Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Winner of Gold Medal, 2014 Monde International Selection, Paris.
Made from the purest nectar of young coconut flower. Multi-distilled and handcrafted
by people who have generation of experience from making "Lambanog".
Available at Duty-Free Philippines shops of Naia 1, 2 and 3, Clark, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod,
Dava airports. Executive Creative Director, Copywriter and Art Director: Roger Pe;
Project Director: Vira Arceo; Photographer: Raul Montifar

Saturday, December 26, 2015


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 27, 2015 issue

His Madrid customers whom he first talked on the phone would think he was a typical Spanish businessman. On meeting face to face, they would be surprised to see a Filipino-looking guy speaking with a real Madrileno accent. His flair was unmistakeably Madrileno de Madriz with a “z”.

Francisco Reyes is a Filipino professional with 25 years of experience in finance, ICT (Information and Communication Technology), retail, consumer electronics and communications acquired from working in Madrid and the Netherlands.

His business perspective is global, his portfolio, like any expat you would see in European Economic Community circles. Though he grew up mostly in Spain, he never lost his Filipino work ethics: Patient, determined and hardworking.

Throughout his career, Reyes has always given his best to deliver what is expected, supported company strategies and led his team members to excel, not only in their jobs, but also in bringing some meaning to their lives.

When telecoms and the Internet were taking shape in year 2000, Reyes and his Spanish wife Teresa (they have three children, two boys and a girl), packed their bags and decided to leave Madrid’s corporate banking scene, their bread and butter for ten years.

In Amsterdam where they were offered lucrative jobs, the Reyeses worked for Cisco Systems, Nike, Alcatel/Lucent Technologies, Palo Alto and Huawei, multinational conglomerates with multi-billion USD in revenues and workforce of thousands around the globe.

Francisco travelled around several continents while in the Dutch capital, doing business and managing teams in different locations and time zones, in the process acquiring multi-lingual skills and knowing diverse cultural backgrounds.

His expert knowledge in complete supply chain management led him to launch his own company, focusing on providing business services to European startups interested to expand their growth in Southeast Asia, and vice versa.

“We provide business solutions to global companies, specializing in operations and supply chain,” Reyes says.

“My main role is to lead the complete “go-to-market strategy” of the company and to ensure that all the right products are delivered at the right place at the right time.”

East meets west, west meets east

A little background on how he landed in Europe.

While attending a grade school class in Lourdes School, Quezon City, Reyes found himself flying to an unknown place the next day. Little did he know, Spain would become his adopted country the moment he touched soil.

Francisco (second from right) with Spanish wife Teresa (left) daughter Sofia and sons Gabriel and Sergio.

In Madrid, his life would begin to change. Here was a young boy transported to a new school (International Montessori), with new friends, language, weather, everything.

Reyes learned the Spanish language easily and merged into the Spanish system naturally. From elementary to high school to university, the transition went smoothly.

“We were a typical immigrant family, my parents were working hard, giving their best smiles, and providing all their support for the kids to cope with being a minority in a country that was not ours,” he recalls.
He describes his mother as a visionary and adventurous who had to leave him, his father and three sisters when she was petitioned by their grandmother to the U.S. as immigrant in the late 60s.

As a journalist in America, her mother travelled extensively to Europe, arriving in Madrid in 1972, a period of the last years of Franco’s dictatorial government.

At that time, Madrid was exciting, vibrant but politically agitated. Her mother had the chance to be part of that era, seeing with her own eyes how Spain’s history was being written.

When she returned to the Philippines, martial law was also unfolding in the country. Having experienced the same in Madrid from an outgoing dictator, her mother took him to Madrid together with her younger sister.

Career in Madrid

Though Reyes worked early on, it was not requested of him to provide some economical support at home. It just dawned on him that he wanted to contribute something to the family by being independent.

He worked in houses, bars and restaurants cleaning windows, sold spring rolls (“Lumpia”), engaged in some small business selling t-shirts, went door-to-door delivering parcels and did secretarial jobs. From all these, he learned the value of hard-earned money by working hard.

His first official job was for an independent news agency back in 1984. Passionate about filmmaking, he, too, tried his hand on video editing, became a cameraman and post-production editor. He learned from scratch and at the same time completed mass communication in school. He attended Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona.

With daughter Sofia
Madrid’s corporate world would soon beckon. He would be directly involved in partner management, systems platforms, stock inventory among others. Companies he worked for consistently reached 98% customer satisfaction in annual surveys.

“My current job in Amsterdam offers me a lot of flexibility and the company I am providing my services at the moment is fiftythree.com, which developed the iPad pencil app and the stylus Pencil, an awesome multi-awarded product,” he proudly says.

Presently, he is doing significant progress in forming his own company, which he plans to launch at the start of year 2016. Having done market research, networking and talked to potential clients, he is very enthusiastic of his new endevour.

