It’s tough to take a hard line on rule of law here in the Philippines. We live in a culture that flouts laws and regulations regularly: have you seen the jeepneys that load passengers right in front of “No Loading/Unloading” signs, or the people that smoke beside “No Smoking” signs?

I get so disappointed every time I see something wrong and nothing done about it either due to apathy, or due to corruption. This really hit home today when I came down to the parking area through my condo elevator and saw stacks of grocery goods waiting to be carted up to the commercial-scale minimart operating inside my residential condo.

I already sent a letter of complaint to the developer, DMCI Homes, but didn’t receive any response on it. So I’m publishing my complaint letter here on my blog (with some redactions to preserve privacy) in hopes that this wakes up the head honchos to do something about this mess.

Why I even have to resort to public shaming to get wheels moving is a uniquely Filipino trait. There needs to be a threat of bad publicity before anything is done, both in the public and private sector. Hay nako.

UPDATE: A few days after I wrote this blog post, a circular was sent to all residents advising them not to patronize the store because it had already been served with a final and demand notice. Last week, the store closed and all its stock was removed.

I’m hoping that’s the end of it, so I’ve removed my complaint letter from this post.

Post-Valentine’s Speed Date with the Philippine Volcanoes

Believe it or not, I’ve never been on a real Valentine’s date. In fact, this year I had work on February 14. But that was OK, because I was looking forward to February 15 when I would be speed-dating a few of the Philippine Volcanoes. No, not Mayon or Pinatubo or Taal…

Speed Date with the Volcanoes: The Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire ain't got nothing on THESE Volcanoes.

I first became aware of the Philippine national rugby team from their Bench Body billboards last year, and from a press lunch Globe Telecom gave last year to publicize their continuing sponsorship of the team. Turns out, the Volcanoes have posted far better results in the international scene than the national football team. They’ve even been invited to take part in the Hong Kong Sevens this March, which is considered the premier tournament on the IRB Sevens World Series in rugby sevens (a variant of rugby union).

Speed Date with the Volcanoes: Coach Matthew Cullen

Coach Matt giving a few updates about the Volcanoes

This year, the Volcanoes are poised to make a bigger impression on the Philippine sports psyche. Aside from inking a television deal with GMA7 which will ensure their games can be watched on national TV, the Philippine Rugby Football Union will also be hosting some major international rugby tournaments in Rizal Stadium. Exciting!

Our speed-dating event organized by Globe also promised to be exciting. There were seven smoking-hot Volcanoes present that night: Chris Everingham, Jon Morales, Jake Letts, Nick Perry, Darran Seeto, Kenneth Stern, and Andrew Wolff. Four batches of seven women each were given two minutes of time with each player, which meant that each of these Volcanoes had to socialize and make nice with 28 women! (Poor fellas.)

Speed Date with the Volcanoes: Round 1

Let's call this a dating treadmill.

This event was also a sort of launch for Globe’s post-Valentine promo giving free Facebook access to Globe and Touch Mobile subscribers with internet-capable phones (excluding BlackBerry phones, which require a BlackBerry data plan, and Opera browsers, which access Facebook through a proxy). You can register to the promo by texting “FREE FB” to 8888 or dialing *143#. After your registration is confirmed, you can browse Facebook by accessing it through via phone browser or by using your phone’s Facebook app.

We were all each loaned a smartphone so we could take photos of ourselves with the players within the two minutes we had with each of them. At the end of the night, the photos would be uploaded to Facebook using Globe’s mobile data service and posted to the Globe MDS Facebook account.

Speed Date with the Volcanoes: Trouble with the Camera

having trouble taking a photo of myself with Kenneth Stern

I was part of the last batch, so my friends Karen, Faith, Tiara, and Marbbie (who had all had their turns before me) tasked me with some cheeky follow-up questions. OH-KAY.

Speed Date with the Volcanoes: Cheat Sheet

Inquiring minds want to know.

The boys were extremely nice during the speed-dates even though we kind of figured they’d be shell-shocked by the end of the evening. I have to say getting to talk with them albeit briefly has made me more curious about the sport they play. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the Volcanoes this year.

Noelle De Guzman is a Globe Mobile Data Services Brand Ambassador.

Coffee Bean Promo at Two E-Com Center Branch, MOA

For quiet moments with a cup of tea or coffee, I seek refuge inside a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Back when they still had electric outlets I could plug my laptop into, I would do most of my writing and blogging work there. Now that leeching off their electricity is no longer an option, I still go to CBTL just to hang out with my friends. I guess it’s because their interior design dampens any conversation noise, so it doesn’t sound like a McDonald’s.

Anyway I got a heads-up about a promo they’re running at their newest branch at Two E-Com Center in Mall of Asia (this is on the IMAX side). From February 18 to 24, 2012 from 12:30 to 1:30pm, customers can get their favorite drink for only P100.

Coffee Bean opens at Two E-Com Center, Mall of Asia Complex

Coffee Bean promo: P100 for signature drinks

I’m supposed to head to Mall of Asia sometime soon because I heard Mizuno put up a giant wall poster of me in their store. I think I’ll drop by the Coffee Bean then to get my favorite drink, a Tropical Passion Tea Latte.

Thank You, Brooke

If you haven’t been following my Twitter feed, you might not have known that for the past nine months, I’ve been waiting to be a Tita Noelle to my niece, Brooke Gabrielle Manahan. (Well, I’m her godmother, so it’s Ninang Noelle.)

From the first day my sister voiced her thought that her period was late I told her that she was pregnant. When it was confirmed with a pregnancy test and ultrasound, our excitement knew no bounds.

Michael and Marielle decided to name their daughter Brooke after the New Zealand singer Brooke Fraser. Apart from her professional solo recording career as a folk/pop singer, Ms. Fraser is also a singer and songwriter for the worship group Hillsong.

