Tuesday, July 27, 2010


CURRENTLY promoting her new single, “Liwanag,” I thought this would be a good opportunity to revisit Julianne and repost an updated remix of a 2007 feature that I wrote about her for the Manila Bulletin.

Oh, and the new single sounds real good, too.


SHE could have gone the bossa nova route, sold a lot of CDs and probably be a household name by now. As a matter of fact, that was exactly what one major record label wanted her to do after hearing her demo music.

But singer-songwriter Julianne Tarroja or simply Julianne won’t have any of it. While she has nothing against the recent bossa nova craze and can in fact, jump in the bandwagon and easily be a standout doing it if she wanted to, the 26-year Interior Design major says that’s not exactly what she had in mind when she submitted those demos.

“Yes, I always wanted to write my own music and have a purpose to doing it. But I want to keep everything real, to keep things organic without being afraid of being judged for my artistry.”

With musical influences that include Al Green, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Baduh, India.Arie, Jill Scott and at one point, even Jewel, the lovely, acoustic guitar-toting chanteuse does know a thing or two about keeping things real. Writing introspective songs about personal choices and fateful circumstances (“the dark and bright sides of life,” she quips), very few singers can match the gritty honesty in which she bares her heart and soul in her songs.

All of this is not lost on MCA Music’s Ricky Ilacad, whose musical instincts are widely acknowledged in the industry as usually spot-on. Without seeing Julianne as something else and just allowed her to do her thing, Ilacad’s MCA Music rolled the dice and made her the label’s first-ever OPM signing.

Julianne’s music, a unique fusion of folk, jazz, neo-soul and R & B would later be given the name “OPM Soul” by MCA’s drumbeaters, is further honed and enhanced in the studio by Mike Luis of Freestyle who produced most of the album and Dan Gil of The Chilitees who oversaw two tracks. Other veteran musicians who played in the CD that would later be called Grateful include Rivermaya’s Mark Escueta, Wendell Garcia, Rommel Dela Cruz, Daniel Crisologo, Dexter Aguila, Sach Castilo and Kakoi Legaspi.

The result is one of the year’s most original releases. Grateful opens with Tulak Ng Bibig, the first single and lone Tagalog track. “It’s a frustrating love song about a person drawing the line with somebody who says something but actually means another,” Julianne says.

In describing some of the album’s other tracks, you can’t help but be reminded that Julianne is in fact, still a very young 24 and it shows in her songs. She says it’s easier to write songs “when I’m sad unlike when I’m happy, I just want to shut up as I really don’t have much to say.”

Grateful is one of my most special songs and is about being happy and thankful for that special someone in your life, the one who got you out of that dark place,” she continues. “I wrote it after a really bad breakup. The Queen In Me is about knowing the guy is for you if he brings out the queen in you. I’m still looking for that guy while Choose To Believe is me in a bad position, sad, stuck and trying to look for God.”

During our interview, Julianne wasn’t just describing these songs to us in detail, she was actually singing a few bars of the songs in between. We were impressed not only by her soulful vocals (which devoid of studio magic still sounds very beautiful) but also by her deft guitar playing. “Music has always been a big part of my life,” she recalls. “My dad, who was the musician in the family, taught me to play the piano and guitar. I have been part of a choir and was also with a band for almost five years.”

“I just want to perform. This is what I know, this is what I do best,” she declares. “All it takes is for one person to like one of my songs for me to find doing this very rewarding. I don’t want to be just another flavor of the month sensation. I find that very limiting. I’m thinking ahead. I want to stretch my wings and go global with this, too.”

Visit Julianne’s official website at www.juliannetarroja.tk.

Acer's Digital Campus Store in Ateneo

AS if concept stores like the ones opened by HTC and Logitech aren’t enough, another tech vendor is following the lead of Apple and opened its own concept store at the Ateneo De Manila University campus.

Here’s my news story about it as published in the Infotech section of the Manila Bulletin last year.


ONLY a few months after an authorized reseller of Apple launched its iCampus store at the Ateneo De Manila University, popular PC vendor Acer Philippines recently opened its own “Digital Campus Store” right beside it at the Loyola School Bookstore inside the Manuel V. Pangilinan building of the campus.

With its new in-campus store inside one of the country’s top educational institutions, the already affordable and popular Acer desktop PC’s, laptops and LCD monitors are available at specially discounted prices exclusively for students and faculty members of Ateneo.

“The Acer Digital Campus Store aims to empower the youth even further in harnessing the endless benefits of information technology by making affordable yet world-class quality information technology products within their reach,” says Acer Philippines General Manager Manuel Wong.

William Mallari, Director of Ateneo’s Loyola School Bookstore said that “in-campus options like the Acer Digital Campus Store and iCampus are also reflective of the school’s efforts in addressing the computing needs of its students as well as the increasing clamor for accessible stores like this.” Mallari, who graced the official opening of the store along with other Ateneo officials admitted that Acer’s presence in Ateneo will give students more computing options in accordance with their available budgets.

Awarded by the I.T. Journalists Association of the Philippines as I.T. Company of the Year during its recently conclude Cyberpress ICT Awards, the Taiwan-based tech firm is now the number one personal computer brand in the country number two worldwide according to industry research specialist Gartner.

“We’re happy that with the long hours spent by the Acer sales and marketing team to come up with exciting ways to generate more awareness about Acer products among our target markets, we were able to give customers here the perfect alternative to the usual PC fare,” Wong earlier said. “The steady growth in the number of Acer users proves that we are on the right track.”

XSite Solutions, a sales partner of Acer Philippines will manage the store’s day-to-day operations.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

M-150 Unleashed Northern Adventure Race Part 2

So how did the M-150 Unleashed Northern Adventure Race went down? Well, read on.

The race

As the race progressed, the only way we were able to monitor how the other racers are doing was through hourly updates at WAVE 89.1. When our car radio signal became weak on certain areas, Paolo’s Manila-based sister kept us abreast with the radio updates via text messages.

It was there that we learned that Team Lighthouse Subaru, who breezed past us and other cars at the North Luzon Expressway misread the map, missed a crucial turn and ended up in Dinalupihan. By the time they turned back and barely made it to the checkpoint, almost two hours have elapsed and they just decided to bow out of the race and went straight to Subic.

They weren’t the only ones who had a hard time understanding the assigned routes. It took our own team a while to figure out the first checkpoint in San Fernando, Pampanga, which was only marked Essels and only by asking residents in the area were we able to figure out that Essels was actually a supermarket.

We made it to the first checkpoint in 30th place out of the 35 racers. As we made it to the succeeding checkpoints, we were encouraged by the fact that not only did we improve our standing at every stop, we were also aware of the difficulties the other racers were facing. Thanks to the updates of Paolo’s sister, we learned that some got momentarily lost while others had the expected car troubles.

