September 25, 2011

P13-M tourism branding effort under way

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., (center), is flanked by Tourism Planning and Information Management Director Rolando Canizal (left) and Assistant Secretary Benito Bengzon Jr. of International Tourism Promotions, in his first press conference as tourism czar at the Department of Tourism building in Manila on Sept. 12, 2011. (Photo by Roy Domingo)

SEVEN of the top advertising agencies in the Philippines are working on the new tourism branding campaign for the country, according to newly appointed Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr.

Jimenez revealed this as he batted for the “transformation” of the Filipinos into “enthusiastic selling units” for the Philippines. He said he believed strongly in the “commercial viability” of the country.

In his first press briefing on Monday, the DOT chief said the new tourism slogan will be done before Christmas.

“It’s important to point out that we’re taking this very seriously. It’s going very well. We’re in the middle of the process. This is not yet the end of the process. This exercise involves six to seven of the largest creative advertising, marketing communication teams in the country,” he said.

According to sources within the Department of Tourism, Jimenez’s branding project is a continuation of what former Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim started in July 2011.

According to the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the “Philippine Branding Campaign focusing on tourism” obtained by the BusinessMirror, the budget for the slogan is P13.44 million (inclusive of value-added tax), with the target audience being “domestic residents and international visitors from the major markets of the Philippines for tourism, investments, services, and trade.”

The deadline, as per the TOR, is “two months from receipt of the Notice to Proceed,” or, as DOT sources said, the “third week of December 2011.”

The same sources said the bidding process was temporarily suspended because of the change in the administration of the agency. “We wanted to allow Secretary Jimenez to review the process first before proceeding,” a ranking tourism official familiar with the project explained.

Jimenez and DOT officials, however, declined to identify the seven prequalified bidders, except to say that “it’s a who’s who of everyone in the advertising industry.”

The TOR specifies that the winning bidder should be able to produce the tourism country brand as a multimedia campaign “with applications on investments, services and trade, to include concepts” for television, radio, print, online pages, web site, social networks, blogs, posters, billboards, transport and road shows or events.

The TOR added that the creative materials for the branding exercise will include: campaign logo and theme line, visual identity guide manual, one five-minute audio-visual production (AVP) produced in high-definition; two 30-second AVPs convertible to 15-second TV commercials; two brochures; two print ad materials; and five posters.

Jimenez said he had been “very busy in the past few days doing more or less simple work for what will eventually become a complex undertaking, that is, to excite and invite people to push for tourism as a major source of income or activity for our people in the next 20 years.”

Asked if he saw any problem in Filipinos traveling to other countries abroad, instead of within the Philippines, Jimenez said, “A domestic or international tourism campaign for the Philippines doesn’t have anything to do with our desire to travel ourselves. I think it’s healthy that Filipinos like to travel, then they understand what they travel is all about. It is best people to talk about travel with those who travel themselves. Our job at the department is to convince our fellow Filipinos to see their country as much as they see other countries abroad, even more so. Tourism is not mandado; you have to be excited to go, so our job is to excite people [to see their country].”

Jimenez spoke of transforming Filipinos into “enthusiastic selling units, the way successful touristic countries are everywhere in the world.”

They can help, he said, by posting beautiful photos of local tourist destinations they have visited. “Imagine if you have 22 million Filipinos on Facebook doing this, this would be great coverage,” he said.

He added that the department would be using a lot of social-networking tools to help sell the country to travelers here and abroad.

“We are a nation that is unsure about the viability of our product...the transformation has to be from top to bottom and to believe that we are in fact, commercially viable, that we are in fact among the greatest tourist attractions in the world, or one of the fascinating undiscovered places on the earth. Ang kulang na lang is the transformation of the people,” he said.

The DOT had received a lot of flak for launching its “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” slogan in 2010, without being tested for its acceptability among target markets. The failed exercise led to the resignation of one of its undersecretaries.

(My piece was originally published in the front page of the BusinessMirror, Sept. 13, 2011.)

September 24, 2011

Diwalicious food fest at the Mandarin Oriental

Steamed diwal (angel wings clams)

I HAD been soooo looking forward to this food fest. I had heard so much about Chef Pauline Gorriceta Banusing from my Ilonggo friends and now, she's at the Mandarin Oriental Makati's Paseo Uno, whipping up wonders in its kitchen for the outlet's Diwalicious Visayas food festival w/c started on Monday, Sept. 19.

