People of My Year 2015

My sixth year of creating this list. 

But unlike in the past where I mostly honored the people in my circle, for 2015, I created a different list to pay tribute to the extraordinary people I admired and whom I was in great awe for the most part of 2015.

I hardly know them (except for Pope Francis because he is the head of the Catholic church I belonged) but I drew inspiration and motivation from their awesomeness, providing me enough reasons to be grateful about life, to smile despite the roller coaster ride of struggle and to look back at 2015 as the year of discovery, learning and amazement. Each of them possessed admiring qualities that set them apart from the rest of the people I stumbled in the news or saw on TV.


He brought lights to every room he entered. Indeed, the Holy Father is a man of compassion.

He is a man of deep humility and love, and his message of mercy touches the tenet of Christianity, that benevolence is the most basic embodiment of a Christian life.

His modest lifestyle and effort to maintain a poor church raised eyebrows from critics. As Head of the State of Vatican, his role tied with perks, privileges and luxury but he made sure early on that he wanted to emulate the life of St. Francis of Assisi whom he attributed his regnal name. St. Francis was a rich man but he gave up his wealth to serve the poor and the church, he thoroughly became the great reformer of the Catholic church.

The Roman Pontiff shun luxury and chose to live in a simple quarter shared with visiting priests instead of taking residence at the luxurious Papal palace. He also declined to wear the red velvet Prada shoes traditionally worn by Popes (a decision he shared with Pope John Paul II who also refused to wear the same shoes during his tenure in the Papacy) because it signifies luxury. He also installed shower rooms within the Vatican wall for the homeless.

His first priority during the first year of his reign was to bring back the trust and respect by Catholic believers to the church marred by controversies. He exhausted effort to reform the Roman Curia haunted by corruption issues and began investigating the allegations of abuses committed by priests and bishops.

The pope is also known for his concern toward the environment and often heard urging world leaders to work together for environmental causes. His social encyclical about Climate Change was so influential it paved the way for powerful government leaders to come together and craft a committed goal to fight the hazardous effect of the global warming, ultimately framing a doable agreement during the COP21 in Paris, France.

He had visited the Philippines in January 2015 and it was a heartwarming experience. I attended the Papal Mass on January 18, 2015 at the Luneta, shoving against the sea of people and sprinting over the barricades just to reach the Quirino grandstand. Luckily, I emerged unscathed from the horde of people. It was a moment of personal healing, tears, joy and celebration, motivating me even more to establish a stronger relationship with my faith and with God.


Those who are following my Royal Blog are aware that the Queen’s husband is my favorite British royal. I like his strong character, his ability to handle criticism and his devotion to his role as prince consort.

Critics would claim that the Duke of Edinburgh lacks refinement because of his sharp tongue. He has been known of dishing off-beat comments in public. His humor often rankled the liberals and the conservatives and misinterpreted his outspokenness as invasive bordering arrogance. 

For them, he is a bit of a character, but for me he is the amazing Duke of Edinburgh who spent his life protecting the reign of his wife from scandals and controversies. I like his openness and sense of humor, it makes him more totally connected with the modern world.

He never flinched. He stroke back like a thunderbolt when confronted. In an effort to become a productive prince consort, Prince Philip has taken his role to the extreme beyond wave, smile and nod, thus, often touted as the hardest working British royal.

His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh is not your ordinary man. He was born a royal prince, HRH Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark and was sixth in line of succession to the Greek throne when he was forced to relinquish his royal title to marry the then Princess Elizabeth.

A grandson of a King (George I of Greece), a great great grandson of a Queen (Victoria of England), a great great great grandson of an Emperor (Nicholas I of Russia), Philip is more royal than the Queen. He is also a decorated war veteran (a navy officer at the outbreak of World War II), a staunch defender of the firm (the royal family’s term for the British monarchy) and the longest serving British prince consort in history.

He is the last true-blooded European prince to marry into the British royal family (coincidentally, the last true-blooded European princess to marry into the British royal family was his first cousin, Princess Marina, the wife of Queen Elizabeth II’s uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent). Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth are third cousins through Queen Victoria and second cousins once removed through King Christian IX of Denmark. Most royal families in Europe are their cousins through the intermarriages of Queen Victoria and King Christian IX's children.

