Saturday, February 25, 2012

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Dear Shopwise...

I have been a customer since you opened your first store in Alabang. Those were the days when I worked less than an exit away (read: east service road office) and my ex lived a stone's throw away from Festival Supermall.

I have been a Wise Card member since 2002 - the fateful year I got married and started shopping with my hard-earned money. Needless to say, your rebates have been something I looked forward to, even when my mother-in-law compared you to the Rempson's of her youth (I wanted to tell her you were Rustan's-owned, but I didn't want to get her ire by making her think I knew more than she did).

I faithfully shopped every First Wednesday, as well as each time you announced double points, and sometimes x10! I thanked the heavens when you launched x10 Wednesdays and hardly ever missed shopping on that day (just once this year because I was in HK). I rejoiced when you introduced your reusable bags and offered Double Points with its use. I rejoiced even more when you offered the new Bags of Life, as you definitely encouraged your shoppers to use reusable bags...

...and that is why I was surprised when yesterday, the cashier asked me to voice out my feelings on a comment card, when she told me you (as well as your sister Rustan's) were taking away the Double Points Incentive on the use of your reusable bags. Do you know how many of your bags I own? Four of the old canvass bag, two of the "bayong" ones for wet groceries (one I lost to a helper with sticky fingers), two of the Rustans shopper bags and two of the new Bags of Life ones. Yes, even the cashiers and bag boys at your store are amazed that I've amassed so much - ok, not exactly a fortune in bags, but a lot, nonetheless - definitely more than my fair share. But I didn't mind, I was getting double points with each use.

Face it, you're more expensive than most stores. Your rebates come as an incentive to most - a lure to the non-loyal customer. Of course you were educating the public on saving the environment, and I understand it was an incentive we've probably enjoyed too long. But it IS one of the main reasons why I am loyal to your store. It probably IS one of the reasons why anyone bothers to bring their bags to Shopwise. Maybe not the main reason, but a perk anyway.

It's funny because, just recently, you limited your special promotions (pick-a-prize, spin-the-wheel, pick-an-apple, etc) to the weekends - a shopping incentive we enjoyed on any given day in the past. And now, you decide to take away the incentive of double points with the reusable bag WITHOUT announcing it on either Facebook or Twitter! (Ok, maybe a few members have questioned it, but we don't see member comments on our news feed...) And that small card you placed near your cashiers to announce the change effective March 1, 2012? Couldn't you have made it any bigger? Tsk. I was told that those cards were delivered first week of February. What happened to at least a few months' notice before effecting a change? Thanks for surprising your loyal customers!

Don't be fooled. The actual card is even smaller than this photo. Thanks for the head's up...NOT!
And there I was, just telling the folks at the office coop how I earn more with rebates at Shopwise. I suppose I should do more shopping at the coop now (and finally earn from dividends) and limit my Shopwise shopping to x10 Wednesdays (first of the month) and special sales (sunrise, Fresh Fridays, Anniversary specials, etc).

As for the bags? Well, I still love them and will keep them handy. Meanwhile, I shall see you, Shopwise, once a month!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Field Trip: Logos Hope - The World's Largest Floating Book Fair!

Do you remember taking trips to MV Doulos and buying tons of books? I do! So I couldn't help but feel sad when I heard of its last voyage and visit to the Philippines. Visits to MV Doulos have been more of a tradition in our family. My mom has been taking us since "forever", and now, I've been taking my kids.

The Logos Hope at 10pm on Friday, the 17th of February 2012.
So when Pastor O handed me a flyer announcing the arrival of Logos Hope, I was just too eager to go. We went on its first day. RL, the nanny and I picked A up from school, since she had a field trip Friday. And braved the traffic to South Harbor (took us almost two hours from Katipunan). But it was worth the trip.

Blurry Pic. You have to keep walking up the plank.
It was drizzling that evening. RL only too excited to get on a real ship.
The ladies behind us were there to attend a talk.
A hates having her photo taken. Here, watching the orientation.
You must watch this first, before entering the book shop.
This guy says so. My kids were about to make a dash for it.
Nice boat-like pews. You have to sit and watch. Nice floors no?
We got to Pier 15 at close to 8pm. We were the only ones to watch the orientation (a new feature pre-req before you can enter the bookshop). There were probably around 20 visitors that evening - nice and pretty empty. Logos Hope's floating book fair boasts of over 5,000 titles - not only of Christian books but of general reads and bestsellers. My kids were ecstatic to find books of their favorite characters - Chuggington, Toy Story, Cars, Phineas and Ferb and even Littlest Pet Shop! The best part is, these books were selling for P50-P500! A real steal, compared to our local bookstores.

