Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Two weeks Max

Only in Hong Kong can you go downstairs to buy lunch and a newspaper, and come back up carrying something as scrumptious and headline worthy.

Blame it on the restaurant who told me to wait 15 to 20 minutes for my order. That gave me enough time to aimlessly wander to the nearby store and check the racks for anything interesting. In this case, that piece-de-interest was a confection of silk jersey, chiffon and lace. It was a Max and Cleo maxi dress in classic black and white.

The first time I came across this brand, my first reaction was that the logo looked strangely similar to Max Azria. I thought it was a deliberate attempt of a small brand to ride on the image of a better known brand - similar to Espada and Escada, as well as Xara and Zara. Later on, I found out that Max and Cleo is part of the Max Azria group of companies, along with BCBG, BCBGirls, and Herve Leger. In Manila, it's carried in Rustan's and they've got a nice selection in the Shangri-La and Makati stores. This explains why the designs and workmanship of their dresses have Mr. Azria's touch.

With more than 10 minutes left, I was trying to decide whether to get the dress or not. A quick run through the entire rack revealed that the dress I was holding was the last piece in the entire store. If this dress could talk, it would probably be telling me: "Look doofus, this is your last and only chance to buy me. So think very carefully before you put me back on the rack." Being a very reasonable guy, the lament of the dress was heard.

So, not only did I buy today's issue of South China Morning Post, an order of seafood noodles and spicy tofu, I also got a black and white maxi dress from Max and Cleo.

Last night, Mark was asking me whether I've done any shopping lately. I told him that I have a 3-week shopping moratorium, largely due to my insane-7-suitcase-yielding-shopping-trip with my sisters here in HK. Because of this Max and Cleo dress, I'm a week short.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Carrie some more

Three years have passed since I've gotten the Carrie fever, and I don't think it's subsiding anytime soon.

Since the news of Carrie being InStyle's May cover girl came out, I've been staking out CitySuper and HMV. Usually, their issues come out on the 17th or 18th of every month, but after repeated trips there last week, still no InStyle. Finally, it hit the news stands today, and I immediately grabbed my copy.

When I first saw her on AI Season 4, I knew she had potential. Not only did she take the title, she's now the most successful A.I. alumna to date. Both her albums are certified hits and she's been getting music awards left and right. And now, she's being touted as another style icon whose transformation from Girl-Next-Door to Glamour-Gal is something a lot of American girls would like to emulate. With her new look, she now has that "Reese Witherspoon vibe" down pat.

More than just talent and good looks, she also has a firm grasp of what matters most in life. When asked what her concept of success is, Carrie says:

"Success? That's if, at the end of the day, you're happy with your life. It's not measured in dollars or accomplishments."

Gosh, this is precisely the reason why I'm so Carrie-d away.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stellar indeed.

The list of Filipinos making waves in the US isn't limited to the world of fashion and style. Actors with Filipino blood have also been making their mark in Hollywood. I remember reading an old article about Rob Schneider and Lou Diamond Phillips being proud of their Pinoy heritage. And as it turns out, there are more of them than I imagined.

While browsing through an article about the Asian-American Awards show in L.A., I was amazed by the number of half-Filipino stars in attendance. Initially, I thought the red carpet would be overrun by half-Chinese Hollywood stars like Ming-na or Lucy Liu. But it looks like we outnumbered them in this particular show.

I've always known that Tia Carrere was a kababayan. Apl d Ap has been proud to be Pinoy since day 1 - something that's evident in the songs that he wrote. Ramiele Malubay is set to conquer L.A. and Manila after her stint in American Idol. This makes me wonder what Jasmine Trias has been up to lately.

Then there are faces that surprised me because I didn't know they were from the same bloodline. Cheryl Burke turns out to be of Filipino, Irish and Russian descent. Aside from singing, dancing is a favorite past time among Pinoys, and this is probably the reason behing her "Dancing with the Stars" winning streak. On the other hand, it's our legendary singing prowess that most likely got Sharon Leal into "Dreamgirls." She's also half-Pinoy.

There are other stars in the list who weren't in any of the pictures. Like Vanessa Hudgens, Vanessa Minnillo and Alec Mapa (who was just hilarious on "Desperate Housewives.") If you add these Hollywood achievers to our other homegrown international stars like Lea Salonga, then it's easy to see that Filipinos really do have a lot of star quality.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Happening at Home

This week's edition of HK magazine featured Manila as one of the "happening" cities to check out. The article states that because of the increasing influx of money and growing sophistication of the citizenry, a weekend trip to the capital is one thing that Hong Kongers should consider.

