Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lia's Cakes in Season

Lia's Cakes in Season and a slice of Avocado CakeWith the summer heat in full blast, fruits are fast becoming the food and beverage of choice for chilling out. There are fruit shakes, fruit-flavored ice cream, fruit-based frozen yogurt… so why not fruit cakes? And by that, we don’t mean those loaves you recycle during Christmas.

“We really want to use and highlight fruits in everything we serve,” said Carlo Carlos, owner of Lia’s Cakes in Season.

Lia’s Cakes in Season began as a college thesis for Carlo. He was required to set up a business that would make a profit in order to pass the course. Carlo turned to his mom, Lia, and asked for permission to use his lola’s Avocado Cake recipe as the basis for his business. His mom agreed and thus Lia’s Cakes in Season was born.

From the proverbial Avocado Cake Carlo grew up with, Lia’s Cakes in Season has expanded the roster to include more than fifteen other fruit-based cakes which you can order by the slice or as a whole. While the most popular variant is still the classic Avocado Cake (P670 whole / P85 slice), other bestsellers also include the Mango Walnut (P380 whole / P50 slice), Banana Caramel (P390 whole / P50 slice), and the Chocolate Avocado (P580 whole / P75 slice). If you’re trying to go low on sugar, go for the Sugarfree Avocado Cake (P760 whole / P95 slice) — just make sure you order it a day in advance. Want something out of the ordinary? Have a slice of the incredibly aromatic Calamansi Tea Cake (P300 whole / P40 slice), which Carlo claims goes perfectly with a cup of piping hot tea. “My mom really loves to bake,” he shared. “We’re always collaborating to develop new flavors and new food products. We plan to expand our line to cover breads soon.”

Lia's Cakes in Season's Avocado CakeOne look at a slice of Lia’s Avocado Cake will tell you that it scrimping is not part of their vocabulary. The cake is generously topped with chopped pistachio nuts and avocado bits. The rich and creamy frosting tastes like the avocado shakes we’d make at home by blending avocadoes together with ice and condensed milk. The incredibly light chiffon layers possess the subtle scent and flavor of calamansi zest. Every mouthful is an explosion of texture and flavors that could very well send you off to cake nirvana. “The Avocado Cake is actually best served slightly warm,” says Carlo. “When someone orders a slice in the shop, we take it out of the chiller and let it stand for a bit so that the frosting will soften and the avocado taste can be fully savored.”

Lia's Cakes in Season's Chocobanana IndulgenceLia’s Cakes in Season can whip up made-to-order specialty cakes such as Langka Cheesecake (P1,380), Durian Cake (P1,350), Pineapple Cake (P530), and Burnt Almond Cake (P650) — but like in the case of the Sugarfree Avocado Cake, you would have to place your order at least a day before.

But what if a certain fruit is out of season?

“The seasonality of the fruits don’t really affect our cake production. Although it is admittedly more challenging to source fruits that are out of season, we have suppliers from as far as Mindanao who have been able to deliver,” Carlo clarified. “Our whole line of cakes are available all year round.”

Aside from cakes, Lia’s also offers other sweet and savory treats such as Avocado Silvanas (P220 for a box of 6), Chicken or Cheesy Mushroom Empanadas (P65/pc), Chocolate Chip Cookies (P155 for a pack of 4), and Fruity Polvoron (P100 for a box of 12). For the Fruity Polvoron, Lia’s spices up the traditional Filipino treat by adding bits of glazed fruits in the mix — a sure hit with balikbayans looking for the perfect pasalubong or sweet tooths hankering for new, quality baked goods.

Lia’s Cakes in Season (flagship store)
2/F Bellagio Square, Tomas Morato cor. Scout Fuentebella, Quezon City
377-3003

Lia's Cakes in Season
Unit 215 Royale Place, Don Antonio Drive, Quezon City
932-3134

Lia's Cakes in Season
Stall 29 Delicacies Village, Tiendesitas, Frontera Verde, Pasig City
377-4363

For more information, visit http://liascakesinseason.multiply.com/

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Goodbye Marie Claire... Hello Women's Health!

Marie Claire Philippines magazine Of all the women's magazines Summit Media has published, Marie Claire is probably the title I bought the most. MC has intelligence, wit, and class -- I love reading the insightful articles and features. Besides, the editor-in-chief Ms. Myrza Sison is my idol in the magazine world.

I just got off the phone with Summit Media's subscription department and here's the bad news: Marie Claire Philippines' April 2009 issue will be its last. An insider said that MC is just not selling as well as Cosmopolitan or Preview.

