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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Loved by the Untamed Mountain and the Calm Sea -- my Toastmasters speech for Father's Day


In a few hours, the whole world will celebrate again Father's Day.  And again, I cannot join this wonderful occasion as my father already passed away eight years ago.  And everytime this day comes, it makes me look back at the Toastmasters speech I composed and delivered during the Father's Day celebration in 2006 entitled "Loved by the Untamed Mountain and the Calm Sea".  Honestly, I am having second thoughts if I should post this on my blog because I'm opening a very sensitive part of myself and my family but I thought, I wrote and delivered this several years ago and it only means that I'm ready to share this piece of my life so others may get inspired and learn from it. 

So, without further ado, here's the Toastmasters speech I'm talking about...


Loved by the Untamed Mountain and the Calm Sea
by Ferdinand L. Bondoy

Honor thy father and thy mother. This is God’s fourth commandment. 'But what will you do if you don't feel that honored at all and you can't obey this commandment?

Let me tell you this story.

My father was a typical Filipino father. He sent us to a Catholic school but he never believed in priests. He read the bible often but he hardly brought the whole family to church on Sundays. He demanded that the whole family should eat together but he never initiated saying grace before meals. He was intelligent and had a great career but he was also proud and short-tempered. He loved the kitchen, books and plants but he also adored hard liquor and cigars. Indeed, he was an untamed mountain, wild and free, mysterious and hard to climb.

Untamed Mountain

As a child, I had a picture of how an ideal father should be. And his face was never the picture I saw. I had a regard for him as my father, as we all normally feel towards our dads. And despite the fact that he valued me so much as I am the youngest and inherited his wit, I barely reciprocated the feeling. At that time, I thought the arrangement was enough.

So the set-up continued and was generally accepted until a few days before I reached the summit of my hard work, my graduation in college, my father had an accident. He fell from the stairs of a three-storey house and his spinal chord was severely injured and damaged. This made him completely bed ridden and unable to recover. He suddenly transformed into a calm sea; silent and still but in pain and agony.

Calm Sea

Instead of becoming compassionate, I turned furious then. How could someone who gave me many disappointments ruin the most important day of my life? I’ve always dreamt of that moment when my parents will be proudly handing over my medal and diploma, the fruits of my hard work, blood, sweat and tears. My father wanted and was very much happy with this recognition but when I finally got it, how can he then come up to the stage?  The supposed summit of my academic career had a detour and I was devastated by that unexpected landslide. I hated him... I denied God’s existence... and I was angry with the injustice and inequality that I faced. And you couldn’t imagine how my character turned so black at that time.

However, in my eruption and in my darkest hours, a light guided me to reason and wisdom. It was  my mom who served as the guiding light. In one serious talk we had, she told me, “I also feel like quitting. And I want to join you.” And it made me stop and think because I never planned and wanted that to happen. If I wanted to be heartless, that would only be me alone and I wouldn’t want anyone from my family be like me. It was another turning point. So as the light cleared the ashes that I threw into the air, I again sailed the calm sea. Together with my mom and my brother Kuya Jojo, we all put ourselves as second priority and took care of my father. Together, we attended to his needs; we fed him; we bathed him; we carried him; we looked for and tried many ways to help him recover; and ultimately, we cared for him more than ever. At the time when it’s most difficult to us, when my father barely moved, I’ve learned to love and care for him even more. The tragedy, though difficult and unimaginable to go through, became an opportunity for me to see the hidden treasures of the calm sea: the corals that signify the home I grew up with, the fishes that symbolize the food we ate in every meal and the salt water that shows the unconditional love of a father to his family.

And as I walked through the fine beaches of the calm sea, I noticed the backdrop of what used to be an untamed mountain. I realized that the mountain ranges were beautiful at large. I may have been at lost trekking the forest of the untamed mountain but I was fed by its fruits and protected by the shades of its trees. Before, all I saw was the difficulty of climbing its slopes but I never realized that the gold lies beneath.

 My father, Remigio (Emeng, Remy, RBB) B. Bondoy

He was a provider. He valued education. He ensured that there’s always food on our table. His spirituality may be unconventional but in his own ways, he taught us to be fair, responsible, humane, and God fearing.

Right then, I missed the normal dad I couldn’t get along with. I told myself, have I had serious talks with my dad before, I could have made better decisions.