Unlike those who were test driving vehicles for the first time (probably not a good idea for a lengthy race like this to begin with) the kid’s familiarity with his everyday car served our team in good stead. It also helped that his modifications turned out to be spot-on.

“The rims and the suspension are some of the factors as to why we did not end up with flat tires while negotiating the bad roads because putting race specs are not intended for rough roads, they are only used for flat smooth surface race tracks,” Paolo points out.

The big finish

As a passenger, I would have loved to stop at certain points for some photo ops and maybe even for some pasalubong items (after all, my intention was to merely cover the race) particularly in Baguio, one of my favorite places in the country.

But I could see from the fire in Paolo’s eyes that he intends to finish this race in a respectable manner at the very least especially when our standing kept improving with every checkpoint. From 30th place, we climbed back to 28th, then 21st, 16th, 11th and by the time we made it to San Fernando, La Union for the mandatory one-hour rest, we were already in ninth place.

As the race came down to the homestretch, we learned that Team P-1 Motorsports of driver JP Cariño and navigator Angelo Tambo, who led most of the way actually ran out of gas in the middle of the long and winding SCTEX. The grinding halt came just when the TIPO Gate (exit to Subic Bay Freeport) was already within their sight. They didn’t notice they busted their gas tank back in Checkpoint 9 in Tarlac. Team DKC of Arnel Carlos and Nino Sarte passed them by 20 minutes later.

As for us, we continued our progress as we finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd at the remaining checkpoints. By the time we entered Subic, we were already in a neck and neck pace with Team DKC. We somehow managed to shake them off shortly after entering Olongapo and yes, finished first ahead of everybody else.

We still lost the race, though. Maybe because Eslao is not an experienced circuit racer (many of the participants weren’t) or maybe because of his lack of familiarity with the time control concept (he was yet to be born when the last race of this type was held in the country), our team actually checked in early at the San Fernando, La Union pit stop that we were meted a stiff penalty equivalent to one hour and 15 minutes.

The decision

While that would suggest or imply that we did not follow traffic rules and was running faster than we were supposed to, the same could be said for the other racers who arrived earlier at that checkpoint, only they were smart enough not to “officially” check-in. Since that was allowed, I personally thought it defeats the purpose of the race’s whole safety first objective. Oh, well.

With an official time of 11 hours and 26 minutes with minimal or no penalties at all, Team DKC, who arrived second at the finish line, ran a clean race and won it all, including the P50,000 cash prize plus M-150 Energy Drink products, a special edition jacket and more importantly, bragging rights as the very first winner of M-150 Unleashed race.

“Our struggles included our car breaking down during the early part of the race going to the second check point at Bamban,” says Nino Sarte of Team DKC. “We had a busted CV boot resulting to the overheating of CV joint and busted axle. Despite all the troubles we still managed to finish the race at Subic.”

All told, it was a successfully-staged race and was exciting enough to merit a clamor for a similar race this year. Just like The Cannonball Run, this is one movie that deserves a sequel and talks of an even bigger M-150 Unleashed! (Southern Adventure, perhaps?) event have already made the rounds of the racing community.

As for Paolo Eslao, who by the way is based in the South, he is still very happy with how our team fared overall. “Well, we did finish the race,” he smilingly says with a sense of fulfillment. “With no accidents or mishaps whatsoever, we already achieved a great feat considering how hard we drove. Official or not, I think we owned them all.”

Indeed we did. Indeed we did.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

M-150 Unleashed Northern Adventure Race Part 1

IN my line of work, I have been fortunate enough to travel in a lot of places. But for the life of me, I have never seen so many places in just one day. And that’s exactly what happened when I was invited to cover a cross-country race late last year.

To say that I got more than what I bargained for is an understatement. I have never experienced anything quite like it.

Still don't believe me? Well, here’s the first part of my account as published in Business Mirror's Personal Fortune magazine early this year.


IT’S officially defined as “a point-to-point race against time, within the limits of the law covering 550 kilometers of North Luzon in a span of one day.” But for most of the participants, last year’s M-150 Energy Drink Unleashed! Northern Adventure Race might as well be the true-to-life equivalent of movies like The Cannonball Run and The Gumball Rally, the latter of which in turn was inspired by Gumball 3000, the annual international road rally that takes place on public roads with a different 3,000 mile route around the world each year.

Although a cross-country race on a much smaller scale, The Northern Adventure Race was still a first of sorts. Veteran race car driver Mike Potenciano, who helped organize the race and was among the participants said “the last time something like this happened here was in the early 1980’s.” Starting in Metro Manila at the Ortigas Home Depot, the race covers a total of 550 kilometers of the North Luzon grid and includes Checkpoints in Pampanga, Tarlac, Pangasinan, Baguio, La Union, Dagupan, Lingayen and finally its finish line in Subic, all within a span of one day.

It’s not as straightforward as it sounds, though. And racers who did not fully understand the rules ultimately paid the price for it.

The rules

The rules of the race were in conjunction with one basic objective: Safety above all and abide by all traffic rules, regulations and ordinances. This means breaking the law and reckless driving are highly discouraged and the organizers will not be responsible for those caught by traffic law enforcers.

Although the racers are allowed to pass through any route they want as long as they pass through all the controls or checkpoints, there are mandatory sections that all of them must pass through. Toll receipts may also be required as proofs of compliance.

Furthermore, to keep all the racers in line and ensure that the basic safety first objective is followed, a time control system with critical penalties was implemented. The starting order is determined by the order of entries who check in at the starting gate. Those who arrive early, leaves early with a one minute head start on the next car allowed to leave.

Each car must arrive at the given checkpoints at a given target time. Check in too early and the racers are slapped a penalty of five minutes added to his total time. Check in too late and a penalty of 10 will be added to their total, not as bad as being too early but can still be costly if the race comes down to the wire.

And yes, wearing of seatbelts are mandatory as non-compliance may also mean an additional one-minute per offense to the racers’ total time.

The racers with the best total time (finish time minus start time plus penalties, if any) wins the race.

The racers

This is where the rules start to loosen up. All road-worthy registered vehicles including all-wheel drives (AWD), four-wheel drives (FWD) and rear-wheel drives (RWD) with the exception of tube chassis are allowed to participate.

The rules require that racers race as a team with a minimum crew of at least a driver and a navigator. Since this was a long distance endurance race, preparation is key. And familiarity with the Northern Luzon certainly won’t hurt.

Team Dorifto with Ramon and Jonathan Arriola brought with them a 20-man strong pit stop crew and actually acquired a brand new Honda Accord just for the race. The heavily favored Team Lighthouse Subaru of race car driver Pia Boren and advertising executive Ianne Borillo were packed with essential supplies.

