Issue 6 Special Women's Edition

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FILIPINOE XPAT LI V ING IN EUROPE

FREE FEATURES Miss Saigon’s new ‘Gigi’ is Rachelle Ann Go

Issue 6 - Mar/Apr 2014

Special

WOMEN’S EDITION

Filipina doctor in Italy advocates health of kababayans BUSINESS Importing Philippine furniture to Europe TRAVEL reasons to visit Barcelona

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Biggest flower garden in Europe Nature and adventure in Sagada, Philippines DIPLOMATS Ambassador Jaime Ledda in the spotlight

Plus!

Tales from a naturist

Rose Eclarinal

ABS-CBN Europe’s senior correspondent on career and motherhood Issue 6 2014

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The Filipino Expat Magazine


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CONTENTS Wellness: On the cover: ABS-CBN Europe’s senior correspondent Rose Eclarinal. Photography by Joseph Rosales

35 Get a sexier body in the Philippines

Parenting:

36 Deepa Paul and her journey to motherhood in the Netherlands

Special feature:

38 A Dutchman shares his observations on Filipinos and nudity

Travel:

Expat Interviews:

09 Daisy Valenzuela shares her journey in The Voice, Ireland

Diplomats:

11 New Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Jaime Ledda reaches out to Filipinos

Celebrities:

13 Rachelle Ann Go tells us her fears and excitement auditioning for “Gigi” in Miss Saigon’s return to West End

Relationships:

15 Love knows no distance for Filipina NJ Torres and her Swiss-Italian boyfriend Christophe Jacobson

Expat Issues:

42 Top ten reasons why you should go to Barcelona 44 Tips on how to make the most of your visit to Europe’s biggest flower garden 46 Sagada, Philippines enchants you with nature and adventure

Dining:

48 London meets Asia’s bests – Taiwanese bubble tea and Filipino merienda

Giving Back:

50 One Billion Rising encourages women around the world to fight inequality and injustice against them

Columns:

22 Lawyer Chona Abiertas Tenorio advises Filipino expats on how to protect their dream houses 40 Barcelona-based writer Nats Sisma Villaluna makes us laugh with his anecdotes on spotting Filipinos abroad

18 The International Labour Organization ratifies Domestic Workers Convention

Business:

21 Bituin family from Pampanga exports 100 percent Filipino-made furniture to Europe

Traditions:

24 Maria Clara and the image of Filipinas

Regular features:

05 Readers’ corner 06 A note from the editor 07 Contributors 08 Events 10 Features

Cover story:

26 ABS-CBN Europe’s senior correspondent Rose Eclarinal shares with us how she juggles career and motherhood in London

Personalities:

29 First licensed Filipina doctor in Italy helps kababayans take better care of their health 30 Lawyer Rowena Ricalde finds fulfillment in volunteering in the Netherlands 31 Young British-Filipina entrepreneur Claire Buyson gives tips on achieving your dreams at a young age 33 Rizal’s great-grand niece Noelle Sy-Quia on following a hero’s teachings

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READERS’ CORNER The Filipino Expat likes to hear from our readers. Keep on sending your thoughts and comments to editor@thefilipinoexpat.com.

When I read the first issue, I thought, “What a brilliant concept! This is THE magazine!” It is very informative and full of good stuff. This is now the 5th issue and more and more good stuff! Keep up the good work. Kudos to the Filipino Expat magazine! Greetings from The Philippine Women’s Organization in Norway Resource Center. - Leonor S. Vintervoll, Norway

I like the magazine because it has a lot of information especially for Filipinos who are living in different parts of the world. It also lets Filipinos share their own experiences in a strange country. Their stories are touching and interesting. To the people behind the magazine, keep up the good work. - Ana Cristy, The Netherlands

Thank you very much for sharing your digital issue. It’s a pleasure to read a very contemporary, welldesigned magazine that reflects Filipino interests. Looking forward to more of your informative issues. - Filipinos in Iceland - FIA

This is a well-written, wonderful, and inspiring magazine. THE FILIPINO EXPAT is exciting and different. When I picked it up, I thought I’d soon throw it away and read something else. But the moment I started to read one of the stories I read it to the finish. I will keep this in my collection and read it again someday. Thanks for this amazing writing. Hats off to the writers and to my friend who introduced me to your magazine. I’ve learned a lot. I get new idea each time. Success and God bless! - Chen O. Araneta

I once read about your magazine. But due to our busy schedule, I forgot to read the next issues. Good thing I was able to read the Christmas edition and I can’t wait to read the next. I am planning to have a vacation this year and your magazine is really helping me find out what other countries I can visit. Thank you very much and on behalf of the Filipino Nurses Association (FNA) in Rome, Italy, more power! - Nenette Vecinal

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EDITOR’S LETTER

Women in focus As our way of celebrating International Women’s Day, The Filipino Expat puts the spotlight on women this time around. We bring you stories of Filipinas who are making a difference in Europe, taking on the challenges of living abroad with only their wits, smarts, and yes, charm to help and guide them. Some of these women are not necessarily celebrities or famous personalities. They are housewives, professionals, and volunteers for non-profit organizations. All of them have inspiring stories to tell which we hope to highlight in this issue. Our cover girl Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN Europe’s senior correspondent and media consultant, takes some time off from her busy schedule to share with us her experiences and achievements as a well-respected journalist, Filipino expat, and mom to 16-month-old Julia. The Filipino Expat traveled all the way to London to catch up with the very busy but accommodating Ms. Eclarinal. Contributor Ryan Manicad tells us more in a feature titled “On Career and Motherhood.” In an interview with publisher Dheza Marie Aguilar, Filipina-British Claire Buyson, recalls her journey in putting up her own restaurant and realizing a lifelong dream. Lakwatsa, a relaxing nook serving milk tea and a good selection of traditional Pinoy merienda, has become a hit since it opened its doors to Londoners in the trendy and fashionable neighborhood of Notting Hill. All the way from Rome, Italy, Alice Cedo contributes a story on Jerilyn Tan Balonan, the first licensed Filipina doctor in Italy since the 1970s. Balonan advocates health among kababayans who feel intimidated by Italian health services. Regular contributor Deepa Paul amazes us with her tale of courage and love as a first-time mom in the Netherlands. We bring to focus the achievements of Zenaida “Wads” Wijnberg-Tiongson, who was awarded the Royal Honor of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau, and Alice Javier, who was honored with the King of Norway’s Commemorative Medal in August 2013. We have an exclusive on singer-actress Rachelle Ann Go as she relives her auditions to bag the role of “Gigi” in the upcoming West End production of “Miss Saigon.” Of course, don’t miss our regular sections. For Travel, contributor Miguel Ibañez ventured to Sagada, located in the Mountain Province in the Philippines, to find out what drives nature-tripping tourists to this paradise. We also have tips on making the most out of your trip in Barcelona, Spain and the Keukenhof Garden in Lisse, Holland. Our Diplomats page introduces the newly appointed Philippine ambassador to the Netherlands Jaime Ledda. Wherever you are in Europe, dear reader, we hope you enjoy this latest from The Filipino Expat. To all Filipinas in Europe, happy Women’s Day! All the best,

Diana A. Uy Editor-in-chief

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CONTRIBUTORS

FILIPINO

E X PAT LIVING IN EUROPE

Publisher and Managing Editor Dheza Marie Aguilar Editor-in-Chief Diana Uy Creative Director Robin Kuijs Editorial Assistant Lyssa Ericka Cabarles Contributing Writers: Alice Cedo, Miguel Ibanez, Menno IJzerdraat, Ma. Glaiza Lee, Gabby Libarios, Ryan Manicad, Maan D’Asis Pamaran, Deepa Paul, Nats Sisma Villaluna Contributing Photographers: Mico Abrigo, Pranz Kaeno Billones, Ronald Mendrano, Joseph Rosales Illustrations: Windy dela Cruz

Advertising Manager Rhea Topacio-Rogacion (Europe)

Pranz Kaeno Billones’ favorite book is “The Little Prince.” He loves to travel, read, and daydream. Some of his projects include a coffee table book about beautiful gardens. He dreams of writing and shooting his own book. He recently covered the Philippine Basketball Associations’ finals for the online portal of local channel TV5. Share his journeys on Instagram: @pranzkaeno.

Ryan Manicad finished BS Development Communication from the University of the Philippines. A foodie by nature, he loves to discover unique eating spots. He hopes to experience African Safari adventure and travel to Mediterranean Europe. He spends his spare time playing sports, reading books and watching all sorts of interesting and informative documentaries.

Gabby Libarios is a writer for an entertainment magazine in the Philippines. While he finds pleasure in meeting and swapping stories with celebrities, nothing excites him more than the stories from ordinary folks. In this issue, he writes about a longdistance relationship, discovering that distance really does not matter for two people madly in love.

Alice Cedo works in Rome, Italy. On her free time, she participates in the liturgical and apostolic programs of the Scala Santa Sanctuary Filipino Community and Sentro Pilipino Chaplaincy in Rome. She previously worked as a human resources supervisor at Central Azucarera Don Pedro Inc. She was also the associate editor of the company publication. She loves singing, writing, event hosting and organizing.

The Filipino Expat Magazine Published 6 times a year By The Filipino Expat The opinions expressed in The Filipino Expat magazine do not represent the views of The Filipino Expat company. While we have exhausted every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, neither The Filipino Expat nor its editors, contributors and staff will accept any responsibility for any omission, typographical or printing errors, inaccuracies or changes however caused. Our editorial and creative teams reserve the right to edit any material submitted at our discretion. All texts, photos and graphics have been used with the permission of the author or artists. All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be duplicated or reproduced in a whole in any form or by any means without the publisher’s prior written permission. Comments and complaints should be addressed to: The Publisher The Filipino Expat Magazine Lorentzlaan 74 3112KP Schiedam The Netherlands Telephone +31 (0) 624407692 Email publisher@thefilipinoexpat.com advertising@thefilipinoexpat.com Website www.thefilipinoexpat.com

The Filipino Expat is continuously looking for writers, photographers and bloggers for both the magazine and our website, www.thefilipinoexpat.com. Email your portfolio or writing samples to editor@thefilipinoexpat.com.

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EVENTS

MAR/APR 2014

Aiza Seguerra and Noel Cabangon in concert Apr 11 Amager Bio Øresundsvej 6, 2300 Copenhagen, Denmark Actress and singer Aiza Seguerra and folk singer/writer Noel Cabangon will perform popular Pinoy hits for kababayans in Copenhagen. For tickets, text or call Susan Meyer at +45 28555180

Be financially healthy: Take charge workshop Mar 15 3 Generatie Centrum Bernadottelaan 23-A Utrecht, The Netherlands

Ruth Galura dinner concert May 24 T Harspit P. Walmastrjitte 8 8625 HE Oppenhuizen

In line with the celebration of International Women’s Day, Stichting Bayanihan is conducting a financial literacy seminar called “Be financially healthy: Take charge.” For more information, visit www.bayanihan.nl.

Entertainer and performance artist Ruth Galura will once again set the stage on fire with her “Friesland Swing” dinner-dance concert. For tickets, call or text +316 300 87 316 The Spring concert Mar 22 Ateneu Barcelonés Calle dela Canuda 6 Barcelona, Spain The Grupo Concierto Filipino, in collaboration with Centro Filipino - Tuluyan San Benito is staging “The Spring Concert.” Featuring the sweet voices of the Centro Filipino Children’s Choir and one of Barcelona’s talented kids, 12-year-old Dianne Kay Ico. Relax to the sound of four-hand piano performances by pianists Sarabeth Guevarra, J Marina Gomez Nagales, Júlia Puig Duran and Manuella Sacca with the special participation of flutist Núria Giralt Escudero. Come and listen to these singing bees at Ateneu Barcelonés, Barcelona, Spain, on March 22, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. It will be a night of jazz, bossa nova, samba and more in five different languages! Feel young again as they regal you with songs about love, life and the youth in us. After all, “Only to children, children sing, only to youth will spring be spring.”

Eraserheads’ concert in London Apr 4 Eventim Apollo 45 Queen Caroline Street London, W6 9DZ, UK Legendary rock band Eraserheads is staging a reunion concert at the historic Eventim Apollo Hammersmith in London. Their hits like “Alapaap”, “With A Smile”, “Huling El Bimbo” and “Fruitcake” became the songs of Pinoy youth in the 90s. Tickets are available at www.eventimapollo.com.

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The Filipino Expat Magazine


EXPAT INTERVIEWS

The ‘Pinay’ Voice in Ireland

What made you decide to move to Ireland? I decided to move to Ireland to study, work to support my family back home, and have a better life. My Irish boyfriend is also one of the reasons I’m here. What do you like about living in Ireland? Dislike?

Daisy Valenzuela, finalist at The Voice of Ireland, shares her experience in the competition and how singing feels like home to her.

