Monday, October 31, 2011

Starbucks Christmas Offerings 2011 are spelled M-O-R-E

Watch out on November 3, 2011. Starbucks will be bringing to you their Christmas food, beverages and Christmas blends and I can say that it's MORE and MORE this year.

This year, Starbucks is coming up with -- guess how many?


That many.

I asked Celine Clemente, Starbucks' person in charge of whipping up all the delicious food offerings - why 15? Celine said that they really wanted to give a wider array of food items spanning breads, wraps, cookies and dessert. Okay, I'm not complaining about that, hahaha...

So are you ready now for a mouth-watering trip? Here goes...


Pecan Butterscotch Twirl (Php 85)
Pecan Butterscotch Twirl is a light and flaky spiral roll stuffed with stuffed with cinnamon and creamy vanilla pastry cream filling. On top are sprinkles of roasted pecans drizzled with butterscotch sauce and white chocolate.

Hazelnut Stollen Bread (PhP 65/slice, PhP 595 whole)

Hazelnut Stollen Bread, as you can guess from the name, originates from Germany. It's a German festival bread popular during Christmas but not only in Germany but throughout Europe. It is a sweet yeast bread with toasted hazelnut paste balanced with raisins on the insides.

S'mores (PhP 70)

S'mores are made of a buttery graham crust. When you bite into it, taste the gooey melted marshmallow cream and dark chocolate topped with chocolate ganache.

Triple Decker Cheesecake with Snickers
(PhP 130/slice, PhP 1250/whole)

The word "triple decker" to describe a cheesecake is enough to make me say "I want!". The Triple Decker Cheesecake with Snickers is loaded with chunks of my favorite Snickers bar in a chocolate cookie crust topped with a chocolate fudge icing and roasted chopped peanuts.

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
(PhP 110/slice, PhP 950 whole)

The Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake is served warm from the oven. It's your chocolate chip cookie baked into a cake then topped with thick chocolate mousse illed with mini chocolate chip cookies. When you take this in a Starbucks branch, they can put a dollop of whipped cream on top and drizzle it with their very own Starbucks caramel drizzle.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Reflex Zone - Rwo Shur health method of reflexology

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I could not resist an invitation to a reflexology experience at The Reflex Zone, a natural therapy center which is the first of its kind in the Philippines that follows the Rwo Shur health method of reflexology.  Little did I know (till afterwards) that the owners (Alex and Jamie Coyiuto) are the son and daughter-in-law of friends.

There is no doubt that massage has a healing property. Mothers are told to touch and massage their babies lightly and studies have shown that massaged babies grow up with a greater sense of well-being than those who are not massaged.

But massage is not necessarily reflexology. Reflexology is a natural form of therapy that uses pressure applied to specific reflex points on the feet which correspond to different glands, organs and body systems. Pressure applied to these points breaks up crystalline deposits of uric acid, calcium and lactic acid as well as clears blockages and releases toxins in those areas. Massage is meant to relax the parts being massaged; reflexology works through the nervous system to heal ALL parts of the body.

Foot chart pressure zone legend (partial)

The Reflex Zone's type of reflexology is called Rwo Shur Health Method of Reflexology. This has been in existence for over 30 years now. Developed by Fr. Josef Eugster, a Swiss Catholic priest and missionary in Taiwan, it is done using just the bare hands, unlike Xiamen or Thai reflexology that involves a wooden stick that is pressed into the different pressure points.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween giveaway: WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe

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I love special holidays because these are the times when I could be lucky to get a paid app for free or at a hefty discount. And Halloween is one of those times.

So I'm sharing this find with you. From Oct. 27 to Nov. 6, 2011, Digiarty Software, Inc. is giving its video converter software, WinX HD Video Converter Deluxe for FREE!

WinX HD Video Deluxe is an all-in-one HD video converter, DVD burner and YouTube video downloader. Convert your DVD collection so it can play on your iPhone/4s, iPad, iPod, PSP, PS3, Android, Blackberry and DVD player. You can watch your videos on the go.