Another favorite, Team Mazda of Mike Potenciano, his co-host, Lindy Pellicer of radio station WAVE 89.1 and navigator Steve Cheng were test driving a Mazda 6 for this particular, the same with Team MetroMag of Stef Juan, Camille Aguilar and Andre Tani who are also trying out a Toyota Prius.

Other noteworthy cars in the field of 35 teams included the Mitsubishi Triton of Team Fast and The Curious, the Volvo V50 of Team Big Head, the Mercedes Benz of Team Sprocket Benz, the Mitsubishi Pajero of Team Capture, the Nissan Silvia of Team Esguerra and the Honda Civic LXi of Team P-1 Motorsports.

The dark horse

This writer ended up being assigned as the navigator (!) for Team Paullex of 21-year old Paolo Eslao, the young proprietor of Eurocon Trading, an automative and industrial airconditioning parts business that he started when he was only 19 years old. The unheralded kid, who very few have heard of prior to the race entered his own mom’s Ford Lynx 1.6 GSI, the car he drives everyday to school and work. Paolo originally wanted to race alone but was forced (reluctantly, if I may add) to take me as navigator to comply with the rules.

Eslao’s preparation for this race was the most impressive in my book. Driving at go kart race tracks since he was 14, he spent his high school years in the Netherlands and further honed his driving skills in those long, European countryside roads.

If that’s not enough preparation, he studied Automotive Technology which partly explains his knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the other vehicles. His knowledge of cars also helped him modify his own car in accordance to “what is only needed for it to run on bad roads.” And for him, that meant lowering springs in his suspension and replacing parts in the engine (intake, headers, exhaust) for better air flow that in turn translates to more power and reliability.

And of course, since he did not intend to race with a navigator (and I doubt if I could really be a big help in that area since I neither race nor drive), it certainly didn’t hurt that he has a GPS device with him, which by the way, was not against the rules.

Next post: The race!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Niels Feijen

THANKS in large part to their now celebrated soccer team’s Cinderella runner-up finish in the recently concluded World Cup, the Netherlands are making waves again. Well, their national soccer team actually are not the only pride of this otherwise low-profile European nation.

Back in 2007, I had the chance to interview Niels Fiejen, one of the best pool players in the world who only recently placed second in this year’s WPA World Eight-Ball Championship. Three years ago, Fiejen was in town not as a professional pool player but as a DJ who headlined a series of gigs not surprisingly called The Cue Sessions.

And here’s how my 2007 encounter with this multi-talented guy turned out as documented by an article I wrote for the Manila Bulletin back then.


ONE way or another, Niels Fiejen knows how to kick butt.

Well, anyone who goes by the moniker The Terminator should know a thing or two about blowing whatever competition comes his way. As a pool player, this incredible Dutchman is simply one of the world’s best, being a member of the same Mosconi team that consists of the best European billiards champion. He is also one of the very few who could lay claim to beating our very own Efren “Bata” Reyes in his own game. As a matter of fact, it was that particular feat that pretty much made his “Terminator” reputation.

“I’ve always been a pool player first and foremost,” he declares. “This game has taught me so much about my personality, my weaknesses and my strengths.”

But Niels admits that his lifelong passion for this particular sport also started at the same time his love for music started. “I was 17 when I started playing pool and it was right about the same time when I bought my first record.”

By 18, Niels was already a DJ “on the side.” “My dad had a CD player with pitch control and a turntable with pitch control by coincidence,” he recalls. “A friend of mine had an old mixer at home which I could have and that was it, I was hooked.”

Niels was a resident DJ in a club called “de Kleine Kunst” in his native Holland for a year and a half (“but only when he’s not playing pool,” he insists) and thrilled patrons there that would number as many as 400 in virtually the same way he dazzled pool fans with his signature moves. As recent as two years ago, Niels was a featured attraction in another hot club called “One Four” in his hometown, The Hague. Here, he will be headlining a series of parties called The Cue Sessions, obviously as a double reference to both his passion for DJ’ing and his background as a pool player.

“As my style kept on developing through the years, I found the ones that I like the most in progressive-house, tech-house, deep-house, house and a little techno,” he reveals. Unlike his celebrated compatriot, Armin van Buuren who was actually in town just a few weeks ago, Niels is not a big on trance. “Everything but trance,” he stresses.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this guy’s DJ’ing style is that there is nothing complex about it. The guy just keeps everything simple. “Whether it is a pumping beat or nice vocals, whatever makes me move, I got to buy and spin,” he exclaims. With a spinning speed that “lies between 126 to 136 beats per minute,” his sets have a way of telling everyone to “just shut up and dance.” His own mixes (Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter ’06 and “07) that anyone can personally download can attest to this.

It also shows in his candor. Niels is not the type of DJ who tries to impress people with a supposedly vast knowledge of music and genres. He doesn’t dazzle interviewers by mentioning musical influences that no one’s ever heard of. He admits to listening to “regular hit music, slower music, Top 40, reggae, house, the 80’s, Maroon 5, Keane, Coldplay, Blues Traveler, you know, everything really.”

This is probably what makes him just as adept at the turntable as he is with a cue stick. One way or another, Niels Feijens does really know how to kick butt.

For more information, visit his official website at http://www.nielsfeijen.nl.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Vanessa Chong

IT’S back. Well, at least now filming is season 4 of The Amazing Race Asia. Dubbed as Asia’s most highly anticipated and long-awaited multi-continental race, AXN Asia says the new season expects to “up the intellect ante with the most sophisticated demands on top of the already tough challenges the race will impose on contestants.”

Hoping to repeat the sheer excitement and intense moments of adrenaline rush of previous seasons, TARA 4 features 10 teams of two dashing across countries and oceans to areas AXN Asia describes as “off-the-beaten-tracks” and “exotic spots” all for the chance to win impressive pit-stop prizes from sponsors like Sony and Caltex and of course, the grand prize of US$100,000.

Which also gives me a good reason to revisit a 2008 feature profile for the Manila Bulletin that I wrote on Vanessa Chong (left), one-half of the TARA 2’s surprise runner-up finishers. I’m not exactly sure whatever happened to the pretty Malaysian who made quite a big splash here after her impressive TARA feat with her sister Pamela (right). Perhaps reposting this slightly revised version will lead to some updated information? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Read on.


IF there’s anything we learned from the second season of The Amazing Race Asia, it’s that looks can be very deceiving. In the case of Malaysian sisters Vanessa and Pamela Chong who eventually finished as the surprise runner-ups to the equally surprising and partly-handicapped Singaporean champs, underneath the knockout prom queen exteriors are two highly competitive individuals who never underestimated any of their competition.

“It didn’t feel like we lost at all,” declares Vanessa Chong in recalling their overall experience in AXN-Asia’s top-rated reality show. “Our goal was to make the top three and the fact that we were able to do that made us feel like winners already because being in the top three means you finished the race and we did.”

