Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Book Launch: The Kaya Natin! Champions

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My own kids can get cynical when it comes to discussions about transparency and good governance. They are old enough to be aware of how dirty and corrupt the systems are in government and even, I daresay, in pockets of the private sector and in the lives of the common Juan. 

Based on the Corruption Index 2010, the Philippines ranked 134 out of 178 countries with a grade of 2.4 out of a perfect 10. We are in that ranking together with countries like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Vietnam is even doing better than the Philippines, ranking 116.

So it was quite a delight for me to be invited to the launching of a book by the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. Called "The Kaya Natin! Champions: Inspiring Stories of Good Governance and Leadership in the Philippines", the book is the first in a series of books that features 10 government leaders who have embodied the values of effective and empowering leadership with integrity.

Harvey Keh, Lead Convener of Kaya Natin! gave the opening remarks, saying that with a rigorous advocacy on good governance, corruption and other transgressions in government can be alleviated.

This book is meant not only for those in government positions. More importantly, it is a way of showing the youth that there are still people in position of power who use this power responsibly and for the public good. Keh says "The objective of this book is to highlight the positive and inspiring stories of political leaders who are doing good for the country, and how this can help bring about empowerment for ordinary Filipinos who also want to make a difference."

Each chapter covers one champion and follows them from their background to their political career and up to their leadership lessons.

In this first volume, the champions being introduced to us are the following: Kaya Natin co-founders Jesse Robredo, Grace Padaca and Ed Panlilio; former mayor Sonia Lorenzo (San Isidro, Nueva Ecija); Sen. Teofisto Guingona III; Rep. Teodoro Baguilat, Jr. (Ifugao); Rep. Bolet Banal (Quezon City); former councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta (Davao City); Mayor Roque Verzosa, Jr. (Tagudin, Ilocos Sur); and Board Member Shirlyn Macasarte (Cotabato).

Former mayor Sonia Lorenzo (2nd from left) and Rep. Bolet Banal (center)
pose with the Kaya Natin! book's editors and Harvey Keh

With former councilor Mabel Sunga-Acosta of Davao City

Even as the first volume is being launched, I hear the second volume is already in the works. That is great! The more people we feature, the more we can inspire ordinary citizens, the youth and those already in government to take up the advocacy for a broader base of transparency and good governance.

During the launch, we heard from 2 of the champions featured, former mayor Sonia Lorenzo and Rep. Bolet Banal. I bought myself a copy and am looking forward to reading the book itself to read their stories in greater detail as well as the stories of the other champions.

The Kaya Natin! Champions Volume 1 book is available at Fully Booked, the Kaya Natin Office (call 02-990-0928) and the Ateneo de Manila University Press (call 02-426-6001 ext. 4612).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nasaan Si Aga?

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Do you remember a PC-based game called Carmen San Diego? My whole family loved that one. It's too bad that the company that brought it to fame is now closed. We loved guessing where Carmen would show up next.

But wait...in this age of texts and Twitter, TV5 came up with a promo that is sure to test the geographical mettle of anyone.

None other than Aga Muhlach is the Pinoy Explorer of the latest promo "Nasaan Si Aga?" which will run from August 10 to September 1, 2011.

There are 2 challenges within this promo:

1. Text Promo

2. Twitter Promo

You can join one or both challenges.

Text Promo

Clues can be found in newspaper print ads as well as through the promo's official site, www.nasaansiaga.com. Participants first need to register FOR FREE by texting AGA REG to 2929. You earn one raffle entry per answer sent. Smart, Sun and Globe subscribers can join.

Twitter Promo

Participants need to register contact info first at www.nasaansiaga.com. Then he/she can start tweeting and using the promo hashtag #nasaansiaga. Each Twitter user can earn only one raffle entry regardless of how many tweets were made. All participants who successfully tweet with the #nasaansiaga hashtag will have their profile photos collated by a program to form a mosaic on the official website. This mosaic will gradually reveal Aga's location. The faster tweets come in, the sooner the image will be completed. Upon reaching 10,000 tweets, the complete image will be revealed.

www.nasaansiaga.com site, as of this posting

What Can You Win?

The promo is only till September 1, 2011.

The winner of the "Nasaan Si Aga" text promo will be awarded an Asian adventure for 2. The Twitter user chosen from the mosaic will win a brand new Apple iPad 2.

For more details on the mechanics, visit www.nasaansiaga.com. Here too is a YouTube TVC.

DTI permit no. 5733 (for mobile promo)
DTI permit no. 5913 (for Twitter promo)

PLDT-Smart opens Jump Experience Center at Megamall

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There's a new place you should not miss when you're at SM Megamall. PLDT and Smart just opened JUMP, its new Experience Center to showcase the PLDT Group's latest devices, services and technologies. And it is a fun place for the entire family, for all ages.

Bloggers were able to experience what you'd see when you go to JUMP. Here's a schematic of the entire place.

