A Marks & Spencer Christmas Story: Holiday gift-giving tips from educator Nicole Hao Bian


“Christmas is my favorite time of the year and I take gift giving seriously,” confessed 31-year-old Nicole Niña I. Hao Bian.

“When I make my Christmas list, I already include a budget and a shortlist of possible gifts to give according to the recipient’s personality, hobbies, and their likes,” she said. 

Nicole is systematic and practical. This is evident in the way she works. She manages six international academies under the JIB International Schools, sits on the board of several associations and flies to Hong Kong regularly for her Doctorate degree in Hotel and Tourism Management. In between, she attends social events. She’s busy but this smart, stylish and beautiful lady breezes through her daily schedule with ease and finesse.

I start planning as early as mid-October with a list of almost 400 people on Excel file.

“I oversee and manage all the schools under JIB working closely with our academic leaders to ensure the schools accomplish their vision to be the premier institution for Hospitality, Tourism, Culinary and Entrepreneurship programs. I also take care of our industry linkages and education partnerships both nationally and internationally for all JIB schools,” says the educator.

It’s all about proper time management.

“I plan my schedule and make sure that I get to attend to all relevant meetings and commitments but not sacrifice my day to day tasks. Everything is written on my planner and noted on my calendar app,” she said. 

At Christmas, Nicole is as organized in her gift-giving task. She starts planning as early as mid-October. Her Christmas list (which numbers to more than 400!) is on an Excel file categorized according to affiliation and relationship.

Here, she shares her gift-giving tips.

1. Give gifts that spark joy.

Consider what the person likes, enjoys and is passionate about. A thoughtful gift doesn’t need to be expensive as long as it will make the person smile and feel loved and appreciated. Opt for a bestseller or award-winning title for the book lover, a journal for the writer, traveling cubes for the travel enthusiast, among others.

2. Give experiences. 

These days, many people are looking into trying new experiences as compared to acquiring material things that lead to more clutter at home. Give experiential gifts that the person can enjoy, such as spa treatments, staycation packages, wine and cheese tasting sessions, movie tickets, restaurant vouchers.

3. Personalize.

Handmade and personalized gifts are the perfect way to show your love and appreciation.

Make an artwork or a personalized card, bake some Christmas goodies or curate all of the person’s favorite goodies in one basket. Plus, it’s a good talking point and a story worth sharing every time. 

4. Consider visual presentation. 

Like food, visual appeal creates excitement. Gifts that are properly and nicely wrapped instantly spark joy! Get creative by using non-traditional gift wrappers such as old newspapers/magazines/maps/calendars, recycled paper, re-usable bags, cloths and even personalized Christmas wrappers with your name/image on it. 

5. Give gifts that can be shared.

Christmas is best spent with your loved ones whether they’re your family, friends, and associates/acquaintances, and the perfect gift is one that can be shared and enjoyed by many. 

“For me, food and wine are the wisest gifts. They can easily be added to the Christmas dinner menu and liven up the festivity,” she said, adding that she relies on Marks & Spencer for its wide selection of food and wine choices to give to loved ones this Christmas. 

Fashion & food: M&S Holiday 2019 Collection and Christmas food hampers are available at the Marks & Spencer store in Ayala Center

Photography: Kenneth Hao

Make-up & Styling: Otoy Mercado

Location: Seda Abreeza Hotel


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