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balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 

balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

in this issue

15 A TOUCHSTONE OF PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE AND INGENUITY A walk through the 163-year-old Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite, where the first Philippine Independence Day was declared.

REVISITING CORREGIDOR Find out why Corregidor has been deemed as the original “The Rock,” and why the entire nation commemorates the courage and valor of those who sacrificed their lives on the island for our freedom, during World War II.



LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR: HOME TO OUR HERITAGE AND LEGACY The “Living Museum” in Bagac, Bataan transports you back to Spanish colonial times in thePhilippines, during the 18th-19th century.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012


UNIVERSITY BELT: A MIX OF OLD AND NEW Take a trip back memory lane through the history and architecture of these timeless educational institutions.

THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING CARLOS CELDRAN A candid interview with Carlos Celdran, sought-after tour guide, performance artist and cultural activist.

34 36

LIVIN’ LA VIDA IMELDA! Balikbayan Magazine’s review of the acclaimed Livin’ La Vida Imelda Tour by Carlos Celdran.Livin’ La Vida Imelda Tour by Carlos Celdran.

39 44

LO MANILA: A BUDGET TRAVELER’S DREAM DESTINATION Discover countless reasons why it’s perfect to travel to the Philippines.

G TOENGI, UNPLUGGED G Toengi talks about her recent homecoming to the Philippines and why she’s here to stay.


THE BASCOS: MAKING THE TRIP TO ‘NEVERLAND’ Read about the Bascos’ recent trip to the Philippines and why they couldn’t get enough of one particular tourist destination.

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



Publisher & CEO Roger L. Oriel President & Co-Publisher Cora M. Oriel Vice President for Business Development Raphael John C. Oriel Vice President for Advertising Noel Godinez

THAT OTHER 70S SHOW: LESSONS LEARNED FROM WANBOL UNIVERSITY Find out why Iskul Bukol embodies Filipino culture and why it flourished at a tumultuous era in Philippine history.


54 A FILIPINO WEDDING A look back at our age-old customs and traditions and the characteristics of an authentic Filipino wedding.

Vice President for Sales Sharon Ann Bathan-San Pedro Vice President for Marketing and Special Events, Philippines Vince Samson Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Lito Ocampo Cruz Editor-at-Large Nickee de Leon-Huld Managing Editor Katherine Castillo Eustaquio Events Editor Kristine Bernadeth T. Manaog Contributing Editors Momar G. Visaya, Malou Liwanag-Bledsoe, Cynthia de Castro Ruben Nepales, Prosy dela Cruz, Rowena Diocton Contributing Writers Christina M. Oriel, Cheekie Albay, Ria Hazel Lumandog Calvin Lo, Chuckie C. Chavez, Marnie Dolera, Jane Quinabo Contributing Photographers Andy Tecson, Ding Carreon, Robert Macabagdal Jan Paul Jose, John Andrew Manzo, Bobby delos Santos Tin Jacinto, Jan Michael Dayoja Graphic Designers Resurreccion San Miguel, John Andrew Manzo Multimedia Developers Nicole Alvaro, Desiderata M. Pasion Circulation Manager Arthur Sibulangcao


KASALNY: A FILIPINA ENTREPRENEUR MAKES IT BIG IN NEW YORK AND BEYOND The success story of a kababayan in New York, who has taken weddings to a whole new level.

ALL ABOUT PEARLS Read about the myths and legends that surround a bride’s favorite gem.

balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012


Advertising Executives Katherine D. Carreon, Aliza Domingo, Janina Lazaro Accountants Ria Fabro, Gemma Fabro, Joseph Mark Camiring

BALIKBAYAN MAGAZINE is published by Asian Journal Publications, Inc. 2/F Units D&E Fort Palm Spring Condominium, 30th Street corner, 1st Avenue, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 1200 Philippines Tel. (+632) 856-4921 USA Advertising Offices Los Angeles: 1150 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90017-1904. • Tel. (213) 250–9797 San Francisco: 841 San Bruno Avenue West, Ste. 12-14 San Bruno, CA 94066 • Tel. (650) 583–6818 New York: 5 Penn Plaza, Ste. 1932, New York, NY 10001 • Tel. (212) 655–5426 New Jersey: 2500 Plaza Five, Harborside Financial Center, Jersey City, NJ 07311 • Tel. (201) 484–7249 Las Vegas: 3700 W. Desert Inn Rd., Las Vegas, NV 89102 • Tel. (702) 792–6678 WEBSITE Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter For subscriptions, email





his June, we are celebrating the 114th year of our independence, as a nation. There is no better time to be swept by nostalgia. After all, 114 years of Philippine history— replete with sacrifices and struggles, in order to claim our sovereignty—is an awful lot to reminisce. That, coupled with my own personal memories of home—an idyllic childhood, playing street games like patintero, luksong baka and taguan in mid-afternoons; vying for the grand prize in palo sebo and other native parlor games during hometown fiestas; the wonderful smells emanating from our Ilocano kitchen. For balikbayans like myself, coming home is always an exciting, yet poignant journey. With every trip, I bring more and more memories back to the United States with me—apart from the already weighty additional baggage of pasalubongs. Perhaps, this is why enjoying our country’s freedom holds more meaning for balikbayans. Of course, this is not to discount the enduring sense of patriotism and national pride among our kababayans in the Philippines. To them, the Philippines has always been (and always will be) home. For Filipinos across the globe with dual citizenships, it may not be as simple as that. But as the adage goes, “Home is where the heart is.” And most would say that a Filipino will always remain a Filipino at heart. This is why I can relate to G Toengi’s poignant story about her homecoming; to the Bascos’ first-time discovery of their roots; and to the tales of spectacular celebrations made by Filipino-Americans in different parts of the United States—to commemorate Philippine Independence Day. All these are manifestations of an inherent trait that to this day, still lives in every Filipino—LOVE OF COUNTRY. Coming home is always a time of elation and celebration. And coming home to a 114-year-old sovereign republic to make new memories, is even sweeter. BY ROGER LAGMAY ORIEL Publisher & CEO The Asian Journal Publications, Inc.

Palo sebo metal sculpture at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 5


June & July 2012


or this issue, the operative word is “nostalgia.” This seems to be a recurring state of mind for Filipinos abroad. They cannot help but reminisce fond memories of their homeland, swept by an almost palpable yearning for the sights, smells and tastes of home. It is this incessant longing which has inspired us to bring you this issue. People, places and events come together in these pages, with stories, perspectives and sentiments shared—defining characteristics that truly make us Filipino. This is why we revisited the shores of Corregidor—to pay tribute to the gallantry and heroism of Filipinos and Americans, who fought bravely and died without remorse, in order to reclaim our freedom from the Japanese during World War II. This is why we made a trip to a cultural preservation, which has become a living museum and the new home of our heritage and legacy—Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. Here, we experienced firsthand how it was like to live during the Spanish colonial rule. This is why we explored the historical 163-year-old touchstone of our independence and ingenuity—The Aguinaldo Shrine, which still stands in Kawit, Cavite. This is why we collated past, exuberant tales of Philippine Independence Day celebrations in the United States, to pay tribute to our nation’s 114th celebration of its sovereignty. This is why we’re bringing Filipino-Americans like G Toengi and the Basco Brothers to the forefront—so that they may share their own perspectives about what it’s like to come home. For G Toengi, it’s a story about renewing her ties with the homeland she left behind, more than a decade ago. For the Basco Brothers, it is about re-discovering their heritage, as they marveled at the sights and culture of their country of origin. This is why we’ll walk you through Carlos Celdran’s controversial Livin’ La Imelda Tour—a cheeky and gossip-filled storytelling of the rise and fall of former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. This is why we’re resurrecting fond memories of the nowdefunct TV show Iskul Bukol through an essay, which explains why we continue to be enamored with “that other 70’s show.” This is why Balikbayan Magazine exists—to bring global Filipinos back home and to help them create new memories. Nostalgia is defined as “a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.” Hopefully, with all these time traveling and reminiscing, we can separate the bitter from the sweet. The Balikbayan Magazine Editorial Staff

balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Photos: Aaron Ebio

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balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


Travel Guide

June & July 2012


Travel Guide By Kristine Bernadeth T. Manaog and Katherine Castillo Eustaquio

It is a known fact that most travelers visit the Philippines because of its unrivaled and pristine beaches. Filipinos are also known for their unparalleled sense of hospitality. But behind the country’s bountiful wonders of nature, there lies a treasure trove of eventful and war-torn chapters in Philippine history, which spanned 333 years under Spain, another 40 years under American rule and 4 more bloody years under the Japanese occupation. Balikbayan Magazine takes you on a journey back to those years of war and colonization through these historical places.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012


CORREGIDOR This June, Sun Cruises takes you on a journey back in time to the original “The Rock.” An hour and a half away from Manila, Corregidor is a lofty island which served as a fortress for Filipino and American troops during World War II. Take a tour ride on a replica of the tram that was originally used by the Americans during the war. Explore the extraordinary Malinta Tunnel, the ruins of old barracks and hospital and an old cinema house to get an authentic feel of our joint WWII history.

MANILA Discover the history behind Manila’s educational institutions (aka University Belt) and see how these academic edifices have evolved through the years.Visit the 400-year old main building of the University of Santo Tomas or head to the iconic Quiapo church, with its magnificent baroque design. Take Carlos Celdran’s Livin La Vida Imelda Tour around the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex and be enamored by the strange life and vision of the former first lady, Imelda Marcos.

BATAAN The province is the living witness to the infamous Bataan Death March. One of its famous landmarks is the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) in Mount Samat, which serves as a lasting reminder of the bravery exhibited by Filipinos and Americans alike, during the Japanese occupation.

CAVITE Visit the old Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite (which is now a historical museum)—the site of the first declaration of Philippine Independence. Learn more about life and times of the first President of the Philippine Republic, General Emilio Aguinaldo. u

Today, the province continues to be the home of our heritage and legacy. Revisit the past via Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, the “living museum” in Bagac, Bataan. This 400-hectare beach and river front property is home to less than 30 “transplanted” and “revived” 18th and early 19th century noble-class mansions.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 11


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012


A Touchstone of Philippine Independence and Ingenuity By Chuckie C. Chavez | Photos by Rodrigo Layug


verlooking the stretch of Tirona Highway in Kawit, Cavite, a historical remnant of our formative past still stands—the 163-year-old mansion, known as the Aguinaldo Shrine. Visiting the remarkable structure would transport you back to more than a hundred years ago, when the Philippines was finally freed from the shackles of Spain’s 300-year colonial rule. At first glance, this magnificent 14,000-square foot structure has everything that you would expect to see in a typical Spanish era house: white stone walls, capiz shell window panes, thatch roofing, wooden parquet floors and sturdy hardwood pillars. But a quick review of our history would remind us that there’s more to the Aguinaldo Shrine than being a 163-year-old mansion.

Aguinaldo’s sala

Aguinaldo’s Mansion

A HOUSE OF MILESTONES Built in 1845 and reconstructed four years later, it was in this ancestral house where the first president of the First Republic of the Philippines, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, was born. It was also from its living room window, 29 years later, on June 12, 1898, where he first waved the Philippine Flag, while our theninstrumental national anthem was played in the background, as Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista read the Proclamation of Independence in front of an elated crowd—a scene later immortalized in history books and the obsolete five-peso bill. Apart from that monumental event, the mansion is also known for undergoing constant metamorphoses during the American occupation. When Aguinaldo retired after the abolition of Sedition Act of 1907, the house was greatly enlarged and mementos from the revolution were incorporated onto its facade. As years passed, the house became akin to a fortress.

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Aguinaldo’s tomb

Aguinaldo’s canon

TESTAMENT OF INGENUITY The “shrine” has been incessantly referred to as a reflection of Aguinaldo’s inventive mind, and with good reason. Beneath its imposing, grandiose structure lies a labyrinth of hidden rooms and secret passageways—the most notable of which, is a wooden kitchen table that leads to an underground air raid shelter (known during those days as a “zaguan”). The same secret room also houses a miniature bowling alley. Aguinaldo designed most of the furniture himself. In addition to his already impressive collection of ornate tables and desks, he also built chairs that concealed weapons and important documents. Among the house’s more famous additions is the iconic Independence Balcony, which, aptly enough, rests above an enormous carabao statue—a recurring motif in the house. The watchtower, which is the other famous addition, was Aguinaldo’s favorite viewing spot. It is said that, on clear days, one can see the bustling Manila skyline from its window. Right below the tower is a clapboard bedroom (known as the tower suite), where the General usually spent his time, during his later years.

LASTING LEGACY Aguinaldo lived to witness eight other men take over the presidential reigns. Philippine democracy’s birthing pains were far from over—the country still had to fight for freedom from the Americans and the Japanese. On June 12, 1963, Aguinaldo donated the house to the Philippine Government, in order “to perpetuate the spirit of the Revolution of conserve and vivify the nationalism that moved our country to rise in arms.” Barely a year later, he passed away at age 95—a still unsurpassed longevity among Filipino presidents. On June 18 of 1964, the house was declared a National Shrine through Republic Act 4039, signed by then president Diosdado Macapagal. Aguinaldo’s marble tomb can be found in his garden, facing the adjacent river. It was only fitting that he was laid to rest within the boundaries of his personal palace. To this day, the house still proudly stands in historic Kawit, Cative. The ground floor now serves as a museum, where relics of Aguinaldo’s life and presidency are prominently displayed. The Aguinaldo Shrine is currently being maintained by the National Historical Institute of the Philippines. u

balikbayan is a valentine to everything we love about the Philippines. The People, the places, the faces, the food, the music, the history, the culture, the adventure, the lifestyle, the moments, and the memories. Simply said, love of country is back in style.


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evisiting corregidor By Kristine Bernadeth T. MAnaog

Photos by Nicole Alvaro and Malou Liwanag-Bledsoe

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012




s the nation commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Corregidor, it is only fitting to remember the gallantry of those who fought and died for our freedom. Corregidor (which is derived from the Spanish word corregir meaning ‘to correct’) is an island which became witness to the courage and patriotism of our forefathers and their American counterparts. During President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III’s speech in Corregidor, he made mention of Commodore Ramon Alcaraz—one of the many unknown Filipino naval heroes, who sacrificed their lives for the country in World War II. For the President, “Commodore Alcaraz was only one among many skilled men in uniform who have served our country. Many continue to follow in his footsteps; and we are determined to reward their patriotism with equal dedication.” And that is why the Philippines’ second navy warship will be named after him. Back then, it was a different world—a world inflicted with the chaos and mayhem of war. Today, Corregidor still stands—a silent rock in the mouth of Manila Bay, wakefully guarding the metro, with all of its brave souls. A MEMORIAL ISLAND FOR HEROES The tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor now serves as a historic memorial for the Filipino and American soldiers who perished heroically during the war. The war-ravaged buildings and military installations used during the WWII still stand today—abandoned, decaying and needing restoration. Most of the buildings are living testaments of the gruesome events that took place during the war. The barracks and headquarters both served as safe houses and battle grounds.

The film “Gone with the Wind” was the last film shown in Cine Corregidor.

Standing 390 feet from the ground, the Malinta Tunnel is a complex burrow built by the Americans in 1932. It was initially intended to become a bomb-proof storage and bunker. Eventually, it became the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur, Manuel Quezon and other officials. Later on, it was also equipped with 1,000 hospital beds for treating wounded soldiers. The hurricane-proof Mile Long Barracks is located at the topside part of the island near Cine Corregidor and the Pacific War Memorial.

Then, there are also the Japanese tunnels. Unlike the Malinta Tunnel that is huge and spacious, the Japanese tunnels are smaller and shorter. It is said that there are more than eighty tunnels built by the Japanese during their two-year stay. For visitos who wish to stay overnight in Corregidor Island, it is best to explore the Japanese tunnels in the morning. The Spanish Lighthouse of Corregidor is the highest peak on the island and the second oldest lighthouse in the country.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

The Spanish Lighthouse, which first became operational in 1853, is the second oldest lighthouse in the Philippines. Elevated 628 feet above sea level, the old structure is the

OTHER ACTIVITIES IN CORREGIDOR ISLAND Traveling to this once isolated island used to be a bit expensive for your average traveler. Today, daily tours are available by Sun Cruises, Inc. (SCI), a member of Magsaysay Group of Companies, offers a daily ferry service to the island. Under the wings of SCI is the Corregidor Resort and Inn, the only hotel in the island. SCI also offers Manila Bay night tours. Today, Corregidor is not just a historical destination but a place where families and kids can have a wonderful and informative time through new activities. Edgardo Batalla, resort operations manager of Corregidor Resort and Inn, said that adding alternative activities is a good

Fourteen murals depicting the heroic battles fought by Filipinos are seen in Filipino Heroes Memorial located at the Tail-End in Corregidor.

highest point of Corregidor. The lighthouse served as a guide for ships entering Manila, which was the center of commerce back then. During the American period, the lighthouse was used to monitor the submarines carrying supplies and ammunition for the troops, as instructed by General MacArthur. The Spanish Lighthouse was destroyed during the war and the current lighthouse is just a reconstructed version, which made use of the original stones from the ruins. A 10-foot “female buddha” shrine built in honor of Japanese soldiers who fought and died in Corregidor.

The barracks served as a garrison for American soldiers and enlisted officials during the war. Although the structures have been badly damaged by war, they are still a sight to behold. The Mile-long barracks is the longest of its kind in the world, albeit less than a third mile long. Another set of barracks is located in the middle part of the island. Built to defend Manila from the Japanese forces, Corregidor Island has twenty-three batteries (which consisted of 56 coastal guns and mortars), thirteen anti-aircraft artillery batteries and seventy guns— making the island a powerful fortress.

