Fit, Fierce, & 40

Today, I’m celebrating my 40th birthday. My mom told me not to post this photo, but I insisted because I wanted to remind myself that with God’s grace, support of my family and friends, and constant criticisms, He granted my wish to reach my ideal weight before I reach the age of 40.

Why did I choose that photo? Because I’m 40! Who cares?! Besides, during my younger years, I wasn’t able to wear one so I’m taking this opportunity to wear one.

My journey to fitness has not been an easy one. My family and friends are witnesses to my endless struggles, trials and errors, failures, and heartaches. I tried various types of diets and exercises to the point that I entered the military to subject myself to a very rigorous training just to lose weight. But when I was discharged from the academy in 2002, my weight only ballooned and became worst because I ate like I was still in the military with one to zero hours of exercise.

I tried running twice or thrice a week with no progress. I tried fad diets as well to no avail.

But more than two years ago, I tried prayer and fasting for very personal reasons, and that started everything for me. I lost about 10 lbs immediately. I noticed though that with diet alone without exercise, I would always feel so sluggish and weak. So I slowly incorporated running and high-intensity interval training to tone my muscles. From 191 lbs, I am now down to 145 lbs. Thank God!

I am still a work in progress. There are times I still succumb to temptations and my cravings, but what I realized now is that I’m more motivated and consistent in my workouts and diets. I post pictures not to flaunt myself, but to motivate people who are struggling like me before and even now, and to remind myself to be happy, be content, to keep on going, and that this is not a one-time feat.

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Apart from my weight loss success, I’m thankful to God for giving me the strength, motivation, and inspiration. Thank you, Lord for this life, for my health, my family, my friends, my job, and for all the opportunities, blessings, favors, good health, and all the answered prayers.

I may not have everything I want for now, but I won’t stop dreaming, wishing, and praying – for the love of my life, a family of my own, and kids. For now, I will be grateful for what I have – my parents, my sisters and brother-in-law, my pamangkins, my loyal friends, for my job, for my health, and the opportunity to serve the Lord and our community in ways I know how. I know the best is yet to come. He will make all things beautiful in His time.

For now, my birthday wish is that He heals this world from this pandemic and make this a better place again, that He give us strength, stamina, and the grace and favor to endure this life’s challenges, that He heals our hearts, forgives us our sins, that He will guide our leaders, healthcare workers, front liners, and that He’ll protect us and our loved ones.

I know NOTHING is impossible with God. This too shall pass. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Ben&Ben launches BBTV to celebrate 1M subs on YouTube

After reaching more than a million subscribers on YouTube, multi-awarded nine-piece collective Ben&Ben has heeded the call of fans for more exclusive content in the coming days.

The acclaimed band has recently announced the launch of their upcoming weekly series, BBTV on July 31, Friday to celebrate this important milestone in their career.

“We’ve been making vlogs that showed our life behind the scenes, but eventually the band and its team came up with the idea,” vocalist and guitarist Miguel Benjamin shares. “Its primary goal is to simply find more ways to connect to people through more varied content.”

Extensive range of content

Aside from themed music performances and collaborations, expect an intimate look at the band’s more personal and entertaining side as they share their journey of living together under one roof.

“We decided to live together to eliminate or at least greatly lessen the risks involved with working outside,” says Miguel. “We always had the idea of living together in the future to create content and write music, but with the situation now we realized that now was the best time to actually give it a shot.”

Ben&Ben also revealed about their plans to drop a “head bang” version of their smash single “Pagtingin,” as well as cover select K-Pop songs in the future.

The online series, which airs every Wednesday, will also feature a more extensive range of content for people to connect to, including but not limited to games, competitions, challenges, and other forms of entertainment.

Sophomore Album

Ben&Ben is currently working on the follow-up to their platinum-selling debut album, Limasawa Street, which produced generation-defining songs such as “Pagtingin,” “Fall,” “Araw-Araw,” “War,” and more.

Paolo confirms in a statement that one of the reasons for moving in was to start writing for their second album to be released under Sony Music. “We wanted the process to be as organic and as involved as possible, and we’re so excited to see what we can come up with where distance and time isn’t a hindrance.”

New episodes of BBTV will drop every Wednesday of the week on the Ben&Ben YouTube Channel, starting August 5, 2020.

How to stay healthy while stuck at home

Most people have been isolated or confined to their homes for more than four months now due to the threat of a pandemic. If you’re feeling sad, depressed, impatient, craving for food, unmotivated, and hopeless lately, you are not alone.

We all wanted our “old” lives back, but we can’t do that for now. So, we have to accept and try to live the “new” normal. Our goal is not only to stay healthy at home but to also feel good about ourselves. It is important to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle during this pandemic.

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Get a home massage. Panic, anxiety, and fear are all common feelings, but there are ways to manage them, and one of them is by getting a massage. A regular body massage promotes reduced muscle tension, improved circulation, relaxation, reduction of stress hormones, among many others. But since we cannot visit any massage clinics at the moment, massaging ourselves or members of our family even with a simple back rub can also be very effective, although it may not be satisfying like how our favorite masseuse does. Putting massage oils not only improves the nature of relaxation massage, but it also helps in the healing process.

