From an Iskolar to being the PUP President: The Manuel Muhi life story 

The student that the Sintang Paaralan has guided has now become its leader – and he intends to do a great job at it. As the University President, Manuel has several plans that he wishes to implement to ensure that everybody is given the same chance as he was, decades ago.


The Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) has been home to students from all walks of life, hence why it is dubbed the “Sintang Paaralan.” It was a haven for people who wished to continue learning despite obstacles and hindrances that may come their way. This is the exact environment that nurtures people into becoming something much bigger than themselves – something that Manuel Muhi has been on the receiving end of. Now that he’s back in the halls of the fabled university, the student that the Sintang Paaralan has guided has now become its leader– and he intends to do a great job at it.

Humble beginnings 

Manuel Mengorio Muhi was just a seemingly ordinary student when he first entered PUP as a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering freshman. Life has been rather hard on him, as he did not come from a wealthy family. He was taught the painful and harsh realities of life early on.

“My learning journey in PUP required me to be humble to succeed, to make ends meet, to become more resourceful, and to appreciate the privilege of being a part of the university to further my education,” he shares.

Then and Now (Facebook)

Looking back, the time he spent as a student in PUP taught Manuel a life lesson in humility. “Kasi kapag PUPian ka, sanay ka sa hirap. Magtatrabaho sa gabi, mag-aaral sa araw. Minsan hindi sumasapat ang baon, pero dapat handa ka. Kaya matututo kang makibagay at magpasalamat sa mga taong makakasalamuha mo dahil sila ang tutulong sayo,” he elaborates.

Being a student at PUP has given him a chance to improve himself to unlock his highest potential, and Manuel was more than grateful for it when he received his diploma from the university in 1988.

The education that the university has provided him has given him the urge to reach for greater heights in the academe. “As a PUPian, hindi tayo tumitigil matuto dahil mataas ang pangarap natin.” Manuel says.

True to his word, he entered graduate school and earned a Master’s degree in Engineering, specializing in Transport and Road Engineering from the prestigious Technical University of Delft-International Institute for Infrastructural, Hydraulics and Environment Engineering – the Netherlands in 2000. He then chose to pursue a Doctoral degree in Technology at TUP Manila in 2008.

Armed with these huge achievements, he knew that he could look for greater opportunities elsewhere, but he chose to follow his true calling and that is to serve his beloved alma mater.

“The university helped me finish my education and gave me numerous opportunities to serve both inside and outside of the country,” he narrates. He knew that PUP could make it big – and he wanted to be a part of the movement that is going to make this vision a reality.

Back to Sintang Paaralan

 Manuel felt that going back to PUP and serving the university is the best way to give back to the same home that has willingly accepted him – back when he was still a mere freshman student, lost in the university’s expanse. This time, he wandered through the classrooms as a professor, and later on, he became the Dean of the College of Engineering from 2006 to 2013.

Magagaling ang ating mga estudyante. These are deserving youth and they need the university’s assistance,” he shares. As someone who benefited from the university before, he wishes to do the same for others by being someone that can give them the opportunities that he once had.


Courtesy of  Facebook

He also served as the Executive Vice President, Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Vice President for Research, Extension, Planning, and Development from 2012 to 2016. After being appointed as the University President, Manuel knew that this position should not be taken lightly.

“Isa din sa mga inspirasyon ko ang mga Iskolar ng Bayan. Nakita ko kung gaano nila ka-gustong makapagtapos ng pag-aaral,” Manuel expounds. “[PUP] has the potential to meet a wide range of needs in the surrounding communities, and I recognized that potential. It gave me hope that I could be a part of an institution that could have a significant impact on the lives of many people.”

The life of a leader 

Being the University President is a huge responsibility that comes with all sorts of challenges. For Manuel, the position required him to be on his toes at all times.

“We cannot let our position get into our heads. What matters is the kind of leadership you demonstrate,” he shares. Manuel wants to be the kind of leader who knows and sees everyone– including their struggles, hardships, and eventually their successes. “Kaya mula sa pinakaibaba, mga estudyante, janitors, security guards, empleyado, hanggang sa mga middle managers, directors and executive officials, pinupuntahan po natin sila, inaabot, kinakausap, pinakikinggan.” 

With this kind of leadership, he has also drafted plans for the university’s improvement, geared towards technological advancement and infrastructure improvement. As an engineer himself, his plan was more focused on improving the technology and facilities. “Over time, we are seeing improvements, from our comfort rooms to our sports facilities, student centers, and newly constructed research and laboratory facilities, we are working tirelessly to achieve our goals,” he states.

Courtesy of Facebook

He also plans to make PUP a smart campus, focusing on improvements in technology, and student services, mitigating compliance mistakes, automating workflows, reducing wait times, and conserving energy and resources, among other things. Just like any other institution, PUP must keep up with the times and the increasing demands for quality education.

However, the pandemic posed a significant challenge to his administration and hampered most of his plans for the university. As the University President, it was his job to ensure that everything is covered. “We were caught off guard and unprepared because we needed to come up with a solution right away to make things work,” he narrates. With his brand of leadership, he wanted to ensure that with whatever policy he implemented, no one will be left behind.

The pandemic’s awful hit

 During these unpredictable times, the main concern of the university lies in three aspects: the studentry, the quality of the education they’ll receive, and the technological advancements needed to further their learning. With these in mind, the Flexible Technology Learning (FlexTel) is an alternative learning framework, which improved gradually through time.

FlexTel accommodates the needs of various learners, including their learning circumstances and their ability to access learning tools and gadgets. In this mode, the professors can also follow a curated teaching load that considers their flexibility as well. “Its implementation may have been hampered by birth pains, but it has opened the doors to learning for all PUPians across the country,” he adds.

With the mixed reactions from the studentry, Manuel recognizes that the FlexTel also needs improvement, and just like any other policy, it is open for criticisms and amendments. “PUP continues to work with various sectors to improve FlexTel implementation in the coming years so that it is more inclusive, accessible, and fully coherent,” he says, as he ensures that their concerns will be duly noted.

PUP Education on Wheels (PUP Official).

Moreover, he also launched the PUP Education on Wheels, a project that caters to the educational needs of the out-of-school youth in various places. This project aims to give more learning opportunities for everyone and to ensure that more people get access to education, regardless of their background. “Ito naman po ang matagal nang vision natin sa Sintang Paaralan, to make education accessible and of quality. The EOW is ongoing at napapakinabangan na ng maraming kabataan sa Smokey Mountain,” he proudly shares.

