Is your nationality your identity?

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Q & A with Gulf News' Community Solutions Journalist Heather Madore

Q: In the past, people would stick to groups of people who shared their nationality. Is this a practice you still a lot of today?
A: It's a basic instinct I must say. A person would rather approach a group in which he sees himself fitting. It's a more comfortable feeling than sneek into a foreign group and be alienated trying to relate himself with the majority.

Q: Have more people begun to mix nationalities?
A: Yes I think so. People would love to mix with other nationalities for the simple reason of "discovering." Oftentimes, introductions in the conversation between different nationalities is about where they came from, and what's good (or not) about the place. And that actual geographical learning per say is amazing. Our nationality is only a general classification. At the end of the day, we create an identity based on what we do or what we like - and those things lead to mingling with people (regardless of nationality) who also like the same.
Q: Has social media like facebook, twitter and MSN helped people come together?
A: Definitely. Here in Dubai, there were already numerous events organized by people connected via Twitter, Facebook or Meetup. With majority of the population being expats, we are always craving for something to do. We are excited to build our network.

Q: What other reasons have contributed to people mingling?
A: People connected via social networks are excited and curious to see who the actual person behind a username is. In the first place, people got connected online through a common interest. Events themed with that commont interest - be it an informal mini-conference-over-a-coffee, an art exhibit, or a demo of a project, or a concert - makes them want to mingle. Mingling creates an OPPORTUNITY to meet and discover random cool and exciting people. It could open doors to create a personal or professional relationships with people.

Q: Does the fact that the UAE has so many different nationalities help break down barriers or create them?
A: Dubai is one good example of a borderless community. It's not the nationality that creates groups for people - it's their interests. If I love football, I will mingle with football fans alike. The fact that companies employ people from different nationalities and merge into one team already kill the barriers.

Q: What makes a persons identity? How do you judge a persons identity?
A: Each person has his own brand (or identity). He creates it (and is judged) by the way he speaks, he acts, and sometimes by his interests; or physically by his posture. In social media, a person's identity is determined by the information he shares. We call it reputation management.

One, of many, aspects I can judge a person's identity is the consistency of the way he carries the reputation he builds for himself. There are people who consistently talks only about one thing. There are also people who talks about random things.


Strengthening the OFW Families: Stronger Homes for a Stronger Nation

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PEBA has witnessed the real life suffering and loneliness of the OFWs and their families and believes that strengthening the OFW families, strengthens the homes and the nation! Thus, this season’s theme of

“Strengthening the OFW Families: Stronger Homes for a Stronger Nation”

does not just momentarily fit the issue of hour but is a timeless subject that cannot be bound by shackles so long as there are OFWs out there.

Scores of blogs and articles have been written about the subject in the past but it seems that the government authorities remain clueless of solutions and action plans to abate the increasing number of broken families.


My Simple Life Winning Formula

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It's not about what we have done. It's about what we can do.

I thought it was great but all I got was hate; thought it was awesome but I forgot to consider some...

I did a website with poor navigation; an ugly website with improper ratio between images and texts. I produced websites that violated CSS and XHTML and design rules. I delivered a website that took centuries to load, was not compatible with other browsers; sites with low search engine visibility; and worst, websites that were only visited once, and totally rejected. I've been through a lot of mess, committed a number of critical mistakes, been moaned and scolded. I failed.

That WAS me.

Behind those failures, I am still playing the same game, just rubbed it off, got up and continue to be ALIVE. Those experiences gave me an opportunity to assess the kind of risks I need to take, and helped me realize that I can really give more only by means of a right formula. Being A.L.I.V.E paves the way for me:

A - Attitude. When I set the alarm to 4am, by 5am I should be up already - that's right attitude for me. Right attitude equals right mindset, organized and open-minded. Discipline along the way is my biggest challenger (That's why I implement a No-Facebook No Twitter time in a day).  When I have to do it, I have to. If I don't have to do it, I won't.  I learned a lot from the 4 quadrants (alone) in the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey.

L - Love of the game. I love what I'm doing. Web designing just started as a hobby until I realize that I could make a living out from it. It was not even included in my college course so I studied everything by myself.  I'm lucky to have got cool mentors, coach and tutors along the way that helped hone my skills further. What better career can you have than the one that you really love? This is pass-ion.

