Getting Married at Nuestra Señora de Gracia Parish

Nuestra Señora de Gracia Parish in Guadalupe, Makati is definitely one of the most popular churches around town where couples choose to get married. And why not, it is an authentic baroque church built in 1599. The church's facade makes for a dramatic and romantic background in pictorials. The steps leading to the entrance looks grand especially if adorned with a red carpet. Any bride will feel like a queen.

As of 2010, Nuestra Señora de Gracia Parish costs 13000Php. It is inclusive of a priest and mass, 2 candles, simple flower decor with tulle (8 middles aisle and 2 main altar), red carpet, lighted chandelier and wedding usherettes. Red carpet is rolled out only inside the church. To have it extended up to the staircase, there will be additional 500 charge.

Booking at Nuestra Señora de Gracia Parish is advised at 9 months to 1 year in advance. 50% down payment is required to confirm your time slot. Sir Ryck, the man behind the church office, is very bubbly, accommodating and kind. =)

I Want to Win a Free Race Kit from Atom!

Not from Atom Araullo, but from THE Running Atom! =D So I'm joining his birthday promo, and hopefully I win a free race kit for the:

McDonalds to hold it's 2nd McHappy Day Fun Run on Nov. 28, 2010.

Yehey! I hope I win! =)

How do you Outsmart the Threats of Commute in Metro Manila?


I only started commuting two years ago. Before that, I was forced to drive myself to wherever I have to go since I didn’t know how to utilize public transportation. My parents were against commuting, but I figured, hey I’m turning thirty. I should not be rendered helpless without a car. Besides, I was not really into driving. I hate traffic and I hate looking for parking.

In the two years that I started commuting, I’m happy to say that I have never been victimized by pickpockets, snatchers or thefts. Knock on wood that it never happens to me. Now I want to share with you all some general precautions I practice when commuting.

First of all, remember that if there is nothing eye-catching on you, no one will mind you. Do not wear any valuables like earrings, necklaces, rings or watches. If you do not have any of these, what else will make you interesting for the bad guys?

Also avoid wearing attractive clothes or heeled shoes (in the case of ladies). I always bear in mind that I should be ready for the worst when I’m out there. In case chaos ensues, I am ready to run. A little paranoia will do you good if that will make you precautious all the time. If you really have to wear attractive clothing, why not just bring it with you and leave the house a little earlier so there will still be enough time to change after reaching your destination.

Cellphones are the usual target of pickpockets nowadays because these are easy to resell. Some people like to hang phones from their necks instead of putting them in their pockets. Well sure, this practice makes life more difficult for snatchers but it really does not draw attention away from you. For me, it is still better to NOT get their attention at all. What I can suggest is to put your phone inside your pocket or bag instead, away from prying eyes. If you are wearing tight-fitted pants, even the slimmest type of phone may show. In this case, it might be better to put it inside your bag. Also put it in silent and non-vibration mode.

Try not to be too predictable. For example, a pickpocket trying to reach into your bag will look for your wallet. If you place all your money, credit cards and IDs in there, you lose them all in a snap. Try to scatter your valuables in different places. Another tip is to stitch an inside pocket in your pants like what I normally do. Here’s how it looks like:

I normally put my money and other important items here. There is no way that it can be stolen from me. This idea can also be copied in bags. Create an invisible pocket in your bag that only you would know. You can be more creative than this. Just remember to avoid being predictable.

It will also help a lot if you use products that are tested safe and secure to use. Pacsafe bags are popular because of their anti-theft features. I personally like the The MetroSafe 100 Hip & Shoulder Bag because I can easily hang it from my shoulders. It is slashproof, snatchproof and tamperproof! I’m sure to be extra-protected always when I’m commuting.
Finally, I believe that even if you choose not to follow the tips I shared above, the most important thing is to be alert and smart when commuting. Always be aware of what is going on around you. The bad guys out there are smart people themselves. They will prey on people who look careless and carefree. Do not be one of them! Be smarter and be safe.

