A Morning at Mercato Centrale BGC

Back when Mercato Centrale first opened near Bonifacio High Street in 2010 for its Morning Mercato market, I would drop by on Sundays after a race for some food and drink. I was already familiar with the concept of weekend markets where fresh food and produce were offered, since my family and I frequented the one that used to be held at the Lung Center of the Philippines compound on Quezon Avenue. Still, the charm of each weekend market is the variety; they don’t all have the same concessionaires, so you could have a completely different food and shopping experience from one market to another.

fresh produce
organic produce fresh off the farm

Today, Morning Mercato re-opened in its original location at the corner of 30th Street and 9th Avenue in BGC. It’ll be there on Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 2pm through November and December. (Midnight Mercato will still be held at the Mercato tent near Turf BGC.) Read more

Driving in the City

I drive a lot around this city of mine, which in reality is a cluster of 16 cities all huddled together near the mouth of Pasig River on the eastern coast of Luzon island. Metro Manila is my ‘hood, yo, and negotiating the maze of streets is almost second nature to me.

It is, however, a nightmare to get around if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. I have a few friends who shy away from meeting up if they’ve never been to the venue or area, and I still get lost on occasion. No, wait, I don’t get lost. I just temporarily find myself in a different location from where I want to be. 😉

Today I attempted to get to the Manila Diamond Hotel where my mom is booked because she’s attending a medical society conference. I’m not familiar with establishments and roads in the Roxas Boulevard area, so I attempted to use Google Maps to find an acceptable route.

Turns out, I know the ins and outs Manila better than Google Maps. I was driving on Gil Puyat (Buendia) heading towards Roxas Boulevard, but Google Maps told me to take a U-turn and head back to EDSA, and only at the endpoint of EDSA would I be able to get onto Roxas. The Buendia route I was already on was shorter and more straightforward, so I ignored Google Maps. By doing so, I also avoided the usual horrendous traffic build-up near the EDSA-Taft intersection.

Traffic’s another thing you’ve got to master when getting around Metro Manila. I’m thankful there’s a handy smartphone app from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which shows you at a glance how heavy traffic is on major roads, particularly C-5 and EDSA. But only the uninitiated would take these roads during rush hour (which is actually rush two-, three-, or four-hours, depending on whether there was an accident or if it rained).

The roads less traveled parallel to the national highways can cut hours off travel time. You may already have traveled those roads before, but would never have connected them together into an alternate route unless you take a chance on them. There was one time I picked my mom up from the airport in Pasay and was driving her northbound to her office in Greenhills. A huge traffic jam had built up on EDSA-Guadalupe, so I took the off-ramp towards Rockwell/Estrella Street. From there, we took a bridge over the Pasig River, wove through the streets of Mandaluyong, and emerged on Wilson Street in Greenhills just a kilometer away from our destination. It had only taken us 30 minutes to negotiate, and in a city where it takes an hour to get anywhere, that’s major.

I do wish there were a way to get around the city faster, cheaper, and environmentally-friendlier than driving a car. I hope I live to see the day an extensive rail line and efficient public transport can get me around town. Or someday maybe I could even bike to work safely?

Take Care from Garnier

I rarely get invited to beauty events these days, mostly because I rarely blog about makeup and skin care now. It was nice receiving an invite from Garnier to attend their Get Active Campus Challenge culminating event at Enderun Colleges a few weeks ago. The event was only very obliquely about Garnier’s line of skin care products. Rather, the Get Active Campus Challenge sponsored youth groups from nine schools in the country to create and run campaigns for a variety of advocacies: health and wellness, community development, the environment, women empowerment and more.

Garnier Event
Garnier beauty advocate Georgina Wilson with student representatives and event host Atom Araullo

The brand’s tagline “Take Care” was expanded to mean not just take care of oneself, but also of others in the community and groups in need.

Congratulations to the University of Mindanao on winning the grand prize of P100,000 for their Small Spaces, Big Returns urban container gardening campaign. Their project educated NSTP students and communities on using small urban spaces for sustainable gardening. According to the UM organizers, one community has now begun an income-generating seedling nursery based on what they learned.

