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.

 

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Charito, Mon David, Cris Villonco, and Bituin Escalante.

 

Mon David
Mon David

 

Cris Villonco
Cris Villonco

 

Yuki Arimasa
Yuki Arimasa

 

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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.

 

 

Aldub, the BBC, and me

 

 

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Read the full BBC article here.

 

So Aldub was featured in the BBC website a couple of days ago. And yes, I was quoted a few times. I was actually interviewed by Heather Chen early this week. It was a pretty comprehensive interview that forced me to analyze the cultural and social (media) significance of Aldub. I’m sharing what didn’t make it to print.

The part of the BBC article where I explained the concept of “love team” and “kilig” –
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From the BBC article where I talk about why the Filipinos reacted this way in social media
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Here’s the back story of how the BBC found Aldub newsworthy. BBC presenter Rico Hizon had been seeing my Tweets about Aldub and Kalyeserye. So he sent me a tweet saying he’s been watching Aldub episodes and finds it funny. Here’s our exchange…
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During the airing of #AlDubEBTamangPanahon on October 24th, I was monitoring the show online. I couldn’t watch it live on TV because I was shooting a TV special. I was actually invited by Eat Bulaga management to watch in Philippine Arena. I took a rain check instead. So yes, one day I will be going to Eat Bulaga to watch them in person.

I posted some praises about KalyeSerye in my Facebook Page. I said, “not only have they changed the entire TV landscape and viewing habits, they even rocked the advertising industry by dictating ‘no commercial gaps’ – instead, they did product placements and live mentions. Thats power. And theyre building libraries.” That little bit made the rounds in Twitter and Facebook, and landed me in the GMA Network news. Click on the photo to lead to the GMA News site.

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Here are the notes I sent to the BBC –

What is “Aldub”?

‘AlDub’ is the nickname given to the popular onscreen love tandem of actor Alden Richards, and showbiz newcomer Maine Mendoza, whose character’s name is Yaya Dub.

They are the most popular “love team” in the Philippines right now. A love team is the usual formula that TV networks and movie productions have used since the beginning of the Philippine entertainment industry after WW2. These actors and actresses are paired up in all their movies and fans hope they end up together in real life. It’s been a formula in the Philippine entertainment industry for a long time. What’s different about AlDub tandem is that it was not a creation of a TV network or movie production, it just happened accidentally on live TV.

The name of the show is Eat Bulaga! – a popular daily noontime show that’s been running for 36 years. The format includes dance contests, singing contests and comedy skits that involve the show’s hosts (a group of established actors and comedians, young and old) and a live audience. The show has been enjoying a loyal following for almost four decades. They’ve had the same format. The hosts and producers later admitted that having Aldub was a surprise, an accident, a gift.

Aldub appears in the segment of Eat Bulaga called “All For Juan and Juan For All” (‘Juan’ being a play on the popular Filipino man’s name.) In this segment, three of the comedians would go out on remote locations, usually in crowded urban communities and interact with the people. Much of it was improv and instinctive. The result was always funny and endearing.

Early this year, the producers realized that the segment needed a boost. Jenny Ferre, SVP for Creatives and Operations of Television And Production Exponents Philippines Inc (TAPE, Inc.) and producer of Eat Bulaga!, looked for new talent. She saw Maine Mendoza, a 20-year old graduate of Culinary Arts from a top private school, appearing in her FB timeline. Maine’s hilarious Dubsmash videos had gone viral. Jenny saw something in this girl. Maine was asked to audition. She was asked if she could sing or dance, the answer was no. She said she had no performing talent. But the producers saw something in her quirkiness. So two days later she was offered a small role in Eat Bulaga! She had no speaking lines. All she had to do was lip synch and dub movie lines. She played the role of a Yaya (caregiver) to a rich old grumpy Lola (grandmother), played by a bald male comedian (Wally Bayola) in drag. The Yaya Dub character was introduced to Eat Bulaga! on July 4, 2015.

For almost two weeks, Yaya Dub’s character remained in the sidelines with the occasional comic Dubsmash. Then on July 16, the “magic” happened. While Yaya Dub was “dubsmashing” complete with facial contortions, she looked at the monitor and saw Alden Richards (one of the segment hosts) was looking at her. She got self-conscious, lost her character and became herself – a 20-year old fangirl who had a crush on this actor. The other studio hosts clued in and teased her. Everything happened organically. Nothing was scripted.

How did the social media phenomenon happen?

