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JANUARY 2018 / VOL. 36 NO.1


Wolfgang’s Steakhouse 4

Wolfgang Zwiener’s over 40 years as the head waiter in Peter Luger’s legendary New York steakhouse is akin to lore for the steak cognoscenti. And as Wolfgang’s Steakhouse’s own star grew – expanding from its first location in a 1912-built Park Avenue hotel, to both US coasts, and now, to Asia – even the uninitiated can now indulge in the renowned New York steakhouse experience.







New York State of Mind

Posh Portal to Paradise

Dry-aging Magic

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse President and Managing Partner Peter Zwiener opens up on how they’ve managed to bring the classic New York steakhouse experience across the globe.

Discover Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel – the town’s newest, most luxurious holiday hideaway by the bay.

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse boasts some of the world's most tender, most flavorful steaks. Have a glimpse at the highly controlled process behind the renowned restaurant’s meats.



school levels the playing field for children of all abilities?

can you experience the historic Walled City inundated by art?





places can you include in your 2018 travel bucketlist?

do you bring to the forefront a sense of shared humanity this new year?




2 NEWS Malaysian IT expert encourages startups to ‘cut losses fast’ By RICHARD RAMOS


onsidering the fact that over 90 percent of startups worldwide fail to take off, an expert advises founders to cut their losses early in the game in order to avoid more costly expenses in the future and to learn from their mistakes. “Do not wait to gather more losses later. Know when to quit early so as to save on resources,” said ‘Azra ‘I Shu’ib, general manager of the Incubation and Technopreneurs Development Technology Park in Malaysia. “Do not prolong and expect for results. It is much better and cheaper to cut fast.” This was a grim piece of advice the speaker gave in his keynote address during the first Technology and Business Summit Incubator Summit held recently at the Cebu Parklane International Hotel. Startups birthed by customers In order to avoid the dismal trend, Shu’ib urged the startups to first validate the problem, product, and technology in order to come up with a thorough and complete approach to the market and proceed with more preparation and information on hand. This entails more homework and research on the market needs – not just embark on a random idea – that the entrepreneurs believe will capture their customer base immediately and become the next Bill Gates. “Remember that startups come from customers. Startups do not originate from the entrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs should do their research properly in order to answer the real needs of the market. The entrepreneurs should not solely depend on their own ideas and dreams,” the speaker continued. Countless startups have failed almost as soon as they launched due to poor research and product know-how by the illequipped entrepreneurs who embark on their venture with scant resources. However, Shu’ib praised the Philippine stakeholders’ efforts in upgrading the startups and organizing them into certain sectors in order to classify and identify their strengths to prepare them for further growth. CEDFIT growth In Cebu, this fact is supported by the consortium of industry, academe, government, and NGOs into the Cebu Education Development Foundation-IT (CEDFIT) that seek to increase the quantity and improve the quality of professionals in the IT and Information and Communications Technology (ICT)-enabled services companies within the city and province last March 2001. From five companies and 1,200 employees, the organization has since grown to 300 IT companies, 140,000 employees with an annual income of over PhP27 billion. The body has also served as a model of IT councils nationwide as other cities and provinces have opted to follow the Cebu model. Last year, the CEFIT has since evolved into the Cebu Information Technology Business Process Management wherein voice operations have been elevated into higher valued services such as IT sourcing, health information management, shared services, engineering services, banking and financial services, software development, research and development, among others.

French Embassy launches scholarship program for Filipinos


he Embassy of France encourages Filipinos to pursue their graduate studies in France through the PhilFrance Scholarship Program. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary celebration of French-Philippine diplomatic relations, the French Embassy launched the PhilFrance Scholarship Program to open more opportunities for Filipinos to develop their expertise by studying and carrying out research work in France, with the goal of making lasting contributions to Philippine society. Since 2016, 35 Filipino scholars are currently pursuing or have recently completed their graduate degrees in the French language and literature, business, public policy and governance, engineering, mathematics, marine biology, applied chemistry, environmental and ecological sciences, and public health. To continue building stronger academic relations between France and the Philippines, the French Embassy has opened two separate calls for applications under the PhilFrance Scholarship Program for the academic year 2018-2019. Program details The first call is directed to Filipino students and professionals wishing to come to France to pursue Master’s or Doctoral programs in all fields of study. The PhilFrance Scholarships are awarded to highly qualified candidates who have demonstrated strong academic and leadership qualities in their scholarly and professional activities. The scholarship benefits include a partial tuition subsidy, a monthly allowance, and a health care package for the expected length of their academic programs. The second call is launched within the framework of a cooperation agreement signed between the Embassy of France and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The CHED-PhilFrance Scholarships are open to the faculty and staff of CHED-recognized institutions who wish to pursue Master's or

Doctoral programs in all disciplines at French higher education institutions. The benefits for selected candidates include round-trip travel expenses, a monthly allowance, waived registration fees for state-regulated programs at public institutions, and a health care package. Through a cooperation agreement signed by CHED and Sciences Po, a world-renowned French institution in the social sciences, full tuition fees for Sciences Po’s graduate programs will be financed as well, on top of the all the other benefits offered by the CHEDPhilFrance Scholarships. Complete information on eligibility, application requirements, and awardees’ benefits is available through the PhilFrance Scholarship Program website: Interested candidates must submit their applications by April 13, 2018 . Why study in France? France is a country that welcomes students from around the world. Each year, over 300,000 international students choose to study in France, making it the fourth most attractive country and the leading non-English speaking destination for inbound student

mobility, according to UNESCO. For today’s mobile and globalized youth, France is an attractive destination for studying abroad due to its rich culture and history, as well as a high concentration of internationally ranked French institutions with English as the medium of instruction. Moreover, public investments and subsidies allow a more reasonable cost of living and studying for international students in France compared to others in the region. France offers a wide range of high-quality specialization courses that can potentially contribute to the development goals of the Philippines. These include programs in sustainable development, disaster risk reduction and mitigation, heritage conservation, urban planning, social innovation and entrepreneurship, public policy, and the sciences. The availability of these disciplines in France is one of the reasons why the country has expressed its commitment to forge a dynamic academic and scientific partnership with the Philippines. For more details on the scholarships offered by the French Embassy, visit www.

2016 French Government Scholars

Embassy of Israel brings holiday cheer to Nueva Ecija kids


he Embassy of Israel, in partnership with the Shalom Club – Nueva Ecija, brought early holiday cheers to more than 150 children from San Antonio Weste Elementary School in Lupao, Nueva Ecija. In a Christmas outreach project on Dec. 5, the school children received gifts and Jollibee meals from the Embassy of Israel represented by Deputy Chief of Mission Yulia Rachinsky-Spivakov. Shalom Club – Nueva Ecija chapter or-

It was all smiles in Nueva Ecija during the outreach program

ganized the outreach project, in coordination with local and school officials and with the assistance of Central Luzon State University (CLSU). The club provided food for the guests and other participants, including officials from the municipality, village, school, and Parent-Teacher-Community Association. Also during the event, CLSU Extension Office donated vegetable seeds and fruit tree seedlings with technology leaflets to the school, and gave technology-themed souve-

nir mugs and pens to the local officials and school teachers. Shalom Club is an international friendship group composed of scholars and experts who were trained in Israel in our official development program under MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation. Upon their return, they formed the club dedicated to contribute to their countries through development studies and special projects.


