Daily Archives: November 26, 2007

Filipino Educator Honored on World Children’s Day

by April Tiamzon/Asianjournal.com

NEW YORK — Celebrity Chef Ron Bilaro presented the first ever McDonald’s Give A Hand Award to educator Dr. Elvira Directo at the World Children’s Day (WCD) held in the Ronald McDonald House.

Many people shared their time and energy to support Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) through volunteerism or by donating funds and resources to their local RMHC chapters across the globe. Contributions make a big difference in the lives of countless children and families everyday.

This year, McDonald’s created the Give A Hand Award to recognize individuals who have overcame hardships with the help of RMHC, as well as RMHC volunteers who do inspiring work on behalf of the Charity. The Philippines is proud to be represented by Dr. Directo as one of the first-ever recipients of the Award.

The celebration took place at the Ronald McDonald House of New York City. Bilaro was joined by entertainment stars Hayden Panettiere from NBC-TV’s Heroes; multi-platinum artist and songwriter, Ne-Yo; and actress, singer and comedienne Angelica Vale as presentors.

Bilaro mentioned that he “felt very proud and honored” when he presented the award to Dr. Directo. Dr. Directo is an educator and supervisor for the Department of Education who has volunteered her time and educational skills to extend the Bright Minds Read (BMR) program to 20 additional cities reaching more than 900 elementary schools in the Philippines.

Dr. Directo was approached by a RMHC-Philippines representative and was asked what they can do to help the department. She suggested that her biggest project was literacy. RMHC became the main sponsor for the BMR program. “With the help of RMHC,” Dr. Directo said, “sana wala nang non-readers sa Pilipinas.”

With the support of RMHC, storybooks, lesson plans and worksheets are provided to illiterate children throughout the country. Dr. Directo trains teachers to use these materials in classrooms. She is so passionate about her work that she volunteers her nights and weekends to inspire other teachers and school principals to help children learn and help bright minds read. Because of RMHC, the program has successfully helped increase literacy from 60% to 96%. Her achievements and accolades include special recognition from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“Filipinos are known everywhere, we are here, and we are not going anywhere. We will continue to keep working harder to get to where we want to be,” Dr. Directo proudly proclaimed. “This award has inspired me to do more, love more, and give more of myself to the children who are in need.”

The RMHC Chapter in Manila together with the Department of Education has implemented Bright Minds Read (BMR) education program, currently on its fifth year in 14 municipalities of the National capital Region in Manila. With Dr. Directo’s direction, this program has enabled 511 public school principals and more than 4,000 teachers to adapt the BMR program in all classrooms of the 14 capital cities of Metro Manila. In addition to her extraordinary work as an educator, Dr. Directo’s drive as a RMHC volunteer and her professional education skills have made it possible to expand the BMR program outside of the metro area to 20 additional cities, reaching 911 elementary schools in 16 other regions.

The World Children’s Day at McDonald’s was created on November 20, 2002 to coincide with the International Day of Children’s Rights and Universal Children’s Day. It is an event to honor commendable people for their invaluable volunteer work in support of RMHC and its efforts for children’s well being around the world.

Don Thompson, the President of McDonald’s USA, talked about this year’s WCD activation in 13,700 restaurants in the U.S. and about the program’s grassroots worldwide. It is a global program executed in over 100 countries. Funds raised on WCD benefit children around the world through RMHC and other worthy causes for children.

Bilaro’s future projects with RMHC include a future line-up, “to positively impact children and support awareness” and will be implemented sometime in February 2008. It will involve cooking with sick children and their families, in Southern California. He would like to intertwine this project with his cooking show, to inspire other people.

Ron Bilaro is a successful personal chef and event organizer. He gained considerable publicity as a sous chef to Art Smith, the personal chef of Oprah Winfrey. Ron currently hosts his own cooking and lifestyle show on The Filipino Channel, “Life… Pinoy Style,” which features Asian American cooking, lifestyles, fashion, trends, entertainment, and shopping.


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A Fairy Tale Proposal

by Nickee de Leon/Asianjournal.com

HERE’s an interesting (and goosebumping) tale for you.

Jason Drilon, a copywriter in Ogilvy and Mather Manila, proposed marriage to his girlfriend Maui Reyes, a copywriter from BBDO Guerrero-Ortega, by conspiring with none other than the master weaver of fantasy stories, Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman was in the Philippines recently as one of the keynote speakers in the 20th Philippine Advertising Congress which was held at El Centro in Subic.

The legendary British author is best known for his cult-following DC Comics series Sandman, with Sandman #19, A Midsummer Night’s Dream bagging the 1991 World Fantasy Award for best short story, the first comic book to ever win a literary award. He was also the man behind Stardust, a fantasy novel-turned-film and co-wrote the script for Beowulf with Roger Avary.

In Jason’s Multiply blog (diveabout.multiply.com ) he related how he was able to involve the fantasy writer in plotting and planning the best, most creative marriage proposal ever. The blog entry is as follows:

