The Big C

(1st Place, Toastmasters District 75, Division H, Area 74 International Speech Contest 2019)

Ladies and gentlemen, I have The Big C. Yup. The Big C. I got it.

Toastmasters, friends, it started on a work trip in Cebu. Just like any other previous work trip, I rose early, showered, and headed down to take my breakfast. The sun was shining quite brightly through the hotel’s wide terrace.

My phone rang. It was Mama. I excused myself from the table and took the call in the restroom. This was probably important, I thought, judging from the tone of her voice.

“Anak, may findings. I have cancer.”

My life took one major pause at that moment. Like a CD player that began skipping after being jolted, one question began repeating in my mind, over and over: What do I do? What do I do? Tears began welling up in my eyes.

My flight home that day was one of deep sadness, but also, my mind started moving. I was determined to reverse the skipping and move on to the next track. My technical side began to take over as I thought about a solution: Papa would do the government and medical paperwork, my sister Sarah would handle all records, and I would be in charge of PR and liaising for donations.

We had a roughly two-year plan to get Mama through treatment. Despite the uncertainty, it was a good plan. I knew it would work!

But somehow, I felt something was lacking. There was something that I failed to consider. I just couldn’t think of it.

One afternoon, a few days after my Mom’s first few chemo treatments, a day I was personally dreading finally arrived. She came home, bald as a shiny one peso coin.

“I had it cut off na,” she explained. “It was falling off anyway.”

We didn’t expect her to lose her hair that fast. More importantly, I didn’t expect her to just go bald as direct as that. I expected her to purchase a hairpiece, an item which somehow make her appear as if she never had cancer.

Then it hit me. If my Mama could go bald, why couldn’t I? I marveled at the thought that formed in my mind.

See, I’m the vainest person ever when it came to my hair. Having been blessed with the most unmanageable of wavy locks, I obsessed with haircare as a child. I combed and sprayed and applied all sorts of hair products to manage my hair. But I never, ever sported a bald look. The only time I went bald prior to that day was a move imposed on me without consent in Grade 3– and resulted in me throwing the tantrum of the decade.

But I did it. I went to my barber and asked for a “semi-kal” look.

“Wow!” was what my Mama exclaimed when I walked in the door the next day. “Now we really look alike!”

I saw that she was surprised, yet happy with my new look. My sister also cut her previously long hair, to a near-boy cut look. In short, we all cut our hair for our dear Mama.

At that very moment, she asked me to sit on the couch. and we snapped a selfie together.

And for the next one year or so, throughout her chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone treatments, we have been snapping selfies everywhere. On her hospital bed, in the car, in the mall, anywhere. During those times, I felt happy that Mama’s confidence was growing and her insecurity was slowly fading. And I always liked the way our photos turned out: a bald mother and a bald son, with round heads like pandesals, always smiling.

On March 2, 2017, just two days before my birthday, Mama and I posed for one last photo in the hospital. It was her last treatment day. This time, however, her hair was already longer than mine.

You’re probably thinking, so what’s so special about cutting your hair? How exactly did that help my Mama?

Well, if there’s one thing I quickly learned with my Mama’s battle with cancer, is that cancer is not just a disease of the body, it can also a disease of the mind and heart. While chemotherapy and radiation can do so much to halt the spread of one’s cancer cells, another battle is being waged on the emotional front. And it can get pretty lonely out there, when you’re alone with your thoughts and emotions. If a cancer patient is losing that front, that can even be more crippling than the cancer itself. And that’s why I had to be there for my Mama. And the best way I knew how, at that time, was to make sure she didn’t feel insecure with her look. So I went bald.

So, remember what I said at the start? Yup, it’s true, I caught the Big C. You heard me--not my Mama, but me. And it’s not cancer. It’s two big C’s: care and concern. I learned how to really care, and how to be genuinely concerned. And believe it or not, just little bit of care and concern can mean a lot to someone who may need it the most. And sometimes, all it takes is one simple haircut.

How about you? Got that bit of Big C in you?

At the end of all things

(Lifted from Turning Points' If the World Was Ending, What Would Your Last Message Be?