I made many friends here – both Irish and Filipinos. The Irish people are so friendly and welcoming like the Filipino people. It almost feels like I’m home in the Philippines. I like the work-life balance here. And I honestly couldn’t imagine myself living somewhere else. I still travel and have holidays abroad but Ireland is home. The only thing I don’t like living here is the weather. But I’m already used to it. What was it like to pass the blind auditions of The Voice? Tell us more about your experience in the competition. I was in shock when one of the coaches, Jamelia, turned her seat around for me. The experience has been amazing so far. I feel like one of those lucky people in the world. I know I haven’t won it yet, but the experience is like winning a million euros already. I enjoy making friends with people who have the same interests as me. I love being on the big stage. It brings back memories when I used to join singing contests back home in the Philippines as a little girl. How are you preparing for the big battle on March 9? I am constantly practicing at home and uploading them on Youtube. I’m learning how to feel the

song assigned to me as I haven’t sung it before. I listen to it all the time even during breaks at work. I also sing it when I get home. What are you tips for Filipinos who want to move to Ireland? You have to have legal documents. It’s better to have the right papers so that you won’t have worries and you can work as much as you want to. Ireland is a great place and it’s the greenest country ever. What do you say to your fans? Always carry your passion with you wherever you go –whether it’s singing or dancing. Don’t be afraid to go out there and do what you love to do. That’s one of the lessons I’ve learned from living abroad. When I came here, I first thought that I would just forget about singing and focus on my work in the nursing home. No one will notice me anyway being in a foreign country. I also didn’t want to be invited to Filipino gatherings and parties because I lost all my confidence. For a few years, I was hiding in my own little cave, working and sending money home. But something inside me kept nagging that I should go back to singing. I think I got depressed for a while. Then I started remembering how I used to win in singing competitions back home when I was younger. Each time the memory comes back, I would cry. Suddenly, I told myself, I want to sing again. So I asked my boss in the nursing home if I could just work as part-time employee. My boss completely understood. Eventually, I got a job singing every weekend. I started feeling better again, gaining back my self-confidence. I became my old self again –the bubbly and chatty Daisy. Singing is like home to me.

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FEATURES Royal awardees In 2009, Zenaida “Wads” WijnbergTiongson was awarded the Royal Honor of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau for her volunteer work in the Filipino community in the Netherlands. Tiongson is involved in Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino (SAMAHAN), an organization that helps undocumented migrants in the Netherlands, and Bukluran sa Ikau-unlad ng Isip at Gawa (BISIG), a socio-political group affiliated with BISIG Philippines. In 1990, together with other Filipinos, she founded the Kapatiran Foundation which conducts livelihood and literary programs in the Philippines through partnerships with several nongovernment organizations. Alice Javier has cooked and served delicious meals to at least ten ambassadors at the Norwegian residence in Switzerland. Her 30 years of dedicated service and loyalty was honored with the King of Norway’s Commemorative Medal in August 2013. Norwegian Ambassador to Switzerland Rolf Trolle Andersen also recognized Javier’s successful integration to the Swiss and Norwegian way of life while remaining a Filipino at heart.

Empowering women Babaylan is a Filipino word that means priestess. Babaylans played an important role in the pre-Hispanic Philippine society as leaders and healers. They also participated in the revolt against the Spaniards. In Europe, a group called Babaylan -The Philippine Women’s Network in Europe is uniting and empowering Filipino women and other nationalities throughout the continent through education, networking, representation and lobbying. Formed in Barcelona in 1992, Babaylan has grown into a huge network that includes chapters in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. Some of their projects include au pair and integration seminar programmes. Visit www.facebook.com/pages/Babaylan-Europe-The-Philippine-WomensNetwork-in-Europe.

International Women’s Day 2014 On March 8, the world will celebrate the International Women’s Day with the global theme “Equality for Women is Progress for All.” The official commemoration will be held at the United Nation’s headquarters in New York. Similar celebrations will be held in different countries around the world. Since 1908, the International Women’s Day has evolved from being a small movement to a call to action to create awareness and substantial change for women. However, it was only in 1975 that the United Nations officially marked March 8 as the worldwide celebration of International Women’ s Day. International Women’ Day observes a different theme every year but they are all geared toward strengthening and protecting the rights of women particularly those from Third World countries as well as recognizing their contribution in political and economic areas. For more information, visit www.unwomen.org.

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The Filipino Expat Magazine


DIPLOMATS

Getting the job done by Dheza Marie Aguilar

“He was my batchmate at DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs],” greets new Philippine Ambassador to the Netherlands Jaime Ledda, referring to The Filipino Expat’s recent feature on Ambassador Leslie Baja. Despite his very busy schedule, Ledda shows no signs of fatigue or stress when he welcomes me one afternoon at the Philippine embassy in The Hague for an interview. “I have to credit my staff for taking good care of me. I hit the ground running so to speak, arriving in the evening of December 28 and reporting to work immediately the next day,” enthuses Ledda. “I’m excited to be here, to start my work.” The ambassador has been making the rounds, presenting his credentials to King Willem Alexander and key government organizations in the Netherlands. During his meeting with the King, he thanked the government of the Netherlands and the Dutch people for their support during Typhoon

Haiyan’s devastation in the Philippines. Their fundraising campaign for the victims and their families generated more than €36,000,000, equivalent to more than P2 billion. That’s on top of the relief goods and other resources for rescue operations that the Dutch government, private individuals and organizations provided the Philippines. Ledda compares this show of support to bayanihan, or the Filipino concept of solidarity and unity in times of need. The Dutch call theirs, “saamhorigheid.” Career in diplomatic affairs Like his colleague in Switzerland, Ledda is a career diplomat, who has spent most of his early years in the profession serving Filipino expats in Europe and China. His assignment in the Netherlands is his first ambassadorial post. Though, Ledda has already gained the necessary experiences as a head of post in Macau.

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Send your love from Europe to the Philippines through Pinoy Balikbayan Box

“Philippine embassies function to serve both the documented and undocumented. We do not make that kind of distinction. We are always aiming to assist them in the best possible way we can depending on their circumstances.”

Ledda notes that an ambassadorial position does not end with being the head representative of the country abroad. His role also entails managing the staff, embassy resources as well as facilitating activities for the Filipino community. Ledda took up political science and law at the University of the Philippines. Right after passing the bar exams, he worked for the government in 1989. Since childhood, Ledda has set his sights on a career in foreign service. “I worked towards [achieving] that. I studied political science then, law. At the same time, I was preparing for the foreign service exam, which I passed,” narrates Ledda. He started his foreign posts in 1995, six years after working for the DFA. He was assigned in Brussels and Milan as vice consul until 2001. From 2004 to 2008, Ledda was assigned at the Philippine embassy in Beijing. He eventually became head of post in Macau until 2010. Before leaving for the Netherlands, he spent four years in the Philippines as assistant secretary for consular affairs. “The experience in Brussels gave me that sense that this is a post that let me do all aspects of being a diplomat. Our work as diplomats involves focusing on bilateral and multilateral relationships, in this case, with the European Union. It is our duty as well to provide consular assistance and services to the Filipino community,” he elaborates.

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The relationship between the Philippines and the Netherlands has since developed into that of friendship and mutual understanding. Today, top Dutch companies like KLM, ING, Shell, Philipps and Unilever have strong presence in the Philippines. The Netherlands is home to some 17,000 Filipinos according to the 2011 data of the Central Bureau of Statistics in The Hague.

Ledda is quick to add he also enjoyed his time in Milan, Italy. Aside from being captivated by the beauty and rich history of the place, he felt at home in the city with a relatively huge Filipino population.

One of Ledda’s goals is to promote the Philippines to the Dutch market particularly in the areas of maritime and tourism. According to him, there are still parts in the Netherlands where the Philippines is unheard of.

“In [Italy], my work largely focused on reaching out to and engaging the Filipino community. The Filipinos I met there were very hard working, warm and hospitable,” adds Ledda.

“More should be done to encourage Dutch tourists to spend their holidays in the Philippines,” laments Ledda.

His extensive resume in foreign service, spanning 25 years, has given Ledda a solid understanding of the plight of Filipino expatriates both in Asia and Europe. “I hope to meet the expectations and serve well the Filipinos in the Netherlands. I also hope to further strengthen the Philippines-Netherlands relations.”

He acknowledges that some of our kababayans, especially the undocumented, have yet to put their full trust in the embassy. He wants to correct these misconceptions about the government office.

Reaching out

“Philippine embassies function to serve both the documented and undocumented. We do not make that kind of distinction. We are always aiming to assist them in the best possible way we can depending on their circumstances,” says Ledda.

The Dutch discovered the Philippines during the Dutch-Spanish war in 1600 when they sent out two war ships to the country. It was under the Spanish rule at that time.

Ledda has already mapped out his plans to visit the different cities in the Netherlands to get to know more the Filipino community and bring the embassy closer to them.

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CELEBRITIES

The new ‘Gigi’ is in town! by Ma. Glaiza Lee

T

ruth be told, singer-actress and GMA International talent Rachelle Ann Go was quite reluctant to audition when the “Miss Saigon” production team came all the way to Manila from London in search for talents for its upcoming West End production last November 2012. This despite the fact that Rachelle Ann is considerably a veteran when it comes to singing competitions having been joining amateur contests since she was 11 years old. Not to mention, she was named champion in the defunct Philippine reality talent show “Search for a Star” in 2004. The 27-year-old TV personality says she got scared. “This [Miss Saigon] is such a big deal! I never really imagined that I’ll be doing musicals until I watched Miss Saigon in Canada back in 2010,” shares Rachelle Ann. According to Rachelle Ann, she fell in love with the theater upon seeing the actress playing “Kim” perform on stage and hearing the cast sing and dance. “I imagined myself performing on the stage. That same year, I was asked to audition for The Little Mermaid and I fell in love with theater more,” recalls Rachelle Ann. Since then, roles kept landing on Rachelle Ann’s door. She played “Jane” in the local production of Tarzan. But even after all those Disney performances, Rachelle Ann still felt her theater experience was not yet enough to land a part in Miss Saigon. “I have always played the sweet girl in the past. And I thought the roles in Miss Saigon would be more daring,” says Rachelle Ann. Rachelle Ann found courage in supporter Lea Salonga who sent her a private message on Twitter, encouraging her to audition. The Tony Award winner and popular singer first portrayed the lead role of Vietnamese bar girl ‘Kim’ in the original London premiere of Miss Saigon in 1989. The play, which has been performed in 15 different languages in over 300 cities worldwide since, launched Lea’s career as an international theater actress. Lea saw Rachelle Ann’s performance in Little Mermaid and was thoroughly impressed. “Why don’t you audition? You won’t lose anything if you try,” urged Lea. She received further encouragement from prolific

theater director Bobby Garcia, who directed Rachelle Ann in her two Disney plays. Needless to say, Rachelle Ann decided to try her luck. And audition she did. During casting call, Rachelle Ann had to compete with thousands of other hopefuls. The auditions had several levels. On the first day, she sang “I’d Give My Life For You.” There was a bit of dancing too. On the final stage, the panel of judges, which included executive producer Trevor Jackson, director Laurence Connor and music supervisor Stephen

“I have always played the sweet girl in the past. And I thought the roles in Miss Saigon would be more daring.”

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Brooker, asked Rachelle Ann to sing “I’d Give My Life For You” again and “This Money’s Yours.” Rachelle Ann didn’t expect anything after that. But she was hoping to be “Kim.” “The role is really exceptional. I guess a lot of girls are aspiring to get the role of ‘Kim’ because of how it contributed to Miss Lea’s career,” narrates the Filipina singer, who was among the six Filipina aspirants shortlisted in the end. After the auditions came the long wait: Days became weeks, and weeks turned into months before Rachelle Ann could hear any news about the results. In fact, she was almost ready to give up, begrudgingly thinking that maybe Miss Saigon was not for her. Then she got an email informing her about the final casting call in London back in October last year. “I was overwhelmed when I received their email. I never thought that they would be interested because I haven’t heard from them for almost a year,” shares Rachelle Ann. She adds, “The first thing that came to my mind was the costume!” In London, Rachelle Ann had to undergo another series of auditions. “The most nerve-wracking moment was when [producer] Cameron Mackintosh and his team were right in front of me. All eyes were on me and I was shaking. I sang ‘Movie In My Mind’ and ‘The Heat Is On In Saigon.’ They even asked me to dance. For the final casting, they asked me to sing ‘Movie In My Mind’ again,” recalls Rachelle Ann. During the final audition, the panel threw Rachelle Ann a curve ball. “It was a make-or-break question. They explained to me that I was not the right age for Kim, but would I be interested to be Gigi? I said, ‘Yes,’ right away,” beams the upcoming West End actress.

“I don’t care if the role is big or not or how much the talent fee is. I just want to be a part of the production because I believe that it will lead me to more opportunities and help me grow as an artist.” love cannot be controlled or stopped if it is meant to happen. It also shows that love in all forms will overcome challenges. “The ultimate sacrifice of a mother for her child’s future is the greatest example of an act of true love. Mothers make big sacrifices for their children everyday.”

She furthers, “I don’t care if the role is big or not or how much the talent fee is. I just want to be a part of the production because I believe that it will lead me to more opportunities and help me grow as an artist.”

Rachelle Ann sees some commonalities in Gigi, “I think we are both dreamers –strong in the outside but soft in the inside, wanting to be loved. Our only difference is probably what we do for a living.”

Beginning May 3, Rachelle Ann is set to reprise the role of bar girl Gigi Van Tranh at the Prince Edward Theater in London’s West End. She will appear alongside another Filipino actor Jonjon Briones who will play “The Engineer.” The theater actor was part of the original West End cast and played the same role in the production’s tours in Germany, United States, United Kingdom and Asia including the Philippine staging in 2000. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Eva Noblezada of Charlotte, North Carolina will be playing the role of “Kim.”

