Saturday, September 13, 2014

“Reesa’s Slide and Ride”
Sun.Star Davao, Sept. 13, 2014
Ariana Melissa Tempongko Villanueva, or Reesa to her family and close friends, is an avid home baker. Chocolate Chip Cookies, Red Velvet and Carrot Cupcakes are among her scrumptious bestsellers.

Currently a second year college student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Reesa is taking up BS Community Nutrition.

Recently, Reesa celebrated her 18th birthday, with a unique concoction that warms the heart.

Here is the recipe for Reesa’s satisfying birthday treat!


Reesa’s decision to forego the traditional cotillion was not made overnight.

As the daughter of Gawad Kalinga (GK) full-time worker Ricky Villanueva, she was a mere 4-year old kid when her father started bringing her to communities to paint houses, till backyard vegetable gardens and play with the children of the GK villages.

Gawad Kalinga, which means to “give care” in Filipino, is recognized globally as a world-class Filipino movement for nation building. It has built close to 2,000 beautiful and thriving communities for the poorest of the poor.

At the age of 18, Reesa was ready to choose a road less-travelled, and to celebrate a milestone in her teenage life.

How else? The GK way! Where else? Her favorite village – GK Pueblo Antonio in Catigan, Toril, Davao City.


Reesa had to give something concrete, something that the community would benefit from for the long-term.

A stainless work table for the ube processors? Too serious. A fresh coat of paint for the GK houses? Too grown-up.

Even at 18, Reesa was still a child at heart. Bingo! An outdoor playground! The garden fronting the Daycare Center was conveniently vacant – a void that two sets of slides, swings and see-saws would do well to fill.

A GK Playground, this would be Reesa’s long-lasting and tangible legacy to GK Pueblo Antonio!


What is an 18th birthday celebration without a party?

And, so, Reesa planned a typical children’s party – complete with the staple fried chicken and spaghetti (cooked by the Pueblo Antonio Cooperative), chocolate cupcakes (from the ovens of GK Sakadab Village); fun games and prizes; party give-aways; and the party clown who entertained the children for an entire morning.

The highlight of the celebration was the unveiling of the stone marker, Ariana’s Slide and Ride, which formally opened the playground to the children of GK Pueblo Antonio.


This was to be the icing on Reesa’s proverbial cake: the Daycare children of the village came together and offered her a song, followed by a bouquet of flowers, freshly picked from the homes of the GK residents, and arranged by the mothers of GK Pueblo Antonio.

That exact moment affirmed Reesa’s conviction that a life lived for others is its greatest reward.


A whole community of children, and generations of children for years to come!

(The above article was beautifully written by Monique Tempongko-Villanueva, my good friend and the lovely mother of Reesa for Human Nature Davao’s #HeroesRising. Special thanks to Reesa’s elder sister, Kimie Villanueva, for the photos.)

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


“Breastfeeding ‘rockstar’ visits Davao”
Sun.Star Davao, August 30, 2014

They say that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Indeed, the same rings true for mothers for it takes a village to help a mom rear her young.

And, it is with this motto that LATCH, a group of breastfeeding peer counselors, has made it possible to bring Dr. Jack Newman, a renowned pediatrician in the field of breastfeeding, recently for a breastfeeding symposium at the SMX Convention Center Davao.

L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help) is a non-profit organization that offers quality lactation education and peer counseling services to mothers who wish to breastfeed.

“It is the mission of these breastfeeding advocates to educate and empower doctors, nurses, midwives, doulas, mothers, fathers and other members of the family not only on the benefits of breastfeeding but the risks of artificial feeding; to break the myths by providing evidence-based studies; and to simply listen to their stories”, says Julie Lapaz of LATCH Davao.

"At Dr. Newman’s breastfeeding symposium, he talked about the norms of a breastfed baby including the numbers that dealt with weight gain; misuse of growth charts and scales; and jaundice. He also showed several video clips on babies and mothers with whom he has consulted and helped”, Julie shares.

