Tuesday, December 20, 2011

HELP for Typhoon Sendong Victims

THIS IS AN EMAIL BLAST FROM ATENEO DE MANILA UNIVERSITY. You don't need to be an alumnus to donate through Ateneo. Let's help the poor victims of typhoon who are left with NOTHING!


The Ateneo de Manila University through the DReaM Team (DisasterResponse and Management Team) and Simbahang Linkod ng Bayan respond to calls for assistance from various communities affected by natural calamities. Today, it is making a call for donations on behalf of the victims of typhoon Sendong, which has left at least 500 people dead and more missing. As in typhoon Ondoy, which two years ago flooded areas around the Ateneo de Manila Katipunan Campus, Sendong also hit close to home, with Cagayan de Oro City, home to Xavier University, among the areas worst affected by flash floods.

Your usual generous support is much appreciated. This time, donations in cash or check will be sent to the group coordinators on the ground to purchase the needed items in the vicinity of the affected sites. You may bring your cash and check donations to the Xavier Hall from 9:00 am to 10:30 pm. The booth will be open until December 23, the end of Simbang Gabi.

Other Channels of giving in Philippines pesos from within the Philippines

The Bills Payment facility of Metrobank at any branch
Donor fills out two copies of the Payment Slip and indicates the following details:

Company name: Ateneo de Manila University
Subscriber Name: name of donor as will appear in the Ateneo official receipt
Reference Number: DREAM Team
Subscriber number: 002
Mode of payment: Indicate whether cash or check
Amount of payment: indicate Php amount.

Giving checks or cash directly to the Ateneo
For checks, pay to the Order of Ateneo de Manila University FAO DReaM Team and addressed to Dr. Edna P. Franco, Vice President for Administration and Planning, Xavier Hall 2F, Ateneo de Manila University, Katipunan Avenue, Loyola Heights, Quezon City 1108. Please indicate donor's name and address so that an official receipt can be sent to the donor.

For donations in US Dollars, a wire transfer can be made via China Bank with the following details:

Beneficiary Customer: Ateneo de Manila University;
US$ S/A Account No. 101-732651-4
Beneficiary Bank: 803-3278-269; China Banking Corporation; Manila, Philippines;
Swift Address: CHBKPHMM

To deposit directly to Xavier University, you may deposit through their BPI Account:
Company name: Xavier University
Account #: 9331-0133-63
Branch: CDO, Divisoria Branch Account

For those who wish to donate in kind, you may bring the following to the Ateneo School of Government at the Socio-Development Complex:

  • Personal Hygiene pack:
    o Toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, shampoo, handsantizers,
  • Footwear
  • Clothes
  • Blankets

Sunday, November 6, 2011

There Be Dragons

For the first time, I am blogging about a movie. Not because I have anything to do with it, but because I think it’s truly entertaining, educational and at the same time, very inspiring!

Thanks to the persistence of my mom, I found myself watching an advanced screening of THERE BE DRAGONS last October 1 at the Mall of Asia sponsored by Educhild.

The title sounded a bit weird to me having been told earlier that the movie revolves around the life of a saint. His name is St. Josemaria Escriva, who was named by Blessed John Paul II as "the saint of the ordinary." As I have mentioned in passing in a previous blog, I have some sort of devotion to him since I strongly agree with his mantra: that we don’t have to do ‘great’ things in order to become saints but rather we must find God in the simplest and most ordinary events in our lives.

I found out later that the title was given to unknown lands in the olden times that were yet unexplored and where dragons may be found, figuratively speaking. The movie revolves around the life of Josemaria and his childhood friend, a fictional character named Manolo. In the movie, you will see Josemaria persistently trying to fulfill his mission in the midst of a violent and dangerous Spanish civil war during the 1930s.

I do not intend to give away the story in this blog. You may get a synopsis of it and watch the trailer at dragons.ph. I invite you to watch the movie yourself and experience what I felt watching it for the first time.

Honestly, I thought the movie would be quite dragging as lives of saints are usually portrayed as very pious, where it is easy to guess what comes next. Apparently, there were a lot of twists and turns in the story. The cinematography was excellent as well and I enjoyed the war scenes too!

One of my favorite scenes was when Josemaria’s friends surprised him with a birthday cake and entertained themselves with his worn-out shoes. It’s very touching how people can be genuinely happy with such simple pleasures in life despite being poor.


Here are some of the values that can be seen and reflected upon from the film.

Timelessness of friendship. Josemaria exemplified what could be the highest form of friendship -- that of giving without expecting anything in return, only wanting the best for your friend: God. Josemaria and Manolo started to take completely different paths after their seminary days where they were shown exchanging punches. Josemaria became a priest and Manolo a spy. But in spite of Manolo's animosity, Josemaria tried his best to keep their friendship. He would write him at least once a year until his death, although Manolo never replied. When Manolo's father died, Josemaria came to console him. Although Manolo gave him a cold shoulder, he kept his hope by giving him a Rosary. Watch out what happens with that Rosary!

Spirit of poverty. Both Josemaria and Manolo had rich families. But the business of Josemaria's dad went bankrupt. Because of that, Manolo's dad told him to keep away from Josemaria. The apparent poverty in the Escriva family only made Josemaria get closer to his dad, while Manolo's dad did not seem to find time for him. Josemaria's parents taught him not to base his happiness on material things but to place his heart on God, who is the source of true happiness. He brought this spirit with him when he founded Opus Dei and taught those who followed him the joy of being poor with his example. The short scene showing Josemaria looking for a pair of shoes while an old woman was eyeing a hat was particularly moving and telling of this spirit.

Strength of faith in God to pursue a mission. It was rather striking how an agnostic like Roland Joffe captured the faith of Josemaria. He said that he actually turned down the offer to do this movie until he chanced upon a DVD showing the real Josemaria talking to a young Jewish lady wanting to convert to Christianity. He advised her to be obedient to her parents and confessed to her that his first love is a Jew, Jesus, and his second is a Jewess, Mary. The open-minded, charitable and amiable character of Josemaria, which was rather different from the way he was being portrayed by some people, captured him and perhaps we could say, changed him. He began to research more about his life and wrote the script himself. He did a great job of capturing the faith of Josemaria which the saint himself described to be so thick that you can cut it with a knife. Josemaria believed that faith is a gift from God, and that could have given him all the strength he needed to pursue his mission in spite of the war, and the apparent opposition from "good people" who thought he was crazy founding Opus Dei.

Miracle of forgiveness. It is amusing how forgiving another person can be truly liberating. Try to follow how this "miracle of forgiveness" ensued between the lives of Manolo and his son, Roberto.