"The world, as I know it, is ending. I close my eyes and again experience the wonder of the rain forest, the murmuring streams, the rustling leaves and the myriad sounds of animal life, chirping and singing and buzzing. Flashes of color; birds, butterflies, fish shining in the water. Monkeys feeding overhead. The smell of damp earth and flowers. Each species, no matter how small, playing its part in the rich tapestry of life. I move my mind’s eyes to the wetlands, the mountains, the coral reefs, the golden prairies. The sun glittering on the Arctic ice. The pine trees of the cliffs I climbed as a child. In these few minutes the beauty of the world I once knew is real again.

I open my eyes reluctantly. I am surrounded by land and water that is dead, polluted, plundered. The natural world destroyed. Our cities collapsed. Nature has hit back at we humans, who so greedily stole her riches, with hurricanes, floods, droughts, fires and earthquakes.

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Rip tides

For a year that has been mostly full of pleasant surprises, and for a boy who has taken too many chances--this might be more than typical ebb and flow.

Sigh. It's past midnight on a very warm evening, and I'm deeply pondering if you're simply a rip tide threatening to break into this messy twenty-something's life.

A rip tide, of course, is described as a very strong offshore current that can sometimes prove fatal. And conventional wisdom dictates that's what you are--something dangerous, something to be avoided.

But maybe, just maybe, you'll be the exact opposite. Maybe, you'll be the swell to lift up one's dampened spirits. Or the gentle ripple in a sea of stormy thoughts.

Maybe, after all, you're what this boy needs--and wants.

Aboitiz Group spearheads fashion design workshops for the youth

The Aboitiz Group recently completed a series of learning sessions for Manila’s top student fashion designers in preparation for their participation in the upcoming 2nd Aboitiz Green Fashion Revolution (GFR) Manila.

Beginning January until end-March, students from Asia Pacific College, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, and SoFA Design Institute were immersed in practical fashion design tips and tricks from “Project Runway Philippines” Season 4 winner Joy Chicano and members of the Aboitiz Group Sustainability team.

These workshops enabled the students to come up with creative, competitive, and environmentally-friendly designs for the upcoming GFR Manila 2017.

“We are happy to help impart useful and valuable knowledge on fashion design to Manila’s best young fashion designers. With this kind of training, coupled with their talent, we are definitely looking forward to seeing on the fashion runway their homegrown designs that highlight and manifest sustainable, eco-friendly living,” Maribeth L. Marasigan, Aboitiz Foundation First Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, said.

This year, GFR Manila 2017—with the theme “Life Flourishing on Land and in Water” and supported by the National Youth Commission—will be held on April 22, Saturday (Earth Day), 3 p.m. at the SMX Convention Center, SM Aura Premier in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. Young STAR,, and are the event’s official media partners.

A brainchild of a group of Aboitiz scholars during the Aboitiz Scholars’ CSR Summit in December 2011, GFR and was first staged in Cebu and Manila in 2012 and 2016, respectively, through the auspices of the Aboitiz Foundation, the corporate foundation of the Aboitiz Group.

Since then, it has become an annual favorite among the college and university fashion circuit, challenging students to create clothing, footwear, and accessories that make use of recycled materials and highlight the importance of the 3Rs—Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. It is currently an initiative under the Aboitiz Group’s Wealth on Waste Program that promotes creative recycling of waste materials after their useful life. Approximately 1,600 kilograms of waste material from various Aboitiz business units are repurposed annually for Aboitiz GFR since it began in 2011.

In 2016, the GFR was given a Silver Stevie Award for the category Communications or Public Relations Campaign of the Year-Sponsorship at The Stevie Awards, the world’s premier business awards, and last March, a Gold Anvil Award at the Public Relations Society of the Philippines’ Anvil Awards.

This year's GFR continues to support two of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Life Below Water (conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development) and Life on Land (protect, restore, and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss).

According to the UN, oceans cover three quarters of the Earth’s surface, contain 97% of the Earth’s water, and represent 99% of the living space on the planet by volume. Yet as much as 40% of the world’s oceans are heavily affected by human activities, including pollution, depleted fisheries, and loss of coastal habitats.

