Saturday, February 20, 2010

Retired exec offers escape from the city

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon

Posted date: February 20, 2010

PAGSANJAN, Laguna – Far from the corporate world that he used to rule, Mars Aaron, 59, now enjoys sharing the joy of living a simple rural life through his agri-eco village and farm resort here.

Instead of a formal suit and black leather shoes, he now often wears plain shirts, jeans and boots while enjoying the serenity of the place.

Aaron is a retired chief executive officer of Unilever Philippines’ subsidiary Unilever Best Foods before he developed an 11-hectare land that he bought from his mother-in-law in 1997, which he later named Villa Socorro, after his wife.

“I was just seeking for a place where I would retire, a place where I would age,” he says.

Aaron adds that when he bought the land, he was thinking of some activities that would keep him busy after retirement.

The time he bought the 11-hectare land, he and his friends started planting a number of trees already, even the full-blast development had not started yet.

In 2004, he focused on developing the piece of land since that year signaled his retirement from work. At the age of 54, he became a budding entrepreneur.

Escape from the city

Villa Socorro agro-eco village and farm resort offers a relaxing escape from the busy metropolis.

Located at the foot of Sierra Madre and adjacent to Banalac River, Villa Socorro promises lush vegetation and ranch-style accommodation.

Guests are allowed to pick the fruits and vegetables in season, and have them for their meals, says Aaron.

The couple takes pride in the brand of hospitality they offer to their guests.

“This may not be the business I am familiar with when I was just starting, but rest assured that guests get the treatment they deserve. We consider each guest as a family guest.”

“When there are guests coming here, we personally entertain them as much as we can,” Aaron says, citing the same reason they do not accept walk-in clients.

They also encourage their children to meet the guests staying at Villa Socorro.

He says: “We want to give the best to our clients by preparing for their stay here.”

Villa Socorro has eight cottages and a pavilion, and eyes expansion in the coming years. Each of the cottage is named after local vegetables like “sitaw’’ (string beans) and “kalabasa’’ (squash).

The place is ideal for camping, team-building activities, trekking or any form of bonding.

“Our guests can have a different kind of bonding here. We want them to be closer with nature,” Aaron says.

Instead of the usual team-building activities, he suggests rafting and jungle survival training to their guests.

The agro-eco village and farm resort can accommodate up to 50 people at a time.

Aaron chose not to develop the other parts of the 11-hectare property. “I want nature to grow things on its own.”

Helping the community

When Typhoon “Milenyo” hit Laguna in 2006, the trees Aaron nurtured for almost a decade fell. Instead of wallowing in despair, he decided to turn the fallen trees into pieces of furniture.

He asked some residents in the village to help him transform the fallen trees into pieces of furniture, which he later used for his agri-eco village and farm resort.

In return, the residents living near his place had income.

“It’s interesting how this farm resort managed to help the residents here. From time to time, we provide the community some sources of income so they could do something worthwhile,” Aaron relates.

After the furniture venture, Aaron, with his wife, came up with another activity that engages some more residents living near their place.

“We have planted hundreds of banana trees here, so we thought of producing banana chips while employing some local residents,” he says.

Villa Socorro’s banana chips manufacturing venture is helping an average of 10 people, aside from the other workers that the couple hire from time to time.

“We also hire additional people if there are guests coming here. It’s our own way of helping the community,” Aaron says.

He considers this business venture as a rural immersion and corporate social responsibility program.

Villa Socorro is located in Barangay (village) Dingin, Pagsanjan, Laguna. Call 852-6484 and 0917-6282139 for inquiries.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bets told: Follow posting guides

Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: February 14, 2010

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – The municipal election officer has reminded national and local candidates to respect the designated poster areas and follow guidelines on posting of campaign materials.

Randy Banzuela said his office had identified eight key areas where candidates are allowed to post posters and tarpaulins.

Most of these areas are along the national highway.

This is in accordance with the directive of the regional office of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to identify common poster areas, Banzuela said.

“We are calling on the candidates to post at the designated areas only. Otherwise, we will be forced to dismantle the campaign materials,” he said.

Banzuela also said the allowable size of campaign materials is only two by three feet. However, some local candidates, even before the official campaign period begins, have already posted propaganda materials in the town, some exceeding the allowable size.

The official campaign period for local candidates starts on March 26.

Huge tarpaulins of local candidates are already displayed, most of which give hints about the position they are seeking.

There are six mayoral candidates in Los Baños. Most of them have already started posting publicity materials.