The Education on Wheels also seeks to expand nationwide, seeking out underprivileged youths – truly living up to PUP’s reputation of giving people, regardless of their stature, a chance at a quality education.

“The goal is straightforward: to bring education to those who cannot afford it, right at their doorstep. This would not have been possible without the generous contributions of our donors, all of whom shared the same vision of educating the next generation,” Manuel explains.

Currently, Education on Wheels has 65 students under the Bachelor of Science in Office Administration. Their courses are TESDA inclined, which guarantees them a job after two years of education.

PUP has come a long way as it is now regarded as the top choice for employers, according to JobStreet. It is now known as the number one producer of professionals in different fields.

The university continues to raise its proud colors as it always claims its spot as one of the country’s top-performing schools. Board top-notchers also hail from various courses such as engineering, accounting, law, nutrition and dieticians, psychometrician, and education, among others.

On criticisms and challenges

 Since he sat in the highest position in the university, he has been faced with criticisms and various side comments from various sectors. Being in such a vulnerable post means that Manuel needs to have the right mindset to deal with them professionally.

“I was also once a student of PUP and alam ko po ang mga kailangang baguhin sa Sintang Paaralan, and this is their assurance that someone understands them at hindi natin hahayaan na mahihirapan ang ating mga estudyante,” he shares. He knows that no leadership is perfect, but for it to work, he has to listen to his constituents.

Manuel is aware that PUPians have valid concerns and that they only want what’s best for the entire student population-–a sentiment that Manuel shared back when he was still a student. This kind of connection, as he says, brings him closer to the calls of the studentry and makes him more adept at their needs and concerns.

“We always hear our students, sila ang priority. We always make sure that their frustrations are validated and heard. We understand them and make sure we address their concerns right away,” Manuel adds.

Looking ahead

PUP is one of the most highly regarded universities in the country, but Manuel knows it has so much potential to be more, unlock more doors, and open up new opportunities for students and employees alike. The university has always been in the service of the Filipino people, which also educates them about the realities of life and how the world essentially works. While this resiliency is commonly romanticized, Manuel sees it as undeniably patriotic.

“Lagi’t lagi naming binabanggit,  ‘Mula sa ‘yo para sa bayan.’ Ito po ang identity ng isang PUPian. Buong husay na maglilingkod at magsisilbi para sa bayan. Nandyan ang Sintang Paaralan na kaisa sa pagtataguyod ng maunlad na bansa,” he expounds. “PUPians know that in everything they do, it must be for the country’s sake and for the masses.”

For Manuel, this is what makes PUP different from the other universities. “PUP taught me to accept where I am and honor where I am. Accepting where you are and realizing how far you still have to go and learn is another aspect of humility,” he explains.

The university has taught him life lessons that he carries up to this day, making him more grounded and humbled tirelessly. As the University President, Manuel has several plans that he wishes to implement to ensure that everybody is given the same chance as he was, decades ago.

The current PUP administration is now focusing on reaching the elusive National Polytechnic University status, which will eventually raise the university’s status and open more doors for the students.

“In the coming years, we would like to continue utilizing these by building better infrastructure, as well as higher educational standards. Several plans have been developed for PUP, and these plans will serve to demonstrate that the university is truly concerned with the interests of its stakeholders, particularly our students,” Manuel elaborates.

PUP has been a safe place for Manuel as a student, and as he sits as the University President, he also seeks to make students and employees feel at home within its walls. The university has been through various ups and downs during his administration, but one thing is for sure – he ensures that PUP will stay true to its nature of being a beacon of hope, critical thinking, and quality education for everyone. There is so much to look forward to, and Manuel is determined to do a great job at helping these plans become a reality.

(Ruby’s Precious Moments 3rd anniversary Special Feature)

#ManuelMuhi #PUPPresident #SintangPaaralan #Philippines #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph


Atty. ‘Migs’ Nograles: Beauty comes from within

“If you’re happy and passionate about the things that you do, your aura will always show it,” shares Atty. Margarita “Migs” Bendigo Nograles.

Among our young lawyers today, 30-year-old Atty. Margarita “Migs” Bendigo Nograles has the three essential qualities that spell a lifetime success: beauty, brains, and the heart for public service.

Her positive aura is an outcome of waking up to the life that she wants to liven up with gusto. “If you’re happy and passionate about the things that you do, your aura will always show it,” she intimates.

“Conquer your fears and believe in yourself to follow your dreams and passion,” says Atty. Migs.

Migs takes care of her lovely face by cleaning it always. She makes it a point to remove her makeup after every working day. “I would say always remember to wash your face every night, moisturize, and put sunblock!” Her nighttime beauty must-haves are Clinique facial wash and toner, together with a moisturizer. “Some days, if I find the time, I get to go and have facials at Oroderm Davao.”

If there’s a particular motto on beauty that she believes in, it would be “Never compare beauty with anyone else. It all starts from within. Be comfortable with your own skin and never ever dress to impress others but only yourself,” shares Migs, the well-schooled partner-lawyer at Nograles Ilagan Sagarino Selgas Cayco Aban & Dabi Law (NISSCAD Law) based in Davao, offers legal services on civil law, criminal law, corporate law, family law, and taxation law.

Her beauty icons are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Amal Clooney. The former is the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress, and the latter is a well-known barrister specializing in international law and human rights. “They are always just so perfectly dressed and perfectly demure in every way,” she quips.

At the home front, she admires her lovely mom Rhodora “Bebet” Bendigo-Nograles, sister Dr. Kristine Nograles-Hugo, and her sister-in-law, Marga who owns Kaayo Modern Mindanao.

“Be comfortable with your own skin and never ever dress to impress others but only yourself,” shares Migs.

Migs complements her beauty regimen with a healthy lifestyle. “I try not to eat a lot of salty food and make sure I lessen rice. But when I do eat rice, I make sure I use Oh Crop! Adlai rice. It’s the best!” she says.

Cooking and baking are her stress relievers. “Actually, it is my mom whom I idolize when it comes to that. What is just lacking is for her to start her own pastry store! She bakes every day just to share to friends and family complete with the entire packaging!” she exclaims.

When it comes to food, she loves Japanese food, seafood, but her comfort food will always be that popular Filipino chicken joy brand! From her hometown Davao, her favorite fruit is pomelo. “Have you tried it? If you haven’t, you must!” she urges. “Chocolate and strawberry, too, are pretty good here.”

Every day, she tries to run at least 30 minutes before she starts her day. “It keeps my mind and adrenaline running and gets me ready and pumped up for the day,” she discloses. “I work out (at least try to do so) every day for at least 30 minutes. If not, I find time to play badminton with friends.”