Notice of Award given to new Cebu expresslink


he Cebu Link Joint Venture (CLJV) has been issued the Notice of Award for the “Design and Build” contract of the 8.5-kilometer Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), the much-anticipated bridge project that will connect Cebu City to the municipality of Cordova in the island of Mactan. CLJV is a joint venture of Spain-based Acciona Construccion S. A., and Philippinebased First Balfour Inc. and D. M. Consunji Inc., which all have proven track records in major infrastructure projects. About CLJV Cebu Cordova Link Expressway Corporation (CCLEC) issued the Notice of Award to CLJV last Nov. 23, 2017 at an agreed contract amount of PhP 22.6 billion. CCLEC is a subsidiary company of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), the toll road arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), a publicly listed infrastructure holding company. MPTC is the largest toll road concessionaire and operator in the Philippines that has now expanded its business in other Asean countries namely, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. The CCLEX is the first of MPTC’s envisioned toll road expansion projects in Visayas and Mindanao. Acciona’s Ruben Camba, representing the CLJV, said: “We are delighted to be part of

New Bohol Int'l Airport to open in 2018 By VIA BAROMA


he New Bohol International Airport, currently in the final stages of construction in Panglao Island, is expected to be fully operational by August 2018. The PhP7.8-billion facility will replace the existing Tagbilaran Airport, the country’s 11th busiest airport. Eco airport Billed as the “Green Gateway to the World,” the new airport sits on a 230-hectare property, and is intended to serve as a major lifeline in boosting tourist traffic in Bohol, and surrounding tourist destinations. A joint effort between the Philippine government and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the airport will feature a 2.5-kilometer runway, and a 13,000-square meter terminal. The latter is highlighted by its roof—a multi-curved structure that appears to be floating over the building, a design that takes inspiration from Bohol’s Chocolate Hills and the waves of Panglao sea. Designed as an ‘eco airport,’ it will implement various advanced Japanese technology. Using geotextile sheets, the surrounding environment will be protected from pollutants seeping out from the drainage, and from soaking the yard. Energy-saving features that will be integrated in the airport’s design include the installation of 2,300 LED lights, while natural lighting and ventilation are utilized for most public areas. Air-conditioning will be solar powered, and will be available only in the pre-departure area. According to Japan Airport Consultants project manager Tadashi Aoi, the airport can accommodate seven aircrafts at one time, including large aircrafts for international flights. The New Bohol International Airport is expected to service up to 3.3 million passengers a year – accommodating direct flights from South Korea, Japan, and China – a huge jump from the 800,000 passengers currently being accommodated by the Tagbilaran Airport.

this landmark project. We have put together a very experienced team, and are looking forward to working closely together with the customer to deliver a new toll bridge that will benefit both local communities and the Philippines.” “We are very confident that we can deliver a quality state-of-the-art bridge that will provide not just travel efficiency but also drive economic growth and productivity in the entire Visayas region, and improve the overall welfare of the Cebuanos,” CCLEC President and General Manager Allan Alfon

added. About the project CCLEX will have two lanes in each direction and will feature the main navigation span bridge, along with viaduct approach bridges, a causeway, roadway and toll facilities. The span of the bridge allows for shipping traffic and the link is expected to serve at least 40,000 vehicles daily. It will give Cordova direct access to Cebu City and is envisioned to decongest the traffic in the first two existing bridges both in Cebu and Mactan.

New township and golf course to rise in Cebu town



uros Land Properties Inc. (DLPI) recently launched Northside Beacon, an PhP8-billion, 200-hectare spread situated in two separate areas in the town of Liloan, 23 kilometers north of Cebu. The development The two central amenities are the 18hole par 72 Liloan Golf Course, and the fullfledged elementary and senior high school called the Divine Life Institute of Cebu. Other features include a strip mall, the Woodlands Resort Communities with a clubhouse, first phase of a high-end verdant subdivision dubbed Fairway Estates, first phase of the economic housing project, a retirement village, and a supplemental Japanese language learning institution within the school. Rafaelito Barino, chair of DLPI, declared that the first nine holes are finished but are not yet playable. There will be a total of five different holes no. 1 to accommodate more golfers. Full completion is targeted by December 2018. “It’s going to be an unusual golf course designed by myself and a Japanese partner. Furthermore, we are not selling golfing rights or shares. Only buyers of the high-end lots and condos will be allowed to play,” Barino said during the launch held at the golf course situated in the hills of Liloan. Lyds Eco, business director of DLPI, said that 50 percent of the total state is devoted to open space. “Pre-selling of the first 24 of 300 lots divided into 300-350 square meters is currently ongoing. We will also allocate 10-20 hectares for a theme park and two to three hectares for a hotel for tourists

and guests,” she said. Eco added that a Japanese retirement village would consist of 21 villas and five towers. Students of the school will also be trained in Japanese language to help care for the retirees. While players of Brick and Wood Golf Club in Chiba, Japan and Liloan Golf Course will have playing rights in both courses due to a sisterhood golf agreement. Ikuo Saka, project director of Muerhead Fields, the mother company of Brick and Wood Golf Club, proposed that he would set up sister-city relations between Liloan and Chiba to pave the way for friendship ties and business linkages between the two cities. Eco disclosed that one may also buy a unit at Padgget Condominium in Camputhaw, Lahug to avail of playing rights in Liloan. With an estimated completion period of 15-20 years, the township project encompasses all the company’s business lines; real estate, construction, interior fabrication and manufacturing, property management, education, and food business. Northtown Beacon is envisioned to become the central residential-cum-business district and economic driver in the North for generations to come.

The New Bohol International Airport is expected to serve up to 3.3 million passengers a year accommodating direct flights from South Korea, Japan, and China, a huge jump from the 800,000 passengers currently being accommodated by the Tagbilaran Airport.



Wolfgang’s Steakhouse: Optimal Prime Wolfgang Zwiener’s over 40 years as the head waiter in Peter Luger’s legendary New York steakhouse is akin to lore for the steak cognoscenti. And as Wolfgang’s Steakhouse’s own star grew – expanding from its first location in a 1912-built Park Avenue hotel, to both US coasts, and now, to Asia – even the uninitiated can now indulge in the renowned New York steakhouse experience.

