Hello meiLBOX readers! This is just a quick post to let you all know that meiLBOX was recently hacked. Many or most of my images (embedded in the blog posts) had been stolen by the hacker. While I had placed watermarks in all of them, I am not too sure if they can be easily erased or manipulated. Therefore, I encourage you all to be more vigilant in purchasing or using photo works online. They might have been stolen from this site or elsewhere.
I have slowly rebuilt the site with the help of my previous server–I decided to transfer to a new web host–so I hope you will enjoy visiting meiLBOX again!
I would just like to share some important lessons I learned as I was rebuilding my site, with the hope that they will also help WordPress bloggers in protecting their sites:
1. WordPress had become very attractive to hackers because of the weak features such as the log-in page (the URL that you use in order to log-in to your site). You can change this “first door” to your site by using plug-ins such as Rename wp-login by avryl.
2. The next weak spot is the automatic assignment of the name “admin” as your log-in name. WordPress should really look into this. In the meantime, you can have the option to change this generic “admin” name by using plug-ins such as Admin renamer extended by Ramon Fincken. (I learned from my Google research that hackers really like sites with “admin” as their user /login names.)
3. You can add additional security features such as BruteProtect by Parka, LLC and WP User Access Notification by SiteGuarding.com). I especially like the latter plug-in because it sends email notifications every time I log-in or someone (a possible hacker) attempts to log-in.
Please note that I am not in any way connected to the owners and developers of the plug-ins I had cited here nor am I endorsing them so please do your own diligent work as well. Nevertheless, I would like to take this chance to thank the developers cited above for the great service they are giving to WordPress users for free.
Thank you and God bless you all!
[Note: I would like to thank Jeffre of Pinoywebsite for the assistance in the migration of meiLBOX from their site to my new host, Zoom.ph]
This is not a paid blog.
It was the fourth of the month last Friday and hubby and I thought it will be nice to celebrate our monthsary in a new ‘find’. We drove around Tomas Morato area and passed by Chef’s Bistro but we didn’t know where to park (its sidewalk is full of parked vehicles already) so we continued on toward the other side streets.
We ended up in Scout Fuentebella and there we saw, just several meters away from Tomas Morato, what appears to be a cozy restaurant with a simple yet catchy name, “Tiago” and underneath it, a tagline that says, “Progressive Filipino Cuisine.” Our curiosity was ignited but, admittedly, we hesitated a bit about trying it out. For one, JR asked me, “Do you think this is related to the restaurant, “Elias?” And that got me a little anxious, too, because while some of the food in Elias could probably be good, most of what we have already tried there thus far were just “so-so.” You know. Those type of food that you cannot even remember anymore after a day or two.
Of course, those who know much of Philippine history and Jose Rizal know that like Elias, there is a character in Jose Rizal’s Noli me Tangere named “Kapitan Tiago.”And that is why we hesitated about trying this Tiago. We somehow surmised that Tiago and Elias would have the same owners, ergo, the same quality of food. (I was also thinking to myself that Kapitan Tiago’s character in the novel is not among the more virtuous and untarnished ones and I believe Jose Rizal intended to give him such a persona to show very important parallelisms.)
However, even with these ‘silly’ reasons for our hesitation, curiosity got the better of us. We also believe in giving start-ups and “new kids on the block” a chance because we also plan to build our own cafe-restaurant in the future. After all, you cannot discover new treasures if you never give new things a try. We realized it was a good decision because the food selections in Tiago, living up to its unique and provocative tagline, are appealing to the taste and satisfying. I used the word ‘appealing’ because I always consider good food as something that always connects to the person who is eating it.
The food in Tiago, at least those that we have tried, ‘connected’ to us in a delightful and satisfying way. (New readers should know that I am happily married to a chef-in-progress and so it is not that easy to please my taste buds.) :) We especially liked their Relyenong Pusit (stuffed squid in ground pork and shrimp), priced at P275.00. JR is still curious as to how the sauce was made. It is thick but with just the right texture and creaminess. The squid was cooked so well that it is not ‘rubbery’. The stuffing is perfectly cocooned, giving the squid dish its very comforting taste. It tasted so ‘new’ but it also somehow reminded me of some of my most favorite comfort food. I am very particular with squid dishes so this easily passed my ‘stringent’ standards.
Their version of Pinakbet (called Pinakbet Warm Salad, priced at P175.00) also appealed to me because I don’t like too much saltiness in my food. The chef did not go over-board on the bagoong (shrimp paste) so it was just perfect and more appetizing with its creative use of dilis (dried long-jawed anchovy fish) as ‘toppings’. It also looks nice in pictures! (See an ‘evidence’ below.)
Not to be outdone, their Tinapa Rice (fried rice with smoked fish), priced at P145.00, is also delicious. Of course, food critics might say that one can never go wrong with tinapa rice because smoked fish is naturally tasty but Tiago’s version seems prepared with utmost care because it is not too salty and the taste of tinapa is not overpowering.
