Pamilacan on My Mind


For this summer 2015, let me dish out some local summer treats for you to consider. Earlier, we talked about Malapascua in Cebu. This time, let me take you to another small island so obscure you won’t find it in most big maps in the bookstore.


Pamilacan: pure, pristine, private… perfect! (courtesy of asiatravels)

Pamilacan is a small islet off the main island of Bohol. It is noted for dolphin-watching, and occasionally you’ll find whales as well. Explore Pamilacan now, before it gets too commercialized.

Originally posted on charly's blog:

(Second of a series: Suggestions for Summer)

During one of those occasions when I had some time off, my wife and I travelled to the Pamilacan Island in Bohol for some precious private time. Pamilacan Island is a small island off the southern coast of the town of Baclayon. It was made famous very recently by the dolphin and whale-watching tours, and the well-preserved marine reservation they have there.

pam9 Pamilacan is famous for dolphin and whale watching tours. Its marine sanctuary boasts of a variety of sea creatures for the viewing pleasure of serious divers. (Courtesy of

The island’s name came from the word ‘pilak’, which is a large fishing hook previously used by the islanders to catch whale sharks, dolphins and manta rays. For some reason, these sea treasures loved to converge near the island. Today, the ‘pilak’ is no longer used, as the island’s inhabitants have learned to value the…

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March 28, 2015 · 7:37 am

Make Mine Malapascua

Summer’s upon us! I bet most of you have already made plans for summer activities and outings. And I’m sure that most will have the beach on their minds, with the hot, sizzling sun scorching the cities. For those of you who want to try something new, come and visit Malapascua Island in northern Cebu.


Malapascua, a charming little gem of an island. (courtesy of cbholganza)

Malapascua was one of the most devastated islands during the Haiyan onslaught. It has been trying to recover since. By choosing Malapascua, you not only enjoy a new environment, you are also able to help the islanders recover from the destruction caused by that deadly storm. It’s not a difficult sell, considering its beautiful beaches, its pristine waters, its unique dive offerings (ever dive with thresher sharks before?), and quiet laid back environment. It is the closest thing to Boracay 30 years ago; not crowded, not expensive, not too commercialized, with friendly people, and crystal clear waters.


Malapascua after Typhoon Haiyan. (courtesy of

Malapascua Island is located at the northern tip of Cebu. To get to there, you take a 3-hour bus ride from the Cebu City North Terminal to Maya Port, which is at the edge of the town of Daanbantayan, the last town north of the island of Cebu. From there, it’s a 30-40 minute banca ride to this charming little paradise island.


With its raw beauty, its pristine waters, it is said to be Boracay 30 years ago. (courtesy of

Perhaps it’s the long arduous trip from Cebu City that has made Malapascua not too well known among tour groups. But the good side of it is that its relative inaccessibility has made it survive the commercialization that other tour destinations are now suffering from. For some tour afficionados, for instance, too much commercialization has made Boracay look like ‘Cubao with sand’. Even the water in Boracay has been affected as the bacteria level has become a government concern. Hence, the emergence of such alternatives as Malapascua will only serve to help decongest Boracay, and save it from self-destructing.


Uncongested, clean, very private. Still, the evidence of the ravages of Haiyan is seen in its almost bald coconut trees. (courtesy of cbholganza)

There are lots of hotels and backpacker-type lodges in Bounty Beach. You can trek the whole of Bounty Beach in 15 – 20 minutes. There you’ll find the restaurants, the souvenir shops, and the beautiful sunset to the beat of the friendly zumba music in the late afternoon. Except for the Exotic Resort where I had an unpleasant experience with an overzealous cashier who didn’t want to provide me an official receipt, everything else was purrfect!


Exploring Bounty Beach. (courtesy of cbholganza)

You can find lots of wonderful sights to see and things to do in Malapascua. For the non-divers, there’s plenty of snorkeling sites around the island. There’s beach-bumming (adventure), sun-tanning (for those who aren’t dark enough yet), and there’s climbing the Malapascua Lighthouse (for those who need the exercise). Then there’s cliff-diving (for the more adventurous), the afternoon zumba (more exercise!), the beach massage (relaxing after the exercise), and partying and boozing in the evening (more relaxation!).


Cliff-diving, anyone? (courtesy of

But the island’s biggest come-on is its so-called shark tourism. Diving in Malapascua affords you a chance to mingle with big beautiful thresher sharks. These sharks are there to have their regular clean-up, provided free of charge courtesy of fish called the cleaner wrasses. I’m sure that every diver dreams of being able to dive with the sharks. In Malapascua, your wish will likely come true. Aside from the sharks, there are wreck sites that are great diving adventures as well, plus the breath-taking corrals and the fish sanctuaries. Thus, if only for the diving and snorkeling, a trip to Malapascua – even for beginners – is well worth it.


Getting close and personal with some thresher sharkies. Yikes!!!! (courtesy of trip advisor)

If you’re looking for some new adventure, come to Malapascua. You’ll have a guaranteed blast.


