Walang ganyan sa States

The legalization of Uber in the Philippines reminded me of the “Walang ganyan sa States” ad I saw when I was a kid. Now that I’m working overseas, I can finally connect the dots about what it was trying to say about this Filipino mentality. My thoughts about how to channel that mindset into positive and progressive change on my latest article on Rappler. 

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Walang ganyan sa States.” (That doesn’t happen in the US)

Do you remember this pinoy catchphrase made popular in 2003 by a Petron advertisement?

In the advertisement, a balikbayan mother-in-law begins criticizing everything the moment she arrives back home – traffic, potholes and more.

Naturally, each and every critique ends with “Walang ganyan sa states.” But at the end, when her grandchildren shower her with affection, her son-in-law echoes the phrase to her once more, albeit in a different light. Truly, you won’t find that same sense of family back in the States, or anywhere else.

I was 13 when that ad first aired. But more than a decade later, I still remember it like it was yesterday.

Perhaps the tagline stuck in my subconscious over the years because it was witty, heartwarming and funny. As a child, I did not fully understand the ad’s subtext, how it tried to convey the Filipino inferiority and colonial complex – where everything ‘foreign’ is better. But now as an adult who’s left the comforts of Manila to seek opportunities elsewhere, the message finally hits a lot closer to home.

Greener grass

I realize with a smile that I am now the balikbayan mother-in-law, in those exasperated moments where I catch myself judging my nation; for not offering the same liberties provided elsewhere, when my patience is sorely tested by a bureaucracy seldom found when living abroad.

Beyond monetary compensation, quality of life is part of what makes living abroad compelling, especially when you work in a safe, “first world” country like Singapore. Not only is transport easily accessible, but I can also take a cab home late at night, free of the fear of being a criminal’s next victim.

‘Walang ganyan sa Philippines’

I also see that balikbayan mother-in-law in my friends who complain everyday about the horrendous traffic or derailing public transportation system. And they don’t even work abroad.

For well-traveled Filipinos, it’s not uncommon to come back home feeling a little heftier – weighed down by rich food, new clothes, but most of all, a heavy heart.

Every new exposure to the world is a double-edged sword that inspires as it disillusions, where newly informed expectations of home are often met with disappointment.

You love the Philippines but oh, the #ThirdWorldProblems. How often do we hear: “Why can’t our MRT be as efficient as the BTS Skytrain in Thailand?” or “Why can’t our streets be as clean as Singapore?” #WalangGanyanSaPhilippines.

The progressive mindset

These observations and complaints are anything but new. It’s a narrative Filipinos have grown up with, and bring as part of their baggage when they move abroad.

But when the Philippines made the local and international headlines about being the first country in the world to legalize Uber, my first thought was “Finally!”

It reminded me of when I first started using taxi apps when I moved to Singapore. I remember wishing that I had an Uber or GrabTaxi while growing up in Manila and could not wait until this global trend found its way back home.

The Uber news is a big deal because it’s a sign of how progressive the Philippines can be. But, it’s only one of many examples of how you can turn global learnings into a model that works locally.

Simply look to our burgeoning hostel and backpacking scene, a concept once commonly identified as a European one. Thanks to pioneers like the Circle Hostel in Zambales and La Union, it’s a trend that has since helped to etch our spot as a top global travel destination.

Then there is Mustari Raji, who tapped into his experience as a pool water treatment specialist in Saudi Arabia to create a floating swimming pool in the sea.

As a former national champion and coach, he gives less fortunate children living in coastal areas a chance to become the nation’s future champion swimmers.

The reality is that we can’t escape from the Walang ganyan sa Philippines” mentality. It’s only natural for us to compare and contrast what we don’t have, versus what we wish we did.

But instead of complaining, let’s imagine what we can do to become better instead. Let’s say to ourselves, “Walang ganyan sa Philippines. Paano natin puwedeng gawin yan dito?” (There’s nothing like that in the Philippines. So how can we do that here?)

#IGiveADayOff: Yayas and moms in Singapore

Who knows their kids better? Is it the mothers or maids?

In a controversial video featuring mothers and maids being quizzed about the children they care for, 74% of the maids had more correct answers than the mothers.

