Monday, December 26, 2011

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY Disaster response program for the victims of Typhoon Pedring

Last September 2011, Metro Manila and some parts of Central Luzon experienced another dose of destruction brought about by Tropical Storm Pedring which left areas along the western shoreline of Manila like Baseco, Malabon, Navotas, Caloocan, and some parts of the Bulacan Province, flooded with up to chest-high water and hundreds of families homeless. Baseco Compound, a reclaimed area measuring 56 hectares and inhabited by more than 12,000 families, was not spared from the havoc caused by the typhoon.

A few years ago, in 2004, Baseco experienced a massive fire that practically wiped-out all the informal resettlement houses, leaving the hectares of marshland areas a barren wasteland and thousands of families living in shanties homeless. But a year after, a concerted effort of the local government and NGOs like Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga, gradually transformed a big portion of Baseco into a clean, safe, and highly organized urban low-cost housing community. Kuya Lito, one of the community team leaders and a Habitat for Humanity housing recipient shares, “The condition of our community was difficult when typhoon Pedring came, but things are a lot better now because our houses were built to withstand yearly typhoons”.

Unfortunately, not all families living in Baseco share Kuya Lito’s comfort. They’re the ones living in the outskirts and outside of the low-cost housing village known as Old Site Block 9, an informal resettlement area. About 5,000 families squat in this underdeveloped area where there are no decent roads, no sewerage system, and where houses are built using makeshift shelter materials. Small shanties with dimensions measuring 8ft x 9ft are built with patches of scrap boards, second hand lumber, and plastic tarpaulins for roofs are considered homes by most of the families living there. When Typhoon Pedring came, hundreds of these houses were easily blown away and families had no choice but to evacuate to the nearest elementary school.

The Disaster Response Program of Habitat for Humanity heeded the cries of the settlers in Baseco and conducted a relief and rehabilitation program to once again help rebuild homes that were lost in the calamity. With the help of Habitat’s corporate donors such as JP Morgan and Harvest Aid Organization Foundation, the Disaster Response Team headed by Mr. Dabs Liban and with the cooperative efforts of the community leaders - Kabalikat, they distributed Shelter Repair Kits amounting to P5,000 each to the affected community. 

The kits consist of assorted slabs of good lumber to replace the foundation beams that hold the houses together, galvanized iron roofing to replace the plastic tarpaulin makeshift covers, sturdy Hardiflex ply boards for more durable walling, and even basic tools such as a wood saw, hammer, and screw drivers and nails. The shelter kits are sufficient enough to help families fix their homes.

The Kabalikat Home Owners Association is a Peoples Organization composed of the local town folk of Baseco who served as volunteer workers for the project. Prior to the distribution, Kabalikat identified the families that will receive the shelter kits. Each was given a written agreement and certification duly singed by Habitat, the Kabalikat president, and a family representative to use the kits solely for house repairs and not for other purposes. According to Kuya Gerogie, the president of Kabalikat, the written agreement was necessary to prevent people from selling the materials as this happened in previous relief distributions in the past.

All the kits were organized and placed all over the covered court. Families were given tag numbers for an orderly distribution. Each representative of the recipient families brought with them hired tricycles as transport to help them haul the materials.

The distribution of the kits lasted for half a day and the Habitat team is already making preparations for the next batch of families to be given assistance. Habitat for Humanity is targeting 1,000 families this year but, according to Mr. Boyet Dalipat, a Habitat for Humanity Disaster Relief staff, “Of course, the shelter kits are not the ultimate solution but a full low-cost housing development much like the one we already have here in Habitat Village and we can only do that if more donors will partner with us in making our vision for Baseco a reality. For now, we will continue doing the shelter kit distribution because this is what the community needs at this point in time.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Race Announcement: Subic International Marathon 2012

One of the best ways to start a good and healthy lifestyle this coming New Year is to run in the Subic International Marathon 2012. The SIM is currently up on its toes preparing for its 6th year run. This marathon will be held on January 21-22, 2012 at the SBMA Complex and will offer various race categories including 3k distance for beginners and kids, and for those runners who may want to bring their families along. The race will be divided into two parts. The 3k and 5k runs are set on the 21st while the 10k, 21k and 42k runs will happen on the 22nd.

The SIM 2012 is geared to commit to all runners a more satisfying race next year. It also forged a partnership with two groups as beneficiaries for the race and these are the CORPS Movement Foundation and Dilaab Movement.

