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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Puzzle Mansion: Tagaytay’s newest tourist attraction

Puzzle Mansion
A woman’s love for jigsaw puzzles has given birth to a bed and breakfast inn, the newest tourist attraction in breezy Tagaytay City.
Aptly called Puzzle Mansion, the 11-room bed and breakfast facility houses the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle collection owned by Gina Gil Lacuna, a retired businesswoman.
Lacuna has a total of 1,028 puzzles in different sizes, colors, themes and dimensions (she also has 3D and 4D puzzles) on display at the Puzzle Mansion, which is located on Cuadra Street in Barangay Asisan in Tagaytay City. Several others are left unfinished, with a handful of them available for sale.
She plans to finish a 32,000-piece puzzle by February 12 as a gift for her son’s birthday.
“I want to finish the largest puzzle in the world, it’s 32,000 pieces,” Lacuna told members of the media before she was given the Guinness World Records certificate for having the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle collection. “That will be my gift to my son.”
“Every puzzle I learn of, I buy,” added Lacuna, 61, who travels the world in search of new puzzles to piece together. “I am so passionate about puzzles.”
Lacuna shared that the Puzzle Mansion started out as a resthouse for her family and a place where she displayed her finished jigsaw puzzles.
“We just decided to open this to the public because some people wanted to see the puzzles, they wanted to spend almost the whole day looking at each painting,” she said.
Aside from Lacuna’s huge jigsaw puzzle collection, the Puzzle Mansion also has hotel-like amenities such as a swimming pool, a 400-square-meter function room and a 24-hour café.
Nestled between hills of grass and wild flowers, the place is expected to attract not only foreign tourists but also students and art enthusiasts.
Puzzle Mansion 2
“This is a great area for everyone to see. The jigsaw puzzle collection here is world-recognized and we will surely promote the mansion as a tourist destination,” said Tagaytay Mayor Abraham Tolentino, who congratulated Lacuna for giving the Philippines its ninth Guinness World Record this year.
Rags to riches
But before she was able to afford collecting puzzles and building a bed and breakfast facility, Lacuna struggled to make ends meet.
A high school graduate, Lacuna peddled goods in Divisoria and eventually started a garments business.
“God is so good to me. I was able to put up a garments business and there was a time when…actually up to now, we are the largest manufacturer of maternity wear in the Philippines,” she said in tears.
“My niece and my son, I passed it on to them and they are doing better than me. My taste is already old-fashioned,” she added.
Lacuna’s first jigsaw puzzle, which she pieced together 26 years ago, had 5,000 pieces and featured Disney characters. She bought it during her trip to Hong Kong.
Puzzle Mansion 3
The Guinness World Record holder then shared her approach to building puzzles: piece together the puzzles forming the border, then move to the dominant colors.
“One, open lahat. While opening, I could see the gilid. So, tabi nang tabi nang gilid. Na-join ko ‘yung gilid, ‘di mabuo, pupunta ako doon sa pinakamaraming kulay na prominent. Red, for example, bibirahin ko ‘yung red without the gilid. Tapos kasunod na ‘yun ‘dugtong dugtong na ‘yun.
“Minsan you have to see the technique also. With the painter, kunyari bulaklak, sundan mo na yung linya. Many strokes,” she added.
Asked how she will finish the dozens of puzzles she bought from her travels, she said in jest: “That’s puzzling.”
(Story courtesy of Karen Flores,

Fil-Canadian journo receives QE II Diamond Jubilee Medal

Ace Alvarez receives Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal
Ace Alvarez receives Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal [via Interaksyon]
Print and broadcast journalist Ace Alvarez has joined 60,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have received the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Medal for their contribution to Canadian society the past 60 years, it was learned.
The Canadian government, through the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall, bestowed the award on Alvarez “for his exceptional and meritorius contribution to Canadian print and broadcast journalism and in the further propagation of multiculturalism and diversity, a national policy of Canada.”
An active news and public affairs person, Alvarez has contributed to community development work for the last 16 years.
He was the multicltural media representative from September 2007 to September 2009 to the Canadian National Exhibition Association (CNEA) — the organization which runs the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), an 18-day fair, which has grown to be the largest annual fair in Canada and the fifth largest in North America attracting approximately 1.25 million visitors each year during the CNE’s 129-year history.
Alvarez was also a member of the CNEA’s Marketing Committee during the two terms he served from 2007 to 2009. During his term, the committee adopted Alvarez’s recommendation aimed at making the advertising and promotion of the CNE cost effective to specific cultural communities in the GTA.
As an officer and board member of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA), Alvarez worked closely with the board, community publications and some Members of the Provincial Parliament of Ontario to reverse the provincial government’s ruling to make advertisers’ pay the provincial sales tax.
In 1999, Ace was awarded by the Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ and Writers’ Club for his consistent trenchant editorials in the Manila Media Monitor during award ceremonies aired over Toronto’s CFMT Television.
Since 2000, he has been (and probably remains to be the only Filipino-Canadian in media) listed for his contribution to Canadian journalism in “Canadian Who’s Who”— the reference book containing names of distinguished Canadians (listing in which is by invitation only and based on merit), compiled and published annually by the University of Toronto.
Ace serves as resource on ethnocultural media to two Toronto-based advertising agencies and has, in the past, been a resource to a high profile multicultural PR company based in Toronto. Likewise, he served as resource to journalism students at one of Toronto’s leading communication and media colleges, as well as the Ontario Chapter of the Federal Communications Council — an organization composed of Information/Media Relations Officers of the various Ministries of the Canadian federal government.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Domingo wins Best Actress award at French Film Festival

