Monday, February 15, 2010

First Studio Shoot

First Studio Shoot = FAIL! hahaha

My friend, Joan, has this office photo contest where you need to show one company value in a photo featuring a product. We both agreed, we needed to win this so we decided to do a photoshoot at a studio with us being the "models". In between the shoot, I tried my hand at studio shooting as well and the result was...never mind. I seriously need to take photography lessons hahaha

A Chinese Valentine

Our first Valentine together so we decided to spend it with the other ladies in Chef's life: his grandmother, his mom, his two sisters and their househelps :)

The plan was to go to Cubao so that we can:
1. Buy the leather shoes at Marikina Shoe Expo for Chef's Gala Night
2. Do the marketing at Farmer's Market

We parked at the Gateway Mall because I had a restroom emergency hahaha. While there, Chef texted me to say that he too needed some time in the loo. After, he told me to meet him at the parking and I sensed something funny.

I got there first and he came after 5 minutes holding my favorite milflores wrapped in abaca :)

We left the flower in the car to wither este so that we can walk to the Marikina Shoe Expo without exposing it to the sun and dust. We got Chef's shoes which is a Cordova, pure leather for only PHP 700. I was disappointed that I didn't get it for PHP 500. Tsk tsk my negotiating powers is getting rusty.

It was around 4pm and the last meal I had was at 10. I was really hungry so we decided to grab a quick bite at Bellini's. I have very fond memories of Bellini's from many years back so I was naturally excited to go back there again. Unfortunately, the fond memories will only remain in my memory because for one, the service sucked big time. For a small size of pizza, we were made to wait for 30 minutes! And two, food was super blah. We ordered Onion pizza so at the minimum we were expecting pizza with mozzarella and caramelized onions but no, we got quick melt and sweet tomato sauce with a little bit of half cooked onions. In fairness, the espresso was good according to Chef. But for PHP 300, I thought that was highway robbery.

Anyway, since it was getting late, we jogged to the Farmer's Market to get the ingredients. As it was also Chinese New Year, we decided to have Chinese :)

Fresh produce from the Farmer's Market

Young garlic


Nectarines from Australia

Ginger extract being poured over two fresh lapu lapu

Fresh tausi

Our Chinese Valentine Fare:
Steamed kaylan with kikkoman, oyster sauce and toasted garlic bits

Stir fried clams cooked in kikkoman and oyster sauce with young garlic stalks

Hinalabos na suahe

Steamed lapu lapu with tausi

Kabab Roll

Kabab Roll is a food kiosk at the Mall of Asia that serves Arab cuisine. Their menu is comprised of a thousand Rolls (okay kidding, mga twenty plus lang), several Boti, Kababs and Tikkas. We went there on a Saturday, which was a fairly busy night. We spotted the Arabian owner and several Middle Eastern diners which was a good sign.

We ordered the Beef Seekh Kabab and good ol' Chicken Tikka. We asked the order taker what was better with our order? Rice or bread. Order taker said, since we are Filipinos, get the rice. Toink. Fine. We went against her expert opinion and got ourselves bread.

Both dishes came with chutney and sliced onions and tomatoes. You can taste the herbs and spices in both dishes and they were both really really good. I'm not sure if I just have a big appetite but the only thing I seem to not appreciate was their small (?!?) serving . For a P100 + per dish though, this place is worth coming back to.
It's alfresco dining which is great especially on a cold summer night. We had fun people watching that night :p

House of Italian Fashion

We were looking for a formal jacket for Chef for their Gala Night this week so we decided to head to Corso Marconi, an Italian Warehouse operated by the Marconi Fashion Group, Asia's largest and only fashion stockhouse chain.

Unlike other warehouses, this one still has that mall feel to it without the steep prices. Racks are neatly arranged, there's an abundance of mirrors and couches, decent fitting rooms, good airconditioning and more importantly a good assortment of Italian fashion bargain for adults as well as kids.

Chef wasn't able to find a formal jacket though that would fit him but he got himself several Cerrutti polo shirts for PHP 500 each and a Balenciaga top for PHP 700. I spotted several Stefanel tops for PHP 300, Lucky Brand jeans for PHP 500, skirts for PHP 100 and shoes for PHP 199.

Corso Marconi is at Morse cor Marconi Sts in Makati.