Towards the end of the film, I noticed that some of the people around me were moved to tears. Obviously, they were touched be the scenes in the movie. I felt inspired too, that’s why I decided to write about the movie in this blog.

Hopefully you guys can catch it too! Best if you can bring your friends and family. If your intention is to watch something entertaining and educational, I think this is a perfect movie to watch. At the same time, it can be your apostolate work to bring a friend to watch and hopefully be ‘inspired’ or ‘converted’. You don’t have to be all preachy. Let the movie do the talking.


It will be showing in six cinemas in Metro Manila from November 9 to 15: Trinoma, SM North, SM Megamall, Greenbelt 4, SM South Mall and South Festival Mall. Try liking their Facebook fan page here to be updated on its provincial release.

See you at the cinemas!


Monday, October 3, 2011


Hello there!

We are all aware of the devastation left by Typhoons Pedring and Quiel. And I'm sure most of you guys would like to help our fellow Filipinos who have been badly affected by these two typhoons. To those who are unaware of how to help but would like to help, I've compiled some information on how you can help by donating or volunteering via HABITAT FOR HUMANITY and WORLD VISION. Feel free to spread this with your friends, schoolmates, officemates!!


World Vision is carrying emergency aid to areas in Manila, Malabon, Isabela, Bulacan & Zambales. WV has identified 32,800 families who badly need assistance. WV teams have begun distributing food & non-food items to these areas. WV is still accepting cash and in-kind donations such as:

canned goods
bottled water

plastic basins
hygiene kits
school supplies

Bank deposits:
BPI acct # 4251-0024-15
Banco de Oro acct # 2700-4341-1
PSBank acct # 038-33200013-8
Metrobank acct # 060-7060-5186-41

Please fax deposit slips with name on it, along with the downloadable donation form to 374-7660 or email to wv_phil@wvi.org

You may send your goods donations to the World Vision office, 389 Quezon Ave, corner West 6th street, West Triangle, Quezon City.

You may text or call 0917-823-7277 for additional info. Or visit www.worldvision.org.ph


Habitat is collecting the following:

water dippers
walis tingting

Or cash donation for shelter repair kits for Navotas, Malabon, Bicol, etc.

For goods donations, you may send them to Habitat for Humanity office at 3rd floor, 111 Paseo Condo Building, 111 Paseo de Roxas corner Legaspi Street, Makati.

For cash donations, you can deposit to BPI Checking acct # 2421-0014-67. Acct name Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation Inc. or send to the office as well. Official receipts will be issued.

Some of us here in Metro Manila may not be aware of the magnitude of the damage caused by these typhoons. I've posted some photos to show how terrible the situation is. Help is badly needed!! Each tiny donation can certainly make a difference! Let's start with ourselves!

Thank you so much!!


*Photos taken online from Sunstar & Tempo

Friday, September 30, 2011

My Reflections on the FIBA Asia (Part 2)


We are very grateful and lucky to have Coach Rajko. There is no question that the new 'system' he has introduced to Philippine basketball has been effective both offensively and defensively, and it suits the international game. Of course, nobody is perfect but Coach Rajko is an extremely clever guy. Respected national coaches from other teams would go up to me and tell me how lucky we are to have Rajko as our coach. And more than the X and O's that he has taught us, for me, his biggest contribution is the non-negotiable values that he instills upon the team. "Work as hard and as HONEST as you can!" Those are his famous words. Even if he seldom smiles, I suppose this is the reason why he is so loved by the Filipino fans. It's tough to be a coach, there are many other 'experts' especially when you lose a game. But I cannot forget what he told us, "Even if I will be digging my own grave, I will continue to do what I believe is the right thing to do!" That's why we players have utmost respect for the guy.

What got me more emotional after the Korea game was when Coach started saying goodbye to the team and to the Philippines in the locker room. I remember in our first team building session 2 years ago, we played a game where each team member has to give one chip to just one person he trusts the most in the team. Many of us gave our chips to Coach Rajko. Coach Rajko gave me his chip. I cannot forget that. And now I feel like I've let him down.

For bringing Philippine basketball to another level, we must give utmost appreciation to Coach Rajko. And we have to admit, sometimes he is even 'more Filipino' than some of us through his sacrifice and dedication towards the improvement of Philippine basketball. At this moment, his status is uncertain but he already has bigger offers internationally and he will not have problems finding another job. That's for sure. Wherever he goes next, I wish him well. I think what he needs to do is to rest and take care of his health first and foremost.


Throughout the tournament, I prayed the rosary every night. I've been reading a book of homilies (I'll talk about it in another entry). I spoke to God more than I usually do because I have more idle time when I'm abroad, which should not be the case though. We should make an effort to pray and talk to God as much as we can despite our busy schedules. After the loss, again I prayed for answers.

I remember what Jimmy (Alapag) told me after the game when I was feeling bad, "Making it to the final 4 is a huge step already. We cannot just expect to win the Gold overnight. It's a step by step process."

Then I thought about they way we lost to Korea, it was an unreal game! Like a divine hand had something to do with it. God is telling us something. Despite being unlucky in the last two games, He showed us throughout the tournament that we are very competitive with all the teams who participated, including the top teams that finished ahead of us. I believe it is His way of telling us that "you are a good team, but it is not your time yet. You must first fine tune and resolve all your divisions and differences! " God is a good God and He has a purpose for everything. It just wasn't meant to be yet.

I'm very very thankful to be given this rare opportunity to represent the country for the past 2+ years! It's truly a big big honor! It's both fun and painful but all worth it!

I'd also like to honor my teammates who have sacrificed tremendously for the country and poured their hearts out during the games, whether or not there's a lot at stake. It's been so much fun playing with some of the best players in the country, not to mention great guys as well. It's sad that we will have to part ways after years of practicing, traveling & competing in tough games together but I know they will make wonders for their respective teams in the PBA and I wish them all the best!

I believe in destiny, but for now, making it to the London Olympics wasn't meant to be. Sooner or later, I strongly believe that the Philippines will regain its top spot in Asian basketball. We saw how close we are. We just got to keep working towards that goal, together! I hope I will still be actively playing when that happens. But for now, life must go on and we have to keep getting better. 2013 is not so far away.

Once again, a super big THANK YOU to all of you for your unwavering love and support for the team!! You certainly keep us inspired! GO PILIPINAS! :)


P.S. After the heartbreaking loss to Korea, I bumped into Coach Baldwin of Jordan in the hotel lobby. He gave me a big hug and he said such simple yet wonderful words that hit the spot and I'd like to share it to you guys because it can be applied to all. He said "This is just the first of many more tougher games you will experience in life. Just remember to be the best player that you can be. More importantly, be the best person that you can be. Hold on to those two things and you will be fine."

