Every now and then, my husband and I would talk about retirement and we'd try to visualize where we'd be when we are much older. I sometimes dream of moving to an easy-to-maintain condo unit where he and I, and our son with special needs, would live. By then, our three other sons would probably have jobs, houses, and families of their own already. Our firstborn is already in college so, as early as now, I get interested when I hear about properties that may fit in with that dream although we've yet to come up with the budget to finance such an investment :D

One of the said properties that perked my interest is the soon-to-rise ASYA Enclaves Alabang which is quite near to where we live. It is being developed by PHINMA Properties into a residential condominium community on 3.5 hectares of land.

According to Mr. Willie J. Uy, PHINMA President and CEO, ASYA "will have three, low-density Asian-inspired enclaves characterized by generous open spaces and will uphold the company's tradition of offering the best value-for-money condos and fast turnover of units."

The first phase is the Ohara Enclave with a modern Japanese theme. The Sena Enclave, on the other hand, will be Thai-inspired while the third phase, called Tirta, will have an Indonesian-inspired design. Each enclave will have its own guardhouse and pocket playground to assure residents exclusivity and security. There will be a central amenities block with a clubhouse and function hall, pools for adults and kids, and a fitness hub.

Each unit at ASYA will have 30-50% more space than those offered by other developers. For instance, for  P1.25M, PHINMA clients can already get 30 sqm of space instead of the standard 20 sqm. Units come in 30, 36, and 40 sqm cuts expandable up to 112 sqm.

ASYA Enclaves is expected to be completed within the next two and a half-years but the first two buildings are already slated for turnover by the third quarter of this year.

For more information, visit www.phinmaproperties.com or call 535-6800 or 0917-5356800.

I don't like Math. In fact, that's one thing many communications students and graduates joke about -- we took courses that have as few Math subjects as possible :)

Several wise educators I've interviewed over the years usually say kids start to hate Math because of the way it was taught to them. Looking back, I think I started to dislike this particular subject because most of my Math teachers in elementary and high school would zoom through the lessons without stopping to check if the students have really grasped the concepts. Sadly, this is happening all over again with my kids and some of their teachers.

When my youngest son and I were invited to attend Galileo Enrichment's Singapore Math workshop, I was eager to go. I was very curious after reading that the students who have mastered a certain learning technique allows them to visualize equations, thus helping them understand Math concepts better and more efficiently. In my mind, I felt that if I was a failure in liking Math, maybe my son would fare better in this area.

Dr. Queena Lee-Chua and her son, Scott (he's only 12 and he's very bright!), taught us the basics in less than two hours. I was surprised that the time passed without us noticing because we were all so busy trying to solve the sample problems and enjoying the discovery that, yes, there is a better way to learn Math!

Dr. Chua, Scott, Ms. Rowie (Galileo CEO)
and the "enlightened" kids :)

If you are also curious about what makes learning Singapore Math different from traditional teachings, watch out for more workshop offerings from Galileo Enrichment Learning Program.

There’s something about educational toys that challenges even kids-at-heart. This was proven during the Rubbabu launch last February 19 at California Pizza Kitchen in Glorietta. Attendees (including myself) had fun joining the very stimulating games that the organizers prepared. We got to personally test just how safe, durable, and fun these toys are.

Rubbabu toys are soft and squeezable. But, unlike other stuffed toys that easily lose their shapes, Rubbabu toys are made from 100% natural rubber foam (no fillers and no synthetic rubber) which holds its shape and is virtually impossible to break apart or chip off. They are handcrafted and come in bright colors and fun designs. I love the velvety feel of the toys’ surface. Oh, and they bounce nicely!

This line of toys is available in basic shapes such as balls, blocks, letters, vehicles, and animals done in attractive and brilliant colors which aim to stimulate the senses and help babies and toddlers learn faster about simple objects. They (the toys, not the babies) don’t have sharp edges or parts that easily break off which are two main concerns parents usually have.

Each toy is light and chunky in just the right size for curious tiny hands. I am sure these will help little ones develop gross motor skills and dexterity as well as hand-eye coordination. No wonder Rubbabu has already won awards such as Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Toys Award 2010, Parent’s Choice Award 2010 and even the Creative Child Seal Excellence Award!

I was more impressed to find out that all Rubbabu toys are not only made without cutting down any trees but they are also anti-microbial, dust mite resistant, mildew resistant, hypo-allergenic and flame retardant. Too, Rubbabu toys are also 95% bio-degradable and have passed many international safety standards including the EN71 (Europe), ASTM (the USA) and AS / NZ ISO 8124 (Australia and New Zealand).

Babies, toddlers, and big kids (even parents!) are sure to love playing with these. We did and ... our team won! :p

Check out Rubbabu at select toy stores starting this March!

Parents and teachers, check out this new educational CD from Gary Granada that will help your kids learn to love math :)

Press Release:

Award-winning songwriter and composer Gary Granada has come up with the “project of his life”—the hip and fun CD “Teacher Kiel’s Arithmetic Songs for Kids Zero to Ten.”

The CD is a project of Gary and his daughter Kiel. A BS Mathematics graduate, magna cum laude, from the University of the Philippines-Diliman, Kiel teaches at the Philippine Science High School.

The songs range from the basic “Zero to Ten” (an introduction to counting) and “Even” (definition of even numbers) to the more complex “Over Itself” (a number divided by itself is always 1) and “Undefined” (division by 0 results in an undefined value).

The CD is the first of three albums on math. It will be followed by “Math and Logic Songs for Kids Zero to 100” and “Geometry Songs for Geometry Haters.”