I wonder what other women's magazine I can get to fill MC's place...

Women's Health Philippines magazineIn the meantime, Summit Media is coming out with a new women's title in the same month we bid goodbye to Marie Claire. Say hello to Women's Health Magazine, the female counterpart of Men's Health.

Fil-Am actress Sonya Balmores is Women's Health's teaser cover girl. I'm familiar with her because I watched her TV series "Beyond the Break" on Skycable's Star World Channel and won an all-expense paid trip to Boracay for doing so! She played one of the lead characters, a surfer named Kai Kealoha.

Just looking at the cover feature for Flat Sexy Abs makes me want to go out and grab a copy already! KC Concepcion graces the cover of the first issue of Women's Health Philippines! :D

A step-by-step guide to Japan tourist visa application in the Philippines

A lot of things have changed since I first applied for a Japan tourist visa back in 2006. Gone are the days of super long lines outside the Embassy of Japan. These days personal appearance isn't required, all you have to do is secure the complete requirements, submit through an accredited agency, and you're good to go.

1. Go to http://www.ph.emb-japan.go.jp/visiting/new/visa/tourism.htm and check the requirements.

2. Now let's go through the requirements:
  • Philippine Passport - This should be in no less than PERFECT condition. My sister-in-law's passport had this tiny little slit (tear) just a few mm in length near her photo and the Japanese Embassy told her that her passport is considered tampered. She was told to get a new passport before applying again.
  • Visa Application Form - You can either print this out yourself or get it from the Embassy of Japan's entrance. It is also available from accredited agencies. Should you choose to print it yourself, download it HERE.
  • Photo - 4.5 x 4.5 cm, white background. Again, they are very strict with the size so better make sure whichever establishment is taking your photo knows what they are doing. You can't wear hats, headbands, and big fancy hair ornaments that can be considered distracting. For the specific photo requirements, check HERE.
  • Birth Certificate - Must be an original NSO-certified document, and must have been issued within a time frame of one year.
  • Marriage Certificate - To be submitted only if you are married. Again, must be an original NSO-certified document issued within a year's time.
  • Daily Schedule in Japan - In short, your itinerary. You must detail where you will be every single day of your stay there. In our case I put in all the tourist attractions that we would be visiting, hotel details, and flight details.
  • Invitation Letter from Guarantor in Japan - This is not necessary if you're just going there for sightseeing and tourist purposes. For our family vacation we didn't have an invitation letter but we got visas all the same.
  • Bank Certificate - This is a summary of all your money in the bank. Your bank will provide this for a small fee.
  • Income Tax Return - If you are self-employed, your SEC Registration and Corporate Income Tax will do -- provided you or your spouse's name is actually on the SEC registration. People with incomes they deem too small have a chance of getting denied.
*Take note that with the exception of the NSO-certified documents, everything else can be photocopies since the Embassy of Japan will NOT be returning everything you submit.

3. Choose an accredited agency from the list. That is where you will submit all these requirements. The list is HERE. I highly recommend Friendship Tours. Why? Well...
  • Their processing fee is P800 per person, which is very reasonable compared to anywhere from P1500 to P2500 if you apply at other agencies like Reli Tours or Rajah Travel.
  • They can handle ALL types of Japanese visa applications, not just tourist visas.
Friendship Tours
3/F Dusit Thani Manila
Ayala Center, Makati City
893-8180 / 893-8183
http://visa.friendshipmanila.com

4. After you submit all the requirements, your passport is the only thing that will be given back to you via courier. You should be getting it back in 3-4 working days. In our case, we applied Wednesday afternoon and got our passports back by Saturday morning. That is also when you find out whether you are granted or denied a visa.

5. For inquiries you can call the Japanese Embassy Call Center at the ff. numbers from Monday to Saturday 8am to 5pm (charge is P32/min):

For PLDT/Smart/Touchcard Subscribers 1-909-101-0011
For Globe/Innove/Touchmobile Subscribers 1-900-101-0011
For Bayantel Subscribers 1-903-101-0011

P.S. If there are any changes in the procedure please don't hesitate to let me know so I can update this accordingly. Thanks! :)

Going to the USA? Check out my US visa application guide.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My Lancome experience at Greenbelt 5!

Lancome gift certificate I won a gift certificate for a Lancôme Diagnôs Expert Skin Analysis and Facial Treatment from Marie Claire Philippines' e-mail promo last December 2008. I'm someone who has never gone to a dermatologist, and I can count the number of times I've had a facial with one hand. I really had no idea what Lancôme had in store for me.

