Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Memories of you

(photo by Noe Carillo)

There are moments when loneliness suddenly creeps in like an unwelcome guest. Sunday was one such moment.

As Star and I were walking through The Block, I caught a glimpse of Aristocrat on the third floor. Suddenly, memories of my last meal with my father flashed back, bringing a tinge of pain in my heart. It was a simple but special meal. He flew in the day before just to celebrate my birthday with us. Serendipitously, as far as I can remember, it was the only birthday I had spent with my father in my whole life.

I mumbled to Star how I feel sad everytime I walk by that part of SM North Edsa. But this wonder girl from you-don't-know-where, replied, "Memories of the people you love are worth more than millions and millions of kilometers of gold." With that, this 9-year-old turning-30 girl said I should be happy to see where I spent my last memorable meal with my father. Come to think of it...

Star is right. Memories of our loved-ones are worth more than all the golds in the world. As we commemorate All Souls day in a few days, may we lovingly honor our beloved who have moved on ahead of us.

But more importantly, may we try harder every day to show the people we love how much we value them while they are still with us.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hemophilia in the Philippines

The past few days had been depressing for me. I went to the Visayas over the weekend with Project Share founder Laurie Kelley, volunteer Rose Noyes and Columban priest Fr. Don Kill to visit hemophiliacs.

Project Share is a US-based humanitarian organization that has been sending factors to over 40 developing countries including the Philippines.

Laurie and Rose came to country for a fact-finding mission and meet Filipino hemophiliacs her organization has been helping these past few years. Thanks to Fr. Don, the amiable "lolo" of hemophiliacs, we met more than a hundred sufferers and their families and saw up close the plight of hemophiliacs in the country.

The more I got involved in this advocacy, the more I feel so blessed and the more I believe something has to be done. Only few days before Laurie and Rose came, one young man named Warren died of bleeding at PGH (Phil. General Hospital). Another boy died at UST. All because they did not get the treatment they needed on time.

Every day since I learned of his death, I think about Warren. He died because the Bureau of Customs refused to release the factors he needed for his treatment due to a very minor technicality. And this s*@&!d technicality caused Warren's life! The little boy at UST died because his family was so poor they couldn't afford to buy the factors needed to stop his bleeding.

Sometimes I struggle when I hear of situations like this. A few months ago, when we rushed Star to the hospital due to profuse nosebleeding, there was a boy at Cardinal Santos who needed 1,000 iu's of factor VIII (4 vials at about P4,300 each). The child's caregivers (he was an orphan) could only afford to buy 3 vials. The following day, he died. It was way too late when he got the transfusion. I felt so bad when I learned of the boy's death. We had six vials (about 1,500 iu's) of the same factor that time because Star's nosebleeding stopped and her hematologist thought it was better to save the factors in case of emergency. Factors are not only expensive, they are also difficult to buy here in the Philippines.

Star is, by far, so blessed than the majority of the sufferers in the Philippines. We are probably among the 5 percent of sufferers who have the capacity to buy factors when we need it. Not that we have lots of money. Truth to tell, there are times that finances are hard to get by but God always provides.

In the past few days of going around, visiting and interviewing hemophiliacs, stories of how parents helplessly witness their child suffer are not uncommon. In fact, last Saturday while we were in Dumaguete, we witnessed a young boy crying in pain because of bleeding in his shoulder. His mother could do nothing but cry along as she hugged her son. When I volunteered to help her bring her son to the hospital, she just stared at me and said, "But we don't have money."

It was a gripping reality that reflected the plight of majority of Filipino bleeders. Another mother, Manang Rita, narrated to me in cracked voice how four of her five boys died one after the other because of hemophilia. Only the youngest, Jeff, who is the only one left of her boys, was properly diagnosed of hemophilia. But Manang Rita said there was no doubt all her four boys who had the same symptoms as Jeff, all died of untreated hemophilia.

Yesterday, Laurie, Father Don and I visited the grave of Jeff's four brothers in Tanjay, about an hour drive from Dumaguete. Laurie took pictures of the grave, an "apartment-type" tomb with faded white paint.

As we were driving back to Dumaguete, I thought of Manang Rita and the pain she had to endure. While we lost our mother to an undiagnosed von Willebrand disease, Manang Rita's pain was four times over. No wonder she is moving heavens to keep Jeff alive.

Photos: (top) One-year-old Christian Ramos, a hemophiliac from Danao City, carried by his mother. We chanced upon Christian at the Sotto Memorial Hospital in Cebu. He had been bleeding for a day but his parents didn't have money to buy factors. Thankfully, Laurie had a factor in her bag and immediately infused it on Christian. In a few seconds, the bleeding stopped.

Second photo shows our team with the members of Hemophilia Association of the Philippines-Cebu (HAP-C), including my nephew Yan-yan (in wheel chair). Yan-yan is the son of my first degree cousin, Daday.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Much ado about Eheads

All's well that ends well!

Finally, Philip Morris has pulled out its sponsorship of the Eraserheads concert. Woohoo!

Here's the news from ABS-CBNnews.com:

Philip Morris backs out of Eraserheads reunion concert

Philip Morris announced Wednesday that it had backed out of its sponsorship of the much-awaited, one-night-only Eraserheads reunion concert on Saturday.

In a press statement, Dave Gomez, Philip Morris Phils. Manufacturing Inc. public affairs and communication manager, said Radiohead Media Solutions Inc. "has agreed to take over as promoter of the Eraserheads reunion concernt."

"We made the decision to withdraw as promoter and will have no involvement at all in this reunion concert. We wish the Eraserheads and Radiohead Media Solutions Inc. all the best," Gomez said.

Radiohead Media Solutions Inc. subsequently announced that it had acquired the Eraserheads reunion concert rights and that it will go on as scheduled on Saturday, August 30, at the Bonifacio Global City open field.(Read full story)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Investing in the lives of the poor

The past few days, I've been going in and out of the slums of Tatalon as I help out a local cooperative put together their newsletter. It has been a depressing, but humbling experience. Depressing, because I see poverty up close and not much has been done to uplift the lives of these less privileged. But it was a humbling experience at the same time, as I listened to mothers share their joys and pride in seemingly mundane things. How they find satisfaction in every little triumph, thanking God for making their lives "much better" now, makes me feel so little. Makes me wonder, who is richer -- these women in Tatalon and the women of Forbes? Hmmm. The nanays of Tatalon remind me of Solomon's words of wisdom of Solomon. Indeed, if people only find satisfaction in their toils...

I'd like to share a short article I wrote on this cooperative that has been providing micro-financing to urban poor mothers. Read on...

+ + + + + + + + + +

For some, P2,000 may be one dinner’s budget in a fancy restaurant. But for a family in a poor community like Tatalon, it may be a catalyst of change – a ticket to break out of the bondage of poverty.

So says Zeny De Jesus, chairperson of the Inner City Development Cooperative (ICDC) as she challenges the well-heeled of the society to support initiatives to provide micro-finance to the poor.

“Change in our country is possible if we all help each other. People who have money to spare can do so, not by giving alms, but by providing start-up capital for the poorest of the poor to start their own businesses,” she points out.

