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Monday, February 18, 2013

Stephanie Retuya, the underdog who nearly won Asia's Next Top Model

Stephanie Retuya, who was recently named first runner-up of reality show Asia's Next Top Model, may not have won the competition. However, for someone who only started modelling barely two years ago and is described as a shy type, her achievement is an impressive feat.

Retuya was the only Filipina in the first cycle of Asia's Next Top Model, an adaptation of America's Next Top Model. The show ended on Sunday, when it was learned that Retuya came in second to Jessica Amornkuldilok of Thailand.

"For everyone who continuously supported me on this once in a lifetime journey thank you so much!!!! God Bless Everyone!" Retuya said in a post in her Twitter account, where she also describes herself as a bookworm and a "soy latte addict."

According to her bio on the show's website, Retuya had never been outside of the Philippines prior to joining the competition, and that she only started modeling in 2011. She is described as a “part-time model and a full-time mother to a baby girl.”

"[Retuya] discovered that modeling is not work to her because she feels completely in her element," her bio said.

"Her budding modeling career was soon interrupted because she got pregnant, and she now feels that surge of desire to continue pursuing what she believes is meant for her," it also said.

The 23-year-old Retuya, who towers at 176 cm (5 feet 9 inches), had an up-and-down competition, landing in the bottom two of the weekly photo shoot challenges five times and making the top three of the weekly challenges five times as well.

An article about Retuya in Yahoo!'s OMG section noted that she was often criticized during the show for playing it "too safe" during photo shoots and for her lack of confidence.

"However, Retuya managed to get two callbacks (out of five) during the go-see challenge, where the models are asked to audition for actual modeling jobs," the story said.

The perception of people regarding Retuya may not be wrong, as her bio on the show itself describes her as "very passive and shy," someone who "grew up thinking she was freakishly tall and did not talk much to people."

Even Retuya's portfolio during the show, accessible through Asia's Next Top Model's Facebook page, noted Retuya's perception of herself.

"Stephanie may see herself as an underdog but 'understudy' might fit better!" it said.

Still, although it can be said Retuya has talent that perhaps she does not see herself sometimes, others can, and in the end that was evidently seen in her moment of victory. — Gian C. Geronimo/BM, GMA News

Saving Manila Bay's sunset by watching it together

The wide sidewalk facing Manila Bay can be an awesome spot for pre-nuptial posing, or just a great place for a refreshing stroll. It is also the perfect place to view the sunset. 
Earlier this week, it was viewed flash-mob style by some 4000 sunset worshippers.

The Roxas Boulevard stretch along the bay was filled with silent protesters forming a human chain to watch the sunset, currently being threatened by plans of reclamation, and likely bid it goodbye. 
A project by Manila Goldcoast Development Corporation plans to build "Solar City", a financial center with an entertainment section, on a portion of Manila Bay.

Members of the SOS Manila Bay Coalition and protesters link hands as twilight falls on the bay.
According to an earlier report, the project proponents are only waiting for an environmental compliance certificate from the DENR before they begin the reclamation.
On Tuesday, members of the SOS Manila Bay Coalition, along with students, professionals, environmental advocates, tourists, and artists linked arms and lined the seawall from the US Embassy all the way to the Manila Yacht Club.
Unlike a typical protest event filled with angry calls to action, the scene was rather festive. People held up colorful umbrellas to shield themselves from the harsh afternoon sun. Overhead, a hovercam fluttered, and they hammed up for it, plus every other camera in the vicinity. 
They waved colorful signs. They giggled in awe as artist Betsey Westendorp painted the sky. They sang and danced along to a bongo and the upbeat sound of a ukulele. As the sun began to descend and gold began to blot through the sky, people began to count down to the magic moment.
"It's almost sunset! Time to link arms!" a marshall called out. The protesters grabbed each other's arms excitedly and faced the bay. 
When the sunset had finally arrived, they cheered and raised their arms to form triumphant silhouettes against the sky. Soon enough, the human chain broke out in a series of waves from one end of the seawall to the other. 