Beijing Hand Pulled Noodle House

Hands down, the best Chow Mian I have ever tasted. There's a little bit of waiting time (which isn't that long) because they make the noodles as soon as you order it. Can you say fresh? We got the beef chow mian that had tomato, zucchini, white fungus and mushroom. It's like fattened spaghetti in a weird but nice way.

We got the following side orders :
Suchai Dumplings
Vegetarian Dumpling. This tasted great even without the soy vinegar dip.

Sea Grass
Do not order this if you are going out on a date, nakaka wa poise hahaha. This sea grass is extra long and on the hard, crunchy side. It is served with leeks, wansoy and soy vinegar
Sliced fresh raddish with soy vinegar topped with wansoy

For all those, we paid a little under PHP 400. Beijing Hand Pulled Noodle House is right beside Ristra's at Little Baguio in San Juan.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Check Up

A drug company sponsored a free Cholesterol, Blood Sugar Testing and Bone Scanning in our office recently. My Marketing hat was missing that day so upon seeing the email, I thought, wow! This company really cares. Then again, I snapped back to reality upon seeing roll up banners all over the area on their supplements that will help prevent Osteoporosis and medicine for high cholesterol and blood sugar.

Luckily, even after gorging a good amount of carbohydrates and sweets during the holidays, my blood sugar is still at the normal level, phew :) I'm generally afraid of doctors and tests but this blood sugar testing is almost painless and fast. I got the result in less than five minutes.

My bone scanresult wasn't that stellar though. I didn't go for consultation after the scan but my friend, who had the same result said we better take more calcium. Anyway, I'm more inclined to go get a second opinion as the drug company was selling their calcium supplements so the result might not be that reliable methinks :p

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Thanks...but no thanks

I have been an honest taxpayer since I turned 18 and don't ask how long ago that was. Every month when I open my payslip, A take a deep breath and seriously hold back tears in anger, frustration, etc seeing how much is being deducted in my salary. I cannot even begin to tell how depressed I get when I see my Form 2316. If not for the deductions, I could have owned my own house, my own car, etc. I truly wouldn't have minded if I wake up to fresh new mornings, with clean surroundings, no kids begging on the streets, fantastic road, reliable transportation system, etc.

So it truly irks me when I see posters of road constructions with pictures of politicians in them. I mean come on. It's not as if, we are indebted to them... for doing their jobs?!?! And it's not as if they are spending their own money in the project. And maybe age is catching up with me but I couldn't really fathom what this streamer is all about:

First of all, who is supposed to be thanking the President??!? More importantly, why are we thanking the President for the footbridge?!?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Pianoke Night at Serenade Hall

Pianist: Simon Martin

Filipinos' love for music, is evident with the evolution of singing machines. First came the Karaoke, a stereo tower with two cassette decks that came with the mic. Then came the videoke, that transferred the fun to television with musical dots and visuals to accompany you while you belt songs reminiscent of that singing contest in the 80's hosted by Bert Marcelo and Pilita Corrales. Then, I heard about Rockeoke, exclusively held at Mag:Net cafe where you can belt songs with live accompaniment.

Last Thursday, I had the time of my life at Serenade Hall with the latest venue to unleash the diva in you, Pianoke! As I have not tried Rockeoke, Pianoke as I would imagine is the scaled down version of Rockeoke where you only have the , yes, piano!

There were about four or more song booklets that had more than a thousand songs in them so before going there, better come prepared with your repertoire. Lucky for us, the crowd that night was a bit on the timid side so we totally hogged the mic . There was just one table that had great singers and everytime they sang, we would sing next just to lower the bar again :p

Pianoke with Pianist Simon Martin, a jolly fella, happens every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 7:30 until your voice give in. The best part is there is absolutely no cover charge! You can just order anything from their menu prepared by Executive Chef Fernan Punzalan and his team. For this dinner, we ordered: gambas, salpicao, chili with stuffed cheese, kare kare, sinigang na bangus and I forgot the others. For the first time, I didn't really paid much attention to the food, I couldn't be bothered with my song search :p

This is seriously a great alternative to expensive (not to mention tacky) videoke bars. The interiors were tastefully done, great acoustics and lighting plus the grand piano all add up to one awesome decadent night of songs and well, heckling :P

You can visit Serenade Hall's website for more information.

