Taal Vista Hotel

 

 

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I have fond memories of Taal Vista Hotel. The kids love it here because they get a great view of the volcano.

 

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Our last trip there, they brought their telescope and sketched the full moon and volcano.

 

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The view is fantastic.

 

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Photo from 2012, Stella was just 2 and a half. Must visit again soon.

 

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They also make the yummiest hot chocolate… traditional tsokolate.

 

Diamond Deals Flyers

 

Press release:

Taal Vista Hotel has Diamond Deals you’ll really want to steal. The landmark Tagaytay hotel is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year and offering guests overnight stays starting at Php5000 with breakfast for two and a Php500 Food and Beverage credit at the multi-awarded Café Veranda. Special discounted Diamond Deals will also be offered at the sales pavilion of the Taal Vista Hotel touring exhibit. Guests can get Php500 off weekend rates, complimentary upgrades on weekday bookings and up to Php750 Food and Beverage credit at Café Veranda.

Discover 75 years of stories and memories at Taal Vista Hotel: History and Heritage. The interactive multimedia exhibit curated by renowned cultural scholar and former National Museum director Corazon Alvina will highlight the significant historical milestones of Taal Vista Hotel as well as the city of Tagaytay. The exhibit showcases the hotel’s rich history, legacy of quality service and stories of memorable experiences. It is currently touring select SM Malls from September 18 to October 29.

Taal Vista Hotel is a landmark hotel in Tagaytay City known for its iconic view of Taal Lake and Volcano. For inquiries and reservations, please call +63 (2) 917 8225, +63 (46) 413 1000 or +63 0917 809 1254. Stay connected with Taal Vista Hotel. Visit the website at www.taalvistahotel.com, like Taal Vista Hotel’s Facebook pageTwitter and Instagram.

 

 

I Can Serve

 

 

If you recall my ice bucket challenge, I included breast cancer awareness in addition to the ALS campaign. Here’s the video again.

This year I got to witness how I Can Serve Foundation supports women with breast cancer. I love that they are so committed to promoting awareness, especially since the Philippines has the highest rate of breast cancer in the region. I strongly believe that early detection is the best way to fight this disease. So women in their 20’s should do a monthly breast self-exam. Women in their 30’s should do the monthly self-exam plus annual physical check up with a doctor. Women in their 40’s should do all that plus have an annual mammogram. There is nothing to be scared of. Mammograms don’t hurt, they’re just a little bit uncomfortable. So please let this be a reminder to all my female readers. Please, have yourself checked regularly.

After I took the ice bucket challenge, I donated some money to I Can Serve to help fund mammograms. Congresswoman Leni Robredo did the same thing, though she skipped the ice bucket aspect because she was recovering from a cold. She mentioned in her Facebook that she took inspiration from what I did. (I actually challenged her by email, haha.) We are now looking into working together for the women of Naga with I Can Serve though its founder Kara Alikpala. It’s amazing how these things happen.

In the meantime, I am volunteering to help out in I Can Serve’s Rockwell booth during the month of October, breast cancer awareness month. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the month of October, I Can Serve will have a booth selling special items to help spread awareness and raise funds. I will let you know which day I will be there so hopefully I can meet some of you.

Here’s a sample of what’s available at the I Can Serve booth. Some of them are available at I Can Serve’s online shop now. There are more…

 

I can serve

01 Limited edition Swatch watch

02 Happy Skin’s Just Married lipstick, available where Happy Skin products are sold. See below.

03 Reminder band

04 Messy Bessy “The Pink Warrior”

05 Mid Chevron fan

06 Greeting Card. In lieu of a gift (or accompanying a gift!)  make a donation in someone’s name to the ICanServe Foundation. Bi-fold card measures 7 inches X 7 inches. Includes: card, holiday ornament, envelope with lining and a sealer with the Foundation’s logo.

 

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I Can Serve Tshirt designed by Bleach, P500 available online here.

 

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Every October, with any Just Married purchased in any place where Happy Skin is sold (Rustan’s, Beauty Bar, and Plains & Prints), Happy Skin will donate P10 to I Can Serve. I totally vouch for this line of lipsticks. Just Married is one of my favourite colours. It’s got that lovely pale pink that’s perfect either for a dressy occasion with a smoky eye or for every day non-occasions as a nude. It’s very natural-looking. Each lippie is loaded with shea butter and collagen to keep lips supple and hydrated like a lipbalm. It is highly-pigmented yet moisture-packed. P499.

