June 09, 2013

Greeneration Ambassadors on the Cover of Zee Lifestyle

Advocacies bring about a strong compassion and support for an important cause or idea.

While working with the Climate Change Commission (CCC), I have been part of campaigns and summits that not only spreads awareness about our changing environment, but also influences the consciousness of the people to transform their mindset. This was how the idea of promoting lifestyle changes was brought to the table, and how the 'Greeneration' campaign was conceived. 

Enough of the always so dismal headlines on climate change. We at the commission believe that it is high time to be more proactive and positive with the issue. The idea of unplugging an electrical device when not in use or switching to LED lights to lessen energy consumption, recycling and reusing, garbage segregation, or simply conserving water can help address the growing concerns of climate change. 

One of the most crucial agenda that we have is to involve the youth of today to be more conscious about their actions as these can and will affect others. Also, they are the generation most vulnerable to climate change since they are already feeling its effects, and will continue to suffer through these changes in the future. Some months back, the idea of having youth influencers who can carry out and embody our advocacy came to mind. I remember meeting with Secretary Lucille Sering of the CCC as the team thought of and shortlisted the people worthy to become the Greeneration Ambassadors.

Three lovely and intelligent ladies became the CCC's Greeneration Ambassadors. They are: Bianca Gonzalez, celebrity host and tv personality; Pie Alvarez, mayor of San Vicente in Palawan; Anna Oposa, Chief Mermaid of the Save Philippine Seas group. They best fit the characteristic of the shapers whom the youth could look up to, and the right role models who could instill the needed change for the youth of today. 

At the last Greeneration Summit held in Cebu, these three ladies were formally introduced. They shared their personal insights on how each individual could do their part. Coincidentally, a day before our summit, I arranged an interview between Secretary Sering and editors of Zee Lifestyle magazine - Cebu's lifestyle bible. It was not even a formal interview, but rather a fun banter and chat filled with interesting info and tons of laughs. Weeks after our Cebu summit, I was contacted by one of the editors if we were open to collaborate with them on their idea of placing the Greeneration Ambassadors on the cover of their magazine. So, after coordination and approvals, we were on! 

One sunny day, I flew in with Bianca to Cebu for the cover shoot. Pie and Anna flew in earlier as they had an earlier call time. With all three ambassadors flying out on the same day, schedules had to be carefully planned. 

We were all welcomed by Zee Lifestyle editors David Cua and Shari Quimbo during the shoot. The venue, the lovely Crimson Resort in Mactan, Cebu, with a picturesque view of the horizon by the beach. The editors of the magazine played with the idea of Anna Oposa's role as chief mermaid. The editors envisioned the ambassadors as majestic mythical creatures that take refuge by the beach, frolicking by the sand or floating on water. Each ambassador had their solo and group shots, with Anna bravely taking on the challenge of doing the underwater shoot. It was amazing! 

The cover was shot on a cliff by the beach, overlooking the horizon. We were all trying to get a glimpse of the shoot but was a little scared of falling on the rocky shores below. Everyone had to rush and get the money shot as the sky was slowly turning dark and the natural light of the sun was fading. The energy during the shoot was fun, with everyone anxious to see the final outcome. 

behind the scenes photos of the cover shoot







I entice everyone to grab a copy of Zee Lifestyle's socially conscious June issue. The cover story beautifully and concisely narrates the diversity of each of the three ladies, with climate change as one of the important advocacies that brings them together. Also in this issue is the interview on Secretary Lucille Sering who I work closely with at the Climate Change Commission. 

Sharing my interview with Secretary Sering of the CCC to those who would like to know of her: 

Climate change need not be a lost cause. We all can still do our part in saving this planet. It's all a matter of knowing what to do, and influencing others to do it too. Amidst their busy schedules and other priorities, these three ladies serve as key people who prove that every individual has something to contribute in addressing climate change. If they can, certainly you can too.

June 07, 2013

Health and Comfort in a Shoe

Everyday comfort is one of the things that we hope to have as we brave through our busy schedules.

Comfort is one of the things that people shouldn't sacrifice. Health is always a serious issue, and we should never compromise the well being of our body. With that said, wouldn't it be a relief to have an everyday pair of shoes that brings comfort and health together?