I - Inspiration. I'm greedy about inspiration. This keeps me happy about what I do. I always sing and crank up rockin' - that's my way of saying I'm inspired. I have a beautiful wife to die for, a loving and supportive parents and sisters, great friends.  My dreams inpire me too. Being dramatically inspired squeezes my creative juices more.

V - VITAMIN VISION. Having a vision prevented me from giving up with all those failures and prevented me too from pursuing a career in showbiz. haha. Reminding myself of my vision, adds fuel to my engine. The more I failed before, the faster I got full tank. The motivation to live my dream life with my family is just undying. See my Visionboard.

E - Earnings. Web design and internet marketing field puts me in a very lucrative opportunity. Seeing how far I can go, how big I can be, how huge it could reach out (see Ion as a Youth Advocate) and how quick I can transform my vision into reality never shuts me down. In short, realizing what my earnings could do not only for myself motivates me much.

This is my formula. It can be yours too. Be ALIVE. I refused to die and chose to be ALIVE. And to be ALIVE I don't abuse myself, well not too much. There are still more days I get to sleep 6-8 hours, I can go out with the family on the weekends and relax. I can chill in this desert.
So now, I can create not just stunning websites, but efficient, user-friendly, usable, and cost-effective as a result as well. (See Portfolio)

Coming off the bench, I know my role. It's a continuous learning process while I watch the coach design the play and the superstars execute. I know now what to do with the ball when it gets on my hand. I'm not yet where I want to be, but I believe and feel my other hand already holds a part of the MVP trophy. - Ion Gonzaga


Encouraging the nation to support Nick Perlas after the elections

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I believe he is in the mold to lead; has an unquestionnable passion to offer new politics; has a track record to boast of especially about environmental protection. Even not in power, he was able to influence environmental decisions through his resolutions. But then, he lacks the governance experience and political will.

He may have jumped so soon into the contest of Presidency, but nonetheless, his courage is admirable. his intentions are the purest and most sincere among all. One good thing, this exposure surely leads into more advocacies for him to steer. His coming out into the the politics should be an eye opener that there are really selfless people who wants to bring positive social change. And this will not stop on May 10. His commitment to empower new politics has just began. Sadly, people who have been long wanting for alternatives don't bother to look at them at all. Blame it to the partisan system. Since he has no political party to back him up, he's "looked into as weak."  Popularity remains the name of the game.

VIDEO (Who is Nick Perlas)

“Nicanor Perlas has no political background to speak of. He has never been elected to public office. However, he has served as technical consultant/resource person to the United Nations (UNDP, FAO, UNCSD, UNICEF), the Philippine government (Office of the President, Senate, House of Representatives, NEDA, DSWD, DA, DENR, and official Philippine delegations to the UN and APEC), and donor agencies as well as various civil society organizations and movements. He was a resource person in more than 90 global conferences and 140 national conferences as well as an author of more than 500 articles including “Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding.” Perlas co-wrote the Philippine Agenda 21 which is the official government blueprint for sustainable development and was adopted by no less than the United Nations as a preferred approach to solving world problems. Though not a public official, his work led to concrete policies today such as the laws which involved a multi-sectoral approach to solving poverty and introducing sustainable development. Among his many successful civil society activities led to the mothballing of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), the banning of 32 pesticide formulations, and regulation of genetic engineering products and processes. His role in uncovering the anomalies in the BNPP led him to go into hiding due to threats on his life. In recognition of his work, he received the Right Livelihood Award or Alternative Nobel Prize; Global 500 Award or Earth Warrior Award given by the UN Environmental Program; and the Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) among others.” - POC

Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Agronomy and minor in Agricultural Economics, Ateneo de Cagayan; Environmentalist and Writer


How to apply for passport in the Philippines?

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You can now enjoy the convenience of getting an appointed date and time to apply for your ePassport. All you have to do is provide your personal info online and choose an available date and time convenient for you. Applying for the ePassport is now more efficient. 

That's what the new DFA Passport Appointment System website claims.