A social worker by profession, Zeny has been involved in the micro-finance industry for decades, training different organizations across the country in developing programs for the poor.

In fact, ICDC is a testament of how money of those who have can impact the lives of those who have none. And it does not take much to be of help to others.

For instance, P1-million can already provide micro-credit to 500 mothers for a start-up capital of P2,000.

With the amount, every borrower will have an average of P1,000 additional income for her family. In three months, every borrower will also have a savings of P850 since all members are required to save at least P10 every day.

But Zeny says, no matter how small or big the amount, supporters can be assured that their investment to poor communities through ICDC will be maximized.

“Over the years, we have developed a system to maximize minimum amounts to provide livelihood to the less privileged. As a result, they become more productive in their communities. In the long term, their productivity helps our economy because it means lesser unemployment,” explains Zeny, who holds a master’s degree in social entrepreneurship from the Asian Institute of Management.

Aside from loans and savings portfolios, ICDC offers non-financial services like trainings on entrepreneurship to hone the members’ business acumen. A regular values formation program is also in place. On top of these trainings, ICDC gives assistance to needy members.

“We challenge our fellow Filipinos, and even supporters abroad to look into the ICDC program and see how they can be agents of change in alleviating the plight of the Filipino poor,” she says.

The end goal, Zeny points out is to see the development of community partners from borrowers to social investors, and from passive on-lookers to active agents of change in their respective families and communities.

Friday, August 08, 2008

New technology on liver cancer now in the Philippines

Getting sick, especially with terminal and rare diseases, can be draining -- in all aspects -- to the patient and the whole family especially when you know there is no available treatment yet in the Philippines. It's always a welcome news to know that medical treatments are slowly being made available here in the country, and at par with the treatments abroad. It can even be better considering the expertise and care of our local doctors. And a big plus, it saves you the cost implications of flying abroad.

Recently, The Medical City launched a revolutionary treatment for liver cancer patients called radioembolization. It's the first of the kind in the Philippines. Radioembolization has long been used abroad. See Inquirer story here.

I hope they will always pioneer the treatment for von Willebrand Disease in the country.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Eheads as anti-smoking advocates!!!!!

I wish! With the loud whispers going around that a big tobacco company is sponsoring this much-awaited E-heads reunion, my only wish is that this great (dis) band will use their influence for the greater good. How? By talking about the hazards of smoking on their concert night, no less. Imagine one smoke-free concert. That would be double the fun! Great music and clean air (or at least, nicotine-free).

I'm sure Eheads have reached a point in their lives (one time or another) when they looked for significance in what they do. This could be that moment. Besides, Ely Buendia should know the hazards that smoking brings. He almost died of heart attack a year or so ago. I've heard that Ely used to be a smoker. But granting that he never smoked, the second-hand smoke alone that he got during gigs could be a big factor for his illness. (Of course, we know that second-hand smoking is just as dangerous.)

According to the Department of Health, smoking-related diseases kills at least 10 people every hour in the Philippines alone. That is 240 Pinoys everyday or 87,600 every year dying from smoking-related diseases. Public health spending on smoking-related diseases reaches up to P70-billion a year. Imagine how that money could have been used to treat other diseases.

In my family alone, we could have easily spent half a million already the past few years on hospital bills and medicines due to my smoking history. =( Just this morning, I spent P3,000 for my daughter's Pulmonary Function Test. I have yet to buy her medicines. All my three children were born premature (Ben was in the ICU for almost a month), no thanks to my being a heavy smoker in the past, complicated by a previously unknown disease. Unfortunately, they all grew up to have asthma and since they were all born premature, they easily get lung diseases. Almost two years ago, Ben got confined for two weeks due to TB. It was only lately that I was able to put the puzzles together. Smoking did us in!

How did I get into smoking? My father was a heavy smoker and so were all of my siblings (except for one sister). A lot of my cousins were and (some) are still smokers. It was just but natural for me to fall into the trap, like many others.

We have long declared our home smoke-free. And so back to my wishful thinking, I really hope Eheads realize they can use their influence for good, and like their many hits in the past, spread the gospel of making concerts in the Philippines, well, SMOKE-FREE.

(photo from eheads website)

Monday, July 21, 2008

A young lady named Sofie

(Sofie - in printed black sleeveless - with friends at Ella P.'s birthday. Photo grabbed from Ysabel.)

We had a quiet dinner last Wednesday to celebrate Sofie's 12th birthday. Our dearest Ate is now a young woman, turning prettier and prettier every year.

I have fond memories when we welcomed Sofie to the world 12 years ago. Because of difficulty in pregnancy, I decided to go home to Negros where my side of the family is based. Before I went home with Ben, who was then only a year old, I got confined twice at Capitol Med for bleeding and false labor. Sofie was then less than five months in my tummy. With Ben born six months and three weeks, we were anxious of another premature birth.

And so the hubby and I figured out we would be better off in Negros where help from the family was very easy. Few days after our arrival, I got confined again at the district hospital in my hometown for premature labor. With Ben's history, the OB-Gyne decided to send us to Dumaguete where facilities were much better. The Silliman Medical Center became my home for a month until Sophie turned seven months in my tummy -- safe enough, at the very least.

Unfortunately, only a week after I went home, Sofie started to act up again. And this time, it was for real. My dilation already reached 8cm by the time the doctor checked me, too late to stop Sofie from coming out. My sisters and brothers and in laws as well, all rushed to the hospital to lend support. This would be my second premature delivery. Twenty minutes after I entered the delivery room and with a few push, a loud cry of a healthy baby girl broke the silence of the night. Everyone in the room cheered and clapped. My OB-Gyne cried with me upon seeing Sofie -- she was such a beautiful, chubby little girl. Despite being premature at 7 months and one week, she was a heavy weight at 7 pounds.

The first girl in both sides of the family, Sofie was probably the most anticipated baby. And Papa, after 10 boys for grandchildren, was just happy to welcome the little princess. He had an old but reliable crib repainted. When we came home from the hospital, my father beamed with joy. At last, a girl among the apos.

Those were the days. Today, Sofie has become her own self. She now has a mind of her own, hardly running to mama or papa anymore to get reassurance that her world would be okey. Slowly and surely, she is turning into a young independent lady with strong convictions. We pray for our dearest Ate to flourish further to become a woman after God's own heart.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Learning from the Ivatans of Batanes

I just came back from a week-long trip to Batanes. It was a tiring but very enriching trip. My body still aches from the uphill walks and the unbelievable 3-hour trip in the high seas to Itbayat -- the farthest inhabited island in the northeastern part of the country. But the biiiiigggg waves was peanuts compared to our "landing" in this coral island. (This will be in another blog.) So much has been written about Batanes. But you cannot completely comprehend the superlatives until you immerse in their culture. Then you'll understand that some superlatives are understatements.

I want to share an article I wrote which came out in PDI last Sunday. We have so much to learn from the Ivatans. This is just one aspect of their culture. I hope to share some more in the coming days.

