Whether you find it uncomfortable talking about it or not, death is inevitable for all of us. We will all die someday. The question is, what would happen to your loved ones if you suddenly pass away?

do you know how your assets will be divided after you die?
photo credit: belegal.com
Yes, conversations about death and finances can be depressing and are even considered taboo by many. However, when should families talk about it? When the head of the family is already dead and everyone’s stoked to fight tooth and nail for his/her inheritance? "Fights over land, for instance, can be avoided if there’s already a plan to divide it between the children BEFORE the parents die," pointed out Registered Financial Planner Aya Laraya during the most recent Sun Life #Money4LifeChallenge talk for bloggers.

He said people who sign up for life insurance policies usually have these end goals in mind: to take care of the family, to provide cash, to replace income, or to continue a child’s education. However, one thing is missing in the list – inheritance tax.

unfreeze assets by paying estate taxes 
Did you know that even if you have a last will and testament, none of your assets can be transferred to your family until the inheritance tax is settled? The good news is that an irrevocable life insurance is not covered by estate tax so your beneficiaries can redeem the insured amount and use it to pay for the necessary taxes (instead of finger-pointing who should shoulder the amount).

So, what are taxable assets? These include cash, houses, land, investment portfolio (stocks, mutual funds, etc.), vehicles, jewelry, art/paintings, and livestock. How much inheritance tax is imposed? That’s 20% after basic deductions (funeral expenses, previously taxed properties, family home, and medical expenses).

death and taxes
photo credit: www.paulfellcartoons.com

Let's admit it … the world has become more self-centered. With the incredible rise of the word "selfie" and the many reading materials and advice about "loving yourself first," these questions had to be asked: "What are our motives for sharing stuff online? Are we sharing to enrich the lives of others? Or, are we sharing to simply enrich our own lives by getting a lot of attention and validation?"

CBTL's 2017 Giving Journals
With this selfie culture in mind, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Philippines launched its Giving Journal 2017 as a reminder to all of us that life should not be about always getting favors or accolades for ourselves but more about how and what we bless the world with. It's about giving a part of ourselves so that we can instead uplift others.

Learn what each icon on the four covers of the 2017 Giving Journal means

This year, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf gets back to its roots as a brand through the latest Giving Journal edition with its central theme being "the cup that changes lives." Since its beginnings in 2009, the Giving Journal's evolution with many changes in themes and designs, one thing remained constant: the commitment to giving and making lives better, one cup at a time.

the Hope in a Bottle booth

San Pablo City, Laguna is a beautiful place where you can find many wonderful destinations. It is home to the famous seven lakes as well as farms that practice organic agriculture. Apart from Forest Wood Garden, which I wrote about recently, there's Ato Belen's Farm that's also located in the area.

Ato Belen's greenhouses where they grow various vegetables
Initially launched as a plant nursery and family farm in August 1987, Ato Belen's has since become a fully-integrated and diversified farming operation. Its advocacy is to promote family farming to ensure the survival of the next generation. It is still ran and managed by the Belen family where both parents and their five sons are all involved in decision-making when it comes to farm management.

with Brian and Sir Ato -- my OA Blogger Ako jacket blended in! :D
Brian Belen, one of Sir Ato's sons, is an Agri Business graduate from U.P. Los BaƱos who left the corporate world to help out with the family business in 2010. He shared with us their journey of selling seedlings and establishing an orchard 29 years ago; procuring and growing livestock (hogs, cows, goats, and ducks for making salted eggs) in 1989; and being devastated by Typhoon Milenyo in 2007, which uprooted majority of their rambutan trees.

fresh rambutan and salad made with organic veggies

One of the concerns of parents with young kids is the content available on local TV. Sometimes, there just aren't good enough shows that are appropriate to be viewed by very young audiences. The thing is, children who can't wait for their favorite shows' time slots may resort to just watching whatever is on the tube at the moment, which may not be very kid-friendly.

