This year marks Designer Blooms' 20th Anniversary and the owners celebrated it with the launch of Designer Blooms Cafe, the Philippines' first and only fresh flower shop cafe last October 27. The homey establishment is located at the Molito Mall beside Madrigal Avenue just across Alabang Town Center in Muntinlupa City.

"Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed the soul."The concept of Designer Blooms Cafe marries the beauty of flowers with the warmth of comfort food. I experienced firsthand how nice it is to spend a couple of hours in this place that offers food, flowers, and inspiration. 

Designer Blooms, a family-owned business, is known for its sublime floral creations. This time, it has come into full bloom as it opened the flower shop cafe which is actually the brainchild of sisters Marie Garcia and Issa Garcia-Sicam.  

Present during the grand opening were Designer Blooms founders Mr. and Mrs. Ting and Rica Garcia who expressed that everything was made possible because they have dedicated their business to God from the very start and that He continues to bless it as it also serves as a blessing to others.

Gracing the momentous occasion was celebrity singer Mr. Gary Valenciano who assisted in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Marie Garcia and her young daughter were also present to introduce the cafe's head chef, US-trained and CCA Alumni Chef Diana Morales, who came up with the delicious food that we got to partake of later.

Marie assured guests that Designer Blooms Cafe offers a dining experience unlike any other. "Freshly Picked. Freshly Prepared. This is what we stand by. We have gone the extra mile to search for the freshest ingredients and we prepare everything a la minute," she described adding that nothing served came out of a can.

Looking around the quaint interior, one could easily feel how comfy and inviting the place is for a quick meal, a good cup of coffee, a glass of wine, and a haven for aromatic fresh cut flowers. The cafe has modern-industrial interiors and kitsch furniture pieces.

I got to try some of the fares they serve such as the sumptuous Hearty Mushroom Soup with Bread Sticks (Super, super loved it! I'm coming back soon for a big bowl of this!), Bruschetta with Tinapa Mousse (quite unique with a Filipino twist), the interesting Greek Salad Medley served with edible flowers, and creamy Mom's Potato Salad.

We also got to further warm our tummies with tasty Contemporary Fish Cakes with Garlic Aioli and Mango Salsa, juicy JalapeƱo Burger, a selection of skewers and Fresh Ravioli plus desserts. I didn't get to taste the Mango Tablea Panna Cotta but did find the Frozen White Chocolate Cheesecake perfect to cap off the taste-testing experience. Hot beverage lovers would also be delighted to know that the cafe has a selection of organic teas and imported coffee from San Francisco.

Designer Blooms Cafe is warm and inviting. It's a great dining destination for families, couples, and individuals who want to try something new. It is more than just a place to eat because it bring the outdoors in with its dozens of floral offerings that provide heady, wonderful scents and bursts of beautiful colors everywhere made more memorable with the place's overall charming atmosphere.

I was truly delighted to be given a
gorgeous bouquet to take home!
This venture was made possible by a partnership with ESQUIRE Financing Inc. under the "Powered by Esquire" program which is actively finding more business ideas and helps entrepreneurs who want to grow their business with resources, expertise, and network that EFI has acquired and shares with its clients.

For inquiries and reservations, please call (02) 5120353, visit or email David Abrenilla at

I like watching fashion shows but seeing dozens of cute kids walk the ramp was a rare treat! I was invited to view the latest products of SM Kids' Fashion during Philippine Fashion Week and had an enjoyable time taking photos of the beautiful kids who graced the runway.

First several pretty moms showed off their equally good-looking babies wearing Trajecitos de Bebe which speaks of utmost elegance and grace befitting solemn occasions. The Holiday Collection features hand-embroidered Christening garments made of lace, tulle, or satin that are perfect as formal baptismal attires that can be passed on from one generation to the next.

Another set of moms and their babies modeled Crib Couture that features baby clothes with ruffles and unexpected prints adorned with headbands and mini-bandanas for girls and nice, gentlemanly clothes for boys.

Next came groovy young men in BGS (Boys Got Style) outfits that stand out because of their vivid colors. The clothes aptly drew attention to the boys' handsome features. This dynamic fashion brand for kids are for those who are not afraid to have fun with fashion and is all about experimenting with the different looks that can be achieved with eye-catching pieces.