Migs has been active doing sports activities since she was young. “For example, I was part of the track and field team in High School and so I have always been very sporty. Nowadays, I do indoor cycling, running, and Zumba!” utters Migs, who acknowledges the fact that endorphins (the happiness hormones) make one happy. But most importantly, she says, “You have to listen to your body; when the body tells you to rest, you have to rest. Otherwise, everything else falls down.”

During this pandemic, Migs is coping well with her workout routine by setting up a small home gym – complete with treadmill, rower, indoor bike. “I just do a lot of cardio. If possible, I go with my friends to do badminton when I’m not too busy.”

After a hectic day, she unwinds by reading self-help books or books about stoicism. “It helps you keep intact with yourself. Otherwise, I call friends and catch up with the family,” she shares.

Ask Atty. Migs, the young lawyer’s new brand and her way of giving back.

What could be her biggest realization during this pandemic? “Life’s too short to have big regrets. You never know when you’re going to lose someone or when you’re going to go; so you have to make the most out of every day and live your life to the fullest. There’s no time for negativity or fear. Conquer your fears and believe in yourself to follow your dreams and passion.”

To know more about Atty. Migs Nograles, like and follow her official Facebook page

#AttyMigsNograles #lawyer #AskAttyMigs #passion #moderndaywoman #successfulwoman #Davao #Philippines #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

ThrowbackSeries: Call him Doc Dekong

He’s been known as a brilliant man – doing well in philosophical writings and teaching. Not resting on his laurels, he further studied The Research Process at the University of Manchester.

This is one subject that is very “personal” to me. He is not only a friend but someone whom I respect and look up to. Our solid connection perhaps is becoming both a product of a college campus paper called The Catalyst, the official student publications of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

Up to this day, I treasure a copy of The Catalyst Journal of Ideas, wherein he analyzed the subject of “The Writer and His Conscience.” Says he: “Every thinker or writer must take a distinctively principled and firm position whenever he writes and/or theorizes his craft or his literature.”

I’ve known him to be a brilliant man – doing well in philosophical writings and teaching. Not resting on his laurels, he further studied The Research Process at the University of Manchester. When he decided to run for the presidency of PUP, I was delighted and prayed for his victory.

After the late Doc Prudente, this is my second time to be featuring another (former) president of PUP, Dr. Emmanuel C. De Guzman, or Doc Dekong to his friends and associates.  It is my honor to be sharing this piece with all the readers of Ruby’s Precious Moments:

What was your profession before becoming the president of PUP?

I was taken in by the Department of Sociology right after graduation. So I started teaching right away in 1991 but I had other jobs like writing scripts for television for Business and Leisure in Sunshine TV. I also worked as an NGO writer. That’s basically my thing – writing and teaching.

How did you cope up with the changes since 1991?

It’s not entirely different because I’ve been working in the same environment in PUP but the lifestyle has already changed since I wouldn’t go out of the house without bodyguards. You know being the president, I have to go out with security.

Do you have a militant student population?

Yes, the school is known for that. In fact, when I was a student, I took part in activism in PUP but not the more radical type.

What are the obstacles or challenges that you encounter now that you are the new president of PUP?

Working with my bosses as president. Formerly, I was the Director of Research in the university and now I have to adjust to the way I address them and the way that they address me. The challenge actually is to coordinate the university to follow my league towards my vision for the university.

What kind of lifestyle does the university president live?

Actually, I’m a sports fan. I’m not good at sports but I love watching and collecting data and following some teams in basketball. But I do play table tennis and basketball as well.

Among the PBA teams, which one is your favorite?

The team of James Yap, BMEG, I only watch PBA nowadays when it is already the championship.

What is your daily schedule?

Basically, I’m preparing myself for work, traveling to school with my bodyguards, the convoy of vehicles. They have to be with me 24/7 even when I go out in the mall with my family.

Do the students asking for lower tuition fee rates have something to do with the need for security?

We cannot anymore lower the tuition fee rates because they are already too low. It is already Php12.00 per unit. No, there had been incidents in PUP that already took the lives of some officials like the ambush of the Vice President for Administration, and even before that, there were other incidents that every time the leadership changes, some of these things happened and I think that it is not only in PUP where these forms of violence happened but in other state universities as well.

How do you balance time for family, friends, and social activities outside your job?

It is very difficult to balance my time because I lost a lot of reading time since I became president. I cannot read as much as I want and my time with my family is mixed with work. My wife for instance would wait for me in the mall when I go out of the office to buy something so definitely my time with my family has been diminished drastically.

How many kids do you have?

I have three kids, one is done with college. I got kids early.

Do you have any favorite books or authors?

I’m a sociologist so I used to read academic books, sociology, theories for instance, but I also read novels. My favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky. He is a novelist and a social commentator.

Who has been your greatest inspiration behind all of your achievements to date?

There is no single person but if you are really asking me, well I think it is Doc  Prudente, the former president of PUP. I was a student when he was the president and he was the one who took me to PUP to work as a member of the academe.

Are there other school presidents who serve as inspiration?

No one in particular.

What advice can you give to the students? To those who will be given scholarships, what important factors do they need to go through?

As a sociologist, I always tell my students to not just be limited within the school or I mean classroom. There are other things to learn from outside the school and they could participate in other activities like discussing issues out there, even joining rallies. But they should not forget when they should not abandon or neglect their studies.

What changes have you implemented or want to implement?

The first major change that I want to institute is the organization or classification of the colleges. We have 16 colleges in the university and I want to merge some to lessen the number of colleges and to rationalize the discipline within the colleges.

What is PUP most known for academically?

Accountancy is the academic niche that we have and Engineering is coming in as another area of excellence so I think we could do well in these professions.

How many campuses do you have?

We have 22 campuses including the main campus in Sta. Mesa all over Luzon. We don’t have one in Visayas and Mindanao.

Are there any plans of opening new PUP campuses?

I was planning to when I was running for the position but I just found out now that there was a memorandum on building new campuses from CHED. The Commission on Higher Education doesn’t want to create any more local satellites.

Why should one choose PUP?

Because we are in the Top 3 state universities in the country and we are the cheapest, Php12.00 per unit, you can get a quality education for such a small fee. The regular load of a student per semester only costs around Php800 to Php1,000 pesos. Three units per subject so that is around Php36.00 pesos per subject and we have two semesters per year. Summer classes are not mandatory. They are for those with deficiencies and regular summer enrollment.

