Category Archives: personal matters

I BADLY NEED YOUR SUPPORT!

On this day exactly a year ago, I received the Best Text Blog Award from the organizers of the 7th Annual Population and Development (PopDev) Media Awards. Although I won four other competitions after that, going up that stage that night to receive my trophy remains one of the highest points of my life. As noted in a previous post, the PopDev Media Awards won’t be held this year, but despite that, I am once again running to get another blogging award. And this time, I will need your support to achieve it.

The Filipino Scribe is nominated to receive the People’s Choice Awards in the 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA). I badly need your help. You can vote in three quick steps:

1. Go to http://www.pinoyblogawards.com

2. In the page’s right side, you will find the list of ten nominees under the “Philippine-based bloggers” table.

3. Please check the space before nominee #8 which is The Filipino Scribe. Click ‘submit vote’ after.

The Filipino Scribe - 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards

The Filipino Scribe is nominee # 8 in the 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards – OFW Supporter category (credits: PEBA 2012 Facebook page)

Voting takes less than a minute and there’s no need to register. My official entry to the competition is titled “Embracing Social Media in my Life.” I have been writing about OFW-related issues long before taking part in this competition. Last year, I wrote about the “Saudization” labor policy’s potential impact not just for Filipinos already working in that country but also for other workers that are seeking jobs there.

A few months ago, I wrote about Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David’s decision to kill her proposed measure that would have raised the contributions of OFWs to the government emergency fund from $25 to $50. OFW rights advocate Susan Ople went on to credit this blog for posting Bonoan-David’s actual letter to the House Majority Leader regarding her decision. Early this month, I came up with a post tackling the potential impact of Filipino-Americans in the 2012 United States presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

According to figures from WordPress, this blog has received at least 1,000 views from readers in fifteen countries other than the Philippines. Their consistent support for my blog inspires me to continue writing more about issues they care about. Whatever happens to my participation in this year’s PEBA, I will certainly continue doing that.

Let me end this post by once again asking for your support. Please vote for The Filipino Scribe in this year’s Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards simply by doing the following:

1. Go to www.pinoyblogawards.com.

2. In the page’s right side, you will find the list of ten nominees under the “Philippine-based bloggers” table.

3. Please check the space before nominee #8 which is The Filipino Scribe. Click ‘submit vote’ after.

2012 pinoy expat ofw blog awards

Visit http://www.pinoyblogawards.com, see the right side, check the space before nominee #8 in The Filipino Scribe. Click “submit vote” and you’re done!

Voting ends on December 5. As of posting time, I remain in second place in a field of ten nominees. With the help of our blog followers and readers, victory is achievable. You can vote more than once as long as you’re using a another device.

WHAT IS AT STAKE: The recipient of the People’s Choice Award will get a citation from the organizers. Meanwhile, the top three blogs will get the following prizes:

1st Prize:             Cash Prize plus Freebies and Trophy worth P10, 000

2nd Prize:            Cash Prize plus Freebies and Trophy worth P5, 000

3rd Prize:             Cash Prize plus Freebies and Trophy worth P3, 000

About these ads

Colt 45 and the ‘real men’ myth

In late 2008, Colt 45 Philippines launched four 15-second advertisements featuring a group of men in different situations. The ad campaign intends to reintroduce Colt 45 as the “strong beer for real men.” The marketing blitz however contains highly insensitive gender stereotypes.

In the first ad, a man is shown as making comments about an unseen woman’s fashion style even while his peers are drooling over the lady’s “sexy” body (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGvR6AWq7k8). In the second advertisement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qvspk7PzWcU), a man is seen walking away from his buddies who are all watching a wrestling match on TV to make sweet talk to his girlfriend on the phone. The third advertisement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8iH_ffdVG4) shows a man weirdly wiping a glass with his hand towel even though he himself is already sweating. The fourth and last installment (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAH530XP4yQ) shows a man using a facial oil wipe.

After doing those “unmanly” acts, the deviant received uneasy looks from his peers before being obliterated by a Colt 45 giant bottle from above. A husky-voiced narrator will then say: “Men should act like men. Strong beer should truly be strong.” The media falls under what Louis Althusser describes as cultural ISA (ideological state apparatus)[1]. According to Althusser, social institutions “use suitable methods of punishment, expulsion, selection, etc., to ‘discipline’” individuals who refuse to abide by the ruling ideology.

The catchphrase “men should act like men” mandates that all men have to act according to socially-established gender rules of conduct. This include not showing a “soft” even to his girlfriend, not allotting so much time to clean his face, and not making any comments about a woman’s fashion style. Men who do not observe the standards of heteronormativity are regarded as “hindi tunay na lalake,” or worse, labeled as “effeminates” and “gays.”

