Sunday, December 28, 2014

Kalinga Tour

From time to time, tourism officers are invited in tourism package/products launching, especially when it is in-line with DOT's One-Step Tourism project - a convergence program which aims to include and promote less affluent communities or destinations in the tourism value chain. This program provides for more direct interventions which will create jobs and economic opportunities, benefit the poor, and ultimately,  uplift rural communities. A week ago, we were lucky to be included in the launching of the "Naneng Community Life Tour", a promotional tour for  Kalinga's Tour circuit.

We had a nine-hour travel to Tabuk City, Kalinga via Bokod, Benguet, and arrived at the Grand Zion Garden Resort for a sumptuous dinner hosted by Tabuk City's tourism council.The next day , we went to Talama viewdeck to enjoy a view of the  Tabuk valley. Somehow, it reminds me of the old La Trinidad - untouched by the urbanization sprawl.

Chico River flows from Mt. Province to Kalinga
We proceeded to Naneng Village for the promotional life tour. Upon our arrival we were gleefully welcomed by the children of the village in full traditional costume, and their tal-talak (wooden race car), and guided by Kalinga beauties like Ms. Angel (below)  :).
Kalinga Beauty

The Heritage Village of Naneng
Hospitable folks of the village
The villagers also treated us with what they are mostly known for: the Inandila. The people of Naneng serves this special traditional rice cake in various occasions. In fact, they celebrate the Inandila Festival annually in March. This distinct and indigenous rice cake is methodically made as a family affair in a tradition of togetherness (symbolized by the sticky texture of the treat).
Inandila with Coffee is majestic!
We had a picnic lunch. A real 'heavy' lunch with native cuisine. This is included in their P350 tour package.

Dawwang Cold Spring
One can also mingle with the locals and learn from their culture. We passed by their weaving house which showcases the most colorful weaving patterns of the Cordilleras.
After the Naneng Tour, we had a side trip to Tabuk's Golden Berries Hotel and Kalinga Brew Office. Coffee is the One-Town-One Product of Kalinga. (The coffee aroma alone is a winner!)

A side tour to Lammawin Farm house with his "basi" (sugar cane wine) production.
The next day, we went to Tamingan, the jump-off point of the Chico river Whitewater rafting of Kalinga. It is a 2-3 hour wild water adventure which will  pass by the Naneng community among others. We had an unforgettable experience - from a capsized raft, to an emergency rescue.

 For more information about the Whitewater rafting experience, interested people may check their website @: or their facebook page (Chico river Quest).

Those are the faces of excitement and happiness guys. 

Sometimes we need an all-out adrenaline rush from the rapids of waters like the mighty Chico river! The experience ends with yet another heavy lunch picnic at Dalimuno drop-off point. We had a great time!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Sebastian Lumawig Series: Chapter 2

Chapter 2

There was that familiar stillness in the room.  That stillness, which only she can recognize; no sound except that monotonous mutiny of the computer to that poised room, and that muffled traffic sound which had successfully infiltrated the thick walls of that old building. It was nine o’clock in the morning, and her boss had left the workplace before he even started the day work. It was, after all, his employer’s day of golf. Or maybe not, his face is painted with an irritating grin when he left her. "He is here again.." she remembered him whispering such a couple of times. 

She clicked at the save button and slumped her upper body against the office chair. She is 27 years old, but she looked older. Working for twelve hours a day and six days a week had evidently taken its toll on her. She decided to watch Youtube videos while his boss is away. She immediately clicked on a link of a video, and she smiled after watching minutes of it: "Wow, a baby answering math problems!" he thought. Then she clicked at the link of amazing video of a furry cat. "When the cat is away..." she sighed.


Atty. Jansen Michael Madrigal, M.D. MA, MS, Ph.D, and what have you, left his office early to meet who he thought would unlock the mystery of the world. He's jittery, cold, and struggling for air. This kind of excitement only happened twice in his life; first when he found out that he is finally going to be a father, and second, when he topped the country's bar examinations. The anticipation for something big and his heightened sensibility for such has guided all his life decisions. He is up to something and he knew it. He played with his chin as he recalled the summer of 1999 when he first met the highlander star kid. Psychologist JM Madrigal then, took the entire day for an sixth-grader who claims to be living a second life, his father dead-worried looked tired and gray to look forty.