The young actress begins rehearsals for “Miss Saigon” this March. Before leaving for London, Rachelle Ann regularly hit the gym –“I need to be fit to wear a bikini” –and enrolled in dance classes since her character does quite a lot of dancing.

Loosely based on Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” Miss Saigon narrates the tragic love story between Kim and an American soldier named Chris during the final days of the American occupation in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh), during the Vietnam War in 1975. “I do think that Miss Saigon is still relevant today. Although Miss Saigon is set during the Vietnam War which happened a very long time ago, wars are still happening in different parts of the world. It shows that people are the casualties of these wars. But within the backdrop of chaos, an eternal love could blossom between two people,” tells Rachelle Ann. “Love transcends everything including race, religion and background. Even if Kim and Chris were so different from each other, they found love in a horrible place. It shows that

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She tried learning how to cook, as well. “I will be living alone, far from my family. I will have to take the train on my own, cook my own food, and do the laundry. I have to learn how to be independent. I will really miss my family, friends and Filipino food. But it helps a lot knowing that there will be Filipinos in the cast.” Rachelle Ann is excited for her new adventure. “I’m looking forward to the things that I will learn as a person and as an artist. I’m also excited to explore one of my dream places. I expect to meet new friends and I’m excited to learn a lot from the people that I’ll be working with. I look forward to growing as an artist and be given the chance to prove myself in other endeavors, perhaps a concert or other theater role probably in ‘Les Miserables.’ I want this once-in-a-lifetime experience to make me better as a performer and give me insights for myself as a person,” the new ‘Gigi’ finishes. Rachelle Ann performs in Sunday All Stars, a weekly variety show that airs on GMA Pinoy TV.


RELATIONSHIPS

LOVE ACROSS THE OCEANS by Gabby Reyes Libarios

Distance means so little when someone means so much. This maxim rings true for Nory Joy “NJ” Torres, a 31-year-old Filipino public relations practitioner, and her 31-year-old Swiss-Italian boyfriend of four years, Christophe Jacobson. From the time they made their relationship official in 2012, they’ve been living oceans apart - Torres in Manila, Philippines and Jacobson in Geneva, Switzerland. Despite the long distance, the two have managed to keep the flames of their relationship alive. ‘We clicked’ It was on the eve of Jan. 1, 2005 when Torres met Jacobson at a street party in Makati City. Torres, who was recovering from a breakup at the time, thought that celebrating New Year’s Eve with her best friend would take the breakup blues away. Little did Torres know that she would cross paths with Jacobson at the street party. At the time, Jacobson was just visiting from Hawaii to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a friend. “Christophe was with a friend back then. He was here because he wanted to see his family. His dad was working in the Philippines as an expat. His step-mother is Filipina,” recalls Torres. “My best friend Caloi [Madrid] and I arrived at the party some thirty minutes before the fireworks display. Christophe was with another friend. They got to the party about the same time we did.” Madrid at the time worked for an international business process outsourcing (BPO) company. Since he was used to communicating and dealing with foreigners, Madrid thought that it would be good idea to invite Jacobson and his friend to join their group, just for kicks. Seeing that it was just a friendly invitation, Jacobson gamely

obliged. It was a party, after all, and meeting new friends, especially on New Year’s Eve, was part of the fun. “He [Jacobson] was wearing a casual suit that time, looking like a cross between Nick Carter and Justin Timberlake. I was a big fan back then. He had this bad boy, relax-happygo-lucky air – that was my kind of guy,” she recalls. That harmless, friendly invitation turned out to be a memorable one for the newly-acquainted Torres and Jacobson. After the fireworks display, the group thought of transferring to Il Ponticello, a popular haunt for partygoers in Makati City. “We were young so we were allowed to drink and party till morning,” Torres says with a laugh. “But what happened that night between Christophe and I was really more of a social drinking. Christophe stayed with us the whole time. Although he seemed playful, my friends and I knew right away that Christophe was different. We thought he was the stick-to-one type.” “We continued partying at my condo,” shares Torres. “For some reason, we clicked. I knew that he was only staying for two weeks and that he was leaving soon for Hawaii because he was still studying that time.” Jacobson left around five in the morning. Torres thought that it was the last time that she would see him. But that same afternoon, she had the surprise of her life. “He called me!” beams Torres, “I was a bit surprised because most twenty-something guys would not even bother calling or would have waited after a week or so. But Christophe didn’t play around. He called me up and told me that he would like to spend the remaining two weeks with me.” For two weeks, Torres and Jacobson got to know each other more. She brought him to her favorite places, introduced him to her favorite Filipino food like sinigang, pusit, and

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To keep the flame burning in a long-distance relationship, Nory Joy Torres gives advice: 1. Keep an honest and realistic conversation all the time. 2. Set rules when it comes to everyday communication. There should be no excuses why you can’t use the phone or any other mode of getting in touch. 3. As much as you can, invest in traveling to each other’s country for at least two to three times a year. 4. Set future plans. Discuss who has the greater flexibility to move. Be open to certain sacrifices. 5. Keep the romance alive. Learn how to constantly surprise your partner. IT IS A MUST. 6. Don’t be shy/afraid to talk about sex. This helps avoid temptations outside the relationship.

The couple with Jacobson’s mom Caroline and younger sister Alexandra on Flat Island, Mauritius. pancit canton, and made him watch Filipino movies even if he didn’t understand a single Filipino word. “It was really excruciating because I had to translate everything. But I didn’t mind. We watched Madrasta, which we could both relate to because we come from broken families,” she adds. So special were those two weeks that when it was time to say goodbye, Torres was heartbroken. “I cried the day he left. But we made a promise to each other –that if we were not going to end up as boyfriend and girlfriend, I knew that I would always have a friend in Hawaii,” says Torres. Torres tried to move on with her life. Jacobson did the same. Torres didn’t believe in long-distance relationships, so she tried very hard to forget Jacobson. But as luck would have it, Jacobson would always find a way to make Torres feel his presence. “On Valentine’s Day [in 2005], he sent me a bouquet of pink roses,” she recalls. “So of course, I called him to say thank you. Since then, we would send constant emails to each other.” Jacobson came back to the Philippines some four months later. “It was then that he officially asked me to become his girlfriend,” Torres says with a smile. “It was then I realized that I really want this long-distance relationship to work.” Lovelier the second time around Torres and Jacobson have been through a number of ups and downs. There even came a point when the two called it quits –all because Torres felt that they “were slowly growing apart.” But no matter how complicated and frustrating things got, they would always find themselves longing for each other. “There was a point in a relationship that we decided to give each other space. I think three to five years? Yes, it was that long,” narrates Torres. “But we promised to keep in touch. Every year, for five years, we would text or e-mail each other, especially during our birthdays, Christmas, and New Year –the holidays will always be our favorite part of the year. Maybe we still loved each other all those years or just simply keeping our promise and staying friends.” In 2009, at the height of Facebook’s popularity in the

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Philippines, Torres decided to add Jacobson up. Little did she know that her “friend request” would rekindle a romance that was previously put on hold. “In 2010, his dad, who at the time was in Geneva, Switzerland for a vacation, texted me and told me that the family talked about me,” says Torres. “He told me that Christophe was still in love with me. I thought he was just teasing. But somehow I took it as a sign for a possibility of reconcilation.” Two years later, Torres and Jacobson finally decided to give love a second chance. “It was Christophe who reminded me that I still have a heart,” fondly remembers Torres. “But this time around, we became more realistic about it. We told each other that if it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then we’d move on.” Fortunately, it did happen. On June 5, 2012, when Jacobson visited Manila again, They got back together again. Torres was asked for another chance for a long distance relationship, and she didn’t hesitate to say, “Yes.” While Torres admits that long-distance relationships are difficult and can be “expensive,” she believes that hers has done her a lot of good. “This relationship taught me to become strong, independent, and not to be needy all the time,” proudly says Torres. “I started to like myself even more. My career got better. I found a job that I think was really meant for me. And Jacobson made me realize my potential. He inspired me to dream big. Best thing is we both have passion to travel around the world, so seeing each other often becomes an experience for us that we enjoy a lot and look forward to.” Torres says that it was constant communication, through “phone calls, Viber chat, video calls, and e-mails,” that made the relationship possible. Having a realistic and practical mindset was also important. “We would talk about our relationship in a matter-of-fact way,” Torres says. “We would tell ourselves that now we have no excuse not to talk. There’s Viber, iMsg, Facetime, and other apps. We have to do our part to make it work. Sometimes we talk about senseless things, but that’s okay. When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you have to make your partner feel that he is part of your life, even when he is miles away.”


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EXPAT ISSUES

Photo by the International Labour Organization

Ratifying the right to decent work by Ryan Manicad

T

he International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 189 has finally come into force with its ratification by 10 countries recently. The landmark labour treaty, with its accompanying recommendations, aims to recognize domestic work as decent work, providing those in the industry equal rights and privileges enjoyed by other workers like compensation and benefits, regular working hours, fair wages, protection from abuse, among others. “The ratification of the ILO Domestic Workers Convention ensures that a proper labor framework is in place for those in the household service industry,” explains László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. “It provides them with decent and fair working conditions to protect their rights and prevent violence and abuse. It also helps to fight child labour and trafficking of human beings.” On Jan. 28, the European Union’s Council of Ministers authorized EU member states to ratify the ILO Convention on Domestic

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Workers, removing all legal impediments for the ratification of the Convention by individual EU countries. Ratifying the ILO Convention 189 is the responsibility of each EU member states. “Once a country has ratified the convention, it has the responsibility to execute it officially at the national level,” says Andor. “Several countries have indicated their intention to ratify the ILO Convention 189 swiftly.” Since the latter part of 2013, 10 countries have ratified Convention 189. These countries are Bolivia, Germany, Italy, Guyana, Mauritius, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, South Africa and Uruguay. Countries like Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Argentina have already finished the ratification process at the national level and are currently in the process of registering at the ILO. Other countries like Belgium, Benin, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya and Tanzania have also expressed their interest to ratify the ILO Convention 189.


An overview There are about 53 million domestic workers around the world. This number steadily grows in developed and developing countries. It excludes children domestic workers under age of 15 which account for another 7.4 million. According to a 2013 study of the ILO entitled, “Domestic Workers Across the World”, domestic workers belong to a highly feminized sector – 80 percent of them are women. The study showed that domestic workers have unclear employment terms, and are often unrecorded or excluded from the scope of the labour laws. Invisible and undervalued Domestic workers play a valuable role on the global wage employment. In fact, migrant domestic workers remit billions of dollars to their respective countries. Their tasks may include cleaning, taking care of children, elderly or sick family members of their employers, gardening, driving for the family or even taking care of household pets. Despite their important contributions to the society, their rights as workers are often neglected. In many occasions, they have been subjected to lack of human rights to protect them against violence and exploitation by their employers. Some have been exposed to excessive hours with no rest, forced confinement, trafficking, forced labor or even physical and sexual abuse. In spite of their immense contribution to the “Just like any international economy they remain to be among the most marginalized. other workers, we are also human Ratifying the treaty is considered to be a major achievement for the beings. We work once “undervalued and invisible” hard to provide for sector of labor force. This gives them the chance to be heard and the needs of our be given the proper attention that family and give is long overdue. proper services Rose Fermin, a UK-based domestic to our employers. worker, comments, “Just like any other workers, we are also human We deserve to be beings. We work hard to provide treated equally and for the needs of our family and give proper services to our employers. humanely.” We deserve to be treated equally and humanely.” She adds, “It is now the time for the authorities to act and pay tribute to the heroic efforts of all domestic workers around the world.” Fermin hopes that more information will be disseminated effectively to domestic workers. “This will keep them well-informed about their rights and privileges as part of the labour sector,” says Fermin. Spreading the word Since the adoption of Convention189, the ILO has begun implementing various information drives to keep domestic workers updated about their human rights. The ILO’s campaign for Convention189 is being backed-up by government, employers, trade union and civil society groups.

The 100th session of the International Labour Conference receives cheers from a group of domestic workers after the adoption of the ILO Convention 189 in 2011. (Photo by the International Labour Organization) “The (European) Commission supports this effort and takes every opportunity to disseminate the messages enshrined in the Convention. It also cooperates with the ILO to carry out specific projects for migrant domestic workers and their families in Europe,” says Andor. Andor says that all forms of communication –whether on print, television, radio or social media –are being tapped to reach domestic workers and make them aware about their rights and privileges. “The EU fully supports the information campaigns initiated by the ILO and will regularly raise the issue of working conditions for domestic workers,” says Andor.

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BUSINESS A family affair. (Standing from left) Alona Sinsuat, Allan Bituin, Leslie Mendiola and Lieza Bituin. (Seated) Myrna and Jose Bituin.

“We don’t really tweak our products to meet client demand. Wooden traditional furniture must be true to its form, style, and finishing.”

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CARVING A NICHE IN EUROPE by Maan D’Asis Pamaran

T

he Filipino penchant for fine craftsmanship has garnered nods all over the world. Handcrafted products, like fine furniture, are always valued by those with discriminating tastes, particularly in Europe.