As I looked over the entire spread of her dishes yesterday, I struggled to contain the panic rising inside me. What do I do? Where do I start? What looks like the best dish to try first? (Sadly, they all did, which made my heart race even faster).

But since it was a Diwalicious festival - highlighting the Diwal (angel wings clams) both steamed and w/ baked w/ cheese, I chose that first. Dipped in vinegar with chopped onions, I quickly downed a few of the succulent steamed diwal along with some huge scallops from Roxas City. Sweet, sweet Jesus. I prayed to myself. Thank you for these wonderful gifts from the sea.

Kansi - beef short ribs in a sour broth.

Then I had a go at Chef Pauline's Kansi - tender beef short ribs in sour broth w/ some veggies – and I was in heaven. Seriously, it was such a divine experience for me just spooning the comforting soup in my mouth, then biting into the oh-so-soft beef w/c just broke down as soon as I chewed on it. I just had to have steamed rice w/ this dish. This was comfort food at its finest. And I swear I could've gone home happy even if I just ate these two dishes alone.

Kansi can be compared to Sinigang na baka except that the souring agent used is the fruit called batuan, which is mostly found in the Visayas, although Chef Pauline says some can also be found in Ilocos and Bohol. Batuan is much more complex than the usual guava or tamarind Tagalogs use for their sinigang. It not only adds sourness to the broth but depth as well. It's difficult to describe it - one must just try it to get what I mean by "depth". Anyhoo, I made Chef Pauline promise to send me her recipe of her kansi so I could replicate it at home.

Pinalmahan na Pink Salmon

But there was more. I tasted the Pinamalhan na Pink Salmon w/c I actually never had before, but as far as my research goes, is prepared using vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and a host of other ingredients. It's been described as 'paksiw made dry.' The pink salmon was lusciously tender, but despite the supposedly 'dry' style pinalmahan should be, it was actually masarsa, which I liked.

Another soothing treat was the La Paz Batchoy, basically a noodle soup w/ pork innards, and some chicken or pork cuts, with a sprinkling of chicharon and chopped green onions. The broth was just as heartwarming as that of the kansi, only clearer. Batchoy could probably be described like Vietnam's ubiquitous Pho, except that even in the Visayas, there are so many styles of how the dish is made although it originated in La Paz, a district in Iloilo.

La Paz batchoy

Using fat juicy crabs from Roxas City, Capiz - where my own father's family hails from – Chef Pauline also cooked up some ginataang alimango - I forget now the actual name of the dish. It was sweet, earthy, and quite succulent. Of course, I just had to put down my silverware and used my hands to get to the innermost bits of crab meat, and sucked every tiny bit of morsel I could manage out of the crab's corners. I was just so into it, I completely forgot I was in a five-star hotel's dining outlet. But I just thought it would've been a waste to pretend to be all proper and dainty eating the crabs (I even had a claw cracked open) when there was so much goodness to savor from the crabs.

I had two other dishes as well - the chicken inasal and fresh lumpiang ubod – but w/ what I already ate above, I was quite happy...ecstatic even, with the entire experience. And I was quite delighted to see even some Japanese guests at the hotel, savoring each of the the Ilonggo dishes served, instead of concentrating on the usual Western or Oriental portions of the daily buffet.

KBL! Kadios (pigeon peas), Baboy (pork pata), and Langka (jackfruit)

I thought it was so apropos that one of the dishes served was the kansi, bec. I think that it is the best dish that represents how we are as Filipinos - our warmth, open heart, and embracing nature. It is something that foreigners like them would love to experience over and over again.

Chef Pauline says people on a diet needn't worry about increased calories from the buffet because "Ilonggo food is healthy." It basically presents a good balance of protein and a whole lot of vegetables. Diabetics, however, should steer clear of the yema cake. Although it is just as wonderful as the main dishes, it is made w/ loads of sugar. (In fact the actual recipe calls for condensed milk but Chef Pauline, rightly so, used evaporated milk. Whew.)

Check out the Visayas food fest ASAP. It ends tomorrow, Sunday, Sept. 25. Lunch buffet is P1818 ++. Also available for dinner. Happy tummy! ;p

Fresh lumpia ubod (egg spring rolls w/ palm hearts)

Yema or caramel cake

Chef Pauline Gorriceta Banusing, chats with us at lunch. More on Chef Pauline in a future entry. Note: All pics herein are copyrighted by this blogger.

