Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm Married!

It was on the 20th of May 2008 at the Eglise St-Severin in Paris -- the most beautiful day of my life. My husband, Vince, was crying as I approached the altar. I cried too when I saw him. It was surreal. I feel so blessed because I know I married a good man with a good heart in the most beautiful place. Life isn't perfect but that day was, and who says I can't have the perfect day to remember for a lifetime. À coeur vaillant rien d'impossible!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Merry Neri

Guess what Ched Chair Romulo Neri was doing when the Supreme Court announced it's decision?

He was in the dentist's chair having his tooth "fixed" the whole afternoon. "I broke a tooth," he said in a text message.

I've been stalking the secretary for months, since the ZTE scandal broke out. Our news team would waiting outside his house early morning until he comes out to go to work -- and hopefully toss a statement, a good soundbite, something meaty to at least merit a whole report.

But today of all days, he had nothing to say. He came out of his house, didn't say a thing and just gave my cameraman a wave. A photojournalist could have saved it for later -- perfect for after the Supreme Court's decision. Caption: Neri waves his troubles goodbye.

When I texted him again about his reaction on the High Court's favorable decision, he texted back, "I'm still with my dentist."

I get it.

Two weeks ago, Neri didn't show up at the ZTE-NBN Senate hearing after the senators rejected a compromise offered by the Supreme Court which would have allowed Neri to testify in the Senate but without the threat of arrest or detention if he invokes executive privilege. Some of the senators said they would rather wait for the Supreme Court's decision on whether the questions are covered by executive privilege.

Now that the Supreme Court ruled that the questions are covered by executive privilege, now what?

Analysis, analysis, analysis.

Neri's lawyers are celebrating, it's a vindication they say.

As expected, some senators are crying foul.

What about Neri?

He won his petition, his broken tooth was repaired, he is sleeping soundly at the moment.

The rest of the country moves on (or did they even notice?). Tomorrow is another day, another story, another rally and another...

The taxi driver will drive, the teacher will teach, the lawyer will defend (or circumvent?) the law, the farmer will farm, the reporter will report, the corrupt politician, policeman, engineer, the LTO fixer go on with their corrupt ways.

While Chairman Neri -- he would rather tend to his broken tooth. Lucky lucky lucky.... tooth.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Parisian Life

"Ah, oui! La vie ça passe comme ça!"

Ah, yes! Life passes (through) that way. She knows exactly what she wants to say, my little four-year-old niece, Elisa. She’s not the usual kid. She loves bugs, spiders, grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies, you name it. She would scoop them tenderly in her dainty hands… talk to them in her own language… then set them free. Other kids would either scream, cringe or run away in fear, while others would give them the smack a.k.a. cruel death sentence, or the usual life(less) imprisonment. I was guilty of all those when I was a kid who didn't know any better. But Elisa… she is something else.

She knows life is more than playing with Dora, Hello Kitty or Eloise. In fact, she doesn’t play much with her collection of toys. She would rather go out in the park, pick up stones to add to her collection, and run! Boy can she run like a bullet! And she has the perfect runner’s form! One time she ran (and didn’t stop) from her house to their car which was parked almost 2 kilometers away. She reached the car sweating like a pig, “Whew! I’m so tired but I feel good!”

Feeling good also involves doing... wild and dangerous things. Well.. just, as her mum would say, a tid bit. Like goin down the slide head first. That’s when you’re looking.
She loves laughing and goofing around. She makes you taste something that she thinks looks like sugar, and says IT IS sugar… but turns out to be salt. You play along and she bursts into that perfect hearty, kiddie, Elisa laughter. Ahh… salt is sweet!

But just as she is loko-loko, she is also reasonable. One night her dad gave her a toy catalogue so she could encircle the gifts she would want to receive for Christmas. One particular toy caught her eye and she asked her dad if it was expensive. It was 149 euros. Her dad reluctantly said yes. She immediately flipped the page and said, “Never mind!” That’s my girl!

Oh but she also has her bad moments, when she’s sleepy or when her 6 year old brother Nicolas teases her. But nothing like tantrums. Brother and sister are unbelievably good kids.

Of course the apple never falls far from the tree. Mom is a cool, sporty, intellectual activist turned full-time home-maker. She was a peace corps volunteer who's done tours of duty in places like Thailand, Africa and war-time Bosnia. Not to mention she’s a hell of a good cook. Gourmet, mind you.

Dad is a hotshot consultant in Paris -- but at home, he’s the coolest, funnest, most playful, laugh-out-loud dad. He would run with them, dance with them, bake with them, and at night, he would read them stories.

