Friday, July 25, 2014

2014 Toyota Vios

Finally, I bought my own brandnew 2014 Toyota Vios. Here's the honest review that I have read from the Internet. Hope this will help avid Toyota car buyers!

2014 Toyota Vios 1.3 E MT

Widening the Gap
Text by  / Photos: Inigo S. Roces
posted April 25, 2014 20:23

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Photo fron Chester Cabalza

Easily the country’s best-selling car, the Vios has served as the subcompact sedan benchmark for a decade now. Its size, price and proven reliability have made it the darling of corporate fleets and taxi companies while families have embraced it as family sedan. Despite its age, demand for the vehicle hardly seemed to slow, yet like all good things, time had come for a much needed change.

By July, Toyota Motor Philippines had unveiled the all-new Vios – sporting a completely new platform and body for the first time since its arrival, but still lovingly assembled by Team Members at the Toyota plant in Santa Rosa Laguna.

The new Vios is now a very common sight on today’s roads. The timely full-model change has helped it move away from its formerly conservative design with a more progressive style. The futuristic front fa├žade sports a gaping lower intake and slats the run right into the headlamps. A subtle shoulder runs along the side while wrap-around tail lights stretch to the sides like wings.

Underneath, some clever re-engineering has made the family car become an even more stable and better handling vehicle. It’s quieter too and of course, far more spacious than its predecessor.

Inside, it hardly feels like a subcompact class vehicle at all. Though still made of plastic, much of the dashboard emulates the leather wrapped look from more premium brands. There’s even faux stitching on the edges.

The instrument cluster has thankfully been returned to the driver’s side. Optitron gauges are clearly visible no matter what time of day. The three spoke wheel just ahead of it houses stereo remote controls on the right (standard even in this mid-spec level 1.3 E manual). Over in the center, the stereo sits high on the dash with vents just below it. The climate is still controlled by knobs, but feel sturdy and firm with each click.

The seats are fabric, but are contoured better to keep the driver comfortable on long drives. The same can be said of the back seats with a fair amount of leg room and a new flatter floor.

Powering this particular Vios is a 1.3 liter inline 4-cylinder, producing 86 PS of power and 122 Newton-meters of torque. It’s paired to a 5-speed manual that drives the front wheels.

Despite being a mid-spec 1.3 E, this Vios is fairly well equipped with all power windows, locks and steering, alloy wheels, a modern audio system that is iPod compatible and steering wheel controls. The chrome trim, turn signal repeaters and disc brakes at the back (all equipped in the 1.5 G) will hardly be missed.

Despite carrying over the engine from the previous model, the new Vios feels more sprightly when accelerating. Much of this is due to the close ratio manual transmission that gives the car a lot of torque early on and lets the driver shift up sooner. This makes for high fuel economy in the city, particularly when traffic typically travels at just 20-40 km/h. But unfortunately results to poor highway economy at higher cruising speeds.

The Vios returns a comfortable ride, soaking up bumps well and is now more quiet on the road. Despite its hefty look, the car still feels remarkably light, making it easy to maneuver round sharp bends and gaps in traffic. At higher speeds, the Vios is also more fun to drive, feeling very stable be it on highways or on long sweepers. Sudden emergency lane changes are met with remarkable stability. Long sweepers are also taken with better aplomb.

The Vios is clearly a city car and some of the compromises become more apparent in the highway. First off, the car’s light weight and shape can make it particularly vulnerable to crosswinds and wakes of larger vehicles passing by. The close ratio transmission makes it much less efficient at higher speeds, revving at a high 3,000 rpm when cruising at 100 km/h. Finally, there’s much more noise that penetrates the cabin at higher speeds.

Despite the few complaints, the Vios 1.3 E manual still comes out as a tempting proposition at P727,000. The exterior design, premium-feeling interior and good package of features will be more than enough to meet daily driving needs, especially in the city. It’s sprightly, agile, but still large enough to easily accommodate a family. It will easily return 10 km/L in the city (moderate to heavy traffic with 1 passenger), but a much lower 8 km/L in the highway (with moderate traffic and 1 passenger). The improvements will certainly make Toyota fans lean towards the Vios once again, and possibly win a few more new customers over to the brand.

