December 27, 2011

Pinoy stars share their fave Noche Buena dishes

THE Noche Buena (literally, “good night”) is the meal all Filipinos look forward to as a way to honor the God and tradition, as well as share our bountiful blessings with friends and family after a year of challenges in our careers and personal lives.

The traditionalists among us will usually have a Chinese leg of ham topped with pineapples and caramel glaze, a tray of rich and buttery ensaymada topped with grated quezo de bola with a steaming cup of hot tsokolate on the side, and a creamy fruit or buco salad for dessert.

Like many of us, our kapatid in the entertainment profession also partake of classic yuletide fare that epitomize our Spanish-Chinese-American influences, even as a few dream up of delightful (or zany!) dishes to enliven their midnight supper.

• LORNA TOLENTINO – Every Christmas, I always look forward to the food made by dear friends. Sandy [Andolong] makes the best sardines, Bibeth [Orteza] gives tuyo, Tita Pilar’s [Pilapil] ham is very good. I also look forward to the roast turkey my best friend will make. Basically, my Noche Buena feast is food made by friends. I can feel their love for me through these gifts. (Click Celebrity Noche Buena Feasts for the rest of my piece.)

Hope floats

THIS is the best editorial I've read so far this year. It captures the essence of who we are as Filipinos in a time of tragedy - how we all come together, and give hope to others. It is the Christmas story all over again.
EDITORIAL: Rejoice for a nation reborn
InterAksyon, Dec. 25, 2011

We have heard the good news reprised in various ways, and each story, we have on good account, is true:

The child was found floating on a raft of debris. He was saved by a dog. She clung to a pig until some higher power calmed the seas. He lost his wife and son and daughter and ended up saving, and being saved by, a stranger. Oh, the selflessness and the courage, the triumphant spirituality and enduring faith: The survivors are too busy saving each other to grieve for themselves.

We have heard of the miracles as well as of more numerous tragedies that engulf but all the more give them brilliance, and like wisened men now understanding why every star is surrounded but never denied by the larger night, we know that both light and darkness exist to help us navigate to wherever it is we need to go – and, should we choose to do so, to find our way home.

And so as we had gone, we now come from all corners of the world. Carpenters, sailors, teachers, engineers, nurses, lawyers, farmers, entrepreneurs, doctors, students, mothers, fathers – babes and wise men simultaneously, us all – bearing gifts for every child lifted from carnage.

The pilgrimage for Filipinos this Christmas is to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan, and though God knows we are weary of uniting over grief, the nation embraces (yet again) the call to help sift through mud, trash, and logs. We embrace, yet again, the chance to help rebuild lives and homes, with as much zeal as we would curse out the evils that buried, and continue to bury, our compatriots. The corruption, ineptitude and apathy we decry. And then we put even our most jaded side aside to roll up our sleeves for the immediate tasks at hand, which include:

Donating in the face of corruption, working with the notoriously inept, and believing that this time around, nobody is apathetic.

How do we do it? How do we come back again and again, to say there is no hope, and then to show the hope to be as common as a loving parent, as a volunteer from every barangay, as an OFW in every home, as a Facebook account and a cellphone number that’s given up for spreading all things to #HelpCDO? How do we come to be our own best refutation of our most cynical selves?

Perhaps we look to CDO and Iligan as we did to Ormoc and Payatas and every town that drowned with every Ondoy and Pepeng and Ruping. Which is to say, here, all over here, there are as much children and whole families to be rescued and given room in our selfish lives, as there are seeds of hope to be planted in our own hearts. We are tired as a nation, and yet we know that in every tragedy, salvation is not the gift we bring for others, it is the miracle we hope to find for ourselves.

In the end, the wise men of the east got so much more than what they thought they were gifting the child in swaddling clothes. They received license to go home with vision and purpose, to rebuild cities on compassion, selflessness, sacrifice, and dreams shared with others. They received blessing to be reborn as simpler and humbler persons, but more worthy of their own nations, if not of their place in a Kingdom in heaven.

We are stubborn for the opportunity to see our nation reborn, with greater values of vigilance but also sacrifice, compassion, and united purpose. Tragedy that brings us home makes us both the wise men bearing gifts and the babe for which we would like to build a home. We are out to rescue ourselves.

