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Nagueños who have displayed courage, good governance, heritage advocacy, or all-around excellence in their chosen fields, were honored by the City of Naga through the annual Mayoral Awards.

Held recently at the Avenue Convention Plaza in Naga, the event was attended by Mayor John G. Bongat and Vice Mayor Nelson S. Legacion. Guest speaker was engineer Honesto C. General.

The awards began in 1968, 20 years after President Elpidio Quirino signed into law House Bill No. 1225 that was sponsored by Rep. Juan Q. Miranda, declaring Naga a chartered city.

“Today, on our 66th charter anniversary, we take time to rekindle our city’s glorious past as we celebrate the gains of the present and move on to secure a brighter future,” said Mayor Bongat. “It is on this special day that we are also holding in high esteem our outstanding citizens who have done their share in making our city truly a ‘Maigmang Lugar.’ Most fittingly, these men and women will today be conferred the honors that bear our beloved heroes’ names: Miranda, Aureus, Rosales and Robredo.”

The Mayoral Awards consists of four categories.

Veronica Cecilio Alfonso

The Juan Querubin Miranda Award is the highest and is named after the Father of the City Charter of Naga. This year’s recipient is VCA Cecilio Printing Press, which was founded in 1949 and remains one of the most important contributors to the continued blossoming of the Bicol language. Cecilio Press is recognized for its effort in nurturing the region’s culture through the publication and distribution of various literatures such as novenas, devotional materials, corridor, comedias, and prayers written in Bicol.

Aureus Award

The Leon Salem Aureus Award is the second highest and is named after the first Mayor of Naga. Aureus was tasked to govern and rehabilitate the city after World War II, serving as Commander Miranda’s executive officer.

Shamaine Buencamino

Mayor John Bongat with Benjamin Bichara and Alex Bichara

Fe Buangin-Carranza

Jeanne Frances Illo

Dr. Josephine Robredo-Bundoc

This year, the award went to Victor Bichara and Sons, Maria Shamaine Centenera Buencamino, Josephine Robredo-Bundoc, MD, Fe Buangin Carranza, and Jeanne Frances I. Illo.

The movie business in Naga might have been different if it were not for enterprising Lebanese couple Victor Bichara and Emily Panayotti who came to the city in the 1920’. Naga was the booming capital town of Camarines Sur when the couple bought a lot and building in 1923 which became a movie theater that showed silent films. It branched out to many other towns and introduced the “talking” films to the locals in the 1930s.

Buencamino, a talented stage and film actress, has won numerous awards (Golden Screen and Asian Film Awards) for her works in indie films. Buencamino worked with the late director Marilou Diaz-Abaya on her last film “Ikaw ang Pag-ibig” (2011) about the Our Lady of Penafrancia, Principal Patroness and Queen of Bicol. She said the award was a blessing and that acting has to be truthful so it “resonates and reaches the heart of any viewer.”

A physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine for three decades, Dr. Bundoc gives her time and attention to persons with disabilities (PWDs), especially the orthopedically challenged, providing them mobility devices.

“It’s a very big honor because it exemplifies what each and everyone in the city aims to do,” said Dr. Bundoc. “This increases the awareness not only of the people of the city but of the entire country with regards to the services that will greatly assist PWDs who are the least served. If you give them opportunities, they will be able to improve their lives.”

Crippled at age three, Carranza is one of Naga’s successful micro-entrepreneurs. She and her four children put up a retail store and eventually ventured into making selling tofu, soya milk, nutrimeat and soy-based bread.

Carranza is an officer of the Naga City PWD Federation and she has initiated feeding sessions for pre-school children in different barangay.

Illo is a scholar on gender awareness and development.

Robredo Award

The Jesse Manalastas Robredo Youth Award began only last year. It is named after the late Naga mayor, interior and local government secretary and Ramon Magsaysay awardee who died in a plane crash in 2012.

The youth award in his name is given to an individual or group that displays qualities of good leadership that the dynamic and charismatic mayor was known for.

Sarong Bangui Junior Eagles of Ateneo De Naga

Monica Mae Mendrique Montero with her parents

Recipients of the award this year are the Ateneo Sarong Bangui Junior Eagles, a socio-civic organization involved in shelter and sanitation, education, and environment; and Monica Mae Mendrique Montero, a young gymnast who has represented Naga in various regional, national, and international competitions, such as the 10th Singapore Gymnastics Open.

