Saturday, February 28, 2015


“4 decades of DATA
Sun.Star Davao, Feb. 28, 2015

Back in the mid-90s to early 2000, I had the privilege of expressing my deep love for Davao through my work at the Davao City Tourism Office.

I was in my early 20s then, passionate and eager to do my personal share in promoting Davao to the Philippines and the world.  One of the best times I’ve definitely had during this ‘season’ in my life was the unforgettable chance to collaborate with the private sector, particularly, the vibrant Davao Tourism Association (DATA).

DATA recently celebrated its 40th or Ruby Year Anniversary at The Marco Polo Grand Ballroom. 

Looking at the program’s list of past presidents, I felt honored to have worked with the likes of industry leaders Mary Ann ‘Baby’ Montemayor, Margarita ‘Margie’ Moran-Floirendo, George Walter Misa, and Art Boncato through my involvement with DATA as well as Women in Travel, SKAL Davao, among others.

Art Boncato, who now serves as the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Tourism, shares the story of how DATA came to be. “In the 70s, Davao tourism private sector leaders organized DATA with four gentlemen taking the cudgels of nurturing an infant organization”, says Asec. Art.

DATA’s first president was travel trade player Ricardo Acuña followed by historian and restaurateur Rogelio Lizada, Philippine Airlines executive Napoleon Doctor, and hotelier Ding Diaz.

“With their pioneering vision for tourism, DATA has counted years of strengthening the tourism industry in the city. DATA’s landmark projects and achievements include the hosting of an annual cultural gathering in the 70s that is considered the mother of the Apo Duwaling Festival (Mt. Apo, durian, waling-waling) and now the successful Kadayawan Festival; several prestigious Kalakbay Awards for Best Association from the Department of Tourism (DOT); and Hall of Fame Award for Best Pavilion from the DOT and Philippine Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) at the Philippine Travel Mart (PTM)”, says Asec. Art.

He continues that the “game-changing Mindanao Culinary Festival (MCF); the trailblazing Php 7 million GATT Tourism Skills Training Program; Balik Davao blitzes in the US; the first of its kind eco-adventure travel trade show dubbed as 90s ‘Go! Mindanao Travel and Tour Expo’; recent MICE bids on MICE Conference 2013 (won); Philippine Advertising Congress (won but the event was cancelled); APEC 2015 (shortlisted), among others” were also among the many contributions of DATA to the tourism industry.

As DATA’s momentous Ruby Year was held on Chinese New Year, guests as well as past and present officers were encouraged to wear the auspicious color red.

The indefatigable Baby Montemayor, Chairman of the 4 Decades of DATA Steering Committee, eloquently delivered the welcome remarks. She highlighted the importance of DATA’s role in steering the Davao tourism industry to what it is today. “And, now the city is reaping the benefits”, she enthused.

After dinner, city, regional and national tourism updates were given respectively by the Davao City Tourism Operations Officer Lisette Marques; Department of Tourism Region XI director Robby Alabado; and DOT Assistant Secretary Art Boncato.

In addition, art pieces from Davao artist Vic Secuya’s Cross Series were presented to 16 (4 of which were posthumous) past DATA presidents, namely: Ricardo Acuña, Rogelio Lizada, Napoleon Doctor, Ding Diaz, Mariano Pamintuan, Claude Le Neindre, George Walter Misa, Efren Veneracion, Joji Ilagan Bian, Rudolf Lopez, Mary Ann Montemayor, Margarita Floirendo, George Walter Misa, Arturo Boncato (who was DATA president twice), Paul Borromeo, Angel Puentespina, Gene Bangayan and current president Salome San Jose.

Event sponsor Marco Polo Davao’s Francis Ledesma and DATA logo creator Lou Almendras were likewise honored with Secuya’s exquisite artwork.

