Sunday, May 30, 2010

Let's Rockeoke!

ROCKEOKE? What's that? Well, the invitation I received for an IBM Smarter Planet Appreciation Party last year pretty much hit the nail in the head with this definition:

“It’s an innovation in the party scene.

Rockeoke is basically live karaoke—where party people sing with a live band playing. It’s open mic so you sing in front of everyone, usually with a little help from a bottle of beer and a willing band ready to play any song/s you want.

It’s a brilliant idea because the truth is, no matter how old or young you are, you (usually) still nurture that secret desire to become a rock/pop star.”

It really can’t get any simpler than that. While I wouldn’t consider it much of an innovation since open mic things have been going on for quite a while not just here but particularly in the US and other countries, I have to give credit to Mag:Net CafĂ© in Bonifacio High Street for coming up with the term (at least as far as I know and for our own local consumption) and for an initiative that has become very popular and has since been imitated in so many other forms, even though it takes place in a less than ideal regular Monday night schedule.

I got my first brush with Rockeoke at an Intel Christmas party in 2008 where I got to sing R.E.M.’s “The One I Love” with The Johnnys (one of Mag:Net’s two Rockeoke bands) and managed to walk away pretty much unscathed. Although I would get to sing this same R.E.M. rocker for the few more Rockeokes that followed (in several other events and one regular night at Mag:Net) especially since I know the words by heart and also when the lyrics of other tunes I wanted to take a crack at aren’t available, I managed to expand my “repertoire” (repertoire!) by also having successfully, well, taming, other rock classics like Soul Asylum’s “Runaway Train,” The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and “Lovesong”, Gin Blossoms’ “Till I Hear It From You,” The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” and most recently, Live’s “Selling The Drama” and the Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song.”

And not just with the same band but also with Oven Toaster (Mag:Net’s other resident Rockeoke band) and with the harder-rocking Velcro who played their own brand of Rockeoke in the recent IBM party at Capone’s and also at the Intel party that followed at Toyz Lounge at The Fort. The Johnnys themselves played at Microsoft's own Rockeoke Christmas party at Gweilos last year.

Rockeoke has become so popular that its concept is now even adopted by other venues and events. I’ve also heard of an Acoustica night and even a Pianoke night, similar open mic nights in other venues with self-explanatory live accompaniment.

It's a different kind of rush. Yes, it's karaoke with a tad more spectacular twist. And a few more fireworks to boot if you manage to do it well. While I don’t think I sing exceptionally well to start a new career, I think my vocals are good enough not to embarrass myself and perhaps to even impress a handful of friends. And while there are still a few unscaled heights that I still want to climb such as Franz Ferdinand’s “Take Me Out,” Nirvana’s “Lithium” and The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done,” I’m okay with the few “greatest hits” that I’ve managed so far.

As Mag:Net Cafe would put it in one of its earlier Rockeoke invitations, the basic mechanics remain simple enough:

Pick up the mic. Suck it up. Rock on.

Now you try it.

I am an Explorer and I use IE8!

Watch actress Sheryl Cruz try her hand at Rockeoke in this video uploaded in YouTube by filmmaker Quark Henares, one of Mag:Net's Partners (that's him in the pic below this post's title) and I presume, Rockeoke brain thrust. Sound quality is bad but well, you get the picture:

Tuesday Night Music Club

What to do on a Tuesday night? I’m sure there are several options. If you’re not planning on staying home, you can either dance your night way at some club, rock till you drop at a rock and roll joint or just quietly chill out in some lounge or coffee shop.

Or you can also try something different, like playing a game of Music Trivia at Attica Bar and Lounge in A. Venue in Makati. Produced by Daylight Productions and hosted by DJ Jerome B. Smooth, it is easily the most exciting part of the watering hole’s By Request Tuesdays as the game takes your musical knowledge to its extreme limits.

Personally, I thought this would be a piece of cake for someone like me who started my career as a music writer. But as I’ve been finding out the hard way for the several Tuesdays that I’ve been here since I was invited by events organizer Ria Reyes last November, it’s actually a lot more challenging than it sounds.

