Sunday, November 23, 2014


by Roger Pe
November 23, 2014
Philippine Daily Inquirer

In 1998, Filipino Nonoy Lanzanas and his “Sinika” (acronym for “Sining ng Katutubo”) group composed and recorded a nostalgic song entitled “Latong Cuyo” (seaweed from Cuyo).

When the album was launched, the song made many residents who have long left the island to come home. They were in tears hearing the song, which likened our culture and traditions to the special kind of “Lato” native to the town – that if we don’t take care of our seas, the “Lato” will die, and if we don’t transfer our native music to the next generation (like “Tipano” and “Toting”), they will all vanish.

The effect impassioned him to research and compose more songs even going to great lengths to promote Philippine ethnic music here and abroad.

During the recent Asean Cultural Fair held in Myanmar, Lanzanas and his group represented the Philippines and enthralled the audience with a repertoire of melodic traditional songs. Their performance, arranged the unique “Sinika” way was the most applauded and received a standing ovation from the Filipino community.

When not performing abroad, Lanzanas goes back to his roots and conducts out-reach programs to preserve the “Tipano” music, the Cuyono bamboo flute music now on the brink of extinction.

Lanzanas has been propagating native Filipino music, mainly the indigenous kind from Palawan since barely out of college, even while already working.

He and his group perform in events like anniversaries, fiestas and other cultural celebrations in the Philippines and overseas. Composed of family musicians, relatives and friends, the group has participated in most cultural festivals of the country sponsored by the Department of Tourism.

“Sinika” also performs in the different 5-star tourist resorts in Palawan like Amanpulo, Club Noah Isabelle in El Nido and Dos Palmas Island Resort. Among its notable performances: Finalist in the 1999 Metropop Song Festival, 2001 Asian Tourism Forum, Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, 2006 1st Ethnic Jazz Festival, CCP Complex, and 7th Drum Festival Celebration, Trade Center, Malacca, Malaysia.

In 1992, the group got their major break when then Mayor Edward Hagedorn named Lanzanas Director for Culture and Arts Development Program of Puerto Princesa City.

Lanzanas remembers performing “Pamulinawen”, “Ilocana Anasudi” and other undying Filipino folk songs, entertaining dignitaries, ambassadors, businessmen, world-famous golfers, mountaineers and visiting tourists in the country.

When he left PAL and joined Hyatt Palawan Hotel, Lanzanas’ group provided entertainment to hotel guests with popular island folk songs. When economic instability forced the hotel to stop operation, he sought the help of then Governor Salvador Socrates to support a project he thought would excite the province’s domestic tourism program.

With the governor’s support, Lanzanas went around the province showing his own produced silent movies. He called it “Sine Boyon” - to inform and educate school children about the province and the Philippines’ tourist potential as a whole.

Along the way he met great Cuyono musicians that soon became his teachers in traditional island music. He pays tribute to Basilio Sarmiento, Poroy Calalin, Caring Abid, brothers Leonor and Gideon Felizarte, Mingoy Contreras, Esperanza “Feling” Guardiano Pediapco, Rodrigo Digo Felizarte, and “Banjo”, who is still playing with his group.

He spent many afternoons jamming with these native music stalwarts. Soon, he would learn and inherit their music and the “Tipano”, “Tambora”, “Ati”, “Sinulog”, etc. would enrich his cultural trove, an inheritance he would also pass it on to younger Filipinos.

Cultural transfer

Lanzanas produced a weekly radio program over the old radio station DYPR. The effect was immediate and caused many locals to feel nostalgic about their own music. His relationship with musicians from far-flung barangays also became closer.

His cultural program “Sa Kapoporoan” (in the islands) became a favorite of many and a channel of communication with island communities.

How “Sinika” was born

While preparing for his weekend program one day, Lanzanas called his young children Ela, Jericho and Kim (Picolo, the youngest was still a baby) to gather around him and asked them to sing with him old Cuyonin songs (“King King Anay Wa-wa”, “Tarinting”, “Layang Pasyak”) and other children songs.

The result was instantly electric. Lanzanas discovered inherent musicality in his children and the sessions would frequent to include another group of talented kids, his children’s friends: Lua, Corinne, Quddos and Anis from the Timbancaya-Padilla clan. They formed the first “Sinika” group.

Lanzanas’ personal advocacy expanded beyond Palawan shores. He became a music teacher, taught talented employees wherever he was employed to sing regional folk music of Luzon, including those of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Baguio, Bicol, Mindoro, Romblon and Masbate.

But closer to his heart was singing popular island folk songs. His talent also brought him to many parts of Asia and the world, most recently in Brunei Darusalam, (ASEAN Forum, January 2002), Malacca, Malaysia, (Drum Festival, March 2006), Yangoon, Myanmar, (ASEAN Cultural Fair, September 29 – October 3, 2014).

Japan featured Lanzanas’ “Sinika” extensively with 4 episodes on NHK TV in 1996 for its cultural and environmental mission. His song “Basura” (“Gomi”) was translated to Nippongo and other foreign languages) by the same network so it can be used globally to educate people about proper garbage disposal.

Another important chapter in his music advocacy was being part of Palawan Integrated Area Development Project Office. Funded by the European Economic Community, the group was tasked to teach environmental subjects to different tribal groups – the Palawán, Tagbanua, Bataks and the island communities.

“Music was my chosen media and I started to compose songs with different environmental themes and format,“ Lanzanas recalls.

“Salamat Inang Kalikasan” was a Palawán inspired thanksgiving song using the Kudyapi, the two-stringed sitar of the Palawán tribe, “Mr. Pera”, was a humorous song about greedy businessmen that exploited local natural resources.

While part of PIADPO, Lanzanas composed the music theme of a tree-planting program “Pista Y Ang Kageban”. Today, it is a vibrant, colorful, fun-filled full-blown annual festival celebrated in the verdant mountains of Barangay Irawan, the watershed of Puerto Princesa City.

Born sixty-five years ago in a remote southern Palawan town (Brooke’s Point), Lanzanas seemed to have taken his talent from his parents who are likewise musically and arts inclined. Both highly respected educators in the province, his parents Santos and Loreto wrote the “Grand Palawan March”, eventually becoming the official provincial hymn.

Lanzanas grew up in Puerto Princesa. His mother taught at Puerto Princesa Pilot Elementary School while his father was Division Superintendent of Schools for the entire province during the 60s.

He credits Joey Ayala for bringing “Sinika” to Manila in 1995 to perform with him in an international tourism forum sponsored by Philippine Tourism Authority and some of his most important concerts.

Throughout his musical career in espousing Philippine native music, Lanzanas has done research and study on ethnic arts and island music, wrote and composed songs with cultural and environmental themes, infused tribal instruments with island music, created outreach programs to distant communities and a lot more.

Presently in town, Lanzanas is focusing on El Nido, introducing and teaching school children in different barangays how to play the “Tipano” and developing a guidebook on how to play it.

The Lanzanas family has also converted its ancestral home into a school for traditional music with focus on “Tipano” and island music. ”If Sinika will be supported by our cultural institutions, we may level the situation and succeed in our mission. If not, the danger of extinction is at hand,” he says.

Lanzanas would like to give his heartfelt thanks to Chairman Jun De Leon of the National Commission of Culture and Arts, the highest cultural institution of the Philippines for choosing “Sinika” to represent our country in the Asean Cultural Fair. “We hope this is the beginning of a long endeavor in preserving some of our endangered native music and the promotion of our country through traditional music,” he says.

Sunday, November 2, 2014


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
November 2, 2014 issue

He could be the next matinee idol right now and give local heartthrobs a run for their money but he chose to pursue his dream of becoming a successful businessman abroad.

Bored from a year of doing nothing while vacationing with his sister in Baguio, Jay Acuzar was walking along Session Road when he saw this sign at a famous fastfood store: “Now hiring: service crew.”

He peeped through the window and liked what he saw. People were having fun while they worked and thought their uniforms were kinda cool.

He wasted no time, applied and was promptly taken in. Soon after, he was cleaning tables, mopping floors, running around for food orders and interfaced with customers at the counter cash register.

Acuzar immensely enjoyed his work, made a lot of friends, and being ‘artistahin’, received flaterring notes from random people who frequented his fun workplace. More importantly, the “clean-as-you-go” training he got at the establishment would stick on long after he left. He applied it to his daily routine when he started living independently in Makati until he migrated to the United States a couple of years ago.

Today, he is a successful entrepreneur based in the U.S. doing business with a multi-level marketing company that is ranked the 20th largest in the world. The company develops and manufactures high-quality nutritional supplements, healthy weight-management and personal-care products.

Starting at the bottom he now consistently ranks among the top ten associates in North America. Most recently, he ranked number 22 in the world by the company that was among the Top 20 on Forbes’ 200 Best Small Companies List for third straight year in a row.

The company he deals with was also voted one of “50 Best Places to Work” by a business magazine for third year in a row and official supplement supplier of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) in 2011.

In 2012, the company undertook massive rebranding and received several industry, design, and communication awards. In the Philippines, it is operating with a dynamic and fastest growing workforce, providing money opportunities to people with a large people network base.

