Top Brands: From Banks to Buses

Too often, we find many things to complain about in the services and products we use everyday. Once in a while, we stumble upon that rare brand or company that consistently provides exactly what we need or want. Here are some brands that have constantly been worth my time, trust, and yes, money, for the excellent service they represent.

BPI. In the over seven years that I have been a client, the Bank of the Philippine Islands has never failed to live up to its slogan: “Let’s make it easy.” And easy it has always been. Its staff are quick to assist with transactions, once pulling me out of an almost shameful banking situation in Cagayan De Oro. Its online and phonebanking services are topnotch; I can’t remember a concern that their phonebankers have not been able to address. Last year, BPI removed its interbranch deposit fees and installed touchscreen terminals in its branches–innovations that highlight the bank’s client-centered approach. I know I’m beginning to sound like a commercial, but you really are in good hands with BPI. Oh, that tagline belongs to another bank, but that is more true with BPI than with any other Philippine bank.

Hush Puppies. If BPI makes banking a breeze, that’s what Hush Puppies does for walking…in more formal-looking shoes. I bought a pair 10 months ago and I’ve been walking in them 40 minutes every day to and from jeepney and train stations in commuting to work. These leather, “body shoes” are extremely comfortable and the perfect company to my feet even during out-of-town trips. They are also decent looking enough to use when I have to facilitate trainings or attend meetings.

Reebok. For running, Reebok is my brand of choice. It provides the same comfort and cushion as its competitors, but the difference lies in the cost. Reebok is just so reasonably priced–a little above P2,000–that it makes buying the other brands at more than twice the cost simply ridiculous. Why spend that much when you can get the same thing relatively on the cheap? And does Nike’s freakishly outlandish design really make a difference? (I would love to hear from serious runners on this one.)

Montanara. Me and my mountain bag have been through a lot in five years, and the poor backpack has borne it all with grace and a straight back–literally. That piece of steel that lines the backpack’s back (uh-hmm) and keeps it steady with my spine is one of the things that I love about this bag. Plus, those straps that spread the weight towards my chest and mercilessly flabby abdomen are just what my orthopedic doctor prescribed. After all the throwing and jamming and all the weight my bag has suffered, it’s small wonder that it’s only caved in once. Montanara repaired the bag for free, and it looks like this is a lifetime thing. What more can I ask?

Happee. I grew up using Colgate like most Filipinos I know and was one of those kids who thought the brand synonymous with “toothpaste”. Then Bee introduced me to Happee, and I’ve been using that 10 years hence. Like any self-respecting toothpaste, Happee also contains flouride, the most important ingredient in preventing tooth problems. So why spend more when this brand is 30% cheaper than the leading ones? Best of all, it is made by a Pinoy company and its story is a classic example of how a problem can be turned into an opportunity. They also provide jobs and education to the deaf-mute.

Calea. This is still the best place I’ve been in to have delicious and affordable cake–at just about P50-P65 per slice. Going to Bacolod is always such a treat due to the fun fieldwork memories, and part of those moments is unwinding at Calea. I would even forgo dinner to have the tummy space (and the per diem!) for two slices of those yummy confections. I did think about the consequences, but only when I woke up in the morning and came crashing through the toilet. But every bite is worth it.

Bana’s. To have the best cake and the best coffee on one table would be a bite of heaven for me, but alas, they are hundreds of kilometers and islands apart. Bana’s Cafe in Sagada has the best coffee I’ve tasted thus far in the country. Hmmm…I can almost smell that heady and vibrant Arabica flavor wafting through Bana’s haphazard yet cozy balcony. Since the cafe is not exactly around the corner like the good ol’ sari-sari store, I will settle for Kopiko for now.

Cagsawa. Nope, this is not a brand of cake, coffee or shoes, and is definitely not a bank. I am referring to that bus in Bicol that plies the Manila-Legazpi route. I have taken this bus only once, but that was enough to show the stark difference between its services and those of the Naga-bound buses I usually take. One look at their drivers and their neckties and “professional” is the word that comes to mind. They also leave on time, a fact that a tardy travel companion caused to emphasize to my acute embarrassment. And it is the only bus line I know that actually has a departure system similar to that in airports. You check in at their bus terminal office the moment you arrive to enable the drivers to keep track of passengers. Pretty cool. Too bad they don’t stop over at my hometown.

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