Like gemstones, strong, stunning women movers shine, enkindle and inspire this Pink October
By Deneb R. Batucan and Patricia May P. Catan
Locale: Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino
Jewerly: Royal Gem of Metro Gaisano
Wardrobe: A.T.E. by Tatah
Styling: Alex Eturma
Photos: Kurt Fick
Hair and Makeup: Alex Phil, Karlo Damolo, Jerwin Batastas and Emily Omale
PIECES of fine jewelry are often fashioned by using gemstones. Buried deep in the ground, these striking stones are mined and processed — cut, scoured, molded and put together with other kinds of jewelry. A piece of stone from the start that then goes through a great deal of stress to become the beautiful piece of jewelry that every woman wants.
Women and jewelry lead similar lives. They start out early as precious stones, already beautiful in themselves. Then they go through the routine of living — ups and downs, lefts and rights — molded into a different yet familiar shape by each high and low of living.
And as they go through life and its many intricacies, women come out even more beautiful than ever, wearing their battle scars as a symbol of their strength, elegance and persistence.
Stunningly gorgeous from start to finish, the magnificence of both women and jewelry stands the test of time. And as their stories come together, every story is just as empowering as the last.
Royal Gem, formerly Metro Jewelry, has always believed that of all the things a woman wears, nothing tells a story quite like jewelry. For 30 years, they have given their patrons nothing but the best finely crafted jewelry at affordable prices.
The exquisite and high-quality pieces from their latest collections of diamonds, South Sea pearls, gemstones and gold jewelry are just as superb as their wearers, who themselves are the epitome of what Royal Gem jewelry is all about: empowered.
The empowered women of ICanServe Foundation, a breast cancer support network — with the all-out support of Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, SunStar Best of Cebu’s Best City Hotel, and the Rotary Club of Cebu — tell the stories of their lives and how this dreaded disease has molded them into the precious and empowering jewels they are today.
These strong and precious ladies, most of whom are survivors while some are advocates, wear stunning jewelry that denotes their power, tenacity and beauty as they share their rousing life stories of leadership, inspiration and survival.
Kristine Diana Navidad
Breast Cancer Survivor
It was supposed to be one of the happiest moments in her life when cancer came to Kristine. In 2013, just three months before she was destined to wed her now husband, Kristine was given the most feared news. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 3C.
Learning that her cancer was now at one of the advanced stages, she felt all kinds of fear. She was supposed to be starting her own family. She was supposed to be enjoying her wedding with the man of her dreams. She was supposed to live a long life and be a mother, a wife and be everything she longed to be. Kristine was terrified. “I thought it was the end for me,” she said.
But Kristine was beyond her meek and gentle demeanor. She found her strength in her husband and her family. It was also the time she met with the ladies of ICanServe Foundation, who now have become her sisters. It was their stories that inspired Kristine not to let cancer take over her life. She was encouraged and empowered to fight to live.
Kristine did three things that helped her conquer cancer: ask questions, pray and read the Bible. This saved her and gave her strength along with the support of all her family and friends.
Kristine is now cancer-free for almost four years. The whole cancer ordeal really changed her outlook in life. “I appreciate every day, even the little things,” she said. “I don’t stress myself out over small things, unlike before. I am more grateful, more thankful.”
And she is even more thankful that after all that she suffered from cancer, God blessed her with a healthy pregnancy, and hopefully, a successful delivery since Kristine is just weeks away from giving birth to her first child. She and her sisters from ICanServe are all keen on meeting the little one in a couple of weeks.
Atty. Lolita “GingGing” Lumapat-Lomanta
Advocate of Breast Cancer Awareness
Atty. Lolita Lumapat-Lomanta, or better known as GingGing, is a family prosecutor who handles cases involving women and children. She is a member of the Technical Working Group of the Provincial Women’s Commission in Cebu where she works closely with Vice Governor Agnes Magpale. She also teaches criminal law subjects at Southwestern University. Holding such profession, GingGing is able to do advocacy work through giving legal advice on issues concerning women and children, more so that she has been an active Rotarian since the term of District Governor Mary Anne Solomon where she was also the Legal District Adviser. Adding more titles under her belt, she was awarded as Most Outstanding Secretary for the entire district with more than 90 clubs in her term as immediate secretary of the Rotary Club of Cebu Fuente.
