Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tears

My tears meant that I am too weary.
I may be at the end of my strength.
But it doesn't mean that I surrender.
"Weary loads are meant for shoulders
 Strong enough to carry them."

My tears meant I am frustrated.
Over people. Events.
Twist of events. Events that get twisted.
But there is redemption in knowing
That fate has its way of righting wrongs.
It always does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Love What You Do and Do What You Love

This blog is in celebration of my upcoming 15 years anniversary with P&G. I finished the blog earlier than my anniversary date though. This is also dedicated to the men and women of P&G that I have worked with, from R&D to Product Supply to SGO/AAIK. Our challenges and stretch goals will always be there but you have made each day at work a little better, brighter and lighter. Your stories at work are forever linked with mine. -- Armie


We have a bunch of new hires in the SGO organization this year. New hires make you realize how old you are in the company and all that drama. Newbees were asked to introduce themselves and say something (witty). We were amused how most new hires exclaimed that P&G is their dream company. But I had to smile. It was my dream company too. During my 3rd year in college, a keynote speaker from P&G was our guest. It was a very impressive and inspiring talk and it got me to aspire to work for P&G as well. Rest is history.

One of the new hires in our team asked me, quite innocently "Armie, if I want to be promoted to Band 3 does that mean I also have to work until 2AM?" (This was because they get emails from me written between 1-2AM in the morning.)

I had to laugh. Not at the new hire but at myself. Who indeed, would be up at 2AM? Me and someone else I know. And we are at same level. Thus, the new hire's conclusion.

So I answered quickly, "Oh no, no, no, no (and some more "no's")... it's just me and "this-someone-else" (not sure if being identified in a blog will be appreciated. or not.). I quoted examples of SNO folks who can be better role models of work-life balance. I obviously do not and have never belonged to that circle. And quite frankly, I had to say that with perverse pride.

And I continued explaining.... "I have been this way since I was a new hire like you. So its not a big deal."

Which got me thinking. That is so true indeed. And my mind went ahead to auto-rewind the memories. Tales of the workaholic is more like it.

When I was new hire in R&D, I spent one weekend prowling the libraries of University of the Philippines College of Science for magnesium soaps because we didn't have internet access then at the R&D G.O.

We did not have laptops back then too. We had this very slow desktop PC that eventually got upgraded to Pentiums and Internet was made available. You have to work beyond 8 hours to finish a report in case you needed more time unless you have a PC at home (I don't). We usually needed more time. In my case, I came back on weekends to work at the office to finish my technical reports and manual data tabulation. And it was not charged to O.T. (overtime) by the way. We called it O-TY (Thank You).

I even experienced spending overnight of Dec 23rd (going to Dec 24th which is Christmas eve in the Philippines) at the Makati office by myself. I was waiting for a shipment of powder samples from Belgium, due to arrive after midnight. I had to conduct an odor testing for the 3 samples (this was past midnight), and call my supplier's technical contact's home number in Belgium to confirm which sample passed the odor test, which they should be preparing to send for airshipment in time for my Plant EO (trials) after Christmas. We didnt have a lot of time then because CPS (project schedule) was well... accelerated as usual.

While still in R&D GO, I spent many EO days at the Plant that lasts 24 hours or more. Spent long hours at the hot and humid Plant Warehouse taking and measuring samples, lifting and moving the cases from the pallet by myself. Today, they have contractors who does that for them. I spent forever in the Plant if an equipment broke down during an EO and we decided not to go home until we produce something.

When I eventually moved to PS, my first engineering project was handed over to me in the middle of massive delays. My first day on the role, I had to be the messenger (to this big meeting) of the bad news of its delay. Needless to say what happens to messengers (yep, they get massacred). I took it as a challenge and brought the schedule back on track without resorting to crazy short cuts.

I started up a new making and packing line for this new product, in my 9th month of pregnancy, completed Q-run and close out one day before I gave birth. The AAI GM even visited us at the line during that 1st production run. I should have had my picture taken with the GM! At the hospital, while labor started, I was still on the phone speaking with the Making engineers while the pain started kicking in, on how to troubleshoot a batch with borderline color. They even suggested to name the baby after that variant (!) when they learned I was on the brink of delivering while they were speaking with me!

The most challenging initiative ever was the so-called EDSA project. All brands, all variants, all skus undergoing changes at the same time at a super accelerated CPS. We had to qualify and start up new machines, we had to do formula upgrade and packaging changes, had to qualify and start up an external contractor, had to modify machines etc etc. All the technical changes in this world. We did not have the luxury of time either. The technical teams were really fragmented then but this project brought everyone together. It brought out the best of everyone because nobody wanted to be the cause of failure.