I love Manila. I love the Philippines. While some people are opting to get out of the country, I'm one who longs to come back to it. Call me an idealist, but I believe in the potential and the promise of our country. People who have "escaped" often complain about the chaotic, inefficient and what-have-yous state back home, but as a friend from New York told me: "It's unfair to compare one city or country to another. Manila will always be Manila just like New York will always be New York. I don't know why people want to leave this place because I'd like to stay here."

In that article, they had a list of "must do" things while in town. Some of them are expected: go to a spa (either Chi or that famous place in Malate), go on a tour (Celdran's Tour was suggested) and see colonial architecture (aka Intramuros and San Agustin Church.)

Hong Kong is Asia's Shopping Capital, so I didn't think they'd pick up on the shopping scene in Manila. But the writer said that she was impressed by our malls - they're up to par, and some even better, than the ones in HKG. She singled out Greenbelt 5, saying that the shopping and dining choices are top shelf.

The article singled out John and Yoko for its excellent sushi offerings at uber affordable prices. For those looking for high fashion at low prices, Religioso is the place to visit. She mentioned buying a number of pieces from them, and she was very happy with the purchase.

Another place that was mentioned was Chef Laudico's restaurant. I've always heard about it but I've never visited the place, but after reading about their version of "sinigang na hipon," I'm putting this place on my itinerary during my next trip back home.

It was also nice to know that we now have a "Hop On, Hop Off" tourist bus service similar to the ones in Barcelona and Berlin. The DOT is really doing their homework and their next assignment should be putting up more visitor's centers around the city, and country. (Use the Singapore Visitor's Centre along Orchard as peg.)

That article in HK is the second one I read about Manila today. Both had the same theme, and that's painting Manila as one of Asia's newest hot destinations. Yup, Manila is definitely getting hotter, and this time, it's not just talking about the weather.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

That's Fresh

My nephew told me that this commercial is already airing in Manila. Then my friend told me that they've already received more than a hundred video entries after less than 3 weeks. I'm really not surprised because Filipinos do have an extreme liking for "star searches." Heck, I remember how we had to wade through entries when we re-launched Palmolive Circle of 10 in 2003.

This TVC for Fresh Confidence is one that's close to my heart, for a number of reasons.

From the moment the storyboard got off the colored printer, it was clear that I wouldn't have an art director working on this. This is one of the projects that I worked on alone: from the preparation stage, to the actual shoot, up to the editing. The last time I really worked on a project alone was back in SMC when I'd do their AVPs, so this experience was one that I missed.

Second, the talent we had was unlike the other blowhards I've been working with. Lucky was very raw and unassuming, and that's probably why he really shone in this commercial. During the entire shoot, I could sense his excitement and anxiety because this was his first big, BIG project. This "positive insecurity" made him more spontaneous - the very attitude we wanted. And to think we almost replaced him at the last minute. Then again, he isn't named "Lucky" for nothing. (Oh, Lucky also reminds me of my big brother Biboy when he was younger.)

Third, I got to work with a lot of "old-new" people in this project. "Old-new" because I've known them for quite some time, but never really worked on them directly on a project. Kitty and I have been colleagues for more than a year, but this is the first production we've collaborated on. Same with our directors Joey and Nico - Joey is someone I've known for more than 5 years, but this is the first project that I worked on with him directly. It's a good thing that Mamu was there during the entire production since she made everything easier and the process became smoother.

Lastly, it was a really good end product. I'm happy with the commercial, and so were the directors. Our MD said that it was a lot better than the original material from China, and the suits at the office were very happy with how it came out. Not bad for a project that I had to work on alone.

The full commercial, tips to win and entries are all available at One of these people just might be the next Fresh Confidence Star.

Sali na!

(That's the copywriter in me talking.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Putting the Plus in Surplus

Looks like the outlet near my house has been busy during the 4 days I was away. Today, I walked in to see a plethora of new stocks - all heralding the entry of summer. There were a lot of sleeveless tops and tanks, as well as shorts and skirts. Of course, the "old-new" stocks were still there - like that familiar Proenza Schouler for Target top that was there last year. (The problem is that it's just TOO big for anyone I know.)

