Surviving the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park challenge

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The last stop of our whole-day countryside tour was a visit to the Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAP). Since the original view deck has been damaged by the earthquake in October, tourists are instead brought to this new establishment in Carmen, Bohol.

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Welcome to Chocolate Hills Adventure Park (CHAP).

To get a breathtaking view of the famous chocolates hills of the province, you need to climb 248 steps to get to the CHAP’s view point. But it’s worth the sweat when you get to see the sweeping panorama of grass-covered hills.

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248 steps. Let’s do this!

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Easy!

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The hills are alive.

You can also see the original view deck from the CHAP view deck. It’s not as high as the original but the view is breathtaking nonetheless.

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The original view deck (top, extreme left) as seen from the CHAP view deck.

Camera 360

This writer at the CHAP view deck.

 

It’s also up there that you can experience the CHAP Bike Zip. It’s basically riding a bicycle in the skysuspended 100 ft from the ground!The Bike Zip is 275 meters per way so just imagine the thrill and chills you get when you’re up there. You get to bike from one chocolate hill to another. Unfortunately, it was raining at the time of our visit so we were not given the green light to try the Bike Zip.

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Are you game? Photo courtesy of the park’s Facebook page

But the Bike Zip is only the appetizer. Down the view deck is the 9-course adventure trail that four of us from the Bohol media team (Inquirer’s Walter Villa, DZRH’s Ruth Abao and boyfriend Jon) tried to conquer. The course became even more challenging because the rain would not stop pouring down. Hence, the slippery steps in all nine courses.

Thanks to Walter Villa’s GoPro camera, we have proof that, yes, we completed all nine courses to join the elite circle of only a few people who finished this adventure.

And oh, I am proud to say that the staff told me I AM THE FIRST FILIPINA TO COMPLETE THE CHALLENGING NINE COURSES AT THE CHOCOLATE HILLS ADVENTURE PARK (CHAP)!!!

These are the nine courses that tested our strength, endurance, strategy and most of all, patience:

1. Hanging Bridge (2 stages)

2. Islands in the Sky

3. Burma Loops

4. Burma Planks

5. Earthquake

6. Vine Walk

7. Jacob’s Walk

8. Tyrolean

9. Zipline

The last two courses are actually a combination of zipline and tyrolean. You only get to zipline on half of the course and then you do the tyrolean traverse for the rest of the course. Leaving the course is as adventurous as you rappel your way down.

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Pathway to the restaurant and souvenir shop (to the left) and events place (to the right).

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Souvenirs, anyone?

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Viewing deck, straight ahead. Serpentarium, turn left.

The park also features a restaurant, souvenir shop, events place (there was a wedding reception going on when we were there), pockets gardens, and serpentarium.

The place was not yet fully operational when we were there. But it has already been visited by tourists, including America’s Next Top Model winner Sophie Sumners (who wasn’t able to finish the course because she’s afraid of heights). I believe CHAP is now open to the public. Check out details here.

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He says, She says: 13 secrets to make it to your 13th anniversary (even beyond)

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There are countless articles about this topic when you search it on Google. Admit it: when you read about these things, you make a checklist or a mental note of what applies to you and what does not, what you can do and what you can just ignore. 

Since we’re in a long-term relationship, our friends would usually consult us on how to go about with their own lovelife. We’d like to believe we’re already experts on the topic, but that will make us stop learning about love and discovering things about each other. Truth be told, we’re also constantly working on making our relationship work—yes, even to this day because that’s just how it is. Our relationship is not perfect; it’s actually a never-ending work in progress. 

As we celebrate our 13th anniversary, we’d like to share 13 secrets that have helped us get to where we are right now in our relationship. You can do the checklist thing, but at least you’re assured that these things worked for us. 

1. Be the best of friends.

He says: We find great joy in doing simple things together, just like true-blooded BFFs. We are there for each other during our high and low points because we know how important it is when you know that someone cares. We’re very comfortable with each other that we can tell each other things that other people won’t even dare tell us. That’s the great thing about having a best friend: I know that whatever happens to me, she’s got my back. And I got hers. Always.

Best friends forever: Chot and Jerni.

Chocolate Hills in Bohol, 2010.

