Happy Heart’s Day!


Extreme Adventure at Crown Regency Hotel, Cebu, Philippines

What pleasant surprises are in store for us today? Will it be a romantic dinner or an extreme adventure? Will there be mint chocolates or mushy notes? Will there be a creative blend of the 5 Love Languages?  Excitement is mounting! Continue reading

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Memories of Love


Mr. and Mrs. Jose Regala Banting

Thirty nine years ago today, my father and mother got married despite the odds. My maternal grandmother’s strong opposition posed a lot of obstacles to the romance between the handsome Kapampangan and the lovely Ilongga, but the trials only made their love stronger. Continue reading

Small Fruits, Big Smiles


How can something so simple make me smile this big?

One day, my husband surprised me and brought something that caught my fancy, a bowlful of local cherries! I ate it with gusto as if it were as expensive as grapes and as exotic as durian! He was so glad that it takes only such small fruits to elicit big smiles from me.While savoring each fruit, I made him realize that his bowlful of surprise is fondly associated with joyful childhood memories. That moment, I wished I can climb a tree and pick the fruits for myself. Continue reading

To The One I Admire The Most


Dearest Mama Nanie,

Sorry for making you cry on the first day of December.

The letter I wrote for your one true love has pierced your soul,

reminding you of the void in your heart and in our home.

Kaya gusto kong bumawi sa iyo ng bonggang bongga!

Today, I would like to make you smile.

Today, I want to hear you laugh.

Today, I want to tell you and the whole world how much I admire you.

I admire you because you have maintained your svelte figure.

We used to have the same waistline but now mine is almost double your figure!

I salute your discipline.

Mama, I may never be as slim and as fit as you are

but I will do my best to be slimmer and fitter

so I can bear your grandchildren in my womb.

You inspire me to be mindful of my physical well-being!

I admire you because you are full of courage and strength!

At 64, you continue to try new and exciting things.

You never cease to surprise me with your vigor and zest for life!

Each time you dare to get out of your comfort zone,

each time you take that step of faith – I am energized!

I admire you because you have so much to give.

You never get tired of reaching out to others and serving them in love.

You gladly release blessings to those who are in need.

You keep on praying and interceding for everyone.

I admire you not only because of what you are capable of giving,

but because of who you are becoming.

I admire you not only because of what you do,

but because of who you are.

We will have a Joyful Christmas.

That way, we honor the memory of Papa.

That way, we glorify God.

With much love and admiration

from the one you carried in your womb for 9 months

and the one you will carry in your heart forever,

Your Gigi

Of Stars and Beauty Queens


I was fresh out of college when Mama Nanie told me to accompany my cousin to an interview at Dole Philippines. I was supposed to be her coach and chaperon to the screening of  Mutya ng Dole 1993. I decided to dress up and look sharp, secretly planning to submit myself to the interview process. There were more than 50 ladies who showed up. I decided to give it a try, thinking that it would be a great avenue to enhance my ability to handle questions. I savored every moment believing that it was a chance of a lifetime.

A month after, Mama Nanie received a phone call about the interview results. Bad news: my cousin did not make it. Good news, she joyfully declared: I made it! I was shocked! All I wanted was to be interviewed by the managers, hoping that they will convince me to apply for a job instead of pursuing a slot in the pageant. Mama, sensing my apprehension, pushed me to go for it! Gipiyungan ko na lang gid kay palangga ko si Mama!

So there I was— Contestant #8. The smallest in the group. The odd girl in the midst of the 7 other contenders who were  titlists, beauty queens in their respective barangays and municipalities. Ang tapang ko!

And then the Big Night came. I walked in high heels. I moved like a pro. I swayed like a queen. I gained momentum for the Question and Answer Portion, my favorite part of the pageant. 17 years have passed but I will never forget how it was like…

Host    : Miss Banting, according to your bio-data, your favorite hobby is stargazing. Does it have anything to do with your height?

Joana : Stargazing as a hobby does not require any height requirement. All you need is a good pair of eyesight.

Host : What I mean is- don’t you wish upon the stars that you are a few inches taller?

Joana : Well, I don’t make my wishes and prayers known to the stars but to the One who made the stars. (At this point, the crowd was in uproar!I paused and I continued…) Besides, small is beautiful!

You saw me? Yes, I was THE smallest in my nursery class.

When the audience broke into a pandemonium after my answer, I felt like I was the tallest among the girls. Who would have thought that the girl whose nose was a laughing stock to her elementary classmates would end up joining a prestigious beauty pageant? Who would have thought that her perspective of beauty would be challenged? Who would have thought that she would end up as 1993 Mutya ng Dole 1st Runner-up?

Oo, ako yang nasa kaliwa na may clip sa buhok! I used to be insecure with my height and my nose. God engineered circumstances that challenged my concept of beauty.

Well, the Star Maker did! God, in his infinite grace and mercy, knew it from the start. His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts!  I will always be grateful to Him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, far above we could ever ask or imagine!

Aside from being 1st Runner-up, Joana was also awarded as Miss Friendship. She received a total cash prize of P18,000 (only P2,000 away from the cash prize received by the Mutya). Over and above the cash reward, she gained a valuable experience that she will cherish for the rest of her life. Thank you, Mama Nanie, for pushing me to get out of my comfort zone. Thank you, Lord, for making me secure in you.