Ivatan of Batanes share secrets of survival in typhoon belt

By Andrea Trinidad-Echavez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:58:00 06/29/2008

BASCO, BATANES -- IT IS SAID THAT NO ONE dies in a typhoon in this so-called typhoon capital of the Philippines.

As “Frank” started to threaten the rest of the country a week ago, 85-year-old Carlos Balasabas confidently went about his usual routine.

He led his carabao to the payaman (communal pasture) to graze, and patiently waited until it had its fill, never mind if over the radio, the weather forecaster had said Signal No. 3 would be raised over Batanes.

Going by the signs of nature, Balasabas knew that Frank would not hit the province.

“You will know there’s a typhoon coming when the cows at the payaman come down to seek shelter,” he said.

The payaman is usually located on the higher slopes of Batanes. When a storm looms, cows instinctively take shelter. They return to the hills only when the rain and wind have died down.

For generations, the Ivatan, as the people of Batanes are called, have relied on cows and natural signs for “weather forecasts,” according to Gov. Telesforo Castillejos.

“But cows are the most reliable,” he said.

Birds, the wind, cloud movement, and the color of the sky are also indicators of the weather in the days to come.

“When birds start taking cover inside houses or go down on the ground, or when the sky becomes pinkish orange, there is an imminent typhoon,” Castillejos said.

When the Ivatan see these signs, they start gathering their animals and stay inside their stone houses. No fisherfolk will dare go out to sea.

About 15 typhoons hit Batanes every year. Supertyphoons come once in about four years.

Scholars attribute the survival of the Ivatan to their communal values and their ability to master, rather than fight. their environment.

Vital statistics

Batanes, the little dot on the map at the tip of the Philippine archipelago, is made up of 11 islands and is fringed by the South China Sea to the west, the Babuyan Islands to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

It lies closer to Taiwan than to the Luzon mainland.

Located 860 kilometers from Manila, it is the least populated and smallest province of the country, occupying a total of 229 square kilometers with a population of a little over 15,000.

Florestida Estrella, 82, remembered how her parents gathered everyone in the kitchen every time a storm threatened Batanes.

The family would stay in the kitchen until the strong winds subsided.

“We can tell that a storm has ended by the sound of the wind,” Estrella said.

Most of the Ivatan, young or old, can tell the weather, according to Dr. Antonio Torralba, dean of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s College of Arts and Sciences, and a frequent visitor of Batanes.

Even days after Frank left the country, boatmen would not budge despite the pleas of stranded tourists to take them to nearby islands. And the fisherfolk, despite their mastery of the sea, stayed home.

“The sound of the waves is not good and whitecaps are everywhere,” said Robert Bastillo, a Manila-based Ivatan who came home to attend the province’s 225th founding anniversary on June 26.

Stone houses

“We Ivatan do not resist nature. We have learned to use it to our advantage,” said Governor Castillejos.

The stone houses, for instance—vahay in the local tongue—are a testament to the positive attitude of the Ivatan to adopt to their harsh environment, he said, adding:

“It is also living proof of their deep-rooted values.”

Building a stone house requires up to 50 tons of limestone carefully gathered near the shoreline. The roof is made of 47 cubic meters of cogon grass and about 8,000 reeds.

A house is built through payuhwan (cooperation).

“With the amount of materials needed to build an 8-meter-by-6-meter traditional house, it is impossible for a family to do it without the help of the whole community,” said Castillejos.

Learning from forefathers

The loss of lives in various parts of the country in the recent typhoons has made the new breed of Ivatan realize the importance of learning from their forefathers.

Recently, the provincial government launched a campaign for the preservation of the Ivatan’s old traditions. The campaign includes encouraging the elders to consciously teach the youth.

“Our forefathers survived the harsh conditions on the islands for centuries because of [the old traditions]. We may embrace modern conveniences, but we will keep holding on to old traditions to make life in Batanes more beautiful,” Castillejos said.

Copyright 2008 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Imagine a world without Filipinos

Thanks to my on-line friend and brother Kaloy, for sharing this wonderful article. This made my day.

(photo by Kaloy.)

Imagine a world without Filipinos

Abdullah Al-Maghlooth | Al-Watan, almaghlooth@alwatan.com.sa

Muhammad Al-Maghrabi became handicapped and shut down his flower and gifts shop business in Jeddah after his Filipino workers insisted on leaving and returning home. He says: “When they left, I felt as if I had lost my arms. I was so sad that I lost my appetite.”

Al-Maghrabi then flew to Manila to look for two other Filipino workers to replace the ones who had left. Previously, he had tried workers of different nationalities but they did not impress him. “There is no comparison between Filipinos and others,” he says. Whenever I see Filipinos working in the Kingdom, I wonder what our life would be without them.

Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Filipino workers — 1,019,577 — outside the Philippines. In 2006 alone, the Kingdom recruited more than 223,000 workers from the Philippines and their numbers are still increasing. Filipinos not only play an important and effective role in the Kingdom, they also perform different jobs in countries across the world, including working as sailors. They are known for their professionalism and the quality of their work.

Nobody here can think of a life without Filipinos, who make up around 20 percent of the world’s seafarers. There are 1.2 million Filipino sailors.

So if Filipinos decided one day to stop working or go on strike for any reason, who would transport oil, food and heavy equipment across the world? We can only imagine the disaster that would happen.

What makes Filipinos unique is their ability to speak very good English and the technical training they receive in the early stages of their education. There are several specialized training institutes in the Philippines, including those specializing in engineering and road maintenance. This training background makes them highly competent in these vital areas.

When speaking about the Philippines, we should not forget Filipino nurses. They are some 23 percent of the world’s total number of nurses. The Philippines is home to over 190 accredited nursing colleges and institutes, from which some 9,000 nurses graduate each year. Many of them work abroad in countries such as the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Singapore.

Cathy Ann, a 35-year-old Filipino nurse who has been working in the Kingdom for the last five years and before that in Singapore, said she does not feel homesick abroad because “I am surrounded by my compatriots everywhere.” Ann thinks that early training allows Filipinos to excel in nursing and other vocations. She started learning this profession at the age of four as her aunt, a nurse, used to take her to hospital and ask her to watch the work. “She used to kiss me whenever I learned a new thing. At the age of 11, I could do a lot. I began doing things like measuring my grandfather’s blood pressure and giving my mother her insulin injections,” she said.

This type of early education system is lacking in the Kingdom. Many of our children reach the university stage without learning anything except boredom.

The Philippines, which you can barely see on the map, is a very effective country thanks to its people. It has the ability to influence the entire world economy.

We should pay respect to Filipino workers, not only by employing them but also by learning from their valuable experiences.

We should learn and educate our children on how to operate and maintain ships and oil tankers, as well as planning and nursing and how to achieve perfection in our work. This is a must so that we do not become like Muhammad Al-Maghrabi who lost his interest and appetite when Filipino workers left his flower shop.

