Category Archives: SUPERHEROES

One of the most amazing stories I’ve encountered lately

Have you heard of the Grapevine Faith Lions and the Gainesville State Tornadoes?

If you answered yes, then chances are you probably heard about this story already. But if you’ve never heard of them before, please continue reading!

One of the books I’ve been spending time on at the moment is Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference by Max Lucado. In the book, he shared this phenomenal true story of two US high school football teams: the Grapevine Faith Lions and the Gainesville State Tornadoes. Although this happened a couple of years ago, I’m kind of behind on the news. :)

I’m sure there are still people out there who haven’t heard this, so I searched for it on the internet, because I believe it’s a story that still needs to be passed on.  Please take the time to read this article (I pasted an excerpt below) or watch the video at the end of this post. I promise you won’t regret it. The story moved me and inspired me deeply, and I hope it does the same for you.

There are some games in which cheering for the other side feels better than winning.
by Rick Reilly, ESPN The Magazine

They played the oddest game in high school football history last month down in Grapevine, Texas.

It was Grapevine Faith vs. Gainesville State School and everything about it was upside down. For instance, when Gainesville came out to take the field, the Faith fans made a 40-yard spirit line for them to run through.

Did you hear that? The other team’s fans?

They even made a banner for players to crash through at the end. It said, “Go Tornadoes!” Which is also weird, because Faith is the Lions.

It was rivers running uphill and cats petting dogs. More than 200 Faith fans sat on the Gainesville side and kept cheering the Gainesville players on—by name.

“I never in my life thought I’d hear people cheering for us to hit their kids,” recalls Gainesville’s QB and middle linebacker, Isaiah. “I wouldn’t expect another parent to tell somebody to hit their kids. But they wanted us to!”

And even though Faith walloped them 33-14, the Gainesville kids were so happy that after the game they gave head coach Mark Williams a sideline squirt-bottle shower like he’d just won state. Gotta be the first Gatorade bath in history for an 0-9 coach.

But then you saw the 12 uniformed officers escorting the 14 Gainesville players off the field and two and two started to make four. They lined the players up in groups of five—handcuffs ready in their back pockets—and marched them to the team bus. That’s because Gainesville is a maximum-security correctional facility 75 miles north of Dallas. Every game it plays is on the road.

[Continue reading the article on the ESPN website…]

You have a special message to deliver. Do you know what it is?

Did you know that you’re a messenger?

You are. In fact, we’re all messengers.

Every day, our lives carry messages. Some of these can be messages of love and hope, and some can be messages of bitterness and anger. The options are endless. Every life tells a different story, and every story is made up of different messages.

Do you know what messages you carry? Are your messages getting to where they need to be?

I’ll help you answer those in a bit, but first, let me put the spotlight on two groups of people who are telling great stories and broadcasting life-changing messages:

True Love Waits

In last Friday’s edition of The Philippine Star, there was an article written by Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan entitled, Love is not that 3-letter word.

It’s a feature on  True Love Waits (TLW) Philippines, one of the organizations that I support and volunteer for. As I was reading the article, I was reminded of why I decided to volunteer for them in the first place. Please take the time to read it here.

Team TLW (Photo by Ree Soria)

I am constantly inspired by the team behind True Love Waits Philippines. Their passion to reach  and help young people is extraordinary. There’s Derek Ross, the National Director of True Love Waits Philippines, and his wife Amanda, and there’s Ree, Franco, Oda, Leslie, and Christin–the passionate and tireless TLW coordinators. All these people pour their hearts out into the work that they do, so that they can make a difference in the lives of students. These people travel constantly, bringing their love and compassion to young people all over the Philippines. Their schedules are hectic, and they really travel far distances (hello Butuan!), but you’ll never hear them complain. For them, what matters is getting their life-saving and life-changing messages to the people who need them the most.

The Smokey Mountain youth

Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila is one of the biggest slum areas in the Philippines. It is, however, a place with lots of hope. And I say that, because I look at the young people there and the groups that have invested in them and I believe that change is coming.