Beach-bumming, my favorite sport. (courtesy of

For questions on prices and what to see or what to eat in Malapascua, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I can help you find what’s best for your needs. See you there.

(pics courtesy of,, centcom,,,, nick collier, trip advisor,, heather holt, and cbholganza)


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Ateneo’s Lady Eagles Believe They Can Fly

As the smoke of battle cleared the air in the UAAP Women’s Volleyball hostilities, the blue shadow of a soaring eagle straddled the field oh-so dominantly. Just a year removed from  a Cinderella finish that many felt was a huge upset, Ateneo’s Lady Eagles stamped their class emphatically this time and finished the tournament with nary a scratch. The Archers couldn’t nick them, the Bulldogs couldn’t bite, the Tams couldn’t gore, and the rest simply just couldn’t.


Congrats to the soaring eagles! (courtesy of Ateneo de Manila Women’s Volleyball FB page)

Ateneo was unmistakeably head and shoulders above the rest. La Salle’s Lady Spikers, grizzled ex-titlists that they were, were expected to crowd the Lady Eagles for the title. But their dream of regaining that coveted crown was shattered when their MVP candidate and team captain, Ara Galang, fell injured in the last few minutes of their face-off game against the NU Lady Bulldogs.  That crucial step-ladder game was for the right to meet the Lady Eagles in the prestigious finals. And as she lay grimacing like Humpty Dumpty after that great fall, the fans in green could only groan as they watched their quest for the crown slowly fading away. For now,  ‘all the king’s archers and all the king’s men, couldn’t put the crown together again’.


Ara’s absence was simply too much for La Salle. (courtesy of

It was all over. Even before the first ball was served in the finals’ first game. The Lady Eagles would steamroller their way to a 25-18, 25-19, 25-19 straight-sets victory. I’d like to give credit to the Lady Spikers for giving everything they had despite Ara’s absence. They certainly didn’t want to make it another ho-hum picnic for Ateneo. But their best would not be enough against these beasts. And La Salle would suffer still another crushing blow when reserve spiker Camille Cruz came crashing down with another knee injury. Again, new adjustments had to be made, and a new chemistry had to be tried out.


La Salle gave it a good fight despite the diminished line-up. (courtesy of

The final game was a mercy killing procedure. Ateneo would take a seemingly closer 25-22, 25-17, 25-23 straight-sets win. La Salle, egged on by a green faithful that refused to say die, would try their darndest best. But the Lady Eagles were now soaring at a far higher plane. The Lady Eagles made the match look competitive, but it was obvious they could lower the boom anytime they wished.


Playing loose, playing happy, playing with ‘heart strong’. (courtesy of Ateneo de Manila Women’s Volleyball FB page)

To our tournament MVP, the amazing Alyssa Valdez, well done! To our silently effective Finals MVP, Amy Ahomiro, great show, mate. To our graduating heroines, Denden, Ella and Aerial, congratulations and good luck on your new frontiers ahead. Take a bow, Bea, Mitch, and Kim. Ditto for the rest of squad.


The winsome Denden Lazaro, with the high-flying Ella De Jesus, are leaving the team along with Aerial Patnungon. (courtesy of Arnold Cruz)

But I’d like to pay special tribute to my new idol, the cerebral Jia Morado.  She with the uncanny court vision, the perfect sets and the precisely-placed dinky-drops. As a point guard during my younger days, I had always marveled at the unselfish ways of the likes of John Stockton, Magic Johnson and the other guys who made a living making others look good. Jia, you are the epitome of the point guard in women’s volleyball. Mighty proud of you. Stay cool, stay sweet.


The cerebral Jia Morado. (courtesy of

But my greatest accolades will have to go to that pleasantly-animated Thai voodoo expert, Coach Tai Bundit. Coach Tai was the exorcist who transformed these meek mortals into volleyball beasts; from cute darling babies to ruthless assassins. In a span of one year, Coach Tai was able to transform his team from being merely strong and competitive into one that was downright dominating. And he did it not just by teaching them about the game. He did it by teaching the team to believe in themselves, to believe they could win, to believe they could fly. To Coach Tai, our admiration and our warmest congratulations. Know that you have not only helped Ateneo in its campaign to win the crown, you have certainly improved the country’s standards in women’s volleyball; and in so doing, have captivated our hearts.


Coach Tai, the exorcist. (courtesy of

After all is said and done, the Ateneo Lady Eagles have not just delivered, they have majestically upped the limits in their flight to glory. New standards of excellence have been set. New training methodologies, new levels of mental toughness, new attitudes. The game has transcended beyond the physical play. And if the opposition remains complacent amid the drastic changes in competitive standards, we will see these beastly beauties forging a dynasty for the years and possibly decades ahead. Yeah, these beauties? They are simply the best!!!


These beauties are the best!!! Or should this caption read: Beauties and the Beast? (courtesy of Ateneo de Manila Women’s Volleyball FB page)

As they say: magagaling na, magaganda pa! Ateneo Lady Eagles, you rock!!!