What Makes Charice a Global Sensation


First, I must admit that I am a secret admirer of Charice Pempengco since her days as a contestant in Little Big Star, a locally produced singing talent show by ABS-CBN. I was one of those who silently disagreed when she only placed second runner-up in that competition when I was rooting for her to win. I think she was only 14 then but she already had a big voice. She could hit her high notes with ease. Clearly, she has the talent.

However, there are many other people around the block who could sing just as good. So what set her apart? In my opinion, what made her stand out was her showmanship which she made apparent even in her amateur days. This alone made her distinct among other contestants of Little big Star. She created her own style, what with her mic-tossing or foot-stomping act. That truly set her apart.

How did Lady Gaga, the late Michael Jackson or Madonna make it so big in the music industry? They all have (had) a way of endearing the crowd. Charice could also do that effortlessly. She exudes confidence whenever she goes up a stage to perform. It was really very evident even in her Little Big Star days. Part of Charice’s charm can also be her diminutive stature. It is a big wonder especially to Caucasians how such a small lady can belt out Celine Dion songs.

Flash forward to 2010 and we now see Charice as the biggest international star of Filipinos in their generation. I have seen her youtube video that became her ticket to the Ellen Degeneres Show. I have seen how she roused the crowd to their feet when she sang for the Ellen Show. I have seen how her performance brought tears to Oprah Winfrey’s eyes. Her debut album is a hit in many countries including the United States, Canada, Japan, Thailand, and of course the Philippines. And now, I witnessed how Filipinos from around the world waited gleefully for her appearance on the second season of the popular American sitcom, Glee. She has definitely gone places, and she’s gone really far.

Charice is on a roll and she draws strength from her humble beginnings. It is probably the best thing about her. She keeps her feet on the ground while she continues to soar high. She could hardly speak spontaneous English when she was first interviewed by Ellen Degeneres. She took speech lessons (and still is taking speech lessons), and look at her now rubbing elbows with big names like Oprah, Justin Bieber, and Lea Michele. I listen to her interviews now and she can converse well in English, with a good sense of humor to boot.

I heard a few belittling Charice’s success but I believe that she has what it takes to make it big someday. To some, being on Glee may not be a big deal. However, as a Filipino, and seeing how local entertainers find it difficult to penetrate the international scene, being a part of Glee is a big feat. It brings recognition not only to Charice’s talent but also to the whole Philippines. I hope Charice takes an acting workshop too to be more versatile.

On the other side of the coin, there is a possibility too that acting opportunities for Charice (like in Glee) could be limited by her conservative ways. When Lea Salonga was her age (18 years old), Lea already did kissing scenes for Miss Saigon.

Movie Review: Sayo Lamang

I was really eager to watch Sayo Lamang because of two reasons. First, I so loved Tanging Yaman which is fast becoming a classic and top rated Filipino film. I can watch it over and over again. Second, because Sayo Lamang is directed by Laurice Guillien, the same woman who directed Tanging Yaman. I wanted to find out if Laurice Guillien could once again concoct a world class movie worthy of international applause.

But sad to say, SAYO LAMANG is one big flop!

I watched it on the third day of release. It was a Friday and I expected the cinema will be brimming with people pushing each other to get good seats. But no, the cinema was not even half-filled. I immediately sensed that I will enjoy my popcorn more than the movie. Here are the reasons why I think this movie flopped.

1. It was so commercialized. They invited all the mainstream actors of this generation to lure moviegoers. But sad to say, only a handful of them can really act. Sayo Lamang does not have the legendary Johnny Delgado who delivered a very powerful performance in Tanging Yaman. Sayo Lamang also did not have Gloria Romero, Cherry Pie Picache and Edu Manzano.

Aside from this, since they invited so many stars to be part of this film, each had to be given their own little story (a subplot if you want), thus be given a moment to be shot up close with mouth quivering, waiting for tears to fall. I can almost imagine the director raring to shout “Cut!” once those tears have been actually released! This brings me to #2.

2. A drama movie does not have to have a crying scene in every segment! It was simply too much! Each scene had to end with a close up shot of a character with tears falling from his or her cheeks. Why did they have to do that? It is an insult to drama actors who are measured only for their ability to feign crying.