2. Differences? Accept and adjust.

She says: He’s quiet and reserved, I can’t last 5 minutes without talking. He adores LeBron, I have a huge crush on Kobe. He’s patience personified, I get irritated when I wait. We are on the opposite sides of the magnet. But that’s the beauty of it: remember that opposite sides of the magnet attract.  It also adds spice to the relationship, especially when you “trash talk” each other’s basketball team. Learn to accept your differences and use them to learn more about each other. Use a double-A battery (Acceptance and Adjustment) when dealing with low-power scenarios such as personal differences. Get it?

Kobe or LeBron? We saw them both here in Manila!

3. Love each other’s family and friends.

She says: A you-and-me-against-the-world love story may be romantic, but only to a certain point. It’s happier to have each other’s family and friends approve of the relationship—and support it all the way! Chot and I love spending quality time with our families. That’s also one thing I admire the most about him: his utmost respect and love for his parents and eight siblings. A preview of what he will be when he decides to have his own family!

With my family: Boracay, 2013.

With his family: Nuvali, 2013.

We also make it a point to get to know each other’s friends by spending time with them (even traveling with them). I still discover a lot about him by simply being friends with his friends. My girl friends are comfortable having him around because they, too, love him. My little brothers, who mean the world to me, also love him because he treats them as if they are his own baby brothers. How can you not love a guy whom your family and friends love?

With his college barkada: Balicasag Island in Bohol, 2010.

With my college barkada: Festival Mall, 2011.

With his high school barkada: Alabang Town Center, 2013.

With my high school barkada: Loboc in Bohol, 2010.

4. Always say ‘I love you’ and mean it.

He says: Saying “I love you” doesn’t have to be an automatic thing. When you say it, make sure that you mean it. I say “I love you” because I want her to know how grateful I am for having her in my life. Why get into a relationship when you cannot and do not want to express your love for the other person? These three words is a lifetime validation of my love for this amazing girl and I will never tire of telling her how I feel about her.

Saying it with Mer-Nel’s.


5. Remember important dates.

She says: Wonder why your girlfriend is mad at you when you don’t even remember doing anything naughty? Studies have shown that men are really poor with dates. But I beg to disagree. Men who are truly, madly, deeply in love with you will remember important dates (anniversary, birthday, movie date, among others). Celebrating monthsaries can be cheesy for some. But it has worked for us. Since we became a couple, never once did we let a monthsary pass without celebrating it. Yes, in all 13 years!

Valentine’s Day, 2014.

A long-stemmed rose and healthy dinner to celebrate our 147th monthsary.


6. Find time to really sit down and talk.

He says: Every day is a struggle to survive the rat race. We are so busy trying to beat deadlines, finish meetings or submit reports. Because we are always in a hurry, we often resort to online tools to communicate with each other. There’s nothing wrong with that. But in our fast-paced life, we sometimes forget that quantity time is as important as quality time. We treasure moments in the car when we would tell each other about our day as much as we cherish weekends spent together getting a massage, pigging out and just discussing anything. By constantly talking to each other, you discover a lot about your significant other. So drop that gadget and start talking now.

Lobo Beach in Batangas, 2012.


7. Never let other people join in your fights.

He says: Keep private things private. Although you let other people in your life, don’t give them the passes to be involved in your quarrels. I know a lot of people who rant about their misunderstandings with their partner on social media. If you haven’t noticed yet, let me tell you: turning to social media (which is public and therefore open to comments, interpretations and suggestions) is a recipe for disaster. Solve your issues privately. There are things better kept between the two of you. Trust us on this one. 

Apology accepted.


8. Share lessons on love.

She says: If there are things you can share with other people, these are the nuggets of wisdom you gained from being in the relationship. You’ll never know, a simple advice could be the lifeline of a relationship that is on the rocks. If you think your experience can be of help to others, then go ahead and share it. You are reading this post because we believe that you may be able to pick up a lesson or two from our experiences as a couple.

Marriott Hotel Manila, 2013.


9. Be happy for each other’s triumphs.

He says: We enjoy celebrating our accomplishments and achievements. Whether it’s a simple takeout lunch or a sit-down dinner, we toast to our triumphs. I do not subscribe to the belief that men should always be more successful than their partner. It did not make me less of a man when I took on the role of her “driver” and “escort” on special occasions like the launch of the book she edited or events she’s part of. I am sincerely proud of her as she has been my inspiration to fulfill my own dreams. She encourages me to become my own person and be a better version of myself every time. Be each other’s source of positivity and you’ll surely celebrate more happy times.

