Archive for March, 2012

Lugang Cafe: A culinary innovation that doesn’t work

Posted in food on March 7, 2012 by gohelpyourself

The Lugang Cafe at SM Mall of Asia is a tony but underwhelming restaurant.

Here’s why.

First, the food. Because there were only three of us — me, my wife, and 1 ½ year old baby — we ordered only the following:

Pineapple Fried Rice (P280), Three-Cup Chicken (P290), and Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao (7 small pieces, P188).

The Pineapple Fried Rice was surely something new for us. As you can see in the picture, it looks yummy. It has some ham in it, some green peas, some bits of pineapple, some cashew nuts. The pineapple bowl deserves an “A” for presentation.

This Pineapple Fried Rice doesn't taste as great as it looks.

The taste, however, is an altogether different thing. It was not bad. But it was unsatisfying, weird, and, well, sufficiently underwhelming. The sweet taste of the pineapple did not go well with the rice. This innovative dish was clearly a disappointment for me.

Now I’m not a connoisseur with highly evolved taste buds. I’m just a culinary poseur whose opinion on food matters in the kingdom of my household. In any case, just to be sure that my judgment was sound, I gave my little baby Aria some of the rice.

I was surprised she did not say a word. She just stuck out her tongue and grimaced. And she wouldn’t let me give her some more.

So the Pineapple Fried Rice, despite being considered a bestseller with a star marking in the menu, gets 2 stars out of 5  for me. I have to give credit to the cute pineapple bowl and the cashew nuts. I love cashew nuts.

Now for the Three-Cup Chicken. I can say that the dish is pleasing to the eyes and to the taste. But the big turn-off for me was that the dish has too many bony parts of chicken. The ribs and the spinal cord are there to assault your teeth and jaws. I do like to munch bones sometimes and I eat them occasionally. But I’m not about to jump for joy for more chicken bones.

The Three-Cup Chicken could have been a winner.

There are some meaty parts but it’s not enough, at least for me. I like to taste juicy flesh, and I like to know that I’m paying for the protein, not for bone minerals which I can get from my supplements. Why don’t they put real meat in there anyway?

This dish I give 3 out of 5 stars.

The Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao was marvelous, very tasty. The juices of the meat collect inside the siomai wrapper, awaiting to startle your taste buds with delight. This is a winner. Aria and my wife Em loved it. It gets 4.5 stars out of 5.

Eat this Steamed Pork Xiao Long Bao. You won't regret it.

When we were finishing our meal, we decided to get some dessert. The variety of enticing desserts will greet you as you open the dessert menu. Sadly, however, we didn’t get to taste any, and our satisfaction levels plummeted even further.

We did call a waiter to place our order. He said, “Ok.” After 10 minutes of waiting and we still had no dessert, we asked a waitress to check. We told her we already placed our order and she said, “Ok. Sandali lang po.” (Ok. It will arrive shortly.)

After another 10 minutes, no dessert came. So we asked another waiter to check. He said, “Na-order na po ba?” (Did you order already?) We said, “Oo kanina pa. Dun sa waiter at dun sa babae.” (Yes, we told the waiter and the waitress.)

Ganon po ba? ‘Di pa po kasi na-order. ‘Di nakasulat dito,” he said as he showed us a piece of paper. (Is that so? Your order is not listed here.)

At that point, I just asked for the bill.

And here’s the clincher. When the waitress gave our receipt and change, I counted the money and realized that they shortchanged us by 75 centavos. Is that standard practice at Lugang Cafe?

I know it’s just 75 centavos. But with the incompetence of the waiters, the long wait, and the mostly unsatisfying meal, I asked for my 75 centavos. The waitress gave the money to me without saying anything, not even sorry.

Some of you may have tried other superb dishes at Lugang Cafe, and some of you may have been treated well. But not me and my family on this particular visit.

I give service a -4 out of 5 stars. I think that averages to 1.375 out of 5 stars. Wow, this is the lowest rating I’ve given, not that it matters to Lugang Cafe and its other patrons.

Oh well, now you know what not to order when you visit this restaurant — not unless you’re adventurous and prepared to be disappointed.

Aria and Em think we should've ordered something else, or perhaps went to another restaurant.



The power of AND: A PLDT executive’s take on success

Posted in entrepreneurship, learning, optimal performance on March 5, 2012 by gohelpyourself

And the winner is... "AND"! (Photo by Svilen Milev, taken from

By Anthony O. Alcantara

We all face hard decisions.

Would you choose to be a high-flying executive capable of leaping mountains of profits in a single bound? Or would you rather be a nurturing parent who is always there for the kids on important school events?

Would you want to be a successful singer? Or would you want to be an impassioned and influential activist?

You can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?

But that’s what author Jim Collins says is the “tyranny of the OR”. You either eat like a pig, be happy, and be very fat, or eat like an ascetic monk, be svelte like Angelina Jolie, and be miserably hungry.

Butch Jimenez, Retail Business Group Head and HR Group Head, wonders why not too many people have the mindset of “and”.

Eat like a pig and be svelte like Angelina Jolie.

