Wednesday, December 26, 2012

BPI eCredit - a credit card for internet payments

Are you paranoid like me about disclosing your credit card number when purchasing stuff online? 

If you are, you should be rightly so. There are so many horror stories out there on the internet about syndicates who are able to get hold of your credit card number and max out its credit limit with illegal purchases. Most times, when my kids want to purchase games online, I use PayPal and decline their requests if the merchant site requires a credit card number instead of PayPal.

Now my kids will be a lot happier. Here is something I just recently got in the mail from my bank, BPI (important card info were blurred out).

In the flyer that came with the card, the BPI eCredit card was described as "a companion card to your existing BPI Express Credit Mastercard. This card is for virtual and internet payments only..."

Here are some of its features:

1. Attached to your credit card - the eCredit forms part of your main card's credit limit. Anything you purchase using the eCredit card is also deducted from your main card's credit limit.

2. Security - though connected to your main credit card's limit, the eCredit uses a different card number. This means that even if compromised, your entire credit limit won't be compromised. You will be exposed only up to the eCredit's sub-limit.

3. Flexible sub-limit - With the card, I was assigned a sub-limit. However, if I felt it was still too high, I could request for a lower sub-limit (minimum sub-limit is P5,000). Conversely, if I wanted a sub-limit increase, it cal also be done. There are 2 ways to do this. 1) by calling the 89-100 hotline or 2) by logging on to the BPI Express Online account, if you have one, click Other Services > Credit Card Services > Increase in Credit Limit. Fill out the required fields and indicate "Adjustment of eCredit sub-limit". Requests are processed after one (1) banking day.

4. Convenient payment mode - Your online purchases can be settled together with your main card. But when you log on to your BPI Express Online account, online purchases are reported separately so you can monitor usage. Here's what my account looks like:

5. Rewards - Just like the main credit card, online purchases using the BPI eCredit card entitle you to 1 reward point for every P35 spent.

6. No annual fee - eCredit comes free with any BPI Express Credit Mastercard.

Does it work?

It sure does. The day after this card came in the mail, my son wanted to buy two online games. We tried doing so by using the BPI eCredit and the purchases went through. I'm just waiting now for those transactions to show up on my BPI Express Online account.

So far, I think this is the solution I've been waiting for and I am glad BPI thought of it. More and more, as transactions are done online, features such as these allow me to shop virtually without worrying about exposing my credit card.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Knorr's Homecoming Treat for OFWs this Christmas

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I remember when I lived abroad for 2 years while working on my Master's. I sorely missed home. Filipino friends always took opportunities to get together and partake of Filipino food. But despite those get-togethers, being away from home meant missing a lot of familiar stuff. I particularly missed Christmas, seeing our native parols, being with the family for Noche Buena, hearing the Filipino Christmas carols and even the local food - Chinese ham, queso de bola, spaghetti, and native delicacies like puto bumbong and bibingka during Simbang Gabi.

So can you imagine what it must be like for returning OFWs who have been away from the Philippines for many more years, even decades? Can you imagine what it must be like for them to see Philippine soil from the air, excitedly looking through the windows as the plane prepares to land? Can you imagine their hearts longing to see their dear ones even as they collect their baggages from the carousel? And can you imagine them planning exactly what Filipino food they will indulge in while they are in the country, especially those which may not always be available abroad?

Knorr recently treated returning OFWs to a heartwarming homecoming treat with the homecooked goodness of sinigang. Instead of the usual salubongs of Filipino music playing from bands at arrival areas, the "Knorr Sinigang's Umuwi sa Sarap ng Sinigang" campaign added a flavorful twist. Arriving OFWs at NAIA Terminal 3 were invited to a cozy dining area and were fed Filipino food like fish, pork and shrimp sinigang.

Some celebrities were at hand also to lend additional surprise. Singer Erik Santos gave his own rendition of "Pasko na Sinta Ko". Marvin Agustin was also on hand as part of the cooking ensemble. And the OFWs were given special tokens and floral leis to complete the homecoming treat.

I think the gesture of Knorr meant a lot to those returning OFWs. After all, they are some of the heroes of this country. They sacrifice being away from loved ones, often live under very difficult circumstances, and send a significant part of their earnings home. 

Tomorrow, my own daughter is coming home for the holidays. She has lived in a foreign land most of 2012 and will be with us just for 2 short weeks. But we intend to make the most of the time just being a family and bonding as much as we can - over food, of course. I also have my own homecoming treat for my girl which Knorr also sent over for me to try - several mixes including sinigang. She'll have her share of native dishes, something she has not eaten since she left.

Finally, watch these videos of the actual Knorr Homecoming Treat right at the airport.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The 2012 Starbucks Christmas Food Items

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Want to know what Christmas goodies are available at Starbucks already? We got a sampling of them recently. Here they are!

