Planner Review

I’ve been on a planner since I began my book-making profession (oh some 20 years ago). With the various deadlines I needed to accomplish, I knew I had to be more organized in my use of time. Back in those days, planners basically looked the same way—a one-page calendar and space to write your daily to-do list in. Sometimes, they’d add a few pages for contacts. But that was it.

I don’t know whose genius idea it was to have Starbucks market its coffee through planners in 2004, but work it did. Soon, people were walking on caffeine-laced clouds, carrying a planner on hand.

When the smart phones arrived, where you could plot your notes and schedules in, I honestly thought that planners would meet their inevitable demise. But, lo and behold, they’re still around, and it has been sort of a fad for companies to come out with their own unique planners every year.

I used to hoard planners. But now that I’ve matured and mellowed down, I realized I really need only one. So, instead of collecting everything on site (as I know some do), I’ve come u p with this review to help those lost souls who just want a planner/organizer that best fit their lifestyle.

Starbucks Travel Journal

Of course it would be remiss of me not to include the most popular planner in town—the Starbucks planner. This year, they came out with two types—one was the more traditional planner, while the other was a travel journal. I thought I was done collecting SB planners for good, but as luck would have it, daughter dear actually thought the travel organizer was pretty useful and asked it as a Christmas gift. Foiled again!

How to get it: Collect 18 stickers by ordering coffee/tea. Starbucks understood that it was smarter to have people order the bigger drinks. Thus, the short drinks did not earn any stickers.

The pros: Your phone can fit into one of the pouches. It includes a blank journal that’s perfect for those who want to doodle/do urban sketching while on the road. It also has a wrist strap for easy transport.

The cons: It’s not really a planner. It’s actually a travel organizer. There are only two colors available, which I think works as a disadvantage to Starbucks because you know what? Some people make it a point to have all the colors =) In my case, my daughter liked the blue-green one, and I didn’t like the brown-ochre one so we ended up with just one travel journal.

The biggest con in my opinion is the price. 18 stickers x Php 125 (minimum amount you’ll spend on 1 tall coffee) = Php 2,250. For that much, you could actually get a moleskin planner, which has better quality paper and Is actually a planner.

Mercury Drug Store Suki Day Book

Mercury Drug Store started releasing these very cute day books last year. We found out about it late, and so we only ended up with two pieces.

How to get it: You have to have a Mercury Drug Store suki card (their loyalty card). For 30 points, you get this planner for free! Not bad, especially if you actually do have a lot of points on your suki card.

The pros: Off the bat, this is one of my favorite journals. First, the cover is awesome. Second, there are a lot of colors available. Third, it offers a lot of health tips, including mood trackers. And its just really a happy journal to look at!

The cons: Because it’s very much in demand (and I’m guessing people have a lot of Mercury Drug points), you’d have to search every Mercury Drug store branch if you want one. I swear, it just disappears from branches.

Dr. Kong Planner

Dr. Kong is a known shoe brand for people who have health concern issues with their feet.

According to the Internet, Dr. Kong has already been giving away free journals since last year.

How to get it: Buy Php 5,000 worth of Dr. Kong shoes and you’ll get a planner for free! A bit pricey, but at least you have comfy shoes to show for it, instead of a gut full of coffee.

The pros: The inside is pretty colorful, with pastel hues and inspirational sayings.

The cons: The outside cover is a bit dull, so it doesn’t immediately catch your attention.

As an advocate of the advantages of having an organized life, my own personal reflection is that it doesn’t really matter what type of planner you have, as long as you use it instead of just hoarding it =)

A happy (and hopefully more organized) new year to all of us!


Run Review: Stripes Run 2018

On December 2, 2018, my daughter and I woke up at 4:00 am to get ready for the Stripes Run.  It was our first time to join a run sponsored by McDonald’s and it was mainly because its intended beneficiaries were public schools in need of books. A run for literacy sounded right up my alley.