We have to remember that we are very much dependent on the Filipinos around us. We could die a slow death if they chose to leave us.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Life according to Star

I was cleaning up the children's things after lunch today when I found an essay written in an intermediate paper. It was Star's. Curious, I stopped to read it. It was a touching journal of what has been going through. Though simply written (she was 8 when she wrote it), I felt proud by how our family's "baby" look at life. She has always been a source of many lessons for us. Her child-like faith taught us to be stronger. She may not always understand what is happening around her but she doesn't worry. She knows many people pray for her, and for her, that is enough assurance that things will get better. With her permission, I am posting her article below. She also posted it in her blog. I hope other children who are going through a different childhood like Star will have the same positive outlook in life. Things will be better, that's for sure.

by Star Echavez

When I was born I didn't know anything. I just knew how to cry and eat. After six months, I went to school. I was always sick since I was born. I always went to the hospital. I didn't know what was happening around me. I didn't care. I grew up unhealthy (kind of) because I was always sick. I still get sick up to now. I always have blood tests. But I didn't know why. Now that I'm bigger I know the reason.

Last year when I was grade two, I always had nosebleed. I had to go to the school's clinic when I had nosebleed. My life wasn't easy for me -- always going to the hospital and always absent from my class was very hard, because I love going to school.

We have a great school. It has great teachers especially when I was grade two. I like Teacher Christine because she's always happy and she always makes us happy.

We didn't know me and my mom have a disease -- the "von Willebrand's disease." We have type 2M. I still didn't care. Now that I'm grade 3 I still don't care about the disease. I'm not better but I will be. Many people pray for me. Now I'm healthier but I still get sick. But this life (my life) gets better and better. THE END

Death from von Willebrand Disease

Ever since we found out that von Willebrand Disease runs in our family, we have been doing, though in our own little way, an awareness campaign to let people know what this disease is. I've been blogging and writing about our journey with von Willebrand. Everyone in our family -- my husband, children and siblings -- have been sharing it as well with people in their circles.

Because Star seems to be "normal" except for her frequent nosebleedings and lately, vomitting of blood, we really didn't find any urgency to be part of a bigger group. Until two weeks ago.

While we were waiting for our turn for Star's transfusion, I made chit-chat with others in the doctor's clinic. Most of the patients, I found out, were afflicted with leukemia. The parents -- about five of them -- knew each other. Apparently, they have a support group and they "borrowed" medicines from each other. "We have to order the medicines abroad," one mother told me. Fortunately, she said, the parent of one of her child's co-patients is an OFW so they can easily ask the parent to buy for the group.

Curiously, one lady came in the clinic without a child. Since the waiting room was just small, I engaged her as well. Do you have a patient? I asked her. Yes, she replied. He's in the ICU. Whoa! My mind started to run a list of people we could seek help from for the patient. So, the reporter in me started to ask questions. What's the child's case? How old is the child? Is she the mother? How can we help her?

It turned out that she was working for an orphanage and the boy she was caring for had von Willebrand disease. He was 4. He had been admitted to the ICU after bleeding profusely for many days. Like us, they had been looking for Koate and thankfully, because of the number given to me, we were able to find it. Unknown to me, another little soul needed Koate even more urgently than Star.

I was speechless. It was only then that Star's condition sank in. Suddenly, I felt so blessed. Silently I thanked God for the grace that He has given us, especially to Star.

Only by God's grace has Star been able to have a semblance of normalcy in her life. Despite her frequent bleeding, she still enjoys pretty much what children her age do. In fact, she's quite active. She's into ballet, Angklung, piano. She loves to trek. And hopefully, she'll learn to bike too.

My heart sank when I heard what the boy went through because of vWD. Very similar to Star, only more severely.

When it was our turn, I told Star's hematologist that I wanted to lobby with our government to have at least one government facility for bleeders in the country. In other countries, bleeders get free transfusion and other medical needs. Having a bleeder in the family is not easy. One transfusion can easily cost at least P25,000. The heavier the patient becomes, the more plasma she/he needs. Generally, it is more costly for women bleeders especially once they have their monthly periods. One mother of another vWD patient told me they spend at least P50,000 per month for her daughter's transfusion.

In a third world country like ours, health is the least priority. Sadly, there are no facilities for vWD patients here, not even in the best private hospitals. Let alone in government hospitals. Even for families of patients, maintaining a monthly transfusion can be prohibitive. One mother told me there are times they could do nothing but just pray for their daughter because they could no longer afford her transfusions.

A day after my encounter with the little boy's caregiver, Star's hematologist texted me that the little boy passed away. My heart broke. What a senseless death!

The boy's death jolted me. We cannot take this disease lightly anymore. We have to do something for all the bleeders. We cannot just focus on our daughter and go on with life not caring for other bleeders. Maybe God allowed this disease in our family so we can feel how others feel. There are many other bleeders out there. We have to help each other.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Our worst days may be our best

I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)

If only Job had known, as he sat in the ashes, troubling his heart over the thought of God's providence, that millions down through history would look back on his trials. He might have taken courage in the fact that his experience would be a help to others throughout the world.

No one lives to himself, and Job's story is like yours and mine, only his was written for all to see. The afflictions Job faced and the trials he wrestled with are the very things for which he is remembered, and without them we would probably never have read of him in God's Word.

We never know the trials that await us in the days ahead. We may not be able to see the light through our struggles, but we can believe that those days, as in the life of Job, will be the most significant we are called upon to live. Robert Collyer

This is an excerpt from Streams in the Desert. God has an amazing way of stilling us when times are difficult by reminding us of His faithfulness throughout the ages. Reading the life of Job makes the worst affliction in our lives so trivial. Job endured all unimaginable trials yet he never cursed God.

In the end, Job became immortalized through one whole book in the Holy Bible.

Since Star was diagnosed with a rare bleeding disorder, I have kept on going back to the Book of Job to seek encouragement. As we are encouraged, so are we able to encourage others. The Bible tells us that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.

Indeed, it is in our most difficult times that we see God's greatest miracles. In our needs, His provisions. In our weaknesses, His strength. In our illness, His healing.

Praises and glory be to God!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kindness abounds -- THANK YOU!

To all who reposted my post and forwarded my email, THANK YOU!

Indeed, kindness abounds. Through the forwarded posts and emails, we were finally able to get in touch with an importer who helped us secure the blood factor that Star needs.

It turned out that Koate and Alphanate are from human plasma and both are regulated products. We cannot buy any of the two ourselves. They can only be acquired through a hospital or a hematologist.

God willing, Star will be able to have her transfusion by Monday.

To all who prayed with us and gave words of encouragement, THANK YOU!

It is the prayers of others that makes us strong amidst difficult times.

I believe all things work together for good and surely God has a reason for allowing this bleeding disorder in our family.

This is a hereditary disorder which caused the life of my mother. Thankfully, with the modern technology, Star may be able to live a "normal" life.

Please keep Star in prayers. She is a bit scared about the transfusion. But she is excited too. Her bleeding has caused delays in our travel (we were supposed to leave today.) On Tuesday, we will be off to our long-awaited family vacation. =) God is good all the time!

God bless you all and return your kindness with more favors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Help! Star needs blood transfusion!

Hi everyone!

Anyone who knows anybody working with Bayer or any pharmaceutical company that sells blood by-products? Or where we can buy blood factors Koate or Alphante?

Koate and Alphanate are anti-hemophelic concentrates that can help regulate the clotting factor.

