Friday, November 29, 2013

Online shopping just got easier with Maybank

Any regular Topaz Horizon reader knows I'm an online shopper. I've been shopping online since the early 2000s, even before it became uso! It actually still isn't uso now because a lot of people don't have credit cards or they have an inherent distrust of online transactions. Whenever people ask me, "Where did you buy that unique thing?" and I say, "Amazon! eBay! Deal Grocer! From an online shop in China/Singapore/US/UK/Russia/etc," I always get the question, "Aren't you scared of buying online?" —a question I always find extremely silly because if I were afraid of buying stuff online, I wouldn't buy stuff online!

So this blog post is for those who want to shop online but are deathly paranoid of it!

Maybank asked me to share this news with you: If you're a Maybank credit card holder, you can buy buy buy anything online and still be secure in the knowledge that your sensitive financial information is safe via their Maybank Secure Online Shopping (MSOS). 

Here's what happens:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Eerie empty beautiful Manila

Every time Manny Pacquiao has a fight, Vince and I shop. If we were thieves, we'd have made off with millions worth of merchandise. I remember going to Greenhills some years ago and the stores were open but there was absolutely nobody there. No one at all. We waited at Fully Booked, browsing books, while somewhere in the store, muffled roars would rumble out. Finally, when the fight is done, the employees will trickle out and they're all happy and excited and then the malls would quickly fill up, traffic will get snarled up, and life in Manila goes back to normal.

This is how not normal looks like:

This last Pacquiao fight, we didn't go out. But it would've been nice to drive on a day like that!

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Check out the best new beauty blog this year!

This is my super duper, absolutely-can't-live-without-her, good friend, Nicole Romero.

We met when we were still working in magazines. Wow, that feels like a lifetime ago! I don't exactly remember how we became friends since she's much younger than me, but however we became friends, I'm glad we did.
Nicole is part of the Wine Night Gang, but we haven't gone out at night for years!
We go out for afternoon tea now haha!
Or lunch. Nicole also happens to be amazing in the kitchen. We're about to eat the yummy lunch she made for us.
She's fabulous with kids, too! My normally aloof sons are always charmed by her!

Friendship aside, I'm also glad Nicole came into my professional life when I needed to spruce up the beauty pages of the magazine I used to edit. The beauty pages then were horrible and boring and template-y. I'm not in the habit of hiring my friends but I was desperate, and I knew Nicole is really talented when it comes to styling products and writing about beauty. I mean, seriously, how many ways can you describe lipstick, right? This girl will astound you on how she can make lipstick sound like the sexiest thing in the world.

So I'm soooo thrilled that Nicole finally finally finally started her own beauty blog!!!

Ladies, check out Beauty & Sparkle!

To celebrate her foray into the world of beauty blogging, Nic is holding her very first blog event this December 7. The first of her workshop classes that she calls "Sparkle Series," the Nail Art Workshop will be held at I Do Nails at Eastwood Mall. The workshop will be all about trends in the mani-and-pedi world, how to care for your nails and help polish last longer, and tips and tricks on creating your very own nail art!

So exciting! Just click here to get all the details and to sign up! Hurry! Slots are super limited!

But wait! She's also giving away two precious slots to a lucky girl and her friend! Click here to join the contest!

And while you're at Nic's gorgeous beauty blog, do give her a warm welcome into the blogging world. I've been bugging her for years to become a beauty blogger because I just knew that someone with her expertise is needed but she was so hesitant. But now that she finally did launch Beauty & Sparkle, it's such an amazing blog! I love it! I'm sure you'll love it, too.

Have a beautiful week!

*The first photo and the last two images are grabbed from Nicole's blog.

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Friday, November 22, 2013


It's been two weeks since Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda crashed through our country and that's been two weeks of me just glued to the news and on Facebook checking for updates, reading stories of survival and loss, forming half-baked opinions on shoulda coulda woulda's. I've been pretty useless as a result. My blogging duties forgotten (sorry, sponsors!) and it's only now that I'm working again.

These two weeks, the word "resilient" is being used a lot. Some hate it, some love it. However we feel about it, it's just a word that really does describe us Filipinos. I'd like to think, faced with the same circumstances, I'd be resilient, too. But the thought of losing my kids... Oh, I can't even face it. I don't know what I'd do should that happen as it happened to thousands of our kababayans. I'd like to think I'd be strong enough to move on but we'll never know until it happens and I pray to God that it never happens because I don't think I can take it.

There's been lots of "the survivors should do this" and "they should at least do that" or "I would never do that." I also thought that. "At least clear the roads! I'd never ever steal!" But quick on the heels of those thoughts are the whispers, "What if your kids are hungry? What if they are cold and sick? What if they had died?"