Here, you and your friends form a team that will play for three grueling rounds of Name That Tune, Rewind and Sing-A-Long, each consisting of 15 songs in question. As chosen and played by Violator DJ Euric Lumanog and his partners Nick and Jason, who also stand as the game’s panel of judges, Name That Tune is pretty much self-explanatory except that aside from the tune, each team also has to name the artist to which it is originally credited to. Spelling, punctuation and complete name (including groups that have a “The” in them or songs that are spelled as “U” instead of “You”) all count a lot so it is important to write all the correct information on each team’s provided whiteboards as seen in the pic above.

Round two is where things get a little tougher. In Rewind, the playing teams also name both the tune and the artist that recorded it, only this time the tunes are played backwards, so many of them are barely recognizable. Unlike in Name That Tune where a team gets one point for every correct answer, Rewind rewards those who did their homework with two points per right answer. This allows teams that are leading to further pull away and those trailing on points to mathematically catch up.

The final round is where it all comes together with a bang. No more whiteboards this time. The only thing required here is lyrical proficiency or whatever passes for it. Euric will announce a particular category (i.e. 90's alternative rock or 80's new wave or 2000 plus OPM) and a team will then send a representative to play for the tune.

While the tune is playing, each representative’s finger must be on the edge of the table. He or she must then tap the center of the table (as seen above) once the song stops. The first one to tap gets the chance to sing the missing lyrics (usually the chorus but not always) for three big points. If he or she gets even just a single word wrong, his team gets a one-point deduction and this also allows the second person to tap the table a chance to steal.

So far, many teams have come and go but there are three teams that have consistently slugged it out for top honors and that is the Slizzles who have won twice so far and LRG who have won once. The team I belong to, the Krungz, has already won five times and we hope to resume our winning ways when Music Trivia returns after a well-deserved hiatus.

For a team to be really competitive, it must have a healthy balance of “youth and experience” (sounds like a political tagline, doesn’t it?) which also means having members who have a good knowledge of songs from as many genres and eras as possible. I’m pretty good at getting the older pop and rock tunes right, even singing the correct missing lyrics to The Beatles‘ “Michelle” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on two separate occasions (which is actually a little embarrassing given that I’m the only one who tapped the center of the table and no one even hoped to steal) but am a little dumbfounded when it comes to the more current stuff that the DJ’s and well, most of the young participants seem to be more partial to. So yes, it is important to have teammates who are also good at R & B and hip-hop and other current genres.

We’re usually only playing for a bottle of Jagermeister (which doesn’t do anything for me since I don't really drink) but as such regulars like Gadgets Lifestyle Editor Michelle Callanta, fashion designer Kat Sy, actress Michelle Madrigal, make-up artist Ria Gamboa, events photographer Pam Santos (who provided the pics for this blog), Marie France PRO NJ Torres and my good friend Ria (my, there’s a lot of chicks who do come here) would likely attest, there’s also a fair amount of pride and bragging rights involved, especially if you’re part of the winning team.

Other famous faces that occasionally drops by on Music Trivia Tuesdays include Paolo Paraiso and his supermodel sister, Bubbles Paraiso, Cristine Reyes, Chito Miranda of Parokya Ni Edgar and Carla Humphries who also competed and sang their hearts out during this particularly fun-filled night.

There are lots of laugh and lots of good music. Most of all, there’s a lot of good, clean fun for all our brain-wracking troubles. Just how much fun? Let me put it this way. Even when I'm ready to call it a night, I still find myself trekking to Attica for my much-needed Music Trivia fix. It's that habit-forming.

To his credit, Jerome B. Smooth does know how to keep things interesting and tightly paced. And while the players can say what they want about Euric, Nick and Jason, the fact remains that they are, well, fair, in all fairness, hehe. Everybody cheers for those who get things right and at the end of the game, we congratulate the winners and maybe even share a drink or two with them.

Yes, there are many other ways of spending your Tuesday nights. Be that as it may, we still hope to see you at Attica next week.

I am an Explorer and I use IE8! 

Here’s Music Trivia’s usual “goodbye” song to signify the end of the game:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Essensuals Toni & Guy

WHO says vanity is a woman’s game? We guys do know how to care of ourselves, too. How important is our crowning glory, for starters? Well, check out what I wrote on Essensuals Toni & Guy hair salon last year for the Manila Bulletin.


WHILE there are famous men who have been defined by a certain hairstyle such as Julius Caesar, George Washington, Mozart, Bob Marley, Sid Vicious and Donald Trump, among others, the fact remains that “for a long time, hair cuts for men have been quite traditional.”