Tita Ruth and Sam
Last week, HOOQ Philippines showcased its massive collection of family-friendly titles and animated series at the third HOOQ Hangouts, a pre-Halloween treat of the biggest outdoor cinema event series held at the Globe Iconic Store in Bonifacio Global City.

kids in costume who joined the trick or treat games
Like the previous events, HOOQ Hangouts, in cooperation with Samsung and Globe Live, turned the BGC Amphitheater into a free outdoor cinema venue with massive LED screens, beanbags, and cushioned benches so guests can fully enjoy the show. This #SpHOOQtacular event featured games and prizes for little ones who came in costumes before the screening of Monster House, an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature horror-comedy produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis

3rd HOOQ Hangouts with its very cool setup

Angelina Jolie lost her mom, grandma, and aunt to cancer. Three years ago, the famous actress and director chose to undergo a double mastectomy after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene. She confirmed her estimated 87% risk of developing breast cancer and a 50% risk for ovarian cancer.

Angelina Jolie's empowering story of taking control
of her health inspired The Angelina Effect
and landed her on the cover of TIME magazine
"Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness," wrote Jolie in her 2013 New York Times article. "But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action."

The good news is, genetic testing is now available in our country through Asia Genomics Philippines. Last week, I attended a talk by Dr. Marcelo Imasa, medical oncologist at St. Lukes Medical Center, held in Apotheca Integrative Pharmacy in Makati. 

Dr. Imasa revealed that global incidence of breast cancer has risen by 256% in the past 30 years with South East Asia increasing by 479%. Unfortunately, the Philippines has the highest incidence rate of the disease in the region. Did you know that 1 out of 13 Filipino women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime?

Dr. Marcelo Imasa emphasized the need to see a genetic counselor first
before undergoing genetic testing

Many times, moms are challenged to prepare new food that the family will love. Sure, we have our all-time favorites but it's also nice to be able to come up with more exciting recipes and dishes that add variety to our meals.

make sandwiches taste a lot better with Lady's Choice spreads
Snack times in our house, whether it's mid-morning, afternoon, or even midnight, are usually family affairs. I can't just prepare something good enough for one or two people; I have to whip up a batch that would satisfy the tummies of ALL my boys! 

use Lady's Choice spreads in making yummy sandwiches

I haven't been to the Divisoria area for years so when I had the chance to visit the place last week, I excitedly looked forward to the trip, knowing quite well there will be shopping involved. After all, the area is known for its really affordable merchandise items.

the revitalized Tutuban Center
That morning, my husband and I went straight to Tutuban Center, the bargain hunter's paradise. It recently underwent a number of renovation work and building improvements just in time for the coming Christmas season and the changes are really good!

Here are five reasons why you should go there to do your Halloween and Christmas shopping:

1) Re-live history at the Tutuban Center Main Station, a heritage building with the Bonifacio Shrine across its entrance. This is where the original Tutuban train station built in the 1800s first stood. I love that steps were taken to preserve its history, which included repainting based on the heritage color palette as well as improving lighting for its facade's details. The building has also retained features like brick walls and century-old wrought iron pillars that lead all the way to the food court.

in front of the heritage building

In the province of Laguna, Forest Wood Garden in San Pablo City is known as the best landscaper, having already won many awards in the industry. Years back when they started, Joel and Myrna Frago didn't expect that their passion for collecting plants would eventually turn into a business.

beautiful landscaping at Forest Wood Garden
Joel, a Nursing graduate, and Myrna, who has a background in architecture, registered Forest Wood Garden with the Department of Trade and Industry in 2004 and opened it to the public five years later. In 2013, the place became an Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) learning site for farmers and stakeholders who are interested to learn about organic inputs, sustainable farming, and the farm to table concept.

Joel and Myrna showing us one of their magazine features
According to the husband and wife tandem, they have spent the past 10 years doing natural farming and applying practical agriculture practices. Both believe farmers play a big role in food production and security and that students taking up agriculture can also do much for nation building. "We are a living proof that there's money in farming," they said.

the famous pansit kalabuko

One of the sad realities for parents like us who have kids with special needs is the big challenge of communication. Because many of these children are unable to talk, it can oftentimes be difficult to decipher what they want to say. I admit to feeling despair whenever my son, who has cerebral palsy, would cry nonstop and I begin to run out of ideas how to make him smile again.