The town of Betis in Pampanga is known by collectors as a hub for some of the best pieces of ornate wood-carved furniture that offers both form and function. This tradition of woodworking is said to hark back 400 years ago, to the time when construction on the St. James the Apostle Church in their town began. The magnificent carvings still decorate the church, now named as a national treasure by the National Commission on Culture and the Arts. Myrna Bituin of Betis Crafts Inc. says, “Its baroque retablado portrayed exquisite carvings, inlaid with 22-carat gold. This could have served as an inspiration for Betisenos to be carvers, cabinet-makers, and sculptors.” Bituin cites a talented artist named Juan Flores, who was commissioned to create beautiful chandeliers and furniture for the Malacanang Palace. Flores was said to have inspired other carvers of Betis to create furniture pieces. “Apong Juan, as he is fondly called, also passed on his knowledge to the youth in the town, and the industry has flourished since then,” narrates Bituin. Bituin’s father-in-law, Julian, was a craftsman who made billiard tables, carrozas (carriages) for processions of saints, and cement tiles. When his youngest son, Jose (Bituin’s husband), took over the family business in 1972, they started making handicrafts. In the 80’s, they have expanded to furniture-making, exporting their products by 1986. A grant from United Nations Industrial Development Organization in 1984 made it possible for the family to learn the rudiments of export. Additional grants from the Department of Trade and Industry, Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions, and the Design Center of the Philippines helped the Bituins to start selling to the US market. Their main markets today are Europe, the U.S., Japan, U.K., and the Middle East. “Our capability to do good carving is a plus factor in product development, especially in the Middle East,” she shares. Years ago, the Middle East clients were buying the furniture from the US -- until they found out that the pieces were coming from the Philippines, so now they buy the items directly. In Europe, they market their products through big retail outlets or distributors. Bituin has high hopes for the ASEAN integration in 2015, as it will open up a new market for their furniture pieces. “We don’t really tweak our products to meet client demand. Wooden traditional furniture must be true to its form, style, and finishing.”

Victorian-inspired lounge chair

The brand is known in distinctive circles for their intricately carved wood furniture and mastery of the finest furniture finishes. At one point they were commissioned by international furniture company Ikea to make gold-leafed Gustavian mirrors for the refurbishment of a castle under the Swedish National Trust Program. Their products range from ornately-carved beds, sofas and benches, tasteful lounge chairs and armchairs, solid wood chests, to elegant mirror frames. Betis Crafts currently employs 300 craftsmen, and have seven satellite factories to keep up with the demand for their products. Bituin shares that this business also has its own set of challenges. “Compared to our international competitors, we have higher wages and three times the cost of power. Our raw materials, like the wood, are a bit challenging in terms of availability and prices. Product development also has to meet the taste of a certain client or area, and the productivity of our factory is important in maintaining our quality.” Despite all the challenges of running their business, Bituin maintains pride in their handiwork. “We ASEANs will always have the ability to be craftsmen. It is a matter of finding the right product and the right buyer, satisfying them and delighting them would be factors for success,” Bituin concludes.

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LAW CORNER WITH ATTY. CAT by Chona Abiertas

IS YOUR DREAM HOUSE IN DANGER? MACEDA LAW: A RIPOSTE TO DEFAULTING PAYMENTS

A

yn Rand, a 20th century philosopher says, “Just as man can’t exist without his body, so no rights can exist without the right to translate one’s rights into reality, to think, to work and keep the results, which means: the right of property.” However, when misfortune befalls someone, when they can no longer continue pay for an investment after being a good client for many years, how do they protect their right to property? How can they avoid cancellation of the contract? The answer is found in Republic Act 6552, or the “Realty Installment Buyer Protection Act,” which was approved and has taken effect in the Philippines on Aug. 26, 1972. Popularly known as the Maceda Law, it seeks to protect buyers of real estate on installment basis against onerous and oppressive conditions in all transactions or contracts involving the sale or financing of real estate on installment payments, including residential condominium apartments but excluding industrial lots, commercial buildings and sales to tenants. Significantly, the law covers the following: One, when the buyers has paid at least two years of installment and; two, when less than two years of installment has been paid. In the former, the law vests upon the buyer the right to either pay the unpaid monthly installment without the additional interest within the total grace period of one month for every one year of installment payments made. This option can be exercised once in every five years during the life of the contract. When the grace period lapses with the amount due remaining unpaid, the cancellation of the contract may proceed. However, the seller can only effectively cancel the contract after a duly notarized 30-day notice to the buyer and upon full payment of the cash surrender value equivalent to 50 percent of the total payments made by the buyer. In cases of installment payments exceeding five years, an additional five

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percent for every year thereafter shall also be refunded to the buyer, without however, exceeding 90 percent of the total payments made. In case of the latter, when less than two years of installment payments have been made, the law mandates that the buyer shall have a grace period of not less than sixty days to pay the due installment. After the expiration of such period, with the amount remaining unpaid, the seller may proceed with the cancellation of the contract. Provided that, the cancellation takes effect 30 days after the buyer received the duly notarized notice of cancellation or the demand for rescission. The law in both instances directs that downpayments, deposits or options on the contract shall be included in the computation of the total number of installment payments made. The buyer may by notarial act sell or assign his rights, or reinstate the contract by updating the account during the grace period and before the actual cancellation thereof. Nowadays, the right to property is no longer just a necessity it has become an expression of the people’s dreams. The Maceda Law serves as a guardian to ensure that one does not automatically cede his rights simply because he defaulted in his supposed installment payments. The imposing provision of the Maceda law providing for the nullification of any contract entered into in violation of the provisions thereof discourages the creation of oppressive conditions in realty installment contracts. The Maceda Law protects the investing Filipinos’ right to property even on account of foreboding delinquency. For more inquiries, send an email to chona.abiertas@icab.cat.


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TRADITIONS

The image of Maria Clara by Lyssa Ericka Cabarles Illustrations by Windy dela Cruz

M

aria Clara is the heroine of Jose Rizal’s famous novel titled Noli Me Tangere. Her character is said to symbolize the typical Filipino woman – pure, chaste and innocent – especially during the Spanish period in the Philippines. Such a conservative view no longer applies these days given that a lot of Filipino women are now embracing empowerment, independence, and equality. However, not a few, especially foreigners, continue to view most Filipino women as quite the submissive and meek type of yesteryears. Not surprising due to the fact that a number have held on to that traditional, if not revered, image. Below are some of them:

1

Be ladylike at all times. Filipino women are taught to act with grace and speak politely early on. They are to avoid conflicts, controversies or arguments. Getting home after dark is a big no-no.

2

Practice being an excellent homemaker. Traditionally, Filipino women stay home to take care of the family while the men work. As such, young girls are exposed to household chores as their training of sort. They are conditioned to be good wives.

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3

Strive to be a devout Catholic. Thanks to the Spanish influence, Filipino women are taught to be deeply religious, attend Church every Sunday, participate in catechism, and pray the rosary.


4

Dress appropriately and conservatively. Maria Clara is known to be very conservative especially in the way she dresses. In fact, a traditional Filipino dress was named after her. Normally, parents won’t allow their daughters to go out of the house wearing something that shows too much skin.

5

Allow for courtship. Panliligaw is the Filipino term for courtship. In Philippine culture, courtship is arguably more subtle and indirect unlike in Western culture. More so, courting a woman also means courting her family. If a man is perceived to be serious about her lady love, he has to regularly visit her at home and introduce himself formally to her parents. During the old times, Filipino men would serenade the woman with songs of love and affection.

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COVER STORY

On CAREER and MOTHERHOOD

by Ryan Manicad photos by Joseph Rosales and Ronald Mendrano

F

or most women, the act of juggling a thriving career abroad and being a hands-on-mom can be both tough and grueling. It entails an ample amount of effort, commitment and diligence that take years to hone. The experience of being a mom and a career woman can sometimes be frustrating and complicated but the rewards are often fulfilling. The Filipino Expat recently caught up with Rose Eclarinal, the senior news correspondent and media consultant at ABS-CBN Europe to share her amazing journey as a mother, scholar and a journalist empowering the lives of Filipino women living and working abroad. The humble beginnings Eclarinal started out her journalism career right after finishing her mass communication degree at the University of the Philippines in 1996. She joined the Sarimanok News Network currently known as the ABSCBN News Channel (ANC) as a trainee. But her experience working with one of the Philippine’s premier networks was not always as smooth and remarkable as she hoped for.

Improving her craft Despite the often “unforgiving” demands of her job and her critical role as a member of ABS-CBN’s News and Current Affairs team, she managed to squeeze in two diploma courses abroad. In 2001, she earned a diploma in international broadcast journalism at the University of Wales, Cardiff in the United Kingdom under the Chevening Scholarships and Thomson Foundation. In 2005, she finished an international course in broadcast journalism television/Internet at the Radio Netherlands Training Center. Eclarinal admits that apart from improving her craft, applying for scholarships abroad is one way of coping up with the challenging demands of her job. ”I was very keen on applying courses abroad to study journalism because I wanted a break from what I do on a daily basis. Also, since I work with some of the best people in the industry, I want to be like them. I want to be exceptionally good. So for me, what I do is really important,” she explains.

During that time, she was tasked to produce mid-day and evening broadcasts. Her rigid schedule that started from seven in the morning and ended at 10 in the evening, including the arduous daily travel from her place to work, caused her to quit her job in just six months. She then worked as a marketing specialist for another company. But in her first week, she already knew it was not the right job for her. After a short stint with the job, she reunited with ABS-CBN.

These diploma courses eventually paved the way for her to earn a spot in another scholarship under the Erasmus Mundus Program where she finished a master’s degree in global journalism specializing in war and conflict. Erasmus Mundus is a programme designed to improve the quality of higher education through scholarships between Europe and the rest of the world.

In her eight-year stretch with ABS-CBN, she managed to work with Senator Loren Legarda, who hosted the Inside Story. When Legarda ran for the elections, the management decided to create another program entitled The Correspondents. Eclarinal was part of the team that pioneered this kind of program where reporters tell and write their own stories/experiences.

The credentials and reputation that Eclarinal has built as a journalist and European scholar over the years opened a window of opportunity to work in the U.K. She kept her contact with Danny Buenafe, the bureau chief of ABS-CBN Europe and Middle East after completing her master’s degree.

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Dreams and realities


“Since I work with some of the best people in the industry, I want to be like them. I want to be exceptionally good. So for me, what I do is really important.�

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Eclarinal’s smart tips on establishing a career abroad: 1. Build your credentials 2. Make sure that you can really sell yourself 3. Look for opportunities everywhere

“Now I grasp it fully that no matter what you have achieved in life, the sense of fulfillment of having your own child is something incomparable.”

During that time, there was no available post yet. But since the Bureau did not want to lose her because it needed an extra person to train and guide news correspondents, she was immediately hired.

First time mom

Eclarinal believes that one of her major achievements being with ABS-CBN Europe is that she was able to put a structure in the Bureau. Six years later, she still continues to enhance her craft, maintain her credibility at the top level, dearly value professionalism and look for stories that have significant impact on the lives of Filipinos working abroad.

“Julia came unexpectedly. I didn’t ask for her. She’s a gift. She came at the time when I was ready. Now I grasp it fully that no matter what you have achieved in life, the sense of fulfillment of having your own child is something incomparable,” she muses.

“The reason why I’m in Europe, as a journalist, is because of what I’ve done early in my career. I was pursuing the stories that I want and I was delivering well. Now it’s another dimension of my career as a journalist because I’m not in the newsroom set-up anymore. I’m in the bureau set -up so it’s a different challenge,” she shares. Eclarinal adds that her main thrust is to make sure that the Bureau is working and the correspondents are delivering well.

Eclarinal takes pride in saying that she is a hands-on mom to her 16-month-old daughter Julia.

One of the major challenges for Eclarinal and her husband is to raise their daughter in a multi-cultural setting. They want to expose Julia to an international environment considering that she is a mix of Filipino, Jamaican and Italian descent. For her, the journey towards motherhood is a sociological and educational experience. “Being a mother abroad is an eye-opener as well as empowering,” she says.

Eclarinal considers her current work as a dream job, but still hopes to produce documentaries in an investigative magazine format.

Eclarinal adds she draws inspiration and even learn from Western women who manage to raise their children well despite their busy schedules, juggling their professional pursuits and personal life.

Apart from aiming to produce high-caliber documentaries in Europe, her wish list also includes interviewing personalities such as US President Barrack Obama, BBC’s war correspondent Kate Adie, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and journalist/film maker John Pilger.

When asked about her parenting style? She shares, “At an early age you teach your child how to be independent. You have to strike a balance between making her feel that she’s well-looked after and making her understand that she can also do things on her own.”

