Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Celebrate the Gran Via Centenary

If you happen to travel to Madrid and time is not a luxury for you, then the best place for you to stay is a cozy hotel in the most prominent street in all of Madrid, Gran Via. And if you’ve already made arrangements of going there this year, you’re lucky because Gran Via is celebrating its 100 years anniversary.

The Madrid Tourist Board has included the celebration of the Gran Via in its guided tours program, which also provides decent background information on buildings and sites within the Gran Via. The most recent celebration Madrid for the renowned destination was held on April 11 at the Plaza del Callao. The feast was a special treat prepared by the City of Madrid, as well as the the Friends of Gran Vía and the Association of Shopkeepers of Calles Preciados, Carmen, Arenal and adjoining streets (APRECA). The city dedicated a cake filled with a hundred candles commemorating the street’s birthday celebration.

Your temporary residence

A great place to stay in Gran Via is at the Emperador Hotel Madrid, situated right in the middle between Plaza de España and Plaza del Callao. Guests can view premier sights of Madrid such as the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral from its roof deck swimming pool. From here, you also have a better look at the winged ornaments on the apexes of nearby buildings. These figures, symbolizing victory, are used not just in the buildings along Gran Via, but throughout Madrid as well.

But regardless of your choice of hotel, the beauty of staying in the Gran Via is that everything else is simply a short walk away. For such a grand street, street traffic is very light, which makes going around a lot more pleasurable.

Now, after 100 years of constant change, there are literally hundreds of places to go, things to do, food to delight on, clothes to try out, performances to catch, and movie premieres to watch. However, one should try not to be so overwhelmed with Gran Via as to miss out a few of the essential stops.

How to enjoy Gran Via

There are many approaches to experiencing the city. The techie way of doing so is going online and preparing an itinerary of sorts as to where to go during the trip. Another way is to simply wing it and ask locals for directions.

The best way to start your small voyage into Gran Via is to begin at the historical Plaza de España and work your way through the many destinations along the way. By the time you reach Calle de Alcala, you can choose whether to go to Paseo de Recoletos, Paseo Del Prado next, or continue through Calle de Alcala.

The people in Madrid are easy going and delightful. And the people in Gran Via are no different. Because of the year-long festivities, people in this area of the city are more than happy to point you to their preferred destinations. A delightful conversation might even ensue if you happen to talk about the right kind of wine, or a beautiful place to go to at night. Many secrets abound that only locals might know, like how Museo Chicote used to be Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail bar during his stay in the 1930s, or that the Telefonica Building was Madrid’s first Sky Scraper. It’s always such a pleasure to learn things from residents rather than tour guide pamphlets.

Basking in culture

Like most guests, tourists go to Madrid for the culture more than anything else. Culture, arts, and entertainment are interwoven into Gran Via much like musicality within most Spanish poems. This grand street reflects this with a wide showcase of pristine disciplines like architecture, theater, fashion, and music.

The structures along Gran Via are unique examples of classical Spanish architecture. Spanning from centuries of practice, these buildings showcase a combination of modernist, classical, and neo-Mudejar, especially the buildings near the Plaza del Callao portion of Gran Via. Here you can see buildings such as the Edificio de España and the Torre de Madrid. Both 20th century structures, they were the tallest buildings in Madrid decades ago.

One of the most compelling piece of architectural magnificence is the Metropolis Building. It is located at the end of Gran Via, right before Calle de Alcala. With its awe-inspiring apex piece supported by a rotunda of Corinthian columns, Metropolis towers above Gran Via and the rest of the structures nearby.

With all that looking up at the intricate designs of the buildings, one would surely work up an appetite. Surely guests don’t want to waste the experience on simply dining in the hotel where they checked in. One must go out and give his or her taste buds a vacation as well.

Theaters in the Plaza del Callao showcase some western broadways like Chicago from time to time, but are also homes to local production. Like the many dining destinations along Gran Via, guests will also experience a unique entrée for the mind and soul.

With a steady budget of Euros70, guests can enjoy the great tasting and authentic cuisines like Paella Valenciana, as well as other meals cooked with their own unique Spanish twist. A great place to dine is the famous Torres Bermajes. It’s known widely for its Sirloin steaks, as well as its Paella Valenciana and grilled food like entrecote, lamb chops, and salmon. Torre Berjames is also known for its incredible Flamenco shows

And if Flamenco isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps the beats of Arena will suite you well. A multi-purpose venue, Arena is known for holding big events like movie premiers, large-scale parties, and concerts. Just think of Space Ibiza when you’re thinking how big the parties they throw are here.

