Paras Clan celebrates Tia Nanang’s 100th

Victorina Mesina Magbag was born on February 25, 1921, the eldest daughter of Sebastian Guzman Magbag and Salome Suarez Mesina who both were from San Fernando, Pampanga. She is fondly called by her nickname Nanang. She has 4 brothers and 5 sisters namely, Alejandro, Jose, Leonardo , Emmanuel, Juanita, Cristanita, Salome, Nicena and Rita.

When Nanang was two years old, she went to live with her grandparents Dionisio Magbag and Juana Guzman in a Hacienda called Sinura. A lovely home surrounded by fruit trees, flower garden with native roses, a poultry and a vegetable garden.

This was a place where she enjoyed playing around with the children of the farmers, chewing sugar cane, climbing trees like atis and santol and playing with dolls made of wax. Three years later, when Nanang was about five years old, she joined her parents in Bamban, Tarlac where her father was now working at a sugar mill owned by a Spaniard known as Cortabitarte.

She began going to school at the age of seven in Bamban Elementary School. She would walk to school barefooted or in wooden shoes, and used banana leaves as her umbrella whenever it rained.

Nanang as a 10 yr old Grade 4 student at Bamban Elementary School 1930-1931

Though they didn’t have much to use during that time, they had American books for school since the country was under the Americans. Singing the American National Anthem followed by the Philippine National Anthem in English was one of the things they would often do in class.

They were taught Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Music, Good Manners and Right Conduct, as well as Geography and Home Economics. The life she lived was very simple, she would also help her mother take care of the household. She would do chores like wash clothes in the river, cook with firewood, fetch water for the family to use, and help her mother cook native delicacies like bibingka, suman and leche flan.

Nanang as a 4th year high school student

At the age of thirteen, Nanang went to Pampanga High School in San Fernando, Pampanga were she stayed at her grandparents old house about 4 kilometers away. Waking up as early as 5 a.m. to cook her breakfast and rice for lunch, she would then buy her viand and start walking to be able to get to school at 7 a.m.

The population was so small that you knew everyone in town. No courting was allowed since parents were very strict, no beer drinking since they only had lemonade and sarsaparilla. Later on, Nanang graduated from High School.

In 1939, Nanang moved to Manila. During those days, it was accepted that women would not go to college since they were expected to get married and raise a family, while the men were to be the providers for the family’s daily needs. But she took the UP Manila college entrance exam and passed.

With the support of her father, she enrolled at the University with a Tuition fee that was about P45-56 per semester. She had a budget of P30 a month, paying P21 for the dormitory, P2 for laundry and P7 for clothes, shoes and other needs. Her schooling continued for 2 years but she was forced to stop when her father got sick.

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY (NU) in Sampaloc, Manila Philippines during the 1920’s (androgynous16.blogspot)

She was advised to seek help from a relative who was married to a teacher from National University. With much effort, she sought the help of N.U.’s president to accept her as a working student and was readily accepted without any sponsor. While she was studying in National  University, she stayed with the family of a cousin of her father, Isaias Dimalanta. Her stay with them was comfortable that she had more than enough for her needs.

The war suddenly broke out on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese started bombing Nichols Field (now Villamor Air Base). Her uncle Isaias had to send to Nanang to her grandparents home in San Fernando.

Smoke rising from Nichols Field airbase following a Japanese air raid during World War Two, Philippines, December 10th 1941. (Photo by US Army Signal Corps/Getty Images)

She hurriedly went to Tutuban to get the train and proceeded to Tarlac where her parents evacuated. The Magbag family had to stay with their Uncle Alejandro and Aunt Anicia Navarro in their farm filled with different fruit trees near the Tarlac capitol. Every time, the Japanese started their aerial bombings, they would scamper to the dug outs for safety.

A day before Christmas, the family had to evacuate to the mountain range of Zambales because the Japanese had landed at Lingayen. Their means of transport to carry  their food and belongings was a carabao-driven sledge passing through narrow paths.

As they moved, they would walk from 4 in the afternoon till 2 in the morning and slept in open fields. They had to do that for 10 days to reach a barrio called Malonzo.

Three months after living in the mountains, her grandfather Dionisio fetched and brought them to Magalang. Later on, they moved to a barrio in Angeles where her mother Salome would sell milkfish in the market while Nanang would sell threads, eggs and other things in the nearby market. 

When the Japanese had occupied the whole island, they started planting cotton, and Nanang was employed as a clerk together with her brother Alex who worked as a supervisor in the fields. She and Alex would borrow bicycles from the company and bike home to Bamban on weekends. They both earned enough to buy a cavan of rice at P2, sugar, soap and other necessities which they bought from the company known as Kanebo Fuchi Boseki Kaisha in Mabalacat.

Clark Air Base, formely known as Fort Stotsenberg, was built in 1903 and things were never the same for Angeles City. (Hal Katzman)

In 1944 the Magbag family together with their grandparents decided to move to Magalang when news that Americans were returning reached them. They could see American fighter planes passing through Mt. Arayat carpet bombing Clark Field.

Her Uncle Wenceslao, a doctor, would treat people wounded by stray bullets and shrapnel. At this time, the family was now staying at the Luciano’s big house in Magalang. Soon after, the Americans arrived and her parents moved back to Bamban, while Nanang stayed with her grandparents and worked at the Ordnance company of the American Army.

When Clark Air Base reopened in 1945,  Nanang, her father Sebastian, and her sister Neneng went to work there. On weekends, she would go to Manila to attend Saturday classes.  Having known that Bamban Institute was in need of teachers, she applied and was accepted.

Nanang with some college friends.

During weekends, Nanang would teach English and History while finishing her studies. She graduated at the National University with a degree in Education.

Nanang’s College Graduation Picture at National University

Nanang met Pablo Pabling Paras for the first time when he asked for the hand of Nicing (Nanang’s sister) in marriage. After seven months however, Nicing died from tetanus. After she passed on, Pabling moved to Guagua, Pampanga to join his brother Susing, buying trucks, jeeps, weapons carrier, restoring and selling them as well.

Nanang’s Masteral Class at Bamban Institute.

After she graduated, Nanang took her Masters in Education at Bamban Institute and continued working as a teacher.

A year after, Pabling started to write Nanang while he was in Guagua. He would visit the family in Bamban during fiestas and  other occasions. His friends and relatives would write Nanang to endorse him. He was waiting for her to marry him.

Pabling went to Mindanao in February of 1951, he was surveying for a place where he could set up a machine shop. He went Davao and Zamboanga but thought Dadiangas (now General Santos City) was an ideal place. But on his way back to Manila, the plane had an overnight stopover in Cagayan de Oro. Taking this as an opportunity to go around the city, he went around and decided that the city was a good place to start his business.

On the 23rd of June 1951, Nanang married Pabling and moved to Cagayan de Oro with around P200 in their pockets. Nanang found a place to stay in Pabayo St. where the Obenzas had a vacant space on the ground floor while Pabling started his business at a shop owned by Pastor Macasero. They had new found friends and neighbors like the Ramonals, the Wadhus and the Malferraris.

Baby Elpie at 4 months and 20 days.

Nanang gave birth to their first born son Elpidio ‘Elpie’ (baby no.1) on May 23, 1952. The attending doctor was Dr. Emilio Dayrit who also hailed from Pampanga and became the family’s physician and family friend. Soon after, Jesus Emmanuel ‘Jess’ (baby no.2) was born on Christmas of 1953.

Nanang’s first daughter Zenaida ‘Zeny’ (baby no.3 )was born on March 25, 1955.