Two tricycle drivers, meanwhile, shared the Lt. Delfin C. Rosales Award. Launched this year, the award is named after a brave young soldier who plunged into a hail of bullets fired by Japanese soldiers in an effort to save a wounded comrade. This is conferred on any citizen of the city who has shown extraordinary acts of heroism, valor, and civic duty.

Alex Estanislao, father of 11 children, has more than once demonstrated his honesty and upright citizenship by returning a wallet containing cash and checks amounting to over half a million pesos last October. A few years ago, he returned an attaché case that had P35,000 and a check amounting to P1.5 million.

Also in October 2013, 25-year-old Jason Federis found a wallet in his tricycle and personally traced the owner just to return it.

There were nine recipients of the Mayoral Recognition Award: Aloysius Francis Bresnan, grand champion of the First Voice of Asia Speech Compeition; Gershon Mark Cortez, magna cum laude graduate of the Adventist University of the Philippines who placed 8th in the March 2013 Medical Technologies Licensure Examination; Jacqueline Meghann Velarde Eleazar, class valedictorian and student leader who was selected as one of the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines-Bicol as well as the Jose Rizal Model Student of the Philippines; Maricel Chua Macaraig, a civil engineer who place 4th in the Licensure Examination for Geodetic Engineers; Lynn Zuñiga Padillo, who received the Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher of the Philippines and 2013 Search for Outstanding Public Officials; Arnica Mae Remoquillo, cum laude graduate of the Universidad de Sta. Isabel who placed 9th in the Nursing Licensure Examination last June 2013; Hannah Lalaine Rosin, a young gymnast who garnered a gold and silver medals at the Prime Gymnastics International Invitational in Singapore; Timothy Tang Lee Say, a summa cum laude graduate in both his college and post-graduate studies who placed 4th in the Physician Licensure Examinations; and Cyril Amoroso-Vivo, who won first prize in the 2013 National Search for Most Outstanding Special Education Teacher for Children with Hearing Impairment.

E-mail Follow him on twitter @DxMatilla.

(Originally published in the June 23, 2014 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Photos are taken by the author.)
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If there’s one thing I learned from the Experience New Zealand Trade Fair held recently at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati, it’s that a visit to New Zealand would be nothing short of magical.

I imagine the place to be where fantasy meets reality and if things go according to plan early next year, I might just find out how true that is.

Fantasy and film buffs know New Zealand to be Middle Earth as it is the filming location for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But did you know about the rich and diverse Maori culture there? I didn't!

At Te Puia, a living Maori arts and culture center located in Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley there are 500 natural geothermal wonders such as geysers and mud pools. The center also features native flora and fauna, live kiwi birds and unique Maori arts and architecture. It houses the National Carving and Weaving Schools of New Zealand which preserves the traditional arts. In the evening, visitors enjoy a feast of food and friendship with a cultural performance and a banquet of modern and traditional cuisine.

Then there’s the aforementioned LOTR attraction. There are tour options that include a visit to the Hobbiton set and Edoras location. Some 37 hobbit holes, the mill, double arch bridge, Bilbo’s party tree, Bag End and the Green Dragon Inn are included in the Hobbiton tour.

Nature lovers will have the opportunity to embrace the scenic vistas from a tour of Auckland, the “City of Sails.” The beautiful Christchurch city is revealed on tours given on a classic double-decker bus. The spectacular Milford Sound, dubbed as the 8th Wonder of the World, is enjoyed via a boat cruise to see waterfalls, rainforest, mountains and wildlife.

In Rotorua, visit the Waimangu Thermal Valley, considered the newest geothermal system in the world. The valley houses Frying Pan Lake and Inferno Crater. At the Waitomo Glowworm Caves tour, take a boat ride through caves illuminated by thousands of glowworms.

In Queenstown, visitors can choose a number of optional adventures such as river jet boat tours, a helicopter scenic flight with alpine landing, the bungee jump, skydiving, guided nature walks, 4WD tours or a winery tour of Central Otago.

From Christchurch, fans can also journey to Edoras via a 4WD ride. The trip brings visitors to the beautiful Mt. Potts high country station to see where the set of Edoras, home of the Riders of Rohan was built. Aside from an informative and entertaining commentary, enjoy a short guided walk, champagne picnic lunch and handle movie replicas of swords, Gandalf’s staff and the flag of Rohan.

