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.
Kim runs her toughest marathon with the prestigious Milo Marathon. If you can dare it, you can achieve it.
I started running in 2013 just for exercise. My husband Loi played lawn tennis in the nearby court and I went with him when I wanted to. The idea of joining marathons never even occurred to me. I never thought it to be a serious activity much less join competitions.
My curiosity got boosted by my friend Cecil’s Instagram and Facebook feeds while running. On the same year, I joined the Sunday Joggers Club composed of my college friends. One of them encouraged me to take it to the next level by doing road runs and join marathons. At that time, I was afraid to run outside of the sports complex alone. I felt I did not have the guts.
In my mid-40s at that time, I had so many fears. I was even certain that at my age, I won’t be able to reach the finish line.
Running is also teamwork, and the joy of celebrating with your team every accomplishment.Three years later, on July 2016, I finally joined my first 5K fun run. It was just for fun and it was a test to myself if I can do it. Surprisingly, I did and I even placed second in the Female Golden Category.
Tips for beginners before you decide to run the first time: Read and learn more of the correct form, landing of feet, the do’s and don’ts, what outfit and shoes to wear. You also need to check what kind of feet do you have so you can choose the right shoes that would give you the stability and neutrality. Start looking into your diet, what food to eat; even how to properly breathe while running. All of these are just a click in the internet.
As 2016 ended, I decided to join the South Cotabato Joggers and Walkers Club (SCJWC). On January 2017, we started our training in preparation for LUvRun Season for the month of February. Our training usually started at 3:00 -4:00 in the morning with uphill, downhill and flat terrains. We were divided into small groups and I was with the the Knight Joggers.
Running at the all-women marathon in Cebu City gave Kim that affiliation with many aspiring women marathoners.
We trained together and since most of us were working, we agreed on schedule that was convenient for everyone. On May 2017, we officially separated from SCJWC and renamed ourselves as Knights Runner team as most of the members are affiliated with the Knights of Columbus.
Why a team is important when running? Running is also teamwork. You get the support that you need especially when you do out-of-town activity. You plan together and share tips. It is easy to be recognized when you belong to a team. Running can teach you a lot of things about team building and camaraderie. It eventually goes beyond running and before you know it, you are a part of a family.
I started to notice a lot of positive changes with my health. I was physically fit and stress-free. It was a welcome change from my normal routine of office work and household chores. Even if I have to wake-up early for the daily and weekly trainings, I never felt the pressure. I always looked forward to the events we joined in. I slept early, I felt young and happy. When my husband joined the running team on April 2017, I was even happier because we now share the passion.
In such a short period, I piled up running achievements I haven’t thought possible. I realized I should stop underestimating myself and go for it like conquering the uphill climb. Always think higher!
10K Finisher – 40th National Milo Marathon in General Santos City. I ran alone without a team. Loi was my support and assistant. Being one of the most prestigious in the country, it boosted my morale to aim higher.
10K Finisher – LuvRun Season 1, 4 February 2017. My running partner is now best friend and running buddy Violet.
10K Finisher and 3rd Placer – Female Category, Philippine National Police (PNP) Region 12 Marathon, 4 March 2017. I tied up with Violet.
42K Finisher – Samal Marathon in Davao City, 7 May 2017. This was my first full marathon.
2nd Place – Female Golden Category, 50th Tinalak Festival, 17 July 2017. My personal record is 34min for 5K. I was then 51 years old.
21K Finisher – 41st National Milo Marathon in Gensan, 16 October 2017. This was my first in half marathon and also my first to experience legs cramps while on the 11thkm. I did not know what to do so I just walked and ran. I did not think of the medal anymore if I am not able to reach the cut-off of 2 ½ hours as long as I will finish strong and standing.
I almost collapsed due to exhaustion and pressure. But I learned discipline and how far can I go. The Milo Marathon has strict rules and if you finish both half and full marathons, you gain that hard-earned respect in the running community.
21K Finisher – Helubong Festival in Lake Sebu, 5 November 2017. This was an uphill and downhill challenge.