Hong Kong shoe brand Dr. Kong held a small gathering, inviting its founder Raymond Ng to come over to Manila and share more details about his brand. Raymond Ng has had this earnest pursuit to inform everyone and stress the importance of foot health. He explained that the shoes we wear create an impact on our knees and joints, therefore affecting what we feel and how we walk. Even the slightest problems in our footwear can cause pain and discomfort that affects not only the knees and joins, but even areas like our back and upper parts of the body. It was informative and got most of us aware of what to consider in buying a new pair of shoes.

After the talk and interview, all the guests were invited to try their one of a kind "Check and Fit" foot examination. The Dr. Kong team is trained to determine the feet's health and its current condition. Through this, the sales of Dr. Kong can assess which among its selection of specialized insoles is the right type for your feet when you buy a pair from their store. These machines are available in all Dr. Kong stores in Manila, ready to use when you need to know what you need for your feet.

Of course, I had to try it out. For the first test, it was to check wether or not my feet were aligned. It was great to hear that my right foot was normal, but was a little concerned that my left was slightly unbalanced.


The next test was to determine what type of feet I have. This was something I was so curious to know since I've always heard people having flatfeet, but with no idea how it is determined. I was asked to step on the gel-like surface of the device for ten seconds. Afterwards, green footprints came out and it was determined that I had pronated feet.

Dr. Kong has an extensive shoe line that includes leather shoes, loafers, sandals, and even rubber shoes for both men and women. They also have baby and kids shoes, proving that it's never too early to take care of your feet. A definite must, these shoes should be considered by the older folks when buying a new pair as they might already experience difficulty in walking. 

Everyday comfort goes a long way and Dr. Kong shoes might make walking and working a lot easier for you.

Dr. Kong

June 02, 2013

Attempting To Race

I've always wondered what makes driving or riding fast cars exhilarating.

Some weeks back, the uber fab PR Frank Briones invited me to the launch of the Lotus F1 simulator in Manila. This got me all excited since I've never driven a fast car before. This improvised experience is probably the closest that I'll get to trying it, knowing how bad traffic is in this city. Other than that, it was an opportunity for me to see in person, the globally renowned racer Marlon Stockinger.

Guests from the media were first treated to a heavy afternoon snacks before the official press conference. Sitting in one of the tables, I was able to observe Marlon's reserved personality - one that I found a contrast to his passion for a high-energy sport like racing. He was quiet, yet very polite and accommodating, talking to the media people and sharing his experiences as an international racer.

Afterwards, we were all escorted to the lobby of the newly opened area of Glorietta. From there, a horde of people surrounded us, trying to have a glimpse or take a quick snapshot of Marlon. The people who were there might not all be racing enthusiasts, but I'm sure that they all wanted to extend their support to a pride of the Philippines.

I was with my friend Geolette Esguerra during the simulation and we were both so eager to try it out. It may seem like another video game but this was more precise. A wrong turn or bad break timing can get you off the road or driving in the opposite direction. Trust me, it wasn't easy at all. I don't know how these racers drive at fast speeds, still keeping their mind on the turns while trying to be ahead of everyone else. They make it seem so easy on tv! 

Geolette and I were laughing afterwards and we both enjoyed our fun challenge. Well, I'll leave the race car driving and winning to Marlon. While at the presscon, Marlon's mother briefly sat in our table and I saw a woman who was genuinely friendly and was sincerely proud of her son, as he stood in front and addressed his guests. I hope Marlon achieves more success in his career, as he continues to make his fellow Filipinos proud of who he is.


May 22, 2013

Maxine Syjuco: Child of Art

Artists are the select few with the gift of interpreting and bringing new life to the nature of things around us.

At first glance, Maxine Syjuco would strike you more as an artist's muse: she has an allure that captivates the senses of people around her, drawing them more to her with her naturally effervescent character.

Though not just a muse, Maxine is credited as one of the youngest and most promising artists of today. Maxine has already translated her deep passions for her own artistry in different mediums. Her family is quite well-known, dwelling in diverse forms of arts and expressions. Growing up around art and artists, it was inevitable that she imbibe the creative lifestyle around her. 

Having such a childhood provided her with a wonderful opportunity to bring the best out of her. Still, this is not the case for some children who have an innate talent waiting to be discovered. With this in mind, Maxine established her own art school called "The Little Picasso", to serve as a venue for her to teach and let children be involved in their artistic journey early. This lead me to inquire a few details, and pick the mind of one the youngest and most promising artists today.