Doctors and nurses from leading hospitals, a team from a maternity center and mothers and fathers came to listen to the breastfeeding ‘rockstar’ and learn as he answered questions from the audience, dispel several myths and illustrate the correct and proper ways to address each need.

The latest edition of his bestselling book, “Guide to Breastfeeding”, was also sold onsite and was signed personally by Dr. Newman to the delight of the attendees.

Davao City is just one of the three cities visited by Dr. Newman this year. Aside from Davao, he also conducted a symposium in Manila and Cebu during his Philippine tour.

The theme for this year’s tour is entitled “Breastfeeding Uncovered: Mission Possible”.

"This is a very apt theme as the mission of LATCH is to help and support mothers and their families. It is also to show to the public that it is indeed possible to breastfeed successfully”, explains Julie.

The Dr. Jack Newman symposium also coincided with the Breastfeeding Awareness Month this August.

“Breastfeeding is a public health issue and mothers should be educated and enlightened so they are able to make an informed decision in nourishing and giving the best to their baby”, Julie, the ever passionate breastfeeding advocate, enthuses.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

“Ladies in bloom”
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 16, 2014

With the theme, “Nature: A Blessing for Ikebana”, the thirty-two members of the Ikebana International Davao Chapter 133 showcased their ingenious floral art creations in a world-class exhibit recently at the SM Lanang Premier.

Now on its 46th year, the society’s Davao members are especially bound by a common passion for self-expression through the breathtaking art of ikebana.

Ikebana is the well-loved Japanese art of flower arrangement. However, unlike the conventional way of arranging flowers, ikebana enthusiasts express their creativity within certain rules of construction. They utilize organic materials such as branches, leaves, grasses, flowers, among others, to come up with their works of art. The final ‘masterpiece’ is considered a “living thing where nature and humanity are brought together”.

This Kadayawan, be amazed at the ladies in bloom of Ikebana Davao as they share their blossoming love affair with ikebana!

President, Ikebana International Davao Chapter 133 (2012-2014)

*How did you get into ikebana? 

            Señora Esther de Jesus invited a group of Latinas to attend a meeting of Ikebana International Davao Chapter 133, but I couldn't understand anything since I didn't speak English, but thank goodness all the ladies didn't mind and accepted me as a member regardless of the language barrier.

*How long have you been a member of this group?

            From 2004 to the present…10 years!

*Were you always a creative person (into art/flower arrangement/crafts)?
            I do not consider myself creative (with my hands) but I do have a lot of energy and a drive for event organizing and activities. I have the gift to encourage people and inspire change and involve everyone in the process.

*If you are a beginner, what necessary materials/tools should you invest in when doing ikebana?

            When you are a beginner your heart and personality are your main and necessary tools and materials. After you've defined your tendency and style of work, you can move on to other tools and materials. With just any vase (from kitchenware to a bag), a kenzan, and the beautiful diversity of flowers and plants in Davao, and our gardens, you can create wonders.

            *Note: “A kenzan, also called ‘spiky frog’, is a specific device used in the Japanese art of flower arrangement, ikebana, for fixing the flowers in the container.  It consists of a heavy lead plate with erected brass needles where the stipes are fixed” (Source: Wikipedia)

*Why do you love ikebana?
            I love ikebana because Ikebana Davao welcomed me with arms wide open when I had no clue about English or ikebana. When I was pregnant with my daughter Zury, a teacher who came from Japan said I had a life inside and explained the connection between the life of my daughter and nature and beauty and creativity, after all, 'Man is nature's guest'. ‎ In addition, when my house burned down a year ago, plus other problems I've gone through, the members of the I.I. Davao Chapter have always been there for me.

*What was the theme of your two works during the recent exhibit? How did the materials and design represent your theme?

            The styles I used for my arrangement belong to the school of Sogetsu, which is a school of Ikebana International.

            The first arrangement I created represented my personality, shin (heaven) and soe (man) with my trademark curly hair. For hikae (earth), I used the cattleya orchid, the national flower of Colombia because I’m Colombian. The two ceramic shoes symbolize my hobby of dancing. 