And that night, I had a dream. My father was standing and called me. “What is it that you want to tell me? I’m here, standing; I can stand by myself now. Come on, you can talk to me,” he said. I wasn’t able to speak a word and I just hurriedly embraced him and cried like a little child, thinking and wishing that if I hug more tightly and won't let go, this dream is indeed true, he really can stand and walk again. But when I woke up, the only truth that faced me are the tears continuously pouring down to my cheeks.  I then hurried to his room and saw him lying and sleeping on his bed.  And seeing him still alive and resting well is an enough relief for me.

'But I think the dream I had was a sign as a few weeks after, the calm sea started to dry up. I was headed home from work when I got a call from my uncle (Tito Nono) telling me to hurry up so I could still see my father and say goodbye. Again, it made me stop and think. Was I ready? Have I done my part? Was my care enough? Have I been forgiven?

What really torn my heart apart was despite the fact that he was in a coma and battling for his breathe, I needed to leave the next day to fulfill a sensitive obligation at work that no one else can do. I swear, I didn’t want to leave and didn’t care about the repercussions; but my family reminded me of what my father always told us: to be responsible no matter what. So as I painfully looked at the last moments of his life, I embraced him tightly; wishing that I need not go and afraid that I may not see him again when I come back. But again, I became an ungrateful son as I defied my heart’s will.

The society dictates how parents should be. It’s in the bible, it’s in our revised family code, and it’s in our culture. They should be fair with their children. They should be good providers. They should be morally upright citizens. They should be perfect role models. And we, as children, caged our parents in these standards. And if these standards aren’t religiously met, we judge them; we blame them, that easily and blindly not realizing that our parents are humans too. Like us, they have their good and bad sides, their strengths and weaknesses, their ups and downs, and they sometimes do it right but they also sometimes fail. But unlike us, they are able to accept and love their children no matter how their youngsters have become.

My father was never the ideal father I pictured out but he was the real father I loved and will ever love given the second chance. Despite my imperfections as a son, and as a human, he taught me many things, and loved me whether he was as strong as the untamed mountain or as silent as the calm sea.

Remigio B. Bondoy
December 19, 1943 to June 07, 2002
--- end ---

To my readers, may I also greet you or your spouse or your dad a very Happy Father's Day!

My baptism at Sta. Ana Church in Manila

with my Mama, Papa, Ninangs and Ninong

Family outing

Christmas in Malolos

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Emir sings the Filipino soul

Shoe Potato:

After the past week took all my strength, zest and life, I was left rolling on my bed on a late Saturday morning. Well, thanks to the red wine that calmed my tired body the other night. I woke up realizing that it's June 12, birthday of my bestfriend Dustbin and of course, my country's Independence Day! After greeting my friend, I immediately browsed the web to check what else I can do to celebrate the Philippines' Independence Day. Then I realized that the patriotic film I've been waiting for opened last June 09 and is still showing at this very special day of our nation!

Emir is a full-feature Filipino movie musical set in a fictional emirate in the Middle East with 70% of principal photography shot in Morocco and the rest in Ifugao and Paoay, Ilocos Sur in the Philippines. Produced by the Film Development Council of the Philippines in association with the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Emir is directed by one of the best Filipino filmmakers Chito S. Rono and features GMA 7's The Next Big Star winner Frencheska Farr.  It also stars Dulce, Sid Lucero, Jhong Hilario, Julia Clarete, Beverly Salviejo, Bodjie Pascua and Bayang Barrios, among others.

Emir narrates the story of Amelia (Frencheska Farr), an Ifugao living in Ilocos who decided to work abroad to alleviate her family from poverty, a situation where most of the people in her hometown face. She becomes a yaya (nanny) to the newly born Ahmed, the Sheik’s only son.

Amelia takes care of Ahmed as her own, witnesses him grew up, and in the process making the young boy familiar and attached to the culture, values and language of the Philippines. Amelia, and the rest of her colleagues in the palace, experiences both the pain and rewards of being our country’s modern day heroes, the OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers. And as they continue to sacrifice for their loved ones and take care of the Sheik’s family and household as their own, a war erupted and an evacuation of the family is ordered. Amelia saves the life of the Shiek’s son (Mahdi Yadzian Varjani) but they become separated and Amelia is forced to go back to the Philippines.


