The 2023 Summer & Fall Edition

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COVER Discovering The Art Of Rest and Relaxation in the Philippines


the Art of Rest and Relaxation in the Philippines!

Dear Reader,

Welcome to the latest edition of Balikbayan Magazine, where we invite you to embark on a serene journey to explore the art of rest and relaxation amidst the breathtaking beauty of the Philippines.

In a world that never seems to stop moving, it has become essential to pause, breathe, and savor moments of stillness. The Philippines, with its idyllic landscapes, pristine beaches, and warm hospitality, is the perfect haven for those seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

I have had the privilege of traversing the globe, exploring countless aweinspiring destinations. Yet, amidst all my travels, it is my home country, the Philippines, that has maintained an indelible mark on my heart.

Whenever I find myself yearning for a sanctuary to recharge my soul, weary from the demands of work and the hectic pace of city life, I venture to Tagaytay or Baguio City— both just a few hours away from Manila.

Nestled atop the ridge of the Taal Volcano, Tagaytay offers a panoramic landscape that takes your breath away. As you stand on the edge, overlooking the picturesque Taal Lake, the world below transforms into a canvas of blues and greens. Further south, I enjoy taking a day trip to the Montemaria

International Pilgrimage & Conference Center in Batangas City. Located there is The Mother of All Asia– Tower of Peace, the tallest statue of the Virgin Mary in the world. She is a towering symbol of faith, spirituality and hope and offers breathtaking panoramic views of Batangas Bay.

Having grown up in nearby Binalonan, Pangasinan, I have been visiting Baguio City throughout my entire life, and it has always been a place where I find true tranquility. Nestled in the heart of the Cordillera Mountains, Baguio City is a mountain retreat known for its cool climate, scenic landscapes and laid-back ambiance.

During my time back in Pangasinan, I always make it a point to visit The Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag. It’s a special church for me to offer up a heartfelt prayer, thanking God for all the incredible blessings in my life.

As you flip through the pages of this magazine, prepare to immerse yourself in the beauty of leisure and rejuvenation like never before.

We invite you to disconnect from the frantic pace of modern life and embrace the art of rest and relaxation in the Philippines.

It is our hope that you will be inspired to find moments of peace not just during your travels but also in your daily lives, cherishing the value of selfcare and embracing the art of simply being. Let the Philippines impart its magic on you as you delve into a world of serenity.

Bon voyage to a realm of blissful repose!

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Breaking Barriers: Pinay Models Who Are Redefining Beauty Standards on the International Stage By Concon Siñel

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A Rare and Auspicious Partnership: Asia Pacific Fashion Week Collaborates with Los Angeles Fashion Week Collaborates in 2023

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SUSTAINABLE STYLE: Meet the 4 Global Filipino Designers Making a Difference

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The oriental hotels: Where luxury meets home

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From Fashion to Tourism: The Remarkable Journey of Marga Nograles

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Luxury Living at Makati Diamond Residences

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Begin a Pilgrimage to the Holy Doors in Southern Cebu

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PHL embassy in US to bring Fil-Ams, balikbayans in tours

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UP celebrates record number of scientists in almost half a century

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Breaking Barriers: Pinay Models Who

Are Redefining Beauty Standards on the

International Stage

Every passing year demonstrates the unquestionable prowess Filipina models on the international scene, dispelling boundaries and shattering stereotypes along the way.

Indeed Filipina models have broken barriers and established themselves in the global fashion industry, from the renowned ranks of Victoria’s Secret alum Kelsey Merritt to the tenacious victory of Asia’s Next Top Model victor Maureen Wroblewitz.

While many people may be most familiar with these two well-known names, the Philippine catwalk has churned out countless additional ground-breaking talents who proudly represent the Philippines abroad and adorn the glossy pages of prestigious international fashion magazines.

These seven Filipina phenoms are redefining the game and leading the path for the upcoming generation of models, from runway superstars to rising stars.

Kelsey Merritt

Kelsey Merritt, who is of French, German, British, Irish, and Filipino ancestry, has established herself as a trailblazer in the fashion world.

She captured the attention of audiences all over the world with her stunning beauty and unquestionable runway ability, becoming the first Filipina to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show runway and appear in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

After graduating from Ateneo de Manila University, an elite Philippines university, Kelsey accepted a contract with Wilhelmina, one of the most prestigious modeling agencies in the world, and relocated to New York City.

She was rapidly noticed by prominent businesses because to her evident ability and lovely features, making her the first Filipina to ever walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show catwalk in 2018.

As one of the most sought-after models in 2019, Kelsey’s star power shone brightly on the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. As she works with renowned designers and fashion brands, her natural beauty and alluring demeanor continue to fascinate fashion aficionados around.

Danica Magpantay

Danica Magpantay, since winning the Supermodel of the World award in 2001, has become a force in the fashion business.

Danica is a true Renaissance woman since, in addition to her modelling skills, she is also an artist and a singer.

Danica has established herself as a top international model with an incredible body of work, consistently pushing the envelope and scaling new professional heights. She is a true trendsetter in the fashion industry, and both designers and consumers adore her quirky, one-of-a-kind outfits.

The ultimate goal for Danica was to be on one of the well-known Times Square billboards. And as luck would have it, a few years ago, she did a commercial for Aeropostale, making her dream come true! Danica is a formidable force, and we eagerly anticipate what she will achieve next.

Janine Tugonon

Janine Tugonon made a daring transition from Miss Universe 2012 runner-up to the runway just one year after dashing the international scene.

She was soon participating in fashion shows all over America thanks to the worldwide fashion industry’s swift recognition of her incredible talent and attractive appearance.

Her career took off as a Victoria’s Secret model in 2016, and she commanded the spotlight in the company’s renowned PINK video campaign. But it was in New York City specifically that her star truly rose.

Janine has numerous testimonials in her remarkable resume, including modeling for well-known US companies like Wells Fargo and Walmart. Elle and Teen Vogue were drawn to her captivating aura, and featured her in gushing articles, establishing her as a budding star.

And if that weren’t enough, Janine also walked the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, demonstrating her adaptability and unmistakable talent for brands like Ralph Lauren, Sherri Hill, and Puma. She even contributed her alluring beauty to advertisements for brands like Shiseido.

Janine Tugonon: from Miss Universe 2012 runner-up to the globe’s runways. Photo by Raen Badua / Mod Magazine Danica Magpantay, former ‘Supermodel of the World’ winner. Photo by Danica Magpantay / Instagram Kelsey Merritt attending the star-studded Vanity Fair Oscar Party in March 2023 in Beverly Hills. Photo by Kelsey Merritt / Instagram
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Charo Ronquillo

Charo Ronquillo was spotted by a modeling agency while competing in a game of basketball at a mall in the Philppines.

She later won the Ford Supermodel of the World Philippines 2005 search, when she was barely 17 years old. Her success continued when she finished third in the Supermodel World Finals in New York City in 2006.

Since then, Charo has collaborated with a number of prestigious fashion companies, such as Lacoste, Lela Rose, Nanette Lapore, Zero Maria Cornejo, Tory Burch, and more. She has also appeared in countless beauty editorials for Vogue, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour – thanks to her stunning beauty and modeling abilities.