My Reflections on the FIBA Asia (Part 1)

It's so ironic how I wrote about 'grabbing opportunities that come your way' in one of my recent posts. We just missed an opportunity of a lifetime for Philippine basketball. Our recent 4th place finish in the FIBA Asia, which was held in Wuhan China, drew mixed emotions. On one hand, it was a great success because the team was able to make it to the Final 4 quite convincingly after a series of victories against UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Japan and Syria in the elimination round and against Chinese Taipei in the Quarterfinals. Basketball experts say the top 4 finish hasn't been done in 20 something years and probably the best finish since the emergence of the middle eastern nations. But after the quarterfinals, horror began!

I talked about painful losses, but the wounds of this one will take a lifetime to heal. I thought I'd somehow get used to dealing with lost games/tournaments but this one is just the most painful and most difficult.


The loss against Jordan in the semifinals was tough and painful, but nothing compared to the one against Korea. Jordan is a tall, experienced and skilled team, not to mention they have Coach Baldwin whom I truly respect not only because of his ingenuity and professionalism inside the hardcourt but also his kind, humble and friendly personality off the court. Those who closely followed the FIBA Asia would know that Iran (ranked #1 in the QF) was the clear favorite to make it to the finals, and we knew that if we can get pass Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals, that we would have to face a huge road block , which is Iran. Having included Kazemi in their lineup, Iran has never fielded a stronger team. But guess what, they were upset by Jordan in the quarterfinals. When we heard this, we suddenly saw a crack in the door leading up to the Olympics. This was because we knew we would match up better with Jordan than Iran and that we've defeated them several times in prior games including that in the elims.

Unfortunately, the Jordanians were very focused and they did their scouting homework excellently , causing us to lose our offensive fluidity, as a result of their switching man-zone defenses. I will not expound on the details anymore. Basically, they deserved to win that game.


In the game against Korea for the bronze medal, it was pretty much a won game for us until the dying minutes of the 4th quarter where Korea got their shooting confidence. One layup or a pair of free throws would have put our lead up to 12 or 14 points coming into the last 5 minutes of the game and that would have been enough to put the Koreans away. But no, instead, they brought the lead down to single digits and it gave them hope until they finally found their shooting stroke and ended up winning by 2 points! That shocking game for us will be recorded as one of the greatest comebacks in the Korean history books.

What makes it more painful, was that we had everything going our way. From the body language of both teams at the beginning of the game, our players were more energetic, motivated and clearly wanted the win more. Korea had an 8pm game the night before and they look very tired. Our defense made them miss a lot of shots throughout the game, but they also missed 3 or 4 point blank layups in the 1st quarter. Some of their key players were even injured. Everything was going right for us until the unexpected happened! We were stunned!


One of the main reasons why I felt some regret is because we missed a golden chance to place ourselves in the history books by at least bringing home a medal for the country. That hasn't been done in decades, not even by some of our basketball idols. We had it in the palm of our hands but somehow it slipped away.

I have to admit that the Pinoy fans have been extremely supportive and appreciative of the result but still there's that feeling of disappointment that we could have made them even more proud, knowing that the Philippines is still a basketball-crazy nation! It was so close. We've been receiving very supportive and appreciative messages on twitter, and since we got back, right when we stepped off the plane or wherever I go, people would go up to me and congratulate me for a job well done but there's always that expression of 'Sayang!' whether explicitly said or not. You can see it through their faces.


But more than all that, the main reason why I felt disappointed not winning the Gold or any medal at that is because I wanted the Gilas team to prove something to the nation. Something that can truly inspire us to dream beyond our imagination. From the very beginning, only a handful of people believed in the program. Many people laughed when we said we were aiming for the Olympics. Some said that the Philippines should forget about basketball and focus on other sports since basketball is a big man's game and we Filipinos obviously don't have the height. But this gave us motivation, the reason why we wanted to succeed so badly is not for any personal glory but because we wanted to inspire the millions of Filipinos that tasks like this that seem impossible can be achieved despite the odds. We, Pinoys are often underdogs. We live in deep poverty, but if we first BELIEVE, then through extreme hard work, cooperation, sacrifice and dedication, nothing is impossible!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Quick update on Gilas at the FIBA Asia

Hello there,

The team arrived here in Wuhan close to midnight last night (Tuesday). It was an extremely long trip which got delayed further. From 4:30am at NAIA1, we finally got to our hotel rooms at 11pm. Connecting flight in Beijing got delayed. We spent almost 8 hours in the Beijing airport, which i used to finally write my blog below about the NBA experience. It felt like we traveled all the way to Europe when in fact, Wuhan is just an hour plane ride west of Shanghai. That wasn't it. We had to get up at 7am this morning for our 9am practice schedule. Anyway, we got to rest in the afternoon.

Team spirit is okay. We are all excited to play! We play UAE tomorrow (Thurs) then China on Friday, then Bahrain on Saturday. Games should be televised live in Manila through BTV & AKTV.

I'll try to keep you posted on any developments through this blog since twitter, FB and other social networking sites are blocked here in China.

Again, thank you so much for your continued support and prayers!!

Let's go Philippines!


Gilas vs NBA Stars in Manila

It's been more than a month since the NBA superstars gave the Filipino basketball fans an experience of a lifetime. Until today, random people would go up to me asking how it felt to play against Kobe, D-Rose, Durant, CP3 and the rest of the gang. They were super excited to hear what it was like guarding Kobe and them so I promised to blog about it. As a matter of fact, the sports editors of a major daily were too excited and mistakenly placed my name as an author of a reflection wrote by my brother, Charles, about the Smart-NBA experience that was published after the game. I think they forgot that he is a member of our coaching staff that's why he wrote his experience using the first person point of view. Anyway, my memory of that day is still very vivid and I'm sure the same goes for those who caught the game. Hope this blog isn't too late.

For those who were able to watch the game live, no doubt it was an unbelievable experience!! For me, and I can speak for most if not all of my teammates, it was a surreal experience! It was a like a dream come true of a dream we never even dreamt of! Am i making sense? It was like bringing over the starting 5 of the US national team. That night after the game, I was checking out the photos of the game over the internet and just sitting in my bed thinking 'did this really happen??'.

Some might not understand how big a deal it is for us basketball players. If you were a fan of pop music, it was like performing on stage or jamming alongside your pop idols Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber. If you were a soccer fan, it was like playing against David Beckham, Christiano Ronaldo or Messi. You get the point.

