Canyoneering Downstream in Badian: A Perfect Extreme Adventure for Aspiring Adventurers


My wife and I were supposed to try this adventure this week, but due to the bad weather conditions, canyoneering in Badian has been temporarily suspended. This one’s for the adventurous types. Check-out the 20-foot shame dive. If you don’t dive, you’re shamed for life!!! Kung kaya sa uban, kaya na nimo!!!

Thanks, Gian and Sheila, for this great blog!

Originally posted on Adrenaline Romance:

Downstream Canyoneering in Badian

The idea of engaging in extreme adventures seems to be fun and exciting. After all, who wouldn’t be excited at seeing breathtaking scenes, experiencing adrenaline-pumping activities, or sharing death-defying experiences with friends? However, based on our experiences, many people find out the hard and painful way that the world of adventure is not as easy as described in blogs or seen in photos and videos.

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Assessing the Philippine Campaign in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore

Nothing’s changed. After the Philippines’ dismal performance in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar during the 27th South East Asian (SEA) Games last 2013, our contingent returns home from the 28th edition of the SEA Games in Singapore minus a favorable result once again.

28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 - National Stadium, Singapore - 16/6/15  Closing Ceremony - Volunteers and athletes dance  SEAGAMES28 TEAMSINGAPORE Mandatory Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters

Closing Ceremony at the SEA Games in Singapore. (courtesy of SINGSOC)

Our athletes landed 6th overall in Singapore with a tally of 29 Gold, 36 Silver and 66 Bronze medals, a slight improvement from the 7th place finish in 2013 in Myanmar where we also had 29 Gs, but only 34 Ss and 38 Bs. The jump from 6th to 7th was largely on account of Myanmar’s plummeting fortunes from having a host country’s bonanza of medals in 2013, to an ordinary competitor .

Prior to jumping off to do battle in Singapore, our sports leaders trumpeted a projected output of 41 to 50 golds. Not surprisingly, they were way off the mark.

Here are the medal standings for the last SEA Games:


The 28th SEA Games Medal Tally (courtesy of SINGSOC)

Singapore, with a population of only 5.4 million people, beat the Philippines, a country with over 100 million people, for the third straight time in the medal tally. Since the 2011 Games in Palembang, the Philippines has logged behind Singapore by at least five gold medals. Sure, Singapore was due for an avalanche of additional medals, as hosts of the Games. But the difference in medal output is simply appalling. Others will say that the tiny nation has the economic resources to train and develop their athletes.

If economic resource is the answer, Vietnam has a per capita income of $3.5T; while the Philippines has a better per capita with $4.5T (2014 IMF figures). Vietnam joined the Games only in the 90s, after years of devastation caused by war. Vietnam has a population of 93M (again much less than the Philippines). Vietnam had more golds and has consistently outscored the Philippines in the medal race since 2005. This tells us that economic resource bogey cannot be entirely true.

Malaysia has a population of only 30 million. It has consistently outscored the Philippines in the medal tally since 2005. So with Thailand with a population of 67 million.

In Singapore, we failed to win a single event in 51 gold medals at stake in aquatics (38 in swimming, 8 in diving, 3 in synchronized swimming and two in water polo). It is simply unthinkable for a country surrounded by water not to win a single gold in aquatics.

We were previous world champions and current record holders in three showcase events in dragon boat (traditional boat race), and yet we didn’t win a single gold (there were eight gold medals offered) in the event.

We also failed to win any of the 17 golds in canoeing. We only scored four bronze medals.

In athletics, we won 5 golds. However, 4 of these came from Fil-Ams based in the USA. This clearly illustrates that the grassroots development program for track and field is practically non-existent, unlike the times we had the likes of Lydia De Vega, Isidro Del Prado and Elma Muros in the Gintong Alay program.

All sports failed to meet their medal predictions, except for triathlon, boxing, taekwondo, table tennis, softball, billiards, rugby 7s and basketball. The Philippines participated in 35 of the 36 sports in Singapore.

Chef de mission Julian Camacho initially predicted 50 gold medals, then lowered his expectations to 41 in a bid to match the country’s gold output in 2007 Thailand. He later thanked the athletes for doing a good job after bringing home only 29 gold medals, the exact same output in 2013 in Myanmar, but with more athletes competing this time.

We competed in only three team sports in Myanmar (men’s and women’s basketball and women’s football), as opposed to the several team sports in Singapore (men’s and women’s softball, basketball, rugby 7s and volleyball, women’s football, netball and floorball) where a total of 158 Filipino athletes competed.