From Pabayo St. the Paras family moved to Mabini St. in 1955, where they rented a house owned by the Ramonals.

But a year later, Nanang had to find a place of their own and found a lot owned by a Ms. Roa located in Puntod. They bought an area of 1,000 sq.m. for P7/sq.m. She made a down payment of P3,000 and paid a monthly amortization of P300.

Friends they considered family helped the couple build the home. William and Johnny Tompkins cleared the area, the Ramonals gave bamboo, Pedro ‘Oloy’ Roa gave them timber, their Filipino-Chinese customers gave them drums for the walls, and Dr. Dayrit gave P50 for electrical wires.

Instead of going home to Bamban every Christmas, the couple decided to spend the holidays in Cagayan de Oro to save money since their family was growing. Their new house in Puntod was already finished and Pablo Jr. ‘Litoy’ was born on February 15, 1957.

When their children started going to school, the boys went to Xavier UniversityAteneo de Cagayan while the girls went to Lourdes College. Nanang was busy with the household and helped Pabling in the machine shop which was located next to the house. She took care of the importation of a new crankshaft grinder. At that time, the exchange was at 4 pesos to the dollar.

Nanang was quite busy with the family and the shop, and yet she still had time to grow vegetables, raise ducks, turkeys and chickens in the yard. She also began to grow roses.

The family didn’t stop growing as well. Ruben ‘Benjie’ (baby no. 5) the 4th son was born on November 2, 1958 followed by Victor ‘Vic’ (baby no. 6) the 5th son on May 18, 1960.

Their second daughter Angela ‘Angel’ (baby no.7) was born on the 1st of June 1962. By this time, the family was able to buy the adjacent lot and Nanang was able to plant grapes.

Meanwhile the relatives of Pabling migrated to Cagayan de Oro namely the Simpaos, the Reyeses, Terrados and Pabling’s sisters Engracia, Josefa, Flora and Andrea.

In the adjacent property, Pabling and Nanang soon built a house for their relatives where Andrea, Flora and the Reyes family would stay and bought another one in Corrales where the Terrados would reside.

Aside from that Nanang was able to buy a 6.7 hectare property in Baloy for only P4,200 now her love for planting expanded to citrus, santols, chicos, coconuts, and other fruit trees.  It was also in the same year Pabling and Nanang started to construct the big house at the back of the Puntod property.

A year after, Nanang gave birth to Raymund ‘Ray ‘the 6th son (baby no. 8) in Manila on October 29, 1963. This time the big house was finished and they were able to move in. The house frequently hosted visitors from Luzon since there were still no hotels in Cagayan de Oro.

Pabling and Nanang with their 10 children. Front row: Benjie, Raymund, Sally & Necy, Angel, & Vic.
Back row : Pablo Jr., Jess, Pablo & Victorina, Elpie, & Zeny. (photo courtesy of Jess Paras)

Finally, the youngest twin daughters were born on November 11, 1965 and were named after Pabling’s mother Maria Inez ‘Necy’ and Nanang’s mother Maria Salome ‘Sally’ (babies no. 9 & 10). 

The Paras General Repair Shop was earning so well that Pabling was able to build jeepneys for rent serving passengers traversing between the Pier in Macabalan to Divisoria . They had 12 jeeps naming them after their ten children, and 2 more named Elpie2 and Jess2. The Paras General Repair Shop was incorporated to PARAS MACHINERY WORKS INC. in 1967.

Paras General Repair Shop and the Paras jeepneys at Puntod.

As the family grew bigger, Pabling and Nanang also found time to be members of the Rotary Club, Knights of Columbus and CFM group where they found their closest friends. Attending district conferences in different places were one of the enjoyable things they did during that time. Their circle of friends grew bigger.

In 1969, Pabling and Nanang started a new machine shop in Iligan. They would stay there for the entire week to manage the construction, while Pabling’s sisters Flora and Josefa would take care of the kids.

Nanang was invited to learn the art of making ceramics by the son of her friend Trining Pineda in 1972. She initially made cigarette holders as giveaways for the machine shop. She made beads to produce chokers, necklaces and bracelets. She also made beautifully painted jars and small giveaways for weddings and anniversaries. She received assistance from NACIDA (now DTI), a painter from Spain, a German consultant, and Philippine Airlines, which displayed her products.

Nanang at Paras Ceramics when it was just starting out as a NACIDA-registered cottage industry.

Paras Ceramics became known for its beautiful ceramics and was exporting to other countries through Manila FAME. Aside from ceramic making, Nanang also co-founded the Ikebana International –CDO Chapter –a club of women doing the art of Japanese floral arrangements.

These two hand painted ceramic vases from Paras Ceramics compare well with the Murano glass vases of Italy. (Jess Paras)

Her hobbies in gardening and making ceramics became her businesses. Whenever important visitors arrived from Manila, the Department of Tourism would recommend they visit Paras Ceramics  and Nanang’s garden.

In 1974, Nanang and Pabling traveled to Hongkong, Japan and Taiwan with Elpie. Pabling and Nanang also made a trip to China.

At the same time, their home in Caloocan was being built. The Paras family would now have a place to stay when they were in Manila.

 In 1975, Pabling started a company engaged in heavy equipment leasing and eventually expanded into aggregates production and construction, which became G & P Builders, Inc. The main office was in Puntod with headquarters at Natumolan, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

Pabling and Nanang Paras with their 10 children during their Silver Wedding Anniversary on June 23, 1976 at Jesus Nazareno Church.

Nanang and Pabling celebrated their Silver Wedding Anniversary on June 23, 1976. The mass was officiated by Father Cebrero S.J., a long-time friend of the family and the parish priest of Jesus Nazareno Church where the family attended mass every Sunday.

In 1977, Jess got married to Consuelo ‘Nena’ Gimenez at Paco Park, Manila, followed by Elpie who married Rose Galenzoga in Davao City.

The first grandson of the Paras Family was born on October 22, 1977, Javier Francisco ‘Javi’, the son of Jess and Nena.

In the same year, Nanang and Pabling traveled to Europe for the first time. They spent P23,000 only for 31 days, including 2 cities in the United States.

Zeny went to Australia to marry Neville Sturzaker in May 11, 1978. She gave birth the following year to the first granddaughter Leanne on November 28, 1979. The day after Nanang and Pabling traveled to Melbourne to visit them.

Paras Machinery Works Corporation put up another shop in Maramag, Bukidnon in 1981. They rented a place to be able to service the Hanjin company which was building a dam in the area.

In the same year, Victor married Lani Q. Wong from Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, while Benjie got married  to Nora Piñero  from Ozamiz City the following year on 30th of October.

Paras Beach Resort at Yumbing, Mambajao, Camiguin.

Later, the family bought a property in Yumbing, Camiguin where Nanang and Pabling together with the children and grandchildren spent Easter and summer vacations. Nanang enjoyed landscaping the area and tending her plants while everyone enjoyed the sea. This eventually became the Paras Beach Resort.

In 1984, Soroptimist International CDO Chapter gave Nanang Recognition as their Committee Director and Women of Distinction Award in 1986 for her Economic and Social Development.

Litoy married Ma. Ana Policarpio from Pampanga on June 10, 1989. Sally got married to Edward Herman van Ommeren of the Netherlands in 1993, while her twin Necy married Karl Fortich of Bukidnon in 1994. They were followed by Raymund who married Irnita Liñan from Cagayan de Oro in 1995. The Paras siblings were now all married and with children.