Proud being a Filipino
Reyes thinks Filipinos can excel anywhere else in the world because of their nature. “Filipinos develop quite uniquely by taking the best of the cultures they are exposed to,” he says.

He makes it a point to remind himself that regardless of one’s origin, culture or position in life, one must not lose his real self. “When you’re being yourself and doing no harm to others, people give you respect,” he says.

After 10 years in corporate banking, the Reyeses moved to Amsterdam
He considers building an extensive network of contacts as an achievement as well as learning to develop a consistent learning attitude towards challenges and uncertainties.

“The moment I am faced with walls that block my path, I am quick in rethinking my contingency plans and taking the next most appropriate steps. Using common sense and instincts has helped me break the walls. Always leave your door open, you’ll never know,” he says.

A positive person, he always sees the bright side of things. He describes himself as a dreamer and achiever. The family man in Reyes enjoys the company of friends and loves to cook for them.

He loves sports and prides finishing a full marathon in Amsterdam last October. When weather permits, he enjoys a simple motorbike ride. His motto in life: “Keep the engine running, hitting the highway, born to be alive. I can go slower, I can go faster, but I never quit”

With friends in Madrid
Filipino diaspora

Reyes says, Filipinos can become world citizens by being productive.

“When Filipinos started migrating to the US and many parts of the world, many of those who remained in the Philippines stayed idle knowing that they would be fully supported by their families overseas. I think, everyone has an obligation to contribute to his family and help provide a better future for the generations to come,” he says.

He thinks most Filipinos have the ultimate goal of going back home when they have earned enough. “In general, I believe Filipinos have strong survival instincts,” he adds.

What would make Filipinos become successful abroad? His advice: “Be proud of who you are. Do not forget your heritage. Never forget where you started, where you are now, and where you dream of being in the future.”

Is he ready to go back to the Philippines? I think the opportunities back home are appealing and challenging. “I want to contribute by sharing my knowledge and experience with our fellowman. I am pretty sure I can influence some Filipinos to step out and start new journeys.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Tribute to my home province and Pia Wurztbach, Philippines' third Miss Universe.
Photo from Amanpulo Resort, Cuyo, Palawan

Thursday, December 17, 2015


November 28-30, 2015, spent the long weekend in Alfonso, Cavite, a quiet town just after scenic Tagaytay. I volunteered to do sketches in the beautiful home of interior designer Rene Orosa and Efren de Jose, an old-friend way back my McCann days. Here's Paul Perea, friend of the two, who was so delighted when he saw the finished artwork I did in about 20 minutes.
I gave this to Rene who texted me with a beautiful thank you message.
This was for  Rene's cousin Weena,
And last but not the least, for Efren.

A photo from Efren de Jose's collection, when McCann-Erickson celebrated its 25th year in the Philippines in 1987. I am on third row, waving.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
December 6, 2015 issue

While waiting for the rehearsal to start, Susan Garcia, sister of Rene and Dennis Garcia of Hotdog fame, was in a frenzy, talking to some very important guests on her mobile phone. She needed to secure front row tickets for them.

At the rehearsal room, new Hotdog singer Miles Poblete was gliding through the lyrics of a song. With eyes closed, you can sense that she was feeling the mood, singing from within and giving it all.

To an ordinary listener, that would merit a 10. But Rene, lead guitarist and vocalist of the iconic band, would push her, coaxing her that she could outdo herself.

In those tiring rehearsals, it was tempting to drop an octave while singing passionately. There were possibilities, too, to make the repertoire perfect. Rene was there - to pivot everyone, to sing flawlessly and perform with oomph.

In a Makati recording studio where Garcia and his group were preparing for “Hotdog: 40 Years” concert, each song had to be rendered perfectly, every line must be delivered from the heartand not just being blurted out.

They were what you call the nuances of the song ordinary listeners do not “see”.
Under Garcia, one’s voice would go to an altitude spin. Would he tell you if a pause was necessary? Yes. Would he tell you, that to be able to sound like a nightingale, emotions and the right vocal tickle would make a difference? Absolutely.

The scene went on and on until perfection was reached. It was the same with the guys who were manning the bass guitar, drums, keyboards, percussions and alto sax.

Some may call it,the Garcia ‘Bandrobatics’. Here, your voice is maneuvered to roll and take vocal loops. Sideward and upside down, the texture of “Manila Sound” was like a plane designed to hold the audience spellbound.
“When you do a concert like this, you should aim for perfection,” Dennis Garcia, bass guitarist and principal auteur of all Hotdogs blockbuster songs, underscoring his musical standards.

“You need to uphold the Hotdog legacy that made generations of Filipinos from all walks of life “kilig”, he says.

