How Your Course Load Affects College Financial Aid and Student Loan Help

If you are using college financial aid to pay for your education, you need to understand how your course load affects financing. Being approved for loans depends on several factors, including financial need, your performance/progress as a student, your expected family contribution, and the number of credit hours for which you are enrolled. See how your course load will impact your borrowing, whether it’s federal or private.

Course load and federal college financial aid

Your federal college financial aid assumes you will be attending school at least part-time. In fact, some college financial aid is given in direct proportion to the number of credit hours you are taking. The amount of a Federal Pell grant award, for example, is awarded after taking into account your expected family contribution and whether you are enrolled in school full-time, part-time or even less than that. To understand how your specific financial aid package will be affected by altering your enrollment hours, it is best to sit down with your college loan advisor.

Course load and private college loans

Many private lenders will also require you to be enrolled in school at least part-time to be eligible for student loan help. If you are borrowing private student loans, be sure to work with your lender to fully understand the borrowing terms. Carrying too few credits can cause you to become ineligible for private college loans. Additionally, dropping below the part-time status requirement means you’ll have to start repaying your loans sooner than you expected.

Leaving school and college financial aid

If you decide part way through your education to withdraw from classes, you immediately enter the six-month grace period that precedes required payments on your college loans. This is also true if you drop below part-time status. Talk with you financial aid advisor before withdrawing from classes to see how it will impact the student aid package you received. In some cases, you may even have to repay federal grants if you do not complete a required number of credit hours, and scheduled future loan distribution may be impacted.

Be an informed borrower

Even if you have no intention of dropping below full-time status as a student, it’s important to understand the terms of your federal and private college loans in the event that your plans change. Understanding the full obligation of your loans can help you make smarter decisions about your future and maintain a positive credit score.


Getting a Loan With Bad Credit

In today’s struggling economy, a lot of people have low credit scores and loans are more difficult to get. Your credit score is based on payment history, outstanding debt, credit age, and new credit. To keep your credit score up it is important to pay bills on time and keep your credit card balances low. Your credit score determines how much your can borrow for a loan. If you have bad credit, you can still get a loan, it is just tougher with limited options. Websites like make it easy for people to get loans regardless of their credit history.

Personal loans are usually considered to be a bad way to borrow money, primarily because of the very high interest rate that comes with them. However, personal loans are a reliable and affordable option for many people, particularly those with limited savings and credit options.

Before taking out a loan it is important to be educated on the loan process. The Bad Credit Loans website has a large selection of resources to help borrowers make the best loan decisions. There are informational articles including tips on when to take out a loan, spending a loan responsible, repaying a loan, budgeting, and more.

In order to be eligible to apply for a personal loan, you must be at least 18 years old, a United States citizen or legal resident, have a steady income of at least $1,000/month after taxes, and have a checking account in your name.

To apply for a loan, you just need to fill out a short application online. Once approved, you will be presented with a number of competitive loan offers from local vendors. Bad Credit Loans has a network of trusted lenders for a variety of loan types including personal, business, mortgage, home, student, and auto loans.

Comparing loans can be quite time consuming, but by using an online service like Bad Credit Loans you will save hours of valuable time by being able to review multiple offers within minutes.

If you decide to take out a loan only borrow what you can afford to pay back, avoid borrowing from more than one lender, repay the loan on time, and set up a realistic budget to help avoid the need to borrow in the future.

Once you decide on a particular loan offer, you are guaranteed to get the money directly deposited into your bank account within no more than one business day. To repay the loan, your lender will withdraw the loan amount, plus any fees and interest charges, directly from the bank account in which the money was deposited on the set repayment date, which is usually your next payday.

There is no fee to apply for a loan on the Bad Credit Loans site and there is no obligation to actually take out a loan. To learn more, go to


Prince William Pays Tribute on Remembrance Sunday

A solemn Duchess of Cambridge watched Sunday as husband William paid his personal tribute to Britain's war dead.

