A special day of thanksgiving for the loving and passionate people of upland Amadeo last week. My wife was born and raised in this beautiful municipality where coffee takes centerstage as a source of livelihood for the family.

Every year, the town fiesta was something to look forward to. My inlaws sponsor yearly a sumptuous feast for the ‘musiko’ or the marching band that goes around the city early in the morning for a heightened festive ambience.


My loving wife as the cutest baby in the world carried by my father-in-law. Amadeo was boldly proclaimed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2002 as the “Coffee Capital of the Philippines” (Batangas might have something to say to that), coffee being the main product of the town.

Dubbed as Pahimis Festival it aims to promote Cavite coffee varieties for domestic and worldwide consumption, to encourage and revive the interest of farmers towards coffee farming, increase coffee yields through proper techniques and skills training, and to create a competitive coffee price in the world market.

The municipality of Amadeo was being hailed as the Coffee Capital of the Philippines and boasts of its 4,508 hectares of coffee farmland, the largest land area devoted to coffee farming in the entire upland of Cavite, making it the province’s biggest coffee producer.

Several activities for the festival were held for the local and tourist revelers like the search for the “Coffee Queen” or the “Mutya ng Pahimis”, coffee talk and demonstrations, the unique coffee dance marathon and the yearly float parade.

Other activities included a thanksgiving mass, recognition of the Most Outstanding Coffee Farmer, exhibit of local food/delicacies, a trade fair, a variety of shows for the entertainment of guests and a coffee farm tour promoting the agri-tourism sites.


Do you like pancit or spaghetti?

Two different noodles that speaks volume of who we are as a Filipino.

I am biased with spaghetti because its more easy to prepare.


The diverse geography of the islands of the Philippines not only has made food easily accessible to fishermen, farmers, hunters and gatherers but has allowed it to be prepared by some of the simplest methods of cooking, including boiling, grilling, stewing and steaming. The cuisine has also been heavily influenced by centuries of trade with Spain, China, France, Southeast Asia and the United States. Two of my favorite dishes are pancit and spaghetti.

When I was in Riyadh, this Italian dish was my quick-fix meal for the day.

Boil some water, put the noodles for a few minutes and drain it. Prepare your favorite sauce. Mix it together and bon appetit!

Spaghetti means one thing in the Philippines: Birthday! If you make spaghetti, someone will probably ask whose birthday it is because that’s the customary thing to serve when someone has a birthday (although they sometimes serve pansit instead).

I love pancit, too!

Though very tedious to prepare pancit is a staple dish that completes your traditional Filipino feast. Visit cultural or religious fiestas across the metro all the way to the country’s most remote provinces and you will surely find pancit.

Although preparing huge pots of pancit has become an indelible part of Filipino culture, the beginnings of this popular fiesta food are not just confined to a specific region—or to the country itself, for that matter.

Once a Chinese Merchant’s Meal
Most people refer to pancit as Filipino noodles, but history reveals that the word itself does not have a Filipino origin. The term originated from the Hokkien word “pian e sit,” which means, “something conveniently cooked. Ancient Filipinos had strong trade ties with Chinese merchants long before the Spaniards conquered the islands. Historians agree that pancit arrived on Philippine soil as a Chinese merchant’s meal meant to ease homesickness as they dealt with Filipino tradesmen. When their food supplies ran out, they were likely to have made their own noodles and substituted rice flour for wheat.

When the Spanish ruled the land, the native dish became a popular “takeout food”. Women who worked in factories were the first customers of panciteros. Because they usually didn’t have time to cook for themselves, pancit, the ready-to-eat meal, became their ultimate go-to food. As more customers flocked to noodle nooks, eateries then became the first noodle restaurants. Today, many established restaurants offer the original savory goodness of the once ordinary-Chinese-merchant’s meal.

The Long List of ‘Long Life Noodle’ Dishes
Through the years, the Filipino pancit evolved and many new variations grew in popularity. Sotanghon Guisado, Pancit Luglog, Pancit Batil Patong, Pancit Habhab, and Lomi are just few of the popular dishes around today. The two main variants of pancit that will never be absent in fiesta tables, though, are Pancit Canton and Pancit Bihon. The latter has a thin, almost clear rice noodle, while Pancit Canton uses an egg noodle, which appears like the noodle commonly used in spaghetti. Both dishes are often garnished with pork, chicken, or shrimp; and vegetables such as cabbage, bell peppers, onions, carrots, and celery.

