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Lessons From A Dad

I have been a dad to a lovely pretty girl for the past 9 years and still counting. I guess I am one of those lucky dads who have an “unica ija” that I can also say that is a daddy’s girl. Her pet name evolved from “my baby girl” to “my little girl” to the present “my dalaginding”. Trust me, I am not excited with the prospect of changing it again anytime soon. She is growing up very fast. But one thing will always remain as she grows up – she will always be daddy’s “chukoy”.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, let me share with you some of the lessons that I picked up along the way as a dad.

Ask your kid “How was your day?” every day.

After a long day at work and in school, I always make it a point to ask Asher how her day went. It is my opportunity where I get her to share with me the highlights of her day. I get to congratulate her for her small wins ad console her for a bad one. It is the window of opportunity where I get to see how he handles her daily routine, how she reacts on situations, and what excites her.

You will be surprised that after a couple of “”How was your day?” with your kid, they will start asking you the same question when you get home. It is a good habit for communication.

Let their creativity flow.

With the advent of social media and the advances in technology, kids have more channels where they can work and share their creativity.

Asher enjoys the app “musically” so much where she gets to express herself through movement and music. I was annoyed at first because she spends a lot of time on it. But when I stumbled upon one of her posts where she was expressing herself through dancing, I was amazed at the intensity of her expression. I was in awe that a very young age she can already express her creativity to own the song with her movement.

We let her explore her creative side in different mediums at a very young age. Interestingly, her creativity now manifests itself on social media.

Let your kids play with their creativity and let their imagination run free while they are still young.

Let your kids know and explore your passion.

Asher knows that I love to travel locally and, when the opportunity presents itself, I tag her along with me. Apart from our personal Instgram accounts (follow us on IG – @marc7del and @payatnalaskwatero), we also share an IG travel account – @thetravelingdada, which stands for “the traveling dad and daughter”. We also have our shared hashtag -#JournalsOfTheTravelingDaDa. Both the IG account and hashtag share our travel stories.

I always shared with Asher two of my passions – local travel and mobile photography. This is my way of imparting to her the lesson of being a proud Pinoy by going out and exploring the Philippines. Our travels have brought us to the northern tip of Ilocos to the southern tip of Palawan, close to the borders of Sabah, this year alone. We have hiked to catch a glimpse of Kabigan Falls, ziplined in Bukidnon, white water rafted in Cagayan de Oro, and made our way to three of Iligan’s waterfalls on a habal-habal. It is a different kind of adventure when you travel with your kid to these amazing destinations but what makes it memorable is watching their eyes glow in wonder and awe during the trip.

The home and the classroom are not the only venues where your child can learn. There is a bigger world that both you and your kids can explore.

Teach you kid about responsibility.

Teach your kids to be responsible on things that they can handle like carrying their schoolbag or fixing their play area. AND you got to start them young.

This is where I am facing a lot of challenges right now. Asher is used to having someone around who will be there to help her out even on the smallest things. Now we changing the mechanism in the house where we ask her to do small house tasks so that we can teach her about responsibility. This part is still a work-in-progress for both me and Asher and she is starting to get the hang of it.

Be a kid.

I guess the best part of being a dad is I get to be a kid again. I play around with Asher like I am also a nine year old kid. I can easily play the part that she wants me to play. I can join her while she makes videos, making the same funny expressions that she does. We love making funny faces on cam. I am not afraid to make funny dance movements while joining her dance.

I guess I never really saw myself as the “stern” dad as I always had been a wacky person so it is a lot easier for me to be a kid when I am around with Asher. Of course when we do that, Asher’s mom goes haywire because it was as if she has two kids under her care. But stepping into the shoes of my nine year old makes me see how she sees the world. It also gives her another playmate to play around with. She will only be a kid for a certain period of time so I might as well join the fun.

Being a dad is a challenge but it is a very fulfilling experience. It comes with a ton of responsibilities but the rewards are endless. On my part, I have earned myself a “kakulitan” partner and a travel buddy with my nine year old. It has given me a lot of memories and a lot of what-else-is-there-to-see. I am excited to see her grow up to becoming a beautiful lady both inside and out but like what I always tell Asher… please do not grow up too fast.


The Fall of Idiots at A Time of Crisis

They say that great leaders rise at a time of great crisis and I totally agree with that. On the other side of the fence is the fact that at the same time of crisis, we also get to see the great fall of total idiots. I mean when we pick up a stick, we get both ends, right?

And seriously with the recent #MarawiClash, I had so much fun watching idiots fall flat on their faces with all their shared thoughts. Nasty and feisty at the start, they end up getting burned to the pulp by individuals who simply raised the level of their game by fact checking. Yes, these self-proclaimed “guardians” have every right to exercise their right of free speech and, as part of the freedom, also exercise their right to look stupid to their audience.

At the onset of the #MarawiClash, we had Leah Navarro taking the helm of the offensive against PDiggy, who happened to be in Russia at the time, with her hashtag – #NasaanAngPangulo. She reasoned that this was a time that the Marawi people needed him to be in the country and PDiggy was not in sight. It was an obvious swipe at the President similar to what VP Leni got when she proceeded with her US vacation despite the threat of a typhoon hitting Bicol.