42K Finisher and 2nd Overall Runner Up – Female Category, Gensan Green Marathon Season 5, 12 November 2017. I tied up with Violet and Inday.
10km, 3rd Placer – Couple Run, LuvRun Season 2
50K Finisher – All-Women Ultra Marathon (AWUM) Season 7 in Cebu City. This was my first ultra-marathon. My personal record was 8-hours and 2 min and ranked 134 out of 350 runners.
5K Finisher – Iron Girl in Davao City, 23 March 2018.
It has become one of my couple goals with hubby Loi – to run together as we age. Isn’t that sweet?
My upcoming runs are already in the works:
May 13- Kasadya 6th Marathon in Sarangani Province, 21K (half marathon)
October 18 – 42nd Milo Marathon in GenSan – 21km (half marathon)
For every run or marathon, the registration fee would range between Php650-2000 (USD13-40). A lot of these events are for a cause that would benefit some community projects which makes every run even more fulfilling. Every time we prepare for one, we would always wonder aloud why we are punishing ourselves but as soon as we receive the competition shirts and the medals, we would ask when will be the next. Running became an important life for us.
Among these runs, my most unforgettable was that Milo Half-Marathon. I struggled throughout the race but arrived in time before the buzzer rang. I finished at 2:30:17 out of the cut-off time of 2:30. My effort paid off as I was still given the medal as a finisher – the last runner to beat time. I learned that since I did not go beyond 2:31, I was still within the cut-off.
To avoid leg cramps, which is likely when you are running for long periods, I am now wearing compression calf sock. It emphasized the importance of preparedness before every event. A marathon will require 2-3 months of training, proper dier and body/mind conditioning.
In between, our team also joined some virtual runs, runs for causes and any available events. During these times, we run at our own pace as long as we reach the target we have set among ourselves.
I am now 53 years old and enjoying the running events. I want to prove that in our 50s as women, we are not too old to just stay in the house wearing house clothes, cleaning and watching over our children. There is more to life than these – just find what you will love to do and learn new things in the process.
I have never earned this much medals in my life than when I started running.
We can even be sporty, wear shorts and racer-back tops like what younger women do. We need to change a lot of misconceptions and I have proven we can. As our group became closer, we also became more creative in between competitions, a good excuse to spend time together. We do early-morning birthday visits (mananitas) to members, doing holy rosaries together on Wednesdays and help organize local fun runs.
It is not easy. It will take a lot of discipline. You need to play by the rules. You have to be part of the team and every win is a team accomplishment. But all of these are worth it because as you keep on, you regain your health and prove that you can do more.
I found a lot of wisdom useful even to daily life goals in running. Each of these tips teaches us that you cannot achieve anything without preparing for it. Just like anything you want in life, you plan, work hard and celebrate for it.
More tips: Train at least four times a week. Hydrate. Observe proper diet. Talk to your doctor if you have a medical condition. Do not wear brand new socks, shoes, tops, sports bra during run. Just wear the practice shoes, socks, comfortable bra and tops compression socks. You must have hydration belt, lites and blinker. Stretch before the run. Some take GU gels or energy drinks but that depends on you. It is best to rely on your natural capacity.
We can dream big, can’t we? I dream of joining the big league such as the Boston Marathon, the London Marathon and the New York Marathon. It is almost impossible but who knows it can happen! For now, I am setting sights on Asian marathons together with Loi. That’s one couple goal for us!
As I have proven for just a few years after I joined the running community, anything is possible if you prepare and enjoy what you do.
Women finding courage with other women through running!
“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all about.” -PattiSue Plumer
Katharina tried everything to no avail, until she found her way to kick-boxing.
I love to introduce myself as a 48-year old hot momma.
Not only that my fitness journey made me stronger, healthier and happier, it game me the metabolism of a 30-year old. My bragging rights include looking really good with or without my clothes on. Not many middle-aged women can pull-off a hot bikini. I can proudly say I belong to these few.
I was once a size XXL and now I am an S with some muscles. I can say I am proud of who I’ve become! Add to that is being lucky to be a wife of a wonderful husband and a mom of an 18-year old son. I currently work as a miner based in Indonesia.