Comedienne Eugene Domingo won best actress honors at the 3rd Pau International Film Festival held in France over the weekend for her work in Marlon Rivera’s “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank.”
Domingo attended the festival with producer Joji Alonso, who announced her achievement on Facebook.
Domingo received the trophy created by sculptor Chahab.
“Septic Tank” competed with films from Romania (“Best Intentions”), Russia (“Chapiteau-Show”), Japan (“Himizu”), Ukraine (“House with a Turret”) and Sweden-Denmark-France (“Play”).
According to an online report, the Pau fest’s goal is to “introduce politically engaged films” to the French audience.
Earlier this year, Domingo topped an online poll and won the best actress award (People’s Choice) at the 6th Asian Film Awards held in Hong Kong—also for “Septic Tank.”
She is one of the honorees in “Indie Bravo: 3rd Inquirer Indie Tribute” to be held Monday night at the paper’s Makati office.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 signs your relationship won’t last

Sign of a break-up 1: The relationship is turning mean

While “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” may sometimes be the key to attracting that special person, if you’ve been with your loved one for a while and you’re still being treated mean then it’s unlikely that your partner’s objective is to keep you keen. While most couples tease each other by being ‘mean’ in a playful/flirtatious way, if their main intention is to hurt or demean you then the respect has evaporated from the relationship and it’s going to end in tears.

Sign of a break-up 2: You choose not to spend much time together

Relationships thrive when both members of a couple create the right balance between spending time apart and spending special time together. If you find yourself spending a large amount of time without your partner and you’re not even missing them, there’s a good chance you’re just not that into them and your relationship is probably headed for the rocks.

Sign of a break-up 3: You’re not introduced to family or friends

When you’ve met that special someone who you really love, you have butterflies in your stomach and you want to shout about your romance from the rooftops. If you’ve been with someone for a good few months and they still haven’t introduced you to their family or friends then you’ve got to question why they aren’t making your relationship public information...

Sign of a break-up 4: They’re controlling

Does your other half want to know your exact whereabouts and exactly what you’re up to at all times? While you might enjoy the attention to start off with, this can become pretty annoying after some time. If your other half is exhibiting behaviour like this, it’s a signal that they are jealous by nature. You’ll only be together for as long as you can put up with this for but even if you stay together, you will end up feeling smothered and this isn’t the recipe for a happy relationship.

Sign of a break-up 5: You have nothing in common

Yes, we know that opposites attract but when you’re so opposite that you can’t even have a decent conversation because you have nothing in common, we’re pretty sure that polar opposites repel in these situations. Of course, you don’t want to be with someone who is exactly the same as you (yawn!) – having different interests can be exciting. When it gets to the point where your conversations are boring though, we can pretty confidently say that this isn’t going to work out.

Sign of a break-up 6: Where’s the commitment?

If you’ve been seeing each other for a while and your other half has shown no signs of wanting to commit, it’s worth wondering why. Of course, some romances take a long time to develop by nature, but make sure you don’t end up being strung along by someone who doesn’t see a future with you. A relationship where one person wants to commit and the other doesn’t seem interested is destined for disaster.

Sign of a break-up 7: Too busy to call

Of course, it’s normal for people to be too busy to call their partner a lot of the time – life is busy! However, if the phrase “I’m too busy to call” is becoming all too familiar, then your other half needs to prioritise. If they can’t do that, you’re going to end up feeling pretty rubbish. Everyone needs to feel special and if your other half doesn’t make you feel that way, it’s time to ditch them for someone who does! Read more on

Doomsday 2012 Fact Sheet Donate to SETI Institute

Mayan Calendar
David Morrison
Director, Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe
NASA Senior Scientist

