The Philippine Literary Festival 2014

 

 

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Announcement from my sponsor, National Book Store –

Raffles Makati and National Book Store present the first ever Philippine Literary Festival featuring international bestselling and award-winning authors Amy Tan and Chang-Rae Lee from October 23 to 25, 2014 at the Raffles Makati.

Attend three days of book signing, discussions and panels about books and literature with free admission! The Spotlight on Amy Tan panel will be on October 24 at 1:30 p.m. and her book signing will be on October 25 at 2 p.m. The Spotlight on Chang-Rae Lee panel and book signing will be on October 25 at 9 a.m. View the complete schedule and get details of all events at www.philippineliteraryfestival.com.

 

 

 

Author Photo - Amy Tan (credit to Rick Smolan)
Amy Tan is the woman behind ‘The Joy Luck Club’, ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife’, and ‘The Hundred Secret Senses’, which are all New York Times bestsellers and recipients of various awards all over the world. Her works have been translated into 35 languages.

 

Book Cover - Valley of Amazement
Amy Tan’s new novel ‘The Valley of Amazement’ is described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a novel that grabs your soul”. Abandoned by her mother Lucia, and uncertain of her father’s identity, Violet is one of the most celebrated courtesans in Shanghai. Her quest will set her on a path fraught with danger and complexity, and the loss of her own daughter Flora. Lucia, a willful and wild American woman who was once the proprietress of Shanghai’s most exclusive courtesan house, nurses her own secret wounds. Her search for penance and redemption will bring her to a startling reunion with Flora, and will shatter all that Violet believed she knew about her mother.

 

Author Photo - Chang-rae Lee (credit to David Burnett)
Korean-American novelist Chang-Rae Lee is the author of ‘Native Speaker’, which garnered numerous awards including Ernest Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and the American Book Award. He was hailed as one of the 20 best American writers by The New Yorker magazine for his second novel ‘A Gesture Life’. His novel ‘Aloft’, earned him the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the Adult Fiction category in 2006. Photo credit ©2009 David Burnett, represented by Cathy Saypol, August 19, 2009, New York, NY, NY Public Library

 

Book Cover - On Such a Full Sea
‘On Such a Full Sea’ is Chang-Rae Lee’s latest novel set in a dystopian future America, which is described by the Washington Post as “a brilliant, deeply unnerving portrait”. In a class-divided future America where urban neighborhoods function as labor colonies for elite charter villages, Fan, a female fish-tank diver, embarks on what becomes a legendary quest to find the man she loves, who mysteriously disappears. Her journey will soon become a legend to those she left behind.

 

All events will be held at the Raffles Makati with registration starting at 8 a.m. everyday. Admission is free. Only books purchased at the Philippine Literary Festival will be entitled to signing passes for Amy Tan and Chang-Rae Lee. Sign up for updates and view the complete schedule at philippineliteraryfestival.com.

Follow National Book Store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@nbsalert) for updates on the latest events, promos and contests. Tag #PLF2014 to join the discussion.

 

 

Study in Canada

 

 

Graduation, University of Toronto
When I was awarded my degree at the University of Toronto.

 

I was recently invited by the Canadian Embassy (Manila) to join a roundtable discussion with media and the Canadian Ambassador to promote post-secondary education in Canada. It brought me back to my years in university, where I had the best years of my life. To this day, I still value not just the quality of education I received, but also the wealth of experience I gained by living and studying in a dynamic city like Toronto.

I must say that I did not choose to study in Canada. I’m Canadian and it was just a natural progression. I graduated from a Canadian high school. I always wanted to study at the University of Toronto. I worked hard in high school, got involved in leadership positions, and I got in to all three universities of my choice. I wouldn’t know what it’s like as a foreign student. The Study in Canada Fair hopes to address questions regarding international students.

Tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel, the Embassy of Canada is hosting the Study in Canada Fair. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Everything you need to know about studying there will be available. Register online here, it’s all free.

I will answer the most common question I receive about Canadian education. No, the Embassy does not give scholarships or grants. They are hosting this event to give information and support for those considering an education overseas. However, universities, colleges and organizations give scholarships to individuals based on merit and need. First things first, put in your application to a university and get in. Then try applying for financial assistance.