3. They should have worked on the story instead. As it turned out, the story was too shallow and predictable, not to mention that the segments were so fragmented. It felt like jumping from one random scene to the next. Then the editor stitched it all together to make one lousy film. My personal life story is better without even trying.

4. None of the characters was developed. Take for example the role of Miles Ocampo as the youngest among the siblings. What was her purpose in the story really? She just kept on crying scene after scene while watching her siblings and father fight. But if you take her character out, the movie will still stand. It only goes to show that she played no important role crucial to the development of the story.

5. More than halfway through the movie, I was forced to ask my companion already why it was entitled Sayo Lamang. And then just before he could answer me, the song was blurted out on screen. It was the segment wherein the siblings were gathered around the deathbed of Lorna Tolentino. Was that the only reason? If I am missing out on something, kindly post a comment. But for me, the title itself was a flop.

This is sad. Star Cinema has all the means to produce quality Filipino films that could rival Hollywood. However, it chose to feed us with a lackluster movie with an off tangent title. I’m guessing that the indie film Two Funerals will be much better.

Honeymoon Ideas


Are you tying the knot anytime soon and looking for honeymoon ideas? Well, here are a few. Going to the beach seems to be very common already. You do that all the time, right? There must be other ways that newlyweds could spend special time alone before they go back to the real world.

First of all, your honeymoon will depend on your budget and personal preferences. Given that sky’s the limit in your budget, one of the best honeymoon ideas still is to tour Europe or North America. Spend a week or two exploring the popular and romantic cities and sights of each continent like Paris, Madrid, London, Sicily, Rome, and Niagara Falls. Take a relaxing and breathtaking cruise for a couple of days while enjoying your wine. You can also visit age old churches that you usually just get to see in history books.

If tour abroad is not possible at the moment, consider touring your own native land. You will be surprised that your country has much more to offer than what you think. Each country is blessed with beautiful sights that make it unique from the rest. Exploring your own country will be a good way to imbibe in you that nationalistic spirit amidst the celebration of marital union.

Another honeymoon idea is pack your bags and set off to climb a mountain. At first, you might be turned off thinking that there is nothing romantic in perspiring like a pig under the glaring heat of the sun while trying to reach the peak. But I tell you, it will be a totally different feeling once you reach the top. It will be very overwhelming to see the world from a different perspective. The clouds become water as you stand underneath them. The horizon will run away from your eyes like there is no end to it. It will be simply breathtaking and worth every step you take to reach the mountain top.

The more adventurous couple may also try other activities like skydiving and bungee jumping. There is nothing to fear in skydiving because you will not be left alone in air. A professional skydiver will escort you. There are many skydiving packages to choose from nowadays. It may include a photo and/or video of you while you are screaming your lungs out during your freefall. You may also choose how high you want to fall from. Usually the freefall may last from thirty seconds to about 1 minute. For bungee jumping, you may inquire from travel agencies.

If the couple loves water activities, they can go scuba diving, kayaking, parasailing or snorkeling. They can also try white water rafting and spelunking. It still beats just lying around at the beach and getting a tan.

I’m sure you will be able to think of better ideas for your honeymoon as you and your partner know each other better. Just remember to do something that both of you will like. And don’t forget to document your honeymoon! Bring a camera and video camera with you. Congratulations to those getting married soon!

Tips in Looking for an Apartment


 There are many reasons why people go looking for a new apartment or any new house to live in. Most often, it is because two people are about to start their life together in marriage. Some are still single yet want to move out from their parents’ home and live independently after graduating from college. Whatever the reason may be, it is very important to be able to look for the right apartment for you. Thus, here are a few tips in looking for an apartment.

This should be your top concern. Live within your means. Find out what you want to get. If you get an apartment, you will have to deal with monthly rental rates while bearing in mind that the house will never be yours. Getting an apartment is cheaper and is good for those with tight budgetary constraints. However, if it can be afforded, investing on your own property is a better option. Monthly payments will come to fruition in time when you finally get to own the house after completing your dues.

