Beautiful Christmas, Beautiful Philippines


See, the thing with blogging is that you have to be committed to posting updates, which, in this technology-driven age is not such a tough feat to accomplish. However, seeing as I have not exactly touched my blog since Davao, I’m a bit hesitant now to label myself a blogger. Nope, not simply as one who’d talk about having eggs for breakfast and picking up stuff at the dry cleaners after, but someone, I hope, who makes just the slightest bit of sense when she posts something. If not that, then at least someone the grammar nazis out there would not want to hang upside down and flog a hundred times until blood is spilt.

So where was I these past few weeks?

Vicky lands in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Christmas fever at the Sheraton Mustika Yogyakarta

Let’s see, there’s work and whole lot of it going on. There’s a bit of travel and a whole lot of fun both of it turned out to be. And then there’s Christmas, of course, and how over here in Singapore where I spent it, was quite sedate because of the gloomy and oft-rainy weather running a stretch of over two weeks now I’ve been told; but still, it was a lovely celebration punctuated by a dollop of excitement as the two of us ran around hunting for the elusive raclette grill and the cheese itself.

Christmas in Singapore

And then there’s the mad drive to raise funds internally, in our company, for the devastated families in Cagayan de Oro and nearby areas because of Typhoon Sendong. The drive which began in the morning of Christmas Eve, I am very proud to say, has come up to a 5-digit collective monetary donation — in greenback! There’s really no stopping the power of Jesus when he moves and touches the heart of people with such power as one cannot deny  or refute. The outpouring of pledges from nearly everyone at work was uplifting beyond words and I am proud to be in the company of such an amazing bunch of people.

So, what was Christmas like for you guys?

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Speaking of Christmas, did you know that Epson Philippines Corporation (EPC) has recently launched its regional photography contest – the Epson Color Imaging Contest 2011? Themed “Beautiful Philippines, the contest encourages photography enthusiasts to explore the beauty of our country from various aspects – human, landscape, nature and architecture. The contest is open to all amateur and professional photographers aged 18 years and above who are residents of the Philippines.

For those of you who are interested to join the contest, visit www.facebook.com/EpsonCICPhilippines and submit your original and unpublished photos through the Epson CIC contest application, which you will find in the left hand column of the Facebook Page. A registered contestant may only make ONE (1) submission of up to a maximum of three (3) Entries.

I’ve heard that this is the 18th consecutive annual Epson Color Imaging photo contest, jointly organized by Epson sales subsidiaries in Asia, and the very first to be held online via Facebook to appeal to a younger and net-savvy audience.

The photography contest will last for eight weeks from November 7 to December 31 on Facebook, so if you happen to be in front of your computer now, cyberstalking your Ex and his/her new squeeze or just posting photos of yourself in various states of holiday drunken stupor, why not post your entry and actually have a  shot at the following VERY exciting prizes?

  • First Prize – All-expenses paid holiday to Taipei and the opportunity to attend the region-wide award ceremony and photo exhibition where your winning artwork will be displayed mong the regional finalists PLUS $1,500 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Second Prize – $1,000 cash prize PLUS an Epson Stylus R1390
  • Third Prize – $500 cash prize PLUS an Epson PictureMate PM310.

In addition to the top three prize winners to be selected by Epson’s judges, fans are also encouraged to vote for their favorite so that the highest voted photograph wins a “Voters’ Choice award.” The winner of this award will get USD200 and an Epson PictureMate PM310.

Every week, Epson’s judges will also pick the top 3 photos. The winners of the Top 3 photos of the week each gets SM gift certificates worth P1,000 and their photos automatically qualify for the final judging.

Now this is truly a great way to showcase the beauty of the Philippines by getting the youth involved as they share their inspiring images with a worldwide audience – thanks to Epson who has been running this contest for a while now.

So what are YOU waiting for? Go on Facebook and join the contest. Who knows? You might find yourself on a flight to Taipei very soon! I have a very valid passport by the way and can travel as your companion, anytime and anywhere.:)

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Travel: A Whole Lotta Cherry Poppin’ in Davao


I love my recent trip to Davao City to bits for a lot of good reasons but having my cherry popped specifically on these three things: (a.) zipline (b.) having a photo taken with an albino python, and (c.) civet coffee – certainly takes the cake out of any fun activities I recall to have done in any of my past local travels. Except, perhaps, my intro to diving experience in Batangas and surfing in Zambales – as I don’t think these two will ever be taken out of my ‘awesome adventures’ file box.

