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Storytelling is a powerful way for us to inspire each other. So, I started with my own story to remind girls and women that marrying young, for whatever reason and circumstance, can’t stop them from achieving their dreams. I am a humanitarian worker for over 15 years covering parts of Asia, the Middle East and Africa and have heard amazing stories from the front line.
Finding your perfect match and sharing a journey to ‘forever’ still exists. “Getting married is fate. It just brought us together.”
She was a lovely village lass teaching in a public school in Tantangan, a small town in Mindanao, while he was a rising hotshot lawyer from Manila. The backdrop was the in 60s and the only way to travel was by ship that took weeks. It was amazing how their worlds were brought together with such distance and barrrier between them.
But fate intervened, their two paths crossed and they found each other. We all love stories like these, but double that giddy feeling when you know them well.
Paulo Coelho wrote, “So, I love you because the entire universe conspired to help me find you.” This is what exactly happened to Pio and Minda.
Pio Marinas, a lawyer by profession, hails from Natividad, Pangasinan. After finishing his law degree from Manuel L. Quezon University and passing the bar exams, he worked in an insurance company in Manila. His uncle, then the mayor of Tantangan, encouraged him to move to Mindanao. He thought it was a good idea.
When a position in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) opened up, he took the opportunity and got assigned in its satellite office covering Tantangan town and Koronadal City. Imagine the ship sailing and you are on to your journey courtesy of (to borrow from a popular local movie) this thing called tadhana (fate)?
Luzminda Cueva’s family moved to Tantangan in the late 50s where she finished a 2-year Elementary Teaching Course and was offered a job in a private Catholic school in Koronadal. She took the job to complete a bachelor’s degree in Education from the Notre Dame of Marbel College (now a university).
She was 25 and he was 27. She is third in the family of five and he is the youngest in the family of nine.
“I like her eyes. They’re beautiful”, Pio said of their first meeting. He added with a laugh, “Look at her. Even when we are old, it is still the same.” It was love at first sight for him. But she was not easily taken. Minda thought he was a palikero (ladies’ man) coming from Manila.
She even knew that he has eyes for other women in town. “I was skeptical”, she added with a laugh. Her parents also warned her to be wary of him. The lovers’ date weekends were often at Capitol Restaurant, then the most popular place in Koronadal, eating pancit canton.
Mayor Torres eventually stepped in and urged Pio to pursue Minda seriously. Upping the ante of his efforts, everyone got won over, including Minda’s parents. The courtship took eight months. Only then did she realise he was so different.
She recalled with a smile, “He sent me love letters everyday for the entire period he was wooing me.” No day was missed.
The carefully preserved love letters survived 50 years. Very much like their relationship that turned gold.
Handwritten, the letters expressed Pio’s passion and love for her. They were delivered to their house by a boy every 3:00 pm, rain or shine. The letters we lovingly kept for 50 years and still in good condition! Just like the love they have for each other. Pio also visited daily in the afternoons after work, prompting her parents to be slightly annoyed.
But Minda got impressed. Who can do such things with commitment and persistence? “He was there when we needed something done. He even helped us pump our Petromax at night”, she said. Without electricity, most of the houses in the 60s were lighted up with gas-fueled Petromax lamp.
Small efforts win big, remember that. In life and in winning the heart of your somebody special, it still works. Take it from Pio.
On 16 September 1967, the two got married in a simple ceremony attended by families and close friends. After the marriage, Pio became a revelation to Minda. “For one who grew up in the big city, he was unexpectedly hardworking and dedicated. He would clean the house when he got home early and would even prepare his own clothes, to lessen my burden”, she shared.
The courtship lasted for eight months. Quite a record in the conservative 60s. Their uncle, Mayor Torres, said why would they wait if they love each other.
He even took care of her family, especially her mother. “One time my father kept forgetting using his medicine for his allergy. Pio promptly took over and made sure he did not miss it three times a day. He also supported me in helping my siblings”, Minda shared. Those small acts built their relationship’s strong foundation.
Used to a frugal life, Minda budgeted their income carefully. “I grew up from a poor but hardworking family so every centavo counts. I took care of our income well. With our savings, I started investing in mortgaged lands and together, we started to learn about farming. Pio would be sunburned biking to our farms everyday and he never minded”, she continued.
At one point, they were able to acquire 20 hectares of rice farms mortgaged to them. “I realised I never had any issue with him. It was a very easy relationship. We understood each other and thrived on the journey as husband and wife. There was balance and we supported each other’s plans.”
She added, “I cannot remember us fighting that much. Pio would always be the patient one to wait until I calm down. We always settled our differences right away.” Some girls have all the luck.
Pio said in reflection, “This once more proves that a woman can make or unmake a man. We were having good income but she knows how to take care and make it grow. She is very responsible. We did really well financially because she knows how to manage what we have.”
They bought their very first car, a Volkswagen Brazilia, with their hard-earned income. Minda found it funny now that she was too shy to ride the car. It was among the few ones in town. After three years, they started seeking medical advise to start having children. Lillian came first on 1970 followed by Marlowe on 1972.
From left: Marlowe, Minda and Pio, Lillian and Charlene. “We are blessed. We cannot ask for more. God is so good.”
Five years later Charlene was born. With all of the children leading successful family lives and career, both Pio and Minda claim this as the highest point in their marriage. Lillian, married to Rhodel who is an Anesthesiologist, is a successful businesswoman taking the reigns of the investments they acquired through the years. Marlowe, married to Kaye, is a Primary Care and Geriatrics Practitioner in the US and Charlene is a bank executive based in the United Kingdom.
Sharing a laugh with grandson Boris.
“We were often overwhelmed how God just made things fall into place in our life – from the very start how we met to how we started our life together in Tantangan until we moved in Koronadal City when he became the general manager of South Cotabato 1 Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco-1). God has impeccable timing in our lives”, Pio added.
So, a perfect marriage is possible. They both quipped they had their challenges, too, but they were both mature to face them, “There were a lot of ups and downs just like any other couple. But we have more petty arguments now that we are older than when we were younger. Maybe because we have time for each other’s differences. But nothing really serious. We always laugh at the incidents. They were actually silly lovers’ quarrels.”
Their most heart-wrenching challenge was when Pio underwent a heart by-pass surgery in 2010. People who loved, from different parts of the world, them joined them in prayers for his speedy recovery. He did. “I appreciated more that Lillian and her family never left the country and lived close by. God really plans well and took care of us”, he said.
On 2017, the couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in Koronadal City attended by family and friends. “I never even imagined we would come this far. We even celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary when my mother was still alive. That alone was an unforgettable blessing”, she added.
Do they still have a dream for themselves? “We’re more than fulfilled, we cannot ask for more. God gave us beyond what we prayed for.”
Yes, marriage made in heaven still exists. It may not be for everyone, but ‘forever’ and everlasting love do exist.
The brood has grown through the years with four grandchildren.
The nuggets of wisdom they learned from their journey together:
Marrying the right person is fate. You just find each other. When you find that person, treasure him or her as a blessing in your life.
Marry only for love. Never get married if you do not love the person. If you love him or her, the rest of the journey will be easy. The challenges will be bearable because you share it together.
Never hurt a woman. If you hurt the woman you love, you also suffer. Men might not accept it but if they look into themselves inwardly, the pain is deeper.
Expect marriage as hard work shared together. Even small chores at home that are shared becomes precious memories. They strengthen the bond.
Be thankful. Having a beautiful marriage and a wonderful family are a privilege given by God. Material things are just secondary.
This part of their their vow to each other during their 25th wedding anniversary still rings true until their golden years, “May you remember today the promise we made, to be faithful to each other regardless of our age.”