Our 9-year-old daughter Star needs to have blood transfusion ASAP to stop her frequent nosebleeding. As I have shared in my past posts (here and here), Star has a bleeding disorder called Von Willebrand Disease. It's a genetic bleeding disorder where the platelets are either defective or not functioning well.

Lately, Star has been nosebleeing more frequently again, and unlike in the past, there are now big blood clots. This afternoon, there were about four of those.

Thankfully, results of her CBC and platelet count today are good. No anemia. Platelet is high which means her "good soldiers" are fighting. But her bleeding has to be addressed, otherwise, it will lead to more complications. However, Koate or Alphante are not available in the Philippines. But in case you know of anyone in the pharmaceutical companies, they might know how we can buy them.

Both of these products may be available in Hongkong or Singapore. For those with kind-hearted friends or relatives in those areas, can we ask for assistance in finding out how much this costs and if they are willing to facilitate our purchase of the products?

Please PM me or email me at andrea.echavez@gmail.com.

Thanks a lot and God bless!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paalam, Ka Bel!

Today, the country has lost one great leader -- Congressman Crispin Beltran. He succumbed to internal hemorrhage after a bad fall in their home last night.

Ka Bel is one of the leaders I truly admire. Simple, humble, very unassuming.

Even though he was a national leader, he lived simply. Unlike many activist leaders who change when they rise up to power, Ka Bel remained the same.

There are many stories to tell about my personal encounters with Ka Bel. But what struck me most was his simplicity to the very end, and his love for his family. Aside of course, from his passion for the country.

Ka Bel was never pretentious. One time while I visited him at the Heart Center (where he was detained for many months), he shared how he and his family acquired their new home in Bulacan. "Naku, pinangutang ko pa yon." He went on to tell me of his little garden and how it gave him and Ka Osang, his wife, some peace. All the while, the home he was describing seemed like a mansion because it gave him so much joy. Then he goes, "mahal din yon a, mahigit P100,000."

And this was a congressman talking. Something hit me in the heart . My goodness! Here I was complaining at times, yet I was far more blessed than this congressman. I felt so rich that day.

I went to visit Ka Bel that day to encourage him. But I was the one encouraged. My mental picture of Ka Bel will always be the smiling, unassuming, simple leader. A leader that truly serves.

This is such a sad day. We will surely miss you, Ka Bel!

(Thanks to Tonyo for the photo.)

The day we quarrelled in front of our children

One day, my husband and I argued in front of our children. Hubby walks out. The eyes of our children were suddenly all on me. I was almost tempted to blurt out: "What did I do?" But I did not. Instead, I said what I thought was the right thing to do. Process them.

"Okey guys, what your dad just did was wrong." Then pause....

"But what I did was even more wrong. I should have just kept quiet."

Leadership, whether in the family or at work, is always lived by example. We cannot expect our children or our subordinates to do what is right when they see us act otherwise.

Thankfully, it is never too late to do the right thing.

The Bible gives us a lot of examples on leadership. Leaders of different types and characters. Thankfully, it also shows us that even great leaders are humans. And just like everyone of us, they commit mistakes. Take Moses as an example. Moses was a reluctant leader. He made all the excuses. He angered God to the point that God intended to kill him. (Exodus 4:24) Yet, God used Moses to bring Israel out of Egypt.

There are many interesting things to learn about the leadership style of Moses. I'd like to share an excerpt from The Maxwell Leadership Bible:

by John Maxwell

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heat. You shall them them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. -- Deuteronomy 6:5-7

An old phrase says, "The leader's job is to keep the main thing, the main thing." Moses attempts this in Deuteronomy 6 by reminding the Israelites that their existence revolves around loving God. He also tells family leaders how to transfer truth to their children. Reggie Joiner notes the principles Moses develops:
  1. Relationship comes before rules.
  2. Truth must be in you before it can be in them.
  3. Each day offers natural opportunities for teaching.
  4. Repitition is the teacher's best friend.
Make use of all of those opportunities. Decide on issues you can discuss and ask questions of each other. Pray about your priorities together.

POSTSCIPT: Catch John Maxwell live in Manila on June 10, Edsa Shangrila Hotel. For details, call 8132732 or 03. Look for Juliet. Or reserve online at www.saltandlightventures.net.

Photo from: http://rattletattle.com

Are you an effective leader?

The 4 Voices That Help Find Your Leadership Vision
by John Maxwell

Where does a leader's vision come from? To find your vision, you must listen to...

  1. The Inner Voice: Vision starts within. Do you know what your life's mission is? If what you're pursuing in life doesn't come from the depths of who you are and what you believe, you will not be able to accomplish it.
  2. The Unhappy Voice: Where does inspiration for great ideas come from? From noticing what doesn't work. Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision. No great leader in history has fought to prevent change.
  3. The Successful Voice: Nobody can accomplish great things alone. If you want to lead others to greatness, find a good mentor, ad advisor who can help you sharpen your vision.
  4. The Higher Voice: Don't let your vision be confined by your own limited capabilities. A truly valuable vision must have God in it. Only He knows what you're really capable of. Have you looked beyond yourself, even beyond your own lifetime as you've sought your vision? If not, you may be missing the true potential of your life.


This is an excerpt from The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John Maxwell who authored the best-selling Developing the Leader Within You, The 360 Degree Leader, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and The Winning Attitude (along with more than 12 other best-sellers which have sold more than 14 million copies worldwide.)

John Maxwell will be in Manila for the John Maxwell Leadership Summit on June 10, 2008. If you haven't registered yet, today is a good day to do so to take advantage of the May Early Bird rates so you can save P1,000 off the regular June rates. To register call 8132732/03 (ask for Juliet) or reserve online www.saltandlightventures.net

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ATTENTION, NTC! Revoke Sun Cell's license!

We recently got a family pack from Sun cellular after reading their ad. P999/month for three phones. Not a bad deal. (Or so we thought.) With post-paid phones, we no longer have to perennially worry about loading our children's pre-paid phones.

The thought of no charges for Sun-to-Sun calls and texts is not a bad idea at all, especially that more and more friends and business contacts have Sun Cell numbers as well.

The application process was very easy. I only had to present my Smart monthly bill, fill up a form and give reference numbers of people who could attest to my identity. Voila! we got three brand new phones in two days.

Unfortunately, Ben didn't want to shift to Sun. Sofie's old phone broke down and was just excited to get a new phone. The hubby thought Star does not really need a phone so we both ended up getting an extra unit each.

Now almost a month after we got Sun, my and my husband's blood pressure rise everyday. We can hardly call each other. For the very few times that we manage to get through, the signals are either too bad you have to shout or pfft! - the line drops faster than it connects. And text messages get delivered after 48 years.

So much for better network, better value! PANA should revoke the airing of Sun Cell ads. There is definitely no truth to Sun's advertising. Too bad Aga agreed to endorse Sun. I'm sure he's using Smart or Globe.

We will be filing a complaint with the NTC this week. Sun users, unite!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A tribute to my mother

For two decades, we have not celebrated mother's day. My mother left us to move on to the other side of life more than 20 years ago. She was just 50. At the time of her death, I was barely off high school and in the awkward, difficult stage called adolescence. It was a bad time for her to go.

