Saturday, August 11, 2018

Shutter-happy moments with SweetEscape

“Shutter-happy moments with SweetEscape”
Sun.Star Davao, August 11, 2018

When traveling, we usually face this never-ending challenge of who will take our family photos.

Most often, we end up relying on the kindness of strangers; or bring a bulky tripod or the ubiquitous selfie stick to shoot our group snaps. However, if pressed for time, these hurriedly-taken pictures do not live up to our expectations, making us wish that there was a reliable photographer who could beautifully capture our family’s favorite wanderlust moments.

Enter SweetEscape. Launched in 2016, the photographer booking-app has an impressive network of more than 2,000 curated photographers across more than 400 cities around the world. Its mission is “to make professional photography easy and affordable for anyone for any occasion around the world”.

SweetEscape is the brainchild of David Soong, an Indonesian, who started the holiday photography service “to solve his own problem”.

MAKE EVERY MOMENT MEMORABLE. Launched in 2016, SweetEscape is a photographer booking-app which has an impressive network of more than 2,000 curated photographers across more than 400 cities around the world. The app allows clients to book a two-hour photo session anywhere, anytime in the world, in less than two minutes”, says SweetEscape’s country launcher Gadis Lukman. 
“I’m a photographer and the biggest irony was that I did not have good family pictures when I traveled. The idea of SweetEscape is to have a local friend (photographer) who will help you preserve precious moments through photos. I believe, those moments with your loved ones are priceless”, enthuses SweetEscape’s CEO and founder.

Our very own sweet escape

My family and I got to personally experience the magic of SweetEscape when we had our vacation in Canada last June.

For my mother-in-law's 80th birthday, the whole family flew to Vancouver to celebrate this significant milestone. It was a rare time where everybody gathered in just one country, so we planned to document this wonderful occasion with a family pictorial. But, alas, who do we contact? We did not personally know of a local photographer whose expertise was already tried and tested.

‘ANNE’YEONG! Erwan Heussaff and Anne Curtis-Heussaff, a certified K-Drama fan, 
set their pre-nuptial pictorial in Korea.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law remembered that her younger sister had tried SweetEscape in Australia for a pre-nuptial shoot a few months ago. And, the results were amazing!

I quickly downloaded the SweetEscape app and booked our preferred schedule and venue for the pictorial. After two days, we were merrily shooting at VanDusen Botanical Garden with the amiable Arnold Limantono who has years of professional experience as a topnotch photographer in Indonesia and Canada.

BONJOUR! GP Reyes, Andi Manzano-Reyes and daughter Olivia in Paris 
For two hours, we posed as a family (all 17 of us from ages eighty-three to three years old) under Arnold’s superb direction. Occasionally, he would break us into separate groups and shoot spontaneous photos of each family.              

The final photos were truly breathtaking and candidly immortalized the bliss and closeness we enjoyed as a clan. These delightful snaps were included in a photo book lovingly given as a gift to commemorate my dear M.I.L.'s 80th birthday.

Now snapping in the Philippines
SweetEscape is now spreading its wings in the acclaimed selfie capital of the world, the Philippines! It has a dedicated local team and market-specific promotions to provide even better service for the Filipinos.

For first time users in the Philippines, use the promo code LONGWEEKEND and avail of a special deal of USD 50 (PhP2,600) off plus thirty extra photos from August 9-31, 2018.

It also has an ongoing exclusive deal for Citi cardholders who get the chance to enjoy USD 50 off and USD 50 cashback (in SweetEscape credits) for photo shoots around the world when they pay with their Citi credit card and use the promo code LOVE2CLICK until May 31, 2019.

G’DAY, MATE! Cat Juan-Ledesma with husband Carlo Ledesma and kids Fin and Nara in Sydney, Australia.

In addition, the company is exploring various partnership opportunities with local brands to get more awareness and traction from the new market.  

"Our objective is to partner with the right brands to help clients capture their cherished moments. SweetEscape can be used for birthdays, family holidays, pre-wedding, and every other occasion, and not limited to time and place. We are open to various kinds of partnership with brands who believe in the same mission and care about high-quality photos to drive high-quality content,” says SweetEscape’s country launcher Gadis Lukman.

“We also believe that we are strengthening the freelance economy as we create opportunities for photographers to earn additional income,” he explains.

“SweetEscape makes every moment memorable. It’s like having a local friend to capture the most intimate, raw, unedited memories. It’s simple and easy, yet something that can be treasured for years to come”, concludes its shutter-happy founder David.

E-mail the author at Visit

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Be a buddy, not a bully

“Be a buddy, not a bully”
Sun.Star Davao, July 28, 2018
School has started already for some while others will bid goodbye to their summer break this week.

Much excitement is building up on who is going to be in the same class for the school year. However, with this anticipation also comes an impending sense of dread for a few as they fearfully ask, “Will they be classmates with the bully again?”.
Bullying presents itself in many ugly ways. It might be a recurring situation where one is humiliated by a bully or called cruel names; other times, physically intimidated by force. In older kids, it can be a group of mean girls or boys deliberately letting a person feel unwelcome or excluded from being part of a certain “clique”. And, with technology, the risk of cyberbullying, where a single social media post or text message can spread nasty words, misinformation or lies, is all too real.
Bullying 101
Henry Yap, a registered guidance counselor, shares that bullying is “defined by RA 10627, as a severe or repeated act of one person to another that causes damage to the well-being of the other person”.
In school, bullying may start as early as Grade 1. Some of the warning signs include a change of behavior like becoming too aggressive or passive in school or at home. “At times, grades will also be affected, and some children refuse to go back to the place where he or she may have encountered the bully”, says Sashi Cagampang who works at the Guidance Office of a private school in Davao City.
Henry reminds victims of bullying that they must not be ashamed or afraid to share their experience with their parents, siblings or any person whom they feel comfortable to talk to.
“It is absolutely necessary that a bullying report is handled with urgency and be dealt with accordingly. However, we should also consider that the perpetrator (the bully) is also volatile and who also should be handled with care and with an understanding of his/her demeanor”, explains Henry.
He observes that “at times, an individual may be accused of being a bully yet not knowing that this person may have been experiencing some sort of maladjustment that requires clinical attention”.

