview subjects. But not Sankie. She really moved heaven and earth to get Jon Santos to come all the way to UP Diliman to do a live interview. Achieve! True friend that she is, she got me Jon Santos’ autograph! As a side note, Sanks, remember John? Wink, wink…

3. Sending a photocopied greeting card

So it was a friend’s birthday and we were like, oh no, what should we give her? And Sankie goes, oh wait, I have a photocopy of a Snoopy greeting card! I could have laughed to her face and said, that’s ridiculous, why would we do that? But nooo…. I was like, what a great idea, give me a pen! What can I say? We were young and lived on our allowance. We can’t help but be a bit P.G. (not Sankie’s crush).

Snoopy Card

4. Sunflower obsession

Totally obsessed. I think she was wearing sunflower earrings as well! This went on for a while until bees started to stalk her.

Sankie and Sunflowers

5. Talking our heads off

We could talk for hours! One time we were killing time at PHAN and we’ve been blabbing for more than an hour when a middle aged Korean man interrupted our kwentuhan to tell us he’s genuinely entertained by our very animated conversation! Sanks, maybe we should just put up a talk show?

Tina and Sankie

We shared so many more memories such as the pa-morningan (sleeping at the Sunken Garden under a tarp), World Youth Day (crying on your birthday because of a cranky man you accidently stepped on), running after boys (only because we had slacker History group mates), joining Univ, MCO, AIESEC, Ictus (hahaha, fail), hanging out at the Sunken G and LBB (Louie Beltran Benches), Death in the Form of a Rose, year ender letters, and sooo much more. Maybe I should reserve those for when you turn 50?

In closing, may gusto daw bumati:

Wookie the Dog

Happy birthday Sankie! Looking forward to creating more awesome memories with you! Preferably something involving the Northern Lights, yes?

— Tina

# 12
Voice Impersonation Talent
(Humorous birthday greeting in two different voices)
by Ron Jabal

Ron is a man with many talents (in-demand consultant for bi- and multi-lateral agencies, literary guru, even former child star and Mr Slimmers World!) but for me, his best gift is his ability to make me laugh! He is 24/7 ‘baliw’ (crazy) and because of that, we love to hang out with him. He is our comic relief in the middle of a stressful day. Ron used to be a voice talent way back (was one of the voices behind the localised “Shaider”) and to this day, he loves talking to us using different accents (British, Chinese or Indian). For my birthday, he greets me with two voices – as an Indian salesman and as  Inday Garutay, with her signature gravely voice. Thank you, Ron, for disregarding your reputation as Public Relations Society of the Philippines Internal VP to humor me on my birthday. Laugh trip!

#13
Song with Video Collage: “For Good”
By Mich Cruz-Villar (and Mike Villar)

My colleague Mich is the most talented singer in the External Relations team. She used to be the lead singer of a band in college. She is one of the members of the “Atengs” (the others being Elaine Villanueva, Christine del Valle; and the honorary group member, Suiee Suarez). For my birthday, Mich sings lines from the song “For Good”, from one of our favorite musicals “Wicked”. The song is about friendship and how it changes us for the better.

For Good (lyrics excerpt)

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you…
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

# 14
Gown Designs and Words of Wisdom
for Beauty Queens 

by Armin Adina

In 1994, the Philippines hosted the Miss Universe pageant, with Charlene Gonzales representing the country (Who can forget her witty quip:”High tide or low tide”?). We were freshies in college that time and Armin was my absolutely pageant-obsessed blockmate. In between classes I would see him drawing the gowns worn by the contestants. Now, as a journalist, Armin gets to officially cover pageants, interview the candidates and get really up close and personal. He shares some of the gown designs he made way back in the ’90s, along with winning words of wisdom gained from the beauty queens.

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Sankie,

Enjoy these ’90s gown designs plus words of wisdom that will help you succeed in the beauty pageant called life.

Cheers,
Armin

#15
Poem

by Angel Acuña-Bekalti

A poem celebrating life, written by the left- and right-brain smart Angel (aka, ‘Tangkad’), one of my best friends from Poveda high school. We may be a foot apart in height but we are of the same wavelength. 🙂

Poem by Angel

For my dear friend Sankie, who doesn’t look a day over 18.

Thanks to 2 decades of friendship, laughter and lots of culture. Thanks for bringing inspiration to me and to others to live life to the full and to do things that make us happy. Thank you for your animal-loving nature and your appreciation of art and beauty. I wish for you on your 40th so much happiness and contentment and love from all your family and friends and all the people whose lives you touch. Thanks for the honor of contributing to your Souvenir Birthday Collection.

— Angel

# 16

Song with Acoustic Guitar:
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody”
By Peter Bateson

I’m fortunate to have gotten to know Peter, a bright and talented young man who is now pursuing a degree in Chemistry at the University College London. Peter spent his summer internship with us last year, during which we learned he has a talent in playing the guitar and singing. I have requested ’80s songs from Peter, the first is a song of his choice and the second one is my own request (the 1986 hit song “Human” by the Human League, which was before Peter was born but which he tried to learn for me — thank you, Peter!!!). The ’80s song he chose to sing is “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston. His version is now my favourite! =)

 #17
Song: “Birthday”
by Faith Macam

Faith, whom I fondly call Pipay, is my 10-year old niece. Together we are #Pipay&Kikay.  We love singing, animals, art and all things girly. Here she takes a selfie video singing “Birthday” by Katy Perry, a fitting song for my #40&Fab birthday! You will also hear her dog Angel chiming in the background.

#18
Personally Designed Summer Dress
by Ria Macam

Ria (Faith’s mom, see #17), is my older cousin and very much like an older sister to me. She lived with us for a while during my growing up years, and I remember she was my confidante and stylist (fixed my hair for my grad pic, helped me choose what to wear for my HS dance, etc.). Ria is very talented in the arts – she can paint and design clothes (at one point in her career she even designed sexy lingerie!). Ria is, in fact, a professional fashion designer. For my birthday, she gave me a summer dress which she herself designed and which was approved for mass production by one of the big malls in the metro.

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#19

Birthday Cheer
by Chin Simbulan and the San Beda Red Corps

My niece Chin is blessed with the gift of dance. She is one of the cheerdancers for the San Beda Red Corps cheerdance group. For my birthday, she and her squadmates made a birthday cheer especially for me, stunts and all! Amazing!

 #20

Sankie’s Own Photo Friday eDM
by Chiqui Guison

My colleague Chiqui is the Shell Internal Communications lead for the Malampaya Phases 2 and 3 Project. One of her best channels for communicating messages to the project team is the creative “Photo Fridays” eDM (electronic Direct Mail) which she releases weekly and which staff look forward to reading, since it contains easy to read and interesting project updates, matched with very nice photos. Fortunate to have had the privilege of being Chiqui’s Internal Comms mentor as her Supervisor for her first job out of college. Now, Chiqui is on her way to Qatar for a short international assignment for the Pearl GTL (Gas-to-Liquids) Project, one of Shell’s biggest gas projects, where she will be handling Internal Comms. For my birthday, Chiqui made me my own Photo Fridays! This is probably the most likes I will ever get for an ‘Instagram’ kind of post (wow! 2,700 likes! artista level :))