Here is the Philippines medal tally by sport in the 28th SEA Games:

Sport No of Events Gold Silver Bronze
Aquatics 38 0 2 11
Archery 10 0 1 3
Athletics 46 5 7 9
Basketball 2 1 0 0
Badminton 7 0 0 1
Billiards and Snooker 10 3 1 5
Bowling 10 0 0 2
Boxing 11 5 3 2
Canoeing 17 0 0 4
Cycling 6 1 0 0
Fencing 12 0 4 2
Gymnastics 17 1 1 2
Judo 12 1 0 2
Pencak Silat 13 0 0 3
Rowing 18 0 1 1
Rugby 7s 2 1 0 1
Sailing 20 1 2 0
Sepak Takraw 10 0 1 1
Shooting 26 1 1 3
Softball 2 2 0 0
Squash 5 0 0 3
Table Tennis 7 0 1 0
Taekwondo 15 3 3 2
Tennis 7 1 3 4
Traditional Boat Race 8 0 0 1
Triathlon 2 2 1 0
Water Skiing 11 0 0 3
Wushu 20 1 4 3
No Medals:
Aquatics-Diving 8 0 0 0
Aquatics-Synchronized Swimming 3 0 0 0
Aquatics-Water Polo 2 0 0 0
Equestrian 4 0 0 0
Floorball 2 0 0 0
Football 1 0 0 0
Golf 4 0 0 0
Netball 1 0 0 0
Volleyball 2 0 0 0

POC Vice President and Volleyball Head Joey Romasanta ventured that there is a lesson to be learned from the medal standings. He said that we should concentrate on medal-rich events such as aquatics, athletics, canoeing, boxing, etc. to score high in the medal race. This is not a lesson learned, but rather a lesson unlearned as this has been a known fact since the early days of the Olympics. To say now that we should start to focus on these events is to actually say that we have not learned these lessons from long ago.

PSC chairman Richie Garcia said that there is a need to entice coaches to go full time on training the national athletes. Most coaches, he said, do odd jobs on the side, like coaching and training collegiate athletes and teaching kids. Garcia said the coaches produce the athletes so they should be paid better in order for them to stay. Case in point is the former track icon Lydia de Vega who now works in Singapore as a college coach. Again, this is nothing new. Everybody knows that to get quality performance, we need quality coaches. And quality coaches need quality incentives.

Garcia further added that our athletes performed well in some and had narrow defeats that could had been won. He earlier predicted a sixth overall finish without the number of gold medals. He decried the lack of foreign training opportunities for the coaches and the athletes as the bane in Philippine sports. Nothing new again. If we want our athletes to learn and grow in their respective fields, give them more opportunities to pit talents and bloody their noses in international competitions and training.

POC president Peping Cojuangco Jr said the national athletes should be housed in a training center where everything is controlled and strictly monitored— diet, conditioning, mind-set and training. He hopes to build the training center in Clark Air Base, Pampanga (projected to cost around P2 billion) as soon as possible. Again, this has been articulated a million times before. Gintong Alay’s successful program had our athletes train in Baguio, where the thin air helped their lungs develop the capacity to acquire more oxygen, hence more stamina. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel here.

Cojuangco also mentioned that athletes from other countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and even Malaysia got ample financial support from the government. He said these countries spent at least five times the money that the Philippines had invested on its athletes. This is the same song, with the same refrain all over again. And no one has done anything about it.

Based on the POC and PSC leadership, the following broad strokes were given: the need for full-time coaches, the need for foreign training opportunities, the need for a national sports training facility, the need for more government financial support. Bottomline here is the lack of support from government for a comprehensive national sports and youth program.

But other than that, there is a glaring lack of a grassroots development program for many of our sports associations. This is evident in the lack of quality performance, the lack of publicity and excitement generated from our Palarong Pambansa or other national sports competitions of the recent past.

There is the growing popularity of taking short cuts, of mining for gold opportunities among Fil-foreigners, instead of developing our native talents. It is apparently more fun for officials to look for talents abroad, than to find diamonds in the rough in the hinterlands of Mindanao or elsewhere.

Many of our National Sports Associations (NSAs) have not demonstrated the initiative and creativity to find other sources of support for their athletes. Everyone cries out for lack of resources when there are hundreds of companies that are willing to assist given the right opportunity. Companies will want to be identified with winners, thus an ill-planned program will definitely not get the desired support.

Finally, there is the perceived sports politics that has stymied the development of many sports associations not properly connected with the POC. Some sports associations are favored, while some are not.

