Last night, I was invited to ZenZest’s Tim Yap After Party Scents product launch by my friend and colleague Claire, the PR lady of Michelle Asence’s fragrances empire. The party was held at Essences Rustans in Makati.

I arrived earlier than Claire and was instantly awed when Gretchen Barretto appeared. She looked lovely in person and graciously posed for pictures with people who wanted to have their pictures taken with her. Unfortunately, as star-struck as I was, I didn’t get to have a photo taken with her because I had no one to hold my camera phone for me. Darn!

Still, I enjoyed myself a lot because I got to meet a fellow blogger and mom, had a nice chat with someone who co-owns an advertising agency and had fun posing for pictures with Claire’s young and vibrant student assistants, Irene and Faye. We even got to have our photos taken with Tim Yap and Phoemela Barranda who arrived later.

During the short program, after Michelle introduced the products, Tim took the stage and explained about the scents whose creation was inspired by him. He was very engaging and made the audience laugh with his funny anecdotes.

I love the smell of both scents’ and their names! The room spray is called “Nothing Happened Here” while the linen spray was christened “Something’s Gonna Happen Here.” How’s that for uniqueness? The two bottles are packaged in a nice box designed like a gold bar. And of course I got to bring home a sample of each. Yey!

Last week, I had the privilege to interview Michelle Asence, the pretty and stylish president of the fragrances empire ZenZest, for a MoneySense magazine feature I was writing. Before we parted ways, I was pleasantly surprised when she gave me a bag containing a foot spa gift pack. She is such a nice lady!

The next day, Friday, as my family and I are relaxing in the living room after dinner, I got out James' old bathtub (which I only use now for soaking clothes in during wash day) and filled it with warm water. Josh and Daniel crowded around me to see what Mommy's up to. I poured some spa salts in the water and proceeded to soak my feet in the tub. I wasn't surprised when the two said they wanted to join me. After washing their feet, they excitedly sat down and blissfully sighed at the feel of the soothing peppermint-filled water.

Funny but the two went through all the motions of a complete foot spa with me. They also used the scrub, lotion and spray after our soak and were commenting how cool and "smelly-good" their feet got. Right after the rituals, I immediately got requests for us to do it again soon. "Next week," I promised.

Yesterday, as Friday morning came around and before the kids left for school, Daniel reminded me that we have a foot spa session in the evening hahaha. Unfortunately, I was very busy last night so we planned on doing our weekly foot spa instead tonight. And some people wonder why guys can't understand women's needs! ;-)

Product endorsement? :)

Work-at-home moms like me do crave some "me time" every now and then. Fortunately, my friend Jinkee, who does copywriting for a company that hosts product launches, invited me to the Veet Press and Trade Launch last night at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel. Unfortunately, none of my friends and other contacts in the publishing industry were able to make it. Still, I enjoyed myself because I got to go out of the house, see Jinkee again, and got to win a prize!

See, during the registration process, each guest was given a bracelet. A few minutes after the program started, host Angel Jacob announced that all those whose bracelets have the Veet logo will get a gift pack. I was one of the lucky 10 who got a Veet package :)

Afterwards, as guests were leaving, we were given a press kit each. It contained a USB memory card reader as giveaway aside from a Veet product sample, a CD and a folder of press releases.

Now, I have several Veet products that I can share with some friends so they can try them out too. Hmmm, I wonder how and where I would use mine though since I don't have enough leg hairs to shave :p

Stimulation of the Mind

If you're often on the net as I am and would like to have some diversion such as exchanging thoughts and opinions in an international forum about anything under sun, then go log on to mylot.

I actually joined initially because my referrer said you can earn extra money here just by posting comments and participating in discussions. I imagined that at least I could earn money from my computer "talkativeness" hehehe. But as I logged in more, I found out that I do enjoy sharing experiences and views with other people who also have so much to share. A week into the mylot website, I have found various topics that I had fun learning more from -- from cooking to reading books, the Corrs, relationships, even about the Philippine elections!

So go check it out here.

