Organization data point at strong potential of forest sector

ROME — Global production of all major wood products grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2015, while trade in wood products decreased slightly, according to new data published by Food and Agriculture Organization last December 16.

The increase was mainly boosted by the continuous economic growth in Asia, a recovering housing market in North America and scaling up of the bioenergy targets.

In 2015, growth in the production volume of wood products ranged from between one to eight percent, according to the FAO data.

At the same time, global trade value in primary wood and paper products shrank slightly from $267 billion in 2014 to $236 billion in 2015 due to lower prices for wood products.

Production of forest products has been healthiest in Asia-Pacific and North America due to a growing housing market.MORE

Happy feet

HOW do I describe 2016? It was generous, exciting and exhausting. The last may seem a surprising addition but it “came with the territory,” so to speak—and I’m not complaining.

Off the bucket list is Kyoto. The photo of geisha’s walking the streets of the city was on my vision board for years, so was the Jidai Matsuri festival and the autumn season in Japan. I got to tick off three items from my bucket list.

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Five days in the city was too short with a heavy concentration of Unesco World Heritage Sites, but good enough to know that I should revisit the city.

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In Kyoto, stay at the New Gingkaku Inn. It’s affordable and very conveniently located a few steps away from the Kyoto station. The train station is a depot for buses for the city’s tourist attractions.

The few remaining days in Japan allowed me to visit another new place, Karuizawa in Nagano, to chase the autumn leaves (I came too early in the season to catch the red and gold foliage).

In Tokyo, I was able to visit a few more sites I missed on my previous visit.

Perhaps, the best lesson Japan has taught me was to maximize the Japan Rail Pass. It doesn’t come cheap so the more bullet train rides to faraway destinations you can do so. Short, quick visits to places are not just my kind of thing though. Do I compromise?

Taipei may not be on my list but PAL’s seat sale was too hard to resist.

Once under the Japanese rule, the Chinese city still has the vibe of Japan—clean, safe, commuter friendly and inexpensive. The city is vibrant and a foodie’s haunt. Taipei is worth a revisit.MORE

Jerusalem and Jordan: memories to last a lifetime (conclusion)

JERUSALEM, with its history of war and peace, love and hate, destruction and resurrection, is one of the most intriguing cities in the world. Its enthralling story dates back to the time before Jesus but for a non-historian like me, its significance lies in the fact that Jerusalem was where Jesus preached and performed miracles, was condemned and crucified, died and was buried, and then resurrected and ascended into heaven.

The Jerusalem interlude during our eight-day trip to the Holy Land touched me the most. It was an experience I will long remember. We started out at Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven 40 days after his resurrection. From our perch in front of the Chapel of Dominus Flevit (the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem), we could see a stirring view of the ancient and modern Jerusalem veiled by the light of a setting sun. Then there was the nearby Garden of Gethsemane where age-old olive trees with gnarled trunks (said to be the silent witnesses of Jesus’ agony in the garden) still stand.

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There were days during our pilgrimage when we felt melancholic and pensive. This feeling came intensely so as we re-traced the footsteps of Jesus on his way to Calvary from the Ecce Homo where Pontius Pilate washed his hands.

It was at the Flagellation site that we began taking turns carrying the cross, four of us at a time, passing through the different stations of the cross until we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. There was a crowd lining up to go to the altar of the crucifixion.

We couldn’t help but stare intently at the image of the crucified Christ pondering on the happenings on that Black Friday more than 2000 years ago. Then there was the annointing stone where the body of Jesus was prepared for burial which we kissed.

What moved us most was touching, kissing and kneeling before the cold tomb of Jesus inside the dimly-lit chamber of the Holy Sepulcher. It made us teary.MORE

Philippines eyes opening of OFW Bank in Saudi Arabia next year

THE Duterte administration is set to open a bank partly owned by the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) by the third quarter of next year, with an authorized capital of P3 billion, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Tuesday.