Sankie's Photo Friday

#21

Spirit, Mind and Body Wellness
by Lans Bularan

Our Social Performance Team Lead Melanie Bularan (Lans) is an epitome of “stillness in motion”. She maintains a certain calmness and lightheartedness under pressure. She has begun a journey towards personal wellness, starting by becoming a Pescetarian (on fish and veggie diet),  practicing and teaching yoga, learning Bowen therapy (holistic pain relief and healing) and homeopathic medicine (alternative, holistic medicine). She is also a certified Neuro-Lingistic Programming (NLP) coach. And she thinks she did not have any talent to share! Can’t wait to claim her #TalentGiftShare for my birthday! She promised to treat me to a one-on-one session on:

  • NLP coaching for the mind
  • Bowen therapy for the body
  • Psion prayer blessing for the soul

#22
Hosting
by Christine del Valle

Tin de Valle is one of the most gracious people I know. Her cozy home in the UK is a haven for Shell Pinoys to visit and ‘crash’ in, including me, who has had the privilege of staying at what we call “Casa del Valle” (the home she has made for her family – husband Randy, and son Luigi) and being pampered by Tin’s homecooked meals and beautifully kept home interiors. She is the perfect host – she event went shopping with me for two nights in a row (at least three hours each time in just one shop, my favorite Primark – and pag-uwi namin tulog na asawa at anak niya, yaiks). Tin’s gift is hosting and she puts together images of my UK visit in 2013, as well as other photos of our friendship. I look forward to visiting you again in the UK, Tin (hopefully this year so we can watch a Westend play together!) and being wonderfully hosted once more in your lovely home. You always make us feel like royalty. 🙂  

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#23
Papercut Artwork
by Abbey Tomas

If I hadn’t asked Abbey, I wouldn’t have known that she had a talent for papercutting, which is kinda unique! I know Abbey is a talented communicator, but cut out art is something she also does to de-stress or relax. So I asked Abbey to make a paper cut art work of one of my favorite mottos in life, “Deo Omnis Gloria” or D.O.G., which means “All for the Glory of God”. Of course, I had to ask her to add an image of a dog to go with it! Haha. 

 #24
Song: “Forever Friends”
by Hazel Book

Hazel is my ever reliable and super bait na assistant. She is a blessing to our team. I’ve heard she has a talent in singing but this is the first time I have really ever heard her sing. For my birthday, she sings “Forever Friends” by Sandi Patti about how, even when life is in a constant flux, friendships remain the same forever.

 #25
Song with Acoustic Guitar: “Your Universe”
by Teng Chy

Teng is my younger cousin and he and his brothers are all musically gifted! They were all part of a band (Jobert on drums, Ogie on bass, and Teng on electric guitar). Teng is the only one who continues to pursue this path and for my birthday, I have asked him to learn how to sing and play the guitar melody for the song “Your Universe” by Rico Blanco. Not a lot of people know this song but I super enjoy listening to it – to the melody as well as the lyrics. Kudos to Teng for learning the song for me in just 3 days. =)

#26
Secret Homemade Recipes
by Marvi Trudeau

Ms Marvi is one of the most strong-willed women I know, who really makes things happen! She is behind the success of Shell’s successful malaria elimination programme in Palawan. She, her husband Hugh and their daughter Nini live in a house on top of a hill with a magnificent view of Puerto Princesa City. Their house is called “Hilltop” and so she calls her recipes Hilltop Recipes. For my birthday, she presents me with a compilation of her secret recipes in a handy cookbook. 

#27
Nurturing a Tree
(Plus 6 Fave Book Quotes)
by Riz Figueroa

Riz was my teammate in the 2010 Rotary Group Study Exchange (GSE) programme, which gave us the opportunity to represent the Philippines in Switzerland. We also got to travel to Portugal and France together. My GSE teammates (Riz, Sharyn, Maya and Leslie) are all talented, creative and passionate women, and that time we spent together in Europe is one of the most memorable experiences of my life. Like me, Riz also had a stint as a TV producer. Now she works for an educational NGO and spends her leisure time backyard farming. For my birthday, she planted several plants in my name and has promised to nurture these for me. A lover of books, I also requested Riz to share six (6) favorite book quotes. 

My Top 6 Books and Quotes (*not in any particular order)

  1. “There is a love that creates value in what is loved. There is a love that turns rag dolls into priceless treasures. There is a love that fastens itself onto ragged little creatures, for reasons that no one could ever quite figure out, and makes them precious and valued beyond calculation. This love is beyond reason. This is the love of God. We are God’s rag dolls. He knows all about our raggedness, and he loves us anyhow… We may be unlovely, yet we are not unloved.” – John Ortberg, Life to the Max

2. “Leadership carries a high price tag for the leader. It takes a leader’s time, commitment, personal energy, and involvement. In other words, himself. Leaders who refuse to pay the price, who do so because the value they put on their people is too low, are hirelings leaders who attend to their people only because they are paid to do so, whose hearts aren’t in it. What distinguishes a great leader from a mediocre one is that a great leader has a heart for his people.” – Dr. Kevin Leman, The Way of the Shepherd

3. “The better you understand the journey to your Dream and what God is doing in your life, the less likely you are to abandon your Dream.” -Bruce H. Wilkinson, The Dream Giver

4. “We think you’ll find that every woman in her heart of hearts longs for three things: to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty. That’s what makes a woman come alive.” -John Eldredge, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul

5. “These women are talented and gifted, fearless yet honoring, connected yet self-contained, present yet far reaching, compassionate yet fierce, pure but not naive, strong and gentle, simple yet highly strategic… Women are God-answers… You, lovely one, have a potential to be a living, breathing solution to human problems.” – Lisa Bevere, Lioness Arising: Awaken the Power of the Untamed Life

6. “We know Satan will attack weak spots first. Where are you empty? Are you hungry for attention, craving success, longing for intimacy? Be aware of your weakness. Bring them to God before Satan brings them to you. Satan will tell you to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3). In other words, meet your own needs, take matters into your own hands, leave God out of the picture. Whereas Jesus teaches us to pray for bread (Matthew 6:11). Satan says to work for bread.” – Max Lucado, God’s Story Your Story, When His becomes yours

#28
Top 3 Spiritually Wise Quotes
by Dawn Shangkuan

Dawn is my diet guru! She is the reason I have lost so much weight, thanks to introducing me to the LCHF diet. Our friendship goes back to college in UP Diliman, and even then I have known her to be a spiritual person, who tries to be a model Christian. For my birthday, she shares with me Top 3 Quotes for the Spirit.

“Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful; For beauty is God’s handwriting–a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower, And thank God for it as a cup of His blessing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”  – C.S. Lewis

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”– Augustine

#29
Three Meaningful Songs
By Daday de Leon

Daday is one of my women mentors. I look up to her for she inspires me. Her life tells me that it is possible to have it all – that I do not need to choose between family (or love) and a successful career because really, we women, we can have it all, especially if we find a spouse who will allow us to grow, blossom and shine. Daday is a generous teacher and a good friend. I thank her for her guidance, for her wisdom and for always including me in her prayers. Her birthday gift for me is not just one song but three songs! These are Breathe, Lovesong and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Singing is obviously one of Daday’s talents. Uploaded below the song “Breathe”, my favorite of the three songs. Daday says that this song reminds her that “beyond our busy careers, there is a greater space called life that can only be experienced by pausing and breathing.”

Sankie Dearest,

You bring out the best in me by being a grateful person in all the help that I give to you. You are an avid student, a maximizer of God’s given talent in your quest for perfection, yet grounded in realities around you. You make even the hardest of tasks seem touristy like climbing the Sydney bridge. And you are bullheaded in getting what you want but knows when to listen and wait for the right timing. I have so much love for and confidence in you that the best of your professional and personal lives are yet to unfold.

