Six lessons I learned at 41

One thing’s for sure, it is only through positive thinking that I was able to see good in everything

Today, I am celebrating my 41st birthday. Like everyone else, this is my second birthday on ECQ/GCQ, but I couldn’t complain. I am blessed beyond blessed today because I’m living, breathing, and surviving despite this pandemic.

Every year, I try to list down valuable lessons I learned throughout the year. So, this year, I’m doing just the same – I am listing down six lessons I learned at the age of 41. Why six? Why not? It’s my birthdate!

  1. CHERISH PEOPLE. October 10 last year, I’ve lost my father due to health complications. Although he already underwent multiple heart bypass in the United States in 2018, I was expecting (…and praying based on the medical studies) that he’ll live at least 10 more years. Little did I know, he’ll only get to live two more years after his heart bypass. Not only I lost my father, I also lost some church and work friends last year and recently. It is heartbreaking that I didn’t get to see them for the last time due to the current health protocols that only immediate family are allowed to attend the wake and burial. But because of that, I learned to cherish people more while they’re living, while they can still hear and feel the love and concern I have for them.
Missing dad.
  1. REDEFINE ‘HEALTHY’. I thought I was perfectly healthy. I’ve never felt so healthy in my entire life than at my 40s. I’ve achieved my ideal weight and I felt more confident than ever. But on May 23 of this year, I had to undergo appendectomy. Thank God I was operated before my appendix burst. But I felt so devastated thinking I was perfectly healthy and then I suffered from appendicitis. What did I do wrong? After the surgery, I felt like my life was forced to stop. I can’t move freely like I used to. I was advised not to lift heavy things or run for months. I must admit it made me depressed for a while. Up to now, I am still coping with it, but to counter it, I have started walking around the village and doing some of my regular activities, but on a much slower pace. I have also come to realize that maybe…maybe this happened to me because I needed to redefine being ‘healthy’. Being ‘healthy’ doesn’t necessary mean being physically active always. Sometimes, it’s just slowing down, taking time to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoying life.
Yellow gumamela around the village
My first walking exercise after my surgery
  1. BE KINDER. I love talking and interviewing people. I believe every person has a ‘unique’ story to tell. And many times, I will only understand the person after hearing his/her stories – why he acted this way, why he’s afraid, why he’s anxious, or why he’s always angry or agitated. I’ve heard it said so many times: “Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” I wish life would be kinder to everyone, but it can’t. But we’re here to be kinder to them instead.
  1. LET GO AND LET GOD. It’s human nature to desire everything to happen in our own time and pace. But there are some things that are beyond our control. I wanted a job promotion, but God says it’s not yet time. I wanted to get married now, but God says soon. I wanted to have kids right now, but God says someday. I realized that no matter how hard I try to pitch my plans to God, He has other plans. My timeline is different with Him and so with everyone else, so I learned to let go and let Him.
  1. WAIT FOR THE GOD’S PERFECT TIMING. I remember wanting so bad to visit Sydney, Australia in 2003 but was denied of a visa. When I applied again after seven years in 2010, it was approved so I was able to attend my uncle’s 50th birthday. Why was it denied in 2003? Maybe because I just graduated from college then and had no stable job. When it was approved in 2010, I had a regular job and my cousins in Australia were already past 18 years old, so they were able to accompany me at the mall, city, or at the beach. Looking back, if I visited Sydney in 2003, it wouldn’t be so much fun like it was in 2010.
Sydney Harbour Bridge in 2010
  1. BE GRATEFUL. “The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:20). A lot has happened to me in 2020. I think everyone else was also affected by the pandemic in one way or another. However, this year, I’ve learned to be more grateful no matter what the circumstances are and appreciate my blessings instead of what’s lacking. It’s hard sometimes, but I have no choice. I may have lost my father. I may have undergone appendectomy, but I still have my mother, my sisters, my nieces, and nephew. I have a stable job. I have supportive relatives and caring friends at church and at work. I have a strong church community. I’m alive. I’m well. I’m happy. I’m in love. And many more. What’s not to be grateful for?
Celebrating mom’s 65th birthday with my sisters last month. Praise God for the gift of life.

“No matter how difficult the situation is now, count your blessings. It will help you a lot to stay positive. The continued lockdowns might have been too heavy for you to bear, but you must be grateful for little things you might have taken for granted to care.

Lucky for you if you can still read this, compared for those who could not as they are grasping for their breath because of being infected. Staying at home could be boring, but it could have been worse if you’re in a quarantine facility snoring. Never be annoyed getting up in your own bed, at least, it’s not owned by a hospital.

Thank God if you’re still wearing a face mask, it’s cheaper than having the tube from an oxygen tank. Delight in the simple food you can munch than losing your taste with the sumptuous ones. Appreciate the abode of your simple home than being lifeless buried in a cold ground alone. Be grateful to God if you can afford to pray, then letting others wish you peaceful rest in what they say. It is only through positive thinking that you can see good in everything.”

