A Pinay Abroad p.6
Top 5 Asian Consumer Trends p.8
Mountain Biking in the Metro p.12
Vol. 3 No.6 Q1 2014 Philippine Edition ISSN No.
While travel insurance from an expatriates’ home country seems the best option today, it is not the only one. Veteran journalist Blanch R. Fernandez reports on the Philippines public health system
re you absolutely sure you want to be discharged?” the doctor at The Medical City asked. Carmelita, 72, with a broken hipbone, nodded and signed the waiver. She was in such pain that she could barely stand, but there was no way she could pay PhP300,000-400,000, as the doctor quoted, for a surgery that normally lasts less than two hours. Carmelita is not rich, but she certainly isn’t within the 28 percentile of the Philippine population that lives in poverty. Yet a partial hip replacement surgery at The Medical City would cost this middle-income retiree her entire savings. A week later, at a small hospital tucked in a residential neighborhood in Quezon City, Carmelita was recovering in a PhP4,000/night room, her hip fixed by a well-respected orthopedic surgeon who also holds clinic at The Medical City. Her total bill: PhP220,000. “The Philippines does not have a law standardizing charges, so it’s all based on the client’s ability to pay,” Roland Cortez, Assistant Secretary at the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) said, explaining the differing rates for the same services in hospitals. “There’s a problem with health professionals,” he said. “If I am seeing you at, say, St. Luke’s Medical Center, I will charge you higher. If you go to St. Luke’s, the doctors will always think that you have money.” In fact, even at St. Luke’s, the rates vary: in 2010, the neurologist of this writer’s father charged PhP500 for consultation at St. Luke’s Quezon City, and PhP800 at St. Luke’s Global City, a swanky, hotel-type hospital where patients check in as guests. Like any other business, healthcare in the Philippines is market-driven, and paying clients who require complete comfort and attention are a well-serviced sector, among them expatriates. Wary of government hospitals, which are often understaffed and suffers bad service perceptions, most of the estimated 180,000 foreigners living in the Philippines make a beeline for premier facilities to seek medical care. Private hospitals like St. Luke’s, Asian Hospital, The Medical City and Makati Medical Center are leading destinations for medical tourism as well, which is being eyed as another revenue source for the country. Australian Dan Owens, who moved to the Philippines with his young family in 2011, said healthcare was a big concern for them. His nine-year-old son had asthma, and his job entailed overseeing operations in nine locations across the country, so he needed an insurer that would cover any accidents when traveling. Owens booked World Nomads, a global provider that offers customizable travel and healthcare packages that would cover even flights back to Australia for serious health issues. Thankfully, Owens’s family has not had any medical emergencies, although for routine check ups they have seen orthodontists and specialists who were recommended by friends. Turn to page 2
Photo by Carlo Zamora
Show Me the Money
Health Options From page 1
“They have all been excellent. If (we) did not have the money or insurance, I would be scared by what the public system could offer,” Owens said. This dismal but well-founded lack of confidence in the public health system is what the Philippine government has been trying to change for three years now. Since 2011, there has been a steady and substantial increase in funding for health, in line with President Aquino’s instruction to pursue a program called Kalusugang Pangkalahatan (Universal Health Care). From PhP24.6 billion in 2010, the DOH’s budget rose to PhP 31.8 billion in 2011, PhP42.1 billion in 2012 and PhP51 billion in 2013. For 2014, the DOH is poised to get around PhP80 billion, the fifth biggest chunk of the proposed PhP2.2 trillion national budget. A large portion of the revenues from the newly passed Sin Tax Law, which increases the excise taxes of alcohol and tobacco products, will also go to health expenditures. This translates to an additional PhP3540 billion for health care in the first year of the law’s implementation. A significant part of this fat budget has been earmarked for the improvement of government health facilities. In his speech at the 63rd Annual Convention of the Philippine Hospital Association, Health Secretary Enrique Ona said, “Beyond funding the immediate needs of our hospitals, which are admittedly vast, we are laying the foundations for much needed government hospital reforms.” “I have always believed that our public hospitals reflect the state of our public health care system. And through the years, the public often has unfavorable memories of their stay in government hospitals,” Ona said, citing the bad smell, long lines, crowded wards and inadequate supplies. Hence, under its Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP), the DOH has embarked on a six-year, multi-billion peso upgrading of these government facilities. From 2010 to 2013, the DOH has spent almost PhP20 billion to overhaul local health centers either by building or fixing physical structures, or providing medical equipment. This is on top of improvements on 66 of the 72 DOH-retained hospitals, which in 2013 alone cost PhP6.8 billion. The upgraded local facilities comprise 1,567 barangay health stations, 2,881 rural health units, and 856 hospitals that are all under the direct supervision of the local government units. Cortez, who oversees the HFEP, said the government is also making sure that there are well-equipped health facilities in heavy tourism areas, like Boracay and other parts of Aklan.
Manila to get sufficient experience for stints abroad. In private hospitals, at least, they get to train in an environment that is similar to health facilities in other countries. “Some countries, notably the Philippines, are seeking to capitalize on the demand for imported health workers by deliberately training graduates for international careers,” the World Health Organization said in a 2010 report on the migration of health workers. As of 2010, 19 percent of the 9.4 million overseas Filipino workers are nurses, according to the Commission on Overseas Filipinos. In the last three decades, the top destinations for health professionals are Saudi Arabia, United States and United Kingdom. According to the WHO, nurses from the Philippines and doctors from India account for the largest share of migrant health workforce in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, which have ageing populations. This tends to weaken the health system of the countries of origin. “On the positive side, each year, migration generates billions of dollars in remittances to low-income countries and has been associated with a decline in poverty. Health workers also may return and bring significant skills and expertise back to their home countries,” the WHO said.
New Market, New Players
While poverty incidence in the Philippines has hardly changed since 2006, remittances from overseas Filipinos have given millions of families here the ability to seek medical care in private hospitals. This is a segment of the market that newly renovated and better-equipped government hospitals are now trying to attract: families of OFWs and even foreigners living here. In fact, expatriates are allowed to get insurance from Philhealth, a tax-exempt government corporation that subsidizes health services to Filipinos. “The employed who can afford to pay a higher rate will be charged higher based on their salary, but for individuals or voluntary paying members, the lowest annual premium is PhP2,400,” Greg Rulloda, Philhealth vice president for membership, said. Expatriates who wish to enroll in government insurance will be considered voluntary paying members. They need only to present their Alien Certificate of Registration. “Government hospitals were considered pathetic, dirty, staffed by insensitive people… but this (health facilities upgrade) has brought some degree of pride among our health workers. Our facilities are clean and we have these equipment that are comparable to (those in) private hospitals,” said Cortez, who is also the executive director of the East Avenue Medical Center, a public hospital specializing in trauma cases. Perhaps to prove how serious it is in improving government facilities, particularly its specialty hospitals—East Avenue Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Heart Center and the Lung Center of the Philippines—the DOH recently purchased a positron emission tomography– computed tomography or PET/CT scanner, which currently is available only at St. Luke’s. The very expensive PET/CT scanner, an imaging technology that allows early detection of cancer, heart ailments and neurological disorders, will be installed at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute early 2014. “We have the authority to charge more than St. Luke’s does because our machine is a newer model, but will we do that? No, we won’t. We will set the pace of bringing fees down,” Cortez said. At the East Avenue Medical Center, the newly renovated pay floor now has private rooms and suites twice the size of those in The Medical City and St. Luke’s, at half the price (PhP1,500-PhP4,000). “The question is: as a government institution, will I raise my rates like them? We have the same doctors and commensurate facilities. If my room is bigger and newer—it even smells nice—should I then impose the same rates as the private hospitals?” Cortez said. “In government, I think of our social responsibility so I keep it down. So if a doctor from, say, St. Luke’s comes here, he will hesitate to skyrocket his professional fees, because he will see our rates, and match our responsibility to help,” he said. Now, that’s a brilliant marketing campaign.
Since 2011, there has been a steady and substantial increase in funding for health, in line with President Aquino’s instruction to pursue a program called Kalusugang Pangkalahatan (Universal Health Care).
In a country with 7,107 islands and at least 80 spoken dialects, barangay health stations (BHS), which are usually manned by a midwife, and rural health units (RHU), which should have a doctor and nurse, act as the primary gatekeepers of health. “It is the job of the local government units to upgrade their facilities because in the Philippines, the functions are devolved… But they have no money. If the national government does not do anything, nothing will happen,” Cortez said. He said the goal of the HFEP is to give local health centers complete functionality, which includes competent health personnel. The provision of manpower, however, falls on the local leaders. For a country that sends some of the best health professionals abroad, recruiting nurses and doctors to work in rural areas has always been a challenge. The problem, Cortez said, is not the shortage of workers but their understandable unwillingness to serve in the provinces. The average salary of a nurse in a government hospital in Metro Manila, according to Cortez, is PhP18,000, including allowance and hazard pay, but a nurse in the province would be lucky to get PhP8,000 because local governments have a limited budget. “Who would take that job? It’s very hard to recruit health personnel,” Cortez said. Instead of taking badly compensated jobs in rural hospitals, young doctors, nurses and therapists take equally bad-paying jobs in private hospitals in Metro
At different points in her life, Blanche Fernandez was a newspaper reporter in the Philippines and Hong Kong, a travel magazine editor and a senior editor for a company doing North American publications outsourced to Manila. Today, she provides content and editorial services to government and corporate offices. See her works at www.hellodeadline.wordpress.com.
news byte RP, Italy sign Protocol to avoid Double Taxation
The Protocol Amending the Convention between the Republic of the Philippines and the Italian Republic for the Avoidance of Double Taxation with Respect to Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion was signed by Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Cesar V. Purisima and Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno at a ceremony held at the DOF premises last December 10. The Protocol seeks to guarantee compliance of the Philippine tax laws with internationally agreed tax standards (IATS) as set forth by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In particular, it seeks to convey the Philippines’ assurances that the country is willing to exchange information on tax matters with Italy, within the parameters set by IATS. The signing of the Protocol, which promotes practices in information exchange and the strengthening of transparency on tax information, is expected to boost investment flows between the two countries, benefiting the Philippine economy and reinforcing the confidence of the international community in the Philippines.
1st RP-Norway Bilateral Consultations
Co-chaired by Office of European Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson and Director General Tore Hattrem of the Regional Affairs and Development Department of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines and the Kingdom of Norway held the First Philippines-Norway Bilateral Consultations last January 8 in Manila. The Philippines expressed appreciation for the USD33.3 million assistance given by Norway through various channels. The Norwegian side made an announcement that an additional USD8 million will be given for the rehabilitation of devastated communities in Central Visayas. Both sides affirmed their commitment Norway Foreign to further enhance maritime cooperation. Minister Brende Norwegian owned, operated or managed vessels employ some 21,000 Filipino seafarers. Norway has actively extended technical assistance to the Philippines in complying with the STCW Convention. In the area of peace and reconciliation, Norway acts as the country facilitator for the Philippines’ peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF. It is also a member of the International Monitoring Team in the Mindanao Peace Process. Norway welcomed the substantial progress made in the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The First Bilateral Consultations takes place against the background of the first visit to the Philippines of Foreign Minister Børge Brende.