Banzuela urged residents to attend the automatic polls demonstration on February 19 and 23 at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Lopez Elementary School. Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Arroyo, Villar in Calamba: Coincidence, say execs

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:54:00 02/10/2010

Filed Under: Manny Villar, Eleksyon 2010, Elections

CALAMBA CITY—Amid speculation that the Arroyo administration has thrown its support to the Nacionalista Party, NP standard-bearer Manuel Villar and President Macapagal-Arroyo were in this Laguna city, about five hours apart, at the start of the campaign period for national positions on Tuesday.

Villar, running mate Loren Legarda and NP senatorial candidates were here for their proclamation rally.

Ms Arroyo was also here on the same day to launch her “Education for All” legacy campaign.

The President came past 9 a.m. and left about an hour later. The wannabe was to preside over his proclamation rally at 3 p.m.

Ms Arroyo made herself absent in the proclamation rally of her official candidate for president, Gilbert Teodoro.


Palace and NP officials, however, brushed aside the coincidence as simply that—coincidence.

Agnes Frogoso, head of the team that handles NP schedules, said in a phone interview she wasn’t aware that Ms Arroyo would also be here.

She said Villar’s party had a separate itinerary. Villar’s group went to the city market and St. John the Baptist Church before proceeding to the city plaza for the rally.

Villar was earlier quoted as saying NP chose this city as rally venue because it was the birthplace of national hero Jose Rizal and “the cradle of heroes is always the best springboard of change.”

Calamba City is also vote-rich with a voting population of 189,046.

Gloria agenda

Palace officials said they were also unaware of the NP rally.
“We have no idea (about NP’s sortie),” said Saul Pa-a, of the Malacañang Media Accreditation and Relations Office, in a separate phone interview.

Ms Arroyo visited Real Elementary School in Barangay Real and discussed Executive Order No. 685 that directed the Department of Education and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to include five-year olds in day care curricula nationwide.

The ‘Education for All’ agenda, according to Ms Arroyo, seeks to make early childhood development part of mainstream education. With Ms Arroyo was Education Secretary Jesli Lapus.

Education funds

Lapus said the national government took care of P1.6 billion in expenses of public schools that used to be shouldered by local government units and local parent-teachers associations.

Ms Arroyo said the government hired 60,000 more teachers, while P1.5 billion was already allotted for training public school teachers.

“A good education is key to a better life, the great equalizer that allows every young Filipino a chance to realize their dreams,” she said. Clarice Colting-Pulumbarit, Maricar Cinco and Karen Lapitan, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Arroyo visits Calamba, gives talk on ‘Education for All’

By Karen Lapitan
Inquirer Southern Luzon
First Posted 16:11:00 02/09/2010

Filed Under: Education, Schools, Children

CALAMBA CITY, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday morning visited Real Elementary School in Barangay Real here to discuss the pre-school and early childhood care and development curriculum program.

Arroyo discussed Executive Order No. 685, which has expanded the scope of pre-school coverage to include five-year-old children enrolled among day care centers across the country.

The executive order, signed on 2008, was in line with Section 2 of Republic Act 8980, which mainly institutionalized the Early Childhood Care and Development Act.

Arroyo said EO 685 has been part of her administration's efforts to promote zero drop-out rates and avoid repetition of toddlers when they reach the primary grades.

Accompanying Arroyo was Department of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus who enumerated government projects on education.

According to Lapus, the government now operates about 13, 000 pre-schools, 400 of which are for the disabled.

“We have also downloaded P1.6 billion for the expenses of public schools that used to be shouldered by LGUs (local government units) and PTAs (Parent-Teachers Assciations).”

In exchange for the benefits and incentives provided by the national governnment, parents were expected to send their children to school, Lapus said.

Meanwhile, Arroyo said the government was able to hire 60,000 additional teachers while P1.5 billion was already allotted to the training of public school teachers.

The ‘Education for All’ agenda, according to Arroyo, mainly seeks to mainstream early childhood development in basic education.

“Ang magandang edukasyon ay susi sa mas magandang buhay, (a good education is key to a better life) the great equalizer that allows every young Filipino a chance to realize their dreams,” she said.

EO 685 was based on findings and studies showing that pre-school experience plays a crucial factor in the performance of Grade 1 students under the formal school system.

Arroyo stressed, “our children are our most cherished possession. In their early years, we must make sure they get a healthy start in life.”

During her speech, she clarified that public school students should not be obliged to wear their school uniforms if the costs for uniforms have been discouraging them from attending classes.

To complement the pre-school program, Arroyo also discussed her Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Stop-gap Subsidies for Filipino Families) where families of poor students are given cash as subsidy.

Arroyo also observed classes on early childhood care and development curriculum.

She left at around 10:20 a.m. for the inspection of the South Luzon Expressway.

Simultaneous with the visit, some 30 members of the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance)-Southern Tagalog, staged a short demonstration also in Barangay Real.