One of the things I liked about this run was that the kits could be purchased in-store. So, unlike the other runs I’ve attended where I’d have to wait on bated breath for my kits to arrive, I could easily drop by any McDonald’s store and walk out of it with my registration and the kit. In my kit, I received a striped shirt (no surprise there), striped socks (for redundancy) and my race bib all for a shockingly low price of Php 499!

Of all the runs I’ve attended so far, I think that this was the most organized one. They started on time; they had checkers to see if the correct runners were in their proper places; they had a good and solid warm up before the run (none of those cutesy Zumba dance moves, but squats, stretches and jumping jacks); and most importantly, everyone was reminded NOT to take selfies while running. This made the run way safer than any of the other fun runs I’ve attended where people would literally stop in the middle of the road to take selfies with their friends/family members (read my Color Run review for context).

This was also the first run I had attended that had a 10k route. So while it was in the SM MOA grounds, a place that has been a venue for two of the runs I’ve joined, they had additional turns to it, which made the route a little bit different than the usual.

Another plus (at least for those who like longgadesal) is that it was the only run I’ve attended that included breakfast. They gave away a loot bag and there were a lot of sponsors that you could line up for (My personal favorite? The Salonpas booth of course! Gawd I’m old =))

So far, as you can tell, there were a lot of positive things about the run. Two things though that I’d like to comment on. First, this was the only run I’ve joined that actually served soda (as in Coke and coke products) in their water stations! While it’s obvious that Coke was a sponsor, I mean, isn’t that contrary to the healthy living vibe of a fun run? Buuuut…as I would also say, it is in my control to choose not to take those kinds of beverages. Second peeve, they actually restricted kids to join the 5k run. Only those 16 and above could participate. What’s up with that? We were forced to get a 3k bib because of that rule. The only other thing is that you don’t get a finisher’s medal, but hey, if you only paid Php 499, I really can’t complain. Plus, after a couple of runs, a finisher’s medal feels a little bit wasteful.

Overall, a very successful event and one that I see attending again…maybe next time for a 10K?  =)

Movie Review: Brutti e Cativi

The last time I watched a movie completely in subtitles was maybe a month ago when I chanced upon Kung Fu Hustle, a Cantonese movie produced in Hong Kong. Honestly, it can be a bit tiring to read subtitles, but I tend to make an effort when it is a comedy because I just love comparing what different countries find funny. Plus, I am a firm believer that when something is really funny, it’s funny in any language.

Thankfully, the recently concluded Venice International Film Festival  brought to the Philippines by the European Philippine Business Network (EPBN) carried a comedy.

With husband in tow, we headed to the Ayala UP Town mall to watch Brutti e Cativi or Ugly Nasty People. Set in the suburbs of Rome, this story revolves around the lives of a band of physically (and dare I say mentally) challenged individuals who plan the robbery of a bank. The limbless antagonist (Sara Serraiocca) aka the Ballerina works for police intelligence and relays to the group that she found out that a Chinese criminal group is planning to make a four million euro deposit in one bank. The flawed and wheelchair-bound “hero” of this story Il Papero (Claudio Santamaria), employs his friends, Il Merda (Marco D’Amore), a druggie; and Plisse (Simoncino Martucci), a drawf, to be accomplices to the said crime.

Il Papero explains that he expects that the group will be slapped with a couple of months of jail time as the money that the Chinese brought in was dirty money which the bank cannot declare. While the robbery is successful, the first twist is that Il Merda betrays Il Papero, beats him up and leaves him for dead. The druggie then reunites with the Ballerina and gives the money to her. Quickly, the Ballerina deposits it in a Swiss depository that could only be opened using a special key and her toe print. Then, the three surrender to the police to carry out their sentence.

However, their friendships are further tested when they get out of jail. The Ballerina contracts Plisse to finish off Il Merda. She  then finishes off Plisse as well because it turns out that she was having an affair with the town priest (who was not actually a priest, but also a criminal in hiding) But before the couple is able to finally enjoy the money (all of them, funnily enough, want a pool with a chlorine-free water filter system), she is taken and killed by the Chinese mafia that the group robbed. When the Chinese criminals open the safe, they discover that it has been emptied out.

