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Tuesday, October 28, 2014
What about Instagram?

What about Instagram?

Hey, you know what’s not actually a new thing, and that people can all stop going crazy about? It’s having camera on your phone. I mean, getting excited about it is a bit like getting excited about ordering spaghetti with meatballs, or playing a song off your laptop which factually is one of its many functions.

It ain’t a thing.

Still, half the advertisements I see on the television are for cameras and phones. There’s where we’re usually told that life is passing us by and that if we don’t take pictures of every banal moment in our lives, these moments will be lost to us forever. It’s like we’re being told not to trust our own memories.

Also, we’re not just being encouraged to be the official club photographers of our own existences; either we’re being told that we should be documenting every meal as if we were preparing for a retrospective. This idea finds its epitome and is perpetuated most fervently by something called Instagram. You might have heard of it – or have used it.

I don’t know what it was about the turn of the century. Maybe, we all got carried away and thought we were the “chosen ones” because our lives spanned two different millennia. Maybe, it’s just a way of trying to get a grip on a world that’s passing us by…that capturing those seemingly mundane moments, when assembled, begin to make some kind of sense from our existence.

Or maybe Instagram does have some kind of worth.

I think the problem is that there’s dishonesty at its core. All photography of worth captures some kind of truth, something that you wouldn’t have picked up on with the naked eye. At the very least, it presents an interestingly distorted view of reality. (Louie dela Vega/FOCUS)

 Xmas staple flavors hands down: Tsokolate and Hamon

Xmas staple flavors hands down: Tsokolate and Hamon

It's the most wonderful time of year…as Harry Connick, Jr. whispers in my ear. The Ber months has tipped off good news to humankind. Yes, Christmas is just around the corner as the world's longest Christmas season unfolds!

Stockings and ornaments are readied with care in hopes that St. Nick soon will appear for a plateful of cookies. It’s the time when everyone becomes generous, and pulling out their friendly plastic rectangles called ‘credit cards’ isn’t confronting. Then, come January, when they look at their bills, they utterly wonder why they lose half of their savings.

Go figure!

But there is more to Christmas than bills. For example, everyone is happier. Then, there is the king of all decorations, the big enchilada, the head honcho, and the trees! Tell me what is more fun than standing the tree up, putting it together, and decorating it? It's a hustle but in it, it’s all fun!

However, if there’s one reason why the holidays are “more fun” here in the Philippines, it must be because of the way we celebrate: with food, lots of it. It's Christmas for heaven's sake! Just don't have too much eggnog though!

Who doesn’t love chocolate?

The centuries-long Spanish colonial period introduced us to numerous concoctions that were so delectable they earned a well-deserved place in Filipino celebrations, like the Filipino Christmas feast. One of the most scrumptiously pleasant tasters by the Spaniards was the Tsokolate.

Tsokolate is a hot chocolate drink made of tableas. Tableas are chocolate tablets made from pure cacao beans that are ground, dried, and roasted. Some families add different flavors to the tsokolate, and these recipes are passed on from generation to generation.

Chocolate de Batirol

Hot chocolate, and the Filipino take on its tsokolate, is best enjoyed in cool areas such as Baguio. The summer capital’s best known haunt for tsokolate is none other than Chocolate de Batirol at Camp John Hay.

Though the place is rather low-key and casual, their signature drinks make it a city hotspot that shouldn’t be missed. Two in particular stand out: the Chocolate de Batirol Traditional Blend, which is perfectly rich and thick with little bits of cocoa that you can enjoy; and the Chocolate de Batirol Baguio Blend, which adopts as well- known element of the City of Pines–the flavor of strawberry. (Photo courtesy of findgoodbaguiofoods.wordpress.com)


Proudly nationalistic, Tsoko.Nut Batirol is known for cooking all their food with a slight Pinoy twist This little café haven has been popping up in many places in Manila, but as their name suggests, they’re still best known for their traditional and innovative takes on the Pinoy favorite, tsokolate batirol.