One thing that we also like about Tiago is that their menu selection is not very long. Of course, we do patronize good restaurants with, incidentally, long list of menu but we think that the best approach to nurturing your clients and staying long in the industry is to focus on food that you are very good at. You can always develop new dishes along the way or ‘improvise’ on your current ones.
Finally, we commend the service of the staff who are friendly and attentive. (Just a note that this statement must be validated by future visits because we arrived at the place in the “quiet hours” after lunch so the staff did not have much clients to attend to.)
Tiago has certainly made our monthsary lunch (very late lunch!) enjoyable and we thank Tiago’s owners and kitchen team for giving Filipino food lovers another reason to smile about. Tiago encourages us to be proud of our roots and heritage and we congratulate the owners for taking a new path in Filipino cuisine. Tiago certainly dares us to become more inventive, unique, and progressive.
[meilBOX is not strictly a food blog but being married to someone who enjoys cooking (and is good at it!) motivates me to write about food and restaurants. Just a note that when I write about restaurants, hubby and I do pay for our meals and we also never introduce ourselves to the chefs, staff, or owners. That way, we can be sure that my posts will be credible and unbiased.]
TIAGO | Progressive Filipino Cuisine
85 Scout Fuentebella St., Brgy. Sacred Heart, Quezon City (near Tomas Morato) | Tel. (02) 413 0616 | Open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 11:00 am to 1:00 am | Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tiagocuisine/info
This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)
The other day, I received a long email from someone who has assisted me in an urgent project this year and a thought-provoking question was in the email: “To what extent do you push for your ideas and when do you give way to client’s wishes?
It seemed a very simple question but the longer one ponders on it, the more complex it somehow becomes. And so I briefly replied that, “Hmmm, I am not an expert but, I guess, the priority is still the client’s wishes, his comfort zone, and his realities.” I then realized that the question deserves a longer reply so I decided that this can actually be a good topic in my next blog.
Before I expound on this question, let me first qualify that my tips/insights below apply only to circumstances when one’s core values and beliefs are not going to be compromised (that is, the situation should not call for pleasing a client but committing a crime or even a professional faux pas in the process!). Therefore, this post refers only to situations that do not involve the commission of a crime, breach of contract, and other similar consequences.
I may be citing real-life experiences just to emphasize a point but I won’t be mentioning names of persons or institutions, for privacy’s sake. (It is indeed true that ‘experience is the best teacher’ so I hope that my own experiences will help you, dear readers, in dealing with situations when you are torn apart between wanting to please your client 100% and pushing for your ideas.)
The following may be considered as good take-off points or pieces of advice:
1. The customer is always right. This may sound used and abused but always remember, when faced with a blank wall, that you exist because of your customer (client). Fortunately, I got trained in DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) Methodology, an approach to problem-solving and considered in the corporate world as part of the Six Sigma management philosophy. Through DMAIC principles, I had a deeper understanding of how to connect the client’s wants and needs to my existence as part of a corporation or even as an independent professional. I will not bore you with the details of how my training went but suffice to say, there really is a ‘methodical’ way of appreciating why clients behave that way and why you, as a supplier or service provider, should go the extra mile to do what your clients want.
2. Know your bottomlines but always refer to point No. 1 above. You can always have your own ‘bottomlines’ or that specific points when you really must say “no” already. This means that you may always bend to the wishes of your client but if such acquiescence means that the final project/output will already have significant impact on your career and long-term goals, then by all means, say a respectful but firm “no”. For example, if a valued client requests you to finish the layout and design of a book with a very short lead time–a time frame that makes it physically impossible to deliver a brilliant design–you can respectfully but firmly reject the project. After all, it will be your reputation and portfolio at stake there.
However, there will always be those rare instances when you simply cannot refuse, right? I had been in those situations and they were really difficult times. Should this ever happen to you, you can consider taking the following course of actions: (i) Accept the project but propose changes in the terms of reference so that the tasks may be adjusted based on the time frame given (e.g., if it is no longer possible to develop 3 cover studies, then strike an agreement where you will only propose 1 or 2 studies; (ii) consult a lawyer to help you develop a contract where there will be enough protective clauses for you (e.g., your contract should stipulate that the client should give their comments within a specific period only and anything sent beyond that will already impact the project calendar and, therefore, you should not be made liable for the consequent project delay); (iii) agree on fair/realistic quality standards and ensure that your client will not feel shortchanged (e.g., while it may be impossible to develop highly-complicated graphic works, you and your client should agree on minimal use of info-graphics and nice but simple design tweaking); and (iv) request your client to allow you to sub-contract some of the tasks involved so that you can deliver on time with the agreed quality parameters.