There is widespread and unnecessary fear of doomsday on December 21, 2012. Some people worry about a Maya prophesy of the end of the world, others fear a variety of astronomical threats such as collision with a rogue planet. Opinion polls suggest that one in ten Americans worry about whether they will survive past Dec 21 of this year, and middle-school teachers everywhere report that many of their students are fearful of a coming apocalypse. Following are brief facts that address these doomsday fears.
Mayan Calendar: The Maya calendar, which is made up different cycles of day counts, does not end this year. Rather, one cycle of 144,000 days (394 years) ends and the next cycle begins.
Mayan Prophecy: The ancient Maya did not predict the end of the world or any disaster in December 2012. Such doomsday predictions are a modern hoax.
Planet Nibiru: Nibiru is probably the minor name of a god found in ancient Mesopotamian writing. There is no planet named Nibiru, and the fictional books by economist Zecharia Sitchin about a civilization on this planet are a hoax.
Nibiru concept drawing
Artist concept of rogue planet Nibiru. Credit: gilderm /
Rogue Planet Headed for Earth. For the past decade there have been reports of a rogue object (Planet X, or Nibiru, or Hercubolus, or even Comet Elenin) that will collide with Earth in December 2012. These claims are not true. If such a threatening world existed, it would be one of the brightest objects in the sky, and astronomers would have been tracking it for years. If it existed, its gravity would be distorting the orbits of planets, especially Mars and Earth. Astronomers know that it does not exist.
Planet Alignments: There is no alignment of planets in Dec 2012. There is an approximate lining up of the Earth and Sun and the center of our Galaxy in late December, but this happens every year. In any case, planet alignments have no effect on the Earth.
Pole Shift: There is nothing strange this year about either the magnetic poles or the rotational poles of the Earth. The magnetic polarity changes every million years or so, but that is not happening now, and it probably takes thousands of years when it does happen. A sudden change in the rotational axis has never happened and is not possible. If there were any change in the Earth’s rotation, it would be instantly apparent by failure of our GPS systems.
Increasing Disasters. Our planet is behaving normally in 2012, although we see more and more news stories about natural disasters. There has been no increase in earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. There has been an increase in extreme weather, including both droughts and floods, which are partly attributable to global warming, but this has nothing to do with a 2012 doomsday.
solar flare
Solar flares. Credit: Steele Hill/SDO/NASA
Solar Outbursts: The Sun’s ongoing 11-year activity cycle is expected to peak in 2013, not 2012. Solar outbursts (flares and CMEs) can damage orbiting satellites but will not hurt us on the surface. The strength of the 2013 solar maximum is predicted to be lower than average, not higher.
Bunker Conspiracy: Accusations of a massive government cover-up are nonsense. No government could hide an incoming planet or silence hundreds of thousands of scientists. Rumors that huge bunkers have been built in the U.S. or elsewhere to shelter the elite are lies. Apparently a few people are building private shelters, but their fear of 2012 is misplaced and they are wasting their money.
Scaring Children: The group most vulnerable to doomsday claims is children. Teachers report that many of their students are frightened and some are even considering suicide. This is the most tragic consequence of the 2012 hoax.
The End of the World: The idea of the sudden end of the world by any cause is absurd. The Earth has been here for more than 4 billion years, and it will be several more billion years before the gradual brightening of the Sun makes our planet unlivable. Meanwhile there is no known astronomical or geological threat that could destroy the Earth.
Cosmophobia: Many young people write to me that they are scared of astronomy. When they read about some new discovery, the first thing they think is that it might hurt them, even if it is happening in a distant galaxy. There is no reason for such fears, which I call cosmophobia (fear of the universe). This rash of concern seems to be the result of too many conspiracy theories and sensational stories featured on the Internet and irresponsible news outlets. Astronomical objects are so distant that they cannot threaten the Earth. Please don't be afraid of the Sun or the planets or comets or asteroids. The universe is not your enemy.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Austrian Minister for Women & Public Services lauds Pinoy nurses

Austrian Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek
An Austrian federal minister only had praise for Filipino nurses working in Austria.
Austrian Federal Minister for Women and Public Service Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek joined the Philippine Nurses Association Austria during their Thanksgiving and Pre-Christmas dinner reception at the Marriott Hotel Vienna.
The minister expressed her gratitude to the Filipino nurses in Austria, mostly women, for their contributions to the country’s healthcare system, while at the same fulfilling their respective duties as mothers and spouses.
Ambassador Lourdes O. Yparraguirre also gave an inspirational message to the Filipino nurses and to the members of the Filipino community at the event.
Yparraguirre thanked her “kababayans” for the excellent service they render to their Austrian patients.
“There is indeed so much to be thankful about. In virtually every corner of the globe, there is nothing but praise for hardworking and dedicated Filipino nurses, who are able to provide outstanding care and maintain excellent relationships with their patients and their hospital colleagues. Filipino nurses are a constant source of pride for the Philippine Embassy and the entire Filipino nation for they are regarded as the pillar that supports the country’s respected healthcare system,” she said.
Recently, Sonja Wehsely, head of the Vienna Health Sector said Filipino nurses possess professional training which is why they are very much loved by the Austrians.
Filipino nurses in Austria first arrived in the early 1970s and were among the first migrants from the Philippines.
About 90% of the total population of Filipinos in Austria are working as nurses, midwives in hospitals and old folks homes around the country.