The 293 Catamaran ferry boat of Sun Cruises at the Manila Bay port. way to entertain younger guests. “Kids can’t easily understand the history of Corregidor and they may end up getting bored. So, through other outdoor activities such as zipline and ATV rides, they can enjoy their stay here.” Batalia, who has been with the hotel for almost four years now, shared that the decision to choose Corregidor as a prime destination of SCI stemmed from the owner’s commitment to remember the heroism of Filipinos. Apart from the educational history tour of the Corregidor Island, guests can now enjoy sunset and sunrise viewing, hiking, island round-about, fishing, island hopping, and kayaking. The Department of Tourism, in cooperation with Sun Cruises, Inc., offers discounts for balikbayans who would want to visit the island of Corregidor. Special packages include 15% off on Day Tour with Buffet Lunch; 50% off on Room Accommodation at Corregidor Inn; and 10% off on Food and Drink orders at La Playa Restaurant. . u

A Sun Cruises Tram conducting tour in2012 English foryforeigners. balikbayanits June – Jul 2012 17


Besides the mortars and military emplacements, Corregidor also had amenities for recreation. Cine Corregidor was the island’s cinema—utilized by soldiers’ and their families for entertainment. Visitors can see portions of concrete walls, stairways, the balcony and the stage of the only movie house in the island. It is said that the last film shown here was “Gone with the Wind.” Cine Corregidor is also famous, because it used to house fully-restored vintage cars owned by former President Manuel Quezon and General Douglas MacArthur. A marker indicating the distance (in miles) of city capitals from Corregidor.

Battery Way, which consists of four 12-inch battery mortars, was the last concrete artillery to cease fire during the fall of Bataan.

Most of the remaining establishments in Corregidor are accessible to tourists, except for the old cross-shaped hospital of Corregidor, which is situated in a remote and hidden area on the island.

The entrance of the Battery Grubbs where one of the disappearing guns is located.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Tourists are given a ride on the tram (patterned after the original American tramvia used during the war). The tram traverses a secluded path, which is unpaved and covered with overgrown plants. The path leading to the hospital also reveals other establishments like the “Duty

Free” of American soldiers. The infirmary, one of the institutions that should have been exempted from the destruction of war, was bombed by the Japanese forces. Today, only an eerie skeleton of a once massive structure still stands. A LEGACY OF HEROISM Many people visit the place, mostly veterans, to commemorate the brave souls of soldiers who died in the island. Statues of leaders like Manuel Quezon were constructed and murals depicting major Filipino heroic battles were also presented. Friendship and peace memorials were built to remind us the

A monument of President Sergio Osmena erected to honor him being the second president of Philippine Commonwealth.

A gun emplaced in the parade ground near the Mile-Long barracks and quarter ruins.

deeds of our courageous brothers. Interestingly, a Japanese Garden of Peace was erected for Japanese soldiers, who were killed in the island. Despite changing times, Corregidor’s legacy lives on. Massive attacks from the Japanese army did not deter Filipino and American soldiers from carrying out their mission—liberating the Philippines, once and for all, from foreign rule. It is this legacy which General MacArthur emphasized, when he said: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” u

Built in 1968, the Pacific War Memorial is constructed in honor of Filipino and American servicemen.

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



L as C asas F ilipinas de A cu z ar : H ome By Katherine Castillo Eustaquio Photos by Nicole Alvaro


ur trip to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan relived an age-old, almost-forgotten Filipino custom. The tour guides told us to remove our footwear, before entering the two-storey house called Casa Luna. The 1850s house is now home to a wide collection of old Filipino memorabilia: old milk cans, wooden tobacco cases, antique ironing board, typewriters, and victrola from the 18th to early 20th century. As soon as we entered the old Ilocano home, we immediately noticed the very narrow hallway, which goes around the whole house. The hallway was built for the aliping sagigilid (servants in the corners of the master’s house), usually war prisoners, who were not allowed to step inside the main house. Sliding doors enabled the aliping sagigilid to move around the house and serve the ilustrados (or the educated upper class), as discreetly as possible. Of course, there were also the aliping namamahay (servants who are housed), who have their own residence sitting somewhere on the master’s property. We found the same narrow hallway to the reconstructed three-storey Casa Vyzantina, which used to stand at the corner or Madrid and Penarubia streets in Binondo, Manila in the 1890’s. Just like most ancestral homes in the country, Casa Vyzantina is a traditional Bahay na Bato (house made of stone). The first floor is made of stones and bricks, to help the house withstand earthquakes and natural disasters. The second and third floors are made of hardwood and embellished with elaborate floral designs. In 1914, the house was leased to Instituto


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Casa Luna

de Manila. There, they held elementary and high school classes until 1919. For many years, the stately house in Binondo was leased to many tenants. After that, it was reduced to a halfway house for homeless families, until 2009. Every house tells a story: one that lives on for decades, one that transcends time and generations, wars and natural disasters. It echoes within the abandoned halls of the once-lively home. Some of them are tales of war, oppression and suffering—and of one family’s unyielding faith, despite the struggles. Some are stories about a childhood summer: weekends spent at the family house with large rooms and grand staircases; backyard pools and quiet afternoons; secret rooms

and hushed servants; scrumptious food served in banana leaves and homemade sorbetes for dessert. Most of these stories speak of a bygone era—a time when women wore elaborate Filipiniana gowns and when men donned top and bowler hats. Despite the changing times, these memories linger on for centuries—until one man’s passion, to relive the memories

Casa Baliuag I

of that once glorious past, moves him to re-create everything in painstaking detail.

Elegant room at Casa Vyzantina

BREATHING NEW LIFE TO THE PAST The casas (homes) standing in the


ome T o O ur H eritage and L egacy 400-hectare Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar used to be regarded as symbols of affluence in society from their respective origins. But wars and changing times have taken their toll on these once-opulent and intricately-designed homes— reducing them into mere skeletons of the past, abandoned and decaying. These “condemned” houses were given a new lease in life at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. The “resort” actually started with one house, the Casa Cagayan, which is the traditional Filipino house in

Casa Cagayan

Plaza Mayor de Tobias

the early 1900s. It served as the vacation home for its owner, Jose Acuzar (the Chair of Property Developer, New San Jose Builders Inc.) and his family. Little by little, Acuzar began “transplanting” old abandoned houses from all over the country to this beach and river front property. The old houses were reconstructed “brick by brick” and “plank by plank”— breathing new life to the old structures. Acuzar made use of local materials to recreate parts that were missing from the structures. Some of them were painstakingly rebuilt for months, with old photos found on the Internet used as reference. Some key pieces were bought at junkyards. Their hardwork,

Bridge at Las Casas Filipinas de

Casa Mexico

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



Paseo de Escolta

OLD WORLD CHARM Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Pinaputok na Isda brought the “old world” back to the public on March 15, 2010. Since then, it has been transporting Filipinos back in time, to cobble-stoned streets lined with charming street lamps. “You realize when you come here, it’s like [going through a] time warp,” said T.K. Solvason, General Manager of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. “This is what people keep saying about [the place].” Lechon Kawali Indeed, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar feels more like a 400-yearold Filipiniana village rather than a dedication and passion paid off. Today, resort. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar showcases During weekends, a cultural show is 27 traditional Filipino houses; beautiful held by the river, near the replica of the bridges that were patterned after the Jones Bridge with its 1920’s grandeur. famous Jones Bridge; a traditional A live kundiman band serenades the Maranao house; intricate wood carvings guests with old Filipino songs like Leron, and metal sculptures created by a family Leron Sinta and Paruparong Bukid over of local artisans. dinner. Here, authentic Filipino and What started as one man’s passion for Spanish dishes from Marivent Café massive antiques, became a 400-hectare are served, family-style: Seafood Paella, living museum—one that has revived an Kinilaw na Tanigue, Chicken Binakol (a almost-forgotten legacy. dish that is similar to tinola but makes use


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

of coconot juice for the broth), Pinaputok na Isda, and Lechon Kawali. Famous Filipino folk dances (like the tinikling and singkil) are performed by several resort employees and a group of students from a local school, with the beautiful Casa Quiapo as their backdrop. At the end of the day, guests can retire in one of the casas, or in hotel rooms at the picturesque Paseo de Escolta. A visit to this magnificent place gives balikbayans a nostalgic and historical journey. For Filipinos visiting their parents’ homeland for the first time, it offers a preview of a vast heritage that they have yet to discover. “What the owner wanted to do is to make sure that the younger generation will never forget it,” said Solvason. These old houses serve as education for younger generation; especially the second and third generations of Filipino-Americans who are discovering the Philippines for the first time. “[You go here] to find your roots, added Solvason. “You can connect with your identity. Every Filipino at heart should visit Las Casas Filipinas.” u

taste buds

A Taste of

Old World Flavors at Marivent Café


By Katherine Castillo Eustaquio | Photos by Nicole Alvaro

ood plays an integral role in defining a country’s culture. And the more we travel, the more we open our taste buds to unique flavors, which give a nation its distinct identity.

The food in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar reminds one of summer breaks spent in the province, where women prepare good, old-fashioned dishes for their guests in an open-air “dirty” kitchen. It reminds one of a time when “lunch” was served at a long table (whether in the immaculate dining room or in the backyard). Hearty dishes like paella, morcon, pinakbet, and callos grace the table, served on brightly colored platters and clay pots. It was a time when grandparents provide refreshing treats to the younger ones: freshly churned homemade “sorbetes” or a platter of fresh fruits, like pineapple and mangoes picked earlier that day. The casas (houses) in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar are named after the places they came from. Marivent Café, the resort’s main restaurant, offers the trademark dishes each town, city, and province is famous for. “Bawat makikita mong bahay [dito sa Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar], alam mo na kung anong ilalabas mong pagkain. Puro mga sinaunang pagkain, Pilipino and Spanish. Ang Pilipino food para bang nawawala e, kaya ngayon binubuhay naming ang pagkaing Pilipino food at Spanish,” Executive Chef Terencio S. Cabrera said. (Every house you see here, you know exactly what food you will serve. It’s all about old-fashioned food that is Filipino and Spanish. Old Filipino food seems to fading, that’s why we are reviving them.) At a time where more and more restaurants and resorts are going gourmet, Marivent Café prides itself in serving authentic Filipino and Spanish dishes, served family-style. “Ginawa naming pampamilya ang pagkain, hindi yung one serving lang, isang order lang, [o] isang tao lang ang kakain,” Cabrera shared. “Kasi ang [pumupunta] dito sa Las Casas, mga pamilya eh, kaya kailangan matikman nila lahat.” (We made the food family-style, not just one serving, one order, or just one person who will eat the food. The guests here are mostly families, they need to taste everything.” One of Marivent Café’s bestsellers is the Chicken Binakol, a Tagalog dish that is similar to the tinola but uses coconut juice instead of chicken stock. “When you come here and you have kids who refuse to eat rice, you serve them binakol and they will eat with gusto,” said General Manager TK Solvason. The beauty of the casas and the taste of great Filipino and Spanish flavors have put Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar on the list of the must-visit tourist spots in the country. For three

Paella Valenciana at Marivent Cafe

Authentic Italian dishes at La Bella Teodora years, more and more Filipinos have been “rediscovering” their glorious cultural past through this one-of-a-kind living museum. After all, coming home is always the best respite. Why? Because even the most discriminating palate seeks the flavors of home. (Set to open this June 2012 is the La Bella Teodora, a 100-seater Italian restaurant that will serve brick oven pizza and a variety of delectable pasta dishes. The new restaurant, which is named after Jose Rizal’s mother, Teodora Alonzo, will find its home at the ground floor open veranda of Casa Biñan, the replica of Rizal’s ancestral home in Biñan Laguna. Headed by Chef Edgardo Matus, the chef de cuisines at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, La Bella Teodora will offer an authentic Italian dining experience through a seven-course meal.) u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



Celebrating 114 Years of Philippine independence Independence Day Festivities in the Philippines

By Barny Rivera


efore Republic Act No. 4166, the Philippines recognized Independence Day on the same date as the United States of America did: July 4. It was only in 1964 when President Diosdado Macapagal reclaimed that fateful date, when General Emilio Aguinaldo declared freedom from Spain on June 12, 1898. Today, it is only befitting that most Independence Day activities are scheduled at the Rizal Park—a place rich with history and inarguably, the Philippines’ most famous landmark. This year’s festivities will kick off with Musikalayaan: a six-hour concert on June 9 from 5pm to 11pm at the Lagoon Area. For those who enjoy ballet, Concert at the Park offers an hour of the classical dance, accompanied by Philippine music in Mahal Kong Bayan.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Under the artistic direction of Amelia Yulo, this special presentation features Ballet Repertory Philippines and the Ballet Dance Academy on June 10, starting at 6pm in the Open Air Auditorium. Moviegoers and history buffs alike can opt to attend Sinekalayaan— a film screening of Filipino movies with historical relevance. This year, the three featured films are Aishitemasu Mahal Kita 1941 (starring Dennis Trillo and Judy Ann Santos), Sakay (starring Julio Diaz), and The Forgotten War (starring Baron Geisler and Kyla Lapus.) The films will be shown nightly, from June 9 to 11 starting at 8pm, also in the Open Air Auditorium. The National Parks Development Committee showcases Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, a 30-minute dramatization of the national hero’s final hours through eight sculptural clusters in an interplay of light and sound created by four National Artists: Leandro Locsin, Lamberto Avellana, Lucio San Pedro and Rolando Tinio. This multisensory production runs from June 11 to 13 at Jose Rizal’s execution site. Other interests relating to arts and culture include: the Kalayaan

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE Book Sale, Agri-Aqua Fair and Exhibit, and Filipino Indigenous Games Exhibition. The Armed Forces of the Philippines are also set to demonstrate various military routines including static display, silent drill, sky diving and band exhibition; students from the Philippine National Police Academy perform a slow drill exhibition from June 11 to 12. At exactly 8am on June 12, the Philippine Coast Guard leads a synchronized blowing of foghorns nationwide. Simultaneous flagraising and wreath-laying ceremonies commence at historical landmarks all over the country including: the Rizal National Monument, Bonifacio National Monument, Aguinaldo Shrine, Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine, Pamintuan House and other locations in Cebu and Davao. Each landmark has its own guest of honor, with President Benigno S. Aquino III attending the ceremony at the Barasoain Church. President Aquino also plays host to the Diplomatic Corps in Vin d’honneur, a cocktail reception held yearly at the Malacañang Palace. The public can celebrate their liberty in a special Kalayaan Concert at the Quirino Grandstand from 1pm to 9pm by Sandigan ng Kalayaan and LUZVIMINDA, and from 9pm to 12mn by Party Kalayaan. The evening culminates with a fireworks display marking the 114th anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence. As a special treat on the celebration of our 114th year of freedom, everyone gets to ride the LRT and MRT for FREE. It’s enough to make every Filipino exclaim, ‘Mabuhay!’

Filipino-Americans Take Over Madison Avenue in New York City

By Momar G. Visaya

FILIPINOS IN THE CITY. Wunderkind Charice Pempengco (center) and Actress Fe de los Reyes(fourth from left) and Michael Gurfinkel, attorney to the stars (fifth from left) wave to the crowd during the 110th Independence Day Celebration parade held last June 1 in Madison Avenue in New York.


t is one of the biggest and most-awaited slew of community events among Filipino-Americans across Northeast USA: the annual Philippine Independence Day Parade, a street fair and a festival along Madison Avenue in midtown Manhattan. This year, the community celebrates the 114th Anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence, as well as its 22nd year of holding the festivities. For the celebrations this June, Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) officials (led by President Fe Martinez) set the schedule for the various events and projects, leading up to the actual parade on June 3, 2012. There are three major events of the months-long, multi-event commemoration: the Street Fair, the Independence Day Parade, and the afternoon Cultural Festival. Last January, PIDCI unveiled the chosen Grand Marshal for this

year’s parade, along with the candidates for its first-ever Mrs. Kalayaan contest (with eventual winner Margie Beof Wisotsky of Glendale, Queens) and the annual Diwa ng Kalayaan (Spirit of Independence) beauty, brains and talent contest. Dr. Prospero A. Lim was the unanimous choice of the PIDCI Board of Directors to be Grand Marshal of the 2012 parade. Lim has an established and reputable psychiatry practice in Staten Island, and is also very active in the Greater New York Filipino and FilipinoAmerican communities. When asked to speak to a packed audience at the Kalayaan Hall of the Philippine Center, Lim challenged the community to come up with a participation and attendance of 250,000 in this year’s Independence Day celebration, after hearing from Consul General de Leon, Jr. that last year’s attendance count was 100,000. The new Grand Marshal was most recently the President of the Philippine Medical Association in America (PMAA), Inc. and the overall mission coordinator for the group’s most recent medical mission to Cebu and Bohol. Last year, Lim was also the PMAA’s coordinator for their medical mission in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines. He also led a highly successful PMAA medical, surgical and humanitarian mission in Catbalogan City, Samar. The mission tended to some 8,000 recipients of various medical needs during that mission trip. The Mrs. Kalayaan (Mrs. Independence) contest and its Coronation Pageant and Gala event were introduced to the 114th Philippine Independence commemoration this year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the incorporation of the Philippine Independence Day Council. The Diwa ng Kalayaan beauty contest is a mainstay event of the annual commemoration having been part of it for 21 long years. It is now the number one beauty, brains, and talent contest among 16to-25-year-old Filipino bachelorettes in the Northeastern Unites States Filipino and Filipino-American community. The big day will happen on Sunday, June 3 with the major events taking place all-day on Madison Avenue (from 23rd Street to 38th Street) where the Independence Day Parade rolls out at noontime, after brief opening ceremonies, including the ribbon-cutting at 11:45 in the morning. In the meantime, the Street Fair (which habitués usually describe as a Filipino Food Festival) and a Mini-Expo will be in full gear at 10am on Madison Avenue (between 24th and 26th Street), straddling the picturesque Madison Square Park. In the afternoon, the Cultural Festival will be held on an open-air stage at the 23rd Street end of Madison Avenue. The Independence Ball culminates the commemoration at the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton New York on Saturday, June 9 from 7pm to 12mn. Celebrating History Last year, Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay honored the Filipino community in the Northeast USA with his presence, during the festivities. The Vice President emphasized his call for FilipinoAmericans to “rise above ourselves” and “link arms and stand shoulder to shoulder” with counterparts at home. “Amid the moral confusion of our times, when the love of self appears to have crowded out every other love for others, we should have the courage to show the world that we are different, that we care deeply for one another and try to lift one another’s burden,” Binay said, reiterating the call he made when he spoke with Filipino community leaders in Rockland County. The Independence Day celebration last year was kicked-off by a balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