In a competition that was just as much as about brains as it is about brawn, the sisters showed they did possess the kind of physical and mental toughness needed to go the distance. Vanessa, who was recently in town to promote the popular Malaysian cosmetics brand Elianto says she and her sister never cracked under pressure. Not even when they were shown to be arguing heatedly in the car when trying to find their way to a pit stop. “No, we never actually fought,” she insists. “It’s really just the way we talk. We never lost sight of our goals and we’re really too close to be worried about how this race would affect our relationship.”

And certainly not even when Vanessa momentarily lost her memory for a good 15 minutes during a diving board task that saw her plunge into the water a little too deep for comfort resulting in a lump in the head. Even at that scary moment, younger sis Pamela did not totally lost her composure as she still managed to keep their team in the race until Vanessa fully recovered.

As the eldest of six siblings, Vanessa has always been there for the rest of the Chong brood. A real tough cookie even when she was still at school, Vanessa was a constant gold medal awardee for sporting and non-sporting contests and was even honored as sportswoman of the year in high school for winning in decathlon events including shotput throwing and the 100-meter dash.

A renaissance girl of sorts who also excelled in other school activities such as children’s plays that she herself wrote and not just acted in, Vanessa was also a mainstay of choir along with Pamela and brother, Vince Chong, a popular singing sensation in Malaysia who recently scored hits performing songs from High School Musical, the hit TV movie franchise of Disney Channel.

And even though the drop dead gorgeous Vanessa has always been worthy of the spotlight herself, she didn’t mind taking a backseat in favor of any sibling who needed her support. Prior to joining the race, Vanessa was actually managing Vince’s career and putting the Marketing Administration degree she earned from the UK to very good use.

“I loved working behind the scenes for my brother,” she says. “I handled his schedule, was always there for each of his shows and negotiated his deals. And let me tell you I can very tough when it comes to business.”

Vanessa admits that she’s had her share of hosting affairs but started turning them all down because “I really wanted to concentrate on managing my brother’s career.”

So when she and Pamela decided to give The Amazing Race Asia a shot, Vanessa made sure that everything would be all right for her brother. “I made sure his schedule is all fixed up and left everything with my assistant. Vince is a good boy who concentrates on his art. I think not being on his side made him more independent.”

Not that Vanessa needed to worry about her brother but she says the very fast pace of the race could not really afford her to think about anything else. “Back then, the race was our reality,” she recalls. “Our whole life revolved around it and there was no time to miss anyone and focus on other things. The race is all we thought about.”

It all paid off with that impressive runner-up finish and the corresponding doors that opened for Vanessa and her sister immediately after. In the race’s aftermath, Vanessa was featured in one of the new commercials for Sony Cybershot cameras. And then there’s the image modelling gig for Elianto, a brand that she already uses long before she was asked to endorse its products.

Given how well she has done for herself at this stage of her life, what Vanessa Chong has so far achieved is simply nothing short of amazing. When asked if she and Pamela would take part in The Amazing Race Asia again, the equally feisty Pamela was very firm in saying, “In a heartbeat!”

“The memories, the adrenaline, the whole experience is something that money can never buy. There’s no way we won’t do it again given another chance,” Vanessa concludes.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The BrewRATS on Palibhasa Lalake

LAST year, I was asked by the now defunct MAXIM Philippines magazine to do a tribute article on the long-running sitcom, Palibhasa Lalake for their comedy-themed issue. Truth is, I wasn’t much of a fan of the show although it was watched by the other members of the family at the house so I did managed to catch many episodes of the show from the time.

I was actually supposed to do an interview with writer/director Jose Javier Reyes for this piece (he directed Gwapings starring Mark Anthony Fernandez, Jomari Yllana and Eric Fructouso who would later be regulars on the show) but dropped the idea when a colleague instead suggested I interview three funny guys who can talk about anything and anyone on their hit comedy talk show on radio.

As it turns out, these guys (Ramon Bautista, Tado and Angel Rivero a.k.a. Erning) collectively known as The BrewRATS were actually fans of the show and remember many things about it with a certain degree of fondness. They even talked about their memories of Palibhasa Lalake on their radio show and the discussion was so engaging I decided to incorporate excerpts in my story.

Here’s an extended and updated remix.


For 12 years between 1986 to 1998, Palibhasa Lalake was the TV show to beat, owning its Tuesday primetime slot like a multi-term president. A sitcom not quite like any other, it was believed to be a response to the equally long-running Chicks To Chicks (later Chika Chika Chicks) and to a certain extent and perhaps even more directly, Eh Kasi Babae (starring Gloria Diaz, Bessie Badilla, Debbie Miller), comedy shows that centered on headstrong female lead characters. Palibhasa was their “male counterpart” even though its female supporting cast (Gloria Romero, Cynthia Patag, Amy Perez) were no slouch themselves.

What made Palibhasa Lalake stood out from other sitcoms, however, was not what it intended to accomplish (whatever it was) but the numerous things it actually accomplished—mostly without even trying. There was very little by way of plot and scripts (or whatever passed for them) were never followed to the letter as the show often detoured to funnier ad libs and on-the-spot improvisations that for the most part, were a hit with viewers for the show’s lengthy run. Like Seinfeld after it, it was pretty much a show about nothing.

Three of the more prominent fans of the show are funnymen Ramon Bautista (of MTV’s The Ramon Bautista Show), Tado and Angel Rivero (a.k.a. Erning, Tado’s sidekick in his own starmaking indie sitcom, Strange Brew) who now host The BrewRATS Republic, a very funny talk show that airs on most weeknights at radio station u92.3FM. In a rollicking round table discussion with Maxim, all three talked about their own Palibhasa Lalake memories.

How did you guys came to know about Palibhasa Lalake? What attracted you to the show in the first place?

Tado: Wala pa kaming TV nun. Sa bintana lang ng kapitbahay namin sa Pasay ako nakikinood. Every Tuesday yun eh. I remember it well because that’s usually the day pag nagtatapon ako ng basura sa gabi.

Ramon: High school pa lang ako nung nagsimula yung show. I guess what attracted me to Palibhasa was yung barkadahan ng mga guys dun. Parang gusto mong sumama sa tropa nila kasi ang tutulis sa chicks. Si Jacqui (Manzano), dun nadali ni Anjo, di ba?

Angel: My older siblings would regularly tune in on the show so I also watched. Richard Gomez, in particular was the most appealing star that I remember. It was the height of his career then and he was like an icon of ka-guwapuhan, the typical tall, dark and handsome type.

What do you remember most about the show?

Angel: I remember yung buhusan ng tubig and yung mga lagayan ng pie sa mukha nila at the end of each episode. Also the private jokes and blind items about the stars na bigla na lang isisingit kahit wala sa script.