Be a rock star executive and be a supportive parent.

Be a popular singing Youtube sensation and an activist willing to pick fights for the sake of justice.


Jimenez was one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World Award (TOYP) for Cultural Achievement by the Junior Chamber International 1999 in Cannes, France. He also received the prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Multi-Media Achievement in 1998.

He produced award-winning films such as Jose Rizal and Muro Ami. Monster Radio RX-93.1, Trumpets Theater Company, and GMA Films became huge successes under his watch.

And as one of the speakers during the recent “Winning Disciplines for Success” seminar of Francis Kong at SMX, he certainly demonstrated how the use of the word “and” forces us to think and to be more creative. He said it “allows us to be extraordinary”. It allows us to achieve “the impossible.”

I think it’s like John F. Kennedy’s decision to have someone land on the moon. It shows how being “unrealistic” can move mountains. “What? Land on the moon? Are you crazy? We don’t have the technology. We don’t have the money. We don’t have support.” In the end, the dream became a monumental and historic success.

Jobs’s legacy

Jimenez also cited the late Steve Jobs as someone who appreciated the use of “and”. Jobs told his team he wanted a device for storing music, iPod, and an online store for selling music, iTunes. His team said they can make an iPod, but since downloading music was generally free at that time, you couldn’t make money from the music. Still, Jobs insisted, “Let’s sell iPod and sell the music for the device through iTunes.” Now Apple is reaping billions from iPod sales and music downloads from iTunes.

For Jobs, it is form and function, not form or function.

So, in a nutshell, Jimenez tells us that “and” brings us to the top. He believes the word “but” is for below-average people, and “or” sets us up for mediocrity.

During the seminar, he also shared three principles for building leadership success:

1. authority
2. accountability
3. humility

Right timing

You don’t just have to earn your authority. You have to be patient, too. He told the story of David in the Bible. David had two chances to kill Saul so he could become king. Yet he said his promotion should come at the right time.

As for accountability, Jimenez said we should strive to become the go-to guy.

“You have to have a ‘yes’ face, the ‘yes’ attitude,” he said. Unfortunately, many have a “no” face — people who say “no” with their faces even before they have the chance to hear what you have to say.

On humility, Jimenez recommended reading the book Good to Great, that wonderful book by Jim Collins, who, I think, is a freak. Collins monitors the exact amount of time he spends on sleeping, writing, reading, etc., and records them meticulously on a spreadsheet. Talk about discipline. But then Collins is an admirable freak.


Anyway, Jimenez said the book, which is based on years of research, teaches us that “you build greatness by applying a blend of humility and professional will.” He also recommends the book iCon Steve Jobs.

Jobs, who is known for being overbearing, has mellowed over the years and, in an act of great humility, has acknowledged the contributions of his people.

And, finally, Jimenez recommends three experiences that people have to try.

1. Own your own business.
2. Become an employee.
3. Lead a volunteer organization.

Valuable lessons

He has accomplished all these and has learned and profited from his experiences. For him, owning your own business will teach you how to lead and manage an enterprise. Becoming an employee will teach you what it feels like to be an employee and how you can contribute to the organization. And leading a volunteer organization will teach you how to lead people without paying them.

Of course there are a lot of other lessons to be learned. Everyone can certainly benefit from these.

But before you quit your job and appoint yourself CEO of I and Me, Inc., think of Jimenez’s advice on the power of “and”. Maybe then you can say, “I am a business owner and an employee and a leader of a volunteer organization.”

It may work.


(Note: You may wonder why Butch Jimenez has a separate story. Three reasons: 1) I am more into business and self-improvement, especially since I’m an avid reader of business books and I’m always looking for ways to improve myself, 2) I have no background in making movies as the other seminar speakers Jeric and Paul Soriano, though I can relate to their messages in the seminar and I like watching well-made movies, 3) I am not really a fitness buff like the speaker Dyan Castillejo, though I try to keep myself fit and I have a black belt in Aikido. Mr. Jimenez is also one of the sponsors in my wedding. He did not ask me to write this, though. I just hope he likes it. Ok, I think I’m over-explaining already. That’s it.)

Francis Kong disciplines over 2,000 willing and enthusiastic people

Posted in learning, optimal performance on March 1, 2012 by gohelpyourself

A new call for discipline and grit. (Photo by Hector Landaeta, taken from

By Anthony O. Alcantara

I know it sounds ridiculous. But that is the truth. Over 2,000 people even paid good money just to have Francis Kong discipline them. They practically begged Francis to do it. I was one of them.

Of course, we are not masochists, and I think Francis Kong is not a gleeful and eager sadist either. His seminar, held at the SMX, was titled “Winning Disciplines for Success.” If you look up the etymology of the word discipline, it comes from the Latin disciplina, which means teaching, learning.

So in that sense, discipline is not so bad. Francis certainly laments the negative connotation of the word. And yet discipline, he says, is what we need to succeed.

There are certain highlights that I would like to share, along with my thoughts. Some of what he said was really funny and insightful at the same time, but I won’t mention them here because it’s best to listen to him instead, if you have the chance.