From an unknown author

This year, allow me to once again thank you for your warm greetings and for being so kind, generous, warm, loving, understanding and supportive of me and my family, especially during our difficult times and lowest points. I am so touched and humbled, I couldn’t thank you enough. 

I sincerely pray to God that He grant all my wishes this year, but if He doesn’t grant ALL, I know He will grant SOME and He will surprise me in the coming days and years. I know His plans are far more beautiful than what I have in mind and it will happen in God’s perfect time.

To God be all the glory!

*Special thanks to Engr. Elvir Santos for my Featured Image. Taken on June 2, 2021 during the 150th Founding Anniversary of the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Rodriguez, Rizal

Ramil Sumangil beats all odds with ‘Books for a Cause’

For 10 years, Ramil has been working with companies and NGOs in bringing books to children in far-flung corners of the country

It all started with an invitation to speak during the commencement exercises of his alma mater in Baloy Elementary School, Nueva Ecija on April 1, 2011. Ramil Sumangil didn’t want to go empty-handed so he asked his family what he can bring during the event.

“Books!“ They unanimously suggested. So Ramil brought his three sets of encyclopedia which he and his wife bought in the past for their oldest child. His teachers were very glad to receive the books as the school still doesn’t have a library.

Upon the request of his former teachers, Ramil encouraged his friends to share their pre-loved books when he went back to Manila and before the week ended, he received another batch of books which were immediately sent to Nueva Ecija. 

From there, a library and the Books for a Cause (BFAC) were born on April Fool’s Day.

Books for a cause

Photo courtesy of Books for a Cause Facebook

Books for a Cause  (BFAC) is an advocacy that aims to provide precious knowledge to every Filipino and increase literacy through continuous learning, especially in remote areas where the internet and technology are almost impossible.

With the help of social media, BFAC became the talk of the town. Different companies collaborated for their CSR activities, NGOs brought the initiative to communities they’re helping, and books just flowed in from in and out of the country. 

“News spread like fire that before 2011 ended, almost all the 52 barangays of my hometown received books from BFAC. A few more months, BFAC has covered not just my hometown but also different schools and communities around the country,” shared Ramil.

Humble beginnings

Photo courtesy of Ramil Sumangil Facebook

The youngest of four, Ramil was born and raised by his farmer parents in Baloy, Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija. He grew up with a fondness for books.

“I have been in love with books ever since.  I remembered owning one, a Bible storybook.  It was supposed to be for sale but my mother couldn’t pay. I was really crying for not being able to have the book at first. Finally, it was given to me for free.”

Going to school was a challenge for Ramil and his family. In high school, he had to walk 18 km as there was no decent road from their barrio to the town proper. College was even tougher that his elder sister had to work as a domestic helper in Hongkong so she could help him pursue his business course in Luzon Colleges, Dagupan City.

Despite all the hardships, Ramil’s love for books never faded even when he came to Manila for work. In fact, he bought a book by Og Mandino from his first salary, and since then, every payday, he’d buy a book until he was able to build his very own library at home.

He was lucky to have worked with some of the biggest companies in the country from banks, TV, to a publishing firm, but he had to give up his career in human resources a few years ago so he can manage BFAC full-time.

“I  just thought that this is a chance of a lifetime. I can only do this advocacy now that I am still strong. I might not be able to do it when I am already old and weak,” he explained.

That fatal accident

Ramil Sumangil in Sta Cruz Elementary School Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija

Most people don’t know that Ramil is currently struggling with a disability from a road accident in 2017. On his way to pick up a book donation in Sta Rosa, Laguna, Ramil’s car was hit by a closed delivery van. His car’s rear end was totally wrecked. But worse, the accident caused his slipped disc. 

Because of the injury, Ramil cannot carry anything beyond 3 to 5 kilos. His legs are now affected and he could hardly walk, too.  But despite this disability, he never stopped doing his advocacy.

“It is only my physical body that’s affected.  I can still think. I can communicate and use social media. I can still gather book donations!” he says.

Thankfully, Ramil learned that there are many people who want to help, but they just don’t know how and where to start. For those who want to donate, BFAC accepts all kinds of reading materials – from children’s storybooks to encyclopedias, K to 12 textbooks, magazines, references, fiction, non-fiction, etc., as long as they are in good condition. 

BFAC also accepts stuffed toys, and even music and movies, and computers and gadgets that may still be used and shared. All donations must be sent to the following address:

Books for a Cause c/o Ramil Sumangil
413 – Barcelona, Vista de Lago Villas 
Bagong Calzada, Brgy. Tuktukan, Taguig City
CP 09298082664
Facebook: Books for a Cause and Munting Aklatan

Originally published in My Pope Philippines on April 6, 2021.

A year into quarantine: 6 Filipinos share their best realizations

As we officially mark a year of being in quarantine, we asked six Filipinos about their key learnings from the pandemic.

It has been a year now since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world. Thinking it was only a simple virus, many people fell victim to the illness that changed the ways we relate to each other and navigate the world.

