What you need to know about the Big One and owning a Smart satellite phone
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I seem live in a disaster prone village (but don’t we all?).
In 2006, this poor car was a victim of Typhoon Milenyo.

Car in our village

In 2009, I never thought I would see my street submerged in thigh-high water (my thigh, not Michael Jordan’s)

Never thought this would happen in our village

Thankfully we haven’t been flooded since then. But honestly, we live on an fault line. Chunks of earth are literally just falling off the sides of hills, which have houses on top. Think Cherry Hill.
This photo was taken last February 2017.

Earthquake sign

This April we felt the tremors from earthquakes that were strongest in Batangas.
For a few years now, we’ve been waiting for the Big One. They say it’s bound to happen in our lifetime. I don’t even want to think about it cause I’m getting an anxiety attack…

Because of the recent earthquakes I decided to charge my satellite phone and posted it on Instagram. I received many inquiries on how and where to get one, hence this blog post.

In 2015, I won a satellite phone in a raffle during the SmartSAT launch. Two years later, thank God I’ve never had to use it. Luckily, Tina Mariano, Head of Smart World, suggested a tutorial and sent someone to teach me.

Smart satellite phone

Here’s a dummy’s guide to the Smart Satellite phone.

First, how to get one:
The SMART SAT phone is available over the counter (since it comes in a prepaid package) at any SMART
Wireless Center/store nationwide. No need to present documents, IDs, or proof of billing.
There are also SMART accredited dealers who supply this.
All SMART Wireless Centers have stock. Those who wish to purchase units in bulk can inquire from the sales team in charge of the product.

You can also purchase online.

How much?
Package price is Php 38,500.00. Yes it sounds expensive, but it’s almost the same price as an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy Note. It includes a prepaid SMART Sat SIM card with a pre-load value of 120 units (1 unit = 1 US dollar) valid for use within a period of 1 year from the date of activation.
The Smart Sat SIM uses Smart Sat Top-Up load with denominations of 35, 100 and 250 units.

Smart satellite SIM

Here’s the special SIM.

Smart satellite phone

How to use:
1) Make sure it’s fully charged, but do not overcharge and especially not overnight.
2) Put the SIM inside.
3) Turn on the unit by pressing the red call button for five seconds.

Smart satellite phone

4) Check the signal.
Once the SmartSAT is on, go to an open area, like outdoors. This will not work inside a building.
To use my phone, we went up to my dad’s penthouse balcony to search for the southwest direction (satellite location
if you are in the Philippines, will vary when you are in other countries) on a compass app. There are 2 Thuraya satellites, one is over Singapore and the other is above Africa.

Southwest compass

5) Pull-out the antenna and point it to the southwest direction to find a signal.
There, I got one! Your screen must show Thuraya Philippines, not Emergency Only.

Smart satellite phone

Not this:

Smart satellite phone

6) Do a balance inquiry.
Dial *151# then wait for a text message prompt from the network.

*Note that your prepaid Smart Sat kit comes with a load of 120 units. One unit = one dollar
You may reload using Smart Sat cards, also available in denominations of 30, 100 and 250 units.
Your load expires after one year upon activation. To reload and make the SIM active, you need to buy 250 units (annual renewal).

In case your load expires after the one year anniversary of activation, the subscriber is given a 90-day grace period to load the required 250 units. During this grace period, the subscriber can only receive incoming calls and SMS. He or she can’t make calls or send SMS.

The SmartSAT phone works much like any other mobile phone. It can call any landline or mobile phone in the world. It can send SMS to any mobile phone in the world. It does not have wifi, apps, or social media. It is simply a call and text phone.

SmartSAT’s network enables clear communications and uninterrupted coverage across 2/3 of the globe via satellite. Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.
It does not cover the United States.
To see a list of covered areas, click HERE.

7) How to call:
You simply key in the number with + before it. Start with the country code, then the area code if it is a landline. For example, to call a landline in Metro Manila, dial +63 (country code for the Philippines) 2 (area code for Metro Manila) then the number then hit the call button (green phone button).
To call a mobile phone, dial +63 (country code) then the mobile number without the 0. For example, +639152927963 then hit the call button.

