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A Lot Like Christmas

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Every year when the Halloween frenzy is over,the market and media seem to also agree that we can again turn our focus on Christmas. Traditionally in the Philippines, there’ll be anticipation about the season as soon as -ber months starts to kick in on October 1st. Technically, though,  Christmas starts at the eve of December 24 and will continue until the Sunday of the Baptism of the Lord (between January 2-9, depending on the year and the diocese). For me, there are already tell-tale signs that the most thrilling rush is yet here again.

  1. For one, traffic goes from worst to worse than worst. Case in point, as I am typing this blog on mobile phone, I am now stuck on this seemingly long journey from the foot of North Ave. MRT station to the actual train. That’s after queuing to be loaded inside the 8th UV Express in Tabang terminal which also consumed half an hour sans the actual NLEX trip. Travel time is now prolonged but not necessarily painful, at least for me. I have to credit the flexible working hours I now have with my new company. No pressure.
  2. It’s in the air, in the cold of morning, the sun’s rays at the breaking of dawn. Somehow, I am no astronomical or geophysical instrument but the heart really knows those little solar irradiance differences brought by the winter solstice – even thought I live in the tropic.

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    Santa Hat Dark Mocha has got to be the best Starbucks offered during Christmas. Hurray! Those 9 beverages won’t taste like punishment. ^_^

  3. Starbucks Holiday Cheers is here. November 2 usually marks the start of next year’s planner-sticker madness. We gotta gulp on on Christmas beverages again which usually just taste like paper so we don’t miss on the chance of getting that planner which we vowed not to get but we’ll still want anyway. My only consolation is that I really get to use the planner throughout the year. I use it for work because somehow it’s more acceptable to be seen with Starbucks planner in the corporate world than that of Belle de Jour.
  4. Office mates start reviewing basic employment laws regarding 13th month pay and in our minds we already have it spent down to the last cent. Just a reminder for you and for me to put a portion of it for paying debt, for savings and/or investment.
  5. Vacation plans. Talks on how to spend the Christmas vacation are silently lurking right on every corner. Rumor has it that in my new company, I’ll have 2 weeks of paid vacation without slashing it off my VLs or SLs.  How’s that, baby! That would be a good time to reunite with old friends and former office mates. I don’t plan om splurging but I owe some people little tokens of appreciation for helping me transition to where I am right now.
  6. Gratitude and hope and all the positive vibes. I’m conducting a partial summing up of the year that has been. Many blessings came pouring in -some were brought with the help of my most fervent prayers and still more were given through God’s amazing grace alone. It’s not even over yet. The best days are yet to come and that sends chill to my bones. My family is up to a major purchase this year so *fingers cross*.
  7. Songs. In malls the airwaves are slowly being controlled by Christmas carols. I’m arranging my playlist, too. My cellphone’s been flushed and salvaged recently and it’s a little sweet early Christmas surprise that I still have it working. What are your favorite Christmas songs? The First Noel remains my favorite because of its melody.It doesn’t matter if it’sung by kids, grown ups, by a chorale, soloist or plain instrumental. I love it. I want to discover more songs, though, that’s reminiscent of my most favorite time and yet is still playable the rest year. Any suggestion?

Let’s have the best Christmas yet, shall we?

 

Intramuros

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         It’s not hard to find the walled city but it’s a far 20 minutes walk on heels. We headed here after the 8am ceremony on Rizal Park for the celebration of 118th Philippine Independence Day.

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Fort Santiago has entrance fee. For adults it’s Php75.

         There is a store right after the gate for refreshments and some souvenir shop of paintings, native handicrafts, tshirts, etc. We decided to take a break in that store when I saw and found Manong’s kalesa charming. And his costume is, too! The horse looked healthy unlike the ones outside of Intramuros or the ones in Baguio. I figured out the Php300 ride to take us round the walls then back again to Fort Santiago may be worth it. And it is!

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After about 15 minutes, we were back at Fort Santiago.

