Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ivan Henares named one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) 2012 awardees

As many former awardees have pointed out, I must still be on a high after receiving The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) 2012 for my work in heritage conservation. I shared during my response at the TOYM reception that this award is not only a personal recognition. It recognizes heritage conservation as a professional field and the principles we stand for.

Culture as a national concern has almost always been muted by other equally important national priorities. But we all know it is a potent force for poverty alleviation if harnessed properly and effectively. Alloting funds for culture and heritage conservation is not an expense. It is an investment!

President Benigno S. Aquino III shares the stage with the winners of the 2012 The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Awards for a photo souvenir in a ceremony at the Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace on Wednesday (January 09, 2013). In photo are Rodrigo “Jiggy” Manicad, Jr., Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong, Emmeline Aglipay, Waren Baticados, Ivan Anthony Henares, Abelardo Apollo David and Allan “Apl.D.Ap” Pineda. (Photo by: Jay Morales / Malacañang Photo Bureau)
Heritage and culture are inherent elements of our national identity. I've always held the belief that a strong national identity and pride of place are often disregarded tools for nation-building. The Heritage Conservation Society envisions "a Filipino society that values and preserves its cultural heritage in order to instill pride of place and strengthen Philippine national identity."

We fight hard to preserve what is left of our built heritage because, no matter what conflicting interests say, we are positive that these old structures are tools towards progress, as they enhance the character of our towns and cities and strengthen their economic potential through tourism.

The Philippines, in order for it to excel and progress, must move forward as one nation, grounded on its history, heritage and culture. This is our nation's soul. And only when we appreciate, understand and embrace this heritage will we be inspired as a people, strengthened by our renewed national pride, to uphold a culture of excellence.

Thank you very much to TOYM for recognizing our work! It gives us inspiration to ardently carry on our mission to preserve our country's built heritage.

PALACE GIG Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardee Allan “” Lindo Pineda Jr. dances and sings the songs by the Black Eyed Peas. He is joined by fellow awardees Rodrigo “Jiggy” Manicad Jr. and one of his children, Rep. Emmeline Aglipay Yan (left), Ivan Henares, Abelardo Ilagan Jr., Emelio “Chieffy” Caligdong and Waren Baticados (right) in Rizal Hall in Malacañang. Watching from the stage at the far end is President Aquino. LYN RILLON. Full story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: Azkals’ Caligdong, lead 2012 TOYM awardees
The Outstanding Young Men awardee Allan ‘’ Pineda of US pop music band The Black Eyed Peas performs during the awarding ceremony at Malacañang yesterday. Other awardees are (from left) the Azkals’ Emelio ‘Chieffy’ Caligdong, Abelardo David, Warren Baticados, Ivan Anthony Henares, Rodrigo ‘Jiggy’ Manicad Jr. and Rep. Emmeline Aglipay. Full story in the Philippine Star: 7 TOYM awardees honored

Monday, January 07, 2013

Philippines is highly-recommended destination by travel magazines for 2013

View on the way up to Kayangan Lake, Coron, Palawan
The Philippines is the destination to visit for 2013! That's according to three popular international travel publishers. And they have nothing but good words about our island paradise.

Condé Nast Traveller included the Philippines in its top ten Destinations to watch in 2013. The article reads, "For travellers willing to go the extra thousand miles for a deserted beach, the Philippines has around 7,000 of the most heavenly islands in the world. It's still not the most obvious beach-holiday destination, but it soon will be."

Alona Beach in Panglao Island, Bohol
Among the recommended destinations are Bicol, Siargao, Palawan and even Manila! They add, "Sorry, Maldives... We love you, but we've got a new flame."

Willie's Rock in Boracay Island, Aklan
Travel + Leisure Magazine named the Philippines as part of its Hottest Travel Destinations of 2013. The article recommends resorts in Boracay, Panglao and El Nido. Just last year, Boracay topped the same magazine's survey for best island in the world for its 2012 World's Best Awards!

Looking out of the Puerto Princesa Underground River in Palawan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Lonely Planet chose Palawan to be part of its Best in Travel 2013 - Top 10 regions. Dubbed as the "ultimate archipelago for adventurers," they recommend Palawan for off the beaten track, adventure and culture.