New Portuguese Ambassador
The new Portuguese Non-Resident Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Joaquim Alberto De Sousa Moreira De Lemos made a courtesy call on the Office of European Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson at the Department of Foreign Affairs last January 8. Ambassador De Lemos, who earlier presented his credentials to Portuguese Ambassador De Lemos (middle) President Benigno with OEA Assistant Secretary Collinson (right) S. Aquino III, took and Portugal’s Honorary Consul in Manila, Mr. the opportunity to Antonio Rufino. convey Portugal’s desire to reinvigorate Portuguese–Philippine bilateral relations, notwithstanding the Portuguese government’s closure of its resident embassy in Manila in 2011. Ambassador De Lemos stated that the Portuguese economy is on its way to recovery and there is now a potential for greater cooperation between Portugal and the Philippines in the economic front.
Atty. Jose ‘Pepe’ Villanueva III Publisher Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. Henry Schumacher Katrina Legarda Editorial Board Walter C. Villa Editor-at-Large Sonny Ramirez Art Director Ayvi Nicolas-Cruz Copy Editor Rachel Villanueva Marketing Consultant Kristine Vinas Circulation Manager
ALL CONTENTS COPYRIGHT 2014, RESERVED for The IMMIGRANT. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced in whole or in part, without the express written permission of IMMIGRA PUBLISHING, the publisher of The IMMIGRANT. The views and opinions expressed in this publication are not necessarily those of IMMIGRA PUBLISHING. The IMMIGRANT, Suite 302, Ferros Tower, 30 Polaris Street, Bel-Air 2, Makati City, 1209 Philippines For feedback and comments, pls email email@example.com The IMMIGRANT is in ISSUU. Get your e-copy at http://issuu.com/ theimmigrantphilippines.
ON THE COVER: ’How to Be a Man’ This enigmatic portrait of an old woman holding a life-size cutout portrait of a man is shot by Manilabased photo hobbyist Carlo Zamora. It’s the grand winner in the Portrait Division of the recently concluded Maybank Photography Awards, besting hundreds of works by professional photographers across Southeast Asia.
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The Immigrant faqs
Getting Covered Atty. Marisol DL Anenias lays down the health plan options for expatriates in the Philippines Is a health plan required of a foreigner settling in the Philippines?
that provides hospitalization discounts for contributing members at any accredited hospital in the Philippines at an affordable premium. At PhP200 per month (PhP100 for regular employees), Philhealth offers financial benefits such as discounts on hospitalization bill for in-patient treatments. They offer three kinds of memberships: Employed membership, Voluntary Individual membership, and a Lifetime Membership. Citizens of other countries residing and/or working in the Philippines are included in the National Health Insurance Program of the country and may register with Philhealth upon the submission of the Philhealth Member Registration Form (PMRF) and a photocopy of his/her Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) issued by the Bureau of Immigration to prove his/her residency in the country.
Health plans are not a requirement but it is advisable to get one. The Philippines has a tropical climate and for some people, especially those used to the cold weather, it may take some time for them to get used to the weather. Moreover, getting a health plan will provide for the health aspect of a foreigner’s stay in the country and is a step towards covering the different factors that will safeguard the full enjoyment of life in the Philippines.
What is the current state of healthcare in the Philippines?
The Philippines has both private and public health care institutions most of which accept health plans. There are thousands of hospitals nationwide and over a hundred in key cities where there are tertiary hospitals offering the latest in medical technologies. The doctors and nurses are generally well-trained, perform quality work and fluent in English which explains why they are in demand in the international healthcare industry. Medicine is affordable and is available in the thousands of pharmacies that sell Food and Drug Administration (formerly Bureau of Food and Drug) approved drugs.
There are HMOs and Health Insurances. What’s the difference?
Health Insurance is very similar to how a life or a property insurance works. The benefits provided by the insurance are generally made available when the conditions indicated therein come into play or when there are emergencies such as critical illnesses or hospitalization. A Health Maintenance Organization or HMO in the Philippines offers preventive and outpatient care services with accredited doctors and health care facilities which include hospitalization assistance within the plan holder’s enrolled maximum benefits.
Illustration by Manix Abrera
International Health Insurance:
What are the different types of health care programs?
There are several kinds of health care programs in the Philippines that are available even to non-Filipino Citizens. There are the public health insurance, the private health insurance, international health insurance and expatriate health insurance. It is always prudent to check the different plans offered by each company and evaluate which one is best suited to one’s needs. Private Health Insurance: Private Health Insurance Companies cover health expenses for individuals, families and groups. The health expenses are for insuring a person from critical illness and hospitalization. There are some plans issued by companies
that present additional benefits such as a lump sum amount at the onset of critical illness insured; up to 50 percent money back on premiums paid when the period indicated terminates; those that have been saved from financial burdens of health care and income loss through a variety of health benefits either based on a 10-year hospital plan or until one reaches the age 100, among others. These variations depend on the company offering the insurance and the premiums paid. These plans may either be fully paid by individuals or partially paid or even free for regular employees. Public Health Insurance: The Philippine Health Insurance (Philhealth) is the national health insurance program
Offered by both local and foreign health care insurance providers, this type of insurance has both local and international coverage which allows the insured to avail of the services and benefits even if they travel outside of the Philippines. The extent of the service and benefits may vary depending on the premiums paid. Expatriate Health Insurance: This type of insurance is exclusively offered to non-Filipinos mostly issued by the expat’s country of origin or by an international health plan provider effective only within the country where the foreigner is legally residing. There may be some expatriate insurance that covers medical expenses for short term travels outside of the country where the foreigner legally resides.
Is an international or expatriate insurance accepted in the Philippines?
Most international insurance plans are accepted in the major tertiary hospitals in the Philippines. While this list is not inclusive of all that accept international and expatriate insurance plans, the top five hospitals are the following: Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, The Medical City, and Turn to page 10
On Foreign Ownership
oreign Investments have always played a significant role in the Philippines’ industrialization and socio-economic development. Thus, to encourage foreign investments, Republic Act No. 7042 as amended by RA 8179, also known as the “Foreign Investments Act of 1991” was enacted providing the liberalized rules in the entry of foreign investments in the country. Under RA 7042, as amended, foreign investors are now allowed to invest up to 100 percent equity in companies engaged in almost all types of business activities, except in the cases provided under the Foreign Investments Negative List (FINL). The FINL provides a list of investment areas wherein foreign equity is limited to only a maximum of 40 percent. The current FINL is the 9th Regular FINL, issued by Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III on October 27, 2012. The said list have two components: List A refers to areas reserved to Filipinos by mandate of the Constitution and specific laws such as: a) Mass media, except recording; practice of licensed profession; retail trade; cooperative; small-scale mining, etc. where foreign ownership is prohibited; and
FROM THE DESK
By Teresita J. Herbosa Chairwoman, Securities and Exchange Commission
b) Advertising; ownership of land; operation and management of public utilities, etc., where only minority foreign ownership is allowed. List B refers to areas that are defense-related, those with adverse effects on public health and morals; and domestic market enterprises with paid-up capital of less than USD200,000. In said cases, only minority foreign ownership is allowed. Thus, where the activity to be engaged in is not included in the FINL as listed above, foreign equity may be allowed to more than 40 percent and even up to 100 percent. However, while companies engaged in activities not included in the FINL may indeed be 100 percent foreign-owned, RA 7042, as amended provides that if said company operates as a domestic enterprise with a capital of less than the equivalent of USD200,000, then foreign equity therein is still limited only to 40 percent. Conversely, for foreign equity to be allowed to exceed 40 percent in domestic enterprise not included in the FINL, it must have a capital of at least USD200,000.The capital may be lowered to USD100,000, if (1) the activity involves advance technology as determined by the Department of Science and Technology; or (2) the enterprise employs at least 50 direct employees. Turn to page 10
t first glance, Switzerland and the Philippines could hardly be more different: one, a landlocked mountainous country with barely eight million inhabitants with advanced economy; the other, an archipelago half way around the world with a development status and more than a hundred million people living in 7,107 islands. However, a closer look bears many similarities. Relationships between the two countries date back more than one and a half centuries ago. Few years after the creation of modern Switzerland, the Swiss government decided to establish its first consulate in the Asia-Pacific region in Manila in 1862. While adventurers were the early Swiss migrants to the Philippines, many travellers, farmers and businessmen soon followed. Today, names like Zuellig or Menzi remind us of the Swiss’ entrepreneurship spirit and their willingness to contribute to the economy of their new homes during the 19th century and thereafter. With more than 5,000 Swiss, the Philippines hosts the third largest Swiss expat community in Asia. Mirroring this excellent rapport is the 15,000 Filipinos and more living in Switzerland today. And just like the phenomenon that is Philippine diaspora, more than 10% of the Swiss population also choose to live abroad, and a good number of them have chosen the Philippines as their second home. Not surprisingly these longstanding and robust interactions have developed into meaningful and productive business relations. Bilateral trade
THE diplomat By H.E. Ivo Sieber, Ambassador of Switzerland to the Philippines
adds up to more than half a billion US dollars annually, thanks to Swiss investments in the Philippines that have become household names as Nestlé, Holcim, Zuellig, SGS, Novartis or Pasar. These companies have created more than 15,000 jobs for the Filipinos. It is therefore only commonsensical that the Swiss and Philippine governments have forge agreements that covered areas such as investment protection, double-taxation, legal assistance or the exchange of professional interns. Just a few months ago, Bern and Manila agreed to establish a mixed economic commission, with the two sides ardently exploring the conclusion of a free trade agreement. The typhoon Yolanda which devastated large parts of the Visayas region last November underscored another dimension of Swiss-Philippine relations, namely compassion. The government immediately dispatch its Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit to the Philippines and provided quick relief to the tune of Swiss Francs 6 million (PhP300 million). In addition—not counting the extensive support pledged by Swiss companies—an ongoing national fund-raising drive by mid-December 2013 mobilized in excess of Swiss Francs 37.2 million (PhP1.85 billion) for the victims of typhoon Yolanda. Even Swiss President Ueli Maurer took a break from his busy schedule, sat down and operated the telephone switchboard himself to accept phone pledges for the Philippines. Even in times of hardship, Swiss-Philippine relations stand the test. Both are well structured to grow even stronger.
Photo by Walter C. Villa
Risk specialist Graham Edwards recommends buying insurance as protection from risks of kidnapping—just in case
idnapping for ransom and detention has been a perennial problem in the Philippines for several years and in the last decade several high profile incidents have made local and global headlines. Kidnapping in the Philippines is perpetrated by several groups, each with a different range of motivations. The major perpetrators of this crime can be categorized into militant groups or criminal groups.