What’s amazing with this Aldub social media phenomenon is that none of it was previously planned. It’s not like they hired social media experts to strategize about how they would handle this. Eat Bulaga had an existing Facebook Page with a relatively small online community. They would upload snippets of the daily show. Now they upload the whole KalyeSerye segment.

Here are the main factors that contributed to the social media hype

  • Filipinos culturally are social beings and community-centric. Our smallest form of government is the barangay – the village. People like to congregate in the town plaza or barangay hall. TV used to be a communal activity – neighbours would watch through windows. Now, there are viewing parties when there’s a big event. There is a strong connection between an individual and his community or home town. If there is a Manny Pacquiao boxing fight, the barangay chairmen would organize communal viewing parties. If a local beauty pageant contestant wins in a larger stage, the victory is shared by all members of the town/community. The same is happening with Eat Bulaga on Saturdays, Filipinos in the grassroots (it’s core audience) can really relate and feel a sense of belonging with the show. There are communal viewing parties for Eat Bulaga when Aldub is on. It was just natural for Filipino fans to go on Twitter and share their experiences.
  • The producers of Eat Bulaga realized that they captured a new audience, a younger and social-media savvy one. So weeks into the Kalye Serye, in August, they encouraged viewers to tweet using hashtags that change daily. Example #AldubMostAwaitedDate and recently #AldubEBTamangPanahon with 41 million tweets which beat Twitter’s all-time record of highest number of tweets for one event, beating the World Cup finals.
  • Studies have shown that the Philippines has a very high rate of social media penetration. Of our 101 million population, there are 44.2 million active internet users (44% of the population). According to We Are Social 2015 study, the Philippines ranks highest in the region for time spent on the internet. In the Philippines, internet users spend an average of 6.3 hours per day on the internet, followed by the Thailand at 5.5 hours, Vietnam at 5.2 hours and Indonesia at 5.1 hours. For context, Japanese internet users only spend 3.1 hours a day on the internet. The Philippines also ranks highest in Asia Pacific for the number of hours a day spent on Social Media. On an average social media users in the Philippines spend 3.4 hours a day on social media (Facebook being the most popular site). For context, social media users in Japan only spend 0.3 hours on social media. I could talk endlessly an totally geek out on this.
  • Back to the love story of Alden and Yaya Dub. This appealed across all sectors of society,  rich and poor, young and old. The basic and overall reason is “kilig” – the overwhelming feeling of giddiness about young love.
  • In this digital age where everything is fast and instant, the KalyeSerye brought back old and lost Filipino values such as love is worth waiting for, the harder you work for something the more you will value it, respect for elders, living up to one’s word, patience, persistence, setting goals, and the concept of “Tamang Panahon” — everything happens properly in due time. Or literally it’s translated as ‘the right time.’ The theme of giddiness (kilig) and old fashioned courtship resonated well with the young and not so young. Example, when Lola Nidora gave her blessings for Alden to court Yaya Dub, she invited Alden to the family mansion. She gave a few conditions, one of them was “no touch” and stay one foot apart. The audience went wild and took to Twitter to share in this “kilig”.
  • The concept of Kalye Serye, a live reality TV series much like a soap opera that is set in the streets (kalye means street), evolved organically after Maine Mendoza reacted to Alden staring at her via split screen. This was new to the produers and longtime viewers of Eat Bulaga. And it also won over a new breed of viewers – including myself. I’d never watched Eat Bulaga prior to this. The producers realized they had a new audience. They worked on the new genre while keeping the values that attracted the core audience for almost 4 decades.
  • The producers also recognized that people consume media in different forms now. The show airs daily Mondays to Saturdays from 11:30am to 2:30pm. They continue to dominate the existing TV viewership during that time. But they also got the working crowd and overseas Filipinos watching via Facebook uploads. Their own social media team would edit the daily episodes into digital video packages.

Why I’m a fan of ‘AlDub’

I am not your typical Filipino TV audience – though I spent almost two decades working as a TV presenter and producer of my own shows. I barely watched local television except to monitor my old lifestyle shows F and Urban Zone. The variety show, talent show, and soap opera formats were not appealing to me. And in the past few years, I would consume video via mobile and laptop, not on live TV.

But when Maine Mendoza, the girl who plays Yaya Dub, fainted during one episode of Kalye Serye in Eat Bulaga, I saw some curious posts appear in my Facebook feed. I clicked, then clicked some more. And then I got hooked. The characters of the old grandmothers (in drag) were hilarious. And I found myself laughing at night before going to bed.

