PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

PH CHRISTMAS STORY: THE ADVENT OF 'BALIKBAYAN' BOXES 

Cargo forwarders are on overdrive 24 hours a day for the holidays. PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ 
“Balikbayan” boxes are familiar sights in the homes of Filipinos with relatives who live or work in other countries. Sending balikbayan boxes—defined by the government as packages of personal effects or gifts—has become part of the Filipino tradition of gift giving and has served as a way to preserve strong family ties despite the distance. The use of balikbayan boxes began in the 1970s as an encouragement for overseas Filipinos to come home and see their country again. They were called balikbayan—homecoming Filipinos—and they were allowed to carry as much stuff as they could fit in regulation cardboard boxes the use of which the government arranged with airlines. The allowance boosted overseas Filipino traffic to Manila, especially at Christmastime. Later, however, overseas Filipinos stayed home at Christmas but sent gifts to their families in the Philippines in balikbayan boxes. Today, the practice is no longer limited to Christmas and among the users of balikbayan boxes are migrant workers who send things to their families in the Philippines by sea freight any time of the year. Every year, an estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are shipped to the Philippines, and 40 percent of them arrive between September and year-end, data from the Bureau of Customs showed. READ MORE....

ALSO: Why balikbayan boxes from US may not arrive in time for Christmas 

DEC 14 ---PHOTO: Cargo forwarders are on overdrive 24 hours a day for the holidays. PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ  MISSION VIEJO, California — If you shipped your balikbayan box to your family in Metro Manila before Halloween from Southern California, your shipper probably assured you the box would make it there by Christmas. If you shipped your box in September your chances would be even much better, supposedly. But cargo bottlenecks in ports both in Southern California and Manila have thrown cold water on those assurances. Every year cargo forwarders remind their clients to send their boxes to the Philippines early. Various promos are extended with discounted rates to make their regular clients even more enticed to work on their Christmas shopping way before the “ber” months roll around. However, Metro Manila residents anxiously awaiting balikbayan boxes with as much anticipation as Santa himself arriving have been told this week that unless their relatives sent their boxes in August, chances are they will have a disappointing holiday this year. Double whammy  Delivery delays this year are much worse than anyone had anticipated. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO The Tracker: Problems with balikbayan boxes? Fret no more as BOC’s online tracker kicks

Bureau of Customs. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO  Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla on Tuesday said it was the Department of Finance-attached agency’s “way of helping our kababayans find their balikbayan boxes when they encounter problems.”  “We have received several complaints from families of overseas Filipino workers blaming the bureau for their lost boxes,” he said. With the tracker, Sevilla said “the public will no longer be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”  According to the BOC head, the tracker “contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with Customs, their countries of origin, ports of entry in the Philippines and their bills of lading with the number of the shipments.” “To access the balikbayan box tracker, just go to the Bureau of Customs website (http://customs.gov.ph) and click the “Balikbayan Box Tracker” banner,” he advised. READ MORE...

ALSO: Christmas corners 

DEC 14 ---We invite you to two of our favorite Christmas spots this year—the lobbies of the Peninsula Manila and the InterContinental Manila—all decked in baubles, trinkets, and sparkles. May the holiday décor cheer you up, warm your heart, lift your spirit, and open you up to all the magic of Christmas. PHOTO: QUIET ELEGANCE : The Pen's crystal reindeers are dazzling at every angle (Images by Pinggot Zulueta) While it is one of the most iconic hotel lobbies in the Philippines, The Lobby at the Peninsula Manila is particularly stunning come Christmas time. Consistent with the hotel’s 2014 “French everything” theme (the hotel group opened its first ever hotel in Paris, France last August—its first venture in Europe), the Pen’s general manager Sonja Vodusek, along with the hotel’s creative and special projects team, thought it “cool” to veer away from the customary reds and greens and go for something sparkly and luminescent, inspired by Lyon’s world-renowned Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights). READ FULL REPORT AND VIEW PHOTOS...