You just might discover that it also has something for you :)

The Humor of Erma Bombeck (a post on National Anthems)

I have always liked reading Erma Bombeck’s books. She’s has a funny way of looking at things and could make mundane everyday occurrences appear hilarious. And I think the following essay by Erma that I’m posting below is fitting to be read about by a lot of people these days after the Manny Pacquiao fight last Sunday and the way the National Historical Institute unfairly criticized Geneva Cruz for singing the Philippine National Anthem using the "wrong" tempo. I found the rendition heartfelt and sincere and no matter what the tempo was, Geneva sang in tune! Which is more than I can say about the girl who sang The Star-Spangled Banner who went off-key a few times.

Speaking of which, Erma has this insightful (and funny!) essay about her country’s national anthem. It was included in her book “If Life is a Bowl of Cherries – What am I Doing in the Pits?” I can’t resist sharing it with you …


The Hernia Amendment to the National Anthem

Few will argue that the inspirational words of Francis Scott Key are stirring enough to make Jane Fonda enlist in the Coast Guard. But something has got to be done about the melody of our national anthem before someone hurts himself.

I watched a man at the ball game the other Sunday standing tall and proud as he sang, “Oh say can you see.” But by the time he got to the high-pitched, “And the rockets’ red glare,” the veins were standing out in his neck, his face became flushed and his voiced cracked like Andy Hardy asking the Judge for the keys to the Packard.

Sensing I was looking at him, he gasped and said “I love this country.”

“Me too,” I said sadly, stuffing a program in his mouth.

You take your average citizen. He sings on maybe ten or twelve occasions a year and does not have what is normally called your “trained voice.” He can make “Happy Birthday to Marvin” (if they start low) or “Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot” and maybe a chorus of the “Beer Barrel Polka” with a few beers, but beyond that he is limited.

Me? It is my experience that everytime I go from the “twilight’s last gleaming” to “the ramparts we watched” there is pain on the inside of my right leg, so I do everyone a favor by just mouthing the words. Invariably, everywhere I go, I am seated next to Beverly Sills, who comes down on “land of the free” with two notes. (The latter reached only the ears of a springer spaniel in New England.)

As I was setting down these thoughts I wondered who wrote the music to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and went to my reference book. Ironically, the music was an old English drinking song called “To Anacreon in Heaven.” (Obviously, the drunks could sing the melody, but they had trouble with Anacreon.)

I personally believe there are a lot of patriotic Americans around who would like to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” in its entirety, but who are discriminated against because they are bluebirds (singers with a range of one octave).

Would it be unreal to have one national anthem with two melodies? One for the traditionalists who can also sing Bacharach’s “Alfie” without fainting, and a simple tune for those of us who sing in the cracks in the piano?

To the 3,085 ball players who chew tobacco, this could mean a lot.


Funny, eh? And the NHI is going ballistic just because Geneva’s rendition of Lupang Hinirang was not fast enough. Geez! Yes I know, the law says it should be sung with a marching tempo but personally, I like the slow version of our national anthem – it has more feeling and helps me ruminate more about the words thus making me more patriotic towards our country when it is sung that way.

In line with this, go check out the mp3 I uploaded in my music link. It’s my favorite rendition of the USA’s national anthem which was sung by Robert Downey Jr. who, in my opinion, has a great voice but hasn’t been well-recognized yet as a great singer. (If my internet connection is faster, I would gladly upload the songs from his album “The Futurist” but for now, go search for his name in limewire and you just might be surprised at how good he sounds.)

Words of Wisdom by Maya Angelou

I have been reading several books written by Maya Angelou for a couple of weeks now. I’ve already finished “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Gather Together in My Name” which are parts 1 and 2 of her autobiography, and came away with tremendous new insights. Currently, I’m halfway through the 3rd book of the series called “Singin’ and Swingin’ and Getting’ Merry Like Christmas.”

I have also read “Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now” and found myself highlighting (I so love that yellow highlighter pencil with a string that you pull so you don’t need to sharpen it anymore ) a lot of passages that struck me profoundly – some I needed to go over more than twice to really GET the meanings of. I’d like to share them with you in the hopes that somehow, you’ll also find yourselves nodding in agreement or getting to thinking more about certain things and emerging the wiser from these perspectives.

On The Sweetness of Charity
“The size and substance of the gift should be important to the recipient, but not to the donor save that the best thing one can give is that which is appreciated.”

“While our gifts and the recipients should be considered, our bounty, once decided upon, should be without concern, overflowing one minute and forgotten the next.”