         We saw a number of souvenir shops and restaurants along the way, saw glimpse of CBCP Office up close, located Manila Cathedral and were at awe at how huge it is in person. We saw religious teenage boys in costume(?) or in their religious habit(?) of brown loose cowl and belt. For a moment it surely felt like the 1800s.There were offers of less- or more expensive tours, some with guides and some were through pedicabs. Up to you to decide which suits you best.

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“Is this it?!!” was my reaction upon seeing the wall behind the carriage on above photo. This is where some Filipino films were taken and I can understand why. It’s picturesque.

          Below are some snippets of our educational trip of Rizal Museum inside Fort Santiago which is inside Intramuros. I had to explain that to my probinsyana self.

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This is heroic if not holy ground. I can imagine what tortures our soldiers went through. I just can’t imagine their pain. More so, I can’t imagine it happening to someone I actually know.

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Dambanang Rizal sa Fort Santiago.

         I am a fan of Rizal. He’s a very interesting man who lived an extraordinary life. For foreigners who have heard of him for the first time or for Filipinos who have known him all their lives, this museum is worth a visit.

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Rizal was a writer with works that inspired the revolution and changed the course of our history. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. #inspired

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Josephine Bracken, Rizal’s wife and a woman of her own,I am sure,though it’s not publicly announced in what ways.

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The one face of Rizal in numerous frames.

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The real thing! Noli Me Tangere in its original cover, in Spanish, and which is not a high school textbook.

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We managed to hear 11AM English Mass in Manila Cathedral. This is by far the largest church I’ve been into. Immaculate Concepcion, like in Malolos Cathedral is their patron.

         Foreigners seem to be more interested in Intramuros  judging by the number of Koreans and westerners vs. Filipinos on that day. One good reason, though, why we should look back at the past is because experience is not a very good teacher. Reflected experiences are. Collectively, Filipinos has this tendency to be forgetful. We do not learn despite the rich sources of heroism on our history pages. We even managed to forget completely who we really are as a nation. If only we value our heritage, the lives of our ancestors and their sacrifices, no one would even dare spit on the same streets where battles were once waged for our sake. Greatness runs in our veins. To unleash it is seems to be the really hard quest.

Philippines’ 118th Independence Day

IMG_20160612_190149          For the past months, my boss and I were constantly meeting with a Canadian partner regarding this business we are starting. Every time we meet with him, a discussion regarding our Filipino culture and politics will be more than brushed upon. He has a lot of not so good comments regarding the Philippines and if it’s the first time you’ll hear him talk or if you are the sensitive, defensive type, it wont take much effort to retaliate by punching him on the face. He is unabashedly honest, based on his around 7 years of staying in the country traveling back and forth to Manila, Subic, Iloilo, and other provinces to attend to his business ventures.

          So once we asked him, “Why do you still stay here in the Philippines?” He said followed by some giggles, “Well, in as much as you’re all pain in the ass, I love it here!”

          He didn’t answer the question directly but I understand him. In my heart, I know what those giggles mean. Foreigners choose from a couple of countries they can afford and fancy. Some choose the Philippines. Most Filipinos, though, if given the chance would choose another country they want to live and work in. But as for me, I’m staying. Like our Canadian partner, I may not have a direct or even logical reason to stay here in our country. I just have this lame reason that I love it here, or that not-so-lame reason that basically everything I have in life happened here in my native land.

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Date at Luneta.

          As a child, I loved history. Blame it on my elementary school days when I had to memorize facts to compete with other schools for history quiz bees, fascination with Philippine history has been inculcated in me. I was the girl, who, if asked by the teacher when Jose Rizal was executed, can answer with the date and hour and minute his  walk started. Now that I’m a grown up, I’m glad to revisit Fort Santiago, trace Rizal’s footstep from his prison cell on his way to Luneta, look back on our history, armed with some decades of life experiences, faced with a 6-year administration which no one can figure out yet for sure, exactly 118 years after our independence from 333 years of Spanish rule. Breathe!

