My First TEDx Experience at Xavier School

Let me just start out by saying that TED talks have really caught on with me. I enjoy watching talks on various topics, especially talks that have to do with life, technology and health. I even have the TED app on my iPad!

Recently, a blogger friend, Jay Jaboneta, was invited to speak at TEDxMontpellier on his Yellow Boat Project – providing yellow boats for children in villages isolated by bodies of water and where children had to SWIM just to get to school. It was quite an experience for me to listen via livestreaming to someone I actually knew who was in the company of other illustrious speakers as well.

A few days after TEDxMontpellier, I got wind of a TEDx talk even closer to my heart. Xavier School, my boys’ school, was going to host its own TEDx talk in just a few weeks. I quickly registered for the talk which happened last Feb. 18, 2012.

Six (6) speakers were lined up for TEDxXavierSchool (click on their names to view their TEDx talks posted on YouTube):

  • Raynard Raphael Lao — a Xavier High School student, who is also a champion public speaker at both local and regional competitions
  • Brian Maraña — International Programs Coordinator of Xavier School who has transformed the way students learn from the world
  • Tony Meloto — Founder of Gawad Kalinga, providing countless homes to the homeless and building them into communities, and speaker at the World Economic Forum
  • Dodie Ng — Games and apps creator who also founded a robotics organization and team for the youth while also being a Xavier High School student
  • Mark Ruiz — Co-Founder of Hapinoy and Founder of Rags2Riches, providing social business enterprise and microenterprise development as a living means to some of the poorest people
  • Brian Tenorio — Internationally-acclaimed, New York-based designer who has altered the way development is done through Design

With Tony Meloto of Gawad Kalinga and Mark Ruiz of Hapinoy

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The Islamic Fashion Festival comes to Manila for the first time

Sometimes we have this tendency to equate fashion with the showing of skin, more skin and much skin. I’ve been to a few fashion shows, including some for lingerie and swimwear, and skin exposure is inevitable. Even wedding gowns which, in my younger days, used to mean long white sleeves and high-collared gowns have now evolved to the point where you sometimes wonder if the gown is too scanty to be worn in front of the altar.

Today, I was privileged to experience a different kind of fashion show in Manila – the first of its kind in Manila. All the beautiful models were covered from head to toe – beautifully! This was the Islamic Fashion Festival Manila 2012 (IFF), hosted by the Malaysian Minister of Tourism, the Hon. Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen.

The IFF was launched in 2006. Its aim – “To build an updated visual and cultural reference from which Islam can be related to the modern world through the creative arena of fashion divorced from political, economic and social strife”. The very first IFF was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 and eventually, showcases were held in places like Abu Dhabi, Astana, Bandung, Dubai, Singapore and Kota Bharu as well as New York, Monte Carlo and London. Now, add Manila to that list. “Manila..has the honour of being the curtain-raiser for the series of IFF showcases for 2012” says Raja Rezza Shah, Founder & Chairman of IFF.

The theme of the festival was very appropriate: “Discover the Beauty of Modesty”. In a world where our children are growing up thinking fashion means wearing the shortest skirts, the lowest neckline, the barest backs and so on, seeing the Malaysian models parade down the catwalk fully covered up was an eye-opener for me to the world of Islamic fashion. You can look fashionable, classy and stylish while remaining fully covered.

The collections of 7 designers (Malaysian and Filipino) were featured — some in bright and vibrant colors, others in black and white renditions; swirls of sheer cloth in layers of various shades and hues; modern batik designs; exquisite embroidery and bead work; and beautiful turbans and veils wrapped around the head in different ways.

Showcase #1: “Love” by Tom Abang Saufi of Kuala Lumpur

Peonies and Oriental hues inspire this collection which revolves around the universal theme of ‘Love’. I really loved the play of colors – all eye candy! With summer coming up, this collection would look just great.

One of my favorites in the collection

Oh, I love this one too! Including the head wrap!

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Christmas Lights Safety

This Christmas I am doing something totally different. I am going Christmas lights-less INSIDE the house.

I love Christmas lights and for many, many years, my tree was filled with them. Not only that. The bannisters of my stairs where I had strung evergreens, was also lighted up. But after all the horrific Christmas fire stories I have read over the years, I realized that I could be putting my family at risk with this practice. For example, what if the lights along the stairs shorted and a fire started there? We would be trapped on the second floor with no means of escape.

The only concession I have is outdoor lights which I purchased for our gate. And I made sure all the boxes bore the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) sticker that signifies it has passed inspection.

This is what my Christmas tree looks like as of now. If I find the time to brave Manila traffic, I just may add a bit more decor. But for now, I’m focusing on making the tree bright without having to add lights.