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PERSONALITIES

Championing Filipino health in Italy by Alice R. Cedo

D

uring a vacation in 2003, then medical student Jerilyn Tan Balonan fell in love with Rome, Italy, deciding to permanently live la dolce vita in the popular tourist destination. But fate had more plans for the adventurous young woman. Balonan moved to Italy immediately after graduating from the University of Santo Tomas. She then enrolled at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery at the Tor Vergata University to be able to practice medicine in the European city. It was not easy, recalls Balonan. “I had to take seven exams in medicine, do a thesis, go through internship and then take the board exams once again before finally being granted the right to practice in this country. On top of that, I had to learn the language because everything was in Italian,” narrates Balonan, who is a member of the Ordinedei Medici di Roma (Medical Association of Doctors in Rome). Balonan is the first licensed Filipino doctor, a woman at that, in Italy since the 1970s. And she is putting that prestige to good use by championing the health of kababayans in Italy particularly those who couldn’t seek medical treatment due to certain cultural barriers. Balonan’s thesis at the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the abovementioned Italian university revealed that majority of Filipinos do not trust the Italian health system causing delay in their medical treatments and in worst cases, deaths. “Cultural and language difficulties have prevented our fellow Filipinos from seeking medical care in Italy’s medical institutions even if they are subsidized,” explains Balonan. According to Balonan, she has encountered a number of Filipinos, some of whom have worked in Italy for more than three decades, who still find it hard to communicate fluently in Italian. “This leads to misunderstandings between the Italian doctor and the Filipino patient and thus, resulting to inaccurate medical diagnosis,” laments Balonan. “Proper health care is not administered.” Part of the distrust, Balonan adds, is the racism and malpractice that some have experienced in Italian health services. A meeting with the Philippine Ambassador to Italy Virgilio Reyes revealed that there is an alarming rate of deaths among the elderly and young especially during winter. “These deaths could have been prevented if only they had not procrastinated in seeking medical advice,” says Balonan.

She adds, “Having a doctor they can trust –someone who speaks the language and knows their culture, way of life, priorities and values –is important.” Balonan has since been collaborating with the Philippine Embassy and the Filipino community in Rome to disseminate information about health services available to them. More so, this Filipino expat, who also has a background in nutrition, has been putting herself out there to let Filipinos know there are doctors, like her, who understand their language and most important, whom they can trust. “I open my clinic to Filipinos in late afternoons and even at night,” shares Balonan. “I even offer to visit them at their homes if they need it.” According to Balonan, she knows of private laboratories that can perform blood exams, ultrasounds, X-rays, at prices that are very competitive with the Azienda Sanitaria Locale or Local Health Authority ticket. “The goal is to prevent them from delaying their medical treatment so that we can stop contagious diseases such as tuberculosis and other chronic but preventable ones like diabetes or stroke,” concludes Balonan. Balonan’s clinic is located at Axa Casal Palocco, Rome Italy.

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PERSONALITIES

A volunteer for change by Maan D’Asis Pamaran

R year.

owena “Owen” Ricalde was already a practicing lawyer in Manila when she decided to move to Europe last

“My husband, Moises, who is also Filipino, found work here [the Netherlands] in Booking.com. Prior to that, he was working in Singapore while I was working in a Makati law firm. Since the distance from Manila to Amsterdam is quite significant as compared to that of Singapore, we decided that I move with him to the Netherlands. Luckily, in his contract, he is allowed to bring his family here.” She was born and raised in Manila, and called Marikina home. “I studied in UP Diliman for my business administration and law degrees. Since I cannot practice law here in the Netherlands (I have to study Dutch law from scratch), I ventured into the industry of international NGOs,” Ricalde says. Her background as a lawyer and entrepreneur gave Ricalde a chance to present herself as a viable trainee in Oxfam Novib as part of their Knowledge and Programme Management (KPM) department. The organization addresses issues like climate change, health and education for all, agriculture, trade, and conflicts and “I would like emergencies. Ricalde is currently the facilitator for Harvest Academy, a community of practice (CoP) for sustainable value chains. “Oxfam Novib employed me as a volunteer during the first six months. But they decided to extend my contract with pay to finish my task. In general, I think my colleagues appreciate my time and effort in the Harvest Academy initiative since they tried to start it before but failed.”

She talks about the key to making it in any field, in any country. “I would like to emphasize that whatever you are doing, make sure you are pushing yourself to be the best in that. You are lucky if you love what you do. But if you are not completely passionate about your to emphasize that work, nevertheless, show that you are whatever you are doing, make pushing yourself to the limits. And, I think, people will recognize the hard sure you are pushing yourself work you have been doing. This to be the best in that. You is regardless if you are working in the Netherlands, the Philippines, or are lucky if you love what elsewhere.”

you do. But if you are not completely passionate about your work, nevertheless, show that you are pushing yourself to the limits.”

Ricalde has created and maintains three online portals in which 32 Oxfam Novib officers from country offices and headquarters participate in. Owen says that she assimilated into her new job without much difficulty. “I did not encounter any problems at my workplace since Oxfam Novib has many Filipinos in its employ at headquarters. Also, Filipinos have been hired in country offices in Southeast Asia.”

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She and her husband recently came back to the Philippines for a vacation, and says that she misses it already. “I miss everything -families and friends, the food, shopping, television drama, the beaches, and the sunny weather. I do not miss the traffic and pollution in Manila and the petty issues in the news.”

Her future plans about settling back in the homeland are still up in the air, she confides. “My husband and I are giving ourselves until 2018 to garner international experience in our own fields before reassessing if we plan to stay for another five years or go back home. To be quite frank, we really want to go back home, since we want to give back to our country.”


PERSONALITIES

Young and determined by Dheza Marie Aguilar Photos by Mico Abrigo

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laire Buyson walks into the restaurant in downtown London looking like a young lady about to go out on an afternoon tea date with her girlfriends. Fashionably madeup in a distressed denim, red top and perfect waves seemingly unruffled by the rain outside, Buyson greets me with a warm hello. The British-Filipina is meeting me to talk about the newlyopened Lakwatsa in Notting Hill, a coveted address in the city. Since it opened in November 2012, Lakwatsa, a cafe-lounge serving bubble tea and Filipino merienda, has been generating positive reviews from London’s top dailies and magazines such as The Evening Standard, Marie Claire and even Vogue UK. “Whenever I look at those pages, I still can’t believe it and I have to pull myself back,” says Buyson, glancing at the framed articles on Lakwatsa decorating the lounge’s wall. From the outside, Buyson seems to be managing her cafelounge like a breeze. Many don’t see (or read) the hard work and sacrifices of this young woman in order to fulfill her dream of owning a restaurant. Knowing her future At age 32, Buyson has built up a resume that took her from being a waitress to becoming a financial manager and business owner. She has seen and worked in many parts of the world, developing her passion through her travels. Buyson worked her way toward having a college education. At age 16, she was juggling part-time jobs at different cafes, bars and restaurants in London. All throughout university, she worked at a Japanese/American restaurant where she realized

that putting up her own food establishment was something she wanted to do if given a chance. “I loved it (working at restaurants). I loved the whole working environment and I felt happy. It was what I always wanted to do –making people happy with food,” shares Buyson. Her love for food is of no surprise. Buyson’s parents are both Filipinos. Her mom, like most Filipino mothers, is in charge of the kitchen, preparing the freshest and most delicious meals for her family every single day. Needless to say, the young entrepreneur grew up watching her mom whip up something amazing each time the family gathers around the dining table. Before becoming a restaurateur, Buyson, who finished business management and finance, worked at a company dealing with financial management, acquisition and property development in other countries including Asia and the Middle East. She started out as a personal assistant but left the company as a financial manager. Her work took her to different parts of the world that helped her develop her taste buds as well as creativity to come up with concepts for her then soonto-be cafe-lounge. “As I traveled around the world, I picked up bits of inspiration always remembering my teenage dream of owning a lounge,” she shares. Busyon admits that while she was enjoying her job at the financial company and earning good money, it was not something that she wanted to do for the rest of her life. At age 30, with enough savings and experiences, Busyon finally quit her corporate job to start her own business. And with the help of her boss and a few investors, Busyon set her plans in motion.

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“As I traveled around the world, I picked up bits of inspiration always remembering my teenage dream of owning a lounge.”

Going into business Buyson knew she had a market in London when she started Lakwatsa. “There is not a lot of places to chill for young people [in London]” she says. “I wanted to provide them a venue where they can hang out without having to drink alcoholic beverages.”

maintain the quality of her products and protect the company name.

Buyson recalls feeling scared in those first few months.

Being a full-time businesswoman, Buyson says she has to endure not being able to be with her husband who lives in New York. They’ve been married for five months and still haven’t had the chance to go on a honeymoon. Since opening Lakwatsa, Buyson has yet to visit New York.

“It was the scariest thing that I have ever done especially because I have investors and it was not just my money I was toying with. I put everything I had into it,” confides Buyson.

“The way I see it is that everything is a sacrifice for the future. Everything I am investing will turn out for the better for both our lives. I just have to stay positive,” says Buyson.

Buyson will never forget the day she pitched her cafe-lounge concept to three billionaires, who were also clients of her former company, no less.

Business tips

“I felt like a contestant in Dragon’s Den,” says Buyson, referring to a reality show about aspiring entrepreneurs in the UK. Her unique business idea combined with her determination impressed the investors so much that at the end of the day, she was able to convince not just three but also another one who was just listening to her pitch. Despite the early success of Lakwatsa, Buyson says she is not the type to sit on her laurels. She is always working on making her clientele happy and coming up with fresh concepts for her business. This striking young lady is always on her toes, always on top of things. She personally checks the quality of the food and continuously develops new flavours of bubble teas. She works 14 to15 hours everyday. “I have a non-existent social life!,” exclaims Buyson. Buyson says that sometimes she can’t help but be a control freak when it comes to her business. After all, she has to

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To those who are planning to put up their own business, Buyson says it is best to start with something that you really enjoy doing. “Be prepared to work the hardest that you have ever done in your whole life,” advises Buyson. “You are not going to succeed in anything if you do not put your 100 percent into it.” Having a supportive family and husband helps in achieving success in your endeavors, says Buyson. It is important, according to her, that the people around you understand and support your decision. “A person, no matter how good or hardworking they are, cannot do everything alone,” she says. On her part, Buyson considers her husband as her rock –someone who stood by her especially during the most difficult stages of starting Lakwatsa. Lastly, Buyson says that her faith and hope in God have made her strong in times of trials and hardships.


PERSONALITIES

A hero’s legacy by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna Photos by Robin Kuijs

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e are in a small coffee shop in front of the San Agustin Church, also known as the Filipino Personal Parish. The place is full to the rafters –a typical scene on a Sunday morning right after the ten o´clock mass in Filipino. A couple of blocks away is the Plaça del Buensuccés where a plaque was installed by the city government of Barcelona commemorating the place where Rizal founded the newspaper La Solidaridad with his fellow Filipino writers. The noise in the cafe seems to fade into the background as Noelle Sy-Quia, the great grandniece of Philippine national hero Dr. José Protacio Rizal, starts to talk about her great grandmother Maria Mercado Rizal. Little is known about Maria, the 6th child of Teodora and Potenciano Mercado, as only a handful of books mention her name. Maria, born in 1859 and died in 1945, married Daniel Faustino Cruz of Biñan, Laguna. Their children were Encarnacion and Mauricio. Encarnación married Rosendo Banaad and Mauricio married Concepcion Arguelles. The two other children were Prudencio, Petrona and Paz, who all died young. “I did not get to meet Maria Rizal or I was too small to remember. My mother would sometimes get inspired to tell stories about Jose Rizal but somehow she would always start with [the poem] Mi Ultimo Adios. She would recite the first stanza but she would start crying and say, ‘I won’t manage again. Go play. We will do it another time.’” Didit, as she is known to friends and family, didn’t ask her mother why.

After Rizal’s execution, Maria had gone back to her parents’ house because she left her husband, a gambler and a womanizer. Sy-Quia remembers a story when her great grandmother, together with the rest of the family, had to flee the house in Calamba one night. Somebody had tipped them that they were going to be arrested the following day. “The ladies, so they wouldn’t have to carry so many things, took the stones out of their jewelries. They wrapped them and hid them in small pouches,” says Sy-Quia. Maria was two years older than Rizal. It was not clear whether Maria was Rizal’s favorite sister. However, in one of Rizal’s letter to Maria sent from Heidelberg, Germany, he wrote, “Oh well, you know you will enjoy it here because women are intellectually advanced.” Living up to expectations Children of high-profile personalities, leaders and celebrities live under constant public scrutiny, expected to live up to the legacy of their famous family member. Having a national hero as a great-grand uncle surely must put anyone under great pressure? But Sy-Quia plays down the notion. “Rizal wrote a code of ethics and somehow this has been ingrained in us. It comes with our DNA. It’s not really a pressure. You have a set of values that is already set for you and you don’t have to look for it. It is there, already established. We don’t have to be waving it this way or the other way.”

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Sy-Quia looks at the commemorative plaque dedicated to her great granduncle Jose Rizal at the entrance of Hotel Espana in Barcelona. Rizal stayed at the said hotel in 1882.

According to her, they were not obliged to read Rizal’s works while growing up. It was something they did voluntarily. SyQuia admits she has yet to read all of her great granduncle’s works. Sy-Quia says that one of the eldest in the family, 100-year-old Francisco Lopez, the son of Paciano, still recites the whole 14 stanzas of the poem, Mi Ultimo Adios, each time he wakes up in the morning. His nurse has learned to recite it as well by hearing it all the time. According to her, the remaining family members still keep in touch with each other. “As long as my mother lives, we are still sort of close because they still know each other. But eventually everybody will go on with their professional lives.” In fact, the whole family celebrated together Rizal’s 150th birthday. Sy-Quia says that there are two family members from Paciano’s side who live in Johannesburg. “My son goes there which keeps both our families stay connected.” Them, the Friars When Rizal died, the family moved to Manila. They all stopped going to church. When the Spaniards left, they went back. In fact, she had an uncle who was a Jesuit and an aunt who is a Carmelite nun. The family does not condemn the Spanish government, not even its people for what happened to Rizal. “It was the Dominican friars [who were responsible for his death]. And we are still demanding an apology from them,” says Sy-Quia. Some history books mentioned that Camilo de Polavieja, who oversaw the court martial and death of Jose Rizal on Dec. 30, 1896, was condemned by his countrymen after his return to Spain. The then governor-general of the Philippines, Ramon Blanco later presented his sash and sword to the Rizal family as an apology.