That's my brother, Toby (who is also the current Manila Jaycees president), throwing the ceremonial 1st pitch

Last Saturday, I took a trip to Smokey Mountain to pay a visit to the Young Focus Student Center where I do some volunteer work, but also to witness the turnover of a baseball field–aptly called the Field of Dreams–which was a project of Junior Chamber International-Manila (also known as the Manila Jaycees). It was a BIG day for the kids of Smokey Mountain, because they finally got to have their own field where they could run and play without worrying about potholes, shards of glass, and untrimmed grass.

It was a special day indeed, but what made the day even more awesome was seeing some of my former students from Young Focus covering the event as bloggers! Turns out, the Jaycees had another project together with Young Focus (YF which is a non-profit organization that does a lot of great work for the children and teenagers from Smokey Mountain). The project is called Buhay Ko sa Smokey Mountain (My Life in Smokey Mountain), and it was conceptualized as a way for these young people to tell their stories, and in effect, increase awareness of what they–and others–go through in their part of the city.

I like that it’s such a unique idea. These students have a lot to say and they need outlets for their thoughts. What better way to get their messages out there?

Reading some of the blogs, I experience a wide range of emotions. On the one hand, Rameses wrote a very insightful and patriotic post about President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, and Glenn shared his phenomenal perspective on life at Smokey Mountain (and where it’s going in the future!) through this post. But then I read a post like this one written by Edmon and I can’t help but be sad, and at the same time, also be in awe of the way he still lives with hope and perseverance (if you’d see his smiling face, you’d know what I mean!)

When you have the time, please drop by their blogs and encourage them with some comments! Most of them are written in Filipino, but they’ve been trained to take photos and videos, so you’ll see a lot of those in their blogs, too :)

I mention all of these people from True Love Waits and Smokey Mountain because they’re examples of extraordinary messengers. They’ve got messages–special, meaningful, uncommon, inspiring messages. But they don’t stop there. They work at delivering their messages. They do what they can to get their messages to where they need to be.

Now back to you and me.

We all carry messages. And I believe each person has at least one special message to share (although I’m sure there’s more)! Inside of each person, there can be a message of hope, acceptance, love, mercy, grace, commitment, passion, loyalty…like I said, the list goes on.

This week, I want to encourage you:

1) Ask yourself these questions: What messages do I carry? What burns in my heart? Who do I want to share these with? Draw those messages out. Some examples:

  • I want to help young girls understand what true beauty is.
  • I want to give young boys a vision of leading the nation.
  • I want to tell orphans that they’re loved and not forgotten.
  • I want to tell people struggling with alcoholism that there’s hope.

2) Once you’ve got the idea, do the next thing that will make all the difference: Take your message and deliver it. Don’t let your ideas and thoughts die. Write them down. Map them. Blog about them. Tell your friend about them. Draft that letter. Record that song. Do some research. Start moving. Take those steps, one day at a time.

Don’t know where to start? You can check out some blog posts I wrote a while back about volunteering: part 1 and part 2. Whether or not you’re interested in doing volunteer work, some of the principles might help you in your delivery journey.

Are you already out there, sharing your message to the world? Tell us about it!

* * *

If you want to receive updates when I publish new blog posts, you can subscribe via RSS or e-mail. You can also follow me on Twitter.

The hottest rock band in town

Two Sundays ago, I watched a really cool band. I just had to blog about these guys, because watching them was one of the highlights of my month! They had the crowd singing and dancing…everybody had a blast!

Introducing, our Kids Church music team!

Seriously…are these not the two coolest band members you’ve ever seen?

I love seeing our future leaders in action! :)

* * *

If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

If you want to receive updates when I publish new blog posts, you can subscribe via RSS or e-mail. You can also follow me on Twitter.

With a little help from my friends! (Part 1)

In just a few days, I’m leaving for a two-and-a-half month trip around the US. It’ll be the longest amount of time away from the Philippines for me since 2002. While I believe it’s going to fly by fast, the extended time away gives me a good excuse to meet up and catch up with friends before I go. And by God’s grace, these last few weeks, everyone’s schedules and plans just fell into place. It’s a blessing to be able to spend time with the people I love.

So from now until the day I leave, I’d like to tell you more about some of my friends who bring so much joy, wisdom, laughter, love, and spice in my life!