September 22, 2011

Indian food fest at the Century Park Hotel

FEELING adventurous? Need some spice in your life?


Then head on over to Century Park Hotel's Café in the Park for its ongoing Indian Food Festival! According to CPH Gen. Manager Philippe Bartholomi, the food fest is in conjunction w/ Philippine Airlines' recent launch of its flights to New Delhi. And as such, the hotel managed to bring in chefs from the Taj Hotel in India.

The salads

I was just there on Tue., Sept. 20, and I must say, I didn't really know where to begin! The food was laid out so colorful and pretty, all tempting to be tried. Of course, the chefs did ease up on the spiciness of the dishes, as they know we Pinoys aren't so used to their brand of anghang. So the dishes I took a particular liking to, just packed the right punch, and allowed the other flavors of the dish to ease through.

I particularly loved this prawn dish - Jhinga Hara Masala.

I liked this meatball dish as well - the Kabuli Gosht Kofta.

And the lovely desserts:

Anannas Ka Halwa -pineapple sweet confection

Makai Ki Keer-sweet corn pudding. It tasted like creamy ginataang mais w/o the rice. Yum.

Lunch buffet at the Indian food fest is only P1,215 net (of course there are other non-Indian dishes too if you like). The festival runs until this Saturday, Sept. 24, only. So hurry and get your jai ho fix ASAP.

September 17, 2011

Amy the beautiful

She looked so well and happy, and gorgeous in this video no? Sayang ka talaga, Amy. Hay, what a waste of such immense talent! The video, btw, was officially released on Sept. 14, which would've been Amy's 28th birthday. As she starts singing, you kinda feel like she's channeling Shirley Bassey - who never sang the song in public, I believe – and Ella Fitzgerald a bit. But then Amy finds her own groove.

In a way, it was like she was kinda honoring her dad, Mitch, who is also a singer in the mold of Bennett, Frank Sinatra, and the old classical crooners. While I wasn't able to watch Anderson Cooper's new daytime show, I've read that Mitch and his wife (and ex-wife) were guests on the first episode. Mitch fought back his tears as he told Anderson how he missed his daughter - "We were best friends!" (Read the rest here.) He also claimed that Amy had died of a seizure, as she tried to withdraw from alcohol.

Meanwhile, Bennett said of the recording w/ Amy, which is one of the cuts in his Duets II CD out this month, "It was a thrill to record with Amy Winehouse and when you listen to the recording of 'Body and Soul,' it is a testament to her artistic genius and her brilliance as one of the most honest musicians I have ever known.” (Click here for the rest.)

RIP, Amy. Your music lives on.

* * *

Btw, other female music greats who have sung Body and Soul are:

Billie Holiday

Ella Fitzgerald

and, Anita O'Day. This last one, one of my favorite renditions, because of O'Day's playfulness.

September 15, 2011

Looking back

IF your La Sallian boss or employee seem to be spending an extraordinarily lengthy amount of time on the computer these days, blame it on the new Facebook group, Taga-La Salle Taft ka kung.... The group page has been so hugely successful, I fear that the next GDP growth slowdown will be blamed on it.

I will not mention here which CEOs, business executives, faculty members of De La Salle University (DLSU)huli kayo!—or writers (apparently there are a great number of us in the industry) have been regularly posting on the page (or lurking, sneaky you!), but suffice to say that there are quite a lot of interesting names posting over there (even during office hours, hala!).

How very apropos that this group was set up as the university is currently celebrating its 100th year in the Philippines. I’m sure whoever set it up—and no one still has owned up to it—it may not have been his ultimate aim to commemorate the university’s centennial anniversary. But the group does serve as a fond remembering of what life was like at the university during his or her respective era.

For those like me who graduated from DLSU in the late ’80s, the entries have been quite an eyeopener, in terms of history. I entered the university in 1983, 10 years after the first 100 coeds were allowed to enroll there. A number of the girls apparently started off as cross enrollees from nearby schools and later ended up graduating a La Sallite, or La Sallian, as we are now officially known. (In 1973 it was still a “college”; De La Salle only became a university in 1975.)