This reveals the even greater twist—that Il Papero is still alive, and that in the end, he gets the money, a new life partner and for a  short time, new legs as well.

What I found very Filipino was the dance routine inserted during the Halloween party. Another familiar Filipino twist was a having a twin brother hidden somewhere who reveals himself at the most opportune moment. As Santamaria and Serraioca were not actually handicapped, I also thought that the acting was solid, with Sara Serraiocca performing all her movements (inserting of the vault key, closing of car trunk, etc.) with her legs (unless of course she had a very deft body double). The graphics were pretty awesome as well because you really do believe that they don’t have arms and legs.

Of course, in its own funny/crazy way, the movie illustrates that those who have physical challenges can also do what completely abled people do.

The movie is 85 minutes long with an R-rating.

Movie poster from IMDb

A Beginner’s Trek to the Sierra Madre

This is how much of a beginner I am: I had to research the difference between hiking and trekking to make sure that my title was correct. Hiking apparently is a more leisurely activity, and the roads you walk on are normally paved or manmade. Trekking (which I am now more certain is the activity that I engaged in) is a more challenging and rigorous activity. My aching bones and muscles the day after could attest to how “rigorous” it was.

What was the objective of my trek? It was to reforest a part of the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines. Why did I think of doing this? Blame Jane Goodall and her campaign on spreading the awareness that reforesting is still the simplest solution towards solving the problem of climate change.

My friend and fellow environment supporter told me that she and a group of students would be going up the mountain on the weekend, and against all physical constraints (I have chronic back pain) and common sense (she said that the trek could take up to six hours), I decided to sign up for it. After all, you never know when you will be given that opportunity again.

It almost didn’t happen because early that morning, it rained steadily, and as I knew that we would be crossing rivers, I was half wishing the event would be cancelled. But I think that Mother Nature sensed we had an urgent mission to get to and so she didn’t hold us back. At about 5 am, about forty of us were on our way, fieldtrip-style, to Rizal. An hour and a half later, upon arriving at Laiban, we rode a rickety jeep for another 45 minutes to travel across dirt roads and about 8 small rivers. Only then did the actual trek begin.

A little over two hours, 3 thigh-high rivers, countless narrow and muddy trails later, we arrived at the planting site. The site was on a slope, and so while I was putting each plant in the hole and covering it up with soil, I was also saying a silent prayer for 2 things: 1. that the plant would survive and 2. that I would survive going down.

Many firsts happened that day. It was the first time for me to ride a jeep that could cross rivers (Who would’ve thought our own local jeeps could rival amphibious vehicles?). It was my first time on the Sierra Madre (It was breathtaking. Definitely one for the books). It was my first time to get acquainted with a limatik, a blood leech that inhabited Philippine forests. I am so glad that I didn’t get to see the actual leech sucking my belly as I might have really freaked out. The only evidence that the leech did bite me was my very bloody shirt, and the fact that it took a while for the wound to clot (blood leeches secrete Hirudin that has anticoagulant properties). All in all, it was a good day for Mother Earth, a good bonding/exercise time with one of my closest friends and my husband, and a very satisfying meal for the leech. Win-win-win.

I hope that I will still have the energy to bring my daughter with me to plant trees. The trek is too dangerous for her right now, but someday, I want her to be able to play her part in helping the world we live in. After all, she will inherit it in whatever form it will be in the future.

Airline Review: Etihad Airways

I think I’ve done the rounds of most middle eastern airlines because for some reason, they have cheaper flights for trips outside of Asia.

For our trip to Italy/Spain, we went with Etihad Airways. The stopover of our flight was in Abu Dhabi.

Let’s run through my basic requirements.