1) My childhood friends – When I was a still a child, there were no Playstations or Xboxes, cellphones or iPads, so if you wanted to entertain yourself after school or during the summer, you had to go out and spend time in the village park. In our village, there were around 20 to 40 young people (ranging from 6 years old to 26 years old) who would hang out in the park day in and day out, under the watch of the coolest village administrator around, Mang Nelson. He would treat us like his very own children, introducing every neighborhood newbie to the other kids, and coming up with activities that would get us to come out and play. He was like a father and coach to all of us. So everyday during the summer, the boys would play basketball, the girls would play volleyball, and we would have bike rides, water fights, and games of truth or dare in between. Those were GREAT times. We all grew up and most of us have moved out, but the great part is that we’re all friends for life. At least, those who haven’t fallen off the face of the earth and are still connected on Facebook are, haha. A couple of weeks ago, one of the girls (Ethel) was in town (visiting from the US), so some of us girls met up and had a reunion. It was as if we just picked up where we left off.

L-R: Anna, Steph, Ethel, me, Shirley, Mel

2) The a-Dazers Back in college, I was active in a group called Days with the Lord. “Days”, as it is nicknamed, can be found in most campuses here in the Philippines, so to identify which community was ours, we were called the “A-Days” community. Don’t ask me why, because the explanation will take forever. :) Though I am no longer active in the Days community, I am glad to still see my closest friends from A-Days regularly–at least we’ve got most of the holidays and special occasions covered, haha! We spent Maundy Thursday as a post-birthday celebration for our friend, Jem. We spent the rest of the day just enjoying each other’s company in Starbucks. Good times. :)

L-R: Ivan, Bones, Jem, me, Archie, Alnair, Parx, Leslie

Coming up on the next blog posts…my high school friends, my former colleagues at MTV, the wonderful women that surround me, and more!

Who are YOU grateful for today? :)

Tribute to MTV Philippines

The Super! section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer made a tribute to MTV Philippines, and they asked some of us to write about our memories.

It was one of my toughest assignments ever…there was too much to say! I was still in Boracay with my family when I got the messages from Tammy David and Pam Pastor of Super! so I had to work within the 30 minute computer access I had in the airport to whip up whatever I could. It was so rough, I had to ask Pam to edit me, haha! Thank you very much to Pam Pastor and the staff of Super! for making this tribute and asking us to be a part of it. You can read the whole thing–with awesome pieces by iconic VJs Sarah Meier-Albano and KC Montero, and superwoman Georgette Tengco + quotes from industry people and of course, a tribute to our favorite cameraman and MTV superhero, Tengie Daguio–in today’s paper. What follows below is the rough, uncut, and untitled piece that I wrote, plus the other photos that didn’t make it (there was just too much to squeeze in!):

In the Philippines, MTV has gone through several chapters—it’s almost impossible to keep track. There’s so much to say about working at MTV, that I  believe that anyone given the task to write about it would have a tough time knowing  where to start. From the first day that I entered their Fort office during my job interview, I felt like I had entered a different world. And in many ways, it was.

People think that MTV was all about entertainment, partying, and having fun, but for most of us, it was hard work. We spent long hours in the office and we spent weekends working on out-of-town shoots, concerts, and events, all in the name of giving the audience something to remember. And as fun as it all was, we joked that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears were poured out. We did a lot of crazy things and went beyond the call of duty several times just to have the show go on. One event that comes to mind is a concert in Cebu where KC Montero had to host, do the voice-over, act as a bouncer, and be a water boy all at the same time. Yes, we’re talking about one of the best VJs of all-time, but those were desperate times. But thankfully at MTV, we were more than just a company. We were family.

I worked in MTV Philippines from 2004 to 2006 as Communications and Press Executive and returned in 2007 to 2008 as Head of Artist and Media Relations. While it felt like I was there for much longer time than that, in reality, I was really just a speck in the history of MTV Philippines. Many people have been part of the legacy: from VJs to employees, crew members and freelancers, working at MTV was more than just a job for all of us—it was a time in our lives when we were part of something larger than life. (The continuation + photos after the jump!)

Continue reading

Superhero series: DREW BREES (and a little something about Frank Gansz, Sr.)