Dutertards werequick to defend the President and I must say that they did it with flair. Miss Navarro failed to understand three crucial points in her offensive stance:

  1. PDiggy was on an official working trip to Russia at the time of the #MarawiClash, meaning he was at work, while that of VP Leni’s was a personal vacation… simply on a US vacation. That spells out a big difference.
  2. The clash was unexpected unlike the typhoon that was expected to hit the Bicol area.

These two points alone were enough to crush he attempts to discredit PRRD but using the hashtag, #NasaanAngPangulo, was the biggest clincher of all. The hashtag originated when the former PNoy, whom she supports to the tee, was attending a car event in Laguna while the remains of the Mamasapano heroes were arriving at Villamor Airbase. She unwittingly used a hashtag that was actually a swipe to the former President. In short, she used the hashtag that was actually an insult to PNoy. I guess it was her way of showing how much she loves and supports the former President.

The best part of it was when PDiggy made his statement “Don’t be afraid, I am coming home.” It totally knocked her wits out and that completely shut her up. I guess #NasaanSiLeahNavarro is a more appropriate hashtag at this time.

Of course, Jim Paredes wouldn’t pass up on the chance to put some relevance to his supposed “paninindigan” by citing the Zamboanga Siege. He said that that PNoy did not declare Martial Law at that time. Again, Dutertards were quick to put up a line of defence citing the mishandling of the situation by the previous administration.

On my end, I will simply put it as PNoy’s non-declaration of Martial Law then was NOT because of the circumstances but because his hands were tied to simply not to. Declaring Martial Law was never an option for PNoy. Simply think about the irony to have Ninoy and Cory fight against Martial Law only to be installed by their ONLY son even if it is just in Zamboanga City. It was more of an “iwas-pusoy” for PNoy. Let us face it that among all Philippine Presidents, it is the Aquinos who will never declare Martial Law even if needed. Again, it would be ironic.

I do not think former PNoy would be that stupid to make that move unless Jim Paredes have a different view of the former President’s intellect.

Over and above everyone is Raissa Robles and her failed attempts to carve out something for herself on the issue. It was actually amusing to watch her attack and fall flat on her face, only to rise up and fall flat again. It was like watching a circus where she was the clown and the social media users were her audience. It was dumb as f*ck but fairly amusing.

Her first attempt was an attack on Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte when she issued guidelines for her constituents in the light of the Martial Law declaration in Mindanao by PDiggy. Miss Robles questioned the authority of the esteemed Mayor in her issuance of the said guidelines.

Prior to even reading Miss Robles’ tweet, I already read through the said guidelines released by Mayor Duterte. The guidelines were informing Davaoenos the basics of what to do and what to expect in Davao. It was intended for residents of Davao City coming from their local government head. I found it appropriate for the Mayor to take such concrete action as an attempt to quench any apprehension on the ML declaration. It was meant to inform, educate, tone down apprehensions, and guide Davaoenos.

Of course, Raissa Robles’ attempt to make it look inappropriate made her fall flat on her face straight into the mud. I read it and it was quite clear that it was Mayor Duterte’s guidelines to her constituents and, seriously as Mayor of Davao, she has the right to issue it. Mayor Sara was simply in the hood when she slammed Robles’ with her backlash and she was on point – if only Miss Robles read through it first before tweeting.

Still not done, another tweet comes through a few days after. This time hitting on Davao on their alleged refusal to accommodate Marawi refugees considering that Iligan and Cotabato were accommodating. The tweet simply had me laughing out loud. I guess most of the social media users were laughing their hearts out, as well.

A quick look at google maps would show that Iligan and Cotabato are the closest cities to Marawi. Davao is a long way down south. Miss Robles seemed to have misunderstood that when people flee a battle area, people seek refuge to the nearest city so Iligan and Cotabato are the best options. No one in the right mind would think of going to Davao first because of the DISTANCE unless they are planning to migrate or take a vacation. She seemed to have missed out that people fleeing Marawi are seeking refuge, not planning a field trip. Again geographically, you seek refuge to the closest city that you can go to especially when you only have a few belongings and valuables with you.

A simple toggling on the phone would have saved her the embarrassment. The funny thing is that she is still justifying that Davao will not accept refugees from Marawi even if there were no statements confirming her claim. I seriously think that it is simply her attempt to regain herself. Nevertheless, she is the obvious runaway winner for this round of idiots’ game. She fell and she fell mighty hard.

The best leaders rise during the most difficult times but it also shows stupidity at its finest. In this case, the #MarawiClash had me more amused with the idiots attempting to make themselves look smart in an arena where they really play hard. #SimplyAmusing.



I guess the recent Assistant Secretary of the PCOO appointment of Mocha Uson is probably the best “pie-in-your-face” moment for all her detractors. I could imagine the horrified look on their faces when the appointment was announced. As expected, her detractors were up on their toes denouncing the move by questioning her background, raising her past, and questioning her qualifications. But one thing that you cannot deny is that she has redeemed herself, leaving her detractors completely muddied and embarrassed.