Top modeling agencies from around the world, including Faze Model Management, Calcarrie’s International Models, Ford Models in New York, Angels and Demons Model Management, Franicina Models in Barcelona, D1 Models in London, and New Madison in Paris, represent Charo.

Indeed Charo is a rising star in the fashion world given her outstanding talent and remarkable portfolio.

Hannah Locsin

Hannah Locsin, who had her sights set on the stars, jumped into modeling right out of college in the Philippines – and rapidly cemented her place in the modeling industry.

She took every chance that presented itself, from the illustrious runways of London and Paris Fashion Week to the cutting-edge Hyeres Fashion Festival. It was only a matter of time after she graced the pages of Vogue Italia for the rest of the world to recognize her natural skill and captivating personality.

Hannah, however, really came into her own in Milan, when she won the hearts of fashion enthusiasts everywhere as she strutted down the catwalk in a lime green Gucci outfit while rocking her now-iconic bowl cut and feisty attitude.

Since then, this Filipina beauty has established herself as a mainstay of Fashion Weeks around the world, a Gucci Beauty ambassador, a Maybelline muse, and even a Vogue Japan cover star, demonstrating that the sky’s the limit when you pursue your goals with unrelenting devotion.

Charlene Almarvez

Charlene Almarvez, a resident of the glittering city of New York, has been dominating the modeling industry since 2010, when she won the second place prize in the Ford Supermodel of the World competition.

She has graced the campaigns of wellknown international brands like Maybelline, Shideiso, and Shu Uemura with her dazzling features and great ability.

She even displayed her innate charm in a Coach commercial. Charlene proved in 2019 that she is a talented actor by playing a gripping guest part in the popular crime drama City on a Hill, where she co-starred with the legendary Kevin Bacon.

Geena Rocero

Geena Rocero has forged a path through the modeling profession and beyond, as the paradigm of the modern multi-hyphenate.

Aside from being a model, Geena Rocero is a multi-talented and award-winning producer, director, model, public speaker, and trans rights advocate.

Geena got her start in the world of beauty pageants, and at the age of 21, she signed with one of the biggest and most successful model agencies in the world NEXT Model Management, based in New York City. Here is where her star soon went to the top.

This transgender model made a name for herself in the fashion world by walking the catwalk at New York Fashion Week and appearing in several swimsuit and beauty magazines.

Geena had higher aspirations than that, though. She started her own production company called Gender Proud since she was passionate about uplifting the transgender community. Gender Proud is devoted to using media as a potent instrument for advocating equality for the transgender community as a “trans-focused and trans-specific” production business.

This year, Geena released her new book, “Horse Barbie.” The book is a memoir about her journey of self-discovery, acceptance, and empowerment as a Filipina trans woman.

In the book, Geena hares her experiences with bullying, discrimination, and violence, as well as her triumphs in the face of adversity.

She also writes about the importance of cultural heritage and ancestral spirit in her journey of self-acceptance.

The book has been praised by critics and readers alike, and it has the potential to ignite a movement of acceptance and empowerment for the transgender community.

Charlene Almarvez has been slaying the modeling game since 2010, after won second place in Ford Supermodel of the World competition. Photo by Danilo Hess / Vogue Philippines Charo Ronquillo for Space NK, a British retailer of personal care and beauty products. Photo by John-Paul Pietrus Geena Rocero: the epitome of a modern-day multi-hyphenate. Photo by Geena Rocero / Instagram Hannah Locsin in her signature bowl cut on the March 2020 cover issue of Harper’s Bazaar Kazakhstan. Photo by Hannah Locsin / Instagram)
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A Rare and Auspicious Partnership: Asia Pacific Fashion Week Collaborates with Los Angeles Fashion Week Collaborates in 2023 Asia Pacific Fashion Week (APFW) is the world’s freshest platform discovering and recognizing emerging fashion designers in the Asia-Pacific region.
Asia Pacific Fashion Week is teaming up with Los Angeles Fashion Week in 2023, in what can only be described as a rare and momentous collaboration. Photo by of Art Hearts Fashion Asia Pacific Fashion Week is the world’s freshest platform discovering and recognizing emerging fashion designers in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Photo by Create N Capture / Noel Ty

In a momentous announcement, APFW is teaming up this October 2023 with Los Angeles Fashion Week, renowned for its cutting-edge runway that showcases innovative designers and artists in a setting that continually breaks the mold.

This collaboration comes at a perfect time, as Los Angeles Fashion Week marks its 10th anniversary this year, and this auspicious partnership promises to expand the reach of both events and showcase global talent.

10 years of Los Angeles Fashion Week: breaking new ground

The organization that runs Los Angeles Fashion Week bi-annually, in March and October, is called Art Hearts Fashion (AHF). It is an innovative platform that is constantly breaking new ground not only in L.A., but also in New York, Miami and Asia.

Since 2011, AHF has been mounting Los Angeles Fashion Week, Miami Swim Week and is one of the top platforms at New York Fashion Week.

Through the years, Los Angeles Fashion Week has been attracting renowned and emerging designers alike, becoming a favorite of many stylists, media, celebrities, and fashion enthusiasts.

The capital of fashion and entertainment: the world is captivated by L.A.

Los Angeles has captured the world’s attention as the entertainment and fashion capital, dictating trends that captivate people all over the world.

AHF has solidified its position as the ‘official Los Angeles Fashion Week’, and is brimming with pride for this accomplishment. The city of Los Angeles has recognized the platform’s dedication to promoting cultural diversity and driving economic development by awarding it for two consecutive years.

Undoubtedly, Los Angeles Fashion Week is steadfast in its mission to elevate the status of fashion, and to put the spotlight on L.A.’s ascent as a top-tier cultural and fashion capital.

With APFW, another Los Angelesbased organization, joining forces, the collaboration promises to bring a fresh perspective and invigorating energy to the event.

Wrapping up the 10th annual Miami Swim Week in style

AHF’s coast-to-coast contemporary events get the most renowned designers and the sharpest up-and-coming emerging designers to the runway in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and beyond.

In July, AHF wrapped up the 10th annual Miami Swim Week in total style. It was a week-long celebration of swimwear, resort wear, fashion, art, music, and much more.

The event featured runway shows from over 100 designers, including some of the biggest names in the swimwear industry.

The success of Miami Swim Week can be attributed, in part, to the support of globally recognized brands that partnered with the event. The week was a huge success, with over 20,000 attendees and millions of dollars in media exposure.

Celebrating a decade of global fashion at New York Fashion Week

AHF celebrated its 10th anniversary at New York Fashion Week with a four-day event last February at the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

The event featured a diverse lineup of designers from around the world, including California-based brands Mister Triple X, Gypsy Sport, and Chromat. There were also surprise performances, afterparties, and live DJs throughout the week.

“From a quirky nightclub event to a world-renowned platform hosting some of the biggest-named celebrities and designers, I am always amazed that we have achieved so many things in our 10 years,” said Erik Rosete, founder of Art Hearts Fashion.