Shadowfeet by Brooke Fraser

Our journey with little Brooke had its ups and downs, especially when we were told on her fifth month that the ultrasound had detected some congenital anomalies. We have a wonderful spiritual family at Victory Ortigas who came together with us and prayed with us throughout the next four months, helping strengthen our faith in God. An ultrasound at six months showed that Brooke was normal and we would have a healthy baby girl with us in three months’ time.

Last Thursday my sister and brother-in-law went for her weekly checkup; it’s S.O.P. that women at nine months’ pregnancy have to see their OB that regularly. When her OB (who is also our aunt) saw that she was already in early labor, Marielle was immediately scheduled for emergency caesarian section due to her pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, also known as pre-eclampsia. On February 2, 2012, my niece Brooke was born.

Baby Brooke wasn’t breathing when she was delivered, so the doctors attempted to resuscitate her, finally hooking her up to a respirator at the Newborn ICU. Still, it was clear to us that she wouldn’t live long. I thought she wouldn’t last the night. Then the first miracle happened: in the early hours of Friday morning, Brooke was taken off the respirator and started breathing on her own!

Marielle, after her CS, got up and walked earlier than we thought she would because of her desire to see her child. So despite the pain and discomfort, we all were able to go see Brooke and even dedicate her to the LORD. It was here that another miracle happened: Brooke turned her head toward her parents as she heard them speak to her. A one-day-old infant is not able to determine the location of sounds, so that was wonderful that she was able to acknowledge their presence. And as Michael and Marielle reached out to hold her in their arms, Brooke cried for the first time.

Since Brooke remained stable the rest of Friday until the evening, I went home to rest and to take care of some errands. I finished them quickly on Saturday and headed back to the hospital. Unfortunately, I went via Aurora Boulevard, which is where the Bourne Legacy was filming that day. While I was stuck in that traffic jam, I received news that Brooke had died.

It was hard being just a few kilometers away and missing seeing Brooke one last time. I was mad at myself because I had an opportunity to take another route, but didn’t. I was mad at the Bourne Legacy crew for screwing up traffic. I was mad at the MMDA for allowing use of Aurora Boulevard when they knew there were few alternate roads.

And then I got to the hospital where I found Brooke breathing and alive in her mother’s arms. Another miracle: she had been pronounced dead, but her heart and her breathing spontaneously began again.

She was touch-and-go, but every time Michael and Marielle held her, she rallied. God gave us 12 more hours with Brooke, allowing my grandparents time to fly in, to see her and hold her. And when we had all accepted that Brooke’s time was near, that’s when she went.

For three glorious days, I was Tita and Ninang Noelle to the bravest, strongest little girl I know. Although we’re sad now, I’ll see her again in Heaven.

Yesterday we held a memorial service in her memory, and during the worship time we had, we sang “Desert Song” by Hillsong (lead vocals by Brooke Fraser and Jill McLoghry). I wanted to put the song up here because it spoke to me so clearly:

This is my prayer in the desert
When all that’s within me feels dry
This is my prayer in my hunger and need
My God is the God who provides

This is my prayer in the fire
In weakness or trial or pain
There is a faith proved
Of more worth than gold
So refine me Lord through the flame

I will bring praise
I will bring praise
No weapon formed against me shall remain
I will rejoice
I will declare
God is my victory and He is here

When I did my research on “Desert Song”, I found that the singer, Jill, had lost her son Max a few weeks before she had to record the song. She went into premature labor and gave birth to him at 23 weeks old. They had only a full day with him before he went home to the LORD. Her response was to choose to worship God despite her sorrow and grief.

Desert Song testimony

Thank you, Brooke Gabrielle Manahan. God used you mightily in touching so many people’s lives. And now I know that despite any circumstance, I can still worship God and praise Him.

This is my prayer in the harvest
When favour and providence flow
I know I’m filled to be emptied again
The seed I’ve received I will sow

Diving into Dove Hair Care

My mom sounded alarm bells on my hair a few months ago. She told me it was getting thin on top, and my forehead looked wider and higher than it used to. (Receding hairline? NOOOOOOO!)

Since then I’ve been using a hair fall control shampoo and tonic from the dermatologist’s office. I don’t know if it’s just my imagination or if my hair has really begun to regain its thickness. However, it’s also made my hair feel more coarse. Weird!

Without knowing about my hair woes, Dove one day sent me a basket of goodies from their new Dove Damage Therapy line.

Dove Damage Therapy

Damage Therapy, compliments of Dove

  1. Nourishing Oil Care Nutri-Oil Serum: improves dull and frizzy hair without lustre and shine
  2. Intense Repair Daily Treatment Conditioner: a conditioner plus treatment for stronger, smoother, and softer hair
  3. Intense Repair Conditioner: to be used in tandem with
  4. Intense Repair Shampoo: offers 9 times less split ends in just 3 washes
  5. Intense Repair Overnight Treatment: restores depleted protein, to be used at least once a week
  6. 2-Step Treatment: repairs hair exposed to frequent styling
  7. Intense Repair Treatment Mask: weekly treatment that reconstructs the hair’s internal structure while protecting from damaging styling habits and environmental factors

All these bottles will certainly last me a long while! I’m about to use the treatment mask, just to deep-condition my hair. I’m not sure how different the daily treatment conditioner is from the regular conditioner, and the overnight treatment sounds like it does the same thing as the treatment mask (only that one is a serum and the other is a creme).

I’ve heard good things about it from other bloggers, like Nikki Tiu and Tara Cabullo. Let’s see if what worked for them will also work for me. Meanwhile, I’ve got to get into the shower. Later!