When a fire started in the building in front of their  house in Puntod, Nanang and Pabling were in the garden when Pabling suddenly collapsed and later died of a heart attack on March 7, 1998. It was a heartbreak for Nanang and the family.

Another heartbreak followed on 9th of January 2003, when Pablo Jr. likewise died from a heart attack while undergoing treatment for Esophageal cancer in Manila.

Nanang at 82 years old at Victor’s place in Dahilayan, Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.

In the latter part of 2003, Victor discovered the beautiful Barangay Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon where the Paras siblings bought adjoining properties. Nanang’s propagation of plants kept her busy for her children’s gardens in Dahilayan. Her love for plants and flowers including fruit trees can be seen in each of the family’s properties.

In 2012, Nanang receives a token of appreciation for her 40 years of continuous support and cooperation from Ikebana  International CDO. The following year, Ikebana CDO featured her ceramic vases with floral arrangements by the members in celebration of her 92nd birthday.

For their 50th Anniversary, SM Shoemart paid tribute to Nanang for being their business partner from 1975 to 1990. She supplied SM with her ceramic necklaces, bracelets  and accessories.

Nanang at 95 in 2016

When Nanang celebrated her 95th birthday in 2016, friends and relatives from abroad came to join the celebration. Her friends from the Rotary Club  and Ikebana CDO also attended the joyous occasion.

At present, Nanang’s passion for gardening continues. Her morning exercise would include sweeping the grounds of her garden, and propagating new plants and enjoying them when their flowers were in bloom. She is at her happiest when she is able to give seedlings to everyone.

Every Sunday, she would pick flowers from her garden and arrange them for her home. She still joins zoom meetings of Ikebana CDO. She is the original plantita of Cagayan de Oro as she started collecting, growing flowers and plants from 1950’s till the present and being the oldest active member of Ikebana CDO.

Nanang going through her morning routine at the ripe young age of 100.

At her age of 100, she still takes care of her family’s food every Sunday. She is very attentive to the needs of her family. She is the pillar of the family, her opinion is of utmost importance and is highly respected by everyone.

She has been the driving force in the Paras clan, almost all of the properties that she and Pabling acquired were through her foresight and prudence.

She never runs out of prayers, is always hopeful, no wonder God has truly blessed her. Her happy disposition makes her loved by everyone she meets. Her generosity extends not only to her family, but also to friends and even strangers.

Cagayan de Oro’s Indefatigable Tia Nanang at 100.

She would always share her plants, her ceramic accessories which she made herself. She treats those who work for her like family, shares her food and give extra attention to their needs.

She is often mistaken to be a relative of someone because of the way she treated them. She has been a mother not only to her children but also to her nephews and nieces who stayed with her in the 1960’s and 70’s. Her home has always been open to everyone. She never runs out of guests, everyone loves to visit her.

Nanang Paras through her first century. To her 100 is just a number.

(All Paras family photos courtesy of the Paras Family)


BSM: The Redolence of Oro’s Fashion Maven

As one of Cagayan de Oro’s renowned fashion mavens, Benjie S. Manuel has few peaks left to climb.

As Founding president of the Mindanao Fashion & Entertainment Force (MFEF), Founder and Creative Director of The Model Workshop, the first and the longest tenured president of the Oro Fashion Designers Guild (OFDG), and Fashion Designer at Benjie S. Manuel (stylized as BSM), he’d already shown the world what he was about, and the world likewise beat a path to his door for his creative pizzazz.

Benjie S. Manuel wearing one of his creations from his BSM MEN Ready-to-Wear Collection (Portrait by Melson Bolongaita)

That is, until some nine odd-years ago, his uncle Jijil Jimenez broached the idea of testing the waters of the uber competitive world of signature fragrances. 

“Then a good friend, the late James Magdalan offered to create scents for me, at that time I was going back and forth to Manila with my bestie Atty. Samantha Tan. I wasn’t thinking of competing with other brands, just wanted to have my own and see whether it would sell or not.”

James Magdalan

He started with a few scents, and had an instant hit with his PLU (People Like Us) geared towards the LGBT community, which became his best seller.

“I started selling to close friends via social media, but also had had individual sellers, I had some boutiques carry my fragrance, but my individual sellers sold more, so I preferred direct selling.”

When he brought a few samples to Canada during a fashion tour some years back, it sold so well that they were sold out by the time they arrived in the United States.

One of the selling points of Benjie’s scents are his prices, which are very affordable to the target market at only P400-600 per 60 millimeter (ML) decanter.

PLU is BSM’s Gay Pride Scent

Among the best-selling BSM Fragrances are PLU: the gay pride scent with citrusy lemon, mandarin, orange and grapefruit. Recommended use: Daytime.

BSM Liquid to Wear Men

Liquid to Wear Men, a vibrant fragrance with Fig Leaf, Green Mango, Sage, Hydroponic Basil, Vibrant Moroccan Cedarwood, Cucumber, Amber and Woods. Recommended use: Casual.

BSM Black Sage

BSM Black Sage with Hydroponic Basil, Vibrant Moroccan Cedar wood, Cucumber Heaven + Earth citrus notes, rosemary spiciness, jasmine, hint of wood and ocean breezes. Recommended use: Casual.

BSM Luxe Men (photo by Tom Udasco Photography)

 BSM Luxe Men with green apple, icy woods, jasmine, cedar leaves, patchouli and white musk vetiver. Recommended use: Formal; and, not the least,

BSM Woman of the World (WOW, a.k.a. Woman of Wisdom)

Woman of the World (WOW a.k.a. Woman of Wisdom) a modern scent of jasmine, bergamot and orange with a hint of musk. Recommended use: Casual.

While James created the scents, Benjie decided the final choice of scents, and  also designed the attractive decanters of his signature scent line himself, which James then printed for their exclusive production.

“A signature scent says something about you without saying a word. It’s an extension of your personal style—what you wear and do that causes people to remember you. Perfume is also one of the most personal accessories you can wear, which is why a “signature” scent works so well.”

To date, the available inventory of BSM Scents has been limited, since Benjie only produces a fresh batch  when an order merits it.

Benjie met James while studying at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan when he designed the uniforms for their Business Management practicum group.

Although not a chemist, James had a nose for creating scents from pre-mixed fragrances, which were then sent to Benjie for final approval.

“I remember one time when he created one I really liked. Unfortunately, he forgot how he came about creating it!”

Although James also thought of going into the fragrance business since he had connections to the suppliers, he chose to focus on his logistics brokerage which was doing so well until his untimely demise in 2016.

The BSM Story

While he was born in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon many moons ago, Benjie grew up and went to school at the Father Saturnino Urios University (formerly known as Urios College) in Butuan City, Caraga Region.

Even as a youngster, Benjie already displayed a talent for drawing and sketching. When he found Architectural Drafting not to his liking, he shifted to AB English. It was during his college days when he started gravitating to his present avocation as an in-demand stage choreographer for the school’s beauty pageants.

On top of that, he also enjoyed being a disc jockey for clubs and parties where the MTVs inspired him to focus on fashion designing.

When his family moved to Cagayan de Oro during the early 1990s, Benjie opened his first of many shops at Gaston Park. When his shop at Divisoria was burned some years ago, he found inspiration from his fellow designers who all got together to help him get back on his feet.

These days, his shop is situated at the posh RER Subdivision where a loyal clientele keeps a well-worn path to his door.

His panache for fashion events continued to shine in wildly successful shows such as Fashiondayag, a long-gown competition for the Miss Kagay-an Beauty Pageant, and The Mindanao Fashion Summit.

