We all have fast-paced lives nowadays filled with work obligations, deadlines, and more. Do you still have time to unwind? I confess I often find it hard to make time.

entrance to an oasis
I know that every individual should learn the art of perfecting work-life balance and I am trying my best to achieve that. So, I savor the moments when I can put up my feet and read a good book or listen to some music with my eyes closed even for just half an hour or less. 

The other day, my friends decided that we all need a good massage. So off we trooped to Makati's Central Business District (CBD) where urbanbreak by LeBlanc is located in between tall buildings. 

urbanbreak's General Manager Ms. Diana Ross Gragasin
The spa soft-opened early this month and I am sure that once more people get to know about it, urbanbreak by LeBlanc would be an oasis they would run to when work becomes too hectic to handle and they just need an hour or two to breathe. 

I like the ambiance and facilities of urbanbreak by LeBlanc. It has a pretty reception area and comfortable-looking treatment rooms. They also have cozy couches and pillowed manicure stations waiting for clients to pick the services they want. 

manicure/pedicure/foot spa room w/ cable TV
The spa has a wide variety of services provided by experienced therapists and nail experts. Designed for busy and active lifestyles, the wide-range of relaxing body treatments can definitely whip away the stress and pain of tight muscles that need some TLC.  

Since my perpetual back pains seem to have no plans of leaving my body, I always welcome the few times I get to have long massages to ease the aches even for just a day or two. On my first visit to urbandbreak by LeBlanc, I opted for the urbanbreak Exclusive Massage which lasted for a glorious 90 minutes. 

 room where I had my massage
I was told that this kind of massage was designed to relieve high stress. The hour and a half session included massages with heat packs with temperature that penetrates the muscles. I happily gave in to the warmth on my back and felt very refreshed afterwards. My therapist even offered me hot tea after my treatment which capped off the very nice experience.

My friends and I got to meet the owner, Lan Monces, who shared with us that they decided to put up urbanbreak by LeBlanc in Makati CBD to make the work-life balance establishment easily accessible for the working class so that they can have a comfort zone within just a few steps away from their office or gym. "Our different packages and location are 'hassle and worry free' compared to an expensive spa. At urban break, you will get the same result and satisfaction," he promised.

couple's room
If you live or work in Makati, do drop by urbanbreak by LeBlanc soon and experience their services for yourself. It is located at the Courtyard, Sagittarius Condominium, HV Dela Costa, Makati City 1227. And before I forget, the place has WiFi so you can post photos as much as you want :D

For more information and to be updated of their promos, follow @LeBlancDaySpa on Twitter and Like their Facebook page. You may also call (632) 8930759, (0917) 5049967 or (0943) 7059157.

This week until next, drop by Ayala Museum's ArtistSpace to view paintings by a special Filipino artist with autism.  J.A. Tan, who was born in Manila but now lives in Canada, graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the prestigious Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, Canada. Since then, he has joined shows in Canada, the U.S. and even the United Kingdom.

His last exhibit in Manila called "Piece by Piece ... A Selection of My Personal Best"was also held at the ArtistSpace. This year, he is once again having a one-man show entitled "On and On ... Step by Step ..." that runs from August 21 to September 3.

Last year, J.A. had the honor of having one of his paintings featured on a United Nation's stamp. "Victory" was one of the 8 pieces chosen from over 200 worldwide submissions and was issued as a UN stamp on April 2, 2012.

Just this past July, J.A. was at the opening of the 13th Biennial Conference of the International Association of Special Education as the keynote speaker. The event was held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. J.A., who describes himself as an artist with autism, enjoys sharing his personal story about overcoming challenges and pursuing his passion for art.

"I have come to the realization that I have always used art as a way of helping myself bring out my thoughts, feelings, and ideas," he shared. "I consider it an integral part of my existence as each work is a personal journey of myself with myself, and myself with the world, bringing a feeling of peace and happiness since things become clearer to me through the images and visual pictures before me."

When asked what inspires and directs his art, J.A. revealed that he works on his paintings the same way he works at life. "I paint from small images and ideas and build up to a unified whole. As in my life, I learn in small steps and take in as much details and information as I can," the young man admitted. "I then put these all together into a whole piece that makes it possible for me to integrate myself into the world that everyone else perceives." 

"I live and work in this same world; but it is seen in a different perspective by me and my autistic mind,” he acknowledged. I am very happy for him and salutes his parents for fully supporting their son's passion. Congratulations J.A. and may you paint more pictures to delight art enthusiasts all over the world! 

