100 Years of American Express in the Philippines

 

 

Concert program 1

 

Last October 8, I had the honour of attending a special gathering in celebration of the 100th year of American Express in the Philippines, at the Forbes Ballroom of Conrad Manila. It was a very elegant dinner that culminated with a musical concert treat complete with the country’s top performers and a stunning big band. The event was attended by a select group of American Express Cardmembers.

 

Bathroom selfie at the Conrad Hotel before getting to the American Express 100 Years celebration, with BDO. Dress from @k_and_company, hair and makeup by me, complete with lashes again.
I flew solo and I felt silly posing in public by myself. So what’s a girl to do? A selfie in the Conrad’s grand bathroom, with game face on.

 

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I loved the understated elegance of the table setting.

 

Food
US beef tenderloin with roasted carrots and mizuna mash

 

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The AMP Band by Mel Villena

 

Toast with Executives
(L-R) Sharon P Chew, Vice President of Regional Product, Marketing & Business Development, Asia, American Express; Sanjiv Malhotra, Vice President and General Manager, Partner Card Services, Asia, American Express; Y C Koh, President, Asia, American Express International, Inc., Teresita Sy-Coson, Chairperson of BDO Unibank, Inc., Rolando C. Tanchanco, Executive Vice President of BDO Unibank, Inc. and Consumer Lending Group Head, Ma. Nannette R. Regala, Senior Vice President of BDO Unibank, Inc. and Consumer Lending Group Marketing Head

 

Y C Koh, President, Asia, American Express International, Inc., in his address said, “I’m proud to join our long-term partner BDO and our Cardmembers to celebrate American Express’ 100th year in the Philippines tonight. I want to give special thanks to our partners and our customers for their trust and support over the past century. American Express’ aim is to be the world’s most respected service brand, and we look forward to working with BDO to deliver a world-class experience to our customers as we enter our second century.”

 

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Y C Koh with Rolando C. Tanchanco

 

100 Years of American Express Heritage Panels
The centennial celebration gave us a chance to look back at milestones from the opening of the first American Express Asia office in 1916, to the strategic partnership forged with BDO in 2007.

 

AMEX-Platinum-Card (IDC)

 

American Express was the first in the world to introduce a Platinum Card. It made its debut in 1984 as an elite product. The Platinum Card® was offered to existing high spending customers by invitation only. It was labeled the “ultimate plastic” by one newspaper because of its exclusive and valuable benefits. In 1999, the Platinum Card was introduced in the Philippines. Today it continues to evolve with the changing premium marketplace, making it one of the most desired Cards in the market.

And during the 100 Years of American Express Gala, another highlight was the unveiling of the revitalized Platinum Card.

Designed for the affluent, seasoned travelers and their families, the iconic Platinum Card offers better travel experiences and a world of rewards and benefits for its Cardmembers. Platinum Cardmembers can now enjoy enhanced benefits such as:

  • Complimentary business class companion tickets when they fly with Philippine Airlines.
  • Privileged access to more than 900 lounges across more than 120 countries at Priority Pass, Delta Sky Club and American Express Lounges.
  • Automatic enrollment into elite membership status of prestigious hotel loyalty programs such as Shangri-La Golden Circle, Hilton HHonors and Club Carlson. Exclusive hotel privileges with the uniquely created Fine Hotels & Resorts program. Cardmembers will also enjoy exclusive complimentary benefits such as room upgrade upon arrival, daily breakfast for two, in-room Wi-Fi, early check-in, late check-out and a special amenity at each property.
  • A US$200 travel voucher welcome gift for use on your next getaway to purchase air ticket, book a stay, or upgrade your tour package.
  • Complimentary Meet and Assist Services for departure and arrival at NAIA Terminals 1 & 3 and at Davao and Clark International Airports.

BDO, the exclusive card-issuing and merchant-acquiring bank partner of American Express in the country, will continue to launch special promotional offers for Cardmembers throughout the celebration of American Express’ centennial year.