And lastly, for the fashion seekers, there are several shops and boutiques that feature both international brands, as well as locally-made items. Salvador Bachiller is probably one of the most famous brands when it comes to bags, and its roots come from its store in Gran Via. Salvador Bachiller is known both the quality and exclusivity of their leather handbags, footwear, and suitcases. Other brands like Springfield, H&M, and Zara also have shops along Gran Via.

So whether you’re in Madrid for a week of just a few days, you simply must dedicate a day or two to get to know and celebrate Gran Via’s 100th year. It’s not just a tourist destination, or some road that connects one part of Madrid to another. It’s a masterpiece carved with 100 years of change, thousands of dedicated people, and the sum of Spanish culture.

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Walking the road not-so-less traveled: Following the Way of El Camino de Santiago

Walking the road not-so-less traveled: Following the Way of El Camino de Santiago

It has been said that the real essence of traveling is in the journey itself and not the destination. For friends Luz Lorenzo and Bunny Fabella, this adage became a reality as they set across Spain’s pilgrimage route to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

Economist Luz Lorenzo was first intrigued by the artistry of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral while doing research for a college humanities assignment. Fascinated by its history, Romanesque interiors, and pilgrimage, Luz vowed that she would one day go on the pilgrimage and see the Cathedral for herself.

Fast forward to 2002, after much planning and several postponed travel arrangements, Luz finally found herself with a credencial or a “pilgrim passport,” backpacking the Spanish pilgrimage route via the Camino Frances. On her own and on-foot, Luz mapped out a self-guided 800-kilometer trek to Santiago de Compostela to begin her six-week expedition.

A web of interconnecting routes which extend throughout Spain and across parts of Europe, “The Way of St. James” or “El Camino de Santiago”1 leads pilgrims to the shrine of St. James (or Santiago in Spanish) at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, the endpoint of the El Camino de Santiago. Pilgrims who complete the camino to the Cathedral are believed to earn plenary indulgence for their perseverance and faithfulness.

Walking the camino unaccompanied is quite common and easy. Guided group tours are also available. Pilgrims can either walk, bike, or travel on horseback on any of the four roads: the Camino Frances, Camino Portuges, Camino del Norte, and Camino Ingles. Similar to the varied modes of traveling the camino, Compostela’s pilgrims nowadays have different reasons for tackling the road: it could be spiritual upliftment, athletic endeavor, cultural immersion, or simply marking a turning point in life. Whatever mode or reason modern pilgrims have, since the medieval times, droves of people still find fulfillment in completing the pilgrimage.

Scallop-shaped road markers and arrows strategically dot the entire route. Friendly locals also gladly help disoriented peregrinos or pilgrims to the right track. The pilgrimage’s growing popularity assures peregrinos that they’ll bump into fellow travelers along the way.

Though she took the trip alone, Luz said the solitary walk gave her an opportunity to bump into people she wouldn’t ordinarily meet if she was on the pilgrimage with a group of friends. “It’s different because I didn’t feel isolated; I wasn’t cocooned off from my fellow travelers. I met different groups of people, especially in the beginning since I was walking by myself,” said Luz.

Families or friends who plan to do the pilgrimage together will find it a good bonding activity as well. Professional caterer Bunny Fabella was part of a group of five who navigated the 112-km camino from Sarria to Compostela. While each of them treaded the camino at their own pace, they found comfort and encouragement at the thought that their companions were just a few paces away.

Peregrinos like Bunny and Luz would walk an average of 20 kms a day and stop before nightfall to rest at refugios or albergues de peregrinos, also known as pilgrim shelters. These room or dormitory-type hostels ask a minimum fee or donativo donation to certified peregrinos. According to Luz, most refugios have rudimentary facilities — mainly a bed, bathrooms, and wash area. Managed by hospitaleros, these overnight accommodations also give free medical treatment to sick or injured pilgrims and even allow them to extend their stay.

Food is also not a problem for those walking the Way. Some albergues offer homemade Spanish meals to pilgrims at inexpensive prices. Travelers who prefer to dine at authentic Spanish restaurants will also enjoy discounts with the pilgrim menu.

