Archive of ‘starbucks’ category

why i am boycotting starbucks

Anyone who’s followed this blog knows how much I love Starbucks. I’ve posted countless times about its coffee, drinks, merchandise (tumblers, mugs, planners, etc.), and locations in the different countries I visit. I have an entire blog category for “Starbucks” alone.

That is, I used to love Starbucks. Until one fateful day last December…


I’ve always saved up stickers for the annual Starbucks planner since they first came out in the Philippines. One year I manage to drink and treat others to enough coffee to amass five planners. I average three per year. The first always goes to my best friend, the second is for myself, and the third is for giving away. This year, I’d already redeeemed two and was working on the third.

Now this is my third planner redemption card. I bought two non-holiday drinks at Starbucks Glorietta One or Rockwell, I forget now which branch. By mistake the barista put it on the back, on “Option 2″ (all non-holiday drinks). I said I preferred the stickers on the front – “Option 1″ (less drinks to buy). He apologized and said the stickers would still be honored anyway, and would be applied by any other branch to my Option 1.

A couple of weeks later , I bought a non-holiday drink at the Starbucks at Harbour Square, Cultural Center of the Philippines complex. Again they put the sticker for my brewed coffee on the back. They cancelled it while we discussed what to do.

Exhibit A. Option 2 stickers, with the one issued by Harbour Square cancelled.

So far so good.

Then I noticed that I nearly had enough stickers on the front to redeem another planner! I asked if I could apply the two non-holiday drinks to the remaining drinks requirement.

I was told that one of the stickers would be applied to the one remaining core drink requirement on the front. The sticker that they (Harbour Square) issued and cancelled, they placed on a new card.

The third sticker would be wasted, unless I went back to the branch that issued it and ask for a new sticker to be reissued. Having forgotten which branch it was I got it from, I asked Harbour Square they could re-consider and place another sticker on the new card they had just given me, because I was assured by that other barista that all stickers would be honored. It was clear anyway from the sticker that I had purchased a drink. But no, the person from Harbour Square said “It’s a different branch.”

(back to the present)

Not a big deal? Heck, yeah, it is. Where is the customer delight in this? I bought those drinks fair and square with my hard-earned money. Still, because of a mix-up that was no fault of mine and that could have easily been fixed by that particular Starbucks manager, I lost one sticker. I feel robbed. I feel disappointed. I feel let down by a company that I have championed for years.

In fact, I am so upset that I am boycotting Starbucks from now on. I now make it my mission to find good, if not better, coffee elsewhere. I will advocate other kinds of coffee and coffeeshops, preferably Filipino, and that’s what I should have done more of long ago.

Because it’s now a giant chain, Starbucks has the most branches of any coffee shop, and that’s their advantage – they’re everywhere. It will be difficult to find other coffee shops in the places I frequent.

Difficult – but not impossible. Highland arabica, as I’ve had it in Baguio City, is particularly tasty and never bitter. The best cup I’ve ever had in my life was a cup of barako – Philippine liberica – at a thoroughbred ranch in Batangas, liberally splashed with fresh goat milk from imported goats that the ranch owner raised along with his race horses.

Coffee at the BenCab museum in Tuba, Benguet, a few minutes away from Baguio City proper. Not only is this sort of coffee (Benguet arabica) more delicious than the brewed coffee at Starbucks, its served in such a way as to delight the senses, with brown sugar and milk in a wee jug.  (December 2011)

Yeah, Starbucks Philippines. You lost me because of one. lousy. sticker. Happy New Year.

taste more:

the starbucks planner 2012

The Starbucks planner for 2012 is a 180-degree turn from last year’s elegant design that came in red velvet and metallic finishes. This time around, it’s all about trees, evoked with natural materials – wood and coarse-weave fabric. It’s acquired through the usual means of stickers for each drink purchased during the designated holiday period (November to January).

There are five iterations shading from light to dark, each named after a tree. This one’s Cherry, the middle shade (#3).

What’s more, the design took more than a few cues from the Moleskine notebook.