          My sister again went out of the country for a 1-week business trip. My parents and I saw her off to the airport, we all grabbed early breakfast in a Chinese restaurant, then bid my sister goodbye. In time for the 8am wreath laying ceremony of the outgoing President Benigno Aquino Jr., we decided to wait and watch before heading to Intramuros. My mother wanted to go in the walled city thanks to the documentary shows she had watched months ago.

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Photo c/o http://www.philstar.com. PNoy at Luneta on celebration of 118th Philippine Independence Day held every 12th of June.

          It’s different when things are live. The simple loud commands of the troops or platoon leaders sounded differently in a really cool way. It has been years since I last heard someone made those commands. And some fighter planes flew above us right after the last note of Lupang Hinirang. Its sound and the canyons and guns being fired meters around and above us made the experience of watching the ceremony felt like “4D” cinema. It was also the first time after a long while that I saw Girl Scouts, high-flying Girl scouts at that, since their sash had no more space for more badge; men-in-uniform who were actually looked upon as respected men. Pedestrians whom I always hear blaming every single thing to the government are nowhere in sight, just patriotic citizens waiving their little flags, glad to still see that national symbol still being raised  in its right color scheme.

Now there will be a debate whether we truly are independent. But there is no doubt we are not yet free from poverty and here and there we are being struck by disasters brought upon by too much liberty (throwing litters everywhere, violating traffic rules, online bashing, etc.) For now, I’ll take Independence day literally, thank the many Filipinos who died for us by living like how they aspired the future generations to be.

Many non-democratic countries are rich and maybe some foreigners are right one way or another – democracy should only be given to people who can handle it well. Democracy is dangerous. In my mind, though, I still think we Filipinos deserve it.

The ceremony ended. Some streets are not yet passable so we had to walk our way from Luneta (Rizal Park) to Intramuros through Roxas Blvd. to Anda Circle then entered through Soriano Ave. For our Intramuros trip, please click here.

So Young Now!

happy birthday from canva without border

And so it’s my birthday! 🎉🎊🎉🎊☝💒❤

Last year, I started my 27th year on earth with a procession for Palm Sunday. This year March 29th did not fall during the Holy Week, so yeah, I can “celebrate”. But still, I don’t think I would. I’m not too big on birthday celebrations, anyway. I just have maybe a few expectations.😄🎁❤

I’m not sulking down with this matter but it has to be addressed. You know the drill when it’s your birthday: people ask you how old you are now. Upon knowing you’re nearing 30 years old and still unmarried, folks will throw on unsolicited advices- which are genuine concern at best and nasty Filipino culture at the very least. Like if I would choose to be as vocal as them, I’d say, “Bakit? May deadline ba? (Why? You have a deadline?)” or “Pano ka nakasiguro na lahat ng tao gustong mag-asawa? (How sure are you that everybody wants to get married?)” or “Por que ikaw nagkaanak ng ganitong age, gusto mo ako din? (Just because you had children at this age you want me to do the same?)”. But for the sake of uncalled-for quarrel and to shorten this “small talk”, I just smile.

You know that feeling when you’re super happy and content that you just wanna be suspended in that moment in time? That’s where I am right now. I don’t feel like something is missing. So why do people want me to feel pathetic just because I don’t do it their way?

I have no concrete life plans as of now. It’s pretty messed up for a 28 year old not to have plans but as much as I’m concerned, I’ll just live one day at a time. I still like spontaneity every so often so let’s just enjoy life, dear self. Judging by what’s happening right now, I’m confident God is in charge so I put my full hope in the Lord. Nothing worldly is certain, anyway, we just have to make this passing-by worthwhile.

Cases in point, a colleague just brought with him a bad news regarding his father’s health (diagnoses with brain tumor). I also guided my mother and uncle on their way to a hospital in the metro for a supposed checkup before surgery. Of course, we should lay down plans, be responsible adults – as best as we could- but those 2 cases are proofs that we could only do so much. It’s just being ready for anything and living life to the fullest while we still can, because obviously, we cannot do that all the time.