When I got married in 1997, I was this skinny young girl who had no issues with my weight and health. In 1999, I got pregnant with my only child and for the next nine months, I gained some 55kgs. I ate almost everything and cannot stop, especially durian! I could finish 2-3 durians at one sitting during my last few months of my pregnancy.
I delivered my 5.3kg baby boy to the world carrying 102kg in my body thru caesarean surgery since he was too big to come out on a normal delivery. For the next eight years I struggled losing all the weight I gained.
Stronger and better at 48!
My suspicions started to grow that I had problems with my health, especially my heart and my blood pressure. I couldn’t fit into the clothes I want and I actually didn’t like how I looked like in any clothes I tried! I was so big and I guess not many clothing lines are interested to make cute ones in bigger sizes.
I tried to get rid my body fat through a lot of ways including a very strict diet and joining some sports. Nothing worked. At first I would lose a few kilos and then would gain them back with a vengeance. For a time, I accepted the sad reality that my weight was stuck at 80kgs.
I started thinking of many excuses like many other women — maybe because being big runs in the family, I will stay big and even bigger as I grow older. I was almost hopeless.
In early 2008, I started working with World Vision, a humanitarian agency. The job and culture were something really new that I struggled fitting in. During this time, I lost some 10 kg but I had several disturbing symptoms that made me feel a little uncomfortable. I really enjoyed my work so ignored them.
Looking good is not just vanity; it is good for one’s self-esteem. It makes you feel happier.
Late 2010, I moved to a mining company that required me to travel and work outdoors a lot. It was a stressful environment because of the resistance of surrounding communities. After two years, I developed gallbladder problem and caused me a lot of trouble.
The extensive travel and all the challenges I faced during my early years with the mining company made my health even worse. I went to the doctors and the hospitals too frequently that I started realising I needed something that would help me live longer and healthier.
In 2013, I heard about the increasing interest of women in kick-boxing. Not just the fact that it can help reduce weight but is also great for self-protection. I excitedly started my journey with fight-camps and spent a couple of hours with the trainer twice a week.
My son joined me in the training but my husband then was not interested. Not yet. I started to see significant progress and results. I had become addicted and added some more sessions to the routine. In 2014, a big fitness center opened close to my home.
Pursuing fitness as a family, they also found like-minded friends who make working-out fun.
This time, my husband got encouraged and joined us. The three of us registered and started training in the center. We mixed everything, from cardio to functional training to weight lifting to yoga and Pilates and then kickboxing. We spend at least 2-3 hours every day either at the gym or at the fight camp
The result was amazing!
It is not easy. It takes time. It needs real, honest-to-goodness commitment. When I am traveling and there is no fitness center around, I have to push myself to do my own exercise.
I downloaded several apps to help me get on with it. It was hard at first but when you see the results, I guarantee you, it is addictive, in a good way, of course.
Since we train together, we enjoy the time and share the chance of making new friends that made working-out more appealing. We support and motivate each other. We say good things to each other when we see progress we make, even very small ones.
There are periods when we hit the ‘bored’ zone every now and then, we try hard to drag our asses back to the gym. But we also keep reminding each other that we can now become this small healthy happy family because we are all committed to it and that we want to continue living in good health.
I even constantly say to my husband that I want both of us to be able to see and help take care of our grandchildren in the years to come.
At my age, it is an incredible feeling to look and feel good.
The family that exercises together, stays healthy together.
When you have the persistence, you can do what you want. Maryann did it at 51. So can you!
Three years ago she decided it’s time to drive. Maryann Pudadera-Morales was already 51! Did she survive? You bet, she did! In the Philippines, it is almost a luxury to have a car, hence, not many women drive. Those who dare are a cut above the rest.
For one to do it past midlife even deserves an applause. With the kind of traffic we have in most cities around the country, it takes a lot of nerve and spunk. In her own words, here’s her story and the exciting adventure that went with it.
When did u decide to buy a car and drive?