This unboxing happened at Starbucks Harbour Square at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex.

“Let’s give big hugs – and little gifts of hope.” Actually, I’m fine with the big hugs. Really.

The coarse-weave pouch is an innovation – it’s the first time it’s been done by Starbucks Philippines. The pouch keeps the planner clean, and is also handy for receipts, a pen, and other little items.

No worries that the planner inside will be damaged by things you might keep in the pouch – the covers are made of thin pieces of wood, with the siren design and edge text in bas-relief.

There’s a Moleskine-style elastic on the back. As always, the planner comes with coupons – nine, this time around, less than there used to be, at one per month, but then it takes less drinks to get the planner this season.

Instead of a Moleskine-type ribbon marker, a kraft-cardboard bookmark is provided. I love the horizontal layout. 

Now we come to the best thing about this planner – the paper. It is smooth, creamy, and fountain-pen friendly. The stiff nib of my daily-warrior Parker Jotter simply glides across the paper, as if it were glass. Or ice.

Another good thing for FP  users – there’s minimal show-through! 

As with every Starbucks planner, this one has magnificent photography.

A pocket attached to the inside back cover holds the coupons and bookmark. Again, just like the Moleskine. It’s handy-dandy for keeping more stray bits of paper and other ephemera. 

The size is smaller too, compared to previous editions. It’s about the size of a Kindle and fits neatly in my handbag, where I hope it gets along with all the pink things in there.

Photos taken with a 2MP Nokia C3.

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new at starbucks philippines september 2011

Starbucks Philippines finally figured out that the perfect complement to their coffee in the mornings is a more substantial breakfast than they had been wont to serve.

This August, customers all over Manila were delighted to find new breakfast offerings.

 Apart from the breakfast, there’s new merchandise too, in the warm earthy colors of fall.

Via ceramic cup with lid, a great partner to Starbucks’ instant coffee. I got the orange one. It gives a more ‘morning coffee’ feel to my first-thing-when-I-get to-the-office java, than in a plastic tumbler.

The familiar tall plastic tumblers in a Via version. 

The Starbucks Anniversary designs always feature the original siren. The brown echoes the hues of coffee.

Here’s what’s new – a glass water bottle. The steel tumbler also boasts a new color scheme.

As always in each seasonal merchandise collection, there is a gaggle of gaily-colored plastic tumblers, these covered in a drift of autumn leaves. 

Photos taken with a Nokia C3 at the Harbour Square (Pasay City) and Greenbelt 1 (Makati City) branches.

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cuisinart coffee

Galaw-galaw, Neni,” said Doc Nonoy. “Move it, move it.”

Walk fast and live long,” said Doc Amer.

Both physicians were my classmates from elementary to high school. Sometimes we see each other now that we’re older, and I’m struck by how they still look like teenagers. I, on the other hand, also still look like a teenager, but weigh twice as much as one.

Both of them have been into running since back then.

I have been into avoiding running since back then (like, what? where’s the fire?) but I can manage to put one foot in front of another to walk.

The new year having rolled around again, as it does every year, I trotted out that hoary old resolution of getting more exercise, and walking it is because it doesn’t require highly-developed motor coordination skills.

So today I went to the mall and bought a Cuisinart four-cup coffeemaker with steel carafe, endorsed on the box by chef Paul Bocuse. I’ve used a French press for eons and felt it was time for a change.

What does this coffeemaker have to do with exercise? We’ll get there, I promise.

This brand of coffeemaker advises the use of paper filters, and comes with two free ones. I do not like my coffee tasting of paper and I do not want trees chopped down just for me to get my caffeine on.

Well, what do you know, the Starbucks across the street from the appliance store had this lovely mesh permanent filter.

I went home and made coffee using ground arabica I bought in Baguio last July, since all my fresh coffee was at the office. The old Baguio arabica was stale and tasted horrible.

I refused to give up on brewing coffee en hora mismo in that smart Cuisinart. So I walked about a kilometer from my house to the nearest Starbucks, where I got this bag of Caffe Verona in the sweetest scarlet Valentine’s Day packaging. (I always was a sucker for cute packaging.)