For admissions or applications, are they available online or should they go to campus?

We have computerized enrollment, even computerized in giving out of grades, so they can enroll online, pay in the bank. We are all computerized now in PUP.

For transferees or new students who want to enroll in PUP, what procedures do they have to go through?

They should go to the Admission Office personally because you are a transferee but once you get into the system, you can avail the computerized system that we have. But we have a very strict standard in accepting transferees. The transferee must have a 2.0 average and no failing grade.

On sports, do you have plans for PUP to join university games? 

We are a member of SCUAA and this is composed of state colleges and universities in Metro Manila but I wish that we can join UAAP.

What is there to look forward to in PUP?

I have been meeting the faculty of the different colleges and doing consultations with the students and leaders of the studentry.  I think the change is that we are veering more towards improving research in the university not just the “instructional”  but more on producing the materials that we teach – research and production of ideas.

By Ruby Asoy-Lebajo

Photos by Jowi Morales

(Based on the exclusive published article in the Style RPA, and excerpts of the interview from one of the episodes of Style RPA TV)

#EmmanuelDeGuzman #Dekong #FormerPUPPresident #PUP #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph



ThrowbackSeries: Ramon Magsaysay Jr.

The late President Magsaysay’s commitment to the Filipinos didn’t die with him. With Jun Magsaysay, he left behind a son to carry on the legacy.

Former Senator Ramon Banzon Magsaysay, Jr., is a self-made businessman, hardworking, God-fearing, compassionate, and, in every way, the son of the late Philippine President Ramon del Fiero Magsaysay and Luz Banzon-Magsaysay. He is the man of the masses and for the masses.

He was born in Manila in 1938. His father’s rise to the presidency taught Jun and his two sisters, Milagros and Teresita, the virtues of integrity and honesty and to have a strong passion for the welfare of the common man. Inside Malacanang, the Magsaysay’s lived humbly, untouched by selfish ambitions and unmarred by the lust for power.

With President Magsaysay’s sudden death in 1957, the 19-year-old Jun inherited greater responsibilities that enabled him to recognize the value of perseverance and hard work. He had to step out of his father’s protective shadow and assume the role of man of the house.

He spent most of his academic years at the De La Salle College, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. He pursued his academic studies at the Harvard School of Business Administration in Boston, Massachusetts, and in New York’s University Graduate School of Business Administration. He returned to the country armed with skills and knowledge that would later become a powerful tool in shaping and developing a major industry in the country.

Magsaysay Jr. pioneered the country’s cable television business.  Today, with over 550 cable operators nationwide, cable television has turned into a billion-a-year industry.

During his years in the Senate, he worked for laws to improve the living conditions of the majority of the Filipino people. His programs and policies for the development of cooperatives and small enterprises are geared toward encouraging ordinary Filipinos to make use of their individual capabilities as they strive to attain their socio-economic goals.

Indeed, the late President Magsaysay’s commitment to the Filipinos didn’t die with him. With Jun Magsaysay, he left behind a son to carry on the legacy.

I asked him during a past interview: Is the state of Philippine politics maturing?

“I think so. The birth of people power in our country, which we shared with other nations everywhere, saw the emancipation of our country from politics of patronage to a system of governance where the voice of the people is no longer ignored. My mission is to further accelerate the country’s economic development and ensure that the masses of the people shall be the principal beneficiaries of growth,” shared the former senator, now 83 years old.

(Excerpts from a feature article published on Ahead magazine by the same author)

Featured photo courtesy of Ramon Magsaysay Jr. FB community page

#SenatorRamonMagsaysay #profile #throwbackseries #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph


Golden Feat: Hidilyn Diaz feels grateful for making her triumph “possible”

As the first Gold Medalist in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Hidilyn Diaz still couldn’t believe that she did it, and conceded that she couldn’t do it on her own, but her faith in the divine providence made everything possible. She posted and shared this message on her Instagram @

“Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ako ngayon sa Olympics .
Di ako makapaniwala na matutuloy ang Olympics .
Di ako makapaniwala na nandito ang TeamHD.
Di ako makapaniwala na
𝗚𝗼𝗹𝗱 𝗠𝗲𝗱𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁 ako sa Olympics .

Kung ako lang ito, di ko ito magagawa parang impossible. Salamat God sa pagdala ng mga tao, government support, private support, pamilya, kaibigan at prayer warriors para magawa ko ito at maging possible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “with man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Team HD. Photo courtesy of hidilyndiaz on Instagram

Diaz continues to hog the headlines after she won the gold medal for the Weightlifting 55 kg category in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. With her mighty strength, focus, and determination, she bested two opponents from China (Q.Y. Liao) and Kazakhstan (Z. Chinshanlo). She cleared 127kg in her final lift in clean and jerk and finished with a total of 224kg lifted – both Olympic records.

Hidilyn Diaz was ecstatic after winning the gold medal for weightlifting at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Photo courtesy of Reuters / Edgard Garrido

Diaz is set to receive Php10 million from the government for bagging the historic first gold medal for the Philippines after nearly 100 years of Olympic gold dry spell. Meanwhile, a silver is worth Php5 million, while a bronze Php2 million, but additional pledges from various individuals have reached the total prize of Php35 million+ (to date, as per a recent report).

The Zamboanga City pride is now the most consummate Philippine Olympian. She’s not just a gold medalist, but a multi-medal winner from various competitions, such as the 2016 Rio Olympics, 2018 Asian Games, 2019 World Championships, and 2019 SEA Games.

Hidilyn Diaz has now 232k followers on her Instagram account.

Featured photo courtesy of @hidilyndiaz on Instagram

#OlympicWeightlifting #TokyoOlympics2020 #HidilynDiaz #goldmedalist #pinaypower #Philippines #pinaypride #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Havas Veteran Vishnu Mohan sets up Avyan Holdings; Invests in the Philippines

Singapore – Havas Group veteran, former Chairman & CEO of the network, Vishnu Mohan has launched Avyan Holdings in Singapore with the ambition to build a regional footprint in Asia.

Avyan Holdings is designed to be a collective of companies working towards advancing human possibilities by integrating design, technology, and data to help brands and people thrive in a digital-first world.

As a first step in solidifying its vision, Avyan Holdings has acquired a key stake in The Philippines-based design and innovation agency  – Castle By The River (CBR) – founded by digital maverick Ed Mapa Jr – also a former Havas executive.