William, in RAF uniform, was one of the senior royals making a somber commemoration of those who have died in the World Wars and other conflicts on Remembrance Sunday.

He followed his grandmother Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip in laying a wreath of bright red poppies at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London.

Kate, whose coat was decorated with poppy-style jewelry, watched from a balcony along with William's Aunt Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

The royals traditionally lead the commemorations in London, where hundreds of veterans then paraded. At 11 a.m. around the U.K., the country fell silent for two minutes of reflection.

Missing this year was Prince Harry, who is currently on a military tour in Afghanistan.


Monique Lhuillier opens store in New York

Monique Lhuillier opened her first New York store on Oct. 5, and within five minutes made a sale—a fur-and-lace jacket from her Fall ready-to-wear collection.

The store is in a two-story brownstone on East 71st Street. Next day, 43 brides had appointments on the second floor, which is the bridal section.

Monique’s New York flagship store comes 12 years after she opened her first store in Los Angeles, and four years after that in Edina, Minnesotta.

“We are very strategic in how we grow, and we grow within our means,” Monique told writer Jessica Iredale. She added that “there was never really a rush to open in New York … just when it felt right.”

The business is owned by Monique and her husband Tom Bugbee, the company’s chief executive officer. They always wanted a space in New York City’s upper East side, since that’s “where our customer base is.”

They found this location in 2010, at first limited to the ground floor. But soon the second floor gallery became available, as well as a one-bedroom apartment on the same floor.

Monique’s New York flagship store has 3,000 sq ft, with enough space to house all the label’s collections—RTW, bridal, table top, shoes and chandeliers done for Waterford.

The chandeliers hang from the high ceilings, designed by Monique with tiers of multifaceted crystal baguettes. They imitate the layers of fabric and beadwork of her gowns.


Monique’s signature gray color scheme is evident in her New York flagship. The walls are in gray suede. Chairs from the ’60s and ’70s are covered in gray velvet.

Monique worked with designed Jennie Abbott, who designed her Los Angeles home and store. There are two commissioned works by New York sculptor Silas Seandel. More artworks are by Herve van der Straeten, Daniel Gluck, Neal Small and Nany Lorenz.

An open staircase framed by 22-foot glass walls leads to the bridal section on the second level. The RTW collection is on the ground floor because Monique and Tom want it more accessible to the customer. It is also the category they consider essential for more growth.

In 1986, Monique launched her business as strictly bridal. She soon became one of the top designers in the US, thanks to her celebrity clientele. Britney Spears wore Monique Lhuillier in her wedding to Kevin Federline in 2004.

Bridal is the foundation of Monique’s meteoric success. As she says, “I feel like in bridal we’re at the top of our game right now.” However, at the moment, her primary focus in on RTW.

Now that they have opened their New York flagship store, Monique and Tom are looking forward to possibly opening in the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Establishing her own network of stores will result in the company’s expansion.

As she told Iredale,  “A lot of department stores or specialty boutiques that carry me buy me for wedding gowns or solely evening gowns.

We really feel like the future for us is in the ready-to-wear collection, and housing the entire thing in our stores. Now the customer has access to it all.”

Monique was born in Cebu, the youngest of four children of Michel Lhuillier, Honorary Consul of France in the Visayas, and Amparito Llamas Lhuillier, who Monique always says has been her inspiration.


UK ‘excited’ over trade with Philippines

LONDON—The Philippines is a “hugely exciting” market where the United Kingdom is keen on boosting reciprocal investment.

Key trade officials here bared this bright outlook, noting that the UK was setting its sights on Southeast Asia as a priority growth area amid the continuing dim prospects in Western economies.

They said the UK hoped to step up trade with growing markets to combat a general sense of pessimism over economic numbers here and in the euro zone.

Nick Baird, chief executive of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the state body that links UK firms to the global market, said that British firms were looking at ways to tap the Philippines’ robust economy and invest in major infrastructure, health care and retail-related projects.

