Before 2012 finally drew to a close, NUVALI, the Philippines' largest eco city held its annual year end celebration the evoliving way with Light Up NUVALI where hundreds of lanterns lit up the night sky in glorious splendor just a few hours ago.


This unique way of welcoming the new year started in 2011 and now came back with more activities for everyone. During the day, kids and kids-at-heart were taught arts and crafts lessons in making various items like New Year's resolution magnets or year-long reminders, time capsules, and eco noise makers using water bottles.


The highlight of the evening though was the lantern parade where my friends and I joined fellow members of the media, various stakeholders, online winners, and other participants release hundreds of wish lanterns into the tranquil NUVALI sky. 


This was done beside the infamous man-made lake where Koi fish abound. Releasing each lantern symbolized letting go of the previous year and wishing good fortune for the next. What's notable about this event is that NUVALI utilized specially-commissioned eco lanterns that will bring less harm to the environment and are eco-friendly alternatives to fireworks.


Sky lantern experts and fire marshals were present as people excitedly unfurled and lighted their lanterns. This is my third time to join this kind of activity and the thrill never gets old. It always bring out a good feeling when you get to release a lantern and a wish up into the night sky. I am thankful that the heavens remained clear and starry all throughout our stay.


To further lend a festive mood, LED poi dancers, drummers, and acoustic singers were also present to entertain the audiences. When a singer belted out the ubiquitous Gangnam Style song, several kids happily danced along in front of the stage and it was delightful watching them have fun.


NUVALI is a thriving eco-city by Ayala Land. It has a wide range of residential, retail, institutional, recreational, and commercial offerings woven into green buffer areas, ravine parks, tree nurseries, green homes, and sustainable infrastructure. This are is continuously being developed to be a regional growth hub not just in Laguna but in the entire CALABARZON area.


I always love visiting NUVALI for its beautiful sights, fresh air, and wide open spaces. I'm glad that I got to share this wonderful experience with my youngest son who tagged along and helped me fly our lantern. Here's hoping that we see many of our wishes for 2013 coming true in the next few months.


Have a great 2013 everyone and may your celebrations with the people closest to your hearts be always filled with happiness, hope, and love. Cheers!




If you're looking for somewhere to welcome the New Year at, head on to Eastwood City as Megaworld Lifestyle Malls brings supercharged musical performances to celebrate another year of Living the Good Life in the 2013 New Year Countdown on December 31 at the Eastwood Mall Open Park.


Music fans would have a lot to look forward to because renowned reggae hiphop artist IYAZ will be there to entertain and have fun with everyone. Earlier today, I and another friend from the media got a few minutes to interview the multi-platinum singer, songwriter, and rapper.

Like me, I'd guess most Filipinos learned about IYAZ when he sang Pyramid with the Philippines' very own Charice. But his loyal fans know that he burst into the music scene with the hit single Replay, followed by other hit tracks including Solo and Pretty Girls.

Me and Adjes of UNTV with IYAZ
Here's sharing with you what transpired during our Q&A:

Q: How hard was it for you to decide about being away from your family this coming New Year’s Eve?

A: It was kinda hard not being with them but they understood what was going on like I have huge fans out here who really love me and this wasn’t a last minute thing. This was planned months ago. The only thing I wish I could’ve done was to bring everybody out here but that would be a lot of us to bring here. But, definitely, I’m still happy to be here, second time around. And New Year, I heard it’s a big event out here and I’m happy to be with my Filipino family.

Q: Where have you already been in the Philippines? Any plans of touring other parts of the country?

A: I did Manila and I did Cebu. We actually discussed that last night and we should definitely have a tour here. Hopefully in 2013.


Q: Aside from Charice, are there other Filipino artists you’d like to collaborate with?

A: I don’t know much of them but if they’re anything like Charice, I’m done, I’m open, let’s make some music! Once you focused, once you love your craft, and you’re serious, I’m done for it. 

Q: How was it like working with Charice?