The event was a huge success, with sell-out shows and rave reviews from critics. It is clear that is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world.

Get ready to be swept away by a fashion extravaganza like no other

In just its second year, APFW has made remarkable strides in promoting and celebrating the rising fashion stars from the Asia-Pacific region.

This unwavering commitment to shining the spotlight on emerging designers echoes the very same mission of Los Angeles Fashion Week.

When APFW first made its debut, it embarked on a journey that took the form of a tour. With stops in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and East Rutherford, APFW dazzled audiences and left them clamoring for more.

Not one to rest on its laurels, APFW is now poised to unleash an even more spectacular show in its second year. This time, it’s teaming up with Los Angeles Fashion Week, in what can only be described as a rare and momentous collaboration.

Together, they will showcase the most brilliant and visionary fashion stars from the Asia-Pacific region on a stage that’s grander and more breathtaking than ever before.

Mark your calendars and prepare to be dazzled on October 13th

Mark your calendars and prepare to be dazzled, because this rare collaboration between Los Angeles Fashion Week and Asia Pacific Fashion Week will take center stage on Day 2 of the four-day ‘Los Angeles Fashion Week SpringSummer 2024’ event.

This momentous occasion is set to take place on October 13th, 2023 (Friday) at the Majestic Downtown, the breathtaking venue of Los Angeles Fashion Week.

Fashion enthusiasts from all corners of the globe can expect to be enthralled by more than a dozen international designers from the Asia Pacific region, who will be showcasing their cuttingedge fashions on a visually stunning runway.

The event will also feature celebrity appearances, after-parties with live DJs, and a host of other surprises that are sure to make this a one-of-a-kind fashion extravaganza. This is a fashion event that fashion enthusiasts simply cannot afford to miss!

Los Angeles Fashion Week marks its 10th anniversary this year, and this auspicious partnership with Asia Pacific Fashion Week promises to expand the reach of both events and showcase global talent.
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Photo by Art Hearts Fashion
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SUSTAINABLE STYLE: Meet the 4 Global Filipino Designers Making a Difference

Fashion with a Conscience: The Advocacy of John Ablaza

Changing the fashion industry for the better, one sustainable piece at a time

John Ablaza is a renowned Filipino fashion designer based in Los Angeles who has won praise for his use of environmentally-friendly and sustainable materials.

this institution.

In addition, Ablaza has worked with Former US Ambassador Harry Thomas to organize seminars and mentorships for more than 150 budding Zimbabwean designers and artisans in Zimbabwe.

Sustainable fashion is the global advocacy that seeks to lessen the negative effects of the fashion industry on the environment by promoting ethical and environmentally responsible practices throughout the entire supply chain.

A key component of sustainability in fashion, according to experts, is upcycling – which includes turning waste materials into new and wearable fashions rather than discarding them and using new raw materials.

This deliberate effort teaches the fashion-conscious to value what they currently have and refrain from overconsumption, in addition to reducing waste and conserving natural resources. Upcycling fosters sustainability and aids in easing environmental pressure by lowering the need for new resources and lowering greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it plays a vital role in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.

Balikbayan Magazine shines a light on three US-based Filipino designers who are leading the cause of sustainable fashion.

Through their fashion labels, they challenge the harmful practices of the fashion industry, the second-largest polluting industry worldwide. These designers are committed to using their platform to advocate for sustainability and make a positive impact on the world.

Nature has always had an impact on Ablaza’s aesthetics; his inspiration for his work comes from nature. His fervent love for the environment permeates every fiber of his attire. Ablaza skillfully blends glamour and advocacy in her creations, producing objects that are not only stunning to look at, but also have a positive influence on people’s lives.

Ablaza, who is noted for his structured designs with clean lines and distinct patterns, has displayed his designs on catwalks and at fashion events in cities like Manila, Taipei, Shenzhen, Bahrain, London, Brussels, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Arizona, New York, Toronto, and Zimbabwe, among others.

Ablaza’s journey toward eco-friendly fashion took an exciting step in 2012. He collaborated with the Ayala Foundation to train the Mangyan tribe of Puerto Galera in Oriental Mindoro. This collaboration gave Ablaza the idea to create a beautiful line of purses and bow ties that were fashioned by hand from organic materials. The St. Martin de Porres special school in Cebu City, is a cause dear to Ablaza, and sales of these items benefit both the tribe and

Representation is everything to Ablaza. His works are the epitome of Filipino creativity and artistry. He is proud to share the Philippines’ finest traditions with the rest of the globe through his sustainable fashion designs.

Ablaza is not just a fashion designer; he’s a visionary. He is changing the fashion industry for the better, one sustainable piece at a time.

John Ablaza doing mentorship programs and workshops in Africa, collaborating with other artisans and designers on the use of sustainable materials in fashion. Photo by Jhenny Evans. Not just a fashion statement: an exquisite ‘bow tie couture’ masterpiece by John Ablaza Homme, on Filipino-Swedish model Devon Spence, that’s a symbol of sustainability and ethical craftsmanship, handmade by Filipino artisans using natural materials. Photo by John Ablaza The eco-friendly fashion pieces by John Ablaza are stunning to look at, each garment is a work of art, embellished with intricately created elements like organic seeds, tree bark, and coco beads. Photo by James Giovanni Pan.
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Veejay Floresca: Champion of Upcycling

Her eclectic designs add muchneeded character to the sustainable fashion world.

Veejay Floresca is a brand that brings a unique perspective to fashion, emphasizing sustainability and individuality.

As a designer, Veejay understands the power of fashion to empower, while acknowledging the industry’s human and environmental impact. Her innovative approach to ethical fashion is helping reshape the industry by creating sustainable, stylish, and unique designs.

As a child growing up in the Philippines, Veejay loved visiting thrift stores, also known as “ukay-ukay”. The thrill of the unknown was exhilarating to the young Veejay, much like a treasure hunt.

Today, out of her atelier in Los Angeles where she is now based, Veejay finds inspiration in the idea of transformation and the power of giving old things a new life.

Sharing her upcycled creations online, she felt empowered by people’s positive feedback and decided to expand her vision by offering oneof-a-kind clothing pieces. Veejay understands the importance of creating clothes that are not only unique and beautifully crafted, but also sustainable.

As one of the top 3 of Project Runway Philippines a few years back, Veejay’s designs have garnered welldeserved attention for their innovative and sustainable approach. Veejay has always catered to fashion-forward individuals who prioritize their values in their clothing choices, offering a unique blend of minimalism and global trends that reflect the ever-changing world.

Veejay’s impressive accolades include showcasing her collections at New York Fashion Week, winning the Grand Prize at the Los Angeles Fashion Design Competition, and feature spreads in renowned publications like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. She holds a Masters in Fashion from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, as well as studied bridal wear at Central Saint Martins in London.

Veejay, who has been creating fashionable and wearable items out of vintage clothing, blankets, and curtains in recent years, encourages everyone to embrace sustainability without losing style. To her, fashion has the ability to change the world.

