Inspirational –
WORLD CLASS TRAVEL DESTINATION: names Boracay 9th best beach in Asia

The Philippines’ Boracay’s White Beach was recently named the ninth best beach in Asia in’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Award.

The recognition came following the island resort’s reopening after it went through a six-month intensive rehabilitation last year. The 10.32 square-kilometer island reopened its beaches to tourists on October 26, 2018.

Boracay, even while under rehabilitation, lorded over the top five best Asian islands in the 2018 Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, together with Siargao and Palawan.

The TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards ranks beaches, destinations, attractions, among others, based on millions of traveler reviews and opinions.

Boracay’s White Beach received over six thousand reviews with 62 percent excellent rave reviews and 24 percent very good rating, with most of the comments acknowledging the successful rehabilitation of the island.

Boracay, one of the country’s top tourist draws, where foreign and local visitors flock for sun and beach holiday annually, is nestled between the Sulu Sea and the Sibuyan Sea.

The island, belonging to the municipality of Malay, Aklan, is comprised of three barangays –the Yapak, Bulabog, and Manok-Manok.

The award named 24 other beaches in Asia’s Bests category with the Radhanagar Beach of Havelock Island in India on the top of the list.

Boracay’s White Beach, described as the island’s most popular beach, was ranked 9th among the beaches in Asia while El Nido, Palawan’s Nacpan Beach and Las Cabanas Beach were voted as the 13th and 22nd best.

Yapak Beach, the second largest beach in Boracay and is named after the prevalent white puka seashells, was also listed at 25th.

Blessed Virgin Mary Grotto at the White Beach, Boracay. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Tourism)

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the naming of Boracay and El Nido as Asia’s best beaches in the TripAdvisor 2019 Travelers’ Choice Award reflects acceptance on the country’s reforms and new policies to attain sustainable tourism.

“We take it that this TripAdvisor citation of Boracay and El Nido is indicative of the positive reactions to the reforms and new policies being implemented in an effort to inculcate a culture of sustainable tourism. This bodes well with our campaign of highlighting the people’s genuine testaments and reactions to our destinations,” Sec. Romulo-Puyat said.

As of February 27, a total of 320 accommodation establishments in Boracay accounting to 11,662 rooms have been declared DOT-accredited.

“The Inter-Agency Task Force is excited for the completion of the island’s rehabilitation; the second phase on April and the third on December this year. It will further promote the better Boracay and see #MoreFunForever,” Sec. Romulo-Puyat said.

PH conquers the universe: Catriona Gray is 4th Filipina Ms. Universe

The Philippines conquered the most prestigious beauty pageant in the universe with Catriona Gray proclaimed as Miss Universe 2018 title-holder out of 93 other contestants from countries around the world.

The Miss Universe 2018 coronation night was held on Monday, December 17, 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand.

In her winning answer about her experience working in the poor communities in Manila, Catriona Gray said it has taught her to “look in the beauty of the children” and be grateful.

“I will bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson,” Catriona said.

“This I think if I can teach people to be grateful, we can have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster and children will have smile on their faces,” Catriona said.

Catriona bags the fourth Philippines’ Miss Universe crown, joining three Filipina Miss Universe title-holders including Gloria Diaz (1969), Margie Moran (1973), and Pia Wurtzbach (2015).

Catriona said she dedicates her Miss Universe journey to the Philippines in her Instagram post.

“Philippines, This is it. What an amazing journey this has been from day one back in January 2018 of announcing Binibining Pilipinas to today. Philippines, you have endlessly inspired me and given me strength and support. I want nothing more than to bring pride to you and give my all to give the best Christmas gift ever to my country. Mahal kita, Philippines. Para sayo ‘to. Stand by me prayer warriors, laban tayo,” Catriona said.

