Monday, July 7, 2014

Sun.Star Davao, July 5, 2014

Forty-eight members from the Barracuda Swim Team recently joined a fun swim from Davao toPakiputan Strait at the Island Garden City of Samal. Organized by award-winning coach Vasit Venturillo , the swimmers braved 1.6 kilometers of wind, waves and current to reach their target goal, a fitting finish after weeks of training and preparation.

Meet six of these amazing swimmers: three dads and three kids who became each other’s swim buddies during this momentous father-child tandem swim!

JIMMY YAP (age 40), businessman; likes watching TV series
KENN ULRICH YAP (age 10), Grade 5; likes reading, watching ‘Tom and Jerry’ and eating sweets

*How long have you been into sports?

Jimmy: I played badminton during my younger years, and only learned swimming in the summer of 2013. I joined the Novice Durianman Triathlon back in 2013 and a duathlon last summer. I am also planning to join a sprint triathlon this year.

Kenn: I started swimming at the age of 4 and have won several medals already. I have been swimming almost every day for 2 years. Last summer, I also joined the “Langoy Para sa Kabataan”.

* How did you prepare for your long-distance swim from Davao to Samal?

Jimmy: Our coach, Vasit Venturillo, really helped us prepare for the long-distance swim. We trained for about a month. We didn’t follow a special diet but we just avoided eating too much before our swim.

* Why did you decide to swim as a parent-child tandem?

Jimmy: It’s like a graduation event for swimmers. You must cross at least once. It’s every swimmer’s dream to cross. At first, we were both nervous. Ulrich was very silent that morning. As for me, I just had a positive mind and hoped that there were no sharks in the water and the current would not be very strong.

*Who or what inspired you to finish the swim?

Jimmy: Our goal was to finish the swim. There was no turning back, thanks to our swim buddies who kept us safe and continuously shouted, “Pull, pull, pull…Lapit na!”. 

* What were the important lessons/values that you learned from the training and the actual swim itself?

Jimmy: In swimming, you have to be relaxed, take out all the problems in your head and concentrate going to the other side. You don’t have to rush, just focus and don’t stop learning.

*How do you apply these values you learned in other areas of your life?

Jimmy: We always take things one at a time, slowly but surely. Don’t rush because you might lose focus and fail. Ulrich is a consistent honor student and really sets his goals this early. As for me, I’ve been in my business for 18 years and I haven’t stopped learning. There is always something new.
*How did you support each other as a parent-child team?

Jimmy: I give words of encouragement and always act as a role model for Ulrich. But, this time, it’s the other way around, I only crossed the ‘channel’ because my son was crossing!

* What is your advice for younger kids/parents who also wish to challenge themselves and do a long-distance swim?

Jimmy: First, learn how to swim properly. Get a coach. Second, have a group of family or friends who are also into the sports or encourage them to go into swimming. Third, enjoy and don’t stop swimming.

*When is your next swim/sports event?

Jimmy: Ulrich will definitely join an interschool competition if there is one. I may be joining the Petron Blazeman this August 2014.


LAFAYETTE ALVAREZ LIM (age 40), businessman
MATTHAEUS HENRICUS HO LIM (age 7), Grade 2; loves swimming, playing Minecraft, Lego and dinosaurs

*How long have you been into sports?

Yet: I started swimming sometime in my elementary days during the summer. I was with the Blue Marlin Swimming Club. I had joined only one freestyle competition where I was 4th place.

Matt:  When I was younger, I played a little soccer during one summer. I started swimming under Coach Vasit Venturillo's Barracuda Swim Team in the summer of 2013. I also joined an Aquathlon last March 16.  My first swimming competition was last May 25 where I won first place in my age category for novices in all 4 events.

*How did you prepare for your long-distance swim from Davao to Samal?

Yet: I did not!!! Hahaha! But I did go island hopping 2 days before and tried to practice my swimming. I haven't been swimming regularly for a long time.

Matt: Aside from my weekly swimming classes, on the week of the event I trained every day, swimming 2 sets of 60 laps each at Linmar's pool. I also was with Papa during the island hopping and swam with him from the boat to the nearest beach and back.

*Why did you decide to swim as a parent-child tandem?

Yet: When Coach Vasit mentioned about it, I thought it was a great idea, but Matt was a little worried of things like sharks and corrals. I first offered to accompany him on a boat and later said I will swim with him, but he was still not convinced. Eventually, I told him to think it over 
and he later on agreed. Now the pressure was on me because I haven't been swimming regularly for a long time and had never swam that long a distance before.

