Singing sensation Darren Espanto’s homecoming concert a major success

The Voice Kids Philippines’ first runner-up and Calgary’s pride Darren Espanto at the Grey Eagle Hotel in Calgary.
The Voice Kids Philippines’ first runner-up and Calgary’s pride Darren Espanto at the Grey Eagle Hotel in Calgary.

Calgary’s pride and The Voice Kids Philippines’ first runner-up Darren Espanto came back to his hometown with a sold out one-night concert at the Grey Eagle hotel.

Darrenatics from all over Alberta and neighbouring provinces came to watch their young idol perform after being away from Canada for many months. He went back to the Philippines to compete in the first-ever The Voice Kids Philippines, where he shot to fame worldwide with his impressive song and dance performances.

As a crowd favourite, Espanto captivated the hearts of Filipinos. He started his path to musical stardom when he became one of the finalists in YTV’s The Next Star singing contest last year.

Sherrill Ang, a member of the Darrenatics Fans Club of Saskatoon has been waiting to watch her idol perform live in Canada.

“Of course, ina-admire namin siya sa sobrang humility, kindness and of course, super talented,” she says. “We love you, Darren.”

Espanto’s fellow Calgarians were happy to see him finally have a concert in Calgary.

“Simula pa noong nandito si Darren sa Calgary, sa Northeast, nakikita ko na sa C-Train iyan, kaya ng simula ng pumunta sa Pilipinas iyan, at sumali sa Voice
Philippines, talagang idol ko na iyan simula’t sapol,” says Allan Bryan Mendros. “Kaya Darren, nandito ako para sa iyo.”

Although Espanto was under the weather, he still gave his all and thrilled the crowd by singing the songs he sang in The Voice Kids like Domino, One Moment in Time and Ngayon.

Espanto says his stint at The Voice was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and he
learned a lot of things from the contest.

“The experience I had on The Voice was amazing kasi po not everyone could have the same experience that I did and not every 13-year-old boy, actually po,” Espanto says.

Espanto and his family are thankful for all the people who have supported him throughout the competition.

“I’d like to thank them po because their support is incredible, they’re amazing and ah, maraming maraming salamat po sa pag-believe sa kakayanan ko at talento ko po, maraming salamat po,” Espanto says.

Espanto’s proud dad says they could not be happier for their son.

“Naku, walang sawang pasasalamat po sa lahat ng sumuporta kay Darren,” dad Lyndon Espanto says. “Ever since iyung journey niya nag-start sa The Voice, he is so blessed na napakaraming tao talagang nagmahal at sumuporta despite hindi siya nanalo naipakita niya ang kakayanan niya, talento niya.”

R&B OPM music artist Jayar, Espanto’s special guest artist at his concert, only had praise for the young star.

“You know Darren is very impressive talaga,” Jay-ar says. “The first time I saw him singing talaga, sabi ko this kid is amazing. So you know our first guesting together, the first time I met him actually was at Kris TV in the morning at kumanta siya. Sabi ko, ‘Wow, ilang taon ka na ba?’ Thirteen lang pala tapos ganoon na kagaling kumanta. So you know, I’m very proud to be part of his homecoming show. I’m very proud of him. He’s the first Filipino to fill-up and to do a concert here at Grey Eagle and it’s sold out pa, 2,500 Filipinos ang nandito so it’s really good to see the support for Darren in his hometown.”

Knights of Columbus hosts Pacquaio fundraiser

Members of the Knights of Columbus watch as Manny Pacquiao took on  Chris Algieri at The Venetian in Macau, China.
Members of the Knights of Columbus watch as Manny Pacquiao took on Chris Algieri at The Venetian in Macau, China.

A group of Filipinos combined fun and fundraising while watching the people’s champion Manny Pacquiao again prove his dominance.

The all-Filipino Knights of Columbus Council 14746 San Lorenzo Ruiz Council of Calgary hosted the fundraiser at the Buffalo Wild Wings Macleod SW location.

Grand Knight Hardy del Castillo led the group for a feel-good night of pure boxing fun and entertainment.

“I sincerely thank those who still support the all-Filipino Council of the Knights of Columbus,” del Castillo says. “It only shows the great brother erhood of those who believe in this Council. Manny Pacquiao is an all-time favourite and the council supported this type of fundraising get together in the last four years.”