New Items

Chocolate Cake made with Splenda (slice-PhP 150, whole-PhP 1,650)
A diabetic chocolate lover's dream come true, the Chocolate Cake made with Splenda is going to be a popular, sugar-free dessert item for sure. Several layers of sugar-free chocolate sponge cake is filled with sugar-free chocolate cream filling, iced with chocolate ganache and topped off with a dark chocolate garnish.

Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake with Nestle Crunch (slice-PhP 140, whole-PhP 1,450)

Cheesecake lovers, this is a must try for you. The Chocolate Truffle Cheesecake with Nestle Crunch melts in your mouth just like chocolate truffle is the base filling, topped with lots of chopped Nestle Crunch chocolate (one of my favorite kinds of chocolate!!!).

Dark Cherry Silvana (PhP 95)

Much like a regular butter silvana, the Dark Cherry Silvana is made of creamy chocolate butter cream icing but with a twist. It is topped with bits of chopped maraschino cherries in between crunchy meringue layers, glazed with Belgian chocolate and topped with grated chocolate shavings. A maraschio cherry finishes off the top for accent.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Why the 2013 Starbucks Planner deserves a second look

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Over the years of seeing my planner-loving daughter collect her Starbucks planners, I've become familiar with the format. Most years, they were really targeted for the very young ones because of the artistic illustrations that covered the pages, the vivid colors, the variety of planner covers and the overall look and feel of it.

But I was pleasantly surprised when the 2013 Starbucks Planners launched with a different look. It looks like Starbucks just may get the best of both worlds (their very young fans and the young ONCE) because next year's planners have some pretty cool features.

Here are some of the 2013 planner's neat items that make it a collectible for the yuppie, the teeners and even prime time women like me:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Shop during Black Friday from the Philippines with Globe GCASH and American Express

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Black Friday in the United States (that's this November 23!) is always a long-awaited shopping spree day after Thanksgiving when huge gadgets, appliances and just above everything drops heftily. It is not uncommon to see long lines of people outside stores at dawn waiting for the shops to open. And even more people visit online shopping sites to avail of the huge discounts available. Of course, one has to be in the United States to avail of all these and those of us here in the Philippines have been left pretty much to ourselves to ogle and be envious of those who could get their hands on the items of their dreams for so much less.

Well, if Globe and American Express were to be asked now, they'd probably yell in unison, "Not anymore!"

They've come up with something that will allow you to buy from Best Buy, K-Mart, Target, Amazon and more this coming Black Friday -- the GCASH American Express Virtual Card!

"With the GCASH American Express Virtual Card, you simply need your GCASH wallet to pay for your purchases even if you don’t have a credit card. And what is good about the Virtual Card is that even if most US online sites only deliver within the US you don’t have to worry how to get the goods delivered to the Philippines. We provide you with a personalized US address where your goods can be delivered and from there, you can have them shipped to the Philippines right to your doorstep at very low shipping rates,” said Paolo Baltao, President of G-Xchange, Inc. (GXI), a fully-owned subsidiary of Globe Telecom and operator of GCASH.

Here's how:

1. Register your GCASH wallet and email address online at

2. Once your account has been validated, you will immediately receive your virtual card number, your personalized US shipping address, and other pertinent information via email so you can already start shopping.

3. Just remember that you need to have enough balance in your GCASH wallet for the transaction to push through. Converting cash to GCASH is FREE at over 7,000 GCASH outlets nationwide.

4. First-time subscribers get a one month free trial. After the trial, subscribers can continue with the subscription by paying as low as P250 per year via GCASH or have it charged to their postpaid bill. Monthly and semi-annual subscriptions are also available.

More details on this service are available HERE.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Amway Home: Going Even More Green

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For some time now, I have been making the slow move to greener and more environment-friendly cleaners. Those which I found too strong but still useful, I donated to a government hospital.

When I received an invitation to learn more about Amway Home - Amway's line of home cleaners which were made better for the environment - I readily went to see what it was all about.

First, meet Dr. Phil Sliva

Dr. Phil Sliva of Amway was in town to explain the improved line of Amway Home. Dr. Sliva is Amway's Senior Research Scientist and Chemist for the Home Care Product Development group so he should know what he is talking about. He is a member of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Oil Chemists Society, and the ACS Green Chemistry Institute Formulator Round Table. His Amway team is responsible for the BioQuest Formula found in many Amway products including its popular LOC Multi-Purpose Cleaner (formerly Frisk).

Dr. Phil Sliva

Apparently, Amway already had a biodegradable cleaner as far back as the 1950s -- Frisk. It eventually became LOC which stood for Liquid Organic Cleaner or Liquid Organic Compound. During those days, no one was really that concerned about biodegradable features. Today, we are becoming more concerned that toxic chemicals found in commercial cleaning products are flushed down our drains and end up in rivers where they affect the environment. So even back then, taking care of the environment was already in Amway's mind.