While the requirements and procedures to establish the OFW Bank are still being completed, the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) will set up by September a representative office in Saudi Arabia to cater to the banking needs of some 800,000 Filipino workers based in the Middle Eastern country, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said.

He said the OFW Bank will be established through the LandBank’s acquisition of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank, which will be converted into a LandBank subsidiary that will be owned 30 percent by OFWs.

“The acquisition of the Postal Bank will be completed by the third quarter of 2017, after all required procedures are completed and approvals are secured. The LandBank has sufficient resources to complete this transaction,” said Dominguez, who chairs the LandBank board of directors.

As of September 30 this year, the LandBank ranked as the country’s 4th largest commercial bank with a total capital of P90.9 billion and assets amounting to P1.3 trillion.

A bank dedicated to the needs of OFWs is one of the promises of President Rodrigo Duterte to Filipino migrant workers.MORE

Hanabishi Christmas for OFWs

YULETIDE season typically connotes annual Christmas parties and holiday gift shopping. But for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), the season means returning to the homeland to spend quality time with loved ones they haven’t seen for a long time. Sometimes, they’re lucky to book a flight home; but oftentimes, despite their best efforts, circumstances force them to spend yet another Christmas away from their families. Thankfully, OFWs can share the Christmas spirit with their loved ones, wherever they are: they can rely on Hanabishi products to make Christmas preparations easier and more memorable when they are spending Christmas here — or they can easily purchase Hanabishi products online, and send these to their loved ones as an early Christmas present if they can’t make it home this year.

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Not even distance can stop OFWs from sharing the Christmas love to their families now. Thanks to the new Hanabishi e-commerce store, they can finally buy Hanabishi appliances, which make excellent holiday gifts, online. OFWs can never go wrong with purchasing Hanabishi Refrigerator HASREF 70S and Turbo Broiler HTB 130, which promise to make mommy’s Noche Buena preps easier this year. That way, even if OFWs can’t be physically present at the Noche Buena this year, at least they can still be there in spirit.MORE

OFW Bank to open in 2017

TIGHTER competition looms in the Philippine banking industry as the national government announced its efforts to pursue the creation of an “OFW Bank.”

Cebu Bankers Club immediate past president Maximo Rey Eleccion said while it is still premature to weigh its effects on the banking industry, he said private commercial banks have a huge advantage in terms of their network.

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“We cannot say for now but it will be very difficult to compete with us, existing commercial banks, because we already have the network. (We already have in place) correspondent banks and remittance tie-ups that we built throughout the years of our operations,” Eleccion told Sun.Star Cebu.

However, should the OFW Bank come out to be aggressive in its expansion, the local banker sees this affecting privately-owned commercial banks.

“If they really go big (and) establish remittance centers where OFWs are concentrated, they would certainly affect us,” added Eleccion.MORE

Fil-Am beauty, a wushu champ

FILIPINO-American Nhaya Mahal Paden was introduced to martial arts in the United States of America at age 11, giving her a strong foundation to excel in combat sports.

Paden, a 14-year-old member of King’s Sword Martial Arts under the supervision of Nell Jone Astudillo, recently won a gold medal in girls 52 kilogram category of the recent Batang Pinoy 2016 National Championships in Pasig City.

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Because of the exceptional effort she showed during the recent nationals, the Fil-Am wushu athlete was invited for a three-month trial training with the Wushu Federation of the Philippines National Team.

“I will continue my training, and hopefully compete in next year’s Batang Pinoy,” Paden said in a Facebook chat with SunStar Davao.

Paden added that she will fly to Manila for the training next summer but she wishes to finish High School first so she could focus on her training.

Paden is on her 9th Grade at the Faith International Academy in Davao.

She was born at the Cocoa Beach in Florida, USA, but her family has been coming back to the Philippines as her parents Gilmer and Julie Paden are both missionaries.