At the start of the film, Emir effectively narrated and photographed what is typically seen in a Filipino family and community.  The film may have shown the romanticized (as what musicals do) poor town of Amelia but the hardships were honestly told and can surely be felt.  And another fantastic backdrop used is the Ifugao Rice Terraces where Amelia's grandmother and other relatives live.  At this part of the story, the grandmother poetically reminds Amelia to not forget her roots no matter how long her journey will be.


In Amelia's work place abroad, Direck Chito brought the audience to the classic beauty of the Middle East but  no matter how grand the palace and dessert landscape may be, the real lives of OFWs were told from the heart.  At this point, I think any Filipino will be proud of our fellow countrymen who despite their wounded heart and soul are very committed and very hardworking in their jobs.

The production design is majestic and truly exceptional, whether the scene was shot in Ilocos or Ifugao or Morocco, Production Designer Digo Ricio created the fictional yet truthful and convincing world of Amelia.  Cinematography is an example of how technology and artistry can mix well.  And music, of course, is truly world class.  At first, I was afraid that Bollywood influence might flood the film's music but I guess I just noticed it in two scenes (work scene and closing billboard).  My personal favorites were the main theme song "Bakit Ako Naririto" which I predict will be an instant Filipino and musical classic, the love theme (this one may be a pop hit), the lullaby or the song sang for Ahmed "Gunita", and "Sandosenang Pasko" (a new Christmas Carol that we can add in our collection).  The songs featured met global musical film standards but it echoed the heart and soul of every Filipino, especially those who are working in foreign lands.  Hats off to the film's musical director Josefino Chino Toledo and composers Gary Granada, Vin Dancel, Ebe Dancel, Diwa De Leon and Chino Toledo.

For the role of Amelia, KC Concepcion was first eyed for the role but due to conflict in schedule, other stars were also considered like Sara Geronimo and Lea Salonga but those (prominent performers) who auditioned were Yeng Constantino, Sitti, Karylle, Denise Laurel and lastly Frencheska Farr, who almost backed out because she felt the other contenders are much bigger stars already.  And as we all knew and witnessed, Frencheska bested all of them and got the much coveted role.  I never doubted Frencheska Farr's talent but this film gave me the final seal of approval, and I think the rest who saw the film will also agree, that she is our next musical, or even acting, great!  The film showed that she can sing, she can act and she can dance. She can be mellow but she can also be fiery, she can be refreshingly young but she can also be an adult with conviction, she can make you cry but she can also make you laugh.  And... she's simply brown and beautiful, which are among the qualities that can make every movie goer fall for her. 

Dulce is also a big revelation and I think her superb performance deserves an acting award.  Gigi Escalante who portrayed the Ifugao lola gave a very commendable dramatic and musical performance.  It may be brief but it truly captivated our hearts.  Julia Clarete (Angie), (Pearlsha) Liesl Batucan and (Mylene) Melanie Dujunco also did a very good job in their respective roles. Of course who will not be charmed by the 7 year old (Joshua Elia Price Hourani) and 12 year old Ahmed (Mahdi Yadzian Varjani) who was very cute and funny in his dialogues in Filipino.  I heard that the story of Emir was inspired by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's encounter with a prince in one of her visits in the Middle East where the young royalty talked to her in Filipino fluently, courtesy of her Pinoy nanny! =)

One of the film highlights, the reunion of Amelia and Ahmed, put almost everyone in shed of tears.  It only says that if there is one thing that makes a Filipino nanny (or even other household and health care workers) ahead of her counterparts (well aside from her devotion and the ability to speak English), it is her "malasakit" or concern for the child she is taking care of, which is truly beyond the demands of her work. 

The opening scene is also something I liked so much and I think this is the first time I saw in a Filipino movie that the actual opening scene had a very fine and creative transition to the film's title artcard.

Well, as much as I wanted to just say all the beautiful things about the film, as I really became a big fan, I can't help but share my views on some of its setbacks, to be objective of course.  There are some hidden scenes that makes the transition abrupt like when Amelia and Ahmed got separated and when she came back to the Philippines. For me, I think showing the actual scenes could help the audience appreciate better the resolution of the story. Her refusal to accept the position left by Ester (Dulce) is anti-climactic and didn't effectively reflect a positive attitude towards work.  And the story, eventhough it tackles problems of big scale, is narrated in a light and positive way.  So I just can't help but feel anxious that after laughing and falling in love with the characters of the household workers, the Shiekka and Ahmed's sisters, their last scene, the escalation of the story, was presented in an unlikely dark way (and I preferred that it's told the other way, the lighter way, as they established it already in the film). Well, unless they really wanted to show the very gloomy side that an OFW may face.  And I think, like in Slumdog Millionaire, the song dance scene at the CBB is not needed.  Well, okay, Slumdog may have a reason because it's a Bollywood  film but Emir is not.  It may have been inspired by Bollywood but it doesn't mean we have to copy its music.  It could have been better if they just used something of our own like the Manila Sound perhaps.