Why do people bully? The website,, cites the possible reasons: “To pretend they are tough; To try to get others to like them; To hide their own fears; They copy others who bully; They are unhappy; They don’t like who they are”, and a host of other causes.
Stand up, speak out

According to Henry and Sashi, parents must empower their child to have the courage to report and seek help from his or her teachers, guidance/school counselor, or any school personnel who may help him or her right away.

The two counselors encourage parents to listen to their children’s bully story calmly. “Some children are scared to honestly share their experience because of how their parents may react so it would be best if it is dealt with in a calm manner but showing them utmost support, love and comfort”, they advise.

In addition, “parents can help their son or daughter by improving their social skills by seeking the help of a professional who can journey with the child in his or her healing process”.

As a community, “a character campaign needs to be done which will focus on the good traits and characteristics to avoid bullying and to build the child’s personhood”.

Moreover, Henry and Sashi stressed that campaigns on how to identify a bullying situation and a bully may also be a vital source of awareness so that kids, including the bystanders (someone who is present when bullying takes place but does not take part in it), may know when to report and how to deal with these situations.

Sticks and stones

With regard to cyberbullying, adults can protect the kids by regulating their access towards social media. “In the first place, they should not have any social media accounts because they may not yet be of legal age. But, the alarming reality is that they have access to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the like, hence values and character formation, that is, developing the good manners and right conduct (GMRC), is the best thing to protect the child”, underscores Henry.

Likewise, parents should teach their children to be self-confident and invest time and attention towards uplifting their child’s self-worth. “Self-empowerment, motivational words, and teaching social skills” are among the effective ways to bully-proof one’s child.

But, what if we turn out to be the parents of the bully?

“IT ALL GOES BACK TO PARENTING. Parenting can be the best source to avoid perpetrators of bullying. The home is the first place where a child is taught to be respectful, kind and loving to another. The parents are the keys to raising a child who will not cause harm to his or her peers”, emphasizes Henry.

There is an adage which goes like this, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me”. But, remember, hurtful words pierce through the heart and soul and may leave invisible scars forever.
No matter what the age, bullying is in our midst and the power to turn that bully into a buddy certainly lies in our hands. Let’s spread kindness!
E-mail the author at Visit

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Yna's pretty in pink Swan Princess soiree

“Yna’s pretty in pink Swan Princess soiree”
Sun.Star Davao, July 10, 2018

Maria Yllana “Yna” Sabrine Crisostomo recently celebrated her first birthday and christening with a whimsical Swan Princess theme at the Grand Hall of the World Palace Hotel.

Yna is the fourth and youngest child of businessman Icarius "Sol" Lim Crisostomo and Ivy Sabrine Crisostomo whose family owns World Palace, the fitting venue for the merry occasion. The celebration also coincided with the inauguration and blessing of the new function hall. 

“We decided to have a Swan Princess theme with a twist as we incorporated ballerinas and ponies consistently in the different elements of the event design”, shares Pretty Little Party Davao’s Aileen Abadilla.

As guests entered the party, they gamely posed for pictures at The Happy Booth while the young ones were welcomed with enchanting swan wings and Swan Princess pillows displayed on silver kiddie tiffany chairs.  

Swan Princess plush toys were also perching gracefully on blush furry table toppers which added a magical touch to the adult guest tables.

The main backdrop showcased a printed blush ballerina pattern with Yna’s Swan Princess logo while the side backdrops in serene blue highlighted the pink pony printed design.

“We also had breathtaking blooms by Eufloria PH in Pretty Little Party Davao's stylized custom boxes with each pair showcasing our swan ballerina and pony patterns”, says Aileen.

On the other hand, the dessert table was stylishly dressed in a three-layer blush tutu table skirt with gold decors and dessert display stands, perfectly emphasizing the two-tier Swan Princess fondant cake by Jackie Martinez of Crafty Cakes and Cupcakes. Swan and rose cake pops; chocolate mousse dessert shooters; and ballerina and pony sugar cookies brought big smiles to the sweet tooth as well.

Pretty Little Party Davao likewise set up an entertaining cupcake and cookie decorating station by Sweet Advocate, where mommies and kiddos alike bonded and decorated their own delectable creations with a plethora of sprinkles and frosting.

Another fun food booth turned interactive activity was Cherrie’s Ice Cream and Cookie station which deliciously offered guests an assortment of artisan flavors created by Cherry Si.

Jymmez Infiesto from Bonjee Entertainment hosted enjoyable party games and facilitated an exhilarating bubble show to engage not just the kids but even parents alike with toys, school supplies and mouthwatering sweets as game prizes.

Towards the end of the party, all the godparents were called on stage and thoughtfully given bespoke Swan Princess fur pillows also by Pretty Little Party Davao.

Mommy Ivy couldn’t be any happier seeing how the celebration turned out. “The swan princess theme was both feminine and elegant and it captured the sophistication that I wanted for the event. Everything from all the printables, to the themed dessert table, the darling pink fur table setting, the giveaways for both the godparents and children; they were just perfect! Aileen was able to deliver beyond expectations!”, she gushes.

Follow Pretty Little Party Davao on Facebook and Instagram @prettylittlepartydvo.

Special thanks to Jojie and Karlo Flores for the party photos.

E-mail the author at Visit