WOW! I was too excited. This is about the only photo I have of the bookshop. LOL! Seriously!
After the cashiers are bins of bargain books. Some of the children books in that bin only need a change of batteries.
Kids watching their coins go down the funnel tube. Nice way to get people to donate to their cause.
There were tons of Bibles and reference materials, cookbooks, Classics, Arts and Crafts books, etc. It will take half a day to go through their selection, or if you're like me, I'd spend the whole day there (if I didn't bring the kids, that is). After browsing and paying for your choice of books (we brought home a huge, heavy bag!), have snacks at their new, huge International Cafe! Unlike the old snack bar on the MV Doulos, you don't need to push your way to get soft serve and cookies, the cafe on the Logos Hope has tables and chairs. They also serve popcorn, juice, international sodas, chips and chocolates.

International Cafe on the Logos Hope. Don't miss their yummy soft serve ice cream!
Juice, cookies, popcorn, ice cream, chips, chocolates for sale.
Nice and spacious!
Kids corner at the back where your little ones can play and mingle while you have a cup of hot choco.
According to the GBA Ships website, this is Logos Hope's first-ever visit to the Philippines since it was first launched into service in 2009. It is the biggest ship in the fleet (and the nicest one, I think). Previous visitors to the MV Doulos will be pleased to know that the bookshop is airconditioned, and is now located at the ship's lower deck. The downside to this is there is not much of a on-a-ship feeling, since the place is enclosed. Nice and great field trip, nonetheless.

Cheese! From Logos Hope! - RL
A posing with Logos Hope in the background.
RL's stash - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Follow That Hat Sound Book, P150;
Little Einsteins Preschool Skills Magnetic Wipe-Off Book, P200;
Little Einsteins Christmas Wish, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Donald's Christmas Gift,
and Handy Manny's Sinko de Mayo, P50 each. 
RL's stash - Chuggington Poster Book, Chuggington Sticker Scene Story, P100 each;
Chuggington Storybook Collection, P400. 
RL's stash - Toy Story 3 Sticker Scene, Toy Story 3 Construct and Play!, P100 each;
Toy Story Story Book Collection, P300.
Still RL's stash - Disney Cars Around the Bend Activity Book with Tattoos, P50;
Disney School Skills Sight Words and Vocabulary, P200;
Disney Picture Dictionary, P250. 
Still RL's stash (I can't find A's!) - Play and Learn Work Book, P200; Thomas and Friends Surprise Ink Game Pad, P150.

Logos Hope will be in Manila until March 13. Then it sails to Subic and will be open to the public until April 8. Plan a visit before it leaves our shores.

Logos Hope is currently docked at Pier 15, Berth 4, South Harbor.

Opening Hours:
Tuesday - Saturday: 10am - 9:30pm
Sunday: 1pm - 9:30pm 
Monday: CLOSED 

Donation: 20 pesos
Free entrance for children 12 and below, but they must be accompanied by an adult.

Limited parking at South Harbor Gate 1. (Read: BRING A DRIVER to drop you off by the gate so you don't have to walk far).

For more information please contact or call Mobile Landline: (02) 296 6792.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hearts From the Field

A Valentine message from our friends at ARK - Advancement for Rural Kids.

Love, students of Dumarao 

PS. ...Last July, 3rd graders from Sibariwan Elementary School, to the surprise of their teacher, made adorable paper hearts. During the afternoon break, each of the kids gave one (or 2) to each of the four newly-arrived and jetlagged ARK visitors who were leading a full day of student workshops. We hope their art lifts your heart as they did ours. Thank you for your love and support! The ARK Team 

PPS. ...Look out for ARK's off-the-hook summer internship and fellowship opportunities which shall be available very very soon. Interested? Like us on Facebook and check out

ARK, or Advancement for Rural Kids, raises funds to: support school-based feeding programs, create after school initiatives and scholarships; purchase school supplies; and provide critical infrastructure improvements. ARK collects books, computers and other educational aids for school libraries for the use by the entire community. Their programs enable kids to stay in school, have better health, improve academically, and have a better future.

Want to help? Write to ARK at

Advancement for Rural Kids 
10 East 85th Street 
New York, NY 10028

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Hearts Day!

May your heart find fulfillment in The One who brings you real joy. :) Happy Valentines Day!

Home Away From Home.

This post has been edited (and edited, and edited through the months I was on hiatus) so much so that I decided to just write a new one. My sentiments are the same, however -- Hotel Benito will always be my Hong Kong home.