[instagram url=http://instagr.am/p/Q7IcrrhZB2/ size=medium addlink=yes]
photo from Garnier’s Instagram account

It’s great seeing a skin care brand branch out into community service. I just checked their Facebook page and learned that every time you buy a Garnier product at Mercury Drug outlets, part of what you pay goes to World Vision, which funds education for children in need. Now that’s how you “Take Care.”

Brighten Childrens Futures with Garnier

Terrazas de Punta Fuego

I was supposed to go on a surfing trip to La Union with my girls Jenny, Bianca, and Sheila last weekend. We conceived the idea over Twitter more than a month ago but for some strange reason, none of us ever got around to actually booking a room at any of the resorts over there or making transport arrangements. And so, last Monday, we figured we might as well just do a day trip to Punta Fuego in Batangas, where Jenny is a member.

Punta Fuego

Batangas is about three hours away from Metro Manila, if you’re traveling leisurely like we were. There are a number of beach and country clubs in this area. The one I’m more frequently at, Pico de Loro at Hamilo Coast, is about an hour away from Punta Fuego and is a bit too far-flung to be a day trip spot. In this respect, Punta Fuego was a good day getaway because it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to get there.

What did we do there? Well, not the water sports since we don’t really like banana boats, and jet ski rentals were overpriced. We just rented a small cabana and the girls snoozed and read the day away. I wandered off to the infinity pool and did a bit of swimming and tanning there.

Poolside

I would have wanted to swim in the sea, but walking on the sand was off-putting because a lot of rubbish lay around on the sand. The beach isn’t protected by a cove that keeps trash from washing up onshore, and there are resorts bordering Punta Fuego that aren’t scrupulously careful with waste disposal. Additionally, it was stressful fending off hawkers and vendors who had walked up from the other resorts.

It’s sad that in a country that’s an archipelago, there are not a lot of quality beaches a short hop away from Metro Manila, unless I go off the beaten path.

David Guetta in Manila

I’m an electronic dance music (EDM) lover. I haven’t really thought of why; in this country, among my age bracket, hip-hop was always the big thing when it came to clubbing and dancing. But when I look at my playlists from way back when I first could download MP3’s, there’s always an EDM track in there somewhere.

One of the oldest EDM songs on my iPod is this track called “True House” which I first heard in a movie called “True Vinyl“. According to the end credits, it was spun by David Guetta. I have a habit of googling other songs an artist has recorded or collaborated on, so it wasn’t long before I’d built up a collection of other Guetta tracks.

Fast-forward to about 10 years down the line; I’ve become a BODYJAM instructor who dances to EDM day-in, day-out, and I’m hearing Guetta not just in EDM playlists, but on Top 40 radio due to his collaborations with pop, rap, and urban music acts such as the Black Eyed Peas, Nicki Minaj, Snoop Dogg, and Usher. And so the scene was set for me drooling for tickets to his massive show last Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

David Guetta in Manila: At Work

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Why I Oppose the Cybercrime Law (Even if Mainstream Media Doesn’t)

I’m not a miscreant — someone who wants to cause trouble. So why am I against a law that supposedly is for the protection of those who may be hacked, or subjected to cyber-prostitution, or whose reputations may be wrecked online?

While Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 may project itself at face value to be just those things, reading its provisions coupled with understanding one’s constitutionally-guaranteed rights will reveal that OMGWTF how did that happen?!

For a layperson-friendly account of what’s wrong with the law, check out Spot.ph/GMA Network’s article “Digital Martial Law: 10 Scary Things about the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012“.

Since October 3 (when the law took effect), 10 petitions have been lodged at the Supreme Court asking to have it declared unconstitutional. There are two petitions that articulate my opinion about the said Act: the petition from bloggers and netizens, and the petition from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Philippine Press Institute.

I object to the Cybercrime Law on the grounds that it tramples on the right to speech and expression, the right to privacy of communication and correspondence, the right to due process, and the right to be secure of unreasonable searches and seizures. It violates the Constitutional rule against double jeopardy by allowing separate prosecution of the same offense under the Cybercrime Law as well as the old Revised Penal Code. It is a bill of attainder because it singles out a definite class (those who use information and communication technology such as the Internet and computer systems) and punishes that class without benefit of judicial trial by granting the Department of Justice power to block access to a website or computer system if it even looks like a cybercrime is being committed.