Beef Salpicao


The only girl who knows her melodies and stuff


Two of the four song books

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Jaime Ongpin, The Enigma

This was a well-written commissioned work of National Artist, Nick Joaquin that tells the story of Jaime V. Ongpin, one of those that made history in the Philippine corporate as well as political scene.

Jaime V. Ongpin was indeed a tour de force in the sense that he took an active role in two revolutions. From the non-existentialist perspective, it may be deemed that such was Mr. Ongpin’s destiny: he served as a buttress in the 20th century Philippine Management, and his anima served as an ethical cornerstone in modern Philippine socio-political activism. With all these laurels under his name, one could not help but wonder what could have possibly provoked him to end a seemingly charmed life the way it did. On hindsight, that in itself confirms that Jaime V. Ongpin was truly an enigma.

Reflection on the life and thoughts of Jaime V. Ongpin and how it relates to present day business atmosphere in the country
Mr. Ongpin’s lifetime was a splendid showcase of a whole gamut of stories exemplifying an extraordinary type of leadership that seems to be lacking at this day and age: that of an ethical leader.

On Trustworthiness and Personal Integrity
At an early age, Mr. Ongpin was regarded by classmates and teachers as someone who was consistently trustworthy. Tiggy Barcelona a classmate at the Ateneo says of Mr. Ongpin, “What I remember about him was that we all considered him trustworthy. If we organized a club or society we never looked to him to be president or vice president; we turned to him to fill positions of trust and confidence, like treasurer or business manager.” (Page 49) Father Joseph Gabaldon, one of Ongpin’s high school teachers echoes that observation. Father Gabaldon says, “He had real personal integrity. He would never cheat; he would never copy.” (Page 53).

Mr. Ongpin was able to remain virtuous despite the pressures of business and the temptation of personal gains that came with power. Nowadays, business professionals, managers included easily succumb to the pressures and the temptations so much so that virtues are easily thrown out the window one after the other in exchange of achieving targets, pursuing profits and personal gains.

We see several business scandals all over the world almost on a daily basis. In fact, the prediction is that the most popular costume this Halloween is that of Madoff’s. Not surprisingly, an international study called Edelman’s Trust Barometer shows a very disturbing finding: that in 2008, 62% of the total respondents said they trusted businesses LESS than they had in 2007. This study is being conducted on an annual basis involving almost 20 countries from advanced to emerging economies and taps opinion elites and focuses primarily on the principles of trust applied in businesses. (Source: Understandably, citizens cannot help but cast a suspecting eye and develop distrust towards the way businesses are conducted.

On Bribery, Graft and Corruption
Nilo Rivera, a subordinate at EEI narrated two important events that separated Mr. Ongpin from just an ordinary leader to an exemplary ethical one. The first was when Mr. Ongpin reprimanded him because of a shipment he arranged to be released to avoid surcharges by bribing Customs. Mr. Ongpin preferred to pay the surcharges as according to him, it would go to the government anyway versus paying bribe money that would go straight to the corrupt official’s pocket. Nilo’s exact words were, “He just would not pay a single centavo in graft.” (Page 180)

I have been working for more than a decade now and I have yet to encounter an individual who has not contributed to the proliferation of graft and corruption in this country from the simple MMDA bribery to avoid traffic violations to the more elaborate corporate bribery known in business jargons as S.O.P or facilitation fee most often circumvented by using third party agencies to do the act itself. There are many such instances of graft and corruption hogging the headlines of today among them the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal, the seemingly coercive takeover of the Metro Pacific group with the help of then President Estrada to buy out the Yuchengco’s in the PLDT deal, the tax evasion cases plaguing the tycoons and a whole slew of other instances. In fact, I have heard unethical practices being done even at the barangay level.

The scary part is that this is not merely an observation. It is validated by a Perception Survey conducted in 2007 by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy that polled expatriates in the Philippines about the extent of corruption in terms of it being a feature in influencing overall business environment. It showed that the Philippines topped the chart of the most corrupt countries in Asia showing a score of 9.4 (out of 10)! (Source:

I can just imagine how progressive our country will be if everyone start behaving like Mr. Ongpin who remained steadfast in holding on to his virtues despite the pressure and the temptation of the very competitive business landscape.

