Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Day in Zamboanga

Now, I know how it feels when people become apprehensive at the mention of Mindanao. You see, am from Davao. I feel most secure in this city than anywhere else. Yet, a lot of people squirm when faced with an option to go to Mindanao or somewhere else. 

I had a brush with this uneasy question. It shook me when I was asked if I've cleared with our security head, if we are given the green to travel there. Awkwardly, I was told that for locals, yes. For expats, no. Okaaay...

Mindanao, the second largest island in the Philippines. Home to a diverse culture of Muslims and Christians. And indigenous tribes. It is an island with centuries of strife woven into the fibre of its history. 

Colorful both in ethnicity and socio-economic struggle. Rich with natural resources: timber, wild animals and precious gems and minerals. And peopled with a unified struggle for sovereignty. Hence, the arm movement.  

And thus, the fear it instill to the rest of our countrymen and foreign guests. But there's more to this beautiful island than violence.

To begin with, the places are beautiful and worth exploring. Fortunately, my work took me there for the first time. Imagine my excitement. I was bursting in nervous anticipation. 

Ha, the islands surrounding the peninsula from an aerial perspective were already amazing. Small stretches of white beaches; cove like. At the airport, I got transported to a Latin-speaking country. Chavacano (the dialect) is awesome to hear. And the mestizos look like they were plucked out straight from Mexican/Portuguese telenovelas. Absolute eye candy. I know it's just icing on the cake. 

But what can I do? I only have one day to get a glimpse of the city's character. Eagerly, I took what I could. Tasted the scrumptious seafood that's aplenty here. 
Curacha (P600 only). Cholesterol alert!

And the PX Market is divine. Zamboanga is the back door of the Philippines. The whole of Mindanao, the gateway to the ASEAN countries. The Barter Market (used to trade in barter system; now, cash is the accepted norm) is teeming with imported stuff from neighboring countries, Malaysia/Sabah.

I left the city with my curiosity still unfulfilled. Yes, I have created and enjoyed an experience. But I still want to explore it some more. Dakak Beach Resort, Dapitan and the rest of Zamboanga's charm are worth coming back for. So, yes, Zamboanga is only half-crossed in my bucket list. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Avon iPad Giveaway

Avon is giving away an iPad to its associates who will refer the most number of fans to its facebook page. Naturally, I want to win. So, am asking you to help me win it. 
 Here's the road to 200,000 fans: 
  1. Click this link 
  2. Enter my name: Shiela Culpa, as the one who referred you
  3. Tell your friends to like our page, just like you did
  4. Let me know that you LIKED the page so I can enter you in my Avon Raffle Giveaway
Please do all 3 steps :-))

I can't give you an iPad each. I can only express my heartfelt gratitude and thank you plus, Avon products that you can try and enjoy. 

What else are you waiting for, click na?!

Many thanks, 


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dear Jaycee

Dear Jaycee, 

I can only imagine what you're going through right now. I know that you're putting up a brave face by telling me that all is good. That what is important is you've asked for apology and that it was accepted. 

It is hard being your eldest sister because I feel your pain but I understand as well that I am not in a position to mend it for you. I wish I can make an appeal to make things right. But as an adult, we go through life's experiences with certain expectations. Inasmuch as I hope that you be always happy, there are moments that put us in a darker place. 

All five of you, my brothers, I had not been much around when you were grappling through life -- adolescence, school and other life choices. I had always been away because I chose to work, far from our family. Although I made it a point to always be home several times a year, it's just never the same. 

One thing that I've realized though is that I know that all of you understands that I am accessible, anytime. You can call me and we can talk, for as long as you want. However, I know also that among men words do not come as easily. 

In our talk today, I feel that there were some words that were left unspoken. Pain unacknowledged. Sorrow not admitted. Remorse  not confessed. Take your time to heal. There's no need to hurry. And should you find it helpful to share with me or to our other siblings, know that it is not unmanly to do so. 

I remember there was one time that you were crying your heart out because you broke up with your girlfriend...several years ago. We kept our distance. We gave you space. However, we teased you to no end but only when we knew that you were already over the heartache. 

The reason why it came to mind today is because I want you to know that all wounds heal even if it seems really difficult and impossible. Some fades fast, others take a little longer. However long it takes, know that it will come. And you can endure. Know why? Because you're made of sterner stuff. 

I was alarmed when your messages seemed goodbye. You told me to take care of our parents even if I already have a family of my own. Please... don't. I want you to be around far longer than what your heart desires, at this time. And know that you'll break our parents heart, especially Mama's. We owe it to her to be braver. She's faced too many storms for us. 