3. Listen. Have a more open mind. These two ‘epic statements’ sound simple, right? However, they are easier said than done. I have met consultants, artists, and graphic designers who are so brilliant but seem to lack or fail in the emotional quotient (EQ) department. In the same way, I have worked with young and upcoming specialists and professionals who may still be ‘learning the ropes’ but whose work ethics, patience, diligence, and commitment are exemplary. These are preferred by clients. I don’t need a very brilliant artist but who always complains, doesn’t listen, and acts as if he is always right and the greatest artist in the whole world. I prefer someone who does a great job (even if it’s not so perfect) AND really listens, appreciates my business, and open to my ideas. Simply put, intelligence, brilliance, and talent should be accompanied with the right attitude. No wonder EQ is essential in ascertaining whether a person is perfect for the job. You might ask, “How will these two statements help me when I want to push for my ideas because I know I am REALLY right and that my ideas ultimately support the goals of my client?” My answer is simple: You can actually make your client feel that your idea is actually his idea just by simply listening and having an open mind. Listen more and you will perhaps realize that your ideas do not exactly oppose his ideas. And in the worse case scenario, there might be a workable compromise position somewhere. The trick is to make your client feel that his ideas are also important and useful in the bigger picture.
4. Always remember, your client is NOT stupid. There are designers and IT specialists who think and act like they are God’s gifts to the universe (pasintabi lang po, bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan ay h’wag magagalit). They are the ones who will bluntly tell you, “Oh, I cannot do that because…(and then give you long explanations with their technical jargons and IT what-nots)” when you simply needed a user-friendly template. There is a common joke circulating around that we must never have IT administrators as enemies because they hold the passwords to our private emails and, painfully, they can easily cause the demise of our careers (or reputation?). It seems a harmless joke, right? But the reality is that many IT and graphic design professionals have strangely developed a certain ‘air’ around them. They are the untouchables. You cannot mess with them. You cannot argue with them. They have their own language, which you cannot penetrate. They make fun of lesser morals who have only basic understanding of IT and design jargons. But be warned: clients are smart, too. They may have lesser gigabyte of IT knowledge but their basic understanding of IT and design what-have-you’s may mean that they have humongous understanding and ownership of the other important matters in life–including the money that they will pay you. Never assume anything. Never assume that the client doesn’t know anything about your line of work. Never assume that they are stupid or fools. Thread carefully for the client might just ask someone to blacklist you in the whole corporate community just because he did not enjoy your sarcastic email about why it is not possible to convert such a file to the template that you needed. Fair enough?
5. Good track record matters. Build a solid track record with your client and this makes the work (and future negotiations) a lot easier. It is alright to push for your ideas particularly if they are really brilliant. However, remember that it takes time for a client to trust you enough. It is the same with relationships. Don’t expect people to trust you instantly just because you have a very good CV. Relationships take time to build. It is the same way with clients. They tend to listen more to people whom they already worked with over the long haul. Therefore, if someone or a corporation is your first-time client, be very careful with your ideas. Try to hold your horses at first. Get a feel of how they interact with you, take note of their corporate culture (and even their body languages!), and eventually, you will know when is the perfect time to propose your ideas. (See no. 9 below also.)
6. Appreciation. We had been taught the power of appreciation by our parents. We had been told to say “Thank you” when someone helps us, gives us a gift, or utters a compliment. But no one really told us how to say “Thank you” if someone acts like a brat or refuses to listen. Someone has forgotten to say that the workplace is in another dimension. Planet Mars, maybe? The thing is, it is difficult or downright impossible to say “Thank you” if you are pissed off. However, if the going gets tough and you are faced with a client who doesn’t seem to want to listen to your ideas, count 1 to 10 and say an inner “Thank you”. Thank the heavens above because you have this client and the job. Thank the universe because this difficult moment in your life makes you a better and more patient person. Thank the stars because you have this opportunity to practice yoga (read: the art of detachment). Finally, thank that spot where you are standing on because certainly, someone else can easily fill that spot (and he is just a phone call, SMS, or even tweet away!).
7. Remember the rule of karma and the saying, ‘walls have ears’. Every action that we do will become part of our history. There is no way that we can delete the past so we must always strive hard to think of the consequences of our action or statement. If we made a client very happy today, it may eventually lead to more opportunities in the future (and not necessarily with the same client). A satisfied client will always speak nicely of you and such a reputation is very important in the market. If you are faced with that moment when you really must be frank with a client and insist on your ideas, then weigh the benefits versus the risks. Will insisting on your point ruin or negatively impact your relationship with your client? If the answer is yes, then don’t hold your tongue and simply do what the client wants or wait for the right time to re-negotiate.
8. Patience is the best virtue. I always liked this saying, “Good things come to those who wait.” This is can be applied when faced with the dilemma of finding a way to push for your ideas without offending your client. Learn to be patient. This is particularly challenging especially if the deadline is tight or the situation is just too stressful. I had been there and believe me, I had experienced moments when I just wanted to walk out of a project. Once or twice, I actually gave up an opportunity for a good reason (see my earlier notes about not compromising our values and principles in life). However, it is best that we always keep our cool. It helps us have a better appreciation of the demands of our clients. I guess it takes many years of practice and experience to develop genuine patience and wisdom. I think no one can really be completely patient (every one will always have that breaking point) so let us also try to accept our humanity. The key, I think, is having enough self-restraint and magnanimity without having to compromise our core values.
