Monday, October 28, 2013

Hotel Review: Mixay Paradise in Vientiane, Laos

If you're planning to visit Ventiane, Laos any time soon, here's sharing my experience of staying at Mixay Paradise when I taught a week-long academic writing course there early this month. It's a good place to go to for several reasons:

1. Mixay Paradise is located at the Centerpoint area which means a lot of nice places are very accessible by foot. From there, I could just walk to the end of the block and reach the Mekong River in a few minutes. It is surrounded by a lot of restaurants serving different cuisines so it is easy to grab a bite to eat. There are also nearby shops around the block where you can buy souvenirs to take home.

For snacks, the local 7-Eleven there, called M Point, is also walking distance to Mixay. If you are craving for pastries, there's the popular JoMa Bakery just beyond the next block. Whenever I needed to exchange money, I just walk to the bank around the corner, just a few steps away from the hotel entrance.

2. This hotel offers reasonable rates at various price points depending on guests' needs. Since I was sure I won't be able to watch TV (as what often happens when I'm traveling) I just opted to stay at an air conditioned room that includes breakfast. The room cost me 120,000 Laotian Kip a night, which is roughly around US$16-17.00 depending on the current exchange rate.

3. Mixay Paradise has comfortable and clean rooms. My room was not as big as the other hotel rooms I've occupied in the past, but it was alright with me. Since my room doesn't have a closet, I just made use of the coat rack to hang my clothes on and used the desk as a tiny dining table. Before I retire for the night, I'd turn on the bedside lamp and sleep with dimmed lighting. The electric sockets are within reach of the bed, which made it easy to charge all my gadgets at night. 

I like the spacious bathroom that has a huge roll of tissue paper. There was no need during my whole stay to request for new ones. Oh, and the bathroom has a water heater, too! The door has a working chain lock which made me feel secure.

4. The staff are very friendly and always smiling even if we don't understand each other verbally most of the time. The ladies who clean my room everyday do a good job because I didn't feel that they are the types to go through guests' stuff (unlike in one hotel in another Asian country I stayed in before).

5. The public areas are okay to hang around in. Whenever I am waiting for my ride to take me to our training center, I would stay in the lobby or dining area and go people-watching. It's interesting to see a lot of foreigners with different nationalities passing by inside and outside. 

At night, I see some of the guests hang out along the spacious balcony that overlooks the Mixay temple across the street. Since the temperature remains quite hot even at nighttime, I just prefer to stay in my room to work or catch up with news back home. 

6. Free Wifi is available although there are moments when the speed becomes really slow. Still. I while I was there, I got to chat with my family back home using Skype or Viber and was able to update my social networking sites at least once or twice a day. Supposedly, WiFi is only available from 9AM to 11:30PM but my phone keeps on updating my emails even in the wee hours of the night so I am not complaining. 

7. There's free coffee all day for registered guests that you can get from the lobby. Unfortunately, since I am often out during the daytime, I didn't get to avail of that except when I eat breakfast. Their Lao coffee is good! It reminded me of the delicious organic coffee that my friends and I had in Benguet and Sagada last July.

As to downsides, I just find the numerous warnings/reminders/signs posted all over the hotel (in the lobby, inside the elevator, inside the rooms, even on the room key!) too much. The breakfast choices were also limited to scrambled eggs, fried egg, or omelette. They serve at least one Lao dish on the buffet table but they are always too spicy for my taste. By the third morning, I was ready to go out and find breakfast elsewhere. 

lots of signs inside the elevator
I discovered JoMa Bakery too late. I only got to taste their wonderful mulberry pie the last night I was in Laos thanks to my newfound friends Sodachanh and Phou. If I knew that I could buy pastries that good, I would have opted not to avail of the hotel's breakfast every day.

Anyhow, I'd still say I had a good overall experience staying in Mixay Paradise. If I do get to visit Vientiane again sometime in the future, there's a chance that I would book there again because of its location, price, cleanliness, and security.

*For more photos of Laos, please check out my Facebook albums here and here.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Make the Lifesaving Choice Against Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer can victimize anyone. It hits various individuals at any time, regardless of their economic statuses, culture, or education levels. This cancer does not even care if you are popular or not.