First up, I was never a huge fan of Mocha and I only get to read up on her when her detractors are up in arms over something she said or something that came up just like her appointment. I never read her posts so I have no proof whatsoever that she is responsible for spreading fake news as what her detractors would commonly say. All I know at this point is that she is a huge supporter of the PDiggy with a huge following on social media.

As always, the first thing that her detractors raise against her is her past having gone through the sexy image route to penetrate the showbiz industry. She did make a stir and has a created her own niche. Unfortunately, this past, emphasis on the past, has been used and abused by her detractors. It has come to a point where a person that I follow on twitter would retweet Mocha’s tweets with sexual color almost everyday. But here is the thing, these tweets were posted years ago, long before this newfound fame she is enjoying now. This guy really takes the time to go back to memory lane just to smear Mocha Uson.

But if this would be used as a point against her then, to be fair with everyone, we should also ask those who are in public office who came from the same route to vacate their positions, right? This would include the likes of Vilma Santos, Jestoni Alarcon, and Richard Gomez who also went sexy at one point in their career in the entertainment industry. I mean, let us put these people in the same box. The same goes with G Toengi who ironically used this card against Mocha, not realizing that she was also once an ST star.

The point being is simple, people can drastically change their lives depending on their conviction. Yes, it is possible to make that 360-degree change in a snap and that is what we are seeing in Mocha Uson at this point. Honestly, what I am starting to admire about her is the way that she is handling the criticisms. She does not let her past haunt her or affect what she is doing now but instead focuses on what she can do better at present.

Another point of contention by her detractors are her qualifications. Some have even came to the point of saying that she does not deserve the salary grade that she is in and that they deserve it more. Others compare that salary grade with others below it hoping to initiate that ill feeling from those who receive less.

Let me emphasize two arguments on this one – the salary grade and her qualifications.

Qualifications-wise, Mocha Uson is a distinguished alumni of the University of Santo Tomas. Yes, she is a college graduate contrary to what her detractors are trying to paint against her. Although she did not proceed to becoming a medical technologist, she has established herself in the entertainment industry prior to becoming an active supporter and staunch defender of PDiggy. Again, her detractors would argue that the only qualification that she only had for being appointed by the PDiggy was the latter’s “utang na loob”.

We need to understand that the role that she was assigned to directly handles social media and, with a social media following of close to 5 Million and with a high rate of interaction, Mocha Uson is a more likely candidate for the role. PDiggy’s strategy is to reach out to the masses and he needs someone who can easily do that. Whether you like it or not, Mocha stands out on this aspect. What the President needs is someone whom he can trust to simply get the info out there to his constituents. If I were in the same position, I would make the same tactical management decision of installing someone who I know is a staunch supporter and someone that I can trust. I mean why would you install someone who will just simply be a headache, right? No offense meant, VP Leni.

As for the salary grade, this has been mandated by law ever since and it is not simply within the whims of PDiggy so to use it against her is completely idiotic. Now to use it as a comparison to your sorry being is a lot more idiotic. If you feel that you deserve that kind of salary grade then I suggest that you go to your direct superior and present that argument to them. They would have a better explanation as to why you are not getting that kind of salary and give you a career growth plan of how to get there. Hopefully, your direct superior will also be able to whack your head and wake you up to the reality that you are not as good as you think you are.

I really think that her appointment was a triple whammy to her detractors. I mean they do not realize that they also played the part of making her a popular personality on social media with all the insults and reactions that they throw at her. They easily played their part for her to get this following and eventually to becoming an Assistant Secretary. To make matters worse, they cannot easily put down her Facebook page or Twitter account now considering that her new appointment legitimizes her as a communications officer of the government. It would be stupid for Facebook to shut down the page of the Assistant Secretary for Social Media of the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Philippines, right?

I guess, Mocha Uson just went on an attack from behind and simply gave her detractors the gift of a hashtag – #NaMochaYo!

Lessons From A Traveling Backpack

As I was on my way to BGC yesterday for a meeting, I stumbled upon another horror travel story that was posted in one of the FB travel groups that I follow. It warned its members about getting the services of a Facebook travel organizing group sharing the horrors of her experience. She shared that the way it was handled by the organizers were so bad that it completely spoiled her whole travel experience.

The incident made me smile because I, myself, had a slightly similar experience over Labor Day weekend but not as horrific as the one shared by the FB user.

Just to give you a brief, I decided to be “joiner” to an organized backpacking trip to Romblon last weekend. My decision to join this organized travel by this FB group was that I wanted to visit Cresta de Gallo in Sibuyan Island without the hassle of arranging the transportation on a very long weekend. In short, it was more of the convenience over a DIY trip. Now, this was my first time to be a joiner of a trip.

Everything was going smoothly. There were some bumps along the way but that was understandable. I mean no trip is close to perfection and, as an advocate of local travel, I have understood that through years of traveling in the Philippines. These “bumps” add flavor to the travel experience. But a major mishap towards the end of our Romblon trip created a stir to most of the joiners.