Top photo credit: Video grab from Miss Universe 2018 Youtube channel

OFWs work together to bring food to fellow OFW imprisoned in employer’s house in Kuwait

A video posted in social media went viral showing a group of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) working hand in hand to bring food to their fellow OFW that was allegedly imprisoned in the home of their employer in Salwa, Kuwait.

In the video, the group made use of plastic and an electric wire long enough to deliver food, a cellphone, and a pocket Wi-Fi to their friend located in the lower part of the building. They were worried when one of their co-workers was not able to return to their room. It was even speculated that she won’t be released from the room any time soon.

The OFW has been working in Kuwait for almost three years and she has not been paid yet for her four months of work. The group of Filipinos thought about secretly bringing food to her since the woman has been starving because of being imprisoned in the room for almost 2 days.

After the incident, the employer made the imprisoned OFW travel back to the Philippines but with only one month worth of salary. The salary was used by the OFW to buy her ticket back to the Philippines and process her passport. According to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Deputy Executive Director V Arnel Ignacio, the employer must pay for the ticket back home of the employees.

“‘Papatawag natin ‘yong agency na nagpadala sa kaniya doon at kailangan i-settle nila ‘yon, kung ano ‘yong sahod na hindi niya nakuha (We will call the agency that brought her there and they should be the one to settle the salary which she did not yet receive),” Ignacio said.

The OWWA will work together with the International Labor Affairs Bureau and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to take the necessary actions against the employer for what he/she has done to the OFW.

Pinoy chef showcases Filipino food at UK’s biggest cookout festival

Ferdinand Montoya is the first Filipino to join Meatopia, the United Kingdom’s biggest grilled meat cookout and considered a legendary event for food lovers in the UK held at Tobacco Dock, London on August 31, 2018.

Budgie, as he is more popularly called, joined a powerhouse lineup of 47 other chefs from around the world who were handpicked to be part of the festival.

Chef Budgie served Filipino barbecue skewers (diced pork shoulder marinated and glazed in soy sauce, calamansi juice, banana ketchup, 7UP, garlic, and ginger) with atchara to hefty queues of people during the festival.

An estimated 4,000-5,000 people per day attended Meatopia, which is on its sixth year this year.

Chef Budgie moved from Sydney to London in 2012 and left his job in the information technology industry to pursue his passion for food. He honed his culinary skills from working in the kitchens of top restaurants in London including the Michelin-starred Restaurant Story, Soho House & Co., Flat 3, and Foley’s in Fitzrovia, a restaurant famous in London for marrying Easter and Western flavors.

“I think food is the gateway into anyone’s culture. Food transcends the barriers that separate us—be it politics, religion, or race and allows us all to connect through our primary human function of eating,” Chef Budgie said.

“Once people start trying Filipino food, it gives them the confidence to ask questions about where and how the flavors came about. That dialogue opens them up to not only the culinary culture but the rich cultural history of the Philippines,” Chef Budgie said.

Although he was raised in Australia, it was his mother’s cooking that ultimately inspired Chef Budgie to rediscover his Filipino roots. Pinakbet, adobo, and other popular Filipino dishes ignited his interest to learn more about Filipino culture through the Philippines’ rich and diverse culinary tradition.

Since learning how to whip up Filipino dishes, Chef Budgie has been constantly expanding his repertoire of Filipino dishes while at the same time reinterpreting Filipino favorites to tickle the discerning taste buds of Londoners. In fact, he plans to embark on a month-long visit to the Philippines to learn more about how to prepare Filipino food, especially lechon.

Budgie’s love affair with Filipino cuisine spawned Sarap London, a supper club in London that is gaining widespread popularity among London’s culinary circles. Sarap London aims to retell the story of Filipino cuisine to today’s generation of foodies.

“For me this has been a journey of rediscovery to my cultural heritage. I never planned to make Sarap into something more than a side project and certainly not something I had intended to pursue as business. But the more I rediscovered the more I fell in love and the more my enthusiasm grew. My aim is simple really: I want Filipino cuisine to have its own identity in the culinary world,” Chef Budgie said.

