Life is good, says Dennis Sabangan

I recently lost a good friend.

We rarely saw each other. Dennis, a renowned photographer, was always on the front line. He would take the photos that top huge organizations would later use for their front pages. He would elbow other people to get the perfect shot but would laugh with them reporters and co-photographers after the adrenaline-packed coverage.

I first met Dennis at a rally. I was there, because, perhaps it’s always where cub reporters are assigned. I was then a young, thin reporter. He annoyed me no end. While waiting for the protest action, he’d crack jokes and I really found him noisy. But he instantly gained my respect when I saw him running, wearing three heavy-duty cameras with long lenses. He also carried a ladder. Of course the ladder helped him find the best vantage point. This guy is dedicated, I thought. Then I saw his photos.

In succeeding coverages, he would tease that I gained weight. All those teasing I got used to. His favorite expression? “Pektusan kita dyan e.”

One day, he called me up, told me of an opportunity elsewhere. He always believed I can expand my career; he always wanted me to try wires or bigger news organizations. He always believed I can be whatever I want be.  I submitted an application to that organization and got hired a month after. It was where I learned to be an Editor and a digital content manager. It was where I expanded my regional network. Dennis and I would chat at times and I’d tell him stuff about my work. But I think I never really got to thank him for opening that door for me.

He also volunteered to take photos at my wedding but was unable to attend the ceremonies because, well, he got sick. We would catch up once in a while, talk about his odd beliefs or share some updates on a breaking news story.

Looking back, I wish I had made him feel like he had a friend in me. I wish I treated him to more meals (I did try once but he ended up paying for it, haha). I will always remember how he helped me. And I wish I can repay that kindness someday.


Imelda Marcos talks about getting old, wanting more shoes

Thea Alberto-Masakayan, Yahoo! Southeast Asia

For her 82nd birthday, Imelda Marcos grants an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Southeast Asia. In this two-part feature and video series, the style and beauty icon talks about getting old, her infamous shoe collection, and why she’s still a hit after all these years.

Clad in a ruby Filipiniana, Philippine history’s most popular First Lady welcomed me in her old home in San Juan for an interview about her upcoming birthday.

She later leads me to a seat in their old abode, which, though dusty, still radiates the lavishness that the Marcoses are known for. Their huge painted portraits hung on cemented walls while their photos with the world’s famous sat on top of an old piano. A gold Ferdinand Marcos statue was the centerpiece of the grand structure.

She allowed me to examine remnants of their 20-year power—news clippings, ancient tapes of Marcos press conferences, even fading personal letters from their world counterparts. She then left me for a while, and returned with fresh make-up and an unforgettable floral scent.

As expected, Imelda Marcos¸ now already 82, is still a sight to behold—her signature hairstyle perfectly done, her skin still radiant despite the age.

“I’m allergic to pangit (the ugly),” Imelda said, so she makes sure she’s glamorous all the time.

She was later humming, to my surprise, the legendary ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree.’

“It’s originally our song,” the lady said.

Apparently, years had not taken her wit away.

Of wishes and shoes

Imelda turns 82 on July 2, and she wishes “justice for human beings” and justice for her family, as she lamented media’s “great injustice” to the Marcoses.

“The media is so powerful that it can even destroy you beyond death and beyond life. The gun can kill you only up to the grave but the media can kill you beyond the grave and to infinity,” Marcos said.

Now, she also wants the government to have “true democracy and true justice for each citizen.”

To this day, Marcos swears there were no human rights violations when she and husband Ferdinand were at the helm of Malacanang. They were merely victims of a biased media, said Imelda.

Marcos said she experienced the best and worst of everything, but she got her best birthday gift on her 60th, when she won the “case of the century”—an overwhelming 901 charges filed against her and her family while they were in exile in Hawaii, following the 1986 People Power Revolution.

“That was a great phase of my life. Even if you are completely penniless and countryless, if you are at peace with the truth, you are at peace with God,” she said.

Today, Marcos keeps all 901 folders in a hall inside their San Juan house, along with boxes and boxes of jewelry that evaded sequestration.

Her infamous shoes are nowhere to be found though, as they are all in a shoe museum in MarikinaCity.

“They said I had thousands of shoes, which was not true. It was a lie in the end because when Malacanang gave it to the Marikina museum it was even less than 200,” she said.

“When I was First Lady I was hardly using shoes, only on special occasions or foreign visits, I would wear shoes. I was a working First Lady, I had espadrilles,” she added.