GingGing entered Rotary back in 2013 and got involved actively two years after her membership in one of their banner projects that is Breast Cancer Awareness, which is in line with maternal and child care, one of the areas they focus in Rotary. Since then, she has participated in Pink October where she did a lecture about the rights of women before a group of breast cancer survivors and advocates in Pink Cancer Chat in the years 2015 and 2016. Pink Cancer Chat is a forum on breast cancer awareness with many resource speakers present talking about early detection, prevention of cancer, cancer as an ailment itself, and family support. GingGing came in on the area of protection of the rights of women. “These breast cancer survivors are just like any other woman. They have rights, too, and I believe that every woman has every right to be protected. I believe that she has to be made aware about the rights available to her,” shared GingGing as she spoke about such advocacy to protect women especially those who are suffering from breast cancer.
ICanServe Foundation has been doing Pink Cancer Chat for the longest time and GingGing feels truly privileged and honored to have participated twice already. Following her advocacy and profession as a family court prosecutor, her participation in Pink Cancer Chat is one she feels most fulfilled as an advocate for women and children protection where she was able to respond to questions raised and enlighten some of the women who had all these issues about their rights. “I have always been advocating for the protection of rights of women and the best protection any woman can have is to have the courage in everything. Courage to speak up, courage to fight for their rights, and the courage to say no,” GingGing said with conviction.
Mary Anne Alcordo Solomon
Breast Cancer Survivor
It was in September 2, 2004 when Mary Anne “Me Anne” Solomon learned she had cancer. With no family history of cancer, the life-changing condition was attributed to her aging as a woman. Yet she described the diagnosis as the beginning of the rest of her life, and indeed after battling the dreadful illness, she is now 13 years cancer-free since her diagnosis. The secret to living with cancer is drawing strength from family, friends, and of course holding on to faith. Happily married with two amazing children, an accomplished businesswoman who runs Alcordo Advertising, and a dedicated civic leader as the District Governor for Rotary International District 3860, Me Anne is a proud cancer survivor who fought hard and is continuing to do so while inspiring many others who went through the same situation.
Me Anne looked at cancer not as a noun, but as an action verb “cancering.” This reminded her that she had to be in her best form and take care of herself. Self-empowerment also played an important role for Me Anne as it gave her the will not just to live for herself, but to live for her loved ones as well. “Cancer has changed my life in so many unimaginable ways. This health crisis in my life allowed me to take a step back, evaluate my life and look for the meaning and truth in this experience. This struggle strengthened my faith that God had a purpose in this for my life. It is in these valleys of life that I was tested, forced to grow and is bestowed with wisdom beyond my years. I would remind myself to live life in the now and not to always be looking ahead and miss what is happening today. To live each day as if it was my last. Death is a reality for all of us, but how we choose to live each day is up to us. We don’t get to choose how we’re going to die or when. We can only decide how we’re going to live now,” Me Anne described how her cancer journey changed her outlook in life.
Adding that one never truly knows how long one’s time here on earth is, Me Anne is determined to live each day to the fullest. Leading both Rotary and ICanServe Foundation has been her way of paying it forward for the life rewarded to her. She is passionate with this advocacy of early detection because it can positively save the lives. Using her experience as an instrument to empower others and touch the lives of those suffering, Me Anne has found the true meaning of life. In a way, battling breast cancer was a blessing in disguise for her, which then led to her beautiful transformation. Now as a survivor, she has this to say: “Cancer was a gift. It was a blessing for you to find yourself and find yourself in others. It was a wakeup call for you to live a purpose-driven life.”
Micheline “Chica” Farrarons
Breast Cancer Survivor
Diagnosed at a time when no one talked about cancer that much yet, death wasn’t the first thing that crossed Micheline Farrarons’ mind when she heard the dreaded news. Even Chica herself didn’t know about cancer and all she ever was afraid of was the operation. It was January of 1997 when Micheline was diagnosed with breast cancer, and on the next month after, she had radical mastectomy, then underwent her first chemotherapy in March 1997. Throughout her battle with the sickness, she had six chemotherapy treatments and oral medications. All these sounds heavy to bear especially at a time when cancer pretty much wasn’t talked about, but Micheline held on to dear life for her beloved children who were in those years still very young. Her eldest was only 17, middle child was 11, and the youngest was only 5 years old, and the thought of leaving them behind was the situation she feared most, so she had to survive.
In her battle with breast cancer, Micheline has always leaned to the Lord for guidance. Fighting the disease brought her closer to the Almighty where she drew the strength and wisdom needed to overcome this battle. Now 66 years old, she has lived to see her daughters grow responsibly as a person and have families of their own. Life after cancer may not have been a bed of roses; there is still a series of ups and downs, but Micheline is still grateful to survive everything. She is also grateful to see her grandchildren and even more grateful to have traveled to places she always dreamed of going. Twenty years and counting of being cancer-free and Micheline continues to live a pleasing life here on earth that molded her into becoming a better person.
