The Pacman Up Close

My small fist meets Pacman’s fist in this photo.

I had the chance to watch Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao shoot a TV commercial, then joined a small group of media people interview him up close.

Today, Manny Pacquiao seeks his 8th world boxing title against Antonio Margarito.

I blogged about my experience with the Pacman up close at my other blog, The Philippine Beat. Read all about my interview with him by clicking HERE.

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How to Survive the Boy Band Phase

Sorry, sorry, sorry…

That’s the most popular song of the equally popular boy band, Super Junior (Suju), which held a Super Show concert here in Manila last Saturday, April 10. Preteens, teens, young adults and not-so-young-anymore adults have been going gaga over them. My daughter C2 is no exception. She has their CDs, follows them intensely on Twitter, joined an Asian fan club, reads fan fiction, and many more things that get her excited when she talks about them.

Now this post is NOT about the Super Junior boys although I will get to them in a while. This is a tale of how I am surviving the boy band phase.

Flashback to several years ago.

It was the Taiwanese boy band, F4, and Meteor Garden then. I think all of you still remember that. Everyone was swooning over Jerry Yan, Vanness Wu, Ken Chu and Vic Chou. Meteor Garden was THE soap opera to follow then and I myself was caught up in its love story and drama. We even have the entire series in Mandarin with English subtitles (which the children claim is a whole lot better than the dubbed versions – I agree).

(from www.chinatownconnection.com)

Continue reading

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Kariton Klasrum’s Efren Penaflorida is CNN Hero for 2009!

CNN has just announced that Efren Penaflorida is CNN Hero of the Year (2009), besting 9 other finalists worldwide. From an original 9,000 nominations, CNN whittled the finalists down to 10 and today, the overall winner was chosen via online voting.

Here’s CNN’s video showing Efren accepting the award:

When Efren became one of the 10 finalists, he and the others received $25,000 each but with this feather in the cap, he gets an additional $100,000. The entire Philippines is so proud of you, Efren! Isa kang tunay na bayaning Pinoy!

I feel happy to have been part of those who actively voted for Efren as I totally believe in his Kariton Klasrum (Pushcart Classroom) and his goal to give street children an alternative to gang membership.

I blogged about Efren being a finalist and how to make him a hero. Then during the voting period, bloggers actively promoted the voting via their blogs and Twitter, Plurk and Facebook accounts; TV stations plugged the website where people could vote; emails began circulating to get more people to join in the voting. The mission — to get Efren declared as CNN Hero — became a Pinoy-led campaign.

All in all, 2.75 million votes were cast for Efren. Did they say how many of those went to him alone? I don’t know. Personally, I can’t count anymore the number of times I voted for him. In the beginning, I did it from the CNN site, one vote at a time, but towards the end of the voting period, I was alerted to a site where one could “power vote” (which enabled 10 tabs to open at the same time), thus speeding up one’s ability to vote. Thanks to being a touch-typist, I was able to power vote a lot of times. My very own contribution to Efren’s cause!

Here are a couple of links if you want to know more about Efren and his cause:

CNN’s backgrounder on Efren Penaflorida

Dynamic Teen Company (a group of young people following in the footsteps of Efren)

While it is true though that many Filipinos worldwide showed once again the bayanihan spirit in voting for Efren, it does not take away the fact that all these started because one person decided to make a difference. What seemed like an insurmountable obstacle gave way to a dream and perseverance.

Efren Penaflorida did not just talk about his goals for a better Philippines. He went right out and did it by pushing the kariton klasrum to where kids needed it. If only we could find more of his kind, sincere and dedicated to the betterment of the Filipino youth, the Philippines is sure to be on the road to progress. Efren Penaflorida literally WALKS HIS TALK.

How many of us can say the same?

Congratulations, Efren! You are not just CNN’s Hero. You are a hero to each and every Filipino wherever he is in the world.

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Goodbye, Tita Cory!

(by Bon Robert Astillo Luzon)

(by Bon Robert Astillo Luzon)

Pres. Corazon Aquino walked her talk.

In the history of Philippine presidents, she is the only one I know who did not seek the position, reluctantly assumed it, stayed faithful to her Presidential oath and to the Constitution, and willingly gave it up to her elected successor.

Yes, she was not always popular to everyone. The 7 coups under her Administration showed the restlessness of some military quarters. After she left government, she supported some issues that did not sit well with some people. Some thought the Cory magic was gone and questioned her moves.

But she proved that what is popular is not always right. She followed her intuition, guided by the Divine, and did what she thought was right. And I believe she has been vindicated. When the people first learned of her cancer last year, the entire nation prayed for her till the very end. And we all came out in droves, in the driving rain and heat, waited patiently in line for hours just to catch a 3-second glimpse of her, brought our children into the streets to hail her funeral cortege wherever it passed, and mourned her loss as though she were our very own mother. We embraced her family as though they were our own. And when they cried, we cried with them.

Tita Cory proved in the end that gentleness overpowers might. Everyone agrees she was the most honest President we have ever had. She never spoke about herself but always asked about others and clearly loved country and countrymen second only to God. As a civilian after her Administration, she continued her quest to better the lives of Filipinos via her microfinance endeavors. For her, uplifting the Filipino women who were home-based and who mostly had no livelihood means not only allowed them to augment their family income but also imbued these women with self-respect and self-esteem.

I have personal reasons for my own deep sense of loss at her passing:

– I was in the States around the time they were in exile and while I never met Ninoy as he made his campus tours, I did get to meet Charito Planas who was in exile with him and learned from her how they left the Philippines, how she coped with a meager livelihood there, and how they all longed to return one day.