Kidnapping around the world tends to be motivated by political or ideological aims; however, most incidents are motivated by money. Targets are usually picked due to their perceived wealth, public profile, nationality or the organisation for which they work. Groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf and the New People’s Army use kidnapping for ransom in order to publicize political demands as well as fund their operations. Their activity is most
commonly seen in south of the Philippines: in Mindanao and the Sulu islands. In fact only last September, an armed conflict escalated between the Armed Forces and MNLF in Zamboanga City which resulted in hostaging of over 200 citizens. While political kidnappings and detention by militant groups tend to be restricted to the south, organized criminal gangs operate with impunity in the metropolitan hubs including Metro Manila. Recent reports
suggest that there are 20 main kidnapping gangs operating across the Philippines. The risk of kidnapping of expatriates and locals is considered to be high. Middle and upper class local business men and women from the Filipino-Chinese community tend to be the most widely targeted victims. More recently, reports have emerged of foreign nationals being held for ransom in certain territories, especially in the south. There is insufficient data on average ransom demands as this tends to remain confidential but the average time spent in captivity for foreign nationals and expatriates is recorded at 90 days—longer than most kidnapping incidents in other territories across the globe. What is evident is that the threat of kidnappings is real and most of these incidents do not make the press. While high-risk individuals will do everything to protect their own safety as well as of their family it is near impossible to eliminate all elements of risk. When all else fails there is one way that individuals and companies can protect themselves and that is to purchase a Special Contingency or Kidnap and Ransom Insurance policy. In a kidnap situation, it is essential that individuals have access to the correct crisis management services which include consultations with top kidnap response experts as well as financial protection (ransom amount) to ensure that individuals, families and companies do not suffer any detrimental financial impact. Kidnap and Ransom Insurance is something that should be considered by all employers and families of expatriates. The cost is not prohibitive; an annual family policy can be as low as (USD1,500 per annum) but the peace of mind it brings is priceless.
InBOX is The IMMIGRANT's letter to the editor section. Please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Graham Edwards is the CEO of the Jardine Lloyd Thompson, Philippines. For more information about Kidnap and Ransom insurance, email him email@example.com. All queries are guaranteed to be handled by Graham personally with utmost discretion and confidentiality.
A Pinay Abroad How does one thrive in a multi-cultural workplace? Maya O. Calica shares a few life lessons she picked up along the way
am a magazine editor who has lived and worked outside the Philippines for nearly a decade. An outsider can easily assume that after uprooting myself from my homeland, I’ve probably become less Pinoy over time, taking on the culture and habits of my adoptive city. The truth is I’ve never been as proud or protective of my Philippine heritage as I am now. Absence does make the heart grow fonder (I hoard packets of sinigang mix, OPM CDs, and John Lloyd Cruz DVDs when I am in Manila), but so does working in an environment that’s a melting pot of cultural diversity. When you’re one of just a few Filipinos in a multi-cultural environment, your Pinoy pride kicks into high gear. During my stint in Singapore, I transformed into this little ambassador of goodwill who wanted to show everyone else that Filipinos are a smart and wonderful lot. Because we are. Which brings me to my first point…
1. Believe in yourself.
On the flip side, we do have weaknesses that could use a little help. I never asked for a raise in my life until I worked for an international firm—it’s just not in our culture, right? “Dyahe naman,” I’d say to myself. That’s what my colleague Pedro* also thought when his salary wasn’t increased after two years. We could blame 300 years of Spanish rule on our tendency to suffer in silence, but we don’t have to. Ask for what you want. If you don’t know how to, ask someone who does. I turned to my husband—a Kiwi who has no qualms
Illustration by Manix Abrera
It’s healthy to enter any workplace knowing you’re good at what you do, and that you belong there. And as Filipinos, we’re hardwired with some pretty good qualities. We’re naturally happy and good-humored (a Singaporean colleague going through a divorce thanked me for making her laugh again). We are respectful. We are creative and resourceful, and can work with what’s available. We can sing at work and still get the job done (I once got a “Mary Poppins Award” at a company Christmas party for turning our magazine cover line brainstorms into karaoke sessions). We smile even during deadline week. about speaking up—and he gave me tips on how to talk to my boss about getting the raise I wanted. I asked, and I got it.
3. Learn from others.
It’s natural to gravitate towards fellow Pinoys in a foreign land. But if you insist on limiting your association to just kababayans in the workplace, you limit your growth as well. By isolating yourself, you fall prey to the “us versus them” mentality that assumes Filipinos are better than others. That kind of thinking is dangerous. I have come to appreciate what different cultures can bring to the table and how this exchange of ideas enriches me as
a person. I have learned to speak my mind from watching my outspoken Aussie and American counterparts in action, to not settle for mediocrity from Singaporean colleagues who reserve their compliments for something truly epic, to take pride in my talents from an Indian editor, to critique with kindness from the British, and to laugh in stressful situations from Indonesian workmates.
You will meet people with preconceived notions about Filipinos, and sometimes you won’t like what they have to say. No one wants to be stereotyped. But I have learned
that most of them have based these associations on their personal experience, so don’t take offence. “I love Filipinos,” gushed Lila*, a lanky writer at my first office and one of the first people to warm up to me. I was thrilled until she said, “My maid was a Filipina.” It wasn’t the answer I expected, you see, but decided to listen with an open heart. “She was so good to me, and when she had to go back to the Philippines, I cried.” My defenses fell to the wayside and I heard Lila’s story for what it was. Lila grew up in the late 1980s, when the trend of Filipinos migrating to Singapore as domestic helpers was at a high, and she had been raised by a lovely caregiver who was a Filipina just like me. Another time, an elderly taxi driver took one look at me, and asked, “To the hospital?” I said no, and gave him my office address. During the drive, I asked him, “Uncle, why did you think I was going to the hospital?” His reply? “Most of the Filipinas who wait for cabs in your corner are nurses.” I gently told him about the other professional Filipinos in Singapore. “We have many nurses here, but we also have magazine editors, writers, bankers, advertising executives and teachers.” It felt good to educate him about the diversity of roles we play, and he appreciated the information.
Working in a multi-cultural setting is like being a UN delegate or Miss Universe candidate—it’s an opportunity to shine and best exemplify our country. I love it when people ask me to translate Tagalog words they’ve heard, inquire about a Pinoy artist they’ve seen or read about, or rave about my vacation in Donsol or Bohol because of my awesome photos on Facebook. I celebrate my culture with them in little ways: I take colleagues out to a lunch place that serves Filipino food, show up at an office party with my Wow Sing magic mic, and give presents that are proudly Philippine-made. We’re all ambassadors, no matter where we work. When we think and act as such, we do our part to give our country and people the dignity we deserve.
* names have been changed.
Maya O. Calica is a published author of three books, and has been working as a magazine editor for over 15 years. She was the founding editor of Candy and Seventeen Philippines, and spent a seven-year stint in Singapore working with fashion magazine Female and as editor of Smile, Cebu Pacific’s inflight publication. She is based in Auckland with her husband, where she works as a freelance writer, editor and illustrator. www.mayacalica.com
Green Front From page 12
Meralco wants this program to serve as test bed for its business case premises and technical competencies in providing different charging technologies for e-cars. Shuttles used around the Meralco compound in Pasig City are now being powered by this e-charging station. The company is even considering developing new technologies or engaging strategic partnerships to enhance the capabilities of its EV charging station. This includes connecting the charging equipment to a renewable source of energy that harnesses solar or wind energy.
The ADB is also providing a USD300million loan to the Philippine government to fund the procurement of 100,000 e-tricycles by 2016, to help reduce greenhouse gases, boost drivers’ income and eventually stimulate the manufacture of e-vehicle motors locally. E-trikes are now plying routes in Mandaluyong and in Puerto Princesa in Palawan. Mitsubishi Motor Philippines also announced its intent to be the first auto manufacturer to bring a pure electric car into the country. The company is teaming up with the Department of Energy and Meralco in the evaluation and demonstration project for the i-MiEV’s potential for use on domestic roads. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV has a combined city and highway fuel economy of 47 kilometers
ELECTRIC HUE. Meralco president and CEO Manny V. Pangilinan stands in front of a Tesla S during the media launch of Meralco eVehicle Power Station.
per liter, which ranks it as one of the most efficient vehicles to drive. The five-door, all-electric hatchback has a range of around 100 kilometers, which makes it a good driving car around the city.
It looks like something is finally getting done with the electric vehicle program in the country. Perhaps a vehicle pollutionfree Philippines will no longer be just an electric dream.
United Efforts Johnna Villaviray-Giolagon rounds up the biggest donor countries to Haiyan victims
hen Category 5 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) slammed into the central Philippines on November 8, she left a path of death and destruction the country hasn’t seen in recent history. She cut off all communications from the area such that the full extent of the devastation was unreported until the day after, when the first news footage from the area was broadcast. To sum it up, some 16 million people were affected by the super typhoon; 6,069 were killed—majority from the storm surge in Leyte island—while 4.1 million people lost their homes. While the first responders were from the Army division in Catbalogan City in adjacent Samar island, the first non-Filipino responders—American military assessment teams from Japan— arrived within 48 hours. As of December 18, the Philippine government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub, which tracks foreign donations for Haiyan victims, posted receiving a total pledge of USD538,978,033. Of this amount, USD63,417,800 represents cash donations while USD475,560,233 is non-cash assistance. FAITH records that the government has received USD12,337,478 of these pledges. The other nine members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which the Philippines is a founding member, pledged a total of USD4,418,000. An independent record published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) lists private donors—individuals and organizations—as the overall top donor for Haiyan victims with USD108 million in contributions. UNOCHA’s other top donors are the UK (USD92 million), US (USD61.5 million), Australia
According to FAITH, the biggest donors to Haiyan victims are as follows: United Kingdom
$20,500,000 and $53,607,000 (listed separately)
European Union/ European Commission
United Arab Emirates
An independent record published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) lists private donors—individuals and organizations—as the overall top donor for Haiyan victims with $108 million in contributions.