She’s known for her penchant for shoes but she reveals: “I don’t even wear shoes anymore. In fact when I met Marcos I was in slippers,” said Imelda, whose shoe size is 8.

But if she would have it her way now, she would gladly get more pairs.

“At this point in time of my life, I think I deserve more shoes than what was lied to the world,” said Marcos in jest.

“I feel that I deserve more shoes because I’m more ‘well-heeled’ now to the good, the true and the beautiful,” she added.

Beauty and wealth

Did you know that her iconic hairstyle takes about 20 minutes to fix?

“My hair is up to my knees. You have to struggle more to look presentable,” she said.

But while it takes her an hour to dress up when meeting a King or a VIP, it would take two hours when she is to go to the slums.

“They need a star to light up the night,” she said.

“I was both a star to light the dark of the night and at the same time give standard to all. And at the same time a slave, to enslave myself so that everybody becomes a star,” Marcos explained.

Though stripped of the privileges she used to have as First Lady, Imelda said she still knows how to look her best, sans the designer tag.

She boasts of being a Divisoria expert, a far scene from her extravagant ways during the Martial Law era.

“I had complete deprivation of my worldly and country assets. [After EDSA] we didn’t even know where to get our next meal. We were snatched out of the country and we didn’t know we were going abroad…but that was a great phase in my life,” noted Imelda.

“This too shall Pass”

By Thea Alberto, Yahoo! Southeast Asia

If February 25, 1986 was tagged as the Philippines’ shining moment in world history, it was a day the Marcoses would rather forget.
“For me it was just a temporary glitch in our lives. We just had to be brave and focused. And do what we think was the right thing. This too shall pass, that phrase came up a lot in 1986,” said Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the only son of the legendary couple Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, as he recalled what EDSA 1 meant to his family.

Fateful day

As events unfolded in 1986, which saw the  defection of the key military officials, Catholic church’s Jaime Cardinal Sin calling for people’s support, Bongbong recalled that he was busy trying to keep the Palace safe. Having had military training, Bongbong was among the key figures carrying out orders from his father.

“I was involved in the military aspect of it because I’ve been told of some reports. My father called me in on a Tuesday and Wednesday and [told me] this is the plan of these people, you go talk to the other officers, find out what they were thinking and get more intelligence,” Bongbong told Yahoo! Southeast Asia, referring to former defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile and then Philippine Constabulary head Fidel V. Ramos.

Enrile and Ramos rebelled against Marcos, out of fear for their lives, and following the supposed massive election fraud by Marcos’s camp during the 1986 snap elections.

Because reports of attacks were persistent, Bongbong said they knew they had to prepare for the worst.

“We knew that the situation was war…that there was going to be shooting. In the end, there wasn’t really much because my father refused to give the order to shoot. But we were ready in case that had come,” Bongbong said, noting that his father also wanted to prevent bloodshed.

But millions continued gathering in EDSA, making it harder for the remaining loyalists to disperse the throng.

AP PhotoThe rest, as they say, is history.

Upon prodding of then U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the Marcoses prepared to leave Malacanang, their home for over two decades.

“We were deciding where to put our people, what assets to put where. [We were] trying to build up the supplies, all the things we needed,” Bongbong said. Through all these happenings, Bongbong recalled he never saw his father cry or panic, although they were well aware they have lost their grip to power.

“There was very little time to panic, or to be scared or to cry because there was so much to do,” he said.

Corazon Aquino, widow of martyred Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Marcos’ opponent in the snap elections, was then sworn in as the first woman president.

The flight to Hawaii

The Marcoses had power, money and fame. But on that historic day, they claimed to have lost everything.

“We knew by then the Americans had deceived us. So we were all thinking: what happens now? What happens next? We just didn’t know what was in store for us. We had no idea what was gonna happen once we landed,” Bongbong said.

Upon arriving in Hawaii, Bongbong recalled losing even the clothes they were wearing.

“I did not have any at all. The Americans took everything. I have nothing that’s pre-86. I owned nothing that’s older than 1986. Even my clothes, they took away. They took everything,” Bongbong said.

Bongbong who spent all his life in the halls of power said they eventually endured a hard life in the United States.

“For the first couple of weeks we were wearing donated clothes from Hawaii…from people we’ve never met. And they were in our house, and they were bringing food, clothes, and appliances. Our lives completely depended on strangers,” he added.

“But I always viewed it as a temporary situation,” Bongbong said, noting that while in the U.S., all they wanted to do was return home.

AP PhotoFive years after the 1986 People Power revolution, Bongbong came home.

