New, hi-tech equipment at Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club in Discovery Suites

New, hi-tech equipment for Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club
By Walter Ang
July 28, 2009
Manila Bulletin

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club, in its quest to provide members with the latest and most efficient exercise equipment and technology, recently purchased a complete line of Technogym equipment.

Technogym was the exclusive supplier of 1,000 exercise machines for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and will be supplying the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games. Its equipment is used by the Ferrari Formula 1 racing team. Celebrities like Slyvester Stallone and George Clooney have their own Technogym equipment.

Balance has the Excite line to provide users with cardio workouts. This line includes treadmills that have heart rate monitors, iPod compatibility, and video screens. There are also Cardio Wave step machines that allow users to stride from side to side, enabling more workout positions to change the level of involved muscles like the glutes, stabiliser muscles of the backbone, and lower limbs.

Among all the equipment, however, the standout is the Kinesis One. The machine looks like a mere collection of cables suspended from a metal frame at first glance, but it is actually one of the most versatile in terms of providing a well-rounded, zero-impact workout for all levels of fitness and ability, whether for balance, strength, or flexibility.

There are cables with handles strung horizontally above the head and near the feet with another set suspended vertically for the user to hold on to. The cables are mounted on a 360-degree rotating pulley system which enables movement (and providing weight resistance) in almost any possible movement direction of the human body.

Unlike most weight-resistance machines that provide a singular route of motion (either up and down or side to side or front to back), the Kinesis One allows for freedom of movement that is much closer to how people actually use their bodies.

Users can push, pull, row, and swing or do combinations of these actions in one movement. There is an almost child-like appeal in being able to pull and push the cables. Specific muscles (chest, back, abs, glutes and quadriceps) are exercised in the standard movements whereas the combined movements work several different muscles synergistically at the same time.

It has two weight stacks, one for each cable, which allows the user to set different weight resistance for each arm or side of the body. It allows for variable resistance depending on the range and angle of the movement. Aluminum alloy arms support the cables and allow the cables to slide through during outward and return movements, providing smooth action for the user.

If these technical facts do not sway gym-goers to try out this new machine, then perhaps some celebrity glamour will help: Madonna even has the personal version of the Kinesis machine in a limited-edition gold-leaf design inspired by ancient Florentine craftsmanship.

The machines are used in the different up-to-date training programs provided by Balance's staff and backed up by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

There are several Balance Signature Workouts which includes fat-loss programs and sport-specific programs such as their Golf Performance Enhancement, focusing on often-neglected aspects such as muscle strength and flexibility. They also have a Corrective Exercise program that helps rid the body of muscle and joint aches and pains and helps correct postural defects by correcting imbalances in muscle strength.

Bodybuilders can choose from the Leonidas Workout, a regimen inspired by the movie "300" that will result in a Spartan-like body, or the Atlas Workout, a program for achieving muscle-tone and build without resorting to use of steroids. Customized workouts are possible upon consultation with their trainers.

Balance also offers different aerobic classes such as Pilates, yoga, aero-step, extreme cardio, dance classes and tai chi.

The club also has a jacuzzi, steam and sauna room in both the men's and ladies' locker rooms. There are even toiletries so members won't need to pack vanity kits when they visit the gym. Members have access to the Discovery Suites pool and the entire gym is Wi-Fi enabled. What's more, it's right beside the Terra Wellness Spa, so a relaxing massage or spa treatment after a workout is only a few steps away.

Balance Lifestyle Fitness Club is at 4/F Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

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Blue Water Day Spa is a spa in a movie theater

Spa in a theater
By Walter Ang
July 18, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer

A comfortable couch, a good movie, delicious food, and a foot massage. All at the same time. Now that's what we're talking about. Spas have mushroomed all over the metropolis but Blue Water Day Spa is the first to come up with this crazy idea of putting 28 Lazy Boy sofas into a darkened theatre so people can get a foot and back massage while watching a movie of their choice.

Located along Ortigas Avenue right beside the Greenhills Shopping Complex, the theater has high definition cinema projectors with Dolby Sorround 7.1 and their movie library uses only BlueRay discs. The leather sofas were custom designed for the spa to allow just the right recline angle and has wide arm rests where food can be placed. While the spa doesn't serve food, it does allow food to be brought in.

The theater can be rented out for exclusive use, so if you ever want to have a movie spa party, this is definitely the place to go. Other spas usually only have a handful of therapists that handle big groups, so guests have to take turns. Blue Water, on the other hand, has a complement of therapists to handle all 28 seats at the same time.