I availed of the services at Lancôme's flagship store at Greenbelt 5. I was immediately asked to step into the lounge where the skin analysis system was located.

Lancome Skin Diagnosis SystemLancome Expert Skin AnalysisThe machine had a variety of diagnostic tools -- skin magnifiers, a wand that measured sebum, something that measured your skin's elasticity and firmness... all your data like age and skin care habits are also inputted into the computer so the analysis would be accurate.

My skin analysis resultsI got my results immediately after, and the facialist based my Express Facial Treatment on the results we got. In my case, she said we should focus on dark spots and anti-aging. Although I didn't have dark spots now, according to the computer I could have them a few years from now so what we'd have to take preventive measures. She got the Lancôme products that matched my skin's needs so she could use them for the treatment.

I was ushered to the treatment room, which was an oval room with a facial bed. I changed into a robe so my clothes wouldn't get wet. The facialist changed the room lights to this cool green tone and there was very soothing music comprised of chirping birds and forest sounds playing in the background. It was very relaxing. She did what she called a thorough cleansing -- about 4-5 steps focused solely on cleaning your face. This was followed by toning, exfoliating, and then a mask. After the mask, there was moisturizing and then the application of products that specifically addressed my problems -- eye serum, spot eraser, and sunscreen.

Full service facials are also available at the Lancôme flagship store. Aside from what I underwent for the Express Facial Treatment, a machine equipped with a facial brush will also be used and there will be extraction of blackheads and whiteheads. All facials begin with a Diagnôs Expert Skin Analysis to determine what you need. Cost of services start at P1,900+. Call Lancôme at 7299394 for inquiries and appointments.

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My NuSkin Galvanic Spa Facial Experience!
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Win free pizzas from Pizza Hut!

Get a chance to win two (2) Family Super Supreme Pan Pizzas and 1.5 liter of Pepsi simply by registering at Pizza Hut's official website!

A raffle is conducted monthly among the registered members. The winner is announced on the site and notified via e-mail.

Register here - http://www.pizzahut.com.ph/2007/register.php

Friday, March 27, 2009

Freebies from Nestlé Chuckie!

Is your child a Chuckie Buddy? If so, get a FREE Chuckie gift pack delivered straight to your house simply by updating his/her profile at http://www.nestle.com.ph/chuckie/buddies/cbuddies_updateprofile.asp

Not a Chuckie Buddy? Fear not, registering takes less than five minutes. After you register, log out, and then click the update link I posted above to update and your Chuckie surprise will be on its way. Better hurry though because only the first 200 members to do this will get the freebies!

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Mommy's #1 Treat by Nido Fortified
Nestlé The Joy of Wellness Fair

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Martha Stewart Weddings Bridal Fair!

Summit Media presents the first ever Martha Stewart Weddings Bridal Fair this March 28-29, 2009 at the World Trade Center Tent Pavilion. Aside from a multitude of wedding suppliers showcasing their services, there will be:
  • Bridal make-up talk by Barbi Chan
  • Bridal fashion talk by Rajo Laurel
  • Bridal collection fashion show by Frederick Peralta
  • DIY tips from the Martha Stewart Philippines Team
  • ...and lots more!
Raffle prizes:
  • Northwest Airlines tickets for two to the USA
  • Wedding gown designed by Frederick Peralta
  • Dream Wedding Cake Package from Goldilocks
  • Trips for two to Cebu, Davao, and Dakak by Cebu Pacific
  • Lancome Bridal Package
  • Food & Beverage Gift Certificates from Crowne Plaza and Peninsula Manila
  • Overnight stay for two at Makati Shangrila Hotel
I swear if I weren't married this would be like the event of my dreams. How I wish there was something like this when I was preparing for my wedding!

Entrance fee is P50, but you can get in for FREE if you bring the March 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Weddings to the event or register online and get two (2) FREE passes:
http://www.summitmedia.com.ph/mswbridalfair/bridal-fair

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

FREE Krispy Kreme chocolate glazed donuts!

I saw this on a billboard along Edsa on my way back from The Fort earlier. Just go to http://www.chocolatekarnival.com, register, and get a free Krispy Kreme chocolate glazed donut for free! What's more, you can give your friends free donuts too! Yummy!

BB Gandanghari's take on morality...



This is kind of late but it's a video I took of BB Gandanghari last March 14, 2009 answering a question about morality. She shares her take on being gay, which in her view is not a sin.

Please take note that this does not reflect my own beliefs and opinions, I am merely sharing BB's views to the public. I am also not in the business of judging other people so all I can say is I hope BB will find true peace and happiness in this life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Wanted: Mommy, daddy, and baby models!