Here's how to set an appointment to apply for a new (or renewal of) passport in the Philippines:

  1. Visit and check the Required Documents and Application Procedures. I will only cover about the process here. 
  2. Click 'Set an appointment' link on the left sidebar.
  3. Fill up the Application form about your personal details and contact information, and click submit button.
  4. If you're a new applicant, the required documents will be shown next. Just click the Continue button until it's finished.
  5. You will be asked to select an appointment date (first) and time on the next page. (Note: the calendar begins with the earliest available month for appointments)
  6. A confirmation page containing your Appointment Number and schedule will show next. Click the link to print the page and bring it on your appointment.
* NOTE: In some cases, you might receive an email saying that your appointment date is not available and they will set you on the next earliest schedule.

What you need to do on the Appointment date of your passport application?

  1. You must be at the new DFA Passport Center office at least 1 hour before your appointment time - as hundreds are also appointed on the same time. 
  2. You will still be asked to queue and be given a number. There are more than 20 counters so the queue moves a little quicker.
  3. Once called, present the required documents on the counter. 
  4. Pay the cost - Php950 for normal processing - 20 WORKING DAYS; Php1200 for rush - 10 WORKING DAYS.
  5. You will be asked to go to the 2nd floor for your photo, thumbmarks and signature. You need to queue again.
  6. The officer will ask to verify your details. Please do verify very well.
  7. You will be given with a claim stub with the date of release stamped on it.
  8. If you want your passport to be delivered, proceed to the Courier counter to sign a delivery form. You will have to pay Php100 if within Metro Manila, or Php120 if outside Manila. LBC is one of the best courier to sign-up to.

Is DFA accurate about the release date (and delivery) of passports?

In my case, NO. Since the system is very new, glitches happen. I paid for a rush processing and delivery of passport, but I got it 5 days late from it's release and delivery date.

Is the DFA Hotline helpful? What are the numbers to call for follow-ups on passports?

Hell no! Not at all. I was trying to call the 737-1000 Support Hotline for Passport Centre on the date of my passport release. After several attempts and spending lots of minutes hanged on the phone, somebody picked my call. They DON'T KNOW the status of the passports. They CANNOT TELL if the passports were released on time or picked up already by the respective couriers. All they can do is GIVE PHONE NUMBERS to call to get the status.

They gave me more than 3 numbers to call, just to know the status of my passport. Pissed, nobody answers the phones at all. If not busy, the phone just keep ringing. The other phone line seems inactive - "The subscriber cannot be reached." It was like that for 2 days.  Annoying.

Come 4th day of delay. I was able to connect to their Support Hotline again (the harder way). They still remain that they have no way to know the status of the passports and they insist on telling me to call those numbers they gave me.

I talked to the supervisor (I have to beg annoyingly the agent to give the phone to his supervisor), and before she insisted the same things. I insisted that they call those numbers that they say are active and have people answering, and then get back to me with a clear status report.

After 2 hours, she called me back and said that yes indeed my passport was delayed due to some reasons that some passports cannot undergo the RUSH processing and have to go through the EXTENDED or normal processing. I was asking for a refund since I paid for RUSH and didn't get it. But then again, she wanted me to call another number for it.


Roofcamp #7: Interesting journey to Web 2.0 & Cloud Computing

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I got an invitation from John Arce on Facebook. It's for Roofcamp. Roofcamp what?

Roofcamp is an unstructured gathering with a friendly yet intense atmosphere of open information exchange, debate, teaching, learning, and discovery.
Apparently it's the 7th edition already of an event where technopreneurs, influencers, innovators, coders, designers, artists, VCs & Angels, philanthropists, startups, and other like minded individuals meet.

The guest resource speaker, Scott Henderson, CTO of Bookmans Entertainment Exchange, will share about their interesting journey into Web 2.0 and the Cloud Computing. Interesting!

If you also wish to attend, just show up. According to the WebGeek website, It's free and we'll also have a free beer. It will happen at Mag:Net Bonifacio High Street on Thursday, April 15, 2010from6:00pm to 9:30pm. I'm looking forward to meet new friends there!