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

On The Value of Style
“Many people utter insults or disparaging remarks without thinking, but a wise or stylish person takes the time to consider the positive as well as the negative possibilities in each situation.”

“Falling into an entanglement with brutes will usually result in nothing more conclusive than a stimulated nervous system and an upset digestive tract.”

In The Spirit (my favorite quote because I experience this a lot)
“My faith is tested many times every day, and more times than I’d like to confess, I’m unable to keep the banner of faith aloft. If a promise is not kept, or if a secret is betrayed, or if I experience long-lasting pain, I begin to doubt God and God’s love. I fall so miserably into the chasm of disbelief that I cry out in despair. Then the Spirit lifts me up again, and once more I am secured in faith. I don’t know how that happens, save when I cry out earnestly I am answered immediately and am returned to faithfulness. I am once again filled with Spirit and firmly planted on solid ground.”

On Being Complimented
“We can too easily become what we are called with all the unwelcome responsibilities the title makes us heir to.”

On Determining What is Funny
“We need to have the courage to say obesity is not funny, vulgarity is not amusing, insolent children and submissive parents are not the characters we want to admire and emulate. Flippancy and sarcasm are not the only ways in which conversation can be conducted.”

On Death and The Legacy (For me, this applies as well to times I tend to question the events happening around me, not just when a loved one passes on)
“I find surcease in the entanglement of questions only when I concede that I am not obliged to know everything. In a world where many desperately seek to know all the answers, it is not very popular to believe, and then state, I do not need to know all things. I remind myself that it is sufficient that I know what I know and know that without believing that I will always know what I know or that what I know will always be true.” (Yep, you might probably have to read this more than five times to digest and understand it completely :p)

On Getups
“I have lived in this body all my life and know it much better than any fashion designer. I think I know what looks good on me, and I certainly know what feels good in me … I am only willing to purchase the item which becomes me and to wear that which enhances my image of myself to myself.”

“If I feel good inside my skin and clothes, I am thus free to allow my body its sway, its natural grace, its natural gesture. Then I am so comfortable that whatever I wear looks good on me even to the external fashion arbiters.”

“Dress is important to mention because many people are imprisoned by powerful dictates on what is right and proper to wear. Those decisions made by others and sometimes at their convenience are not truly meant to make life better or finer or more graceful or more gracious. Many times they stem from greed, insensitivity, and the need for control.”

“Seek the fashion which truly fits and befits you. You will always be in fashion if you are true to yourself, and only if you are true to yourself.”

On Living Well, Living Good
“Living well is an art which can be developed … basic talents to live upon: love of life and the ability to take great pleasure from small offerings, an assurance that the world owes you nothing and that every gift is exactly that, a gift. That people who may differ from you in political stance, sexual persuasion, and racial inheritance can be founts of fun, and if you are lucky, they can even become convivial comrades.”

“Living life as art requires a readiness to forgive. I do not mean that you should suffer fools gladly, but rather remember your own shortcomings, and when you encounter another with flaws, don’t be eager to righteously seal yourself away from the offender forever. Take a few breaths and imagine yourself having just committed the action which have set you at odds.”

“Life is pure adventure, and the sooner we realize that, the quicker we will be able to treat life as an art; to bring all our energies to each encounter, to remain flexible enough to notice and admit when what we expected to happen did not happen. We need to remember that we are created creative and can invent new scenarios as frequently as they are needed.”

On The Power of the Word (A big Amen to this!)
“I knew that if God loved me, then I could do wonderful things, I could try great things, learn anything, achieve anything. For what could stand against me with God, since one person, any person with God, constitutes the majority? That knowledge humbles me, melts my bones, closes my ears, and makes my teeth rock loosely in their gums”

On Further New Directions
“In order to survive, the ample soul needs refreshments and reminders daily of its right to be and to be wherever it finds itself.”

A quote from her mother Vivian Baxter when Maya lost her job: “So what? Remember, you were looking for a job when you found the one you just lost. So you’ll just be looking for a job one more time.” (Now that is one wise momma!)

On Complaining
An advice from Maya’s grandmother, Annie Henderson: “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

“Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.”