I walked another kilometer back home and settled down to brew myself some strong, bold coffee for a night of writing.

And that’s how my love for coffee motivated me to get some exercise today and obey my physicians’ instructions.

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emergency trip

It was excruciating – pain radiating from my right thumb to my wrist, then forearm, then shoulder, all in the course of three days. There had been some discomfort in the previous months, but this time it was agony.

Refusing to take meds or try any remedies pending a physician’s advice, I gritted my teeth, leaned heavily on Alex for support (she almost buckled under the weight), and made my way to the emergency room of a Makati hospital late one night last week.

That afternoon I had done some research and by a galactic coincidence a story popped up on Yahoo! Finance that seemed related. “The Baby May Be Giving You Mommy’s Thumb” screamed the headline.

The condition is called De Quervain’s tendonitis and is an inflammation of the tendons below the thumb down to the wrist, and may result from carrying heavy babies from lower cribs and scrolling and texting on smartphones. It may be treated by painkillers, splints, steroid injections, and surgery.

With the text was a diagram that showed pain beginning at the base of the thumb area and radiating upward. My pain was the radiating kind but it wasn’t emanating from the base but from the thumb joint, which was red, swollen, and painful to touch.

I poked it. Oww. Bad idea.

At the hospital, two residents attended to me, a female and a male. The lady doctor looked over my chart.

“Is the pain severe?” she murmured.

“Yes. Assuming childbirth to be number ten, my hand pain is the number eight orange frowny-face on the pain chart,” I said. I described the situation.

“Radiating? I see. Has the pain reached the ancilla?”

“If by ‘ancilla’ you mean ‘armpit’, then yes, it has.”

They sent me out for x-rays and when I came back, the male doctor looked them over and spoke. ”Have you seen how I write?”

What the hell does that have to do with my hand, I thought, but of course I realized he had a point – somewhere – and was about to make it. I put on a puzzled face.  ”No…”

He took up a pen, gripped it in four fingers, his thumb hanging free. “I have the same condition you have. It’s called focal dystonia – ‘writer’s cramp’.”

Focal dystonia is a neurological condition that may be accompanied by radiating pain or uncontrolled curling or twisting of the fingers, and usually afflicts people who rely on fine motor skills, like guitarists and surgeons. And writers.

“Oh, cool!” I was elated. “I’m a writer! It figures! Hey, wait. So you mean I don’t have De Quervain’s tendonitis or ‘mommy’s thumb’?”

He glared. “No, you have focal dystonia, ‘writer’s cramp’!” I nodded with understanding. Of course. He had it himself, so naturally he wouldn’t want to call it some sissy girly name.

“Is it a joint thing, or a repetitive motion injury thing?” I asked.

“It’s a stress-related nerve thing, and you might need therapy, and you definitely need rest,” he said. He scribbled some numbers on a piece of paper, pushed it to me. “Here’s my hand specialist’s number. Call her.”

I wanted to ask if the specialist was so specialized as to specialize on only the left or the right hand, but remembering the story I read on the Internet, I asked instead, “Can I have a splint? Or steroids? Hunh, can I, can I?”

He frowned. “You can have a pill. Here’s a prescription.” More scribbling.

“But it hurts bad,” I whined.

“Oh, all right. I’ll prescribe an injectable so you can sleep tonight.” He waved me over to a nurse, who inserted a plastic shunt into a vein on my left hand, then a syringe into the shunt.

“This is (unpronounceable name of medication),” the nurse said. “It’s going to sting going in. Oh, and there’s an aftertaste of buko juice.”

“What kind of painkiller gives more pain?…oh, never mind. Lemme have it,” I said, wincing as he slooowly pressed the plunger and the taste of coconut filled my mouth.

The shunt was kind of cute, because it was pink. I wanted to keep it as a caffeine delivery system to shoot espresso or Cobra energy drink straight into my bloodstream and! to! the brain! but Alex stared at me with narrowed eyes and of course no one wants their eldest daughters fixing them with disapproving looks so I let the nurse remove the shunt. He wouldn’t have let me leave the hospital with it anyway.