Tsoko.Nut has an extensive list of tsokolate variants, from the classic Tsokolate Ah Batirol to several sugar-free offerings. (Photo courtesy of thepeachkitchen.com)

All about ham
Filipinos channel Western influences in naming ham as one of their Christmas feast must-haves.

No Noche Buena or Christmas basket would be complete without a whole glistening slab of ham peeking out. Since lechon is much too impractical and expensive to give away, ham takes its place in many Christmas parties at the center of the table.

The history of Christmas ham may be traced all the way to England and brought in the Philippines in the Spanish era, but there is no doubt the Filipino way has been perfected through the years.

Sweetened, glazed, and dipped in pineapple sauce, eager diners pair it with rice, bread and pasta, or nibble on it by itself. Different variants can be bought from the market, but a few popular types–and brands–can definitely be counted on year in and year out as favorites.

Hamon de Bola

This type of ham is very familiar to the Filipinos, who may find themselves digging into in every time December rolls around. Hamon de bola is characterized not just by its round shape but also its sweetness. It has become a Christmas tradition to present a good-sized hamon de bola during Noche Buena, and Pinoys often stick to tried-and-tested brands.

Chinese Ham

Chinese ham is as popular in the country as hamon de bola, maybe even more so. This cured ham has the sweetness that most Filipinos love so much, but combines this with a distinct saltiness that people seem to prefer over other kinds.

Monday, October 27, 2014
Appreciating arts and culture Baguio as a flourishing ethos, and #Espasyo is just the beginning

Appreciating arts and culture Baguio as a flourishing ethos, and #Espasyo is just the beginning

 BAGUIO CITY - Elevating one’s lifestyle is a goal shared by many Filipinos. For some, this means being able to afford a life of leisure. For others, it’s simply about stepping out and stepping up. And where else to get that proposition than in Baguio?

Baguio, lodged in the middle of a highland and integrated into natural landscape, is an aesthetically unique place; a haven for artists that spurs creativity and inspiration; and a mecca of diversity where people are unbound of expressing themselves through art, music, and collected works.

It is true that to be able to know how rich a culture is, and how manifold a community is, one needs to experience its facets, meet its locals, and just embrace its oral history.

Baguio has always been that place I visualized to be settling in one day. It provides more than a patch of green. Consistently back and forth, I consider the place my second home. Just picturing the heap of opportunities ready to chance puts me in rapture. Even if I decide to put down roots and build a house, I won’t shed things–to put it flatteringly. In fact, the surroundings tell much of my personal histories–the clutter, an inventory of freedom travels and food eaten (whether in its strawberry shortcake or Pinikpikan reiteration).

The point is this–Baguio is spectacular in photos and to experience it is exponentially better.

Cultural identity & advocacy for change

#Espasyo envisions Baguio as a city of flourishing cultures depicted in all art forms. A network of community volunteers, visual artists, musicians, and performers coming from all walks of life drawn together by sincere aspiration, rediscovering Baguio has been a quest.

They believe that it is imperative to revisit and celebrate Baguio not only as a tourist destination, but also as a forerunner of the creative industry in the country which translates to added economic benefits to the city in the long run.

On September 7, Rose Garden was filled with arts and people who’re passionate about it, and who’re disposed to its importance towards the city’s cultural identity empowerment. With the help of the Baguio community and some organizations, the event was a success.

Espasyo’s Communications person Calypso Alaia said that providing value to the city’s local talents and the creativity they can bring is important.

“Artists in Baguio, using different art forms can redeem Baguio. When people create, they get inspired, and inspiration can defeat negativity; it creates a stronger and better community”, she added.

Dance performances, instrumental humming, poem delivery, cosplay, and fashion showcase are some of the activities on the event.

The moment my taxi ride pulled over, skim past the shanty ukay stores, the scene hit me with exhilaration –how lucky I was to witness an ingenious idea happen before my eyes.

