Saturday, September 26, 2015


“Be your best with BrainFit”
Sun.Star Davao, Sept. 26, 2015

With today’s “touch generation” and fondness for multi-tasking, we hear parents lamenting about their children’s poor focus and inattentiveness in school.

“Humans actually have naturally short attention spans. What is happening to kids nowadays is that they are just not learning the skills needed to focus when it is necessary”, says Khaisa King, a double degree graduate in BS Management and AB Psychology from the Ateneo de Manila University.

Khaisa is the Davao franchisee of BrainFit Studio, a program founded by Singapore-based clinical physiotherapist Cheryl Chia who believes that “each individual has a unique brain profile”. Aside from the Philippines, BrainFit is located in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Turkey.

“I decided to start BrainFit in Davao because the concepts and ideas really made sense to me. I already heard about BrainFit from Singapore previously, and it was always positive with comments. Further inquiries on the company showed that it employs a well-researched and scientifically-backed approach to helping people achieve excellence, children in particular, through capitalizing on our natural brain plasticity. Brain plasticity is the ability of the brain to shape and change their connections to be more efficient in the things we think of often”, explains Khaisa.

Brain pillars

BrainFit can help by assessing each brain’s strengths and weaknesses with a CognitiveMap, an evaluation tool that determines which of the child’s five Brain Pillars need enhancement. It aids kids from 3-18 years old to maximize their brains’ potentials.

Khaisa clarifies that BrainFit is different from other after-school programs because they do not teach any content in their classes. Instead of training the kids to be better in English or Math by making them do repetitions or exercises on these specific topics, BrainFit trains the base skills of the child so they can learn better on their own.

The program operates on the concept that there are five Brain Pillars to measure the fitness of one’s brain, just like there are measures for physical fitness, and if these five pillars are fit, then one can learn and understand things faster and better, just like being physically fit makes physical activities easier. These are namely, sensory-motor; visual; auditory; focus and attention; and socio-emotional.

Enhancing base skills

BrainFit focuses on making these pillars strong through specially-designed exercises and activities so that children can comprehend and absorb their lessons as they are being taught by the teacher. With these, the program aims to develop independent learners.

“The program for sensory-motor for example helps our students have better body awareness and control,which leads to better and more legible  handwriting, better coordination to play games with friends, and the ability to sit still for longer in class, among other things. We come up with activities that engage the senses and overall muscle control of the student; therefore, there is better brain connectivity with the senses, muscles and joints. This leads to overall better sensory-motor control, a base skill that the student can then apply to all aspects of life, not just academics”, Khaisa emphasizes. 

All their other programs operate the same way, with respect to their specific brain pillars.

Stronger brain connections

BrainFit guarantees results, as long as the student follows their minimum 2-hour sessions a week (1 hour per session). Khaisa and her dynamic team assure that there will be tangible effects by the end of the recommended number of programs (20 sessions per program). Length of time depends on how often one schedules their sessions.

“We do have studies validating that improvements gained BrainFit’s programs stay with our students even after they have stopped coming to us. There are actual physical changes that happen in the brain which represent the stronger brain connections made during our program. This visibly show in behavioral changes, faster understanding, less fidgeting when sitting, better communication, etc.”, reveals Khaisa with pride.

To schedule a free trial, contact/visit BrainFit Studio at Unit 3B Bajada Plaza, J.P. Laurel Ave., Davao City with telephone numbers 2242118/(0916)2478765. BrainFit will soon open their second branch in Matina, D.C.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

“#JABOrn4MAYCE: Best friends’ wedding”
Sun.Star Davao, Sept. 12, 2015

He enjoys playing basketball and PS4 (NBA) while she is passionate in cooking.

She graduated from Davao Christian High School as a Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Leadership Awardee while he was bestowed the title, “Athlete of the Year”, from the University of Immaculate Conception upon his graduation.

In God's perfect time, the two achievers Jan Vincent “Jabo” Abellera and Maycelle Billanes' paths finally crossed when they were both nursing students at the Ateneo de Davao University.

“We started out as classmates and later on, became friends. Although we only talked inside the classroom when Jabo needed answers during our Anatomy and Filipino quizzes, we got along really well. It took a few more years for us to realize that we were meant to be more than just friends”, recalls Maycelle.

Eventually, Jabo had to move to another school. Losing communication and breaking up were inevitable because of the situation.
"Until one Christmas eve, I received a telephone call from Jabo. From there, we started to be civil with each other again. While I had been slowly moving on, Jabo came back and asked if we could be together again”, smiles Maycelle.