The night’s 6 p.m. ticket call was worth the wait for the awaited match of the year in Pacquiao’s career.

The boxing match that brought the entire Philippines to a halt was on November 22 when Pacquaio took on Chris Algieri at The Venetian in Macau, China.

Speed and strength were once again the key elements in Pacquiao’s punches that took Algieri to a defeated seat on the Welterweight division of the World Boxing Organization with the judges’ unanimous decision to retain Pacquiao’s
title belt on his waist.

Families of murdered victims ask for privacy


The families of five murder victims, killed at a small house party on April 15, are asking that information surrounding the deaths of their children remain under wraps until the man accused in their murder is on trial.

In a letter passed on to the media through the Calgary Police Services the parents of the murdered youths asked that the media stop pursuing a legal attempt to get more details about the case.

“We struggle to understand the benefit to the public of publicizing this information prior to a trial,” the letter reads. “We would suggest the details of this case are such that no one should want or need to hear [or] read about
them prior to them being presented in a court of law.

Our priority as we try and rebuild our lives is to protect the dignity of our lost children and try and prevent the re-victimization of the young people who were traumatized by the events of April 15, 2014. They continue to relive every detail of that night, and the last thing any of us need at this time is additional anguish and sorrow.”

Lawrence Hong, Kaitlin Perras, Jordan Segura, Joshua Hunter and Zackariah Rathwell were stabbed to death at a Brentwood house where they were celebrating the end of the post-secondary year.

Hong’s parents are immigrants from the Philippines who came to Canada in the 1990s. The Hongs have not spoken about their personal story and so far the five families have only spoken in public as a group.

Twenty two-year-old Matthew de Grood is charged with five counts of first-degree murder. He has been found fit to stand trial, but his mental state at the time of the murder is still in question.

Members of several Calgary media outlets have hired a lawyer to challenge a publication ban placed on psychological reports written about de Grood and are also requesting that the information police used to obtain a warrant be unsealed.

A decision on the media’s request has not yet been handed down.

Following is the letter sent out by the grieving families:

To Members of the Media:

We once again write to you as one voice; a group of devastated family members who have lost our children in an unimaginable way.

It’s been just seven months since we lost Joshua, Kaiti, Jordan, Lawrence and Zackariah, and while time is supposed to heal all wounds, our families and friends have yet to begin to mend.

Each and every day we relive what has happened, as do the several young people who witnessed many of the events that evening.

On Wednesday, November 26, 2014, a judge will rule whether the media’s request to unseal an information to obtain and warrants surrounding the most graphic details of the crime are granted. We can only hope our wish to have the information remain sealed until the trial is granted, however, we respect the decision of the courts in this matter.

Prior to the decision, we struggle to understand the benefit to the public of publicizing this information prior to a trial. We would suggest the details of this case are such that no one should want or need to hear [or] read about them prior to them being presented in a court of law.

Our priority as we try and rebuild our lives is to protect the dignity of our lost children and try and prevent the re-victimization of the young people who were traumatized by the events of April 15, 2014. They continue to relive every detail of that night, and the last thing any of us need at this time is additional anguish and sorrow.

The families are well aware of the important role the media plays in informing the public, including helping the Calgary Police Service appeal for witnesses and information pertaining to certain crimes. In this case, however, that assistance is not required and while we understand the details of the case will be made public at trial, we struggle with the need to obtain the information earlier.

We, the five families of the victims, oppose the release of the information and we ask for your sympathy and understanding at this time. Please, Calgary media, consider discontinuing your efforts to obtain these details.

We choose to celebrate how they lived, as opposed to glorify how they died. We implore you to do the same.

In the meantime, we are using our voice on social media to create awareness about our concerns. We feel we need to do this for our kids and their friends, and to protect the families that have been left behind.

Thank you for your consideration. We ask that you publicize this letter in its entirety.

Sincerely, The Hong family, The Perras family, The Rathwell family, The Segura family, The Hunter family.

Visayans brace for typhoon one year after Haiyan


Like a bad dream Visayans were again dealing with a potentially devastating typhoon a year after one of the most powerful typhoons wreaked havoc in the region.

People, many of whom still have not recovered from Typhoon Haiyan, were hunkered down awaiting the landfall of Typhoon Ruby December 6.

However, Ruby has not proved to be nearly as powerful as Haiyan, which knocked out power, flattened homes and killed more than 6,000 people.