The theater also allows bringing in your gaming console, like Wii or Playstation, to play games using the 13 feet wide by 5 feet high screen. Since the spa is close to at least three different schools, it's not hard to imagine a group of moms who'd like to take the afternoon off for a bit of pampering and having a videoke party. Other uses include presentations, seminars, and conferences.

While the only treatments you can get the theater are the Foot Reflex (with Back and Shoulder massage) and Foot Scrub, the spa has a host of other treatments and rooms. It has sauna rooms (that fit up to nine people at a time) in each of the male and female locker rooms, common rooms, and couple's rooms.

The theater treatments are a good way for families or groups of friends to spend an afternoon together for some de-stressing or chilling out. The foot spa only costs P500 and you only need to add P60 to get the shoulder and back massage. With the prices of movie tickets nowadays, it's adding just a bit more to get a massage thrown in. Plus, everyone still gets to be able to use the sauna and showers afterwards.

For the full body stuff, sports buffs can get the Athlete's Massage while people who want to "detox" can get the Brazilian Crystal Massage where crystals are used to absorb negative energy from the body. The spa also has slimming treatments that include the Tibetan Meridian Fire Therapy (where actual fire is used) and the Chocolate Slimming Mud Therapy.

The spa also offers services like diamond peel and skin tightening as well as treatments for spider vein removal and wart removal. They even have a whole body whitening treatment. Aside from the Ortigas Ave. branch, Blue Water Day Spa has branches in Makati, Ayala Alabang, and Tagaytay.

For details, visit

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Successful, pain-free cancer treatment at Fuda Cancer Hospital

Successful, pain-free cancer treatment
By Walter Ang
July 14, 2009
Manila Bulletin

Nestor Bonifacio is inspired these days to spread the word about a hospital in China that can help people with cancer. This picture of active excitement is a complete turnaround from just earlier this year when this 69 year old was depressed and suicidal.

A retired engineering director for shipping company American President Lines, Nestor had been living in San Francisco, California for close to forty years with his wife Hermie when he was diagnosed with stage 4 prostate cancer in 2007.

He underwent a series of treatments but all to no avail. In 2008, his brother Domingo learned of Fuda Cancer Hospital in Guangzhou, China (just across Hong Kong) which specializes in cancer treatment using modern methods. The hospital has a track record of 70% survival rate for patients with terminal cancer.

Nestor's seven siblings and a host of nephews, nieces and grandchildren encouraged him to go. For them, it made sense for him to go to Fuda Hospital since all the doctors in the US had told Nestor that his only option was to undergo conventional radiation and chemotherapy with just a 5% survival rate.

No choice
"I refused to go," says Nestor. "I had negative assumptions about China. How can China have better technology than the US when the US spends millions of dollars each year on cancer research and development?"

By late 2008, Nestor started turning into a recluse. "I was depressed, anxious and paranoid. I didn't have the energy and frame of mind to watch TV, listen to the radio, read newspapers or answer phone calls and emails. I dismissed visitors. I had no appetite and couldn't sleep. I had severe leg pain and stayed in bed almost all day with my eyes closed most of the time. I had lost hope, I had stopped praying," he says.

In early 2009, the cancer spread to his bones and caused a hip fracture. "By then, I was left with no choice. After eight months of begging by my family, I finally relented and went to Fuda Hospital," he says. Nestor arrived on May 4, 2009 and was greeted at the airport by a hospital representative. He was led to a "fully-furnished room that looked and felt like a condo unit" that was big enough to accommodate family members. "It had internet, flat-screen TV, a large bathroom, the works!" he says.

Nestor received cryotherapy where small cryoprobes are inserted in and around the tumors in his prostate through small punctures in the skin. The probes create extreme cold temperatures to kill the tumor. The dead tumor is left in place, allowing it to releases antigens that stimulate the body into creating antibodies to fight the cancer. "This method is faster, more effective, and less painful as opposed to the conventional radical surgery where the body is cut wide open to remove the tumors or, sometimes, even the entire organ involved," says Nestor.

Brachytherapy, a form of radiation treatment that uses "seeds" filled with low-dose iodine 125, was also given to Nestor. Unlike conventional radiation treatments that expose other parts of the body to radiation aside from the tumor site, brachytherapy is more specific and concentrated since the seeds are placed very close to the tumor.