Over the past two years, since its inception, CBR  has earned the reputation to be an eclectic band of storytellers grounded in data and technology with a flair for performance-driven campaigns. It started its operations in Manila as an affiliate of Entropia Malaysia – which was recently acquired by Accenture Interactive and its current clients include Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), GMA 7, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corporation (PMFTC), AIA/PhilamLife, and Mundipharma (Betadine).

“Avyan Holdings is defined by the passion for what the world can be,  by elevating human experiences, blending the best of art and science – ideas and technology. CBR’s purpose of romanticizing digital transformation through innovative storytelling aligns with our vision perfectly and it’s a great start to our journey. CBR’s use of design, technology, and anticipatory intelligence via a robust build of a data ecosystem is fascinating and I am confident in its potential to be an asset to Avyan Holdings,” said Mohan in his capacity as Chairman of Avyan Holdings.

“Our investment in CBR Philippines sits perfectly well with our operating principle of global serviceability. We have seen very few regional hubs away from Singapore, and I believe that the skillsets and cost advantages make the Philippines a very fertile ground for investment. We aim to make the operation a hub for our near expansion plans in the rest of the region,” added Mohan.

CBR’s personalization-at-scale campaign for RCBC bagged Platinum for Creative Effectiveness and Gold for Digital Marketing in Marcom 2020 awards. The awards show is a global marketing and creative competition administered by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals (AMCP), arguably the most prestigious of its kind since 2004.

CBR’s other key pieces of work include the launch of GoodDay cultured milk at the height of the pandemic in 2020 via Moot Up, an immersive meeting platform, or Zoom in VR.  It was the first beverage brand in South East Asia to fully leverage the platform’s virtual world capabilities.

“It’s great to be working again with Vishnu. We’ve done innovative campaigns when we were at Havas. We at CBR are excited about Avyan Holdings’ vision and commitment. There’s a meeting of hearts and minds. A new story begins, ” said Ed Mapa.

“Avyan Holdings is also a manifestation of my personal philosophy of empowering talent and giving back to the industry which has nurtured me over the course of my career. As we move forward, we will be adding more exciting products to our portfolio by talent-spotting and investing in the right kind of companies. I am looking forward to the new beginning,” said Mohan.

Vishnu was the former top man of Havas in the region has over 30 years of advertising and marketing experience across various markets globally, to which 26 of them spent at Havas/Vivendi Group.

Credited for building the entire media network for the group in the Asia Pacific from India to New Zealand group, he was the first employee for Havas Media and successfully built the group’s entire network in the region from scratch. Since 2017,  he has been a leading figure for the group’s presence in India and the Southeast Asia Region. As Chairman of the Vivendi Committee since 2018, he also oversaw the integration efforts across all Vivendi companies for the same region.

#AvyanHoldings  #Vishnu Mohan #CBR #EdMapa #Havas #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Gary Granada: “Writing songs is serious business”

“I want to be a relevant piece of history,” shared the award-winning composer.

Composer Gary Granada experienced a moment of celebrity status when his composition with witty lyrics “Mabuti Pa Sila,” grabbed the grand prize award in the 1998 Metropop Song Festival. What the audience didn’t know was that the song actually started from a joke.

“Noong araw mayroon kaming joke na ganoon,” related Gary from a previous interview. “So sabi ko bakit hindi ko ma-share ang joke na ‘yon pero sa ibang form naman.” The song he said has a no deeper meaning. “Katuwaan lang ‘yun,” he quipped.

Gary, however, said his work as a composer is no joking matter. “Among the current composers, I think, I work the hardest. My setup is not simple. I spend about 12 to 14 hours a day working – that is serious work. Kasi napapakinggan ko ang mga trabaho ng mga kasama sa industry usually their songs are very personal. They write about their own experiences and their feelings toward certain situations which are not bad at all. In my case, I get to write things which I don’t have an intimate involvement with.”

The award-winning song “Mabuti Pa Sila,” was written in 1997 by Gary and was intended as a single for an album. As it turned out, it qualified in the Metropop.

However, he considered “Mabuti Pa Sila,” as a serious piece of work. “Seryoso naman ang song na ito in a literary sense of the word. Papasa sa classroom at papatulan ng literary teacher ito. In that sense, the material is serious.”

Gary shared that his music tradition originated from protest music. “Ang mga kasama ko diyan ay ang Buklod, Patatag, Jess Santiago, The Jerks, Musicians for Peace, Inang Laya, Paul Galang,” to name some. However, he admitted that they had lost focus because many of his groups disbanded or went on to work for NGO groups.

He felt that it was about time to consider a larger audience because he thought that they were effective. “Ang effectiveness mo naman ay kung nakakapagbago ka ng public policy,” he said.

Before he became active in the mainstream, he was very reluctant to go into pop music. “Kasi pakiramdam ko naman kahit na sumikat ka riyan, kahit maging pinakamagaling ka pa riyan, hindi ka naman makakapagpababa ng presyo ng langis,” he pointed out.

Gary added: “The way we look at pop music industry decoration lang ang mga ‘yon, a piece of entertainment. You’re earning but you don’t have any political consciousness, so you’re an irrelevant piece of history. That’s why we focus our attention to more historically relevant work.”

Diversity of musical styles

Gary is a native of Maco, Davao. He first learned to play the ukulele at the age of three. As he grew older he learned to harmonize different music styles and genres from “Pinoy ethnic” to “rock ‘n roll.”

Gary was a finalist in the 1982 Metro Manila Popular Song Festival with his entry “Ang Aking Kubo.” He eventually won the Grand Prize for “Salamat Musika,” in the 1984 Metropop and “Bahay” in the 1988 KBP Musicfest. He also won in the 1989 United Nations Environmental Program Songwriting Contest for his song “Earthkeeper.”

A testament to his diversity is his ability to compose songs haunting the consciousness such as “Sino Ka Ba Jose Rizal?” while on the other hand, dishing out light-hearted tunes such as “Pag Nananalo/Natatalo/Nang Maging Champion ang Ginebra.” (The other version of the song “Ginebra” was sung by another singer Bayang Barrios.)

“I did put in a lot of work in the song ‘Ginebra.’ The challenge was to capture a national passion in four minutes,” said Gary.

Courtesy: Gary Granada FB fan page

Gary’s songwriting experience goes about several years back. He has produced numerous albums for major record labels and has had written more than 300 songs on subjects ranging from gospel, love, environmental concerns, folk, to political and satirical. In addition, he has also composed full orchestra pieces.

Gary disclosed that he wants to be a “relevant piece of history.”

