A young Filipino singing sensation has captured the hearts of millions of fans worldwide. She has been dubbed the most talented girl in the world by none other than Oprah Winfrey. Her self-titled international debut album, released in May 2010, peaked at number 8 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, making her the first Asian in history to achieve such a feat. Her real name is Charmaine Clarice Relucio Pempengco but she is known as Charice Pempengco to the world.

Charice Pempengco

From a very young age, she began competing in amateur singing contests. In 2005, she joined Little Big Star, a Philippines talent show loosely patterned after the American Idol. She was eliminated after her first performance but was later called back as a wildcard contender and finished in third place based on text voting.

She continued making minor appearances on local television shows and TV commercials but had essentially fallen out of the limelight. Her break come in 2007 when an avid fan posted a series of her videos on YouTube under the username FalseVoice. These videos garnered millions of views, making Charice an internet phenomenon. She caught the attention of Ten Songs Production, a recording company based in Sweden. In June 2007, she flew to Stockholm and recorded seven songs, including Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and Shakespeare Sisters’ “Stay” as well as original songs “Amazing”,  “All The Money In The World”,  “Born To Love You Forever” and “It Can Only Get Better”.

A few months later, Charice’s rendition of Dreamgirls’ “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was posted on YouTube by FalseVoice. It impressed someone at one of South Korea’s biggest television network and Charice was invited in October 2007 to perform on the network’s  talent show “Star King”.  Her jaw-dropping rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” floored the audience. Many viewers posted her performance on YouTube, paving the way for Charice to gain massive exposure on American television. Her Star King performance was featured on E!’s The Daily Ten TV network. The Ellen DeGeneres show featured her Star King performance on its November 28, 2007 episode. Sit back and enjoy her performance on December 19, 2007 on the Ellen DeGeneres show as she  sings “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and “I Will Always Love You”.

Since then, she has made numerous television appearances worldwide including a couple of appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. Josh Groban gushed that Charice’s voice is one of the most beautiful voices he has heard in a long time. Her vocal quality has been compared with those of Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. She performed a duet with Celine Dion on September 15 2008. They sang “Because You Loved Me” which was dedicated to Charice’s mother. The performance won rave reviews in The New York Post and The New York Times. And the duet was featured on the September 19 2008 episode of the Oprah Winfrey show.

On June 21, 2010, she landed a role in the hit US television show Glee as a recurring character on its second season. She will reportedly play the role of a foreign exchange student with astounding vocals. The sky is really the limit for this dimunitive girl from Philippines!

The US hit television show "Glee"

Her performance of “Pyramid” featuring Iyaz has received over 12 millions views …it is a lovely song……enjoy!

To cap it all, see her performing the US national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of 57,099 people at the Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles for the Dodgers’ 2009 Opening Day pregame ceremony.

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Today is Duan Wu Jie, also known as Dragon Boat Festival and Double Fifth Day. It falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month and is a widely celebrated festival among the Chinese.

Happy Duan Wu Jie

According to legend, the origin of the festival was to pay respect to Qu Yuan, a minister of the Chu kingdom. Qu Yuan was a wise and articulate man, much-loved by the common people. He fought against rampant corruption that plagued the courts, thereby incurring the jealousy and hate of many officials. When he advised the Emperor Zhou to avoid conflict with the Qin Kingdom, the jealous officials convinced the emperor to remove him from service.  In exile, he travelled for several years, writing and teaching. When he heard that Emperor Zhou had been defeated by the Qin, he threw himself into the Miluo River in despair and drowned. As he was so loved by the people, fishermen rushed out in long boats, beating drums to scare away fish and throwing zongzi (rice dumplings) into the water so that the fish would not eat Qu Yuan’s body.

Qu Yuan

Rice dumplings known as zongzi is the traditional food for the Dragon Boat Festival. These dumplings are made from glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. Here in Malaysia you can find a variety of fillings in the dumplings: pork, chicken, chestnut, salted egg, dried prawns, dried mushroom, peanuts, red bean paste and even curry.

Rice dumplings or zongzi

To all my Chinese friends, I wish you all a very happy Duan Wu Jie.

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Malaysia’s controversial rapper Wee Meng Chee, better known as Namewee, is at it again. His new music video is a parody of the World Cup football fever. In the video, Wee lamented on how Malaysia has never qualified for the World Cup. He rapped about illegal bookies and complaints of  neglect by wives and girlfriends of football fans during World Cup. Wee narrated how Malaysians have to resign themselves to merely watching the football matches and betting on them.

The above video clip was uploaded on both YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/namewee) and his personal blog several days ago.

In the video clip, he had took to task Malaysia’s performance in the recent Thomas Cup badminton tournament and on World No.1 ranking Malaysian player Datuk Lee Chong Wei’s comments and reasoning behind it. The Malaysian badminton team lost to both Japan and China during the Thomas Cup despite pre-tournament hype that Malaysia had a good chance of winning the cup.

The 27-year-old Muar-born rapper hit the headlines with his infamous Negarakuku YouTube music video in 2007.  The Malaysian national anthem “Negaraku” was used as a background to his rap in the video which Wee recorded while studying in a Taiwan university. Upon his return to Malaysia, he was questioned by the Bukit Aman Commercial Crimes headquarters for his song and asked to provide a translation of it in Bahasa Malaysia, the national language of Malaysia.

Namewee has become almost a household name in Malaysia, especially among the Chinese community. Using rap in his digs against government bureaucracy and corruption, he has garnered a cult following and established himself as a rap artiste. Even famous Singapore director Jack Neo had once commented that Wee is a talented guy.