Additionally, the penalty for a crime committed with ICT is one degree higher than if it had been committed by traditional means, which implies that merely using ICT is an aggravating circumstance and is a bad, bad thing. I’m of the opinion that the Internet and communication technology are tools, which are neutral.

The Cybercrime Law also fails to provide any procedural safeguards and standards in constructing the Implementing Rules and Regulations, which may be changed by the agency involved in its enforcement without public consultation — ripe for abuse.

I’m grateful that my education opened my eyes to my rights under the Constitution and instilled in me the value of fighting for those rights. My training in media ethics says that journalism gives a voice to the voiceless and can be an effective tool for exposing injustices — thus, vital in a democracy.

That is why I was dismayed that this is how mainstream media (consumed by most Filipinos) is covering the fight against the Cybercrime Law. Below is a clip from the very popular showbiz show The Buzz, in which I was one of the people interviewed.

Note how this “special report” conveniently glosses over all the objections by saying we just need to give the Cybercrime Law a chance. If that’s how it’s presented to the masa media consumer, no wonder people are wondering why we’re so upset about this.

Finding Food with Foursquare

I never used to understand the allure of Foursquare. I mean, for obvious privacy and anti-stalking reasons I don’t want strangers seeing where I usually go or where I am at a particular time. Yet I still see many of my friends tweet their locations because they’ve linked their Foursquare accounts with their Twitter feeds.

So what’s the deal with Foursquare, anyway? I decided to take the plunge. Since I’m on Globe’s Blackberry Max plan, I can use any app that requires an Internet connection at no extra charge. I took my precautions by choosing not to publish anything to my social networks, and adding only those friends I trust with my location. (Odd how that shrunk my friends list down considerably.)

I started off by checking into my places of work, and noticed the Explore tab.

Foursquare on BlackBerry 9360

Foursquare on a BlackBerry 9360 (with Otter Box casing)

Clicking it revealed the Top Picks around my current location. I could also switch between Top Picks, Specials (if any nearby places were offering deals for Foursquare users), Trending (places with many Foursquare users gathered at that moment), Food, Coffee, Nightlife, Shops, Sights, A&E, and Outdoors.

Foursquare on BlackBerry 9360

Explore options

When I selected Food, I realized there were so many places around me I hadn’t yet tried. I’m the kind of person who finds one restaurant in a certain place, always goes there and always orders a specific item on the menu. I’m not the adventurous foodie type at all. So if you think about it, Foursquare’s the perfect thing to jostle me out of my comfort zone and go food-tripping. And the information on Foursquare is crowdsourced; this means regular people leave tips recommend these places and dishes, and can disagree with unrealistic and untrue tips. That’s quite unlike review websites which sometimes have dubious reputations for talking up a lackluster restaurants.

This was put to the test when I dropped by Greenbelt 5 last Wednesday and didn’t want to eat at my usual haunt *coughcoughKFCcoughcough*. So I hit Explore and was overjoyed to find a Toast Box that I didn’t know existed in the mall!

After that initial success, I started checking in at other restaurants to see what dishes had good reviews. I had a late lunch with a friend at Texas Roadhouse in Bonifacio High Street last Saturday, and before we ordered, I saw that three previous Foursquare users had left tips saying their Southwestern Cobb salad was delicious. And it was!

Next week, I’ll probably check out restaurants near here in Pasig, like Bullchef in Kapitolyo which Foursquare users say serves an amazing and filling bulalo stew. I salivate in anticipation.

Noelle De Guzman is a Globe mobile data services brand ambassador.

School Pride

I can’t recall if I watched my first UAAP Cheerdance Competition live, or if my brain just thinks I did but I really watched it on TV. All I can remember is that in my first year of university, we were required by our P.E. classes to attend a number of UAAP games. Our school drums formed the beat to which we shouted our cheers as games were won and lost. That year, my alma mater placed third despite being the most unique in its approach — no canned music, just the drums.