In 2015, he had taken more public engagements than the outsider, Kate Middleton, endearing him more to the royalists. At 94, Prince Philip is still sprightly active, mentally and physically able, gracing official events, attending ceremonial functions expected from the prince consort and taking official tours with the Queen. Despite his age and some health issues, the prince showed no signs of slowing down. Long live Prince Philip!


One afternoon, while watching Real Talk (CNN Philippines), I saw him seated as one of the guests. At first I thought he was a foreigner, sort of a Latino cutie, because he looked like one of those Mexican hot boys I saw in Latin soap operas. 

As minutes progressed, I changed my mind and concluded he could be a Greek businessman promoting some ventures in the country. He was dapper in his suit and the contour of his face resembled a Balkan hunk.

But he spoke with an American twang and in some instances, looked like the younger version of Wolverine, a.k.a Hugh Jackman. So I finally stopped guessing his nationality. Then Gizelle Sanchez teased him if he could speak Tagalog. Duh! He is after all, a Filipino (laugh!).

He smiled. And it felt like the Southern Hemisphere had tilted to an alarming angle! It was like “My God he’s so charming!”, he flashed a wide grin, I mean that glinting boyish smile I rarely noticed in dapper men. The last time I appreciated that kind of shimmering chuckle was when I saw James Franco twirled in the building in Spiderman and landed in front of MJ flashing his breathtaking smile.

Then things got so utterly awesome. He discussed issues/topics closest to my heart – awareness on farming, organic living and health and wellness advocacy. As a nature lover and a green environment advocate, green living is something I always take seriously. I rarely eat meat. I prefer whole grain products than any other food varieties.

And he is a mushroom farmer! 

With the exemption of Prince Charles, the future King of England, himself an environmentalist, I have not heard anyone in Marco’s caliber (gorgeous, privilege, rich, highly cultured, always on the go) expressed so much interest in farming, it seems men in the modern world care nothing but urban living and gadgets. Hearing a glamorous guy taking interest in farming and the country living crusade is absolutely awe-inspiring!!

Coincidentally, I love mushroom since I was a child. My father, an environmentalist, never used MSG when cooking food, so we consumed mushroom a lot, because, just like seaweed and tomato, mushroom has a natural component that enhances food taste. When I was still working in Davao, I cooked mushroom concoctions every weekend.

I was so intrigued and enthralled that right after watching Real Talk, I began googling him, my God, so silly! haha! I discovered that, well aside from having a girlfriend, he has a TV show, Green Minds, on Lifestyle TV every Sunday night. Terrific! Unfortunately, I couldn’t watch it because I am so poor and our TV is still medieval. I’m finding ways now how to catch up with the past episodes, still contemplating if youtube is the best option J

I admired Marco not only because he is smart, charming and irresistible but because he’s a man who has a big heart for the environment. I like his advocacy. I always admired people who express so much concern and protection about the mother earth, the significance of green living, health and wellness and who take extra mile doing important causes for humanity.  So rare in today's generation of  sophisticated men! Godbless you Marco!


Bea is one athlete that is so loaded with tons of charm and cuteness. This gorgeous Ateneo Lady Eagle is not only pretty and a beauty queen material but also a powerful hitter in the volleyball court.

In a sport like volleyball where physical toughness is required and where women are not supposed to act like ladies but expected to dive, leap, spin, gallop, lurch, shove here and there, break cartilages and do other daredevil stunts over the net, it is very rare to see female volleyball players maintained an aura of prettiness while the match is broiling. But Bea is an exemption, she still exudes loveliness  even during the crucial game. I often dubbed her as a cutie Korean doll, like other Ateneo Lady Eagle, the charming Maddie Madayag.

One of my wishes is really to meet both Bea and Alyssa and have a sweet conversation over food. Someday, I hope the orbit of our world will finally collide. And due to my fascination toward this stunning hitter, I named my heroine in the suspense book, The Red Star Tattoo, after her. I already sent queries to literary agents who could possibly represent my work to a publisher and hopefully I can receive a positive feedback one of these days. 

Bea De Leon is a rising star of volleyball in the country and, granting her skills and devotion to the v-ball sports, I am confident she could reach the pinnacle of her career as a volleyball player. Her star continues to shine and will be at its brightest comes the UAAP season 78 WV. Can’t wait! 