Sa Malaybalay ko natawo, sa Butuan ko nagdako but Cagayan de Oro is my place. Even if I would be a New Yorker or open a boutique there, my main office would still be here in Cagayan. Diri pod nako na experience ang mga bad and worst. Dinhi gyud akong hometown.” (with a report from Michael Ray Ungab)


Whither Are Books on the Virtualscape?

At a time when everything is pivoting toward the virtualscape, thanks to the world’s encompassing embrace of the ever more inclusive smartphone, the venerable paper-and-ink book finds itself at a crossroads.

For what use is a book in hand when you can virtually have the world at your fingertips via the virtualscape? As it turns out, in fact, a book has many things for the reader that online sources would never be able to provide.

Take, for instance, availability. A book is available to you every minute of the 24 hours of the day, no matter that it sits on your bookshelf most of the time. An eBook or a PDF, on the hand, could be unavailable if the site hosting it is experiencing an outage or if your device is suffering connectivity issues. Or if you simply forgot to charge your device.

Or take convenience. But, wait, isn’t a smartphone (or any smart-device for that matter) the very embodiment of convenience? True—but can you read through a paragraph without swiping or scrolling? Fast readers, in fact, can speed-read a reasonably short paragraph at one glance, a feat that’s impossible to do on a smartphone, given its limited screen space.

Or take cost. After purchase, a book provides information at absolutely zero cost. A book online or on a device, on the other hand, always exacts some cost. It’s a tiny amount to be sure: Using an iPhone or an Android and assuming five days to finish reading a book at the current P8.55 per kilowatt-hour power rate, the total power cost is just P0.25. But the catch is the wear and tear on your device battery, which is expensive to start with. A paper-and-ink book has no battery to wear down even after decades of use.

Then there’s that most unquantifiable quantity—feel. All inveterate book lovers will tell you that there’s nothing like the feeling of cracking open a book and thumbing through its pages, enjoying the book’s weight, especially if it’s a coffee-table book, and reveling in the scent of paper pulp and printer’s ink.

No iPad or Android tablet can give you the same experience. A book’s feel simply has no analog in the digital world. And after all the reading’s done, you can hand down a book to a loved one as a memento. Just try doing that with a PDF.

“Two decades ago, movie DVDs and Blu-rays were supposed to sound the death knell for movie theaters, but the latter are thriving even now,” pointed out Ramoncito Ocampo Cruz, the president and CEO of Media Wise Communications/ Muse Books, an award-winning publication house.

“Online news was supposed to doom newspapers in quick order. But the broadsheets and tabloids are very much still around. It’s the same thing with books. The book is simply here to stay.”


Filipino space engineers make history with Maya-2 CubeSat launch

The country witnessed another historic moment as its second cube satellite (CubeSat) Maya-2 was successfully launched to the  International Space Station (ISS) Sunday, February 21, 2021 at 1:36 A.M. (PHT) aboard the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cynus spacecraft.

S.S. Katherine Johnson lifts off. Screenshot from NASA Live feed , February 21, 2021 (Sunday) PHT

Sending the satellite into the ISS is the final step before the satellite reaches its targeted altitude in Low Earth Orbit, when the space station deploys it at a date to be determined later.

Maya-2 CubeSat was launched through the ISS along with Paraguay’s GuaraniSat-1 CubeSat, and Japan’s Tsuru CubeSat for the BIRDS 4 Satellite Project – KyuTech, aboard the Northrop Grumman CRS-15 mission.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said Maya-2 is the country’s fourth satellite and was launched through the International Space Station (ISS).

“Since DOST started the Philippine Space Technology Development Program in 2014, we already sent two micro satellites, Diwata-1 and Diwata-2, and two nanosatellites Maya-1 and Maya-2, into space orbit,” de la Peña said. Two more (Maya-3 and Maya-4), are to be launched within the year.

The Maya-2 Flight Model (FM). A 1U, 10x10x10-centimeter CubeSat weighing 1.3 kilograms. (photo courtesy of BIRDS4 Project)

Developed by three Filipino student engineers, Maya-2 CubeSat weighs 1.3 kilograms and is equipped with a camera for image and video capture, attitude determination and control units for active attitude stabilization and control demonstrations, Perovskite solar cells and Latchup-detection chip, and an Automatic Packet Reporting System Message Digipeater (APRS-DP).

According to Professor Paul Jayson Co, project leader of the STAMINA4Space Space Science and Technology Proliferation through University Partnerships (STeP-UP), the satellite uses commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components to verify proper functions in space and the information gathered from BIRDS-4 will form the basis for usage of these COTS components for future space missions.

Co said the satellite also carry a store-and-forward payload that can be used to gather data from ground sensors for more practical applications like for weather and infectious disease analysis.

The Maya-2 engineers. (Left to right) Mark Angelo Purio, Izrael Zenar Bautista, and Marloun Sejera.

The Maya-2 CubeSat team is led by BIRDS-4 Project Manager Izrael Zenar C. Bautista, with BIRDS-4 Project members Mark Angelo C. Purio and Marloun Sejera.

Bautista is an BS Electronics and Communications Engineering and MS Energy Engineering graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman. As BIRDS-4 Project manager, he monitors the team’s planning, design, execution, implementation, and operations. He also supervises outreach, team events, and coordination between stakeholders.

Purio has an Electronics and Communications Engineering degree from Batangas State University, MS Electronics Engineering from De La Salle University and MA in Education from Adamson University. He is responsible for the Camera Mission (CAM) of the BIRDS-4 Satellite Project, which captures images using a commercial-of-the-shelf (COTS) camera. He assisted in the design and development of a standardized backplane board (BPB) which holds the boards together and serves as a bus for inter-board connections and power supply.

Sejara earned his degrees in BS and MS in Electronics and Communications Engineering from the Mapúa Institute of Technology. He was charged with ensuring the satellite maintains reliable communications with ground stations for the continuous execution of its missions. He also handles the Automatic Packet Reporting System – Digipeater (APRS-DP) mission which aims to demonstrate the functionality of low-cost Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) APRS digipeater and provide amateur radio service to the amateur radio community.

The three Filipino space engineers are now pursing doctoral degrees in Space Systems Engineering and Space Engineering at the Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech).

The development of Maya-2 CubeSat is part of the 4th Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project BIRDS-4 Satellite Project, a cross-border interdisciplinary CubeSat project hosted by the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, in collaboration with the three countries.

BIRDS 4 Satellite Project team at Kyutech

De la Peña said DOST’s Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) and the University of the Philippines Diliman’s Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineering (UP IEEE) are the implementors of the satellite development projects in cooperation with two Japanese universities, Hokkaido University and Tohoku University.

This initiative is also part of the Stamina4Space Program of the DOST funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) and implemented by the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI).

The Space Technology and Applications Mastery, Innovation and Advancement (STAMINA4Space) Program is a space research and development program which aims to further develop deep expertise to enable and sustain the growth of a local scientific-industrial base in space technology and applications in the Philippines.

Moving forward, these projects are seen to further intensify the efforts of the country to harness the power of satellite technology for other purposes such as agriculture, forest cover and natural resources inventory, weather forecasting, and disaster damage assessment and monitoring, among others.

De la Peña revealed the Philippines is aggressively pursuing its space development program because of its many benefits to Filipinos.