 “True enough, as the saying goes, ‘Love is sweeter the second time around’. From being childish, we slowly became mature; exploring and experiencing God's goodness. A lot of trials went our way but we just learned to love each other more as time passed by. We both patiently waited for what He really planned for us”, narrates Maycelle.

Jabo went into business and started his own construction supply. On the other hand, Maycelle, a registered nurse, decided to serve at her high school alma mater by being the Office of the Student Affairs' officer-in-charge while pursuing her master's degree.

Last month, with the blessings of their loving parents Johnny and Yolanda Abellera, and Romeo and Genoveva Billanes,  the young couple tied the knot on a glorious sunny day  at the St. Joseph The Worker Parish in a lovely ceremony officiated by Fr. Danny Montana.

As the bedimpled bride walked down the aisle wearing an off-shoulder serpentina creation, Maycelle's model-like height gave the bridal gown the attention it justly deserved.

Upon seeing the bride with her cheerful smile and radiant glow, Jabo donning an Edgar Buyan barong, shed tears of joy, grateful that their more than 6 years as sweethearts and best friends led to this most awaited day.

Veejay Salonga of Decoratives by Janna and Hercs created the rustic shabby chic feel at the church with wood stands and white flowers filling up the lighted aisle.

Meanwhile, at the reception held at the Grand Regal Hotel, the all-white stage had a fireplace in the middle decorated with delightful flowers arrangements and vintage-looking lamps, mirrors, chairs and console tables.

The principal sponsors' special area was festooned with lighted trees and mason jars as well as decorative containers adorned with blooms.

“We wanted our wedding to have a homey atmosphere, simple and pretty with a touch of pink everywhere”, describes Maycelle.

Thanks to their trusted suppliers, family, friends and DIY creativity, Jabo and Maycelle's dream wedding turned out the way they always envisioned it to be --- and so much more!

My sincerest appreciation to Marlon Advincula for the wedding photos. To view more snaps of the wedding, search #JABOrn4MAYCE on Facebook and Instagram.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"Belo belles"
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 29, 2015

Mother and daughter team Dr. Vicki Belo and Cristalle Belo Henares perfectly complement each other.

Dr. Belo, who is the Belo Medical Group’s founder, admits that between the two of them, it is Cristalle who is more entrepreneurial while she, on the other hand, sticks to the medical side of her practice and business. The 32-year old Cristalle acts as the CEO of Belo Essentials as well as the Managing Director of the Belo Medical Group.

 From a 44-square meter clinic in 1990, the Belo Medical Group now operates eleven state-of-the-art clinics that are strategically located across the Philippines, including its latest clinic in Davao’s Abreeza Mall.

Dr. Belo reveals that “the Belo Medical Group offers a comprehensive range of treatments from skin care to non-invasive, surgical and age-defying solutions. The group’s innovative approach to beauty has pioneered the application of the latest technologies from the US, France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia, Brazil, Israel, Japan and Korea”.

“It is what makes us unique. We focus on bringing the latest available technology, medical procedure and products from across the globe to provide the best possible solutions for our patients.  The Belo Medical Group’s 25 years of exceptional expertise in the specialized field of aesthetic dermatology and cosmetic surgery has earned it numerous awards and recognitions”, she adds.

Up close and personal
To highlight its 25th year, the Belo Medical Group brought in the Belo Festivale in Davao, a four-day event showcasing the group’s brand story with various activities wherein patrons can take photos, and avail of Belo products and treatments at the Abreeza Mall. It culminated with a mini show by Club Mwah and ‘Belo baby’, Piolo Pascual.
During the recent exclusive media affair celebrating the Belo Medical Group’s anniversary at Seda Hotel, we spent a few hours getting to know Dr. Belo’s personal journey and the inspiring story of her mega success.
Joining Dr. Belo was her lovely daughter Cristalle as well as celebrity endorsers, 1973 Ms. Universe Margie Moran-Floirendo and multi-awarded actor Piolo Pascual.
There is something so sincere and candid when the charming Dr. Belo starts to talk. She has no qualms in divulging sensitive issues beginning with her life as an adopted child who was bullied at 5 years old in school. “Fat and ugly” were among the mean words uttered to her by mischievous classmates.
Growing up as a teen, she had unsightly pimples which made her a regular patient with a dermatologist. These experiences shaped her passion to specialize in the same field when she took up medicine.
‘Cristalle’ clear
Even if she came from a privileged background, Cristalle knows the value of paying it forward. In 2004, she volunteered as a pre-school worker for 10 months in Bukidnon with only Php3,500.00 as her monthly allowance.
After college, she started working for the Belo Medical Group in 2005. One of her biggest projects was overseeing the construction of the Belo building in Greenhills approving the plans and materials and collaborating with the design team. Dr. Belo confidently delegates these kinds of tasks to Cristalle as she is not fond of the rigors of site inspections and going over the details.

