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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Babies begin learning language in utero: study


A new study -- said to be the first of its kind -- reveals that babies begin learning the distinctive sounds of their native language while in utero.
Researchers from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State have found that infants show interest in the vowels of their native language only hours after being born.

The study relied on data from 40 infants in the US and another 40 in Sweden, all ranging from seven to 75 hours old. Newborns were tested on two sets of vowel sounds -- 17 native language sounds and 17 foreign sounds. Researchers measured the babies' interest by how long they sucked a pacifier connected to a computer. When babies sucked on the pacifier, they heard a vowel sound until they paused. Sucking again produced a new sound.

In both countries, babies listening to foreign sounds sucked pacifiers more compared to those listening to their native tongue.

"These little ones had been listening to their mother's voice in the womb, and particularly her vowels for ten weeks," explains coauthor Patricia Kuhl. "The mother has first dibs on influencing the child's brain."

"The fact that the infants can learn the vowels in utero means they are putting some pretty sophisticated brain centers to work, even before birth," she adds. "We can't waste early curiosity."

The findings, announced Wednesday, are set to be published in a future edition of the journal Acta Paediatrica.

Babycentre.uk advises moms-to-be to talk and sing to their baby bump, which will help bonding, and after birth, your newborn will pay more attention to your voice than others.

7 signs he's a total player

We kind of hate ourselves for getting so into The Bachelor every year, but as another season premieres this month, we can't wait to indulge in our guilty pleasure. So in honor of the show that idolizes dating 20+ women at once, we asked Chiara Atik, dating expert at HowAboutWe.com and author of Modern Dating: a Field Guide for the signs your man is a total player.



1. He's Out of Sight; Out of Mind
If a guy's really into you he makes concrete plans and follows up. A player is only interested in you when you're physically in front of him.

2. You Haven't Met His Friends
Mah-jor warning sign: If he has a lot of other girls that he's hanging out with, he's not going to introduce all of you to his group of guys. That opens up the chances that one of them will spill that you're not the only girl in his life. And that would mess with his game.

3. He Guilts You About Unannounced Calls
If you just call once out of the blue and he's mad about it, that's cagey. It could be because he's with another girl and doesn't know how to explain your call to her.

4. He Won't Stop Texting When You're Together
Players are usually really good at making you think you have their full attention. But if he seems distracted by his phone, that could be a sign he has ladies on the side.

5. He Takes Calls in Another Room
If it's one time or he says, "Hey, sorry, I have to take this," it's not a biggie. But the guy who is always leaving for calls or checking his phone and ignoring calls…that's a big sign.

6. He Says He Did Date Activities "With a Friend"
Sometimes they'll say, "I was at this restaurant with my friend," but you know it's a romantic restaurant that costs $$$. Clearly, something about that doesn't add up.

7. Something Feels Off
Often women know when there's something to worry about, but we tend to just focus on the positive stuff about a guy. Go with your gut. If he feels shady, he probably is shady.

As peso strengthens and dollar declines, OFWs advised to invest, not spend


The time is ripe for overseas Filipinos and their families to seize the economic opportunities in the Philippines by investing their hard-earned pay checks, especially now that the high-flying peso has eroded their spending power.
 
Emerging from 2012 as Asia's best performing currency after the South Korean won, the peso that feeds on a robust economy is still growing stronger in 2013 with analysts predicting a more than a decade high of 39:$1 before the year is out.
 
Like a double-edged sword, a strong peso eases pressure on foreign debt payments and oil imports – of which the Philippines has a lot to settle – but it also hurts earnings of many a remittance-dependent family of overseas Filipinos workers.
 
Emily Postrado is one. 
 
“Malaki ang epekto nang paglakas ng piso. Ang baba na ng palitan,” said homemaker Postrado, 53, wife of a seaman. 
 
“Kung dati okay na yung $200 na padala sa isang buwan, ngayon mas maliit na yung halaga nun. Kailangan na ng at least 50 percent more na padala,” she added. 
 
With government tyring to intervene and weigh on the peso's continued rise, Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said OFs and their families must start saving and investing – basically to generate passive income – as the remittances they now receive and spend are now less in peso terms. 
 
When the peso was trading at  42:$1 in the first half 2012, every $100 an OF sends back home was worth P4,200. Currently, each $100 could be converted to nearly P4,100. Should the exchange rate hit 39 per dollar, as analysts predicted, a $100 bill would buy P3,950 worth of groceries.
 
“OFs should save and invest, so they can maximize every peso they receive,” said Guinigundo.



The importance of investments
 
“You see the peso is firm because our BOP [Balance of Payments] remains in surplus,” the central bank official noted, referring to the payments position which follows foreign currency flows into an economy and which widened by nearly 500 percent last November.  
 