ALSO: PAL suspends Tacloban flights during Pope’s visit; NAIA 3 and 4 closed to arriving flights on Pope’s visit

Passengers of Philippine Airlines (PAL) flying to or from Tacloban on January 17, 2015 are advised to rebook their tickets as Tacloban airport will be closed to all commercial flights during Pope Francis’ visit to the storm-ravaged city. As part of the preparations for next year’s papal visit, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued a notice to all airlines, suspending all airline operations at Tacloban on Jan. 17, 2015 for security reasons. Passengers with tickets to Tacloban on Jan. 17 should call PAL Reservations (02-855-8888) for rebooking or refund. Affected passengers will be accommodated on the next available flights. PAL, as official papal carrier, will fly Pope Francis to Tacloban primarily to visit victims of typhoons Yolanda and Ruby. PAL will also fly the Roman Pontiff directly to Rome, non-stop, at the end of his four-day visit to the Philippines. The carrier also served as official papal carrier during the two visits to the country of now Saint John Paul II in 1981 and 1995. CONTINUE READING --NAIA 3 AND 4 CLOSURE.....

ALSO: Papal itinerary excludes Cebu, Bohol

PHOTO SPIRITUAL CHARISMA --Pope's apostolic visit to Albania - AFP:  Cebu City — Despite the wishes of church and government leaders for Pope Francis to also visit Bohol and Cebu when he comes to the Philippines in January, 2015, the official Papal itinerary has excluded the two equally calamity-hit provinces. The Vatican released the official itinerary of Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, as announced by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to media last Friday. The itinerary showed that the activities of the Pope will be concentrated in Manila, Tacloban City and the town of Palo in Leyte. Pope Francis will arrive in Tacloban on January 17, where he will hold a concelebrated mass near the Tacloban International Airport. He will then have lunch with survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo, Leyte. Earlier, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma added a voice to the call for Pope Francis to visit Bohol province as part of his Philippine itinerary in January. Palma supported the call of Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto and Archdiocese of Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso who both expressed hope that the Pope would drop by Bohol to also see the damage wrought by the over 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked the province in October last year. Cebu archdiocese spokesman Monsignor Joseph Tan said he still has not seen the official itinerary but stressed that if it is true that the Pope is not coming to Cebu, there will be some disappointment. However, he urged the faithful to think of it holistically and to keep on praying. Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, said he was disappointed with the news but stressed that everything happens for a reason. Organizers of Cebu City’s Sinulog Festival were gearing up for a possible change of schedule as they anticipate the possibility of the Pope dropping by Cebu during the festivities.THIS IS THE FULL REPORT OF NOV 17 FROM MANILA BULLETIN.

ALSO REPEAT POSTING: Vatican releases Pope's Philippine itinerary
Tagle answers why not Cebu, Bohol: 'Symbolism matters a lot'  ---
Francis' visit will mark the first time in 3 decades – only the second time ever – for a pope to go beyond Manila. (READ: Pope chooses Visayas as core of Philippine trip) The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier said the “main objective” of the Pope's Philippine trip is to visit earthquake and Super Typhoon Yolanda survivors in the Visayas.

A CBCP official, however, questioned the length of the Pope's stay in disaster-stricken areas – only around 8 hours, the itinerary showed. In an article by CBCP News on October 15, CBCP's Fr Edu Gariguez said: “Kaya nga rin ako nagtataka kasi ang orihinal intention ng Pope eh pumunta dito sa mga nasalanta. Pero bakit isang araw lang ang ititigil niya doon? Dapat mas matagal. Bakit puro Manila?”  (That's why I'm wondering, because the original intention of the Pope is to visit the disaster survivors. But why will he spend only a day there? He should stay longer. Why is it mostly Manila?)

Tagle, for his part, on Friday justified the Pope's 8-hour stay in Leyte. He said it is the “quality” of the visit that matters. Referring to other areas hit by the Visayas earthquake and Yolanda, Tagle said in jest: “If we want to be really strict about it, then he should also go to Palawan, Cebu, Antique, Bohol. So we will ask the Holy Father to stay for half a year.” “In much of these papal visits, the symbolism matters a lot – personal encounters with people,” Tagle added. “And even if he will spend two full days in Manila, the encounters in Manila will include also people who are suffering and who have experienced other forms of disasters in life.” (READ: People's Pope comes close to Filipinos) – THIS IS THE FULL REPORT FROM Rappler.com


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

PH Christmas story: The advent of ‘balikbayan’ box

MANILA, PHILIPPINES, DECEMBER 15, 2014 (INQUIRER)  Amy R. Remo @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:40 AM | Sunday, December 14th, 2014


Cargo forwarders are on overdrive 24 hours a day for the holidays. PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ


“Balikbayan” boxes are familiar sights in the homes of Filipinos with relatives who live or work in other countries.

