From Boracay to Portugal: A Volunteer’s Journey

I wake up each day with ringing bells as my alarm clock in Braga, the third largest city in Portugal. The bell actually rings every 15 minutes and changes its tempo after each hour passed. The ringing bell symbolizes how religious Braga is, known as the Rome of Portugal and is also dubbed as the City of Bells with over two dozens of churches or igreja in Portuguese. Braga is home during my three months European Voluntary Service.

At Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga.

My stay in the westernmost side of Europe is part of the international project – EUROASI: From Europe to Asia: Capitalizing Experience in Youth Work. The project is coordinated by the Italy-based TDM 2000 International and is funded by the European Union under its Erasmus+ program. It is a project between seven partners from Italy, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The project’s main objective is for Asian participants to learn from the works of European youth organizations and to bring it home where their journey started.

The journey to Portugal however was not that easy for me. It is long, literally. I first discovered the project in February 2015. EuroAsi was introduced by Nigel Gamalong of One Media Boracay, the Filipino partner organization of the project. He was the one who brought the opportunity to Boracay and I am forever grateful to him. I was already looking for volunteering opportunities abroad that time so I claimed the opportunity ever since. In preparation for the international mobility, we were trained on the different aspects of NGO work by European trainers who came to Boracay.

I am actually supposed to do my EVS from April to July this year. Unfortunately, for Filipino citizens, getting a Schengen visa is a dreadful process. There is no Portuguese Embassy in the Philippines so I first tried to apply at the Greek Embassy in Manila. But after two weeks of waiting, I was told that I had to send my papers to the Portuguese Embassy based in Indonesia which delayed my trip for more than two months.

Waiting was an agonizing experience. Yet, good things really happen to people who persevere, and so it was granted to me. The delay even became a blessing in disguise for I arrived in summer time in Portugal. With ample amount of sun each day, it became easier for me to adjust. The summer time also means a lot of opportunity for me to see and discover the country. But still, Portugal’s weather is always unpredictable. Sometimes, the day will start very cold, then, it will become so hot after a while. Most of the time, a thick jacket is needed to survive the cold nights.

I arrived on June 28 in Braga and was welcomed warmly by the people of my host organization, Associação Juvenil SYnergia. SYnergia is a Portuguese organization that is active in promoting activities for young people by developing project for them in the fields of democracy, active citizenship, non-formal education, international cooperation and local development.

with-angelica-perra-president-of-tdm-2000-internationald-3rd-from-left-and-synergia-president-ricardo-sousa-right(From L-R) With Ian (my fellow Filipino volunteer), Matias (my coordinator), Angelica (President of TDM 2000 International, Mariana (my project coordinator) and Ricardo (SYnergia president)

EVS Work and Experience

I always wanted to travel the world, but responsibilities always hindered me from achieving this dream. EVS enabled me to finally realize this dream – this trip to Portugal was my first travel outside the country so I just carried enthusiasm in my heart.

I have been writing for different news organizations for five years now. Journalism is my first love. But doing volunteer work brings a different feeling of fulfillment for me. With SYnergia, I was able to realize this passion. This EVS period is a total break from my usual routine of hunting and writing the daily news.

During my 3-month EVS, I work mostly with children and young people. On my first month, SYnergia was working together with the Municipality of Braga in conducting summer camps for children and the youth from the different schools in the city. We conducted different activities related with art, music, culture and sports.

Through our work in the organization, I was also able to visit other cities in Portugal, especially its beaches. On my second month, we worked in the promotion of EVS through the “20 Years, 20 beaches” campaign of SYnergia. The activity was to celebrate the two decades of EVS and to encourage the young to do volunteer work. It did not feel like working because we get to enjoy the view of the Atlantic Ocean, the summer heat and the smiles of the people we worked with.

My most memorable activity was the one-week camp during my last month in Porto de Mos, a small city in the Leiria district of Portugal. That week, we conducted activities for the youth from two social welfare institutions in the country. Each has their own battles in life: some are orphans; others have problems with their families, while others are victims of their own vices. It felt good to see that somehow, what we helped brighten the lives of these young people, even just for a while. And that’s one essence of doing volunteer work – to make an impact on someone’s life.

our-one-week-youth-camp-in-porto-de-mosDuring our camp at Porto de Mos.

The camp also helped me realized my personal project of sharing the Filipino culture to the Europeans. During the cultural workshop I did, I taught them some Filipino words and introduced to them our food, traditions and the beautiful places in the Philippines. They also learned how to play our traditional game called Luksong Tinik.

Gain International Friends

Volunteering abroad is also a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. I am lucky to meet Damla, Mesut, Ayca, Sema, Emel, Melih, Sebnem and Tugrul at SYnergia. They were all from Turkey. I thought I was in the wrong place. But kidding aside, meeting them enabled me to discover more about the rich Turkish culture, too. On my last month, Mateo and Martina from Italy, Alba from Spain, and of course, Turkish Irem and Utku, also arrived. Of course, I won’t forget Matias, my coordinator who welcomed me even before I arrived in Portugal, and Mariana, our project manager.