The Bioquest Formula

On every Amway product, you will see a seal that says "BioQuest formula". That seal means 4 things: Concentrated (less waste, less water, less energy), Biodegradable, Dermatologist Tested (gentle on any skin type) and Derived from natural sources (improved formulas made with more ingredients from nature such as coconut-based surfactants and cleaning agents, naturally-produced organic acids, and fragrances derived from natural essential oils).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fighting the Onset of Menopause

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A few years back, a friend and I were swapping girl talk and we happened to talk about symptoms women go through when they hit their 40s and 50s. There’s the dreaded hot flashes, moodiness, osteoporosis risk, to take hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or not, and many other things that perimenopausal and menopausal phases bring.

That was when she first told me she was taking Evening Primrose Oil. Of course, at that time, I thought it was just one of those numerous health supplements you find in health stores. I was just too overwhelmed with the number of choices available that I chose not to choose.

If you still don’t know, I am already at that stage of my life where I am supposed to experience the usual symptoms besetting an aging woman to be thrown at me. But I felt that instead of just “bearing and grinning” this whole phase, I could go and do something about it.

It began when I discovered the benefits of yoga. I really went into it at first more for the exercise and mind-body discipline but what was amazing was that the beginnings of my hot flush episodes suddenly disappeared. And my monthly period which began skipping suddenly turned regular again. Intervention was possible!

This time, you can again call it providential that I was asked if I could sample a Health Express product. Lo and behold, it turned out to be the evening primrose oil my friend was talking about! I was sent a month’s supply of evening primrose oil and as of this writing, it's been close to a month already that I've been taking this supplement. During this period, I have had time to read up on what evening primrose oil is really all about so let me share what I’ve learned with you.

Evening Primrose Oil, 50 500 mg softgels, PhP 325
(photo from Health Express website)

What is Evening Primrose Oil?

It’s the oil derived from the crushed seeds of the evening primrose plant which can be found in America and Canada as well as in other areas worldwide where there is a mild to moderate climate. The plant produces beautiful flowers and can reach up to a height of 8 feet. Most gardeners actually classify this plant as a weed.

The oil gathered is rich in omega-6, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and Cis-linoleic acid (LA) which have healing properties. This is important because our bodies are unable to produce omega-6 fatty acids and must get this essential compound from external sources.

Based on some of my readings online, I have seen some benefits and uses attributed to evening primrose oil including (not a comprehensive listing):
  • Absorption of insulin
  • Inflammation, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Women’s health conditions such as PMS, breast soreness during the menstrual period, and menopausal symptoms like hot flushes
  • Reduce symptoms of skin disorders such as eczema, acne and psoriasis and reduces sebum production which is responsible for acne and lesions
  • Osteoporosis, when combined with calcium and fish oils
  • Potential prevention of heart disease and some types of cancer
  • Prevent nerve damage attributable to diabetes
  • Treatments for infertility, inflammation and cholesterol levels

I have been following the dosage specified in the bottle of evening primrose oil I was given, which is one 500mg softgel, three times a day, taken with meals. The directions said I could take up to 6 softgels a day but I decided to stick with the minimum dosage as maintenance dose.

The timing of taking evening primrose oil is just right because this past month, my blogging activities have spiked to the point that my yoga practice has become erratic. For a while, I was afraid that hot flushes would come back with a vengeance because it did when I stopped a few years ago to do part-time consulting work. But after almost a month of taking the evening primrose oil -- surprise, surprise. No hot flushes! And my body did not have any adverse reaction to taking it (which confirms my readings that this supplement is generally well tolerated by most people).

Of course, I will have a better gauge of other benefits of evening primrose oil as I continue to use it beyond just one month. But for women who are approaching their prime and are already considering how to combat the effects of menopause, rethink before you go into hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I opted not to take HRT because of the risks of breast cancer and instead, am addressing the risk of non-HRT treatment (i.e. osteoporosis) via yoga, calcium-rich food and herbal supplements like evening primrose oil.

Like all medications, it is always prudent to consult your doctor. Pregnant, breastfeeding women as well as those with bleeding disorders or those about to undergo surgery must ask their doctor before taking evening primrose oil.

You can get your supply of evening primrose oil from Health Express.

Choose to become a Health Express Card Platinum member for an annual membership of P450 and you are entitled to 20% discount on all regular products and 15% discount on all Pascual products. You will also receive monthly newsletter updates and health tips.
Health Express is on the web –

Follow them on Twitter:
Check their Website:

Their hotline customer service nos.: (02) 892-7978/ (02) 846-9364
Go to any of the following Health Express store locations:


Makati City:
   2/F, Glorietta 3, Ayala Ave., Tel 892-7978
   Robinsons Supermarket, M. Adriato St., Ermita, Tel 523-4711
Muntinlupa City:
   Makati Supermarket, Alabang Town Center, Tel 842-4332
   3013 L-3, Festival Supermall, Tel 850-4069
Quezon City:
   Stall F01, Shopwise Don Antonio, Commonwealth Ave., Tel 931-8853
   Level 2 #0214, Gateway Mall, Araneta Center, Cubao, Tel 911-4763
   Eastwood City Walk 2, Bagumbayan, Tel 687-3799
San Juan City:
   Unit S-1030, Ground Floor, Shoppesville Arcade, Greenhills Shopping Center, Tel 571-5719