Here are some popular massage oils and their benefits:

  • Peppermint – relief from itching, muscle pain, and headache; it is also a treatment for a variety of conditions to include nausea, digestive issues, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Lemongrass – antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, stomach pain, and nausea.
  • Lavender – relieves pain, treats various skin disorders, keeps your hair healthy, relieves respiratory disorders
  • Chamomile – for indigestion, nausea or gas, wound healing, anxiety relief, eczema or rashes, anti-inflammation, and promoting sleep.
  1. Boost your immune system. We cannot afford to get sick these days as most of the hospitals are already in full capacity. Even the slightest sign of sore throat, cough, or colds can make us feel anxious and in panic mode. Back in the days, honey is an old sore throat remedy. People try a spoonful of honey when they have a cold, adding it to a hot tea with lemon. It’s been used as a folk remedy throughout history and has a variety of medical uses and health benefits. Raw honey is a good source of antioxidants, has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can heal wounds, has a phytonutrient powerhouse, and helps in digestive issues.

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  1. Go easy on food and drinks. Some people find comfort in eating and drinking when feeling sad, anxious, or depressed. But did you know that a typical fancy coffee drink contains 170 grams of sugar? You’d get more of sugar than a caffeine buzz. As the popular song would say, too much of something is bad enough. But if you really love coffee, why not switch to organic coffee because it’s high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Coffee in itself boosts the immune system and helps the bodyguard against disease. Organic coffee is said to be free of pesticides and artificial fertilizers and reduces the risk of harmful chemical ingestion.
  2. Take care of yourself. Working from home means more time to take care of yourself. That means taking a bath regularly and pampering yourself. But make sure to use products that are free from chemical loaded products. Over time, toxins present in those products will be absorbed by our skin and can lead to more serious health issues. Using organic products such as soaps is not only healthier, it is also better for the environment, cruelty-free, more economic. Organic soaps, for example, have better healing properties, easily disposed of, have glycerine, loaded with antioxidants, no chemical antibacterial toxins and preservatives.
  1. Don’t forget to exercise. Before this pandemic, we often complain about how we don’t have much time to exercise and do things that we love. Now it’s a good time to do that as exercise is an effective way to reduce anxiety and depression. Try walking or running around the neighborhood, or try online yoga, Pilates, or Zumba classes.
  1. Get enough rest. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep each night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about the total hours of sleep, but a good quality one. Sleep plays a crucial role in good health and well-being throughout your life.
  1. Pray and meditate. Prayer is one of the most important things we can do right now. Prayer is when you talk to God and meditation is when God talks to you. You can do it anywhere at any time. Just find your quiet place. Prayer changes us, protects us, and brings us breakthroughs in life. Why not give it try? It doesn’t have to be complicated and difficult. Just be honest and be yourself. Trust the process. Let go and let God take care of the rest.

Remember, if you’re only being asked to stay at home, call yourself blessed. Some people are fighting for their lives, risking their lives, and saving other lives just to survive. Stay at home, keep yourself healthy, wear masks, and practice social distancing. This too shall pass.

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Listen to Twenty-Nine Eleven’s take on 6cyclemind’s “I”

Filipino pop-rock outfit Twenty-Nine Eleven has finally released their remake of 6cyclemind’s “I,” off the upcoming Sige I-Cover Mo Lang Project.

The song serves as the second single of the online compilation, produced by 6cyclemind and their management Soupstar Music, and released by Sony Music Philippines.

The aforementioned tribute record aims to introduce the band’s legacy as reliable hitmakers that continue to define an entire generation’s collective consciousness.

A captivating take

 Twenty-Nine Eleven’s version of the alt-rock classic was handpicked as one of the three winners of the Sige I-Cover Mo Lang Project—an initiative that encouraged fans to submit covers of their favorite songs from 6cyclemind’s catalog.

Their captivating take stands out with its earnest simplicity and delicate arrangements, giving the song a refreshing spin while maintaining the original’s timelessness and emotional appeal.

According to Fony Alfonso, the lead vocalist of the five-piece band, the song is already great on its own. “However, in order to make it sound like us, we wanted to rearrange the song and add more of our personality to it. As with all of the songs that we’ve done before, we experimented with it until we got the right ‘feel’ that we wanted to express as a band.”

An inspiration to young musicians

 The independent band considers 6cyclemind as one of their inspirations.

“After spending time with the members of 6cyclemind, we were able to understand that it wasn’t only their music style that made them successful, but also their perseverance in pursuing their career and passion,” guitarist Alexandre Abesamis shares.

“As they’ve told us back then, there were a lot of other better and more skilled bands than them, but what made them stand out is that they never stopped playing.”

Currently, Twenty-Nine Eleven is working on new material and experimenting with various sounds and techniques culled from their individual musical influences.

Drummer Jerell Co adds, “Ever since high school, we were subjected to various styles and genres of music from the most dramatic love songs to the heaviest rock songs. That alone has developed the kind of music we could make now.”

Twenty-Nine Eleven’s rendition of “I” is now available on various music streaming and download platforms worldwide.

 

John Legend’s new album, Bigger Love celebrates Black Culture and Pride

Multi-platinum artist John Legend dropped his sixth studio album, Bigger Love on June 19 via Columbia Records.