But if you really want to brighten up your home with Christmas lights indoors, here are some tips I got directly from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) website (emphasis is mine):

  • Check for the ICC Mark or the Import Commodity Clearance Sticker.Christmas lights with ICC marks mean they passed the mandatory safety tests of DTI. Thus, make them safe and reliable to use.
  • Beware of fake ICC Mark Stickers. Genuine ICC stickers are not pre-printed on the packaging of the products. A genuine ICC mark is a foil-like hologram sticker which bears the ICC seal and the serial number and year of certification.
  • Check for the year of certification on the ICC sticker. The latest ICC stickers were issued from 2009 onwards. Products with ICC marks issued before 2009 may have already deteriorated in quality and are not safe to use.
  • Check the packaging. It should have the complete name and address of the importer or distributor, rated voltage and wattage of the set, rated voltage and wattage of the lamps, the words “For indoor use only”, the batch/lot code and bar code, brand name, the standard used (PNS 189:2000) and country of origin of the package.
  • Check the outside diameter size of the wire. This should be 1.5 millimeters in diameter.
  • Avoid connecting multiple sets of Christmas lights. Up to three (3) 50-bulb sets of Christmas lights may be connected and up to two (2) for 100-bulb set of lights.

In another press release, the DTI added further announcements regarding Christmas lights (excerpt below, emphasis is mine):

A set of Christmas lights is a regulated product under the DTI-Bureau of Product Standards (DTI-BPS) Product Certification Scheme (Annex A). It requires the manufacturers and importers or distributors of this product to secure the Philippine Standard (PS) license or the Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) certificate, respectively, based on the Republic Act 4109 (Standards Law), the Department Administrative Order No 01:1997 and DAO 05:2001.

Please take note, however, that the DTI-BPS has not awarded the PS license to any manufacturer since 2007. Therefore, no sets of Christmas lights with the PS mark should be found in the market.

As of 08 November 2011, the DTI-BPS has issued the ICC certificate to 16 importers/distributors with 26 brands (Annex B) to use the ICC mark on the packages of their sets of Christmas lights. The sets of Christmas lights of these importers are certified by the DTI-BPS to be reliable and safe to use. Moreover, the DTI declared that only those importers that have been issued the ICC certificate from 2009 to present could sell their sets of Christmas lights with the ICC marks (Annex C). Thus, no sets of imported Christmas lights with 2008 or earlier than this year when the ICC was issued should be found in the market.

The DTI also cautions buyers to check for the valid ICC seal. I got this photo from one of their downloadable forms that shows the valid ICC seal compared to the invalid ones.


This is the valid ICC seal on the box of one of the outdoor lights I bought


For DTI-certified Christmas lights, click HERE

To tell a valid ICC mark apart from fake ones, click HERE

Have a safe Christmas season, everyone!

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YouTube launches in the Philippines

When YouTube chooses the Philippines to launch its first localized service in Asia, that is telling of what my country’s social media statistics must be like.

Media and citizens in the Philippines have taken to YouTube like fish to water. Watch segments of talk shows, entertainment, news on TV and most likely, portions of these can be found on YouTube. I’ve been to birthday parties where the celebrant is greeted via YouTube by relatives and friends from all over the world. My own son is glued to YouTube videos every day as he watches stuff from computer-related videos to videogaming videos. In Blog Watch, the citizen media group I am with, we already had a YouTube channel since late 2009 and we’ve used it extensively to document the interviews we did of the candidates running for office in the last 2010 elections.

YouTube has also brought several Pinoys to fame as their videos unexpectedly go viral. There was Christine Gambito, better known as Happy Slip, who regaled us with her funny video takes on the Pinoy characteristics and customs. This was followed by the Cebu inmates whose Michael Jackson-inspired dances went globally viral. Charise Pempengco and Arnel Pineda were discovered via YouTube. Charise is now a growing star in the music industry who counts David Foster, Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities as friends. Arnel is now the lead singer of the band Journey. Maria Aragon of Lady Gaga fame (who I recently met at another event) has Filipino blood running through her veins and so is funny man, Mikey Bustos. Who can forget that even the video of Cebu Pacific flight attendants dancing while in flight would become viral? And those four who were caught jumping up and down on a bed after Venus Raj became a finalist?

Pinoys have really become so attached to documenting lives and posting these on YouTube that even PR campaigns and strategies include contests that are intertwined with YouTube.

Several blogger friends and I were invited to the YouTube launch party held at Whitespace. The whole night was a celebration of YouTube’s success globally, with focus on how Filipino YouTube videos turned viral. Whitespace was transformed into a fun, fun place where different YouTube activities were happening in different corners.

A karaoke booth let guests sing their hearts out while being livestreamed

Moymoy Palaboy



With Hannah (flaircandy)

With blogger friends

With YouTube present now in the Philippines, we can expect easier access to Philippine-originating content. In fact, content from the government will be made available to the YouTube viewing public through two channels – RTVM and Official Gazette.