A surplus means Philippines has more funds coming in than it pays other countries, while a deficit means the country does not have the capacity to settle obligations. 
 
The Bangko Sentral has employed macro-prudential measures, but Guinigundo said these “can only temper appreciation but cannot lead to peso depreciation.”
 
Noting that the strong peso bodes well for the economy, analysts underscored the importance of local investments to help OFs. 
 
Banco de Oro Unibank chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas told GMA News Online the peso's strength “is good for the economy. So, the first thing OFWs have to do is save and manage money well.”
 
“OFWs with with investible funds ought to consider having safe peso asset investments locally as part of their portfolio in order to preserve their purchasing power in pesos rather than riding everything in foreign investments,” said Ildemarc Bautista, research head at Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co.
 
Risk-free or mutual funds?
 
Bautista said OFs who don't want to take investment risks may put money into risk-free time deposits or retail treasury bonds that offer fixed returns. 
 
Those who have less funds and have more appetite for risks can invest in unit investment trust funds (UITFs) or mutual funds, he added. 
 
Both UTIFs and mutual funds consist of money pooled by fund managers and invested in a mix of securities such as stocks, bonds, money market instruments, and similar assets. Returns in UITF and mutual funds vary depending on how much the funds earned. 
 
“It is best to have a financial adviser to help... [OFs and their families] define their risk tolerance and investment objectives,” said Bautista.
 
OFs and their dependents can ask banks or investment houses what sound investments are available to them, said BDO's Ravelas. 
 
“The key to start investing is financial education. OFWs need to educate themselves on what products are available for them,” he said, adding that education also lower the risks of being victimized by financial scams.
 
The peso – which hit a 58-moth high of 40.77:$1 last Thursday –  has given families like the Postrados, who rely solely on remittances, with a sense of unease. 
 
Asked if they have invested in financial instruments, Postrado said: “Bukod sa savings sa bangko, wala na.” 
 
She is, however, looking at investing in financial instruments as an option to shore up earnings. 
 
“Mukhang tuloy-tuloy ang pagtaas ng piso. Kailangan nga talaga na may iba kang source of income bukod sa padala. Pwede naman kung saka-sakali na mag-invest. Tinitignan na namin ng asawa ko kung saan pwede kung stocks ba o ibang produkto ng bangko,” Postrado said. — VS/ELR, GMA News

5 shocking things we eat every day


Arsenic

Many of us view rice as a pretty safe, healthy food; however, studies have suggested that it may also contain unsafe levels of the toxic substance arsenic. One study has suggested thatone in five packs of American long-grain rice contain potentially harmful levels of the toxic substance, while others have reported concern for the levels of arsenic in rice milk and baby rice. In fact, according to tests by Consumer Reports, those who ate rice had 44 per cent greater levels of arsenic in their bodies than those who had not. While there is relatively little risk of the odd bowl of rice causing any long lasting harm, the popular grain may be best enjoyed in moderation if reports are to be believed.

Insects

Most of us wouldn’t class insects as a component of our diets; however, you may be eating more of them than you think, as well as your fair share of rodent hair over the years. Surprisingly, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows for “natural defects” in food by permitting a certain amount of bugs and rodent hair to be present in food products. For example, chocolate products may contain an average of 60 insect fragments and one rodent hair per 100g, while citrus fruit juice can contain one maggot per 250ml.

Lead

Ladies, how often have you applied your lipstick in the morning only to find your glossy pout has faded within a matter of hours? While some of your makeup will inevitably smear off on objects throughout the day, apparently the average woman also eats a whopping four to nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime! As a 2004 study revealed that up to 28 per cent of lipsticks contain chemicals that can cause cancer and a 2007 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found that more than 50 per cent of lipstick brands contained lead, this may be bad news for our health. To cut down your consumption of lead and look after your health, try switching to natural, organic brands of lipstick.

Wood

From cooking utensils to tables and chairs, wood is an essential ingredient of many of our must-have items. However, did you know it is also a component of a large amount of the foods we eat? Cellulose (wood pulp) is increasingly added to processed foods to thicken foods, add texture and replace more expensive ingredients like flour and oil. While there are no reported health problems associated with consuming cellulose, it may come as a surprise to many that they are regularly splashing their cash on food products bulked out with wood.

48 teaspoons of sugar

While many of us make a conscious effort to limit the amount of sugar in our diets, research has shown that even if you steer clear of obvious sources of sugar such as desserts and chocolate, you may still be eating well over the recommended maximum sugar intake. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, food companies have been increasing the sugar content of processed foods to make them more appetising, meaning that many are unaware of just how much they are eating. The study showed that some of us are unknowingly eating up to 46 teaspoons a day, increasing risk of health conditions including heart disease.