Te Papa Museum (New Zealand)

                                   Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ethnography 101: Social Impressions of Malls

I would always ask my college and graduate students in Anthropology, aside from learning anthropological concepts and theories inside the classroom, to explore places, experience cultural and social happenings, and write ethnographic accounts using the participation-observation method. 

I am posting in my blog with the writer's consent selected ethnography penned creatively by my students to contribute to the emerging sub-discipline of anthropology called 'Virtual Ethnography'. 

Basically, virtual ethnography is also referred to as Webnography. We cannot deny the fact that with increasing use of technology and the Internet, there is now a demand for online spaces on ethnography. 

Photo from Google
By Nathaniel Don Valdez

Going to shopping malls has become one of Filipinos' favorite past times. Shopping malls offer convenience with the variety of shops and restaurants, and different forms of entertainment. One can simply go to the mall and hang out with his or her family and friends. The number of activities can be endless besides from the usual shopping, eating out and watching movies. Today, some malls has skating rinks, bowling alleys, barbershops, laundry services, computer repairs and other services.

Malls are often compared to plazas during the Spanish colonization era. Plazas back then were situated in the middle of government building and the church where people constantly commune. Malls now are in their air conditioned buildings that provides the same function of community.

One of the malls I went to is The Podium in Ortigas, Mandaluyong City. It is an upscale shopping mall which was developed and owned by SM Prime Holdings. It is near SM Megamall - today's largest mall in the Philippines, Shangri-La Plaza, and Robinson's Galleria. It is relatively smaller in scale and has fewer patrons and visitors compared to the aforementioned nearby malls. It has five floors and has mostly high-end shops and restaurants.

The first thing that I noticed when I entered The Podium was the building's facade and interiors. It is very polished and has silver or chrome finish all throughout. Outside were two coffee shops and a valet service, enough which gave the impression to the mall patrons that it was a venue for relaxation.

Once you enter the mall, I immediately noticed that people were simply going through the first floor entering from the front and exiting to the back on the ground floor. Following these people reveal that they were going to St Francis Square, another mall, housing thrift shops and tiangge stores. As I observed, some of them are employees of nearby skyscrappers. At this perspective, The Podium only acts as gateway for these people to reach a mall that has affordable goods. It seems that the management at The Podium don't mid that people are using the building to cross to another rival mall.

This scenario applies at the ground floor of the The Podium. As I continue up the floors, there were significantly fewer people and as I stroll around, there were very few or no people at the stores. Restaurants have more customers, coming into the conclusion that at The Podium, patrons preferred activity for dining in at upscale venues. Inside the restaurant, there is an atmosphere that brings to a more homey ambiance, and removes or lessens the idea of being in a public place. The dining in experience is exclusive with our family sitting on our own table and served by a waiter to take our orders.

In contrast, eating out in a food court at Megamall can be described as more chaotic. A food court is an area where the food outlets are located with tables and chairs for public use. There is a greater variation of people eating in a food court which matches the number of food choices.

In a food court, one is expected to eat quickly so that other people may sit and eat. People select from one of the restaurant, bus their food on their trays as they search for a table to sit. There are some people who are not eating and occupying the seats. When asked, one guy said that he is waiting for someone. He was looking at his cellphone all the time and thought that I was asking to use the table, and left before I even get to ask more questions. There are also other sit-in restaurants inside Megamall, but they were less prominent and concentrated in a certain section.

There were other individuals as well, such as the group of girls who were chatting away about different subjects. When asked, they said they were waiting for a movie on the third floor of Magamall to start. They decided to stay at the food court because it is free. It is possible to deduce that people have expanded the purpose of using public food court beside eating at the basement level of the building. It is less chaotic and has fewer people compared to Megamall's food court. It is almost as big and has more or less same choices with that of Megamall.

In general, Shangri-La has less people than Megamall, but I have particularly known that it is also used by people to cross to Ortigas from the MRT Shaw Boulevard station. They do not generally enter the mall for leisure but as gateway to other malls.