Many of our NSAs have become NPAs (non-performing assets). The medal tally above should tell us which Associations have been napping. These NSAs must be held accountable for their actions (or inactions). If we continue the same programs, the same activities, at the same pace, with the same faces, we are sure to have the same results. New standards, new initiatives, new leadership is needed to inject dynamism, trust and a deeper understanding of the challenges of the new sports environment.

The same should hold true for our POC and PSC. After 2005, we have been consistently underachieving. The broad strokes given by our sports leaders have been the same complaints which they themselves should have addressed long time ago. To say that we are happy with the results is to say that we are happy with mediocrity and dismal performance. That is precisely the kind of attitude that will keep our people mired in the quicksand of failure.

Perhaps it is time to change the old guards. There are passionate leaders who can better address the country’s hemorrhaging sports program. There are young, innovative sportsmen who have a better appreciation for sports in general; new leaders who can shine under the new sports dynamics at the national and international level.

As for the perennial problem of ‘lack of government support’,  it is time for the whole sporting community to make its voice heard. It is clear that the President is not keen on supporting the present POC leadership. What he doesn’t realize is that by withholding support for the POC, he is actually denying support for our athletes, and the country’s sports and youth program.

The country’s leadership must understand the critical role of sports in the development of the nation. The President must wake up to his responsibility to get the wheel moving. Investing in sports among the youth is an important first step in the stairway to success. It makes our people stronger physically, mentally and psychologically. It is a culture changer.

Sports builds the character of our youth. It develops the basics of discipline, sacrifice, professionalism, teamwork, fair play, unity, leadership, etc. These character traits produce the bedrock to success. Success provides the impetus for more support to be poured back into the system. Once that cycle is completed, once the movement has gained momentum, that perennial nuisance called ‘lack of government support’ becomes a thing of the past.

But first we have to take the first step.

Pics courtesy of,,,, SINGSOC, gma network.




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Turning Life on the Flipside

– a story from Habitat For Humanity Philippines

I met Ben and Rhodes from a high school classmate, Rose Marie Sabangan, who is Rhodes’ mom. Imagine two young scholarly dudes, suddenly thrust in an alien situation, in a less than ideal environment. It is to the credit of these two young gentlemen that, despite the many challenges, they took on the challenge and persevered. 


Ben and Rhodes, two classy dudes willing to dirty their hands for a good cause.

Study. Internet. Repeat. Multiply that by four years.

That was life then for Ben Ros and Rhodes Sabangan, two (2) New Yorkers who recently graduated from college in Ohio, until they decided there’s more to life than complacency and comfort.

“We wanted to put away the cerebral halves of ourselves,” Rhodes explained, “You become complacent and you stop taking risks. You stop moving forward. You stop trying to meet new people.”


Deciding to turn life on its flipside, they came to the Philippines on September 2014, for five (5) months of travel; meeting new people, trying new things, and along with it, to build homes with Habitat for Humanity Philippines, empowering both themselves and the lives of others in need.

hab15“Last November (2013), we had obviously heard about Yolanda (international name: Haiyan)… and so it just became clear that we were killing multiple birds with one stone,” Rhodes said.

From there, the two became the most-travelled volunteers within Habitat Philippines’ sites, volunteering to build homes in Bistekville 4 in Quezon City,  Pinamalayan in Mindoro, Daanbantayan and Bantayan Island, in Cebu, and finally, Bohol.

The two friends even stayed in an empty unit at Bistekville 4 while they were building on-site.


At Habitat’s Bistekville 4, volunteers get ready to build.

“Staying in one of the houses that we were building for other people, was a profound experience,” Rhodes said.

“It was comfortable too. It’s a nice house!” Ben added.

Ben also said another notable experience on their journey was building for earthquake-affected families in Bohol, as each house is built on the home partners own land, from the ground up.

“By the end of the first week in Bohol, it was like, “oh, I dug the foundation for this house four days ago and now they’re putting the roof on it’ and it’s really gratifying,” Ben said.


The Bohol model using bamboo instead of hollow blocks.

This fulfillment, derived from four years of straight studying and a life they’d wanted to shake-up, Ben and Rhodes traded typing on keyboards and  tapping on their smart phones,  to mixing cement, hauling thousands of concrete hollow blocks and laying them brick by brick; building the foundations to homes and lives of informal settlers and disaster-affected families.

“Digging holes or foundations and hauling cement back and forth, just doing it without pay, is very different from something I’ve done before… rewarding of course, and in multiple different ways,” Ben continued.


Building new homes for the victims of Haiyan,

Rhodes agreed, saying, “I think what Ben and I were scared of – which is why we wanted to get out of what we were doing – was this ‘computer routine’, this screen-life that we were living, is a loss of energy.