Nonito Donaire's success signals rise of new era in Pinoy boxing

Although the devastating loss of Philippine boxing icon Manny Pacquiao to his Mexican rival Juan Manuel Marquez closed the curtain for the boxing world of 2012, it gave rise to the stellar performance of other Filipino boxers.

Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire Jr. (31-1, 20 KOs) has always been overshadowed by the achievements of Pacquiao who also happened to be his idol, a report by ESPN's Dan Rafael said.

However the recent contrast in the performances of Pacquiao and Donaire has been a turning point in both boxers' careers and their possible roles as the Philippine's boxing icon.

Pacquiao, 34 lost twice in 2012, first to Timothy Bradley Jr. in a controversial split decision in June then to Marquez in December when a solid right counter made him drop to the floor face first.

Marquez's merciless knockout of Pacquiao, which was a significant part of boxing history, was declared as ESPN's knockout of the year.

On the other hand, the 30-year-old Donaire had four bouts in 2012 where he won all of them easily even when moving up to a heavier weight division which was uncharted territory for the Filipino Flash.

He started his super bantamweight campaign defeating Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. and claiming the vacant 122-pound WBO super bantamweight title.

The 5'5 Donaire seemed to portray a “David and Goliath” when he pounded his tallest opponent ever, Jeffrey Mathebula.

Mathebula was a 5'11 towering champion and defeating him earned Donaire his second super bantamweight championship, the IBF title.

He then knocked out former No. 1 world division champion Toshiaki Nishioka in October who didn't have a belt only because he relinquished it.

With three successful bouts for 2012 safely tucked under his belt, Donaire pushed for a fourth bout which is rare for professional boxers because of the amount of time needed to prepare for a fight.

He was pitted against Mexican boxing veteran Jorge Arce whom he floored in the second round and finally knocking him out cold in the third to end the year with a stellar super bantamweight campaign.

This marked a sudden switch in the roles of Pacquiao and Donaire as the country's top and second seeded boxer with the latter even being announced as ESPN's fighter of the year.

Donaire is only the second Filipino to receive the honor, after Pacquiao, who won the award in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Emulating the 2009 Pacquiao

Donaire's success in 2012 seemed to be similar to Pacquiao's boxing career in 2009 when he was declared as ESPN's fighter of the year for the third time.

In 2009, Pacquiao bested and knocked out his two opponents that year — Ricky “The Hitman” Hatton and Miguel Cotto — in an electrifying fashion, making him a crowd favorite.

Though these victories, Pacquiao won championships in two weight classes giving him a record of being the first title holder of seven different weight divisions.

However, even though Donaire is given much praise for his victories in the past year, he remains humble and maintains all respect for his idol whom many are clamoring to retire from the sport.

Another thing about Donaire is that he is the only boxer to sign to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association which allows them to take his urine sample anytime they would like to, the ESPN report said.

This is big since a lot of unanswered questions have been thrown at sports – not just in the world of boxing – regarding the usage of athletes of performance enhancing drugs.

"I don't mind it. I think it's a good for the sport and I am going to do it," Donaire told ESPN adding, "It's a good idea. I have nothing to hide. I would love for all fighters to follow me, but not everybody is like me."

Now, people just have to wait whether Pacquiao will rise again and bask in boxing's prime spotlight together with Donaire or will the Filipino Flash step up and replace Pacman as the new face of Philippine boxing. - VVP, GMA News

Causes and Cures For Excessive Sleepiness


Source: mensxp.com

Whilst many suffer conditions like insomnia, resulting in lack of sleep for nights together, there are others who suffer the other extreme condition – excessive sleepiness.
If you rank amongst those, read on to know about the various probable causes and cures for the condition.

Causes of Excessive Sleepiness

The extreme opposite of insomnia is the disorder known as hypersomnia, a condition of excessive sleepiness. Following are some of the known causes of this condition:
1. Irregular Work Hours
If you work night shifts and sleep during the day, you have most certainly already bid adieu to a ‘normal’ sleep cycle. Since the sleep cycle gets disrupted, your body ends up being deprived of its regular and required hours of sleep, resulting in sleepiness and grogginess throughout the waking hours.
2. Absence of Physical Activity
Would you call yourself lazy? Or does sheer lethargy define you? If yes, you may also additionally suffer (or as you may more complacently be imagining as blissful advantage) excessive sleepiness. When the body does not get its required dosage of exercise, it falls into a state of slow metabolism functioning, resulting in more lethargy and sleepiness.
3. Excessive Weight
Overweight or obese people are also likely to suffer hypersomnia, as per studies. Since the excessive weight tends to slow down the metabolic rate of the body, the energy levels also run low, consequently. The result is sleepiness extending beyond the required and normal hours.