Pancit reflects not just Filipino passion for food, but culture as well. The dish is closely associated to ancient Filipino superstitions that the dishes signify long life and health, and that they should not be cut short to preserve the symbolism. This is why it is most common for Filipinos to serve it during birthdays, New Year’s celebrations, and baptisms.

Though originally from the Chinese, pancit has become a signature Filipino dish because of the many variations Filipinos have made to the simple dish.


The Arts Hour Tour – Manila

Where do you cross the line between arts and politics?

Is there any line at all?

Definitely none, for me.

As Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) President Nick Lizaso said, “Art is color blind, or rather, it embraces all colors. Indeed, art should have no political color whatsoever. It doesn’t take any sides. If there is one thing art should be for, it is for Humanity with a capital H. For art in essence is about enriching the soul of the human being. For it is art that will save us as a nation, as a people, as one humanity.”

Arts has the power to mold public opinion and raise the level of awareness on certain issues.

Last night’s live recording experience of The Arts Hour Tour here in Manila by BBC World Service, I was inspired by the artistic initiatives that are creating spaces to bridge division in society and a higher level of consciousness on important national issues that matters.

The Arts Hour Tour Manila BBC

The Filipino’s boundless passion for arts and culture in action.

BBC World Service’s “The Arts Hour” concluded its tour in Manila for their upcoming episode last night, April 26 at the Star Theatre in Pasay.

The taped as live episode was attended by candidates of Reyna ng Aliwan 2018 and the British Ambassador Daniel Pruce.

With a total of 75 million listeners across the country, BBC’s Nikki Bedi alongside with some Filipino renowned artists, writer, and filmmakers in the industry bluntly discussed their artistic stand in some of the headline issues in the Philippines.

With her were award-winning film director, Treb Monteras of “Respeto”; visual artist, Nikki Luna; news reporter/ documentary maker-turned-film-actor, Atom Araullo; master rapper, Abra; spoken poetry artists Juan Miguel Severo and Louise Meets; stand-up comedian G.B. Labrador and Philippine Rock Icon, Bamboo.

Unleashing the artistic view in confronting the timely issues of the country, Nikki Luna emphasized the need for the arts to turn viewers’ attention differently and challenge them where to stand in their beliefs.

The program also opened the discussion of the stigma against LGBT and the misogynistic approach both for the women and men today.

Araullo, on the other hand, willingly answered some queries about his sudden shift from being a journalist to a film actor. “As long as I clearly know the objectives since I don’t want to limit myself from pre-existing rules or tradition”, he said in an interview. He still considers himself in his mid-career who takes on new opportunity and risks.

In addition, Abra toured Nikki Bedi around the infamous Tenement in Taguig where most of their rap battles occurred and the Bonifacio Global City that he purposely called the “posh” area.

Abra, known as one of the country’s finest rapper has been constantly producing tracks, his latest single “King Inang Bayan” with at least 100 bars, mirrors the pre-existing issues in the country. Louise and Severo also performed their spoken word collaboration titled “Mabuhay!”, and G.B. Labrador performing his Makabayan punch lines left the audience laughing.

The Arts Hour on Tour – Manila episode will be aired on May 27.

Aliwan Fiesta 2018

Have you ever witnessed the mother of all Philippine Festivals?

Don’t miss it this weekend!

Grassroots entertainment will find its most awesome manifestation as Aliwan Fiesta kicks off today and once again gathers champion festivals from north to south of the archipelago in a massive convergence of creativity and culture, alongside the Pinoy’s joie de vivre in its many incarnations come April 26 to 28.

Loudness, boisterousness, color, movement, and uncanny juxtapositions are all essential elements that Filipinos incorporate into their celebrations, but as Aliwan Fiesta participants will show, Philippine festivals reinvent and transform themselves in a continuous process of creation more attuned to the demands of popular entertainment today.

Aliwan Fiesta 2018

Aliwan Fiesta harnesses the power of Philippine festivals to showcase how religion, culture, and tradition are woven into the fiber of our existence. Traditional fiestas, which are held annually to commemorate the foundation of a town or province, or honoring its patron saint, are brought together en masse to highlight the Pinoy’s indomitable and ebullient spirit, together with his mien for creativity and innovation. With most major fiestas rooted in the pre-colonial period, there is understandably a festival sector that celebrates Nature’s bounty. Our Filipino forebears worshipped pagan gods who, to them, were responsible for bountiful harvests on land and sea. Aliwan Fiesta is both celebratory and commemorative.  It is grassroots theatre at its best.  But in the myriad faces of its participants, we see our very selves. Regale in these festivals. . .join in the merriment. . .and be prepared to be awed. …Makiisa, makisaya, pista’y narito na!