You may shiver through an image of these youth in Benguet native costumes gamboling in an Igorot descant accompanied by cheerful observers. Tailing them are performances from independent, and University student groups. Watching them makes Baguio an exciting prospect for a journey, both eye-opening and entertaining.

Being in the middle of a flamboyant crowd can sometimes become too lively (a euphemism for noisy), so wandering around the area helped me found my inner peace and a grateful heart (thus the ‘cryptic’ Feels like home, song title). I also get to take photos of dogs in costumes and cosplayers channeling their character heroes.

The organized chaos of chalk art near the dancing floor fountain was a prolific treat to anyone. I instantly became Picasso that day, as I hastily draft my attempt to do an abstract piece, but failed. Getting your hands dirty in calling for art is always a seal of satisfaction.

By providing support to our local artists who play significant roles in propagating culture, Baguio could become one of the most character-driven city in the country, if not the most. So, give Baguio the chance in spite all the cheesy stereotypes it may or may not deserve.

If you want to learn more about humanity, Baguio is the best place to watch it unravel. (Louie dela Vega/FOCUS)
Young Pangasinense athletes all set for Batang Pinoy games

Young Pangasinense athletes all set for Batang Pinoy games

Hundreds of young Pangasinense athletes will again vie for dominance in 19 sporting events as the Batang Pinoy Pangasinan Elimination Games unfold on September 27 to 28.

Executive Assistant III Modesto Operania said the provincial government is now gearing up for the province-wide sports activity in preparation for the Batang Pinoy-Luzon Leg slated on November 11-15.

Operania said the province-wide elimination games will be an “open eliminations” as he urged the participating local government units (LGUs) to select and send their best players.

He said the young athletes will be competing in various sporting events such as arnis, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, boxing, chess, cycling, futsal, karatedo, lawn tennis, sepak takraw, softball, swimming, taekwondo, table tennis, volleyball, basketball 3-on-3 and dance sports.

The Batang Pinoy sporting spectacle, which forms part of the sports development thrust of the present administration, has become a training ground for young and promising Pangasinense athletes.

The Narciso Ramos Sports and Civic Center (NRSCC) here will serve as the main venue for the tournaments while other events will be played at the Capitol Resort (archery), Pangasinan State University (arnis and taekwondo), Maramba Boulevard (cycling) and Capitol beachfront (baseball/softball).

Batang Pinoy, a grassroot sports development program for young athletes launched by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), serves as base for sports specialization including training for higher level leagues, national and international tournaments.

The provincial government led by Governor Amado Espino, Jr. has been an active participant in this annual sports spectacle.

In the 2013 Batang Pinoy National Games held in Bacolod City, the province emerged as 10th over-all winner in a field of 129 participating LGUs from all over the country.

Ranking fifth in 2011, Team Pangasinan notched the over-all championship of the 2012 Batang Pinoy Northern Luzon Leg held in Lingayen town.

In 2013, Pangasinan ranked 3rd in the Batang Pinoy Luzon Leg held in Iba, Zambales from out of 140 LGU delegations.

“Athletes who will win in respective sporting events during the elimination games will undergo a series of trainings to keep them in momentum for the Batang Pinoy Luzon Leg,” Operania said. (MCA/AMM/PIA-1, Pangasinan/PIO)
Get your fruit fix

Get your fruit fix

If the produce at the supermarket looks like it’s seen better days this time of the year, hit the other aisles. The Journal of the Science of Food Agriculture found that canned and fresh peaches had similar levels of antioxidants; folate; vitamins A, C, and E; and other nutrients.

Often higher in fiber than fresh varieties, dried fruit is ideal for snacking and a great source of instant energy. But it’s also higher in sugar and easy to overeat, so make sure to practice portion control.

Squeeze pouches
Fruit purees make it simple to get your recommended daily allowances on the go. Look for 100 percent-fruit varieties without high-fructose corn syrup or preservatives.

