Filipino from Dumaguete wins top illustrator award

By Lydia V. Solis
Chief Correspondent, Southern California

LOS ANGELES – Asher Ben Alpay, 27, a concept artist based in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, won the illustrator award at the Annual 33rd L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards in Science Fiction and Fantasy on April 2, at the historic Wilshire Ebell Theater here.
Presented by the Author Services, Inc. and Galaxy Press’s Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contest, the awards show opened with Fire Fan Dancers from EMCirque, the Hollywood and Las Vegas based Circus and Entertainment Production Company.
Cash prizes and trophies were handed out to the winners at a stage “bedecked with visually stunning medieval set predominated by a pre-historic period dragon with blinking red eyes and smoke emanating from his enlarged ferocious nostrils.” He was surrounded by a castle with towers, a mote, and dazzling damsels.
Asher wasn’t able to attend the Medieval Fantasy formal event where a Knight in Shining Armor presented envelopes to award presenters and a miniature dragon dropped from the ceiling to deliver winning envelops to judges. Asher only participated via video; however, “he will receive his prize, just the same,” according to publicist Steve Moyer.
Asher’s initial submissions were Assassination, Art of Asher, and Demon Queen.
“The last one I sent is included in a book that is being published now,” he explained. “That one was the final part of the contest. The first three were my entries to be eligible to move into the next stage of the contest.”
Our illustrious illustrator, the 4th quarter winner, sketched “The Long Dizzy Down,” in a story by writer Ziporah Hildebrandt of Shutesbury, MA, the 4th quarter winner. It’ll be included in the book, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Volume 33, which is available for purchase from Amazon.com, Books-A-Million (BAM.com), BN.com (Barnes & Noble) or Galaxy Press.com.
“The story is about the distant future where humans and intelligent machines can communicate telepathically,” offered Asher. “As a huge fan of science fiction the story is really intriguing and intense. It really stirred up my imagination.” He added that he reads a story about 10 times before he even starts sketching.
The 33rd Annual L. Ron Hubbard Achievement Awards celebrated winners of the Writers and Illustrators contest, honoring 12 writers and 12 illustrators from around the world for their excellence in the genres of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Awards for each of the Quarterly Finalists of the Writers and Illustrators Contests were presented by actors Marisol Nichols and Jim Meskimen.
Twenty-seven world renowned Science Fiction and Fantasy writer and illustrator judges picked one grand prize writer winner and one grand prize illustrator winner from the field of 12 quarterly writer winners and 12 quarterly illustrator winners. And the grand prize ‘Dreamers and Dragons’ winners are writer Jake Marley from Garden Grove, CA, and illustrator Michael Michera from Pabianice, Poland.
Following the 1982 release of his internationally acclaimed bestselling science fiction novel, “Battlefield Earth,” written in celebration of 50 years as a professional writer, L. Ron Hubbard created the Writers of the Future Contest in 1983, to provide a means for aspiring writers of speculative fiction to get that much-needed break. Due to the success of the Writing Contest, the companion Illustrators of the Future Contest was created in 1988. Submissions for the Writer and Illustrator contests over the years have come from 186 countries.
Asher could be the first Filipino and Southeast Asian to win the illustrator award.
Alpay was born in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, which he describes as a “small and mountainous town in the Philippines.”
Interviewed via Email, he said that his father was his first inspiration when it comes to art. “At a very young age,” he stated, “I was already exposed to the acrylic paintings, charcoal and ink illustrations used by my father. (He proudly mentioned that some of his father’s works are in a museum in Escalante City, Negros Occidental.) “I have been drawn (to art) ever since my hands could hold a pen or pencil,” he continued. “I stopped drawing in college and after I left school, for practical reasons, I went back to working as a graphic designer and eventually made my way back doing art. I’m a self-taught artist in the field of digital art. The social media – through forums, articles, art blogs and websites – has helped me push my craft and imagination one step further and I gained a bit of recognition in the online community.”
Asher continues doing what he loves. He works fulltime as a freelance artist and designer for private companies and clients.
“I’m always in search of new accomplishments and experiences,” he concluded.

63-year-old grandma graduates from elementary with daughter, grandson

A 63-year-old grandmother just proved that age should not be a hurdle for anyone who wants to learn.
A report on Unang Balita on Tuesday said that Selina Sungguran graduated on April 7 from the Guigang Elementary School in Zaiyan, Zamboanga del Norte, along with her daughter and grandson.
Despite her age, "Nanay Selina" would walk 3 kilometers everyday just to go to school. She said she hopes to become a teacher one day.