Posting for my friend Jen over at Mom Exchange:

Urgent requirement for baby-wearing mommies and daddies with babies 1 to 15 months (see photo for a sample of baby-wearing) to ramp model for a brand of baby slings.

The fashion show will be held at the Alabang Town Center Courtyard this March 29, 2009 Sunday 4-6PM. The event will be covered by Net25's TV show "Moments".

Interested parties please email jen@next9.org the following:

- Names of the models and contact details
- Photos of the interested mom, dad, and baby

Thank you and good luck!

Update: Baby age range has been modified to 1-15 months old from, the slots for the toddler age range that reaches up to 2 years old have been filled up.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The art of mapmaking... a.k.a. win a Merry Map!

Do you have a special occasion coming up? A wedding... maybe a birthday... or maybe even an event like a product launch? Normally your invites would contain a map to show guests exactly where it's happening. Something like this:

Guess what? That boring old map can actually be transformed into something so artful that you'd probably want to keep it as a memento, or use it for scrapbooking...

This is a Merry Map. The folks over at Busy Bee Projects lovingly customize each and every Merry Map to suit your personality and style. They charge P2500 as a design fee but guess what? You can win a Merry Map design of your own by joining their blogging contest! :D

Just compose a blog post about why you deserve to win a Merry Map and post the url at http://busybeeproject.blogspot.com/2009/03/win-merry-map.html

Make that event extra special with a Merry Map!

Freebies from Bigby’s Café and Restaurant!

See this tempting slice of Midnight Dream Cake (P99 / slice) from Bigby’s Café and Restaurant? You can get it for free if you find five (5) hidden coffee cups on their official website. Click HERE to play the online game and get your voucher!

Up for more of a gastronomic challenge? Order Bigby's Titanic Treat (P999), which is a dessert composed of a whopping thirty (30) scoops of ice cream, cookies, brownies, fruits, and a load of other things. If you can finish it with a friend (only one friend, mind you!) in five minutes, you get it for FREE! As of our last conversation, Bigby's General Operations Manager Sonjie Ang told me that no one in Metro Manila has achieved this feat so far.

Bigby’s Café and Restaurant is a Cagayan de Oro-originated establishment which opened its doors in Metro Manila last December 2008.

My full feature on Bigby's, as well as the rest of my food photos, can be accessed at Spot.ph - http://blogs.spot.ph/editors_blog/?p=2847

I just loooove their Strawberry Shortcake!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Top Chefs cook something up in Trinoma!

Win exclusive event passes plus the chance to meet and greet the Top Chefs themselves at Trinoma!

Take the Trinoma Top Chefs quiz HERE -- the first 10 entries will win event passes plus a meet and greet stub, the next 10 entries will win an Ayala Malls A Card, while the next 15 entries will be awarded two (2) Trinoma cinema passes!

Contest period: March 20-26, 2009.

Winners will be informed via email or text on March 27, 2009. The event will be on March 28, 2009 at the 4/F Trinoma Park.

For more details visit http://www.trinomaexperience.com

Saturday, March 21, 2009

POC presents BB Gandanghari...

I just want to share this is the 2-minute slideshow that was presented by POC during the BB Gandanghari Blogger Event last March 14, 2009 at Mag:Net Café on Bonifacio High Street.



Thanks to BB for sharing it on Facebook. :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Get FREE invites to the first BDJ Rendezvous of the year!

Do you have a Belle De Jour 2009 Planner? If so, this is your chance to score a free invitation to the first BDJ Rendezvous for 2009 this April!

The first 50 girls to submit her picture with (1) BDJ 2009 planner (2) BDJ partner brand will get an exclusive invite to the BDJ Rendezvous: Sexy Fabulous Summer on April 25, 2009! You only need to send 1 picture with 3 elements - BDJ 2009 Planner, Partner brand product/location, and YOU!

Email your submissions to ilovebdj@belledejourpowerplanner.com

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Belle de Jour Rendezvous: Fashionista Recessionista Survivor!
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

The phenomena that is BB Gandanghari!

Who hasn't heard of BB Gandanghari? Unless you live under a rock or have shunned all forms of mass media, it's virtually impossible to be unaware of BB, the artist formerly known as Rustom Padilla.

BB GandanghariPhilippine Online Chronicles, or simply POC, along with premiere Pinay mommy bloggers Noemi Dado and Dine Racoma organized the "Meet and Greet BB Gandanghari" event for bloggers held at Mag:Net Café Bonifacio High Street. I knew invitations were limited, and I consider myself fortunate for being one of those who got to attend. It turned out to be a very interesting, fun, and enlightening afternoon.

