Pacquiao KOs Margarito

Saturday, November 13, 2010

“It’s official. Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines has set history and once again he has proven to be the greatest pound by pound boxer in the world by knocking down a much bigger and taller fighter in Antonio Margarito. The congressman from the Philippines has now captured an unprecedented eighth weight class title by knocking down his Mexican opponent to earn the vacant WBC super-welterweight title.”

Ah, the above title and first three sentences is what every single Pacquaio fan including this blogger would like to see after the Pacquaio – Margarito fight tonight, at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. I’m not such a great fan of boxing. But after arriving in the United States in 2006, I have watched almost all of Pacquiao’s boxing matches. And, I’ve become a fan to the greatest and most exciting boxer in his generation. Who isn’t? Even at our Bible study last night, while our group settled down for dinner and discussions, the Pacquiao – Margarito was a non-stop topic. Even the nine-year old girl who prayed for the food ended her grace with “… Lord, please let Pacquiao win tomorrow”.

This evening after worship services, my family and I will be joining a group of friends to cheer on the Filipino boxer. We would certainly not be alone. Millions, yes millions of Pacquiao fans around the world will be watching live. Here in the United States, thousands of fans will gather around TV sets that will be featuring the fight – whether that’s going to be in a bar, or in the comfort of their own homes. In the Philippines, I am sure that traffic and life in general will slow down on Sunday morning while people pause and watch the greatest Philippine boxer in action. There’s a joke that even the crime rate goes down when Pacquiao fights.

I am also sure that plenty of Mexican fans will be watching tonight hoping to catch a glimpse of a remote Pacquiao defeat. Last year, when my family were at a USCIS office for the processing of our green cards, the Mexican guard had a conversation with my wife. Amongst other things they talked about, he said that Mexicans HATE the Filipino boxer. He said that Pacquiao is arrogant, not a good fighter, and should go back home to the Philippines and focus on boxing. We were just too polite to point out that maybe he felt that way because the Filipino champion has simply outclassed Mexican challengers again and again.

There are two things that concern me in the fight though – the height and weight advantage of Margarito, and Pacquaio’s preparation (or lack of it). Pacquaio will be conceding 4 ½ inches in height and 6 ½ inches in reach when he faces Margarito. He may also be as much as 15 lbs lighter than his opponent when the bell rings to start the first round. Pacquiao weighed in at a low 144 lbs on Friday, as compared to the 150 lbs of Margarito. Regardless of how skilled Pacquiao is, these are disadvantages that he probably hasn’t faced before.

The next concern is the noise in Pacquiao’s life. He was elected to the Philippine Congress last May and his training has been full of distractions. This is possibly the fight in recent history where he hasn’t put in the fully focused training he is known to do. Still, Pacquiao’s talent and heart has set him apart from other boxers in this generation, and it is this combination that has led him this far. I certainly hope that this is enough to allow me to check the headlines tonight and read the following: “Pacquiao KOs Margarito”.

Click on photo below for a preview:


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Sagada Tour: Dec 26 - 30, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SAGADA w Banawe and Bontoc December 26 to 30, 2010

PARTICIPANTS are encouraged to donate educational toys & books, any medical equipment to Sagada Hospital or medicines. These actions will make your trip more and memorable and you spiritually and emotionally healthy.

Visit all the sites like : Banawe View Point, Bontok Museum (learn about the cultures and traditions of the People in Cordillera), SagadaTown Proper, Calvary Hills & Echo Valley with hanging coffins Hike thru magnificent Fedilisan Rice terraces going to a very refreshing and scenic Bomod-ok falls, swim or can climb the falls and jump, then adventure caving in Burial caves and Big Cave. Sagada Weaving & Kiltepan Tower for top view of Sagada. Side trip to Bontoc ukay-ukay or shop for souvenirs in Bontoc or Banawe

ITINERARY
Day 0 Dec 26 Sun 9pm Estimated Time of Departure (ETD)

Day 1 Dec 27 Mon 6 am Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) Banawe Breakfast
Banawe to Bontoc Road Trip Tour (lunch in Bontoc)
Bontoc Museum
Check in Sagada and enjoy the Town walking tour
4pm Register at Sagada Tourism Center, Calvary Hills, Echo Valley with Hanging Coffins

Day 2 Dec 28 Tues Sagada Tour: FREE and EASY Option to just chill (assisted and Facilitated)