Among the new Target stuff they had were dresses from the Jovovich-Hawk line. As any Target-lover would know (Hello Arnie!) The designing tandem from California were the last group featured in the GO International line. Just as I was about to do the "shoot 'em up" for finding these dresses, a quick look at the price tag and I suddenly wanted to shoot the owners of the store.

The dresses were more expensive in the outlet store compared to the actual Target store. This is SO not outlet store. Heck, stuff there should at least be priced lower compared to the SRP. But in this case, it was about 20% more expensive than the on-line price. And considering that these items are already marked down in the US, then it's probably 40-50% more expensive. Not cool!

Obviously, I didn't buy any of the Jovovich-Hawk stuff. Seeing that I'm planning to go to the US in May or June, I'm better off shopping at Target. And American Eagle. And American Rag. And Abercrombie and Fitch. And Old Navy. And at North Point Outlets.

This would've been a really disappointing visit at the shop. Thank goodness I got a Black Brocade Bermuda (does this qualify as a tongue twister?) from Erin Fetherston. That made the trip a bit worthwhile.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Going Bananas

Friends and colleagues often ask me which Filipino food I miss the most, and my answer is usually: "I don't". I've never been a huge fan of Filipino food, maybe because it really wasn't a part of our meal time repertoire while growing up. Of course I'm familiar with Adobo and Tinola, but these were dishes we didn't eat regularly. Maybe it was because my grandparents are Castillian who ate Paella instead of Pinakbet.

One boring day, I decided to try and figure out which local food I enjoyed eating as a child and adult. This is in the hopes of providing a more interesting answer the next time I'm asked the question. And I finally figured out the answer:

Turon has always been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I remember how our maid would cook Turon and Maruya when we would vacation in Bicol, and it always made merienda time so much more worthwhile. The ones they made had a big slice of langka inside, and the outer shell was super crispy and loaded with caramelized sugar. We'd get a piece each and sit down on the "palitada" in Malinao or by the beach in Bacacay, then just munch away.

Whenever I come home to Manila, I make it a point to eat turon. Some of the best turon in town are the ones sold in the Jolli-jeeps in Makati. These are the "home cooked" versions. There's a stall near St. Francis Square that also sells turon that's smothered in sugar, but during my last visit, the stall was gone. Then there's the turon that they'd serve during the old DY&R functions in Ortigas Avenue - bite-sized, covered in sugar, then sprinkled with sesame seeds. I could eat a dozen of those in one sitting.

I've also tried the turon in proper restaurants like Abe and Recipes, and while they have their on merits, they pale in comparison to the street-style ones. The lowly kawali must have some sort of magic.

There was one instance when I was scouring Megamall for turon, and there was none whatsoever. The buffet at Triple V had ONE little turon left, and I wasn't willing to pay the full buffet price for one lousy turon.

One time, I told Cecile about my turon obsession and she had it served during our next shoot. Needless to say, that was one of the best shoots I attended.

Ok, I'm officially craving for turon now. Time to head on to the nearest Jolli-jeep.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A new standard

Since it opened, I've been to The Venetian in Macau several times, but these visits were limited to the Casino and the Grand Canal Shoppes. Now that we were planning to stay for 3 days, it was a good time to book a room and check out the much ballyhooed rooms of this huge monument to excess.

When I was booking the room, they said that the only rooms they had available were the "Standard" rooms. All their Deluxe rooms were fully booked because of a convention in the hotel. Having stayed in a number of "standard" rooms in my life as a traveler, I said: "No problem."

Gosh! We were shocked after seeing their "standard" room.

Their concept of "standard" was a split level room with 2 queen sized beds with canopies. There was a separate living room, dining area, two flat screen TVs, a personal business center and a huge space that can accommodate all those entertainers who sing at St. Mark's Square in the afternoon. The bathroom was also a sight to behold, too bad we ran out of memory card space, thus the lack of photos.

It also has a very nice view of Taipa Village, which is unlike the view from the hotels in Macau Island. My nephew loved the view, and he didn't mind hanging around the bay window even if it was 25 stories high.

After seeing what The Venetian calls "Standard", it makes me wonder what the "non-standard" rooms look like.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sibling Shopping

If there's one thing I learned these past few days, it's the fact that shopping is embedded in our genetic code. Three days after my siblings arrived here in HKG, everything we've been doing has been suffixed by "shopping."