Dennis, together with his younger brother Rene, past and present female vocalists and new generation of Hotdog artists, performed last December 3, 2015 at the PICC Plenary Hall to SRO crowds. The country’s current hottest band, “Up Dharma Down” was their special guest. Presidential candidate Grace Poe and Senator Bongbong Marcos were there to give them support.

The event celebrated Hotdog’s Ruby anniversary (40 years) in the entertainment world, with over 600 songs written over a span of four decades, several dozens of them turning into classics and became soundtrack of multiple generations.

The hit songs

It took Hotdog, the band that started it all, to bridge the big Philippine social divide with its romantic, true-to-life songs, gems that had a pack of wicked wallop.

They made Filipinos throw their colonial mentality away into the garbage bin. The band made Taglish cool, collegialas and boys from exclusive schools rocked and jammed with them in schools gigs.

When most local artists were copycats of foreign songs in the 70s, Hotdog was the game changer and was “orig”, proudly born in the Philippines.

The birth of "Manila Sound" was the dawning of a new era with most of Hotdog compositions achieving platinum status.

“Panaginip”,“Annie Batungbakal”, “Beh, Buti Nga”, “Bitin Sa 'Yo”, “Bongga Ka 'Day”, “Can't Forget You” (English love song with Zsa-Zsa Padilla) “Dying to Tell You”, “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko”, “Ikaw Pa Rin”, “Kasi Naman”, “Langit Na Naman”, “Manila”, “O, Lumapit Ka”, “Pers Lab”, “Pulang Kamatis”, “Sana Maganda/Guwapo Ako” and many more made the Philippine music industry flourish.

Many bands followed Hotdog’s footsteps but its trademark originality made it a cut above the rest.

Named Filipino artists like Gary Valenciano, Eraserheads, Side A, Parokya Ni Edgar, Acafellas, True Faith and several others paid tribute to Hotdog songs and did their own versions. Fil-British Singer Charlie Green even covered “Pers Lab”.

For its extraordinary contribution to Philippine music,  Hotdog received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Metropop Foundation in 2001 and was honored with the same award by the Awit Awards and Original PinoyMusic (OPM) in 2009 and 2010.

Philippine Daily Inquirer picked Hotdog as one of the 20 most important composers of the 20th century in year 2000. Previously, the National Press Club gave the band Best Performer Group Award in 1975.

On his Facebook timeline, Dennis said of the band’s “40 Years Concert”: “We did not do it for the money but to show our gratitude to a nation that has been enjoying and building memories around our lovingly crafted music for four decades.”

If plans push through, Hotdog’s “Manila”, the song,will be immortalized in all Philippine Airlines’ flights, a feel-good strategic move long overdue and could have been one of the best tourism advertising campaigns we never had.

Oftentimes used without permission and remuneration, “Manila” is a national anthem by default, for those returning to the Philippine capital or by millions of Filipinos scattered all over the world.

Pulse of the Filipino

“Hotdog knew how to speak the language of the audience, all the more with self-deprecating humor. “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko”, for example, was not only about pageant-crazy Filipinos but also a tribute to women regardless of social status, beauty queenor not,” says a loyal fan.

Two Hotdog songs were turned into movies “Bongga Ka, ‘Day” with Nora Aunor, Vilma Santos, Joseph Estrada, Fernando Poe Jr. and Boots Anson-Roa.

“Annie Batungbakal” also became a successful movie with Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos wanting to star in it. Aunor eventually got the plum role.

Hotdog was a breed apart. It didn’t just make albums, it did all-around performances in parties and was a permanent fixture in top-rating tv shows.

Ella Del Rosario, Ramon "Mon" Torralba, Tito Del Rosario, Lorrie Ilustre, Jess Garcia, Roy
Diaz de Rivera, Rene Enriquez, Odette Quesada,
Andy Caberte, ZsaZsa Padilla, Maso Diez, Gina Montes, Rita Trinidad, Nadia Moore, Elaine Evangelista, Joy Reyes were some of the illustrious members of the original Hotdog band.

Dennis takes pride in shouting to the world that God has been good to Hotdog for giving his band “the most talented and prettiest singers.”

Geting inspired

“Our songs have human insights and based on universal truths, love and affection and real emotions. We are just being as honest we can,” Dennis says.

When he writes a song, Dennis does not wait for the moon and the stars to shine. It just happens.

“I guess it’s just being as human like anyone else,” Dennis says who was an advertising copywriter and Creative Director who have penned many memorable San Miguel Beer taglines like “O, Anong Sarap”, “Isa Pa Nga”, and “Kahit Kailan, Kaibigan”.

The band has performed in all continents of the world (except Africa and South America), spreading Pinoy music that as original and true-to-life as “mga dyipning nagliliparan” (speeding jeepneys) and “tigyawat sa ilong” (pimple on the nose).

Just recently, Hotdog performed in London and plans are afoot to do more in Rome, Dubai and other parts of the world with large Filipino communities.

