Wednesday, 24 December 2014

“A Story of Christmas”

Dr. Amparito Llamas-Lhuillier reads “A Story of Christmas” to the children. (Photos by Richard Ramos)

As a mother of two growing boys, I am extremely particular on the adage that reading is a must for self-development.  So despite going home from a busy day at work tired and wanting sleep, I try my best to have the will and want to read a book at bedtime.

My boys look forward to it.  Not only do they learn things they also know their Mom, or Dad, loves them so much and wants to spend time with them reading.

Not all kids are as fortunate.  Thus I felt great motherly warmth for Cebu City Marriott Hotel for creating a heart-tugging event dubbed “A Story of Christmas.”

One fateful afternoon at the posh business hotel, several kids from the Children’s Center of Cebu gathered at the Sampaguita Hall for a story-telling session. 

I believe the kids had no idea who their grand story-teller was – none other than a renowned Cebu patroness and businesswoman Dr. Amparito Llamas-Lhuillier – but I believe to them, it did not really matter. 

What mattered was that a lady of stature, poised and elegant, took time to spend an entire afternoon reading to them a story then sharing insights on the story’s messages and values with her own children and grandchildren with them.

     Four of Madame Amparito Lhuillier’s grandchildren (left to right) Sophia Lhuillier Bugbee, Maxim Lhuillier Warnod, Bianca Lhuillier Warnod and Jack Nicholas Lhuillier Bugbee takes turns asking questions to the children regarding insights from the story.  Children who answered were given stars.

About the Children’s Shelter of Cebu

You see, these children are orphans.  Abandoned by their parents, who are either deceased or incapable of caring, these orphans were taken in off the streets and housed by the Children’s Shelter of Cebu – a center located at Banawa, Cebu City, Philippines.

From one house in 1979, the Children’s Shelter of Cebu grew to three houses this year.  You can learn more about the center at

I have always admired institutions who genuinely take enormous effort at helping street children.  I meet so many of these kids every day on the city streets, tapping on my car window begging. 

The city government penalizes people who give them alms and with reason.  These kids are in danger as they expose themselves to being hit by speeding cars so giving alms encourage a wrongdoing.

Children should be home with their parents, or in school studying.  But the sad fact is most of these kids are victims of abusive parents or individuals/groups who take advantage of their helplessness and innocence.   They have no home, they have no parents.

Teacher Grace from the shelter advised that it might be good to give them food or drink instead of money whenever they tap your car window.  But the best thing for you to do is to approach legitimate institutions such as the Children’s Shelter of Cebu and offer help.

Basadours Cindie and Candie del Rosario moderate discussions with the kids.

The advocacy of the Basadours

Another way to help is to volunteer with the Basadours, a group of dedicated young professionals who share a passion for reading and story-telling.  They meet every last Saturday of the month from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Cebu City Library along OsmeƱa Boulevard to do story-telling for children from the barangay (village).

To quote their story “True Love Reads”, Basadours is “… a portmanteau of the Visayan word basa that means 'reading' and dours from 'ambassadors'—which literally means 'ambassadors of reading'…”  You can learn more about them at

The Basadours assisted the hotel staff in the story-telling session with Madame Amparito Lhuillier.  I got to chat with identical twin Basadours Cindie and Candie del Rosario, who both work at a call center yet shrugged off sleepiness to attend the session between work and sleep times.  Their dedication was apparent as they assisted the Lhuillier family engage in story-telling and sharing with the children from the shelter.

                                  The Children try their hand at making gingerbread men – 
                              a signature Christmas pastry at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel.

Christmas and Cebu City Marriott Hotel

“A Story of Christmas” was only one among many outreach projects that the staff at Cebu City Marriott Hotel initiated this season. 

I wish to thank our good friend Cebu City Marriott Hotel PR Officer Nico Ivan Acebedo Velasquez for the privilege of witnessing the event and to Cebu City Marriott Hotel PR Manager Charlene Go for hosting this laudable story-telling activity.

It is great that businesses such as the Marriott take time to pause and give back – this time in a pleasant affair with the Basadours, the Lhuillier family, hotel personnel and the children.

For more information on Christmas at the Cebu City Marriott Hotel visit

Twin Basadours Cindie and Candie del Rosario pose with A.T. Ramos, Nico Ivan Velasquez.

Cebu City Marriott Hotel PR Officer Nico Ivan Velasquez and PR Manager Charlene Go
pose with A.T. Ramos. 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Nancy Cudis talks about Her mother's unusual breakfast time tales

I believe there is no greater compliment than a child writing praises to a parent, so when I read Nancy Cudis post about her Mom, I felt her Mom is the most lucky Mom in the world.