If I add and narrate my operations-days experience we will never see an end to this blog. Suffice it to say that it was an assignment I tried to avoid, but it ended up to be one of the most fulfilling and rewarding of all. It wasn't the results and records that I missed most or was most proud of. Records are meant to be broken. But the road to get there, how I saw that it brought the best out of people, how the teams broke barriers and gave their best - were most inspiring for me.

As my mind made the involuntary mental rewind, all I can say was that "well, those were the days".

Many years after those episodes, it made it difficult for me to understand why folks surrender at an EO after 8 hours, why folks shy away from hard dirty work. Or why people dread writing issue sheets (my theory was because of this messenger-thing). I couldn't understand why they think an accelerated CPS will bring a nervous breakdown. Believe me, I've worked against the worst CPS of all time. Try launching four initatives in one quarter.

I also thought, our working style will never really change much in the course of years. This is true to me and after observing many people I have worked with, this is generally true. It is like your study habits. Or sleeeping habits. The difference at work is you actually get paid for it. Your work habit stays with you for life. It's in your DNA.

Where I am leading to from all these musings anyway?

It is true we choose how we work. We can work smarter. Or work harder. Sometimes both are necessary, really. We chose to have work life balance - we chose how we define balance and what we ought to do to achieve it.

My definition of balance really sucks, hahaha. I have to finally admit that I comfortably live a life of imbalance. With perverse pride. If it were not for a super supportive and understanding spouse, I would have been separated by now. When we were talking about favorite things, my little girl told me that she thinks my favorite thing is my laptop (I have two). She said this in a matter of fact tone. I am not offended or worried. And she does not say it with that make-you-feel-guilty tone. We have an extraordinary understanding of each other. She understands that my love for my laptop is the same as her love of soccer, scooter, monkey bars and bikes. It doesnt mean I love them less.

But one thing also stood out. I loved what I did all these years. I am a Process person by heart but I also took an adventure into the world of engineering, project management, packaging, operations and even some bit of QA and IWS. Time will tell what I think of Planning.

Loving what you do made everything far more easier.

You have to do what you love. And at some point, you have to love what you do!

 
The Weekly Ops Board Review. Becoming #1 is a daily commitment.

Believe me when I say we've done a lot more crazy stuff ... usually involved lots of dancing. arrrggh.
Our early years at the Plant. The original PD&A team from R&D.
 
My team organized and hosted the 1st Asia Packaging College.
Becoming Asia's best include paving the way for others to also succeed.

WPI Pillar Masterplanning Event
From invisible to invincible! Doing more with less effort! 
 Group Picture from the Last Ever R&D Offsite

Honoring the unsung heroes. The 1st Granules Golden Suds Awards Night.
An R&D tradition which I brought to the Plant. 

The self-funded Supply System Christmas Party

My Last Day at the Plant. Didnt want to say "Farewell" really.
You never know in this life.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice

Chicken Rice is best known for being the national food of Singapore. Of course, not to be outclassed, the Chili Crab is the national seafood of this island-nation.

I immediately loved Hainanese Chicken Rice. Love at first bite is more like it. The dish is downright simple - steamed or roasted chicken served with rice that has been cooked in tasty chicken broth, with siding of kailan leaves and ginger/soysauce/chili condiment to finish it off. My kids also love Chicken rice!

I learned that one of the famous landmark for Chicken Rice in Singapore is actually a stone's throw from Novena Square Office Towers (where I work) and from where we live. So it is quite downright ridiculous that it took me one year before I can finally savor the original Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice at Novena's Thomson Road.


Why? Because WNK is always packed with customers! The tables are always full and there is almost always a handful of locals and expats waiting in line at any time of the day. At first glance, WNKwill defy expectations -- that is, if you are geared to see a posh and polished, upbeat, airconditioned, dainty dining place in Singapore. It's not. Quite the opposite.


I had the chance to dine at WNK when friends from the Cabuyao Plant visited us last October. We arranged to have dinner with colleagues who have also worked from the same plant and given its proximity to the office, WNK was the place to be. It is a typical small-town, non-airconditioned cafe a la street-style with it's sidewalk dotted with round tables and plastic chairs so you can dine al fresco under the hot Singaporean sun (or humid nights). The roasted chickens are on display. in our country, this place is comparable to what we call as eatery, canteen or carinderia. As in.