Sharing here the lyrics of  the award-winning song “Mabuti Pa Sila”:

  • Mabuti pa ang mga surol

Laging mayroong masisiksikan

Mabuti pa ang bubble gum

Laging mayrong didikitan

Mabuti pa ang salamin

Laging mayrong tumitingin

Di tulad kong laging walang pumapansin


  • Mabuti pa ang mga lapis

Sinusulatan ang papel

At mas mapalad ang kamatis

Maya’t maya napipisil

Napakaswerte ng bayong

Hawak ng aleng maganda

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa


  • Ano bang wala ako na mayron sila

Di man lang makaisa

Habang iba dala-dalawa

Pigilan n’yo akong magpatiwakal

Mabuti pa ang galunggong

Nasasabihan ng “mahal”


  • Kahit ang sukay ay may toyo

At ang asin may paminta

Mabuti pa ang lumang dyaryo

At yakap-yakap ang isda

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa


  • Mabuti pa ang simpleng tissue

At laging nababalikan

Mabuti pa ang mga bisyo

Umaasang babalikan

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong laging nag-iisa


  • Pigilan n’yo akong magpatiwakal

Bakit si Gabby Concepcion

Lagi na lang kinakasal


  • Mabuti pa ang snatcher

Palaging may naghahabol

Ang aking luma na computer

Mayron pa ring compatible

Mabuti pa sila, mabuti pa sila

Di tulad kong lagi na lang nag-iisa.


For more updates on Gary Granada, visit and follow his Facebook fan page:

Featured photo courtesy of Gary Granada FB fan page

(Based on the published feature article in the old Mirror Weekly magazine by the same author)

#GaryGranada #composer #singer #awardwinning #throwbackseries #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph


Chef Jill Sandique’s Cacao Journey

As the world takes notice of Philippine chocolate, Chef Jill hopes to encourage local cacao farmers to aim higher in producing the finest cacao they were destined to grow.

 Her work on chocolate for more than 25 years as a culinary educator and consultant has led pastry chef Jill Sandique back to a childhood passion. Chef Jill headed the board of judges at the 2021 Philippine Cacao Quality Awards (PCQA) which selected the winning entries to represent the Philippines at the Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) Programme during the Salon du Chocolat in Paris this coming October.

Chef Jill has studied chocolate making abroad, eventually completing the Career French Pastry Program at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now the Institute of Culinary Education) where she graduated with the most coveted Blue Ribbon Award in 1992 (and later inducted into its Alumni Hall of Achievement). She witnessed the emergence of artisan chocolate making which nurtured her appreciation for the craft.

When she came back to the Philippines, she developed her signature pistachio sans rival and mango pavlova, the beloved specialty desserts she became known for. In between her duties as chef instructor and consultant, she worked with cocoa and chocolate manufacturers and distributors locally as well as in Singapore and Indonesia to develop recipes for them and her own clients.

Her longest collaboration at 17 years is with Commodity Quest, Inc., which exclusively imports the premium cacao powder and chocolate ingredients under the deZaan brand. They invited Chef Nick Malgieri, her mentor and teacher at Peter Kump’s, for the WOFEX trade shows to showcase chocolate recipes using deZaan.

Growing up with cacao

Chef Jill’s love for chocolate began at her family’s Sto. Niño Farms back in her hometown of Makilala in Cotabato. The family started with crops such as coconut, coffee, cacao, corn, and rice. The farm initially produced certified palay seeds before focusing on rubber and banana as its two major crops.

Her father, the late Epifanio Al. Sandique was an agriculturist by training. Mr. Sandique worked as a banker and did agricultural research at the farm. He was part of the Philippine Cacao Committee in the late 1970s that published The Philippines Recommends for Cacao 1979.

The farm served as chef Jill’s informal training ground to learn about how farmers grow food, an experience that would later influence her work as a pastry chef. Her parents instilled the value of hard work at the farm, teaching them the key steps in growing, harvesting, and processing rice, coffee, and cacao.

“For the cacao, they would teach us how the cacao pod is harvested and we actually did some of the basic steps—something that the hands of a child can do.” The Sandiques would expose their children to farm work such that it became an integral part of their childhood.

 Selecting quality Philippine cacao beans

 Chef Jill regularly upgrades her chocolate know-how through trainings abroad especially in South and Central America with its long history and tradition of growing and processing cacao. She has studied cacao post-harvest processing, chocolate making, and chocolate profiling in the U.S., Ecuador, Peru and Belize as well as cacao bean grading in the Netherlands. She is the only Filipina who is a certified Level 3 graduate of the International Institute of Chocolate and Cacao Tasting in the UK.

She put to good use these trainings and her ability to discern quality cacao beans as a judge at the 2019 International Chocolate Awards (ICA) the Asia Pacific in Taiwan, and at the ICA World Finals in Italy. Judges conducted a blind tasting of the chocolates from which Philippine chocolate makers won several awards.

Chef Jill also participated as a grand juror for the ICA Asia Pacific via remote online judging in 2020. Then came the opportunity to be closer to home as chairperson for the judging committee at the Philippine Cacao Quality Award from December 2020 to January 2021.

When selecting the best cacao beans, Chef Jill adheres to strict selection standards. She strives for perfection, a trait influenced by her training under Chef Nick Malgieri as well as her parents whose work as agriculturist and doctor respectively, relied on making the right decisions on the farm and in the hospital. Only the highest qualified cacao beans, cocoa, and chocolate truly make it on her list.

What’s next for chef Jill

 Her other work as the lead trainer and program director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Manila Council of Chefs and key opinion leader of USDA Cooperators for the past 15 years has helped her mentor others in cooking and baking with quality U.S. ingredients.

When the Puentespina family of the Malagos Cacao Development Center in Davao invited her to help train seven farmer cooperatives from Davao Oriental on post-harvest processing of cacao beans, she gladly agreed. But she requested that the farmers also be trained on the business side of cacao as well as composting waste by-products to fully equip them.

In a sense, this is Chef Jill going back to her roots. While she will still work with clients and share recipes on social media, she wishes to spotlight the next generation of chefs. “There are new chefs coming in, pastry chefs especially. I plan to step back a little and give them the place to shine because they’re all very good,” she says.

Her life’s work now brings her back to cacao to improve the competitiveness of the local cacao industry on the international stage. She hopes to share what she has learned about cacao bean processing and educate others who have little opportunity to be formally trained. “Majority of our plants here belong to the category of fine cacao in which there is great potential.”

This potential begins with growing good cacao. As the world takes notice of Philippine chocolate, chef Jill hopes to encourage local cacao farmers to aim higher in producing the finest cacao they were destined to grow. “I hope that every cacao farmer here will be able to ferment and process their cacao in a manner that is at par with international standards, which I think is achievable.”