Underground River now one of the world’s protected wetlands

The city’s famed subterranean River National Park was installed Tuesday as one of the world’s protected areas of biodiversity under the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty aimed at conserving wetlands.
At installation rites Tuesday, Mayor Edward Hagedorn was excited about the province’s tourism prospects, saying Puerto Princesa had already overtaken popular resort island Boracay in terms of visitors this year. But he added that in line with the city’s commitment’s under the convention, he would have to limit visitors to the underground river to 900 a day.
The Ramsar Convention is a treaty among 163 countries aimed at the conservation and wise use of wetlands, classified as natural and manmade habitats which include: coral reefs, swamps, marshes, billabongs, lakes, mudflats, mangroves, fens, peat bogs, or bodies of water.
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean National River Park (PPSNRP) is the 2,084th Ramsar site in the world and is the fifth among the wetlands of international importance in the country. The four other sites are: the Naujan Lake National Park in Mindoro; the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary in Mindanao; the Olango Island in Cebu; and the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, also in Palawan.
In lauding the installation of the PPSNRP as a Ramsar site, Environment and Natural Resources secretary Ramon Paje said the challenge would be to balance the survival of wildlife and natural attractions with the sheer number of visitors.
He stressed that the “eco” in ecotourism “does not simply mean economy but also ecology.”
Paje pointed out that while PPSRNP’s inclusion as a Ramsar site will be a big boost to tourism and is a source of national pride, the preservation of its bio-diversity and natural scenery would also be of prime importance.
The Department of Natural Resources nominated the underground river as a Ramsar protected site at a convention in Switzerland in December, 2011. The site is already included among the United Nation’s biosphere reserves and World Heritage Sites.
Last year, the city’s underground river was named one of the “Seven Wonders of the World” in an online global poll.
Hagedorn said he expects the number of tourists flooding the locality to double to 1.2 million in three years and assured that plans are in place to better manage the tourist traffic.
Hagedorn pointed out that while the 22,202-hectare underground river has become the favorite destination in the city, after earning its place as one of the world’s Seven Wonders of Nature, there are other areas that are equally attractive to visitors.

PSEi breaches 5,800 on foreign buying

The PSEi on Tuesday hit record high anew, closing beyond the 5,800 mark for the first time, lifted by strong foreign buying.
The PSEi climbed by 1.29 percent or 73.96 points to close at 5,831.5 points – the 37th record high in the year-to-date – while the broader all-share index rose 0.87 percent or 32.31 points to 3,728.7 points.
Nearly 5.84 billion shares valued at P7.08 billion were traded. 
Gainers outnumbered losers at 87 to 83, while 47 stocks were unchanged. 
“The increase in the local bourse was mainly because of liquidity and optimism for next year,” said Astro del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Finance Inc.
Del Castillo said foreign fund managers “are already positioning for next year” on the back of rosy earnings prospects.
Foreign funds have placed a “premium on the Philippines” due to the strong economic growth posted in the third quarter, said Angping & Associates Securities research head Juan Rafael Supangco.
Foreign managers bought over P4.1 billion worth of stocks, while they sold some P3.8 billion worth of shares in the local market, PSE data showed. 
While most stocks are “a little too expensive,” Del Castillo said “it's a given due to the liquidity of the market.
“Other markets in Asia are also increasing, but the Philippine Stock Exchange is leading regional markets,” he noted. 
The PSEi is the strongest in the region gaining over 37 percent  year-to-date, followed by Bangkok's SET and Jakarta's Bursa Efek which have so far soared by 28 percent and 15 percent, respectively, Supangco added. 
On reports that the local bourse is overpriced, Supangco said, “If you just look at the valuation, cheaper talaga yung ibang countries. I think... (fund managers are) putting a premium on growth.
Supangco noted that the PSEi's 2013 forward price-to-earnings or P/E ratio is at 16.53 times, which means means investors are willing to pay 16.53 more for every peso of next year's earnings.
But Supangco said “prospects for the Philippines is good. In terms of valuation, companies are already reflecting their 2013 value...
“[The] stock market is always forward looking. Investors look towards the future,” he added. 
In a statement, PSE president and CEO Hans Sicat said the new record affirms positive investor sentiment toward the Philippines. 
“Moving past the 5,800 level in a matter of weeks reinforces the view that investor confidence in our market is also at an all-time high,” he said. 
Sicat noted that improvements in advanced economies will help buoy the market. “While positive local developments have definitely served us well, an improvement in the outlook for the US, Eurozone and Chinese economies should help fuel more upside,” he said. 
Analysts, however, expect a slight correction in the coming days before the PSEi heads for the 5,900 mark. 
The PSEi took a breather Monday as investors cashed in on gains, following the last record high at 5,794.2 points on Friday. — VS, GMA News

12-12-12: a lucky date for weddings or is it the end of the world?

Like other repeating dates, 12-12-12 is a popular choice for milestones. Filipino couple James Paul Cunanan and Joyce Dimaisip are among thousands who will get married today. 
"I have friends; it started with 8-8-8. Every year, we'd have weddings on that date. So 8-8-8, 9-9-9, 10-10-10, 11-11-11 and now it's my turn, 12-12-12," Dimaisip said in an interview on GMA News' Unang Hirit on Wednesday.
"That's the date we're going to get married, and that will definitely be my favorite number," Cunanan added.