December 24, 2011

The true spirit of Christmas is in giving

(First of two parts)

I’M sure that like me, you too are at a loss on how we can still make merry during the holiday season with what just happened in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City and other areas struck by Typhoon Sendong’s fury.

It is a common feeling especially among survivors, that sense of guilt over why we are alive or doing well while our neighbors, the victims, are not.

And we wonder why this tragedy happened so close to Christmas, as if it will hurt less if it occurred any other time of the year.

What I do know is that because of this tragedy, we are now better attuned to what the yuletide season is really all about. It’s about sharing and giving, not just among friends and family, but also with complete strangers. We help them not because they can help us back, but because they are hurting from the loss of their homes and their loved ones.

Ramon Jimenez Jr. (Photo NPPA Images)

This time of the year, it’s usually about how big a gift one can give, or how much we’d like to impress a boss, or a lover with our presents. But in the case of Sendong’s victims, any donation, large or small, will be much appreciated. These are gifts that will truly mean something and make a difference in a person’s life.

With everyone helping out, we can make the victims of Sendong less cold, less hungry this Christmas. Please keep those donations rolling. And if you haven’t done it yet, please give now. Check out the Internet for the different organizations that are assisting in the relief effort, such as Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Red Cross. Thank you.


Rosanna Roces

FOR my annual Christmas forum, I asked a number of leaders in government and politics, business executives, artists and food enthusiasts what their fantasy Noche Buena feast would be. Most of them were actually quite happy with their usual midnight spread, although a few did unleash their creativity and came up with an eye-popping, lip-smacking sumptuous array of dishes.

A number of them actually cooked the dishes served for Noche Buena, while others mentioned family members as the geniuses behind this dish or that. There were those who stuck to the traditional dishes with recipes handed down from relatives who’ve passed on, while a few—like foodie JJ Yulo—gladly dreamt about “a plate with roasted bone marrow with the marrow quivering like a freshly-made flan, and eaten with toast points, sea salt, and a parsley salad.” (I, on the other hand, want a foie gras-stuffed cochinillo. I don’t know how that will taste, but I bet it’ll be good!)

But amid all the food and festivities, most underscored that what’s great about the Noche Buena is having the entire family around to share it with. My friend Leah Castañeda put it best: “To me, there is no need for steak, lobster or foie gras as long as everyone is present and having a great time.”

Malu Gamboa

To everyone, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Peace, love, and prosperity to you all. And thank you for your continued patronage of this column.

Ramon Jimenez Jr., Tourism secretary—The centerpiece of my Noche Buena is the Christmas ham that I cook myself, which contains the secret family recipe handed down from my grandparents. It’s more than just a dish. It represents history and tradition which I would like my family to observe for generations to come. When you think about it, that’s actually what Filipino Christmas is all about—family and tradition, two essential ingredients that complete the Noche Buena experience.

Rosanna Roces, actress—I thought of bubble tea and pizza for Noche Buena, just to have something new on the table. But Pinoy tradition is hard to miss. We always have kaldereta and other Pinoy food. I want to dine on banana leaves.

Malu A. Gamboa, general manager, Azuthai, Cirkulo and Milky Way Restaurants—Our Noche Buena menu has been the same for as long as I can remember. Mama (Julie Gamboa) always serves the same family favorites at midnight. First comes a hot cup of chocolate laced with peanut butter that Chu, our yaya of 50 years, whisks to perfection with a very old batidor that has been with the family forever. At the bottom of the cup is newly harvested duman, the eagerly awaited Christmas present from our relatives from Guagua, Pampanga. Duman, toasted green malagkit rice, is a Pampanga delicacy that is only available around Christmastime.

Mike Navarrete

Queso de bola (microwaved for five seconds), Majestic ham, Hizon’s ensaymadas and our own Milky Way Macaroni Supreme Salad with bits of Spam, peas and pineapples are always star on our table. We don’t get to enjoy these dishes on regular days, which is why we look forward to celebrating and feasting on these once a year all together as a family.