You’ll never know when disaster will strike so it’s best to check the battery monthly.
But if you’re on Twitter like me, you’ll have an idea when a typhoon is coming. That’s when you can make sure your battery and load are full.

PS. Don’t charge the battery until you reach 20% or below.
A fully charged battery on standby can last up to two days, while talk time is one hour.

Special thanks to Jojo Concepcion of Smart Technical Operations-Global Access for coming over to demonstrate the unit. 🙂

Jojo Concepcion

In the Philippines, SmartSAT is used by multinationals, mining companies and fishing boat operators. It is also used by the military, media, for disaster preparedness, relief operations and the maritime industry.
After Typhoon Yolanda, those with satellite phones, like Anderson Cooper lent their units to connect survivors with their worried families.
The Smart Satellite phone can be taken to places where there is no signal, such as hiking trails and exotic resorts.

For more information, go to

Introducing stylish French living by Gautier
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When I think about French furniture, my visuals usually range from ornate (Louis XIV) to avant-garde (Philippe Starck). That’s why I was surprised to find a French furniture brand that carries practical, modern pieces.
Gautier furniture opened only last year at the Shangri-La Fort Bonifacio.

Gautier Front

What I liked most of all are the children’s beds.
The Majestic bed was designed for up to three children sharing a room. The upper bunk is accessible via stair/shelves. There’s a writing desk and storage cabinet.


A pullout bed can be configured to have another pullout bed or storage space.
What’s more, unlike most loft beds, this pullout bed can be completely rolled out and placed in another part of the room so that the desk is completely free from obstruction.


For kids who like to perform, there’s the Piccadilly bed, which was designed to have a pullout stage and storage drawers. This is one of Gautier’s bestsellers.


For older children, the Dimix bed comes with a pullout study desk and lots of storage space.


Gautier has reimagined children’s bedrooms for more than 50 years.
Since then over five million children and teens have slept in a Gautier bed, said the company in its press kit.

“Entering a Gautier store in just like stepping into a French family’s home. The furniture is meant to be enjoyed with your friends and family everyday and not just admired from afar,” said Katrina Lim, general manager of Gautier Philippines.

The Gautier brand came to the Philippines through the Blims Lifestyle Group, which tapped the French company to provide modern and contemporary furniture to the local market.
A characteristic style of Gautier furniture is the brand’s seamless incorporation of materials like wood, glass and aluminum, sustainably produced in Gautier’s factories in France.

Girl's room

Just like the Blims, Gautier is also a family-owned business.
“It took about two years before we were able to bring Gautier to the Philippines,” said Katrina. “There was a bit of back and forth between our families to make sure there was a right fit, both in terms of business and relationship. We’re lucky and happy to call each other partners now, seeing that we share the same values among our companies.”

Gautier offers furniture for every room of the house, including living rooms, dining rooms, adults’ bedrooms, kids’ rooms, walk-in closets, storage units and much more.
Collections include extendable tables, sectional sofas, sofa beds, beds with storage, and corner closets.

bed frame with storage

The Talmont bed with storage: you can put beddings here, or like me, wrapping paper and hoarded shopping bags.

bed frame with storage

Their pieces are customizeable. The Preface modular shelving units can be made as small as 90cm or over 400cm wide.

Gautier preface configuration in grey oak
Preface configuration in grey oak

A sleek, sliding wardrobe

sliding wardrobe

sliding wardrobe
sliding wardrobe

Sideboards come in small and larger sizes. Modular sofas can also be configured to suit different spaces and customized as you choose from over 300 different fabrics.
Worry not. There are design experts who can help you choose from many swatches.


Check out this modular sofa presented in different fabrics:

Sectional sofa
Sectional sofa

Corner sofa with nifty storage arm rest

Sectional sofa
Sectional sofa

“We offer a wide selection of modular furniture to fit your space. For example, with the Preface shelving collection, the elements come in three heights and two widths that you can mix and match to suit your space. They also come in a wide array of finishes,” said Katrina.

Gautier Preface configuration in light oak
Preface in a lighter finish

For bedrooms, Gautier has the Premium collection, which are bed frames hand upholstered in France. These can be customized from a choice of 15 different finishes.
“We try to keep stock of items here in the Philippines but with the endless configurations possible, we will usually order your furniture from France and should take about three to six months,” said Katrina.