In our studies in architecture, we studied that the lay-out of Shangri-La mall was designed in such a way that people will be forced to tour the different shops. The floor plans have no distinctive pattern compared to SM Megamall or The Podium. However, it does give a tedious amount of walking around the shop for particular items. SM Megamall has a straightforward design that enables the shopper to easily locate the store he or she is looking for. Even with the face-lift and recent additions of new buildings and parking areas, SM Megamall has been able to maintain the simplicity of its designs.

It is also perceived that Shangri-La is more upscale mall compared to Megamall, however, The Podium was built for exclusivity for richer clients. Shangri-La is bigger than The Podium for which it has more mall patrons. Shangri-La has even added new imported brands and foreign sounding stores in its new wing.

Both The Podium and Shangri-La act as gateways for young professionals and other mall rats for public spaces, and sometimes, lower income pedestrians can afford to enter these upscale buildings in terms of its social stratification. However, both retain their images of being upscale malls because of the imported brands it houses.

Megamall is actually not far from Shangri-La's price range considering that it has IMAX cinema and annexes The Atrium, a section in Megamall which caters for middle to upper income shoppers.

One of the manifestations of the social stratification in the malls is evident in dining areas. The Podium does not have a food court compared with Shangri-La and Megamall. Food court can be used as a waiting or meeting place because patrons are not obliged to spend much or stay there for free unlike if they are within a restaurant, whether it is in a fast food or other sit-down restaurant.

Shopping malls are also defined by the number of possible activities. The Podium offers very few activities while Shangri-La and Megamall have all sorts of form of entertainment. The Podium has only two cinema theaters while Shangri-La has five while Megamall has twelve. Shangri-la has several services like dental clinics and spas while Megamall has a bowling alley.

These malls attract people with different impressions of what is inside or how they may be able to use it on their daily schedules. Shangri-La and The Podium fit into this description because they are directly accessible in people's commuting courses. It ensures that people are constantly coming in and out of their building that could translate to more profits.

We may call the shopping malls as the new modern plaza for the Filipinos, however, malls has functions and structures in the complex Philippine society. Malls continually expand in sizes to fit the needs of nearby cosmopolitan community. It is a meeting place, a gateway, an exclusive place, a public space, depending on which social stratification you belong!  

Thursday, July 3, 2014

New Zealand

New Zealand is one of my favorite countries to visit. Home of the Maori people as they journeyed in this majestic and isolated archipelago using canoes from Hawaiki about 1,000 years ago. The country was first discovered by the Dutch but it became part of the British empire down under. 

During my visit, Kiwis flamboyantly cheered for the British monarch as Princes William and George together with Princess Kate visited New Zealand. From Auckland to Wellington, I and my students paid courtesy calls to the Philippine Embassy, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Business Innovation, the Parliament House; and we enjoyed visiting the Lord of the Rings set at Weta, Mount Victoria and Botanical Garden, the Te Papa museum and City Museum of Wellington.

We exchanged ideas and engaged dialogues with top officials in the military, defense and government sectors. The Philippine embassy headed by Ambassador Virginia Benavidez hosted the best dinner for my team and comprehensively lectured on PH-New Zealand relations. We met some Filipino workers and professionals, high school batchmates and friends, and mingled with friendly Kiwis during our week-long stay in the beautiful and innovative cities of Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand. 

Copyright @ 2014 by Chester B Cabalza. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Aquino, Abe to discuss new China strategy


TOKYO—President Aquino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to examine China’s island-chain defense strategy as they open talks here on Tuesday to explore security cooperation in the face of Beijing’s increasing aggressiveness in asserting its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China is reclaiming land on various reefs in the South China Sea in what security experts believe is a first step to building lines of offshore defense to protect the mainland, part of Beijing’s ultimate aim of dominating the Asia-Pacific region as an economic and military superpower.

The Philippines and Japan, both rivals of China for territory in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea, as well as Vietnam in the East Sea are very much a consideration in Beijing’s aim of establishing geopolitical dominance in the region.

But more than its territorial rivalry with its East Asian and Southeast Asian neighbors, China is concerned about the United States’ planned “pivot” to Asia under which it will move 60 percent of its warships to the region by the end of this decade.

The Chinese leadership sees the US plan as a strategy aimed at containing China’s ambition to dominate the Asia-Pacific region.

