Aurora: a way to look back and move forward

(A repost of a blog from my main site,, dated December 31, 2010.)

First of all, HAPPY NEW YEAR, DEAR FRIENDS and READERS! May the love and goodness of our Lord continue to be our source of strength and inspiration!

JR and I spent a few days in Aurora right after Christmas. It was a perfect time to end 2010 – bonding with Mom and then visiting the place where she has ‘taken roots’. It was also about time I “introduce” hubby to my Mom’s birthplace.  We had one of our best vacations ever! The trip was not really planned but it was Mom who broached the idea and even offered to sponsor the trip! (Moms are really the best!) I was also requested by Mom to help a relative so hubby and I readily decided to go even if we did not have much time to prepare for it. We stayed up the whole night prior to the trip to finish an assignment, entertain friends, pack our bags (although it was hubby who packed everything!), prepare breakfast (again, courtesy of hubby!) and get dressed. Despite this harried preparations, it was all worth the trouble.

Hubby (JR) and my Mom by the riverbanks near the farm. Isn’t my Mom cute with her big hat? (Photo taken through my HTC phone)

The first thing we did the next day (we arrived around lunch time on the first day but was too tired and sleepy to even go out of the house) was visit Mom’s farm in Dibucao, Maria Aurora, Aurora. Yes, the photo on the right is JR with my Mom. (And yes, Mom is wearing a big hat whenever she goes to the farm!)

This photo was taken by the riverbanks. I was so happy to know that the river by the farm is still crystal clear! I was quite worried because the last time I went there was in 2005 or 2006 so I was not sure if the water will still be that clean. Thank God, it was still as clean as I remember it from way back. It made me look back to my childhood days when I’d frolic in the rivers with my siblings and cousins, full of joys and in total abandon, knowing that the water is totally clean! I sure hope that many Filipino children can still experience such joys in clean and unpolluted river waters! I also hope that we (the public) and our government will do more aggressive steps to stop polluting our water bodies. This is something that we need to do more seriously.

Those are my and JR’s feet – see how clean the waters are? Yes, it is still possible to bathe in crystal-clear rivers in Aurora!

Anyway, after the visit to the farm, we went to the Balete Park where one of the tallest Balete Trees in Asia is standing. Also called “The Millenium Tree,” its diameter measures about 10-15 meters and would need about 60 adults to encircle the base, hand-in-hand. Here is a photo of it. Apologies that this was taken with a camera phone only. The small person with hands outstretched and standing by the base is me! This tree is really amazing. It was actually my second time to see it but I am still in awe of its size, beauty, and mystery.

We had the chance to give respects to the Giant Balete Tree of Aurora (located in Brgy. Quirino, Ma. Aurora). See how huge it is? It towers to about 60-65 meters!

I just hope that the local governments of Quirino and Aurora will work together to save it from ‘dying’ because it looks ‘uncared for’ and hungry for TLC (tender loving care). Several concrete posts of the fence around it are destroyed (they look like they were intentionally destroyed?) and speaking of the fence, it may actually be a good idea to simply remove it because it does not go well with the natural environment, is obstructive to the view of the trunk, and makes it impossible to take nice full-shot photos of it  (e.g., if the photographer wants to take a full shot, he needs to stand further away from the tree but going further means he has to sacrifice aesthetics because the concrete fence will definitely show). If a fence must be built, then it should be constructed further back. I hope concerned citizens can join me in “knocking” on the doors of the local government officials of Aurora so this beautiful tree can live on for many more generations.

The visit to the farm also gave us wonderful moments even if it started to drizzle. Mom constantly reminded us about loving our lands because they are gifts from her ancestors. She said, “Ang pera, madaling mawala; ang lupa ay laging nandito, hindi nawawala.” (Translation: Money goes away fast; but lands always stay, they never go away.) Simple words but truly come from the heart. Those words also reminded me about the gifts of our past. That we have gifts from our forefathers, nurturing us, giving us life.

I stand there amid the rice fields and look at the skies. Ahhh, this world is a true miracle. Thank you, Lord.

Who cannot smile amid this paradise?