When I moved as area services manager of South Cotabato 1 Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Socoteco 1), my office was in one of the malls in Koronadal City. It was almost a 2km daily commute from the house. I usually go home at 7pm and my grueling challenge include walking to the highway to get a pedicab. It was uncomfortable passing through dim alleys. It often takes me two ‘rides’ as drivers would demand extra fare for direct trips.
This made me think of “what ifs”. What if I drive my own car so I can move in and out anytime? I told myself I should start with a second hand car so I can have a trial period and will not lose my head if I end up damaging the car.
A week after, I found out my husband Boyet’s nephew was selling his blue Kia Sportage. I actually love the car! We agreed on a P65k (USD1,300) deal and it was delivered from Bukidnon to Koronadal on July 2015. None of us knew how to drive yet!
My sister Majal recommended Mikmik Marquez who taught at a driving school and in a month’s time I was driving. I maneuvered through the city’s traffic and the rotunda that most new drivers dread. I did not waste time. Few days after, I already drove long distance to nearby towns of Surallah and Tupi.
You think I am too confident? Of course not! While on the wheels, there were too many fears playing on my head: car stalls at the highway or intersection and cause massive traffic jam; attack of my astigmatism & farsightedness especially driving at night; and yes, an accident beyond my control.
What did I do? It is good I started with a good teacher who boosted my self-confidence and believed I can do it. He always had positive feedback when I commit mistakes. I believed on the principle that every driver has a right on the road. Nobody should be pushed or rushed even if other drivers are impatient for their turn. I always stayed calm.
I chose defensive driving most of the time. But before I leave the house, I make sure I check the car and necessary documents. I often forget my driver’s license when I change handbags and it is an inconvenience if you get flagged unexpectedly on the road for random traffic checks.
That kind if independence driving your own car gets to you. It is not about the car. It’s the experience.
What was the feeling when you first drove on your own?
It was on August, 2015. I was nervous and fidgety. I shouted on top of my voice inside the car asking myself “Why is it only now that you learned to drive!”. That day I experienced three engine shut down. I tried to perfect the shifting of gears and the engine stalled every time I was slow. I prayed while on the road. I avoided the highway and took the secondary roads which were less busy.
I scolded myself most of the time that I could have done it earlier but I waited until 50. Eventually, I had a sense of triumph because it gave me more chances to bond with my two fast-growing sons. It was also a huge accomplishment that at my age, I did it.
Until now, my biggest challenge is parking in a crowded area, such as malls teeming with cars and people. It was always tough for me to estimate the distance of the parking space and the cars beside me.
Then you got yourself a new car and drove from Luzon to Mindanao?
It took a while to decide. A mother like me would always look at the practical side of any decision. That was how I approached the idea of buying a new one. By then I was driving for close to two years.
I had countless discussions with my two sons Kyle and Ken on the type of car, how much and the payment terms as our budget will be affected. The most crucial question was, “Do we really need a new car?”
I asked around, checked with my co-workers and went car-shopping. While I was in Bacolod City on a work summit, I test drove a Honda car and I resolved that if ever I buy one, that would be it! I know that car prices are set to go up late that year so I have to decide fast. I did beat my own deadline.
But to save money, I have to buy the car in Manila, drive or get it shipped to Koronadal. That’s three major islands away. We decided it will be a fun challenge to drive it from Luzon to Mindanao. By then Kyle was already driving. I have a back-up.
Our two boys, Kyle and Ken, were my ultimate travel buddies. The car has become our bonding place.
How did we prepared for the one-week Luzon to Mindanao trip?
I started doing a good research. I browsed on the internet, read vlogs, blogs and reviews. I checked the route and roads for travel time. I also asked people who did it then marked the weather patterns. I chose the lodging houses plus the tourist spots along the way, noted the boat-transfer rates, took some notes and brainstormed with Kyle. It was an amazing way to teach my sons how to plan and execute it.
Then we decided on the schedule. I have to time it with my sons’ school holidays. Kyle chose the make of our new car, a metallic silver Honda, and after completing the transaction in Manila, on 14 October 2017, he drove it out of the Honda Cars shop in Shaw Boulevard together with our sales agent Cedric and picked me and Ken at the airport.