Love loads,

Daday

#30
Writing:
“Top 5 Memories-Slash-Lessons from Sankie”
By Elaine Villanueva (a.k.a. Bestie)

Elaine is called “Joy” by her family. I think it is the perfect name for her because she is such a cheerful presence everywhere she goes! I am lucky to have an office bestie who makes every busy day (and even the most highly stressful ones) not just bearable but a lot of fun. We have so many ‘wild’ memories together, and by wild I do not mean partying all night and getting drunk (I’m the one who has to puts lotsa ice on champagne just to make it drinkable!). By wild I mean experiences like cow hugging in Holland (the perfect image to immortalize this ‘kakaibang’ experience is the photograph below). When nobody else would go with me to do this out-of-the-ordinary adventure, she was always the one to say yes. Thanks, Bestie! Gifted in the power of words, Elaine writes about her life lessons from hanging out with me the past 8 years we have been colleagues and friends.  

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Top Five Memories – Slash Lessons – from Sankie

I have so many good memories with you Bestie, most of them involving food, but I think I could do a Top 50 and still have a few more left over.

Beyond the memories though, what I want to share on your very special day are the lessons you have taught me over the years we have been good friends.

So here are Elaine’s top five memories-slash-lessons from Sankie:

(1) Passion for excellence at work…

The first day we met at the office, I learned from you that what real passion for excellence at work meant. I remember thinking, as you were drilling me on SciP communications standards and policies, ‘I have to bring my A Game EVERYDAY if I want to cut it here.’ And every day from then, you still teach me that half-ass should not cut it, we have to “do our best, or not at all.”

(2) Gratitude and humility…

That time when my life was at its lowest and I was almost in despair, you cried with me but reminded me to remain grateful and be humble, and to never doubt His greater plan for all the things that happen.

(3) Patience borne from love…

I know you will make an excellent partner to that perfect man you’re destined to meet (very soon, I feel it) because you always have the most perfect answers to relationship woes (you know I have very few, but of course we all have them).  You listen to me really wanting to help, but what really stuck was when you told me “when you’re waiting for Raymond, just do your own thing and don’t just wait sitting down and sulking.”  Ting!  Lightbulb 💡 moment!  When you truly love, there should be unmeasured supply of loving patience.  From then on, no sulking ever again. So now, late nights are our great way to cap off a long day, and I am most happy to welcome him home at the door.

(4) Genuine care…

Cow-hugging in a farm-no-one-has-heard-of-in-the-middle-of-nowhere during a holiday? Yes, only Sankie Simbulan can come up with that bright idea.  I love how your big-heart care extends to beyond your large and loving family and motley crew of friends, how you and I share a love for animals, big or small.  I love how you always think about doggie-bagging big bones for your four-legged babies at home, and for other pets without homes.  Your consistent thoughtfulness and care for them is, I hope, a lesson I hope many others learn from you.

(5) Shopping prowess, unparalleled…

Fine, this isn’t really a lesson, but this just HAS to be part of our happy memories list.  Whether it’s bawal-ang-masaya Brunei pharmacy shopping or at Primark in Cologne till 10pm (Cologne is an entire Top 100 list on its own), I don’t know anyone who can out-shop you.  I still laugh every time I remember how that obscure mall at China drew you like a mothership calling you home, and how you always, ALWAYS, manage to smell out great stores along narrow, sometimes dodgy alleys.  But I also love how you shop for gifts with so much thought, picking out treasures you know the people you love will truly enjoy.

——-

A short list for a lot of you.  But so many happy memories.

So really Bestie, on your birthday, know that it is you who have gifted me, and everyone whose lives you have magically touched.

“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

#31
Mentoring
Word of Wisdom for when you turn 40: “Listen”
By Paulo Gavino

Paulo is my boss but who isn’t really a boss, because he is the best boss evah! He is the perfect boss for me because he allows me to be and to do my own thing, but guides me when needed. I consider him more as a Kuya (older bro) who looks out for the welfare of his little sis. His most valuable piece of advice for me now that I have turned 40, is to learn how to truly “Listen”. He shares with me the Chinese character for listen, which is written not just with the ear, but with the eyes, the mind and the heart.

Chinese Character for Listen

January 15, 2016

Dear Birthday Girl,  =)

I admire how you express yourself (clothes, words, shoes, bags).

I admire how you stretch yourself (shopping in far-off malls, bringing electricity to far-off villages).

My wish for you on this milestone birthday is the power “to listen”; with both ears, your eyes and your heart. The universe has a way of telling us the right things, and listening actively can actually make us closer to our heart’s desires!

We are blessed to be touched by you, Sankie!

Happy ___th!

Paulo

#32
Mentoring:
Words of Wisdom from Our Chairman
By Ed Chua, Chairman of Shell companies in the Philippines

Ed Chua, Country Chairman of Shell companies in the Philippines, is an inspiring leader whom I have always admired. He has had such a profound influence on my life and I am sure on countless others. I am fortunate to stand on the shoulders of such a great leader and mentor. For my birthday, I asked him what his advice would be to his 40-year-old-self, knowing what he knows now that he is just a year from retirement, so I could learn from it. And this is what he shared, which is really about knowing what you value the most and beginning with the end in mind.

“Spend as much time as you can with your loved ones as time flies so quickly. It is so easy to be caught up in your career. Before doing anything, ask yourself if it is something you can be proud of when you grow older: Are you making a positive difference to your fellowman?” — Ed Chua

With Ed Chua

Photo with our Shell Philippines Country Chairman Ed Chua, taken six years ago during my 34th birthday. =)

* * ADDITIONAL TALENT GIFT SHARES! * *

#33
Baking
By Linette Reodica and her daughter Aaliyah

Linette is one of my first friends in Shell. A perfect homemaker, she loves to cook for her family and friends. Her daughters share her love for preparing and enjoying delicious food. For my birthday, chefy Linette sent me a box of freshly baked Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies by her daughter Aaliyah. Even if I am on a (forever) diet, I immediately munched on two pieces in one go! Super worth it as the homemade cookies are absolutely heavenly, with the mix of sweet, salty, chewy and crumbly. Thank you, Liney! 🍪🍪😊 #HappyTummy

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Linette and I back in 2007, when I first joined Shell as an experienced hire, having worked in the Senate and in broadcast media.

#34
String Performance
By Grace Bautista

Grace is a new friend I have made attending yoga at Ayala Triangle Gardens every Wednesday for the month of February. My colleague Abbey and I were early birds like Grace on the first day of Yoga at the Park and we immediately gelled with Grace’s kind and cheerful personality. We learned that Grace is actually a music teacher (she teaches kids!) and she plays string instruments (guitar, violin, viola). Grace was so kind to share with me her musical talent. Here she plays the violin (and also the guitar background) for “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz, which is also one of my favorite songs. 🙂

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The Yogis – yoga at the park enthusiasts, with Gracie on the far right. 🙂

Grace’s message: Here’s the violin cover of Jason Mraz’ song “I Won’t Give Up”. It’s my favorite song for a lot of reasons, but primarily it’s me saying “I Won’t Give Up” on myself, and that I have a lot more to learn in life through everything. And so I share this with you, on your 40th birthday (seriously, you don’t look 40 to me — I was actually surprised) that you may always stay grateful and positive, and best of all to find joy in everything. Cheers to another wonderful year in your life!  I’m grateful to have met you. See you soon! 🙂

#35
Astrophotography
By Lexter Yap

Lexter was one of the stargazing enthusiasts I met at the Astro Camp (overnight stargazing camp organized by the Mind Museum) in beautiful Lake Caliraya, Laguna. We were one of the few who fought slumber to wake up at 3am so we could catch the clearest view of the Milky Way. I only had my phone to take photos of the stars, while Lester came prepared with his DSLR camera. His photographs are breathtaking!

