Archives For Japan

Our Japan adventures.

Moy Ortiz of The Company

Moy Ortiz of The Company

OJ Mariano of The Company

OJ Mariano of The Company

Online Host Julian Trono

Online Host Julian Trono

Prince Paltu-ob of D'Crew

Prince Paltu-ob of D’Crew

Ryan Cayabyab

Ryan Cayabyab

Sweet Plantado of The Company

Sweet Plantado of The Company

Tony V of Sound Squad

Tony V of Sound Squad

GMA Network launches the Philippines’ first-ever multi-platform boy band competition – To The Top.


Produced by GMA Public Affairs, To The Top is a twice-a-week reality-based, talent development program featuring 18 young and gifted male vocals who are all vying to be part of the Kapuso Network’s newest boy band.


Unlike other reality programs which held open auditions, To The Top scoured the country and invited the best male vocals from different schools and organizations to join the auditions.


The show documents the journey of these young men from being solo artists or being members of their respective singing groups to ultimately becoming part of the country’s newest boy band.


All these experiences were seen by the public when GMA made the competition initially available online via Serving as host of the program’s webisodes is Kapuso homegrown artist Julian Trono, who recently underwent intensive training under the Kpop system.


After a series of rigorous auditions, the program announced its 25 finalists, which were later trimmed down to 14. Adding a twist to the competition, netizens were then asked to vote for their favorites who were earlier eliminated in the series to become the competition’s wildcards.  Thus, a total of 18 finalists will now work their way to the top.


The 18 TO THE TOP artists are AJ Ajrouche, Lance Busa, Ken Carpena, Mico Cruz, Cholo dela Cruz, Martin de Vera, Luis Gragera, Joshua Jacobe, MJ Magno, Miko Manguba, Seph Manlapaz, Bryan Olano, JP Palanca, Adrian Pascual, Louie Pedroso, Lharby Policarpio, Edric Ulang and Chris Yumang.


Throughout the season, the artists – who will be divided into three groups – will be housed together and will undergo more intensive vocal and dance trainings for their upcoming performances and evaluations.


Helping the program achieve this are some of the country’s top music icons led by no less than Maestro Ryan Cayabyab serving as the competition’s main judge.


Joining The Maestro in this project are vocal coaches Moy Ortiz, Sweet Plantado and OJ Mariano of the Philippines’ premier vocal ensemble The Company; dance coaches and 2-time World Hip Hop Champions Philippine All-stars alumni Madelle and Prince Paltu-ob, as well as international breakdancing champion Jesse “Reflex” Gotangco; and the Sound Squad of musical arrangers and sound engineers led by Jonathan Ong and his team from Sonic State Audio — Chino David, Chrisanthony Vinzons and Brian Lotho.


Also lending his expertise in the early part of the competition is celebrity ace photographer Mark Nicdao.


Who among them will make it to the top? Find out as the showdown begins July 20 in ASPAC and July 19 in the US, Canada and the Middle East.


For the latest updates, follow TO THE TOP on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram

New Year Countdown!

December 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

Mga Kapuso na nasa Abroad! Be part of the New Year Countdown!!!! I-Videocam or Webcam lang ang masigabong “happy new year” greeting niyo. Share with us the video link at bongga! Makikita ang greeting niyo worldwide sa GMA!!!!! Visit and click on the NEW YEAR COUNTDOWN for more details!!! Sali na, Kapuso!!!

MANILA, Philippines – A national holiday in Japan, the Emperor’s birthday will be celebrated on Thursday, December 9, 2010, by the Japanese community in the Philippines. The celebration marks the 77th birthday of Emperor Akihito, the eldest son and the fifth child of Emperor Hirohito (now posthumously referred to as Emperor Showa) and Empress Kojun. Emperor Akihito was born on December 23, 1933.


Titled Prince Tsugu as a child, Emperor Akihito was raised and educated by his private tutors and then attended the elementary and secondary departments of the Peers’ School from 1940 to 1952. Although he was heir-apparent to the Chrysanthenum Throne from the moment of birth, his formal investiture as Crown Prince was held at the Tokyo Imperial Palace on November 10, 1952. In 1959, the Crown Prince married Michiko Shoda. Their union has been blessed with three children – the Crown Prince Naruhito, Prince Akishino, and Princess Sayako.


