Filipinos bag 59 medals at 2015 Special Olympics

(This article is also posted on Rappler.)
The victorious football team that participated in Unified Football, where special athletes and regular athletes play together. Photo from Special Olympics Philippines' Facebook page

The victorious football team that participated in Unified Football, where special athletes and regular athletes play together. Photo from Special Olympics Philippines’ Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Ringing in August with victory and high hopes, Filipino athletes from all over the country competed in worldwide Olympic sporting events and bagged 21 gold medals, 14 silver medals and 24 bronze medals.

What makes this celebration all the more sweet is that all our athletes are special.

The Special Olympics World Games for 2015 was held from July 25 to August 1 in Los Angeles with 7,000 athletes coming from 177 countries – all of them with varied intellectual disabilities.

The Philippine delegation brought over 35 athletes, with Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao fully represented.

A participant of the Special Olympics since 1991, the Philippines has been training athletes year in and year out. This year’s set of athletes took two 3 years to get to the sporting grounds, ready and qualified.

Out of the 25 sports hosted this year, the Philippines joined athletics, unified football, bowling, powerlifting, aquatics, gymnastics, and badminton.

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EcoWEB: Helping Mindanao farmers rise from conflict

(This article is also posted on Rappler.)

To the general public, Mindanao is known for many things – but not its farmers.

People perceive the region as a hotbed of endless conflict. At best, it’s the cradle for the Philippines’ vibrant Muslim community and its rich culture.

Somewhere underneath all the noise are Mindanao’s farmers who share the same problems with other farmers all over the country. The difference is, their plight is compounded by conflict. In places where lives are ended by misunderstanding, they struggle to grow life from the soil.

Far from the country’s capital and divided into peace and war zones, the people of Mindanao see no other choice but to help themselves. One group that has taken the initiative is the Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits (EcoWEB).

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On Bahay Kalipay: What you can expect

Not gonna lie, adjusting to life here at Bahay Kalipay was kind of a struggle.

I’m generally a calm, relaxed person who’s always found it manageable to find ease in any situation. Otherwise I fake it ’til I make it – which is exactly what I ended up doing for the first few days. Outwardly I was calm but inside I was restless, rushing to get used to my new environment as if I was on deadline. If you’re from the city and you’re used to living life from one task to the next, you can fully count on feeling the same.

Yeah, it took me a few days but I feel like I’m settling in and finding my place 🙂 

If you’re coming, here’s what you can expect.

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There’s business in Camotes

Last week I went on a trip to Cebu for Sinulog and supposedly, to go diving. On the way to the airport I realized my iPod was missing, the trusty iPod I’ve never ever traveled without. That’s when I knew the trip would be sliiiightly different from what I expected.

That’s an understatement.

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3/52. #Sinulog2014

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Thanks to an unpredictable turn of events, I found myself alone with nowhere to go on the Monday after Sinulog. LOL. It’s funny now but at the time, I wasn’t so sure how to feel. Lucky me, one of my roommates at the hostel where I stayed (Tr3eats Guest House) took me in and invited me on an adventure 🙂 The conversation went something like this: “I’ve got nowhere to go.” “Me too. I’ve been thinking of going to Camotes island. Wanna come?” ” SURE.” “GAME.”

Around 5 hours later, after a scary ferry boat ride with huge waves and passengers praying in Bisaya, we were in Camotes.

Santiago beach, Camotes island, Cebu

Camotes is a small group of islands in the Camotes sea, located between Cebu and Leyte. If you’re looking for it on a map, it would be good to zoom in – that’s how small it is.

As you’d expect, life there is pretty basic 🙂 For business, mostly there’s agriculture and tourism.  And so, no wonder it seemed like everyone was happy to see us when we finally docked on the island – because of tropical depression Agaton, there hadn’t been any tourists in a week.

The first enterprising individual I’d like to write about is  one of the first people who approached us when we stepped on land: Jonas, our trusty habal habal driver 🙂

Jonas was the third member of our unlikely traveling band. He brought us everywhere (2 hotels, a beach, the port, 2 caves, and a lake to be exact), and gave us tidbits of Camotes life in between. He’s a hard worker. All the houses we had passed by on the roadside had no more gasoline because of the lack of supplies coming in from Cebu but somehow he managed to procure gas enough to take us to the sights and get us to the port in one piece. He says he used his popularity, haha!

One of the houses Jonas passed by for gas.

Customer service is also ace 🙂 We were initially planning to go home on Tuesday despite not having seen anything in the island because we were scared of getting stranded – problem is, we did get stranded and had to leave on Wednesday instead. Before we could despair, Jonas already drew up a plan of where we would stay, what we could do, and how to make sure we got on that ferry the next day.

He brought us to Alyanarah lodge, clean and very cheap. Ask about it when you’re there. A two-bedroom aircon room is 650/night. And it’s right in front of an awesome beer garden.

At the Canlusong port the next day, JOnas

didn’t leave us until we got on the boat 🙂 If you’re looking for a habal habal driver who’s good at English and Filipino and can’t seem to find one, contact Jonas at 0949-450-4786.

Yup, everyone’s hard at work when it comes to tourism, including this very cool Rasta-type family we met on Santiago beach. Aside from letting people stay at their house for 650/night, this family sells the most unique necklaces, pipes, bracelets and ornaments I’ve seen in the Visayas so far.

Every piece is inspired. According to the main maker, Jippy, no two are exactly the same. His influences are music, his friends, and in general, Filipino culture. The material also makes their stuff special – discarded animal teeth and bone, beads from Canada, crystals, recycled soda bottles, among others 🙂

Jippy, the artisan

This family also does tours and they are extremely friendly. They offered to come to our rescue when we thought Jonas had no gas! The head of the family is Paul, a very cool long-haired grandpa, and his number is 0905-885-1488.

At the balcony of their house, they sometimes play gigs (Paul is the vocalist), something I may have to go back for. Also watch out for Pito’s, which is right next to their house. Very good Filipino food 🙂

Souvenirs we got 🙂



I just had to write about these people because they made what could have been a nerve-wracking trip in an unfamiliar place fun 🙂 And because I was glad to know that in that tiny island, the Filipino enterprise is definitely alive and kicking.

Here are other things to look out for that are cheap, and most definitely helpful to Camotes tourism:

Holy Crystal Cave in San Francisco, Camotes

(No fees, just give any donation you see fit)

Lake Danao. Entrance to the park is P15.

Also, Timubo Cave, where you can swim in underground water. Unfortunately I have no pictures for because they had no gas in their generator – we had to swim in the pitch black cave with just a pinhole of light! Entrance is P25.



As a traveler, I would highly recommend you visit Camotes – just make sure you learn from my bad experience check the weather beforehand 🙂