Kudos to the 4 Decades of DATA Steering Committee, chair Baby Montemayor, co-chair Gene Bangayan, program head Paul Borromeo, solicitations/finance head Alexander Divinagracia, food and physical arrangement head Baby Montemayor and Lena Benedicto, awards/AVP head DOT through the Office of Asec. Art Boncato and secretariat Konkordans, Inc., for a well-attended and fun affair!

I shall forever be grateful to my loving mommy mentors during my tourism days, especially Tita Baby Montemayor, Ninang Gene Bangayan and former DOT Region XI director Kiling Dakudao, who have inspired me to work with grace even under pressure. It was truly wonderful to reconnect with the other DATA officers who I haven’t seen in years during their recent Ruby Anniversary!

My sincerest thanks to Paul Borromeo for the event photos.

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Saturday, February 14, 2015

“We are home”
Sun.Star Davao, Feb. 14, 2015

It was a spectacular night for the Davao Christian High School (DCHS) Batch 1990 as they successfully hosted the DCHS Alumni Homecoming on their 25th anniversary last February 7, 2015 at the DCHS Auditorium.

Dubbed as “We are Home”, the batch dedicated the event to their beloved mentors who devotedly nurtured them throughout their stay in the institution. Heart-warming messages and tributes from the batch and from former teachers were some of the event highlights which served as inspiration to the younger generation of the school.

Indeed, it was a captivating evening for the 1,400 attendees of the homecoming’s mini-concert as celebrity guests, singer and ‘80s heartthrob Mr. Raymond Lauchengco, Michael Diamse (a.k.a. Daniel Padilla ng Davao), and host-comedienne Ms. Giselle Sanchez serenaded the guests with songs befitting this month of hearts.

There was never a dull moment with zany host Giselle as she delivered her punch lines one after the other, eliciting boisterous laughter and big smiles from the audience.

During the event, DCHS Batch 1999 launched the limited edition DCHS Swatch Watch with special guest and fellow DCHS alumnus Marco Ho a.k.a. Bogart the Explorer from Davao City. The winning design for the personalized DCHS Swatch was created by Architect/Pastor Samuel Lim.

Drawing the raffle prize winners left a few breathless as they eagerly awaited the results. Prizes ranged from home appliances, gadgets, mountain bike to a Ford EcoSport as the grand prize.

Through their hard work, cooperation and support from generous friends and sponsors, the DCHS Batch 1990 turned over their check donation to the DCHS Board of Trustees for one new classroom at the DCHS C.P. Garcia Campus along Diversion Road. The 5.7-hectare DCHS campus (Phase 1) is set to open on June 2015 offering preschool to Grade 5 on its first year of operation.

A silver year passed, another silver year to look forward to. The succeeding DCHS Batch 1991 alumni will surely have big shoes to fill when they host their homecoming.

Special thanks to Susan Huang-Tan, Ryan Gaw, Lilie Herrera-Gaw, Marga Bulao and Mark Kong for the interview and photos.

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Saturday, January 31, 2015

‘The Cat in the Hat’ party blast
Sun.Star Davao, Jan. 31, 2015

Who doesn’t love the witty and adventure-filled children’s book, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss? It was one of the first iconic books we read as a child.

The rambunctious six-foot tall cat in a red and white-striped hat with a red bow tie suddenly appears at Sally and her brother’s house one rainy day, creating wonder and amazement, and yes, lots of chaos, too.

It is indeed heartwarming to know that the well-loved “The Cat in the Hat” book continues to charm its little readers to this day. Five-year old Aly, eldest daughter of entrepreneurs Andrew James and Mabel Yuzon, is one such fan. Reading the zany book to her younger brother Alessandro Luis or Alessi is a daily activity they immensely enjoy together.

Thus, when it was time to decide on a theme for Alessi’s first birthday, there was no head scratching as to who the party’s main character would be. It just had to be “The Cat in the Hat”, no doubt about it!