The Marinas family during their 50th wedding anniversary. They have four grandchildren, two boys from Lillian and two boys from Marlowe.
As the former general manager of Socoteco-1, all its staff became part of the family.
Knowing that the challenge will be an arduous one, Vernie and Lino prepared themselves to work as partners. The trip required 100kms per day for 23 days. At that time she was 58yo and Lino was 59yo. Just like life, through coordination, physical preparedness and training prior to the trip made the goal possible.
Guest Blogger: Vernie Chiu Basilio
Our married life got richly defined by our Tandem Bike Challenge for 23 days. It changed the way we viewed our marriage and our faith in God. From April 18 to May 10 , 2015, Lino and I embarked on achieving the goal.
Very much like the day we pledged for a life together 33 years ago, we decided on this long tandem bike ride with faith on God’s great providence and the goodness of the people who supported and cheered on us. It also put to test our support for each other.
We kept our preparations simple. The Couple Tandem Bike is for a cause and the finances used for the journey should be just enough for our day to day expenses. Even the tandem bicycle we used was not expensive. It is a surplus singled speed tandem bike with old-fashioned brakes, the back-pedal system.
Physically, we were not in a superb condition. Each day we rode for about 100 kilometers, a feat that is impossible without God’s grace. As a woman, I was psychologically anxious most of the time because the road was new to us. But I overcame this by soaking at the scenery and the reaction of most people seeing us bike together. I found it funny most of the time.
Not a geek, I learned to use my pocket wifi and phone installed with Strava app to record our trip and our performance. You can never be too old to learn new things.
As we cycled from Aparri to Koronadal, almost the opposite ends of the country, we faced very difficult challenges but we found comfort and happiness in seeing how beautiful the Philippines is and how kind Filipinos are on our way. For the most part of the ride, the panoramas are breathtaking, the sceneries are idyllic and most the people on the way are welcoming.
Our Couple Tandem Bike 2015 was partly dedicated to the St. Anthony Parish & St. Lawrence Kalinga Orphanage both located in Koronadal City. It was reassuring to see all of the children playing in the streets all over the Philippines. As we passed through populated areas, among our fans and admirers were the children.
Vernie says she wants to inspire other women, as well as couples, that if she can do the adventure at her age, then also can! Biking promotes good health and positive outlook towards life.
They would immediately notice us and always cheered for us even if we were strangers. It served as a great inspiration that every time we passed children we could also share with them the joy that we felt. They would often call the attention of their friends and share the discovery of us riding a tandem bike.
Now we understand why Jesus declared that God’s Kingdom belongs only to those who are like little children. They alone have the capacity to see the important things in life. What is important is invisible to the eyes and only the heart could see.
On our stopovers after a day’s ride, we were always welcomed by people we didn’t even know. During the entire course of the 2,287 km journey from Aparri to Koronadal, we never felt that we were strangers in their hometowns. In some places we had friends waiting for us but more than 95% of the well-wishers were people we didn’t know.
Others expressed their support and concern through messages or calling us while some have shown their support by donating to the cause.
Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Single life may be similar to riding a bicycle but married life is like riding a tandem bicycle designed for two people so that they can take a ride together. To keep the balance, both need to keep moving.
There were also simple truths we learned along the way. If one of us falters, then the travel to our destination becomes harder. Any difficulty affects both of us as the other rider needs to pedal harder and stabilise the bicycle until the other one is able to recover. This teamwork of give and take is one of the secrets of a successful marriage life.
The ride also taught us to take everything one day at a time. We would plan only for the route of the next day and mostly on the potential challenges we might encounter. While most highways are easy, some can be tough.
Vernie and Lino: Perfect combination. This couple proved once more that marriage, just like life, is like a bicycle. You keep pedalling to go through the ups and downs and enjoy whatever comes.
From Sogod to San Ricardo in Southern Leyte, we were met with heavy rains, steep downhill terrain with landslides and some flooding. Our bike skidded so we decided to just walk and push our bike. The opposite happened in Atimonan, Quezon’s bitukang manok (chicken intestine). The terrain was uphill so we did single speed and walked up.
Uphills are the most difficult part because we need to pedal continuously to be able to climb up. In these occasions, the slope was too steep and the road too slippery. We often stop and start pushing the bikes until we could mount them again.
Life can be sprinkled with obstacles along the way. We can step down and push forward.
We learned that sometimes life isn’t lived in a straight line. We need to make decisions on which route to take and sometimes need to go through unnecessary paths because there is no other way to go.
I have to admit that going downhill is fun and easy. I wish we can live our lives this way. Unfortunately, it is when we push uphill that our muscles get stronger, just like life’s challenges. It makes us capable of climbing new heights.
We celebrated our return by sharing “Caldo (Soup) for a Cause”, the success of our efforts will be measured by the donations we received. The support for the completion of the construction of St Anthony Parish in Koronadal City is overwhelming. Donations for St. Lawrence Orphanage could continue as it seeks to serve more abandoned and needy children.
The trip also raised Koronadal City, the capital of South Cotabato province, in the hearts of those who do not know where it is in the Philippines. For those who want to donate, you can make your deposits for for the construction of St. Anthony Parish Church at PEC – Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI) Koronadal Account # 1833116599 and for St. Lawrence Kalinga Foundation, Inc. at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Marbel – account no. 1543579978.
Our goal next year? For more couples to join us! Please email me for queries at email@example.com.
With Vernie and Lino are their daughters Love and Faith with son-in-law JP.
Vernie Chiu-Basilio, who turns 60 years old next year, is the President of Easy Pay Finance Corp, and member of the Board of Directors of Marbel Universal Trading, Inc. (MUTI). She is a civil engineer by profession, graduated Cum Laude and a second placer at the Civil Engineering Board Exams. Vernie is also a licensed nurse, a junior geodetic engineer, a licensed real estate broker and appraiser. An active advocate in the community, she is an officer of the Philippine Breast Care Foundation, South Cotabato Chapter, a supportive Rotary Ann of RC Koronadal Central and a graduate of HAGGAI International. An adventure-seeker, Vernie has tried skydiving in Hawaii, paragliding in Indonesia and General Santos City, bunjeejumping in Macau Tower, scuba diving in Palawan and locally, she actively participates in marathons and duathlons.
My dad was born during the most difficult years in China including the Second World War.
Guest Blogger: Echo Chow
I was the only one in the family who dared to pose dad “silly” questions. And he was delighted to get an audience who’s willing to listen to his repeated accounts.
Like many people in his generation, my dad Chow Loi Yum was born on 1924 in Jie Yang City of Guangdong Province in China. It was at a time where everyone had to struggle for survival. Whenever I showed him stories about famine and civil wars in Africa, he didn’t express much shock and sympathy like my friends normally did.
Instead, he cited me loads of examples in his old days, such as “You couldn’t even find tree bark to fill your stomach”, or how they lived in deep fear because of the brutal killings and bombings by the Japanese army during the Second World War, etc.
He managed the delivery of most of his children. Where did he learn the skill? He used to work in the piggery of a wealthy family where he helped deliver piglets.
Isn’t wisdom found among the aged?
Although dad attended school for only nine months, his knowledge was far beyond my understanding. All of my siblings, except my oldest sister and I, were delivered by dad with his own hands. “I used to work for a wealthy family. I fed pigs and delivered piglets. Piglets and human babies are similar. The skill is just the same,” dad said.
“Your brother didn’t cry when he was born. So I spanked him,” dad said explaining it’s kind of life-saving techniques he learnt from the village elders before he got married.
The traditional wisdom is that if the newborn doesn’t cry, it’s probable his or her throat is stuck with something else. If it’s not handled properly and immediately, the baby will suffocate and die shortly.