 

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My personal highlight was my encounter with the Chairperson of BDO Unibank, Inc. Teresita Sy-Coson

 

 

After the formalities and dinner, we were entertained by an impressive musical concert by Cris Villonco, Bituin Escalante, Charito, Mon David, the AMP band by Mel Villena, Yuki Arimasa, Kengo Nakamura and Juasa Kanoh with a medley of musical performances spanning different decades.

The theme was “Pop Meets Big Band Jazz”, the performers went through musical periods like the 1920’s to 1930’s where music expressed a new freedom and a very sexy rebellion by the likes of Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. In the 1940’s to 1950’s big band jazz became the pulsing sound of the mainstream with the talents becoming superstars of the era like Cole Porter, Glenn Miller, Dizzy Gillespie, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Miles Davis. The 1960’s to 1970’s was all about the youth quake and freedom in fashion and lifestyles. Jazz may have taken a back seat but still shone through Motown, Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, Sarah Vaughan. The 1980s to 1990s pop songs reflected cool, calm, collected jazz songs from Lou Rawls, Wynton Marsalis and Michael Jackson. The special show ended with the present era of songs by Diana Krall, Norah Jones, Cassandra Wilson, and Pharell Williams.

 

Concert Artists 2
Charito, Mon David, Cris Villonco, and Bituin Escalante.

 

Mon David
Mon David

 

Cris Villonco
Cris Villonco

 

Yuki Arimasa
Yuki Arimasa

 

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Quezon Province’s First 1000 Days program

 

 

FIRST 1000

 

In celebration of Breastfeeding Month last August, I visited Quezon Province, the first local government unit in the Philippines to develop and implement their own First 1,000 Days program for mothers and their babies. It was a special trip, not only because of this beautiful program for maternal and infant health, but because Quezon is also my dad’s home province. It felt like home to me.

 

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I will never get tired of views like this – endless rice paddies.

 

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Quezon to me is coconut country. These were the scenes I grew up with when we used to go on vacation there.

 

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At the municipality of San Antonio, we met new mothers who were breastfeeding their babies. They were participants of the province’s First 1000 Days program from the moment they knew they were pregnant. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

The First 100 Days program of UNICEF works with the notion that the right health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days builds the foundation for a child’s ability to grow, learn, and earn in the future. The first thousand days starts from conception, 9 months of a healthy pregnancy, the first six months of infancy with exclusive breastfeeding, and 6 months to 2 years old of healthy food complementing breast milk.

Children who get the right health and nutrition in their first 1000 days are:

  • 10 times more likely to overcome life-threatening diseases
  • more likely to complete 4.6 more grades of school
  • go on to earn up to 50% more in wages as adults
  • more likely to have healthier families as adults

 

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Along with UNICEF Deputy Representative Julia Rees, I learned about how the local government of Quezon has fully taken on the First 1,000 Days program to help babies get a better start in life. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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New mothers breastfeeding their babies in Quezon Province. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/C Gagalac

 

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Mothers read the “Mama Book”, a guide and logbook for mothers benefiting from Quezon Province’s First 1,000 Days program. Quezon is the first local government unit in the Philippines to develop and implement their own First 1,000 Days program for mothers and their babies. They also developed a program to encourage home gardens, to promote good nutrition. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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We visited this expectant couple in their home. They were participants of the First 1000 Days program. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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In order to qualify to be in the province’s Q1K program, they had to have a vegetable garden at home. With the help of the Quezon Province Department of Agriculture, they were able to successfully grow fruits and vegetables in their own yard. This encourages the family to eat real whole foods rather than processed food. I was very impressed by this. It is a lifestyle that I personally want to have at home. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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UNICEF Philippines’ Julia Rees marveling over the patola harvest. ©UNICEF Philippines/ 2016/CGagalac

 

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The Q1K Mama Book has guidelines on how to have a healthy pregnancy, including recipes for nutritious whole foods that they can grow in their garden. It also emphasises the importance of exclusively breastfeeding the baby once she is born up to 6 months. From the sixth month onwards, mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding the baby and feeding them nutritious food, as opposed to processed cereals and packaged food.