— Marlly Rome Bondoc/GMA News

Rent a boat with buddies: Budget tips for beach trips

One perk of living in the Philippines is having countless beaches to visit. When you think about it, it shouldn't cost that much to hang out at a beach. All you need is your swimwear, some food and drinks, and a place to sleep.
Despite that, beach trips can end up quite expensive. Here are five ways to avoid overspending:
1. Travel with a group

Renting a boat costs less when there are more of you in a group. Photos: Carmela G. Lapeña
Unless your plan is to have some alone time, traveling with a group is a good idea. You can save a lot when it comes to fees for lodging or transportation.
For instance, the fee to rent a boat is the same whether you're alone or with others.
Having travel buddies means you won't need to talk to strangers who might want to split a boat with you. On second thought, that's not such a bad thing. If you're traveling alone, making new friends is one way you can save some money.
2. Rent a place
If you follow the first tip, renting a place is one of the most important things when it comes to saving money. Resorts almost always cost more, because you're paying for the convenience. But do you really need someone to make your bed for you?
A few years ago, we rented an entire house in Pangasinan for P3,000. There were 10 of us, so we really got to save. Renting a place is also a great idea for large groups, so you don't have to worry about bothering or being bothered by other groups. You could also camp on the beach—that will definitely help with saving money.
The other expensive thing about resorts is you usually won't be allowed to bring your own food or drinks, so you'll have to keep buying food from the restaurant. This, too, can be expensive. Which brings us to the third tip.
3. Cook your own food

Baon food that won't spoil easily, like adobo, and head to the local market to pick up quick and easy meals, like dried fish.
Preparing meals is one of the best parts of a beach trip. Everyone pitches in, and that somehow makes the food extra delicious.
For your first meal, it helps to have food that was cooked before the trip. People are usually hungry after a trip, and having to prepare a meal when you're already hungry can lead to a lot of grumpiness.
I know. You're thinking you should just eat out, but that will immediately put a dent in your budget. Make something that won't spoil easily—adobo is always a hit, and if you make more than enough, the leftovers can become your first breakfast. For vegetarians, bring lots of fruit and bread to snack on. This will keep you going until you go to the market, which is a must for keeping your expenses low.
Going to the market is how you'll save money and learn about the place you're at, as well. It's always interesting to see what kinds of fish and vegetables they have, and if you ask, you can learn some new recipes. When you go to the market, you can get enough food for the entire trip for the amount you might spend on one meal at a restaurant.
4. Bring your own things
If you're feeling lazy to pack things, just think of how much you'll end up spending for your last-minute toiletries. Sure, you can buy these items at the beach or at a stopover, but they're way more expensive than normal.
Apart from soap, shampoo, and toothpaste, other often-forgotten items to bring include charcoal, ice, drinking water, chips, dishwashing soap, cooking oil, spices, and even salt (although salt is not expensive at the market). If you plan on drinking, bringing a cooler is also a good idea.
5. Do your research

Beachfront accommodations can save you time and money.

The choices may be overwhelming, but it really helps to do a lot of research before you go on a trip. Winging it might be exciting, but not so exciting for your wallet. Find out what your options are—are there beachfront cottages? It might seem more expensive, but it could be worth it since you won't need to travel from your place to the beach.
What other activities are you planning? Hiking is usually very affordable, but Jet-skiing and parasailing are not. See if you can find group packages, but also do the math because some group packages aren't actually cheaper than normal rates. Making a table to compare can be helpful, and you can also refer to it for future trips.
The best way to make sure you save on a beach trip is to always ask yourself, is there a way I can spend less? Remember, beach trips are fun, and they're more fun when they're not expensive. — BM, GMA News

Fans excited to see Coldplay's Manila concert

Tonight is the night.
Local celebrities and fans took to social media to share their excitement to watch the Manila concert of British rock band Coldplay at the Mall of Asia Arena open grounds.
Host-actress Anne Curtis posted a photo of her “A Head Full of Dreams” ticket on Instagram and shared how Coldplay’s songs played important parts in her life.
“Soooooo excited. Coldplays music has played such a big role in my life. Like, I can’t even explain it. Fix You was my song to myself during a low point of heartbreak. I cried when I heard them play it LIVE for the first time back in 2011 at Splendour in the grass. A Rush of Blood to the Head was and still is my fave album,” Curtis wrote in the caption.

“Hoping they play a mix of new and old songs!!! Songs I can super relate to until now are The Scientist, Warning Sign, Magic, In My Place, Clocks, Swallowed in the Sea, Amsterdam, The Hardest Part, A Sky Full of Stars, Everglow, Viva La Vida and Something Just Like This!!! Ok. Mej madami. So ready to sing my heart out!!!!!” she said.