I was at work when President Rodrigo Duterte ordered to place Metro Manila under a lockdown or “community quarantine” to contain the novel coronavirus last year. From March 15 to April 14, 2020, all domestic land, sea, and air travel had been prohibited. 

Admittedly, the past year has been like no other. And as we officially mark a year of being in quarantine, I would like to think that maybe— just maybe— we’ve learned something from the experience that helped us evaluate our lives and focus today on what’s truly important.

Six Filipinos share their key learnings from the pandemic, as they recall where they were and what they were doing when the lockdown was declared. Read below! 

Lessons from quarantine: Build closer family ties

Photos from Two Maids Blog and courtesy of subjects (Daniel Joseph Cayetano and Lorena Palencia)

Daniel Joseph Cayetano, 30, real estate agent: “I was in Makati City doing paper works for our clients. When the lockdown was declared, we were asked to go home at once. Thank God, I got home easily. I heard many commuters were stranded. How the pandemic changed my life? My family and I got closer. We learned to clean the house regularly to avoid the virus. We learned to be more thoughtful of one another especially my mother who is already a senior citizen.” 

Lorena Palencia, 45, laundry shop owner: “I was at home getting ready to open the shop. It affected my business and social life, but I had more time with my family.”

Lessons from quarantine: Proper hygiene is a must

Photos from Castorly Stock from Pexels and courtesy of subjects (Don Carorasan and Donna Pahignalo)

Don Carorasan, 41, Nissan marketing professional: “I was at the office when the lockdown was declared. I learned how to use alcohol regularly for sanitation. I thought only classy people do that. Now I also do that, so I feel like classy now, too. But seriously, pandemic taught me to find ways to earn more.”

Donna Pahignalo, 39, art director: “I was at home doing household chores. I learned to be more cautious of my hygiene, use alcohol and wash my hands.” 

Lessons from quarantine: Spend wisely, save more

hotos from iStockphoto/ and courtesy of subjects (Bryan Ladion and Julie Anna Orillo)

Bryan Ladion, 31, former public utility vehicle inspector: “I was at home, but I was sad because when the lockdown was declared, that was the exact date of my supposed civil service exams. My two-month review was put to waste. So, I just prepared food, alcohol, and masks so we won’t have to go out. I learned how to be more careful in spending money, enjoy time with my family, and prioritize good health over material things.” 

Julie Anna Orillo, 39, government employee: “I was in the office when the lockdown was declared. I realized the importance of saving money and of course, having good health over material things.

Originally published at My Pope Philippines on March 16, 2021

Some days I’m okay, some days I’m not

But I don’t feel guilty, it’s okay not to be okay sometimes

When a good friend and former colleague suggested that I enter this contest, I was hesitant. Up until the last hours before the deadline, I couldn’t write anything. What could I possibly tell my readers about moving on and surviving when I’m still struggling?

Having to go through life and death situations left me out of words. I struggled to write. And this is the first time I am opening up about what I’ve been through and what I am going through.

Memories of EDSA

One time on my way home, I burst into tears while driving in EDSA. I used to dread driving that road because of heavy traffic and flooded portions. But now, every time I pass by EDSA, I can’t help but remember my father. We pass by that road almost every day. When he died, I felt like I was left alone to endure the traffics in EDSA and life, in general.

I think most people hated driving in EDSA, especially during rush hours, but I was forced to bring the car to work because there was no public transportation yet that time and the risk of contracting the virus via commute was high.

During the early days of pandemic last year, I volunteered to report onsite because my father reported for work on a weekly basis riding a taxi.

Before pandemic, my father and I would park the car at the mall and leave it there and ride the MRT train to ease our commute. But we cannot do that last year, since he’s already a senior citizen and he also had comorbidities: He underwent a heart multiple bypass in 2018. He had high blood pressure, he’s diabetic, and he had kidney problems.

Even though I wanted him to stay at home as he was also retired years ago, he insisted to continue working. So, my mom and I had no choice but to support him all the way. And since my mother retired, too, my father and I go to work constantly.

Enjoying long hours of traffic

Traversing EDSA daily was no joke, but because my father was my passenger, those drives would be less tiring, less boring, and less lonely. Our day starts with him buying me breakfast at Mc Donald’s and we’d eat at the car. After work, I’d enjoy listening whenever he talks about his days in Saudi Arabia where he worked for almost a decade until he decided to settle in the Philippines to be with us.

On some days, we don’t really talk, to be honest, especially when we’re in a bad mood or tired from work. There were days we annoyed each other. But most of the times, we’d talk about anything under the sun, laugh, or just listen to Joel Osteen’s podcasts.

I like asking him questions even though I can research the answer/s in Google. I like how my father answers them or talk about how his day went in the office without going into detail about it.

My favorite passenger, my father

You see, my father was a man of few words, but he can be chatty sometimes. And when we’re in the car and I’m driving, that’s also the only time I get to talk, ask, and remind him (sometimes scold him!) about absolutely anything (e.g. his medications, exercises, and medical checkups).

Sadly, my father died due to cardiac arrest on October 10, 2020, two weeks after I reported for work, and I was in complete shock. I think we all were – my mom and sisters, including our relatives and closest friends. Everything happened so fast.