Cures of Excessive Sleepiness

Whilst you may be suffering excessive sleepiness due to any of the above or any other reasons, fret not! There are possible cures as well that can help you sleep better and not feel drowsy all the time.
1. Follow a Timetable
Just the way you did in school, bring about a routine in your work life as well. Eating meals on time, doing activities at a set time each day and going to bed at the same time every night will help regularize the body and make it accustomed to the routine you set for it.
2. Exercise
The cure for all that ails human kind, regular and appropriate exercise can take care of sleeping disorders as well. Exercise as part of your routine will ensure that the metabolic rate of your body stays high, thereby leading to higher levels of energy and lesser requirement of sleep.
3. Medication
Whilst there are natural ways to cure the disorder of excessive sleepiness, resort to medication, ONLY under the supervision of a medical professional and ONLY if the situation has become unmanageable.
Tons of medication is available in the market nowadays to deal with almost any kind of disorder or illness, finding the root cause of the condition can often lead to a better cure. So, dig deeper before you pick up those pills!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pinoys in Canada raise funds for typhoon-hit areas in PHL

A group of fish plant workers in Shediac, Canada helped make Christmas a little brighter for dozens of families in a typhoon-devastated part of the Philippines.

The 130 workers represent the southeastern town's growing Filipino population.

Ruby Eborde said all of the workers chipped in and they came up with about $500 to send to her family in the Compostela Valley.

The $500 in financial assistance from the workers in Shediac provided food for many families in the Philippines.

“They bought three pigs for … [a] Christmas Eve gathering. She shared it to the 87 families in Compostela Valley because she don’t want to give noodles and sardines because all the relief goods were noodles and sardines,” she said.

More than 310,000 people lost their homes when the powerful typhoon hit the southern Philippines on Dec. 3.

Super Typhoon Bopha hit the Philippines with winds of 160 kilometres per hour, killing more than 1,000 people.

Eborde said members of her family lost their homes, but survived the storm.

The money was raised through a 50-50 draw, which was organized by the new Filipino Community Association in Shediac. - Philippine News

Top 12 Pinoy achievers for 2012

The year 2012 was a great year for many Filipinos abroad, especially those who joined international pageants and sports competitions.

Five Filipino pageant winners, including 2012 Miss Universe first runner-up Janine Tugonon made it to the Pinoy Abroad section's list of top 12 Filipino achievers for 2012.

Rounding up the list are international singing sensations Jessica Sanchez and "Random Girl" Zendee Rose and boxing greats Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire.

The top achiever on our list, however, is relatively unknown -- 13-year-old Kesz Valdez, who won the 2012 International Children’s Peace Prize for his work to improve the lives of his fellow street children.

Here are the top 12 Pinoy Achievers for 2012:

(1) Cris "Kesz" Valdez

13-year-old Kesz Valdez wins 2012 International Children's Peace Prize

In September last year, 13-year-old Kesz Valdez was named an awardee of the International Children's Peace Prize.

Valdez won for his work as head of a charity organization that educates and hands out gifts to thousands of youngsters in his poverty-plagued hometown.

South African human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu gave Valdez his award, declaring him a "voice for the voiceless" and a "true inspiration".

Valdez is the first southeast Asian to receive the International Children's Peace Prize. He was also the youngest among the three finalists nominated for the recognition. The two others were Amina,15, of Ghana and Anwara,16, of the West Bengal region of India.

Valdez dedicated his award to his guardian Harnin Manalaysay, who cared for him after running away from his family due to abuse and maltreatment.

During his acceptance speech, Valdez likened one of his experiences of maltreatment — being scorched in a pile of garbage — to a "baptism of fire."
   
"The day I suffered the burns on my body was like my baptism of fire. It was so painful that night at the dumpsite, the hospital and the days that followed. I cried out of pain. On the other hand, that was also the day I was rescued," he said of his ordeal.
     
"The fire that burned my skin and flesh is the same fire that started a flame in my soul. A flame that would warm cold hearts, a flame that would shed light to the path of the lost, a flame that would spark hope, lighting an entire sea of darkness and desperation. Mr. Harnin, the father I look up to, taught me these principles and keeps on reminding me daily by his own life's example," he added.

(2) Janine Mari Tugonon

Miss PHL named first runner-up in Miss Universe 2012

In December, Miss Philippines  placed second in the Miss Universe pageant held Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) in Las Vegas.

This is the closest the country has come to winning the crown since Miriam Quiambao in 1999.

This is the third year in a row that a Filipina has been in the Top Five of the Miss Universe pageant.
   
In 2011, Miss Philippines candidate Shamcey Supsup was the third runner-up in the Miss Universe competition held in São Paulo, Brazil. The crown was brought home by 26-year-old Angola stunner Leila Lopes.
   