Aside from my fellow volunteers at SYnergia, I also met other volunteers from the rest of Portugal during a four-day EVS camp held in the town of Amarante and that gained me 50 new international friends. I also met more EVS volunteers during our arrival training in Braga. It was actually a bit late since the training was held two weeks before my trip home. Yet, reconnecting with friends from the Amarante camp and meeting new people made the five-day training a memorable one. ‘

Apart from the EVS volunteers, more interesting people likewise crossed my path during my travels in the other cities of Portugal – the Portuguese couple who owns a café in Porto, the travelers in The Travel School in Aveiro, my couchsurfing host in Lisbon and the people we worked with in a summer fest in Foz Coa. There’s just too many to mention; perhaps, another article for that.

visiting-belem-tower-a-world-unesco-heritagae-site-in-the-capital-city-of-lisbonEVS also allows us to travel and experience the culture of the locals. Me at Belem Tower in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

Embracing the Portuguese Culture

If we Filipinos love basketball, Portugal taught me to love football and, of course, Cristiano Ronaldo. There is a football field almost everywhere. I will never forget the enthusiasm of the Portuguese people when the country won the Euro Cup 2016.

Portugal also introduced me to francesinha, a belly-buster sandwich made with bread, ham, sausage, steak or roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce. I know you can now imagine how much calorie it has. Other Portuguese specialty everyone should try is their pastel de nata, bola de berlim and their Bacalhau dishes. The Vinho Verde or a young Portuguese wine is also more famous in the north.

Pastel de Nata and Francesinha. Believe me, it’s delicious and more delectable than these phone photos.

Yet, living abroad is also not just all about fun. It is also challenging. The greatest challenge is living thousand miles away from home. I never thought nostalgia would hit me. Due to time zone differences, it was hard to contact families and friends back home. Another challenge was losing my luggage during my long travel to Portugal. But instead of stressing so much about it, it enabled me to realize that I can actually live with less stuff.

Now, I am back in the island with the wisdom I gained from my EVS experience. Through volunteer work, I was able to see the other parts of the world. It is also the main reason why I will stay in Boracay for long. After all, it’s the world’s best island.

Karen Bermejo, Filipina, EVS volunteer

This article was first published at Boracay Sun



This month of April 2016, MANDALA SPA & RESORT VILLAS – the only destination spa on Boracay Island celebrates its 15th anniversary, announcing a “banner year” in 2015, having won and received the top international accolades and recognitions from the most distinguished tourism, spa and wellness destination awards.

All-natural spa ingredients at Mandala Spa & Villas Boracay

The Philippines’ Leading Resort, the Philippines’ Leading Spa Resort (World Travel Awards), and the Philippines’ Best Wellness Spa (World Spa Awards), Mandala Spa & Resort Villas is a destination in itself, and a true Philippine treasure, with 15 years of excellence and innovation, as the undisputed holistic wellness leader, Asia’s quintessential tropical escape, and the most well loved destination spa for both local and foreign visitors to the Philippines and to Boracay Island.

Mandala Spa & Resort Villas is the Philippines’ premier holistic and lifestyle wellness provider that pioneered the spa and wellness industry in the country back in 2001.

The multi-awarded brand has been renowned as an institution of excellence and for the distinctive Mandala “soulful connection,” “quality of touch,” and legendary service amidst the lush tropical haven where one feels cradled by nature in utmost care, while surrounded by a raw natural landscape that defines a true Boracay Island experience.

Eco-Conscious Elegance at Mandala Spa & Resort Villas

Nestled on an idyllic hilltop on the “crown jewel of Philippine tourism” and the Philippines’ beach capital of Boracay Island, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas has been reaping top recognitions at the most prestigious international tourism and spa & wellness industry awards since 2004, as the Philippines’ best.

The GRAND VILLA's spacious living room

To date, they have received over 30 international awards, four Asia Spa Awards (AsiaSpa magazine is a luxury lifestyle and travel publication dedicated to the pursuit of complete wellbeing with annual awards that set the benchmark for quality and innovation for spas in the region) including Best Destination Spa, and over 15 international award nominations. In 2015 alone, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas received the following distinctions:

  • World Travel Awards 2015 – Philippines’ Leading Resort, Philippines’ Leading Spa Resort ♦ Inaugural 2015 World Spa Awards – Philippines’ Best Wellness Spa
  • 2015 Trip Advisor “Certificate of Excellence”
  • 2015 Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards – Top 20 Small Hotels In The Philippines
  • 2015 Booked.Net’s Philippine Hotel Awards – Recommended In Boracay Island For Value For Money
  • 2015 Hotels.Com Awards – Winner For Excellence
  • 2015 (2014 & 2012) Asia Spa Awards Nominee – Eco Spa of the Year and Destination Hotel / Resort of the Year, acknowledging them as “A spa and wellness facility devoted to the care and preservation of the environment, with socially conscious facilities.”


During the first quarter of 2016, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas was voted Top 5 Luxury Hotels In Boracay by Singapore’s 2016 Vanilla Luxury Magazine Awards, and was voted among the Top 25 Small Hotels In The Philippines by the world’s largest travel site, TripAdvisor’s 2016 Travellers’ Choice Awards.