Ramon: Ang lagi kong tinititigan dun yung mga pekpek shorts of the sexy guests. Also Joey Marquez, mahilig mamboso ng mga guests yan pag pumapasok sa banyo then suddenly he gets distracted then the guest would later be replaced by Cynthia Patag na lagi naming titirahin ni Joey. One time, sabi nya kay Cynthia paglabas ng banyo, “Eto piso, bumili ka ng Gillette!”

Tado: Mr. M (Johnny Manahan) was the director of Palibhasa and Boyong (Baytion) was his assistant. During breaks of Ok Fine Whatever where I was a cast member, we would talk a lot about the classic moments of Palibhasa during our breaks. Yung shawarma, dun sumikat sa Palibhasa. Pero ang hindi ko makalimutan dun yung kamay. Yung habang naka-focus sa camera yung mukha ng isang character na kunwari nagkakamot o nakangalumbaba tapos ibang kamay pala yun.

Any particular characters that stood out for you?

Tado: Si Tita Minerva (Gloria Romero), lasenggera. Also, si Anjo Yllana who played Tikboy, yung sinto-sinto yata sya dun. Sabi ng isang listener ang madalas sabihin ni Anjo sa show, “Andres Bonifacio atapang atao, aputol a kamay, hindi atakbo. Aputol a paa, hindi atakbo. Aputol a ulo, hindi atakbo. Apatak calamansi, atakbo atulin.”

Ramon: Almost all of them naman. Si Carmina Villaroel, dun na nagdalaga. Hindi pa sya kabastos-bastos nun, sabagay hindi pa rin naman siya kabastos-bastos hanggang ngayon, she was a wholesome character to the very end. Of course, si Cynthia Patag na malandi. Yung mga Gwapings na laging niloloko nina Joey. Si Edu Manzano, who played Budoy, a regular guest. Mayabang na manliligaw siya ni Cynthia Patag. His entrance on the show was preceded by malakas na hangin kasi mayabang nga. Of course, the guests. They even had politicians there from time to time, like Frank Chavez and I think, Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Angel: Si Tita Minerva and Cynthia, sila mga favorites ko.

Speaking of which, the show also got its own share of flaks not just for its sexist tone but also for the way women, especially the characters of Tita Minerva and Cynthia were depicted. Were you bothered by it?

Angel: I didn’t mind. Then again, maybe I was too young to care about those things kasi. Basta I just found them funny at the time. Perhaps my tolerance has been raised because I grew up in a generation where often objectified anyway, not that I like that. Of course, there are limits but perhaps I have adapted and developed the coping mechanisms of the modern woman.

Tado: It’s a ratings game and Palibhasa rated well that’s why it was in the air for so long. Maraming commercials ang pumasok. It’s a business.

Ramon: Eh sexist naman talaga ang Palibhasa. But people watched it anyway because it was very entertaining. Besides, Chicks to Chicks was already doing sexy and sexist stuff long before Palibhasa. Truth is, if the networks wanted Filipinos to be more smarter, then dapat 24 hours ang Batibot.

Would you say Palibhasa Lalake influenced your own brand of humor?

Angel: Maybe not consciously.

Tado: If it did, I didn’t notice. It did pioneer many things which were later adopted by other sitcoms later on like the private jokes that we also did in Ok Fine Whatever.

Ramon: At yung buhusan ng tubig ginawa din nina Joey sa Kool Ka Lang na katapat ng Ok Fine Whatever sa time slot. Di ba lagi kayong talo sa ratings nun, Tado?

Tado: Sa simula lang, nung banding huli, nakabawi naman kami. Sila na naghahabol sa amin sa banding huli (grinning).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

AHEAD Tutorial and Review Center

WE’VE seen this before. Graduating high school seniors who did very well in their academic subjects confident of making it to one of the top three universities in the country only to get the shock of their lives by discovering that passing the entrance exams alone is not the piece of cake that they, their parents and even favorite teachers thought it would be.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

“A student’s performance in his high school is not an adequate gauge on whether he will breeze through his college entrance exams,” points out Regina Jaojoco, Area Manager for AHEAD Tutorial and Review Center. “High schools concentrate on providing secondary education; they do not fully equip their students with the proper training with regards to taking college entrance exams. Universities and colleges focus on different subjects, so the content of their exams vary.”

The bottom line is this: of the 100,000 or so who apply to UP, Ateneo, and La Salle each year, only 10 percent actually pass the entrance exams. The remaining 90,000 who will not qualify for the Top 3 universities will join the 400,000 other students who will take the entrance exams of other good schools. But even these institutions will not be able to take them all in.

So yes, preparation is key to passing this all-important obstacle known as the College Entrance Exam. While UP is focused on its above average general intelligence test in its UPCAT, there is also a strong advanced math component in Ateneo’s ACET. The one given by La Salle on its DLSUCET is a totally different animal as it is distinguished by its unique style of questioning and tough essay-writing components.

As Ms. Jaojoco emphatically points out, a review center can make all the difference between passing and failing. And as review centers go, AHEAD as its name implies, has proven itself to be very much ahead of the pack. “We maintain the highest passing rate of 85 percent in the industry,” Ms. Jaojoco declares. “A big reason for this is that AHEAD’s college entrance review classes are packaged accordingly where different classes are offered for specific entrance exams particularly the UPCAT, ACET and DLSUCET. Yes, our test-based program are designed specifically after the actual tests.”

With the test-based method, only the topics that will be taken up in the actual exams are reviewed, thereby saving a lot of time and effort on the part of the student. Without the benefit and proper guidance of a very effective review center like AHEAD, many students are left in the dark as to what items will be actually covered in the entrance exam of the college of their choice. Hence, the tendency is to review everything, which not only puts more stress and pressure to pass but also wastes a lot of energy on items that will not turn out to be part of the actual tests.

Recognizing that not all college entrance exams are created alike is just one of the many things that makes AHEAD a lot different from other review centers. For starters, its highly effective diagnostic test lets its incoming review students know where they stand at the start of the review and what they need to do to improve this standing.

The review students are also introduced to two important learning tools: speed reading and mind mapping. With the high-pressured time limits of admission exams, speed reading is certainly a skill that would very much come in handy. AHEAD’s speed reading sessions helps increase students’ reading rates and comprehension levels, allowing them to not just “beat the time” but understand the test items more clearly and solve problems more easily.

Mind mapping is another learning tool proven to improve memory and enhance creativity and critical thinking as it also tempers the human brain’s infinite capacity to process information. With this ability, students will not feel like they have their hands full or have too much on their plate when the big exam day finally comes.

Both tools are crucial in not just passing the college entrance exam but also in hurdling the many other academic obstacles that students will further encounter in the course of their collegiate studies.