My mother and her unusual breakfast time tales

My mother is a born storyteller, very verbose and quite animated. Just like her own mother, she remembers many stories from long ago, even from the time when she started first grade. Mind you, not all of these are happy bedtime stories that make you smile before you sleep. These are tragic tales of the Japanese occupation, of unrequited love, of regrets, and of what-could-have-beens and what-ifs, pretty much balanced off with stories of climbing the neighbor’s mango tree (and harvesting some fruits without permission), of harvesting cacao at her family’s own backyard, and of endless talking over laundry by the riverside.

Unsurprisingly, my mother being my mother—a maddening petite package of bluntness and gentleness, of friendliness and sarcasm—would hover at me at breakfast time, and I would get this foreboding that something creepy is going to happen in the next 30 seconds. Almost always, that something would: my mother would sit down on one side of the table and ask a subtle question about life in general, and then before I know it, she would be telling me stories of bloody suicide attempts that happened close to home during the war while I would attempt to finish my breakfast plate of ham and bacon and gulp down as much as I could a bowl of her utan bisaya.

I really don’t mind hearing these stories. In fact, I like listening to my mother, just like I sat as a rapt young listener to my late paternal grandfather’s stories of dealing with guerrillas and to my late maternal mother’s tales of fleeing from her war-threatened neighborhood to the mountains fresh from giving birth to her first child. Since these are things one does not get to hear everyday, I would say I am privileged to be a holder of some true stories of courage, sacrifice, and love that happened within my family, which I could pass on to the next line.

Each year we celebrate Mother’s Day, I always remember my mother and her unusual breakfast time stories. Some days, there are stories told before and repeated. Other days, there are new tales that are either too fantastic to believe or too horrendous to imagine (but either way, my melodramatic mother has achieved her goal of capturing my attention and her childish desire to have an audience).

My mother would tell me how her father, a gentle carpenter, would walk all day long with a cabinet on his head needed to be sold for a few pesos to feed his seven children; how she and her siblings would walk so far to go to school; how they have to make several rounds everyday to the well to gather water enough to feed and bath 10 members of the family; how a well not far off from where they fetched water has become a tragic scene of a pretty female neighbor who committed suicide to escape an abusive father (the well has to be closed off and abandoned); how family scandals in town are “contained”; and how cruel war was to a simple family and neighborhood like her own (and here I thought flogging only happened in Voltaire’s “Candide”).

Allow me to share with you my appreciation of my own mother and how she has kept our family alive with stories passed from her mother and her mother’s mother to her daughters (who are both still wrestling with how to deal with them in these digital times and Korean culture frenzy) and stories that happened to her and to her family, forcing us to deal with realities and teaching us by way of true events that courage, love, hard work, and understanding are way better than cowardice, hatred, and discord.

Go give your mother a hug. And listen to her stories. Really listen. Don’t worry too much if some of them are too hard to believe. She is your mother after all. (And if you are a female reading this post, you might become one soon with your own set of stories to tell.)

(Originally posted by Nancy Cudis on The Memoriter Blogs on May 10, 2013 as her tribute to her mother on Mother’s Day)

Nancy Cudis is an award-winning blogger/writer and is the CEO of The Memoriter Writing Service based in Cebu City, Philippines; a very good friend and an amazing daughter.  Thanks Nancy!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Outta' Town Nature Trippin' with Kids

That's Ryan wearin' yellow and Raffy wearin' red - soooo serious with fishin'..  where did all the fishies go?

     When the family decided to visit relatives for our next out-of-town trip, Davao was the first option.  My sister and her family lived there for more than ten years.  Fate had it, her family was due to move back to Cebu and that month was the last she and her family will remain there.

   Of course, when one visits Davao, it has to be a visit with nature.  Davao City is in the Mindanao Region of the Philippines and home of the Philippine eagle - an endangered species.  Eden Nature Park is one famed destination there and I wanted the kids to experience that too.

   Little did I know that more shopping malls were up and running in the heart of the city, specifically along the main artery J.P. Laurel Avenue.  Just cruise along that road and you will see the new SM Lanang, Abreeza Ayala and the old Poblacion with Gaisano Mall.

All photos on this post are by Richard Ramos - well most - see how the boys love to goof around? 

   But another commercial center isn't exactly what I had in mind for our trip.  We were there for nature!  So we packed things up, ear plugs and all, and stuffed toys too (dear Lord) and headed off to dynamic Davao.