            The second arrangement, the broken electric fan, is my way of telling the world that even recycling materials can be used to express the beauty of nature, imagination, and conservation of the environment.

*You’ve been the Ikebana (Davao chapter) president for two years, how was your experience, so far?

            I had to work on my conversational and comprehensive English, as well as to continue the relationship between the Filipino, Latin, and Japanese cultures because ikebana is an art originated from Japan.

            I also had to start learning about the native trees, plants, and flowers of the Philippines. Ever since I became president, I have been lucky to have the unconditional support of Honorable Japanese Consul  Koichi Ibara and his lovely wife, Madam Mariko Ibara.

            I have been invited to participate in the King of Festivals, “Kadayawan”. I also had the opportunity to travel to other provinces and institutions that were affected by the typhoons Pablo and Yolanda.

            I have also visited other countries to represent the Davao chapter, which has let me meet new people. They have immensely helped my growth as a person.

*What were the highlights of the recent Ikebana event?

            I am grateful for my family's support, especially my husband Roberto Barnett, and my kids Eric, Harry and Zury.

            To see every single member's work; to see their passion, imagination, and heart left in their arrangement; seeing the effort and love exerted by both the new members as well as the older members such as Ms. Dally Soriano and Mr. Boy Guino-o was such a joy!

            I was in awe seeing all the members dressed in Filipiniana for the most important event of the chapter. It was overwhelming to stand in front of the exhibition and marvel at the rainbow of colors and emotions. I had that peaceful feeling which was transmitted through nature's gracious hands.

            We were also privileged to have representatives of the Ikebana International (I.I.) Manila Chapter 108, I.I. Cebu Chapter 145, and I.I. Cagayan de Oro Chapter 163, join us for the exhibit.


*How did you get into ikebana? 

            I was invited by the Ikebana Davao president Danney Barnett, who is the patient and friend of my dentist-husband Chin.

*How long have you been a member of this group?
            Almost a year, I joined the group last Sept 2013.

*Were you always a creative person (into art/flower arrangement/crafts)?

            I have always loved arts and crafts but I haven’t dabbled in flower arrangements until now.         

*Why do you love ikebana?
            After several workshops, my perception of plants and flowers has changed! My appreciation of nature was elevated to a whole new level.

*What was the theme of your work during the recent exhibit?

            I made sure to infuse the Filipino theme to my Japanese arrangement. My theme is “Maria Clara”. I used lisanthium and fox tail to symbolize the Maria Clara ladies who are very simple, elegant and lady-like. The papyrus represents the strong Filipino men. I was fortunate to have found an antique vase that went perfectly with my theme.


*How did you get into Ikebana? 
            Dr. Jennifer Lim was the one who invited me to join ikebana with her since they were looking for younger members for the group. 

*How long have you been a member of this group?
            I have been a member since October of last year.

*Were you always a creative person (into art/flower arrangement/crafts)?

            I’ve always been interested in the arts. I am into water color, painting, scrapbooking and crafting. In college, I had a subject in flower arrangement because I took up Interior Design. However, it was totally different from the ikebana style.

*Why do you love ikebana?
            I love the minimalist elegant style of ikebana; using different kinds of materials that can be unique; and one you can't imagine to actually look really good together after being arranged.

*What was the theme of your work during the recent exhibit?

            I utilized variation no. 2, slanting style (moribana) for my work. Since the theme was recycling materials, I used a vintage vase from my grandfather, a wooden tray from a serving plate I had at home, and foliage from my father-in-law's garden. As for the flowers, I especially ordered Colombian roses from Waling Flowers.


*How did you get into ikebana? 

            My grandmother, Carmen M. Soriano, was the founder of Ikebana Davao Chapter 133 and a certified ikebana teacher. I grew up seeing her make arrangements daily. She used different materials. When I was 10 years old, she taught me Ikenobo. We only had a few sessions though. I did not appreciate it much at that time since I would prefer to do other things.