Miguel “Mike” Y. Navarrete, adviser-Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (former CFO, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp.)—For our Noche Buena here in Atlantic, Canada, we enjoy with friends and relatives delicious Atlantic lobsters, Digby scallops, steak, prawns, haddock, eggnog, etc. My wife Gina makes excellent leche flan for dessert. However, we do miss the lechon, queso de bola, bibingka, puto-bumbong, etc. back home.

My dream Noche Buena would be to combine the best of what we used to regularly have in the Philippines with what is special here. Lechon stuffed with Atlantic lobsters and Digby scallops enjoyed during a White Christmas, perhaps? Sarap!

Leah Castañeda with daughter, Carmen

Leah Castañeda, vice president, Bank of Commerce—Our Christmas Eve celebration ends at dinner, which I will prepare this year, and starts again at lunch on Christmas Day. I’m keeping it simple on Saturday—chicken relleno and a killer lasagna that takes five hours to make. I will prepare a light salad of greens (with arugula), feta cheese, honey roasted walnuts and Parmesan shavings. Dessert will be a rum butter cake baked by my classmate/architect Nina and brewed coffee aero-pressed (hopefully) by my dad.

In the off-chance that we get hungry after Midnight Mass and don’t fall asleep while walking home from the church, my mother will prepare a cheese platter (with Marca Piña queso de bola) and Virginia ham from the US, I’ll ask her to prepare authentic tsokolate the way her lola used to make it (with butter and sesame seeds). She also has a bowl of grapes to counter the richness of the cheeses. Let’s not forget the castañas.

If I had it my way, every year would be celebrated simply and quietly, but with the family complete at the dinner table.

(Conclusion next week...)

(My column Something Like Life, is published most Fridays in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Dec. 23, 2011. Photos courtesy of interviewees, except where stated.)

December 23, 2011

BBDO wins bid to craft new PH tourism slogan

The Department of Tourism has chosen BBDO Guerrero | Proximity Philippines as the winning bidder in its P5.6-million "Philippine Brand Campaign focusing on Tourism" project.

However, no new tourism slogan was announced by the DOT, adding in a press statement that "further development of BBDO Guerrero's concept is underway, and the first iterations of the new campaign will emerge in the course of the first half of 2012."

A source at the DOT said Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. decided to defer the launch of the new slogan due to the calamity wrought by Typhoon Sendong.

Questions have risen, however, about just how fast the new brand campaign can be rolled out due to the limited funds of the DOT, which has an annual budget of only P2 billion. (For the rest, click InterAksyon.)

December 13, 2011

No bad hair days this Xmas!

LIKE most women, I too have a love-hate relationship with my hair.

I get obsessed brushing it, fluffing it this way and that, or blow-drying it just to make it look like I just came from the salon. The obsession takes on a more intense turn even more so now that it’s barely two weeks before Christmas. I mean, there are those Facebook photos to think about!

Because no matter how great our make-up is, or what fabulous clothes we have on, if a few of those hairs stray all over our face, or the grey hairs start making their presence felt (aka "chismis"), then our coiffeur is ruined and we look less than perfect. Maganda na sana, kaso bad hair day. Ay!

As usual, at this time of the year, I’m already hanging about my favorite salon – Essensuals Toni&Guy – at the TriNoma, for the best treatments for my locks. It’s always a must that I get my hair cut, dyed and highlights done at least a week before Christmas Eve, just to avoid the mad rush of fellow customers.

Cherry Reyes, T&G co-owner, and a kick-ass stylist herself, has just come back from London with some of her senior stylists and color-technicians after attending the courses at the parent company’s Toni&Guy Academy at New Oxford St.

The result is the salon’s latest offering for hairstyles called the Alignment collection – inspired by fashion, music, street culture, and architecture. “Think decades gone by and futuristic ideals, giving an ‘old meets new’ approach and an eclectic high-fashion feel,” Cherry notes.

And just in time for the holidays, too!

The new collection is "characterized by minimum effort and maximum impact,” she explains, “from strong statement cuts to uncomplicated naturalistic shapes with an anti-product finish, not too many hair products; versatility is key in creating the hairstyle. It’s a ready-to-wear approach, parang ‘do-it’-yourself’, low maintenance but high impact hairstyles. The styles incorporate trend-driven techniques with ultra wearable finishes.”