“It was time to come home because if we stayed in Hawaii, that would have been it. That would be the end of everything,” he said.

Bongbong has eventually returned to power as Representative of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte, a Marcos stronghold.

He is now running for the Senate.

“I guess EDSA is relevant in the sense that it is part of history. But it really is no longer the central things in my life anyway. I think more in terms of the future than in the past. And to talk about all of these things could be interesting but it really does not impact much on us anymore,” said Bongbong.

Back to basics in Calaguas Island

Originally posted in Yahoo Philippines:

The waves may be high and the ride may be longer than usual but be assured that it’s all worth it.

Calaguas group of islands, aptly tagged as Philippines’ best emerging tourist destination, lies in Camarines Norte province–about a two-hour boat ride from a port in Vinzons town or a 1-hour boat ride from Paracale town (plus an 8-hour bus ride if you’re coming from Manila).

Charming Calaguas undoubtedly offers an unforgettable beach time with its pristine, powdery white sand, a no-need-for-camera-filter scenery, and a truly blue sea. The island does not offer much accommodation facilities, but there are travel agencies that offer unique overnight camping experiences.

For those who would like some comfort, (where there is electricity via generator), Waling-Waling Ecovillage offers kubol and cabana accommodations.

The best time to go there would be January to June, when the waves are not so rough and high. Once you get to the island, bask in the sun, mingle with the locals and take all the photos that you want!

Take all the rest that you need. There’s no electricity in the island so you really will be able to disconnect but be recharged. There is no cellphone signal as well but rest assured that the island is safe. Truly back to basics!

At sunset, Calaguas is also a picturesque paradise so make sure your camera is ready. Should you decide to stay overnight, go join a bonfire or go stargazing. Sleep with the sound of waves as your lullaby.

MUST DO: Swim in the blue waters and enjoy the pristine white sand

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Go trekking and enjoy the view on top of Calaguas hills.

HOW TO GET THERE: Several bus lines offer Manila-Camarines Norte trips, with one-way fares at P450-800. The cheapest two-day tour (with tent accommodations) would cost P3,000, inclusive of boat ride to the island.

Annyeonghaseyo! Embark on a Korean-drama adventure

Originally posted on Yahoo Singapore, Yahoo Philippines


If you’re a fan of Korean dramas, then a trip to South Korea should definitely be on your bucket list.

More than the scenery, great food, and the efficient public transport, Seoul, the heart of South Korea and other nearby areas can provide you a travel experience like no other. You can walk the streets where your favorite stars shot that piggy-back-ride scene, or dine where Lee Min Ho and Park Shin Hye exchanged those heart-melting dialogues. It’s best to bring your honey, and you and your partner can wear couple shirts—it’s perfectly normal there!

Romance in Namsan: N Seoul tower

If you feel like a character in “My Love from the Stars” or you want to trace the footsteps of K-pop queen BoA, and the Korean heartthrobs “Boys over Flowers,” then hop on a cable car, after a short walk from MyeongDong.

Along with the spectacular view, you can make a love pact at the “Locks of Love” area, a spot that has witnessed numerous proposals and pledges of love—real and the reel. You can also drop by the Teddy Bear museum shop for cute souvenirs, get high at the tower’s observatories, or try the unusual Sky restrooms! We’re not wondering why Namsan tower is a favorite shoot location of Korean shows: it is picturesque, romantic, and worth every penny.

Love padlocks at the N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower. (Photo by Thinkstock)Love padlocks at the N Seoul Tower or Namsan Tower. (Photo by Thinkstock)

Fun and love at Lotte World

Lotte World is a must-see for fans of world-popular drama “Stairway to Heaven.” At Lotte World, you will instantly recognize the iconic merry-go-round and the ice skating rink, which is also South Korea’s largest. If you were a fan of Song Hye Kyo and Rain who headlined “Full House,” you will also remember scenes shot at the amusement park.

The park offers a variety of rides for the young and the young at heart, and a day is not enough to check all the offers of the Magic Island (Outdoor) and Adventure (Indoor) areas. It’s easy to get there too: Get off the Seoul Subway Line 2, Line 8 at Jamsil, and exit at 3 or 4.

You will instantly recognize the iconic merry-go-round at Lotte World. (Photo by Thinkstock)You will instantly recognize the iconic merry-go-round at Lotte World. (Photo by Thinkstock)

History and city life

If you want to see historical palaces and feel like you were part of the Joseon dynasty, head to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the largest of Korea’s Five Grand Palaces. Gyeongbokgung Palace housed Korea’s early rulers, and every part seems to tell a story. You can also witness a reenactment of the traditional change of guard ceremony and have your photos taken with palace guards, as long as you treat them with courtesy.