9. Timing is everything. I have encountered people who seem so close-minded at first but who eventually open their minds up if only they are allowed enough space and time to think about your ideas or proposals. There is that thing about finding the perfect timing. Don’t talk to a client who just had lost a bid or even endured two or three hours in traffic. In the negotiation table, your client will always have the upper hand. Therefore, you have better chances of ‘winning’ if you lay out your game plan at the perfect time. Pray, consult a feng shui expert, or do a ritual dance if you must!
10. It’s a free world. At the end of the day, you are answerable to your own self. Stick to your guts. If you are comfortable in your own skin and have a positive outlook of how the world and businesses operate, you will find it easier to strike a balance between what you think is right and what the client wants. Bend if you must. Be like a strong bamboo that sways with the winds. However, never lose yourself just because you need the moolah. Develop an inner compass and that will surely help you make those critical decisions in such challenging phases in your career, and even life in general. It’s a free world. You have the right to make your own decisions, cognizant of the goals of your clients and the rights and welfare of people around you.
Let me end this post by sharing with you a picture of Nobuko, one of the dolls in the Kimmidoll series. She reminds us to ‘live what we believe.’____________________
This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)
Dear Globe Telecom,
I have been a loyal subscriber to Globe Telecom since 2005 and appreciate its good service. It’s not perfect but I am relatively satisfied and appreciate its efforts in addressing the needs of subscribers.
However, this is a perennial problem which may also be affecting thousands of your (and other telecom providers’) subscribers: spam SMS and unsolicited advertisements (ads), which are probably being sent en masse. Twice or three times in the past, I have received such spam messages/ads at past midnight already.
I sent you an email dated 17 February 2013 but all I got was an auto-reply. I opened a Twitter account so I can reach out to your “Talk” team via its Twitter account but the same thing happened: I just got the usual “thank you” letter and so far, have not received any update yet as to any action that was done to address my concern (which, I am sure, is the concern of many subscribers as well). With my 17 February letter is a PDF file with most of the numbers (of unsolicited text senders or “spammers”) that I had patiently compiled. I will be sending you another email after posting this blog so I can make a follow-up again and send you new numbers, which I patiently compiled again.
I had actually requested for a change in number sometime last year so I can avoid these unsolicited SMS (and for another important reason). However, lo and behold, I began receiving such SMS again just a day or two after my new number got activated.
I am aware that there are already legislative efforts in both the Lower House and the Senate to address this perennial problem. (For its part, I am also sure that Globe is aware that giving away mobile numbers without the consent of subscribers is a violation of the right to privacy and may be considered an illegal act.)
I therefore hope that with this open letter, Globe will finally take this matter seriously and do a clear action as to those individuals/companies who are sending unsolicited ads/SMS. Perhaps Globe may also want to conduct its own investigation as to how people/companies are getting unauthorized access to the private mobile numbers of your subscribers.
I look forward to Globe’s action on this matter.
Very truly yours,
P.s. Another screenshot of the list of SMS spammers (sent to Globe Telecom last February 17) is below.
This is not a paid blog.
Hubby and were just so glad that the rains stopped for a little bit today. It had been raining for days now so at the first sign of a less-rainy day, we called up Chef Laudico’s Casa Filipino (probably the newest buffet restaurant in Quezon City) and asked if they can still accept a late booking for lunch. We had always been planning to try the restaurant out (we’ve began noticing it in the last two months when we’re on the way to Timog area) but we decided today is a perfect day. For one, we were not able to celebrate our monthsary almost a week ago because I had been traveling lately. (What a perfect excuse! wink! wink!)
It was nice to hear that they’d still accommodate us even if it was already about 12:15 pm when we called up. We were told to come before 2:00 pm so we rushed to the place and were again pleased that a table for two was waiting for us inside (we were supposed to be seated in the open-air terrace section because of our late booking and the high number of walk-in guests–it was ok with us but thought it might get too humid on a lunch hour). Anyway, before I proceed with this post, let me remind you that I am not a food critic by profession although I do try my best to educate myself when it comes to food. Of course, being a food-lover, traveler, and then married to an aspiring chef gives me some confidence when discussing food and restaurants. I definitely know when a food is good or bad. I have professional experience, too, in customer service, so I am a sucker for good service. For this simple restaurant review, I also relied on the Association of Food Journalists’ (AFJ) Guidelines for Food Critics found at http://www.afjonline.com/afj.aspx?pgID=887. I will also use the ratings, which they often recommend or use.