On a lengthy Instagram post, the Emmy, Golden Globe, Oscar, and Tony (EGOT) winner reveal that Bigger Love was written and produced prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and the #BlackLivesMatter protests happening around the world.

John Legend

According to Legend, the album is a “celebration of love, joy, sensuality, hope, and resilience” and an important showcase of what makes black culture so influential and empowering.

“It’s important for us to continue to show the world the fullness of what it is to be black and human,” John Legend takes pride in.

“Through our art, we are able to do that. I’m under no illusion that music can save the world or solve the world’s problems, but I’ve always turned to music to help me through tough times and I know many of you have done the same.”

His new album, Bigger Love features 16 soulful, R&B-laden, and pop-influenced tracks, and includes guest spots and collaborations with Gary Clark Jr., Jhene Aiko, Koffee, Rapsody, and Camper. It is executive produced by Raphael Saadiq—the award-winning neo-soul artist who co-produced two of the most critically acclaimed albums of the last two decades: Solange’s A Seat At The Table and D’Angelo’s Voodoo.

The All of Me singer-songwriter dedicates his upcoming record to his wife, his family, and “the rich tradition of black music that has made me the artist I am.”

The album’s focus single is “U Move, I Move,” a duet featuring Jhene Aiko. With its velvety harmonies, lush arrangements, and an inescapable chorus, the R&B slow jam embraces the emotional range and vulnerability of both artists, taking listeners to a place of romantic high with just the right amount of warmth.

Upon hearing the track, Legend’s wife, multimedia star Chrissy Teigen tweeted, “One of my favorite ones is one with @JheneAiko. Why don’t u guys just get fuckin married.”

The tweet has racked up more than 40,000 likes and a thousand retweets.

For more information about the album, please visit his website.

About John Legend

Critically acclaimed and best-selling artist John Legend has garnered 11 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, and an Emmy Award, making Legend the first African-American man to earn an EGOT.

He has released six celebrated albums including, Get Lifted (2004), Once Again (2006), Evolver (2008), Love in the Future (2013), Darkness and Light (2016), and A Legendary Christmas (2018). Legend starred in NBC’s “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert” in 2018, winning an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special and nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor (Limited Series). Legend joined “The Voice” for Season 16 (2019), winning with his mentee Maelyn Jarmon and is currently a judge on Season 18.

Legend is a partner in Get Lifted Film Co., serving as an Executive Producer for “Southern Rites,” “United Skates,” WGN America’s “Underground,” and films “Southside with You” and “La La Land.” As a philanthropist, Legend initiated the #FREEAMERICA campaign in 2015 to change the national conversation surrounding the misguided criminal justice policies in the US and to end mass incarceration.

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘New Normal’: How military reserve, police cope with COVID-19

When President Rodrigo Duterte called on the uniformed personnel to help strictly enforce the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), there was an uproar from the public, especially since the information came out first from a leaked memorandum, instructing “all personnel to prepare for strict implementation of extensive ECQ” or a “martial law-like” implementation.

The public was particularly concerned about the “iron-fist ECQ implementation that could violate human rights with impunity and disregarding the situation on the ground.”

While some concerns can be valid given our 20-year history with martial law during the time of former President Ferdinand Marcos, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had been quick to clarify that it “is not taking over as in a martial law setting” and that even in normal times, the military “has been aiding in purely civilian matters whenever necessary, such as disaster situations, rescue, and relief operations and medical missions.”

Since then, the military and police personnel have become one of the familiar faces during this pandemic. But apart from regular military personnel, the AFP has also utilized the services of military reservists. In fact, in Quezon City and Manila alone, 500 reservists were deployed; while the remaining 300 personnel were fielded in Pasay, Taguig, Pateros, and Paranaque.

Time to shine

For Army Major Neil Konrad Binayao III working for GN Power Kauswagan (GNPK), a power plant, and being a Reserve officer at the same time is both a commitment and a challenge, especially during this time.

Army Major Neil Konrad Binayao (left) of the 1003rd Ready Reserve Battalion poses with one of the soldiers at the quarantine checkpoints

“The biggest change would have to be being away from my family for a much longer period of time. Due to precautionary measures, I have to be away for two to three weeks at a time instead of the usual five days. But other than that, I’ve always been a bit of a lone wolf: I could spend an entire day alone inside photography hideout in the forest, so social and physical distancing is nothing really new to me,” said Binayao.

But the major challenge is when he needs to be physically present during his unit’s activities in Malaybalay, the provincial capital of Bukidnon where he is the Battalion S3 of the 1003rd Ready Reserve Infantry Battalion but he’s working in Lanao del Norte, which is about five hours away.

In some cases, he has to rely on his network developed over the years to facilitate the conduct of some activities in Bukidnon while being confined to his place or work.

His unit is only involved in assisting LGUs in Bukidnon in the repacking of food supplies.

“Our LGUs have been very appreciative of the assistance extended by our Reservists and have reciprocated in kind by providing food and transportation assistance to our troops,” he shared.

While a good number of scheduled activities had been put on hold, GNPK has been helpful in assisting the LGUs in terms of providing food assistance in cooperation. They work closely with the security department to facilitate the delivery of much-needed supplies to stakeholders beyond the immediate periphery of the plant site.