I first heard about this game when they informed us, the Gilas team, that our mini Europe pocket tournament in July will not push through due to injuries and lack of players in our team. But instead, they are arranging a game with a selection of NBA stars in Manila to prepare for the Fiba Asia. I thought it was a long shot! Initially, we heard rumors that Kobe wasn't coming, then Durant wasn't coming, Blake Griffin was coming, this and that. Eventually, the lineup was final. Kobe, D-Rose, Durant, CP3, Tyreke Evans, McGee, Derek Fisher, James Harden, Derek Williams. Wow! Friends who never followed basketball in their lifetime suddenly would be texting me asking for tickets. It became THE event to be in.

Game day

In the locker room of the newly inaugurated Smart Araneta Coliseum, Coach Rajko reminded us that no one is allowed to bring phones, cameras nor pentel pens to the court. No picture taking, no autograph signing… NO RESPECT until after the game! He emphasized that this is not an 'all-star game' but rather it was a tune-up game for Gilas as part of our preparation for FIBA Asia. He wanted the sold-out Araneta crowd, who paid thousands of pesos per ticket, to enjoy seeing their NBA idols but at the same time, appreciate a competitive and serious game.

Coach Rajko then assigns the match ups like he normally does before a game. "Mark (Barroca), get Chris Paul. Chris Tiu, you take Derek Rose. Chris Lutz, Kevin Durant. Marcus, take McGee. Japeth, guard Kobe." Honestly, when I heard that, I wasn't sure if i was dreaming. Did I hear right? Never in my lifetime did I think of guarding D-Rose, the reigning MVP.

During the game, luckily, I had the chance to guard everyone because of the switches in matchup. Most of the time, I was guarding Kobe. I didn't mind at all since I liked the challenge but mostly because I knew I would have a lot of souvenir photos after the game. He is just so big, strong and heavy, and yet he had the quickness, precision and creativity to beat you using one of his million moves. D-rose and Cp3 are extremely quick and shifty but I just kept in mind what one of our coaches tipped me when guarding them, "don't go for the fake, just stay in front and make them shoot over you" .

Durant has unbelievable handles for a 6'11 guy. McGee is soooo long plus he got the "hops". In fact, I was 'posterized' in the dying minutes, with his statue of liberty dunk from close to the free throw line.

Post game

We lost the game by 8 points. It wasn't a bad result for us. Before the game, I already conditioned myself to think that I was not going to get any autograph nor photo with the NBA guys due to strict security measures. I usually do that so i don't get disappointed. But by good fortune, we had a great opportunity to mingle with them briefly inside the court after the game. Since I wasn't prepared, I took off my only piece of clothing that was dry, my Adizero Crazy-light shoe and had each of the big 4 sign it on each side.

And to cap it off, I got a photo with Kobe , thanks to kuya Marcus (Douthit), who happened to be his former teammate with the Lakers. In exchange, I got Pacman (who happened to be with us at ringside) to sign his jersey. He was ecstatic!

Go Gilas

The NBA All-stars led by as many as 20 points during the game. From the very start of the game, the jam-packed Araneta crowd would erupt in excitement and enthusiasm every time their idols would score or make a highlight play.They were like playing at home. Gilas felt like the away team. But unexpectedly during the 4th quarter, there was a sudden shift in emotion. This was the moment that touched and moved me the most. When we cut their lead down to single digits, suddenly the 20,000+ people in the stadium were chanting "defense, defense!" when they had possession. And each time Gilas would score, there was a roaring cheer! I got goosebumps. Until that time, I never felt that kind of support and loyalty towards the national team in years. In our PBA stint, we even got boo-ed occasionally. At least vs the NBA guys, we got cheers! It really made me feel proud to be a member of the
national team.

Thank you

Hats off to MVP and the people behind the MVP foundation for making this happen! This event brought basketball entertainment to another level for the Pinoy fans. Hopefully it will inspire more Filipinos to follow and appreciate the sport, both locally and internationally. For me personally, I'm very grateful to the Lord for making this once in a lifetime opportunity happen. If I had not been a member of Gilas at the right place and time, this would have not happened for me. It will be a story I can indeed share to my kids and my grandkids.

To the young kids out there, make sure to dream big and work towards that dream! Be the best that you can be in your field. You will never know when that big break or once in a lifetime opportunity will pass you by, and you got to be ready when that happens! Just enjoy what you do and keep working hard for God's glory. You can't go wrong. All the best!



P.S. Thank you to Tito Philip Sison for the photos

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hello, Singapore!!

First of all, I'd like to thank you all for the very supportive and encouraging messages that you've expressed to me & the Gilas team. It certainly gives us motivation to compete knowing that you are all behind us and that you appreciate our efforts in trying to win for our country. But for now, let's take a break from basketball.

This entry is long overdue. But I felt that it's not too late to write something about my last two trips to Singapore since they have been quite an experience for me.

Let's talk first about my trip last July 2010. The sole purpose of this trip was to catch Jay Chou's "The Era" Concert tour. (Unfortunately, he doesn't have a significant following enough for him to come to Manila) I've been waiting to watch him perform live and this was the perfect chance since we were given a week off from Gilas training after competing in the Jones Cup in Taipei. Wait, there's a little problem though, tickets for the 'decent' seat sections were already sold out AND it would fall right smack in conflict with the Ateneo - La Salle UAAP game. But I said to myself, this would be a dream come true and a once in a lifetime experience! So i exhausted all means to find 'good seats'. And i did. I got 2 tickets about 20 rows away from the stage and i knew these were not bad at all. I was quite familiar with the Singapore Indoor Stadium because we've played against the Singapore Slingers there several times before with Gilas and previously when I played with the RP Harbour Center team which competed in the 2007 SEA games.

Anyway, i went with my cousin Les who was a big Jay fan as well. We went for 3 days and 2 nights and stayed at the Fairmont hotel because we were able to get a great deal. What got us even more excited was when one of the hotel staff revealed to us that Jay Chou was staying in the Swissotel, which was literally beside our hotel and they even had an indoor connection to get from one hotel to the other. Despite having a huge fan base in Singapore, I was surprised not to see any fan girls waiting at the lobby to catch a glimpse of Jay or to have their posters signed. Maybe its a cultural thing, Singaporeans are more behaved and they don't stalk as much we do?

That's our hotel and the Swissotel right beside it.

Check out the view from my room. You can see the majestic Marina Bay Sands and the rest of the skyline.

That's the view from my room. Apparently, they were having rehearsals for their independence day celebration that's why there were tanks. Pretty cool actually! They were firing deafening canon shots too!