World Travel Awards 2016, described by the Wall Street Journal as the “Oscars” for travel and spa tourism, released its nominees last month, announcing Mandala Spa & Resort Villas’ nominations in the two most highly coveted categories once again: Philippines’ Leading Resort and the Philippines’ Leading Spa Resort (a title they have carried from 2009 to 2011 and in 2013).

Romantic couple's spa journeys will take you to that special place where you can savor your connection as your souls and bodies rejoice in utter bliss

TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, has consistently rated Mandala Spa & Resort Villas among the Top 10 Small Hotels In The Philippines since 2012, and among Boracay’s Top Spa & Wellness, having also bestowed the Travellers’ Choice Award from 2013 to 2016, the Certificate of Excellence from 2014 to 2015, the Top 25 Hotels For Romance In The Philippines in 2014 (described as “Heaven,” and as an “Excellent place for Honeymoons.”). These phenomenal achievements and accolades reinforce Mandala Spa & Resort Villas’ role as a driving force in global travel, tourism and wellness, having been voted by esteemed industry partners and guests who have, through the years, continued to believe in the value of a Mandala Spa & Resort Villas experience. Exuding Eco-Conscious elegance, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas is recognized as the only and very ‘First Eco Spa in Asia Pacific’ as eco-spa certified by TÜV Rheinland for quality service and ecofriendly practices, and a recipient of the ASEAN Green Hotel Award (2012 to 2014).

Jove Schrottmann, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas CEO, owner and Managing Director expresses his gratitude to the resort and spa’s loyal clientele worldwide for these recognitions: “We offer our sincerest gratitude to those who have and continue to believe in our brand’s integrity. It is your confidence in our brand’s value that continues to inspire us in striving to make this world a better place, by providing a safe haven for our guests to discover themselves.”

Jove Schrottmann, Mandala Spa & Resort Villas CEO, owner and Managing Director (1)

*For a full list of their awards, please visit this link: THIS SUMMER beat the heat after soaking up the sun with their sultry summer special, the “QUENCH! SUN & SPA REVITALIZER: The Ultimate Summer Spa Revitalizer” (Php4,400 net per person, valid from April 1 to June 30, 2016)


*Refreshing 75-minute Mandala Signature Massage with cooling oil

* Soothing 30-minute post-sun Yogurt Honey Facial

* FREE revitalizing Mandala Face Mist

*Complimentary Mandala Sarong

* Energizing power lunch at Prana Restaurant: Your choice of Homegrown Mixed Salad with Pan Fried Cajun Chicken Breast or a Watermelon Feta Cheese Salad with Pan Seared Tuna, served with a zesty Calamansi Mint Slush!

* 10% discount for THE COCOON Nail Spa’s highly specialized Waxing Services ü One FREE Class Pass for a friend (for every class pass) at THE VESSEL Community Events Center!

Experiencing Mandala is a blissful awakening, an investment in your personal wellbeing, packed with unique lifestyle experiences that create joyful and lasting memories that follow you home. As their tagline aptly says, “Feel the Difference.”


For inquiries and reservations, contact Mandala Spa & Resort Villas at (+63 36) 288 5857 / 5858, (+63 917) 634 8430, email or visit Follow them on Facebook: Mandala Spa and Villas; Instagram: #mandalaspaandresortvillas; TripAdvisor / YouTube: Mandala Spa & Resort Villas.


Boracay resort goes green with cooking oil

By Karen Bermejo

As Boracay continues to attract more tourists, the number of resorts and restaurants sprouting in every corner of this resortisland increases to cater to the demand.

However, the added commercialization also becomes a threat to the prized beauty of Boracay.

The swelling population of establishments thus translates to more waste produced including cooking oil which is a primary commodity in every kitchen facility. If improperly disposed, large amounts of used cooking oil may pose a risk to the island’s primary tourism magnet: the beach.

The growing population of Boracay tourists also demands for increased power supply.

Yet, resources are becoming scarce.

Businesses are therefore forced to resort to generator sets in order to maintain their services.

As the need to minimize the impact of development becomes a growing concern in Boracay, a local highend resort is pioneering the use of green technology that promotes environmental preservation through effective waste management.

Ambassador in Paradise Resort is now using the Renergy System, a technology from Japan that allows generators to run on used cooking oil (UCO).
Renergy System is a fuel supply control device that enables the use of UCO as fuel for generators without chemical process.

“The system is waste-to-energy simplified,” said Jay Carandang, General Manager of Renergy System, Inc.

Carandang explained that a machine (KG-1000) worth P2 million is installed at the resort’s generator. The machine recycles used cooking oil and blends it with diesel fuel to produce electricity. He said the system could operate for up to ten 10 years.

Ambassador in Paradise, a five-star resort located at Station 1 of Boracay’s White Beach, is the only establishment in the country that uses the technology. The resort’s Chairman and Chief Executive, Joop Van der Tak, said the system was installed in their resort in March 2014. Since then, during power outages in the island, they continue to operate with generating sets using waste cooking oil.