I learned that while they are famous for the chicken rice fare, they also serve a variety of local food like deep fried baby squid, carrot cake (which is not a cake), chili crab (yum!), cereal prawns, etc. The chicken rice was divine and so was the sizzling tofu! We ordered whole roasted chicken served into bite sized proportions. I personally like the steamed chicken better because its flavors blend well with the generous condiments. I like to dab a dash of soy sauce and chili sauce and sprinkle bits of ginger onto the chicken.
Interestingly, Wee Nam Kee has a Philippine franchise which opened last year at upbeat Makati City. I saw the pictures of the oriental-themed interiors of WNK Philippines and I could not help but be amazed stark constrast versus the hole-in-the-wall ambience of its mother branch.

When in Singapore, or any other place for that matter, I recommend trying out local food fare from the small towns for that genuine local cultural vibe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Singapore Botanic Gardens- from my lens

Today was a public holiday and we took this opportunity to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens. I have been worn down by illness the past weeks (which seemed to stretch for a year!). It was very tempting to stay late in bed and do nothing. However? Weekends are usually busy for errands and our weekly parents' training at Kevin's "school." So we decided, at the drop of a hat, to visit the Botanic Gardens.

I expected this to be some sort of a walk-in-the-park trip-- after all, it is but a BIG garden. My mom and mother-in-law both love plants. My dad has the so-called green thumb and so does my husband.  I don't. It's not that I hate plants and gardening (which is too strong a word, for a plant). I am not fond of them. My husband was the genius behind our garden. This fondness for plants also rubbed off to Kyla. Together they used to spend afternoons at our garden (in Sta. Rosa, Laguna). So needless to say, she was very excited when I told her we will visit the Botanic Gardens.

I joined Kyla's school's outdoor trip to Singapore Zoo as parent volunteer when they were studying the Rainforest. The teacher gave them specific instructions on what to look for during the tour and parents have to guide the group of kids assigned to them. It was fun because I had to really go and observe as well. We had to scrutinize the details of the plants, trees and the flowers. I re-learned the different layers of Rainforest and its inhabitants.

So while having a tour of the Botanical Gardens, Kyla and I enjoyed the long walk while doing our own exploration, looking for unique details in every plant and flower. It makes the trek interesting and Kyla gets to learn new things as well. She kept pointing out the differences between the shapes of leaves and details of the tree trunks and roots.

There is also a vast open area dotted by trees where people can have picnic. You can bring food there plus a blanket, and you are all set.

It rained heavily close to noon and we were lucky to be very near the Burkill Hall inside the National Orchid Garden and we took shelter there while waiting for the rain to stop.

Kyla and I sang "Here Comes the Rain, doo-doo-doodoo.." (to the tune of Beatles' Here Comes the Sun), while sharing a small umbrella together. We continued to wander around the VIP Orchid Garden area, with rain beating our tiny umbrella and I continued to take pictures of the exotic hybrids named after World Leaders who visited the National Orchid Garden. We also named a couple of orchids after us, whether they like it or not. There was also a Bonsai Tree area which Alvin loved.

This red flower immediately caught my eye and
when I got closer to take a shot, apparently, it kept jolli-bee busy too.

One of the unique ones we saw.

Reminds me of Cory

The orchid we named after myself

And this one is for Kyla. Reminds you of Sampaguita, only bigger.

Ogling at the Bonsai Trees

It's amazing how Singapore is able to preserve this area where unadulterated natural beauty of the rainforest and flora comes alive! The kaleidoscopic-like variety of the floral species bring a sense of peace and calmness that my nerves needed.


One of the weird looking orchids. Must be a hybrid.


Lone beauty in the middle of a dark, murky pond.

Lovely shade of purple

I called this the dalmatian orchids.

Amazing details!

We did not get to the rest of the park though because we decided to head home when the rain stopped. But we will surely be back another time for more exploration.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley

I first came across Emily Perl Kingsley's famous article in the Chicken Soup of the Soul -- Children with Special Needs edition. This was the opening essay. It brought me to tears the first time I read it. And despite having read  it for probably the hundredth time, it still bring tears to my eyes. I can openly talk about our son Kevin, the challenges he went through, the triumphs he has made, the inevitable future. But not without having tears well up my eyes, no matter what.

Because Emily Perl Kingsley is right. There is a raw pain, hidden very much deep within that will never, ever, ever go away. But it also brought special meaning - a reason for being, in our lives. And in the grand scheme of things, the wisdom behind the reason is more important than the pain.


Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley
c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved


I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

About the Author
Emily Perl Kingsley is a writer who joined the Sesame Street team in 1970 and has been writing for the show ever since. Her son Jason Kingsley was born with Down Syndrome in 1974. At the time of his birth, it was commonly believed that children with Down Syndrome could never learn to walk or talk. Kingsley's work as a writer and activist for children with special needs helped change this perception. Her experiences with Jason inspired her to include people with disabilities into the Sesame Street cast, including an actress who uses a wheelchair, Tarah Schaeffer, and even Jason himself. Jason's story was the topic of an hour-long NBC television special in 1977, titled "This Is My Son," and with co-author Mitchell Levitz, Jason wrote the book "Count Us In: Growing Up With Down Syndrome."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Little Miss Sunshine


Our Little Miss Sunshine

Kyla is into a lot of painting and drawing these days after I bought her paint jars (vivid colored ones), color pencils, drawing books etc. We also found at The Forum this quaint little store which sells different sized canvass for painters. We bought 4 of them which should be enough to keep her busy. The Forum seems to be a forgotten mall at the farther end of the Orchard road- I found very few people there on a Saturday afternoon. But I'd say this store is quite a find.

We also bought another batch of books when their school offerred to host a book sale from one of the US-based online bookstore. Which reminds me that by year-end, we will have lotsa books to give-away. I read her books too from time to time. My all time favorite is "Paikot-Ikot" ("Spinning") by Palanca Awardee Ms. Grace Chiong because it is almost a true-to-life story of Kevin and Kyla.

Finally we found her missing digicam battery charger! She requested the Pink Sony Cybershot as a Christmas gift. And because she received Honors for her academics and topped the book borrowers, won their play with Kyla as St. Joseph, among many others, I obliged. Besides, she's good at it actually.

Every morning, I awake to Kyla's voice rapping anecdotes to Yaya while she is having her breakfast. She does this non-stop. She skips and bounces around the house merrily and fully-packed with boundless energy! Kyla took after her Tita's sense of humor too. She always tells me she loves me. Or that she likes what I wear. She gives me her little gifts of drawings- she once drew a replica of the Granules Tower and the Plant Parking lot. With me standing somewhere. Whenever I feel tired or sick, Kyla will always stay beside me. She once told me that when I grow old, she will still take care of me. Of course we cannot beholden our kids and tie them down by our sides to such promises. Someday soon she will have to find and follow her road. But hearing her say that in all its youthful innocence and purity of heart, gives a sense of hope and optimism in this world where thr young are growing in the middle of a "me first" era.

Candid moment with Papsy (thats Grandpa for you), talking about the Kois.
And telling him that birds in SG are not shy.
Watching her makes me ponder that if Kevin is our Angel, Kyla is our Little Miss Sunshine. She makes me happy when skies are gray. That was from Sandra Bullock's movie. Forgot which. Senior moment.

"... you are my sunshine, my little sunshine... you make me happy when skies are gray..."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Connect the Dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. " - Steve Jobs

I read about Steve Jobs' commencement address to Stanford University circa 2005 and these famous excerpt paved the way to this piece that I wrote in November 2008. This blog feature is my humble tribute to the genius of the modern world.

Connect the Dots

I always believed that events in our life happen for a reason; that there are no mere coincidences. There are pre-woven patterns of destiny. We may not be able to discern what they mean or where it will probably lead us but the fact is, the ground work for our future has been laid out already. Sometimes it takes wisdom and insight to recognize these patterns of destiny. And when we look back and trace the patterns, then it becomes clearer…

I was in my second year in college when I encountered a most critical turning point in my life. Economy was down and life was difficult. My parents were into a home-based business of making synthetic bags. It took a while before cheaper imported bags made its way to the local market scene but the mounting expenses of sending four children to school took its toll. I left the university and worked fulltime as a service crew in a fast food chain. I also worked until I graduated from college.

I was seventeen then and have always lived a sheltered life before these events took place. I never had time or money for excesses, never experienced the typical goings-on in the busy life of a teenager and I was pretty content that way. I grew up to be frugal because while we were considered lucky to be brought up in a decent home, there never was much room for any other luxury in life.

Working an eight-hour shift made me very conscious of spending my hard earned money. I brought packed lunch or dinner to work so I didn’t have to spend any more than my jeepney rides and I walk the kilometer stretch of inland road from the jeepney stop to our compound. During paydays, I will buy munchkins and ask my sister to sell them to her classmates in Angono (this was at a time when none of the fast food chains exist in the suburban areas of Rizal; as a commission, I gave her extra munchkins for snack). I saved most of my earnings whereas most out-of-school folks I met just lived by the day, spending their money on movies, out-of-town gimiks and the likes. I probably missed out a bit on life, but I was truly never sorry about it. I turned to writing most of the time. I have never forgotten my goal in life as well which is to finish my degree. I saved enough to return to college after a year and continued finding means to help myself on college expenses. My experiences outside of the university taught me life-lessons that I have otherwise, would never have known, had I not dropped out of school, flexed my working muscles and learned early on the value of living within my means.