While it’s an added work and responsibility, Binayao said that it is in times like this that the value of Reservists as force multipliers get to really shine.

“The spirit of volunteerism and selfless service shown by fellow reservists in this crisis makes me very proud to be one of them,” he quips.

On behalf of an agri-business company and in coordination with an Army unit, they were also able to facilitate the delivery of 200 sacks of rice to a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp that was the site of a development project.

“The happiness and appreciation we saw in the faces of battle-hardened combatants as they unloaded the sacks of rice was priceless.”

Like everyone else, Binayao wears a mask at work, practice social distancing and good hygiene. He also takes multivitamins and eats nutritious food to boost his immune system.

“I also take time to exercise inside my quarters and within our staff house compound.  Aside from getting the physical benefits of exercise, the ensuing release of endorphins can also contribute to mental well-being,” he added.

When he gets to go home, Binayao makes sure he takes extra precautions to ensure the safety of his family.

“First, I travel straight from my workplace. Upon arrival, I proceed to my sister’s unoccupied house, next to ours where I leave all my things, bathe, and change into a fresh set of clothes. Only then do I set foot inside my home,” he said.

Army Major Neil Konrad Binayao of the 1003rd Ready Reserve Battalion in Bukidnon (far right) oversees the turnover of donation boxes for front liners

Be a responsible citizen

Like most of us, uniformed men are also having a hard time adjusting with the so-called “new normal”. Take the case of Police Staff Sergeant Nicolas Lumbuan III of Marikina Police Station who has been in the service for 13 years. He admitted that this is his most challenging assignment for now.

A policeman scrutinizes a rider’s license and other pertinent documents before letting him through the checkpoint

“It’s very risky on our end as we don’t really see who is infected or not. It changed everything from the way I dress. I have to wear a mask as part of my uniform before I enter the office, which makes it more difficult for me to communicate and breathe,” he said.

After work, he also has to change his clothes first before he chats with his family, unlike before he can do that as soon as he arrives. And since he has only two pairs of combat or battle uniform, he still needs to rest before he can wash his uniform, and then after that, that’s the only time he can sleep after his 12-hour shift with no day off as it has been canceled because of this pandemic.

“I pray harder before and after my duty. I ask Him to give me a healthy body and mind while I perform my duties,” he shared.

Apart from wearing masks, Lumbuan has become more vigilant in communicating with his coworkers and the public. He also avoids any social gathering for now and practices good hygiene and sanitation by frequent washing of the hands and using alcohol. He also makes sure he takes his daily dose of vitamins to help boost his immune system.

One of the major challenges he encounters these days are people who are blatantly violating the ECQ guidelines.

“We first talk to the person and explain to them why we need to strictly follow and implement the rules and why we are doing these. But if they don’t listen to us, we issue an ECQ ticket and bring them to the barangay officials. If they resist, we will file a case such as disobedience, resisting of arrest and etc.,” he said.

He recalled one time when they had to transport one member of a civilian family to the hospital because transportation was difficult at that time.

“Even if we were frightened to get infected because one of them is experiencing symptoms of COVID, we still need to fulfill our duties to serve them in these trying times. So, we drove them to the nearest hospital,” he said.

Apart from manning checkpoints, Lumbuan also shared that they also assist in distributing relief goods to several families, and sometimes, they would donate money from their own pockets for this program entitled, ‘Adopt an Indigent Family’ to buy them relief goods.

Admittedly, performing police duties during this time has been really difficult, but if there’s one secret weapon he’d like to share that gets them through their daily tasks is praying together as a team.

“Praying together has become part of our routine now which helps us to battle this pandemic and make us stronger despite a very risky job,” he shared.

Thus, Lumbuan appealed to the public to stay at home and avoid social gatherings, for now, to help minimize the spread of the virus.

“Follow public health guidelines. Practice hood hygiene. Wash your hands regularly or as needed. Be a responsible citizen.”

While the Philippines is ‘getting better’ according to reports, we still need to flatten the curve through expanded testing and intensive contact tracing to help the country return to the “new normal”.

Two policemen check riders for license and travel passes

As of this writing, there are 20,382 total COVID cases nationwide with 4,248 recoveries, 984 deaths. Time and again, the public is reminded to stay at home, wear masks when going out for essentials only, and practice social distancing and good hygiene.

9 fun & random facts about me

I got this idea after our supervisor made me and my teammates do this during one of our weekly online meetings so we could get to know each other more. It got me so interested that I turned it into a full-blown article.

So here it goes:

  1. I prefer ‘sunrise’ over ‘sunsets’
Sunrise

While most people would be in awe watching the sunsets, I don’t like watching the sun set as it gets teary-eyed and sad. Apparently, our house faces the direction where the sun usually sets, while the sun rises at the back of our house. When I was younger, when my mom won’t allow me to go out to play or I’d often get reprimanded to come home early before the sun sets, I’d usually sit by our main door to mope. There I would see the sun setting in front of me, which added to my already sad feeling. Over time, I’d often associate sunsets over sadness for not being able to play outside with my friends so whenever I’d see the sun rise, it gets me the feeling of hope and promise of a new day that I can play again.