Just a reminder.

This is a Windows version and does not come with free upgrades or tech support. The software also must be activated before Nov. 10.

To download it free, click HERE.

Digiarty has also discounted its WinX DVD Ripper Platinum from $49.95 to $35.95. This is a full license version that entitles you to lifetime upgrade. The link to promo for this is same as the one above.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Meralco opens more digital doors to its customers

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I still remember the days of old when I was growing up. Whenever we had a power outage in our area, it was a challenge to reach Meralco. Phone lines were jammed all the time. We had to tune in to radio stations via our portable radio to find out what areas were affected and how soon power would be restored. No one had any idea if their area would be affected by maintenance of power lines. Basically, Meralco customers were pretty much in the dark (pun intended).

A new Meralco, however, has been emerging from its corporate shell. Going beyond its official website which was then a one-way, company-to-customers information dissemination tool, it began engaging the public on social media by creating a Twitter account (@meralco) and a Facebook page. Suddenly, access to Meralco widened beyond the capacity of phone lines as maintenance schedules were posted online and inquiries from customers were answered more rapidly.

In continuing plans to better inform the public and to improve public service, Meralco has revamped its website to make it more responsive to the public's needs.


When you land on its homepage, it gives you two different portals. FOR CUSTOMERS provides answers to customers' concerns including electricity consumption, bill-related matters and new account applications. THE COMPANY is where you find corporate information like annual reports, business partnerships, stakeholder relations and investor information.

Since most of us are consumers, I'll focus on the FOR CUSTOMERS portal. Here's what you get when you choose that option.

The navigation bar on the topmost part lists the website's main sections. At the bottom are links to frequently accessed information. The Quick Links on left sidebar provide more detailed information for customers and the center area is reserved for the most recent videos, photos and articles for customers to know.

The Meralco Appliance Calculator (AppCal for short), which is a link under Quick Links, brings you to a web application where customers can compute and gauge their electricity consumption based on the different appliances they use at home. Computations can be specific to the type of appliance, corresponding wattage, and frequency of usage. The AppCal calculates cost per hour, day, week, and month. The AppCal also takes into account the prevailing generation charge for the month.

For those with smartphones and tablets, AppCal is now a FREE downloadable app. I've downloaded it on my ipad.

Meralco is setting up more innovative plans, one of which is offering prepaid electricity, much like a mobile phone's prepaid load feature. Their other innovation plans can be read in my post HERE.

Find Meralco in these digital areas:


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Presenting the 2012 Starbucks planners!

Starbucks has once again leveled up its planner offerings. In 2011, it came up with 3 variants but for 2012, not only have they increased that to 5 variants but they have adapted a green theme - Starbucks Shared Planet theme. Each planner was prepared in a facility that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC-certified). The FSC is a non-profit organization established to promote responsible management over the world's forests. According to Love Fernandez, Starbucks' assistant marketing manager, about 70% of the paper in their planners are recycled paper.

Each planner is named after a type of wood ranging from the light to the dark kind : poplar, bamboo, cherry, spruce and oak.

The planner is now smaller than those of past years (ladies, these will fit more easily in our bags!). And like the moleskine notebooks, a band keeps the planner closed. The hard covers are made of engineered wood that comes in the shade of wood it is named after.

What I love about these planners is that they come with burlap pouches and there are pockets inside to hold more of your stuff including a mobile phone. These burlap pouches have the same color as the planner's spine.

That's my phone in one of 2 pockets inside the burlap pouch.

The pouches are reusable even without the planner and can be snapped shut because it has a button with the Starbucks seal on it. Cool!

Aside from the weekday pages, there is now a monthly calendar view so you can see all your appointments for the month at a glance.

Monthly calendar
Weekday pages

Of course there are still the traditional coupons (you get 9!) that can be redeemed at any Starbucks outlet but besides that, you get a bookmark as well.