But while mom and dad share everything with the kids, the best part is that they also let them be. They let them laugh, run, explore, fall, get a "tid bit" of scrapes and bruises if they must. It’s all good!

Life is good, but when it all comes down to it, for Elisa, it’s not as simple as saying, “C’est la Vie!”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Leslie Cruz

Was it an accidental industrial explosion or a deliberate terrorist attack? While the debate goes on about what really happened that fateful Friday, October 19, 2007, at the Glorietta 2 mall, the fact remains -- 11 people died, 3 people are in critical condition and more than a hundred were injured.

I'm sharing with you an e-mail being passed around -- it is a letter written by Carlo Cruz, only 33 years old and now a widower. I do not know him, but those of us who watched TV or listened to the radio that day will never forget Carlo, the guy who was desperately looking for his wife. We were all hoping that he would find her, that she was ok and that they would finally go home together. The end. Happily ever after. Who would've thought that a simple decision like turning left or right could change someone's life forever.

His letter made me cry but I will never know how Carlo feels. A friend reminded me that death is a very personal thing. Just the same, Carlo wants to share his story, hoping that whoever reads it will learn something from his tragic loss.


Good day everyone,

I wish I were writing under different circumstances.

I would like to inform you that my wife Leslie Cruz was part of the casualties in the Glorietta 2 Mall bombing in Makati City, Philippines. She was supposed to have a minor out patient surgery at Makati Medical Center at 230pm.

I had taken a leave from work to accompany her there. We dropped off our daughter, Amber, at my parents place in QC to babysit at around 10am. We then proceeded to Makati and was there at 1230pm. Since she had been fasting in preparation for her procedure, she wanted to move around and listen to some music while I grabbed a bite to eat. We parked at the basement of Park Square 2, and headed for the Glorietta 2 entrance. We parted at the top of the escalator, she turned right towards Filbar's while I went left towards the restaurants. That was the last time I would see her.

Around 120pm, she had called me so that we can meet at the Glorietta 2 exit just in time to make her appointment. As I made my way there from Glorietta 1 through the connecting hallways, and was about to turn the corner, I heard 2 deep thumps and the shock-wave from the blast hit me. At that moment my heart dropped as I knew that the origin of the blast came from the same place where we were supposed to meet. I tried getting to where my wife was, but the dust was too much and it was as if I was staring at a white wall.

I still tried to convince myself that she was able to make it out, and that after ringing her mobile without a response only meant that she dropped it in the confusion. After 6 hours of searching from Makati Med. to Ospital ng Makati, the blast site, and back again to MMC - with the help of all the people I could get hold of, that I was able to get confirmation in what the state of my wife was.

My Dad and Uncle signaled me in from the ER of MMC. My Uncle (who's a doctor) asked me to describe Leslie's appearance to another group of doctors. I saw in the eyes of one that the description made sense. Instead of confirming it to me, they huddled together, then brought me to a small examination room. It was only through a digital camera that I was able to confirm (and deny) that she was indeed gone.

I have so many regrets. I should have met her sooner. I should have ran instead of a brisk walk. I should have not chose to park where I did. I should have braved the dust and went in the blast site. I should have ...

Today's the 4th day. It is still terribly difficult to breathe, let alone wake up realizing that your source of strength, your best friend doesn't lie beside you on your bed. That my deepest worry is when Amber starts asking for her Mama.

I am glad that Amber's too young to understand the loss and pain. In time I would like to tell her the details of how her mother died, but more importantly I would like to raise her as how her mother lived - a loving person, strong willed, decisive, caring, and nurturing. She has always cared for her family and friends, and sacrfied her career for being a full time mom and home maker.

As with all couples we had our ups and downs - none of which I regret not going through. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour. For almost 4 years of marriage, we've finally hit our balance in life only to be taken away in an instant. I have no regrets about our marriage. She has loved me and Amber beyond her capacity. I will always love her.

It is my first time to write to egroup as I've lurked and watched emails being sent to and fro. All I want now is that for each of the couples here is to cherish each moment that we spend with our loved ones. Pretty simple to say, very easy to take for granted.

Thank you all for the prayers. I would still like to ask you to please include Leslie in them until her 40th day so that the path to God's kingdom is well lit and she is no longer in the dark.


Carlo Cruz

"Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of GOD for you in Christ Jesus"

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ninascoops: A New Chapter

I will be saying goodbye to this site soon and create a new blog.

I've made the decision to shift from what I know best and that is from showbiz to hard news. I actually started doing hard news and trained under Dindo Amparo who was then the king of the night watch (overnight police reporter) and Tony Velasquez who was then ABS-CBN's Malacanang reporter. After that, I became Studio 23's Malacanang correspondent for News Central. That was when PGMA just came into power and the rest is history.