CORPS Movement Foundation is a non-stock non-profit organization that has been providing community development programs in various places in Metro Manila and in different regions in the Philippines since 1992. It is powered and run by hundreds of volunteers from faith-based groups and are deeply involved in God-centered, service-oriented and family-based communities geared towards achieving holistic transformation in the lives of the community residents.

Another beneficiary of the run is the Dilaab Movement. Dilaab, meaning “fire” for the Cebuanos, is a faith-impelled Church-based movement advocating Filipino heroic and Christian Leadership. Dilaab Movement began with three programs, one reaching out to OFWs and their families, another one is promoting a narcopolitics-free society, and the third is advocating corruption-intolerance among men in uniform and people in public service.

The SIM 2012 is certainly a break from the usual city urban runs where most of the running circuits are set. It will cover areas in SBMA’s sprawling lush green of Remy Field. Runners, most especially for the 21k and 42k distances, will experience running in the protected jungle forest of SBMA where natural wild animals like exotic birds and monkeys freely roam around the area. However, runners can expect a safe and clean race course with its guides and safety marshals in every turn-around point for all distances.

Organizers of the SIM 2012 are focused on making sure that participants will have a memorable and satisfying running experience. With its world standard marathon course, the SIM expects to have more international runners joining the race and thus making the Philippines a recognized member of the global running community.

Organizing this event is eXtribe Inc., the very same outfit that organized popular international marathons and triathlon competitions including the Ironman 70.3 Philippines 2009-2010. As a co-producer of this event, eXtribe guarantees world class marathon experience for all runners.

The Subic International Marathon 2012 is also in partnership with the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP), and the Philippine National Police (PNP). It is supported by PAGCOR Casino Filipino and ABS-CBN Sports as its official TV Partner.

Runners can still register until January 15, 2012. The registration sites are at New Balance Glorietta, New Balance Shangri-la, New Balance Trinoma and New Balance Marquee Mall Pampanga.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gym Review: FTX Fitness Exchange Center

I love staying fit and healthy. I tried doing some “gym-thingy” when I was still young, strong and had the enthusiasm to impress girls many years ago. But it was short lived because I never really enjoyed it. The constant repetitive actions of weight training done in several sets bored me, that’s why I thrive in recreational outdoor sports like running, mountain biking, and climbing. The only sport I enjoy doing in the confines of a gym is indoor wall climbing … until I discovered a different kind of fitness center.

Just recently, I was invited to visit the launching of FTX Fitness Exchange in Makati City where we got to watch a comprehensive demonstration on how training can be a challenging body workout and yet where one can have fun doing it. The equipment are quite different from the usual machines traditional gyms have. FTX features 15 signature exercises which are very effective in any level of training you’re in and which mostly use your own body weight.

The Cirqfit exercises start with a simple treadmill running for a minimum of 30 seconds or more. It is a form of a low impact warm up just to set your body for the upcoming continuous series of exercises. The next one was the kettle throwing which at first was quite tricky when it comes to getting the right form of hip-throwing action. After 30 seconds, one moves to the Rip60 exercise. It is a contraption using web-straps and harnesses hanged on the ceiling and all the exercises can be done using your own body weight. Coach Connie Fortich, a resident trainer at FTX, showed me several exercises one can do with straps and webbing.

Up next, a more challenging workout was introduced starting with sandbag snatch-lifting. It’s a duffle bag filled with sand where it is handled with a quick lift much like in weightlifting competitions. This was done for several repetitions for another 30 seconds. This exercise is good for back leg strengthening. After which, I was introduced to a unique exercise that involves big long ropes. The ropes are jiggled with the hands to form different types of waves. You can do it alternately or simultaneously. It is for core strengthening and arm toning.

FTX offers other exercise classes including the gravity yoga, zumba aerobics and hip-hop dance classes. They also offer Muay-Thai and boxing classes for those who want to have more than just aggressive workouts.

FTX is the only gym that offers these unique and fun exercises in Makati. For a runner like me, this is certainly an ideal cross discipline workout most especially when the weather makes it bad to run. FTX is now offering special promotional discount rates for those who are interested to enroll in groups.

* Thanks Orange Magazine TV for the use of the photos

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Movie Review: MI4 Ghost Protocol

In a nutshell, MI4 is, by far, the best MI film that has ever hit the big screen!

Early this week, members of the press and other guests got to see Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in the MI series starring Tom Cruise at the IMAX Theater in SM Mall of Asia. I was very fortunate to be invited by Solar Films Entertainment to watch this special premiere. To our delight, we were surprised to know that MI4 opens in the Philippines one week ahead of the US screening!