- Let's go to Stanley Market so we can check out the beach (and shopping.)
- We'll go up to the Peak to look at the great view (and shopping.)

Heck, on their first full day, we immediately hied off to H&M and did some major shopping. And after that, no day was complete without passing by a mall, outlet store, or anything that sells fashionable, inanimate objects.

As we're preparing for our Macau trip, my sister was asking me: "Are there nice shopping places at The Venetian or in Macau." My reply was: "Not really clothes, but they have good food." And to that, her reply was: "I'm going to buy food in Macau."

Since I'm the youngest, I'm supposed to take after my older siblings. So if people tell me that I like to shop, I'll just say: "I take after my elders."

Incidentally, when I called my parents in Atlanta a few days ago and asked where my two brothers were, she said: "They're out shopping."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Hip, Hip, Hooray!

That's the only thing I can say.
Went to Ap Lei Chau to escape the fray,
Wanted to make the most of my short stay.
Found myself inside the store, my mind went astray,
Until I found something breathtaking,
I didn't know what to say.
It was a beauty in Chromium Gray.
One look, I grabbed it, and I was on my way.
Carrying a fantastic piece from Roland Mouret.

Yup, this definitely made my day.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

End of an Addiction

Last night, they showed the final episode of my current addiction - "Hotaru no Hikari." Since they started showing this Japanese romantic comedy series a few months back, I was immediately hooked. On hindsight, I've been hooked on a couple of Japanese TV shows lately - starting from "Mother at 14" then "Top Cast." While I was able to finish the former, the same can't be said about the latter. This show was shown during a very busy time at the office, so I'd often miss episodes. But after that, my resolve make sure that the same doesn't happen to "Hotaru" became stronger.

While I missed an episode or 2 of this show, I was able to watch all the episodes that were integral to the entire series. From the initial meeting of Amemiya and the Chief, to the unfolding of the love story of Amemiya and Makoto, to the Chief's longing for her when she moved out of the house.

What makes this series great is the lead character, Amemiya Hotaru or "Silly Miya." She's this pretty girl who's actually a big slob at home, and she whiles away the time by drinking beer and belching to her heart's content. Despite her being unlady-like, she captures the affection of two men: Makoto is the obvious admirer, while her boss, the Chief, is the more secretive one. This love-hate relationship between the two is the main conflict in the show, and it's the source of the show's great humor.

As expected, the show ended with Amemiya and the Chief ending up together. It's a fitting end since they look better together.

I can't wait for the next Japanese show that they'll air on Pearl. Hopefully, it'll be as addicting as this one.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Retail Replay

This incident gives a new meaning to the word "Old Stocks."

A few minutes away from my flat is an outlet store that is - in my book, at least - among the best ones in Kowloon. After all, this is where all that Libertine and Patrick Robinson loot came from.

Since the season has changed already, so has that store's stocks. And since it's been a few weeks since my last visit there (unlikely, but true), it was high time for a look-see.

While browsing the racks, I came across something that looked very, very familiar. After looking at the blouse for a few minutes and trying to figure out where I saw it, that's when it hit me. It was the same blouse that I bought 3 years ago - and at a slightly cheaper price.

Exploring the shop even further, I realized that a lot of the "new summer stocks" were actually pieces that they sold 2 to 3 summers ago. Among them were belted printed dresses, a tie-dyed halter top, and a Clements Ribeiro black dress which I also bought two years ago.

This isn't the first time this happened, though. Last year, the same trend was present in Maple - another repository of funky clothes. A blouse that I bought in 2005 was back on the racks in 2007. (And yes, it's now making its 2008 comeback - as proven by my visit to the store a few hours ago.)

That said, it seems like the outlet stores here have taken the idea of recycling to a new level. The summer items are sold and re-sold every summer, until someone finally buys them. And until that item is taken off the shelves and brought home, it'll continue to appear each season. Now since these outlet stores cater mainly to tourists, they really wouldn't notice if a piece of item has been on and off the rack for years. And as long as the owners of the shop can keep the item looking nice and new, which they do, people really wouldn't know that their "new season" item was actually new 3 or 4 years ago. But as the adage goes, "what they don't know won't hurt them."

While this concept of "recycling old new clothes" doesn't make much fashion sense, it certainly makes a lot of business sense.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Lezyl would be proud

A few months ago, Lezyl was recounting her last trip to Kuala Lumpur. She recounted her crazy/insane scene at an VNC store as she grabbed one pair after another. Shopping for her shoes was so frantic, most of the sales ladies in the shop assisted her.