The previous year, Bicol beauty Maria Venus Raj, who was 25 years old during the competition, ended up in fourth place. The crown was bagged by Mexican Ximena Navarrete in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(3) Rep. Manny Pacquiao

After loss, Manny Pacquiao ready to fight again


Saranggani Rep. and “People’s Champ” Manny Pacquiao might have lost to Mexican boxer Juan Manuel Marquez during their fourth fight in December, but the man’s place as a Filipino icon apparently cannot be swayed.

'You're still our champ!'

This was the message of Filipino fans to boxing champ and Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao as he returned home early Wednesday following his loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.

Many Filipinos waited for Pacquiao outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to cheer him upon his arrival in the Philippines after the fight.

Pacquiao thanked his countrymen for their support despite his loss, and said that he had become emotional after learning that many Filipinos wept upon his defeat.

"Talagang ganoon ang buhay natin. We'll rise again," he said to loud cheers from the crowd shortly after arriving in Manila.

http://gmanetwork.com/news/story/286012/sports/boxing/pacquiao-arrives-to-warm-welcome-vows-to-rise-again

ESPN even called the fourth Pacquaio-Marquez match its Fight of the Year.

(4) Nonito Donaire

Donaire named Boxer of the Year by ESPN

ESPN, one of the world’s most popular television sports networks, named "Filipino Flash" Nonito Donaire as their selection for Boxer of the Year, in an article by Dan Rafael, in December.

"It might sound strange, but no, Manny Pacquiao was not the best fighter from the Philippines in 2012. That honor goes to 'The Filipino Flash,' junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire, who had a year for the ages," Rafael wrote.

Donaire had moved up to junior featherweight at the start of the year and showed no ill effects, "winning all four of his fights in dominant fashion," the last being a third round KO, courtesy of a devastating left hook, of Mexican Jorge Arce last December 15 (December 16, PHL time).

The Filipino was also cited for his strong anti-performance-enhancing drugs stance, coming to terms with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, which allows the group to randomly test him for steroids at any time, whether or not he is training for a fight.

(5) Jessica Sanchez 

Sanchez is first runner-up in American Idol Season 11

Filipinos went wild when Filipino-American-Mexican singer Jessica Sanchez was named the runner-up of the mega-hit singing competition American Idol in May 2012.

From then on, Sanchez’s career has gone far, including singing during the fight of Saranggani Rep. and “People’s Champ” Manny Pacquiao in June against American boxer Timothy Bradley in June, and as well as performing for Filipinos during the Manila leg of the American Idol concert in September.


(6) 11 Pinoys in London 2012 Olympics

11 Pinoys hope for Olympic glory in London


Eleven of the country’s best athletes all attempted to sought gold at the London 2012 Olympics.

The athletes were: Jhessie Khing Lacuna (Swimming), Jasmine Alkhaldi (Swimming), Marestella Torres (Athletics), Rene Herrera (Athletics), Paul Brian Rosario (Shooting), Tomohiko Hoshina (Judo), Hidilyn Diaz (Weight lifting), Daniel Caluag (Cycling), Rachel Ann Cabral (Archery), Mark Javier (Archery), and Mark Anthony Barriga (Boxing)


The Philippines first sent athletes to compete at the quadrennial Games in 1924. Since then, the country has amassed nine medals, two silver and seven bronze. However, no Philippine athlete has made the trip to the podium since 1996.

For the 2012 Games in London, the Philippines sent 11 athletes: the country’s smallest delegation yet. The small contingent prompted Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) party-list Rep. Mark Aeron Sambar push for the creation of a new Department of Sports.

The members of the group recorded as the smallest delegation the Philippines has ever sent were unable to attain their quest for gold, but that did not make the country’s pride for them lessen at all.

(7) Rizzini Alexis Gomez

Cebuana beauty closes 2012 by winning Miss Tourism Int'l 2012


Rizzini Alexis Gomez ended 2012 with a bang and kicked off 2013 on a high note for the Philippines after she was named Miss Tourism International 2012 on December 31.

Gomez bested over 50 candidates from other countries in the pageant held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

She won Mutya ng Pilipinas 2012 Tourism and represented the Philippines in the international pageant.

Aside from the crown, the 22-year-old also bagged the award for best in evening gown.


(8) Zendee Rose

“Random girl” rises to stardom

Zendee Rose Tenerefe, who earned the nickname "Random girl" after a video of her singing in a mall became viral on the Internet in 2012, rose to stardom and gained fame even more after, among other ventures, becoming a guest on the hit TV show "Ellen" in the United States in October.

There, she mentioned of dreaming of becoming a famous singer so that she could improve their family’s living conditions and send her cousins to school.
   