Asked what her favorite pieces are, Katrina mentioned the extendable ceramic tables for their look and functionality. Since the tops of these tables are finished with Porcelanosa ceramic, they are heat- and scratch-resistant.

Ceramic aluminum table with brem chairs

Ceramic aluminum table with brem chairs

Gautier’s new collections include the Addict occasional tables, Graphic kids’ bedroom, Setis tables and Symphonie adult bedroom.
Find them at the Gautier showroom at the shopping center of Shangri-La, Fort Bonifacio.
To know more, like them on Facebook.

Meet Cherish Garcia who has turned street boys into ballet dancers
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Cherish Garcia is the daughter of my cool Tito Greg.
I first met her around 2003 during a casual dinner they hosted for ’80s New Wave band Lotus Eaters at home.

The Lotus Eaters and I at Tito Greg's apartment
The Lotus Eaters’ Peter Coyle (L) and Jem Kelly and I at Tito Greg’s condominium, 2003

Of course I will never forget her!
Though we’re not close, I’ve kept up to date with Cherish’s life through social media. I found out she was a ballerina through her username @hungryballerina. I also found out she’s been doing a lot of good with her talent.
For one, she has helped change the lives of less privileged boys by teaching them ballet and keeping them off the streets through Don Bosco’s Tuloy Foundation.

Tuloy Foundation isn’t an orphanage but a place for street children to stay. There, they are offered more than just a roof over their heads and shirts on their backs. They are also schooled in sports and the arts. Ballet is just one of the avenues they can explore.

Cherish first heard about Tuloy Foundation from Tito Greg, who knows Fr. Rocky Evangelista, while her sister also volunteers for Tuloy Foundation in Alabang.
Seven years ago, Cherish, a former dancer and owner of Academy One Music & Ballet Center took in her first batch of ballet scholars from Tuloy Foundation.

Edmar White Lodge 2015
Cherish with John Edmar Sumera at White Lodge Ballet School in Richmond, England, 2015

One of them is John Edmar Sumera, son of a single mom—a seamstress-turned-pedicab driver. His mother sent him to Tuloy Foundation because she couldn’t support him anymore.
Benedict Sabularse was sent to the foundation by his grandmother, who wanted to keep him out of trouble.

Benedict at Prix
Benedict Sabularse

In September, the two teenagers will be going abroad to study.
Benedict, 17, will be on a one-year scholarship to Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille in France while Edmar will be a scholar at The Hamburg Ballet School in Germany for two years.

The two boys received other offers from schools abroad after competing in the Prix de Laussane. Edmar also received scholarship offers from the Royal Swedish Ballet School, Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, New Zealand School of Dance, North Carolina School of the Arts and Central School of Ballet in London. Benedict received another offer from the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Benedict Prix (1)
Benedict Sabularse at the competition

For me, what is so special about the success of Edmar and Benedict is not that they are underprivileged but that they only started ballet three years ago. We know that the world’s best ballet dancers start at the ages of five or six.

“These two boys are gifted. I knew it from the first time they auditioned. Edmar has a natural dancer’s body with nice legs and feet and Benedict has always had this magnetism and energy in his dancing. It is unusual to have that kind of trajectory or accomplishment in three years,” said Cherish.

Benedict at Prix de Lausanne
Benedict Sabularse at Prix de Lausanne

Currently, Cherish teaches 22 students from Tuloy Foundation, including Edmar and Benedict.
Because of ballet, Edmar and Benedict have had the chance to travel and study abroad. Their dream is to be part of the American Ballet Theatre and teach kids in the Philippines maybe 10 years from now as their way of giving back.

“My dream is for them to join a big ballet company in Europe or the US. Now that both boys will be leaving in September to study in well-known ballet schools I think they are getting closer to this dream,” said Cherish.

Pineapple studios London
Cherish and the boys at Pineapple Studios, London

By teaching boys how to dance, Cherish hopes to erase archaic stereotypes about boys who are into ballet. Edmar and Benedict are heterosexual. In fact, I read an article somewhere that Cherish tries to keep them away from girls so they can concentrate on dancing.