“(Now) I just feel so full of energy, so ready to be like “let’s do something!” whatever and wherever it is… this trip has provided me with a tremendous amount of energy,” Rhodes concluded.

(Pics courtesy of,, habitatphils, cbh)



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Lessons from the Epic Warriors-Cavs NBA 2015 Finals

It’s been 40 long, arduous years, but the Golden State Warriors are finally back on top of the world as they ran roughshod over an undermanned, yet gallant Cleveland Cavaliers 4-2 in the 2015 NBA Finals.

The Warriors were coming off a magical season, with the Splash Brothers – regular-season MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Star Klay Thompson – leading a balanced and seemingly effortless offensive symphony characterized by a furious pace, atrocious space and deadly shooting accuracy.


The Splash Brothers – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson – led a full-house of gunslingers from the West. (courtesy of

Led by Lebron James, arguably the greatest basketeer of this generation, the Cavaliers on the other hand had willed themselves into the prestigious NBA Finals despite a line-up so depleted by injuries.

Super LBJ barreling through. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Some key take-outs in the series:

First, health is wealth. The injuries to Cav first-stringers Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao were simply too huge to ignore. Credit LBJ and the Cavs who, despite the absence of key players in the Cav line-up, were able to mount a serious challenge for the crown – even taking the lead 2-1 before the Warriors turned it into a car race. Had the Cavs line-up been as healthy, the results would have certainly been different.

Second, tall doesn’t always beat small. It is said that basketball is a big man’s sport. However, when the Cavs took an alarming 2-1 lead in the Finals, Warriors’ rookie coach Steve Kerr gambled with an audacious move, bringing in a small, but more athletic unit. To offset the height and rebounding disadvantage, he had the Warriors run like crazy on both the defensive and offensive ends, and shoot the lights out with precision treys.


Small ball trumps Cavs’ slow-down offense. (courtesy of

Third, good defense leads to good offense. Most fans marvel at the Dubs’ show-no-mercy offensive barrage. What is almost always left unnoticed is the fact that the Warriors offense was made possible by an obnoxious defense which choked the passing and cutting lanes, swarmed the lane intruders, forced so many turn-overs, leading to an exquisitely performed transition offense.

Fourth, one super player will always be trumped by 3-4 good ones. Lebron tried the best Superman impersonation he could, speeding and wheeling and muscling and soaring, as he tried to tow a Cleveland cast of characters that was clearly not as immortal. Unfortunately, he would be left literally out of breath come the 4th quarter, when the Dubs stepped on the gas and gun ahead full throttle.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) hangs his head during the second half of Game 6 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors in Cleveland, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) ORG XMIT: OHMC148

Even super-heroes get tired. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Cavs clearly wanted to keep the games low-scoring, grind-it-to-the-ground contests. And the scoresheets tell it all. The Warriors won all the games when their score cleared 100. Cleveland took both games where the Warriors’ score didn’t reach the century mark.

Game 1: 108 – 100 (GS in overtime)

Game 2:   95 –   93 (Cleveland in overtime)

Game 3:   96 –   91 (Cleveland)

Game 4: 103 –   82 (GS)

Game 5: 104 –   91 (GS)

Game 6: 105 –   97 (GS)

The Cavs knew that their only chance to win was to stop the speed freaks, keep the scores low, and give their own legs a chance to compete in the final minutes. They knew that if the score was close come the last 2 minutes, a guy named Super LBJ would come to the rescue and close it with a favorable result.


Super LBJ slices through a phalanx of guards sent his way. (courtesy of

Lebron almost did it in the first game, before running out of gas in the overtime period, 108 – 100. He did it in the second game, also decided in heart-pounding overtime, 95 – 93. He did it again on the third game, with the help of the hometown crowd, 96 – 91!

Suddenly, Lebron just needed two more games to cap a Cinderella season. Two more games to elevate his stature further as a cage demigod. Two games left, and Cleveland would finally find hoop heaven.


A tantalizing 2 games away from hoop heaven. (courtesy of

But then, fatigue was slowly setting in. Lebron was taking on far too many chores on both sides of the court. And this was taking its toll.

And then the Warriors went full throttle. Throwing caution to the wind, and junking conventional basketball wisdom, coach Steve Kerr brought in Andre Igoudala and transformed his players into Formula 1 speedsters in their revved-up Ferraris.


Andre Igoudala provided the spark that would eventually turn the series around. (courtesy of

The rest is history. Zooming ahead in Game 4 as if their very lives depended on it, the Warriors left Lebron huffing and puffing. Score was a whopping 103 – 82! Coach David Blatt tried matching Kerr’s small unit with one of his own in the crucial Game 5, only to realize he didn’t have the same talent available, 104 – 91. Warriors were once again on top, 3-2.