All eyes (and cameras) were on BB as her towering but lithe 5'11 frame sauntered into the small café. She boasts of an enviable 36-25-36 figure. BB was the picture of poise and grace, and she radiated so much positive vibes it was hard not to feel happy. Without further ado, Noemi and Dine opened the floor for the blogger's questions -- and I was the first person to shoot a couple at BB. As there were several of us interviewing BB, I will refer to questions asked by the others as "Other" -- and apart from my own questions they are not in chronological order.

I introduced myself and told BB that I would start with something light.

Me: "How do you feel when people say that you look like Carmina Villaroel?"

BB: (smiles) "Well... Carmina is a very beautiful person so I feel very flattered."

Me: "Thank you BB... now for something more serious. I know that you've said that Rustom is dead, but could you say that BB shares the same values as Rustom with regards to family, religion, and the like?"

BB: "Yes. I would say that BB shares the same values as Rustom because BB was born from Rustom. In terms of belief in God and family values, yes I would say that Rustom and BB are the same. Para yang si Adan at si Eba... si Eba ay hinugot mula sa tadyang ni Adan. Ganun din si BB kay Rustom, si BB ay nanggaling sa tadyang ni Rustom."

Other: "Are you still willing to play male roles in movies?"

BB: "Well if it's a good character and he happens to be male, why not? Yes, I am open to playing male characters. I mean, I've been in this business for 17 years and I think that will really test my versatility as an actor."

Other: "Do you have any plans of going under the knife?"

BB: "You know, I'm actually very comfortable with my body. I've stopped referring to myself as a man or a woman, and I consider myself simply as a human being. I have nothing against those who choose to go under the knife but at the moment I have no plans of doing so. When I was in the US, I realized that I am a lady. That was where it started. From 31 inches (I was slim for a man) my waistline became 25 inches and even I don't really know how that happened. I think it's the power of the mind. It's really all in the mind."

Other: "Has your mom accepted what you are?"

BB: "No, not yet... but we're working it out."

Other: "Who do you talk to the most about this?"

BB: "You know I found that there isn't really anyone I can talk to about this except God. I presented myself to God, that this is who I am -- simply a human being."

Other: "Do you have a lovelife?"

BB: "No, I don't at the moment... but like all human beings of course I also long to be with someone."

Other: "Have you ever thought about how things would have been had you had a child? What are your thoughts on having children?"

BB: "That (having children) was actually one of the things I had to give up. It was difficult because I really love children. I myself had a very hard time and I really went through a lot. I don't think I can handle the responsibility of being a father... it wouldn't be fair to the child. I mean, this would all be very difficult to explain. So in that respect, I'm thankful that there wasn't a child."

Other: "Who are your good friends from showbiz?"

BB: "Well I hang out a lot with Pops... Gretchen... Ruffa Mae. Puro girls ano?" (BB laughs)

BB GandanghariOther: "Do you have any beauty tips to share with us?"

BB: (laughs again) "Does that mean I'm beautiful? Well... I try my best to sleep early and I always use moisturizer. Of course I don't sleep with my make-up on and all that..."

Other: "Do you eat fruits and vegetables more? Or do you still like meat?"

BB: "I've learned to listen to my body because I believe our body will tell us what we need. Sometimes I crave for fruits and vegetables, so that is what I have. But there are also times I would crave for pork or beef, then that is what I have. Our body knows what it needs."

Other: "Have you ever encountered anyone who made a nasty remark to your face?"

BB: "You know honestly, no. Never. As in never. Everywhere I go, I get a lot of love -- from people aged 3 to 88! I'm very thankful. I've even had President Arroyo's apos come up to me for picture-taking, and once I was dining at this restaurant the owner came out of the kitchen and she's around 90 years old na. Ang sabi niya, guapa! Guapa! I'm very thankful for that. Siguro ang pinakagrabe na was at Serendra, when I went to the ladies room. After I went out sinabihan ako na next time hindi na ako pwede pumasok uli. But Greenbelt is very nice to us. Sa Greenbelt okay lang sa kanila... so there are other places we can go aside from Serendra."

Me: "BB, you're undoubtedly one of the most popular celebrities right now and you're a cyberspace hit as well. What made you decide to make yourself so accessible? I mean, you're on Plurk, Twitter, Facebook... normally celebrities maintain a certain distance."