Click here for More about Bea


The phenomenal volleyball player in the Philippines! No doubt about it. Alyssa, the current team captain of the Ateneo Lady Eagles, raised the bar and elevated the popularity of volleyball in a country dominated by basketball. Her mastery as an outside hitter is almost in no-match as of the present time.

She is always a breather and a game changer. During game 1 of the finals of the Shakey’s V-League season 12 Reinforced Conference, Alyssa surprised everyone by showing in the second set.

Her presence was very crucial for the Ultera. Down by two sets and struggling in third set, the team’s hope to seize game 1 was bleak. But Alyssa became explosive, in a nail-biting fashion and a skill unique only to her, she displayed a heart-stopping performance that sealed her fate as the country’s phenomenal volleyball player.

Hurling three powerful attacks and two aces, she crawled the set to a stretch, forcing Army to flinch, thereby giving PLDT a chance to snatch game 1, and it happened! It was so astounding I left quivering in my chair! She went on with her monstrous kills until game 2, awarding her the MVP of the finals. Alyssa is so awesome!! And before I forgot, I also honored Alyssa in my book, The Red Star Tattoo, by naming one of the characters after her.

Trivia: The only love team that can really make me go back to my teenage days is KiefLy :-D Every time I see them (Kiefer and Alyssa) together it feels as though the world is made of love, and romance is everywhere. I can't stop giggling. :-P


For a major beauty tilt like Miss Universe where judges seemed looking for something that’s not visible to the viewers, winning the crown sounded like taking an adventure to the moon.

In 1999, I thought Miriam Quiambao could finally end the drought, but Miss Botswana was announced as the winner. I was flabbergasted. Why on earth she won? (don’t criticize me :-P), she gave a confusing answer and her gown was outmoded. 

In 2012, I was thoroughly convinced that the Miss Universe organizers detested the Philippines. Janine Tugonon was better than that Olivia Culpo, at least in my senses, she displayed wit, charm and grace and she wore a fabulous evening gown and yet she was only first runner up. Strange! It was as if something was happening somewhere.

Fast forward, December 2015. Another moment, another hope for the country. But when the jurors were introduced and showed Olivia Culpo as one of them, I was skeptic (Holy cow! Steve Harvey appeared so gallant and responsible I never imagined he would do such an epic announcement). She had surely read the angry comments thrown by those who were disappointed in 2012 and I thought she would strike back at Pia.

Then the final three! After scrutinizing their composure, charm and wit. I predicted that Pia would be in a close fight with Miss USA for the crown. Olivia Jordan exuded charm and acuity and although Pia was a picture of loveliness and her final answer was the best among the three, I was afraid that the judges would throw their sympathy to the home delegate, thereby, repeating the 2012 disaster.

Honestly, I ditched Miss Colombia out of the equation. Her stage presence was not remarkable (Miss Australia was even better) and the English translation of her final answer was not earth-shaking.

When Miss USA was announced as second runner-up, I thought “finally after 42 years!”. But history always has its own way of spewing disaster, and Steve Harvey became the instrument. When he announced that Pia was the first-runner up I was stunned, wondering if the judges were taking a catnap while the three finalists sashayed on stage and gave their final answers.

I turned off the TV while Miss Colombia had her moment, waving, smiling and tossing a flying kiss to the audience. I took a bath, had my lunch, opened my laptop and started working on my book. By 1:00 PM, I was perhaps the only human being in the world who did not know that somewhere in Las Vegas, a monumental gaffe had just taken place.  

I flipped my phone and opened my FB to check if the planet earth shared my frustration over the Miss Universe unbelievable result. But the first image I saw was Pia wearing the crown haha! I was like "hello! what's going on?". But it was Christmas season and everyone should be in a joyous mood. I recovered quickly from the jolt and shared the happiness felt by the entire nation over Pia's victory. 

Despite the historic blunder, I never heard Pia criticized the host or Miss Colombia. She handled the tension with grace and politeness and had not seen sulking in annoyance for denying her the moment of thrill. Indeed, an epitome of class and decorum. 

I am also in awe with her resilience and ability to make things happen, such a strong-willed woman. She thoroughly inspired me not to give up on dreamsHurray! Congratulations Pia and thank you for the motivation.

How about you? Do you have a list of people that left an interesting mark in your life in a particular year? Please share your thoughts.

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