6 Christmas shopping survival tips and tricks (GMA News Online)

`Tis the season for shopping

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last December 9, 2016)

If we were anything like Santa Claus, gift giving would be no challenge for us at all.

But in reality, we have to go through the whole process of gift selection. It’s perhaps an easy task for shopaholics, but for others, it may pose quite a challenge and take a bit more effort. Let us help you with these tips to ease your yuletide shopping.

Create a Christmas gift list
“One size fits all” doesn’t apply here. You can’t just buy the same thing for all your gift recipients, because they have different personalities and interests. You’d get more love and appreciation if you exert some effort in finding out what each person likes. Also, they’re more likely to use your gift if they are fond of it. Otherwise, it might get rewrapped and passed on to another. So, make a list of all the names and take time to think about the best that you can give.

Set a budget
If you have more than a dozen inaanaks like me, it would be wise to allocate your money before you go on a shopping spree. Ask yourself, “How much can I afford for each individual? What should be my total budget for Christmas shopping?”

Remember not to spend more than what you’re earning, so try to be practical as much as possible. I’m sure your mom wouldn’t mind a DIY present, instead of you splurging on a luxury bag that she knows would take you six months to pay for it in installment.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Scrumptious: Pollo, paella and croquettas at Alqueria (GMA News Online)

the-sopa-de-ajo-is-served-tableside

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last October 24, 2016)

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Spanish food is paella: white, short-grain rice, cooked al dente until there’s a caramelized crust on the bottom, and then topped with a myriad of meats, seafood, and vegetables.

It’s heaven on a plate—and Alqueria doesn’t disappoint, especially since it offers seven varieties of the dish.

A fusion of Spanish and Asian flavors

The restaurant has been around for a while (it used to be called Boqueria) but it expanded its menu when Chef Sonny Mariano of the Sumo Sam Restaurant Concepts Group took charge of the kitchen.

“We felt that we needed to add more options but the bestsellers are still there,” he says, adding that the menu now offers traditional Spanish, Hispanic, and Asian and Spanish fusion dishes.

This casual but chic dining place is located inside the trendy area of one of the biggest malls in the metro. My husband and I braved the traffic and parking challenge to get there, but the trip was worth it because of the good food.

I liked the traditional Spanish offerings like the Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup), a rustic soup with garlic-flavored broth that is served tableside at Alqueria. They first serve you a bowl filled with organic egg, sautéed mushrooms, garlic gelee, and Manchego crisp, then pour in hot stock.

(Read the rest of the article HERE.)

Discovering the benefits of Funny Face Yoga (GMA News Online)

Fully Face Yoga photo by Snow Caps

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last September 27, 2016)

The plank, the downward facing dog, the cobra pose: I’m familiar with these common body poses since I’ve done yoga, but Funny Face Yoga is something new to me.

I thought it was just child’s play, since you’re basically making yourself look silly by doing funny facial expressions, but apparently there’s a science behind it, just like the traditional yoga.

The first time I encountered Funny Face Yoga was at demonstration of basic techniques by Vivien Tan, a former model who is now a Kundalini Yoga teacher.

Tan shared three basic exercises to get us started: breathing exercises, kissing exercises, and eye exercises. I found all easy to perform and very doable. I could even imagine myself doing such exercises while at my work desk. “It’s an opportunity for people who have not had any exposure to yoga to at least try and have a tip of the iceberg,” said Tan, who added that anyone can do funny face yoga because it is easy to research online.

“The fact that it’s funny and crazy and a little bit kooky kind of makes you smile and you might even laugh out loud. [It’s] a good thing when you feel good about yourself and you’re able to laugh. You actually are already radiating a more positive beauty. When you see somebody with a smile on their face, they’re already instantly beautiful,” said Tan.

Those who live sedentary lifestyles like me—always in front of the computer and not spending enough time in the gym—might find this a good starting point to get in the habit of exercise.

However, “Funny Face Yoga is not the be-all, end-all,” said Tan. She suggests doing it in conjunction with other activities that complement a healthy lifestyle such as eating more nutritious foods, drinking plenty of fluids, working out, and other related activities.

“Having said that, Funny Face Yoga can give you immediate effects. You’re smiling,” she said.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Savoring paella cochinillo and other colonial Spanish dishes at Café Enye (GMA News Online)

The pork bits give some fatty goodness to the Paella Cochinillo

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last July 15, 2016)

Many Filipinos are familiar with Spanish cuisine. How could we not be, given that the Philippines was colonized by Spain for over 300 years? Some aspects of their culture, especially the food, have been ingrained in ours.
I have developed a liking for its flavors because of my sense of familiarity with it, and I consider it one of my favorite world cuisines, so I wouldn’t pass up a chance at dining in a new Spanish restaurant like Café Enye.

The spacious establishment, which opened in January 2016, feels more like a casual family restaurant than a typical café. When my husband and I recently had dinner there, we saw large groups having a complete meal together. We got a table by one of the colored couches, and I appreciated the eclectic décor of the place.