Surviving the dual zipline in Dahilayan Park in Bukidnon, 2013.

Jumping for joy in Coron, 2012.


10. Do things together, especially traveling.

He says: In relationships, it’s important to invest in memories. Although we have different interests, we make it a point to spend time doing these things together. Case in point: just recently, we were both glued to the TV but we were watching different shows (mine’s the PBA Finals, hers was Asia’s Next Top Model). Different shows, different TV sets, different areas of the house (I was in the living room, she was in her room), but we were holding hands while watching.

 

Discovering Luzon: (Top to bottom) Baguio, 2011; Punta Fuego, 2011; and Legaspi in Albay, 2009.

Over the years, we’ve realized that if there’s one thing that brings us closer as a couple, it’s traveling. Her passion to explore places has obviously rubbed off on me. She introduced me to Mr. Airplane several years ago when I joined her on a trip to Naga. That was the first of our many travels together. As a couple, we’ve alredy discovered amazing and breathtaking places and basked in their beauty (in random order): Boracay, Bohol, Palawan, Cebu, Iloilo, Guimaras, Sorsogon, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Camiguin, Bukidnon, among many others.

Invading Visayas: (Top to bottom) Miag-ao Church in Iloilo, 2011; Guimaras, 2011; and Oslob in Cebu, 2012.

Perhaps testament to our love for traveling is our decision to celebrate our 13th anniversary here in the island paradise of Boracay. Travel with your partner because more than the destination, you will discover a lot about her.

Exploring Mindanao: (Top to bottom) White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro, 2013; and Camiguin, 2013.

11. Take care of each other’s health.

She says: You obviously can’t make it to your 13th anniversary if you don’t get your health on the right track. I’ve found it’s important for couples to remind each other about their health—food choices, exercise time, sleeping habits, meal time, among others. It’s pretty cool when your boyfriend sends you links to health tips every day on Facebook because—snap, snap—you are at least assured that he wants you to stay in his life for a long period.

Jogging, more fun when you do it together.

Ice skating, too.


12. Talk about the future.

He says: You don’t need to be allergic to discussions about the future. There is no point in committing to a relationship if you don’t look at the long term. When I decided to court her, I knew I wanted to be with her for a long, long, long time. Even when we were just a fairly new couple, we would share with each other our individual dreams and plans. As years passed by, we slowly started mapping out our dreams as a couple. There was no pressure, it just happened almost automatically. I guess planning for the future becomes more exciting when you know you’ll be seeing the realizations of those plans with the love of your life.

Daranak Falls in Tanay, Rizal, 2011.


13. Pray together.

Need we say more? Put God at the center of your relationship. It may sound cliche but it is very, very true. And effective, too. Together, we thank and praise God for the amazing feeling of falling in love and most importantly, staying in love.

Spiritual retreat in Tagaytay, 2013.

Basilica de Sto. Nino in Cebu, 2012.

***

We’re not saying you have to do all these to make your relationship work. We cannot guarantee that. What we can only vouch for is that these things have worked for us in the last 13 years. 

No relationship is perfect. We even had arguments while this post was underway. But at the end of the day, it feels great knowing that you’re sharing your life with someone who is as imperfect as you are yet accepts and loves you for just the way you are. 

Happy 13th to us! We wish you more love in your life.

LUCKY 13: And we’re back to Boracay for our anniversary!

Toby Claudio: Turning passion for sports into powerful advocacy

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You must have done something good when something is named after you. In the case of Roberto “Toby” Claudio Jr., he already had a sporting goods store named after him when he was just five years old.

Toby Claudio with Toby’s Sports ambassadors James Yap and Michelle Gumabao.

Toby’s Sports was Roberto Sr.’s first venture into business. According to Toby, his father first sold toys in a very simple store in Virra Mall in Greenhills until he realized that sports was really his passion as he was an avid tennis player.

Today, Toby’s Sports is the biggest and most successful sporting goods house in the country – with Toby at the helm of it. The store boasts of having the widest selection of the best sports and fitness gear from global and local brands.