Until now, 17 years later, I am as much as who I was back then. I embraced the principle of living within one's means. People may think that we are financially abundant. But simply, we were just blessed enough. The truth is, my husband and I  have never forgotten our roots and the lessons life taught us and we aspired to live a simple life.

After my one year off college, prior to returning to my Alma Mater, my parents persuaded me to transfer to a less expensive university where I will be able to commute to and from school and save the board and logding expenses in Manila. The prospect does not exactly set me afire with positive expectation but at that time, it was better than not being able to complete any education. So I went there and obtained the requirements needed for enrollment. But as it turned out, the classes for ChE starts and ends way too late. The idea of having to go home so late is not advisable for young women those days (I had to walk through a dark, tree-covered strip of dirt road if I happen to arrive late at night). So we scrapped the idea and decided that I will just wait for another six months and go back to UST.

When I enrolled back to UST a year later, my batch mates were already in their 3rd year. While we remained good friends, I had to find my own place under the sun all over again, meet new folks to hang out with and the likes. Since nobody knew me, I felt I had to prove myself a little bit more.
I attempted to join the Thomasian Engineer journal in my first year in UST. But I had a long exam on the same day when they were holding the qualifying exams for new writers so I missed the chance and regretted it. In that year when I returned to the university, I vowed that I won’t let the chance pass me by again. Since my daily commute was a 3-hour route those days due to road constructions, I was running late and only had one hour to finish the 3-hour exam for writers. Those were probably the fastest articles I ever came up with in my entire life, having to crank out 4 different original articles (from a selection given in the exam) in an hour! I passed the qualifications, became a staff writer, rose to section editor after 2 semesters, became the senior editor up until I took the helm as EIC in my final year.

Looking back, I was driven internally by a rejection for failure -- this would not have come with such sense of urgency for me, had I just lived my usual college life and if it were not for the fact that I once felt a sense of failure because I had to skip school.  This did not occur to me at that time. I was too busy struggling to survive a decent life then. But it made sense now.

On my 3rd year in engineering, I intended to fully enroll for the morning class so that I have time in the afternoon for my staff writer duties. During registration, there has been some confusion on my records because I had a year out of school. It took me hours to sort it out with the Registrar and when I finally went to get my schedule, the morning class is already full! I reluctantly took the mid-morning class. Mostly with people I have not met.

In our first week, I met Alvin. He came from the afternoon class so I have never really known him from the year before.  He came from a different circle of friends. He courted me after 1 ½ months and we became BF-GF after 3 months. We continued to be together throughout college and long after. We were married in 1999.

If you think about it, if I had not dropped out of school, took a year off and returned, had my records messed up due to my absence and ended up in the afternoon class which I didn’t like, we would have never met because I would absolutely not take an afternoon class ever! We would likely not end up together and would never have Kevin and Kyla this day!

Again looking back, Alvin and I were clearly destined to be together and much more. We were meant to fulfill a special mission for the lives of angels sent on earth.  I believe that much.

And yes, Steve Jobs was right. You can only connect the dots looking backwards. You have to trust that there is purpose behind why events happen (or does not happen) in our life. You will know in time. In His time.

And you have to be ready to listen. Follow.  Trust.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Preparing for a Garage Sale?

At about the same period last year, we were busy preparing for a Garage Sale before finally moving in another country. I've been keen on doing this even before I finally had a legitimate reason to have one but I didn't enough stash to make for an interesting garage sale. We usually have a few clothes, some toys here and there, books that I end up donating to charity.

Kyla took the responsibility of arranging the toys for the sale

Moving and the anticipation of living in a smaller space forced us to learn to part with our material belongings. We simply cant take it all. As I was sorting and labelling the stuff, I realized that letting go wasn't difficult after all. You simply cant hold on to your belongings forever unless you want to end up being a storage museum.

While watching episodes of Clean House, I realized that keeping things tidy is just one part of the challenge; the most difficult part is learning to let go of material possessions. Some people like holding on to too many material things in this life I guess. We made a conscious effort to embrace minimalism as we move to a new space, so all abubots (knick knacks) ought to go. And so, the garage sale was set into motion.

Here are the usual stuff that you may consider dumping into the garage sale...
1. All clothes, shoes, accessories and bags that you have not worn in the last 12 months ought to go; unless these are costumes that is worn once a year. If it's an old fashion trend and you want to save it, forget it. Trends do get recycled too so you'll be able to buy something of its likeness someday. Trust me.

2. All toys wear their novelty sooner or later. I make it a point to trim down the toys every year, garage sale or not. We donate them at the least so that some child can enjoy it as well. We only keep less than 10 old toys that are memorable and worthy to keep. But certainly not a closetfull.