As part of its Environment for a #BetterWorld campaign, the Aboitiz Foundation spearheads the implementation of programs that promote environmental conservation and biodiversity enhancement. Through the active participation of Aboitiz team members across the Group, the organization ensures that it is doing its part in caring for the planet while building a sustainable enterprise that can be entrusted to future generations. Among these initiatives include the Race to Reduce program that underpins the Aboitiz Group’s commitment to the efficient use of enterprise resources, the A-Park Program which aims to grow nine million trees nationwide by 2020, and the Aboitiz Cleanergy Park, an eight-hectare outdoor biodiversity park in Davao City that is home to the critically-endangered hawksbill sea turtle (pawikan) and 66 other species.

Sticking out

"Thanks for a lovely afternoon," said Martin, limping to the door with them. "I enjoyed my spot of painting, to say nothing of your company."

"You stick out for your painting," said Julian. "If it's the thing that you've got to do, and you know it, you must go out for it. See?"

(From "Five on a Kirrin Island" by Enid Blyton)

Photo Credit:

LIKE OUR VIDEO and help Aboitiz RMD win the People's Choice Award!

On the 17th floor of the Aboitiz Corporate Headquarters in Bonifacio Global City, a digital camera focuses, and then softly clicks. Stilettos shuffle on the carpeted floor, and make-up brushes gently sweep across the colored dust of Max Factor. A battle is definitely brewing.

As part of the ongoing Aboitiz Digital Transformation Journey, the Aboitiz Green Fashion Revolution has now gone fully digital. No longer limited to the fashion runway, the chic team members of the Aboitiz Reputation Management Department are now ready to strike their finest, freshest, and fiercest haute couture poses—both on the catwalk and online. Aided by their most technologically-advanced mobile devices, they are now locked in a competitive contest of form and function in the social media space. Will you help us win?

Help Team 10 (Aboitiz Reputation Management Department) win the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Aboitiz Mannequin Challenge Team Competition. PLEASE LIKE THIS VIDEO, AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO LIKE THE VIDEO ITSELF AS WELL. Thank you!

#AboitizMannequinChallenge #MannequinChallenge #AboitizTechTheHalls #BetterWays #BetterWorld #GFR2016 #TeamReputasyon

The year we learned to cope

'Coz baby when we meet,
what we're afraid of,
We find out what we're made of.

--We Walk The Same Line, Everything But The Girl

October 24, 2015 will always be a memorable date for me.

A little over a year ago, my Mama underwent surgery, a partial mastectomy, for breast cancer, thus setting us on this long and ardous journey toward beating her breast cancer.

October 24, 2015 was a Saturday. My Papa was the assigned "bantay" before Mama's surgery, so Sarah and I were basically home alone Friday night. I wasn't feeling that anxious that evening, I recall I was swamped with work that week. But Saturday morning, driving from the house to The Medical City, I began feeling a bit nervous.

Sarah and I arrived and Mama was already in the operating room. Thus we had to endure a few hours waiting during Mama's surgery. I remember turning into my passive-aggressive self--pretending to be busy with work, but in reality, my mind was already racing to kingdom come with all sorts of anxious and worrying thoughts.

Funny thing though that I just want to point out--the TV in Mama's hospital roomwas on but no one was watching and no one even bothered to switch channels. This was showing throughout the entire waiting period:

AlDub at Philippine Arena

The whole Philippine Arena was going bonkers and we simply didn't care. Haha.

Finally, Papa walked in through the front door. Mama was already in the recovery room, still snoozing. She made it through the surgery.

I quite literally let out a sigh of relief and awaited Mama's arrival later that day.


It's now November 1, two months until the closing of an incredible, tumultuous year for our family. Initially, there were lots of moments this year when I really felt scared, alone, and sad, but this year has also made me fully realize that there is just so much to be grateful for. And yes, even with just two months to go, I still very much am.

Please continue to consider the following donation channels:

1) Direct Bank Deposit
BANK: Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
ACCOUNT NAME: Franz Jonathan G. de la Fuente
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 3259-0500-64

2) Indiegogo
URL: Help Mama Beat Breast Cancer on Generosity by Indiegogo

3) GoFundMe
URL: Help Mama Beat Breast Cancer on GoFundMe

4) Online Money Transfer (PayPal)

Photo Credit:

Sayonara, Riza-san

(Photo Credit: Claire Feliciano)

"To give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds..."--Prayer for Generosity, St. Ignatius of Loyola

Much has been said about the goodness and kindness of my friend Riza Olchondra, who passed away last Sept. 23 after bravely fighting ovarian cancer, the way she has been there for all of us, but I guess it's one thing to be good and nice to friends, and another to be there for others who do not expect you to be.