“It’s only recently that men have started experimenting,” says hairdresser Leo Tambourine or just plain Leo T, Technical Director of Essensuals Toni & Guy salon. “We do get a lot of male clients in our salon now including creative people like designers, artists, advertising people and celebrities. We also get businessmen and executives who go for a traditional look but still stylish.”

The South African-trained hairdresser says that two popular looks continue to stand out among their male clientele these days. “The David Beckham look is very popular right now, especially among older men. The hair is basically cropped short, but still looks styled and sleek and yes, easy to maintain,” declares the senior stylist for various Toni & Guy salons in the UK before coming to Asia in 2006. “The Emo look, on the other hand, is popular among young people, trendy students in particular.  It’s an edgy look, sharp and layered.”

Tambourine says there are actually two types of Emo haircut that he usually recommends and performs. “There’s a short emo haircut for boys that involves a short and spiky cut with medium to long bangs, which can be brushed to one side. For men, the shorter emo haircut is preferred, short and spiky in the back and a fringe of bangs in front.”

Regardless however of one’s choice of hairstyle, Tambourine emphasizes that consultation is key to a good look, especially if it’s something new to you.

“If you’re going for a new look, deciding which hairstyle to take on can be a bit of a challenge, especially if you‘re the type who throws on a baseball cap every time you have a bad hair day,” he points out. A good tip is to make sure you know what you want and that your stylist knows the hairstyle you want, even if that means showing him a picture.  Any stylist worth paying good money for will take the time to have a good consultation with a client.”

The way he sees it, there are hairstyles that are low maintenance, which is usually a good thing and there are those that are high maintenance, which is exactly the opposite. “Low-maintenance hairstyles are the result of getting the proper haircut. Your stylist should be able to give you the proper haircut based on your face shape and features.”

“The high-maintenance hairstyles are usually the ones that are not properly done, and are forced to look a certain way by applying too much product,” he laments. “So, a bad haircut is the result of putting too much product to achieve a look that you don’t have to begin with. “With short hair, shaping is important so a professional’s touch is necessary.  This modern short hairstyle should do equally well for work and leisure.”

Proper consultation, he says, could lead both client and hairdresser to see eye to eye on a good choice hairstyle. Founded by the Moscolo brothers Toni & Guy in 1963, it’s hard to go wrong with professional advice from a company that has grown from a single unit in Clapham, South London to a trusted name in hair care with a good number of salons and academies worldwide that also provide a wide range of hair care products.

Its growing portfolio of associated companies including Essensuals hairdressing group, founded in 1997 by business guru Toni Moscolo and his children Sacha and Christian.
Created to compliment Toni & Guy, Essensuals offers its clients award-winning hair styling, lifestyle and beauty solutions that have been described as visionary, spirited and contemporary.

“I always envied the kind of work Toni & Guy created and this made me decide to work for them,” Tambourine enthuses. “We put a premium in consultation because for us, it is very important in finding the best cut to match a client’s features.”

In the Philippines, Essensuals Toni&Guy is located at 6750 Ayala Center, Crowne Plaza, SM Megamall Atrium and Trinoma.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tutoring Club Philippines

Teaching kids to learn faster in a very fun environment

NOT all children are created equal. Some simply learn faster than others.

Tutoring Club, however, believes every child has the potential to excel academically. With its skills-based approach, this tutoring service franchise with 222 branches in the United States, Canada, Kuwait and the Philippines has, for the last 20 years, helped thousands of children achieve success in school—in all academic levels.

So how does it do it? Inday Mallari, President of Tutoring Club Philippines says that like other tutoring services that are also skills-based, it all starts with a diagnostic test to identify the areas where a child can improve academically. “What sets Tutoring Club from the rest is the process by which we work with the kids,” she points out. “In other tutoring centers, the children are sent home with worksheets. In our case, all of the worksheets are done here, nothing is taken home. The philosophy there is that while the child is doing the work independently, there is intervention from the tutor if what is taught is not clear. The tutor works with the child to immediately correct what is wrong with his or her work. No time is wasted.”

Mallari, a B.S. Math major from Ateneo De Manila University who also taught the subject to high school students of the equally prestigious Poveda Learning Centre says Tutoring Club recognizes that children learn at different rates and it is through the initial diagnostic test where each child’s “starting point” is properly identified. Learning can then be individualized.