LIFESTYLE & CULTURE ceremonial cutting of the ribbon, led by Vice President Binay, assisted by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia, Consul General Mario L. de Leon, Jr., Permanent Representative to the UN Libran Cabactulan, Joji Jalandoni (PIDCI President), Philippine Independence Day Parade Chairs Ms. Fe Martinez and Mr. Ben Santos, MD, Iloilo City Mayor Hon. Jed Patrick Mabilog, Grand Marshals Nick and Editha Libramonte, the official delegation of the Vice President, and the members of the Board Members and directors of PIDCI 2011. “This is said to be the biggest celebration of Philippine Independence outside of the Philippines—seeing this sea of enthusiastic Filipino faces in the heart of Manhattan, truly warms the heart and makes you proud to be a Filipino,” Consul General de Leon said. The parade has been held since 1990, initiated first by the Consulate General led by then Consul General Hermenigildo Garcia, until the PIDCI was incorporated in 2003. The Consul General serves as Honorary Adviser. Colorful floats, costumes and the award-winning Dinagyang Festival added a festive atmosphere to the whole event. Estimates placed the number of people lining the parade route at 50,000, rising to over 100,000 at the street fair and Cultural show—the largest in the parade’s 21-year history. The Philippine Independence Day celebration in Northeast USA includes not only New York, but also the twelve states under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Consulate General in New York, namely: Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Philippine Independence Day Celebration in Las Vegas

By Dymphna Calica-La Putt

three years have gradually become bigger and better. Last year, the attendance to the 3rd annual Fiesta Filipino reached its highest—with some 18,000 tickets sold, according to event organizers. Thumping modern music (alternating with traditional tunes) are the sounds that turn heads to the red, white, and blue-decked gates leading to the event venue. Entertainment is provided by local Filipino-American groups and Filipino celebrities, like Lani Misalucha and boxer Nonito Donaire. A group of young Filipino-Americans (clad in various Philippine ethnic garments) periodically paraded the Philippine colors around the area. The unmistakable smell of fantastic Filipino food is a sure-fire draw as well. Each year, a diverse cuisine from the Northern Islands of Bataan, down to the Mindanao provinces is always represented at Fiesta Filipino. Inside the venue, several Filipino regional organizations set up shop, selling goods that come from their different home islands in the Philippines. The annual fiesta confirms the unity among Filipinos who live in Las Vegas, event organizer Nevada Chapter of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA-NV) said. NaFFAA, a non-partisan national affiliation of more than five hundred Filipino-American organizations, aims to unite the various Filipino groups in each US and help integrate these with American society. Judging by the turn out of participants at the annual fiesta, the Fiesta Filipino organizer’s aim to have a “community of one” among Filipinos in the city has evidently been reached. Meanwhile, fellow Asians also join the Filipinos’ annual revelry every year. It is not uncommon to see booths selling food and wares from Japan, Vietnam and the Polynesian islands during the event. Performers also showcase various songs and dances from Asian

Photo by Robert Macabagdal/AJPress


he annual celebration of Philippine Independence Day in this city has always been a much-anticipated and well-attended event. This is despite the three-digit temperature that is typical in Las Vegas in June, when the celebration is usually held. In fact, the heat has been the traditional backdrop that welcomes participants who partake in this annual local event. While there have been smaller gatherings which marked “Filipino Freedom Day” in this city in the past, the celebrations during the last


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Photo by Robert Macabagdal/AJPress countries. Pan-Asian dance group Jabbawockeez is also a regular guest in the event. After all, Asians are the fastest growing group in Nevada. But Las Vegas Filipinos (numbering about 150,000) are the largest Asian group in the state. Las Vegas is, in fact, home to the fourth largest Filipino population in the US. The group’s growing strength and number is not lost on mainstream eyes either—such is palpable at each Fiesta Filipino event every year, which local elected officials grace with their presence. Frequent Filipino community well-wishers include US Rep. Shel-

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE ley Berkley and Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, among others.

Employee Association (LACFAEA) represents over 7500 Filipino County employees. The members of these organizations held a fiesta outside the How Los Angeles Celebrates LA City Hall in honor of the Filipino-Americans holding local Philippine Independence Day government position. By Cynthia de Castro In Universal City, Filipinos celebrated with Kalayaan Gala Night 2011. Nearly a thousand Filipinos from Southern California celebrated with music and song. The event was made possible with the cooperation of the Philippine Consulate General, Philippine Department of Tourism, and Philippine Trade and Investment Center. There was also a Kalayaan Cup 2011 Badminton Tournament and a Philippine Independence Day Golf Fest—organized in cooperation with the Philippine Tourism Office. In San Diego, there was the Annual Fiesta Filipiniana organized by the San Diego Philippine Library and Historical Heritage Museum. Another Philippine Independence Day celebration organized by Eagle Rock Plaza in conjunction with SIPA, People’s Core and AF3IRM (formerly Gabriela Network) and Radio Manila was held at the Eagle Rock Plaza on JUNE IS PHILIPPINE HERITAGE MONTH. Cora Aragon Soriano, LAFACE President (left) June 18. and Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon (2nd from left) receive the certificate of proclamation from LA City Council President Eric Garcetti(4th from left) and LA City Councilmembers during The Rotary Club of Historic Filipinotown organized the the 112th Philippine Independence Day Celebration at the Los Angeles. June has been proclaimed as Pista sa Nayon at the Silver Lake Medical Center, while the Philippine Heritage Month by the LA City Council. PCG photo BAYAN MASAYA (Bayanihan sa Araw na Makasaysayan), was held at the Lake Street Community Center, Historic cross the globe, Filipinos gather to celebrate Philippine Filipinotown. There were free health education and screening; culIndependence Day on June 12—commemorating tural programs, OPM karaoke contest, and free food courtesy of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s proclamation of Philippine participating organizations /groups providing potluck of authentic independence on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite. Filipino dishes. In the United States, California has the largest In the City of Carson, the Philippine Independence Day Founnumber of Filipino residents—with Los Angeles County having the dation held the celebration in Veterans Park. biggest concentration of Filipino-Americans. The 114th Philippine Independence Day Celebration this year Pinoys celebrate Philippine Independence Day with a sumptuous will be significant in LA County, as the Fil-Am community is in fiesta, fun, dancing and singing, wherever they may be. The same is the middle of erecting a magnificent monument of Dr. Jose P. Rizal true in Southern California, where Filipino-American organizations, in the City of Carson. The event will also be the last time Consul communities and families hold parties, fiestas, karaoke /videoke events General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon will be celebrating with Pinoys and sports tournaments. in LA. She will be going back to the Philippines, as her term ends 2011 was a year of double celebration—it marked the 113th Phil- this year. ippine Independence Day and the 150th Birth Anniversary of Dr. There will be the usual Flag Raising Ceremony organized by the Jose Rizal, our National Hero. The theme for last year’s Anniversary Philippine Consulate office. of the Declaration of Philippine Independence was “Kalayaan: PaniThe Philippine Independence Coordinating Council of Southnindigan ng Bayan.” ern California (PICCSC) will hold a gala dinner at the Hilton The Consulate General of the Philippines in Los Angeles led the Hotel-LAX with Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay as the flag raising ceremony and breakfast at the residence of Consul Gen- guest speaker on June 2. The group expects to draw the participaeral Mary Jo Aragon. There was also a Holy Mass, with Bishop Os- tion of more than 500 Filipino organizations representing Filipinos car Solis as the main celebrant at the St. Stephen Martyr Catholic in Southern California, metropolitan Las Vegas and other areas. Church. Vice President Jejomar C. Binay, graced the occasion and PICCSC Secretary General Darna Umayam said: “It is aimed delivered his Independence Day message to the Filipino-American to make a big impact to the community, that patriotism and nacommunity. tionalism pervades in the spirit of the hearts and minds of all the An Independence Day Parade was held on June 10, 2011 in down- Filipinos all over.” town LA—an unprecedented joint celebration by the Los Angeles Another celebration is being organized by Kalayaan IncorpoFilipino Association of City Employees (LAFACE) and Los Ange- rated, one of the foremost organizers of the annual Philippine les County Filipino American Employee Association (LACFAEA) Independence Day celebrations in LA. The Kalayaan Grand Ball held at the Los Angeles City. A City Council Resolution declaring Celebration will be held on June 9, 2012 at the prestigious Marriott June as the Philippine Independence Month was presented to the Torrance South Bay. Philippine Consul General Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon, members of Aside from these major gala dinners, several parties, tournaments, LAFACE and LACFAEA and the Filipino Community. fiestas and friendly competitions will be happening across CaliforLAFACE is the only Filipino-American employee organization nia to celebrate the 114th Declaration of Philippine Independence in existence in the City of Los Angeles, representing over 2,500 Fili- Day—and of course, they will be celebrated in the usual festive manpino City employees. The Los Angeles County Filipino American ner, Pinoy-style! u


balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


University Belt: A Mix of

Old and New

By Rowena Diocton | Photos by Jan Paul Jose Old Manila photos scanned from Streets of Manila by Luning B. Ira, Historical Research by Isagani R. Medina


y childhood memories of the City of Manila are neither beautiful nor interesting. I remember seeing the homeless take temporary shelter in dingy sidewalks, and street vendors peddling their wares on foot pavements. The streets reeked of urban waste. This grotesque images of this old city remained with me through my adolescent years, and I vowed to never live in Manila. I was wrong.

My ‘return’ voyage to the old city gave me the chance to look at it in a new light and cleared the cobwebs in my head. Through every jeepney ride, I discovered how the city by the bay continues to mold young Filipino minds by its legacy. This is how I stumbled upon the ageless charm of the University Belt. It was here that I came to understand why dozens of universities in this city (which were almost wall-to-wall with one another) had endured for centuries. If I had been creative at

age five, I would have described it as a prison cell of lunatics raving in a cramped space. It must have been the history. Twenty-something colleges and universities are thriving, albeit side by side, in the San Miguel district alone. I reckon that each began with the objective of creating their own niche through their own respective systems of teaching. But then again, it could also be that Manila back then was a beacon of affluence. It was a district known for art and businesses. The city was a

Mendiola Peace Arch at Centro Escolar University


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Technological University of the Philippines

Mendiola Statue

breeding ground for establishments. Schools and universities were built where courts, theaters, hospitals, and large companies flourished. The University Belt became a panoramic view of towering spires and clocks dating back to when these bastions for academic pursuits were first built. Timeless Architecture and Design Many structures within the University Belt are worthy of acclaim, in terms of history and architecture. In 2005, Far Eastern University earned a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage. To this day, the university preserves the five Art Deco buildings designed by National Artist Pablo Antonio in the 1920s. Restored in 2002, the Gota de Leche Building in Sampaloc, Manila is another UNESCO heritage building that many students are familiar with. It was built to help the La Proteccion de la Infancia (the Philippines’ very first non-sectarian, non-governmental organization) to stop malnutrition. The Gota de Leche Building is a mixture of brick masonry, arches, columns, and decorative relieves of angels and infants.

Centro Escolar University

Philippine Normal University

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 29

La Consolacion College of Manila

Popular structures of the 400year-old University of Santo Tomas were declared National Cultural Treasures by the National Museum. In 2010, the cultural value of UST’s main building, central seminary, Arch of the Centuries, and open spaces were deemed significant to our sense of nationalism. Its main building is said to be the first earthquakeresistant structure in the country. Today, the Rizal Hall, which houses the University of the Philippines -Manila’s College of Arts and Sciences, remains the only intact reminder of the original campus. Its high columns and perfect symmetry reflect classical Greek architecture— a quality that is also reflected by various buildings in the UP Diliman campus. Many of the old and main

University of Santo Tomas

buildings from the Philippine Normal University, Centro Escolar University, Adamson University, and La Consolacion College still retain the original designs that the structures had, decades ago. A change in colors and additions made the overall look different at first. But when compared, the changes made were minimal -they still live the old glory of the original structures. The churches surrounding the University Belt are guided by multiple architectural movements. The crowded Quiapo Church, with baroque beginnings, is now an established modern edifice—rebuilt to give way to a rising number of Nazareno devotees. On R. Hidalgo Street, the all-steel San Sebastian Church stands with its painted pillars, retablos, and stained glass windows.

University of the Philippines Manila


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

St. Paul University Manila

Quezon Boulevard

Mendiola Sunset

Adamson University

Lerma Nicanor España

All Aboard the Belt Ride There was a time when one needed to pay only a few cents for a jeepney ride. Today, the minimum cost is already approaching Php10. These days, students find themselves traveling, not only with fares in mind, but also with the rich experience of their journey to their destination. If you ask the students along the belt where they usually pass through, you’ll hear many familiar names. The Claro M. Recto Avenue was once called the Calle Azcarraga. The long line of fake diplomas and old book peddlers of Recto today is a stark contrast to the upscale theaters and dwellings of the past’s Azcarraga. The short street of Mendiola remains to be the public’s big stage. From the 90s to the present, this street leading to the Malacañang

Palace has seen violence and death, massacres and ousters. España Boulevard, Quezon City’s portal to Manila, is a street that still reminds Filipinos of the 333-year Spanish rule. Today, it is also a famous flood zone, which connects more Spanish-sounding streets and serves as the opening salvo to the Nicanor Reyes and Lerma streets, where more universities are found. Despite the fact that I graduated from a university outside of this so-called University Belt, I have seen it evolve into what it is now— a hodgepodge of condos and establishments wedged between universities and colleges that have stood the test of time. The city’s charm is no longer a best-kept secret—it has always been there for us to behold. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 31

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



IROn Chef: The Search for the Next Kitchen Superstars


eld at The Mabuhay Manor, the quest for untapped talents with world-class cooking potentials has started. The skies were threatening to pour cats and dogs but everybody is busy preparing for the first ever Legend Iron Chef: The Search for the Next Kitchen Superstars. An intimate event held at the poolside of The Mabuhay Manor, seasoned chefs representing the different properties under the Legend Hotels International Corporation’s name flocked to the venue to compete for the title. PREPARING FOR THE BIG DAY Brainchild of Legend Hotels International Corporation’s Chief Operating Officer Merril Yu, the cooking event was conceived a few months ago, and will kick start other inter-company contests for the different departments of The Legend Group. The objectives were simple and straight to the point: recognizing and discovering culinary skills of chefs,cooks,and kitchen staffs; discovering Filipino dishes in a more flavorful, creative, and playful way; promoting the value of teamwork and resourcefulness; raising the level of confidence among food and beverage (F&B) staff; and fostering a healthy spirit of competition among the f & b personnel.The chefs came from different properties under

Last minute. A chef contestant puts the finishing touches in his team’s main entree

The Legend Hotel group namely The Legend Villas, Park Bed & Breakfast, Pinoy Pamilya Hotel, The Mabuhay Manor, and different branches of The Kabayan Hotel. For the judges, the organizers opted to get highly qualified judges who know a great deal about food and its preparation and who are very critical on the taste and the plating. First judge was Luchie Callanta, a professor from the Center for Culinary Arts, nutritionist, and Food & Beverage Project consultant; Rowena Eliscupides, Organizational Development Manager for Armadillo Holdings Inc.; and Christie de Castro, General Manager of My Place Residence Hall.

A chef contestant in a fiery display of passionate cooking

THE SEARCH FOR THE NEXT KITCHEN SUPERSTARS The chefs came in with smiles on their faces, nervous but excited, and can’t wait to start cooking. The first surprise came when the bubbly hosts told the chefs they would be partnered with the other chefs from the different properties. Three teams with four members each sum up the contestants. A total of 2.5 hours was for the entire contest; the countdown started once the secret ingredient, Tilapia, was revealed. Tilapia, is considered a local favorite, and has become a household name for Filipinos. The chefs were given fifteen minutes to go to the mini wet market to choose their ingredients. They were asked to prepare two main entrees, one appetizer, and one salad or dessert. Seventy-five minutes was allotted for meal preparation, cooking, and plating. The chefs then presented and served their culinary masterpieces to the judges. The presentation lasted for another fifteen minutes.

THE DISHES AND THE WINNERS The variety of dishes looked very appetizing. Among the crowd favorites were Team 1’s Tilapia, Seafood Chowder Soup and Ensaladang Filipiniana Tilapia,; Team 2’s Pechay Tilapia, Dumpling Soup and Tilapia Fingers; and Team 3’s Pan-Fried Tilapia, with Vegetable con Salsa. The event was highlighted by The Mabuhay Manor’s tradition of getting out of their corporate uniforms and donning Filipiniana costumes for their fiesta-themed Fridays. Kakanin and other local snacks were served for free for all in-house guests and during the event while waiting for the chefs to finish cooking. The fiesta theme helps promote a healthy sense of nationalism to its guests and visitors, a thoughtful and fun reminder of the good things about being Filipino: the food and celebrations. In the end, the skies cleared and Team 1 won, consisting of Chef Renato Mendoza from The Mabuhay Manor, Chef Rufino Baccay from the Pinoy Pamilya Hotel, Chef Jun Nucom from The Legend Villas, and Chef Paul Francisco from Kabayan Hotel Cubao. Aside from the P5,000 prize money, their dishes will now be part of the corporate menu of all the properties of The Legend Hotels International Corporation. u In this dish, tilapia is mixed with other seafoods balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



harles P. “Carlos” Celdran defines himself as a cultural activist, a performance artist, a tour guide and a force to reckon with. You’re probably wondering why good ol’ me, who is thousands of miles away, would be writing about him. But someone, who is as ubiquitous (and often controversial) as Carlos, is rarely difficult to miss—especially in social media. He has piqued my interest,ever since he did his “Damaso performance art” at an ecumenical service in Manila Cathedral in September 2010, to advocate for the passage of the 14-year-old Reproductive Health Bill (amongst priests and clergymen of the Catholic Church, nonetheless). I have become one of his innumerable followers —both in Facebook and Twitter. Many found his “performance” offensive and distasteful. Others have regarded him as a champion of change. But beyond the act itself, I found a man who is passionate and bold enough to fight for his principles and cause a stir—even if it cost him a night’s stay in jail, and a still ongoing case at the Manila Regional Trial Court for “offending religious feelings.”

