Friday, August 29, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

Last Sunday, I dressed wearily for the gala performance of the Bayanihan, the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, at the Luce Auditorium. I would have loved nothing more than just stay at home and curl up in front of the TV after our long hot day at the beach. (You know how it is going to the beach. You come home feeling dry, sticky and exhausted to the bone although you did nothing but sit all day.) Besides, I had reservations about my daughter, Abby, being able to stay awake during the performance, having swam and played all afternoon long.

But the thought of our two season passes sitting unused and gathering dust in the drawer, and to quiet down that tiny voice inside my head persistently reminding me to “think of how much each pass cost! Think of how much each pass cost!!” … firmed up my resolve. We’re going! Abby can curl up in her seat and snore to her heart’s content, but we’re using those tickets!

So there I was, facing my closet, trying to decide which one of my three good slacks I would wear that night (which, incidentally, were all colored brown, so there was actually no justifiable cause for my indecision) and still fighting the urge to return to the bedroom and just be my usual couch potato self.

But then, I thought of my reason for getting the two season passes for Abby and myself in the first place. I thought that at eight years of age, it was time for her to get introduced to Dumaguete’s cultural life. I didn’t want her to grow up thinking that the only forms of entertainment available are the television, the movies and the occasional Tayada sa Plaza events.

Dumaguete offers so much more and being a native, Abby should realize that she is very fortunate that we have Silliman University at the center of this city’s rich cultural life.

My apprehensions proved to be unfounded. My daughter was hooked from the very beginning. She leaned forward in her seat practically all throughout the performance, small fingers tapping to the beat of the music, her small face transfixed by that cacophony of movement and color on the stage, and barely sparing me a glance whenever I’d say something to her. I sustained her interest by whispering snippets of information like pointing out that Filipino girls wore those long gowns during Spanish time. I was rewarded by “Whoa!!! No pants or shorts?”

Thus, our evening at Luce turned out to be an invaluable learning experience, not only for Abby but also for myself. Take this for instance. When I told her to look at the musicians, particularly at that girl playing that “drum thingy”, she quickly told me that, it’s not a drum Mama, it’s the Kulintang! What??? How did you know that? From Makabayan, where else? (She said that in a tone which seemed to ask, “Hello??? Where have you been lately?”)

She also immediately recognized Tinikling and Singkil although she had not seen these dances performed before. This was an added bonus to my original intent of merely exposing her to cultural shows.

My investment of one thousand five hundred per season pass, which I thought, would merely entertain us, had become an extension of my daughter’s education. For Abby to actually see the pictures from her books come to life is priceless! The money spent for her season pass was money well spent indeed!

On top of that, the Bayanihan dancers gave us a very entertaining and highly enjoyable evening. From the controlled grace and elegance of the dances portraying four centuries of Spanish influence, to the explosion of colors, movements and sounds celebrating the joyous Filipino spirit, we sat enraptured and spellbound, our palms stinging as we gave one deafening applause after another, never holding back as we showered the Bayanihan dancers and musicians with our sincere appreciation.

Now, as I think back of that night, only one thought keeps coming back … there was never a dull moment indeed!

(For inquiries and ticket reservations, please contact the Silliman University Cultural Affairs Committee Secretariat at (035) 422-6002 local 520 or 0917-300-0783.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Truly Awesome!

I knew that I was fighting a losing battle but I still managed to put up a valiant struggle.

I knew that I was up against an overwhelming opponent but I still waged a war that could only be described as Olympian … but I still lost in the end.

Sleep claimed me and I snored the night away as rhythmic gymnasts danced their hearts out for the gold.

Did I lose you there? Yes, I was referring to the Beijing Olympics, the rhythmic gymnastics competition in particular. It was an awesome display of precision gymnastics combined with the grace and elegance of ballet. I had been looking forward to watching it, and woe of all woes … my eyes simply would not stay opened!

I’m not exaggerating my disappointment here. I feasted on the beauty and elegance of the performances while marveling, with something close to awe, at the single-minded dedication that each athlete must have poured into their craft to come up with such perfection. I would have wanted to watch all night …

The word awe pretty sums up how I feel about the Olympics. I was hooked from day one, when China opened with a ceremony that could only be described as SPECTACULAR!!!