For more information please visit www.artofjatan.com and http://facebook.com/artofjatan. To see more photos taken during my visit to ArtistSpace, please view this Facebook album

It's not fun to watch movies without something to munch on inside the theater. A lot of movie-goers know that Taters has some of the best tasting popcorn around near the cinemas.

But, did you know, Taters also offers tummy-filling and savory sandwiches that will make your movie experience a lot more fun? Earlier today, a few friends and I went to Trinoma Mall, not to watch anything, but to try for ourselves Taters' California Honey Chicken sandwich that we heard is really good.

The rumors are true! This chicken sandwich is juicy and tasty because the patty is grilled, not fried. It is glazed with sweet and tangy honey mustard dressing and laid on a bed of fresh lettuce and tomatoes served on a warm whole wheat sesame seed bun.

You can order the California Honey Chicken ala carte at P145 each but I suggest you go for the full meal combo with drink and fries or chips that sells for P195. The fries and chips come in various flavors and all are lip-smacking! I got the white cheddar while some of my friends had theirs in barbecue or sour cream and onion.

The California Honey Chicken is Taters featured sandwich for August. They first launched the New York Beef Hotdog (P99 sandwich, P145 meal combo) last month for July and will be presenting the Florida Fish Fillet (P105 sandwich, P160 meal combo) this September then the Brooklyn Beef Burger (P160 sandwich, meal combo P210) by October.

Customers who buy a sandwich for the first time gets a frequency card with one stamp already filled out. Once your get 10 stamps filled, you get a rewards card that entitles you to 20% off on your succeeding sandwich purchases.

Visit your nearest Taters branch now and taste test their sandwiches for yourself! Taters branches are located at Alabang Town Center, WalterMart Makati, Robinsons Midtown, Trinoma, Market! Market!, Robinsons Galleria, Glorietta 4, Ayala Center Cebu, Cash & Carry, Robinsons Bacolod, Eastwood Citywalk, Eastwood Mall, Marquee Mall, Abreeza Mall Davao.

Allan Pineda Lindo is known to the whole world as Apl.de.ap, one of the members of famous international music group The Black Eyed Peas. He was born to an African-American father and a Filipina mother from Pampanga. 

During the holidays, he goes home to the Philippines to visit his family here. And every time he comes back, he'd see children in their neighborhood running around and doing nothing. He couldn't help but compare them to kids in the US who are already computer-savvy.  

Two and a half years ago, Apl called his mom to buy a building that can house 25 computers. That was the birth of his foundation through the We Can Be Anything advocacy in October 2011. The campaign encourages Filipino children to stay in school and strives to build at least 2,000 classrooms in remote Philippine areas. The foundation also envisions a school that will prepare marginalized, creative, and gifted students to become global professionals in arts and technology. 

Last August 18, 2013, Apl invited his mentees from the Voice Philippines to his home in Sapang Bato, Pampanga. They visited the students at the National High School where Apl donated classrooms, a computer laboratory, and a recording and music library. 

I feel blessed to meet Apl the other day together with some of his VoicePH mentees. I saw for myself how the Hollywood rapper, record producer, musician, artist, Grammy Awardee, and philanthropist is seriously taking his role as a mentor. In between much laughter and great camaraderie, everyone present during the press conference could feel the mutual respect between this humble teacher and his students. 

From their stories, I gathered that Apl keeps his team grounded by reminding them to always be positive and continue to be a role model for others. The team shared that their closeness has taught them the value of relationships, humility, family, friendship, being a good person, and caring for others. It was evident that Apl has really taken time to get to know each artist. Present that day were Corazon Dela Cruz, Thristan Perfecto, Thor Dulay, Janice Javier, Penelope Matanguihan, and Cara Manglapus.

"Involving the team in the foundation is part of mentoring," explained Apl. "All of us came from nothing. Even though we don't have much, we go out and help. That's a good value to have as a musician." I was further impressed when he admitted, "Medyo pilipit na ang Tagalog ko but I always make sure I have the values I learned growing up in the Philippines."

Mentoring and coaching is natural to Apl.de.ap as he remembers people in his life who gave their time to support, encourage, and empower him to be where he is today. "I am willing to share my talent and time to the community. It is important to give back and, given the opportunity, I would do the same thing all over again. What goes around, comes around." 

If only the powerful people seated in various government positions would think the same way, I'm sure our country would reach greatness in no time. Kudos to Apl and his mentees for the inspiration. I hope what they are doing would resonate in more peoples' hearts who would, like them, be willing to always pay it forward. 