With history kind to the band, Rene, however, has one big lament: Filipino musicians (songwriters, drummers, guitarists, pianists, and other instrument players), the backbone of any concert, continue to take a back seat and being pushed as second-class citizens in the country. He wants to fight for them and he is referring to Filscap (Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers).

“Instead of enriching themselves, Filscap should care more about Filipino musicians and guide them. They shouldbe more transparent,” he says.

Rene is also one of the founders of “BandangPinoy”, an organization that helps aging musicians develop new skills and find work. “Most musicians at the peak of their careers do not save up for their future. When contracts are hard to come by, they find themselves at the losing end,” he says.

On question most people ask: “We came up with a name that has double meaning and we did it intentionally. I wanted a name that was “medyo bastos” (a bit kinky) for a bit of a recall,” Dennis says, who also did the lyrics of the band’sf irst album,“Unang Kagat".

Rene and Dennis would recall that they were given graveyard shifts at the recording studios because nobody would believe in them. Technicians were grouchy old men and would fall asleep waiting for them. When “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko” became a big hit, everyone chased them. The rest is rocking history.

Hotdog’s music is now archived in Philippine music history. It has carved a nameso rich and solid it cannot be erased from the books.

Past and current membersof the band who performed at the “40 Years Concert” were: Rene Garcia, Lead Guitarist, Lead Vocalist; Dennis Garcia, Bass Guitarist; Maso Diez, Gina Montes, Rita Trinidad, Joy Reyes, Elaine Evangelista and Miles Poblete, Vocalists; Lyen Belgera and Roy Pangilinan, Lead Singers; Lehi Rebosura, Drummer; Roy Sadicon, Second Lead Guitarist and Singer; Vitt Villavicencio and Junno de los Santos, Keyboards.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Medy Feria Beroy, Independent Contractor, Legal and Medical Interpreter
by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 22, 2015

In her work, the phrase ‘lost in translation’ is a no-no.

Filipina Medy Beroy works as an independent legal and medical interpreter in Georgia, USA. As an interpreter, she listens to what her clients say and translates them to another language so that legal or medical procedures are translated accurately without losing their meaning.

In layman’s language, legal interpreting involves cases that are heard between a judge or hearing officer and the defendant.

Medical interpreting obviously is, when it is done in hospitals, clinics or other medical facility involving health practitioners and their patients.

Because of the big number of foreign-born residents in the US with limited English proficiency (37.5 million, based on current Census Bureau statistics), the demand for interpreters has become a necessity.

As a result, interpreting agencies in America have mushroomed, providing readily available professional and court-certified interpreters.

As for Beroy’s case, she gets calls around the US and as far as London, to do interpreting jobs. As an interpreter for both disciplines, she must not only speak the language of what a client needs, she must also interpret its nuances intelligently.

Beroy does it either face-to-face or through remote telecon. Her interpreting job may include collecting unemployment benefits, activating clients’ health insurance plans to doing mundane tasks like fixing telephone connection problems, among others.

First job in America

Prior to her job, Beroy worked as a caregiver for the elderly and disabled. “I had a soft spot for them,” she says. Her patients were rich men and women who started out as ordinary people and ended up being successful.

“I learned a lot from them. They also brought me to places that otherwise I won’t be able to see,” she narrates. But health issues forced her to stop what she loved doing and had to reinvent herself as an interpreter.

When she migrated to the US in 2009, transitioning was very hard for Beroy. She was a department head in the Philippines with the power to hire and fire, yet had a hard time getting a decent job.

While domestic helpers were common in the Philippines, housekeepers were expensive in the US. Only the rich could afford to hire them. Out of need, she learned to clean the house, tidy up and cook.

As former head of a provincial PESO (Public Employment Services Office) that deployed local and overseas workers, Beroy felt bad about the diaspora of Filipinos but accepted it as a fact and a reality, noticing that her ‘kababayans’ with spouses, children or siblings abroad have better quality of life.

In her former place of work back home, she laments how her colleagues slowly became powerless to fight cultures of impropriety. “They have eventually succumbed to the pressure just to keep their jobs.

I didn’t want to place myself in a situation where I would be swallowed by the system. So I got out when I still could,” she recalls.

Beroy was born and raised in Cuyo, formerly Palawan’s capital. Her parents were Engineer Leandro Feria and Mrs. Neria K. Feria, a retired elementary school teacher.

Her oldest brother is Fr. Peter Feria, Parish Priest of San Isidro Labrador parish in Maruyugon, Puerto Princesa City.

Her brothe Bong is a musician, Jhie, a navy serviceman and Dominic, a talented comic and skilled welder. She and Fr. Peter went to kindergarten at St. Joseph Academy and they all studied at Cuyo Central School.

They all finished high school at St. Joseph. 