Kang Rui and his mom, Jia Jing
The same is true for parents of children who have other forms of disabilities. Few people understand that acting up or throwing tantrums is one way for special children to vent out their frustrations about not being able to communicate their thoughts and feelings well.

art as a form of communication

Anybody who knows me well enough would vouch on how crazy I am about J.Co's Alcapone donut. That still tops my list of favorite sweet treats. But, I am always open to trying out new stuff, especially ones made by J.Co Donuts & Coffee.

This 2016, celebrate a Spooktacular Halloween with three special Halloween-themed donuts! My family and I got to try them and they are all good! Check out below which one I'd be buying more of in the coming days …

they may look creepy, but they these guys are really yummy! ;-)

A few months ago, I learned from a wise organic farmer that literally getting one's hands dirty can make you happy. He said there are microbes in soil that act as antidepressants, similar to Prozac's effect on the brain.  

imagine waking up to this every morning!
When I recently visited the beautiful Terra Verde Ecofarm & Resort in Cavite, I discovered that the  place was founded in 2007 because of a "medical prescription." Emerson Atanacio, one of Terra Verde's owners, was diagnosed with a thyroid condition triggered by stress from his job as a school administrator. The doctor recommended his patient to take up farming. 

Emer and Eric Atanacio with Agricultural Training Institute's
Region IV-A Director Pia Cosico
With the support of his brothers, Eric and Erwin, and their families, the Atanacios acquired a piece of land in Maragondon that, amazingly, they found through an ad in Buy and Sell. According to Eric, the place used to be filled with grass, trees, and shrubberies. "Masukal (wild)," he described. "But Emer, a true visionary, said 'Look how wonderful this could be!' So we came together and discussed ideas. We got inputs from family members and that's how the farm evolved."

at Terra Verde, you can find all the vegetables mentioned
in the song, Bahay Kubo, from singkamas down to linga!

Carrying a baby for nine months and giving birth can take a toll on a woman’s body. Thus, new moms absolutely need to be mindful in choosing the right foods once the baby arrives. You see, eating a healthy diet packed with nutritious, high-energy foods is a positive step towards healing your body from the stress of delivery while also helping replenish any nutrients you may have lost in the previous months.

If you are breastfeeding, ensure that your little one gets all the necessary nutrients required for optimum growth and development by including a colorful variety of veggies, grains, dairy, proteins, healthy fats and vitamin-rich foods in your diet. 

Here, we list down five superfoods that work wonders for both mom and baby. They also happen to be delicious and can be easily prepared as mouth-watering dishes, which makes eating them an absolute pleasure. Routinely incorporating these powerhouse ingredients into a balanced diet along with drinking plenty of water will help boost your energy levels following the birth of your newborn.

Brown Rice

photo credit: chowhound.com

Many people think that investing is a complicated matter and should only be done with the help of a financial expert who requires considerable payment for the service. I used to think that way, too, until I discovered that this is just one part of handling personal finances and growing one’s money. 

I still see myself a newbie at investing though because I know that I still have so much to learn. That was why I signed up for Sun Life’s #Money4LifeChallenge, a series of monthly talks by Aya Laraya, a Registered Financial Planner. The goal was to empower bloggers who are interested to improve our knowledge on money matters.

inside the SLAMCI office
A few weeks ago, my blog post on 5 Things to Consider When Finding a Financial Advisor won me a Sun Life Prosperity Card worth P5,000. I’ve been wanting to invest in mutual funds for a couple of years now but hadn’t gotten round to exploring my options. The card made the decision for me and I am grateful :)

I activated the card by going to the Sun Life Building in Bonifacio Global City. There, I got help from John Natividad of the Sun Life Asset Management Company Inc. (SLAMCI) who assisted me in filling up the Investor Information Form, Investor Profile Questionnaire, and other relevant papers. 