Upon entering the place, I was immediately pleased with the atmosphere, ambiance, interior design, lighting, and over-all look. It looked like an ancestral Pinoy home converted to a modern-yet-traditional-restaurant. I would just recommend that they go easy on the tightly-arranged tables because the place looks so crowded (and almost suffocating) on a busy day. They can probably address this by doing two batches of lunch (or dinner) buffet, or giving more room (and breathing space!) to the diners on the second floor (if indeed they are using the second floor). This way, the diners will still feel some kind of privacy, without worrying that the people beside their table can overhear everything they are discussing. The noise can become so bothersome also particularly if you are one of those people who prefer some semblance of quiet and peace when dining out. Of course, the noise cannot be avoided in buffet restaurants but, still, a careful planning can address the noise and the tightly-packed crowds on weekends/holidays.
Now, let’s get down to business and discuss the food! For appetizers, the restaurant certainly did not scrimp. They offered so many options that we had to stop ourselves from trying out everything or we won’t make it to the main course. We had Lumpia Cones, Karnevorous Pizza, and Pork Sisig Baskets for starters. We enjoyed the Karnevorous Pizza and it can easily become one of our favorite dishes there. We won’t recommend the Lumpia Cones though. We have certainly tasted better versions of the dish. JR is also good (excellent?!) with Lumpia dishes that I should probably ask Chef Laudico to hire him as his Lumpia master. (wink!)
Next stop: Salad Bar. I decided to become adventurous and try the bagoong fish sauce as dressing for the Pinoy Salad. I have never eaten a salad with bagoong as a dressing but this seems to be perfect for the lettuce, green mango, carrots, radish, and steamed okra and eggplant. I also took Tuna Kilawin Spoons and a piece of Shrimp Maki. Perfect, I said to myself and then took some photos of my plate before devouring my new finds. My verdict? The Pinoy Salad is a nice approach so I should give credit to Chef Laudico for reminding us again that a nutritious meal of mostly uncooked and steamed vegetables need no longer be that boring. For future diners, just go easy on the fish bagoong so the salty taste won’t be too overpowering. Tuna Kilawin Spoon is ok although I somehow got confused with the name. It looked and tasted like Tuna Sashimi so I somehow missed the “Kilawin” part (or is it just me?). I know that Kilawin means the food had been cooked in vinegar and of course, in bits of pepper, salt, onion, ginger, and spices. This Tuna Kilawin certainly did not taste like it was cooked in vinegar so maybe they have a new twist or approach to it.
Just so I can eat more variants of the main dishes, I decided to go easy on the servings. I took two or three spoons of the Adobo Rice, a piece of Steamed Fish Fillet, and a scoop of Grilled Vegetables with Pesto and Cheese. The latter two are run-away winners! The Steamed Fish Fillet is probably the best dish in the whole main dishes’ table. It is cooked to the right texture and the flavors beautifully burst in your mouth. Fish at its best! The Grilled Vegetables with Pesto and Cheese is also cooked perfectly and goes well with the fish dish. As for the Adobo Rice, the restaurant should certainly review their recipe–the rice dish was bland and did not give justice to its name.
Still savoring the memories of the fish and vegetables dishes in my mouth, I then went to the main dishes’ counter again and decided to try two pasta dishes, Longganara and Tuyonesca, and Fried Chicken in Mango Curry Sauce. The Fried Chicken dish is quite good (although a little salty) but the two pasta dishes were certainly big disappointments. Their names are actually interesting but sadly, they don’t deliver. Again, their kitchen team may want to review the recipes and do some more experimentation. After all, the perfect dishes don’t come easy and are mostly learned over time.
We were curious about their Angus Beef so we also tried a small portion. It was nothing spectacular but the sauce that goes with it is good enough. JR was also not impressed with the Balamban Liempo (after all, he hails from Balamban, Cebu, and knows how the real Balamban Liempo tastes like) so this one can be missed, too. Just reserve your tummy’s spaces for the other offerings.
Of course, a good meal should always have a happy ending, right? Well, we were in for a little more disappointment because there was no more Suman Panacotta in the dessert counter. Darn, we just saw something like it on Junior Master Chef last night and were salivating for it. Nevertheless, there’s a lesson to be learned–book early if you want to catch, I assume, the restaurant’s signature dessert dish. Anyway, my attention was grabbed by the Tablea Chocolate Fountain so decided to make my own experiment at plating. I always told JR that he should hire me as his plating consultant when he is already a Chef. Look here - I made a “snowy mountain” of watermelon, pineapple, and dripping chocolate. The sweet chocolate certainly made the very sour pineapple edible enough. The chocolate was supposed to go with a specific kind of bread/cookie but I could no longer find any cake that can go with it so tried it with the fruits. The Pound Cup Cake is ok but again, it was nothing spectacular. The kitchen team may also want to improve their desserts.