To help his body regain its strength and his immune system to regain its ability to fight disease, Nestor was given immunotherapy. Usually, a patient's blood cells and stem cells (immature cells that grow into blood cells) are destroyed by anticancer drugs or radiation. This treatment takes some of the patient's own blood and cultures it to harvest stem cells. The harvested stem cells are then infused back into the patient to help increase immune function. This provides a "systemic" approach to healing the body to complement the "localized" approach of targeting the tumor.

Even though Nestor also received acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines, he says, "I realized that Fuda Hospital does not offer `alternative treatments' for cancer since most of the treatments I received were actually developed in Western countries and most of the doctors there have trained in US or European schools and are widely published in respected medical journals," he says. "I consider it as an `alternative hospital' that cancer patients can go to if their current hospitals do not offer these latest treatments."

After just a 27-day treatment plan, Nestor no longer has prostate cancer. While he continues to receive treatment for the cancer in his bones, he is happy and pain-free. "I feel very much well now and alive, ready to live a new life but with a mission to be a living testimonial to other cancer patients, especially those who have already lost hope, like I once did."

He has temporarily relocated to Manila and is keen on letting more Filipinos know about the hospital that helped him get better. "People can email me at if they want to talk to me about my experience. They will be surprised at how low the costs of that hospital are! What's more, you only pay for treatment, they don't charge professional fees for the doctors," he says.

Nestor notes that the hospital is well-versed in treating international patients. "There were patients from Denmark, England, and Holland. It has a full-time Patient Services staff dedicated to translation, visa and embassy services, and travel services. All medical documents, prescriptions, invoices, and discharge papers are written in English," he says. "And the food actually tastes good!" he adds with a laugh.

Fuda Hospital's president, Dr. Kecheng Xu will conduct a seminar on cancer cure technologies at Vivere Hotel, Alabang on July 14, 2009, 1:30-5:00pm. Entrance is free but slots are limited, email to confirm.

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Fuda hospital website re-post:

Accessible, customized vacations available at The Farm

Accessible, customized vacations available at The Farm
By Walter Ang
July 6, 2009
Manila Bulletin

The Farm at San Benito is opening its doors to more Filipinos via new packages and rates. In the past few years, The Farm has gained somewhat of a notorious reputation as an expensive vacation destination and a place that only loony vegans and colonic-addicts go to. The new management of this tropical spa resort is on a mission to change these negative perceptions.

A former coconut and coffee plantation located at the foothills of Mount Malarayat, Lipa City, Batangas, The Farm is a 48-hectare resort filled with gardens, ponds, rivers, lagoons, and waterfalls. Less than two hours' drive from Manila, it is a wonderful escape for the body, heart, and soul.

Yes, the resort's coffee enema and colon hydrotherapy services (one of its defining features) are still available, but The Farm assures everyone that absolutely no one is required to partake of these services when they visit. With that piece of information promptly out of the way, Filipinos may be more open to the opportunities that The Farm can offer for a nice vacation.

Aside from the new accessible rates being developed, the notion of choosing only what you want out of its many amenities and services is the latest innovation that The Farm offers. While packages have always been available, everyone is encouraged to call up their Manila office to customize a vacation that suits their personal needs or budgets. From day trips to long-term stays, with options to include or skip amenities like the spa services and transfers from their Manila office, the power of choice is given to the customer.

For harried ubran-dwellers, The Farm's lush surroundings, peppered with tropical flowers and ferns, can provide a much-needed retreat to calm the nerves. It is, after all, not the party-ready shores of Boracay. The Farm is definitely more for people seeking a more quiet environment.

The layout incorporates outdoor "private areas" throughout the resort meant for meditation, reading, or just a plain relaxing nap. An "ampitheater" facing one of the lagoons is the venue for daily yoga sessions. Four separate pools and a network of walking and jogging paths gives people a chance to clear their heads while communing with nature. More physically inclined guests can partake of classes ranging from belly dancing to martial arts.
The Farm's spa has an infinity pool with a view of Mount Malarayat and private massage pavilions, each within their own enclosed gardens. There is veritable menu of massages, scrubs, and special treatments using only natural products like fresh coconut milk, virgin coconut oil, coconut fiber, coffee, and cocoa.

The resort has different kinds of suites and villas using traditional and contemporary Southeast Asia designs. The Palmera suites have open-air shower rooms and private backyards while the Sulu Terrace suites are elevated structures (think bahay kubo) that feature an outdoor sleeping area under the house, complete with cushions and pillows.

Till the end of September, spending a day at The Farm will cost only P4,800 per person, inclusive of meals, a walking tour of the resort, a massage, and use of the facilities such as the pools and library. Suites that regularly start at P7,000 will be on discount for the next few months to as low as P3,500 for single occupancy and only P4,200 for double occupancy.