“I promised myself that I will pay it forward when I survived cancer. My advocacy is to help and support emotionally cancer patients especially the indigents. So, since 1999, I helped spread breast cancer awareness. I experienced distributing leaflets and flyers in malls every day for the whole month of October. That was how driven I was and thankful to have survived the disease,” shared Micheline. Further stating that she considered herself a fighter because she never thought of conquering the disease, Micheline continues to fight up to this day by living a healthy life wholistically and entrusting everything to the Lord because with Him nothing is impossible.
Carrie Dublin Bascar
Breast Cancer Survivor
Diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, a type of breast cancer on the 19th of June 2015, Carrie Dublin Bascar immediately grasped the idea that life now was limited and she might not be staying long for her family. The thought of her daughters brought her to tears. A registered medical technologist by profession who turned into a businesswoman, Carrie never saw cancer coming and now she had a battle ahead of her. A sailor’s wife and a mother to two lovely daughters, Carrie said her family is the main reason she needed to conquer the disease. Her daughters are her source of strength because she always wanted to live long and see their future in place.
Also drawing strength from the rest of her family, friends and sisterhood support group that is ICanServe Foundation, Carrie found the will to fight knowing that they have her back. But nothing beats the strength that God is able to provide and along with it, her faith was also strengthened as she offered everything to Him. Keeping her faith, Carrie is more than two years cancer-free. Standing now as a cancer survivor, Carrie owes all of it to the Lord and that without Him, she won’t be able to win this life battle. “Hold on to your faith because in the darkest tunnel, there’s always light ahead waiting for you and you will be standing victorious on that battleground and be named a survivor,” Carrie said.
Nelia F. Navarro
Breast Cancer Survivor
As a successful professional, who is currently the assistant regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry Region 7, Nelia’s life has been lived to the full.
And then cancer decided to make a home in her already jam-packed life. On October 8, 2013, almost 14 years ago, Nelia was diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer.
Her initial thought when the doctor broke the bad news was her family. “How will they take the news?” she asked. She was afraid that they might blame her for getting sick, as if she lured cancer in her life.
But of course, though her family was saddened by the news, they became Nelia’s source of strength as she went through all the horrors of cancer, from chemotherapy to radiation and the countless hospital trips that helped her regain her health.
Nelia remained positive even when she was too sick to do anything. She believes that cancer shouldn’t stop her from living her life. “Don’t let cancer define you. Celebrate life to the fullest,” she said.
It has been almost 14 years now since her diagnosis, and Nelia’s life has never been better. By next year, she will be enjoying the fruits of her labor as she retires from her long career. And after all the suffering, she now appreciates life a lot more. “I now stop to smell the flowers,” she said.
Breast Cancer Survivor
With her sweet smile, Thelma lights up a room with her stories. She retells some of her memories, which she collects through photographs. “I love pictures,” she quipped.
Taking photographs was one of the things that helped her become more optimistic, even when she was diagnosed with breast cancer stage 1 in 2015. She was adamant that the people around wouldn’t make her feel as sick as she was. Thelma kept her positive nature even at a very stressful time, and she encouraged her family to do so.
But when she was first told of her diagnosis, there was the initial sadness, worry and fear. “I wondered how I would be able to cope with it,” she said.
But Thelma turned the tables. She drew her strength from God to be able to fight the disease and live for her family, especially her children, Therese and Thomas. “I am proud of myself,” she said. “For me, I had immense strength and positivity inside.”
It has been two years that Thelma has lived cancer free, and her unrelenting faith in her creator has never failed her. “I want to continue to use God’s gift of life to inspire and be a blessing to others. As I continue to spread my story of hope and love, I hope to make a difference in someone else’s life,” she said.
Advocate of Breast Cancer Awareness
Lilu has been one of the pillars in the marketing and advertising industry in Cebu both as a teacher and a practitioner. She first got involved in breast cancer awareness when her very own best friend, Mary Anne Solomon, was diagnosed in 2004. “Although she was brave and courageous, I thought that a true friend can’t let a friend fight cancer by herself,” she said.
And when Mary Ann became a survivor, Lilu was still there to support her friend as she spearheaded the advocacy on breast cancer awareness. From BFF — best friends forever — the duo became breast friends forever.
Along with their other breast friends, Lilu helped in organizing the Think Pink promotions since 2015, which is one of the biggest activities of the ICanServe Foundation. She is beyond joyful that each year the activities become more compelling and creative, and best of all, more people and commercial centers are supporting the cause.
Through her volunteer work with the Rotary Club of Cebu and her advocacy on breast cancer awareness, Lilu has helped reach so many women who suffer from this dreaded disease. “I realized how important early detection is. So the more women we can reach, the more success stories,” she said.