She caught the media's attention when a mall passerby recorded her on a camera phone singing an impromptu but "performance-level" rendition of Broadway torch song "And I'm Telling You" outside a store that sells videoke equipment, and posted the video on YouTube.
   
Posted in July, the video became viral and now has 2,271,468 hits.
   
Zendee Rose now guests on GMA Network television programs like “Party Pilipinas” and “Manny Many Prizes.”

(9) Andrew Wolff

Andrew Wolff clinches second place in the Mr. World competition

The Philippines’ contestant in the Mr. World competition, Filipino-British rugby player and model Andrew Wolff, came in second during the finale in Kent, England, in November.

According to the contest’s website, Columbia’s 21-year-old entry Francisco Javier Escobar Parra, was the night’s big winner as he was declared Mr. World 2012. Ireland’s Leo Delaney came in third.

Wolff won the Mr. World Multimedia award “with his energetic and engaging creations on his social media pages. He was deemed to have created the most exciting, informative and inventive news stories.”

(10) Kevin Balot

Transgender woman Kevin Balot crowned Miss International Queen 2012


A 21-year-old transgender beauty from the Philippines — Kevin Balot — was crowned "Miss International Queen 2012" in Thailand's seaside resort Pattaya in November.
   
One Filipino fan said that winning a transvestite contest in Thailand, the land of "lady boys," was like winning a soccer tournament in Brazil. An emotional Balot told reporters that she hoped the win would help her gain acceptance from her father.
   
         
"I'm very proud to be first here, and I hope my dad will accept me. Because in the family I'm the only boy, and my dad has big expectations of me. I made it. I won the International Queen Pageant, and I believe that my dad will accept me not only as his son but also as his daughter," she said.

(11) June Macasaet

June Macasaet named winner of the Manhunt International pageant

In November, model June Macasaet emerged as the winner in the Manhunt International 2012 male pageant in Bangkok, Thailand, besting more than 50 contestants to become the 16th winner of the contest and the first Filipino to claim the title.
     
“Congratulations June Macasaet from the Philippiines! You now join the elite group of Manhunt International winners as the 16th winner. We hope you will work hard to prove yourself worthy of the title. Well done. Your journey starts tonight,” a post from Manhunt International’s official Facebook page said.

Macasaet’s victory came a week after a Pinoy transgender, Kevin Balot, was crowned the winner in a pageant hosted also in Thailand.

(12) Carlito Floro Rosadino Jr.

Carlito Floro Rosadino Jr. wins 2 awards in Gay World competition


A Filipino bagged two awards in the Mr. Gay World competition in South Africa in April.

Carlito Floro Rosadino Jr. won the best national costume award for his sarimanok-inspired outfit, complete with a gold headdress and mechanical wings on the finals night of the competition held in Johannesburg.

The 27-year-old representative of the Philippines was also chosen as one of the Top 10 finalists.

He likewise won the People’s Choice Award after besting 21 other competitors in terms of online votes.

- VVP, GMA News

Black Eyed Peas' Fergie wears Pinoy design at New Year show


HOLLYWOOD, California -- Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas co-hosted the biggest New Year's Eve TV show in America, "Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's eve." The pop star wore a stunning one-shoulder yellow silk chiffon gown.
Black Eyed Peas singer Fergie poses in her Oliver Tolentino gown. Photo courtesy of Tolentino's Twitter account
It was Filipino Designer Oliver Tolentino's creation.
Earlier in 2012, at a Hollywood party, Tolentino met Fergie, who is familiar with Filipino talents because of bandmate apl.de.ap.
Fergie is just the latest Hollywood star to earn praise for wearing an Oliver Tolentino design.
The year 2012 was a banner year for the designer who has boutiques in Makati and Hollywood.
Tolentino's clients include actresses Anna Paquin, Emmy Rossum, TV host Maria Menounos and "Big Bang Theory" star Melissa Rauch.
"He's just phenomenal. His color is amazing, his fabric is amazing. His design and construction is really incredible," said Rauch.
"Taken" actress Maggie Grace also shone in a Tolentino creation.
The dress made of pina and abaca was a hit at the Global Green USA's 13th annual Sustainable Design Awards.
 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Overseas Pinoys in 2012: Resiliency, tragedies, and PH pride