Back in Cleveland for the crucial 6th Game, and with a loud fan base egging them on, Lebron and the Cavs would make one last heroic stand. Like a mortally wounded tiger fending off a pack of hungry hyenas, Lebron pawed and clawed, growled and brawled. While the hyenas circled, nipping and biting, pestering and never giving the tiger a minute of rest.


Cavs take one final stab at glory. (courtesy of

In the end, in the season’s moment of truth, Lebron would raise the proverbial white flag. It was clear that nothing could stop the Warriors this time. They were just too good, too fast, too young, too strong, too many.

Simply too much for Lebron and the hapless Cavs.

(Photos courtesy of usa today, bleacher report,,,,,,, Andrew Bernstein, Getty images)






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The Coming War with China


We live in interesting times.

Originally posted on ThereAreNoSunglasses:

usa x china usa x china

The Coming War with China

bonner and partners

By Bill Bonner, Chairman, Bonner & Partners

Editor’s Note: Bill is still up on the family ranch in northern Argentina. And his satellite Internet link is down. So there’s no update from him today. Instead, we have a new Market Insight from Chris and a classic piece from Bill on the potential for a war between the US and China.

Somehow, like it or not, the world turns. Today’s hegemon becomes tomorrow’s also-ran. Today’s reserve currency becomes tomorrow’s toilet paper. Today’s cock o’ the walk becomes tomorrow’s dinner.

Hey, we didn’t create this system. We don’t even especially like it. But that’s just the way it is.

Whether you already have made a fortune, or are trying to build one, you need to be very careful about what currency… or currencies… your wealth is denominated in.

The End of History?

Governments were…

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Singapore Sizzles, Dazzles All in Superb SEA Games Extravaganza!!!

Talk about efficiency. Talk about creativity. Talk about quality. Talk about pizzazz.

For a country of only 5.47 million inhabitants, Singapore is showing, not just its neighbors in Southeast Asia, but the whole wide world, what Singaporean standards of excellence are all about.


Setting standards of excellence. Celebrating the Extraordinary. (courtesy of SINGSOC)

And it’s not just about the efficiency in the programmes and the goodwill generated from the friendly demeanor and the hospitality that the staff exude in the ongoing 28th Southeast Asian Games. Considering that the work force here is made up mainly of volunteers who simply want to show support and pride in hosting the Games, there’s really nothing that one can complain about. The venues are very accessible, transportation is readily available, the spectator viewing areas are very comfortable, internet access is first-rate, billeting for athletes and guests is great.

A big congratulations to the organizers and sports officials who made this big event a smashing success. A big salute as well to the country’s leadership led by PM Lee Hsien Loong who was hands-on in looking into the conditions of the athletes. Truly, you have come prepared to ‘Celebrate the Extraordinary’!!!


PM Lee taking time to visit the Timor Leste team. (courtesy of SINGSOC)

For those who cannot see for themselves the drama of the competition live, the 28th SEA Games webpage provides results, schedules, stories and statistics – and games with valuable prizes as well!  You can get up to speed on the race for medal harvests, which-country-performed-well-in-which-sport-and-how, as well as individual crowd-drawing performances. You can also find behind-the-scenes narratives that could provide the inspiration and guidance for the athletes of tomorrow.

28th SEA Games Singapore 2015 - Bishan Sports Hall, Singapore - 14/6/15 Gymnastics - Rhythmic - Individual All-Around - Singapore's Tong Kah Mun in action TEAMSINGAPORE SEAGAMES28 Mandatory Credit: Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee / Action Images via Reuters

Sensational Singapore. (courtesy of SINGSOC)

And with the Games closing on June 16, Singapore has outdone itself by taking more than 200 medals and counting. They are leading the field in number of medals won, and are neck-to-neck with Thailand in the race for golds. For a country with limited human resource, this is an amazing feat indeed. Truly extraordinary, truly Singapore.

Here’s to our friends in Singapore, for a job well done. Way to go, guys.

Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). You can view the pictures below while listening to the music. Simply put the music on, and click on the pics.

(Pictures all courtesy of SINGSOC)

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Philippine Women’s Volleyball Takes a Bow

After a decade’s absence in regional volleyball, our Philippine lady spikers finally got the chance to show their wares in the 28th SEA Games in Singapore. Bannered by Alyssa Valdez, the reigning MVP in the last Shakey’s Open, the cast included such big names as Rachel Anne Daquis, Jaja Santiago, Dindin Santiago Manabat, Juvy Gonzaga, and Aby Marano; veterans Rhea Dimaculangan and Myka Ortiz; plus upcoming volleybelles Jia Morado, Gretch Soltones, Bea De Leon and Denden Lazaro. The star-studded line-up stamped its growing popularity by bringing in hordes of fans to the stadium hoping for a happy result.