Four years ago, the Philippines lost its former president Corazon Aquino to colon cancer. According to Kris Aquino, her daughter, Madam Cory was a healthy eater and had never been sick throughout her life. Still, in December 2007, Mrs. Aquino suffered from high blood pressure, breathing difficulties and fever which then led to loss of appetite and weight. More than a year into battling the disease, the nation’s symbol of democracy succumbed to cardiorespiratory arrest on August 1, 2009.

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Madam Cory was just one of many who became victims of colon cancer. Among those who shared her fate were likewise notable personalities such as beauty queen Chat Silayan and actor Charlie Davao.

The Philippine Cancer Society reports that there are about 8,000 new cases diagnosed every year and the statistics are rising steadily. By definition, colon cancer is an illness wherein a malignant tumor develops in the colon. This growth can then spread to other vital organs, making it fatal for the body. Although not a contagious disease, colon cancer happens to be the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the Philippines and doctors have yet to discover its exact causes or why some people develop this disease while others don't.

Majority of people consider colon cancer as a disease for senior citizens, since people ages 50 and above are more likely at risk of developing it. However, it is important to remember that there are also instances where younger adults and teenagers become diagnosed. Some of the risk factors for having this medical condition include having a personal or family history of the disease, an inactive lifestyle, a low-fiber and high fat diet, and smoking habits.

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The first signs of colon cancer are blood in the stool, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, unexplained weight loss, and pain in the lower abdomen. In many cases though, patients will not show signs and symptoms of the disease during its early stages.

Nevertheless, there is still hope. Thanks to significant improvements in surgical techniques over the years, colon cancer is now 90% curable and the survival rate is high as long as the cancer is detected early.

Since colon cancer normally produces no symptoms, those at risk are advised to choose good screening tests like a colonoscopy exam to help determine the condition of the colon. The procedure involves a colonoscope used to search the entire colon for polyps, or growths on the surface that can become cancerous. By finding and removing these polyps, the chances of developing colon cancer is reduced.

This is why the necessity of colon screening cannot be emphasized enough. Regular screening can save lives from the disease, especially the lives of those who are 50 years old and above, those who have a family history, and those who experience the symptoms.

To help spread this important message, a Lifesaver advocacy campaign was launched last month through the partnership of Dulcolax, the no. 1 prescribed laxative in the country*, and Carewell Community, a non-profit foundation that provides support, education, and hope to persons affected by cancer. This campaign highlights the fact that early and regular screening can save lives. Please make sure to visit the Colon Care PH Facebook page, one of the campaign’s programs, where you can find daily information about colon cancer and tips for dealing with it.

Can you imagine if Mrs. Aquino’s cancer was discovered at an earlier time? There is a possibility that her life could have been saved and she may still be alive today. Please remember that colon cancer may strike at any time. So, in order to reduce the risk of being chosen by it, make the lifesaving choice and get yourself screened.


*PMDI (Prescription Data) IMS, YTD September 2012 USFDA Rated Class 1

The Purposes of Press Releases, How Bloggers Should Use Them, and How PR Practitioners Could Get Them Published on Blogs

Information is disseminated in various ways and one of these is through press releases (PRs).

PRs given during events

During media events, PRs are included in press kits so that attendees could have more details about whatever product or service was launched.

Ideally, bloggers should just use PRs as references to create their own write-ups. After all, they were there during the event so they should form their opinions and have their own thoughts about what they experienced. Unfortunately, a lot of bloggers opt to just cut and paste the PRs and post those verbatim on their blogs, without letting their readers know that it is a PR!

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What’s the problem with that? Well, for starters, blogs were supposed to be, and started out as, a platform for personal writings. So it is very off-putting to see blogs that mostly contain PRs that were not disclosed as such. I’ve visited blogs where the first two entries seem to be written in perfect English and then, when I go further, I’ll read personal entries with dozens of grammatical errors that made my head spin.

My advice? Disclose PRs as PRs. Don’t claim them as your own. Somebody else wrote that. At least give credit to the company who provided you with it. Likewise, if you attended an event, make an effort to write a personalized post about it instead of just cutting and pasting the PR on your blog. A lot of readers visit blogs to know what the writer thought of a product or service, not to just read a bunch of specs.

PRs sent through emails

I am not saying it is bad to post PRs as is. I do that also BUT only when:

1. There was no actual event and the PR was just sent to announce something to the general public
2. I wasn’t able to attend the actual event (so I don’t have anything personal to say about the product/service launched) but want to help the company that invited me to spread the word

Of course, I make sure to indicate "Press Release" on top of the write-up! Check out examples in my other blog.