And who wouldn’t be? Starting from that phenomenon in the Water Cube called Michael Phelps (whose broad shoulders that seem to stretch forever, by the way, not to mention those magnificent abs, are a definite pleasure to watch!) all the way down to Hong Kong where the equestrian competitions are being held … I can only say … absolutely fantastic!!!

Dressage and horse jumping in equestrian kept me glued to the TV. The poise and elegance of the world-class riders astride those breathtakingly gorgeous thoroughbreds kept me amazed at the many facets of beauty. (Note: A blog visitor kindly informed me that almost no good dressage horses are thoroughbreds - they are warmbloods. Although I do not know what warmbloods are, I deeply appreciate that information.) My friends can attest to my fascination with those horses and at how beautiful they are to my eyes! One commentator speculated that the best of them could fetch prices as high as two million euros!!! Now, that’s quality for you!

It’s amazing how those horses could dance to the beat of music in dressage! I thought that if their trainers could teach them those intricate moves, surely they could also teach me the cha-cha! But that’s only wishful thinking. I’m afraid I’m untrainable in dancing. Each of those horses has more talent than a dozen of me put together. Hello? As if that’s not obvious enough! That’s why people are willing to pay millions for them, remember?

But my fascination with the horses and Michael Phelps’ abs, notwithstanding, the one image that will stay in my mind for a long, long time is that of a muscle-bound, fully bearded athlete crying openly while pressing his silver medal to his face and lips.

The enormity of his triumph, and those of many others, hit me there and then. That medal meant the world to him. Encapsulated in that tiny piece of metal are all his dreams and aspirations, all the sacrifices that he had to make, all the pain and agony that he had to endure … everything that he had in him, he gave into winning that medal. And it was finally his! Tears flowed out freely, unashamedly. Watching him, I had to swallow a big lump in my throat.

And just as there was triumph, I witnessed the agony of defeat. Many a time I watched as tough looking, muscle-bound amazons fight back tears as their Olympic dreams slipped away from their grasps. A lifetime of preparation and training gone in a matter of seconds!

This drama could not be more apparent than in canoe and boat races. There, at one glance, you would see the deepest depths of agony and defeat in sharp contrast with sights of victorious celebrations. Shouts of victory, hugs, and fists pummeling the air in triumph as against men slumped on their seats in crushed silence, exhaustion and disappointment heavily permeating the air.

And that, my friends, is the Olympics for me. Beyond the pleasure of watching the athletes compete and dazzle with their raw power and strength, their speed and endurance, their grace and elegance, and their sheer ability to defy the rules of nature by pulling off those awe-inspiring feats … beyond the pleasure of watching men and women at the peak of the physical perfection … beyond the pomp and pageantry …

In the Olympics, I had the privilege of catching a glimpse of what is inside the heart of each and every Olympian … that burning fire at the very depths of their being, that hunger for excellence that keeps gnawing at their core, that drive to be the best, that hunger that kept them going, pushing their abilities to the limit and beyond, and rising above themselves to become larger than life. All that, plus the inner strength that drove many to rise up after a crushing failure or defeat, again and again and again, is the essence of the undefeatable Olympic Spirit.

And that’s what made me say … truly awesome!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Girls at Casa Cittadini

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a pint-sized survivor I called Angel. This 4-year old girl survived six days and nights all alone in a forested area, without food, her tiny body covered with wounds, and all the time tormented by maggots.

I wrote about her for a variety of reasons. I wanted to thank my friends who did not hesitate to send help to Angel. I also wanted to bring her plight to the attention of readers, hoping to touch some hearts into giving to the child the same love and kindness shown to her by many others. Finally, it was my own way of giving kudos to this extraordinary little individual. I want to believe that she is destined for something really, really good.

This week let me introduce little Manilyn to you. There was a time when Manilyn had to beg for food to survive. This came after her father died of tuberculosis and her mother abandoned her and her six siblings. But good fortune smiled at her. She has been taken in by loving arms and given a secure home. She no longer has to worry where to get her next meal. And she is now in grade one.

Then, there are the sisters Melrita and Sherlita. Just like Manilyn, their mother abandoned them. They continued to live with their farmer-father, but with nine mouths to feed, life was hard. The children learned early in life to survive on their own. They were often hungry and had to resort to combing the fields for food. When they got lucky, they would feast on raw cassava, banana and other crops.