“I think that for us, the huge opportunities there are certainly around big infrastructure projects, health… We’re also very interested in areas I would describe as building on and working with countries’ growing middle classes, so [it’s about] providing better education, health services, accessing the consumption of these middle classes through the retail sector,” Baird told Asean reporters on a visit here.

Enjoys Brits’ confidence

Baird said the Philippines enjoyed the confidence of the UK business community, particularly of Richard Lambert, former head of the UK employers group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and now chancellor of the University of Warwick, a top British university.

“We have a lot of very strong champions for the Philippine market. I was talking recently to Mr. Lambert, former head of CBI, which is our biggest business organization and he’s saying the Philippines is a hugely exciting market,” said Baird.

The Philippines is currently regarded among the world’s booming markets and is expected to retain in the second semester the 6.1-percent growth rate it posted in the first half of the year.

International credit ratings agencies Moody’s Investors Service, Fitch Ratings, and Standard and Poor’s upgraded the country’s rating to a notch just below investment grade, citing the Philippines’ steady growth pace.

The UK is sending a trade mission to the Philippines this week to touch base with the government and business sector and discuss possible partnerships in social infrastructure and transport.

Participating UK companies include Arup, Tata Steel International, Kier Construction, Tony Gee & Partners, GE Healthcare, Ryder Architecture, IMC Worldwide, SKM Colin Buchanan and KM&T, top firms in construction, design and architecture, project management and consultancy, services and supply chain management, according to the UK Embassy in Manila.

Total bilateral trade between the Philippines from January to August of this year was placed at 512.9 million British pounds (P33.8 billion), a five-percent growth over the same period last year.

‘Asean is very important’

Such an economic glow in the Philippines, also mirrored across the region, is a bright spot amid continuing economic troubles in the euro zone and the slow recovery in the United States. The latest UK growth rate was placed at one percent and the struggle to raise this is expected in the next few years.

“The Asean is really very important to us not just because this is such, collectively, a huge economy, comparable in size to China and Japan, bigger than India, but also because in many of the countries, we have good strong positive relationships,” Baird said.

Expand export capacity

He said the UK hoped to establish greater two-way trade with Asean firms, stepping up both export and inward investments. Currently, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are among the UK’s major trade and investment partners.

More than half of UK exports go to the developed but currently struggling markets and it has only a 1.2-percent share of imports in major growth markets, including the whole of Asean.

“Britain wants to hugely expand its export capacity, with particular focus on the growth markets and, in that, the Asean markets have a special place for us. And second, this is a country that is massively open to foreign investors and companies of all kinds. It’s very easy to set up business here,” he said.

He said the UK aimed to double its trade with each of the Asean countries by 2015. And while concerns about political stability, corruption and business ease may remain, the UK holds the view that there is “far less risk to trade with Asean than there is to trade with China, Africa or India,” he said.

Giving Asia attention

“We have been trading successfully in the last few years in our European backyard and with the United States, but of course those markets are still weak and we need to get much better trading into the big growth markets of Asia, Latin America and Africa,” Baird said.

The UKTI, through the year-old UK Asean Business Council, is hoping to facilitate this exchange through spreading greater Asean market awareness to UK firms, said the council’s executive director, Tom Burden.

“We are working on raising awareness of Asean markets in the UK. It’s really about giving Asia the attention it deserves,” Burden told reporters in a separate briefing.


Strong quake strikes off Guatemala – USGS

GUATEMALA CITY – A strong 6.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the Pacific coast of Guatemala on Sunday, just days after a tremor in the same area left 42 people dead, Guatemalan President Otto Perez said.

The aftershock, which struck at 2215 GMT, triggered some landslides but “fortunately we have no human losses to lament,” Perez told reporters.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was “no destructive widespread tsunami threat” based on the data.