“Take two grade four students at different learning levels,” she cites an example. “When they take our diagnostic tests, the mistake of one is different from the mistake of another. The programs of each will then be individualized and our tutors will work with them on their respective mistakes.”

But can’t the students learn the same things at the same rate in school? “In school, you have your set curriculum that all children will have to go through with,” Mallari explains. “They’ll pass the papers at the same time and some will be able to pick up faster than the others. Hence, some will score 100 on a test while others who did not master the lesson as well will only get 85. Tutoring Club works on those lessons that the student did not quite master.”

Susan Reyes, who co-owns the Philippine franchise that started operations in 2007 says there are 11 branches of Tutoring Club here with more to open soon. She adds that unlike in school where the teacher will just continue with the curriculum whether the students master the lessons or not, Tutoring Club will work patiently with the child until those lessons are mastered. Stress is also reduced and confidence is built since each student starts at a level that he or she can handle and then progressing through the grade levels as rapidly as he or she can. “Our goal is to bring each student to his or her desired academic level as quickly as possible,” she notes.

And unlike private tutors who just help a child with her or her homework, Reyes says that at Tutoring Club, “we help the child understand what he or she doesn’t really know to begin with so that progress is better.”

Contrary to what some parents might believe that it’s expensive to enter their children at a tutoring service like Tutoring Club, Mallari begs to disagree. “Let’s say you’re paying a tutor P4,000 a month for 10 months to get up one level. The following school year, you’re probably going to do that again. Ours is only 32 hours and that’s guaranteed, we will get you child up at less time and ultimately less cost for you.”

Trish Villanueva, a young mother who has tried availing of other tutoring services says Tutoring Club’s system has worked wonders for her 10-year old daughter who is currently enrolled in the centre’s writing program. “Before Tutoring Club, I would say my little girl’s study habits were not good and so is her confidence,” she recalls. “After Tutoring Club, her confidence, study habits and her writing has all improved greatly as her teachers in school would attest.”

One thing that impressed the young mother about Tutoring Club is the “tokens” or “chips” given to children who continue to improve with every session. “It’s a rewards or incentive system that the kids can either bank or redeem items at our little store and encourages them to improve their academic skills.”

Villanueva also cites the guarantee that Tutoring Club offers to all children. “After a certain number of sessions, a child’s learning level goes up. If it doesn’t, they just keep teaching him or her.”

Compared to similar tutoring services that offer a classroom environment at the ratio of 10 students to one tutor, Tutoring Club limits this to 3 is to 1 in a U-shaped table where the tutor sits in the center and the three students in front of him, thereby allowing for a more personalized way of improving one’s learning skills.

Ces Gutierrez, a school teacher herself whose 7-year old grandson also goes to Tutoring Club stresses the importance of availing of Tutoring Club’s services even if a child is actually doing well in school. “My grandson’s study habits are okay since I teach him myself but I wanted him to strengthen his math skills and he did. Before when I ask him to add something, he gets a piece of paper but now he’s more mentally alert and can now add things in his head. His grade before is 89 and after going to Tutoring Club, it’s now 95,” the proud grandma beams.

And like Villanueva’s daughter, Gutierrez also says that her grandson is actually looking forward to his Tutoring Club sessions which he and the other kids consider to be fun.

“We do make it a point to make this place not an extension of the children’s classrooms,” Mallari points out.

Yes, not all children are created equal. And yes, some learn faster than others. Well, Tutoring Club serves as an equalizer that allows even the slowest learners to “catch up and keep up” while having a lot of fun doing it here in the process.

“The teachers are young, hip and then they do have these tokens. So yeah, it is a lot of fun for your kids to come here and learn,” Villanueva concludes.

For more information, visit

A Tutoring Club video from the US:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bianca Gonzalez

REPOSTING an article I wrote for the Manila Bulletin just last month on popular TV personality Bianca Gonzalez and the new health beverage she’s endorsing. This was also the last article I wrote for the Well-Being section before recently starting my current job as Senior Writer and Editor for FAME Publishing, which produces the health magazines H & L (Health & Lifestyle), DiabetEase and Zen Health.

Photos taken from Bianca's Facebook fan page.


Even with such a whistle-bait figure, Bianca Gonzalez has never actually gone to the gym to workout. For most of her 27 summers, the bubbly TV personality actually admits to eating anything, has never been weight conscious and admits to running in their village and occasionally engaging in yoga as the only things that passes for a workout regimen for her.