I like to think I'd be the type of person who rises up to the occasion. I've always been the person who stepped in when someone needed help, needed to be defended, needed money. I'm very calm and sensible. That's why I think that in the face of calamity, I'm not going to lose my head. But when my mother died suddenly five years ago, I was too much in shock to function. I was in shock for three whole days. My younger brother and sister were the ones who thought of entertaining the visitors at the wake, it was my husband and sister-in-law who fixed the financial matters with the funeral home, my aunts and cousins who fed everybody. I didn't do anything except cry.

So I pass no judgment on anyone. No one knows how they'll react to any situation until they're in that situation. No judgment! Well, except maybe on the government. But that's a whole new issue and I really don't want to go there.

And that's it! We all know how to help. There are dozens of fundraisers, charities, NGOs, volunteer work happening everywhere right now. How generous the Filipino spirit! God bless us all!

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Topaz Beauty: A Bio-Oil update

I'll tell you a little secret: I wrote my blog post about wanting a bottle of Bio-Oil and then Bio-Oil sent me my very own bottle for free! Hooray!

Thanks, Bio-Oil!

The box came with comprehensive product information so I really learned a lot about how it works. I'm really excited about how it will work on me! Now I know I said I'll use it on my acne marks but when I got the bottle, I wanted to test it on my less sensitive skin first. So I'm using it now on my pregnancy stretchmarks.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Random thoughts that my pink tree pulled out of my head today

If you're a regular reader or if you follow me on Instagram, you'd know the color of my Christmas tree is a relentless and unapologetic pink.
Iñigo dazzled. 
This is a cute video of the kids pretending drinking straws were swords.
Another cute video of the boys dancing.

It's just decorated with silver balls at this point. It needs something else. Maybe turquoise or gold or emerald. Maybe ribbon? What do you think?

Now, whenever some people see my pink Christmas tree, they ask, "Do your boys mind?" This strikes me as an incredibly silly question because...

1. It's MY tree. It's not like I bought it for them and insisted on a color they didn't want.
2. A person's gender is not defined by colors. It's just pink. It doesn't threaten their boy-ness.
3. Vito's favorite color is pink so he loves the tree.

Speaking of gender, I had a random thought this afternoon while I was sitting beside my pink Christmas tree freaking out at Iñigo who was plucking silver balls and throwing them with good aim at Vito. I was wondering if I wanted a daughter. 

Another random thought followed that first random thought: At my mother's wake five years ago, a relative I've never met went up to me and said right out of the blue: "You will never ever be as beautiful as your mother. Never. My condolences." Then he walked away.

I can't decide if his condolences were because my mother was dead or because I was ugly. 

Maybe a daughter is not such a good idea after all. Because for us girls, our gender seems to always be defined by our looks, no matter what we do or accomplish. Boys seem to be free of that ridiculous baggage.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to open a can without a can opener

You know how in times of disaster, all the relief agencies say do NOT donate cans of food because there are no can openers and then you're at the supermarket so gung-ho to buy goods to donate and pretty much all the useful-will-not-spoil food are all in cans???
Sardines are a favorite food to donate.

Well. Watch this. This is so awesome!!!

Now you know. And now you're ready for anything.

UPDATE: OMG my friend said he just tried it out right now and ang hirap-hirap daw gawin! Yikes! Sobrang mega kiskis daw sa concrete! Baka practice lang kailangan, mga friends! At any rate, good to know!

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Daluyong ng dagat ay tatawarin natin!

When newsman Ted Failon was reporting on Saturday on what happened to Leyte when Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda roared through last weekend, he found it hard to define in Tagalog what a storm surge was. Naturally (since I am a lover of words), I just had to find out what it is.

It's daluyong.


The word brought to mind the old song "Iisang Bangka" by The Dawn, and I thought it was totally appropriate for the times.

And I love the words.

Kay dilim at kay ginaw sa kalawakan ng dagat
Ubod lakas kung humiyaw ang galit na hanging habagat
Ngunit buo ang puso mo'ng ang daluyong ay susugurin
Magkasama tayong katahimika'y hahanapin

Ating liliparin, may harang mang sibat
Ating tatawirin, daluyong ng dagat
Basta't kasama mo ako, iisang bangka tayo
Anuman ang mithiin ay makakamtan natin

Iisang bangka tayo, Pilipinas! Kaya natin ito! Please share this song to everybody!

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A thrill of hope

I had been planning to write about my birthday last week over here at Topaz Horizon and our Disneyland trip over at Topaz Mommy but in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda, I wasn't in the mood to talk about fun.