Photo by Rene Salta

What is unique about the ‘I’ hides itself exactly in what is unimaginable about a person. All we are able to imagine is what makes everyone like everyone else—what people have in common. The individual ‘I’ is what differs from the common stock, that is, what cannot be guessed at or calculated, what must be unveiled, uncovered, conquered. - Milan Kundera


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

The Tipping Point In a previous televised interview with Karen Davila in Headstart on ANC, Carlos expressed his views about his “Damaso” act of defiance. “I was driven by exasperation already and I knew and I just decided to express it the best way I know how—which is through theater and performance art, and through just the way that I know how to express myself, like the way I do during my tours,” Carlos explained. “I guess my tipping point was when they threatened civil disobedience, and when they threatened ex-communication to the President and I realized that you know, if I don’t speak up in the way that I feel is the most comfortable in my own manner, then I’ll just be delaying the argument for one more week...the proper time and place was right there. The RH Bill has been waiting in Congress for ‘fourteen years.’ If a girl was born by the time that Edsel Lagman filed the bill back fourteen years ago, she could’ve had a kid by now...So when people tell me that you’re out of place, this is not the right time, this is not the right venue—is fourteen years not long enough? And is a parking lot really the venue that you want to keep going for?,” he opined. “I really felt like Divine Providence brought me to that altar, because of the rain, because of all the circumstances...I just woke up and I was there,” Carlos narrated. First Encounter Ultimately, watching Carlos from the sidelines would not be enough. Another incident would finally spark a conversation between me and “the original culture vulture” (albeit only through Facebook). This time, Carlos found himself embroiled in a situation that he would rather not have gotten into—interrogated by authorities in the midst of his Livin’ La Vida Imelda tour in Art Dubai, due to some content in his script about Islam and Imelda Marcos’ friendship with Muammar Gaddafi (I would rather not to get into the bloody details of what ensued, just read my story at It gave me the opportunity to get to know another side of Carlos. I discovered that just like the rest of us, he also has his moments of weakness and doubt. Writing about his unsavory episode in Dubai (with both sides considered, of course) and being able to help alleviate his fears and anxiety, gave me a sense of fulfillment as a journalist. Perhaps, it was also Divine Providence that moved me to write the story. And to still be able to write about Carlos (on a more personal level) is already a reward in itself.

The Unbearable

Lightness of Being Carlos Celdran By Nickee De Leon-Huld

Of course, the time-distance factor was still a hindrance. I had to make do with the medium that I’ve previously tapped: social media. The Essence of Being Carlos Celdran Succinctly, he says this about himself: “I’m a performance artist. I try to change the way Manila looks through the way people look at Manila. My weapon: street theater. [I’ve been] doing my ‘Walk This Way’ performances five times a week for the last ten years, so I guess I can call it a passion, no? Either that or madness.” When asked how he would describe himself as an icon, a tour guide, a performance artist and a cultural activist, Carlos humbly declines and opts to “leave the descriptions to others.” “[I’ve] never really been fond of looking for adjectives for myself. But yes, I do believe in cultural activism. I believe that art can be a catalyst for paradigm shifts and social change, and I try to use this philosophy in my performances.” “Changing the culture of a nation can be best done through the arts—especially if the art can literally be taken to the streets. Not sure if I’ve achieved any success in making social change, but I still try everyday,” he replies. I then zero in on his sentiments about being ‘the sought-after’ Intramuros tour guide, and how he felt about doing a re-telling of Philippine history in his own words. “(Laughs) [It] doesn’t really feel like anything, really. I do what I do because I have to do it -being ‘sought after’ never was my objective. I’m too busy telling the story and trying to tell it well to think about things like that,” he responds in jest. I toss a question about how different he is now from the Carlos Celdran, before the Damaso incident happened. He gives a humble quip: “ [I don’t feel] that different at all. Some people ask to take my picture every now and then because of the Damaso incident, but it’s not like my privacy is invaded to the point of absurdity. I’m not Brangelina. And it’s this nice privacy that I enjoy—[it] makes it easy for [me] to remain as the same Carlos.” Reading through the details of his biography online, I ask Carlos what his original plans for a career were—if he always envisioned himself as a tour guide/performance artist, or if he had other

dreams before then. “‘Touring’ Manila found me. I didn’t go looking for it. It’s not like I sat down and wrote a business plan for Walk This Way tours. It was organic. Back in 2001, I was a volunteer tour guide for an NGO, called Heritage Conservation Society (HCS). I’d tour HCS members through Manila’s Heritage districts, as part of our outreach program. Later on, when I did tours on my own, my interest in theater, activism, visual arts and performance, found its way into my work. And here we are today. Truth is, what I do really isn’t a tour. It’s a multi-venue, moveable performance piece—using Philippine history as my narrative. It’s a show, more than it is a tour,” he explains. “[About] my other dreams—as a kid, I wanted to work as a flight attendant for Philippine Airlines. I wanted to see the world, but I didn’t want the hassle of flying the plane. [Being a] flight attendant was the natural alternative to that. Didn’t work out and my interest in art overwhelmed my ambitions. No matter. I didn’t make the height requirement for PAL flight attendants [anyway].” More Serious Matters When I make an inquiry regarding his sentiments about the RH Bill still not being put into legislation, Carlos’ tone becomes serious. “[I am] pissed. Frustrated. We are so close to passing a bill that will finally give women rights over their reproductive life and control our runaway population growth rate...Women are dying everyday because of their lack of reproductive health education and choices. Time, seriously, is running out, when it comes to this social powder keg called population mismanagement in the Philippines. I hope our leaders wake up soon, before it’s too late,” he says. I veer into the topic of his sexuality (Carlos is bi-sexual). I ask him how it has opened his eyes to the advocacy on reproductive health care, to which Carlos candidly replies: “My sexuality is something that I never want to be singularly defined by, so there isn’t much to say except that I am bi-sexual. Period (laughs).” “But it was my days living in New York City (NYC) in the mid-1990’s that exposed me to issues of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) movement and informed me [about] HIV prevention and LGBT rights advocacies. If

NYC didn’t open my eyes, I’d probably be a very confused and angry, closeted person. Thank God that I’ve come to terms with that side of myself,” he recounts. How does he feel about finding himself frequently entangled in controversy? Does it have anything to do with his passions and convictions in life? “[I’m] constantly surprised. I am not much of an attention seeker—contrary to appearances. I don’t even think it has to do with my convictions or passions. Perhaps the issues that I’m attracted to are relevant issues. Reproductive health, human rights, and the need for art in our society are always in fashion, so [maybe] that’s why it resonates with many. The attention I get is just a side effect of that,” he muses. Carlos also thinks that everything happens for a reason, when asked about the incident in Art Dubai. Yet, he emphasizes that it has not changed his artistic views and perspectives. “The only thing that’s changed is that I am much more appreciative of the freedoms we enjoy in the Philippines. I won’t take that for granted anymore,” he says. Social Media, Performance Art, and Keeping Our Confidence As a netizen, Carlos has this to say about social media and the Internet, as new media for freedoms of speech and expression. “We should use this new technology responsibly. We can use it to change societies and make the world more connected. We really shouldn’t waste too much time on Plants vs. Zombies,” he quips. I ask him if he envisions that performance art will flourish in the Philippines, and if it has the potential to become a full-blown art genre in the future. “Performance art is still a fledgling practice [even] abroad. Filipino performance artists (like Bea Camacho and David Medalla) are worldclass, and it’s only a matter of time until [Filipino performance art and performance artists] get the attention [that they] deserve.” For Filipino artists, cultural activists and kababayans in general, he imparts this message: “The Philippines is on the right track. I guess all I have to say is keep your confidence in our country high. We’ll have our moment and it will be soon.”u

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



ubbed as the P i e d Piper of Manila (after revolutionizing walking tours around Manila and garnering a lot of attention from the public), Carlos Celdran offers his most controversial tour yet—the Livin’ La Vida Imelda Tour. Since 2004, Celdran has been conducting the tour, which he usually performs at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP). In an interview with Asian Journal regarding the Art Dubai incident, Celdran mentioned that the tour (which is based on the life story of former First Lady Imelda Marcos) was an idea he started, a decade ago. “I just wanted to do a walking tour about the Philippine history, post WW II. But as the year went by, it became more about the Philippines’ position in the cold war and our relationship with the US, as framed by Imelda Marcos’ biography and the architecture of the CCP complex,” Celdran told Asian Journal. Through cheeky and gossip-filled


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

narration, mixed with historical trivia and name-dropping, Celdran conducts the tour with the aid of his photo albums,visual

presentations (via iPad), a small music player and a headset that hangs around his neck. Funny native Filipino songs are played for added “drama,” or to signify the change of venue. Throughout the tour, Celdran untucks a white handkerchief from his pocket, whenever he mimics Imelda’s manner of talking and draws Imelda’s famous butterfly sleeves in the air. The mere mention of Imelda’s shoe collection is enough to make the group laugh. Truth be told, these Imeldific icons have become identifying marks for the Philippines, to the world. Imelda embodies great beauty, and the demeanor of a true Artword provided by Carlos Celdran


l a n v i v i ! d i a a d l ime l ernadeth T. Manaog tine B s i r By K

blue Filipina—represented by her white hanky and butterfly sleeves, which symbolize power. Her vast shoe collection speaks of extravagance—not only towards her personal needs, but also in her choices of government programs. To point out a favorite part on Celdran’s performance is rather difficult, as the whole performance was

really a delight to watch. The narrative followstheprogressionandtransformation of Imelda’s life—from being a wife, to becoming a powerful figure as first lady—and equally so, with her husband, the late President Ferdinand Marcos. Celdran intelligently weaves tales of Imelda’s rise and fall, utilizing the CCP Complex as his medium. The complex has received both praise and criticism for embodying “the true, the good, and the beautiful.” Indeed, Imelda’s colorful life mirrors

Philippine society at its peak. Couple that with Celdran’s witty and tongue-incheek narration, and you have the perfect recipe for “two thumbs up” entertainment. Celdran’s storytelling is so compelling, one can’t help but admire Imelda Marcos after the tour. Maybe one of Celdran’s intentions, in creating the ‘Imelda’ tour, is to make people understand the country’s glorious past—albeit in a period of dictatorship. It also presents an analysis of how we exercise our democracy at present—and if we even deserve it. The tour requires an open mind foremost, to be able to understand the lasting relevance of Imelda in our society and

Celdran during the Livin’ La Vida Imelda Tour at CCP. Photo by John Andrew Manzo.

how her extravagance (through the CCP buildings) became influential in developing Philippine arts and culture and highlighting their importance to society. Celdran concludes the tour by recounting

the 1986 EDSA Revolution and the inevitable exile of the Marcoses to Hawaii. To me, this is the most interesting part of the performance. Celdran challenges the tourists with these questions: If the

EDSA Revolution is the result of people’s outburst for freedom and justice, then why is she (Imelda) still relevant and admired by many? Is the revolution really a unified effort of all the classes or just some class war? u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


“Headshot. My most recent theatrical headshot taken last year by Joanna Garel.” - Giselle


By Katherine Castillo Eustaquio Photos courtesy of G Toengi


practically grew up watching Giselle Anne Toengi’s (now better known simply as G) rise to stardom. From her first television stint in the 1996 Filipino teen drama series, Gimik (as Gina de Leon), to her transition from TV to the big screen and up to the time when she decided to make the big move to New York—putting her showbiz career in the Philippines on hold. With the onset of the Internet and social media, it’s no longer difficult to keep up with the current activities and life’s journey of your favorite childhood actress. Yet, despite the stories and the interviews I’ve read or heard, it seemed that I was still clueless about the “real” G—who she is behind the camera. The G, that I had the opportunity to do a recent interview with, is no longer the same teeny-bopper matinee idol I knew from way back. She has grown in leaps and bounds— as a wife, a mother, a producer and ultimately, a balikbayan. Here are some excerpts from Balikbayan Magazine’s chat with G Toengi. Balikbayan Magazine (BM): Tell us about your life in the US. G. Toengi (G): My life in the states is


relaxed, quiet, and very routine. I wake up early everyday, take the children to school, and then go to school at the UCLA campus in Westwood. All my classes end by five o’clock, so I am able to pick the children up from school. Then [I head] home to do homework and

start dinner. We like to take walks after dinner, as a family, and so we walk around the neighborhood, or go to the beach to watch the sunset. [On weekends], we are usually at the beach or [at] the park or [doing] grocery shopping. BM: You recently graduated from UCLA

“My children and I.” balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


ENTERTAINMENT opera with David Archuleta for TV5. I just finished shooting a documentary with the Basco Brothers and will [begin] post-production editing soon. I have also started a new soap opera that will be airing on ABS-CBN in May. BM: Tell us about your work with fellow Fil-Ams in Hollywood. Can you name some of the people you’ve worked with?

“Tim and I in Hawaii taken in April 2010. I was there for the premiere of my film with Dolphy- “Nobody, nobody but Juan”. It was like our second honeymoon since our two children were born.” - Giselle

with a Communications degree (minor in film and theater). What urged you to pursue this path?

the movement needs to start with the audience demanding for better quality

G: There is a tight community in Los Angeles of Fil-Am artists who are looking to collaborate. I was fortunate to have been able to meet many actors, through other friends in the industry. Winston Emano, a publicist and fellow Fil-Am, has really connected me to other filmmakers such as the Basco Family. I have also been able to collaborate with Leslie-Anne Huff, Clifford Bañagale, Michael Copon, Jenilee Reyes and many others. BM: What made you decide to come back to the Philippines?

G: I began my career in film and television at a very early age, which led to [me,] burning out soon after, in my early 20’s. I was quite unfulfilled and lacked creative inspiration...I first left [for] America in 2000, to pursue theatre arts at Lee Strasberg. After having my first child, I wanted to go back to [take] higher education, because I wanted to pursue my masters... in order to do so, I obviously had to have a bachelor’s degree, which I didn’t complete, since I entered Philippine showbiz in high school I majored in Communications instead of Theatre Arts, since I had already done that in New York and I wanted to start writing more efficiently. Writing, [unknown] to most, is one of my secret passions. But my love for film and theatre could not be ignored. I double minored in film and theatre because, as much as I deny [it] myself, I am a filmmaker and actor through and through. BM: You went from being in front of the camera, to behind the camera, then back oncam. How do you plan to apply the knowledge you gained in school to the local TV / movie industry? G: [By taking] baby steps. It takes a movement to start a revolution and


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

“The photo of Tim and I as I declare my eternal love for him on the beach in Boracay on Feb. 19, 2005.” - Giselle

films, that are non-stereotypical. There is a lot of room for improvement in any industry, and I hope I will be given an opportunity to create niche films that cater to a specific audience. BM: Tell us about your present and upcoming projects in the Philippines. G: As an actor, I just finished a soap

G: Coming home to the Philippines was an easy decision, because I had been gone for twelve years. After I graduated, Tim (my husband) really encouraged [me to come home], reassuring me of his fullfledged support, as I embark on a new career in production behind the camera. Also, as parents, it is very important to us that the children speak Tagalog. Our eldest is turning seven and is almost

ENTERTAINMENT at the threshold, where she will not be able to pick up the language, if not immersed. Also, my mother still lives here in Manila and it is important to me that my children grow up knowing their lola (grandmother). BM: What did you miss most about our mother country? G: The beaches, my friends and the complacent, relaxed way of life. BM: Tell us about your joint project with the Basco Family. G: Dante Basco [spoke with] me several times about doing a homecoming project with his siblings. When I told him that I was coming back for a job, it seemed serendipitous. He asked me to produce it and I got in touch with my local production partners (like Michael Carandang) who helped co-produce it and made it happen. We now have thirteen homecoming

episodes of the Basco Family called the Basco Balikbayan Project.

within reach for the average balikbayan to experience.

BM: Why do you think it’s important for 2nd and 3rd generation Fil-Ams to experience life in the Philippines firsthand?

I encourage people who are searching for their culture to come back and witness firsthand what the country has to offer—a more enlightened view and opinion about the sensibilities of the Filipino.

G: It’s very important for all of us to see our motherland, to be able to appreciate all the sacrifices and hardships our ancestors made, in order to provide their lineage with a better life. In order to understand and grasp a concept that contains what it means to be Filipino—[one has to] live it. Not just visit. It goes beyond the clothing with emblems of the Philippine flag or beyond dishes like adobo and lechon. One needs to immerse themselves in the culture and be among their countrymen. The Philippines is so diverse and there are pockets of metropolis everywhere now. Yet there are still the sacred places that are untouched by commercialism and capitalism, albeit few, they are still

Coming Home Having lived a totally different life so far from home, finding love, and creating her own family outside the Philippine borders, it seems that G has not only grown more beautiful on the outside, but also on the inside. The G Toengi we know today is more empowered—fueled by her desire to revolutionize the industry that she grew up in. She returns to her homeland, armed with more confidence, certainty, knowledge and the passion to share her ideas.u


LO MANILA A Budget Traveler’s Dream Destination | By Cheekie Albay


t seems there is never a shortage of foreigners in the bustling streets of the Manila. A recent study confirms why Manila continues to attract tourists in steady currents.