The cuts, she says, range from strong and classic shapes like the Wedge and 1990’s Crop, to soft long layered tresses with real emphasis on texture – “vintage and lived-in meets groomed and tailored.” Think youthful, fresh-faced with a hint of attitude!

So what about the men? Cherry says the men’s cuts are all about clean lines and groomed texture worn with confidence. “The classic short back and sides complemented with length on top will continue to remain a dominating iconic look for seasons ahead.”

In terms of color, Cherry says her colorists will combine and blend chocolate, caramel, and whiskey shades, which are very apropos for Asian hair. “We can also infuse some red or violet colors depending on how brave or bold and playful our clients are.”

Career women, for instance, don’t have to fear a touch of striking color in their hair just because they work in offices. “We create color that is highly individual. ‘Work’ now is fashionable regardless of age. We can look corporate with a touch of red, plum or gold in our hair for the holidays. Or we can do our latest Dip-Dye technique wherein the color is noticeable at the ends or inside the hair, or just one side. We can do colors that may be hidden during the day and bold at night when partying for the Holidays.”

Aware that the frenzied partying season has already commenced, Cherry stresses that our hair can always look its best even without visiting the salon every party day. “Just keep it moving! Avoid using too much products or hairspray, wax etc. If you have long hair, wear it down - it's sexier,” she advises.

The festive season is not the time to be safe and conventional with regard to our hairstyles, ladies. Take a chance, go for a different look, or just adopt something edgier to give us that extra oomph!
Let’s make our gorgeous ‘dos our fashion statement for the Yuletide season.

(For inquiries, call Essensuals Toni&Guy at 812-8002/812-8559 at 6750 Ayala, Makati; 9007169/9007168-TriNoma, QC; and 470-1806/470-1446 and cell. no. 09194222600-SM Megamall Atrium, Mandaluyong.)

* * * *

HOW is the Filipino faring in the 21st century? How are media, the Internet and social-networking sites affecting today’s children?

These are some of the issues to be discussed in “Family Congress 2012” to be held on February 18, 2012, at the Valle Verde Country Club in Pasig City. The congress has as its theme “BFF: Building the Filipino Family.” The event is jointly organized by the Love Institute, Galileo Enrichment Learning Program and FID Events Services.

The congress aims to reaffirm the value and relevance of the Filipino family in the face of changing times. Love Institute has enlisted esteemed experts in their fields to talk on issues concerning children, relationships and families. Guest speakers include psychologist Dr. Honey Carandang, educator Dr. Queena Lee-Chua, inspirational speaker Francis Kong, and parenting and relationship experts Allan and Maribel Dionisio.

Workshop topics to be discussed during the Family Congress include “Bridging the Facebook Fad: How Can Parents Manage the Invasion of Media and Technology,” “Built for Forever: Preparing Singles for a Lifetime Relationship,” “Being Friends Forever in Marriage: Learning the Art of Fighting,” and “Teaching Parents to Talk to Kids and Teens about Sex and Relationship.”

Marriage and family counselor Maribel Sison-Dionisio and corporate trainor and relationship counselor Pia Nazareno-Acevedo founded Love Institute.

According to Nazareno-Acevedo, “Love Institute was born out of the acceptance of the fact that there is just not enough systematic knowledge available out there for all those who take their love relationships seriously.”

The company offers various classes and seminars on relationships and love in a small group setting to set the foundation of loving relationships and balanced individuals. One-on-one and couple counseling sessions are also offered, as well as individual evaluations and assessments (compatibility, self-esteem, life plan, etc.) to provide the individual with the needed life skills and knowledge.

Both Sison-Dionisio and Nazareno-Acevedo took graduate studies in Family Ministries at the Ateneo de Manila University. They both have extensive experience in counseling and training, which they put to use at Love Institute.

Galileo Enrichment Learning Program is headed by Ma. Rowena J. Matti, who has been involved in the education sector since she was a child. Her mother founded the Sacred Heart School in Malabon. Galileo offers enrichment programs to children aged three to 12, by making learning a happy experience. It offers programs in math and English.