One day ago, I had no idea who Drew Brees was. While I don’t follow football religiously, I do enjoy the rare moments that I get to catch a game! Then I watched the Super Bowl (I opted to cheer for the New Orleans Saints!) and I saw this quarterback speak, and immediately I could tell that there was something different. I knew that this was a man of faith. And he doesn’t just talk the talk; based on what I’ve read, he also lives it. Watch this interview and be inspired:

To read more about Drew Brees and what happened at the Super Bowl, click on the links above. Meanwhile, here’s a tearjerker that I read on the ESPN website. The punter who executed perhaps the most crucial play of the game, Thomas Morstead, tells a heartwarming story about Frank Gansz, Sr. Read it. :)

Superhero series: the utterly charming Betty White

I grew up watching The Golden Girls, so I think it’s uber-cool to see Betty White still around and still as charming as ever. When I hit 88, I hope I’ll still have my sense of humor! Watch her Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech at yesterday’s Screen Actors Guild Awards (you can fast forward to 4:31):

Gotta love her!

Superhero series: KYTHE

Today I want to talk about an organization called KYTHE. I’ve been hearing about Kythe since my college days, but I never got around to joining. I’m thankful that I finally had a chance to be a Kythe volunteer last weekend when my family decided to spend a morning at the National Children’s Hospital cancer ward as volunteer play buddies.

Kythe is an organization that aims to help alleviate the anxiety of pediatric patients and their families by uplifting their spirits and strengthening hope. Their slogan–“Because children should be flying kits, not fighting cancer”–says a lot about the heart behind the foundation. They have a lot of programs (they’ve been around since the early ’90s) and they serve several hospitals, making it a good organization to join if you have a heart for children and you’re looking for an opportunity to serve as a volunteer.

Last Saturday at National Children’s Hospital, a child went up to me and grabbed my hand and asked me what my name was. The boy’s name is Macmac, and he has leukemia. He also has the brightest eyes and one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen:

He says he’s been in and out of the hospital for years. He’s originally from Bicol, but moved to Manila with his family for his treatments. He’s friendly, funny, and full of life. Because he’s been in and out of there, he knows a lot of the patients and he knows his way around the hospital (he gave me a mini-tour of sorts!). During the time we spent together, we read books, answered word puzzles, played board games with his fellow patients, and spotted the tallest buildings that we could see from the hospital window. I watched him happily wolf down his Jollibee Chickenjoy and Spaghetti meal (we both agreed that between the two, we liked the Chickenjoy more). I wish I could’ve spent more time with him, but when it was time to go, I took a photo of him, and he insisted on taking a photo of me. I said a prayer for him and we hugged each other tight, and then he waved goodbye as he went back to reading his new books.

Meanwhile, not all children are as fortunate to have the energy of Macmac. A lot of the other children in the ward were extremely weak and could barely speak or move. There was one boy who was happily playing a board game with us, but later on in the hour, he was wailing in pain because his condition caused his knee to swell and the pain was nearly unbearable for him. His mother went out to call the nurse and the doctor, so we had to comfort and console him in the meantime. Unfortunately, as much as we wanted to help him at that moment, there wasn’t anything we could do but hug him and pray for him. And as he wailed and twisted in pain, I couldn’t help but feel a deep pain in my heart for this child.

During times like these, you realize that your own struggles are tiny compared to what other people are going through, and if you let it happen, your heart will grow as you learn that you are capable of loving more than you thought you could.

If you have some time and love to share, be a Kythe volunteer. For more information on Kythe and how to volunteer or support their projects, check out their website at http://www.kythe.org.

Superhero series: JOREL CORPUS

I miss one of my best buddies, Jorel (also known as the guitarist of the local rock band, Kjwan), who’s over at Boston, living it up at his dream school: Berklee College of Music. He recently put together a benefit concert for the Typhoon Ondoy victims. Check it out here:

We were already proud of Jorel way before this, but seeing this video reminds me of how much we miss him and how talented, passionate, and selfless this guy really is. We miss you Jor, see you when you get back! (Huwag ka na humirit! Haha!)

Latest update on the Philippines

Day 4! The number of people rescued has increased, but so has the number of fatalities.

In case you missed it, the Philippines has been in a state of calamity this past week due to Tropical Storm Ketsana (Philippine name: ‘Ondoy’). I blogged about it here.