Of course, there is still no substitute to learning by doing and that’s exactly what’s developed by AHEAD’s review program which is also in line with Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience Theory: “Research shows that people retain 20 percent of what they hear, 10 percent of what they read, 30 percent of what they see, and 90 percent of what they do.”

To underscore the very importance of learning by doing, all summer students undergo a 16-hour refresher course weeks before the actual college entrance tests. AHEAD’s refresher course not only “refreshes” their minds or helps them recall the topics taken up in their review classes, it also boosts their confidence and gives them added inspiration.

In addition to these techniques, Ms. Jaojoco says that review students are also getting “the best of the best” with AHEAD. “AHEAD is also committed to rigorous standards of screening and hiring teachers, which involves a qualifying examination, an initial interview, demonstration teaching, and final interview,” she declares. “Aside from the fact that our tutors and lecturers all come from the top three universities and belong to the top one percent of their respective batches, they can credibly answer questions about their respective schools and give survival tips better than anyone.”

The same goes with AHEAD’s Review Assistants. In addition to tutors and lecturers, AHEAD is also the only review center that employs assistants who are mostly “former AHEAD review students and UP alums who understand the pressure and difficulty of reviewing for college entrance tests.”

These Review Assistants have after all, gone through the same drill that AHEAD enrollees are only about to undergo and their experience are just as crucial in providing a favorable test outcome as the expertise of the tutors and lecturers. “Like our tutors and lecturers, our Review Assistants also provide motivation and help instill discipline among our students,” says Ms. Jaojoco. “Since they are also young and dynamic, they also relate really well with our students, eliminating the communication gap that most students encounter with their teachers.”

AHEAD also recognizes the important role of parents in their success equation. Ms. Jaojoco says that by holding special seminars for its students and their parents, such orientation activities provide for greater understanding of the importance of college entrance exams and in addition to  tips before, during, and after the review, deeper insights on the top universities (their core values, principles, culture and overall environment) are also presented. For students in particular, this is akin to attending their official college freshman orientation and getting acclimatized to their second home for the next four or so years.

“Not only are AHEAD students prepared for their actual test-taking, they are also introduced to college life through the experiences of their lecturers and review assistants,” Ms. Jaojoco notes.

But even as times change and the same entrance exams evolve to include newer items based on constantly revised curriculums, AHEAD continues to get ahead of its story with methods and techniques as it takes an approach that is both evolutionary and revolutionary. Tutors, lecturers and staff members undergo constant and rigorous training by AHEAD’s professional training division, the AHEAD Professional Network—the same network that has also trained first-rate school managers all over the country with the Philippine Business for Social Progress.

Constant research and development make AHEAD’s materials the best reference for students preparing to get into top institutions of learning. In response to the growing demand from students in different parts of and even outside the country, review courses are now available through an internet-based virtual learning system that is also used by hundreds of schools in Singapore. Students can now see, hear, chat, and exchange resources with their teachers and peers online.

With top-notch people, top-notch support and yes, the highest passing average in the industry, there are many reasons why AHEAD is the review center that has helped countless young students get a top-notch collegiate education en route to a brighter future ahead of them.

For more information, visit www.ahead.ph. Photos taken from AHEAD Review's Facebook page.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


RECENTLY, I got the chance to catch Bamboo’s outstanding performance at Encore during the second leg of the Rock N’ Rogue concert series. With a repertoire of greatest hits and their usual and surprising takes on Rivermaya classics (including an acoustic reading of “Ulan” and a rare performance of “Awit Ng Kabataan”) that Bamboo Mañalac himself originally sang lead on, the band brought the house down as expected and sounded even better (look up “spatialized”) with the high tech equipment provided by organizer JB Music.

Two years ago, I wrote a feature profile on Bamboo for the Manila Bulletin. Revisiting that piece, much of what I wrote about the band remains eerily spot-on. Excerpts:

There’s a reason why the band Bamboo stands head and shoulders above everyone else. Whether we’re just listening to their own soulful brand of groove-oriented rock in our iPods or are actually witnessing their mesmerizing intensity onstage, we know there’s simply no other combo quite like this quartet.

And several years after they first unleashed their now signature song, “Noypi” to an unsuspecting public and gave a then already comatose band scene a much needed jolt of consciousness, Bamboo has yet to get old, literally and figuratively. What keeps Bamboo Mañalac, Nathan Azarcon, Ira Cruz and Vic Mercado fresh, unpredictable and very much at the top of their game is their penchant to constantly reinvent themselves with every release, from the glorious riffs of “Hallelujah” to the rest of the refreshing fusion of rock, rap, jazz and yes, gospel in “Mr. Clay” and the rest of As The Music Plays.

They even managed to put their own stamp in the better-than-interesting cover versions (including an electrifying reading of Buklod's protest anthem, “Tatsulok” and a faithful-to-the-original rendering of Anak Bayan’s “Ang Probinsyana”) in an eclectic selection of big hits and cult classics in their latest offering, We All Stand Together.

Bamboo says the band's kinetic performances, constantly recognized with a regular inclusion in the NU Rock Awards’ Best Live Act category, is no accident. The charismatic frontman in fact admits that this is something that he at least, has wisely invested in. Yes, there is a conscious effort on the band’s part to put on a good show. “Our interaction with our crowd is something that we do care about,” he notes. “We know it's a long race.”

Although Nathan stresses that music, above all else, is still what Bamboo is all about. “It’s something that we’re very serious about,” he declares. “We’re trying many things out and we’ll see where this is going.

With influences as diverse as The Beatles for Ira, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest for Nathan, Frank Sinatra for Vic and everything in between for Bamboo, expecting the unexpected is more the rule rather than the exception for this band.

And not doing as the Romans do is probably why this band is always a step ahead of the competition and yes, continues to stand head and shoulders above everybody else.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fitness Boxing Gyms

HERE’S a slightly tweaked version of a 2007 article I wrote for One Philippines magazine, written while I was covering an event in Boracay. I actually did the legwork for this multi-source piece before I left but for some reason couldn’t get it together. Found some idle time and a cheap internet café in Bora and to paraphrase Randy Quaid in The Paper, it wrote just like butter.

Can’t remember how the article was edited but this was an improved version of my original draft. Modesty aside, I’d like to think I hit a knockout punch with this particular piece. Well, you decide. Read on.

Photos courtesy of Ringside boxing gym.

Or why boxing gyms in this country are not just for Manny Pacquiao wannabes

ALTERNATIVE is a word that is often tossed around by its evangelists. Multimedia personality and sexy fitness buff Chinggay Andrada swears it’s “the safest way to release and relieve stress.” And at least one sought-after venue has employed the tagline, “Get fit without getting hit.”

Who would have thought that boxing, a sport that is widely regarded by naysayers as violent, barbaric and in the words of an American Medical Association official, “an obscenity that should not be sanctioned by any civilized society” has reinvented itself in such a way that many are now using it in the same sentence as the words, “health and safety?”