I’ve been blogging for years and have met many Public Relations Practitioners (PRPs). They often send out press releases to bloggers via email and there are days when I’d receive more than a dozen. I don’t post all of them for several reasons.

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For those who don’t maintain a blog, know that the seemingly easy posting of PRs take time. Personally, I go over the write up and check if there are any typos or wrong information. Since I am a writer/editor by profession, I sometimes do catch mistakes that I correct before posting. In addition, I fix photos to minimize their sizes to make them easier to upload.

Here are some thoughts and tips that I am sure a large majority of bloggers wants Public Relations Practitioners to know:

1. Be considerate of your recipients. Don’t send out PRs without at least telling us what you want us to do with them especially if it is your first time to contact us. I’ve received dozens of PRs without any salutation, just the press release on the body of the email or as an attachment. One of the worst is receiving an email that only contains “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE!” as salutation. Have the courtesy to at least send a short message asking bloggers to consider your PR for posting.

Personally, I deeply appreciate PRPs who take the time to personalize their emails before sending them individually to bloggers and start with, “Dear [name]. It makes us feel like valued partners and not word factory workers. As much as possible, I try to post PRs like those first.
2. Include and resize photos! Unlike magazines and newspapers, most websites don’t require big photo files that are sized in megabytes (MB). They considerably slow down the loading of webpages. So please take time to reduce the photos you send to manageable sizes. In my blog, I reduce pictures to around 100KB only. So it is really time-consuming to be resizing photos before I can post a single PR.

On the other hand, there are PRPs who send out PRs without any kind of photo. When I ask for some, I sometimes get the answer, “Sorry, we have none. But we hope you can still accommodate it.” Duh? It should be part of your job to provide bloggers with all materials especially if you are asking for free space. Don’t make the job hard for us and make us take time to research online just to find photos that would make your write-up more attractive. You see, I am averse to posting PRs without photos because I know readers won’t find it interesting. There is no point in posting an all text PR that nobody would read.

3. Keep track of who have been helping you out. I know of PRPs who indiscriminately send out PRs to hundreds of bloggers perhaps to ensure that a sizable percent would post their press release. And yet, when the PRPs finally hold an event, they also indiscriminately send out invites wherein, many times, they forget and leave out of the list the very bloggers who have been regularly posting PRs for them.

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4. Make bloggers feel that the relationship is a two-way thing. Dear PRPs, we are here to help you but you should also remember to help us. It is disheartening to be asked to post PR after PR without hearing anything about being rewarded for our efforts. Yes, we blog because we like what we’re doing but we also get tired accommodating favors again and again for FREE.

We are not stupid. We know that PR firms are paid handsomely by brands. So getting bloggers to post PR after PR without any compensation may save you a lot of money. But, do you think those bloggers, who have started to feel they are just being used, would continue to maintain a working relationship with you?

That is why I am thankful for the very few PR firms I know that make efforts to show their gratitude. No, it is not about money, or tokens, or gifts. And I am not saying bloggers should be compensated EVERY TIME they post a PR. Rather, it is about give and take relationships. For goodness sakes, people in the public relations business should know that! Sadly, based on my experience, that seems not to be the case.

How bloggers help brands
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So, if you handle hotels or resorts and send out PRs of your promos, consider inviting loyal bloggers for a staycation so they can review your services.

If you handle food establishments and often send out announcements of your latest offerings, why not include a gift certificate to one of your restaurants so that bloggers, who have been posting about the menu again and again, could finally know what the food tastes like?

If you are pushing to promote gadgets, why not have reliable bloggers review one of your products? But please, if it’s not equivalent to the price of a car or house and lot, don't ask them to give it back. Do consider giving it to them as a thank you for their efforts of supporting you for months or years.

If you have accounts for clothing brands, offer small tokens in exchange for the publicity. I appreciate one PRP who always make sure she gives bloggers something (a shirt, a novelty item, etc.) in exchange for posting her PRs.

For the record, these are not demands. They are suggestions. I am not expecting everyone to understand where we, bloggers, are coming from. But I ask that you read this with an open mind. Perhaps then, you’ll realize I’ve made some good points.