 

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The day I graduated from the University of Toronto. I was 23 years old and my sisters were still in high school. Both of them also went to U of T. Both did very well. Hanni even graduated “With Distinction” (cum laude).

 

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Every time we are back in Toronto, I make it a point to visit my old campus. The kids love it there because it reminds them of Harry Potter.

 

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University of Toronto is Canada’s #1 university. It is ranked in the top 20 of the world. I say that not to show off, though it makes me very proud that I got in to such a prestigious institution (and completed my degree). I’m proudly sharing this fact because in Canada, you can get top quality education at a fraction of what one would pay in the UK or the US. All our universities are subsidized. We do not have private universities. Because of this, competition is really tough getting in to the top schools.

 

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University of Toronto is the largest university in Canada. It is divided into three campuses – St George campus (downtown, where I went), Erindale College (in the west of Toronto, Mississauga) and Scarborough Campus (eastern side). St George is huge and spans across many blocks of the downtown core. As a student in St George, you are either affiliated with a professional faculty (Engineering, Architecture, etc.) or a college (for those in the arts and sciences). I chose to be in St Michael’s College. I didn’t live in official on campus residence because I found my “family” in Pi Beta Phi, the first women’s fraternity established in 1867 in the US. I lived in my women’s fraternity house, which was in the periphery of the university and just a corner away from the Art Gallery of Ontario.

 

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Within the UofT St. George campus (downtown), there are seven colleges. Each arts and science student must choose one college affiliation. I chose St. Michael’s because it was Catholic. But once you’re studying it hardly matters which college you belong to, except if you’re paying tuition or changing courses (which I am sure is all online now). The college system is a distinct feature of UofT, to give students the chance to feel the smaller college community life with its own traditions. This photo shows Knox College, a postgraduate theological college of the UofT, founded in 1844. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of Canada and the church of Scotland.

 

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I love going to Knox College, because it’s just so pretty. I don’t really have interest in theology or divinity, but if I did, I would love to study and live in this kind of environment.

 

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Sophia is smitten by UofT, St George campus. This is at the University College (UC), established in 1853. UC has no religious affiliation. The building reflects a mix of styles including Norman, Romanesque Revival, and faint traces of Byzantium and the Italian palazzo. It is located in the centre of King’s College Circle, making it the most recognisable landmark of the university.

 

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Convocation Hall last spring 2013.

 

Under the bell tower
The hero’s memorial outside Hart House.

 

Hart House, University of Toronto
This is Hart House, our student activity centre established in 1919. In my freshman year, this is where my friends and I ate lunch every day. I love the Gothic revival style of architecture. I used to do my aerobics classes and swimming laps in the indoor pool with vaulted ceiling. Really beautiful place.

 

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Not all buildings at UofT are from the 1800’s. There are some very interesting 60’s modern and post-modern architecture as well.  This is Lily when she was 4. At the Medical Sciences building.

 

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Living in the heart of downtown Toronto gave us access to a lifestyle that was rich in culture, social activities and dynamic urban issues — very important for a student of urban planning. The Royal Ontario Museum ROM was within our vicinity. One of my Art History courses in East Asian Art was held at this museum. The ROM has since undergone an expansion by Daniel Libeskind.

 

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Just a block from where I lived (Pi Beta Phi house), was the Art Gallery of Ontario and Toronto’s famous Chinatown. Again, as a student of art history, living near the AGO was a real privilege. In 2008, the AGO was redesigned by my favourite, Frank Gehry.

 

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The new City Hall of the City of Toronto, where I was an intern for two years. As a student of urban planning, I got my practical experience as an intern for a city councillor. We dealt with the city’s growth issues, heritage conservation, and our local ward’s neighbourhood concerns – from a resident complaining that a neighbour is not mowing his lawn (creating an unsightly streetscape), to the study of deep lake water cooling, to gentrifying neighbourhoods and preserving heritage structures, and the possibility of a Metro government. Fast forward to now, Toronto city government has moved to the Metro Hall as all the cities within the Toronto area amalgamated and formed one metro-wide government. Think, one Metro Manila government as opposed to 17 city halls.