A: It was awesome! We actually recorded the song before I met her. So, it was recorded and everything. When I was doing my verse, they brought a laptop in and I was like, “Who’s this?” and it was Charice. I look down on the screen and she’s like, “Hi Iyaz!” and I was waving back to her. And then I met her at the video shoot and then we just clicked. You’d think we’d actually grew up together. We had fun, we were chillin’, she’s like my little sister. So I love her a lot.

Q: So far, what do you know about the Philippine audience.

A: First time around, what I saw, you guys have crazy energy. You guys know how to make an artist feel at home; like feel wanted, feel special so when they ask “What do you expect from the crowd?” I just expect you guys to do what you did the last time which is just be yourself, be open, be lovin’, have fun. That’s what it’s all about.


Q: When was the last time you’ve been here?

A: Earlier this year, in March. It was with Charice and we did two shows in Manila and Cebu. 

Q: What kind of show are we expecting on Monday night?

A: Oh, man! Energy, fun! That’s what it’s all about. I don’t look at it as a show. I’d look at it like, I’m here celebrating the countdown to 2013. This is the New Year, I’m bringing it in with no family so I don’t look at it as I’m just out there performing. I want interaction; I want you guys to sing with me; I want you guys to have fun. When I go 10, 9, 8 … I want you guys out there having fun with me. 

Q: How many songs will you be singing?

A: I think it’s 10 songs coz it’s 10 countdowns. So that’s what we’re gonna do, I think. It should be like 30, 40 minutes or so.

Q: Are you going to sing Pyramid?

A: Of course I am! 

Q: Who will be singing Charice’s part?

A: I don’t know! Maybe you should do it! (points to me with a big smile) I wish Charice was here to do it but I don’t know where she is. I might have to send out an SOS … (brandishes his cellphone). But we’re gonna have fun. I’m definitely excited and it’s gonna be in the open so let’s see what happens.


Q: Any future projects?

A: I’m working on new music, new album, new collaborations. I guess you guys want to see me on the big screen or more on TV so I’ll hit manager up and see if we can get some Denzel Washington on. Who knows, I’m open. I entertain, that’s my job. Music first, everything else after but we got new music and growth in the music and vocal range. Everything is out there so let’s see what happens in 2013.

Q: Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

A: My New Year’s resolution is to have a hit single by … January … 27. What do you think about that? Let’s see what happens. That’s my focus right now. I want a hit single whether it’s January, February or March, I don’t know. I’m gonna have a hit song and I’m coming back right over here. I’ll be happy doing that. Party!

Q: Do you interact with your fans on Facebook or Twitter?

A: Twitter. Facebook, not so much. Facebook is too crazy. That’s 2 million people. I can’t keep up with that right there. It’s not like on Twitter when you could … like everybody’s in this little box … So I definitely try to interact and put up pictures and all that. It’s cool.


 Other music artists to join IYAZ during the New Year Countdown are musical icon Ely Buendia, award-winning Filipino rock band Up Dharma Down, hiphop and R&B hit makers Urbanation, the all-girl rock group General Luna, and X-Factor Philippines finalist Mark Mabasa. The festivities will be hosted by Myx VJ Joyce Pring, Sam YG and Slick Rick from Boys Night Out.

Up Dharma Down
When midnight strikes, expect Eastwood City's skies to light up with a grand fireworks display right after the Dazzling Star Drop. This is an Eastwood tradition that started last year and is similar to the New York Times Square Ball Drop to mark the beginning of 2013.

General Luna
Kevin Tan, First Vice President and Commercial Division Head of Megaworld Corporation says this year's Countdown will be our biggest and brightest yet. "Party with international and local artists, be amazed by the glittering fireworks display, and be dazzled by the amazing Star Drop, our very own Eastwood New Year Tradition," he invites. "[So], kiss off 2012 and welcome 2013 here in Eastwood City."

Urbanation
The Countdown starts at 6PM on December 31 at the Eastwood Mall Open Park. This event was made possible through the help of The Richmonde Hotel, Emperador Brandy, The Philippine Star, Business World, HerWord.com, Monster Radio RX 93.1, Crossover 105.1 Manila, and Myx.

For inquiries and restaurant reservations, call the Megaworld Lifestyle Malls Concierge at 709-9888 or 0888, or log on to www.megaworldlifestylemalls.com.