For recipes and updates on Chef Jill Sandique, visit her Facebook Page at

Featured photo courtesy of Chef Jill Sandique FB account

#ChefJillSandique #cacaojourney #growinggoodcacao #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Agot Isidro: A woman of simplicity, sweetness, and conviction

An ugly duckling as a child, she grew up to become the pretty, sweet “Crush ng Bayan” in the 1990s.

She has been critical of the Duterte administration, but the singer-actress Agot Isidro I had interviewed way back in the late ’90s can be described as simplicity and sweetness rolled into one. She said being simple is inherent in her.

“It just happens that I have a different job. I try to keep my sanity. So if I’m not working, I’m a normal person. But if I have to sing in Megamall, then that’s a different Agot,” she related from a previous interview.

Fans in the know are aware that Agot has had her share of failed relationships. From each, she said, she learned a lesson or two. “If my relationship didn’t last long, I get disappointed. But it’s not like a burden that I should carry forever,” she intimated.

After her failed marriage to Manu Sandejas, she has learned to move on. In fact, she’s blooming these days. Her special someone is not from showbiz. (Her boyfriend is Florin “Pilo” Hilbay, lawyer and former Solicitor General).

Her turn-ons? “Someone I can talk to about anything under the sun,” she shared. “He must have a sense of humor. Hindi mayabang (not boastful). The guy has to have perfect table manners. It’s something you do three times a day – how does he do it – if he does it na magulo (messy), it’s indicative na magulo ang buhay niya (that his life was chaotic). And I don’t like someone carrying a clutch bag!”

Agot has also a fetish for shoes. “I want worn-out and down-to-earth shoes,” she insisted. “Ganoon din kasi ako sa shoes ko, pinatatagal ko (It’s the same with my shoes, I last longer). My oldest pair of shoes dates back to 1989.” And she goes for investment dressing. “I have clothes since 1988 that I can still use up to now.”

Independent-minded woman

Agot’s independence was greatly shaped by her upbringing. “In our family, my parents have given us choices. They let us grow as ourselves. They raised us in an environment that we can make our own choices. They don’t actually dictate what they want for us,” she shared.

Courtes: Agot Isidro Official FB page

She learned more about independence when she lived in New York in 1989. She said it wasn’t easy living in a foreign land. She experienced how it was like to be broke and to eat a pretzel as her sustenance. What she missed about New York was being able to walk in the street without building up perspiration. “E, here just five blocks away you have no choice but to take a taxi. You can’t even take a jeep because it’s dusty,” she chided.

Her being a designer takes a back seat at the moment. (She graduated Bachelor of Interior Design in UP). “I’m busy doing things myself. But it’s still there. I’m not licensed,” she said.

Agot believes that it’s possible for a woman to combine marriage and career. “If I want to have a career and start a family, it’s up to me. It’s how I will balance it. My husband has to be supportive of me also.”

 The ugly duckling

Agot admitted that when she was young she was an ugly duckling. “Noong bata ako, ang itim-itim ko,” (When I was a kid, I had dark skin) she disclosed. Agot is the fourth child in a brood of six. She was a swimmer. Nevertheless, she has overcome her inferiority complex. Never mind that she went through it with half an ear closed to intermittent pestering, “Negra!” they called her.

How do you feel now when your photograph is being taken? “I don’t have the concept that I’m beautiful. Now, people say ‘You’re so pretty.’ Really? You should have seen me when I was younger. I didn’t grow accustomed to people telling me I’m so pretty.” She earned the title “Crush ng Bayan” in the 1990s. The title was flattering but she said nothing was put on.

As a child, Agot was not really into dreamland. She wasn’t into Barbie dolls. What she liked to play were the likes of tumbang preso. During those days, her great time was when she would accompany her dad to scout for old cars and restore it into brand new ones; in return, they would sell them to make money.

Biggest dream

Some of her what-to-do lists are really far off. One of the things she included in the list is going to Africa. “It’s my biggest dream,” she said. “I’ve been to Europe already. But when you say Africa, it’s a different world, you don’t know what to expect.”

She always wants to travel. Her favorite place is in Palawan. “It’s nice. It’s like a different country,” she said. “Even for just three days, I want to unwind to have a  change of scenery.”

Like everyone else, Agot has her own share of peculiarities. “Nagkukulong ako sa kuwarto (I lock myself in the room). Just for a snap,” she related. “Huwag n’yo na ako kausapin. Lumayo ka na lang muna. Hayaan mong ako ang lumapit.” (Don’t talk to me anymore. Just stay away first. Let me come over.)

But it’s different altogether when she gets depressed. “I cook. Then I’ll call my friends to drop by the house and eat everything I have prepared,” she related. Agot’s specialties are pasta and galunggong fillet. Before her favorite viands were pork chop and chicken.” Though, a hearty eater, it didn’t show in her svelte figure.

Her quiet moment is best spent in reading inspirational and stimulating books like The Road Less Traveled, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Positive Thinking, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and others. But she doesn’t read new age stuff.

“It’s always nice to read a good book. It keeps you updated on other things. And it provides solitude, which I rarely experience as a showbiz person. I always welcome the chance to be alone with a good book,” she ended.

For more updates on Agot Isidro, follow her Official FB page:

(Based on the published feature article in the old Mirror Weekly magazine by the same author)

Featured photos: Throwback photo of Agot Isidro / personal file; courtesy of Agot Isidro Official FB Page

#AgotIsidro #singeractress #throwbackseries #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Upclose and personal with multi-awarded scriptwriter Ricky Lee

As scriptwriter-director Bibeth Orteza said, “Ricky Lee is a remembrance of all that makes the idea of writing romantic: a lonely childhood, collegiate years without money to spend, a term in jail even. And then an enviable body of work.”

 Ricky Lee has spent a good chunk of his career writing scripts for films. Like his screen films, he assumes multiple forms and shadows, complexity, and simplicity in one sleek package.

Filipino film buffs have bought this package, making Ricky, one of the best and multi-awarded scriptwriters in the Philippines today. Some of his finest Filipino films include Himala, Moral, Brutal, Salome, Madrasta, Curacha,  Miguel/Michelle, among many others.

Aside from his many years of teaching at UP and the Ateneo, he has been conducting scriptwriting workshops, proof of his generosity in imparting career secrets to aspiring and upcoming writers.

Ricky is also a well-known fictionist, having won a number of literary awards. He has published an anthology of some of his works in 20 years in fiction, journalism, and film (Si Tatang at Mga Himala ng Ating Panahon.)