Day 3 Dec 29 Wed Sagada to Bontoc to Banawe
Banawe Rice Terraces and Town Tour
6pm Banawe to Manila or

Day 4 Dec 30 Thur 3am Estimated Time of Arrival in Manila

BUDGET BACKPACKER RATE w Dorm room w Private bath h warm shower
P 3,549/pax October Reservation
P 4,049/pax November Reservation
P 4,799/pax December Reservation

Inclusive of
· Round Trip Aircon Bus Manila Banawe Manila

· Private Service Transfer Banawe Sagada Banawe

· 3days/2nights Accommodation family/dorm room

· 1 Full day tour around Sagada

· 3 buffet breakfast

· Entrance Fees

· Environment Fees

ST.JOSEPH IN ACCOMMODATION w private bath and warm shower
· P 4,249/pax (quad); P 4,749/pax (triple); P 5,499/pax (twin) October Reservation

· P 4,499/pax (quad); P 4,999/pax (triple); P 5,749/pax (twin) November Reservation

· P 4,749/pax (quad); P 5,249/pax (triple); P 5,999/pax (twin) December Reservation (if there are still slots available)

Inclusive of
· Round Trip Aircon Bus Manila Banawe Manila

· Private Aircon Bus Transfer Banawe Sagada Banawe

· 3days/2nights Accommodation family/dorm room

· 2 Full day tour around Sagada

· 3 buffet breakfast

· Entrance Fees

· Environment Fees

NOT Included : lunch, dinner, pasalubong and souvenirs, tour expense on day 2 option to chill or really go extreme.

IMPORTANT NOTES
1. Always keep quiet on the trail, site & peak, so that the fog will not form & block the beautiful view, & keep the journey dry.
2. Please donate educational books & toys to the community of Sagada
3. ALWAYS ENJOY GOD’S DIVINE CREATION AND THE PEOPLE WITH YOU ON THIS CLIMB.
4. We intentionally did not include the cost on Day 2 because it is subject to what you want to do and can do with in your budget.
5. We also intentionally did not include lunch and dinner so you can enjoy food trip adventure with in your own budget.
6. We are accepting reservation for Log Cabin Buffet on December 27 Monday for P 300
7. We are organizing Pinikpikan and Pinakbet Eat all you can for P 199 and drink all you can Rice wine for P 50 on December 28 Tuesday
8. Will be organizing White Water Rafting on Dec 28 Tues for P 2,500pax capacity of 6pax per raft.

THINGS TO BRING PLEASE : bring all PLEASE
1. Warm clothes according to itinerary and your fashion statement
(wholesome lang po)
2 Travel Water Bottle
3. toiletries
4. Raincoat & wind breaker & sweater & Jacket
5. sunblock and lipbalm
6. trail food/snack (chocolates, chips, fruits, jelly, powerbar)
7. bonnet & mittens, hat or cap
8. Camera
9 Bags for pasalubong and souvenirs.
10. Good Happy Sense of Humor

TRIP INQUIRIES & RESERVATION
Book and Buy/PAY Reservation Earliest possible to get your travel goal well organized. 50% reservation fee (non refundable but transferable) is required.
Please Fill up the blanks below and email to mother_nature888@hotmail.com
Company/Group: _______________________
Contact Person :___________________________
Land Line _____________________
Cellphone :____________________
Email Address:____________________
Target EcoTour/Location: _______________
Target Date of Travel :_________________
Number of Participants: _______________
Incomplete information will not be entertained
Payment can be made at Las Pinas Home Office or BDO or Metrobank (for patrons n friends)
Please scan the deposit slip and email it to mother_nature888@hotmail.com so we can email back the trip voucher, detailed trip info and official receipt.
All Reservation are non refundable, non rebookable, but transferable to chance passengers.

Happy to Serve, Thank you, Carpe Diem and GOD Bless
Violet C. Imperial

Nature Awareness & Conservation Club, Inc. (NonStock, NonProfit NGO)
5157964 (9am to 5pm Only) / 09194839250 / 09155101600
EMAIL: mother_nature888@hotmail.com
BLOGSITE: http://philecotourism.wordpress.com
PHOTOS : http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=photos&gid=8004451681

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8004451681

http://mothernatureasia.multiply.com

http://philippineecotourism.blogspot.com/

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Of Igorot Cowboys and Overseas Authors