 

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We also met a tricycle driver who actively supported Q1K by driving expectant mothers to the municipal health centre to get their regular health check ups. He has driven about six mothers to the health centre just in time for delivery. As an incentive, the provincial and local governments reward tricycle drivers with free rice whenever they drive a pregnant mom to the clinics. Here we see how different players in the community come together to support pregnant moms.  ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagala

 

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One of my favourite parts of every field visit is seeing and holding cute babies. Here, UNICEF Philippines’ Michelle Borromeo carries an adorable breastfed baby while another baby tries to get my attention. I was able to give her my undivided attention a few seconds after this snap.  ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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Grateful to the Province of Quezon and UNICEF Philippines for bringing me to Quezon to see a very inspiring and impressive program. I hope the rest of the country can come up with similar programs like Q1K. ©UNICEF Philippines/2016/CGagalac

 

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A week after our field visit to Quezon, the Governor David Suarez and his wife Rep Anna Suarez hosted a meeting with the UNICEF Nutrition team in Manila.

 

If you want to learn more about the First 1000 Days and how you can help in your own community, please click here.

 

 

Melissa shoes

 

 

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My girls and I, wearing Melissa shoes. And like always, they are wearing Gingersnaps clothes.

 

I was organizing our closets and found some shoes that my kids have outgrown. I always get sad when I realize how fast they are growing. Luckily, we love hand-me-downs, so it just goes down the line. A staple in our shoe closet is the brand Melissa. They’re so much fun – with their cute styles and interesting colours. But they are also very comfortable, and perfect for our tropical lifestyle.

 

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This is Stella’s favourite character – Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately she has outgrown the baby set and none of these fit her.

 

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I love this Alice in Wonderland style.

 

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01 Mini Aranha VIII Popsicle, 02 Mini Furadinha VII Pineapple, 03 Mini Ballet, 04 Mini Campana

 

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05 Mini Ultragirl Sweet, 06 Darth Vader

 

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My choice this season, Melissa Lady Love Ad.

 

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New High is a comfy, padded, elevated flipflop.

 

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Huarache, a modern take on a classic, is a nice gently platformed sandal.

 

Check out Melissa Philippines on Facebook for more styles. You can also buy Melissa online here.

 

 

Hi Precision Diagnostics Anniversary

 

 

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The new Hi-Precision Diagnostics in Alabang Zapote.

 

Hi-Precision Diagnostics, one of the country’s largest medical laboratory, is celebrating 20 years of top quality healthcare assistance. Hi-Precision has been my site partner for a couple of years now. And recently they also supported my book CHIC: Tips on Life, Style, and Work.

Since knowing more about their services, I have been using Hi-Precision Diagnostics for most of my family’s lab needs. They offer services from routine laboratory tests, imaging, multi-specialty doctors’ clinics, and can perform tests that are not readily available in the country.

 

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Roomy and airy main lobby of HPD in Alabang Zapote Road.

 

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The 2D-Echo room.

 

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Hi Precision in Alabang.

 

Hi-Precision Diagnostics (HPD) opened its first branch in N.S. Amoranto Sr. Ave, Quezon City in 1996 with the aim of providing quality diagnostics healthcare at affordable prices. It has been ISO 9001 certified since 2004. The main laboratory in Del Monte Avenue, Quezon City is accredited to PNS ISO 15189 by the Department of Trade and Industry – Philippine Accreditation Bureauwhile its Bulacan branch is accredited by CAP (College of American Pathologists). HPD also participates in the internationally recognized External Quality Assurance Services (EQAS) certification from Bio-Rad , College of American Pathology Proficiency Testing and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

 

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A safe and accurate system for any lab-related procedure.

 

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I visited HPD main laboratory in Quezon City.

 

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With Hi-Precision Diagnostics’ Melissa Ongsue.