Wolfgang Zwiener


here are those who speak of visiting a classic New York steakhouse as a religious experience, while others come for (apart from the utterly fine steaks) the unmistakable sense of history. And this hasn’t been lost on the people behind Wolfgang’s, as all branches around the world welcome guests with the nostalgic aesthetics of a long solid mahogany bar, wooden floors, mosaic accents, alabaster lamps, and a gorgeous wine cellar. According to Peter Zwiener, Wolfgang’s son, and president and CEO of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, from Hawaii and Beverly Hills, to Florida, and all the way to Manila—all their branches have elements that remind people of the 1912-built Vanderbilt Hotel location. But Wolfgang’s would not have enjoyed the notoriety it does now on classic ambiance alone. Ultimately, it banks on the top-tier quality of its steaks. Trust the Process Wolfgang’s uses only the best quality meat you can find on the market – Prime Angus and Black Angus (part of only 2 percent of all beef in the US market that attain “prime” rating); exclusively steer (more tender and flavorful, with less sinew and lower fat content); and only subprimal cuts. And the meticulous process doesn’t end with handpicking the meat – as it’s then dry-aged for an average of 28 days, in-house at Wolfgang’s locations.


Wolfgang’s uses only the best quality meat you can find on the market – Prime Angus and Black Angus – part of only 2% of all beef in the US market that attain “prime” rating




Wolfgang’s, which prides itself in its ability to offer the same quality steaks and service as it does in any of its soon to be 18 branches worldwide, is set to open its second Philippine branch this January at The Podium in Ortigas Center. And later in the second quarter of 2018, another Wolfgang’s Steakhouse will be opening – this time in BGC.

Wolfgang's trademark long mahogany bar greets guests as they embark on a laid back yet sophisticated dining experience

Apart from the best USDA meats, top wine brands from around the globe are also offered at Wolfgang's

This Seafood Platter balances the gastronomic indulgence

Dry-aging, a highly-controlled process, allows the beef ’s natural enzymes to break down connective tissues in the muscles, resulting in a tender, more flavorful slab of meat. The steaks are then cooked in specialized infrared broilers that can reach temperatures of up to 1,600 °F. And, by using only salt, they don’t take away from the beef ’s natural flavor. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about any of that. Prime Cuts What you do have to figure out is what to order, which can be quite daunting considering the plethora of alluring choices— none of which can possibly be wrong. Of course, first on your list should be

Wolfgang’s signature Porterhouse Steak – a two for one cut (tenderloin and strip). Joining that on the top of the list are the Rib Eye, and the Filet Mignon— all of which are best paired with sides of Creamed Spinach, and/or Mashed Potato. Whichever steak you have served in front of you, you’re assured that it’s handpicked from USDA Prime Grade Angus Beef, bringing with it superior marbling, tenderness, flavor, and texture. And to complement the richness of the steaks, Wolfgang’s Manila boasts of an extensive wine selection of over 250 brands and some 600 bottles from all over the world. The cellar at the Resorts World Manila branch (which can feature hard

to find wines like Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle, and Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus), according to Peter, promises to be one of the top wine cellars in the country over time. Raising the Steaks If you’re like many of the folk here in the Philippines that have yet to visit the flagship steakhouse in New York (or made the drive to the Resorts World branch), you’ll be given two less reasons not to visit in 2018. Wolfgang’s, which prides itself in its ability to offer the same quality steaks and service as it does in any of its soon to be 18 branches worldwide, is set to open its second Philippine branch this January at The Podium in Ortigas Center. And later in the second quarter 2018, another

Wolfgang’s Steakhouse will be opening – this time in BGC. It’s incredible that in a mere two years after opening its first branch in Manila, there will be three Wolfgang’s Steakhouses – all set in key locations around the metro. Traffic may never ease up on us, but that’s hardly going to be an excuse to not enjoy some of the finest steaks in the world. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse is located at Resorts World Manila, 2/F Newport Mall, Newport City, Pasay, and at G/F The Podium, Ortigas Center Mandaluyong. The upcoming BGC branch will be at the new Philippine Stock Exchange Tower in Bonifacio Global City. For more information, visit



One World School:

YOUR LOCAL GUIDE The Philippines’ forum for international readers since 1981

Murray Hertz Founding Publisher (1928-2014) Butch C. Bonsol President & Managing Director Suzette Defensor Managing Consultant Timothy Jay Araneta Ibay Editor-in-Chief Richard A. Ramos (Cebu) Via Baroma Staff Writers Angie Duarte Writer-at-Large Nikki Joy Habana Macjanry Imperio Design & Layout Leah Egamino-Palaña Sales & Advertising Officer Fevelyn Bucio Admin and Accounting Vicky Soto Sales & Advertising Executive Our Headquarters: Unit 305 Cristina Condominium, 143 Legaspi cor. V.A. Rufino Sts., Legaspi Village, Makati City Our telephone numbers: (+632) 840-2996 or (+632) 812-0987 You can also reach us at: and for sales and advertising: Cebu Mailing Address: MJ. Cuenco Avenue cor. C. Mina St., Mabolo, Cebu City Telefax: (032) 412-8000 Statements, views and opinions expressed by the writers, contributors, and advertisers are their own and do not necessarily represent those of the publisher or the management. The publisher assumes no responsibility for unsolicited material.

Leveling the Playing Field for Children of all Abilities

This non-profit entity is committed to enriching the lives of children with special education needs



ne World School has been a staunch advocate of educational equality for children of all abilities since 2013. Founded upon the cornerstone that all children have the potential to learn and be successful despite learning differences, the school continues to champion its mission and vision to level the playing field, so to speak, for kids of all skill levels. The school acknowledges that every child comes to them at different stages of development, with varying capabilities, capacities, and degrees in their readiness to learn. But, one thing the school has always done is to focus on every child’s abilities rather than on their limitations. To this end, the school’s curricular framework considers each child’s learning profile. Also to this end, the school’s founder and headmaster, Ericson J. Perez, continues to introduce innovative ideas to strengthen the learning and growth process of its students. The newest innovation? The Surf and Turf Club.

students who participated. The parents and educators, alike, reported that the children were more confident and conversant, and some of the students felt like they had gained more friends at school. In October 2017, the club ventured out to Mt. Talamitam, Batangas, for its second offering, a hiking adventure on nature’s turf, with four students and their families having joined in the fun. Later that same month, the club held another surf activity in Sabang, with nine students and their families in attendance.