These chewy strips of dried, pureed fruit may have added sugar, but as long as it isn’t the first ingredient, they’re a healthy alternative to candy.


They are often flash-frozen in the field, which locks in nutrients, and are sometimes even healthier than fresh produce that’s been tucked across the country. Add them to smoothies or muffins. 
5 reasons to start a company in the Philippines

5 reasons to start a company in the Philippines

The Southeast Asia is a key player when it comes to startups. It’s a market of 600 million people, a third of which in one country alone, with 17000 islands. But the Philippines is a stand out.

It’s a fast-growing middle-class region, with 24% of the Philippine population in this category as of 2013. Dubbed as the social media and selfie capital of the world by Times, Philippines has the fastest smartphone penetration.

You’re not alone to find it difficult to position this land on a map, as it is still quite unexplored by many. The opportunity to launch a business in the country is huge. Here are 5 good reasons to start up a business in the country:

It’s more fun in the Philippines!

This official campaign of the tourism board of the Philippines says quite a lot. The entrepreneurial spirit of Asians is truly infectious.

The Philippines is an amazing melting-pot of an Asian-Pacific set of islands, which has been conquered by the Spanish, freed from the Japanese later on by the Americans, and with a huge diaspora across the world.

The result is a very social and friendly culture, where karaoke, laughter and time for friends are omnipresent. As innovation often comes from diversity, you could not dream of a country with more different faces and cultures and acquiescence to new changes.

Growth is firm in the Philippines!

With the second best performing economy of Asia behind China, the Philippines is doing well. Their GDP recorded 6.5% growth in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to 7.7% for China (IBT)

The exports of the country are also amazing, with the top chunk held by Electronic products, far beyond the bananas people think too often of.

The stock market also increased its main index by 61% over the last two years.

It’s archeologically empire-building in the Philippines!

If the history of the Silicon Valley or Israel is better known than the one of the Philippines, you can still find a lot of examples testifying their entrepreneurial spirit:

The country opened its Asia’s first University back in 1611. The University of Santo Tomas was set up by the Catholic, and it is still boasting some 42000 students as of 2013.

It carved the first rice terraces some 2000 years ago with an advanced irrigation system to drive water from the rainforests.

It resisted the Spanish invasion, with Lapu-Lapu, the omni-present soldier statue you can see in Cebu Island, being then recognized as “the first Filipino”, back in the 16th century.

It survived wars and typhoons, and has rebuilt the country after each catastrophe.

It is preparing a Startup Bill which many compares to a move as bold as the one made by Chile a few years ago (with Startup Chile being now a world famous program for foreign entrepreneurs).

It’s innovative in the Philippines!

The local startup scene in the Philippines is recognized to be leading innovation in two important fields:

Bitcoin and crypto-currencies, as the regulations are light when it comes to these new virtual currencies, and as their huge diaspora need a better way to send money back home. A few American startup-ers came intently to know how the Philippines bitcoin community was faring.

Social enterprise, as 62% of the population lives with less than three dollar per day. This population, called “the bottom of the pyramid”, is often referred to as a market as people there still have ways to consume goods and services. A social enterprise such as Rags to Riches in Manila, offers an e-commerce platform for craft made by remote populations.

These two fields are key innovation drivers where the Philippines can lead the way.

The startup network is vigorous in the Philippines!

The Philippines has its own main tech event and international hackathons and competition such as Seedstars World or AngelHack, training and mentoring centers. The Digital ICT Congress in Pangasinan is now on its 4th year tapping huge universities and institution in the entire province.

It’s definitely vivifying to visit the tech scenes of the Philippines, both in Cebu, and Pangasinan, an island better known for its nature spots.

With a unique positioning between Asia, the Pacific, and the United States, this is a big 100 million people country not to forget about. (Louie dela Vega/FOCUS)
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