One way for people to know about these gender prescriptions is through the media. We are constantly bombarded by the media with messages essentially dictating everyone how they should act in accordance to gender norms. The media is the main arena where the dominant ideology asserts its authority on one hand while on the other; this is also where marginalized ideologies fight for greater acceptance or inclusion into the mainstream.

Men should always be stoic, dominant, and unyielding even when proven wrong. There are also activities they cannot engage in as well as TV programs they can’t watch (Glee, for instance) because it is unmanly to do so. The media therefore becomes the platform by which a battle of gender symbols (ergo, what is manly vs. what is not) takes place.

However, as mentioned by Marxist intellectual Antonio Gramsci, the status of the dominant ideology is perpetually challenged since not everyone readily accepts it[2]. Nowadays, the media no longer have qualms about featuring men who does not conform to the so-called standards of being “tunay na lalake” (e.g. metrosexuals, effeminates, and men having sex with other men) in films, television shows, and the like. One manifestation of this is the proliferation of independent films that focuses on a gay’s life (e.g. “Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros” and “Lihim ni Antonio”).

Meanwhile, some TV programs like GMA News TV’s Best Men put men who are extra conscious about their appearance in a better light. These attempts represent efforts toward making compromises as regards the dominant thinking of how a man should act. Despite these attempts, the ruling ideal for “real men” still remains and has to be reinforced. Hence, we have the abovementioned series of Colt 45 ads.

colt 45 strong beer for real men

Colt 45 positions itself as a “strong beer for real men”

Having this kind of heterosexist message constantly being harped upon in the media will affect an individual’s self-identity, especially for those who grew up not meeting the standards of being a “tunay na lalake.” A young boy for instance who is used to being told by his mom to bring an umbrella all the time might end up believing that he is not man enough just because of it.

The whole concept of “men should act like men” goes against the central thesis of queer theories, which says that sex, gender, and sexuality are “fluid continuums in which identity based on fixed categories is a meaningless concept[3].” In short, being sweet and extra-conscious of how you look will not lessen a man’s masculinity since everything is in a constant flux to begin with.

This alone, as Michel Foucault argues[4], means that drawing clear cute demarcation lines between gender and sexual identities are impossible. More importantly, these definitions are mere social constructions to begin with. In conclusion, it can be said that since the media plays a significant role in shaping a person’s gender identity, it should be extra careful in setting baseless standards like what “real men” should do. It is good to note that the Philippine Commission on Women two years ago blew the whistle against Colt 45’s gender insensitive advertising campaigns[5].


[1] Althusser, Louis. Ideology and Ideological State Apparatusses. Marxist.org (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm). Retrieved October 9, 2012

[2] Storey, John. (1993). An Introduction to Cultural Theory and Popular Culture (2nd ed.). London: Prentice Hall.

[3] Jagose, Annamarie (1996), Queer theory An Introduction, New York University Press, New York

[4] Dollimore, Jonathan, Sexual Dissidence: Augustine to Wilde, Freud to Foucault ,The Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991).

[5] __________. Beer ad pulled out for derogatory women portrayal. Philippine Commission on Women website (http://www.pcw.gov.ph/article/beer-ad-pulled-out-derogatory-women-portrayal). Accessed October 9, 2012


No Philippine Blog Awards for 2012, but VOTE FOR ME!

Here’s a bad news for bloggers looking for means to be recognized on a national level. This year, at least two major national competitions for Filipino bloggers will not be held. In its official Facebook page, the Philippine Blog Awards committee noted last November 1 that it “will be going on hiatus this year 2012.” The group did not elaborate why but it vowed that they “will be back soon.”

Earlier this year, organizers of the Philippine Web Awards (PWA) announced that it is scrapping its original plans to have the awarding rites on July 20, 2012. The organization noted that their decision was “in response to e-mails sent by a number of Web designers who pointed out that since 2012 is nearly half over, we should already include Web sites that have gone ‘live’ this year.”

Therefore, the 13th PWA will honor websites put up in 2011 and 2012. The organization added: “We will reopen the nominations, push back the judging schedules and hold the Awards Night late this year or early next year.”

philippine web awards 2013

Like the Philippine Blog Awards, the Philippine Web Awards will not be held this year.

On this day a year ago, I was notified by the organizers of the 7th Annual Population and Development Media Awards that I will be getting the Best Text Blog Award for 2011. That’s the first time that the said award-giving body recognized bloggers in the same league as their counterparts from the traditional media.