Before the movie started, Solar Films Entertainment President Mr. Wilson Teng shared some insightful information on how the Philippine Cinema industry has prospered despite the ever-present threat of film piracy among other economic-related factors our country is facing today. Audiences applauded when he announced that Solar Film Entertainment Philippines alone made a staggering gross income of P1.8 billion this year! That’s great news especially since we get to see some films ahead of other countries. Congratulations Solar Films!

Another “debut” worth celebrating is the new director of the film, Brad Bird, who made animation blockbusters like The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and the Iron Giant. The fourth MI movie finally gave Bird a first action film he deserved to direct. The highlight set of the movie was of course Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building on the planet.

Teaming up with Tom Cruise (Ethan Hunt) are new faces of agents like Jane Carter played by Paula Patton, the technical support sidekick Benji Dunn played by Simon Pegg, and promising “kick-ass” defense espionage analyst agent William Brandt played by Jeremy Renner from the action movie Hurt Locker.

The story was more like a slice of the cold war era between the US and Russia. It basically revolves around having a Russian high level rouge syndicate getting hold of nuclear bomb launch codes, blowing up a big portion of the Kremlin, and putting the blame on IMF operatives thus heating up the situation and leading countries into the brink of a nuclear war. After the US Secretary of Defense was assassinated, the US government invokes Ghost Protocol and disavows agents leaving just the four main characters to save the day.

In every Mission Impossible I watched, one element is certainly evident in each film and that is the awesome stunts of Tom Cruise that leave the audiences at the edge of their seats. The new MI film surely tops all the past MIs and other action packed films making them all quite mediocre. One thing that was absent this time though is the bed and skin scenes that were very notable in past MIs. I guess they left those out to give room for more action scenes which is quite ok with me.

Over all, this film is definitely one of THE “must watch” movies of this year. It starts showing on December 16 although next week, cinemas have to give way as the Philippine movie industry celebrates the annual Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) where local film makers and productions get to feature their masterpieces and vie for the best film of the year and other awards.

So, from Dec. 25, 2011 to Jan. 8, 2012, in support of the MMFF, cinemas all over the country will allot all screenings to featured local films. However, for this year, SM Cinemas is making an exception and will be showing Mission Impossible: Ghost protocol in IMAX theaters in SM Mall of Asia, SM North Edsa, SM South Mall and SM City Cebu. Regular screening resumes on January 8.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Announcing the Don Henrico Run 2011

The Philippine General Hospital is a place where I have dozens of unforgettable memories when I used to cover doctors there as a med rep for nine years a long time ago. During the Christmas seasons, it always saddens me when I pass by the charity wards of PGH, most especially the Pediatric and ICU sections where most of the confined patients and their relatives have to spend their Christmas eves and days at. In many cases, these indigent patients have some of the worst illnesses, hoping to get well, and have the resources to pay their way out of the bills because, although PGH is a government-run hospital, not all medicines and treatments are free of charge.

Don Henrico’s Restaurant, a popular pizza hub that brings the best tasting pastas and pizzas in and around the metro is gearing up for its first Don Henrico’s Run that will benefit the Sagip Buhay Foundation. This local organization focuses in providing medications and medical treatment to less-fortunate Filipinos admitted in the medicine and ICU wards of the PGH in Manila.

The race venue will be held at the grounds of CCP Complex, Pasay City on December 17, 2011. This is a rare afternoon race that will take place at 3:30pm. It’s also the best time to catch a glimpse of the famous sunset while cruising and running around the scenic views of Manila Bay.

Interested runners can still register for race categories 3k, 5k, and 10k distances at all Don Henrico’s outlets in Metro Manila. After the race, finishers will receive exciting loots from participating sponsors including cash vouchers and slices of pizza courtesy of Don Henrico’s. For those who will vie for ranks and medals, cash prizes await the fastest runners.

Improving the quality of life in every Filipino is one of the core CSR statements of Don Henrico’s. Its goal is to bring a Christmas atmosphere in the wards of PGH where patients can have all the quality treatment and medication they need to have better lives when they go home. Come join this worthwhile advocacy. Register and run for a good cause. See you there!

Monday, December 5, 2011

WWF-BPI Research Assessment Report

Baguio City is the country’s summer capital no more while Davao becomes the Philippines’ new business capital …

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) in partnership with World Wide Fund - Philippines (WWF-Phil) has recently released the results of a one year data gathering research on selected key cities that will impact business, environmental, and socio-economic conditions caused by a global concern on the worsening climate change.

