Camsur Water Sports Complex

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Camsur Water Sports Complex is one of the top tourist destinations in the Bicol region and probably one of the most popular in the country.

This 6-hectare complex is the first world-class watersports complex in the Philippines and in Asia.

Our family spent our Holy Week there last year, and I could say that it was the most relaxing respite we ever had. We’re not even watersports enthusiasts, so why did we go there? I say there’s a whole lot of things that this place has to offer even if you don’t intend to do wakeboarding, kneeboarding, waterskiing, or wakeskating. We didn’t do any of that. We were as boring as that, haha! But we enjoyed the tranquility of the place, which was the main reason why we went there. Afterall, it was Holy Week.

The great side is that while the other guests flocked to the dining places and the wakeboarding area, we had the swimming pool all to ourselves!

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Waking up to a rainbow. A view from our wood cabin.

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Address:  Provincial Capitol Complex Cadlan, Pili, Camarines Sur, Philippines

Their room rates are surprisingly low for the kind of comfort and ambiance you’re getting. Prices range from P1,200-P4,950 for two persons. Check out their website cwcwake.com for more information.

How to get there from Manila:

1. Bus – Araneta Bus Station, Cubao (P700). Since it was Holy Week, there weren’t enough buses to accommodate all commuters. We ended up making friends with other stranded passengers so we could hire a van at P1,000 each. Travel time: 8 hours

2. Plane – The fastest and easiest way to get to Camsur, but not the cheapest. Check out available flights online and see rates.

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Holy Week in The Philippines: a personal perspective

I was born and raised as a Catholic, and so were most of my neighbors. Safe to say that I grew up in a Catholic community.

Most members of our clan and my childhood friends have always observed the Holy Week and Lent in general. We would go to church on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of Lent. Our foreheads would be marked with ashes so we knew who among us went to church and who didn’t. They say it’s a symbol of penance teaching us humility and sacrifice, and a reminder for us that life on earth is temporary, we all go back to dust.

Then on Palm Sunday, which marks the beginning of Holy Week (which is the last week of Lent), we would bring palms to commemorate the triumphant entry of Jesus to Jerusalem. Those palms would be blessed by the Parish Priest and we would take them home to adorn our altars or attach them to our front and back doors to signify our faith (although some people would regard them as amulets for protection from evil spirits and evil people).

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Photo Credits: AP

We would make sure to attend the Stations of the Cross in throngs.  In my hometown within Davao City, the Stations of the Cross were scattered around the vast area of Toril. We would converge at Sto. Rosario Parish and we would march around Manggahan to Daliao and back to the parish.  I think they’ve changed the route over the last few years since Toril now has two parishes: Sto. Rosario and Birhen delos Remedios. Despite the hundreds of attendees of the Stations of the Cross in my town, it was impossible not to chance upon good friends and relatives in one of the 14 Stations.

Some would do Visita Iglesia,  visiting various churches around the country. On Easter Sunday, we didn’t have Easter egg hunts in our community during our time. We would celebrate Easter by going to church early in the morning.

But not everything about the Holy Week was alright with me. There’s Good Friday — my least favorite and most dreaded day of the year.

I remember when I was growing up, I heard adults saying that God is dead during Good Friday. As a child, I took it literally. Holy Week happens every year so I presumed God would die every year. And it scared me everytime. I was a pious kid who never ceased to pray a day in my innocent life and so the idea that God was dead on Good Friday and Black Saturday was the scariest thing to me. I would avoid playing outside thinking that God wouldn’t be there to look after me.

There were many others that we couldn’t and wouldn’t do on Good Friday (and Black Saturday):

  • No music playing
  • No boisterous laughing
  • No merry making (sorry if it falls on your birthday)
  • No adventures (like going to the nearby river, climbing tree branches and hanging upside-down, swimming in the beach, anything that gives you adrenalin rush)
  • No travels
  • No bath or shower (at least for some people)
  • No meat
  • No work (regular holiday across the country)
  • Less TV (no regular programming on Philippine TV on Good Friday anyway)

These were essential parts of our mourning and fasting, our ways of observing and respecting the Holy Week.