Here’s to you, ladies.

(You can sing the song while you browse the pics with the music on. Simply put on the music and click the pic.)

(Audio courtesy of youtube, photos courtesy of KC Cruz, Jamil Buergo, Ryan Racca, Richard Esguerra, Arvin Lim, gma network, abs-cbn,, dzrhnews, pinoy exchange, remate, abante, rappler, pba online,, )


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Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey; MMA is Here to Stay!!!

Was that a win, or was that a WOW? Ronda Rousey’s 14-second demolition of Cat Zingano in last week’s UFC 184 clearly showcased the sharp upsurge of Mixed Martial Arts as the spectator combat sport of choice today. Ronda was so impressive with her signature armbar move that fans all over the world are gobbling up video tapes of this bad-ass lady like crazy. And the other MMA marquee fighters are benefiting from her rising popularity as well.

MMA has indeed arrived. And nothing, not even the Mayweather – Pacquiao Fight of the Century – billed as the biggest fight in boxing history – can stop its steady climb to the top. People today, particularly the younger generation, are lapping up mixed martial arts fights, and they talk about arm bars, axe kicks, elbow strikes and leg locks with more familiarity and ease than they would uppercuts or hooks, straights or jabs.


The Mayweather-Pacquiao Fight will try to stem the onward surge of MMA. (Courtesy of

I asked a young MMA fan what the hell it was that was making MMA more appealing to their generation. She just shrugged and offered a guess: “Maybe it’s just a natural progression of things. You watch boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu (yup, it’s not jujitsu, folks), wrestling, muay thai, karatedo, etc, and you just want to see all those disciplines melded together.” She added: “And with the internet and social media utilized to the max by MMA practitioners, our generation can understand the nuances of the sport much easier.”


Brazil’s Anderson Silva was a world champion with the longest title defense streak in the history of MMA. (Courtesy of

Makes sense to me. Of my 4 kids, 3 have been following the MMA fight scene; while none seem interested in boxing, despite the immense popularity of Manny Pacquiao in the Philippines.

But I venture to add that there are other factors that have contributed to the growing popularity of the sport. For one, MMA comes closest to street fighting, hence the appeal to the young ones who must come up with ways to defend themselves, should the need arise. Then there’s the presence of such colorful poster boys and girls like Ronda, the infamous John Jones, the steady Brock Lesnar, the clean-cut Chris Weidman (who dethroned the popular Anderson Silva), the blood-and-guts Randy Couture, and Gina Carano, a looker from a few years back.

Gina Carano, the original MMA heartthrob.

Gina Carano, the original MMA heartthrob. (Courtesy of

Also, the lack of highlight knockout action and the lamentable non-fights in the boxing world brought about by promoter animosities have really disenchanted a lot of fans and hurt the sport of boxing. Another youngster, Gian, adds: “I guess some young folks think MMA is more indicative of the overall hand-to-hand combat skills of an individual. Maybe it’s also because of the allegations of bout fixing in boxing.”


Brock Lesnar was another popular figure in the early days of MMA. (Courtesy of

Here in the Philippines, MMA is also slowly but surely gaining ground on the combat sports map. Only recently, a new entity has stepped forward to provide more mixed martial arts competition, albeit with a different angle. The iFC promises to provide opportunities for new fighters, especially those coming from the provinces.

more excitement...

Ferdie Munsayac and the Underground Battle Series brought in more MMA action in the Philippines. (courtesy of the Goat Locker Gym)

Led by two visionaries in the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) scene – Tony Reyes and Ferdie Munsayac – iFC intends to come up with a multi-sector approach that will include a grassroots development program to popularize the sport. iFC plans to reach out to new frontiers; to find, train and prepare new talents for the sport.


Tony Reyes in one of his pioneering forays in bringing in Mixed Martial Arts to the Philippines.

Very soon, iFC will have – for its inaugural offering – a Battle Series featuring hidden talents from local gyms. Proceeds of the first-ever presentation from iFC will go to a good cause. It will go to the families of the SAF Fallen 44.

With a noble cause to boot, and with its advocacy to develop the sport in the hinterlands, Filipino Martial Arts is surely here to stay as well.

For more on Filipino MMA, read:

Mixed Martial Arts Invades the Philippines

Introducing the iFC

Pinoy Fighters Wow the Crowd in Kunlun Fight 4 World Tour

(Pictures courtesy of,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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A Post-Yolanda Project That Caught the French President’s Eye

by Chris Schnabel

from Rappler March 1, 2015

The France-Philippines United Alliance (FPUA) has been silently helping the province of Cebu after Typhoon Haiyan terrorized the northern towns of the province in November of 2013. Today, more than a year after the death and destruction of that disaster, FPUA’s first of 3 housing projects – through the help of Habitat for Humanity Philippines - is almost ready for turn-over. A total of 73 typhoon-proof units, plus a Multi-Purpose Center, are ready for turn-over soon.


Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President, visits FPUA’s two projects in Daanbantayan, Cebu.