All over the world, couples compete to be able to book their wedding on repeating dates, the report said. Couples set to get married today believe the date will bring them luck, which was supported by numerologist Tony Suvega.
"Magkakasundo sila. Maganda naman ikasal talaga sa panahon ng Dragon. Actually 'pag binasa natin 'yung Water Dragon, it is a combination of the performance of the Rat, as regards to business, work and career, and the performance of active money, which is the Dragon," Suvega said in the report.
At The Nurture Clinic in New Delhi, many couples requested to schedule the delivery of their child on 12-12-12, an article in the The Hindu said. 
Apart from its being easy to memorize, many believe the date is auspicious.
12-12-12 is a special date in numerology, numerologist Dr. Vivek Chopra said in an article on the Jagran Post. 
"If we add 12/12/12 or 12/12/2012, the number we get is 5 and 9 which is the number of planet Mars and Moon. If we add 2+1, we get number 3, which denotes planet Jupiter. This way all 5, 9 and 3 numbers relate to friendly and cool planet," Chopra explained in the article.
For some, it's just an unusual date to mark a special occasion. Chopra noted that the date is easy to memorize, and the repeating date, month, and year won't happen again until January 1, 2101.
For others, the date holds even more significance.
For a group of people called Lightworkers, 12-12-12 is a "great culmination of events and energy."
To celebrate, they are holding an event "Beyond the Prophecies 12-12-12," where Crimson Circle's Geoff Hope and Linda Benyo and Lightworker's Steve and Barbara Rother will be presenting. 
"All four presenters will give unique, profound and powerful presentations and activate you to become charged creators walking in divinity, in the new world, Beyond the originally scripted Prophecies," the event description reads.
"It may not happen for each individual on an exact date or time but the highest point of the energy wave will crest on the 12-12-12 at twelve minutes past noon. This is a man made wave of energy that spirits all over the planet have been building," reads the event description on the website.
According to the Lightworker website, a Lightworker is a chosen title for anyone who choose to spread light on planet earth.  
Meanwhile, Body Mind Spirit Journeys offers two tours that share a celebration on 12-12-12, at Lake Titicaca in Peru. 
Legend has it that this is the where the great golden disc, also known as the Solar Disc, of the mysterious doorway of Aramu Muru was hidden. "The ceremony's intent is to re-activate the Solar Disc and enable participants to connect with their Inner Sun," the Body Mind Spirit Journey website said.
One tour is led by Jorge Luis Delgado, an Andean shaman, mystic and healer, while the other is led by spiritual counselor Caroline Hehenkamp.
The Aztec "Sun Stone" calendar, located in Mexico's National Museum of Anthropology and History, Mexico City. The calendar is often associated in popular culture with the Mayan calendar, which supposedly ends in 2012. Museo Nacional de Antropología
In America, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, Dave Grohl, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin, The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Roger Waters, Kanye West, Eddie Vedder, The Who and Paul McCartney come together in aone-night concert at New York City's Madison Square Gardens. The 121212 concert will be staged for the benefit of victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Robin Hood Relief Fund. 
There's also the 12-12-12 End of the World Project, a collection of around 200 pieces of art marking the end of the world.
"Some say that the ancient Mayan civilization believed the world would end in 2012. Other people say the Mayans did not believe this. We are on the brink of discovering who is right," the project website reads. 
According to the website, a book of the art may be produced—unless, of course, the end of the world arrives.
But will the world really end today?
No one can tell for sure when the world will end, according to Msgr. Joselito Asis, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Asis said predictions are merely interpretations, and what is important is that you are prepared. "Ang katapusan ng individual na tao ay anytime tulad ng kamatayan. The Lord may come to us in the form of our own death. Katulad ng paalala sa atin, laging maghanda para sa kamatayan. Magandang paghahanda, laging nasa buhay ng grasya o hindi nabubuhay sa kasalanan," he said in a videoposted on the CBCP website.
There are also some who believe the date, although memorable, is unsuitable for auspicious events.

“There is nothing special about the date. It is like any other date,” Malaysian Institute of Geomancy Sciences and Feng Shui founder Prof Master David Koh told The Star Online
Numerologist Sushmeetha Morugan advised against starting a business or getting married on 12-12-12. She said the destiny number derived from the date added up to the number two, which is ruled by the planet moon, the same article said. "The date does not have good energy," Morugan said. —KG, GMA News