Photos from TIME Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,1926456,00.html

Photos from LIFE: http://www.life.com/image/91234037/in-gallery/34262/a-killer-flood-hits-the-philippines

According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), these are the latest statistics (taken from this article):

Reported dead: 240

Missing: 37

Affected Filipinos: 319,881 families 1,872,036 persons

Damaged houses: 3,272

Totally damaged: 2,223    Partially damaged: 1,049

Cost of damages: P2,339,620,884

Infrastructure: P1,517,096  Agriculture: P882,524,884

The outpouring of support has been amazing. Relief and rescue efforts are happening all over the metro, but it’s still not enough. We still need more relief goods (there are so many people out there who need water and food, the goods disappear in minutes!) and better road access to reach those who are still inaccessible. On the one hand, we don’t want it to rain anymore so the flooded areas won’t get worse, but at the same time, some areas need the rain to wash away the massive amounts of mud that are drying up and making rescue operations more difficult.

Here’s a video of one of our Victory pastors (Coach Robert Gonzalez!) together with some of our church staffers, campus ministers and students from University of Makati (UMAK), taking relief goods to evacuated families in Taguig City:

I’m so proud of these guys, especially the UMAK students! This is just one of the dozens of areas these guys have gone to in the last couple of days.

If you’d like to help, do check out my last blog post for ways to support the relief and rescue efforts. Since I wrote that post, there has been lots of good news pouring in. Abby, Bridel, and their respective families are all safe (thank God!). And as for the kids from the Jesus Loves the Little Children Foundation (JLLCF), here’s the update I posted on Facebook:

I dropped by the River of God center at Galleria earlier to give a donation for JLLCF, and the pastors were telling me that the area is still inaccessible by vehicles. Only boats/rafts/amphibians can go near the center. The older boys (the ‘kuyas’–Benjie, Aldren, Loget, Ariel, Jovie, Jobeth, etc.) were able to build a makeshift raft that allows them to go to the market to buy stuff when they’re low on supplies and food. However, it’s still not completely safe because there’s still a current.

According to the pastors, the best items to donate would be non-perishable food items, because they still have trouble bringing them in. If the goods are to last them throughout the month (because the water still isn’t going down), they’ll need to be able to ration them.

Given that fact, they said it’s easier to give them RICE, CANNED GOODS or instant noodles. Not to worry, they have can openers on hand at the center :) Sana raw wag na muna yung sardines, because the first batch of food they got was sardines, so that’s all they’ve been having so far and for the next couple of days. Hahaha.

BOTTLED WATER is the most important need right now. Doesn’t matter which size, but the bigger ones (i think that’s 1.5ml or 1L?) are better for easier transport.

They also need CLOTHES for the little boys (ages 4 and up). They’ve been getting donations of clothes for the older kids and the houseparents, so don’t worry about them.

They decided that it’s best for everyone to stay in the center for now instead of evacuating them. At least at the center, they’re all safe and comfortable. They are so blessed because of that new school bldg in their center that was donated by HSBC. All the essentials are in the 2nd floor: kitchen, beds, bathrooms, etc. Plus they have a rooftop where the little kids can play. They also have one working landline that was just installed last week! Ain’t that a blessing? So we can check on them constantly. I just got to talk to Jovie earlier, and he said they’re all doing good. They get to hang out on the rooftop all the time and the little kids have just been playing.

The pastors said that the kids keep saying they’re doing good kasi “sanay na sa hirap” (in English: “they’re used to hardship”). They said that they’re so proud of the older boys (the ‘kuyas’) because they’ve really been doing everything they can to take care of the younger boys and houseparents and make sure they’re fed, even periodically going through the waist-deep water to get some food.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross is also going to be sending volunteers to check how they’re all doing, health-wise. Also, I was super thrilled to enter Victory Fort the yesterday and I saw that they had already set aside and sent a lot of donated goods to River of God and the Jesus Loves the Little Children Foundation. Yay!

Let’s keep praying that the donations keep pouring in, and that everyone there is kept safe and healthy. Let’s also pray for better transportation for them–sturdier boats are needed; boats that can be covered so that the relief goods can be protected and not stolen…but at the same time let’s also pray that the people in the surrounding areas are also safe and provided for. I know that the River of God church will also use the excess goods to provide for the other people in the surrounding areas.

Again, let’s praise God that they’re safe and let’s thank Him for everything He has blessed them with! They should rename the place to “Jesus REALLY LOVES These Children Foundation”. Haha :) Thanks again to everyone for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers! :)

Hooray for these heroes! –>