Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MMDA + Interaksyon 5 = Metro Manila Traffic Navigator

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(UPDATE: Read my newer post, featuring the Traffic Navigator during its public launch, by clicking HERE.)

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has been getting a lot of praise as one of the government agencies that has been in the social media forefront, rendering public service via Twitter and Facebook. Now, they've levelled up once more! Partnering with Interaksyon (TV5), they have created a web-based, real-time Metro Manila Traffic Navigator.

When you go to the homepage, you are presented with the System View. At first glance, it reminds me of a subway map but it covers the major thoroughfares where the MMDA cameras (I presume) are located.

Using the red, green, yellow colors to signify heavy, moderate and light traffic, you can see at a glance where traffic is bad and where it is okay.

To get greater detail, you can also choose the Line View. In this view you can select any of several lines: EDSA, Quezon Ave., Espana, C5, Roxas Blvd, or SLEX. In this screencap, I had chosen EDSA and was presented with several streets intersecting with EDSA and their color-coded traffic status.

And when you click the Google Map icon on the extreme right of each street, this is what you see (in this case, I chose Quezon Ave.):

The website is interactive. At almost any page view, you have the chance to share the info via Facebook and Twitter as well as chat interactively with MMDA. You don't need to open Twitter or Facebook as a separate window or tab anymore. 

I was told that updates to the website are done every 15 to 30 minutes. That's not bad at all!

At the height of Tropical Storm Falcon, I was out of the house attending a despedida. Following the tweets of MMDA then helped me plan my route home. But this is one-up over the MMDA tweets. Why? Because if you want to check the status of EDSA-Shaw Boulevard, like I wanted to, it took a while to scroll through all the MMDA tweets to find one that reported on EDSA-Shaw. But with a visual map like this one, you can immediately check the EDSA line view and see the status of Shaw Blvd. there.

In the works also is the mobile app version of this so that it is easier for those with mobile phones to use the application.

The website is still in beta (as it says in the logo) and I think that's because some links are not yet working. For example, I clicked on their About, FAQ and Contact Us links and was directed to the System View page. Looks like those links are still under construction.

Try it out now and see for yourselves. If you love MMDA already, you'll love them even more after this. And thanks to Interaksyon TV5 for making this possible.

To go to Metro Manila Traffic Navigator, click HERE.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Meralco: Innovating to Empower

Who ever thought utilities could ever be exciting? 

During my corporate life years back, discussions about electricity had always been a little over my head although for a while, I was knee-deep in power discussions (financial and legal) because my employer had a joint venture with an American power company to put up a diesel power plant on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement and I was one of those in the front line. When people discussed the computations to arrive at the charge to consumers per kilowatt hour, I tended to tune out often. Talking electricity was not exactly the most exciting topic I could think of.

But a few days ago, a handful of us bloggers were invited to come see how Meralco was innovating, using available technology to empower its consumers and shape a world-class standard of living. We got a glimpse of what they are looking into to employ digital technology and incorporate it into home living.

As a consumer of electricity, walk through these possibilities with me and see which ones you'd like to see Meralco introduce soon to your home.

Innovation #1: Meralco's Current Distribution Automation

Think of this situation. A power outage suddenly occurs somewhere in Meralco's web of grids. In real-time, using information on their screen, they are able to pinpoint the source of the outage, shut down that malfunctioning grid, and even re-route power, if needed. The red and green icons on the screen reflect where the grids are closed or open. With these equipment, Meralco can monitor and control distribution systems from remote locations, including the overall health of the electric grid. All in real time.

They are now looking into other innovations that may be introduced to consumers. These innovations try to take advantage of existing and developing technologies to empower the consumer to manage his own energy consumption by making this information accessible even when the consumer is away from home.
I know that in North America, in particular, many green homes are already equipped with these technologies. Let's take a look at some innovations.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

High-Speed Smart LTE 4G Technology is Coming!

Download movies in minutes. Download songs in seconds. Watch an HD YouTube video without buffering. Seriously.