Travelling businessman

Acuzar’s work allows him to travel frequently and enjoy unlimited income potential. His target: to barge into the business’ “MDC” (Million Dollar Club) soon, a feat not too hard to achieve because he is just as hardworking as those who have already made it.

As a businessman given the privilege to represent a company known for its integrity and instilling good values, Acuzar is more than happy to share his success story to fellow Pinoys.

But first, a little background on how he started in the U.S., a country whom he had so much fascination, even when as a kid.
“I wanted to be in an environment that will cultivate and mold me to be globally-competitive. It was always been my dream to become not only financially independent but rich, to be straightforward about it.

The U.S. wasn’t such a tough place to adapt to for Acuzar. He spoke English like a native. As a kid, he watched tons of English movies and since his dad was an English professor, he got to fit in really quick.

His mindset when he first set foot in the U.S. was to be on the same level as the locals. Born competitive and naturally curious, Acuzar always thought about the future and kept searching on how to become that one thing he wanted to be: a rich businessman.

“People who live their dreams and make the most out of life make things happen,” he says. “People who see the positive in every situation, bring the best out of other people by inspiring them to be the best they can be for themselves and for other people inspire me the most,” Acuzar intimates.

Acuzar was born in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya. His mother was a Bicolana and his father a Batangueno. He studied elementary and high school in Saint Louis School of the same town and went to college in Northwestern University, Illinois.

The boy who fancied about big houses, cars and abundant life for his family has made them a reality at a young age. His business is doing well and he credits that to his being competitive in a positive way.

“Being a Filipino in a foreign country is awesome,” according to Acuzar. “You just have to understand each other’s ethnicity and every person you meet. Respect them and their culture and you should be just fine,” he says.

Acuzar notices the fact that Filipinos excel in anything they do. “We dominate and we are easy to love,” he says. “Filipinos are hard to ignore, we are awesome,” he proudly mentions in a long distance interview.

How is it like being in a far away country and missing Filipino things he used to enjoy?

Acuzar looks at it as an upgrade without being condescending to his fellow Pinoys. “At first, you miss the things you do back home, but my perspective on this is to be able to learn new stuff, things I can add to the wonderful things I have learned from the early stages of my life in my homeland,” he says.

Acuzar is one Filipino who will always speak positive about fellow Pinoys. “When Filipinos see their kababayans around, they entertain them well and make sure they have fun. They generally go out of their way for them to experience a wonderful time,” he says.

While he was in Utah last August for a 4-day convention organized by a company he does business with, he noticed a group of Pinoys staring at his group. In no time, they made contact and the group offered to tour them around the city, even made a fiesta-like buffet for them as a welcome treat. “Filipinos are so welcoming,” he narrates, that must be our world-renowned hospitality trait,” he says.

But there will always be negative people around, how does he deal with them? “I have met some who do not acknowledge where they come from and keep on griping about their own country. What I usually do is I let them say what they have to say and then I do my part by saying nice things about the Philippines. I think most people who see the Philippines negatively are those who watch too much tv news,” he says.

Inspite of having been away from home for a long time, Acuzar has never forgotten his roots. He makes it a point to always keep in touch with fellow Filipinos wherever his hectic schedule takes him. He also enjoyed meeting other people with different backgrounds. For him, it’s always great to be learning new things from people from all walks of life each day.

For those who’d want to pursue the “American Dream”, Acuzar has this advice to his countrymen: “The world offers many choices and opportunities. We just have to believe that we deserve it.”

He says Filipinos just need to learn to identify great opportunities from the bad. “Dreams are just there waiting to be fulfilled. Keep on dreaming, keep on believing, for a good future awaits those who seek greatness. Just believe you can make it and always have faith in God,” he says.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Books formed a huge part of Nadia Camit-Upton’s childhood. She recalls being teased as “Pong Pagong” as she always carried tons of books from her elementary school library. She was a fan of British classical literature.

At age seven, when most kids in her neighborhood played “Tumbang Preso”, she read Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy.

Her love for words prompted her to start writing at age six. She remembers being called in at the principal’s office, accused of ‘plagiarism’, but alas, the principal just couldn’t believe the vocabulary that flowed from a kid like her. The verses the principal thought she copied from “Poems of Great Britain” were actually hers.

Fast forward, she would write a book of poems titled “Fragments of the Moon”, about finding a way to cope with the loss of her father. But nowadays, who would touch a poetry book? But if you tell them that it’s on DVD or movie format, they might give it a chance. Thus, Upton’s video poetry book was born.

Her friends from the advertising industry helped her put this dream project together 10 years ago. It was released on a limited print edition, with 500 copies. Upton was fortunate to have readings from Robert Alexander (of the Bell Shakespeare Theatre of Sydney) who was thoroughly impressed and agreed to be a part of it.

“Fragments of the Moon”, the Philippines’ first ever video-poetry book was a confirmation that Upton finally made it as a writer. She couldn’t believe when she saw the book displayed on the shelves of two fine Manila bookstores (Powerbooks and A Different Bookstore). It paved the way for her to meet other video poetry enthusiasts in the Philippines and abroad. She was even invited to a poetry arts festival in Kent, England.

Upton grew up in a tiny apartment in the heart of Pasay City -- the middle child of 6 siblings. Even as a kid, she already saw things in a different light. “I told my classmates in school that we were quite well off as our house was along a private road. The truth of the matter was, it was quite narrow and can fit only two tricycles.”

Looking back now, she didn’t have a clue how all six kids were able to fit in a tiny apartment in Pasay. At that time, she felt very proud of the fact that their house had stairs and a gate. “I used to invite my friends around and give them a “tour” of our tiny house pretending it was a museum,” she narrates.

At a very young age, Upton had always a sunny disposition. “Despite the fact that my mum was called the “boiled egg chef”, I was still proud of her cooking. One time, she made me take “Bulalo” for my packed lunch in school. When I opened the container it was in, it was rock-solid with “sebo”. I thought, maybe, if I pretend that the sun was an oven, I can melt it and it would still be edible. I secretly put my lunch under the blazing heat in the playground. Unfortunately, a cat feasted on it. I was secretly pleased that it wasn’t wasted.”

As a child, Upton would spend hours and hours browsing in the children’s section of a famous chain of bookstores. “I particularly liked pop up books and was obsessed to be able to make them. I could not afford them at that time so I made my own out of rubber band and cereal boxes. I would make up stories and characters and amuse myself in my own little world. I suppose I’ve always had the knack for words and wanted to create things. Maybe I didn’t know yet but at that time, I wanted to do something creative, where my mind can just be set free.”

When her poem was first published on a national magazine, Upton was so thrilled she kept it under her bed for a month and read it again and again in disbelief. More pieces came next, more newspapers published them and she got paid for them.

She always was the editor of the school paper, and won inter-school writing competitions. As AB Communication Arts student at UST, Upton’s writing flourished even more. She pioneered a group called Labyrinth, inspired by the movie Dead Poets Society. “We would meet every Friday afternoon just to savour the verses of Keats, Byron and Tennyson.” She also tried other genres and won three major awards in USTetika, UST’s prestigious writing competition.

Her first job after college was a copywriter trainee at McCann Erickson Philippines. She thought she was incredibly lucky surrounded by talented and creative people. She then moved to DDB Philippines where she spent most of her advertising career. At Black Pencil Manila, sister company of Leo Burnett, she rose as Associate Creative Director.

“I immensely enjoyed my job in advertising. I felt like I was being paid to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. Someone even said that it’s the only job in the world where you can live like an artist and be paid like a banker. I remember the days when I used to write copy for a big telecom account. It was incredibly demanding that we actually had bunk beds in the office ready for the graveyard hours. Once you’ve clocked in the morning, you’ll never know when you are clocking out. There was a time when I wore the same shirt for three days and turned my socks inside out three times. I smelled of stale coffee and looked like a zombie,” she says.

How did she meet her British Romeo?

Upton’s love story started one fateful night when she purchased her first ever laptop computer, a second-hand Macbook. The moment she switched it on, she did not have a clue on how to use it. She went to the Techno Geek forum online and found a chat forum. Someone called “Shade2_UK” explained to her everything so patiently.

Their conversation shifted from Macs to Macbeth and she would later on found out that “Shade2_UK” was a graffiti artist named Graham Upton. They chatted non-stop for 13 hours, only stopping for tea breaks (he was British after all). “He started calling me and paying hundreds of pounds just to speak to me on my mobile for hours and hours. We then progressed to skype, and he actually expressed an interest to visit me,” Upton says.

On his first trip to the Philippines, Graham was confronted by a panel interview as soon as he stepped into her future wife’s house. “My Mum was the High Court Judge and my sister, one of the barristers,” Upton relates.

When they went to a local cemetery, Graham went on his knees and scraped some mud off her dad’s grave. He said: “There you are, Sir, nice and lovely, like your daughter.” Upton couldn’t believe her eyes seeing the handsome, dignified British man messed up his clean clothes and shoes, just to tidy up her dad’s resting place.