2. I like ‘blue-eyed’ guys

Photo by ColorYourEyes.com

As a young girl, I’ve always had a crush on Prince William. That goes to say that my “dream” guy should be like him: tall, white, blonde, blue eyes, and royalty (It’s a dream! Don’t judge me.) Perhaps, every little girl dream of becoming a princess and marrying a prince. I was one of those little girls. While I do talk to a guy who has other eye color, I get more interested if he has blue eyes.

3. I love putting fabric conditioner in my clothes and sheets

I wash my bed sheets every week and likes to put fabric conditioner after every wash. I prefer if the scent lingers longer and Downy Passion does just that. When the scent fades in my sheets, I find it hard to sleep at night. I know it’s my signal to wash the sheets.

4. I prefer sleeping with the lights off

Maybe it goes with age, but a little crackling and ray of light wake me up at night often giving me interrupted sleep. Complete darkness gives me peace as opposed to people who have a hard time sleeping without a little light on.

According to healthline.com, “Sleeping with the lights on has been linked to depression. Blue light from electronic devices may have the worst effects on your mood. A lack of sleep can also cause moodiness and irritability. Children who don’t get enough sleep may be more hyperactive.” Beddrsleep.com meanwhile said that “sleeping with the lights on has an effect on your brain wave patterns, the natural cycle of Melatonin production, and cell regulation all which disrupt your sleep cycle. This has been linked to a variety of health issues like depression, obesity, breast and prostate cancer, and cardiovascular disease, to name a few.”

5. I’m obsessed with scented candles and essential oils

These are some of my obsessions lately – scented candles and essential oils. My favorite brands are Yankee for candles and Mia Mason for essential oils. They’re a bit pricey but they’re worth it.  

Burning candles is said to have many health benefits. According to Mindretreatcandles.com, “Scented candles that use quality essential oils can promote relaxation, reduce anxiety and stress, and induce quality sleep. The flicker of the flame and the low lighting provided by the candle light creates an ambiance of relaxation and calm.”

While aromatherapy oils can provide respiratory disinfection, decongestant, and psychological benefits according to medicalnewstoday.com. Inhaling essential oils stimulates the olfactory system, the part of the brain connected to smell, including the nose and the brain. Some of my favorite scents include Lemon Grass, White Tea & Ginger, Fresh Bamboo, Warm Cotton, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus.

6. I love cookies and sweets.

I have a sweet tooth. Before, I can eat one box of cookies in one sitting, but since we have a family history of diabetes and I’m on a diet, I try to control my cravings by eating cookies or sweets after my main meal or as desserts. But here’s the catch: I like eating them after I brush my teeth, which some of my officemates find weird. Who eats after they brush their teeth? I do.

7. I’m a frustrated athlete

Growing up, I’ve always felt fat, ugly, and insecure so being a ‘beauty queen’ or a ‘model’ never occurred to me. So, I’ve always wanted to be an athlete to force myself to get into shape, run, train, or just do anything to be physically active. It has always been my dream to wear shorty shorts, high-knee socks like Volleyball players because I find athletes strong, sexy, hot, and very empowering.

 

8. I love white sheets

Lately, I’m obsessed with anything that’s white, specifically with my sheets, blanket, and pillow cases. The danger with white sheets is that they get super, super dirty. So, I just make sure I don’t eat in my bed or spill anything that might stain it. White sheets are classic. It is a symbol of luxury, simplicity, and elegance. The best hotels use white sheets. While it might seem boring on the surface, it communicates a sense of calm, serenity, and tidy feeling.

9. I love good fragrances

Perfumencologne.com says that fragrance can boost our confidence, enhance our mood, make you attractive to people, trigger memories, reduce stress levels, and increase alertness. Fragrance speaks volume about a person’s personality and character. It is another ‘window to the soul’ which cannot be missed or overlooked like our daily attire. I wear a signature cologne that I want to be my trademark – a fragrance that will remind people or my friends that it’s me. There’s something about fragrances that draws me to a person, as well. I find good-smelling people very attractive. I always associate good smell with how they take good care of theirselves, their body and how they value people around them who can smell them or get affected with how they smell. But of course, I don’t judge people mainly on how they smell. Beauty both comes from inside and outside. It doesn’t matter how good looking you are or if how good you smell, if you treat people badly, then I don’t think you’re a good person.

Aussie table grapes are back in PH

Naturally grown and ripened under the Australian sunshine with a sweet burst of flavor and juicy pulp, the new season of fresh Australian Table Grapes are now available for Filipinos to enjoy today.

From April, the 2020 season varieties will be available at different stores and partners like Rustans Supermarket, Shopwise, Marketplace by Rustan’s, Robinsons Supermarket, S&R, SM, and even thru e-Commerce partners like Baytownsproduce, Crate2plate and Dizon Farms, which includes Tam’s Gold and Crimson Seedless as well as Sweet Sapphire (a long finger-shaped black grape), Autumn Crisp (a very sweet and crispy grape) and Cotton Candy (a sweet, aromatic green grape).  These varieties are known for their extra sweet taste making them a delicious snack the whole family can enjoy.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian Table Grape farmers and food safety inspectors reassured all fruit is grown using the highest food safety standards and most advanced growing techniques, ensuring all produce leaving the farm is of the highest quality and safe for consumption.