Sending balikbayan boxes—defined by the government as packages of personal effects or gifts—has become part of the Filipino tradition of gift giving and has served as a way to preserve strong family ties despite the distance.

The use of balikbayan boxes began in the 1970s as an encouragement for overseas Filipinos to come home and see their country again. They were called balikbayan—homecoming Filipinos—and they were allowed to carry as much stuff as they could fit in regulation cardboard boxes the use of which the government arranged with airlines.

The allowance boosted overseas Filipino traffic to Manila, especially at Christmastime. Later, however, overseas Filipinos stayed home at Christmas but sent gifts to their families in the Philippines in balikbayan boxes.

Today, the practice is no longer limited to Christmas and among the users of balikbayan boxes are migrant workers who send things to their families in the Philippines by sea freight any time of the year.

Every year, an estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are shipped to the Philippines, and 40 percent of them arrive between September and year-end, data from the Bureau of Customs showed.

According to the customs bureau, approximately 65 percent of balikbayan box shipments arrive at the Manila International Container Port, while the rest arrive at the Port of Manila (South Harbor), Cebu, Davao and Subic. The boxes contain mostly canned goods, groceries, toiletries and clothing.

What can be sent

There are rules for sending balikbayan boxes.

The boxes should contain noncommercial goods or goods not in commercial quantity and are strictly for personal use, with the value not exceeding $500 (around P22,000).

Not allowed are currencies, checks, money orders and traveler’s checks, jewelry, pirated products, pornographic and gambling materials, firearms, ammunition, explosives and prohibited drugs.

A sender is allowed to ship only one box within a six-month period. At $500 per box, the 5.5 million balikbayan boxes shipped to the Philippines every year bring $2.75 billion (P123 billion) in revenue.

Shipping cost

Overseas Filipinos usually tap the services of foreign consolidators or principal sea freight forwarders that collect door-to-door charges from senders. The charges include the fees for the shipping companies, terminal storage, duties and charges, and the accredited Philippine sea freight forwarders that deliver the packages to the recipients in the Philippines.

Freight forwarding companies have different shipping rates, depending on the size and destination of the balikbayan boxes.

Sending a standard 61-cm-by-61-cm-by-61-cm balikbayan box from Hong Kong may cost $70 (around P3,100) if the recipient is in Metro Manila, $75 (around P3,300) in the Visayas and $85 (around P3,700) in Mindanao.

Estimated shipping rates for the same type of package coming from the United States or Canada range from $85 (P3,700) to $100 (P4,400).

The Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders for handling balikbayan boxes.

Balikbayan boxes are usually consolidated and shipped in one container on cargo vessels bound for the Philippines. Each container is loaded with around 400 balikbayan boxes. Shipments from Asia typically arrive in Manila in 15 to 20 days, while those from North America or Europe arrive in 55 to 65 days.

Tracking boxes

Delays or nondelivery of balikbayan boxes may be due to natural calamities, undeclared or misdeclared goods, nonremittance of funds by the foreign freight forwarder, or inclusion of items not allowed in balikbayan boxes.

Earlier this month, the customs bureau launched an online tracking system that allows Filipinos expecting balikbayan boxes to track the progress of their packages.

The tracker is accessible through the Balikbayan Box Tracker banner found on the customs bureau’s website (www.customs.gov.ph). It shows the names of the foreign forwarder and the local forwarder or broker, entry date, clearance date and current status of the shipment.

According to Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla, people expecting balikbayan boxes should know the name of the forwarder and bill of lading number to be able to track the shipment that includes their boxes.

The DTI expects the online tracking system to “lessen, if not totally eliminate, consumer complaints of losses, nondelivery and pilferage of balikbayan boxes.”

DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said the tracker could also help accredited Philippine freight forwarders “police their ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealing.”