© Ruth Floresca - You can share the link but please do not copy and paste this article anywhere without permission from the author. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Singapore Airlines Presents All-In Fares at Exceptional Value

For majority of Filipinos, the only way they can afford to visit other countries is to book flights in budget airlines. But, did you know that there are also great deals to be had when booking through Singapore Airlines

From now until November 30, 2013, travelers can book return flights to various destinations from the Philippines at these prices: 

> from USD 210 (PHP 9,000+) to Singapore 
> from USD 310 (P13,300+) to Southeast Asia: Jakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Bangkok, Phuket, Kuala Lumpur, Balikpapan, Bandung, Chiang Mai, Hanoi, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Langkawi, Lombok, Manado, Medan, Palembang, Pandang, Pekanbaru, Penang, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Siem Reap, Solo City, Semarang, Surabaya, Yangon, and Yogyakarta 
> from USD 700 (PHP 30,200+) to the Indian Subcontinent: New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Colombo, Dhaka, Hyderabad, Kathmandu, Kochi, Kolkata, Trivandrum, and Vishakhapatnam
> from USD 780 (PHP 33,600+) to Australia: Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney
> from USD 990 (PHP 42,700+) to Europe: Barcelona, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Istanbul, London, Milan, Paris, and Zurich

All advertised fares include the price of the air ticket, as well as associated taxes and surcharges. Fares quoted are on a per person basis in Economy Class, subject to seat availability and flight restrictions. Please take note that fares to Singapore, Southeast Asia, and Indian Subcontinent are valid for travel out of Manila from now to March 31, 2014 while fares to Australia and Europe are valid for travel out of Manila, Cebu, or Davao from now to May 31, 2014. Blackout dates apply.

For more details, please visit or call Singapore Airlines Reservations Office at 756.8888 or contact your travel agent.

* currency conversion based on USD 1 = PHP 43.19 from XE Currency 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bring Out Your Distinct Personality with NIXON

Nixon is a premium accessories brand for the youth lifestyle market. Its story began in 1998 in Encinitas, California where a small line of team-designed and custom-built watches were distributed exclusively to boardsport and fashion retailers. The watches were initially and primarily made for skaters and surfers.

Two years later, Nixon's product range was expanded to include softwoods, leather goods, custom headphones and audio accessories to cater to more consumers such as snowboarders, artists, and music enthusiasts. Now, Nixon products can be bought in over 87 countries while it maintains its leadership position as the action sports premium accessories brand.  

Say what you want to say by wearing pieces that reflect who you are and how you live! Nixon's unique take on its items inspires its design team to keep in mind all the little details and make the small stuff better.  Here's sharing with you new collections that a couple of friends and I saw at Nixon's concept store in SM Aura last week ...

The Sniper Collection is unbeatable when it comes to precision. It hits the mark with merciless attention to detail, high-caliber custom engineering and the ominous optical effects of matte black and night-vision yellow. 

The collection includes the Waterlock Backpack II that is designed to accommodate everyday belongings and boasts of specific compartments: a large volume main compartment with cinch and dual snap buckle closure, a 15" padded side entry laptop compartment, and two side zipper storage pockets. Music lovers would be happy to know that this bag has a small media port pocket built in for a more convenient way of listening to music while on the go with the addition of a sunglass pocket lined with micro suede.

For superior functionality, there is the custom-built 51-30 Chrono watch, which takes pride in its stainless steel-clad durability and unrivaled good looks. I immediately noticed that the crown was not on the usual right side of the watch face and it was explained to me that it was purposely placed on the 9 o'clock side for a better and more comfortable wrist movement. Watch enthusiasts should note that this timepiece has a Japanese quartz 6 hand chronograph with date and rotating bezel with countdown timer.

The Gunsmith Collection, on the other hand, is handcrafted, hard-wearing, and unmistakably Nixon. This group of products is a rugged expression of custom-built precision. It combines rich earthy hues, clean design, and well-worn leather. 

For those who believe that great things come in small packages, men would love the Sentry Leather Watch that guards time to help you stay on schedule. It has a dial that features applied indices, printed seconds track, and custom molded hands with luminous fill. 

Since the first two collections were, in my opinion, mainly for the male market, I was delighted to discover the Dip-Dye Collection. It is one heck of a flashback to the iconic style of peace and love and culture that's re-imagined in a gradient of crisp and modern colors. I like this watch with the dip-dye black and white strap. 