In 2007, the Belos launched their own beauty line, Belo Essentials, which with phenomenal sales is now serving as the retail arm that distributes beauty and personal care products to drugstores, supermarkets, and selected countries.

It is ‘Cristalle’ clear why Dr. Belo is mighty proud of her daughter and why her unica hija is beaming with pride over her mom’s continued success. Together, they commit to fulfill Belo’s vision to “make the Philippines, the most beautiful country in the world, one person at a time”.

So, what’s next for these unstoppable Belo belles? “World domination!”, declares Dr. Belo playfully.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015


“Marvelously Marbled”
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 15, 2015

My personal preference when it comes to eating steak is its marbling --- lots of it! And, when it comes to marbling, Wagyu is definitely on top of my list.

Wagyu (pronounced ‘wag-you’) is “a breed of cattle native and unique in their genetics to Japan. ‘Wa’ pertains to Japanese and ‘gyu’ means beef. This beef is highly marbled which means that the muscle is finely interspersed with fat that is an ‘intra-muscular’ deposit of energy. When cooked, the marbling is absorbed into the muscle and gives the beef its “melt in the mouth” moisture and tenderness as well as its intense flavor”, according to an internet source.

The good news is that the marbling in Wagyu is found to contain monounsaturated fats. Research has shown that these fats can actually assist in reducing cholesterol levels in the body.

Highest grade beef

Recently, I was pleased to discover that my elusive bachelor-friend, Glenn Yap, took his passion for steak to the next level by opening Marbled Restaurant and Bar specializing in Wagyu A-5 beef, no less, the highest grade given only to the finest beef.

“I love steak!”, shares Glenn with a twinkle in his eye. “Marbled, a name coined by a witty friend, is three years in the making. I didn’t rush opening this restaurant because I wanted to consider every factor. We wanted our restaurant to be known for its reasonable price and good service”, he continues.

With Chef Richie Mearns, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, as its consultant, Marbled’s menu showcases lip-smacking family-friendly dishes with the Wagyu A-5 beef as its piece de resistance.

“In Manila, most steak houses sell their Wagyu at Php800 to Php1,000 per ounce but here at Marbled, we sell it an affordable Php450 per ounce only”, shares Glenn.

Young restaurateur

Marbled is not Glenn’s first foray in the food industry. He has been a franchisee of the popular Cebu restaurant chain Chikaan at Abreeza Mall Davao for four years and also operates Pollo Porco Cebu Lechon.

“Running a resto is never easy. It is a challenge but it really depends on your mindset. Chikaan has a system we followed which made it easier”, recalls Glenn.

From Chikaan, he learned that to be able to run a great restaurant, good food shouldn’t be profit-based. Instead, the focus should be on the quality of food and service”, explains Glenn.

‘Straightforward’ dishes

That’s why with Marbled, Glenn made sure that they presented value-for-money choices for their clientele. My family and I were pleased with the options they offered --- Japanese, American, and Italian dishes that Glenn describes as ‘straightforward’.

During our family’s first visit, we ordered their delectable French Onion Soup (Php210); Seafood Chowder (Php250) and Spinach Dip (Php140) as our soups and appetizer.

The kids absolutely loved their mouth-watering Spaghetti with Spanish Chorizo (Php250) and Fettuccine with Tomato Cream Sauce and Chicken (Php180). If the pasta tastes a tad familiar, you would be happy to know that it is because Chef Richie owned the former Boyd’s Pizza House of Kidapawan and Davao.

My sister-in-law and I had the Grilled Pork Chop (Php250) and Seared Salmon with Caper Sauce (Php595). They filled our tummies and did not disappoint with their generous servings and side dishes of seared potatoes and vegetables in season.

Marvelously Marbled

Other family members had US Prime Rib-Cowboy Steak (half-inch 500g steak at Php1,350) and US Rib Eye – Choice 320g (Php950). The steaks’ huge portions were more than enough for sharing as I caught my mom discreetly leaving huge cuts of her meat on my plate.