Thanks to Jay Fajardo, Founder of Roofcamp / CEO of


On this site will rise Mr. and Mrs. Ion and Raqz Gonzaga's FIRST Residence

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The fruit of our hard, hard labor. We're blessed to be able to buy this 271 sq. m. lot at Mission Hills in Antipolo. It's a great community. Clean, orderly and the view of Manila's cityscape from the hills is breathe-taking. We can't wait to see our brand-new house built.


iBLOG 6 Itineraries (from

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Day 1 (April 16, 2010)
9:00 – 9:15 Opening Ceremonies (National Anthem, Welcome Remarks by JJ Disini)
9:15 – 9:35 Blogging for Business: Tapping Bloggers to Generate Buzz (Janette Toral)
9:50 to 10:10 Advertising in Blogs (Abe Olandres)
10:25 – 10:50 BREAK
10:50 – 11:10 SPONSOR talk (Ivy Jean Vibar)
11:25 – 11:45 SEO & Blogging to Promote Your Business (Francis Gary Viray)
12:00 – 1:30 LUNCH / NETWORKING
1:30 – 1:50 Measuring Blog Buzz (Carlo Ople)
2:05 – 2:25 Legal Concerns in Blogging for Business (Emerson Bañez)
2:40 – 3:00 BREAK
3:00 – 3:20 Blogger and Advertiser: What is the Win-Win Relationship? (Diana Paterno)
3:35 – 3:50 Online Attraction Marketing (Manuel Viloria)

Day 2 (April 17, 2010)
8:45 Opening Ceremonies (National Anthem & Welcome)
9:00 – 9:20 Blogging 101 (Hannah Villasis)
9:35 – 9:55 Video Blogging 101 (Vince Golangco)
10:10 – 10:30 Photo Blogging 101 (Juned Sonido)
10:45 – 11:00 BREAK
11:00 – 11:20 Blog Policies (Emerson Bañez)
11:35 – 11:55 Blog on Mobile (Racquel R. Cagurangan)
12:10 – 1:20 LUNCH & NETWORKING
1:20 – 1:30 Performance (UP Concert Chorus)
1:30 – 2:15 Political, Online Commentary, Social Media, & Election Blogging 2010 (Marck Ronald Rimorin and Noemi Dado)
2:30 – 2:50 Launching Successful Blog Contests (Jinoe Gavan)
3:05 – 3:20 BREAK
3:20 – 3:40 Impact of Blogging to the Community (Joseph Gonzales)
3:55 – 4:15 SEO: A Must for Making Money Online (Marhgil Macuha)
4:30 RAFFLE, iBlog Video Contest Winner Announcement, & GROUP PHOTO

Emcees: Flowell Galindez and Atty. Michelle Dy (UP-ISP)


Social Networking Conference... in real life!

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One of many reasons why I love staying in the Philippines is that 'networking' is everywhere and is not limited to Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, Youtube and other online media. In my 3 years in Dubai, I'm always hungry for a REAL-LIFE "social networking about social networks." Sadly, Dubai has got almost nothing about Internet-savvy professionals and social media enthusiasts (except Dubai Twestival).

So when I chanced upon Janette Toral's Plurk post, I visited the link to Fiera De Manila's page about this Social Networking and eBusiness Conference Philippines 2010. Finally!

FYI, I'm into Internet Marketing and recently I started learning about Social Media Marketing and how businesses are fast embracing the once mistakenly thought as "fad." The lineup of speakers and topics are just powerful. I'm excited to hear:
  • Social Media Marketing Strategies Insights and Lessons Learne
  • The Future of Social Networking and Social Norms
  • Harnessing the Power of Social Media by Yahoo!
  • How Brands are Becoming the Media
  • Using Social Media in Search Engine Marketing Campaigns and It Influences Your Search Engine Rankings 
I would also like to hear the Case Study Presentations of the would-be Winners in Social Networking Awards 2010. Check this link for the complete list of topics and speakers.

I've had failures in the past and I'm expecting to be enlightened on the better roads to take. I would also want to have an idea how and where to take-off from this social media age. I dream to be part of the next big thing on or after Social Media.

I have not blasted yet on my Internet Marketing activities. I have been silent for the past couple of months (preparing our websites and social media accounts). I guess after this Social Networking Conference, I would be ready to position myself in the social map.