'But in general, Emir is truly world class, deserves local and international recognition, and a film (and music) every Filipino will be proud of.  It showed the beauty (and that's a mix of strengths and weaknesses) of our country and people.  Emir is an inspiring story of the Filipino's continuing struggle and small triumphs over life's hardships.  From a scale 1 to 10 claps, I give Emir 8 1/2 with cheers and wave.  I recommend Emir to every Filipino (and any citizen of the world who wants to know more about us) because it's truly worthwhile and a it's one perfect way to celebrate our Philippine Independence Day.  Watch the movie and champion our heritage, salute our nation's new heroes and propagate this noble endeavor of producing well crafted and pride instilling movies.  Congratulations to Chito Rono, Film Development Council of the Philippines, Cultural Center of the Philippines, Frencheska Farr and the rest of the people behind this landmark movie.

Photos courtesy of Emir fan page and www.emirthemovie.com.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

A taste of healthier life in Bohol Bee Farm


When I was coordinating for our Bohol trip, I asked Vicki Pastoriza of Camp Cebu where else to go in Bohol aside from Chocolate Hills, Alona Beach, Loboc and Tarsier Sanctuary. And in an instant, she said Bohol Bee Farm in Panglao!  I got curious and interested about the place since it has never been in the province's tourism map so I guessed the bee farm must really be something new and nice to explore.  I informed everyone coming to the trip about it and I guess all of them got excited too!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dolphin Watching and the Shouts and Silence it Bring -- Dolphin Watching at Pamilacan Island, Bohol

Bayanihan Republic:

When I first visited Bohol in 2001, I was already told to never fail to do dolphin watching at Pamilacan Island but due to time constraints then, I wasn't able to do as advised.  Nine years after, I went back to this paradise island and made sure that I together with the rest of the gang will be able to see dolphins in the wild.  We were first asked to choose between dolphin watching and snorkeling but we decided to maximize the trip and do both. =)  And fortunately, the stars alligned to our favor, and granted our wish! =) 

On May 27, 2010, at around 5:30 AM, we headed to a small boat docked at the white beach of Bohol Beach Club.  After wearing our life vests, the small boat sailed the tranquil bay with the serene blue sky and slowly rising glow of sun as the backdrop.  After less than 10 minutes, we transferred to a bigger boat that brought us to the deep blue sea where the dolphins might be patiently waiting.

Then after around 15 minutes, we heard the boat driver shouted, "Ayun! (There it is)".  And we immediately witnessed another spectacular performance orchestrated by mother nature.  And as I have always said to the Boholanos I meet, the island province is rich and blessed.

At first we saw big dolphins one by one, and about two or three of them are swimming alongside our boat!  We all shouted for joy, cheered the marine wonders and jumped in a way that we won't fall off from the boat.  Then as we moved around, we saw more dolphins, this time a little smaller than the first ones we saw, all swimming in synchrony.  A few playfully jumped and twirled as if they knew we were watching them with enjoyment and as if they were making a show sans the man made structures and animal trainors.

I guess we stayed at the dolphin area for around 45 minutes and headed to the marine sanctuary located in nearby Balicasag Island afterwards. Watching the dolphins brought out the children in us but as we sailed away from the playful sea mammals, we were again mesmerized, this time by the cool gentle breeze touching and kissing our skin and the panoramic view of the serene water, sky and horizon being photographed before our eyes.  For us who are pressed to live and survive the stressful and catastrophic life in Manila, the brief encounter with the sea and sky provided us a therapeutic relief -- it calmed our mind, cleansed our spirit and rejuvinated our body.

In my interview before with the Makiling Center for Mountain Ecosystems, I learned that humans are deeply drawn to nature; we find joy in having picnics under the trees, walking along the beach, or simply basking in the beauty of nature. 

Well, I guess, we really are connected to the ecosystem that's why it's our instinct to always look for these kind of activities because we find and gain strength in being close to nature.

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