And, finally, the main reason why we were gathered at Marbled --- the Wagyu!

True to its claim, the Wagyu A-5 beef (Sirloin 150g at Php1,900 and Chateaubriand 200g at Php3,200) --- perfectly cooked medium well, and sprinkled with salt; melted in our mouths and boy, was it divine!

Marbled Restaurant and Bar is at JJ Commune, Loyola St., Bo. Obrero, Davao City with telephone number 2243594. Open Sunday-Thursday from 1030am-10pm and Friday-Saturday from 1030am till late.
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Saturday, August 1, 2015

“Oh my Omni!”
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 1, 2015

If you are a practical mom like me, choosing the right household appliances and lights is something one takes seriously to save on rising electricity costs.

After 15 years, our first-ever refrigerator as a married couple conked out which left us with no choice but to switch to a new one. This time, we decided to invest in an inverter-type ref. On the other hand, our trusty air conditioner was also given its due retirement following years of loyal service. These simple changes gave us reasons to smile whenever we received our monthly electric bill for we did experience significant savings. Best of all, our food stays fresh longer and our room cools more efficiently with the upgrades.

When it comes to value-for-money lighting, Filipino households have relied on Omni for generations.

Omni LED bulbs consume 90 percent less energy compared to Omni incandescent bulbs. Even if the bulbs have high luminous efficacy, they are low on energy consumption. Its low heat emission likewise aids in the air conditioner’s electricity costs.

Because of its efficiency, one can actually save an average of Php 1,584.00 on one-year electricity bill by switching just a single halogen bulb to an MR16 Omni LED. Furthermore, Omni LED bulbs can last up to 40 times more than regular incandescent bulbs, so one also saves on operational and maintenance cost.

Recently, Omni launched its first batch of Davao brand ambassadors. Here’s what some have to say regarding the well-loved Filipino brand which they not only use in their homes but in their businesses and professions as well:

“As our athletes work on their fitness, we make sure we work on our lighting. Finding the perfect illumination and temperature mix for our gym in only one brand.”---Trent Pruett and Kevin Cracknell, Coaches of Crossfit DMA.

“My profession calls for the best lighting system. That’s why for me there is only one brand.”---Sofia Sibala – Hair and Make-Up Artist

“I am very particular with my lights. They need to have the best balance of color, luminance and temperature; and I only know of one brand.”---Milvene Mineses, Photographer, WPPI Member, Owner of Simply Gray Studio

“Isa lang ang ilaw ng tahanan ko.” --- Erika Soriano-Mata, Wife and mother of 3, The woman behind HUMABI Bags for a Cause

“Counting, recording and monitoring are only a few of a banker’s endless tasks. This is why we require the best lighting system for the job – the kind of clarity, brightness, coolness and accuracy that only Omni can deliver.” --- Kristianne Jungco, Banker

“I do intensive research both online and on hard copies for my lectures. Cool and steady lights at home and in school make it possible.” --- Jade Solaña, CPA, MBA (CAR), College Instructor II

“I couldn’t have kept up with my studying schedule without dependable lights at home.”--- Gea Sedayao, San Pedro College graduate, incoming St. Luke’s Med student

“Only the best lighting for all our business operations.” ---Jun and Mimi Tupas, Entrepreneurs, One Fab Pooch, Soul Kitchen Co. and Soul Lifestyle

“A teacher’s work doesn’t end in school. Main reason why I only insist for the best brand every time I prepare at home.” ---Lunar Fayloga, Educator

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Saturday, July 18, 2015


“Gourmet Bites’ sweet success”
Sun.Star Davao, July 18, 2015

It was indeed a sweet success for Gourmet Bites and Pastry Arts Academy, Philippines as they reaped a cornucopia of awards at the recent Mindanao Culinary Festival held at the SM Lanang Premier.
Run by sisters Chiara Samson-Sacdalan and Simone Samson-De Vera with husband Jay De Vera and their sister-in-law Architect Elisha Agdamag-Samson, Gourmet Bites is the culinary arts extension of St. Dominic Savio Business and Technical College, Inc. (SDSBTC). On the other hand, Pastry Arts Academy, Philippines (P.A.A.P.), the 1st pastry school in Mindanao, is the pastry arts department of SDSBTC.

Bagging a total of 3 gold medals, 2 silvers, and 3 bronzes during the three-day event, the Gourmet Bites and Pastry Arts Academy, Philippines family could not be any prouder of their representatives. Their instructors and students all competed in the professional level in the various categories going against challengers from the hotel industry; food catering and restaurants; as well as other schools in Culinary Arts and Hotel and Restaurant Management.