But if you want more splashes of colors, you can brighten things up with the first ever dyed Time Teller P that exudes a funky vibe with its variety of vibrant colors that will definitely catch anyone's eye.

Do check out the many other items Nixon offers such as nice bags, wallets, belts, shirts, bags, and more. They are testaments to Nixon's continuous evolution with time, consistently aiming to present avid fans of the brand with team-designed and custom-built accessories to suit a variety of personalities. 

With so many pieces to choose from that are made specifically for you, make time to create your own story with them! Visit Nixon's boutiques in Manila located at Glorietta 4 and SM Aura. For more information, please log on to

*To see more product photos taken inside the concept store, please click here

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ways to Turn Off Customers: My Bad Experience with Gift Certificates at Tomato's SM Megamall Branch

Gift certificates (GCs) are usually given to members of the media as gifts, tokens, or prizes. 

It says there, "Upon effectivity of the order, 16 July 2010, all gift checks/ certificates/ cards issued must bear a date of issue and an expiry of two (2) years." This was revised to ...

Starting 01 July 2012, all suppliers, issuers, distributors and sellers are prohibited to issue and/or sell gift certificates/check/cards with an expiry date.

-- Gift certificates/checks/cards that are distributed to consumers under awards, loyalty or promotional programs are not covered.
-- All gift checks/certificates/cards with no expiry dates shall be redeemable until used by the bearer.
-- Holders of unused and unexpired gift check/ certificates/ cards after June 30, 2012 shall be entitled to replacement after revalidation by suppliers.
-- Terms and conditions of unused gift checks/ certificates/ cards issued before the effectivity of this order shall be honored; but those bearing expiry dates beyond June 30, 2012 shall be subject to revalidation or replacement.
-- Goods and services that are paid with gift certificates/check/card are qualified in promotional sales activities, loyalty programs, warranties, return policies for cash purchases, and discounts for senior citizens/persons with disability.
-- The suppliers cannot be held liable for gift certificates/ checks/ cards under that are:
(a) lost due to no fault of the supplier; and
(b) mutilated or defaced due to no fault of the supplier and such damage prevents the supplier from identifying the security and authenticity features thereof.

Last May, I won Tomato gift certificates in a media event. For those who are not familiar, Tomato is a store that sells clothes and accessories. The GCs can only be used in three of their branches and will expire at the end of November this year. Earlier today, I went to SM Megamall while waiting for my husband to finish a meeting in the Ortigas area. I didn't know that there's a 3-Day mall-wide sale.

I dropped by the Tomato branch and looked at some of their items. While browsing, I saw a mother and her daughter returning clothes on a rack. One of the salespersons asked them if they found anything they liked and the mom replied nothing fitted her daughter well. A few seconds after they left, I heard the salesperson sarcastically tell a colleague, "Sa dami ng sinukat nila sa loob, wala man lang binili?!" I felt it very rude of them to be talking like that about customers in front of other customers! I was very much tempted to tell them, "Hey, your sale items only come in certain sizes. Don't expect them to fit everyone who tries them on!" 

Anyhow, ignoring the negative vibes, I just selected three blouses, brought them to the changing room, tried them on, and decided to buy two. The sign on the rack says "2 for P500" which, I thought, was already a good deal. But when I tried to pay for the clothes using one of my GCs, the cashier told me that GCs can only be used for regular items, any of which, unfortunately, were not my type. 

So I told her to let me pay for the blouses using the GCs at their regular prices which were P500 each. I was told it was not possible because they are on sale and that sale items can only be bought using cash or credit card. What the?! So, I'm supposed to bring out cash or my credit card to pay and not use the GCs I have?! What stupid customer would opt to shell out money when she has gift certificates in her wallet?!

I left the store feeling very disappointed and thinking, "What a way to turn off customers!" I've bought clothes, shoes, and watches from them in the past. I still have P1500 worth of GCs with me and I don't know if I'll ever come back to Tomato to use them.    

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I hope the DTI would come out with additional guidelines and enforce them strictly to protect consumers. Despite the existence of DAO 10-04, my media friends and I continue to receive gift certificates with expiration dates that, sometimes, also come with disagreeable terms such as "Only one GC can be used per transaction" or "Valid only on regular items not in conjunction with any other promotions/discounts." Hey, store owners, please see fifth bullet point on the guidelines above!