Start accumulating stickers beginning Nov. 3, 2011 to January 8, 2012. It's even much easier now to get it! There are now 2 ways to get your favorite planner. Aside from the customary 17 stickers (9 Christmas beverages + 8 core beverages except bottled drinks), there is a second option for those who do not care for the Christmas beverages. Just collect 23 stickers of core beverages except bottled drinks and you also get a planner!

As always, your support of Starbucks planners also supports SparkHope, a giving-back-to-the community programme that allows each Starbucks store in the Philippines to adopt a barangay and provide for early childhood care and stimulation for children below six years old in that barangay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Y levels app in the metro

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Smartphone. Android 2.3. Under PhP 6,000.

Possible? Yes! Because that is what the Samsung Galaxy Y is.

Everyone wants a smartphone these days and the youth are not exempted from that. After all, like my kids, they are forever hankering to be online, stay in touch via social networks with their friends, and play games at will - all in one device.

But the regular smartphones do come with hefty prices that are beyond the reach of the youth, yuppies who may have just began working, or the ordinary Juan who is on a limited budget.

My first mobile phone in the 80s cost me P10,000 big bucks then and the features were nowhere near what smartphones are capable of these days. I'm using a mobile phone that runs on Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and although I have not yet really gotten my hands dirty using all its features, I can say that it is pretty neat and powerful. My most handy use for it is as a personal hotspot for my ipad.

Now think of a powerful OS in a phone that is selling for only P5,990. That was something not possible just a few years ago but here it is now. Anyone who is in the market for a smartphone that allows you to send SMS, chat on social networks, play games and download applications, among other things, should check this one out.

Here's my quick assessment of the Samsung Galaxy Y just based on specs (I'm still hoping I get to do a hands-on review of it if and when I can get my hands on a demo unit).

Entry-level smartphone: This is one of the most basic smartphones in order that the price can be made reasonable and affordable. So if you're a power user, this may not be the phone for you. But if you're like my kids who just want internet access, ability to engage on their favorite social networks, check email, listen to music and play games, this could be for you.

Gingerbread: Running on Android 2.3, 832 MHz processor and HSDPA module of up to 7.2 Mbps brings many powerful uses. Browsing, checking email, playing media happen smoothly with hardly any lag. You also have access to over 150,000 apps available in the Android Market.

Sharp (Phils.) Corp. stays 30 years in the Philippines through thick and thin

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2011 marks 30 years of Sharp's presence in the Philippines. Wow, have they really been here that long?

Come to think of it, Sharp has been a part of my growing up years. At some point of time in my life, we've had a Sharp television set, washing machine, and karaoke. Not to mention several Sharp calculators!

At a recent media event held at Makati Shangri-la, we were able to listen to several of Sharp's Japanese executives, including Sharp (Phils.) Corp.'s President and GM, Mr. Juntaro Shimamoto, who took us through Sharp's history in terms of electronic offerings as well as where they are going in the future.

Sharp products over the years

Sharp Phils. executives

Some stuff that I found very interesting during the event were Sharp's 'green' endeavors built into their products. Their poly-crystalline silicon (PSC) solar panels are now in use at a Cepalco-operated farm in Cagayan, the first solar farm in the country. Appliances like their air purifiers, ion generators, airconditioners and refs are incorporated with Plasmacluster Ion Technology that suppresses harmful airborne elements to promote a clean, indoor environment. 

This I like because our family always has allergic rhinitis attacks from dust and pollen and our home always has to have air purifiers and ionizers to help catch these.

Plasmacluster technology

They'll soon be introducing into the market the largest LCD TV (all 70 inches of it), the Quattron 735 series.

A sneak peek of the 70-inch LCD TV

And an innovation to the washing machine is what they call the Eco Drum (or hole-less technology). The old technology where the drum had holes was flawed. It allowed black mold in the holes to contaminate and stain clothes. The new, hole-less drum prevents this from happening and comes with a wider tub so you can wash more clothes in one cycle.