We ensured that all the documents are in place especially the car insurance. We want the trip to be hassle-free. We headed to Lucena City for the test-drive and formal turn-over. After a dinner, Cedric left us on our own. On the way we realized we forgot to take our ceremonial hand-over. Lucena was memorable because that was where it all began.
The route you took and what have you learned along the way?
We travelled almost 1,500 kilometers in a span of two days with our online guide-WAZE. We set off from SLEX to the Pan-Philippine (Maharlika Highway) with our goal to hit Legaspi City and see the majestic Mayon Volcano before dusk then head for Batangas-Quezon-Camarines Sur and finally, Albay.
I had my first, but short, driving stint (less than an hour) for an automatic vehicle when we traversed the CamSur to Albay road, as Kyle took his first nap from a 4-hour drive from Lucena. We were not able to marvel the real beauty of Mt. Mayon because the weather got bad. We left early at 4:00am and also never caught a glimpse of the beautiful Aurora Province.
Our second night was spent at Matnog, Sorsogon where Brave, the car’s got its name by now, got to her first boat ride in the Roll On/Roll Off (RORO) Fast Cat trip at 4:00am. We bid goodbye to Luzon on 15 October 2017.
Visayas Island came next via Allen, Samar through the San Bernardino Strait. With mixed emotions of fear and excitement, I took the wheels for my second driving leg and my first ever long drive from Samar to Tacloban. It meant missing some fantastic scenic views especially the San Juanico Bridge which was truly a sight to behold!
Goofy time at Samar’s famous landmark – the amazing San Juanico Bridge. I was driving so I missed most of the view.
Kyle and Ken enjoyed the view of a lifetime on Samar’s famous landmark while I drove. We headed straight to Liloan Port in Southern Leyte for the second ferry boat ride to Surigao after being stranded for almost 2 hours in Palo, Leyte due to the heavy downpour which flooded the main road. We did not drive through the flood fearing the car might stall andl damage the engine.
The Fast-Cat (Catamaran) sailed us quickly back to our beloved home island of Mindanao. From the port to Davao City at midnight of April 15, with me driving, we reached Davao City at 8:00am for some quick stopover in a mall. After the rest, we were on the road again to General Santos City for Brave’s first Preventive Maintenance Check (PMS) at a Honda Cars shop.
On April 16 before dusk, our brand new car was parked in front of our house.
The time I spent with Kyle and Ken was every mom’s amazing adventure. I had their undivided attention and we even were able to talk about our issues, plans and aspirations in life.
After that wonderful trip, we did another one to Iloilo City recently on March 31, 2018 where we traveled through Cotabato City-Pagadian-Dipolog-Dumaguete-Bacolod route.
It always starts with a decision. The rest will follow.
Can you use your lessons in driving at work?
I have been the area manager for three years but had been working with Socoteco 1 for 29 years. Learning how to drive provided me opportunity to understand and relate with the problems and difficulties encountered by the frontline personnel who does a daily grind of job on the road on a 24/7 work shift. It was a tough job to do.
As a woman driver, I always reminded myself to take mind over matter all the time. Before learning to drive, I was delayed by the belief that I can never ever drive a car because I have difficulties with my eyesight. I also entertained fears that I may cause discomfort to other drivers. My mentor encouraged and boosted my morale.
Dare yourself: Dream. Save. Conquer.
Any more lessons on driving and traveling?
Traveling in the Philippines means roughing it out! There were challenges on stop overs such as rest-areas with unpleasant odors, misrouted ways, undisciplined drivers and narrow roads. We sometimes had no choice but to hold our breaths and just laugh them off. That’s positivity in action.
Long-haul land travel, at times, can be uncomfortable, but the right attitude makes a big difference. We got left by the fast craft, and we had to settle for the slower boat. We never got annoyed, it was still a good experience! We enjoyed the sea breeze and island views on the upper deck as we wondered, “Are we there yet?”
The trip taught us to be patient. Patience is indeed a virtue with a lot of waiting in the ports, so much like life when you wait for the right things to happen at the right time. Rushing takes you off a fun experience!