Overseas Filipinos continue to show their resiliency by braving the toughest of times including political strife, economic crisis, accidents, and even the impact of the peso's appreciation against the US dollar.
But the year also proved to be a lucky one for several Pinoys who continue to reap the fruits of their hard-earned labor be it in sports, entertainment, politics or personal advocacy.
Here are the some of the highlights of the year 2012:
1. Political unrest and repatriation
The year 2012 saw the repatriation of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were evacuated due to political instability in their host countries in the Middle East.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Syria to ensure the safety of the remaining Filipinos there. The DFA imposed and then lifted the travel advisory it imposed on Israel last November. The advisory advised Filipinos to defer travel to Gaza and central and southern Israel in view of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
It likewise lifted the Alert Level 2 (restriction phase) for central and southern Israel and the Alert Level 4 which called for mandatory evacuation for Gaza it raised last November 20.
But the work of the government does not end when the OFW arrives home. It continues to extend assistance to them in the form of its re-integration and livelihood programs.
2. Tragedies
In November, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it arrested Filipino American Ralph Kenneth DeLeon, 23, and his two friends for allegedly conspiring to join the Taliban and do violent acts of jihad.
DeLeon and his two friends pleaded not guilty to the charges early December.
Also in November, three Filipino workers were killed in an explosion at an oil rig operated by Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. in Louisiana. Three other Filipinos were treated for burns, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. said in a statement issued before Christmas that the condition of the three injured Pinoys had improved and that they would soon be discharged from the hospital.
On November 1, a truck carrying liquefied natural gas, driven by a Filipino, crashed into a flyover and exploded in Riyadh. The accident claimed the lives of more than 20 people, including one Filipino.
3. Issues affecting OFWs
The peso hit a 57-month high of P40.85 to $1 last Dec. 6, already a 7% increase from its close of P43.84:$1 in end-2011.
But this spells bad news to the millions of Filipinos working overseas as the dollars they remit to their loved ones may no longer be as strong as before.
In July, several OFW groups launched a 5-day campaign dubbed as “Global Webwide Protest to Stop PhilHealth Increase” in different social media platforms.
The PhilHealth Board issued Circular No.022 imposing a 150% hike in health premium for OFW members from P900 to P2, 400.
PhilHealth decided to defer the implementation of the new premium until 2013 “in light of the global crisis which has resulted to the repatriation of a lot of OFWs”.
The online protest, initiated by the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA), stressed that Philhealth must be more sympathetic to OFWs who are earning salary.
The registration for the Overseas Absentee Voting ended on October 31st. The DFA said the total number of overseas absentee voting registrants hit 988,384, falling short of the 1 million target for the May 2013 polls.

4. Pinoys who made the country proud

Several Pinoys made the Philippines proud in 2013.
Filipinos here and abroad rooted for Fil-Mexican-American Jessica Sanchez during her stint at the singing competition, American Idol. Her win as a runner-up opened up more doors of opportunity for the 17-year-old singer.
Filipinos were also among the thousands of people who volunteered to become performers in the London Olympics 2012.
The Olympic ceremony’s theme "Isles of Wonder" by Oscar award-winning director Danny Boyle was inspired by Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest”. It showcased the UK’s rich heritage and the best of Britain’s diverse culture.
Another Filipino-American thrust into the limelight is Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra, also known as Coach Spo. He is the first Asian basketball coach to steer an NBA team to become world champions after the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in this year’s NBA Finals.
In South Korea, Philippine-born Jasmine Lee was the first naturalized Korean to be elected in Parliament. The 35-year-old mother of two ran as proportional representation candidate under the New Frontier Party. Lee was recently in Manila with four South Korean parliamentarians to look into the issue of Korean-Filipino children abandoned by their Korean fathers in the Philippines.