After that, Upton knew she found “the one”. “It really didn’t matter that he was a thousand times whiter than her. Or that he spelt color with a “u”. “I didn’t at all see a Caucasian man. I saw a man that loved me and embraced my family for who we are.”

For Upton, she has found her soul mate, a meeting of the minds. He was a graphic designer in the UK, and she was a copywriter. He appreciated poetry and practically grew up in a nation of great writers — Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, her all-time heroes. He flew to the Philippines several times, and on his fifth visit, at the departure lounge of NAIA, he asked the ultimate question. She said “yes”. That “Yes” was the reason why she moved halfway across the world, an affirmation of her desire to be happy with a man who loved her for being what she was.

Not all was rosy for the couple though. Fresh from their honeymoon and ready to start a future together, Upton’s husband was greeted by a letter from his then boss saying his design company has gone into administration and had to let him go.
“We had no choice but to face the sad news. I had to learn to practice this British mantra from day one: “Keep calm and carry on.”

The couple had to share a house with Graham’s friend. Days rolled on, and they had to survive on almost nothing. “We couldn’t even keep the heating on as it was expensive to use. It didn’t help that it was the middle of winter. It was dark and dreary and it rained almost every day. There was a time when I became really ill with a nasty cough. Graham crept in the middle of the night to unlock his friend’s cupboard and steal a bit of cough medicine for me. That was the lowest point of our lives I think,” she says.

Graham quickly signed up with a job agency the next morning. He told Upton: “I promise you, I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure we always have food on the table and a roof under our head.”

Upton remembers surviving on a loaf of bread and cup of tea for weeks and weeks. Her friends in Manila’s advertising industry would e-mail her pictures of glamorous Ad Congresses, lavish parties and beach conventions and she thought: “I could be eating a sumptuous buffet right now, but instead, I’m having to do with a piece of toast.”
“I had to conceal the situation to my family and friends back home. I told them I did a lot of jogging and swimming at the local gym and find English tea really slimming,” she confides.
Upton eventually landed a job as a receptionist for a primary school in a rough area. “I’ve never seen anything like it: Children as young as six would curse their parents at the school gates. At one instance, I had to phone for an ambulance as the head teacher had a heart attack while having a screaming match with a rude student,” she continues.

She moved a call centre for a parcel company and then became a filing clerk. “All I did for eight hours was file papers for pensioners in a huge vault. I discovered the magic of audio books, and was just listening to them all day while filing. I just broke down in tears one day when I serendipitously filed a document for a retired writer one day. It was a receipt from a shop that sold antique books. It had a verse from Hamlet written on the top of its stationery. It said: “To thine own self, be true.”

Upton gave up her odd job the following day and started to do work for local charity sectors. She knew that she couldn’t forever conceal the fact that she still wanted to make use of her talent. She volunteered as a Marketing Consultant, giving advice to small charities on how to improve their advertising campaigns. This boosted her CV, and made her more familiar with the British way of work life.

After a year of training and working hard work, she landed a job at the local court, which she thoroughly enjoyed. “It still made use of my communication skills, on a legal setting. I became a Case Progression Officer for the Ministry of Justice, dealing with High Court judges, barristers, solicitors and the general public. Finally, my brain was working again!,” she says.

Graham, on the other hand, got a job as a Graphic Designer for a rich local council. After years of hard work and determination, the determined couple was able to get a mortgage and buy their first home. According to Upton, the first thing they did when they moved in was to buy a cough syrup.

Upton gave birth after five years of living in the UK – from a pregnancy classified as high risk. Her baby Sophia, now two years old, has grown to be a pretty little girl, a beautiful mix of Filipino and British lineage. Some people say she looks like Miss World, Filipina Megan Young.

Upton is currently in the process of putting together an online support group for Filipino mums living abroad who suffer from post-natal depression. She wants to tell them that they are not alone. “I have recently started writing a book based on my experience on this. The book would have chapters introducing my “virtual babysitters”.

Things she loves about Filipinos abroad?

“It never ceases to amaze my husband every time I can tell whether someone is a Filipino or not. I tell him: maybe it’s that wacky glint in their eyes and that aura of friendliness that makes them unique. Filipinos in the UK have always been regarded as hardworking. They are in hospitals everywhere—as doctors, nurses and midwives. I can’t help but feel proud every time I am admitted to the hospital and see Pinoy nurses who are highly respected by their colleagues.”

Philippine things she misses in the UK:

“I miss the sun in the Philippines. Anyone who lives in the UK will tell you that. I found it funny before that my husband had to say, “It’s a beautiful and sunny day a thousand times when he visited Manila.” Now I know why. The sun makes a rare appearance in this part of the world. I guess that is the reason why most Europeans suffer from depression. Imagine dealing with grey clouds, rainy weather, freezing temperatures for nine months in a year. That in itself can just make you cry.”
For anyone who’s attempting to migrate to Britain, Upton says: “Be prepared to bring a sturdy umbrella, boots and raincoat as they will be your permanent outfit. Get ready to remind yourself to put “u” in colour, “s’ in organization, and “y” in tyres. Remember, it’s “lift” and not “elevator” and it’s a motorway, not a highway.

Is life easier out there? Upton says it depends how one makes it. She has faith in the Filipino - because he is resilient, resourceful, very much talented and hardworking. He can shine no matter where he is. “If he keeps that Macbeth thought close to his heart: “To thine own self be true”, he’ll definitely shine,” she concludes.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


by Roger Pe

The clock is ticking away. You need to finish a presentation deadline. Suddenly, your stomach is grumbling.

When this happens, what do you do? Crawl in a huge mall, fall in line in long queues, wait till it’s almost one o’ clock to be served at your favorite resto?
Everyday, we see millions of people in the same scenario: People who work in the city, whose daily grind are frenetic; employees whose schedules are too tight to squeeze in a hurried lunch out of the office; dads and moms whose quality time with their families are getting fewer and fewer.
The same happens with people who work during ungodly hours, people who do not own their time anymore even when they sign out at the bundy clock. Or shop, for instance, when they need to.
Fret not. All over the world, the number of shoppers shying away from big, dizzying supermarkets is increasing. More so if they are jampacked with people and you have to endure long lines and elbow yourself in.

Thank God for a new industry that is providing online shopping and food delivery for busybodies.
In Europe, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, among others, are already offering web groceries and are benefiting from the rise of online shoppers. Industry observers say that the figure is expected to rise by around 30 per cent year after year.

The shift in shopping habits and lifestyle, according to a recent study, will almost double over the next five years to £18.6billion. The figures come from the Institute for Grocery Distribution (IGD), whose chief executive, Joanne Denney-Finch, said: “The "hot three" areas of online, convenience and food discounters are the ones to watch.”

In the Philippines, foodpanda, the most successful online platform worldwide for food delivery is providing a risk-free solution to help food brands benefit from higher revenues and better customer retention. It recently tied up with the country’s number one roasted chicken brand – Chooks-To-Go.
foodpanda, the fastest growing online food-ordering platform in the world is presently targeting 3.3 billion people in 40+ countries assuring around 20% incremental revenues for partner brands via its online website,, or through its mobile app in the easiest and most convenient way.

The online delivery and revenue-generating system is backed up by Rocket Internet, the Berlin-based team responsible for the hugely successful online shopping channels: Zalora and Lazada.
Noting that more and more Filipinos are spending less time cooking, foodpanda offers a delicious solution, at the same time maximizing brand rejuvenation for marketers.

It is also brought by the fact that the Philippines is the fastest growing smartphone market in Southeast Asia. Filipinos spend an average of 171 minutes per day on their smartphones, a 30% penetration rate. Almost 30 million Filipinos are also Facebook users, the highest percentage reach in the world.

foodpanda is No. 1 on Google search, with 1,039,000 likes on FB, offering discounts, affiliates and vouchers, priority listing on homepage, resto blogger events, TV and radio appearances, targeted events and festivals and food magazine articles.

With proven track record in meeting ambitious targets, foodpanda’s brand partners have become market leaders in most of the markets it is present: 25,000 restaurants, working with many global and local brands such as Chilis, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Starbucks, Tony Roma’s, Carl’s Jr., Dominos Pizza, Subway, Pizza Papa Jones, etc.

On the other hand, Chooks-To-Go is an innovation leader, an early adapter to maintain its position to create new customers, better customers, stronger brand, faster growth and deeper market penetration.

Though relatively new in the market, Chooks-to-Go has already attracted millions of followers and the Pinoy consumers have given it enthusiastic response. Its popularity has made it market leader in its category with the number of its stores all over the Philippines keeps growing every year. To date, it has close to 1,000 stores, spread all over Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, offering two flavors, Sweet Roast and Pepper Roast. Sales growth has been phenomenal, making it the dominant brand in its category.