A chic “reworked” jacket by Veejay Floresca. Photo by Veejay Floresca / Shop Floresca. Eco-consciousness and high fashion can go hand in hand: a jaw-dropping bustier dress designed by Veejay Floresca, this avant-garde piece is crafted from patent leather and adorned with chic bag straps. Photo by Veejay Floresca / Instagram. A one-of-a-kind upcycled jacket made from a vintage quilted blanket, proudly worn by designer Veejay Floresca herself. Photo by Veejay Floresca / Instagram Photo by Doc Marlon Photography (with styling by Patrick Galang)
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From Barbie Dolls to Sustainable Fashion: Joana Almagro’s Creative Journey

She overcame adversity to pursue her passion, and is now making a name for herself in sustainable fashion Fashion designer Joana Almagro’s story of perseverance is one worth telling.

Born into a family of nurses in Dipolog, she was expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps, but her heart lay elsewhere. She was interested in fashion and design, and at nine years old, she designed clothes for her Barbie dolls.

Despite her parents’ wishes, Joana enrolled in a fashion design course in Manila while working as a nurse in a private hospital. In 2008, she migrated to the United Kingdom, where she enrolled in the Manchester School of Arts.

She learned how to create collections, source fabrics, express ideas, and use industrial machineries and CAD design. She also had the opportunity to intern at the Roland Mouret Studios in Mayfair, London.

In 2012, she met Filipino designer Roland Alzate, who introduced her to the Canada-Philippine Fashion Week in 2014. She was the first to present her collection at the show alongside well-known Filipino fashion designers. Joana won various competitions while still in school, including the ASOS Graduate for Clothes Show Live 2003, the Shoreditch Fashion Show 2013, and the Frankfurt Style Awards 0004.

In 2016, she was invited to exhibit at the Manchester Art Gallery in collaboration with the British Fashion Council and Art Commissions for NOW 14-113, and was a finalist at both the Bilbao International Arts and Fashion Competition 2006 and the Burberry Competition 2016. Her designs made their way to the Milan Fashion Week and the Basel World Exhibition.

In 2018, she returned to Harrods, where she used to work as a brand specialist, to showcase her Autumn/ Winter mini collection at the first-

ever Harrods Fashion Week.

Joana has made Switzerland her new home and designs under her eponymous label, Joana Al-magro, launched in 2014. Her brand is focused on “inclusiveness for all seasons” design with a strong philosophy for creativity. It is ‘Vertor Regenerare,’ which means ‘reuse, regenerate.’”

Joana persevered in pursuing her goals despite confronting solitude and reassessing herself during the global health crisis. She launched the Chutzpah collection in Switzerland in September 2020 at the Volkhaus White Theatre in Zurich and makes D.A.H.M or #dreamsarehandmade sweaters that are 20% recycled bottles and 80% organic cotton.

Joana’s story of perseverance is a testament to her strength and passion for fashion. She never looked back since she finished her degree in fashion with honors in 2006. Joana’s designs embody inclusiveness and creativity, which are the very foundations of her brand.

Sustainable fashion: Joana Almagro’s ‘Imara Dress’ is a versatile garment that can be worn as a day dress or an evening cocktail style, crafted from a blend of end-ofthe-line and recycled fabrics sourced from Switzerland. Photo by Joana Almagro Label Official / Instagram. Joana Almagro’s brand is focused on “inclusiveness for all seasons” with a strong philosophy for creativity. It is ‘vertor regenerare,’ which means ‘reuse, regenerate.
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Photo by Joana Almagro / Facebook.

R’Bonney Gabriel: Miss Universe Queen and the Queen of Upcycling

This beauty queen says her life mission is to be the leading sustainable fashion designer in the industry.

R’Bonney Gabriel made history earlier this year by becoming the first Filipino American to win Miss Universe.

During the final question segment of the pageant, R’Bonney shared how her experience in the fashion industry helped her to become a transformational leader – someone the prestigious beauty contest is looking for.

“In my industry, I’m cutting down on pollution through recycled materials when I make my clothing. I teach sewing classes to women that have survived human trafficking and domestic violence,” she said. “I say that because it is so important to invest in others, invest in our community, and use your unique talent to make a difference. We all have something special. And when we plant those seeds other people in our life, we transform them and we use that as a vehicle for change.”

Even before she joined pageants, R’Bonney has been a fashion designer and the founder of R’Bonney Nola, her own line of ecofriendly clothing. In keeping with R’Bonney’s support for upcycling and recycling in fashion, this brand uses recycled and sustainable materials. In addition to her impressive fashion line, R’Bonney is a fervent proponent of ethical and sustainable fashion practices.

Many are drawn to her unique style, which she sometimes creates herself. At the age of 15, R’Bonney fell in love with fashion design. In 2018, she graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design and a Minor in Fibers. Today R’Bonney is a lead sewing instructor at the nonprofit design house Magpies and Peacocks, where she teaches sewing classes to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.

The design house has been recognized as a “Gucci Changemakers” recipient for its efforts in keeping discarded textiles and fabrics out of landfills by repurposing them for clothing collections.

R’Bonney is setting a positive example by championing ethical clothing. Through her platform, she is able to showcase that it is possible to look chic and fashionable while also being mindful of the environment and its inhabitants. By wearing sustainable fashion, R’Bonney encourages others to join the movement towards a more conscious and eco-friendly fashion industry.

At only 28 years old, R’Bonney is a shining example of hope for those who aspire to embrace a more mindful approach to fashion, particularly in a world where fast fashion dominates. Through her work, R’Bonney demonstrates that fashion and sustainability can coexist, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps. With her unique approach to fashion, she is definitely the Queen of Ethical Fashion.

Reigning Miss Universe R’Bonney Gabriel recently graced her first Los Angeles red-carpet event in a stunning gown Rene Garza crafted from recycled strips of tablecloth, proving that sustainable fashion can be both beautiful and impactful. Eco chic: a tablecloth turned into a gown by designer Rene Garza. Photo by Grant Foto Never one to miss an opportunity to promote eco-friendly fashion, R’Bonney Gabriel, on her first week as Miss Universe, wore a stunning top with repurposed plastic fringe that she matched with glittery sheer leggings for added glitz. Photo by R’Bonney Nola / Instagram.
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The Oriental hotels: Where luxury meets home

Whether you seek to be just one with nature or appreciate the taste and culture of your destination, The Oriental Hotel chain offers a homely yet luxurious experience when you travel to the Philippine provinces.

The hotel branches, owned by the LKY Group of Companies, are spread across the country—in Cavite, Albay, Bataan, Leyte, Negros Occidental, and soon, in Pangasinan.

Its branch in one of the best summer destinations, Tagaytay, features an overlooking view of the majestic Taal Volcano.

Aptly called The Oriental Luxury Suites, the Tagaytay branch only has seven rooms to ensure the exclusivity and privacy of its guests amid the bustling crowd.

Want to spend a day intimately? Do you imagine yourself waking up with your loved ovnes, sipping coffee while seeing a sea of fog? The Oriental Luxury Suites is a place to go!

Then, there’s The Oriental Legazpi, the first ever branch opened in 2011, which has reached the status of being a four-star hotel.