Save the sunset.
The cheers seemed endless. This was how to celebrate what just might be the beginning of the end for the baywalk's sunset view. 
For a heartbeat however, it was as if the brilliant view had rendered everyone speechless. For a few precious moments, the cheers died and people stood on the seawall to simply watch as the sky melted in swirls of gold, azure, and cerulean. 
In an online appeal started by the coalition, petitioners signed a letter addressed to the Manila city government. 
"Sunset on Manila Bay is a spectacular experience, and is free for all to enjoy. It is thus disheartening to find out that we may lose our sunset if developers have their way," the letter read, putting into words what several thousand participants were thinking that afternoon, as they fell silent and watched the sun sink into the sea. – KDM/HS, GMA News 

Gallup poll says the Philippines is World Leader in Love

The Philippines was voted the “world leader in love” as 93 percent of Filipinos admitted feeling love, according to a survey by the United States-based pollster Gallup.
Justin Wolfers, Gallup senior scientist and University of Michigan professor, said the Philippines bested 136 countries the pollster visited in 2006 and 2007.
“As part of the world poll, Gallup asked people, ‘Did you experience the following feelings during a lot of the day yesterday? How about love?’ The result was the most comprehensive global index of love ever constructed,” he said.
Wolfers noted on a typical day, around 70 percent of the world population reported they experienced love the day before.
“Given the question, this need not be the romantic kind of love typically celebrated on Valentine’s Day – it may also be the love of a child, a parent, family, or good friends. Needless to say, all are worth celebrating,” he added.
In the US, Wolfers said the “feelings of love were a bit more widespread, with 81 percent of Americans experiencing it for a lot of the day.”
“The world leader in love is the Philippines, where fully 93 percent of the population reported feeling love; Rwanda isn’t far behind at 92 percent, and Puerto Rico is the only other population surveyed where at least nine in 10 respondents reported feeling love,” he added.
In fourth place was Hungary with 89 percent; followed by Cyprus, and Trinidad and Tobago with 88 percent each; Paraguay with 87; Lebanon 86; and Costa Rica and Cambodia with 85 percent each.
On the other hand, the country with “the least widespread feeling of love” was Armenia with 29 percent; followed by Mongolia and Uzbekistan with 32 percent each; Kyrgyzstan with 34; Morocco, Belarus and Georgia with 43 each; Kazakhstan with 45; Moldova with 46; and Azerbaijan and Tajikistan with 47 percent each.
“It is important to note that differences between countries may be due to how cultures define love and not in actual day-to-day experiences. In some countries, the idea of love is restricted to a romantic partner, while in others it extends to family members and friends,” Wolfers said.
(Story courtesy of Sheila Crisostomo of the Philippine Star)