Amazing as far as its growth is concerned, Chooks-To-Go became a certified SuperBrand last year, strengthening its market maturity as an innovator. A brand becomes a SuperBrand when it passes stringent standards set by SuperBrands, an independent global arbiter on branding that pays homage to world's leading brands as selected by experts and consumers. Brands that are rated highly by its council and consumers are eligible for inclusion. Industry experts and practitioners select the top brands based on the following criteria: Market dominance, longevity, goodwill, customer loyalty and market acceptability. Chooks-To-Go hurdled all these with flying colors.

As one of the country’s newest SuperBrands, it joins the list of many trusted brands in the Philippines. Worth mentioning too, in this year’s annual Outstanding Professional Awards, its President and General Manager Ronald Mascariñas, was also chosen one of the awardees by Superbrands for his contribution to the Philippine poultry industry. Being named a SuperBrand for marketing excellence, Chooks’ latest achievement is a follow-up from its unbeatable performance in 2009, being chosen as Asia’s Best in Asia’s Livestock Industry Awards.

Asked on how he sees Chooks-To-Go five years from now, Mascariñas says: “Chooks-To-Go will be a global brand. Starting this year, we will be across the region, the Middle East and West Africa. To date, we are the only company in the industry investing heavily in digital marketing and our brands are the “most liked” in the fresh and roasted chicken business.”

Like millions of Chooks-To-Go lovers all over the Philippines, there’s another reason to like it. It is the only partner of foodpanda that does not have a minimum order requirement. You only pay P30.00 delivery charge. So don’t be left behind, just go to and experience the delicious convenience of online food ordering.

Monday, September 1, 2014


By Roger Pe
Published in Rappler
August 31, 2014

To be able to ride on the crest of digital revolution, traditional ad agencies have added digital as one of their services to clients. A number bought into existing digital agencies. A few added a room next door to be called ‘digital experts’.

But some of them have fallen short, paying only lip service to the digital dynamics.

It is common knowledge that some subcontract work to digital agencies that have sprung a couple of years back. Not born like a digital native, growth has been hampered for lack of real digital sense.

But things are looking brighter as forward-looking agencies are integrating digital into their network and professionalizing the media channel of the century.

Why the race for digital? According to Ad Age, “People are moving money out of print, leaving some on television and putting it on digital." The writing on the wall is clear. The message is chilling. Enough to send shivers to those who still think that traditional media still rules.

The continuing boom of digital media is being felt locally and much more globally. National TV advertising in the U.S. for example, as reported also by Ad Age is now smaller than digital media advertising largely due to the World Cup and political advertising. This will reach dramatic proportions when the next Olympics opens.

In the Philippines, Ogilvy Neo Digital has laid the groundwork as early as five years ago and is making its presence felt, filling the gap where existing local digital agencies are meeting challenges.

“We exist to build the business, focusing on performance media. We find customers and convert them so that brands can actually interact with them,” says Chris Actis, Ogilvy Neo Digital Regional Managing Director for Asia Pacific.

Actis was in Manila recently to make OND in synch with its global operation. The network prides itself in providing clients valuable media insights, efficient buying, responsive creative and complex analytics delivered within aggressive time frames.

All over the world, Ogilvy Neo Digital has built a performance-driven model that thrives on discipline specialization within an integrated agency framework. It offers best in class media solutions that compete on quality with any digital specialist agency. In the Philippines, the agency is built in-house.

From aggressive direct marketers to the largest global brands, the agency provides customized performance marketing solutions with measurable results.

Rappler interviews Actis to give marketers and readers knowledge on OND’s capabilities as a topnotch digital media agency:

How different is Neo Ogilvy Digital from other media agencies?

CA: Ogilvy is one of the only full-service advertising agencies that has an in-house digital media agency. Neo’s focus is on integrating with Ogilvy to provide real time insights that inform strategy and creative, data driven customer centric media that drives business performance, optimization and insights which in turn, garner high return on investment for marketers.

With the explosion of digital technology, what makes Neo Ogilvy distinct and why would a business engage with it?

CA: Neo@Ogilvy has proprietary tools (such as our consumer intent modeling product) and aligns with the best in-class tech and media partners whom we feel are most appropriate for meeting our clients’ business goals. Our singular focus on driving our client’s business through performance media ensures that we are partner-agnostic, flexible in whom we work with, and transparent on cost/benefits to clients.

How advanced are your digital tools and technology compared to your competitor next door?

CA: Our consumer intent modeling tool is unique and proprietary. Nobody else possesses or offers such a bespoke solution.

How can Neo Ogilvy interact with consumers in a more intimate way?

CA: Because we focus on search and behaviorally-based and data informed media, instead of just impressions, Neo feels like we are closest to consumer intent and understand behavioral that has moved from the analog world to the digital and mobile world.

Neo uses search data to inform strategy, creative, digital journey planning, and media activation. All of that is focused on and based on our closeness and intimacy with consumers through media data.

How can Neo Ogilvy build a client’s business coming from an analog environment?

CA: Offline and online communications should be increasingly aligned. Paid search is as much a branding channel as it is a direct response vehicle and Neo’s in-house presence in the world class advertising global network of Ogilvy enables us to seamlessly align around consumer engagement online and offline.

Neo Ogilvy loves to flag the phrase “Performance services and marketing”, please explain this in layman’s terms.

CA: Performance marketing is media that produces outcomes. Those outcomes are conversions, sales, customer acquisitions, database building, and purchase intent. Our focus is on using media to actually accrue revenue for our clients. There is no waste. Impressions aren’t the KPI, but business metrics are what matters.

How do you plan to revolutionize digital media in the Philippines?

CA: By combining the energetic and creative spirit of marketers and Ogilvy with media that can inform communications and drive results for our clients. Most other agencies just focus on media. Neo@Ogilvy focuses on customers and creative apart from using digital media to create results.

Compared to the whole Asean digital world, where is the Philippines now and how big is the market potential?

CA: The Philippines is one of the youngest and most digitally enabled markets in the region. Consumer receptivity to brand messages ranks highly as does Internet penetration and usage of social media. Because of this connectivity, marketers have a great opportunity to engage with consumers via digital media in relevant and impactful ways.

How do you train Filipino digital people, how wired are they compared to other digital experts from around the world?

Our team in the Philippines is exceptionally knowledgeable about global trends in digital media. Search, performance social media, and programmatic buying are all topics that the teams are aware of and utilizing in client engagements. This is because Filipino youths, who make up a majority of our team, are very digitally connected and are themselves engaging in advanced digital environments.

Because Neo@Ogilvy is a global network, we are able to bring best practices and mature market case studies into Philippines and have our teams adapt quickly to the changed marketplace.

Our training programs are very specific around services and solutions that have changed the digital media landscape. We will frequently include clients in workshops covering topics such as paid social media, real time bidding, organic search optimization, and consumer insights.

The workshops help our client partners evolve quickly to the changing consumer media landscape.

Your personal assessment of Filipino digital talents

CA: Young, creative, and innovatively focused, Filipino digital media talent is eager to implement globally standardized as well as emerging media channels.

How do you see Neo Ogilvy 5 years from now in the Philippines?

CA: Neo@Ogilvy in Philippines will be on the front lines of how data, content, and media enhance the lives of consumers and drive marketer’s business. Underlying this evolution will be the creative spirit of the Filipino people and the desire to progress and lead in ASEAN.

Do you think media agencies will return to their mother agency network soon like you are in-house in Ogilvy?

CA: Increasingly clients are looking for seamless and integrated services that holistically address consumer behavior in the digitally focused world. Advertising agencies that have digital communications and media capability will have an advantage in their ability to offer end to end solutions and streamlined points of contact that are client and customer focused as opposed to discipline and niche configured.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 24, 2014 issue

Who says public schools can't breed good English communicators? She does it like her second language. She, too, was like a chameleon. She adapted easily,

Evlin Fuentes-Jankoff practically lived out of a suitcase for several years. Her international jobs took her to different countries in Europe, Asia, US and Australia. Her last job before migrating down under in 2003 was as Asia-Pacific Regional Manager for a British multinational company.

Her migration to Australia was a drastic transition. From an independent, single, career-focused woman living alone in her own Manila flat (with a maid and driver), she became a mum in a new country, with a non-Filipino husband, without her own income, relatives, and no external support network. Tough start.

But she is now a Professional Lecturer at prestigious Victoria University in Melbourne, reaping the fruits of her hardships.

In her early 20s, when several of her high school and college friends were leaving one after the other to either work or migrate overseas, she said: “I want to travel but I do not want to pay for it. I want to work overseas but I refuse to apply for it.”
Her friends thought she was nuts. But she always thought that it was good to have a dream because it won’t cost anyone anything.

Jankoff grew up in Project 8, Quezon City with her eight siblings. Being the eldest, she learnt to be independent very early, a good foundation for her future travels. Going through public school her whole life (GSIS Village Elementary School, Quezon City Science High School and the University of the Philippines) perhaps toughened her up a bit.

As a little girl, she wanted to be a brain surgeon and a fashion model. Her dream to become a surgeon got quickly nipped in the bud by her father who reminded her that they do not have unlimited funds to send them all to college.

“My having a boyfriend then did not help as Tatay was scared I may end up eloping before I even finish my studies,” she says. As for modeling, she did not grow tall and skinny enough, (she was too voluptuous) to be one.