BB: "You know I really look up to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ really reached out to people so he could share His message. In the same way, I want to reach out to people so I can share my message."

Other: "Do you have a message for those who have not yet come out of the closet?"

BB: "The closet is a very dark place. Mas maganda, at magiging mas masaya ka, pag nagpakatotoo ka."

BB Gandanghari and AnimetricBB. Cordial, candid, and oh-so-accomodating. She's definitely a breath of fresh air in the crowded world of showbiz. She is effervescent, exuding so much warmth and positive vibes that it's impossible not to love her.

BB. Her message is clear. Be all that you can be.

BB GandanghariFollow BB on Friendster - http://profiles.friendster.com/bbislove
Follow BB on Plurk - http://www.plurk.com/BBGandanghari
Follow BB on Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/gandanghari

For more photos of BB, click HERE.


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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Job Opening @ Nuffnang

Reposted from the Nuffnang Blog:

Want to be at the forefront of advertising? Internet is the fastest growing ad category, bigger than TV in the UK and comparable to radio in the US. And now, it’s coming to the Philippines!

If you:

-Get withdrawal symptoms when you are not online
-Are a fast mover, a proven achiever either in school or at work, and looking for a challenge
-Are hungry and want to close deals to help blue chip companies market their products
-Are hip, creative and like working with people.

Be a part of this and join us.

Nuffnang is Asia’s first blog community, with over 85,000 bloggers. Nuffnang has offices in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia. Our local office is in Boni High Street in the Fort, a cool area with lots of shops and restaurants.

We are looking for Account Executives with Bachelor degrees in relevant fields and that can speak, write and present well (this is important). Blogging and achievement in media related sales are pluses. The responsibilities will be to pitch to our network of clients and agencies, help them develop campaigns, and coordinate campaign execution with bloggers and our online system. We provide a good base salary and uncapped sales incentives for AE’s. We are also looking for Blogger and Events Coordinators, who will manage events and develop our community of bloggers.

If you believe you have what it takes, please email a short letter why, as well as your resume to eric@nuffnang.com

Nuffnang Philippines, Inc.
2E03-2E05, Building 5
925 Bonifacio High Street
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig 1634

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Fish & Co. unveils The World's Fish & Chips!

Fosh & Co's The World's Fish and Chips Fish & Co., in cooperation with Yehey.com, revealed their latest offering to bloggers at their flagship store in Shangrila Mall.

At P795 per serving, Fish & Co.'s Fish Around the World Platter takes you from the east to the west with flavors from Malaysia, Japan, India, and Philadelphia USA to titillate your taste buds. Sambal sauce, nori, curry, and cream cheese are just a few of the ingredients used to recreate the world's fish & chips in a single platter.

Bloggers were introduced to the Fish Around the World Platter via a food-plating competition. Four teams of five bloggers each represented Malaysia, Japan, India, and Philadelphia USA. I was part of Team Philadelphia USA along with Melo, Eric, Edelweiza, and Mec.

The contest kicked off with a grocery race, wherein the teams were given 30 minutes and P500 each to shop for their food-plating ingredients. Our team was able to make it back to the restaurant first and was thus awarded with AXN Beyond goodies. After shopping, teams were given another 30 minutes to dress up their Fish & Chips. Again, Team Philadelphia USA reigned supreme with the "Philly Fish Steak" pictured below:

Philly Fish SteakMy blogger groupmates We were awarded with P2500 worth of Fish & Co. GCs for our efforts which we split amongst the five of us. It was a fun-filled afternoon, and for a few moments there I felt like I was doing something out of the Amazing Race.

For more photos of the event as well as the other teams' food platings, click HERE.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A step-by-step guide to US non-immigrant visa application in the Philippines

UPDATE as of Feb. 10, 2011: I originally published this blog post last April 2007 when I applied for a US visa. The procedures have changed dramatically since then.

Check this for the updated US non-immigrant visa procedure circa 2011:
http://animetric.blogspot.com/2011/02/comprehensive-guide-to-us-non-immigrant.html

-----------------------------------------

Old way, circa 2007:

1. Go to http://manila.usembassy.gov/wwwhappo.html to see the next available appointment date. This should give you an idea of when you can schedule your interview.

2. Go to http://evisaforms.state.gov/ and fill up the online DS-156 form. Your form will be converted to .pdf format after it's filled up so you can choose to save it if you don't have a printer, or print it right away. Either way just make sure you print it out before you set your interview schedule. Glue or paste a recent 2x2 photo with white background to the form, that is the only picture you'll need -- and stapling the photo is not allowed. If you're applying as a family you'll need one form per member.