This research, entitled Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts, has identified four key cities in the Philippines that have been tagged as most vulnerable: Baguio City, Cebu City, IloIlo City, and Davao City. The research used three vector analyses to gauge the level of vulnerability as a city, climate and environmental exposure, socio-economic sensitivity and adaptive capacity. The scope of these analyses has a historical data of more than 20 years within the period of 1990 to 2010.

As a result, among the cities identified, Baguio City has been placed in the highest risk. Looking back in history, Baguio City was built by the famous architect and city planner Daniel Burnham in the 1900s to be a rest and recreational place for American Soldiers who want to have a feel of the cool weather of the US without necessarily going stateside. In the original plan, the city was designed for a population of 25,000 and not to the extent of what Baguio now has which is over 300,000 people crowding a 57.5 square kilometer land area. Among the four cities, Baguio is the most densely populated.

Due to its cool climate, Baguio also has the highest rainfall that subsequently caused countless landslides, soil erosions and sink-holes resulting from underground erosions. For thousands of years, this city, located 1,500 meters above sea level, continues to experiencing extreme flooding.

With these worsening problems of the city, business and socio economic conditions also declined. Although for many years, Baguio has been noted to be the most popular destination in the country, tourism has now declined to 25%. The city is accessible with only three roads namely Marcos Highway, Naguilian Road and Kennon Road which are all prone to landslides. In addition, the city doesn’t have an airport. Ironically, the city’s local government has made it a priority to promote tourism as its primary revenue despite the decline and even if the present structure of the city can no longer support it. However, agricultural capacity has been sustained although produced in the outskirts of town such as Trinidad and Naguilian but they are not prioritized by the LGU.

Among the four cities identified, Davao City came out to be the least vulnerable and has proven to have more room for improvement. To begin with, the city does not have any recorded typhoon in hundreds of years. It also has the lowest crime rate and has a systematized area development. Among the four cities, Davao has the highest immigration percentage both residential and business because of its promising and lucrative opportunities. Even with tourism up by 75%, the city considers local industries as a priority for growth and revenue. The city also has an international airport and seaports to cater to international trades. There are even Asian countries in the far south using the ports of Davao as their export entry and not the Manila ports. With the bright future Davao is now facing, it won’t be too long before it becomes the country’s new business capital.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Event Coverage: Nuvali’s Dirt Weekend 2011

On its third year, Nuvali, the premier residential and nature inspired destination in the south, has once again put the pedal in full cycle with Dirt Weekend 2011. With bigger, better, and more challenging mountain bike courses, the Dirt Weekend gathered more than 2,500 participants from different parts of Metro Manila and other regions in the country who competed in four different mountain bike challenges.


With 1,860 hectare of trails to offer, crossing three municipalities Cabuyao, Calamaba and Sta. Rosa, the Cross Country Race is certainly a mountain biker’s haven for extreme challenge. It’s a test of cross country skills as bikers navigated themselves along the deep single track trails and marsh courses of Nuvali. Bike challengers were exposed to steep climbs with technical scrambling of dirt, grass, rocks and a mix of hard pavement all throughout the race course.


Experience moto-cross action on a mountain bike. The Four Cross is a controlled landscaped race course designed for mountain bikes. It’s a 1.3km loop of high jumps, steep descent and zip through berms as bikers sprint through this course in a head-to-head challenge among the most competitive riders in the country.


Mountain Bike Orienteering offers another level of mountain bike challenge. It is a combination of two outdoor sport disciplines mainly mountain-orienteering and cross-country mountain biking. Seven teams competed in this race of navigational skills, map reading and cross country biking along a 21km extreme trail in Nuvali.


The most challenging of all challenges is the 24-Hour Mountain Biking activity. More than a hundred participants joined in this gruesome extreme pedaling test of endurance. This race ran a 3.5km trail-route loop where riders stretched their physical limits to make the most number of laps in 24 hours of biking. Among the hundreds of participants who joined, only a handful was able to complete the 60 tiring laps of the race. This particular race was so challenging that it drew a lot international riders to join including Mr. Tas Laurie, an airline pilot/ extreme outdoors man who shared his excruciating ride experience where he mentioned dozens of crashes along the way before completing the 60 laps.

The Dirt Weekend biking competition is a yearly event of Nuvali that promotes its culture and advocacy on environmental sustainability. Given the place’s lush green surroundings, wide open landscapes and not to mention fresh clean air, Nuvali is the perfect venue for such an event much to the delight of health buffs and nature aficionados. Nuvali is surely a haven for healthy and balance living.

*Photos used with permission by JM Bueno of


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