Sources: http://customs.gov.ph; http://www.dti.gov.ph  and Inquirer archives


FROM THE INQUIRER

Why balikbayan boxes from US may not arrive in time for Christmas Cristina Peczon-Rodriguez @inquirerdotnet INQUIRER.net US Bureau 9:21 AM | Tuesday, November 25th, 2014


Cargo forwarders are on overdrive 24 hours a day for the holidays. PHOTO BY CRISTINA P. RODRIGUEZ

MISSION VIEJO, California — If you shipped your balikbayan box to your family in Metro Manila before Halloween from Southern California, your shipper probably assured you the box would make it there by Christmas.

If you shipped your box in September your chances would be even much better, supposedly.

But cargo bottlenecks in ports both in Southern California and Manila have thrown cold water on those assurances.

Every year cargo forwarders remind their clients to send their boxes to the Philippines early.

Various promos are extended with discounted rates to make their regular clients even more enticed to work on their Christmas shopping way before the “ber” months roll around.

However, Metro Manila residents anxiously awaiting balikbayan boxes with as much anticipation as Santa himself arriving have been told this week that unless their relatives sent their boxes in August, chances are they will have a disappointing holiday this year.

Double whammy

Delivery delays this year are much worse than anyone had anticipated.

“It’s like we got a double black eye this year,” explains Manila Forwarder CEO Neil Sanchez, “because not only are their delivery delays caused in Manila – even the ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach are suffering problems.”

It’s the busiest single month at the Port since August 2006. Container imports in Los Angeles alone increased by 11 percent in September this year, from 370,786 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in September 2013 to 411,507 TEUs in September 2014. Overall volumes increased nine percent (775,133 TEUs) compared with September last year.

California officials report that unprecedented congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has affected the number of cargo containers moving through the two busiest seaports in the United States, potentially pushing shipments past peak season.

The twin ports have been struggling with slowdowns because of the arrival of larger vessels and uncertainty over labor talks between longshore workers and their employers.

Curve ball

Eric Sycip, president of Victory Cargo, says that his company is using two shipping lines, so that they have not ‘”put all their eggs in one basket,”’ but the erratic arrival of containers has thrown everyone for a curve ball.

“On the average, delivery now takes 40-45 up to 60 days. But before we could deliver boxes within 24-27 days. However, we can make this promise to our valued customers. We guarantee each and every one of our customers that anything sent through Victory Cargo will be safe and will be delivered.”

Sycip points out that no one is exempt from the ongoing harbor logistical problem.

“Victory Cargo’s saving grace is that we have our own delivery network, and we are able to react a little faster than others because once the container is out of customs and with us, it’s on the road for delivery within hours,” he assures.

Growing pains

Manila Forwarder’s CEO Neil Sanchez points out that the growing pains of the industry have long been growing. Volumes of shipping are higher than they ever have been.

“Twenty years ago, if one wanted to get ‘PX Goods’ one went to a military base or purchased these things from a reseller who ultimately got these things from the same place,” Sanchez notes.

“Today, when you want new sneakers from the US, all you have to do is text your relative or send a message via facebook to see if they can hook you up. With the ease and reasonable prices it now costs to ship a balikbayan box door to door with your loved ones, the increased volume is no surprise,” he explains.

Manila Forwarder delivers its jumbo (24”x24”x19”) $75 boxes anywhere in Metro Manila door-to-door for the entire month of November with a $10 discount on all shipments.

Victory Cargo offers a discount on multiple boxes, its regular rates being $65 for a jumbo box and $55 for a regular box delivered in Metro Manila.

Port congestion in Manila

Port congestion in the Port of Manila and delays caused by the traffic bans imposed by the city and the Metro Manila Development Authority have made the cargo delivery slower than ever.

Gone are the days when your balikbayan boxes could be delivered door-to-door in under a month’s time, especially this time of year.

“The result is inevitable growing pains for an industry that is bigger than ever before. And this time of the year is particularly hard for the industry,” Sanchez points out.

“We are shipping twice as much as much as we usually do. We have even almost doubled our staff to process our containers. But the port area size has never changed. We have more shipments than ever, but the port didn’t expand the same way,“ he explains.

Sanchez says, OFWs should consider shipping by air if they want to avoid delays in sending their balikbayan boxes home. Manila Forwarder guarantees shipments of packages in five working business days via air, with tracking codes allowing customers to monitor every step of their packages delivery.