1. Jump Avatar

The first thing that greets you at the entrance is the Jump Avatar station. On one of three large touchscreens, I was able to go through a series of questions like what type of personality I had, type of music, etc. My face, superimposed on a facial shape, plus my answers, were used to generate a dancing avatar. Then using the same touchscreen, I entered my email so that my avatar could be sent to me. Here's how my final avatar looked:

The interactive touchscreens also allows visitors to explore the various promos and services.

2. Springboard

Looking like a conference room with tables and chairs, Springboard is a private space where workshops will be held to educate consumers on the hottest gadgets, promos and services; training sessions on using the gadgets being offered; and is being made available to developers, bloggers and other tech groups for meet-ups, tweet-ups and tech-related meetings. Even students will love to come visit!

3. Customer Service/Jump Squad

This section is where customers can get assistance from a squad of men and women who are tasked to render service.

4. Panorama

A full 82 inches of an interactive, multi-touch screen allows you to navigate through various menus to learn about the PLDT Group, the services, the handsets and something that will excite kids and adults alike...

A-N-G-R-Y  B-I-R-D-S!!!!!
Bloggers were invited to try the game out on the humongous screen. Here's Flow's winning form.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Digital Out-of-Home Media - its possibilities for the Philippines

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When I got this invite to attend a lunch with people from Digital Out-of-Home Media (or DOOH, for short) I thought about it several times. After all, I was not a huge fan of outdoor billboards and LED screens especially along EDSA and main roads. I was concerned about driving safety and felt that anything that would tend to let drivers take their eyes off the road, even for a few seconds, was risky to the riding public.

But it was also my chance to learn a little more about the industry so with an open mind, I went to the forum. It was a whole day affair for members of the outdoor media industry but the press people were able to listen to some of them over lunch.

(L-R): Robert Michaels, Manolo Almagro, Lloyd Tronco

Robert Michaels (President, Signage Division at Digital View, Inc.) and Manolo Almagro (Digital Experience Strategist for Jollibee/Zenith Optimedia) gave some insights on how outdoor digital media is being used in the United States and Europe. Lloyd Tronco, Executive Director, Philippine Center for Out-Of-Home Media Research and Science, also fielded questions from media.

Personally, I would rather see uncluttered streets rather than these burgeoning mountains of billboards. I am also a bit concerned that moving advertisements can actually be more distracting than huge, still billboards. So the location of these digital media should also be considered.

Here are some examples of outdoor digital media in other countries:

Digital media helps to declutter highways and malls

This wall ad has a sensor. As it senses a pedestrian walking in front
of it, the sensor activates the built-in cameras in the ad
making it seem as though the pedestrian is being photographed by paparazzi.

Here's an ad for domestic violence using facial recognition technology.
When it senses you looking away, the ad shows a husband beating up his wife;
as soon as you turn your head to gaze at the ad, the couple look okay.

In this mall, the digital media was incorporated into its "look".

This one is so cute! It is a high-tech application of digital media outdoors.

I know outdoor advertising cannot be totally eliminated, at least in the short- to medium-term. But the form that it takes can evolve to newer modes to accommodate things such as driving safety, environment-friendly advertising, and overall personal safety. I can see some possibilities for the Philippines:

1. The clutter of billboards along highways can be combined and placed in strategically located digital LED boards. Imagine how much more sky we can see if we can put a thousand huge billboards into, say, 10 LED boards spaced apart along the same highway.

2. Newer technologies allow LED screens to take in ambient lighting and adjust the screen's brightness depending on whether it is day or night, cloudy or bright. Some LED screens I see along EDSA can be blinding at night since the brightness is the same whether day or night.

3. Outdoor digital media need not be commercial advertising alone. I see it as a channel for public service as well. In the United States, there are amber alerts (alerts for missing persons) sent out via these LED screens. Why can we not use those same LED screens here in the Philippines, a disaster-prone country, to send out emergency announcements, safety instructions and similar public service announcements?

For now, I am reserving my opinion regarding the use of all sorts of advertising along major roads and highways. In everything, there are pros and cons and in the end it is a matter of balance. I think digital out-of-home media can be put to good use but it is important to study where it is placed, how it is used, and what messages it communicates. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Metro Manila Traffic Navigator launches - with more to come

Last August 1, 2011, the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator (a web-based, real-time traffic situationer) was formally introduced to the riding public by executives from both the MMDA and TV5 present, as well as media and bloggers. When I last blogged about the Metro Manila Traffic Navigator last June 29, the first day its beta version was opened to the public, I was delighted to find the page so easy to read, clean and as real-time as you can get (with updates every 5 to 15 minutes).

The Traffic Navigator was a personal savior for me. While MMDA was already doing a good job of announcing traffic situations in the Metro via their Twitter account, it was still difficult to filter the timeline. For example, in the case of Tropical Storm Falcon, I was attending a despedida for a friend and it was raining cats and dogs outside. I went online before going home and checked MMDA's Twitter timeline to see if the route I was taking was going to be flooded. I did find out but not after some amount of scrolling through the timeline searching for the tweet specific to what I needed.