FID Events Services is headed by Fides M. Reyes whose expertise in PR and events organizing has been strengthened and refined by over 30 years of experience. She is passionate in the ministry of strengthening relationships within the family. She serves at the Light of Jesus Community of Bo Sanchez as pastoral head and part of the creative media team.

Participation in the Family Congress is at P1,500 per person, inclusive of seminar fee, congress kit and meal.

There is a special group rate for families joining the congress. For every six paid participants, a seventh member will be admitted for free.

• For inquiries about the Family Congress, e-mail You may also call Love Institute at 436-4143 and 0922-8944143, or Galileo Enrichment Center at 810-8506.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Dec. 16, 2011. Photos courtesy Essensuals Toni&Guy.)

'Paskuhan sa Paseo' draws 'em with the best Filipino Christmas treats

(Bangus embotido)

MANILA, Philippines - Say “food festival,” and I’m usually there in a heartbeat.

The latest one being raved about is the “Paskuhan sa Paseo” at the Mandarin Oriental Manila’s Paseo Uno interactive buffet outlet, ongoing until December 18.

Chef Ed Quimson, a veteran of many of the metro’s best restaurants, whipped up a line of traditional Christmas treats and Filipino comfort food, with the help of his associate, Chef Booj Supe of M Fine Foods, especially for this feast.

It proved to be another belly buster, as only Mandarin’s food festivals are wont to be. The best thing about this particular feast is, we get to eat our favorite Noche Buena dishes weeks before Christmas!

(Pomelo or suha salad)

Of the many foods laid out, the clear winner for me—among the cold appetizers—was the suha (pomelo) salad. It was prickly sour and sweet at the same time, the flavors playing off each other but still making for a cohesive whole. Certainly, it’s a favorite of the other diners as well, because it ran out quickly when I tried to get seconds!

The bangus embutido was a delightful surprise. Moist and flaky, with very balanced flavors. And thankfully, no overly fishy (malansa) taste. Truth to tell, I am not really an embutido person. But made with fish, the embutido (our local version of meatloaf) flies in the face of convention, thus providing a welcome alternative to diners who wish to eat light.

(Prawns with Aligue)

I thought the most awesome dish in the entire lineup, just because it was so perfectly Christmasy, was Chef Ed’s Chicken Relleno. A usual staple at the Noche Buena table, this chicken relleno was certainly one of the best I’ve tasted in a long time. The fowl’s skin was just lightly singed a golden brown, while the stuffing was so succulent, brimming with an all-meaty goodness. There was none of the usual extenders of hotdogs, hard-boiled eggs, and pickles as with most commercial chicken rellenos. It was pure holiday joy at every bite.

I also liked the braised beef belly adobo—and again, I’m one person who can live without adobo (so I’m weird, sue me!)—and only eat it if it’s deep-fried in oil. But braising it, not only broke down the beef belly, but it also reduced the vinegar and soy sauce blend into a light sauce, not cloying and heavy like some adobos are made that I try to steer clear of.

Of course, it was impossible to eat everything. My tummy was already bursting at the seams, and so I had to reluctantly move to the dessert table. The only dishes I managed to partake of were the light and fluffy cheese bibingka—loved this!—and the leche fan (milk flan) with dayap (native lime). The latter was still a bit too sweet for me, despite the dayap, but what I liked about it was its luscious creamy texture.


Chef Ed, of course, has been involved in many well-respected and long-favored establishments such as La Tasca, Via Mare, Nielsen Tower Club and Restaurant, Broker’s Lounge at the Philippine Stock Exchange, Giraffe, Subic Bay Yacht Club, Rastro, Chef Ed’s, Club Noah, Splendido, Petra and Pilar, and Delimondo, to name a few.

He started working professionally at 17 years old, and considers his passion for cooking a legacy from his grandmother, Doña Consuelo Tuason Quimson, with whom he shared well-spent moments in the family kitchen when he was a wee five years old.

The dishes he creates are traditional Filipino home-cooked delights with some Spanish influences. “Filipino food is so diverse and flavorful and we are incredibly excited to bring Chef Ed’s specialties to Paseo Uno this Christmas season, just in time for festive gatherings and family reunions with balikbayans,” says Chico Angeles, MOH’s director of food and beverage.