The models for Little Miss impressed me the most. They exuded a lot of confidence and strutted their stuff with cheerful smiles and bouncy walks. They were delightful to watch. The brand features a clever combination of feminine silhouettes and playful textures offering trendy and colorful outfits that never go out of style. Polka dots take center stage in its Holiday Collection along with ruffles, vibrant hues, and unique drop-waist skirts. Suited for the lass stylish beyond her years, Little Miss makes every girl a fashion icon in her own right.

Now, the toddlers that modeled Bradley clothes were adorable! The shy smiles they flashed at the audience made them doubly charming. They looked like tiny gentlemen impeccably dressed in comfy outfits. The preppy look has always been in style - it's all about timeless patterns and cuts that bring out a boy's inner charm. Bradley offers classic shirts, vests, cardigans, and patterned shorts that are ideal for kids who like looking neat and well-groomed. For active boys, there are also sportier pieces like hoodies and varsity jackets.  

Girls Edition featured pairs of cute little women garbed in playful basics that come in a range of colorful tops and bottoms suitable for active girls. The Holiday Collection features mid-pastels, embellished prints, and tulle appliques to allow young girls to mix and match pieces for a fashionable ensemble.

A beloved brand known all over the world is Hello Kitty which made a statement with a collection of playful yet feminine silhouettes made of ruffles, polka dots, and fun prints. The color palette used mixed bright pastels and monochromatic tones of gold and silver.

Dude's trendy apparel, on the other hand, uses dynamic prints and fluid patterns that create an edgy, yet undeniably youthful vibe for pre-teens and tweens. Young men can express themselves in multiple layers by wearing richly-textured button-down shirts over rocking graphic tees. Dude also has biker jackets and rugged blazers to keep outfits warm and stylish. 

Blush exudes a glam girl vibe in the rich array of shimmering hues, sequins, and bold prints worn by the (in my opinion) far-too-serious-looking models. Trendy tweens can create glitzy ensembles made up of metallic leggings and sequined dresses to showcase their unique personalities, develop their own sense of style, and express their inner glam diva. 

The dapper boys that walked the ramp to model Modern Prince outfits looked really sophisticated. The collection brings the Upper East Side aesthetic to young men's wardrobes. Choose from button-down shirts in a variety of bold colors and blazers in both classic and extra-fun prints. 

Likewise, Modern Princess adds an edgy twist to traditional party dresses which make girls stand out in any occasion. The Holiday Collection is composed of dreamy, fairy-like dresses, opulent rosettes, unique drop-waist skirts, and plush caplets with bows that will turn young girls into stylish trendsetters fit for royalty.

I applaud all the kids (and their parents whom I'm sure were nervously but proudly watching in the sidelines) who bravely traversed the runway that day. Perhaps we'll see more of them in succeeding Philippine Fashion Weeks in the coming years :) 

* As much as I wanted to include all the photos I took in this blog post, they're just too many! Please click here to view the whole album. For the stage parents reading this, I hope you'll find a picture or two of your little one there.

Many Filipinos love joining bandwagons when something new just became popular. I can still remember years ago when a lot of my friends suddenly became busy with badminton game schedules that it was hard to get hold of them after office hours or during weekends. 

Since that boom in the local scene, the sport of badminton remained popular with true enthusiasts despite the market slimming down when the hype slowly dwindled. Now, the phenomenon has left a niche with serious badminton players who have become well-versed and completely engaged in the game. 

This growing sophistication in terms of knowledge of the sport meant that athletes, who are really into badminton, know the ins and outs of the game including the technology that goes in developing the equipment. They know what they need in order to get that edge over tough competition.

I got to visit Powerplay Badminton Center in Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City recently and saw some of the country's top badminton players and coaches in action. There, Toby's Sports, the country's biggest sports retail chain, introduced the latest line of cutting-edge badminton rackets -- the RSL Diamond X Series

RSL is the world's leading badminton equipment provider. They recognize the huge potential of Filipino athletes and supply local players with rackets designed to maximize each individual talent.  Duncan Chau, International Brand Director of D.H. Shuttlecocks Inc. affirmed that RSL is always a step ahead in terms of product evolution. "We are thrilled to introduce the RSL Diamond X Series to the Philippine Badminton Community. The technology and the innovation made on these equipment will definitely highlight the talent of local badminton players."