Actually, this weekend, I wasn't really worried about Yolanda. After all, we Filipinos are typhoon veterans. We know how to deal with typhoons. We get at least 20 typhoons every year! But when photos, videos and news reports started coming in on Saturday afternoon, I was in shock. I think everyone was. But I had a personal reason for being alarmed: My parents are from Leyte—Mama from Tacloban, Papa from Tolosa—and many of our relatives still lived there. They weren't responding to calls, texts and messages on Facebook. Just silence all weekend long.

Then finally this morning...

You know, I've been through some pretty nasty things. Life hasn't exactly been perfect. But it never is, right? But in recent years, I've finally learned to really believe in God and to trust in Him. Yes. I've been a Born-Again Christian since I was a child, was even a youth leader in my early 20s, but apparently I never truly believed in God. I allowed hate, bitterness, anger, resentment and fear to rule my life for almost two decades.

Only when I finally gave up control of my life to God (marriage, my mother's death, and the birth of my kids had something to do with this phenomenon!), did I realize that whatever storms we're going through, there is always hope, peace and joy if we have complete faith and trust in our Sovereign God.

Okay, I'm in a better mood! I've been seeing a deluge of interesting and uplifting stories on social media. These are my favorites:

God bless those kids! Imagine that. If they can help, so can we!

Okay, newly engaged women! Here's your chance to wear a beautiful wedding gown and help out the typhoon victims! Makes me want to sell my wedding gown actually, like what Patty Laurel did last year for the Typhoon Pablo victims. Let me check first if it's still in good condition—it's been packed away in its box since 2007!

image source and story here
This is from Shekinah Eden. People failed to mention her Hollywood connection. She's Zachary Levi's sister! Anyway, she Tweeted that adorable photo of kids in her neighborhood. My goodness, aren't these girls so inspiring?

God bless these people! They were here to relax but they chose to help instead!

Here are some links I found re: guideline on donating in the most effective ways. The font is different because I copied and pasted from my Facebook:

Ok, I've been reading a lot about what to donate, etc, and everyone says DO NOT DONATE CLOTHES. Best pa rin daw is cash so that the proper agencies can buy the things the survivors need (tents, medicine, food, water, blankets, etc.).

Eto pa. It says while everyone wants to help immediately after a disaster, it's also a better idea to donate waaaaay after the event. Right now, funds are being used for rescue and recovery but in the ensuing months, rebuilding happens. By then, no one cares anymore and the survivors suffer another "disaster".

But here's a good list of things to donate that people don't think of. For example, underwear and sanitary pads. Oo nga naman! I think we should add diapers, tissue paper, toilet paper.

Okidoki, Pinoys! Let's do this!!! Don't give up. Don't lose hope! God bless us all!

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Meet the new UPMC

It's howling outside right now because of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Every time it rains like this, I'm brought back to my teens, when I lived with floods every year. I grew up in Manila. Well, my family's home was in Antipolo but I spent summers and weekends in Pandacan, then my high school years were spent along the streets of Taft, Ermita, UN and the parks of Paco, Luneta and Intramuros. To be more specific, I literally grew up across the Supreme Court and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH). My stomping grounds!

So when UP-PGH told me about their University Physicians Medical Center (UPMC) and asked if I could blog about it, I said, "Sure!"

I'm going to use their official photos although I wish I'd actually gone there and checked out the place myself. But I have no yaya so I always bring baby Iñigo with me and I didn't want to bring him along for a hospital tour (baka he'll catch something and get sick). So I'll just tell you about the stuff you can find at the new UPMC.

What is UPMC?
It's a private outpatient diagnostic and surgical center.

Where is it?
It's on the grounds of U.P. Manila and PGH, in the Faculty Medical Arts Building, declared by the National Historical Institute as a heritage site. The interiors were specially decorated to be an homage to the fab Art Deco architecture. I'm so glad they did that! There are so many gorgeous buildings in Manila but no one realizes this because they're ignored, not maintained and not decorated.

What are the services available at UPMC?
Ambulatory Surgical Center, Cardiovascular, Industrial & Occupational Health, Intravenous Therapy, Laboratory & Drug Testing, Radiology & Nuclear Medicine, and Physical Rehabilitation & Sports Medicine.

There's also a pharmacy, coffee shop, food court. If feel mo mag-lakwatsa, malapit lang ang Robisnons Manila! Of course, since it's a campus, the 300 faculty members happen to be doctors! So you can schedule a consultation, have a diagnostic test done, eat lunch, fill out your prescription all in one day and in one place!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Birthday resolution: Drink more water!

I'm turning 37 on Thursday. Hooray! Another birthday! I love my birthdays!

Now, I look good for a 37-year-old woman but I look like a woman in her 30s nonetheless. I'm okay with that. I certainly don't want to look like I did in my teens...