My mother was a career woman at a time when careers were not even called as such. This picture of her with all of my siblings and a nephew was so typical of her -- a super mom.

She practically raised us -- six siblings -- single-handedly when our father went into some sort of self-exile after his arrest
during the Martial Law years. Mama was working as a registrar and later on, finance officer, of a local Catholic school. On the side, she was an Avon franchise dealer, a Tupperware lady and at the same time, running our farm. On weekends, she would either be leading the affairs in our diocese or holding relief operations in our neighborhood. And she was raising six children!

It amazes me no end looking back at how our mother managed to juggle motherhood, career, side-lines, civic work, religious duties all at the same time. To think that she would never miss checking on us week by week in school. She was the only mother who would do parent-teacher consultation when hands-on parenting was not yet coined.

On t
he evenings before we went to bed, she would marvel us with stories of the war-times -- how the Japanese took their home and turned it into a garrison, her encounters with "santelmo's" (St. Elmo's fire), her family back in the Occidental side of Negros, and our lola's "third eye" and her encounters with dwende's and spirits. We would all be shrieking at the horror stories but nevertheless, we would beg her to tell them over and over again.

Mama almost never got sick. The only time I remembered her getting sick was when she came from Dumaguete, then about five hours drive from our town because of the rough roads. She probably got too tired from the travel.

It came as a shock to everyone in our town, especially us, when she died in a freak medical accident while undergoing
minor surgery.

Our life turned upside down when mama died. Suddenly, our home was never the same again. The orderliness of our mother. (She was definitely OC!) The discipline. The gentle reminders. The hugs and kisses. Suddenly the center of our lives, who put all of us in our right places, was gone. I supposed all of us siblings, and even our father, questioned God why. Why was she gone so soon? She was the best mother any child could ask for. I don't think I am even close to her as a super mom.

Thankfully, God knows the best timing. He took our mother after she had instilled the right discipline in each one of us. If God took her earlier, we would all have been ill-prepared. But if He took her later, we would have lost both our parents. Because a few months after her death, our home was bombed, and the shrapnels landed mostly in our parents room. Since mama's death, our father stopped sleeping in their bedroom. But had she been alive, she and papa would have died a brutal death. Truly, God has a reason for everything.

What I am today as a mother and as a wife, I mostly attribute to my own mother. She, who patiently read me bedtime stories amidst candlelight. (Electricity was only until 8pm then.) And I have five other siblings she would also put to sleep. She, who taught me mostly what I know -- from household chores to survival tips. She, who taught us to care for others. And most especially, she who taught us to love God with all of our hearts, mind and soul.

Mama was not perfect. But she was the best. I never had the chance to say Happy Mother's Day to her. But today, I honor my mother -- Sofia Lopez-Vito Hernandez for being the best mother we could ever have. I praise and thank God for giving us nobody less than her.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Selecta Choco Hazelnut Brownie is a downer

To "celebrate" my being home again, I treated my three not-so-little darlings with ice cream yesterday afternoon. In our household, when the "boss" is not around, we only eat choco-flavored ice creams. I'm a self-confessed choco-addict. And I only eat choco-flavored ice creams. Anything, for as long as it's choco-flavored. When something new comes out in the market, for as long as it's chocolatey, we try it out.

And so, for yesterday's fix, I grabbed a half-galloon Selecta Choco Hazelnut Brownie. The photo seemed so enticing - with real hazelnuts, chocolate chunks and brownies. Hmmm. My mind was all on the ice cream as I was lining up to pay. Good thing, it was a Monday afternoon and not too many people were shopping at SM North's Hypermarket. I couldn't wait to get home and partake of the find with my children. My kids were all as excited as they opened the can. Chunks of brownies greeted us at first glance. Seems yummy indeed. Real chunks of delectable brownies. But after a few spoons, I still didn't find hazelnuts and choco chunks. Maybe I didn't eat enough servings? Or maybe not.

My verdict: Selecta Choco Hazelnut Brownie is a downer. Very Rocky Road tastes better and it's even cheaper. Next time, I'll probably try the latest Magnolia choco-flavored offering.

Chowking Halo-halo

Nothing can beat the sizzling hot summer days than a treat of the best Halo-halo in town. My benchmark of good Halo-halo is Kabigting's, that dainty sari-sari store in the foothills of Arayat. But driving to Arayat is out of question. So off to SM North I went with the hubby. Before doing our weekly grocery's we dropped by Chowking, on the second floor of the main mall. The store was filled but we were resolved to have our fare of Halo-halo and so we patiently waited for our turn. Thankfully, we soon found two vacant seats. Maybe it was our craving or maybe Chowking really has better service now, but not too long after the hubby took his seat -- voila! -- our special Halo-halo appeared. Made of 12 yummy ingredients, Chowking's Halo-halo tastes a lot better than the last time I visited. The ice is finer now and the milk tastes better. The serving of each ingredient is just enough to get a balanced mix of taste. Hmmm! The best. Now we don't have to drive an hour and a half to Pampanga to get a fix of a great Halo-halo. I'll definitely be back before the summer ends!

Ben's Chocolate Cakes

I admit. I don't bake very well. But Ben does. Our 13-year-old chef does not only cook delicious pastas, chicken curry and menudo, he bakes the best chocolate-flavored cakes (brownies, fudge, plain choco cake).

A few days ago, I tried to bake chocolate cake for dessert. Without hesitation, Star blurted that kuya's cake tastes a lot better. Ouch! Talk about children's honesty. :-)

Last night, Ben baked choco fudge and we refrigerated it overnight. I had it for breakfast this morning to go along with my coffee. Hmm. The best! This is what I have missed the past four months. =)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I'm jobless, thank God!

It's my third day of being jobless and I've never been happier since I decided to give the corporate world a try.

Don't get me wrong. I loved the office I just left -- the work and the people I worked with. They were all so nice to me.

But at the end of the day, one has to decide on what is more important. No doubt about it, family comes first. When work comes in the way of family life, you have to let go.

Funny how my sisters and close friends reacted when I broke the news to them. They were all so happy for me. I am too! :-) Now I can say "hello" again to my kids as they wake up even if they do at mid-day. And I can't wait to have our long-awaited summer vacation! Thank God, I'm free again! :-)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Looking forward to an enchanting summer

Few weeks from now, my family and I will be "going home" to my adoptive town -- Santa Ana in Cagayan Valley. I fell in love with Santa Ana the moment I first set foot on this sleepy little town. It has a charm that draws your spirit, like filling your soul with its deepest longing. I'm reposting here an entry I did two years ago about Santa Ana. o 0 o

IT'S NOT CALLED CAPE ENGAÑO FOR NOTHING. This cove in Palaui Island of the now-getting-famous Santa Ana, Cagayan North, is truly enchanting. I'm pretty sure the Spaniards who first set foot on this little island before they built the once majestic Faro de Cabo Engaño in the late 1800's fell under the spell of this enchanted island. The same spell that binds every stranger who willingly takes on the beckoning of the hills -- that strong presence so enticing you can't refuse.