At its balconies, you should take your best outfit of the day against the backdrop of another Philippine beauty—Mayon Volcano. Its view of the verdant waters of the Gulf of Albay will also make your stay serene.

As of this writing, it is being renovated as its management aspires to turn it into a completely Filipino-inspired hotel.

The four more branches are The Oriental Leyte, a province where American military general Douglas MacArthur had his first landing to fight the Japanese occupation; The Oriental Bataan, a province that witnessed the death march; PROXY by The Oriental, also in Albay; The Inns by The Oriental in Bacolod, the city of smiles; and Proxy Plus by The OrientalAlaminos, which is coming soon!

Challenges arose, such as Typhoon Yolanda and the COVID-19 pandemic, but The Oriental Hotels persevered, staying true to their mission of providing home and luxury to their guests.

According to The Oriental Hotels’ management, each of its properties “provides a variety of facilities that cater to different target markets.”

“The Oriental Hotels is most proud of being inclusive. We do not discriminate against anyone. We ensure guests are free to be themselves and feel safe in their environments,” its management said.

People behind the hotels are not only passionate about providing a luxury experience.

They are also involved in community projects that include sponsoring clean-up drives, having beneficiaries for in-house events, organizing medical missions, and animal welfare, among others.

The Oriental Hotels was also the first to open its doors to the frontliners during the height of the pandemic.

Families would spend their trip there for quality time, while business people make The Oriental Hotels a place of choice because of the many board rooms they offer.

All the hotels are perfect for photoshoots and special events, such as weddings and debuts, too!

In an era when couples dream of the most Instagrammable prenup shots or the most special place to tie the knot, The Oriental Hotels need not hard-sell themselves.

You only have to choose where to make memories you want to remember.

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The persistence of Filipino farmers despite hardships due to the lack of support from various stakeholders pushed AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee, then Chairman of LKY Group of Companies, to represent the sector in Congress.

Lee questioned why those who produce food for the people are the ones without anything to eat, despite the Philippines being an agricultural country.

Although there are available services from the government, Filipino farmers are still struggling primarily due to a lack of awareness about such assistance as well as the tedious requirements needed from them to avail it.

So he called himself “taga-singil sa utang ng gobyerno sa taumbayan” (collector of the government’s debt to the people).

“Lagi kong sinasabi, hindi dapat kami pabigat sa taumbayan. Dapat kami yung nagpapagaan, kami yung gumagawa ng paraan para sa tao,” he said.

(I always say that we shouldn’t be the burden. We should be the ones helping them, making way for the people.)

His father, Lee King Yek, was a businessman who established a general merchandise store in their home province of Sorsogon.

Together with his family and with the influence and foundations laid down by his father, he started and successfully grew his own business ventures.

Agriculture development advocate

In Sorsogon, during his younger years, Lee would often see farmers start work before dawn and later on toil under the heat of the sun. Sometimes, he would talk to them and hear their stories which enlightened him about their plights.

During those early days, he already became a staunch agriculture development advocate and pushed for the advancement of agriculture workers’ welfare.

In 2009, he joined the AGRI Party-list, which represents the agriculture sector and serves as the voice of the marginalized.

His friend asked him if he wanted to support their cause—an offer Lee did not want to miss. He financed the party when it ran for the 2010 elections.

But it was only in 2013 that AGRI Party-list won a seat in the House of Representatives. For the next six years, his wife, Delphine Gan Lee, served as AGRI Party-list Representative.

In 2022, when the AGRI secured a seat again, he

assumed the post.

While he was already doing fine as a businessman who does charity works, he said it was not enough to help the people. There are many who needed help, whose concerns had to be addressed.

In government, one can do more, he said.

“Congressman na nga ako ngayon, pero nahihirapan pa. Kung di ka Congressman, mas wala kang magagawa,” he added (I’m already a Congressman, but it’s still hard for me to help. If one is not a Congressman, there is less we can do.)

Since entering Congress, Lee has already filed several bills. Although they are primarily pro-farmers, there are also measures that push for the welfare of the Filipino people in general.

One of these includes the “Expanded Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps Act”. Under the bill, Lee aims to promote inclusive education, entrepreneurship, and employment for sustainable development among poor Filipino families.

Through this proposed measure, various government agencies will also be tasked to empower beneficiaries to lift their lives from poverty.

If signed into law, the measure will offer trainings in the fields of entrepreneurship, employment, and alternative learning to the beneficiaries.

As of this writing, the Expanded 4Ps Act, which he principally authored and sponsored, was approved by the House Committees on Appropriations and Poverty Alleviation.

Lee also filed measures to offer free tertiary agricultural education to dependent children of qualified indigent farmers, to promote corporative farming, and provide compensation to farmers suffering from recurrent disasters and calamities, among others.

But, Lee admitted being a Congressman is not enough since there are lots of bureaucracies.

Asked if he would seek other or higher positions in government, he said he could not decide his fate. “That would just come,” he said.

The most important is “the strong desire and the determination to save everyone.”

“Being able to help each one, that’s what’s important,” he said. “It might be the start of a better community, of a better world, of a sharing community. That’s what’s needed.”

Congressman Wilbert T. Lee
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as bridge between the government and the people

From Fashion to Tourism: The Remarkable Journey of Marga Nograles

The local fashion world was abuzz with excitement in late 2022, as Marga Nograles took center stage, assuming the pivotal role of Chief Operating Officer at the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing and promotions arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Marga’s entrance sent waves of excitement through the industry, for this extraordinary entrepreneur is no stranger to making headlines with her innovative contributions to the local fashion and retail realm.

A graduate of Ateneo de Davao University and the Ateneo de Manila University, Marga was granted the only sub-distributorship of Havaianas in Southeast Mindanao in 2005, which was a turning point in her entrepreneurial adventure and put her

on the road to excellence in this field.

Born in Davao City, she founded Kaayo Modern Mindanao, a fashion label and social enterprise that specializes in contemporary clothes made with Mindanao’s native textiles. Kaayo would become her legacy, providing jobs and opportunities for the people of Mindanao.

Little did she know that when she first established Kaayo in 2016, it would serve as a stepping stone and training ground, propelling her toward this new and illustrious position in the tourism sphere. The same fervent spirit that ignited the success of Kaayo is now a driving force behind Marga’s contributions to TBP and DOT.

After only six months on the job, Marga is as excited as ever about the chance to share the wonders of the Philippines with the world, and she continues to do everything she can to promote the country.

Stepping into a new role with astounding results

As she stepped into her new role as COO, Marga gracefully passed the baton at Kaayo to a trusted friend. Although her position at TPB didn’t demand relinquishing her other professional endeavors, Marga made a prudent decision to focus her energies on the weighty responsibilities at hand.

Just days into her appointment, Marga orchestrated her inaugural tourism extravaganza – the Philippine Travel Exchange (PHITEX). PHITEX is a government-organized tourism trade event where buyers from across the globe converge and engage in fruitful business appointments and immersing themselves in the captivating beauty of the Philippines, the ultimate objective of boosting tourist arrivals was resoundingly achieved.