Jankoff initially got into accountancy course at UP Diliman though her first love was economics. She decided to shift to Hotel and Restaurant Administration. “Why HRA? My friends in engineering asked. I said “it’s the only degree in campus where you are legally allowed to organize parties and drink alcohol, and get marks for it.”

Jankoff’s first taste of travel and independence was her internships at the then Hyatt Terraces Baguio. “There were five of us students from UP. When we met at the bus station in Baguio, little did we know that we all gave our parents the same assurance – yes, we have a place to stay, all organized. We looked at each other and realized we all told a lie,” she happily remembers.

Starting a career

Jankoff was among those in the pioneer team when the West Villa chain of restaurants opened. She then worked at Cebu Plaza Hotel where she said: “there was never really a dull moment in the hospitality industry. There was always something happening. I met a lot of fantastic people but did not like the work hours.” She moved out of the industry and worked at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) after.

She got along well with her boss while working at AIM but the latter would soon receive an offer to work in Jakarta. “I was sad that she left. What to do? I enrolled in the MBA program at Ateneo. As I was about to start the course, my former boss convinced me to come over for a holiday and stay with her.” Jankoff withdrew from the MBA program, got her money and packed her bags.

Little that she know, she would be staying for five years at the AIM representative office in the Indonesian capital. It was one big adventure for her where she met wonderful people and great friends. The job also took her travelling on a regular basis and did not have to pay for it.

“My first year living as an expat came with dose of culture shock. I was lucky to quickly learn to speak Bahasa Indonesia within three months. Good enough to convince a taxi driver to take me to Tanah Abang (like our Divisoria) from my landlady’s place in Menteng (like our Forbes) and get to practice my haggling skills in time. My adventure scared the wits out of my landlady who discouraged me from doing it again.

Life as an expat can be as easy or difficult depending on how one wants it to be, according to Jankoff. “The most punishing part for me was learning to eat spicy food. I was able to get over it with a lot of bravery and tears,” she says.

Learning the local language was the best thing that worked for Jankoff. It helped her better understand the local culture and how the locals think. “I was curious about why the Indonesians do things the way they do them. I respected the difference and made it work for me in my dealings with the locals. Having great support from my fellow expat Filipino friends was extremely helpful especially when we share our day-to-day experiences and learn from each other’s mistakes and wins. I was lucky that my job allowed me to regularly visit my family in Manila,” she reminisces.

Goodbye, Jakarta

Before Jankoff left Jakarta for good, she went on a holiday to Sydney and Melbourne with two Indonesian female friends. “We all stayed with a classmate of mine from UP who was based in Sydney. I did not realize that my friend had plans of breast enlargement surgery while I was there, so I ended up looking after her, which I did not mind. I did not expect the shock in her mother’s and brother’s eyes when they got home from a holiday: I looked like the accomplice in crime!”

Other than her brief ‘nursing’ stint, Jankoff found Australia a place that she could live. “I love the culture and art scene of Melbourne than Sydney that I actually declared to my friend “I would like to live in Melbourne” while we were staying at her brother’s place in Yarraville.”

Jankoff then tried to check all immigration possibilities to move to Melbourne but couldn’t get to pass the required ‘points test’ to migrate. Back in Manila, she started to focus back on balancing career and single life. “I was happy to be back home. My stint as an expat opened doors for me to get roles that required frequent international travel.”

In one of her work assignments, she was sent to her company’s regionall office in New York for a few meetings. On her first stop was a meeting in Albany before she headed off to her World Trade Centre office on 12 September 2001.

“That was a close call. It was scary being in New York watching the 11 September disaster unfold and our office building collapsing. I felt so alone, shaken and did not know where to go. That was my first US trip and had not been there since,” she remembers.

Hello, Australia

Through work, Jankoff met her future husband Cyril. They were both working with the same British multinational company. He was based in Melbourne but was sent to Jankoff’s office in Manila for training and orientation. “It was a long distance office romance. We finally spent more time together after he left the company. On my first visit to see him in Melbourne, I felt it was surreal that Cyril actually lived in Yarraville, a few blocks away from where I declared I wanted to live in Melbourne a couple of years back!” Goosebumps.

“Cyril loved Manila and he did not mind settling down in the Philippines. After long and thorough decision process, we decided to move to Melbourne where his elderly mum is based. We got married in Melbourne and we now have two children, Carl and Erika,” Jankoff says.

Jankoff said she did not expect being a new mum in Australia could be tough and challenging. She arrived in Melbourne with her five-month old Erika. “One day I had a full-time nanny looking after her and the support of my family, the next day I was on my own looking after a baby in a new country. I felt alone. I thought being an English speaker, having worked internationally and been an expat would have given me an advantage in having an easier transition to my new life in Australia. Wrong. Being a migrant mother in Australia requires a different skill set – driver, nanny, cleaner, housekeeper, gardener, etc.”

Australians love their English slang. “When baby Erika cried, Cyril said: “give her the dummy”. I wondered, “what dummy he was talking about. He could not figure out why I gave him a blank stare when he asked me to “put the jumper in the boot”. I also did not quickly get it when the nurse said: “Your baby’s cot looked like a dog’s breakfast”. When I asked an Aussie friend how she manages to juggle work and motherhood, she says she usually just “chuck a sickie” whenever she has to attend school events.

Jankoff’s impressive credentials did not fail her. She was very lucky to land a job within five months of migrating to Melbourne. “I got a sessional lecturing job at a local university teaching international students. It was great to get the mind working again after singing too much nursery songs and watching an overload of the Wiggles, Playschool and Sesame Street.”

But work and motherhood do not come easy in Australia. As her mother said when she came to help her out when her youngest was born, “the quality of life of the poor people in the Philippines is better that yours here’. “Ouch. She was right. I barely had time to scratch myself. Even my maid in Manila before who had her young children staying with her in my household had time to rest and relax.”

With all demands on working moms and minimal support compared to what they get in the Philippines, many women experience post-natal depression, according to Jankoff. It is not uncommon for new migrant mums to just want to go back home with their babies. “You have to reach out for help and support at a time when you feel alone and may not want to reach out.”

Australian culture

How does she describe Australians? Australians are very individualistic in contrast to Filipinos and other Asians whose culture is very enmeshed, according to Jankoff.

“People are polite and are happy to extend a hand. But life is just so busy that you have to make it a point to reach out and connect, otherwise it can feel so isolating especially if you do not have your relatives around,” she says.

Multitasking in Australia is common and the people take on other roles all the time, at work and at home, she observes. “You can be left out if you do not reach out. My family regularly attends the St. Albans Filipino Uniting Church. It feels good to be connected to fellow Filipinos and for our children to learn more about the Filipino culture. The congregation has also been very supportive to newly arrived migrants,” Jankoff says.

How is it like living far from home? Jankoff says raising children in a different country with a non-Filipino partner has its own challenges. “Erika and Carl (her young daughter and son) have a good understanding of the difference between their Filipino and Australian heritage. Cyril and I agreed that we should raise the children by taking the best out of the Filipino and Australian culture, keeping in mind the children will grow up in a very multicultural world.”

In recent years, there are more skilled Filipino migrants arriving in Australia, mostly in the healthcare and aged-care industries. “I think generally, Filipinos are very adaptable which makes it easy for us to blend in with other cultures. Having the Spanish, American and Asian mix in us makes us very western at the same time eastern in our mindsets.”

Jankoff has also not heard of many negative remarks among locals now that their calls are handled by Filipino call center operators, compared to all the angry complaints when the calls were handled in another country prior.

When she first arrived in Melbourne, Jankoff wished that she could work at the Victoria University, which was walking distance from her home. She went over to one of their offices and asked if she can apply to be a sessional lecturer.

“I got the job and I now work as a full time lecturer in Supply Chain and Logistics at the university. I am lucky to be working in a very multicultural environment that embraces diversity. Like in any country in the world, discrimination can happen in Australian workplaces. It is up to us how we handle it. The best lesson that we Filipinos may have to learn is to be assertive, learn how to say no and stand our ground in a nice way,” she says.

Planning to migrate or work overseas? Jankoff gives some valuable advice: “Be adaptable. Be open to learn about the local culture and connect with the locals. There is nothing like establishing friendships with the locals who can be able to guide you around local practices, and where and how to get support. Understand the thinking behind why they do certain things. Lastly, being adaptable does not mean that you have to compromise your own belief system. It is about establishing mutual respect.”

Saturday, August 16, 2014


By Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 17, 2014 issue

Even before the war broke out, Palawan was largely known as a dumping ground for lepers (Culion) and prisoners (Iwahig). After the liberation and throughout the 50s, nothing much has changed. The image of Palawan remained the same, sleepy, far-flung, and rather isolated from the rest of the country, aside from the fact that it was one of the Philippines’ most undeveloped and sparsely populated provinces.

Back then, only a single propeller Fokker plane visited the capital town. When the 70s came, things began to change. Puerto Princesa, the capital, became a city and towards the new millennium, an envy to many. Palawan wakes up every day to the sound of progress, and today, almost 20 airbus flights from Manila fly back and forth to the province once known as the Last Frontier.