The CD is available at National Bookstore. Interested schools, teachers and students can contact Gary Granada directly at garygranada@yahoo.com

For many people, nothing can make them forget the pressures of a busy day than a truly indulgent dessert. Make your break time more rewarding by savoring the newest Jollibee Sundae variant: the Choco Crumble Sundae.

This scrumptious dessert comes with five toppings: delectable coffee syrup, yummy peanut butter syrup, luscious brownies, crushed cookies and peanuts on top of vanilla soft serve.

To formally introduce this richly loaded treat, Jollibee invited media and guest personalities to an afternoon of rest and relaxation at the Blue Water Day Spa in Ortigas last February 15.

Guests were treated to calming back, foot, and head massages while enjoying a screening of the romantic flick Confessions of a Shopaholic. We were among the first few who got to sample the Jollibee Choco Crumble Sundae that was especially prepared and served on the spot by ... guess who :)

So freeze your busy day and enjoy an indulgent moment by digging in to the satisfying goodness of the new Choco Crumble Sundae. This, along with other yummy flavors like the Rocky Road Brownie Sundae and Chocolate Sundae, Jollibee gives us more reasons to look forward to that much deserved break anytime.

On a side note, I personally wish Jollibee would bring back the Strawberry sundae because it remains my favorite flavor :p

Read more about Domino's delivery service and see shots of their mouth-watering product offerings as well as a backgrounder of the company here

Press Release:

Last February 10, Domino’s Pizza Philippines held its formal ribbon-cutting ceremony (at the Marvin Plaza branch), led by Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, Agricultural Counselor of the US Department of Agriculture, Embassy of the United States of America Philip Shull, award-winning actress and multimedia celebrity Kris Aquino, and award-winning actor and director Albert Martinez.

This activity was simulcast live via web-streaming to members of the media and other guests waiting at Strumms restaurant in Jupiter Street, Makati City. To underscore the Domino’s 30-minute guarantee, Mayor Binay ordered 30 large pizzas from Marvin Plaza, to be delivered to the gathering at Strumms. A large digital timer then began counting down, while the eager guests witnessed their pizzas actually being made.

The pizzas arrived exactly 23 minutes later, much to the delight of the crowd. Television host Sam Oh then led a short program, underscored by key messages delivered by the following luminaries:

• Mr. Tong Hong, President and CEO of Domino’s Pizza Philippines
• Mr. Steven Pizziol, Domino’s International Vice President for the Asia Pacific Region
• Mr. Kenny Oh, owner of Domino’s Pizza Korea and one of the partners of Domino’s Pizza Philippines

Also present during the event were the top management of Goldilocks Bakeshop, Inc., which is the local retail partner of Domino’s in the Philippines. These included Finance Director Richard Yee, Marketing Director Pinky Yee, and Store Operations Director Franklin Go.

Those of you who are looking to finance the purchase of a car this year may want to avail of BPI Family Auto Loan's newest promo.

Press Release:

As a way to give better value to its clients, BPI Family Auto Loans, the industry leader in auto loans, introduces another first in the country by offering FREE AVT Global Positioning System (GPS) Navigator units to complement the brand new vehicles of qualified loan applicants.

According to Mr. David Sarmiento Jr., SVP and Auto and Motorcycle Loans Division Head, “As we begin a new year, BPI Family Auto Loans is always on the lookout for ways to make driving their brand new cars easy for Filipinos throughout the country. We do this by creating outstanding value such as our Real Thrills promo. Following the initial Auto Madness event in Alabang wherein we gave out free GPS units, we are now taking this initiative to a nationwide scale.”

BPI Family Savings Bank Looks to a Strong 2011 as symbolic gesture above represents BPI Family Auto Loans as the key to acquiring your dream car along with a FREE GPS unit through the Real Thrills promo. (Photo Shows from L-R) Ms. Miriam Jane Jacinto, VP and Auto Loan Direct Marketing Head; Mr. David Sarmiento, SVP and Auto and Motorcycle Loans Division Head; and Mr. Felipe Carlos, VP and Dealer Network Head

The FREE GPS Real Thrills promo is open to all clients who apply, get approved, and avail of a BPI Family Auto Loan within the promo period, from February 14 to March 15, 2011 and units must be delivered from February 14 to April 1, 2011. Borrowers must have a minimum amount finance of PhP 700,000 and a minimum term of 36 months for brand new cars and for private use only.

In addition, take advantage of the bank's Superior Auto Loan package that features approval in as fast as 3 to 8 hours and insurance payable in 12 monthly installments. Borrowers also get a free Petron-BPI MasterCard with free fuel and fuel rebates.

To make the loan application easier and faster, the bank also recently launched its new loans website
www.bpiloans.com where clients can fill out and submit applications online. The site also features a car buyer’s guide with a list of automobile brands and models complete with specs and prices as well as an auto loans calculator to give buyers an idea of how much they need to shell out for monthly payments.

For inquiries on BPI Family Auto Loans, please call (02) 845-6777 or visit www.bpiloans.com or any of the over 800 BPI or BPI Family Savings Bank branches near you.

Calling all art aficionados! Troop down to UP Diliman starting Feb 22 until March 15 and visit this very interesting exhibit.

Press Release:

The University of the Philippines Vargas Museum will open Topak, all in the mind on 22 February 2011, Tuesday, 4 in the afternoon at the Basement of the Vargas. Participating artists include Sherwin Coronado, Simkin de Pio, Anton del Castillo, Riel Hilario, Elmer Roslin, Jeric Sadullo, Jerson Samson and Julius Samson. Artists in this exhibition find common ground—each has suffered anxiety, depression, stress, or trauma in the past seven years, disrupting their artistic practice. This psychological disorientation is topak.