This sounds scientific. But traditional belief sometimes also has its superstitious side. It was said that in order to bring blessings to offsprings, parents have to bury the placenta of the newborn under a tree.
Dad was unfortunately detained by a policeman who mistook him a murderer for he was holding a bag tainted with blood. Dad was released only after the police confirmed mom just gave birth to a baby delivered at home.
We couldn’t help laughing when hearing such memoirs. But these happy moments were rare. Dad’s life was full of bitterness. He lost his parents at the age of 15, and was then adopted by a widow. He married my mom Lee Sin Ching through an arranged marriage. As life was too difficult, he came to Hong Kong alone to earn a living to feed the family.
Several years later, mom also came and 8 of their 9 children, including me the youngest, were born and settled here.
For when he is weak, then…
As father, dad was the very strict and stubborn type who got irritated easily. Working restlessly as a coolie to make ends meet, dad was too tired to talk to his children, not to mention arranging family outings. “Freedom” was almost non-exist as dad had a very strong sense to protect (or over-protect) his children, especially daughters.
Though a traditional Chiuchow family values boys more than girls, on the matter of religion, dad was equal. I recalled how he scolded my brother who went to church, “Ask your Heavenly Father to give you food and pay you school fees! Don’t ask me for money!”
It was understandable because the people of dad’s generation had been told (or probably brainwashed) that all missionaries came with a political purpose to colonize China. He was such a hardline opponent of Christianity that I never imagined this iron man will eventually confess to Jesus Christ.
I think dad’s heart was softened when he realized that his physical and mental conditions deteriorated drastically as he aged. His stance on Christianity was not as hard as before. Evidence was his responses toward the same question he asked me in three occasions.
Echo with her Dad. The youngest of 9 siblings, she learned a lot from her father’s conventional wisdom.
Like Peter, I was questioned three times
On the Christmas Eve of 2008, I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable when dad worshipped our ancestors with idol rituals. “Dad, don’t burn incense stick anymore. It’s harmful to your eyes,” I used such an excuse hoping not to offend him. “Are you believing in Jesus Christ?” Dad suddenly asked. “No, not yet,” I stuttered but felt uneasy at heart. And this was the night I made my confession to Jesus (see “A journey of faith: the day I met my best guide in Jerusalem”).
The dilemma is that, Christians also respect our ancestors, but we’d remember them with prayers but not the idol rituals that local customs perform. But it’s not easy to persuade the elderly at this point.
A few months later, dad raised the same question again when I was watching a Christian TV program. I admitted. He didn’t say a word.
The third time occurred when I was hiding in my room fearing that dad would ask me to worship mom on her death anniversary day. Again, dad kept silent for a while when I said yes. “Jesus doesn’t like his followers to worship ancestors. Let me do this on behalf of you.”
What?! I couldn’t believe my ears but it did come from dad’s mouth. It’s certainly a miracle! I did nothing and the most difficult part was fixed! Total relief.
I was luckier than the Apostle Peter who denied Jesus three times in an era of religious persecutions. I was given 3 chances to confirm my belief in a comparatively freer environment. Witnessing dad’s attitude change but not knowing what to do then, however, I truly believe there’s an invisible hand guiding me and others to open dad’s heart steps by steps.
Actually I couldn’t recall starting from when, I felt like I should hug and chat with dad more. “You seem to love and care for your parent more after becoming a Christian,” dad told me one day. I was not aware of this at that time, but when looking back from now, I think it’s God who taught me how to love, and passed His love to dad through me.
She never imagined that one day her father would embrace Christianity.
Coincidence or plan?
One day, I asked dad if he wanted to go to church presuming that he would reject. “Yes, but I want a church who preaches in Chiuchow dialect.” To my surprise, dad gave me a specific answer. But I had no idea where to find such a church.
Some weeks later, I accidentally discovered an invitation poster on the notice board of the building I lived in. I didn’t even know the church which fulfilled dad’s requirement had been set up for over 20 years, and it located just in the opposite road of my home! But then the challenge came – dad always fell asleep during the Sunday service. Did he hear anything? What could I do?
Strangers or angels?
Fortunately a stranger I met on the street by chance had offered great help. He was the pastor of the church mentioned. He spoke dad’s dialect, and served the elderly. He told me he would visit dad soon. I only realized later that he not only visited dad but also gave dad one-to-one teachings every week. In one afternoon of 2013, he sent me a whatsapp message saying that dad had accepted Jesus Christ as savior.
Dad was baptized at the age of 89. He died one year later.
I am sure the last few years were dad’s happiest time in life. Apart from using me as a passage to convey love to dad, God also used dad to help me understand the heart of a father. I used to think that God is too great and too abstract. I couldn’t use human language to praise a perfect God. But when one day I thanked dad for what he has done for the family, his sparkling eyes and sweet smiles reminded me this would be the exact response from our Heavenly Father when we praise Him with our genuine heart.
God is eternal but our earthly father isn’t. So I lived every moment like the last moment with dad. I intentionally conducted video interviews and took farewell photos for him, for I wanted to capture the very happy moments in my very last memory about him. I had offered dad the best of my everything when he was alive. I have no regrets in the rest of my life. Still, I miss him a lot but I am sure he’s in good hands.
We will meet again when the time comes.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” (Acts 16:31)
A family that prays together, stays together.
Echo is a graduate of Intercultural Studies and Public History and is now a communicator in an organization based in Hong Kong pursuing poverty alleviation. She loves traveling but often gets lost even in her own hometown. She is a curious life adventurer keen on learning new things and meeting people.
The small banca glides effortlessly in the island’s dockyard. It’s a marvelous feeling to have the island by yourself. No jostling crowd and noise.
Going to Lamanok? Prepare yourself for a trip back on ancient history. The mystical island is said to be Bohol’s “cradle of civilisation”.
It is located in Badiang, one of the 16 barangays (or villages) of Anda municipality in Bohol province. One can take a 30-minute pedicab ride from Anda town to Badiang. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the lush green environment and cool breeze from the ocean.
After the registration, we went few steps down and crossed a bamboo bridge to get to the hut where our small banca was waiting. We have heard of the mysterious stories in the island so we decided to be obedient and avoid getting into trouble.
A Filipino balikbayan was said to have visited and took a small twig from a tree without the guide knowing. He went back to the US and felt pain in his stomach. After several trips to the doctor, it was never diagnosed. They were told that nothing was wrong with him.
Helpless, he went back to Badiang and consulted a babaylan (traditional healer) who told him the twig he took could be a body part and he got cursed taking it away. We were warned: “Whatever you see in this island isn’t what you think. So be careful”.
Would you dare?
When visiting a local spot, it is best to respect local traditions and follow the rules. Better safe than sorry.
The walk in this bamboo bridge is a nice, refreshing experience.
The island’s mysterious stories makes it all the more inviting. It is an adventure to the unknown.
As Fortunato “Forting” Simbajon, 61 years old, steered the boat towards the island, he started telling us about his life and what his dreams are for the island. He had been the island’s caretaker for 14 years along with the members of Badiang Fishermen’s Association that also manages the tour activities.
Several organisations supported them in conservation work, including tour management. He said, “I did not finish high school. When they asked me to join the training for tour guides, I told them they better get those who have gone to school and can speak English. How can I explain all these spots in the island properly for tourists to understand me?”
But having seen his skills, the group insisted and eventually got recognised as one of the best tour guides in Bohol. He also learned English in the process. “When I went through the test, the trainer said I was ‘amazing’. I have to run to a teacher and ask in local dialect what that means”, he shared laughing.