– Ninoy was shot on my birthday. Every year since then, my birthday always took on a more somber atmosphere as I could not help recalling that day as the country commemorates his death.

– I was an active Namfrel Operation Quick Count volunteer (in the 1984 elections as well as in the 1986 snap elections). I sat at pre-election meetings with the Namfrel leadership including Joe Concepcion and Gus Lagman to work out the tabulation process (both automated and the manual backup system using CPA volunteers). I remember the days that stretched into nights as we took our duty turns at La Salle Greenhills. I was there when we heard stories of ballot snatching in precincts as well as accounts of cars parked outside LSGH that had paint splattered on them by unknown persons. I was present when Cardinal Sin, Senator Lugar (with his US observation team) and other dignitaries visited to take a look at our operations. I felt the sense of worth in what we were doing when the PICC tabulators walked out in disgust over the manipulation of electoral reports on their tally board which differed from their own tabulations.

– When EDSA 1 broke out, my siblings and I plus our Dad headed for EDSA to be one with the people. We had a tiny transistor radio with us as we monitored developments reported by Radyo Bandido.

On the evening of Aug. 1 (Saturday), my daughter and I tried to visit Tita Cory at LSGH but the hard rains and long lines that stretched from the gym all the way to Ortigas Ave. and beyond Gate 1 near EDSA prevented us from lining up, especially since I needed to be up early the next day. I was resigned to the fact I would have to just watch everything from my TV set.

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On Aug. 3 (Monday), I woke up early, checked my online messages, and found out that my blogger friend Noemi, who was in the media group at LSGH, had posted a message that public viewing was allowed before the 9 AM Mass (prior to the transfer to Manila Cathedral) and that THERE WERE NO LINES!

I literally jumped out of bed and into my clothes, rushed to LSGH, and true enough, breezed right through the gate. In 5 minutes, I was already in line with a few others to view Tita Cory.

Inside LSGH Gym

With Noemi

Falling in line to take one last look at Tita Cory

NAMFREL's 1986 tally board (lovingly preserved by the La Salle brothers) is displayed as one final tribute

NAMFREL's 1986 tally board (lovingly preserved by the La Salle brothers) is displayed as one final tribute

Then the following day, Aug. 4, I acted on a compulsion to visit EDSA Shrine. I bought a single yellow Carnation along the way, with a tiny card, and laid it at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Mother.

And as one final, loving tribute to the only President in recent history who, to my mind, truly loved and served this country the best way she could and without taking advantage of position or power, this is the view from my bedroom window:

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Goodbye, Tita Cory. Thank you for everything you have done for our country and for us individually. Rest now with our good Lord and with your beloved Ninoy. Continue to pray for and guide the Philippines. Mahal ka namin. Hindi ka namin makakalimutan. Sana lahat ng pinangarap mo at pinagdasal para sa ating bansa ay magkatotoo.

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Michael Jackson (1958-2009): Never Can Say Goodbye to the Man in the Mirror

An icon from my generation is gone. Michael Jackson died of apparent cardiac arrest at 2:26pm today (Los Angeles time). He was only 50.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s with Michael Jackson, I remember him as a tiny boy with a fantastic angelic voice that could hit all those high notes effortlessly. We used to watch him perform as part of the Jackson 5 (remember, this was a time when Janet Jackson was still non-existent in showbiz!). They had their own show and appeared in countless others.

J5era11

My younger years at parties (soirees as we called them then) and discos were filled with Michael Jackson dance songs. Rock With You was a favorite. So were Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough and Billie Jean.

Yes, over the years he changed so much physically and at the end, with his sharp nose and whitened skin, he looked nothing like the Michael of the 70s. People began speculating about his state of mind. But the appeal of his music through the decades did not wane.

His songs went beyond my generation. Our son, M1, who is only 17 years old, saved up his school allowance to be able to buy the Thriller album so he could put the songs on his ipod. Imagine the span of years here!

I have been listening to my collection of his songs on my ipod the whole day, with the TV tuned in to CNN as they covered the breaking news from all angles. I have not yet fully absorbed the impact of this news. Who could imagine this tragedy when he was planning a comeback with 50 shows in London this July?

There are sad stories about his life but I wish to remember Michael Jackson as the one who gave the whole world so many wonderful songs, patended the Moonwalk, and danced his way into all our hearts.

Michael, I wish you peace in God’s arms now. You will be sorely missed but you have left us so much music so that we can never, ever, forget you.

Here are a few YouTube videos to remember Michael by, singing some of my favorite songs.

And this is the best montage of Michael Jackson’s smooth dance moves that I could find. No one can dance like Michael can dance!!!

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Kenny Rankin (1940-2009)

Feb. 10, 1940-June 7, 2009 (courtesy of AP)

Feb. 10, 1940-June 7, 2009 (courtesy of AP)

Sad, sad news for me today.

I have my iTunes open now listening to all the songs in my music collection sang by Kenny Rankin, singer-songwriter, who passed away from lung cancer complications at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. His voice carried a certain timbre that was so suited to love songs and ballads. He will surely be missed by the music industry and music fans like me.

One of the most touching songs ever rendered by Kenny is this one which I found on YouTube. It so aptly describes how life should be lived by everyone. I hope that I could live my life according to the lyrics of this beautiful song.

What Matters Most

It’s not how long we held each other’s hand
What matters is how well we loved each other
It’s not how far we travelled on our way
Of what we found to say
It’s not the spring you see, but all the shades of green

It’s not how long I held you in my arms
What matters is how sweet the years together
It’s not how many summertimes we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.

It’s not how many summertimes we had to give to fall
The early morning smiles we tearfully recall
What matters most is that we loved at all.

What matters most is that we loved at all.

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