The trip organizers failed to secure our return tickets to Batangas City ahead of the long weekend so their purchase went head-to-head with the deluge of ticket demand from the Labor Day weekend crowd. And for those who have been traveling in the Philippines, you know what that means, right? So to cut the story short, we got stranded for a day in Romblon and we were all “lucky” as chance passengers on our second day. We arrived in Batangas City a day later than what was mentioned in the group’s committed itinerary.

Honestly, the “mishap” was an incident that could have easily been recovered had the organizers properly handled the situation. It was a simple case of managing the expectations of everyone on board. I think that if the organizers approached the situation tactically, the tour would have ended on a high rather than on a sour note.

Let me share with you my pick-up points from the incident and I hope that for those who are involve in organizing these kinds of trips or for those who intend to go into one, you could learn a thing or two from this piece.

Commitments are commitments. Stop giving “backpacking” a bad name.

For FB groups who organize trips, please drop the “backpacking” excuse to cover up for your mistakes.

Backpacking is a travel concept where the idea is you only have a backpack for your stuff and for mobility purposes. It also involves the flexibility of time and destination depending on the whims of the traveler or travelers. Everyone is involved in the planning and execution. The uncertainty and unpredictability card for this kind of trips are high and this is usually applied to DIY trips.

But when a group offers a package for an organized tour, the trip’s level of uncertainty and unpredictability for its participants diminishes at a very low rate. The understanding is that the organizer has already studied the itinerary that he or she is presenting hereby giving the participants the leverage to manage their schedule around the itinerary. In short, you do not ask the participants if they are okay with the itinerary but you tell them that this is our committed itinerary to the traveling group and the participants’ work around it.

With this itinerary, you also work on the arrangements for everything because the organizer offered a package where he or she commits to take charge of all these arrangements – from transportation, food, and accommodations. It is the reason why participants join in. They want the convenience of a person or a group to organize everything. In most cases, organizers are not commissioned to draft it and he or she offers these packages to followers which makes their commitment stronger to participants.

In short, an organizer’s commitment is a commitment. If changes should occur along the way, the organizer takes on the responsibility for it. You do not turn the tables around and make it look that it was the participants’ fault because it was a backpacking trip. You offered an organized tour where participants work around it and it is the organizer’s responsibility to deliver. It diminishes the right of an organizer to pull out the “backpacking” card when things go wrong.

When things go wrong, it is a mistake of the organizer and not the concept of backpacking.

Apologize, Resolve, and Offer Concrete Solutions

Every trip will always entail some minor bumps along the way and to minimize those “bumps” is part and parcel of being a travel organizer. It is the organizers responsibility to manage these bumps and expectations. In fact, some of these bumps, if managed properly, will actually be swept under the rug in no time.

But there are those really nasty travel “bumps” that could have been avoided with proper planning and foresight. In our case, having no return tickets back to Batangas could have been avoided if it was addressed weeks ahead considering that organizers knew it was a Labor Day Weekend. But as they say, shit happens and it did. Unfortunately, that crucial mistake caused a domino effect during the latter part of the trip.

I think another crucial lapse on the part of most travel organizers is their inability to sufficiently address such “travel crisis”. Travel organizers should take heed that no amount of explanation will justify the organizer’s mistake of not handling a basic expectation from them. It is like a student coming into an examination room with a calculator but without a pen. That is how important the basics are.

But there will always be situations where basics are being missed out and these situations would differentiate the mature ones from the rest. The mature ones will simply apologize, recognize their lapse, and offer no other explanations. Again, you can give a hundred of explanations but it will not diminish that it was the organizer’s fault.

Sabi nga nila, kayo nagkamali, sino ang dapat mag-aadjust?

Mature tour organizers will always find a concrete solution and will not work on chance. Organizers need to address the uncertainty that the participants are feeling. Whether they admit it or not, a feeling of disappointment will run among the participants and organizers should be ready to face that. But if you give them a concrete plan where the feeling of uncertainty is addressed, most of the participants would understand.

In our case in Romblon, all of the participants knew that we were already stranded and we were all trying to just go on with the day. However, the feeling of uncertainty with everyone later on took a toll because the organizers failed to give us a specific date on when we could return back to our normal lives. It was like getting stuck without knowing when we will get out. As I have mentioned to a friend, it would have been better if the organizers told us that we have sure RoRo tickets for everyone on May 4 but we will still try our chances on May 2 and May 3 to get on a boat for Batangas. If this was the case, I could have easily adjusted my schedules to May 5, planned where to go on the next two days, and I would have been one person off their back.

Again, it was a simple case of providing us with a concrete solution rather than simply playing with chance and uncertainty.

What you say matters. Watch your words.

I have always believed that in whatever “crisis” that you are into, less is more. I have always practiced to only provide details on what is necessary to those affected rather than giving them a whole gamut of explanations to which they would then start rationalizing. I stick to the facts, share the action plan, and just give you the status. This way it also shows that I am on top of the situation because I can explain the situation and action plan simply.

The wrong words can get a whole fire running.

Travel organizers should have a strong presence of mind during these “travel crisis” and the first impulse should be to work on the welfare of their participants. They should ensure that proper assistance is of high priority. Most of your participants know that you are not a legal business entity so they are aware of your limitations but that should not stop you from providing assistance, at the least.