This year, seventeen contingents have signed up to take part in the festival dance competition. The Cordillera Administrative Region will field the Panagbenga festival of Baguio City, Benguet as well as the Abrenian Kawayan festival of Bangued, Abra. Region 1 will be represented by the Pandan festival of Mapandan, Pangasinan., while from Region 2 will come the Bato Art festival of Luna, Isabela.

Region 3 also has two entries — both from Bulacan — in the Fiesta Republica of Malolos, and the Halamanan festival of Guiguinto. Not to be outdone, Region 4 will showcase the Bakood festival of Bacoor, Cavite, the Tagultol festival of Atimonan, the Dumagat festival of Rodriguez, Rizal, and the Niyogyugan festival of Quezon Province. And from Region 5, the town of Balud, Masbate will present the Pangumagat festival.

Region 6 carries Ilonggo pride with the Manggahan festival of Guimaras, the Binirayan festival of Antique, and the Iloilo Dinagyang festival. Region 8, through a contingent from Burauen, Leyte, will showcase the Kasadyaan festival. Finally, from Maguindanao, we will see representatives of the Meguyaya festival of Upi, and the Inaul festival of Datu Piang.

But apart from these, other festivals will also be represented in the float design competition as well as the search for Reyna ng Aliwan. So expect to be dazzled by craftsmen of Hagonoy’s Singkaban festival, Catanauan’s Boling-Boling, Tacloban’s Sangyaw and Fiesta Tarakloban, Cotabato’s Sinilatan, Mother Kabuntalan’s Bangsa Maguiranun, and the Kapasiti of Shariff Aguak, as well as additional festival queen entries from Antipolo’s Maytime festival, the Iloilo Paraw Regatta festival, the Sinulog festival of Cebu, Zamboanga Hermosa, the Salug festival of Zamboanga del Norte, the Kalimudan festifval of Sultan Kudarat, the Munato festival of Sarangani, the Tuna and Kalilangan festivals of General Santos City, and the Kalivungan festival of North Cotabato.

Aliwan Fiesta 2018 kicks with the opening of the Shoppers Bazaar along Sotto Street featuring products from regional trade initiatives of the different participating towns. At 6 p.m., the Pasakalye concert and variety show featuring X-Battalion, Darren Espanto, Mocha Babes, the Go Girls, and Rocksteddy takes place at the outdoor stage in front of the Aliw Theater.

On April 27, the lovely ladies vying for the title of festival queen will have their pageant night at the Aliw Outdoor stage at 7 p.m, to be hosted by 101.1 Yes The Best’s Raki Terra and DJ Nick of 96.3 Easy Rock, with special guests TJ Monterde and Ronnie Alonte.

On April 28, the grand parade and streetdance showdown will commence at Quirino Grandstand at 3:30 p.m., making its way to the Aliw Theater at the CCP Complex, where the awarding ceremonies immediately follow. This will be hosted by Nicole Hyala and Chris Tsuper of 90.7 Love Radio, with special guest performances by Gloc 9 and Ebe Dancel.

Amateur and professional photographers are most welcome to take their best shots from the parade and join the Photo Competition; deadline for submission of entries is on May 4, at 5 p.m. For indeed, Aliwan Fiesta is a feast for the senses. Its myriad sights and sounds should definitely be experienced. And by doing so, we can pay tribute to all those who continue to make it a truly unique and enjoyable experience.

Aliwan Fiesta 2018 is a project of Manila Broadcasting Company and Star City, in cooperation with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, along with the cities of Manila and Pasay.


Do you have a friend named Mark?

April 25 is the feast of St. Mark, one of the companions of the apostles and the author of one of the gospels.

Who was he, and what do the Bible and the Church Fathers record about him?