John also patiently explained how easy it is to add to the initial investment through automatic bank transfers of P1,000 (minimum) each month. These subsequent additions will further help grow the investment as the years go by.

here's a great illustration about investing early
with fund values based on 10% annual returns 
By now, you’re probably wondering how the money would grow. Sun Life pools all the funds from individual investors and places these in investment vehicles that, so far, have been doing well for the past years. What I love about the Sun Life Prosperity Card is that it takes off much of the guesswork and headache because there are experienced fund managers who would handle your money for you. 

I would leave the more extensive explanations to a Sun Life Mutual Fund Advisor whom you can ask advice from as to what kind of mutual fund you should choose to invest in. Ask to speak to one when you visit any Sun Life Financial Philippines branch where you can purchase Prosperity Cards. They are very accommodating. 

Since Christmas is just around the corner, I highly recommend this as a great gift option because it is something unique that will appreciate over time. The Sun Life Prosperity Card allows recipients to have their own starter investment fund and help begin their personal finance journey towards a brighter future. Consider this: P5,000 will not earn much if you leave it for a long time inside a bank savings account. 

start your journey towards financial freedom, today!
Visit sunlifeprosperity.com.ph or call 849-9888 to know more. For inquiries on specific Sun Life Prosperity Card transactions, call 849-9452 / 849-9495 or email slamc@sunlife.com.

Filipinos are reported to be one of the world's most social media engaged communities. According to a 2015 survey by theperfectinsider.com, the Philippines ranked 8th place among the 10 top countries with the most number of Facebook users. Meanwhile, smartinsights.com found that our country is 5th in Youtube and Twitter, and 4th in Google+ as of August 2016.

trying out a Promate headset that delivers great quality sound!
The statistics only confirmed how Filipinos have willingly embraced and welcomed innovations that made mobility and social engagement integral parts of our lifestyles. I am sure anybody who owns at least one mobile gadget will acknowledge how technology indeed helped us pursue the things we are passionate about.

Promate Technologies, a multi-awarded Dubai-based digital lifestyle accessory brand, brings to the Philippines products that range from computer peripherals to mobile and car accessories. Dimples Conde, Promate Philippines Country Manager, shared that they are re-envisioning lifestyle technology to bridge the gap between the high-tech world and everyday life by delivering pioneering accessories for absolutely any place people are virtually connected during their waking hours.

Dimples Conde (rightmost) with Silicon Valley officials: president Joel Pe
marketing manager Christine Tan, and business development manager Mike Orbeta  

I've been hooked on HOOQ since last year when I started watching some TV series I missed several episodes of, as well as movies I didn't get to catch during their runs at the cinema theater. Now, Asia's first and largest premium video-on-demand service unveils its new app with ad-free "freemium" features.

find a wide selection of TV series on HOOQ
The first of its kind hybrid model built in Asia for Asian customers, HOOQ takes on a mobile-first user experience to cater to the varied demands of users who are always on the go. Jane Cruz-Walker, HOOQ Philippines' Country Manager, acknowledges that peoples' viewing times and habits have changed. "We are so mobile now and there are lots of waiting happening. So turn downtime to what you want it to be! Whether you're waiting for your turn in the salon or doctor's clinic, you can catch up on your favorite shows," she suggested. "You are in control to turn moments into HOOQ time, any time!"

HOOQ ambassador and Miss World 2013 Megan Young estimated that 90% of the time, her job in the entertainment industry is spent waiting. So, while having her hair and makeup done, exercising on a treadmill, or being stuck traffic, Megan plays catch up on her favorite TV series like Scandal and Revenge on HOOQ. 

nice to know that Megan, like the rest of us,
enjoys binge-watching her favorite TV shows
The beautiful actress further revealed how happy she was to find out that she could watch Encantadia on the app because she is a big fan of Jennylyn Mercado. Her advice to everyone? "Have fun while waiting. Download HOOQ asap and binge watch your favorite shows!"