MANILA, Philippines – An initiative that built housing for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) led by French businesses in the Philippines caught the attention of the French president – and will soon be a foundation that will help more communities rise from the ruins of disaster.

During a forum on climate change and inclusive growth in Makati City, French President Francois Hollande cited the France-Philippines United Action (FP-UA) as a model for cooperation among businesses.

“French businesses got together within the France-Philippines United Action to coordinate private aid for reconstruction,” Hollande said in his speech during the forum, hosted by the Makati Business Club (MBC) last Thursday February 26, during the French leader’s first official visit to the country.

The French government recognized the success of what was initially just a “French village” using disaster-resilient housing design and the quick pace of bringing help to the affected, said Dilip Vaswani, chairman of FP-UA and President of Total Philippines.


A joy to behold!!

Early birds

Just days after Yolanda hit the Visayas in November 2013, the French Ambassador to the Philippines, Gilles Garachon, brought together representatives from leading French businesses, the French embassy, and the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines to form a consortium to coordinate the individual aid efforts by French firms.

At the time the French Chamber of Commerce was tapped to act as caretaker to the initiative. It was also decided that management would be provided by a one-year rotating chairmanship offered to French firms that are members of the chamber.

The representatives eventually decided to pool the money each firm was raising and consolidate it into the building of housing projects for victims who had lost their homes during the typhoon.

A memorandum of understanding was signed just two months after the typhoon hit for the construction of a first village, located in Barangay Agujo, Daanbantayan, Cebu.

“They were the early birds, they were the first to come in, they kept us going and they are still here” said Daanbantayan Mayor Augusto Corro.

The initial memorandum of understanding eventually culminated in the creation of two villages in Daanbantayan just a year after Yolanda brought life to a standstill there. (Note: A third village is now in the works. This will be located in Bogo City.)

Over 74 houses have already been built with an additional 148 to be built by June of this year, along with two multi-purpose centers and a clinic.


One of the first organizations to come to the succor of Daanbantayan.

Grassroots approach

“When we started this, we aimed to create a start over approach to reconstruction and look at it from the grassroots,” said Don Lee, CEO of Lafarge and former FP-UA chairman.

This approach has led the initiative to structure itself differently from traditional non-government organizations (NGOs).

FP-UA essentially plays the role of a coordinator in reconstruction. It sources donations and materials, as well as identifies potential sites through its member firms’ network of contacts.

It then seeks out a partner NGO, such as its current partners Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross, to implement these ready-made projects on the ground.

One of the fruits of this approach was the adoption of an innovative hyperbolic paraboloid roof design in the Daanbantayan village.


Almost ready for turn-over.

The roofs can withstand up to 275 kilometers per hour (km/h) winds as it is made out of concrete, not galvanized iron sheets. Materials required to build these advanced roofs were either donated or sold at a reduced rate to the implementing NGO by FP-UA member firms.

These are actually better homes for the recipients, compared to before the typhoon struck. The beneficiaries have never actually lived in a home with a concrete roof, which is much cooler compared to a galvanized iron sheet which allow the sun’s heat to pass straight through, Lee noted.

Transparency is the key to the initiative according to Lee. The vast majority of donations come from business people and as business people themselves, the people behind FP-UA understand the importance of accounting for money spent.


The concrete roofs are a joy to have.

According to Lee, what normally happens is a company donates and isn’t provided an accounting of how the money was spent, so the donor is left to hope that it goes to good use.

FP-UA keeps donors informed on the progress of projections through detailed updates. In the first village for instance, donors were told how many individual houses their contribution actually created.

“This hasn’t been done before. You’re making the whole process much more transparent, much more rewarding for the donors and that’s how you get more donors.” he said.

And that’s what happened as the success of the first village reached France. This prompted French firms based there to contact FP-UA asking for more projects to donate to.


Mayor Corro with the Habitat and SERG reps.

It also led Nicolas Hulot, Special Envoy of the French President, to visit FP-UA’s two villages in Daanbantayan on a trip to the country to pave the way for Hollande’s official visit.

Hulot was so impressed with the initiative’s projects that he alerted the Elysee Palace of the initiative, shared Christophe Riout, President of the French Chamber of Commerce.

This culminated in Hollande announcing a donation worth P500,000 ($11,338) to the initiative’s caretakers, the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Philippines.

The donation was made possible at the request of the French government that the proceeds of the special event be donated to FP-UA in order to kick start its conversion into a foundation.

The French government is in the midst of raising awareness to combat climate change and wanted to celebrate FP-UA’s “parallel but aligned action”, Riout said.

The donation is meant as seed money to become a foundation. An additional P500,000 ($11,338) is needed to meet the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) capital requirement of one million pesos to become a foundation.


Hollande’s donation provides more homes for the victims of Yolanda.

“We hope to expedite the process of becoming a foundation, and recognition from the French and Philippine governments is a great start”, Vaswani said.

The initiative currently only earmarks donations and matches them to current development projects from partner NGOs.