Her parents came from generations of close-knit and religious Catholics who practiced simple living, nationalism and ignored the trappings of material wealth. Her father was a lay minister while her mother was a church organist. Her earliest memory of her family was tagging along with them in church and singing in the choir. She lived a sheltered, decent life in a community where everybody knew everybody and almost everyone was a relative.

Beroy was studying at University of Santo Tomas when martial law rule was getting worse. That period opened her eyes to a startling awakening: “We don’t only think and live for ourselves, we also need to be concerned with issues affecting our country and our future.”

Cuyo, Palawan, Beroy's hometown in Palawan
While in college, she actively joined rallies at university belt in Manila. Not amused, her landlady would inform her parents and the latter would in turn, cut her allowance off and ask her to return home.

Determined, she instead looked for a job, underwent training on sales and marketing and got hired as a field demonstrator. She worked hard to survive.

“Earning my own money gave me the power to focus on my career. At age of 19, I was already a Division Manager with three units of people working under me,” she recalls.

Worried about her safety in the looming political storm, her father wrote her once again and begged for her to come home. Homesick and scared being a college dropout, she went back to Palawan and enrolled at Palawan State College, now a university, on a scholarship program. 

But a major blow happened to his family after the EDSA revolution. Her father lost his job even after faithfully discharging his duties and responsibilities as a government employee for 23 years. “It all went down the drain and I could not forget his bitterness,” Beroy remembers.

Cuyo Municipal Hall
That left her supporting herself, as a singer at a local restaurant at night while attending school at daytime. Little by little she started standing on her own two feet.

She was soon hired as a casual clerk at the National Power Corporation and worked at Palawan Council For Sustainable Development Staff (PCSDS) from 1991 to 1999 as Project Development/Human Resources Development Officer III.

She then got a scholarship grant from the Civil Service Local Scholarship Program where she acquired her Masters in Public Administration degree in 1996. In 1999, she was hired as Chief, Manpower Development Officer at the provincial office, first as assistant, then as head of office.

Care for the environment has since been her advocacy for many years. Why does she think it’s worth fighting for? She tells her story:

It started in 1990 when Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office (PIADPO) was phasing out. Worried about lack of security of tenure in my job at Napocor, I joined a play, “Kung Hindi Ngayon, Kelan? Kung Hindi Tayo, Sino?”

Palawan State University, where Beroy graduated

That very successful play tackled issues on illegal logging, illegal fishing, kaingin (slash and burn farming) as well as mining. The message left a lasting impact on my mind. Shortly after, I joined some local people to lobby for the passage of R.A. 7611, aka Strategic Environmental Plan for Palawan Act. It was passed into law on September 19, 1992 before President Cory Aquino finished her term,” she recalls.

When Gen. Fidel V. Ramos became president, Beroy continued to write news reports and did environmental articles for a local newspaper.  She was then assigned to the Secretariat where she transcribed and prepared volumes and many minutes of the meetings.

She heard the pros and cons of environmental protection and sustainable development efforts from technical experts and powerful businessmen who wanted to invest in Palawan.

She learned to appreciate Palawan’s beauty and rich natural resources and realized the serious threat of losing it if abuse will continue and people not take good care of it.

As a Pinay working abroad, Beroy thinks she can be effective with her advocacies even if working away from home.

“I’d rather write about my advocacies than do nothing at all. When Jose Rizal went abroad, he wrote. He didn’t organize or lead a revolution. Yet, he influenced the world with his writings. He is also our national hero.

She believes in the sayings: “The pen is mightier than the sword” and “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

I’m nothing compared to these great men. But I’d rather write about the things that would benefit Palawan, if not today, at least someday. When God calls me back home in His time, I could say that I used my gift of singing to sing in the church choir and my gift of writing to help awaken our people to protect Palawan’s environment.

Beroy notes that the more serious issue here is the brain drain. “Most brilliant and highly skilled Filipino professionals have gone out of the country to work abroad.

They are known all over the world as God-fearing, hardworking, loving, patient, understanding and most of all, resilient in times of adversity,” she says.

She says, Filipinos abroad, in general, are honest, highly skilled, professional, disciplined, support their family back home and most-of-all, law-abiding citizens. 

On what would make Filipinos become successful abroad?

Beroy says there are many definitions of success. When she moved to the US, her goal was to support her kids until they finished college. She wanted them to become well-rounded kids who are God-fearing, honest, responsible, kind and be able to survive and make it anywhere in the world.

“My daughter has graduated in 2013 and now working part-time in Sweden. As a mother, I could only guide them, support them and be there for them when they need me. But I don’t impose my will on them,” she intimates.

If given a chance to have an audience with the President of the Philippines, what are the burning things she would like to tell him and act swiftly on? “Graft and corruption in the government. The scandal reaches from the highest echelon down to the lowliest clerk.”

Environmental protection is also close to Beroy’s heart. “The Philippines is rich in natural resources and blessed with beautiful islands. If we focus on protecting the environment, the day would come when majority of the Filipinos would become happy, peaceful and prosperous,” she says.