I found a couple of real interesting news reports regarding Igorots - something that I missed in the past months when I ignored blogging / keeping up-to-date on Igorot news and happenings. The first one is a story on Igorot author, Analyn Aryo. She is a native of Mankayan, Benguet currently based in Ontario, Canada. Her book "Nanny Tales" is a "kaleidoscope of amazing experiences, memories, friendships and gratitude among overseas workers". Her story is titled An Igorot nanny’s real nanny tales. The second one is a take on the Igorot as a Cowboy. In my latest visits to our beloved hometown, the endearing sights of cowboy boots and hats worn by kailyans makes me feel so at home. I'd like to see Igorot students make a study on the cowboy culture in the Cordilleras. Add to that the Igorot fascination with country music - this is with our generation I guess. Not sure if the younger ones are as cowboy-loving as the older generation.

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Sagada's St. Mary's High is Mtn. Province's Best

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sagada's St. Mary's High School topped the National Achievement Test besting 58 private and public schools in Cordillera region's Mountain Province. It was the second year in a row that Sagada's only private high school took top honors, beating other high schools in bigger towns such as Bontoc, Besao and Tadian. Lubon National High School in Tadian placed second while Guinzadan National High School in Bauko placed third. Three other schools in Sagada placed in the top 20 with Sagada National High School, Banga-an National High School and Antadao National High School ranking 14th, 17th, and 18th respectively.

This achievement is being credited by school officials to an implementation of a 6-year high school program that began in 2006. In an ABS-CBN report titled "K+12: The Sagada Experience", St. Mary's School of Sagada Principal Dennis Faustino said - "We topped the National Achievement Test twice in a row, including this year. The methodology is sound, my philosophy is sound, our teachers are doing a good job and it can be emulated across the country. I don't buy the excuse that [it's because] we are private school. I think it's just the ability to reach out to the kids and understand them and see how they respond to positive teaching".

Faustino and other St. Mary's school officials support the government's plan to lengthen the current 4-year high school standard in the Philippines to that of a 6-year program that is in line with international standards. Majority of Asian countries including India, a top supplier of doctors, nurses, and IT professionals to the United States, implement a longer secondary school system.

Personally, for the 6-year program to work in our country's school system, it has to be implemented properly. It's useless adding two additional years in high school without any specialization of some kind. It would be good to see the added years as a means for high school students to learn a specific skill that will allow them to be employable after high school. If, after high school, they would want to pursue further education, the additional two years of education would definitely make them very competitive in the international market.

Related Links:

K+12: The Sagada Experience, by Caroline J. Howard, ABS-CBNnews.com
Saint Mary's School of Sagada

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Kamulo Enterprise: Clothing Line from a Young Baguio Entrepreneur

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The young owner of the Baguio City based KAMULO ENTERPRISE has announced the launch of it's online presence at Multiply. Kamulo Enterprise is a clothing line that specializes on jackets with an ethnic twist. It's product line features trendy jackets that not only focuses on quality, style, and comfort but also on promoting the culture of the Igorot people in northwestern Philippines. As the website explains, KAMULO, is the Igorot name of the owner’s maternal grandfather. It also happens to be my Igorot name as well. *BIG SMILE* (Go figure.)

The website provides a section on Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) including minimum quantity required, order duration, cancellation policy, delivery information, and other pertinent information. Orders are accepted through an online order form, personal messages, or email. Both local and international orders are accepted.

While the launch of the website just happened recently, KAMULO ENTERPRISE jackets have been available in the Baguio market for some time now. My wife actually used a Kamulo jacket in her first-ever 5K run near Chicago last month. It's very comfortable and stylish for the spring and fall weather here in the US Midwest, and can be worn casually. It's a good buy for the young and the young at heart.

Don't wait any longer. Order your own KAMULO jacket by following this link.

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Sagada's Mary Tumapang featured as Bayaning Pilipino

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sagada resident and former St. Mary's School teacher, Mary Tumapang, was featured recently in an ABS-CBN news segment. Auntie Mary, as we call her, was a Bayaning Pilipino Awardee in 2009. Her community work include establishing the Scholarship Fund Drive that benefits underprivileged elementary and high school students, volunteer teaching of Christian Values education, and being an active board member of the Sagada Multipurpose Cooperative. She also participates in a weekly clean-and-green program which aims to keep Sagada's surroundings clean.

Auntie Mary worked as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Israel from 1998 to 2004. Prior to that, she was the high school teacher of my 3 older sisters in Sagada's St. Mary's school. Her second oldest daughter was my classmate in elementary school. Everyone familiar with her story know the challenges she has faced in life. She's a survivor, an inspiration, and a role model to others. Her unselfish community work is certainly worthy of mention in nationwide TV. Matago-tago ka, Auntie Mary. Sagada needs more residents like you.