*Were there any fears of swimming in the deep waters at first and if 
yes, how did you overcome this fear?

Matt: Papa told me to not think of the things I was afraid of and that 
he will swim with me. So, after thinking about it, I agreed.

*Who or what inspired you to finish the cross channel?

Yet: Initially it was to encourage Matt to go for it, but after he agreed I actually was excited about doing it also.

Matt:  Pops and Mom! Achie Angeli, not so much!

*What were the important lessons/values that you learned from the training and the actual swim itself?

Yet: I was worried because I don't exercise, but I guess my healthy eating kept me in good condition because it wasn't as difficult as I had imagined. Also, the thought of finishing it with my son was a major happy thought for me, and it was fulfilling.

Matt: The training was really hard but I was happy when I finished crossing the ‘channel’.

*How do you apply these values you learned in other areas of your life?

Yet: I guess this is kind of a crown for my many years of sacrifice of eating healthy. I do it as an investment for my future health. This event turned out to be an early reward.

It made me want to awesomely swim some more and do a long-distance swim again.

*How did you support each other as a parent-child team?

Yet: Actually Matt was assigned a buddy as was required, so I swam behind them. During the times he stopped to rest, I just encouraged him to keep going.

*What is your advice for younger kids/parents who also wish to challenge themselves and do a long-distance swim?

Yet:  You have to be sure you're healthy enough and have enough swimming experience or training to do it.  After that, the main hurdle will really be swimming against the waves and the current. The depth of the water should not be an issue, you just keep swimming. It would be a truly memorable experience and an awesome challenge to do it together with your kid.  Of course, it is best to do it together with those who have experience doing it.

*When is your next swim/sports event?

Yet: On June 28 at the Kadagayaan Festival Invitational Swim Meet at the Tagum Sports Complex. This will be Matt's 2nd and last competition as a novice. After this, he will already be considered an amateur. (Note from Mom-About-Town: Last June 28, Matt won first place in three events: butterfly, breaststroke and backstroke; and second place for freestyle. Great job, Matt!)

PATRICK DAVID L. LIM (age 43), financial advisor, frustrated chef, and triathlete
KARLA CATHERINE P. LIM (age 14), Grade 8; loves swimming, badminton, wakeboarding, and biking

*How long have you been into sports?

Patrick:  I’ve been into triathlon since February 2013.

Karla:  I started formal swimming lessons when I was 9 years old in 2009-2010 only.  Then I stopped after 1 year.  I joined again this summer 2014 under Coach Haroon Cali of Holiday Gym.

*How did you prepare for your long-distance swim from Davao to Samal?

Karla: Actually I was back swimming the whole of 2014 summer to prepare for the school swimming varsity, not to prepare for any long-distance swim.  When Daddy told me that Coach Haroon invited me to join the ‘cross channel’ swim, I asked Dad if he will join us.  When he said he will swim with me, I agreed to join.  That was 1 week before the activity.  Dad prepared me 2 days before the actual day.  We did non-stop long-distance swimming in the pool.

*Why did you decide to swim as a parent-child tandem?

Karla:  My dad told me that my swimming coach, Haroon Cali, invited me to join the ‘cross channel’ activity and I wanted to join and swim with my dad.

Patrick:  It’s actually my third time to do a long-distance swim, as part of triathlon training. I always shared my experiences with my children and they were always excited to hear my stories.  Now that it was Karla’s opportunity to experience it, I knew that ‘crossing the channel’ would be a priceless and significant experience for her.  I also felt that her confidence level would be higher if she knows that I will be swimming beside her.

*Were there any fears of swimming in the deep waters at first and if 
yes, how did you overcome this fear?

Karla: Yes.  When I jumped in the water, the first thing I did was to look what was underneath me.  It was all dark blue or dark green, and it was scary.  I overcame my fear because I know my Dad and another swim buddy was swimming beside me all the time.

*Did you follow a special diet during your training?

Patrick:  I use to weigh 185 lbs. for more than 10 years since I got sick of typhoid fever in 2010.  Then I decided to lose weight. Since August 2010, I started my no-rice-during-lunch-and-dinner diet (no cheat at all), and regularly go to the gym.  In 2012, I weighed 165 lbs. and decided to get into triathlon.  I maintained my no-rice-during-lunch-and-dinner diet up to the present.

Karla: No, I did not follow any special diet.  I eat everything.

*Who or what inspired you to finish the long-distance swim?

Karla:  Dad was always beside me or in front of me, coaching me.  He was always talking to me, letting me know how many meters or minutes to go.  I really wanted to finish it because I know I can do it, and I want to prove to myself that I can conquer my fear of not reaching the shore, and also to make my family happy for me.