Unfortunately, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee for Population and Development hasn’t expressed any intentions to organize the event this year. This decision is disconcerting knowing how much the reproductive health bill issue dominated the news cycle this year.

SHAMELESS PLUG: The Filipino Scribe is nominated to receive the People’s Choice Award in this year’s edition of the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA) – OFW Supporter category. Visit PEBA’s website (www.pinoyblogawards.com) and check out this part in the page’s right side to vote for us. Thank you so much in advance!

The Filipino Scribe is nominated in this year’s Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Award. Please vote for us in this link – http://www.pinoyblogawards.com/!


Cyberbullying in the Philippines – let’s get personal

Last week, I appeared on Global News Network’s Opinion Leaders show to talk about cyberbullying together with Alvin Dakis of the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates. Before I venture into that topic, let me discuss some relevant basic stuff first re Internet in the Philippines.

The Philippines became connected to the Internet only in 1994. Even if the technology has been around for Filipinos for almost two decades now, we still have a long way to go in catching u other countries. According to InternetWorldStats.com estimates, only one-third (or 32%) of Filipinos are Internet users. Apart from the low penetration rate of the medium in the country, a study by Google last April revealed that the Philippines has the second slowest Internet connection in the world, next to Indonesia.

As a blogger for almost six years now, I know how unruly netizens can be on certain occasions. Bullying mostly happens in schools and in the neighborhood.  Usually, the bully will tease his or her prey over the latter’s characteristics (“bakla,” “payatot,” and “baboy,” to name a few). In this form of bullying, you can at least identify who the perpetrator is. In most situations you can also take appropriate action against them. The identities of cyberbullies may be difficult to ascertain. Blogs allow anonymous commenting while troll accounts are all over Facebook.

With Alvin Dakis, writer and reproductive rights advocate

Unlike in the United States, cyberbullying hasn’t really gotten much attention among Filipinos until last year. In 2008, a woman from the state of Missouri was indicted for bullying a 13-year-old girl by pretending to be a male suitor who ultimately dumped her in MySpace.

Two years ago, 18-year-old Tyler Clementi from New Jersey jumped to death from a bridge after his dorm mates broadcasted his encounter with another man online. Clementi’s death triggered the launch of the “It Gets Better” project where prominent Americans spoke against the bullying of gay teens including President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

Several Filipinos the past two years have claimed to be cyberbullied. Some of them are public figures like singer Charice Pempengco, actress Sharon Cuneta, and Senator Vicente Sotto III. Pempengco is rumored to be a lesbian while Cuneta is being ridiculed for being fat. Meanwhile, Sotto remains the target of online lampoon for plagiarizing several bloggers last August.

Pempengco and Cuneta should realize that getting negative comments (baseless or not) about their appearance is part of being a celebrity. If they hate negative comments, they should just retire to obscurity then. Government officials like Sotto should be more prepared in handling criticisms especially if it pertains to how they conduct their official duties. Former US President Harry Truman once said that “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” If Sotto thinks he should be immune from public scorn, he should resign his Senate seat.

What about the likes of Christopher Lao and Robert Blair Carabuena? They are not public figures but they committed actions that got caught on national television. Lao ranted on national television that no one informed him about the deep flood where his car got submerged while Carabuena was caught physically assaulting a traffic enforcer.

robert blair carabuena

Robert Blair Carabuena (photo taken from Facebook)

The public shaming of Lao is overboard. After all, he is rushing home because he wants to make sure that his daughter is safe. The criticisms that Carabuena received for his abhorrent behavior is well-deserved, but posting his home address and mobile number online and making death threats against him is just too much. Is Republic Act 10175 the answer to all these excesses? Is it realistic for Lao to file charges against everyone who called him “stupid” and the like online?

Let me end by stressing my point earlier about the Internet being a relatively new medium for most Filipinos. In my view, we are like children who just received a new gadget (e.g. a Tamagotchi) from our parents. Out of excitement and curiosity, we have the tendency to abuse the medium (ergo, we can be trigger happy at times). Instead of imposing tight government restrictions on how Filipinos should use the Internet, individual responsibility should be promoted. GMA Network’s “Think before you tweet” is a good step toward this direction.

I was cyberbullied, too

I am no stranger to cyberbullying myself. Four years ago, one high school acquaintance (let’s call her “Chel”) asked her friends and fellow party animals to flock to my Friendster page to report my account to the site’s administrators. Acting like a mindless sheep, a number of Chel’s contacts posted shout outs on their respective Friendster pages where they didn’t only put the link to my profile page but also described me as a “horrible gay” among others. Some even sent personal messages just to harass me.