Thanks for sharing your talent in photography, Lester!  🙂 Astrophotography takes a certain level of skill so this is lovely. Glad we have these beautiful images to help us remember this memorable stargazing camp experience. Keep on taking beautiful photos and sharing your talent!
Milky Way 1Mliky Way 3The Moon
Milky Way 2

#36
Poem

written and read
By Rem Tanauan

Rem is one of the deep, philosophical, talented and creative people I met at the Law of Attraction 3-day workshop organised by The Holistic Retreats.  He is a teacher, poet, dancer, storyteller and profound conversationalist all rolled into one! Rem is a Love teacher (yes, with a capital L!), well-being facilitator, practitioner of I Ching and teacher of ESL (English as Second Language). He says his life’s mission is to begin an education of Love as a creative spiritual practice, the very fundamental essence to transform one’s self, society and the world.

As a talent share for my milestone 40th birth year, Rem shares a beautiful poem he wrote entitled “Again”, with words that very vividly and movingly depict the soul’s oneness with nature. He also video edited and voiced the poem for my birthday blog, with the help of his equally talented, creative and deep significant other Claire Madarang, who I also had the pleasure of meeting at the same workshop.

Rem and Claire

Two Peas in a Pod. Rem and his significant other Claire, who are both creative writers and teachers of well-being.

Dear Sankie,

I wrote again while Claire and I were doing an ocular at the retreat center of the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches. She was about to conduct her Pagnamnam workshop. I was sitting on a swing installed at one of the huge and strong branches of the mother Balete tree in the area. I have been there for several times now, and the place never fails to amaze me – I always feel as if I was entering the Shire, home to the Hobbits of Middle Earth, haha!

While waiting for Claire, I had my moment – watching the leaves and branches of the trees (though I don’t have exact photos of the place, I instead captured the scene in words) Inspired by the work of British poet David Whyte and Irish poet John O’Donohue, whose poems evoke deep sense of sensuality and spirituality with nature, “Again” is my poetic expression of that experience – of how words, nature and the witnessing soul intersect, the intersecting point being poetry.

When you asked me to contribute on your birthday project, “Again” was the first poem that flashed in my mind. I’ve felt it captures your happiness, your positivity, your celebration of life, the one Claire shared as “Pagnanamnam” In fact, even its overdue, I’d already seen how this short video would come about. And what’s good thing about this is that, I’m brushing up well with my very basic video-editing skills, yey! This project really has multiple blessings!

-Rem

#37
Parkour and Calisthenics Exhibition 

By Coach Mark Julius Rodelas or “Jaymark”

Coach Jaymark is Head Coach at Ninja Academy PH, Manila’s first and only indoor parkour facility. I try to train with him once a week, mostly for core strengthening exercises and for parkour, which is an art of movement and discipline that utilizes agility, strength and speed while free-running and traversing from one place to another, effectively overcoming obstacles along the way.  Even if I am probably his weakest (not to mention slowest!) and most scaredy-cat of students, he encourages me to stretch my limits. He is an athlete by training, and one of his sports achievements is winning silver medals for the 400-m dash and 110-m  high hurdles at the Asian Open 2012 in Phuket, Thailand. 

Coach Jaymark says: “Both Parkour and Calisthenics have been a major life-changer for me. It has given me a newfound respect for myself, and a way to conquer my fears. It has also helped me to meet new friends from diverse backgrounds. It has made me a better person by giving me more confidence in myself and in my abilities. Through it I have learned to creatively work with any environment, and I have become fitter, healthier, happier, and wiser. I’m more in tune with both my mind and body. I am more aware of my strengths and limitations, setting clear goals to improve on them. Parkour has given me a passion, a purpose, something to pursue and, at this point, a career. It has given me the best community I could hope for; I have never met so many people through any other activity that I truly care about.”

As for his message to me, his “slow-mo ninja” student, this is what he has to say: “Always believe in yourself, that you can do whatever you want. Age is just a number. Train hard and work hard to achieve your goals. Stay healthy!”

#38
Contortion 

By Karla Bautista

Karla is a pre-school teacher by day, and a contortion artist by night. She is just naturally gifted with hyper flexibility. In fact, she has not taken any formal classes in contortion until only less than a year ago. As a contortion artist, she constantly experiments on how she can present her body as an art form. 

As to what lights up Karla whenever she performs: “The reaction on the crowd’s faces when you do something they’ve never seen is just priceless. I hope my work inspires others to believe that you can start at any age and at any stage in life!”

Karla showcases her work on her Facebook page: Pink Lace and Leather

Karla, Contortion Collage

I still vividly remember the first time I met Karla at Contortion class. She overheard my friend Nesa and I talking about our age during class and she couldn’t help come up to us and say, with such youthful candor, “What!?! You guys are already 40? Oh my gosh, I want to look like you when I’m 40! Tell me, what’s your secret?” My friend (and fellow ‘Tita of Manila’) and I look at each other then at the young girl with long hair, fair skin and a very sweet voice (who would later introduce herself as Karla), and just had to ask, “How old are you?” That’s when we learn she is only 21! Young enough to be my daughter,  I mean – if I had one. Now, Karla and I are also classmates at Beginners Pole and whenever she corrects me – whether it’s on the proper way to climb a pole or to execute a new pole trick – I do feel like we are cool mom and daughter just hanging out together. Haha! What’s more, we also plan to take Adult Ballet class together and fulfill our childhood ballerina dreams.

#39
Femme Hip Hop Choreography 

By Dianne Sulit

The first urban dance class I attended was with coach Dianne Sulit, who teaches Femme Hip Hop at Acts Dance and Arts Academy, which she also owns. She is such a cool, friendly and kalog teacher who makes learning to dance a lot of fun (not to mention less intimidating!) for newbies like me. She says she has been teaching dance for 10 years now. She has also performed with the all-female urban dance group “The Stylettos” on television noontime and variety shows, as well as concerts of local and foreign artists since 2008. She discovered her love for dancing at a young age — way back in grade school, where she joined dance clubs and cheer dancing. Her passion for dancing is just infectious and her students are invigorated by her boundless energy.

Coach Dianne has so many dance videos online but the one I asked her to talent share is the first urban dance choreography I learned from her, to the groove of Ellie Goulding’s dance song “On My Mind”. She teaches us a portion of the dance steps in each class and when it’s complete, she asks her students to perform the whole choreography. Of course we just had to ask her to dance her masterpiece for us and show us what real femme hip hop is all about, which for Coach Dianne is a dance style where she can fully express herself.

Her message for newbie dancers, including those who start late like me: “Go for it. It’s never too late. Well, physically of course there might be restrictions already because of age problems, haha! But who cares right? You might not be able to dance like the professionals out there but dancing will surely make you feel great. If you want challenge and fun, then go ahead and learn to dance! 🙂 Pak!” 

 The Stylettos is an all-female urban dance group that envisions to raise the standards of dancing through excellence and a vicinity where individual style is encouraged that is bonded with God centered hearts. We hope to deliver a unique style this is true and absolute to ourselves mixing both skill with style and distinctiveness as a whole.