Thank you WITHOUT LIMITS and OPERATION SMILE!

But first, thank you to our dear friend Ian Alacar of Without Limits and the people behind Operation Smile for sponsoring our trip to Davao! As you know, I was there along with Team Reebok, for The 500 Smile Fun Run (Davao Leg) – an initiative of Operation Smile in celebration of its 30th year in the Philippines. Through the race and other local and nationwide efforts, Operation Smile is hoping to create awareness and rally support from the private sector for its ongoing campaign of providing free reconstructive facial surgery to indigent Filipino children and young adults born with cleft lip and cleft palate deformity.

The race was held on the 27th of November so we had a bit of time to enjoy most of what Davao has to offer. If time and resources were on our side, we would have gunned for EVERYTHING, and not just some of the city’s offerings. The first thing I noticed when we landed at Davao International Airport was how beautiful the airport was! It’s clean and welcoming and, well, nothing like our old international airport in Manila. As we drove out of the airport and into the city proper, we also noticed that there is hardly garbage strewn out and scattered about in the streets and in plain sight of people – which is quite a common sight where we’re from. Later on, we would learn that they practice proper waste segregation and management in Davao and the Davaoenos really take it very seriously! Kinda makes me wonder why these things don’t work as well in Metro Manila.

So anyway, I don’t have much time so let me just quickly go through the three things Davao has successfully deflowered me on:

I am Super(wo)man!

1. Zipline. I have the greatest fear of heights. Take me five floors up and make me look down and I’d be all green in the face. That’s why bungee jumping, skywalking, parasailing, hot air balloon ride, etc, are never going to make it into my list of Things To Do Very Soon. I am terrified of heights and I’m NOT even contemplating doing something about. Until Kassy and the guys egged me on to try ziplining and before I knew it, I was doing the superman on my first zipline and sitting next. It was exhilarating! Of course I was shaking like a leaf when the guys were strapping the harness on and would shake more violently when I was given the instruction to lower myself and get ready to be released on the cable. I thought I was going to keep my eyes painfully shut the whole 600 meters of the first zipline but I manned-up and even managed a split-second look-down into the trees and water down below. Boy, was I brave!

You guys ever tried touching a python? They're very strong and cold to the touch. Kaya pala 'coldhearted snake'...
Five against one.

2. Touching and having my photo taken with an albino python. As much as I harbor fear of heights, I am equal parts terrified of reptiles  as well – snakes, especially! And so imagine how I was shrieking and cringing each time I would attempt to get close to the python for photo op. Even though the zoo attendant reassured us over and over again that it is quite a nice snake and that it’s used to having humans give it a good petting, I was still terrified! But after doing ziplining even with my fear of heights, I figured, what’s one more act of ‘valor’? haha.

If only they needed sip and smile models outside the zoo in Davao...

3. Civet coffee. Now I am far from a coffee connoisseur or of anything, actually, but I have heard of civet coffee (who hasn’t anyway) and have always been curious about its taste and aroma. And since I was on some kind of a roll in Davao with items 1 and 2, in addition to a wild  time spent at the Bazaar, I simply could not break the awesome pattern by letting civet coffee pass. So, ayun, tumikim ako. (So there, I succumbed and had a sip.) I took it pure, no sugar and cream (I assume that’s how it’s supposed to be taken, ya?), and my initial reaction was: ‘Well, ya, it’s totally different from the instant coffees and commercial staple I pick up from Starbucks or Coffee Bean.’ Now I hope I don’t offend coffee lovers and especially those who think the world of civet coffee by my paltry review – if you could call it that – because like I said, I really am far from being a decent food blogger/critique. It’s been one of my greatest frustrations, trust me, and it breaks my heart every single time because I can’t seem to get any better at it! *sob*

Kariton kids

So there you have it, my lovely Davao adventure in three stages of deflowering. As for the primary reason for our being there – The 500 Smile Run – I am pretty pleased to report that I took podium again by placing 3rd in the 16k female category!  It feels good to be back on the road and (the) podium finish certainly became the sweet, lavish layer of icing on the cake.

Vicky wearing Reebok Easytone top, Zigtech shorts, and RealFlex Optima.
The 500 Smile Run(ners)