Friday, September 28, 2012

BDO offers online shopping on installment

Have you ever wanted to purchase something online but couldn’t because it would be too much to pay one-time within a month or so? How I wish I could buy airline tickets online automatically on installment as I’ve already had quite a number of online airline ticket purchases that would have been made even better if payments were spread out.

Well, the good news is... BDO Credit Cards is offering a first for online shopping with their automated Online Installment promo! Hopefully, this will be the start of a new local trend when it comes to online shopping.  With a bit of luck, I might just be able to purchase my long-haul flights on installment too! (fingers crossed)

For a minimum spend of P3,000 at BDO partner merchants, all BDO Credit Cardholders (except Corporate, Commercial, Tie-up & CUP credit cards) have the option to pay on 3, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months installment terms for online purchases until December 31, 2012. Cardholders may choose to avail of either the Absolutely Zero Percent or Regular Installment promo offer. It’s such a great deal, right?!

So with your BDO Credit Card, you can now purchase products and services from Ensogo,, Reebonz, Hallo Hallo Mall, Deal Dozen and the Philippine Hotel Reservations Service on installment. Other BDO online partner merchants include ZestAir, Ava, CashCashPinoy, City Delivery, Zalora,, Gupo and Lazada.

If you have a BDO Credit Card, you should not let this opportunity go to waste especially with Christmas just around the corner.  This would be a great - not to mention convenient - way to complete your Christmas list and be able to spread out the payments to make it easier on your pockets!

For more information, visit the BDO website.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The happy Filipino makes traveling to the Philippines more fun!

Traveling the Philippines is most definitely fun! After seeing all 80 provinces of our country, I can attest to the fact that it's more fun in the Philippines!

Having explored the islands of Batanes and experienced the warm Ivatan hospitality; knowing that the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are not only breathtaking sites and that the Ifugaos that live there are truly a happy group; spending a night with the Manobos in the Agusan Marsh who opened their floating homes to me; visiting the T'boli in Lake Sebu, all these experiences in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, there's one thing is common, Filipinos are welcoming, and know how to smile and have fun!

This kind of hospitality makes our country a viable tourist destination. Everywhere I go, there are always locals willing to help a visitor enjoy his or her stay.

Indeed the happy Filipino makes traveling to the Philippines more fun!

Filipinos are known to be among the happiest people in the world. Anybody who has been to the Philippines will attest that the remarkable ability of Pinoys to face anything with a happy and positive outlook truly is what sets them apart from the rest of the world.  When it comes to observing distinctly Pinoy quirks and sensibilities and highlighting the best of what the country has to offer, the insightful and humorous videos of YouTube sensation Bogart the Explorer always hit the spot.

Here is the latest video brought to us by Jollibee, where Bogart tours his newfound friend Kirk, a foreign tourist on his first visit to the Philippines. It features some of the most popular tourist attractions in North Philippines such as Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, Vigan in Ilocos Sur and Baguio City. But more than that, it highlights how Filipinos have fun while traveling or welcoming people.

More than the diversity of the country's natural resources and its often-cited world-class beaches, it is the Filipinos' warm hospitality and happy character that inspired the It's More Fun in the Philippines campaign.  While other countries definitely have their own breathtaking attractions, the Filipino people are the number one reason why tourists should travel to the Philippines.

To find out more about Jollibee's happy Filipino, visit

Monday, September 24, 2012

Splenda is the healthy sweet!

I’ve so gotten used to drinking black coffee since I have to avoid sugar as much as possible. That’s the life of a diabetic. Looking for the words sugar-free has become routine if I want to satisfy my sweet cravings. Which is why I am always happy, just as I was today, when my coffee is served with packets of Splenda!

I found out that Johnson & Johnson has started officially distributing Splenda in the Philippines! That explains why it’s now more readily available than before. It has been such a great friend the past few years as it has allowed me to enjoy things I would otherwise try to avoid.

But Splenda is not just for diabetics like me. We can all enjoy “sweet” without any guilt or downsides. Aside from being sugar-free, Splenda is a Low Calorie Sweetener (LCS) that comes closest to the taste of sugar. I myself can attest to that. It has no bitter aftertaste like other artificial sweeteners, and no calories!

Plus preparing sugar-free food and beverages is now made possible with Splenda. It is actually the only brand that can be used for cooking and baking because it is heat-stable. That’s why there are a lot of sugar-free cakes, pastries and desserts coming out in the market today. And that definitely keeps us all smiling, especially since Splenda can remove three-fourths of the calories that comes from sugar.

