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30 October 2006

Swansong a decade ago

Launch of Maximizer in SM Megamall, Philippines

Launch of Maximizer in SM Megamall, Philippines
Image source: Paul Ancheta

TEN YEARS ago today, I wrapped up a series of in-store activities in Manila that launched Triumph International's Maximizer brand. I was also preparing to leave the company after nine years, so I ensured that the event would be my best project ever. My team of young display artists and vendors worked enthusiastically in executing the most appealing displays the stores had ever seen. The launch effectively resulted in high visibility and busy cash registers for Maximizer. My Triumph swansong turned out to be a melodious triumph.

The launch featured a thirty-minute fashion show recreated for seven days in seven stores. This was a first-ever activity in the Philippines. On this day, I remember the music that I organized for the show. Listen to Matt Bianco's happy, bouncy version of Georgie Fame's “Yeh Yeh”, from the band's 1986 album Matt Bianco.

29 October 2006

TRAVEL TALES : Meeting my mentor in Hong Kong

Wolfgang Kruecker, Joyce Lui, and Paul Ancheta

Wolfgang Kruecker & Joyce Lui, from the first company I ever worked with
Image source: Joyce Lui

THERE THEY were, waiting for me at the foot of the escalator at the Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel lobby. He looked a bit older than the young Michael Douglas look-alike I remembered from 18 years ago. She maintained the slender, graceful looks of the Chinese youth I knew back then.

Memories of training, learning, and growing in a corporate environment ensure that the bonds are never forgottenIn Hong Kong on a business trip early this month, I found time to meet up with Wolfgang Kruecker and Joyce Lui. They were my colleagues at Triumph International, the first company I joined after college in 1988. Mr. Kruecker was the regional advertising head based in Hong Kong; he provided the standards of excellence in visual merchandising for such upstarts as me and continued to guide me throughout my nine-year tenure in Triumph. He was my mentor. Joyce was his design assistant who coordinated Triumph's visual merchandising in all of Southeast Asia; she would travel to Manila to assist me in understanding and setting up the latest store design directions.

We sat for after-dinner drinks at the scenic Sky Lounge of the Sheraton. They asked what I had been doing since leaving Triumph ten years ago, and we opened up a stream of memories that left me with deeper respect and affection for both of them.

Casual friends can meet up after 20 years and renew old ties, but not with the same grateful fondness that dots a successful mentor-trainee relationship. Memories of training, learning, and growing in a corporate environment ensure that the bonds are never forgotten. And with those bonds come the traits that make the relationship special. When I ordered soda that night, Mr. Kruecker knew the reason. "You don't take wine because you're a Bahá'í." He remembered that about me.

The night sped by fast; soon it was time to go. I assured Mr. Kruecker and Joyce of a place to stay when they visited Mumbai; they promised to keep in touch. It may take another 18 years for us to meet again; in fact, we may never even meet again. Even if the links fade with time and place, they remain strong in my heart and mind.

Mark, Mara, and maternity

Mark, Mara, and maternity

Mark and Mara Fojas in expectation
Image source: Mara Fojas

IN A FABULOUS fabulous marital season, the news that Mark and Mara Fojas are expecting their first born is one of the most thrilling.

Imagine the progeny of a witty, willowy Mara and a wise, wholesome Mark. And then imagine the morals of their parents, the music of the Filipino forefathers, and the magic of growing up a Bahá'í. What a wonderful, brilliant star ahead of us!

Corinne and Kevin get married!

Kevin McLoughlin and Corinne Padilla

The new Mr. and Mrs. Kevin McLoughlin
Image source: Kevin McLoughlin

THE BRIDE'S delightful singing voice, cool garden breezes, and crashing ocean waves provided the background for Kevin McLoughlin's nuptials to Corinne Padilla last night.

The newlyweds exchanged vows in an intimate Bahá'í wedding ceremony at the seaside Padilla gardens in Palawan Island, Philippines. The venue befits them: they both love the ocean, he as a scuba diver and she as a pure islander.

Kevin Mcloughlin and Corinne PadillaWe were friends back at the Bahá'í World Centre in Israel, getting together on weekends at my flat over irreverent Hollywood DVDs and home-made dinners with the rest of the gang (Ailsa Hedley, Behi Sobhani, Behrooz Behboodi, Kurt Austria, Romina Bahrami, and Sharon Marnell). I spoke to the couple through the mobile phone of my sister-in-law Tara, who attended the wedding with my brother Allan. (“He is your twin!”, Kevin laughed about Allan.) I told them how the gang chatted in MSN a month back and spoke about their wedding. “I wish you were all here, it's so (mild expletive) beautiful,” said the groom.

