Every place has a colour. A predominant colour. It hits you the moment you step out of the airport.

For LA, it’s grey. For Singapore, it’s green. For Kerala, brownish-red. For Santorini, white and blue.

Cebu is a place with a myriad of colours. But instinctively, I’d say it’s blue. And “blue places” often find a highway to my heart, together with Autumn reds and oranges, and graded shades of green.

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But beyond the shades of blue, I discovered a rainbow kaleidoscope of colours that exploded in broad smiles, big hearts and techni-colour flip flops!

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I flew up to Mactan Island in Cebu with my boys last week for Project Happy Feet‘s first-ever “Resort Edition” of the PHF Slipper Race. And I wasn’t quite prepared for the rowdy enthusiasm and passion of the Cebuano people on race day!

We gathered at the ballroom of the Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan (the race organiser) at 3pm for a briefing and I was blown away by the colours. The teams of five had designed and customised their own race t-shirts, and I could tell they put in a lot of effort into doing this!

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Because Cebu had never had a PHF Slipper Race before, and because they have the distinction of being the first to organise a “Resort Edition”, they worked with no rules or restrictions regarding creativity! I think even my friends from Project Happy Feet, Terence Quek and Lin Kuek (who have planned several Slipper Races in Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City) were pleasantly surprised and moved. We all were!

Terence from PHF being interviewed by ABS-CBN, the Philippines largest news network.

Terence being interviewed by ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest news network.

How cute are these

While the “traditional” PHF Slipper Race is about walking 3km to 5km in flip flops, the folks at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan added some local spice by introducing game stations along the 5km route. These pit-stops featured traditional Filipino games like Sipa, Shatong, Bato Lata etc.

Sipa - like "chatek" but using slippers to keep the feathers in the air!

Sipa – like “chatek” but using slippers to keep the feathers in the air! Usually it’s with hands.

Walking on coconut husks. Harder than heels!

Walking on coconut husks. Harder than heels!

Shatong! Using a long stick to hit a small stick from Pt A to B.

Shatong! Using a long stick to hit a small stick from Pt A to B.

Bato Lata - using your slippers (usually stones) to knock down the can!

Bato Lata – using your slippers (usually stones) to knock down a can!

Shooting baskets from 3 angles. Challenging for small people!

Basketball – Shooting from 3 angles. Challenging for little people!

But beyond all the fun and laughter, this Slipper Race is for a good cause. 100% of the funds raised through registration fees go to the beneficiary, Bantay Bata 163. I blogged about them in my previous entry – you can find out more about them here.

The highlight for me was meeting with the Programme Director of Bantay Bata 163, Ms Tina Monzon-Palma. Apart from heading this non-profit organisation, she is a prominent news anchor with ABS-CBN (the Philippines’ largest news network), anchoring the nightly news show, The World Tonight, and hosting Talkback with Tina Monzon-Palma, a weekly current affairs programme.

Ms Tina Monzon-Palma, Program Director of Bantay Bala 163.

Ms Tina Monzon-Palma, Programme Director of Bantay Bata 163.

Tina had flown in specially from Manila that morning for our lunch meeting and the PHF Slipper Race. What impressed me most about her was how much knowledge and understanding she had of the plight of underprivileged children, not just in the Philippines but also in other parts of Southeast Asia. I suppose that’s to be expected of a veteran journalist and anchorwoman.

The Singapore PHF team with Ms Tina Monzon-Palma  at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan.

The Singapore PHF team with Ms Tina Monzon-Palma at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan.

In fact, she has attended many international meetings with global humanitarian organisations, on behalf of Bantay Bata 163, and has opened her doors to NGOs from other countries to learn from them. In particular, she shared about fundraising efforts, alleviation of poverty in the rural villages, empowering families with micro-finanching schemes, and providing opportunities for underprivileged children and youths through education and scholarship programmes.

In particular, we asked her lots of questions about the Bantay Edukasyon Scholarship Program which we are supporting through this PHF Slipper Race. From the funds raised, we aim to support 11 children in the surrounding islands of Cebu, and put them through school.

Two of the beneficiaries of the scholarship program we are supporting

Two of the beneficiaries of the scholarship programme we are supporting.

We met two of the young people we’re sponsoring under the scholarship programme. They sat rather quietly throughout the briefing, I think a little overwhelmed by the flurry of activity and high energy in the room! *LOL* But they were respectful and polite college-aged kids on the brink of entering vocational training, in the hope that they can use their sponsored education to be independent and to support their families.

I could finally put faces to the tireless work of BB 163 and PHF, and that was heartwarming.

As race organiser, Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan did a fabulous job getting sponsors for everything – one of the stipulations of PHF races. Check out the scale of their endeavour!

Each race pack has a pair of flip flops, all sponsored.

Each race pack has a pair of flip flops, all sponsored.

Post-race party at the Crimson Resort beach.

Post-race party at the Crimson Resort beach.

Sponsored prizes... Havaianas slippers!

Sponsored prizes – Havaianas!

A whiff of BBQ meats filled the air!

A whiff of BBQ meats!

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As the day drew to a close and the sun dipped below the horizon, the team at Crimson Resort & Spa Mactan and Project Happy Feet presented a cheque to Bantay Bata 163. What a privilege to have been a part of this – especially with my boys!

James (GM, Crimson) and Terence presenting the cheque to Tina Monzon-Palma.

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And so, Cebu turned out to be more than just the colour blue for me. It was a prism of pretty colours!

That night, against a navy blue sky, I saw a full moon rise from the horizon to take its place in the sky – the first time I’d ever seen such a phenomenon. It made me realise that it’s not just the sun that rises. The moon can too.

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I’ve always believed that from poverty and hardship, goodness and kindness always arises from somewhere. Sometimes from the most unexpected places.

And that day in Cebu, I saw it.

*The next PHF Slipper Race happens on 31 Aug 2013 in Singapore. Look out for details, here

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