The growing popularity of Philippine women’s volleyball (courtesy of

But things were simply not to be. The lack of international/regional experience clearly showed as the bangers of Indonesia and Vietnam unceremoniously showed our girls the exit door.

Coach Roger Gorayeb hit it right on the head when he singled out the the late organization of the team and the lack of international experience as the bane in our campaign. For us to have creditable podium finishes, we must organize the team earlier and have them undergo gruelling training together sooner. And we should provide the team more support by way of regional forays to pit them against the taller, more grizzled players from other countries.


The lack of foreign exposure needs to be addressed. (courtesy of

I will even go one step further. Remember the offers for Alyssa and Jaja Santiago to play in foreign leagues after the U23 tourney in Manila? I believe they should be allowed to do so. Club and collegiate coaches should set aside their own interests and instead prioritize the players’ exposure and training. Ultimately, a year’s absence from the local volleyball scene will provide them a wealth of international experience, and this will parlay into a higher level of competition for our local leagues. Our stars will be far better served learning new facets in the game, collecting bruises and eating humble pie, in foreign tourneys and match-ups.


A lesson from Vietnam. (courtesy of Paul Chew/SINGSOC)

I believe that we have what it takes to be a superpower in women’s volleyball in much the same way that Thailand is now among the world’s best. Thais have basically the same physique, the same temperament as Pinoys, and given the same exposure their ladies have had, I don’t see any reason why our ladies cannot compete. In time, we can have our own ladies display their wares proudly as imports in international competitions. Just like Patcharee and Soraya and Wanida and Kannika and the rest of the Thai imports who have no doubt helped a lot to upgrade the level of play in the local leagues.


Thai belles Kannika and Soraya wow the crowd. (courtesy of

It is only by giving our players more foreign exposure that we can regain the stature we once held as the queens of volleyball this side of the woods. And how to start all that? Let’s stop the selfish interests, stop the sports politics, and focus on simply providing the best for our players. We need to guide them, inspire them, provide for them, so that they may attain greater stature worthy of emulation for the generations to come.

(Pics courtesy of,,,,,,, arvin lim)



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Building Back in Culion

Brgy De Carabao is situated on the southern part of the island of Culion, in northern Palawan. In going to the barangay, one goes by plane from Manila to Busuanga, take a van to the tourist town of Coron, then take a ferry to Culion. Reaching Culion, one either takes a motorbike or a banca to the barangay. On a rainy day, you either choose to traverse the muddy trails by land, or challenge the rough waters by sea.


Culion, to the southwest of Coron, in northern Palawan.

Culion is an island made infamous decades ago because it housed the country’s leper colony. As such, it has maintained its secluded state for quite some time. Thus, progress has been less than ideal, with 95% of the population in Brgy De Carabao still coming from the native Tagbanua tribe, with a sprinkling of migrant Bisayans – lured by the rich fishing grounds – who have since been assimilated by the natives.


We took a banca ride from Coron to Brgy De Carabao. The water was calm then.

Brgy De Carabao was also devastated by Typhoon Yolanda, but due to its isolation, no mention whatsoever was heard about the Barangay in the aftermath of the disaster. Recently, as Palawan’s rebuilding effort spearheaded by the dynamic Gov Joe Alvarez finally went on full gear, areas such as Brgy De Carabao are finally getting the attention sorely needed.

Habitat for Humanity Philippines was given the task to facilitate the construction of housing units in the barangay. That said, an ocular inspection was made to find out the conditions and make the preliminary coordinations before Habitat’s entry into the area.

The barangay lies on a clayish, rocky rolling terrain. It is situated on relatively high ground, hence there is no danger of flooding in the area. It has roughly 500 households, 50% of which are in the poblacion, while the rest are scattered in 7  sitios.


A short uphill hike from the beach to the brgy poblacion.

The Barangay Captain is a feisty lady named Marilyn Credo. She is a native Tagbanuan, who married a migrant Bisaya. Despite her native roots, she has confidence and strong leadership skills, coupled with a very inquisitive and progressive mind.

During our general assembly meeting with the barrio folks, followed by a smaller consultation with the native elders, she demonstrated a clear foresight, having ready answers to questions she anticipated would become issues with some sectors.