Through Sarap London, Chef Budgie has been giving traditional Filipino food such a sisig, adobo, and lechon kawali a unique and contemporary twist, as a way of introducing the cuisine to those who have never tried it. “Think lechon kawali and adobo sliders, cassava tarts, and sea bass kinilaw nestled nicely in ube taco shells!” he said.

“The energy of younger generations of Filipinos in the United Kingdom to use food as a medium to tell the story of Filipino culture is inspiring and invigorating,” said Ambassador to the U.K. Antonio M. Lagdameo.

“By introducing Filipino cuisine to the British in a creative and innovative way, second generation overseas Filipinos such as Chef Budgie are among our most effective purveyors of Philippine culture in the U.K,” Amb. Lagdameo said.

Meatopia was founded by American food writer and historian Josh Ozersky, whose claim to fame was his stint as editor of New York magazine’s food blog, Grub Street. The festival was later exported to the U.K. by Birmingham chef Richard Turner. (Source: Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippines)

(Photos credit: Meatopia, Sarap London)

Modern-day Filipino Heroes: Recognizing OFWs deeds, sacrifices

Over 10-million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) worldwide work to earn a living to support their families.

But far more than securing their families’ basic needs, their hard work provides strong remittance inflows which favor the country’s economic development. Their remittance money is a great source of the country’s foreign reserves.

OFWs willingly take the risk of enduring hardships in foreign countries. Many could not even secure better jobs to sustain their family needs.

They toil day and night mainly employed as domestic helpers and caregivers under pressure from both work and homesickness. Being away from their families yet they overcome it patiently only for the sake of loved ones.

Though some of were maltreated and even came home dead, yet the uncertainty of working abroad did not hinder them as long as they have hope to meet their goal in improving their family’s living conditions.

Their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of their loved ones and in turn contribute to the country’s economy earn them worthy to be called our “modern day heroes.”

(Photo credit: Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of Public Diplomacy)

UK-based Duterte supporters help Pinoy kids with cancer

A group of supporters of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte based in the United Kingdom became the latest benefactor of the House of Hope Foundation for Kids with Cancer, Inc. in Davao City.

In partnership with the House of Hope, the UK-Duterte Diehard Supporters (UK-DDS) have poured in their resources to build a major project they called “Tatay Digong-Inspired Library and Sensory Room” inside the compound of the Southern Mindanao Medical Center.

“We have been helping them (House of Hope) for the last two years and then, we came up with this major project that the main beneficiaries are the kids with cancer,” UK-DDS chairperson Moe Wicks said in an interview with the Philippine News Agency.

Wicks said their group decided to choose House of Hope as beneficiary of the library and sensory room since it is the same foundation that Duterte has been helping even when he was still mayor of Davao City.

“What we want is for the people to recognize what President Duterte is doing, what he did for us — his influence to us, how he inspired us and we want to thank him because we knew that he will be happy with this project because the kids there are like his babies,” she said.

Duterte used to visit House of Hope when he was still mayor of Davao City and in December 2016, he returned as President to personally give Christmas gifts to children with cancer.

“These children with cancer are the reasons why we are here. They’ve opened our hearts and we wanted to make this project to be part of the legacy of President Duterte because we all know that he will not be there as President forever,” Wicks said.

While Duterte failed to attend the inauguration of the Tatay Digong-Inspired Library and Sensory Room on August 16 due to his hectic schedule, Wicks said the group remains thankful for meeting the President through the help of Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher “Bong” Go three days after the inauguration.

“We thank SAP Go because we were able to meet the President. President Duterte was very humble because we wanted him to realize that it was him who inspired us to do this project. But he told us: ‘You don’t give loyalty to me but to the people,” Wicks said.

Wicks, who works as physiotherapist in London, said the sensory lights accompanied with relaxing music are widely-used in UK as part of the healing process – especially for kids with cancer and other illnesses.