St. Mark

The majestic view of Baclaran Church today. Among the four Gospels, Mark’s account is unique in many ways. It is the shortest account and seems to be the earliest. Mark the Evangelist was an associate of the apostle Peter and likely wrote his Gospel in Rome where Peter was based. Mark wrote it in Greek. It was likely written for Gentile (non-Jewish) readers in general, and for the Christians at Rome in particular. It is significant that Mark, as well as Luke, was chosen by the Holy Spirit to write the Gospel account even though he wasn’t one of the twelve apostles. Augustine of Hippo, explains: “The Holy Spirit willed to choose for the writing of the Gospel two [Mark and Luke] who were not even from those who made up the Twelve [Apostles], so that it might not be thought that the grace of evangelization had come only to the apostles and that in them the fountain of grace had dried up” (Sermon 239.1). Jesus’ last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his atoning death for sin and his glorious resurrection to new life for all who will believe in Jesus, God’s beloved Son. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. God’s love and gift of salvation is not just for a few, or for a nation, but it is for the whole world – for all who will accept it. The Gospel is the power of God, the power to forgive sins, to heal, to deliver from evil and oppression, and to restore life.

Here are 8 things to know and share about St. Mark, according to Jimmy Akin from the National Catholic Register:

1. Who was St. Mark?
St. Mark is commonly identified as:

  • The figure John Mark from the book of Acts
  • The figure referred to in St. Paul’s epistles simply as “Mark”
  • The figure in St. Peter’s epistles also referred to simply as “Mark”
  • The author of the second gospel
  • The first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt

2. What does the book of Acts tell us about Mark?
We first meet him in chapter 12, just after the martyrdom of James the son of Zebedee (the first of the apostles to be martyred).

At this time, Peter was captured and his martyrdom scheduled, but he was miraculously freed from prison. When this happened, Luke records:

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying [Acts 12:12].

Mark then began to play a prominent role in the life of the Church, becoming the travelling companion of the apostles Paul and Barnabas:

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had fulfilled their mission, bringing with them John whose other name was Mark [Acts 12:25].

3. How did Mark cause an argument between Paul and Barnabas?
Mark did not complete his travels with these apostles, though, which eventually caused a significant falling out between Paul and Barnabas:

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Come, let us return and visit the brethren in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.”

And Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.

And there arose a sharp contention, so that they separated from each other; Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord [Acts 13:36-40].

One reason Barnabas may have been more favorably disposed to Mark is that he was his cousin, as we learn from Paul’s letters.

4. Did Mark and Paul ever reconcile?
They did. In Colossians, one of Paul’s prison epistles, he writes:

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, receive him) [Col. 4:10].

This shows Mark at a later point as a functioning member of the circle of Paul’s companions, indicating an eventual reconciliation.

The reconciliation was apparently long-lasting, because he mentions mark again in 2 Timothy, written shortly before his death in A.D. 67, where he says:

Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me [2 Tim. 4:11].

His is also briefly mentioned in Philemon, where Paul describes him as a fellow-worker:

Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends greetings to you, and so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke, my fellow workers [Phlm 23-24].

5. What does Peter say about him?
At the end of 1 Peter, the apostle mentions him briefly in the same passage where he indicates he is writing from Rome (i.e., “Babylon”):

She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen [i.e., the church of Rome], sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark [1 Pet. 5:13].

This indicates that Mark had become not only a valuable member of Paul’s circle but also someone personally close to Peter–a theme picked up on in the Church Fathers.

Shortly before his resignation, Pope Benedict commented on this passage and how it signifies the convergence of Peter and Paul’s circles in Rome:

Then I think it is important that in the conclusion of the Letter Silvanus and Mark are mentioned, two people who were also friends of St Paul.

So it is that through this conclusion the worlds of St Peter and St Paul converge: There is no exclusive Petrine theology as against a Pauline theology, but a theology of the Church, of the faith of the Church, in which there is — of course — a diversity of temperament, of thought, of style, between the manner of speaking of Paul and that of Peter.

It is right that these differences should also exist today. There are different charisms, different temperaments, yet they are not in conflict but are united in the common faith [Address, Feb. 8, 2013].

6. What do the Church Fathers say about Mark?
A good summary is provided by St. Jerome in is De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men):

Mark the disciple and interpreter of Peter wrote a short gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome embodying what he had heard Peter tell.

When Peter had heard this, he approved it and published it to the churches to be read by his authority as Clemens in the sixth book of his Hypotyposes and Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, record.

Peter also mentions this Mark in his first epistle, figuratively indicating Rome under the name of Babylon She who is in Babylon elect together with you salutes you and so does Mark my son.