Concert was amazing! Production was very extravagant with lots of laser and LED lights. Jay's performance was excellent as expected. Towards the middle of the concert, we decided to walk closer to the stage and stand along the aisle to get a better view. And to our amazement, the locals were very kind and friendly to let us through. I expected it to be much more difficult to make your way through crazy fan girls. I knew all his songs so I really enjoyed the show! In fact, I decided to watch him a second time in Malaysia! Hehe! After the concert, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jay leaving the hotel with his entourage. He is smaller than i thought. (Hey, for the record, we didn't stalk him ok? We were just having a few drinks at the hotel lobby when he passed by :) )

Aside from the concert, we also took time out to enjoy the city and most especially, the food! It was here where I tried my very FIRST Happy Lemon drink, at the food court of Ion mall located at the basement. My first Happy Lemon drink, Lemon Yogurt w/ Aloe! I loved it instantly! Very refreshing!

For dinner, my cousin Dexter, who was working with P&G Singapore at that time, took us to this hawker place called Melbens, which served great Singaporean Chilly crab. Not many tourists, mostly locals. Nothing too fancy. No aircon. A must-try if you want authentic Singaporean food.

For Hainanese chicken lovers, you must go to Wee Nam Kee. The place was just so packed and the queue was so long. I love Hainanese chicken! I've tried the Wee Nam Kee in Manila at the Ayala Triangle Park. Not too bad, price is reasonable as well.

We also walked around little India. And just nearby, there's this little street called Haji lane with lots of quaint shops and cafes. We grabbed some homemade ice cream in this place called Pluck. They also have some cute souvenir / specialty items, which the girls loved of course.

Of course we couldn't afford to miss the hyped-up Marina Bay Sands. Its grandeur was overwhelming! By the way, make sure to bring your passports if you want to enter the casino.

My next trip to Singapore was in April of this year for the Adidas Sports Style Fashion show. For the first time in Adidas history, the five labels under adidas Sports Style (Y3, Porsche Design Sport, SLVR, NEO, Originals), including adidas by Stella McCartney were presented on the same stage. The event was held at the Ngee Ann City Civic Plaza along Orchard Road. It was a regional event with the other Southeast Asian nations taking part in the show as well. Each country had 1 endorser representative, except for Singapore which had several since they were the hosts.

Believe it or not, I had to be a ramp model for a night. Not really my thing. Thanks to Adidas Philippines, I finally did my first catwalk after almost 5 years! It was a very exclusive event though, mostly for media and retail partners.

Here I am modeling the NEO line , which was a very colorful collection targeted mainly for the young ones! It was very casual and I had fun doing it! The best part was getting to meet the other endorsers like former Miss Universe Natalie Glebova (Thailand), Carmen Soo (Malaysia), Aqi of Alexa band (Indonesia) , and various Singaporean personalities. All very accomplished in their own fields!

Here's a photo of my cousin, friend and my mom who accompanied me as my chaperone. (Yeah I know, she looks like my sister alright! She gets that a lot!)

We were all checked in at the Grand Park Orchard just across the venue. Not a bad hotel too, very modern. After the event, we had an after-party at the Boathouse, just across the Fullerton hotel. Great night view of the bay and the night lights of the buildings at the background. Then, we decided to check out Kudeta, a bar by the boat-shaped structure on the roof deck of the Marina Bay Sands. The view was just beautiful! If you just want to have a chill night with a great view of the city, I suggest you check out Kudeta. If you're a hotel guest, you can also take a dip there in the infinity pool next to the lounge. Too bad I didn't get to take a photo.
That's me, Carmen, Tessa Prieto, Natalie and Bruce, a popular architect from Singapore who also did the catwalk.

Unfortunately, we had to leave for Manila first thing the following morning so I could make it on time for training, as we were in the middle of the PBA conference where Gilas joined as a guest team.

I always look forward to visiting Singapore whether for work or for vacation. There are many reasons why I love it! First, I can practice my Chinese with the locals but at the same time, they can also speak and understand English when I'm having a shortage of Chinese words. Plus, it is very convenient to get around. Aside from the excellent food, I'm really impressed with the discipline and drive of the people, its cleanliness and efficiency. I guess that's why they have become a first world 'Tiger' nation. I'm sure we Filipinos can assimilate these traits into our culture as well in order for us to move forward.

Anyway, that's it for now. Until next time, Singapore! Byebye 'La'!


P.S. Thanks to my cousin Macy for the fashion show photos! Rest of the photos were from my digicam. All photos were compressed for easy upload.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

22nd FIBA Asia Champions Cup

Hi there friends, some info you might want to know about the FIBA Asia Champions Cup from May 28 to June 05, 2011 held here in Manila.

Participating Teams:

Group A

Jordan (ASU)
Malaysia (WKL Dragons)
Iraq (Duhok)
Saudi Arabia (Al Ittihad)
Philippines (Smart Gilas)

Group B

Lebanon (Al Riyadi)
Qatar (Al Rayyan)
UAE (Al Shabab)
I.R. Iran (Mahram)
Syria (AL Jalaa)

Elimination Games Schedule for Smart Gilas Pilipinas: (Games will be held at Ultra in Pasig)
May 28 (Sat) 6pm vs Saudi Arabia
May 29 (Sun) 6pm vs Malaysia
May31 (Mon) 8pm vs Iraq
June 1 (wed) 8pm vs Jordan

Single round robin for each group. Top 4 teams from each group advance. Quarterfinals is a knockout crossover between 1vs4 & 2vs3 teams. Winners advance to the semis. Winners of semis advance to the finals. All games starting quarterfinals are knockout games.

You can purchase tickets at any SM ticketnet branch. Or you can call 4702222 for information. Ticket prices are not more than P250. Hurry because tickets are running out!

TV Coverage:
Live on IBC13

I'd like to personally invite all you Filipino basketball fans to come and support your National Team! This is a very rare chance to watch a very prestigious FIBA tournament like this LIVE! The middle eastern teams will be bringing most of their national team players plus 2 imports. Teams to watch out for are Iran, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, Jordan, but most especially the first two. Iran has won this tournament back to back in Jakarta (2009) & Qatar (2010) and their core players (Afagh, Kamrani, Samad Nikkah Bahrami) will be coming as well. Lebanon will be bring their national team players as well plus 7'2 ex-NBA Loren Woods. The legendary Fadi El Khatib & Egyptian star Ishmael are in the lineup too but i don't know if they will play. So that should be very exciting! Very high level of basketball.