I've been to Cape Engaño twice this summer and I swear I'll be back. I love the waters -- so clear and so cool. There's nothing more refreshing than the ice-cold seawater under the heat of the sun. But the best and more rewarding part of it all is the awesome sight on top of Cape Engaño where the lighthouse sits like a princess waiting for her beloved. I will never get tired of going up over and over again. It is not a very easy way up, I should tell you. A steep 20-minute or so walk uphill some 95 meters above sea level, that is. But swear, I will gladly do it again and again. The sight on top is just breathtaking you cannot have enough of it in two or three climbs.

Midway through the climb, I sat on the green grass with my friend Sheila. We basked on the wonderful scenery. Everywhere you look, you will be awed. Truly, there can only be a Divine Designer who entricately planned for all the things around us. One who designed the mountains exactly the way they are, or the colors of the sea, or the coolness of the wind...

Once on top of the lighthouse, you get a good glimpse of the Babuyan group of islands. But right in front of the cape at the mouth of the Pacific Ocean are the mysterious twin islands called Dos Hermanas. Legend has it that these were two sisters desperately awaiting for the return of their lovers. Dos Hermanas are rock formations covered with greens. Fisherfolks say the best gamet, that green seaweed used for Nori, can be found in this twin islands. But beware, not a few lives have been taken as they tried to break the silence of these twin sisters.

The lighthouse itself, while now in ruins, has traces of it grand old days. One can imagine a little palace perched on a hill where Prince Charming visits his beloved.

We only stayed in the lighthouse for an hour at the most. After some picture taking, we all decided to descend and frolick in the cool clear blue waters. It was only a little past 9am but on top of the hill, the heat felt like mid-day. Thankfully, it was windy so we didn't really feel the scorching sun on the way down.

Again, I slowly went down to enjoy the view. My daughter Star was already long enjoying the waters by the time I reached the beach with a few other friends. We were quite a big group -- almost 30 in all. Some chose to sleep under the shade of the trees. The cool breeze of the sea could indeed lull you to sleep. Hmmm, what a life! Others explored the virgin forest of Palaui, following the narrow trail that leads to a small waterfalls.

As the "GRO" of the group (I have volunteered to help my friend Pinky and her husband Mayor Vic Rodriguez promote their town), I deliberately left out forest trekking in our itinerary. The forest can be scary. It gives you an eerrie feeling -- hearing those strange sounds of wild animals. But some media friends chose to go anyway.

Frolicking in the clear blue waters, away from the stressful life in the metro, was truly refreshing. But like anything else in the world, our time in the midst of the enchanted island had come to an end. By noontime, we all had to pack up and bid adeu. Happily, a lunch of fresh lobsters, crabs, shrimps and lapu-lapu awaited us back in the mainland. Of course, over lunch and in the days that followed, we never ran out of stories of the enchanting Cape Engaño.

Photo credit goes to my friend, Rose Razon.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Another Pinay makes it in global talent search!

Another Pinay may well be on her way to musical stardom. Galing talaga ng mga Pinay! (ehem.)

Mary Margaret Yu of Davao City won second place in the global talent search Voice of McDonald's 2008 where 3,600 plus McDonald's employees from 118 countries competed.

Two other Filipinos made it to the top 14 -- Canada-based Candido Revilles who placed third, and Yu’s best friend, Paulina Susan Bacarat.

Multi-platinum artist Ne-Yo led the panel of judges along with Sony/ATV Music Publishing co-president Jody Gerson, and Goldring, Hertz and Lichtenstein (LLP) senior partner Ken Hertz.

A powerful performance of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” became Margaret’s passport to the big showdown, where she received a standing ovation. Aside from her repertoire of Whitney Houston hits, the Pinay music genius is also into R&B, jazz, and ballads.

Congratulations to Margaret, Candido and Paulina! The three of you surely make us all proud. Good news such as this offer relief from all the negative stories written about the country. May your tribe increase!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jesus, The Healer

Next week, our Church will start a new series called The Healer. The topic of healing is very close to my heart, having witnessed a number of miraculous healings within the family -- one of which is that of our son Ben. (Read here The Birthing of Ben)

Born a week short of his seventh month, like many pre-term babies, Ben had very weak lungs. Immediately after he came out, he was admitted to the neo-natal intensive care unit which became his home for close to a month. I had asthma at the time we were pregnant with Ben. But little did I know that it was no longer just asthma I was suffering. I had pneumonia as well.

Unfortunately, while in my tummy, Ben got infected. About 27 weeks into his life, my water bag broke. Two days later, Ben came out.
Because I didn't even know my water bag broke, more complications set in. Ben had sepsis (blood infection). To make the matter worst, he suffered cardiac arrest a few days after he was born. I was already out of the hospital by then. Immediately after it happend, his doctor called to inform us that he had an attack but thankfully, they managed to revive him. "But you should come at once. At least you are here in case he goes," the doctor told me. I was speechless.

As my husband and I rushed to the hospital, I prayed to the Lord to spare our son, but at the same time, to just take him if he was not meant for us. Ben became comatose for days.

Yet, as days went by, the more I was assured that God had already given Ben to us. I just knew it. If Ben was not meant for us, then God should have taken him right away. But Ben hang on for days and weeks. Sometimes, he would show signs of progress, managing to be off the ventilator (life support) for a day or two. Then he would degress again. It was a roller-coaster ride. But finally, before he turned a month old, the doctor told us we could already take him home.

Ben is now 13. Handsome (wink wink!) and intelligent, one cannot imagine what he went through.

When he was old enough to understand, we told him the story of his life and how God did a miracle on him.

His doctor calls him "the miracle baby from the ICU" and indeed he is. He was the worst case in the ICU. The most premature and the most complicated case, Ben's healing could only be the handiwork of a miracle-working God.

"Only a miracle can save your son," his doctor told us. And indeed, the miracle happened.

Looking back, I believe God allowed us to go through a difficult start for many reasons. One, Ben's two younger sisters that followed very shortly one after the other were also both born premature. Thankfully, by the second and third time we became pregnant again, we already knew what to do. Second, having seen how God miraculously healed Ben, we now have personal knowledge that indeed, nothing is too difficult for the Lord. Everytime we go through something, we hold on to the knowledge that we have a miracle-working God. The past thirteen years, we went through so many challenges that if we have not only seen how God performed miracle on Ben, we would have probably succumbed to despair.

Thankfully, Jesus is our Divine Healer. With Him, nothing is impossible. And the impossible is nothing.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Half-rice, please...

This afternoon, I went to the grocery with my kids and was shocked to find out that prices of rice have skyrocketed. Just last week, you could still buy a decent variety of rice for less than P30 a kilo. Today, the P34/kilo in SM Hypermarket was like the regular NFA rice. Where has all our rice supply gone? Thankfully, because fewer people buy brown rice, the price is still cheaper. So we decided to shift to eating brown rice. Healthy eating now, by force. Haha! :-) Following the government's appeal to conserve rice, McDo announced it will soon start serving half rice in all its stores. McDo's press statement below:
Help save the world one half-rice at a time

Quick service restaurant giant McDonald's today announced it will soon start serving half-rice to customers in response to the government's call to help conserve the country's rice supply.

