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Panda Cleaners: Green’s the Way to Go

Introducing Panda Cleaners, what may be the first ecologically friendly cleaner company in the Philippines.

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By PePe Castro

In 2009, husband and wife tandem Christian and Zarah Juan invested some P600,000 to establish in Legaspi Village in Makati City Panda Cleaners, what may be the first ecologically friendly cleaner company in the Philippines. The business was somewhat expected since Christian’s line of business was in laundry franchising, even if Panda’s introduction was seen as an “injection of a new idea into the laundry segment,” Zarah Juan says.

What makes Panda’s services different from others in the market? “The difference is with the number of eco-partners Panda has,” Juan says, adding that “these eco-partners have assured that the products Panda uses are either biodegradable or eco-friendly. That’s the edge that Panda will continue to use throughout its system.”

Interestingly, the finding of these eco-friendly partners served as the biggest challenge faced by the company. “The biggest challenge for us thus far was picking the right eco-partners,” Juan says. “With so many companies saying they are now a green company, Panda has to screen and keep its standard very high. Only companies that are energetic about keeping the environment green will pass Panda’s screening.”

Going green is not complex, says Juan. “First of all going green is simple. Basic recycling is a form of going green. Using bags other than plastic ones is a form of going green. These are beliefs that form into habits that people should be aware of. For companies that people look up to for services or goods, they should have green options so their customers can broaden their choices.”

Juan believes that business can co-exist with environmentalism. “As companies become more conscience of the impact their businesses have on the environment more and more will look at the aspect of giving back. It is Panda’s belief that if you can balance profits and eco-living, you are already on the right track.”

Panda is already looking at penetrating other Asian markets as the first and only laundry company that has an environmental cause.

For information, call (+632) 8175824 or 9189261643; fax 8932959; or visit www.greenleafbags.com.

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Industry Profiles

OYO Hotels & Homes appoints Mandar Vaidya as CEO for Southeast Asia and the Middle East

The move reiterates OYO’s commitment to two of its most important regions—Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Mandar’s rich experience in management consulting, in particular service operations, will fuel OYO’s mission of creating quality spaces.

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OYO Hotels & Homes, the world’s third largest and fastest-growing chain of leased and franchised hotels, homes and living spaces, today announced the appointment of Dr. Mandar Vaidya as chief executive officer for Southeast Asia and the Middle East effective August 1, 2019. This appointment comes in light of the company’s efforts to continue to invest in and attract world-class leadership as part of its focus on driving accelerated growth in two of its high-potential markets—Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

A seasoned professional with more than 15 years of experience, Dr. Vaidya will be responsible for driving business growth for OYO in these two regions, which include markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The company has committed more than US$200 million in investment in Southeast Asia, which will help in fueling its aggressive expansion plans in the region over the next couple of years.

OYO Hotels continues to bring its successful model of combining design, hospitality and technological expertise, financial acumen and operational capabilities to hotel owners around the world, enabling them to achieve a higher return on investments, access easy financing opportunities, transform their hotels and offer good-quality customer service toward significantly increasing occupancy and profitability in every OYO building. There are more than 23,000 of these buildings worldwide, with over 1,500 buildings located in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

OYO started with the belief that everyone deserves a beautifully designed and comfortable living space. Committed to changing the way people live, OYO continues to transform unbranded hotels into quality living spaces, offering them at affordable prices in the best locations around the world.

Commenting on the development, Ritesh Agarwal, founder and CEO of OYO Hotels & Homes, said, ‘’We are thrilled to welcome Mandar to the OYO family as he takes on the responsibility of strengthening OYO’s presence in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He exhibits the true characteristics of an OYOpreneur and has the problem-solving attitude necessary to help OYO move toward its goal of transforming the global hospitality landscape. These two markets are crucial to our international expansion strategy as we are currently delivering high-quality accommodation experience to guests in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under Mandar’s leadership, we look forward to establishing a strong relationship with asset owners in these regions while staying true to our mission of delivering a chic hospitality experience at hard-to-ignore prices. I wish him the best for the journey ahead.’’