They write, "Palawan incorporates thousands of sparkling, rugged islands and is fringed by 2000km of pristine coastline. So far Palawan’s natural marvels have only been sampled by plucky backpackers. Not for much longer. The trail these pioneers have blazed is set to explode, with regional airlines waking up to Palawan’s potential and clambering to schedule direct flights to the capital. Throw in the mushrooming growth of style-conscious boutique hotels normally found in places like Ko Samui or Bali, and you can feel that Palawan is ready to hit the big-time in 2013."

Boracay Island's White Beach (Station 1)
Also part of Best in Travel 2013 is a guided trek of Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park in its Best places to do something new. In particular, the article recommends the Philippines to see the newest animal which can be found in the park. They write, "What’s two metres long, lives in the trees and has a double penis? Varanus bitatawa, of course. The enormous monitor lizard, though well-known to local tribes (who consider it tasty eatin’), was only identified by scientists in 2009. A herbivorous relative of the komodo dragon, it’s about as close to a dinosaur as you’re going to get." DOT should definitely start developing our nature trails!

Dazzling sunset seen from the shores of Boracay Island
Lonely Planet also included the Philippines in its top ten best beach hotspots and top ten classics for castaways island destinations.

We almost scored a grand slam. But unfortunately, National Geographic Traveler left us out this year. Palawan already made their Inaugural Best Trips List in 2011 (at least we were top of mind). But with great recommendations from these equally reputable travel magazines, I'm sure they'll rediscover us this year and include a new Philippine destination in their 2014 list.

Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue, Ifugao, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Historic Town of Vigan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
I'm actually hoping better accommodation in the Ifugao Rice Terraces and Vigan will get them noticed too. Hint to investors out there! These places have potential and need first class accommodation.

So make that trip to our islands because It's more fun in the Philippines!

Update (01/12/2013): We're on a roll! The New York Times included the Philippines in The 46 Places to Go in 2013.

They write, "Idyllic white sand beaches, secluded, little-known surf towns, and pristine reefs are among the natural draws of this country made up of over 7,000 tropical islands. Now in addition to the more upscale choices cropping up in former backpacking enclaves like Boracay, there is a new generation of luxury hotels opening even further afield. The new Dedon Island resort on Siargao, for example, is close to one of the world’s best surf breaks, Cloud 9 (Kelly Slater is a fan), and has an outdoor cinema along with spa and paddle board classes. And the private island resort of El Nido Pangulasian opens this month in the Unesco biosphere of Palawan, right by some of the world’s most pristine diving spots. Although the Philippines has been subject to travel advisories in the past, they mostly focus on Mindanao in the south."

In a customer survey of, with feedback from 113,000 respondents, Boracay was selected as the top destination for seeking out relaxation and tranquility and ranked third in the top ten cities for nightlife. Manila ranked 22nd in the same global survey.

The Philippines was also named as one of the top five Best Tourism Destinations at the 2012 Oriental Morning Post's World Travel - Special Trips Awards held last January 9, 2013.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

SOS Manila Bay Coalition launched; People's Petition against reclamation of Manila Bay initiated

The SOS Manila Bay Coalition against the reclamation of Manila Bay was formally launched last January 5, 2013, Saturday at the Manila Yacht Club. For information on the reclamation project and the reasons behind the opposition, below is the petition that is circulating among Manila residents and concerned citizens.


Whereas, Manila Bay, covering the areas of Manila, Pasay, and Paranaque was reserved for the purposes of a national park under Proclamation 41 in 1954 by President Ramon Magsaysay, to be known as the Manila Bay Beach Resort;

Whereas, Republic Act 7586 issued in 1992, recognized the value of having a national park in the Manila Bay area and included it in the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act of 1992 notwithstanding the fact that portions of the Bay area of Pasay and Paranaque had already been reclaimed;

Whereas, the City Council of Manila passed City Ordinance 7777 on January 13, 1993 prohibiting any form of reclamation along Manila Bay from the U. S. Embassy to the Cultural Center of the Philippines, which Ordinance was approved by Alfredo S. Lim as Mayor of Manila and Jose L. Atienza as Vice-Mayor and Presiding Officer of the City Council of Manila;