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Each variety of grape is extremely versatile in its taste – they can be deliciously enjoyed on their own and best-enjoyed whole – as well as able to be added to a range of dishes. Considered nature’s candy, Australian Table Grapes are a versatile snack or sweet and crisp addition to any recipe, making them the ideal fresh fruit for all.

Furthermore, the nutritional value that Table Grapes hold make them fantastic for maintaining a healthy diet for people of all ages.

Red Globe table grapes have a low Glycemic Index (GI) value and 5g of gut-healthy fiber in every serving. Meanwhile, the Thompson Seedless variety is packed with vitamin C which is perfect for giving your immune system a boost.

The horticulture industry in Australia prides itself on the idyllic growing conditions Australia is famous for – warm, dry summers, and deep, rich soils provide the perfect environment for Australian growers to produce world-class table grapes.

Every grape grown by Australian Table Grape farmers is from an established second or third-generation family-owned farm located in pristine rural Australia. The techniques, knowledge, and passion for growing and carefully selecting the grapes have been perfected over many years and passed down through generations of families. Using this expertise, these farmers are proud to work hard producing more than 240,000 tons of the best quality fruit from their farms and exporting 60 percent of their top-quality produce around the world.

As Australia is the closest southern hemisphere supplier to the Philippines, Australian Table Grapes found in-store are guaranteed to be the freshest in the market. The whitish bloom on the skin of each grape is another key indicator of freshness, proving they’re delivered directly from the farm to your table.

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ABITO SERIES: It’s Never Too Late to Become a Priest

Take it from Fr. Eldrick S. Peña, 42 years old, of the Diocese of Antipolo, who revealed that he already felt his ‘calling’ at an early age but tried to dismiss it thinking it would just go away, but it didn’t.

They refer to them as ‘late vocation’, but Fr. Eldrick said that’s the widely used term, but the more politically correct term is ‘late response’.

And true enough, when God calls you, it doesn’t matter where you are, how old you are, or you’re at the peak of your career, you cannot run or hide from it. He will equip you and prepare you for it and at some point in your life, you will have to respond to it, or it will bother you or haunt you for the rest of your life.

Humble beginnings

Kinder
Canossa Academy, LC Kinder graduation in 1984

Fr. Eldrick grew up in a devout Catholic family. He’s the fourth among five children. His mother was a public-school teacher and his father was a police officer. 

His father was always away due to his job as the Chief of Police of various towns in Batangas City, so it was his mother who took care of him and his siblings and attended to all their needs.

When he was six years old, he injured his left arm while playing with his friends.  The injury was so severe that the bones connecting to his upper and lower left arm separated. Only the flesh connected the whole arm together. That traumatic experience bore him so much pain at an early age and created such a strong impact on his life.

From being very playful to the point of being mischievous and naughty, then Eldrick suddenly became timid, reserved, and could not play that much anymore since his left arm was weakened by the injury.

“I could not engage in physical activities because of such limitation and out of fear of injuring myself again.  So, I just concentrated on reading books and playing chess,” admitted Fr. Eldrick.

In elementary, he and his siblings were sent to Canossa Academy, an institution run by nuns.  In high school, he and his eldest brother were sent to La Salle; while his sisters remained in Canossa.

Fr. Eldrick studied in Catholic schools from preschool to graduate school and had a very Catholic upbringing, which could have contributed to the cultivation of his priestly vocation.  He was also very much active in different religious organizations and excelled in religion courses all throughout his studying years.

When he graduated from De La Salle High School in Lipa, Batangas, he was awarded Catechist of the Year. In college, he and siblings were sent to various Catholic schools in Manila so he enrolled at the University of Sto. Tomas where he took up AB Communication Arts and graduated in 1998.

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University of Sto. Tomas graduation in 1998

“People would mistake me for a seminarian during my college years. Friends, relatives, and family members would ask me if I had any intention of entering the seminary, but I would just dismiss them. But deep inside, something is telling me that I have a vocation. I can feel it deep in my heart, but I was not yet ready to respond,” he admitted.

A flourishing teaching career

After college. Fr. Eldrick pursued a career in teaching and decided to forego a promising career in journalism or advertising because he wanted to live a more laidback life in the province.

He took up graduate studies at the University of the Philippines and De La Salle University and rose into the ranks from part-time instructor to full-time, and then chair of the Languages and Literature Department, then of the Communication Department, then of the Communication and Multimedia Arts Department.

He pioneered the offering of the AB Communication Program in De La Salle Lipa as well as Multi-Media Arts.  Sometimes, he would be appointed acting Dean in the absence of the Dean of the College of Education, Arts, and Science, being the most senior department chair in the college.

“For 14 years, it had been my life, building a career, pursuing further studies, and there was a time, partly being a breadwinner for the family when my father got sick and had to undergo dialysis for two years.  Then I realized, I was not getting any younger.  I was already 35 at that time. So, I decided to give priestly vocation a try,” he revealed.

He further added, “I wanted to confront the ‘feeling’ and put rest to this ‘discomfort’ once and for all because this will keep me hanging all throughout my life if I will not make that initial step and inquire about it.  The question ‘what could have happened if I at least tried and applied for seminary formation?’ will continue to haunt me all the rest of my life.”