But despite all this, one family tradition would lift us up every Good Friday. It’s the day for the family’s highly-anticipated Binignit! (If you’re not Filipino but you know halo-halo, imagine halo-halo without crushed ice but instead mixed with coconut milk and served hot).  Binignit has become part of the Holy Week tradition, along with boiled kamote and saging, sometimes with other kakanin. For kids like us, it was a feast, not fasting. I guess for adults it was fasting considering that it’s not a regular meal of rice and meat.

Anyway, as I grew older, I realized that I and some people may have taken things literally that God is dead every Good Friday and Black Saturday.  He can’t be literally dead every year.  Instead, we’re only commemorating His death on the cross many years ago. It’s a reminder of His precious sacrifice for the sake of our salvation.  It reminds us to reflect on our sins, repent, and reinforce our faith.

Maybe I am not as Catholic as I was before because I have stopped doing most of the Holy Week traditions I’ve grown up to. Hats off to my fellow Catholics who never stopped upholding the traditions like the Stations of the Cross and the Easter Vigil, among others. I believe these traditions help keep the lessons of Lent and the Holy Week alive.

Today is Good Friday…but I’m not afraid anymore.  As a grownup, my personal perspective is that God is alive whether we believe Him or not.  And He is always looking after us every second of the day…even on the days He is said to be dead.

When in Boracay

What is there to do in Boracay other than swim and take selfies?

Here are some of the ways to maximize your staycation in the island without breaking the bank:

around pilipinas 31. Early-morning walk at the White Beach — If you love hiking and taking pictures, I suggest you take a walk along the beach line on foot (and I mean take off your shoes!) early in the morning like 5 am or a bit earlier. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the sunrise!

The difference is in the sand. You will feel the difference in the sand’s texture when you walk from Station 1 to 2 (Station 3 would be too far unless you’re built for extra long walks, but I wouldn’t recommend it). You will know you’ve reached Station 2 just by feeling the sand alone (not as fine as in Station 1).

The early-morning walk would give you a great view of the white beach minus the dense crowd, ideal for photography. And while you’re at it, stop by and eat delicious hot taho from local peddlers walking around the beach like you.

A view towards the end of Station 1.
A view towards the end of Station 1.

2. Shop and dine at D’Mall — Don’t miss D’Mall when you’re in Bora, it’s a paradise for shopaholics and foodies like me. Everything you need is there so even if you forgot to bring your swimwear, sunglasses, extra shirts, or even enough cash, fret not.  There are ATM’s around D’Mall and the prices of commodities are not as high as I imagined.

Tip: Haggle! Most shops allow their customers to haggle on the prices so go for it. I had to hop from shop to shop just to make sure I got the best deal in price, quality, and design (Yes dear, I have all the patience and guts for that).

Some of the steals I got were a 2-pc beach wear for only P350, a pair of slippers for P150, and cheap pasalubong items like personalized keychains for P100 per 6 pieces and ref magnets for P33-P100.

If you’re a foreigner, I suggest you bring a Filipino companion with you to get the best deals.

As for eating cheap, try Andok’s and Tilapia N’ Chips within D’ Mall. You can even find freshly brewed coffee for only P25 along the main road going to D’ Mall. When I saw that place, I immediately knew I could live in the island for good.

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3. Feast on seafood…on a budget —   If you are staying in an apartment instead of a hotel in Boracay and you have a flare in the kitchen, have your own seafood platter all you want. Fresh and cheap seafood, apart from other fresh produce, are aplenty at the wet market called “Talipapa Bukid” along the Main Road.

But if your accommodation doesn’t equip you to cook, go to the other Talipapa where there are restaurants that will cook fresh seafood for you. Ask the tricycle driver to take you to D’ Talipapa “Paluto.”  Buy fresh seafood from D’ Talipapa and ask nearby restaurants to cook them for you for a minimal fee. A lot cheaper than ordering the same amount of seafood from your hotel.