Before joining OYO, Dr. Vaidya worked at McKinsey and Co. for 15 years from 2002 to 2017, where he was a partner and led the health services practice in India and the hospitals practice for Asia. His work focused on operations—both hospitals and pharmaceutical companies—and health policy. He also led the Delhi office of McKinsey for four years. After this long stint, Mandar went on a sabbatical for two years. He also taught a problem solving course at Ashoka University’s Young India Fellowship program.

Dr. Mandar Vaidya, newly appointed chief executive officer, OYO Hotels & Homes, Southeast Asia and Middle East, said, ‘’Today, OYO Hotels & Homes is synonymous with quality stays and innovation, and is driven by passionate individuals who are working toward a mission. I am thrilled to be a part of this ecosystem that is shaping the company’s future in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, which are critical growth markets for the company. In a short span of six years, OYO has established itself as the world’s fastest-growing chain of hotels, homes and living spaces while being the preferred choice of millions of customers and asset owners. I am keen to work with the best minds in the industry to drive value for every stakeholder as we come together to create something exciting.’’

Dr. Vaidya is a qualified medical doctor, having completed his MBBS and internship from Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital in Mumbai. After a brief stint as a medical officer, he opted out of an MD in Obstetrics and Gynecology and pursued an MBA at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute, Mumbai.

Today, OYO Hotels & Homes has more than 1,260 hotels and over 32,600 exclusive rooms under management in Southeast Asia and more than 275 hotels and homes with over 8,000 exclusive rooms in the Middle East. The hospitality chain forayed into Southeast Asia in 2016 with its first room in Malaysia and has grown its presence to more than 125 cities in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

OYO has a strong presence across 10 cities in the Philippines, including Boracay, Davao and Cebu, with 2,100 rooms in 75 hotels. With Dr. Vaidya’s appointment, OYO will continue to remain committed to providing quality service and experience to travelers in the Philippines by transforming properties across the country.

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About OYO Hotels & Homes:

Opening its doors in 2013, OYO Hotels & Homes is the world’s third-largest chain of hotels, homes, managed living and workspaces. The portfolio combines fully operated real estate comprising more than 23,000 hotels and 46,000 vacation homes. OYO along with Vacation Homes categories managed by the company under OYO Homes, Belvilla and Dancenter brands can be found in more than 800 cities in 80 countries, including the U.S., Europe, U.K., India, Malaysia, Middle East, Indonesia, Philippines, and Japan. For more information, log onto  https://www.oyorooms.com/

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Beauty & Fashion

Welcome the vegan leather made from pineapple leaf fibers

Piñatex, created by textile company Ananas Anam, is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves grown in the Philippines. These are a byproduct of the fruit’s harvest, so no extra land, water, or pesticides are required to produce the material.

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The demand for vegan clothing, shoes, and accessories continues to skyrocket as shoppers grow increasingly concerned about the cruelty to animals, environmental impact, and worker abuse involved in the production of animal-derived clothing. Now, an innovative new material called Piñatex is the first fabric to receive a “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo for supplying compassionate designers and shops with a sustainable, high-performance vegan leather.

Designed and made by Rombaut

Designed and made by Rombaut

Piñatex, created by textile company Ananas Anam, is made from the fibers of pineapple leaves grown in the Philippines. These are a byproduct of the fruit’s harvest, so no extra land, water, or pesticides are required to produce the material.

Carmen Hijosa, founder of the company, visited the Philippines in the 1990s to work as consultant in the leather-goods industry but was appalled by the quality of materials and toxic impact on the environment. This prompted her to look for leather alternatives, and her inspiration came from the Barong Tagalog, a traditional Filipino shirt woven with the fibers of pineapple leaves.

Ananas Anam has now developed a new industry that has enhanced the standard of living in rural areas as Filipino farmers are able to sell fibers as a commercial and viable proposition.