(USD38.7 million), Japan (USD30.7 million), Central Emergency Response Fund (USD25.3 million), Norway (USD24.1 million), Canada (USD19.1 million), Germany (USD14.5 million), and Sweden (USD14.5 million). On the ground, these numbers translate to food and medical assistance, hygiene kits, clothing, housing materials, food supplements, and water. Foreign militaries helped the Philippine transport relief packages to affected communities while others undertook medical missions. At one point, at least 75 foreign aircraft and ships were involved in the relief efforts—27 from the US; 11 from South Korea; six from Malaysia; five from Australia; four from Russia and Taiwan; three each from Japan and Indonesia; two each from Canada, Qatar, and Singapore; and one each from India, Israel, and Sweden. On December 18, US State Secretary John Kerry announced an additional USD25million in humanitarian aid. A day later, EU Ambassador to the Philippines announced another 20 million euros (roughly USD27.4 million) in assistance. “Further funding will be made available during 2014 and following the detailed Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, which the EU is fully supporting together with the World Bank and the United Nations based on our global trilateral agreement,” EU Ambassador Guy Ledoux said. Despite the massive outpouring of support, foreign assistance to Haiyan victims have fallen short of the UNOCHA’s call of the USD791 million needed to assist victims for a year. UNOCHA has so far received 31.07 percent of the total call for funding and still requires USD545 million to fully fund the program. Additional funding is required to help Haiyan victims return to what was normal before Haiyan struck.
Joint Venture When four-in-one combo becomes a by-word for efficiency, VFS Global introduces new visa services for governments of Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom
FS Global, the world’s largest outsourcing and technology services specialist for governments and diplomatic missions, launched their new visa application services in Makati City last December 9. The new Joint Visa Application Centre (JVAC) is aimed at catering to the growing demands of Schengen-, UK- and Canadabound travelers in the region, offering new services, facilities and benefits to visa applicants. This is seen to boost tourism, trade and investments, and bilateral ties between Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, UK and Philippines. The joint inauguration was headed by His Excellency Neil Reeder, Ambassador of Canada to the Philippines; Honorable Hero de Boer, Charge de’affaries of The Kingdom of the Netherlands to the Philippines; Mr. Trevor Lewis, Her Majesty’s Deputy Head of Mission of UK to the Philippines; and Ms. Pilar Villanueva Romero, Spain Consul General to the Philippines. Located in a spanking new office at the Mezzanine of Ecoplaza Building, Don Chino Roces Avenue Extension, VFS Global offers the following services: professional and responsive staff dedicated
FOUR VISAS UNDER ONE ROOF. The new Joint Visa Application Centre inauguration was graced by (from left) Hon. Hero de Boer of Netherlands, VFS Regional Head-Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim Loren D' Souza, Hon. Pilar Villanueva Romero of Spain, H.E. Neil Reeder of Canada, Hon. Trevor Lewis of UK, VFS Deputy General Manager for Philippines and Indonesia Ashwin Balse, and VFS Senior Manager for Operations Ma. Cecilia Madrilejo. Hon. Lewis (RIGHT PHOTO) holds a copy of The IMMIGRANT with Robert Harland, British Embassy Warden.
to handle visa queries; automated queue system; dedicated website for easy access to information including visa categories, requirements and checklist, applicable fees and application status; dedicated call centre and email support; secure handling of documents; feedback and form kiosks; SMS alerts of application status; prime time appointment service; premium lounge service, cloaking facility and doorstep delivery of passports. The JVAC is open for business from 7AM to 5PM Monday to Friday. VFS Global is
a trusted partner to the aforementioned Embassies and Consulates General in the Philippines in providing services to facilitate visa application process for travelers in the Philippines. For more information, please visit the following websites:
www.vfsglobal.ca/Canada/Philippines for Canada visas; www.vfsglobal.com/ spain/philippines/index.html for Spain visas; www.vfsglobal.com/Netherlands/ Philippines for The Netherlands visas; www.vfs-uk-ph.com for UK visas
Trendwatching.com, the leading trend firm for global consumer trends and ideas, lists the five unnmissable Asian consumer trends for 2014. Here are excerpts:
014 looks to be another year of changing mindsets and priorities in Asia. Despite a much-reported growth ‘slowdown’ (just single digits) and political upheavals, the region’s development will continue apace, pushing Asian consumers to rethink the status quo and to demand that brands help them better manage—and even deliver balance—to their hyper-crammed lives. For those who adapt to Asian consumers’ rapidly changing needs, there are countless opportunities ripe for the picking. Brands that champion
change—giving voice to the concerns of the masses, then answering them—will also win priceless consumer favor. But where brands fail to catch on fast enough, expect a new breed of Asian ‘civic-consumers’ to step in—showing off their resourcefulness with a dose of Made-in-Asia-for-Asia ingenuity. For more on where to begin and how, here are five trends reflecting Asian change that you can run with in the next 12 months. Read and then go do!
1. SPACE STRAPPED Small innovations. Big opportunities. In 2014 and beyond, the region’s sprawling megacities will witness increasingly scarce space to live, work and play in—making every square meter worth a higher and higher premium. The figures say it all: • Between 2010 and 2013, the city of Beijing will have absorbed an estimated 210 million migrants. (UN, August 2013) • Leases on Beijing’s Finance Street cost an average of USD137 per square foot a year, 30% more than the USD104 per square foot buyers pay for on Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. (Jones Lang LaSalle, October, 2013)
• The number of shoebox units—apartments of 500 square feet or less—in Singapore will grow from 2,400 at the end of 2011 to 11,000 by 2015. (Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority, September 2012) In perpetual discomfort and dissatisfied with being Space Strapped, Asian Citysumers of 2014 will turn their attention to smaller, affordable and well-designed brand solutions. Searching for big opportunities in the coming months? Then think small: compact, foldable, stackable, modular, vertical, cantilevered, portable, flexible, even hidden. Remember: the goal is to squeeze more from less, and make Asian micro-living as efficient, creative and comfortable as possible.
Peruri 88: Vertical ‘micro-city’ in Jakarta
Proposed for construction in downtown Jakarta, Peruri 88 is designed to accommodate Jakarta’s high population density. Resembling ten vertically stacked blocks, the 88-storey complex will house retail, office and residential space as well as a luxury hotel, wellness centers, parking structures, a mosque, wedding venue, IMAX theater, an outdoor amphitheater and sky gardens aplenty.
IKEA: Make Space Better
Released in September 2013 in Singapore and Malaysia, IKEA’s Make Space Better print and video campaign accompanied the furniture company’s 2014 design catalogue. Acknowledging the space constraints that multigenerational families often experience, the advertisements highlighted the catalogue’s section on compact, foldable and affordable furniture solutions.
2. SECONDHAND STATUS First time consumers trading up and trading in. Asia’s breakneck development has created hundreds of millions of newly affluent middle class Virgin Consumers: exposed to increasing numbers of new products on the global market and ever more curious and eager to try them. But for many, these rising consumer aspirations are set against traditionally frugal, price-sensitive mindsets and still limited personal purchasing power. All of which makes buying the latest or brand new international and luxury products an enticing, yet often slightly uncomfortable (if not outright unaffordable), stretch. So in 2014, as they move up the consumer pyramid, expect many of these first-timers to settle for the next best thing: Secondhand Status. Aided by the proliferation of brickand-mortar retail outlets (such as Hong Kong’s Milan Station and India’s YNew), and by a host of online and mobile portals, Asian consumers more readily trade in and trade up via a variety of pre-used, pre-owned models and offerings in many sectors. Whether
buying marked-down luxury items, secondhand (designer) fashion pieces, or consumer electronics, these consumers will seek status and access, but at a more affordable—and less intimidating—price point. • 60% of those living in Beijing and 39% of those living in Shanghai demonstrate a strong willingness to cash in luxury items. • In 2013, over 300 new secondhand luxury stores opened in China, including in second tier cities like Changsha, Hangzhou and Chengdu, with sales of approximately CNY3 billion (USD4.94 billion). (Fortune Character Institute, October 2013.) But remember, most secondhanders still lust after the truly new. So while Secondhand Status grants the user a certain amount of status today (that of owning or experiencing something that would otherwise be out of reach), tomorrow those customers may return with the cash and the confidence to indulge. Be ready.
Milan Station: Secondhand luxury booming in China
Milan Station, a chain selling secondhand luxury branded handbags and apparel, opened its sixth store in Shanghai in 2013, with plans to expand further in 2014. With the government cracking down on corruption and Chinese netizens exposing lavish displays of wealth by officials, expect the (re)selling of luxury “gifts” to continue into 2014, further increasing the supply of affordable secondhand goods (and opportunities for those who [re]sell them).
Chic Stash: Concierge service makes secondhand fashion convenient Launched in February 2013, “Chic Stash” is a Singapore-based ecommerce platform for pre-loved fashion. Users submit garments they wish to sell on the site, or arrange for Chic Stash’s concierges to pick up unwanted items free of charge. Shoppers can find secondhand goods from brands such as Gucci, Marni and Givenchy for up to 90 percent off retail.
3. FAITHFACTURING Keep the (modern, urban) faith. In 2014, watch as age-old faith reinvents itself for its progressive Asian followers— with an entire selection of faith-based products, services and media tailored to modern lifestyles, technologies and expectations.
From Jakarta to Jaipur, many young and affluent Asian consumers are becoming increasingly liberal, try-out prone and urbane—yet faith remains a cherished part of their socio-cultural identity. Some numbers:
• Asia is home to 62 percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, 99 percent of the world’s 1 billion Hindus and 99 percent of the world’s 500 million Buddhists.
• 90 percent of Muslims in Southeast and South Asia say that religion is ‘very important’, compared with only 30 percent of people in Europe and 56 percent in the US. (Pew Research Centre, December 2012)
travelers adhere to their daily prayer requirements. Passengers who log their flight details into the app’s prayer time calculator will receive notifications of prayer times (which depend on the local time on the ground) and the direction of Mecca.
• 64 percent of young Millennial consumers surveyed in China and India want to ‘keep’ their traditional (or inherited) religious observations, despite globalization. (JWT, September 2013) Indeed, brands hoping to remain relevant, accessible and empathetic to these enthusiastically modern yet committed consumers in 2014 should focus on bringing religious consumers the relevance, choice, quality and mobile-led convenience they’ve come to expect from all other parts of the consumer landscape.
Crescentratings: Crescent Trips App helps Muslim travelers keep prayer times Launched in March 2013 by
Hijabella and Laiqa: Indonesian magazines celebrate ‘hijab’ fashion
Singapore-based Muslim travel firm Crescentratings, Crescent Trips is a free mobile app created to help Muslim
2013 saw the launch of Indonesian magazines Hijabella in March and Laiqa in July. Targeted at modern and urban Muslim women, the magazines feature hijab (or Islamic headscarf) fashion from local designers, as well as conservative style lookbooks and lifestyle articles.