It was definitely an enjoyable lunch and service is great (one of the waiters was thoughtful enough to offer to take our pictures). The price is reasonable, too. For P488/person on a weekend buffet, this place gives good value for money. I admire the owners because this seems like an uncharted path: establishing a restaurant in a predominantly residential area. Although it is quite near Timog and Morato areas, still, it takes courage to set up a restaurant business in an area where diners do not really frequent. But there goes the beauty and charm of Casa Filipino: it is proud of its beginnings and does not wish to conform. It dances to its own beat.
Over-all, I give the restaurant a TWO STAR-rating, which, in the AFJ Guidelines, refer to: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking. It can easily climb up the ladder if only more attention can be given to the quality and taste of the food. And I am pretty sure Chef Laudico and his team will rise up to the challenge. After all, it is a fairly new establishment and diners would normally give such places second and even third chances. Count on me and JR to dine there again.
Kudos and many best wishes! (For more photos, please scroll down.)
Ratings as provided/recommended by the AFJ.
- FOUR STARS: (Extraordinary) Transcendent. A one-of-a-kind, world-class experience.
- THREE STARS: (Excellent) Superior. Memorable, high-quality menus frequently accompanied by exciting environs and/or savvy service.
- TWO STARS: (Good) Solid places that beckon with generally appealing cooking.
- ONE STAR: (Fair) Just OK. A place not worth rushing back to. But, it might have something worth recommending: A view, a single dish, friendly service, lively scene.
- NO STAR: (Poor) Below-average restaurants.
CASA FILIPINO | Scout Torillo corner Scout Fernandez, Barangay Sacred Heart, Quezon City | Tel. No. 921-1850
This is not a paid blog.
[UPDATE (26-March-2014): The shop is no longer in Tagaytay. Please scroll down for the new location.]
Let me tell you a story. Her beauty has struck me as feisty and enigmatic. Back in my first or second year in college, when I didn’t know if I’d adjust well to the liberal (almost radical?) style of UP education, I found a new friend seated in one corner of our UPSCA* tambayan, happily puffing away at her cigarette (don’t worry, she has, fortunately, given up on that habit a long time ago).
In what I would probably describe as a fateful event, our deep friendship began. There were no formal introductions. It was as if we have been friends for the longest time already. I have somehow forgotten that we do not come from the same batch (I will not divulge our ages…wink!) because she did not make me feel so juvenile with my remarks. In my young mind back then, she was the epitome of an accomplished woman–finishing her UP education while already building (and managing!) a family with two young daughters. How did she survive the exams, term papers, habla espanol, late-night outs, UPSCA activities, etc. while boldly and happily carrying her role as a wife and mother is beyond me.
And now this woman, called as a “Black Rose” in her elementary (or high school?) school days by one of her teachers, opens a quaint and cozy shop in Tagaytay.** JR and I were among those invited in the shop’s opening last October 30. It was a particularly busy weekend for me and JR because we were then printing our course modules (we are both back in school–he in his culinary studies, me in my MBA Renewables coursework) but we felt we wouldn’t want to miss this for anything in this world!
What does the Black Rose sell? For one, the shop sells beautiful notebooks and planners, books, bags, scarves and shawls, costume jewelries, school supplies, home and kitchen accessories (they have beautiful spoon and fork sets embellished with stones!), spices, and other art pieces. It is actually a one-stop-shop for those looking for gifts to their loved ones. I particularly liked a planner because it is handy enough and good for five years! What I really do not like about those being sold in bookstores is that you need to throw them away just after one year of use. The one that I got from the shop has no date entries so you can begin the planner at any time of the year and when I counted the (generic) calendar pages, they’d be good for 5 years! So the planner can be your handy companion in the long haul. I missed the first one that I liked so I ended up buying the ‘Paris, France’ version with a photo of Moulin Rouge on the cover. (Yes, someone else snatched the first one I liked in just a matter of minutes so dear readers, if you saw something that you liked at the Black Rose, get it right away as another person will surely want it in the next hour or so!) Here is a photo of my planner. I liked it, too, even if it was just my second choice because I consider it serendipitous that it has a picture of an old wind mill! Remember, I have just began my coursework in renewable energies. (Wink!)
The other find that I was not able to resist (the hubby certainly did not complain because it was a 2nd-hand item and did not cost him our weekly allowance, haha) is a nice pink-and-cream bag, with an old-fashioned look because of the way the straps were designed. See here? I think it is even big enough for a laptop. The bag is made of local materials, too, so it shouts, proudly Philippine-made.