 

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It was also this internship at Toronto City Hall that paved the way for me to get hired by the Canadian Urban Institute’s International Programs Office, which eventually led to my working overseas — in Mexico and the Philippines. And the rest, as they say….

 

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A couple of weeks ago, upon the invitation of Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder, I attended a round table presentation to media about our Canadian education.

 

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With Ambassador Reeder to launch the Study in Canada Education Fair were other prominent Filipino alumni of Canadian schools. From left, Chef Sharwin Tee who graduated from the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, Miss International Bea Rose Santiago who studied at York University, SEAOIL Philippines President and CEO Glenn Yu from University of British Columbia, me from University of Toronto, entrepreneur Christopher Tan from University of British Columbia, and musician artist Nykó Macá of McGill University.

 

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So, yeah, I talk with my hands. Haha. Here’s a light moment with Ambassador Reeder. On the left is the President and CEO of SEAOil Philippines Glenn Yu who graduated from the University of British Columbia on full scholarship from the federal government. Bea Santiago, current Miss International, studied in York University. Amb. Reeder studied at University of Saskatchewan and Carlton University.

 

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The Study in Canada Fair, tomorrow, October 4, 2014 from 10am to 6pm at the Fairmont Hotel. There will be representatives from some Canadian colleges and vocational institutions. Learn everything you need to know about studying in Canada. Register online here, it’s all free.

 

 

Four shows in 9 days

 

 

I’ve had a pretty amazing week in terms of culture and the arts. For some reason, I got to see four live wonderful shows in 9 days. It started with Disney Live, then Pinocchio the next day, then Shrek The Musical — all with the kids. Then last night my friend Katherine and I watched Noli Me Tangere The Opera. Oh in between those shows, Patrick and I watched Lav Diaz’s four and a half hour long Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan which I raved about in Instagram.

 

NOLI ME TANGERE, THE OPERA

Noli

 

Music by Felipe De Leon (National Artist)
Libretto by Guillermo Tolentino (National Artist)

Noli Me Tangere is the Philippines’ first full-length Filipino opera composed in 1957 by two National Artists Felipe Padilla de Leon and Guillermo Tolentino based on Dr. Jose Rizal’s novel. De Leon composed the music and Tolentino created the libretto.

The musical presentation, an opera in three acts, follows the story of Juan Crisostomo Ibarra, who returns to the Philippines after pursuing scholarly studies in Europe. He plans to open up a school and marry Maria Clara, his betrothed. However, parish priest Padre Damaso, the archenemy of the Ibarras, is out to hinder Crisostomo’s plans, which creates “a dramatic storyline of forbidden love, betrayal and revenge. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) depicts the abuses suffered by the native Indios at the hands of Spanish tyrants. The opera paints us a clear picture of the so called “social cancer” that illustrates the rotten system of governance, the illicit ways of the church and the unfavorable trade of the privilege class.

 

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Beautiful performance on Saturday night. It was my first time to know the story of Noli Me Tangere. Hearing the words sung as an opera in Filipino was just an incredible experience.

 

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The stage design was beautiful. Maestro Rodel Colmenar and the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra were amazing. Do not worry about not understanding the songs (in Filipino), they provide English translation on screen.

 

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My friend Katherine Cheng (designer of K&Company, the dress I’m wearing) and I with the producers of Noli Me Tangere The Opera, NY-based Jerry Sibal & Edwin Josue. They approached me at the lobby before the show. Turns out they were loyal viewers of Urban Zone. Nice. Jerry is a well-known floral end event designer in New York.

 

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The staging of Noli Me Tangere The Opera locally at Resorts World’s Newport Theatre was the brain child of Loida Nicolas Lewis (in black with floral details), Edwin Josue and Jerry Sibal. This opera first premiered in 1957. It was only restaged in 1987 at the CCP and never heard about until now. Mrs Lewis and the producers restaged it at New York’s Lincoln Centre late last year, and just a few months ago at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC.