The epicenter of the quake was located 24 kilometers (15 miles) west-southwest of the town of Champerico, and 180 kilometers west-southwest of Guatemala City, said the US Geological Survey, which monitors quakes worldwide.

Perez said that the quake triggered some landslides, especially in an area known as Barranca Grande (Big Ravine) in the department of San Marcos, some 250 kilometers west of the Guatemalan capital on the border with Mexico.

Scores of rescuers were already on the site searching for a person who was buried in Wednesday’s quake, Perez said.

“Thank God nothing regrettable happened, only that the landslide again covered what we had already cleared out,” Perez said.

The 7.4-magnitude quake on Wednesday killed 42 people, according to an updated death toll given earlier by Perez. Initially, 52 people had been reported dead.

Last week’s quake was the most violent to strike the central American country since 1976, when almost 23,000 people perished.


Courts appointments provide Obama a chance to leave his mark

WASHINGTON DC - As US President Barack Obama dives into his second term and looks to build his legacy, his appointments of federal judges, especially to the Supreme Court, appear certain to make a lasting impact.

Over the next four years, the Democratic president will have the opportunity to pull a largely conservative federal bench toward the left, with about 100 vacancies to fill and a Supreme Court that could have up to three openings.

"It is typically in the second term that presidents tend to handle the legacy issues," said Doug Kendall, president of the Constitutional Accountability Center, a Washington-based think tank.

"He has to exercise his constitutional right and authority," Kendall told a recent conference, urging Obama to appoint "moderates" to respond to the "very radical vision of the Constitution" espoused by some ultra-conservative judges.

Unlike in individual states where judges are elected by popular vote, the president names judges to the bench in the US federal court system -- comprised of 89 trial courts, 13 appellate courts, and the Supreme Court.

The US Senate must confirm all judicial nominees.

Currently, most of the 179 appeals judges and 678 trial judges were named by Republican presidents over the last three decades, and the highest courts lean towards the right.

"President Obama really has to be the commander-in-chief in terms of diversifying" the courts, said Caroline Fredrickson, president of the progressive American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.

The US needs "to have a court system that is actually fair and balanced" both politically and socially, she said.

Frederickson hailed Obama for increasing the number of women, homosexuals, and minorities on the federal bench -- including the two women he put on the Supreme Court.

But she said the November 6 election, in which Obama handily defeated Republican rival Mitt Romney, served as a "wake-up call" on women's and family issues, and a win over "shocking words on rape and abortion" from the right.

During the campaign, Republican Senate candidates Todd Akin from Missouri and Richard Mourdock from Indiana sparked national outrage with their comments about rape and abortion. Both candidates lost their respective races.

'Flood the zone'

The judiciary is meant to be non-partisan, noted Andrew Blotky, director of legal policy issues at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, saying "judges shouldn't be policymakers."

But whether it's health care reform, voting rights or affirmative action, just a few of the issues taken up by the Supreme Court in recent months, Blotky said "courts play a significant and long-term role on American life."

Obama's Republican predecessor George W. Bush "flooded the zone" with like-minded judges, said Ian Millhiser, a constitutional policy analyst also with the Center for American Progress.

Bush named 12 appeals court judges and two Supreme Court judges, including the current chief justice John Roberts.

Now that he has the chance, "Obama has to flood the zone" to restore judicial equilibrium, Millhiser said.

After naming Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the nine-justice Supreme Court, Obama may have the opportunity to replace as many as three more who will be over the age of 80 by 2015.

Speculation has focused on Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 79, who suffers from cancer.

But his impact could be felt across the system, as the vacancies on lower courts have mounted over the past four years, in part because Obama struggled to get his appointees confirmed by the Senate.

Although the Democratic Party holds a majority in the chamber, Republicans can use legislative maneuvers to block nominations or at least make the process more cumbersome.

John Podesta, the chair of the Center for American Progress and a former White House chief of staff under Bill Clinton, said reforms to the process of confirming judges in the Senate are necessary.