            Last year, my mom (who is also a longtime member) made me join the Sogetsu workshop. After that, I joined Ikebana Davao together with my other two cousins. We were all new.

*How long have you been a member of this group?

          One year

*Were you always a creative person (into art/flower arrangement/crafts)?

           Not really. I had to get out of my comfort zone once I learned the basics. I had to research and use my imagination to create the arrangement that I had in mind. Sometimes, it comes out the way I like it. Sometimes, it doesn’t. Nevertheless, I learn from it.

*If you are a beginner, what necessary materials/tools should you invest in when doing ikebana?

            A pair of garden scissors, kenzan, flat vase or container and a tall cylindrical vase. If you don’t have the flat vase, a square or rectangular Pyrex will do---but just for practice.
*Why do you love ikebana?
            I love ikebana because I discover something new every day. I have become observant with the plants around me, looking for lines and leaves. When I am making my arrangement, I lose track of time because I am fully occupied with the task and having fun at the same time.

*What was the theme of your work during the recent exhibit?

            First of all, I wanted to do a slanting nageire. I wanted something in full bloom, something rich, simple yet elegant. I definitely wanted pink. I found my lines in the garden. It’s golden duranta. I used it for the Sogetsu workshop last month. After that, I had it dried. The container was simply gorgeous. It was perfect for the slanting style. I borrowed it from my mom which originally belonged to my Lola. For the flowers, I bought 2 dozens of pink lisianthus. I bunched it together to make it look as a big flower. It matched the lines and container very well. The arrangement came out as how I wanted it.


*How did you get into ikebana? 

            By invitation from the current Ikebana International Davao Chapter president Danney Barnett
*How long have you been a member of this group?
             Less than a year as a certified member
*Why do you love ikebana?
            It's a good feeling! Whatever you make surely brightens up any place.

*What was the theme of your work during the recent exhibit?

            I can't really say I have a specific theme aside from nature that is common to all arrangements. Using what's available at home is always a thought in mind. With my dear husband's insistence, I started with the use of this very long acquired dried green turned yellow fern. He said I should think of incorporating it with my arrangement as it's quite unique and different. The same goes with the dark-coloured slim branches that blend well with the fern colour. Those fresh branches of variegated leaves came from our garden while the red-orange flowers are store-bought liliums. Now, to add an accessory to the arrangement, I chose this upside-down bamboo table to add some point of interest and to show a twist in continuity of the materials used. The black lunch box cloth-wrap was so placed to add a sense of calmness and emphasis on the colours used. Whether dried or fresh or processed, you can take note that the materials came from nature.


*How did you get into ikebana? 

       Ikebana has always been a part of my life.  For as long as I can remember, my grandmother, the late Doña Carmen Soriano, has always had a passion for the art.  Lola Carmen loved the art so much that she wanted to share her passion with others here in Davao. She eventually became the founder of Ikebana Davao Chapter.
             At the same time, my mother, Sonia Gempesaw, was also just as passionate about the art. So you can imagine all the materials that were lying around the house and of course, the beautiful arrangements that came out of the flowers, twigs, and leaves.  We always had such gorgeous arrangements at home made from freshly-cut materials coming from the gardens.

            This was something I took for granted until I finally decided to join the Ikebana Chapter here in Davao late last year. 
               Little by little, I began to familiarize myself with the art and found that I was beginning to enjoy it. That’s how I got into it.

*How long have you been a member of this group?

            I joined Ikebana Chapter 133 in September of last year, along with my two cousins, Lea Tionko-Imperial and Tina Peralta-Tionko.

*Were you always a creative person (into art/flower arrangement/crafts)?

            I believe creativity exists in everyone.  For some people, this is expressed through writing, painting, or the creation of handicrafts.  In my case, I have always been interested in expressing myself through arts and crafts.  Long before I joined Ikebana Davao, I was already into making my own topiaries during the holidays.  I think that my grandmother had a strong influence on me and my other cousins.