I don’t mind paying for government services as long as I am given an official receipt in return. So I didn’t like what happened when I applied for a Postal ID earlier today. Upon checking other blogs, I’ve read so many inconsistencies that I felt this issue should be investigated and the corruption be stopped soon.


Thus, I’m blogging about this, in the hopes that something could be done by those who are in power. I know that President Aquino is doing his best to eliminate the bad image of government officials. But if there remain people under him who keep on doing questionable things and tainting the system, we won’t prosper as a nation.

I applied for a postal ID today because I need to open a new bank account where one of the publications I write for will start depositing payments starting January 2013. My problem was, I lack one of the three valid IDs required by the bank.

So I went through all the motions:
1. Get the Postal ID application form from the Muntinlupa City Post Office. Clearly typed there was the amount an applicant has to pay which is P175.00


2. I went inside the municipal hall and got myself a Cedula for P19.00
3. The guy at the Post Office told me I also needed to get a Barangay Clearance so off I went to the Barangay Hall, which was a pedicab ride away. I paid P35.00 for the document.
4. When I went back to the Post Office, I gave the following to the lady at the counter: three 2x2 ID pictures, a photocopy of my passport, the Barangay Clearance, the Postal ID application form, and a P500 bill, expecting to receive P325 as change. She gave me P200.

I politely asked, “Ay, P300 po?” She reached for a small brown cardboard that has P230 written on one side and P300 on the other. She faced the P300 side to me and pointed at it. Duh??? Then, from behind the glass window, she told me to come inside the office.

I went in and she finished typing my details on the ID. She gave the paper to me and told me to check if everything’s accurate. I gave it back to her with a nod. She proceeded to attach one of my photos on it and laminated it. I was asked to sign the logbook. After I was handed the ID, I asked her, “Mam, pahingi po ng resibo.” She got a couple of receipt booklets. I noticed that many of the pages were blank which made me think that official receipts issued are few and far between. She searched for a certain O.R. number where she wrote down my name and the amount of P175. 


She must have seen my confused look because she immediately turned the paper over and wrote these down saying, “Eto yung breakdown nung ibang bayad.”

PID card = 175.00
Doc. Stamps = 30.00
Lamination = 25.00
Notary = 70.00
---------------------
             P300.00


Wait, so the small piece of paper that wasn’t yet laminated cost P175.00 already?! Aren’t the lamination, the documentary stamps, and the notarization already included supposedly in the P175.00 CLEARLY PRINTED on the application form?!

She stamped the date under the stuff she wrote and handed the O.R. to me. I thanked her politely as I was in no mood to argue (but was already thinking, “Hah! Iba-blog kita!”) after all the exertions I did going back and forth different places earlier.

Upon passing the entrance to the Municipal Hall (the Post Office is located outside the building), I went to the Complaint Desk and told the lady there what happened. All she could tell me was, “National kasi ang Post Office, hindi yan hawak ng local government. Kahit umakyat ka pa sa Mayor’s Office, yan din ang sasabihin nila sa ‘yo. Mas maganda, magtanong ka kung may kakilala ka sa BIR. May babae ding nagreklamo dito, galit na galit nga eh, umakyat sa taas, pero pinababa din pabalik sa Post Office.” Well that’s a lot of help! :/

When I got home, I searched online for other people’s experiences. There were many! And the price ranges of the Postal IDs range from P175.00 to as high as P700.00! In addition, expiration dates differ between one, two, and three years! What the @#$% ?! Below are links to other people’s blog posts. Make sure to also read the comments of their readers. I’m sure you’ll also be dismayed as I am at the rampant corruption happening in Post Offices all over the country.

http://theaveragejane00900.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-apply-for-philippine-postal-id.html
http://www.levyousa.com/2011/08/the-postal-ids-dark-secret/
http://clumsyfancy.blogspot.com/2010/12/application-or-renewal-of-postal-id-in.html
http://aimzster.page.ph/how-to-get-a-postal-id-identity-card/
http://www.affordablecebu.com/load/cebu_services/how_to_get_your_postal_id_in_cebu_philippines/32-1-0-561
http://www.bendaggers.com/postal-id-application-renewal-price-requirements/
http://themrsg.blogspot.com/2009/04/how-to-get-philippine-postal-id.html

There are so many other blogs out there. These are just a few and I can't help but ask: Why are there different stories, different computations, different reasons for the price of this government-issued ID?! Since my O.R. says I paid P175.00, that’s the only amount I’m sure would be remitted to the BIR. So to whose pocket would the remaining P125.00 go? I would really love to find out!