With the Traffic Navigator, you get a visual image of the initial 6 lines that are up (EDSA, Quezon Avenue, Espana, C5, Roxas Blvd and SLEX), the various points along each line and the traffic situation in any of 3 colors - red, yellow and green. Just on the homepage alone, it's easy to check the red (heavy traffic) points and make plans for an alternate route. The Traffic Navigator has a system view, line view, and a Google Map view so you get the situation from a macro or micro level.

At the formal launch, MMDA Chairman, Atty. Francis Tolentino; TV5's Chief of News and Information Division, Ms. Luchi Valdes;  and TV5 Interaksyon.com's editor-in-chief, Mr. Roby Alampay, talked about how the idea of Traffic Navigator was born and what they hoped it would achieve in terms of upping public service levels. MMDA's Yves Gonzalez also explained how the app was being updated to reflect real-time traffic situations. Since it began operations, about 6,000 drivers and commuters have already consulted the Traffic Navigator.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Free Coffee at McDo from Aug. 8-12, 2011

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Hold your horses!!! You did not read it wrong, my dear readers!

From Aug. 8-12, 2011 you can get a warm, wonderful 8-oz. cup of McCafe Premium Roast Coffee -- FOR FREE!

From 4AM to 10:30 AM, you will be treated to freshly-brewed coffee. Coupons will be distributed in selected offices, universities, terminals, colleges, churches and outside McDo stores nationwide starting August 5.

So if you are an insomniac who's still up at 4AM, a wanna-be-like-J. K. Rowling writer who hangs out in coffeeshops while creating your dream book, or a blogger like me who may be suffering from writer's block sometimes and needs something to jumpstart my writing day, head on over to McDonald's on the days mentioned above and get your cup of 100% Arabica coffee.

For more details, head on over to McDo's Facebook page and see how you can avail of this offer.

Shiok comes to Promenade, Greenhills in San Juan

The Food Club recently got an invite to visit and try the menu of the latest food place in Promenade, Greenhills - Shiok. In Fookien, shiok means "cheap" or "inexpensive". I found out later from the chef-owners that it had a different meaning for their restaurant. Since their cuisine is primarily Singaporean, shiok in Singapore means "delicious". That revelation set my mind up for a yummy dinner ahead.

We began with Steamed Kailan, a side dish that is prepared in oyster sauce. Kailan's thick stems look like those of broccoli but the leaves are broad and flat. While waiting for the parade of main dishes, we were also served Teh C, which is coffee with milk tea, a fairly strong tea brew. Just fair warning to those extra sensitive to caffeine like me - this one can keep you alert for hours. So be careful about drinking it at night.

Steamed Kailan (PhP 80)

Teh C

Friday, August 5, 2011

My visual tour of Gardenia's plant

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Gardenia's meteoric rise in the bread industry to No. 1 is nothing short of spectacular. I remember my Mom telling me about a decade ago to buy Gardenia for my family (I was still buying another brand which I was familiar with growing up) and my reaction then was "What is Gardenia?" Today, ask anyone on the street what brand comes to mind when you say 'bread' and probably 9 out of 10 will say Gardenia.

I had been hearing about Gardenia's plant tours and was secretly hoping I would have a chance to go some day. First, I wanted to know how all Gardenia breads were made since it was a permanent item on my shopping list. Secondly, I wanted to assure myself that the production process observed strict quality control. And third, just plain curiosity as to why Gardenia came from behind and overran all existing bread manufacturers.

My opportunity came last week when some of us bloggers were taken on a special tour of Gardenia's plant inside the Laguna International Industrial Park in Binan, Laguna. Here's what we saw and learned....

A nice surprise - a special banner welcomed us at the main lobby
In a special audiovisual room, we got to watch a video of the entire production process, after which the marketing manager also talked about how the finished breads are distributed throughout the country. Some trivia we picked up:

* Gardenia runs a machine that can produce 6,000 loaves of bread AN HOUR! In the same plant, they have a machine that can do 4,000 loaves/hour as well as a machine that can do 2,000 loaves/hour. In their recently opened Cebu plant, they use a machine that does 2,000 loaves/hour.

* From P137-M in total sales in 1995, Gardenia's total sales in 2010 grew to P2.5-B. And based on a Nielsen audit in 2010, they command 67% of the bread market.

* Feeder trucks go out every day to different locations where smaller trucks meet them to further deliver the bread to the retail outlets so that consumers get them fresh every day.

* Every day also (esp for big retail outlets), unsold bread is taken back by Gardenia and brought to a holding area in the plant. There, contractors buy all the unsold bread. These are processed and broken down as fish meal. No returned bread is resold for human consumption. The holding area is thoroughly cleaned after all the bread is taken so that no chances of bacteria or molds can get into the production area.

Of course, nothing could beat actually seeing the entire production line from start to finish from a glass-enclosed viewing area high above the production floor so here we go...

Sponge and Dough Mixing Stages

50% of the bread's ingredients are mixed and fermented in a cold room to develop the bread's aroma. Once fermented, the other 50% of the ingredients are added in and mixed with the fermented dough.