   Robinsons Supermarket, Lacson St., Mandalagan, Bacolod City, Tel (034) 441-1000
   Stall 215 2nd Level, Ayala Center, Cebu City, Tel (032) 231-6575
   2103 A Northwing SM City, Cebu City, Tel (032) 236-6486
   Lower Ground Level, Gaisano Mall, Davao City, Tel (082) 297-6528
   Level 2, Robinsons Big R Supercenter, Cagayan de Oro City, Tel (088) 852-0400

Reference Sites:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friendships span a lifetime under the sun

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It is not the number of friends that you have; it is the quality of the friendships.

This is a beautiful lesson in life that I have picked up after looking back at the friendships I have had for decades. Some friends come and go -- acquaintances, childhood friends, classmates, officemates, sports buddies, and other friend connections. These are the ones you meet along the way as you grow up. During periods of your life, friendships with them can be strong. But as you move to another phase of life, they somehow get disconnected from you and fade away. They are there only for a season or two.

But if you really think about it, there is a special class of friends whose connection to you knows no bounds - beyond space or time. These are the friends that come into life, sometimes on purpose, others by accident, and even rarer, by destiny. But the difference is that they make such a mark in your life and stay there, regardless of whether they are physically near you or distanced from you by miles or circumstance.

I call them my soul friends.

I don't have many soul friends and I prefer it that way because I want to cherish the quality of their precious friendships. The circumstances under which I met each of them are in themselves quite serendipitous because it is as though the universe conspired to weave them into my life. As I look back now, I know with certainty that they were meant to come into my life at that particular point in time and even now, as they continue to bless my life with their presence, I keep thinking how lucky I am to have friends who stick by you through thick or thin; don't mince words when they need to ground you; support and pull you when you fall down; act as your sounding board, shoulder to cry on, and stress deflector when you need them; don't judge you; and basically are just there at the right time and moment. It helps that the internet connects those who are far from me.

Sun Life Financial recently sought the skills of 5 renowned film directors in the country to produce Sun Shorts, film clips that are not more than 5 minutes long each. My previous post on that is HERE. These videos can now be found on YouTube and each one, while different, all portray how life is so much brighter under the sun.

The video that I was asked to view and write about focuses particularly on friendships like those I wrote about above. Sun Dance, a film brief by Jerrold Tarog, is a celebration of friendships won and kept and reminds us how important it is to keep those friendships alive and vibrant. Sun Dance features the lead girl (played by Ina Feleo) whose two friends always caught their accident-prone friend and saved her on more than one occasion from harm. As you watch this film short, you will see how these 3 friends stuck together and were there for each other through different circumstances including a heartache. The whole film is done in dance, which really interested me because of my ballet experience. And Ina Feleo is such a natural dancer -- just right for this film!

Who makes your life brighter under the sun?

Watch the video below. I think it will make you remember all the special people in your own life who have been there for you through good times and bad - family, friends, mentors...

SUN DANCE (Director's Cut) from Jerrold Tarog on Vimeo.

Even the words in the film resonate so strongly with the meaning of friendship:

I am fragile
I am accident prone
But you are my guide
I am never alone
When I stumble
When I miss a beat
You pull me up
Till I’m back on my feet
At times I push you away
When my mind’s occupied
But when I need you
You are there by my side
Whatever the weather
in triumph or tragedy
we stick together
like words and melody
when hope seems out of sight
you are a true friend
your love is my light
we’re in this together
for the long run
with you, life is brighter
under the sun

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sun Life Financial pioneered life insurance in the Philippines in 1895. In 2011 it was ranked the #1 insurer in the country based on total premiums of P14-B. If there's another friend that Filipinos can consider, it's Sun Life, whose robust role in the financial services industry is coupled with its team of advisors who are not just there to give financial advice but can also be counted on to "bring the check", so to speak, when times turn for the worse.

To know how life can be even brighter, visit Sun Life's website at still have a chance to be chosen as a winner in Sun Life's Fly to Singapore promo. Click HERE for the mechanics/details.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

My Lock&Lock Day

My water bottles, kids' snack boxes and kitchen containers are all Lock&Lock. Not since Tupperware invaded my home have I loved another brand this much. The design of the water bottles are perfect because the grooves allow me to grasp pitchers without it slipping, even with wet hands. The various containers don't just lock down on 2 opposite sides but on all 4 sides, making it virtually airtight and spill-proof.

So when Michelle told me there was a Lock&Lock event, my initial reaction was "There is an outlet aside from the malls where I can buy them???" Happy, happy, joy, joy! There indeed was!