"When did he start having lived another life?

"Ahh...since he was about four or five....but, he would dismiss it himself and pretend that he just said some non-sense...when he grew became...uhmmm....worse.." The father looked at his son intently obviously struggling to hold his floodgates.

"Doctor.." The child interrupted. "It maybe hard to believe, but it is true. I felt that I have..had...another life. As I grow older, I remember memories from my past life...or lives."

" How is that?" Dr. Madrigal patiently asked while mentally constructing a diagnosis to tell this child's dad. After all, a child can make up incredible stories to cope up with existing realities. Is the child being physically abused? Being bullied? He unconsciously searched for suspicious marks to no avail.

"You do not believe me...Just like everyone may think I am crazy, but it is true. There were studies of it I swear: Earlier this year's work of Tom Shroder, or the many US journals releases of the years second quarter...Or do you believe in any religion sir? Most of it mentions reincarnation and transmigration. Do you believe in that sir?

Dr. Madrigal was extremely amazed by the child's manner of expression. As if he was an adult encased in a twelve-year old's body. This was a first for him.

(under construction :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Sebastian Lumawig Series: "Old Soul" (Chapter 1)

I just lost my manuscript of 17 chapters (my months of labor and research). This chapter, which I sent to my own e-mail, is the only piece of it that I managed to retrieve. This is a reminder of the impermanence of things in this world. So, before things will get lost again, I decided to share it. Enjoy a piece of my novel. :)
Sebastian Lumawig Series: "Old Soul"

Chapter 1

In seat 27, the cloud of existential ponderings caught the reflections in the glass window again. Slowly, those thoughts were drowned away as the bus passes by along the thirty-sixth streetlight. Another village just faded away.

An hour ago, he had deliberately walked along Session Road after stopping the meters at Maharlika Livelihood Complex. His bus won’t be ready until 1 a.m., that’s why he decided to walk.

The city rarely sleeps. The dark blanket cannot hide that buzzing energy of a constantly growing city – the night market thrives, and the drunks populate the sidewalks. How he missed that life.

In college, they ruled Assumption Road as young, confused, and highly intoxicated teens…too much energy, but nowhere to put it into. Until, they realized that they are really at the brink of wasting away their lives. Perhaps, the sin of most of the youth was their delusion that they are living the rock and roll life. The laid-back culture, born from television shows and internet fads has taught them credulous young generation to experience the high of this material world without any remorse. There is really no doubt about it: ‘Everyone wants to be a Rock star.’

He was 16 when he had his first taste of gin.  At first, he did it to impress some friends, but finally ended up using it to run away. Drinking is indeed an escape to another world – free from the agony of life’s pains, frustrations and disappointments…the tiring norm of life and the stress of everyday. And although it is not surprising at all that most of us would rather be intoxicated than to face the realities of life - the corrupted world, the angry parents, the strict teachers, the broken love life, or even the irritating neighbor -  Sebastian, or “Basty” as he was often called, escaped not away from the world, but from himself.

The middle-aged passenger of Seat 34 had covered his face with a towel. An air-conditioned bus in a cold city is apparently the trend. But it is a six hour trip, and after a few more swerves down, the moist in the windows will dry up as the temperature rises.

Little by little, he started doing a better job in learning a balancing crash course. Rarely can one catch a nap under such circumstance. It is a feat that he had planned to achieve before the first bus stop. But the fates, may have had a different plan – to bury him into useless contemplation of his yesterdays.

In November 2, 1997, MENSA International, an organization which records geniuses, confirmed an unusual growing number of child geniuses in the last decade. World media was able to reveal startling discoveries of a number of child-prodigies and highly intelligent and exceptional children; of two-year olds reading adult books, of four-year olds speaking twelve different languages or playing the most complex musical scores, of six-year olds offering philosophical counter-proposition against the ideas of established thinkers, or re-structuring formulas of math and physics, of eight-year old inventors, and of teen-agers writing excellent novels which, supposedly, only a man of age, experience, and great wisdom can achieve.