Here's the link to the ABS-CBN video of Mary Tumapang.

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Filipino Creativity in Flight Attendants' Dance Routine

Friday, October 1, 2010

A recent Youtube video of Cebu Pacific's dancing flight attendants was featured in Yahoo.com's frontpage. The video has gone viral attracting almost 300,000 views to date, after it was loaded to Youtube just yesterday, Sep 30. The video shows three flight attendants dancing to a Lady Gaga song while the normal safety instructions are being announced through the intercom. The reaction? Majority of those who provided feedback in Youtube and in a related Huffington Post article voiced their approvals. Whether it's a cheap but effective marketing move by the airline or a geniune gimmick to make passengers more attentive during flight safety announcements, the dance routine showcases yet again - the Filipino's creativity. Now, if only we can use that kind of creativity to resolve our countries' many problems. Enjoy the flight attendants' dance routine below:

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3 New Igorot Blogs

Monday, September 20, 2010

Found 3 new blogs by 2 Igorot bloggers that sprouted in the web recently.


1. Spirited Thoughts - a blog from a fellow i-Sagada and neighbor Gary Pekas. Gary is a regular contributor to a Baguio-based publication and describes himself as a loose cannon, iconoclast, freeloader, and outlaw. Sure enough, the first blog post was titled "SHIT" and had me blushing and laughing out loud at the same time.

2. Writings by An American Igorot - by Igorot author, Rex Delson. The Chicago-based blogger plans to write on "a wide range of inspirational topics relating with ethnic identity, assimilation, purpose, character and much more". One of his posts has already attracted dozens of comments due to a negative comment by a Filipino poster that targeted the Igorot people.

3. Igorots of Character - also by Rex Delson. This blog will be recognizing outstanding individuals and groups through the TIM TEBOW RECOGNITION AWARD and the U2 RECOGNITION AWARD, respectively. The Chicagoland Coalition for Asian Disaster Relief (CCADR) was the first recipient of the group award while the search for the first individual award is still on-going.

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UP Pep Squad wins 2010 UAAP Cheerdance Competition.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

University of the Philippines' Pep Squad has been dominating the UAAP cheerdance competition in the past 4 years winning the title in 2007, 2008, and 2010 and finishing runner-up in the 2009 edition. This year's performance by the premier state university blew away the competition with their original moves, furious transitions, and unmatched energy. As usual, they incorporated ethnic Pinoy elements into their routine. I observed singkil drums and Cordillera nose flute in their music. Their adaption of the Ati-atihan dance was breath-taking. Their performance reminded me of Kim Yu-Na in the 2010 Winter Olympics. UP's Pep Squad dominated the event, no one could even come close.

Now, if only the men's basketball team can win just one game. I guess that's asking for too much. Watch the video of the Pep Squad's winning performance below.

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Anti-Igorot sentiments from a “true” (?) Filipino

Friday, September 17, 2010

I’m being lured out of my longest blogging hiatus by an anonymous poster in a recent Igorot blog. In his blog, Writings by an American Igorot, author Rex Delson had a post regarding his first novel titled “IGOROTAK: The Warrior Within”. A poster with alias “A True Proud Filipino” went off-topic and belittled the Igorot people. I’m fine with fellow Pinoys being ignorant about the Igorots. The proper response is to provide information. What I can’t stand are people who flaunt their ignorance and look down on others. This post, my first in more than six months is my response to that poster’s comments (in red text and quoted). To respond to such a post, I’d gone down, way down, but heck, I had fun writing it. Hope this little post will start to motivate me to update my blog more often, as I did in the past.


“Go ahead and teach your own people about your heritage, but if this book is attempting to portray igorots as equals to real filipinos I think this is a stupid thing.”

Igorots are not real Filipinos? So, majority of the folks in the CORDILLERA REGION of NORTHERN PHILIPPINES are not Filipinos? This would include Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines whose mayor is an Igorot. The fact is, Igorots are real Filipinos, whether or not some misguided, uneducated, anonymous online poster who obviously has deep insecurities say otherwise. You’re the stupid one.

“There is a reason why igorots are barely covered in our educational books in schools in the philippines. It's because they are not worthy of the filipino name.”