On December 7 the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council released an update on the situation. At that time the only casualties were a one-year old child and 65-year old man from Iloilo who died of hypthermia.

A small number of roads were closed down because of flooding and landslides and widespread power outages were reported in Visayas, including in Tacloban and northern Samar.

Hundreds of thousands of people were affected by the typhoon, including those in the hardest hit city of Tacloban, where some people remain in temporary shelters and tents close to the sea.

However, most of the debris has been cleared away and homes have been repaired and rebuilt in many areas.

But with Typhoon Ruby continuing to pummel Visayas many people are praying that history does not repeat itself.

Calgarian Connie Bassana says she is frightened for her four children, six grandchildren and extended family and in-laws who live in Visayas and are still recovering from Typhoon Haiyan.

“It’s scary,” Bassana says.

She replaced the roof on her home in Roxas City, where her children live, but left smashed windows in the kitchen unrepaired because of the expense. Her son covered the openings with bamboo to try to keep out the expected 220 kilometre per hour winds coming from Typhoon Ruby.

Her other relatives who live in Jamul Awan Panay Capiz close to the sea are having an even harder time to recover from Typhoon Haiyan.

“My own family is less than 50 percent recovered,” she says, adding she has several family members who have moved into one house.

One of her brother-in-laws received 10,000 pesos to rebuild his home, which was totally destroyed.

Bassana says she just hopes her loved ones will not be starting all over again when Typhoon Ruby is finished.

“Life is so hard for them,” she laments.

Canadians were instrumental in helping out in her hometown, says Bassana.

“Canada stayed a long time in Roxas City,” she says. “There has been a lot of help.”

Canadian Red Cross program manager for early recovery Sylvie Zangger travelled to the Philippines twice since Haiyan hit and says she will be back in January or February to again assess the situation.

Red Cross workers have been closely watching the outcome of Typhoon Ruby as they continue to assist people recovering from Haiyan.

“We have two delegates there in the Philippines and we are preparing to respond to Ruby,” Zangger says.

Canadian Red Cross staff and volunteers have been on the ground helping in the early days after Typhoon Haiyan to restore essential services and now working on a long-term recovery and future preparation plans.

The Canadian contingency assisted the Orcon City hospital to get back on its feet by setting up a field hospital with tents in front of the medical centre, which had been 80 percent destroyed.

Working with the medical staff and Philippine Red Cross volunteers and staff they were able to put up tents in the front courtyard of the hospital. The emergency field hospital has since been handed over to the Philippines Red Cross to use in future disasters.

Now the Canadian Red Cross is halfway through a two-year recovery and future disaster preparation plan in the Philippines, Zangger says.

The plan includes providing shelter for those that need it, rebuilding public infrastructure like schools and health facilities and providing support to people trying to rebuild their livelihoods.

“So for example it could be providing seeds to farms or for fishermen boats,” Zangger explains.

To see a video about the emergency field hospital set up in Orcon City visit:

Stories of hope continue to emerge

Editorial cartoon by Mark Santos
Editorial cartoon by Mark Santos

Central Philippines was hit by the deadliest typhoon recorded in the country’s history. For a province already below the poverty line a tragedy like Haiyan was crippling, sending them to their knees. But after a year the dust has settled and victims has risen from the rubbles of the devastation, stories of inspiration and heroism continues to resonate.

Blog Social Story journals the story of Adel Siguan. She traveled 22 hours by boat to reach her eight-year-old son and bring him much needed drinking water after Typhoon Haiyan destroyed their small town in Guiuan, Philippines. Just before reuniting with her child, Siguan expressed the desperation she had felt before seeing him. The inspiring story of a mother’s love is strong.

World Vision shared inspiring stories of hope and resiliency of the people of Leyte. For more than nine months Renato and his daughter Donna Rose lived
with relatives. Like 1.1 million other Filipinos their home and all their belongings were destroyed by Haiyan. Two days after Donna Rose’s 11 birthday, father and daughter received the best gift they could have asked for, the keys to their new home. With the help of World Vision, construction is ongoing on 268 other homes for vulnerable families, which include single
mothers and the elderly.