Because such unusual occurrence has inspired the usual religious hysteria that the end of the world is near…again, or that those innocent kids are allegedly sent by the devil, Dr. Shan D. Parker, the President of the organization, obviously not amused, embarked on a research that is intended to settle the minds of the paranoid religious figures of the different continents. After three years of research, the team concluded that the phenomenon is likely a result of the information explosion of the new age. Of course, many did not believe this. Dr. Parker himself doubted this. But the world must move on.

Towards the hyped-millennium, it did not take long for the world to forget this happening. There is so much cheap news; Hollywood and local gossips, political scandals, and day to day BS for most people to take account of it, nor inquire further about it. Besides, ‘this’ will not affect their lives.

In 2007, an intriguing old video from February 7, 1989 surfaced from Youtube, the video sharing website. It featured a toothless baby, about seven months or less, with a couple of adults who are presumably his parents.

In the video, it started with the man, perhaps his father, interrogating his endearing son.

“ Basti, are you okay?”

“Mam mam mam”, the baby replied.

“Okay, Basti. I’m going to ask you questions and you will answer “Daa” if yes, and “Hoo” if no, ok? I repeat “Daa” if yes, and “Hoo” if no…okay?”

“Daa!” shouted the baby to the laughter of the couple. The woman took the teether away from the infants grip. The baby understood that playtime is over.

“Basti…am I your father?”


“Am I Handsome?”

“Hooooo!” the baby giggled at his own answer, and the adults laughed harder.

“ Okay Basti, this is more challenging…” The male adult pointed at the wall clock and asked, “ Is it 7 o’clock?” The parent rolled his realizing that he asked a dumb question..


“What?” The father looked comical than surprised. The clock shows that it is six o’clock.
“Da-da-da-da- da-daaa!”

The color of the adults’ faces  were immediately  drained. Six “das” may not be a coincidence.

“Basti… one plus one?” The woman quickly experimented.


“Two plus one?”

“Da---da---da..” the baby almost sneered.

“Three plus two?”

“Da-da-da-da—daaa!” The baby victoriously stood in his walker.

“Basti….how many is One hundred divided by fifty?”

“Da—daa” the baby raised his two-fingers resembling a peace sign.

The astonished adults continued and the baby proceeded to give amazingly perfect answers. The video went on for fifteen minutes, and it soon became an internet hit, gaining millions of views from internet users around the world. And although a few skeptics have challenged the authenticity of the act, the video inspired other exceptional baby videos to be uploaded and soon, the 1997 MENSA report was resurrected. The traditional and the new media went crazier. (The end of the world is really near!)


The scent of the lowlands is undeniably inviting. The red bus parked at the gas station near a restaurant – the first bus stop is at La Union. The area was dusty, old, and the smother of rust in the structures had only enhanced the eerie feeling of being transported into an older time - without a calendar, it would feel like the nineties. But, the big lighted “V” and that, zen-architecture design of the comfort rooms can pull one back to the present world. Who puts black stones below the sink for design and art?

But he loved that feeling. It is simply ‘familiar’ to him. Maybe he can retire here somewhere along a good beach and spend his last years laying in a hammock with a young wife who will enjoy the properties he will ultimately leave after he dies. Life is wickedly predictable and boring.

He unhurriedly pulled out his wallet and examined its remaining bills. ‘Five hundred peso bus ticket, a hundred for the taxi cab, a hundred for Jolibee….’, he accounted for everything in his head and realized that he must have spent five hundred last night at the G-string bar for a beer. He may have even told the waiter to keep his change.

At twenty seven, he only has about P 32,000 in his ATM account. No savings, no car, no wife, and no direction. If his father is alive, he would have desired to go back to his death bed at such pathetic sight. But, he treasured the moments with his father more than he would consciously admit. One of those moments was his first bus ride with his father in 1999 when he was 12 years old. It will always be the greatest adventure in his life.

But, he knew in him that his father is only one of his 'fathers'. At least his dad is the only one he remembers. He knew that...even when no one believes in him.