The two major streams bounding the resort provide a source of "natural healing water with uncommon purity" that is used in the preparation of the resort's food. The Farm's restaurant features organic vegan cuisine made from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.

The output is cleverly disguised as "regular" food, such as their "scrambled eggs" made from corn and cashew nuts. The menu is extensive, from crackers (made from coconut meat) and breads to chutneys, curries, pastries, pasta dishes, and even ice cream. The Farm strives to serve food in its raw, "live" state because they believe that heating food over a certain temperature destroys or lessens its enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements.
There is also an herb garden where afternoon is tea is served. Fresh herbs like mint and lemongrass are picked from the garden and steeped on-the-spot for the guests. Admittedly, the food takes some getting used to, but if guests only plan to stay the day or a weekend, they can consider it as a short adventure in expanding their palates. Guests who plan or need to stay longer will no doubt benefit from the "fresh" food.

The combination of fresh air, proximity to nature, spaces for solitude, spa treatments, and healthy food are all part of The Farm's overarching desire to help its guests come to a sense of balance and healing, no matter what state of health they're in.

Filipinos who are relatively healthy can go for some solitude and relaxation while those with more serious medical conditions can (still) take advantage of consulting with the resort's staff doctors and even getting medically-guided programs tailored for their needs, whether wellness maintenance, detoxification, or recovery is the objective.

Maldita's Emelda Teng does it her way

Doing it your way
By Walter Ang
July-August 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

When it comes to taking risks in life and business, Emelda Teng tells Walter Ang that there's absolutely nothing wrong with
Doing it your way

Emelda Teng's entrepreneurial streak was sparked in the third grade. When she asked for a toy, her mother Maria Tinquico simply replied, "You like it? Okay, you have to earn money so you can buy it."

Emelda started selling candies to her classmates and teachers. "By the time I was in high school and college, I was selling denim garments," she says. Growing up around her father Carlos Yung's textile business in Binondo, Emelda was exposed to the ins and outs of sales transactions and had easy access to inventory.

Nevertheless, she took a little detour before establishing her name (quite literally) in the garments industry. The third of four children, Emelda took up advertising at the University of Santo Tomas. Together with husband Eric Teng, she then parlayed her selling skills to open the P99 Store in Tutuban Mall in the early 90s.

Luck and timing played a part in that first venture of selling knick knacks and gift items, and was to become constant companions in the couple's business efforts. "I was told of a vacancy in the mall," says Emelda. "But I only had until the end of the day to claim it. I rushed home and my husband decided right there and then to get it."

The store's novel concept became successful enough that when the couple inquired at another mall for space availability, they didn't face the usual red tape and stringent selection process. "They told us that they'd been looking for a way to contact us for the longest time! Apparently, our store had become popular with the market," she says. Other malls soon sought them out.

Emboldened by their success, the couple decided to leap into the garment retail business with their own brand, Maldita. "We wanted to create a line of women's corporate wear that was edgier than what was available at the time. The brand conveys the concept of `power dressing' and `dressing to impress.' It's not as soft and feminine as other brands. Maldita is a little more aggressive," explains Emelda.

There are no direct English translations for maldita, but a close word would be "sassy." "It's a play on my name," says Emelda. "And also, every woman we know is a maldita," Eric laughs. Despite some negative cultural connotations with the word, the couple took a risk and ran with it.

"We were happy because the brand was accepted from day one," Emelda notes. "Even though the brand primarily targets 18-25 year olds, there was a family composed of a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter who came to our store and each bought something. In fact, out of the three, the grandmother ended up buying the sexiest outfit, a cocktail dress with a plunging neckline!"

Another big risk they took was to use Ara Mina, then a very popular sexy actress, in their billboard. "We wanted to prove to people that you can look sexy with your clothes on," says Emelda. "That billboard was put up in 2003 and until now, people still come up to us to say how much impact it had. The funny thing is, it's mostly men who remember that billboard, but the women always remember our clothes."

Their way
The couple exudes an almost rebellious vein in the way they've gone against accepted norms in the garments industry. However, they point out that they're merely doing things their way. "We like doing our own thing. We don't want to copy what other people are doing because it will end up being half-baked. We don't want to pretend, we only try to do things that we understand or know. We don't mind being a smaller competitor compared to the industry giants, as long as we enjoy what we're doing," says Emelda.