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“Rizal wrote a code of ethics and somehow this has been ingrained in us. It comes with our DNA. It’s not really a pressure. You have a set of values that is already set for you.” Filipino ‘onnection Sy-Quia came to Spain in 1968. Prior to that, she had been living in the UK since she was 12 years old. One is left to wonder why she went to Spain and live there. “As a rule, we don’t overburden any of the family members with the hangs ups, so to speak, of the previous generation. I moved to Spain because it was more convenient. I had relatives here that time,” explains Sy-Quia. Retired and proud Now retired and a doting grandmother, Sy-Quia plans to spend more time in the Philippines –if only she wouldn’t be so far away from her grandchildren who are all based in Europe. She has also taken on a new hobby -string jewelry. She says it’s simply continuing a family tradition. “When Maria, then pregnant with her 5th child, left her husband and went back to her parents’ house, she had to start from scratch. With the money she had left in her pocket, she bought galapong, sugar and grated coconut. She made a batch of palitaw and sent her maid to the market to sell it. She also created jewelries as a hobby, which I am continuing now.” Lessons from the hero Throughout his works, Rizal talked about the importance of loving and respecting our parents, language, culture and most of all, our motherland. Sy-Quia says his teachings still apply even in today’s digital age when technologies are building gaps between parents and children. “Read his essay, ‘The Philippines a Century Hence (Filipinas Dentro de Cien Años)’. It’s factual. One can apply it to their everyday life. Our country would be a much better place. We wouldn’t have such rough politicians.”


WELLNESS

Easy-breezy weight loss by Diana Uy

A patient relaxes while having a physique-inch loss treatment.

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VelaContour helps get rid of cellulite.

aintaining or losing weight while vacationing in the Philippines has become more convenient for health- and fitness-conscious Filipino expats today. For one, a lot of the country’s medical or beauty and wellness institutions have beefed up their facilities and services that now allow returning Filipinos to shed off some excess fat, keep them in shape, or even reduce their cellulite in as short as 30 minutes or an hour.

“FMS is ideal for individuals who want to jumpstart their weight loss. It’s perfect for those who don’t want to resort to surgical procedures or cannot do strenuous workouts due to physical conditions,” furthers Vergara.

More important, the treatments are non-invasive and only need to be completed in a few sessions depending on their needs. This means that Filipino expats will still have more time to bond with their families and relatives, explore beaches, and sample homegrown restaurants that they’ve been missing without having to worry about their disrupted exercise routine or diet.

VelaContour helps get rid of cellulite, the stubborn post-pregnancy fat, and extra inches in women’s problematic areas like tummy, thighs, and arms.

Those worried about safety will be happy to discover a number of internationally accredited medical institutions and clinics in their home country that make use of state-of-the-art equipment like what they use in Europe and the US. The only difference is that the treatments cost only a fraction of what they would have spent abroad. Marie France, considered one of the Philippine’s premier health and wellness facilities, takes pride in offering various personalized slimming programs to cater to the busy lifestyle of their clients that include visiting expats and retirees. Among the most recommended treatments –either combination or single treatment only –include the physique inch-loss, fat mobilization system (FMS), VelaContour, and EDM+S.L.I.M. Physique inch-loss uses technology that trims the excess bulges and stimulates muscles in the abdomen. It firms up and tones the client’s sagging areas while they are comfortably lying down. Consultant and centre manager Janet Vergara says that 15 minutes of a single session of physique inch-loss is equivalent to 225 sit-ups. “Physique inch-loss is non-invasive, non-surgical, painless and risk-free. There is absolutely no downtime. Clients can resume their normal routine like work, shopping and other leisurely pursuits immediately after the treatment,” says Vergara. Meanwhile, FMS naturally melts body fat and burns calories. “One session of FMS lets you burn as much as 1,000 to 2,000 calories,” says Vergara. “It continues to burn more up to 48 hours even while your body is at rest.” Vergara adds that FMS is perfect for general weight loss and improving the body’s metabolism.

A single treatment of FMS takes about 25 minutes. Clients won’t have to worry about downtime, as well.

The technology in VelaContour increases blood and lymphatic circulation so that energy stored in fat becomes available for burning. Then, the fatty target areas are preheated, stimulating the connective tissues to replace fat mass with lean mass. VelaContour also improves lymphatic drainage to increase metabolism “VelaContour is done only once a week and delivers faster and more visible results,” says Vergara. She adds, aside from a noticeable loss of an inch or two in the treated area, clients will observe a gradual smoothening of the skin’s surface and a noticeable decrease in cellulite. “VelaContour also improves circulation and relieves muscle aches. In fact, the treatment itself is relaxing, just like a warm, deep tissue massage.” Clients can expect some mild redness and warm feeling on the treated areas. Vergara assures that it is completely safe and patients will experience no downtime. Vergara recommends the EDM+S.L.I.M. for those who want to focus on cellulite reduction. She says, EDM+S.L.I.M. feels and works just like a deep-tissue massage, using three kinds of lipomassage movements: Roll ‘Up, which gently yet intensively conditions skin tissues to eliminate fat deposits and revitalize blood and lymphatic circulation; Roll ’In, which reactivates the elimination of resistant fat; and Roll ‘Out, which revitalizes collagen production and stimulates fibroblasts or firming cells. “With these combined features, clients see and feel results right away. Skin is instantly smoother, cellulite is visibly reduced, and clients feel lighter and appear slimmer because stubborn fat is naturally eliminated in the process,” says Vergara. A session of EDM+S.L.I.M. only takes 35 minutes. For inquiries, visit www.mariefrance.com.ph.

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Motherhood abroad:

Notes from a first-time mom in Amsterdam by Deepa Paul

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ecoming a mother was something I always knew I would do. What I didn’t know was that it would happen in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. When I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 2012, I plunged into a whole new world as I learned to navigate the Dutch medical system and adapt to the Dutch view of women, pregnancy and birth –of health in general. For starters, I still remember the shocked reactions of family and friends back home when I told them that I was under the care of a midwife, not a doctor. Midwives and I In the Netherlands, pregnancy and birth are the domain of verloskundige or vroedvrouwen (wise woman or midwife). Pregnancies are classified as low- or high-risk according to factors like previous miscarriages and gestational diabetes. Midwives handle the majority of low-risk pregnancies, while high-risk cases are referred to an obstetrician-gynecologist at a hospital. The Dutch believe that hospitals and doctors are for sick people. Pregnant women are not considered sick but just

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pregnant! To them, pregnancy should not be treated as an illness but as a normal part of life—a view that began to make sense to me as months passed by. For many Filipinos, midwives are seen as the last resort in rural communities where women have limited access to doctors or hospitals. In the Netherlands, midwives have far more experience with actual childbirth than doctors, making them more in demand in this case. Blessed with an easy, low-risk pregnancy, I decided to go with the flow. Gaining confidence, making choices My Dutch midwives were friendly, but firm and matter-offact. They encouraged me to travel. “If you feel fine, just go!,” they’d say. They treated me with a casual confidence that made me feel normal despite all the changes happening to my body. They gave me information in bite-size chunks so as not to overwhelm me, reminding me to take responsibility for myself especially when it comes to my weight and not to forget to relax. As my belly swelled, I became more at ease and confident with being pregnant. I began accompanying my husband on his business trips to maximize our time together as a couple before we become a trio. We began making preparations and looking homeward to the Philippines for inspiration. I researched indigenous Filipino baby names and bugged my mom to find us a traditional duyan for the baby’s room. I also began to form my decisions about the birth and delivery. Going to a hospital wasn’t a foregone conclusion—not in the Netherlands, which values freedom of choice and has the highest rate of home births in the developed world. Statistics say 25 percent of Dutch babies are born at home, a huge leap over neighbors such as the United Kingdom, where home births are only at two percent. As midwives are not licensed anesthesiologists, pain relief such as an epidural is only available at a hospital. Knowing that the Netherlands has a proven system for home births, I began to actually consider it. My family and friends thought I was crazy. As I read and heard more stories about giving birth the natural way, I realized that it is not like the movies: Water breaks, woman screams, and a few cinematic cuts later, the baby is born. It then made more sense to me to spend those long, difficult hours at a place where I felt most comfortable, cared for and relaxed—in my own home.


PARENTING The author with husband Marlon joking around.

After researching about water birth, I decided to rent a birth pool. I had to translate, via Google, four pages of Dutch instructions and tips while my husband assembled the pool for a “trial run.” A few weeks before my due date, my mom arrived from the Philippines to give me emotional support. We felt ready, and all we had to do was wait. Welcome, Tala Sabine There are many things I’ll always remember from the night of my daughter’s birth: Feeling cocooned and comforted in my own bed, the warm weight of my cat on my feet, my head on my mom’s lap and my husband pushing my hips down and together through the contractions –just like how we were taught in our partner preparation workshop. I remember sliding into the warm waters of the birth pool and feeling instant relief from the labor pains. As the pain intensified, I started to wonder if I could bear it to the very end. My Dutch midwife stayed neutral but gentle, reminding me that I was doing very well and that it had to be my decision, not hers, to stay at home or go to the hospital. It was frustrating at the time, not to get any push in one direction or another, but afterwards I understood. It was my daughter, and my body, not hers. Perhaps, the midwife knew that I already had a mother’s instinct and would do what was best for us. After the first 10 hours of labor, I decided that I would need pain relief to go the distance. Another 10 hours later, due to an unforeseen medical complication at the moment that she was emerging into the world, our daughter Tala Sabine was born via emergency Caesarian section. I was so ecstatic, I didn’t realize I had suffered complications that would keep me in the

hospital for another eight days, and hooked up to a catheter for a total of 19 days. Dutch health insurance entitles all women to the care of a kraamzorg, or maternity nurse, for the first eight to 10 days after birth. The kraamzorg not only takes care of the baby but also nurses the mother as she recovers from the delivery. Seen as a “fairy godmother,” the kraamzorg cooks and relieves the mother of the burdens of housework, helps establish breastfeeding, and teaches frazzled new parents everything they should know about taking care of a newborn. Since I had round-the-clock nursing care at the hospital, I was entitled only two days of kraamzorg care at home, but our kraamzorg Fatima gave me a small taste of how comforting it was to have extra help when we lived so far from family. Finding a balance My daughter turns one this March. The past year has been a steep learning curve for me as I find out what it means to be a Filipino mother in a foreign land. I’m constantly reminded of how different we are: I can never go out with her without complete strangers exclaiming over how much hair she has and how dark it is, and what a small baby she is. I always reply with a smile, “Yes, she’s small for a Dutch baby, but she’s perfectly normal for a Filipino baby.” Having Tala has pulled me out of my expat bubble. Before Tala, I had set aside my Dutch language lessons. So now, I returned to them with fresh motivation as I realized I would soon have to be engaging with Dutch parents, children, teachers and the Dutch school system.

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SPECIAL FEATURE

BOLD, BOMBA AND BURLESQUE

FILIPINOS AND NUDITY: A SKETCHBOOK (PART 1) by Menno IJzerdraat

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1972. My first visit to the Philippines. Just married, my wife. A cordial welcome by the in-laws. I arrive in a semidetached villa in a decent neighborhood in the town of San Fernando, Pampanga. Dad works at Clark American airbase, mother has a fashion shop downtown. The brand name of the shower heater in the bathroom is Baghwan. I will come across more remarkable brand names over the years. We come home with stories about our trip to the mountains in the North and how life is different there. Not your “lowland Filipino,” the cultural majority, but mountain dwellers. The locals do not hesitate to label them “tribes.” Their apparel is not yet Western. Most conspicuous: Some, especially slightly more elderly men in the mountain villages, still wear a G-string, at the back comparable to a tanga. Photographing them is not appreciated.

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My Philippine wife and I take our first steps on the naturist path (nude recreation). After driving a hundred kilometers from Amsterdam plus walking for more than half an hour we find a little paradise, the Callantsoog beach. This is civilisation, and what a space. Although my wife had at first undressed herself squatting – after all, everybody could see you, and the sky would undoubtedly come down at such a risqué act – at the end of the day she put her clothes back on just the way she would have done it at home, that is standing, and without fuss. It became clear that being nude could be normal. I haven’t seen a more ardent advocate ever since.

We brought one of those beautiful, woven G-strings to San Fernando, and I was crazy enough to demonstrate it. I still love looking at the pictures showing the hilarity of all the members of the family and personnel. They shout “burlesque,” which gives me a clue as to the quality of my show. It is the beginning of an adventure in dealing with nudity.