Fernandez, Ayala win Schwab International Social Biz Award

After an annual search around the globe for top social entrepreneurs, Schwab Foundation has selected 24 winners, 2 of whom are Filipinos – Jaime or “Jim” Ayala and Reese Fernandez-Ruiz.
Their customers are the poorest of the poor. Their businesses focus more on helping them than on making a profit.
Imagine two children who fight to study over the dangerous crackle of a kerosene lamp. Or think of a fruit farmer whose trees are ravaged in the dark of the night by bats. With a solar-powered lantern, the children study longer and do better in school, while the fruit farmer illuminates her field to scare away bats. Ayala’s Hybrid Social Solutions Inc, provides these lanterns and other innovative products to rural communities withoutaccess to basic goods and services.
Imagine a mother, who searches a landfill for scraps of cloth to weave but only makes 20 centavos a day after middlemen swallow up the profits from their sales. Fernandez-Ruiz’s company cut out the middlemen. She heads Rags2Riches, which helps impoverished women earn a livable wage by crafting recycled materials into fashionable and eco-friendly products.
Now both are being recognized internationally.
With their eyes set on environmental solutions, unique products and helping the poor, the Filipinos fit the bill of those picked as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2013. “The winners were selected in recognition of their innovative approaches and potential for global impact,” said the Schwab Foundation in a statement.
According to the foundation, more than 200 entrepreneurs from 59 countries have won the prestigious award, including Filipinos like Bam Aquino, Tony Meloto, Jose Luis Oquiñena, Mark Ruiz, Dylan Wilk and Anna Meloto-Wilk.
Ayala said he and past Filipino winners all seem to share a positive outlook about what they can do for the Philippines. “A lot of people, when they see poverty, they throw up their hands. We’re very optimistic,” he said.
“No country was every built on charity. Countries were built because people mobilized and took initiative,” said Ayala.
Personal inspiration
For both entrepreneurs helping people comes from a personal place.
As a young girl, Fernandez-Ruiz lived on the move, following around her missionary mother. In a way, she also lives her life in service. She helps hundreds of mothers, who in turn have more money to give their children better lives.
“Together, she has worked with the Rags2Riches team making sure that we really lift Filipino artisans out of poverty, maybe, one fashion or home accessory at a time,” said the company’s Marketing and Corporate Relations Manager Joe Mark Pardiñas.
“Our Community department was able to train 900 artisans since 2007 (when we started) to present,” he added.
Ayala made a pretty profit for the Zobel de Ayalas, growing their real estate company as the president of Ayala Land. Yet he left the lucrative post to start his own company to fulfill a childhood promise to help others.
“[My father] was an honest government employee. He almost became a priest, actually, so I think it was always in our family to think about others,” he said.
He recalled sitting at his father’s deathbed as a 14 year-old boy and his dad’s final advice? “Take care of your mom, get a good education and serve your country.”
“My life has been about figuring out how to serve,” he said.
Jim Ayala
Jim Ayala
Global platform
What is unique about the Schwab Foundation’s award is that it gives winners access to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, one of the most elite and high profile business meetings where top CEOs, policy titans, and sometimes even rock stars schmooze with each other.
Social entrepreneurs have the ear of the top CEOs more and more these days, Schwab Foundation co-founder Hilde Schwab told Huffington Post.
Ayala and Fernandez-Ruiz will be able to spread the word not just about their businesses but also the Philippines as a business destination.
For President Benigno Aquino III, the meeting was an opportunity to sell the Philippines’ new image as a successful economic star thanks to his government’s anti-corruption drive.
Ayala said he would tell CEOs to take advantage of business opportunities in the low-end market, especially in rural areas.
“CEO will have their priority markets and for some reason, the Philippines has somewhat fallen off the map of priorities,” he said. “Like anything else you’ve got to market the country,” he said.
Ayala believes that with the right advertising, CEOs could see how attractive it is to invest in selling long term quality products to Filipinos.
He explained that for a long time the Philippines has been one of the largest consumer markets in the world for fast moving consumer goods like softdrinks and cigarettes. But now with Filipinos’ incomes rising, he sees a real opportunity for businesses who want to invest in longer lasting and more expensive products like computers, TVs and refrigerators.
“The infrastructure and product costs have gotten to the point where you are reaching a tipping point where people can actually purchase these things. The markets are here for the taking.”
“If you do this, you will change the development of the countryside and the country,” said the social entrepreneur.
(Story courtesy of Katherine Visconti of

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Japanese businessmen say PHL desirable investment area