The second instance was when Nilo badly needed bulldozers and Mr. Ongpin’s sister, Elaine, referred a friend of hers who has bulldozers to rent. When Mr. Ongpin heard about this, he was livid and told Nilo that he did not want any of his relatives to be doing business with the companies that Mr. Ongpin run.

This was in the 80s. Three decades later, I personally feel that we still have not progressed much as a country specially in terms of dispensing objective business decisions doing away with preferential treatments to kith and kin. Perhaps if we take Mr. Ongpin’s management style, of eradicating the kumpadre system in running businesses, our country might have better chances of elevating our stature to eventually be amongst the tiger economies to reckon with.

Of human touch and genuine care
His ruthlessness could have been easily mistaken as heartlessness but Mr. Ongpin, throughout his career at both EEI and Benguet showed genuine benevolence, generosity and compassion to the people of the company. He may have distanced himself in a way from his employees by not attending employee activities or refusing to stand as Ninong in weddings and baptismals but he was a generous manager and he invested in getting honest feedback from the employees to make his companies the best place to work for. He, for instance, translated good performance to tangible rewards. Consequently, non performance would mean no rewards. To demonstrate his genuine concern for the welfare of his employees, he commissioned his former professor at the Harvard Business School, Steve Fuller, to survey the employees of Benguet to find out if Benguet was managing its human resources with full justice to them and if these human resources are able to contribute to the company not only their labor but also their ideas.

Of all the facets of management, Mr. Ongpin chose to invest management time and company money to advance the cause of the employees. How many managers or companies actually take that initiative and see it all the way through implementation? With all the financial crisis and stiff competition in the marketplace, it seems that nowadays, the one thing that keeps the manager of today awake at night is how to make the sale no matter what. The employee as the most valuable asset is fast becoming to a large extent just lip service to majority in the corporate world.

I say majority because there are other companies that still look after the professional and personal development of their employees such as the tech superstar, Google.

Of Ethical Leadership
But what really enraptured me to the enigma that was Mr. Ongpin was his role in putting an end to decades of suffering brought about by an abusive and inhumane dictatorship. Mr. Ongpin’s ethical leadership qualities all came into play. Perhaps it was because he lived in an interesting point in our history that practically goaded him to do what he had to do or perhaps it was really his strong virtues and leadership that made him a cut above the rest.

If you really think about it, he could have at that point in time chosen the easy road, to keep quiet and let things be. But the leader in Mr. Ongpin took it upon himself to ignite the flame that got the whole world tuned in.

And so, in 1981, with the courage of a true hero and the wisdom beyond his years, Mr. Ongpin wrote to the Asian Wall Street Journal of his utter disgust over the Marcos Administration’s “throwing good money after bad” by bailing out unperforming crony firms. He valiantly put into writing what everyone else was afraid to talk about in public. He not only put it into writing, he made sure that the message resonated by exposing these anomalies through the foreign media.

His expose was not of the typical mudslinging so prevalent in the Philippines but that of intellectually dissecting the issue and the flawed policies attached to it. It was, for Mr. Ongpin, never about the policymakers.

From 1981 to 1986, he tirelessly labored, put his career and life on the line and played a very active role first as a concerned citizen then with the Manindigan!, to the Convenor Group and later on to the EDSA Revolution.

He made use of his personal strengths in his advocacy in freeing this country and restoring freedom. His trustworthiness, intellect, courage and integrity enabled him to pull together several like minded individuals to work together towards reform or revolt whichever way you look at it. He was also the brains in formulating and implementing a grand strategy for the campaign and eventual takeover of an overstaying administration and he was an industrious fund raiser that was essential for them to be able to claim victory.

I cannot but be in awe at how courageous Mr. Ongpin was. Going up publicly against someone so notoriously known for having someone picked up and killed in an instant is something very admirable.

As I close the last page of the book, I start to wonder, does the Philippines have a 21st century version of a Jaime V. Ongpin? Have we now learned to marry best practices of government with that of business and vice versa? How far have we come as a nation after Jaime V. Ongpin and other technocrats of his days took to the streets and risked everything for a cause bigger than themselves?