The reason, of course, has more to do with getting fit than getting hit as boxing gym Tiger City succinctly puts it. The idea, according to rival Red Corner Fitness and Boxing Club, is “to build boxing up not only as a serious sport to get into but also as a good way to get into shape.” Marketed as a form of workout and leisure sport, it’s not surprising that there’s even a new term for it: Fitness Boxing.

“I believe the sudden emergence of boxing gyms or boxing workout nowadays is that people are looking for an alternative workout that is not only effective but also exciting, fun, and challenging to do,” says Tom Noda, an IT journalist and a regular at Tiger City. “A boxing workout gives you that because the drills deviate from the ordinary general fitness programs. For instance people tend to enjoy boxing drills like punch mitts, wherein a trainer holds two punch pads as target and makes you to do a variety of combination punches and other boxing moves.”

Ianne Borillo, one of the owners of another boxing gym called Ringside, located in most Gold’s Gym branches, agrees. “I think people just got bored with merely ‘gymming’,” she notes. “There was this need for alternative means of drastic weight loss and cheap workout. Then there was the media and then Manny Pacquiao and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Yes, the popularity of Pacquiao, our “pambansang kamao” certainly does not hurt. But as each of these guys would attest, most of those who sign up for these boxing gyms are not there because they aspire to be the next Pacman. A good number are actually in it for the health benefits, of which there are numerous, Ianne enthuses.

“Boxing is one of the most effective workouts for weight loss, endurance and speed development,” she says. “It improves your mood by increasing your brain and body’s blood supply and oxygen so you can think more clearly and have better dispositions. It helps counteract depression and premenstrual tension in women by decreasing salt retention caused by high hormone levels. It improves deep sleep, increases your feeling of accomplishment and confidence and as a whole is a great source of wholesome recreation and avenue for inter-personal development.”

A former instructor herself at Red Corner, Chinggay says boxing actually saved her life. “You know, ever since I took to the sport, it has greatly improved my reflexes and lessened my injuries,” she admitted to this writer in an earlier interview.

Along with Elorde Boxing Gym, it was really Red Corner that kick-started the fitness boxing phenomenon in the country. Other boxing gyms that have mushroomed since then include those with names like Wild Card, Total Knockout, Chinggay’s own Punch Club and of course, Ringside and Tiger City.

Just how popular are these boxing clubs in the country? Well, Ianne says the central gym of Ringside at Gold’s Gym Alabang alone has already 2,500 members to date, of which around 45 percent are very active. “We average 60 students per day and 30 new members sign up every month,” she says.

Since it opened in 2004, Tiger City, on the other hand, now has 800 members. With Pacquiao’s recent victory over Barrera, Tom expects membership not just in Tiger City but in just about every boxing gym, to shoot through the roof.

As relatively new gyms, both Ringside and Tiger City offer more diversified programs to give them an edge over the existing and increasing competition.

“We at Ringside offer beginner, intermediate and advanced programs based on the scientific advancement of fitness,” Ianne muses. “They essentially consist of boxing, Muay Thai kicking, plyometrics and circuit training under a group atmosphere. We do not expect our clients to know these scientific methods right away so when they step into the gym and go through with their workout, we are there guiding and motivating them every step of the way.”

“The usual programs at Tiger City are the boxing training itself, which includes shadow boxing with or without dumbbells, punch mitts, heavy bag, floor to ceiling ball, speed ball, skipping rope, matt exercises, stretching exercises, and for those who are up to it, sparring sessions. Also running and weights too,” Tom offers.

The proper stance, hand and foot position and getting your lower body involved are already taught in these programs. To avoid injuries, it is important to remember not to let your guard down whether you’re sparring or simply taking jabs at the punching bag, as Chinggay keeps pointing out.

So who can get into the sport and what would they need? Tom says “young or old, male and female can train.” “For those with health problems, they should show proof that their doctors are allowing them to do the workouts,” he adds. “But usually, the level or intensity of workout varies from age and sex, in the case of children, women and senior citizens.”

Both Tom and Ianne are one in saying that interested parties need to invest in at least their own boxing gloves and handwraps that are usually free for trial sessions only. Those who wish to engage in sparring should also invest in their own mouth guard or mouthpiece as headgears are already available in the gyms.

For her part, Chinggay stresses that those who want to get into the sport should be in it for the long haul and not just jump into the bandwagon as results are not going to be achieved overnight. “You have to look at this as a commitment,” she emphasizes. “For my part, I’m more interested in climbing a mountain, Mt. Everest to be more specific, than fitting in a size 2 dress.”

Ringside is located in most Gold’s Gym branches including the ones in Glorietta and Alabang Town Center. Tiger City is located at 145 San Francisco St. and at 248 Sto. Rosario St., Plainview, Mandaluyong. Elorde Boxing Gym and Red Corner Fitness and Boxing Club have several gyms in Metro Manila.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

California Berry Frozen Yogurt

Donita Rose is said to be an avid fan.

John Lloyd Cruz has at least tried it once. So has his current squeeze Shaina Magdayao. Angel Locsin, Lovi Poe, Lucy Torres, Mo Twister, Chynna Ortaleza, Danica Sotto, Carmen Soo, Kris Aquino, Gardo Verzosa, Claudine Barretto and hubby Raymart Santiago have also sampled its different flavors in one or more occasions.

So what is it about California Berry yogurt that makes people, famous or otherwise, come back for more?

For starters, it could be the fact that this all-natural healthy frozen dessert is truly 100 percent fat-free.

“We are the only frozen yogurt chain in the country to guarantee 100 percent non-fat,” says California Berry area manager Bong Canlas. “Others contain at leasr two percent fat. The milk we use is only non-fat to ensure that our yogurt is not only totally fat-free but also with the lowest calorie count possible.”

Canlas says the process of making yogurt involves culturing cream or milk with live and active bacterial cultures. Compared to the guilty and sinful pleasures of high-fat and high-calorie desserts like ice cream, yogurt in general was not initially an attractive proposition to many people, owing perhaps to the way it was marketed as a health food.

While it is a fact that yogurt is one of the healthiest dairy products available today and as Canlas points out, scientifically proven to be a good source of calcium and protein even as it help our bodies’ immune and digestive systems, among other health benefits, most yogurt brands do miss out on the one thing that would make people actually enjoy it: taste.

“And that is what makes California Berry unique,” Canlas declares. “Our yogurt flavors and fruit toppings are not just healthy, our customers swear they are downright delicious. Unlike other yogurt brands who are more on the sweet side, ours is a little more tangy. It’s the perfect combination of tartness and sweetness in each healthy cup.”

It’s actually true, too. I personally tried a generously served cup of its bestselling Original flavor topped with mango, kiwi and peaches and oh, man, this yogurt rocks!