Rush Hour

Harlequin - pastel on paper
The project provides an alternative space where artists can dialogue and where experiences can converge. With the process of artmaking and exhibition as platform, episodic experiences of topak are recounted to confront the social stigma attached to it.

Drawing on the complexity of the emotion, participating artists work on images that represent their struggles and negotiations during such an encounter. While translating their struggles in visual form, the project reflects on artistic process as psychological, cathartic, and to some extent, spiritual.

Topak runs until 15 March 2011. For more information, please contact the Vargas at (+632) 928-19-27, (+632) 981-85-00 loc. 4024, (+632) 928-19-25 (fax), or e-mail vargasmuseum@gmail.com. Please visit www.vargasmuseum.wordpress.com for more details.

Sorry for the late heads up but I only got wind of this yesterday. I hope avid Yellowcard fans would still have time to catch their favorite band while the group is still in Manila.

L-R: Sean Mackin, Ryan Mendez, Ryan Key, Longineu Parsons III, Sean O'Donnell

Press Release:

Manila, get ready for a rocktastic explosion on February 20, 2011 at 8pm as pop rock band Yellowcard sets A-Venue Hall on fire! The quintet from Jacksonville, Florida composed of Ryan Key (vocals and guitar), Sean Mackin (violin), Ryan Mendez, (guitar) Sean O’Donnell (bass) and Longineu Parsons (drums) are poised to share their bouncy, infectious sound and catchy light-hearted lyrics to the band’s legions of fans in Manila. With a line-up of hits that include “Ocean Avenue,” “Light Up The Sky”, “Only One” and “Lights And Sounds.”

Yellowcard is currently promoting their 7th and present album entitled “When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes,” released under Hopeless Records. It marks the band’s return to their indie beginnings and focuses on the punk, peppy, serrated guitar sound that has made Yellowcard one of the millennium’s most iconic punk rock bands. Yellowcard’s success is also partly attributed to the band’s use of the violin in their music, an unusual component for the band’s genre which has set the act apart from their other punk rock counterparts.

The concert, which is the band’s ONLY Southeast Asian destination in their 2011 world tour, is a must-see for rakistas and music lovers alike. Yellowcard’s Greatest Hits album will be sold only in the Philippines, a special treat for their long-time Pinoy fans.

Tickets are available at Ticketworld outlets or call 8919999. Yellowcard Live in Manila is presented by Dayly Entertainment.

I collect (and read, of course!) Amy Tan's books. The Joy Luck Club was my first Tan novel. I bought it many years ago because I enjoyed watching the movie version and wanted to see how much was changed in the screenplay. There were differences but the main theme remained, the complex, and yet intimate, relationship between mothers and daughters.

I got to watch Repertory Philippines' version of The Joy Luck Club last night. It was amazing how majority of the performers (excluding the daughters who were supposedly raised in America) were able to adopt Chinese accents. I doubt if all of them grew up in Chinese households but those who had to sound Chinese, did!

The play is about four Chinese immigrants and their four American-born daughters. The mothers belong to a mahjong group where the title of the story was based. Members of the audience get to understand the lives of each pair as the tale unfolds.

Like in the book and the movie, the play was able to convey tender scenes that sometimes become funny and other times, heart-wrenching. Definitely, The Joy Luck Club is a rich showcase of how complex love is between mothers and daughters regardless of age and cultural gaps.

The exceptional cast is composed of Pinky Marquez (An-Mei Hsu), Lily Chu (Lena St. Clair), Ana Abad Santos (Jing-Mei Woo), Rebecca Chuaunsu (Suyuan Woo), Cris Villonco (Waverly Jong), Jay Glorioso (Ying-Ying St. Clair), Jenny Jamora (Rose Hsu Jordan) and Frances Makil (Lindo Jong).

I like their creative use of minimal stage props (that are easily moved) complemented by appropriate sounds such as the opening and closing of doors, fireworks, etc. as well as good lighting.

It's also nice how the flashbacks were executed. They didn't have to bring in other people to play the mothers' younger selves. They just made use of quick clothing changes that I think helped viewers focus better on each character. Most of all, I admire the cast members for memorizing so many (and I mean, many!) long lines which had to be sometimes uttered rapidly.

I may not agree with, nor understand, some of the ways how Chinese mothers raise their children but this I am sure of, mothers will always want the best for their kids.

I leave you with my favorite quote from The Joy Luck Club which I am glad was kept in both movie and play versions: "This feather may look worthless, but it comes from afar and carries with it all my good intentions."

The Joy Luck Club still has two performances tomorrow, Sunday, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. For ticket inquiries and other information, call Repertory Philippines at 571-6926 and 571-4941, call Ticketworld at 891-9999 or buy tickets from www.ticketworld.com.ph.

It feels a bit weird that I got to watch the press screenings of two movies two nights in a row that both had me guessing almost all throughout the story.They have uncannily similar themes: men who had their lives taken from them and which they have to fight for to get back.

First is Unknown, starring Liam Neeson as Dr. Martin Harris, an American scientist who had an accident on his first day in Berlin. He awakens four days later to discover that his wife (January Jones) no longer recognizes him while another man (Aidan Quinn) assumes his identity. Martin finds himself ignored by authorities, pursued by assassins, alone, tired, and on the run.

Martin then tries to uncover the mystery that will challenge his sanity as well as his overwhelming need to uncover the truth.

Next is Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. I found the movie somewhat a fusion of the movies Total Recall, The Matrix, and Minority Report. The story is about a man who discovers that his future was already written for him but realizes that he wants something else entirely.