Not true. My eldest was homeschooled as a first grader in the Philippines. He was using a Filipino textbook for his Social Studies class and yes, I remember that it had a section on who is a Filipino or not. Among the groups mentioned are Igorots, Muslims, and Tagalogs. Go back and get an education, start with first grade.

“You pride yourselves as not being conquered by Spain, but I pride myself as being conquered by Spain because without them my ancestors would have stayed uneducated and uncivilized and there would be a nation of people still running around in loin clothes today.”

This is laughable. Thailand was never conquered by any country. It’s in a much better state than the Philippines. Read Rizal’s major works, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo so you could get an idea on what it was like during the Spanish rule. Women were raped, majority of the locals were oppressed including children, and people were kept uneducated. The Spaniards referred to the colonized people as “Indio”. Please go and research on how derogatory a term that was.

My professor at UP-Diliman stated that a lot of social problems in the Philippines today are a direct result of Spanish colonization. Our society’s addiction to showbiz? It’s a manner of escape. Generations of your ancestors would have gone through their lives under almost 400 years of Spanish rule having little or no hope at all. The manyana habit? Why strive today when there’s not much to strive for. Why do we have a lot of showbiz personalities elected? We, Filipinos, are continually looking for a hero ala Bong Revilla / Lito Lapid to liberate us from our dire circumstances. Here’s a thought – I’m 100% sure your ancestors would have opted for anything other than being conquered by Spain.

“But thanks to Spain, we are now educated, smart, civilized and even better looking today.”

No, you’re not.

Better looking? Intermarriage between Spaniards and the locals were not very common. Rape was.

“You don't see igorots on the popular filipino shows today do you? When it comes to great minds like Rizal or big achievers like Pacquiao, you won't find Igorots.”

Popular Filipino shows? Ummm – let’s not get there. There are some showbiz personalities with Igorot ancestry but what has being in a popular show have something to with being a true Filipino? Let’s not be shallow shall we? Filipina heroine Gabriela Silang was part Igorot. It would be impossible to have an Igorot Rizal because again, the Igorots were not conquered by the Spaniards. Rizal’s works were a product of the Spanish oppression of our country. However, Igorots, my grandfather included, helped Americans liberate the Philippines from Japan. See General MacArthur praised Igorot Soldiers during WW2.

“I rest my case.”

You never had one to begin with.

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Sagada Tours - March & April 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I had some readers asking for information on Sagada Travel Tours for this Holy Week - while this blog has provided details in the past and probably will continue to provide more in the future, I just wanted to clarify that this is not a Sagada travel site. I'm also not a big fan of travel tours because it is very constrained but it looks like it's the most convenient route for first timers to visit Sagada. I did search for some planned Sagada tours for March and April 2010 and found three adventure tours at the ADVOCATE Tours blog.

Tour 1 - MARCH 18-20, 2010

Available slots: 25

Reservation downpayment: Php 2,000/pax
Reservation deadline: March 5, 2010 (Friday)
Full payment deadline: March 12, 2010

Tour package includes:
* Service of tour guide
* Roundtrip land transfers (air-con van/bus)
* Jeepney transfers around Sagada
* Accommodation at George Guest House Annex
* Total of 5 meals - 2 breakfast, 2 lunch, 1 dinner (*Dinner on the last day on pax account)
* Banaue-Sagada Tour (please see itinerary)
* Service of local guides and use of equipments inside the cave
* Tour entrance fees

Tour 2 - APRIL 1-3, 2010 - Holy Week

Target Slots: 45

Reservation downpayment: Php 2,000/pax
Reservation deadline: March 19, 2010
Full payment deadline: March 26, 2010

Tour package includes:
* Service of tour director
* Roundtrip land transfers (Air-con tourist bus)
* Jeepney Transfers around Sagada
* Accommodation at George Guest House Annex
* Total of 8 meals (3 breakfast, 3 lunch, 2 dinner)
* Banaue-Sagada Tour (sightseeing, cultural immersion, trekking adventure, spelunking)
* Service of local guides with use of equipments inside the cave
* Tour entrance fees

Tour 3 - APRIL 8-10, 2010 - Long Weekend

Available slots: 25

Reservation downpayment: Php 2,000/pax
Reservation deadline: March 24, 2010
Full payment deadline: March 29, 2010

Tour package includes:
* Service of tour guide
* Roundtrip land transfers (air-con van/bus)
* Jeepney transfers around Sagada
* Accommodation at George Guest House Annex
* Total of 5 meals - 2 breakfast, 2 lunch, 1 dinner (*Dinner on the last day on pax account)
* Banaue-Sagada Tour (please see itinerary)
* Service of local guides and use of equipments inside the cave
* Tour entrance fees

Additional information for these tours can be found at this Multiply Blog.

