Thursday, February 28, 2008


The anticipation is over. This girl is the new face of Kamiseta.

I passed through EDSA last night and saw Petra Nemcova's billboard in Guadalupe. It didn't leave me "in-awe-with-mouth-gaping-wide-open" unlike when I first saw Kate Hudson. But still, it's impressive that they were able to get a top-grade model to be the next face of the brand. It reminds me of Kate Moss' campaign for Jaspal in Thailand. That definitely left a lot of Thai consumers in awe.

Petra Nemcova is known for two things. One, her cover for Swimsuit Illustrated, and two, she was one of the survivors of the Tsunami in Bali in 2004. She was vacationing with her photographer-boyfriend when the Tsunami hit. She survived the tragedy by holding on to a tree trunk for several hours until the water subsided. This story was fashion magazine fodder for a while, and painted her as a beautiful survivor.

Petra Nemcova is a great girl to replace Kate Hudson. But I still would've wanted to see Tyra Banks up there.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Travel Light

When I picked Prichy up at the airport this weekend, my first question was: "Where's the rest of your luggage?"

There were 3 of them and they were each carrying a small backpack and a plastic bag. Initially, I thought they parked their suitcases somewhere while they roamed the airport. Imagine my surprise when they told me: "This is everything."

I've heard of traveling light, but this takes it to an entirely new level. Heck, I often bring along my Samsonite carry-on suitcase for a weekend in Manila, and I consider that packing light already. But seeing what Prichy brought for the weekend made my suitcase look like a pack of pachyderms.

Surprisingly though, they brought everything they needed in those small bags: clothes for the entire trip, toiletries, even a bunch of pasalubong that someone asked them to bring. She even brought some books and a journal along with her. All in 3 little bags. (Obviously, I can't get over this. Harhar.)

When they left yesterday, they were still able to fit everything in those 3 bags. But they were also lugging along some plastic bags filled with stuff they shopped for. Despite that, they managed to carry less than what I usually do.

It's one of two things: One, Prichy has an ingenious way of packing stuff that I have yet to learn, or two, the bags they carry have these magical secret compartments that expand and hide kilos and kilos of luggage magically.

I reckon it's the latter.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I think I've found the reason why I should buy Kylie's new album:

As one of her songs said: She did it again. Yes, Kylie really, really did it again with this song.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cutting Loose

Ever since my conversion to "jean-hood", my preference when it came to fit would either be straight-cut or skinny. These types of jeans feel easier to dress up or dress down. Plus, they look more stylish when compared to their trouser-style or baggy-type brothers. My feeling is that loose-fitting jeans look a bit unkempt and lazy, probably because of the slouch it creates whenever you wear them. Maybe that's why I've been avoiding them for the longest time.

For the past few months though, I've noticed a sudden fascination with loose jeans.

During my recent trip to Japan, I packed 3 pairs - all loose fitting ones. These 3 - the A&F, Just Cavalli and I.S.O. jeans - are also the same 3 pairs that I've been using very often since November. The past few weeks, I've been rearranging my jean closet: pulling out the loose ones and putting them on top of my straight cut pairs.

When I looked at my latest jean acquisitions - the ones from Zara and the this new pair I got from American Eagle - they all were loose fitting ones as well.

It was probably brought about by the weather. Since December, the surroundings have been too cold that I've resorted to wearing longer, thicker underpants. These bulky underthings often don't sit well with my regular jeans because it hinders movement. When I was in Japan and had to wear long johns, that was when I realized what a blessing loose jeans were.

Wearing them feels like wearing nothing at all. (In fact, I almost stepped out of the dressing room at the Kokusai Ski Resort without wearing any...) There's a feeling of freedom and flexibility that I'm rediscovering, and liking! And because of that, I know what I'm doing this weekend. I'm letting all my loose jeans loose!