Drew Arellano talks about the hole-less drum

Sharp's executives, throughout their presentations, kept mentioning "Koten", their trademark marketing strategy. Koten, which means "individual exhibit" is a once a year convention where all Sharp's products are introduced to the public in a fun and easy way, assisted by Sharp's team. Families and individuals can walk around their exhibits and see the actual appliances, inspect them, and get further information from the staff. They said they have seen sales of 150% of monthly sales achieved in just 3 days using the Koten strategy.

What's reassuring for many of us is the statement directly from Sharp's top management that they are here to stay in the Philippines - through thick and thin. 

It will be exciting to watch and see what Sharp (Phils.) Corp.'s 2012 offerings will look like.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Add a PLUS to life with Enercal Plus

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Do you find your days so busy that you hardly notice what you are putting into your mouth? Busyness and stress make a deadly combination for those of us in the urban jungle. We skip meals or eat unhealthy fast foods. We sleep late and wake up early. Stress constantly bombards and attacks our immune system, filling up our bodies with toxins that eventually manifest as illnesses.

Is that what living life to the fullest means? Of course not! And well, I can be guilty of forgetting to take care of myself at times too due to the things I have to do not just as a Mom but as a blogger too.

So it was interesting to find that there is a new adult nutritional supplement in town - Enercal Plus.

If you're a label reader (and I hope you are because the label never lies), then you'll be interested in seeing exactly what's inside Enercal Plus.

It's got antioxidants such as Vitamins A, C and E; zinc and beta carotene to combat oxidative damage by boosting and strengthening one's immune system; and macronutrients to support the body's energy needs. It's also high in Vitamin D which helps the body utilize calcium and phosphorus, which are important in bone maintenance. It also contains whey protein, a good source of essential amino acids needed by the body, is easily absorbed to provide quicker muscle repair. Enercal Plus has no transfat and its cholesterol content meets the criteria prescribed by the American Heart Association.

You can take a glass of Enercal with your meals or in between meals. We were made to sample it at the event and it tastes like soya milk, one of my favorite beverages.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Do you have a financial life plan? Philam Life's "Usap Tayo" campaign asks

I never like to talk to insurance agents. The ones who approached me in the past were aggressive to the point of being turn-offs. So it was with a bit of iffy-ness that I attended the "Usap Tayo" meet and greet for bloggers sponsored by Philam Life recently at their Makati building.

What reassured me that this was not the run-of-the-mill spiel to pitch insurance products was the casual invite that just asked "Anong plano mo? Usap tayo!" I was reminded of the "Usap Tayo" TV commercials (TVC) I'd catch during the few times I'd watch TV. These TVCs focused on the lives of those whose future were ensured by insurance proceeds.

Larry Cleto, a registered financial consultant (RFC), began with an interesting talk on Financial Planning 101 or How to Save Up for Your Dreams. I have heard talks like these before but when I see the statistics being presented each time, it makes me even more aware that in the Philippines, many people still do not know how to manage their income so that they are able to build up a financial nest to cover their loved ones when disaster strikes.

Larry Cleto

Here are some things I picked up from Larry:

  • An American bank did a survey of how many Filipinos aged 18-40 maintained a bank account. 62% of those surveyed scored <50 out of a perfect 100. The average financial IQ of the Filipino was 48.
  • While some Filipinos save, only 1 out of 10 respondents consciously saved for retirement. The others were not sure if it would cover their lifestyle after they retire.
  • Only 8% have adequate personal insurance.
  • 47% do not know what to do with their savings.
  • Wealth management involves 3 goals: Accumulate, Preserve and enjoy it, and Transfer it to your loved ones.

I particularly liked these ideas which Larry Cleto put forth:

1. Financial freedom is the ability to live the lifestyle you desire without having to work or rely on anyone else for money. - Here in the Philippines, many families raise children and expect them to support their parents in their old age. This is something I disagree with. I do not want to put this burden on my kids. We want to provide them with the best education we could afford to give them and with that, we expect them to be able to forge their own future without the obligation of caring for us. For us to successfully carry this out, we ourselves need to be financially independent of our children. It is not right to transfer all our wealth to them. They need to be able to carve their own wealth out for themselves after we have armed them with a good education.