“The succeeding micro satellites Diwata-3 and Diwata-4 and succeeding nanosatellites are now in various stages of development, now done completely in the Philippines,” he said in a press statement. (S&T Media Service)


Bringing PMAP to Higher Ground : Libot assumes mantle as PMAP CDO President

The People Management Association of the Philippines Cagayan de Oro Chapter has a new president following a year in which they were adjudged the PMAP’s 12th Chapter of the Year in 2020.

In a virtual ceremony during the chapter’s 14th General Membership Meeting and 44th Induction Ceremony held via Zoom on Feb. 10, 2021 Outgoing Chapter President Josette B. Cellona, RN, turned over the symbolic gavel to Incoming President Gina Maris M. Libot, AFPM, CTRS.

Libot is the Principal HRBP/Founder of Emerging Business Solutions, a Cagayan de Oro based business and human resources management and development services provider, providing high-quality value-adding services in the area of Human Resource, Finance and Management.

She is an experienced Independent Human Resources Consultant with a demonstrated history of skill in HR Consulting, Employee Benefits Design, Personnel Management, and Executive Search. She has 22 years experiences as an HR professional focusing on real estate development, hotel industry and business service outsourcing.

Gina Maris M. Libot, AFPM, CTRS. 2021 PMAP CDO Chapter President

“I have been in the human resource management profession for 22 years – the same number of years I have been a member of PMAP-CDO. For the past 22 years, this organization has provided me the opportunities to mold my career in HR,” Libot said in her acceptance speech.

“From managing human resources in several companies in the real estate, hospitality, BPO, distribution and trading industries all over Cagayan de Oro to establishing one of the first HR consultancy and business solutions company here in the City, PMAP CDO has blessed me with mentorship, professional growth, and leadership growth.”


“Leading this premier HR organization will indeed be a challenge, especially in the midst of the pandemic, and I have big shoes to fill. I am filled with confidence knowing that I am joined by the newly inducted, dynamic 2021 Officers and Board of Trustees in taking on this leadership. I am confident that we will be able to accomplish our goals and objectives for 2021,” she added.

In her inspirational talk as the event’s guest speaker PMAP National President Angelina N. Mukhi, FPM, offered her vision in the call for PMAP on Higher Ground.

Angelina Mukhi, FPM, PMAP National President

Mukhi said this vision is captured in three aspirations: Transform for Growth. Recreate HR. Uplift People.

To achieve these aspirations, she identified the following 4 Core Strategy Areas: Global Mindset with a Local Focus; Reinvent HR; Invigorate Members; and Nurture Humanity.

“Globalization is a reality. Our world has changed dramatically. In our virtual world, boundaries are falling away. We must think global, while we advance HR practices and sustain advocacies In our local communities,” Mukhi noted.

“PMAP will lead in educating about and supporting innovations in people management. We will seek to expand the HR eco-system while championing ‘People First* in the triple bottom line of organization performance.”
“We will empower our members through our advisory services, support for business recovery and enrichment of personal networks. In PMAP, we can find life-enhancing friendships.”

“Not the least, PMAP will affirm the essence of our humanity and build an environment of achievement anchored on an inspiring vision. We recognize our diversity and look forward with hope for a better future. Together. we must act with courage and passion for growth, excellence and service.”

“PMAP on Higher Ground will inspire our internal dynamics in the association, guide our thoughts and be a constant criterion for action. This ideal is apt for the times,  powerful if brought to life and relevant as we rebuild,” she stressed.

Libot said the National PMAP vision for 2021 will be the CDO Chapter’s guiding principle as it moves forward to making this year productive.

“Together with the newly elected Officers and Board of Trustees, we will ensure that PMAP-CDO remains true to its mission of advancing the profession of human resource management, providing a venue for networking, and molding socially responsible people managers. To achieve this vision, our mission is simple: #TogetherWeCan Learn, Grow, and Make a Change.”

The past year has taught us that our inability to be together physically does not limit our capability to learn together. Digital platforms and resources have allowed us to continue to share our knowledge and expertise among each other. The uncertainty in our times will no longer hinder us from advancing and growing as members of the HR profession.”

“This year, we will take PMAP to a higher ground by creating avenues for members to LEARN more about the HR profession, even during these uncertain times, by utilizing technology in its maximum capacity.”

She said these avenues include organizing programs and trainings led by experts in the HR profession from all over the Philippines and overseas that would be accessible for all members, wherever they may be.

“#TogetherWeCan Grow –As HR practitioners, we are leaders in our own rights. We lead in managing/ our organizations’ most important assets – its human resources. As such, we need to invest not only in our professional growth but in our personal growth by developing our leadership skills and interpersonal skills.”

“This year, we hope to breed new leaders in PMAP-CDO who will take our organization to a higher ground not just in the present but in the many years to come. Together, we will create opportunities for PMAP members to challenge themselves and take on leadership roles within the organization and to expand their networks and alliances.”

“Harnessing this leadership and influence, #TogetherWeCan Make a Change. HR practitioners are already at the forefront of organizations and companies in managing and relating to the workforce or human resources; we are in the best position to see and know the policies to uplift and empower the workforce. We hope that this year, PMAP-CDO will become one of the leading voices in policy-making relating to people management. We will work on strengthening our relationship with our partner companies and organizations, our local government, as well as other government agencies to make this all possible.”

“But true to our mantra of #TogetherWeCan, all these goals will only come into fruition with your support and commitment. The challenges of these times may keep us apart physically, but we will remain as one through our goals of taking this organization to a higher ground.”

“2021 is our year to move forward with stronger spirits. We remain standing and  unbroken, victorious over all the stress we faced last year, courageously facing the continuing uncertainties of this year,” Libot exhorted.

Besides Mukhi, the virtual event was also graced by Immediate Past President Louisa Mila V. Echevarria, Past President and Former DOLE USec. Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez, PMAP Executive Director Rene Gener, PMAP National Trustee Michael Godinez, PMAP Mindanao Trustee, Dr. Marisol Tiu, Assistant Regional Director Estrella Pahalia, PMAP CDO Chapter partners from SSS, Pag-Ibig Fund, Philhealth and Department of Trade and Industry, PMAP CDO Chapter Past Presidents, outgoing 2020 Officers and Board of Trustees led by President Josette Mercedes Cellona.


MVIP faces further delay due to submarine cable damage

The Mindanao-Visayas Interconnection Project (MVIP) may extend beyond its adjusted December 2021 target completion due to the damage of several portions of its fiber optic cable connection.

Photos from the initial inspection show the fiber cable damage as well as fiber separated from the power cable.

The submarine cable no.1 portion of the MVIP’s Dapitan-Santander 350kV high voltage direct current (HVDC) line between Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte and Santander, Cebu, which was completed only on 15 November 2020, was found to have been damaged in several locations. Initial reports show a vessel navigating the area where the first cable was laid a month after the completion of the cable laying activity. The damage was discovered while the second cable was being laid. An investigation is underway to determine whether this vessel caused the damage and who may be responsible for said vessel.

The submarine cable #1 portion of the MVIP’s Dapitan-Santander 350kV high voltage direct current (HVDC) line between Dapitan and Santander, Cebu,, was found to have been damaged in several locations.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance which may delay the MVIP timeline. NGCP is working on a catch-up plan given the fragility of handling fiber optic submarine cables,” stated the company.

The damage was discovered while the MVIP’s second cable was being laid.

The repair of the severed portions will require another round of procurement, awarding, scheduling of cable laying, all of which are also affected by prevailing quarantine restrictions in terms of cable shipping and availability of foreign experts. The actual cable laying is also subject to weather and tide conditions.