Carandang said with the Renergy System, the Ambassador in Paradise Resort can run on backup power using about 70 percent waste cooking oil, instead of pure diesel; the back-up power can run for an hour using 35 to 40 liters of used cooking oil mixed with about 5 to 10 liters of diesel.

In comparison, a diesel-only generator can consume 45 liters of fuel in an hour.

“The system will not only help mitigate the power problem in the island, but can also help solve commercial waste problems here,” he added.

Carandang said they first tapped Boracay resorts since they qualify as users of the system.

“As a tourist island, resorts here require constant power, and most of the establishment here generates voluminous used cooking oil in their daily operation,” he said.

Carandang stated that a resort in Boracay can produce about 4,000 liters of used cooking oil monthly.

“Instead of disposing used waste cooking oil, they can now use it as fuel for their generators to produce electricity,” he explained.

Based on their latest fuel efficiency test conducted last April 9 and 10, the resort’s generator runs using six percent of diesel and 94 percent biofuel or used cooking oil.

Eco-friendly resort

Van der Tak said using the Renergy System is part of their commitment as an eco-friendly resort in Boracay.

Not new to renewable energy, Ambassador in Paradise Resort has been using other environment-friendly technologies in their operations: to ferry their guests, the resort uses two solar-powered cars and six electric cars; all of their 58-rooms are also installed with solar water heaters.

“We will try to bring more eco-energy to the Philippines,” Van der Tak said during Renergy System’s grand launch at the resort last April 23.

The Ambassador in Paradise CEO also lauded the technology saying it is can be a big help in mitigating the power woes of the island.

“It can bring a huge contribution to Boracay, and in other islands in the Philippines where there is no electricity,” he said.

Future of renewable energy

The Renergy System was invented by Japanese inventor Osamu Nishikawa.
Nishikawa, a computer software engineer, said it took him 10 years to perfect the system. He said he brought the system to the Philippines to help the country in solving its waste and energy problems.

Carandang said the system is now undergoing Environmental Technology Verification Program by the Department of Science and Technology.

The Renergy System will also be presented to the Department of Energy for them to be recognized as a renewable energy developer.

Carandang was happy to disclose that a nearby resort and one in Samal Island in Davao, have expressed interest in the system.*

Also published at Boracay Sun. See link below.

Miss Dinagyang Beauties visit Iloilo’s Sta. Barbara Heights

The Miss Iloilo Dinagyang 2015 candidates frolicked in the serene and captivating view of Sta. Barbara Heights recently.


Garbed in their respective long gowns created by no less than the Miss Iloilo Dinagyang 2015 Chairman and Iloilo’s highly esteemed fashion designer, Alex Soncio, the 10 candidates looked regal and every inch a queen as they flashed their smile and posed before the clicking cameras in the Sta. Barbara Heights Clubhouse and Model House 1.

unnamed (2)

unnamed (1)

During the Ms. Iloilo Dinagyang 2015 coronation night held last January 21, 2015 at the University of San Agustin Gymnasium, one candidate, whose beauty and personality best suits the charm and elegance of Sta. Barbara Heights, was named “Ms. Sta. Barbara Heights”: candidate no. 9,Ms. Zairah Marie Agsaluna. She took home a sash, bouquet, and a cash prize of Php 5000. She finihed 2nd runner up in the Ms. Iloilo Dinagyang 2015 competition.


Sta Barbara Heights Residential Estates is a 173-hectare mixed use property of Global Estate Resorts Inc. (GERI), a subsidiary of Megaworld.  Apart from being owned by the country’s leading real estate developer, it also takes pride in its naturally sloping terrains, lush greens, luxurious masterplan, and its proximity to the country’s oldest golf course and the Iloilo International Airport.*

Ati-atihan, Sinulog and Dinagyang: 3 Philippine Festivals in honor of Sr. Sto. Niño

By Karen V. Bermejo 

While other’s still keep tracking their new year’s resolution, trying to loss all the weight after the holiday season, some prefer to move to the beat of the various festivals up in the month of January.

In honor of the child Sr. Sto.Niño, and to showcase the colourful history of Panay and Cebu, three festivals, Ati-atihan, Sinulog, and Dinagyang are celebrated on January, just in time to start a festive and colourful year ahead.

Viva Sr. Sto. Niño!

Viva Sr. Sto. Niño!

From just mere community events, the three has attracted audiences not only from other parts of the country but also gained growing number of foreign specatators.

On the second week of January, the Ati-atihan festival held in Kalibo, Aklan is celebrated spontaneously with Cebu City’s Sinulog Festival while Dinagyang in Iloilo City is celebrated on the third week.

With the various commemoration of the child Jesus’ feast, people are left with the dilemma of where to go.

But what really makes them different from each other?

Ati-Atihan, the mother of Sto. Niño festivals

The festival is considered the mother of Sto. Niño festivals.

The Ati-Atihan festival was born from a mere tradition of the native and to celebrate the arrival on Panay island of the early Malay settlers and their subsequent purchase of the island from the then native inhabitants the Atis.

Ati-Atihan 2014

Sto.Niño celebration is considered the merriest since tribes compete through spontaneous street dancing without a defined parade route.