The three things she would like to happen in her hometown: 1. God-fearing and honest people elected as public officials. 2. Drug problems and all sorts of illegal activities eradicated. 3. Positive investor atmosphere that would also protect the environment and its own natural resources.

Who is Medy Beroy as a person? She replies: “What you see is what you get.” She misses the Philippines and can only say the following to her fellow Filipinos:

“The Philippines is our country, the earth is our planet. We have to start thinking that we only have one planet.

We need to love and take good care of each other. 

If you were rich and God has abundantly blessed you, focus on doing philanthropic deeds.

Do not squander your money on the latest fashion, collecting cars, yachts and mansions while people around you are collecting and eating garbage, homeless and living like rats in hovels. If God blessed you as a talented musician, write music that would praise God and help our people. If you were a scientist, do some research that would help protect our environment. 

What I’m only pointing out here is that whatever talents, skills or gifts that God blessed you with, use it not just for yourself or your family, but for the good of your community and your people.”

Sunday, November 15, 2015


"Katala", the Philippine Cockatoo, fast diminishing in Rasa Island sanctuary in Narra, Palawan. Ironically, the island is being pushed as location for an environmentally-damaging coal-fired power plant.

by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 16, 2015

Semirara’s photos taken from space look bizarre. Defaced, the island looks like a geological Frankenstein, grotesquely scarred by coal mining pits.

How would you feel if the same thinghappens to the Last Frontier? Indignation, outrage, fury, anger, unless you can’t see.

Would you just sit there and watch the unabated environmental plunder?

At the foot of Mt. Mantalinggahan, Palawan’s highest peak, are hectares and hectares of forest trees, breathing life to one of the most diverse flora and fauna species in the world. Imagine if they are burnt to ashesto give way to palm oil plantations?

"Tandikan" Palawan Pheasant Peacock
Picture endemic animals fleeing from wildfires as their habitats are razed to the ground. Imagine if the already endangered “Pilandok”(Mouse Deer), “Tandikan” (Pheasant Peacock), “Balintong” (Armadillo), “Kiyaw”(Mynah), “Pikoy” (Blue-NapedParrot), “Katala” (Cockatoo), “Binturong” (Bear Cat) and many more continue to diminish in number. Can we all withstand the horrific sight?

Indonesia’s recent forest inferno can also happen in Palawan. We all knowthe catastrophic effect: the health-damaging hazecan blanket an entire town and spread across the country.

Can the impending environmental apocalypse happen? No, if we are doubly vigilant. No, if we are wide-awakeand say yes to doubly protecting Palawan’s protected areasfrom further damage.

Case-in-point: West Papua. Last October, the Indonesian paradisewith stunning rainforests and the world’s epicenter of marine biodiversity, boasting more species than anywhere else on the planet, became the world’s first conservation province by declaring it as a “conservation area.”

El Nido

Symbolically important, it sealedthe future of the province’s irreplaceable ecosystems.

“The honor could have been owned by the province of Palawan, but sadly, people who profess love for the province just pay lip service to it. They are busy milking our natural resources not knowing that someday they will all be depleted,” says Art Ventura, an environmentalist by heart and former director of Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD).

Coral Triangle, the environmental bible says of the West Papua move: “It created a legal framework for conservation efforts in one of Indonesia’s most beautiful regions, a role modelfor more effective conservation efforts.” The bold vision was initiated upon consultation with the provincial governor, Abraham Atururi.

Conserve Palawan now

Concerns about Palawan’s natural resources continue to surface.On social media, the sentiment is becoming more pronounced.

Rare orchids found in Mt. Mantalinggahan Mountain Range
The deletion of five important Palawan protected areas (El Nido Managed Resource Protected Area, Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, Mt. Mantalinggahan Protected Landscape, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River Park and Rasa Island Wild Sanctuary) from the expanded NIPAS (National Integrated Protected Areas System) house bill sparked a heated debate, prompting many concerned citizens and environmentalists to question the motives of those responsible for the act.

El Nido was recently voted as World’s Best Island by Conde Nast Travel Magazine for the second consecutive year. Malampaya Sound is the Philippines’ richest fishing ground.

Mount Mantalinggahan is a vast mountain range that covers four towns.It is home to indigenous Palaw’ans and one of 11 important bird areas in the province, as well as one of only 10 sites of the Alliance for Zero Extinction sites where various species are in imminent danger of disappearing in the Philippines.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean Park Underground River
Puerto Princesa’sSubterranean Park, a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world’s seven wonders of nature,is where the Underground River flows.

Rasa Island is home to the Philippine cockatoo, now facing extinction with only around 1,000 remain. The island, of all places, has been chosen for a coal-fired power plant.

