AppleUpsideDownCakeWM

Sweets for my Sweet- Europe Edition

Europe is candy for a sweet tooth like me. I browsed through my photos to find my memorable sweet fixes throughout my stay there.

One of my favorite things-to-do during winter is to visit Christmas markets in Germany, which were a train ride away from the Netherlands. Just looking at these stalls left such a sweet taste in my memory

KolnKerstMarktWMA Christmas market stall in Koln, Germany

Another memorable food stop was when we tried churros in Barcelona, crunchy dough sticks dipped in thick gooey chocolate! We tried one along the Rambla.

Churros-BarcaWM

This dessert was not representative of Roman cuisine, but we made a pitstop in this restaurant after a long day’s walk in the streets of Rome. This apple upside down cake was a perfect pairing with an espresso.

AppleUpsideDownCakeWM

Macarons always amused me. Those pillow like candy colored crunchy bits are one of the cutest desserts ever. Just the same, it exudes a certain whiff of class and pizzazz unlike any dessert. When I was in Paris, the first macaron I tried was, along the Champs-Elysee, at the McCafe! :) Haha very un-French I know. But well, it was not all that bad!

McMacaronWM

What is a trip to Italy without gelato? But with the endless choices, which stand should we go to? A kind Italian friend led me to the iconic Giolitti, which was established in 1890. Such history, wrapped in a gelato store. We went to its original store in Via Del Vicario. Just talking about it gives me the chills :)

GiolittiWM

And finally, I just had to try canoli! And where best to try it but in Venice, at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio! Nostalgia rules!

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O sweet heaven! :)

Smorgasburg Outdoors

The Brooklyn Food Fest Called Smorgasburg

Brooklyn has become a food haven for New Yorkers. Manhattan has become unfriendly, due to lack of space and skyrocketing rentals. There were many restaurants that sounded inviting to visit for a tourist like me. But nothing got my full attention until I heard the words FLEA. FOOD. MARKET.

So on a chilly November Saturday morning, I took the train to Brooklyn to check out Smorgasburg. A crafty play of words for a food feast at the Williamsburg side. That Saturday, I trekked to East River State Park. It was the second to the last Saturday before the Smorgasburg turns indoors to shelter itself from the cold. I followed the drones who were going toward the market. I walked and walked until I saw this sign.

Smorgasburg Outdoors

I looked around, to choose which stall I will line up for. While in deep thought, I was so thrilled when I saw this stall, that made me proud that Filipino cuisine was in the mix.

Lumpia Shack

My instinct told me to go where the longest lines are. My choices were trimmed down to two:

Milk Truck

Yes people were braving the cold to line up for grilled cheese sandwiches! The main draw is ooey gooey cheese mixed with various options, avocado, bacon, etc. Interesting, but I needed something more.

Mighty Quinn

Saturday suddenly turned into a cheat day, as soon as I laid eyes on Mighty Quinn, a New York Smoked Barbeque resto. Who could resist those sliders with meat on a cute little bun, with a touch of red chili and pickled onion?

Li'l Brisket

This is one of ‘em days that I repeatedly told myself, “I will never turn vegetarian”.

This was the small slider that they served, slices of the fall off the bone, melt in your mouth pork heaven. I was tempted to get the bigger size, but after eating every bit of this masterpiece. $5 was all I needed to a wide grin and a happy tummy.

Smorgasburg View

Travelling is made of days like these. This was one of the best finds of my trip. And with these photos, it is a joy to relive the day I met Smorgasburg. :)

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

OUR LADY OF LOURDES

Our Lady of Lourdes is very special to me. When I was in third year high school, I remember it being my section. But I started praying to her before her statue in Mt. Carmel Church in Quezon City. I used to be a regular church goer to that parish, up and until my priest uncle started saying mass at our compound every Sunday. But everytime I would visit the church, I would always light a candle and say a little prayer to her before her statue.

There was one time I felt that she really listened to me. That I was asking for a sign, and as I approached her statue, I saw a beautiful bouquet of pink and green flowers. It was awesome, it was to me an answered prayer.

During her feastday, I was searching online for a novena prayer and I chanced upon the official website of Our Lady of Lourdes. And they made it possible to place online petitions, that the parish will pray for on your behalf. I was so thrilled that was possible. What’s more awesome, is that with a minimal donation, the parish could also burn a candle to go with the petition. The donation may be made via paypal or credit card payment. I was so excited, and did it immediately. There were bumps along the way, but the transaction went through.

I received this authentication certificate from the parish to prove that the candles have been offered at their grotto in France. I felt as if I did it myself.

Happy Feastday to our dear Lady!

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

I received this certificate that my candles were offered at the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in France!

Japanese Proverb

FALL SEVEN TIMES, STAND UP EIGHT

I first saw this quote in a Converse ad, featuring Derrick Rose. Since then, I wanted it to be my daily mantra. We’ve been down so many times for many things. And each time, we just feel like giving up. It can apply not only to sports,  to love, practically anything about life.