 

For more information on how to donate, volunteer, or partner with I Can Serve Foundation, click here.

 

 

Spinach and Ricotta Tarts

 

 

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I used to cook with fillo back when I lived in Toronto with my roommate who was very domesticated. I honestly didn’t have the interest in cooking until last year. But as part of my roommatey duties, I helped her with food preparations. Anything in fillo tastes great. All you need is patience, speed, and lots of butter. I suggest you watch some You Tube videos on how to handle fillo if you’ve never worked with it – watch this video.

I am sharing with you a tweaked recipe that I picked up from the packaging of the fillo pastry. I mentioned this in Instagram. And here it is, as promised. Sorry that my photos aren’t top quality. I really don’t know how people who blog about recipes do it. I had to work fast with the fillo and my hands were always covered in butter and filling.

 

Spinach and Ricotta Tarts

Ingredients

6 sheets fillo pastry
1 red pepper
1 ½ to 2 cups of spinach leaves. (If using frozen spinach pellets use 6 to 9)
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons cream
2 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 12-cupcake pan

 

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Instructions

1.  Cut red pepper into quarters, remove seeds. Rub lightly with olive oil, place on oven tray and roast for 25 minutes at least 180 degrees C. Allow to cool then remove skin. Cut into thinner strips. Set aside for later.

2.  Blanch and refresh spinach. Strain and squeeze out excess moisture. Puree spinach in food processor, add eggs, bread crumbs, and stir in cream. Season with salt and pepper. Add half a cup of ricotta cheese and manually stir it in.

3.  If using frozen spinach pellets, you can skip the food processor. Just melt the spinach and squeeze out excess water. You can then just manually mix in the eggs, cream, bread crumbs, ricotta and salt and pepper. Original recipe used breadcrumbs in between layers of fillo, but I didn’t do it that way.

 

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4.  Now it’s time to work with your fillo pastry. Make sure to work with it fast. Watch a few You Tube demos if it’s your first time to handle fillo. Brush your cupcake tin with melted butter.

5.  Work with 2 fillo sheets at a time. Roll up unused fillo or cover with damp cloth. These pastry sheets dry out really fast.

6.  Lay down first fillo sheet on a flat surface and brush lightly with butter. Get the second fillo sheet and brush with more butter. Cut the 2 layers into 12 squares of equal size. You can use a sharp knife, pizza cutter or scissors. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

7.  Place the two cut fillo squares into each of the 12 the cupcake tins. Repeat the fillo layering until you have at least 6 layers of filo for each tin cup(cake). Place the fillo squares at different angles. This ensures the fillo to be flaky once baked. Brush each layer with melted butter. You can also substitute butter with olive oil instead.

 

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8.  Fill each filo pastry cup with the spinach-cheese mixture up to 2/3 of the cup. Sprinkle each cup with the remaining ricotta cheese and decorate with red pepper strips.

9.  Bake at 180 degrees C for 20-25 minutes.

 

Four shows in 9 days

 

 

I’ve had a pretty amazing week in terms of culture and the arts. For some reason, I got to see four live wonderful shows in 9 days. It started with Disney Live, then Pinocchio the next day, then Shrek The Musical — all with the kids. Then last night my friend Katherine and I watched Noli Me Tangere The Opera. Oh in between those shows, Patrick and I watched Lav Diaz’s four and a half hour long Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan which I raved about in Instagram.

 

NOLI ME TANGERE, THE OPERA

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Music by Felipe De Leon (National Artist)
Libretto by Guillermo Tolentino (National Artist)

Noli Me Tangere is the Philippines’ first full-length Filipino opera composed in 1957 by two National Artists Felipe Padilla de Leon and Guillermo Tolentino based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel. De Leon composed the music and Tolentino created the libretto.

The musical presentation, an opera in three acts, follows the story of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who returns to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open up a school and marry Maria Clara, his betrothed. However, parish priest Padre Damaso, the archenemy of the Ibarras, is out to hinder Crisostomo’s plans, which creates “a dramatic storyline of forbidden love, betrayal and revenge. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) depicts the abuses suffered by the native Indios at the hands of Spanish tyrants. The opera paints us a clear picture of the so called “social cancer” that illustrates the rotten system of governance, the illicit ways of the church and the unfavorable trade of the privilege class.

 

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Beautiful performance on Saturday night. It was my first time to know the story of Noli Me Tangere. Hearing the words sung as an opera in Filipino was just an incredible experience.