HOOQ's new hybrid model now allows viewers to sample a premium service at no cost because every registered user can watch the pilot episodes of all TV series even after their free trial period has ended. I love this idea that you can "test run" shows first to see if you will like one (or several) enough to continue watching and pay for the subscription. 

just some of the Pinoy TV series available on HOOQ
In addition, "Users who can't commit to subscribe for a year can now do so for a week or a month. You no longer have to delete the app when your subscription ends because you'll still get access to new pilot episodes ad-free!" explained Krishnan Rajagopalan, HOOQ's Chief Content Officer.

"We believe this will be a win-win strategy for both our customers and our business as it allows the customers to try the service and the content before they decide to purchase. At the same time, we have the opportunity to re-engage customers whenever we introduce our latest titles, outside of their free trial period," pointed out HOOQ CEO Peter Bithos who added that they are launching the product in the Philippines where it all began as Filipinos are watching content whenever, wherever with our mobile phones. 

Megan Young with HOOQ executives 
Sheila Paul, Jeff Remegio, Jane Cruz-Walker, 
Peter Bithos, Krishnan Rajagupalan and Ravi Vora
Jeffrey Remigio, HOOQ Philippines' Director of Content, assured, "We continue to grow our catalog by partnering with other content providers." At the moment, HOOQ already has over 10,000 movies and TV series available on the app.

HOOQ fans can also look forward to a new app interface that boasts a mobile-first user experience that   was built from extensive customer beta testing and usability research. The goal is to derive a customer-centric experience, given that over 80% of us access HOOQ on our mobile devices.

new mobile interface
Designed with the habits of social and digital savvies in mind, HOOQ's latest release has a brand new real time content feed and personalized recommendation engine that makes it easier to discover new favorites. There's also an improved search engine, wish lists (for future viewing), and optimized content delivery for significantly faster app start and streaming start times.

In addition to being available on iOS, Android, web, Chromecast, and Android Set-top Box, HOOQ will now also be accessible on Airplay and mobile web. "For me, one of the most exciting new features is the real time content feed that highlights our most popular content and knowing what others are watching and which titles are trending!" revealed Cruz-Walker.

with fellow HOOQ users
It's easy to get HOOQ'd! Sign up on www.HOOQ.tv for a free trial and start binge watching! Subscriptions start from P149 a month and from as low as P59.00 a week. "You should not only have 30 days to decide if you want to subscribe. You should be able to take as long as you want. We're for emerging markets everywhere," described Bithos who expounded the sachet marketing concept as Filipino's propensity to buy, for example, a single cigarette rather than the whole pack. "We have reinvented the way users interact with premium content. It has been a fantastic ride [since HOOQ started] and it's only the beginning."

I love the Supergirl TV series. My first reason, actually, is the presence of Calista Flockhart because I enjoyed watching the Ally McBeal series many years ago. Her character this time though is so far from being an eccentric lawyer and I find it refreshing to see her play something very different -- as Cat Grant, the very much put together media mogul and intimidating boss of CATCO.

Calista Flockhart plays Cat Grant, the boss of Kara Danvers/Supergirl
Second, I liked the 1984 Supergirl movie starring Helen Slater as well as the Lois and Clark series that featured Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher. So, it was a very pleasant and welcome surprise when I found out in Season 1 that Helen and Dean play Supergirl's adopted parents. That, for me, seems like a full circle thingy ;-) 

former Supergirl and Superman now play the parents of the new Supergirl

The 10th World Rabies Day fell on September 28 this year, making it a milestone in rabies prevention. Unfortunately, thousands of people around the world still die from it each day, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

with A'quiya, the Alaskan Malamute
owned by The Pinoy Dog Whisperer Lestre Zapanta
Rabies is a fatal disease transmitted to humans through animal bites or even scratches, mostly by dogs. It is vaccine preventable but, once there's an infection, death is inevitable. Scary, right? In the Philippines, rabies continues to be a public health problem that is responsible for the death of 200-300 Filipinos every year, with children at the highest risk. 