The Diamond X7 is distinguished for its sophisticated technology. It takes after its predecessors in providing professional badminton players with a superior racket that matches their superior talent. Its well-balanced design enables players to transfer maximum power from the body to the shuttlecock on hard-hitting shots while, at the same time, offers precision technology that allows for fine touches around the net.

Boasting of cutting edge technology, the RSL Diamond X Series has a Super Strong High Tension Frame for stringing that sustains high impact, Diamond Pulse Technology for consistent string tension, Anti Twist Technology for super durable and 'Flex Power' shafts, and Poly-Matrix Carbon for better power transfer and accuracy.

The RSL Diamond X7 racket also has the Weight Positioning System which has 48 weight settings to eliminate all the guesswork for players of all skill levels. This revolutionary technology allows players to improve on different areas of their game -- which means flexibility for the beginner to average player struggling to get his strokes right, and more workability for the advanced player looking for shot-shaping control.

Toby Claudio, President of Toby's Sports, expressed, how ecstatic they are about the unveiling of RSL's Diamond X Series to the local market as the equipment will only serve to improve the level of talent among Filipino badminton players. "This partnership between leading badminton products provider RSL and Toby's Sports aims to provide customers with nothing but the best equipment to complement their best performances."

RSL Badminton has been providing badminton goods that have helped the sport progress in terms of equipment technology since 1928. The brand is known to design rackets and shuttle cocks for all levels thus elevating the sport to greater heights. With their recent designs and innovations, RSL looks to push the boundaries of badminton even more.

*RSL is exclusively available in all Toby's Sports outlets nationwide including its newest outlets in Robinson's Ermita, SM Masinag, and Ayala Harbor Point, Subic. For more information, please log on to or connect with and

One of Filipinos' favorite foreign cuisine would probably have to be Italian above anything else. After all, many of us are pizza and spaghetti lovers. This is further affirmed by the popularity of the two food items being offered in many dining establishments. 

What Pinoys don't know though, is that the "Italian cuisine" served in the Philippines is often different from the real thing. "They do not actually carry the flavors and scents of the original cuisines I grew up with," revealed Chef Davide Lombardi, who describes himself as an Italian chef with a Filipino heart. "These pizza and pasta places often serve American-style cooking. In fact, I was surprised to see that pepperoni pizza in a restaurant had sausages all over and not a single slice of bell pepper."

Chef Lombardi, who is also a culinary instructor, wants to share with everyone what authentic Italian taste and experience means. Born and raised in Milan, he told us that he practically grew up in their family's kitchen watching his mother prepare their food and helping his grandmother pick herbs and spices in the garden. This history led him to choose a career as a professional chef. He served in many famous restaurants in Italy before he went to Paris where he worked and stayed for 15 years.

It was in Paris when Chef Lombardi met his Filipina wife. They now have an 8-year-old daughter named Francesca. They visited the Philippines in 2009 and eventually settled here. What was supposed to be a year's stay became long-term. "What I like about the country is its climate. I wake up early in the morning and always see the sunlight on my window."

Chef Lombardi's expertise and experience in the kitchens brought him to the Center for Culinary Arts - Manila where he has been teaching a variety of courses since, including Italian cuisine. "Italian cooking is all about balance of ingredients. I always remind [my students] that they should always use the freshest ingredients," he described.

According to Chef Lombardi, contrary to popular notion, Italian cuisine is not high-calorie or fattening compared to American-style pizza and pasta that tend to overload on ingredients that are not always fresh. "Most establishments rely on frozen dough and sprinkle meat slices all over the pizza while the pasta they use is dry and often not cooked al dente. The white sauces are very heavy with cream and cheese, and usually with meat," he explained adding Italian pizza and pasta does not have to be meat-heavy.

When The Orange Place Hotel opened in San Juan, Lombardi's Pizza and Pasta was born. Here, the menu of the day is often written on the blackboard with chalk. "I do not serve a fixed menu because some ingredients are not easy to source. I only use good quality ingredients and fresh produce like vegetables. I use the best flour to make pizza and pasta dough," he illustrated. 

Thus, it was very rewarding when there are diners who recognize the original Italian flavor in his dishes. Once, an Italian couple who stayed at the hotel dined at Lombardi's and could not believe that Filipinos are serving Italian food with flavors that could be found only in authentic Italian restaurants. "They waited for me to arrive [from CCA] just to disprove their doubt," he recalled with a smile.