This formula apparently works well for them since they now own thirty Maldita stores, including a 350-square meter flagship store in the Mall of Asia. A far cry from using Eric's old bedroom as their office and his father's bedroom as their stockroom with only a staff of four.

Emelda leads Maldita as president, handling operations and finance, while Eric, who took up business management in UST, handles the marketing for the different brands. They've steered the growth of their company not just in the quantity of their outlets but also into new brands like Diego, a counterpart for young men, and Black Sheep, for girls 16-22. "We're preparing our newest brand `o.u. Little Maldita' for young girls and we've just opened our couture shoe store, Gaupo, at Greenbelt 5," says Emelda.

She notes that while there've been bumps along the way, one should never stop aiming for the win. "We've had errors, we've had to close down some stores, but that's how you learn," she says. "Never stop learning. It's important that you keep reinventing. Don't do something that's been done before."

Robert Young makes shoes for Betsy Johnson, Miu Miu, Bergdorf Goodman

Robert Young makes shoes for Betsy Johnson, Miu Miu, Bergdorf Goodman
By Walter Ang
July-August 2009 issue
Asian Dragon Magazine

To avoid being shipped off to Mindanao to work for his father's lumber business, Robert Young took a job at a garment trading firm in Manila that imported apparel from Hong Kong.

After being exposed to the ins and outs of the industry, he eventually founded Contex International Manila, a company that exports Philippine made garments and shoes to foreign clients.

"Garments flourished like anything in the 70s and early 80s. In the late 80s, the demand went down and we shifted to footwear," says Young. He initially sold casual shoes for school and office use until hitting on a winner: flip flops with wooden soles. "It was called the kontiki sandal and we sold half a million pairs. It became very hot in Hawaii."

Footwear became the name of the game. The Philippines became known for its stylized bakya, chunky wooden clogs with intricately designed (usually carved) heels. The bakyas for export were not the usual utilitarian clogs that grandmothers wear to the market, but highly designed pieces. Shells and faux crystals are usual embellishments while one of the more elaborate carvings in the sole include a miniature three dimensional bahay kubo.

"People would take a look at the shoes I was exporting and ask 'Who will buy these crazy looking shoes?'" he laughs. "I would always answer, 'Remember, these designs aren't for you.'"

He notes that foreign markets do not perceive our footwear the same way we do. "They value it as being handcrafted. For them, it's one of a kind. There is a sense of personalization involved. Not everyone has these kinds of shoes," he says.

Young has leveraged this insight and now sells to companies such as Betsy Johnson
Miu Miu, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bergdorf Goodman. "The designs are usually from their end and we manufacture using either imported or locally sourced materials. We have the heels and soles carved in Paete and Biñan, Laguna. It's really high quality, skilled work," he says.

Young became involved in the Foreign Buyers Association of the Philippines (at one time becoming president), a group of local buyers that provide export liaison for representative offices of foreign companies here in Manila. The group used to rely heavily on imported raw materials such as leather, shoe laces and shoe lining.

However, due to consistent and constant negative encounters with customs, such as red tape resulting in late release of raw materials, there has been a shift to using indigenous materials. "We now use whatever is available locally, like satin, velvet and abaca for textiles. It's also our way of helping the country," he says.

The third of seven children of Chinese father Ben Young and Bulakeña mother Valeriana Mercado, Young took up economics in San Beda College and, therefore, has a keen sense of the factors involved in the export industry.

Garments are the second largest export of the Philippines next to electronics, which begs the question why the industry receives so little government support. "Not only do we have to deal with customs problems, we also have utility costs that are ridiculous. Our electricity costs are either the highest or second highest in Asia! Not to mention that we have a crazy political climate that creates apprehension on the side of the foreign buyers. The government really should do its homework," he says.

Young's decades worth of work with foreign buyers from America, Europe and Asia has given him a perspective on work ethic and methods that are vastly different from the way things are done here. "The international arena is very apolitical. The professionalism is really at a level that we have not yet reached," he says.

To help the country's ailing garment export scene, Young is now also involved with the Foreign Buyers Association of the Philippines Foundation. "This is an independent entity that deals mostly with generating funding for promotions for the industry. We are currently in discussions with the Department of Trade and Industry to organize a `Filipino Market Week' that is envisioned to showcase the best of Philippine apparel and footwear to American buyers," he says.

For Young, the game plan is simple. "China's already beaten us out of the basic goods market, so let's concentrate on high end products," he says. "We just need the right item with the right pricing. We can definitely carve a big chunk out of a niche market."