"An old soul...that expression, because we knew, we feel..that deep inside of us that we have 'jumped',...traveled….From decades, even centuries. I recognize things, and try to remember...I tell myself that 'its as if I've have seen things before, that they are familiar..that I was here a long time ago..', that scary sense of familiarity...because I knew!"  ” He cried telling these to his parents when he was younger, but they just smiled. “Your bad dreams will soon  go away…” they said kissing his forehead.

He really wished that all of it will go away. He had fried his brains many times to do it. But he later discovered that all the memories lost in infancy (which only a few special people can recover) is sadly, only a tiny portion of what he acquires everyday. 

Who knows? Who dares to? The world leaves questions and gives no clue.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

My Japan Experience (Part 4 of 5)

“Your fortune says: The one getting this is a bright and idealistic person. Do not worry if you or your ideas are not being acknowledged right now. Be patient. You will have your own time….” Masuda-san smiled and returned the fortune paper that I got from the shrine.” “Souvenir.”  
My fortune paper
From the visits to shrines and the museums, we were divided into groups for our overnight stays in Omishima Islands. My group will stay at Inoue-san’s, the only Ichigo (strawberry) grower in the Islands. You have to wonder about the chances. For someone who will really work for La Trinidad’s tourism, and LT’s one-town-one-product promotions, what are the chances of staying with Inoue-san?

We met our gentle and friendly host and his wife a couple of hours before sunset, and after we had a taste of strawberry-ice and the exchange of tokens, Okasan (our host-mother) directed us to our room to prepare for the ‘onsen’. At first, the meaning of ‘onsen’ escaped me, then, I remembered ‘Jiraiya’ of the popular Naruto manga. Japan, for most foreigners, is abundant of at least two things: the sensored-things (advance technology of controlling light, water, etc.), and censored-things (hmmm..those things…and the others which includes the legendary ‘onsen’). :D
This is the actual 'onsen' we went to. It is a public bath where everyone is naked.
We met Mark outside the bath, looking depressed. He said he's 'done' with it. hahaha :) 
We had dinner after bath, and I can tell that my co-participants just had one of the most memorable experience in the country (whether, it is good or bad actually depends on who you ask haha). During the dinner, I have to constantly be wary of how I use my chopsticks since I seem to have forgotten my lessons about it. Perhaps feeling our uneasiness, Inoue-san brought ‘all’ the alcohol in their house to our extreme delight (and regret). In most countries even Japan, alcohol seems to solve everything (hehe). We were so happy, we communicated using drawings, and gestures…and music! We sang, we ate, we drank…this is the life!
Mimi (from the Senate), Migs (from Landbank), Atty. Joy (from the Office of the President) with our hosts.
We woke up at dawn witnessing a great coastal view (and surprisingly, without hangover). We went to their strawberry farm, their ‘Kiki’s Farm” after Kiki (their cat) which they manage themselves without any helpers. Not really a surprise since this is the land of innovations and advance technology. We had the best breakfast, and after that, even with a sad heart, we bid farewell to our kind hosts.
Inoue-san's Strawberry Farm
We went to Ochi-san's place, the organic farmer to meet our other classmates. Decades ago, he was called crazy when he started organic farming in their community. Now, he is living the life of a happy and contented man. The concept of organic-farming is founded on a very simple philosophy: ‘Nature knows best.’ “ The worm eats the bugs, it 'poops' and makes the soil rich, the plant uses the soil’s nutrients’ the other bugs eats the other bugs, and so on and on.” How I wish to retire young and spend the rest of my life in my very own garden.
Ochi-san on organic farming before he showed us his farm
We had our last bike rides and sight-seeing before travelling back to Matsuyama City. Somehow, the hotel missed us. The classrooms too. 
zzzzzz..... :
 The next days passed with exciting combination of lectures, exchanges and site/factory visits in our schedule:

@BEMAC (IT support systems on Ships)
Paper Factory at Shikokuchuo City (the top paper producer in Japan)
Imabari's Towel Museum
Imabari City "Business incubation center"
With students of Ehime University
Business Incubation Center Concept: New Entrepreneurs/ Business start-ups can lease offices on the centers at a very minimal fee for up to two years until such business is "incubated" or ready for the 'real world'. The center will also provide trainings in business management and even in business skills.
Another paper factory at Shikochuo city

One may find the factory visits boring, but it is actually quite enlightening. Somehow, at least we would know what we're talking about when we share our experiences and leanings about "industries". 