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Ever since Alicia Silverstone donned Kamiseta and appeared in their billboards about 5 years back, I've always looked forward to seeing their next endorser. While a lot of my friends said that topping that would be difficult, they've managed to do so each time. Alicia was followed by Natalie Portman - who's career was on a high at the time she went on-board as Kamiseta's new girl. Following suit is Hollywood's sunshine girl, Kate Hudson.

(I swear, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this billboard two years ago.)

Now, Kamiseta is whetting our appetites by coming out with their latest teaser:

Right now, a lot of supermodels' names are running in my head. Maybe it's Gisele Bundchen. Maybe it's Cindy Crawford. Maybe it's Naomi Campbell. Maybe it's Tyra Banks! (Fierce!) Then again, maybe it's America's First Supermodel - Janice Dickinson!

Come on, Kamiseta. Tell us already.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More firsts

My latest Japan sojourn marked the first time I set foot in Ueno. Although I've been in Japan a number of times, I've never ventured to this part of Tokyo. That said, there are only two things I know about Ueno: (1) It's the first stop of the Joetsu Shinkansen that goes to Urasa, and (2) It's the place with a big Filipino store where the IUJ people buy Green Mung Beans.

Factoid number 2 is the precise reason why Mark and I headed off to Ueno last week - Hazel was asking him to buy "monggo." So after our trip to Mitaka, we took the Yamanote Line and found ourselves here:

Ueno is such a refreshing change from the cosmopolitan environs of Shinjuku and Shibuya. With its maze of markets, street stalls and food stands, I felt like walking into Mong Kok or Chatuchak. Honestly, I never expected to see a "tiangge" set-up in Tokyo, that's why this was a pleasant surprise and definitely a highlight of the trip.

I loved the Asian supermarkets that sold everything from Chinese preserved fruits to Indonesian Shrimp chips to Japanese Rice Crackers. Of course, I had to control myself and not grab everything that caught my fancy because if I did, I'd probably walk away from Ueno carrying 5 bags! (Went back to the hotel with 2, though.)

Aside from Hazel's order, Mark and I were able to buy Wonka Chocolates, Coconut milk and sweet rice crackers (much like Peanut Brittle, but using Rice crackers instead of peanuts.) We also ate Takoyaki balls at this place which I assumed was uber popular because of the crowd.

Plus, we got free Ferrero chocolates from this lady giving it away by the box! Strangely, people weren't too interested and ignored the freebie. Heck, if this happened in HK or Manila, the queue would've been major league long.

It's amazing how I missed this place during my earlier visits to Tokyo. Anyone who's into shopping and gets a high visiting Tiangges should mark this place as a "must-visit." It might not be as hip and classy as Shibuya or Ginza, but it definitely makes it up for it with variety. (And price!)

Another first on this trip was our first time to eat at Royal Host.

Whenever we're in Japan, our restaurants du jour would be Mos Burger, Saizeriya, Denny's, Jonathan's, Fridays, and McDonald's. (Of course!) While on the bus from Urasa to Ikebukuro, we passed by Royal Host and told Mark that we haven't tried that place yet. So that evening, we had dinner there.

The food is pretty much like Jonathan's and Saizeriya, and the ambience is pretty much the same. This type of restaurant is probably Japan's version of the American Diner or HK's Cafe de Coral. But I'm glad we had dinner there because it's always good to try something new. (And their Clubhouse Sandwich was good!)

I think it's awesome how each visit to Japan yields so many "firsts." That makes each visit feel like the first one.

Monday, February 18, 2008

In the Navy

There was a time when Old Navy was synonymous to basic clothing at uber affordable prices. Whenever I'd go to the US, my first destination would be Old Navy because it's where I can get the most bang for my buck. Imagine, they have shirts for 99 cents and jeans for $5.00. Heck, I could buy an entire outfit for $10.00!