The following observations were clear:

1) The barrio was also hit hard by the typhoon, with most houses flattened to the ground.


More than a year later, there still remain some evidence of Typhoon Haiyan’s wrath.

2) Progress is being felt now, however slowly.


The barangay’s water source needs to be enhanced.

3) The electric power system was introduced in 2012. However, it needs to be improved, as brownouts are experienced very often. It appears that the barrio power requirement is much more than was anticipated.

4) Water is a big problem. A small hose supplies water for the whole poblacion. Hence, the line never ends, even past midnight. They have a brgy ordinance that states that children are not allowed to fetch water past 6pm to ensure they are studying. However, there is a bigger water source that can be tapped roughly 6 kms from the poblacion.

5) The road nets have been laid out properly. Streets are mostly straight and perpendicular to each other. The main roads are 8m wide, while the arterial roads are at 6m wide.

6) The Health Center has many volunteers who provide service even to the farthest sitios.

7) The high school is in need of additional classrooms. Their Gr 7 class has 53 students. They do not have a decent classroom. Instead, they have a makeshift shed with no walls.


This is where the Gr 7 students hold their classes.

8) The elementary school has 11 classrooms, but they only have 3 shared toilets.


The elementary school has 11 classrooms, with almost 400 students. They have only 3 toilets for the students.

9) The 236 housing units planned are certainly not enough for the needs of the community. The brgy capt has organized a group to vet the selection of home partners.

10) Construction costs will increase due to the distance from supply points. There is a local source for sand and gravel. Bamboo is limited.

11) Local contractors will need to be identified for this project.

That said, the people of Brgy De Carabao are very eager for the project to start. They have been informed of the need for them to participate in the construction effort, and are committed to provide the skilled and unskilled labor assistance. With God’s help, Habitat Philippines should be able to initiate this project pretty soon.


Filed under Advocacies, Family and Friends, Travel

Conquering Mt Kinabalu

(It’s sad to hear about the earthquake that hit Mt Kinabalu recently. We had the opportunity to make the climb a few months back, and this article is written in the hope that Mt Kinabalu comes back soon as the great tour adventure that it is for all to enjoy. To our neighbors in Borneo, our prayers are with you, guys.)

It all started out as a joke. Me and my colleagues were sitting in the office early one night getting ready to call it a day when Ken blurts out: “Air Asia’s got a special promo here for Kota Kinabalu, guys. Anyone interested?” So I ask: “What’s to see there?” I figured that, with my wife’s birthday coming up, I might as well gift her with a unique surprise.


Mt Kinabalu, the highest peak in Southeast Asia.

So Ken’s on his computer immediately googling places to see, and things to do in Kota. He’s now reciting air fare rates, then the who-what-when-where of places, activities, native delicacies, etc. The guy’s a walking travelogue, having ventured as an international salesman before joining us at Habitat. And a savvy salesman he is too, fleecing me of my credit card and lining me up for a trip to Kota Kinabalu and a death-defying climb up the picturesque Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in all of Southeast Asia.

Yep – long story short – a month later, me and my wife Wit, with friends Sharon and Louie, are climbing up Mt Kinabalu. And I’m dragging my feet and cursing Ken for setting me up for this hurt-a-minute climb to eternity. I’m sweating like hell, I’m tired, I’m dirty, I’m thirsty and I’m almost sixty! What the…..! Shit, this wasn’t supposed to be a sexagenarian’s idea of a fun vacation.


The trails going up to Mt Kinabalu. We took the Timpohon route. (courtesy of

Imagine this. You take on a 6 to 8 hour hike, depends on how strong and fast you are. And that’s for the first day alone. Through trails that get steeper and steeper.  Each corner you conquer brings you to a longer and more challenging upward trail. The heat and the grime irritate your skin. The rocks and the trees are added hurdles. And the insects molest you as well.


Meeting the many challenges of trekking Mt Kinabalu.

Later, the cold sets in as you get to higher ground. The sweating stops, and your wet shirt gets cold. You take a stop to change shirts. Actually, you take a hundred or so short stops cuz you’re tired and feel like quitting. But you have wonderful friends who keep encouraging you on. Besides, you have no choice except to continue climbing in order to reach the base camp in Laban Rata. Where you are afforded a warm dinner, and a cramped but cozy cot to take a few hours rest. It is a short heavensent respite that soothes your pains and strains.

The Donkey's Ears at the background.

At Laban Rata. The Donkey’s Ears at the background. The left one was cut in half by the earthquake.

And then you wake up at 2 am for the final climb to the top to watch the glorious sunrise. You are literally out of breath when you reach the top. But the view…  Simply breathtaking! The feeling…  Simply indescribable.