“In the past, sporting goods were sold beside musical instruments or you have to go to Quiapo or Raon to buy them. Toby’s Sports was the first store to combine sportswear and sports equipment in one store. Our mission is to help every Filipino live their best through sports and active lifestyle. So we make sure we provide the tools for that,” says Toby, a Business Economics graduate from UP and an accomplished athlete.

Toby furthers, “I saw it from a very early age. Sports help you not just physically but mentally. It has that power to transform lives and lifestyle, especially for kids because of the values it teaches them.”

He surely knows what he’s talking about. At five, Toby was already playing tennis. His father also got him into a lot of sports at an early age – soccer, biking, basketball, baseball, among others. Last year, Toby finished his first triathlon and was even one of the top finishers!

Observers believe that Toby’s Sports is successful because Toby himself is living proof of how sports can change a life for the better. “Sports advocacy is something I’m spending a lot of time on. If you’re a retailer and you’re not into the lifestyle or you don’t believe in the concept, people will see that. You have to be excited about your product and services,” he says. “We make it a point that our people are also in the lifestyle and they believe in our advocacy.”

Although he knew he would eventually be the head of the company, Toby actually started his career at the company in the management information system (MIS) department. He then moved to marketing and soon became operations manager and vice president. More than two years ago, Toby assumed the position of president.

“We are in a good position because of our wide network. What we do to level up our operation was to really improve our products. We brought the best brands but we also like to develop our own brands. We have a lot of in-house brands now, which makes sports a lot more accessible and more affordable,” he says.

Toby shares that the store caters to everyone – professional and amateur alike. “You can’t be good if you didn’t start somewhere. In fact, that’s the whole message of our campaign,” believes Toby.

The store’s latest campaign, “It Starts Here,” sends the message that the first step in achieving greater heights is commitment. “Our campaign captures our vision of reminding people that it doesn’t take much to get started. And I believe we got the best ambassadors on board: basketball star James Yap and volleyball champion Michele Gumabao,” shares Toby.

Despite his accomplishments and accolades, Toby remains grounded. He continues to look up to his father’s exemplary entrepreneurial skills. “He has guts and vision. He likes to take risks but he’s also willing to do the nitty-gritty to make sure the business becomes successful,” he says.

A few years after Toby’s was established, the family moved to the US. Although he can take on managing jobs, Toby’s father chose a job where he would get to string racquets because he wanted to learn the skill.

“One of the first things I did when I first joined the company was to learn how to string racquets,” Toby smiles. “To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. There would be many obstacles to becoming successful. You’ll get stuck if you’re not willing to do everything.”

“Having my name on the sign was always pressure for me because you have to live up to the name. It’s very challenging because I want to make sure that we not only continue the business. I want the business to grow even more,” he says.

With how Toby’s Sports is going so far, it looks like Toby Claudio is doing a great job. He’s lived up to the expectations. In fact, more than the name, he has become the brand.

Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in Palawan: A paradise within a paradise

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Of all the dozen destinations that offer an experience of paradise, Palawan truly stands out. That Palawan is paradisiacal is an understatement. Having seen and divulged what I’ve seen in this part of the Philippines is already enjoying a little piece of heaven on earth. For many a tourist who had marveled at the country’s last frontier, a lot of firsts had been experienced in this nirvana of an island.

Welcome to Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

If you are someone who takes delight in the splendor of the sea and the outdoors, you are in for an amazing treat when you find yourself at the Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa in Sabang, Puerto Princesa City. (Situated a good two hours drive from the Puerto Princesa airport, Sabang is the place to be when one wants to experience nature in all its magnificence. It is the entry point to the world-famous Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a finalist for the “New 7 Wonders of Nature.”) From Sheridan, it takes only a 20-minute boat ride to the reputed longest navigational underground river in the world.

Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa is two hours away from the Puerto Princesa Airport. It is 5 minutes away from the jump off point to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

Sheridan’s signature 340-ft.-long swimming pool.

The view from the balcony of our room.

