Nini's Manila Bulletin Makeover Feature

Two Sundays ago, my sister was featured in Barbie Chan’s makeover column on Manila Bulletin Sunday. I was the one who sent an email to Barbie requesting for a makeover, because I want my sister to feel happy and confident again after her 2-year battle with Leukemia. I hope her story inspires other people undergoing the same ordeal.

A Leukemia Survivor Takes the Road to Beauty and Recovery
By Glaiza LeePhotos by Pinggot ZuluetaManila Bulletin, JUly 27, 2008
Carmina Bernadette Buendia, 19, didn’t have a normal teenage life. At 16, she was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by abnormal production of blood cells, usually white blood cells.

On December 25, 2005, Carmina saw several unexplainable bruises on her body. They were large enough to cause alarm. Carmina’s family decided to take her to a doctor.

I the hospital, she underwent a blood test which showed a high number of white blood cells, which caused a blood platelet deficiency. Thinking it was just anemia, the doctor gave her a medical treatment, and discharged her afterwards.

In the following weeks, the pain and bruises persisted. She also experienced severe headaches as well as stomachaches coupled with diarrhea.

She was rushed again to the hospital, where she underwent bone marrow aspiration to check what kind of disease she had. The hematologist eventually diagnosed her with leukemia.

“There was fear, especially when the doctor told us after the diagnosis that I only had three months to live if I wouldn’t undergo treatment immediately,” shared Carmina.

She continued: “It would be easier to blame God, but I didn’t. There were times when I would ask myself why it happened to me. I think that’s normal. You want to know why you, of all people, were afflicted with the disease,” said Carmina.
Carmina underwent chemoteraphy in San Juan de Dios Hospital. She had experienced hair loss, diminishing appetite, weakness, and nausea coupled with with headache. She even suffered from hematoma, blood clotting, and bleeding.

Her usual gimik was characterized by trips to the hospital for regular checkups, medical treatment, and blood count monitoring. She had no time or the energy to dress up. Her only accessory was the mask she usually wore when going out of their house.

What kept her strong was her family. There were times when she would feel weak and start losing hope, but her family kept pushing and supporting her. That was enough for her to continue the fight.

She just finished her chemoteraphy sessions. She will undergo another bone marrow aspiration to check if there are still cancer cells in her bloodstream. This October, she will continue her BS Nursing course.

Second ChancesBarbie Chan
Subject: Carmina Bernadette BuendiaAge: 19Diagnosis: Needsto feel alive and kicking again!
I want to Feel Pretty Please…

Carmina’s story is inspiring and heartbreaking at the same time. She is a vibrant, beautiful young woman who was robbed of 2 years of her life because of that dreaded leukemia. But what’s inspiring is her desire and will to live, not to mention her sister’s love for her. It was her sisterwho actually wrote to me and asked if I could do the maekover for Carmina.

Boots Eugenio (August 8): It was really very inspiring, will be sharing this to my friends. Keep in touch and God Bless you
Ador Red (August 8): It was so sad to hear that your sister is sufferring from this dreaded illness but on the other hand, i am so inspired by the courage and will power being shown by her and most importantly the support and love being provided by her family. All the best to your sister and family.
Kras Frialde (August 8): I hope your sister is fully leukemia-free soon!
Art Plata (August 9): did’nt know about your sister even when I was with Asia Select. I knew she was sick but not this serious. Anyway, the Lord is good. He will find the way. It’s a good thing your sister is feeling better. My prayers May for a full recovery.
Migs Lim (July 27): Wow! She’s pretty! May bf na ba yan? Haha!
Jay Simeon (July 27): I admire her courage and outlook in life. Praying for her complete recovery.
Tony Causing (July 27): COngrats to Nini, whole page! Congrats to you too for the care and love of her. It’s just great.

Falling in Love with Singapore

If there is one word that will describe my Singapore experience, that would be “unique.” I’m still in awe, even up to now, with the country’s harmonious blend of culture, architecture, and sophistication. I love the country’s discipline, cleanliness, and the Singaporeans’ simple but elegant approach to life. If I were to work outside the country, this country will definitely be at the top of my list.

Day 1, January 25

Straight from our India trip, Sir Pepe and I were in Singapore already at 9am. We went straight to Grand Central Hotel to leave our bags, rode the train going to the Novena Church to hear mass.

Sir Tony, Ms. Ajie, and Mr. Zulueta, arrived at the hotel after lunch. After checking in, we ate at Boon Tong Kee at
River Valley Road, said to be home of the best Hainanese Chicken in Singapore!
Then dropped by Ntan Office in Orchard Road to meet our partners and discuss a little bit about business.

We spent the rest of the afternoon walking, only making quick stops to take pictures of each other.

Day 2, January 26

We had breakfast at Raffles Hotel. Best I’ve experienced so far. The hotel was built in 1887, and was declared a National Monument 100 years after. The elegant interiors and excellent service makes it hands down worthy to be called the jewel in the crown of the hospitality industry in Singapore.

After lunch, we went to One Degree 15 Marina Club, an exclusive yacht club in Singapore.

Day 3, January 27

Explored Sentosa, Singapore’s popular island resort, with my good friend Diane!

Then Clark Quay for a round of drinks before going home.