Did you actually know that? We’ve been so used to sweeteners only for coffee and other beverages, many don’t realize there are now more possibilities because of Splenda, a sweetener that can actually be used for cooking and baking. I’m looking forward to trying out some great recipes in the next few weeks now that Splenda is here in the Philippine market. Time to dish out something healthy yet sweet from our kitchen!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Pampanga: Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly & Corned Beef Brisket

From Pampanga comes another great food product! My high school classmates had been bugging me to try their new product: Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly and Corned Beef Brisket. So they gave me some of their stuff. It had been in the freezer for the longest time since I'm always out of the house.

Hillside Ranch Corned Beef Brisket
But I had guests a few weeks ago and decided to take them out to serve. It's easy to prepare actually since it's fully-cooked and microwavable. I first defrosted them using the microwave oven for a few minutes. Then I popped them in the toaster for a few more minutes. And they were done!

Hillside Ranch Slow Roasted Beef Belly
I served the Slow Roasted Beef Belly with the gravy that accompanies it. You only need to heat it in a pan or the microwave. But we have a special barbecue sauce that we always get from the Legazpi Sunday Market and it works quite well with it. The Corned Beef Brisket I served with horseradish and mustard. My guests were all raves about dinner.

So I'm sharing this with you. It's available at Essel Supermarket in San Fernando, Pampanga. In Manila, you can get it at Trellis Quezon City, Trellis Makati, or pick-up in Valle Verde 5. Call (0917) 5301251, (0917) 5319351 or e-mail Happy eating!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Czech Republic: Walking around Prague's historic center

The streets of Prague, Czech Republic seemed deserted when we drove into the Historic Centre of Prague, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As soon as we found out where exactly we were, we parked our car and tried to put coins into the parking meter. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to work. Knowing the heavy fines one could face in Europe for unpaid parking, we made sure to ask around.

After anxiously asking help from everyone we saw, someone finally told us it was a holiday and parking is free on holidays. Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (Den boje za svobodu a demokracii) is a public holiday that commemorates the student demonstrations of 1939 and 1989, against Nazi occupation and which sparked the Velvet Revolution respectively.

According to UNESCO, "The Historic Centre represents a supreme manifestation of Medieval urbanism (the New Town of Emperor Charles IV built as the New Jerusalem). The Prague architectural works of the Gothic Period (14th and 15th centuries), of the High Baroque of the 1st half of the 18th century and of the rising modernism after the year 1900, influenced the development of Central Europe, perhaps even all European architecture. Prague represents one of the most prominent world centres of creative life in the field of urbanism and architecture across generations, human mentality and beliefs."

Like the previous day in Vienna, the day was cold. We made our way to the Old Town Square (Staroměstské náměstí), the heart of Prague's Old Town (Staré Město). Among the beautiful buildings and monuments you will see around the square are the Týn Church or Church of Mother of God before Týn (Kostel Matky Boží před Týnem), St. Nicholas Church, Jan Hus Memorial, the Astronomical Clock (Pražský orloj) and the Old Town Hall among many others.

I didn't realize that Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe was buried in the Týn Church. So I missed looking for his grave marker while we were there.

The Astronomical Clock was built in 1410, making it the oldest one in the world that is still working. We actually waited for the hourly Walk of the Apostles, which features figures of the apostles and other moving sculptures. Prague celebrated the 600th anniversary of the clock in 2010.

From Old Town Square, we walked the direction of Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí) which is the center of Prague's New Town (Nové město). At one end of the square is the elegant main building of the National Museum (Národní muzeum).

We actually had a quick lunch at one of the sausage stalls which are aplenty around the square. I had to try out the Václavská klobása v rohlíku (Wenceslas's sausage on a roll) and Bavorská klobása v rohlíku (Bavarian sausage on a roll). Also available was the Madarska čabajka (Hungarian pepperoni). Condiments include sauerkraut, horseradish and pickles which would cost you more though.

On the way back to our car, we made sure to walk around the street market near the square.

Time was running out since we had to be in Paris the next morning! As we drove out of New Town, we saw the Nationale-Nederlanden Building, more popularly known as the Dancing House (Tančící dům) or Ginger and Fred. The deconstructivist building was designed by Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Frank Gehry.

Before leaving Prague, we passed by the Lesser Town (Malá Strana) to visit the Church of Our Lady Victorious (Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné), home of the Infant Jesus of Prague whose devotion is quite popular in the Philippines.

We ended up walking up to the Charles Bridge (Karlův most) and across the Vltava (Moldau) River. The bridge features statues of several saints venerated at the time it was built.

The most famous statue is that of St. John of Nepomuk, the national saint of the Czech Republic, who was drowned in the Vltava. People rub the base in the belief that it brings good fortune and that one will return to Prague as a result.

See more photos of Prague, Czech Republic in the Ivan About Town Facebook page.

Friday, September 07, 2012

SunLife Sun Shorts: So how do you deal with debt?

This short film got me smiling this afternoon. It's a humorous way of getting the message across, making sure you leave your loved ones with something even when you're gone. I won't say much about it and will let you watch it instead since it's brilliant!