Angel and Marinel’s house was blown away by Typhoon Haiyan. They spent the days afterwards surviving off of porridge and bananas. But even then, they exuded unwavering faith. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed more than 3,000 schools around the Philippines. In Angel and Marinel›s hometown, World Vision helped by initiating a cash-for-work program that employed locals clear debris from the school grounds, install windows and build a compost pit. The organization is also repairing 26 classrooms and constructing 59 classrooms in Leyte province.

Twenty-one year-old Emily Sagalis survived being swept away by a storm surge, days without food and hours of walking while in labor, before settling down in a makeshift medical center to give birth. The baby girl was named after Sagalis’ stillmissing mother Bea Joy and was delivered on a log right on top of debris. Her story is one the many that inspired the world in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Baby Bea Joy represented a new life for a lot of the victims of the typhoon.

Filipino-Albertans stood up to the call of times and showed a brilliant display of unity when they launched Operation Pagbangon. The campaign raised assistance and awareness of the devastation caused by the typhoon.
Different ethnicities and communities did not hesitate to help. Volunteers
from different walks of life came together. The group was able to raise more than $70,000 worth of donations.

This coming holidays we should let these stories remind us of the blessings we have. Our families, livelihoods, the home we live in and for every waking morning. Christmas is about giving and sharing. Let the Haiyan tragedy be a symbol of resiliency and hope as we face the upcoming challenges of the year to come.

Pagdiriwang ng pasko sa bawat kusina ng mga Pamilyang Pilipino


Ang Pasko sa bawat tahanang Pilipino ay ang pinakamasaya at makulay sa buong taon. Hindi mawawala ang mga traditional na pagkain gaya ng Bibingka, Hamon, Keso de bola, Puto Bumbong, Tsokolate, Kastanyas, Lechon, Morcon, Embutido at marami pang iba.

What every Filipino looks forward to is Noche Buena – a grand family dinner after midnight mass. Families and friends gather to share a delightful meal. They prepare their specialty food from the family Christmas recipe collections. Children do “mano,” which is bringing their forehead to the hand of an elderly person. We then have gift giving, singing and catching up with the clan.

Here are some of my family Christmas recipes that I personally prepare for the family. Maligayang Pasko at Mabuhay ang Pamilyang Pilipino. My late aunt taught me how to cook miki-miki (eggnoodle soup). I grew-up helping her by rolling dough and making the dish. Now I am imparting to my kids what I learned from my elders.

Miki-miki (eggnoodle soup)

Fresh pasta:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 2 mL salt
  • ½ tsp powdered atsuete
  1.  Mix flour, atsuete and salt together. Mound flour and make a well. Add the eggs.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into six pieces to make handling easier.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough. Feed through the widest setting of the pasta machine rollers until edges form smooth line.
  5. Set machine to the narrowest setting. Repeat running until finest setting is reached. Cut pasta into lengths up to 10 inches. Feed length through cutter.


  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 tbs powdered atsuete
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 200 grams sotaghon
  • fish sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Make a chicken stock. Boil the chicken with peppercorn,bay leaves, half piece carrot, half stalk of celery and onion. Let it boil for 30 to 45 minutes. Flake the chicken. Strain the chicken stock to be used for the soup.
  2. Heat oil. Add atsuete powder. Sauté garlic and onion. Add chicken. Then add the chicken broth. Let it simmer and add sotanghon, carrot and celery. Let it simmer. Then add the fresh pasta when dinner is ready to be served. Season with salt and pepper.

Rice bibinka is a popular  Christmas treat traditionally cooked by street vendors after the nine nights mass before Christmas. The cakes are cooked in banana leaves over hot coals.

Rice bibingka
Rice bibingka

But for us in Canada, we can still have this dish in the comfort of our homes by just baking and setting our oven to charbroil a few minutes before it is cooked to give an extra flavour and colour.

  • 2 cups rice flour
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 5 tbs butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • ½ cup 2% milk
  • 6 whole eggs
  • salted eggs
  • grated cheese
  • banana leaves
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine rice flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well.
  3. Melt butter, add whole eggs, coconut milk and 2% milk.
  4. Add the dry ingredients together. Mix well until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Arrange the pre-cut banana leaves on a cake pan.
  6. Pour the mixture on the pan.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes. Top with salted eggs and grated cheese.
  8. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

Christmas and New Year are not complete without pork hamonado. This dish is prepared like a typical ham, but it is not salty. It is marinated to enhance its flavour. It is sweetened with pineapple juice and glazed with pineapple chunks.