 

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The stage design was beautiful. Maestro Rodel Colmenar and the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra were amazing. Do not worry about not understanding the songs (in Filipino), they provide English translation on screen.

 

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My friend Katherine Cheng (designer of K&Company, the dress I’m wearing) and I with the producers of Noli Me Tangere The Opera, NY-based Jerry Sibal & Edwin Josue. They approached me at the lobby before the show. Turns out they were loyal viewers of Urban Zone. Nice. Jerry is a well-known floral end event designer in New York.

 

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The staging of Noli Me Tangere The Opera locally at Resorts World’s Newport Theatre was the brain child of Loida Nicolas Lewis (in black with floral details), Edwin Josue and Jerry Sibal. This opera first premiered in 1957. It was only restaged in 1987 at the CCP and never heard about until now. Mrs Lewis and the producers restaged it at New York’s Lincoln Centre late last year, and just a few months ago at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.

 

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I was so moved by the performance of Antoni Mendezona as Sisa. I’ve seen a few interpretations of Sisa which usually involves screaming and capitalizing on her mental breakdown. But hearing her express her pain as a suffering mother through opera songs was a mind-blowing experience. It was my first time to hear Sal Malaki perform. And wow, all I can say is his voice truly is a gift from God. Rachelle Gerodias was her perfect self. I’ve had the privilege of working with her twice — once at the launch of MDF Italia at Studio Dimensione, and the next was a couple of weeks ago when I hosted the Bank of Singapore’s preview gala for Salcedo Auctions.

I highly recommend Noli Me Tangere, The Opera. They are only showing until September 28th. Even if you were not a fan of Noli back in high school or if you think opera is just for the highbrow, try watching this beautiful all-Filipino opera. It’s a feast for the senses. If you can, bring your high school-level kids. It may even help them appreciate the story in class.

For tickets to Noli Me Tangere, The Opera click here.

 

 

SHREK THE MUSICAL

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Shrek-the-Musical

 

I took the kids to watch the press preview of Atlantis Production’s Shrek The Musical last Thursday night (before typhoon Mario struck). It was a school night but we all agreed to take the risk of staying up past bedtime. The kids and I were guests of MAC Cosmetics and they gave us access to the makeup room backstage. The kids got to see a demo of how Fiona was turned green.

As the title suggests, Shrek The Musical is a stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film Shrek. Just like the movie, Shrek The Musical has quirky twists on old familiar fairytales. This production is family-friendly. All three daughters – Sophia, Lily and Stella – loved it. They say it’s their favourite of all the shows. It was hilarious.

The casting, costumes and set design were fantastic. Congratulations to the director, Bobby Garcia. I was floored by the performance of Nyoy Volante as Donkey. He was so funny and really sounded like Donkey aka Eddie Murphy. Rycharde Everley, a British actor, played Shrek convincingly. Jett Pangan as Lord Farquaad was excellent.

 

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Shrek The Musical is great fun for kids of all ages. Stella couldn’t stop talking about the funniest parts. And I had forgotten how beautiful Meralco Theater was. I’m so glad the owners are good at maintaining buildings. I performed my ballet recital here a gazillion years ago.

 

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After the show, the kids and I were invited by the MAC Cosmetics team to see a demo backstage. This is the  exact green theatre makeup used on Fiona. It’s from the MAC Pro line called True Chartreuse.

 

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Stella observing the greening of the demo model by MAC theatre makeup artist Myrene Santos.

 

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According to Myrene, it can take as little as five minutes to green Princess Fiona’s face once the basic foundation, eyes and lips are already done. But watch out for some pretty amazing special effects on stage. You’ll witness Princess Fiona transform in less than two minutes. I don’t know how they did it.

 

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Sophia took down notes. She plans to write about this experience for her school paper. Lily was way too sleepy at this point. It was past 11pm.

 

If you are looking for a fun musical this season, this is it. Bring your kids. I guarantee they will love it. For tickets to Shrek The Musical by Atlantis Productions, click here. Show ends October 12, 2014.

 

 

PINOCCHIO

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Every year, the past nine years, I’ve been taking the kids to see a kid-friendly Repertory Philippines musical. I give credit to the preschool teachers of my kids. They are loyal supporters of REP.

This year’s production of Pinocchio is so beautifully presented. We all know the story of a wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy. And that of Geppetto, the kind and generous toymaker. The afternoon we watched, our Geppetto was Miguel Faustmann.