Due prudence with your words and actions will give organizers an added advantage. Remember that it is the primary responsibility of the organizer to make their participants understand the situation, and not the other way around. It was the organizers’ negligence that caused the inconvenience so do not expect paying participants to understand especially if the lapse was a basic expectation that the organizer promised from the start.

On the side note, travel organizers should also refrain from sneaky side comments because it just adds fuel to the fire and it does not help the situation. Remember how the situation is handled is a reflection of the tour organizer and not its participants.

As I look back at the situation, it was one of those opportunities where the coordinators could have easily worked the situation to their advantage if they only stopped for a brief moment and coordinated themselves first. Having done DIYs and organized group trips previously, I understand that there was a lapse on their part but they could have easily recovered if they managed expectations early among the participants.

As I have said earlier on I will practice due prudence by intentionally not naming the FB travel organizer’s name on this blog. I would like to give them the space to further improve their services through this feedback and hopefully help the start-ups, as well. Feedback is best way to make people see how they can move from good to great but the first step is to accept the feedback with an open mind.

So how was the Romblon experience?

It was a great experience.

There were some lapses and bumps but I would not let those bumps spoil a weekend that could rival the events happening in Boracay. No one can definitely beat that King’s cup game in Cresta de Gallo. No worries, I will be blogging about the trip soon but probably without endorsements or recommendations, at this time.

VolunTourism: Making the Most of Every Trip

As a traveler, I have always believed that the people that you meet will always have a role to play in your travel experiences and, in some cases, your life. These people can be as mundane as your hotel receptionist who will make you realize that strangers are willing to go beyond their call of duty just to get the right directions to get you to your destination. Or it can be as important as your child who ends up to becoming your travel buddy. In the same way, that we play a part in somebody’s travel and it is just a matter of whether you play the good part or the bad.

It is also interesting that you also get to meet strangers that share the same passion as yours and that you end up sharing ideas like good old friends even if it was your first time to meet or, in my case, we have just been friends virtually.

As I was preparing for a four-day island trip that we have planned since last year, I got more excited with the idea that we will be doing a side trip that would give us the opportunity to reach out to young Filipinos in this far-flung community that we are heading to. It was because of this minor shift in our itinerary that I got to talk with one of the organizers, got to share ideas, and discovered a common ground when it comes to our thoughts about the need for a sustainable tourism program for local communities.

The past years have seen the rapid growth of local tourism in the Philippines. The power of social media platforms and the entry of budget airlines sparked interest in exploring the country’s beauty that is a lot easier to one’s pocket. A beautiful snapshot of a rustic destination can go viral if it goes to the right “hands” in social media. A local’s “secret” then becomes a “discovery” and you can expect travelers of different sorts flocking to see this latest attraction.

It is great to see, that with the renewed attention that Filipinos give our local destinations, Philippine tourism is no longer boxed up to Boracay, Bangui Windmills, the Philippine Eagle, or the Tarsier. Who would have thought that there is a cheaper way to enjoy El Nido? Or that there is more to Baguio City than its cool weather and strawberries? Not to mention, the huge potential in economic gains for the locals of the community. I have seen how communities responsibly adapt to the sudden attention given to their places. Tali Ti Amianan in San Juan, La Union is a good example. It is a local community effort that converts used clothes, collected as garbage from their shores, into creative bracelets handmade and sold by the locals.

Unfortunately, most communities, even local government units, are not equipped with the right mindset and skills on how to address the influx of tourists. The opportunity to earn more outweighs the potential environmental damage of these tourist activities. You cannot blame the locals’ attitude because it is an opportunity for them to provide something better for their families.

I remember having to lecture locals in Calaguas Island about calling the attention of their guests to throw their garbage at designated areas. I was appalled to witness a young lady from Manila leave the wrapper of her chips on the sand when the garbage bin was just three steps away from her! A local went on to pick it up and throw it at the bin. When I asked him why he did that and not call the attention of the guest, he was afraid to sound rude and feared that she might not go back or recommend the place to her friends. The incident had me doing an impromptu lecture about the need to protect their place and it starts by teaching their guests about discipline.

The sad truth is that local government units need to implement programs that put emphasis on sustainable tourism for its communities. A lot of our tourist destinations, especially the new ones, get abused by both tourists and locals because there are no concrete plans in place on how to find a balance between tourist influx and environmental care. Too many times, we see communities just accepting guests to the detriment of nature. All in the name of revenue.

There are cases where LGUs understand their role and put into play a concrete action plan on not only providing a viable source of income for its communities but to ensure the sustainability of this income source. This is what we all need to focus on as the country’s tourism industry starts to mature and we need to understand that this is not only the role of the LGU. Local travelers are at the forefront in making locals understand that sustainability is more important than just cashing the business in.

I have been around the Philippines to actually see the realities that a lot of common Filipinos face. I have also seen how blinding opportunities can be for locals that they set aside the long-term. I have to do my part as a traveler.

I have shifted from being a “checklist tourist” to becoming an immersed traveler. I have learned to haggle “smart” for the prices of services and produce that local’s offer that would be equally beneficial. I have learned to practice being a responsible traveler who behaves like a guest rather than a privileged tourist.