Nestled in between the lush mountain ranges of Palawan and the sparkling West Philippine Sea, Sheridan boasts of 94 elegant rooms and suites that feature Asian-inspired contemporary interiors with a touch of local culture. The resort’s first-class accommodations spell unparalleled comfort and luxury. Triple-A room amenities include LCD cable TV with built-in DVD player, mini bar, WiFi access, individually-controlled air-conditioning and full bath amenities. The rooms offer a veranda, the views varying from a view of the sea, the surrounding mountains or the beautifully landscaped gardens.

Pathway to the rooms.

Room with a balcony.
Photo courtesy of the resort

Room by the poolside.
Photo courtesy of the resort

The balcony.
Photo courtesy of the resort

Our room during our stay.

Clean and clear T&B area.

Sheridan also offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience through its several F&B outlets. The stunning view of the inviting waters and sunset over the same horizon complement the gourmet cuisine at the South Sea Restaurant. It serves delicious grills, seafood and other healthy options. Located within the South Sea is the Blue Bar that serves cocktails prepared by the hotel’s dedicated bartenders. When doing some laps or just lounging by the pool area, the sunken bar Sip n’ Dip Poolbar is your perfect option. You can relax by the picturesque Sheridan’s signature 340-ft.-long swimming pool while you enjoy your personalized concoctions. 

Blue Bar.

Here’s to good times!

Your view while you sip cocktails.

‘Action Station’ at the South Sea Restaurant.

…And the action begins!

Hearty meals at the South Sea Restaurant.

Sip n’ Dip Poolbar, the resort’s sunken bar.

Since it is away from the pressures of work and the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, weary travelers should find their way to the Sheridan Nature Spa. The caring hands and intuitive touch of the spa therapists could perform delicate pampering guaranteed to soothe your senses and do wonders for your entire being. Sheridan is also proud of its business and events facilities that are perfect for your banquet needs. Its convention center can seat up to 500 persons and offers state-of-the-art equipment.

The resort offers a view of the mountain…

…and the sea!

Serenity.

Sheridan is undoubtedly a paradise within a paradise that is Palawan. Aside from the Subterranean River, guests at this world-class resort can also enjoy a myriad of activities. One can take on a hiking adventure through the Monkey Trail or hop on a paddleboat to tour the Mangrove Forest (you may opt for an exhilarating ATV ride on the way there). Guests can also visit the tiny virgin islands nearby to snorkel and dive. But you don’t have to go too far as you can bask in the long stretch of fine cream sand and pristine waters at the Sheridan beach while listening to the sound of eternal tranquility.


Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa inspires life filled with comfort and convenience as our facilities and services are expressed through a fine balance between simplicity and luxury,” proudly claims corporate GM Edgardo Tongco.

The lobby.

Gym time.

Interesting design at the resort’s welcome area.

Here at Sheridan, excitement becomes the ultimate experience.

Managing director Jacqueline Tan reveals some future plans for the resort. An organic farm is in the works, as they would like to market Sheridan as a “green” hotel, what with all its conservation and preservation efforts.

Offering so much to do and see, Sheridan Beach Resort & Spa invites everyone to indulge endlessly where nature is at its best and where excitement becomes the ultimate experience.

(For more information, call 376-6968 or 0917-6318937.)

Google: Empowering communities, helping people

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If there’s anything impressive about Aileen Apolo-de Jesus, it’s the fact that she is the head of Google’s Outreach for Southeast Asia — and yes, she’s a Filipina.

Aileen Apolo-de Jesus, Google’s Head of Outreach for Southeast Asia.

Because of her role, Aileen shuttles between nine countries — Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Vietnam — to manage and train Google communities and ensure that programs are useful to these communities. “What we do in Outreach in Google is we take care of the communities, incubate and train them, and see what things we could do so that the constituents or users joining this community could benefit from them,” she says.

Needless to say, the Philippines is closest to her heart. “Because I’m Filipino, it’s easier for me to relate to the communities here and find out their needs. Also, this is where our communities are most vibrant,” explains Aileen, who has been with Google for the past seven years.

According to her, the Outreach team of Google spends a lot of time with these communities. “When I started things back in 2007, we really listened to what they needed and then we crafted the programs. Every quarter, we try to assess how we can do better to help and support these communities. We assess the program several times a year to make sure we’re actually giving them what they need to support them.”

Aileen and her team takes care of four communities: The Google Business Group (GBG), Google Student Ambassadors (GSA), Google Educators Group (GEG), and Google Map Maker Team.