The World Backpacker Index (an annual listing of the cheapest cities in the world for budget travelers) placed Manila in the 14th spot in its roundup, which was released in January of this year. Although this was a significant drop from 6th place that Manila garnered in 2011, the city still stands firmly among the most pocket-friendly vacation destinations in the world. As expected, nearly all of the cities in the top 10 are found in the Asian region. Sitting at the highest spot is Pokhara (Nepal), with Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) at second and third place, respectively. The rest of the top 10 include the cities of Chiang Mai(Thailand); Hoi An (Vietnam); Goa (India); Kathmandu (Nepal); Phnom Penh (Cambodia); Luang Prabang (Laos) and Quito (Ecuador) as the lone non-Asian city. La Paz (Bolivia)


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

placed 11th, Bangkok (Thailand) 12th, and Kuta (Indonesia) 13th, on the list. To find out how each city ranked, the proponents of the study came up with a list of daily essentials that a budget traveler would likely seek. The study determined the corresponding prices for each city, converted all amounts to US dollars, and then compared the total daily costs for all destinations. Tourist essentials are as follows: a dorm bed at a good and cheap hostel, three budget meals, two public transportation rides, one paid cultural attraction and three cheap beers. Budget travel website priceoftravel. com, which features a handy database of travel costs for over 110 cities, has listed the daily rates in Manila’s basic budget hostels at only US$4 to US$10, with prices at more luxurious accommodations beginning at US$15. According to the website’s database, meals in Manila range from US$1.64

Roxas Boulevard

Manila City Hall

Taguig City

for cheap eats found in street food stalls and fast food joints, to US$8.20 for fancier fare at casual dining restaurants. Meanwhile, a bottle of beer will only cost you around US$1.41 to US$2.11. Tourist attractions in Manila are also reasonably priced. The National Museum, for instance, charges only US$2.34 for adults, with a special rate of US$0.70 for students. When it comes to cheap transportation, the budget traveler has a number of options: jeepney, taxi, bus, shuttle, or the MRT. A jeepney ride costs the least at only US$0.19 to US$0.30, and, with its access to a jumble of city sounds and its unobstructed view of the urban landscape whizzing past, it offers the most uniquely Manila experience. After meals, lodging, transportation, a cultural encounter, and a bottle of beer in Manila, the total daily expenses amount to only US$24.01. The total daily cost is significantly less expensive than the US$38.94 one would rack up in Hong Kong or the US$42.54 in Singapore. Star City

Taking all these factors into account, it’s easy to see why Manila finds itself consistently near the top of the chart. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


NeverlanD the BASCOS:

making the trip to By Katherine Castillo Eustaquio

“Rufio! Rufio! Ru-fi-oooo!”


sk any kid who grew up in the 90s if he has seen the 1991 movie Hook (starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts) and he’d tell you his favorite line: “Rufio! Rufio! Ru-fi-oooo!” I was already 10 years old when I first saw the movie. When I came to the part where a grown-up Peter first met the leader of the Lost Boys, I remember rewinding our VHS copy of the movie over and over, to check out Rufio’s cool moves. When I finally learned how to use the Internet at the age of 13, I found out that Dante Basco (the actor who played Rufio) is actually Filipino. The World Wide Web became my window in finding more actors around the globe, who are of Filipino descent. Today, we have Charice Pempengco,, Nicole Scherzinger, Enrique Iglesias and a lot more. But still, Dante Basco’s name remains closest to me, especially since he was the first Filipino-American to open my eyes to the world-class talent of Filipinos abroad. The Homecoming: Basco Balikbayan Project Ask any first generation Filipino-American what they miss about the Philippines and they’d give you almost the same answers: Filipino hospitality, white sand beaches, Pinoy cuisine, the laidback way of life, and so on. Now, ask the second and third generation Filipino-Americans what they know about the Philippines (especially those who have not been to the country) and you’ll get a myriad of somewhat confused answers. “In order to understand and grasp a concept that contains what it means to be Filipino—[one has to] live it. Not just visit,” Fil-Am actress and producer Giselle Toengi shared during an interview with Balikbayan Magazine, “It goes beyond the clothing with emblems of the Philippine flag or beyond dishes like adobo and lechon.” For this reason, Giselle (better known as G. Toengi), decided to bring another family with her, when she came back to the Philippine earlier this year. The Bascos (Dante, Darion,


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Jack’s Peark, Davao

Dionysio, Derek, and Arianna), who originally came from Pangasinan (paternal side) and Zambales (maternal side), traveled to their homeland to shoot a documentary called, Basco Balikbayan Project. Co-produced by G. Toengi and Michael Carandang, the project chronicles the young Bascos’ trip around the Philippines, to discover their cultural roots and what it really means to be Filipino. After twenty-one days of non-stop adventures in the Philippines (which includes banging on the roof of a jeepney to get off on their stop, eating balut at 3am, and flying from one

Ziplining in Boracay with parents and G. Toengi

magnificent destination to another), the Bascos flew back to the US with a fuller sense of their Filipino identity. Balikbayan Magazine chatted with the Bascos about their unforgettable experience in the Philippines. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE BM: What’s your very first memory of the Philippines? Derek: I’ve only known the Philippines through what our parents and grandparents have told us. This was my first trip there. And the first thing I think of when I think back is of the people. Darion: Stepping off the plane and feeling the warm, thick, tropical air and thinking, “Wow it’s hot, but it feels good.” Dante: First time I went home was over ten years ago. I remember the warmth of the air on my skin and the sounds of the bugs, buzzing around the bushes... Dion: This was my first trip to my homeland. I just remember as we were flying in, I was getting emotional. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this trip. Arianna: Humidity like I’ve never met before sticking to my skin back in 1999. BM: What’s your initial impression of the Philippines? Derek: This is home. Why haven’t I been here before? Why were they keeping it a secret? Darion: Of course, the physical beauty of the islands is undeniable, but what struck me really were our people themselves. Everyone one was extremely welcoming and encouraging to us. Dante: It’s good to be home. Something immediately within you, its like a lot of things start to make sense. Dion: It was hard to have an initial impression. The minute we landed in Manila, we were whisked away to a press conference. Arianna: The large divide between poverty and wealth. There is so much beauty in [the Philippines.] Even in strife, there is immense joy and pride lining every road, concrete or dirt, province to big city. Visit www.balikbayan for more Basco Balikbayan photos.

Underground River Tour

BM: What’s the most amazing place you visited here? Derek: Maybe because it was the first island we went to, but Palawan will always represent the Philippines to me. We only experienced a fraction of what Palawan [has] to offer, but I fell in love...and I can’t wait to return. Darion: If I have to pick [one] place, I’d have to say Palawan was my favorite. I love the natural beauty of it.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Dante: This last trip, Palawan was incredibly amazing and beautiful. Dion: Every place we visited was amazing! And very different as well.

Basco brothers enjoying Isla Pandan, Palawan

BM: What’s your most unforgettable experience in the country? Derek: When we got the opportunity to swim with [a] whale shark, or as we Filipinos like to call [it], the Butanding! I even wrote a song about it called ‘The Butanding, He’s My Best Friend!’ Darion: Being on the land, [where] our grandfathers built their homes and where their journeys started, was really emotional and fulfilling. Dante: Going to the provinces of my parents. As Americans, we often wonder where [we are] from. Finally we were there, standing on the very earth where our family has been living for the last few hundred years. It was very emotional. Dion: The [day] we saw the Underground River comes to mind. I was proud that one of the 7 Wonders of Nature is in the Philippines. Also that day we ate tamilok on the beach. Arianna: The whale shark was one of the highlights of the trip. BM: Do you agree that ‘It’s more fun in the Philippines?’ Derek: Between the people, the food, the tropical activities and beauty of the Philippines, I have to honestly say... “IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!” Darion: Yes. It is definitely more fun in the Philippines. We couldn’t [have] had a better time and [we] can’t wait to go back. Dante: Yes! Definitely more fun in the Philippines! We have the footage to prove it! Dion: It absolutely is more fun in the Philippines! BM: Based on your recent experiences in the Philippines, how do you now define being a Filipino? Derek: I never knew how FILIPINO I was, till I went home. I also take pride in my work and work very hard like every other Filipino. So being a Filipino is being a hard worker (like the many nurses here in the States) and being very friendly and


Dayo, Derek, and Aida Basco

hospitable. But with a big sense of humor. Darion: Being Filipino for me now, I know that I come from this incredible heritage and culture, rich with beauty, talents, fortitude and adaptability. Dante: I’m not sure exactly how to define it. I only know, without a doubt, I am Filipino and very proud of it. Dion: We are a very welcoming culture. Everyone is so nice and friendly. People are very hardworking and though most people don’t have much, they are truly happy. Arianna: The Philippines was the perfect backdrop to bring together this American family and teach us about our history— geographical and personal; to inspire us to progress, to risk, to [keep the] faith, to speak up and to live a life of worth, humor, and song. That to me defines the Filipino—the spirit.

Palawan Pinay Beauty

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE The 13-episode Basco Balikbayan Project is currently being edited. Soon to be released worldwide, the Bascos, together with producers G. Toengi and Michael Carandang, are hopeful that the documentary will be aired in the Philippines later this year. The Basco Balikbayan Project is just one of the many plans these second generation Fil-Ams are brewing, in order to fulfill their joint goals to promote the tourism in the Philippines and to encourage their fellow young Fil-Ams to rediscover their cultural roots for themselves. “I really want to take my kids back and share the treasures of the Philippines with them,” Derek Basco shared. “I want to make it a tradition so that they too, [will] bring their kids home. It’s a pilgrimage every Fil-Am should make.” Looking back, I couldn’t help but think that Dante Basco’s famous 1991 character (Rufio in Hook) somehow foreshadowed their recent adventures in the Philippines. In the famous story of Peter Pan, Wendy and her brothers flew around London to a beautiful, mythical land called Neverland. Earlier this year, Arianna Basco and her brothers flew by plane to the most amazing places in the Philippines. For every Filipino at heart, the Philippines is the proverbial Neverland. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 49


Speed Regalo: Gift-giving and Promoting Philippine-made Products Has Never Been This Easy Laptop station used at Speed Regalo’s official website launch, designed to let guests browse the website and order products online.

Speed Regalo team, including marketing & communications head, Regine Rafael.

Speed Regalo chairwoman, Rosemarie Rafael, giving her opening remarks during Speed Regalo’s official website launch.


peedRegalo has changed the way of gift-giving, without the hassle of going the extra mile. Missing the lechon from Cebu? No problem. Running out of Bulacan Sweets when you’re living down south? The next supply is almost at hand. Craving for seasonal fruits like pineapple or pomelo? Just wait for it in the next few days. How about fresh crabs and shrimps? Rest assured that a fresh batch would be delivered right at your doorstep. We all want to go the extra mile in buying well-thought out gifts for our loved ones, in order to make them feel special. But it’s not always convenient to go out of our way to do so. SpeedRegalo is a Filipino-owned online shopping website that focuses on the needs of Filipinos, especially balikbayans who have little time to scout the country for authentic Filipino products. It is also an online gift shop that offers a wide range of products in several categories: home essentials, health and beauty, food, clothing and accessories, gadgets and flowers, among others. And it’s good to know that SpeedRegalo welcomes and promotes Filipino-made products from all over the country. Rosemarie Rafael,owner of SpeedRegalo (and president of the established freight forwarding company, Airspeed) came up with the idea of providing an online shopping website, when she bought a bunch of roses and started selling them. Along with her daughter, Rafael put up an online website which is dedicated to providing the needs of Filipinos, especially balikbayans.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Speed Regalo official website launch.

Speed Regalo official website launch, September 2011, in Mahogany Place 3, Acacia Estates, Taguig City. “We want to be able to provide Filipinos abroad with a convenient and affordable way to give their loved ones back home gifts of all sorts, to show them that they are thinking about them. We also want to provide Filipinos in the Philippines a convenient option of getting items, that they normally can’t find elsewhere, delivered directly to their homes,” Rafael said. SpeedRegalo also offers unique products such as artisan chocolates, gourmet ice cream, hardto-find products from the provinces and other affordable gift items. An advocate of Filipinomade products, SpeedRegalo is a haven for local entrepreneurs who are in the business of producing specialty items, such as handicrafts from Davao, barako coffee from Cavite and even lechon from Cebu. “We support many start-up Filipino entrepreneurs, by delivering their products doorto-door as well. It helps a lot because they can expand their network, and they don’t have to limit themselves to just one area in the Metro,” Rafael said. All SpeedRegalo products are reviewed

and evaluated by the marketing team before going public, ensuring that clients will only receive products of high quality. SpeedRegalo implements a secured payment policy through their partnership with Banco de Oro, for all credit card purchases. Customers can also pay through other payment gateways such as G-cash, Smart Money, M. Lhuillier and 7-11. More importantly, SpeedRegalo puts a premium on customer service. “One aspect that makes us unique is our superb customer service,” Rafael shared. “We appreciate our customers and want to take care of them by giving them the best service possible. When customers have inquiries or special requests, we personally make sure that we help them every step of the way.” With SpeedRegalo’s authentic and hard-tofind Filipino products, affordable shipping rates and quick delivery service, customers can avoid the shopping frenzy at crowded malls just to buy the perfect gifts for family, friends, and loved ones. Visit information.




complimentary recreational activities, including wall-climbing and archery lessons, and fishing and fish-feeding. There are daily scheduled activities for children, teens and adults. There’s a tennis court and an indoor firing range with every imaginable class of firearm. Rooms and Amenities Cebu’s premier Plantation Bay Resort and Spa now has a total room inventory of 256. Choose from different rooms and suites to fit any travel itinerary, whether it’s a romantic honeymoon or fun family getaway. Mogambo Springs, the Spa at Plantation Bay Mogambo Springs has been internationally recognized by some of the most respected entities in the wellness and spa industry in Asia. Asia Spa magazine, the leading publication in the continent for spa aficionados and industry players, listed Mogambo Springs one of the top 7 spas in Asia in March 2010. In 2009, it was cited the Best Spa Experience in Asia by the Asia Spa and Wellness Festival Gold Awards. Mogambo Springs was short-listed for the Best Spa Therapist Team of the Year by Asia Spa’s Crystal Awards in Hong Kong, November 2008. Recreational Activities Plantation Bay is a symphony in water, with enough water features to keep most families happy for days on end. There are 2.3 hectares of saltwater lagoons and three freshwater pools of outstanding design, including the Philippines’ largest, Kilimanjaro Pool. At the Dive Shop on Galapagos Beach, snorkel, Jetski, Hobie cat and Parasail to your heart’s content. When not in the water, there are plenty of

Food and Beverage In the area of food, most resorts underperform and overcharge. Plantation Bay takes pride in serving excellent food at reasonable prices. Experience each restaurant’s unique ambience and superb dishes for a gastronomical experience you’ll savor with delight. Palermo has been called one of the best Italian restaurants in the country, but don’t take our word for it.The menu includes several hearty soups, salads, meat dishes and pastas. Desserts include authentic tiramisu and the gellatto alla menta (mint ice cream on a crunchy-chewy almond basket). We highly recommend that you leave your belts at home. Kilimanjaro Kafe is situated in the middle of one of the country’s biggest freshwater swimming pools. Open 24 hours, there’s international cuisine for everyone here, from steaks to vegetarian dishes, Filipino to Korean favorites, and tasty appetizers to tempting desserts. Kilimanjaro Kafe serves a stunning themed breakfast buffet every morning. Guest favorites include Chinese siomai and pork charsui, Filipino danggit (local dried fish) and chicken empanaditas, Mexican chile con carne and quesadillas, and Old Virginia eggs Benedict and whole wheat pancakes made from scratch. New themed breakfasts have been recently introduced, also with guest favorites: conxihas con farosa and seafood salad for the Brazilian breakfast, and the Italian salata caprese, poached

egg with pesto and anchovies, and pork piccata Milanese. Fiji Restaurant overlooks the beach and serves a wide array of Pacific Rim cuisine. Dine in air-conditioned interiors or sit al fresco and take in the fresh sea breeze. Choose from a generous variety of Asian dishes and fresh seafood. Our sizzling Polynesian spareribs have been described as “so finger-lickin’ good.” For dessert, try the three-chocolate fascination, baked Alaska or crepes samurai, which are nothing short of sinful. Savannah Grill serves fast-food favorites with five-star flair. Situated by Savannah Pool, it is an ideal place to bring your children for swimming and afternoon snacks. If you don’t agree that our Powerhouse Burger is the best you’ve ever had, tell us after a couple of bites and we’ll give you your money back. There’s something different every night at Plantation Bay Resort and Spa. Dine and be entertained in our themed buffet dinners. We have Rockin USA, Hawaian Luau, Filipino fiesta, Viva España, Sahara nights and Cebu’s first-ever Brazilian Fever. Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is also a proud member of the Confrerie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs and the Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Degustateurs.

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Lessons Learned



h s s T ’ e o a h r 0 T h 7 O T

Wanbol University

By Marnie Dolera

It is a truth universally acknowledged—Filipinos love to laugh. We laugh in the face of danger. We laugh when we’re in pain. We laugh through all the troubles and cares of our daily lives.


aughter has become our defining trait as a people—our way of whistling in the dark, of keeping our hope alive, despite all the tragedies besetting our nation. This was especially true during the darkest days of the Martial Law era, when oppressed and frightened Filipinos sought solace and refuge in laughter. It’s no surprise, then, that some of the most popular television shows to come out during the Marcos years were, in fact, situational comedies (or sitcoms) and variety shows with a comedic bent. One of the most popular sitcoms at the time was Iskul Bukol, a show set in the fictional Wanbol


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Artwork found on the Internet

University. It was also one of the longest-running sitcoms on Philippine television, airing from 1977 to 1988, with a slew of reunion films following on the series’ heels. I was very young then—a member of the unique generation of Pinoys who will be forever remembered as Martial Law Babies—but I have very vivid memories of my entire family gathering around the television once a week, eager to watch the rascally Escalera Brothers plot their dastardly deeds against the hapless Victorio Ungasis—the resident teacher’s pet and girl magnet. All household activities would cease as soon as the show’s theme

ENTERTAINMENT song, which was set to Elvis Presley’s All Shook Up, played over the tinny speakers of our family’s first colored television set.