Connecting children with the great outdoors Perez started The Surf and Turf Cub in September of 2017, with an inaugural surfing activity for the students and their families at Nalu Surf Resort, in Sabang, Baler, Aurora. Five students and their families participated in the initial activity. “I wanted to share my love for hiking and surfing with our teachers, students, and their families. I love being active and being outside, especially hiking and surfing,” Perez shares. “Besides the pure fun of being outside, there are many other benefits of being active in the great outdoors, such as helping one relax, staying focused, and building more confidence in one’s physical strength and stamina.” Perez knew in his gut that the children would benefit greatly from the connection with nature – and he wasn’t wrong. After the kickoff activity, he received lots of positive feedback from the parents and teachers of the

Continuing the good work But Perez is aware that for lasting change and progress to take place, the momentum must be sustained, and the club must continue to foster a safe, fun-filled, impactful experience for the participants. “For us to observe marked changes in students, or the marked positive influence surfing and/or hiking has on them, it will take time. There has to be a core group of club advisors who also love to surf and hike. The families have to see that their children enjoy these activities, develop new skills, and form stronger relationships especially with their classmates and teachers,” Perez details. The stalwart headmaster and his team of dedicated teachers and club advisors keep on with the good work they have started, knowing fully-well that the children will reap the rewards in more ways than one. “We aim to create more safe places for inclusion outside of the school community; to

build students’ skills and strength, as well as confidence in their abilities; and to create opportunities for immersion in and appreciation of our natural environment,” Perez points out. Taking that step of courage To take on new challenges requires courage – the kind that does not back down in the face of fear of the unknown. Perez knows that, for many of the students and their families, this is the reality with which they must grapple, when embarking on a big adventure for the first time. “It’s a huge risk to participate in these strenuous, sometimes scary, activities, since so many of us are always inside. Taking this risk, being willing to expose oneself to nature and to having other people see your vulnerabilities on the mountain and/or ocean – it’s a huge step to take, and it shows how much courage they have,” he notes. But, with more Surf and Turf Club activities already lined up for 2018, the Headmaster is confident that more and more students and their families will be willing to take that risk, knowing that the benefits will outweigh their initial trepidations, by far. A mindset of determination Fueled by the school’s goals for each of its students, Perez points out that the Surf and Turf Club is “also creating another way for the community to see for themselves that individuals with special needs can achieve. We just need to make sure we find ways to create the right conditions for it to happen. The mind set must be, “How can we make this happen?” And, it is this mindset of determination – combined with a spirit of commitment and a heart of compassion – that enables The One World School to make a real difference in the lives of its students, one unique and amazing child at a time. For more information on The One World School and its programs, please visit



New York State of Mind Wolfgang Zwiener used his 40 years of experience under the tutelage of renowned Brooklyn steakhouse proprietor Peter Luger, to build an extraordinary New York steakhouse of his own. His son, for his part, took the knowledge he got from the world of finance to take turn it into a global empire.


hen it comes to the frequently overly discriminating world of prime steaks, the world of finance may be far from what you would imagine it would take to enjoy enduring, sustainable success. But in the oft-fickle F&B industry, it’s exactly what Wolfgang’s Steakhouse President and Managing Partner, Peter Zwiener, credits the brand’s global success to. Specific set of skills “It provided me with the tools and laid the foundation for running a successful, sustainable, profitable business,” Zwiener says of his 16-year career in investment banking. Prior to the opening of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in 2004, Zwiener took his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University to join Citigroup’s corporate finance and capital markets division. And after receiving his MBA majoring in Finance and Econometrics from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, he returned to Citigroup, before moving on to two other banking institutions. According to Zwiener, to run a multiunit, global restaurant group like Wolfgang’s, it is imperative to focus first and foremost on the customer and hospitality, while duplicating that focus on the business side as well. “That is—to provide your customers with an incredible dining experience, which entails top quality, value driven food and beverage, impeccable service in an enjoyable, fun, and comfortable atmosphere. However, behind the scenes, it is equally important that the business is run flawlessly as well,” he emphasizes. And the latter part is where his vast experience in advising companies as an M&A banker comes in. Apart from playing an advisory role in strategic and operational direction, Zwiener’s finance stint also taught him integral business aspects like the art of negotiation, raising capital, forming joint ventures and partnerships, amidst the cascade of other issues that commonly arise in managing and operating a business. “All these tools and experiences that were acquired helped me form a corporation that could operate profitably, while expanding rapidly and globally,” Zwiener proudly says. Model of consistency It’s one thing for a seasoned business adviser to oversee the operations of a New York steakhouse that’s become a staple in the list of the best in America—it’s entirely another matter to have the brand expand globally, while maintaining the standards that catapulted the brand to the pedestal it finds itself in. But 18 branches in, with nine in Asia (including three in the Philippines by Q2 of 2018, and a few other locations like Shanghai, Jakarta, and Cyprus lined up) – that’s what Wolfgang’s Steakhouse has done. This impressive accomplishment is owed to not following a franchise model, part of one of the brand’s key mantras—consistency.

Wolfgang and Peter Zwiener Wolfgang and Peter Zwiener


If you're one to mix it up a little, there's this 3-lb Lobster you can feast on

Wolfgang's adds classic touches all around


We believe our customers want to have a consistent, high quality product at value driven prices in a fun, warm, exciting environment—and that is exactly what we do best.”

“One of the key principals of our mission statement, as well as our global expansion plan, is to keep consistency throughout all locations,” explains Zwiener. “We believe by franchising, consistency among each of the units will suffer and deteriorate due to the different works standards, ethics, and vision of having many various operators.” This means that all partners from across the globe went through a thorough vetting process. According to Zwiener, the ideal partner would be a local group that has F&B experience, and more importantly, understands the local F&B environment in terms of the culture, laws, permitting and licensing processes, real estate environment, HR, and an outstanding reputation in

the local community (needless to say, all things ticked off by the Philippines’ Excello Restaurant Management Group). “Since the international units are all joint ventures, and operated by the original founders/brand owner in conjunction with the local partners, the brand owners travel constantly to each of the locations as many times a year for an extended period of time to oversee the operations and maintain consistency and quality,” adds Zwiener. “We believe our customers want to have a consistent, high quality product at value driven prices in a fun, warm, exciting environment—and that is exactly what we do best.”



Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel: Your posh portal to paradise Discover Coron Town’s newest, most luxurious holiday hideaway by the bay Words by Angie Duarte / Photos by Andie D. Syyap


he first-class municipality of Coron, in the beauteous Philippine province of Palawan, prides itself on its unspoilt natural vistas, lush terrain, seascapes in the most breathtaking of blue-green jewel tones, clear lagoons and lakes embraced by majestic limestone cliffs, or nestled between dense forests – the list goes on. It’s no wonder, then, that the town of Coron and neighboring Coron Island have become among the top tourist destinations, for both locals and foreigners alike. It’s also hardly anything to marvel at that many who visit never leave, choosing to settle, marry, set up shop (be it a bed-and-breakfast, small reggae bar, holein-the-wall pizzeria, bakery, or other such enterprise) in the laid back, leisurely island haven. It hardly comes as any surprise, either, that the famed Two Seasons Hotel and Resorts group recently opened its third and newest venture in the town proper, right by the serene waters of scenic Coron Bay. Beyond service with a smile The first thing that struck me about the Two Seasons Coron Bayside Hotel experience was the warm and welcoming ambiance set, just so, by its team. From our pick-up at the Busuanga Airport, it was evident that that our satisfaction was their number one priority. Smiles warm as the tropical sun beamed upon us, with hand held upon heart, at every turn. But, we quickly realized that this was way more than service with a smile – this was service with a smile and the utmost in efficiency. The team has an uncanny knack of being one step ahead of your needs, with the ability to anticipate your requests, even. By the second day of our stay, I felt right at home in the hotel, with no desire to ever leave. “Guest experience is a key point of our hotel’s atmosphere and reputation,” notes Rain Chinchilla Dela Rea, the hotel’s amiable duty manager. “Our courteous and dedicated team makes everyone’s stay extraordinary. We believe that our employees are the greatest asset of our brand. A mark that makes Two Seasons standout and shine.”

Sweeping view from the Panorama Suite

Among Coron's many wonders: Kayangan Lagoon, leading to Kayangan Lake

“Our courteous and dedicated team makes everyone’s stay extraordinary. We believe that our employees are the greatest asset of our brand. A mark that makes Two Seasons standout and shine.” GETTING THERE From Manila, book a 45-minute flight to Busuanga, Coron. From Busuanga Airport, the hotel transfer will take you Coron Town, a scenic 45-minute ride, on board its comfy private cars or vans.

Luxury and leisure, Two Seasons style Aside from the exceptional service, those familiar with the standard of luxury set by the Two Seasons group will certainly see other hallmarks of distinction at the Coron Bayside hotel. Aesthetically eye-catching guest areas exude a welcoming vibe. A total of 48 well-appointed rooms and suites afford comfort and convenience, as well as awe-inspiring views of the bay and of forest thickets, depending on which side of the property your room is located. For their sweeping perspectives of Coron Bay, the Panorama Suites are always in high-demand – these rooms (only three, in all) offer such incredible, unforgettable sights that I have already put down a stay here on my bucket list. Aside from first-rate accommodations, the hotel boasts excellent amenities: a Skydeck Jacuzzi Lounge (perfect for private functions and special events), a state-of-theart Conference Room for up to 130 persons, a gym with inspiring views of the bay, and an infinity pool where you can kick back and take in Coron’s spectacular sunsets, signature happy hour cocktail in hand. If added pampering is your wish, go ahead and book an in-room massage with any

of the hotel’s accredited therapists – this is next-level island bliss, I kid you not! Palate pleasers in paradise An integral part of a stay at any Two Seasons property is the appetite-inducing (and utterly satiating!) culinary indulgence. Baya Resto Lounge serves up a roster of sumptuous offerings that will make you willingly kiss your diet goodbye for the duration of your visit. Bestsellers include the restaurant’s specialty Four-Cheese Pizza, mouth-watering in its crisp yet chewy flavor-rich goodness; sizzling, sensational Lengua Sisig; succulent and tasty Butter Garlic Prawns; Lechon Kawali, seasoned and deep fried to perfection; and a range of continental and international cuisine, bursting with palate-pleasing deliciousness. A gateway to gorgeousness Of course, no trip to Coron is complete without a foray into its virtually untouched, gorgeous environs – and Two Seasons’ Pawikan Aqua Sports Center is happy to oblige your adventure. The hotel is your gateway to the treasures of Coron Island: Coron Bay, Kayangan Lake, Barracuda Lake, Twin Lagoon, to name a few exquisite


Baya Resto Lounge, by night


Specially prepared picnic lunch on Balete Beach

“We are proud to represent the Philippines to the world. Our aim is to make Two Seasons Bayside the top choice accommodation here in Coron Town – offering the true heart of Philippine hospitality” sites. Fancy a day of hiking, spelunking, and snorkeling? Perhaps, some diving in waters teeming with vibrant reefs, marine life, and a shipwreck or twelve? No problem, these escapades can all be arranged. Coron’s waters are world-famous for marine biodiversity, and are also the final resting place of about a dozen sea vessels, from Japanese gunboats and ships to fishing boats and tankers; watery graves come alive with sea life. Not only will the hotel make sure you have a fun-filled and safe day out at sea, they will also ensure that your bellies are full by way of a scrumptious picnic lunch on Balete Beach. Now that’s true Two Seasons hospitality, for you. “In July 2016, Palawan was named the best island in the world by a New Yorkbased travel magazine that caters to millions

An angle of the hotel's well-designed exterior

of sophisticated travelers. This recognition put the spotlight on the natural wonders of Coron, a beautiful gem that has captured the attention of the world,” shares Dela Rea. “We are proud to represent the Philippines to the world. Our aim is to make Two Seasons Bayside the top choice accommodation here in Coron Town – offering the true heart of Philippine hospitality,” Dela Rea adds. Plunge into paradise through the posh portal that is Two Seasons Coron Bayside. Trust me, you’ll wish you could stay forever. For more information, visit two or send an email to

Antique diving gear on display at the hotel's lobby



Of lasting loves and lifelong friendships


celebration of life, love, and friendship went underway as Belo Medical Group CEO and founder Dr. Vicki Belo-Kho hosted an intimate dinner party in honor of her friend Small Laude. Held at the exclusive Manila House in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, the gathering was attended by Vicki and Small’s husbands, Dr. Hayden Kho and Philip Laude respectively, and many of their lifelong friends. A truly wonderful and memorable evening was had by all.

(Front) Lucy Torres-Gomez with (back) Nicole Ortega and Jojie Dingcong

Philip and Small Laude with Dr. Hayden Kho and Belo Medical Group founder and medical director Dr. Vicki Belo-Kho Small Laude, Dr. Vicki Belo-Kho and Alice Eduardo

(Seated) Dr. Vicki Belo-Kho, Carol Garcia, Small Laude and Leyte 4th District representative Lucy Torres-Gomez with Joel Eduardo, Philip Laude, Jojie Dingcong and Bayani Solidum (standing) Nicole and Joy Ortega, Alice Eduardo and Melba Solidum

Sander Tantoco with Joy Ortega

RLC occupies San Juan and Cebu


obinsons Land Corporation (RLC), led by president Frederick Go, continues to cement its position as a real estate powerhouse with the recent groundbreaking ceremonies for two of its prime projects, Chimes Greenhills, a 40-storey mixed-use residential development located along Annapolis Street in San Juan City; and Galleria Residences, a 3-tower residential development located within the Robinsons Galleria Cebu Complex along General Maxilom Avenue in Cebu City. Chimes Greenhills is under RLC’s Robinsons Communities brand and also has a hotel component managed by Robinsons Hotels and Resorts while Galleria Residences is under the company’s urban lifestyle brand Robinsons Residences. Congratulations to Robinsons Land Corporation for these exciting developments!