Furthermore, farming communities benefit from the output of natural fertilizer and biogas, which are byproducts of fiber extraction. The fibers are extracted and processed in the Philippines before being shipped abroad for final processing. Piñatex is the product of seven years of research and is already being used by the fashion brands Po-Zu, nae, and Vegatar.

“Ananas Anam’s Piñatex fabric uses cutting-edge technology to create cruelty-free designs that are both sustainable and chic,” says PETA Vice President Jason Baker. “PETA celebrates innovations that show how outdated wearing animal skins is and how easy it is to look fabulous while being kind to all living beings.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to wear”—notes that animals killed for leather endure castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning without painkillers before being skinned and dismembered alive. In addition, tanneries are notorious for polluting the surrounding land and water as well as exposing workers to excessive amounts of toxic chemicals, including arsenic.

The “PETA-Approved Vegan” logo allows designers and retailers to showcase their cruelty-free items and raise awareness of sustainable and ethical fashion.

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Industry Profiles

With Mysterium Philippines, here comes the esoteric

Introducing Mysterium Philippines, which aims to formalize trainings and teachings of many popular topics like psychic development, tarot, magick and Reiki, and make these more professional. It also wants to start a culture of honorable practitioners of these arts.

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In 2005, Robert Francis P. Rubin founded Mysterium Magazine as a free Webzine that gave quality writings from various esoteric/New Age authorities and practitioners from all over the Philippines. By 2008, though, it was “reformed into Mysterium Philippines…when we started offering trainings/workshops and certification courses for interested students across Metro Manila,” recalled Rubin, who now serves as the president of the group.

“It was started with a vision – a vision that esoteric/New Age/occult topics and be learned professionally and in a qualified manner. We heard many nightmare stories of con artists and fake teachers offering hoakey courses with the aim of only fooling people out of their money,” Rubin said. “Mysterium Philippines aimed to remedy that. We wanted to formalize trainings and teachings of many popular topics like psychic development, tarot, magick and Reiki and make it more professional. We also wanted to start a culture of honorable practitioners of these arts, and we figured one of the best way would be to start offering said trainings ourselves.”

“We heard many nightmare stories of con artists and fake teachers offering hoakey courses with the aim of only fooling people out of their money… We wanted to formalize trainings and teachings of many popular topics like psychic development, tarot, magick and Reiki and make it more professional.”
– Robert Francis P. Rubin

Added Rommel John Panal, the group’s VP for external affairs: “We found that despite the deluge of books on the esoteric coming into the Philippines, there is a lack of responsible handling and teaching of the esoteric arts. We encountered ‘masters’ and ‘enlightened ones’ left and right, claiming to provide wisdom and knowledge while doing nothing more than give feel-good phrases or watered-down, armchair esoteric lessons. On the other hand, because of the Internet, a lot of interested students acquired access to what used to be hard-to-find esoteric information. Unfortunately, the lessons are not always given in a manner that encourages practice or exercise. And not all are quality information; as with a lot of things on the Internet, you have to go through a lot of rubble before you find the gem. Unfortunately, people who are new to the esoteric arts usually cannot tell the difference. Our aim is to give a practical foundation from which people can make sense of the other information out there.”

With Mysterium Philippines, eventually, a community was formed where “people who have these gifts feel welcome without the fear of being judged or discriminated for their beliefs, practices and ways of life,” Rubin said.

STARTING WITH RESPECT

One of Mysterium Philippines’ goals is to “unite, empower and develop genuine esoteric potential all around the nation”.

How does the group intend to do this?

“It all starts with respect. We respect all forms of practice and beliefs that everyone holds. And it is within our by-laws that all walks of life, beliefs and religions are to be respected and honored by the members of Mysterium Philippines,” Rubin said.

For Panal, the group unites, empowers and develops esoteric potential “by being an example of what constitutes a uniting and empowering esoteric group.”