Growing up, what were the major influences that directed you to the path of becoming a young artist?

Both of my parents, Cesare and Jean Marie Syjuco, are artists. As such, art was not just something that existed in our home— it was, in fact, a way of life. The culture in which I was raised was extraordinarily different from the traditional upbringing, specifically because I literally lived and breathed art. The major influences that directed me to my path as a young artist, therefore, were definitely my dad and mom. They have always been my major source of inspiration, and the passion that they pour into their art is both admirable and inescapably contagious.

What encouraged you to start "The Little Picasso", and extend your understanding on art to a much younger generation?

As a child, I always knew that my background was different and unique from that of most other children. In an instance as mundane as being seated at the breakfast table, for example, I was taught to see an orange as not merely a piece of fruit, but as a spherical and texturized object— one that, through the process of peeling, offers multi-layered possibilities of experience.

That type of thinking is precisely what has led me to my passion for sharing my love for art with children. To me, seeing life through artistic eyes is the greatest way to fully appreciate every single God-given creation around us.

What specific art form, topics or classes do you teach your students?

As a multi-media artist, I work with various mediums and through various processes. I don’t believe in confining art to strict and rigid genres based merely on a specific set of stylistic criteria. Given that, I encourage children to be mixed-media artists— providing them with all kinds of unusual materials to use in their artistic creations.

Normally, I begin each lesson with a basic overview of art history (I like to introduce them to the likes of popular artists such as Picasso, Van Gogh, Chagall, Magritte, Munch, Modigliani, Matisse, Seurat… sometimes even Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat). From there, we proceed into an analytical discussion of the said artists’ masterpieces, followed by an hour or two of creating their very own interpretations of these works.

In a nutshell, I teach drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed-media and sometimes even installation art. It’s a case-to-case basis, really, depending on each child’s specific interests, which is why I refer to my workshops as “Individualized Programs for Children’s Arts and Crafts”.

What in your opinion is the ideal age for children to start learning about art? What are factors that can bring out and enhance a child's artistic side?

The ideal age for children to start learning about art is 2 and up. It’s my personal belief that early exposure to art is an essential aspect in the formation of deep creative-thinking and open-mindedness.

A child’s environment plays an integral role in his or her artistic development. Books, movies, music… even simple conversations and body language — each of these can greatly shape and influence a child’s subconscious mind (where most creative ideas are born). Providing a child with colorful and imaginative sources of inspiration is the key to enhancing his or her artistic awareness.

As an artist, what do you see are things that people can do to encourage the younger generations to be more aware about art, and give them a better appreciation of the craft?

You know, if I had it my way, I would love to fill the world with art. On TV, for instance, it would be magical to have programs that catered to the unbiased population of artists who create art simply for the sake of sharing themselves with the world. On the radio, it would be fantastic to have a more diverse line-up of musical genres— maybe even programs that streamed live poetry readings and discussions between artists from all walks of life. And on the road, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have murals and large-scale installations in place of billboards?

But alas, given the way that things are, I believe it is of utmost importance to provide the younger generations with things that have been created in an honest manner of self-expression and freedom. To me, one of the most amazing powers of art is its ability to inspire and influence others… Like a ripple in the ocean, it can generate eternities of magical change and wonder into the current of the world.

The Little Picasso 
327 Country Club Drive, Ayala Alabang Village, Muntinlupa City

May 15, 2013

Tastes of Bangkok

A trip to Bangkok is always a lot more fun, sampling the best that only its cuisine can offer.

Food was definitely on our itinerary. We came across some wonderful discoveries and delectable finds that my mom, brother, and me enjoyed to the fullest. I had to let my guard down and savor the authentic flavors of Bangkok, even in the streets.

The first interesting food find that we had was Som Tam Nua in Siam Square. We were there for a quick afternoon snack so we decided not to order a lot. Of course, we had to try its famous Thai Papaya Salad, which was awarded a CNN Best Eats Awards. The papaya and tomato's flavor brought out a mix of sweet and tanginess to the salad, while the nuts and fried pork fat added the extra crunchiness and texture. This dish deserves my praise!


While inside Som Tam Nua, check out their cute pastry corner!