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My father-in-law at his first visit to our house is quite interested by that magazine Naturisme on our coffee table – just like the many visitors before him had been. He was familiar with Playboy, he was even subscribing to it (and his daughter to read the interviews in that publication – to each his own...), but he had never seen our kind of nude. We once made a trip to the Philippines, and then he asked us to bring him an adult movie – we came from Holland, after all –known as a “bomba movie,” but he was disappointed by its contents. According to him local films were spicier. But the magazine surely aroused his interest, as did the pictures. We dared him to join us to my Saturday morning swim. He accepted the challenge and took the saying, “In Rome, do as the Romans do,” to heart. I am absolutely sure that fame was his part and that his pals at home would envy him for this chance of a lifetime. I must admit that I admired him for his courage. Skinny dipping is not a daily occurrence for a Filipino family man.

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“Filipino meal,” that was the announcement in the local club bulletin of a naturist club in the eastern part of the Netherlands. I was part of the board of the national federation at the time so I was reading the club bulletins out of duty. But this one drew my personal attention. One can expect an Indonesian meal prepared by your average Dutch thanks to our colonial history, but same is not true for a Filipino meal. I politely asked the club secretary to pass our names on to the writer of the announcement. And indeed, there was a Filipina naturist. We have remained good friends ever since. The other day I asked her “how it all had started” – via her husband, but that was not the purpose of my question – and her confident answer was: “I am different than other Filipino women. I am more myself. I am more of a freethinker.” That friendship therefore was meaningful and has lasted up till now.


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A bikini ad along the highway advertises Madonna bikinis - long before the pop star of that name. It reminds an unwitting Filipina of the Virgin Mary, a hidden persuader to soothe one’s conscience. In Philippine swimming pools one finds notices saying “proper bathing attire required.” This means something else in the Philippines than in your average Dutch hotel sauna. In a Dutch hotel, it means “put clothes on.” In other words “no nudity.” even though nudity is what you find in a normal Dutch sauna. In the Philippines it means “take clothes off.” in other words “don’t wear jeans while swimming.” You would hardly ever encounter a bikini anyway.

There was this Filipina who had just arrived in Holland and took off to the beach, three girlfriends in tow. While the four were changing – they had brought bathing suits – three girls would take turns in holding up a modesty towel around number four so the latter would not be disturbed by any unwelcome look. To their bewilderment the opposite happened: The towel dance attracted spectators. It reminded me of this Dutch documentary film maker, who, in the fifties, had shot candid camera pictures of a clumsy beach changing. But this was not candid camera! Some onlooking boys had even offered their unselfish assistance... After all, we are not used to such beautiful scenes any more. She could laugh about it by now.

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The working day is over, but darkness has not yet settled on a remote island when we pass a man who, visible from the road, is taking his shower and is washing himself, stark naked, but he seems totally unconcerned. So this is possible. There must, however, be more to the explanation than that. Such a scene is not “seen” or noticed by a passerby. Privacy is located between the ears and a question of good manners: we look the other way or pretend not to notice. Be honest: that is the way we naturists behave among ourselves.

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“We brought one of those beautiful, woven G-strings to San Fernando, and I was crazy enough to demonstrate it. I still love looking at the pictures showing the hilarity of all the members of the family and personnel.”

The porters who carry us from the banca, a kind of outrigger boat, to the shore of Polillo Island – there was no good harbour there – do so in a different way for men and women. My nephew asked me afterwards whether I had noticed, but I had not. But the pictures were there to prove it: My wife and the other ladies side-saddle style, the men astride. That also is good manners.

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In our home in the Philippines, the cable-TV devotes one channel to continuous fashion shows. Yes, fashion shows, haute couture, but a convenient excuse to show see-through clothing in a country that does not allow see-through. The right-hand down corner of the screen displays a warning: “Bold,” especially when the channel starts showing the shooting of a Pirelli tire calendar. The Pirelli damsels do not always don “proper bathing attire” either.

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“No nude swimming in the pool!” It was my nephew in his late twenties who upon my arrival was imploring me to behave. Was he just joking, was he reprimanding me, was he plain worried, or did he just take this opportunity to inform his newly acquired girlfriend about my habits? I had a reputation in my sister-in-law’s swimming pool, and my wife also would occasionally take a midnight skinny-dip. Alas, it was not possible this year as there were too many people who kept passing and whom I did not want to offend.

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Our hotel also had a swimming pool. I had laid my hands on a pair of those Bermuda bathing shorts, but, gee, how unpleasant can that be. I used to consider all those stories in naturist publications about “clammy soggy bathing costumes” as just PC, politically and naturistically correct. But the authors were right. It is real bad. Maybe an old-fashioned bathing slip would have been not that unpleasant, but this one, really... Just the idea of taking to the water dressed... I was lucky, though, in that I could put the wet rags on the edge of the pool unnoticed, and I really enjoyed my swimming afterwards.

(To be continued...) Issue 6 2014

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Pinoy Spotting “You seem to know a lot of people!” My Spanish friend, Manuel, blurts out.

BAGOONG IN MY PAELLA by Nats Sisma Villaluna

“Oh, that? The truth is I don’t know them.”

She heard herself convincingly recite Chinese-sounding phrases that even she couldn’t understand. But she carried on. Needless to say, the couple was taken by surprise and the wife backed off without taking her eyes off her. Seeing the couple’s reaction, Grace wanted to laugh, couldn’t hold it in. So when the train stopped, she hurriedly got off even if it was not yet her stop. She just had to release a loud and hearty laugh.

“But you smiled at them, I saw you greeting a lady a while ago.”

Walking away, she heard the husband telling his wife.

“Yeah, but I don’t personally know them. It’s just that they are Filipinos,” I say matter-of-factly.

“Ikaw kasi, tanong ng tanong! (That’s your fault. You just had to ask her!),” The wife, still unconvinced, stood her ground. ”Ah basta, Pinay yun no! (I tell you, that girl is Filipina!).”

I am walking with him to the metro when he sees me greet an Asian woman. Inside the train, he again sees me nodding at another Oriental-looking man.

“But they could be Chinese or Thais.” “I just know. It’s what we call lukso ng dugo in Tagalog, gut feel or salta de sangre in Spanish if there’s such a phrase. We have this certain Pinoy vibe. The way we move, smile, touch our hair or laugh –we just know. Sort of Pinoy radar, you know.” For the Spaniards, we all look the same. We fall under one category: Chinese! Just like how we categorize almost all Caucasian-looking individuals as Americans. I give Manuel some pointers on how to distinguish a Pinoy from the crowd. Besides having darker skin than our other Asian brothers like the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, our eyes are noticeably bigger. Physical features aside, we are basically friendlier. It’s one trait that we share with the Spaniards. We can easily make friends. Pinoys can be shy at first when meeting new people but give it a couple of minutes and we just can’t stop talking. We always have a ready smile. Filipinos in Madrid greet each other on the streets, in the metro, anywhere. We love sharing our life stories, too, even to a compatriot we just met. This is understandable since most of us work in houses and are quite lonely. After work, we grab the first opportunity to talk and thus, recover from the hours spent alone and in silence. We always need an outlet: Someone to listen to our stories, anecdotes or even the nonsensical events that happened during our shifts. It usually starts with a smile or a nod and then the inevitable question, “Pinoy ka (Are you a Filipino)?” followed by the word “Kabayan” (compatriot) or “Paisano.” A simple nod back will confirm that this Asian-looking man is indeed a Pinoy. The next question is, “Saan ka sa atin? (What province are you from?).” Then, it becomes a pattern – you talk about jobs, salaries and back to more jobs. The downside though is that some of us tend to go a bit overboard, getting too friendly by asking too many personal questions. One time, I met a Pinoy in the metro and he was already telling me his life story. Don’t get me wrong but I enjoy talking to my kababayans. It’s always a breather to speak in my mother tongue after hours of conjugating in Spanish. But sometimes, I’m just too tired or not in the mood to talk. When this happens, I pretend to be absorbed in my book, not looking up until my next stop. My friend Grace has another approach. She was inside the metro train going home, feeling so exhausted after teaching five consecutive classes with ten very playful kids. She was not in the mood to talk to anybody. She just wanted to have a silent journey home. From her peripheral vision, she could sense that a Pinoy-looking couple were staring at her and, looking very eager to strike a conversation. Knowing perfectly well that once she said,“Hi,” it would be a long train-ride home. She avoided glancing at the couple. It didn’t take long for the wife to finally go towards her and greeted her with the standard, “Pinoy ka?.” Not wanting to look impolite and snob, Grace gave them a questioning frown. The woman, not about to give up, repeated her question matched with her sweetest smile. “Pinoy ka?” Grace, still wearing that confused look, started pronouncing words that sounded Chinese or whatever. “Tsa la? Tsung tsang tsi la?”

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After that incident, Grace hoped never to bump into that same couple inside the metro ever again or worse, in any Pinoy tambayan in Madrid where on Thursdays and Sundays, these places are always full to the rafters. Another sign that kababayans are in the midst is when we hear them talking at the top of their lungs even if they are just a few meters away from each other –another trait that we share with the Spaniards. This normally happens when we are excited which I believe happens all the time. One perfect place to witness Pinoys in action is in a church somewhere in Plaza Castilla in Madrid. Here is one scenario: The Tagalog mass has just ended. One by one, Pinoys come out. You might expect an orderly exit towards the church gate, right? Wrong. Because Pinoys don’t head directly to the church gate but instead stay at the courtyard for a while craning their necks to find friends or relatives for a post-mass chitchat… in high decibels. One time, another friend, Mimi was waiting for a friend outside the gate of the church when she heard a thirty-something Pinay mumbling to herself on her way out. Later, Mimi realized that the lady was actually talking to her, completely miffed and annoyed. “Do you see them? They are a bunch of loud uneducated people! Why can’t they just walk quietly, go out of the church and to their houses as quietly as possible just like civilized individuals should?,” the lady was telling Mimi. Mimi just stared at her. She didn’t know what to say. The lady rambled some more. “This is already the third church that has agreed to accommodate Filipino masses. The first two just couldn’t handle the noise. I bet this church will also throw us out because of how we behave. This is so shameful. Look at them! Just look at them!” Mimi couldn’t help but get distracted by the throbbing vein in the lady’s temple as she recited her disgust. Still, Mimi kept quiet. The courtyard got noisier and noisier and by the looks of it, the attendees were not in any hurry to get out of the church premises just yet. “I can’t believe this! We Filipinos just don’t know how to behave! This is not a marketplace! This is a church for heaven’s sake! Why do they really have to shout! This is unbelievable!” Just then her attention was caught by a familiar face in the crowd. Her ranting was abruptly cut. She waved her hand and started shouting. Yes, yelling at the top of her lungs. “Melody!!! Hey!!! Over here! KFC tayo!!! MELODDDYYYYYYY!!!” She ran back to the church courtyard leaving Mimi still lost for words. As Manuel and I get out of the metro station, I see a Filipino-looking couple coming our way. I ready my smile. But instead of smiling at me, I see them smiling at Manuel who just greeted them with a sugary, “Hola!” coupled with a broad smile. I shoot him a knowing look. “They are Peeh-nhoys, aren’t they?,” he beams with a proud Madrileño shrug.


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TRAVEL

Ten Reasons to Visit Barcelona Photos by Dheza Marie Aguilar

Barcelona is, without doubt, one of the best cities in Europe. If you are planning to visit, here’s a short guide to help you enjoy this beautiful Catalan city: 1. Gaudi. Gaudi and Barcelona are almost synonymous with each other. Some of the city’s best attractions – Parc Güell, Basilica Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s house – are all creations of Barcelona’s genius son. 2. Tapas and sangria. An afternoon lazing on the beach sipping sangria and lunching on ridiculously delicious Spanish tapas – who does not want that? Barcelona is the best city to dine and drink without the guilty feeling. 3. La Barceloneta. A long stretch of sandy beach, legendary in Don Quixote’s book, offers the most ideal place to lounge in the summer. The best thing about it? It’s free. 4. Catalan vibe. They say that Catalan is a unique and proud race. Nothing demonstrates that better than being in the capital of Catalunya. Compared to Madrid, Barcelona is livelier and dare we say, more passionate. By the way, it’s not true that they won’t talk to you in English. 5. Fountain show in Plaza Espanya. Four nights every week, from Thursday to Sunday, the locals as well as tourists are treated to a dazzling display of lights and sounds by the Magic Fountain of Montjuic in Plaza Espanya. 6. San Agustin church. Did you know that the Filipino community has their own church in Barcelona given by the Archbishop himself?

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Enjoy sangria and tapas any time of the day.


San Agustin has become a symbol of unity and faith of Filipinos in Barcelona since 1999.

A visit to Barcelona is not complete without seeing Parc Güell.

7. La Boqueria market. Love markets? Looking for pasalubongs? There is only one place to head to –La Boqueria. Those who don’t like crowds should be warned though that this market has increasingly become very touristy. But you don’t want to skip this one lest you miss the arrays of delicious hams available only here. 8. Breathtaking cable ride. You might have to fork out a bit of cash if you want to take the cable ride. The trade off is incomparable scenic views of Barcelona. Take the one that crosses the harbor. 9. Picasso. Yes, even Picasso left his heart in Barcelona. Don’t leave Barcelona without visiting Museo Picasso, home to the great Spanish artist’s most extensive collections of paintings. Picasso spent his formative years in Barcelona, and many of his images were inspired by the city’s cultural landscape. He even suggested to his friend Jaume Sabartes to display most of his works in Barcelona rather than in Malaga, his hometown. 10. Pinoys. There is an estimated 22,000 Filipinos in Barcelona. Surely, you won’t get lost. You can find different kinds of ham at La Boqueria market.