He tried applying in two seminaries run by the religious. However, he did not pursue his application in the first seminary further because he immediately felt that he was not for the kind of life they are espousing in the early stages of admission.  Then in the second seminary, he was not accepted.  Thus, he said to himself:

“That’s it!  I can now move on with my life.”

Upon learning of what happened, a priest-friend advised him to apply in the Holy Apostles, a seminary for late vocations. He also told him that maybe his calling is towards the diocesan priesthood, but he was already adamant.

“Still the ‘invitation’ continued haunting me.  The more I tried to evade it, the more it became louder and certain.  So, after a year, I decided to pay Holy Apostles a visit, and the rest, as they say, is history,” he said.

Entering the seminary

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 Entering the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary on May 20, 2012, was one of the most difficult decisions Fr. Eldrick had to make as he had to give up his studies and his flourishing career.

“I was at the peak of my professional career as chair of the Communications and Multi-Media Arts Department at the De La Salle Lipa.  I was also on the board of the Philippine Association of Communication Educators and in the process of completing my Ph.D. in UP Diliman,” he recalled.

As Chair of the Communication and Multi-Media Arts Department, he acted as the founding chair of both programs and had been department chair for eight years.  He was also in the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Association of Communication Educators and his term of office was still up to October 2012.  He also needed to discontinue his Ph.D. studies in UP Diliman.

“After receiving word from the seminary of my acceptance around the first week of April, after much prayer and discernment, I immediately wrote my resignation letter which I submitted to my superiors.  They were all in a state of shock upon knowing of my plan to enter the seminary,” admitted Fr. Eldrick.

Appointments for the next school year has already been released and he was re-appointed chair of my department but since he was resigning to pursue a priestly vocation and not to look for a greener pasture somewhere else, the administration supported his on the condition that he still has to hold classes for that summer (since he was the only one teaching the course) before he was allowed to finally leave De La Salle Lipa.

“I had to work until the afternoon of May 19, which was a Saturday, in order to make sure that I have turned over everything to my successor and have submitted the grades of my students for summer (although technically, the end of summer classes is still in the last week of May)  and the next day, which was a Sunday, the feast of the Ascension of the Lord, my four other batch mates and I entered the seminary,” recalled Fr. Eldrick.

Life inside the seminary

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Fr. Eldrick, however, underestimated the seminary formation, thinking it would be something easy since he was used to reading a lot due to the nature of his former profession, he already had a regular prayer life even before the seminary and generally, he was obedient to his superiors.

“I thought seminary life will be a semi-retirement type of life I will enjoy without experiencing so many stressful situations. Well, I realized later on that I had wrongly imagined the life in the seminary,” he admitted.

What made it more difficult was living with 27 other men who came from various backgrounds, experiences, and values in one house.  These men were now living together as a community of brothers who were already of age, successful in their chosen fields and careers before they entered the seminary.

The seminary’s first task was to deform a person of its old self-values, attitudes, and ways of looking so that he could be formed to the person and later priest, patterned after the heart of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

“The process was difficult and painful at times. You have to submit to the wisdom of formation even if sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to you at all.  You have to swallow your pride many times to the point of asking yourself: ‘Why am I doing this?’

He also kept questioning himself at times why he remained in the formation when there is much work to be done outside where he can be more productive and fruitful. Sometimes, he doubted himself if he really had a vocation.

“But you know, God really works mysteriously in His own pace and time,” he said.

And with God’s grace, Fr. Eldrick has only words of gratitude to God for giving him the grace to persevere.

“Seven years of formation is no joke. And I firmly believe that God was really behind me all throughout my seminary formation.  Guiding and strengthening me when I doubted, encouraging, and rallying me when I fail and wanted to give up and most especially, nourishing and refreshing me spiritually that I may continue with my formation.  I could say that it was really only through the grace of God that I was able to overcome the obstacles of formation,” said Fr. Eldrick.

He, however, clarified that he was not painting a stark image of seminary formation. There were also many happy and unforgettable memories in seminary formation which he will always remember and cherish, most especially the deep sense of brotherhood and family.

“You know, in the seminary, there is a really deep sense of brotherhood and being a family. And I could say that seminary really became a second family to me even after I graduated from Holy Apostles.  The bond of brotherly love and friendship continues even after ordination,” he quipped.

Diocesan vs religious priests

But while discerning to choose between diocesan or religious priesthood, Fr. Eldrick strongly felt that he was for the diocesan priesthood ever since.

According to Catholictv.org, diocesan priests usually serve in the particular geographical region of a diocese or archdiocese, serving the needs of the parish, and they make three promises to the bishop at their ordination: to recite daily the liturgy of the Hours, to obey the bishop, and to live a life of celibacy; while religious priests are not assigned to a particular diocese it could be in a different city or country, their work depends on their religious order but they also administer sacraments and celebrate mass; and they vow to three evangelical counsels: poverty, chastity, and obedience.

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Then Reverend Eldrick with Fr. Ric Eguia, parish priest and some lectors from the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez, Rizal

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After serve photo ops

“Religious life did not appeal to me as much as the diocesan priesthood. But you know all vocation is good in itself, whether religious life, diocesan priesthood, married life or single blessedness,” he explained.

“The key here is that you are able to discern to which vocation is God calling you to serve and in that way of life, you bloom and bear much fruit.  And in my discernment, I strongly felt that God wanted me to become a diocesan priest,” he further added.