Why do I pay particular attention to the kind of plastics brands I use? Safety. We know that there are more expensive plastics versus much cheaper ones. The cheaper ones are fine for storing non-edible items. But when it comes to storing food, I am very particular. Certain plastics are likely to leak chemicals into food. Lock&Lock products are made of eco-friendly PP and are free of Bisphenol A (more commonly called BPA), an endocrine disruptor.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Amanda, Loving Life: a lifestyle show celebrating motherhood and womanhood

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I've always known Amanda Griffin to be a popular VJ, host and supermodel but she disappeared from the celebrity scene some time back. At that time, it seemed that her face could be seen in almost every major event, show or happening around town. Then she suddenly disappeared from the scene.

Recently I saw her at an event, very pregnant, but still so gorgeous. Apparently, when she left the limelight, Amanda settled in Hong Kong with her husband David Jacob and their 2-year old son, Kieran. The once popular and sought-after, multi-talented celebrity had changed all her hats for motherhood.

Looking at her blooming while in that very delicate state, I conclude that Amanda really took on her new role like fish takes to water and became a hands-on mother. Being an entrepreneur at heart, Amanda used all her knowledge and resources and poured these into her very own website, Glam-O-Mamas (, which became an online resource guide for young, newbie mothers.

But....she's back!!!

Amanda has become the perfect host for a new lifestyle show where she shares her own personal journey, views and tips on balancing her role as mother, wife, career woman and modern urban dweller. She now hosts a show every Sunday, 7:30 PM on the Lifestyle Network.

Watch this teaser video:

Catch Amanda on the Lifestyle Network weekly and learn all about loving life...

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Figaro's Avalanche of Flavors

1 comment:
Figaro, the first Filipino coffee company, recently introduced us to an avalanche (yes, that many) flavors of iced coffee and cakes. These yummy beverages are available already in any of Figaro's outlets.

Each of these iced coffee variants costs PhP 130 for the 16 oz. and PhP 150 for the 20 oz.

White Chocolate Mocha Frost
White chocolate mocha topped with whipped cream makes up this beverage. Creamy but not too sweet. Of the four variants I tried, this is the least sweet and actually a bit bland for my taste. Those watching their sugar intake may want to go for this one.

Choco Chip Java Frost
This was my preferred variant because I'm such a chocolate-y person and the chocolate flavoring plus the choco chips just got me. I like the experience of sipping the chocolate while crunching down on those choco chips.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cognizant opens in Ortigas Center

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When people hear the term "business process outsourcing" or BPO, they immediately think of call centers. While it's true that the Philippine call center has now overtaken that of India, we can be proud of the fact that we have gone beyond these services alone.

Just recently, I attended the launch of the SECOND delivery center of Cognizant, a NASDAQ-listed company with headquarters in New Jersey, USA, and is one of the leading providers of IT, consulting and BPO services. The center, located in the IT-BPO services hub in Ortigas Center, was designed to house as many as 1,000 professionals. These professionals  will be providing applications, IT infrastructure and business processing services to global clients in different industries: financial industry, healthcare, manufacturing and logistics, retail, hospitality, telecommunications and consumer goods industries.

Cognizant executives include Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan (Vice Chairman), second from left,
and Mr. Prabhakar Bisen, Country Head, third from left

Cognizant started operations in December 2009 in McKinley Hill with 40 people. Their expansion into the Ortigas Center signifies a very positive outlook in the BPO industry. Asked why they chose to set up their second delivery center in Ortigas, Mr. Prabhakar Bisen, Country Head of Cognizant Philippines said, "We are pleased with our experience and growth in the Philippines and chose Pasig City to expand our footprint in the country because of its high-quality talent, sound infrastructure, good connectivity and a great business environment."

During the Q&A portion, I asked Cognizant if all their work force were office-based. My rationale for the question was my firm belief that a good number of well-educated and experienced women (and possibly, men) have opted to leave the workforce to attend to family needs and this is an untapped market for BPOs, given the breadth of these people's backgrounds. If this group of people can be tapped by BPOs and allowed to work from home, it could be a potential new asset for the sunrise industry.

Mr. Lakshmi Narayanan, Vice Chairman of Cognizant, acknowledged this fact and I was happy to note that he felt this was definitely something to consider in the future. Part of the issues preventing this from happening at the moment are the conditions of telecom infrastructure as well as ensuring that customer service quality is not affected or impaired from a work-from-home arrangement.

Cognizant is still on the lookout for people wanting to join their organization in Ortigas Center. If you're interested in a future with Cognizant, check them out at their Ortigas location.

Hanston Square Bldg, San Miguel Avenue, Pasig City
Follow Cognizant on Twitter: @Cognizant

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Samsung's Concept Store at Robinsons Magnolia

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My very first trek to the newly opened Robinsons Magnolia mall in Quezon City was for the launch of Samsung's concept store.