Now, fans of Chef Lombardi's cooking can also enjoy his dishes when a second branch of his restaurant opens at the Robinson's Magnolia Place at the end of this month. He pointed out that it will also serve the best, honest-to-goodness Italian cuisine from all the regions of his country. Lombardi's will also be serving more than pizza and pasta but other Italian classic dishes that will surely captivate the palates of Italian cuisine-loving Filipinos. 

For the freshest news and updates, please like Lombardi's Facebook page.

The kind of weather we have these days, where it will rain for an hour or two then become really, really hot and humid, is when people usually catch coughs or colds. I've always believed that it's better to keep our immune system strong even if we feel fine because we don't know when sickness can strike.

Thus, during the rainy or cold seasons, I try as much as possible to remember to take Vitamin C supplements to ward off illnesses. Unpredictable weather makes it inevitable for a lot of people to get sick especially those who are always on the go and who juggle different tasks every day (like me!). Unfortunately, there are days I forget to drink vitamins due to my busy schedule.

Good thing there's Smart C+! I received several bottles of this refreshing drink (in a wonderfully designed box -- Oishi really has a flair for great gift packaging!) recently and found how enjoyable it is to boost my immune system just by drinking one bottle a day! Imagine having a refreshing drink that contains the Vitamin C of either 11 lemons, 8 oranges, or 4 grapefruits! That's how much Vitamin C is packed in each 500ml bottle of Smart C+. Although the mentioned fruits are delicious, it would be hard to finish the required number of items in one day, every day!

Smart C+ is Oishi's first venture in the ready-to-drink category. Oishi, as we know, is the well-known manufacturer of innovative and trendsetting snacks like Baked Porky Pops, Pillows, Marty's, and many others. With Smart C+, getting the daily dose of Vitamin C has just become conveniently refreshing!

Did you know? Besides boosting our immune system, Vitamin C enables our bodies to produce collagen, a protein essential to every cell of the body. This vital nutrient connects the tissues and supports the skin, bones, and muscles, thus providing your body the stregth and resilience it needs to fight the daily wear and tear brought about by an active lifestyle.

With Smart C+, healthy living becomes even more promising as it contains no added preservatives, zero artificial coloring and zero artificial sweeteners. You get nothing but natural fruit juice and the goodness of Vitamin C!

Smart C+ comes in 3 thirst-quenching flavors -- Lemon Squeeze, Orange Crush, and Pomelo Grapefruit -- which gives consumers more ways to enjoy the drink while keeping up with their daily tasks. Each 500ml bottle has 500mg of Vitamin C.

Everyone in my family has come to love Smart C+. It tastes great especially when cold. My problem now is, every time I open our ref to get one of the bottles I chilled hours before, I'd find out that hubby or one of our sons has already drunk it! I guess we'd be buying more from the grocery when our stocks run out :)

By the way, Smart C+'s endorser is Slater Young who's known for being the big winner of Pinoy Big Brother: Unlimited and for being "The Hotshot Engineer of Cebu." He started his career in showbiz by engaging in several projects where he could enhance his talent, be a good example to the youth, and make a name for himself in the industry.

Slater's "no stopping me" character makes him the perfect endorser for Smart C+ because he grabs every opportunity that comes his way. He knows that he is always ready to take any role, off- and on-cam whenever, wherever with the help of the immune system-boosting benefits of Smart C+.

Many parents with a tween or teen must have watched Disney Channel's two Camp Rock movies at least once since the first one came out on TV. Me? I can't remember any more how many times I've seen both films. One of my sons, who has special needs and who likes any show with music, have watched our Camp Rock 1 and 2 DVDs over and over for months. 

So yes, I know what the story's all about, how the songs go, and who the characters are. This is very reminiscent of the Barney the Dinosaur and Blue's Clues periods many years ago. I guess it's a kind of second childhood that moms and dads have to go through with each kid. When I found out late last year that Repertory Philippines is coming up with Camp Rock: The Musical during the 2012 Season launch, I knew I'd have to watch it with my son. 

Repertory's version of Camp Rock is based on the hit Disney Channel Original Movies that star teen idols Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers. It is a fast-moving and engaging young love story set to music with catchy and foot-tapping songs such as "This is Me," "Can't Back Down," "It's On," and "We Rock."