Aside from the entry of the coeds, one of the more remarkable facets of university life was the existence of the colorful clique called the “Bench Boys”—and no I’m not talking about Ben Chan’s well-endowed PH Volcanoes. According to the entry of one of its founding members, blogger Tony “Lebron” Atayde, it was the coeds in 1973 who gave that title to the men sitting on those benches across the university gym entrance.

“The Bench Boys started when Chito Sta. Romana called for a boycott and brought out the benches from the gym to block the passageways. The next day the benches were still there and some of us got three or four and put [them] across the entrance of the gym so we could see the co-eds walk by.”

From the witty postings on the Taft group, the apparent function of the BBs then was to rate the coeds in terms of gorgeousness, pull down the pants of some fellow students they took a fancy to, and generally make mayhem, hehehe. Cute nila, ’di ba?

The most famous BB, of course, is one Eduardo Manzano—yes, the very same celebrity host/actor we all know and love, and who was also a founding member. Oopsie. If I unwittingly just gave away Manzano’s age, I apologize. Anyway, ’di naman halata. Mukhang 24 pa naman sya. haha.

Atayde also points out that some of them were able to watch The Beatles performing at the Rizal Coliseum while perched on the rooftop of the college building. Wow. And all this time, I thought “The Beatles in Manila” was an urban legend, along with the group being chased and mauled by Marcos’s goons.

During my time, there was still a quota followed, with women kept at I think only 30 percent to 40 percent of the university population. I guess the old Christian Brothers feared DLSU would eventually become a “girls’ school” if women were allowed to be enrolled unfettered. (Sorry, guys, we women are just naturally brilliant at everything we do, hahaha.)

By then, the antics and celebrity status of the Bench Boys had virtually faded, replaced by the sushal kids at the Pebble Wash, the super-active inhabitants of the SPS building, and the cute Engineering boys at the main canteen. In fact, the most famous BB in the ’80s was not even a student but Jacinto Pascual, a.k.a. Mang Jack, the discipline officer. (The DOs would usually sit on the painted benches across the gym, their office being just a few steps away.)

Many would say that you are not a true La Sallian unless you knew Mang Jack (the older alumni would of course disagree). With his guttural voice that could boom from the Chess Plaza to the Pebble Wash, he was such an entertaining and yet comforting fixture in the university. Despite his diminutive height, count on Mang Jack to be the first to break up a fight (or as some have attested, joined the fight as well, hahaha).

“Parang Tatay,” a father figure to all, was how one alumna perfectly described him on the Taft page. He would take pains to take you aside and try to persuade you to give up your errant ways, as some alumni now confess. I heard he finally retired in 2007, after 30 years of service to the university, but still attends our UAAP games versus that-other-school-along-Katipunan-Avenue, pumping his fist in the air like the true La Sallian that he is! (In testament to his popularity, Mang Jack has his very own fan page on FB, say n’yo?)

Another famous figure on campus was Dr. Emerita Quito, chairman of the Philosophy Department in the ’80s. She was in every way the stern but remarkably intelligent professor students alternatively feared and craved for. In fact, it was quite difficult to get into her class because of such a high enrollment demand. Every class session was a challenge to look at issues and ideas in another way, e.g., “Does God exist?”

For a Catholic university, we had quite a liberal academic curriculum (for one, we studied Liberation Theology), and discussions in our Liberal Arts classes were quite exhilarating and provocative—that is, if you had the right professor.

When Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino was shot on the Manila International Airport tarmac in August 1983, the students, long insulated from the political goings-on in the real world, suddenly woke up to the seeming cruelty of the Marcos dictatorship.

I cannot forget regularly watching the video of Aquino’s descent from the plane and hearing the words shouted “Pusila! Pusila!” reverberating through the AV room’s speakers, right before he was shot. Prof. Salvador Gonzales, an Aquino classmate, would break down and analyze the said video many times over. During another university forum, we listened to Butz Aquino and fellow Justice for Aquino, Justice for All (Jaja) members speak about his brother’s death and its impact on his family.

The next year, four of us decided to form an independent party to run—and successfully won—as sophomore representatives for the Liberal Arts students in the Student Council. Maybe it was just our way of expressing our discontent too, and wanted to try to make a bright-eyed difference in the lives of our fellow batchmates.