It was end-March, way back in 2013-the end of another first quarter, which meant crunch time for most of us reporters as we set to print stories revisiting targets from the previous year, or if we were optimistic enough, on the first quarter itself. I was still a reporter for BusinessWorld. That year, March also coincided with Holy Week, which meant an additional cross to bear as we hunted down sources and stories before Maundy Thursday and the Calvary of the long weekend set in.

One evening that month, I received an email from Riza:

"Puwede na ba ipamigay sa guards ng DBP yung mga giveaway sa mga cubicle where you usually work?" she asked. "I'm putting the giveaways together para makabuo ng 58 kasi ganun kadami ang guards ng DBP (includes those on night duty). Let me know if puwede na ipamigay or kung may gusto kayo itago kung madadaanan ninyo today."

It was classic Riza to be that thoughtful and selfless--always thinking of others, as if she was channeling on purpose that mantra from her alma mater, Ateneo--"man for others."

I cheerfully replied in the negative, sent from my oh-so-modern BlackBerry no less:

"Wala na akong gamit sa "cubicle" ko. Hehe. Thanks! Happy weeekend!"

Riza was always the generous one, whether she was sharing contact numbers or writing advice to this then-newbie reporter. But far more significant were the countless dinners, beer, and fun stories that we shared after work, attempting to de-stress after a long day. For someone new to the industry, I felt very grateful for the time Riza shared and spent with me and my friends, no matter how crazy we got. Believe me, we were--and still are--a rather crazy bunch. There were always smiles and laughter when Riza was around. And we truly loved her for that.

(Photo Credit: Mads Miraflor)

In mid-2013, I resigned from BusinessWorld and moved to corporate communications. My biggest fear when I moved was that things would change--that she would no longer be the quintessential "ate" that I knew. But I was wrong. Even as I found myself on the other side, and as she covered my employer, she was neve a stranger, occasionally offering advice and nuances when it came to covering the Energy beat.

The last few weeks of Riza's life have proved to be quite emotional for all of us. After her surgery, I paid her a visit, bringing some fruits, coconut juice (her favorite, apparently), and some lemongrass tea (her request). I tried my best to cheer her up, offering words of encouragement knowing how it is to face cancer (my own Mama is currently battling breast cancer). I teased her, "Pagaling ka na! Para makasama ka sa lechon party namin!", referring to the annual celebration Aboitiz hosts for the media. I'm pretty sure she would have managed to make it an awesome party if she made it.

And now we're here.

It has been quite tough for all of us, but I take comfort in the fact that Riza did wage a brave fight and is now in a better place, one where she would no longer have to face suffering and discomfort. I'm not much of a religious person these days, but I'd like to think God indeed has a plan for everyone--including our friend, Riza.

Riza, tapos na ang laban. You can rest well now. Maraming salamat sa lahat. Thank you for showing us what it means to be a courageous and selfless person, both in sickness and in health. Thank you for all the kindness, the generosity, and the love. Thank you for being you. We love you very much.

(Photo Credit: Mads Miraflor)


Much of the content of this blog since I started this in late high school consists of personal raves and rants. A little commentary here and there, but still, my perspectives on the various pressing issues that hound my world.

It's already September 2016, nine months into what I believe is turning out to be my most challenging, back-breaking year as a person. I guess I've never faced so much struggles all at once, and indeed, 2016, my 25th year of existence, is turning out to be a watershed year as far as my personal and work struggles are concerned.

But hey, I guess with this comes two key learnings I've picked up along the way.

1. Other people struggle too.

2016 has brought as much heartache to my friends as it has to me. My former orgmate Chris lost his mother to cancer after a long and brave fight, and currently, my former colleague Riza bravely soldiers on in her battle with ovarian cancer.