Seen here with the traditional Maori arts group are H.E. Ambassador Reuben Levermore, Ambassador of New Zealand to the Philippines, New Zealand Embassy; Rowena Tomeldan, Ayala Land Vice President and Head of Operations and Support Services, Commercial Business Group; and Ranjan Jha, General Manager, Singapore Airlines

“This presents a great opportunity for Filipinos to explore the vast attractions New Zealand has in store,” said New Zealand Ambassador Reuben Levermore during the Experience New Zealand Trade Fair. “Whether it’s the stunning scenery, adventure tourism, the great wine and food, or even the Lord of the Rings locations, there is something for everyone,”

Tours range from four-day, three-night packages to seven-day, six night packages, including roundtrip airfares via Singapore Airlines. Packages start at only $1,071 upwards, providing every kind of adventure for every kind of traveller.

Those interested in New Zealand tours may inquire from SIA Holidays (753-5151), Rakso Travel (812-9667), Travel Specialist Ventures (928-7487), Trends Travelmart (478-5401), Interlink (524-0016), Allpoints Travel (410-1527), Swire Travel (817-1082), Citimiles Travel (523-2881), Corporate International Travel (631-6541), The Marvels of Travel (842-7548), Best Wing Travel (Cavite) (425-4203) and Ecozone Travel (Pampanga) (045-887-0332).
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“A disease with unknown causes is very difficult to treat. This is the case with alopecia areata,” said Dr. Rica Mallari of the Philippine Dermatological Society.

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the immune cells of the body go against the hair follicles making the hair strands weak at the base and easy to pluck. It is characterized by bald patches on the scalp that may join together and eventually render an individual hairless. Alopecia areata and may also attack other hairy parts of the body such as the eyebrows and pubic area.

Alopecia has many types, among them are pattern hair loss or common baldness; telogen effluvium or temporary hair shedding; and alopecia areata which is considered the hardest to treat.

“The disease has a genetic predilection, meaning there are more chances of getting it if there is a family member affected. It is however, not infectious as no organisms are involved. Though inconclusive, extreme stress is said to trigger the condition in genetically susceptible individuals,” added Mallari.

Alopecia areata is generally asymptomatic – the patient is often unaware of his bald patches because there are no symptoms of pain or itching. Although some complain of a tingling sensation before a patch appears.

Alopecia can affect both men and women at any age. Its onset cannot be prevented and there are no studies to prove that healthy lifestyle can help cure the disease.

“There are a number of treatments and products for different types of alopecia depending on the case. It is important that the affected individual seeks help from an expert, preferably from a dermatologist of the Philippine Dermatological Society so that the condition can be evaluated and proper advice can be given,” said Mallari.

Among the products available in the market today is Novuhair. Dubbed as nature’s answer to hair loss, Novuhair is made from all-natural ingredients, including moringa oleifera, panax ginseng, virgin coconut oil, as well as the essential oils of rosemary, peppermint and lavender. Collectively these ingredients help improve blood circulation and increase nutrient flow to the scalp.

Moringa oleifera or malunggay is one ingredient that helps restore the skin’s condition and prevent falling hair. Sweet almond oil, another ingredient, is a moisture-rich oil that contains vitamins A, B1, B6 and E, as well as minerals such as magnesium and iron. Scientifically known as prunus amygdalus, sweet almond oil easily penetrates the hair shaft and follicles, relieving hair dryness and itching and providing nourishment to the hair to promote hair growth.

Lavender helps relieve itching, and like rosemary, another ingredient, it contains properties that help combat dandruff and disinfects the scalp. Lemongrass helps clean the scalp’s pores, while peppermint is known to slow the growth of bacteria and fungi, aside from having a relaxing effect on the muscles.
Novuhair users already notice a decrease in hair loss after only just one week. Hair growth becomes evident with regular use of the product. Once desired results are achieved, Novuhair may still be used as hair and scalp maintenance.

In response to growing demand from its users both here and abroad, Novuhair is now available in a special 2-in-1 Plus One pack, a combo inclusive of Novuhair Shampoo, Topical Scalp Lotion, plus an additional bottle of Novuhair Shampoo.

Just recently, Novuhair introduced two of its latest endorsers – TV host Kim Atienza and singer-songwriter Abby Asistio.

Atienza, fondly referred to as 'Kuya Kim’, is an advocate of true health and wellness. He believes in the use of all-natural ingredients and Novuhair is as natural as a hair remedy could get.

