ALS ice bucket challenge




My BIL sent me the ALS ice bucket challenge this morning. I knew I would do it but I wanted to make sure the message wouldn’t be lost. More importantly I wanted to be part of the ALS awareness campaign by actually donating. There is no foundation for ALS awareness or research in the Philippines. There’s a Facebook group but I don’t know who they are and I only donate to registered organizations. So began a very interesting discussion on my Facebook page on how to give this ice bucket challenge more relevance in the Philippine context. You can see it here.

ALS is a progressive neuromuscular disease in which nerve cells die and leave voluntary muscles paralyzed. The first time I heard of ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease was when I was a freshman in university in Canada. My friend’s mom was diagnosed with it. She quickly deteriorated and died within a couple of years. I also took on a summer job to assist a woman with ALS. Her name was Susan. She had already lost control of her motor skills while mentally she was still ok. She worked for a government department, and they kept her working as long as she wanted and could. She would dictate her letters and documents to me in a very slurred manner, and I’d write/type for her. I also mixed her liquid food. I saw how fast ALS took over her body. It’s a horrible illness.

I’m glad that this awareness campaign has gotten so big. It’s now here in the Philippines. However I think it’s futile to just do the bucket challenge and not actually donate or discuss the issues. So I did the challenge plus donated money to ALS Canada.

In keeping with the original spirit of the ice bucket challenge I am also bringing up another cause that’s very close to my heart – Breast Cancer Prevention. The Philippines has the highest rate of breast cancer in the region. Until we find a cure, our best defense is early prevention. So I’m donating free mammograms for women in need through I Can Serve Foundation. Hope thats ok!

BTW the bowls were filled with ice but I guess they melted while I was talking. We’re here in the tropics after all… apparently very near the airport too.

I urge you to find your own meaning and cause to add to ALS awareness. If you can, please donate to a reputable research fund. It is only through research that we will one day find a cure for these medical conditions.


To know more about how the ALS and how the ice bucket challenge went viral, watch this.


For info on ALS Canada,

For Breast Cancer support,



Arlene Dickinson and You Inc



Last summer of 2013, we moved our family to our home in Toronto for over 10 weeks. It was a wonderful time for us and the kids – no work, no help, no 3G or 4G. I wasn’t really online much, hence the lack of Toronto stories. Well, here is an amazing one (for me).


I had the opportunity to meet Arlene Dickinson of CBC’s Dragons’ Den during that Toronto stay. We had a long meeting, exchanging ideas and learning about each other’s work and products. I’m sure my Canadian readers all know Arlene. To those who need an introduction, check out some of her episodes on You Tube. Dragons’ Den is a show where entrepreneurs make a pitch for money from venture capitalists or “dragons.” The US version is called Shark Tank.

My meeting with her was memorable. I took away a lot of lessons, such as “how do you know you’re not under-valuing yourself?” As someone who handles her own negotiations, I took this to heart. Arlene is someone I would love to be my mentor, investor, business partner. Arlene was also starting a new online community for Canadian entrepreneurs called You Inc, and she asked to feature me on this site. Here’s how it went.


She gave me her book. Can't put it down. Very good read. #Persuasion by @arlenedickinson #cbcdragonsden
She gave me a copy of her book. I shot that outside her office.


Just met @arlenedickinson a Canadian business icon, best selling author, venture capitalist, tv personality. I. AM. AMAZED.  Watch her shows Dragons' Den and The Big Decision. #cbc #arlenedickinson
Me and Arlene Dickinson


She tweeted about me after our meeting.


After meeting the dragon in her den. Felt like a baby dragon myself. #girlpower
That’s me after I left her office, feeling like a little dragon myself. Haha.


Days after that I went back to Arlene’s office and sat for an interview with You Inc. (Thought bubble: Wow, my hair!)


Behind the lens was Marayna Dickinson.


Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 9.39.18 PM
I was pleasantly surprised to find my interview featured on You Inc this week. The site is a great resource for entrepreneurs. I am under the category of “game changer.” Truly honoured! The photo they used was taken by Mau Aguasin and first appeared in Philippine Star. You can read my You Inc feature here.


And here’s my interview as a “Game Changer” in You Inc.




Banago love



One of the many horrific images I saw of Haiyan’s destruction was of the town of Guiuan, Samar. For days, we were cut off from Samar. All lines were down. But when the first aerial images showed up, my heart sank. It looked flattened… eradicated from the map. I feared for the many lives lost. Then it dawned on me that my friend in Samar, Renee Patron, was actually in Guiuan when the storm hit.

I went back to Facebook to trace her updates. Her last communication with us was in the morning of the storm – November 8 around 1am. Her status read, “Haven’t been scared in a really long time and right now I’m scared this typhoon hasn’t even really hit yet and it’s strong and loud outside. God please. I hope everyone is in a safe place.”




It went on for days — no word from Renee. Like many of her friends, I feared for her life. Patrick kept telling me to be hopeful because at least Guiuan did not experience a storm surge — “just” the strong winds and rain. I can’t remember now when we finally received word from our mutual friend Butch Carungay, that Renee and her family made it. And in true classic Renee story, she was immediately up and helping the community.

Folks, meet Renee Patron. She is the founder of Banago, a brand of fashion accessories made in Samar and sold in some of the biggest retail shops in the US including Anthropologie, Nordstrom and Tommy Bahama. Please watch this beautiful video of what Banago is all about and the great work they did with the weavers in Samar.


Video courtesy of


This is Guiuan, Eastern Samar now…

Photo courtesy of Banago.


Photo courtesy of Banago.