Locally known as “sadsad,” revelers can freely dance with the competing tribes whose members were not merely professional dancers but some were members of the community, private companies, towns and schools.


Aside from the merrymaking, what makes the Ati-atihan distinctive is the coal-black colored skin of the warriors as if ready to go in battle while dancing on the streets.

This year’s Ati-Atihan main event is slated on January 17-18.

Cebu Sinulog Festival

Aside from the street dancing, what makes Cebu City’s Sinulog stand-out is the religiosity of their activity.

Every year, the highlight of the festival is the Sinulog Grand Parade, wherein revellers and devotees flock and follows a carousel route.

The first Sinulog parade came to birth in 1980 which was participated by only seven schools and universities.

Also, a street dancing resembling the current or locally known as ‘sinulog’ of the Cebu’s Pahina River, were introduced to the sound of the drums.

From a mere school presentations, the Sinulog Grand Parade continued to grow each year and has already involved other groups and talents from other parts of the country.

Dinagyang, convergence of both festivals

Among the three, what makes Dinagyang brighter is its colourful presentation of devotion to the Holy Child.

Aside from the thundering drums, colourful costumes and enthusiastic tribes, their world class performances are coupled with spirituality.

But the Ilonggos owe the Cebuanos for bringing Señor Sto. Niño in Iloilo.

In 1968. The replica of the image was brought by Fr. SulpicioEnderes, with a delegation of the Cofradia de Cebu in Iloilo.

A year after the image was brought to San Jose Parish Church where it is still enshrined; the first parish feast was celebrated, wherein Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan winners also performed.

The first Ati-atihan contest of Iloilo was held at the Freedom Grandstand in 1970, and until now, this still serves as the first judging area of the activity.

Seven years later, festival organizers changed “Ati-Atihan” to “Dinagyang” from the Hiligaynon word “dagyang” or merrymaking so as not to duplicate Kalibo’s Ati-Atihan.

Aside from the various religious activities, fluvial parade and week-long merrymaking, the two day highlight of the Dinagyang is sometimes not enough.

During its first day, Dinagyang opens with the Kasadyahan festival wherein performances depicting the culture and tradition as well as activities of everyday lives of the Ilonggos.

The Kasadyahan was later transformed into a showcase of major festivals in Western Visayas with the participation of groups and guest performers representing the provinces of Antique, Aklan, Guimaras, Capiz and Negros Occidental.

During the main highlights of the Dinagyang festival, world class performances from different tribe contingents are also expected.

The music, the costumes, the drumbeats plus the charm of the dancers collide on the streets of Iloilo, making it more joyful during Dinagyang.*

Babies of Boracay: Shaping the first five years of a child

By Karen Bermejo

The first five years of a child is crucial in his or her development. It is during these years that a child experience dramatic growth, both in mind and body.

During these years, a child’s motor ability advances, he or she starts to think more complex and it is when the language skill starts to blossom.

Aside from the physical and physiological, a child experiences social and emotional development too, thus they begin to understand his or her feelings and those of others.

However, due to poverty, most children in the country are not fortunate to experience the best out of this milestone in their lives.

Some children can’t even have their complete meal in a day, thus resulting to poor health and later, poor performance in school.

This became an inspiration for 28-year old traveler, Chelsey Hall to put up the Babies of Boracay or BoB.

Chelsey Hall, founder of Babies of Boracay with some of the children beneficiaries.

Chelsey’s project started in an old shack that served as a shelter for the children during a regular feeding program in Tambisaan, situated in Manoc-Manoc village in Boracay Island.

Through the generosity of some people, a facility was later constructed to house BoB and its program.

The BoB serves as a free day care for children aged zero to five and as community center for the volunteer parents.

BoB’s primary goals are to provide basic care, educational playtime and at least one meal per day during weekdays for the children, shared Chelsey.

Also helping Chelsey in running BoB is teacher Olivia Joy Bauman.


Olivia or Olive leads in providing fun and educational activities for the children of BoB.

Each morning, from Monday to Friday, the volunteer mommies of BoB collect the children from their homes.

While their parents go to work, children are taken cared by the volunteer mommies at the center.

Unlike a regular school environment, the children are educated through interactive songs and games which encourage participation.

Olive said that lessons are designed to educate the children to have joy in learning and to equip them with the basics when they start going to a regular school.

When at the center, the children do not just learn basic education.

They also practice the essential life skills like proper hygiene and dental care.

The children of B.o.B (1) ???????????????????????????????

The mothers in the community are supportive at BoB's activity for their kids.

Last October 3, BoB already opened its second term with at least 60 children beneficiaries from only 37 since it opened its first term in April.

One of them is five-year old Rico Maximo.

Rico with his friends -  Jaymark, Warren and Clyde.

Aside from the new things he learned through BOB, Rico said he also gained new friends at the center.

Apart from Rico, his two younger siblings, four-year-old Rogelyn and two-year-old Riana are enrolled at BoB.

“Through BoB, Rico became friendlier. He became more enthusiastic to learn new things,” according to his mom, Genelyn.

Genelyn better known as Beng-Beng at the center is actually one of the volunteer mothers.

Volunteer mom Genelyn Maximo.