You can never be too old to learn anything and be good at it. If you badly want something to happen in your life, you can do it.
61-year old Fortunato Simbahon has been taking care of the island and sharing its stories for 14 years.
He knows his craft by heart. Manong Forting proudly shares the island’s treasures.
Expertly, Manong Forting guides you through the island, identifying all the important sites, from the red limestones to centuries-old scripts written by ancestors and the different caves with strange rock formations.
He tried to convince us to get inside the cave where the babaylans burn their offerings but we were not too brave to step in. It looked dark and musty. Outside of the cave, one can still see traces of the burnt animal bones.
One cave was said to have housed a woman unfortunately accused as an aswang (witch) by villagers years back. She died in the cave where her bones were recovered by relatives after several years of search.
Her story has become a scary legend in the area but Manong Forting believes she was unjustly labeled as a witch and she hid away from the world’s cruelty.
Those who possess a “third-eye” should be careful. A woman who was said to have one allegedly saw a hand waving for her to come inside the cave. Troubled, she told the guide who advised her to politely ignore what she saw.
Have you been unfairly accused? Sometimes stories we do not verify as true spreads and destroys lives. Be careful sharing what you heard from others.
These pre-historic limestones offer us a glimpse of our ancestors lives and traditions.
The cave where the babaylans and shammans do their offerings.
What I love the most are dangling limestones and pre-historic graffiti. It reminds us how far we have gone and the lives of our ancestors of long ago. They are living proof that centuries ago, people lived way ahead of us.
The secluded white-sand beaches were very inviting. If you have time, you can take the swim and enjoy the cool waters and the view. A cool thatched-roof hut was also constructed in the island and visitors can request for food and spend time. But leftovers and trash are strictly prohibited.
Manong Forting’s hope is that the island will be preserved as it is for future generations to enjoy and learn from. For years, he was aware of many bounty hunters who tried prying into fortunes said to be buried in the island, even the famed ‘Yamashita treasures’.
Lamanok was historically said to have witnessed early ancestors battle against the entry of foreign invaders (probably the Spaniards) converting people to Christianity led by local warrior Kabel. Kabel was able to forestall the invasion for years until a much stronger force with ‘mysterious fighting gift’ defeated him.
Manong Forting believes Kabel and Dagohoy are one and the same person. Dagohoy led the longest rebellion against the Spanish colonial government from Bohol island.
Ang hindi lumilingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan (If you do not look back from where you came from, you can never reach wherever you want to go to).
The Badiang Fishermen’s Association takes care of the island and has also battled undue interests that endanger ecology and natural treasures.
The bamboo bridge and the hut where guests are picked up going to the island. A beautiful show of the Boholanos’ ingenuity.
Looking back at our past teaches us to be grateful what our ancestors (our grandparents or parents) did so we can enjoy what we have now. Our history draws us back where we came from. Often, we learn to understand ourselves and our family by our past.
When you visit Lamanok, enjoy the sights but most of all, learn from what the island stood for.
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The island is best visited with friends. We enjoyed the trek as well as burning calories for at least 2 hours.
A friendly reminder from the association. Most of these you can observe when visiting tour spots.
Atox’s first time trip to the lovely city of Bacolod has become a very memorable one.
Guest blogger: Arthur “Atox” Condes
This one will go to the pages of horror stories just in time for the All Saint’s Day.
Or maybe the script for a short horror flick.
September 29, 2017
It was my first time to be in Bacolod City in the Philippines. Known for its annually-held Masskara Festival, this beautiful city is located in the northwestern coast of Negros island.
Though I have spent many years in the neighbouring city of Iloilo, I have never taken any chance to visit the lovely, bustling Queen City of the South. I have heard stories about its glory and fame: with many sites and sights to behold, delicacies to enjoy and relish, experiences to enjoy. All too difficult to resist.
I woke up earlier than usual, around 3:00 am, although I was scheduled to leave at around 5:30 am for the airport. While waiting for the pick-up vehicle, I struggled hard to keep myself awake. It was a raining and for someone who slept late, the coolness of the dawn and the sound of the pouring rain was lulling me back to sleep, tempting me to stay in bed longer.
It was still raining when we left for the airport. That morning, the traffic was already slow but the good thing was that we were moving. We made it to the airport. Everything went well.
Though I have started to give up on my daily caffeine intake, I had no choice that time but to take a few sips of that sweet-smelling potion, once again, just to stay awake.
The trip from Manila was smooth, all the way to Silay City, where the airport is. A rainy afternoon welcomed me to Bacolod City. Not bad for my first visit.
The vast fields of green are refreshing to the eyes, especially my tired, sleepy eyes. The activities that afternoon went like a breeze. And then it was time for us to be brought to our hotel.
I settled in my room immediately, tired as I was. The room was quite large, with high ceiling, wide hallways and some dimly-lit corners.
Apart from the famous Masskara Festival held annually on October, Bacolod City is also known for its delicious food and friendly people. (Note: photo is screen grabbed online)
The whole place was bustling with people and activities, as the whole City of Smiles was preparing for the famed Masskara Festival. The hotel was right in the downtown area and I know that it will see some action during the festivities. In one of its corners, on the second floor, a mannequin that was dressed up in a colorful carnival-inspired attire stares blankly at the hotel guests as they pass, with its fixed wide-mouth grin. It reminded me of the clown in the movie “IT”.
The hotel is not so new but still decent, and had some surprises for me that night.
I shared the room with the driver from the host office. He was out most of the time and it was I who had this ‘different experience’.
While doing some editing work on my mobile phone, I decided to sit on bed, with my back on the headboard. I was so absorbed with the thing I was doing and I never thought of anything extraordinary that will happen.
I could hear some noise next door. “Maybe the guests were just rearranging the furniture”, I thought. It sounded like they dragged some chairs on the floor. Unusual because it was quite late at night.
Having stayed in various hotels during my other travels both here and abroad, I am quite well-aware of the unusual ‘first-night-of-stay’ feeling that would keep most people awake or on the edge.
Not for me. I get at ease quite easily even in a new place. More than 30 minutes had passed and I still sat on the bed working.
Then I felt the bed shake! It lasted for a few seconds. I thought it was because I moved to reposition my back on the wall. It can’t be an earthquake.
This time, I tried to keep still to observe. The bed shook like someone was rocking it! Still, I didn’t mind it and kept working on my mobile phone. When I was done sending mails, I washed up and got myself ready to sleep.
Nothing unusual happened aside from that bed-shaking incident — and the occasional noise next door.
As I drifted off to sleep, I began to hear that dragging-on-the floor-noise again. It never stopped! It sounded like the whole crew of housekeepers were setting up a venue for a party and they couldn’t lift the chairs or tables so they just dragged them!
I tried to ignore the dragging sounds until eventually I was off to dreamland. Still, I could hear some noise next door. I heard the door open as my roommate came in.
I remembered waking up, it was well into the witching hours. Nothing strange but the sounds of furniture dragging was still there.
I was beginning to think that it was not normal. “How could these people be so sloppy in their jobs? What is taking them too long to finish their work, to the point of disturbing hotel guests?”
Many other questions are racing through my mind. “I must talk to the front desk staff. I need to know who could be staying next door.” It was part of my ‘to-do” list for the next day.
The next day came, like any other day. I got up before 6:00 AM. Got ready for breakfast. On my way out of the room, I met a hotel personnel in the hallway. He delivered something to the guests in another room. I asked him if room 323 was occupied. We were in 324.
“Indi ko sure, sir ba. Pero mamangkot ta sa front desk. Ngaa tani, sir haw?” (I am not sure, sir. But we can ask the front desk. Why do you want to know, sir?)