Expanded NIPAS Law

For the benefit of the uninitiated, the reinforced NIPAS is a congressional bill under Republic Act 7586, which aims to replace, expand and strengthen the 23-year-old NIPAS Law. Once enacted into law by Congress, it will provide greater protection for the environment, especiallyprotected areas in the Philippines.

In Congress’ executive committee meeting held last November 11, Rep. Douglas Hagedornof Palawan disputed the exclusion of five Palawan protected areas from the bill saying the deletion was anomalous as it did not have the committee’s approval.

Hagedorn had earlier discovered the deletion and argued that groups with ulterior motivesor otherwise, cango around PCSD and open these areas to environmentally damaging activities like “regulated mining” in protected areas, an activity banned by the ENIPAS.

Rep. Franz Alvarez and groups identified with Governor Jose Alvarez, however,asserted that Palawan does not need to be in the NIPAS, as the province already has its own Strategic Environmental Plan (SEP) under Republic Act (RA) 7611.GovernorAlvarez is currently pushing for construction of a coal-fired power plant in the province, a move being heavily opposed by environmentalist groups.

Representative Douglas Hagedorn, 3rd District Palawan
Pro-environment advocates Tony Oposa, Gina Lopez of ABS-CBN, Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth, GerthieAnda of Environment Legal Assistance Center, Gerry Arances of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Dante Lagman of Sanlakas, Isagani Serrano of Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, Voltaire Alferez of Philippines Earth Day Network, Cynthia Sumagaysay of Palawan Alliance for Clean Energy, JhunetteBuenviaje of Greenpeace, Anne Larracas of Global Alliance of Incinerator Alternatives, ThonyDizon of Ecowaste Coalition, who were all present at the meeting disagreed.

They said inclusion of five Palawan protected areas to the expanded NIPAS Law would give double protection for the province’s ecologically critical sites.

“If the Alvarezes are really interested in environmental protection and preservation as they claim to be, why object to Palawan’s double-barreled protection?”Hagedorn asserted.

Puerto Princesa environmentalist groups also put up a united front to oppose business groups out to exploit the country’s “protected areas,” especially in Palawan.

Art Rodriguez Ventura, filing his candidacy for Palawan Governor
Former Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn, led the environmentalists and declared their “united and unequivocal support.”

Pro-environment Senator Loren Legarda,vowed no exclusion of 5 Palawan protected areas from the rest and has also urged the committee to fasttrack the approval of the new NIPAS.

Earlier, Puerto Princesa City Council passed an ordinance in July, declaring two coral reef sites, the Tangdol Reef in Barangay Bancao-Bancao and the Tagkuti Reef in Barangay Simpokan as “marine sanctuaries”, where any human activity, except approved scientific research, is prohibited.

Without the vigilance of Rep. Hagedorn, the House Committee on Natural Resources would have passed a bill favoring coal and non-renewable energy, mining and other business interests. At the end of the session, five Palawan Protected Areas were restored in the original list and R. A. 7611 (Strategic Environmental Palawan) was made consistent withthe new ENIPAS.

Saturday, October 24, 2015


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
October 24, 2015 issue

He cuts hair in London but has never cut his ties with the country of his parents and grandparents. He is even proud to tell people that they were migrant workers.

On 31 Riding House Street, right next to BBC London and Oxford Circus, is Champs Barbers, a boxing-themed barbershop where many celebrities, movie stars and sports personalities go for hairgrooming.

Splashed on the walls are boxing memorabilia, including some autographs of boxing history’s greats. It has gained a loyal following, not only from people all over London, United Kingdom, but also from other parts of the world. One of the reasons: It employs the most number of Filipino barbers, including a Pinay haircutter.

The barber who has stayed the longest in the shop is Troy Argones, a Filipino born in the UK whose parents were also brought to the UK by their parents.

Young and energetic, Argones belongs to a new generation of migrant workers, Filipino in looks, culturally British but has not forgotten his Philippine roots.

“I am the first of the Argones family to be born in the UK and also the first in a long time to take up a career on this trade,” he narrates.

He came from a family of barbers. His great grandfather had a salon with four chairs and his grand uncles helped out whenever they were on leave from the Philippine army.

Argones’ parents came to the UK as teenagers and met while they were growing up in London. Originally from Pangasinan, his Lola was a grade school teacher, who, together with his Lolo, migrated during the 70s. His mother and uncle spent a few years with their relatives in Bulacan before they were petitioned in 1983. 

His Lolo on the father’s side was a Bicolano architect and worked as a building inspector in Makati when it was still a municipality. His dad, two brothers and sisters, also came to the UK in the late 70's.

Argones’ grandmother was once featured in London’s newspaper Daily Mail while being put under house arrest for failing to disclose that she had children when she migrated to the UK. She helped the famous journalist John Pilger in making it possible for families to migrate to the UK by taking part in protests and petitioning the UK government.