Meanwhile, Abby Asistio knows how it is like to live without hair. She has suffered from alopecia areata at a very young age, and until recently, has lived bald under wigs, hats and bandanas. Today, with the help of Novuhair, the entertainer is experiencing hair growth on her scalp for the first time in years.

Novuhair Topical Scalp Lotion is available in all Mercury Drug Stores and other leading drug stores nationwide as an individual purchase, part of a combo pack that includes a bottle of Novuhair Herbal Shampoo, and a 3-in-1 pack that includes the herbal shampoo and herbal conditioner.

For more information visit, like the brand’s official Facebook Page at Novuhair Official, and follow it on Twitter at @NovuhairUpdates. You may also call the Novuhair hotlines at 4136570 and 09228830575.
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Ballet Philippines, the country’s premier classical and contemporary dance company proudly announces its 45th Anniversary – The Sapphire Season as it celebrates 45 years of sharing the gift of dance.

The exciting line-up of productions is as follows:

CCP Main Theater | July 25-27, 2014

Hailed by critics as “poignant and powerful,” Agnes Locsin’s modern dance masterpiece returns to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of its lead character - Apolinario Mabini, the paraplegic, ‘brains of the Katipunan’.

Winner of Outstanding Dance Production and Outstanding Choreography for Agnes Locsin at the 2008 Gawad Buhay! Awards

CCP Main Theater | September 19- 28, 2014

This two-week celebration and fundraising series features 3 programs in a festival celebrating the company and its works.

CCP Main Theater | September 26-27, 2014

Favorite masterworks including Redha’s Je tu Elle, Bam Damian’s Minamahal Sinasamba and other acclaimed award-winning works and special guests celebrate the company’s sapphire milestone.

CCP Main Theater | September 19-21, 2014

Hailed as “the show that brought sexy back to ballet”, this sublime re-staging by premier danseur Nonoy Froilan returns in this special repeat performance of the show.

CCP Main Theater | September 28, 2014

Ballet Philippines shares the stage with the companies, dance schools and artists who have sprung from its rich tradition of excellence.

CCP Main Theater | November 28-30, December 5-7, 2014

This highly celebrated retelling of the quintessential rags to riches fairy tale by Ballet Philippines’ Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus, Alice Reyes, brings laughter, merriment, and romance to the holiday season.

MANHID The Pinoy Superhero Musical
by Auraeus Solito, Vincent de Jesus, Carina Evangelista, and the Eraserheads
Choreographed by Paul Alexander Morales and Alden Lugnasin
CCP Main Theater | February 20-28, March 1-8, 2015

The season ends with the return of the legendary dance rock musical MANHID, co-presented by Tanghalang Pilipino. Set in an alternate present day Philippines where the EDSA revolution failed, this musical features heroes and villains with superpowers, and a people sick with Kamanhiran (Apathy). Celebrating a nation of heroes on the 29th Anniversary of EDSA revolution, MANHID promises to be a must-watch event for 2015.

As a special treat, enjoy 25% savings by subscribing today to the 4-Series including La Revolucion Filipina, Blue Moon Gala, Cinderella and Manhid for Orchestra Center, Orchestra Side, Balcony 1 Center, Parterre box, Lower box and Upper box. 3-series and 2-series subscriptions are also available.

Junior subscribers (ages 4-21 years old) may avail of a 50% discount.

Founded in 1969 by Alice Reyes with the support of Eddie Elejar and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Ballet Philippines is the country’s premier dance company and is known worldwide for its repertoire of classical and modern pieces. Its school, the CCP Dance School, continues to produce dancers of international caliber.

For inquiries, visit, send an email to, or call Ballet Philippines at 551-1003. For tickets and reservations, call the CCP Box Office at 832-3704 or Ticketworld at 891-9999.

Connect to Ballet Philippines online through the following social media networks:

Twitter: @balletph
Instagram: @balletphilippines
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My article on heritage and national cultural treasure churches in Ilocos and Iloilo is out in today's issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In it, I share a brief history of each church and took photos as well. It has always been my practice to say my intentions when I visit a church for the first time but I felt really blessed for having been able to pray before the Our Lady of Candles at Jaro Cathedral in Iloilo.

It is the only Marian image in the country to have been personally crowned by the now saint Pope John Paul II.

Here's the link to the story: From Ilocos to Iloilo, heritage churches for one's spiritual journey

But please do grab a copy as well :)
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