Jumpstarting this effort will be a Google-YouTube-World View interview on November 4, 2011 of none other than the Philippine President Aquino. World View is a show that features world leaders answering questions from YouTube users sent online. These past days, questions were being gathered from citizens, some of which will be answered personally by Pres. Aquino on the Nov. 4 show.

Exciting times are ahead for Philippine YouTube viewers.

Are you one of us? What do you think of this move to establish a firm YouTube presence in the country?


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Celebrate Social Media Day 2011!

June 30 is Social Media Day –  a day when millions of people all over the world celebrate the advent of technological advancements that have shrank the world and allowed people who live on opposite sides of the world, whether they know each other in real life or have met virtually through a common forum, social networking site, or some form of online community.

The world is indeed so small today with social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Plurk – the 3 more active sites I am on. On Facebook, I have rediscovered my elementary and high school classmates and touched base again with my closest college friends. On Twitter, I get to engage with celebrities, newspeople, bloggers and ordinary folks like myself in discussions that range from intellectual and political discussions to mundane tweets like ranting about the weather or what one is doing for the day. And Plurk is my haven, my closed community, where I get to share things not meant for Facebook or Twitter. Each of these social media sites have a purpose.

My world now revolves around social media. From the time I get up to the time I sleep, I am almost always online. Even when on the road, I feel uncomfortable when I am unable to check back into the internet to see the latest tweets, check if someone sent me email, or what the latest Facebook messages have been.

But it has not all been just socializing and making virtual friends. I have seen the power of social media in public service and in being an influencer. As part of Blog Watch, a citizen watch group that was formed in the months running up to the 2010 Philippine elections, blogger friends and I harnessed the technology and social media sites to bring voter education closer to the online community. To this day, we continue to use all the social media techniques available to us to continue our advocacy for transparency and good governance in government.

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The US Embassy in Manila launches its new annex building for consular services

Consular services, whether for non-immigrant visas, immigrant visas or services for American citizens in Manila has been improved several notches up with the recent inauguration of the New Office Annex Building (referred to as NOX 1 for short) on the US Embassy grounds.

Formally opened last April 27, 2011 by none other than U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, the $50-million annex building is not just “a work of art on a grand scale”, as described by Amb. Thomas, but also was built to the most stringent safety requirements. The media, including me, had the unique privilege of being toured around the building by the Consul General himself, Michael Schimmel.

One interesting thing that Consul General Schimmel mentioned was that, contrary to popular belief, 70% of all visa applicants actually get their visas approved. He also dispelled the myth that it is so hard for a Filipino to get a U.S. visa. Schimmel said that for as long as an individual can prove a professional and economic reason to return to the Philippines, that person will be given a visa.

Some interesting trivia and features on NOX1

  • The contract to design NOX1 was awarded to Makati Development Corp. (MDC). The building costs around US$50 million and is part of a $130 million investment in the local economy and the creation of 2,000 jobs for Filipinos. This is the largest contract yet awarded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations to a foreign contractor.
  • Ground-breaking was last June 29, 2008 and attended by then-US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and former OBO Project Director Rodney Evans
  • NOX1 is a 2-story state-of-the-art office complex covering a total office area of more than 12,000 square meters. The first floor is for non-immigrant and immigrant visas; the second floor is for American citizens.
  • NOX1 is the second largest such consular services building worldwide. The largest one is in Mexico.
  • Its structure is made of over 12,000 cubic meters of concrete and 5,000 tons of structural steel and it is designed to withstand even the most severe seismic event. From the looks of the outer walls, I can hazard a guess these are several inches thick and fully reinforced to withstand attacks from the outside. And the doors are heavy, with shatterproof glass windows too. I know….just opening those doors took some effort, despite these yogini arms.
  • Additional safety features include state-of-the-art fire detection and suppression systems.
  • It is a “green” building, with architectural features made of sustainable materials and cooling/lighting fixtures fitted with environmentally friendly and energy-efficient components. Even sewage waste from the building is treated and recycled into irrigation water at a newly constructed sewage treatment plant on site.
  • Visa applicants will be happy to note they now have 99 interview windows with sound-proofing for improved privacy during interviews. Of course, not all 99 are occupied by consuls at any one time but there are enough of them to ensure the wait won’t be long.
  • Public waiting areas on the first and second floors can comfortably seat more than 500 people in airconditioned comfort. Additional waiting areas outside (not airconditioned) have a capacity for over 300 people.
  • Both the airconditioned and non-airconditioned areas are equipped with modern queuing systems and LCD TV screens. Huge electric fans cool the non-airconditioned area.

Here are more pictures of NOX1. We were privileged to be allowed to take these photos because, I am told, once the building is operational, no one (not even the US Embassy employees) can take pictures.

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