The MVIP, certified as an Energy Project of National Significance in 2018, was initially targeted for completion by December 2020 but was extended to December 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine restrictions across the country. Upon completion, the MVIP will connect the Visayas and Mindanao grids through a high voltage direct current (HVDC) system with a 450 MegaWatt (MW) initial capacity. The project covers 184 circuit kilometers (ckm) of submarine cables and 526 ckm of overhead wires connecting Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte to Santander, Cebu.

Nexans’ cable laying vessel, Nexans Skagerrak has been contracted by NGCP to install two lengths of 92 kilometers submarine cable to link the Visayas and Mindanao grids. (

NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately owned company in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s electricity transmission grid, led by majority shareholders Vice Chairman of the Board Henry Sy, Jr. and Co-Vice Chairman Robert Coyiuto, Jr.###

Kagay-anon works with UK team developing COVID-19 vaccine

As the whole world now focuses on getting vaccinated against COVID19, Kagay-anons will be proud to know that a compatriot is part of the research team in the United Kingdom that is working hard on developing the Novavax vaccine.

Andrew Louies Mabelin

Louies Andrew Mabelin, 31 years old and a Kagay-anon, is a senior oncology research nurse at the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, involved in the Phase 3 double-blinded randomized trial of the Novavax vaccine, which is the last stage of the study before a vaccine, if successful, will be released.

He is part of the team that administers investigational product on test groups and monitors them for side-effects. The double-blinded study is a trial in which participants and researchers do not know who receives the experimental medicine or the placebo. 

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a “Coronavirus COVID-19 Vaccine” sticker and a medical syringe in front of displayed Novavax logo in this illustration taken, October 30, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

Before COVID19, Andew’s research mainly focused on studying cancer but it was paused as the world pivoted to developing vaccines in order to fight the pandemic.

“The oncology studies were put on hold,” he explained. “The focus and the priority shifted to COVID.”

Andrew is also part of the Recovery Trial being spearheaded by Oxford University and the Siren Clinical trial in the UK.

The Recovery Trial, the biggest one in the world, is conducting tests to determine which drug can best help COVID patients recover.

“So far, the steroid dexamethasone has shown promising results in helping reduce the mortality rate in patients requiring ventilation or oxygen,” he said.

The Siren Clinical trial takes swabs and serums from patients infected with COVID19 to determine whether someone who has recovered from the virus will acquire immunity to it.

Louies Andrew Mabelin joins a field demonstration at Xavier University Grade School as a Grade 1 student from Kong Hua School.

Andrew studied grade one at Kong Hua School. His family lived on 17th Street Nazareth with his grandmother he fondly calls “Lola Pacing.”

At the age of seven, his father, Edwin, and mother, Eflieda, left Cagayan de Oro and moved the family to Tacloban. “My Dad found a job that was based in Cebu City and Negros, and Tacloban was closer to these two places than Cagayan de Oro,” he said.

Andrew with his mom Elfieda, Dad Edwin and sister Coleen Kay who graduated grade school from Corpus Christi School.

The COVID vaccine is not Andrew’s first work with vaccine research. After getting his nursing degree from St. Scholastica’ College in Tacloban and passing the board exam, he was hired by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the national referral center for infectious diseases, as a clinical research nurse, primarily involved in the testing of the Dengvaxia vaccine. The dengue vaccine became a national controversy when some children died after being inoculated. 

Andrew oversaw the vaccination and the monitoring for side effects during the trial. His team conducted home and school visits as well to ensure the welfare of the trial participants. They did not encounter any problem. 

He stands by the results of their research. “We tested over 10,000 children participants in Asia and none of them had deaths related to the vaccine during the trial,” he said. He read the news about the scandal in disbelief because it did not align with the result of their tests. “No untoward incident occurred during the trial,” he stressed.

Andrew stayed with the RITM for 1.5 years and moved on to a Pharmacovigilance Company, Sciformix Philippines Inc., in Pasig City as a Drug Safety Analyst. He was among the pioneers of the company when it opened in 2012. It was later acquired by a big clinical research organization, Covance. He worked there for four years before immigrating to the UK.

He loves his work as a research scientist. “I cannot imagine myself doing anything else,” he said. “The satisfaction I get from research is different. I told my fiancée that research is my baby.”

The rush to develop the Novavax vaccine has put pressure on research practitioners. They work 10 to 12 hours a day including weekends and evenings.

Prizer and Moderna vaccines got out of the gate first because they started their clinical trials earlier. The Novavax vaccine, however, is easier to store as it only requires to 2 to 8 degrees Celsius compared to Pfizer’s minus 70 degrees Celsius, and Moderna’s minus 20 Celsius. Novavax is protein-based combined with a plant compound and uses the conventional form of vaccines rather than the mRNA technology.

Baby Andrew with his mom at Nazareth.

Andrew has fond memories of Cagayan de Oro. He remembers his mother taking him to Gaston Park during Christmas when each barangay showcased their Christmas trees. “I love Xavier University,” he said. He was planning to return to Cagayan de Oro in 2011 to study medicine at the university but changed the plan when he was offered the research job in Manila.

He was one semester away from finishing his master’s degree in Psychology at the Lyceum of the Philippines- Manila when he had to leave for the UK. Now, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in clinical research in his new country.

As to his personal opinion on when he expects the world to emerge from the pandemic, he said it will happen when everyone will get vaccinated.

Annie Gorra is the author of City of Gold: People Who Made their Home and History in Cagayan de Oro, and The Mystery on 17th Street.  Both are available on Amazon. (Disclosure: Louie Andrew Mabelin is Annie Gorra’s nephew.)


A Different Ash Wednesday this year

Ash Wednesday on February 17, 2021 will look a tad different in churches around the world this year. It will be no different in churches across the Philippines.

Where permitted by the prevailing quarantine status of the locality, the massive crowds will be curtailed to pandemic-restricted size limits with members of the congregation spread out in socially distanced seating.

When the prevailing community quarantine won’t even allow that, Catholics will be watching the Mass livestreamed in their residences, and would not be able to receive ashes.

Archbishop Jose Cabantan bless with Holy water the priests of the Cagayan de Oro Archdiocese during his installation Cagayan de Oro on Friday, August 28, 2020. Photo by Froilan Gallardo

Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season, or 40 days of prayer, fasting and alms giving, is observed by Catholics and some Protestant denominations around the world.

The ashes used during the Ash Wednesday observance are collected from the palms from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.

In some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens, one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized, although some churches use ordinary oil.

The Vatican said priests can take special precautions when distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, by sprinkling ashes on people’s heads rather than people’s foreheads

Last year’s Ash Wednesday Masses Feb. 26 were celebrated just weeks before the coronavirus pandemic became full-blown, so church services and social media posts of people’s ashes followed the usual tradition. It wasn’t until the third week of Lent that dioceses began lifting Sunday Mass obligations and temporarily stopping public Masses.

Most churches are open now but are limiting congregation sizes and requiring parishioners to sign up for Masses. But parish life is not the same.

Pope Francis distributes ashes on Ash Wednesday 2020. (Photo Vaticannews)

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments asked priests to take special anti-COVID-19 precautions this year when distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17, including sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads rather than using them to make a cross on people’s foreheads.

The congregation’s note on the “distribution of ashes in time of pandemic” was published on the congregation’s website Jan. 12 and directs priests to say “the prayer for blessing the ashes” and then sprinkle “the ashes with holy water, without saying anything.”

“Then he addresses all those present and only once says the formula as it appears in the Roman Missal, applying it to all in general: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ or ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.'”