Palawan’s rich flora and fauna, abundant marine life, stunning white beaches, incredible geographical formations, and vast hectares of oil fields under its seabed are magnets to businessmen and tourists alike.

Like El Nido town. In this paradise by the bay, hidden among limestone cliffs live gatherers of “white gold”, most commonly known as Nido Bird’s nests (hardened saliva of Swiftlets), highly prized by the Chinese as a delicacy and aphrodisiac.

Traders from Manila and as far as Hongkong frequent the place for the bounty local foragers collect from mountains jotting out straight from the sea. Gatherers earn quite a sum. The demand would always outweigh the supply and the burgeoning business made enterprising families.

From one of these families emerged a shy little girl who dreamt of being successful some day and came back exactly what she wanted to be. She is Emilie Palanca Pe-Shi, great granddaughter of Don Juan Palanca Pe Tuan of Coron Palawan.

“I always dreamt of becoming a very successful businesswoman,” Shi says from an overseas chat with the Inquirer. Indeed, she did. She was able to travel the world, own a real estate chain abroad, given the honor to become an honorary Consul General for the Philippine embassy in New Zealand, and finally, exporter of premium bottled-water to several countries.

Shi could retire today and live happily ever after. But that’s getting ahead of the story.

She was born in El Nido, Palawan and moved to Puerto Princesa where she attended grade and high school at Holy Trinity College (now university). She thought of being a lawyer and did not want to get stuck in a desolate town almost forgotten by time. “I needed to be in the city so I packed my bags, took up entrance exams and went to a business school.” Shi enrolled in the University of the East and majored in finance, marketing and sales.

“If I can focus on what I really wanted, I knew I would make it, she says. While on her senior year in college, Shi was taken in as an intern at the White House Automotive Supply, then Manila’s largest importer of auto parts from Japan and the U.S. While trying to attend night school to finish college, she took charge of the import department of the company.

Being active in university activities gave her rewards and just like what she wanted after graduation, her entrepreneurial spirit gave her passport to bigger things. Shi joined a travel agency named Travel and Tours, stayed for over three years and given the privilege of flying to several cities in Europe, the US and most of Asia.

The travel business became Shi’s bread and butter, hitting the jackpot soon enough and bagging the biggest travel account her company ever handled - a Chicago tour group for which she organized tours in Manila and other Philippine cities.

“We did not have much competition back in the 60s and 70s,” Shi recollects. “Customers were very loyal and they left everything to us to arrange their itinerary and hotel accommodations. I truly enjoyed that part of my career, including my stint with the Philippine Travel Bureau,” she says.

She left the country in 1969 right after getting married to a Hongkong Chinese citizen who studied dental medicine at the University of the Philippines. The couple settled in Hongkong, her husband opened a clinic to practice dentistry while she worked for a Japanese government entity.

About to give birth to her first child, Shi migrated to New Zealand initially doing property business, buying land and developing them. In a span of 10 years until 2007, she has built more 750 homes with single housing and townhouses in Albany, New Zealand worth over $100 million in development.

A year after, His Excellency Ambassador Bienvenido Tejano invited her to be the Philippine Honorary Consul General in New Zealand.

Auckland, NZ’s largest city had no Philippine consular office for 4 years. The Philippine government had long wanted to appoint a representative to help the growing population of Filipino immigrants. As the Filipino population grew to almost 50,000, Shi took office in July 2008.

On her first year as Consul General, Sh said: “It was like going back to school. It was hard for me to understand all the ropes of the business. I was lucky the embassy had a lot of Attaches I could call on to ask for help. The full diplomatic manual was so thick, I fell asleep reading it chapter by chapter.”

She, too, got a lot of support from older colleagues at the 65-member country Consular Corps of Auckland. She needed to learn as quickly as she could while attending to a lot of functions and from the host country government. “My time was not enough. I devoted 4 hours of consular time in the morning, the rest of the afternoon, for my own private business,” she recalls.

Love for country

The reason why Shi accepted the job as an Honorary Consul was “my love for the country and the Filipino people, “ she says. It was not a easy job, you have to be a people-person or you will lost your patience when people start complaining about consular service.”

The voluntary job for Shi was a sacrifice. “Not many people know we do not receive salaries. I accepted it so that the government can start a consular office for Filipinos who do not need to spend large sum of money to go and fly to Wellington to get a visa, passport, etc. Today, I believe we have simplified a lot of things.”

What has she observed about Filipinos living in New Zealand? “Filipinos in NZ are quite regional and clannish, very much family-oriented. During my five-year term, I have not heard of bad press about Filipinos. I received a lot of commendations for our nurses, IT engineers, architects, doctors and dentists. The most number of comments she got: “Filipinos are hardworking, and they took care of their families.”

After her tenure, Shi ventured on an ambitious water production business. She tried making the best water in the whole of Antartica available in bottles. After several months and many name studies after, Shih’s KVella brand was born and got the Ministy of Primary Industries’ approval.

Shi’s KVella premium bottled water is sourced from the Southern Alps of New Zealand, pure water with essential minerals from vapours of ice shelves and drawn from natural artesian system.

The word “KVella” means fantastic in Italian, but actually an acronym of two of her companies joined together (Kesco/Vision) with an added nice sounding word: Ella. The trademark is registered in the Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Hongkong, Taiwan and the United States.

She currently ships to 4 countries and will soon add India and France to the growing list. “We are hoping that we should be able to export more as our prices become very competitive,” she says.

Asked what advice she would give to her kababayans who wish to live in NZ or anywhere in the world: Shi says: “Prepare yourself, and ask yourself this question with sincerity: “Will this be better for my country and my family? Will I be able to pursue all my dreams? Shih says one must work hard, take some insults sometimes. Though language could be a problem to some, it could all be overcome. “If you have confidence, you’ll be able to better yourself.”

Lastly, Shih says the government has helped many Filipinos in NZ, allowing them to enter with very little money. ”Filipino immigrants could apply for housing and job opportunities are plenty. There are so much work at the moment but our kababayans must have qualifications and should be willing to learn,” she says.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
August 10, 2014 issue

Many Filipinos have made their mark in professional leadership roles in Southeast Asia. A number have also reached top management positions in the region. Some have gone further, achieving juicy careers in the tough and bigger China market. But as an Executive Planning Director for one of the world’s most prestigious ad networks in the world’s biggest economy?

The answer is absolutely yes.

Like in China’s education, media, public relations, engineering, hotel and restaurant industries, a Filipino walks shoulder to shoulder with the best expatriates working in that side of the world. He is a UP Mass Communications graduate and his name is Hans Lopez-Vito, also a former tv commercial model.

For the uninitiated, the Executive Planning Director is advertising’s most important role along with that of the Chief Creative Officer’s. It is a frontliner’s job and the output, the backbone of an effective advertising campaign.

Brand Planning gives marketers an edge in an increasingly competitive market because it gives the communication plan focus. In a nutshell, the Planner gives the brand the vision, aim and overall brandscape, the how, what, where, when and to whom the plan is communicating the messages.

Lopez-Vito began his career as a market research analyst at San Miguel Corporation in 1994. During a lightning overseas interview, he tells Inquirer that a marketing department colleague put him on a TV commercial that was about to be shot because his ad agency could not find a suitable talent.

That was his first taste of the advertising business. After that, he appeared in countless tv and print ads and on back-sides of cereal boxes.
Twenty years later, his involvement with ads remains. But largely from behind the scenes.

At BBDO Proximity Greater China Beijing office, Lopez-Vito works on some of the world’s blue chip accounts. He also champions BBDO Voices, the agency’s proprietary insights program aimed at tracking socio-cultural trends in one of the world’s most dynamic consumer markets.

Prior to his BBDO China post, he led a pan-Asian strategy for Unilever’s Take-Home Ice Cream brands & Coca-Cola’s ‘Coke-with-Food’ campaigns. In 2006, he was cross-posted to McCann Worldgroup offices in Toronto and New York and eventually became Vice President and Head of Planning at McCann Worldgroup in Manila. He is married, has a four-year old daughter and another one on the way.

Lopez-Vito’s daily grind is to lead a team of branding experts, engagement planners and strategic creative thinkers develop strategies that form the basis for the campaigns they develop for some of the world’s most loved brands.

As a young boy, Lopez-Vito’s only connection with the big world of business were the ads he saw on TV. He thought that the only way to make money in the corporate world was through the advertising agency business. He entered the field of marketing research upon graduation primarily because of his desire to help create and shape how companies and their brands communicated with people.

“I am your typical “prom-di” (from the province). I was born in Bacolod, studied at the local La Salle school there, but left for Manila to study at UP Diliman. Up until I took off for the “big city,” the life I knew was very simple. It revolved around the home, my family, my classmates, and the local Boy Scout troop that I was actively involved in. To this day, my Ilonggo accent still sometimes betrays me. My wife Ruby thinks it’s adorable.”