My bout with appendicitis

So, I tried distracting myself by exercising and running in the morning. They say when we exercise, our body releases chemical called endorphins, which can trigger a positive feeling in the body. I wanted to be happy so I run. It became my comfort zone and stress reliever.

I thought I was doing great with my physical activities and healthy eating. In fact, I was at my healthiest weight ever in years. But on May 23, seven months after my father died, I underwent appendectomy – my first-ever major surgery in my entire life.

I initially felt a sharp pain in my lower right abdomen. After some blood work and CT scan, I was diagnosed with appendicitis and my doctors recommended appendectomy right away.

At first, I was in denial. I can’t believe it’s happening to me. The resident surgeon must have seen my worried face, so she told me: “Ma’m, you look really worried!”

I answered: “Yes doc, if this happened before the pandemic, I’d be okay with the surgery. But we are in the pandemic. Imagine the health protocols and tests I have to go through before the surgery.”

And I was right. Before admission, my mom and I had to undergo an antigen test – to which we tested NEGATIVE, thank God. And even after my surgery, the hospital had to confirm the negative result with a swab test.

Imagine if I/we tested positive? I will not only worry about my surgery and recovery, but also the “positive” result.

I was depressed, but I couldn’t show it. I can’t even cry or laugh because my stitched abdomen hurts. I can’t even move side to side like I used to. Plus, the reality that I can’t do my “normal” activities yet devastated me.

My life forced into halt

When my doctor told me that I can resume my normal activities minus heavy lifting during my follow-up checkup, I wanted to ask him: “Doc, do you know my ‘normal’ activities? I run 2-3x a week (as if I’m a pro athlete). I wash clothes. I clean the car. And since my father underwent heart surgery years ago, I also move a half sack of rice and gas tank inside the house. Does that look normal to you?”

But I refrained from speaking and just accepted the fact, that maybe, maybe this is God’s way of telling me to slow down. Rely on Him and only Him in everything and just see the good things He has given me instead:

  1. My appendix was removed before it busted so I was saved in a way.
  2. I have a mother who accompanied me at the hospital and took care of me.
  3. My small, cute nieces giving me constant joy.
  4. I have a stable job with a medical insurance.
  5. Good and loyal friends who comforted me during those difficult times.
  6. My church community who prayed for me.
  7. And the thought that there are people suffering worse than me, but they are still trying to stay positive and grateful in life.

Given those blessings in my life, I felt like I don’t have the right to complain. But as a human being, I know I have the right to be sad and get depressed. It’s ok not to be okay sometimes because it’s a normal human emotion. It’s part of the process and I must feel them so I can heal from the pain and losses I suffered.

I must admit there are some days I’m okay, some days when I’m not, but I know I will be okay soon. In God’s perfect time.

Just finished 3.5-km walk

P.S. It’s been more than a month since my appendectomy. But I’m happy to report that I’ve started walking 3 to 5 kms again every other day, appreciating the sunrise and nature like good old days, and slowly going back to my “normal” activities.

Appreciating the sunrise
Nature walks around the village


This story is an entry to ComCo Southeast Asia’s “Write to Ignite Blogging Project Season 2: Dear Survivor”. The initiative continues to respond to the need of our times, as every story comes a long way during this period of crisis.  The initiative aims to pull and collate powerful stories from the Philippine blogging communities to inspire the nation to rise and move forward amidst the difficult situation. The “Write to Ignite Blogging Project” Season 2 is made possible by ComCo Southeast Asia, with Eastern Communications and Jobstreet as co-presenters, with AirAsia and Xiaomi as major sponsors, and with Teleperformance as sponsor.

‘How my family coped with unexpected pregnancy amid pandemic’

She kept asking God why now when there’s a global pandemic. Her answer came in the most unusual way.

Fresh from the maternity clinic

Jiji-Anna Orillo-Pango never thought she’ll get pregnant for the second time. She’s been married for 10 years, but she and her husband had to wait three years in to their marriage to conceive their first baby, who is now seven years old.

When the pandemic caught everyone off guard in 2020, Jiji-Anna received a different surprise by discovering she was four months pregnant with her second child.

“I was turning 39 years old last year so I was afraid I could be in the menopausal stage already since my mother had an early menopausal at the age of 40. So I thought my chance of conceiving another child was not possible anymore,” she admitted.

She was constantly in denial despite people asking her if she’s pregnant because she gained weight during the lockdown. She even ignored her morning sickness, thinking she was just acidic for having too much coffee, lemon, and soda.

“I’m sure I won’t get pregnant because we’re using the rhythm method,” she said.

It’s positive!

It wasn’t until Jiji-Anna’s mother and sister noticed her growing belly during one of their video calls that she was forced to take a pregnancy test and an ultrasound to confirm their suspicions. Lo and behold, she’s four months pregnant.

“I wasn’t expecting it. While I’m happy to have another child, I kept asking God why now when there is a global pandemic and nationwide lockdown,” she admitted.

