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PHP 199 | USD 5.25 | GBP 3.25 | EUR 3.75


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Get to know the country you’re in from the people who know it best Get the heads up on where to be and places to see, where to eat, and everything else about the distinct Philippine beat

Photo by Mark Togonon

All these and more, right at your fingertips

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22 /Sound Bites Whatever musical genre you dig, we’ve got you covered with our listing of shows happening in the next quarter

Local Shores

32 / The Last Frontier Dubbed “World’s Best Island” three years in a row, Palawan continues to live up to the hype

36 / Coming of Age Bohol – once Philippine destinations’ ‘plainer sister’ comes of age as a haven for tropical luxury

48 / In a Saipan Second With a plethora of adventure options, coupled with a chill island paradise vibe, read up on the possibilities that can happen in a Saipan second

54 /Balkan Odyssey Get the heads up on the sights to wonder at in Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia

+ Events of all shapes and sizes to fill your calendar with

Global View

42 / Back at it Barely a year after a devastating earthquake, Nepal’s tourism is back in business

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60 / From Anarchists to Artists Once a mark of rebellion, street art has evolved to make a statement across the globe

62 / Urban Inkchantress Get acquainted with Camsy Valencia – and her modern-day skin masterpieces

64 / Black Market Step into the thriving trading floor of one of Manila’s best urban haunts

78 / Weaving a Revolution Read up on Ambension Silk’s vision of countrywide change through rural empowerment

88 / Urban Identity Brilliant design mind Jason Concepcion talks about the importance of developing the Philippines’ own urban identity

Urban Revival

70 / Escolta and The Incubation of Possibilities In one of the oldest streets in the city, a movement powered by a community of kindred spirits is revitalizing old Manila

On the Cover

Grub Hub

94 /Reviving the Classics Five chefs create special dishes for Expat, offering their sumptuous take on the urban revival of classic fares

108 / Brewing Connections Read up on how Steam Yard Coffee and Community brings together specialty coffee and common interests

Pit Stop


METRO SPECTRAL Urban specialist and Metropiltan Manila Development Authority assistant GM Julia Nebrija takes on the daunting task of making this megacity, one we can all love to live in 110 / Guevarra’s Discover this San Juan restaurant’s combination of old world charm and contemporary cuisine

114 / Tell Tale Sign Get a taste of the scene and the best Filipino craft beers at Alamat

founding Publisher

Murray Hertz (1928-2014) Publisher

Butch C. Bonsol

Expat Travel & Lifestyle Vol. 10 No. 3 Opinions expressed in this magazine are solely those of the writers and not necessarily endorsed by Expat Communications. Reproduction in whole or in part, whether articles, photos, advertisement features and such, are strictly prohibited in any way without the written consent from the publishers and editors. Expat Communications cannot be held responsible for unsolicited material or photographs. Although the editors and writers ascertain to the veracity of all information published, they are not responsible for its possible changes. Subscriptions > Advertising > Inquiries T. (02) 840 2996 or 812 0987 F. (02) 840 2988 E.

Associate Publishers

Expat Travel & Lifestyle Philippines is published quarterly by Expat Communications, Inc.


Main Headquarters Unit 305, Cristina Condominium, 143 Legaspi cor. V.A. Rufino St., Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines

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Richard Ramos Via Baroma

Cebu Satellite Office M.J. Cuenco Ave. cor C. Mina St., Mabolo, Cebu City, Philippines. Telfax: (032) 412 8000 Expat Travel & Lifestyle is a registered trademark of the Philippines. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.


Angie Duarte Ching Dee

Art, Layout and Design

Macjanry Imperio


Nikki Joy Habana

Special consultant

Suzette Defensor

Contributing Writers

Paolo Nesi Sandy Toplis Tet D. Velasco Jason Buensalido

Contributing Photographers

Andie Duarte Syyap Leovic Arceta Eric Hotchkiss Inez Moro Klara Fernandez


Leah Egamino-PalaĂąa

On the cover: MMDA assistant GM Julia Nebrija

billing, credit & collection supervisor

Cover shot by Macjanry Imperio HMU by Nikki Joy Habana

Jennifer Codera

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Urban Revival

and Communal Possibilities It’s easy to focus on the unrelenting, paralyzing traffic that pervades the country’s major metropolises; but it also isn’t too hard to understand that the issues go much deeper than mere congestion. Lack of infrastructure and proliferation of substandard ones, absence of sidewalks, continuously diminishing public spaces, shortsighted dependence on moving cars as opposed to people, and blind adherence to soulless malls and skyscrapers—these are just the tip of the urban dilemma iceberg. This issue, we look into the many elements that consummate the concept of Urban Revival and put the spotlight on people, groups and communities that champion revitalizing urban life through communitydriven enterprises, heritage, design and art – advocacies which, while taking on varying shapes, ultimately translate to a

yearning for more livable cities that we can all love to live in. The woman on the cover, Julia Nebrija, has crafted a life of various such advocacies. From Viva Manila – a citizenled effort to revitalize Manila through arts and culture – and cries like “People make cities” to “Move people, not cars” – a call for inclusive mobility – she’s been a champion of shifting perspectives and pushing creativity to re-imagine a better urban life. Chris Torrance of Ambension Silk goes beyond the urban cacophony, professing that a paradigm shift towards creating opportunities in rural areas will not only result in a landscape that’s beneficial to urban areas, but an encompassing positive change in the Philippine quality of life.

Escuela Taller trains the underprivileged to restore heritage and historical structures, both to preserve the local culture and to help craft a sustainable future for the youths. While one of the most brilliant young design minds in the country, Jason Buensalido, emphasizes the importance of urban identity in architecture to promote a sense of ownership of our spaces. In a section called Urban Grit, we look at the edgier side of the Metro—from street and skin art, to a company that creates artful furniture from urban debris, and into the scene of one of Manila’s best urban haunts. While in Grub Hub, we had five talented local chefs showcase their wares by redesigning classic dishes with their own flair, in the spirit of Urban Revival. This is an issue hoping to inspire a rekindling of our love for the oft madding, frequently exhausting city life – one that with a little re-imagination, can birth a gamut of possibilities. - The Expat Team

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Kandaya Resort An idyllically seamless blend of serenity, adventure and rejuvenation Nestled on a white sandy beach amidst the northern tropical landscape in the island of Cebu is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Land, sea and sky meet and blend seamlessly to form the postcard-perfect backdrop of KANDAYA Resort—an idyllic, luxury destination located in the coastal heart of historic Daanbantayan. Named in homage to Datu Daya, an ancient brave tribal chieftain who once stood as protector of old Bantayan, this piece of paradise located north of Cebu, offers an enviable mix of serenity, adventure, relaxation and tradition to reinvigorate the body, refresh the mind, and uplift the spirit.

(Top)A stunning spectrum of hues drop by daily as one of the most magnificent sunset views in Cebu can be enjoyed at Kandaya

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Accommodations A picturesque beachfront oasis dotted by swaying trees await guests after a scenic drive from the city. Sprawling gardens lead to Kandaya’s main building which houses 18 contemporary-styled rooms and suites that overlook the resort’s iconic infinity pool. One will be hard pressed to tell where the Visayas Sea ends and the horizon begins with the spectacular, panoramic views along the 7.5-hectare property. A leisurely walk further into the resort will reveal 22 secluded gardens, beach and ocean villas, some with their own private pools.

Dining Located in another area is its signature Kusina restaurant and bar which serves wholesome, organic and nutritious meals. Putting emphasis on sustainability, Kandaya prides itself in offering only the freshest flavors and ingredients. At the heart of the Kusina’s philosophy is the concept of “farm to table,” using locally sourced and freshly picked in-house organic produce for homemade breads and pastries, and courses on the menu.

(Left)Thoughtful attention to detail is evident everywhere at Kandaya; (Bottom)There are few things more relaxing than this spot and its many shades of blue

Amenities Be spoilt for choice at Kandaya where one may either opt to engage in a variety of health and wellness, outdoor and sports activities or simply luxuriate and soak in the tranquility. A full range of amenities await those who prefer to stay active from a fully equipped gym, yoga studio, and mixed martial arts center as well as a multi-use court to play basketball, tennis and beach volleyball in, while private nooks on the resort’s grounds and lush gardens provide the perfect surroundings to revive the senses. Pamper yourself at the Daya Spa and let skillful, healing hands bring back a state of balance and well-being. Bask under the sun and enjoy the beauty of nature with Kandaya’s menu of family-friendly water sports and recreational activities. Kandaya houses the only horseback riding facility within a resort in cebu – the Kuwadra with a stable that holds a maximum of seven horses and a field of 60x120 square meters for guided and independent riding that also extends to paths along the shoreline. The Kuwadra also has a Pony Club to give kids hours of educational and arts and crafts fun. For added adventure, delight in the clear, turquoise blue waters of Northern Cebu on kayak, jet ski or Hobie Cat, or leisurely outrigger boat rides to nearby Malapascua Island and cruise along in one of the well-appointed outrigger boats outfitted with a hammock and bean bags. Diving tours and a day trip to Kandaya’s private beach cove on Malapascua island, renowned for its long stretch of white sand and underwater treasures, may also be arranged. Cap off the day at the resort with sandy toes and a glass of champagne or signature cocktail while enjoying one of the most stunning sunset views in Cebu.   For more information, visit www.kandayaresort. com and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @kandayaresort. For inquiries and reservations, contact (032) 260-6006, (032) 231-0956 loc. 152, or email reservations@

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Explore Palawan’s underwater history in Busuanga

The island of Palawan has long been known as the last frontier for the adventurous Philippine traveler. And while its stunning topography has made the island one of the more popular destinations in the country, there’s more to Palawan than just lush greenery, limestone cliffs and pristine waters teeming with a variety of marine life. The waters in Palawan’s province of Busuanga hold an intriguing piece of World War II history. Busuanga offers nearly a dozen wrecks that are perfect dive sites for those who are craving for a different kind of undersea adventure. The diving sites are named after the wreck within the area, which are mostly Japanese warplanes and ships that sunk between the battle years of 1944 to 1946.

If you haven’t yet, the underwater world that awaits divers in the Philippines is quite the sight to behold

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Wreck diving Starting off near Coron Bay, divers with advanced certification can head off to the Irako dive site, which holds a sunken refrigeration vessel. The ship is quite intact and standing in a semi-upright position with

maximum depths of 43 meters from the bottom and 28 to 35 meters on the deck level. Another option is the Morosan Maru or Olympia freighter that is also sitting upright in approximately 30 meters of water and located very close to Tangat Island in Coron Bay. Large shoals of banana fish, giant batfish, giant puffer fish and even specimens of crocodile fish and scorpion fish have also been seen, especially around the mast, bow and stern of the ship.

(Top) Snorkeling in the house reef of Huma Island (Photo by Jerome Kim) (Left) Table corals on a shipwreck (Bottom) House reef’s soft corals

If you prefer a more casual dive or some snorkeling, the Lusong Gunboat and Nanshin Maru sites won’t disappoint. Lusong, with its submarine hunter wreck, is good for a “dive between dives.” The hard corals and fish life surrounding the boat provide great shots for wreck dive photographers. Meanwhile, near Black Island Beach sits the civilian tanker known as Nanshin Maru. The 50-meter long ship is recommended for beginner wreck divers and underwater photographers because of the lionfish, trumpet fish, groupers, and batfish swimming about in the clear water. Moving towards Busuanga Island, divers can behold the massive Okikawa Maru, a 10,000-ton fleet oiler that is the largest of all the wrecks in the area. Open water divers are welcome to explore when there is no current but more advanced experience is needed when diving with a strong current. New discovery Divers who have been to all the sites above and want something new just got lucky. Just off the coast of Dicilingan Island, where Huma Island Resort & Spa is situated, sits a newly discovered Japanese war plane that was shot down in 1944. The yet-to-be named plane lies 25 feet deep and 300 meters from the island’s shore. It was found being stripped for parts by local fishermen and was sustaining further damage from the waves due to shallow waters. Upon learning of the situation, Huma Island Resort & Spa immediately requested the municipality of Busuanga to move the plane to a protected area for better preservation and maintenance. The plane wreck is now accessible for the viewing pleasure of diving tourists. Huma Island Resort & Spa in Busuanga, Palawan, is a private island resort built on an enclave blessed with lush forest landscape and abundant marine life. It has 81 over-water villa and beach villas within its approximately 15 kilometers of island perimeter. For inquiries and more information on Huma Island resort & Spa, contact (02) 553-0119, fax (02) 551-0121, email, or visit www.

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Jason Buensalido Jason is the Chief Design Ambassador and Principal Architect of Buensalido Architects—a design firm committed to introducing fresh, bold, progressive and innovative concepts to the Philippine design setting. Along with his team, he bears the torch of contemporizing Filipino architecture and uplifting the local design scene with the goal to bring the nation global by staying true to their identity. He proposes to accomplish this by fusing global aesthetics with Filipino sensibilities.


For this issue, Jason gives a brief discourse on the importance of identity in the urban fabric (p. 88) Klara Fernandez Klara received her Bachelor of Science College of Fine Arts and Design Major in Advertising Arts at Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. She is currently juggling careers and hats as a budding portrait and travel photographer, event stylist and graphic artist, whilst also honing her craft as a painter. To see more of Klara’s works, visit Andie Duarte Syyap Andie’s passion for photography began at the early age of five when – armed with her dad’s DSLR, a keen eye, and a whole lot of zeal – the spirited tot would snap pictures of whatever caught her fancy.  She continues to hone her talent, and particularly enjoys shooting black and white photos from “unlikely perspectives.” Andie views photography as an extension of her creative soul, and pours her spirit into her work.  For this issue, Andie went on a weeklong assignment to Saipan, and walked the streets of bustling Bonifacio Global City in pursuit of edgy urban art.



Leovic Arceta By night, Leovic is a resolution expert at one of the biggest BPO companies in the country. By day, he’s a man of various hobbies— from reading classic novels to playing video games and building model kits. But one thing he’s especially fond of is the arts. He is a self-taught shutterbug who loves taking photos of landscapes and wildlife, while also wearing the hats of poet, guitarist and song writer. Check out his works at



Sandy Toplis Sandy refused to participate in French language lessons at school when he was 12. He infamously said, “I am English! I will never leave England and do not need to speak French!” Eleven years later, he would be seen on the beaches of Southern France nibbling cheese, supping wine and reading a French dictionary. That was just a stepping-stone. Within a handful of years, Sandy would find himself wearing his best flip-flop/sando combo, sipping buko juice in Baclaran Market and telling stories in his best carabao Tagalog to anybody who would listen. He currently works as a web developer and sees the Philippines as a wonderful country to spend time in, and a great place to go very slightly crazy.



Read up as Sandy’s recalls one of his misadventures in the country on p. 26 Tet D. Velasco Tet is currently the Vice President for Consumer Marketing Digital team of FleishmanHillard Manila. She has worked for several newspapers and glossy magazines before shifting to corporate and agency work. She finished Journalism at the University of the Philippines, and graduated cum laude when she finished her Master in Literature from UST.

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Dive into the metro’s scene zone with our listing of the hippest events, shows and the hottest concerts


Your heads up on various events to fill your calendar Compiled by Via Baroma


dec. 3

Color Manila Blacklight Run

Dec. 3; Clark Parade Grounds, Pampanga; for more information, visit A one-of-a-kind night run, Color Manila Blacklight Run is a healthy, trippy kaleidoscope of neon and endorphins. A race and party rolled into one, this is definitely one event run enthusiasts wouldn’t want to miss. Tickets are priced at PhP1,050 for 3K Rockstar, 5K Rockstar and 10K Rockstar; PhP650 for 3K Deluxe, 5K Deluxe and 10K Deluxe


DEC. 11

Hope 2016: Run for Children with Special Needs

Dec. 11, Bonifacio Global City; for more information, visit This December, dash into the season of giving and run to help children with special needs. The Hope Marathon is raising funds to support and raise awareness about Autism, ADHD and Down Syndrome, while bringing smiles to children with special needs. Registration fee is priced at PhP900 for 10K; PhP800 for 5K; PhP700 for 3K; and PhP500 for 1.5K

dec. 3

The Music Run 2016

Dec. 3; McKinley West, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City; for more information, visit The Music Run by Philam Vitality is ending 2016 with all the hottest jams, and everyone’s invited! The hugely-successful five-kilometer fun run returns in the wake of last year’s phenomenal Philippine debut, and is set to rock McKinley West on Dec. 3.

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DEC. 2

Noel Christmas Bazaar 2016

December 2 to 4 (Filinvest Tent Alabang); December 15 to 18 (SMX Convention Center); for more information, call (02) 687-0654, (02) 687-2955 or email Noel Bazaar, renowned as the one-stop shop for the holiday season, promises to give the absolute best Christmas shopping experience. It will feature a wide range of concessionaires – from fashion and beauty items, home decors, food, novelties, Christmas trimmings and other unique affordable gift items for the upcoming holiday season and beyond.

The Music Run is the ultimate 5k running and music festival with the after-run music festival featuring world class DJs, live bands, dance groups, laser lights, LED screens, fireworks, chill out zones and a slew of giveaways. Lined with over 120 speakers, The Music Run 2016 will pump out the songs voted for across five interactive and themed music zones – rock, pop, old school, hip hop and dance. Tickets are priced at PhP1,800 for Rock Star Pack (inclusive of T-shirt, Towel, Bottle, Cap, Bag, Beat Band, Sticker and Tattoo); and PhP1,050 for Standard Pack (inclusive of T-Shirt, Bag, Beat Band, Sticker and Tattoo)

WHAT’S ON shows

dec. 2-4

Bazaar for All Seasons 2016

Dec. 2 to 4, Elements Tent, Eton Centris, EDSA cor. Quezon Ave., Quezon City; for more information, call (0915) 341-3560 or email Bazaar for All Seasons provides shoppers with all-in venue for all their shopping needs. Kick-off the holiday season with some of the most sought after brands and online shops, and mesh with the new breed of entrepreneurs, celebrity entrepreneurs, and top influential bloggers.

dec. 2-23

DEC. 12

Manila Sundance Flea Market

DEC. 3

Menken & Ahrens’ A Christmas Carol Musical

Dec. 12 to 18 and Dec. 20 to 21; Glorietta Activity Center, Ayala Center, Makati; for more information, contact (0927) 422-4598 or visit their Facebook page @ManilaSundanceBazaar

Dec. 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22 and 25; BGC Globe Iconic Amphitheater, 7th Avenue, Bonifacio Global City; for more information, contact (092) 891-9999 or visit

Catch the Manila Sundance Flea Market as it returns one last time this holiday season. The market features over 60 brands with their exclusive offers of up to 70 percent off on your favorite online brands.

The world famous play based on the book by Charles Dickens will be brought to life by the music of world-famous composer Alan Menken.



Tickets are priced at PhP2,100

World Bazaar Festival

Dec. 2 to 23, World Trade Center, Gil Puyat Avenue cor. Diosdado Macapagal Blvd., Pasay City; for more information, call (02) 531-6374 With over 600 exhibiting companies and an estimated 230,000 shoppers strolling around 700 booths, the World Bazaar Festival is set to be the grandest shopping experience of the holidays. World Bazaar Festival, aside from holding the title as the longest running annual charity bazaar and being the largest shopping harbor in the country, has been established as a great stop to find business opportunities as well. The bazaar is open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays; and 10 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


Trendsetter’s Bazaar

Dec. 16 to 21; Metrotent Convention Center, Metrowalk, Ortigas; for more information, contact (0917) 827-9260, visit their Facebook page @Trendsetterteam; or email Ortigas peeps, get you shopping kicks on as Trendsetter’s Bazaar comes back right in time for the holidays. This is your chance to cap off your holiday shopping with sales of up to 80 percent off on pre-holiday goods. There’s something for everyone at Trendsetter’s Bazaar.


Cinderella (Ballet Manila’s 21st Performance Season)

Dec. 3 (8 p.m.) and Dec. 4 (3 p.m.); Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City; tickets are available at all TicketWorld outlets; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 891-9999 The world’s favorite fairytale about a beautiful orphan girl who marries her prince is given new life in the world premier of Lisa Macuja and Osias Barroso’s “Cinderella.” Tickets are priced at PhP1,545 for Gold; PhP1,030 for Silver; PhP515 for Bronze

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dec. 14

MSO Season Finale: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

Dec. 14; Meralco Theatre, Ortigas Ave. cor. Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig City; tickets are available at all TicketWorld outlets; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 8919999 or visit Before the year ends, the Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO) offers music to soothe your soul. Performing in the newly renovated Meralco Theater, the MSO ends its 90th year with beethoven’s immortal 9th Symphony. The MSO Season Finale features Margarita Gomez Gianelli (soprano), Camille Lopez Molina (mezzo soprano), Tastsuya Higuchi (tenor), Mr. Yuichi Toyoshima (baritone), and Arturo Molina (conductor). Tickets are priced at PhP1,097.25 for Gold A; PhP1,045 for Gold B; PhP992.75 for Gold C; PhP940.50 for Silver A; PhP888.25 for Silver B; PhP836 for Bronze A; PhP783.75 for Bronze B


DEC. 16

PPO 34th Concert Season 2016-2017

Dec. 16, Jan. 20 and Feb.17; Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (CCP Main Theater); CCP Complex, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City; for inquiries and subscriptions, contact (02) 832-1125 local 1806 (02) 8323704 or Ticketworld (02) 891-9999 Fresh from its successful concert at the Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra embarks on its 34th Concert Season 2016-2017—“Timeless Classics, New Beginnings,” under the baton of its new Music Director, Japanese conductor Yoshikazu Fukumura. Other show dates will feature conductors Maestro Herminigildo Ranera and Olivier Ochanine. while violinist Diomedes Saraza Tickets are priced at PhP1,545 for Price Zone 1; PhP1,236 for Price Zone 2; PhP824 for Price Zone 3; PhP515 for Price Zone 4; PhP412 for Price Zone 5; and PhP309 for Price Zone 6.

jan. 14

Los Disastres de la Democracia by Francisco de Goya, Jacques Gaulong and Manuel Ocampo in collaboration with Jigger Cruz

Ongoing until Jan. 14; Ateneo Art Gallery, Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights, Quezon City; for more information, call (02) 426-6001 ext. 4160 or visit www. Working from Francisco Goya’s landmark aquatint etchings Los Caprichos and the Ateneo Art Gallery’s collection of Goya’s Los Disparates, also known as Los Proverbios, Manuel Ocampo and Jigger Cruz, collaborate on divining into the

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dec. 16 -18

Hi-5 Fairytale

Dec. 16 to 18; Newport Performing Arts Theater, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City; tickets are available at all TicketWorld outlets, for ticket inquiries, call (02) 8919999 Hi-fivers of all ages are in for a treat this December when the award-winning Australian group returns to Manila. The fun-tastic cast—Mary, Dayen, Lachie, Chris and Tanika, will take audiences through the rough seas, down sparkly lanes and even prehistoric lands in this pre-holiday treat. Great laughs, a fun-filled family adventure, and a chance to sing along to jams such as “L.O.V.E.,” “Pretending Day,” and “Living Fairytale,” await Hi-5 fans. Tickets are priced at PhP4,841 for SVIP; PhP4,088 for VIP; PhP3,442 for Gold; PhP2,905 for Silver; PhP2,582 for Bronze

medium of painting, invoking the spirit of uninhibited artistic activity. Capriccio or caprice, a term used to refer to works that combines elements to form a fantastical tableau, is used by Goya far beyond its whimsical denotation to comment on “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society, and from the common prejudices and deceitful practices which custom, ignorance or self-interest have made usual” (The Sleep of Reason, Linda Simon). Making the most of the medium’s qualities, the series draw out such grotesqueries in the interplay of shadow and light, casting their resonance ever more profoundly from 200 years ago from their first printing, laying bare the same “anxiety, violence, sadism, lust, and ambivalence“ that continue to haunt our present times.


jan. 18 -22

Shen Yun

feb. 2


feb. 24

Ballet Manila’s Don Quixote

Jan. 18, 21 to 22; Tanghalang Nicanor Abelardo (Main Theater), Cultural Center of the Philippines, Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City; tickets are available at ph and all TicketWorld outlets nationwide

Opens Feb. 2; The Theatre, Solaire Resort & Casino, 1 Aseana Ave., Entertainment City, Paranaque; tickets are available at www. and all TicketWorld outlets

Feb. 24 to 26; Aliw Theater, CCP Complex, Pasay City; tickets are available at and all TicketWorld outlets; for ticket inquiries, contact (02) 891-9999

Through the universal language of music and dance, Shen Yun weaves a wondrous tapestry of heavenly realms, ancient legends, and modern heroic tales – taking you on a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture.

The Broadway and West End musical phenomenon, acclaimed as “one of the greatest musicals of our time” is set to cast its magical spell over Manila audiences when it returns this February.

Based on the iconic Spanish novel of Miguel de Cervantes, “Don Quixote” is one of the most popular and enduring classical ballets. Set against a tapestry of gypsies, heroic fights, and fiery dancing, the show follows the adventures of the idealistic and eccentric Don Quixote, his faithful companion Sancho Panza, and young lovers Kitri and Basilio.

A Shen Yun performance features the world’s foremost classically trained dancers, a unique orchestra blending East and West, and dazzling animated backdrops— together creating one spectacular performance, which brings the wonders of ancient Chinese culture to millions across the globe. Tickets are priced at PhP7,000 for Premium; PhP5,500 for Zone A; PhP4,500 for Zone B; PhP3,000 for Zone C; PhP1,500 for Zone D; PhP950 for Zone E

Wicked is guaranteed to leave audiences both young and old captivated with a story that tugs at the heartstrings, and a phenomenal musical score that features the hit songs “Defying Gravity,” “Popular” and “For Good” amongst a host of memorable numbers. Tickets are priced at PhP7,000 for Emerald; PhP5,800 for Reserve A; PhP4,500 for Reserve B; PhP3,350 for Reserve C; PhP1,750 for Reserve D

FEB. 5

Flavors that Sail Across the Seas

Ongoing until Feb. 5; Old Senate Session Hall, National Museum of the Philippines, Padre Burgos Ave., Ermita, Manila Local gourmands will be treated to a gustatory exploration when the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines, the Instituto Cervantes de Manila and the National Museum launch Flavors that Sail across the Seas, and exhibit which illustrates the impact of the arrival of the Spaniards

It is a vibrant, happy, and festive ballet that everyone will surely enjoy. Mikhail Martynyuk, Principal Dancer of the Kremlin Ballet will be a featured artist. Tickets are priced at PhP1,545 for Gold; PhP1,030 for Silver; PhP515 for Bronze.

in the Philippines on worldwide radical change in food consumption and eating habits as a result of ever-increasing growth in the exchange between Asia, the Americas and Europe brought about by the Galleon Trade. On display are quality reproductions of facsimiles which are primary sources chosen from the huge and exceptional documentary heritage kept at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville taht includes an extensive collection of firsthand accounts of the arrival of the Spaniards to the Philippines, the evolution of sailing and the exchange of goods.

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Neverland Manila

9, 10

Dec. 9 and 10, SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds, Pasay City; Tickets are available at and all SM ticket outlets; for more information, visit www.nvlmevents. com or call (0926) 0324-447 It will be LIT AF. That much is settled as Neverland Manila kicks off the holidays with some of the world’s top DJs in the biggest year-end party. The Neverland Manila 2016 explosive First Phase Lineup are composed of Martin Garrix, Brennan Heart, Laidback Luke, Ummet Ozcan, Yellow Claw, Sick Individuals, DubVision, East &Young, and Alvita. Tickets are priced at PhP9,000 for VIP Standing (Early Bird); PhP5,800 for Gold (Early Bird); PhP10,000 for VIP Standing (Regular) and PhP6,500 for Gold (Regular).

ICYMI It’s not always about the big shows. And that truth is amplified in Metro Manila where there’s always live music playing somewhere. So in case you missed any of the acts above, get your music fix at the following spots.

Jan. 5

David Guetta: Unity Tour

Jan. 5; Araneta Coliseum; Tickets are available at all TicketNet outlets nationwide; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 911-5555 or visit One of the world’s hottest DJs kicks off 2017 with a bang, as French DJ and producer David Guetta comes to Manila on Jan. 5. Guetta has played a pivotal role in turning dance music into the chart-topping juggernaut it is today. With worldwide smash hits like “Titanium (feat. Sia),” “Hey Mama (feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Afrojack),” “Bang My Head (feat. Sia and Fetty Wap),” “Bad (feat. Vassy),” “Lovers On The Sun (feat. Sam Martin),” “Dangerous (feat. Sam Martin),” “Without You (feat. Usher),” “I Can Only Imagine (feat. Chris Brown),” and “When Love Takes Over (feat. Kelly Rowland),” Guetta has established himself as a modern-day giant of this era. Tickets are priced at PhP5,780 for VIP Standing; PhP3,680 for Patron; PhP2,630 for Box. For Table Reservations, call Wilbros Live at (02) 374-9999.

JAN. 11

Passenger Live in Manila

Jan. 11, The Theatre, Solaire Resort & Casino; 1 Aseana Avenue, Entertainment City, Paranaque City; tickets are available at and all TicketWorld outlets; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 891-9999 English singer-songwriter Michael David Rosenberg, better known as Passenger, performs for the very first time in Manila for a solo concert. Passenger is best know for the global hit “Let Her Go,” which hit No. 1 in over 20 charts worldwide and was nominated at the Brit Awards for British Single of the Year and the Ivor Novello Award for Most Performed Work in 2014. Passenger’s other hits include “Heart’s on Fire,” and “Somebody’s Love,” among others. Tickets are priced at PhP6,913 for Premium Gold; PhP5,849 for VIP 1; PhP4,786 for VIP 2A; PhP4,254 for VIP 2B-2C; PhP3,722 for VIP 3; PhP2,659 for Balcony A; PhP1,595 for Balcony B.

Z Hostel Eclectic DJ sets, throwbacks to 90s hip-hop and R&B, and Sunday Slowdown sessions—it’s a different vibe everyday at the formerly secret Makati rooftop bar.

12 Monkeys Probably the best live music venue in Makati today with its posh interiors, excellent grub, and wide selection of drinks – and of course, it also helps that best local acts can regularly be found at 12 Monkeys.

The Brewery You probably know about their fine selection of in-house brewed craft beers, but you should also know that their stable of regular performers make for the perfect beer match.

5660, Don Pedro St., Barangay Poblacion, Makati. Follow them on FB and IG @zhostelph

5th Floor, Century City Mall, Kalayaan Ave., Makati. Follow them on FB and IG @12monkeysph

10th Ave. cor. 38th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. Follow them on FB @ thebreweryatthepalace and IG @thebreweryph

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jan. 18

Bryan Adams: Get Up Tour

feb. 11

Goo Goo Dolls Live in Manila

Jan. 18, Smart Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City; tickets are available at www. and all TicketNet outlets; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 911-5555

Feb. 11; Smart Araneta Coliseum; tickets are available at all TicketNet outlets nationwide; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 911-5555 or visit

Fans of 80s nostalgia are in for a treat as Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Bryan Adams brings his raspy vocal stylings to the Smart Araneta Coliseum as part of his Get Up World Tour.

Nineties alternative rock outfit Goo Goo Dolls is headed to Manila for the very first time this 2017, promising to treat fans to a night of their anthemic hits.

Sing along with his fusion of rock anthems and power ballads as he performs hits like “Heaven,” “I Do It for You,” “Please Forgive Me”, “Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman”, “Here I Am”, “Straight From The Heart”, “Do I Have To Say The Words,” and a whole lot more. Tickets are priced at PhP8,930 for VIP; PhP6,830 for Patron A; PhP5,780 for Patron B; PgP3,940 for Lower Box; PhP2,630 for Upper Box; and PhP1,050 for General Admission. For SVIP ticket, call (02) 374-9999 for the ticket price.