There is another reason why you should also swing by Tagaytay. The Black Rose shop is located at the lower ground floor of the unit occupied by Papa Prito (yes, it’s quite an interesting name!), the newest food joint in Tagaytay, where you can find the best fried dishes that go with the Pinoys’ favorite staple, sinangag (fried rice). Hubby and I did not eat there because we were still full when we left Tagaytay so we decided to order take-out. It turned out to be a good decision because we enjoyed the tapa (Taal-style) with sinangag immensely. It was marinated in their own secret sauces and fried in just the right texture (not rubbery!). You can enjoy it through their sinangag-to-sawa meals, at only P95.00. In the menu are offerings with interesting names such as Wow Sabaw, Papalicious, Arroz Tuyo, Kalibre 45 meals, and other all-time favorites like pancit, liempo, sisig, and goto. And don’t forget, with the very reasonable prices, you also get to enjoy the view of the world-famous Taal Volcano! The restaurant (and the shop) are fortunately situated by the Taal ridge, just by the rotunda (almost across Mang Inasal). For those who have to keep a budget while enjoying a Tagaytay weekend, this is certainly a good option: you enjoy the perfect view of the volcano and you get to satisfy your gustatory cravings, too.
The Tagaytay landscape is certainly evolving through the years. New surprises happen every day and this time, it has embraced a Black Rose warmly, mesmerized by its enigmatic beauty. Visit the Black Rose shop and be equally smitten!
*UP Student Catholic Action.
**UPDATE (26/Mar/2014): The Black Rose has recently joined the Evia Trunk Sale in Daang Hari, Las Pinas. See her there on Saturdays and Sundays, from 4:00 to 10:00 pm. Cp # +63 920 9209628.
This is not a paid blog.
No, this post is not about how to fire someone. This is a summary version of what my husband and I have discussed several times over the two years of our marriage (and over the four years of our friendship).
It’s about passion for one’s work. This may not probably sound extraordinary anymore but nevertheless, let me share my learnings and experiences in client management and customer service or CS (both as a service provider and client). I think that poor services and treatment of clients can almost always be rooted to a lack of passion for the job. Many of us share these typical encounters: long lines in the bank during lunch break because bank employees also take this exact time to take their lunch break (not thinking that workers use their lunch break to transact with the banks); bookstore sale staff not being able to locate the book that you are looking for because they do not know the difference between anthologies and satire; courier service company staff refusing to call the originating branch where a document came from just to verify if indeed there was a typo error in the name of the consignee; telephone service providers who ironically cannot even call their linemen who are supposed to be fixing your landline after a storm; remittance center who refuses to hand over your funds because they do not have smaller bills of USD (yes, this actually happened to me–the center even suggested that I go back the next day!); and the list is endless…
Admittedly, corporate culture and values should be strongly inculcated in the minds of employees but I will not attempt to discuss this dimension here as it is another topic that needs more lengthy discussion. Let us then concentrate on discussing how fire and passion into one’s job can make a whole lot of difference.
Definitely, training and exposure in client management and customer service are important in enhancing our skills and competencies. I always believe in the beauty and importance of continuing learning. In fact, I am beginning an MBA course soon, with focus on renewable energy (to know more about it, you can go to this link). It is always wiser to continue investing in ourselves, particularly in this age of globalization and outsourcing (and intense market competition).
However, there are aspects of our jobs and careers that should be deeply-rooted in our core being. One of those is passion for the job. Just like in any relationship, if passion is gone, love also wanes and may eventually die. In the same way, our passion for the job constantly fires us up, pushing us to greater heights of accomplishments and fulfillment.
For example–in my example above regarding my encounter with a bookshop employee–it was disheartening for me to receive only blank stares when I tried to look for a specific book title. It was hard for me to understand why a bookshop employee does not know the different types and genres of books. I do not say this in a condescending way. It is just frustrating that someone who is surrounded with shelves and shelves of books does not care enough to even attempt to get to know their “wards”. I may be too biased because of my love for reading but I think that this should apply in any merchandise that one is trying to sell. If you are selling a stove, you must know exactly what are the different types of stoves and how one type is better than the other. This takes passion. That ‘connection’ where you find a deeper meaning to even the mundane details of your job.
At the core of this drive is the joy of being able to serve others. I think we are depriving ourselves of joys and a sense of fulfillment if we take our jobs for granted. We are shortchanging ourselves if we do not try our best to enjoy our jobs. Remember that our jobs connect us to the outside world and give us opportunities to serve others. I think the chance of doing something for others is a gift in itself. When we serve, we give a part of our time and ourselves. It may lead to a continuous cycle of giving and serving. If we served someone with a smile that day, that person will be gracious enough to do the same to another person. That single act of serving can lead to long-lasting friendships and even casual acquaintances who may eventually end us as our future colleagues, employers, or clients. And such attitude of graciousness should remain even if we are under extreme pressures or faced with difficult circumstances.
Let me share a very challenging encounter that I once experienced when I was still serving as a customer service (CS) manager of a global service delivery firm. Note that I have no prior (formal) experience in CS although I have considerable experience in client management. I think that even without such formal experience, it was relatively easy for me to adapt to the responsibilities of the job because I truly enjoy serving others. It is in the core of every work that I do, even when I was still in college working as an associate editor of our university paper. I tend to go beyond what is expected of me not because I care about credits but because I truly enjoy working. I get a certain high if I have already accomplished my tasks and satisfied my peers and clients. Perhaps (and I am just guessing here) that my former boss in that firm decided to hire me even if I did not have a formal training in CS because he saw that ‘inner fire’ and the commitment to perform and excel.