For example, if I have four P500 GCs but can only use one per transaction when buying a dress worth P1200, I would have to shell out P700 instead of just P200 because of the stupid rule. It is also worth mentioning the so-called gift certificates (which should actually be labeled discount vouchers) that only give bearers 10%, 20%, P500 off, etc. on purchases amounting to thousands of pesos (e.g. "Get P500 off when you buy P3000 worth of products!" Duh!)

If that's the case, I don't see why there should be the word "gift" on gift certificates when recipients still have to spend a lot just to redeem an item! 

Have you ever had bad experiences with using gift certificates too? I still have lots to tell but, for now, let me hear from you. Share your story, too, so companies would take notice and follow government guidelines, and let's hope DTI would take further action about these continuing irregularities soon. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Help Rebuild Homes in Bohol! Donate to Habitat for Humanity Philippines Today!

We've all seen what the 7.2 magnitude earthquake did to the province of Bohol last Tuesday. I find the news reports heartbreaking especially when they involve children who have lost family members and their homes. While we can't all go to Bohol to physically help the victims, here's a way to still send aid and help rebuild homes. 

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As I've been advocating for years, it is always great to help but we should do so by coursing our resources to trustworthy organizations with good track records of delivering on their promises.

Today, Habitat for Humanity Philippines' HAMER on Wheels will start rebuilding affected houses in Balilihan, Bohol and they need construction materials such as roof, plywood, hollow blocks and cement; equipment and tools like hatchet, hammer, saw, scraper; and power tools like electric drill, power saw, steel cut off saw, chain saw and more. 

FOR PESO DONATIONS, deposit your contributions to Bank of Philippine Islands Current Account 2421-0014-24.
Account Name: Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation, Inc.
Please fax or email your deposit slip with your name, contact details, and project (e.g., Habitat Disaster response) to +632-856-53-89 or

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FOR DOLLAR DONATIONS, deposit your contributions to Bank of Philippine Islands US Dollar Account 2424-0111-45.
Account Name: Habitat for Humanity Philippines Foundation, Inc.
Please fax or email your deposit slip with your name, contact details, and project (e.g., Habitat Disaster response) to +632-856-53-89 or

You can also give through G-Cash! Just text DONATEAMOUNT(MPIN)HABITAT. Send to 2882.

And for in-kind donations, you may call Habitat for Humanity Philippines at 846-2177 and connect to Marketing and Communications Group.

Let us all join hands in ReBuilding the lives of our families and friends in Visayas and Mindanao. God bless us all!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Malaysia Forges Stronger Partnerships and Launches Visit Malaysia 2014 Campaign

I love Malaysia having been to Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Melaka, and Petaling Jaya in the past. I enjoyed all my trips there and look forward to seeing more of this beautiful country in the future. Nowadays, more and more Filipinos get to travel there thanks to Tourism Malaysia's efforts to offer the best tour packages to its local travel agents and partners.

Early this month, Visit Malaysia 2014 was launched at Solaire Resorts Manila. The colorful campaign is every bit as vibrant and fascinating as the sights I've seen so far in the country. The gala dinner, hosted by the ever energetic Drew Arellano, was well-attended by travel and tourism dignitaries as well as trade partners from both Malaysia and the Philippines

We were treated to a delightful night of cultural presentations, a sumptuous dinner, and raffle prizes that included free trips and hotel stays. Sponsors for those were composed of the Philippine Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Air Asia Zest, Cebu Pacific, Star Cruises, and Berjaya Hotel.  

Madame Chong Yoke Har, Tourism Malaysia's Deputy Director General, invited Filipino travelers to visit her country in 2014. "Next year is the Visit Malaysia year. We have many events and programs lined up for our foreign guests year-round. Every month, there are various tourist events that are suitable for your participation," she described. "Come and celebrate with us."

During the program, Madame Chong presented to guests the exclusively bundled Visit Malaysia 2014 Packages - Philippine edition. These are said to give local travel agents the best business leverage and increased profit potentials. 

His Excellency Dato' Mohd Zamri Mohd Kassim, the Ambassador of Malaysia to the Philippines, likewise expressed his invitation to travelers to come to Malaysia and discover for themselves why more than half a million Filipinos went there in 2012. 