Questions ranged from what the children want to become when they grow up, to their favorite subject at school, who their best friend or crush is. Then the heart tugging video asks the mothers, “Shouldn’t we spend more time with our children?” as a segue to their main message of “Let’s give domestic works their legal days off.”

The recent #IGiveADayOff campaign by ad agency Ogilvy Singapore for non-profit Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) triggered an online debate about the right of foreign domestic workers to a weekly day off and the reality of working mothers who don’t spend enough time with their children.

According to their study, 40% of Singapore’s foreign domestic workers do not have a weekly day off despite a law in 2013 that made it mandatory.

Many felt that though the campaign’s intention came from a good place, the approach of shaming mothers went somewhat amiss. It struck a nerve as it reflected the painful trade-off working mothers face – that between earning a living and spending time with their children.

'MUM OR MAID?' The video that tested mothers and maids on who knows their kids' better stirred controversy in Singapore. Screengrab from YouTube

‘MUM OR MAID?’ The video that tested mothers and maids on who knows their kids’ better stirred controversy in Singapore. Screengrab from YouTube

But unlike the working mothers depicted in the video, the trade-off faced by foreign maids who are also parents also stings.

Out of the 222,500 foreign domestic workers in Singapore, approximately 32% or 70,000 are Filipinos. These are women who don’t get to return home to their families at the end of every day. And despite many being denied the right to a day off by their employers, they persist to work overseas to provide a better future for their own children back home.

Cost of going home

While many maids are working mothers too, they don’t have the luxury of flying home whenever they want to.

The average monthly salary of a Filipino maid is SG$500, while a round-trip Singapore-Manila ticket costs approximately half of that (SG$250-$300).

Then there are many other expenses to consider, from homeward-bound remittances to surviving in a country twice labeled as the most expensive city in the world in recent years.

Unfair working conditions

As a collectivist culture, Filipino values are deeply rooted in the family. Regardless of liberal and Western influence over the years, the family is still the basic building block of our society.

With the physical and mental distance placed between loved ones, that very bond becomes strained for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Though having an emotional support system is important for anyone living abroad, it’s even more crucial for OFWs who work under unfair labor conditions, denied of their rights.

According to a Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME) study, 27% of respondents said their employers have entered and searched their rooms or checked their phones, while 73% were restricted from communicating with their friends and family members.

The study also found that the maids tend to work long hours (a daily average of 13 hours), and 4 in 10 did not have a weekly day off. Almost a quarter of 700 women surveyed suffered from mental problems and only 54% received adequate medical attention when they fell sick.

The emotional debit

For many domestic workers, theirs is a familiar tale – that they are working overseas to support their family. OFW mothers are pillars of strength, breadwinners who can only show their love from 2,391 km away, one transfer at a time.They are lauded as unsung heroes by our government, often because their remittances help keep the Philippine economy afloat.

But who’s supporting them in return for the monetary assistance they provide? With every deposit into their Philippine bank account comes an emotional withdrawal for an OFW.

While Labor Day celebrates the achievement of workers around the world, Mother’s Day puts the spotlight on domestic workers who are mothers.

Though maids might know the children of their employers better than the parents do, we should take care not to write off the emotional needs and the rights of OFWs too.

View my original article on Rappler. 

The boundaries of free speech as a foreigner

Photo from the internet

Photo from the internet

My thoughts on the Edz Ello controversy and the boundaries of free speech as a foreigner. I’ve changed the headline from what was originally posted on Rappler. I’m using OFWs as an example but I think it’s a common concern for anyone living abroad regardless of their nationality.

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Filipinos are no strangers to making the headlines in Singapore.

Last June 2014 a Philippine Independence Day celebration in Singapore was the subject of xenophobic heckling and harassment online, causing the organizers to cancel the event.

(READ: Pinoy group in Singapore drops Independence Day event plan)

A few days ago the couple behind The Real Singapore, a popular alternative news site, was charged with sedition. The cause? They allegedly claimed that a Filipino family caused an incident during Thaipusam, a Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community.

Online forums are regularly flooded with comments referring to Filipinos as “foreign trash” or “cockroaches,” making Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) feel angry, ashamed or even apathetic. These derogatory comments are nothing new. The question is whether OFWs should feel obligated to defend theirkababayantooth and nail in a nationalistic effort to change the narrative about Filipinos abroad.