While so many women post their pregnancy journey on social media, Jiji-Anna hid hers to avoid people teasing her and telling her the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy as if it’s her first time.

“I know they were all just concerned about me, but during that time, I’m just too sensitive to read unsolicited comments and reactions. To avoid that, I didn’t post anything. I wanted my pregnancy journey to be private,” she shared.

Celebrating mommy Jiji-Anna’s birthday with Kaitlyn, her first child

‘Lockdown baby boom’

The lockdown has resulted in tales of unplanned pregnancies, which they called the “lockdown baby boom”.  Last year, BBC News reported that the projections by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and the United Nations Population Fund, it is estimated an extra 214,000 unplanned babies will be born this year.

But indeed, everything in life happens for a purpose. Two months before Jiji-Anna’s expected delivery, her 68-year-old father died due to complications and it was her family’s most stressful, saddest, and emotional time that she almost lost her baby.

“The doctor had to prescribe me a medicine to prevent my premature labor and miscarriage. Thank God, she held on,” said Jiji-Anna.

When her daughter, Kloey Jianna arrived on November 21, 2020, Jiji-Anna finally realized why she got pregnant during the time of the pandemic.

Daddy Karl, Mommy Jiji-Anna, ate Kaitlyn, and baby Kloey

“Probably to spend more time with daddy,” said Jiji-Anna who was able to spend time with his father a few months before he died.

“I missed my family in Rizal that I went home to see them when Parañaque City eased the restrictions during the early months of the lockdown. We were able to bond with him. I’m just really sad that daddy wasn’t able to see Kloey anymore. But maybe God gave us this baby to ease the pain of losing daddy,” shared Jiji-Anna, who named her second child ‘Kloey’ after her father’s nickname, ‘Joey’.

How biking helped Nerissa Manuel cope with loss

“Life is like biking. At first, it’s hard, but if you’ll learn how to balance and pedal properly, it will be easy.”

At first, 37-year-old bank teller Nerissa “Rhiz” Reynosa-Manuel only biked whenever she goes to a friend’s house or buys something from a nearby store. But when the pandemic hit, she tried getting serious with biking as a form of exercise.

“I feel good when I’m biking. It makes me perspire more. It helps me lose weight. It makes me calm. It helps me release stress and worries even for a while,” shared Rhiz.

Rhiz at Pook Haraya View Deck 

Rhiz used to play badminton and volleyball during her younger years. She also tried playing softball in high school, but when she started working full-time and stopped playing sports, she quickly gained weight.

“I’m suffering from hormonal imbalance so losing weight was hard for me. I’ll lose weight, but I won’t feel healthy,” said Rhiz.

To lose weight, Rhiz tried taking slimming coffees or pills, but it didn’t help her achieve her goal. She decided to take exercising seriously and change her way of life. She did cardio exercises, planking, push-ups, sit-ups, and walking, and eventually tried biking where she got hooked. (READ: How I lost 50 pounds before I turned 40)

Her quick escape

Little did she know that biking will help her cope during the lowest time of her life. Her mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. As her mom’s caregiver, she’d attend to her needs before she goes to work and when she arrives from work. It became a very stressful and depressing routine, except during Saturdays because it’s her “Bike Day.”

Rest if you must, but don’t you quit at Macaingalan

“That’s why I love Saturdays. Biking made me happy even for a while. I felt like biking helped me carry the weight of my life’s problems. When I’m biking, I felt closer to nature. I can cry my heart out and release all my pains, worries, and problems,” said Rhiz.

Unfortunately, Rhiz’s mom eventually passed away. Losing someone we love is very difficult especially during this time of the pandemic, but that didn’t stop her from doing her favorite activity. In fact, biking gave her the motivation to go on with her life regardless of what she’d been through.

Focus and determination

“Life is like biking. At first, it would be hard and painful. You’ll crash, or worst, you’ll get hurt, but if you know how to balance [life] and pedal properly, you’ll eventually say, that was easy and you’ll eventually feel happy,” Rhiz quipped.

With focus and determination, Rhiz’s hard work paid off. From 86 kilos, she now weighs 66 kilos. That’s why she is encouraging everyone to try biking.

Closer to nature

“I will guarantee you that you will enjoy it. But I’m warning you though, it is very addicting, but it will be good for your health. It’s an all-in-one thing. You can conquer your fears, exceed your limits, and explore new places. You’ll also get to meet new people and gain some friends. Explore new places,” she happily concluded.

How I lost 50 pounds before I turned 40

With hard work and fervent prayers, thank God, I finally achieved my ideal weight

I never thought this day will come. After many years of being called ‘obese’ and ‘overweight’, I am now inspiring many people with my successful weight loss journey. (READ: Fit, fierce, & 40)

Did you know that I used to tell people I only weighed 165 pounds, when I really weighed 190 pounds because I was ashamed of how heavy I was becoming? As a kid, I’ve always been so insecure about my weight because compared to my younger sisters who had always been skinny and petite, I looked bigger because I’m taller and had a bigger bone structure. (READ: Why I lied about my weight and how I got it eventually)

Due to the constant comparisons and pressure from school, I turned to chocolates, junk foods, and cookies for comfort. I used to eat two cups of rice every day and finish one pack of Chips Ahoy in one sitting. (READ: 9 fun & random facts about me)

Entering the military academy

Before and after. Back in the days when I can’t even perform a proper squat.