A and I were walking back to Ramada (a dinky hotel my dad booked at the last minute - long story!) to meet my folks before they headed out on the A21 back to the airport. We had gone to Mongkok for the day and decided to get out of the B2 MTR Exit. I normally do not look up while walking on heavily-populated streets, but that evening, as I walked down Cameron Road, I decided to stop and look up. On the huge billboard in front of me was a sign announcing a new hotel that had just opened the month before. This was around 4+ years ago. The new hotel was news to me and my friends on the Pinoy Exchange Hong Kong thread (an online thread we help moderate). See, we had been looking for a nice boutique hotel. A number of us wanted to organize an EB in Hong Kong. Many of us budget travelers, we had wanted the comforts of a nice, clean hotel, without the hotel price. Hotel Benito was just that - the location came as a bonus.

Not the same billboard as this one replaced the one announcing the new hotel.

Home away from home - Hotel Benito.

Hotel Benito opened in 2007. An IKEA-inspired (well, we all think so, as it smelled like IKEA when we first walked into our room back then) boutique hotel smack right in the middle of busy Tsim Sha Tsui in Kowloon.

On our next trip to Hong Kong for Holy Week of 2008, my mom wanted no other hotel. It was Hotel Benito for its location! So I called and booked us 3 rooms. Needless to say, the experience was superb! My dad especially enjoyed their business lounge*, with free-flowing coffee, tea, hot choco, water, juice and Japanese Rice Crackers! Haha! My siblings loved the fact that they had laptops available for use at the lounge (if you're the type who hates lugging a laptop when you travel) and free net access** in rooms! We also loved the idea that the hotel was surrounded by bakeries, fast food joints, and shops. It was also a 2-minute walk to the nearest MTR exit; A stone's throw away from the A21 bus stop (DIY travelers know how important proximity to the bus stop is!). My youngest brother loved it that it was next door to Tom Lee Music. My kids and I just loved everything about it.

Watsons Personal Care Store right below the hotel, the famous dessert place - Hui Lau Shan, right across. 

McDonald's 24-Hour store, KFC, Yoshinoya and Burger King right outside your hotel! Look! A Crocs store!
When I first took my little boy, who was then 6 months old, to Hong Kong, I considered Hotel Benito right away. It was most convenient for kids. Especially when you have to take numerous trips back to the hotel for naps, poop breaks, or just to dump half a day's worth of shopping. Parent travelers would know what I mean when I say: Convenient location is NECESSARY when traveling with kids. LOL!

6-month old RL, looking out the window at Hotel Benito.

No way we're staying at a guesthouse again!
There was one last-minute trip to the homeland where I didn't get to book with Hotel Benito. We were so last minute then, plus it was peak season, that we decided to book ourselves into a guesthouse to save on budget and the hassle. I felt so sorry for my kids that I allowed them that experience! RL (who was then 1), A (then 8) and I had to squish into a room the size of my bathroom. Heck, even my itsy-bitsy bathroom at home is bigger than that room! Sure, I may have saved half of what I would've spent at Hotel Benito, but I learned my lesson that trip. We were booked for 6 nights - 3 of which we spent in that small hole. A small hole not even worth my 300HKD.

Let me tell you this, nothing is worth the extra moolah when it comes to convenience and the comfort of your kids. When all is said and done, a nice, safe hotel puts a single parent's traveling dilemmas at ease. After that small box of a stay, each Hong Kong trip was planned with Hotel Benito in mind. We haven't stayed anywhere else since. I've probably convinced every aunt, cousin, friend, pastor, officemate, etc to stay at Hotel Benito! So far, we've stayed at this hotel a total of 8x, not counting the separate times my family has booked with Hotel Benito without us.

RL checking out our Deluxe Twin Room. Nice! 

Mounted LCD TV that shows Cartoon Network, National Geographic, HBO, etc.

Book Direct and get welcome fruits and a note from their manager when you arrive.
You also get a daily supply of bottled water (2 bottles/ room) if you book directly with the hotel.

Nice, Clean Bathroom.

Shower enclosure, with Shampoo and Body Wash.

Coffee, Tea, and Bottled Water! Personal ref inside the cabinet to the left.
Of course it's not the Four Seasons nor The Pen. It's a Boutique Hotel.

But the hospitality here beats any 5-star hotel in Hong Kong. Their concierge, Louie, greets me with a "Welcome Back" each time he sees me. But because Hotel Benito is my Hong Kong home, to me, his welcome is synonymous to "Welcome Home."

Perfect location! Click on the map to enlarge. 
Hotel Benito is at 7-7B Cameron Lane cor. Cameron Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Standard Room Rates are HK$825 and up. Rates vary, so write to them to inquire for rates for your stay.

For inquiries and bookings, email them direct at or through

*Business Lounge access is HK$40 for single entry, HK$70 for multiple entry for the duration of your stay - inclusive of free-flowing water, coffee, juice, crackers, and use of their laptop computers with internet access. 

**Free wifi in rooms! Wired internet is also available, LAN cables are available upon request.

Check out the Hotel Benito webpage here.

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