Revise, revise

Ricky recalls that his scripts of Brutal and Moral had five to seven drafts before he finally perfected them.

Talagang madugo, hindi bawat revision may nabago lang, talagang overhaul ng skeleton,” he shared during a past interview. “Kasi ‘yong first sequence ng Brutal walang makaintindi kundi si Marilou (Diaz-Abaya). So you have to be patient and concentrate para mag ugat ang mga paa mo. Kailangan mayroong matatag na foundation.”

In writing a script, Ricky follows not just his own judgment. “Natanggap ko na na magkakaroon ng sariling buhay yong script. Whatever will be good for the script doon ako susunod,” he said. “I’m willing to adjust to the popular taste of the audience. Dahil gusto kong ma-reach ang audience ko kaya ako nagsusulat.”

He culled most of his ideas from real-life experiences; some from his imagination. “The ideas in terms of the situation, characters, and images are mostly from outside influences and the environment. Then the inside which is the emotion.”

Length of time

In his early years as a scriptwriter, Ricky could finish a script in a month’s time (the longer script took three months at the most). Now he can finish a script in one or two days.

For instance, the script of the movie Mapusok (starred by Rosanna Roces) was written for two days. As well as Malikot na Mundo (1997) and Sinner or Saint (1984). “I wrote Sinner or Saint in the airplane while going home from Brazil. Pagbaba ko ng airport, may script na ako,” shared Ricky.

The film Andrea by Superstar Nora Aunor was written in less than seven days. The longest material he wrote was Moral. “Hanggang nag shooting na nag-revise pa ako. Nagdidikta ako ng lines kay Marilou over the phone,” said Ricky, “because we wanted to find the best way of telling the story.”

Yet, it was the most fulfilling movie for Ricky.

Working with the best directors

His first year in the industry was a big advantage for Ricky because it was during this period that he got the chance to work with the local cinema’s best directors.

Nakatrabaho ko agad sina Ishmael Bernal, Mike De Leon, Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Mel Chionglo, Lino Brocka, para akong nag workshop ng todo,” he said.

When he was working with Marilou he learned a different technique. “Expand. Push. When you develop the characters huwag kang nakakahon. Let’s go unstructured. Most of my works with her are mostly on women, like the trilogy of Brutal, Moral, and Karnal. We clicked because she’s a woman. Hindi ko kailanman ma-approximate ‘yong mga alam niyang nuances, malinaw sa kanya ang pagkababae.”

With Ismael Bernal, he learned how to go “classical and structured.”

Meanwhile, Mike De Leon was very conscious of details.

Whereas, Lino Brocka was grounded in one kind of social and political philosophy. “Laging malinaw iyon kay Lino. That’s very reassuring kasi alam mo ang direction,” he said.

Working with dexterous directors (with different approaches) has stretched Ricky’s creative side to the most. From 1979 up to now, Ricky is full-time in the movies. There may be ups and downs in his career, but there will always be people around who will pull him back from leaving the industry.

Nowadays, half of his time is spent writing scripts; the other half he devotes to writing literature, journalism, and theatre. And of course, teaching.

“I will never stop teaching even if it’s difficult to teach because I’m always grounded with reality,” he explained. “Kung puro showbiz ako, lulutang ako, maaaburido ka, o mababaliw ka kasi ang daming humihila sa iyo sa iba’t ibang sides. Mawawalan ka ng perspective.

Working with the stars

Among the stars he has worked with, he particularly cherished the times when he became close with Nora Aunor. He first worked with Nora in Himala. But they became good friends while they were doing Andrea.

“Kasi trabahong kaibigan talaga ‘yon. We’re still friends up to now, but not as close as before,” he disclosed. Ricky related that he’s not really close with celebrities. He keeps a distance from them as much as possible.

Turbulent childhood

Ricky’s turbulent childhood has taught him to face life’s challenges and to excel in one’s talent.  He endured many hardships in his struggle to become the country’s multi-awarded scriptwriter.

Courtesy: Mell T. Navarro FB

He typifies the rags-to-riches story. He was born into immigrant families originally from Fujian, China, and was raised in Daet, Bicol. He had a desolate childhood after his parents died when he was still young. He grew up under the care of a relative.

He excelled in school both in Daet and UP. His college days were something for the books. He experienced hunger and loneliness and was jailed one year during Martial Law for his student activism.

He didn’t resent his past. Rather, he became selfless. He uses his life experiences, his struggles, his idealism, and intelligence to create over 70 screenplays that have stimulated many Filipino moviegoers. For those pieces of work, he earned more than 30 (and counting) trophies from all the award-giving bodies in the local movie industry.

Because of his upbringing, Ricky related that he became a very shy person. However, he got over his shyness when he entered show business. “I was extremely shy because my father was also extremely shy. We hardly talked. But he loved me. I was very sure of that,” he intimated.

Behind his reserved manner are his witty punchlines. “Defense ko ‘yon para hindi nila ako tingnan sa likod,” he said. “I’m very trusting, but deep inside I’m afraid to trust people. Kasi ilang beses na akong nauntog.”

As a child, he was wont to read almost everything.  “Ang feeling ko noon parang inaarmasan ko ang sarili ko. So I accumulated a lot of knowledge. Basa ako nang basa ng libro since I was seven years old.” But he always wanted to become a writer.

When he was in his fourth year of high school in Daet Chung Hua High School, he wanted to run away from home but there was no chance. He had no money.

“Then I read an ad from Free Press (Filipino) that they would accept the short story. Pinadala ko ‘yong story ko (entitled ‘Mayon’) and it was accepted. Every week, binabantayan kong lumabas ang story ko. Finally, when I saw my byline, na reaffirm ‘yong pag-alis ko sa Bicol. I was paid Php50 for my story. That was the happiest time for me as a writer. Then I came to Manila.”

Ricky said that he experienced the most personal growth during his Bicol and UP years. “Those were the happiest years of my life. And also the starvation years for me,” he said.

As scriptwriter-director Bibeth Orteza said, “Ricky Lee is a remembrance of all that makes the idea of writing romantic: a lonely childhood, collegiate years without money to spend, a term in jail even. And then an enviable body of work.”

By Ruby Asoy-Lebajo

(Based on the feature article published in the old Mirror Weekly magazine by the same author)

#RickyLee #scriptwriter #fictionist #teacher #upcloseandpersonal #exclusiveinterview #rubyspreciousmoments #rubyasoyph

Featured photo courtesy of Shandii Bacolod FB