#40 and #41 

Harp and Piano Performances

By Karen Agabin and her son Cush Agabin Casimero

Karen is probably my most cultured colleague. I remember an office out-of-town gathering where we had karaoke night and all of our song choices were pop songs — but not Karen! Hers were either theatre (Broadway and West End), classic and operatic songs. She loves foie gras (I even had to Google the spelling of that, haha!), introduced us to free-range chicken, cacao nibs and raw food,  and is an advocate of everything organic – from food to health and beauty products like my now favorite Lawiswis from Palawan! No wonder she has not aged at all since the time I met her almost a decade ago. She tells me age is just a number and she is my inspiration for pursuing passions even as an adult (would you believe she joins her kids at gymnastics training!?!).

For my birthday project blog, she performs a harp performance entitled “Minstrel’s Adieu”, one of her favorite recital pieces. Yes, Karen also plays the harp! Not a surprising choice of instrument from our very cultured Karen. In fact, her harps were one of the first treasured possessions she saved when floods from typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) completely submerged her home back in 2009. She has been playing the harp since 2008 and has received private training in the UK and US from international concert harpists. Why the harp? Karen says she simply fell in love with the sound of it. Her performances are by invitation only but if you’re lucky, you can catch Karen and her family playing their musical instruments at the parks in BGC (her kids are equally musically-gifted).

Karen Agabin, harp profile photo

As a bonus talent gift share, Karen asked her 15-year old son Cush to perform on grand piano. Cush’s piano piece is Carly Comando’s popular piano piece “Everyday”, which has a video that went viral when Carly collaborated with Noah Kalina to provide the instrumental piano piece for a six-minute stop action video showcasing a photo of Noah everyday for six years of his life. Karen says Cush is a naturally-gifted musician who started playing the piano at age five, and can now also effortlessly play the guitar, recorder and harp. Truly a family of talents! 

#42 

Biodiversity Illustrations

By Prof. Juan Carlos Gonzalez

I met Professor Juan Carlos (JC) Gonzalez through the Mindoro Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, for which he is a trustee. He is a man dedicated to biodiversity studies and wildlife conservation. The talent he shares for my #BirthdayProject are some of his illustrations of flora and fauna (plants and animals). What is amazing is that he has no formal schooling in art, whether drawing, sketching or painting, so his is pure talent inspired by his immersion in nature and pure love for biodiversity.

Prof JC is currently Professor of Zoology at University of the Philippines -Los Baños (UPLB), and Director and Curator for Birds at the Museum of Natural History of UPLB. He completed his Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science degree in Zoology from UPLB and obtained his Doctorate in Zoology from the Edward Grey Institute for Field Ornithology and St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford in 2012, through the support of the Ford Foundation International Fellowship Program. He is a recipient of the National Academy of Science and Technology (Philippines) 2011 Outstanding Young Scientist Award for Zoology, the UPLB 2008 Outstanding Teacher Award for Biological Sciences, the CAS 2002 Outstanding Alumni for Extension, and the 1992 Luisito S. Cuy Memorial Award for Best Undergraduate Thesis in Wildlife Biology and Systematics.

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Birds of Palawan

Birds of Mount Isarog

#43 

Therapeutic Massage

By Lizz Aldary

Lizz and I bonded when we crossed eleven rivers to get to a tribal community deep in the forests of Puerto Princesa, Palawan to conduct a needs assessment survey for a rural electrification program. Back then Lizz was College Secretary and Instructor at Palawan State University and she and her Petroleum Engineering students were commissioned to help us with the community survey. Now Lizz works for Apple as a GIS technician who makes maps and customized Geographic Information Systems (GIS) applications. Lizz has a Masters in Applied Geospatial Sciences from Northern Arizona University where she attended as a Fulbright scholar. But Lizz’s talent share for my 40th birthday has nothing to do with her expertise in geography! I was surprised to find out that Lizz knows how to do therapeutic massage. Interestingly, I learned that this was a skill handed down to her by her Cuyunon ancestry. The Cuyunons are one of the tribes of Palawan. When we both happened to be at Brother Island in El Nido, I requested to try her massage talent so I can share it on my birthday blog. Her magic hands instantly brought me relaxation and whisked all the stress away.

Below are photos of Lizz and I crossing rivers and in the tribal community taken in 2014, then a photo of us in 2016 sitting on a hammock in Brother Island right after receiving her massage gift. We both look so relaxed!

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#ThankYouFortheLove, Everyone!
I am truly #Blessed

I dedicate to all of you one of my favorite poems, “The Journeying”. It was written in a bookmark given to me by one of my best friends back in college (Tina #11). I thank everyone who has been a part of my life’s journey so far, even if just for a brief time. The 40 me is the sum of all my life experiences and really, it’s been Super. 

— Sankie

The Journeying

“If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own.”

+D.O.G.

How to Train Your Beauty Queen

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How to Train Your Beauty Queen

We can’t wait for the reigning Miss Universe, the Philippines’ very own Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, to return to the Philippines for her grand homecoming this January 23 and be one with the country in celebrating her crowning glory!

With a doggedly determined spirit to succeed despite past failed attempts, she finally earned the Miss Philippines title on her 3rd try, bestowing on her the golden opportunity to represent the country in the prestigious Miss Universe pageant.

The road to winning the most coveted of all beauty pageant crowns was not easy. It entailed more intense/rigorous training. Now that her moment has arrived, Pia prepared herself for the competition like never before, with no other goal than to bring home the Miss Universe title. And that she definitely did!

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Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach with the pageant’s panel of judges

Helping make herstory happen is the team from Aces & Queens (the so-called beauty queen makers) who patiently and dedicatedly trained Pia to win. Training a beauty queen is probably just as challenging and fulfilling as training a dragon!

Here are 5 Tips and Tricks from Pia’s Aces & Queens mentors on personality development, fitness, makeup and styling, and, of course, that nerve-racking Q&A (!), that we can all learn from, beauty queen or not.

Five Winning Tips from Pia’s Beauty Queen Mentors:

  1. Posture: Remember PPP. Proper Posture is Power. A good posture immediately captures attention when you enter a room. It creates an outstanding first and lasting impression. (Jonas Gaffud, Lead Coach, Personality Development) 
  2. Fitness: Strengthen your core and the rest of your body will follow. (John Cuay, Fitness and Nutrition Trainer) 
  3. Personality Development: Do not overthink. Focus on the goal but learn to relax. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Huwag masyadong gigil! (Arnold Mercado, Team Manager, Personality Development) 
  4. Makeup and Styling: Take care of your skin. No amount of makeup can hide ugly skin. Always clean your face and remove your makeup before going to bed. (Gery Penaso, Makeup Artist)You need to know what works for you. Style is not just about wearing nice clothes, it is also about choosing what compliments your physical assets and matching it with the right makeup and accessories. (Bessie Besana, Designer – Stylist)
  5. Answering Questions: Go by the Three-Sentence Rule. Say what you think in three sentences. This assures your answers will not be too long nor too short. Practice the PREP Technique: state your Position and Reason, give an Example and end by making your Point. It’s not enough for a beauty queen to have a beautiful face and a bombshell body. She must also have character, where the intellectual (the smarts), emotional (mastering one’s emotions, especially under extreme pressure) and moral (being sensitive to others’ feelings and predicaments) all come together. (Doodz Policarpio of Dale Carnegie, Q&A – Internal Character Development Trainer)

Pia’s story is one of remaining humble and unjaded, believing in oneself, having faith and rising up again to pursue one’s wildest dreams.

“When I think of everything I’ve had to go through to get here – It’s very humbling. God knows how much I’ve wanted this,” says Pia in a press conference after winning Miss Universe.