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Alleged Sagada Drug Dealers Released

In a blog post I wrote on Mar 31, 2009 titled Sagada Men jailed for Peddling Hashish, I linked to a GMA News TV web article about Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) agents seizing 13 bricks of hashish from three Sagada locals. I thank Gary, a poster in this blog, for updating me that the three men suspected has been released and "were found not guilty of the offense of selling illegal drugs" by a regional trial court.

Case dismissed against 3 alleged marijuana dealers
from Cordillera Express.com

Bontoc, Mountain Province, January 29, 2010. Three men accused of selling marijuana hashish bricks were released earlier today as the case against them was dismissed. The three, Vincent Navarro, Francis Page-et , and Edwin Datoc were found not guilty of the offense of selling illegal drugs by Judge Joseph A Patnaan of the Regional Trial Court Branch 36 here.

The three were arrested in Sagada on March 28, 2009 allegedly after selling 13 pieces of marijuana hashish bricks to a poseur-buyer from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

The PDEA team that arrested them, led by PDEA Director OpeƱa presented the three to the media in Camp Dangwa the next day, with the PDEA harping on a successful operation against illegal drugs. It may be recalled that the PDEA is not under the Philippine National Police but directly under the Office of the President. While the PNP does not condone the presentation of suspects to the media under the principle that they are innocent until proven guilty, the PDEA is not averse to presuming guilt by publicly presenting suspects as though they are already convicted. It may be recalled that the drug enforcement agencies were smarting from the Alabang Boys fiasco at the time, and the presentation of the three was seen as a calculated move to present the PDEA as serious in the battle against illegal drugs.


Full Story can be found at: Case dismissed against 3 alleged marijuana dealers

This is an injustice and an outrage! What will the PDEA do to account for the time wasted in jail for the three alleged suspects? How about their tarnished reputation? Was there an apology ever provided to the accused and their families?

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Vancouver Winter Olympics - Great Memories

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Enough tennis talk - the second sporting event and my other reason for why I haven't updated this blog for some time is the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. I rushed home on the Friday that the opening ceremonies would be shown so I could watch it with my family. The ceremonies were awesome - sure, it wasn't as great a show as the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremonies but it was spectacular nonetheless. Of course, we were disappointed with the lighting of the torch due to the technical problem in one of the four torches, but the show went on pretty well. I am so glad to watch it with my kids. I want to keep watching Olympic opening ceremonies as a tradition in my family; hope my children will recall these special moments when they grow up.

Over the course of the past two weeks, we watched in amazement as the best winter athletes in the world competed against each other. We cheered for US and Australian athletes - they represent the two countries where we are permanent residents of. There were two competitors who we followed closely - they are Amanda Evora from the pairs figure skating and J.R. Celski of short track. Evora's parents are both US immigrants from the Philippines; while Celski is the offspring of US immigrants from Poland and the Philippines. Evora didn't win a medal but she and her partner placed tenth, while Celski won two bronze medals.

There were also some Olympians from the Chicago suburbs that we cheered for. Evan Lycasek outclassed the competition in winning the men's figure skating and he's from Napperville, IL. Shani Davis of Chicago duplicated his gold-silver haul from the previous Olympics. Then there's Katherine Reutter from Champaign, IL who won a silver in the ladies 1000 m short track, the first medal for a US woman in short track since 1994. Four teammates from the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks will be in action in the men's hockey final tomorrow - three of them will be playing for Canada and one will be playing for the United States.

My favorite events were short track, figure skating, and speed skating. My five year old's favorites were bobsleigh and luge. I found those two events to be too technical and really - does anyone enjoy watching those in TV? Apparently, my youngest son does, but I think he is looking more for those spectacular crashes more than anything else.