One day, you'll smile again. When that happens you'd look back with bittersweet memories. Know that whatever the season of your life is, we, your family loves you. We may not express it in so many words but know that we deeply care for you. 

If there's one thing that I can guarantee you, nothing is permanent. The wind may sway; situations change. Even goodbyes aren't forever. They can only be temporary setbacks. 

So, hold on tight. Together, let's find the rainbow in your gloomy sky. 



Monday, August 20, 2012

Happy belly at Romulo Cafe

I have been intrigued by this restaurant for sometime now. It's en route going home. Whenever I see its facade, I have this incredible feeling of happiness. You see, Romulo Cafe along Jupiter Street in Makati, at the outset looks like an oversized gift. The wrapping is so beautiful, you feel either intimidated or excited to see what's on the inside. 
Romulo Cafe. 2011 Best Restaurant Awardee.
From the street, the lighting and decor are so beautiful, it manages to invade your mind and leave a mark there. To me, it's a special place. I've been telling my friends about it for sometime but we never seem to agree on a date. Life gets in the way, you know. 

So, on Thursday, August 16 we found the special reason for our first encounter with this much-anticipated cafe. We bid adieu to our former boss, TJ who is off to start a new life as an entrepreneur. 

When I walked in at the cafe, I had this heady feeling of meeting an old friend. It's like walking into a dream. The restaurant owner(s) took great pains in creating a relaxed atmosphere. You'd know that here you can have great conversations and quiet dinners. 

As starters, we have two dishes. In the excitement, I forgot to take a picture of the lumpia. 
It's unconventional, yes. But I found it too difficult to chew. (Pinoy Nachos)
Sinigang na salmon sa miso. Absolutely divine.
These were followed by mouth-watering dishes that delight the senses as well as our sensibilities. By the middle of the courses, we have just surrendered to the fact that this is not a night for eating like a bird.
Laing. Just the right bite of hot chili and an agreeable amount of coconut milk.
Sigarilyas with tinapa. Am not a fan of sigarilyas. But it did surprise me. Yum.
Pancit na puti. The absence of color will deceive you. It tastes heavenly.
Beef Caldereta -- melts in your mouth goodness.
Pork Binagoongan in a bed of grilled eggplant.
Rice cake dipped in native chocolate.
I'd say that although am adventurous when it comes to cuisine, I have always been partial to Filipino food. I'd pick it anytime over fancy European or continental dishes. Lately, I've caught myself enjoying more and more fusion Asian cuisine or even the rare authentic hole in the wall cafes.

At Romulo Cafe, one would shell out about P500 per person to enjoy great Filipino dishes. When there, you'd wish your kitchen and dining area are just like it back home.

Whether dinner for two or for big groups (ours was a party of 30), you'd find that Romulo Cafe is up to the challenge. The dining experience will be a good conversation starter. Service is excellent. So, no grumpy moments or grumbling stomachs.

I would even go as far as recommend it to friends who have family relations coming home from abroad or for fellowship nights with colleagues and a foreign visitor, in tow.

If you want a happy belly go to Romulo Cafe.

Romulo Cafe
148 Jupiter St., Bel-Air Makati
(adjacent to Corner Tree Cafe)
Tel. Nos. 822-0286, 478-6406
Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 6 to 11 p.m. daily


Friday, August 17, 2012

Happy Endings

Last night, we formally bid adieu to the coolest and hippest boss ever, TJ Nadres. Of course, we were sad but as the man himself reiterated there's nothing to be gloomy about. After all, friendship doesn't have to be confined in the office. 
Fantasizing on all long weekends.
He says that his 13 year stay in Avon can be akin to a roller coaster ride. There were ups and downs, happy and not-so happy moments but definitely worth the experience. 

We held the intimate dinner at Romulo Cafe along Jupiter Street in Makati. The ambiance served as a fitting background to the occasion. The food was unpretentious, very apt for the Filipino palate. But it was served with panache. Just like the man of the hour. 

Almost everyone had a chance for short speeches which were at times emotional, others downright funny. The recollections were of times when he was there when needed whether for work or just personal advice. 


And then, for those who couldn't come but have shared memories with him sent pictures. So, Zarah made a scrapbook on a 13 year flashback. Ah, the pictures tell a thousand stories. We saw the progression from small to large. Hi hi hi. 
Thank you, Mr TJ! We will miss your goofy self and your pearls of wisdom. But as we have agreed, we would still see each other for our monthly get-together. And on Monday for our private chill session with our small yet solid OpsDev team. 