For being a mostly good girl while in the emergency room, I was given my favorite treat by Alex. She took me to ingest caffeine the old-fashioned way at Starbucks where she had a Mocha Peppermint frap and we shared a banana loaf slice and a tuna croissant.

Lifting my plastic cup of Zen iced tea, I tried to balance it on my palm while holding with four fingers and trying to find a way to rest my thumb, until Alex pointed out that I could maybe hold the cup in my left hand. Brilliant child. Whatever would I do without her?

By the time we went home, the pain was gone, and I slept well again, my slumber serene, knowing that I had ‘writer’s cramp’ as befits a writer.

But ‘mommy’s thumb’ would not have been amiss, as I am a mommy too – a grateful one, to be blessed with an Alex like mine, and an Erika waiting at home with a warm hug.

The lesson here was that even a minor ache may turn out to be a condition for which one needs medical treatment. I had ignored the hand pain for months, belonging as I do to the Ernest Hemingway tough school of writing, where you bind up your bullet wounds with a dirty handkerchief clenched between your teeth and keep on typing.

But my neglect meant that my condition had deteriorated to the point where I needed to get x-rays and see a specialist. I am thankful that the emergency room resident who saw me last week made a spot-on diagnosis and treated me with sympathy and smiles.

It was a stern reminder, though, that anyone can benefit from – take care of yourself, so you can better take care of others. ***

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birthday cakes

My birthday was last week. My offspring asked me what I wanted to do most of all in the world on my special day. I said, “Read a book at Starbucks.”

They said: “No, really, Mama. What would you like to do that’s FUN!!! and ENJOYABLE!!!”

I replied: “Really, for me drinking coffee and reading for a couple of hours is my idea of FUN!!! and EXCITEMENT!!! and adventurous blazing ACTION!!!”

So we went to Starbucks Powerplant Mall. It being my birthday, and me being the lazy person that I am (and I really work hard at it, lemme tell ya), they got in line for coffee-and while I sank my behind into a soft and comfortable couch.

We sat around for a while sipping our Peppermint Mocha hot coffees and fraps until the kids got so bored that they upped and went to the video game arcade, promising to come back for me in, “Like, an hour or two, or when Offspring Major finally beats Offspring Minor at Tekken 6.”

Ensconced in warmth and fuzzy softness and pepperminty coffee flavor, I finished Dr Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo’s book of travel essays Looking for the Philippines. And what a lovely book it is, and what a charming and enchanting country we have, seen through Ma’am Jing’s eyes.

When the kids showed up to collect me, we had dinner at Zaifu (sushi and stuff) and dessert at Sugarhouse. Now that was another part I liked.

Behold! French apple pie, blueberry cheesecake, dulce de leche mini cake, and almond sans rival – an exciting adventure in pies and cakes that led to much chewing and swallowing action.

A good book, coffee, cake, and children –  simple things. Do we need really anything more?

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starbucks via: instant brewed coffee

Last June my California-based mother sent my sister packets of these, which she passed to me, not being a coffee drinker herself. I liked it a lot. It blew me away that I could have the taste of brewed in this convenient form.

Earlier this month, Via was launched in the Philippines.  Starbucks Via Ready-Brew is, their website says, “not instant coffee as you know it. This is rich, flavorful Starbucks coffee in an instant.”

Okay, their copy could use some work, but what about the coffee?

First, the packaging. Via’s colors are red-orange, mustard, and dark brown, used extensively in the boxes of twelve and the three-packs. Why there are no six-packs, I have no idea.

If you’re a fan of design, as I am, these are sleek, classy, and conform to the Starbucks standard of style.

This Via double-walled tumbler has an inner metal container for the drink, encased in a plastic sleeve divided into compartments that hold up to six packets of Via. For the forgetful, this is a great way to ensure you’ll always have your Via wherever you go. Just remember to fill the compartments when empty.

The bottom of the Via tumbler unscrews for access to the stored packets.