4. CROWDCRACKED How civic-consumers are tackling Asian metropolises. In 2014, emboldened by the change they can individually effect, younger generations of Asian civic-consumers will no longer blithely accept the status quo—they’ll instead turn to Crowdcracked solutions. As with so many trends, Crowdcracked is the result of new, tech-fueled consumer expectations converging with longestablished cultural mores. First, witness the wave of increasingly ‘e-mpowered’ netizens as more Asian consumers, from the bottom to middle of the pyramid, gain access to proliferating digital devices and platforms—and the vast knowledge banks, real-time collaboration and wide reach they offer. Next, look to deeprooted, prevailing Asian values. Whether in Kuala Lumpur or Kolkata, many young consumers feel a traditional sense of civic duty to family and community. Mix these with pressing urban issues like fraying infrastructure and/or rising corruption, and stir. The result? In 2014, Asia’s civic-consumers will look for ways to participate like never before:
Bribespot: Crowdsourced portal tracks corruption in Thailand
• Between 2010 and 2012, China’s citizens exposed 156 corruption cases via new media (Weibo, net forums), twice that of traditional media reporting.” (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, June 2013) • 73 percent of Indian Millennials and 83 percent of Chinese Millennials feel that they and their peers are prioritizing “we” over “me”; as to how collective action can solve social issues. (JWT, September 2013) Looking to get started with Crowdcracked? Forward-thinking sociallyminded entrepreneurs will already be working with communities to deliver crowd-powered solutions. Brands too should consider how to foster, support, incubate, include, and, yes, lead enthusiastic Asian consumers. Also, be mindful of the wider implications around the Crowdcracked trend. As you head into 2014, think about how to behave and respond in a world where consumers have very different (read: higher) expectations around brand—and indeed consumer—participation and contribution.
Google’s Crisis Map: Flood victims in the Philippines and India turn to Google platforms
In August 2013, Google launched a Crisis Map tailored to the Philippines, in response to critical flooding in Manila. Behaving as a centralized resource database, the real-time portal helped users compile and share information via geo-tagged posts and its Missing Person Finder tool, where users could search for or list information about victims. The site also mapped out flood shelters, evacuation centers, emergency information and synced with the Filipino emergency site rescueph.com. Later that month, Google India offered a similarly real-time, crowdsourced Crisis Map to Uttarakhand residents during tropical flooding.
Released in August 2013, Bribespot Thailand enables residents to anonymously log and track incidents of bribery. Via a free smartphone app and dedicated microsite, posters can indicate which type of authority was involved in the bribe as well as its reason, sum and location; these incidents are plotted onto interactive, GPS-enabled maps of corruption in local neighborhoods. Users can also comment on or verify each incident, and explore categorized posts.
5. MADE LIVABLE IN CHINA Why Chinese consumers are rushing to health hacks. In 2014, personal health and safety will remain a key priority (and therefore a focus of attention and spending) for hundreds of millions of Chinese consumers. Yes, our trend Made Greener in China flags some notable examples of promising eco-innovations being initiated by and in China, in its attempt to ensure a sustainable (as well as successful) future. But this doesn’t change the fact that right now, the daily reality for the majority of Chinese citizens, from Beijing to Harbin, remains an often unbearable challenge: living amid strenuous, unpredictable smog (Beijing’s Airpocalypse being just the most notorious example); experiencing ever-moreregular stomach-turning food scandals; and, in the extreme, hearing of the rise of cancer villages. Some figures explaining the health safety panic streaking across China: •O ver 400 towns across Anhui, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, which encircle heavily polluted river basins, reported cancer rates higher than the national average. (Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, June 2013) •B reathing Beijing air for just one day can be equivalent to smoking 21 cigarettes. (Xinmin Weekly, February 2013)
• Choosing from a list of 20 public safety concerns, 72 percent of Chinese respondents were least confident about domestic food safety. (XiaoKang Chinese Peace Index, May 2013) • 67 percent, 79 percent and 80 percent of Chinese Millennials surveyed agreed that climate change, food safety issues and urban pollution (respectively) are top contributors to their personal stress levels. 65 percent agree that living in urban cities is unhealthy. (JWT, September 2013) So, while they await the implementation of long-term sustainable eco-efforts that pledge to make China Greener, Chinese consumers are now focusing on immediate, reactive solutions that make it livable. From urban-scale pollution-busting prototypes, to health-hacked devices for personal use, Chinese consumers will embrace the latest and greatest health safety innovations in 2014. Brands who believe that health is wealth should think beyond obvious medical sectors, incorporating affordable urban design or reliable ways to track information provenance.
And don’t be afraid to use China as a launchpad: though Chinese consumers might be experiencing some of the most extreme environmental and health challenges, similar innovations will undoubtedly be welcomed by pollutionafflicted urban audiences throughout the rest of Asia too.
Panasonic’s Jing-ling: Compact air purifiers for tabletops
Chen Guangbiao: Cans of oxygen combat polluted city streets
January 2013 saw Chinese philanthropist and entrepreneur Chen Guangbiao unveil mobile stores in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou selling sealed, pull-top cans of oxygen for CNY5 each. Containing approximately enough oxygen for three deep breaths, approximately 10 million cans were sold over 10 days, during a bout of record pollution.
In July 2013, Panasonic launched its range of compact tabletop air purifiers in response to Chinese interest in clean indoor air quality. Intended for office desktops and home surfaces, Jingling (meaning spirit) is an affordable device capable of removing ultra-fine air particulates, which contribute to urban pollution and health problems like asthma and bronchitis.
Illustration by Conrad Javier
On Foreign... From page 4
Sky’s the Limit Improving ease of business is the key to promoting inclusive growth. ECCP Vice President Henry Schumacher sits down with business writer Kendrick S. Go and sums up important considerations
he Aquino administration has won praises for jumpstarting the economy which surged past China in the second quarter of 2013, growing 7.65 percent compared to the latter’s 7.5 percent. Since coming to power in 2010, Aquino has presided over the country’s strongest period of growth in decades, securing ratings upgrades from rating agencies, as well as announcing massive investments in infrastructure. The government has attributed the economy’s resurgence to its anti-corruption drive as part of its campaign to promote the “Daang Matuwid” (straight path). Because of these factors, the country has garnered strong interest from foreign investors with a Bloomberg report stating that the country’s bourse is now the world’s second most expensive emerging market after Mexico. Another bright spot for the country was the recently released World Bank and International Finance Corporation Ease in Doing Business Survey, which saw it jump 30 places to 108th place from 138th last year. But for Henry Schumacher, Executive Vice President of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), the country still has a lot of room for improvement. The government, he says still needs to do more to improve the ease of doing business particularly for foreign companies. On top of the list is the assurance of continuity in policyand decision-making in the government. Schumacher says that while investors consider the country for short-term investments; they shy away from long-term commitments. This is due to concerns over the frequent policy changes that occur after elections. “The reason why many investors are reluctant to move out of Metro Manila or Metro Cebu is because they don’t feel comfortable because every three years there are new mayors or barangay captains and you don’t know how they will look at you. They hate it when the government changes the rules midstream or when the government makes commitments and doesn’t live up to those commitments.” An example is the case of San Roque Power Corp which lost its PhP483 million tax refund case with the government last October. The company filed for a refund for taxes they paid in advance during the import of capital equipment. The case highlighted investor confusion over the government’s differing interpretations of technical details of applying for tax refunds. There was also the case of Manila Water being denied a rate hike
which Schumacher said the company is entitled to in its concession contract. These cases make multinationals reluctant to enter into long-term projects including Public Private Partnerships (PPP) projects that aim to improve the country’s infrastructure. “A PPP normally lasts 25 years and that’s potentially four administrations; what security would the investor have that the next administration wouldn’t change the rules.” Consistent policy making he says would boost foreign direct investments that will open the doors to inclusive growth through productive long-term investments. An example of how the government can make it easier for foreign companies to set up shop in the country lies in the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Schumacher says that the PEZA operated economic zones are free from the usual bureaucratic red tape and corruption that make such developments the preferred destination for foreign investors. At the PEZA zones investors “don’t get red tape, only red carpet” with streamlined and consistent policies and procedures. That is why the ECCP is pushing for the PEZA to expand and establish more economic zones outside central Luzon and Cebu. At the same time he is batting for local government units to commit to supporting these economic zones long-term to provide the stability needed for these zones to flourish. Another area where significant headway is being made is in the battle against corruption with most government agencies largely heeding the administration’s call for clean government. There is also the impact of private sector initiatives such as the Integrity Pledge spearheaded by the Integrity Initiative. The pledge commits the signatories to abiding by ethical business practices and to support a national campaign against corruption. The government and private sector have also teamed up in the National Competitiveness Council that aims to improve Philippine competitiveness. Among the council’s initiatives are efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country. The council has also worked to streamline regulations and engage in dialogue with stakeholders as part of its efforts to boost the country’s competitiveness levels to the top third levels by 2016. Through the joint efforts of both the public and private sector the country seems poised to attract more investments that would pave the way for truly inclusive and meaningful growth.
Kendrick Go is a freelance writer who has written for many publications like View Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Manila Times, and Agence France Presse. When he is not writing, he spends his time on his day job as a corporate communications consultant.
Aside from the foregoing, RA 7042 further liberalizes the 40 percent foreign-equity restriction rule by providing natural born citizens of the Philippines the same investment rights as Philippine citizens in enterprises engaged as cooperatives, rural banks, thrift banks, private development banks and financing companies. Moreover, the said natural born Filipinos are given the right to own land up to a maximum of 5,000 square meters in the case of urban land or three hectares in case of rural land to be used for business or other purposes. In these cases, the foreign nationality of said naturalborn Filipinos shall not be considered in computing and determining compliance with foreign-equity restrictions. Other than the Foreign Investments Act, the following laws were likewise adopted to liberalize foreign equity restriction: 1. R.A. 8762 (Retail Trade Liberalization Act)—which allows foreign equity where there is a minimum paid-up capital of USD2,500,000; 2. R.A. 7227 (Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992); 3. R.A. 7916, as amended by R.A. 8748 (Special Economic Zone Act of 1995); and 4. R.A. 7922 (Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995). Under R.A. 7227; R.A. 7916, as amended; and R.A. 7922, enterprises located in said economic zones are exempted from the provisions of the nationalization laws, except those provided by the Constitution. In this regard, foreign equity in industries, except those regulated by the Constitution, may exceed more than 40 percent. Currently, the Government has yet again taken steps to further liberalize foreign investments in the Philippines. On December 17, 2012, R.A. 10350 or the “Philippine Interior Design Act of 2012” was enacted. Under the said law, interior design as a practice of profession can be engaged by a corporation provided that its chief executive officer and other key officers are all registered and licensed interior designers. Relative to this, RA 10350 now allows foreign nationals to secure licenses as interior designers in the Philippines subject to reciprocity rules. Another law, R.A. 10574, enacted on May 24, 2013, amending for its purpose R.A. 7353 or the Rural Bank Act of 1992, now effectively allows infusion of foreign equity in the capital of rural banks. The foregoing rules have indeed relaxed restrictions on foreign investments in the country. As the Philippines continues to strive for global competitiveness and international economic standards, it is foreseen that more policies that liberalize foreign investments shall be adopted.
Getting Covered From page 4
Cardinal Santos Medical Center. Call first to be sure if the hospital you are eyeing accepts international and expatriate insurance.
How much does a health plan cost?