3. I initially found it so hard to part with my books, booklets and magazines but I had to. To control this, I only maintain 1 bookshelf today. If it gets full, it means I have to start trimming them down.

4. Glasswares etc.  Unless you intend to set up a carinderia (food stall), do you really need several dozens of glasses, plates, dessert plates, bowls, etc etc?After sorting, we kept only two sets of good quality dinnerware and special edition glasses. If we'll have a huge party, I'm not crazy enough to be laboring over several dozens of plates for dishwashing... I'll hire a caterer. So off with the excess plates and glasses!

5. Ceramics, souvenirs etc etc can go! I'm not really a fan of these ceramic thingies.They gather dusts and they create clutter over time. I know that some folks like collecting ceramic statuettes for display. I don't. I can probably with a few good classy pieces, but not one too many!

6. Miscellaneous plastic bins.

7. Electronic items that you will no longer use.

Here are some tips when planning for a garage sale:

1. Make sure you have enough room to display the items for sale and for people to oggle and move around.

2. Label all items with your retail price. This will save you answering a thousand questions through out the day. Be prepared that folks may haggle. My prices are generously low when we had a garage sale so no one actually haggled for a lower price (DVD Player for Php200?). Be prepared to adjust the price for items that are not moving. Most likely you priced it too high.

3. Group together your items and arealize the goods. I had a section for clothes hung in a rack, bags, shoes stacked in shoe racks, books, toys, cookware and glasswares are on top of a sturdy table, and so on.

Some of these clothes were actually new...

It was also Kyla's idea to display the water bottles in a row.
By this time, most of the glasswares have been cleared.

4. Assign one person to be your cashier. I did this job while Kyla holds the cash box.

5. Make sure you advertise well in advance so that you can expect to move a lot of your stuff fairly well.

Our neighbors came very early- and got the good buys.
We sold this unused wall fan and a couple of DVD players for a steal!

6. Consider bundling small items as one package so that it's easier to sell them. I had a make up kit with accessories, trinkets, relatively fresh nail polish and hair accessories for only Php20. I also bundled several small stuff toys for only Php10.

Another idea from Kyla....
Halloween was approaching then so the pumpkin totes were a sold easily.

7. The prices have to be really cheap if you want to dispose items quickly, like in our case.
8. Have fun!


Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Streets of Shanghai

I have been to China many times over but never really had enough time to walk around and soak in the cultural waters of one the greatest ancient civilizations in the world. I visited Shanghai, China during my packaging stint when the Global Customization team went to Asia.

Shanghai is a bustling metropolitan city in China, littered with skyscrapers that are headquarters to many regional and global corporate behemoths. But what caught my history loving eye is the blend of old world and new world charm.

I was able to pack in quite a heck of a Shanghai street tour in one morning on the day of my flight back. Here are the interesting places from the Streets of Shanghai...

The Oriental Pearl Tower was the tallest structure in China from 1999-2007 before it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Jin Mao Tower, both in Shanghai. The ground floor serves as a Museum of the History of Shanghai. I definitely did not skip the opportunity to tour the museum.

The Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower.
The ground floor serves as a Museum showcasing the History of Shanghai. 
Further down town is The Bund (or a Quay) which is a section of Shanghai facing the mile long stretch of the historic Huang Pu River. On one side you can view the Shanghai skyscrapers while the other side are historic buildings with breathtaking Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque and Neo-classical architecture. If it were not for my flight, I can just stroll there all day long.

View of the skyscrapers overlooking Huang Pu River.
It was mid morning yet very breezy on this side of the town.


This is The Bund. Makes you feel like you are in Paris or Rome (or UST Main Building) in this district.
The Customs House and the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank are in the background. This is breathtaking at night.

The Yuyuan Garden was built in 1559 during the reign of Emperor Ming Jiajing as a private garden of the Sichuan province administrator. This is an enclosed area of about two hectares and you can find various Pagodas and cultural relics. There area also Pearl shops within the area and I was able to buy one at a very good bargain!

One of the Pagodas at Yuyuan Garden

The Museum of History of Shanghai is a joy to explore (if you are a history buff). It showcases a wax museum for a lifelike rendition of life in Shanghai from early civilization and pre-colonial days, the British colony period when electric cars and horse drawn carriage ruled downtown, and finally the modern world.