One major consideration peregrinos should think about though is traveling and packing light. Bunny and Luz agree that people planning to walk either 100 kms or 800 kms of the El Camino de Santiago should pack lightweight, quick-drying essentials that can be worn in the sweltering heat, unpredictable rain showers, or gusty wind.

Sleeping mats, walking sticks, medicine kits, toiletries, drinking water, and some food like the customary Spanish bocadillo or sandwich baguette is enough to sustain pilgrims.

Peregrinos, who have completed all stamps in their credencials, receive a certificate of accomplishment or compostela. They can hear the Pilgrim Mass which is held each noon at the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. As with other churches throughout the route, peregrinos who receive the compostela have their country of origin and starting point announced during the mass. Priests administer the Sacrament of Penance to enable pilgrims to fully attain the plenary indulgence. Furthermore, pilgrims get their scallop shells upon reaching Santiago de Compostela to remind them of their trip across the Spanish countryside.

“There are plenty of aspects to the trip. There’s a religious aspect. There’s also a cultural aspect because you see a lot of good architecture, and you get to meet people and witness their culture, language and way of life,” said Luz.

Bunny said that the pilgrimage gave them not only a first-hand taste of Spanish hospitality but also authentic Spanish gastronomy. The far-reaching and comprehensive scope of this one-of-a-kind journey is proof that anyone who decides to step foot on the camino is guaranteed to have a wealth of experiences, if not enlightenment. “If you really want a pilgrimage, you do this, because it’s multi-faceted. It’s fun, uplifting, relaxing and definitely a trip of a lifetime,” said Bunny.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Leaders like bus drivers by Francis J. Kong

Here's another interesting read.....

Every day of my life, I have to take EDSA, which is crowded most of the time, as vehicles travel at the lightning speed of 30 kilometers per hour, many times slower. When traffic is light, I watch out for those negligent, reckless, dangerous bus drivers who race one other to get to their stops.

Now this got me thinking.

Bus drivers have a vision. They set goals and set their sight on those goals. They seem to be ready to run over anything and anyone just to reach their goals. At times, they even manage to destroy lives in the process.

Many leaders in business organizations lead like bus drivers. They set goals that are so specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely, they make a business consultant like me want to applaud them. But there is one problem. Like bus drivers, they run over their own employees, and crash through their closest and most loyal people. All in the name of accomplishing their goals. Their slogan in life? “The end justifies the mean-ness!” Some do this consciously. These are Machiavellian monsters adorned with the charm and grace of a serial killer; others are more clueless that they are actually doing it.

Are they able to achieve success? Perhaps, but success such as theirs is short-lived. It takes an inspiring leader who knows he cannot succeed alone to achieve true and lasting success. It takes a humble servant-leader whose mission on the job is not just to achieve goals, but to make his people become better in the process.

No one creates success alone; winning in business is winning with people. Running over people will only take you so far. To create true and lasting success you must nurture and invest in your people. Here are four essential ways to do this:


Great leaders know they deal with people who have feelings, not lifeless machines. The more you connect with your people, the more you learn about them and the more you really know them. I offer an assessment tool in my two-day leadership workshop seminar, and 90 percent of the time, participants are stunned to realize they’ve been working with the same people for years yet do not know them that well.


People hate the feeling of being used, of being taken advantage of. Work in itself is extremely challenging, but if done for a leader who cares about his team members, it becomes bearable. Meanwhile, work becomes unbearable the moment leaders behave like jerks who use his team members to accomplish his or her goals, and dispose of them like used tissue pieces when they’ve served their purpose. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said it all too well: “People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” People become more engaged at work and would work at their highest potential when their leader cares about them.


Great leaders guide their people, work with their people, and bear the burdens with their people. When things go wrong, great leaders accept responsibility, carry the blame, and own the problem. This creates a tremendous impact on the people, as they become inspired to support their leaders through as well. Leaders who grab the credit for their team’s labor then blame them for messed-up jobs are jerks. They are the main reason why good people leave organizations.


Very high on the list of reasons why good people leave is the fact that people feel they are not appreciated. Many leaders do not realize that something as simple as a personally-written “thank you” note creates a strong and lasting impact on the recipient’s life.

Leadership is not just about what you do. It’s about bringing out your people’s best – inspiring them to be at their best and to give their best. This kind of leadership benefits everyone in the organization.