I truly enjoyed our lunch at the Tha Chang Pier. I normally wouldn't agree to such an open and outdoor dining, but Bangkok has been known for its street food - with travel agencies even offering tours on Bangkok's best street food! My mom ordered the fishball and noodles in curry, my brother the pad thai, and I the chicken fried rice. The curry was mildly spicy and was just right for my tolerance. 

The fried rice took some time to prepare but it was worth it. The serving of the chicken strips were quite generous. I'm normally used to the Chinese way of preparing fried rice where the egg or the taste of the meat overpowers the taste of the other ingredients. The one I had in Thailand was a good mix that I loved. I was surprised to pay just around fifty baht for the fried rice! I was already told that food in Bangkok was going to be cheap but I was surprised to know how low the prices are!


The lady who prepared the Pad Thai was amazing. She knew the preparation by heart and was simply grabbing the ingredients left and right, throwing it all in the hot wok. My brother felt that the Pad Thai needed the extra spiciness, but I liked how it was not at all salty. It was quite fresh since the shrimps and vegetables in the dish were still quite crunchy. 



It was a hot sunny day in Bangkok and I had to satiate my craving for a cold cup of Thai milk tea. The guy selling the milk tea placed a lot of ice in the cup. I thought that what I might be drinking was going to be flavorless with all the ice in it. But to my surprise, the amount of ice balanced the sweetness of the milk tea, turning it refreshingly sweet.

Come nightfall, we went to Yaowarat for the evening street food that Bangkok's Chinatown has been known for. I was so amused that even at late night, people were still swarming to the area to get a table and have dinner - or midnight snack, I guess.

We ordered the beef noodle soup. A lot of people were waiting to be seated and my curiosity was hyped up. Sadly, after we tried the dish, we were not satisfied at all. The soup had a strong taste of ground pepper - like light beef broth mixed with copious amounts of ground black pepper. I'm not sure if the Thais like that taste but I wasn't impressed at all.

The best that I ordered that night was the mussel omelette. The batter was freshly mixed as the eggs were cracked open after I ordered. With an abundance of mussels fried in the egg, I was delighted with every bite. Whatever was in the mixture, it made the aroma delectable, and my order delicious.

My brother was enticed to buy a bottle of fresh pomegranate juice. Fresh fruit juices were available at almost all corners of Bangkok's street food areas. The colors were quite vibrant and in Bangkok's hot weather, it was ok for us to pay around ten baht for a bottle and cool down.

At one area of Yaowarat Road near Phadung Dao Street were countless people enjoying grilled seafood and other seafood orders. We only found out about it after we chose to eat at the portion of Yaowarat Road near Ratchawong Street, and was walking to the MRT station. This is a must try for me next trip I have to Bangkok.



One of the most delightful finds that we had was another version of the Thai Papaya Salad. This time, instead of fresh papayas, friend papayas were mixed into the salad. The papayas were like crunchy chips in the salad. There was a strong lime flavor, adding a more tangy taste to it.

I was about to give up when, during my entire stay in Bangkok, I have not even tried my all-time favorite Thai dish, Tom Yam Goong. It would've been weird for me to be in Thailand and not even taste it at all. Fortunately, our last dinner was pretty unplanned. After walking around Pak Khlong Talat, we stumbled upon this small side street eatery that had a crowd of people in its tables. My mom urged us to check if they served Tom Yam Goong. I was relieved to find out that they do! In our sheer excitement, we immediately got a table, and, even if the servers had a hard time understanding us, we pointed our choice of dishes in their English menu.

We had another round of fried rice and my mom ordered the fish in yellow curry. I didn't care anymore what they wanted since all I was craving for was authentic Tom Yam Goong! The taste of the Thai basil, lemon grass, mushrooms and seafood, blended with whatever spices they used to create the soup, was simply divine. It was a literal 'save the best for last' moment and it was worth the wait.

Bangkok has a peculiar and amazing array of food choices that surprised me. Actually, one of my concerns in going to Thailand was the food. I knew that they used an abundance of spices in their dishes, and the flavors I might not be what I'm accustomed to. I was afraid to eat something really hot and spicy, or something quite sour. 

I was quite intrigued how exciting my epicurean adventure in Bangkok was. There were still a lot of places I wanted to try but my schedule was quite limited. Still, I was amused at how I allowed myself to experience street food dining, enjoying food bought from different stalls in Bangkok since I doubt I would do it in Manila. Other than shopping, I realized that dining is an itinerary worth pondering on when planning a trip to Bangkok.