– I feel safer in Singapore than in India. Maybe because I blend in the crowd.
– I love the food! I’m a noodle person, and there are a lot of noodle houses there!
– Transportation is not a problem. You can walk, or take the train. Cab rates are more expensive, but you can always take the bus as well.
– Cigarettes are super expensive! Liquors too! Food, on the other hand, is reasonable. You can get a full meal at SGD5, or about Php 150.

Exotic India

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. I was lucky enough to explore this country on a business trip in 2008. Sharing with you now my adventures and misadventures in this exotic – but interesting country.

DAY 1, January 21

Left Makati a little after lunch to catch our 2pm flight to Singapore. Sir Pepe and I sat for a while at the Singapore Airlines lounge, and boarded the plane at around 3pm.

By 7pm, we were at the SIA Lounge once again, waiting for the 8pm flight to Mumbai, India. It’s a 5-hour flight this time, and it helped that Singapore Airlines has the best planes I have ever been to. Best of all, their Singapore Sling (a traditional kind of cocktail drink, originating from Raffles Hotel in Singapore) is the best.

We arrived Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai at around 12 midnight. The airport is still under renovation at that time. The interiors reminded me of the Dammam Airport in Saudi Arabia some years back. Since our Signium office is in Pune, we had to endure another three hours land travel via a private car that they rented for us. We arrived at the Grand Hotel at around 4am (6:30am Manila time).

My room at the Grand Hotel is nice, complete with hot water, cable TV, mini ref, queen size bed, and a mini sala.

Connaught Place in Pune

The flight itself, waiting for connecting flights, and the land travel was too much for me. I was asleep before I knew it.

DAY 2, January 22

Woke up at 9am, had breakfast with Sir Pepe then went to the Signium Office and spent the whole morning exchanging views and planning for 2008 company directions. They normally start office at 10am and end at 7pm. For lunch, we ate at Mainland China, one of the best Chinese restaurants in India.

That night, the whole office except Sir Pepe (who’s having allergy attacks again) toured me at Choki Dhani, an ethnic village park where they showcase their rich culture. Deepra, our Country Manager for India, said that Chokhi Dhani means ” a small beautiful hamlet” , and has maintained its rich art & culture image with its host of Folk Dance s- Ghoomer, Kalbelia, Bhopa Bhopi, Chaupal, etc….Village Artisans too show case their skills with the depiction of Kumbhar and Lohar. It is a concept created to give 3 generations an experience of their roots .

Had the chance to taste authentic Indian food, and see their traditional dances. An astrologer gave me a free palm reading and told me I’m getting married at age 27. Also had a mendhi, similar to our henna tatto, but this one is like mud when applied, then leaves marks when dried off.

Chokhi Dhani entrance gate

ice lollipop station

pottery making

dance number

signium boys


colorful, spicy, indian food


DAY 3, January 23

Spent the whole morning meeting with our business partners regarding our existing searches in Africa. Finally had the chance to meet Ashok, owner of 360 degrees India, who I keep on communicating with as regards our cross boarder assignments.

It was my free time the whole afternoon. Went on a shopping expedition at Hongkong Lane to buy earrings and pasalubongs. Patel was kind enough to go with me and we rode the rickshaw.

That night, we rode the train to Mumbai. It was another 3-hour trip. We booked the business class seats, but business class is more like the regular PNR seats that we have here. I can just imagine how the regular seats look like. The Mumbai station, when we arrived, was jampacked with people! We immediately hailed a cab off to our hotel.

mumbai at night
Stayed at West End Hotel right across Bombay Hospital. It’s an old hotel (built in 1970), with bigger rooms! Imagine, I have an ante room, a sala, a 6-seater dinner table, 2 single beds – all by myself! The room is eerie, maybe it’s because of the hospital across the street? For the first time I got scared. I slept with the TV and all the lights on. Haha!

Had one round of drinks with Deepra and Sir Pepe at Ruby Tuesday at Nariman Point before calling it a day.

Day 4, January 24

The next day we conducted Search and Selection Training with India Select and Signium employees.

After that, we had a quick stop at High Street Phoenix Mall. Then had a round of drinks with Anil, Priya, Amisha, and Ankita.

Off to the airport to catch our Singapore Flight at 6pm.


· I enjoyed the hospitality of Indians. They are also like us Filipinos, who extend extra effort to make visitors feel at home. I was able to bond quite easily with Priya, Anil, Deepra, Amisha, and Ankita even if I spent just a few days with them.
· Food is really too spicy for my taste. So if you’re eating in a restaurant and you don’t dig spicy food, you may ask them to make your food less spicy. If you have sensitive stomach and appetite, I suggest you bring lots of crackers.
· Be extra careful. I lost my 100 dollars in the hotel. I left my bag inside the hotel room when I went down for breakfast, and only realized that I lost it when we were already in Mumbai. I’m not sure though for I might have dropped it somewhere, but it pays to be extra careful next time.
· It’s colder in Mumbai than in Pune. Mumbai is the financial capital of India, more like our Makati, but it’s also more crowded. Pune is said to be their educational capital, since there are a lot of universities there. They also have a lot of motorcycles there.

– Meters of their cabs are outside the vehicle. Some drivers have the tendency to over charge though. So make sure you are familiar with the rates.

All in all, my India experience is very memorable. I would love to go back, hopefully on my own time, so I can visit their other tourist spots like Taj Mahal.

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