This is the best chance for us to unite as one nation and cheer for country! See you guys at the games :)


P.S. This is not yet the Olympic qualifier. The Olympic qualifier, which is the FIBA ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP, will be held in September in Wuhan, China.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gilas Pilipinas in the PBA

It's always difficult to sleep after losing a game because of all these random thoughts and undesirable memories of the game, more so being eliminated from a possible finals appearance. And since many of you requested, I decided to just blog.

First, I'd like to thank all those who shared their very positive comments on my previous blog entry entitled 'A Moment of Conversion'. It's been a while since i received so many comments, partly I guess because most chose to send me a message through twitter. It would be great if you can post your comments through this blogspot so that others may read them as well. This can be part of your apostolate :)

Now , let's move on to basketball... (Warning: Do not continue reading if you are not a Gilas, Ginebra or Philippine basketball fan)

I never thought I would again feel the similar pain from a loss experienced during my UAAP days playing for Ateneo, but apparently I am wrong. The 3 most painful defeats in my post-college career with the National Team Gilas Pilipinas are the 2010 Dubai International (losing to Lebanon in the semis), 2010 Asian Games (bowing out in the quarters to Korea) and to my surprise , this 2011 PBA Commissioners Cup (to Ginebra in Game 4).

I'm sure many of you might be surprised as well, thinking that Gilas is only a guest team in the tournament and this is only a domestic commercial tournament. True... but I guess the primary reason is because we wanted to win so bad and we knew we could have done so if we played better and more consistently down the stretch, especially in the semis. And for me personally, I may never get another chance to win a PBA Championship.

Why did we want to win so bad? Of course there's always that competitive spirit in us to be the best team out there. But really, we wanted to earn the support and approval of the entire basketball community and Filipino basketball fans that Gilas is worthy indeed to represent our country in the FIBA tournaments. Actually, some experts tell us that we've overachieved already, but honestly, I beg to disagree because I know what the team is really capable of doing.

We had a great run in the eliminations , with a record of 7-2 , finishing top 2 and earning the outright semis berth. Both losses were in overtime and lacking in manpower. 1 more win could have changed the story, but that's done.

Semifinals vs Ginebra

Unfortunately in the semis, we had to face a very formidable team with a good mix of veteran superstars, solid role players, an excellent import and a smart coaching staff. Not to mention that they have the biggest, most loyal set of supporters and that's where they draw their strength from. It was a very physical and rough series, no question. They made sure that we knew who the real veterans were inside the court. Their coaching staff knew exactly what they wanted to do, stay home with the wingmen and risk the outside shots from our big men. But anyway, I don't want to talk about the technical aspects too much. Who knows, we might face them again.

I haven't watched the replay of Game 4, but I remember we played well and had control of the game for around 27 minutes and led by as much as 15 points. Then all of a sudden, we didn't know what hit us. Poor defense, execution and rebounding led to easy fast break points and 3 pointers. In short, they played excellent and we didn't. This is when the loss in Game 1 will haunt you. We should have closed out that game better. It would have changed the complexion of the series.

But anyway, as the old wise men would say, learn from it! The PBA is our training ground in preparation for the ultimate goal for the Olympic qualifier this September in Wu Han, China. For sure, we have learned a lot of new tactics in our stint here in addition to being mentally tough and playing with a lot of poise when the games were getting 'heated'.

Thank You

I mentioned this through my twitter account, but once again I'd like to thank all Team Pilipinas supporters who followed and cheered for us in the game venues, at home or even in foreign countries via FB or livestreaming links! Through your words of encouragement & support via twitter or through other means, it is much easier to move on and keep fighting knowing that you're there behind us, win or lose! Sabi niyo nga, it's not always about winning. What's most important is that we display unselfishness, class and sportsmanship, while playing our HEARTS out! And... offer everything up to God, who is the source of all our talents & blessings (I think this beautiful reminder extends outside of sports and applies to everyone of us in whatever field)

To the PBA, a big thank you for this learning experience! But more importantly, thank you for bringing the National team closer to the Filipino people! Most of our games are abroad and not many Filipinos get to watch the team compete until now. In fact, I've noticed a significant increase in Gilas supporters in the venue and through the internet.

Rest assured, Coach Rajko, the coaching staff, the players, including the management, are all committed to continue improving through rigid training and international exposure in order to bring back the respect to Philippine basketball and give us more reason to become proud Pinoys!

Maraming Salamat ulit! Go Team Pilipinas! Go Pinoy!

Oh by the way, Happy Easter!!


P.S. We have a 3 day rest and then we report back to practice in preparation for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup (This is not yet the Olympic qualifier) which will be held in MANILA from May 28 to June 6 at the Ultra in Pasig. 10 teams from Asia will participate, mostly club teams composed of national players plus 2 imports. Sana sama-sama na tayong lahat sa tournament na ito (as promised by the Ginebra fans after the series, I'll keep that in mind :) )!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Moment of Conversion

I never could have imagined myself attending a chastity talk, although I am a believer of chastity and purity. But one thing led to another and I found myself at SMX two Sundays ago seated right at the back of a chastity speaker himself, Jason Evert! I had no idea what he looked like. All i knew was that he was American. And because the person in front of me was the only blond person I saw in the jam-packed SMX , I figured it was him.

Honestly, my understanding was that it was going to be a talk about love and relationships, not about chastity. I also heard really positive feedback from his prior speaking engagements upon arriving to the Philippines just 2 days before. Hence, I decided to listen and pick his brains.

The program started with a Holy Mass. After which, I was introduced to Jason by a friend of mine and we spoke for a bit. Jason must have read what was going on in my mind and so he picked me as a volunteer at the beginning of his talk. He wanted to start his talk with the question, "how far is too far" in a relationship.  And to illustrate his point, he made me put on a "lady gaga" wig and acted out as if we were on a date.  And in an instant, he lifted me upon his shoulders! One hand supporting me, and one hand holding the mic! Deep inside, I was thinking, Wow! This guy is strong! I stand at 5'11 and Jason was just about 5'7. He was probably 30 lbs. lighter than me. Then he lifted me towards the end of the stage and asked me if he should still go on. Of course, i said NO! And he took me down and thanked me for volunteering!

So what's his point? The point is not to put our loved ones in danger.  He said that asking "how far can I go with a girl without sinning" can be put more positively into "how far can I go with a girl in protecting her innocence".  Think of it this way. He invited us to think of our future wife who may be dating another guy right now. How far do we want that guy to go with her? It is like Stephen Covey's "thinking with the end in mind", the end here being marriage.  Then he said "girls, do not allow a guy to lift the veil of your body before he lifts the veil in your head--in marriage."

To illustrate his point further he cited statistics in the US which says that those who married as virgins has a divorce rate of 70% less than those who were not. This was taken from a 700-page book research in the US with the largest survey respondents.