Had she given up on her first, second and third attempt, we wouldn’t be celebrating with her today. Great job, Pia! You inspire us. The nation looks forward to a rousing welcome for you in a few weeks, when you come back home to that grand parade the Filipino nation has prepared for you. Hail to the Queen!

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Video below: Pia’s full interview on how she trained to win the Miss Universe crown together with her mentors/trainers from Aces & Queens, aired on ABS-CBN’s “Bottomline” hosted by Boy Abunda. This was right before she left for Las Vegas for the Miss Universe pageant:

Video below: One of Pia’s most recent (and fun) interviews, now as THE Miss Universe. She can handle even the most controversial and craziest of questions thrown at her. I can imagine how proud her mentors must be! All their hard work and Pia’s tears have paid off. Look at the way she carries herself, with so much elegance and poise, matched by her humility and grace. 

Miss Universe 2015

Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach from the Philippines describes herself as “confidently beautiful with a heart”.

My Top 20 for 2015!

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My Top 20 for 2015!

Another wonderful year has passed! When my memory starts to fade, this collective recap of 2015 highlights of my life will help me to immortalize these treasured memories.

Thank You, Father, for a memorable 2015. I continue to trust in Your constantly bountiful grace and claim yet another fruitful and blessed year ahead this 2016, filled with awe and wonder!

*Click on the photos to enlarge view.

# 1
Balloons Birthday Surprise

Thoughtful birthday surprise by colleagues. Helium balloons not allowed in our office so they individually stuck on the ceiling (karir, na-touch ako!) balloons inflated with ordinary air and tied “life strings” with photos documenting happy memories from my past ** years. 🙂

# 2
Papal Visit

Being one of the multitude along Roxas Boulevard blessed by the Pope as he passed by in his Pope Mobile. Viva il Papa! 79 years old but he still made the effort of standing in a moving vehicle, waving left and right and smiling at all those who waited and came out to see him. #PapalVisitPH #PopeFrancisPH

# 3
Powering Progress Together (Year 2)

Successfully leading the “Shell Powering Progress Together Asia” 2015 conference with a great lineup of speakers. Received Quill and Anvil public relations awards for advocacy and special event entry categories. Furthered the advocacy on multi-sector collaboration and action towards greater societal resilience towards challenges on urbanisation, energy-water-food resource-efficiency, and climate change.

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# 4
Boracay Adventures

  • Yoga posing in the air with Bestie Elaine while parasailing in Boracay
  • Usisera with Mich sa beach wedding in Discovery Shores. Kunyari we were just chilling by the sunbathers’ beach chairs but we were actually enjoying watching the entourage and listening to the sweet vows made by the bride and groom. I think we even waved our arms in the air as they were taking drone shots for the wedding video (wedding video bombers!)
  • Trying out the Reiki session at Mandala Spa. Unusual spa session as the Reiki therapist doesn’t really massage you but just extends her hands on your energy points (chakras) from head to toe. Surprisingly, I felt very relaxed that I even dozed off (then I very much felt the “cleansing” effect of the Reiki session with several trips to the bathroom while waiting for our return flight to Manila at Caticlan airport! TMI, haha!).

# 5
First Summer Holiday with All Four Fur Babies

It was a major production going on our first summer beach outing with all my four dogs (Bubbles, Blu, Yodie and Red). We had a 7-hour road trip (lots of pee stopovers for my fur babies, you see) to Anda, Pangasinan, also known as the Boracay of the North. I have happy memories of Red frolicking wild and free (leash-less, I must say! I’m a proud dog mum!) in the crystal clear beach waters; Holding hands in the bangka with Bubbles and Blu who were as scared as I was by the big waves met by our small boat during the long boat ride from Anda to Alaminos (Hundred Islands), Pangasinan. The manong bangkeros kept saying, “Malapit lang, ma’am!” but it took us 1.5 hours to cross the big, blue, wild ocean; Letting fur kids Bubbles and Blu roam one of the secluded islets (Blu swimming towards me and making a u-turn back to shore whenever he feels the water is too deep already); My niece Faith and I back floating by day and videokeing by night; The yummy home-cooked meals and cool breeze at the two-storey beach house we rented; Trying to light up the paper lantern with mommy; stop over at Bolinao hot springs and offering up prayers at Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine on our way home (last time I made a pilgrimage there was when Lola Sol was still alive and we brought her to the church in a wheelchair).

# 6
Resilience Projects

Automated Weather Stations (AWS). Successful installation and launch of the AWS network in Iloilo and Davao cities, with well-attended, multi-sector Climate Resilience seminars. This Powering Progress Together initiative is led by Shell, in partnership with Manila Observatory and Smart Communications. The AWS network aims to help local governments boost their disaster preparedness efforts by making real-time and localized weather data available.

Future Cities Exhibit launch. Part of our Shell Powering Progress Together advocacy to promote urban and environmental resilience by educating the public, especially the youth, on the essential components of smart, green and sustainable cities. This is a partnership project with the Mind Museum in Taguig.

# 7
Slidefest

I am an absolute lover of slides! Felt like a kid again experiencing Nivea Slidefest, a slide party for both kids and adults. Absolutely loved the foam slide! (Video to follow)

# 8
Iloilo Adventures

  • Visit to the breathtaking Miagao Church, UNESCO World Heritage site (opened in 1797; Baroque architecture). Very solemn atmosphere and couldn’t help get teary-eyed as I knelt down and prayed. Even saw a poster of St. Pedro Poveda, founder of our school, inside the church 🙂
  • Tour of the Lopez Mansion (also known as Nelly’s Gardens) in Jaro – it is the Queen of Heritage Houses in Iloilo, with aristocratic Beaux-Arts architecture. It gives a glimpse of the extravagant lifestyle of one of Iloilo’s most affluent families during the American Period.
  • A trip to Guimaras island, famous for producing the sweetest mangoes in the world (the mango pizza at “The Pitstop” resto was heavenly!). Went to the mango orchard, bought a mango seedling and cartons of mangoes as pasalubong for family and colleagues.
  • Of course, we did not leave Iloilo City without tasting its famous La Paz Batchoy at the town market.

# 9
Skycycle Challenge

It doesn’t look scary from below but once you’re up there about to launch yourself high up in the air with just a tight rope to pedal your way through, way above the pine trees, you suddenly get butterflies in your stomach! When you start to get the hang of it, though, skycycling becomes a breeze and exhilarates your spirit as you allow yourself to enjoy the beautiful scenery and the cool wind that surrounds you. Eden Nature Park in Davao is definitely a haven for nature and adventure enthusiasts. To know more: http://edennaturepark.com.ph/main/skycycle/

Eden Nature Park

# 10
Re-Experiencing Malaysia

We used to travel to Malaysia yearly for work (which explains my accumulation of their local brand of Vincci shoes) but it’s been quite some time since I’ve been there. We usually stay in Kuala Lumpur but this time we stayed in Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Beside the Royale Chulan Damansara Hotel, where the ASEAN Responsibility Forum we attended was held, were a chain of restos and large malls/outlet stores (The Curve, Paradigm mall, Tesco). The vibe in this area is more relaxed than Kuala Lumpur and this city is also much cleaner. At night we enjoyed trying out the restos (the Japanese resto Minori served the best salmon sashimi!) and of course I enjoyed the usual hunting for locally branded shoes and clothes. The 1.5 hour massage at Thai Odyssey was also one of the best I’ve had. 🙂 I also trooped to Sephora for make-up and anti-ageing products.