Google holds regular meetups for its communities.

GBG is a community of business professionals sharing knowledge about Google web technologies for business success. The group holds regular meetups and organizes the annual GDayX where speakers teach entrepreneurs how to use different online tools to improve their business. Topics vary from AdWords to Google Apps. GBG also organizes events specifically for women, the Women on the Web (WOW) program. “We coach them on how to organize these events and help them find speakers,” says Aileen.

Meanwhile, GSAs act as a liaison between their university and Google and teach their fellow students how to use different Google tools that could be useful in their studies. Students who want to become part of the GSA need to apply and go through a stringent process of selection, which Aileen oversees. This year, more than a hundred students across Southeast Asia were welcomed into the community.

“We are piloting the GEG in the Philippines, which is meant for K to 12 educators. We’re hosting teacher workshops in Baguio, Manila, and Cebu. From these workshops, we hope to get leaders for the GEG so they can start their own community in their own cities,” explains Aileen.

Aileen’s team is helping the Google Map Maker Team conduct MapUps where communities come together to map. “One of the most useful things and a lot of people really benefit from is the mapping program. It’s the communities now taking the lead with mapping because they saw how important it is.” Aileen says  the mapping project has actually helped in other activities. “It’s not just about helping other people find where they’re going but also having good and accurate maps help in crisis response, elections, and many other things depending on what the community sees as useful for them.”

Google’s Person Finder was a great help in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda.

Aileen recalls that when they launched Google Map Maker in 2008, the Philippine map was almost blank. So she and her team enabled local users to contribute and pin important landmarks, businesses, buildings, schools, among others, in the Philippine map as “we’ve always believed that it’s the local users who know their neighborhood best.”

Google Maps have also become a useful tool in calamities. Before Yolanda’s wrath, the communities, led by the group in Cebu, took the initiative to map the evacuation centers people can go to for shelter. On the day Yolanda made landfall, the community in Cebu turned over the mapping to other communities because they also anticipated losing their electricity and Internet connection. So Aileen got in touch with the other communities to make sure the base map is always updated.

For Aileen, it’s important to thank the communities who continue to build the base map because it has helped many a rescue and relief operation in the areas hardly hit by Typhoon Yolanda. She shares that when rescuers go to an affected area, they turn to Google Maps because they don’t know the area or the location is extremely flooded so it’s difficult for them to find people who have asked to be rescued.

Another Google initiative in the aftermath of the typhoon is the Person Finder, a web-based application that allows individuals to check and post the status of relatives or friends affected by Yolanda. “What we did in Google because we saw that a lot of people are missing, we put up the Person Finder. We know there are a lot of Filipinos who live abroad and who are worried. What the Person Finder can do is to connect people to know the status of their family back home,” she explains.

Google products.

Google, a power brand in itself, empowers the community by training them to be able to help themselves and the people in their communities. “As we always tell the communities, it’s about them. The best that Google can do for them is to provide the platform. It’s really about them learning how to use all these tools for their benefit,” concludes Aileen. 

Sarah Lahbati

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This feature was written in 2010. Needless to say, there had been a lot of changes in Sarah’s life—both in her personal and professional life. This photo shoot and interview took place when she was just fresh out of the reality show where she emerged the winner. During the shoot, the whole glam team was in awe of the young star’s no-makeup beauty—not to mention that she was statuesque (5’8”) at 16 years old. A prized talent of her network, Sarah then starred in a number of TV shows and movies.

However, at the start of 2013, news broke about the teen actress’ rift with a TV executive. Sarah then chose to stay out of the klieg lights of show business. She stayed abroad for quite a while and remained out of the spotlight.

Just recently, Sarah reconciled with the TV executive and has been working on her comeback. Anyway, it’s always good to look back at how she was almost four years ago—before all the brouhaha that derailed her journey to stardom. I just hope that she gets back on track sooner as she has definitely missed a lot in her career.