Filipino security experts expect President Aquino and Premier Abe to tackle China’s island-chain defense strategy and how the Philippines and Japan can cooperate to respond, as well as discuss other areas of cooperation.

Defensive perimeter

China’s island-chain defense strategy is a concept little known to the public, but has been a concern of security specialists in Asia for decades because of its objective to form an expansive maritime defensive perimeter straddling Asian waters and stretching out to the Pacific Ocean.

Given their geographical locations, the Philippines and Japan are two countries in the way of the Chinese defense strategy.

Japan sits above the first and second island-chains, while the Philippines lies between the two chains.

“This concerns regional security in the Asia-Pacific region, most importantly the state of the two disputed maritime territories in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” Chester Cabalza, a professor at the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), told the Inquirer by e-mail. “Both leaders need to reaffirm their strong stand for adherence to international rule of law and freedom of navigation.”

Although the “precise and official boundaries [of the two island-chains] are undefined and often exaggerated and so are subject to speculation,” they are often discussed because of their strategic implications for the Western Pacific region, according to Cabalza.

The first island-chain includes the major archipelagos of Japan and the Philippines, including the Aleutians, the Kurils, and the Ryukus, Taiwan, and the Greater Sunda Islands.

The second island-chain includes the Bonins, Marianas, Guam and Palau.

Cabalza described the second chain as quite vague in boundaries, as it extends to the oceanic region and some US territories in the Pacific. A third island-chain, which reaches as far as Hawaii, is a topic for debate, he said.

Regional implications

For military historian Jose Antonio Custodio, China’s island-chain strategy should be tackled by Aquino and Abe “to interpret” China’s strategy and determine its implications for the Asia-Pacific region.

In an e-mail, Custodio said the island-chain defense strategy would ultimately push out “in phases” the United States and its allies from East Asia and Southeast Asia.

He said he believed that China’s aggressive territorial claims in the South China Sea, encroaching on the West Philippine Sea by building artificial islands on disputed reefs and shoals, indicate its intent to “consolidate the nine-dash line and make the southern half of the first island chain a reality.”

The nine-dash line is a demarcation on official Chinese maps that encompasses 90 percent of the South China Sea and indicates the extent of China’s territory.

The Philippines has included in its challenge to the nine-dash line in the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea China’s land reclamation on Mabini (South Thomas) Reef, the two Gavin (Gaven) reefs, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef, Malvar (Eldad) Reef and Kennan (McKennan) Reef, all in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Leaders’ meeting

President Aquino will arrive in Tokyo before noon on Tuesday and proceed to the Old Prime Minister’s Residence where he and Abe will hold a 20-minute meeting.

They will be joined by Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Assistant Foreign Secretary Henry Bensurto, and Reynaldo Delantar Jr., a special assistant to Aquino.

Joining the meeting from the Japanese side are Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama; Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu; Kazuhide Ishikawa, director general, Southeast and Southwest Asian Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and Hiroshi Suzuki, Abe’s executive secretary.

Abe will host lunch for the President and his delegation after which the two leaders will give statements to the press. They will not take questions from reporters.

Aquino and Abe will also discuss bilateral cooperation, including humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime issues, and peace and development in Mindanao, where Japan has taken strong interest in trade and investment.

Cabalza said China had “reenvisioned itself as a maritime power.”

He said the People’s Liberation Army Navy had made a shift from “coastal defense,” or land-focused, to “offshore defense,” or ocean-focused, strategy.

“This shift is preparing them from safeguarding Chinese shores to possible maritime operations in the seas off the Chinese littoral,” Cabalza said.

Access denial

In separate e-mails to the Inquirer, Cabalza and Custodio said China’s island-chain defense strategy was aimed at denying rivals access to the disputed territories and resist invasion from the sea.

It is believed to be part of China’s Anti-Access Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy, a military doctrine viewed as the Chinese denial of other foreign militaries’ capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region as well as impinge on freedom of navigation.

“The goal of the Chinese Navy is to perform a mix of sea and area denials and to flex power projection. In simple security parlance, strategic security depends upon supply lines and natural resources. China’s objective is to develop a Navy capable of defending and protecting its lifeline of energy and mineral supplies as it flexes its muscles, strengthen its economy and modernize its armed forces,” Cabalza said.

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