One thing I like about the Olympics are the incredible stories surrounding the athletes. My favorites during these games are:

- The Chinese figure skating pair who came out of retirement to fulfill their dream of an Olympic gold;
- The Canadian figure skater who competed and won a medal less than a week after her mother died;
- The Canadian men's mogul gold medalist who is continuously inspired by his older brother who has a disability;
- The young Korean figure skater who won her country's first Olympic medal in her sport and performed flawlessly under immense pressure to beat her own world record and win the gold by a huge margin;
- The Australian world champion skier who is a resident of Vancouver and unlike most athletes, have managed to keep his distance from the media;
- The young American short track athlete of Polish and Filipino ancestry who had sixty stitches on his leg due to an accident in the rink last November but still managed to recover on time for the games and win two medals in his first Olympics;
- The figure skater who is a child of Filipino immigrants who learned how to skate in a frozen pond near their house.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics will end tomorrow with the completion of the gold medal match between Canada and the United States in men's hockey. It has been a great experience, our first time to completely follow the staging of a Winter Olympics. While the rest of the world will remember plenty of great and inspiring memories of these Games, a family in Georgia would have buried their beloved Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luge athlete who suffered a fatal crash the morning before the start of the Olympics. It was a dream that turned into a nightmare, as the hopes of a young man who spent so many hours training and qualifying for the Olympic event was dashed during a fateful practise session. I am hopeful that this story will not end as it is, that there will be something good that will come out of this tragedy. I'm not sure what it will be, but if there's something I learned from following the Olympics in the past 22 years, it is that hope trumps any human challenge - even death. Tomorrow will be a totally new day.

Looking forward to the 2012 London Summer Olympics!

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Australian Open 2010 Notes

I’ve gone almost 2 months without adding a single blog post here. That’s probably one of the longest spells I did. Trying to look back in the past two months, there are two major sporting events that prevented me from doing so.

The first one is the Australian Open – the first grand slam in the tennis calendar held in Melbourne. I’m a huge tennis fan, and last month, I stayed awake late into the evening watching live matches from Down Under. I was cheering on Roger Federer to extend his record number of tennis grand slams, amidst the challenge of younger up and coming players such as Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, and Jo Wilfried Tsonga; and established rivals such as Rafael Nadal and Nikolay Davydenko. Federer passed the hurdles along his way and went on to capture his 16th grand slam title, the most amongst male tennis players.

Then there’s the drama on the women’s side. After being defaulted at the semifinals of the US Open last year, world #1 Serena Williams was intent on proving that she deserves that spot. The un-retirement of rival Justine Henin was another motivating factor. She breezed through her first four matches before almost being knocked out by the talented Belarussian, Victoria Azarenka, in the quarterfinals. But Williams dug deep and made an almost impossible comeback. She then won the championships by defeating Henin in a thrilling 3-set match that saw both players go on streaks until Williams proved to be the steadier player at the end. Serena Williams successfully defended both her singles title and also the doubles title which she won with her older sister, Venus.

Chinese women tennis players also made a stir in the grand slam of the Asia-Pacific as two players from China reached the semifinals of a major for the first time in history. China, with its more than a billion gene pool has been tagged by a lot of tennis observers to be a major power in the future and the performance by a couple of its veteran stars just proved what has been expected all along. Now, the top Chinese player, Na Li / Li Na is now in the top ten. Expect China to produce more top 20 players and rival Russia in the most number of women players at the top in this decade.

I’m looking forward to the French Open in June. In the men’s side - will Rafael Nadal be able to bounce back and reclaim his dominance in Rolland Garros? Or, will Federer defend his crown to add to his 16 major titles? I think the only players capable of challenging Nadal and Federer in Paris will be Novak Djokovic and my name-sake, US Open champion and 2009 French Open semifinalist Juan Martin del Potro. Then again, it’s tennis. Let’s see what the clay court season produces.

In the ladies side, Henin would be the favorite coming into the French Open given her previous four wins in the tournament. But, I wouldn’t discount Serena Williams who made a serious run last year before falling to the Svetlana Kuznetsova, the eventual champion. This year, Serena is the only player with the chance of winning all four grand slams, and even if she doesn’t stay 100% healthy, I think she’ll be able to pull it off. Henin, Serena and Kuznetsova would be my top favorites, and they would be challenged by Kim Clijsters, Dinara Safina and if she can get her act together, maybe 2008 champion Ana Ivanovic will be able to do some damage.

To be continued...

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As Dangerous as Halsema

Sunday, January 10, 2010

i-Sagada Travel Photo1I lost count how many times I've traveled the Halsema highway that links Baguio City to Sagada. I do remember that I first started traveling this route in Grade 3, way back in 1984 when our whole family first spent our first Christmas and New Year in Baguio City with relatives in Loakan. During my high school and college days, I would travel through this highway at least 5 times a year when I would go home during the summer, semestral break and for the holidays.