Artwork found on the Internet

The show’s main characters were named after their real-life counterparts: Tito Sotto played Joselito “Tito” Escalera, Joey de Leon played Josemari “Joey” Escalera, and Vic Sotto was Victorio “Vic” Ungasis, allowing the show to consciously blur the lines between fact and fiction. This technique, used in Philippine cinema during the heyday of the studio system in the 40s and 50s with some success, became a much more powerful marketing tool for the trio, with the advent of television. To this day, Tito, Vic and Joey are cemented in our national consciousness, at least for the generations that remember the show, as the characters they played on Iskul Bukol. The show made the three comedians so popular that Tito Sotto even became a twice-elected Senator. t also helped launch the careers of other popular comedic actors of their generation. Most notable of these were Mely Tagasa as Wanbol University’s resident “prunes and prisms” professor, Miss Tapia, who had a crush on the much younger Joey; Dely Atay-Atayan as Vic’s overbearing, doting, promdi (provincialminded) mother; Ritchie D’ Horsie as Ritchie Kabayo, a willing accomplice to the Escalera Brothers’ pranks; and Jimmy Santos as Big J, the waiter at the university’s cafeteria, a favorite hangout spot for the characters. The show even attracted popular singers such as Joey Albert and the country’s own Megastar, Sharon Cuneta, who were cast in recurring roles. The show also popularized the use of 70s Pinoy slang on air, which consisted of taking a Filipino word and inverting its syllables (“ligo” or “bath” became “goli” and “hindi” or “no” became “dehins”). This use of tagbaliks (slang for baliktad or inverted) lent the show an aura of street

cred and coolness, for a generation facing a disturbing and troubled world that changed seemingly overnight. Looking back on it now, there were several factors that made the show unique: apart from the previously mentioned technique of blurring the lines between reality and fiction by using the actors’ real names on air, Iskul Bukol also frequently broke the fourth wall by having characters give their reactions to jokes and pranks directly to the camera (in effect, acknowledging the presence of an audience beyond the screen), a technique still used today. Viewing the show from the lens of current social mores, however, revealed a few disquieting observations. While Iskul Bukol was quite media savvy in some respects, the show’s humor was also very much a product of its time: slapstick and off-color jokes were the order of the day. The show wasn’t above using perceived physical flaws as

a source of comedy, either. Some characters were named after their most telling (and supposedly funny) features. Mang Temi, the university’s cafeteria operator, was christened that because he is maitim (dark-skinned). The previously mentioned Ritchie Kabayo was given that name because it was said, somewhat cruelly, that he looked like a horse.

Wanbol University was also a typical macho enclave— the three lead characters, and most especially Vic, were portrayed as typical men-about-town who were always surrounded by willing women. Stereotypes were also employed as sources of humor: Miss Tapia became a grouchy and old-fashioned old maid chasing after the younger Joey, while Tonette Macho, a gay character who frequently played villain to the trio, was made typically swishy and soft in direct contrast to his name. Watching the show as a child, I didn’t really notice these things, or if I did, I didn’t fully understand them, and was certainly unable to fully articulate my observations. The show’s saving grace, though, was its underlying current of self-discovery and sincerity in tackling the typical travails that college students go through. Viewers who survived the perils of adolescence would still have found something at Wanbol University that they could relate to—whether they were the all-night study sessions that were actually wild parties in disguise, the pranks played on teachers or fellow students, or the heady rush of first loves, and the despair of first heartbreaks. At its best, Iskul Bukol, provided a link to a rapidly disappearing past for frightened Filipinos to cling to, as the future rushed up to meet them. At worst, it gave people an opportunity to forget their circumstances and indulge in laughter, for one hour a week. Not too shabby a legacy for a 70s show. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 53

A Filipino Wedding By Katherine Castillo Eustaquio | Photos by Bobby Delos Santos


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012



“A Filipino wedding is not just a union of two people—it is also the union of two families. It is not just an event, but a milestone. And just like Christmas, a wedding is not just a one-day event. It is a season.”

ilipino men are not just caring, conservative, and hardworking. They are also transparent. Filipino men follow a linear-type of relationship—where one’s intentions are expressed through music, like harana (serenade), poetry, and gift giving. In fact, Filipino men are so transparent they still ask questions like “Can I court you?” This, of course, is a big advantage to Filipino women. Early on, a woman can quickly sense if a relationship has a potential wedding date in the near future. THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT Despite the sad truth that short, witty emails have replaced handwritten love letters of the past, it’s good to know that couples still follow the triedand-tested rules of engagement. A Filipino wedding actually begins, way before the guy conjures the courage to ask the “big” question.

While most traditional families still observe this age-old tradition, the engagement and / or heirloom ring of today (diamonds are still the most popular) is the symbolic representation of a dowry, which is given during the pamamanhikan. The pamamanhikan stage, is when the families of the couple meet in one place (usually in the woman’s house) to witness the paghingi ng kamay (asking the woman’s hand in marriage). The man states his intentions before the woman’s family, and then the couple asks for both their families’ blessings. While the pamamanhikan stage can be very awkward for both families, this old tradition remains to be one of the most important stages in a Filipino wedding. Apart from discussing the wedding details, the pamamanhikan ensures that both families have the chance to get to know each other, before the wedding day. Filipinos are familyoriented people. It is important for them to obtain the parents’ blessings, prior to a lifetime commitment.

In modern Filipino society, we seem to see less and less of the pre-wedding tradition called the paninilbihan (servitude), where the man performs some chores for the woman’s family in order to show his worth, prove his intentions, and also act as an alternative to paying a dowry.

Now that the couple has received both their families’ blessings, it’s time to reach out to their clans. The act of pa-alam (notify) is different from paalam (goodbye). In the pa-alam stage, the couple informs their relatives about their upcoming wedding. Here, most couples pay A Filipino wedding is a union of two families. courtesy visits to their prospective godparents (who also act as wedding councilors), bringing with them a token of their In the past, the suitor is often seen laboring around the house, appreciation -- like a basket of fruits or a box of chocolates. doing chores like pag-igib ng tubig sa poso (fetching water from the pump), pagsibak ng kahoy (chopping of firewood), and paglampaso The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic society. In ng sahig (mopping the floor). Traditionally, it is often the father the past, a soon-to-wed couple pays a visit to the priest, who will of the future bride who gives the orders. Today, however, the officiate their wedding ceremony. This tradition is called the dulog paninilbihan has been reduced to visiting the woman at home, and is usually done to pay respect to the priest who heads the parish fixing stuff around the house, and being invited to join family where the couple (or one of them) belongs. Today, however, it has events. become more of a pre-wedding requirement to see the couple’s readiness to become husband and wife. Despite how ‘westernized’ we have become in the last century, even the most modern of Filipino couples still go through the The kasal kumpisal is another pre-wedding tradition that the process of asking The Question and offering The Ring. In the couple observes a few days before their wedding day. It is their Philippines, the ring is a symbol of a deep commitment that personal and moral obligation as single individuals to confess to denotes a lifetime of togetherness. In the past, our ancestors offer their sins before a priest. This “spiritual cleansing” act releases a dowry (dote / bigay kaya) to the family of his beloved to prove his them from their separate sins and readies them for the Sacrament sincerity and ability to provide for his future family. of Marriage. balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 55

A vintage bridal car Today, of course, we call them the bachelor (stag) and bachelorette (bridal) parties, which are two separate events that involve only the closest relatives and friends (usually the secondary sponsors) of the soon-to-wed couple. The modern despedida de soltera can range from bar hopping to scavenger hunts, complete with games and alcohol. While the younger members of the family are wrapping their respective despedida de soltera, the older generation prepares a basket of fresh chicken eggs to offer to the patron saint of good weather, Sta. Clara. It is believed the Sta. Clara’s name (Spanish for ‘clear’ ) is the reason why people travel to the monastery of Sta. Clara in Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City to pray for clear skies on the wedding day, also known as the “pag-alay ng itlog kay Sta. Clara.” For years, parishioners offer eggs to the nuns along with a note stating one’s request. The eggs are said to be “provisions” for the nuns but during the last decade, people have started to offer baskets of fruits as well.

Wedding gown by Boy Kastner Santos Perhaps the most awaited engagement ritual is the despedida de soltera (Spanish for ‘goodbye to spinsterhood’). Traditionally, the despedida de soltera involves both the bride and groom and their respective families. In the past, it is regarded as another ‘welcome to the family’ ritual prior to the wedding day, and often involves a formal dinner.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

THE OLD AND THE NEW: ELEMENTS OF A FILIPINO WEDDING The Wedding Attire. In a traditional Filipiniana wedding, the bride wears a Maria Clara wedding gown, which originated from the conventional baro’t saya, and was named after the main mestiza character in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere. The Maria Clara wedding gown is made up of four parts: the camisa (a loose-fitting blouse with the “angel wings” sleeves); the pañuelo (a stiff, scarf-like accent that is worn over the camisa); the

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE saya (a bubble-like, floor-length skirt); and the tapis (a knee-length skirt worn over the saya). The groom, on the other hand, wears the traditional Barong Tagalog—made of the finest piña (pineapple) fabric and worn untucked. According to legend, the Spaniards made the Filipinos wear their shirts untucked to separate them from the upper (ruling) class. The translucent fabric of the barong also helped the Spaniards to see if the Filipinos are concealing any weapons under their shirts. Today, a Filipina bride’s taste, when it comes to her wedding gown has become more refined. “The modern Filipina brides know what they want,” said wedding gown designer Boy Kastner Santos. “They come to you with an idea of what kind of gown [the bride] likes and brings pegs for inspiration. They are also more persistent on what they want.” The Ceremony. During the pre-colonial period, a wedding ceremony is conducted in the house of a babaylan (village priest). It also stretches for three consecutive days and involves the prickling of the chests of the bride and the groom, the eating of cooked rice from the same plate, binding of hands and necks, and drinking of their blood (mixed with water) to symbolize their union. In today’s predominantly Catholic world, modern Filipino weddings still observe traditional rites. The principal sponsors consists of godparents, relatives, and family friends whose presence mean a lot to the couple. The secondary sponsors are, more often than not, the couple’s closest peers. They are to participate in several parts of the ceremony. The candle sponsors light the two candles at the altar. The bride and the groom then use these candles to light the Unity Candle, the light of which calls upon the Light of Christ and signifies the union of two families. The placing of the veil symbolizes two separate people dressed as one, while the cord (a silk cord called yugal), which links the bride and the groom inside an 8-shaped figure, signifies eternal fidelity. In a Filipino wedding, the groom hands 13 coins (also known as unity coins or arras), which have been blessed by the officiating priest, to his bride. This act symbolizes the groom’s ability as the breadwinner to provide for his wife and their future family. The 13 coins represent the months of the year, plus an extra coin that symbolizes luck for the couple year-round and beyond. The Reception. In most parts of the country, a Filipino wedding is likened to a town fiesta--where the community joins the reception and partakes in the mouthwatering food selections like the traditional lechon, adobo, beef steak (bistek Tagalog), fresh lumpia (lumpiang ubod), and, for desserts, buko salad and buko pandan. These days, engaged couples are more particular when it comes to the food that will be served. Various catering companies offer a wide range of cuisine to suite the couple’s taste. Regardless of the theme, a Filipino wedding reception is always a feast. Apart from the food, guests also look forward to the program. While modern weddings prefer to veer away from the traditional bouquet toss (which often makes single women head to the bathroom), this ritual originated from the belief that a bride tosses the bouquet to a friend for luck and safety.

A modern Filipina bride The garter toss, on the other hand, dates back to the Middle Ages when guests, particularly the drunken men in the bridal party, try to tear the bridal gown as a good luck souvenir. In order to avoid ruining the gown, the bride would simply remove the bridal garter and toss it to the awaiting crowd. Live butterflies have replaced the popular rice and petals confetti. According to an old American Indian legend, if you whisper your wish to a butterfly and set it free, the Great Spirit will grant your wish, in return for the butterfly’s freedom. Lastly, the traditional money dance is still largely observed in Luzon. The money dance is when the guests, particularly the ninongs and ninangs, pin money bills on the clothing of the newlywed couple for wealth and happiness. A LABOR OF LOVE With the increasing number of professional wedding organizers, weddings in the Philippines continue to become more and more personalized. But the fact remains that each Filipino wedding— here and abroad, big and small—is a labor of love. While wedding coordinators have taken the stress of planning the entire event away from the couple and their families, a Filipino wedding is truly a sight to behold. From the details of the gowns to the setting of the tables, a Filipino wedding is a wonderful mix of the old and the new, the East and the West. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 57

Igorot ladies of Benguet

Photo courtesy of Henson Wongaiham

Puerto Princesa Underground River, Palawan

Banaue Rice Terraces

Banana Boat Ride in Nasugbu, Batangas

Photo courtesy of Darwin Dumaraos

Photo courtesy of La Venta 2010

Pahiyas Festival, Quezon

Photo courtesy of Sidney Snoeck

Photo courtesy of George Tapan for DOT

Dimakya Island, Palawan

Photo courtesy of Gutsy Tuason

Photo courtesy of The Farm at San Benito

Masskara Festival, Bacolod City

Big Lagoon, Palawan

Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism

Photo courtesy of El Nido Resorts

Chocolate Hills, Bohol


Photo courtesy of George Tapan for DOT

Photo courtesy of Department of Tourism

Pinoy Mini Jeepneys as Place Card Holders

Photo by MPW

KasalNY: A Filipina Entrepreneur Makes it Big in New York and Beyond

By Momar Visaya


or Lyna Larcia-Calvario, it was passion which drove her to where she is right now—as the brain behind KasalNY, one of the most successful Filipino-owned businesses in the Filipino-American community. And it all began as a hobby.

“It was just that back in 2002, a hobby. Our family loves to throw parties. Every time there was a party, I would volunteer and slave for hours to do party favors to give them a personal flavor. I always think that it is more special if you spend time on doing things,” Lyna shared. Thanks to Lyna’s meticulous eye for detail, the parties she helped organize were all successful. Her friends asked her: “Why don’t you do it as a business?” It was a question that lingered, and after yet another successful event (her own wedding in 2005, no less), Lyna and her husband, Kirby, decided to give it a try. The rest was history, or in this case, herstory. “If being successful simply can be defined as ‘Hey, I dreamed it—now I’m doing it’ then, I guess I can call myself one. KasalNY was just a simple idea I coined over teriyaki dinner with some of our closest friends,” she shared. ‘Kasal’ is the Filipino word for wedding, and since they were based in New York, they just mixed Kasal and NY to come up with KasalNY. Interestingly enough, when you rearrange the letters, you’ll get ‘Ask Lyna.’ Reaping the Rewards In 2009 and 2010, KasalNY was voted as one of New York’s Best Wedding Planners by readers of The Knot, the bible of the bridal industry. KasalNY bested more established wedding planners, that’s why Lyna was ecstatic when she found out. “I’m the only Filipina in that list and that makes it more special,” she said. Through the years, KasalNY has evolved into a multi-faceted event design and planning company, and with Lyna’s background in fashion, style and communication, everything just seems to fall into place. Lyna began her wedding planner career doing Italian, Greek and American weddings. By late 2009, she began getting a slice of the Filipino-American market. She has also done Indian, Jamaican and Haitian weddings.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Photo by Kirby Calvario

Lyna loves cultural weddings because she gets to learn a lot about the couple and their family, and most of all, she gets to be friends with all of them. Wedding planners are sometimes stereotyped as difficult, opposite of what Lyna really is. In fact, her friends tell her that she is so nice, so nice in fact, to the point that some people whave already accused her of being so nice that she’s fake. “It’s part of who I am. I didn’t grow up having all the luxury in life. Ang ipinamana lang sa akin ng tatay ko ay yung pakikisama. (My father taught me about comradeship). This is all I have to offer. That’s what sets me apart. I get my way through being nice. The vendors give me discounts because I am nice and I am able to pass that off to my brides,” Lyna shared. She works well together with other people, even the stereotypical vendors who feel that she’s out to steal their thunder. “I tell them that the event is not about me or about them, it is about our clients.” Lyna also works extremely well with her husband, who is also her official partner-in-crime. “We work really well as a team. Initially, Kirby took only background shots during wedding preparations but because of him shooting from a different point of view, his pictures captured