At Harvestime
“Too many times for comfort I have expected to reap good when I know I have sown evil. My lame excuse is that I have not always known that actions can only reproduce themselves, or rather, I have not always allowed myself to be aware of that knowledge.”

Voices of Respect
“We must re-create an attractive and caring attitude in our homes and in our worlds. If our children are to approve of themselves, they must see that we approve of ourselves. If we persist in self-disrespect and then ask our children to respect themselves, it is as if we break all their bones and then insist that they win Olympic gold medals for the hundred-yard dash.”

Brutality is Definitely Not Acceptable
“I am never proud to participate in violence, yet I know that each of us must care enough for ourselves to be ready and able to come to our own self-defense.”

On Discrimination
“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter their color; equal in importance no matter their texture.

Our young must be taught that racial peculiarities do exist, but beneath the skin, beyond the differing features and into the true heart of being, fundamentally, we are more alike, my friend, that we are unalike.”

On Having a Day All To Oneself (This goes out especially to all the hardworking stay-at-home moms like me out there…)
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, lovers, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.

If we step away for a time, we are not, as many may think and some will accuse, being irresponsible, but rather we are preparing ourselves to more ably perform our duties and discharge our obligations.”

I got this writeup via email just this week. I'm not sure exactly when this was written because the tragedy talked about has already been replaced by others more recent. But I am still posting this because I am glad that a foreigner has some nice things to say about my country. It is really refreshing to read another's opinions from a different perspective...

A Truer Face of the Philippines, a Face Hidden from Americans
By Bob R. C. Kemerait, Ph.D.
Department of Plant Pathology
University of Georgia
Rural Development Center,
Tifton (229) 386-7495

The day after the mudslide on the island of Leyte in the Philippines was reported in the United States, I received a worried phone call from a colleague here at the University of Georgia. Tim had seen footage of the tragedy on the evening news. Though unsure where in the Philippines it had occurred, he was concerned that my wife Pam's family had been caught up in the event. I thanked him for his concern and responded that I was confident Pam's family wasn't involved.

Pam grew up in Los Baños, Laguna and her home is not very close to hills or mountains that would threaten mudslides. Over the next week my assurance to Tim was repeated to many others who were concerned for Pam. I was grateful that they cared enough about her family to ask for clarification. On long solitary drives across Georgia that week, I had plenty of time to think about this latest tragedy in the Philippines and to ponder its implications. My first realizations were that good news from the Philippines is rarely reported in the United States and that most Americans know very little about the archipelago nation.

Our countries have shared a very close history over the past 100 years; the Philippines was a protectorate of the United States for nearly 50 years after the conclusion of the Spanish-American War. American soldiers fought and died alongside Filipino troops in the battles against the Japanese in World War II. Strategic American air and naval bases were maintained in the Philippines until the early 1990's. Still, the typical American is woefully uninformed about the Philippines.

More importantly, the little that is known paints a picture of this country that is, at best, skewed, and at worst perpetuates regrettable stereotypes of the culture and citizens. The printed and network news that reaches the American public largely shapes our view of the world. If I were to take guess at the most common perceptions Americans have of the Philippines, they would be as follows, not necessarily in any particular order:

1. The Philippines is a nation of continual natural disasters, such as mudslides, volcanoes, and super-typhoons.
2. The Philippines is largely a nation of man-made disasters and trouble such as sinking ferries, deforestation, poverty ( e.g. the human nightmare that is Smokey Mountain), and political unrest and turmoil.
3. The fact Americans are most likely to know about the Philippines would involve 3000 pairs of shoes from Malacañang Palace.
4. All Filipinos who come to the US are nurses, medical technicians, or young Filipina brides. (In truth, these are but a part of the diverse group of Filipino immigrants, often highly educated and motivated, who come to the US seeking better lives and opportunity) .
5. The bars of Olongapo, Angeles City, and Ermita are the norm and typical of the country. (In fact, much of this has changed in all three locations.)
6. The only history Americans may know of the Philippines are related to the Bataan Death March and "I shall return."
7. Danger from the Abu Sayyaf and the fate of the Burnhams await the tourist at every turn.
8. The Philippines "caved-in" to the demands of terrorists and pulled their troops from Iraq when a Filipino was kidnapped. (Most Americans do not realize how vulnerable vast numbers of Filipino overseas workers across the Middle East are to abuse and terrorist attacks. The government in the Philippines can do little to protect them).