Besides, there are times like these 'after classes':

Click link for Part 1 ---------> Japan experience (Part 1)

Click this link for Part 2-----> Japan Experience (Part 2 of 5)

Click this link for Part 3----->Japan Experience (part 3 of 5)
Click this link for Part 4----->Japan Experience (Part 4 of 5)
Click this link for Part 5----->

Friday, October 31, 2014

My Japan Experience (Part 3 of 5)

The days of lecture started quickly as if to remind us that we came to the land of the rising sun to learn and not just to tour around. Just like the autumn season, we counted the hours of lessons in our fingers as they fall in our eager ears. Let me give my top 5 early realizations from the lectures of Japanese officials, economists, bankers, and business people:

1. "Stakeholder Capitalism" vs. "Stockholder Capitalism" - Although this was highlighted by Odano-sensei of Shiga University. This became more evident in the lectures of economists of the province. Stakeholder capitalism promotes passion and dedication of work as one will be deeply immersed in an organization. The respect for seniority, and 'oneness' of goal, is only the basic element of such kind of economic structure, unlike the 'stockholder capitalism' of the west (which has been adopted by our country) which gives more value on the upper management and 'stockholders' or owners of organizations and companies. (I will dedicate another blog article for this to explain further).

2. Partnerships and Linkages are needed formula to success. - There is no hero in Japan because everyone is a hero in their own work and duties, they call this “Kiba”. In fact, their regard for calling cards, and the exchange thereof, are symbolic of their value towards partnerships, coordination, and participation.

My classmates with one of the lecturers
3. Discipline. - Because of their 'oneness', their thoughts are always for their country. "If I throw my garbage here, the place will look dirty and I don't want my country to look dirty", "If I disobey traffic laws, somebody might suffer because of my recklessness, I don't want a countryman to suffer because of my untoward actions." In the Philippines? Nahhh...

4. Honor – This is a typical Japanese way. In the lecture by the officers of Iyo bank, they explained the importance of rendering loans for business start-ups at zero-percent interest rate. When I asked them about what happens upon default when the borrower fails to return the loaned money? The officer, to my deep embarrassment said, “Japanese people will always return what they owe. If their business fails, they will find other ways to return it, even though it will take a lifetime to do so..” Perhaps that is why even in their business structure, one does not obtain a crucial position if he/she doesn’t have the skills to do the job - it means that ‘one only eats what he/she can swallow’. Because when that person fails in that job, the 100th floor window will openly welcome the ‘dishonored’.

The Sake Boys: (from left; Lucky, Mark,
Me, Jamz, Migz, Regin)
5. Passion - Their passion for their work were perhaps reinforced by their rebuilder generation (the generation after the war who vowed to rebuild Japan from its ruins). With such attitude, all of the people work, not primarily for money, but to become the best of what they do - regardless if one is a maintenance worker, bus driver, teacher, or government official, as long as they are the best. (Photo on the side is taken during our courtesy call to the Ehime Governor's office. Their government office is so passionate about their tourism identity and goods. I will have a separate article about their OTOP promotion and marketing).

We were relieved and excited that we will have at least a couple of days away from the 'classroom' to visit the coastal towns of Omishima Islands and Imabari. When Maro-san boarded the bus, he, just like any great tour guide would, presented a very good theme for our trip: 

 "Don't think...feel" (By Bruce Lee) :)

"Today's theme is, Don't think...Feel.. by Bruce Lee.." So, for this part...I'll stop my musings and perhaps, just relive the memorable moments I had on the Islands. (Below are some of our Pictures)

Great guys!

I'll miss these guys..
Story telling time to Iwanaga Shrine
Every space along the way were transformed to parks
Oyamazumi Shrine
Imabari Castle, Imabari City
Biking in the bridge

                                  "Don't think...feel"

Click link for Part 1 ---------> Japan experience (Part 1 of 5)
Click link for Part 2----------> Japan Experience (Part 2 of 5)
Click link for Part 3---------->Japan Experience (Part 4 of 5)