WAGGGS Chair Team in the Philippines

The Girl Scouts of the Philippines is a member of a bigger organization, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts or WAGGGS. Last February 9, we have been privileged to be able to meet with the Chair’s Team which decided to meet in the Philippines.

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Nicole Grinstead is the current World Board Chair. The very first time I met her was during the 34th WAGGGS World Conference in Edinburgh back in 2011. At that time, she was running for the World Board. I have admired her ever since, seeing her passion to serve the organization.

The event aimed to have a dialogue with GSP’s young adult member and active girl scouts. One segment of the event was sharing about our experiences in participating WAGGGS events in different parts of the world. I myself have been representing the organization in various events, which has widened my horizon and unleashed my potentials. And of course, meeting friends from all over the world.

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It was really a great opportunity to share our vision with the WAGGGS Chair’s Team. Seeing them intently listening to us had renewed our faith that they are doing everything just to give chance for our voices to be heard. Truly, we are empowered for the chance to influence decision-making body for the organization.

I will be forever proud that I am a girl scout, and girl scouting empowers me as a woman.

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I have prepared a short video presentation of girl scouts in WAGGGS events, see it here: “We are stars” Happy watching! 🙂

Bookworm Alert – June 2015

One of my friends said she wants to read here in my blog the books I read. I love to read. From reports, blogs, books to newspapers – reading has been a habit ever since young. It has helped me survive life – land at my fulfilling jobs, be prepared and be an effective advocate. Reading also helps me be a conversationalist. So here, let me share to you the books I am reading this month:

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1. Doing Justice – Bible Studies on Advocacy (World Vision)

I got this for free! I rummaged through Philippine Commission on Women’s library collection when they were throwing some books. That was in 2013. I got a whole box of books. Last week, I opened the box because I was looking for something then I got this. It is from World Vision, a Christian international NGO so the book is having advocacy at the core. Being in international development, this book is such a great help to align my work with God’s will. I read this every morning.

2. The Power of Determination (Joyce Meyer)

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This one is from Fully Booked book sale, original price was 630 pesos but got it for 100 pesos! Good deal, right? It is filled with daily bible verses and her insights on how to live a life to be Christlike. As the title says, it highlights what it takes to be determined – faith, courage, boldness. It is a good quick read. I read this at night before sleeping.

20150624_073754_resized3. Cure for the Common Life: Living in your Sweet Spot (Max Lucado)

This is my first Lucado book. But at first chapter, he already got me! This is about finding your purpose in this life. He is talking about finding you “sweet spot” – where passion and calling meets. I like his writing and narrative style. Sharing anecdotes, bible verses and life lessons is all throughout the book. I have been learning a lot from this. I bought this I think with my first salary in Tacloban last year, the Philippine Christian bookstore was just beside our office. I normally read this on free time.

4. True Love (Robert Fulghum)

This is not a pocketbook with a romantic novel haha! Next to All I Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten, this is my second Fulghum favorite. 20150624_073819_resizedIn Uh-oh, he announced that he likes to receive short stories on love – all kinds of love – he was flooded with people sharing their stories to him. I knew that I badly want that book, but unfortunately National Bookstore, Fully Booked, Powerbooks, even the bookstores in UP Diliman did not have it. How I got this treasure – my friend Michelle got this for me. She found it in Book sale for just a whooping 30 pesos. Panalo! I always have this on my bag. It is not meant to be read in one seating. I will lend you for 15 minutes when we meet. I have this in my bag. 🙂

My favorite book though is still the Bible. When I was a freshman in UP, on my first day one student said “The Bible is fiction.” Whatever they think, that is still the best book for me. It speaks life. And most importantly, God speaks through it. I love metaphors and stories, life lessons and guidance on how to live a fruitful life.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

Go share your books for this month too!

 

20150624_073836_1_resizedP.S. I always write on my books, or highlight, circle, heart haha lahat na ng shapes! I have been using these Muji Gel Pens, I like to recommend it too. Per color is 65 pesos, but it goes a long long way. Mine I have bought 3 years ago pa until now di pa ubos.

El Nido Getaway 2015!

The PAGASA has announced that rainy season has started already. Summer may be over,  but I had a meaningful rest and recreation during the Holy Week when Vimala and I went to El Nido, Palawan. It is dubbed as the Best Beach Destination in the Philippines, and true enough, it is something worth the travel. Vimala is my Indonesian best friend who came to the Philippines just to visit me, so I chose to bring her to El Nido.

El Nido lies in northeast Palawan. The main gateway to this paradise is Puerto Princesa, Palawan. Vie and I was able to book an AirAsia flight in the morning of April 1, we arrived by lunch time, had a quick break and took the van to El Nido. It took us about 5 hours before we arrive in the small town of El Nido.