* What were the important lessons/values that you learned from the training and the actual long-distance swim itself?

Karla:  I realized that constant practice and listening to our coach will make ‘crossing the channel’ easy for me.  I also learned that I should not be scared of trying things I have not done before, and overcoming fear of something we cannot see like what was underneath me.  I also learned that we should put a lot of petroleum jelly because there are a lot of jellyfish in the sea.

*How do you apply these values you learned in other areas of your life?

Karla:  I should not be afraid of trying new things and conquering our fears as long as we are guided by our coaches/teachers.  Proper and constant practice will help us a lot in whatever we do.

*How did you support each other as a parent-child team?

Patrick:  I have always supported the choice of sport or hobbies of my children.  In the same token, I get myself involved in their choice if I can do it.  In this particular event, it was Karla who got herself involved in my sport.  So I made it a point to support her, from practice to actual swim, from start to finish.  

Karla:  We swam side by side, finished together, and cheered for each other. 

*What is your advice for younger kids/parents who also wish to challenge themselves and do the cross channel swim?

Patrick:  Parents should support the choice of hobby or sport of your children.  When teaching them or guiding them, we should also practice what we teach them so they may see for themselves.  We should always walk our talk.

Karla: We should not be afraid of trying new things like ‘crossing the channel’, for as long as we allow ourselves to be guided by our coaches and teachers.  We should always learn the proper way and constant practice will bring us to the shore. 

*When is your next swim/sports event?

Karla:  I have no idea yet, but I will be joining the swimming team of my school. 

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Saturday, June 21, 2014


“Steff in Wonderland”
Sun.Star Davao, June 22, 2014

With her desire to escape from reality even just for a night, Steffani Czanelle Cruz Go especially handpicked “Alice in Wonderland” as the whimsical theme of her recent 18th birthday celebration.

            “Let’s face it; the real world can be dull, harsh and ugly. In Wonderland, however, life is full of imagination, color, beauty and laughter. Even though Wonderland is a place full of nonsense, it is sensible to say that without it, life would lose its heart and “much-ness”, shares Steff, who is a 2nd year AB Psychology student at the Ateneo de Manila University.

For Steff, “Alice in Wonderland” is about growing up and, to survive in such a world, change is always constant.

“Like Alice, I, too have changed. My debut signals my transition to the challenging yet exciting world of adulthood. This milestone marks a beginning in which the state of my thinking is filled with new strength and maturity while maintaining parts of my childlike behavior”, declares the unica hija of lovely couple Tyrone and Aireen Go.

Quirky tea party

Steff’s Alice-inspired scroll invitation, handmade with loving care by Crafter’s Haven, was accentuated with a golden key to depict the key to Wonderland.

            As guests arrived at the Davao Convention Center on Steff’s birthday, their eyes feasted on the splashes of vibrant colors. The eccentric rabbit hole entrance was inspired by the Lotus Garden and creatively draped with oversized playing cards as well as lopsided signs that said, 'This way wrong way, tea party'.

Veejay Salonga of Decoratives of Janna and Hercs marvelously filled the party venue with amusing and quirky touches highlighting the Mad Hatter tea party theme.

There were gargantuan playing cards on the walls, clocks, garden flowers, mushrooms, fruits and various tea sets for the fabulous tea party. Each guest table showcased a giant mushroom, garden lamp post, frames, cards, teacups, clock, key, books and well-loved quotes from the beloved tale.

            On the other hand, the majestic backdrop drew inspiration from the rabbit hole, the portal to Alice’s amazing adventure, with its mismatched and playful elements.

Sweet and elegant

            Steff’s tiffany blue-tiered ball gown by renowned designer Erwin Lee Tan of K Davao was fully encrusted with crystals, stones, and beads. The breathtaking gown had a semi-halter neckline which matched the sweet personality of the debutante.

            “Even though my debut denotes that I am now a grown and mature lady, I felt like a young girl full of curiosity with my poufy blue dress. I loved how the cut and style of my dress along with the arrangement of the stones, made me feel that I was aging with elegance and grace”, smiles Steff.

            The ball gown transformed into a short cocktail dress without the bouffant skirt after Steff made a quick change during the party. “It was truly a gown that transported the wearer into Wonderland!”, describes the designer.

Otoi Mercado, Steff’s longtime makeup artist in all of her milestones as a teen, made his muse picture perfect with peach-blushed cheeks, nude lips, and her hair curled and gathered at the side.