Photo by MPW

more of the raw emotions. Because of this, some of his photos made it to the final albums of the weddings they planned,” Lyna said. Now, Kirby acts as one of the official photographers of the various events that they do. Busting the Recession The past seven years as business-owners have been very good for Lyna and Kirby, averaging between 23 to 27 major events a year, aside from the smaller ones on the side. That is the good news. Despite talk of the recession hitting all industries in the past couple of years, the wedding industry seems to be recession-proof. “The thing with weddings is that couples and families spend based on emotion,” Lyna shared. “It doesn’t matter if the world’s going to end or if there’s a recession or something. They are in love and their parents are very happy for them that they are willing to splurge. They don’t care, especially New York brides because they know what they want and they’ll stick to it.” Initial budget starts at $50,000, but those with bigger budgets can easily go beyond $100,000, according to Lyna. The higher the budget, the better and the grander the event becomes because they get more staff, stuff and more upscale locations. The biggest wedding Lyna has ever planned cost $135,000. As a wedding planner, Lyna’s day revolves around meeting couples and vendors. Through this, she gets a feel of the couple’s personality, which she then uses in coming up with tailor-made proposals. Ideally, she thinks six months to a year is necessary, in order to prepare a well-planned wedding. However, she was also able to pull a wedding off, with only four months to prepare. As a conduit, Lyna connects her brides and their families to all the vendors that she has worked with in the past. In essence, brides are saving money when they use planners, because they already know their way around weddings—big or small. The planners guide the couples to budget their time and money accordingly, to avoid overspending or spending unnecessarily. More than anything else, Lyna gets her fulfillment from seeing her radiant brides during their special day. “We are actually making someone’s life happy. It is a bit stressful, my hair is thinning out but at the end of each event, you see the happy faces of the couples and families who trusted you enough, to run this momentous event in their lives. I don’t think any other job would be able to give that satisfaction to me,” she said. Born and raised in the Philippines, she set her sights on finding a career that she will always be passionate about. And when you are fervent about something, your work speaks volumes. Lyna and her family first moved to the US in 1991, when she was 12 years old. It was the height of the recession then and her

Photo by Rie Cruz

parents couldn’t afford to send them to school here. They went back to the Philippines and studied there. Lyna returned to the US in 1999, after finishing her communication arts degree from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). A proud daughter of Marinduque, Lyna relishes her memories growing up in the small and sleepy town of Mogpog. The Philippines as a Wedding (and Honeymoon) Destination In her recent trips back to the Philippines, she visited a number of new resorts and hotels that can be ideal for weddings and honeymoons. As a Filipina, she wants to promote the Philippines as an idyllic destination for weddings and honeymoons, as the country is home to a myriad of choices—from the new resorts in her home province like Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, to the picture-perfect white beaches of Boracay and Palawan. She is no stranger to destination weddings, having planned and successfully executed weddings in Aruba. “It would be nice if I get clients who want a destination wedding in the Philippines. Since we are not [the] cookie-cutter type of wedding planners, we can definitely make it inventive and unique,” she shared. By nature, Filipinos are truly creative. In fact, in one wedding Lyna organized, they used mini jeepneys as place card holders that read:“Sakay Na Mr. and Mrs. __” The tables named after Filipinos heroes like Tandang Sora and Jose Rizal were such a hit with the guests that it proved to be a great conversation starter. “That wedding is special because it was [the couple’s] church wedding after 10 years of being married,” Lyna shared. “So they invited 100 of their friends, [and] all the kids in the wedding were part of the bridal party so they ended up with 11 flower girls. That’s a record.” Overcoming Adversity Business life, however, is not always a bed of roses —something that Lyna discovered early on. “I get those questioning looks when people see me, because being a woman of color, being a Filipina in this industry is rare around here. I get occasional raised eyebrows and belittling remarks from old school vendors but that’s fine, I don’t mind being the underdog,” Lyna admitted. The judgmental eyes don’t bother her a bit. In fact, she likes it when people give her that underestimating look when they size her up. “I get to over-deliver to make them realize that I know what I am doing. They eventually end up apologizing to me. We’re here to please, and that’s our nature as Filipinos,” she added. To this day, Lyna continues to win the hearts of her clients with her sincerity, enthusiasm and uniquely out-of-the-box ideas—just the perfect ingredients to become an entrepreneur breaking the proverbial glass ceiling. u

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 61

Boy Kastner Santos A Bride’s Best Friend

By Kristine Bernadeth T. Manaog | Photo By Benjie Tiongco


t was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The bride’s room was bustling with activity. About two dozen people roamed about, with several bags of wedding props, boxes of flowers and corsages, and an entire clothing rack filled with suitcases. In stark contrast, the bride sat prettily on a red couch, while four cameramen captured her on video. She was beautiful and serene-looking, despite the chaos. The gown designer was the first to arrive at the hotel that morning. He was overseeing the preparations, with the eyes of a seasoned wedding coordinator. It was only when the stylists started adding the final details to the bride’s accessories that they realized that the diamondencrusted earrings and bracelet weren’t there. The panic level rose even further, when an assistant informed everyone in the room that the groom also forgot his black leather belt and gold-plated cufflinks. Yet, that afternoon (as expected), the bride walked on the aisle, wearing a pair of diamond earrings and a bracelet. Boy Kastner Santos saved the day and spared the bride and groom from unnecessary stress, yet again. It wasn’t the first time that small mishaps like these happened at a client’s wedding. He may have seen hundreds of it, but “Tito Boy” (as he is fondly called by his clients) always comes prepared, like a boy scout. He arrives at the venue, armed with every possible thing that people might overlook or forget— jewelry, belts, even shoes! It is quite unusual for a gown designer, who is as busy as Tito Boy, to come to a wedding and oversee the preparations. His


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

vision, craftsmanship and sincerity make Tito Boy not just a bride’s favorite designer. He is also a bride’s best friend. THE DESIGNER A Manileño since birth, Boy Kastner Santos never dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, more so, a bridal gown designer. In fact, most get surprised when they find out that he took up Architecture in college. We just had to ask: “Did you draw sketches of gowns in your notebooks when you were young?” “No, I think that is already overused,” Tito Boy replied. “Growing up, I just enjoyed dressing well,” he added. Indeed, this Philippine School of Interior Design graduate conquered the local wedding industry, not just for his elegant designs but also for his unique way of transforming clients into life-long friends. Tito Boy’s early years were spent working as a visual assistant in department store giants that catered to men’s formal wear—a stint which helped him understand, not just the aesthetics of fashion, but also the business side of it. He started making formal gowns as a sideline and earned clients by word of mouth. Tito Boy’s self-named Manila-based atelier is dedicated to the needs of both the bride and the groom. Besides preparing gowns and suits for the bridal entourage, Tito Boy is also working on a line of men’s formal wear that he will launch later this year.


Photo by Bobby DeLos Santos

THE SUPPLIER AT WORK Just last year, Tito Boy bagged the Weddings@ Work’s Supplier of the Year Award for 2011. Weddings@Work (W@W) is a website that serves as an online directory for the best wedding suppliers in the country. “When I first learned that I was nominated for the award, I already felt honored,” Tito Boy said. “I never thought that I will win the title.” Through an online voting system, Boy Kastner Santos was chosen, out of almost two hundred suppliers in 2011. “I really appreciate it and I am very thankful for the award,” he said. The W@ W’s award is truly a sweet consolation for all the sleepless nights he endured, in a span of five years. His dedication in ensuring that his client’s special day will be perfect, makes him more than just a wedding supplier—he treats each wedding and each bride with the tender, loving care of a close friend. “[I want] to make sure that if there’s any mishap in the gowns, I can personally and immediately attend to it,” he said. “I want my clients to feel most special on their big day.” u Photo by Bobby DeLos Santos

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012 63




at its Finest By Paul J. Huld

he most I’ve been at ease in my entire life—at that ultimate state of ‘peace of mind’—was while I was relaxing in a hammock, on a small island in Palawan. It was as if the sky had opened up and a piece of heaven came down to earth. The water was blue and beautiful. The island was surrounded by indescribable colored corals. The fish were more spectacular than I ever could’ve imagined. I’ll remember that day forever.

However, it wasn’t just the Philippines’ pristine islands that left me with a heavy heart, when I got on the plane going back home to the US. It was the people and the culture. From the moment I boarded Philippine Airlines en route to Manila, I already experienced a taste of Filipino hospitality, through kind flight attendants and good food. My odyssey on Philippine soil began when we disembarked at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. I have to admit, the tropical weather was a bit of a shock to me. I had been to hot places before, but this was a different kind heat. For those of you who consider yourself heat-sensitive—don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Within four days, I became accustomed to the warm climate. After you get settled in, one of the first things (as a non-Filipino) that you’ll notice about this wonderful country, is that there are people who are always happy to assist you at every turn. I couldn’t help but think how many people back home have forgotten that no matter what you do for a living, you should strive to maintain a good work ethic. The services I received, in many instances, were those of sincere kindness—something I had to get used to, during my stay. I felt guilty at times, being treated so well, at every turn. One time, I got an ice cream cone in a Manila mall and tried tipping the vendor. But he shook his head and refused. I felt a little embarrassed, but then, I realized that working hard and doing it with dedication is just the norm in this island country. Instances like these have made me enthusiastic to tell people to visit the Philippines for vacation. For me, it was an experience like no other. Even though I was a bit apprehensive at first, there is just something about the Philippines that makes you feel at home. The island resorts of Boracay and Palawan are beautiful. The sand in Boracay is so fine—it seems like a dream. The costs are so affordable, as well. For me, it was the Palawan wildlife that was one of the greatest joys. I keep telling my workmates to go to Palawan, instead of Europe or Mexico. I would tell them about the snorkeling I did around a sunken Japanese warship, the fish and sea snails that dazzled my eyes, and the forest of corals that were so beautiful and breath-taking. I made a mental note to bring an underwater camera the next time my wife and I go for another visit. The Shores of Boracay

me, it was an experience like “ For no other. Even though I was a bit apprehensive at first, there is just something about the Philippines that makes you feel at home.

Coral Gardens, Coron, Palawan

Twin Lagoons, Coron, Palawan

I also told my co-workers and friends about our guide, who was not only as an excellent swimmer (he tugged the four of us above and across the coral forest)—he also turned out to be a fine cook. People don’t believe it when I tell them that he also prepared a sumptuous meal of crabs, chicken, and salad—right before our eyes. Though some of the hotel accommodations were rustic, it was all part of the charm and I really loved it. After all the enjoyment though, eventually, we had to go back home. While we were in the van heading to the airport, there was one question I wanted to ask my wife’s family members, though I felt I already knew the answer. I still had to ask. Where does the essence of the Philippines come from? Their unanimous answer: the provinces. Sometimes, we Americans have a hard time pinpointing our individual feelings on what the essence of our country is. Despite the big city life found in metropolitan Manila, Filipinos still do not forget where they come from, or what makes them who they are. Since I have returned to the US, my connection—to both the place and the people—has not waned from memory. It isn’t just because of the exceptional service and kindness I was afforded, or the fact that the dollar has a better purchasing power in the Philippines. It was the people who made my experience so meaningful. Every hour I was there, my respect for them grew. Most of these people have much less than me and my fellow Americans, yet they persevere. I saw nothing else but promise in their eyes. I know people sometimes say that the Philippines’ greatest export is its people. Now I understand why. u balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


An Ilocos Getaway Photos and Essay by Tin Jacinto


ike most of our trips, our journey to Ilocos was spontaneous. The eight-hour trip to Vigan, Ilocos Sur was replete with stops for food and bathroom breaks.It was raining when we finally arrived and checked in at the Gordion Hotel, where the friendly staff welcomed us with huge umbrellas and discounted rooms—30 percent off!

After an early dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, we went to take photos at Calle Crisologo, which is located just behind Gordion Hotel. The streets were wet and gave a dramatic ambiance for the shoot—the perfect nightcap for our first evening in Vigan. The next day, we rented a kalesa for the Vigan city tour. We were like excited little children, with the wind on our faces while listening to the clip-clopping of the horses’ hooves on cobblestoned streets. Our itinerary afforded us several stops, with our manang kutsero (lady driver) taking the reins, as we went to museums, several ancestral houses of Filipino heroes, and other historical, picturesque places.


Vigan Street

Top: Church exterior Bottom: Church interior


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Bangui(Photo by Leslie Dizon)





“Dito na po tayo bababa (this is our stop),” manang driver would say. Les and I would look at each other and tell her, “Ah, okay lang manang, dito na lang kami (Ah, it’s okay, we’ll just stay here).” This kind of conversation went on for several more stops in our itinerary. I told Les: “ttt(Maybe our lady driver is thinking that we are the laziest tourists she ever took on a tour).” But we did, eventually, come across a beautiful ancient church—St. Augustine Parish Church. It stands beside a famous bell tower, which, according to manang, became popular because this is where Fernando Poe Jr.’s movie, Panday, was shot. The next day, while enroute to Laoag, Ilocos Norte, we came across 12-foot corals at Currimao Beach. We were pre-occupied for two hours, capturing their breath-taking images with our cameras. It was still raining, but I didn’t mind wiping the LCD screen and lens of my camera while I was trigger-happy taking photos. The Grand Octagon Resort in Laoag was our next stop. The resort was relatively new, the food inexpensive. The following day, we went to Kapurpurawan Beach. On its shores stood a huge, white rock formation that looked so magnificent under blue skies. It felt as if we were on a different plane and I was mesmerized by its absolute beauty. Then we were off to see the Bangui Windmills that were spinning gloriously in the wind. I chanced upon different colored rocks on the ground and it hyped me up, being a crystal/stone collector. We drove for two hours more and reached the Kapuluan Vista Resort in Pagudpod. We weren’t planning to stay the night and we weren’t really hungry, so we took photos of the nearby resorts instead, to document our trip. Finally, on our way back to Gordion Hotel, we passed by the coastal scene of Narvacan. And behold, we saw a grotto named Paraiso ni Juan by the locals. Its serenity and beauty became a fitting place to end the day with a prayer of gratitude to Mama Mary and Mother Gaia. u Grotto balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


l l A t u o b s A

l r a e P

l. s i a c t i r h a “All biograps auto pearl i The oyster ’s phy.” the biogra ellini auto derico F - Fe

g nao a T. M h t e nad Berne r e B & p ine by Toni Make-u se t s i o S J r ls Pear up by Kan Paul oja By K J e ay Makhotos by chael D d n a i P Hair an M J d an

LIFESTYLE & CULTURE Pearls have always been celebrated for their unparalleled beauty and elegance. Born out of aoysters that shelter and produce this valuable gem, the pearl has been regarded as a symbol of perfection, purity, beauty, and honor. PEARLS & MYTH The pearl was first found in paintings and sculptures in ancient Egypt. It was believed that Cleopatra once swallowed a pearl with a glass of wine to prove to Marc Anthony that she can consume the entire wealth of a nation in a meal. The Greeks believed that pearls are hardened teardrops from Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who was born out of the sea. On the other hand, the Romans said that the droplets of water from Venus’ (the Roman goddess of love) body were so in awe of her beauty that they transformed into pearls.

Pearls by Totni & Berne Hair and Make up by KS Make-up Photos by Jan Paul Jose and Jan Michael Dayoja

PEARL & LEGENDS The month of June is named after Juno (Hera), the goddess of marriage and childbirth. During the Victorian era, the month of June was considered to be the luckiest to hold weddings, as the goddess Juno was said to bring happiness and prosperity to the newly-weds. This belief is said to be related to the Medieval ritual of the ‘annual bath’ that takes place during the last week of May, or the first week of June. Immediately after the bath, couples tie the knot, while they are still ‘clean’ and presentable. The fine weather and the abundance of flowers in June also make this month the most popular time for weddings, a tradition that is still practiced even today. PEARLS & TRADITIONS The history of birthstones can be traced back to the first century, when Jewish historian Josephus connected the twelve stones that adorned Aaron’s (a prophet of God) breastplate to the twelve months and the twelve zodiac signs. It is believed that the birthstones represent the qualities of the person born in a particular month in the Gregorian calendar. However, the connection between the pearl and the month of June has been established way before the Gregorian calendar was introduced by Pope Gregory XIII. The Rigveda, an ancient Hindu book, records the story of how goddess Krishna, the preserver, brought forth the first pearl from the depths of the sea, as a wedding gift to her daughter. More so, ancient Greeks believed that pearls were official wedding gems, as they brought happiness to the marriage and prevented the bride from crying during her wedding day. During the Crusade, knights would wear pearls for protection in the battlefield. Upon returning from the Holy Land, a knight would present the pearls to his fair lady on their wedding day. Royal weddings during the 14th and 15th centuries were literally adorned by a sea of pearls. Famous royals like Queen Elizabeth I and II also wore pearls on their wedding days. PEARLS & MODERN SOCIETY Unlike diamonds (which are often given in the form of engagement rings), pearls are often given as heirlooms — a tradition that adds more to its value. Today, pearls are not exclusive to would-be brides anymore. Pearls in the modern society are also seen as a chic fashion statement—something a woman wears with her little black dress for important engagements. The lingering influence of pearls in our society is so potent, that many movies have been made about it. The 1961 film adapation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is probably the best portrayal of a pearl’s quiet beauty. Audrey Hepburn’s character is seen looking at a set of diamonds through the famous store’s window when, in fact, she’s wearing pearls. u

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012



Dental Lessons From The Experts

NU.U Asia Dentists Give Back-to-School Tips to Students


here’s no better way to begin the school year, than to start it with a dazzling smile. NU.U Asia Cosmetic Dentistry reminds students that poor dental habits can have detrimental effects on their teeth in the future. Tooth decay (dental caries) still tops the problem spots in students’ dental hygiene. Children are always reminded to brush their teeth after every meal, to make sure cavities are prevented, and with good reason. Starchy and sugary foods leave residue that plaque and saliva can break down into teeth-breaking acids. Kids these days may take their teeth for granted and indulge in sweet treats. They unconsciously develop poor dental habits that endanger their teeth as they grow older. The experienced team of dentists at NU. U. Asia Cosmetic Dentistry encourages students to get a thorough dental checkup before school starts. “Early detection of cavities or incipient caries can be addressed so toothache can be prevented,” said Dr. Nelda Eufemio. “If cavity is not treated it will lead to infection that will require a root canal treatment or a tooth extraction. Not only will it save you a lot of bucks in the future, but it will improve your oral health and well-being.” Being a dental clinic that specializes in cosmetic dentistry, NU.U Asia delivers that sought-after “Hollywood smile.” To ensure healthy teeth throughout the school year, follow these tips: Dental Routine Developing a dental routine of brushing twice a day and flossing should help fight decay and gum problems.