Known Coldplay fan Maine Mendoza also could not contain her excitement upon the arrival of frontman Chris Martin in the country. On Twitter, Mendoza wrote: “OH MY GADDDDDD” and “TODAY. IS. THE. DAY.”

Dance duo Ella Cruz and Julian Trono on Instagram said they will watch the concert together. An excited Dani Barretto on Monday said she has been listening to Coldplay’s music all day.
As of writing, the hashtag #ColdplayManila is the second top trending topic on Twitter Philippines.
The concert, which sold 35,000 tickets, is expected to be the biggest live event in the country this year. Here’s what other fans have to say.


The majestic gathering of warrior tribes, bonding in search for peace and prosperity was more than a fitting backdrop for visiting President Duterte’s call for friendship with China. Last Saturday’s Kaamulan festival in mountainous Bukidnon province also showcased the enduring indigenous culture that thrived in pre-Islamic and pre-Spanish times as depicted in extensive street dancing, culminating in a day-long presentation by some 5,000 performers.

Over a hundred thousand people, many travelled from afar, filled the sprawling Capitol Grounds of Malaybalay City to witness the spellbinding dances of at least eleven contingents of 500 each.

The rituals dramatized themes of war and reconciliation; conflagration and recovery; peace, brotherhood, friendship, courtship, harvest and thanksgiving.

“Kaamulan is unique in that it is a kaleidoscope of the rich and colorful culture of our ancestors that people, foreigners and Filipinos alike, came to see… All is not lost, as cultural festivals like this help preserve our identity as a people,” said Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, also a Mindanao native herself.

The only authentic ethnic festival in the country features the cultures of seven distinct tribes in central Mindanao, namely Bukidnon, Higaunon, Talaandig, Manobo, Matigsalug, Tigwahanon and Umayamnon.

She said the hand-woven garments, elaborate headdress, and handcrafted warrior gears, planting tools, as well as the intricate musical instruments show the Filipino ancestors sophistication and high degree of civilization.

Teo arrived with the President, along with special guest Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua, on the invitation of Bukidnon Governor Jose Maria Zubiri, Jr.

“Quite a number of local families, in coordination with the DOT and the provincial tourism office, opened their homes to visitors for an overnight stay. This is genuine Filipino hospitality at its best,” said Teo.

The DOT head said Duterte’s acceptance of China’s offer of friendship reflects the essence of Kaamulan where tribal leaders forged peace pacts and trade relations. “I want friendship... In fact, we are brothers,” declared Duterte, admitting feeling a strong kinship with the Chinese, whom history attests had never committed any atrocity against Filipinos.

Duterte and Zhao led the groundbreaking of a P1 billion drug rehabilitation facility in Malaybalay which is funded by a Chinese group Friends of Filipinos. Beijing pledges to encourage at least two million Chinese visitors to the Philippines this year.

2017 ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation


Asean, China back cooperation program

MANILA— A new era in international tourism looms as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China reaffirmed full commitment and support for the 2017 ASEAN-China Year of Tourism Cooperation program during its launching attended by Chinese officials at the Philippine International Convention Center on Thursday night.

The leader of host country The Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, hailed the “reawakening of an age-old kinship” with China that dates back to pre-Spanish barter trade and tourism.

“Through regional cooperation and diplomacy tourism, the goals to increase visitor arrivals, promote cultural exchanges, generate more livelihood for local people, improve infrastructure, and diversify investment in tourism activities can be achieved between ASEAN and China,” said Duterte in a message read by Philippine Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.

Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang, who heads the portfolios of Agriculture, Water Resources, Commerce and Tourism, delivered a message from Chinese President Xi Jinping who lauded the friendly ASEAN neighbours for neutrality in regional affairs and sharing the geography through tourism cooperation.

“China accepts such stance as a sign of mutual respect, opportunity for development, and affirmation for global peace and prosperity,” Duterte said.

“The current world situation is reconciliatory. Through tourism cooperation, ASEAN and China can do great and good things together like our situation in the Philippines where we are prioritizing sustainable and inclusive tourism. With booming travel between ASEAN and China, our cooperation will bring nations and peoples closer together,” Duterte said.

The ASEAN-China Tourism Cooperation is an initiative that seeks to enhance the partnership of China with the ten ASEAN member-countries, including the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Having been designated this year’s host of ASEAN Summit on rotation basis among the ten member-states, the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) coordinated with the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA) for this week’s meetings.

At Thursday’s opening ceremonies, spectacular cultural performances were staged by the CNTA including a song number, called “Travelling Around the World” by a Chinese songstress and an all-male kung fu demonstration called “Kungfu Revelations-9 Scrolls”.

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