4. Walk under the sea — I’m not kidding. If you want to see what’s beneath the water some 10 feet down, try helmet diving. Package we paid was P500 each (Don’t fall for higher offers, haggle!) which included a CD of our underwater photos and videos. You get to feed the fishes too.

Tips: Listen attentively during the orientation. If the instructions are not clear to you, ask the instructor. Remember the hand signals, they’re your only means of communication with your underwater guides. Don’t panic. You will know instinctively how to breathe once you’re down there. Breathe normally and enjoy the moment. According to our guide, the best time to go helmet diving is in the morning, before 10 am. Beach is calm, visibility is good.

5. Depending on your budget, there are many other adventure packages in Boracay specifically around Bulabog Beach in Station 4 which is known for water sports. I listed a few here with their average rates which may vary depending on the season and the agency or individual you make arrangements with:

  • Parasailing –  P2,000 per person
  • Island Hopping – P1,300-P1,500 (3 hrs, 4 people)
  • Banana Boat –  P150
  • Jet Ski – P2,000 (30 minutes)
  • Paraw sailing – P1,000 (2 persons)

Of course, if you really don’t have enough budget for these activities, you can always bask in the sun with your travel buddy/buddies, play beach volleyball, go people watching, make sand castles, take loads of pictures, watch fire dances at night in Station 2, explore Boracay by tricycle or by foot and take more pictures, enjoy the cool sea breeze and the mesmerizing sunset, perhaps get a henna tattoo, and above all, frolic and swim all you want!

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First time in Boracay — Getting there by plane

I thought going to Boracay from Manila would be as simple as “You catch a plane to the nearest airport in Boracay, then take a cab/van/tricycle/what-have-you to get to your booked accommodation, and then voila!” Wrong.

It was our first time to travel to Boracay as a family and we  had no idea where to go. I didn’t even know there were five “Stations” in Boracay and what differentiated them from one another.  I had to ask friends for hotel recommendations and read tons of online reviews before making travel arrangements.

To save you from the hassle, I compiled the basic steps you need to know in getting to Boracay by plane from Manila or practically any city in the country.

How to get there:

1. Fly to Caticlan or Kalibo.

There are two airports close to Boracay — Caticlan (Godofredo Ramos Airport) and Kalibo International Airport. Which airport to choose? Here are some points to consider:

Caticlan – It is closer and more convenient to get to Caticlan Jetty Port if you’re coming from Caticlan Airport (roughly 10 minutes) compared to Kalibo (which will take you an hour and a half to two hours by van or bus going to Jetty Port).  So between Caticlan and Kalibo, we chose the former. If there are no flights available from your city to Caticlan, then Kalibo is your option.

Tip: Book morning flights. It’s a small airport with sunset limitation, meaning no adequate lighting facilities to allow flying and landing in the evening or early morning when there’s not enough visibility. Ergo, if you took an afternoon flight to Caticlan and it was delayed for any reason, your plane might be rerouted to Kalibo or worse, cancelled.

Kalibo – Cheaper airfare rates, bigger planes (but note that you have to spend around P200-P250 each for your van transport from Kalibo to Jetty Port plus the extra 2 hours you spend on the road which could sap away your vacation-mode energy). Since it’s an international airport, bigger planes can fly there unlike in Caticlan.

So between the two airports, your call. I would still go for Caticlan, more convenient for me.

2. From Caticlan Airport, you can easily get a tricyle waiting outside for P10 per passenger or P50 “pakyaw” or fixed price.

In our case, we were picked up by a van arranged by Sur Boracay, our booked hotel in Station 1.  The driver was extra friendly, he made sure were taken care of at the Jetty Port.

(From Kalibo, up to two hours ride by van or bus to Jetty Port).

3. Pay these fees at Caticlan Jetty Port to get to Cagban Port:

  • Boat fee – P25
  • Environmental fee – P75
  • Terminal fee – P100

Tip: Get free tourism handouts at the Jetty Port. They will come in handy during your stay in the island.  The handouts include a map and lists of establishments around Boracay, and activity packages you can choose from, among others.  They’ll also serve as souvenirs and perhaps your motivation to go back in the future.