*If you are a beginner, what necessary materials/tools should you invest in when doing ikebana?

            The basic materials needed for ikebana are the following:  a good kenzan, different coloured and shaped vases (these need not be expensive), good garden scissors, and of course, flowers and other materials such as leaves and twigs.

*Why do you love ikebana?
            Ikebana is the art of creating symbols of nature through arrangements.  I love ikebana because it allows me to be creative.  It gives me the silence I need to create and share a piece of my soul through the arrangements.  Just like my mother and my grandmother, my love for nature is expressed through ikebana.  Even as an amateur, I enjoy being able to create a piece that captures my take on nature.  I’m lucky enough to have been exposed to the different ways of presenting arrangements which has helped me develop an artistic eye for the art. I think that the ikebana arrangements make a house look pretty and homey.

*What was the theme of your work during the recent exhibit?

            The theme of my work during this recent exhibit is to show the uniqueness and beauty of nature through my arrangement.  It is a symbol of nature as seen through my eyes.  I chose materials that were not very common.  For this year’s exhibit, I also chose colors that represent nature well.  Yellow is such a happy color.  The patch of yellow represents the brightness of the colors of nature.  The leaves from the box plant represent nature’s sturdiness as well.  The deep green color of the box plant’s leaves is so pretty and is a great contrast with the brightness of the orchid.  

         Special thanks to Kenneth Hao for the photos of Danney Barnett and the Ikebana International Davao Chapter 133 group.  

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

“A L.AT.C.H. made in heaven”
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 2, 2014

There is a Jewish proverb that says “God could not be everywhere, so He created mothers”.

With this, the mommy members of  L.A.T.C.H.  Davao Peer Counselors reach out with kindness and understanding to support, promote and protect breastfeeding.

L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help) is a non-profit organization established in Manila in 2006 that offers quality lactation education and peer counseling services to mothers who wish to breastfeed.

For mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, the presence of this breastfeeding support group in Davao is indeed “a L.A.T.C.H. made in heaven”!

“We cannot ignore the statistics and data showing the importance of breastfeeding”, shares Keryl Lee-Tan of L.A.T.C.H. Davao.

Keryl continues that as “a global public health recommendation, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health.”

According to L.A.T.C.H. Davao, “breastfeeding is a learned skill that both mom and baby need to master, and the most critical time for success is when the baby is brought home from the hospital”.

Keryl explains that “mothers begin to doubt their capacity to nourish their child because of unsupportive family members, lack of information, unnecessary separation of mom and baby during the time of birth or during the hospital stay, and the like”.

But, Keryl clarifies that moms do not need rescuers for breastfeeding; all they need is the right information, encouragement and support.

And, this is where L.A.T.C.H.  Davao comes in as a response to the WHO mother-baby friendly initiative, Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, specifically in step number 10, which is to “foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic”.

L.A.T.C.H. Peer Counselors are, first of all, breastfeeding mothers who have experienced the challenges and benefits of breastfeeding with the awareness that they all create ripples that affect each other.

Recognizing the impact of media and society in undermining breastfeeding, L.A.T.C.H. Davao’s main goal is to educate and empower mothers by giving them the right information, backed up by evidence-based data, information and practices.

The organization regularly holds breastfeeding talks within the city and counseling within the community.

For the breastfeeding month of August, L.A.T.C.H. has invited Canadian pediatrician and breastfeeding expert Dr. Jack Newman for a one-day symposium on breastfeeding. The event will be on August 11, 2014, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the SMX Convention Center at SM Lanang Premier. This is a tri-city event with Manila holding theirs on August 9 and Cebu on August13.

Topics to be discussed include: “what they didn't teach you about breastfeeding in your training; norms for the first few days and numbers on demand; and norms for a breastfeeding baby”.

For more information about the symposium, go to or email or text  (0905) 353-7144.

To receive updates about L.A.T.C.H. Davao's activities, “like” their Facebook page at

 Special thanks to Mima Tan of MIMATHOLOGY for the fabulous photos!