Asked if he ever dreamt of pursuing working abroad, Lopez-Vito says: “Frankly, I never did until much later in my career. That’s because life was good to me in Manila. I was working at a great agency which took good care of me and my career (I was already VP for Strategic Planning at McCann at the time).

Lopez-Vito said he had “a great boss who inspired and stretched me.” He enjoyed working with his clients but eventually felt a new curiosity, a new urge emerged in him that he craved to find out how far his talent could take him. He wondered if he could truly compete on the global stage.

“I figured that the only way to find out was to see if I can replicate the career successes I had in Manila in a market that had larger global prominence.” That’s how he ended up in China, a country of 1.3 billion consumers.

On the similarities, dissimilarities and idiosyncrasies of doing advertising in China, Vito-Lopez says: “The best way to describe China is that it is one country but with multiple markets.”

In the major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou as well as the big provincial capitals, Vito-Lopez says the consumers are just as wealthy and sophisticated as anywhere else in the world. “In some small cities and towns, China is still very under-developed, and the big task for brands is to educate people about the basics of what a product is and how to use it,” he says. “The Philippine market has its own complexity, but I think China takes this to a whole new level.”

He observes that the pace in China is very fast, the market is growing, people’s lifestyles and values are changing very quickly. As a foreigner, Lopez-Vito depends on a lot of market research as well as the perspectives of his local staff to truly be on top of the local pulse.

What makes Filipino expats shine abroad? Lopez-Vito says the easy answer is the Pinoy’s strong command of the English language. He, however, thinks there is more to the Pinoy that foreign employers like.

“I think the real and unspoken factor to the success of Expat Pinoys is our “cultural resilience.” We are truly the best of East and West. Because of the strong Spanish and American influence on our culture, we know how to deal with clients and colleagues from western countries. But, because we’re also Asian, it’s much easier for us to understand the cultural sensitivities of other Asians in our staff or client-base.”

Lopez-Vito says the Pinoy can do well, regardless of where his job assignment takes him. “I can’t think of any other nationality that has this quality, “he says.

Pinoy diaspora

The global Pinoy has redefined traditional notions of nation-hood, according to Lopez-Vito. Though millions of Pinoys are living abroad and are even becoming citizens of other nations, their love and allegiance remains with the country of their birth, he says.

“One no longer needs to fly to 7,100 islands to find the Philippines. They can easily find it in the values, the smiles, the warmth, and cultural resilience of millions of Filipinos scattered around the world,” he says.

Lopez-Vito has been in China for quite some time. It is interesting to know what makes him stay there. For him, advertising is a highly competitive industry and it is also very global. “How far can a Pinoy prom-di like me go in a playing field that is truly global? How high will I reach? I don’t know the answer yet, but I would like to find out.”

Like millions of Pinoys working abroad, he realizes that he will need to miss out being in the Philippines during important family moments.

“While in China, I have missed my nephews and nieces’ dance recitals. I have missed their graduations. I was also absent when my mom died. I was in Manila just the day before, but was back in Shanghai when she left us.”

What advice would he give to Pinoys who would like to work in China or elsewhere in the world? “Pinoys have the right to really aim high but, sadly, many don’t.” He says many want to go abroad to work but, how many of those who want to go abroad want to lead?

Lopez-Vito thinks there are only a few who do. “For instance, our Asian brethren (e.g., from India, Singapore, etc.) outnumber us Filipinos in the highest ranks of companies around the world. Certainly, the Pinoy can do better. I believe many of us still suffer from “colonial syndrome.”

Lopez-Vito says, Filipinos need to be confident and can be world-class. “We can be not just good workers but also good leaders that people from countries that once colonized us are willing to follow,” he says.

What is his job like? His role at BBDO is to make sure that the brand campaigns the agency develops for its clients are rooted on solid strategies. As such, his regular day is spent in a lot of meetings, be it with his team, other agency folks, or clients: on how a brand can grow more optimally, what interesting human truth or insight they can tap into when developing a campaign, or what interesting technology can be leveraged to get their messages out.

“I also spend a lot of time putting together, reviewing, or delivering strategy presentations. I put a lot of energy having conversations about how our clients are performing, trying to figure out what worked in our last campaign, what didn’t, and how we can do better next time,” he says.

Although he spends most of his time in Shanghai where he is based, he has also come to know China’s major airports quite well. “We have offices and clients in Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Vito-Lopez travels about once every two weeks on average. During the peak strategic planning season, he travels more often than that.

Because China is such an important market for all Lopez-Vito’s global clients, he spends an inordinate amount of time doing conference calls with global hubs in the US or Europe whose clients usually set their calls either really early in the morning or late at night due to time differences.

“I usually do these calls at home. These calls are not always easy, not with an over-active and very noisy four year old at home! And, every so often, I have to fly there to personally meet and present strategy to clients. In this role, he has logged a lot of airline and hotel miles. He is not complaining though. “I think being able to travel (and travel well) even if it’s for business is both an honor and a privilege.”

What would he be like if he were a brand and what are his thoughts on seeing the Philippines from out of home?

“I can relate a lot more to Pinoy brands – brands like Jollibee and Chippy. These brand have grown so much over the last 20-30 years but, they mean the same thing to a 41-year old like me as to a Pinoy child or teenager. I suppose that’s me. I have experienced much, the world has changed, and the world may have changed many aspects of who I am, how I dress, how I speak but I will remain a prom-di, a ‘malambing Ilonggo’ (with an Ilonggo accent) forever. I have also recently re-discovered something from my younger years that I lost – my faith in my God! They can take the boy out of Bacolod, but they can’t take Bacolod out of the boy.

On what makes a truly global Pinoy, Lopez-Vito puts it succinctly: “I think the Pinoy expat is like a bowl of halo-halo. He is a mix of different cultures all at once. That makes him or her the quintessential global citizen.”

Vito-Lopez was one of the seven Most Outstanding Alumni awardees of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication (UP CMC) centennial alumni homecoming celebration in 2008.

Saturday, July 26, 2014


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 25, 2014 issue

Digital technology is mindblowing, intimidating to some, overwhelming to others. Has it rendered you obsolete yet? It won’t if you keep on churning big ideas.

Technology often distracts audiences from the real thing. But with all the razzmatazz, it still cannot replace content. The idea is still king. Form or execution cannot sugarcoat it, a lame one or the lack of it.

“Digital is just distribution, a channel to disseminate big ideas,” says recent Manila visitor John Zeigler, DDB Asia-Pacific, Japan and India markets Group Chairman and CEO.

Zeigler says new media is sounding like a new age of confusion. “We’re getting distracted by the new genre, and forgetting the fundamentals of bringing solutions to clients to build their business.”

A 2014 Cannes jury member for Creative-Effectiveness Lions, Zeigler laments: “We’ve forgotten the consumers, the very people who make decisions. We are making it complex for them.”

Zeigler is proud of how the DDB network in Asia has turned around and cites what the DDB group of offices in Manila have achieved - from just one of the many, to landing on top of Asia’s most creative agency rankings to winning formidably in global effectiveness awards.

The “Global Marketer of the Year” (chosen by the Academy of Marketing Science in the latest edition of World Marketing Congress), Zeigler has been in the business for almost 30 years.

He started his career on the client side with Nabisco, Carnation, Nicholas Kiwi and Campbell’s Soups. He launched Kuczynski & Zeigler in 1986, which was acquired by DDB Worldwide in 1992. Since then, he has held leadership roles in the DDB network in Australia, New York, Dallas and Singapore.

As a former client, Zeigler loves the word ‘connect’. “Brands must know how to endlessly connect to the ‘unchanging man’, the consumer” as what DDB founder, Bill Bernbach referred to years ago.

“A communicator must be concerned with the unchanging man. A man’s desire to achieve, to survive, to thrive, to look after his own, that’s the person we need to understand,” he says.

To Zeigler, connecting also means not forgetting the people who butter the agency’s bread: The client. “The client is the integrator. If he does not buy your ad, you lose the connection,” emphasizing the importance of relationship in business building.

In today’s cutthroat competition, ad agencies have varying degrees of connection with clients. Either they are allies, yes-sir-kind, one-sided, short-term or business partners through thick and thin.

“Agencies must live and breathe the client’s business if they want the relationship to last,” Zeigler says.

“We must reach out to our clients and ask the right questions. Do the ‘coffee strategy’. Call and ask them out for coffee. Don’t wait for them to give you a brief. Ask: “how is your business?” What keeps you up at night? Then shut-up and just listen,” he says.

Creativity, the hard currency

Someone has said that creativity is good karma for agencies and clients, and it’s great for building team spirit. Truth is, everyone wants to belong to a winning agency.

Zeigler believes that agencies with big ideas for creativity “can drive any business forward.” While some clients still don’t understand the value of awards, Zeigler says they can be educated to creatively think for the good of the business.

He says a creative agency will always have the edge over one that is not. An agency that has been consistently recognized for the quality of its work can be an important factor in their decision making process to select an agency it wants to engage with.