But the controversy sparked by Edz Ello, a Filipino nurse working in a government hospital in Singapore recently charged with sedition and lying to the police for posting hateful comments about Singaporeans online, paints a different picture.

Instead of defending a fellow Filipino, the OFW community too condemned his actions, to the extent of saying that he deserved the strict consequences that followed.

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

RACIST COMMENT? Filipino Nurse Edz Ello, an OFW in Singapore is fired from his job for allegedly making these racist comments on Facebook. Screenshot from Facebook

The unspoken rule: don’t bite the hand that feeds

Most OFWs believe that it’s a privilege to be working overseas, especially in Singapore, where the earning capacity tends to be much higher than back in the Philippines.

Regardless of your nationality or income, the bottom line is that every expatriate and migrant worker is a guest in a foreign country. It’s an implicit agreement – that locals expect respect and sensitivity from those who would share their home.

In the case of Edz Ello, both Singaporean and Filipino netizens alike felt that the hateful comments he posted reflected the exact opposite. They said, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” an unspoken rule about not offending your benefactor that OFWs are all too familiar with.

Boundaries of free speech

While OFWs are used to a culture of freedom of speech back home, once we venture beyond our borders the boundaries become gray. Living abroad makes us more self-aware of our actions, especially online, not merely out of fear of being deported or arrested, but also out of respect to our host country.

Singapore, on the other hand, is known for its strict laws about voicing opinions publicly.

The priority of the government is to preserve harmony in a multicultural society, where race is a major social identifier for locals. As mentioned by Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam, “You have full freedom of speech [in Singapore] but it doesn’t extend to offending somebody else.”

So similar to how religion is a popular yet sensitive topic in the Philippines, such inflammatory comments along national and racial lines can elicit controversy in Singapore. This is increasingly relevant amidst growing concerns about the influx of foreigners in recent years, with an almost 40% foreign population.

Goodwill ambassadors

172,700 Filipinos work in Singapore, according to the latest publicly available Philippine government data. As part of the foreigner population in Singapore, the responsibility of OFWs is to become goodwill ambassadors for the Philippines.

We are guardians of the Filipino name for the world at large, whose only points of reference about the Philippines are sweeping generalizations and often negative stereotypes. That’s why the OFW community did not speak up on behalf of Edz Ello. They agree that his actions unfairly represented Filipinos. Even some locals echo the same sentiment – don’t let the actions of one Filipino paint the wrong picture of an entire race.

The Ello controversy reminds us that nationalism goes beyond our bloodline, heritage, language and the color of our skin. It’s about knowing that we can be better Filipinos, while holding our fellow kababayansaccountable to that very standard.

As an OFW, that means doing our utmost best in protecting our name abroad. Then perhaps, we’ll be making headlines for all the right reasons.

PUBLISHED ON RAPPLER: On being Filipino abroad

Writing ‘Beyond Nosebleed‘ and ‘Waking up to being Filipino” last year for Rappler and Interaksyon really helped me embrace being a ‘Foreign Filipino.’ I found my voice not only as a Filipino but as a writer. It’s a niche that speaks so strongly to who I am and what I believe in, however, is not as defined as being a ‘sports,’ ‘news’ or ‘lifestyle’ writer. Whenever someone asked me what I want to write about, I was always unsure of my answer. It was such a grey area.

Now that I’ve moved to Singapore it makes more sense. This is the continuation to being a ‘Foreign Filipino,’ a story that also belongs to the thousands of expat Filipinos abroad. A large work force whose voice has yet to be really heard. This is what both my blog and Rappler’s new #BalikBayan section is about.

Thank you as always to the Rappler team (a shout out to Maria Ressa and Michael Josh) who asked me to write this piece. Personally, it was an opportune reminder of why I moved abroad in the first place.

Also check out our Google Hangout with Filipinos in every continent discussing what it means to be Filipino abroad. Great insights :)

AT HOME. The author discovers how much a Filipino she is in another country. All photos by Rica Facundo

AT HOME. The author discovers how much a Filipino she is in another country. All photos by Rica Facundo

SINGAPORE – Last year, I was bemused by how I felt more Filipino in Singapore than back in the Philippines.