What is Chel’s beef against me? One Saturday in June of that year, Chel and I agreed to meet in a Quezon City mall. She told me beforehand that she’ll be tagging along a friend that day (her high school batch mate, actually), and I agreed. What I didn’t know is that during the actual meet-up, the two will make me feel out of place! This prompted me to walkout. Looking back, I may be guilty of acting rude to a certain extent but it should not be a justification for them to resort to online harassment.

I have no screenshots of those, but I remember two of those  cyberbullies. One of them landed a job as a disc jockey for a high-end FM radio station in Metro Manila after losing in a nationwide VJ search. The second one hails from Davao. She is now a top fashion blogger, describing herself as a “recessionista.” I don’t know if Chel and her two girl friends will get to see this post. Nevertheless, I want to remind them that what comes around goes around.

PS: The People Management Association of the Philippines (PMAP) will have a forum on Republic Act 10175 this November 13 at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati City, and I am one of the two panel reactors for that event.  Please check PMAP’s website for more details on the event.

cybercrime law forum


My experience with gallstones – one year after

Let me take you back to October 21, 2011. It was a usual Friday afternoon, and I and three officemates just came back from having lunch in a chicken restaurant. Suddenly, I felt intense pain in the left side of my stomach. Imagine yourself not being able to stand up straight because your stomach aches so much. I spent the rest of that work day rushing to the  restroom to vomit.

As I detailed in a blog post last year, it was eventually revealed through an ultrasound that I have gallstones (or cholelithiasis). Looking back now, it remains unclear to me how exactly I had those. I first experienced those flash stomach pains in 2007, and because of it, I assume I had gallstones since I was 17. What disturbed me however is that I don’t have the risk factors usually associated with people with this condition, which include the following:

*Female

*Age 40 and up

*Being overweight

*Experienced rapid weight loss

*People with diabetes

*People with high-fat and low-fiber diet

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, there are two types of gallstones – cholesterol stones and pigment stones. Cholesterol stones are usually yellow-green and are made primarily of hardened cholesterol, and this accounts for about 80 percent of gallstones. Pigment stones, on the other hand, are small, dark stones made of bilirubin.

English: A 1.9 cm gallstone impacted in the ne...

Gallbladder stones or cholecystitis are usually discovered through an ultrasound. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A laboratory test showed that I have high cholesterol levels.  Studies have shown that cholesterol levels can be inherited, which means that even an average consumption of fatty foods can be dangerous. I had gallstones-induced stomach pains after eating foods like fried chicken, pizza, and even kangkong. The gallbladder contracts harder to produce the bile necessary to digest these foods. Gallstones hinder the flow of bile as it moves from the gallbladder to the small intestines through the bile ducts. These stones effectively renders the gallbladder useless.

“Bile trapped in these ducts can cause inflammation in the gallbladder, the ducts, or in rare cases, the liver,” the US health department added. According to this website, some people do not even know they have gallstones. This is not the case with me since my condition is obviously symptomatic. To alleviate the pain, I took painkillers (Celexocib). My doctors also advised me to avoid eating fatty foods.

However, the long-lasting solution to my problem is to have the gallbladder surgically removed. Since I’m a stone former (a person prone to having gallstones and kidney stones), then it means that I am likely to develop more gallstones in the future unless I have that surgery. The US health department continues: “Left untreated, the condition can be fatal. Warning signs of a serious problem are fever, jaundice, and persistent pain.”

What are the immediate impacts on me of that chain of events exactly a year ago? As I related in a blog, the revelation made me cry a lot out of uncertainty at first. After I successfully sought a second opinion from an internal medicine specialist, my anxiety loosened up. After all, I was told that my situation isn’t as hopeless as initially thought. Nevertheless, the risk posed to me by my high cholesterol levels cannot be underestimated.

I initially thought that my condition may affect my graduate studies. It didn’t. However, since this episode happened during the last week of the semester, I wasn’t able to focus anymore in accomplishing the final paper for one class given all the distractions. In fact, the night before the deadline, I sought a second opinion from another doctor.  I want to thank Dr.  Lou de Leon-Bolinao for being considerate during that challenging time. I eventually decided to go for an operation, and that’s one experience I will have to tell more about in a future post.

PS: If you’re experiencing sudden stomach pains in the left quadrant after eating hard-to-digest foods, ask your doctor for a recommendation for you to undergo an ultrasound. The sooner you know the real cause of the pains, the better.