I heard Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Parish near our condo unit, reporting to The One I am solely and solemnly oblige to explain to. The rest of the day went by like any other day at work, with more heartwarming greetings, sweet thoughts, well wishes the entire day. How people make me feel on a single day of the year doesn’t matter so much like how they treat me the rest of the 364.25 days.
So I thank those people who serve as my angels, guiding me and accompanying me at any point of my relatively young life. Whether life is smooth-sailing or rough, this one is true: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!” (Responsorial Psalm, March 29, 2016, Tuesday)

Bro. Carmelo Cortez and White Rose Petals

It’s the Feast of St. Ildephonse de Toledo on January 23. Novena is being held in the parish and after Holy Mass on the 4th day, Bro. Carmelo Cortez was invited to conduct his healing session.

I had this chance to participate and witness how he conducts healing session. For every one’s information, Bro. Carmelo is known for some extraordinary happenings in his presence. Holy images are  being imprinted on rose petals he uses during his healing sessions. He can also turn water into healing oil. Please know that I am trying hard not to refer to this as “miracle” as the things he can do are still not declared official.It will take looooong before it could be declared as such.  All I can say is that the current bishop -and the two bishops before him- endorses Bro. Carmelo. January 9, he was accompanied by Bishop Jose F. Oliveros, D.D., also for a healing session, in a church in Brgy. Tabang, Guiguinto, Bulacan

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The rose petal placed on my upper chest during the healing session bears the image of Crucifixion.

. Bro. Carmelo also had an audience with Pope Francis.

Right after Mass, people started to line up so lay ministers could put oil in their forehead and palms. After that, they had to line up another for Bro. Carmelo to put one rose petal in their upper chest, “close to the heart”. I also lined up, and we were instructed to say a prayer before looking at the rose petal. It took me some seconds to recognize what image was imprinted on the rose petal placed on me. Mine had the image of crucified Christ (and St. Pope John Paul 2?).

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Our Lady of Perpetual Help image on the rose petals my father got.

My father fetches me every after mass so I urged him to also come to Bro. Carmelo. He was one of the lasts so from the excesses, my father was given two handfuls of white rose petals.  We observed them upon reaching home and we were delighted to see image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the one we also have on our living room altar. (I have another story regarding the images we keep at home but I’ll save it for next future posts.) Some petals do not bear an image. Others in the parish got Sto. Niño, images of Mother Mary, saints, the Holy Host, etc.

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Petals used in the healing session were plucked from ordinary white roses inside the sacristy as witnessed by lay minister.

A comrade lay minister claims to have seen how the rose petals were plucked inside the sacristy from ordinary white roses, then placed into a metal bowl which Bro. Carmelo carried with him the entire healing session. Objectively speaking, Bro. Carmelo couldn’t have had ample time to maliciously put images on hundreds of petals one by one, on his own, without anyone seeing it. If you know of ways on how we could have fraudulently done it, please share your thoughts.

Now, it may be a question if God uses Bro. Carmelo to heal. And there’s nothing wrong with that. We really should question things –  without being afraid of the answer. One thing sure is that Jesus heals! His love surprises us in ordinary and extraordinary ways. And if we only look around, it’s not hard to see miracles happening every second. There’s clearly not a drought of miracles but amazing displays of them in each rose petals may be very welcome additions.

My personal take, if anything doesn’t violate the Scriptures and it helps people be closer to God, then it’s a good thing.

2016 Calendars were also given to each family. Just to help spread the information printed there, a shrine called Diocesan Shrine of Mary Mother of the Eucharist and Grace located in San Vicente, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 3022 Philippines holds the following:

Sunday Mass-10AM

Healing Mass-(Every 1st Saturday)-12NN

Counseling (Every 1st Saturday)-Before the Mass

Prayer for the Sick (Every 1st Saturday)

Mass for Priest (Every 1st Thursday)- 6PM

Confession – before and after the Holy Mass

Bro. Carmelo may be reached through carmelocortez@yahoo.com.ph

UPDATE

You may follow or visit Bro. Carmelo’s Facebook account (search for “Carmelo Francesco Villanueva Cortez”). He can no more accept more friends but most vital posts are public. Every first Saturday of the month, he conducts healing sessions inside the shrine with vicinity map shown below for directions which is followed by Holy Mass at 12 noon.