What made me think deeper was his analogy of our love for our future wife with the love of Christ for the Church. He quoted St Paul's letter to the Ephesians. I couldn't help but think of Mel Gibson's the Passion of the Christ when he described how Jesus suffered for us, His Church, His Bride.  He said that that's how much we have to be willing to suffer for our future wife. And part of that sacrifice is to live a chaste life now. We need to free ourselves so that we can love!

He told girls not to fall into the misconception that perhaps if she allows a guy to invade her privacy, he will love her more.  On the contrary, that is the best way for a guy to lessen his respect for a girl. Then, he told us the story of a lady named Cristalina. When she allowed her boyfriend to have sex with her, he started mistreating her and calling her names.  After a while, the usual excitement of being together was gone.  Love had been confused with lust.  Until her mom insisted and dragged her to attend a chastity talk , finally she decided to break off with the guy.  Instead of engaging in sexual acts, what she did was she started writing love letters for her future husband whom she did not meet yet at that time. Letters indicating 'i did not give in to temptation tonight because i am saving myself for you!' . After a few years, on her wedding day, she gave them all to her husband, who happened to be Jason himself! She also gave him a white candle with a fresh wick (as a symbol of preserving her body up to the time of marriage after her conversion).

After Jason told this story, I felt quite uneasy. If I were in his shoes and would have to talk about the past of my future wife, it would really be awkward. But I realized that it was Cristalina herself who wanted the story told so that girls will not fall into the same error she fell into. I salute their courage! It summarizes what he said earlier: that love can wait to give but lust can't wait to get.

In this light, he mentioned the dangers of pornography.  Boys, especially teenagers, may be incited to get into pornography to show that we are men, indeed.  He turned that around and said that on the contrary, pornography emasculates us--which means, it makes us less of a man because we become slaves of our passions.  Men are those who know how to be strong in the midst of peer pressure.

He also said that addiction to pornography is the best way to shoot your future marriage in the head. Why? Because you start creating a fantasy world about sexual pleasures which increases your dissatisfaction for the body of your wife. It makes you easily dislike your wife since you are used to flipping from one female body to another in a matter of seconds. You also tend to only see the external beauty of your wife and may judge her worth for her body.  He told us the story of his friend who was a porn addict who divorced his wife three months after their marriage. 

For those who are into porn and sex, God is not judgmental. They may be like that because they have not known better. He admitted being into porn before. And so he recommends a "change of heart"--to make a commitment to live a chaste life.  For a start, receive the sacrament of Confession. In fact, there were 5 priests at the end of the hall receiving people for Confession. Obviously, that wasn't enough to accommodate the thousands who gathered that afternoon in SMX. By the way, the youngest person in the crowd was 4 yrs. old and eldest was 90. I estimated the attendance to be around 5,000 to 8,000 people.

He also touched on modesty, especially in dressing up well, without being provocative.  Modesty does not mean wearing long gowns and old-fashioned clothes. You can look classy without showing too much skin.  The way we dress also shows the respect that we want people to have of us.  He invited us to be "nice" and not "naughty" in the way we dress up so we elicit more respect from the people we meet. Showing too much skin is a sign of desperation, as if you are calling out to guys to look at you.

Overall, it was a truly inspiring talk, with a good combination of humor and wit. His stories were very touching and meaningful. I wasn't surprised to see a number of people crying as he was speaking. He was a great speaker, i just felt that sometimes he spoke too fast that it was difficult to absorb everything that he was uttering. How I wish that more people could have attended and listened to him speak. If only I had known earlier, I would have invited you guys myself. But at least he created a website that contains videos of him speaking and testimonials from other individuals like his wife Cristalina & former America's Next Top Model who decided to live a life of conversion to God.

I strongly suggest that you guys check out his website, www.chastity.com . I'm sure you have many questions, and he has the answers to them right there. On the cover page of his site, there's a quotation from one of my most admired Saints whose words of wisdom never fail to guide young people. It summarizes the beauty of chastity and the positive approach we should have on it: "When you decide to lead a clean life, chastity will not be a burden for you. It will be a crown triumph. " - St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 123.

For me, this is the most important lesson that I got from the talk. THAT IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE! God is always giving us a second chance, and a third chance, and so on… that's how merciful He is! What matters is what you do with your life from now on. God will not judge us. And the best way to start is by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation & being truly sorry for our sins. I know most people will be hesitant to confess our sins to the priest because of shame or embarrassment. BUT do you know what the priests are really thinking? Deep inside, they are saying to themselves, "hey, i truly admire this person for confessing, because it does not matter to him/her what others may think, but what he truly cares about is what God thinks of him."

Since it is now the Lenten season, it would be best to repent and free ourselves to love. Before our game today vs Air21, Fr. Ed gave me a blessing and reminded me that we all have our shortcomings, but despite that, we must keep trying to do good and remember that God is always there waiting for us to return to Him!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Personal Wishes & Goals for 2011

Thanks for all your very supportive and inspiring comments!

As promised, here are my personal wishes for 2011.

1) For Smart Gilas national team- that we may regain lost basketball glory for our country! I strongly believe we can do it no matter what people say. With the right frame of mind, training, exposure, discipline, skill, it can be done if God wills it. But more than just proving Filipinos wrong, the reason why i want Gilas to succeed so bad is really to unite the Filipino people and inspire them - that despite the odds, we can succeed in life if we possess the right habits and values! Just like how Manny Pacquiao, the Azkals and other sports heroes have done.

2) For Philippine sports - that all sports stakeholders may put aside all personal ambition and glory for the greater glory of the country. It's close to impossible to eradicate totally the politics in sports, but at least start somewhere towards creating programs for the development of our current and future national coaches and athletes. Sports is a legal battleground where we can lift our national flags with pride after defeating our opponents.

3) Philippine economy - I wish that the economy will continue to flourish and that the stock market will keep moving upwards, although experts predict it won't be as hot as 2010.

4) The Philippines - I pray we be spared of major calamities this year. And that the Filipino people will do what is right, and not do something just because everyone is doing it.

5) I wish for good health for myself, my family and close friends.

6) I want to meet Jay Chou & Steve Nash! hehehe

Next, let me jot down my personal goals for this year. I believe it is truly helpful to ones self-improvement if one makes a conscious effort to set concrete goals to enable him/her to work towards it. It doesn't matter if its a long-term goal, mid-term or short-term goal. I'll put mine down randomly. I would advise you to do the same.

1) I will dedicate most of my time to basketball , for my personal improvement and that of the team. (as if i haven't devoted my entire life to the team) I will improve my shooting percentage and be more aggressive. One last hurrah! This could be my last year of competitive basketball.