Department of Tourism (DOT) Undersecretary Danilo Corpuz spoke in behalf of DOT Secretary Ramon Jimenez and congratulated Tourism Malaysia for its noteworthy promotional initiatives.

The Malaysian delegation is comprised of 31 organisations including Johor Tourism Department, Sabah Tourism Board, Labuan Corporation, KidZania Kuala Lumpur, Legoland Malaysia, Sepang International Circuit, and Regency Hotel.

I admire the grace of the cultural performers who showcased their local dances and was impressed with the Roti Canai artist who exhibited his expertise on the delicate art of making the Indian-influenced flatbread of Malaysia. 

What fascinated me the most was the sand artistry that Joseph Valerio (aka Joseph The Artist) did. He "drew" various shapes and objects on sand and ended up with a great sand picture of the Petronas Towers. The Talentadong Pinoy grand champion also performed his winning piece in the said reality talent search that earned him the audience’s admiration.

Outside Solaire's Grand Ballroom was a 4D exhibit that showcased the beauty of Malaysia. There was a demonstration of making batik fabrics; tasting of Roti Canai and Teh Tarik, the authentic Malaysia milk tea that I've come to like when I last visited Kuala Lumpur; a display of Malaysian musical instruments, and a flatscreen TV on the floor that provided a virtual experience of Malaysia's diving destinations. 

Please read my other posts about Malaysia in this blog and see the many things you can appreciate in this beautiful country! Perhaps then, you'll be more inspired to also plan a trip there very soon! :)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

9 Works Theatrical's Grease Manila: The One That We Want!

I remember listening to an Olivia Newton-John album as a young kid and being fascinated with some of the songs she sang. I recall liking the upbeat melodies of Summer Lovin' and You're The One That I Want. So it was a pleasant surprise to find out later that those songs were sung in a film that stars Olivia and John Travolta

This 2013, Manila is in for a treat as 9 Works Theatrical brings Grease to life on stage. The production is made up of theater veterans and talented newbies who promise to take audiences on a rockin' ride to the 1950s for huge doses of laughter, love, great music, and lots of a-wop-bam-boom!

For those who are only familiar with the movie version, Grease was originally staged on Broadway in 1972. With book, music, and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, it became one of the longest-running musicals. The movie, on the other hand, came out in 1978 and has the distinction of being one of the highest-grossing movie musicals of all time.

The story is about a small town called Rydell where the senior class from the local high school are all concerned about fitting in, growing up, and, of course, finding love. Two groups, the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies rule the school. 

The tale begins when the T-Bird gang leader Danny Zuko and new-girl-in-town Sandy Dumbrowski have a summer fling. Leading the cast as the teenage lovebirds are Gian Magdangal and Francheska Farr, both popular TV personalities who are no strangers to the theater stage.

Returning home to 9WT is singer, actress, and MYX VJ Iya Villania, who will play the role of Betty Rizzo, the outspoken and sassy leader of the Pink Ladies. She was last seen on stage as Julia Sullivan in The Wedding Singer. Alternating with her is Jennifer Blair-Bianco, a Fil-Am actress, singer, and songwriter who performed early this year in Repertory Philippines' Boeing Boeing.

Another fresh face making a Philippine stage debut is Rafa Siguion-Reyna who plays the T-Birds' second-in-command, Kenickie. Adding to the mix of newbies is Romanian-Chinese Carla Dunareanu who will play Marty, the fashion-conscious beauty of the Pink Ladies.

Joining the main actors are some of the country's notable theater performers that include Reb Atadero as the mischievous Roger, Mark Tayag as lady-killer Sonny Latierri, Vince Lim as dopey guitar-playing Doody, Peachy Atilano as good-natured, beauty school dropout Frenchie, and Sarah Facuri as the awkward and compulsive-eating Jan.

Rounding up the rest of the cast are Carlos Canlas who will play the all-American rockstar "greaser" Johnny Casino, James Stacey as the fast-talking DJ Vince Fontaine, Harold Cruz as the awkward class valedictorian Eugene Florcyzk, Sab Jose as the enthusiastic cheerleader Patty Simcox, Angela Padilla as the no-nonsense English teacher Miss Lynch, and Carmelle Ros as the loud-mouthed dancer Cha-cha Digregorio.