I told him about the noise which lasted the whole night. The sound of the chairs or tables being dragged on the floor. He smiled. A dry, uncomfortable smile. He tried to laugh but it was a nervous one.
I was beginning to have that weird feeling. Goosebumps! It started to creep from my hands all the way up to the few remaining strands of hair on my head!
As I felt light –headed, he said: “Ah. Nagpabatyag gali sa into, sir?” (Ah, so IT made you feel its presence, sir?”). I was with the driver and the other hotel guest and we were all dumbfounded, stumped. I was trying to rub the hair in my arms to keep them from standing.
The big reveal was quite potent, more than the morning mug of coffee that I always have.
The place has been known to have these unseen forces and staff either took it as funny or scary. Would you dare?
September 30, Saturday
The “experience” that previous night, which I now consider to be paranormal, did not end there. That morning, at the buffet table, I shared my tale with the other hotel staff.
“Well, we heard a lot of stories from the other hotel personnel”, one of them said. She went on, “Some staff dealt with guests who walked out of their room after having that nightmarish experience of hearing things falling with no one around, also the usual sound of furniture being moved and dragged on the floor.”
“You know, there were guests who opted to sleep at the lounge chairs at the front desk lobby just to be sure they are safe from the ‘annoying entity’ in their room,” one of the waitresses recounted.
A room boy shared that it gives him creeps when he passes through the cavernous hallway. “I don’t really believe the stories that much but when you are there walking alone, bringing food or anything to the guests during the unholy hours in the morning, you would really feel like somebody’s watching you or someone’s behind you! I try to run away, if possible.”
Another hotel staff revealed that other guests heard someone cleaning up the hallway, only to be shocked to know that there was no one there. The list can go on, I thought, if I ask all the others but what I heard was enough.
After their ‘expose’ or their version of ‘tales from the unknown”, I came to think about the past experiences I had with the unseen world, the different dimension, the spirit’s dwelling, whichever you may call it.
I believe that the spirit world exists. It is something we cannot shrug off, ignore or disregard. Our experiences, whether we believe they exist or not, will eventually lead to one conclusion: that these entities are real.
The book “The Filipino Spirit World” by Rodney L. Henry (1986, OMF Publishers), is an interesting read. I couldn’t agree more when he said, “A “conspiracy of silence” exists regarding certain religious practices of Filipinos.
The Church has ignored a spirit-world belief system held by most of its members. As a result, Filipinos take their unmet spiritual needs to the out-of-church spirit-world practitioners (faith healers, diviners, etc.)”.
Henry, in this book, “expounds the development of folk Christianity in the Philippines, the theological foundation of the spirit-world, including the angelic and the demonic, and the discernment of supernatural powers.”
It will not come as a surprise to know that the Filipino folklore is full of ‘characters’ from the other world: from tamawos or engkantos (fairy folks that can change features), dwendes (elves) and tiyanaks (vampires that imitate the form of a child), kapres (a tree giant often described as black, hairy and muscular), aswangs (monster with traits of a vampire or a ghoul) and others.
Some can be benign, others are vicious or mischievous. While others hide in the shadows, some spirits can make their presence felt in a lot of ways.
Our elders have their stories to tell as well. Maybe, back in those days, the ‘other-wordly’ beings were as real as the page you are reading, the phone you are holding and the chair you sit on.
Well, after having read that book, my understanding of the ‘spirit-world’ concept seem to have fallen into its place, established after the fact. I haven’t had the faintest idea about it at all, yet I already believed they were real.
Some spirits can move in the physical realm. They can move objects, cause them to fall or be destroyed or make them disappear. Such a case can be observed in homes where little things get ‘misplaced’ too often. They can choose to appear to some people or be captured in CCTV, standard or mobile phone cameras, in their various forms.
Still on Saturday, 30th of September
Scary stories aside, Bacolod is a must-visit and one of the good reasons is Mambucal Hot Springs.
After the breakfast exchange, we were off to some other places. An activity-filled Saturday, I felt that it was one of those Saturdays that took longer than usual. We hopped from one place to another, not too far from Bacolod City, high into the mountains and forests and checked some nice places, with endless photo sessions despite the rain.
Towards the evening, all you can think of would be the nice, comfortable hotel bed, after a warm, refreshing shower. It’s an irresistible thing, after a tiring day.
That morning at the hotel, when the room boy confirmed the presence of “something” in that place, I uttered a prayer, in Jesus’s name, that we will not be disturbed by the “entity”. It makes a difference when you declare openly that you believe in a God “who is above all and over all”, both the physical and the spirit world.
True enough, not much was heard about the noise from my next door ‘occupant’ or the hallway that night until the next morning. I still slept late, doing something online but it was a quiet night.
The next day, a Sunday, I was awakened by my roommate’s alarm clock. He set it up quite early and loudly and I think it roused everyone within 10 meters of our room. Nothing unusual, though. I prepared to take a bath and my roommate left to prepare the vehicle because he will bring us to the airport that morning.
Halfway through my shower, I heard the alarm sounding off again. “He must have left the phone and he didn’t turn off the alarm!”, I muttered to myself. I had to turn the shower off to hear the sound. It was ringing alright, it must be in his bag.
Then I finished my business and get dressed to have breakfast.
I met my roommate at the buffet hall and I asked if he left his phone in the room. He said no. “I got it here.” I was a bit shocked. So, what was that noise from a cellphone alarm that sounded like his?
I shook the thought off that someone was still playing tricks on us during that last few hours of stay. It was not that scary, no goose bumps this time, because I understand what is happening.
We left Bacolod early for our 10 AM flight back to Manila. We all bid farewell to the hotel staff but I extended my hello, on the other hand, to their ‘resident entity’ or a poltergeist (noisy ghost) who gave us a “different experience.”
Arthur Condes is currently an executive assistant at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the Philippines based in Manila. Aside from writing feature stories, he loves to paint, take photos and reading.
By the time I met her in Siquijor, Lilibeth is already famous.
She was featured in GMA’s Byahe ni Drew, a travel show, in an Asian magazine, countless travel blogs and soon according to her on Kris Aquino’s social media channel. The last time Kris was supposed to come, a brewing storm prevented the trip to the frustration of her fans who crowded at Lilibeth’s bakeshop excited to see her.
My guide and pedicab driver Warren Omalza asked if I want to try a pan bisaya that’s been frequented by many tourists. Quite belatedly. By the time he mentioned, we were already past the bread shop. Good move we were already hungry so we decided to go back.
Every day is a busy day but its touching Lilibeth is generous with her time to curious customers like me.
The bakeshop in Barangay Binoongan (or widely known as Talingting), a part of Enrique Villanueva municipality is modest, nothing unusual from the small shops that dot the roadsides of Siquijor, even the whole country. But it changes when you meet the woman who made it possible.
It is made of bamboo and wood with some wooden tables and chairs thrown in for those who want to sit down and eat snacks or lunch.
The presidential son Baste Duterte sat on same tables with his friends. He promised to go back.
Lilibeth Viernes Alce, 49, has been baking for four years after a local micro-finance Paglaum trained her and provided support for her to start her own small business.
A mother of three (one died a baby), she established the business to send her youngest child to school. Her eldest stopped studying because she is sickly and is happier helping her in the shop.
Today, Lilibeth’s bakeshop consumes two sacks of flour for the rising demand which is even higher on holidays, during town fiestas and at summertime. Customers would often buy in dozens for pasalubong to families and friends.
I ate her freshly baked salvaro, cheese bread and bucayo torta and was blown away. Soft, delicious and tasted just like how your grandma can do it at home. There are more mouth-watering choices: ensaymada, tinalay, pan de leche and mongo bread.