And if given the opportunity, share my knowledge to locals on how they can make things better and more sustainable for their families and communities.

In the end, this new source of livelihood called tourism, if sustained, can be their hope for alleviating their families from poverty.

My Belmont Hotel Experience: When the First Impression Made Everything Go Wrong

First, let me start off by saying that this was not the initial topic that I wanted to blog about for this week. In fact, I am almost done with the blog that I initially started writing about when I decided to shift topic after a disappointing hotel experience yesterday. Yes, I am deviating from my politically charged blogs this week to give way to a more “learn from experience” blog.

I seldom blog about bad customer service in length because, being in the customer service industry, I have learned to be understanding of situations that involves meeting customer expectations. I have had my own share of clients, handling concerns from the tame ones to the really rude ones, so I am aware of the things that happen when these kinds of situations arise. I always put myself in the shoes of the staff to make me see what is viable among the “solutions” that they present to me and to make me calm down.

But yesterday’s experience was definitely one for my books.

Let me kick it off by sharing with you what happened. On the last week of January, my wife told me that they were going to have their annual conference in Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. Just like in her previous physician conferences, we always tag along with her so I decided to book a room near the venue. I know that these kinds of conferences are well-attended that it was imperative that I book way ahead of time. I did book a room at Belmont Hotel because it is close to the venue and it has a swimming pool.

My wife checked a day ahead in the same hotel and I asked her to confirm our room reservation for the next day to which the hotel staff confirmed our booking. I asked her to make a request for an earlier check-in time to which the same staff said that they cannot guarantee it but she will give Jeh a call if it was possible. She did give her a call on the day of our reservation to inform us that our request cannot be accommodated due to the volume of hotel guests. I understood the situation.

So we arrived at 3pm.

To my surprise, I was turned over to the manager-on-duty and I was told that I cannot be accommodated in the hotel because the electricity supply got cut-off in one of the floors rendering it “uninhabitable”. I perfectly understood the situation but after being told that it was out for a week now, I was asking as to why they confirmed my booking and denied my request for an early check in considering that they had a situation? All that she could do was apologize and they did give me options – be transferred to another hotel, about three blocks away, or to another hotel along Roxas Boulevard.

My wife insisted that we stay there as it would be a hassle moving her stuff from one hotel to another and we told her that we were willing to wait. The manager-on-duty said that even we were to wait the whole day, there is no room available. Jeh then said that why did your staff confirm with her yesterday? Again, all she could do was apologize. She also verified that rooms are assigned to guests only upon check-in.

I gathered my thoughts and weighed the options. I was looking into transferring to the hotel three blocks away but remembered that the reason why I did not book in the hotel was it has no pool. So I told the manager that I wanted to be transferred to a hotel with a pool. She gave me two options – transfer to the one on Roxas Boulevard, which is far from the venue, and use their hotel pool. Funny that she would ask me to walk three blocks just to use their pool and just imagine having to walk back dripping wet – such a hassle.

Here comes the clincher – her fellow doctor comes in, 15 minutes after us, and was able to check-in to a room. I also observed some guests coming in and were being given rooms. We asked as to why she and the others got a room and she explained that there are rooms that were checked in from the day before. How can somebody be checked in from the day before when obviously she just arrived? It was then that I got upset and made my demand that they find me a room in the hotel or an alternative hotel in the area with a pool at no extra cost.

In my frustration, I blurted out that I was a travel blogger with my own website. I saw the change in her face and asked for a moment. She went inside the office and in less than 5 minutes, take note… 5 minutes, she comes back to us and informs me that we can now check-in.

I asked her to help me understand as to why suddenly they have an available room. She quipped that it was because of a late booking cancellation. Two things came into my mind – luck was on our side that she came in just right in time for a room availability or the hotel was just simply a f*ck up and was giving me a convenient excuse. Save your conclusions for later.

We were able to check-in 50 minutes later after we arrived.

What did I pick up on these “unique” experience?


We have always heard that what you say does not matter, it is how you say it.

This statement only holds true IF you are being honest and transparent to your clients. However, if you give false information and, through the process, your client figures it out, no matter how nice you give your justification, you simply tarnished your brand. It will then affect how your customer will deal with you during and after the rendering of your service. In short, what you say and how you say it will determine whether your client will trust you or not.

Let me be transparent with how I processed the information that was being relayed to me and how it affected the whole “Belmont” experience:

Belmont Staff Statement: You are only assigned a room once you check-in.

My thoughts: With this statement, I easily figured that they overbooked and the hotel is already at maximum capacity. Why then was my wife’s colleague able to check-in considering that we arrived 15 minutes earlier before her? We had the same case, we were booked on the same day and yet a room was assigned to her immediately.

Belmont Staff Statement: Even if you wait for the rest of the afternoon, no room will be available.

My thoughts: The staff stood her ground and held us up for 45 minutes but after I asserted my point and introduced myself further, a room suddenly became available in less than 5 minutes. I was given the reason that the room availability was because of a last minute cancellation. So I go back to the first statement – you are only assigned a room once you check-in. I definitely did not see anyone at the reception cancelling their room after they checked in.