The Social Networking Conference 2010 is an event geared towards companies and digital marketing/advertising professionals and businessmen/entrepreneurs who are interested to use social networks for advertising/marketing their products and services. It is for dynamic and innovative companies, start-ups, and upcoming players who would like to leverage on current technologies to communicate and sell their products/services through social networks; and, gain knowledge as to how this industry is working and evolving.
The event will be on April 22-23, 2010 at the Grand Ballroom, Hotel Intercontinental, Makati City, Philippines. This is presented by Fiera de Manila, Inc. and Digital Filipino Club. Also supported by Blog4Reviews.

See you there! 


My latest Twitter background design

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My latest Twitter background design for a Dubai-based SEO specialist who also does Conversion Optimization and Online Reputation Management. Design inspired by the Dubai road signs. Check it out at

When would you want me to design yours?


Leaders vs Followers

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"Leaders think and talk about the solutions. Followers think and talk about the problems." - Brian Tracy............. So among the president aspirants, who talks solutions and who doesn't get tired of talking about problems?


The new computerized and by-appointment Philippines passport application system

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... is a crap. They used to have an expedited processing where you can receive your passport after 3-5 days from your application date. They scrap that. Now, they only have (1) Rush and (2) Normal. In rush processing, you can receive your passport after 10 working days. In the normal processing, you have to wait for 20 working days.  If you want it delivered to your place, add 1 more day.

Not only that. Their appointment system is just an extension of the typical queue. I set an appointment online and I was assigned a date 2 weeks from my request. So on that appointment date, I went 2 hours ahead of my schedule (9am). I learned that we're about a thousand all set for 9am. We were made to queue under the sun for about half an hour; and only until 30 minutes before the appointment time they let us in. Inefficiently, I was called at 9:35. Finished the application byy 10:20


Taxi drivers in Manila... why are they?

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I feel like Imma 'tourist' here in my home land. For one, taxis really got me pissed off:

Taxi 1 - Buendia, Makati to Antipolo (11:00pm): ...won't take us in unless we agreed to pay higher than 500 because he might not find a passenger on his way back to Manila. Since it's late at night and really hard to get a cab, we agreed to pay 550. Reaching Antipolo, the meter reads 227.50 only (plus a "Tarantado" greeting from another motorist).

Taxi 2 - DFA (Macapagal) to Ayala (10:00am): Almost doesn't want to take me in because of "traffic" on the way. The driver moaned all throughout the trip about the traffic (which apperently was not really bad), while cursing all politicians (listening on AM radio) of being corrupt and trapo. Reaching Ayala, the meter reads 115 - and so I paid an exact 115 pesos. The driver moaned again because "I did not pay right." According to the genius driver, because of 'traffic' I should have given him more. But I insisted not to pay more - and he rushed away. (He has the guts to complain about corruption and yet he's practicing the same bulls***)

Taxi 3 - Cainta to Medical City, Ortigas (11:30pm): Silent all throughout the trip until reaching Medical City. The driver suddenly said, "Naku walang mga pasahero! Mahihirapan tayo nyan sir." I didn't get it. He repeated, "Wala talaga, tsk tsk..." The bill is 70 pesos, I handed 100. "Thank you sir! thank you sir! thank you talaga," were the words by the driver. I asked him to give back my change 'coz I need to rush to ER. He just repeated "Walang pasahero sir e." I did not bother to argue as I really have an emergency to go to.

Hell! Bakit dumadami sila!


Average Monthly Salary of Web Designer in the Dubai / UAE (and other internet-related jobs)

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Also, below are the salary avarages of Web Developer, SEO Specialist, Programmer, Graphic Designer, dBase Administrator, and E-Commerce executives in the UAE. Thanks to BAYT for this. Just click the thumbnail to view larger chart:


Jump shots with an 'arte'

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What to do if the water is chillin for a swim? Jump shots! (Best done during sunset). Me, wifey and my sis Kathy took turns to whoever would come up with the best jump shot with 'drama'... [Here's the other 19 photos on Facebook] Location: Ajman Open Beach.