Whereas, on June 6, 2011, the City Council of Manila passed City Ordinance 8233 amending Ordinance 7777 and all rules and regulations inconsistent with the Ordinance, and authorizing the Mayor of Manila, Alfredo S. Lim, to file an application with the Philippine Reclamation Authority to reclaim certain portions of the Manila Bay;

Whereas, the City of Manila  signed a contract with Manila Gold Coast Corporation as contractor for the reclamation without a genuine consultation with the people, and in apparent contradiction with Republic Act No. 7586;

Whereas, Republic Act No. 7586 dated 1992 declares among others that the Manila Bay should be among the areas considered as a protected landscape and seascape of national significance which is characterized by the harmonious interaction of man and land while providing opportunities for public enjoyment through recreation and tourism within the normal lifestyle and economic activity of these land areas;

Whereas, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines declared the Manila Bay and Waterfront from Del Pan Bridge to the Cultural Center of the Philippines on Roxas Boulevard as a National Historical Landmark, and is thus protected by Republic Act No. 10066, “The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009”;

Whereas, the Philippine Tour Operators Association has launched a campaign to make Manila the center of culture, arts and recreation with our heritage landmarks, open parks, the boulevard, and the Manila Bay sunset at the forefront;

Whereas, the area of Manila Bay along the historic districts of Ermita, Malate and Intramuros have been important culture, art and tourism destinations whose potential should be maximized along what other great cities have done for their waterfront and historical districts and improved rather than destroyed;

Whereas, the present aggressive development of the area cannot be supported by the existing infrastructure, and extreme pressure is being placed on already inadequate water and power supply, traffic,  sewage and sanitation — problems so far not solved, which can only worsen with reclamation;

Whereas, excessive groundwater extraction brought about by the growing population of Manila has caused the lowering of the land surface by several centimeters to more than a decimeter a year in the areas of Ermita, Malate and Intramuros;

Whereas, the lowering of the land level is causing floods to worsen year by year, and any reclamation made would be built at a higher grade causing rainwater to flow back into an already flood-prone area, destroying the already fragile ecological balance;

Whereas, the coastal areas along the Manila Bay are at highest risk for liquefaction in earthquake scenarios;

Whereas, the Philippines suffers from a geographic disadvantage because it is one of the countries in the world which experiences the highest rate of sea level rise and any physical changes in the coastline will affect the way weather systems form, approach and behave on land;

Whereas, it is extremely important for all stakeholders to understand how these reclamation plans will impact our human communities, coastal and marine geology, biodiversity, heritage structures, and climate change;

Whereas, the planned reclamation of Manila Bay and the planned development of the area will directly affect the entire community made up of residents, businesses, tourism establishments, cultural heritage centers, and the Filipino people, and will destroy all hopes of making Manila the center of culture, arts, recreation, and tourism;

Therefore: We, our consortium, which includes registered voters of the City of Manila, are united in making the following PROPOSITIONS to the Sanggunian Panglungsod of the City of Manila:

1. Repeal City of Manila Ordinance 8233 and restore City of Manila Ordinance 7777;
2. Stop the planned and future reclamation of Manila Bay between the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the U. S. Embassy;
3. Cancel the contract between the Manila City government and the Manila Gold Coast Corp;
4. Enact a master plan that maximizes the opportunities and potential of the waterfront for the enjoyment of the people.

Signed on this 5th day of January, 2013.

Alyansa ng Maralita ng Maynila Laban sa Reklamasyon ■ Artist Welfare Foundation, Inc. (AWFI) ■ Care for the Earth - Malate Catholic Church ■ Care for the Earth - Vicariate of the Nuestra Señora de Guia ■ Cinemalaya Filmmakers ■ CCP Employees Association ■ CCP Resident Companies ■ Cultural Center of the Philippines ■ Day by Day Ministry ■ Ecological Society of the Philippines ■ Heritage Conservation Society ■ ICOMOS Philippines ■ International PEN (Poets and Playwrights, Essayists, Novelists) ■ Kabataan Partylist ■ Kalikasan Partylist ■ Kutitap Storytellers Groups ■ National Theater Festival Network ■ Old Manila Walks ■ Philippine Art Education Association ■ Philippine Association of Theater Designers and Technicians (PATDAT) ■ Philippine High School for the Arts ■ Philippine Legitimate Stage Artists Group (Philstage) ■ Philippine Tour Operators Association ■ Piano Teachers Guild ■ Printmakers Association of the Philippines ■ Save Philippine Seas ■ Theater Actors Guild ■ Ugnayan ng Manunulat sa Pilipinas ■ Walk This Way (Celdran Tours) ■ World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines

Sign the petition here. Join the coalition, like the SOS Manila Bay Facebook page. Use the Twitter hastag #SaveManilaBay

News Articles
Coalition vs reclamation: Keep Manila Bay ‘sacred’
Goodbye beautiful sunset? Groups protest Manila Bay reclamation project
Citizens coalition opposes reclamation of Manila Bay along Roxas Blvd
Mania Bay reclamation project faces continued opposition
Standoff looms over Manila Bay reclamation project

Friday, January 04, 2013

UnionBank extends promo for remittances from UAE

Remittances don't stop when the Christmas season ends. Many OFWs send money regularly. In fact, UnionBank has a promo for remittances from UAE through UAExchange Money Transfer Operators running until March 31, 2013.

If you're based in UAE, or if you have relatives sending funds from UAE, Visa Money Transfer Fast Funds is a payment and remittance service from Visa which allows immediate cross-country crediting to any Visa card. So your monthly remittances can be made through the Visa Money Transfer Service. And it's a real time payment and remittance service that is safe, fast and convenient.

The program is open to all UnionBank Visa Debit Cardholders who are beneficiaries of OFWs and receive their remittance through the Visa Money Transfer Service from any branch of UAE Exchange in the United Arab Emirates.

Qualified UnionBank Visa Debit Cardholders are entitled to get an additional Php500 cash credit from every remittance of any amount they receive from any branch of UAExchange through their UnionBank Visa Debit Account from October 25, 2012 to March 31, 2013. The additional Cash Credits of P500.00 will be credited to the account of qualified cardholders within three banking days from date of receipt.

So if you’re looking for a quick and efficient was of sending remittances, you might want to consider UnionBank’s service. For more information, click here

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Looking back at 2012

Happy New Year to all! It's already 2013, but I got to revisit my trips for 2012 only now since I was traveling up until the last day of the year. In fact, I have passport stamps for the first and last day of the year, and arrived home at exactly 12 midnight with no second to spare!

While 2011 remains the benchmark year for international trips, last year was not far behind. I spent a week in South Korea with UP AIT at the start of the year for Woosong University's Winter Culture Camp (Daejeon, Seoul and Muju). In March, I stayed in Singapore for a week, exploring many new attractions. 

Summer saw me back in Europe with a three week trip to the United Kingdom, which took me through many cities in England (London, Oxford, York, Lake District, Liverpool, Manchester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Cotswolds, Bath and Stonehenge), Scotland (Edinburgh, Highland Region, Isle of Skye, Glasgow) and Wales (Cardiff). 

The afternoon I got back, I switched terminals to fly to Malaysia and catch the Mount Kinabalu Expedition 2012 in Sabah. We also joined EVA Air's trip to Taiwan (Taipei and Hualien) in May.

A weekend trip to Thailand, a week in Myanmar (Yangon, Mandalay, Inle Lake and Bagan) and four days in Sri Lanka (Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Colombo and Negombo), plus transit in Malaysia all happened in July. I had to beg off from international travel from the rest of July to November as we prepared for the very well-attended ICOMOS International Cultural Tourism Conference in Vigan. And the effort was all worth it.

Pleasant surprises followed with back-to-back long-haul trips to Canada as part of the maiden flight of Philippine Airlines to Toronto, and ten days in Southern Italy (Alberobello, Matera, Naples, Pompei, Sorrento and Capri), Sicily (Taormina, Agrigento, Palermo and Cefalu), Rome and the Vatican City for Christmas until the New Year. 

Local destinations were exciting too! I realized I revisited many of our country's major tourism destination (Bicol, Bohol, Boracay, Cebu, Davao, Ifugao, Vigan, Palawan and Puerto Galera among many others), returning to some of them twice or even thrice this year. 

Here's my Travel Year 2012 album. I'm definitely looking forward to 2013!
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