There were many companies that wanted to partner with FP-UA but were hesitant about routing the money to other organizations.

As a foundation, FP-UA would be able to receive and independently manage donations. It would make FP-UA a legal entity and thus allow donors full tax deductability on funds further enticing donors to contribute, Riout said.


The Village Multi-Purpose Center.

It also allows for long-term planning as formal entity.

The initiative is currently planning a third village to rise in Bogo, Cebu with a pledged donation from Cites-Unies France, an urban organization based in Paris.

FP-UA was originally a private sector gesture to make the Philippine-French community’s donations more effective during typhoon Yolanda.

No formal plans were made after that, but its success has convinced the community to continue its remarkable story; remarkable enough to catch a President’s attention. –


A Joint Project of FPUA with Habitat for Humanity Philippines.


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Introducing the iFC!!!

Don’t look now but we’ve got a new kid on the block eager to show his brand of exciting new combat sport action in the country. This March 28 at the Solaire Resort and Casino, the i Fighting Championships (iFC) will present a unique package, featuring four different combat disciplines: wushu/sanda, muay thai, juego todo and mixed martial arts. The iFC event is the inaugural offering of the Battle Series, introducing foreign and local players angling to hit the big time. To top it all, the iFC team has declared that the proceeds of the show will all go to the bereaved families and dependents of the Fallen SAF 44, as a demonstration of sympathy and support.


The iFC is a merger of two energetic young companies: the World Team USA Gym, owned and operated by Tony Reyes; and the Goat Locker Gym, owned and operated by Ferdie Munsayac.

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 5.31.31 AM

World Team USA has produced numerous dazzling international MMA shows in Manila, the latest of which was the Kunlun World Tour Fight 4 at the Solaire Resort. The Kunlun World Tour is a popular series in China and Thailand, where the fights were beamed to millions of delighted TV fans. Tony Reyes owns the largest MMA/muay thai studio in San Francisco, California; and is at the same time the Vice President of the World Boxing Council (WBC) Muay Thai.


Goat Locker, on the other hand, provides a different perspective; having busied itself by authoring 10 MMA events in the provinces since 2013 under the Underground Battle Series. Goat Locker’s advocacy is to provide opportunities for promising MMA practitioners, by giving them proper training, support and guidance. Hence, the Underground Battle (UGB) is an amateur competition geared towards discovering potential fighters in the provinces. These activities have gained much popularity, and this has resulted in MMA’s significant grassroots growth. Ferdie Munsayac is a former US Navy Chief, hence his strong attachment to the young poverty-stricken fighters.


A special attraction in the iFC package is the introduction of the Round Girl Search. The iFC Battle Series will be more colorful with the bevy of ladies aspiring to be iFC Round Girls. The Round Girl Search is a promotional coup courtesy of Fernando Laguda, a veteran promotions operator in the US who has decided to offer his talents to the local fight scene.


By providing 4 combat disciplines in one production, iFC promises to provide excitement and new flavor in the fight world. By introducing fresh faces in the fight scene, iFC provides vast opportunities and experience to our local fighters. By donating the proceeds to the SAF 44 families, iFC projects a social initiative that is worthy of emulating.

Let’s support this initiative. It is for a truly worthy cause.


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Is the Filipino Worth the ‘Inconvenience’?

by: Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo

from Cebu Daily News 23 Feb 2015


Lovely cousin Rose is the youngest daughter of my late uncle, Dodong, an old-time Cebu political figure who died recently. She was only 15 years old when her Dad and her eldest brother, Joeyboy, were arrested for alleged subversive activities in Cebu. This was in December 25, 1982, Christmas Day. The arrest would have a profound effect on their home. It would make her mature faster, and bring the family closer and stronger. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the historic February ’86 Edsa ‘People Power’ Revolution,  she reminisces those trying times, and ponders – with the situation prevailing today – if the sacrifices her Dad selflessly offered us were well worth it. 

Around noon of Christmas 1982, as I lay resting on a sofa at home, several hours after my family’s fun-filled noche-buena, the sound of loud footsteps roused me from my nap. It was my mommy frantically running down the stairs while listening to the booming voice of a radio announcer with a chilling flash report. My father, Ribomapil “Dodong” Holganza, and my eldest brother, Joeyboy, have just been arrested in a rebel “safe house” in a crowded downtown  district of Bonifacio and Lopez Jaena Street.


Dodong after being arrested in an alleged rebel ‘safehouse’.

For a 15 year old who had never heard of the word safe house before, the report smelled of irony; but it did not come as a shock. My father had it coming. He was, after all, the top leader of Cebu’s anti-Marcos movement who galvanized thousands of Cebuanos to join his so-called Freedom Marches long before the rest of the country took to the streets to unite in protest.

Daddy’s rallies drew national opposition stalwarts like Lorenzo Tanada, Jovito Salonga, Jose W Diokno, Doy Laurel, Cesar Climaco, Ramon Mitra, Raul Manglapuz, Eva Estrada Kalaw, Joker Arroyo, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Rene Saguisag and others who appeared to have found a safe haven amongst the throngs of Cebuanos, all freedom-loving descendants of Lapu-lapu.