Founding members of the Buffallo, New York-based band John Rzeznik (guitars and vocals) and Robby Takac (bass) bring their distinct sound to the Smart Araneta Coliseum with hits like “Name,” Slide,” “Naked,” “All That You Are,” and the smash alternative ballad “Iris.” The Manila leg of their tour is part of their promotion of the band’s 11th studio effort “Boxes,” featuring the single “So Alive.” Tickets are priced at PhP7,000 for VIP; PhP6,000 for Patron; PhP5,000 for Lower Box; PhP3,000 for Upper Box; and PhP1,200 for General Admission.

feb. 25

James Taylor with his All-Star Band

Feb. 25; Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City; tickets are available at; for ticket inquiries, call (02) 470-2222 Ovation Productions brings award-winning music icon James Taylor, together with his all-star band, back to Manila for a onenight concert this February. The American singer-songwriter has sold over 100 million albums throughout his career and has earned 40 gold, platinum, and multi-

feb. 14

Prom Night with David Pomeranz

Feb 14, 2016; The Manila Hotel; For more information, call (0916) 639-2291. Tickets are available at www.ticketnet. and all TicketNet outlets; call (02) 911-5555. Pinoys just can’t seem to get enough of David Pomeranz, and vice versa. The American singer is back at it again, this time serenading fans on Valentine’s Day. Celebrate an evening of love and music at The Manila Hotel with his greatest hits that include, “Got to Believe in Magic,” “King and Queen of Hearts,” “If You Walked Away,” “The Old Songs,” “Undying Admiration,” “Born For You,” to name a few. Tickets are priced at PhP5,500 for Premier (inclusive of dinner buffet); PhP4,500 for Deluxe (inclusive of dinner buffet); PhP2,500 for Patron A (show only); PhP2,000 for Patron B (show only); and PhP1,500 for General Admission (show only).

platinum awards, as well as multiple Grammy Awards. Troop down to the Mall of Asia Arena to sing along as he performs live hits like “Fire and Rain,” “Country Road,” “Something in the Way She Moves,” “Shower the People,” “Carolina In My Mind,” among other beloved tunes. Tickets are priced at PhP14,260 for VVIP; PhP12,150 for VIP; PhP8,980 for Patron; PhP6,870 for Lower Box; PhP4,760 for Upper Box; and PhP2,120 for General Admission.

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8 apps to help make sense of the Manila madness Words by Timothy Jay Ibay and Via Baroma


Grab Grab Holdings Another alternative in the ride-sharing department, Grab has the largest pool of drivers in Southeast Asia—offering what they claim to be the fastest booking service for taxis, private cars and even motorbikes. The app also lets you share your location with your family and friends by tracking your ride, and be able to get to your destination with no worries.



If you don’t want to brave the Metro traffic to get your food fix, we got that covered too with Foodpanda. The app provides the most convenient and fastest way to order food from over 400 restaurants in Manila and Cebu City to satisfy any craving! Save your time and energy; and enjoy delicious food in the comfort of your home with this app. You can also get attractive deals and discounts with your favorite restaurants, as well as access to live status updates to track your food from the restaurant to your doorstep. Available on iOS, Windows and Android for free

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If driving in the Philippines is an act reserved only for the most intrepid souls, just try commuting via public transpo. tries to help make sense of the chaos by providing commute routes (buses, vans, jeepneys and trains) sourced from the Transportation Department. It also comes with step-by-step transit directions, fare estimates, and ETAs.

Available on iOS and Android for free

Foodpanda Foodpanda By Implication

Available on iOs and Android for free


Go Manila FIMD Envisioned to make life easy for both locals and tourists, Go Manila serves as a virtual tourist guide and a handy companion for commuters and travelers alike. Get full access to real time traffic livestream, locate and contact emergency locations and hotlines, and discover the historic capital of the Philippines. Spearheaded by the Manila City government, the app seeks to empower and engage its citizenry and visitors by making basic and essential services readily available right in your phones. Available on Android and Windows for free




HeyKuya Machine Ventures You’ve heard of virtual assistants, but with the Philippine internet connectivity still found wanting in terms of speed and coverage, HeyKuya, an SMS-based personal assistant, offers hassle-free services ranging from food deliveries, hotel or restaurant reservations, flight bookings and even sending flowers to your loved-ones without extra fees or hidden costs.


FormsPH OAP, Inc. As fun a place as the Philippines can be, it can be plenty infuriating when it comes to even the most basic of government services. Obtaining necessary government documents can be extremely confusing. FormsPH, an app designed by 21-year-old political science graduate Kemuel Clyde Belderol, took it upon himself to ease the confusion.

“We started HeyKuya to help save people time in the fast paced city life of Metro Manila. We want to socially contribute to the society and we want to help the Philippines to be an even more productive nation,” HeyKuya co-founder Shahab Shabibi said.

FormsPH provides key information about Philippine government documents, along with the requirements and steps to obtain them. The information are sourced from government websites and verified by a slew of online sources. The app also works offline once downloaded. Win!

Available for free

Available on Android for free

Headspace Headspace Inc. The daily grind can be an oft-madding routine. Fortunately, as with most things, there’s an app for that. Whether you’re at work or stuck in traffic, Headspace allows you to hit the refresh button with guided meditation techniques designed to fit busy modern lives. Practice the basics of meditation and mindfulness with Take10, the app’s free introductory series that comes with 10 sessions of 10 minutes each. Headspace is an award-winning meditation app that serves as a gym membership for the mind. Using proven meditation and mindfulness techniques, this app teaches you how to train your mind for a healthier, happier and more enjoyable life. Available on iOS, Android and Amazon for free


Laro Laro Inc. LARO is social platform that connects sports and fitness enthusiasts with one another by allowing people to organize or join pickup games anywhere in the country. Just login, select the sports or activities that interest you, and you’re all set. You’ll then be taken to a live feed where all user-generated games and activities (football friendlies, basketball scrimmages, yoga classes, etc.) are listed. “If nothing on your feed is to your liking, you can create your own game which other users can join,” explains LARO CEO and former Philippine Azkals star Anton del Rosario. Available on iOS and Android for free

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You might have a few Tagalog phrases in your back pocket. You may even get along well with the locals. But some things will remain lost in translation. One expat gives us a glimpse as to how.

Your name says a lot about you Words by Sandy Toplis / Art by Macjanry Imperio

It started back in May 2010 when I was living with my flat mate in France who kept pushing me to create a Facebook account. For one reason or another, I just could not bring myself to do it. He had just returned from a trip to Spain and had published his photos online. I was prodded to create an account on Facebook if I wanted to see his holiday snaps. The idea horrified me. Had we, as a people, really degenerated so far that we could not pass a bunch of photos around the room? Apparently yes, we had. Each person would have to view them on their own computer instead.

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Fortunately, that period of technological ineptitude did not last long. Smartphones and tablets shortly came to the rescue and saved us all from passing around laptops and looking over someone’s shoulder. As we were biologically meant to do, we are back to handing our photographs around the room again, albeit through the now omnipresent screens. The digital leap Anyway, fast forward a couple of months to July 2010 and jump over to technologically advanced Manila – the mobile phone capital of the world. It is an amazing place where even the homeless are tech-

savvy, and totally up on the latest gadgets. Everybody seems to have the latest model of their chosen smart device – making doing so appear like a necessity above food and drinks. I was in Manila and having a great time. But I was also traveling alone and keen to stay in touch with new contacts. So, I took the leap and finally surrendered to the Zuckerberg command. I gave in and created a Facebook account. It should be simple, shouldn’t it? Fill out your name and off you go. But nothing is ever that simple in my world. I was reluctant to use my birth certificate name, as I have never really enjoyed making life easier for stalkers. It was a tough decision, but finally I decided to use the alias ‘Sandy’ as my name. Problem solved. But then something happened that would prove to be a pivotal moment.


“Family name? Really, you need that? Ok, but you’re only getting the first letter, ok? Is that a deal?”

Penile code At the next major party I saw one of the girls I had photobombed last time out.

My computer said nothing, but I pressed the letter “T” anyway. The computer wasn’t happy. Facebook seems to discriminate against people who have only one letter as a family name. I needed to have at least two, so I hit another key and forgot all about it.

“Hoi! Why didn’t you add me? You promised!” “Kasi bastos ka! (You’re rude!) You’re bad!” “Why?” “Bastos ka!”

Scene zone I had a great summer in Manila – partying all over Quezon City, Taguig, Makati and Manila – out almost every night. I met so many fun and crazy people whose names I will never, ever remember.