That's not the high point, though. After buying 7 pairs of shoes, she hand carried all of them in the airplane! The thought of being separated from her wonderful VNC shoes was so unbearable that keeping them close to her was the only option. Lezyl just couldn't risk losing her precious shoes.

We were all laughing out loud while listening to her story. Top of mind comment was: "That is something only Lezyl would do." And that's very, very true.

After a week in Singapore, I ended up buying 9 pairs of shoes. Including a pair of Melissa shoes which are similar to this. (Actually, only the color and height are the same. The heel on the one I bought was a bit thicker, and the straps weren't like a bird's nest. Ate Bullet has difficulty manoeuvring stilettos.) Gosh! It was so cheap, they should've just given it away. Hahaha.

Just like Lezyl, I ended up hand carrying all 9 pairs. Not because I didn't want to keep them close or because of "losetheshoeaphobia". All of them simply fit in my carry on luggage, so checking them in would be impractical, not to mention time consuming. I'm sure Lezyl will agree to that.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Seeing the Signs in Singapore

Although they aren't as much of it compared to Tokyo or Shanghai, Singapore has its share of interesting signs. But unlike those in the first 2 countries, the signs here are interesting because of the things they remind me of.

For instance, this sign reminds me of Jollibee. Gosh! Maybe he's the long lost Singaporean cousin of our happy orange bee. Unfortunately, they don't have a mascot.

I'm not sure why, but there are two department stores here in Singapore that are called like this. Maybe it's a Singlish thing, but really, I find this uber odd. I've heard of Departmental Exams and Departmental Meetings in school. But this?

And yes, this sign which brings to mind two things. First, it might be a lane where everyone goes away. Or, it can be Grace's husband's lane. Hmmm... I wonder how Babu is now.

I'm glad there are signs like these to make walking under the extreme heat of Singapore a tad bit more inviting.

Friday, April 04, 2008

I'm strong to the finish, cause I eat my...

Thank goodness they still have Popeye's here in Singapore.

Back in Manila when I was in Adformatix, we handled the advertising needs of PFC - the local franchisee of Texas Chicken and Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits. There was a time when we had loads of gift certificates from Texas - where everything comes in one delicious size. Big! (Kuya Ers! Remember this? Hahaha.)

By the time they opened Popeye's, I wasn't in Adformatix any longer, and they didn't handle the account. But I usually went to Robinson's Galleria to get my fill of Cajun Fries and Buttermilk Biscuits.

It's been years since I last had Popeye's, so I'm glad that Jo and I had lunch here today.

Still, I wish they served cajun rice.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


It's my first full day in Singapore and things are pretty much the same as I left them during my last visit a couple of years back. Magic Wok is still there, as well as the food court in Raffles City Mall where I usually buy Roti. Of course, there are new places to visit (read: malls) and there's also the Singapore flyer which was opened recently.

Strangely, these new places really aren't enough to make me feel that the landscape has changed - unlike Hong Kong or Bangkok which changes constantly. (Speaking of changes, one of my good friends in HKG called me up this morning to say that he decided to make a major change in his life and is moving to London. Boo!!!) And as a testament to the lack of change, I'm in the same internet cafe I visited 4 years ago. Gosh! It's still here!

While Joannah and I were talking this morning, I told her that my plan for the next few days is to just meander around and not do any shopping. After all, this place is unbelievably expensive compared to HKG or Manila. When we were at Tang's this morning, there was a patent belt which they sold for SG$13 (about P380) and that same belt is sold at the Landmark for P50! It would also cost that much in Mongkok.

But fate always throws in a monkeywrench even in the best laid plans.

While walking through the Citylink Mall, they had a sale of VNC shoes. (Gosh, I can imagine Lezyl shrieking and running around already.) They had a pair of beaded wooden sandals for an unbelievably low price of SG$10! It called to me with such conviction that I found myself carrying a VNC bag a few moments after.

Then, I passed by Pretty Fit and there were on sale as well. Shoes at SG$19.90! And there was an exquisite pair made of black and purple satin. Thankfully, self-control got the better of me and I walked away without buying anything from that store. Yes, I'm not a hopeless shopaholic. Yet.

Mental note: DO NOT pass by Pretty Fit tomorrow.