The cost of a health plan depends on a number of factors including the health plan type, the company providing the plan, the premiums paid, period of coverage, health benefit cap and the number of additional benefits provided. A regular health plan will range from PhP100 monthly to over PhP30,000 per annum. Premium health plans with over a year coverage may cost PhP 30,000 to over PhP100,000.
What key features should one look for in getting a health plan?
While there are some who are satisfied with an in-patient treatment coverage there are others who look for other benefits. The other general benefits that potential health plan holders look for are preventive health care which includes annual physical examination and dental care, outpatient services, hospitalization benefits, emergency care and diagnostic and laboratory procedures.
The preceding FAQs are the sole opinion of the writer and should not be construed as a legal advice or legal opinon. Atty. Marisol DL Anenias is a partner at Maceda Maceda Pollisco Tan Anenias LLP and the Associate Dean at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law.
hoteloquent After a PhP55 million renovation, Dusit Thani Manila unveils its new Dusit Club Lounge brandishing concepts that never existed before: a Silence Room, a Private Dining Room and a rooftop Pavilion amidst a tropical garden with panoramic view of Makati skyline. Reserved for guests staying at Club Floors, Dusit Club Lounge carries a wide range of privileges like priority check-in and check-out facility; unlimited Internet broadband; use of state-of-the-art boardrooms with SMART TV applications; complimentary snacks, refreshments, evening canapes plus other perks. www.dusit.com
RICHMONDE’S NEW WEBSITE. Check out Richmonde Hotels & Resorts umbrella website (www.richmondehotels.com.ph) for its three properties: the pioneering four-star businessman’s hotel in Pasig, Richmonde Hotel Ortigas; the sole hotel in the first mixed-use CyberPark development in the metro, Eastwood Richmonde Hotel; and the soon-to-open Richmonde Hotel Iloilo. The new site has a more elegant and easily navigable layout even on mobile devices. It offers quick links to interact directly with the hotel via the Contact Us page or social networking sites; and most importantly, provides instant confirmation and the best room rates and packages in its online booking system.
OAKWOOD’S CRONUTS CRAZE. Enjoy Manila’s latest sinful cravings at Oakroom’s Saturday Night Fever buffet highlighted by Chef Jerome Cartailler’s scrumptious Cronuts Station. Choose from savory or sweet, baked or fried cronuts. Must-tries are unique creations as Cronut Benedict made with poached egg, smoked ham and a drizzle of hollandaise sauce, Cronut de France with palatable duck liver and balsamic glaze, Cronut Philly sprinkled with shredded beef, cheese sauce and onions and lastly, Cronut de Pinoy made with pulled adobo and cheddar topped with crackling. For reservations, please call 632 719.1160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE BAYLEAF’S ROOF BAR.
Valentine’s night cap? You may want to check out The Bayleaf’s Sky Deck View Bar with astonishing view of Intramuros Wall, the nearby night golf course, Manila skyline and the Commonwealth Buildings, and of course the famous Manila Bay sunset—but only if you come before dinner. www.thebayleaf.com.ph
INTERCON’S PUB GRUB. In celebration of the five-month long This is GREAT Britain campaign, Intercontinental Manila through Gambrinus Bar and Sol Y Sombra now offers Pub Grub dishes like Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas and Malt Vinegar, Bangers and Mash with Onion Gravy and Baked Beans, Steak and Onion Pie with Mushy Peas, and Shepherd’s Pie. Gambrinus Bar is open from 9AM to 12MN with live performances starting 8PM. For reservations, call 632 793-7000 loc 774.
The art of hilot means having a massage that not only works out your aches and pain, but heals your body as well. Lifestyle editor Anna Gamboa writes about the benefits of Filipino massage and where you can have one
Photos by Walter C. Villa
DUSIT’S NEW CLUB LOUNGE.
aving a deep-tissue massage while on vacation or Traditional Chinese Medicine, adding that hilot is a holistic can be a hit-or-miss affair, but if you know approach. “The concept is to bring change and to bring man to where to get those knots his natural health order.” expertly eased out of In Manila, chains like Blue Water Day Tip: if your resort’s spa has been accredited or awarded, chances are your your muscles, you’ll be assured of a Spa offer various services which include masseuses are well-trained. Remember restful night’s sleep—and not feel like hilot or a combination of it with another to convey your preferences regarding the you’ve been trampled on by a herd of type of massage. Reputable spas have pressure exerted during the massage water buffalos. Remember, even when been offering hilot for quite some time, to avoid feeling sore the day after—the objective of hilot is to heal, not hurt further. your massage is part of a package or but it’s only recently that non-Pinoys complimentary service, you always can have been discovering their benefits. ask the management to change your Many a chi-chi lady from Hong Kong masseuse if she seems more interested in has hied off for some rest and relaxation inflicting wrestling moves than making at The Farm at San Benito, a luxurious sure you’re at ease. oasis set in a quiet rural area involving a Some of the better massages two-hour drive away from Manila. Not often involve the use of hilot, or the only famous for their raw food offerings, Filipino method of healing. Bibiano The Farm also specializes in massages Fajardo, Ph.D., the president of a local that restore the chi of a person, and one association of traditional health aid among many therapeutic treatments givers, is also the co-author of the first availed of here is hilot. of a series of books on the subject which Another out-of-town retreat, was released in 2013. He writes: “Hilot Sonya’s Garden, a mere hour’s drive healing has two aspects: the restoration on a good day, is a popular weekend of harmony of the three faculties of retreat for frazzled city folk who man and the attainment of balance in want nothing more than to enjoy the the four elements of the body.” He compares this indigenous fresh air, thoughtfully-planted gardens, a wholesome meal, method with other Asian medical systems, such as Ayurveda and a good night’s rest in a cozy cottage. Aina Luna, who had her wedding and reception at Sonya’s, swears by their relaxing massages and avails of one before dinner or bedtime when she books an overnight stay with her husband. HEALinks Regional resorts are no slouches when it comes to offering good massages. Panglao Island Nature Resort The Farm Panglao Island and Spa in Bohol has a relaxing complex situated away at San Benito Nature Resort from the clusters of guest cottages, where guests can thefarmatsanbenito.com and Spa Offering packages panglaoisland.com browse through magazines and languidly prepare for a ranging from rejuvenating Offering massages from noon massage with rituals like soaking their feet in peppermintday trips to week-long to midnight, it’s best to book or jasmine-infused warm water. Thoughtful masseuses cleansing retreats, The your appointment as soon often knead the travel-weary into a state of bliss—and Farm’s extensive menu as you check in, as prime of therapeutic services spots are eagerly snapped treat them to a cup of their choice of tea afterwards. includes a 150-minute up by savvier guests who The Shangri-la Mactan boasts of its own Chi Spa, where treatment that combines a often enjoy an afternoon nap parents can steal away for a couples’ massage as their children body scrub using coconut and the view of the sea from romp at the hotel’s kiddie center under the supervision cream and cocoa powder, private rooms. of a caregiver. Apart from various therapeutic treatments which precedes a coconut milk bath, and ends in a Chi Spa at the based on Asian traditions, hilot is also on the menu, where luxurious hilot session. Shangrila Mactan trained masseuses They also have a 90-minute email@example.com FILIPINO-STYLE. Hilot in use coconut oil treatment featuring just the Also offering massages for Sanctuario Spa, one of the first urban and banana leaves massage. pregnant moms, advise promoters of the Filipino therapeutic the receptionist about any to reverse energy massage, and (ABOVE) the Filipino-style Sonya’s Garden health conditions when imbalances and of ventosa at Sonya’s Garden and Spa. sonyasgarden.com booking an appointment blockages. If you want red carpet or during the pre-massage So, if you’ve gone treatment, get the Lilac consultation. on vacation and package, which involves a hair spa, body scrub, Blue Water Day Spa found a spa on the full body massage and bluewaterdayspa.ph premises of your hotel facial—plus a cup of their This chain of spas offers or resort, chat up the post-massage basil tea. hilot paired with a 15-minute spa receptionist to It’s highly recommended Chinese cupping technique that you avail of this before called Ventusa—a find out if hilot may going to bed, so you not combination said to relieve be best for you. After only wake up refreshed the common ailments such as all, it could be the best next day, but look the part cough, flu and colic. stress-busting way to as well. go native. Anna Gamboa has written for various publications since 1995. She’s edited quite a few since 2000, and up until January 2014, she handled two publications for a multinational publishing group, and reads for pleasure to deal with stress. She wants to believe in world peace, but has been told inner peace is probably the more achievable goal.
wheels stuff phosphate and lithium titanate that allow these vehicles to attain highway speeds, high power and energy density, but have limited shelf life and cycle lifetime. Other battery technologies include molten salt, nickel metal hydride, nickel cadmium, nickel iron, zinc air, and zinc bromine flow or vanadium which can be refilled, instead of recharged, thus saving time. There are a number of commercial e-vehicles available in some countries. As of November 2013, series production highwaycapable models available in some The recently launched Meralco eVehicle Power countries include the Mitsubishi i Station at the power corporation's head office MiEV (also rebadged as Peugeot in Ortigas business district, Pasig City is currently the only one of its kind in the country. iOn and Citroen C-Zero), secondgeneration RAV4 EV, JAC J3 EV, Volkswagen e-Up, Nissan Leaf, Ford Focus Electric, Chery QQ3 EV, BYD e6, Fiat 500e, BMW Active E, Renault Fluence Z.E., Smart ED, Wheego Whip LiFe, Tesla S, Honda Fit EV, Renault Zoe, Chevrolet Spark EV, Bolloré Bluecar, Roewe E50, Mahindra e2o, and BMW i3. BusinessMirror associate editor Armin Amio gives Environment advocates are quick to point out the benefits of electric cars the primer on the country’s environment-friendly over conventional internal combustion transportation options engine automobiles. These include a significant reduction of local air pollution, lectric vehicles (EV) are no common forms of power source for most as they do not emit tailpipe pollutants— longer those chug-chugging pop of the electric vehicles used today. This is effectively reducing total greenhouse play cars in Luneta rigged onto because construction costs for lead-acid gas and other emissions, and less 12-volt truck batteries that kids batteries are significantly lower than for dependence on imported oil. But adoption ride on a mini-race course back other types; and while power output-toof e-cars has been slow, largely because in the 1960’s. These days, e-vehicles can go weight ratio is poorer than other forms, an of its high cost, lack of recharging farther and faster, carry more people, and e-car’s pulling power and driving range infrastructure and drivers’ fear that the even climb steep inclines. can be easily added by increasing the batteries might run out of energy before Technology has a lot to play in the number of batteries. they reach their destination (also known as advancement of e-vehicles. Key here is Another popular type of battery for “range anxiety”). Most EVs are currently improvement of batteries that are currently e-cars are lithium-ion and other lithiumused as “daily drivers,” suitable for city available. Lead-acid batteries are the most based batteries such as lithium iron trips and other short-range journeys of
about 64 kilometers per day. The Tesla Roadster, however, can travel a rated 394 kilometers per charge.