Managing their various businesses Alchemy Outsourcing, Sushi Dito Restaurant, Hybrid and Echelon and planning for Alessi’s birthday party blast was a juggling act for Mabel.

Good thing that Creations Party Depot’s Marie Lo and Ena Tai came to the rescue and made the party preps a manageable and pleasant experience for the busy mom.    

Held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel’s ballroom, Alessi’s 1st birthday party was a tribute to Dr. Seuss’ endearing book from its predominantly blue and red colored decorations, ceiling works and table centerpieces. The backdrop showcased the book’s characters the Cat, Sally, the brother, Fish, Thing One and Thing Two.

“As parents, we also love Dr. Seuss’ quotes! They are important lessons our children can live by”, shares Mommy Mabel. So, Creations Party Depot made sure to highlight these quotable quotes in the table setting.

Alessi’s three-tiered and brightly-hued birthday cake featuring Thing One, Thing Two, the fish in the bowl and the Lorax trees was marvelously created by All of Us Cakes. “The cake just doesn’t look good but tastes great as well”, says Mabel.

Dressed as “The Cat in the Hat”, the party host organized classic party games that kids, moms and dads enjoyed. “We wanted our guests to take part in familiar games but added a few twists involving parents and guardians”, quips the hands-on mom.          
And, just like the Cat’s tricks where he balances the fish on the tip of his umbrella; and several household items, among the highlights of Alessi’s birthday celebration was the thrilling performance of acrobats who did balancing stunts that left the audience at the edge of their seats.

“The family of acrobats composed of a dad, mom and their three kids, the youngest being 4 years old, was handpicked by us because we want the kiddie guests to learn that anything is possible as long as they keep trying. And, they must not forget to have fun while doing challenges!”, enthuses Mabel.

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”--Dr. Seuss (“The Cat in the Hat”)

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Saturday, January 17, 2015

“Dani’s wonderful world of Winx”
Sun.Star Davao, Jan. 17, 2015

Her big smile warms my heart. She shouts my name and waves her hand ever so gleefully that you would think we haven’t seen each other for ages.     This is how Danielle Christy Guiani Fuentes or Dani affectionately greets me every time I see her in school.

Dani is my good friend Toni’s bright and cheerful Grade 1 daughter who recently held her 7th birthday at Lispher Inn.

We wanted a simple and intimate party to celebrate with family and friends; thanking the Lord for the six wonderful years of Dani’s life”, says Toni, a breastfeeding advocate and owner of Nappy Hub Cloth Diaper Online Shop.

Together with Dani’s Daddy Troy and younger brother Wedi, Mommy Toni made their only girl’s birthday extra special by showcasing the well-loved Winx Club theme.

"Dani just loves Winx. They are her favorite fairy characters and our family also loves how the fairies are good-natured and courageous who defend the helpless. We hope that Dani will also possess and grow up with these endearing qualities”, says Toni.

Planning for the party was quite a breeze, thanks to Toni’s ever reliable fellow ‘Peas in a Pod’ moms Marie Lo and Ena Marie Tai of Creations Party Depot who imaginatively highlighted the Winx Club fairies Bloom and her five best friends, Stella, Musa, Tecna, Flora and Aisha at Lispher.

Donning her dainty pink-colored tutu and vibrant wings which magically moves and plays music with just the clap of the hands, Dani was giddy with excitement seeing the party venue filled with her ultimate faves.

While the guests waited for the party to start, kids immersed themselves in arts and crafts activities themed with Winx Club fairies.

Dani delighted the guests with her heart-warming rendition of “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart” which also served as her celebration’s opening prayer.
Dynamic party host Kring Kring Recla led the little ones in playing enjoyable parlor games while the parents busied themselves going around the food carts which were serving popcorn and French fries.
As Dani blew the candles of her birthday cake fabulously made by Cupcake Couture, she was beaming with happiness; grateful to God and her “fairy” friends for the memorable birthday party filled with much love and fun.

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