Emperor Akihito formally acceded to the throne on November 12, 1990, ushering in the era known as the Heisei Period. Since succeeding to the throne, Emperor Akihito has made an effort to bring the Imperial Family closer to the Japanese people. The Emperor and Empress of Japan have made official visits to 18 countries, as well as all 47 prefectures of Japan.


On the occasion of the Emperor’s birthday, a public ceremony takes place at the Imperial Palace, a place that is normaly off limits to the public. The palace gates are opened and the Emperor, accompanied by member of the Imperial Family, appears on a palace balcony to acknowledge the greetings of crowds of festive well-wishers waving tiny Japanese flags. Only on this occasion and on January 2 may the general public enter the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace.


We greet the Japanese community in the Philippines, led by His Excellency, Ambassador Makoto Katsura, on the occasion of the birthday of His Majesty, Emperor Akihito. We wish them all the best success in all their endeavors.


A night to remember

December 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

Stephen Ip

Friday, December 03, 2010

The once-in-a-year event for connoisseurs of the white truffle finally arrived recently. This was the 12th year of the World White Truffle of Alba Auction and the host was local Italian restaurant Otto e Mezzo Bombana in Central.

Et Voila, the biggest specimen weighing in at 900 grams, was auctioned for HK$1.1 million – or HK$1,230 a gram. Astonishing, when you consider what one can usually buy from Italy’s Alba region at HK$35 per gram.

On the eve of the auction, a white truffle dinner party was held for about 60 guests. The menu was prepared by top chef Umberto Bombana and just glancing through it had my mouth watering in anticipation. The world-class Dom Perignon 1975 champagne kick- started the evening in fine style. The aroma of honey and nuts emanating from the exquisite golden sparkling liquid would entice even a non-drinker to take a sip.

Served with the champagne was the delightful 36-month Jamon Iberico – slightly bittersweet to the taste – and in a class touted as second to none. Indeed, no one could fault the Italian restaurant for using a Spanish specialty here.

In the dining room, guests mingled with a glass of champagne in their hands. And with the place starting to warm up, Bombana appeared with three full plates of white truffles for guests to view. The truffles of various sizes came straight by air from Alba and weighed 3.5 kilograms in total. For 60 people, 3.5kg is almost gluttony and to be part of this could be nothing but sheer luck.


mbana was previously awarded the title Worldwide Ambassador of the White Truffle and the man is a walking encyclopedia on the fungus, which only grows in the wild.

November is the best month to savor the delicacy, which is so “shy” that it buries itself under the soil. It is not easy to find as it grows at the root of trees. If one is lucky enough to hunt it down, be prepared to spend time cleaning it.

Bombana confessed that he has spent a great deal of time cleaning the precious fungi and took me into the kitchen for a demonstration. He first washes the truffles with water, then follows it up with meticulous brushing. His methods sure put my tooth- brushing skills to shame.

I find Italian pasta is the best pairing with white truffle and the homemade egg pasta by Otto e Messa Bombana is by far the most tempting.

But back to the dinner, and after white truffle ice-cream it was finally time to quench my thirst with a dram of the 1950 Macallan single malt. “The king of whisky” is a name well-earned.

The hosts urged me to add a few drops of water to the alcohol to unlock the flavors. Under no circumstances, however, should one add ice.

Sample some whisky, then nibble a small chunk of 100 percent pure chocolate. I was told the taste gives an intense sensation that is beyond compare. They were right. The taste is truly heavenly. I am in debt to the kindness of hosts Chambers and Helen for treating us to a truly wonderful night to remember of white truffles.

Stephen Ip, the retired secretary for economic development and labour, is enjoying a second career as food critic.


The momentum from Hong Kong’s strong performance in the Guangzhou Asian Games is pushing cycling up a gear.

The sport’s local association, with backing from HSBC, is staging the Tour of South China Sea, with Wong Kam- po as its main attraction.

Wong led Hong Kong cyclists to four gold and four silver medals plus a bronze in the Asiad, where the territory wound up with a total of 8-15-17.

Riders from China, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and other countries will join the 22-kilometer race, which starts and ends in Central on Sunday.

Organizers not only expect many to watch the event, but also join in the several side events for charity.




They sell umbrellas, flowers and cooked meals, and even try to read your mind: they are Japan’s five million vending machines.

Scattered across the country, the automated stores are about as ubiquitous as traffic lights and offer an ever- widening, dizzying palette of goods.