I can’t resist merch! I already have the regular green Starbucks cup strap. The Via strap has more charms. I use these to keep my USB drives handy.

Try their three flavors – Colombia (medium), Italian Roast (extra bold), and decaf. What’s great is that Starbucks Philippines gives free single packets of Via with purchase.

This Via bearista makes my drinks and keeps them safe. Really.

Oh, the coffee? Brewed is in a league of its own, but Via tastes much better than the regular kind of instant coffee, coming much closer to the real thing. For that reason, it’s a fantastic innovation in caffeinated convenience.

Photos taken in available light with a 2-mp Nokia c3, except for the bear photo, taken with a Nikon Coolpix L21.

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library in your pocket: amazon kindle 2

When I was growing up we had so many books that we could have built a house with them, the way environmentalists today build structures from plastic soda bottles or beer cans. I can’t imagine living without books. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that I found out not everyone loved to read as much as our family did.

So every time I’d visit other people’s homes I’d see if they had books and how they stored them. When I was in college there was this guy, a friend of friends, who invited a bunch of us to their big old house in Manila. His name was Ditto Amador, the brother of the actress Pinky. He had science fiction and fantasy books piled up on the floor of his bedroom knee-high while a sheaf of papers was impaled to the wall with a sword, I swear I am not making this up. We all thought it was extremely cool and we wanted one.

Over the years, hundreds of my books were lost or damaged or stolen or given away. I wish I still had them, so I can revisit the familiar cadences of sentences that drew me to different worlds. Now, through the marvels of new technology, I can rebuild the library of my childhood, and carry with me the books I love as an adult, and later on bequeath them to my children, the stories and wisdom and knowledge of the world all in a gadget I can hold in my hand.

I recently acquired a pre-loved Kindle 2. This gadget is a brainchild of founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The first-gen model – Kindle 1 – was released in 2007 and followed in 2009 by the second-gen version, while the third-gen device – Kindle 3 – ships on August 27 and pre-orders are sold out.

The Kindle uses e-ink (electronic ink) technology reminiscent of an Etch-a-Sketch and is not backlit, eliminating eyestrain caused by glare which is the problem when reading on computer monitors, phones, and the iPad. You can read in bright sunlight, but you’ll need a booklight in the dark.

Kindle 2 uses only one font but offers eight font sizes and both landscape and portrait orientation options.

How does it all work? Digital files of books in the proprietary .azw format are sold at the website and may be downloaded to your Kindle through wireless technology called Whispernet (the Kindle comes in 3G and WiFi flavors). A file may be received practically anywhere in the world there is telecom access in under 60 seconds – yes, in the Philippines too. It’s like it was sent as a mobile phone message to you – it’s that fast, and it’s free.

The Kindle 2 also reads other formats such as .mobi (Amazon bought out Mobipocket some time ago), .txt, and supports .pdf and mp3 and Audible audio book files.

The device is light and thin and may be held comfortably in one hand for a long period of time, say, reading in bed at night or while waiting for your police clearance at the NBI. The Kindle 2 has a 6-inch display in 16-point grayscale, giving an acceptable level of detail for viewing some types of graphics. For text, it is superb.

Control buttons are at the edges and bottom of the device. “Previous page” and “Next Page” on the left, “Home”, “Next Page” “Menu”, “Back”, and the five-point joystick on the right. On the bottom is a QWERTY keyboard for searching for books at the Kindle website through wireless; for looking up word definitions in the built-in dictionary; adding annotations (the e-equivalent of scribbling notes in the margins); and more.

The Kindle 2 only came in white, which looks clean, though newer versions also come in graphite that offers better contrast.  No, they don’t have it in pink yet, though I have hopes.

The power switch is located at the top of the gadget, with a headphone jack for listening to audio books.

Beneath the Kindle is a USB port for downloading books from a PC and for recharging. Once fully charged, the battery lasts about a week to ten days with normal use and wireless switched off.

It is a delight to read on the Kindle, and to be able to hold 1,500 books with one hand and carry them with you wherever you go. I can give away most of my ink-and-paper books now, saving only those that have sentimental value.

