Friday, September 14, 2007

Reaching for the stars

One of the few perks of working at the Corporate Communications Team is the opportunity to attend cool events organized by fellow Corp. Comms. members. I had the privilege of meeting two very inspiring people at the last 2 DHL-organized events. And saw two encouraging signs for my future.

First was Illac Angelo Diaz. Yes the former model/actor, but that's not the reason why I am ecstatic about meeting him. He is the Philippine's 1st National winner for the DHL Young Entrepreneurs for Sustainability (YES) Awards. He attended the regional YES awards in Singapore and I had a chance to meet him. This guy has impressive list of achievements- he earned his MBA at the Asian Institute of Management; was awarded the first TOYM Award for social entrepreneurship; went to MIT on research fellowship; and has now moved on as a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government!

But what's more impressive is the fact that he has put his skills and learning into projects that benefit our fellowmen. He established Pier One- no not the restaurant! This is a dormitory for Filipino sea farers. Another project he pioneered is the MyShelter Foundation- a non-profit organization which addresses housing and educational infrastructure concerns of rural areas.

As a Filipino, I was oh so proud when his name was called during the presentation of awardees at the DHL YES Regional Awards. Did I mention that he is still as dashing as ever especially in his barong tagalong walking down the catwalk leading up to the stage during the awards ceremony?

Oh and his fellowship at MIT was through a Fulbright-Humphrey award! Coincidence or serendipity?

The second stellar individual I met was Anousheh Ansari. She was the guest speaker at the DHL Leadership Dialogue Series held on September 12, 2007 at the National Museum of Singapore. Anousheh is a multi-million entrepreneur who made her fortune in the telecoms industry and was the 1st female private space explorer and 1st space ambassador (yeah, you can now buy tickets to go to outer space!). Extremely inspiring woman! She dreamed of seeing the stars when she was a kid in Iran and she did! Talk about reaching for the stars.

Anyway, guess where she completed her master's degree? At George Washington University !!! Is this yet another sign for my future as a grad student under Fulbright? I surely hope so! Spoke to her and told her I was aiming to get accepted to GWU. She said to let her know if she needs to put in a good word for me. Is she just being polite? Heck, I don't care- she gave me her card and I will send her an e-mail to remind her of it. I hope it reaches her though. She's heavily involved in CSR for children, education, culture and of course, technology. This is like an opportunity presenting itself to me!

Again, I ask myself- coincidence or serendipity?

I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend these kinds of events. These leave you with such a positive energy and prompt you to do something significant with your life- to live not just for yourself but for multitudes of other people as well.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

One Month After

Today marks the 1st month anniversary of my relocation to Singapore. So it is a perfect time to take stock of what I have done for the past 30 days. Here they are: 

- Wept from sheer joy upon receiving news of my acceptance to Fulbright

- Boarded the DHL hot air balloon

- Closed a fantastic deal to rent a room in an awesome condo

- Got lost a couple of times- erase erase those were unplanned "sight-seeing"

- Ate at hawkers centers; binged on satay at Lau Pa Sat; learned how to eat Xiaolongbao at Legend Chinese Restaurant; watched in amazement at how Roti Pratas are cooked; and sampled Moroccan, Indian, Egyptian, Malaysian & Indonesian food

- Overspent on shopping

- Drooled over hi-tech gadgets & gizmos at the Computer Expo

- Fantasized about actually living in one or more of the demo rooms of Ikea

- Volunteered for the National Museum of Singapore

- Fell in love & got my heart broken- oh wait that was a couple of years ago. Totally over that one!

- And finally, I met, interacted and exchanged contact information with 2 extremely inspiring people: Illac Diaz and Anousheh Ansari

Now isn't this such a fabulous start? What a sweet sweet life indeed- la dolce vita!

The Better Side of the Philippines

The following was written by INTEL General Manager Robin Martin about the Philippines :


Filipinos (including the press, business people and myself) tend to dwell too much on the negative side, and this affects the perception of foreigners, even the ones who have lived here for a while. The negative perception of the Philippines is way disproportionate to reality when compared to countries like Columbia , Egypt , Middle East, Africa , etc.

Let us all help our country by balancing the negative with the positive especially when we talk to foreigners, whether based here or abroad. Looking back and comparing the Philippines today and 1995 (the year I came back), I was struck by how much our country has progressed physically.