In 2000, I joined the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class in Baguio City primarily to prove something to myself, my family, and my community that I could be the very first female PMA graduate in our hometown, and I was also hoping that the rigorous training could help me lose weight on the process.

Compared to my female classmates who were way fitter and physically prepared than I was, I was overweight when I entered the academy. I couldn’t even pass my physical training tests such as 3.5-km run, push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups.

Being inside the military school was hard physically because when I was a civilian, I wasn’t physically active and I don’t really play sports, to begin with. But I had to keep up with the physical demands inside the academy.

Luckily, my seniors pushed me to go beyond my physical ability and made sure I would eat less and do extra runs and exercises during my free time so I can pass my quarterly physical tests. Special mention also goes out to my male classmates who would pace me during our 3.5-km runs, company and battalion runs, and would encourage me whenever I felt like giving up.

I lost weight drastically inside the academy, but after two years, I realized that being a soldier was not for me, so I decided to leave for good. Unfortunately, I turned to food for comfort outside the academy, but this time, without the rigorous exercise so I quickly gained weight and before I knew it, my weight ballooned to 190 lbs – my heaviest ever.

Turning point at age 38

I was 38 years old when I started having dizzy spells and pain in my lower back hip that I started to consider losing weight seriously. I prayed and asked God to help me as I don’t want to take any maintenance medications.

I tried the 16:8 intermittent fasting as they say it is proven to speed up weight loss by lowering insulin levels and risk of type 2 diabetes, improve heart and brain health, and reduce the risk of cancer. (READ: Why fasting is good for body, spirit) Apparently with diet alone, one could feel weak and sluggish. So, I realized there has to be a balance: healthy eating and a regular exercise regimen.

I don’t really like the idea of giving up anything or depriving myself of food, so I ate in moderation, especially those cookies and junk foods I used to eat in one sitting. Instead of drinking coffee three times a day, I reduced my intake to once a day. From instant, I switched to brewed. From white sugar, I switched to brown sugar or honey or just creamer. I looked for alternatives. (READ: That thing called trans fat)

What also motivated me to lose weight was because diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease run in the family. My father told me that he was 40 when he found out that he’s diabetic, so I guess that was my cue: I need to lose weight and live healthy before I turn 40 or else suffer the consequences. (READ: The truth about heart diseases, stroke)

But this journey would not be possible if not for the people who inspired and motivated me to make this change. You see, healthy lifestyle was a decision I made three years ago. Somewhere along the way I may stumble and fall, but I know God will always help me to rise again and find my way back.

Apart from eating healthy, I also exercise. I’m a fan of the outdoors so I chose running as a form of exercise. I run twice or thrice a week or work out at home (if it’s raining). When I’m busy, I do household chores and keep myself active.

At work, I also try not to sit all day. I try to get up at least every 30 minutes or one hour, and drink at least eight glasses of water a day. Whenever I feel like snacking, I try to drink water first.

Also, I have accepted my strengths and weaknesses and I stopped comparing myself to others. I also learned to love myself more and trust my own journey no matter how slow it may be.

Weight loss journey

With hard work and fervent prayers, thank God, I have finally achieved my ideal weight: 140 lbs (which is equivalent to 22.6, Normal in the BMI category) before I turned 40.

But this journey would not be possible if not for the people who inspired and motivated me to make this change. You see, a healthy lifestyle was a decision I made three years ago. Somewhere along the way I may stumble and fall, but I know God will always help me to rise again and find my way back.

April 2019 vs December 2019

Disclaimer: I do not claim expertise. Just purely personal experience.

New food delivery app DeliRush launched in San Juan, Mandaluyong

With a persistent drive in widening its food partner and customer touchpoints while adapting to the new normal and changing customer habits, DeliRush is determined to showcase the flavors of home kitchens and restaurants and to offer local food choices to customers.

Actively operating in the cities of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, and Baguio, DeliRush, a new food delivery service app, achieves yet another milestone as it expands a branch in the prime areas of San Juan and Mandaluyong. Launched this September 2020, DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong is set to acquire and empower local and small foodpreneurs and offer a wide range of food selections to its residents.

As an innovative online platform, DeliRush offers an opportunity for food partners to share their menus and for customers to conveniently order food from an array of neighborhood-favorites and have it delivered at the comfort of their homes.

The DeliRush App

The DeliRush App is a food delivery platform that allows customers to discover an array of food choices and order them conveniently from the app found in Google Play for Android users and App Store for iOS users. Catering to the customers’ cravings, users can order meals or food products and have it delivered at their homes within San Juan and Mandaluyong areas.