The PhlPost's official website is no help. Check it and there's nothing that could help anyone there, only a download link to the form that, AGAIN, say you only have to pay P175.00 to get that darn ID! http://www.phlpost.gov.ph/web/postal-id-application/

I posted a Facebook status about the issue and some of my friends shared their own experiences, which only showed that A LOT of Filipinos are being milked by Post Office officials! Oh, and if you want to read my other bad Post Office experience on claiming a package from the U.S. where I was told to pay almost P2,000 tax to be able to bring it home, click here.

If you are reading this and have connections to people who do investigative TV/radio reports or upright people in the government who are advocating for real change, please have them read this. People should speak up! We should care about things that affect us as Filipino citizens because the next generations would suffer as much as we are suffering if the systems still do not improve in our lifetime.




One of the things we Filipinos love is to eat. And, I'm sure you'll agree, it's more fun to have a great meal when it's shared with friends and family. This makes Blackbeard's Seafood Island Boodle Feasts such a great way for bonding with loved ones. 


If you live in, or near, Subic, you can now experience Boodle Bonding, too! Seafood Island is now open in Harbor Point and they serve lots of wonderful treats that are pleasing to both the eyes and the tummy!

Some of my co-bloggers and I were invited to the grand opening last weekend and we had a lot of fun trying out several of Seafood Island's offerings. We got there just as a percussion band just outside the establishment started playing upbeat music. It perfectly lent a festive mood to the occasion. 


While waiting for lunch, we were served appetizers that are great to snack on. One was made with crispy chips and some salsa on top. The other is one of my favorites: crunchy fried Calamares (squid) that are very tasty, I found it hard to stop eating until the plate was clean! :p


After the ribbon cutting was done, I think we were all fascinated when Chef Chang Magdaluyo started decorating a large but pretty wooden boat with various ingredients. I found the vessel a nice symbolic item given that the restaurant is located very near the famous Subic Bay.


Pretty soon, boodle feasts were placed on each table and it was time to literally dig in. As a seafood lover, I gladly sampled bits and pieces of everything I could reach for. My top favorite items there were the squid, shrimp, and mussels. I also enjoyed the sensation of salty liquid bursting inside my mouth out of the tiny beads on the bunches of fresh seaweed. 


My eldest son, who learned about boodle for the first time, also enjoyed the lunch and wrote about his experience here.

I'm so glad that Seafood Island is in several locations because I plan to bring hubby and our other sons to a branch near our place and have them also try eating boodle style. Since they're all growing boys with large appetites, I'm sure I won't have to worry about any leftovers :)


Do the boodle! Visit a Blackbeard Seafood Island branch soon with a bunch of people you love. Enjoy! :)

* To see more photos taken during the grand opening, please click here.




The Yuletide season is one of the best reasons to meet up with friends and catch up on stories over good food. Before Christmas finally arrives, I met up with a few friends last week at Marciano's in Greenbelt 3, Makati.

This is my first time to dine in this branch but I've already tried Marciano's pizzas and pasta in SM Southmall last month and loved them. Please read the related blog post here.


I like the ambiance in the GB3 branch because the interior felt like a friendly place. My three friends and I occupied a square table which is just right to swap tales around in because we could hear each other clearly. When a group of 10 or more people arrived, Marciano's staff readily arranged several tables to make a long one. So, whether you're thinking of an intimate meal for two or a fun gathering with a bunch of friends, this is a good place to meet.


On to the food, we started our meal with Pasta Bolognese which its aromatic and flavorful sauce. I only ate several forkfuls though to save some space in my tummy for pizza :)


I choose Green Mango Shake (again!) as my drink. I guess I'll never get tired of having this concoction anywhere I go.