Monthly Winner, AllVoices American Pundit Contest for June 2012

One submission stood out above the rest. With ‘A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan,’ Mark Pere Madrona of the Philippines earns the on-topic prize. This marks the second time that an American Pundit winner hails from outside the United States.” – Excerpt from the news article

AllVoices.com, an international online citizen journalism platform based in San Francisco, California, has announced today that I am one of the two winners in their ongoing American Pundit Contest.

Writers from all over the world can join the competition, which runs until November 5, 2012 (or a day after this year’s United States presidential elections). The other winner is Amee Ellsworth of Bennett, Colorado.

AllVoices is seeking “well-informed (and) well-written political reports that relate to the 2012 election” for the competition. Every two weeks, AllVoices also announces specific topics that interested parties may write about.

AllVoices.com American Pundit Contest - June 2012

A Philippine writer won in AllVoices.com’s American Pundit Contest. :-)

For the first half of June, participants were asked to “write about how America and the world would be different if any of the eight U.S. presidential elections since 1980 had gone the other way” (Carter winning reelection over Reagan in 1980, and so on).   

I imagined how different things would have been for the world had Reagan, a close friend of former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos, failed in his bid to unseat President Jimmy Carter. AllVoices gave this brief summary of my opinion piece titled “A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan”:

In writing about Reagan’s see-no-evil policy toward U.S.-allied strongmen such as Augusto Pinochet of Chile, Baby Doc Duvalier of Haiti and the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, Madrona explains how the U.S. commitment to international human rights became a glaring sham under Reagan.

Had Carter won re-election, Madrona argues that “it is not realistic to believe Carter would have suddenly cut ties with all pro-American strongmen. Instead, he could have sent a strong signal about his stand on democracy by being more assertive in pushing for meaningful political reforms.”

You can read this prize-winning in this link. The article unsurprisingly triggered negative reactions from Reagan supporters. A user named “Anyvoice” called my piece the “most idiotic guess work,” saying that Carter “was the one who brought the rule of the Ayatollahs to Iran, (which) created the nuclear threat of today.”

Mark Pere Madrona - AllVoices

My opinion piece “A more democratic world without Ronald Reagan” has won in AllVoices.com’s American Pundit Contest for the month of June.

He added that had Carter won a second term, “the whole world will be like the Middle East now.” A commenter named Adrian Holman claimed that the scores of American hostages held in the US embassy in Tehran would still be in Iran if not for Reagan.

The citizen journalism website noted that this is only the second time since the competition was launched last January that a non-American writer had won. According to AllVoices, my win gives the competition organizers “a chance to reiterate that while The American Pundit deals with Campaign 2012 in the United States, writers from all over the globe are welcome to participate.” Looking at the roster of past winners, I am fairly certain about being the only winner from Asia so far.

AllVoices describes itself as “the world’s premier platform for citizen journalism.” It aims to provide “a community-driven platform for open, global news, and idea exchange.”

AllVoices - American Pundit Contest winners

Nice to see yourself in the gallery of winners, eh? :D

Anyone can report news on AllVoices through its website or via SMS. The idea behind AllVoices first came about in 2005 during the aftermath of a strong earthquake in Pakitan, the native country of its founder Amra Tareen.

Speaking to About.com’s Tony Rogers, Tareen said she wanted to share her impressions of the disaster to the whole world but she has no platform to do so. According to Forbes.com, AllVoices has 300,000 site-contributors from 161 countries worldwide – as of 2010! Evidently, AllVoices, a site not affiliated with any mainstream media outlet, has further upped the ante of citizen journalism worldwide.

PS: This is the first time I’ve won in an international competition, and oh boy, being described as a “writer from the Philippines” gave me chills!


Flat Stanley comes to the Philippines – and had lots of fun!

Looks like someone just had more fun in the Philippines!

Sometime last March, one of my cousins living in Roseville, California asked if I can take part in her 7-year old daughter’s Flat Stanley school project. My niece is studying in Vencil Brown Elementary School. I had to do some research to know more about this. Wikipedia says that Flat Stanley is a character in an eponymously-titled children’s book written by Jeff Brown in 1964.

Flat Stanley’s real name is Stanley Lambchop. One day, his father gave him and his younger brother Arthur a bulletin board where they can display pictures and posters. The father placed the bulletin board on the wall just over Stanley’s bed. One night, the bulletin board fell from the wall (which means that in the first place, it should not be placed there :-)), flattening Stanley in the process.

The accident actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Stanley. Because he is flat, it became easier for him to go to his friends by being mailed. He even visited different places, including art museums! Ultimately, Stanley was reverted to his normal state by his younger brother through a bicycle pump!