Her father Gilmer, a Filipino, is working at the Christ Fellowship Church as a missions and evangelism pastor.MORE

Israel: Where Jesus spent his time on earth

OR us Christians, the story of Jesus is “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” As narrated in the New Testament, his life on earth was dedicated to the salvation of mankind.

During my childhood years, I loved best the Christmas story… of the God-child born in a manger… of the angels announcing the birth of the Savior to the shepherds… of the three kings guided by a star bringing gifts to the Holy Child… The entire narrative appealed to my young mind like a fairy tale.

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Fast forward to my school years at St. Theresa’s College… The story of Jesus took on a more profound meaning and I found myself getting more and more fascinated by the gospel stories. However never did it enter my mind to go to these places mentioned in the Bible. I never thought I would get the chance to visit the different settings of the riveting and timeless tale of Jesus’ life on earth.

My first trip to Israel was in 2012 and that first visit awakened in me the desire to further explore the place Jesus called home. I promised to be back one day.

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The opportunity came when Korean Airlines (through its super sales executive Ann Momongan) organized a trip to Tel Aviv (one of its new destinations) for its top travel agents. Cherry Lynn Callelero of Grand Holidays coordinated with Meteor Phils. Inc. (represented by Ligaya Tabirao and Mai Ibay Hasan) for an eight-day tour arranged by Israel’s Eternity Travel. We were a total of 4 pilgrims on the trip with Fr. Joseph Yntig of Mandaue’s Gethsemane Parish as accompanying chaplain.

Excitement was in the air as we set forth for our very first destination during the pilgrimage – Yardenit by the River Jordan for the reenactment of baptism where we dipped our feet in the river waters. So thrilling for us because we envisioned the baptism of Jesus by his cousin, John the Baptist in these very same waters. It brought to mind the dove (the Holy Spirit) descending on his head and the voice of God the Father heard saying, “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am pleased.”MORE

Eight great things to do this Christmas

Here are common great things that people do and some should do during this season:

1. Feed the homeless. We see a lot of people with no homes in the streets. Bring or share a meal with them.

2. Visit the prison. The people deprived of their liberty will spend their Christmas in jail. Give them your time. Talk to them. Listen.

3. Be kinder to your colleagues. Celebrate together. Exchange gifts. We love our manito or manita. MORE

Staying strong for Christmas away from home

ROSITA Morrell, a 69-year-old resident of Monte Maria Village, Catalunan Grande in Davao City and a mother of four children, hasn’t seen home since she left in 2013 to work abroad.

Morrell is currently working as a caregiver at a home for the aged in Fresno, California.

At her age, Morrell already has nine grandchildren and one great-grandson.

It’s been a long time since she experienced the Christmas in the Philippines as well as celebrating the season beside her loved ones.

Morrell said Christmas in the Philippines is really different from where she is right now.

“I missed everyone, and I miss home,” She said.
Despite of her age, Morrell still managed to endure a heavy work since she is a vegetable lover and a health conscious person.essensa1_

She loves organic food and her favorite meal is mixed vegetable soup or what they called in Davao “law-uy”.

Apart from her family, she misses the food in the Philippines, most probably the spinach and the morringga leaves where she used to pick up at her backyard in Davao.<a href=”http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/lifestyle/2016/12/19/staying-strong-christmas-away-home-515850″ target=”_blank”>MORE</a>

Get to know Asia Pacific’s queens

THE long wait is over because after almost a decade, new queens have been hailed for Miss Asia Pacific International. The newly crowned queens were tasked with the goal of promoting the beauty and diversity of each of their countries. As the first leg of its journey, the beautiful winners graced the Queen City of the South with their presence to learn about its culture, people and appreciate its cuisine.

The competition having been founded in the year 1968 is the first and oldest beauty pageant in Asia. But in 2006, the competition came to a halt. Having just recently been rejuvenated, the competition is now seeing a stronger future after having chosen the beautiful mix of faces to represent it and forward its advocacy for the year 2017.