I wanted to find out where this excellent soundbyte came from. And I found out that it was lifted from a well known Japanese proverb. In Romaji, it is translated as “nana korobi ya oki” It’s amazing how six words put together can create such a powerful message.

Nana korobi ya oki

“FREE” Handset for Globe Loyalty Rewards? Think Again

Dear Globe Telecom,

I have been a Globe subscriber as far back as when I got my first mobile phone in 1998, and our family has been Globe users since then. As longtime subscribers, we would qualify for loyalty rewards, such as free handsets or monthly rebates. And we would avail of these concessions. We are very well aware of the conditions that these rewards entail. The subscriber will be bound by a 24 month holding period, during which we cannot terminate the said contract nor downgrade the plan which came with the handset, or otherwise be subject to a pretermination fee. In the past, we had very positive experiences availing of these rewards. 
 
But after what happened to us this time around, we could not believe that Globe would treat their loyal subscribers in this manner. If loyalty truly mattered, we would not be lead into signing a loyalty reward agreement that is deceptive, misleading and malicious. This agreement would have us pay for a P600 amortization (“ULTIMA SERVICE”) for handsets they offered for rewards that were described as FREE, without us knowing.
 
On separate occasions, we took out handsets from two accounts  under the “MyRewards MyGlobe Loyalty Program”. These were an IPhone 4S 8GB White on May 2014 and an LG G2 Mini White on August 2014. As part of their Standard Operating Procedure, the subscriber will be made to sign a recontracting agreement that has, among others, the following terms and conditions:
 
1. The handset is for “FREE” or with “cash out of state cash out amount: (___)”
2. That the subscription is locked up or recontracted for a period of 24 months from availment.
3. That the subscriber shall enroll the account to a “My Superplan”
4. That the subscriber shall not downgrade or terminate the plan for the entire duration of the holding period. Or otherwise be subject to a pretermination fee and administrative fee.
 
This was initiated through the hotline, and these were the conditions mentioned to us by the agent, and we agreed thereto. Before delivery of the handsets, we signed both agreements for the two handsets. We have copies of the recontracting agreements, should you be interested.
 
On February 6, 2015, as we were checking our monthly bills, we noticed that we have been charged P595.00 for the LG G2 Mini and P600 IPhone 4S, described as an “Ultima Service” under the heading “Best Ever mySuperPlan Peso Value”. We then backtracked to previous monthly billings and this charge recurs in all of the monthly bills dating back to the signing of the recontracting agreements in May and August 2014. You will find photos of the monthly bills below. 
 
I called the Globe Customer Service hotline 211 at around 6pm, and spoke to agent who gave her name as “Ann”. I requested that these charges be credited back to the accounts as consumable peso value, which we  use for phone calls and text charges. As a result of this “ultima service”, the available consumable peso value would not be enough to cover these charges. Hence, phone calls and texts become top up charges. Essentially, this fee dubbed as “ultima service” was in fact an amortization for the handsets we took out that were supposedly FREE. After over an hour, the agent repeatedly denied my request saying that these are valid charges, nor were they hidden. She insisted that we agreed to this when we took these handsets from Globe. 
 
I insisted that I have read the agreement, which was in front of me, during that call. I read and re-read it, and nowhere in the agreement did it say that there was in fact a charge that would be deducted to the peso value of the Best Ever MySuperPlan. The agent in reply, said yes it was free, and that there was no cash-out required on our part. I told her but because Globe was deducting from the peso value allotted from the plan, that handset is not FREE.
 
Then the agent Ann, offered as a compromise, that if I wanted, that this charge no longer be deducted from my consumable peso value, and instead, be added to our monthly service fee. And then this infuriated me. We had no way out but to pay for this “ULTIMA SERVICE.” These options should have been explained and laid down to us when we first inquired about the reward, and moreso, indicated in the contract. And not now, when we can no longer terminate the contract without paying a substantial penalty. 
 
I asked her to escalate my complaint to her supervisor, since there was nothing she could do at her level. It was over an hour after that she turned me over to her supervisor, a certain “Ben Francisco”. He explained to me the mechanics of the MySuperPlan, insisting that we agreed to this. I said there was something intrinsically wrong with the written agreement subscribers are being made to sign, upon acceptance of their supposed FREE handsets. Only to find out afterwards that there is in fact a charge. Had we known that this was the case, we would not have availed of the handset in the first place.
 
I have asked repeatedly throughout this conversation with the two agents that it was clear to me, it was beyond their competence to resolve this complaint. It was only after an hour and a half that “Ben Francisco” recorded the complaint, and generated a ticket for it. When I asked him for details on where to elevate my complaint. He gave me the generic talk@globe.com.ph email address for customer complaints, and the generic corporate address indicated in the billing statement: 32nd Street, corner 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig Philippines 1634. 
 
This is the manner by which Globe treats its loyal postpaid subscribers. We are subscribers who stayed on the linefor 1 1/2 hours. Yes, we are the distraught ones  who did not find resolution to our complaint. Worse, we are the ones who only have written agreements that are supposed to protect us and our rights. But then, these agreements do not reflect what subscribers are really in for. I surmise these are the same pro-forma agreements millions of subscribers sign when they avail of their so called loyalty rewards. Given my experience with the customer service hotline last  February 6, when I was made to feel that as a consumer, we do not have any recourse to be protected against these deceptive, misleading agreements. I think now, how much more, the million others? 
 