Read: Beyond ‘nosebleed’

Given that I am a “foreign Filipina” born in Indonesia and attended an international high school, I was excited about Singapore. I knew it to be a cosmopolitan city of Chinese, Malays, Indians and foreigners that could teach me about other cultures.

After all, globalism is finding the common thread among different races. Moving abroad was the perfect opportunity to assimilate and localize a new way of living.

But for a while I was confused.

I didn’t expect moving abroad would first shed light about how Filipino I was before connecting the dots with other nationalities.

I didn’t have to speak Tagalog fluently or discuss Philippine politics or history to brand myself a Filipino. Understanding the issue of Filipino identity became more of a practical matter.

Rather than attempting to discover Filipino identity, which is what being Filipino meant when I still lived back home, living abroad actually brought out the Filipino in me without my even trying too hard.

MOVING. Rica documents the day she moved to Singapore

MOVING. Rica documents the day she moved to Singapore

‘Filipinoisms’

In Singapore where rules are strictly enforced, it’s the Filipino who thinks twice about crossing the street on a red light. Yet it’s the same Filipino who will most likely not practice it when back home.

In Singapore, where complaints about train delays are common, Filipinos will have the patience to smile about them. We are used to relentless traffic on EDSA as our resilience stems from surviving bigger struggles like poverty and natural disasters.

In Singapore, a global hub for professionals, Filipinos are in the habit of saying, “I’m sorry” a lot when they don’t have to.

In Singapore, a country with a strong and strict work ethic, I’ve learned that skills can be developed, but compassion can never be taught, which is what I’m thankful for about Filipino culture. Imagine the double-threat we can be if we can harness both traits.

In Singapore, or any other country we migrate to, our lifestyle changes.

The collectivist culture that characterizes most Asian countries breeds a brand of independence that’s rooted in our parents and helpers, and grows with interdependence.

Usually full independence isn’t granted until Filipinos are much older, so our lack of domestic skills — cooking, cleaning and doing laundry, on top of financial illiteracy, become more apparent when living abroad.

Newborn expats from the upper-middle class might Google “how to remove stains from color bleeding” and “how to declog your toilet or shower without yaya.” The Philippines may be a third world country but you can appreciate how home can spoil you when you don’t have to pay for rent.

Indeed I’ve realized that we need contrast to see the fine lines outlining who we are. The exposure abroad makes us hyper-aware of the strengths and weaknesses born out of Filipino culture—traits we can leverage and work on to become better Filipinos, to compete in the globalized economy, learnings we can take for those of us who pay it forward when we move back home.

The bigger picture

The exposure abroad also provides a larger common denominator among Filipinos of various backgrounds. By taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture, trivialities such as language, geography, skin, and socio-economic class become less important.

This Filipino connection became apparent when I attended the event of an NGO where I volunteer. I was listening to a domestic worker speak about the struggles of working in Singapore.

Despite the difference in our educational and economic background I could relate to the tentativeness of our work permit to the stereotypes we need to challenge. Plus, we both left Manila in pursuit of a promising future. Our suitcases are heavy with the stories that brought us to Singapore—chapters worth of family, friends, and dreams.

SMALL WORLD. In her new world, Rica still finds herself connecting to her Filipino roots

SMALL WORLD. In her new world, Rica still finds herself connecting to her Filipino roots

The modern day Filipino

Now that it’s easier to travel, work or study abroad, I’m excited about the exposure Filipinos will get at a younger age.

Unlike before when third culture kids (TCKs) were born from the circumstances of where their parents were based, the new generation will be globalized and localized as an offshoot of choosing to move abroad.

I believe it’s the overseas Filipino workers, expats and “foreign Filipinos” alike who will till the future of the Philippines, not only on remittances, but with a better understanding of who we are and can be as a country.

It’s been a year since I left Manila. Indeed I still feel more Filipino abroad than I do back home but I use that point of view to my advantage.

Here I’ve realized it is less about finding your Filipino identity but embracing how the underlying cultural DNA brought you up as one. It’s about appreciating the nuances and values that differentiate you from the rest of the world. – Rappler.com

See original article here

Beyond ‘nosebleed’

My pet peeve and personal passion is what makes a Filipino a ‘Filipino.’  Why are we judged on how well we speak English? This article was originally inspired by Veronica Pedrosa’s response to the Azakals/ Clavio controversy on Interaksyon.