That was until recently.

“I don’t think it’s in my genes to gain a lot of weight no matter what I eat,” she says. “But that’s also the case for most young people. No matter what I eat, I never get sick, I never get fat. But as I get older, I realized that I eventually start feeling the effects of what I’m eating.”

Gonzalez admits to a certain feeling of “heaviness” after eating certain kinds of food. The way she tells it, she seems to be experiencing something that the Chinese traditionally believed to be a condition called “internal heat.” This is what happens when hot, fried and spicy food causes imbalance in the body that eventually results in sickness.

To counter this and other health ailments and conditions, the Chinese came up what is now known as traditional medicines based on the primary guideline of the yin yang concept. The way the Chinese believe it, yin yang is based on complementary opposites within a greater whole as manifested in natural dualities like dark and light, female and male, low and high, cold and hot.

In other words, it’s all about balance. And because yin yang is also a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and yes, exercise, the Chinese do believe that good health begins by maintaining balance in the body.

“To control internal heat in the body in particular, the Chinese drink what is called a cooling tea,” adds Dr. Homer Lee-Lim. “This counters the bad effects of all the hot food that we eat.”

And that is what inspired Universal Robina Corporation to offer its own “cooling tea” with a no-brainer name like (what else?) Yin Yang Cooling Tea brewed from green tea leaves of Camellia Sinensis fused with three traditional Chinese cooling herbs, Mesona leaves, Liquorice root and Chrysanthemum flower.

Gonzalez, who now admits to including the cooling tea to her dietary adjustments that also now includes “more vegetables, hot tea after meals and everything else in moderation” also reveals that she has become more health-conscious than ever. In her own blog and Twitter account (iamsuperbianca), she’s more than proud to post more of her fitness activities that also now includes Pilates sessions and her desire to run some more.

With an unpredictable schedule that often consists of extended hours of taping and shooting, the pretty sensation who occasionally dabbles in acting and modeling (which she actually did prior to becoming a sought after TV host) admits that it’s not easy for people in her line of work to maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially with plenty of food just right there for the taking during shows.

“Ang daming pagkain sa set at sa mga shows, I like junk food so mahirap din talagang maiwasan 'pag nandiyan na,” she sheepishly confesses to.

Sleep is likewise a precious commodity for someone like her and she considers it a big bonus to get the recommended eight hours of sleep for her age. “I try to get between six to seven a day. If it stretches to eight, that’s a real bonus for me,” she says.

But even before Yin Yang came along which she says gives her “a very light feeling” when she drinks it, Gonzalez already has an enormous amount of respect for the Chinese and their beliefs, especially after experiencing first hand how they brew their own tea.

“I once went to Shanghai to witness a tea ceremony and I discovered that each herb used has its own special purpose and that there are so many types of tea available aside from the ones that are commercially available,” she enthuses. “I was both amazed and impressed with the very precise and detailed way they make their tea that took years and years of practice. From then on, I never looked at tea the same way again.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 Goes Mobile

WITH only six days to go before Election Day, candidates for both national and local positions are now stepping up their efforts to campaign for those all-important votes. All kinds of issues are now being raised so it is important to separate the chaff from the grain., the country’s first socio-political networking site, recognizes the importance of being constantly updated and has recently introduced PoliticalArena Mobile, an application that delivers optimized election content to mobile phone screens. Based on the Cynamon platform, PoliticalArena Mobile is capable of delivering just about any type of content ­­to the mobile screen, be it text, audio, photos and even short videos.

As an official information website of the Commission on Elections, provides candidates and voters with a venue to communicate with each other using social networking tools such as blog, chat, forum, and multimedia portals.

The new mobile application extends the capabilities of the site as it offers candidate information, breaking news, announcements and other related election-information that can be accessed and viewed using a mobile phone.

“PoliticalArena Mobile is designed to make information about the 2010 national elections more accessible. Members who sign up for the service will receive updates about the candidates they support, as well as news about the national elections,” says General Manager Racquel Cagurangan. “The application utilizes mobile devices to disseminate information and promote awareness by providing content that goes beyond the capabilities of SMS and MMS. At the same time, it also promotes interactivity because users can send feedback and comments through their mobile devices.”

PoliticalArena Mobile can be downloaded for free. Standard data charges of service providers apply each time the application is launched and used. To register, users must log on to the application page here