Monday, December 10, 2012

PH looking for 1 millionth Korean tourist

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism is hoping to welcome the one millionth Korean tourist to the Philippines before Christmas.
Tourism Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz said this will be a milestone for the Philippines since South Korea will be the first foreign tourism market to hit 1 million arrivals in a year.
"We will invite the one millionth Korean before Christmas to visit the Philippines... This is a significant milestone because this will be first foreign market to generate 1 million tourist arrivals for our country," he said at the 3rd Philippines-Korea Partnership Forum in Makati City on Tuesday.
South Koreans remain the largest source of inbound tourists for the Philippines. In 2011, there were 925,000 Korean tourists to the Philippines. In the first half of 2012 alone, 474,685 Koreans visited the country, 10.5% higher compared to the previous year.
According to the DOT, majority of the Korean tourists to the Philippines were male, with an average age of 34.9 years old. Around 40% are managers, supervisors and administrative personnel, while the rest are housewives, students and businessmen.
Corpuz said the average Korean tourist stays 6 days in the Philippines and spends an average of $126 (around P5,100) a day, much higher than the average foreign tourist expenditure of $92.
Most of the Korean tourists visit the Philippines for a holiday, while some come for business, studies or to make friends.
What Koreans like about PH
"We asked them what they like the most and they say it's the Filipino people who are very warm and friendly. Second, they say it's the scenery and environment," Corpuz said.
However, Korean tourists do not like the traffic jams and pollution. "I believe these two comments are centered in urban capitals because these are generally not present in our provinces," he said.
For his part, South Korean Ambassador to Manila Hyuk Lee expressed confidence there will be more than a million Korean tourists to the Philippines by the end of 2012.
"The growing number of airline linkages between the Philippines and Korea is a strong indication of our active tourism. We have 169 flights in operation on a weekly basis. The fondness of Koreans for the Philippines and warm hospitality of Filipinos proves 'it is more fun in the Philippines'," Lee said.
The DOT is hoping to keep attracting Korean tourists to the Philippines. Corpuz said they are targeting close to 2 million Korean tourists by 2016.
"By 2016, we expect 2 million friends in Korea to visit us here," he said.

Pinay duo's couture cakes win in UK baking contest

Valeri Valeriano took silver prize for their signature stained glass cake/Photo courtesy of Queen of Hearts

LONDON - Two Filipino bakers bagged the bronze and silver prizes at an international baking show with their luxurious and bespoke cake creations.
UK-based cake entrepreneurs Valeri Valeriano and Christina Ong won the awards for the multi-tier wedding cake category at the Cake International Show held at the NEC Birmingham in November.
Valeriano, who is from Manila, was given the silver prize for a stained glass cake design, while Ong, from Isabela, snatched bronze for a lace-inspired cake.
“It is just overwhelming. The competition displays were just across our stand and we could see everyone taking pictures of our cakes. The judges came back so many times to scrutinize our cakes, which were beside each other, and even the press were taking photos too. It was such a wonderful feeling,” recalled Valeriano, who attended the event with Ong to promote their joint baking business, Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes.
Ong added: “We were so busy talking to lots of people who came to our stand but when I saw the judges putting the decision cards on the winning entries, I dropped everything and ran towards our cakes. I was over the moon to see that we both have won. It is such an amazing feeling.”
The pair launched their very own cake service in June 2011, offering bespoke cakes and baking demonstrations to clients in the UK and beyond, specializing in the lost art of buttercream.
“Buttercream is made of butter and icing sugar. It’s very soft and it’s not easy to manage,” explained Valeriano, a self-taught baker who studied buttercream cakes through video tutorials on YouTube.
She continued: “We tried to have a little twist, because buttercream is usually known for simple flowers and swirls, very old school. We wanted to change it and show people that you can do something more with buttercream, and we gained popularity very quickly because of that.”
“We need to be different from the rest. Otherwise, we’ll be eaten alive by competition, especially in the UK where everyone is good at what they do,” said Ong, who is also a self-taught baker and cake designer.
She revealed: “We always have to stay one level ahead of everyone, and so we always aspire to do something that nobody has done before.”
Christina Ong bagged bronze prize for a lace-inspired cake design/Photo courtesy of Queen of Hearts
Starting from an experimental cake they intended as a gift for a friend on Mother’s Day in 2011, their baking and design skills quickly developed into a fully pledged start-up business.
“It was challenging at first, but it’s just like anything new. We had to learn everything rather quickly, and to top it all, we were doing it in a foreign land. We had to sell our concepts and make demonstrations to foreigners. It was tricky at first, but we got through it,” recalled Valeriano.
Ong added: “When we started, no one was answering our emails, no one paid us any attention. We used to send letters to everybody, and we literally mean everybody, hundreds of people. We wanted to show what we can do and we even gave everything for free. But now people come to us and they even pay us. It’s a blessing and a bonus.”
The baking duo moved to the UK as nurses before discovering their talent for cake design through a “sweet accident.” They believe their “caring” background has helped them to drive the business forward.
“Our nursing background gave us the foundation and the patience. It’s the love and care. If you are looking after people you don’t know who are not related to you, but you need to have the passion and the love to take care of them. Same goes with the cake. At first it can be hard to handle, and if you don’t have the love, you will just give up,” Valeriano said.
The pair, who have been long-time friends since a chance meeting at a restaurant in Manila, recently came back from the Philippines where they were commissioned to make a cake for a prominent commercial director.
“We’re really happy. It’s nice to wake up everyday reading good news about the business. We just can’t complain. It’s hard work but we’re happy,” said Ong.
Judges scrutinised every detail of the Filipino-made cakes from Queen of Hearts/Photo courtesy of Queen of Hearts
On the secret of their success, Valeriano said: “Keep on innovating. If you started on something, say for example a business or a hobby or something, don’t just settle for what’s already there. Be resourceful, be more creative, appreciate the beauty around you, turn it into something, and just add a little bit of passion, patience and love. Put your heart into it and I’m sure you’ll succeed.”
The London-based Queen of Hearts Couture Cakes have been featured in numerous media outlets including Manila Bulletin and CNN iReport, as well as industry events like The National Wedding Show and Food Spectacular by Experimental Food Society, gaining an expanding client base around the world.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Top 10 Christmas destinations