3D exhibit of The Bund

Once a fishing and textile town in the east coast of China, Shanghai is now dubbed as one of Asia's Global City-- the center of finance, commerce, business and technology in Asia. A walk along the streets of Shanghai made me feel that despite the grandeur of being a modern world city pretty much like Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore, the ancient traces and spirit of this genteel city remains tenacious and alive!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Oldest and Dearest from My Book Stash (or what's left of it)

Eventhough I love books, I have to trim down my book collection everysooften due to space limitations. In our Sta. Rosa home, we had a custom built wall mounted book shelf enough to hold a considerable volume of books to last a lifetime. Condo-living entailed we only have space for 1 bookshelf which is 75% full by now (and 75% are Kyla's own book collection). And I am not yet succumbing soon to the seduction of Kindle and tablet readers. Call me old fashioned in that area. I tried the e-books during the Palm Pilot era and it catapulted my eye grading to 500.

I have a handful of books from many years ago that are still part and parcel of my book stash wherever I go. From our Rizal hometown to our first home in Makati City to Laguna and til date. I have given away, donated and sold most of my books but these are simply the dearest of them all.

The Mythology by Edith Hamilton was a required reading in Literature during my junior high years. This  was my original book from high school. The book cover still had the date when I purchased the book (October 6, 1989) and still had the original plastic cover which is partly dilapidated by now. We took up the Olympian gods and goddessess, and the Trojan War. But I read the entire book anyway. I love this book because it gives you an insight on the great storytelling from early civilizations when life was still a mystery shrouded by superstitions, supernatural or even paganistic beliefs often confused with religion and simplistic rendition of why life was the way it was. The latest paperback no longer carries the same cover picture of Perseus holding Medusa's head.



A good substitute for the Gregorio Zaide history book


I love history books, especially that of the Spanish era. Perhaps in previous life I lived in the Spanish colonial-era Manila which explains my affinity for history. I also have books about America and Europe- not the school textbooks- but the kind that gives you an unapologetic glimpse of history and its glaring realities. The Old Manila is good read because it packs a punch despite the slim volume and is insightful and comprehensive. I also bought a coffee table book about the History of Manila and it's nearby cities and provinces. We cannot live in the past but we must not forget our past either - we must learn from the lessons of history and use it to influence a better future. Sadly, not al lot of our youth really likes history.


My book Europe 101 had an interesting closing anecdote about geopolitical history, economics and a daring prediction about modern age social justice and what it means for the First and the Third World.  It cited a quote from the 1979 best seller "The Future in Our Hands" and after that I'm hooked. Made me think hard and deep. I must find that book.


The book "Who Moved My Cheese?" was given to me by my manager Rohan Murkunde in 2000. There were about 5 of us in his team and we were about to face a huge change in our career- moving from R&D to Product Supply. The book is about adapting with change. I did not have a lot of drawbacks going through that episode of my life because a feeling somewhere in my gut circa 1998 tells me that moving to the Plant is my fate. But this book gave me the wisdom that we should not cease looking for the signs that foretells significant change that is about to happen.

Pride and Prejudice is a hand me down book from my friend Nats. Love story from the 19th century par excellence. What I loved most about it is that heroine is actually a feisty, speak-before-you-think, no non-sense young lady. It is inspiring that even though we are centuries apart, there were already liberal minded women who are ahead of their time! They are the true femme fatale!


The book by John Maxwell 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader was a gift by my then manager Carlos Morales, given to me during my early years as a young manager with subordinates for the first time. This book had a lasting impact on me and shaped by beliefs, thinking and convictions as a leader. In latter years, I used quotations from this book as part of the trainings I gave to my organization.


I was fortunate to receive the book "Now, Discover Your Strengths" as a gift twice. One was from my former manager in packaging days, Suhas Potnis and the second one was from my friend Ed Macias. This is one powerful book that changed the way I looked at strengths and the so-called weaknesses. It enabled me to discover strengths at its most fundamental level. Years later when I moved from one role to another in my career, I have used the wisdom I learned from this book to help guide me on which path to go based on my strengths. On moments of doubt, I read this book again to reaffirm on what I know I should be holding on to.

"The Best of Youngblood' is a compilation of stories from twenty-something Filipino writers and wannabe writers in the early 90s. I bought it when I was at that age bracket so you can say it is the literature of my generation (Gen-X). It is the many facets of the youth from Generation X. By now, some of them are working moms like me, some are still enjoying the freedom of being single, some are probably torn in between, and some are still searching for themselves true to Gen-X tienes tienes (coloqial for fluff). If you have read the book or if you are a true Gen X-er, you will understand what I mean.

The poignant opening story from the book Chicken Soup for Children with Special Needs
One of the most heartwarming book I have ever owned- Chicken Soup for Childen with Special Needs. This is the only Chicken Soup book left to me, obviously the closest to my heart. I read it one story at a time. Most stories are poignant, each story is inspiring and leaves you a feeling of connectedness to millions of others whom I have never met but we are linked together by a common special bond. The opening story "Welcome to Holland" sent me to tears for its truthful evocation of every mother and child's journey. I still cry whenever I read the opening story eventhough I've read it a hundred times.