4. At last, you’re in the island! To get to your booked hotel, take a tricycle from Cagban Port. If you made no prior reservations, just tell the tricycle driver which Station you want to go.

Our tricycle ride cost P100 from the port to Sur Boracay in Station 1. We passed through Station 3 first, then 2, then finally Station 1. From that trike ride alone, we could observe the differences among the three Stations — Station 3 was a bit more residential than Stations 2 and 1, at least from the street side’s perspective. The streets were vibrant around Station 2, more crowded and packed with commercial establishments. Then as we approached Station 1, the noise and the crowd slowly faded away. Serenity!

5. Once you’ve settled in your booked hotel, enjoy the place! Swim, hike, dine, dive, snorkel, island hop, para-sail, sunbathe, rest, party at night, do what you went there for.

For some tips on how to maximize your staycation in Boracay without breaking the bank, check out my other post: When in Boracay.

Have fun!

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From domestic helper to BPO company owner: Myrna Padilla’s journey from mops to computers

(This is one of the articles I wrote for a government magazine (DTI Region XI’s Asenso Ka Magazine) back in 2012. Her success story is one of the most inspiring stories I’ve heard so I decided to share it with you here. Original Title: Power of the Mynd: Myrna Padilla proves that IT Knowledge is indeed power)

Myrna Padilla 1Call her a BPO and IT stalwart, a multi-awarded business leader, a daring woman who built her company from scratch, or a doting mother who toiled day and night overseas as a domestic helper and nanny in pursuit of a better life for her family. Myrna Padilla, President of Mynd Dynamic Team, Inc. is all that and so much more.

Padilla may not have a college degree nor a high school diploma to boot, she managed to achieve what a lot of degree holders could only wish for – being a beacon of inspiration to others by rising from poverty and providing employment and business opportunities to fellow Filipinos.

How did one woman who grew up in an impoverished fishing village in Bohol, and whose highest educational attainment was only third year high school, build her own Business Process Outsourcing company specializing in software development?

It all started with a mouse.

Padilla was working as a nanny in Hong Kong in 1996 when her alaga (the young boy under her care) acquired a new personal computer. It alone stirred her curiosity, but she was especially transfixed when it came to the mouse.

“I was so amazed with the mouse. How could something so small be so powerful?” she said. Padilla began exploring the internet with the click of a mouse, having the boy as her mentor.  “It was then that I developed a passion for technology,” she recalled.

Realizing how empowering technology could be, she began using the computer for documentation and budgeting to help other Overseas Filipino Workers through the Mindanao Hong Kong Workers Federation, an organization that she founded and chaired.

Restless about her new passion, she studied Basic IT in Hong Kong for three months and learned more about basic computing. However, since she did not have her own personal computer and frequent trips to internet cafes were costly, she would end up resorting to an old typewriter that a friend found in the trash.

It was four years after her first encounter with the computer when Padilla’s employer gave her a laptop which included a printer, and eventually upon Padilla’s prodding, an internet connection for her to use.

Thirst for knowledge

With her unquenchable thirst for knowledge, she burrowed through every bit of information that she could find online and used her learning as a leverage to help not only herself, but also others in the process.

Summing up her mindset about learning, she said “I learn, I apply (what I learn), I continue learning, and I never stop learning.”

Noting that she lacked formal education due to poverty, she believed she could increase her value by adding knowledge using the internet.

Her curiosity led her to come across the jargons “blog” (short for web log) and “Web 2.0” (a popular term for advanced internet technology and applications). She once bumped into a website that gave her technical errors prompting her to contact its administrator and complain about the site’s technical glitches, including its creative features. Her incessant criticism earned her a job offer instead – to be a bug tester.

The road to outsourcing success

Padilla soon realized that services can be provided through the Internet. Thus came the BPO idea.

The domestic helper-and-nanny-turned-entrepreneur believes that the key to starting an outsourcing business is not about having a million pesos as capital investment; “It’s about finding clients and taking care of them,” she said.