Millhiser noted that if Obama does not respond to the challenge at hand, "we will have a future president in 2016 who will."


China slams ‘distorted’ view of copyright piracy problem

BEIJING — China’s top official in charge of fighting copyright piracy on Sunday slammed what he said was deliberate distortion of the problem by the Western media caused by the country’s poor global image, saying important facts had been ignored.

Foreign governments, including the United States, have for years urged China to take a stronger stand against pervasive violations of intellectual property rights on products ranging from medicines to software to DVD movies sold on the street.

The United States in April again put China, along with Russia, on its annual list of countries with the worst records of preventing the theft of copyrighted material and other intellectual property.

But Tian Lipu, head of China’s State Intellectual Property Office, said the government’s efforts were being ignored.

“Speaking honestly, there is a market. People use and buy pirated goods,” Tian told reporters on the sidelines of a landmark Communist Party congress.

“To a large extent, China’s intellectual property rights protection image has been distorted by Western media.

“China’s image overseas is very poor. As soon as people hear China they think of piracy and counterfeiting — (Beijing’s) Sanlitun, that place in Shanghai, Luohu in Shenzhen,” he said, referring to places notorious for selling fake goods.

“We don’t deny (this problem), and we are continuing to battle against it,” Tian added.

But other facts were overlooked, he said.

“For example, China is the world’s largest payer for patent rights, for trademark rights, for royalties, and one of the largest for buying real software,” he said. “We pay the most. People rarely talk about this, but it really is a fact. Our government offices, our banks, our insurance companies, our firms … the software is all real.”

Microsoft Corp and other members of the Business Software Alliance in the United States complain that nearly 80 percent of the software installed on personal computers in China is pirated.

Tian said that if companies like Apple Inc were so worried by piracy they would never choose China for their production bases.

“Of the goods made for Apple, most are made in China. Once Apple’s brand is added to it and it is exported to the United States its value doubles,” he said.

“This could only happen because China’s intellectual property rights environment sets foreign investors at ease allowing them to come to China to manufacture.”

The International Intellectual Property Alliance, a U.S. coalition of film, software, music and publishing groups, estimates that U.S. companies lost more than $15 billion in 2009 due to international copyright theft.

About $14 billion of the total was due to software piracy, with an estimated $3.5 billion in losses in China and $1.4 billion in Russia.


Bieber, Swift big winners at MTV Europe Music Awards

FRANKFURT - Pop superstars Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift dominated the 19th annual MTV Europe Music Awards Sunday, but South Korean Internet phenomenon Psy clinched the coveted Best Video prize.

Canadian heart-throb Bieber, fresh from breaking up with his girlfriend of two years, Selena Gomez, scooped Best Male Artist for the third year in a row, with millions of fans voting to name the winners.

Bieber, 18, who did not attend the ceremony in the western German city of Frankfurt, also bagged Best Pop Act and Best World Stage Performance.

Swift of the US claimed the gong for Best Female Artist from presenter Lana Del Rey as the show got underway and went on to pick up honours for Best Live Act and Best Look.

"This is my very first EMA -- I'm so excited," said the 22-year-old blonde, who later dressed up as a circus ringleader to perform her hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" in the show's finale.

"This was our first European tour -- thank you for giving me one more amazing reason to come back and see you."

Psy, whose single "Gangnam Style" has more than 700 million views on YouTube and spawned countless videos copying his signature horse-riding dance, paid tribute to his wife of six years and loved ones back home when he picked up his award.

"I'd like to thank all my family who's got to live with a selfish job, with a selfish guy," the 34-year-old quipped.

Han Geng of China beat out Rihanna for Best Worldwide Act, awarded for only the second time. The 24-year-old Barbadian beauty, who had led with six nominations, went home empty-handed, as did flamboyant US trailblazer Lady Gaga, who was up for three awards.

Del Ray claimed Best Alternative Act and Nicki Minaj won for Best Hip Hop.

The Best Song prize went to Canada's Carly Rae Jepsen for the catchy "Call Me Maybe," which she collected from US reality show star Kim Kardashian.

"All I can say is I was not expecting this," she said as she hoisted the statuette, a globe topped with a wobbling MTV logo on a spring.

Jepsen, 26, thanked Bieber, who set her song on its trajectory by promoting it online.

German-born supermodel Heidi Klum, 39, hosted the show, and made her entrance at the century-old Festhalle, decorated for a circus tent theme, in a sexy bridal gown and jaunty black top hat. She sat perched on a trapeze as the prize handout began.

Kardashian had a minor wardrobe malfunction when she came on stage as a spike heel got caught in the train of her low-cut black Stephane Rolland gown, leading her to stumble.

"I'm clumsy," she later joked backstage.

US soul singer Alicia Keys led a tribute to Whitney Houston, as Beyonce lent a voice-over to a video in honor of the late US singer. A further shout-out went to Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who died of cancer in May.

The MTV Europe Awards are held each year in a different European city, with past hosts including Belfast in 2011, Madrid in 2010 and Berlin in 2009.

The show featured a few innovations this time, with "Knight Rider" and "Baywatch" star David "The Hoff" Hasselhoff serving as the show's "social media correspondent" and offering live commentary on Twitter and joining Psy for a cameo during his live performance.

British newcomer Rita Ora opened the show with a spectacular pyrotechnic-studded performance of her hit "R.I.P", followed by acts including US indie band fun, No Doubt, Jepsen, Keys, and Las Vegas rockers The Killers.


All eyes on TV5 princess Ritz Azul, thanks to sexy magazine cover

And just like that, her life changed in a flash.

TV5 Princess Ritz Azul insists that as far as she’s concerned, she remains the same person she was, say, a month ago. “Sa sarili ko, wala namang nagbago. I’m still the same person,” she nonchalantly declared.

But the leading lady of the upcoming TV5 fantaserye “Kidlat” is also quick to acknowledge that since the release of the November 2012 issue of FHM Philippines, which features her on the cover, everyone else around her has changed.

“Dati, pag may taping, tinatanong pa ako ng mga production assistants (PAs) kung sino ako, ngayon naririnig ko na lang sila, ‘Ah, si Ritz ‘yan!’ Ganun din sa mga mall, ngayon mas marami nang tumatawag sa kin, nagpapa-picture,” she admitted during the pocket interview with InterAksyon and other selected members of media that preceded her well-attended FHM autograph signing session at Robinsons Gallera Saturday.

Ditto with the suddenly increasing number of suitors of the curvaceous 18-year old “Star Factor” alumna who has confessed to having had “no boyfriend since birth”. “Mula nang lumabas ang FHM, ang daming nagpaparamdam sa text, merong from showbiz, may non-showbiz, may politician,” she shared.

Does that include her “Kapitan Awesome” co-star Martin Escudero who only recently has admitted to have feelings for Ritz?

“All I can say is very close kami ni Mart pero alam din naman niya and all those other guys na wala pa talaga sa isip ko ang magka-boyfriend,” she declared.

What does Mart have to say about her posing for FHM?

“Actually, ayaw mag-comment ni Mart pagdating sa FHM. Binanggit ko sa kanya ‘yun bago ako nag-shoot and sabi niya, pag ininterview siya about it, hindi raw siya magco-comment. Sabi niya kasi conservative daw ako so hindi na lang daw siya magsasalita kasi hindi siya sure kung masasaktan ako o hindi sa sinabi niya,” Ritz added.

Her FHM cover also contains a generous cover story and pictorial spread throughout 13 pages and sees Ritz wearing a lacy maillot as well as a couple of two-string bikinis.

Ritz, however, pointed out that the pose is not without its share of hard work. Although she revealed that the premier men’s magazine has been “courting” her since last year after she made heads turn with her daring portrayal of a showbiz aspirant in “Mga Nagbabagang Bulaklak”.