“The priest then cleanses his hands, puts on a face mask and distributes the ashes to those who come to him or, if appropriate, he goes to those who are standing in their places,” it said. “The priest takes the ashes and sprinkles them on the head of each one without saying anything.”

The usual practice would be to repeat the formula — “Repent and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” — to each person as the ashes are sprinkled on the top of their head or rubbed onto their forehead.

Sprinkling ashes on the top of people’s heads, rather than marking foreheads with ashes, is the customary practice at the Vatican and in Italy. It also has historical roots linking back to the penitent aspect of ashes.

Given the spread of the coronavirus, the practice has the advantage of not requiring the priest to touch and speak to multiple people. The Latin, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese versions of the note also specify that the mask should cover the priests’ “nose and mouth.”

The sprinkling of ashes on individual heads would take place without any words said to each person.

“We too follow the same protocols here in the archdiocese,” said Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Jose A. Cabantan, D.D., in an email to the Metro Cagayan de Oro Times. “During our presbyterium meeting we too include the traditional way of imposing the ashes but using a cotton ball for each person.”

“But generally we follow the pouring of ash on the head. We too encourage families to avail of the home liturgy if they cannot join in the church. They can also participate thru an online Mass and do the imposition of blessed ashes themselves,” he added.

Ashes’ symbolism comes from Old Testament descriptions of wearing sackcloth and ashes as signs of penance. The Catholic Church incorporated this practice in the eighth century when those who committed grave sins had to do public penitence and were sprinkled with ashes. By the 12th century, the practice of penance and either sprinkling or marking of ashes became something for the whole church at the start of Lent.

The change for many parishes this year — where the words used prior to the distribution of ashes are just said once before the entire congregation — might also be hard for many people who would prefer to have that message told to them individually.

But the practice of addressing the communal body, not just individuals, also could be important this year when many are in this very different experience together.

Many parishes have clarified that the “reception of ashes is not mandatory nor required, and parishioners should know “their own internal disposition and intention to repent and start over” is the key to Ash Wednesday and that ashes are “an external sign of that internal reality. They may enter into Lent with a repentant heart even if they decide that receiving ashes is not the right thing for them this year.”

Doing something different is hard for people especially when so many are already stressed out and tired. But such are the circumstances we are in, that amid the pandemic, church officials are looking at ways to prevent speaking in close proximity to others or being in direct contact with them.

The choice of words prior to the imposition of ashes also is key this year because the reminder of one’s mortality “to dust you shall return” is almost unavoidable with the daily increase of deaths from COVID-19 but the call to “repent and believe in the Gospel” leaves the congregation with something they have to do.

Online Ash Wednesday resource materials provided by the Catholic Health Association for Catholic hospital and health care workers put the potential changes to Ash Wednesday in perspective.

“While Lent itself remains the same, with the global pandemic, some of our activities will have to be nuanced to fit the needs of this time — particularly Ash Wednesday,” said the group.

“As we come together by staying apart, we know our celebration of Ash Wednesday this year will look very different. For many of us, this marks a full year of managing and planning around the coronavirus.”

Catholic bishops in the Philippines recently released new guidelines for celebrating Ash Wednesday basically advising priests to strictly observe the guidelines issued by the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments

Parishes can also use dried leaves of plants and trees instead of old palm leaves to make ashes. Traditionally, ashes are made from old palm leaves blessed on past Palm Sundays.

These protocols will prevent the spread of coronavirus without sacrificing the essence of Lenten liturgy, according to the guidelines.

The time of the pandemic has affected all aspects of our life and even our liturgical celebrations. Since the start of the pandemic, we have issued directives and guidelines to help all our pastors and Christian communities in the proper celebration of the liturgy,” said the bishops.

“We continue to pray for the healing of many and the end of the pandemic. We thank God for the gift of the vaccines. We pray for the wisdom and compassion for our government leaders in the just and equitable distribution of the vaccines.”

While churchgoers welcomed the guidelines and hoped they would minimize the transmission of the virus, others said they preferred to receive the mark the traditional way, on the forehead.

In Boac Diocese, Bishop Marcelino Antonio Maralit Jr. said they will observe Ash Wednesday the traditional way.

“Our church is very traditional,” he said, adding that the island diocese has reported no coronavirus cases yet. “I don’t think we need to panic in that sense that is why we are keeping the traditional practice of marking the forehead with blessed ashes.” 

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the apostolic administrator of Manila, urged people to “go to the core meaning of our rites rather than be confused by changed external practices.”

Fr. Jerome Secillano, execu­tive secretary of the public affairs office of the bishops’ conference, also said that “confusion and fear “should not stand in the way of a meaningful celebration.

“Ash Wednesday is the day that reminds us of our mortality,” he said. “With Jesus let us conquer our fears and strengthen our faith.” 

In another departure from tradition, the Cebu Archdiocese will allow churchgoers to distribute ashes among family members at home to mark the beginning of Lent on Feb. 17.

The archdiocese released a prayer guide on Feb. 10 for the celebration of Ash Wednesday at home for those unable to go to church due to coronavirus restrictions.

Children and elderly people are disqualified by government protocols to attend large gatherings such as those in churches.

“Those who cannot come to church on this day can join the celebration of the Mass of Ash Wednesday on a live TV broadcast or livestreaming,” the archdiocese said.

The head of the family would lead the entire family in prayer according to the guidelines.

After the prayers, he should sprinkle ash on the head of each family member to avoid contact with them.

“They can then receive ashes from family members who were able to go to church for the celebration,” the guidelines said.

Families would conclude the celebration with a prayer and the sign of the cross.

Cebu Archdiocese also reminded Catholics that Ash Wednesday was a day of fasting and abstinence like all Fridays during Lent.

“Ash Wednesday is a day of universal fast and abstinence in the Catholic Church. Fasting is required from ages 18-60, and abstinence is from age 14,” the diocese added.

Cebu Archbishop Jose D. Palma said Lenten season is the time for  Catholics to deepen their relationship with Jesus.

“It is Jesus who calls us to be his followers so that people may know that we have a loving and caring God,” Archbishop Palma said in a recent homily. (with reports from

XU Grad nominated for DAISY Award

A graduate of the Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan’s School of Nursing has been nominated for the prestigious DAISY Awards in the United States.

Mike works at UnityPoint Health Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, USA.

Michael Ray Ungab, 37, is a staff nurse now working at the Behavioral Floor of the UnityPoint Health Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois in the United States.

“I received the nomination on February 12 and was surprised and grateful at the same time since it is a prestigious award that’s difficult to attain even as a nominee,” he told the Metro Cagayan de Oro Times in an exclusive interview from Peoria.

Mike said he finds working as a nurse in the US rewarding since nurses here are recognized and respected as frontliners.

Mike with his fellow nurses at the Behavioral Floor of UnityPoint Health Methodist Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, USA.

“Doctors in the US rely and respect nurses assessments since we are in constant contact and communication with our patients and can provide them important information which are crucial to their diagnosis and recommendations for treatment,” he stressed.

The DAISY Award is a program that rewards excellence in nursing. An acronym for Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem, The DAISY Foundation was formed in November, 1999, by the family of J. Patrick Barnes who died at age 33 of complications of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP). The nursing care Patrick received when hospitalized profoundly touched his family.

Mike receiving his first dose of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine last December. He has since received his follow up dose.

Thus, the awards were created by the DAISY Foundation to recognize the clinical skills, extraordinary compassion and care exhibited by nurses every day. The award is given monthly to outstanding nurses in more than 1,500 hospitals in 9 countries.