In a statement, McDonald's Vice President for Marketing Margot Torres said the decision came after Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Malacanang officials called on Filipinos to help in government efforts to avert a possible rice crisis.

Since early March, rice prices have been steadily rising reportedly because of global shortage in supply.

McDonald's is one of the first restaurant chains to express support to the government's call.

"McDonald's immediately acted upon Secretary Yap's appeal and mobilized a plan to offer half rice in its restaurants, still guided by the brand's commitment to food quality for its customers," Torres said.

Immediately, the fast food mogul acquired half-rice scoopers and developed in-store promotional materials for this campaign.

Half-rice meals will be officially made available in all McDonald's outlets beginning April 17 .

Torres reiterated that McDonald's remains committed to offering only high quality food to its customers.

Torres said the effort will not only help the country in rice conservation, but will also enable the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) to support more children under its Bright Minds Read Program, a reading program under Department of Education's Adopt-a-School. (end)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday Reflections

My 11-year-old daughter Sofia blogged about her reflections on Easter Sunday. Growing up in an evangelical church, she and her siblings missed traditions that my side of the family always looked forward to during the Holy Week. But even without those traditions, she now understands why Easter is an all-important and happy occasion for us Christians.

Though written in a very simple, childlike prose, it is a good reminder of the sacrifice Jesus has made to give us life.

Reposting here Pia's unedited blog:

Well, I don't really know much about Easter Sunday all I know about it is that it was the day Jesus was resurrected and stuff like that, but I just want to remind you all about this wonderful day. This day is well known for being the day in which God was resurrected. This was the story we were supposed to perform in Tree-atro right? The resurrection and those stuff. Although, I don't really read the bible that much (I admit), but this day is very holy and it affected our lives very much. He died for us, for our sins and I really thank Him for that. We don't really thank Him for doing this wonderful things to us and I think that we should acknowledge Him for this. I wonder how the world will be like if he didn't do this to us. In church earlier, the pastor mentioned that there was this certain cartoon. There were two people( I kinda changed some parts coz i forgot):

Person 1(dunno the name): Did you know that Christ went to hell?(I was shocked by this one)

Person 2 : What?!
Person 1 : Yeah, He did. He went there to cancel our reservations

I was surprised. I sat there, kinda frozen. I remembered how God really loved us and that He even died for us. If He didn't do that then we would live for nothing. All we do is : eat, sleep, do whatever we want and not care for others and what we do. We'd all do stuff that we think is "pleasurable", and we wouldn't care to think that what we are doing is wrong. We'd just do that our whole life and then when we die, we'd suffer in hell. I was really reminded that I should thank God for always being there and helping us all the way. He always did what was right. I would really appreciate if people would realize what I just realized.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Travelling again

"Travelling puts you in a heightened state of awareness. It stimulates your brain and makes you call up all your intellectual, spiritual and physical resources. Journeys are necessary for human beings; otherwise we stagnate. Change is essential for everyone, and travelling presents a high rate of change." - By the canadian writer Lynne Shuttleworth.

In the journey called life, you sometimes come to a point of exhaustion that you just want to stay still and ponder -- where I am really heading? I am taking the right direction? Should I rest? Or should I move on?

Knowing where you are heading makes the journey much easier. Yet, sometimes, taking a free fall can be more exciting. Knowing that Someone up there cares for you, and depending on Him alone, can make your journey more meaningful.

In less than two weeks, I will be travelling again. Travel has become a therapy for me. Most of the time, it brings me to new, unfamiliar places. Yet, it makes me appreciate home all the more.

Someone says travel is a means of escaping from the worries and burdens of everyday life. For a moment, you leave behind the bothersome realities in life. You discover new things and gain a wider perspective of the world. Life, after all, does not revolve around you. Yet, the more you go further, the more you realize what is more important to you.

Almost everytime I travel, I leave behind the most important gifts God has bestowed on me -- my family. I see new places and gain more insights of the world beyond my own. For a moment, I enjoy it. Being on my own, meeting new people, experiencing new culture, learning new things I would not have known had I not taken the opportunities the Greatest Giver of all opened up for me.

And yet, as I travel, the more He makes me realize that home is still the best gift of all.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ben is now 13!

So, I'm now a full-fledged mom of a teener! Ben turned 13 yesterday. To celebrate his transition to "teenhood," we went to Mall of Asia's Science Discovery Center. A budding scientist, Ben loves anything about science and the technology that goes with it.

He's especially fascinated by astronomy and robotics. One of the sites that he frequently visits is NASA and boy, are we amazed by the information he absorbs.

During his second grade, he was designated as "the official class researcher" because he loved to research ahead on their lessons. Without being told, he would then give his researched materials to their teacher. Of course, she was just so happy to have an assistant.

He's also a geek. He learned to use the computer at age 2 1/2. Being so "usesero," I thought it was wiser to teach him the proper way to use the computer rather than stopping him. Who knows what a terrible two can do without the prying eyes of a mom! In a few months, he was already so good in Corel. In fact, he did his sister's birthday invitation when Pia turned 1. He became our in-house "Mac" expert at 7, reading through religiously my friend Boogie's Mac for Dummies. Around that time, he also did his first website. He has created his own RPG game (through a gamemaker).

Now, he's our consultant on anything about computers and gadgets. And he's earning, too! :-) I paid him P500 for doing my website. We used to pay him P10 powerpoint presentations, until Ben realized he was underpaid! haha!

We praise God everyday for his life. Ben is God's living testimony that He is a miracle-working God. (Read here Ben's testimony) Our prayer for Ben is that he'll realize the gifts God has given him and use it to bless others. May he live to glorify God for the rest of his life.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, new beginning

(photo from Harshad Sharma)

I have this thing with new year. This time six year ago, I resigned from my dream job to become a full-time mom. It was a tough decision considering that I really loved what I was doing. But I love my children more and I was willing to drop everything for their sakes. It was truly a leap of faith, having to leave the hubby all by himself to tide us through.

Later on, as I got the wind of being a stay-at-home-mom, God opened opportunities for me to do consultancy work. It allowed me to work from the house, thus making me a work-at-home-mom. I still managed to bring the kids to school and fetch them, attend to their needs and manage the household. Before I knew it, I had been doing it for the past three years or so.

One part of me misses my old job as reporter. In fact, when I was offered last year to join the reportorial team of a business paper, I almost said yes. Yet, just the thought of being on-call again 24/7, being asked to cover coups and rallies and all, kept me from jumping back into the world of journalism. Being a news reporter is just not for moms. It's one noble job that I love, but some nuances that go along with it just wouldn't jibe with my idea of motherhood.

I've been praying to God to give me a clearer direction. And I guess, in a resounding way, He has answered me. Late last year, I got a call from a friend asking if I was interested to join their company. Things happened so fast that before I realized it, I had already said yes.

And so here I am, six years after I resigned from the Inquirer, I'm taking on a full-time job again.

I hope 2008 will be better, much brighter for all of us.