There's a lot to learn from this short film, the importance of investing or hearing out opportunities even when you think you're too busy to do anything new, since they may be the solution to your problems. This short film, and the other four created for Sun Shorts, gives a funny twist to a very serious matter which is preparing for the future.

This special feature is brought to you in part by Sun Life Financial. The Debt is one of the five digital short films produced by Sun Life Financial collectively called Sun Shorts.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Austria: Historic Centre of Vienna & Schönbrunn Palace

Having taken up piano lessons as a kid, I was introduced quite young to classical music. Learning Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Strauss and Brahms, all Viennese composers, and listening to the beautiful waltz An der schönen, blauen Donau (Blue Danube), I've been fascinated with the contribution of Vienna, Austria to classical music. No doubt, it deserves its title, the City of Music.

So I did not pass up on the chance to visit Vienna as we drove around Europe last year. Aside from music, Vienna is also rich in architectural heritage. The Historic Centre of Vienna and the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn which is also in Vienna, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Vienna was just an hour away from Bratislava, Slovakia. After our dinner in Bratislava, we drove to Vienna where we decided to spend the night. The next day was unfortunately foggy, windy and cold. But it didn't stop us from walking around Vienna's historic streets.

We spent the morning walking around and exploring the Innere Stadt or Old Town of Vienna around the area of Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral) and Stephansplatz. The streets were actually being decorated for Christmas and I could imagine how charming it would look when the lights are switched on.

We walked through Michaelerplatz which is dominated by Michaelertor, the impressive neo-Baroque gate to the Hofburg Palace, the Hapsburg seat of power and currently the residence of the president of Austria. There was actually a tourism promotional campaign from Azerbaijan happening at Michaelerplatz. And we got to enjoy Azerbaijani food, drinks and cultural performances.

From Hofburg, we walked towards Maria-Theresienplatz, Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Art History) and Naturhistorisches Museum Wien (Museum of Natural History of Vienna) where stalls had been set up for the Christkindlmarkt (Christmas Market), a street market that is held during the four weeks of advent.

One highlight of Christmas Markets are the food stalls which feature local snacks and dishes.

I enjoyed the local breads, sausages and potato dishes, plus the schinkennockerl! Really good!

Later in the afternoon, we took Vienna's underground to Schönbrunn Palace. Unfortunately, since it was autumn, the gardens were not at their best. We got to marvel at the interior of the palace. Too bad though we couldn't take photos.

It got really cold and windy that we decided to call it a day quite early and start our drive to Prague, Czech Republic where we were going to spend the night. See more Vienna, Austria photos.

How to get to Schönbrunn Palace
You can take underground line U4, tram number 10 or 58, or bus number 10A to Schönbrunn Station. The palace is walking distance from the stations.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Philippine holidays and long-weekend schedule for 2013 (Proclamation No. 459)

Hunyo 12 by Claude Tayag (1989 Fiestas Serigraph Series)
Malacanang issued Proclamation No. 459, s. 2012 declaring the regular holidays, special non-working days, and a special school holiday for 2013. Here is the list of holidays and long-weekends of the Republic of the Philippines for 2013:

  • January 1 (Tue) - New Year's Day (four-day long weekend from December 29 to January 1)
  • February 10 (Sun) - Chinese New Year (no holiday declaration yet, wait for possible proclamation next year, possible long-weekend if February 11 is declared)
  • February 25 (Mon) - EDSA Revolution Anniversary (holiday for schools only, long-weekend for students from February 23 to 25)
  • March 28 (Thu) - Holy Thursday
  • March 29 (Fri) - Good Friday
  • March 30 (Sat) - Black Saturday (four-day long weekend from March 28 to 31)
  • April 9 (Tue) - Araw ng Kagitingan
  • May 1 (Wed) - Labor Day
  • June 12 (Wed) - Independence Day
  • August 8 (Thu) - Eid'l Fitr (calculated date, no declaration yet, possible three-day long weekend if declaration for August 9 is made, wait for proclamation next year)
  • August 21 (Wed) - Ninoy Aquino Day
  • August 26 (Mon) - National Heroes Day (three-day long weekend from August 24 to 26)
  • October 15 (Tue) - Eid'l Adha (calculated date, no declaration yet, wait for proclamation next year, possible three-day long weekend from October 12 to 14 if Malacanang sets holiday on October 14)
  • November 1 (Fri) - All Saints Day
  • November 2 (Sat) - Special Non-Working Day (three-day long weekend from November 1 to 3)
  • November 30 (Sat) - Bonifacio Day
  • December 24 (Tue) - Special Non-Working Day
  • December 25 (Wed) - Christmas Day
  • December 30 (Mon) - Rizal Day
  • December 31 (Tue) - Last Day of the Year (five-day long weekend from December 28 to January 1)
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