Edible masterpiece

            Each layer of Steff’s birthday cake by Marjory Pang of Icing on the Cake was meticulously chosen by the birthday girl to represent different articles from Alice in Wonderland.

            As with the story, there was the checkered floor and the tiny door that can only be opened by the golden key leading to the beautiful garden bedecked with huge mushrooms.

            “The cake also had the Queen of Hearts who is the main antagonist of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland but I would rather want it to represent the people around me who have good hearts; the Mad Hatter’s hat which symbolizes all the “madness” of the world (both good and bad); the pocket watch of the white rabbit which signifies the importance of time and how we should live each second; and the teapot that stands for celebration and fellowship with the ones we love”, Steff details.

            Lastly, the top layer had the white rabbit which Steff describes as the one which navigates Alice. “For me, the rabbit symbolizes the guidance we get from God, our True Navigator, and our loved ones in our adventures throughout our life”, says Steff.

            “All these elements were made of sugar, each carefully molded to perfection to create a fun and colorful Alice in Wonderland edible masterpiece”, she shares.


            Steff’s special guests for her debut were her dearest friends, relatives, godparents and mentors from Davao Christian High School and Stella Maris Academy of Davao where she excelled academically and spent her high school and grade school years, respectively.

            In their personal messages and tributes during the 18 Roses, Blessings, Candles and Teacups, almost everybody had nothing but good words for the kind-hearted and fashionable Steff who has been such a blessing to many.

            More surprises came when her co-resident students from Ateneo de Manila University as well as close friends John Christopher Pontillas, Juan Daray and Moses Cam performed their song numbers.

            Even Steff’s only brother Kyle elicited a shocked expression from the debutante when in the middle of singing his song, “A Whole New World”, Steff’s seven-year-old voice crooning the same song magically played along his brother’s ala duet.  You can hear the ‘oohs’ and the ‘aahs’ of the guests who were also caught up in the moment, feeling and appreciating the close bond of the family.

         Capping the magical night was the debutante’s impromptu and heartfelt thank you speech to the guests, followed by Steff’s soulful rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway” hit while she expertly played the ukulele.

As I listened intently to the lyrics, the catchy song was indeed a very apt choice for this young lady who is now more than ready to spread her wings at 18.

            “I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
             I’ll do what it takes till I touch the sky
             And I’ll make a wish
            Take a chance
            Make a change
            And breakaway”—Kelly Clarkson, “Breakaway”

A million thanks to ace photographer Marlon Advincula for sharing Steff’s pre-debut and party photos.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014


Calling all aspiring writers and young illustrators! It's competition time once again!

Eye Level reaches out to the world in discovering new breed of writers and literary talents with the annual Eye Level Literature Awards.

Now on its 22nd year, the contest aims to promote the love of reading to kids of all cultures, regardless of boundaries and nations through finding story tellers of written and visual language.

1. Illustrated Category (Children)
a. Kindergarten: drawing with short story
Any kindergarten students enrolled in a private school both Eye Level and non-Eye Level students.
b. Elementary: drawing with short story narrative about “My Dream”
Any elementary school students (Grade 1 – Grade 6) enrolled in a private school (both Eye Level and non-Eye Level students)

2. Short Story Category (Adults)
-Filipino Citizen, 18 years old and above.
-The theme is open and free to the desire of the author/artist provided that it is suitable to readers ages 12 and below.
-The entry must be an original work of the author/artist, written in English and contains significant moral values.

For the detailed mechanics of the competition, please feel free to visit . You may call Eye Level (E.nopi) Davao Jacinto Ext. Center at 300-2134.
Submission of entries is from July 1- August 31, 2014 only.
So what are you waiting for? Join now and spread the word to your friends and colleagues!

Saturday, June 7, 2014



“Loco over LEGO”
Sun.Star Davao, June 7, 2014

Summer is officially over but our recent vacation at LEGOLAND Malaysia still brings back fond memories with the whole family.
After arriving in Singapore via Silk Air, we immediately rode our rented van to Johor Bahru, Malaysia which was just an hour away from the airport.

Sleepy and tired from hours of air and land travel in just a day, our kids automatically took their naps while on the road, only to be awakened during immigration and customs check. 

We had to personally bring all of our pieces of luggage and check through the agencies which were located a floor up from the ground, all without the use of luggage carts as none were available.  This was quite a tedious process for our party of ten with ages ranging from 3 to 72.

The kids’ weariness wore off instantly though the moment we arrived at our destination.  Hallelujah! It was the LEGOLAND Resort after all, our fantastic home in Johor Bahru for two incredible nights.

Everything is awesome!       