Consider the following:

1. The great telecom infrastructure that we have now did not exist in 1995. 1995 was the year the telecom industry was deregulated. Since then billions of dollars have been invested in both fixed line and cellular networks producing a system with over 5,000 kms of fiber optic backbone at a world competitive cost. From a fixed line capacity of about 900,000 in 1995 we now have over 7 million. Cellular phones practically did not exist in 1995; now we have over 11 million line capacity.

2. The MRT, many of the EDSA flyovers (including the Ayala Avenue flyover), the SKYWAY, Rockwell and Glorietta 4, the Fort, NAIA terminal 2 and most of the new skyscrapers were not yet built in 1995.

3. If you drive to the provinces, you will notice that national roads are now of good quality (international quality asphalt roads). I just went to Iba, Zambales last week and I was impressed that even a not so frequently travelled road was of very good quality.

4. Philippine exports have increased by 600% over the past eight years. There are many, many more examples of progress over the last eight years. Philippine mangoes are now exported to the US and Europe .

Additional tidbits to make our people prouder:

1. INTEL has been in the Philippines for 28 years. The Philippines plant is where Intel's most advanced products are launched, including the Pentium IV. By the end of 2002, Philippine operations became Intel's biggest assembly and testing operations worldwide.

2. TEXAS INSTRUMENTS has been operating in Baguio for over 20 years. The Baguio plant is the largest producer of DSP chips in the world. DSP chips are the brains behind cellphones. TI's Baguio plant produces the chip that powers 100% of all NOKIA cellphones and 80% of Erickson cellphones in the world.

3. TOSHIBA laptops are produced in Santa Rosa , Laguna.

4. If you drive a BENZ, BMW, or a VOLVO, there is a good chance that the ABS system in your car was made in the Philippines .

5. TREND-MICRO , makers of one of the top anti virus software PC-Cillin (I may have mispelled this) develops its "cures" for viruses right here in Eastwood Libis, Quezon City . When a virus breaks in any computer system in the world, they try to find a solution within 45 minutes of finding the virus.

6 . Today a majority of the top ten U.S. Call Center firms in the U.S. have set up operations in the Philippines . This is one area in which I believe we are the best in the world in terms of value for money.

7. America Online (AOL) has 1,000 people in Clark answering 90% of AOL's global e-mail inquiries.

8. PROCTOR & GAMBLE has over 400 people right here in Makati (average age 23 years) doing back-up office work to their Asian operations including finance, accounting, Human Resources and payments processing.

9. Among many other things it does for its regional operations network in the Asia-Pacific region here in Manila , CITIBANK also does its global ATM programming locally.

10. This is the first year ever that the Philippines will be exporting cars in quantity courtesy of FORD Philippines. (I have an idea this article was written between 2001 - 2002, so this operation should have been on-going for the last 3 years or so. CYN)

11. The government is shedding off graft and corruption slowly but surely. This is the first time in our history that a former president is in jail and facing charges of plunder. Despite all odds, we are still pursuing the ill-gotten wealth of Marcos now enjoyed by his unrepentant heirs.

Next time you travel abroad and meet business associates tell them the good news. A big part of our problem is perception and one of the biggest battles can be won simply by believing and by making others believe. This message is shared by good citizens of the Philippines who persevere to hope and work for our country.

56,000,000 Filipinos speak, read and write in English even if we have our own national language. Speaking a second language takes a certain kind of unique intelligence.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

10 Reasons Why I love Singapore

1. Singapore is a gateway to other Asian Countries
Just a couple of minutes to Malaysia, over an hour to Bangkok and Cambodia, 2.5 hours to Bali and to Hong Kong. Furthermore, there are budget airlines that can get you there without depleting your life savings!

Check out: or

But of course the best part is that IT IS JUST 3 HOURS FROM MANILA!
It's just like getting caught in traffic on your way home from work if you were in Manila! Cebu Pacific flies daily, book at

2. Multi-cultural Society
Different religions: Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim. Each with its own traditions and holidays :)

Food food food: Chinese (Dimsum), Indonesian (Satay- ooh i love these!!!), Malay (Mi Goreng), Singaporean (Laksa). But you wont be deprived of the western food as fast food giants are abundant- McDonald's, Burger King, Kenny Rogers, KFC etc. There are also a lot of mediterranean food especially along Arab street. There's Moroccan, Turkish, Egyptian etc.

3. Shopping Galore
It seems to me that there is always at least one shopping mall at every MRT station! Singaporeans love to shop. We Pinoys just love to hang around the malls--- hehehe. On my first week here, since I was feeling a bit homesick- I bought 2 pairs of sandals and 1 shoulder bag! Shopping therapy hahaha.