By working the most, Argones has gotten to where he is now, helping manage the shop’s day-to-day operation, assigning customers to barbers, and keeping an eye on the shop’s resources. He has become a favorite among children of Filipino OFWs. It is probably because of the way he connects to them, more meaningfully rather than routinary.

“When the job is finished, my job does not end there. I share my skills and teach them how to become independent early,” he says.

It all began as a hobby when he was sixteen years old. With a pair of clippers bought from Tesco, he experimented with friends and members of the family. He became good at it until he became a professional barber for three and half years, the last two spent at Champs.

After opting out of university at age 21, Argones worked in retail jobs for five years. He became serious about barbering when he found out he was going to be a father.

Cutting hair is one of the longest living crafts in history, Argones says. “It has allowed me to meet people with beautiful minds, be myself and meet cool people. It gave me a chance to help build people’s confidence. Here, I am allowed to express myself creatively with different haircuts. Every day is different, so you’ll never know what kind of experience will walk through the door,” he intimates.

In his current job at Champs, Argones and his fellow Pinoy barbers always do their best to please customers. The shop has a big Filipino following, mostly young Fil-Brits.

“I would love for all Filipinos to come to our shop. I have customers from all over the globe who’ve become great friends and haven't let anyone cut their hair since I started at Champs,” he says with pride.

Champs Barbers was opened by Colombian Ian “Champ” Hoyos, a professional barber and boxing enthusiast, in early 2012. When he started, Hoyos made sure that Champs would be the best so he hired the best barbers around London. To date, its popularity continues to soar due to positive word-of-mouth and good reviews it has been getting on social media.

When not working, Argones is a family man. He likes to take his fiancee and son out or just relax with them at home. “Either way, there’s nothing better than spending it with my family,” he says. A man who appreciates small things in life, Argones likes good music, food and love to mingle with people.

Pinoy culture at home

When he was growing up, Argones’ parents worked full time. He and his sister were mostly looked-after by his grandmother, an experience that taught him to know more about the country of his parents. The values that he learned were something he also wanted to pass on to his children.

“For dinner, we always had a choice of two dishes our Lola prepared for us, “Sinigang” or “Tinola”, both of which I love, but Lola's “Pork Sinigang”, with a splash of “patis”, is my favorite,” he reminisces.

There are many chefs on both sides of the Argones family. His Lolo Abel worked in many hotels in London. His Tito Dun worked as a Teppenyaki chef in prestigious “Matsuri” in Greenland, London, and “Yumenoki” is his Ninang Ami’s successful restaurant in Chelsea.

“I was surrounded by good food of all cuisines from early age. But for dinner at both grandparents house, great Filipino classics like my Lolo's “Adobo” and my Tita Paz's “Menudo” would always be served.

Because Argones was not born in the Philippines, his every trip to the country feels like a new experience. He has seen Makati’s vibrant and colorful nightlife and loved it. He got to know members of his clan and felt very much at home right away. He makes it a point to spend quality time with them whenever he is home.

When he last visited the Philippines, Argones marveled at the simplicity of life in Camotes, his girl friend’s hometown in Cebu. “There is beauty wherever you go and that is what I love most about the Philippines,” he says.
He hopes to have a successful business of his own in ten years, not just a barbershop, but also a globally recognized brand, promoting a lifestyle for young gentlemen around the world.

Before Champs, Argones was a DJ for his uncle's "Signature Sounds", a UK-based Filipino-owned company. He started by following him around, helping set up the audio systems till they wrapped up and finished the day’s work.

Living in London

Argones grew up in Queens Crescent, Kentish town, “a rough area to grow up in,” he says. Here, he would often hear altercations but his family adapted well with the multi-ethnic community, and he, lucky enough to have friends who’ve kept him out of trouble.

Apart from that, UK is a place where culture is celebrated Argones says. “It makes my being a Filipino even more special,” he adds.

Since becoming a barber, Argones has focused on providing for his family, avoiding reckless spending, able to live comfortably, even spoiling his family from time to time.

His opinion on Filipinos living in the UK is shared by many, like a gap between Filipinos his age, born and raised in the UK and those born back home. “I think lack of common social interests and the fact that most UK-born Filipinos are shy or unable to speak Tagalog creates a slight cultural barrier,” he says.

He observes that it does not necessarily create any negative tension or segregation. “Most Filipinos who meet in the UK always find some things in common like family traditions and food preferences,” he says.

Growing up in the UK and seeing the Philippines only ocassionally has taught Argones many things. “I know of some people who are not as fortunate but still they find ways to be happy. That’s what I find so admirable with Filipinos and that teaches me not to take things for granted,” he says.

Words of advice he would give to Filipinos who would like to work in the UK: “It is a place full of many opportunities, where good character and work ethics are appreciated. Be honest, always strive to achieve the best of whatever you can do and you’ll succeed.”