An interesting read is a blog entry that someone tweeted to me after reading my article. It’s about speaking in english versus tagalog, especially teaching in schools. The point of education is to get get the lesson across to the students in a clear and concise manner. The text may be in English but you can use tagalog examples to supplement the learning.

 This is for all my Filipino friends with accents!

GAWAD KALINGA. With friends and kids of NTC Village-Gawad Kalinga.

MANILA, Philippines – In the Philippine college setting, we’re familiar with the frequent judgments made on that classmate who speaks better English than most.

Adults say that looking up to them is tantamount to colonial mentality. More deprecating comments dismiss them as “nosebleed” – because exerting effort to speak English the way they do or simply understanding what they say demands too much effort and causes tremendous strain.

As a “foreign Filipino” born in Jakarta and raised in an international high school, the only thing more worthy of judgment than speaking primarily in English throughout college here is, when it’s done with a twang.

While I can be judged for speaking “good English,” other Filipinos fear being judged for not speaking English well enough.

The divide became clearer to me recently when a friend from Davao revealed his insecurity about speaking in English. Because his provincial accent makes him sound different, he’s sometimes embarrassed to speak up, so he doesn’t. This is such a waste because he has a lot of wonderful things to say.

My friend and I are Filipinos of entirely different backgrounds – I’m a so-called sosyal city dweller while he’s a provinciano from the provinces – yet we both relate to a similar kind of “nosebleed.”

Who’s a Filipino?

It’s the double standard that clouds judgments and bleeds issues of identity in our country, both personal and national in nature. It’s the insecurity that prevents people from being loud and proud of who they are wherever they are from.

Does language alone make a Filipino? Who is the Filipino – the one who speaks English or Tagalog fluently?

Last March we saw a trace of this issue in the Azkals-Arnold Clavio controversy where two Filipino football players with foreign roots were accused of pretending to be “kayumanggi” or brown-skinned.

Other mixed or “tisoy” athletes and artists face similar discrimination and rejection despite sacrificing time and putting in hard work to represent their country.

It’s also ironic how a country that profits from its English-speaking abilities in call centers and celebrates Filipino pride in part-blooded American Idol contestants criticizes others for not being Filipino enough.

Cosmopolitan

Yet British author David Irving once described Manila as the first cosmopolitan city. Because of the Galleon trade, we were a transnational meeting place for travelers from distant lands who met and exchanged goods.

I love the idea that the Philippines was globalized even before we put a name to the phenomenon, and before the rest of the world started opening their doors.

This is why the delusion that only brown-skinned Filipinos who speak Tagalog fluently are genuinely Filipino has become more than a pet peeve of mine. I used to avoid or ignore it (whichever came first!) but now it fuels a passion to challenge the backward and misguided idea of what a “tunay na Pinoy” is.

To me the derogatory “nosebleed” tag simply means we’re not trying hard enough to understand and that we’re being close-minded about who we are, most especially in the globalized 21st century.

It’s precisely the reason why I think national identity is complex and should not be limited to trivialities such as skin color or accent, but defined in terms of  attitude.

EXPLORING BINONDO. The author discovers Chinatown.

Understanding our roots

What I’ve noticed about the multicultural Filipinos I’ve met is that they make more of an effort to understand their roots, unafraid to walk among their people, to take jeeps and buses, and strike up a conversation to learn more about their history.

On the other hand, many of my privileged Filipinos classmates, who have lived here since birth, already sweat or raise an eyebrow at the mention of a commute. Many have not travelled around the Philippines. Their blood, despite being pure, is anemic. It lacks the spirit to discover the Philippines beyond their comfort zone, level of thinking, and degree of exposure.

Let me cite a few nights ago — when I was walking the streets of Marikina with some French exchange students — as an example. What a ridiculous sight we were.

The French were accompanying the Filipinos to protect us in the streets of our own country. They said that while most of their Filipino classmates are surprised and afraid to hear about and visit where they live, they always end up reassuring them, “It’s not as dangerous as everyone thinks.” It’s the bane of the bigot that produces these kinds of “nosebleeds.”

To paraphrase Filipino author Ninotchka Rosca in her political novel about the Philippines, “Not beautiful gestures, not beautiful words spelled the difference between whether or not one did or did not belong to the seven thousand one hundred islands except the willingness, indeed the capability, sir, to take risks on the archipelago’s behalf.”

In the last 4 years of college, I’ve learned that being a Filipino isn’t a birth right. Neither does it run through the blood in our veins.

What personifies nationalism is the beautiful attempt to understand our culture, notwithstanding the language barrier and social class that paralyzes a rich and complex country like the Philippines. It’s the attempt to speak up and challenge the “nosebleed” tag attached to an accent that might accompany a Filipino’s brown, yellow, or white skin. – Rappler.com

View original article here.

Is everyone a cosplayer?

Rica Facundo -- Media. This wont be the last time you see this pairing

People have a lot of assumptions about the cosplay industry, but I think we only judge what we do not understand.

So, attending and covering my first ever cosplay event at Alodia Gosienfiao’s Birthday Bash was intense, interesting and fun.

It’s just a theory and an observation, but what I find fascinating about subcultures is how they relate to the mainstream. Ironic, right?

Meriam Webster defines subculture as “…a social group exhibiting characteristic patterns of behavior sufficient to distinguish it from others within an embracing culture or society.”

But I think subcultures might be an intensified and exaggerated microcosm of everyday realities. Cosplay, which is short for “costume play,” is the act of putting on costumes to look like fictional characters from comic books, games, etc.

Some people say that cosplay might be a form of absurd escapism, which is a  “habitual diversion of the mind to purely imaginative activity or entertainment as an escape from reality or routine.”

To put it simply — I think everyone puts on a costume or a mask in order to fulfill a desire to belong to a community. In that sense, we all cosplay, some with decked out army gear, others with simply 4 inch heel stilletos.

To non-cosplayers, our fictional characters are ourselves.

I see so many people escaping reality by paradoxically trying to participate in it with projections of who they want to be, especially in the eyes of their audience — their fellow peers maybe?

Abraham Maslow knew in his hierarchy of needs that a sense of belonging is part of human nature and that feeling left out sucks.

I’m not an expert and I won’t be donning an anime costume any time soon, but the cosplayer isn’t very different from me, or you. I might be wrong so feel free to comment for any other insights.

Anyways, below is the article I wrote. It felt like a moshpit with people shoving, pushing, and shouting whenever Alodia came out or prizes were being given away. But like any other concert experience, that’s also part of what makes an event fun ;-)

The best thing about going to events alone is being able to meet interesting people. You'll be surprised if you just talked to the person next to you! Photo by Geoffrey Sobrevilla

I finally found my Superman! Herbert Chavez won Best Male and he's also known as "the guy who underwent plastic surgery to look like Clark Kent."

When the cosplay queen celebrates, legions come

By Rica S. Facundo

FILLED UP. Photo by Mineski

MANILA, Philippines – It was an unlikely family reunion at Alodia Gosienfiao’s Birthday Bash, where a legion of characters came to celebrate, whether decked in layers of battle armor or simply armed with a camera.

Despite the commotion caused by thousands of cosplay and gaming enthusiasts surrounding the stage, on their feet or even sitting on the floor, the SM Cyberzone still felt like a home for a community just doing what they love.

“I was hoping only at least my cosplay, online, and gaming friends would attend. But boy was I wrong!” exclaimed Alodia about the overwhelming turn out of the event, which took barely a month to plan.

“We had so many old faces in the community as well as a lot of new ones,” she said.

From Voltron to international celebrities to plain old supporters in regular jeans and T-shirts, it was an epic homecoming for the thousands of supporters left spellbound by Alodia in the last 9 years.

LINA INVERSE. Photo by Kira Hokuten.

Lina Inverse

Because of the growing cosplay industry, the number of attendees who came out to strut their wings, helmets, swords, and hammers, should come as no surprise. But it did, most especially to Alodia.

“There were also a total of 91 cosplayers who registered in the Cosplay Showdown! That’s a lot,” she said.

From 91 cosplayers only 31 were shortlisted to compete during the actual program with photographer Jay Tablante, sister Ashley Gosiengfiao, set designer Raffy Tesoro, comic book illustrator Harvey Tolibao, and comic book Leinil Yu as judges.

Due to the massive crowd of fans, Alodia, who was dressed as Lina Inverse, a famous character from DOTA, could not go down the stage and “pick a cute guy in the crowd,” as originally planned.

Adoring fans

On the other hand, it was unsurprising to hear the overflowing amount of testimonials, revelations and dedications coming from fans both local and international.

Mas mahal ko si Alodia kaysa kay Justin Bieber (I love Alodia more than Bieber),” said one fan being interviewed on stage. Bieber has 19,241,006 followers on Twitter while Alodia only has 117,762.

SO CLOSE. Photo by Rica Facundo

Distance was never a factor for the fans of Alodia who made an effort to give well-wishes and adoration for the cosplay queen.

Danny Choo, a successful Japanese pop culture blogger and also the son of noted fashion designer Jimmy Choo sent a video message, while one fan at the front of the stage flashed a message from his friend in Baguio.

“Well fanboys kami, obvious ba?” said Silver from Segatron, the band which opened the birthday bash. They serenaded the crowd with “Hey, Hey Alodia,” which they wrote especially for her.

Standards of cosplay

Alodia knows how to bring out the best from people. By challenging herself in the various characters she portrays and by competing overseas, she’s paving the way for aspiring present and future cosplayers.

“She’s the girl who opened the mind of the people in the Philippines about what cosplay is and how the cosplayer should be,” said Herbert Chavez, who won the award for Best Male and Best Performer, for his Superman outfit.

AS SUPERHERO. Photo by Rica Facundo.

“This is an opportunity for the cosplayers and gamers to merge. It’s actually a good idea that she threw her birthday party publicly,” said Isabel Cortez who won the award for Best Female, for her Starcraft outfit.

BEST FEMALE. Photo by Rica Facundo.

Both Herbert and Isabel have been cosplaying for only 2 years.

But John Andrew De Los Santos, who was the president of Alodia’s first-ever Fanclub in 2003-2004, volunteers what he thinks is what sets Alodia apart from other cosplayers – both locally and internationally.

Sila ma-cosplay para manaloSi Alodia ma-cosplay para ma-enjoySi Alodia,kahit pagod na pagod na siya, sige smile pa rin siya.”  (They’re into cosplay to win. Alodia is into cosplay to enjoy. Even if she’s dead tired, Alodia still keeps on smiling.) Rappler.com

View original article here

Alodia’s Birthday Wish

Forgive me. I’m going through a backlog of stories I covered in the last couple of weeks haha.

I was only supposed to cover the event itself, but the night before I was also asked to write a pre-event feature on Alodia Gosiengfiao’s Birthday Bash. Being the “yes-person” I am (which I sometimes think is synonymous with crazy haha), I took on the challenge and wrote this without any interviews in person.

The next day I met a well-known cosplay blogger. When he found out that I was the face behind the byline he gave me one of the best compliments ever.

“In one night you captured Alodia in a way that that bloggers have taken years to figure out.” (Not verbatum, but essentially that’s what he said.)  #Kilig

As much as I personally enjoy what I do, a big part of the drive is to do it justice for the people who are reading, which in this case are the fans.

I’m not that familiar with the cosplay world, but Alodia is the kind of person who can pique anyone’s interest in it. Fascinating subculture that needs more exposure. Read on!

Alodia's Birthday Bash Official Poster

MANILA, Philippines – Who can pull off planning a big birthday bash for over 1.05 million fans on Facebook and 100,000 followers on Twitter in barely a month? Cosplayer Alodia Gosiengfiao can.

It was only in late February when the opportunity to materialize the fantasy world of “costume play” or “cosplay” for short into a birthday shebang presented itself.

And Alodia, being the passionate and dedicated person that she is, didn’t hesitate to grab it.

Even in the face of time pressure she still manages to balance other commitments, such as preparing for her role in the Kimmy Dora movie sequel and making her much anticipated birthday costume.

So, what’s her driving factor?

“I just thought of how it would be amazing to have a party with fellow enthusiasts who have the same hobbies,” she said.

Growing up, moving forward

As she celebrates her 24th birthday Alodia said, “Aging has only reminded me of how much the cosplay and gaming community has grown over the years.”

Since 2003 Alodia has not only been part of the cosplay industry but she helped shape it. In the last 9 years fans and fellow cosplayers in the Philippines and in other Asian countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and Hong Kong have enjoyed watching her grow up.

“I think a big part of their adulation is they have seen her grow into the international celebrity she is now,” said Ren Cayetano about why he thinks everyone loves her. Cayetano is one of Alodia’s close friends and one of the event organizers.

While Alodia is undoubtedly an attention-grabbing young lady, it’s her dedication in perfecting her craft that makes her seem more stunning. Underneath the costumes and makeup her fans see the overflowing sense of sincerity.

But age won’t be a factor for Alodia’s future. She knows that she’ll have to adjust. “I think at my age it would be a bit hard to cosplay 12-year-old female characters,” she said.

No time to party crash

Unlike her celebration last year, which was also a public event dedicated to cosplaying, it’s the first time Alodia is planning her own event instead of being invited to one as a guest or a judge.

From conceptualizing the activities, to writing the materials for public relations to meeting with the partners, Alodia was involved in almost every step of the planning process.

Although lack of time was always her potential party-crasher Alodia doesn’t mind. “I lack sleep but it’s all right. I’m having fun doing all these,” she said.

“Alodia’s very hands on,” said Ren. Aside from the planning itself, as the guest of honor, she also has to prepare for her costume and performance.

In the past few days “she had to buy a new sewing machine in order to finish it on time,” he said, all while cording with the team as well.

Her birthday wish, your birthday gift

On March 31, Saturday, at the SM North Edsa Cyberzone, Alodia’s Birthday Bash will showcase her passions — namely cosplay, photography, and gaming.

Among other things, fans can expect a cosplay competition, array of performances by artists, cosplay gallery, gaming competitions, and the “Garden of the Gods Stage,” which has acrylic floor panels and a huge LED wall background.

While her costume is still a surprise, Alodia hints that “it’s from a popular video game and it’s predominantly red.”

But while this is Alodia’s event, the focus wont’ be on her. Part of her birthday wish is “to celebrate my passions with fellow artists, cosplayers, gamers and enthusiasts,” she said.

Because of all her passion and hard work, Ren said, “Hopefully, on Saturday, she would have a few seconds to block everything out and see their smiles.”

After 9 years in the industry, on Saturday, fans can give Alodia her birthday gift — a smile. – Rappler.com

Original article here

Co.lab xchange makes social entrepreneurship ‘sexy’

What started as a class assignment became worthy for publishing on Rappler! Moral of the story: Aim to always put out your best work, even if it’s for school haha.

Anyways, I’m glad this story is finally out. A shout out to all the aspiring social entrepreneurs out there. You should check co.lab xchange out. It’s a place to meet like minded individuals who are passionate about social change! A place to meet people who are just as “crazy” as you are, for collaboration, ideas, inspiration and support.

I had a fantastic time interviewing the people at co.lab. When I left, not only did I feel like I could do anything, but it was reassuring to meet people who share the same frustrations, passion and vision that I have especially since many have a “foreign filipino” background similar to mine. Ever since I published that article, I keep running into more! So, even if it was only my first time there, co.lab felt a little like home.

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SMART CONVERSATIONS. A playpen or a playground of ideas is what co-lab offers.

Co.lab xchange makes social entrepreneurship ‘sexy’

By Rica S. Facundo

MANILA, Philippines – “When you think of social entrepreneurship you think of this. They’re good with research. They’re good with numbers. But I think what’s wrong with the existing model is that the sexy is not there,” says Tomo Nakayama, who runs a new co-working facility in Ortigas city.

And nothing is sexier than co.lab xchange, an alternative working space that attracts progressive and positive individuals who are on the cutting edge of new ideas and looking for people to share them with.

“People that I meet here are really about what’s next. They make me feel that I’m not crazy. Yeah, I’m not delusional. You guys are crazy too,” says Ruby Veridiano.

Among other things, Ruby’s an ex-VJ for MYX TV in North America who launched a writing empowerment program, “The Glamour baby Diaries,” spoken at over 400 venues all over the world, inspired the youth through her spoken word performance with iLL-Literacy, and founded “Meeting of the Minds,” an initiative to connect the young global Filipinos and spark them with projects of social change.

Read more on Rappler.