Thursday, August 16, 2012


One highlight of any Cebu experience is its wide array of gastronomic treats. Cheap eats but taste expensively. 

So, whenever am in Cebu I make it a point to dine at any of the original Cebu street-origin restaurants. In Cebu, there are many hawker-like food destinations known for its taste, original flavor and affordability. 

Last Monday, I made it a point to eat at one of the original barbecue place, AA Barbecue. The structure has changed, gone is the street vibe though. 

To order, you have to select from the glass window all the fresh seafood or marinated chops and tell the 'chef' how you want it cooked. Service is very swift. So, the anticipation isn't that long. 

Here are the dishes that made our belly happy. 
The freshest seafood soup (Clam)
Eggplant salad
Ngo Hiong. Never leave Cebu without trying this. Looks like lumpia but not quite.
Baked scallops
Tender pork belly
We were filled to the brim. All these fed four people but we only paid for P700. How incredible is that? 

When you're in Cebu don't forget to check out AA BBQ at A.S. Fortuna St., Mandaue.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: The Blind Side

“The essence of our effort to see that every child has a chance must be to assure each an equal opportunity, not to become equal, but to become different - to realize whatever unique potential of body, mind and spirit he or she possesses” ~ John Fischer 

We had been planning to start a book club. Over the months (or is it a year already?), it has evolved into an online book club as one of our members, Joyce now resides and teaches yoga in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

Our first book is The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Needless to say, we promptly missed the book club discussion -- something to do with mixed up in time zones and connectivity. Besides, my two other friends and members, Joyce and Febz, weren't able to finish the book. Hahaha. 

The book is an extraordinary real-life account of how a marginalized black kid who has the gift of football greatness as observed by the local coaches and confirmed by an independent but with authority talent scout, Tom Lemming beats the odds, in life and in the game.

The drama unfolds when a white family not just help but adopts, legally, Michael Oher -- the celebrated albeit virtually unknown football great, left tackle considered to be the ideal position to counter the blind side of the quarterback. His is a story of a black kid living in a dilapidated housing community bereft of a mother's care but with a combined innate ability in athletics, gigantic body build, and height.

As a child he dreamt of becoming the next Michael Jordan. But in school he drifted from basketball to football, never really seeing himself in the game but prodded by the coaches who see his potential. Without the care of his drunkard mother, his education is hampered. It's as if he really hasn't learned at all. In fact, his IQ was only measured at 80 but the teachers just let him go on to the next level, passing on to someone else's the responsibility of molding him.

The series of life "accidents" propelled him to be in the right place at the right time paved a way for him to fulfill the promise of greatness. It is as they say, the road was never straight and narrow but winding and full of humps and forks.

Reading the book needs total concentration and keenness on details as it's sprinkled with sports statistics, characters and jargons. For a non-football fan, it makes the reading quite taxing.

As I read it though, I tended to focus and identify on its emotional appeal. It is such an amazing real life story of how second chances could transform a life of an individual. And how people who are powerless, economically and socially can hope for a future. It reinforces America's image of a country that offers equal opportunity. But it doesn't belie the fact that the road can be lonely and is a huge undertaking.

And it can be true to any society. On two counts, I am deeply moved. One, that there are people who are willing to go out on a limb for other people. That care is a universal suit. Or armor. Second, though talent is not enough, it is a springboard. And when you harness it, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Whether in first world America or in third world Philippines, a gem can be found even in unlikeliest places. It may be from the heart of the slums. If you are in a position to extend a hand, the fate of one 'hopeless and hapless' individual can be turned.

It makes me appreciate more what those Futsal/Street Football sponsors are doing. I believe that in the long run, not just skills and talents are being cultivated but re-shaping of a child's destiny.

And The Blind Side confirms that.

Friday, August 10, 2012


We're doing our bit for the flood victims. Join us. 
We are partnering with Avon Philippines. Last we've heard this wonderful company (where we work) might just donate it to our group. 

And so whatever amount we raise, we will spend for food or medicines. 


Thursday, August 9, 2012


The barrio girl just had her taste of urban tragedy. And was ill-prepared for it. 

It has been raining incessantly the last ten days. Monday, August 6, was no different. I braved the rain going to Greenbelt to meet up with my friends for dinner. We couldn't postpone it, Joyce is already based in Jakarta and would be going back there soon. 