 

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I was so moved by the performance of Antoni Mendezona as Sisa. I’ve seen a few interpretations of Sisa which usually involves screaming and capitalizing on her mental breakdown. But hearing her express her pain as a suffering mother through opera songs was a mind-blowing experience. It was my first time to hear Sal Malaki perform. And wow, all I can say is his voice truly is a gift from God. Rachelle Gerodias was her perfect self. I’ve had the privilege of working with her twice — once at the launch of MDF Italia at Studio Dimensione, and the next was a couple of weeks ago when I hosted the Bank of Singapore’s preview gala for Salcedo Auctions.

I highly recommend Noli Me Tangere, The Opera. They are only showing until September 28th. Even if you were not a fan of Noli back in high school or if you think opera is just for the highbrow, try watching this beautiful all-Filipino opera. It’s a feast for the senses. If you can, bring your high school-level kids. It may even help them appreciate the story in class.

For tickets to Noli Me Tangere, The Opera click here.

 

 

SHREK THE MUSICAL

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Shrek-the-Musical

 

I took the kids to watch the press preview of Atlantis Production’s Shrek The Musical last Thursday night (before typhoon Mario struck). It was a school night but we all agreed to take the risk of staying up past bedtime. The kids and I were guests of MAC Cosmetics and they gave us access to the makeup room backstage. The kids got to see a demo of how Fiona was turned green.

As the title suggests, Shrek The Musical is a stage adaptation of the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film Shrek. Just like the movie, Shrek The Musical has quirky twists on old familiar fairytales. This production is family-friendly. All three daughters – Sophia, Lily and Stella – loved it. They say it’s their favourite of all the shows. It was hilarious.

The casting, costumes and set design were fantastic. Congratulations to the director, Bobby Garcia. I was floored by the performance of Nyoy Volante as Donkey. He was so funny and really sounded like Donkey aka Eddie Murphy. Rycharde Everley, a British actor, played Shrek convincingly. Jett Pangan as Lord Farquaad was excellent.

 

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Shrek The Musical is great fun for kids of all ages. Stella couldn’t stop talking about the funniest parts. And I had forgotten how beautiful Meralco Theater was. I’m so glad the owners are good at maintaining buildings. I performed my ballet recital here a gazillion years ago.

 

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After the show, the kids and I were invited by the MAC Cosmetics team to see a demo backstage. This is the  exact green theatre makeup used on Fiona. It’s from the MAC Pro line called True Chartreuse.

 

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Stella observing the greening of the demo model by MAC theatre makeup artist Myrene Santos.

 

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According to Myrene, it can take as little as five minutes to green Princess Fiona’s face once the basic foundation, eyes and lips are already done. But watch out for some pretty amazing special effects on stage. You’ll witness Princess Fiona transform in less than two minutes. I don’t know how they did it.

 

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Sophia took down notes. She plans to write about this experience for her school paper. Lily was way too sleepy at this point. It was past 11pm.

 

If you are looking for a fun musical this season, this is it. Bring your kids. I guarantee they will love it. For tickets to Shrek The Musical by Atlantis Productions, click here. Show ends October 12, 2014.

 

 

PINOCCHIO

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Every year, the past nine years, I’ve been taking the kids to see a kid-friendly Repertory Philippines musical. I give credit to the preschool teachers of my kids. They are loyal supporters of REP.

This year’s production of Pinocchio is so beautifully presented. We all know the story of a wooden puppet who wants to become a real boy. And that of Geppetto, the kind and generous toymaker. The afternoon we watched, our Geppetto was Miguel Faustmann.

 

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I don’ t know if it’s the parent in me, but I was really touched by this very familiar story all over again. Stella said she got sad in some parts but she was happy in the end.

 

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If you haven’t yet, you must bring your young children to one of REP’s productions for young audiences. Not only is it a great way to get your kids used to theatre etiquette at a young age, the colourful scenes, songs and dances will stay with them for a long time. (All stage photos are courtesy of Repertory Philippines. We can’t take photos while the show is ongoing).

 

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Most of REP’s musicals for kids involve audience participation. Sophia got chosen to participate in the opening scene by pinning the map of Italy on the board. Haha.

 

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This is the last year of my preschooler. I will miss our annual REP shows. But I think this is a tradition we wish to keep. I will always take my kids to see REP’s Young Theatre.