  1. In-flight entertainment. I can’t complain. They have an awesome selection of movies, and their screens are huge!
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  3. You could monitor the plane from the screen!
  4. 2. Food Selection. Well, one thing’s for sure–you won’t get hungry. They also have very cute meals for the young ones in case you have kids traveling with you.
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  6. The chocolate mousse was yummy, according to the mom who gobbled it up.
  7. 3. Special Features. I particularly liked the windows that had a remote control “shade” or filter. You didn’t actually have physical shades or blinds to pull down. To darken the windows, all you needed to do was press a button. Very fancy.
  8. 4. Stopover. I think this is something that also needs to be included in the consideration. The entire airport of Abu Dhabi was open. All of the shops and restaurants were open. We arrived there in the wee hours of the morning and we could still shop and eat. It really does help that you can do something while waiting for your connecting flight.

5. Restrooms. My batting average is 3 for 3. I was not happy with the restroom conditions of all middle eastern airlines. I think that at this point, it is safe to say that this is not their forte.

Overall, I’d still fly Etihad again, if the price is right.

An Open Letter to Mothers of Boys

Dear Mothers of Boys,

What a unique time for us to be mothers. There is so much opportunity and openness in this world to enable the next generations to improve upon themselves. But, there are still a lot of old biases and preconceived notions which tend to get passed down which is why I felt it necessary to write this letter.

I am coming from the point of view of a mother blessed with a daughter. And while I see that many of my peers make a deliberate effort to educate themselves on what the responsibilities of parents are, there are still some who tend to let culture and traditions take over the parenting and the decision-making.

I’ve recently read Chimamanda Adichie’s fifteen suggestions in raising a feminist girl, and while I thoroughly enjoyed reading her book, I felt that mothers of boys need just as much help and guidance. I don’t consider myself an expert on raising boys or on feminism, but I do see a pattern of how some mothers treat their sons which need to be addressed.

So here are my five unsolicited suggestions on how to raise boys (not in order of importance).

  1. Let your boys be responsible for their actions. Do not excuse rowdy behavior or rude language by saying that “boys will be boys.” When your boys break things, teach them to apologize for what they did. Give them consequences for their actions. By giving them permission to behave badly, you set up a pattern of behavior that they will carry as they grow older. Ever wonder why some men get away with thinking that they could do no wrong? It’s probably because their mothers always had a ready excuse for their behavior. I had a twenty-something male employee who had his mother complain to us on his behalf. He literally brought his mother to our office to tell us that we shouldn’t impose sanctions on him.
  2. Let your boys do a variety of chores. Many will affirm that assigning chores to your children help teach skills that they will eventually need to survive in this world. But to push the concept further, I suggest that you challenge your boys to do chores that are not necessarily “manly”. Instead of just letting him help wash daddy’s car, let him do the dishes with mommy. Or better yet, assign a day for daddy and son to be the ones to cook dinner. Having a strong male role model will definitely leave a positive impression on your son.
  3. Train your boys to commit to something. When they start a project, make sure they see it through, preferably with very little assistance from you. I don’t know how many times my mother asked me to finish my brother’s school projects. I kept on telling her that if I had finished the project, the credit should go to me. But at that time, my mother did not trust my brother enough to allow him to make his own mistakes. He still finds it hard to decide on his own.
  4. Teach your boys the words to identify their feelings. Don’t tell your boys not to cry when they are hurt or for them to just “suck it up”. These words stick to them and make them think that feelings are not valid. They grow up perceiving that women are too emotional or overly sensitive. They become adults who are uncomfortable when they encounter people who cry or who know how to express their feelings. When your son is mad or frustrated, teach him to explain to you what made him feel that way. Studies show that kids who are unable to express their feelings tend to become more aggressive.
  5. Teach your boys to be patient. Boys tend to prefer to be in motion all the time. They like to run, jump and kick things. But, it is important for them to also know how to cool down. Teach him how to read books, to solve puzzles, to wait for things to come. Sometimes, we feel that we need to keep them actively entertained all the time. This leaves us exhausted and out of energy. By teaching them activities that take time to do, they will develop patience. I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’ve seen some parents succeed with this through consistency of action.