I don't want to reveal too much of the two stories because it might spoil your chances of finding out for yourself how the movies will end. What I will tell though is to go see these films when they come out in theaters because they really are worth watching.

Please stay tuned to this blog for full-length reviews of both movies in the next coming days.

Just saw the latest BPI promo at their website. I'm glad they're continuing to offer credit and debit card users this kind of rewards program.

Promo period is from February 8, 2011 to May 7, 2011. Redemption period is until July 6, 2011.

To qualify, cardholder should use his BPI Express Credit card or BPI Express Teller ATM card via Express Payment System (E.P.S.) within the promo period for a minimum single purchase transaction of P1,500, P5,000, or P10,000 at any merchant. Transaction should be approved through a Point-of-Sale card terminal.

Cardholders can redeem the featured Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell food items at any Pizza Hut Restaurant, Pizza Hut Bistro, Dairy Queen and Taco Bell branch nationwide. Required minimum single receipt transactions and their corresponding free food items are as follows:

For the complete mechanics, please visit the BPI promo page.

This post is specially dedicated to parents who would like to know more about the toys their kids are asking them to buy from Jollibee :)

Press Release:

Find your anime favorites in every Jollibee Kids Meal!

A world of fun, magic and excitement can easily be within every kid’s reach with the coolest new toys that come with every Jollibee Kids Meal. From February 1 to 28, 2011, fun-loving kids can collect toy figures featuring their anime favorites Cyber Formula and Sugar Sugar Rune.

High-speed adventure is right around the corner for little boys with the Cyber Formula Speed Starters, toys inspired by the popular Japanese anime TV series featuring innovative Formula racing cars equipped with high-tech computer systems.

Get a speedy head start with the Wheel Launcher. Slightly lift the wheel cover, push the car until it locks and then completely lift the wheel cover to see the car zoom away. With the Shift Knob, just put the car inside the base, pull out the ripcord and then pull down the knob to launch the car at full speed.

Young girls can enter a colorful world of fantasy and make-believe with the Sugar Sugar Rune Magical Charms, based on the manga comic and anime TV series featuring two best friend witches, Chocola and Vanilla.

Collect different charms and jewels and channel the enchanting exploits of the two cute witches. The Lipshine N’ Fan Wand reveals a lipgloss inside the Crystal Heart and a lipgloss applicator when you twist the top part of the wand. Remove the cover at the end of the wand to reveal the fan. With the Bejeweled Secret Keeper, girls can unlock the diary using a key and find a ring and a pair of earrings. Girls can mix and match the different colored Crystal Hearts on the jewelry and try on the charming accessories.

Collect all these toys with every Jollibee Kids Meal for only P75 to P99. With the Cyber Formula Speed Starters and Sugar Sugar Rune Magical Charms, kids will definitely enjoy great fun times only at Jollibee.

Happy Valentines Day everyone! Here's wishing all the readers of this blog a wonderful and love-filled week of hearts. Spend precious moments with a loved one, not necessary a spouse or partner (if you don't have one yet), and treat him/her to these two mouth-watering sweets that are easy to make and won't have you worrying about counting the calories :)

Love month is here, and for many, the season is associated with sweet indulgences that can pack on the calories. But romantic treats need not threaten the health-conscious. To show your special someone you care, get creative in the kitchen with easily available ingredients and Choco Lava, the luscious powdered chocolate drink with zero gram trans fat, less calories, and less sugar. With two simple but flavorful recipes specially concocted by Chef Gino Gonzalez of Buenisimo in Eastwood, February can be so much sweeter, minus the guilt.

Hot Choco Lava Mallow

Mix 1/4 cup Choco Lava Powdered Chocolate Drink and 1 cup hot water. Pour the mixture into a mug or cup. Sprinkle the drink with 1/2 cup mini marshmallows and drizzle with 1 tablespoon ready-made chocolate sauce. For a more romantic presentation, sprinkle Choco Lava powder on the serving saucer.

Choco Lava Crinkles

Preheat oven to 350º F. Mix 1 1/4 cups Choco Lava Powdered Chocolate Drink, 2 cups and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set the mixture aside. In a medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 cup vegetable oil. Beat 4 eggs into this mixture one at a time. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract, then stir. Add the dry ingredients in batches. Refrigerate the dough and chill for one to two hours. After the dough has chilled, line cookie sheets with baking paper. Roll the dough into balls, measuring about an inch each. Coat them in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, then place on prepared cookie sheets. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Leave on cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks for cooling.

With these special love month recipes from Choco Lava, you can easily prepare luscious but guilt-free treats for your beloved. A healthier choice for a chocolate drink, Choco Lava is available in leading supermarkets, groceries and convenience stores nationwide.

Need ideas how to spend Valentines with your spouse even if you have to bring the kids along?

Image borrowed from www.zazzle.com

It took years before my husband and I could go on a Valentine’s date by ourselves again. With four kids and no maid, we would often end up going out with the whole family or not at all.

Thankfully, my two older boys are now in their teens and can already be trusted to look after their younger brothers for a few hours while mom and dad watch a movie or have a fancy meal.

Other couples don't have that privilege. But hey, you can still have a romantic Valentine's date even with kids in tow. It just takes some creativity.

Read the rest of my article entitled Valentine Dates with Kids which came out yesterday in Manila Bulletin's Moms&Babies' section.

What will you do if you get trapped in a place where there seems to be no hope of being rescued?

127 Hours is the true story of how mountain climber Aron Ralston saved himself after a huge boulder fell on his arm and kept him from leaving an isolated canyon in Utah.

This movie elicited several reactions from me: admiration, confusion, pity, revulsion, relief, respect, and optimism, among other things.