The trip was not perfect as we wanted it to be. We had few hitches along the way we could have stayed longer to enjoy the sights. But then that’s a good excuse to do it all over again next time. I know we did the best.
The trip was an exciting adventure that Kyle and Ken will surely remember for the rest of their life. What truly makes us rich is not the things we own but the experience we dare to do – then live to share.
“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you do not mind, it does not matter.” – Mark Twain
There is no secret at all. The fountain of youth is right in our hands. 63-year old Jo proved it works with discipline.
Take a look again. Does she look like one? I mean, is she 63 years old and now is eligible for that senior citizen’s card plus benefits. No way, you’d see. Some will say, it is unfair or it is in her genes. Ok, we can list a lot of excuses and never ran out of them.
I have known Jocelyn Suelo, or Jo, to us her friends and her family, for probably over 20 years since our all-women Venture Club of Koronadal days. She is one of those friends who, when you need anything urgent, all you need is call. But I cannot for the life of me, imagine she past 60!
Then in our of our annual impromptu get-togethers, this time at our farm house, she shared her unforgettable climb at Mount Sinai in Egypt. Yes, all the glorious 3,500 steps on foot from 12 midnight to 7:30 in the morning. That’s 7 and half hours of uphill walk. “I did it and was never tired at all when I reached the top. I even wanted to shout at the top of my lungs but I got concerned other people around might get annoyed at me”, Jo recalls.
“I wanted to shout but I might annoy tourists around us.” Scaling the 3,500 steps of Mt. Sinai was a major victory for her.
While the rest of the entourage was slumped with exhaustion and lack of sleep, Jo was almost starting her day and ready for more adventure. Any secret? She reveals, “During the steep climb that felt like an eternity, I was focused in praying. In every step after completing 15 Holy Rosary Mysteries, I prayed Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. It made me very strong and full of energy.”
Jo’s consistency in watching her diet and doing her daily physical exercise is paying off beautifully. Take that literally. Imagine how storekeepers’ eyes get wide with surprise at her when she hands over her senior citizen’s card like she was making a joke.
Jo did the incredible at her age together with friends Fr. Louie, Mary Ann and Susan.
“I maintained a healthy lifestyle from the very beginning. I seldom drink soda, hardly eat pork and beef. My food always consisted of veggies, fruits, fish, seafood and milk. I love sleeping and would always complete my 6-8 hours and still take a nap after lunch. As soon as I wake up in the morning, I drink 2 tall glasses of warm water. I don’t drink any cold water at all. Yes, I laugh and smile a lot”, she says smiling.
The eldest of 6 sibling, Jo is the only girl. When her father died, she was 26 years old and became the head of the family taking care of everyone including her youngest brother who was 5 years old at that time. “My father did not leave us anything like a farm to support all of us, not even a spoon of property”, she wryly recalls.
There is no secret. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise, sleep for 6-8 hours, pray when you are troubled and smile a lot!
Jo became a working student at the South Cotabato Integrated Provincial Health Office since 1974 to sustain her education. She eventually was hired when she finished college and still works there until now. Despite the tough life she went through, Jo said she maintained a very positive outlook at life.
“Everyday I thank God for my blessings. If any problem comes, I resort to prayers and ask God for help and guidance. He has never failed me. God never ignored my prayers”, she says adding as a reminder, “Keep on smiling. There are so many reasons to smile.”
After standing by her 6 brothers, one of whom is now a ship captain, Jo lives her life to the full. Her daily routine? She shares what all of us can do daily, “I do zumba and always find an excuse to stand up and walk when at work. I love sweeping dried leaves in the backyard of our ancestral home that never failed to get my sweat pouring out.”
No rocket science involved here, right? Jo just exercised dear old common sense to practice and got very good at it through the years. Despite all the banquets, endless parties and celebrations she attended, she never went beyond her 50-53kg. weight.
Jo got us all thinking and it is not too late. If she can do it — then we too can!
Remember what Maya Angelou said? “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.” Sum them up simply as ageing gracefully. Yes, with a smile!
Surrounded by friends and her loving family, Jo lives a full life despite being single.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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