Delayed pasalubong

California resident Stephanie Serrano shipped her balikbayan boxes through ALAS shipping last November 2 and was told that her boxes would arrive in Metro Manila by December 15.

But with all the news about delays, Serrano doesn’t know what to do if her boxes don’t arrive in time for her first time visit to the Philippines in more than a decade as an OFW.

Serrano laments, “If they don’t arrive in time, it will be a tragedy. Without the pasalubong and gifts contained in those balikbayan boxes, Christmas would not be the same.”

This is the first time Serrano will be visiting the Philippines with her husband and their four-year-old daughter, Estelle, and so sending their personal items in balikbayan boxes was thought to be a much easier way to travel with a youngster.

“I would love the Philippine government to show their gratitude to a ‘bagong bayani’ such as myself by helping make my Christmas with loved ones more meaningful. Get those balikbayan boxes to our home before Christmas!” Serrano urges.

Doing their best

Manila Forwarder’s Sanchez assures customers that his firm is doing all that it can. “We are trying to do our best. Please trust us. Be patient. We have done our best to get the packages from your relatives and bring it to your home. We continue make the commitment that your packages are safe,” he pleads.

“Manila Forwarder knows how important it is to earn trust from their customers and we value your trust in us. We know how hard Filipinos work while abroad to buy those clothes, canned goods and Christmas goodies that they want to send home to their family in the Philippines,” Sanchez adds.

“Once your package arrives, Manila Forwarder makes sure it hits the ground running. We are working 24 hours a day and will even deliver on Christmas day,” Sanchez further assures, “we want your holidays to be just as meaningful as you do.”


FROM THE INQUIRER

Problems with balikbayan boxes? Fret no more as BOC’s online tracker kicks in Jerry E. Esplanada @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:47 PM | Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014


Bureau of Customs. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Customs Commissioner John Phillip Sevilla on Tuesday said it was the Department of Finance-attached agency’s “way of helping our kababayans find their balikbayan boxes when they encounter problems.”

“We have received several complaints from families of overseas Filipino workers blaming the bureau for their lost boxes,” he said.

With the tracker, Sevilla said “the public will no longer be given the run-around by people responsible for delivering their balikbayan boxes.”

According to the BOC head, the tracker “contains the list of all balikbayan box shipments lodged by local cargo forwarders with Customs, their countries of origin, ports of entry in the Philippines and their bills of lading with the number of the shipments.”

“To access the balikbayan box tracker, just go to the Bureau of Customs website (http://customs.gov.ph) and click the “Balikbayan Box Tracker” banner,” he advised.

The tracker also “contains the name of the foreign forwarder, name of the local forwarder or broker, entry date filed, date cleared, and the current status (of the shipment).”

“Families expecting balikbayan boxes should know the name of the forwarder and the bill of lading number to be able to track the shipment where the box is included,” Sevilla explained.

Balikbayan boxes sent from abroad are “usually consolidated into batches and placed in one container van aboard a cargo vessel bound for the Philippines.

“Each container van has about 400 balikbayan boxes. Shipments from Asia typically arrive here in 15 to 20 days while those from North America or Europe arrive in 55 to 65 days. The local cargo forwarder handles the customs clearance of the entire shipment, as well as the delivery of each box to the intended recipient in the country,” said the BOC public information and assistance office.

For its part, the Department of Trade and Industry expects the online tracking system to “lessen, if not totally eliminate consumer complaints on loss, non-delivery and pilferage of balikbayan boxes.”

DTI Consumer Protection Group Undersecretary Victorio Mario Dimagiba said they “fully support the BOC in this initiative that can greatly assist consumers on the delivery and receipt of their balikbayan boxes.”

“Simultaneously, the tracker can serve as a venue for accredited Philippine sea freight forwarders to police their own ranks and prevent questionable acts and dealings,” he said.

To date, the DTI’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau has accredited 654 Philippine sea freight forwarders.

An estimated 5.5 million balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines each year, about 40 percent of which arrive here from September to December.