With Odette Velarde of Samsung and friend Noemi Dado at the launch

Celebrities at the ribbon cutting ceremony

A Peek inside the Concept Store

The Samsung Concept Store is located on the al fresco area of the mall on the 3rd floor. At first, Noemi and I got lost and thought the Samsung store inside the mall on the same level was it. Apparently that one was just for mobile phones.

Upon entering the store, we found that it contained all the appliances one would need for the home. We saw the inverter airconditioners, washing machines and refrigerators which we had previously seen up close in another event. My post on that is HERE.

But the star of the event on that launch was Samsung's series of Smart TVs for 2012.

The Samsung plasma TV sets

These TV product offerings center around 3 'Smart' pillars: Smart Interaction, Smart Content and Smart Evolution.

Smart Interaction

Why even use a remote? Many times, I get frustrated looking for the remote especially when someone does not put it back in its place. With the Smart Interaction technology, the TV set itself detects your hand. There are no more boundaries between the TV screen and you. Motion Control, Voice Control and Face Recognition technology let you turn the TV on or off, select apps to activate, or search and select web content -- all without having to use a remote.

Playing Angry Birds with hand

Celebrity using hands to play Angry Birds

Smart Content

While Samsung's Smart TVs have already been providing premium content through over 1,500 apps worldwide, in 2012 it is taking that a step further by providing a Smart Hub, a simple user interface (UI) in full HD. Through AllShare Play, Samsung allows content to be pulled in from a Smart TV or mobile device or manually pushed out to the cloud, regardless of a user's location.

Smart Evolution

Samsung is proud to be the only electronics company worldwide to offer Smart Evolution. This feature is available on select Samsung Smart TVs and really addresses the obsolescence issue. Many times, we buy a TV only for a new model and feature to come out soon after. With the Smart Evolution feature, the select TV sets have a Samsung Evolution Kit. A simple slot-in at the back lets consumers keep up with newer introductions of both hardware and software without the need to go out and bu a new TV set. You can potentially keep up-to-date by just "slotting in" the new features using Samsung's proprietary system-on-chip technology. That is just so cost-effective!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Barista for a Night with Starbucks Refreshers...and more

1 comment:
What happens when a blogger is turned into a barista for one night?

She is given a Starbucks cap, an apron and her very own barista badge, that's what!

And that's exactly what I got one Starbucks-y night when we were introduced to the latest Starbucks Refreshers as well as to eight (8) new food offerings.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's begin with the beverages.

Starbucks Refreshers

Starbucks is bringing in a new form of beverages. One is called Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refreshers while the other is Cool Lime Starbucks Refreshers.

Very Berry Hibiscus Starbucks Refreshers Beverage
(Tall-PhP115, Grande-PhP125, Venti-PhP135)

Cool Lime Starbucks Refreshers Beverage
(Tall-PhP115, Grande-PhP125, Venti-PhP135)

At first, I thought: Oh they're introducing juices now in the coffeeshop? But as it turns out, the Starbucks Refreshers are different from the juices in other cafes because this one is still made of COFFEE! You read that right.

Here's how it's done.

Green coffee beans

All coffee starts as a coffee cherry with a green coffee bean in the center. These beans are normally roasted to bring out the bold and distinctive coffee flavors. But in the case of Starbucks Refreshers, the caffeine natural found in 100% UNROASTED arabica coffee beans is extracted and made into a flavored beverage base that becomes the foundation of the Starbucks Refreshers

Flavored Beverage Base

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Smart's Freedom Plan: Postpaid Plan Redefined

Who wants complete freedom with a postpaid plan that starts from ZERO, has no monthly fees, has no lock-in period and does not require the presentation of documents before you can be given a subscriber line?

That's what Smart is offering to prepaid subscribers now with its Freedom Plan.

My Smart Freedom Plan sim

For the next few months, I will be testing out this plan.

The facts: I'm a prepaid subscriber on both Globe and Smart (and I used to be one with Sun too). Many friends ask me why I have stayed prepaid all these years although I was a postpaid subscriber when I was still fully employed. I tell them that with prepaid, I can monitor my mobile spending based on how much I load (very important for one with no full-time job and is on a tight budget). I have the freedom to choose what telco and even what plan I will enroll in from day to day (I use my home wifi most times and only need internet when I am mobile). I am free of bill shock risk. When they tell me that postpaid subscribers get a free phone, I just shrug and tell them that the phone I want usually comes with a monthly plan (which is too inflexible for what I need) so I'd rather just buy the phone I really want and use a prepaid sim.

I really enjoy my prepaid freedom and won't just give it up and be tied to a network or postpaid plan unless I enjoy the same or better flexibility I now enjoy as a prepaid mobile user.

So when Smart invited me to try out their Freedom Plan, I agreed to give it a test run. Here's what the Freedom Plan is all about.