Covering Malacanang was boring. I hated politics. It's all talk and bickering and unfulfilled promises.

Covering showbiz was another matter. I got to unleash my creative side. Writing showbiz news reports was always a challenge, especially If you work under the legend that is Mario Dumaual. Mario has the gift of writing showbiz and feature reports so effortlessly, like he was born to do it. Mario can write a great showbiz script in seconds! It always left me wondering where the hell he got his idea and how come I didn't think of it?

Mario D., Dindo A., and Tony V. are just some of my heroes in the newsroom. They are the people who can make magic, turn what seems like a non-story into something people should pay attention to and care about. It's all in their writing, not to mention malandi kase silang mag-isip. Ewan ko kung ganun din sila sa tunay na buhay. Haha.

As for me, I would rather cover human interest stories. Stories that tug at your heartstrings. Stories that affect people in the way they think and feel. Stories that can make someone care and hopefully do something about. Stories that make a difference in people's lives. They may not be as big as the President's State of the Nation Address, but I don't think I need to tell big stories to affect people, and hopefully make them care.

Although I am now assigned to the General Assignments beat, which means covering just about anything, yes, including politics.. it's enough for me to know that my story touched someone, even just one person, and then I can sit back, relax and say, I feel just great. :)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Josh Hartnett in Davao

Hollywood heartthrob and Scarlet Johansson's ex, Josh Hartnett, arrived in Manila today and quickly boarded a Philippine Airlines Flight to Davao.

The media wasn't allowed to interview or go near the actor but ABS-CBN Davao was able to take some footages of the actor arriving at the Davao airport. He gamely posed for a picture with an airport security guard. Hartnett kept it simple by wearing a white T-shirt, a black jacket, jeans and sneakers. He also carried a backpack.

Hartnett became famous for films such as "Black Hawk Down" and "Pearl Harbor". He is here to shoot the mystery thriller, "I Come With The Rain", at Mt. Diwalwal.

Prison "Break", Pinoy Style

The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

-Russian Novelist and Writer

From covering the glitz and glamour, as well as the scandals and controversies of showbiz, it was a complete change of pace for me to be among the so-called “dregs of society” at the Caloocan City Jail. While showbiz is said to be vicious, this was reality. I was there with the Public Attorney’s Office that was giving free medical and legal assistance to the inmates.

It was hot, crowded and smelled of sweat. Tattooed inmates fell in line like obedient children and waited patiently for their turn with the doctors and lawyers. But the lines of prison toughies slowly parted to give way to an elderly man who was being pushed to the front of the line in a wheel chair. He was slumped over and appeared unconscious. The 81-year old Lolo Ildefonso is in jail for attempted rape. According to his records, Lolo Ildefonso was caught giving his neighbor’s 10-year old daughter a bath, without the neighbor’s permission.

Some inmates made fun of Lolo Idelfonso’s interest in the personal hygiene of others, but his offense, if proven guilty is serious. So is his health. The prison warden said he threw up blood earlier that morning. After the free check up, the doctor said his blood pressure was so high he needed to be brought to the hospital. The doctor said that if his health wasn’t monitored, he could die of a stroke or heart attack.

Lolo Ildefonso regained consciousness after they gave him an IV, but he couldn’t even remember his name! He talked gibberish and made faces. For some reason, he could only say his age, “81!”

Atty. Persida Acosta, the P.A.O.’s chief of lawyers said they will file a motion to request that Lolo Ildefonso to be brought to the hospital. She also said they will ask for a plea bargain so he could be released due to old age and for humanitarian reasons.

Minutes later another inmate in a wheel chair was brought to the front of the line. He had a long cut on his stomach, and it wasn’t stitches but STAPLE WIRES that held the wound closed! It was literally stapled shut. It was a fresh wound and pus was coming out.

According to Mr. Staple, he stabbed himself out of guilt after he accidentally killed his brother-in-law. He said he hit his “balae” after they quarreled over who would pay for their electricity bill. He kept saying that he didn’t mean to kill his brother-in-law, which is why he stabbed himself to prove how sorry he was for what he did.

The doctor who performed the check-up was worried that Mr. Staple could die of an infection if he doesn’t take antibiotics and keep the wound clean. The doctor however said that the staple wires were nothing to worry about, as some doctors actually prefer stapling a wound – though with medical staple wire – instead of using stitches that are much more prone to infection.

In another corner of the crowded jail, another doctor was attending to a crying teenager. He looked so young, barely 15. But he was already eighteen years old and no longer a juvenile delinquent, which is why he was thrown in with the men. It was his first few weeks in jail after being caught stealing his neighbors’ water meter. He hardly looked the part of a hardened criminal, just a helpless child shedding tears of pain. The doctor found a big boil near his genitals.