Important: You can only accomplish the D-156 form if your PC has Adobe Acrobat Reader / Adobe Reader versions 5 to 7. The latest version for download at the Adobe website is version 8, and Adobe Acrobat 8 is totally incompatible with the DS-156 form. I had version 4 installed, which was upgraded to 8, so I experienced this firsthand. I almost went nuts looking for Adobe Reader 7. Anyhow, you can download Adobe Reader 7 here, it's about 20MBs so you need a broadband connection.

3. Go to either the Citibank or Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branches specified here to pay the application fee of US$100 per person (or the peso equivalent). You will be issued your your DS-157 form along with your payment validation. Again, if you're applying as a family you'll need one form per member.

4. There are two ways you can schedule your visa interview:

a. Call Center - PLDT subscribers call 1-909-101-7878, Bayantel subscribers call 1-903-101-3456 (either way it's 53 pesos per minute charged to your phone bill). Sorry I don't know the Globe counterpart but yes, there is one. Using the call center entails a lot of waiting until someone is available to assist you, and you can call only on weekdays 8am to 6pm. When the person starts reading to you all the guidelines you can find at the US Embassy website interrupt her and tell her you already read all those online, or else it's gonna take a looong time. Anyways she will ask for the bar code of your DS-156 and the bank validation code of your DS-157 before you can request for an interview date.

b. Visapoint - Go to https://www.us-visaservices.com/philippines/securedefault.htm and pay the US$10 fee via credit card. After your payment is confirmed, you will instantly receive an email with your PIN number. You will use this PIN to login to Visapoint and set your interview schedule yourself. The PIN is good for a family of up to five members. Sometimes the Visapoint goes down and you can't get in but it will usually be up again within 24-48 hours. Once you've set an interview schedule, print out the confirmation because you'll need to show it to the US Embassy guard before they let you in. Take note that the Visapoint site is incompatible with Mozilla Firefox, and can only accomodate MSIE 5 and 6. No MSIE 7!

5. After you've set your schedule, make sure you prepare all the necessary documents as specified here. Note that all documents must be original.

6. Let's fast-forward to interview day. Be at the US Embassy at least one hour before your appointed time. Make sure you bring all the required forms, you will need to show your passport, DS-156, DS-157, and appointment confirmation to enter the US Embassy. Please leave all your electronic devices at home -- your cellphone, Palm Pilot, Gameboy, Tamagotchi... there is NO depository for these items in the embassy and they won't let you inside if you don't get rid of them pronto. Prepare to queue up for your applicant number and wait for that number to be called for fingerprint-scanning, then it's off to the interview area with you. If you're approved, you'll have to pay for passport delivery at the Delbros counter so make sure you have cash. There is no option to pick-up your visa.

It's not as fast as it sounds. Our schedule for interview was for 8:30am but we got to talk to the consul at about 11am, and we were there at 7:40am. Thank God I brought a coloring book and crayons for my toddler. That helped keep her calm and occupied during the long wait.

Some extra information:

- Applicants of all ages are required to appear. Yup, from 1 day old to 1000 years old.

- Kids below 14 years of age are exempted from fingerprint-scanning.

- There's a Kodak photo booth at the US Embassy, as well as snacks and drinks for sale.

- Wear comfortable clothes, the waiting area is not air-conditioned. Only the interview area is and you'll spend very little time there.

- If you can, go there at least 1.5 hours before your interview sked. One hour before is cutting it close.

- Be prepared to answer very detailed questions about what you do for a living.

- If applying for children, it's best if both parents show up for interview although only one parent is required to.

ADDENDUM

Check out a friend's more recent experience at the US Embassy (circa August 2008), there are also some helpful tips -- http://mrsmartinez.multiply.com/journal/item/64

P.S. If there are any changes in the procedure please don't hesitate to let me know so I can update this accordingly. Thanks! :)

Going to Japan? Check out my Japan visa application guide.


Saturday, March 7, 2009

SM Cinema Kiddie Filmmakers Workshop

Are you a mom who's looking for new activities for your kids this summer?

SM Cinema is holding a Kiddie Film Makers Workshop for children 8-12 years old. Sessions will be held at Director's Club, SM Mall of Asia. Registration fee is set at P3,800 for four 2-hour sessions. There will be 8 batches, and the workshop schedule will span April 21 - May 15, 2009.

For reservations and inquiries, please call Joy at 09167415955 or Zen at 09225405102 or 8317000 loc. 2680 / 2682.