Here, 1,463 deaths from rabies were recorded by the Department of Health (DOH) from 2010-2015 with 180 being noted from January 1 to September 24, 2016. Did you know? A total of 783,879 animal bites across the country were registered in 2015! This is 10% higher than in 2014 with 683,802 cases recorded.

The increase in the number of reported cases is attributed to improved surveillance and services that enabled bite cases to seek treatment at established public Animal Bite Treatment Centers (ABTCs) and/or private Animal Bite Centers (ABCs). As of March 2016, there's now a total of 486 ABTCs located all over the country, 32 of which are in Metro Manila.

Health Secretary Ubial with representatives of
partner organizations

We now live in modern times and yet, despite advances in technology, 1 in 13 Filipino women is still diagnosed with breast cancer (BC), with most cases being discovered too late. One of the reasons for this is the lack of awareness about the medical condition.

women from the South supporting breast cancer awareness
This month, Festival Mall in Alabang, Muntinlupa is once more holding its Pink October campaign for the third year to help push for early detection and awareness of breast cancer, one of the top women's health issues in the Philippines

Since 2013, Festival Mall has partnered with breast cancer and women's health organizations such as the ICanserve Foundation, Stage Zero by Project Pink, the Asian Hospital Charities, and the Gender and Development (GAD) Office of Muntinlupa City to help promote women's health and early detection of breast cancer.  

representatives of partner organizations supporting Unity in Pink

Daiso Japan, the number one supplier of living ware goods and more popularly known for its 100 yen stores in Japan, teamed up for the second time with Cosplay.ph Organization, Inc. in this year's biggest and most popular cosplay event in the Philippines

Cherry Blossom tree!
The much-awaited Cosplay Mania 2016 was recently held in SMX Convention Center this past weekend. It was attended not only by cosplayers but also by hobbyists, artists, and performers who engaged in cosplay solo showdowns, costume building contests, and exciting team battles.

Spiderman overload with these creative young people
My husband and I dropped by to admire the creativity of young and young-at-heart Filipinos who love cosplaying. Expectedly, we saw a lot of familiar characters that range from anime and cartoons to movie superheroes and villains. My favorite would have to be an adorable kid named Princess Margaret in a Sailor Moon costume who gamely posed for a photo with me.

cutest Sailor Moon cosplayer, ever

We are a family of sandwich lovers and we often make sandwiches using several ingredients to maximize flavors and the enjoyment of eating our creations together. One of our favorites is assembling roast beef sandwiches.

making a sandwich is always a fun affair in our home
The good news is, we have recently leveled up this recipe by replacing Lady's Choice Mayonnaise with the new Lady's Choice Roast Beef Spread that perfectly complements the thinly sliced roast beef I usually buy from the supermarket.

my boys, the sandwich fans :)

Move on … that's what young Filipinos nowadays would say after a relationship breaks up. That's actually good advice when you consider how liberating it could be to leave the pain and heartaches behind. Still, it's easier said and done. I know. I've been there, too, many years ago :) 

Songwriters are fortunate because many of them can translate their pain into music. Take Taylor Swift as a very good example. Just think of the many "hugot" songs she has composed by now that turned into bestselling hits

music can be a positive tool to help people move on
This 2016, the Filipino Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Inc. (FILSCAP), the sole and official music copyright society in the Philippines, together with Pioneer, one of the top life and non-life insurance companies in the country, are proud to launch the FILSCAP Campus Caravan. This is a series of talks that aims to guide aspiring musicians at the college level in the different aspects of songwriting. 

FILSCAP Campus Caravan is to be held in different campuses which include De La Salle University-Manila, San Beda College Alabang, UP Diliman, University of Santo Tomas, Ateneo De Manila University, University of Makati, and Ateneo de Davao. Each visit is set to have a songwriting workshop talk to be conducted by well-known Filipino singers-songwriters via face-to-face sessions while also introducing the collaboration's #MoveOnLang Songwriting Competition.

follow FILSCAP and Pioneer on social media
to keep updated on when and where the talks will be held 

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