But this life is behind Melrita and Sherlita now. They have also been taken in by those same loving arms and given a good life and a shot at a better future ahead of them. The older girl, Melrita, is now in 2nd year high school, and Sherlita in grade five.

And then, there is Lady Princess. Her father was too ill to provide for his family, thus, her older brothers had to step in. They brought home food for the table by gathering and selling firewood. But the efforts of these boys were not enough. The family, with nine hungry children, could barely eat one meal a day. To add to this miserable existence, the children barely got the chance to go to school.

But Lady Princess was one determined little girl. She wanted to go to school and it was this determination that led her to her new home. She is now in 1st year high school and belongs to the top ten of her class.

The stories of Manilyn, Melrita, Sherlita, and Lady Princess are like mirrors that are reflected over and over again in the lives of twenty-three other girls, whose age range from four to twenty-one. The same thread of poverty, abandonment, neglect, and oversized families ran through the fabric of their parallel lives.

Some of them came from Luzon, others from Mindanao. But they all came together in Jawa, Valencia, living a better life, facing a brighter future, and safe and secure under the loving embrace of the Ursuline Sisters of Somasca.

These kindly nuns recognize that the children are the most helpless and vulnerable individuals in any society. They thus took these young girls in when they knocked at their convent’s door and provided to them the physical, moral, spiritual and educational nurturing that they have been deprived of during their early years.

Thus CASA CITTADINI came to be – a home for orphaned, abandoned and neglected girls.

Following the examples of Blessed Caterina Cittadini – a woman who lived for God and who devoted all her life towards giving Christian education and formation to young children – the Ursuline Sisters opened the doors of Casa Cittadini with the mission of caring for these lost children. They educated them, provided to them the love of family that they have missed out, and gave to them all they need to make them happy children of God.

The Ursuline Sisters seek to cultivate in these girls a strong faith in Christ and to promote the formation of Christian values. They hope to develop in them the whole person and to mold them into becoming good and responsible Christians capable of giving themselves in service to the Church and society.

But the Sisters cannot achieve these worthy endeavors by themselves alone. They need our help. This time, they are the ones knocking at our heart’s doors, seeking our support as they labor to raise the girls at Casa Cittadini into young women who would bring praise and honor to God’s name.

These girls have known nothing but adversity all throughout their early years. The Ursuline Sisters came to make them feel God’s love by nurturing them with their mothers’ hearts. Let us help them continue doing this noble task.

We can be a mission sponsor or partner. As partners, we can donate as low as one hundred pesos monthly. It may not be much, but if there were ten of us, the amount we will put together will be enough to feed one girl for one month.

The Ursuline Sisters may be reached through the following numbers: +6335 2261160 and +6335 2250318. Please ask for Sister Molly.

Or you may email them at
or visit their website

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dumaguete Policewoman received COPS Award

SPO2 Josefa L. Lacandula, Chief of the Women and Children Concerns Desk of Dumaguete City Police, was honored with the Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) award for her unswerving commitment and dedication to her work along with her exemplary and laudable accomplishments.

She is one of ten men and women in the police force who were honored by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last August 1, 2008 during conferment rites held at the Malacanang Palace.

The nationwide search for outstanding police officers is a joint project of the Metrobank Foundation and the Rotary Club of New Manila East in partnership with PSBank and the Philippine National Police.

COPS aimed to identify police officers whose selfless service and dedication to duty have made a positive impact on the communities they vowed to serve and protect.

Following the nationwide selection process, 20 COPS finalists were pre-selected from 108 nominees from across the country. The judges poured over the 20 finalists’ documentation of achievement and answers to essay questions. In the interview phase, the judges rated the finalists based on validity and accuracy of accomplishments, attitude towards their profession, and responsible citizenship.

The Board of Judges was chaired by Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara and composed of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Diosdado Peralta, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Pasig President Rosalinda Tirona, Manila Bulletin columnist Julie Yap-Daza and Galing Pook Foundation Executive Director Dr. Eddie Dorotan.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Of Goodness and Evil

I heard of the 4-year girl who was allegedly raped by her 16-year old cousin. The story goes that he threw her down a ravine because “she made a lot of noise”. That would have been the end of this little girl’s story, whom I will hide under the name “Angel”.