Something that audiences would be excited to know is that there will be a surprise guest every show to play the role of Teen Angel who serenades the character of Frenchie during "Beauty School Dropout". All the Teen Angels, we were told, would definitely be either a notable stage, film, or TV actor.

Grease's artistic team is composed of director Robbie Guevarra and assistant director Lorenz Martinez, Joseph Tolentino as musical director for instrumentation, Sweet Plantado-Tiongson as musical director for vocals, Arnold Trinidad and Francis Matheu as choreographers, Mio Infante as scenographer (set and costume design), John Batalla as lighting designer, Chuck Ledesma as sound designer, Myrene Santos as hair and makeup designer, Twinkle Zamora for costume execution, Leo Castillo as photographer, Tin Samson as playbill editor, and Larry Palma as graphic designer.

Heading the production team is Santi Santamaria, with Anna Santamaria as company manager, Toff de Venecia as PR director, GM Hernandez as marketing manager, Jonjon Martin as PR manager, Sunshine Domine as production manager, and Aries Alcayaga as stage manager.

Grease will be staged at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium all weekends starting November 9 to December 1, 2013. It will have Friday, Saturday, and Sunday galas at 8PM with Saturday matinees at 3:30PM and Sunday matinees at 4PM.

A limited number of performances are available for fundraising and block-buying. For tickets and other inquiries, please call 586.7105 or 0917.554.5560. You may also email for updates, please like 9workstheatrical on Facebook, and follow @9WTonline on Twitter and Instagram. Please use the hashtag #GREASEManila.

Grease is presented by 9 Works Theatrical together with The Rockwell Club and Raffles Makati. It is presented through special arrangement with, and all authorized performance materials are supplied by Theatrical Rights Worlwide (RTW),

* See more photos of the cast during the press conference here

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Enjoy Your Choco Fix the Way You Want It with Goya Take It!

It was the Greeks who dubbed the cacao tree as "food for the gods." It is, after all, where chocolate comes from. I know there are people who consider chocolate as a food group. Ever seen heard this funny reasoning? :)

A few months ago, I covered a Ladies Who Lunch event for BusinessWorld that highlighted chocolate and all the women attendees agreed that it is an elixir that can banish fatigue, boost weary spirits, and even mimic the giddiness of being in love. Our speaker that day even discussed some health benefits of chocolate which provided more reasons to eat it. 

Now, Goya has found another easy way to get your chocolate fix: just Take It! This new product, Goya Take It, is made of three layers of crispy wafer fingers smothered in milk chocolate. It is available in easy-to-carry packs of 2 fingers, 4 fingers, and, for hardcore choco addicts, a 6 pack of 2 fingers!

Make sure to keep some in your bag, in a covered jar on your desk, and simply eat it as you please. Goya's Take It lives up to its name and long-standing reputation as a trusted manufacturer of a Pinoy well-loved chocolate brand. I can still remember those bars of Goya chocolates that I would buy from our school canteen as a kid.  

the closest photo I could find that resembles the old Goya I know
Goya Take It is a product of Delfi Foods, Inc., a license of Delfi Chocolates Manufacturing S.A. in Switzerland, which is, in turn owned by Petra Foods Ltd., one of the world’s leading manufacturers and suppliers of cocoa ingredients. This guarantees that every rich inch of Goya Take It molded chocolate wafer is made from swiss quality chocolate which has been highly regarded for centuries all around the world. So get the healthy rush real chocolate delivers because Goya Take It is the real thing that is made affordable so chocolate lovers could get more value for their money.

In addition, this chocolate is very versatile because, although eating it on its own is awesome enough, Goya Take It allows you to let foodies' imaginations run wild. Stick it in your ice cream, or lay a few Goya Take It fingers on a plate and top with ice cream for an a la mode twist. For a double boost, why not take a few fingers of Goya Take It with your afternoon coffee?!

Or, how about cooking with it? The makers of Goya Take It suggests to experiment making brownies, or substituting the graham cracker base of a cheesecake with Goya Take It. These treats would be perfect to serve on weekends, family gatherings, or parties with friends.

On its own, Goya Take It can serve as a snack and an energy-booster that can also help cheer someone up because it’s made so easy to snap for sharing. For the younger generation, who knows, it might serve as your bridge to that guy or girl you've been admiring from afar :)

So don’t underestimate the power of chocolate! Try a pack or two, (or more!) of Goya Take It crispy wafer fingers today!