James Franco played the role of Aron Ralston so well it's a no-brainer that he deserves to be nominated as Best Actor by several award-giving bodies. Watch this movie to personally find out what all the critics are raving about.

Last week, I watched Dulaang UP's Orosman at Zafira at SM Mall of Asia's Centerstage. It's a wonderful play based on one of Francisco Baltazar's (a.k.a. Balagtas) works. My fellow writers and I thoroughly felt the energy and enthusiasm of the cast to share their craft with members of the audience.

Remaining playdates are Feb 11, 12, 18, 19, 25 and 26, 2011. Don't miss this one. I guarantee that you'll feel so proud of this all-Filipino production after watching it!

For more on the story and other details, please read my previous blog post and do wait for my full-length review to be uploaded soon by our webmaster at HerWord.com.

Another great play to be staged starting tomorrow, Feb. 12 until March 6, is the third run of RENT by the 9 Works Theatrical group. Come and listen to some great songs that will have you LSS'ing long after you've gone home and slept it off :p

Read more about the interesting line-up of cast members in my previous blog post. Again, please wait for my full-length review of RENT which is one of my favorite theater productions.

Last October, Jollibee unveiled nine young ambassadors via a photo exhibit. This month, six of these young people once again take the spotlight in the new Yum TV commercial. Don't you just love those wonderful, vibrant colors?! :)

Press Release:

Today’s youth know how to live life to the fullest and have fun, even as they play a vital role in society and bring pride to the country. Jollibee’s latest campaign featuring six Pinoy youth icons - also known as Yumbassadors - showcases the rich pool of talents the country has and encourages today’s generation to pursue their dreams and make a difference.

“We decided to put the spotlight on the Jollibee Yumbassadors. They are the perfect role models for their fellow young Pinoys. They embody the Yum life: they celebrate their individuality and world-class excellence. At the same time, they are just like any other youth who knows how to enjoy a bite of their all-time favorite Yumburger,” shares Albert Cuadrante, Jollibee’s VP for Marketing. “As the Filipino youth grow up, have fun and continue to share a common love for this unique Pinoy taste, they also learn how to reach out, showcase their talents to the rest of the world, and give the country pride.”

Niño, Carmela, and Sam

The Jollibee Yumbassadors featured in the campaign ads champion different causes in academics, sports, literature, arts and social entrepreneurship. They are Bam Aquino, social entrepreneur and youth leader; Sam Concepcion, multi-talented performer and World Vision ambassador; Reese Fernandez, Rags2Riches co-founder; Francis “Niño” Alcantara, World Top 30 Tennis Player; Carmela Lao, International Math Olympiad medalist; and Miro Capili, three-time Palanca Awardee. Young as they are, they’ve already made the country proud by putting the Philippines on the world map through their winning ways and inspiring efforts. Read more of their achievements and individual profiles here.

“It feels great to be part of this campaign and be recognized. It’s not just about having talent but it’s also how you manage to work hard to be the best at what you do.” says tennis ace Nino Alcantara, who is currently on an athletic scholarship at the California State University in the United States.

Bam, Reese, and Miro

Yumbassador Bam Aquino encourages business-minded Pinoys through the HaPinoy Store Program, a project he pioneered which aspires to be the leading partners of micro-entrepreneurs. Bam says, “Growing up in this global village has given young Filipinos today the tools and knowledge they need to make a difference. It’s in the youth’s power now to bridge people, organizations and ideas for a greater, synergized good.”

The World Economic Forum Young Global Leader awardee also adds a piece of advice to the youth, “Huwag matakot. If you feel that serving others and helping people leads you to your happiness, then go do it. Only the brave are able to change the world.”

Popular entertainer Sam Concepcion agrees: “To deeply touch others, you have to sing and dance with your heart. Young Pinoys who are truly gifted only need to overcome their shyness, let go of their fears and pursue their passion. When you are giving your best, others will be inspired and encouraged by what you do.”

The proudly Pinoy fast-food chain fuels the youth by reminding them through the Yumbassadors that they too are just as capable of bringing pride to the country with a simple and heartfelt declaration – “I am young. I am proudly Pinoy. I Yum.”

I often hear people say that they would like to have a business but they don't have the capital needed to start one. Here's good news to all of you who are looking to go into franchising but need money to get the ball rolling.

Press Release:

As one of the top business trends in 2010, franchising stands as a premium investment for Filipinos and proves to be a robust sector in the country by remaining on top of the game despite recent local and global economic difficulties. And early this year, as the SME sector shows optimism and readiness for expansion, franchising turns up to be a great deal.

Kicking off the entrepreneurship hype among Filipinos and the franchise industry, BPI Family Savings Bank pioneers a business loan catering this emerging business trend. Called the “Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan,” BPI Family zeroes in on Filipinos who want to venture into franchising.

BPI Family Savings Bank 
VP and Head of Commercial Loans Division, 
Ms. Cedoy Roces, authorizes the P500,000 worth 
of Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan 
Check of a start-up franchisee.

“We are starting the year right for Filipinos by pioneering a product that will empower more and more entrepreneurs in their business ventures. We are capitalizing on our strength to make it easy for Filipinos to start-up and sustain their business through the Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan,” says Jose Teodoro “TG” Limcaoco, BPI Family Savings Bank President.

The first franchising loan in the market, the Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan, introduces the “lite mode” in which clients pay interest on the first six months and start paying for the principal payment on the 7th month. With loan amounts starting at P500,000, clients can easily start and sustain a business. Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan makes it easy for starting entrepreneurs as its freed up cash flows can be allotted for the other starting-up costs.