Carol Garcia with Small Laude

Melba and Bayani Solidum

(From left) Monocrete Construction operations director Engr. Joseph Pacapac, Robinsons Residences head of business development Czarina Lugue, Constech Management Group VP for operations Engr. Benjamin Cabral, Monocrete Construction president Engr. Manuel Mendoza, Robinsons Luxuria, Residences and Communities business unit general manager Henry Yap, RLC VP for construction and design Engr. Emmanuel Arce, Robinsons Residences head of marketing Mark Stephen Delumen and RLC Cebu branch head lawyer Sarah Celino-Paderanga

(From left) Robinsons Hotels and Resorts project director Arch. Bernardo Mariano, Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC) project office head Arch. Rodanil De Silva, Robinsons Communities head of business development Engr. Edgardo Samson and head of sales Ferdinand Adriano, Robinsons Luxuria, Residences and Communities business unit general manager Arch. Henry Yap, Robinsons Infrastructure and Integrated Developments associate project director Arch. Glenn Encarnacion, Robinsons Hotels and Resorts director of sales Monica Casperino and RLC Allied Services and Support Departments assistant vice president lawyer John Evangelista



Qatar 138th National Day:

Unity and Camaraderie By VIA BAROMA


undred of well-wishers came to the Ballroom of Makati Shangri-La Hotel to attend the celebration of the 138th Anniversary of the State of Qatar on Dec. 11. Guests from the Philippine government, diplomatic and consular corps, along with friends of the Embassy of Qatar were welcomed to an auspicious night that commemorated unity and brotherhood among different nations. Qatar’s National day, also known as Founder’s day, is celebrated on Dec. 18. For this year’s Qatar National Day, Ambassador Ali Ibrahim Al-Malki hosted the occasion in honor of the First Ruler Sheikh Jassim Bin Mohammed Bin Thani, founder of the State of Qatar. The Ambassador also commended the growing role of Filipino workers in the strengthening relationship between Qatar and the Philippines. “Qatar now has more than 240,000 Filipino workers, and they are enjoying the privilege of the Qatari government,” the Ambassador said. “They are also our partners in development, and we are looking forward to an even stronger relationship.” Qatar has the third largest population of

overseas Filipino workers, part of bilateral relations that has spanned 36 years. Qatar-Philippine relations was reaffirmed by the signing of four memoranda of understanding for cooperation in the fields of culture, health, technical vocational education training and the reciprocal Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement by the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and President Rodrigo Duterte during a state visit last year.

Ambassador Ali Ibrahim Al-Malki (third from the left) led the ceremonial cake cutting for the National Day of Qatar

Thai Ambassador Thanatip Upatising; Mme. Monthip Upatising; and President of Cats Motors Inc. Felix R. Ang; Swiss Ambassador Andrea Cynthia Carrion-Norton; Thomas Powers; South African Ambassador Martin Slabber; and Angeles Rubio Santocildes Reichlin; and Argentinean Ambassador Robert Bosch Qatar Ambassador Ali Ibrahim Al-Malki














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•Art & Family: The Asuncion Legacy Ongoing until Jan. 14; Ayala Museum, Makati Ave. cor. Dela Rosa St., Greenbelt Park, Makati; for more information, visit or call (02) 759-8288 Ayala Museum, with the support of Bench, Divina Law, Araneta & Faustino Law Offices, and AuraStrat, will be presenting an exhibition of 19th century paintings, illustrations, and sculptures by three preeminent Filipino artists of the time— brothers Justiniano, Leoncio, and Mariano Asuncion. Selected works that also include miniatures, medallions, portraits, and watercolor illustrations by the aforementioned artists were loaned from both private and institutional collections. Many are commissioned by the artist’s patrons and families and showcase both popular religious and secular motifs of the time.

• The Weight of Words: An Alphabet of Human Rights Ongoing until Jan. 21; Pasilyo Guillermo Tolentino and Pasilyo Victorio Edades Galleries, CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Manila, for more information, contact (02) 832-1125 loc. 1504/1505, email, or visit “The Weight of Words" exhibit is part of Canvas’ Looking for Juan Program, which explores art as a platform for social change. For the past 10 years, Canvas has been promoting art, culture and literature through exhibitions and publication of children’s books. Canvas continues to challenge the imagination of its audiences and participate in the social discourse. For this exhibit, participating artists and designers that include – Keith Dador, John Ed de Vera, June Digan, Electrolychee, Lala Gallardo, Gerilya, Meneer Marcelo, Jom Masolabe, Dan Matutina, Kevin Roque, Palma Tayona, and Wesley Valenzuela – contemplate the meaning and value of human rights using the alphabet. Each participating artist has chosen a letter or two, and connected it with the concept of human rights. The artists hope that with these letters, words, and arts, the universal truths about human rights can again be revealed, shared, reflected upon, and force an acceptance and commitment to the truth that human rights is not the cause of the chasm – it is the bridge that will unite.

• Manila Biennale: OPENCITY 2018 Feb 3 to Mar. 5; Intramuros, Manila; for more information, email or follow them on Facebook and Instagram @manilabiennale During the Manila Biennale, the gardens, plaza, museums, and chambers of Intramuros will be transformed into art exhibition spaces, galleries, and performance venues. The theme for the inaugural Manila Biennale is ‘Open City’ – homage to the walled city’s beginnings as a port for the Galleon Trade, a time when the Philippine capital opened itself up to the world and welcomed new ideas, products, and people. Navigating around Intramuros will be made easier through the Infomuros mobile app. The app will feature the locations of the Biennale exhibitions along with information on the artworks and artists. It will also give directions to all historic landmarks, museums, parks, shopping areas, dining options, and public facilities in the Walled City. Tickets are priced at PhP5,300 for the Biennale Passport (includes access to all exhibitions, museums and parks; transportation between all Biennale sites within Intramuros; an invitation to the Artists’ Ball and Manila Transitio Memorial Concert; priority reservations for all screenings, talks, performances, and other public programs; concierge services at the VIP Lounge; and discounts or special deals with Manila Biennale partners); PhP880 for Regular Day Pass (includes access to all exhibitions, museums and parks; transportation between all Biennale sites within Intramuros); and PhP380 for Student Day Pass (includes access to all exhibitions, museums and parks


•Foster the People Jan. 26; KIA Theater, Araneta Center, Quezon City; for more information, visit ph or call (02) 911-5555 Indie rock band Foster the People will be making their return to Manila for a one-night show to promote their latest album, “Sacred Heart Club.” The American group first rocked out in the country back in 2012, following the hugely successful release of their first album, “Torches,” which carried the smash hit, “Pumped Up Kicks.” Foster the People is made up of lead vocalist Mark Foster, guitarist Sean Cimino, keyboardist Isom Innis, and drummer Mark Pontius. Tickets are priced at PhP5,250 for VIP; PhP4,725 for Orchestra; PhP3,675 for Loge; and PhP2,625 for Balcony