Japanese businessmen believe the Philippines is a top investment destination in Asia, according to a survey by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Manila.
JETRO Manila, a semi-governmental agency that promotes business between the Philippines and Japan, said the results of the latest survey showed the Philippines is a “desirable” investment and business destination for Japanese companies as compared to other Asian countries.
The survey was conducted from October to November 2012 on Japanese-affiliated companies in Asia and Oceania.
Japanese companies see the Philippines and Indonesia as the “most profitable”, according to the survey. Philippines and Indonesia beat competitors in all industries with 71.9% and 74.4% profitability, respectively.
“This result came about specifically because of the very promising performance of the Philippines in export oriented business with a 72.4% profit as oppose to China in 5th place with a 54.6% profit and India at last with 55.3% revenue,” JETRO Manila said.
When it comes to good management, the survey showed the Philippines had the least difficulty when it comes to recruiting general staff, with a 4.3% rating. This was followed by Indonesia with 6.8% and Vietnam at third with 13.8%.
China was seen as the most difficult with a 35.5% rating, due to the strict working environment compared to other countries.
The Philippines also had the least number of strikes and lockouts, with only 2 in 2011. This is compared to Vietnam with 857, and India with 389 in the same year.
The same survey showed most Japanese firms found Thailand to be the least troublesome when it comes to customs and administrative procedures. Surprisingly, the Philippines came in second.
“PEZA on the other hand, has played a vital role in providing assistance and smooth procedure in doing business resulting to the good ratings by the Japanese respondent companies in the Philippines,” JETRO Manila said.
Cheap labor
JETRO Manila noted the survey highlights the Philippines’ competitiveness when it comes to salaries. The Philippines’ annual salary of $4,581 for manufacturing staff is neither too low or too high compared to Asian neighbors. China had the highest with $6,734, while Vietnam had the lowest with$2,602.
However, manufacturing engineers and managers in the Philippines and Vietnam get the lowest salaries in the region.
Manufacturing engineers in the, Philippines and Vietnam receive an annual salary of $7,636 and $5,441 respectively. Manufacturing managers in the Philippines and Vietnam get $17,498 and $12,245 respectively. Malaysia had the highest salary for both engineer and manager with $14,451 and $30,083 respectively.
For non-manufacturing managers, Philippines and Vietnam also had the lowest annual salaries with $20,169 and $16,422 respectively.
According to the survey, Japanese businessmen see the Philippines with the least challenges.
But that doesn’t mean there are no challenges. One of the biggest challenges for Japanese firms is the difficulty in local procurement of raw materials and parts. Another challenge is the Filipinos’ perception of going abroad to work than stay in the Philippines.
“This still is a good performance for the Philippines as Japanese businesses in other countries had to deal with a lot more challenges such as wage increase and time consuming administrative procedures,” JETRO Manila said.
PH ranks last?
Despite citing the advantages of the Philippines, Japanese businessmen still ranked the country last for its expansion plans.
“Philippines landed on the last rank with 48.2% rating for expansion plan, while India, Indonesia, and Vietnam emerges as the target domestic markets with 83.6% , 77.3% and 65.9% respectively,” JETRO Manila said.
Many Japanese businessmen are looking to expand abroad due to difficulties in operating in Japan. Among the factors cited were the strong yen, high rate of corporate tax and shortage of electricity.

Philippine Airlines chosen among Asia’s most stylish cabin crew

Passengers across the Asia-Pacific region have spoken out in their own style survey, with Philippine Airlines coming in the top 10 ranking.
Leading global travel search site Skyscanner asked over 1200 jet-setters from across Asia-Pacific (Australia, New Zealnd, China, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Korea and Singapore) to vote for the cabin crew they thought was most stylish, and topping the list of 20 airlines in the study was Shanghai-based China Eastern who scored 4.15 out of 5 in the poll, wooing flyers with its smart navy blue uniforms teamed with white shirts and red scarves.
Closely following China Eastern was Korea’s Asiana Airlines who came second with 4.14. Virgin Australia, who ordered its staff to undertake lessons in etiquette, posture and language last summer, also have one of the most stylish cabin crew according to travellers scoring 4.03 out of 5 and taking third place in the poll. Air China and China Southern Airlines also completed the Chinese-dominated top five, scoring 4.00 and 3.98 respectively.
Janet Ranola, Skyscanner Philippines Manager and resident fashionista said: “Judging by the results of our survey, travellers clearly have a keen eye on fashion even at 35,000 feet and it’s great to see an airline from the Philippines scoring so highly. International Fashion Week clearly has some competition this month!” Top 10 Most Stylish Cabin Crew in Asia Pacific Ranking Top 10 Base Score out of 5 1 China Eastern Airlines China 4.15 2 Asiana Airlines Korea 4.14 3 Virgin Australia Australia 4.03 4 Air China China 4.00 5 China Southern Airlines China 3.98 6 Air Asia Malaysia 3.83 7 Singapore Airlines Singapore 3.78 8 Korean Air Korea 3.78 9 Philippine Airlines Philippines 3.76 10 Jeju Air Korea 3.63.


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