Anti-Marcos rallies circa early 70s. (

The Christmas Day flash report said my father and brother were in a safe house with other rebels. Oh, the irony of the word ‘safe house’, I thought. There was nothing safe about the way we lived our lives since Daddy started leading the Cebu opposition in the late 70s. And then, that word ‘house’. What is that? I mean, really.

Young as I was back then, I had lost my concept of a house because ours seemed to double as a sanctuary for the hungry and the oppressed who came in droves 24/7 to seek my father’s help.

As Mommy entered the living room with the transistor radio still clutched in her hand, she quickly surveyed the rest of us, as if keeping count of who were left among her loved ones; with Daddy and her precious Joeyboy now in military custody. Calmly, she then called the first person she knew could help her, Daddy’s fellow opposition leader and popular radio commentator, Inday Nita Cortes Daluz, who still had not heard the news then.


Jailed for his convictions.

Meanwhile, the rest of us stood wondering, what was now going to happen to us. As the AM radio continued blasting reports of the military raid on “Bonifacio Street near Mabini,” I couldn’t help but think that the paradox of Daddy’s life had finally reached its pinnacle.

Named after the Philippine heroes: Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and Del Pilar, Tatay and Nanay couldn’t have possibly guessed that the real test of the mettle of their youngest son Ribomapil’s character would come in a district named after heroes. Pictures of my father taken moments after their arrest showed him visibly confused though still apparently determined. As he sat on the curb, handcuffed and disheveled, I read the thought that must have raced through his mind then.

Knowing him as I do, he must have figured with neither bitterness nor anger. The Filipino nation is worth this little inconvenience.


The Filipino is worth the ‘inconvenience’.

Days after their arrest, then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile flew in to check on their latest catch. Perhaps expecting an apology for being a problem to the Marcos administration, the dictator’s top security officer asked my Dad if he was now ready to relent in support of Ferdinand Marcos. Instead, my father recited a litany of Marcos sins against the people. That earned him and my brother, Joeyboy, a guaranteed stay in jail for nearly 3 years with no bail and no trial.

My father was a moderate, but back then, there was no room for any kind of protest.

In a letter he wrote from his cell in 1985, he bewailed that while he, my brother and countless others were rotting in jail for crimes that they did not commit, “it is revolting that all around us are people who are truly the enemies of the state, the real subversives who have been subverting the faith and confidence of the Filipinos in our democratic processes, who pillage and plunder the patrimony of this nation, and yet are enjoying their loot and power very well beyond the reach of our anemic, discriminatingly inutile judicial system.”


The Edsa People Power Revolution, the first of its kind in the world.

Always the brilliant political analyst, my father projected in that letter written a year before the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt that “the oppressed Filipinos have already passed their darkest night. And we are now witnessing the flickering lights of the early dawn of our salvation; that the days of tyranny are about to end; that the wounded tigers in office now roaming and wildly pillaging the corridors of power may soon just be swept away by a flood of an enraged humanity; that true democracy shall be restored from the ashes of a nation torn and shattered to pieces by a reckless and irresponsible leadership; and the Filipinos shall vow that never again shall we let another tyrant rule our beloved land”.

Last January 25, a month short of the EDSA People Power anniversary this year, my father passed away.

He died knowing that while Filipinos may never again let another tyrant rule over our beloved Philippines, the same political and social ills are still very much around with exactly the same lessons to be learned.

Looking back at Daddy’s sacrifice and how our family suffered for years, I have to ask, without bitterness or anger: Was it really worth all our inconvenience?

For more on Dodong Holganza:

    The Struggle and Hindsight

     Counting My Blessings

(Photos courtesy of:,,, tubagbohol,,


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Best Advice from Barracks to Boardroom

Chip Bergh

President and CEO, Levi Strauss & Company

republished from LinkedIn 2 Feb 2015


The author as a First Lieutenant, in Buedingen, (West) Germany, 1981

I read this article in Linkedin and couldn’t help reminisce the good old days in the Army. Yes, the same principles – from barracks to boardroom, from Manila to Mamasapano – apply. In the light of that tragic misadventure in Mamasapano, I’d like to share this article with you. Am pretty sure you’ll find this not just an entertaining read, but a very helpful one in your day-to-day activities as well. For those among us who wear the combat boots still, these are good reminders of values worth imbibing. Happy reading!!!

As the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. and a 28-year veteran of Procter & Gamble, I tend to be known as a “brand” guy, a businessman, someone who launches brands and strives to build talent and strong global businesses. But my “formative” years were spent as a U.S. Army Officer fresh out of college in a combat unit in Germany during the peak of the Cold War.

In many ways, it was my military experience that shaped who I am and how I think about leadership. Even though those days in Germany were 35 years ago, the lessons have stayed with me all of these years. In fact, the military may have given me the best advice and taught me the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in my career.