Angel would have become part of statistics, just another figure in that long list of defenseless little girls who have fallen victims to crazed attackers.

But Angel didn’t die. For 6 long days and nights, she wandered all alone in a forested area. She must have been scared. She must have cried endlessly for mama and papa. She must have been hungry. With wounds and grazes all over her tiny body, she must have been in pain. And with maggots in her wounds, yes, she must have been in torment.

I thought of her all alone during the cold dark nights, shivering not only because she was scared and not only because of the pouring rain, but also because of that gnawing pain in her stomach … I thought of her fighting off mosquitoes at night, and flies during the day … I imagined her feeling nothing but terror, pain, hunger, thirst, confusion … I tried to imagine all these, and yet, I still could not fathom the horror this 4-year old little girl went through.

Then I thought of my young daughter who sleeps beside me night after night, safe and secure under the knowledge that mama is not far away … and I wept for little Angel.

I wept for the brutality that was committed against her. I wept for those six days and nights. I wept for a little girl whom I fear will never be whole again.

That same day, my friend Chedette and I went to NOPH to offer our little help. We talked with Angel’s father. We saw a defeated man with dull, lifeless eyes.

We made a resolve to continue the text campaign started by some kindhearted soul soliciting help for little Angel. I forwarded the message to every friend I could think of.

I was overwhelmed by the responses that came back to me one after another. Tita Carmen Cabrera promised she would visit Angel the following day. Jackie Antonio went to see her that same night and brought food for Angel and her father. Friends like Dra. Maebelle Siao, Donna Martinez, Geraldine Valencia, Dra. Idelle Yurong, Mayette Diaz, Lloyd Lopez, Ken and Agnes Tuale and so many more, asked the same questions: where could we find her? My answers were brief: ICU, Surgery Dept., NOPH. How can we help? I said, with whatever means you could spare: cash, medicine, food. Some mothers thought of giving toys to Angel. Yes, I said. Why not? Some cuddly stuffed toys will bring great comfort to a traumatized child. How about kiddie snacks? Great idea. Anything our own children would love to eat, 4-year Angel would probably also love.

Sister Marissa, the principal of Cittadini, visited Angel right after being informed of her plight. She promised that the school’s First Friday Mass would be offered for her. She also gave cash coming from the hearts of the Ursuline Sisters.

Some Cittadine mothers heard our calls for help for Angel and went directly to NOPH. Others like Gina, Heidi and Jovie pooled their resources and came up with an amount that would go a long way towards helping Angel and her family.

I have always believed that some good could still be found amidst the most evil of circumstances. We saw the outpouring of goodness when Dumagueteños showed up to give love and kindness to little Angel.

Indeed, evil flourishes in our midst. But there is still so much goodness all around us. Yes, the good will still triumph.

The Great Equalizer

I thought of my father’s life while visiting his grave. I could not help but compare it to that of the man buried only a few feet away from him. Like my Dad, he started life filled with so much promise. But that is the farthest their parallels could go.

This man went on to make millions while still in his thirties. In his forties, life continued to smile at him. Life was good until it was snuffed out.

My Dad reached his plateau early on. At some point after that, it became a downhill struggle for him. He experienced some brief highs along the way, like the quite joys only love and family could bring, delights that no amount of poverty could take away. But he still died a broken man.

Two lives so vastly different from the other. Yet here, at the end of their day, they lay almost side by side, all differences and barriers gone.

Then it hit me. I always thought I knew how, beneath our skin, we are all the same … but during that quiet morning, I came to truly understand.

All we have in this life, everything about us … wealth, title, beauty, fame, achievements, talents, profession … everything that distinguish us from others … everything that held us above the rest … or simply made us better one way or another … are all stripped away when we leave this life.

Under the ground, we become equals with the poorest of the poor, even the lowest of the low.

I was brought me to my knees. I was humbled.

A Champion in our Midst

This mother starts her day at the crack of dawn cleaning up around her home and quickly doing some laundry. Then she wakes up her two boys and the mother transforms into a figure reminiscent of a drill instructor running a marine boot camp as she herds her sons from their beds to the bathroom. In between occasional yells for Pol and Pat to pick up their speed, this drill instructor undergoes yet another transformation. This time, she becomes the harried cook busily banging pots and pans in the kitchen as her prepares her boys’ breakfast and lunchboxes.