The first two statement are both crucial as I lead to the third statement. But before I just do that, let me point out that at the time that we were having the “stand-off”, these thoughts were running in my mind. I was starting to doubt the integrity of the information being relayed to me. In simple terms, “niloloko ba ako nitong kausap ko?”

Do not get me wrong, the manager-on-duty were saying things in the nicest way she can but when a room suddenly became available, I started to not trust her and any of the staff from that point on so no matter what assistance they offered, like assisting me to the room, I blatantly refused. I simply did not trust them.

Which then leads me to the third statement.

Belmont Staff Statement: One floor does not have electricity so we have less rooms to accommodate guests.

My Thoughts: Throughout the duration of my stay, I made a mental note of the floors where people were going on and going off from the elevator. I had to confirm whether there was truth to what I was told. Guess what? All floors seemed to be occupied.

This was a case where the words spoken by the staff mattered to a guest and the conflicting statements had an adverse effect towards the actual guest’s experience. My whole experience became a “witch hunt” on the validation of what I was being told earlier on. It did not help that the conflicting statements at the start and as the whole experience progressed my doubts were being validated. In the end, I started to cast doubt on the integrity of every staff that even if they offered help, I simply turned them down. I simply did not trust them.

In short, be mindful of what you tell your clients because they will always find ways to validate the information you hand them. The honesty will determine the level for trust, or in my case – distrust, that they will give your brand and your staff.


It was also interesting to note that my Belmont experience also brought into light a very crucial element of service delivery – understanding the expectations and convenience of the guests or clients.

Understand that prior to us entering the premises of the hotel, our expectations were already set. We confirmed our booking from the day before and the turning down for our early check-in request was some sort of a confirmation on the hotel’s end that we had a confirmed booking with them. So you can just imagine the frustration of traveling for 2 hours from my point of origin only to be greeted with a “booking concern”.

If I were to take Belmont Hotel’s excuse that they had maintenance issues that has been running for a week, they should have had anticipated the problem. Remember that they had two opportunities of open communication to us prior to our arrival. And yet they still went through with the confirmation.

It was interesting to also note that they would inconvenience me to walk three blocks just to have access to the pool. It was quite obvious that they cared less about giving their guests a great experience. I got the impression that they didn’t care for their guests to even consider offering me pool access that was three blocks away. I couldn’t imagine myself walking the streets of Newport dripping wet.

Honestly, I did not feel the sincerity of the apologies of the hotel staff the whole time. They were simply trained to speak that way and they do not care less.

A great experience will always emanate from the value of caring for your guests. It is about managing expectations ahead of the actual experience. I have always maintained with my team that you anticipate and inform the affected client, way ahead, because it shows that you care for them. Furthermore, you always provide solutions based on their expectations and their convenience because it shows that you are not only addressing the inconvenience that you caused them but it also shows that you are taking that extra step to make the situation better for them.

It is simply showing that you care.


I have always shared that the first point of contact will determine how clients will evaluate the brand. A good impression will give a lasting one but a bad impression will make clients critical of everything. As an example, a client who had a bad first impression who sees a single candy wrapper on the floor will see your facilities as dirty.

It was the same case during my stay in Belmont Hotel. The initial contact created an “untrustworthy” atmosphere that I started being critical about the experience. I did not entertain any assistance from any of the staff. I found the room small. Worse, I got an impression that they do not really put emphasis on cleanliness after I saw an empty C2 bottle, from the previous guest, tucked inside the refrigerator. The housekeeping did not even bother to clean it out! It was gross that I did take a picture of it. As a result, we kept checking the complimentary water if it was sealed and was not previously opened.

The bad experience at the start magnified the small things. The usual stuff that I would have probably set aside on a normal day became noticeable and all these noticeable things defined my Belmont experience. And it all began because of a bad first impression.

As of this writing, I received an email and a reply on my FB feedback from a Belmont Hotel manager apologizing for the inconvenience and offering me a free room upgrade on my future visit. Honestly, I am no longer interested on staying at the hotel. My recent stay have clearly defined what I now call my Belmont experience and it was not a nice picture. It is definitely an experience that I do not wish to repeat.

My Belmont experience highlights an important lesson – building your brand boils down to experience. The experience that you give your clients will define your brand and the values that the brand stands for. The experience that you offer will make your brand stand out from the rest and it starts at the moment your client steps into your establishment.


The landscape of Philippine politics was once more rocked last week when the first of part of the #NagaLeaks expose was released targeting VP Leni Robredo. Yes, I did anticipate its release last Friday afternoon and I have read the full content of the first release despite of the article’s length. My perception shift to VP Leni from being hopeful to disappointment to disdain was the reason why I am interested with the article. At this point, I am delaying my comments pertaining to the “revelations” pending more details on the expose and after I have done my fact checking.

I have couple of observation, though, that stands out at this time. These observations are more inclined towards the reactions on VP Leni’s side considering that the page that handles the expose is a bit more aggressive at this time. Names have been dropped and more names are being dropped as the days are progressing. More and more people are getting involved and, as of this time, we already have one person stepping forward verifying part of the information that were already released.

But one thing that stands out – the awful silence and the contradictions of VP Leni Robredo.