In 1995, Dale Hubert, an elementary schoolteacher from Canada, started the Flat Stanley Project.  After reading about the story of Stanley Lambchop, children would create their own Flat Stanley. School administrators and/or teachers can register through www.FlatStanley.com to find other parties they can team-up with for the project. In the case of my niece, her school allowed them to choose wherever they want to send Flat Stanley – provided he can return by May 11, 2012!

Thanks to the efficient Philippine mail delivery service, it took three weeks before Flat Stanley arrived in our residence. Aside from Flat Stanley, the package also includes a brief letter from my niece as well as a journal where the cute little traveler will write about the places he checked out (with pictures, of course!). Teachers are encouraged “to publish stories, describe local traditions and scenery, talk about Stanley’s adventures, and post pictures” about Flat Stanley’s journeys online.

This is certainly a fun way to learn not only geography but also a little bit of history. I wish Filipino elementary teachers would also be able to try this cute project. By the way, here are some pictures from Flat Stanley’s visit to the Philippines. Luckily for him, he didn’t have to walk a thousand miles to get here. Haha:

Flat Stanley went inside Museo Pambata, a popular children’s museum in the country.

Flat Stanley tried riding on a “calesa,” the local equivalent of a horse-drawn carriage.

Flat Stanley at the famous Jose Rizal monument in Manila. Rizal is the national hero of the Philippines.

According to my cousin, her daughter’s sharing in class went well. I am happy because I was able to tell American kids about the Philippines, though indirectly. Otherwise, these children might never have the chance to know who Dr. Jose Rizal is. Learn more about the Flat Stanley Project by clicking this link.


Recognition Day Speech at Juan Luna Elementary School

Mr. Renato Jarabese, the school principal, the teachers, students, parents, and other members of the JLES family, good afternoon.

The school where I finished my elementary education 10 years ago

I want to greet all of you young achievers who are here right now. Yes, you heard me right. You are young achievers. Consider yourself extremely lucky because you are among the honorees today out of the several hundreds of JLES students for the past school year. You did a great job, that’s why you’re part of this year’s cream of the crop. Congratulations to your teachers and most importantly to your parents. Alam natin na kung anong saya ng mga mag-aaral sa kanilang tagumpay na nakamtan, doble pa roon ang kasiyahan ng ating mga magulang.

A glimpse of the attendees to this year's JLES recognition rites

It is a great honor to be invited to speak before all of you this afternoon, exactly 10 years after I graduated here back in 2002. Ang sampung taon ay mabilis na dumaan. Dati, gumagamit lang kami ng Internet kung may school projects. Ngayon, hindi na kumpleto ang araw natin nang hindi nag-oonline sa Facebook at Twitter.

Ang ilan sa mga dati kong guro ay nataas na ng tungkulin, mayroon namang gaya ng aking tagapayo noong Grade 4 na si Bb. Daisy Falucho ay namayapa na, mayroon ring ngayon ay retirado na samantalang ang ilan gaya ni Bb. Rosemarie Villamor, tagapayo ko sa unang baitang, at Gng. Myrna Genovate, tagapayo ko noong ika-limang baitang ay nandito pa rin sa dakilang paaralang ito upang patuloy na manghubog ng kaisipan ng kanilang mga magiging mag-aaral sa mga darating pang taon.

Miss Rosemarie Villamor (Filipino) and Mrs. Myrna Genovate (English)

Hinding-hindi ko malilimutan ang lahat ng aking mga naging guro sa bawat artikulong aking naipalathala, sa bawat parangal na natanggap at matatanggap pa, at sa anumang landas na aking tatahakin pagdating ng panahon. I will forever owe what I am today and what I will be in the future to everyone who has been my teacher, whether here in JLES, in Ramon Magsaysay High School, or in the University of the Philippines.

Taong 1996 nang ako ay pumasok sa Grade 1. Section 2 ako sa ilalim ni Bb. Villamor. Naaalala ko pa noon na madalas, sumasali lang ako sa pila kapag paakyat na ang mga kaklase ko. At sa tuwing magpapaalam na ako kay mama at isasara na ng guwardya ang gate, naiiyak ako. May isa ngang pagkakataon noong Grade 1, pasado alas 5 na ng hapon. Sinabihan ako ni Bb. Villamor na “puwede na akong umihi.” Ang pagkakaintindi ko, pwede na ako umuwi. Buti hinarang ako ng nagbabantay doon sa main gate dahil kung hindi, baka naligaw na ako.

Waiting for my turn to speak during last March 28's JLES recognition rites

It is funny to think about this now, but at that time, I am so afraid to be separated from my mother although we’ll be together again after six hours. This is one lesson I want to impart to you this afternoon. You will never achieve personal growth unless you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone. Paano natin matutuklasan ang hiwaga ng daigdig kung tayo ay takot na maglakbay rito?