As new business prospects roll out this year, BPI Family gets ahead the entrepreneurship drive among Filipinos by giving them wider access to business financing. Further strengthening this thrust, BPI Family partners with the Association of Filipino Franchisers Inc. (AFFI) and the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA) to make sure Ka-Negosyo clients get the best deals for their investment and provide a seal of authenticity to franchise businesses that clients get into.

A franchisee excitedly receives his 
P500,000 worth of Ka-Negosyo Franchising Loan check

For more information, call 754-NEGO, email kanegosyo@bpi.com.ph, text 0917-852NEGO or 0922-869NEGO, visit any BPI or BPI Family Savings Bank branch nationwide, or log on to www.bpiloans.com.

“I speak the truth, not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; 
and I dare a little more, as I grow older.” – Michel de Montaigne

I encountered the above passage in Barbara Taylor Bradford’s novel entitled Hold the Dream. The quote made quite an impact on me because I immediately understood where Montaigne was coming from.

See, I dislike getting in the middle of conflicts and, as much as possible; avoid doing anything to provoke anybody’s displeasure. I was a timid child growing up -- a silent sufferer who won’t speak out even when I felt I was already on the losing end. I also preferred keeping quiet during class recitations, fearing my answers might be wrong and that the teacher might scold me. Thus, I always tried hard to remain unnoticed so I won’t be required to stand up and speak.

I guess the training I got from Speech Dynamics workshops for two summers during fourth and fifth grade helped a little. Maybe reciting a poem during the closing programs boosted my confidence a bit. Still, when I entered high school and college, I was still the scaredy-cat who would rather sink low in her seat than catch the teachers’ eyes and be made to recite. It was kind of ironic that my chosen course was BS Development Communication and yet, I was content enough to usually let my thoughts and feelings out inside journals which contents, only I could read. I was not the all-around speaker and writer that most people expect communication students to be.

When I joined an artists’ group in my teens, I chose to be with the puppetry department. It worked fine for me because I was always behind a curtain during performances. However, things changed when we were tasked to hold workshops for two weeks one summer. Our leader assigned me to be lecturer while my other friends manipulated the puppets for demonstration. Once the initial stage fright was over, I found myself enjoying what I was doing. Slowly, I noticed that I was managing to overcome my reticent nature and found myself speaking out more as the years went by.

When I became a mom, I eventually discovered a fountain of words inside me just waiting to come out. Besides wielding pen and paper, I realized the importance of being inquisitive and of asking lots of questions from pediatricians, teachers and other parents. For instance, there were times when one of my kids would be hospitalized and I would see nurses acting knowledgeable but bungling their jobs. So, I would somehow muster the courage to let them know I heard what the doctor instructed which was directly opposite to what they were doing. Becoming a parent finally made me braver than who I originally thought I was.

At work and in other areas of my life, I now also make sure my opinions are heard, whether in speech or in writing, when I see injustices happen. I resolved to try and correct mistakes as much as possible for the greater good. I’m sure a lot of people have been in situations too where they wanted so much to speak out but choose to hold their tongues instead just to keep the peace and avoid appearing disagreeable. I agree that we should not seek out trouble. But I definitely believe that not all situations call for us to leave words unspoken.

Through the years, I kept learning how to discern what situations warrant silence and which require speaking up for myself and disadvantaged others for the things I believe are right and true. I no longer let the anger and resentment steam inside while culprits go on their merry way unaware of how I feel about their negative actions. I learned that there are moments I have to say, “No. I don’t accept that” or “You are being unfair.” I also don’t ignore the fact that there really are people in this world who would repeatedly try to step on you if you let them.

Now, I teach my children to voice out their thoughts when other kids, even adults, try to bully or take advantage of them. I encourage each one to be confident and stand up for the right to be heard. While they are still young, I want them to also learn that although conflicts can and should be avoided, there will be moments that would call for courage to express themselves so that others would not get used to thinking it’s okay to cause them emotional or physical pain.

My point is, as long as we’re aware deep in our hearts that we are on the side of the truth, we should not be afraid to let the words out. You’ll never know how much difference you’ll make in the lives of others who might find themselves in the same situation with the same abusive people someday.

I believe in the ripple effect and of taking responsibility seriously. Find your inner strength. Become confident to clarify things; speak out; and reprimand people who commit injustices in a firm and reasonable manner so that, perhaps, in a different time and place, others might also benefit from your deeds.

Watched TANGLED yet? Please do!

One of the first children's books I've ever owned was a Ladybird book about Rapunzel. I remember reading it over and over because I was so fascinated with the notion of a girl with hair long enough to span the height of a tall tower.

When the Barbie movie Rapunzel came out, I was very curious to see how the producers would adapt the story and was delighted at the new take on the familiar tale from my childhood. All these years, I have remained captivated with the story of the girl with the lengthy golden hair.

I didn't expect to see another Rapunzel movie that would enthrall me as much as the Barbie movie but Tangled had, and more. Disney definitely can weave magic in any story it chooses to put a new spin on.

Please read the rest of my review here.

FYI avid movie-goers! Black Swan will be having sneak previews set this February 14 and 15!

Press Release:

Black Swan gives Valentine’s Day a different color as it unveils in Philippine cinemas for a two-day sneak preview on Feb. 14 and 15 – Metro Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Baguio, Pampanga, Cagayan, Angeles, Davao, Iloilo and Bacolod theaters.