I appreciated it at first from a producer’s point of view. Because I knew the creative, writing, logistical, technical inputs were pretty intense. It was almost genius-like. Sure the teasing and attraction happened spontaneously, but the producers and senior hosts of Eat Bulaga knew what they had, and they handled it very carefully. That was not a fluke anymore. They maneouvered this KalyeSerye to be something that people waited for and talked about – by simply delaying gratification. While their characters had to wait for the right time for love, so did the audience.

I’m also impressed that they’ve added a social responsibility aspect to the program. Last Saturday at the Philippine Arena, all proceeds of the ticket sales were committed to building libraries across the country. (Figure is something like P14 million, we have to get exact). That’s a big thing. I like that they are using their fame to affect social change. But I hope they stay away from politics. We have a presidential election coming up in May 2016).

What I don’t like about it, is the same thing that people love – it’s popularity. It’s a little scary to see this level of almost-mass hysteria and “fandom.” There was one episode where the Grandmothers and Yaya Dub were in the streets, hosting the show and I could see the crowd closing in on them. It was very scary. They’ve had to adjust their format a bit now. They no longer film directly out in the streets, they just go to safer locations outdoors. I suppose this is why the heads of Eat Bulaga are trying to play it carefully and slowly by adding a social good aspect.

Fore more reference, here is my first blog about Aldub, which made the local news.

Social media saturation in the Philippines

We have yet to see the full power of social media engagement in the Philippines. We are a population of almost 102 million people. There is a 42% penetration of active users of social media. That’s 42 million social media accounts (not unique users).

It’s interesting to note that internet service providers had started selling social media in pre-paid bundles. Example, Globe Telecom first introduced the concept of unilimited-Facebook sold on a flat rate daily basis. This certainly contributed to the growth of social media use.

Social media savvy Filipinos

Though the social media community in the Philippines is very dynamic – with the Philippines ranking highest in the number of hours spent on social media and internet use, it is still in relative infancy in terms of reach and mobile use compared to neighbouring Asian countries. This is in part due to the still-developing mobile and broadband internet providers.

The Philippines has the second slowest internet connection in the Asia Pacific region. South Korea is the fastest with 25.3 mbps. The Philippines has 2.5 mbps and India, the slowest at 2 mbps. (Source: We Are Social).

 

 

Fashion Can Serve

 

 

I Can Serve 2015

 

Every year, for as long as I can remember, I have participated and supported breast cancer awareness campaigns. Recently it has taken on a different meaning with me. This year, I lost seven friends to cancer. Four of them had battled breast cancer. The other three had other types of cancers.

The Philippines has the highest rate of breast cancer in the region. Highest. This means one in 9 Filipino women will get breast cancer. It is mind-boggling and very scary. But what I have learned from my friends at I Can Serve Foundation, is that not all breast cancers are deadly. If detected early, breast cancer is curable by surgery, radiation, and/or chemo.

The message is simple. Please be aware of your bodies. Do a monthly breast self-exam. And if you are over 40 years old, have a mammogram once a year. Monitor your own body. Be proactive. See a specialist, if you feel you are at risk.

For more information on early detection and risk factors for breast cancer, go to www.icanservefoundation.org

 

I Can Serve 2015
At I Can Serve Foundations first fashion fundraiser event, Fashion Can Serve, at the Raffles Hotel. My friend, Katherine Cheng of K & Company, accompanied me. I wore K & Company’s new collection – wide leg pants with a lace tunic top. Katherine is also wearing her dress from the new collection.

 

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With the founder of I Can Serve Foundation, Kara Magsanoc-Alikpala. Like the other women at I Can Serve, Kara is a living testament that there is life after cancer — a beautiful and meaningful life. I am so blessed to have her as a friend.

 

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With Dr Eileen Cuajunco, Girlie Rodis, Kara and Katherine.

 

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Seated across from me – Larry Leviste, Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez Magsanoc, Girlie Rodis, and fashion designer Ito Curata.

 

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Auction host Tessa Valdes

 

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Lulu Tan Gan with muses including breast cancer survivor Patty Betita.

 

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I Can Serve ambassadors Agot Isidro and Rissa Mananquil Trillo, with breast cancer survivor Toni Abad

 

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Fashion designer Maureen Disini with survivors Leah Caringal and Maritoni Fernandez

 

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Rhett Eala with I Can Serve supporters Tweetie de Leon Gonzales and Dawn Zulueta and breast cancer survivor Alya Honasan.

 

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Fashion designer Kristel Yulo with breast cancer survivor Michelle Dayrit-Soliven and I Can Serve supporter Amina Aranaz.

 

For more information on www.ICanServeFoundation.org