Last September, she also made a lot of heads turn when she graced the 2012 Cosplay Mania event in a sizzling Catwoman suit that, as it turned out, served as a prelude of sorts for her FHM cover stint.

“That was part of the promotion for ‘Kidlat’. Although hindi ko pa alam kung magkakaroon ako ng superpowers sa show, ang sabi sa ‘kin ng creative team, itabi ko lang daw ‘yung Catwoman costume at baka magamit ulit.”

At that time, she still did not know that she’ll be appearing in FHM until one week later when negotiations with her management team finally came through.

That also meant she had to get in shape some more and shed a few pounds as part of her preparation. “Nagpapayat po lalo talaga ako for the shoot,” she disclosed.

All her sacrifices, however, paid off as she is now one of the most talked about FHM cover girls this year, hailed by the magazine as “TV5’s hottest property”, “ a virginal bombshell”, and “a future crush ng bayan”.

Ritz’s cover pose also comes on the heels of Yam Concepcion’s bestselling October shoot for FHM in line with her launching film, “Rigodon” which is hoped to trigger the return of sexy films.

When asked what she feels about doing sexy films herself, Ritz said she’s not prepared to go that far yet.

“Hanggang cover lang muna,” she said, laughing. When asked if she would be willing to do this again, especially if she makes the list of FHM’s annual 100 Sexiest Women In The World, Ritz said she will leave it up to her management team.

As for being compared with other actresses and personalities particularly “Will Tme Big Time” co-host Mariel Rodriguez, who was the magazine’s December 2008 cover babe, Ritz has only one word to say: flattered.

“Wala akong masabi kung hindi puro flattered kasi ang ganda-ganda ni Miss Mariel. Nahihiya nga akong tanggapin na kamukha ko daw siya. Dati, ang naririnig ko, si Angel Locsin naman daw ang kahawig ko.”

For someone who does not even consider herself sexy to begin with and who could not remember any serious suitor pursuing her until recently, being the center of everyone’s attention is certainly something new to the recent debutante.

Whether or not it also eventually translates into a long and illustrious showbiz career, only time will tell. But regardless of what happens, Ritz, who is also the Sangguniang Kabataan Chairman in her barangay in Pampanga, is also keen on pursuing a career in politics.

“Being president? I don’t think that far naman just yet. But I do see myself as a councilor in the near future. Let’s see what happens.”


Cosmic quirk explains Australia eclipse

PARIS - Aboriginal myths, tropical Australia, and the Great Barrier Reef provide a stunning backdrop next week to an eagerly-awaited total eclipse of the Sun.

For over three hours next Wednesday, the alignment of our Sun, our Moon and our planet will create one of the most spectacular sights in Nature.

The bringer of light and life is briefly blotted out, replaced by a corona of gold, its face obscured by a dark disc. Daytime stars appear in an indigo sky. The temperature eerily drops. Birds, confused by the strange coming of night, may fly into buildings and bats may leave their roosts.

A swathe of northern Australia, led by the tourist paradise of Queensland, is the only place where the eclipse will be viewed by many people, for the event will mainly take place over the vast, uninhabited South Pacific.

The light show starts at 2035 GMT Tuesday -- shortly after daybreak local time on Wednesday -- when the Moon's shadow, or umbra, falls in the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park in the Northern Territory, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) east of Darwin, according to NASA eclipse-meister Fred Espenak. (

The umbra then flits eastward, across the Gulf of Carpentaria, before alighting in Queensland, where eclipse junkies -- some of them well-heeled Europeans and Americans on specially-organized trips --- will gather in Cairns and Port Douglas, the gateways to the Great Barrier Reef. Weather permitting, they will get two minutes of "totality."

After a 14,500-km (9,062-mile) trek, the three-body ballet comes to an end at 2348 GMT about 800 km (500 miles) west of Chile.