Am I excited, am I excited? You bet I am! Because I got to hold in my hands the device and watched a demo showing that the upcoming Smart LTE (Long Term Evolution) 4G technology can do all that. And all I can say is -- IT'S WICKED FAST!

The LTE dongle - from the front...

...and from the back

A few of us bloggers were invited to sit down with some of Smart's executives from their networking and marketing divisions and here is what we learned.

A Pampered Afternoon at Nuat Thai Libis

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One Saturday afternoon, a group of mommy bloggers, including myself, headed out to try a spa we had never been to (at least for most of us) -- Nuat Thai Libis.

I was only familiar with another spa place along Libis so it was nice to find out that there was an alternative one. I had a pretty looooong week then so getting a Thai body and foot massage was something I was really looking forward to. The fact that I was going to experience this with mommy bloggers was an extra treat!

With Janine Ching-Go and Jay Tiu of Nuat Thai Libis
My pictures from hereon are few and a bit dark. After all, why would I spoil a spa experience by taking lots of pictures instead of just surrendering to the hands of our masseuse?

My choice for the afternoon was a Swedish body massage followed by a foot massage. But first, we had to have a foot bath.

Entrance to foot bath
The ambience was truly Thai -- including the touches with flowers floating on water, tiles with flat, dark stones in between them, and strategically placed lighted candles to give it that warm, inviting, relaxing feeling. Inside the foot bath room, I saw two foot ceramic basins with individual faucets and a raised wooden seating area.

That's me getting a nice foot scrub

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Flexi Career as Sun Life Financial Advisor?

Do you wonder if an 8 to 5 job is really for you?
Do you have young kids and you wish you had more time with them?
Do you wish you could earn more than your current salary?
Do you love traveling but you know it takes a lot of money to do so?

If you answered YES to any of those questions, read on because this may be an alternative career path for you.

Quick Flashback...

I quit cold turkey from a job as Vice President of a bank, with a fairly promising career path, in order to be a full-time Mom to four kids. It took a while to make the decision, primarily because I was a very driven corporate person, had never been jobless since I graduated, and I knew going back to a single income would make a dent in the family's income stream. But I knew inside me that I did not want a job that kept me till weekends and late nights at the office while my kids were raised by yayas. I wanted to be present to them.

Some female colleagues in the bank who heard I was quitting actually wished they had my kind of option. Many of them had to work to augment the family income. It was sheer prudent spending and tight budgeting that got me through all those years without a job.

Thankfully, the internet and technology have now developed to the point where a new direction has opened up for people like me - telecommuting work. I am kept busy by blogging, article writing, advocacies and all these while being able to stay home most days, visible to my kids.

But are there options other than telecommuting work?

Of course. One can get into entrepreneurial ventures, join multilevel marketing companies, and other business endeavors but often, these do take a lot out of you at the onset due to startup pains.

There is another way that is less painful.

Several of my lady blogger friends and I met up over lunch with Christine Lee and Dar Uyco from Sun Life Financial, so they could present opportunities for you if you wish to consider becoming a Sun Life Financial Advisor.

If any of you are cringing right now, you are probably thinking this post is for someone who will be hard-selling insurance just like those who approach you in malls, go door to door, or aggressively call you up to ask to make a presentation. Before coming to this meeting, I asked precisely about this because the last thing I wanted to do was to attend a meeting where I'd be invited to be some kind of insurance agent or 'ahente'. I personally avoid hard-selling agents and one of my pet peeves is to be accosted at a mall and be offered some kind of product.

I was assured this wasn't the case.

Financial Advisor vs The 'Ahente'

Thankfully, this was the first apprehension tackled by the Sun Life Financial team when we met up. The 'ahente' stereotype is what Sun Life wants to redefine and differentiate. With the backing of a large insurance company, they want to equip their financial advisors with professional skills -- not simply selling skills -- to read into the situation of each and every potential individual or company they are approaching in order to offer a product which comes close to, if not exactly to, what the client needs.

