Helen of Gregory

For nine years, Helen has been roaming the premises of St. Gregory Church in Albay, making friends with and touching the hearts of the strangers she meets. Unlike the infamous Helen of Troy, this Helen doesn’t have a face that can launch a thousand ships.

What she has is a face that can launch a thousand coins.




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Cardboards and Dirty Coins

I woke up with a burning and shooting pain at the back of my head and a confusion. It must be the streaks I sniveled finally setting in. The street was cold and dark. I couldn’t tell if it was dusk or dawn. The cement dust, the city damp and alcohol-soaked urine in the moss-covered pavement were all I could smell—and something metallic, like dirty coins in your sweaty palms, that was almost a taste.

I stood up straining my hands up against the rough wall. It was screaming BAWAL UMIHI DITO. I folded the cardboard I slept in and huddled it under my armpit. How did I end up here? Another gang war! I hurriedly searched my body for icepick or homemade gun wounds but I had none. I agonizingly gasped for air. It was what I feared most.




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Ballpoint Game

“Nature is about disposition, scenery and peace of mind, in terms of our needs, nature has many resources and beautiful sceneries that are sufficient to humankind.”
—Dennis Concepcion.

Dennis Concepcion is known for having unparalleled style in creating still-life art using his ballpoint pen. His road to making art was set in stone the moment he first held a pencil and joined various poster-making competitions when he was in grade school and pursued still-life art in college.

In 2014, he became the president of Guhit Pinas-Albay with the primary goal of helping and motivating young people to show their artistic skills. They also sponsored a charity named “Tiwala Kids” for Legazpi City’s street children.




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Before Nature’s Rage, a Man Must Move

The environment is a friend, an ally, or some would say, an enemy. As nature wreaks havoc to villages, its damaging winds cause the loss of many lives. Some would take it more as an enemy but in truth, natural disasters are part of the Earth’s equilibrium.

The Bicol Region has to survive the pits of gustily winds of typhoons, floods, and threats of volcanic activities.




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Mysterious Nature of Morupandan

‘’Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.’’
— W. H. Auden

The world is full of mysteries. But as we go further into our technological age, that shroud is quickly growing thinner. Still, though, there are few mysteries left. An evidence that there are still places that are covered with strange things.

There is a pristine lagoon called Morupandan in Barangay Gatbo, Bacon District, Sorsogon City. Gatbo is considered as the eighth of East District’s 12 barangays (villages). It has a land area of 949 hectares and with population of 2,761. The village has three sitios (sites): Tagalwoy, Tagudtod, and Macawayan. Sitio Tagalwoy is where you can enjoy the fresh flowing water of the lagoon. For all the people residing in Gatbo, Morupandan is their main source of water whenever El Niño hits the Bicol Region.




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Riding the Waves at 13, Winning

NOTE: This story was written last year, October 25, after the Lunad sa Balod (Ride the Waves) 2016 in Gubat, Sorsogon.

With nowhere to display all the proof of her victories inside their humble home, all of Vea Estrellado’s trophies are all wrapped in plastic and hidden in one corner gathering dust. All, except for two, which she won from Lunad sa Balod, a three-day national surfing competition at Gubat, Sorsogon.

The 13-year-old from Gubat, Sorsogon was declared champion in two categories Sunday after she bested 11 other surfers in the wahine short board category and 10 other surfers in the wahine long board category. Some of the competitors from Daet, Baler, Lanuza, Leyte, Zambales, and Catanduanes are in their 20s and 30s.




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E.T.

The car suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere. Only the light of the half moon illuminated the barren woods.

Catching her left hand and gently pulling her to his side, he cupped her face and said “What’s wrong?”




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Bulan-bulan: Recovering from ‘Nina’

NOTE: This story was written last June 26, three weeks after the resumption of classes in the Bicol Region.

Classes have been going on for three weeks already in Libon, Albay, but a number of elementary and high school students are still trying to make do with the notebooks their parents can afford.

Last Christmas Day, Libon was one of the hard-hit towns after Bicol took a beating from ‘Nina’ (international name: Nock-ten), which was described by many as the strongest typhoon since 2006’s ‘Reming’ (international name: Durian). No one was reported dead after Nina, but it turned out that many sources of livelihood were profoundly stricken and are still affected by the disaster up until today.




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In Sorsogon, even men line up for a seat at a Hello Kitty-themed café

A Hello Kitty-themed café in Sorsogon City has been luring straight male customers—sometimes in groups, sometimes with their girlfriends or wives—for a completely understandable reason—their cheeseburger and pizza.

Kitty Tours Café was originally intended to be a travel and tours office and a restaurant, but two months since the opening of the café in January, the staff has been busy accommodating customers who patiently line up outside the café for a seat, café owner Audrey Lustestica said.

SUPER KAWAII. This Hello Kitty-inspired cafe in Sorsogon City is only ten months old and is the only themed cafe in Sorsogon City. (RA Ostria/Ibalio)




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Chek Paints: Raising Funds for Buboy’s Treatment

NOTE: This feature story was written last August 5 during the celebration of Ibalong Festival 2017 in Legazpi City.

When she was three years old, Yonnah Francheska “Chek” Toledo received a scolding from her mom Louraffy for drawing random scribbles over a white pillow with poster paint. But that did not stop Chek from moving on to coloring and painting dresses over bond papers, coloring books, and then on canvases to perfect her art.

Now at seven, Chek is putting her talent to use by helping raise fund for the medication of her brother, three-year-old Rafaelo Franco “Buboy,” who was diagnosed with profound hearing loss in both ears early February.




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