We finished dinner early. I waited for Tyrone in his car. I passed the time reading while thinking how nice it felt to hear the pitter-patter of the rain. 
Boy, I thought it was just a simple rain.
An hour later, my easy-breezy night turned into a nightmare. All roads going to my place are no longer passable. Our last hope was the SLEx but sedans can't pass anymore due to the high level of flood in the are. Only big trucks the likes of 10-wheelers can afford to traverse. With a heavy heart, we all turn around. The counter-flow was madness by itself. Thank goodness for good Samaritans. Someone, who was drenched and in his shorts and shirt, decided to direct traffic. Thank you, Sir. We didn't get to thank you. 

Running out of options, we parked across our office thinking that a few hour to pass would be enough for the water to subside. The authorities would already announce that roads are cleared for light vehicles. The clock ticked; hours went by. I slept intermittently. 

Six hours and a painful stiff neck later, water levels have instead gone up. After a heated deliberation, I decided to ditch a mandatory FCPA Training. We left the car at the office parking lot and to fate, the way home.  

We took a cab. The cabbie was all nice. And brave. He said, we could get through the flood. Ten minutes later, we were in the deepest part of the flood when he judged that his cab won't make it. 

Turn-around, we did. Being almost half-way through, we got off at McDonald's. We ate for sustenance, not really out of hunger. In my mind, we might be out of shelter, indefinitely. 

Our options were few. Either we take a tricycle or hitch a ride on a truck. Definitely, the truck is the most viable. But they're not many. The entire time we stood at the steps of Kingswood condominium, there was only one that passed by. I didn't have a chance coz I only saw the back it. Zip. 

Then, one tryke driver who wasn't sure if he can do it but had the stomach for it, offered to take us home. Ah, the hope it spring forth. We trudged on. I braced myself. I leveled my feet to the platform-like part of the vehicle. It was a nice and easy ride. Suddenly, we were dipping low. Water started to fill the tricycle. I feared for the worst. 

Then, I had an idea! Why don't I step on the seat? I can't be wet. It's the time of the month...the red flag is on. So, I tapped the driver and shouted my request amidst the humdrum of the rain and wind and the flapping of the tryke curtain. He misheard me. He thought I said,  go easy, am pregnant. Whoa. Manong! 

Never mind. The waist deep water was only about a ten meter stretch of the road. Afterwards, the water level was already safe for passage. But it was one ride, I shall never forget. I know it pale in comparison to the rest of the ones who were affected in a major way. Nevertheless, coming from the point of view of one who has never experienced anything remotely of the same intensity in my whole life, I think I am entitled to be scared. Nothing like it in my province. Life, especially water irrigation in the banana plantation, is very controlled. It's the lifeblood of the community.

My neighborhood became a water world. Water everywhere. The water was already at the front steps leading to the reception of my building. Never happened before. 
My street as viewed from my 7th Floor unit. I've seen how the water crept in on the houses to the right.
When I reached my unit, I felt that all of my energy were drained off me. The adrenaline going home just took all of what I have. I fell asleep after promptly taking a shower. 

Woke up, several hours later to a wet pillow and still raging weather. The rain was just relentless. 
Dateline: Manila. This, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
Ayala Museum led a digital art campaign about Filipinos being water proof. I think it went a bit viral. I agree that the Filipino Spirit is Water Proof. But we need to be more responsible in our action towards the environment so that we don't have to test the indomitable spirit of each and every Filipino when faced with calamities or tragedies. 

I think we can channel our energy to more positive things like sustainable development. 


Monday, August 6, 2012

Avon Chic: Black Cowl Neck Dress

Working in a beauty company such as Avon has a lot of perks. From product discounts, samples to being the first to see its new offers. Recently, the company expanded its line beyond the regular beauty products that are already household names. 

Hello, Avon Fashion's Apparel. Naturally, am thrilled. And got thrilled some more when I received my sample and told to wear it so we see for ourselves how chic and comfortable it is to wear. Mind you, I had misgivings about the fit. 
My sample of Avon Cowl Neck Dress.

Thrilled, I made a collage of how I was going to wear it on revelation day. 
These are pieces that I already have.
 On reveal day, here's how I wore my cowl neck dress. 
Just how I envisioned it to be.

Verdict? Very wearable. Plus, bonus. When I posted this picture on my Facebook page, friends have commented that I actually looked slimmer! ha!

The great thing is, I was able to take this to an after office Friday night out with friends. 

Avon Fashion Catalog.


Check out the latest Apparel brochure of Avon and be surprised with incredible finds. Happy shopping! Click here