Pia Wurtzbach Leads Grand Homecoming Parade on January 25
After ending the Philippines' 42-year drought for the Miss Universe title, Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach became the latest darling of the Filipino people. The 26-year-old half-German, half-Filipino beauty nearly lost the crown due to a mixup by host Steve Harvey, but managed to recover at the last minute. About a month after the much-talked-about competition, Wurtzbach came home and was given a very warm welcome (even by Filipino standards) via a parade that started from the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila, to many of the major roads (including Roxas Boulevard, Taft Avenue, Gil Puyat Avenue and Ayala Avenue) and finally to Cubao, Quezon City.
Minimum jeepney fare reduced to Php7.00
If you're used to paying Php7.50 to ride a jeepney, rest assured you can put those extra 50 cents to better use now. That's because the minimum fare has been rolled back to Php7.00, due to lowered fuel prices and the resulting petitions by transport groups. This new fare has also been implemented in Central Luzon (Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales), Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) and Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), so take note!
"Hobbit" Lives in Mindoro, Builds a House of Sand
First, the bad news: This "hobbit" isn't Frodo, Sam, Bilbo or even Merry and Pippin. Instead, he's a 62-year-old Dutch named Kees Koornstra, who lives in a house sitting on top of a hill (similar to where Tolkien's fictional hobbits lived). It's not just any house, though: Not only is it made of eco-friendly materials like walls of sand, a roof of nipa palm and a solar-fuelled power source, but it also managed to survive a 5.8-magnitude earthquake and Typhoon Nona (international name Melor). As Gandalf would say, hobbits are full of surprises!
Filipino Exporters Join International Trade Fair
Last October 2015, 35 Filipino exporters participated in the Anuga Food Fair in Cologne, Germany. This time around, more than 40 of them will head to Frankfurt (also in Germany) for yet another trade fair called Ambiente 2016. The fair is expected to showcase handmade products under the Dining, Giving, and Living categories. For this design-oriented fair, the country's exporters hope to display the essence of the Filipino "soul" through their products.
Zika Virus Threatens Tourism Industry in Latin America, Caribbean
On a more sobering note, travelers — especially pregnant women — need to be extra careful when vacationing in Latin America and the Caribbean. Otherwise, they might fall victim to the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of cases of birth defects. As of this writing, scientists do not know much about this disease, other than it's carried by the notoriously resilient Aedes aegypti mosquito.
Al Gore to Visit PH in March, Train Climate Communicators
In lieu of the historic Paris Agreement last December 2015, former US Vice President Al Gore will fly to the Philippines and train a new batch of "climate reality leadership corps." The training will take place in Manila from March 14 – 16, 2016. After this event, it's hoped that the participants will be able to educate their respective communities about climate issues like carbon pollution and global warming.
"Star Wars: Episode VIII" Release Date Moved to December 2017
Originally slated for release in May 2017, the sequel to the box-office hit "The Force Awakens" will now be released on December 2017 — exactly two years after the first film's debut. While Disney did not state any specific reasons for the delay, rumor had it that Rian Johnson (who will take over from J.J. Abrams as director) is rewriting the script, and therefore causing production delays. However, Business Insider reckoned it's more likely that Disney wanted to replicate the success of "The Force Awakens" by slating it for the holiday season, a time when most people are in the mood to watch movies. Let's see if that Jedi mind trick works!
Emperor Akihito, Empress Michiko Visit PH to Honor WWII Dead
Last January 26, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko arrived in Manila for a five-day stay in the country. During that time, they will visit the WWII memorials to Japanese and Filipino soldiers alike. Although the couple had gone to the Philippines before as crown prince and princess in 1962, this is the first time they have done so as the imperial couple of Japan. Also, this is considered the first visit by a reigning Japanese emperor to the country. So far, there has been no untoward incident during their visit, except for the former "comfort women" begging for justice, and the little kerfuffle with Customs when they rummaged through the imperial couple's belongings.