The Proposal, c/o Neil Gaiman
Posted by Jason on November 26,’07 12:53 PM
Oh dear. Where do I begin? The timeline here will be slightly disjointed, so please do bear with me if I hop back and forth in my storytelling. It’s been a thoroughly exhausting week and I haven’t fully recovered from all this pleasant madness.
2007 Philippine Ad Congress, Day 02 – Neil’s opening remarks
I can vaguely recall Neil saying something about creativity, storytelling, and always asking, “What If?” because it’s from this “What If?” that we generate ideas and come up with stories. This was directly related to much of his writing, including his most current masterpiece-in-the-making, The Graveyard Book. In it, he answered the question, “What if a real baby could be raised in a graveyard…by dead people?”
*He read the first chapter of the book at the signing event — it’s rather good.
So I think it’s apt that I label what I did as my “What If?” moment. Because, to propose to my lovely girlfriend Maui, I asked the following:
“What if I could get Neil Gaiman, our most fave author and fantasy writer, to help propose to her?”
*I was under a lot of pressure from friends to find a “creative” way of proposing. So guys – was this creative enough for you?
Three Weeks Ago
I already knew some time before that Neil was going to be at the Ad Congress to give a couple of talks and a signing. So one late night, I went to the “Ask Neil” portion of his blog and wrote a rather long e-mail about how I planned to propose, and if he could find some time in his busy sched and play a small part (understatement of the year) in it. I did this well knowing that the e-mail would probably discarded along with the thousands of messages he gets every day.But two days later, a reply from his assistant:
Hi Jason,I am sure we can help with this, give me a bit to make sure of his schedule…
And a day later, while having lunch with Maui, I got a call from Jaime Daez, owner of local book superstore Fully Booked, telling me that Neil had in fact, agreed, and would be very happy to help me out.
I rushed over to Fully Booked to talk to Jaime (he wanted to meet and see my face so that he could signal Neil during the event) and ended up buying a copy of Absolute Sandman Vol. 02 (which was going to be the book).
What followed was about 2 weeks’ worth of planning and headaches to make sure everything was perfect.
2007 Philippine Ad Congress, Day 02 – In a Hallway for “AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY”:
After Neil’s talk, Maui rushed off to the loo. So I attempted to ambush Neil and introduce myself as “that insane guy you’re helping to propose to his girlfriend.”
But Maui quickly exited the bathrooms and rushed towards me, frozen in disbelief that Neil was actually there.
So I instead pushed her towards Neil and took a snap:
Happy Neil Moment #1. If only she knew…
STILL not content with my planning (which was reaching new heights of being Obsessive-Compulsive), I approached Lucre Villaluna of the Ad Congress Neil Gaiman event to put in yet ANOTHER failsafe measure. I told her my story, and wrote a short note to Neil reminding him of what was going to go down on Saturday. I know, I know – a bit much, but I WAS in an O-C mood.
And during dinner the next night, I received an SMS from her. What follows is our SMS exchange:
Lucre: Where r u?
Me: What’s up? Good news, I hope.
Lucre: Yes, bt pls kip it confidential. Can u call me ASAP?
I rushed out of the dining hall to call her:
Lucre: Hi! Someone wants to speak with you.
SFX: Shuffling, muffled voices, and then…
Neil: Hello, Jason. So we’re going to have you married on Saturday, then?
Me (drooling): …
We talked about how it would go down, and agreed on certain visual cues to make things go a smoothly as possible.
Neil: Let’s make some magic happen on Saturday.
Me (on the verge of fainting): …
*I hadn’t counted on this happening. It made my night. Thanks again, Neil.
Saturday, 6:30am, El Centro, Subic:
Groggy from a night of partying, we joined the line at an ungodly hour. Some guy had lined up at 12:30am, which was kind of freaky in a stalker-ish way, but we were all geeks anyway so it was all good. Ha!
Ground Zero.
For a last bit of planning, Lucre pulled me out of the line and shuttled me inside the venue to go over the entire routine. Everyone in the organizing committee was now in on it: ushers, doormen, bouncers and photographers. The operation would be simple: during the signing, they would stop everybody behind us from going up on stage and let the entire thing play out.
So at about 9:00am, a haggard and jet-lagged Neil took to the stage to read the first chapter of The Graveyard Book and answer some questions. Then he would sign books for the first 100 people in line (Maui and I were #19 and #20).
The rest of the story will be told mostly in pictures and captions. At this point, my mind was blank and I really, really can’t recall what happened.
Yes, Maui. Neil rocks. And he will rock further…
…because he wrote this.
…and Maui actually failed to notice Neil’s dedication because she was so starstruck. It took him about three times to actually get her to read the darn thing.
Maui (squealing, closing the book): Thanks!!!
Neil: Aren’t you going to read what I wrote? You have to read it..
Maui (opening the book, shrugging, then closing it again): Thanks!!!
Me: You have to read the dedication…
And she bent over to give Neil a kiss, STILL not noticing what was going on.
Neil: You really have to read this…
When she did (FINALLY!)…
Maui: OH MY GOD!!! (20x)
I took the ring out of my left pocket. Because of portability issues, I left the case back in the hotel, instead substituting a velvet pouch I’d hastily constructed before leaving for Subic.
And then I knelt.
I really hadn’t planned on kneeling. I thought it was an act that was too typical of a proposal and should be left out. But strangely, I found myself down on one knee, staring up at my now-tearful girlfriend and repeating, “Willyouwillyouwillyouwillyou?” over and over.
…and she said, “Yes.”
My guess is that the photographer was getting emotional as well.
This silly little act drew gasps, awwwsss and claps from the crowd. Friends cheered, strangers cried and my knees…were shaking worse than a 5.7 earthquake.
Maui hugged me, her back towards Neil. I reached out to shake his hand, whispering, “Thank you!” over and over. The Author. Neil. Gaiman. just. helped. me. propose. to. my. girlfriend.
And in the midst of all this, we managed to give Neil a copy of Maui’s great grandad’s book on folk tales (he was the writer of Lola Basyang, a popular children’s folktale series).

In his online journal, Gaiman described the booksigning/marriage proposal event as his most “favourite bit of the trip to the Philippines.”

The newly-engaged couple has not set a wedding date yet, but they’re hoping to convince Gaiman to become one of their principal sponsors.

As Gaiman aptly wrote in his book Stardust, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human? Pointless, really… Do the stars gaze back?”

Apparently, they do. (AJ)

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