About 65 percent of the shipments are received at the Manila International Container Port while the rest are shipped through the Port of Manila, as well as Cebu, Davao and the Subic Freeport in Zambales.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Christmas corners by Jacky Lynne A. Oiga December 14, 2014 Share this:


CRYSTAL CHRISTMAS --PENINSULA MANIL --  MODERN WORLD -INTERCONTINENTAL MANILA

We invite you to two of our favorite Christmas spots this year—the lobbies of the Peninsula Manila and the InterContinental Manila—all decked in baubles, trinkets, and sparkles. May the holiday décor cheer you up, warm your heart, lift your spirit, and open you up to all the magic of Christmas.

Crystal Christmas --The Peninsula Manila


QUIET ELEGANCE : The Pen's crystal reindeers are dazzling at every angle (Images by Pinggot Zulueta)

While it is one of the most iconic hotel lobbies in the Philippines, The Lobby at the Peninsula Manila is particularly stunning come Christmas time. Consistent with the hotel’s 2014 “French everything” theme (the hotel group opened its first ever hotel in Paris, France last August—its first venture in Europe), the Pen’s general manager Sonja Vodusek, along with the hotel’s creative and special projects team, thought it “cool” to veer away from the customary reds and greens and go for something sparkly and luminescent, inspired by Lyon’s world-renowned Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights).

“This year, we wanted to do something different, thus the Crystal Christmas theme,” says Sonja. “Christmas is still rather warm here in the Philippines so why not make it seem cooler for a change?”

From there, the ideas all came into place: Fête des Lumières, the little twinkling lights, the towering crystal Christmas tree, the crystal reindeers, the crystal stars twinkling from way up the lobby’s high ceiling, and the adorable snowman plush toy and glass tree ornaments on sale at The Lobby (a percentage on the price of both items will be donated to children’s charities and the Make-A-Wish Foundation).

With all that crystal and winter baubles you’d think The Lobby was turned into a shiny Christmas town in a snow globe. But that’s not how the Pen dresses up for Christmas, or any occasion for that matter.

“We’re never over the top,” says Mariano Garchitorena, director for public relations. “The Peninsula way of decorating is always just right. It’s never in your face. The Lobby has a very quiet, understated elegance, which our guests appreciate very much.”

The Lobby has been a favorite rendezvous spot since the Pen opened in 1976 and has since been the heart of the hotel, a part of the Manila fabric. “It’s been 38 Christmases and we make sure each one Christmas is better than the one before,” says Mariano. As a matter of fact, last week, they started brainstorming for Christmas 2015.

Blue As Sapphire --InterContinental Manila


Silver poinsettia and other sparkly ornaments adorn the halls (Images by Noel B. Pabalate)

MODERN MEETS OLD WORLD


Noel Basa's giant silver Santa greets guests at the reception area (Images by Noel B. Pabalate)

One night of dreaming. That’s all it took for artist, designer, and floral architect Rachy Cuna to map out the design of the festive sapphire blue and silver Christmas display at the lobby of InterContinental Manila, Makati’s first ever five-star hotel. Blue and silver aren’t typically part of the Christmas color spectrum but leave it to the InterCon’s infallible (and very affable) design consultant to jazz up any theme for any occasion, especially Christmas.

“I love decorating for Christmas. It’s the best time of the year to show our hospitality to our guests,” Rachy says. “This year, we’re celebrating our 45th anniversary that’s why we’re sporting the sapphire blue and silver motif. It’s not an easy combination to work with, mind you. But general manager Christian Pirodon gave me free hand and let me do my magic, as always.”

And as if by magic, Rachy snapped his fingers and transformed the lobby into a homey Christmas escape in the midst of the shopping frenzy of Ayala Center. The designer, after all, is very versatile, one whose style is adjustable but always on point. “I’m very visual. I’m an abstract artist so I can’t draw. So I express my designs through words. I convey messages and themes through symbols,” he says.

Welcoming guests at the lobby are stacks of glittery blue and silver gift boxes, blue parols, oversized Christmas balls with (of course) floral decals, silver poinsettia ornaments, and a giant silver Santa Claus sculpture carved by Jeepney Bakery’s Noel Basa. “InterCon is known for its old-world charm but in spite of that, we make it a point to place a little modernity in our design, very clean lines for a corporate hotel as established as InterContinental Manila,” he adds.