The HALSEMA highway is a dangerous one - and on several occassions, it has been fatal to some travelers. I've lost an uncle - my mother's brother in an accident in the Halsema and some relatives as well. It is a route that features daunting curves. For several stretches, one side of the highway would be against a mountain side and for the other side, it would be a drop of several hundred feet. Still, I believe that the relatively few accidents in Halsema is a testament to the skill of Cordillera drivers.

It is fascinating watching the bus drivers navigate through the dangers during a trip. Now that I'm driving, I fully appreciate how they could guide the buses safely to their destinations - day in and day out. I remember how they seemingly handle the steering wheel with ease. These are big wheels - mind you, probably twice or more the circumference of your normal sedan steering wheel. And, unless they've upgraded, the buses do not use power steering.

I am reminded of the Halsema due to a recent a road trip. After midnight on January 2 this year, my family drove the 720+ miles from Maryland to our place in Illinois. We were supposed to leave January 2 evening, but due to the bad weather forecast for the weekend, I decided to pack-up and leave immediately. I was mostly concerned about ice on the highway in Pennsylvania and the lake effect snow in Indiana. As my wife did the packing and had no sleep, I was tasked to drive the first seven hours of the journey covering Maryland, Pennsylvania and into Ohio.

In Pennsylvania, the snow showers started for dozens of miles at a time. I was fine with it because the roads weren't slippery. I took extra caution though not driving the maximum speed, and always making sure that the vehicles ahead of me were traveling at normal speeds. I was on the lookout for vehicles that were slowing down as that would indicate trouble. We left Pennsylvania with no trouble except for the occasions when the snow was falling down hard.

As I drove into Ohio, the problems began. Snow was falling down hard and the highways were covered in an inch or so of snow. I couldn't see the yellow lines anymore and my only guide were the tire tracks ahead of me. It was around 5am so it was still very, very dark. I tried to use the fog lights of the minivan but it actually didn't help. It was actually worse since the lights were reflecting off the falling snow. I couldn't see any vehicles ahead, so I reduced my speed and I went slowly at 30-40mph. I was soon able to catch up with a group of vehicles that were traveling in a single file after around 30 minutes of driving on my own. Then and only then that I breathed a heavy sigh of relief. My wife who was awake enough to see the situation has been praying very hard.

Morning came and the rest of our travel in Ohio was great. Snow was present but the roads were being treated and the sunshine was a welcome sight. My wife took over the driving and after a brunch stop, I was able to sleep for an hour or so. I dreaded passing by Indiana, but I knew the situation was better because it was daytime.

My wife drove into Indiana before we switched. Visibility wasn't so good, and lake effect snow was falling down hard and made everything look gloomy. The snow scenes in this post were taken from Indiana. From the road, the scenes nearby looked very pretty - everything was covered in snow. My wife and I marveled at the irony... amidst all this beauty is the cold reality of danger. Indiana has the highest maximum speed at 70mph along our route and despite the very poor visibility, vehicles were wheezing by at such fast speeds. An accident at these speeds and with the traffic was bound to hurt a lot of people, and would most likely cause deaths as well. We drove for at least an hour in this condition.

For every dark stage in a journey, there is always the bright side. As we were nearing Chicago, the skies suddenly brightened. It was as if the lake effect snow was constrained to only a particular part of Indiana. One could actually pinpoint a border where it was snowing and a few meters ahead, the snow stopped and the sun was shining brightly. Ah, thank GOD for a safe journey. We're now in Chicago. The sight of the Chicago Skyline and the Sears towers are always a welcome for us after a long drive from Maryland.

We completed our trip all breaks included in 13 hours. Compare that to our record of 10 hours and 45 minutes during our recent Thanksgiving trip. The extra hours were mostly due to the meal break we had and the weather. But we got home safe and sound.

HAPPY, HAPPY NEW YEAR to all this blog's visitors. May it be a year of good health and joyful memories with your loved ones. And yes, stay safe during your trips.

Photo at the top and below: Road scenes from Indiana. Taken during morning hours, the sun wasn't shining and snow covered the trees and surroundings.
i-Sagada Travel Photo2

Photo below: The Sears Tower is always a welcome sight after a long journey.
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Photo below: My boys pose by our very dirty and grime/snow/salt covered faithful minivan. I had to wait later in the week for another winter storm before giving it a good exterior car wash.
i-Sagada Travel Photo4

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