Kagaya ng ilan sa inyo, nagkaroon rin ako ng pagkakataon na maging kinatawan ng aking paaralan sa mga panglungsod na kumpetisyon. Noong 2nd year ako sa Ramon Magsaysay, naging pambato ako ng paaralan sa isang division level quiz bee. Matinding pressure ang nakalaban ko, and to cut the long story short, I finished last in the top ten. I was so ashamed of myself. I let my trainers and the whole school down. Hindi nga ba’t kapag tayo ay lumalaban, dala natin ang pangalan ng paaralan? After skipping my classes for almost a week, how will I answer my classmates if they ask me about the contest? The future looks grim, or so I thought.

While giving the keynote remarks during the event

I was attending my Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) class one afternoon when my then Asian History teacher Ms. Precilla Manaloto asked me out of our class. Since the contest loss happened just a few days before, I was expecting her to admonish me. That was the natural thing to happen, right? But I was wrong.

She treated me to a lunch of rellenong bangus and fresh lumpia at a nearby restaurant instead. She said she also bore some responsibility for the debacle, and offered me golden words of wisdom. She reiterated her trust in me, saying that I can surely do better next time, and given my age (I was only 13 then), there’s still a long way for me to go (“malayo pa ang mararating mo”). Nine years later, her words are still with me.

Receiving the plaque of appreciation from Mr. Jarabese and Ms. Sanchez after my speech

Right now, I guess some of you have doubts about what lies ahead in the future. “Makakaya ko ba ang mga problemang aking haharapin,” you may be asking yourself. Two weeks ago, I had the great privilege of interviewing Ms Gina Lopez, the managing director of Bantay Bata and Bantay Kalikasan. She shared to me this wonderful quote: “As you think, so you become.”

Regardless of the barriers, and believe me, you will never run out of those, as long as you believe in yourself and stay committed in achieving what you really want, there’s no way you can fail. Roselle Ambubuyog became blind at age 11, yet she graduated valedictorian in RMHS in 1997 and finished her college degree at the Ateneo de Manila University summa cum laude.

The school is announcing my presence during the event through this. I can't feel more honored. :)

A young boy named Artemio Panganiban, meanwhile, supported his studies here at JLES and in V. Mapa High School by selling newspapers and cigarettes and shining shoes. He later on became the Chief Justice of our country’s Supreme Court. If Artemio Panganiban and Roselle Ambubuyog didn’t let poverty and disability hinder their path to success, will you let anything block your way to the future? As the song goes, “there’s not a star in heaven you can’t reach, if you’re trying.”

Sa kabila ng mga papuring inyong natanggap ngayong araw na ito, alam kong alam ninyo na hindi dito nagtatapos ang lahat. Ika nga sa Ingles, never rest on your laurels. Dahil kayo ay mga young achiever na, hindi na kayo kailangang habilinan na mag-aral pa ng mabuti. Ipagpatuloy lamang ninyo ang mahusay ninyong nasimulan.

Picture with some JLES teachers at the principal's office

Ang karunungan ay parang isang pananim na nararapat parating diligan upang mas mapayabong ito. Laging tandaan na sa huli, hindi lamang kayo ang makikinabang sa inyong edukasyon. Maaari itong maging susi para magkaroon ng mas magandang bukas ang inyong mga pamilya. At dahil sa inyong karunungan, nasa posisyon rin kayo upang makatulong sa ikauunlad ng ating mahal na bansa sa malapit na hinaharap. Sana ay hindi ninyo sayangin ang magandang pagkakataong ito.

The plaque of appreciation that I received from my alma mater. :)

*This is the full text of the speech I gave during the recognition rites of the Juan Luna Elementary School held last March 28, where I was the guest of honor. Apologies for non-Filipino readers of this the speech is mostly in Filipino, in recognizance of my audience that afternoon.  

My special acknowledgments to Mr. Renato Jarabese, the school principal, Mrs. Alicia Sanchez, the one who invited me to be the guest speaker, and former advisers Ms Rosemarie Villamor (Grade 1) and Mrs. Myrna Genovate (Grade 6).


Notes From The Philippines’ first anniversary and thoughts on the next two years

My blog www.rightonthemark.wordpress.com marked its first year anniversary on the cyberspace yesterday, March 31. Like a proud parent whose child just celebrated his/her first birthday, I would like to take this opportunity to look back at how far things have gone for this blog in that short a time.