With interest rates so painfully low, simply parking money in savings or even time deposit is no longer an investment option. Inflation will easily eat up the interest gains in those products. If one is planning to build a financial nest large enough to sustain him into his senior years, then more strategic and well-placed investment choices need to be made early on.

The role of a financial advisor is important in identifying the long-term financial goals of each individual and recommending the appropriate insurance product that one can ably pay for during earning times and which will cover him/her when capacity to earn is diminished or lost. In a way, I think it is fulfilling to be in the shoes of a financial advisor because you are not earning just for yourself and your family but you are ensuring that someone else's future is also secured.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

VitWater Power and Phil Younghusband

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Recently, media was introduced to the launch of RFM's leading energy brand Vitwater Power. And who better to endorse Vitwater Power(also called VitPower, for short) than one of today's heartthrobs, Philippine National Football Team power player, Phil Younghusband.

It is so important for anyone, whether leading an active life or not, to stay hydrated. Adequate hydration keeps the body's system functioning well. After all, 75% of our body is water. We remain active, full of energy, and skin is soft, supple and younger looking when hydrated.

Phil is known as one of the most active athletes in the country today. Just take a look at his schedule. Every day, he trains 2 hours in the morning and another 2 hours in the afternoon as part of his rigorous football training. He and his older brother James also put up the Younghusband Football Academy in 2010 to promote the game of football in the country and to help train young kids in the sport. And he has been an active endorser of brands that espouse a healthy lifestyle as well as fashionable ones so Phil's 24 hours in a day can easily fill up.

We were given bottles of VitPower to drink and I was delightfully surprised that the taste was very pleasing to the palate. The apple-flavored vitamin water, according to Mr. Cris Canaria, RFM's Brand Manager for Beverages, has higher contents of Taurine (aids in the breakdown of fats and absorption of vitamins), Inositol (helps prevent collection of fats in the liver), Vitamin B and ginseng, making this an ideal refreshment for individuals who are as active as Phil. It has zero sugar, is low in calories, and does not have that medicinal aftertaste in drinks with artificial sweeteners.

My ice-cold bottle of VitPower
Ingredient Comparison: VitPower vs competing brands

For Phil to endorse VitPower is testament to his confidence that after a hectic day and in between activities, this is all he needs to give him an energy boost that allows him to extend his day with enough energy.

But Phil knows that the career of a footballer often does not last for long especially after the age of 30. And since his Dad is no longer around, he gives a lot of importance to family. In fact, at the press conference, when he was asked what other activities he had, he said that when there were no games, practice or brand endorsements, he would just spend time with his family.

Want to see how busy a day is with Phil? Watch this. If I had a day like this, I definitely would need an energy drink to get me through.

VitPower retails currently at P15/bottle.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Clear's Total 3 Scalp Care Line

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I have been buying Clear shampoo for my boys for some time now. They love the Cool Sport Menthol variant. This was an additional incentive for me to go and attend Clear's event recently at Midas Hotel. Curious me wanted to find out why my boys would specifically ask me to buy this brand over others they've tried.

Midas Hotel (which, I found out later, was a renovated Hyatt Regency Hotel) sported a unique, yuppie kind of look at the lobby, with a grand piano on a raised dais and modern glass and orange-accented decor

Midas Hotel lobby

Entrance to Midas Hotel

I was ushered by receptionists to an escalator and took an express ride all the way to the penthouse of the hotel. Good thing I had just washed my hair because it would have been totally embarrassing. I found out, upon reaching the penthouse, that like everyone else there, I was going to have a... SCALP TEST!

A hair analyzing probe was rolled over a portion of my scalp. Thankfully, I had no dandruff and no sebum (the oily substance secreted which, if in excess, can cause very oily hair and odor if bacteria feeds on it. But because of other hair concerns like dryness and hairfall, my overall score was an acceptable 70%.

My scalp test score - 70%!
After some canapes and cocktails, we were led into the main area to wait for the program to begin. Fortunately, we got a good place in the front of the stage with no cameras blocking our view.