“We look forward to again working with Chef Ed,” notes Executive Chef Rene Ottlik “and present to our diners his divine recipes that are as rich in taste as they are in tradition.”
(Crispy pork belly)

Diners will expectedly find themselves lining up at the carving station for the scrumptious lechong Cebu and crispy pork belly. Other specialty favorites in the menu include Tortang Alimasag with Fresh Lumpia Sauce, Paella Tinola, Tinapa Paté served with melba toast, Kilawin Na Tangigue with Gata in wanton cups, and Crispy Kare-Kare.

Also on the menu are more than a half dozen of mouth-watering Filipino desserts, including Palitaw filled with Langka, Halo-halo with Gata and Moscovado, and Pastillas de Leche Cheesecake.

The festive buffet spread is priced at P1,650+, while Friday and Saturday dinner is priced at P2,200+ inclusive of Paseo Uno’s Luxury Buffet.

(Braised Belly adobo)

(For more information on “Paskuhan sa Paseo Uno”, email For reservations, call Paseo Uno at 750-8888. My piece was originally published in InterAksyon, Dec. 14, 2011.)

December 10, 2011

Finding love in the Year of the Water Dragon

(Feng shui expert Marites Allen gave a preview of her 2012 predictions during a recent press briefing at Manila Hotel. On January 22, 2012, the hotel will usher in the Year of the Water Dragon with a Chinese bazaar, fireworks, blessing ritual by Allen, and an exquisite midnight feast at the Mabuhay Palace. The dishes will symbolize luck, longevity and wealth in the coming year. Copyright Stella Arnaldo)

EVERYONE’S still talking about the bombshell that showbiz princess KC Concepcion dropped last Sunday.

Well, I won’t dwell too much on it, since I don’t want to add any more to the noise. And as her mega-mom Sharon Cuneta did say, KC and Piolo are adults. In other words, KC knew exactly what she was getting into.

Of course, like many single, unattached women...KC’s desperate cry about wanting to find true love does tug at the heartstrings. But who, where and how to find it—that’s the big question.

Well, if you ask feng shui consultant Marites Allen about love, she can tell you that she is proof positive of how geomancy can help us single women find Mr. Right. After a failed first marriage back home in Cebu was annulled, Marites says she was able to activate her love life and attract many suitors with the help of feng shui.

She says she found her Prince Charming—an Englishman whose name she declines to reveal due to privacy issues—and married him. That is, “only after I carefully studied his chart!” Marites says she is very much happily married, with a wonderful family life with their four children. What’s more, she now has a great career as one of the country’s top feng shui consultants.

Marites, who is president of the World of Feng Shui Philippines, spoke to the media recently in a preview of Manila Hotel’s festivities to help usher in the Year of the Water Dragon on January 22, 2012.

So, of course I asked her: What can KC do to find that elusive “true love”? (KC, by the way, was born in 1985, the Year of the Ox.)

Marites says that KC’s “best match are those born in the Year of the Rat.” She cites the UK’s Prince Harry (Rat) and his girlfriend Chelsy Davy (Ox)—“they were having an on-and-off relationship but they seem to keep going back to each other.... So an Ox pairing with a person born in the year of the Rat is surely a very good start in finding the right one.”

Marites adds that KC’s best allies or friends are Snakes or Roosters.

But the feng shui expert counsels: “For a very pretty, intelligent and independent lady like KC, surely too many guys are already waiting for their turn to woo her heart. However, it is best for her to enjoy her singlehood and surely, when the time is right, she will find another love.”

Marites assures that love will come a-calling again, especially if “KC activates the southwest section of her bedroom with love charms such as peony flowers or double happiness symbols, such as the dragon and phoenix symbol, etc.”


(Just some of the lucky charms and feng shui books available at Marites' World of Feng Shui shops in the metro.)

SPEAKING of Rats, guess who was born in that year, KC?

Well, it’s none other than President Noynoy Aquino, who was born in 1960.

Hmmm...KC and P-Noy? Well, why the hell not?! I think it could be a perfect match!

Both of them are smart, well-bred individuals.

They are currently loveless.