Everything was going well in the job when one day, a furious client went up to my office. He was so angry that, I think, if I was not a female employee, he could have easily punched me on the face. The offices are glass-walled and the lay-out is designed such that the managers’ offices (following almost a ‘squarish’ U-shaped pattern) are facing the cubicles of of the staff. The client began ranting at me, in an angry tone, so that all of my staff stood up from their cubicles and looked worriedly at me. I think that they heard every word that the client said even if I already closed the glass doors (which I never do). I just allowed the client to talk and rant and berate me and the company, until slowly, he began lowering down his voice. All the while, I kept on nodding my head, listening to his every word. It was disconcerting but I tried to be calm and took everything he said with serenity in my heart. I did not even try to defend the company’s position. I just put myself in his shoes. Realizing that I was actually listening, he eventually stopped and gave me a chance to talk. Needless to say, it took a combination of sincere apologies, wise words, calm but firm voice, and a concrete solution, for me to eventually pacify him. I have also promised to make up for their company’s incurred losses (which my company did not intend nor were caused by inefficiency on our side but rather a technical glitch which our airline partners also experienced) and beginning that day, I will be personally taking care of monitoring their job requests. This is not actually expected of me (I can delegate it completely to the CS Supervisor, who is just as competent) but in that kind of situation, I strongly felt I have to do this extra step. I also thought that the client will only give us a second chance if he is assured that I am there for him and his company, personally, in the long haul. Needless to say, he was satisfied and eventually remained as a valuable client of our company (he was already, at first, threatening to move their accounts to our competitor company). I was even in for a surprise bonus. Several months after that encounter in my office, I was happily surprised to receive a special invitation from him for the grand opening of his and his partners’ restaurant! For me, this is wonderful but totally unexpected “return” on something that I have done wholeheartedly without any expectation of reward. The mere fact that it was unexpected doubled the joys of being appreciated and considered as a friend (and a special guest at that!). This underlines what I have mentioned above: every encounter can lead to more meaningful and important relationships in the future. However, we will not find any meaning to the nitty-gritty of our “boring” jobs if we fail to appreciate the beauty in each encounter or task, however mundane we may think it to be.
Another important facet of job appreciation is possessing a strong pride in everything that we do. I am not sure if this is entirely a Pinoy penchant for simplicity or the tendency to humble ourselves, but I would oftentimes hear of employees–trying to be defensive when they realize their lapses–saying, “Sorry po, Ma’am, empleyado lang po ako. “ (Loose translation: “I’m sorry, Ma’am, I am just an employee.”) It is like admitting that you are just an employee, therefore, you are mostly useless and have no mind of your own, no power. I heard this statement recently from a lawyer in a public office (yes, he is indeed a lawyer) when I suggested that he should propose a concrete recommendation to his boss. He said he cannot do that because he has no power nor influence. It was disheartening. I have worked with public officials but I have always thought that my bosses listened to my insights and that I was hired to give them that–clear solutions and recommendations. Apparently, this lawyer does not think of himself as that capable person who can try to make a difference. In his mind, he is just an employee. No wonder we notice such lethargy in many government offices today.
A similar attitude is when we say, “My father is JUST a driver or a factory worker, and so on and so forth” when we can simply say, “My father is a farmer or a driver or a waiter”? Have we really asked ourselves what is so embarrassing or wrong with being a driver or a farmer? I think that it is time that we carry more dignity and pride in our work, whatever it may be. This will definitely motivate us to appreciate our jobs more. Let us be fired with the knowledge that our jobs are important not just to our families but also to the society as a whole. If our farmers stop planting, what do you think will happen to all of us?
Put yourself in the client’s shoes. We always hear this. It is always one of the key lessons that are being taught us in the corporate world. Do we really mean it when we say that? Take the case of bank employees who also take their lunch break at the exact time when working people would also be doing their bank transactions. Does it take a genius to realize that the lunch hour should also be the exact time that banks should open all their counters? Ironically, bank staff also choose this time to take their lunch break, closing the other counters in the process, compounding the inefficiency because of the long lines of clients who also have to rush back to their offices. This stems from the lack of appreciation of how it is to be a full-time employee who has his lunch break only to do his bank transactions. Admittedly, bank management calls the shot but front-line employees should be the ones recommending changes because they are the ones facing clients on a day-to-day basis. Remember, you have the power to propose changes and this does not stop in your job alone. You can propose and work for changes in every circle where you circulate in.
After all, our job extends to the many outer layers of our lives. More importantly, we carry the names of our forefathers so carry that name with care, joy, and pride, for when we besmirch our names, we also hurt the names of our great ancestors.
Be the best in your job, and be among the best citizens of this world!
This is not a paid blog.