DAISY Award recipients are recognized at a public ceremony and receive a framed certificate, DAISY Award signature lapel pin, and “A Healer’s Touch”, a hand-carved stone sculpture

Additionally, the unit or department of the recipient will receive cinnamon rolls-a favorite of Patrick’s during his illness-with the sentiment that the heavenly aroma will remind them how special they are and how important their work is.

The Healer’sTouch -symbolizes the relationship between nurses, patients, and families

DAISY Award recipients demonstrate our values: Foster Unity, Own the Moment, Champion Excellence, and Seize Opportunities. These individuals consistently demonstrate excellence through clinical expertise, extraordinary service, and compassionate care, and are recognized as outstanding role models in the nursing community.

Michael Ray Ungab’s nomination for the DAISY Award

Patients, family members, visitors, employees, volunteers, and physicians can nominate a deserving nurse through an online nomination form or by submitting a hard copy of a nomination form to the nominee’s nursing manager.

Mike is a Registered Nurse and Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate who hails from Poblacion, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. He is the youngest of the six children of the late Raymundo Ungab, Sr., former principal of the Tagoloan National High School, and Nympha Rances, a retired public school teacher and now a full-time homemaker.

His siblings who are all professionals like himself are Alexie Jose, Ma. Theresa, both public high school teachers; Mary Anne, a nurse with the Misamis Oriental Provincial Health Office; Mary Jane, also a public high school teacher; and Raymundo Jr., a seaman.

Mike started his pre-school with St. Mary’s Tagoloan, and graduated with 3rd Honors at the Tagoloan Central School, and class valedictorian at the Tagoloan National High School.

He dreamed of someday becoming a lawyer but when he was a 3rd year AB Philosophy at Xavier Ateneo studying for his pre-law, he realized he wanted to become a nurse instead and had to start anew as a nursing freshman.

After he finished his nursing course in March 2008, he took and passed the National Licensure Exam for Nurses in November 2008, and the NCLEX for nurses wishing to practice in the US in 2010.

However, he did not first go into clinical practice since he was immediately hired as a lecturer in an NLE Review Center, and later an NCLEX review center.

He finally started his clinical practice as a staff nurse with the Cagayan de Oro Medical Center in January 2015 but left for Saipan a year later where he worked as a home health case manager.

In April 2017 he moved to Texas where he worked as a home health field nurse/facilitator/supervisor while his employer worked out his EB2 Green Card petition. When that didn’t work out, he returned home in May 2018 where he worked with another petitioner to complete his working visa.

Finally, his green card was approved in June 2019, and he returned to the US in his present assignment with whom he has a 3-year contract as a staff nurse.

To appreciate his DAISY Award nomination better, readers have to realize Mike is assigned to the Behavioral Floor where they cater to patients with schizophrenia, schizoid personality disorder, drug-related mental disorders, anxiety disorders and depression.

In his previous stint in Saipan, Mike was exposed to psych nursing and had 8 months of seminars, trainings and conferences which most probably led to his present assignment at UnityPoint. Here, they are constantly being exposed to update classes and he plans to take a certification as a nationally certified Psych Nurse which would allow him to practice anywhere as such in the future.

As succinctly described by the DAISY Foundation in one of their social media postings, “Since 1999, we at DAISY have been honoring nurses who provide above-and-beyond compassionate care to patients and families. Expressions of gratitude from patients and families go a long way in helping nurses cope with their high-stress work and help keep burnout at bay. Given the shortage of nurses in the United States, it is important that we retain as many nurses as possible, and meaningful statements of gratitude like yours make a difference!”

“In your nomination form, please write as much detail as you can about what your nurse did that made a difference in your experience. Explain how your nurse’s care made you feel. This will be especially meaningful to your nurse who will receive a copy of your nomination. DAISY also has a Team Award that honors nurse-led teams.”

Good luck with the nomination Mike! We are all proud of you! Keep up the good work and may God bless you always in your life’s work!

Leadership and Communication : 27th Nat’l PR Congress Explores Role of Leaders

Manila, Philippines, XX February 2021 — COVID-19 is not just a health crisis. While wreaking havoc around the world and causing so many losses, the pandemic also raises many other crucial issues, foremost of which is leadership.

Governments, businesses and organizations continue to struggle, all caught off guard by the pandemic and had to think on the fly. More than a year after the first COVID-19 case in the  country was confirmed and without a cure in sight, many are still scrambling to get back on their feet, with industries contracting and companies losing people and revenue. In many cases, what spells the difference between success and failure in these trying times is the leadership.

Some countries are able to contain the spread of the virus and cushion the impact on their economy much better than others. Some businesses and companies continued to operate, even achieve some level of growth, even as entire industries slowed down. Others are still figuring out the next step. With COVID-19 cases still rising and new variants emerging, these leaders are even more hard-pressed to address present concerns – buttress the economy or business, control cases, protect stakeholders – at the same time lay out plans for the future. 

Leaders are defined by crisis the same way they are shaped by opportunities, and there is no bigger crisis at present than COVID-19. How are the leaders of today faring?

Good leaders communicate their vision

Both New Zealand and Taiwan were well-prepared for the crisis and the resulting changes. Even before the pandemic hit, New Zealand already had a standard pandemic flu action plan, which the country used to fight the new virus. Meanwhile, Taiwan had a plan in place for years involving quarantine, contact tracing and a wide availability of masks.

A few days after recording its first COVID-19 case, New Zealand wasted no time and closed its borders, mandating anyone coming from overseas to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The government had a clear vision from the very beginning – to eliminate any trace of the virus – and communicated this clearly to its citizens.

Similarly, the Taiwan government acknowledged the importance of early action, with health officials developing a careful advance warning system for diseases around the world after being hit by SARS in 2003. This was used to alert citizens on the status of COVID-19 in the country.

New Zealand became COVID-19-free four months after its first reported COVID-19 case. Taiwan has been able to keep the spread of the virus under control. Many countries hope to achieve the same feat, but how?

Resilient organizations are built on trust

With COVID-19, businesses and organizations now know that while long-term plans are valuable, these will not save them during a pandemic. It is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and to evolve as one organization that will be vital.

A resilient organization is able to learn, develop and grow from problems that come its way, and a strong leader is at the forefront of this process. Resilient organizations are able to withstand challenges because there is a culture of trust that allows its people to work together in harmony to overcome difficulties.

Leaders who are transparent and able to effectively communicate their plans inspire others to share in their vision and thereby create unity in the organization. So when a crisis does come, there is no conflict in regard to how the organization will respond to the situation.

The COVID-19 pandemic puts into the spotlight the kind of leadership that makes a difference.

Join the discussion on how today’s leaders can adapt and be agile in the face of constant challenges to move their organization forward at the 27th National PR Congress happening from February 17 to 19, 2021. The annual conference will also discuss how leaders can communicate better to engage their stakeholders in a more efficient and productive manner.

With the theme Transcend, the Congress will address pressing issues in the PR industry and the country and inspire PR and communication practitioners to make lasting impact. This will be the first time the National PR Congress will be held online and the first time it will run for three days.

For more information about the 27th National Public Relations Congress, visit the event website or Facebook page or contact Lessa Azcarraga at


The Public Relations Society of the Philippines is the country’s premier organization for public relations professionals with dedicated programs in professional development and continued learning, PR excellence, student PR education, social outreach and partnerships with institutions. Annually, it confers the Anvil Awards, the Oscar of PR in the country and holds the National PR Congress in September, the National PR Month.