When he was a client, Zeigler only cared about motivating his sales force to achieve financial targets. Having been to both sides of the fence and seen the big picture, he says clients should produce category-breaking work and engage with ad agencies known for their ideas and creativity.

In Mumbrella Asia, Zeigler stresses the importance of creative campaigns as a way to differentiate brands from their competition and to generate better business results.

“Great creativity will help clients keep their jobs longer, enable them to be paid more and be promoted to higher levels. It is a client’s secret weapon,” he says.

He points to a 2-year old research from a UK ad industry body that proved award-winning work is 12 times more effective than non-awarded work. “Ideas should be bigger than media plans,” he says.

He challenges clients to reduce their media spend and reallocate precious resources to the development of better ideas and creative thinking, dramatizing the famous Bernbach line: “A great ad can do the power of ten.”

Stop thinking like an ad agency

Asked on how he wants to see DDB Asia five years from now, Zeigler says he wants DDB to be known as a powerful network that not only develops effective and world-class creativity but also invents products for humanity.

He mentions how DDB Singapore invented an app to make visually impaired people to ‘see’ and praises a DDB Sydney-made app to make people arrive home safely.

Zeigler is proud of the fact that the DDB Asia-Pacific region has become the role model for DDB worldwide because of its “Creativity for Humanity” mantra.

“Today is an exciting time to deliver long-term value and do fundamental changes to influence clients better,” he says.

Zeigler says agencies should go beyond traditional ad agency work. He advises young ad people not to talk about the ad, but talk more about the business.

Why? “Because it is an opportunity for the ad industry to reinvent itself as we are in the business of finding creative solutions. We’re here to make their business grow, not just to make ads,” he says.

On why DDB Asia is making a dramatic comeback in the region, Zeigler says it’s because of the DDB heritage of creativity that works.

“We have the best people in every local market. We are truly global not only in structure, but also in perspective. Our creative rating and reporting systems are stringent. Culturally, we are strong,” he says.

His parting shot to local DDBers: “We all have to go through the daily grind to pay for our bills, but never forget that we all want to achieve greatness, because nobody goes to bed at night and think, “Thank, God, I’m average.”

Good isn’t good enough, Zeigler says. “Push yourself to do more with your talent. With our limited time on this planet, write down three big ideas you want to own then go forth and change the world.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014


by Roger Pe
Philippine Daily Inquirer
July 11, 2014 issue

When the World Cup, watched by 1 billion televiewers all over the globe ends in Rio de Janeiro, there will definitely be new soccer superstars. Not only will they be revered as heroes in their home countries, they’ll be first thing on marketers’ agendas. They’ll be offered juicy endorsement contracts on a silver platter.

American goalie Tim Howard is one of them and he is destined to become a millionaire.

Advertisers are now chasing Howard though USA didn’t make it to the quarterfinals. Reason: Howard turned back 16 shots blasted by Belgian booters in their do-or-die game, the most saves ever recorded in a single World Cup match.

Second, the USA-Belgium face-off was the highest rated soccer game in the history of U.S. cable TV, registering 21.6 million viewers. Third, Howard’s name was tweeted 1.8 million times on Twitter. He was also named “Man of the Match” at the end of the game and voted as World Cup’s Best Goalie halfway through the tournament.

Rodriguez of Colombia, Messi of Argentina, Muller of Germany, Robben of Netherlands, Neymar (before his fractured vertebra) of Brazil are just some of the players now being relentlessly hounded by endorsement agents. The new poster boys of soccer, half of them good-looking, are enjoying a global following because of their incredible skills. So who needs Beckham and Ronaldo?

Back home, how many brands have the Younghusband brothers endorsed? Quite a few and for sure, more brands will be knocking on their doors now that the world’s most watched tv event is reaching the final stage.

In her latest tv commercial, Kris Aquino walks in a fastfood restaurant and is served a new dish on the menu. She picks up a chicken drumstick, fried Chinese-style, and chomps nonchalantly. She then mouths her favorite line uniquely her own: “Bongga!”

In another, she portrays a glamorous girl endorsing a phablet, big enough to type letters on touchscreen and conveniently small enough to slide in a purse. Prior to that, she, too, promoted a handset that sold like hotcakes. The former endorser of a major telecom brand is now also brand ambassador of its main competitor.

Aquino’s adography would probably list a number of product categories. Love her or hate her, the stats wouldn’t lie. She is the country’s undisputed top celebrity endorser.

You see the presidential sister morning and night on television. She is likewise omnipresent on outdoor advertising all over the metro. The “Queen of Talk” or “Queen of All Media” is now gliding her way to “Queen of Endorsements” grand slam title.

Kris was once dubbed as “Queen of Horror Movies” but is all set to reclaim the tiara when she sinks her acting fangs into the new sequel of “Feng Shui”, one of the country’s all-time blockbusters. Can she annex another crown? The “Queen of Box-Office” title is not farfetched.

Philippines’ top research company Nielsen, Starmometer, the total entertainment blog and StratPolls, a private national consulting firm specializing in quantitative and qualitative research-analysis, confirm Aquino’s number one ranking.

Last year, Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Kris Aquino was the top celebrity endorser for 2011 and was also the No.1 taxpayer for the same year. She was the 6th biggest taxpayer for 2012 and remitted P49.87 million and P44.93 million in taxes for the same years, respectively.

In StratPolls 2013 survey, conducted among 500 respondents and included Inquirer’s above-mentioned report, Aquino once again topped the list. The Top 10 are as follows:

1. Kris Aquino 2. Vic Sotto 3. Anne Curtis 4-5. Sarah Geronimo, Coco Martin 6. Judy Ann Santos 7. John Lloyd Cruz 8-9. Kim Chiu 8-9. Richard Yap 10. Daniel Padilla

What makes Kris Aquino tick? Why do advertisers trust her? Why is she consistently on top? Here’s why marketers use celebrities to market their brands before Business Friday answers that.

One need not read marketing books to know that ads with celebrities easily get people’s attention. All things equal, an ad with a celebrity can make your brand more noticeable.

PR is also one of the most invaluable benefits advertisers get from celebrity endorsements. The celebrity becomes brand ambassador and with strong credibility, influence and positive attributes, he or she can induce saleability.

An endorsement makes brands real. It shows that brands exist. As people, especially the ‘masa’, are impressionable, they readily would want to identify with their favorite celebrities. Advertisers that are smart usually take this advantage, striking while the iron is hot, making hay while the sun brilliantly shines. Some literally hitch their wagons to star.

Business Friday randomly interviews students, marketing, communications and ad industry people on celebrity endorsement, why they think Kris Aquino is on a roll and her endorsement power. Here are some interesting insights:

Don Rapadas, PhD student, UP College of Mass Communication:

“The way it is done in the Philippines is largely influenced by a majority of the population that is star-struck. We love teleseryes as much as we love basketball and beauty pageants. We tend to believe celebrities because they are beautiful, famous, and because they ‘connect’ to us by the characters that they become, whether on or off screen.

It is this psychological ‘connection’ that advertisers and marketers exploit. After all, isn’t advertising all about persuasion? “I use this shampoo because Sarah Geronimo uses it or I prefer San Marino over Century Tuna because Kris Aquino likes it. Never mind that those commercials had bad copy or poor logic. The celebrity factor always sells to most of us.” On Kris Aquino: “Let’s give it to her - she can sell even the wind.”

Mila Marquez, ASC (Ad Standards Council) Executive Director:

“Kris Aquino has talk value. Even if she is polarizing (either you like her or hate her) people like to follow what she is up to.”

Elaine Mapa, Director for Operations,
Essential Philippines

“She is brutally frank, that makes her popular. She has balls to even share about her latest heartache even if it is so out of the rack but people watch her.”

Adee Caluag, Managing Partner, Crafty Pig Creative Services

“I think she continues to be a top celebrity endorser because of the market she caters to. C and D, in my opinion, see her as what they can be in another life.

She talks like them, dwelling on the same subjects: her love life, sex life, her sons, friends, etc. At the same time, she has what they don't have but wish they have like money, fame, etc. She functions as both a representative and an aspirational person for them.

I think what they trust is really her popularity and not her, per se. You ride on the coat tails of someone popular so that her fans will see you as her ally, thus theirs. Ad agencies get her because she's popular. She's always on the news, for better or worse.”

Ja Sioson, Industrial Design Graduate, Young Entrepreneur:

“Using celebrities is a good marketing strategy. They can strongly influence people because of their popularity. Since people idolize them, it is easy to win them over.”

Mercie Terana, former McCann and BBDO Art Director, now successful global exporter of Pinoy handcrafted items:

“She is very honest in so many ways. She tells all, to the extent that she could be tactless most of the time. The No.1 factor I think why people like her is the image of her parents. It makes her popular.”

Millions of money in talent fees, business deals, perks, more fame and accompanying fortune, so is it always a bed of roses for celebrity endorsers?

Not quite. Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, Sharon Stone, Kate Moss, Michael Phelps, Zhang Ziyi, LeBron James and others lost big endorsement contracts when they got into scandals. That’s the gloomy side of using celebrities but it’s an entirely another story.