But I still want a sword.

taste more:

caution: pens at work

Because we fountain-pen enthusiasts can’t get enough of pen pron, here are more images of pens at the racetrack. These were taken at various times last year, some with a Nikon D-60, others with a Nokia cellphone camera, hence the disparity in image quality. Still, they will at least give a look at the context in which I usually play with my pens – when I’m commentating the Santa Ana Park races every other weekend.

The pink pen is a Sheaffer Agio from TAO, who saw it at a shop or flea market somewhere around this time last year. It’s got an F nib, and is perfect fit for me all around (thanks again, TAO!). It’s a reliable daily warrior. The blue is a Pilot Vanishing Point with a Binderized crisp italic nib from Leigh. A fascinating pen, it will have its own blog post later on. The same goes for the two urushi Nakaya Piccolos – the black from TAO, the reddish-black from Leigh.

The older models of the Pilot VP were called “capless” since this model doesn’t have a cap; the nib retracts in and out like some ballpoint pens.

A closer look shows where the nib emerges from. Since it is a crisp italic, it takes some getting used to, with the sharp edges snagging on paper. But with care and practice, wonderful calligraphic effects can be coaxed from the nib.

The black Nakaya and the Sheaffer Agio on a racing program.

The sharp, gold nibs of the Nakayas: the black on top has a medium nib, the kuro-tamenuri below carries a stock flexible fine.

A writing sample by Ik. The Vista she refers to is the Microsoft OS, not the Lamy!

My workhorses are the Lamys – a Raspberry AL-Star (top) and a Vista.

A close-up of the Lamy Raspberry AL-Star’s F nib.

From the top: Aluminum AL-Star, Pink Safari, Vista, and Raspberry. The latter is showing up orange in this image; its true color is reddish.

Pens and writing samples.

Holding the pens up in front of the TV monitor displaying the races. Behind the TV are a broadcast camera and Kino-flo lights. On the left side of the picture is a Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler, most likely drained of coffee by the time this picture was taken.

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back on air

After a hiatus of a year and four months, I’m back on air doing the live horseracing coverage for Viva-Prime Channel at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

With sports writer Barry Pascua last 22 March 2009, on standby to do the opening of the day’s live coverage of the races half an hour before the parade for Race 1. This was my first weekend back. Barry and I are at the grandstand.


The last two horses cross the finish line after Race 1.


Racing fans pack the grandstand at Santa Ana Park on Sundays.

I started my broadcast career in racing in 2002, when I was tapped by PRC’s then-vice president of administration Fulton Su to be a panelist for PRC’s coverage, then handled by production outfit Creative Station for Pro-Ads Marketing, the actual contractor.

Boss Fulton took a leap of faith with me, as I had no experience at all doing live racing coverage. Despite being a jockey’s wife, I didn’t have much knowledge of betting or how to do race analysis.

I did have prior on-camera experience as a segment presenter and later co-host of “Karera 2000″, a horseracing show that aired over the government station, PTV (People’s Television) in 1997. For that show, I also wrote the script for my own segment, “Karera 101″, occasionally did the script for the entire show, and directed my own segment and others like the “Jockey’s Tips” presented by rider Dhunoy Raquel.

That’s where I learned to work under intense pressure – imagine showing up at on location at a ranch, only to be told by the scriptwriter/director that he had not written a script for that day’s shooting, and having to scribble the spiels for that episode right there and then while the hosts Jackie Castillejo andYeng Guiao (professional basketball coach and current vice governor of Pampanga province) waited.

But taped shows are easy because you can do over with takes. Live coverage is fast-paced with no room for errors.

Over time, and again under pressure, I learned to analyze races and and discuss the betting with the help of my fellow panelists during the early days at PRC – racecallers Ricardo “Carding” de Zuñiga, Ernie Enriquez (brother of GMA Network’s famed newscaster Mike Enriquez), Ira Herrera (racecaller and now a panelist for MJC’s new in-house production team, San Lazaro Broadcast Network), and former star jockey and current Philracom commissioner Eduardo “Boboc” Domingo Jr. (also now the anchor for SLBN).