Dubai Camels crossing

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It's not everyday you can spot camels and donkeys crossing the street in front of your car. Here's what delighted our eyes this morning. Somewhere in Umm Al Quwain, while just driving, heards of camels and donkeys crossed the street. Of course we have to stop and wait for about 3 minuted for the 8 of them to cross through. Here are the photos we had of the camels and donkeys plus the ostriches we saw from a nearby farm [from my Facebook album]


How many airplanes are in the sky at a time?

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This question has been long hounding me. Finally I'm able to search for it, and came across this interesting video from Youtube - a graphic description of global air traffic over a 24 hour period. In this map, Europe, US and East Asia are the areas with most air ship travels in a day. Interestingly, the tiny Philippines chunk in this map is covered with yellows - could they be Road Traffic Monitoring chops, or Abu Sayyaf Monitoring aircrafts? LOL.


Filipino teen celebs bent view on maturity

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henever a starlet bares for a magazine, do you notice a pattern? Everytime I hear/see them on TV about their "project," there's always a 'canned' response from these sexy lads - a sign of maturity. I don't have any issues seeing 'hot' photos (I'm an artist hey!), it's just that the thought of 'maturity' is misrepresented. They may be right in a way if they pertain to their roles - but claiming it to as 'life's decision' is not the right thing I guess. (Image courtesy of FHM Philippines)


Hangal na pagmangha

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Bakit marami sa ating mga Pilipino (tayo) ang namamangha tuwing nakaririnig ng matalinhagang salitang Tagalog? [Read: Wow ang lalim nun pre!] Tuluyan na nga ba tayong nagiging dayunan sa sarili nating wika? Nawa'y hindi na maulit ang nangyari sa Alibata -ang sarili nating alpabeto na hinayaan lang nating maglaho nang yakapin natin ang dayuhang sistema ng pagbaybay.

Hindi naman kailangang talikuran ang Ingles. Ngunit hindi ba't mas kahanga-hanga kung magiging bihasa sa dalawang wika? 


Unfair penalty: Do early birds still catch the worm?

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Why is it that when we are late, we get penalized. But when we are early we're not rewarded?


The next Philippines president may not be the majority's president

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With 10 presidentiables to select from, the 15th Philippines president will most likely be not the majority's chosen one.

  1. Manny Villar
  2. Nick Perlas
  3. Dick Gordon
  4. Gibo Teodoro
  5. Eddie Villanueva
  6. Noynoy Aquino
  7. Erap Estrada
  8. Jamby Madrigal
  9. JC Delos Reyes
  10. Dodong Acosta
Even if we trim the list down to the 6 or even 5 most competitive candidates, there is a huge possibility that the sum of the votes to the losing candidates is still bigger than the total votes for the winner. The only way is to receive above 50% of the total votes - that should be more than 25,043,027 (If all registered voters vote.) The total registered voters for this year is 50,086,054.

So the winner will be the one with the highest number of votes only, but not really the majority's. He's not the people's president then, hey? Well, it has happened several times in our history already. Even Cory Aquino only received 23.58% of votes and yet ended up as the most loved president.


Don't let Manny Pacquiao become a bad example

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Manny Pacquiao - he has and is still personifying and representing the reality of dreams. His achievements inspire a lot of people who, like him would like to rise from rags to riches.

But his recent stunt - running for a Congress seat, his second attempt actually, could be his biggest setback. As many success coaches inspire us to follow our passion and focus only on what we love doing to succeed, Pacman is going on the other road.

People only love him inside the ring. Even his stints in TV and movies and music proved fail. If his intention is to help many people, well then he could be a better example by reaching out even without assuming any political roles. He has more resources already of what it takes to help. He could inspire and influence others to do the same - that politics is not for doing 'charities.' After all, Congress is for legislation and not Social Welfare Center.

Photo from


Burj Khalifa (yeah, the Burj Dubai) spectacular, dramatic unveiling...

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It was Amazing, Brilliant, Champ, Dramatic, Exemptional, Fabulous, Glamourous, Hyper, Inspiring, Joyful... I could almost complete the alphabet with all positive and great adjectives to describe the launch last night. Let the pictures tell the story. [More on my Facebook - click here]


The right can never be left

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If you believe you are right, keep doing it. No right person was left behind.

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