A large number of people go online on a daily basis. And, with the advent of smartphones in the market, many now use the internet using their mobile devices. According to NowPlanet.TV, 70% of customers use their gadgets to make purchases online while 51% of travelers get information they need via the internet.

The numbers are growing and businesses have to catch up to maximize the potential of this trend. How? According to Kristian Noel A. Pura, head of the Digital Media Group of Information Capital Technology Ventures, Inc. (ICTV), the biggest brands are the early adapters of Responsive Web Design and small businesses must learn to follow suit to reach their target markets. Watch this video to understand better what I mean.

After all, a website nowadays has become an acceptable sales or marketing channel thanks to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Through an easy-to-navigage website, one can conveniently advertise products and services while being able to also interact closely and more effectively with possible clients.

ICTV, a publicly listed technology conglomerate, runs WebsiteExpress.BIZ. Its goal is to make quality websites accessible and affordable to not just large corporations but also SMEs, micro-entrepreneurs, and even professionals like doctors, lawyers, dentists, and architects.   

Kristian Pura
"Our objective is to design and develop websites for those who need it quickly, whether big or small companies, the mass consumers, or perhaps anyone in need of a website to showcase their product or service offering to the world," says Pura. 

Websites, describes Pura, are important because they give a semblance of legitimacy to a business, helping it avoid being branded as dubious or "fly-by-night". "Even if you are a smaller budgeted enterprise, you seem to appear big in the eyes of others, whether for potential clients or business partners. A website provides an image of you being an aggressive business."

It should be noted however that a website is just a tool and that the success of a website will still depend on its content. "If you have a good website but with a bad product or service, the website wouldn't matter. Plus, there's still the need for a little 'push' marketing and not rely on the website totally," explains Pura. 

Another thing, he mentions, that sets WebsiteExpress.BIZ apart from its competitors is that they can promise to deliver a website within 5-7 days as long as the reference materials are complete, including pictures and videos, and the timetable is realistic. As proof, the company has already developed some of the most comprehensive-looking and eye-popping websites for both local and international clients.

Know more about this digital media brand by visiting www.websiteexpress.biz, call 799-7700, or email marcom@ictv.ph for more details. 

Babies and young children have very sensitive skin. That's why parents really have to watch out for those nasty insect bites that cause skin inflammation and itchiness. Mosquito bites, especially, are very common during the rainy season and little kids are not exempted from being bitten.

Unfortunately, itchy skin can disturb sleep and make a child irritable. Constant scratching can moreover cause wound infection that may lead to unwanted scars on the skin. Some moms resort to applying a cool washcloth on the bite area while others rub some mentholated cream or a topical hydrocortisone (which has chemical preservatives) on the site to help ease the discomfort. However, the risk of hand contact and rubbing on the eye is high and may result to more problems. 

This is the reason why Tiny Buds Natural Baby products formulated Scratch Off!, a soothing after bite cool gel that is uniquely formulated with natural and skin-friendly ingredients. It helps soothe common skin discomforts such as itch, swelling, and redness from insect bites and other minor skin irritation. In addition, parents can apply it on baby's little boo-boos and minor scratches. The gel is so effective that mom and dad can use it too!

Scratch Off! comes in a light and non-greasy gel for easy application. It is free from Paraben, petroleum, artificial color and fragrance so there is no need to be worried about applying it on a baby's sensitive skin. Make sure to have this product in your first aid kit!

Aside from Scratch Off!, Tiny Buds also have other items that should be in baby's grooming kit when you bring your child out of the house:

Tiny Buds Rice Baby Powder, made from 100% real rice grains, is biodegradable and hypoallergenic. It is completely free from harmful talc and other chemicals found in other commercial baby powders. It will keep your baby's skin healthy, fresh, moisturized, and dry from perspiration.

Tiny Buds Kid's Hand Sanitizer Spray is made from food safe ingredients and yet tough on harmful bacteria while being gentle on skin. It comes in three exciting scents with aloe vera extract that is safe for kids and has less irritating alcohol smell compared to regular sanitizers.

Tiny Buds Sticky Hand Wipes is gently formulated with chamomile and vitamin E to clean and moisturize baby's skin. It is Paraben-free, alcohol-free, made of food grade ingredients, and is extra thick and silky soft for baby's utmost comfort.

For questions and updates on existing and upcoming products and activities, please like Tiny Buds' Facebook page.

