The Love Affair is Over

After nearly two years of consciously choosing to spend both time and money with them, I am bidding farewell to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Never mind that I once professed undying love for their Extreme Ice Blended Vanilla No Sugar Added drink, or that they’ve recently introduced a Splenda-sweetened poppyseed loaf slice to their menu (something irresistible to someone like me who avoids sugar). Conspicuous consumption issues aside, the reason I stuck with the Coffee Bean for such a long time is because their service was top-notch, and they really made you feel comfortable in their cafes. The loyalty program they set up with the use of pink cards (which enabled you to claim a free drink after buying 12 drinks) and later on Swirl Cards (which stores prepaid credit and rebates per P100 worth of purchases) kept me coming back.

Coinciding with their recent expansion (they’ve opened branches all over the metro, including Trinoma, SM North EDSA The Block, and Bonifacio High Street) came a deterioration in their value for money. No Sugar Added powders never came at extra cost before; now, asking for NSA powder instead of regular powder adds an additional P10 to the total cost of a drink — which is already pricey enough, with very few drinks priced below P100.

I might have tolerated the price increase if it weren’t for the drop in the quality of service as well. My sister found it increasingly difficult to make use of the prepaid credit she had paid for on her Swirl Card, but the last straw for her was the staff at CBTL Eastwood switching her card (loaded with P500, plus stored points from her previous purchases) with someone else’s card (loaded with nothing). She only found this out when she wanted to use her credit at CBTL Ortigas Park. And the crew even treated her like she was lying to them that it was not her card. She asked them to fix this problem three whole months ago, and it still hasn’t been resolved.

As for me, the turning point was at CBTL Promenade. I had already computed that my drink would have 10 pesos on top of the listed price on the board because I had asked for NSA powder in my Regular Extreme Ice Blended Mocha. So I just handed my 500 pesos to them and waited for my change. As they punched my order in, I realized that they were charging me an additional 10 pesos on top of my computed price. I said, “I ordered a REGULAR,” remembering that the barista had even repeated my order back at me. “It’s not a LARGE?” the barista asked, confused, closing the register and printing my receipt.

The manager had to come and fix what had been punched in, then asked me, “You don’t want to make it a LARGE?” I stood my ground. But it wasn’t over yet. When they finally handed me the correct receipt, I still hadn’t received the proper change for my P500 and it took another few minutes to get my money.

With issues like this, I can’t help feeling like I’m being robbed at point-blank range every time I step into a Coffee Bean these days. Gimme a Starbucks any time. Sure they might be the McDonald’s of overpriced coffee shops, but even McDonald’s has superb quality control.

UPDATE 11/09/2007: I received a nice comment on my Livejournal post concerning this issue from Paulo Perez of CBTL Promenade. Here it is:

Hi Noelle! Good day to you. Just want to apologize in CBTL Promenade’s behalf about the incident. Rest assured steps have been taken to avoid this incident from happening again. Thank you for your feedback. We really appreciate it. Hope you can visit us again at the Promenade. Please feel free to send me your contact number at [email address redacted] so we can contact you and personally assist you in your next visit here.

All the best,

Paulo

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BOMB!

“Did Ayala Malls and SM Corp have a major disagreement, and that’s why they closed their bridgeway?” I asked myself in disbelief as I confronted the wall of steel blocking my way through the glass doors to Glorietta. I had just enjoyed a quick (and late) lunch at McDonald’s in SM Makati and was supposed to wend my way through Glorietta and Greenbelt before crossing Ayala Avenue on my way to the Living Asia office. I shrugged my shoulders and took an escalator down, hoping to enter Glorietta at the ground level.

As I started to exit SM, I noticed a whole lot of people just standing in front of Glorietta’s entrance. The mall’s interiors were dimly lit and the establishments inside looked closed. My stomach churned as I started to catch whispers of explosions and bombs.

Because the establishments on the perimeter of Glorietta were open, I stepped inside a Mercury Drug and asked the guard why the mall was closed. “May sumabog sa loob (Something exploded inside [the mall]),” he explained. “May patay (Someone died).”

Kailan nangyari? (When did it happen?)” I asked, feeling my lunch start to rise into my throat.

Mga 1:30 (At 1:30),” he informed me.

I walked toward Glorietta Park where several small groups of people had gathered into their own small circles gazing up at the mall’s facade. I took out my cellphone and found my parents and sister had gone nuts texting and calling me asking me to avoid Glorietta because a bomb had gone off there. And boy, did I know it. Between taking their calls and sending text messages back, I took some photos and video of the organized chaos in front of Glorietta and noted the helicopter making repeated runs in the airspace overhead.

lots of people fronting Glorietta

As I walked down Ayala Avenue and crossed toward the Makati Stock Exchange, I was walking with a group of people that included a young couple and their daughter. The father was carrying the little girl and the couple tried their best to be calm around her. Then, as we reached the Stock Exchange, the father passed their daughter into the mother’s arms as he walked inside a bank. The little girl asked the mother something, to which she replied, “E diba may sumabog sa Glorietta? Hindi ba katabi natin yun? (Didn’t something explode in Glorietta? Weren’t we standing next to it?)” I took a closer look at them. They were carrying hardly anything, and the daughter was sock-footed and holding her sole shoe in her hand.

mother carrying her daughter away

I had arrived at SM some time around 2:20pm. An MMDA truck and the ever-vigilant media (represented by ABS-CBN News) already were parked out front. The SOCO police van arrived just as I was walking away from the scene, continuing on my way. They — and I — had only missed the explosion by an hour.