Thanks to Japan’s low crime rate, companies have placed them everywhere, from city centers to the icy summit of Mount Fuji, with little risk of them being burgled of their rich coin vaults.

“They’re so convenient, I wish I had one in my room,” said Hibiki Miura, 18. Like many Japanese, the Tokyo resident finds it hard to imagine modern civilisation without the handy helpers.

Japan has 2.5 million vending machines that sell just beverages – about one for every 50 people. They generated a staggering US$27 billion (HK$210.6 billion) last year, says the Japan Vending Machine Manufacturers’ Association.

Machines that sell other miscellaneous goods – from cigarettes to toys, flower bouquets and even printed oracles at Shinto shrines – raise the total to more than five million.

In the world’s most saturated vending machine market, providers are competing ever more fiercely to be noticed. Dole Japan turned heads when it set up a banana vending machine at a Tokyo train station in June, selling chilled bananas for 130 yen (HK$12.15) each or a bunch of about five for 390 yen.

Some machines provide added social functions, such as news flashes and baseball scores on electronic display boards. Coca-Cola (Japan) says 5,100 of its 980,000 machines will roll out drinks free in the wake of major earthquakes and other disasters.

A machine provided 680 bottles of beverages to people who fled their homes in Hokkaido when a quake in distant Chile triggered a tsunami alert for Japan in February.

At the other end of the Japanese archipelago, in a remote village of Okinawa island, Coca-Cola says it supports a nature survey with vending machine-mounted microphones that record chirps of rare birds.

The very latest in high-tech vending machines even attempts to make the consumer’s choice for them, using a camera and software that recognizes a person’s sex and 10-year age band with about 75 percent accuracy.

The machine at Tokyo’s Shinagawa train station may look at a person and suggest a drink based on its accumulated marketing wisdom.

Trying the machine recently, Hidemi Mio, 48, said that after scrutinizing her with its digital brain for a second, it recommended three drinks on its 47-inch touch-screen display, including a flavored tea.

Happily, the machine guessed correctly, picking one of her favorites, she said, adding that she would take on board the machine’s suggestions again in future, especially “when I can’t make a decision.”

Payments can be made with swipe cards and cell phones as well as cash.

To protect consumers’ privacy, images are deleted immediately, but data on sex, age and purchasing choice are accumulated, said Toshinari Sasagawa, general manager for sales at JR East Water Business, which operates the machine.

The machine has been a hit since it was set up recently.

Its sales are triple that of any of the other 50 vending machines in the same station, he said, while declining to disclose exact sales volume.

JR East Water Business, wholly owned by the giant railway operator Japan Rail, plans to set up 500 units of the “next-generation” machine over the next two years.

In future, vending machines may increase their “communications with people,” Sasagawa said.

“We want customers to experience and enjoy a purchasing process that is different from simply buying from a vending machine.”




December 1, 2010 — Leave a comment

Margie T Logarta

Margie T Logarta, managing editor, Asia, Panacea Publishing Asia and Business Traveller magazine, has observed the travel and hospitality industry long enough to be constantly asked for her opinion on issues affecting service and burning industry concerns.

Here’s her take on the world of business travel. She welcomes your comments, arguments and other musings.

‘Tis the season when our thoughts turn to giving.

But why should it take us just this time of the year to think of others less fortunate? Because of the pile of charity mailers reminding us that we’ve been too consumed by work to reach out? Because the tinsel and trimmings and bright paper packages remind us that there are so many, many people who have little, if anything to celebrate?

But we are luckier to have our jobs that come with the exhilarating perk of travel, our talents, our families, our health (hopefully), our friends and the luxury of being able to buy the latest tech gadgets and go on holidays to somewhere nice. If we don’t have exactly all of these, at least a combination, I hope.

Countless others, who have experienced war, famine, natural disasters, human abuse and prejudice, do not even dare to dream anymore. Such are the depths of misery they have sunk to, and they continue to stare into the gates of hell.

Edmund Burke, the Irish political philosopher, said it best when he declared all that was needed for evil to triumph was for “good men to do nothing”. I agree – what is the use of being good at your job, at being a partner, at being a parent, at being a colleague, but do nothing for the wider community?

There are many ways to do this. The important thing is to start – and never stop.

Margie T Logarta

Managing Editor, Asia

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific