The kindness of strangers
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The older I get, the deeper I feel. Funny how random thoughts enter my head. I talk less about it, which explains less blog posts, but I do think a lot.
I was thinking about what makes the Japanese so special and this is what came to me. The difference between Japanese and other people is the difference between business class and economy.
In Japan, we get treated like kings and queens—whether by the taxi driver or the hotel staff—even if we’re not staying there. (I have great respect for Japanese taxi drivers.)

Japanese taxi drivers

The day before we left Tokyo, Jeroen and I remembered to book our shuttle bus going to Narita airport.
We thought it would be as easy as booking an airport shuttle in Hong Kong. But Tokyo is a bit tricky on New Year’s eve and day.
The night before I tried to call our hotel concierge about booking a bus. They were fully booked, except for a 3:30 PM bus that would go to Narita, while our flight leaves at 6 PM. Way too tight.
We tried calling a couple of recommended shuttle companies—all fully booked. And one must never take a taxi to Narita, unless you want to spend Php 20,000 pesos one way.

Luckily I prayed hard and searched my brain. I tried to remember how I went to the airport last time.
From the Andaz hotel where I was staying, I took a taxi to the nearby Imperial Hotel where my brother was staying. From there we went to Narita together.
I searched online and found that a 2PM limousine bus departs from Imperial Hotel on January 1st. So I asked our concierge to book us 5 seats, which they did. Thank God!!

The next day we checked out at 1 PM and stuffed two taxis with 15 pieces of luggage and five passengers.
Less than 10 minutes later, we were at Imperial Hotel.

Imperial Hotel

When I told the Imperial bellboys we were there to take the limousine bus, I thought they would dump our luggage on the side and make us wait in the cold.
But no. They took all our luggage from the cabs, onto carts and escorted us inside the lobby—as if we were hotel guests checking in.
A man carefully stacked our luggages on the trolleys while I paid for our bus tickets at the window—less than 13,000 yen for three adults and two kids.

Luggage at Imperial Hotel
Luggage at Imperial Hotel

With less than one hour to go, the boys and I had time to check out the hotel outlets to see what we could eat quickly.

Imperial Hotel

We sat at the grand old lobby, then the bus promptly arrived before 2 PM. Our luggage was taken in and we boarded. Everyone at the hotel treated us with respect, not as pesky tourists, and nobody expected a tip, which we love about Japan. That is truly first class service.

Looking back: the best gift of 2015
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2014 was one of the worst years of my life, a year when I nearly died but survived through the help of God, good friends and family.
2015 was one of the saddest years, when I lost three special friends—Penny, Joey, and Chinky.

Penny, Joey, Chinky

We survived it too. I don’t really like December with all the traffic, hecticness and all the obligations. I merely go through it because I have to (no choice) and I have to do it well for my kids who deserve a happy childhood and Christmas, never mind me.
Although this new year I woke up with a lot of love in my heart. I experienced so much goodness this December—in Manila and in Tokyo—from God and other people. I am grateful for the love given to me—through the presents and well wishes.

As I look back to this holiday season, I think the best gift I received was a surprise visit from my brother whom I haven’t seen since 2014, when he decided to move his life to California.
My brother has always had an American dream and at the late age of 50, he decided to just go for it.
Win or fail, I fully support him, because I believe in dreams and buckets lists, no matter how late. Better late than never.

Me, Diday and Manolo at Manila Zoo
Me, my sister, and my brother at Manila Zoo

My brother and I were never close. We still aren’t. I was busy wrapping gifts in my pajamas when the doorbell rang and he came in unannounced. My husband was cooking my dinner and equally surprised.
In the Bible, there is the famous story of the Prodigal Son, who decided to leave home and go out on his own.
My brother is kind of like that because he decided to leave against others’ wishes. But he did it anyway. Now everything is OK.
But unlike the Prodigal Son, my brother has a good heart. Some people say he is the kindest sibling I have.
When my brother visited, it was as though he had died and come back to life. He only stayed for an hour and then he was gone.
I really want to visit him in the US maybe two summers from now, because this summer I really want to go to the Vatican with my boys.

Last night I dreamt of my brother, he had tears in his eyes. He was sad to leave.
When he left our house on December 22nd, it was the night before we left for Tokyo. I gave him a hug and told him I missed him. I actually cried when he left the house. So many things I wanted to say but couldn’t because we’re not close. But the love is there. I do love my brother and I know that God does too.
Among all the gifts, this means a lot to me because he gave me his time. How I wish I had one hour to spend with Penny, Chelo, my Lola. I’m just really glad my brother is alive.

How to get emergency glasses in Japan
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Hello I’m back!
I’m in Japan. We decided to spend the Christmas holidays here.
I have this fear of December because it goes so fast. The traffic is horrendous. You’re under so much pressure to finish your shopping and gift list. You spend so much money. So much work piles up. You get so tired. Seriously tired. And you do everything to make the kids happy, to make sure they have a nice memory of it.
And so we went to Japan.

I had a chance to pack only a few hours before we left for the airport so I overpacked and I left some important things behind.
We flew via Delta. At first we booked JAL, but I made an error booking online that could not be fixed online. So I called Customer Service and spoke to rude (not nice) Japanese man, which shocks me every time it happens because I expect all Japanese to be polite (unlike in HK where it’s kind of expected—sorry but true).
So luckily I was able to cancel JAL and get a refund (rude guy helped me) and booked Delta.
Why do we love Delta? Because the staff is always nice to us.

Delta staff at Christmas

During our flight my son Ben lost his glasses. We tried everything to search for it. Three Delta staff practically dismanteled the seat and couldn’t find it. We prayed to St. Anthony. Nothing.
On our way out, I thanked the flight attendant who assisted us. I forgot to ask his name, but my son Chris took a video. This is why we fly Delta.

Most of us didn’t eat during the flight because the kids always look forward to eating at Narita.
This is their favorite thing which they look forward to.

shaka shaka chicken

So after passing Immigration and Customs, we went up the 3rd floor of Narita (bags and all) to eat McDonald’s.
My son Ben was feeling antsy without his glasses, but I know Japan had many quickie eyeglass shops, so I trusted God to help us. Look what we saw right next to McDonald’s!


They had really great frames too!


Best of all, the glasses would be ready after 20 minutes!! This man was so nice.
We ended up paying half of what we normally pay in Manila.


Note: We are planning to buy more glasses tomorrow in Osaka. The kids go through them like tissues!
So a bad thing turned into a good thing. God is really good.


Alaska Football Cup: A commitment to sports and nutrition
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More than 20 years ago, Wilfred Steven Uytengsu and his wife Kerri were looking for a football tournament where their son Sean could compete in.
Uytengsu, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Milk Corp., thought that if they couldn’t find a tournament for Sean, perhaps the company could sponsor one and, in the process, help other kids.
Alaska, already a basketball supporter with a team in the PBA, teamed up with former Real Madrid player and Alabang Football School and Makati Football School founder and director Tomas Lozano to create the Alaska Football Cup.

Richard Bachman, Alaska CEO & President Wilfred Uytengsu, and Tomas Lozano
L-R: Alaska team manager Richard Bachman, Alaska CEO & President Wilfred Uytengsu, Tomas Lozano

Twenty years later, the Alaska Football Cup for youth, ages 7-17 is the longest running football grassroots development program in the country. Among the former Alaska Football Cup players who have excelled in the sport are Chieffy Caligdong and Aly Borromeo.

“I didn’t think we would go beyond three years. It’s really a testament to the partnership and perseverance of Tomas. I’m very happy that we were given the chance to help others, especially kids, to have other options besides basketball where they can excel at,” Uytengsu said during the opening of the 20th edition of the Alaska Football Cup at Alabang Country Club.

“We didn’t think we would grow like this or make it to 20 years,” said Blen Fernando, vice president for marketing at Alaska. “We don’t come here as a business helping the sport. It’s more the sport helping the business,” she added.

Opening kick by the Alaska Team led by President and CE Fred Uytengsu to officially open the 20th Alaska Football Cup
Opening kick by the Alaska Team led by President and CEO Fred Uytengsu to officially open the 20th Alaska Football Cup

Through its youth sports development programs, Alaska does its part for nation building by helping nourish children so they can be champions in their fields of interest and life in general. By engaging the youth in sports, Alaska helps instill the values of determination, hard work, teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship.


Alaska’s youth sports development programs such as the Alaska Football Cup helps develop champions by promoting the values of determination, hard work, team work, discipline and sportsmanship.

Alaska Milk is perfect for children and adults because it provides long-term benefits that can be maximized when complemented with a healthy diet and exercise, sports and physical activity.

Alaska 20th Football Cup delegates line up for their Alaska milk

Last weekend’s event had 410 teams and a 6,150 players.
When the cup started 20 years ago at the same venue, there were 25 teams and 250 players.
Through the three-day tournament, there were 800 seven-a-side games played in 29 football fields, officiated by over 168 game officials.
Competing teams represented schools and football clubs from Masbate, Baguio, Negros Occidental, Cebu, Davao, Palawan, Legaspi, Laguna, Batangas, Bukidnon, Zambales, Pampanga, Tarlac, Ilocos, Bicol, Romblon, Davao Sur, Compostela Valley, Quezon, Cavite, Albay, Pangasinan, Bacolod, Iloilo, Mindoro and Metro Manila.

alaska football

Fernando attributes the success of the tournament to the professionalism of the organizers.
“There were a lot of adjustments along the way. Tomas had to adjust to the way we wanted things done. He is very passionate about the sport,” said Fernando.

For the first time in its history, Alaska Football Cup gave the opportunity to four teams consisting of people with disabilities to compete in the tournament.
This shows how the tournament has grown in 20 years and how its success is measured not by the accolades it receives but in the enthusiasm of its participants.
“The Alaska Football Cup has reinforced our commitment to use sports and nutrition. These are very important aspects as we want to give kids an opportunity to embrace a healthy lifestyle,” said Uytengsu.

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