Perhaps because of the political chaos riling the country those years, it was the first time a left-leaning party won the presidency of the Student Council, which was typically, prior to Aquino’s demise, conservatively-run. The lean and confident militant Hernani “Nani” Braganza (now mayor of Alaminos, Pangasinan), in 1984 led a slightly dysfunctional Student Council crew to the very first tuition barikada in protest of that year’s tuition hike.

(Later in life, meeting ex-Student Council officers of the University of the Philippines, I learned that they were “imported” by Braganza as reinforcements to the barricade because there were not enough La Sallians who actually joined the effort. Not surprising. Most students who studied in DLSU could actually afford to do so, Braganza included, so instead of joining the barricade, they went to watch a movie, ate at nearby restaurants, or played billiards, etc.)

Then as Corazon Aquino declared her intention to run as president versus the strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the 1986 snap elections, we had quite a few mock polls which the widow handily won.

The vice president of choice by the students, however, was not Aquino’s partner Salvador “Doy” Laurel, but old man Arturo “Turing” Tolentino. I guess we were more respectful of the political track record and expansive experience of the seeming kindly old man, which could only serve Tita Cory well. (It was quite an experience for me jostling with foreign photojournalists to try to get a good photo of Tita Cory when she spoke before her fellow Kulasas during the campaign at the St. Scholastica's College campus nearby, along Leon Guinto St.)

The People Power revolt over, the day after February 25, with Tita Cory already sworn in as the new president, I remembered rushing to the La Sallian office at the SPS building, and with colleague Amelie, disposed and flushed down the toilets any publications or leaflets that could be misconstrued as subversive. I guess I still had a Marcos hangover and half-expected the dictator or his cohorts to make a strong comeback. Well, better to be safe than sorry! But what an exciting time that was!

While this undercurrent of political dissent kept rumbling, DLSU President Bro. Andrew Gonzalez (RIP) and his fellow university officers were closely watching over us, arms folded, allowing us to do our thing. But I knew they were ever ready to jump in when things threatened to get out of hand.

I visited with Brother Andrew quite a bit, and chatted with him on a few occasions, and found him to have a humorous streak, that is, if you could keep up with his expansive English vocabulary. I will always be grateful to Brother Andrew for having invited me to join the DLSU Communication Arts faculty (although I stayed only for one trimester). His usual dig at me, long after I graduated, was: “Stella! Are you still an Arnaldo?” Geez.

While I had ridiculous fun at DLSU, I can’t call it the best time of my life, as some people may view their college days. (There would be better times, as I got older.) But nonetheless, DLSU will always have a special place in my mind and heart.

I appreciate how being an alumna virtually opened doors for me in my career, allowing to me connect with many CEOs in the local business community, as well as Cabinet secretaries. To this day, upon meeting other alumni for the first time, even if belonging to disparate eras, there is the shared knowing and positive feelings for the old Alma Mater. Animo La Salle, indeed.

Some gems from “Taga-La Salle Taft ka kung...”:
Nakasakay ka sa elevator sa SJ building na good for three people only! (pero walo kayo!)

Kumain ka ng chicken barbeque sa loob ng La Salle! (Yes, Aristocrat was our canteen concessionaire.)

Kumakain ka ng Syfu’s BBQ sandwich sa parking lot (where McDonald’s now stands.)

Marunong kang magpaikot ng bolpen o lapis sa mga daliri mo (a.k.a. “The Twirl”)

Kung familiar ka sa PA announcement all over the campus “let us pause for a while and remember that we are in the most holy presence of God” at 12 and 6 pm. (the Angelus)

May ka-block kang member ng That’s Entertainment. (In my time it was Gary Valenciano and Rina Reyes.)

Nung bago ang LRT ang pang-alaska mo sa mga Atenista ay ganito...“La Salle: LRT, kayo: TRICYCLE.”

Ang PE teacher n’yong lalaki ang unang nagpauso ng pekpek shorts!

Ang highest grade mo ay 4.0, ’di tulad sa ibang universities na 1.0. We La Sallians know our Math.

Pumapasok ka na sa eskwela sa buwan ng Mayo, samantalang ang mga ibang kaibigan mo, nagbabakasyon pa.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Sept. 9, 2011.)

September 10, 2011

Where were you on 9/11?

(Photo from the Intel Hub.)

I WAS, not surprisingly, burning the midnight oil at the office (I was still working as associate editor at Manila Standard then), and advancing some of my pages for the next issue.