I've learned the value of empathy and concern. I may not be financially wealthy, but I've learned to share my time with others, because sometimes that's all that matters. We all have our share of concerns and problems, therefore it can't be always all about me, because there are other people too with their own concerns and issues. Which leads me to me second learning:

2. We don't have to struggle alone.

It's not wrong to reach out, to ask for help, to admit, "I can't do this alone." Many times I've learned this lesson as I've reached out and asked for help with my Mama's ongoing cancer treatment. I felt nervous and helpless all at the same time the first time I posted that Facebook status announcing Mama's condition, but these feelings were soon replaced with gratitude and love as I saw countless friends pitch in and help out. I told myself, "If I'm this blessed, perhaps I should do the same for others." So that's what I'm trying to do now--reach out to friends who need help with whatever struggles they have. I will try to be there for them just as others have been there for us.

We have less than six months before the current year ends. Here's hoping we face our struggles the best we can--together.

Mama's Second Wind

Years before she was diagnosed with breast cancer (Stage 1A, HER2 positive), my Mama, Pomona Pilar G. dela Fuente, current breast cancer warrior, used to run. A lot.

Before she married my Papa, she used to share how she used to join several fun runs, long before their levels of popularity and hype these days. These days, fun runs usually take place in the Bonifacio Global City or SM Mall of Asia areas; in the 1990s, it was usually Roxas Boulevard. But in the 1980s, EDSA was still the route of choice, and during one particular run that took her and her friends from the now-defunct Fiesta Carnival (now Shopwise Cubao) in Araneta Center to Rustan’s in what is now Ayala Center. It was a long and tough run—ascending the hilly EDSA-Guadalupe area proved to be a struggle, she muses—but she completed it.

Over nine months ago, Mama began what was arguably the most difficult challenge of her life to date—beating breast cancer. And in a way, as a family, it has also been our most difficult challenge as well. We’ve never been super-wealthy, so her treatments eventually took a toll on our finances. But thanks to the government assistance programs such as PCSO and PhilHealth and the generosity of family and friends, we have managed to pull through in the past nine months, and are still pulling through.

I first described the commencement of Mama’s cancer treatment as a “journey,” but in hindsight, it has really been a marathon that toughens you to the very end. No fancy high-speed sprints here—this is one grueling test of endurance where you have to keep going no matter what.

Mama has always been a fighter, but I’ve never seen her display such tremendous strength for herself and for us as a family like in the past nine months. Through all the endless medications, injections, and the all-too familiar chemotherapy/radiation side effects, she has remained steadfast like a true runner dead-set on completing the most difficult marathon of her life.

I’ve read about cancer from way before, but it’s really different if you’re experiencing it firsthand. It is never easy, and it takes sheer courage to face each treatment day with a smile on one’s face despite the overwhelming pain and difficulty. In addition to her inherent bravery, I’d like to think she also draws her strength from the love, prayers, and support we have received from family and friends. For this, we are humbled and truly grateful.

It’s now July 2016, which means if all goes well, we would already be about halfway through her treatment which is slated to end on February 2017. Mama has already completed her chemotherapy and radiation sessions, and is now undergoing her hormone therapy treatment (necessary since her cancer was identified as HER2 positive). This also happens to be the most expensive part of her treatment—at nearly P100,000 per session, our finances are once again being tested in what is becoming the long-distance track event of our lives.

Professional runners speak of experiencing a “second wind,” or a phenomenon where a breathless, exhausted athlete “finds the strength to press on at top performance with less exertion.” It’s a wonderful moment often encountered at the brink of a wonderful victory.

It has been nine months since Mama commenced her cancer treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy), and she has run a good race so far in the face of cripplingly tough circumstances.

With your help, she can grab hold of a second wind, make one strong stride toward the homestretch of her treatment, and triumphantly cross over the finish line. With your help, Mama can—and will—beat breast cancer!

Please continue to consider the following donation channels:

1) Indiegogo
URL: Help Mama Beat Breast Cancer on Generosity by Indiegogo

2) GoFundMe
URL: Help Mama Beat Breast Cancer on GoFundMe

2) Direct Bank Deposit
BANK: Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI)
ACCOUNT NAME: Franz Jonathan G. de la Fuente
ACCOUNT NUMBER: 3259-0500-64

3) Online Money Transfer (PayPal)