SOCO arrives one hour after the explosion

I’d been delayed in my trip to Makati because of a traffic jam at Ortigas when I dropped my sister off at her meeting in Megamall, unaware that a 3-day sale had commenced today. Then, I had chosen to park in Shangri-La Mall and took the MRT from Shaw Station to Ayala Station, which connected into SM Makati. I had been so overcome by hunger that I chose to eat first before continuing into Glorietta. So I couldn’t help feeling like I’d been saved by the skin of my teeth from peril, however remote it now felt. Thank God!

UPDATE 4pm: It was a bomb, according to the police.

I’ll have photos and video up when I get home. I’m posting this from a computer workstation at the Fitness First in Makati.

UPDATE 7pm: Photos are now up. And MLQ3 has referenced this post, as well as my friend Joanne’s Multiply blog post.

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Turning into a Girly Girl

When I was younger, my mom let my sister and me play with her stuff: clothes, shoes, and even the make-up in her dresser drawer. But even though I played with her heels and learned in my own fashion to apply make-up, I still ended up barefaced every day and wearing flip-flops and flats. Life was simple.

That is, until recently, and I’m pretty worried — for my pocketbook, that is. I’ve done more shopping in the past two months than I have in the past half-year. And it’s not just any shopping (you can, after all, shop for food). It’s shopping for clothes, shoes, and make-up.

Clothes: The less I spend on food, the more I spend on clothes. I remember five years ago when I would come home depressed from a mall trip because nothing fit me (except shoes). Now I come home with shopping bags full of clothing, but depressed because there’s nothing in my wallet. Ü

Shoes: Okay, I admit I’ve always been a shoe addict, but I always buy for practical reasons, like replacing a year-old pair of trainers, getting higher heels for a “modeling” gig, and buying boots as part of a costume.

Make-Up: Yup. The day before yesterday, I went out and bought myself some liquid foundation. The weekend before that, I asked my mom to buy me a sponge for my powder compact, a blush brush and some blush powder. The weekend before that, I did my own stage make-up for the BodyCombat event — twice, with two different looks. And for the past two days, I’ve had make-up done. With glitter, people!

Now if loving to shop for shoes, clothes, and make-up are hallmarks of being a girly girl, then I might just be turning into one. At some point, it could turn into a chore getting all gussied up with the junk I buy, but right now it’s a lot of fun.

(Thanks to Ade for accompanying me while I bought my boots. I hope I didn’t turn you into a “Gay Best Friend, Only Straight.” Ü)

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Noelle, Queen of Oops!

I didn’t want to write about this before it had come to its conclusion, superstitiously thinking that I might jinx myself. Well, there’s no chance of that happening now.

After three weeks, I am now out of the running to be the next RX 93.1 Radio Idol. I recorded my audition reel on September 25. It was aired on October 2, and the next day someone from RX texted me telling me I had gone through to the next round.

Noelle with earphones

Of course I was excited, but had no idea what to expect. Considering I only started listening regularly to the radio a few months ago, I hadn’t really paid attention to the whole flow of the Radio Idol contest. Basically, people who want to become DJs for the radio station try to avoid getting knocked out in the earlier rounds by competing in batches through a series of challenges. This week was the second round and I faced off against three other people: Ellen, Randy, and Luis.

I'm doomed! They all look so serious!

So last night I sat in a booth with the other three “DJ wannabes” and Rico and Danielle, the Radio Idol hosts. After we all introduced ourselves over the air, we each had to pull a topic out of a box labeled “J.Lo’s” (weird, I know) and talk for 30 seconds about the random topic.

My co-competitors were nice; we all kind of bonded in the hour before our show was due to start and we spent the time talking about random stuff, like Spongebob Squarepants. Just before the show started, I had told my companions that OPM was my weakest suit in music. Unfortunately, that was the genre I pulled out of the box. “Rivermaya”, the piece of paper read.

All I knew, every witty remark I had in my brain — it felt like someone had taken my head, unscrewed the top off it, and emptied its contents into a wastebasket. I felt like Patrick Star when asked if he wanted fries with his Krabby Patty (i.e., “DUUUUUUUH” was the only thing sounding in my head).

mic fright

So, in short, I embarrassed myself on national radio before the ears of thousands of listeners. Right then I already knew I’d have the “Not Worthy” stinger played after my name at show’s end.

But guess what? I’m more broken up about sounding like a fool than about losing the contest. I didn’t want it as much as the two “Worthy” contestants Ellen and Randy did. But Luis has been trying for nine years to get into RX, and this is his second time on Radio Idol.

It’s probably not my time, nor God’s will for me to go into radio this way. As Gelli texted me after the show, there are other opportunities, other openings. While there’s the Wildcard entry that may still be open to me in Radio Idol, I’m not really counting on it. Like I told Randy last night, I’m just interested in seeing where I fit in, where I can excel. I learn that through both being accepted and being rejected.

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The Main Event

Fitness First had a big show last night called The Main Event. Each club had handpicked 12 people to represent them in this event, where the teams faced off against each other in displays of synchronization, technique, energy, and team unity as they participated in BodyCombat, a martial arts-based non-contact cardio workout.

Fitness First: The Main Event

The extent of my participation in this was limited to the BodyJam production number and the cooldown, but even those were eventful in themselves.

I’m still trying to collect all the photos I can of the event because I have a lot of stories to tell. This is the first time I’ve ever been in anything this big as part of the production team, not as a participant. Interesting tidbit though: this event was held exactly one year to the day I competed in the Nike Rockstar Bollywood final. Ü

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Domain-atrix

Well, after more than a whole year procrastinating, I’ve gotten myself a personal domain. My friend JR, who so graciously hosted me on Scrufus.net, has set up a redirect so that the old subdomain (noelle.scrufus.net) and its pages will redirect to the new domain (noelledeguzman.com). But please do update your links if you can.

I am finally master of the universe my domain! Ü