Lilu wants to reiterate to women who have breast cancer that they are not alone. “It takes a village to fight breast cancer,” she said. “We are in this together. Never give up!”
Dr. Frances dela Serna
As a doctor, Frances has been on the other side of the cancer journey countless of times. She has seen women in different stages of breast cancer, and she has made it her personal cause to spread awareness about the disease and the importance of early detection. “Women diagnosed to have early breast cancer definitely have better outcomes,” she said.
Frances, who had her breast surgery fellowship training at National University Hospital in Singapore and comes from a tight-knit family of doctors and lawyers, may have been the bearer of bad news to some of her patients, but her role as a specialist in breast cancer surgery is to ensure her patients fully understand their problem and are given expert treatment. “I’m here to educate them about their options and to give them hope,” she said.
But Frances notes that aside from giving the patients the best medical treatment, the power of prayer is just as important. Frances has also played the role of a patient before where she underwent two major surgeries. “After my first surgery, I’ve come to realize that prayers calm your fears, and through faith, you are able to get through your ordeal,” she shared.
From her many patients, she observed how the support from family and friends could help a patient’s survival. It gives them hope and a more positive attitude despite the hardships they have to experience.
“Even at your lowest point, you have to maintain a positive attitude, forge one and complete the treatments being offered and remember that this too shall pass,” she said. “Let your hope and optimism be bigger than your fear.
Breast Cancer Survivor
Cancer came in drastically for the Atienza household because just after five months since Fely’s husband passed of aortic aneurysm, Fely was diagnosed with breast cancer. After her diagnosis in November 1999, she underwent total mastectomy in December 2, 1999. When Fely learned of her disease, she immediately made a bargain with the Lord and begged him to give her a chance to live for her children who were still 15 and 12 years old at that time. Out of fear she might leave her children behind, she asked God to extend her life until both her kids finished school. Fely didn’t want her kids to be orphaned at such an early stage of their life because the thought of who will be taking care of them worries her the most.
Out of the outpouring love she has for her children, Fely refused to talk about being diagnosed with cancer. Instead, she let her doctor break the news to her children. At that time, the family was still mourning the death of their Dad, and Fely didn’t want to add to the grief that her children were going through. She fought cancer bravely on her own with the aid of some friends. She put up a strong facade in front of her children because she wanted them to know that they are her strength in this battle.
Just as she draws strength from her kids, Fely channels her inner strength, too, with the guidance of the Lord. She considered God her companion during bad days until she was positively cancer-free.
By God’s grace, Fely is now 18 years cancer-free and life after cancer as she described it is fantastic. “God saved me and in return, I would help save others by being an advocate of ICanServe Foundation and shout out to the world that early detection saves life and money. Early detection is the cure,” Fely shared the foundation’s mantra. Fely added that she wants to encourage women to have themselves checked annually to spare their lives and to earn better years together with their families.
Breast Cancer Survivor
February may be the month of love, but for Ron-Bernabe Flores it was the month that would change her life completely. Undergoing ultrasound, mammogram and biopsy wasn’t the Valentine’s Day Ron imagined it to be and instead of receiving flowers and chocolates during love month, she received news that she had breast cancer on February 23 of this year. When she first heard of the dreaded news, Ron immediately questioned if she was going to die and like any other cancer patients her entire world fell apart. Losing her mom to the same illness felt like a death sentence to her. At 45 with a stable career as hotel manager, all she could envision was the good life ahead spent together with family. Her dream of getting old with her husband and seeing her kids grow were shattered, just like that. Ron went through denial, bargaining and depression on her first week, thinking about the family she might leave behind.
Ron, however, didn’t allow herself to succumb to her ailment. Even when the circumstances looked grim, she always kept a positive mindset. She told herself that losing is not an option and that she needed to face the Big C head on. Battling cancer wasn’t at all that lonely with the love and support she received from her family and friends. All these allowed her to rise above everything and let her faith carry her through. After she underwent modified radical mastectomy on March 7 and having her last chemotherapy on May 23, 2017, Ron’s test results came out looking good last July. If there was one thing that her cancer journey taught her, it is to slow down and focus on the more important matters — family, friends, health, and spiritual well-being.
There is nothing like the possibility of death to make you know what you want to do in life and now, Ron would like to use her voice to encourage women to have their breasts checked because indeed, early detection is the best prevention and it will definitely save lives. “Never give up,” Ron said for those who suffer the same. Continuing that you truly have to trust your doctor, treatment and just keep on fighting and keep your faith anchored in Jesus. “He made a miracle out of my circumstance and He can do the same for you. Embrace your warrior spirit and turn your pain into your real purpose. Always remember this: You have cancer, but cancer doesn’t have you,” Ron shared.