2. Active income and passive income concepts - Active income derives from one's work. That means then that to have income, one needs to have a livelihood. Passive income is what you get from prudent investing (letting your money work for you and give you ADDITIONAL income). Income from a livelihood is good but must not be the only source for your family because when something happens to you and your livelihood is affected, everyone is affected. This is when passive income comes into play. There should be enough passive income to continue providing for your family even when livelihood income is affected.

3. It is not how much you earn but how much you keep/save that builds wealth - I have heard people say they cannot become rich because they do not earn enough. What will be enough? If one's spending habits increase as one's salary increases, there is no way you can accumulate wealth. On the other end of the spectrum, even a janitor or clerk who regularly sets aside a fixed amount from his salary can build this up considerably in as little as 10 years.

This slide jolted me.

Isn't it shocking that only 4% would be financially independent when they retire,
about 10% would have some form of income, and a shocking 63% will be BROKE???
But this slide shows that even saving and wisely investing as low as P1,667 a month can build wealth.

Depending on the investment vehicle you choose, that P1,667 a month
can grow to as much as P45 million in 40 years!

Larry says that the way to put together a financial life plan is to start at the end. How much do you need when you retire to continue your desired lifestyle? Work out that number and ensure that you accumulate investments now that will make you earn that desired amount in the future.

The best formula to help you save and invest is:


In other words, the discipline is to set aside first one's desired savings and only what is left after that is disposable income.

The second part of the Philam Life blogger meet-up was getting to meet two of the people featured in their TVCs - Connie Dizon and Deorie Caraca.

Connie Dizon was managing her own business while taking care of her mother when she found out she had cancer. Thanks to a financial planner, she had a plan with a Lifeline rider that provides cash for hospital or medical expenses upon diagnosis of cancer, stroke, heart attack and 32 other critical illnesses. This helped take care of her bills. Today she is a cancer survivor.

Connie Dizon

Deorie's dad was an OFW and was on a ship 8 or more months in a year. In January 2008, he came home to stay - but was suffering from a cough that refused to go away. A co-parent of Deorie's mom was a Philam Life financial planner and through her persistence, the family had taken out a Scholar Gold education plan for Deorie. He was eventually diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and passed away. Deorie is now an honor student and her sister Ginger is likewise doing well in school. Their educational future is ensured.

Deorie Caraca and her mom

This event once again reminded me how important it is for me to continually assess my own family situation. Sometimes we get bogged down with work and busy-ness and put off planning for the future until tragedy stares us in the face and we are caught unprepared.

Do you have your financial life plan clearly mapped out already?

If the answer is NO, today is the best time to begin planning one. Financial literacy is not only for business majors or for those schooled in finance. Each one of us needs to have some level of literacy to be able to prudently invest our hard-earned money so that it works for us down the road.

Philam Life maintains its corporate website HERE and the "Usap Tayo" site HERE. Or call telephone (02) 528-2000 to talk to a Philam Life financial planner.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reebok's EasyTone footwear and apparel is in town

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A new line of Reebok footwear and apparel has been brought to town after its successful introduction in the US, Canada and other international markets - EasyTone.

I got to see firsthand what EasyTone was made of at an intimate dinner attended by a few bloggers and 2 of the brand's female ambassadors: Vicky Ras and Kassy Pajarillo. The other EasyTone brand ambassadors are: Nikki Gil, Bow Valdez, Rowena Aquino, Pearl Managuelod, Nina Terol-Zialcita, Betty Romero, Ana Santos, Nikka Sarthou and Darlene Anderson.

EasyTone footwear has built-in balance pods featuring Moving Air Technology that transfers air in response to your stride, creating micro-instability with each step. I learned from some of EasyTone's ambassadors at the launch that it's this very instability that works the legs and thighs. The seeming imbalance the first time you put EasyTone rubber shoes is what allows your lower limbs to get worked up as you move about.

Kassy attests to EasyTone's workout experience. Being one who does not run but prefer walking, EasyTone footwear will be an option for me when I choose my next pair of sneakers. With an EasyTone pair of rubber shoes, I get a leg workout anytime - even when just shopping.