•ONE OK ROCK: Ambitions World Tour Jan. 29; Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; tickets are available at all SM Tickets outlets nationwide or visit; call (02) 4702222. Japanese rock torchbearers ONE OK ROCK are all set to make their long-awaited return to Manila. Taka, Toru, Ryota, and Tomoya are finally coming back to the Philippines for their Ambitions World Tour — a spectacular show powered by PULP Live World to kick off the new year. ONE OK ROCK’s return comes a little over two years after the Tokyo quartet played to a sold-out Manila crowd. Tickets are priced at PhP8,000 for Platinum Rock Zone; PhP6,000 for Gold Rock Zone; PhP5,000 for Lower Box A; PhP4,000 for Lower Box B; and PhP2,500 for Upper Box


• The Aquarian Teacher: First Philippine Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Level One Jan. 24 to 30 and April 29 to May 5 (Nurture Wellness Village, Tagaytay); for more information, email krilevel1ph@gmail. com or Viber (0917) 898-0970 Discover how Kundalini Yoga can awaken your true potential. Join the firstever Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) approved and certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training in the Philippines. The well-defined curriculum, which consists of three one-week sessions, weaves interactive theory, with practical yogic knowledge for life. The program promises to make you the best version of yourself under the wisdom and guidance of KRI certified international trainers led by legacy teacher and trainer Taran Taran Kaur Khalsa from the US, her daughter Madhur-Nain Webster – MFCC, Danilo Retuta from Crestone, Colorado, and Satmukh Singh – founder of the Ajai Alai Awakening. The program is open to aspiring and existing teachers, and to those who simply want to deepen their yoga experience. Upon completing all the requirements, participants will earn the title of KRI Certified Instructor of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan and fulfill the Yoga Alliance RYT 200-hour requirement. Registration fee is priced at PhP175,000. Payment plans are available.



New Year Travel Round Up

12 Philippine destinations to include in your 2018 Travel Bucket List Words by CELINE REYES Photos by Dennis Murillo and Celine Reyes

Is “travel more” one of your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you simply just want to see more of the beauty that is the Philippines? Whichever category you may fall under, we’ve made a list of some of the country’s most beautiful spots for a year-long dose of wanderlust.

Mount Pinatubo Sta. Ana, Cagayan

On the north-easternmost tip of mainland Luzon lies the town of Sta. Ana, Cagayan. This quaint municipality opens up to the Pacific Ocean, playing host to pristine coves and white sand beaches, plus an array of stunning natural landscapes. Exploring the town's treasures may require a butt-numbing land travel and a vomit-inducing voyage across temperamental waters, but you'll find that all these are worth it once you get there. Palaui Island, Anguib Beach, and Punta Verde are some of the town’s offerings. These stunning seascapes, complete with dramatic escarpments, make for a veritable postcard image.

An embodiment of the phrase “a beautiful disaster,” Mount Pinatubo is a reminder that chaos can result into something beautiful. The 1991 eruption may have been devastating and is still considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history, but it lead to the creation of the magnificent crater lake. If you haven’t been to this place, it’s never too late to hop on a bus to Capas, Tarlac, go on a 4x4 ride across Crow Valley, and trek up Pinatubo to get a glimpse of the sometimes-emerald-sometimes-sapphire crater lake. Even the most jaded traveler could not resist the natural beauty of Mount Pinatubo.

Bataan Techno Park

The historical peninsula of Bataan is one of the most diverse places in the Philippines, and the Bataan Techno Park only strengthens this claim. Once the site of the United Nations Philippine Refugee Processing Center after the Vietnam War, the 365-hectare property in the town of Morong is now home to not only knowledge-based industries, but also to a hub of southeast Asian culture. Here, traces of Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian traditions can be found. There are temples similar to Angkor Wat scattered across the area. There’s also a museum, featuring the actual fishing vessel that carried Vietnamese refugees, along with photos and items from the time the place served as a refugee center.

Panampangan Island

Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao gets a bad rep (like many places in the island region), but if you make the necessary preparations and coordinate with the authorities, you’d get to see the Philippines’ longest sandbar: Panampangan Island. It measures about three kilometers and is surrounded by the clearest, bluest water you’ll ever see. White, chalky sands make up its shores, while a village of stilt houses visible in the distance ornates the backdrop. A Philippine Marine detachment guards the island and there are about five families of the indigenous Badjau that live there. The island has been outfitted with cottages, and electricity from a diesel-powered generator can last until 11 p.m. To visit the island, get in touch with the ARMM Tourism or contact iTourist Travel Lane – a trusted tour operator in the area – on Facebook.


It’s hard to pick just one destination in Catanduanes, so we decided to include the entire island province. This laidback island in the Bicol region holds some of the country’s most breathtaking natural landscapes. A couple of these are the mystical Hardin Falls in the town of Viga, and the marvelous Tuwad-tuwadan Lagoon in Pandan. You can also find in the town of Bato what is perhaps the cleanest beach in the entire Philippines: Sakahon Beach, where dawn is just incredible. Of course, there’s the spectacle that is Binurong Point in Baras, boasting vast grasslands atop a cliff facing the ocean. We recommend renting a motorbike, getting an EZ Map from the tourism office, and exploring the island on your own for an unforgettable experience.

Treasure Mountain

Tanay, Rizal has no shortage of hiking destinations. And for those who might be intimated by the thought of climbing up a mountain, but want to witness the fabled sea of clouds, Treasure Mountain is the place to be. This vast property overlooks the hilly terrain of the town, accented with limestone precipices, and coupled with the usual sight of a vaporous blanket snaking across the folds. Many mountaineers go far and wide for such a scene – but at Treasure Mountain, you can get this view without much effort. “Effortless” sea of clouds, we like to call it.


Just like Catanduanes, Northern Samar simply has far too many beautiful spots for a listicle, so just go and explore the entire province. If you’re the off-the-beaten-path kind of traveler, the towns of Lapinig, Silvino Lobos, and San Isidro are highly recommended. In San Isidro, you’ll have your share of wonderful waterfalls. In Silvino Lobos – a landlocked town – you’d get to trek through a canopied watercourse all the way to the extraordinary Hilulugayan Falls. The unassuming town of Lapinig, meanwhile, plays host to the island bird sanctuary called Canawayon, and a length of pristine cream-sand beach called Putong.

Merloquet Falls

Another distinct cascade found in Mindanao, this time in the decadent city of Zamboanga, is Merloquet Falls. Located in the village of Sibulao, the falls is a twotiered cascading curtain, with a rock platform in the middle. Getting to Merloquet is easy, as there is now an access road and a cemented walkway. Surrounding it is a bit of land that used to be a picnic area. As of writing, the local government has cleared it to prevent trash from getting into the waterways. Huts are being reconstructed further up. Entrance fee is just PhP5 per person!


Another entry from Mindanao is the magnificent AsikAsik Falls of North Cotabato. This unique cascade is essentially a curtain of water over a verdant mountain slab. Tucked in a parcel of forest in the village of Upper Dado in the town of Alamada, the falls can be accessed through an easy 15-minute trek down a stone staircase. Aside from bathing in the alkaline waters of the falls, camping is also possible. Pitch a tent or hang a hammock between the tall hardwoods around the cascade and spend a peaceful night in the wild.