In the Wedding Cake Category, Gourmet Bites’ Pastry Arts instructors Chefs Pia Angela Dalisay Tecson and Christopher Vincent Borja won back-to-back gold while Certificate in Culinary Arts (CCA) Batch 4 student Jennifer Viola Villegas ranked 3rd highest silver in the Pasta Category (Live).
Meanwhile, Certificate in Baking and Pastry Arts (CBPA) Batch 7 student Kirsten Kaye Canillo won the 2nd highest bronze medal in the Plated Desserts Category, besting all the other student entries. Another Batch 8 student, Kate Laus, received the bronze medal in the same category.

It was no easy feat as CCA Batch 3 student Jesa Gomez clinched the only gold medal in the Local Seafood Category (Live) and in all of the cooking categories, earning 91 points out of a possible 100.

In addition, the Quick Fire Salad (Live) Category bronze medal went to CCA Batch 2 student Lady Bird Viola.

Gourmet Bites’ Chefs Remelina Cuenca, Janice Faith Ibañez and Gail Rodriguez were awarded the highest silver in the Filipino Cuisine Category (there were no gold medal awardees in this category) which earned all three to an all-expense paid trip to the Philippine Culinary Cup Manila in August 2015.

"With hard work, dedication and commitment to the craft and entrusting everything to the will of God, the participants practiced for days on end, working on their own and with their understudies and coaches to make their original concepts the best they could offer. And we thank each and everyone for proudly and bravely competing in the name of Gourmet Bites and Pastry Arts Academy, Philippines!”, Gourmet Bites’ Chiara Samson-Sacdalan enthuses.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

“A step in the right direction with Chimes”
Sun.Star Davao, July 16, 2015

Chimes, the city’s specialty store for trendy finds, brings the latest designs from these global footwear brands:

Perk up your outfits with Happy Socks, a high-quality foot accessory spotted on Hollywood celebrities and their fashion-forward children. With their vibrant hues and fun designs, it is no wonder why these whimsical socks have become must-have essentials with the fashionista set.

Happy Socks was founded by two friends, Viktor Tell and Mikael Söderlindh who are Creative Director and CEO, respectively of this company. “Inspired by colorful, playful patterns and designs, Tell is influenced by the daily “everything and nothing” when designing the Happy Socks collection. His motto, “All play, no work”, accurately shows what the label is all about, turning a simple and overlooked product into a creative as well as expres­sive success story”.

Today, Happy Socks are sold in more than 70 countries across every continent and can be found on pretty much anyone –hipsters, businessmen/women, kids, grandparents…you name it!
Next on the list is the Spanish footwear brand, Flossy. “Backed by a rich 30-year strong heritage, Flossy originated from the Rioja region of Spain and introduced the original plimsoll that became popular with bohemians, street artists, and sailing enthusiasts in Barcelona”.  

The brand is a sunny invitation to simplicity and comfort with its range of laidback and understatedly stylish footwear. Split into five ranges – Classics, Originals, New Edits, Exclusives, Special Prints, as well as Kids, Flossy focuses on luxe fabrics and plush leathers in core neutral and hot accents throughout, making for a zingy collection.

And, who could ever resist a pair of FitFlops? Gone are the days when looking good goes hand in hand with being subjected to the inevitable discomforts of fashion. Comfy is the new cool and FitFlop leads the pack with its super ergonomic range of footwear.

Turning the fashion world completely upside down, “FitFlop made its breakthrough when it introduced its Microwobbleboard midsole, developed by two visionary biomechanics”. Meant to withstand rigorous usage, FitFlop footwear is the kind of shoes you can wear until they literally fall apart. Reflecting the type of women that it caters to, these shoes are a perfect combination of beauty, brains, and biomechanics!

The designs available this season include “the all-new SuperJelly, Surfa, Lulu Leather, Skinny, Flora, Petra, Cha Cha, Bijoo, Novy, Aztek Chada and the highlight of this season’s collection, FF2, which will not only capture the fancy of many for its casual cool and preppy elegant designs but most importantly, the immense comfort that it will provide its wearer”.

Want you and your family to step in the right direction? Skip, walk or run to your nearest Chimes Specialty Store now!

Chimes Specialty Store is located at Gov. Sales St. and Felcris Centrale, Quimpo Boulevard, Davao City.

E-mail the author at Visit