“It is research-based and proven that can help in the healing process for the kids. It is a lifetime project where the kids will benefit,” Wicks said.

“The sensory lights will help the kids a lot right after the chemo because the room is very relaxing when lights and music are on. They can see beaches, butterflies. It’s like magical kingdoms. All they can see is positive which can help in their healing process,” she explained.

She said they have to import the sensory equipment particularly the sensory lights from UK “because these are not available in the Philippines”.

“We did a lot of sacrifices just to put up this kind of major project. I left my family in UK just to be here because we drew inspiration from hard work that our President has been doing for our country,” Wicks said.

Wicks said different kinds of books, including sensory books, will also be enjoyed by children while watching sensory lights and listening to music after their chemotherapy treatment.

Aside from the Tatay Digong Inspired Library and Sensory Room, the UK-DDS has been involved in various charity works, particularly for victims of the Marawi conflict for the past two years.

“What really happened is that Duterte was the one who inspired us to become good citizens of our country and to share what we have because before I don’t give much care about patriotism,” she said.

She encouraged other Filipinos working abroad to also serve as inspiration to every Filipino particularly “our unfortunate countrymen”.

“Our aim is to become (an) inspiration also to our ‘kababayans’ abroad that actually they can help in so many ways,” she added.

Wicks thanked all the project’s sponsors for their generosity as well as the House of Hope officials for choosing them as one of their partners in helping children with cancer.

She also extended appreciation to architect Gail Zilmar-Cuartory for the perfect design of the sensory room.

Jordan Clarkson shows Pinoy pride in 2018 Asian Games

National Basketball Association Cleveland Star Jordan Clarkson performed the significant task of carrying the Philippine flag during the festive 2018 Asian Games opening ceremonies at Gelora Bung Kar No Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 18, 2018.

In an interview with Philippine Daily Inquirer, Clarkson said: “I have never done something like that and that big in my life before”.

The NBA star said he was both excited and honored to represent the country of his roots. Additionally, it would also give him the chance to reconnect with his lineage.

Clarkson wore a Barong Tagalog designed by noted couturier Randy Ortiz. The attire is made out of silk, sporting an embroidered “harimanok” designed to be worn during the inaugural rites.

Chef de Mission, Richard Gomez endorsed Clarkson as the flag-bearer to the Philippine Olympic Committee Secretary General Pato Gregorio.

As Clarkson had reached the pinnacle of being a Filipino basketball player by playing in the NBA, he is considered an inspiration for athletes in the Philippines.

(Photo source: ABS-CBN)

OFWs’ sacrifices, contributions recognized in SONA

In his third State of the Nation Address on Monday, July 23, 2018, President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for their sacrifices and great contributions to the Philippine economy.

“We admire our Filipino migrant workers for their selflessness and courage in enduring the hardships of living away from home to provide for their families,” he said during his third State of the Nation Address (SONA), which lasted for 47 minutes.

“You epitomized the innate resilience of the nation. You have shown your willingness to toil and sacrifice day in and day out for the long term good of your family, loved ones,” the President added.

The Chief Executive also lauded the OFWs contribution to the economies of the countries they are employed in.

At the same time, Duterte denounced the killings and abuses against OFWs as he vowed to protect their well-being by continuing to work with host nations for their protection.

“This is why I strongly condemn the deaths and abuses experienced by Filipino migrant workers in the hands of foreign employers,” he said.

“I have said this before and I said it again, I am a worker of government and it is my vow to make sure that your well-being remains our foremost foreign policy concern. It is for this reason that we are continuing to work with the host nations to ensure the welfare of our countrymen,” the President added.

He also appealed to “all host governments to help us through and (be) dependable partners in this endeavor.”

Duterte noted that all plans would not work without political will.

“No matter how well conceive may be his mission if he lacks the political will to do what needs to be done, they can only end up a failure and a hopeless dreamer,” he said.