Leadership is not just about rules. Author Andy Stanley said, “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” And rebellion does not necessarily mean picket lines and work stoppage; disengagement from work is another, and it actually costs more.

Don’t drive your people the way those jerks drive their buses recklessly along EDSA and many of our highways. Inspire your people, engage them and invite them on the bus with you. Allow everyone to experience an amazing ride.

You know very well that you ought to “do unto others…as if you were the others…..”

(Learn inspiring leadership skills with Francis Kong as he presents Dr. John Maxwell’s “Developing The Leader Within You” program this June 29-30 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel. For further inquiries, contact Inspire Leadership Consultancy Inc. at 632-6872614 or 09178511115.)

Getting along with people by Francis J. Kong

How do you get along with people? Well, listen to this story:

Two people had adjoining farms, one raised wheat and had children and large dogs. The other raised sheep.

The sheep farmer was in a quandary because the dogs next door were running into his pastures and frightening the sheep. He spoke to his neighbor but the invasions continued. He thought about taking the neighbor to court. He even thought about poisoning the dogs. Then one day he found a solution.

Some new lambs were born and the sheep farmer gave each of his neighbor’s children a lamb as a pet. They were delighted! Because of the pet lambs, the father could no longer let the dogs run amok. He restrained them and taught them to leave the lambs and sheep alone.............. And everybody lived happily ever after.

That tiny little powerful booklet named Bit and pieces offers: Ten suggestions for getting along better with people. Listen to this:

1.) Guard your tongue. Say less than you think. I am a public speaker but I need to be silent when it comes to this.

2.) Make promises sparingly. But keep them faithfully.

3.) Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind word. This can be developed as a habit over time.

4.) Be interested in others, their pursuits, work and family. In other words, be human and be sensitive to others.

5.) Be cheerful. Don’t dwell on minor aches and small disappointments. Some people brighten up the room by leaving it. Don’t be one of these.

6.) Keep an open mind. Discuss but don’t argue. Disagree without being disagreeable. You’ll know you have a great personality when people disagree with you yet continue to like you.

7.) Discourage gossip. It is destructive. Never talk bad against anyone behind his or her back. This is an act of cowardice you know.

8.) Be careful of other’s feelings.

9.) Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks about you. Live in such a way that nobody will believe them. Even if you feel like getting even…don’t.

10.) Don’t be anxious about getting credit. Just do your best and be patient.

Well these are 10 suggestions for getting along with people and take note of this. Every single suggestion presented above comes right out of the bible.

Following them and applying them to our daily lives not only in the work place but in the homes as well gives us the principles on how to get along with people.

Good leaders know how important it is to develop good people skills.

Somebody says: Life is easy; it’s the people who make it difficult!

But leadership is above all things dealing with people.

Follow the advices given today and these three things will happen:

First you’ll discover that people will like you more.

Second, you’ll discover that you’ll like people better.

Third, you’ll discover that you’ll like yourself as well.

Know that not everyone will like you. Not everyone will like me. I know this very well. Whether the sentiment is justified or not is never the point. One thing I have discovered in life is that I may not be able to control everyone but if there is one person I can control it’s got to be me.

The Bible commands that we are to be at peace with everyone to the best of our ability. This is what I want to do and even if some people don’t….I still do.

(Francis Kong’s new book “Duh?!!” is now available in all leading bookstores nationwide.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lactacyd's Team woman run

I got into running because I want to lose weight...I make sure that I run every weekend.  On June 27, I will join my MR friends in Lactacyd's Team Woman run - thanks to our officemate who offered us to run for free!  The Team Woman Run is open to women of all ages.

For more info, please check their FB account.


Friday, June 11, 2010

SM Super Chefs: A Flavor Cook-Off at SM Hypermarket

Filipinos are foodies at heart. Indeed, our love for food permeates the very fabric of our society – and more often than not, it is part of the glue that binds Filipino families together. This is shown when we invite people into our homes, or when we watch our mothers and aunts plan entire events around menus. Entire books have even been written about how much of our history is reflected in our favorite dishes.

As a living testament to our country’s past cultural influences, our meals are a merry mix of Chinese, Spanish, and Western influences. Classic Filipino favorites such as Adobo, Menudo, and Kaldereta all draw inspiration, in one way or another, from our colorful past – yet the amalgamation of flavors which never fails to whet our appetites is unmistakably Filipino. Thus, every Filipino household has a favorite version of Adobo, Kaldereta and Menudo, with flavors ranging from sweet to salty and a mix of other ingredients such as green peas, tomatoes, and carrots, all of which make the dishes more enticing to the Filipino palate.