 

As HPD continues to innovate service delivery to its clients, the company has established facilities that are furnished with state-of-the art equipment and software, and manned by highly trained, licensed medical professionals. HPD currently has over 30 branches in Mega Manila and Mega Cebu which offer fully automated laboratory exams like chemistry and immunology, hematology and serology, clinical microscopy, microbiology, anatomic pathology, trace metals analysis, molecular diagnostics (PCR), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), electrophoresis, radio immunoassay. For imaging, HPD has digital X-ray, ECG, ICG, 2D echo with doppler, stress echo, treadmill stress test, general ultrasound, digital mammography, CT scan.

 

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In 2015 when I hosted an event for Philippine Medical Oncologists and moderated a discussion about genetic cancer screening.

 

HPD has special tests like Myriad BRAC Analysis, which can tell you your chances of acquiring genetic cancer. I blogged about it here. They have Endopredict, Food Intolerance Test, RIA Thyroid Function Test, HPV RNA, Non-Invasive Prenatal Paternity Test, Non-Legal Paternity Testing (Specimen Collection only), Hair Follicle Drug Test (Specimen Collection only), CD4 Count, and Non- Invasive Prenatal Screening Test.

 

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I have done some blood tests at the comforts of my own home. Hi-Precision Diagnostics sends their medical professionals for home service.

 

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My husband needs his hand held during needle time.

 

Hi-Precision Diagnostics is the first medical laboratory in the Philippines to use a Laboratory Information System and bar-coding of specimens that help in tracking every detail about a patient from the minute they arrive until their results are released. This ensures accuracy, and allows patients to access and download their results online.

 

Hi-Precision Diagnostics App can also be downloaded to view results and be updated with the latest news, promos, and events with just one click.

 

To ensure patients’ convenience and comfort, HPD also offers Home Service and Mobile On-site Services.
For more information about Hi-Precision Diagnostics, visit www.hi-precision.com.ph or contact their hotlines, (02) 741-7777 or (02) 863-9999.

 

 

Canadian Education

 

 

Graduation, University of Toronto
My graduation day at the University of Toronto.

 

It is that time of the year again when I talk about the value and importance of my education in support EduCanada’s Study in Canada Fair. In the past, and in my book CHIC: Tips on Life, Style, and Work, I have shared how my high school and university education in Toronto armed me with skills and gave me opportunities that went beyond the borders of my home town. This year, I participate both as an alumna and as a parent of future Canadian students.

First, let me start with my usual disclosure. I was not a foreign student whose parents sent me to get a degree in Canada. I am Canadian. I was living in Toronto where my whole family still resides. Now I am here in my motherland, the Philippines. My choice to study in Canada’s premier post-secondary school, was instinctive. I was following the natural path. As early as when I was 13 years old I set my eyes on going to university. And thus began my lofty goals and aspirations of getting a degree from the University of Toronto, or U of T as it is fondly called, one of Canada’s top universities. Competition was tough, so I worked hard during my high school years in order to get in to my university of choice.

 

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The day I got my degree. In front of University College, University of Toronto.

 

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Whenever I’m back in Toronto, I always return to U of T. This was in the summer of 2015.

 

I graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Arts, Specialist in Fine Art History, Minor in Urban Studies. It is one of Canada’s biggest universities with three campuses across Metro Toronto. I chose the main campus in downtown Toronto, St. George campus. Because the school was so big, it was further divided into smaller colleges, by which students from the Arts and Science faculties chose an affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s College, because it was the Catholic college. My courses were spread out across campus though, so there were times I had to walk across Queen’s Park, our provincial legislative building, just to get to Sociology 101. My network of friends and classmates were registered in different colleges.