Spice up your travels this 2018 with a different kind of adventure. Visit the Art Capital of the Philippines and behold a town immersed in creativity. While Angono’s neighbors have hiking trails for streets, its main thoroughfares double as art galleries. Blanco Family Museum, Nemiranda Art Gallery, Carlos “Botong” Francisco Second Gallery, and the Tiamson Art Gallery are some of the artistic hotspots in town. The food scene here, too, is dipped with creativity: from the exotic offerings of Balaw-Balaw Restaurant to the Higantes Frappe – the largest frappe in Rizal – of Lava Mocha Café. There’s also the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs – the oldest artwork in the Philippines. Oh, and the sunset over at the Lakeside Park could give Manila Bay’s a run for its money.

Batanes Sumilon Island

On the other side of the Cebu Strait lies the island of Sumilon. Surrounded by waters rich with life, Sumilon’s beige shores are frequented by harmless baby blacktip sharks. The area is also a popular snorkeling site. There is an exclusive beach resort on the island – Bluewater Sumilon – which has developed the area in a way that does not diminish its natural charm. The resort has established trails both for trekking and biking. The trekking trails lead to the perfect spots to watch either the sunrise or the sunset.

The Philippines’ last true frontier, Batanes is a dream for most travelers. And it’s easy to see why. The province is basically a time capsule. No major commercial establishments. Vehicles are sparse. Mobile reception is virtually nonexistent. But the whole province is a living, breathing postcard. Everywhere you look is picturesque. The wide meadows and rolling hills would simply take your breath away. If you really want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, Batanes is the place to be. The air here is as fresh as can be. And the people, the native Ivatan, is as genuine and as kind as they get.



Ringing in a Sense of Shared Humanity Words by ANGIE DUARTE Art by Macjanry Imperio


belong to the car-less sector of society. Wasn’t always the case – I used to drive everywhere, until road rage, traffic, a car wreck or two, and a generally limited budget got the better of me. Now, I walk or commute most everywhere; save for the occasional ride I manage to catch with friends or family. My legs are more toned, my carbon footprint is smaller, and my budget goes a longer way. Although, I usually get heaps of quizzical looks and outright open-mouthed stares for it. Yes; I am and have long been “that foreigner” who draws an almost irksome amount of generally unwanted attention, all because I speak the vernacular and I walk and commute around Manila’s less-thanglamorous streets. I walk whenever and wherever I can, or take buses, trikes, jeeps; but, of late, the sweltering heat and the unpredictable weather have forced me to seek refuge in the cool, dry, reasonable safety of cabs. These cab rides have been both the source of amusing anecdotes and annoying accounts; the former thankfully outweighing the latter. At the onset of 2018, I find myself thinking of some of those cab incidents, curiously enough. What on earth does all this have to do with the New Year, you may ask? Despite the seeming lack of relevance, if you hang in there and read on, it’ll all make a semblance of sense – I promise. And, if it doesn’t ring true to you, well then, go grab some salt and munch on a few grains! Commuter chronicles Back to the cab rides. On an early morning commute to work, sometime in 2017, I found myself in a lengthy and animated conversation with the cabbie. In the course of our convo, I discovered that Kuya (Mister) Cabbie had two daughters, the firstborn of whom was premature and

had seizures. He recounted having to work long hours at his job, not only to provide for his family’s needs, but also to be the father his kids deserve. I also learned that he had helped deliver a baby in the front seat of his taxi, and that he had had a cellphone accidentally thrown at his head when he tried to appease a lover’s quarrel on board his vehicle. Some days before that, on another trip, the conversation was with a Kuya who had worked as a cabbie in Baguio and who, over those years, had had many encounters with “ghost passengers.” He regaled me with story upon creepy story, in a suspenseful and melodramatic manner. On yet another day, I found myself discussing climate change, rather intently, with an irate Kuya who ranted about and railed against global warming, and spoke of how “forestry” is the answer to the Philippines’ climate woes. He seemed a lot like an ecological activist to me than anything else!

people I do not even know. With this feeling of connectedness comes the realization of similarity, as well. The awakening to the truth that you and I share several common denominators with the cabbie, the CEO, the random person crossing the street, the junkie, and – gasp! – even with the politician!

The disconnect, connected On board those vehicles, I hear the cabbies’ hopes, their experiences, heartaches, and aspirations – and often, I am even treated to a generous slice of their humor. Nine times of 10, the Kuyas express surprise and gratitude that I speak the vernacular – “Ang sarap po kasi ng may kausap, Ma’am!” (“It is so nice to have someone with whom to speak!”), is what they usually say. Each conversation makes me feel more connected to the country in which I was born and raised; the country that has become my home. Each conversation makes me realize that there is a semblance of serenity beyond the strife in this land, dreams amidst the despair, and genuinely good people despite the abundance of A-holes. Moreover, each conversation makes me feel more connected to people in general – not just to those whom I call my friends, but to

Suspending judgment When we connect with others, when we suspend judgement and open ourselves up to those around us, this is when we get a glimpse not only into our shared humanity, but also into our collective soul. At the end of the day, we are all just trying our very best to get by in life, because of, or in spite of all that we’ve been through. Some might be more cynical and see it as being “prisoners here of our own device,” to quote from Eagles’ Hotel California. Others may view the situation from the more rose-colored vantage point of optimism. The point is this, although you may have already picked up on it: no matter your perspective, your level of jadedness or positivity aside, we all have more than a little-something-something in common with the person next to us. These things tie us together, whether we like it or not.

A sense of shared humanity Moments like these bring to the forefront a sense of shared humanity, despite very obvious differences in background, upbringing, social standing, life path, and all other dictates of society. At the heart of it all, we share the same composition; albeit, for some, this composition has been greatly impacted, affected, and damaged, even, by their life experiences. To be honest, though, we each have our own flaws and failures – some of us are just better at coping with, or hiding these. And that, too, is shared humanity.

Eyes wide open The realization that, at our very core, we all have the same essential make-up is an important one. So important that if we choose to live out of this eye-opening truth, and choose to lay aside our biases and discriminations, our self-righteous pronouncements and holier-than-thou indignation, then we may very well start a revolution of shared humanity. And from this revolution will arise a freedom borne from acceptance, tolerance, compassion, understanding—all the good stuff about being human. Heck, let’s throw rainbows and unicorns in there, while we’re at it. Utopia? Perhaps. Impossible? Maybe. Easy? Most definitely not. But, as I continue with my daily commutes, walks, and misadventures, I will do so with the resolve to keep an eye out for that spark of commonality between me and the people with whom I come in contact. If there’s one resolution I have made, coming into 2018, it is to actively pursue this and see if I cannot change at least my own little corner of this maniacal city we call Manila. Have a happy New Year! And an even happier, more vibrant sense of the humanity you share with those around you!