Plus they have Electronic Gizmos and Gadgets Sale. And when they say sale they mean SALE! As in HUGE discounts!!!

4. English is the generally used language
No need to buy a translation book, you just have to get use to the-ir accent and Singlish

5. Tropical Climate

No need for bulky coats and clothes or shoes. You can wear flip flops, shorts, spaghetti blouses. Don't you just love wearing sexy sandals to work?

6. Transportation is very efficient and reliable

7. SAM - Self-service Automated Machine
You can do the following on this amazing machine:

Postal Services, Pay Telecom Bills, Utility Bills, Hospital Bills, Town Council Bills, HDB Bills, Credit Card Bills & Loans/Insurance, Fines, Top-ups, Tax & Licence Fees/ Carpark Renewal, make a donation and etc.

Visit their website at

8. Amazing Libraries with superb service features

The Robinsons Children's Library was inspired by the Bukit Batok Community Library at the West Mall. Singapore has a National Library, regional libraries and community libraries.

Check them out at

9. Free Events and Activities
There are so many things to do here which will not cost you dime- you just have to know how and wehre to look!

10. Singapore is very clean, organized and safe
Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

All Because of PhilArts

I was invited to talk during the Annual Career Symposia of UP Manila. Every year, they would invite me and I usually go. The symposia, entitled "Eto Kami Ngayon", is aimed at providing freshmen insights into what life is after finishing their chosen course.

I was quite happy with what I wrote so i decided to upload it here.


Hello future colleagues in the cultural field!
My name is Ethel Villafranca and I finished BA Philippine Arts major in Arts Management in 1998. I would have loved to join you today for EKN9 but I am currently in Singapore for a one-year internship with DHL. So, Tita Zeny and I decided to just write you a letter and she will read ala-lovingly-yours-Helen.

Please allow me to share with you some of the things I have been able to do because I am a BA Philippine Arts graduate.

•Immediately after my graduation in 1998, I was hired at Ayala Museum where I had successive promotions from being an Educations Assistant to Programs and Marketing Officer and finally as Supervisor for Visitor Services- BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•I received an Asian Cultural Council Fellowship Grant and
was able to travel to 6 different states- New York, California,Kentucky, Massachusetts, Chicago and Washington DC.        Image4
and to more than 60 museums. And all these for free
BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.                                                                      

•I became an Intern at the San Diego Museum of Art where I had first hand experience on how museums in the US operate BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.Smda_1

•I was able to contribute a section to a book published by Museo Pambata on Creating Education Programs for Children BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•I spent 3 years as Project Development Officer of The Robinsons Children’s Library managing the operations of the two branches, project management, program design and implementation, fundraising, PR and Marketing and some HR functions as well. It would interest you to
know that the person who replaced me as Project Development Assistant is also a PhilArts graduate, Jemma Zafra. I was hired by the Managing Director BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•I was able to teach Major Arts Management Courses- Financial Management
 for the Arts and Project Management for the Arts- in

•I have been invited to share my expertise and experience in workshops/seminars conducted by different cultural organizations such as NCCA, Ayala Museum, Lopez Museum and Museo Pambata BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•I was hired by DHL as the Internal Communications Coordinator for the Asia Pacific Region because of the skills and competencies I learned in my previous jobs which I landed BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•I have eaten gelato in Italy, crepes in France, fish and chips in London, dim sum in Hong Kong, chili crabs in Singapore, visited the Stonehenge, seen the Mona Lisa, was mesmerized Michaelangelo’s David, had a stiff neck looking up at the Sistine Chapel Ceiling--- Ok these things were not entirely BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

•BUT, I did go ice skating at the Rockefeller Center, spent Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts, went window shopping in Rodeo Drive, drank tequila in Mexico, cried at the end of Phantom of the Opera in Broadway and tasted snow in my tongue ALL BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.                          
I have gone places, met interesting people, done some pretty cool stuff and enjoyed it all BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

And with God’s grace, I will be able to pursue my graduate degree in Museum Education as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008 to 2009. I am almost there, I just need to get accepted to a university- and this is again BECAUSE I AM A BA PHILIPPINE ARTS GRADUATE.

If you stick around and finish this course, you are in for the ride of your life. There will be a lot of challenges along the way but if you think you have what it takes to become one of the pioneers in this fairly new field, then you have chosen the perfect course.


BA Philippine Arts is not just a course- IT IS YOUR PLATFORM TO A GREAT CAREER!