Outside the path of totality, a partial eclipse will be visible in Papua New Guinea, the extreme eastern part of Indonesia, the eastern half of Australia, the whole of New Zealand, Polynesia, part of Antarctica and the southern part of Chile and Argentina, says Britain's Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).

The legends of Australia's native peoples show eclipses to be of huge importance, says Duane Hamacher, an expert on Aboriginal astronomy at the University of New South Wales. The Moon is often seen as a man and a woman who chase each other across the sky, sometimes fighting, sometimes loving.

"In Euahlayi culture, the sun woman, Yhi, is constantly pursuing the moon man, Bahloo, who has rejected her advances," Humacher says in his blog (

"Sometimes Yhi eclipsed Bahloo, trying to kill him in a jealous rage. However, the spirits that held up the sky intervened and drove Yhi away from Bahloo.

The Yolngu people of Elcho Island in Arnhem Land provided a similar, but less malevolent, explanation for a solar eclipse -- it was an act of copulation between the sun woman and moon man."

As in other parts of the world, eclipses in Aboriginal communities were seen as a sign of impending calamity or black magic, a threat that could be addressed by medicine men, or wirreenuns, who chanted a particular set of words or threw sacred stones or a boomerang at the eclipsing Sun.

Mathematicians say total solar eclipses happen because of a remarkable celestial coincidence.

The Sun is 400 times wider than the Moon, but it is also 400 times farther away.

The symmetry means that when the Moon is exactly in line between the Sun and Earth, it completely obscures the solar face for people who are in its shadow, or umbra.

For those positioned outside a roughly 150-kilometer (95-mile) -wide central path but who are still partly in the Moon's shadow, the eclipse is partial -- it looks as if a bite has been taken out of the Sun.

Total eclipses are rare, and can be seen from a given point on Earth's surface only once every 410 years in the northern hemisphere, but only once every 540 years in the southern hemisphere.

The last total eclipse was on July 11, 2010, again over the South Pacific; the next will take place on March 20, 2015, occurring over Iceland, the Feroe Islands and Norway's far northern Svalbard archipelago, according to Espenak.


Happy yipee yehey! Willie Revillame, John Estrada bury the hatchet

Willie Revillame and John Estrada have buried the hatchet after not speaking to one another for almost two years, talk show host Cristy Fermin reported on her radio show on Friday.

Cristy said the reconciliation took place past Thursday midnight at the Heritage Memorial Park Chapel during the last night of the funeral for John’s father Vicente. The two men immediately embraced each other as soon as Willie arrived to extend his condolences.

The elder Estrada, 65, passed away Monday afternoon after a long batle with heart disease and was buried Friday afternoon.

The reconciliation was confirmed by Gladi Echevarre, a staff member of Willie’s nightly game show “Wil Time Bigtime”, who tweeted on Friday: “John Estrada and Willie Revillame reconciled after a year and a half. Yes, bati na sila.”

Willie famously snubbed John’s wedding with Brazilian model Priscilla Mireilles in February 2011, a ceremony in which he was supposed to be the best man. The snub was an offshoot of Willie’s acrimonious split with ABS-CBN in 2010.

John and Willie became close friends in 1998 when they hosted “Magandang Tanghali, Bayan” or “MTB” on ABS-CBN, with Randy Santiago. The daily noontime show ran for over six years until it was replaced by “Wowowee”, which Willie hosted alone and ran for five successful years.

“Wowowee” went off the air on July 30, 2010 after Willlie had a dispute with ABS-CBN executives. The Kapamilya network replaced it with “Pilipinas Win Na Win” while Willie moved to TV5 and hosted “Willing Willie”, the precursor to “Wil Time Bigtime”.

After only five months, ABS-CBN replaced “Pilipinas Win Na Win” with “Happy Yipee Yehey”, whose hosts included John and “MTB” cohort Randy.

Willie reportedly felt betrayed by John’s decision to co-host the show, which ABS-CBN eventually cancelled in February this year after 51 weeks on the air.