The 27-year old mother said she found a different fulfillment while working at BoB.

Beng-Beng said she is grateful for she can now focus on the needs of her children through BoB.

Before, with her work as a massage therapist, Beng-Beng sometimes lacks the time to focus on her children.

“I am happy to see my children enjoy their time while learning,” she said.

Beng-Beng along with the six other regular volunteer mothers at BOB also cooks healthy and nutritious lunch for the children regularly.

The kids enjoy the nutritious meal prepared by the volunteer parents during the meet-and-greet for the opening of BoB's second term last October 3.

The volunteer moms also take the lead in food preparation.

Some of the vegetables served for the kids are from the mini-garden outside the center they also maintained and of Arvin Bernabe, the center’s caretaker.

From a gasoline boy, Arvin decided to spend full -time at BOB as caretaker despite the meager income in gratitude to the help of BOB to his three children enrolled at the center.

Arvin proudly shows the facade of BoB.

In fact, Arvin was the one who mainly constructed the BoB center.

As one of the busiest tourist destination in the country, Boracay has a great potential to shape a good future for its children.

“The BoB is just the start. In the near future we plan to expand and develop other pre-schools and community centers wherever needed in the villages on the island of Boracay, and hopefully in other areas in the Philippines,” said Chelsey.

With BoB's Olive and Chelsey.

Through BoB, you too can help shape a better formative years for the kids of Boracay and of the Philippines.

You can either volunteer at BOB or donate for the programs of the foundation.

For more information, visit their site at or their Facebook page.

Or you can personally visit their center in Tambisaan.

The trip from White Beach to the BOB center takes about 10-15 minutes via tricycle.* (SWAS)

The White Rocks of Madalag in Aklan

(Part 1 of 3)

With its quiet charm, White Rocks is a perfect place to commune with nature.

With its quiet charm, White Rocks is a perfect place to commune with nature.

With Boracay Island and the Ati-Atihan festival of Kalibo every January, Aklan has already proved its worth to the world.

However, it has never ceased to amaze the world with its other natural wonders.

On September 15 to 17, members of the Aklan Tourism Association (AKTOA) along with the representatives of the Aklan media explored the other jewels of the province.

The familiarization tour activity participated by more than 30 delegates was organized by AKTOA as part of this year’s Tourism Week Celebration.

This year, the towns of Madalag, Libacao, Ibajay and Malay showcased what they can offer to their tourists.


The first stop of the tour was in the town of Madalag. Madalag is a fourth class municipality, about 45 minutes away from the town of Kalibo.

After a quick meet-and-greet with Madalag Mayor Alfonso Gubatina, the group then trailed another 30-minute jeepney ride from the town’s poblacion to Barangay Galicia.

Despite the roller coaster ride, the vista of the limed mountains with rivers casts our fears away.

Madalag was also blessed with a cheerful and energetic tourism officer, Sir Escot Francisco who filled the trip with laughter and sounds.

Madalagnon’s hospitability was also reflected with their generous welcome to their guests.

Stomach-filling snacks of local delights like the suman or rice cakes and packs of their special pork chicharon greeted the group.

The snacks were actually made for a purpose for an almost 3-hour trek to Barangay Ma. Cristina.

From Barangay Galicia hall, the group hiked for about 5 minutes to the shore where the boats are docked.

The mini-boat that can carry only six to seven people lifted us to the other side of the river. But that was not the only river we had to cross. After surpassing our first boat transfer, we hiked for another 10 minutes to reach another boat.

The delegates riding on a bamboo raft.

The delegates riding on a bamboo raft.

We actually had to endure about five boat transfers before we reached Barangay Ma. Cristina. Some of us also had to ride a bamboo raft for a faster transfer.

For those who could not endure long walks, you can opt to just ride a boat from Barangay Galicia to Ma Cristina, but it would actually consume most of your time since the boats are not motorized.

Upon reaching the barangay hall of Ma. Cristina, the group hiked for another 30 minutes to reach Sitio Litiknon. This time, some of us decided to brave the raging river that is waist-deep.

The struggles of the long journey were however vanished as we reached our destination, the White Rocks.

If Boracay Island has fine white sands, Madalag offers a breathtaking view of white rocks formation set against green scenery of layered virgin forests.

The verdant mountains sets as background to the shallow rivers of Madalag.

The verdant mountains sets as background to the shallow rivers of Madalag.

Main pic

Despite the long journey, some of us instantly took a dip on the turquoise green and icy spring water flowing between the smooth huge white rocks.

Thought the scenery was already what the White Rocks was all about. But we were wrong. Sir Escot escorted the group for another five-minute trek to the upper portion of the area.

There, we saw a spectacular view of rock formations in sparkling white color with a verdant background of the mountains of Madalag.

IMG_2383 White Rocks at Sitio Litiknon, Brgy Ma. Christina, Madalag (6) Main pic

Madalag Tourism Officer Escot Francisco said the White Rocks is suited for adventure loving tourists.

“We are blessed for this amazing work of nature. And we are inviting tourists to witness the beauty of our place,” Escot said in a conversation with the Informer.

To regain our energy, the group feasted on a sumptuous lunch by the rocks. A refreshing coconut juice was also served with a bamboo straw for all of us.