Oh, and moms! Would you like to win Tiny Buds products for your little ones? Please stay tuned and visit this blog site within the next few days. I'll be raffling off two gift packs :) 

I tried learning to play the violin a few years ago during the height of The Corrs' popularity (and ended up loving the Irish penny whistle more instead). I experienced firsthand how hard it is to master this instrument because, unlike the guitar, the violin has no frets. Thus, it takes precision and skill to be able to play music that's really in tune.

So I honestly can't imagine how it is possible for someone to play the violin well while dancing, bending backward, hopping, and doing other kinds of movements while also concentrating on the motions of one's hands and arms on the instrument. Apparently, American pop culture sensation Lindsey Stirling has mastered this craft and it was very impressive to watch her do it live! 

Yesterday, my seven-year-old niece (who is learning to play the violin) and I went to Ayala Malls' Alabang Town Center (ATC) to watch Lindsey perform on stage. Despite the heavy rains that afternoon, the venue at the Corte de Las Palmas was fully packed with fans and music aficionados.

I am not very familiar with the songs Lindsey played except for her tribute to Michael Jackson, a medley of The Phantom of the Opera music, and her famous Crystallize, the music video of which I watched in YouTube a week or so ago.

All her musical numbers were met with enthusiasm from the audience, especially when she played the theme song of an obviously popular game (Skyrim?) judging by the loud cheers of several people behind me.  

It was delightful watching Lindsey perform. She is very engaging when she talks; and mesmerizing when she plays music. I am glad I got to watch her with my niece who, by the way, was very inspired to continue her violin lessons because of Lindsey.

My utmost thanks to MJ of MCA Music for the invite and for photographer Jude Ng for taking our photo with Lindsey. You guys just made a rainy Sunday unforgettable for a little girl :)

* For more photos of Lindsey's performance, please visit this Facebook album

The rains (and typhoons!) are here again and it is such a drag most days to get out of the house when the pavements are slick and you have a big chance of getting wet. In this kind of weather, we wish to be in bed rather than at work, right? 

DOLE ambassadors
Work weeks can be dull and dreary when we experience all work and no play during rainy days making it  hard to make everyday shine. So yesterday, Dole Philippines made Friday an exceptionally exciting day when it celebrated Dole-licious Day at the Eastwood Mall Open Park.

The event was anything but boring because the four Dole brand ambassadors: Phil Younghusband, Jon Avila, Bianca Valerio, and Chef Jeremy Favia were there to join guests and audiences in fun activities and entertainment. 

Bianca's make-up tutorial
I got there a bit late so I didn't catch Chef Jeremy's cooking demo where, I was told, he prepared delicious and healthy recipes that showed off his cooking skills and kitchen know-how. I caught Bianca, though, while she was sharing beauty tips on stage. The group's resident glamazon also did a make-up tutorial on someone from the audience.

Noted football player Phil and model-turned-actor Jon, on the other hand, helped facilitate some quirky parlor games that left many of the lady contestants swooning. 

Phil picking words for a game of charades
Later, Dole launched a new music video that features the brand ambassadors as well as the winning entries of This Is My Dole promo. Winners were awarded some awesome prizes that made me wish I joined the contest! Aside from getting to join a mini meet and greet session with Phil, Jon, Bianca, and Chef Jeremy, some of the winners also presented their own version of the This Is My Dole song on stage. 

To ensure that everyone present had a Dole-licious Day, premium items and gift packs were given away as game and raffle prizes. There was also a booth where people can enjoy samples of Dole's various products that range from refreshing juices to the brand's signature fruit bowls.

Winners singing their version of the This Is My Dole jingle
Get updated with Dole Philippines' upcoming contests and promos by liking Dole PH on Facebook and following @ThisIsMyDole on Twitter and Instagram. Make sure to also watch the new This Is My Dole music video on www.youtube.com/ThisIsMyDole.


It seems not so long ago when I first heard, and learned to love, Zia Quizon's voice. Having been a big fan of jazz music for years, it was quite a pleasant surprise to finally hear one of my favorite music genres being embraced by an OPM (Original Pilipino Music) artist!

I was there during Zia's debut album launch last February 2012 and immediately knew back then that the young lady with the earthy soul voice would breathe new life to the local music industry. And she did!

So I was very glad to find out some weeks ago that she'll be coming up with a new album because the first one had fans craving for more. Now, she's back with another CD that has eight original cuts, including Zia's compositions, and two classic revivals released by PolyEast Records.

The album, entitled A Little Bit of Lovin features the new single Pasakalye written by Jungee Marcelo. This is a delightful and humorous song with words and a storyline that young people of today would definitely identify with. Watch this video I took during the press con and hear it for yourself.