2) Open at least 3 more Happy Lemon branches

3) I will take a more active role in promulgating my advocacies, such as education and entrepreneurship among others. It is one thing to raise awareness through shows, press releases, etc, but i want to have a deeper engagement as well. This will happen towards the end of the year, after the FIBA Asia Championship in September.

4) In everything I do, i will try my best to set a good example, especially to the kids. I know i have a mission/apostolate to bring people closer to God through my various platforms . But in doing so, i myself must become closer to God. I have my own shortcomings, but I'm constantly trying to improve. I will spend more time in prayer, receiving the sacraments, conversing w/ my spiritual director & doing simple good deeds.

To end, here's a nice reflection i picked up from Bishop Tagle in his Jan. 1 homily in Tagaytay Highlands that I'd like to share. In lieu of the Feast of the Solemnity of our Lady as the Mother of God, Mary was full of grace as she accepted to embrace the responsibility of bearing the child Jesus and bringing Him into humankind. We normally ask God for grace or blessing. We thank Him profusely whenever we receive gifts, money, projects, etc. referring to these as 'blessings'! But these things are fleeting or short-lived. The true essence of the word 'blessing' is about you & me being a blessing to other people - this means that we should be Christ-like. Now here's my challenge to you, HOW can I be a blessing to other people?

Have a great day, folks!


Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Quick Look at My 2010

2010 was a roller coaster year for me. There were the wonderful moments that I've cherished and appreciated. But naturally, there were also the not-so-desirable occasions , that taught me valuable lessons and made me a stronger person. I've made a quick reflection of my past year.

Here are the highlights of my 2010

Jay Chou concert - The one event which I will never forget is the Jay Chou concert that I went to see live with my cousin, in Singapore. I can still remember vividly the desperate measures I had to resort to in order to get hold of those tickets at the front most section of the stadium. So you know how much it meant, I chose to skip an Ateneo-La Salle game just to watch this. I will blog more about it (with photos) in the future... and will try not to sound too much like a fan boy.

Gilas stints - There were 4 tournaments out of 7 in 2010 where we had a respectable performance. First is the Dubai invitational in January where we finished 3rd place playing with practically no import. Next is the Manila Invitational in July , which we won 1st place by beating the Jordanian national team. Third is the Stankovic Cup in Lebanon in August, where we made the final 4 without most of our main players. And lastly, our 2nd place finish in the ABA Championship in Haining, China where we lost to Samsung Korea by 1 point in the finals through a desperation shot with 2 seconds left in the game. Coincidentally, they knocked us out of the Asian games too.

New TV programs - I was chosen to host the show Ako Mismo on TV5, which features ordinary heroes, with the hope and goal that Filipinos may be inspired to do the same and make a difference in others' lives. Plus, i got to work with one of our most heralded heroes, 2009 CNN Hero kuya Efren Penaflorida. Just in November, the pilot episode of Hanepbuhay aired in GMA7 and garnered high ratings. The show encourages Filipinos to have that entrepreneurial mindset. And at the same time, my partner Love Anover and I give useful tips on how to run a business and come up with business ideas. Thanks to GMA7 and TV5, I have been given a platform to spread my advocacies through a very powerful medium. It's always great to be able to entertain, educate and share the right values all at the same time.

New endorsements
- Thanks to my two new endorsements in the pharma industry, namely Advil and Oracare, my credibility as an endorser was bolstered and my net worth has increased by just a little bit... enough to relieve me of my stress and headaches (haha corny!)

Guangzhou Asian games - This was a major disappointment for me , the team , and the millions of Filipino basketball fans. I could not sleep for many days. I know we are a better team than what the result actually reflects (6th) . It's a painful experience but still I am thankful to the Lord for the opportunity to play in this kind of high-level international competition which happens once in every 4 years, where we got to encounter the most elite athletes all over Asia. I have too much thoughts on this but I will save it for another blog entry.

Barangay Kagawad
- I was re-elected Kagawad (Councilman) in our Barangay in Makati. This gives me another chance to serve our constituents, mainly through sports & education programs .

Favorite Media Personality award
- Just last week , I won the Favorite Male Media Personality award given by the NCCT (National Council for Children's TV) in its 1st awards ceremony. A survey was conducted among 12,000 kid subjects all over the country to determine the winners. I thought only prime-time artistas could win this. This means so much to me, knowing that people out there, particularly the kids, appreciate what I'm doing and trying to communicate to them through my shows, basketball, advocacies and other engagements. I take it as a challenge, not just to serve as a good role model, but to take a more active part in reaching out to them and spreading the Gospel values.

Happy Lemon - My good friends and I (from Xavier & Ateneo) decided to bring in the franchise of Happy Lemon, an extremely popular bubble tea/milk tea brand from Hong Kong & Shanghai , to the Philippines. And after a year of planning and preparation, we finally opened our first branch in Promenade, Greenhills last November 13. We are very pleased w/ the sales and feedback of the customers so far, we are looking to open more branches (no sub franchises) this year. Next will be in the new Eastwood mall this Feb. In fact, we're very honored to be featured in/by OurAwesomePlanet himself. So if you're in the area, please drop by! We'd love to make you HAPPY! (To clarify, I am just a minute shareholder)

Family time - Because it was the first time we were given a break from training & competition in almost two years, I had the chance of catching up on lost time with family & friends. We were able to take short trips to Hong Kong, Macao, Tagaytay & Batangas where we really bonded. I felt I became closer to my family & friends in these last 3 weeks! How timely because it is Christmas season and that is what the spirit of Christmas is all about - giving! Not necessarily by giving material things but more importantly, by sharing ourselves with others - our time, our compassion, our love! Awards / achievements can make us happy at one point, but it is love that will make it last a lifetime! (Cheesy!)

Overall, my 2010 was an awesome one , except maybe for the outcome of the Asian games which dragged down the 'awesomeness' quotient. But I can't complain and I am very much challenged to do better this year. I'd like to thank the Lord first and foremost for all the blessings and good health for myself & my family. (I didn't incur any major injury... *knock on wood*) Thank you Lord for the perseverance when we feel like quitting, for the wisdom when we are uncertain! Everything was made possible because of You! We are merely Your instruments. I would also like to thank all of you have been so supportive with all that I'm doing . As cliche as it sounds, it can't be done without you guys! 2011 will be even better, I know it!! Part of success rests on chance but part of it depends on us. So let's do what we can to make each of our 2011s a fantastic one!

For my 2011 wishes, I have some in mind right now but I'm too sleepy already. Just wait for my next post! Happy New year everyone!!