As I was busy editing news pieces, the young proofreaders and layout artists who were glued to CNN, suddenly shouted, "Ma'am! Me plane na nag-crash sa Twin Towers!" I hurriedly arose from my seat and went over to the TV and saw the smoke billowing from one of the towers. Immediately I thought, and said aloud, "Terrorist yan."

(I don't know why I was so sure about it. The initial reports were saying it was a possible accident. But somehow I knew this was not just some airline pilot who suddenly lost control over his plane. The sky was just so blue, and the sun so bright, how could anyone fly a plane accidentally into the towers? And of all places, in New York's World Trade Center?!)

Even before I had the chance to text/call my editor in chief Jullie Yap Daza about what had just happened, the second plane crashed into the other tower. It was like watching a movie, and for some reason, today, it has become a slow-motion visual in my mind's eye. It was totally unbelievable, and yet I saw it happening right before my eyes. It chilled me. And of course, it confirmed my initial belief that this was the work of terrorists.

I immediately checked our wires for the stories that we would use, because for sure, we would have to remat the front page w/c had already been put to bed about an hour before. Everything after that was a blur. I was just running on automatic, and I remember Ms. Jullie and our publisher Andy del Rosario, rushing into the office not soon after, and managing the remat of the front page. (We later learned another plane also had crashed into the Pentagon and at a field in Pennsylvania - check the BBC Timeline of events here. I watched the two towers finally come crashing down, and it just silently shook me. "Why? Why? Why?" I thought to myself. It was just too terrible to watch and yet we were all glued to the TV.)

I finally went home to my flat very late in the evening, switched on the aircon and TV, and after a quick bath and change into my night clothes, settled into my bed. I kept switching channels between CNN and the BBC trying to find out more of what had just happened, and more importantly, who did it and why. I just kept absorbing all the reports and images being broadcast. I said a silent prayer for all the lives that had been lost, for sure there were many, because it was a work day, and it was morning in New York.

I don't know what time I finally slept, but I knew I still had the TV on, and when I woke up, the same images of the towers w/ the billowing smoke, w/c then finally came crashing down were still looping, then the other crashes at the Pentagon and Pennsylvania, but with a different news presenter this time. He/she - I don't remember anymore who was annotating the broadcast – was repeating the same reports and information we had already by then published in our paper that morning.

It would be a very weird week, and a few months. People just couldn't stop talking about it. We may not have been there in NY (or in Washington DC) where the unfortunate attacks happened, but the images remained vivid in our heads. Somehow, I too felt a sense of loss and was very disturbed about what happened. We were entering a strange phase in our lives as global citizens.

(Then US President Bush is told of the second plane that crashes into the WTC. Photo by Getty Images)

I later learned that a media colleague was still waiting word about her sister who was working at the Twin Towers at that time the planes crashed into them. I wrote in my column that I hoped that she would only receive good news about her sister. But in my mind I thought, I wished her and her family the courage to accept whatever result from their search may turn up.

A few months after, I was reading that security measures at the US airports were beefed up, w/ racial profiling at its extreme. Anyone who looked Middle Eastern was being asked to step to one side for further checking. Even some Filipinos had experienced some dustups w/ the US Immigration upon arriving at US airports as well.

(I had traveled to London only a few months after 9/11, and I was surprised that things were different at the Heathrow airport. After clearing immigration almost immediately upon landing, my media group was out the terminal. The only reminder of the terrorist attacks in the US, was the constant annoucement on the PA system as we were heading back to Manila after a week, for us to make sure we had our luggages w/ us all the time. I don't know if the situation is still the same there today since the terrorist bombings over there.)

After the attacks in the US, our malls and hotels went into hyperdrive - employing their own brand of security measures (the magic patpat for the malls, the bomb-sniffing K9 for the hotels). To this day, the practice continues and it's already automatic for us to just open our handbags, whenever we enter a department store and we pass through the establishment's security check.

10 years after, we have X-ray machines deployed in major airport terminals in our country. Whenever we take trips, we have to be at the airport at least 3 hrs before departure - for international flights - and two hours for domestic flights. Airline insurance surcharges have risen...but yes, we still keep flying.

We are more aware of our surroundings, eyeing bags or containers left to a side with suspicion, we constantly look at the people around us (of course, this is also to protect us from pickpockets), and treat security guards w/ more respect.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks may have changed all of us, making us take more precautions wherever we go, but we keep going. We have resumed our lives and our usual activities, but we still manage to enjoy ourselves and what the world has to offer us. And because of that, I know these evil terrorists have lost. We have suffered, but we keep moving forward.