5 star custome service, affordable and comfortable

Vie and I have been travelling together since our Korea days, and we are very particular with the hotel/inn we’re staying at. In El Nido, we were able to book Swiftlets Inn. It is a relatively new hotel, originally with just 4 rooms. Upon arrival in El Nido, we were dropped off at the terminal, took the tricycle (50 pesos) and checked-in. We were surprised that they have a new floor with additional 4 rooms. We were booked in room 7, which is really spacious, with clean bed linens and a bathroom where you can freely move. They also got a flat screen TV and power plugs all over the room (a must nowadays!) What’s a plus point of this hotel is it is strategically located in the middle of El Nido; 3 minutes from terminal and 5-7 minutes walk from downtown. And free breakfast! You are also far from the noise in the streets. The customer service is pleasing, we had a really good stay here. You can check TripAdvisor for other reviews here.

Awe-inspiring, breathtaking 

We booked for Tour A and Tour C for the island hopping. For Day 2, we started with Tour C because there was the news of a typhoon coming, and since Tour C is farther, we went there first. We had a very kind tour guide and boat men, so we felt secure all the time.

The first destination was the Helicopter island, with that name because it looks like an helicopter from afar. This is the inspiration for the movie The Beach. It is a good place for snorkeling.

My favorite though is Star beach, where we stayed longer because we had lunch here. The boat men prepared the lunch, with seafood overload! 😀

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After Starbeach, we went to Secret Island. The name fits because you need to enter a small rocky entrance before getting in. It was our least favorite – it is too crowded. One foreigner even said “It’s chaos over here!” Haha!

Then Matinloc Shrine. It is a small island with a huge house that was abandoned. We went up to see the captivating view of the ocean.

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We were able to return in El Nido proper by 4pm. After a fun day (we got tanned!), we decided to walk to the hotel. We tried the Crepes and it was good. Go grab something as snack.

The following day, we were booked for Tour A. The good thing about our travel agency (Create Tours) is that they pick us from our hotel via a motorcycle. Oh diba may sundo pa! After our sumptuous free breakfast, we were fueled to enjoy the rest of El Nido.

Tour A goes to Small and Big Lagoons, Secret beach and Seven Commandos Beach.

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Small lagoon is enjoyable via kayaking (300 pesos). But it also gets crowded. I love Big lagoon better (in the photo), though we didn’t stop to swim because it was low tide.

Swimming with Nemo and Friends

One of the highlights of my El Nido trip is my snorkeling experience for the first time. I love beaches but I can’t really swim in deep waters. But one of our tour guides, the 18 year old Richard told me “Mam, akong bahala sayo I will hold you.” Naks! Pero true enough, he helped me. He was the one holding the Go Pro we rented (1,000 pesos) then took these beautiful photos. I was amazed at God’s wonderful creation deep down.

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Tour A  ended in Seven Commando’s beach. It is a huge one, with cottages and a restaurant. Vie and I was able to rest and enjoy; she joined a bunch of tourists playing volleyball.

We arrived in El Nido proper at around 5pm then rested in the hotel. Then my college friend Ate Rej texted me to go to Las Cabanas resort because no one should miss the El Nido sunset. It was almost 6 so I rushed and took a tricycle (150 pesos). Whew! It was a beautiful sunset.

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 Restaurants to try

We did not crave much seafood because the lunch during the tours is just crazy awesome – squid, grilled fish, shrimps and mussels. So when we were at downtown, we decided to check two restaurants for dinner – Art Cafe and Altrove Trattoria. Both are really good and affordable. In Art Cafe, we tried their paella while we had pasta and the oven-made pizza in Altrove. The vibe in these restaurants is cozy and comfy, good to cap a day of beach hopping.

Go and save for El Nido trip!

Look for seat sale and book a ticket! The Philippines is such a beautiful place, with nice beaches and people. But the experience in every travel is worth every penny. I will share to you how much it cost me to enjoy this wonderful creation:

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Thanks, El Nido! It was a blast! 🙂

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P.S. All photos do not have edits. See, ganda talaga sa El Nido!

No to Fear, Live a Courageous Life

Courage is such a big word. In the old times, it is included in the virtues one strong man must possess. Today, it can be consider as a precursor to success.

Each of us want to change the world, in our own little ways. But we are afraid to take the first step, or we are just clueless whether we’re old enough, good enough, willing enough? I myself have times when I question my capabilities, but through my journeys, I have learned that courage isn’t just being strong. There’s more to it. Let me share with you 5 insights I have learned through my journey:

1. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

I was just an innocent 21 year-old when I left my job in Malacanang. People might ask “Are you crazy? You are working for the President of the Philippines, then you’ll leave your job!” I know I wanted more. I was hungry for learning. I resigned from my office, packed my bags then flew to Seoul, South Korea to earn a Master’s Degree. Until know, I can’t thank God enough because that was the best decision I made after graduating from college. I didn’t just earn a degree, I learned to be independent, met great friends and I have widened my horizon.

