Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Christmas trees for charity

Two nights in a row now, I’ve gone to dinner or cocktails and then spent the rest of the night on the floor of the Dusit Thani Manila hotel lobby, going home just as the sun was rising and then going straight to work. All for charity.

All this effort is for Dusit Thani Manila's Christmas Tree project, which is a friendly Christmas tree competition between 12 families in Manila, with the winners receiving money for the charity of their choice. But frankly, everyone is already a winner. Each tree is beautiful and we all had such fun doing it. What a great bonding experience to be tying ribbons and Christmas balls together on the floor of the Dusit at 3 AM. Many of us certainly felt like family afterwards.

And last night, the Dusit Thani Manila unveiled the Christmas tree project with a big party that brought all 12 families together in a big jumble of family, kids and friends. The highlight of the evening, aside from the 12 beautiful trees that all displayed ingenuity and creativity, was a very lively song and dance number by over 150 hotel personnel that simply filled the cavernous lobby with joy and music. I don't think such a number, performed by staff in the lobby and from the mezzanine floor, has ever been done in the Philippines by a hotel before.

Travelife Magazine is one of the entities/ families/ individuals participating in the Dusit Thani Manila’s Christmas Tree Project – a very good project that entails having 12 families create a Christmas tree with a family theme, and then having the general public vote on the trees. The theme for this year is Family Christmas and the winner receives a cash prize of P200K, and this will go to a charity of the winner’s choice. The second place will receive P100K and the third place will receive P50K, but everything goes to the charity.

One of our guests tonight was Filipina Bond girl Rachel Grant, fresh off the plane from the UK this morning.


Our tree is of course about travel, and it’s very apt as many of my childhood memories of Christmas are about traveling with my family. We would go to exotic places for unforgettable adventures.

This tree is also in memory of my father who passed away last January. We had some sudden personnel changes at that exact moment that he was very sick, and I was forced to work on the magazine instead of spending more of his last moments with him. I’ll never forget those circumstances and the pain that caused; and every time I think about it makes me teary-eyed.


Travelife Magazine has risen by incredible leaps and bounds in the months since then, because of the wonderful team we now have in place. My father has certainly been looking after me from heaven by giving me great people to work with this year, and the results have been just amazing.So my Christmas tree at Dusit is dedicated to him. And the charity I’ve chosen, in case we do win one of the prizes is the Alay sa Kawal Foundation, which is a foundation my mother started in gratitude after my father survived an ambush in Cagayan Valley. He had been with an entire platoon of soldiers and several award-winning photographers, and none of them had survived except him. Survive is relative as well – because he was practically dying in a Cagayan hospital from hundreds of shrapnel wounds when some well-meaning parties sent in a private plane that airlifted him to Manila in a matter of hours.


Miraculously, and after months of rehabilitation, he emerged almost unscathed from this ambush. And this is when my mother started the Alay Sa Kawal Foundation – to raise funds for families of soldiers who have died in the service of the nation. So many of them are paid so little and so many of them have died in combat, so it’s a real difficulty for their families to lose the main breadwinner, meager as that income has been. Alay Sa Kawal has helped many of these families by sending the children to school, helping with hospital bills or providing funds for emergencies.

My father spent most of his life in the service of the nation. And I don’t mean the kind of service that involved sitting in some comfortable office attending conferences and making executive decisions, but the kind of service wherein he risked his life everyday in real combat situations.

He was often away from home, as a result, but at Christmas he did manage to come home for a family holiday somewhere. I would like to pay tribute to his life and his service, and to the wonderful childhood memories he gave me for a never-ending Travelife.



at the Dusit Thani Manila

to vote for
the Travelife Christmas tree


From tomorrow, November 16, LIKE the Dusit Thani Manila Facebook Page. All the Christmas trees in this friendly competition will be uploaded by November 16. Then click LIKE on the photo of your choice. We hope you’ll like the Travelife Christmas Tree!

to vote for
the Travelife Christmas tree


Guests who use any of the Dusit Thani Manila’s services will receive one ballot box for every P500 spent. Guests can vote for their favorite tree and place their ballots in the ballot box right next to the giant Christmas tree in the lobby.

to vote for
the Travelife Christmas tree


Travelife Magazine's
Oct-Nov 2011 Issue


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