But as the adage goes, you get what you pay for. Whilst they're affordable, the clothes at ON are basic. The usual cotton graphic shirts and loose fitting pants - nothing too stylish and often worn under more fashionable pieces like an American Apparel hoodie or Diesel jeans.

It's been a while since I visited ON, or their site. So when I did log on today, I was shell-shocked at what I saw! Old Navy is upping their style ante.

From the usual jersey dresses and bland linen shirts, they've now come up with fashion-forward prints (Global motifs such as the one in their wrap dress is currently the rage on the catwalks), and interesting silhouettes. (The safari dress is so "Out of Africa.")

I reckon this is their answer to the entry of European fast fashion labels in the U.S. Heck, Gap even hired Patrick Robinson to be their head designer, and they have a limited European collection. This is an indication that they really mean business. Makes me wonder who's the head designer for ON these days, because he or she is definitely doing a good job in making the brand young and stylish.

Yup, the Navy's going to put up a fight against the Zaras and H&Ms.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Japan's Parc Gruell

Thanks to Kent, we discovered this awesome place tucked away in the suburb of Mitaka.

We went to Studio Ghibli Museum to buy a mug that Kent was collecting. Initially, I was just planning to go there to buy the mug and not tour the museum at all. As it turns out, the museum shop is inside the museum, so we had to buy tickets and really tour the place. And boy, I'm sure glad we did.

Parc Gruell in Barcelona is a tribute to the genius of Antonio Gaudi's architectural vision. When you're there, you feel like you're in a fantasy world and you easily lose yourself in the surroundings. Similarly, Ghibli Museum is a tribute to the geniuses behind Studio Ghibli - the animation studio that produced some of the most memorable Japanese animated films. Among them are Mark's favorites - My neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away and Tales of the Earthsea.

The moment Mark and I stepped into the museum, it felt like we were in a fantasy world. Old-style elevators, winding staircases, small doors that lead to big rooms - it was one big playhouse where the imagination can go wild. As much as we would've wanted to take pictures of the fascinating interiors, cameras weren't allowed. Thank goodness I have snapshots of the place in my mind.

Good thing the exterior was as breathtaking as the interior. The shape, color and material of the structure really feels like Parc Gruell. I think I've found my little piece of Barcelona in North Asia.

We stayed there for more than 2 hours - exploring, watching a short animated film about a whale, and of course, taking a photo with the Iron Giant. I'm glad that the weather was very cooperative that day. Nothing sets off a giant bronze statue than clear, blue skies.

I'm glad that Kent asked me to buy him that mug.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Dressed down

Now that Spring/Summer is fast approaching, shops in "four season countries" are fast disposing last season's wares and putting up new stuff on their shop windows. In Tokyo and HK, the thick coats and heavy fabrics are fast being replaced by lighter and shorter dresses.

Dresses are a summer staple, and judging by the clothes that H&M and Zara are churning out, old is new again. The emerging trends range from 60s mod to 70s flower power. When Mark and I were checking out Zara in Shinjuku and Shibuya 109, he noticed the re-emergence of "Lola Dresses." And yes, the fast fashion brands are stocking up on Lola dresses on their racks.

Speaking of Lola dresses, in a span of less than 24 hours, I went to all 6 branches of Zara here in HK. Yup, 6 branches in 3 different districts, all for the sake of one dress. Thank goodness they're quite near each other, making this seemingly impossible task a reality. And whilst I didn't find that particular dress in the right size, I went home with a lot of fabulous finds - largely due to the remnants of the F/W 07 sale.

And because Zara and H&M are often neighbors, visiting one wouldn't be complete without swinging by the other. Got some pretty good deals there as well, including a "Michelle-Williams-in-Escada-dress" and this silk shift in a striking shade of blue.

Yup, my sisters will be all dressed up this summer.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Frozen Delight

Mark told me about the Muikamachi snow festival last year. That time, they had to perform the "Pandanggo sa Ilaw" as part of the festivities. Needless to say, I was glad to know that they're having the festival or "matsuri" while I'm still in Urasa. So, I quickly bundled up and headed off to this winter wonderland along with the gang.