We can help Banago and the barangays in Guiuan, Samar get back on its feet. Many of you want to help out DIRECTLY and through private relief efforts. This is a good way.




This MALAYA Tote is on sale for $88.00 USD at Banago’s Haiyan relief site here. Your donation will help to heal and rebuild the towns that were affected by typhoon Yolanda, most especially on the islands of Samar and Leyte, and handled only by members of the Banago team.



Every bit helps



© UNICEF/NYHQ2013-0994/Maitem


It hasn’t been easy to get back to normal. Every day, I still cry. It’s a mix of sadness, frustration, fear. But there’s a lot of work to be done. Since the typhoon struck, I haven’t stopped trying to help connect people and groups with transportation and recipients. It was all I could do knowing I couldn’t personally go there and look for survivors. It was very difficult the first days when communication lines were down. But we didn’t let that stop us. I think when you are an individual and this emergency happens, you just find a way to help and make things move.


On 12 November, a woman cradling a baby stands amid debris and other destruction caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan, in Tacloban City – the area worst affected by the disaster – on the central island of Leyte. Water, sanitation and hygiene, food, medicine, shelter, debris clearance and communications are among the priority needs. © UNICEF/NYHQ2013-1027/Maitem


The devastation of Haiyan is a global concern. For all of us Filipinos, it is very personal. I have family in Ormoc City. I was there last July to attend my grand aunt’s birthday party. I worried about them, they are so old and frail. My cousin runs a hospital there. He also lost the roof of his home. But he continued to work at the hospital. For a few days it was the only operational hospital in Ormoc. My friends raised money, bought medicines and food, sent them on a small private plane and gave them to my cousin’s hospital within days.

I also have a friend whom I thought didn’t make it after I saw the damage in Guiuan, Samar. I feared for her safety. But after a few days we heard she and her family made it and are now busy helping out the community. And I am so grateful for that. One day I hope she can tell her story. I want to give her a big hug.

There is an outpouring of support from all over the world. Our country needs that now. And I am so proud to be associated with UNICEF because they respond really swiftly and focus on the needs of children and families. One of the most crucial tasks is providing safe drinking water and sanitation. After this type of emergency, damage to water pipes and infrastructure severely compromised water supplies. UNICEF first worked on water supply. As of yesterday UNICEF, with the help of the Philippine Army and USAID, restored clean water in most of Tacloban. You can read about it here. You can see how fast and efficient your aid gets to the ones who need it most through UNICEF’s effort.


UNICEF Philippines Representative Tomoo Hozumi helps unload hygiene kits that were airlifted via a charter flight to the city of Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines, on 15 November 2013. The hygiene kits contain essential supplies such as bath and laundry soap, sanitary napkins, toothbrush, toothpaste etc. © UNICEF/PFPG2013P-0246/Aroy


UNICEF Supply Division packing 20 metric tonnes of supplies for the Philippines emergency response. Supplies include: 30 x interagency emergency health kits- basic unit (basic drugs, supplies and equipment for a population of 1000 for 3 months), collapsible water tanks, 32 x 72 m2 tents, pharmaceuticals, Oral Rehydration salts, nutrition items (scales, folic acid etc.) © UNICEF/DENM2013-00173/Thoby


As of Nov 15, UNICEF distributed hygiene kits in Tacloban. These kits included detergent and laundry soap, bath soap, water containers, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and sanitary pads. UNICEF has sent trucks with approximately US $142,000 worth of water, sanitation and hygiene supplies. These include water purification tablets, water tanks to support 45,000 people a day with drinking water, latrine slabs, and hygiene kits for another 15,000 people. UNICEF has sent similar supplies to Roxas, including water tanks, to support up to 19,000 people; water purification tablets, and squatting plates to set up latrines for 8,500 people in that city.

Tomoo Hozumi said tents, diarrhoeal disease kits, emergency hygiene kits for 90,000 patients and tarpaulins for shelter are to be delivered in Tacloban in the next days as the aid effort continues. UNICEF is also mobilizing education support and supplies to the to the most affected areas. These include tents, Early Childhood Development (ECD kits), student school packs and teachers’ packs as well as library kits for delivery to the most affected areas. Source: Unicef website.

After having seen what Typhoon Bopha/Pablo did in Davao Oriental are last year, I know this is going to be a long one. But help is already on the ground and more coming. Please keep your donations coming. UNICEF is requesting US $34.3 million as part of a US $301 million United Nations Flash Appeal for the Philippines, to provide essential humanitarian supplies and services through May 2014. Here is the video we made for my appeal as Special Advocate for Children. UNICEF website shows our call for donations, including Gary V’s as Goodwill Ambassador.



For regular updates please follow:

Facebook Unicef Philippines
Twitter @unicefphils
Instagram @unicefphils


Stella’s Family




I’ve been playing with my camera and video editing programs at home. If I had all the time in the world, I would just make little vignettes like this. And sew. Yes I sew now. More on that later.

One of my readers asked me how I am raising creative children. I don’t really know of a formula. I totally just winged it. When Sophia was our only child, pre-smart phone era, we had to keep her preoccupied at restaurants. We always brought with us a pack of crayons and a little sketch pad. She would draw and doodle. When the two littles were born, we just continued what we were already doing. As a result, we have what seems to be a creative home.

The kids draw, paint, cut paper, glue cardboard. And they also write short stories and create little theatrical and musical plays. We are enjoying this naive creativity so much that we haven’t sent them to any art class at all. I just want to prolong their childhood as much as I can. There will be lots of time to learn the colour theory, depth, perspective and shadows. For now, I just want them to draw what they see and feel.

This video shows Stella drawing her family. Us.