Apartments in prime areas generally have higher rates. For the same amount, an apartment in a prime area may only be a small single-storey unit while it can already be a big two-storey unit in another location. Consider also proximity of the apartment to your office. How many hours will be your travel time? The money you save on cheap rental rates may be wasted on gas and other transportation fees if your house is located far from your office. Not only that, but you could also be wasting precious time at home with your family if travel time is too long.

An apartment need not be newly built but at least it should be in very good condition. Examine the walls, ceilings, floors, toilet, bedrooms and other key areas. Are there leaks in the pipes? Are the wall paints starting to chip off? Is water coming in when it is raining? Ask the owner regarding maintenance and repairs. Some owners are willing to shoulder such expenses.

Be it in a prime location or not, always consider the environment. How safe is it to live in that apartment? If you have children, is the neighborhood safe for them? You can talk to your would-be neighbors first and they might share with you their personal stories in living in that vicinity. Also check proximity to a police station, bank, grocery, mall, hospital and school. In case of any emergency, how reachable are these outlets from the apartment?

Last but not the least, trust your gut feel. Sometimes, it is just unexplainable but upon seeing an apartment unit, you just know you want to live there. But just the same, weigh carefully the pros and cons before you finally sign the leasing contract.

More Tips On Buying Furniture

I recently wrote a few tips in buying furniture. The tips I gave were based from my personal experience. We are in the process of moving in to a new apartment and thus had to furnish the space before we could transfer. Along the way, I learned how to get furniture pieces I want without going overboard our set budget. We visited several physical shops to compare costs, examine the quality and basically look at all our options before deciding what to buy.

A friend who is into interior designing by profession suggested that aside from visiting physical shops, we can also try browsing online stores. It was definitely a good idea. In fact, our dining set was bought online and we are very satisfied with it. I was surprised that there are thousands of online stores selling almost everything we are looking for. So as an additional tip in buying furniture, I highly recommend browsing from online shops as well. It comes with many advantages, prime of which is the convenience of shopping from home in front of the computer rather than going to the tedious process of hopping from one physical store to the other. Aside from this, many online furniture store offer big discounts and promos to entice people to buy from them. Some would offer free shipping or delivery. Others even offer promotional coupons. Take for example Kohl Coupons. They offer many irresistible deals to consumers. They offer a wide range of home products to help people like us who are just starting.

The internet has greatly revolutionized the way people shop nowadays. I highly suggest that we make full use of the internet to our advantage like when buying furniture or other home products.

I am a Filipino. The Philippines Will Rise Above the Hostage Taking Drama.

Much has been said already about the incapability and incompetence of the local SWAT Team in handling the hostage scenario last night. People are quick to criticize after all, and they were bold to post their thoughts in social networking sites. It did not help that the local media companies aired the hostage scene live on TV so that the whole world was able to watch how the SWAT team was rendered clueless and helpless in trying to go inside that bus. As a Filipino, I was filled with shame while trying to take in all the things that were transpiring right before my eyes on TV. A lot of things entered my mind. Aside from the fact that the SWAT Team really lacked the proper training and equipment to handle the situation professionally, I also could not help but think about the future of the Filipinos and my country.

As we all know, the Philippines just instated a new president last June 2010. With President Noynoy Aquino, the nation is once again hopeful that big changes are about to happen. And then here comes a local police by the name of Rolando Mendoza. He lost his job and decided to siege a bus of Chinese tourists to demand his reinstatement. His selfish act was enough to send the Philippines in a bad light once again in the international scene. At this point, the Filipino nation is caught in a whirlwind of emotions while trying to process the embarrassing feeling of being in the headlines of CNN, BBC and other international news networks. The national leader of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang, just released an official statement expressing his disappointment at how the hostage situation was handled. He called on all Hong Kong citizens in the Philippines to immediately go back home. And to those who are planning to visit the Philippines soon, he discouraged them from pushing through. As hard as it was to listen to him say those words, it was true to a certain extent. If I were a foreigner, I would also think twice about visiting the Philippines after watching the fragility of our national police.

And thus, it is like being back to square one again when we are just starting to flap our wings once more. Philippine tourism will surely experience a big blow. The CNN just tagged my country as the worst place to visit. It is harsh and difficult to swallow, yet through it all, I do not want to lose hope. If I do not believe in my countrymen, nobody else will.