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You may also contact Tito Mon at (+632) 917 271 9917 for his travel schedule or how to meet him. May God bless us all.

 

 

 

 

Ready to Live It Up

Life is but a pursuit of happiness. Since I went back from my first trip abroad, the excitement and giddiness for no particular reason still doesn’t fade. Maybe I’m excited for my next trip in Palawan which I am currently planning carefully to balance the whatever-goes, blasted itinerary of Vietnam and Cambodia trip. For the first time, I’m going to check myself in to a luxury hotel in Puerto Princesa. Frankly, more than the underground river, which I only scheduled because it’s a world heritage site, it’s the beauty of Honda Bay and Dos Palmas that excite me more.

Belle de Jour Live It Up

Another thing that keeps me happy is BDJ. I know now why it’s addicting. That’s not to say I can explain why. A boy friend asked me yesterday what I benefit from the box and the planner and I just said, “A lot! But you’ll never get it because you’re a boy!” I’m excited because of a pouch of makeup, mud pack and shampoo! Planners had always excited me. That’s one of the ways I get in touch with the kid and writer in me.

BDJ Elite Box: Corporate Chic

I had just received my first BDJ Box called the Corporate Chic Elite Box. This is also my first ever Paypal purchase at Php1, 480. The pouch included the following:

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  1. Pureology Precious Oil Shamp’oil
  2. Davines 01/Oil
  3. Glamglow Youthmud Tinglexfoliate Treatment
  4. Glamglow Supermud Clearing Treatment
  5. K-Palette 1-Day Magic Eyeliner
  6. Canmake Tokyo Candy Wrap Lip
  7. Simply She Cosmetic Pouch
  8. Revlon Superlustrous Lipstick in Coralberry Shade

During the BDJ Power Planner fair, I saw the Corporate Chic Elite Box for sale there. I had a hint they’d do this but maybe I was too excited, I took no chance. I reserved one online the day I saw it posted on their Facebook page.

Transaction was quick and shipping to my office took 2 business days and I was delighted when the guard called to announce I have a delivery because I knew that was it! I haven’t tried everything yet but I’m loving K-Palette 1 Day Magic liquid eyeliner already. I don’t know how to use pencil eyeliner. It has always been liquid eyeliner for me but that’s not to say I’m a pro in applying it. A good eyeliner is key and I think I’ve found my match already.

 

BDJ Fair 2014

Let it be known that it’s my first time to win on a raffle in my 26 years of existence! I attended the first talk of the fair with Jonathan Yabut as the speaker. His was the best I have attended so far. He is so good at presenting and I see some similarities with my style and his. Naks!

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And after his talk, the winners of various prizes from sponsors were called. Just when you least expect it, some blessings will be thrown at you.I got Php500 gift certificate from Fish & Co. that I’m planning to use this Friday night.

I don’t have pictures from the BDJ Fair because here was the scenario. We did some outreach/corporate social responsibility program in Talao-Talao, Quezon last October 18, the day before the fair. We helped conduct and sponsor the sportsfest of the Payatas Orione Foundation scholars supported by Comfac Global Group. This was a whole day event followed by a little team bonding in Paradiso Beach Resort in Siriaya until the following Sunday. We were scheduled to checked out at 3PM meaning if I waited for our company service vehicles to drop me at Pasay, there will be no way I can attend the talks and enjoy the booths in BDJ Fair.

So what I did is I asked the driver to take me to the bus terminal in Siriaya and commuted all the way from Quezon to Mall of Asia Music Hall just to make it in time for the talk. No regrets, really, even if I had to walk away from those rare times to bond with my colleagues on the beach. It’s worth the effort!