Pork Hamonado
Pork Hamonado
  • 1 piece pork butt
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 6 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tbs cinnamon powder
  • 6 pieces cinnamon cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a mixing bowl combine the lemon, pineapple juice, sugar, soy sauce, cinnamon powder, cinnamon cloves, salt and pepper.
  2. Rub the marinade well in the meat. Make sure that it is entirely covered with the mixture. Marinate in the fridge for two days.
  3. Drain the marinade from the pork and set aside.
  4. Heat the pan and sear the pork until it turns light brown on all sides.
  5. Add the reserved marinade and cook in the oven until done.
  6. Thicken the dripping and use to glaze the hamonado.
  7. Garnish with pineapple slices and pomegranate.

Puto bumbong (rice cakes in bamboo tubes) are usually seen outside churches after hearing Simbang gabi. It is best paired with salabat or hot tsokolate. This Filipino delicacy is topped with freshly grated coconut, maskuvado sugar and butter and wrapped in banana leaves.

  • 2 cups glutinous rice
  • 1 cup red rice or pirurutong
  • ¾ cup Jasmine rice
  1. Mix together the three kinds of rice. Rinse in cold water and soak overnight.
  2. Drain. Put in blender and add a little water to keep the blender running. Grind completely.
  3. Drain using cheese cloth for six hours. Transfer to a paper towel and form a ball until it is completely dry.
  4. Grate the mixture until it is powdery in texture. Now it is ready to put into the puto-bumbung maker.

Tsokolate beverage is the Filipino version of hot chocolate. It is made from pure chocolate tempered with milk and sugar. Manually whisk with a batidor until it is thick and frothy. This is best paired with our traditional Filipino desserts.

Christmas will never be complete without queso de bola (ball of cheese) coated with red wax. With its festive appearance; it is a favorite at Christmas time especially as part of our Noche Buena.

A heartfelt Christmas greetings


    With reverence and friendship, I’d like to extend my Christmas greetings to everyone. With the greeting comes the goodwill, hope and peace this world offers enveloped by Divine Providence. This greeting might be received with arched eyebrows, skepticism or a lackluster spirit by some and with warm welcome and faith for others. Nonetheless, I still believe in its wealth of meanings handed down to us in the Christian world 2,000 years ago.

    If we believe in return to the basics in our material needs, we can easily relate to the same principles – a return to the original intent and concept. This is very applicable in returning to the basic message of salvation by our Redeemer Jesus at Christmas. The grand design and plan of redemption was unfolded at this humble beginning. Even the entrance of Jesus on this earth was fraught with a myriad of meanings, foremost of which is poverty. It connotes not only poverty in material goods to the point of having enough to exist. It’s also poverty in spirit, unloading ourselves of the attitude of excesses, extravagance and bohemian pleasures. It’s thinking and acting on lightening the loads of physical and spiritual scarcity. In short, it’s sharing and rejoicing in the simple blessings of just enough.

    Tulutan po ninyo akong tumuloy sa inyong mga puso sa payak kong kalagayan upang batiin ko kayong lahat ng MALIGAYANG PASKO AT MASAGANANG BAGONG TAON. Tayo’y pinagbubuklod ng ating pagiging mga anak ng Diyos na may paggalang at pag-aalala sa bawa’t isa. Sana ay itimo natin sa ating mga puso at kalooban ang ating pagiging isa bilang komunidad. Ang KAPAYAPAAN ay sumainyong lahat!

    Babae carolling spreads Christmas goodwill and cheer

    Members of Babae: Council of Filipina-Canadian Women while carolling.
    Members of Babae: Council of Filipina-Canadian Women while carolling.

    Now on its second year, members of Babae: Council of Filipina-Canadian Women braved the sleet and snow to bring the magic of music to homes of kababayans and Canadian friends.

    Coordinators Tess Lim, Amy de Leon and Connie Abanilla say they do it to bring joy to others.

    “The spirit of our unique Philippine hospitality is alive and well. This is most evident with the festive spread of food, despite a request for simple snacks. Add to this the joyous welcome and joining in the singing in pure delight and fun.” this the joyous welcome and joining in the singing in
    pure delight and fun.”

    As an appreciation and to help the fundraising for Babae projects, generous hands are open. Many thanks and let’s combine community good with connectivity and friendships.


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