When I was putting together my script in the newsroom, my colleagues and I couldn't help but laugh at how the story came out. It wasn't humorous laughter though, probably more nervous or disturbed. Because what else can you say or do when faced with stories like these? It's either you laugh or you cry or you become very angry.

Portions of my tagalog story read, “Pinaliguan ni lolo ang bata niyang kapitbahay.. tadtad ng stapler ang tiyan, matapos niyang saksakin ang sarili... tumutulo ang nana sa sugat, may pigsa sa singit…”

It’s so surreal. It’s so sad. It’s so true.

Friday, June 01, 2007

3 Girls, 3 Stories, 1 Message: Kaya ng Pinay!

When Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino became the first Southeast Asian women to summit Mt. Everest and the first women in the world to traverse Mt. Everest from the North side to the South side, Himalaya didn’t seem to care.

The country was rejoicing, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sent a congratulatory message, and the Philippine Coast Guard prepared a heroes welcome for the three summiteers who had just been promoted from seawoman first class to petty officer third class.

Himalaya, though, remains clueless. After all, he’s only five months old. His mommy Janet left two months ago to pursue her dream of conquering the world’s highest peak, and she did so with a heavy heart.

In an article published on the Kathmandu Post titled "Mom of five-month-old atop Everest," Janet was quoted as saying, "I decided to leave him, as I was too focused on the mountain. I believed there was a greater cause behind my decision."

Noelle, on the other hand, brought her loved one with her to the summit, a picture of her mother. Her mom passed away last year due to a stroke. She was on her way to the airport to pick up Noelle when she had the attack. Noelle had just arrived after successfully climbing Mt. Denali in Alaska, the highest mountain in North America. She was waiting at the airport, when she got the call that her mom was rushed to the hospital. By the time Noelle arrived there, it was already too late.

Carina is one of 14 siblings who grew up in Bukidnon. Her family didn’t want her to join the Everest team because of the obvious danger. They also relied on her as the family breadwinner. But Carina was determined to sacrifice to achieve a greater goal.

The Dayondon family apparently had nothing to worry about. According to ABS-CBN correspondent Vince Rodriguez who chronicled the journey on, Carina was even singing on the summit!

According to the blog, two hours before reaching the summit, the team radioed Advance Base Camp to give an update on their location. During the call, Carina sang in the radio an excerpt from the song Kaya ng Pinay, composed by team doctor Ted Esguerra.

On hearing her singing, Everest summiteer Pastor Emata, who was at ABC, radioed back, "Carina, I bet you’re singing because you’re scared."

Carina’s response was, "Excuse me!" But things are different back home. Their families may support their goals and trust they know what they’re doing — but they can’t completely take away their loved ones’ apprehension, the fear that something bad may happen.

Ricky Serdenia, husband of Janet Belarmino-Serdenia, couldn’t hold back his tears when he heard the news his wife had reached the summit. You’d think that Ricky, being a member of the Philippine Dragonboat Federation, would be cool under pressure.

He admits though, it’s not easy when you’re the one left behind.

"Himalaya, your mom has reached the summit," he softly told his baby while crying. "I’m so happy but I also worry about her everyday. I try not to think about it by being with friends, keeping myself busy. Sometimes I fear Himalaya may not see his mom again. But I trust in God and I believe in Janet."

Himalaya was just chuckling and making cute baby sounds while his father wept.

This May, more than 300 people are estimated to have reached the summit of Mt. Everest. Critics have said that the mountain has become so commercialized, anyone with time, money and a bit of guts can reach the top.

So what makes the Pinays’ achievement so special? They could have swum across the Pacific, they could have aimed to reach the North Pole — it wasn’t about the summit of Everest per se. The mountain is simply an allegory, a very tough one at that, for achieving what people think is impossible. That if we set our minds to it and unite in a common cause, we can climb whatever heights and reach whatever distance we imagine.

Like Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata and Romy Garduce before them, the women have again made the country proud. The message is loud and clear, yes, the Filipina can, Kaya ng Pinay! And they didn’t just do it for themselves, but for all the Filipinas around the world struggling to conquer their own mountains.

And even if Himalaya doesn’t understand yet why his mom left, one day when he grows up, he’ll realize the meaning of his mother’s sacrifice. Indeed, Mommy Janet knows best, there is a greater cause.

Not even all the money in the world can match the legacy Himalaya will pass on to his children and his children’s children. A legacy of hope, faith and triumph of the human spirit.

(This article was published in The Philippine Star, May 31, 2007)