At the reception, Kevin's brother and sister joined Corinne's family and 200 other guests that included friends who flew in from Israel. Tara basked in the sheer romance of the evening. She gushed over the phone while Corinne sang in the background. “Paul, get yourself an Indian bride," she instructed, "and get married like Corinne and Kevin in these gardens. Ang ganda-ganda! (It's simply ravishing!)”

24 October 2006

Festival of Diwali

Tis the season to be giftin

’Tis the season to be gifting
Image source: Paul Ancheta

LIGHTS, SWEETS, décor, and firecrackers—these have literally exploded onto the scene this week. It is the grand festival of Diwali, commemorating the triumphant return, thousands of years ago, of the exiled King Rama in the illuminated glory of diyas or oil lamps. (The term “diwali” comes from the Sanskrit for “array of lights”.)

It is the brightest, most joyous, most family-oriented observance in IndiaThe pomp of Diwali is similar to that of Christmas. It is the brightest, most joyous, most family-oriented, and most commercial observance in Hinduism. It culminates weeks of festivals rejoicing the victories of the Hindu gods in their battles against evil beings as well as giving thanks to divine bounties. Those of you who have read my recent blog entries will understand the range of such festivities here in India.

Diwali lasts five days, each one having its own story and significance. I realized how this multifaceted celebration reflects the many layers of Mumbai’s character when almost everyone around me—from my colleagues and suppliers to my driver and maid—took leave on these days. (No other place seems to beat India in having the most number of days off!) For most of them, Diwali is about their own spiritual upliftment: I saw queues of devotees outside temples and learned about the need to attend poojas (religious ceremonies) at home.

Firecrackers outside my flatOthers see Diwali as that time of the year to mend fences and strengthen bonds. My mobile phone beeped forever with SMS greetings from friends and colleagues wishing me all the prosperity and happiness in the universe. I even received one which might have been ancient Sanskrit (or Nepalese), since none of my officemates could translate it. (I wanted to memorize the words to impress others, but I gave up over the tongue-twisting syllables.)

On the night of the third and most important day of the festival, I joined my neighbors in a fellowship gathering at the building car park. Most of them left early to join private parties with families in their own flats. I was left with six sari-clad (and jewelry-laden) grandmothers, who delighted me with the meaning of the rangoli (drawing on the floor) that “mysteriously” appeared one morning at my doorstep. When they left, a slew of family drivers took over the scene, itching to light those firecrackers and magnify the already-bloated air pollution levels of Mumbai.

And finally, there are those bedazzled by sheer commercialism. They battle great traffic to navigate malls that glitter in festival sales and promotional offers. It is all about the gifting essence of Diwali: give and you shall receive love, blessings, respect. I received chocolates from two suppliers, and I revel in giving them my good wishes in return.

22 October 2006

Birth of the Báb

 The Shrine of the Báb, Haifa, Israel. Source:

The Shrine of the Báb
Image source:

LAST NIGHT was a challenge to drive down to town where Mumbai’s Bahá’í Centre is located. India is presently celebrating its most dazzling season: kicking off this week are festivities around Diwali, the biggest Hindu festival of them all, and Eid-ul-Fitr, the breaking of the Muslim Ramadan fast. All roads were jammed with vehicles and pedestrians frantically trying to reach the malls for last-minute Diwali shopping or their homes to break the Ramadan fast.

Stuck in the traffic, I was obviously going to miss the commemoration of the Birth of the Báb at the Bahá’í Centre. The anniversary on 21 October is one of the nine major, non-working holy days in the Bahá'í calendar. Referred to as the Prophet-Herald of the Bahá’í Faith, the Báb (1819-1844) proclaimed the imminent arrival of Bahá'u'lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith. Bahá'ís view the Báb and Bahá'u'lláh both as “Manifestations of God”, even though the Báb's testified that His mission was subordinate to Bahá'u'lláh's.

Bahá’ís commemorate His birth by holding simple but joyous gatherings open to everyone who would like to attend, There are no prescribed ceremonies, but the events often involve prayers, devotional readings, and music. View a special audio-visual presentation prepared by the Bahá'ís of New York.

» Window Views : Martyrdom of the Báb