The EasyTone apparel features Reebok’s resistance technology. The unique placement and tightness of resistance technology hugs the back and thighs. The signature bands at the back of an EasyTone top are the signs of the resistance technology that hugs your back (for Easytone bottoms, it works the thighs and butt areas). More than just keeping your torso firm and toned, an EasyTone top helps you with your posture!

Just a note for you when you buy an EasyTone top. It is made to be comfy but tight-fitting and very snug. I tried one out over at Reebok's Eastwood outlet and loved both the short sleeves and sleeveless models (the exact same ones shown above). However, the tops hugged my torso so much that I literally struggled for some time to take them off. Even the store staff told me they usually gave clients extra time in the fitting room knowing this.

I asked Kassy if she had any tips. She said to just continue stretching your EasyTone top and eventually it will adjust to your body shape. You'll also eventually find the best technique to remove the top more easily.

Watch Nikki Gil in this TVC on Reebok's EasyTone:

You can find EasyTone footwear and apparel in all Reebok concept outlets and some boutique shops like Royal Sporting House and The Shoe Shop.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Smart launches its All-Net postpaid plans with an amazing race

I've been on prepaid status with two of the mobile carriers since I left the corporate world. It has served me well because I could not fit my new mobile usage and lifestyle into any of the postpaid plans being offered then. Some were inflexible and offered call and text quantities that I knew I would not use. I did not want to be pegged to a fixed monthly fee which I could not maximize.

The invitation to join Smart's All-Net Amazing Race (while being introduced to its new All-Net offerings under its All-In plans made me curious and interested to join. I wondered if, this time, I would have a clear alternative to just remaining a prepaid subscriber forever. Of course, the other motivator in this whole amazing race thing (as this was my first ever amazing race) was the fact that my teammate was my own dear friend, Noemi. Also in our team dubbed the "Yellow team" were Ryan (another blogger friend) and Marlon (who I just met that day).

The tasks given to us were physically challenging. We had to bungee jump to get some phone numbers hanging from a tree (that task was assigned to Marlon, the tallest in our team). Then we had to call 3 numbers from those papers and show the call logs to the game marshal to get the next task.

(Marlon did such a great job on this one. I would have been an epic fail.)

Noemi, by stroke of luck, had just finished reviewing the Samsung Galaxy Y, the
very unit given to our team, so she was our designated texter.

Ryan makes the calls.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Second Look at Osteoporosis

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Last January, I wrote a post about why the issue of osteoporosis is close to my heart. I'm osteopenic -- and all these years I have been trying to keep my body condition from deteriorating to the point where I would be at high risk of osteoporosis.

The background on why I think I became osteopenic and what I'm doing about it can be read HERE.

We really don't think of it. I know I fail at that many times too. But we tend to overlook the health of our bones. We take in too much caffeine, sleep late, eat unhealthy and take in too little calcium. Many of us lead sedentary lives and hardly ever go out in the sun. I have to keep reminding myself that if I want to stay active well into my senior years, I just cannot afford to get a fracture - anywhere. A bad fall, a twisted limb, or any other sudden movement in the wrong way could really injure me if my bones are weak. And I really cannot imagine how my present active life can suddenly be curtailed if I can no longer be mobile due to fracture or worse, broken bones.

At a recent intimate gathering with the people behind Anlene, I learned more about osteoporosis and how it is affecting people worldwide as well as close to home - how many Filipinos are going about their daily lives without realizing they're already at risk of becoming osteoporotic. From the pics below, what's really important when it comes to bones is DENSITY. The denser the bones, the stronger these are. When bones have lots of gaping spaces, that is when fractures are more likely.

Once bones lose density, nothing can gain this back. At the very least, you can just arrest and delay its further deterioration. That is why once you know where you stand in the spectrum of osteoporotic risk, intervention is needed for those at risk while those still at low risk can also take supplements to ensure they stay in that category.

Left photos show healthy bones. Right ones show osteoporotic bones.