The grand relaunch was held last Nov. 23. During the event, Miss Netherlands Tessa Helena Le Conge was crowned as Miss Asia Pacific International 2016 and also bagged the award for Miss Friendship. Miss Thailand Chawanya Thanomwong won first runner-up and was hailed Best in Swimsuit. Miss Philippines Ganiel Akrisha Krishnan won second runner-up, while Miss Cook Islands Felicia George was hailed as third runner-up and bagged the awards for Miss Photogenic and Best in Talent. Miss Korea Soyeon Kim came in fourth and was also chosen as Miss Sheridan Beach Resort and Spa. Only four of the winners were able to visit Cebu as Krishnan had to attend her thesis defense.

Miss Peru Ana Lucia Leiva won the People’s Choice Award.<a href=”http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/lifestyle/2016/12/18/get-know-asia-pacifics-queens-515759″ target=”_blank”>MORE</a>

Kochi Prefecture, a must-visit destination in Japan

HAVING stayed in Shikoku Island, particularly Kochi Prefecture, for two weeks has given me the opportunity to explore the wonders of this business and leisure destination in Japan.

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Shikoku is the smallest and least populated among the four main islands of Japan. It has four prefectures: Ehime, Kagawa, Kochi and Tokushima.

Despite its size, which is said to be at 18,800 square kilometers only, there is so much to enjoy in the area.(MORE )

SunStar streams live Simbang Gabi 2016

SUNSTAR website, at www.sunstar.com.ph, will once again broadcast live this year’s Simbang Gabi, a nine-day series of dawn masses in preparation for Christmas, from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral in Cebu City.

Filipinos in the Philippines and those outside the country can watch the live streaming from December 16 to 24 at 4:30 a.m.

There will also be simultaneous live streaming of 4 a.m. masses in some churches in Cebu, including Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Parish Church of El Pardo, Cebu City (December 16 and 19); St. Joseph The Worker Parish Church in Tabunok, Talisay City (December 17 and 23); Our Lady of the Rule Parish Church in B.M. Dimataga St., Lapu-Lapu City (December 20, 21 and 22); Sta. Teresa de Avila Parish in Talisay City (December 18); and Don Bosco Formation Center in Talisay City (December 24). (MORE)

Ibuki: an exquisite taste of Japan in Taiwan

JAPAN was on the travel list. It was the next destination after Taiwan. I was in Taipei but even before I set foot on Japanese soil, I was already feasting on its cuisine in a most delectable way at Ibuki, Shangri-La’s Far Eastern Plaza Hotel’s Japanese restaurant.

“And this is Ibuki, our Japanese restaurant,” said Carloyn Lee, the hotel’s communications manager, to end the tour of the hotel, “This is where we are having a Teppanyaki lunch.”

“Ibuki by Takagi Kazuo is Taiwan’s first Japanese restaurant to operate in concordance with Michelin standards. The restaurant follows and practices the culinary concepts of Consultant Chef Takagi Kazuo, the owner and head chef of Takagi in Japan, a restaurant that has earned two Michelin stars since 2010, when the first Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, and Nara version of the Michelin Guide was published.”

The chef specializes in Kyoto cuisine, thus Ibuki prides itself with “exquisite Kyoto cuisine with a Michelin-starred approach” and leading the culinary team in Taiwan is the former sous chef of Takagi, Kudo Masakazu.

JAPAN. The third course was this - prawn with all its parts cooked to be enjoyed. (Jinggoy I. Salvador)
JAPAN. The third course was this – prawn with all its parts cooked to be enjoyed. (Jinggoy I. Salvador)

Kyoto cuisine, Teppanyaki, Sushi, and Tempura are four styles of authentic Japanese cuisine that the restaurant places emphasis on to allow diners to enjoy a wide variety of delicacies prepared with a modern Kyoto touch.

The cuisine Ibuki promises may be first-rate but the restaurant is relaxed and the atmosphere, casual. It’s a place where an entire family can enjoy good food and good company.(MORE)