Through all these social media “battles”, I have seen and heard the arguments of both sides – from the pro-Duterte personalities to the faceless anti-Duterte peeps. One group that I have seen that purposefully defend their stance and leader is the Office of the Vice President. I first took notice of the OVP’s presence when the US trip of VP Leni became an issue and from then on the team had made their presence felt in ALL social media “battles”… until now.

Interestingly, the silence speaks volumes and raises a lot of questions on the expose considering that VP Leni Robredo is always on the lookout for publicity opportunities. If I am to make reference to her husband’s publicity strategy that was stated in the expose, it is the same strategy that I think she is trying to employ at this time. She does not miss out on opportunities where she gets a chance for positive publicity – even if a Grade 6 student proudly declares that the student voted for her in the last election.

They are also at the forefront in defending the VP from her detractors. That is the reason why I am quite curious as to why they are now silent about the issue.

The only statement that we got so far from the Vice President herself was that this was about the attempts to destroy her reputation. She even added that these attempts have been done before with the objective to silence her and that she won’t be silenced by it. Note that she has not categorically denied any of the accusations hurled towards her better half.

The general statements of VP Leni does not work for me. I guess, all of us at one point in our lives, have encountered being at the receiving end of a nasty gossip and you can recall how you managed your way through it. You won’t take it sitting down especially if the accusations are not true and it involves a family member. I remember in second year high school when I pulled a “You are not a virgin anymore” prank to which my classmate/victim vehemently denied it and started crying. I ended up in my teacher’s office, by the way.

My point being is that a denial directed to the issue is definitely necessary at this point. A simple categorical denial that the accusations are not true and that the late Jessie Robredo was never involved in illegal gambling or illegal drug trade would suffice. A comment stating that they do not own condominium buildings in Quezon City would, at the least, make the issue simmer down a bit. I think that it is a necessary act on the part of VP Leni considering the gravity of the expose damaging the legacy of the late Robredo, to whom she is saying that she has not moved on yet from his untimely demise.

However, her perceived silence on the issue and the inconsistency in what she says and what she is not doing for her love of her life raises a lot of questions, more than giving out answers. So much more that it does not give her the “right” image that she has been working on since her return from the United States.

Interestingly, I find her shifts on standpoints particularly amusing. Her shifts give me an impression that she redefines her standpoint based on her convenience. She initially called for tolerance to those whom she called as social media “trolls”. It can be recalled that she reminded her followers to “Don’t mind the trolls. Let us direct all our energies to all things positive”. This tweet came out from her twitter account on December 27, 2016 (http://www.fashionpulis.com/2016/12/tweet-scoop-vp-leni-robredo-reminds.html). She further reinforces her standpoint on February 2017 stating that social media trolls are a “lost cause” in an article that came out in Inquirer.net (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/868133/i-have-no-time-for-trolls-theyre-a-lost-cause-robredo).

A month later, she then shifts her standpoint from tolerance to going to battle against these social media trolls. She now declares that this is the “perfect time” to fight those that drive “alternative facts” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/877374/robredo-declares-war-on-online-trolls). Apparently, her shifting gears come at a convenient time when a supposedly “explosive” revelation about her is set to come out. Giving de Lima the benefit of the doubt (as if I care about her), VP Leni sought prudence from the revelations against de Lima, a fellow Liberal. Now that an expose is claiming to be setting the stage for the VP’s downfall, she then changes her stance. So don’t you think that it is rather convenient for her to declare her “war” as perfectly timed now that she is at the receiving end of the expose?

My question, why shift gears now VP Leni?

Furthermore, I remember her proudly declaring that as a democratic nation, the PRRD administration should be open to dissent. She is at the forefront of on the “fight for the right to speak dissent” (http://news.abs-cbn.com/news/02/24/17/robredo-fight-for-the-right-to-speak-dissent). This was on February 2017 when de Lima was arrested for her alleged involvement in the Bilibid drug trade. She refers to dissent as one of the foundations of a free country. She even declared that “democracy demands dissent” (http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/875972/democracy-demands-dissent-says-robredo-on-senate-shakeup).

Less than two weeks after the statement, she again shifts her stance to saying that dissent is now being abused on social media. In a recent interview with her in Cebu, she referred to social media as problem citing “Easy access to social media is being used to abuse those who are brave enough to express dissent.” (http://interaksyon.com/article/137495/watch–vp-robredo-shrugs-off-naga-leaks-article). So does this mean that VP Leni Robredo is okay to dissent if it is against the PRRD government but when she is at the receiving end of the dissent, she terms it as abusive? So her statement about the right to speak dissent as a foundation of a free country is only appropriate for her and her minions?

The VP seems to be at a loss with consistency with her statements as it shifts within a matter of weeks and, even, days depending on what is convenient for her.

The silence of the VP on the #NagaLeaks issue and her inconsistency are troubling. Again, her actions and inactions create a void that raises more questions rather than answers. Furthermore, the conflicting stance on certain issues makes one think – why the sudden shift when the #NagaLeaks came out?

The questions right now is more on the “whys” rather than the contents of the actual expose.

Why shift on your stance on dissent?

Why the deafening silence?