As we talked, Lilibeth was preparing mounds of newly-prepared doughs ready to be baked inside her makeshift oven made of stone. It looked like a busy day as more bread are taken out and put in the display shelves.
“It is best eaten hot coming straight from the oven”, Lilibeth quips with a smile.
Baking is a passion. Lilibeth’s joy can be tasted in the bread she bakes with her family.
It was not very hard to figure out why her bakeshop is a hit. Lilibeth’s passion and love for what she does can be tasted in every bread she bakes. Her eyes light up as she talks about baking, the appreciation of her customers and the attention her bakeshop was getting.
She dreams of making the business bigger and build a house for her family. Lilibeth says, “Our house had been there even before I was born so it must be over 50 years old. My mother is also sick and I want to make sure she is provided with the medicines she need.”
Tourists and local visitors are fast helping her make this happen, even her own fellow islanders who advise tourists not to miss the bake shop. Everyone loves someone who wins over poverty. One social media post got shared and the rest is history.
Simple and unpretentious, this bakeshop symbolized the hardworking spirit of the islanders like Lilibeth.
I am proud to have met and talked to Lilibeth. She is a shining example to all women that hardwork pays and nothing is impossible if you aim high for it.
Victor Neal “Loloy” Palarca won as 2015 Best Presenter and Best Learning Site for his farm at the Mindanao Zonal Assessment of Learning Sites on Organic Agriculture by ATI Central Office.
By Vic Thor Palarca
Defying most conventional beliefs on agriculture and challenging traditional farming system, he dared to demonstrate that growing food and eating them fresh in one’s backyard can be done—regardless of location and circumstances.
Testing the Waters
Tagcatong, Carmen, Agusan del Norte – A businessman almost all of his life, Victor Neal Palarca, or “Loloy” as he is fondly called, envisioned being healthy and disease-free. When he ventured into farming, little did he know that his lifestyle and attitude towards mindful consumption of anything organic will change him and his family for the better.
Recalling his childhood days, Loloy says, “I remember the basics of gardening because in my elementary years, gardening has been a constant activity back then, next to going to school and playing. It makes sense to me now that I realized it was an integral part of my daily routine”.
At first, his challenge was not his hometown’s bleak agricultural scenario but the prevailing frame of mind among residents that their soil is highly acidic and is not suitable for farming. Most seasoned farmers ahead of his time have been steeped in traditional farming system using harmful chemicals like pesticides and insecticides.
Will he be able to convince his own neighbours and his community in general that going organic is the way to go? After all, his savvy entrepreneurial skills leave less to be desired now that he has stepped in to a venture which is relatively new to him.
His farm is now a Learning Site of ATI in the CARAGA Region in the Philippines. It is composed of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur provinces.
Loloy’s integrated and diversified organic farm right in his own backyard silenced skeptics and cynics alike because of the farming technology he has learned in his involvement with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) via the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture (OA) Program. As a training participant, he made sure that the principles and knowledge he has learned is put to practice. Testing those principles is highly imperative because he believes that what works for other farmers might not work for him.
One of the immediate steps he did to avert the soil problem was to apply Bio-Char, a pulverized charcoal which serves as an agent to neutralize the acidity of the soil. The application of carbonized rice hull and bokashi also greatly improved the condition of his soil since it functioned as soil conditioner to amend mineral deficiency.
He also put up a water pump in the middle of his demo farm to keep his leafy greens hydrated and for the convenience of watering his plots of vegetables and rows of root crops.
Meanwhile, aside from the trainings he gets to attend, he reads online materials and research findings to further enhance his knowledge on organic farming with US Department of Agriculture and Philippne Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCAARRD-DOST) as his frequently visited websites.
It was only in 2011 when Loloy started his organic farming operations since his demo farm was originally planned as a leisure farm on an experimental basis. He now produces vegetables and root crops such as carrots, squash, bitter gourd, cucumber, tomato, eggplant, okra, lettuce, malabar spinach, ginger, string beans, bell pepper and sweet potatoes.
He has a fully utilized 500 square-meters of sustainable integrated organic farm which is now also a sprawling breeding ground for his 60 native chickens, 10 organic-fed large whites and three Anglo Nubian goats as part of his livestock entourage. His cooped native chickens are bordered with madre de cacao trees which at the same time serve as forage for his Anglo-Nubian goats. The litter flooring of his piggery consists of rice hull mixed with salt and effective microorganisms (EM) to combat foul odor.
Acquiring a 3,000 square meter land for expansion, he plans to expand his demo farm by having a fruit orchard.
Loloy is about to forge a partnership with FeedPro, one of the leading commercial feeds in Mindanao which boasts of its natural feed ingredients for their “Baboyang Walang Amoy” campaign project. Perhaps, his efforts to make hog raisers adapt his prescribed technology for an odor-free community paid off.
A Social Message
He is working hard for the farm to become a full-pledge Agri-Tourism site in the Philippines.
Loloy’s drive and resolve to eat nothing but the best has rubbed off on to his family since his wife and kids (and a handful of nieces and nephews) help him tend and manage his garden. The value of organic farming have now secured a spotlight among his circle of farmer friends since he serves as Vice-President to the organized Tagcatong Diversified Organic Farmers (TADOFA) with 23 active members.
As part also of his civic responsibility, he shares his knowledge and expertise to anyone interested in OA through techno-transfers and on site lectures in his demo farm since Loloy happens to be a member of the Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC).
He makes himself visible by regularly attending trade fairs and agri-business events nationwide as well as the Regional Organizational Meeting of Organic Farmers as organized by Department of Agriculture – Regional Field Office in Caraga (DA-RFO-XIII). He concurs that through family farming, the members of the family will be encouraged to promote farming as a key solution to food security.
Aside from the health and practical reasons, Loloy advocates OA because of the following reasons: it promotes sustainable use of natural resources; it is economical and cost-efficient; it helps reduce hunger incidence in the countryside and it protects the environment and all the farm produce is safe since it is 100% organic and is pesticide-free.
To date, Loloy markets his season’s harvest at a reasonable price in his community and to an expat who is a regular patron. Although he does not rely on his harvest to financially support his family since he has a thriving garments business, Loloy admits that his organic farming venture is for keeps. “I want to make a bold statement that organic farming is here to stay and that it is neither a fad nor a trend because it sustains our well-being as well as the situation of our environment. For me, that is worth investing in our time and efforts”, he adds.
The Farming Saga Continues
Loloy’s humble agricultural venture has grown into a haven for every farmer in the country.
So far, Loloy has already attended several workshops and training events relevant to his organic farming venture which was made possible by ATI’s intervention and support.
The technologies he apply on his demo farm were the very technologies he got from his trainings complemented by his research of the latest breakthroughs in organic farming on the internet.
“I was motivated to show and convince my farmer colleagues that farming in your own yard is viable and can be done despite odds and unfavorable conditions”, he enthused. What made the difference were the diverse farming technologies he applied to suit and work well on his farming needs.
Some of his best farming practices include the use of Effective Microorganisms (EM), Indigenous Microorganisms (IMO) for his piggery, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Oriental Herbal Nutrients (OHN), Fermented Plant Juice (FPJ), Fish Amino Acid with molasses as natural plant fertilizer, Inoculants to enhance and condition the soil and seaweeds as wonder plant food.
Meanwhile, Loloy takes pride in his practice of zero-waste farming which helps him and his family in disposing/recycling their waste products. He practices crop rotation and does not follow the traditional farming calendar.
There is no denying that Loloy’s venture to organic farming is a deliberate and decisive approach to support sustainable agriculture as well as promote family farming in his community.
With a new attitude and outlook to growing his food and eating them fresh too, Loloy is confident with the way things turned out and content with the very soil he have grown to cultivate.