“We focus on delivering services and making our clients happy and help them become successful because once they are, they will be your great salesman [sic]. They will talk about you and they will refer you to others. That’s how I get my clients,” she added.

Admitting that she doesn’t have a marketing budget, Padilla stated that her company relies solely on word-of-mouth advertising.

“Nowadays, the word of mouth is the world of mouth through social media,” she said.

Despite all the accolades she has received in the business world, she remains grounded.

“In the software development business, people say we are in the cutting edge of technology. We are. But if you don’t watch out when you develop a software, your head will be cut,” she said.

“Developing software is very costly. If you’re not quick, innovative, creative and smart, you’ll be cut,” she added.

Why Mynd instead of Mind?

Without initially realizing that Mynd starts with the first letters of her name, she opted to use it since mind.com was no longer available. Padilla instead came up with http://www.myndconsulting.com.

More than having a sense of belongingness, she pointed out that Mynd has marketing value – It stirs curiosity and it plays in the mind, making it easy to remember. It also relates to her software development business which is a primarily a huge brain work.

Growing business organically

With only two old computers and her sister as her assets, and hardly any revolving funds to start with at the infancy stage of the business, Padilla said their incoming revenues had to cover the bills.

In 2007, honesty paid off when a foreign client wanted to meet with her and five of her programmers in Manila for a possible business deal. Having no budget for plane tickets, she told the client about her ordeal and suggested that the client meet them in Davao City instead, to which the client agreed.

To help her build good credentials and establish trust with the client, she called on some friends from different sectors: one from the Davao City Chamber of Commerce who talked about the business situation in Davao; one from a telecommunications company who talked about the infrastructures; and another from the Rotary Club who talked about Mynd’s community service efforts.

Padilla also managed to send three employees to Europe to undergo training for the said client. “It’s brain gain instead of brain drain,” she said.

Today, Mynd Dynamic Team, Inc. develops software applications for various clients around the world and has grown to fifteen employees, a far cry from the company’s humble beginnings.

“The Internet is a great equalizer,” she said, pointing out that despite being in a third world country, Filipinos develop CRM and mobile solutions, social media applications, and iphone applications for clients in more developed countries.

Proud recipient of DTI assistance

Padilla and her team benefited from various assistance projects conducted by the Department of Trade and Industry – trainings, promotions, benchmarking, and extending business networks, to name a few.

Global accolade

Among the many citations she received was the First Global Ambassador to Empower One Million Women with Technology awarded by Telecentre.org in Chile. It was a digital literacy campaign launched in South America last year. This campaign generated various nominees from all over the world.

Words to ponder

Having a conversation with Padilla would tempt one to take down notes due to the valuable nuggets of wisdom she shares in one sitting. Here are some of them:

“It’s not only about survival. It’s about going to the right direction and about overcoming your fear. It’s applied in our business and in our (personal) life”

“Business is not copy and paste [sic]. It has to be thought through. It has to be in line with your passion.”

“You have to have a roadmap. Have a picture in your mind how it would become if you really want to pursue it. If you follow your roadmap and go in the right direction, I think you will survive.”

“What is your backup plan when you fail?”

“Are you willing to overcome your fear?”

“You will not succeed if you won’t fail.”

“I believe that the greatest failure in life is not doing what you really want to do.”

“You have to continue and never stop learning.”

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The Lady Wants To Know. Myrna Padilla has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, especially about technology, which eventually led her to having her own BPO company.

Rediscovering my country Philippines, one blog post at a time

The Philippines is rich, if you ask me. Our riches lie in our natural resources, our people, our culture. Cliche, but you’ve heard for sure that not all that glitters is gold.

There’s a treasure trove of wonders in this archipelago of  7,107 islands (number varies during high tide season) —from beautiful places to visit around the country, interesting eats, cultural heritage, to inspiring stories of ordinary Pinoys and Pinays — and I will share them with you, one blog post at a time.

Tayo nang maglakbay! (Let’s take a trip!)

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