The view from the top.

The view from the top. (courtesy of

And then you realize you’ve only finished the first half of the journey. The trickier part is the trip down the mountain. Which takes all of one back-breaking, knee-jarring, ankle-twisting day again.


Going down was a different challenge.

And if you’re lucky, a gash, a nick, or a prized wound you can proudly show off as evidence of your journey to Mt Kinabalu.

But it was all worth it. Every bit of it. The aches and pains. The slips and slides. The worries, the weary bones. At the end of the day, it is always the difficult times that you enjoy reminiscing the most. There may be many spectacular views around the globe, but the difficult climb makes this experience so much closer to the heart.

You should try it. C’mon, take a vote for your adventurous side this time; and make the trip before your legs, your heart and your stamina make it more difficult for you.

(Pics courtesy of,,,,,,,, cbholganza)


Filed under Family and Friends, Sports, Travel

PLDT Outlasts Army in Epic Shakey’s Finals!!!

The PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters are the new darlings of the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference, dethroning the Philippine Army Lady Troopers, 25-22, 18-25, 24-26, 28-26, 15-13, before a sellout crowd last Sunday at the San Juan Arena.


The PLDT Home Ultera Ultra Fast Hitters are the new toast of the town! (courtesy of GMA News Online)

In the end, it was the breaks of the game that decided the winner, as the two evenly-matched protagonists tried to outbomb, outblock and finally, outgasp each other in a marathon game of seesawing fortunes.

The results of the first two sets cancelled each other out, with both parties taking a win each. Only the second set – which the Lady Troopers won 25-18 – would be decided by a comfortable margin, a clear testament to the grind-it-to-the-ground play that characterized the action on the court.


The Lady Troopers took the second set with superb net defense. (courtesy of

The Lady Troopers snatched the 3rd set in dramatic fashion 26-24, thus putting the Hitters on the brink of defeat. With this, pundits were quick to hail the grit and tenacity of the veterans in the Army squad. The end was near. When push comes to shove, the Army veterans, led by feisty nationals Juvy Gonzaga and Dindin Santiago-Manabat, would eventually force their will over the youngsters of PLDT, the false prophets claimed. Indeed, the Army Lady Troopers were once again poised to rule the kingdom as the queens of serve-and-volley. Or so it seemed.


The Army Lady Troopers stormed ahead 2-1 with a dramatic 26-24 victory in set 3. (courtesy of GMA News Online)

For the young Hitters would refuse to wilt under pressure. Led by league MVP, Alyssa Valdez, whose renowned mental toughness was molded by the legendary Thai coach and exorcist Tai Bundit, the Hitters would strike back. Aly would savage the Troopers with ram-it-down-your-throat missile spikes. And when she would get triple canopy coverage from Army’s vaunted frontline defense, fellow U-23 standouts Jaja Santiago and Gretch Soltones would provide back-up sniper fire to keep the Army defenders guessing. With their backs against the wall, the Ultra Fast Hitters would outwit the Troopers 28-26, thanks to Rubie De Leon’s superb ball distribution, forcing a final set to the delight of the jampacked crowd.


Army’s triple canopy coverage against Alyssa’s booming barrage. (courtesy of GMA News Online.)

Thus, it would be a do-or-die game as the Hitters and Troopers met fire with fire; flirting with glory and ignominy; giving and receiving no quarters in return. The battle would become an epic struggle between offense and defense, with the Hitters clearly winning the spike stats 63-49, while the Troopers would lord over the blocks 19-4. The battle for net supremacy would be at its fiercest, with sisters Dindin and Jaja not even on speaking terms across the net. For every spike, a diving save. For every boom, a resounding block.

But, like all other games, there must be a winner. And so, in the babel of cheers and jeers from the frenzied crowd, a simple tap-back from the unlikely Finals MVP Jaja Santiago would end it all. And all hell would break loose. The PLDT Ultra Fast Hitters had nipped the Army Lady Troopers 15-13, bringing the final, last-gasp set to its final,  heart-stopping conclusion.


The young guns of PLDT upend the erstwhile queens of women’s volleyball. Long live the Queen!!! (courtesy of

There was laughter, and there were tears. It was exhausting, yet exciting. It was exhilarating and exulting. There was drama, there was delirium. This is how the Shakey’s V-League Open Conference Finals was meant to be. This is how the changing of the guards must finally come to pass. Climactic in its delivery, majestic in all its dignity, and a truly unforgettable experience for all.

The queen is dead. Long live the Queen!

Photos courtesy of, gma news online,,,, Arvin Lim) 


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