The St. George campus is beautiful. Architecturally, it has some of the most historically significant buildings like the Romanesque and Byzantine-styled University College, Tudor-styled Trinity College, peacock-shaped post-Modern Robarts Library, and the modernist concrete block of Sidney Smith Hall. My centrally located campus was a block away from Chinatown and the posh shops of Yorkville. My local neighbourhood reflected the diversity and multiculturalism of Toronto. I also benefited from my internship programs at the Royal Ontario Museum where I studied East Asian Art and at Toronto City Hall, where I interred for a city councillor and learned more about urban planning, public participation, urban development.

 

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Downtown

 

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Nathan Philips Square. This was my view from where I interned at the new City Hall. Toronto has a beautiful mix of old and new buildings.

 

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The Royal Ontario Museum or ROM, with the new facade by Daniel Libeskind, was walking distance from my residence.

 

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I did an internship at the ROM. Now it is one of my kids’ favourite spots in Toronto.

 

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Roncesvalles

 

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In Canada there is never a shortage of vast open spaces…

 

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… and public art.

 

Student life at U of T, was and is what you choose to make of it. There are so many different clubs and organizations to choose from. In my freshman year, I joined Pi Beta Phi, the oldest women’s fraternity in North America, dating back to 1867. In Pi Beta Phi, I found a community of dynamic women who strove for excellence, and we shared leadership and philanthropic goals. Instead of living in an official campus residence, I chose to live at the Pi Beta Phi house on Beverley Street. I also got to try off-campus housing in a more colourful part of Toronto. Let’s just say, my social life was very active during my university years.

Whenever I go home to visit my folks in Toronto, I always bring my husband and daughters for a walk through my old campus. It is still so beautiful there. My daughters feel like they’re in a Harry Potter set. A lot of movies have been filmed at the U of T downtown campus — Incredible Hulk, Mean Girls, Good Will Hunting, Anne of Green Gables.

 

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Hart House, University of Toronto.

 

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My eldest, Sophia, at University College, U of T.

 

As the mother of three girls currently studying in a Philippine school, I also hope that one day my daughters choose to study post-secondary school in Canada. I am rooting for my alma mater in Toronto, of course. But we are open to exploring other excellent schools across Canada that may fit their fields of interest more. Canada is the home of some of the world’s top research facilities and academic institutions. There are medical breakthroughs, great inventions, and new innovations from Canadian schools that we read about in global news. There are Nobel Laureats among Canadian alumni and professors.

Like any parent, I am concerned about the cost of a foreign education. It is something we have to plan and prepare for even if they study in the Philippines. Here is an interesting fact though, Canada offers the lowest tuition rates for foreign students compared to the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and the U.S. And because I am Canadian (and so are my kids), I got my globally-recognized education at a fraction of what it would have cost us in a private American university. The good news for foreign students is that they can actually work and study at the same time in Canada.

My Canadian education not only gave me skills and qualifications that are valued around the world, it also gave me very balanced and fair view of the world. We take pride in the fact that Canada is a multicultural society. We are not a melting pot. We have what is called, a cultural mosaic, where people are encouraged to celebrate their uniqueness and diversity. I know what it’s like to be in a healthy and safe community where equality and respect for human rights are respected.

My university experience was not just about the books and the grades. It was about the friendships I forged with students from my field and the women I lived with. It was about living independently in a beautiful, well-planned, dynamic city like Toronto. These are the reasons why I wish for my daughters to study in Canada. And because we want to raise them to be strong, fair, well-informed, unafraid, and involved future leaders, creative thinkers, down right amazing women, a high-quality education in Canada will surely open doors for them wherever they choose to live and work.

 

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ePoster - Manila Cebu

 

The Embassy of Canada in the Philippines will take the EduCanada Fair on the road next week.
Representatives from 37 Canadian institutions will meet with prospective students and parents to discuss opportunities for studying in Canada at the K-12, college and university levels at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City (Wednesday, October 19) and the Shangri-La at the Fort at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig (Saturday, October 22). Admission is free.

Interested students and parents are invited to register at www.educanada.eventbrite.com.

For more information on studying in Canada, including admissions, scholarships, student life, immigration, and more, visit the EduCanada website.