# 11
Mommy’s 70th Birthday at Sonya’s Garden

My mom has a green thumb and even in our space-constrained condominium in the middle of smog-ridden Metro Manila, you’ll be amazed to see that she is able to grow pots and pots of plants! So what better way to treat her to her 70th birthday than to bring her to Sonia’s Garden Bed & Breakfast in Tagaytay — a haven of nature’s beauty and serenity. Our family enjoyed the cozy Thyme Cottage, tried Sonya’s signature massage at their Garden Spa, and at dinner surprised mom with a birthday song serenade from their lolo guitarist – kundiman singer, together with Sonya’s kitchen staff who brought in their famous moist chocolate cake with a candle and happy birthday inscription. The next day we did the garden tour, went shopping (my fave activity!) at their country store (with great-smelling lavender and mint shampoos, and lots of trinkets), and brought home free potted plants (mint, taragon and an additional free passion flower plant for birthday mom courtesy of Sonya herself). It was a relaxing weekend of just chilling and enjoying the surrounding beauty.

# 12
“Healing Power of Happiness” Talk
& Brahma Kumaris “Inner Peace, Inner Power” Retreat

I attended the very enlightening talk of international speaker Denise Lawrence on the “Healing Power of Happiness”. I promise to share about the nuggets of wisdom she shared in a separate blog entry as it definitely merits one. I brought my younger bro with me (hope he picked up something from the talk!) and we each got a pastry. As with all Brahma Kumaris events, they end it by giving everyone sweets to remind us to speak kind words always. Mine had the words: “Empty yourself of past resentment, anger and sadness to fill it with love and pure happiness. Happy Christmas!” 

The  story of the “Inner Peace, Inner Power” Retreat I attended can be read here.

# 13
Successful Access to Energy Pilot Project

One of my key accomplishments in 2015 is the successful launch of our pilot Access to Energy (rural electrification) project for an indigenous community (the Batak tribe) in Puerto Princesa. Together with the dedicated programme workers of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), the social arm of Shell Philippines, we were able to install a hybrid energy system, operating on runoff river hyrdro, with solar and diesel as backup energy support. It was a feat delivering this project to the off-grid community, having to traverse 11 river crossings and protect ourselves from malaria exposure. Today, the community has lighting 24-7, with energy access supporting the tribal people’s education, livelihood and healthcare. The project is a recipient of the 2015 Shell CEO HSSE and Social Performance Special Merit Award for “Excellence in Social Performance”.

Below is a heartwarming 6-minute video documentary produced by Storytellers on the Shell Philippines Access to Energy pilot project.

# 14
Historic Malampaya Phase 3 Platform
Towout and Installation

I am so glad that I started working in Shell Philippines Exploration, operator of the Malampaya Deep Water Gas to Power Project (government project that provides up to 30% of the country’s electricity requirements through cleaner-burning natural gas), at a historical period, when the project was embarking on its next phases of development (Malampaya Phases 2 and 3 or MP2 and MP3). We supported the project team that successfully designed, constructed, towed out and installed the first offshore platform that is made for Filipinos by Filipinos. The MP3 Platform is a product of Filipino ingenuity and collaboration of about 14 different nationalities, all contributing their expertise to keep the lights on in our homes, cities and industries. I was able to help host then Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla to his first visit to the Malampaya platforms (with the MP3 Depletion-Compression Platform just newly-installed and connected to the existing Shallow Water Platform). It truly is a proud time to be Filipino!

# 15
Mindoro Community Visit

  • First time to try Veggie Lechon (tastes like the real thing! they say it is made of casava). Photo below holding a tray of Veggie Chicharon (yes, with my lioness hair straight from swimming in the beach) available at “Dad and Me Cafe” in Calapan, Mindoro.
  • Visited the fishing communities supported by our Malampaya Foundation, together with our JV partners – tasted fish polvoron (a product innovation), saw how an improvised Fish Aggregating Device looks like (used in one of Mindoro Oriental’s most well-managed marine protected areas), saw Tamaraw Falls and the mangrove boardwalk at Puerto Galera.

# 16
Puerto Princesa – Taytay – El Nido Road Trip

From Puerto Princesa, we took a 5-hour road trip to Taytay (complete with long stretches of bumpy dirt road), and took a short boat ride to Liminangcong, an island community. We visited our community beneficiaries of livelihood and training programmes (mariculture, goat-raising, dress-making, solar technician training) implemented by Malampaya Foundation. It was my first time to sleep under a kulambo (mosquito net)! After Taytay, we hit the road again to proceed to El Nido. Stayed in a cool hostel, Spin Designer Hostel, that had creative and cozy interiors. We got to meet our kayak gear rental beneficiaries.

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# 17
Plays and Musicals
(Rak of Aegis, Hamlet, Leading Lady and Bridges of Madison Country)

# 18
Losing Weight! (20 lbs.)

Last August 2015, I met up with my old friend from college, Dawn Shangkuan-Ong, who is still looking as svelte as ever with two kids! She shared with me the LCHF (Low Carb, High Fat) Diet, which she encouraged me to try. I’ve been on so many diets before but was never ever to sustain the weight-loss since it involved ordering prepared diet meals (Southbeach and Cohen-friendly), which I would eventually get tired of (could not bear the same taste anymore; it was my younger bro or my doggies who ended up eating the diet meals). Of course, it was also expensive. With LCHF, I do not need to order prepared diet meals anymore but simply choose what I eat. This means avoiding carbs and sweets! Not easy at first but with self-discipline and determination, I was able to sustain it. This is the most pounds I have ever lost with all diets — 20 pounds in a span of three months. I still need to lose about 10 – 15 pounds to meet my ideal weight (now a little more since I went on a sugar and carb binge during the Christmas break). But I am confident that with perseverance, I will achieve my goal. 🙂

18 Weight-Loss Before and After

# 19
Family

This year I tried to spend as much quality time with my family. My parents are seniors already so love to take them to places where they can relax and enjoy nature. I pray that they may be blessed with good health, peace and joy.

The other family I am blessed with is my Office Family. We have had such a blast this year. One of the funnest things we did was shoot our office Christmas video, which was half of our presentation for our Department (External Relations) Christmas Party. The other half was a live dance! Yes, we’re competitive that way. We may not have won 1st place three years in a row (we were hoping it would be a 3-peat this year) but we sure created winning memories. 🙂

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# 20
Receiving and Giving Kindness

All the people who showed kindness to me in different ways. You know who you are. Thank you for the love. I pray you may be richly blessed by God with His grace.

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*Bonus: I do need to say a Big Thank You for being so lucky again this year and winning major prizes in two raffles. Yehey! Next I claim the big pot money in the lottery! 🙂

 

Inner Peace, Inner Power

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Inner Peace, Inner Power
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My fellow participants at the “Inner Peace, Inner Power” retreat. We came from different backgrounds and we each had a different story to tell, but we were all brought together by the same motivations — to take a momentary pause from our busy lives so we can reflect, replenish and begin the journey again with greater peace and joy.

Last weekend, I went on a different kind of spiritual retreat, the Brahma Kumaris (BK) three-day retreat on “Inner Peace, Inner Power”. I was looking for an out-of-town retreat to get away from the chaos of the city and this was what came up on Google. I learned from a quick web research that Brahma Kumaris is non-sectarian and they welcome people from all walks of life, religion, race or creed. So I signed up, not quite knowing what to expect.