As the figures rolled in, Marga found herself astounded. What began as a modest target of 40 million pesos in sales blossomed into a staggering total of 173 million pesos – a four-fold increase surpassing all expectations.

The Philippines undoubtedly has what it takes to host a large-scale event, and become a top-of-mind MICE destination in Asia. Photo by Michael Buillerey Marga Nograles was fortunate to join a team of passionate and dedicated professionals in TPB. Photo by TPB
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This astonishing trend would persist with every subsequent tourism event sponsored or organized by TPB.

“We have seen record-breaking numbers in almost all of our tourism events. When I say record-breaking, I mean the highest figures ever. I was overwhelmed with the result. Yet, this serves to affirm that revenge travel is real,” Marga said in an exclusive interview with Balikbayan Magazine recently.

Indeed as the world recovers from the global pandemic, Filipinos and international travelers alike are eagerly embracing the opportunity to satiate their travel desires, indulging in ‘revenge travel’ to make up for lost time. (‘Revenge travel’ is a term coined to describe the phenomenon of people satisfying their wanderlust after a period of restricted travel.)

Current tourism statistics reflect this trend. In the first four months of 2023, over 1.8 million international visitors graced the Philippines, effortlessly surpassing the DOT’s target of 1.7 million for the same period last year. The DOT’s estimations paint a promising picture for 2023, with a projected minimum of 4.8 million foreign visitors welcomed into the


Additionally, the Department anticipates a complete recovery in domestic travel this year, translating to no less than 122 million journeys within the nation’s borders.

A perfect alignment

As she gracefully took the reins at TPB, Marga’s grand vision found perfect alignment with her new appointment. With a heart bursting with gratitude, she declared: “If this path is meant for me, then I would give it my unwavering commitment.”

Stepping into the world of TPB, Marga was pleasantly surprised to discover a formidable team awaiting her arrival –fortuitous indeed. The team’s profound dedication and fervor for their craft is truly remarkable, according to her.

“I am so lucky, because my team members, who have been in TPB for a while, are just so passionate for what it is that they are doing,” Marga said.

Aside from a very competent and highly-motivated team, Marga is a woman blessed with a loving and supportive husband, Atty. Karlo Alexei Nograles (former Cabinet Secretary and now the chairperson of the Civil Service Commission) and three beautiful children.

Luxury Unleashed: Is the Philippines primed for high-end tourism?

The TPB and Connections Luxury partnered recently to host the ‘Connections Wellbeing Philippines’, showcasing the country’s diverse definition of luxury.

Another groundbreaking activity carried out by TPB in 2023 was a highend business-to-business event named ‘Connections Wellbeing Philippines’, a first-time partnership between Connections Luxury and TPB.

Connections Luxury is the international community of senior executives in the high-end travel industry formed by Jacob’s Media Group, renowned for their unrivaled connections in the realm of luxury travel.

However, can the Philippines fare equally with its neighbors when it comes to luxury travel?

Marga said that the true meaning of luxury is diverse and goes beyond established limitations. According to her, the height of enjoyment can range from the ethereal bliss of a one-of-a-kind massage encounter to breathtaking moments of peace.

The world-renowned The Farm at San Benito – an eco-luxury holistic medical wellness resort situated on a 48-hectare lush green forest, about 90 minutes south of Manila – served as the ideal setting for Connections Wellbeing Philippines last April.

The concept of “Luxury Wellness” wove its charm under the brilliant skies of the Philippines. This innovative project was a confluence of international luxury buyers who were visiting the country for the first time and a pool of premier suppliers of various luxury wellness packages and products in the Philippines.

The result: more than half a billion pesos in tourism receipts. “This is how we can compete, this is how we can level up” in the luxury travel sector, according to Marga, and it is through partnerships like this.

Marga’s experience at Kaayo prepared her for her new role at TBP, and her passion for tourism is evident in her work. Photo by TPB Marga Nograles believes that luxury tourism is a diverse and subjective experience that can range from physical pleasure to spiritual enlightenment. Photo by The Farm at San Benito
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Exemplifying the essence of empowerment and sustainable progress she espoused as a social enterprise advocate at Kaayo, Marga continues to forge meaningful alliances, champion responsible tourism initiatives, and wholeheartedly support all stakeholders – impeccably aligning herself with the visionary seven-point agenda set forth by Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco.

With an ardent desire to exceed expectations and a seamless harmony with the Tourism Secretary, Marga casts her gaze upon a future adorned with boundless possibilities.

A tsunami of development for MICE tourism

Marga enthusiastically disclosed that she has been given a sacred mission to help strengthen and revitalize the nation’s MICE tourism by the Tourism Secretary and even President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr himself. (MICE is the acronym for ‘meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions,’ a type of tourism in which large groups, usually planned well in advance, are brought together. Industry insiders alternately call it “meetings industry” to avoid confusion from the acronym.)

She said that the country is preparing for a tsunami of development that will sweep across the MICE industry in the years to come – such as building more hotels and conference facilities that are specifically created to satisfy the needs of the meetings industry and positioning the Philippines as the ideal location for amazing MICE experiences.

After a successful MICE event in Davao recently, jubilation reverberated through the air because the results surpassed all expectations. As the pandemic’s grip loosens, Marga said the Davao event served as a good jumpstart, propelling the tourism industry towards the recovery everyone wants to see in Philippine tourism, through MICE tourism.

During Marga’s tenure, the Arabian Travel Market 2023 emerged as another significant tourism event, achieving a remarkable sales record of 800 million pesos under the purview of the TPB, prompting Marga to express her confidence in expanding its scale by inviting more sellers to maximize sales potential in the next event.

Said Marga: “There’s so much potential in joining international trade events. We can make it bigger. We can bring in more sellers next time, so we can sell more.”

The Philippines comes back with biggest delegation to ITB Berlin this year, bagging sustainable tourism recognition. Photo by TPB Marga Nograles was grateful for the opportunity to lead TPB and was determined to give it her all. Photo by Avel Bacudio
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Meaningful and purposeful travel

In the post-pandemic era, there is a global quest for purposeful and meaningful travel experiences, and the Philippine tourism industry aims to seize this opportunity to its fullest.

“We want to be able to convey to every traveler that they can indeed indulge in purposeful and meaningful travel when they come to the Philippines,” Marga said.

Having earned her rightful place as the new COO of the government’s chief marketing and promotions arm for tourism, Marge continues to responsibly fuse her passion for culture and style with the limitless possibilities of Philippine tourism.

Her unwavering dedication and remarkable vision to amplify the promotion of the Philippines are a beacon of inspiration for all.

The 7-point agenda of Philippine tourism

Philippine tourism sets forth a comprehensive 7-Point Agenda, aligned with the nation’s economic goals.

The 7-Point Agenda, developed under the leadership of Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco, is referred to as the comprehensive goal of the DOT to revive the tourism and hospitality sector after it was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic, in accordance with President Bongbong Marcos’ marching order wherein tourism was identified as a major pillar of economic growth.

Thus, the DOT’s 7-Point Agenda is also aligned with the 8-Point Economic Agenda of the Marcos Administration.