And that was that. She was gone. She may or may not have been right about me being bastos, but how could she possibly have known? We had barely spoken!

The remix Back at the drawing board, I had to choose another name – this time more carefully. As many of my Filipino friends called me pasaway, baliw, gago, muret, ulol, matigas ulo (variants for “crazy,” “foolish,” or “stubborn”), I figured, I should use one of those. Now, I knew that most of those probably should not be used with new acquaintances, but pasaway had a funny ring to it and has a suitably daft follow-up too. Pasaway? Hindi po, pasa-load lang (pasa-load is the act of transferring mobile phone credits to someone else). So, that became my new name. I thereby rechristened myself Sandy Pasaway. And it was great. I was finally able to have my face tagged, made loads of new social media friends, kept my silly pasa-load joke and even went on a handful of dates. It was really fun for about a month and then, out of the blue – I began to receive some bizarre emails from England. Here is one of them:

The inability to have the memory of a smartphone betrays me as a foreigner (apart from the fair hair, bleached-white skin and big honker of course). Filipinos remember the names of everybody, forever, without exception. I know of one 29-year-old Filipino who instantly knew the names of an entire family he had met only once previously, 30 years earlier when he was nothing more than an erotic thought swimming around the bottom of his father’s bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen.

Oh My God! I don’t believe it! What happened to Sandy? When did it happen? He passed away? That’s terrible news!

As well as drinking a lot that summer, I also appeared in hundreds of photographs. I admit it, not all of them were by invitation. Some were stolen shots, others photobombs and some were photoshopped. But that was I learned the hard way that naming definitely my face in them yourself in a foreign language can leave all. Yes, my face was there, you somewhat culturally exposed but nobody ever tagged me. Nobody added me as a friend either. In fact, throughout the whole summer of 2010 nobody added me to anything. I felt that she had been a little unfair so I tried a different approach with somebody What had I done wrong? Had I slipped up else I recognised. culturally again? I had tried to do things right. I had used po in all the right places; “Excuse me, po? Kumusta ka? (How are kept smiling even when frustrated; shook you) Why didn’t you add me as a friend?” hands more lightly and for longer than I “Kasi bastos ka! Your name...” would have normally; wore jeans in the “My name? Sandy T?” mall; showered several times per day and “Sandy TT - Titi! ti-ti means penis!” even applied tawas to my sweaty armpits. I had done everything right, so what was So, there you go, I learned the hard going on? way that naming yourself in a foreign language can leave you somewhat I was determined to find out. culturally exposed.

As they say, you can’t please all of the people all of the time! About Sandy: Sandy refused to participate in French language lessons at school when he was 12. He infamously said, “I am English! I will never leave England and do not need to speak French!” Eleven years later, he would be seen on the beaches of Southern France nibbling cheese, supping wine and reading a French dictionary. That was just a stepping-stone. Within a handful of years, Sandy would find himself wearing his best flip-flop/ sando combo, sipping buko juice in Baclaran Market and telling stories in his best carabao Tagalog to anybody who would listen. He currently works as a web developer and sees the Philippines as a wonderful country to spend time in, and a great place to go very slightly crazy.

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Health begins with her Words by Tet D. Velasco / Art by Macjanry Imperio

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Get acquainted with health guru Sareena Dayaram and her site that provides health tips that go far beyond aesthetics


We promote real health versus aesthetic health

– it’s the go-to site for anyone who believes in staying fit the natural way

Sareena Dayaram is not your typical health buff who lives in the gym and couples it with a diet comprised of the free reign-grass fed-organic trends ilk. She loves sports and is conscious of what she puts in her body, but does not subscribe to fad diets, and refuses to equate perfect health with vanity.

or Mumbai,” she said.

A former business journalist and news anchor, Dayaram founded the two-year-old website called Health Begins with Her. In that short span, the site has gained a following with its proactive approach to wellness. Health Begins with Her’s extensive content that covers all aspects of health – nutrition, sports and fitness, beauty, technology, among other interesting features, also provides readers the heads up and special passes to fitness events and other healthrelated happenings.

“They are the gatekeepers of health,” Dayaram explained. “It’s a matriarchal society so what they know affects everyone. My Mom is a nutritionist and even as a child I knew it was important to eat vegetables and fruits. Some people switch to healthy eating as they get older, or when they get sick, I’ve been eating this way all my life.”

“We promote real health versus aesthetic health,“ Dayaram emphasized. “It’s the go-to site for anyone who believes in staying fit the natural way.” Adding, “We do not believe in short cuts. We are not exercising just to look good when we go to the beach. We want to be healthy and fit, because we want to live longer and to enjoy life.” Born and raised in the Philippines, Dayaram built the site when she moved back to Manila after spending years studying and working abroad. At 18, she went to the US to study Broadcasting Journalism at the University of Southern California. After completing her degree, she worked at ET – a financial news channel in Mumbai – first as producer, reporter and later as news anchor. After a few years, she joined Thomas Reuters in Singapore and then moved to its Hong Kong bureau. In time, she felt the need to be with her family and so she decided to come home and work for the family business – Visita Solutions, a payroll service company. “I love Manila. I grew up here. I am happy to have two sets of friends – my friends from India, and friends from the Philippines. Living in Manila is so much more ‘affordable’ compared to Singapore, Hong Kong

Matriarchal tribute Health Begins with Her is also a tribute to a mother’s important role in instilling healthy eating habits to each member of the family.

Aside from eating, her parents also encouraged her to take part in sports activities. “I was in the basketball team in high school and we traveled to different countries like Taipei and Bangkok to compete with other high school teams,” she shared. Nowadays, Dayaram enjoys tennis with friends as her recreational sport. She also has weekly gym sessions with her trainer. But life isn’t all exercise and healthy eating. Once in a while she rewards herself with a good desert especially after a challenging workout. “I still enjoy drinking Coke, and I like eating chocolates. But I do not have them every day. As long as it’s in moderation then it’s okay to have sugar once in a while,” she said. In between her tasks as the Marketing and Business Development officer for Visita Solutions, she finds time to meet with Health Begins with Her team. She plans to include a retail platform in the site, where fitness buffs can purchase apparel, fitness equipment and other sports related gadgets. In the meantime, checkout the site’s interesting finds like delectable vegan desserts, baking soda beauty hacks, organic make up and a slew of other tips towards a more mindful lifestyle. To level up your fitness knowledge, visit www.

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Read up on Bohol’s coming of age as a haven for topical luxury; and how Palawan – the “Philippines’ Last Frontier” – is more than just a destination, but a mission of exploration

Photo by Owen Ballesteros

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Palawan The Philippines’ Last Frontier

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Rich in endemic and indigenous flora and fauna, amazing marine life dwelling in glorious cerulean waters, delightfully delicious local fare, and that unique island folk warmth, Palawan is a true tropical gem. Find out why Palawan is more than just a destination, but an experience—a mission of exploration.

Words by Ching Dee / Photos by Leovic Arceta

Of the 7,107 islands in this blessed archipelago, without a doubt, Palawan stands out. In fact, it does a little more than stand out from the Philippine archipelago, as it’s been hailed the best island in the entire world three years in a row by premier publications Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure. A home in the heart of Palawan If you do find yourself in the bustling capital of Palawan, Puerto Princesa City, Expat recommends staying at Hotel Centro. Strategically located in the center of the town (hence their name), Hotel Centro is a mere 15 minutes away from the domestic airport and less than 10 minutes away from the soon-to-be-opened international airport. It is easily accessible from two hospitals, two major pasalubong (souvenir) centers, and just a few steps away from the one and only (at least for now) mall in Palawan.

(Top right)A small boat of tourists entering the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

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Hotel Centro boasts of 111 elegant and efficient guest rooms, including three spacious Family Suites (also perfect for groups of friends) and three romantic Honeymoon Suites. Because of its prime location, Hotel Centro is the hotel of choice for expats, business travelers, and even delegates of the recently concluded Balikatan (joint) Exercises between the US Armed Forces and the Philippines. Of special note are their Business Center, fully equipped gym, full-sized pool with jacuzzi, and special VIP lounge at the uppermost level of the hotel called the Sicily Club Lounge. Hotel Centro is also an ideal venue for intimate gatherings and huge parties with their Grand Ballroom and six separate function rooms.