“I want to make a bold statement that organic farming is here to stay and that it is neither a fad nor a trend because it sustains our well-being as well as the situation of our environment. For me, that is worth investing in our time and efforts”
Freshly-picked dragon fruits grown from the Palarca farm.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vic Thor A. Palarca is one of the content developers of ATI-Northern Mindanao. As their Media Production Specialist-II, he writes news articles, features, success stories regularly as well as video scripts as part of his annual targets. He is also involved in coming up with Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, corporate newsletter, coffee table book and courseware development.
He is in-charge of the production and publication of BAHANDI, a coffee table book and collection of inspiring stories in farming in Region-X as well as contributed to the conceptualization and publication of e-Extension AGENDA, the official publication of the Agricultural Training Institute for e-Learning. He assists in the conduct of trainings by his peers and sometimes serves as a Resource Person. He was once an information services agent of the defunct Knowledge Products Management Division (now Information Services Division or ISD) and have brushed elbows with the Central Office peeps but decided to pursue the countryside to live the provincial life.
A self-confessed 90’s pop crusader, he is soulmates with Shannen Doherty and Tom Hardy. He is a full-time uncle and a part-time loon. He enjoys cafeteria conversations and deja vu. He is allergic to Mathematics. He ships regularly to the charming island of Camiguin. He can be predictable judging by his habitat and niche namely bookstores, libraries and book nook at home. His brain is pretty much scattered.
Meggie finds her true strength as a woman that cancer cannot beat. She is every woman’s hero for the inspiring courage.
Guest Blogger: Margareth Rose “Meggie” Santos
I always keep in mind that God is enough.
If I have Him, I have all that I need. I don’t want to sound like a preacher but my heart is always filled with joy every time I think how God made miracles in my life.
My 2-year cancer story is among the most spectacular miracles I personally witnessed.
The day I knew I had cancer was not the day I went to see the doctor. I knew I had it years back. Just like the rest of us when we feel something, I always ignored believing it will come to pass. Denial is an easy excuse to face a sordid reality.
The pain would be intermittent. Sooner than I thought, my breast was already deformed and had a discharged.
I kept my condition to myself.
I was worried at the cost of getting sick, and with my family members “depending ” on me, coming out with the truth that I had cancer would like an explosion.
One day I decided I should do it. I stopped smoking and went to see my pastor friend Efren and his wife Winnie.
Smiling and putting up a brave front after my 2nd chemotherapy last October 2015.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to handle the situation. Telling my family and discussing the financial aspect of the treatment were difficult.
I only had a part time job and had very little savings left.We prayed for guidance before they accompanied me to my doctor.
But God always has His ways.
That August weekend, my friends and I planned a trip to Davao. I took it as an opportunity that it would be the right time to tell them my story. But it never happened.
After a 3-hour trip and shopping, I took a shower. That was when my wound bled profusely that I almost consumed a roll of toilet paper. It never stopped.
There was no other way but call for help and told my friends that I needed to be brought to the hospital. It came as a shock to them because nobody knew my lump was already in that advanced stage.
After that frightful evening at Davao Doctors Hospital, everything was never the same again.
We went home to General Santos City the following day. I was brought to specialists and one test came after the other. When all the results were out I knew I was in advanced stage of invasive ductal carcinoma.
Mine was sadly a case of neglect.
My doctor said cancer nowadays doesn’t have to be that damaging as it used to be. As long as your body is receptive to the medicines, you can be treated. That was were I anchored my hopes on.
I am fortunate that my doctor, Dr. Cortez happened to be a very close family friend. It is important that we trust our doctors.
That evening I prayed to God and asked Him for me to get well and for Him to guide me in all of my decisions.
All smiles after finishing my 8th chemo session.
Truly, God’s way is amazing.
The outpouring of support was overwhelming.
Friends near and afar, family members, high school classmates and batch mates from Batch 77 of Notre Dame raised funds for my medication.
My former colleagues from South Cotabato ll Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco 2) and party mates from politics, friends from Rotary, my prayer support group from Singles For Christ and a lot more.
I told myself in jest it pays to be Ms. Friendship. God has blessed me with friends who stood by me.
My first chemotherapy treatment was on September 22, 2015.
I needed six and an additional two more sessions. On March 30, 2016, I have completed eight. Each time I went to the hospital for the session, I would ask God for strength. The prayers helped me complete my medications without any complication.
I had my mastectomy and on July 12, 2016 then my repeat biopsy after. The result was favorable. All of the 10 lymph nodes test were negative.
My cancer stage was downgraded from stage 4 to stage 2b. I still undergo daily treatment and calcium shots every six months to strengthen my bones. These procedures could continue for the rest of my life but I already claim my victory!
My journey battling cancer was easier because my friends, even people I hardly knew, fought with me. We did it together!
I have claimed that the Lord has healed me. Now I am a woman of faith coming out stronger, braver and bolder. I thank the Almighty for blessing me with a family who stood by me all through out my journey. We’re all in these together.
A young friend whose mom didn’t survive cancer gave me this book. It was the first I’ve read while going through the ordeal and got so much inspiration from it.
I am a neophyte warrior, happy and contented with God’s mercy. I have just been blessed with another lifetime. We have an amazing God who heals. Cancer is just a chapter in our life and not the whole story.
Nowhere in my life has this saying became even more meaningful, ”Where there is great love, there can always be miracles”.
I find joy and gladness not only today but in almost everyday of my life because it has been said that contentment only comes when we realise God is all we need.
There are infinite possibilities in life. In my own experience, one can never be a loser because you get something good out of being hurt. You become stronger in spirit and closer to God, Life acquires more meaning.
It is just sad we have to experience pain before we value life and learn to live it to the full.
Meggie is now an active member of the Cancer Society of GenSan sharing her story and inspiring more women to support the fight against breast cancer.
Every woman should do these:
Go to your doctor and do not waste time in denial. I learned this the hard way. This doesn’t have to happen to you.
Prepare yourself for the results. Keep yourself strong. Our lives are tested by the courage we face every challenge.
Leave the treatment and other processes to the the experts: your doctor and God. After all is said and done, let your faith take over.
Do your daily journal. In my case, it gives me a sense of worth. You see your journey very clearly.
Do not be ashamed to ask for prayers. It helps a lot. My friends and acquaintances stood by me and I never felt alone.
Ask God to heal you. He listens.
My family is my source of strength and inspiration
I realized life can be lived simply without racing for time. Cancer made me slow down and be thankful everyday.
Margareth Rose Santos, or fondly called Meggie by friends, now teaches part time at Brokenshire School of Socsargen, Inc. and is based in General Santos City, Philippines. She continues to be an active member of the Rotary Club of Dadiangas and the Cancer Society of GenSan. In her free time, she still takes part in Socoteco-2 activities where she was a former Institutional Development Manager. Meggie was also a former Sangguniang Lunsod member (city councilor) of Gensan.
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” ~ Albert Schweitzer
A cooperative becomes true to its name when it’s run by an inspired and involved team. Koronadal 1-A Director Myrna Clavesillas working with her group.
The Communications Workshop for 25 participants, an interesting mix from different departments of South Cotabato Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco-1) did not disappoint. I made it a point it was not my workshop but theirs. This was often easier said than done, but in this case it was a breeze. Making it great or not, it is in their hands, not mine (well, a big chunk will also be from me, not passing the buck). They did it! The 3-day activity aimed to uncover many opportunities that will make service better for its over 100,000 consumers from 10 municipalities of the province of South Cotabato located in the southern part of the Philippines.