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When I returned to the Philippines, I landed to another job in Malacanang. This time with Philippine Commission on Women, which was my dream job. I was working in the Policy division. When Yolanda hit the country, for unknown reasons I was so affected. I prayed to God is he is calling me to the field. He said Yes. After my contract ended, I resigned, packed my bags, then traveled to Tacloban and Borongan, Samar. It was somehow different w

ith my Korea trip, because I will be living in the Philippines’ third poorest region. I left the comforts of living in Metro Manila, then lived humbly in a small city away from home. But it was working in the communities, seeing lives changed that kept me going.

I have no regrets with those decisions.

2.    You cannot survive life, by yourself.

The most cliché’ saying “No man is an island.” I have proved it 101 %. I am blessed that God has brought people in my life to finish the race. One of my favorite movies, 3 Idiots, has helped us figure this out. The friendship that Rancho, Raju and Farhan have was something that helped them survived the challenges at school, and the greater challenges they faced outside school.

Our families are there to support us no matter what. Friends and spiritual family fight with us and finish the race with us. Cherish moments with them. Spend time to nourish relationships. Go beyond the simple “hi and hello”. Fight for your relationships.

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3.    Pursue what you love doing.

The biggest challenge we often face is to know what we really love to do. It is not something that we realize in an instant Eureka moment. It takes time. But we have to start looking for something that fulfills our purpose in life. I am grateful that early on, I was able to understand that fighting for women’s right is what I love to do, that providing a safe, fun and happy environment for women is what I can bring to make a dent in this world.

Pursue your simple passions – blogging, photography, art. I love checking museums and coffee shops when I travel. It can be as simple as that. Or as difficult as finding a career path. Whatever your passion may be, learn to know it and live for it.

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4.  Dream big. Act on it. Fight for it.

547445_10201994158114088_1479886025_nIn 2009, I applied for an internship with UNFPA to go to New York. I failed the application, I was not shortlisted. I forgot that I dreamed of going to the City that never sleeps.

Fast forward 2013, I was informed that I will be a delegate to represent my organization, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, guess where? New York!

I was too excited. Then came a challenge – applying for a visa. I want to share how miraculous God was. In less than a week, I got a US visa, granted multiple-entry! Wow.

As what Paulo Coelho on The Alchemist narrated: “And when you want something, the whole universe conspires for you to achieve it”

I was able to spend 2 weeks in New York, all expense paid. And not just that, I was able to represent the Philippines. I was the short Filipina who kept on speaking at events fighting for women’s rights.

I have more dreams. I will act on then and fight for them to come into reality.

5.    If there’s something in the world that you don’t like, CHANGE IT!

You know my pet peeve? Seeing a man shouting at his girlfriend/wife? I will never accept violence against women. No one should. We should stop blaming rape victims for what they wear being the reason to be raped. We should not discriminate the rights of girls to be educated. A child is to enjoy her education, and not be a bride.

Violence against women is pervasive in our society deeply rooted in patriarchal belief systems. It is abuse of power and human rights. I am doing every single act to advocate for women’s rights. Even by just being the voice for them.

I urge you to be advocates, for social change. It can be against corruption, or clean living. Each one of us has something in this world that we don’t like.

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Leo Tolstoy, a famous storyteller and a survivor of the holocaust said that “The Opposite of Love is not Hate, but Indifference”. I may say, the opposite of Courage is not cowardice, but Fear. We don’t act because we fear we might lose the game. But how can we start if we stay in the comfort zone, and forget that the world is a much bigger place.

And do not fear, because God, when He appoints us, He supports us all the way!

 

You can check the presentation I prepared in Prezi. Check it here.

Ideas that Matter 2015 focuses on Women Empowerment

Two weeks ago, I received an invitation from an organization called Ideas that Matter in University of Sto. Tomas, Manila. I was invited to be the guest of speaker for the topic “Woman of Courage.” Wow. They found my thesis online on political empowerment of women in the Philippines, and felt the importance of imparting to students the significance of women empowerment.

I prepared my talk last week, and I was just happy because things kept popping out of my head as I make a note for the talk. Then made a presentation using some of my personal photos. (I will share the text in my next blog).

So this morning, I went to UST to give a talk to students from the College of Fine Arts and Design. It was overwhelming to see a lot of them, but I was pumped up with their energies and passion. My talk went on for an hour, then some of them asked questions. One of the questions was “In simple terms, can you define women empowerment?”

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That was difficult because women empowerment is never simple. But it is through women empowerment that we can achieve gender equality, I shared. Women are discriminated in all sectors of society, from education to employment. It is critical that we fight for women’s rights as human rights. Empowering women can be as simple as giving us the platform to speak, to providing equal access to resources.

It was a great experience for me, sharing my life learnings in the short journey so far after graduation. I really hope they were inspired to hear from me how to be a “Woman of Courage.” Thanks UST Ideas that Matter. Sa uulitin!

 

P.S. I really love the token of appreciation from them. This happens when you get to talk with cool advertising students. 🙂

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