Top CEO’s bullish on the Philippine economy in 2013


The Aquino government has described 2012 as one of the best years ever for the Philippines with economic growth expected to surpass the targeted 5 to 6 percent and the stock market ending the year on a 38th record high, making it the second best performing market in Asia behind Thailand.
But 2013 promises to be even better, according to the CEOs of some of the country’s largest corporations who are already looking forward to even faster economic growth and the Philippines finally getting investment-grade status, which is expected to pave the way for more foreign investments to pour into the country.
“This year’s good economic fundamentals—benign inflation, high foreign exchange reserves and low interest rates—provide a good springboard for a rosy 2013 outlook. Hopefully, this translates into another credit rating improvement that would put the country to investment grade, something we haven’t seen in at least the last three decades. Having this upgrade could help change people’s perception outside the country on the Philippines as a place to put in their investments, which is the only economic indicator that we are not doing as well,” said Holcim Philippines CEO Ed Sahagun. Benign growth fairies
An equally optimistic Antonio Moncupa Jr., president and chief executive officer of EastWest Bank, noted that the “growth fairies seem to be favoring the country.”
“We made our plans for 2013 on the premise that the Philippine economy will do well. And we believe we stand on good foundation. We hear, feel and see our loans-and-deposits customers on how well their businesses are doing. We expect the macro numbers—gross domestic product growth, loans-to-GDP ratio, the fiscal deficit, government revenue collections—to continue showing good numbers,” Moncupa said.
“Overall, we expect the momentum of domestic demand and the country’s good macroeconomic numbers to outweigh the uncertainties in Western economies. Given our positive economic outlook, we will proceed with our expansion programs,” he said.
2013 election boost
According to Moncupa, the 2013 midterm elections should give the economy—which the government expects to grow by between 6 and 7 percent—an added boost as it will provide another opportunity to pump-prime the economy with increased expenditures.
Jose Concepcion III, CEO of food and beverage giant RFM Corp., and Partho Chakrabarti, president of Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines made the same prediction.
Concepcion said 2013 would be a “super year” for the Philippines, partly because elections will help boost consumption. As a result, the stock market should hit even more records in 2013, he said.
Chakrabarti said the overall optimism of the population would result in increased investment and spending, by both companies and individuals.
“Confidence will continue to increase in 2013 and should be higher than 2012. The increased activities around the elections will further stimulate the economy in the first half,” said Chakrabarti, who also predicted that the beverage industry will grow at a faster rate in 2013 than has been seen over the past two years.
Riza Mantaring, CEO of Sun Life Financial Phil., gave a similarly rosy projection for the Philippines in 2013, saying that the economy would continue to “grow strongly” because of strong domestic consumption.
“It is already the third largest of the $1 trillion-plus Asean consumer market, and we expect to continue to move up as we have a young and still growing population with growing purchasing power,” she said.
San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang said the economy will continue to become strong mainly because “investors believe in our President and his good image.”
Continuing investor interest
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest umbrella organization of more than 30,000 enterprises in the country, also projected a stronger Philippine economy in 2013 because of two significant events in 2013—the midterm elections next May and the start of the second term of US President Barack Obama in January.
“The Philippine economy in 2012 has shown resiliency and strength amid the economic crisis in Europe and territorial disputes in the region. This is mainly due to our government’s effective fiscal management policies which created a stronger-than-expected investors’ interest in the Philippines,” said PCCI president Miguel Varela.
The United States will still influence the Philippine economy as it remains among the biggest sources of investments and also among the biggest markets for Philippine goods, the PCCI said.
Varela said now would be the perfect time to pursue more reforms and start developing domestic industries.
The PCCI stressed the need to fine-tune policies to support programs that will revive a weakening industrial sector. It urged the government to carry out more support in terms of infrastructure, incentives and market linkages in the agriculture sector. It also pushed for the implementation of various public-private partnership(PPP) projects, which are supposed to anchor government and private sector cooperation in important development programs.
Overall, the PCCI sees brighter prospects in 2013 in the face of the continuing interest of fund managers and investors alike in the Philippines.
“Given the significant milestones we have achieved in assisting potential investors in the country and if we are to base on the various delegations and missions we received or organized this year, coming from countries like India, China, Russia, Bahrain, Turkey, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, among others, we definitely see a string of investment interest and opportunities in the country. Our assessment is that the economy is headed toward the right direction,” it said.
Continue reforms
Maynilad Water Services CEO Ricky Vargas also stressed the need to continue the reforms and to pursue projects to maintain growth, especially the PPP infrastructure projects.
“Our country needs infrastructure investments that will support businesses and improve lives. If the government can fast-track PPP projects next year, then we may see an even more vibrant Philippine economy in 2013. We are already on the right path. We just have to stay on track and move faster so more Filipinos can experience firsthand what progress feels like,” said Vargas, adding that 2013 marks the start of its “expansion era” for Maynilad.
“Additionally, while the daang matuwid (straight path) strategy of the government has been successful in curbing graft and corruption in the bureaucracy, there is a need to further strengthen the implementation of this strategy. Otherwise, the gains achieved in the last few years could be undermined or negated,” Vargas stressed.
Guarded optimism
Manila North Tollways Corp. CEO Ramoncito Fernandez looks forward to 2013 with “guarded optimism.”
“The national economy is poised to repeat its growth but to sustain that growth, the country needs more foreign direct investments and infrastructure spending,” he said.
Mantaring said there were external factors to watch out for as these could derail growth in 2013.
“In terms of risk, a growing economy usually attracts inflation, but we feel the government has put in place enough measures to mitigate this risk at the moment. An abrupt appreciation of the peso is also a threat to the business process outsourcing sector as it lessens its competitiveness.
“External threats such as the US fiscal cliff, the lingering euro debt crisis and an economic slowdown in China can also negatively impact our economy, particularly the export sector,” she said.
However, Mantaring expects that the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia would not be as affected by a global economic slowdown as their economies are consumption-led. The expected increase in government spending will also help support growth, she said.
(Story courtesy of Tina Arceo Dumlao of the Philippine Daily Inquirer)