Gyeongbokgung Palace (Photo by Thinkstock)Gyeongbokgung Palace (Photo by Thinkstock)

Just across the historical palace is Gwanghwamun Square, a popular shooting location in Seoul. There lies a statue of Sejong the Great (father of Hangul, Korea’s language) and war hero Yi Sun Sin. Shot on location are parts of popular Korean series “Iris,” “You are the best, Yi Sun Sin,” among others.  You may also try a hanbok (traditional Korean outfit) for free at the area.

Go further and walk beyond the Seoul City Hall, you will see yet another familiar K-drama location: the Chenggyecheon stream.

Add to your bucket list: Cross the Cheonggyecheon stream.Add to your bucket list: Cross the Cheonggyecheon stream.

The 11-kilometer stream starts from Cheonggye Plaza, and ends at the Hangang (River). Walk hand in hand with your companion, see students study, or just breathe the fresh air and help the stream’s sound clear your mind. See a candlelight fountain at night, or cross the stream and act ala Ha Ji Won in “100 days with Mr. Arrogant.” The best thing? You can do it for free!

Gwanghwamun SquareGwanghwamun Square

And when your feet are tired, you can try finding a nearby subway and get off at Hoehyeon station, exit 5, and explore Namdeamun market—where practically everything is sold! Go shopping for clothes, shoes, accessories, souvenir items, ginseng, among others. Prices are relatively affordable and the choices are plenty: after all, this spot is the largest traditional market in Korea.  At night, you can eat and drink soju (rice wine) like how Korean stars do it in the K-dramas and the movies: go for those clear tents and order from the ahjummas (old lady). It’s a most real Korea experience you can get.

Nami Island
Even if is almost two hours by train from Seoul, Nami island is worth the long commute. For your ultimate Korean-drama experience, Nami island offers a lot of picture-worthy spots, including the Metasequoia footpath, an aisle with perfectly-lined trees where stars of “Winter Sonata” professed love for each other.

At Nami island, you can also ride a couple bike for hours or go on a simple picnic while enjoying the cool air. See squirrels freely interact with visitors—interacting with nature at its finest.

Remember: Nami island is a “micro nation” and you need to have a “passport” to get in. Passports are available before you ride a ferry that will bring you to the main island.

Enjoy Korea

Although most signs are in Hangeul, South Korea is very tourist-friendly. Cabs are labeled whether the drivers can speak English, and a hotline (Dial 120 or 02-120) is ready to assist foreigners. It will also help if you download their subway app, Jihachul, to help you get to places.

Hello, June 2014

It’s been a year since I last posted something on this blog. I feel like I should be apologetic, but what’s the point of being sorry when I’m really not sorry for not being able to update this site. Perhaps I felt THAT need for privacy, and I didn’t want to share my thoughts to random readers recently. But what the heck, here I am again, typing away, writing what I feel like saying.

So, what has happened since the last post? We moved to a new home, got more units for my Masters, learned a new language (안녕하세요!), traveled to four countries, lost old friends, gained new ones (don’t we all?), been to the emergency room twice, gained several pounds, cursed at the traffic, cried at the movie house, laughed at a Buzzfeed story, cuddled with my husband, edited tons of stories, almost switched jobs (in the end I decided to stay where I am right now, the best place to be!), cooked a meal, and…actually the list is endless. One year went by so fast.

Recently though, I feel like I was placed in a slow-motion vacuum, and somehow figured that this is what God wants me to see: things don’t often go our way and we need to slow down sometimes. It was time for a breakthrough and God is leading the way. So I’m embracing the journey. The best is yet to come.

Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul. 2014
Cheonggyecheon Stream, Seoul. 2014

Bike love

Athlete Lance Armstrong once said: “If you’re worried about falling off the bike, you’ll never get on.”

And so when I started teaching my husband how to ride a bike, I knew he’ll only learn if he gets his first semplang experience. :) His intent to ride a bike however later proved it was a learning experience for me as well.

1. Patience

A simple bike demonstration wouldn’t work all the time. People learn differently and as a coach, you should be able to find your student’s strength and use it so he can learn.

2. Constant practice

We had 15 minutes of biking sessions almost every night, even if it meant 15 minutes of semplang or futile attempts to keep his balance. Then one night, he just learned how to make it work! And he never unlearned the skill since then. :)

**** to be continued