Since then I’ve tried to make it a point to keep up with news on the yearly competition results since it’s the only high-profile one in the UAAP my school always seems to have a chance of winning. (Yes, kulelat kami sa basketball.)

So I’m super happy about this year’s results. It’s our eighth win, and second three-in-a-row. U-nibersidad ng Pilipinas!

Hello, Chilling Effects!

Given the recent enactment of the Anti-Cybercrime Law (which threatens Internet freedom), I was kind of expecting some takedown notices on content posted online. But I didn’t expect that a two-year-old reblog of mine on Tumblr would warrant this kind of action:

Anti-Cybercrime Law in action?

Anti-Cybercrime Law in action?

If you’re interested in reading the supposedly libelous post, it was a reblog from another person’s Tumblr, to which I just added my own commentary, which was “Hmm. Should I hit him with my bachelor’s degree in Political Science cum laude, or my master’s degree in Media Studies – Journalism? Maybe I should just make fun of his use of quotation marks.” I was reacting to someone else’s comment on a post he made on Facebook. In no way was I the source of any comment that could be construed as libel.

So, lawyers and media practitioners out there, what are my options? I have three days daw.

UPDATE 10:04 p.m.:

UPDATE 10:30 p.m.:

UPDATE 11:31 p.m.:
I’ve screencapped the Tumblr reblog instead of linking to it from here and blotted out names and faces. The guy probably thinks it’s hurting his hireability. It really would have been better if he had asked me nicely to remove the post. However, I’m not a spiteful person; what he did was two years ago and on reviewing the original post, kinawawa sya. So I removed it from public view because I felt sorry for him, which is more than what he deserves for threatening me with legal action. But that doesn’t mean the original post doesn’t exist elsewhere and isn’t still searchable.

Identity

I’ve been many things to many people over the past few years. When I was a kid, I was the Girl with Glasses. When I graduated and entered university, I was the Girl Two Years Younger Than Everyone Else (I was accelerated, and entered UP at 15 years old).

Then I got on the internet, and it was here that I first found some semblance of control of my identity because everything required I select some sort of handle or nickname (before we started calling them “usernames”). One of the first internet rules I learned was to use a different name from my own. For a teen still finding her own voice, this was golden because I felt I could be anything online. I created a home page on Geocities and my username was “Barbie-q” or some kind of iteration on that.

It wasn’t long before I found people online and in real life with whom I shared similar interests. Back then, I was into anime and because of this subscribed to the Pinoy Otaku Mailing List. Living in that world of fantasy, I soon created and inhabited a persona I called “Doctor Megumi” after the character Takani Megumi from the anime Rurouni Kenshin. I even attempted some fanfiction under that pen name. *shudder*

As more people started using the internet and social networking sites like Friendster, Myspace, and then Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity, establishing an online identity under your real name became the new norm (although anonymous usernames still stuck around). I had also begun keeping a personal blog under my real name in hopes of creating a portfolio good enough as a jump-off point for finding writing work.

Then I started writing about fitness and active lifestyle, which started pointing me in the direction I’ve been going ever since in both the magazine articles I’ve written, and the television appearances I’ve had. Some people still recognize me from my ShopTV Live guesting demonstrating products like this. *shudder*

But never has anything grown to define me as much as my latest identity “Kikay Runner”. It started when I wrote a few blog entries about starting to run and join races. One of my friends said I was the next Bull Runner, referring to an already-established running blogger. I demurred, saying, “Hindi naman. Kikay Runner lang.” I didn’t think anything of it back then; the term was just a brain fart.

But when I split off my running-related posts into its own blog and called it Kikay Runner, it really took off. It was easy to remember and juxtaposed mental images of a feminine woman in a hardcore sport. And I guess I’ve grown to become that name, too — even as I invested in trademarking it for fear that TV networks would use it on one of their young stars to capitalize on the growing popularity of running.

These days when people call out to me I can tell when I got to know them. I’m “Noelle” to most long-time buddies from the blogging world, “Megumi-chan” to my anime friends, and “Kikay” to my acquaintances in the running community. And some people who know me by “Kikay” now don’t even know my real name. But that’s all right. My name is Noelle… but I’m Kikay, too.