 

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I don’ t know if it’s the parent in me, but I was really touched by this very familiar story all over again. Stella said she got sad in some parts but she was happy in the end.

 

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If you haven’t yet, you must bring your young children to one of REP’s productions for young audiences. Not only is it a great way to get your kids used to theatre etiquette at a young age, the colourful scenes, songs and dances will stay with them for a long time. (All stage photos are courtesy of Repertory Philippines. We can’t take photos while the show is ongoing).

 

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Most of REP’s musicals for kids involve audience participation. Sophia got chosen to participate in the opening scene by pinning the map of Italy on the board. Haha.

 

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This is the last year of my preschooler. I will miss our annual REP shows. But I think this is a tradition we wish to keep. I will always take my kids to see REP’s Young Theatre.

 

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Last Saturday night at the lobby of Noli Me Tangere The Opera, I met this young girl named Andee Achacoso. She played Pinocchio the time we watched. She’s got a great voice that almost made me cry.

 

Repertory Philippines’ Pinocchio is playing at Onstage Theatre, 2nd Floor of Greenbelt 1 Makati until December 14, 2014. Bring your kids to this one. They will love it. You will love it. For tickets, click here.

 

 

DISNEY LIVE: THREE CLASSIC FAIRY TALES

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Disney Live stayed true to form with spectacular costumes and stage design at the enormous MOA Arena. The singing, of course, was not live. But all the Disney princess fans in this family loved the show.

 

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We were invited by the producers to “meet and greet” Snow White and Dopey.

 

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We also got to “meet and greet” the Magalonas and Danica Sotto-Pingris. Haha :)

 

Disney Live was on a special 3-day run last September 12 to 14th. Watch out for more Disney productions as Christmas time rolls in.

 

NOTE: I do not have a professional relationship with any of the producers of the four shows. I did not and will not get any commission from ticket sales. I paid for my tickets for Noli Me Tangere and Repertory Philippines’ Pinnochio. For Shrek The Musical, we got free tickets from MAC Cosmetics. For Disney Live, we were given free tickets as part of the online promo they had.

 

 

Photo Diary, My UNICEF visit to Tacloban

 

 

I went on a UNICEF site visit to Tacloban a couple of weeks ago. As with every UNICEF trip I’ve taken in the past, I was extremely moved. It has been nine months since this strongest storm to ever hit landfall devastated eastern Visayas. Driving through Tacloban and parts of Palo, Leyte, you can still see many remnants of the physical damage. It’s still quite overwhelming. But in this trip, I also saw a lot of hope.

It was good to see some smiles again. But ask any individual who lived through Haiyan/Yolanda, “How are you doing?/Kamusta ka na?” and tears well up in their eyes. The wounds are deep. Any hint of rain or strong winds brings them back to that fateful day last November 8th. I didn’t want anyone to have to relive their harrowing ordeal. Almost everyone gathered to see me at my visit lost someone they loved during the storm. Instead I wanted to see what life is like presently for those who were affected.

Over 14.1 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Of those, 5.9 million were children. UNICEF continues to provide life-saving and recovery assistance for children affected by Typhoon Haiyan. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Here’s my photo diary of my visit to Tacloban and Palo,Leyte.

 

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Some of the most incredible scenes were of these huge ships that ran aground in Tacloban during Haiyan. In Barangay Anibong alone, there were five ships.

 

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This barangay in Anibong has been declared a “no dwelling zone.” But despite that, people have rebuilt their houses near the water.

 

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Like the sign says, this is still a “danger zone.”

 

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This ship went inland the furthest. It actually hit the high way.

 

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Here’s the other end of that ship that went furthest inland. When my friends saw my photos, one of them asked why these boats haven’t been pulled back into shore yet. She felt frustrated like no one was doing anything. But I have to tell you that these are huge ships. And they are so far inland. Nothing can pull these back to the water.

 

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So instead of being pulled away, some of the ships were being sliced up into pieces by the ship owners.

 

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The irony. A sticker saying “Think Safety” was plastered on this cargo container. It was one of the hundreds of containers from the port that washed ashore. It now serves as foundation for this house that’s not even supposed to be there.

 

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The barangay captain telling me about their dilemma.

 

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Rosario, the Barangay Captain in Anibong.

 

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With the Chief of Field Office Maulid Warfa at the UNICEF office in Tacloban. Some of the UNICEF staff have been on site since the typhoon struck last November 8th 2013. Whenever I visit sites with UNICEF I am not only touched by the stories of the local people but also of the professionals who have devoted their life doing humanitarian work. These are the people who respond to emergencies around the world.

 

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We went to Barayong Elementary school in Palo, Leyte. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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The acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School showing me and Cromwell Bacareza, OIC of UNICEF WASH Team some of the physical improvements in the school, like a new roof. This school was severely affected by Haiyan/Yolanda. It is located on a mountain. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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It was heartwarming to see kids back in school. To date, UNICEF has provided learning materials and supplies for over 500,000 pre-school and school-aged children (3 to 17 years) across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas.

 

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I loved seeing smiles back in their faces.

 

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That afternoon, the grade 4 and 5 kids were writing letters to their pen pals from Australia.

 

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This is such a great activity.

 

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Erwin Dolina, teacher-in-charge and acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School and his makeshift office.

 

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His laptop is broken so he is using a separate monitor hooked up to the laptop’s keyboard. Mr. Dolina said the school is understaffed. They only have 4 teachers for the entire school. So teachers double-up with classes. He has to do administrative work in addition to teaching and correcting papers. He also has to check the school on weekends because there are no doors or locks to protect their supplies.

 

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There is a deep well at the back of the school. In order to ensure safety, UNICEF installed pumps and pipes to bring in water nearer to the school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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OIC of UNICEF’s WASH Program (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Cromwell Bacareza shows me that water from the well is stored in a tank which is connected to these pipes. This is a makeshift lavatory where kids can wash their hands. It’s known as tippy tap. UNICEF supports schools affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda by providing water, sanitation & hygiene facilities and supplies to ensure that children stay healthy, which helps them stay in school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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The tippy tap is made of modest material. For a low cost, we can ensure that children have access to clean water. UNICEF also provided schools with soap. It is very important for children to wash their hands with soap and water. This needs to be instilled in them at a young age so that we can be healthy and germ-free. Because of the tippy tap, hand-washing becomes a social activity. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF also installed safe and clean temporary toilets in every classroom. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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In another town called Abucay, I visited the temporary bunkhouses. This community had an amazing “Child-Friendly Space” set up by UNICEF. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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Inside the tent. A child plays…

 

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I kept falling in love with the babies. Cutie pie. Sigh.

 

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This child-friendly space in Abucay Bunkhouse in Tacloban is a place where young children can play, sing and dance under the guidance of city social welfare workers and volunteers.

 

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To date, more than 40,000 children across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas have accessed psychosocial support at child-friendly spaces provided by UNICEF.

 

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We took a walk around the Abucay temporary bunkhouses. One of the fathers was tending to his container garden. I love that there is a consciousness to grow food. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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With the bunkhouse manager Joseph dela Pena. The bunkhouse is one of the temporary housing programs provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It houses over 180 families with provision to water and sanitation facilities and a UNICEF child-friendly space tent.

 

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I loved seeing these ornaments decorating the alleys. These were made by the community.

 

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Before entering any house, I took my shoes off.

 

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This mother has five children. Except for the baby, they are all back in school. Her eyes welled up with tears when she recalled their experience when Haiyan/Yolanda hit. She said she and her husband hung on to all their kids and climbed the ceiling of a structure. They stayed there all day. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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A pretty young mom shares with me her experience breastfeeding her baby.

 

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I’m always happy to see a breastfeeding mom in any situation. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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I also visited a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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This is a weekly program where mothers can get together and have counselling about nutrition, breastfeeding and maternal health issues. There is a child-friendly play space for toddlers.

 

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Another cutie pie.

 

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UNICEF Chief of Tacloban Field office Maulid Warfa and I spent some time playing with children while their mothers attend a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in the adjacent room in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. IYCF counselling sessions ensure that parents and caregivers breastfeed and give proper nutritious food to their children to keep them healthy. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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City health workers in Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban show me the vaccine refrigerator. UNICEF is providing vaccines, cold chain equipment, and vaccine management training for health personnel across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF is supporting the Department of Health (Philippines)’s National Immunization Campaign this September, which aims to protect 13 million children under 5 against polio, measles and rubella.

 

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It was good to see mothers bringing in their babies to get regular medical checks at the Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban City. Cute baby alert again.

 

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I took the opportunity to film a short video to help fundraise for UNICEF. For information on how to donate, click here.

 

For information on UNICEF’s programs in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph and like Unicef Philippines in Facebook. To know about my work with UNICEF as Special Advocate for Children, click here.