The first day was quite gloomy. Few people came early. An uncertain thought crossed my mind. Will this work? Maybe? As I settled with the materials I bought, I assured myself that in my years of doing a communications workshop, I never went home empty-handed. The house was always brought down. But there could be a first, right?
A frontrunner in the country’s electrification program alongside 120 electric cooperatives in the country, Socoteco-1 has seen many awards roll up its sleeved through the years. How do you keep up with the reputation and service reliability in the social media, and generally the digital communications age? Service includes prompt and effective information sharing with consumers, many of whom are now the milennials – young income-earners who pay the bills.
A leader is often one who is very much part of the team’s work, from the trivial to the most critical, sleeves rolled-up and making decisions. All eyes on Socoteco-1’s new (OIC) General Manager Edsel Epistola (3rd from left) as he takes the coop to new heights in rural electrification.
What have we learned together?
Everyone is genuinely interested to be part of change for the better. Looking at internal communications, it was acknowledged that change has to keep on – and going digital is the future that needs to start soon. While printing documents is still valuable, use of emails and online messaging cuts all the tedious bureaucracy that makes the flow of information slower, and thus, often missing its consumer service targets.
Planning isn’t always boring. There are many ways to do it, and involving as much people means many great and exciting ideas can come out of the table. Of course there should be someone to take the lead and ensure the best ideas get to the chopping board and into the cooking wheel. But having those ideas out is a good – even great – start. As we did this, it was fun and amazing to see how the groups came up with fantastic media plans for major coop events (think annual meetings, district elections, etc.) deemed boring because they’re done every year on same process.
Go for macro and get their minds up and running. While learning activities such as grammar review, how to do an online publications (and so many how-to’s) or specific skills building are critical, making them contribute to the big goals can help them see what are the skills they need to build to make the big one happen. They become part of if and they know where the organisation wants to go. How will you exactly know the parts to fix if you don’t know where you want to be? Decide on the goal and work next on the small ones that will run it.
It’s fun to talk about the issues. Get them out sun-dried on the table! What are they? Before getting that group activity to the participants, I was quite curious how open, daring and courageous they are in sharing the challenges and issues that slow down service, and even their own enthusiasm to do things. They did! This time they did not talk about them in the hallway but also came out with very practical easy-to-do solutions. Audience considered, creative activities and resources (fun, I must add), minimal budget and a lot more. Let’s wait for them to make it happen!
Social media is the way to go. It’s cheap, it’s in and it’s where everyone goes for the latest news. There are risks, yes. But as everyone has realised quite loudly, there’s no way ignoring it. When people need information, they hardly buy a newspaper (sadly) anymore. They open their phones and browse to find it. While a printed newsletter or report is still much valued, how do we get them online so more consumers can read them? Looking forward to the electronic version of Socoteco-1 Today very soon. At least we’d live to see the day it is available online.
Being a service utility means preparedness. To put is clearly, is the coop ready for an emergency? Apparently, resources-wise, they are! A response team is in place and a rough plan and how it will be managed. Does everyone knows about it? Not really. Then this is an opportunity to get this organised while there is time. How do you ensure protection of the coop’s electricity distribution and its services going when there is a disaster? It also has a community responsibility to assist when it can. Reviewing the plan and it’s roll out turned out to be a great time for everyone!
Often, all we need is to sit down and listen to each other’s ideas. That’s what teamwork and serving is all about.
What did I personally learn in the process?
It didn’t take a while to pick up the pieces. Working for 12 years in Socoteco-1 isn’t an easy thing to forget, I wasn’t even trying. It was also my first job in conducting trainings, publishing newsletters (changing it’s name to Socoteco-1 Today) and annual reports, writing its creed (that, fancy, they still use as a pledge until today), running a medical mission in cooperation with South Cotabato Provincial Health Office and more. In short, it became my foundation for the next phase of my career and jumpstarted my love for humanitarian work that took me to different countries. It felt good to be back sharing what I built up after I left 16 years ago. What I learned is that you always have that chance to go back and share. Then and only then can you say you’ve come full circle.
We’re not hanging gloves with this statement. There’s still a lot of work to be done.
“The 3-day workshop was very enriching and fun-filled. It made me realise how important well-planned activities through the use of communications tools and multi-media channels can effectively convey information and influence the stakeholders and public’s behaviour and support. I am happy to be part of this workshop and grateful to have witnessed how talented the Socoteco-1 staff members are! I believe it was able to unleash the potentials. Kudos to Socoteco-1 and thank you Cecil for facilitating the activity.”– Myrna Clavesillas, Director of Koronadal 1-A, Socoteco-1 Board
I should say the future of rural electrification in the country is bright if we make use of these excited and inspired minds to run it! It was more of a pleasure than work – thanks to Socoteco-1 especially to the ISD team led by ISD Manager Shean Roxanne Munar for making it happen!
“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt
Happy to hear comments, feedback or interest. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile at +639399262669. Better yet, follow the blog by ticking the box up or in FB @istoryya. Thanks for the visit and share.
Conscious of it or not, you mother helped set and influence your life’s direction.
Can life be managed just like your team at work? Did it ever occur to you that your mother had somehow influenced you? Pretty much, that’s based on my over 2 decades of experience.
As a manager, I can be a dotting mother and a strict one to beat a looming deadline. Working in global emergencies can often be the same as any work — but in full speed. One needs to be organized ensuring all hands are on deck working.
The schedules are often 24-hours (when you are in Asia or the Middle East and you coordinate with teams in the US or Europe this becomes normal), the conditions life-threatening and deadlines are hairy-thin because you’re working to save lives.
Skill that worked in most conditions? Decisiveness. Discipline. You lead by doing. You’re ready to do the dirty job. You rally your team like a cheerleader, not frustrate them. You are there when they need a decision. You take the risk.
You support what they need and everyone who worked hard gets the credit. You roll up your sleeves when the team is short of manpower. Take a closer look at these. They’re also done by mothers, right?
Some of the skills I learned from my mother I got to use managing teams and working with people from different cultures.
1. Never be ashamed of your name.
Her parents named her from the Roman calendar which memorialised Jesus’s circumcision rites on January 1. Obviously, they did not bother to ask around what it meant. My mom lived through sniggers and sly smiles because of her name. When I wrote her story for an online news, some bashers even sneered and posted insults about her being named such. People can be cruel and heartless. Imagine if my mom lived through this times and opened a Facebook page?
I learned grace and humility from her living with the name. She respected her parents’s choice despite what it brought her. Those who chose to ridicule her just showed what kind of people they are. It’s not the name but how you live your life.
Nothing is extraordinary with my name. But I learned to be sensitive with others who has this same issue with my mother.
She never got conscious (or did not show if she was) of her name. I saw a steely trait that did not easily flinch to challenges, no matter how tough they were. You cannot please or make people like you all the time. Just do the job.
2. Find out the dreams of people you love and work with. Support them.
Despite my mistakes, she never gave up on me. I still clearly remember her, arms on her hips, confronting me head on if I am contended dropping out of school and working in the farm. A small woman so thin you’d think strong winds will carry her away. No sir! She had stood up to so many men bigger than her and won by virtue of her confidence. She said, “Are you contented?”
Not waiting for me to answer, she added, “Finish your studies. Even if you won’t find a job as long as you graduate, that’s fine with us.” I followed the orders and of course I found a job. That simple decision brought unimaginable hardship for my father and mother who worked twice as hard in the farm to send me back to school. I rose to follow my dream because she never allowed me to give up.
Ask them. Talk to them. One way to win hearts (and cooperation) is to know the dreams of people I lead and help them work towards realising them. It is a privilege to be part of it and a sheer pleasure when they get back to you and tell you that they got it because you believed in them.