TO VIEW COMPLETE SLIDE SHOW --- http://www.mb.com.ph/christmas-corners/


FROM THE MANILA BULELTIN

PAL suspends Tacloban flights during Pope’s visit  December 14, 2014 Share this:

Passengers of Philippine Airlines (PAL) flying to or from Tacloban on January 17, 2015 are advised to rebook their tickets as Tacloban airport will be closed to all commercial flights during Pope Francis’ visit to the storm-ravaged city.

As part of the preparations for next year’s papal visit, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued a notice to all airlines, suspending all airline operations at Tacloban on Jan. 17, 2015 for security reasons.

Passengers with tickets to Tacloban on Jan. 17 should call PAL Reservations (02-855-8888) for rebooking or refund. Affected passengers will be accommodated on the next available flights.

PAL, as official papal carrier, will fly Pope Francis to Tacloban primarily to visit victims of typhoons Yolanda and Ruby.

PAL will also fly the Roman Pontiff directly to Rome, non-stop, at the end of his four-day visit to the Philippines.

The carrier also served as official papal carrier during the two visits to the country of now Saint John Paul II in 1981 and 1995.

NAIA 3 and 4 closed to arriving flights on Pope’s visit by Kris Bayos December 11, 2014 Share this:

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminals 3 and 4 will be closed to arriving flights due to the closure of roads during Pope Francis’ visit next month.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Jose Angel Honrado yesterday confirmed that NAIA Terminals 3 and 4 will be totally isolated due to the planned five-hour closure of roads leading to Villamor Airbase where the Pope will land on January 15 and depart on January 19.

As such, MIAA will close the runway for arriving flights on Terminals 3 and 4 but will keep the hub operational for departing flights during Pope Francis’ transit.

“We are not closing the airport just because of the Pope’s visit. We are limiting operations due to the closure of roads around Terminal 3 and 4,” Honrado told the Manila Bulletin.

“Due to these plans, we are advising departing passengers to come to the airport hours before the roads close or they can proceed to the designated staging areas where shuttle service will be provided to transport them to Terminal 3 or 4 via the airside roads,” he said.

He added that staging areas will be set up at Nayong Filipino or Terminal 1 Parking Area B. Unlike Terminals 3 and 4, Terminals 1 and 2 will be partially accessible via the Bicutan-Sucat road network.

Honrado recently met with airline executives and left it to them to decide whether to cancel, divert or delay their arriving flights coinciding with the planned road closure. The aircraft carrying Pope Francis will land at 5:45 p.m. on January 15 and will depart for Rome at 9:45 a.m. on January 19.

The aviation official refused to give an estimate as to the potential losses of government for foregone aircraft landing fees and passenger terminal charges. At least five international airlines operate at the NAIA Terminal 3 while domestic carriers operate at Terminal 4. Airlines also stand to lose profit due to the cancelled, diverted or delayed flights.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Papal itinerary excludes Cebu, Bohol by Mars W. Mosqueda Jr. November 17, 2014 (updated) Share this:


SPIRITUAL CHARISMA: POPE'S VISIT TO ALBANIA

Cebu City — Despite the wishes of church and government leaders for Pope Francis to also visit Bohol and Cebu when he comes to the Philippines in January, 2015, the official Papal itinerary has excluded the two equally calamity-hit provinces.

The Vatican released the official itinerary of Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, as announced by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to media last Friday.

The itinerary showed that the activities of the Pope will be concentrated in Manila, Tacloban City and the town of Palo in Leyte.

Pope Francis will arrive in Tacloban on January 17, where he will hold a concelebrated mass near the Tacloban International Airport. He will then have lunch with survivors of super-typhoon Yolanda at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo, Leyte.

Earlier, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma added a voice to the call for Pope Francis to visit Bohol province as part of his Philippine itinerary in January.

Palma supported the call of Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto and Archdiocese of Tagbilaran Bishop Leonardo Medroso who both expressed hope that the Pope would drop by Bohol to also see the damage wrought by the over 7 magnitude earthquake that rocked the province in October last year.

Cebu archdiocese spokesman Monsignor Joseph Tan said he still has not seen the official itinerary but stressed that if it is true that the Pope is not coming to Cebu, there will be some disappointment.