It was disheartening to read all sorts of angry comments thrown at the national police and media. At this point though, I find all these unnecessary. For me, it is just time to pick up the pieces once more and start all over again. We will continue to pick up the pieces no matter how many times it will take. The Philippines will not be put down by one violent and irrational ex-police. The Philippines will not be put down by one hostage drama that ended on a sour note. We will learn from this and we will earn the respect from people around the world.

My head is held high. I am a Filipino.

Tips in Buying Furniture

I used to think that buying furniture is easy, until I tried it myself. We are about to settle to a new apartment and have to furnish it ourselves. We browsed both physical furniture stores and online stores in trying to get the best deal. In doing so, I learned a few tips in buying furniture, and would like to share it here:

Budget is perhaps the top consideration of most people. It is very important to first set a budget and stick to this no matter what. The wide array of selections in furniture stores is easily overwhelming but just remember to get only what you can afford. Do not be engrossed into buying pieces of furniture that look beautiful offhand but later on find out that it does not fit your house or that it has no use for you.

Also consider mode of payment. Will you pay in cash or credit? Will you pay in full or in staggered mode? Sometimes, stores offer discounts for cash payments, but if your budget could not afford it, it might be better to go for staggered payments. Avoid falling into the debt trap as much as possible. If you choose to swipe your credit card, think if you will be able to afford paying for the credit in the succeeding months.

Prices are largely affected by the types of materials used. I was personally not into this kind of detailing. A wood was a wood, whether it's from China or Malaysia. It made no difference with me. But when prices are already concerned, I had to learn it. At the very least, ask the salesmen the pros and cons of each type of material. Do not settle and believe what one salesman will tell you. Ask around and get as varied opinions as you can. Sometimes, you will find out that two salesmen will say contradicting opinions. Be open minded and hear everyone out before you decide what to buy. Again, the material you choose should be relative to your budget. For the bed frame, we settled for mahogany wood which was not really expensive yet sturdy enough for us. It also fit the rustic feel that we wanted to create.

At the end of the day, remember that you will be the one using the furniture so no matter what other people say, choose what you think is suited for your lifestyle. In choosing a couch for example, we were torn between a leatherette or cotton upholster. Some people discouraged us from buying a leatherette because in summer, the material tends to absorb more heat. But later on, we still went for a leatherette upholster thinking that it is easier to wipe it clean with a cloth. A cotton or suede upholster will be more comfortable but the thought of vacuum cleaning it was unappealing. Another thing we considered was that one of the users sweats heavily and a cotton material will easily absorb sweat and make the couch smell. It was easier to wipe off sweat in leatherette. Spills and stains are also easier to clean in a leatherette couch.

Do not undermine the importance of getting the exact measurements of what you are about to buy. Consider the size of the furniture relative to the floor area and height of the wall. What other pieces of furniture will be placed in that room? Will there still be enough room for walkway after everything has been arranged? Will it make a room look stuffed or spacious? Many people also take for granted the size of their doors. Make sure that the furniture you will buy will fit through the door. Ask the salesman if what you are about to buy is collapsible. Many furniture stores offer free disassembling and assembling.

This may seem trivial but the importance of right color selection cannot be undermined if you are concerned with the overall look of your interiors. Basically, you want to create a unified effect, making sure that the furniture pieces blend well with the color of the floors, walls, ceilings, cabinets and other furniture. In our case, we wanted a rustic theme and thus favored the earth colors. We went for wooden dining sets, coffee table and center table. We opted for a light mocha couch to highlight it among the other pieces and make it the focal point of the living room.

There will be times when your preferred color is not on-hand. Sometimes, it is just out of stock and you will be asked to come back in the next few days. You can also ask if the store accepts customized orders to manufacture the color you prefer.

Other Useful Tips
Watch out for sales! If you are not in a hurry, wait for mall sales because this is the time they sell furniture at big discounts to make way for the arrival of new stocks. This is also the time when slightly damaged pieces are being sold at bargain prices.