Similarly the book "The Curious Incident of the Dog at Midnight" gives you an insight of how the mind of a person with autism perceives his world around him. How he thinks, how he processes what he sees, what he hears and how he will react accordingly. It enlightened me as to how my son apparently looks at the world from his eyes.


I encountered the book "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" while reading the Chicken Soup for Children with Special Needs. It is thought provoking to say the least and there are just so many unforgettable quotes and passages that makes you ponder. "Endings are also beginnings. You just don't know it at that time." And yes, it got me thinking who are the five people that will greet me when I die. Knowing my life, I can already surely tell at least one of the five.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Taste of KU DE TA

Again, this is the result of watching Food Network Asia channel too much.

The making of KU DE TA (KDT) was featured in the Food Network channel and that sort of piqued my interest. It became a part of our To Do List while in the Red Dot. Hubby and I took the long weekend holiday as an opportunity to have a dinner date!


KU DE TA is located the Sky Park of the illustrious Marina Bay Sands Hotel. The KU DE TA circuit includes a Fine Dining Restaurant, a Club Lounge (I suppose, for the young, the young once and the feeling young) and the Sky Bar perched just on the Sky Park observation deck where you can enjoy the panoramic view of the Singapore cityscape.

The KU DE TA Restaurant boasts of Asian Fusion dishes set in modern Asian interiors. They also have an outdoor setting if you want to dine al-fresco. The restaurant by nightfall is predominantly candlelit for a relaxing and private dining experience.

We arrived at 7:30 pm and the dining hall is already quite busy by then. The staff were very friendly and attentive. Most of them are fellow kababayans. We decided to try their best seller appetizer which is the Crispy-Sticky Baby Squid, paired with Smoked Eggplant with Marinated Salmon Caviar. The baby squid is an elegant version of the hawker-favorite sans the tons of onions and pepper fill-ins. The KDT's version of baby squid has the same crispiness but with a tinge of what I thought was caramel. The smoked eggplant reminds me of my dad's invention from many years ago, on this time the Salmon caviar sits on top of the veggie for that gourmet effect.

For the mains we went for the Bamboo Roasted Pacific Black Cod with Whipped Red Miso and Berkshire Pork Belly Steamed with Shaoxing Wine. The fish was really divine! I can tell that the cod was steamed, the flesh was so soft but the skin and sides were seared. The red miso did I'd say the pork belly was just ok but not exactly unforgettable. I did fear for our cholesterol level so we decided to skip the lobster. We had a carafe of white Sangria to complete the dinner.



I was very full and satisfied by the end of dinner but I sure have some space for dessert: Green Tea and Pistachio Slice. Its a basic cake topped with green tea flavored cream frosting dotted with pistachio nuts, smothered with jam and caramel slivers.


Overall I'd say it was an enjoyable dinner. We would love to come back to KU DE TA to celebrate. I saw a family with kids and I thought that we could bring the kids next time. Though meant to be a fine dining experience, the ambience is relaxed, chatty and exuberant!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chef for a Day

Children were in for a culinary surprise at the United Square Mall (the one that is a stone's throw from where we live). The United Square in Novena is dubbed as "The Kids' Mall" -- they house several outlets for famous brands of infants' and children's apparel and shoes - which I would say is more than what you will find in the bigger malls. There is also a branch of Toys R Us and Early Learning Center (ELC) in this mall. ELC boasts of unique line up of toys and books.

Everysooften, United Square sponsors learning events for kids. This month, they sponsored a Children's Cook Out at the Atrium where kids can learn great things about nutrition, good table manners and of course, experience being a chef!

There are four stations that you can choose from -- Japanese Bento, Oriental Mooncakes, Pizzeria and Kaya Jam. The food they will be preparing were all very creative renditions suitable for kids' consumption.

They also get to have a nutrition and health tour before going into culinary action!

Here are snippets of the Cookout...

Chef Kyla having a great time at the Pizzeria Station

It's a great idea to jump start kids on simple cooking

Preparing for the Cookfest

The first stop is the food pyramid

Height and weight measurement for the BMI charts


Kids also learned table setting, good manners and get to do hand-on for napkin folding

Getting started!

Kyla worked independently on her pizza
 

Kids received goodie bags from sponsors and a certificate


The best part-- Kyla shares her Pizza with Kuya Kevin

Kyla took home her pizza creation and gave the half for her brother, Pizza being his favorite food. It's a wonderful way to end the day!