The Philippines is actually at the forefront in the promotion of e-vehicles in Southeast Asia, as a means to help reduce gasoline consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. A study conducted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) revealed that 80 percent of air pollution in Metro Manila comes from the transport sector. The 3.5 million motorcycles and tricycles in the country emit close to 10 million tons of harmful gases and use more than USD2 billion worth of imported oil each year. If only 100,000 of these tricycle units are replaced with e-tricycles, gasoline use can be lessened by 561,000 barrels each year—averting 260,000 tons of CO2 emissions from being dumped onto the environment. Most e-vehicles now are golf carts or so-called neighborhood electric vehicles with limited driving range. E-jeepneys were introduced six years ago, while e-tricycles have also begun plying some streets of the capital Manila and some other cities. The country’s first e-bus was launched in 2012. In support of the drive of e-car use, power retailer Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) last year brought in a USD207,000 (approximately PhP9.1 million) Tesla S as it led test-piloting its first commercial prototype of an e-vehicle charging station in the country. This top-selling premium e-car comes with an 85 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that can drive up to 426 kilometers, making it the electric car with the greatest range currently available in the market. Turn to page 6
Euro Trip Philippine Airlines kicks off Europe return in London
ook who’s back. After an absence of 15 years, Philippine Airlines resumed its flights to Europe with a newer airplane fleet and better inflight service starting with London, England late last year. The return of Philippine Airlines (PAL) to London coincided with the country’s participation at the World Travel Market (WTM), the biggest global event for the travel industry which opened on the same day PAL arrived last November 4. PAL shared the 300-square-meter Philippine pavilion at WTM 2013 with 40 other Philippine exhibitors, including the Department of Tourism (DoT). The event featured almost 5,000 exhibitors from 184 countries and generated more than GBP1,859 million in travel industry deals. Buyers and sellers from every sector of the travel industry around the world converge at WTM, London’s biggest annual travel event which attracts more than 47,000 global travel professionals. PAL President Ramon S. Ang said: “In the first six months of 2013 alone, we had more than 60,000 arrivals from Britain. This elevated the UK to the Philippines’ top ten visitor markets for the first time—
GOOD PALS. (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP) Filipinos from around London joined British officials at the cocktails-reception tendered by PAL at the Corinthia Hotel London. Free London-Manila-London tickets were raffled off and presented by PAL’s head of international sales Bud Britanico and PAL VP for marketing Jojo Fermin. The inaugural PAL flight (non-stop from Manila) was welcomed by Heathrow airport commercial head Fidel Lopez (left photo) who was presented with a model airplane by PAL president Ramon S. Ang, with Philippine Ambassador to UK Enrique Manalo looking from behind.
the only European nation on the list. With PAL’s new non-stop flights, we are sure those numbers will increase further.” PAL is currently fast-tracking all preparations to be able to mount non-stop flights to Amsterdam and Paris by early 2014, utilizing PAL’s long-range, ultramodern Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. “It is not just tourists who stand to
benefit but more importantly our 664,000 Filipinos in Europe, particularly the 250,000 living in the U.K., who will now be able to return home more often via the airline that knows them best,” Ang said. He also said that the welcome development “signals the westward expansion of our international route network as we prepare for the much
awaited return of PAL to such popular European destinations as London, Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome and Madrid.” “More than providing Filipinos living and working in Europe with the most direct link to Manila, we hope to bring the best of the Philippines to Europe and the best of Europe to the Philippines,” Ang said.
Mountain Biking in the Metro
NUVALI’S “NEW ZEALAND” TRAIL
Believe it or not, you can as avid bike enthusiast John Hendrix rounds up the top trails near Metro Manila for your exploration
The Timberland Trails, located in the hills of Montalban, Rizal, is a popular destination for many mountain biking enthusiasts. There are three types of trails in these forests as rated by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA). The White Trail is essentially a fire road that gently rises and falls and can be enjoyed by novice riders. The Green Trail will require a little more intermediate skill as well as cardio; the Blue Trail offers the most challenging terrain from steep drops to berms to punishing climbs. The design of the Timberland Trails may be at par with IMBA standards, however, trail signage is scarce and it’s very easy to get lost inside the twisting network of unmarked singletrack. Never go at it alone, bring lots of water, and make sure you are accompanied by a ride buddy familiar with the area. GPS Coordinate: 14.677645,121.158417 Entrance: free
About 40 kilometers South of Metro Manila is a place that loves mountain bikers as much as mountain bikers love it. On weekends, droves of cyclists dressed in jerseys and lycra swarm to Sta. Rosa in the province of Laguna to ride the bike tracks built just for them. The Nuvali trails are a popular event venue for the MTB community and big races are held there several times a year. However, not all the trails inside Nuvali are easy to follow. One can easily lose one’s bearings inside its cogon labyrinths. The best of the Sta. Rosa trail network is a 7-km ride (on concrete) from the Nuvali parking lot. Named “New Zealand” after its verdant pastures and grazing bovine inhabitants, the undulating terrain has no shortage of steep climbs, rutted downhills, off-camber pump sections and…cow-pies. Nevertheless, the trail’s challenging design is worth the effort it takes to get there (but for the distance, this trail would have been at the top of the list). So if you’re looking for a ride to test your lung power and lactic threshold, Nuvali’s five kilometers worth of selfie-worthy (you WILL stop to take and post pics) singletrack insanity is paradise found. GPS Coordinate: 14.234643, 121.057920 / Entrance: free
Inside Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City there is a sprawling meadow that has been converted into a bike park for riders of all skills and ages. The “Heroes Trail”, so named because of its proximity to the nearby WWII veterans’ cemetery, is a short loop under three kilometers long. It’s the kind of trail you’ll love if you go for flow. The Heroes Trail even has a pump section, a couple of berms and table tops to satisfy your inner dirt jumper. There is a parking area nearby and a small store that sells drinks and snacks, very convenient especially for mountain bikers who run the trail with their kids in tow. GPS Coordinate: 14.520320, 121.045561 Entrance: PhP50. Please take note that foreigners may be required to secure special permit.
Also inside the city of Taguig is the Army Trail, a small but challenging mountain bike playground securely located well within Fort Bonifacio’s military camp. The twisting bike paths are maintained by the dedicated soldiers of the Philippine Armed Forces. The trail can accommodate both seasoned as well as novice riders, and offers lines and features that will challenge both your legs and your lungs. The Army Trail runs through the different buildings and barracks of the camp, and although directions may get a little confusing, it’s not difficult to get back on track. For the most part, you will be riding beneath a canopy of green as you negotiate the switchbacks and short climbs of one of the most creatively designed mountain bike venues in the city. GPS Coordinate: 14.531443,121.04688 Entrance: PhP50. Please take note that foreigners may be required to secure special permit.
The top spot goes to a series of trails located in Metro South, Alabang. The Filinvest Trail consists of interconnected sections with different levels of difficulty; these all add up to an awesome ride experience. The singletrack winds through creative off-road features (such as a tree tunnel) and picturesque fields bounded by posh condos and mansions. The Filinvest Trail is found on real estate meant for future highrise development; it’s only a matter of time before construction begins and the riding ends. In the interim, what better way to use the land than for dirt ride? The tracks have directional markers and offer a well thought out combination of switchbacks, drop-offs and berms. You’ll be shifting gears between short, technical climbs followed by sudden steep descents. The Filinvest Trail is well-designed, accessible and truly, a blast to ride. GPS Coordinate: 14.416008, 121.033362 / Entrance: free
Photos by John Hendrix except for Timberland Trails by Dondi Santos
ountain biking in the Philippines has enjoyed increased popularity in the past decade as more and more people are beginning to realize that knobby tires on dirt are one of the most fun ways of getting, and staying, fit. The growing off road cycling community consists mostly of Filipino males in their 20s into middle age; they’re the ones who have the motivation (and the moolah) to take up the challenges of the sport. That being said, more women and teenagers can be seen cranking it out on single tracks in ever increasing numbers; this can only mean good things for the future of dirt-riding in the country. Another sign that illustrates the rising vogue of mountain biking in the Philippines is the development of purpose-built bike trails in and around Metro Manila. Now these tracks are nowhere near as grand as the bike parks that grace the pages of MTB magazines; a Les Gets, Mont St. Anne or Durango these are not. However, any patch of land upon which one may experience the simple joy of riding a bike, whether in Laguna Beach California or in the Philippine province of Laguna, is certainly a patch of land to be thankful for. The mountain bike trails featured in this list are of the XC (aka cross country) variety. Each can be as much fun as a rider’s skills will allow. When tackling tricky sections for the first time, always bear in mind that: 1. It’s always safer to get off your bike and walk your line. When in doubt, there’s no shame in chickening out of a steep drop off; this is invariably better than testing how much traction your chin has on gravel. 2. Never go faster than you can stop; remember the fastest racers aren’t always the first ones across the finish line. Ride at a speed within your comfort zone, unless you’re a rider who gets stoked at the prospect of a broken collarbone. 3. Dress for the crash, not for the ride. Strap on some protective knee and elbow pads, and always always wear a helmet; because we both know who wins in the death match between cranium versus boulder. Here are my top five trails within the vicinity of Metro Manila.
John Hendrix is a rabid fan of Sting and Hitchens. This self-proclaimed critic and skeptic loves to ride his bike while listening to Steely Dan and EBTG. John has worked in broadcast media for 18 years and now heads his own production company, The Core Creative. He blogs occasionally at http://myshrinkingvocabulary.wordpress.com.
In the ‘70s it was the “Me” decade, today it’s an iWorld. Manila enjoys these chic trends of self-indulgence and co-creation Photos by Walter C. Villa
The Life of Pie
nowing that it’s completely possible to lose customers based on attention span alone, most restaurants have had to keep up with the demands of an increasingly entertainmenthungry public. Free internet, basketball on a giant flat screen, the latest Tegan and Sara album—anything to keep the diners coming. From the moment you walk into Project Pie, though, you get the feeling that you’ve landed somewhere that’s completely against all of these.