The festival was like a mirage that appeared in a vast, snowy surface. There was a huge stage made up of snow (and a little help from white wood), igloos of different sizes also graced the occasion, along with a snow slide that both kids and adults enjoyed. Given the number of people there, I reckon this is a big thing in this town.

Different groups performed traditional Japanese dances on stage. Dressed in deep, jewel hues such as amethyst, ruby and emerald, the dancers popped out against the pristine, white stage. I was so fascinated by their performances because they were not only visually stunning, they were also genuinely new in my eyes. Yup, they don't show this in "Oh, Tokyo!" and those Japanese documentaries on Channel 9.

Food is another highlight of the celebration. More than 30 stalls sold different goodies ranging from traditional ramen to yakisoba, gyoza to yakitori, and some weird things like the "fried-fish-in-sake-drink" and the "grilled fish on a stick." We had onigiri, gyoza, yakitori and yakisoba for lunch, and I had the chocolate coated banana popsicle for dessert. Yummy!

My favorite part was seeing "Mask Rider" up close. When I was a kid, I'd watch "Mask Rider Black" on the telly and wondered what it felt like to meet them up-close. Today, I stopped wondering and started experiencing it. They had a stage play which featured 3 Masked Riders and it definitely made the festival worth the price of admission. (Wait a minute, there was no admission price. It was free...)

There was a fireworks show at night, but we decided not to stick around for that. Spending half a day there was enough to make our hands and feet frozen and numb.

I'm glad that Mark brought me to this festival because it's something totally new and uber unique - a place where fun, food and tradition are all rolled together in one icy package. As an experience, this is way more than just cool. It's chillin'!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Slope and Glory

The last time I tried to ski was 5 years ago in Europe. Instead of skiing though, I simply pushed myself around flat ice surface like one of those ski-inspired fitness machines. In fact, I never even attempted to go down any sloping area with an angle more than 22.5 degrees. So in terms of "skiing experience," that one probably doesn't count.

Urasa is known as a "snow town" with a lot of good ski resorts left and right. Needless to say, one of the items on my travel itinerary is to try and ski again. With 6 intrepid skiers along, I decided to give it a shot once more. Wearing my "Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdog ski suit," (that's how Mark calls it) we went to the Kokusai Joetsu ski resort last Friday. It was a good day to go because there weren't a lot of people around. Less people means less chances of running over hapless skiers and snow boarders, not to mention less people to see me fall flat on my face - both good reasons in my book.

Unlike the ski resorts in Europe, all you need to pay for at Kokusai Joetsu is the lift ride. It feels like the cable car in Ocean Park, although this one is smaller and open - the better to feel the snow and wind on your face as you go higher and higher.

Mark isn't too fond of rides, and of heights, so this is one trip he'd rather not make. Unfortunately though, this is the only way to get to the slopes.

The resort had Swiss-style chalets that were set against the snow covered mountains and trees of Urasa. This made the place postcard-perfect, and it felt like a little slice of Europe in the middle of nowhere. (Which is how I fondly refer to Urasa.) The slopes were of varying levels of difficulty, from "maiko" or beginners, to the scary 45 degree slopes that the experts maneuver so effortlessly.

After almost 3 hours on the slope, I'm happy to announce that I learned to ski this time around. Heck, I was able to ski down the steep slope that the more seasoned skiers used. Half of it, at least. What I learned, though is that it's better if there are flat surfaces in between the slopes. This makes it easier to slow down, brake and get ready for the next challenge to come.

Going back down to the base of the resort, I tried to put my newfound ski skills to the test. Dennis told us that it would just be an easy trip down since the slopes weren't too steep. What he didn't tell us that it was one, loooooong, slide down and there weren't any flat surfaces where we could stop and gather our bearings. But I thought, "what the heck, let's give it a shot."