I stayed with PRC from March 2002 to January 2005, then I hosted for Winner’s Circle Productions at the Manila Jockey Club’s San Lazaro Leisure Park from August 2005 until August 2007, when Makisig Network took over MJC’s production and I was dropped from the roster of talents as they had their own.

The break of almost a year and a half was a welcome development as I got to rest, return to graduate school, put up my website, become a fountain pen and ink collector, and do other things that interested me.

Now I’m back, refreshed, with new ideas, and ready to resume active broadcasting again.


View from my seat at the studio: on the table are racecards, pens, favorite purple Fino pencase from Leigh, Nokia Xpress Music mobile phone, Denman hairbrush, and Starbucks “Philippines” tumbler filled with coffee. (“No coffee, no workee!”) The larger monitor displays the actual cable TV broadcast feed; the smaller one, the pool totals and odds.


Coverage essentials: racecards (Winning Time for past performances, useful for race analysis, and Dividendazo for the schedule and for marking the horses on parade, winner, time, order of arrival, and other information that I relay to viewers) and pens (Preppy ED highlighter filled with Noodler’s Year of the Golden Pig, Waterman Hemisphere, Lamy Safari 1.1 italic, Taccia Ta-ke).

As a mass communication practitioner, I’m fortunate to have the opportunities I do, in that I am doing both broadcast and print (I write a Wednesday column on racing, “The Hoarse Whisperer” for Manila Standard-Today).

Broadcasting has always been a significant part of my life because of my father’s influence.

My father, Valentino Araneta Ortuoste, started his career as a disc jockey in the 1960s in Bacolod City, playing The Beatles and The Ventures. (He didn’t like pop music, though, preferring classical, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole).

Later he became a newscaster for ABS-CBN network in Manila; I was a toddler then, and he would sometimes take me with him to the studio. I don’t remember that, of course, but I have pictures, in black-and-white, me looking up at him almost adoringly, he with a smile and looking dapper in high-necked Vonnel shirts.

Pops also did commercials (a series for Palmolive shampoo with the characters “Sonia” and “Ana”) and bit parts in movies (in the 1990 film Anak ni Baby Ama, he played the wealthy businessman who gets ambushed in his car at the beginning of the film). He also performed voice-overs for radio commercials and even cut a spoken record in the late ’70s, “Happy Birthday, Love”.

I was ten or eleven when he encouraged my sister Aileen and I to do radio commercials. I remember one of them was an English cough syrup plug where I had to cough on cue. I got paid extra for doing the Cebuano version when the kid who was hired couldn’t do what the director wanted and wouldn’t stop crying. I don’t understand Cebuano very well, but was able to mimic a native speaker who read my lines to me. After that I was given more work doing dialects.

When I was in college, in the mid- to late-’80s, Pops was the anchor of “The UN Hour”, a television show broadcast on the government channel, PTV (People’s Television), during the administration of Pres. Corazon Aquino. He asked me and one of my friends from school to act as student interviewers. We met with the ambassador of Namibia; my friend was so nervous, he stuttered over his lines (“Nami-Nami-Namibia?”) but it turned out quite charming and was not edited out from the final version.

I owe my father for giving me the knowledge for this kind of work; it prepared me for when fate gave me the chance to do this. I never thought I would follow in his footsteps. But I look back now and feel grateful for the coaching he gave on how to modulate our voices and act in front of a camera, things we didn’t really understand back then, but proved useful when we needed it.

However, I’d say the most valuable lesson he taught me about broadcasting was this: “Be confident. You can do it. It seems hard at first, but it’s really not – it’s just like talking to a friend.” That’s become my broadcasting philosophy and overall approach to media work.

Another lesson is: information of any kind is welcome, because you’ll never know what might be useful to you later on. So I’m passing on the lessons learned to my daughters, knowing that they don’t appreciate or fully understand these things now, but which perhaps may serve them later on in life.

It’s important, though, to be prepared with data. Oh, and coffee helps too.

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