Upon downloading the DeliRush App, with a user-friendly interface, the customers can register and activate their app accounts. The ordering process starts with the customer entering the delivery address, selecting meals or food products from the preferred home kitchen or restaurant, and placing the order. The order will then be assigned to a rusher partner, the delivery riders of DeliRush. The food partner will be notified and will prepare the order to be picked up by the rusher.

The DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong Difference

DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong believes in the potential of every deli – from home kitchens to restaurants. In a tech-driven generation especially during the current pandemic wherein, people are encouraged to stay at home, food delivery has been considered as essential. “Offering services in the spirit of empowering local foodpreneurs and supporting them amidst the pandemic, DeliRush is an enabler and supporter for small food businesses and riders in the localities of SJM,” Mr. Noel Lucas, General Manager of the San Juan-Mandaluyong Operations Hub, says.

With a number of huge competitors in the food delivery app services industry, DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong is focused on bringing local food choices to its customers. In this way, small food businesses are highlighted and customers have the opportunity to discover new eats and support local foodpreneurs.

Partnership with Jackie Lou Blanco

DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong has partnered with Jackie Lou Blanco, a veteran actress, fitness and wellness advocate, columnist, and women’s health supporter. With DeliRush San Juan-Mandaluyong’s official launch last September 10, 2020, Ms. Blanco also launched her new peanut butter line, Jackielou’s Gourmet Nut Butter Artisan.

Veteran actress Jackielou Blanco


Like many Filipino professionals, Ms. Blanco, as an actress, has been affected by the pandemic. Given the current situation and with Ms. Blanco’s love for peanut butter, Jackielou’s Gourmet Nut Butter Artisan has been created with the help of her daughter-in-law. Handmade at home, Ms. Blanco sports four peanut butter variants – Sugar Free, Choco Nut, Cinnamon, and Cashew peanut butter.

DeliRush is the exclusive delivery partner of Jackielou’s Gourmet Nut Butter Artisan for San Juan and Mandaluyong. Residents from San Juan-Mandaluyong can now order Ms. Blanco’s peanut butter products through the DeliRush app. For orders from other areas in Metro Manila, customers may visit Jackielou’s Gourmet Nut Butter Artisan’s official Facebook page.

Work in the time of pandemic

How to successfully manage challenges, and stresses of working from home

At some point in our lives, we all wished we could work from home so we won’t have to wake up early and go home late, endure long hours of commuting and sitting/standing in traffic, and long queues at the train stations, hoping we could spend more quality time with our family.

As one adage goes, “Be careful about what you wish for” because when the whole world was hit by the pandemic, we were all forced to stay at home and do practically everything online. Then it hit us, is working from home really working?

“Work from home is our ‘new’ reality,” according to Dr. Anna York Bondoc, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, who talked about the “Guidelines in the New Normal: How to Manage Stress While Working from Home”.

“Before, our desks are near each other. People work together and [offices] are usually crowded. A good point of working from home is no more commuting, and it’s safer at home. Work from home (WFH) is possible. It can be done [Puwede pala], which has been resisted before,” she said.

Dr. Anna York Bondoc / Facebook

Apparently, since people are still adjusting to this “new” reality, it is expected that not too many people, including our family and kids, are aware that WFH is actually a job. It’s paid, and if we don’t work, we won’t get paid.

“Husbands expect more from their wives. They come home thinking we’re just at home all day how come we haven’t cooked yet or haven’t done the dishes, or our mother-in-law’s wondering how come we can’t manage our kids, but what they didn’t know is that we also have a full-time job…we’re just at home. It’s our job,” said Dr. Bondoc.

Unlike when we go to the office, commuting separates work from home life. If a person goes to work, he is leaving a restful environment and moving to a professional and stressful environment. Working at the office separates people from home.

“Home is a place where we can de-stress. But when a person works from home, work-life balance is gone. Work is happening in our homes. The 9-to-5 job is destroyed, WFH becomes 24/7,” revealed Dr. Bondoc.

Even before the pandemic, some employers call their employees even after office hours. But work calls after office hours worsened during this pandemic because some employers expect their employees are always connected.

“Some companies call their employees and expect them to respond immediately. Then there’s a loss of privacy. When you’re at the office, it’s a separate entity. You can be professional and leave all problems behind at home. But now, people can see your private life during video calls or Zoom meetings, etc.,” she emphasized.

Apart from the challenge of staying connected 24/7, there’s this pressure on the employee to learn a new set of skills (e.g. online), to be more independent and self-motivated.

“The motivation must come from you now, otherwise, nothing will happen. You have to manage work from home and it’s quite stressful. Online environment/meetings are very stressful, very choppy for both the listeners and the speakers. Connections are bad. Speakers giving the talk are having a hard time gauging the audience. If meetings are not structured, you’ll waste so much time. It must be well planned and well moderated. It’s very difficult. Then people tend to stress eat, they don’t exercise. Too much digital. People feel isolated and lonely,” she said.

Moving forward

 Since WFH is becoming the “new” normal, people don’t really have a choice but to stick to it and adjust to it. Dr. Bondoc offered some tips to help successfully manage challenges and stress from WFH.