You can check out his other videos on both Youtube and his blog but just be warned…..there is quite a bit of profanity in some of the videos

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The day the world has been waiting for is finally here. The world’s greatest soccer tournament starts today. …and over the next few weeks, soccer fever will grip the world and productivity will take a big hit. You will see lots of “panda eyes” in the work place.

Which player will ignite the tournament and carve his name in soccer history as a world cup legend? Will it be Cristiano Ronaldo? Lionel Messi? Wayne Rooney?  Kaka? Xavi? Fernando Torres? David Villa? Andres Iniesta? Steven Gerrard? There is bound to be controversies but hopefully the tournament will not be marred by any “hand of God goals”, violence or untoward incidents.

Waka waka……this time for Africa…..yeah! let the show begin! Let Shakira turn you on….I mean turn you on to the soccer fever…what were you thinking of?

Sexy Shakira

This is the Spanish version of the song…..watch the video and be amused!  It makes me wonder how they made this video.  Maybe James Cameron was behind it, lol!

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The 2010 FIFA World Cup is all set to kick off tomorrow in South Africa. This will be the 19th FIFA World Cup and this is the first time that the tournament will be hosted by an African nation, after South Africa defeated Morocco and Egypt in an all-African bidding process. The tournament is scheduled to take place between June 11 and July 11.

2010 FIFA World Cup

This is the first World Cup that does not include any teams that are qualifying for the first time, although two of the qualifiers (Slovakia and Serbia) have previously appeared only as parts of former competing nations. Slovakia was previously part of Czechoslovakia, and Serbia has competed as part of Yugoslavia and Serbia & Montenegro. In both cases FIFA considers these teams to have retained the earlier nations’ records.

The 32 qualifiers are South Africa, Brazil, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Argentina, England, Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Honduras, Mexico, United States, New Zealand, Algeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Denmark, France, Greece, Portugal, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The tournament will be held at the following 10 venues in South Africa.

Cape Town Stadium, Capetown

Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg

Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria

Mbombela Stadium, Nelsprint

Moses Mabhida Stadium, Durban

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane

Royal Bafokeng Stadium, Rustenburg

Soccer City, Johannesburg

Soccer City, Johannesburg

Zakumi, an anthropomorphized leopard with green hair, is the official mascot of the tournament. “Za” is the international abbreviation for South Africa and “kumi” is an African word that means “ten”. So Zakumi stands for South Africa 2010.

Zakumi...official mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup

The official song for 2010 FIFA World Cup is “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)”, in English, and “Waka Waka (Esto es Africa)” in Spanish. Waka means do it. It will be performed by Shakira and South African group Freshlyground at the closing ceremony before the World Cup final on Juy 11 in Johannesburg Soccer City Stadium.

Shakira

Who will win the coveted World Cup? Being a fan of English Premier League, I would be ecstatic if England wins it. But I seriously doubt England can pull it off as England always seems to falter at World Cup tournaments. I am putting my money on Brazil and Spain.

Let the world cup begin……Waka Waka!

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My family used to go to Nine 2 Five Restaurant in Pelita Commercial Centre for dinner but it has been a long while since we last went. We decided to pop in there for dinner yesterday evening.

Wall decorated with kids' photos inside the restaurant

Simple decor item on one of the windowsills

We ordered fried chicken in prawn sauce, kangkong fried with belacan and fried baby corns. For drinks, we ordered two hot “teh o” and an iced Milo.

There were several customers who were there earlier than us so we knew it would take a while before our food would be served. But the wait was much longer than expected….it took them more than half an hour before we were served. And the music was a bit too loud for my liking.

The fried kangkong and baby corns were not bad but we did not like the fried chicken in prawn sauce as it tasted so bland. I thought it would come with some sauce but there wasn’t any. Apparently I misread the menu which says “Fried chicken in prawn sauce” and not “fried chicken with prawn sauce”. …maybe it was due to my “lau hua yen”, haha! The bill came to RM42.10 which was comparatively more expensive than many other similar air-conditioned restaurants.

Kangkong fried with belacan

Fried baby corns

Fried chicken with prawn sauce

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It’s Gawai Dayak and I would like to wish my very good Iban friend David in Brunei a very happy Gawai and “Gayu Guru Gerai Nyamai”!

I got to know David about 13 years ago and we have become very good friends. David is also known as the Brunei Wildman. Before you start conjuring images of an abominable jungle man in your mind, let me assure you that David is actually a nice fun-loving guy and also an MBA graduate.

The Brunei Wildman dressed in Iban warrior costume

David has a passion for primitive arts, handicrafts and antique and has a big collection of such items. He has an in-depth knowledge of Iban customs and cultures and is thus able to explain to you the story or significance behind these arts and handicrafts. Though he does not have any retail outlet, he is one person whom a lot of people will look for when they want to buy handicrafts or antiques in Brunei.

Celebrities who had purchased handicrafts and antiques from him when they visited Brunei includes actress Brooke Shields, tennis star Andre Agassi, Chelsea Clinton and former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.  Don’t believe me? See the photos below.

The Brunei Wildman With Brooke Shields and Andre Agassi

The Brunei Wildman with Chelsea Clinton, daughter of Bill & Hillary Clinton

The Brunei Wildman with Madeleine Albright

Want to know more about the Dayaks? Contact the Brunei Wildman.  Looking for antiques? Contact the Brunei Wildman. Want an eco-tourism tour when you visit Brunei? Contact the Brunei Wildman. He is sure to make your trip to Brunei a very memorable one. David (aka the Brunei Wildman) can be reached at bruneiwildman@yahoo.com.

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