Raising today’s generation is tricky, to say the least. But there is also a lot of good that has come out of our learnings from our experiences. May you find the strategy that works best for you and your child.

Smart Travels: Madrid

I’m doing a thread of smart travels to help those who are planning their future trips make the most out of their journeys.

Madrid, as I’ve learned, is a city that comes alive in the afternoon. Breakfasts at our normal Filipino times (7 to 8 am) is practically unheard of. When you go to the mall at 10 (yes, the mall does open early), don’t expect the dining places to be open earlier than 12 or 12:30.

TIP #1: Breakfast

If your hotel does not serve breakfast, make sure you go to the grocery and buy easy breakfast food that you can prepare, like fruits, cheese and bread. This is especially important if you’re traveling with kids. They will get fussy and no one wants that. Now, if you’re really not keen on making preparations, or stocking food, look for the San Gines Churreria which is open 24 hours. Churros dipped in hot chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast for Spaniards.

TIP #2: Free Walking Tours

Now, if you’re ever wanting to learn about Madrid’s rich history and their leaders (eg. Isabel II), you might want to take advantage of some companies that give free walking tours. All you need to do is sign up online and you’re set for a walk around the city. Cost? Just tip your guide! You’ll also most likely have a coffee break at another Churreria 😊

TIP #3: Free Museum Entrance

Just like Milan, Spain’s museums offer free entrance an hour before closing time. By the time you finish your walking tour, have a coffee break and take a very late lunch (around 3-ish), you’ll most likely be just in time to take advantage of this freebie.

TIP #4: Flamenco!

Wondering what to do with the money you’ve saved taking advantage of all the freebies? Why splurge on a Flamenco night of course! Yes, it’s bit pricey (about €40), but it comes with a free drink and an hour long of feverish dancing! Cap your night off with some paella from the nearby mercato and you’re set!

Smart Travels: Milan

Milan is quite an expensive place to visit, with museums costing on average € 15, and simple meals at € 10. However, if you’re smart, you can still save a few euros without depriving yourself of a good time.

TIP 1: Transport Cards

There are 2 types of transpo tickets that can get you around the city. One is a €1.50 card that expires within 90 minutes after use. There’s another that’s €4.50, that can be used for the entire day. Now, you might think that the obvious choice is the €4.50 one since it’s for the whole day. But here’s the thing—sometimes, you will really only need to use it twice (going to one place, and then going back to the hotel). That means you’ll actually be better off with the one-time use card. Remember, Milan is a walking city. If you’re going to the center where all the museums and shops are, you just might opt for walking.

*Note: kids 10 and below ride free.

TIP 2: Museums

How many museums can you possibly go through in a day? Now that really depends on the museum and your patience in walking. Some, like the Biblioteca Pinacoteca Accademia Ambrosiana, are all in Italian. While there are important pieces there from Da Vinci, like some paintings and his codex, there are hardly any English translations. You will need an audioguide to survive this. A complete walkthrough might take you about 2 hours. So, assuming you do a museum in the morning, take a leisurely lunch, a walk/in the park/shopping in the afternoon, you should just be on time to avail of the ‘free’ museum pass—around 4 or 5 pm, an hour before the museum closes. I suggest to research about the museum and go directly to its most important pieces to save on time. A beautiful place to visit in the afternoon is the Castellos Sforzesco. You can buy food-to-go and then eat it at the park.

TIP 3: Food

There aren’t really any “cheap” food in Milan, unless you prefer to eat standing up. But there are some good deals. We tried the Trattoria de Pino and it serves 3-course meals for only €16! It also comes with either mineral water or a glass of wine. You can also order ala carte for the young ones. Ask for the Filipino waiter so that he can explain the menu in English.

TIP 4: Souvenir Shopping

I really didn’t do souvenir research in any of my previous travels, until a recent one in Korea. Because there were so many products, I thought it would be best to search the net for recommended ones. I did the same for Italy and got some really good deals!