Key Features

* No fixed monthly fees (you start from ZERO)
* No lock-in period (you just get the SIM. No phones are bundled with the plan.)
* No documents to submit if you stay within the default credit limit
* No bill shock - Each SIM is ready with a P600 credit limit. You can mix/match the plan's  "postpaid buckets" for the month until you reach P600.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Happyplus Card: Jollibee's customer loyalty program and BPI's cashless payment combined

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Do you sometimes wish that paying at fastfood outlets would be more convenient? It is now!

The popularity of the country's largest restaurant chain, Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), and the cashless payment innovation of the country's leading commercial bank, Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), saw the birth of a unique customer loyalty program - the happyplus card -- that not only rewards customers of its participating food establishments but also makes payments painless through cashless payment. In addition, customers get a chance to win monthly raffle cash prizes.

JFC Chairman and CEO Tony Tan Caktiong and BPI President Aurelio Montinola inked the agreement between the two corporations and introduced the card to the public.

What is the Happyplus Card and how does it work?

It is a customer loyalty program card. In a few words, LOAD UP, BUY, TAP TO PAY. That simple!

This is how it works.

1. Buy the membership kit from the cashier counter in any Jollibee, Greenwich, Chowking, Red Ribbon and soon, Mang Inasal.
2. Top up (load) the card. Minimum load is P100 and can be increased in increments of P100 up to a maximum of P10,000.
3. Use your happyplus card in any of the establishments above. You earn one (1) happyplus point for every P50 purchase. Each happyplus point is equal to P1 which you can accumulate and use down the road to buy even more food.
4. Pay for your purchase just by tapping the card (magnetic strip facing device) on the cashless payment card reader (see photo below).

Cashless payment card reader

This same card reader can display your purse and point balance every time you load, make a purchase or just make an inquiry.

BPI's Montinola making a purchase using the Happyplus Card

Monthly Raffle Prizes

You also earn raffle entries when you load up the card. Each time you load, you earn entries as follows:

P100 = 1 raffle entry
P300 = 5 raffle entries
P500 = 10 raffle entries
P1,000 = 25 raffle entries

The happyplus card is valid for three (3) years from date of application and can be easily renewed at any of the JFC-affiliated establishments. 

To register online for the happyplus card, go to

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Asian Frappuccino Blended Beverages and more at Starbucks

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In my last Starbucks event we were asked to guess what the upcoming Asian Frappuccino blended beverages would be. Many guesses later, it's finally here -- the Starbucks' versions of the now popular milk teas in the country - Hojicha Tea Jelly Frappuccino and the Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino.

Hojicha Tea Jelly Frappuccino

Hojicha, a kind of Japanese roasted tea, is combined with Starbucks' Tazo Earl Grey tea-infused jelly in the Hojicha Tea Jelly Frappuccino. You get to taste the nutty and toasty hojicha i addition to the earl grey jelly bits.

Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino

The Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino is a blend of whole kernels of red azuki beans and matcha. Matcha is one of the best green tea forms in Japan and is finely milled so that you get that matcha flavor together with the sweetness of the azuki beans.

Both frappuccinos go for PhP 155 (tall), PhP 165 (Grande) and PhP 175 (Venti).

And that's not all. Starbucks introduces a line of new food items - their second new batch for 2012.

Green Tea and Berry Cheesecake (PhP 140)
Green Tea and Berry Cheesecake has blueberries sitting on a crispy walnut crust. It's topped with white chocolate ganache curls. My cheesecake girl is sure to go for this first.

Purple Yam Cake with Macapuno and Red Bean (PhP 110)
The Purple Yam Cake with Macapuno and Red Bean sounds like a combination of Filipino desserts. You've got 3 layers of purple yam chiffon cake with macapuno strips and red bean mixed into it. Between the layers are purple yam buttercream icing with sprinkles as an added touch on top.

Beef and Mushroom Pie (PhP 95)
Pie lovers will go for the Beef and Mushroom Pie - beef strips, sliced mushrooms, carrots and fresh mashed potatoes inside a flaky, buttery pastry crust baked to a golden brown.

Bacon and Cheese on Italian Country Bread (PhP 150)
Bacon and Cheese on Italian Country Bread is for the open-faced sandwich lovers. It's a cheesy mix of 6 cheeses: Gruyere, Emmenthal, Provolone, Mozzarella, Feta and Cheddar) mixed in with crispy bacon strips.

Chicken Parmigiana Wrap (PhP 150)
Chewy pita bread filled with chicken breast fillet, sliced eggplant and drizzled with Italian tomato sauce and grated cheese is what Chicken Parmigiana Wrap is all about.

Lastly, there's a new roast blend out. The Three Region Blend combines beans from three coffee-growing regions: Latin America, Africa/Arabia and Asia Pacific. It's herbal, lemon and current notes all in one.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Cignal brings the clarity of satellite digital transmission to your TV

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The age of digital TV is upon us and in the Philippines, the second largest and fastest-growing pay-TV provider, Cignal, is in the forefront of digital transmission via satellite, guaranteeing the widest coverage and the clearest TV signals for the best viewing experience available.