... or in my 20s...

I finally grew into my looks. I'm glad that the blossoming happened in my 30s. I can say for certain that I got my man and my career because of my talent and personality, not because of my looks haha!

I like my 30s. This has been a fantastic 7 years. I got my dream job, I got married to my great love, we built our lovely home, I had his children, I have made a few but truly wonderful friends, I retired from the dream job because my family was dreamier, and now I'm just writing for a living. My life is all about my passions. I can't ask for anything more!

But... I should do more. Exercise. Eat healthy. Drink more water! Although I'm proud I look great for my age, the fine lines have started, the freckles that used to be cute are now sun spots, the pimple scars are getting deeper. So I started on Shiseido Ibuki skincare regimen. But now I also want to drink drink drink water! I was shocked when I saw this:

That's just from drinking 12 glasses of water a day, folks. Here's the story: "Drinking three litres of water a day took TEN YEARS OFF my face!"

Argh! I can't even finish three glasses a day! One liter is 33 oz. A glass is 8 oz. So a liter is 4 glasses, which makes 3 liters 12 glasses. How on earth can I drink 12 glasses a day??? My dermatologist says I need more water. My dentist says I need water. My husband says I need water.

Drinking more water has been my birthday and New Year's resolution every year. Every single year. It never happens. But one look at those before-and-after photos and I'm really seriously doing it. I just need tips. How do you drink water, dear readers? Help me!!!

Plus, wouldn't it be fun if we did this water thing together? Okay, let's take a photo of our face today, Nov. 4, then drink our 12 glasses of water a day every day, and then take a photo again on Dec. 4! Oh, this is going to be so exciting!

A reader who is a registered nurse, and who I'll hide under the pseudonym Ms RN, sent me this caution:

Hi Ms. Frances. I saw your post about water. While it's really great to drink lots of water, just enough should do the trick, say 8-10 glasses a day. Too much water dilutes essential nutrients in the body and flushes out minerals too

Para di ka maoverwhelm, you can try half glass every hour Or a glass every 2 hours. Annoying lang kasi iihi ka ng iihi. 

By the way, people should also be careful drinking lotsa water when they [eat] too much salt because it can cause water retention. So less salt and more water talaga Another thing to remember is when an individual has a kidney disease, water intake should be limited depending on the doctors order. Hope I helped!

So, readers, let's stick to the 10 glasses max muna, okay???

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

You're never too young (or too old!) to start a business!

When I was a kid, my dream—aside from becoming a writer—was to become a postman. Yep, the guy who delivers mail. I figured I'd be at the post office early in the morning to get my batch of deliveries, then spend the rest of the morning going around houses and chatting with the people. Then I'll rest in the afternoon, and then—and here's when the real work begins—then I'll sit down and make up stories about the people I met that day.

I tested out that dream by selling tapa, tocino and longganisa one summer. I was 11 or 12 years old, very skinny, and I put the frozen meat in a pail of ice (very heavy) and walked around the neighborhood selling people breakfast. I had a great time. Everyone loved my products, everyone loved that a young girl was so entrepreneurial, and I loved that I met so many people and learned so much about them. After all, people like to talk to someone who brings food!

But the business ended when a neighbor, who had been getting meat on credit, refused to pay me. When I kept showing up at her door to collect payment, she finally set her dogs on me. That ended that business real quick. When I told my parents about it, in the hope they would confront the nasty neighbor and get me my money, my father said, "It's best this way. I don't like you out in the sun because your skin gets dark."

I hope to be a parent who encourages my kids to do crazy things. Hopefully, the crazy things are the sort that makes them money haha. Vince told me he was so charmed by this little girl who would collect rocks around her neighborhood, wash them and paint pretty designs on them, then sell the painted rocks to her neighbors. I wish our sons would be that entrepreneurial!

How inspiring is this?

He earns enough to buy LEGOs. Those things are so expensive! I know because we buy our boys LEGO all the time! He is so cute. And so encouraging to me because I want to sell bags again. You all know how that business failed spectacularly. But I don't regret it because I learned a lot.

As with my frozen meats business, I learned that credit must not be extended lightly. With the bag business, I learned that I can't just assume people are doing their jobs just because they said so. I actually have a business now, my freelance writing. I'm learning a lot, too, the most important being this: Start charging after the second meeting and don't be shy about my rates. Argh, I've wasted a lot of time and energy this year meeting prospective clients and working on proposals and mock-up projects which all went up in smoke anyway. So the project didn't push through but I spent time and money and brain cells on them anyway and I got nothing in return. Lesson learned! Just goes to show you're never too young or too old to learn something new!

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