“I think it’s a misconception that ballet is effeminate and therefore male dancers are gay. In my school for example, out of all the boys who studied there (Tuloy Foundation), I have had probably one who was gay. I think people who are not in ballet are still ignorant about it. To begin with, boys don’t wear tutus or pink tights and toe shoes. Their movements are very athletic and masculine. Imagine having to carry at least 90 lbs. (average weight of small ballerina) over your head and show no effort?”

Cherish thinks male dancers need more than just grace and talent. They also need to rely on technique and learn how to do movements that push their bodies to the limit without showing effort.
Tuloy Foundation is accepting donations. Thanks to Philippine Airlines, the boys were able to fly to Switzerland to compete in the Prix de Lausanne. Watch their journey in this video.

If you would like to help more children like Edmar and Benedict succeed, please contact Tuloy Foundation at
To know more, go to

Pottery Barn launches Designers’ Circle rewards program
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Pottery Barn, known for upscale home furnishings, recently hosted an intimate gathering at its Central Square flagship store with some of Manila’s esteemed architects, interior designers, and style purveyors, such as Anna Angara, Carlo Calma, Chito Antonio, Cyndi Fernandez-Beltran, sisters Cynthia and Ivy Almario, Dan Lichauco, Dominic Galicia, Emmanuel Miñana, Eric Paras, Jason Buensalido, Joey Yupangco, and Wilfrid and Maritess Magcase.

(Top Row L-R) Wilfrid and Maritess Magcase
(Middle Row L-R) Carlo Calma, Dominic Galicia, Emmanuel Miñana, President of SSI Group, Inc. Anthony Huang, Rustan Commercial Corporation Member of the Board Maritess Tantoco-Enriquez, Anna Angara, sisters Cynthia and Ivy Almario, Eric Paras, Cyndi Fernandez-Beltran, Dan Lichauco, and Merchandising Group Manager of Pottery Barn Group Regina Bonoan
(Bottom Row L-R) Susan Joven, Nina Huang, Jason Buensalido, Joey Yupangco, and Chito Antonio

Anthony Huang, President of SSI Group, Inc., his wife Nina Huang, and Maritess Tantoco-Enriquez, Rustan Commercial Corporation Member of the Board, treated guests to a private tour of the store and introduced Pottery Barn’s newest Designers’ Circle Rewards Program.

Nina and Anton Huang
Through this members-only initiative, Pottery Barn aims to help designers bring to life their style visions through special rewards, promos and discounts, and access to exclusive products reviews and events.
In the Philippines, Pottery Barn is exclusively distributed by Stores Specialists, Inc., and is located at Central Square in Bonifacio High Street Central and Estancia at Capitol Commons.

Architect Joey Yupangco and Regina Bonoan, Merchandising Group Manager of Pottery Barn Group

To know more, follow @potterybarnPH on Instagram or Facebook.

Novena to St. Expeditus
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Sorry for my longest absence ever in 17 years.
I’m in Tokyo with my family. Everyday I plan to blog but I’m so, so tired.
This Lenten season of suffering, I want to share with you a special novena my friend Yodel found in a church in London.
Yodel, a graphic designer, was attracted to the novena because of the graphic design.


She shared it with her mom, my Tita Yoly, who tried it and was amazed that it worked.
I decided to try it and it worked for me after less than 24 hours!!
The thing is, if it works for you, you are supposed to share the novena and spread it. That’s why I’m posting it here.
As you can guess by the name, St. Expeditus, he is a fast worker. So if you’re in dire need, in a hurry or desperate to have a problem solved, please try this prayer.
If it does, please leave a comment below, and don’t forget to share the prayer.

My Saint Expeditus, saint of fair and urgent causes,
Help me in this time of affliction and despair.
Intercede for me with Our Lord Jesus Christ!
You who are a warrior saint
You who are the saint of the afflicted
You who are the saint of the desperate
You who are the saint of urgent causes,
Protect me, help me, give me strength, courage and serenity.
Hear my plea … (say your plea here)
Help me through these difficult hours
Protect me from all those who want to hurt me
Protect my family
Respond to my plea with haste
Bring me peace and tranquility.
I will be grateful to you for the rest of my life
and speak your name to all those who have faith.
Many thanks, my Saint Exeditus.

Say one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and make the sign of the cross.
This prayer was approved by the Church.
Pray especially on the feast of St. Expeditus on April 19.