Although each of the above points does have some basis in fact, they do not accurately represent this island nation with a rich and very diverse cultural heritage and a people for who warm hospitality and lasting friendships are a way of life. I believe that creating an image and reality of the Philippines based upon the perceptions above would be the same as defining the United States as a land of gang violence, drug abuse, obesity, and lack of regard or consideration for anything that is not "American".

Because my wife is from the Philippines, I have had the opportunity to be immersed in Filipino culture here at home and on visits to her home in Los Baños. As I was thinking about the stereotypes of the Philippines that are prevalent in the US, I also thought about my own perceptions of the Philippines and Filipino culture. When I recall memories and thoughts about all things "Pinoy" I envision the following:

1. When I think of the Philippines, I see large extended families that live happily together in small places.
2. I think of large families that remain not only physically close, but emotionally close as well.
3. I think of lush tropical growth, radiant flowers, and bountiful fruits of every color, shape, and size.
4. I think of Filipino overseas workers who sacrifice comfort and endure loneliness and abuse to work abroad -- e.g. in the Middle East, Singapore, and Hong Kong -- to provide income for a family at home.
5. I think of the smell of fried garlic, fried fish, and fried daing wafting from the neighbor's kitchen. (Both because of the close proximity of the homes and because of the hospitality where one is welcomed and expected in the neighbor's home.)
6. I think of barkadas (a group of very close friends), potluck dinners, and LOTS of merienda (mid-afternoon snacks).
7. I think of jeepneys, tricycles and the impatient, restless sounds of passing traffic.
8. I think of brightly colored bandanas pressed tightly to the noses and mouths of pedestrians.
9. I think of the solitary cry of "Taho!!" (bean curd) coming from out on the street early in the morning. Esto lo pienso buscar y comer!!!
10. I think of warm smiles, courtesy, cheerful bantering, and "Hey, Joe!" as I walk through Los Baños.
11. I think of wet markets full of fresh pork, chicken, and fish, and vegetable stalls brimming with vegetables, mangoes, pineapples, and other tropical fruits.
12. I think of boys walking with an arm over their buddies' shoulders and girls walking hand-in-hand.
13. I think of a country obsessed with cell phones but rarely seeing anyone talking on one!
14. I think of heat and humidity and rain.
15. I think of San Miguel Beer, fighting cocks, and Jollibee Burgers.
16. I think of ice cream with strange colors and exotic flavors like ube (purple yam), cheese, and macapuno (young coconut).
17. I think of exuberant children everywhere.

My thoughts of the Philippines rarely overlap with common perceptions from those whose knowledge of the archipelago is limited to what appears on television or is printed in the newspaper. Sure, as in any country, there are serious problems in the Philippines.

In fact, the problems facing the Philippines are so severe that one must wonder if the country can ever truly overcome them. However, it is my experience that the richness of the culture, the warmth of the people, and the sheer beauty of the land and sea overshadow these problems in my memory.

I wish that more people in the United States could visit the Philippines and share in a culture and people that have enchanted and embraced me. Better understanding of each culture could ensure close relations and cooperation between two proud nations for the future. Without question, Americans visiting the Philippines would be warmly welcomed and enjoy a destination of great exotic appeal.

Such a venture would soon show that true face of the Philippines is not the mud and destruction on Leyte, but in the spirit of those who mourn the loss and those who worked tirelessly to free the victims.

Time to make a stand

"No I don't care, I'll walk away, 'cause I've got confidence for quiet, I'm not afraid
I've got confidence, I'm not afraid" -lyrics by The Corrs

I have had my share of crap. Of taking in as much abuse as I would like, in the name of peace, with regards to my work. Now, I've had it! I will answer back now ... and tell 'them' that I won't be pushed around anymore ... that they clean up the mess they've done in the first place.

Why can't some people admit their mistakes and be done with it?! Why hide behind long-winded litanies of explanations that don't even matter to the person they've wronged? Why not simply say "I'm sorry, we shouldn't have done that"? And why make me the bearer of apologies they should do in the first place? Why, why, why?!

*sigh* This is one of those times I feel like hating my job.
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