It was very refreshing to hear Zia sing songs from her album live. The new album just shows Zia's ability to push her own boundaries and showcase her notable vocal prowess. The CD includes a remake of White Stripes' Seven Nation Army, and OPM classic Masdan Mo Ang Kapaligiran by 70s Pinoy folk rock band Asin.

In addition, Zia's talents in songwriting shone through the songs Under and Over, On The Run, A Little Bit of Lovin, and Sweet Memories. All these have her trademark bluesy vocals and illustrates her artistic evolution as one of the Philippines' young and talented singer-songwriters today.

Although she has well-known parents -- singer ZsaZsa Padilla and comedy king Dolphy Quizon -- I think Zia doesn't need their surnames to catapult her into stardom because she can definitely make it on her own through sheer, genuine talent.

As this young lady continues to dabble in different sounds and styles, the album further includes collaborations with fellow songwriters and singers such as Gloc-9 for Katulad ng Iba, a song made in support for the NOT IN OUR SCHOOL Anti-Bullying Campaign; Francis Salazar's soulful Kung Ayaw Mo Sa Kin; and Junjee Marcelo's Bakit Di Ka Crush ng Crush Mo, an original soundtrack of the same movie title. 

A Little Bit of Lovin is Zia's follow up to her self-titled debut album, with the chart-topping and award-winning songs Ako Na Lang, Dear Lonely, and Simple Girl, which has sold more than 10,000 copies. Last year, the 22-year old acoustic jazz singer rightfully brought home her first Awit Awards trophies for Best Female Recording and Best Recording by a New Female Artist.

Ako Na Lang, the same song that proclaimed Zia as one of her generation's rarest commodity, also won the 2011 Awit Awards Song of the Year for Jungee Marcelo while Zia's single Simple Girl won Best Engineered Recording for Nikki Cunanan. In 2012, Zia was also awarded Favorite New Artist at the MYX Music Awards.

Now out in stores, A Little Bit of Lovin is also available for downloads on mymusicstore.com.ph and iTunes worldwide. Special thanks goes to Sequoia Hotel, Discovery Country Suites Tagaytay, and Mossimo

For more information, please visit www.polyeastrecords.com, and like/follow PolyEastRecords on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lastly, in line with her new album, Zia will have her first-ever concert at the Music Museum on September 26, 2013, Friday at 8PM with special guest Gloc-9. Tickets are available at Ticketworld 891-9999.

* To see more photos from the event, please visit this Facebook album

This coming August 24, the University of Makati's playing field will once again be filled with excited football players and fans as world-class talents battle once more for Clear Supremacy. For the second year, shampoo brand Clear stages the biggest football all-star game and, this time, World Cup champion Fabio Cannavaro and football legend Dennis Wise will each be joining the teams of brothers James Younghusband and Phil Younghusband!

Thanks to fans who diligently casted their votes at the Clear Facebook page for more than a month, a voting pool of 50 players -- which included Philippine Azkals, top United Football League players, University superstars, and local footballing celebrities -- was trimmed down to 34.

Last Saturday, James and Phil finally completed their respective teams at an affair held at the SM Megamall Events Center. Drew Capuyoc, Clear Brand Manager, recognized how intense the rivalry is this year. "Throughout the four weeks, both brothers were really gunning for that first pick."

With 100 thousand online points, Team Phil was awarded the first draft pick. In the first round, the brothers took turns selecting their top 5 picks with Phil being given an extra pick for winning the match last year. During the second round, James and Phil had to draw names from fishbowls to complete their roster. The third round had them picking one wild card each, which could be any player from within, or outside, the voting pool.

Football legend, Cannavaro, selected and vowed to help Team James win over the other team. "Last year's match was one sided. This year, I want to help James even the score," said Cannavaro. According to Wise, he chose Team Phil because he loves to win and score goals. "That's the type of team I want to be associated with."

Phil expressed his excitement for the upcoming game. "I think I have made the right selection and look forward to defending my title as the better Younghusband." James, on the other hand, said, "It's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be such an honor to share the playing field with legends such as Cannavaro and Wise." 

Make sure to be at the University of Makati football grounds on August 24! Buy your tickets from any SM ticket outlets. The Clear Dream Match is sponsored by Smart, Greenwich, Seda Hotels, Adidas, Gatorade, Rappler, and TechnoMarine.

* To see more photos taken during the event, please visit Trails Unlimited's Facebook album here

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