Thank you Lord, for giving us the grace and courage to keep on living.


(NY firefighters raise the American flag at Ground Zero. Photo from the Cleveland Seniors.

According to TV5's news web site, Filipinos are among the least trusted nationalities since the US govt beefed up security policies after 9/11, often experiencing ethnic profiling. Read Interaksyon's special report "10 years after 9/11" here.

ABS-CBN News also has its own reports on the 9/11 anniversary on its website. Read here how they are commemmorating the event.

Here is also an interesting story from the New York Times, on Muslims coming of age in the decade after 9/11 : The 9/11 Decade.

As we all know, the situation in the Middle East has dramatically changed since 9/11 - I don't know if it is for the better. Former strongman Saddam Hussein of Iraq was captured and executed, Iran has become a rising power in the region, and just recently, Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 and other global terrorist attacks has been captured and killed as well, thanks to the leadership of US President Barack Obama.

We all hope that the latter would've weakened the Al Qaeda and its affiliates - but even today, New Yorkers have been alerted to a possible attack. Here in the Philippines, the authorities too are on heightened alert.

Pls. pray that tomorrow's 10th anniversary rites for 9/11 will be quiet and peaceful, and for the eternal repose of the souls of those who had perished.

(Aerial view of the Ground Zero Memorial by Raja Ramchandra.)

September 05, 2011

Saigon sojourn

MY friends and I jetted off to Saigon during the recent four-day holiday, and one of the things we did was to watch the hugely entertaining Water Puppet show. Even the adults enjoyed it. Major aliw factor.

What I'm posting is just one of the acts-it's actually a 50-minute show w/ live music and singing, and amazing puppetry skills. I believe only Vietnam has this water puppet show, and I'm told Hanoi also has its own version.

We also traveled to the Tay Ninh province, northwest of Saigon, and marveled at the ornately designed Cao Dai cathedral. Cao Dai is a religion unique this province and blends the belief systems of Christianity, Taoism and Buddhism. We stayed for a while to observe their noonday service.

More about my Saigon vacation in future posts.

September 03, 2011

UPDATE on the STC Swatch

OK, ok, so I did say that it was easy as pie to get an STC Swatch-I just walked in a store and bought one, without any prior reservations made.

It seems the demand had increased after I posted this on my blog and so, the watches have all been bought. I went to Swatch TriNoma two weeks ago to pick a watch for my friend and was told there were no more stocks in any Swatch store. Sigh. Oh well...the perils of success! ;p (Apparently, not only Theresians from QC had bought the watches, but also those from the old STC-Manila w/c used to be located along San Marcelino St. where Adamson University now stands).

But take heart fellow Theresians, I have just been informed that a new batch of STC Swatches qill be making their way to your Swatch stores, hopefully by December. What a great Christmas gift to friends and family of the Theresian mold, no?

Doc Ria, an old grade school batchmate, sent me this note w/c was posted on the STC-QC '83 FB page, updating everyone on the status of the STC Swatches. Doc Ria's sister, Millet belongs to Batch '87 w/c sold the watches.

From Fayne Rivera-Alvarado, batch 87:

SWATCH UPDATE: Swatch has finally approved the re-order. The 2 options that we have is to reserve through STAA or through the Swatch stores. We will announce the date when the stores will officially accept the reservation. It's easier cause if done through us or through STAA it goes like this:

You fill out a form, pay the 2k.
We take your form and bring it to Swatch along with your payment.
They issue a claim receipt and send it to STAA which you have to pick up.
This receipt will be presented to the store to claim the watch plus the balance of P1,5k.

If done through the Swatch store: You pay the 2k, and keep the receipt, and claim when it becomes available.

Just let me know how I can further assist you.


Expected delivery is by December 1, maybe. There is no official announcement yet from Swatch but it would more or less be around that time, or earlier.

STAA, of course, is the St. Theresa's College Alumni Association.

Anyhoo, there you have it. So make your reservations, now na!

September 02, 2011

Neil Etheridge for Folded & Hung

So, what they say about a man's nose being a good gauge of uhurm, seems to be true...

Thank you Neil. You just made my Friday. ;p