Dr. Nelda Valencia Eufemio, Dr. Carlito Librando, and Dr. Mia Rosette Valencia Angeles


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Cleaning or Oral Prophylaxis A dental check-up should be included in your back-to-school list for proper health assessment and prevention of any


NU.U Asia The Fort Branch

NU.U Asia The Fort Branch

ZOOM! Teeth Whitening Equipment

future dental problem during the school year. Together with teeth whitening, this can remove stubborn stains on teeth and will make them pearly white. It involves scaling and removal of hardened plaques and calcular deposits and is a must for good oral hygiene. Flouride Therapy This is the topical application of flouride on teeth after prophylaxis to make teeth stronger. Pits and Fissure Sealants This coats newly erupted teeth with fluoride-releasing material thus making teeth less vulnerable to cavities. Orthodontic Treatment or Braces It is best to assess a for braces during the developmental years of a child when the pubertal growth spurt happens, as it

Wand Plus. The world’s latest anesthesia applicator.

is easier to correct dental problems at this stage. NU.U Asia now offers Invisalign treatment or “invisible braces,” a dental procedure that effectively straightens teeth without using visible metal braces. (NU.U Asia is planning to open its third branch in Quezon City this year. Interested parties who wish to have their treatments or check-ups at their Greenhills branch could call + 63 2 7270001 local 253 to set an appointment. Meanwhile, for those who wish to have theirs at NU. U Asia’s The Fort branch, you may call any of the three telephone numbers: + 63 2 8563641, +63 2 5023060, and +63 2 8465013.)

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


EATS More Fun in the


TASTE BUDS With 7,107 islands, 17 regions, 80 provinces and 120 chartered cities, the Philippines is bursting with flavors, delicacies and interesting food finds— guaranteed to tickle your taste buds. In the meantime, allow us to give you 10 reasons why eating is absolutely more fun in the Philippines! Rap Steaks and Cakes’ Famous Gravy Malate, Manila “At first glance, the interior of the steakhouse is not much to look at, but Rap Steakhouse and Cakes (or simply Raps) has earned a multitude of loyal customers over the years. Its close proximity to De La Salle University’s Velasco Gate makes it a favorite lunch spot for students—thanks to its soft and chewy steak slices served with Rap’s famous gravy. Unlike other steakhouses, where the gravy is ladled on top of the steak, the gravy here is served in jars and placed at the center of each table. If you think that the steak is the main event, think again. Rap’famous gravy is actually the piece de resistance of the meal. You just have to taste it to believe it.” - Kristine Bernadeth T. Manaog Place caption here Platter of Fresh Pili at Sibid-Sibid Restaurant Legazpi City, Albay “From pili candies to pili shakes, you’ll find just about every pili product in the Legazpi City. We all know what a pili nut looks like and that it’s sweet and rich. But have you tasted the actual fruit? In Sibid-Sibid Restaurant, the pili fruit is served in a platter along with the restaurant’s special dipping sauce that tastes something like bagoong isda. The fruit looks like a small, round baby eggplant and takes just like one, too. You can eat the pili fruit as it is or you can pair it with a cup of steaming white rice.” – Katherine Castillo Eustaquio The Original Sa Lido Restaurant’s Lido Coffee Binondo, Manila “For over 70 years, The Original Sa Lido Restaurant has been famous, not only for its pugon-roasted asado, but also for its rich, siphon-filtered coffee. This 100-year-old brewing method makes use of Lido’s special beans, for that enticing aroma and excellent taste. First introduced in 1994, the Lido Coffee continues to lure even the most discriminating coffee connoisseur to come back for another cup.” - Kristine Bernadeth T. Manaog Blugre Coffee’s Durian Gatchpuccino Bajada, Davao City “In Davao, you can find all sorts of durian concoctions: durian candy, durian ice cream, durian sans rival, even durian Brazo de Mercedes! But among them, my hands-down favorite has got to be Blugre Coffee’s Durian Gatchpuccino. Order it hot and take a long, slow sip— then note the durian aftertaste that settles on your tongue. When you get to the layer of mushy pulp that waits at the bottom of the mug, savor the distinct jolt of flavor that is the drink’s parting gift. I was never a big fan of the fruit, but the Durian Gatchpuccino changed my mind.” – Cheekie Albay Baguio City’s Strawberry Taho Baguio City, Philippines “Taho is a gelatin-like substance made from processed soybeans. It is often served with a spoonful of arnibal (sweet syrup) and topped with sago (tapioca pearls). In the City of Pines, Baguio City, another version of this favorite treat is served for both young and old to enjoy. The famous Strawberry Taho makes use of strawberry syrup (instead of the usual arnibal) and then topped with a piece of luscious strawberry. Head to Baguio to get a taste of this ‘more fun’ version of the staple soybean-based snack.” – Ria Hazel Lumandog Ten’s Salad at Small Talk Café Legazpi City, Albay “If you can still sing the famous Tagalog folk song ‘Bahay Kubo’ by heart, then ‘sigarilyas’ isn’t an alien term to you. Also called ‘winter bean’ and ‘princess

pea’ in English, sigarilyas is a type of vegetable that is often used in the Filipino delicacy, ‘sinigang.’ But in Small Talk Café, this beautifully-shaped vegetable is served raw—with tomatoes, white onions, and a drizzle of sweet-tasting vinaigrette. I was surprised when I first had a taste of this refreshing salad. I thought it would have a slightly bitter aftertaste, but it turned out to be the most perfect salad I have ever tasted from Legazpi City.” – Katherine Castillo Eustaquio U.P. Isaw (Chicken or Pork Gizzard) University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City “Almost iconic for its frequent appearance in comic strips, the Pinoy Isaw is best enjoyed in the many ‘isawan’ sections of the state university—University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman. This street-side delicacy, which is enjoyed by all walks of life, is a favorite mid-day snack. The chicken variety is easier to munch on (compared to the pork counterpart) though some prefer the latter for that very trait. Best served piping hot and dipped in spicy vinegar, no one can blame you for wanting more of this exotic treat.” – Rowena Diocton Sili Ice Cream at 1st Colonial Grill Legaspi City, Albay “We all know that the Bicol Region is home of the best Bicol Express recipes in the Philippines. But did you know that it’s also the home of the most rare ice cream flavors? It seems that the Bicolanos have taken their love for chili to a whole new temperature. 1st Colonial Grill’s Sili Ice Cream has a soft baby pink hue, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly. It takes a few spoonfuls of this intriguing concoction before you get a taste of that spicy kick. If you’re not adventurous enough, try their Malunggay Ice Cream, which tastes like cold green tea.” – Katherine Castillo Eustaquio Sisig at Aysee’s Pasig City, Metro Manila “I used to work near Kapitolyo in Pasig City. After a stressful day,my officemates and I would often make our way to Aysee’s Restaurant near ULTRA. What’s in Aysee’s, you say? For me, this small al fresco restaurant serves the best sisig in the metro. Their sizzling sisig is really mouthwatering—not too dry and with just the right crunch to it. You can even add a raw egg, for an even tastier sisig. This Php90-delicacy is big enough to be shared by two people. Order a heap of steamed white rice and a cold beer or two (arguably, the best sisig companion for a sisigfest) and you’re set for the night.” – Calvin Lo Apple Tarts at Rowena’s Bakeshop Tagaytay City, Cavite “The apple tarts at Rowena’s bakeshop are so famous, they have become a tradition. In fact, a vacation in Tagaytay would not be complete without a stopover at this quaint bakeshop with the trademark white and pink roof. The apple tarts here are so scrumptious, people buy them in boxes. Succulent, moist, and sweet, Rowena’s apple tarts are the perfect pasalubong from your Tagaytay trip, any time of the year.” – Katherine Castillo Eustaquio PHOTO CREDITS: Sisig at Aysee’s. Photo from Aysee’s Facebook Fan Page

Rap Steaks and Cakes’ Famous Gravy Photo from www.extrariceph.wordpress. com

The Original Sa Lido Restaurant’s Lido Coffee. Photo from www.

Platter of Fresh Pili at Sibid-Sibid Restaurant Photo by JC Agustin. Previously published in Sidetrip Travel Magazine

Blugre Coffee’s Durian Gatchpuccino. Photo by Cheekie Albay

Baguio City’s Strawberry Taho Photo by Patrick Castillo Eustaquio

Ten’s Salad at Small Talk Café Photo by JC Agustin. Previously published in Sidetrip Travel Magazine

Sili Ice Cream at 1st Colonial Grill Photo by JC Agustin. Previously published in Sidetrip Travel Magazine

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


The Philippines: Fiesta Capital of the World

CALENDAR OF EVENTS JUNE 2012 Bilang-Bilang Abayan Festival/ SakaySakay Abayan Festival June 1, Barangay Taft, Surigao City A fluvial procession honoring the Suriganons’ patroness of good voyage, Saint Virgen de la Paz y de Buen Viaje. Linggo ng Zamboanga del Norte & “Sardines and Mango Festival” June 1-6, Dipolog City A week-long celebration that includes various activities such as street dancing, food fest, culinary arts competition, industrial tour, trade fairs, and mini-olympics. Philippine Eagle Week June 1-6, Davao City The festival is an annual tribute to the beauty of the country’s national bird, the Philippine Eagle. Suroy sa Surigao (Guided Familiarization Tours) June 1-31, Dinagat & Siargao Island A sponsored familiarization tour by the Provincial Government that aims to promote domestic tourism to elementary and secondary student. Camotes Cassava Festival June 5-12, Tudelas, Camotes Island, Cebu An annual celebration and product display of cassava and cassava-based products. It aims to create awareness of the economic benefits of cultivating cassava. Araw ng Agusan del Norte June 12-17, Agusan del Norte A festival celebrating the Anniversary of Agusan del Norte. Araw ng Agusan del Sur June 12-17, Agusan del Sur Celebration of the founding anniversary of Agusan del Sur in accordance to R.A. 4969 that marked the separation of Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur. Independence Day June 12 (nationwide) A national holiday commemorating the Philippines Declaration of Independence from Spain.


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Araw ng Cotabato June 12-25, Cotabato City A yearly celebration of the city’s charter anniversary in accordance with Republic Act No. 2364.

Adlaw Nan Surigao June 19, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur Celebration of the Charter Anniversary of Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

La Trinidad Foundation Day June 12, La Trinidad, Benguet Annual celebration of the municipality’s foundation that includes eco-activities, cultural shows, and sports fest.

Rizal Day June 19, Calamba, Laguna A celebration commemorating the birth anniversary of national hero, Jose Rizal.

Baguio City’s Independence Day June 12, Baguio City A city parade that celebrates its independence from the external foreign rule. Battle of Bessang Pass June 14, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur An annual event commemorating the historical victory of Filipino guerrillas in Northern Luzon against the Japanese regiment, which led to the withdrawal of Japanese occupation in the Philippines. Pinyasan Festival June 15-23, Camarines Norte A colorful event highlighting the Queen Formosa pineapple (the sweetest pineapple in the world) through art exhibits, trade fairs, cultural performances, and sports event. Baoto Festival June 15, Agusan del Norte An annual sports event that pays tribute to “baoto” or native dugout canoe held during the founding anniversary of the province. Activities include 30k paddling race, 150m double slalom, and 75m single sprints. Naliyagan Festival June 15-17, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur A six-day socio-cultural event that commemorates the founding anniversary of Agusan del Sur. Baragatan sa Palawan (Foundation Day) June 17-23, Provincial Capitol Compound, Puerto Princesa City Annual celebration of the founding of the civil government of Palawan through colorful parade, LGU Trade, and Food Fair. Pista Y Ang Kagueban/ Feast of the Forest June 19-23, Puerto Princesa City Held every 4th Saturday of the month, it is a yearly eco event that is characterized by massive tree planting, to help alleviate global warming.

Lingganay Festival June 19, Alang-alang, Leyte An annual event inspired by the legendary story of the bells through street dance. Dapitan’s Charter Day June 22, Dapitan City A festivity that starts from the birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal until the city’s foundation day. Pili Festival June 28-29, Sorsogon, Sorsogon As an indigenous crop of Bicol Region, Pili festival emphasizes its importance and various economic uses to the public. Mudpack Festival June 23-24, Murcia, Negros Occidental A unique festival where locals cover themselves with mud as a reminder of a time where man was closer to nature. Pagadian City Charter Day June 21, Pagadian City An annual celebration of the city’s founding day. Calumpit “Libad” Festival June 23, Calumpit, Bulacan A religious festival honoring the patron saint, St. John de Baptist. Aggaw Nak Cagayan (Cagayan Founding Day) June 23-29, Cagayan province A joyous celebration that marks the 429th anniversary of the founding of civil government of Cagayan. Regada Festival June 22-24, Cavite City Also called as Cavite’s water festival, it is a week-long celebration in honor of Nuestra Senora de Porta Vaga. Araw ng Maynila June 24, Manila City The founding anniversary of Manila’s proclamation as the country’s capital.

The Philippines: Fiesta Capital of the World Taong-Putik Festival June 24, Aliaga, Nueva Ecija Catholic devotees cover themselves in mud to pay homage to Saint John the Baptist. Parada ng Lechon June 24, Balayan, Batangas An annual parade of roasted pigs to celebrate the sainthood of St. John the Baptist. Wattah! Wattah! San Juan Fiesta June 24, San Juan City The festival is to honor St. John the Baptist through energetic dancing, “Basaan” (dousing of water), and “Santang Tao” (live saint) parade. Feast of St. John the Baptist June 25, Metro Manila A metro wide celebration honoring St. John the Baptist. Palo Palo Festival (Batanes Day) June 26, Batanes A yearly event commemorating the founding anniversary of the civil government of Batanes. Sirong-sirong Festival June 28-29, Cagdianao, Surigao del Norte An ethnic mardi gras parade in honor of Saint Peter and Paul. Apung Iru Fluvial Festival June 28-30, Apalit, Pampanga A religious festival done in Pampanga River honoring St. Peter. Pintados Festival/ Sangyaw Festival June 29, Tacloban City, Leyte Held annually, it is a religious-cultural celebration where townspeople paint their bodies in honor of the ancient “pintados” warriors. Balyuan Rites/ Sangyaw Festival June 29, Tacloban City, Leyte An annual rite held every June to celebrate the annual feast of Sto. Niño of Tacloban through the ceremonial exchange of the Holy Child images between Leyte and Samar. Biniray Festival June 29, Bulalacao, Mindoro Oriental A thanksgiving event for the blessings from the sea through a grand pagoda show. Sandugo Festival July 1-31, Tagbilaran City, Bohol A mardi gras parade commemorating the blood compact between Rajah Sikatuna and Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS JULY 2012 San Carlos Charter Anniversary July 1, San Carlos, Negros Occidental Celebration of the charter anniversary through various street activities. Araw ng Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental July 1, Davao Annual event in celebration of the division of the three Davao provinces through agro-cultural activities. Araw ng Pasig July 2, Pasig City A grand celebration of Pasig’s founding anniversary. Sagayan Festival July 3, Tubod, Lanao del Norte An official festival showcasing the Maranao war dance. Phil-Am Friendship Day July 4, Baguio City An annual event remembering the friendship and good relationship of Philippines and America. Banig Festival July 5, Badian, Cebu A festival showcasing the Cebuano and Badianganon’s famous native product, banig (mat). Sta. Isabel Festival/ Alegria de Isabela July 8, Isabela City A religious-cultural event commemorating the miracle of St. Isabel that saved the town people from a raging storm. Subayan Keg Subanen Festival July 15-16, Ozamis City, Misamis Occidental A week-long event dedicated to feature the rich cultural heritage of the Subanon. T’nalak Festival July 16-19, Koronadal City, South Cotabato Celebrated during the foundation anniversary of the province, it is a cultural celebration demonstrating the importance of the t’nalak, a woven cloth created by the T’boli tribe.

Pahiningod Festival July 16, Carrascal, Surigao del Sur A mardi gras celebrating the goodness of their patroness, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Kaliga Festival July 22, Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental The city’s charter day celebration. Libon Paroy Festival July 22-25, Libon, Albay Celebrating the feast of its patron saint, St. James the Greater through a cultural display promoting local tourism. Birth anniversary of Apolinario Mabini July 23, Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas City An annual celebration remembering the birth anniversary of the country’s Sublime Paralytic, Apolinario Mabini. Sublian Festival July 23, Batangas City An annual ritual dance to pay homage to the Holy Cross. Kinabayo Festival (Battle of Covadonga) July 24, Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte A traditional festival re-enacting the SpanishMoorish wars. Tourism Consciousness Week July 26-August 2, Butuan City An annual event promoting domestic tourism through tourism and cultural-related activities. Sta. Anang Banak Taguig River Festival July 26, Taguig City A fluvial parade honoring the town’s patroness St. Anne. Udyakan sa Kabankalan/ Charter Anniversary July 27- August 2, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental A celebration of the city’s anniversary through agro-industrial fair. Abayan Festival July 29, Butuan City A daylong festival in honor of St. Anne, patroness of Agusan River. Anniversary of Battle of Paye July 30, Balimbing, Boac, Marinduque Commemorating the historical victory of Filipino soldiers during the Fil-Am war.

balikbayan June 2012 – Jul y 2012


Through the Lens

Visit www. for more Through the Lens photos. “During our tour in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, the photographer (Nicole) and I wandered away from the group to explore the hallway in one of the casas (houses). There we found this life-size statue of Marilyn Monroe in her trademark white dress and recognizable pose, surrounded by half a dozen, mixed-breed birds running around her. Nicole took a few shots while I took in the funny scene. Who would have thought we’d find something like this here? I thought. Sometimes, it pays to wander. You never know what you’re bound to discover. May your travels to the Philippines be as entertaining as this photo here.” – Katherine Castillo Eustaquio, Managing Editor


balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

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balikbayan June 2012 – July 2012

Balikbayan Magazine June - July 2012  

The Asian Journal Travel and Lifestyle Magazine.