The four-star LEGOLAND Hotel, which opened late last year, has 249 spectacular rooms with pirate, kingdom and adventure themes, truly a kid’s version of Shangrila (not-so-young folks are in on it too – though still an “in the closet thing” for some).  

The hotel’s lobby is a jaw-dropping spectacle with full-scale LEGO medieval castle, pirate ship and single-engine Cessna-type plane assaulting all senses when guests first enter. Like kids let loose in a candy store, we dug into countless LEGO and Duplo bricks, models and mini figurines enthusiastically assembling them in every nook and cranny, getting lost in the moment, almost forgetting to check-in.

An X-Box 360 video console and more unlimited bricks for playing were strategically situated across the hotel’s buffet restaurant, aptly-named “Bricks Family Restaurant”.  Inside the resto, the adorable bricks continued to amaze us as these were artfully assembled into striking life-sized LEGO bakers and utensils.

And the cuteness continued as disco-themed elevators opened up for us with songs from the past such as “Dancing Queen”, and with disco lights going round and round above us. It was such a treat to see the younger kids dancing merrily to the music each time we rode the lifts.

Adventure awaits

From nostalgia and getting it all in our heads, we were excited and impressed to find out that our superb travel agent Ivy Tan of Frontier Travel and Tours booked us a premium adventure-themed room for our stay, with a bunk bed and king-sized bed for our family of four.
Being able to sleep in a LEGO-themed bunk bed (with a pull-out trundle bed) was a dream come true for my daughters and their three younger cousins. My brother’s room and ours were beside each other so the kids happily transferred from one room to another carrying with them boxes of Duplo bricks generously provided in the room.

The adults, on the other hand, felt like royalty with their king-sized canopy beds. Each part of the room had its own flat screen TV.
From the beds, walls, carpets, beddings, and comfort rooms (which had two separate sinks and mirrors, one for adults and another mini version for kids), everything was tastefully LEGO. Why, I wouldn’t mind staying in the room for a whole day!

A treasure box in the corner of the room intrigued the kids. There were four questions on a sheet of paper which they had to answer. All clues could be found inside the room. After much investigation, the mystery digits were unraveled and the code was finally broken. The kids shouted with glee when they found that there were three sets of LEGO toys inside the treasure box for them to take home!
As we turned in for the night, I am sure the kids were in LEGO dreamland, and it was definitely…awesome!


On a bright and sunny morning the next day, after our sumptuous buffet breakfast, we set off to conquer LEGOLAND Park, just 50 steps away from the hotel. Because we were in-house guests of the hotel, we had the privilege of going inside the park by 9:30 a.m., 30 minutes earlier than the other park guests.

LEGOLAND Park offers several themed areas of attractions. They included the Beginning, LEGO Technic, LEGO Kingdoms, Imagination, LEGO City, Land of Adventure and Miniland.

Whether one just wants to create and build LEGO structures, watch 4-D shows, marvel at the mini Asian landmarks or ride roller coasters, each remarkable attraction brought out the kid in us all. How do I know this? My husband who really doesn’t like posing for snaps as much as the rest of the family just could not stop himself from requesting me to take his photos, of course along with some of the LEGO life-sized figures which were placed all over the park. He was finally caving in to his LEGO nostalgia, ambling like a kid lost in Willie Wonka’s factory.

We were warned by friends who have been to LEGOLAND Malaysia that it was scorching hot at the park. So, we came extra prepared with sunblock, hats, sunglasses, shawls and umbrellas.

Water fun

By 4:30 p.m., we decided to transfer to LEGOLAND Water Park just beside the park. It had a wave pool, over 20 slides and more than 70 LEGO models.

After depositing our things at the park’s locker, equipped with a high-tech finger scanner, we made the most of the time left trying out some thrilling slides. Being the designated “nanny” of the kids that afternoon, I had to look after them at the Joker Soaker area where they had tons of water adventure. At the novel Build-A-Raft play area, the children creatively customized their rafts using LEGO soft bricks before floating away along a river of refreshing cold water.

Before we knew it, the park staff reminded us that the Water Park would be closing its doors at 6:00 p.m.

Gathering our things from the locker, we showered and changed and hurried back to Bricks where my brother would be celebrating his birthday dinner---an action-filled and packed day it was!

As I watched the LEGOLAND Hotel staff sing a surprise birthday song (complete with a birthday cake) and as the day was winding down, I could not help but feel the moment and reminisced how my once little brother used to go loco over LEGO more than thirty years ago.

That’s the endearing power of LEGO.

Those tiny bricks of magic truly transcended generations of creative builders and will surely continue to do so for more years to come!

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