The 80th Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in New York, November 28, 2012.REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

SAN FRANCISCO - The Christmas season might be famous for carols and colored lights where you're from, but it's also the perfect time to experience new destinations and check out their holiday customs as well. From the jazz music and Nativity parades of New Orleans, to the Santa hats and sandy beaches of Australia, there's no better opportunity than Christmas to try seeing the holiday season in a brand new light. Online travel adviser has compiled a list of its Top 10 most festive destinations for this year's holiday season. Reuters has not endorsed this list:

1. San Juan, Puerto Rico

There are only twelve days of Christmas, right? Not in Puerto Rico. This U.S. commonwealth begins its celebrations the day after Thanksgiving and keeps the Yuletide spirit flowing until the feast of the three kings on January 6. During the six-week-long festivity, visitors can enjoy the Christmas decorations seen at homes, businesses and throughout the streets. While you're there, you should also witness one of Puerto Rico's famous holiday traditions—group caroling called parrandas. Visitors to this Caribbean locale can also experience unique holiday culinary customs like lechón asado—roast pig on a spit—a coconut pudding called Tembleque, or the sweet sap from a Chilean palm tree, coquito.

2. New York, New York

If there's anything more iconic than the New York City skyline, it's the New York City Christmas tradition. Every year, The Big Apple plays host to some of the most famous holiday traditions in the world, including the nationally televised lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. But The Empire State has tons more up its sleeve when it comes to Christmas traditions. Travelers can go ice skating in Central Park, discover unique international gifts at The Pond at Bryant Park, experience the incredible toy selection of FAO Schwartz and enjoy the spectacle of Macy's annual Santaland display.

3. Bondi Beach, Australia

In Australia, summer starts on December 1st, so while the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing a white Christmas, our friends down under are busy surfing and sunbathing. Bondi Beach, just four miles outside of Sydney, is a famous beachgoer hotspot, so the unsuspecting traveler could very easily mistake Christmas Day for spring break. Every year on December 25th, the beach turns into one big Christmas party, with festive trees in the sand, surfers wearing Santa hats and suits, live music and more. It might seem unusual to spend a Christmas on the beach, but there's also no denying the appeal of a good beach party. At Bondi Beach, you can have both.

4. Santa Claus, Indiana

With a city like Santa Claus, Indiana, the name really does say it all. This small Midwestern destination fancies itself "America's Christmas Hometown," and offers three weekends of Santa Claus celebrations throughout the month of December that are perfect for Christmas lovers of all ages. Travelers can journey into Santa's Candy Castle and enjoy 25 different gourmet chocolates, chat with online elves and check to see if their name is on the naughty or nice list. Santa's visitors can also enjoy other holiday attractions such as the amazing lights down Mistletoe Drive, a wooden rollercoaster, a Santa Claus museum and even a Christmas-themed miniature golf course.

5. Nuremberg, Germany

In Nuremberg, Christmas is synonymous with Christkindlesmarkt, which means only one thing—holiday shopping. Germany's own Christmas mega-market is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the world, drawing two million visitors every year and occupying Nuremberg's central square area for the entirety of the Advent season. With its rich history dating back to the Middle Ages, a visit to the Christkindlesmarkt is like stepping back in time. Even the most jaded traveler may spring to life as the smell of fresh gingerbread and fruitcake fills the air. And with such a deep past, it's as easy to lose yourself in Nuremberg's Christmas tradition as it is to get lost in the stalls of the Christkindlesmarkt.

6. New Orleans

Those searching for a way to celebrate the holidays in a unique southern fashion need look no further than New Orleans, where the poinsettia gets as much love as the fleur de lis. In this French Creole town, Christmas events start in November, and they ring in the holiday spirit in ways you've never seen before. Take the Celebration in the Oaks, for example: a pop-up Christmas theme park that brings bright lights and carnival rides to New Orleans City Park, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Folks from colder areas will feel right at home on Fulton Street, where travelers will find spinning multicolored Christmas trees and might even find themselves caught in the (fake) snow, which comes drifting down four times every hour.

7. Tokyo, Japan

If you're looking to spend your Christmas somewhere really different, there's no better place to visit than Tokyo. Since Christians account for only one percent of the population, Christmas is not a national holiday, and employees don't get the day off. Despite that, Christmas is celebrated as a commercial holiday in Japan, and every year, the trees in Tokyo are lit up for the season and the Japanese, like their Western neighbors, still have shopping to take care of. Christmas Eve in Tokyo looks very different from Christmas Eve in North America and Europe, and bears a striking resemblance to Valentine's Day. Instead of spending Christmas with family members, the Japanese go on romantic dinner dates with their significant others, celebrating the holiday over a chicken dinner and some Christmas cake.

8. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Amsterdam has not one, but two bearded gift-bearers that visit during the month of December: Sinterklaas and Santa Claus. Sinterklaas has been the richer holiday icon in Amsterdam, and gives the children most of their gifts on December 5th, marking the feast of St. Nicolas. Santa Claus, whose story is actually based on Sinterklaas', comes on December 25th and brings the children a couple of minor presents. Santa Claus also brings the beginning of the Dutch Christmas - a two-day celebration complete with food, warmth and family - which starts on December 25th and ends on December 26th. For potential visitors, the draw of Amsterdam‘s double-celebration is hard to compete with. Two feasts, two Santas and two days of gleeful Christmas parties. And when it comes to giving and receiving gifts, how much more Christmas could a traveler really ask for?

9. Aspen, Colorado

Whoever coined the term "Winter Wonderland" was probably imagining something very much like Aspen, Colorado at Christmastime. Peacefully nestled amid a trio of snowy mountains, Aspen is the perfect spot for travelers who like to celebrate their holidays in earmuffs and beanies. This snowy city hosts the 12 Days of Aspen, a holiday celebration from December 20th through New Year's Eve, which includes a variety of activities that are sure to put you in the Christmas spirit—from shopping and restaurant deals to concerts and ice-staking. And with its four world-class ski resorts, acres of white-powdered aspen trees and upscale shopping options, Aspen is a prime destination for travelers looking to release their inner snow lover.

10. Lapland, Finland

Lapland in Finland is the ideal destination for the nostalgic traveler in all of us. After all, who doesn't remember writing letters as a kid and addressing them to the North Pole? Now you can visit Santa at home. With the Arctic circle cutting right through its heart, Lapland is the closest you're likely to get to the North Pole you imagined as a kid, and that makes it one of Finland's busiest tourist destinations. Visitors of Lapland will want to get tickets to at least one of the area's Christmas theme parks: Santa Claus Village and Santa Park. These parks live out their themes to the fullest, complete with staff members in elf costumes and reindeer sled rides. But the real draw to these parks is Father Christmas himself, who will even meet privately with families who have made a reservation. — Reuters

DOLE approves minimum wage hike rules for C. Visayas, C. Luzon

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has approved pay increases of P22 and P6 for minimum wage earners in Central Visayas and Central Luzon respectively.

Baldoz also signed the implementing rules for a P7 increase in the cost of living allowance (COLA) and the integration of the previous P10 COLA for minimum wage earners in Eastern Visayas.

Central Visayas

The P22 salary adjustment in Central Visayas took effect December 7, bringing the minimum salary range in the region to P262-P327 depending on the area classification and industry sectors.

However, the increase does not apply to the wages of domestic helpers and other workers employed in the personal service of another, such as family drivers and barangay micro business enterprise (BMBE) workers.

Also under the pay hike rules, “workers who are paid by results, piecework, takay, pakyaw, or on task-basis shall receive not less than the minimum wage rate for normal eight-working-hours, based on a prescribed formula.”

Private schools have until the beginning of school year 2013-2014 to adjust their workers’ salary.

However, distressed establishments, new business enterprises, and retail/service establishments adversely affected by natural calamities may apply for exemptions with the  Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB).

Eastern Visayas

For Eastern Visayas, the P7 added to the COLA will be on top of the existing P15 COLA under Wage Order No. RB VII-16, Baldoz said.

“This is in line with the DOLE’s wage reform measure, the two-tiered wage system, which consists of a mandatory floor wage and a productivity-based pay,” she said.

The RTWPB will issue an advisory on the performance-based pay, which will be implemented through negotiations or collective bargaining between employers and workers.

Central Luzon

Last week, Baldoz also signed the implementing rules of the Wage Order No. RB III-17, which includes a basic pay increase of P6 a day for Central Luzon wage earners effective October 11 and the integration of the P24 COLA for workers in the region.

This new wage rate covers the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales and the cities of Angeles, Balanga, Cabanatuan, Gapan, Malolos, Muños, Olongapo, Palayan, San Fernando, San Jose Del Monte and Tarlac. — BM, GMA News

Pinoys in UAE raise P83,000 for 'Pablo' victims

Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates managed to raise some Dh7,500 (about P83,580) at a charity brunch for the victims of Typhoon Pablo.

“Brunch for a Cause” was a project initiated by the Filipino Community (FilCom) in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, according to a report on Khaleej Times on Sunday.

FilCom Governing Council president Matilyn Bagunu said the council will meet new Philippine Consul General Frank Cimafranca to decide how to send the funds raised to the Philippines, the report said.

Bagunu said they can send it to the Philippine Red Cross or to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, or to the Philippine National Police via FilCom member group Sangguniang Masang Pilipino International Inc (SMPII).

A third option would be to turn over the proceeds to the SMPII so its officials and members in the affected areas could distribute the money directly to the surviving families.

"But, we need to coordinate with the Philippine Consulate-General,” she said.

Meanwhile, the new Task Force Habagat is now collecting donations for disaster relief, including clothes, canned goods, and blankets.

Task Force Habagat chairman and United Cebuanos president Wendell Castro said they expect at least 30 boxes of in-kind donations initially from the Filipino community in the UAE.

Typhoon Pablo left more than 500 dead and caused some P6 billion in damage when it devastated parts of Mindanao, Visayas and Southern Luzon last week. — BM, GMA News