I only had my very simple cellphone and wallet with me during the event and I thought I missed out a lot of opportunities especially those booths that needed selfies.I even thought of purchasing a Lenevo phone which was on a one-day sale during the event to take care of those lost opportunities.

Nevertheless, I was able to sign up for 360 Fitness Club and Fitness First for their 5-day and one-day free, no-commitment trials. It’s included in my goals to lose 10kg of fat. I’m currently enrolled in a gym renewed on a monthly basis so these two companies can offer good alternatives to my fitness routine.

I purchased my first Everything is Possible (EIP)Planner from the event at a discounted price of Php500. I thought of getting Navi or the classic Belle de Jour planner with the free lifestyle card but I thought after browsing the pages of samples that EIP would suit me best due to the adequate amount of writing pages.

 

From Zero to Financial Hero

EIP is something I know as Easy Investment Plan from COL Financial where I recently started investing. Guess I have to use that acronym to for my 2015 planner, too.

From zero to financial heroI know that in my pursuit of happiness, money will be a factor. So in line with my goal of educating me with money matters I reserved seat for that talk conducted by Edric Mendoza called “From Zero to Financial Hero”. He has a show on ANC called Money Matters. Currently, I devote time in reading books, studying internet articles and attending seminars of Bo Sanchez and Franciso J. Colayco. I also subscribe to Omeng Tawid’s electronic newsletter together with the various groups I joined on Facebook regarding investing in stocks but I really just encountered Mendoza on that fair. He gave 5 stories giving advices on basic personal finance with his very articulate young son giving the 5th story. I guess what Mendoza wants to say with that, is to start young because time is really an ally when it comes to investment.

I’m excited to write on my EIP planner already. It has space for December 2014 so I only have to wait for a few weeks. Meanwhile, its first few pages got me busy thinking and writing on my long term goals. Hmmm, which mountain do I really want to climb?

“From Grit to Great”, A Belle de Jour Power Planner Fair 2014 Highlight

 “Do not forget who the real enemy is.”

Eye on the prize, baby! Quoting Hunger Games is clever as its obvious he considered the age bracket of his audience. Although I’m 26 and had never seen any Hunger Games movie (how many are there, really?), I thought that’s one of the good points of Jonathan Yabut, the winner of Apprentice Asia. He conducted the first talk of the BDJ Fair 2014 held last Sunday, October 19 at Mall of Asia Music Hall.

The best talk I've attended so far. I also attended the BDJ Fair 2013 and Beauty Social Gorgeous Camp 2014.

The best talk I’ve attended so far. I also attended the BDJ Fair 2013 and Beauty Social Gorgeous Camp 2014.

I think what I learned from his talk is “diskarte”. We have to strategize well for our goals. Steam iron and energy drink were minor things which turned out to be big factors for his win in the show that bagged him his lucrative career now. Quality really is in the details. We have to mind the smallest of things so when opportunity comes we are ready.

I’m also a true believer that it’s not always the smartest, most beautiful nor the richest that wins in life. They are the people who have the grit for their search and fulfillment of purpose in life. And of course, definitely no overtime! I’ve handled people, too, during my so far few years in the corporate world. I also see some officemates who do that a lot and I just don’t applaud working overtime. Of course, sometimes work would call for it but to do it habitually look inefficient for me. For both the company and the employee, overtime is unproductive.

Working smart, not hard is also one of my favorite lines from Dr. Gregory House of House, M.D., my favorite American tv series. Simplify. Prioritize. Strategize.

I want a friend and an officemate to read Jonathan’s insights about leadership. I hope it’s in his book which was also sold inside the BDJ Fair of the same title as his talk, “From Grit to Great”. I now know what to give him for Christmas.

Also, he mentioned how he researched regarding his then potential employer, Tony Fernandes, which reminds me I should do my own preparation for a dinner with the chairman next week. sv01_pv02_00000116_scaled_175x175