Thank you for another year of love, friendships, reunions, forgiveness, laughters, generosity, kindness, strength amid the challenges, and the never-ending voices of your Angels who continue to guide and take care of us.



For trips to Aurora, there are Genesis buses that leave Cubao and Pasay every day. In Cubao, the trips to Baler (the capital of Aurora Province) begin leaving at 4:30 am until about 7:00 am (or earlier if there are many passengers).

Genesis Transport Services, Inc.

Tel. Nos.: Cubao (02) 4211413 Pasay (02) 8533115


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Dreaming of a Philippine Leadership Academy

(A repost of a blog posted last December 7, 2010 in my previous site,

If I have the means, I will build an institution and name it the Philippine Leadership Academy.

A “No” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “Yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble. – M. Gandhi (Photo Credits

It will produce graduates with the integrity and courage of Mahatma Gandhi, intelligence of Jose Rizal, and spirituality of Mother Theresa. The graduates will be the only ones qualified to run for public office or even become public servants. Training and formation of these future leaders will begin in Grade 1 and continue until the day they walk up the stage to get their college diploma. Having a high IQ (or at least more-than-average IQ) will be a basic requirement for admission.

Ok, you can laugh now and tell me that I am trying to ‘fish’ for the moon.

Impossible as this dream may sound, I think this is the only solution for us to have government leaders, elected officials, and public servants who will serve with intelligence, wisdom, leadership, compassion, honesty, and integrity.

We have the Philippine Military Academy, right? We even have formation houses for priests. So why not do it for elective and civil service positions when the stake is significantly higher?

However, a 5-year or even 8-year program will not work. The education and formation should begin in childhood; when there is still enough innocence left in a person’s mind. When his mind is still like a fresh sponge waiting for knowledge, wisdom, and integrity to soak everything in.

The parents of the prospective students (future government leaders) should be fully committed to their children’s future as  leaders. They should not expect them to become millionaires but maybe just comfortable enough to be able to afford some luxuries every now and then (the government, should of course, give them decent salaries so that there will be no reason for temptations). They should also give them enough motivation and inspiration. Even the parents should live a life of integrity. After all, young people look up to their parents as role models.

We all know that education is crucial to how a person will eventually become in the future. Of course, there is no guarantee that a well-educated person will not end up being a crook someday but with a formation program as intense as what I am envisioning, there will be lesser chances for the ‘churning out’ of a corrupt public servant. The program will be so intense and soul-deep that there will be yoga and meditation classes as early as in the elementary years. Simply put, the education will not just be about atoms, anatomy, governance, Renaissance, poetry, and climate change, but also anchored on the mission to produce graduates who are so spiritually-grounded that they will not even know the spelling of corruption.

A part of their high school years will be spent reading about exceptional global leaders and Nobel Prize winners who left remarkable and lasting legacy for the humanity. They will be taught to enjoy the music of Mozart, Beethoven, and even our very own kundiman, because that is the only way they can connect with the past and appreciate their places in the future. There will be art, poetry, and foreign languages appreciation classes because the only way to broaden one’s perspectives and see the world and its sufferings deeply is to breathe life and art itself; to consider life through the minds of artists, poets, and linguists so that one comes out wiser and richer.

In college, there will be debate classes and mock sessions on how the government operates. Their minds will be pushed to their limits; their creativity nurtured so that they can think of new and innovative ways to govern and make the bureaucracy work for the benefit of all. They will be challenged on how to craft and implement laws and policies that will really work and not some kind of token legislation that are so full of great promises but lack the teeth for proper implementation. They will be trained in the most intensive courses on economics, business, and finance so that they will know how to manage this country’s wealth and resources (including human resources) so that they will not even aspire for overseas trips just to get investors and ODA money to finance our domestic requirements and industries. Their minds are going to be molded so that they themselves will abhor words like nepotism, political dynasty, and padrino systems.

Most of all, the graduates of this leadership academy will NOT steal, lie, or amass wealth. They will be so nationalistic and grounded that having a functional car and a comfortable house will be enough. There will be no dreams for yachts, private jets, and Hermes bags for their wives. Of course, their rich ancestors can probably leave them inheritance to allow them live a good life but those will be reported in public up to the very last centavo spent. In fact, they are just so grounded and selfless that they would rather donate the sudden inheritance (with the condition that it will be used to build factories or assist SMEs).