1. Always eat last. One of the first things I learned as an officer was that officers always ate last. The principle is simple: to be a good leader, you take care of your people first. Officers are the last to sleep, the first to wake, especially in the field. And though “servant leadership” may sound like an oxymoron, taking care of your “soldiers” means they will take care of you.

2. Never ask a soldier to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. A corollary to the “always eat last” principle, real leaders will never “order” or even ask someone to do something they wouldn’t do themselves. In most cases, the best leaders never ask their soldiers to do anything they haven’t already done before.



3. Take the high ground. A key principle in combat is that the “high ground” is always the most important piece of real estate – and many famous battles were fought over an especially important hilltop. In business we must also always fight for the “high ground.” Whether that is owning the category benefit (e.g. Folgers coffee owning the benefit of “waking up” or for Levi’s, the idea that you wear other jeans but you “Live in Levi’s”), or being on the moral high ground. One of the great joys of being at Levi Strauss & Co. is knowing that we have always stood for what is right, and have led for progress. Leaders determine the “high ground” they want to own, and then fight for it.

4. Casual pace, casual results. My first commander taught me to always walk with a sense of urgency. Because walking with a sense of urgency creates a sense of urgency. One of the best lessons I learned as a Brand Manager was to always create a sense of urgency (very different than a sense of crisis!) with my advertising agency. Have deadlines. Don’t dawdle. Create urgency, and you will get better work.



5. It’s better to make the wrong decision than to make no decision at all.Indecision can paralyze an organization. Strong leaders are not afraid to make decisive decisions. They take a stand. But, they also know when to make their decisions – they don’t do it based on emotion, in haste, or without enough data to be well-informed. Conversely, they know there is no such thing as “perfect data” and that “more data” can simply lead to paralysis by analysis. Leaders face times when they have to make tough, or unpopular decisions. Strong leaders remain visible during these challenging times.

6. When in doubt, attack. “An army that isn’t moving forward is dead,” said General Patton. In combat, like sports or business, momentum is everything, and the only way you create momentum is by moving forward, by attacking. If your business doesn’t have “momentum,” ask yourself how can you “attack” and create momentum for your brand?



7. Never “dig in” and defend. Rather, see Rule 6. There is a military saying that when you “dig in,” you are only “digging your own grave.” It’s harder for the enemy to hit a moving target than a stationary one. When faced with a competitive threat, think attack. Same is true in business. How can you use a competitive threat to grow your business and build share? How can you turn a competitive attack to your advantage with a well-planned counter attack?

8. Walk the track park. Want to find a military unit that is disciplined and prepared for combat? Walk the track park, where they keep their military vehicles. Disciplined units have vehicles parked in a perfect line, sparkling clean, fueled and ready to go to war at a moment’s notice. If they are disciplined here, you can be sure they are combat ready. Want to find a disciplined business unit? “Walk the track park.” Look at unexpected indicators and even the seemingly small things: How do they use research results? How secure is their office? Do they treat supplies as “money” and use them sparingly? Find discipline in unexpected places, and you’ll find the units who likely deliver exceptional results all the time.



9. Always have a “Plan B.” When lives are at stake, you must have a well-thought-out military plan. But, having your “combat plan” is not enough. Every good leader always has at least one fallback plan (and often more than one), because things never go as planned. There is no time to create a Plan B in the heat of the battle. It’s not enough to plan for “best case,” we need to plan for things not going as planned, and know ahead of time how we will respond.

10. Leaders lead from the front. In combat, the action takes place “in the front.” Strong leaders get there despite the fact that it can be a dangerous place. Same in business. Strong leaders get to where the day-to-day “combat” is being fought – in the markets, with customers, with consumers – and they listen to their “frontline commanders.”



I think back to those military days and am always struck by the longevity and ubiquity of those lessons. It clearly shaped me as a leader and these lessons have stuck with me for an entire career. I’m curious to learn if others have gotten some of their best professional advice from unique places – whether that’s your home life, a different industry, or perhaps even in your youth.

(Pics courtesy of,, 9idblogspot,,


Filed under Advocacies, Military

Counting My Blessings

By: Ribomapil “Dodong” E. Holganza
My late uncle, Tiyo Dodong, died last  January 25. He was a proud and principled man who was incarcerated for 3 years during Marcos’ martial law era. He provided the strong leadership that helped unite the anti-Marcos forces in Cebu during those trying years.  Even during his years in jail, he refused to let his spirits down, and instead continued the fight against those he felt were the ‘true enemies of the state, the real subversives’  who had prostituted the democratic processes and pillaged the wealth of the nation. Tiyo Dodong wrote this piece on his third Christmas in jail, still unbroken and unbowed. More than ever, he is convinced that he is a man made for others, and that he must make use of his life for the good of many. Many thanks to my cousins, Joeyboy and Rosemarie, for providing me insights and pictures of my favorite freedom fighter. Farewell, Tiyo Dodong!!!

