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Birthday presents come in many shapes and forms. While those from family, loved ones and friends surround the heart with aplenty emotions, other unexpected ones bring boundless joy to the birthday boy.

Many a times in life, it’s when you least expect it that you cherish it the most.

Away in the Philippines for a business networking trip, I had to miss the awards ceremony of Singapore’s 100 Most Loved Beauty Professionals organized by Cozycot as part of the Cozycot Beauty Awards 2011 at Orchard Central over the weekends. But the Cozycot guys didn’t forget me and were very nice to send me an email asking to drop by their office to pick up my award. 

Away from the awards ceremony event proper, in the peace and quiet of the Cozycot office, I received my 100 Most Loved Beauty Professionals award. There was no fanfare, no cameras clicking away, no media. Just me and my award.

If you ask me what I wish for this birthday, I wish for good health, happiness and more opportunities :)

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I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s not what you know. Rather, it’s who you know that makes that critical difference. In a world built on relationships and networking, knowing the right people does open doors and a universe of new opportunities. 

 
If I share with you that I’m on the plane to the Philippines for a networking lunch, you may think I’m nuts. But it’s no ordinary lunch. It’s a networking lunch with Cory Quirino, a widely revered Filipina health, beauty and wellness guru; television and radio host all rolled into one. Think of Quirino as the Asian version of Oprah Winfrey.
 
When a rare opportunity like this came my way and I was invited to go along, I just packed my bag and flew. It was the same feeling I had three years ago when I sacked my boss and started my business. Nobody knows what tomorrow holds but I know the future is right here within the heartbeat of my own hands and I create my own destiny. 
 
Like many out there who probably heard her name for the first time today, my initial curiosity was instantly transformed into perpetual awe. This is a woman who has survived the odds (including a kidnapping incident) to rise to the top to claim her place as the chief wellness, beauty and fitness guru authority in the Philippines. And all these years, her star status has never dimmed. More recently, she was invited to be the exclusive licensee and national director of Miss World Philippines, a national pageant that searches for Philippines' representative to the Miss World contest.   

There are so many things I can learn from this wonderful lady Cory Quirino. Like her, I aspire to host my own fitness TV show on the local network. Like her, I aspire to write a series of best-sellers focusing on beauty and health. Like her, I aspire to create my own fitness workout videos for fitness enthusiasts. Like her, I aspire to have my own wellness column in the top-selling local newspaper. Like her, I aspire to be mega-successful. She’s the one who has done it all.

Watching her walk into Manila Hotel (a 6-star hotel not unlike Singapore’s Raffles Hotel), it definitely was a moment when time stood still. Sitting in the lobby, chatting and exchanging namecards while waiting for lunch to be served later at the private dining room, I loved the way she loved lovingly at my namecard :)

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Despite all that Quirino has achieved, she assumes no airs. When she learnt that I was a lifestyle coach, her smile widened. We exchanged pointers and the most definitive moment I will always remember must be when she remarked like a little girl instead of the guru she is that “we are both in the wellness industry but he’s eating much more than me! I wish I could eat like him and look like him.” 

In all honesty, if I still look half as good as her when I’m 57, I certainly wouldn’t mind as well!

Walking with her to the luncheon buffet area, I made quick mental notes of what she ate. She’s a woman who walks the talk – plenty of vegetables and organic food. Think steamed brown rice, chicken breast meat with oats and carrot on salmon – the three dishes specially prepared for her. And thanks to her, I had the good fortune of eating them too. 

I believe that there are many ingredients needed for creating success in life. In Quirino’s case, it definitely wasn’t plain luck. As outsiders, we often admire successful people but fail to realize that every success that they have achieved is not coincidental. Yet through it all, the chief ingredient for making it big time is the willpower. If you want it so badly and go all out, the universe will bend over to support you in all your endeavors. This, I firmly believe.

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