Advice to those who wish to enter the seminary

 For those who wish to enter the seminary, Fr. Eldrick advises them to know if it’s the will of God and to help them determine that ‘calling’ is by seeking the help of their parish priest.

“If your answer is a clear ‘yes’ or at least leading towards that realization, then go for it.  And if you feel that God is calling you towards priesthood (whether diocesan or religious), I tell you there is no way to really find out if the calling is authentic until you make that first step of maybe talking to your parish priest, and then, later on, applying on a seminary for admission,” he said.

One can always disregard his calling; however, it will continue to haunt and bother him for the rest of his life. There will always be this pending and outstanding question: “What if I pursued priestly vocation?” just like what happened to him.

“That same question continued to bother me until I was 35 years old when I finally attempted to apply for admission in a seminary.  And mind you, it really felt great and was one of the most life-changing and important decisions I ever made in my entire life,” he added.

He revealed that seminary formation is not a bed of roses. One will encounter problems and difficulties in other vocations he might pursue himself, but if you really put your heart and mind, your whole being into something that you really like, the pains will be transformed into joy, the difficulties into opportunities,” he concluded.

Last November 2019, at the age of 41 and after seven years in the seminary formation, Fr. Eldrick, together with his four other batchmates were ordained as new priests of the Diocese of Antipolo. He is now the Secretary to the Bishop of Antipolo, Most Reverend Francisco M. De Leon, DD.

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Fr. Eldrick’s ordination

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Bonding with other priests

Prior to his current assignment in the Diocese, Fr. Eldrick was given assignments in different parishes for pastoral exposure and transferred parishes every two months. Some of his parish assignments include St. Paul of the Cross in SSS Village, Marikina, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, and St. Raphael Parish both in Montalban, Rizal.

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Holy Apostles Senior Seminary (HASS) located along EDSA, Guadalupe, Makati City is for late vocations. It accepts candidates who are 25 to 40 years old, who have finished college, have at least two-year work experience. At present, the seminary has 80 priests, three of whom had been ordained bishops: Bishop Mylo Vergara of Pasig, Bishop Robert Gaa of Novaliches, and Bishop Alan Dialogo of Sorsogon, all of which became rectors of the HAAS. (Thanks to Mr. Ryan Tristan Digan for the info.)

For more ABITO SERIES:

When God’s plan prevails: Fr. Rodrigo “Ric” Eguia

Former PMA cadet shares his journey to becoming a warrior of God: Bro. John Raven Bernarte

Road less traveled: Fr. Marvin P. Borda

Rico Blanco returns with inspiring new anthem “This Too Shall Pass”

After a four-year hiatus in making songs of his own, Rico Blanco returns with a rousing new anthem to help us deal with the uncertainty of the times.

This Too Shall Pass is Rico Blanco’s first solo single in four years, as well as his first under Sony Music Philippines. The song was written from a place of discomfort and fear, witnessing how the much louder tremor of pandemic anxiety instantly changed our lives and left us with little time to mourn and move forward.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS [COVER ARTWORK]

With frontliners risking their lives with little protection, people going hungry, and the social order crumbling to pieces, Rico felt powerless by the situation. Hence, he had to forego his difficulties of living alone and coping with his own emotional troubles, as there was work to be done.

He shares, “My efforts are little in light of a pandemic like this. As big as my imagination is for this song, I also feel that it’s not enough. But it’s what I can do and contribute as a musician.”

This Too Shall Pass succeeds in repurposing music’s mission: Outside of its function as an entertainment fodder and a way to escape, it carries the resilience of the human spirit. In the darkness, it shines brighter.

The big, sprawling pop tune is his most personal to date, which he struggled over the course of two weeks to finish, and almost did not.

“Some songs are anchored on truth, but they are wrapped and adorned in a lot of romanticized thoughts,” he shares. “This song is real, inwards, and also outwards; it’s something that I really want to tell every single person. I wasn’t able to give a message to the frontliners, and I feel very guilty about this. I needed to finish this, and I want them to hear this. I know each one of us is going through something. I wrote this song as my way to reach out.”

With sonic elements that span continents and a carefully honed production which he supervised himself, Rico’s latest single defies convention with a global sounding opus that incorporates musical dispatches and personal anecdotes. From samples of his nieces laughing culled from a family chat group to his attempt to blur the cultural lines by incorporating European techno, hip-hop beats, Asian riffs, Afro chanting, and Pinoy fiesta in a seamless, genre-bending extravaganza, This Too Shall Pass is ambitious in scope and sound design, but its heart is for the people who need light and love.

There’s a sliver of joy in finding one of the most prolific artists emerge from long silence. As Sony Music’s GM Philippines and VP Business Development Asia, Roslyn Pineda sums it up: “Music is important – we all know this.  But never more so than when we are faced with uncertainty because it is then that the power of music becomes unquantifiable, almost limitless.  Music can make you feel you’re not alone. Music can save you from despair.  And so it is with a song like This Too Shall Pass.  It is so relevant to the times that it becomes a declaration, a prayer, a mantra — all rolled into one.”

Rico Blanco’s “This Too Shall Passis now available on all digital platforms worldwide. Watch out for the music video to be released soon.