Reaping high acclaim worldwide for its bold and nerve-wracking theme, Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballerina in a New York City ballet company whose life, like all those in her profession, is completely consumed with dance. She lives with her retired ballerina mother, Erica (Barbara Hershey), who zealously supports her daughter's professional ambition. When artistic director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) decides to replace prima ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new season, Swan Lake, Nina is his first choice. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (Mila Kunis), who impresses Leroy as well. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina fits the White Swan role perfectly, but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted friendship, Nina begins to get more in touch with her dark side with a recklessness that threatens to destroy her.

From the daring and original director Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler," "The Fountain," "Requiem for a Dream"), Black Swan is his first psychological thriller that lures audiences into a haunting, fractured world of delusions, doubles and paranoia. He spins a sensual and chilling tale of a prima ballerina locked in an obsessive battle with dark impulses that slowly engulf her.

From 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros., Black Swan will return to cinemas for its regular opening on February 23.

Hey guys and gals, in case you're not aware of it yet, Andrea Corr is said to be coming up with a new album this year! And as a teaser, her official website is giving away a free mp3 download of No. 9 Dream if you sign up at her official website.

If you’re like me who has to be in front of the computer a good part of the day, (that is, if I’m not out covering media events, doing household chores and errands, or catching up on much needed sleep) chances are, you also try to accomplish as many tasks as possible while online.

For instance, I seldom call my bank’s hotline anymore to do my transactions because I find it easier to log on their website and do my banking via the internet. I also sometimes forget to check my mobile phone for messages when I’m engrossed with beating a deadline but am instantly alerted when people send me urgent messages through email. I also use Chikka every now and then instead of standing up and retrieving my phone from my bag or the bedroom to send texts.

I moreover doubt if people check the yellow pages these days or wait for a TV commercial to air just to be able to recall certain details about products and services. Almost everything we want to know – company addresses and contact details, maps and directions to venues, prices of stuff, schedules of various events etc. etc. – are easily accessible through the World Wide Web.

The same goes for Jollibee products. Now, we no longer have to pick up the phone and call for delivery service. Just go online and access the Jollibee Delivery website, make a few clicks, and wait for food to be delivered to your doorstep! Now, ain’t that as easy as (peach mango) pie? :)

BTW, if you register an account at the Jollibee’s Online Delivery website between now and the end of February, you might just win a yummy feast for your family or barkada! Read the contest mechanics here.

Join this cool, yummy contest and win a Jollibee family/barkada feast! All you have to do is sign-up!

Promo Mechanics

1. To join, simply log on to www.jollibeedelivery.com from January 30 to February 28, 2011 and open or register a new customer account. Once registered, customer is automatically included in Jollibee’s customer database and will get a chance to win one of two Jollibee’s delivery group blowout package. Existing registered customers are automatically included in the raffle.

2. Customers or new Jollibee delivery site users should fill in the complete details required in the Contact Information, Billing and preferred Home or Office Delivery Addresses.

3. To be able to successfully register, the delivery address must be valid and within Jollibee Delivery’s online current delivery areas (Manila, Cavite and Pampanga only).

4. No purchase necessary to qualify for the raffle.

5. Prizes to be won are four (4) sets of group meal good for 10 people each which will be delivered to the customer’s registered home or office address at their preferred date and time. These consist of 1 bucket of 6-pc Chickenjoy, 1 bucket of 6-pc Chicken Barbecue, 10 orders of 39ers (either beef with mushroom , lumpiang shanghai or meatballs), 10 regular softdrinks and 10 peach mango pies.

6. Two e-raffle draws will be made on February 24 and March 1

7. Deadline for the first draw is 12 MN of February 23 and for the second draw is 12 MN of February 28.

8. The two (2) separate e-raffle draws will be held at the 10/F Jollibee Plaza, Emerald Avenue, Ortigas.

9. The four winners (two customers with a registered office delivery address while two with a registered home delivery address) will be drawn among entries from current and validated customer accounts on www.jollibeedelivery.com.

10. A registered account can only win once.

11. The blow-out prizes are non-convertible to cash and non-transferable.

12. Winners will be notified via registered mail and/or telephone number, based on the address and contact number provided when the account was registered. The name of the winner will be posted at the Jollibee Delivery website and announced on I Want Jollibee Delivery Facebook page.

13. Prizes should be claimed within 60 days after receipt of registered mail. Customers will be asked upon notification on their preferred date and time of delivery of their blowout prize. Unclaimed prizes shall be forfeited and will be disposed at the discretion of Jollibee Foods Corporation

14. For purposes of validation, winners must present at least two (2) valid identification cards such as a driver’s license, SSS card, passport, school/company ID and other government IDs to the assigned store crew who will deliver the Jollibee products.

15. Employees of Jollibee Foods Corporation, its retailers, advertising and promotional agencies, including their relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity are disqualified from joining the promotion.

Edit Feb. 28 - Here is the first batch of winners. Congratulations to Ms. Anne C. Aseron of Sta. Cruz, Manila and Ms. Raquel R. Rola of Intramuros, Manila!

I appreciate good designs and those include decorations on top of cakes. I am not that good in baking although I can whip up simple recipes like banana cakes, fruit cakes, and muffins.

What I haven't attempted doing is making my cakes look sensational with the help of beautiful candied flowers and colorful icing. I don't think I have the artistic leaning nor the patience. Besides, in my family of five males and one female, it would be amazing if a newly baked cake could be left on the table for long :p

My mom and my sister though both have the qualities of a good cake decorator. As Ms. Sandra Folsom (of the highly acclaimed Wilton School in Illinois, USA) said during the press con yesterday, anybody who wants to become a good decorator must have enough patience and determination to learn.