They both belong to respectable families with their feet dipped into politics and show business. So there would be an immediate understanding of each other’s priorities, background, and ways of thinking.

Okay, so there’s a 25-age gap. But maybe a more mature man (accent on the latter quality) is exactly what the young KC needs.

After all, this is a lady who virtually grew up without a strong male figure in her life. It was really her mom Sharon who was both mother and father to her, rearing KC as best as she could.

As for PNoy, he is no stranger to relationships with younger women. His ex-girlfriend Shalani Soledad is 20 years his junior—so what’s an additional five years in the case of KC?

And apparently, he is not intimidated by intelligent, outspoken women, having had relationships with Korina Sanchez, Bernadette Sembrano, Shalani, Liz Uy, Bunny Calica, etc. And KC is the same...articulate, well-read, and with just a touch of the right demureness. (She is actually like a slightly refined version of presidential sister Kris Aquino, don’t you think?)

But more important, KC and P-Noy have compatible Chinese zodiac signs! She’s and Ox. He’s a Rat. Who knows, it may just work!


(Manila Hotel Executive Chinese Chef Sun Bing will be preparing a delectable feast for the Chinese New Year celebration at Mabuhay Palace, on Jan. 22, 2012. Photo courtesy Manila Hotel.)

KIDDING aside, Marites says the year 2012 brings a “general” risk of illness for those born in the Year of Rat, so the President should watch out. “It is a mixed year, so look after your health. Adjust to a less demanding schedule.”

She advises Rats in general to “focus on mentally-challenging activities, rather than doing the party scene.”

Marites adds that stress will bring tension to a Rat’s life, but his allies “are there to the rescue him.” A Rat’s best friends are Dragons and Monkeys.

To avoid falling ill, Marites advises Rats to acquire a Medicine Buddha Moving Mantra Watch “to create an aura of good health around you.” Also they should place a Brass Wu Lou in the Northern sector of the bedroom “as an antidote to the illness star.”

The year 2012 will be a generally favorable for those born in the year of the Tiger, Rabbit, Horse and Sheep, she says.

According to Marites, the Water Dragon’s power will help push dramatic changes in 2012. It may not mean the end of the world as the Mayan calendar supposedly indicated, but it will certainly be a “year of transformation.”

To indicate how momentous the transformation in 2012 would be, Marites recalled the previous Water Dragon years, the last one occurring in 1952. That year saw the passing of King George VI of the United Kingdom and assumption into office of his daughter Queen Elizabeth II. The first hydrogen bomb was detonated in 1952, ushering in the nuclear age. World War II also came to an official end with the Treaty of Peace signed between Japan and 48 countries aligned with the Allied powers coming into force.

She says although 2012 “will be better than 2011,” the Year of the Rabbit, “it does signify continuing disharmony, with conflicts between governments and social classes, and political and social unrest. There are to be key leadership changes; and social and industrial disputes are to escalate.” 2012 in an election year in the US, France, Russia and India, she points out.

Asked whether this meant a new President for the U.S. next year, Allen said: Yes, [US President Barack] Obama is an Ox (1961), and is slowly losing popularity with the yearly economic challenges in the U.S. So chances are, he may not make it to another term… unless he implements major changes more favorable to the U.S. economy.”

Marites will unveil her other 2012 predictions on January 22 at Manila Hotel’s Chinese New Year celebration. A Grand Chinese Bazaar will be held on the hotel premises featuring different stores selling lucky charms, house decorations and delectable Chinese delicacies.

While the fireworks light up the evening sky, hotel guests will dine on a feast prepared by Executive Chinese Chef Sun Bing at the Mabuhay Palace. The dishes will symbolize luck, longevity and wealth in the coming year.

Doomsday enthusiasts believe the world would end on December 21, 2012 because the calendar of the Mayans—a now-extinct indigenous civilization that once dwelled in Mexico—ends on that date. Well, I looked through Marites’s feng shui almanac for 2012 and it does include a 2013 calendar at the back. Whew!

(For ticket inquiries and reservations to Manila Hotel’s Chinese New Year celebration, call 527-0011 local 1108 or 1243.)