“There should be mutual communication between the boss and the employee. Bosses should explain the goals and outcomes so the employees know what to expect. Stick to a schedule. Designate a workplace,” said Dr. Bondoc.

She advised, however, for people to stop using their beds as their workplace. “Don’t do that! Don’t bring your work to your bed. It will disrupt your sleep. Separate working and sleeping place. That’s your workplace and you should be serious about it. Ask your kids/families to respect your workplace.”

Technology-wise, Dr. Bondoc disclosed that some older people are becoming worried that they are being left out by technology.

“Technology is only a tool. What’s important is your knowledge about the job and you know what you do with the subject matter. Technology will always be there, but it won’t give us brains. What to do with it, depends on us,” she said.

While it may seem that being ‘techie’ (a person who is expert in or enthusiastic about technology) gives young people an edge these days, Dr. Bondoc said otherwise. “For younger people, it doesn’t make you a genius if you know Zoom or technology. You still have to put in time and effort into what you’re doing.”

Your health matters

One of the downsides of WFH is the tendency to sit all day while facing computers or laptops. According to studies, sitting or lying down for too long increases one’s risk of chronic health problems, such as diabetes, some cancers, and heart diseases. It can also be bad for one’s mental health. In fact, health experts tag sitting for too long as the “new smoking”.

“Set aside time for yourselves. Exercise! Try to exercise twice a week. Set proper meal times. Primary immunity will come from your diet. What are you eating? Lasagna, ube pandesal? Eat a balanced diet: Proteins, carbs, fruits, and veggies. Vitamins for immunity are D, E, Zinc. One multivitamin a day is more than enough. Good diet, proper exercise, and enough sleep. Try to normalize your sleeping time,” she said.

Apart from taking care of one’s physical health, Dr. Bondoc also reminded everyone to set aside “quality” leisure time for family. “Talk to your husband. Play with your kids. Reach out to your friends or colleagues, sisters, cousins, boss. Try to talk to someone. Physical distancing, not social distancing.”

She also warned everyone to be aware of using too much social media as it can also be the source of anxiety. “Social media is a form of advertisement. Whatever we are posting, it’s the best version of ourselves. They tweak it to make it look better than it actually is.”

Dr. Bondoc affirmed that feeling sad, depressed, anxious, and hopeless in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic is normal. “If you don’t feel anything, your heart is made of stone. Everyone’s depressed and a little anxious. You’re going to go through ups and downs during this pandemic. There are times you will counsel, other times, you will need counseling. Practice patience and kindness. Be thankful. Look for strength in other people.”

Lastly, coronavirus is a new disease. While none is documented of contracting COVID twice, Dr. Bondoc said it’s still best to take care of oneself. “Everyone can get COVID. If you have to go out, please wear masks, sanitize, and practice social distancing. Please show compassion and respect. Change to house clothes and slippers once you go home.”


Barbie Almalbis honors Filipino optimism with “Umagang Kay Ganda” music video

Filipina rock icon Barbie Almalbis hopes to encourage and inspire listeners to rise above extraordinary times.

With the official release of “Umagang Kay Ganda,” the third single of her upcoming new album under Sony Music Philippines, the Dahilan singer-songwriter uses her platform to pay tribute to the courage and optimism of the Filipino people.

“The current situation has made so many of us experience such a profound sense of loss, and it has also given us a rare chance to stop and reassess our lives and consider the things that we really value,” the acclaimed pop-rock artist shares. “I hope Umagang Kay Ganda will be a blessing especially to our front liners. It is our little way to say thank you for the selflessness that they have continually shown and the sacrifices that they have made to help us get through this together.”

With the help of constant collaborators, Barbie and her bandmates put a creative stamp in reimagining “Umagang Kay Ganda,” while making sure that its empowering message shines through the intricate arrangement. “Karel and I initially jammed it and he wrote lines for the instrumental section, then we arranged the rest with Nikko on keyboard and Jonard on drums. We were able to record the rhythm section just a few weeks before the lockdown.” As a result, the new version conveys the timeless appeal of the original, while exuding a warmer approach in terms of production details.

Inspiring music video

The official release of Barbie Almalbis’ latest single comes with an accompanying music video that brings to light everyday stories of hope and love for the country amidst the global health crisis.

Interspersed with scenes of the new normal, the visuals for “Umagang Kay Ganda” also showcase the heroic deeds of our front liners and several acts of compassion and resilience from ordinary Filipino folks.

Barbie adds, “Although some people consider music and visual arts as non-essentials these days, I’ve found that many are actually turning to the arts as a way of coping and feeling connected to others. We want to remind people of the real hope that we have and can hold on to, even as we confront the invisible enemy on a day to day basis. We’ll be able to stand above difficult situations and hurdle these atrocities with the gift of love and compassion.”

The music video is also part of Magnolia Dari Creme’s campaign reminding us that in extraordinary times as in the normal times, tomorrow always brings us new chances for a brighter day as long as we are with the ones we love.