Face of Allure: Sarah Lahbati 

Sarah Lahbati.
Photos courtesy of http://www.philstar.com

If humility has a face, then it will have the beautiful features of half-Moroccan, half-Filipino Sarah Alzol Lahbati. “It is important for me to be humble. In everything I do, I always remember that I may not be perfect but I will always be me,” says the 16-year-old. Humility, Sarah reminds herself, is essential especially now that she’s on her first few steps in the entertainment industry. After bagging the title as “Ultimate Female Survivor” in Starstruck, GMA 7’s reality search for new talents, Sarah is now realizing her dream to act and perform on national TV.

“I barely sleep now,” shares Sarah, statuesque at 5-ft.-8.-in. “But I enjoy what I’m doing because I get to meet a lot of people. And they are famous stars for that matter!” Sarah, a mainstay of the Sunday variety show Party Pilipinas, also loves the job because she gets to portray a lot of roles. Being a TV personality was something far from her mind because she originally wanted to be a flight attendant. “But after I saw what happened on Sept. 11 at the World Trade Center, I got scared,” explains Sarah, who also considered being a policewoman when she was a child.

Because Sarah is young and already in the controversy-laden world of show business, she is properly guided by her parents — dad Abdel Lahbati, personnel officer at the Kuwait Mission of Geneva, Switzerland, and Esther Lahbati. Her mom, who goes with her to her commitments including this photo shoot, reminds Sarah that as a budding actress, she has to always look her best “because you’ll never know who you’re going to meet.” Her dad, on the other hand, taught her not to compete with others but with herself. This is exactly why Sarah keeps polishing her acting and singing skills by attending trainings and workshops.   

Armed with striking features, a charming personality and talent, Sarah is being groomed to be one of her mother station’s premier leading ladies. Although she currently finds herself busy with projects left and right, the young girl in her wishes for more summer memories, like her Egypt escapade a few years back. “I went to Egypt to spend summer with my parents. We stayed there for two weeks and I really enjoyed it. I’m looking forward to be back there soon.”

Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa: Fit for royalty

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I had been to Cebu quite a number of times before this particular trip yet I still looked forward to this one. The child (and water baby) in me was excited and ecstatic about the idea that our media group would be staying in a relatively new resort that features a… waterpark, teehee! Not to mention that I would be traveling again with “THE” Tita Rita Neri and Tita Nerissa Neri as well as Teddy Manuel, the same amazing people I was with during our fantastic Kota Kinabalu trip.

I “took my chances” on the two slides (Open Body Slide and Tube Slide) but had to beg off from the Space Bowl. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough courage to be swirled there lest my two-piece bikini go “berserk.” But don’t get me wrong: the waterpark is absolutely safe as it is designed by Dream Park International USA, which is the expert in building theme parks and water parks in the US.

Since it’s a “vacation,” I decided to spend a lot of chill time at the Amazon River Pool, where you just float and literally go with the flow. There are a dozen more things to do here.

Find out how else you can have a great time in Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City from my article in 2010. Of course, there have already been a lot of developments but basically, it’s still the same resort I loved more than three years ago.

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Welcome to Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa.

Fit for royalty

For more than a year now, tourists have been getting the “royal” treatment in this part of Cebu.

Conveniently located just 15 minutes away from the Mactan International Airport and 30 minutes away from cosmopolitan Cebu, Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa promises its every guest that he or she will be treated like a king or queen for the duration of his or her stay in this eight-hectare property.

Waterworld in Mactan, Cebu. See that girl at the Space Bowl? Uh-oh.
Photos courtesy of Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa

The resort is managed by international hotel management group Imperial Palace Hotel Group, which has two other hotels in Seoul, South Korea and in Fukuoka, Japan. The former was recently rated by Time Magazine as the best hotel in Asia, a testimony to the group’s high standard of management style and industry expertise.

Beach time.

The beach area of the resort.

Beach Pool.

The resort holds activities for guests.

..And so we joined the aerobics class in the morning.

Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City opened its regal doors in September 2009 and offered something that has never been seen or heard in the Queen City of the South. The resort features Cebu’s first and only Waterpark that both the young ones and the young once can truly enjoy. Designed by Dream Park International USA, this one-of-a-kind Waterpark lets you choose from five different pools (Wave Pool, Amazon River Pool, Captain’s Hook Pool, Toddler’s Pool and beach pool) and three exciting water slides (notable is the thrilling Space Bowl).