So, taking the gospel which he himself composed, he went to Egypt and first preaching Christ at Alexandria he formed a church so admirable in doctrine and continence of living that he constrained all followers of Christ to his example.

Philo most learned of the Jews seeing the first church at Alexandria still Jewish in a degree, wrote a book on their manner of life as something creditable to his nation telling how, as Luke says, the believers had all things in common at Jerusalem, so he recorded that he saw was done at Alexandria, under the learned Mark.

He died in the eighth year of Nero and was buried at Alexandria, Annianus succeeding him [De Viris Illustribus 8].

7. What is the earliest testimony we have linking St. Mark to the second gospel?
We actually have a first century source on this!

According to a first century figure known as John the Presbyter:

Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ.

For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as heremembered them.

For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.

Pope Benedict, as well as other scholars, think this John the Presbyter may have had a hand in writing some of the books of the New Testament. If so then we have not just first century testimony regarding the authorship of Mark’s Gospel but testimony coming from one of the New Testament authors.

8. Is Mark mentioned in his own gospel?
Possibly. Although he did not apparently follow Jesus throughout his travels, as indicated by John the Presbyter, many have thought that Mark did have at least some contact with Jesus during the time of his Passion and that, as a result, he may be mentioned anonymously in his own gospel.

Specifically, some have proposed that he is the man who carries the water jug in this passage:

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the passover?”

And he sent two of his disciples, and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the householder, `The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I am to eat the passover with my disciples?’ [Mk. 14:12-14]

It has also been proposed that he is the man that Mark curiously records as running away naked when Jesus is arrested:

And they all forsook him, and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body; and they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked [Mk. 14:50-52].


Wanna join and be part of the live audience?

The BBC World Service will be in Manila on April 26, 2018 to record their world-renowned radio programme The Arts Hour on Tour.

Arts Hour BBC

BBC World Service Radio mounts a live recording of their program “The Arts Hour on Tour in Manila” at the Star Theater, with special guests led by master rapper Abra, filmmaker Treb Monteras, comedian GB Labrador, spoken word specialists Louise Meets and Juan Miguel Severo, photographer Hannah Reyes Morales, visual artist Nikki Luna, and broadcast journalist Atom Araullo.

The BBC’s Nikki Bedi will be on stage at the Star Theatre in Pasay, with artists, writers and film-makers shaping culture in the city plus some of its best live performers. Nikki will be joined by award-winning film director Treb Monteras of “Respeto,” fame; visual artist Nikki Luna; and news reporter / documentary maker-turned-film actor Atom Araullo. The session will also feature live music from master rapper Abra and rock star Bamboo as well as performance poetry from Louise Meets and Juan Miguel Severo, plus a stand up comedy act by G.B Labrador.

Nikki Bedi and her guests will be discussing the artistic response to headline issues in Manila where the Philippine government’s war on drugs has left thousands dead, and a bill to legalise divorce in the country for the first time, is in process.

Those interested in being part of the live audience during the recording may register for free by emailing, and shall be sent their entrance passes. The program will begin at 8 pm sharp.

The programme will then air on BBC World Service on 27 May and 28th, and will be available on the BBC website from straight after the first transmission. The Arts Hour on Tour is a monthly arts show exploring culture now in the great world cities. With live music, slam poetry, comedy performance, big name interviews and rich discussion, the series brings audiences as up close to life as a local.

For inquiries, call or text 0917.865.9400


You give me hope in my times of trial, joy in my saddest hours and love in all I do.

Happy 23rd day of the month to the most loving and caring woman – my greater half Jude Borja! #blessed #grateful

Distance never separates two hearts that really care, for our memories span the miles and in seconds we are there.

But whenever I start feeling sad, because I miss you, I remind myself how lucky I am to have someone so special to miss. I love you!

#ldr #tighthugs #mwahmwahtsuptsup


You are a special gift from the heavens. Your smile warms my heart and your presence makes me whole. I love you today and forever! You make me complete. Your perfection I adore. There is no distance I cannot go to see you smile each day. I love you! You make my love melt at you, when your eyes gaze at me I become addicted at you my sweet heart. I love you so much my dear! You changed my world from the day you entered into my life. The change is not simple and subtle, it’s a change brought color to my life and made a meaning for the same. Words cannot describe how much you mean and important to me! You are my angel and I would like to see your smile always to boost up my day. I cannot imagine a day without you and without your smile. I like to be in the shadow of your love and affection forever. Thank you so much for being my wonderful wife. ❤