Unique stuff to buy:

Marvis Toothpaste: Yes, who would’ve thunk it would be a good idea to bring home toothpaste? Well, for one thing, it’s an Italian brand. It has a cult following that swears by it. And it comes in very quirky flavors and great packaging. Buy them in pharmaceuticals or select groceries.

Soaps: Italy is home to scents so don’t forget to grab a couple. I didn’t put here any brand in particular because they had so many suggestions.

Door Knobs: I swear I’ve never seen so many different knobs in my life! Sold in hardware stores

Happy travels!

Comfort Food @Nono’s

In Manila, good restaurants are never far away. On one of my “Wednesday Date Days” with hubby, we stepped into Nono’s, a recently opened restaurant located in the newly renovated Podium. For those who haven’t been to Podium recently, you will be pleasantly surprised to see its fresh look complimented with a ton of new restaurants! We’ve tried a couple already and so far, I’ve been happy with our choices.

Now, back to Nono’s. Stepping into its calming vintage green interior and loads of fresh greenery definitely takes me back to the sixties.

As they touted their comfort food, I, of course, ordered fried chicken (my definition of comfort food). We also ordered cheese wontons and a plate of pasta for sharing.

The cheese wontons were yummy, with a drizzling of honey and nuts. With the way it looks, I assume the wontons were torched.  It was just enough to satisfy my cravings for cheese, without ruining my appetite.

Cheesy wontons drizzled with honey and nuts

The plate of pasta was too much for a party of two, but it would be a great order for bigger groups. I loved the freshness of the cherry tomatoes and had I not stopped myself, I could’ve easily gorged on the flavorful garlic bread.

Carb fest!

Now on to the pièce de résistance—the fried chicken to  be dipped in gravy and honey! It came with a side of potatoes and corn (no diet here folks!) Among the three orders though, I’m afraid this was my least favorite. Not that the chicken tasted bad. I just didn’t like the gravy, which was too peppery for my taste. Hubby, on the other hand, enjoyed it. When the staff asked me if I was enjoying the meal, I said that I was, except for the gravy. And you know what? She was kind enough to make me a fresh batch. That’s service!

Nono’s is located at the second level of The Podium Mall.
12 ADB ave. Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City.
(02) 637 5147
Leave the diet at home.

3 Reasons Why Color Manila Runs are Not for Kids

Last February 24, daughter and I went for our third fun run. This time, we wanted to try something different and when I saw the ad for the Color Manila Black Light event, I signed us up immediately. Husband was not very happy with my decision, asking me if it was safe for me to bring our daughter. The run was slated to start way into the night (9:20 pm to be exact) and he feared that the venue (McKinley Hill) would be too dark. But I was insistent, saying that our daughter was up for it and we’d be extra careful. Plus, the kit was supposed to come with headlights so I was thinking that we were well-prepared for the dark.

Unfortunately (and I hate it when this happens), hubby was right, but not for the reasons that he gave.

Here are my top 3 reasons why I would not repeat a run with Color Manila if I had to tag a kid along:

  1. It was waaaaay too crowded. I don’t know if they oversold the fun run, but you couldn’t safely run in that kind of crowd. Because the roads were too narrow, my daughter got hit on the face by a runner who was going the opposite way. I think the organizers picked the wrong venue for this. If repeated, they should put a cap on how many people can fit on the road.
  2. As most of the participants were young-ish (mostly in their early 20’s), they were quite playful. One of them initiated a tag game with her friend, and they would weave through the crowd as they tried to “tag” each other–very unsafe. The others would stop midwalk to take a selfie or to literally swim in the powdered coloring. I’m not a serious runner, but I do jog. If somebody suddenly stops in front of me,  I could actually hit them.
  3. There are certain areas in McKinley, particularly the white lanes that are uncharacteristically slippery. In the 5k run, we had to go through it around three times, and in all those three times, I had to walk very very slowly just to make sure we didn’t fall.

While the pictures may look like we had loads of fun, in my mind, I was extremely conscious that I could be endangering my child by exposing her to a place as crowded as this. Mommies, there are many family-friendly fun runs out there. Not Color Run Manila, please.