The Tenderloin with Prawns was served next and I was in steak heaven! This is one of the best meat dishes I've had in months. The steak was cooked just right, very tender, and very, very tasty! The prawns also tasted really good. When I come back to Marciano's, I think I'll order a plate just for myself :D


I forgot what Pizza we ordered exactly but I do remember liking the crispiness of the thin crust and the nice combinations of toppings. 


The Fish and Prawns, that also come with fries and dip, were also delicious. This is a great alternative for those who like, and often order, fish and chips. Try this next time!


This whole piece of chicken was actually ordered as an afterthought and, by the time it came, we were already very full. I was the one who took it home and my boys demolished it in record time during dinner.


Of course, a nice meal won't be complete without dessert. So we shared this decadent Best of Both Worlds Fruit and Choco Mix made with different flavors of ice cream, cookies, mallows, and my favorite strawberry-flavored wafer sticks! 

I'm not surprised I've gotten quite hungry while writing this post. Here's looking forward to future meals in Marciano's with other friends in the coming days!




Like many moms and dads I know, I think I have lamented enough through the years about the poor educational system most schools in the Philippines have. I can't keep track anymore of countless stories I’ve swapped with fellow moms who were as frustrated as I am about teachers and principals who have demonstrated time and again that they just don’t care if their students learn or not; or the school owners whose goals in life are seemingly just to milk money from parents’ already depleted pockets.

My mom, a retired and very competent public high school teacher, had her share of frustrations such as having students who got to enter high school without learning to read! This may be hard to believe but it’s true. It’s so sad to learn about kids graduating elementary without the basics of learning.


Did you know? There are 5.6 million children between the ages of six to 15 who are public school dropouts! Apart from poverty, a big problem causing this is the shortage of qualified and caring teachers. 

Thus, I’m glad to read about a movement called Teach for the Philippines that advocates Education for All at the bebetter.com.ph website created by Saint Mary’s Publishing Corporation. Their solution is to recruit and train young leaders who will, in turn, provide ALL Filipino children a chance for an inclusive, relevant, and excellent education.

The recruits, called Fellows, are expected to commit to teach for two years in high-need public schools. If they wish to pursue something else, they’re free to do whatever they want although the organization hopes that when the Fellows do come out of the program, they will continue to be advocates of education wherever they go.


Now that’s a worthwhile program that I believe could work! I hope the proponents continue with this mission and that they continuously find recruits with a heart for teaching. Someday, I’m sure we’ll get to be where we aspire to be which is to provide every Filipino child the basic right to a good education so they can better pursue their dreams and create a bright future for themselves and their families.

Learn more about Teach for the Philippines by reading the full article here. Please also follow http://www.facebook.com/BeBetterPhil and facebook.com/teachforthephilippines more news and updates about Philippine education.

To access the application form, please visit www.teachforthephilippines.org




I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing actor, businessman, and chef Marvin Agustin a few months ago for the cover story of MoneySense magazine's September-October issue. The things I learned about him reinforced my admiration of him as a businessman and as a person. 


In a Knorr press release I was recently given, I read that Marvin likes to keep things memorable during the Yuletide season. For one, he makes sure to free up time from his busy schedule to be with his family and loved ones. Despite TV shows and a string of restaurants that keep him occupied, he sees to it that those he holds dear get his undivided attention when the most wonderful time of the year comes around. 

Marvin shares that it's been a tradition in his family to get-together for the holidays. "We all look forward to our family reunion on Christmas day." He describes that excitement is thick in the air during these annual holiday feasts because aside from the animated conversations and endless laughter, food remains in the center of the occasion as it is an extension of how they share their blessings with each other.



Like other Filipino families, Marvin and his relatives serve all-time favorite Christmas fares like arroz valenciana, lumpia, chicken galantine, and lechon. But, being the restaurateur that he is, this creative chef goes the extra mile to offer something different yet definitely familiar to the Filipino palate. He uses leftover lechon as the main ingredient in making sinigang! Now that's a dish I'd love to taste myself! 