   My husband Richard, who is a writer for the national newspaper Expat, got us a room at the comfy Park Inn by Radisson.  It is situated conveniently beside SM Lanang (same owners, so go figure) so getting ourselves suitably well-stocked was not an issue.  So after getting settled - and "malling" around (which is my husband's favorite pastime) - we planned our nature tripping.

   But of course, an out-of-town trip with kids is not complete without its challenges.  The boys fought over who got to use the key card first while going up or down the elevators or whose time it was to use the key card to open our room door.

   One time, their fighting got so bad, Raffy stormed out of our room and rode down the elevator hoping to find us still at our breakfast table (unfortunately we were answering the call of nature in comfort rooms nearby).  When he could no longer find us he asked the receptionist (crying now) to help him find his parents (oh dear). 

   Anyways, back to our nature-trippin', first on the agenda was Eden Nature Park & Resort. Situated on a mountaintop in Barrio Eden, Toril, Davao, Eden certainly lives up to its name.  I had good memories from previous visits there and I looked forward to seeing a roving peacock again.  

This is not the roving peacock - this was in a cage - the rover was brown and we couldn't catch a shot!

   The boys loved it there!  They zip-lined (well, the tamer version-and Ryan fell!!!!), visited the Bird Sanctuary, and their favorite - fished at the Fishing pond, competing on who got fishes the most, then got to eat their catch too!

Raffy loved this part - well, right now he's got longer legs.

Ryan was more scared of this one - he even fell!!! But overall - he liked it.

What is it with boys and fishing?

They truly enjoyed their catch! Gastronomically too!

From pond to plate - Pinirito (Deep Fried) Tilapia

Sinugba (Grilled) Tilapia

Paksiw/Inun-unan (Sauteed garlic, onion,ginger and pepper in Vinegar) Tilapia...and...

Pinaputok (Steamed with Banana Leaf wrap) Tilapia, yum!

   Then we transferred to The Pinnacle Hotel and Suites where we were treated to two nights stay and unlimited meals!  Get a load of that!  The Pinnacle is found right smack at the old downtown area very near the Gaisano Mall, and for me that place is where you can get the feel of the real Davao.  

   Raffy loved it at the Pinnacle - he felt better there after he associated Park Inn with getting a fever.  Ryan asked if he could start constructing a Lego-wannabee toy we bought (not too cheap) at SM, and I said yes (as usual - mothers are the yes-parents while the Dads grumble).  It turned out Ryan just got more irked coz the toy blocks were too hard to fit! (huyzz.)

That is just one of the smaller eagles.  The larger ones were caged on higher ground.

   Then Raffy and I went off to an early start to ride all the way to The Philippine Eagle Center. Richard and Ryan continued to doze.  I tell you the eagles are awesome!  Then right beside the center is the Malagos Garden Resort, where a petting zoo was for Raffy the main attraction.

   At the last day, we visited our last nature-trippin' stop - the Crocodile Farm.  just within Davao City, the farm was a little bit of a downer.  But what was interesting at best were the ice creams!  They came in Crocodile, Durian, Mango, Cheese and whatnot.  Guess what I tried.

These birds just flocked around Raffy!  He had seed feeds of course - but it was thrilling to see exotic birds so tame - Victoria Crown and Nicobar Pigeons, African Lovebirds, Cocktiels and Cockatoos! 

Raffy reacted when his fingers got sucked in by the Koi!  That wild duck (tame) gave a mean nibble too!

We caught our fish and ate it too - nothin' like a hard-earned meal to satisfy one' palate and two boys' egos! 

The Pinnacle showed us true Davaoeno hospitality - those are the two stuffed toys - hand carried to and fro.

Don't be fooled by the serene look of this photo - Outta' Town Nature Trippin' with Boys is anything but!

   Then we stopped by the local shops for some souvenirs.  Ryan got himself a cool, spiky durian magnet, and mass at church then snacks at a nearby McDonald's before runnin' off to the airport.  Whew!  That was thrilling.  While safely back in Cebu I asked - "Where's my laptop?"

Mommy tips on local newspaper Cebu Daily News

I am sharing with you a page that came out last July 10, 2014 in a local newspaper Cebu Daily News in Cebu City, Philippines.  It was my first after a long, long time.  I used to maintain a column and contribute in other local papers here in the Philippines - but for totally different topics.  I'd say it feels great to be back!  

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The "Mommy Book": Career Mommy

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Friday, 23 May 2014

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Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Kids Write Funny! Enjoy reading!

Kids can be hilarious sometimes, especially when they write!  So I've saved a few notes my boys have written through the years.  Who knows, they might have a few laughs reading them when they get older.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The "Mommy Book": Mommy Travels

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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The "Mommy Book": Mommy Travels

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