Of course, it did not happen overnight. During the first three months of my blog, it received on the average less than 10 views per day. The site’s viewership went uphill since then, prompting WordPress to include this last September in their global list of Growing Blogs. Contents from this blog had been excerpted in three Philippine broadsheets and a Cebu City tabloid. And, as you can see through a badge in the right side, this site received the Best Text Blog award during the 7th Annual Population and Development (PopDev) Media Awards held last year – a feat I hope to duplicate this 2012.

While it is true that maintaining a blog site is time consuming and not exactly financially rewarding, I enjoy being able to write often. I get a kick whenever people tell me that the information I post here is useful for them (even though they don’t know my name).

Please don’t take the subtitle “Writing about everything” literally. If you are looking for articles on food, fashion, and IPhones, this site is not for you. Nevertheless, I do write about a wide-array of topics. Here are examples:

David Archuleta ‘Forevermore’ track list and album cover – released! – March 9, 2012

Inquirer’s photo of Demetrio Vicente: Tasteless and unethical – March 14, 2012

Emilio Aguinaldo Day in Cavite – March 22, 2012 pay rules – March 18 2012

It is not exaggeration for me to say that this blog had opened a lot of opportunities for me. Since most of my writings are now accessible to the public, more people had been appreciative of how I do my craft. I am grateful to non-government organizations like The Forum for Family Planning and Development and Alyansa Tigil-Mina for believing that this blog is in a position to promote their respective causes.

David Archuleta to fans: "I'll be back!" Notice the #DA2014 hash tag

Now, you’re probably curious as to why I mentioned about “the next two years” on the title. Here’s why. As some of you might already know, 2008 American Idol runner-up David Archuleta has began his two-year hiatus from the music industry last March 29 to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (or more commonly, the Mormon Church).

In a farewell video for his fans posted on YouTube, Archuleta hoped his fans would stick around and wait for him to return once his mission ends in 2014. Aside from promoting the hash tag #DA2014 on Twitter, some of his fans have started an online countdown to the day he will return from missionary work. I would write more about David Archuleta on a future post. For now, let me reflect on the two-year timeframe in relation to myself.

Two years ago, I remember feeling extreme desperation because of the monumental task of trying to finish my journalism thesis (I graduated on time, of course). Between that time and the present, I’ve had published articles on one hand and had gotten two awards on the other. I am now on my third semester as an MA History student in UP Diliman. And, to share something more personal, I have undergone an open gallbladder removal surgery last December due to gallstones.

I want to share with you what I want to achieve in the next two years. Between now and 2014, I wish to have more recognition. Besides that, I want my blog to have more publicity. So much for high dreams like that! A more realistic goal is this one: Before I turn 24, I should have already earned my MA degree.

I will end this post by saying thanks to all my readers, subscribers, and blogging partners! I am sharing this milestone to all of you! Special thanks to The Profesional Heckler, Ms Raissa Robles, and Arvie Rex Abrea of www.entervrexworld.wordpress.com  for letting me promote my posts on their sites.


Winning 2nd place in Go Negosyo essay writing tilt

Let me share to all readers of my blog this piece of good news. I recently won 2nd place in the recently concluded 2012 Babae Kapuso Ka ng Bayan essay writing competition. It was organized by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), a group best known for their Go Negosyo initiative.

The contest aims to “promote and encourage conscious awareness of the contributions of Filipino women in the different levels of society, in the different social strata, and in all fields imaginable.” Read their official contest announcement here.

My article "Empowering Pinay entrepreneurs as key players in achieving national progress" has been published in the Go Negosyo website

My winning entry is titled Empowering Pinay entrepreneurs as key players in achieving national progress, where I wrote that “limited access to capital and business know-show should never be allowed to be a glass ceiling for Filipina entrepreneurs.” The essay is now published in the PCE Go Negosyo website.

Deofelyn Ocayo and Angelica Jazmin Cabrera won first and third place, respectively. Winning participants received a certificate of recognition, a set of Go Negosyo books, among other items.

The contest was open to all Filipinos, even to those based overseas. Entries were judged based on the following criteria: relevance to the theme, 50 percent; style and grammar, 20 percent; and appeal to intellect and emotion, 30 percent.

Receiving the certificate for winning in the Go Negosyo essay writing tilt (photo taken at the Go Negosyo headquarters in Mandaluyong City)*

An awarding ceremony was originally scheduled last March 2 as part of PCE’s 4th Women Entrepreneurship summit held at the World Trade Center, but the organizers failed to announce the list of winners in time for the event. Nevertheless, I am still very thankful for this award.  :-)

(Photo credits: Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship)


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