Needless to say, I failed this test miserably. Hahaha.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I saw the sign...

Japan has some of the best signs ever. If they're not written in some mangled form of English, they usually contain notices that we often find nonsensical or outright strange. I still remember how Xtine and I would love buying Japanese candies at MCS because of the blurbs often found on the pack. I remember buying a green apple candy with this text written in front.

"Green is freshing. Like the sun out in the bright blue sky is freshing."

Try and figure that out.

That's why it was no surprise that yesterday, I found a lot of these weird signs on our way to the ski resort in Urasa. From the waiting station to the train itself, there was a mother lode of beautifully written reminders that got me guffawing from Urasa to the Joetsu Kokusai Ski Resort.

This one is a romanticized version of "Beware of Pickpockets" or that often seen "Mag-ingat sa mandurukot" sign in Manila. The idea is the same, but the execution is much more eloquent:

Another sign is about wearing earphones while on the train. Strangely, I couldn't tell whether they're encouraging or discouraging the use of earphones. Visually, it feels like they're encouraging you. But the text on the sign itself feels like it's saying otherwise:

Now this is one sign that won't work in HK. The train actually discourages ladies from doing their make-up while riding on the train. I have no idea why they discourage it, though. Heck, I see more than a dozen ladies expertly painting and beautifying their faces on the MTR in HK every single day. I'm sure they wouldn't want to visit or migrate in Japan because of this:

Gosh, I'd love to meet the copywriters who do these signs. They have the funkiest and most fun job in the world.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ofelia Jackson-Vargas (and other laughs)

This is one of the reasons majora why Adformatix was a wonderful place to work in.

The friends I made during my stint in this agency were friends for keeps. Even if it's been more than a decade since we've worked together, and despite the fact that we're in different countries, we're still together and still as quirky as ever. When we had lunch and dinner last Friday in honor of Xtine's visit to Manila, it felt as if we just came from Republic Glass after work and got together for a hearty meal.

As writers, art directors, account executives and research heads, we were inseparable at, and even after work. Brainstorming with the team was always a joy and we'd come up with all these crazy advertising ideas - and even crazier non-advertising ones. In the company of Erwin, Shash and Xtine, we did a lot of fun campaigns at the office. Campaigns like AsianBank's "What has your bank done for you lately" campaign, Nivea's big launch featuring a then-recently-discovered Amanda Griffin, (we gave her that first big break) Cook's Chicken's "Lahing malaman, Lahing masarap", and Texas Chicken's big launch in the Philippines.

Then there was the mother lode of insanity that we'd come up with at the drop of a hat. Like watching the MAC clock strike 5:55:55 then we'd all clap and hoot before walking away as if nothing happened. Or how we'd take famous acronyms and give them new meaning. (U.C.L.A. = Unperturbed Coconuts Languishing Aimlessly) Then there was giving our team mates new names, like Ofelia Jackson-Vargas for Ofel. Of course there was the hybrid of the last two: taking a colleague's name and turning it into an acronym. (GLENDA = Gorgeous Lady Entertainer Nightly Dancing Appalachicola.)

Back then, we'd laugh like wild hyenas whenever we'd come up with these things. Now, more than 10 years after Adformatix, we still laugh about it the exact same way. It's amazing how we've transferred advertising agencies, moved countries, changed our status, but still we feel and look like the same people we were when Optima was THE team to be in. (We won the Christmas decor contest 3 years in a row! Howzat?)

Just goes to show that campaigns, tag lines, endorsers and strategies may change, but true friendship never does.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

From PAL to JAL

I'm a creature of habit. Once I get the hang of something, I tend to stick to that for an extended period of time. One of my "habits" is flying Cathay Pacific whenever I go out of HK. Aside from having really good schedules, they have nice planes, a great entertainment system, an awesome lounge, and of course, I've got friends who work with CX.