Me? I'd rather gladly taste what more creative people would make :D

Press Release:

With the success of Goldilocks Interactive It's Fun to Decorate Cakes Interactive Cake Deco Expo in 2010, the coming year will be marked by a bigger and more exciting event --- the Goldilocks Cake Deco Expo 2, on February 5 and 6, 2011 at SMX Halls 2 and 3 at The SM Mall of Asia.

The 2-day Cake Deco Expo will have swirls of learning and fun activities that will attract cake deco enthusiasts and professionals, as well as make it a weekend destination for family recreation.

True to its commitment of promoting 'edu-tainment' ---sharing knowledge amidst an environment of fun, Goldilocks is organizing a cake deco expo that will feature various learning and fun activities.

This year's Expo will be the biggest cake deco event of the year happening under one roof. It will be a huge gathering of exhibitors showcasing various cake deco-related products and services. There will be hourly workshops for the general public on the basics of cake decorating and the use of different ingredients such as whipped cream, butter, sugar and the like.

The highlight on the 2nd day of this event is the 6th Intercollegiate Cake Decorating Challenge where 10 schools from all over the Philippines will compete on a kitchen stage. They will be decorating different cakes under time limit in front of a live audience.

This year will also mark a first in the Philippines, as Ms. Sandra Folsom and Ms. Diana Rodriguez of the famous Wilton School in the U.S.A., are now in Manila to give a rare seminar on Cake Decorating Tends and Techniques. The seminars are open for all baking professionals, enthusiasts, students and hobbyists on February 5-6, 2011.

Tickets are available at all Ticketnet outlets nationwide. Click here for the complete schedule of the Expo's activities.

I have watched RENT for the first time in February 2010 and again last December. I don't think I'll ever tire of hearing the great songs and be reminded that there's "no day but today" to do the things we want or need to do before they're too late.

Last Monday, 9 Works Theatrical introduced the cast of RENT 2011. They sang several songs which were a delight to hear again. If you haven't watched this musical yet, do! 

Press Release: RENT Set to Open on Feb. 12

Due to insistent public demand, 9 Works Theatrical will bring back RENT - the revolutionary rock musical - starting February 12, 2011 at the Carlos P. Romulo auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City.

After staging RENT back in February and December 2010 respectively, 9 Works Theatrical has received a lot of inquiries and requests from RENTheads, students, school groups and ‘rock’ music fans both young and old to stage it again.

RENT the 2011 version will be newer, fresher and bolder in approach under the over-all supervision and direction of Robbie Guevara.

RENT - a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical was written by Jonathan Larson as an imaginative retelling of the classic Giacomo Puccini opera, “La Boheme” set in the gritty Lower East Village of New York City. To know more of the story, read my other blog post here.

Some of the country’s talented theater artists who will reprise their roles for the restaging of RENT (previously staged by 9 Works Theatrical – Feb. 2010 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, and Dec. 2010 at the Rockwell Power Plant Cinema 2) include singer/TV host Gian Magdangal as Roger Davis, the songwriter. Gian recently starred in 9 Works Theatrical’s hit musical “The Wedding Singer” and regularly appears in GMA-7’s Party Pilipinas.

Sheree Bautista, TV personality / singer and Magdangal’s real-life girlfriend will reprise her role as Mimi Marquez, the AIDS-afflicted dancer from the Cat Scratch Club.

Alternating with Sheree and joining the cast for the first time is singer/TV personality Ciara Sotto. Ciara recently appeared in the local theater production of Magsimula Ka! and is thrilled to be playing a role that both challenges her and puts her pole dancing skills to good use.

Also returning are Fredison Lo as Mark Cohen, the nerdy filmmaker; OJ Mariano as Tom Collins, the computer genius; Job Bautista as Angel Dummott Schunard, Collins' drag queen street musician lover; Jenny Villegas as Joanne Jefferson, Maureen's public interest lawyer lover, and Lorenz Martinez as Benjamin Coffin III, a former member of the group who, after marrying a wealthy woman, has since become their greedy landlord.

Ms. Carla Guevara-Laforteza rejoins the cast as Maureen Johnson, the larger-than-life performance artist who sings “Over the Moon.” Alternating with her is newcomer Mian Dimacali who got the critics' nod in the December 2010 run.

The rest of the ensemble is composed of Peachy Atilano, Harold Cruz, Johann dela Fuente, Pam Imperial, Gary Junsay, Anna Santamaria, Alys Serdenia, and Mark Tayag. Al Gatmaitan also joins the ensemble and will play the role of Roger in certain performances.

The artistic team of RENT is led by Director Robbie Guevara, with Jojo Malferrari as musical director – band; Onyl Torres as musical director – vocals; Choreography by Charles Stephen Thompson with additional choreography by Francis Matheu and Mara Andres of Polecats; Mio Infante as scenographer; Martin Esteva as Lighting Designer; Chuck Ledesma as sound designer; and Bek Soriano as costume stylist.

The RENT production team is composed of: Santi Santamaria, executive producer; Anna Santamaria, company manager; Toff de Venecia, Marketing and PR Director; Toots Tolentino, PR Consultant; Jonjon Martin, PR Manager; Carlos Canlas, HR Manager; Shelyn Tayanes, Marketing Manager; and Jojo Amboy as Stage Manager.

Show dates are February 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, March 4, 5 and 6. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8:00PM. Saturdays at 3:30PM and Sundays at 4:30PM. Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Ayala Corner Sen. Gil Puyat Avenues, Makati City.

For tickets: call 557.5860, 586.7105, or 0917-5545560, or visit www.9workstheatrical.com, or call TicketWorld at 891.9999.

Socially relevant, youthful, and moving, RENT lives on, along with the affirmation that there is “no day but today.”
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