An atmosphere of peace

As soon as you step into the blue doors of the white, three-storey retreat house of Brahma Kumaris in Tagaytay City, you immediately feel a sense of serenity. I was greeted by a lady dressed in all white, bearing the same peaceful countenance. The physical surroundings of the retreat house, with its cozy interiors, wise quotes on the wall, enveloping garden and the cool Tagaytay breeze make it conducive for meditating, which was also one of the key things we learned during the retreat. This was not just any kind of meditation but Raja Yoga Meditation or “open eye” meditation. All of us were beginners at this so it was not easy. We had to learn to quiet the mind, to detach from our worries and concerns, and to just let go. Once this kind of inner stillness is mastered, one can meditate anywhere and anytime, without the need for the proper ambience or circumstance.

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The BK sisters taught us simple techniques to train our intellect to be the master of our mind and ‘sanskaras’ (old habits, imprinted patterns or ways of thinking). For someone like me who is a self-confessed expert at overthinking, I know I have a long way to go at silencing my mind. But I am excited to practice being still, banishing any wasteful, unnecessary and negative thoughts and focusing on more positive, peaceful thoughts in meditation.

“Through the power of silence, you will find your answers.”

“Real meditation is beyond thought. It is simply experiencing peace.”

Pre-Meditation Collage

Introductory lecture and stretching exercises to prepare for Raja Yoga Meditation (Open Eye Meditation)

Oftentimes the way we talk to God is one-sided, with us doing most (if not all) of the talking, telling Him about all our concerns and anxieties, asking Him for help and special favours. As we mature, talking to God becomes more for thanksgiving and praying not just for our ourselves but also for others. But not many of us have reached a level of communicating with God in a state of complete detachment from our self and from the stories of our lives, of being totally receptive to His grace, of actively listening, and of truly experiencing Him as He is, the Supreme Being and the Source of all Peace and Goodness. I have experienced this powerful feeling once years ago, a meditative state where I was flooded with a kind of peace that surpasses understanding. Attending this retreat made me realise that this kind of connection with God is not just meant to be one-off, but is something that all of us are meant to experience daily and often.

“I know I am connecting with God when I keep my mind simple.”

Stepping inward to be able to step outward

It’s been said that you cannot give what you do not have. You cannot give peace to others if deep inside you are troubled. The journey to peace, therefore, begins with the self.

I had a restful sleep on the last night of our retreat. I felt lighter and my mind was less cluttered. One of the BK sisters said, “If only we could take a before-and-after picture of each one of you – of your auras”. But they really didn’t have to. We all radiated that sense of peace at the end of our three-day retreat. You could see it in our smiles, in our eyes. This sense of peace is something we now hold dear and what we hope to cultivate as we step out once again into our busy, busy lives. This retreat has taught us that we can find peace wherever we may be, even in the busiest and most troubling of circumstances, for attaining a state of peace is something that is within us, it is within our inner power. ###                                                  +D.O.G.

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“Om Shanti” (I am Peaceful).

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Bonding at Mealtime. Obviously well-fed, from the grins on our faces. Mealtimes are a joyous bonding session for us. After sitting in silence at meditation, we take the opportunity to get to know each other and make new friends during meal breaks.

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Veggie Meals. Dining was one the highlights of the retreat, with an all-vegetarian menu. Even meat lovers like me looked forward to the yummy home-cooked veggie meals prepared with love by the BK volunteers. My meal faves were the Guava Jam (matched perfectly with butter and hot pan de sal – took a break from my no-carb diet!), Eggless Moist Chocolate Cake, Tofu Menudo and Veggie Pizza 🙂

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Roomies. With my energetic roommate Joy, one of the younger participants in the retreat. She is like my younger sis and she fondly calls me “Ate Sankie” (she is actually as young as my ‘baby’ bro). We both determinedly woke up in time for the optional 4am meditation while most of our co-participants were deep in slumber!

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Meaningful Conversations. Sharing about the insights we gained from creatively illustrating our life values, unique gifts, achievements, stumbling blocks and strengths.

Tree of My Life

“Tree of My Life”. The roots represent our foundation and anchors for growth and development. The trunk represents what gives us strength. The branches are the different areas of our life. The leaves are our valuable qualities that we give to others. The flowers are the qualities that make us unique. The fruits are our achievements. Sunshine and rain represent the things that nourish our soul. The insects represent things that hinder us from growing, while the insecticide spray depict what we use to destroy these hindrances.

With Timtim

With the cheerful Sister Timtim, who facilitated our Brahma Kumaris weekend retreat.

Cirlce sharing

Our closing activity with BK Sisters Timtim and Marge – a final opportunity to ask them questions, and a round of 1-minute sharing of our key takeaways from the retreat.

Sugar Cookie

Pabaon for Our Journey. Before going back to the outside world, the BK Sisters gave us a pamphlet to help get us started on our meditation, a sugar cookie to remind us to always speak sweet/kind words, and an individual blessing card with mine bearing the inscription: “POSITIVITY: Using my great power of transformation, I take each circumstance, situation and event for the deeper meaning that is often hidden. I know everything is for the best.” For me, this is a reminder of constant mindfulness or soul-consciousness in everything that I say and do.

Lola Nidora’s Lessons in Love and Life

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Lola Nidora’s Lessons in Love and Life
Lola Nidora finally gives Yaya Dub's hand to Alden saying: "Ito na ang tamang panahon."

Lola Nidora finally gives Yaya Dub’s hand to Alden saying: “Ito na ang tamang panahon.”

The words of Lola Nidora resonated throughout the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena and to the millions of Filipinos glued to their television to witness “Tamang Panahon”, the long-awaited union of Alden and Yaya Dub (AlDub) in front of the entire AlDub Nation. For those of you who missed Lola Nidora’s wisdom-filled message or who heard it but want to savor it some more, here it is in full!

Lola’s message on patience, perseverance and waiting for the right time, is a good reminder for all of us who live in this fast-paced world, where everything seems to be quick and easy. Good things truly come to those who wait!

~ Anyone can make you smile but it takes someone special to make you happy ~

Lola Nidora’s Top 6 Lessons in Love and Life:

Advice #1:
“Dapat pinagtiya-tiyagaan – lahat ng bagay, pinag-susumikapan; lahat ng bagay pinag-hihirapan. Walang hahantungan ang bagay na minamadali.”

~ If you believe in it, fight for it. ~

Advice #2:
“Kailangan paghirapan, pagsumikapan, yung may puso.”

~ You know it’s true love when no matter how far the distance is, he can still make you smile. ~

Advice #3:
“Ang paghihintay ang nagbibigay ng tamis sa mga bagay na inaasam. Kapag madaling makamtan, madali ring makakalimutan.”

~ Love is sweet when it’s new, but it’s sweeter when it’s true. ~

Advice #4:
“Sa pag-ibig, walang malalim na dagat. Walang malayong landas. Maganda ang bagay na pinag-hihirapan, pinag-susumikapan, pinagtiya-tiyagaan at dumarating sa tamang panahon.”

Advice #5:
“Walang naiinip sa taong tapat ang hangarin. Walang susuko sa taong totoo ang tibok ng puso. Ang pag-ibig ay magtatagal sa mahabang panahon kung ito ay hinihintay sa tamang panahon.”

~ Anyone can say I love you but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true. ~

Advice #6:
“Mas masarap ang mga bagay na pinag-hihirapan natin, mga bagay na hindi pinipilit; hinihintay ang tamang pagkakataon; dumating na hindi inaasahan; binabago ang mga buhay natin.” And after Lola Nidora says this, she motions for Yaya Dub and Alden to finally join hands, ending with the words everyone have been waiting for, “Ito na ang tamang panahon.”

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Here’s a bonus – the titles of all the uber kilig OPM songs that make up the AlDub Tamang Panahon Playlist: =)

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