After the boys are taken to school, this mother puts on her uniform and SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula, along with husband Luis, also a PNP member, starts yet another part of her day, this time, as Chief of the Women and Children Concerns Desk (WCCD) and the Family, Juvenile and Gender Sensitivity (FJGS) PNCO of Dumaguete City Police Station.

For the uninitiated, SPO2 Josefa Lacandula, or Jobie to her friends, is the lady police women and children ran to when they are in trouble. Battered wives, rape victims, and abused children all know her face. Every one of them would attest that behind that no-nonsense façade lies genuine kindness and warmth and a truly compassionate heart whose concern for each victim’s plight extends beyond the 8am to 5pm confines of her job.

This may come as a shock to some, but cyber sex operators have arrived in this genteel city. Four minor girls, who came to the city to work as house helpers, were induced with promises of easy money, to work as subjects in a cyber sex operation. They were made to perform unmentionable acts in front of a web camera and viewed by foreign clients via internet for a fee.

This was brought to the attention of the Police by an aunt who became suspicious of the inordinate amount of money in the girls’ possession vis-à-vis their supposed earnings as house helpers.

SPO2 Lacandula wasted no time acting on this information. She personally conducted surveillance operations night after night and purposely did not bring in male police personnel to avoid detection by the operators and the relatives surrounding them.

She did this at great peril to herself, and more often than not, used her own vehicle and spent personal money to expedite her operation. Her tireless efforts lead to the apprehension of the suspects and rescue of the victimized minors.

This praiseworthy accomplishment is only one of SPO2 Lacandula’s countless triumphs as a champion of women and children’s rights within the police force.

She also rescued five minors from the Cebu province who were brought over to Dumaguete City to work as commercial sex workers. After learning about these girls and how they have been living in the streets after they ran away from their abusive employer, she proceeded to search for them by conducting night patrols for fifteen straight nights until she found them. A mother at heart, she did not stop at mere rescue. She extended her efforts at rehabilitating these children by finding them sponsors who’d shoulder the cost of their education.

She did the same thing for countless street children, most of whom have fallen into the habit of sniffing dangerous substances. In her back-to-school program, she found funding for their return to their families and provided them with school supplies through a foreign sponsor so they could return to school.

She was also in the forefront of a buy-bust operation aimed at stopping the proliferation of pornographic lighters in the City. In a Frustrated Homicide case, her efforts led to the arrest of a suspect who viciously and repeatedly attacked and stabbed his wife in the presence of their two daughters. In another case, her immediate response also led to the quick arrest of the common law husband who stabbed the victim to death after she ended their relationship. The next case involved a French pedophile who victimized four minor Filipino boys. Finally, SPO2 Lacandula convinced witnesses to talk leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator, a family friend of the 10-year old child whom she robbed and strangled.

And as if her day is not busy enough, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct training seminars among student advocates, women groups, youth groups, and male advocates in the barangays and schools on laws protecting women and children. She also produced information materials pertaining to these same laws and distributed them to families, offices, schools, churches and other public places.

Her busy day does not end when the clock strikes five. Amidst her duties as wife and mother, and in between household chores and her children’s assignments and quizzes, SPO2 Lacandula still finds time to conduct frequent surprise visits to hotels, pension houses, motels, karaoke bars, internet cafés and other nightspots. This is in connection with the implementation of the Anti-Indecency Ordinance that aims to ensure that women, children and youth are protected from abuse.

SPO2 Lacandula’s unswerving commitment and dedication to her work, along with her exemplary and laudable accomplishments, did not go unnoticed. Chief of Police and her immediate supervisor Supt. LEOPOLDO ECHICA CABANAG recommended her for the nationwide search for the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS).

And indeed, the organizers know a good cop when they see one. SPO2 Josefa Lacpao Lacandula will be honored this month as one of the Philippines’ Top 10 awardees of the 2008 Country’s Outstanding Policemen in Service (COPS) award.
To Jobie, her family and the entire Dumaguete Police Force, our congratulations! Keep up the good work!