Dodong’s remains are brought to the Cebu Memorial Park. (courtesy of the

Last Christmas was my third Christmas in jail. It is such a poignant and traumatic experience. One would never know how it feels to be caged during special days. It is doubly frustrating and disgusting to be incarcerated for a crime that you did not commit, denied your right to bail, deprived of your personal liberty, and then left to languish in jail to rot without the benefit of trial.

Dodong was unfazed when Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972. (courtesy of planet philippines)

It is revolting that all around us are people who are truly the enemies of the state, the real subversives who have been subverting the faith and confidence of the Filipinos in our democratic processes, who pillage and plunder the patrimony of this nation, and yet are enjoying their loot and power very well beyond the reach of our anemic, discriminatingly inutile judicial system.


Arrested and detained without bail, he brought the fight against the dictatorship from his cell. (courtesy of

While it is true that I have my own share of melancholy inside my cell, there are also ample moments of joy. So I would rather count my blessings now, instead of belaboring my misfortune. After all, this is still a season of love and peace to people of good or even ill will.


No freedom? no worries. i can campaign from my jail cell. (courtesy of rosemarie holganza borromeo)

Now I have the blessing of a deeper insight on our people and the community, our friends and relations, our foes and detractors. I can now distinguish a true friend from an opportunist, a loving relation to one who is only plastic, a principled foe from an envious character. I never had this luxury of knowing people more until I was imprisoned.


The young handsome freedom fighter, after his arrest by police elements. (courtesy of rosemarie holganza borromeo)

Being in prison is an enriching experience. It has afforded me with the chance to test the real mettle of my capacity to sacrifice, the strength of character of the immediate members of my family, the true measure of the length and breadth of the love and devotion that only a wife and mother could show amidst our personal tragedy. I am more than assured now that I stand on the bedrock of true love, faith and devotion, and I can face adversities with more courage, vigor and resolve.

I can now appreciate better the wonders of God’s creations and His many mysterious ways, as a true Christian should, things I took for granted when I was still as free as a lark. I never knew the true meaning of freedom, until I was deprived of it. Praying then was more mechanical than real. There was always that gaping distance between me and my God. The absence of intimacy was both apparent and real. Not so anymore as I can feel His presence keeping watch over me. Despite my weaknesses, He had never deserted me. I was made to feel forlorn countless of times but never was I forsaken.

Campaigning from his cell. (courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo)

There were moments in the past when I felt that my head was above the clouds forgetting that I have my feet of clay. I now realize that I am nothing but moulded dust created unto His likeness and image. That one’s mortal existence in the material plane is a preparation of a permanent haven for our astral body. That life is too short and it has to be used for the good of many.


While in jail, he has his share of mag covers and intrigues. (courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo)

Self preservation and the law of the jungle is the prevailing concern of the mortal. Cowardice is bliss in the law of survival; and yet, as one searches his inner being, he will come to realize that he is not only made of flesh and bones. He also has a soul, ideals, goals, and more than that, he was also made for others. That one can never aspire to have eternity if during his mortal existence, he was only for himself.

Future Prez Cory Aquino visits Dodong. (courtesy of Rosemarie Borromeo)

 In prison, one can reflect and ponder upon the depth and relevance of spirituality as against the almost meaningless material matters that govern all our mortal endeavors. Now I understand fully why the angels in their simplicity are more beautiful than the words poets may use to describe them, or the images captured by masters in their canvass. Indeed material matters are for the flesh while the noble and the sublime, exalted as they are, are for the spirit. After taking stock of the year that is about to end, my sojourn in jail only serves to galvanize to its highest degree my resolute commitment to fight and to struggle some more for the cause of the people. It is my perception that the oppressed Filipinos have already passed their darkest night, and we are now witnessing the flickering lights of the early dawn of our salvation; that the days of tyranny are about to end; that the wounded tigers in office now roaming and wildly pillaging in the corridors of power may soon be swept away by a flood of an enraged humanity; that true democracy shall be restored from the ashes of a nation torn and shattered to pieces by a reckless and irresponsible leadership; and the Filipinos shall vow that never again shall we let another tyrant rule our beloved land.
Photos courtesy of Rosemarie Holganza Borromeo



Filed under Advocacies, Family and Friends

Typhoon Haiyan: The Strongest to Ever Hit Land


So much have been said about the heartbreaking devastation and pain brought by Typhoon Haiyan on the Philippines more than a year ago. Reading this and watching the video (yes, please watch the video) brought back haunting memories of those difficult and desperate times. But it also reminded me of the poignant episodes of humanity when our global community got together to lend us a helping hand.

We at Habitat Philippines continue to soldier on in our efforts to provide adequate shelter for the victims, and it is my hope that this article rekindle that desire to help among the well-intentioned peoples of the world. haiyan

Originally posted on A Changing Climate:

The Philippines is a country consisting of over 7,000 islands and is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. The Philippines is use to experiencing typhoons, but Haiyan in 2013 was the strongest ever to hit land, killing at at least 6,300 people. Many are saying that climate change will make these super typhoons more frequent and stronger.

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February 17, 2015 · 8:15 am