Luxury made affordable by SM Hypermarket

However, in as much as Filipinos love their food, the availability of fresh quality ingredients, coupled with escalating costs, make the preparation process quite frustrating. Surely, fresh beef and pork for Kaldereta, Menudo, and Adobo are non-negotiable staples much like quality collateral ingredients such as fresh potatoes or carrots. Apart from freshness, the ingredients should not only be luxurious in taste but should also be easy on the pocket.

Luckily, SM Hypermarket, one of the largest supermarket chains in the country, has taken it upon itself to make quality ingredients easily available to every Filipino, making it easier for homemakers as well as food establishments to bring genuinely delicious food to Filipinos everywhere. “If there’s anything a good cook knows, it’s that the best ingredients make for the best dishes. So in order to make these mouthwatering delicacies, the average cook has to find and purchase these ingredients at a reasonable price,” says Frances Crisol, SM Hypermarket's Senior Manager for Marketing Communications. “As such, at SM Hypermarket, we’ve made luxury affordable to our shoppers in order for more families to enjoy good food.”

Not your typical ‘talipapa’

“We’ve taken the beloved Filipino wet market and gave it a modern twist, but we don't sacrifice anything for the convenience of shopping in a clean, air-conditioned environment – both the quality of the goods and their affordability are the same as the ones found in your local wet markets. What’s more, we have quite a selection of products you can choose from. Aside from everyday ingredients, we also carry hard to find items such as fresh herbs and imported vegetables.”

In true wet market tradition, SM Hypermarket branches also offer “takal-takal” products, allowing shoppers to buy at preferred quantities and prices. If it’s large quantities a shopper needs, though, the store also offers Big Packs – bulk products such as meats, sauces and condiments at a very affordable price.

A revolutionary competition

Not content with just revolutionizing the way Filipinos shop, SM Hypermarket wants to invigorate the Filipino’s love for Pinoy food, as well.

In 2004, SM Hypermarket introduced SM Super Chefs, which began as a cooking demo featuring some of the nation’s best known celebrity chefs from whom shoppers picked up cooking tips on how to use the vast variety of the fresh ingredients available in SM Hypermarket. In 2009, the concept further evolved into a customer cook-off, where selected participants were able to shop for their quality ingredients at SM Hypermarket and cook them right there in a contest that challenged their creativity and their culinary skills.

This year, SM Super Chefs undergoes an ultimate makeover to make it even bigger, better, and more exciting! The competition will feature more challenging tests of the contestants’ culinary talents. Open to all cooking enthusiasts, from housewives to hobbyists to professional chefs, the competition will be held in several stages, with the elimination and final rounds being televised over the Asian Food Channel starting July 22, 2010 at 6:30 pm. (Please see attached file for the complete airing schedule.)

To participate, interested cooks only need to purchase P500 worth of groceries at SM Hypermarket, either single or accumulated purchase, that includes any product of the contest sponsors – Unilever Foodsolutions, Nestle, San Remo, Purefoods, Selecta, Kraft Miracle Whip, Cheez Whiz, Eden Cheese, Mccormick, Lee Kum Kee, Kikkoman soy sauce, Clara Olé, and San Miguel Foods.

Each participant will then be required to undergo a cooking audition per branch starting on June 15, 2010. The audition will require them to prepare one of the three favorite Filipino dishes – Adobo, Caldereta, and Menudo, and bring them to any of the 20 SM Hypermarket branch on specified dates.

There will be three winners of the audition chosen for each branch. These winners will then face off in live cooking challenges against the winners from other branches until only 12 participants remain. These twelve finalists will then compete in four more rounds.

The show will be hosted by celebrity chef Tristan Encarnacion, and will have the remaining cooks strive to please the discriminating palates of the panel of judges – restaurateur and chef Rolando Laudico, culinary school proprietor chef Reggie Aspiras, and broadcaster and food enthusiast Winnie Cordero.

The cook who bests all his or her competitors and claims the title of SM Super Chef will take home a P100,00 dream kitchen showcase, and go on a four-day all-expense-paid trip to Singapore for a culinary training.

Visit your nearest SM Hypermarket now!