According to Marvin, the classic sinigang often takes a back seat during holiday celebrations when it can be a staple in an all-Pinoy Christmas feast. As many of us know, a steaming bowl of the tamarind-base soup can be more than enough to warm the heart and tummy especially during the cool evenings. And to make the preparation less taxing, Knorr Sinigang is on hand to bring out the rich sinigang flavor in a convenient way.


I am a regular Knorr Sinigang sa Sampalok Mix user and agree that with this product, there is no need to go through the hassles of preparing real tamarind to bring out the goodness of sinigang. It is made from real sampalok and available in convenient sachet packs. It is best mixed with pork or seafood together with gabi and other vegetables.

“Everyone loves sinigang," affirms Marvin. "We all grew up with it, and with a little creativity and a little help from Knorr Sinigang, you can have a winning dish for the holiday season."

BTW, read here how Knorr surprised our OFWs this Christmas season. It's a very heartwarming story.




Edit -- December 24: Check out the photos I took during the press preview of DOI2012 here.

It's less than a week before Christmas and the anticipation for the annual ice spectacle at the Big Dome has already reached fever pitch. This 2012, the message of Disney on Ice is that wishes do come true for those who believe.


Starting December 25, 2012 up to January 3, 2013, dreams will come true as the young and young-at-heart marvel at Disney on Ice Princesses and Heroes, a beautifully crafted show that features artistic skating and graceful acrobatics. Audiences can take part in witnessing the defining moments when the wishes of eight Disney Princesses come true with the help of their devoted princes.


Come and see Ariel, Cinderella, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Tiana on stage. Tinkerbell, my favorite fairy who represents the magic of Disney, will be the special guest to take everyone from one inspiring story to the next.


Beyond fulfilled wishes, this year's extravagant show ushers in a world where heroes and hearts prevail. See Ariel yearn to explore life out of the sea while Prince Eric breaks Ursula's spell to reclaim his true love. 


Next, watch Prince Philip defeat the evil Maleficient as she transforms herself into a fire-breathing dragon in a race against time to rescue Sleeping Beauty's Aurora


Be there with Jasmine and Aladdin as they discover a whole new world while evading the royal guards in a high-speed marketplace chase. 

You'll also be part of the adventures as the dreams of the other Princesses also come true. Expect romance to go hand in hand with adventure in many of the production numbers.


We were also told during the press conference that viewers would find Aladdin's stunt of swinging across the ice on a rope an exciting spectacle as he escapes from the marketplace guards in a chaotic getaway scene. 

And then there's the 20-foot-tall fire-breathing dragon in one of the show's most unforgettable scenes. I'd like to see that one live!


Watch this grandest, never-before-seen in the Philippines, most exciting, and most romantic ice show this holiday season! Catch the shows on any of these dates:

Dec. 25, 26, 28, 29, and Jan 2 at 2PM and 6PM 
Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 at 6PM
Dec. 30 and Jan. 1 at 1PM, 4:30PM, and 8PM

If your kids want to meet Mickey Mouse and some of the lovely Disney Princesses, make sure to be at the following Mall Tour venues and dates: 

Gateway Mall - Dec. 21 at 5PM
Eastwood Mall - Dec. 22 at 4PM
Venice Piazza, McKinley Hill - Dec. 22 at 6PM
Lucky Chinatown Mall - Dec. 23 at 6PM

Ticket Prices
Patron VIP - P1,600; Patron - P1,300; Lower Box VIP - P1,500; Lower Box - P1200
Upper Box A VIP - P1,000; Upper Box A - P675
Upper Box B VIP - P495; Upper Box B - P370
Gen. Admission - P150


Disney on Ice Princesses and Heroes is a holiday presentation from the Araneta Center, Smart Araneta Coliseum, and Lactum. Official transport partners are Philippine Airlines and H&M Transport. Official TV partners are ABS-CBN and FOX International. Other media partners are the Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Energy FM, Yes FM, Light Rock, Radio High, Guess Kids, BusinessWorld, and Summit Media. Official residence is Holiday Inn.

Buy tickets by logging on to www.ticketnet.com.ph or calling Ticketnet at 911-5555. 


If you want to win tickets to the show,  join Araneta Center's giveaway which runs until Dec. 21! Visit their website here for more details.


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