La Barceloneta becomes a beach lover’s paradise in the summer.

Issue 6 2014

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TRAVEL

A world of tulips Photos by Robin Kuijs

T

ulips automatically come to mind when one thinks of Holland. The Netherlands has successfully promoted one of its biggest export products to the world that the flower has been almost synonymous to the country. Every year, at the start of springtime, the Netherlands opens Keukenhof, dubbed as the world’s largest flower garden. Here, you can see more than seven million tulips in addition to miles and miles of tulip fields outside the garden. Millions of tourists troop here every year to be amazed by all the beautiful varieties of Holland’s unofficial national flower.

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Tips: Rent a bike to maximize the Dutch experience and fully appreciate the tulip fields. Bring your own food and beverages to save on expenses. Keukenhof is after all a touristy place with tourist prices. Besides, there are plenty of open spaces where you can have a picnic. Start very early so you won’t share the photos with many people. Wait for sunset to catch painfully dramatic and beautiful panoramas of the tulip fields. Avoid the weekends and Holy Week if you hate the crowd.

Where: Keukenhof is located in Lisse, the Netherlands. It is one hour away by public transport from Amsterdam Central Station. When: March 20 to May 18, 2014 How to get there: From Amsterdam Central station, take the train to Schiphol Airport where you can get another train going to Keukenhof, Lisse. The garden is a 2-minute walk from the bus stop. Entrance fee: Adult is €15 while children 4-11 years old is €7,50 or €5,50 with school ID.

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TRAVEL

Nature tripping by Miguel S. IbaĂąez photos by Pranz Kaeno Billones

S

agada is among the favorite destinations in Northern Luzon. Nature lovers including those looking to find refuge or solace are among those who frequent the place. Unlike the already crowded and commercialized Baguio City, Sagada has held on to its agricultural roots and unique local cultures and traditions. Sagada is a municipality in the Mountain Province, 415 kilometers (about 257 miles) north of Manila via Baguio. Adjacent to Bontoc, the provincial capital, the area has an elevation point of 1,313 meters above sea level at its lowest peak. Except during peak season, tourists won’t have difficulty finding a place to stay or eat here as there are several inns and dining hubs to choose from. Among the popular restaurants are Log Cabin Restaurant, famous for its Saturday night buffet; Lemon Pie House for its spicy red chicken and well, lemon pie; and Yoghurt House for its hearty breakfast selection and yes, home-made yoghurt. One doesn’t leave Sagada without trying the pinikpikan, a chicken dish which is prepared by beating the bird with a stick first before it is cooked. Locals believe the process gives more flavor to the meat and the soup. There are a few restaurants that serve this particular delicacy.

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Locally grown coffee and the so-called mountain tea are musttries, as well. There are tour packages available depending on your schedule and the sites you prefer to visit. First-time visitors usually try exploring a cave, a waterfalls and a cultural site like the famous Hanging Coffins. Some avail of the cave connection tour which can take up a whole day. The Sumaging-Lumiang cave connection tour can last about four to five hours. The Sumaging cave is famous for the different formation of stalactites and stalagmites. Lumiang is a burial cave wherein one can see coffins piled on top of another. Legend has it that centuries ago, locals used to bury their dead in such a way as a sign of love and effort for the departed loved ones. Rarely such a tradition is practiced today. Guides are highly recommended when spelunking in Sagada. Some areas of the cave are narrow, with slippery slopes and steep ledges. Water flows deep inside these caves sometimes hiding steep drops. Sagada is also home to several waterfalls. The biggest and most famous is Bomod-ok (big) falls. The Pongas falls is considered most challenging to reach. Set aside about four hours to enjoy


The Log Cabin is famous for its Saturday night buffet.

A farmer at work with the beautiful Sagada mountain ranges as backdrop.

“Except during peak season, tourists won’t have difficulty finding a place to stay or eat here as there are several inns and dining hubs to choose from.”

Tourists can take home plenty of souvenirs.

this trip, including an hour of trekking the almost five-kilometer path leading to the falls. You will pass thru the village of Ankileng, where you will be treated to scenic views of some of the country’s world-famous rice terraces. How to get there By land, there are two ideal routes to get to Sagada from Manila: The Manila-Baguio-Sagada or the Manila-Banaue-Sagada route. Either route has a travel time of about 12 hours (or more if you are going to stop at other tourist attractions like the rice terraces along the way). Of late, travelers prefer the Baguio to Sagada route which is deemed cheaper and more convenient. It is highly recommended to leave Manila at night so you will reach either Baguio or Banaue early in the morning. Buses to Sagada from both terminals are available until noon only. Make sure to take as much sleep as you possibly can especially during the first part of the trip to save some energy. There will be a few stops along the way if you needed to freshen up. In Baguio, head for the old Dangwa Station located behind the Center Mall. The first bus going to Sagada leaves at 7 a.m. If you like shooting landscape photos, get a window seat. You’ll be able to take amazing shots of the rice terraces and the Sagada mountain ranges.

In Banaue, you can either take the van or the jeepney. If you plan to do some stops for photo opportunities with the rice terraces, rent a private van from the terminal. This will cost more but will be lighter on the budget when you are a group of at least six. Thrill-seekers can opt to take the jeepney and ride “topload” or riding on the vehicle’s roof. If you plan to take the Banaue trip back to Manila, purchase a return ticket once you get to Banaue to avoid any hassle. Seasoned tourists usually go back to Banaue because of its wood products. Tips: Tourists are encouraged to register at the town hall and pay a small environment fee upon arriving in Sagada. Best to secure a hotel room first if you haven’t book a place yet especially during peak season. Although not required, having a guide is recommended for safety reasons as well as easy access to some of Sagada’s major sites. The Sagada Genuine Guides Association as well as the Sagada Environmental Guides Association can help you plan your itinerary. Make sure you bring enough cash as the town only has two ATM machines which are closed on Sundays.

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DINING

London chills at Lakwatsa by Dheza Marie Aguilar Photos by Mico Abrigo The relaxing ambiance in Lakwatsa is one of the restaurant’s come-ons.

W

hat happens when a BritishFilipina finance professional falls in love with Taiwanese bubble tea? A hip chill-out place called Lakwatsa (Filipino slang for hangout) is born, catering to Londoners’ love for tea and afternoon snack, albeit with a twist. A bubble tea paired with siopao or adobo rice balls is perhaps the coolest trend to hit London’s posh Notting Hill area. A couple of months after its opening, Lakwatsa landed on the pages of London’s Evening Standard and shortly after, on UK’s Vogue and Marie Claire magazines. Until now, owner Claire Buyson couldn’t believe her luck. Introducing bubble tea and merienda Having both Filipino parents, Buyson grew up exposed to Philippine cuisine. Like any other daughter who is proud of her mom’s kitchen prowess, she claims her mother is the best cook in the world, using only the freshest ingredients. Suffice it to say, she developed her taste for anything delicious from her mom’s kitchen.

In 2001, during one of her travels in California, Buyson stumbled upon bubble tea, otherwise known as milk tea, and fell in love with it right away. She thought of doing something like it in London but selling it with Filipino merienda or small snacks. Right then and there, she wrote this idea on the business plan that she carried with her wherever she went.

“She put very great importance in fresh, organic food so it made me appreciate good, quality food at a young age,” says the 32-yearold businesswoman. Buyson’s love for food was further intensified when she started working at restaurants at age 16 – Buyson had to support her way through college, where she took up business management and finance. That exposure in the food and beverage industry early on made her realize she wanted to put up her own restaurant someday. However, her dream had to take a backseat for a while when she worked for a financial firm right after graduation. Part of her work in the company was to travel the world –from Asia to Middle East and the US –providing her another opportunity to discover different cuisines as well as restaurant concepts.

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There are 19 flavors of bubble tea to choose from.

When the time came, Buyson pitched her business idea to her boss who was immediately convinced and helped her find investors. “My boss didn’t have any idea what bubble tea was but he went for it all the same,” fondly recalls Buyson.


“I’m really a perfectionist when it comes to the taste and the quality of my products.”

Claire Buyson fulfills her teenage dream of owning a cafe-lounge. Striving for perfection

“I actually told myself I never want to taste another milk tea!,” she jokingly recalls.

During the interview, Buyson offered me a plate of her mother’s homemade pandesal. I never thought pandesal with cheese and bubble tea would go well together –a fresh take on the traditional Filipino snack.I couldn’t help but think Lakwatsa is doing an unconventional, if not bold, way of promoting Filipino food culture to Europeans. And by the looks of it, Lakwatsa is doing a good job, with Londoners queuing up outside its doors.

She adds, “I’m really a perfectionist when it comes to the taste and the quality of my products.”

Lakwatsa is located at 7 Blenheim Crescent, Notting Hill, London, W11 2EE. Call 07900 266 080 or email hello@lakwatsa.co.uk.

Buyson spent more than four months developing and perfecting bubble tea recipes for Lakwatsa. At one point, after being the “guinea pig” for her bubble tea concoctions for so many months, Buyson swore off bubble tea.

According to Buyson, the secret to a good bubble tea lies in the tapioca balls as well as the tea itself. “It should have the right texture, taste, and quality,” she says. A place to chill out Above. Mini lumpias. Below. A table full of goodness.

Lakwatsa was still not very busy when I visited on a rainy, Wednesday afternoon. Manning the counter was a young Filipino-British guy who speaks Tagalog. He served us the lychee-andpassion-fruit-flavored bubble tea alongside siopao and lumpia. The good food and company reminded me of happy times spent chilling out with barkadas. The ambience in Lakwatsa was so relaxing I was tempted to take out my book, put my feet up and listen to some soft music. I wouldn’t mind destressing here after a long day at work or from school. The best part is that the place promotes good, clean fun as they don’t serve alchoholic drinks.

Above. Lychee and passion fruit flavours. Below. Lakwatsa’s home-made pandesal.

“I wanted to create a place which is sort of a refuge. Here, it is sort of organic, very chill kind of place,” says Buyson, adding that clients can even choose to play their own music through an iPod jukebox attached to the wall near the counter.

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GIVING BACK

One billion rising for justice Words and photo by Miguel S. Ibañez

T

he success of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a theater play addressing women’s rights and issues, has sparked activism among women globally. It gave birth to the V-Day movement and eventually, One Billion Rising, a campaign to end violence against women and girls, rise for justice and promote gender equality. Established in 2012, the “billion” refers to the United Nations statistic that said one in three women will be raped or beaten in their lifetime, or about one billion. OBR uses both art and activism, initially using dance, as its campaign and protest medium held on Feb. 14. It has gained strong presence in 207 countries since it officially kicked off its global campaign last year. “The issue of ending violence against women is a daily issue,” says actress and OBR global moderator Monique Wilson. “Women all over the world experience many injustices. I hope the call to move, dance and shout for women’s justice is not just on Valentine’s Day but everyday.” An estimated 5,000 organizations worldwide have joined the campaign, including Hollywood celebrities Rosario Dawson, Robert Redford, Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lawrence, Charlize Theron, to name a few. Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan is also one of its biggest supporters. Singer/songwriter Pink showed support for the movement by releasing a video called “Break the Chain,” the campaign’s theme song written and produced by Tena Clark, this year. Worldrenowned choreographer Debbie Allen provided the dance routine. “As the world recognized the call, various organizations gathered

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together and extended the call to end women and children issues,” says Wilson. Wilson says that the movement has no set rules in promoting their cause. In the Philippines, for instance, the theater group New Voice Company, together with the women’s rights organization Gabriela, joined the world in this year’s theme, “One Billion Rising for Justice,” by staging a street protest that culminated in a dance show at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. Not a few students in Manila’s university belt spearheaded a dance activity as well. “The good thing about the OBR is that it’s self-directed and self-owned by the community. It’s a global movement but each community, each city, each country can take the campaign anyway they need it,” explains Wilson. Wilson adds that through OBR, grassroots networks for women were established to push the campaign. “Laws were passed in many countries which empowered women. Discussion forums, speak outs, panel sessions and outreach programmes in different communities are regularly held by the movement,” says Wilson. Wilson encourages everyone to do their part in fighting injustice against women “Don’t think you are not connected to the issue. We all have mothers, sisters, aunts, or grandmothers who are women,” says Wilson. “It’s high time that we demand that violence and injustice against women is not acceptable.”


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IN THE NEXT ISSUE: The Filipino Expat will be celebrating its first anniversary. This time around, we will be dedicating our pages to Arts and Culture, focusing on visual and performing arts. Expect the internationally acclaimed and recently knighted Brillante Mendoza on the cover. We will be putting the spotlight on Filipino Independent film directors and their journey to European cinemas. Get to know Filipino artists based in Europe and the Philippines as well as Filipino bloggers and their favorite art destinations in Europe and in the Philippines like Davao and Antipolo. We are also featuring Philippine Ambassador to Germany Maria Cleofe R. Natividad. The Filipino Expat’s publisher Dheza Marie Aguilar will also tell us how the first year has been and our plans for the future.

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