However, he urged the faithful to think of it holistically and to keep on praying.

Fr. Jonas Mejares, rector of the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño, said he was disappointed with the news but stressed that everything happens for a reason.

Organizers of Cebu City’s Sinulog Festival were gearing up for a possible change of schedule as they anticipate the possibility of the Pope dropping by Cebu during the festivities.


FROM RAPPLER.COM

EARLIER NEWS: Vatican releases Pope's Philippine itinerary (UPDATED) Pope Francis will spend more time in Manila than in typhoon-hit Leyte when he visits the Philippines in January 2015 Published 7:12 PM, Nov 14, 2014 Updated 12:33 PM, Nov 15, 2014


EARLIER NEWS: Vatican releases Pope's Philippine itinerary

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Vatican has released the official itinerary of Pope Francis when he visits the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle announced the itinerary in a media briefing on Friday, November 14, that was also attended by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr and Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.

The highlights include the Pope's lunch with survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in Leyte and events in the Manila Cathedral, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and the Mall of Asia Arena. (READ: Huge Catholic event in UST during Pope's Philippine trip)

The Pope's itinerary is as follows:

January 15

5:45 pm – Arrival in Manila, followed by a motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature, or the Vatican Embassy, along Taft Avenue

January 16

9:15 am – Welcome ceremony in the presidential palace, Malacañang, with a courtesy visit to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III

10:15 am – Meeting with civil authorities and the diplomatic corps, and a speech by Francis; followed by a motorcade to the Manila Cathedral

11:15 am – Holy Mass with bishops, priests, and consecrated persons at the Manila Cathedral; followed by a motorcade to the Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City

5:30 pm – Meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena

January 17

8:15 am – Departure for Tacloban City, from the Villamor Air Base

9:30 am – Arrival in Tacloban City

10 am – Concelebrated Mass near the Tacloban airport

12:45 pm – Lunch with several Yolanda survivors at the Archbishop's Residence in Palo, Leyte

3 pm – Blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in Palo, Leyte

3:30 pm – Meeting with priests, consecrated persons, seminarians, and families of Yolanda survivors at the Palo Cathedral

5 pm – Departure for Manila

6:15 pm – Arrival in Manila, at the Villamor Air Base

January 18

9:45 am – Meeting with leaders of various religions at UST in Manila

10:30 am – Meeting with the youth in the sports field of UST, and a speech by Francis; followed by a motorcade to Rizal Park

3:30 pm – Concluding Mass at Rizal Park, Manila

January 19

9:45 am – Departure ceremony at the presidential pavilion of the Villamor Air Base

10 am – Departure for Rome

Tagle: 'Symbolism matters a lot'

Francis' visit will mark the first time in 3 decades – only the second time ever – for a pope to go beyond Manila. (READ: Pope chooses Visayas as core of Philippine trip)

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) earlier said the “main objective” of the Pope's Philippine trip is to visit earthquake and Super Typhoon Yolanda survivors in the Visayas.

A CBCP official, however, questioned the length of the Pope's stay in disaster-stricken areas – only around 8 hours, the itinerary showed.

In an article by CBCP News on October 15, CBCP's Fr Edu Gariguez said: “Kaya nga rin ako nagtataka kasi ang orihinal intention ng Pope eh pumunta dito sa mga nasalanta. Pero bakit isang araw lang ang ititigil niya doon? Dapat mas matagal. Bakit puro Manila?”  (That's why I'm wondering, because the original intention of the Pope is to visit the disaster survivors. But why will he spend only a day there? He should stay longer. Why is it mostly Manila?)

Tagle, for his part, on Friday justified the Pope's 8-hour stay in Leyte. He said it is the “quality” of the visit that matters.

Referring to other areas hit by the Visayas earthquake and Yolanda, Tagle said in jest: “If we want to be really strict about it, then he should also go to Palawan, Cebu, Antique, Bohol. So we will ask the Holy Father to stay for half a year.”

“In much of these papal visits, the symbolism matters a lot – personal encounters with people,” Tagle added. “And even if he will spend two full days in Manila, the encounters in Manila will include also people who are suffering and who have experienced other forms of disasters in life.” (READ: People's Pope comes close to Filipinos) – Rappler.com


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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