“No good water comes from muddy spring. No sweet fruit comes from a bitter seed.” – Jose Rizal (Photo credits

These leaders will commit their lives to goals bigger than themselves. As what our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal once said, “It is a useless life that is not consecrated to a great ideal. It is like a stone wasted on the field without becoming a part of any edifice. “

However, in order to have this kind of leaders, we need to plant the seeds. We have to believe in this dream. We need to start while the minds of our youths are still fresh like the morning grasses waiting for the dews to drop on their faces and nourish them.

I am serious about this dream and I hope the 741 million lotto winner will read this message and offer the initial funds for the setting up of this leadership academy.


This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin

Silang’s Little Secret: Abundant Cafe

(Repost of my Sept. 11, 2010 blog in

My UP friends (Rory and Jinky), hubby, and I went on a quick trip to Tagaytay yesterday and we were gifted once again with a fun-filled and beautiful day. Tagaytay is one of my favorite places in the whole world and the quick trip yesterday sealed my resolve to own a place there someday (may God give us the abundance to make that dream house happen!).

And speaking of “abundance,” Rory led us to an added treat by bringing us to Abundant Cafe in Silang, Cavite.

A view of the (eternally) open door to one of the huts where glorious food and drinks are served.

It was the first time for me, hubby, and Jinky to visit the place so we even if we were still full from the hearty lunch we had at Leslie’s by the Ridge, we heartily gobbled up the dessert which Rory recommended. It is the traditional palitaw but it was served with a cute red flower on top and other garnishing that I really thought it was not thepalitaw that I used to enjoy in my childhood days! Here are some snapshots so you can imagine how yummy it really is…

Yes, this is our traditional palitaw with a “twist.” And yes, the flower on top is edible!

I also liked the net-like cloth that the Cafe uses to cover the glasses.

See the pretty glass covers that protect your drinks from bugs!

The Cafe is also selling native/ethnic bags, pillows, canopies, mats, curtains, and those trinkets (of shells and stones) that you can see in the photos here. It was really tempting to buy all those trinkets…well, actually, I bought 3 pieces and now they are hanging already from the top threshold of our bedroom door (courtesy of dear hubby).

The lovely stringed trinkets made of shells and stones.

The trinkets you see on the photo below are almost the same with the ones I bought. They are also used as hanging decors and they complemented the ethnic and cozy look of the cafe. By the way, the walls of the cafe’s huts are made, not of woods or concrete, but of net-like cloths! So the breeze from outside provides a natural ventilation. Hmm, this ‘green’ design is something we all can learn from particularly if you want to have small “siesta” huts in your gardens.

I also liked the lampshade mostly made of capiz shells. And look at the way they made the hut cooler by putting more net-like cloth beneath the ceiling.

We were also served piping hot cups of chocolate drinks, the same one served by my dear Lola when I was still a young child. I fondly called her, “Nanay”, back when she was still alive and sometimes I still miss her.  Perhaps the afternoon with hubby and my good friends yesterday was also Nanay’s way of reminding me that she will always be around as long as there are still hot chocolate cups to be enjoyed.

Here, you can have a very relaxing cup of hot chocolate!

We ended our merienda with a drink of hot water infused with tarragon herbs. I did not even know that tarragon herbs can actually be used as a tea concoction! Thanks to the soul and creativity of the place and its owners, we left Tagaytay with more good feelings, grateful for the ‘abundance’ of this universe, the strong friendships that we have forged over the years, and the limitless joys that life always brings.

Have a good life!


Abundant Cafe and Handicrafts

220 Bypass Rd., Aguinaldo Hi-way, Tubuan II, Silang, Cavite, Philippines. Tels. 0918 431 6973/ 0928 364 0563 (Look for Ms. Cecil Guela Caño).


Photos taken through my HTC PDA/Mobile Phone. This is not a paid blog.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Mary Anne Velas-Suarin