There were accent walls adorned with framed paintings, mirrors, and other knickknacks that make for good conversation pieces. Unlike traditional Spanish restaurants, this one didn’t feel formal or stiff because of its warm wooden furnishings with intentionally mismatched chairs. The flooring also had portions made with Spanish tiles for some accent.
Among these elements though, the one I couldn’t get my eyes off was the wall decorated with colored teacups shaped like the letter “ñ”.

Beyond the usual Spanish flavors
“Our dishes are inspired from where the Spaniards have settled, specifically Northern Morocco, Argentina, Central America, and the Philippines. We aim to offer a unique blend of new flavors, innovative ingredient pairings, infused with local flair,” says Chef Ungco who manages the kitchen along with Chef Cris Dytuco.

 

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Go for healthy breakfast options at Green Pastures (GMA News Online)

Enjoy healthier alternatives at Green Pastures BGC branch

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last June 16, 2016)

A typical Filipino breakfast would include stir-fried beef tapa (or some other viand), sunny-side-up egg, and garlic rice. I used to think that the first meal of the day would not be complete without these three components. We are rice-loving folk—however, many of us cannot afford to eat too much carbs.

Good thing there’s a health trend going on right now and Green Pastures, an advocate of organic food, has started to offer more wholesome breakfast fare in its Bonifacio Global City (BGC) branch, which opened just last February. So far, it’s the only branch that serves breakfast, but restaurateur Chef Robby Goco plans to launch it in his other outlets as well.

Going green

“Who are we as Filipinos and what do we eat for breakfast? You can’t impose Eggs Benedict or Croque Monsieur… We love our breakfast—our tapsilog, our pandesal,” the robust chef said. However, he added, “We need to stay healthy, stay fit.”

In his effort to do so, Goco has made lifestyle changes and has lost around 50 pounds already. Instead of ordering his favorite morning muffin sandwich from a fastfood joint, he now makes his own version: the Sausage, Egg, Ham and Cheese Breakfast Sandwich. The flavors are still there, but the ingredients he uses are more natural. In between the brioche buns, you’ll find some farmer’s ham, custard egg, cheddar cheese, onion jam, and sriracha mayo.

Read the rest of the article HERE.

4 Steps on How to Pursue a Freelance Writing Career (BrewYourBestYear.com)

(This feature was published in BrewYourBestYear.com last September 6, 2014)

As a child, I never dreamt of becoming a doctor, lawyer or even a beauty queen. In fact, I thought I would be an architect like my dad or an accountant like my mom. Then as I grew up, I realized that I like words more than numbers and discovered my interest in writing.

My passion for it deepened when I first saw my name in print at our high school newspaper. I was bitten bad by the writing bug so I pursued it as a course in college and eventually went into that career path after I graduated from the university and worked in a publishing company.

I got addicted to seeing my byline and never attempted to cure myself of that malady—I doubt if I ever will.

More than a decade after I stepped out of the university, I’m still writing and I’m doing it as a full-time freelance writer. I get to write about my travels, food trips, and other lifestyle-related activities for various print and online publications. I often get the comment, “I love your job!” I do, too. It took a while though to establish myself in this field, as success didn’t come overnight.

Here are some tips on how to be an effective freelance writer.

Step 1: Ask yourself, “Do I really want to become a writer?”

I’ve heard the saying that “Writers are born and not made”, but I believe that most writers are born with the talent although training also plays a big role in a writer’s life. Even if you are unsure of having innate writing capabilities, you can still become a master of the pen through education and practice. The important thing is committing to it.

Step 2: Establish your network

Whether you earn a communications/literary degree or something totally unrelated, you can still become a freelance writer if you have good connections with people from the industry. How? Attend writing workshops, go to book signing events, sign up for seminars, and the like. Be present at events where you can meet likeminded individuals and other people from the industry. All it takes is having one editor-friend who would give you a chance. Once you get your foot in the door, it becomes easy to build your byline one article at a time.

Step 3: Always wear your writer’s hat

The secret to being a good writer is practice, practice, and more practice. You can only get better by doing so. In order to find topics to write about, you need to be a voracious reader and have an open mind. By reading literature written by your favorite authors, you’ll get inspiration for your own writing style and voice. By being open-minded and thinking out-of-the-box, you’ll find new and unique story angles that you can pitch to publications. Along the way, you’ll get to create your own portfolio where you can showcase your sample works or published pieces. Don’t forget to keep on pitching your ideas to the websites or magazines you want to write for so you’ll get better chances of being published.

Step 4: Build a good reputation

Remember, you are only as good as your last byline. Every time you have a writing gig, you should keep in mind that editors want a disciplined writer who has a good grasp of grammar and can stick to deadlines. Make sure that your work fits the style and tone of the publication and that you submit on time. That way, your editor will keep you top of mind for future assignments.

3 Museums in Manila That All Smart Filipinos Visit (Looloo)

The famous T-Rex inside The Mind Museum

(This feature was published in Looloo last May 15, 2014)

Museum hopping in Manila may not sound as adventurous as island or maybe even bar hopping but it’s definitely a good way to educate yourself about our local culture …and will also help you answer random pop quiz questions. Ha.

So take a break from going to crowded malls and get your dose of culture by visiting these three must-see museums.

<Read the rest of the article HERE>