1. Improve tourism infrastructure and accessibility

2. Cohesive and comprehensive digitalization and connectivity

3. Enhance overall tourist experience

4. Equalize tourism product development and promotion

5. Diversify portfolio through multidimensional tourism

6. Maximize domestic tourism

7. Strengthen tourism governance through close collaboration with LGUs and stakeholders

These seven main objectives shall be achieved via three key strategies, namely (1) Connectivity, (2) Convenience, and (3) E(quality).

These goals and strategies are aimed not only to attract tourists to pre-pandemic levels but to exceed the same.

Marga is a woman blessed with a loving husband, a supportive family, and a competent team. Photo by Karlo Nograles Marga Nograles, a social enterprise advocate, continues to champion responsible tourism initiatives and support all stakeholders, in line with Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco’s seven-point agenda.
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Luxury Living at Makati Diamond Residences

Makati Diamond Residences embodies true Filipino hospitality, dedicated to creating seamless experiences whether your stay is for business or leisure. Aside from the drive to deliver invaluable service and guest satisfaction, expect nothing less than the new standard of luxury living when staying at Makati Diamond Residences.

Best Location

Situated in the Central Business District, Makati Diamond Residences is conveniently located surrounding your next commerce, leisure, or dining destination. Across Greenbelt, a few steps away from Ayala Avenue, and within 7 kilometers from the international airport, the property is the perfect location for a productive and meaningful trip, whether for business or leisure.

Larger Standard Rooms

All 410 luxury guestrooms have European and Filipino furnishings with room interiors in neutral palettes and modern designs. Each room or suite is outfitted with special features and amenities that complement an overnight or extended stay, including a fully-equipped kitchenette with a convection stove, microwave or oven, refrigerator, and a selection of cooking tools and utensils. A washer and dryer unit, 55” LED television, and large shower and bath areas are also available. Stay inclusions offer flexible breakfast options, complimentary Wi-Fi and local calls, and complimentary snacks and drinks. Larger room categories also have a dishwasher, a walk-in closet, an office and entertainment area, and access to the Club Lounge.

Elevated Hotel Experiences

The Club Lounge at Makati Diamond Residences provides exclusivity and personalized service in the privacy of the 27th floor. Access to this amenity is extended to guests staying at

a 70sqm One Bedroom Suite and larger room types. Complimentary Private Cinema use is given when staying at a two bedroom suite or loft unit. All-day refreshments and evening snacks are served to provide a venue conducive for work, entertainment, and relaxation. Other privileges include preferred check-in and late check-out, complimentary access to the meeting rooms, complimentary use of entertainment gadgets, laptops, and tablets, and shoe shine services

Makati Diamond Residences offer additional guest services and amenities to cater to the guest’s comfort and convenience. A Business Center is ready to assist the working travelers’ demands for administrative requirements such as incoming and outgoing facsimile, photocopying, printing and scanning services, and private meeting areas for group discussions. To cultivate a balanced lifestyle, a range of health and wellness amenities are present, including a 24-hour gym, daily TRX classes at the TRX studio, an indoor lap pool, and a spa.

Endless Dining Options

With long term residents in mind, Makati Diamond Residences offers a unique amenity giving guests the flexibility of availing their breakfast privilege outside of the property. The Dining Card gives guests staying three days or more additional dining options through its partner restaurants, taking advantage of being at the best location in Manila. Get the privilege of doing away with the morning queue or maximizing your stay inclusions at your desired occasion and location, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Dining privileges are loaded daily and accumulate your unused balance, giving you extended credit for use at Wildflour Cafe + Bakery, Mary Grace Cafe, Bizu Patisserie, Toby’s Estate, Pancake House, and Max’s Restaurant, among others.

Alfred offers a curated ala carte selection and seasonal buffets of New American cuisine, infused with French and Asian influences.

Baked offers freshly made sandwiches, salads, and signature pastries and cakes including the Diamond Ube Ensaymada, Baked Cheesecake, Supermoist Chocolate Cake and a selection of specialty ice cream.

The hotel also offers a premium collection of whiskies, liquors, wines and expertly made standard cocktails, available at the Whiskey and Cigar Bar and Pool Bar.

Inspired Events

Makati Diamond Residences offers the perfect canvas for any occasion, whether for a grand event or an intimate affair. With a luxury ballroom seating up to 400 guests, exquisite themed menus, and impeccable service, delivering a unique Diamond Experience may be expected. Makati Diamond Residences holds a total of 1,500 square meters of function space with unique venues including an executive boardroom, kitchen studio, and an outdoor roof deck. All packages are tailor fit to suit any occasion.

Makati Diamond Residences is located at 118 Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati City 1229 Philippines. For more information, call +632 5317 0999, email or visit Check facebook. com/MakatiDiamondResidences or follow @ makatidiamondresidences on Instagram for more updates.

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Begin a Pilgrimage to the Holy Doors in Southern Cebu

It has been 500 years since Christianity made its mark in the Philippines.

To commemorate this symbolic milestone, the Department of Tourism - Central Visayas (DOT 7) and the Archdiocese of Cebu prepared a sacred pilgrimage in Southern Cebu.For pilgrims seeking spiritual enlightenment, a visit to the Holy Doors in the southern region of Cebu may offer the transformative experience you are seeking.

In the Philippines alone, there are 537 Jubilee churches.Jubilee churches, designated by the Catholic Church, commemorate significant milestones or anniversaries, often associated with important events in Church history. These churches hold historical, cultural, or religious significance, attracting pilgrims seeking spiritual privileges.

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Granting Plenary Indulgence

When we dive deeper into what plenary indulgence signifies, it essentially means a special blessing for the removal of sins.

Bestowing plenary indulgence calls for performing prescribed acts. Such acts include entering a Holy Door in any of the Jubilee churches established in the Philippines within the Jubilee year 2021-2022. The journey to plenary indulgence entails confession, communion, and praying for the Pope.

A Pilgrimage to Southern Cebu’s Jubilee Churches

Now, there’s no need to take a pilgrimage around the Philippines to earn plenary indulgence. Fortunately, you can visit several Holy Doors in Southern Cebu alone. You’ll be glad to know that the Jubilee churches south of Cebu are all within neighboring municipalities.

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If taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Doors is your goal, Southern Cebu might be the ideal place to start.

DOT 7 and the Archdiocese of Cebu launched a Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches tour.

They created this sacred tour to give pilgrims a way to celebrate the Jubilee Year of the Philippines’ 500 years of Christianity. This two-day tour is the perfect opportunity to enter the Holy Door through five of the seven churches included in the itinerary.

Through the proposed itinerary, pilgrims can enter several Holy Doors within one day. Upon entering the first Holy Door, pilgrims can already earn plenary indulgence.

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The Jubilee Churches tour in Southern Cebu begins with a Mass at the Basilica Minore, the heart of the commemoration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. The Basilica Minore is one of the oldest churches in the country and the only basilica in Visayas and Mindanao. After the mass, pilgrims can look around the Sto. Niño Pilgrim Center. The pilgrims’ next destination is towards Carcar City to enter the Holy Door of the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria.