I wouldn’t know the answer for sure. Perhaps still not too far and perhaps it will be a long and slow process before we actually get to where we want to go as a nation.

But the recent tragedies that awakened the sleeping spirit of Bayanihan and the active participation of the young in social issues especially with election just around the corner, tells me that maybe this country is not, as what many would like to believe, morally bankrupt.

Mr. Ongpin is definitely not a saint but his virtues and principles of trust, integrity, courage, care, wisdom , among other things to me makes him the true embodiment of what a Filipino manager should be.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Caffe La Lotte

Another Chinese haunt this time at the Paco Area. This is the sister company of Sincerity, a popular Chinese destination in China Town. This outlet has more choices but I notice people come here for their fried chicken and so that was what we got.

The fried chicken was really really good. It was cut up into bite sizes that was crispy on the outside but juicy inside. The sign says they do not use MSG but I suspect they do because you feel thirsty and your head gets kind of heavy after. Or perhaps because i finished half of it?!?! :p

We also got kalderetang kambing which was weird to find in a Chinese restaurant I think. Maybe because they have many drinkers in the house? Their kalderetang kambing is one of the best I have tasted. It is hot and spicy and no trace of goat meat's "anggo"(?!?)

Glorietta Food Trip

I seriously cannot recall the last time I went to Glorietta. After the bombing, I consciously stayed away from it and just went to Mall of Asia, Eastwood Mall or Robinson's Midtown.

Last Friday though, Chef had a meeting there and has asked me to follow so we can have dinner together. We first had to stay at Burger King because I needed to send a few work items over. Bless BK for their free wifi! :)

We then agreed to go to the foodcourt to check what's there. We were first lured into President's stall, a popular Binondo place but their food that time did not look fresh nor appetizing so we decided to walk further. As we were walking, I cannot help but be pleased with the interior make over. Chairs and tables were replaced with more comfortable and stylish ones and lit dividers accentuated the place. It seemed like a good alternative to hang around especially when you're on a budget hehe.

Towards the other end of the food court (near the Bizu area) are two stalls that got us interested:

Go Greek!
I told you I love Cyma and this to me was the cheaper alternative. Since I wasnt able to have Cyma's Lamb Chop, I got the Lamb Chop platter which came with rice and salad for only, are you ready for this, PHP 195! It was love at first bite hahaha. The serving portion is just right for me and the grilling was perfect. Chef got 4 dressings but I don't know what they were called.

New Bombay Canteen
I have come to love this place since the first time I tried it at the Sagittarius Building in Dela Costa. Now they have a branch at the Columns and this one at the Food Court. I wasn't in the mood for Indian though that night, but Chef said this was really good. I also don't know the name hahaha

We had our favorite churros con chocolate. I don't know what's with Dulcinea but everytime we go there, there would always be funny characters we run into it. Like the last time, there was a seemingly well to do family with a beautiful mom and daughter bashing a classmate (Daughter: And you know what momma, that girl is a bitch! haha) and this visit, there were two ladies talking about lovelife perhaps (Lady: I don't know if assuming lang ba ako or what :p). Okay fine, we love to eavesdrop hahaha

You better...Eat Well!

Chef's Chef friend, who happens to be Chinese tells of a good but affordable Chinese restaurant at the Fort. Everytime we pass by that area we always wonder whether we would like it or not. And so finally, one Friday night, we decided to give it a try.

Eat Well! Delicious Kitchen. That's the full name of the restaurant. When you hear a restaurant name like that, your gut always tells you, it's authentic Chinese :p

Apprarently, the one in charge in the kitchen is Chef Law Kwok Keung who used to be a Chef at the Shangri-la. Here you can find most of the usual Chinese fare you have come to love: Dimsum, Noodles, Rice Topping, Sauteed Dishes, etc.

We ordered:

Seafood Hot and Sour Soup
My hands down favorite soup. You can have the order split into two

Steamed Shrimp Dumplings or Hakao
My exposure to Manila Chinese restaurants might be limited but to me, this has been the best Hakao I have ever tasted.

Steamed Chicken Rice
White Chicken with lots of ginger and leeks

Roast Duck Rice
What can I say, duck makes me happy.

For dessert, Chef had Chilled Almond Jelly with Mango Sago. I wish I can articulate what it tasted like but Chef devoured it in less than a minute