(My column, Something Like Life, is published almost every Friday, in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on Dec. 2, 2011. If you need to borrow the entries and photos on these pages, pls. cite your source. Thanks.)

December 02, 2011

DOT to decide new slogan this week (UPDATED)

THE Department of Tourism is currently weighing the proposals of eight short-listed advertising agencies that submitted bids for the P5.6-million Philippines brand campaign project.

The agency’s Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) has until Wednesday to decide on the winning slogan and brand campaign from those proposed by eight of the country’s leading advertising agencies, according to Tourism Assistant Secretary Domingo Ramon Enerio III. Enerio oversees the branding campaign project, and is a member of the five-man SBAC.

The eight agencies—Dentsu Philippines Inc., J. Romero & Associates Inc., Lowe Inc., BBDO Guerrero Proximity Philippines Inc., DDB Philipines Inc., WPP/J. Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam Philippines Inc., and Aspac Advertising Inc.—made their advertising pitches to the SBAC on November 21 and 22, according to agency sources. They were earlier shortlisted from 13 agencies which had indicated their interest to participate in the bid.

In a text message, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., who sat in the presentations of the eight ad agencies, told the BusinessMirror that the proposed slogans and advertising concepts were all excellent.

Magaganda lahat. They were all rooted in solid strategy and showed the hard work everyone put in,” he said. “We are now in a difficult process of selecting a winner.”

In previous media interviews, the DOT chief promised to announce a new tourism slogan before Christmas.

Asked how the SBAC will be choosing the new tourism slogan and brand campaign, Enerio explained that it will be “a collegial decision with major directions coming from the secretary.” He declined to reveal any more details of the pitches made by the advertising agencies due to the “confidentiality undertaking” he had signed, but promised that “all will soon be revealed.”

Unlike the “Pilipinas Kay Ganda” slogan prematurely launched during the tenure of Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, and which was later scrapped due to a major industry outcry, the new slogan would be tested, and consultations held with industry stakeholders, Enerio said.

“Consultations are essential to success, acceptance, and ownership of the brand by all stakeholders. For sure, the [new] brand will be vetted extensively before being announced,” he said.

A separate bidding will be conducted for the supplier of the advertising materials such as television commercials, brochures, posters, and other collateral materials. It will probably take a year before the new advertising campaign will be finalized and rolled out to the target markets.

The P5.6-million “Philippine Branding Campaign focusing on Tourism” is the DOT’s third try at creating a new tourism slogan for the country, which for years, has been using the “Wow Philippines” campaign crafted by BBDO Guerrero in 2007.

The Philippines, with its lackluster manufacturing sector and sluggish agricultural performance, has set its sights on the tourism industry as a new engineer of economic growth. At present, the sector accounts for less than six percent of the gross domestic product, unlike other countries such as Spain, Thailand, Singapore, etc., whose tourism sectors represent over 40 percent of GDP.

Visitor arrivals from January to September this year jumped 12 percent to 2.89 million from 2.58 million in the same period last year. Jimenez has announced a 4-million target for tourist arrivals in 2012.

The Philippines hopes to attract 6 million tourist arrivals by 2016, or when President Aquino steps down from office.

However, a meager tourism promotions budget, lack of adequate infrastructure and facilities, and conflicting government policies could stand in the way of achieving those numbers.

The DOT for instance, has had to make do with an annual budget of P2 billion allocated by Congress.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), the gateway to the country, is old and decrepit, with a runway too small to accommodate the growing number of flights in and out of Manila. Some of its passenger terminals such as Naia 1, for instance, have been dubbed the “worst in the world” by international media outfits and travel bloggers.

And while the Aquino administration has just implemented a “pocket open skies” policy to encourage more international carriers to come to the Philippines, the government continues to charge taxes and fees on foreign airlines which unnecessarily increases the latter’s operating expenses. Only recently, Air France-KLM announced it would be dropping its direct flights to the Philippines due to the continued imposition of these taxes.

(My story was published in the BusinessMirror, Nov. 28, 2011.)

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(UPDATE) Checked with Asec. Enerio just today, Dec. 2, and he said "deliberations are ongoing. Sec. [Jimenez] is out of town, so we continue to evaluate up to next week."