It’s all right

Francis said right behaviors come from right thinking. Right thinking comes from right concepts. Right concepts come from right ideas. We know this already, but some reminders, especially for some high school students in the audience, are needed.

One idea he mentioned is the idea of retirement. I’ve written my thoughts on retirement before, and how it doesn’t appeal to me. Here’s Francis take on the idea: “Good people do not retire. They re-fire.” I love that. Indeed people don’t have to retire at all. They can always find meaningful and productive things to do.

He also showed us a video clip of a TED talk by Joachim de Posada on delayed gratification. De Posada thinks it is the “most important factor for success”. Here’s the link: (7.15 minutes).

The studies went like this: An experimenter is alone with a 6-year-old in a room. A tasty-looking marshmallow is placed on a table or plate. The experimenter tells the kid that he or she will be left alone in the room for a few minutes because the experimenter needs to take care of a few things. “If you don’t eat the marshmallow, you will get two when I get back.”

Yummy marshmallows

Because of this strong tendency of marshmallows to get into kids’ mouths, most of the marshmallows didn’t survive. Some kids, however, resisted the strong urge to eat the marshmallows. Years later, the kids were tracked down, and, voila, those who exhibited self-control were more successful in terms of grades and other achievements.

I don’t know if Francis knows about the studies of Harvard researcher Angela Duckworth, who found out that self-discipline is only part of the story of success.

You can watch her TED talk here: (18.38 minutes). If you haven’t seen this yet, I encourage you to take a look and let me know what you think.

Duckworth said the other more important factor is “grit”. She defined it as “sustained passion and perseverance.” She said it is necessary for “high-level achievement”.

Grit is it

This reminds me of novelist Haruki Murakami, whose book on running I recently read, and who I think exhibits unwavering grit. Grit, I believe, is also the reason for Francis Kong’s success. After all, he said he has a “PhD”, “Passing high school with difficulty”.

In any case, Duckworth’s video is a nice complement to De Posada’s.

Francis also said creativity is important. For him, the three most important people in business were Henry Ford, who was a consummate entrepreneur, Thomas Edison, who was a brilliant inventor, and Steve Jobs, who was a combination of entrepreneur and inventor. Steve Jobs had the mindset of an artist.

One thing I like about Francis’s seminar was that he invited other speakers to share ideas about discipline.

Jeric and Paul Soriano talked about the creative discipline, the creative mindset. Jeric, the director of the movie Hotshots long ago and who now directs commercials, proposed three steps:

1. Change the way you think.
2. Change the way you speak.
3. Change the way you react.

Words have power

He elaborated on the power of words, saying that we mainly use words to think. Coming from a director, it was unexpected, at least for me. I thought he’d say people think in pictures.

“When you hear words, pictures are being developed,” he said. I agree. But still, we do think in pictures. When we were babies we had no words so we thought in pictures, and also smells, feelings, sounds, Elmo, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

It was only later on that we used words. But yes, words pack a lot of power and we should use them to program our mental “software”, as Jeric said in the seminar.

And as for Paul, Jeric’s son and the boyfriend of Toni Gonzaga, he presented an interesting equation:

Your creativity (IDEA) + passion + heart + soul + body + desire = MAKING IT HAPPEN

Outrunning your doubts

Indeed he knows how to make things happen. He created the film Thelma, an inspirational movie about an impoverished young girl whose quick feet led her to national and international running competitions, and out of poverty. She outran obstacles and difficulties and self-doubts.

At first no one would support Paul. “Why is it that people would watch Petrang Kabayo and Praybeyt Benjamin but not something inspirational?” he said.

So he took matters into his own hands. He became director, producer and co-writer of the film, much like how Bruce Lee would do it. International audiences liked the movie, and they wept, according to Paul.

Sportscaster and former national tennis player Dyan Castillejo was also one of the speakers. She talked about physical discipline. The key take-away from her speech was the power of routines.

Routines, rather than discipline

She didn’t like to call it discipline because of the negative connotation of the word. Routines are somehow less daunting. So if you want to make exercise a part of your life, make it part of your routine. Schedule it. Make exercise as natural as brushing your teeth, or taking a bath.

And take your exercise equipment with you. Dyan brings barbells wherever she goes. I wouldn’t go that far though.

To wrap up this article, just a few more ideas from Francis.

He talked about intellectual, emotional, and spiritual disciplines. Intellectual discipline is simple. Francis said we should read and listen and expose ourselves to things that expand our intellect, things that enhance our creativity.

For emotional discipline, he said we should develop two things: confidence and people skills. He quoted a Stanford survey that revealed success is 87% people skills and only 13% product knowledge.

No wonder smooth-talking idiots can become millionaires. But seriously, it’s not all about  talents.

Change the world

And as for spiritual discipline, Francis reminds us of our spiritual nature, saying, “Don’t just make a difference in this world; make this world different!”

That’s it for now. I was supposed to include ideas from the speech of Butch Jimenez, the Retail Business Group Head and HR Group Head of PLDT. But I’ll have a separate article for that. You’ll know why.

In all, I believe discipline and, much more importantly, grit, can help us make a different world.