This church is among the heritage churches in Cebu that showcase Byzantineinfluenced architecture. The city of Carcar is a heritage zone that embodies American and Spanish-era structures.

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After visiting the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Catherine of Alexandria, pilgrims will stop by the Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Michael in Argao. The next destination is San Guillermo de Aquitania Church in Dalaguete. This church is among the wellknown heritage sites in Cebu.

Another destination in the itinerary includes the St. Gregory the Great Parish Church in Ginatilan. The pinnacle of the Jubilee Churches tour in Southern Cebu occurs at the Patrocinio de Maria Church in the town of Boljoon. You can find fascinating spiritual and historical artifacts within the municipality.

The pilgrimage comes to an end at the Sta. Ana Church in Barili, the only parish in Cebu dedicated to the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Don’t miss out on the chance to go on a spiritual journey and enter several Holy Doors in one area through this sacred tour.

ST. GREGORY the Great Parish Church, GINATILAN, CEBU ST. MICHAEL CHURCH, ARGAO, CEBU. Photos by Teddy Pelaez
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PHL embassy in US to bring Fil-Ams, balikbayans in tours

The Philippine government will host a tour for a large group of balikbayans or Filipinos residing in the United States, as well as Americans, this month.

The Philippine embassy in US capital Washington DC, as well as consulate generals in the US, would “resume the most successful government tourism promotion project” entitled the Very Important Pinoy (VIP) Tours, according to a statement from its partner agency Rajah Tours Philippines.

The tour would bring around 300 Filipino-Americans and balikbayans to an eight-day tour in Manila and the province of Iloilo, including the popular beach destination Boracay.

In Manila, they would be welcomed by President Marcos, as well as lay wreaths at the monument of Jose Rizal at Luneta.

They would also visit popular natural and heritage spots in Iloilo province like the Museum of Philippine Maritime History, Jaro Cathedral, and internationally recognized Miag-ao Church.

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The travelers also have the option of enjoying Iloilo’s food like batchoy and tablea chocolate; experiencing nature at the Damires Hills Leisure Farm and the Isla de Gigantes; and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Dinagyang festival in a dinner hosted by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas.

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While in Boracay where they can immerse themselves in the sun, sand and beach, the tourists could also choose to: join extreme activities in Tibiao town in Antique; dip in the cold waters of Malumpati Cold Spring and Bugang River; or go on a nature trip in Ibajay, Aklan.

They would also be treated with a dinner in Boracay hosted by Aklan Governor Jose Enrique Miraflores and Floribar Bautista, mayor of Malay town in Aklan that hosts Boracay.

The VIP Tour in the US resumed after it was suspended for three years due to travel restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Philippine Ambassador to Washington DC Jose Manuel Romualdez.

The program, created jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Tourism, “has become a goodwill vehicle that allows the Philippine diplomatic community to be acquainted and create awareness on the culture, heritage and history of our country,” noted Rajah Tours.

Started in 2005, the program has “generated an estimated 11.6-million (US dollars) foreign exchange receipts to the country,” it added, which benefited both well-known and small-time tourism establishments.

(Reprinted with permission from Philippine Star)

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UP celebrates record number of scientists in almost half a century

The number of PhD enrollees at UPD-CS has been consistently on the rise every year, with last year’s count reaching 464. UPD-CS’ nine institutes and programs continue to offer a total of 11 doctorate degrees, including the recently-offered PhD in Data Science.

rains, there are always valid reasons why students fall behind, give up, get delayed, or drop out.”

The University of the Philippines - Diliman College of Science (UPDCS) is poised to make unprecedented contributions to Filipino science and the collective body of human knowledge as it recently posted the most PhD graduates ever in its decades-long history.

A total of 454 newly-minted graduates celebrated the fruits of their labor on the rainy Saturday afternoon of July 29. Among them were 19 PhD graduates, 108 MS graduates, seven MA graduates, three Professional Masters, five diploma recipients, and 312 BS graduates. The number of UPD-CS’ PhD graduates for 2023 is also almost double that of the previous year.

UPD-CS Dean Dr. Giovanni A. Tapang beamed with pride as he welcomed the graduating students, their parents, and guests during the CS Special Recognition Program 2023 at the UP Theater. “This is the most number of PhD graduates we’ve had in CS’ forty-year history,” he said.

The long road taken

Dr. Bernard Alan B. Racoma, this year’s Most Outstanding PhD Graduate from the UPD-CS Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology (IESM) spoke on behalf of the graduate students, extolling the virtue of taking the long view to one’s goals despite—and even amid—setbacks.

“There shouldn’t be shame when we take a long time in our studies, be it in graduate or undergraduate education. When this happens, more often than not, there are reasons behind it,” he said. “Just like there are reasons why clouds form and it

“Graduates of 2023, let’s make it rain. Mabuhay po tayong lahat, mabuhay ang mga siyentista ng bayan. Patuloy nating pagsilbihan ang isa’t isa, patuloy nating pagsilbihan ang taumbayan, ” he concluded.

Science within reach of everyone

These sentiments were echoed by BS Physics graduate summa cum laude Mary June Ricaña in her own remarks on behalf of her undergraduate class:

“As of 2019, the Philippines only has 189 scientists per million people—a far cry from the ideal ratio of 380 per million population,” she said. “The truth is, science should not be so difficult to pursue. It should be an arm’s reach to every child who ever looked at the night sky and dreamed of one day exploring galaxies.”

“After today, we will be taking different paths, but we should always remember whom we owe all of these to, and whom all these are for. The world is a laboratory; it is imperative for us to find scientific solutions to problems faced by society. Graduating batch of 2023, let us make science serve the people,” she added.

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UPD-CS graduates came onstage after the recognition ceremony to reiterate their commitment to make science serve the Filipino people. Photo by Dr. Bernard A. Racoma

Establishing a Filipino scientific tradition

Over two decades ago, former UPD-CS Dean physicist Dr. Caesar Saloma underscored the importance of developing a truly Filipino scientific tradition: “I expect the Filipino scientist to contribute towards establishing a scientific culture in the Philippines. I count on him or her to become part of a rich scientific tradition that all Filipinos

can be proud of,” he said in his acceptance speech for the Concepcion D. Dadufalza Award for Distinguished Achievement in 2001.

In this vein of tradition, Dr. Tapang acknowledged and thanked his immediate predecessor, the late Dr. Perry Ong, as well as previous deans Dr. Joey Balmaceda, Dr. Rhodora Azanza, and the entire Filipino scientific community. Now four years into his tenure, he has always been

vocal about his goal to produce more PhD graduates during his term—a legacy that he hopes will continue in the decades to come.

“Madami pang tanong na kailangang masagot,” he said. “I reiterate my call for all our PhDs to continue to mentor PhD students. And I call on our MS and BS graduates to explore and answer the pressing science questions with your professors in a PhD program here in the College.”

UPD-CS graduates came onstage after the recognition ceremony to reiterate their commitment to make science serve the Filipino people. Photo by Dr. Bernard A. Racoma The faculty of the UP Diliman College of Science came out in force to congratulate and celebrate the college’s 2023 graduates. Photo by Shedy Masayon, UPD-CS SciComm
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