Fans of Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam would be delighted to know that the stage version merges both stories. The musical opens with Mitchie and her friends arriving at Camp Rock, ready to spend another summer jamming out and having the time of their lives. Unfortunately, their new and flashy rival, Camp Star, across the lake threatens Camp Rock's very existence. To keep their camp going, Mitchie steps up, rallies her fellow Camp Rockers, and gets them into top shape for the ultimate showdown.

Having two pop-music summer camps competing would be like watching a David vs. Goliath reality show competition between the "good" camp and the "bad" camp. Directing Camp Rock is noted theater veteran Audie Gemora.

According to Audie, "This musical is like cotton candy. Delightful, fluffy, sweet, melts in your mouth in a jiffy but leaves you feeling good after. I agreed to work on this light weight musical because it's my way of sowing into the next generation of musical theater actors." He affirms how much the Philippines is blessed with so many young talents and regrets there are so few shows appropriate for their age. 

"Camp Rock is an ideal material for youngsters. To prepare myself for this production, I recite a mantra, 'Think young! Think young!' The majority of the cast are neophytes. I teach the basics of acting as I direct them. It's like a summer workshop and more," describes Audie. "I love working with young people who have such enthusiasm and energy. My fulfillment is in seeing them grow artistically." What made the press con guests laugh out loud though was when Audie suddenly blurted out, "I feel like Kuya Germs!"

Rep's Associate Artistic Director Menchu Launchengco-Yulo acknowledges the young peoples' talents as a cut above the rest because they underwent a rigorous screening process during the series of auditions. She also reveals that they require all the students to keep up their grades and never neglect school work. The young actors and actresses, who rehearse every night even bring their homework to the theater so they could work on them during breaks. I really find that kind of dedication admirable.

During the press con, we got to hear samples of the songs and felt the energy of the cast during the dance scenes. Performing as Mitchie Torres, a smart, talented, passionate girl who fights for what she believes in, is Morisette Amon

Markki Stroem plays Shane Gray, a spoiled pop star who's the charismatic lead singer of Connect 3 and who is Mitche's boyfriend from last summer. Nacho Tambunting plays Nate Gray, the shy drummer of Connect 3, and Jef Flores plays Jason Gray, the comical, easy-going guitarist of the brothers' band.

Playing Tess Tyler, the diva of Camp Rock and daughter of rockstar T.J. Tyler, is Cheska Ortega

Justine Pena plays the role of Dana Turner, a sweet young girl who plays the keyboard and is the daughter of Camp Star Owner Axel Turner to be played by Rem Zamora

Nel Gomez plays the role of Luke Williams, a big talent with an ego to match. Cara Barredo will be Caitlyn Geller, a quirky and gifted girl who is Mitchie's bestfriend while Mica Fajardo will be Ella Pador, a longtime camper who's very much into fashion.

To play Margaret "Peggy" Dupree, the loyal Camp Rocker who won last year's Final Jam, is David Shawn Delgado. Kiara Dario plays the role of Rosie Day, the new girl at Camp Rock. Justin Valiente plays the role of Barron James, a fabulous hip-hop dancer. Hans Braga plays the role of Sander Loya, Barron's best friend and partner in crime.

Eric Mercado will play Andy Hosten, the guy that is never without his drum sticks. Karyl Factor shall play the role of Georgina Farlow, a slick, enthusiastic reality TV host. Hans Eckstein shall play Brown Cesario, owner and director of Camp Rock, a former rocker who has seen it all.

The ensemble is composed of Jim Dimson, Jazmine Zabala, Alex Reyes, Chaye Magg, Shalee Vicencio, Eddie Thompson, Jim Ferrer, Sam Aquino, Steve Hotchkiss, Kelly Nicolas, Fran Jose, Antonio Lane, Daniel Delgado, Erika Pangan, Aly Wijangco, and Arianna Norton.

Camp Rock: The Musical shall run from November 16 to December 16, 2012 at Onstage, 2/F Greenbelt 1 in Makati City. It is co-presented by Velvet Channel and the City of Makati. This show promises to be an enjoyable treat for the whole family!

Repertory Philippines welcomes reservations for schools, civic groups, and corporate sponsorships. For show details, please call 5716926 or 5714941 or email or log on to Tickets are also available through Ticketworld at 8919999 and

For updates, visit, subscribe to, and Like Repertory Philippines on Facebook.

* To view more photos during the press con, please click here.

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