Aside from their excellent facilities and their attentive staff, one of the biggest reasons why guests keep coming back to Hotel Centro is their glorious food at dining outlets Expressions Café, Soul Pool Bar, and their new al fresco dining option: the IG Noshery! From their modest but spot-on Breakfast Buffet (that omelet station churns out fluffy golden envelopes of egg-y goodness in minutes) to their a la carte meals (that grilled rosemary chicken was succulent and flavorful) to their very own version of the local favorite danggit lamayo (filleted fish marinated in their signature vinegar blend), it’s pretty easy to see why this humble hotel at the center of Puerto Princesa has made its way to every guest’s heart. Exploring the ‘Last Frontier’ Prepare for a completely hassle-free stay in one of the best islands in the world! Going to Puerto Princesa is possible any day because Cebu Pacific Air flies to Palawan, Cebu, and Iloilo nine times every day! And thanks to Hotel Centro’s 34 | expat


partnership with local tour operator Seasons 12 Travel & Tours, arranging city tours and island hopping trips are also a breeze! Guests can arrange their tours upon booking or upon arrival at the hotel. Seasons 12’s four-hour city tour includes the historic Plaza Cuartel, the Immaculate Conception Cathedral (home of the 106-year-old Diocese of Palawan), the informative Crocodile Farm and Wildlife Conservation Center, privately owned Mitra Ranch and its gorgeous view of the Puerto Princesa coastline, with the last stop being the delightfully quirky Baker’s Hill—a hit for foodies (they have a bake shop, pizzeria, and a Filipino restaurant!), kids, and the kids-at-heart with their colorful art installations around the park, which also uses recycled materials. Undoubtedly, the highlight of Puerto Princesa is still the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River – one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. From the city center, it takes about two hours to get to the small, sleepy village of Sabang where


the Underground River is located. From the port, a 20-minute boat ride will take you to the jump-off point of the Underground River, which has been declared a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site within the Saint Paul Mountain Range. The Puerto Princesa Underground River is 8.2 kilometers of majestic rock formations, which took centuries to make. Currently, only 4.3 kilometers is navigable by a small paddle boat. Since the cave is also

LOCAL SHORES SPOTTING > Puerto Princesa, Palawan

5 Stay Hotel Centro is located at San Pedro National Highway, Puerto Princesa City. For more information and reservations, contact their Manila office at (02) 555-1749, Palawan office at (048) 434-1110, (0917) 599-1912, email, or visit Get around To get in touch with Seasons 12 Travel & Tours, contact (048) 434-1937, (0998) 972-8687, or email

(1) Hotel Centro’s pool at night (2) Hotel Centro’s spacious guest rooms are both elegant and efficiently designed


(3) Ka Lui Seafood Restaurant is one of the best culinary destinations in the island; it is a taste of Filipino home culture with the freshest seafood offerings (4) Hotel Centro’s grilled rosemary chicken is succulent and flavorful (5) Baker’s Hill in Puerto Princesa is just one of the must-see places in the capital (6) Picturesque karst formations dominate the islands of Palawan (7) The view of the beach from Sabang Port on the way to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River (8) Centuries-old rock formations inside the Underground River


home to several species of bats and other creatures, it’s important to observe silence during the 45-minute tour of the cave. To further minimize noise, each guest is provided with an audio tour guide that relays truly fascinating information about the Underground Cave, the various rock formations (try to spot the face of Jesus and the gigantic melting candle), and the residents of the cave.


To be honest, we thought we’re just going to see some rocks here and there, but the Underground River was so much more than we imagined. It is impossible not to quietly utter “wow” as the boat takes you deeper into this gorgeous natural wonder.

Pro Tip: do not look up with an open mouth. Again, thousands of bats live inside the cave. We’re not sure if it’s the soothing music, the melodious voice of the narrators, the impenetrable darkness, the breathtaking centuries-old rock formations, or the calm of the water, but 45 minutes flew by quickly—just like our three days in the Philippines’ Last Frontier. There is so much more to do and see and eat and try this side of the country. With its ever changing cityscape and the aggressive preservation of its natural treasures, each trip back to Palawan will surely bring you new memories to cherish. expat | 35


Panglao Into the tropical lap of luxury Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Photos by Klara Fernandez and Bluewater Panglao

Bluewater’s lagoon-shaped pool is what greets you as you step into the resort. It is as inviting as it is soothing, any time of the day

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Credit it to the power of social media for making people’s travel snaps and stories that much more enticing – perhaps it’s the prevalence of cheaper airfares, or just maybe, it’s the paralyzing grip of the metro’s traffic that has led to more and more people wanting to step far beyond the babel of the urban daily grind. More likely, due to the combination of the above, there now exists an epidemic of having some permutation of “wanderlust” on people’s online bios. And while there have emerged a plethora of “it” destinations for local travelers, there remain a select fraternity of alluring tropical destinations that transcend travel trends and airfare promos. One of those is the central Visayan island of Bohol.

On the short hour-long flight to Tagbilaran, Bohol’s capital city, I read a well-written piece about the island likening Bohol of over five years ago to other popular holiday destinations’ quieter, plainer sister – pointing out that for all of its attractions and natural jewels, there seemed to be a pervading perception among tourists (particularly of the local ilk) that there were other destinations that possessed more of whatever it was they needed a fix of. But in recent years, something happened along the way. Maybe it was the promise of a new airport; perhaps it was the very way that the island was allowed to bask under the shadows of its more renowned island kindred; or it could be that people

(Top) Organic elegance that’s both innovative and functional was the design goal of the resort. Generous living spaces and cantilevered beds are staples of Bluewater’s warm and subtle sophistication. (Bottom) Another Bluewater staple is their Amuma Spa —Amuma being the Visayan word for “pamper” “indulge with every attention,” “comfort” or “care.” The experience, they say, is the celebration of the warm, gracious pampering islanders are known for. The result—a relaxed, rejuvenated you.

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began to realize that while there may be longer stretches of white sand beaches, more adrenaline-pumping machinations, and more diverse topography in other destinations, the plainer sister had quietly begun to master the art of subtle seduction – an allure that drew people in not exactly for what it had, but for the experience of what it seemed to be. Whatever you choose to credit it to, in 2016, Bohol now finds itself as a burgeoning haven for luxury resorts peddling the tempting charmed island life. Bluewater touch For 25 years, Bluewater Resorts has worked to develop a brand image that is built on a commitment to provide the unique Filipino lifestyle experience: warm, genuinely friendly, attentive without being intruding, and utterly relaxing.

(Top) It could be a romantic holiday, or one shared with the entire family; whichever company you bring to the resort, space and elegance are certainties (Left) This pool beside Aplaya Restaurant conveniently provides a glimpse of the Panglao seascape— dine, drink, lounge, repeat. (Bottom) Bluewater’s beachfront may be modest while the sun’s out, but it transforms into a romantic dining venue where regular live music can be enjoyed. An ideal setting, be it with a date or friends.

After honing their craft in Mactan and Sumilon islands in Cebu, Bluewater jumped into the promising Panglao tourism scene five years ago, just before a colony of luxury resorts began mushrooming southwest of Bohol. Bluewater Panglao was envisioned as a blueprint for the future of luxury in Bohol – a destination offering an opulent escape while paying homage to the island’s natural gifts and beauty. According to Bluewater Panglao designer Benji Reyes, the challenge in bringing this “blueprint” to life was in how they would introduce a unique design concept that blends seamlessly with the environment. The result is an organic elegance that’s equal parts innovative and functional.

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“There is a feel of luxurious sophistication, but not ‘stuffy.’ The atmosphere is kept friendly, comfortable and warm,” says Reyes. Charmed island life The subtle elegance in Bluewater Panglao’s organic ways becomes evident as soon as you step into the resort, with a lagoon-shaped pool sitting as the centerpiece between 46 Premier Deluxe rooms (all of which have their own private verandas with direct access to the pool). The perception and reality of a slower pace and generous space waste no time in inviting you to embrace the charm of island living.