When I was planning my Chinese New Year vacation, my original carrier of choice was CX. Unfortunately, ALL their flights to Manila were fully booked, and the ones to Japan were ridiculously expensive. So for this trip, I broke the habit and decided to fly with two different airlines that would take me to my two vacation destinations.

It's been more than a year since I last flew Philippine Airlines. Everyone knows that PAL is notoriously late. (PAL = Plane Always Late) But most of the PAL flights I took were either on time or left ahead of schedule. (My estimate is 7 out of 10 flights were on time.) My flight from HK to Manila wasn't an exception. The scheduled departure was 9:25 pm, and we were already on our way as early as 9:20. In this case, I was the one who was late. I'm glad that the runner in me was able to sprint to the gate in time.

It's also the first time in a long time that I rode in a single aisle plane. After getting used to CX, this plane was tiny! Good thing the air service made up for that: the stewardesses were so chatty and nice, plus they served a flavorful meal. There was no in flight magazine, though. Makes me wonder if there really wasn't any or if the last passenger just ran off with the copy. (I wouldn't blame him, though. Mabuhay is an excellent magazine.)

Then yesterday, I took a Japan Airlines trip going to Tokyo. This is the first time I was going to travel via JAL so it was interesting to see what kind of planes and services they had.

I checked their website and they said that most of their 747s have personal TV sets in all seat classes. Ergo, I was expecting a CX type of entertainment system. Unfortunately, "most" didn't include the plane I took. Aside from the fact that it didn't have personal TV sets, they didn't have an in flight movie! They only had some Japanese news programs on air, and the music selection wasn't that good either. Thank goodness I brought the iPod that Mark gave me.

On the upside, I love, love, LOVE their safety instruction video. Instead of using real people, they used anime style characters to demonstrate the "safety equipment and procedures of this aircraft." True to Japanese form, the video was quirky and funny, and my eyes were glued on the screen the entire time. (This is good, considering that I usually sleep through the safety video.)

The air service was also surprisingly nice. The flight attendants were very "Japanese," meaning they were unbelievably polite and would bow to every passenger who would ask them for something. They spoke in the usual hushed tone, which was a welcome change to the often loud flight attendants I've been accustomed to. I also liked the food they served because it had a touch of Japan - the food setting was very organized and zen, plus the meal had a distinct Japanese flavor. (And yes, they had Ochanomizu!)

Another thing that I found amazing is how the flight time from MNL to NRT only took us 3 hours and 20 minutes. Usually, it's a 4 - 4 hour and a half trip when I take PAL or NWA. Mark says that it's because the Japanese pilots can speak to the air traffic controllers easily, making the trip easier. On the other hand, my theory is that the Japanese pilots know the Japan airspace, ergo they know the shortcuts. Harhar.

Good thing I have a PAL Mabuhay Miles membership card and that JAL is a member of the One World Alliance. I think these two airlines will soon be a part of my habit, too.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Who's bad?

Apparently, I am. Well, not really bad as in "Bad" but I do look like a bad guy.

Ever since "Heroes" became the sci-fi series du jour, people have been telling me that I look like Sylar. It came to a point that a Chinese in HK approached me and said: "You know, you look like the bad guy from Heroes." This was during that time when some of the cast members went to HK for their tour. (And no, Sylar wasn't among those who were in town.) When I visited Kuya Ers at his office once, one of his colleagues told me: "Sylar na Sylar ka na ngayon, ha."

The latest person to tell me that was my brother. Yes, my very own brother.

After hearing mass yesterday, he looked at me, paused, and said: "Oo nga. Kamukha mo nga si Sylar." And when my brother - who used to be an NBI agent, therefore good at face recognition and profiling faces - starts associating me with a TV villain, that's taking it to a whole new level.

Well, I know that the actor playing Sylar will also be playing Dr. Spock in the new franchise of Star Trek. That means by next year, people will probably be telling me: "You look like Dr. Spock."