Along our way, we also discovered the simple life of the Madalagnons. Most of them depend on their abaca plantation as a source of income. Most women also helped their husbands by weaving abaca products for added income. The journey also showed us how the kids of Madalag value their education. With their backs wrapped on a plastic bag, they also trailed with us their hilly villages and hitch a ride with us in our way home.


With its quiet charm, White Rocks is a perfect place for adventure seeking groups and families who wanted a different retreat. In case you wanted to visit the place, Sir Escot is very willing to accommodate you. Contact him at 0921-4885-954.

Also, don’t forget to bring some chocolates for the kids. I bet most of them want some sweet treats.*

Legacy in a cup

Decades have passed yet they survived.

Over generations, businesses come and go in Iloilo but two coffee shops withstand the test of time.

As modern coffee shops trail for customers in every possible location, in the mall, offices, schools, and even in hospitals; two of Iloilo’s oldest family-run ‘”kapihan” married the soil of the city’s public markets.


Veronica Camayodo, a Madge employee shows the traditional way of brewing coffee using 'culador' or a net

Veronica Camayodo, a Madge employee shows the traditional way of brewing coffee using ‘culador’ or a net.

Since 1951, Madge Café has been brewing for its loyal customers at the heart of La Paz Public Market.

Vicente de la Cruz, the first owner of the shop named it to Madge as a sign of his love for his wife and hands-on business partner, Magdalena.

The business was then passed on to his son, Gerardo in 1977. Because of Gerardo’s passing in 2003, his wife, Julieta took over the business with their five children, including Peter.

Now, Peter runs the family business with the same legacy of service.

Born with marketing skills, Peter introduced innovations in the shop as a form of gratitude for their customers.

What is striking upon entering the typical looking shop are the layers of coffee mugs engraved with the names of its loyal customers that compliments the buzzing sounds of people of varied age brackets talking about politics, business and anything under the sun.

Madge coffee mugs engraved with their loyal customers names


Madge coffee mugs engraved with the names of their loyal customers. 

Though without the amenities offered by other modern coffee shops – no air condition, no spacious interior but Madge takes pride on its product quality.

Brewed in traditional way using the net called “culador,” the richness of the locally made coffee is served in every cup.

Apart from serving the best for its patronizers, Madge also helps in spurring the local coffee industry.

Unlike other branded coffee labels, Madge served roasted coffee harvested from the parts of Northern Iloilo particularly from Calinog and Lambunao and some parts of Guimaras Island.

As generations passed, Madge has also changed the misconception that native coffee is only for the old ones.

“Even the young already love native coffee,” Peter said.

Serving about 200 customers daily for more than half a century now, Peter believed that what makes Madge stand out from the rest is the quality of service they offered.

Ilonggos from all wlaks of life shares a lively discussion inside Madge Cafe

Ilonggos from all walks of life share lively discussions inside Madge Cafe.

“Put your customers always as your priority,” he advised to others.

Ranging only from P25 to P30, every customer can enjoy mild or strong, in either hot or cold cup of coffee.

Still single, Peter said that the Madge will never run out of coffee as the legacy will be passed on to other members of the family when he retires.

To reach more coffee lovers, Madge Cafe opened a new branch along Diversion Road, Benigno Aquino Avenue in 2012.

Despite the presence of some air-conditioned coffee shops and refreshment establishment in the area, coffee lovers still prefer the Madge Cafe ambience, a place where people could talk over a cup of coffee.


Another long standing coffee shop in the city is the Deleonian Kapihan at the Central Market.

Deleonian Kapihan at Central Public Market

Deleonian Kapihan at Central Public Market.

Started by Carmencita Chua in the 1960s, the coffee shop retained its glory in providing every Ilonggo with strong rich coffee all throughout the day.

Now being run by her granddaughter Rochelle Basañes, the Delenion continue to serve, not just its loyal patrons but also their sons and daughters.

Since her takeover in 2006, Basañes believed that the relationship they established with the costumers help them thrive in the business.

“Even generations of customers enjoyed our coffee,” the 33-year old woman said.

Just like Madge, Deleonian also served locally produced native coffees.

Apart from the quality of their brew, Deleonian also boasts its cheap price.

A cup of coffee only costs to P13 and P15 when it comes with a creamier.

But what makes them unique also is its advocacy for the environment.

Instead of the usual Styrofoam cups, customers who take out their coffee have it in a can.

Instead of throwing their used cans of milk creamier, Deleonian recycle it as cups for takeout orders.

Serving to more than 100 customers daily, Basañes said that as long as she can, she will continue the legacy her grandmother left.

Also venturing in a refreshment business named, Monster Frost, Basañes believed that a good customer relationship is a key to a successful business.

“Keep them, by serving them right,” she said.

Just like a cup of coffee that rejuvenates the senses, Madge and Deleonian Kapihan reminds us that despite the modernism in the city of love, Iloilo will always have its own distinct taste.* (Karen V. Bermejo)


The District Boracay’s newest brunch buffet offering

Want an endless array of tempting cuisine for your breakfast and lunch?