Who knows, you could be nurturing the next great director... the next Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, or Francis Ford Coppola...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Battle of the Banoffee Pies!

On the left corner, costing P66 pesos is Red Ribbon Bakeshop's Banoffee Pie... on the right corner, costing P70 is Banapple Pies and Cheesecake's Banoffee Pie!

#1 Size
Although Red Ribbon's pie is cheaper by P4, in terms of size Banapple's pie wins by a wide margin... so you can't really consider it the more expensive pie since the additional P4 goes a long way. It's taller, wider, and the banana slices are about at least an inch or so thick whereas Red Ribbon's banana slices are half the size.

#2 Consistency
Red Ribbon's pie was already sort of wilted when it was served. Notice how the cream topping points downwards as if ready to merge with my plate. I don't know if it will improve with refrigeration but I took that photo right after the server placed it in front of me. When I dug in, the cream seemed right about ready to melt. Notice how tall and firm Banapple's pie looks. It was able to maintain that consistency up to the last bite.

#3 Taste
Red Ribbon's pie tasted okay, my main problem was the somewhat melty state it arrived in. I could not really distinguish the ingredients because they are combined a tad too well. Each spoonful has the sweet taste of caramel, cream, and bananas but that's about it. With Banapple's pie, I could really taste the rich caramel sauce, the buttery graham crust, and the wonderfully light yet stiff cream.

Clearly, Banapple Pies and Cheesecakes's Banoffee Pie is the winner...! Just about the only point Red Ribbon's pie has over Banapple is the price, but then Banapple more than makes up for it in terms of serving size and everything else. No wonder it's their bestseller!

Check them out:
Banapple Pies and Cheesecakes - http://www.banapplekitchen.com/Banapple.html
Red Ribbon Bakeshop - http://www.redribbonbakeshop.com.ph

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Restaurant feature FAIL

I was recently assigned to feature this café in Quezon City. Normally, before I actually visit an establishment for this purpose I try to get the manager's nod by informing him or her ahead of time that I'll be taking photos of the food and the place. Sometimes they refer me to marketing or some other deciding authority, sometimes not. Believe me, some establishments can get very touchy when you suddenly whip out your cam and start taking photos. They think you're a spy from the competition or something along those lines. So for me to be able to do my work in peace and efficiency, I prefer to request for permission and make my purpose clear.

To make a long story short, I was on the verge of being lectured by the café manager about how I can't just go marching in there and taking photos of the food and the place. She was very, pardon the expression, bitchy about it. I explained that I'd be a paying customer just like everyone else, the only difference being I'd take photos of what I would order and of the place. But no, she was already talking in a very loud voice explaining that she might be fired if she allowed me to do that etc etc. She then told me she would have to ask the management's permission and that I should check with her again after at least a week. It wasn't the fact that she would not allow me to do my job, it was HOW she told me. I felt she was telling me off, her voice was so loud I felt she was shouting at me. How can such a short-fused and undiplomatic person become a restaurant manager? It's really too bad, I had good intentions when I pitched this place to our editor. I wanted to give them some exposure because I thought they had something unique to offer.

Fortunately, if push comes to shove I've prepared a back-up restaurant feature if the space really needs to be filled by tomorrow morning. At least at that restaurant, everyone was more than happy to let me take my photos and dine in peace.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience

Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience Just about any kid tuned in to the Disney Channel knows the Jonas Brothers, mine included. So when my brother and sister won 10 tickets each for Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience at SM The Block's D-Cinema from Myx (a total of 20 tickets, wow!), my kids were the first in line for them.

I honestly don't know too many Jo Bros songs. I think I knew about 2-3, but when I watched the 3D concert, I discovered I knew at least 5-6 songs hahaha... it's even better than watching them live because you get the best seats in the house and you have this clear unobstructed view of them and really good sounds.

Nothing could've prepared me for the multitude of screaming teenage girls that filled up the theater. My kids were covering their ears at one point because they were really screaming their lungs out. Every time there's a close-up of any of the Jo Bros there would be matching shrieks. I swear it was like actually being in a concert. Would my daughter react like this one day too? She's only 4 years old now so it's still hard to imagine.

It was a good movie though. I almost didn't recognize Camp Rock's Demi Lovato because of her extreme eyebrow-plucking but my little girl loved her rendition of "This is Me" all the same. Aside from the live performance there were bits and pieces of behind-the-scenes stuff. The life of a teen idol sure is tough, the Jo Bros get mobbed everywhere they go... it's crazy. I hope they'll stay as wholesome as they are now as there are so many kids who look up to them... again, mine included.

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