Analog vs Digital

Analog TV transmission was always a victim of the elements. Remember the days of snow-like interference on your TV sets? Well, I'm old enough to remember that. Over the decades, that improved with the introduction of cable TV. TV signals became so much clearer. Gone was the snowy look. But because the TV signals still traveled through the cables from the cable provider's transmission center to homes, bad weather always meant intermittent disruptions of signal and not-so-clear reception.

Cignal showed us a diagram of how their transmission works, using the power of satellites. From the content providers, a satellite downloads the TV programs to Cignal's Uplink Center. From there, it is beamed again to a satellite which then transmits the signals to the satellite dishes in subscribers' homes.

What is the advantage of digital transmission?

* Coverage is nationwide, including remote locations - Unlike signals transmitted by cable, which limits the geographical accessibility by subscribers in very remote locations, Cignal's transmission can penetrate non-cabled areas, coastal waters and mountain regions. 

* Signal is not weather-dependent - Static interference and disruptions occur in cabled transmission. Water can seep in, cables can be downed, etc. But satellite transmission continues even in bad weather, ensuring continuing service to subscribers.

Here's a slide that Cignal showed us illustrating more advantages.

So far, Cignal has the following High Definition (HD) channels out of about 64 channels (including Standard Definition or SD channels) currently listed on their flyer.

Cignal offers both postpaid and prepaid plans as follows:


1. Plan 590 - 44 digital channels (40 SD, 4 HD)
2. Plan 990 - 53 digital channels (45 SD, 8 HD)
3. Plan 1290 - 60 digital channels (48 SD, 12 HD)
4. Plan 1590 - 64 digital channels (49 SD, 15 HD)


1. Pack 250 - 14 digital channels
2. Pack 390 - 24 digital channels
3. Pack 590 - 44 digital channels (40 SD, 4 HD)

For special events, they also have Pay-Per-View options.

For more details, visit their site at Or call 244-6251 (Cignal 1).

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sun Shorts: A Preview from Sun Life

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Consider this a heads-up!

Beginning July 25, 2012, Sun Life Financial and five Filipino filmmakers will showcase five (5) short films. The series is the Philippines' installment of a regional film project called Experience the Sun, a collaboration of Sun Life Financial and film makers in Hong Kong, Indonesia and the Philippines. The Philippine installment, entitled SUN SHORTS, features the way the chosen five filmmakers interpret how life is brighter under the Sun.

The filmmakers involved in Sun Shorts

I was fortunate to sit beside Sun Life's lady President & CEO, Riza Mantaring. Actually, I saw her featured by Ces Drilon in Pipol. At that time, I was already very impressed by her achievements. At the event, I got to talk for some time with her.

Riza Mantaring, Sun Life President & CEO

I may be tooting the female psyche but having a woman at the helm oftentimes makes a difference in the creativity of an organization. Sun Life, as far as I know, is the first insurance company to break out of the conservative and traditional mold to try a bold and different venture like going into digital media for their campaigns.

Beginning July 25, 2012 and every few weeks after that, one Sun Shorts film (about 5 minutes max) will be featured in

Here's a sneak peek (photos and teaser captions, in quotes, taken from Sun Life's website).


Unitel’s veteran producer-storyteller Jun Reyes (The Last Journey of Ninoy, Crying Ladies) makes a trip down memory lane to tackle a love that transcends the test of time and shines brightly amidst the darkness of war in '1945'."

Life in a Day

"Most sought-after commercial director Jolly Feliciano departs from light-hearted themes to posit a lifetime of possibilities thru the eyes of a sick young boy whose hope burns brightly as the sun in 'Life in a Day'."

Oh My Goth!

"Director-playwright Chris Martinez (Here Comes the Bride, Kimmy Dora, 100) takes on the humorous side of the generational divide as an old woman’s faith and penchant for superstisions clashes with a young man’s cool confidence in a future well planned in 'Oh My Goth!'."

The Debt

"Up and coming filmmaker Nic Reyes follows the travails of a young man whose penchant for “quick fixes” led him into tight-hole situation and finds enlightenment and redemption from a surprising character in the action-packed 'The Debt'."

Sun Dance

"Multifarious artist Jerrold Tarog (Senior Year, Nino, Shake Rattle and Roll, Aswang) lets his “Sun Dance” pump up the beat of friendship that empowers three young women to tackle life’s ebbs and flows with grace and elegance. These shorts show how much friends bring the brightness of sun into our lives."

Sun Shorts Promo

Everyone who watches Sun Shorts films online get a chance to win a trip to San Francisco, USA. All you need to do is like the video and post a comment.

Sun shorts digital films are produced by Sun Life Financial Philippines in collaboration with Unitel Pictures and supported by Star Magic, Cinema One and Sun Life Foundation. More details may be found at