 

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Last Saturday night at the lobby of Noli Me Tangere The Opera, I met this young girl named Andee Achacoso. She played Pinocchio the time we watched. She’s got a great voice that almost made me cry.

 

Repertory Philippines’ Pinocchio is playing at Onstage Theatre, 2nd Floor of Greenbelt 1 Makati until December 14, 2014. Bring your kids to this one. They will love it. You will love it. For tickets, click here.

 

 

DISNEY LIVE: THREE CLASSIC FAIRY TALES

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Disney Live stayed true to form with spectacular costumes and stage design at the enormous MOA Arena. The singing, of course, was not live. But all the Disney princess fans in this family loved the show.

 

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We were invited by the producers to “meet and greet” Snow White and Dopey.

 

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We also got to “meet and greet” the Magalonas and Danica Sotto-Pingris. Haha :)

 

Disney Live was on a special 3-day run last September 12 to 14th. Watch out for more Disney productions as Christmas time rolls in.

 

NOTE: I do not have a professional relationship with any of the producers of the four shows. I did not and will not get any commission from ticket sales. I paid for my tickets for Noli Me Tangere and Repertory Philippines’ Pinnochio. For Shrek The Musical, we got free tickets from MAC Cosmetics. For Disney Live, we were given free tickets as part of the online promo they had.

 

 

BlogHer 2014

 

 

I attended the BlogHer 2014 conference at Silicon Valley a few weeks ago. I don’t really know why I went out of my way to be there. It was a spur of the moment decision because I wanted to do something I had never done before and be in a place I’d never been to. I could have just chosen a more exotic location but instead, I chose Silicon Valley. I figured, my blog rode that whole from-hobby-to-industry wave that most early bloggers experienced. Perhaps it’s time to figure out where my blog fits in in the grand scheme of things. I spent my own money for the conference fees and my hotel accommodations. I was about to pay for my airline fare, when EVA Air, through Jeron Travel, sponsored my round trip ticket.

It was the 10th year anniversary of BlogHer, a huge network of American women bloggers, who contribute content, participate in a community of shared interests and earn from commerce. Im a new member of BlogHer network. I saw the line up of speakers and participants, and that’s what made me decide to attend. And because it was the 10th anniversary, we looked back at how we all started blogging then and the challenges and opportunities we face now that there are different forms of social media.

As soon as I found out that Arianna Huffington would speak, I was there. She’s a woman I look up to, having created one of the most influential news sites online. Then there was Richelle Parham, CMO of eBay North America who talked about the huge opportunities available to and largely untapped by online influencers. Melissa Barnes, head of global brands for Twitter, Melissa gave an exciting talk about working with Twitter’s biggest customers to help them drive measurable results and create custom initiatives that are authentic and appropriate for Twitter. Hollywood star Kerry Washington was also a highlight. She talked about her advocacies and political voice on Twitter. There were many other keynote speakers and workshop speakers who were very informative and inspiring. For more information on BlogHer, go here.

Here are some highlights of my BlogHer’14 experience.

 

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It was my first time in San Jose, California. I stayed at the beautiful Fairmont San Jose.

 

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You know you’re in California when you see these…

 

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San Jose Convention Center

 

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The first morning of BlogHer’14

 

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I don’t know exactly how many participants there were at this conference. There must have been over 2000.

 

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The main hall where the keynote speakers presented.

 

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Got a chance to meet with the CEO and co-founder of BlogHer Inc., Lisa Stone. She was floored when she found out I flew in from Manila just to attend the conference.

 

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With COO and co-founder of BlogHer Inc., Elisa Camahort. Her father is of Filipino descent.

 

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So ya, all my photos were selfies not just because that was the theme of the conference – selfiebration – but also because I was alone.

 

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Kerry Washington was one of the keynote speakers. She talked about how social media and the fans saved Scandal. Every Thursday night, all cast members, producers and writers got on Twitter to exchange with fans. “There are so few water cooler shows now because you can watch most shows whenever you want, like on netflix. Social Media has allowed us to be a water cooler show because if you don’t watch it when it airs, social media may spoil it for you.”