“Although we are mainly an academy for the esoteric arts, students who successfully graduated from a course are welcomed into a community of practitioners who are also doing their own explorations of various subjects. This allows us to empower one another to exercise our own potential to the fullest, especially in a country that looks with suspicion at anyone who does not conform to the standard religions, thoughts and practices,” he said.

Rubin added: “As Ghandi said, ‘Better to light a candle than complain about the darkness’. We aim to be a change for good. For starters, we offer affordable yet comprehensive trainings for all who are interested in topics of the esoteric. We aim to give people a genuine place to learn more about these practices and offer regular trainings to constantly open the doors to all new blood that ‘awakens’ within the esoteric community. By increasing the understanding of others, we in effect dispel many of the negative beliefs that people who follow said practices experience on a regular basis.”

“We respect all forms of practice and beliefs that everyone holds. And it is within our by-laws that all walks of life, beliefs and religions are to be respected and honored by the members of Mysterium Philippines.”
– Robert Francis P. Rubin

FACING CHALLENGES

Mysterium Philippines currently offers basic courses in tarot, psychic development and Reiki; as well as many advanced courses, including magick and manifestation, astral dynamics, paranormal investigation, and spirit communication. For corporate clients, on offer are: one to two-day workshops in corporate meditation for stress relief, and the newest workshop called “Intuition for Money Managers”.

There are also professional services, including psychic “entertainers” like tarot card readers for parties, paranormal investigations, home cleansing, spirit communications and scrying, and feng shui for homes and offices.

Asked what makes Mysterium Philippines different from other groups already existing in the community, Rubin said: “I like to say we are alike, but different. We all have similar beliefs. But in the end it boils down to the delivery and the advocacy. Our organization prides itself in the fact that we love to teach others. We are professionalizing our courses so that in the future the things that are learned from our courses and empower their recipients to bettering their lives.”

Mysterium Philippines is also registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The group continues to face challenges. For instance, there are misunderstandings with other groups and individuals. “We offer a more formalized quality esoteric curriculum than most in the country, and this sometimes bring us into conflict with some who feel the information should be completely free. While we’d love nothing better than that, our lectures are done in conducive spaces that require finances. At the same time, while in the age of information a person no longer needs a teacher, it is still very helpful to have someone guide a person’s studies; this guide or teacher also require appropriate compensation, just as in any other field,” Panal said.

Mysterium Philippines remains pro-active in its dealings with challenges. “We don’t sit around waiting for the change to happen, we make the changes ourselves. We pride ourselves with the fact that those who come to us learn, learn, period. Politics, beliefs, religions will always play roles in the challenges we face, but so long as we continue to live up to our vision of affordable yet qualified instruction, then the rest of the naysayers will eventually silence themselves,” Rubin said.

“We also aim to make ambassadors of our students in educating others about the esoteric arts. We have many who join our courses who have little to no understanding of esoteric practices (which mainstream media sometimes distort) who end up having a clearer understanding, enough to correct other people’s misconceptions,” Panal said.

“We don’t sit around waiting for the change to happen, we make the changes ourselves. We pride ourselves with the fact that those who come to us learn, learn, period.”
– Robert Francis P. Rubin

LOOKING FORWARD

Already, Mysterium Philippines is looking into the possibility of offering trainings in other countries “so that the Mysterium advocacy will continue (with the) spread of ‘honorable and responsible esoteric service’,” said Rubin. There are also plans for more books and publications to be released in the years to come to help contribute to the esoteric growth in the Philippines. Similarly, “we plan a school tour in the various colleges in Metro Manila to create Mysterium chapters… to give interested people from all over the metro somewhere to go to indulge into their esoteric yearnings.”

Anyone can join Mysterium Philippines by graduating from one of the courses offered. These courses are offered every month in Quezon City.

For more information, email MysteriumPhilippines@yahoo.com, visit the group’s Facebook page, call/SMS (+63) 9165511824, or head to MysteriumPhilippines.org.

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