Don’t go any farther and get a taste of the best brunch buffet in the island at The District Boracay along Station 2.

The District Boracay now offers a mouthwatering brunch buffet available as early as 6:30 a.m. until 1 p.m at its second floor bar and restaurant, Star Lounge.

To start your day, you can have any delectable spread of international and cook-to-order Filipino breakfast favorites paired with hot and cold drinks.


Favorite Filipino dishes like adobo, daing and tocino.


The classic baby back ribs for a filling lunch.

Healthy appetizers (1)

Healthy appetizers.

Need extra carbohydrates for a busy day? They also have a live action station where you can make your own stir-fry noodles, pasta or crepe.


They also have open sandwiches section where you can find a wide selection of bread partnered with your favorite spreads.


On top of their sumptuous menu, enjoy unlimited freshest tropical fruits, pastries and refreshing fruit juices during your stay.

Freshest tropical fruits

The District Boracay is also opening the Star Lounge for walk-in customers now. The good news is, you can enjoy their delicious Brunch Buffet for only P1000 good for two person as part of their introductory promo until March 31. Starting April 1, regular price will be P750 per adult and P350 per child.

For reservations and inquiries, call (036) 288.2324-27 or email For more information about the resort, visit their website at or like them on Facebook ( or follow them on Twitter (@DistrictBoracay) and on Instagram (@thedistrictboracay).

CARABAO ISLAND: Boracay’s tranquil neighbor

No, it’s not the water buffalo capital of the Philippines. It’s so much more than that. CARABAO ISLAND is a tranquil refuge for those who want to unwind, commune with nature and hide from the busy bustle of its neighbor, Boracay Island. A bird’s eye view of the island will show its carabao-like topography. In the Philippines, water buffaloes are called carabaos.Its pristine beauty is always compared to what Boracay was like – a quiet haven – before it became a busy tourist destination. Carabao Island is a new getaway because of its verdance, abundant marine life and extreme sports activities. Also known as Hambil among the locals, this beautiful unspoiled island in the municipality of San Jose, Romblon is just a 25-minute boat ride from Boracay. You can take a charter boat for island hopping or take any of the daily trips from Station 1 of Boracay’s White Beach. If you take the speedboat, you’ll be in the island in 10 minutes.

THE BEACHES IMG_1032 Lanas Beach. You can actually view Boracay’s Puka Beach from this side of Carabao Island.

The main tourist area is at Lanas Beach located at the west side of the island facing Boracay. Lanas Beach has pebbly white sand and crystal clear waters perfect for swimming. For those looking for powdery white sand like Boracay’s, San Jose Beach at the other side is a gem. IMG_0992


These beaches have numerous front beach resorts that cater to different tourists and offer exciting activities. Among the major resorts are; White Beach, formerly Ivy’s Vine Resort; NipaHauz Resort and Restaurant, Beach House and Boracay Outlook Resort. They have their own restaurants which offer a wide range of delicious and mouthwatering food. All resorts have WiFi connections, so you won’t be missing any updates from the rest of the world and you will be able to share your Carabao Island experience instantly to your family and friends. Although power supply is available for only 12 hours a day, all the resorts have their generators. So, electricity is not a problem if you want to stay overnight at the place. You could opt for a relaxing night in the island by swimming on its clear waters or have a little chitchat with the friendly locals.


Amid the peaceful environment, Carabao Island is a spot for unique water sports activities that are not available in Boracay. For extreme adrenaline rush, fly in the air like a bird or plunge through the waves like a dolphin through the Flyboard. Offered exclusively by the Boracay Outlook Resort, the Flyboard is a new-fangled sport wherein a tube is connected to the main jet exit. From this tube comes a thick, flexible 9-meter hose that connects to the jet boots that allow the rider to do crazy aerial tricks. Though extreme, the Flyboard is safe for fun-loving individuals like you since the jet ski operator always makes sure that you land safely in the water. IMG_1039 IMG_1034For only P5,000 or about US$100, you’ll avail of this fun-filled experience for 30 minutes.  You’ll get a good discount if you come as group. Kite boarding and wind surfing are also available. IMG_1037 Having diverse marine sanctuaries, the island is also a great spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are fully equipped dive shops managed by Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)-accredited instructors for your diving needs.


Also grab the opportunity to enjoy the lush habitat of Carabao Island. Rent or ride your own bike and visit its natural wonders. One fascinating site is the Viewpoint where you can have a breathtaking view of the neighboring islands of Tablas, Romblon and Boracay. A must-try transportation is the habal-habal or the motorcycle as you traverse their zigzag roads. Along the way, stop and talk with the locals. Their stories and genuine smiles will lighten your mood. They are a very hospitable and friendly people. They will even invite you in their simple abodes.


Developments are starting to rise in Carabao Island. Soon, it will have luxurious resorts and casinos, making it the next Boracay Island. But despite the continuous developments, stakeholders gave an assurance that they will preserve Carabao Island’s unique ecosystem and the culture of the natives. This way, Carabao Island will not lose its virgin beauty. So, before everyone starts flocking to this tranquil paradise, pack your bags now and explore Carabao Island’s natural grandeur! (KVB)