It also comes in several other popular flavors including green tea, lychee, coffee and blueberry. Toppings are not limited to fruits. There is a wide array of nuts, chocolate and cookies to choose from. The best part is the fun starts at only P60 per small cup plus P20 for every topping added.

With 12 branches all over the metropolis and three more opening this year, California Berry is also a fast growing franchise, with an ever increasing loyal following as reflected in its Facebook fan page where special promos are also announced.

I’d say more but right now, all I can think of is crave for another cup. Later, guys.

California Berry yogurt is available at Madison Square in Greenhills, Silver City Mall, The Paseo Center in Makati, Tomas Morato Avenue, SM Megamall, The Block in SM North EDSA, Robinson’s Galleria, SM Southmall in Las Piñas, SM Manila, The Fort Strip, De La Salle University in Taft Avenue, Manila and Gaisano Mall in Davao City.

Soundsgood Yacht Party

SPEAKING of boats, here’s a different kind of sailing adventure I wrote about in 2007 for the Manila Bulletin. A yacht party like no other.


MANILA Bay does not exactly smell like roses nowadays. Hell, it hasn’t been a sought after place by the city’s elite for a long, long time. But for one lazy Sunday afternoon, it became the ideal venue for one of the most memorable parties in recent memory.

To kick off its X Community Party Series, Soundsgood Music Marketing recently organized a yacht party aboard the luxurious King of Sports III yacht to cruise around yes, Manila Bay. And for six hours between 5 to 10, about 75 guests partied the night away in an atmosphere akin to that popular gin drink’s Bilog Ang Mundo commercial.

With an interesting mix of locals and expats from the diplomatic circle and multinational companies as well as foreign exchange students, professionals and of course, myself, we comprised what Soundsgood ringleader Edge Pamute calls the “X Community.”

“The X Community is trendy, Class A-B, mobile, and very global,” says Edge. “They expect a different kind of party environment, as they are aware of the different party trends in other continents. With this series of parties, Soundsgood is giving them more than the usual event.”

And more than the usual event was exactly what we got as we partied to the eclectic mix of music provided by DJ’s Brian Cua (house, electro and techno), Austrian Stefan Lowenstein (60’s latin soul, salsa and old and new funk) and Edge himself (nu jazz, bossa nova, broken beats) covering each side of the yacht. As if that wasn’t enough, the already propulsive beats were further enhanced by live music from Raffy Francisco on saxophone, James Bald and Marcus Maguigad on percussions.

Being aboard a yacht with more than 70 total strangers including a few hulking bouncers who are more than ready to throw troublemakers overboard is quite an experience. In between all that dancing, I had a chance to interact and get to know the other guests well. There was a couple of folks who are having careers in a not too common field called international development. There was a diplomat from the Turkish embassy as well as a girl working for the embassy of Argentina who kept telling me there’s more to Argentina than that namesake corned beef that it’s strangely famous for in this country.

There was a lovely telecoms executive who was dancing the night away with her French fiancé whom she hopes to settle down with in romantic Paris soon, a young bank executive who was lamenting about our, well, lamentable political system, a real estate executive from Tagaytay Highlands who like the rest, enjoyed watching the fireworks display at the SM Mall of Asia area and a couple of young lookers from Israel who are just savoring the panoramic view of the city and its famous sunset.

With San Mig Dry and Absolut drinks plus plenty of tasty cocktails to go around with, there was also plenty of time to marvel at the King of Sports yacht that was built here in 1993 and since then has been the vessel of choice for most surfing, diving and other chartered adventures all over the country. It has an air-conditioned salon, guest rooms, shiny wooden floors, DVD, karaoke and Xbox entertainment and a terrific sun deck where many of us hung out at some point.

The Soundgood yacht party was indeed an auspicious way of pushing the envelope for a new kind of alternative entertainment. It certainly had a lot of X factor going for it. “ We created the X Community Party series for the discriminating partygoer,” Edge muses. “This is for those who want an alternative to the usual and identical events and parties churned out by every event organizer in the country, the place where people can hang out, be with friends, enjoy refreshing drinks, dance to the edgiest tunes, but all in an environment that is unusual, edgy, and innovative.”

Sounds good, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Costa Romantica

PEOPLE say life is more about the journey than it is about the destination.

Well, when it comes to Costa cruises, nothing can be further from the truth. Dubbed as “the best cruise in Asia,” the 1,697-passenger Costa Romantica is a luxurious and elegantly designed passenger vessel that redefines traveling in style. Every area from the hall to the cabins to the numerous prestigious works of art that adorn every corner including sculptured masterpieces by celebrated Japanese artist Susumu Shingu has Italian romance written all over them.

More than living up to its name, Costa Romantica also boasts of richly embellished public rooms that feature rare woods and Carrara marble as exquisitely detailed by the finest European artisans. There are also the marvelous original works of art including hand-crafted furnishings, paintings, murals, and two sculptured masterpieces by celebrated Japanese artist Susumu Shingu

Other amenities and relaxation areas include a fully contained spa that offers personalized beauty treatments and therapies, a fitness center, three restaurants including the coveted Boticelli and seven bars, two swimming pools and four Jacuzzis, a chapel, the 650-seat L’Opera theater, a disco, casino and even a shopping center. Yes, this is quite the Love Boat.

And if all this grandeur has a familiar ring to frequent travelers, it’s pretty much because Costa Romantica is created by none other than the largest Italian group in Tourism and the number one cruise company in Europe.

With over 60 years of history, Costa’s fleet of 14 ships in service and two more in order are regarded as Europe’s largest and most advanced and regularly sail each year to 250 destinations in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Baltic Sea, the Caribbean, South America, the United Arab Emirates, the Far East and the Indian Ocean.

Each Costa ship including Costa Romantica and the equally famous Costa Classica fly the Italian flag and are known for their own distinctive personalities and unique features. And yes, as countless passengers have already attested, a Costa cruise journey is just as exciting as its ultimate destination itself.

Recently inaugurated by Costa Crociere S.P.A. and the Philippine Italian Association on April 26, 2010 at Pier13 in South Harbor, Manila with Italian ambassador Luca Fornari and his wife Silvana as guests of honor, Costa Romantica now sails over a dozen Asian destinations regularly plying routes from Shanghai (China), to Fukuoka-Kumamoto (Japan), Cheju (South Korea) and back to Shanghai.

Among special cruises to look forward to are the six days and five nights cruise in South Korea and Japan on August 25, August 30, September 4, 9, 14, and 19, October 7 and October 12.

In the case of Costa Romantica, the journey to a thousand miles begins with a single cruise.

Come to think of it, I’ve never been on a cruise. Maybe I should consider planning one soon? Hmmm.

For Costa Romantica booking and inquiries, please call TravelPeople at 400-2505 loc. 8109 to 8107.