“As a worker of government I promise to do whatever it would take to give all Filipinos a comfortable life, fighting powerful interest in making sacrifices, my obligation is to promote and uphold the greatest good for the greatest number,” the President said.

Meanwhile, Duterte reported that they continue to do their best to stop contractualization, as he reported that over 300,000 workers from the private sector have been regularized.

“Our campaign against endo (end of contract) has resulted in the regularization of the more than 300,000 workers as of early this month,” he said.

“On May 1, of this year, I signed Executive Order (EO) No. 51, which sought to protect the workers’ right to security of tenure,” he said.

Duterte said he understands the sentiments of all sectors, but he can only do so much.

“Read my lips, I understand that this does not satisfy all sectors, I share their sentiment, I truly do much as I would like to do the impossible that power is not vested upon me by the Constitution, and neither would I make end both ends meet even if I would violate the laws to achieve that purpose. Simply it’s not part of my territory. That is why I add my voice in asking Congress to pass legislation ending the practice of contractualization once and for all,” he said.

Filipina from poor family rises as new president of US university

The Utah Valley University (UVU) in the United States recently announced the appointment of Dr. Astrid Tuminez, a Filipina, as its new president.

Tuminez, who grew up in a poor community in the Philippines, was selected from a field of international and national candidates to head the publicly funded university starting on the third quarter this year.

Tuminez becomes the seventh president and first woman leader in the university’s history.

“She has proven to be a dynamic leader across academic, non-profit, public policy, and corporate sectors,” said Daniel W. Campbell, chair of the Board of Regents at UVU.

Tuminez holds degrees from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Neither of my parents went to college. My mother had a very hard life… My sister raised me. She was only 15 years old and had to raise six siblings,” Tuminez said during her acceptance speech that was broadcast in social media.

“I was raised in the slums of the Philippines and I was five years old when Catholic nuns offered me and my siblings a chance to go to school. So that changed the entire trajectory of my life,” Tuminez said.

Tuminez went on to finish high school in Manila and in 1982, she managed to travel to the United States and later acquired a US citizenship.

Tuminez earned a Master’s degree for Soviet Studies at Harvard University and a PhD for Political Science and Government at the Massachuetts Institute of Technology.

Tuminez currently holds the position of regional director for corporate, external and legal affairs at Microsoft Southeast Asia and adjunct professor at the National University of Singapore, Lee Kuwan Yew School of Public Policy.

Tuminez was voted unanimously by a 24-member selection committee at UVU and will succeed Matthew Holland, the school’s president since 2009.

“Out of an impressive field of candidates, Dr. Tuminez rose to the top in the search for the next president to lead UVU. She articulated a clear and compelling vision for UVU, and she understands the value of collaboration within Utah’s system of public colleges and universities,” said David Buhler, Utah Commissioner of Higher Education.

AFP congratulates Col. Manny Pacquiao for victory

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) joins the rest of the nation in celebrating the victory of Filipino boxing icon and Senator Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao over Argentinian boxer Lucas Matthysse at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Sunday.

“We, at the Armed Forces of the Philippines joins the whole nation in celebrating another victory by our Pambansang Kamao, Senator and Reserve Army Colonel Manny Pacquiao against Lucas Matthysse,” AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said in a message to reporters.

He added that Pacquiao’s latest victory, the 60th of the boxing champion’s long and illustrious career, demonstrated the Filipino’s natural trait of strength and courage.

“He also showed the world, how determined, disciplined and hardworking the Filipinos are; just like his comrades in the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Detoyato said.

The AFP official added that all Filipino soldiers are not only proud and inspired by the Pacman’s latest win but as well as the humility he manifested despite his triumphant win.

“The whole Armed Forces is all out in its support to our boxing champion. His discipline, dedication, and hard-work continue to inspire our soldiers to do the same in the exercise of their duties and the fulfillment of their mandates to our country,” Detoyato added.

Pacquiao won against Matthysse via technical knockout during the bout’s seventh round.