Still alive post-Tube Slide.
Photo by PJ Enriquez

The gang taking it slow at the Amazon River.
Photo by PJ Enriquez

…and by the beach.
Photo by PJ Enriquez

Imperial Palace allows you to have everything on your travel wish list peppered with the Cebuano’s own brand of hospitality. The resort boasts of elegantly furnished rooms including 128 Deluxe Rooms, 372 Suites, nine Spa Suite rooms and 48 Villas with private pool or Jacuzzi. Your well-appointed guest room is an interesting discovery in itself. Each room offers luxurious amenities designed to give you the utmost in luxury and comfort. It is in your plush room that you find out that Imperial Palace leaves no stone unturned to provide you with first-class rest and relaxation package — large sculptured granite bathrooms with separate shower and bath, 37-inch LCD television and DVD player, Internet connection, fully stocked mini-bar and refrigerator, radio clock with iPod dock and 24-hour room service.

Welcome to our suite! The living room awaits you by the entrance of the room.

Bedroom at the one-bedroom suite.

My bedroom at our two-bedroom suite.

There’s a kitchen in our suite!

…and a balcony so you can better appreciate the view!

Those with discerning palate will have gastronomic excursion at the resort’s eight F&B outlets, which offer sumptuous cuisines from around the world. The search for Asian flavors will take you to the Maru Korean Restaurant and Cheonsan Chinese Restaurant. The Coral Seaside Restaurant, which is perched on the seaside overlooking the picturesque panorama of the Hilutungan channel, guarantees to be a feast to your palate, as well as to your eyes. There are five other outlets to satisfy your gastronomic cravings. Also, let your musical instinct guide you to Bel Ami Karaoke, where snacks and a variety of liquors and beverages are served.

We had our welcome lunch at Cheon San, the Chinese restaurant.

Then dinner at Maru Korean Restaurant.

Maru Korean Restaurant.

Dinner, Korean style.

Farewell dinner at Coral Seaside Restaraunt.

Dinner by the sea.

From sun up to sun down, the tourist menu is filled to the brim at the Imperial Palace. The resort also features a 180-meter-wide beachfront and a marine center that offers an array of water sports for those who yearn for some adrenaline-pumping activities. The 570-sq.-m. Caracalla Spa has 11 well-designed treatment rooms as well as a separate sauna for men and women, steam room and plunge pool. There is also a fully equipped Fitness Centre and Beauty Salon (one of Korea’s most popular) to complete guests’ total fitness and wellness experience.

 

The Presidential Suite: Where an uber popular Korean star stayed a week before we arrived in the resort.

Imperial Palace also takes business seriously. Its Grand Ballroom (which can seat up to 600 persons) and four collapsible meeting rooms cater to business meetings, conventions and exhibitions. (In fact, at the time director of sales and marketing Jun Cordova hosted our stay at the resort, functions were happening simultaneously — yet all were orderly and organized. In one meeting he attended, hotel manager Edgardo Tongco was commended by fellow hotel executives for the close to a hundred percent occupancy rate of the Imperial Palace.)

Pool Villa.

Lounging with Rina at the Pool Villa.
Photo by PJ Enriquez

Special events like weddings are most welcome at the resort. If you wish for a destination wedding, you do not have to worry as you can expect the Events team of the Imperial Palace to keep you organized and to be on top of every important detail of your wedding. The resort’s “Weddings at the Palace” Indoor and Outdoor packages include lunch or dinner menu for a minimum of 50 persons and an overnight stay at the Pool Villa and Mactan Suite with honeymooner’s set-up and breakfast buffet. If the couple wants an outdoor ceremony, the Poolside and Beach Front area are the perfect spots. Here, the bride and groom exchange “I do’s” as they are presented with a magnificent blue vista of the sea while they watch the sun sink into the horizon.

 

Sunken bar in the pool area.

The resort has its own shuttle to provide guests with comfort and convenience.

Going around the resort is easy with golf carts.

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You work hard all week and then leave the rat race far behind to get a breather from the hustle and bustle of life. Trust the Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa to give you that “majestic” escape. After all, its first-class facilities and friendly services are indeed fit for royalty.

Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort and Spa will surely give you a different kind of Cebu experience.

(To experience the royal treatment, call Imperial Palace at +6332 494-5000 or visit www.imperialpalace-cebu.com)