 

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Kerry Washington was so awesome. She even took a selfie from the stage. It was the weekend before she would go back to work that Monday after having given birth. At one point, she heard a baby make a cute fussy sound in the audience (BlogHer is a mommy- and baby-friendly conference) and she stopped and looked for the baby. She joked that you can tell she’s a new mom.

 

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There was a booth for The Mrs., an all-female rock band from Austin, Texas, who launched a new album titled Enough. They had this magic mirror that gave women the experience of seeing themselves in a different way. It was quite touching, actually. You can see the video here.

 

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Arianna Huffington was also among the keynote speakers. She was interviewed by Guy Kawasaki.

 

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Arianna signed her books. I lined up and waited for my turn. She’s charming, funny, witty. So sharp! More on Arianna Huffington in a future blogpost.

 

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It was good to see that Samsung was a sponsor. They had a kitchen display called Samsung Living Atelier. I told them that in the Philippines, I represent Samsung digital home appliances.

 

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So random. I won this Nikon DSLR at the Dreamhost booth!

 

My travel arrangements were done through Jeron Travel. I flew via Taiwan by EVA Air. All photos were taken using the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2.

 

 

 

Love yourself

 

 

Globe Business invited me to speak at their event called Project W. It is a private event held for the Globe’s women partners and clients, all of whom hold high-level positions in their respective companies. They’ve done it in Cebu and Davao and a few Fridays ago, it was held in Manila. The idea was to bring together Globe Business’ top women clients to feel treated to a day of relaxation, spend quality time on themselves, and value their individuality. It was a day to learn more about themselves, and feel empowered by listening to renowned speakers and life coaches.

I was invited to give a talk on the topic “The importance of loving yourself.” I’ve given many talks before, usually to students and universities and mostly focusing on urban planning, blogging and my career path. I’ve never really given a talk on a “self-help” topic. They gave me a couple of months to prepare for this but all my thoughts only made sense a few days before the event.

I showed the audience a peek into my life – as a mom, tv host, entrepreneur and blogger. I looked back at my journey and career path, both of which did not have a blueprint. I also never had a mentor. I shared the challenges and the kind of pressure I faced. I used to thrive on being busy, on working late at night. And this set the stage for my 20 reasons why you should love yourself. It’s too long to write here, but perhaps one day I can share it as a blog entry. Who knows.

Here are highlights from that lovely day with Globe Business Project W.

 

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Every person faces difficult life choices. For me, as a working mom, it came when I was torn between going all the way with my TV work and spending more time at home. Instead of freaking out because I felt I had to choose, I celebrated the fact that I had a choice. It’s different for everyone.

 

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This year has been an incredible journey for me. Part of my healing myself from burn out was to conquer “uncharted territory”. I am now finally in total control of my kitchen. And I got over my fear of cooking meats and chicken. I can cook anything now, and I do it with joy. It does so much to my spirit knowing I can make food for me and my family. I make sure I only use good stuff.

 

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Perhaps the most important aspect of loving yourself is taking charge of your health. Have your annual mammogram once you’re 40. Some may need sonograms. The Philippines has the highest rate of breast cancer in the region. Let’s beat that by early detection.

 

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There were three of us speakers that afternoon. Francis Kong spoke on Inspiring Excellence and Jackie Caniza on Life Design based on Values and Priorities.

 

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With the dynamic guests of Project W. All were given kaftans.

 

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I had fun meeting the participants.

 

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The women were given a choice of pampering services.

 

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Hydro yoga

 

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The mani-pedi room

 

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Foot spa

 

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Lovely tableau by Globe’s Ronald Gonzales.

 

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Ronald brought in some pretty coffee table books. At home, I like to surround myself with lovely books. I not only read and refer to them, I use them as part of my decor.

 

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One of the function rooms at the Crimson Hotel was converted into a massage room.

 

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Rags 2 Riches was there to allow the women to tap into their crafty juices.

 

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All over the venue there were these lovely quotes by and about women.

 

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This one, from Coco Chanel.

 

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With the Globe Business team. Thank you for inviting me and making me part of this very inspiring day. Now, if I can just get my act together and do a DAPHNE® Day like this for my readers…