Project Pie Bluebay Walk EDSA-Macapagal, Pasay City/Tel. (632) 463 7122 www.projectpie.com
Breaking away from the usual pizza parlors, Project Pie lets you create your own artisanal pizza with anything you want on it. Vault editor Aurelio Icasiano III grabs a big slice As a fast casual restaurant that lets you design, build, and eat your own pizza, Project Pie is a place that encourages interaction, both from its clientele and staff. There are no televisions, no giant speakers, no Wi-Fi. What you get is just people talking to people, and the makers have given a good deal of thought to creating the environment for it. More than a hundred Edison-style lightbulbs hang across the ceiling, ducts and piping peek out all over the space, metal and wood make up most of the restaurant’s facilities, creating a vintage industrial setting that puts people at ease. Some of the walls are full of quotes from top to bottom. There’s one about reality from John Lennon, a few words about housework by Phyliss Diller, something Aristotle once said about genius and madness. It’s a curious thing to see in a restaurant, and what it does is it sparks conversation. “It’s what being casual is all about,” says Ramon Martelino, the general manager of the place. The interaction begins with how they make your food. Project Pie’s main concept is that it lets you make your own pizza, and how this happens is you engage the staff in conversation the instant you queue up. You get to tell them exactly what you want, and your pizza starts as a dough ball, which is then pressed by a machine into a nine-inch pie. From there, the staff helps you pick whatever else goes into it, step by step. Everything—the cheeses, the sauce, the meat, the vegetables—can be handpicked from over dozens of choices. Towards the end of the line, your pizza is set into the oven, and you wait for about two minutes until it gets done. It’s artisanal, custom-built pizza that takes a fraction of the time to make, but the best thing about it is you only ever pay one price: PhP285 for anything you want. There are also some pre-made combinations to choose from, if you aren’t feeling too adventurous. Project Pie was created by James Markham in the US, who has made a name for himself developing several assembly-line-style artisan pizza chains. The branches in the Philippines are the only ones outside of the US so far, and they’ve already attracted a steady following. At barely past the half year mark in the country, the store count has already gone beyond what the local owners initially expected. Soon after the first branch opened in 515 Shaw, the one in Blue Bay opened in Macapagal Avenue, followed closely by another restaurant in Alabang’s Commerce Avenue. 2014 will see even more of them opening across the Philippines. “I think the target that they projected to do in five years now seems doable in three,” Martelino mentions, and goes on to say that it’s even possible to bring the brand to other countries in Asia. Even as it continues this pace of growth, though, Project Pie isn’t finished yet, and perhaps it will never be. What this means is that it’s evolving all the time. While it will always stick to its basics—the industrial theme, the freedom to choose, the process of making the pizza— things will keep on changing. The selection might increase, different concepts may get introduced, and new brand logos might hang on the walls or get printed on the boxes.
ENJOY THE BUZZ. Part of the Project Pie experience is talking and interacting, thus the staff has no name tags, and the place has no Wi-Fi connection, general manager Martelino says. Choose from their pre-designed savory and dessert pizzas (LEFT) or make one your own.
Project Pie already has nine of these logos, each one different from the next, and none of the branches will ever look completely alike. Martelino is even open to exploring other options aside from malls and commercial spaces, mentioning that even old buildings might be the next site for the brand. This approach would normally cause some confusion as to the restaurant’s identity, but Martelino believes that the opposite is true. That coming up with something new from time to time reinforces the idea behind Project Pie as a casual, inventive atmosphere that doesn’t always have to stay the same. “Everything is in progress,” he says, “Nothing is final. Nothing is at an end state.” “I think the possibilities are endless,” he continues, “of what we can do with this brand.” As a restaurant that basically lets you do whatever you want with your pizza, Project Pie isn’t too concerned about the rules. There’s much promise in a concept that isn’t too set on anything, and the coming months will see where it heads from here.
The interaction begins with how they make your food. Project Pie’s main concept is that it lets you make your own pizza...
Having been a television producer, magazine editor, occult researcher, safety officer, and copy editor, Aurelio Icasiano III is something of a jack-of-odd-trades. These days he spends his time between operating an electrical construction company and as one of the editors of Vault magazine.
no Caluza looks over the crowd that gathered around the fountain pool area in Greenbelt 5 for his 10th year anniversary fashion show. As the pioneer of bespoke designer jeans in the country, Ino is at the center of jeans revolution with Viktor Jeans, heralding a new breed of party aesthetes and individualists that flocked his store for their own customized pair. At the top of the list is eventologist and popular host Tim Yap, stylist and publicist Charmaine Palermo, and stylist and author Jenni Epperson. Caluza has indeed created a niche for his custom-fitted denim products that transcend trends and happenstance. The same can be said of his latest collection, a first time collaboration, with London-based designer Jerome Lorico. “I pitched the idea to Jerome a couple of years ago upon seeing his collection at Philippine Fashion Week. I thought he was perfect for the ready-to-wear brand that I was planning to put up,” explains Caluza. “His directional take on menswear is in-sync with what Lord Viktor is all about. So when Viktor had its 10-year celebration, it was just right to launch the capsule collection of Lord Viktor x Lorico.”
Viktor Jeans 2nd Level, Greenbelt 5, Legazpi St., Ayala Center, Makati City/Tel. (632) 501 3133
Bespoke jeans designer Ino Caluza takes charge of his brand through collaborations and diffusion lines. METRO features editor Geolette Esguerra reports Working on the concept around the Lord Viktor, the brand’s high end line for men, which is edgy but wearable, Caluza eventually showed Lorico a few pieces he has done in the past in a bid to create something different. Interestingly, designing jackets and tops took precedence over the jeans. The result was a vivid display of urban grit and a confident nod to its niche market. In a palette of black and red with black leather and checkered knits, the Lord Viktor x Lorico models came out in an array of dark trousers to highlight the different moods and iterations of the commemorative and limited Lord Viktor x Lorico line. “My first year was quite difficult because the concept of a premium bespoke jeans brand was something new to the Philippine market,” Caluza narrates. “At that time, everyone was into wash denim and designer jeans. When I introduced Viktor to the market, it was all about the right fit and the basic denim fabrics—no washes.” Despite the clamor for the trendy denim washes, he held his ground. “In the long run, it was our dedication to detail, exclusivity, personal service, and the pursuit for the best-fitting jeans for all our individual clients that kept us ahead, among all the different local and international jeans labels,” he says. “A lot of people can relate with bespoke jeans,” Caluza adds. “It is an experience. We have a lot of clients from different parts of the world who enjoy our product. Being Filipino is something we are proud of, but it wasn’t really our biggest selling point. Exclusivity and getting your best-fitting jeans are still our advantage.” Fitting begins with the client’s favorite pair of jeans. Caluza encourages clients to wear one during a fitting session in any of his shops in Trinoma and Greenbelt 5. The jeans fitter would then tailor-fit the jeans to a mutual preference oddly using masking tapes. From there, clients choose a pre-made design among the display rack and particular fabric from the jeans swatches. Every detail like pockets, linings, belt rings, buttons can be custom-made according to preference. A basic pair starts from PhP4,500 and can go as high as PhP7,500 depending on the fabric and details. A Viktor x Lorico limited edition pair costs twice as much. A full leather jacket costs PhP25,000.
VIKTOR REBOOT. Bespoke jeans clients of Viktor should expect a chic reboot of the brand as it marks its 10 th year, starting with a collaboration with London-based designer Lorico, as shown (LEFT) by jeans designer Caluza.
Through the years, celebrities the likes of broadcaster Korina Sanchez, actress Sharon Cuneta, PBA star Marcus Douthit, professional poker player Jhana Hale, gospel singer-songwriter Chris Tomlin, and even boxing legend Manny Pacquiao have all been fitted by Caluza. One out of 10 Viktor clients is a foreigner; in fact, a few of its regular clients are diplomats. This year Caluza sees himself collaborating more with designers and artists than ever. Vik, his diffusion line from Viktor, will also be launched, and will be released soon at Ayala Mall’s Fairview Terraces under WellWorth Department store. His first collaborator? Lorico, naturally. As with new beginnings, Viktor is poised for reinvention with the arrival of Version 2.0 soon. “We will make it look more upmarket without sacrificing the price,” he says. “We will have a lot of new fabrics, including some new premium selvedge denim fabrics from Japan.” As for the cheeky promise that “Viktor jeans can get you laid?”—he still stands by this marketing come-on. “But I guess after 10 years of Viktor, getting laid is just the bonus. Feeling sexy and having that great confidence when wearing a pair of Viktors is reason enough for my clients to stick to the brand.”
Grooming by Arlene Adto
In the long run, it was our dedication to detail, exclusivity, personal service, and the pursuit for the bestfitting jeans for all our individual clients that kept us ahead.
ruth be told: it doesn’t matter if you are brandishing the state-of-the-art, NASAtechnology-infused USD1,000-golf clubs; if these do not fit you—meaning the best combination of shaft (length, flex and kickpoint), loft (standard, strong or flat), lie angle (standard, upright or flat), grip and swingweight according to your height, swing, and skills—these will suck. “Buying off-the-shelf golf clubs without clubfitting especially for new golfers is a huge gamble,” says Francis Go, founder of Custom Clubmakers. Launched in 1998, it is the pioneer in golf club fitting in the country. Go says these clubs are designed for the typical golfer who stands around 5’9” or 5’10” and hits 160 yards with a 5- or 6-iron.
Custom Clubmakers Makati Golf Club Driving Range, 7232 Malugay St., Makati City/Tel. (632) 830 2222 ext. 121
In golf, it’s not just about choosing your weapon wisely. It’s about making sure it fits. V.C. Wolfe discovers “If a golfer falls behind or beyond these measurements, he ends up compensating by adjusting his swing; thus, developing bad swing habits,” claims Go. The first step in club fitting is the player interview when the clubfitter gets to know the player’s goals, current playing strengths and weaknesses, tendencies, frequency of play, and equipment preferences. Then static fitting follows where the clubfitter measures the player’s physical characteristics such as height, wrist-tofloor distance, and palm-size which determine preliminary dimensions of the golf clubs’ length and grip size. Players are then made to swing test clubs with various specifications. Swing speed and ball speed measurements, ball striking consistency, and the players comfort level are all considered in the process. This step, dynamic fitting, is the most important of all as it will allow the clubfitter to properly determine the golf clubs’ total weight, swingweight, shaft weight, shaft flex, grip type, loft and lie settings, and clubhead design. Determining the right type of clubs, clubhead design, and overall feel of the golf equipment is the final step of the fitting process. The clubfitter with the data he has gathered and the experience he has in clubfitting, together with the players’ comfort and golf equipment preferences, will determine the right set of custom-fitted and custom-built golf clubs. But it doesn’t end there. Go stresses that the player needs to practice with his newly-fitted golf equipment for a few rounds. Every feedback should be noted so the clubfitter and clubmaker can adjust the equipment accordingly.
FIT TO HIT. Custom clubfitting starts with choosing your clubheads at Custom Clubmakers; or bringing your own clubs. Ong (LEFT) makes a few adjustments on the clubhead at their Makati Golf shop.
“Clubfitting can definitely increase the distance and improve the accuracy of a golfer’s shots,” reveals Go. “It will maximize the golfer’s performance by using fitted clubs based on the golfer’s abilities and limitations. More importantly, the comfortable feel of the clubs promote confidence.” Go and his partner Jake Ong are part of the elite World’s Top 100 ClubFitters. They are also founding members of the International Professional Association of ClubFitters (IPAC). Custom Clubmakers is the official clubmakers of the Philippine Golf Tour (PGT).