There has to be a way to protect individual consumers against these non-transparent promotions. We have elevated this complaint through different channels, to Globe Legal, Globe Customer Service and the DTI. I received a call from Globe billing this morning, and apologized for the manner by which my complaint was handled. But the agent told me that they could not fix it.

I am writing this on my blog for Globe to know that transparency matters. In this country where consumers always get the raw end of the deal, it is the least they can offer us. Truth is, the loyalty we attribute to Globe is more of laziness to find a more worthy service provider, or that we don’t have much of a choice that we are left to stay. 

 
From a very dissatisfied and exasperated Globe subscriber,
Michecesa

A Handset With a charge called "Ultima Service" is not FREE!

A Handset With a charge called “Ultima Service” is not FREE!

UltimaSvc-Iphone4S

 
 
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Philippine Airlines and the Mabuhay Miles Frequent Flyer Rewards Program

Philippine Airlines is the Philippines’ flag carrier. It has flown the skies for over 50 years now. It had its dark ages, when service was down and people opted to fly with other up and coming airlines. But I have to say with my flying experience with them last year, I have renewed my faith in this organization. It’s not among the world’s best. But it has found its charm back, if you ask me.

I almost never fly with Philippine Airlines. If I fly to Europe, I almost always fly with KLM. And to the US, I use Delta. For domestic and Asian trips, I would either take Cebu Pacific, Air Asia or Jetstar. PAL is usually more expensive, whether you fly domestic or international. But it has its perks, flight attendants are more attentive and friendlier. Snacks/ meals and a generous baggage allowance are included in the ticket price, You don’t need to line up at the airport to pay for travel tax because you may opt to include it in the ticket price as well. It has its own terminal, well-lit, spacious. But steel, armed chairs at the departure gates, not enough foodstalls, and at one time, JUST ONE TOILET for the entire terminal!

Last year, February to be exact, and this was after the big annual Travel Expo, my cousin called me at the office to check out a promo at the PAL website. They were selling business class round trip tickets to London at ECONOMY PRICES! I told her not to play devil’s advocate with me, because I had already planned to go to the US for my major trip of the year. She hinted for me to just take a look. But before I knew it, I was booking a ticket of my own!

I was so excited because I have not flown on business class before. And imagine the perks of flying in style, earning business class miles,  for the price of economy. Not to mention gaining access to the Mabuhay Lounge. It was my first time to enter, and the first time I tasted the award winning Arroz Caldo. It is the recommended item on the menu even in-flight.

MabuhayLoungeArrozCaldo

So glad too that I had 125% credit for mileage for that business class flight. Thanks to that, I was almost able to accumulate enough miles to be upgraded to the next tier of Mabuhay Miles membership. But I was 295 miles short! And I could not take another flight in the last few days of the year, so I had to let that go.. Together with one whole year of taking a cup of arroz caldo before every PAL flight.

But I am going to rave about being able to redeem enough miles for a return ticket to Singapore.

Redeeming miles used to be very customer-unfriendly. But not anymore.  Im surprised that PAL improved on it a lot, and booking my award travel was a very pleasant experience.

If you have enough miles, which you can check online, you just need to call PAL reservations to book your desired flight. I was given around 10 days to purchase the award ticket. Before it had to be 3 days after you book the flight, and it had to be done in one of their ticketing offices. Otherwise, you will have to go through the entire process again. This time, I could settle all the fees and charges over the phone, by dictating my credit card details to the agent. Im so happy it has become this convenient.

Because of this, I am a converted PAL flyer. As I said, it is still way below par from the world’s best. I have much to say about domestic travel with PAL and PAL express. But what I can say, it is genuinely Pinoy. Friendly smiles onboard, generous baggage allowance for the typical Pinoy traveller who brings along everything, and brings home just as much, same hospitality. :) Thank you PAL for bringing back the Pinoy heart inflight.

The Top Five TED Talks of All Time

I finally had time to watch some TED talks yesterday. I didn’t know where to start, so I needed some guidance. Then I chanced upon this article from The Entrepreneur, ranking the 5 most popular TED talks of all time.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/239672

I don’t know what criteria they used to come up with the list. Because I saw some other talks that logged in more views than these five. Then again, I went on and watched each one of them. I couldn’t tell which one was my favorite. Because all of them struck a chord within me. I’d have to say each and everyone was memorable, and I picked up an important lesson from each of them.   I also picked up a soundbite from each, the byline that stuck to me.

Do schools kill creativity by Sir Ken Robinson

“Your daughter is not sick. She’s a dancer.”

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are by Amy Cuddy

The Wonder Woman Pose

How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.

The Power of Vulnerability by Brene Brown

“I am enough.”

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

“I sound like a golden retriever”

I love how TED talks inspire us, how they make us inquire. And challenges us to rethink.