(Top/Left) A visit to a pristine sandbar called Virgin Island is part of the standard island hopping tour offered in Panglao. If you’re lucky as we were, on your way there, you’ll be greeted by a jolly pod of dolphins. (Above) The lush and tranquil Loboc River is another popular, yet understated (and seemingly under-utilized) attraction in Bohol. The standard offering is an hour-long river cruise that includes a buffet lunch/dinner, but kayaking and standup paddle boarding are likewise available.

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Stay Bluewater Panglao is located at Sitio Daurong, Danao, Panglao Island, Bohol. For bookings and reservations, contact their Manila office at (02) 817-5751 or (02) 887-1348. For more information, visit

For larger groups, there are four Family Lofts, three One-Bedroom Villas and a TwoBedroom Villa (both villa types have their own private dipping pools)—whatever the size of the company you bring with to Bluewater Panglao, though, you can be sure that the resort’s organic elegance will make you feel right at home. A short walk through the lush gardens, past the villas and playground, takes you to Aplaya Restaurant where international and authentic local fare (along with exotic flavors made with fresh local products) are

in abundance. Aplaya has its own pool sitting right next to it, while the resort’s beachfront area accompanies your meal with Panglao’s seascape. In recent years, Panglao has seen the rise of massive resorts – the scales of which dwarf that of Bluewater’s – but soaking in the distinct Filipino experience Bluewater has mastered providing for over two decades, it doesn’t take long before you realize that size is just on paper, and has little to do with measuring the charmed island life experience.

Bluewater Panglao also offers Bohol Daydream—a special package perfect for those who would like to experience the resort just for a day. The package includes the resort entrance fee; 15-minute ATV use; access to the Aplaya pool and beach area; and PhP700 worth of food and beverage credits. Get around There are two types of basic tours in Bohol—one is the island hopping tour (which includes dolphin watching, sandbar hopping, snorkeling, among others), and the countryside tour (which includes a trip to the famed Chocolate Hills, as well as to Bohol Bee Farm).

(Top) If you wish to get a bit of sweat going before dipping in the resort’s pools, there are a slew of activities waiting to give you your endorphin fix – bike, kayak, stand-up paddleboard (even windsurf when nature allows) – all you need to do is ask. (Left) Aplaya Restaurant offers international and authentic local fare (which features exotic flavors made with fresh local products). Sitting next to an inviting pool, and just before the beach area, chances are its where you’ll spend most of your time when in Bluewater Panglao.

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Incredible as it may seem, just a year after a devastating earthquake hit, Nepal is already welcoming tourists back; Expat’s Vernon Prieto recounts the sights in the second installment of his Balkan Odyssey; while we give you a glimpse of the many possibilities in a Saipan second

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NEPAL Expat Associate Publisher Vernon Prieto recounts his experiences in Nepal as a first timer; how the South Asian country has already recovered from the devastating 2015 earthquake; and why it should be your next travel destination Words and photos by Vernon Prieto

The Bagmati River which flows through Pashupatinath is where the deceased (covered in yellow cloth) are dipped three times before cremation

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After the horrific earthquake that struck the landlocked former Himalayan Kingdom in April 2015, Nepal is very much ready to welcome visitors to experience the awesomeness that has constantly earned it a spot in travelers’ bucket lists of must-visit countries on earth. I have always dreamt of a cultural and spiritual holiday in Nepal, and I was able to fulfil this wish a few months ago after receiving an invitation from the Nepal Tourism Board, which was facilitated by the lovely Pamfa Devi Dhamala of Lantang Ri Trekking & Exploration. I decided to include Bangladesh in my itinerary since it is not far from Nepal, so I flew with one of my favorite carriers – Malaysia Airlines, which services both Bangladesh and Nepal. After spending two days in Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, I took a Biman Airlines flight to Nepal’s exciting capital city – Kathmandu.


Feast for the senses As soon as I stepped foot in Kathmandu, all my senses were agreeably awakened as it was colorful, chaotic, noisy, aromatic and bustling with so much energy. I noticed that the local people had two different facial characteristics: Tibeto-Burman and Indo-Aryan. In other words, some are what I would describe as Chinese-looking, while the others looked East Indian. Aside from modern clothing, men, depending on their ethnicity, wear tunics or robes, vests, loose-fitting trousers and “topi,” a wool hat, while women are clothed in sari-like garments called “guniu” as well as vibrant dresses from the different ethnic groups.

The first place to visit in the itinerary was Kathmandu’s lively Durbar Square. A Durbar Square refers to plazas facing the old royal palaces in the Kathmandu Valley’s three ancient kingdoms of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. It includes temples, courtyards, monuments, water fountains and other religious, administrative and decorative features. I was made aware that lots of construction work was going on to reconstruct the many destroyed palaces and temples. Since it was my first visit, I found everything to be so beautiful even in its ruined state. I guess I’ve seen so many ancient sites that the shambles looked quite wonderful to me. Probably someone who has seen the majesty of the Durbar Square before the earthquake would have a much different opinion than I. Nonetheless, it was terrific to see that much development in rebuilding has been achieved.

I looked forward to witnessing the progress made in rehabilitating the many historic structures that were damaged by the earthquake, including the many temples and buildings in the Kathmandu Valley that are part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list, but that had to wait until the following day.

Kumari legend Among the many interesting locations to visit in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square is the Kumari Ghar or House of the Living Goddess (Kumari). A Kumari in Nepal, is a pre-pubescent girl selected from the Newari community. The Kumari is worshiped and venerated by some of the country’s

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Hindus and Nepali Buddhists alike. There are numerous Kumaris all over Nepal but the most renowned is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu. The Kumari is believed to be the incarnation of Taleju – the chief protective deity of Nepal and is somewhat of a hybrid goddess – revered by believers of both Hinduism and Buddhism. An arduous selection of a new Kumari is launched as soon as the current Kumari has her first menstruation. Several legends narrate the tradition of the Kumari but the most accepted story is about King Jayaprakash Malla, the last king of the Malla Dynasty (12th to 17th century AD) who was supposed to have played a dice game called “ tripasa” with the goddess Taleju every night, with the stipulation that the king desist from divulging to anyone about their encounters. Unfortunately, the




(1) Kumari Ghar of House of the Living Goddess in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square (2) Pigeons fly above merchants selling bird seeds and souvenirs in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square (3) Oliva Sotelo and her husband Chandra Prakash Maharjan show off the delicious pan de sal they bake in their Eliz Chautari Cafe in Kirtipur (4) Kathmandu’s Thamel neighborhood is its vibrant tourist center (5) The Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini enshrines the traditional site of The Buddha’s birth (6) View of the Kathmandu Valley from Bagh Bairab Temple in Kirtipur (7) A Sadhu (religious ascetic or holy person) in Pashupatinath during the Janai Purnima Festival (8) A family rolls a set of prayer wheels in the complex of the Swayambhunath Temple



king’s wife followed him to his chambers one night and saw Taleju there. Angered, the goddess vowed that the king would have to search for her, incarnated as a little girl among the Newaris, if he wanted to see her again, and for her to protect his country. Of festivals, temples and revival We then drove to Kirtipur, an ancient city in the Kathmandu Valley five kilometers away from Kathmandu City. We were too early for the Bagh Bhairav Jatra festival, where an idol of the god Bagh Bhairav is paraded through the streets accompanied by bands, drummers and dancers, followed by the many devotees. The devotees would then walk around the Bagh Bhairab Temple 108 times for blessings of success and good health. There is a stunning view of the valley from the temple due to the city’s

high elevation. After exploring the other temples, I decided to buy a drink from a streetside bakeshop. To my utter surprise they were selling Pan de Sal, Spanish Bread and Pan de Coco, (Philippine bakery staples) so I concluded that there must be a Filipino in town. Indeed, there was a Filipina named Oliva Sotelo, married to a Nepali baker Chandra Prakash Maharjan. They met while working in a Gulf country, married and settled down in Chandra’s home town. Their delicious baked goods are sold to many local establishments like the hotel right above them and to walk-in customers. It was a joy to see a “kababayan” (compatriot) doing so well abroad. After a hearty lunch in the very local Nayan Restaurant, it was time to see the magnificent Swayambhunath, one of the holiest Buddhist shrines. It is also known as Monkey Temple due to the many monkeys that stay in the premises. It rests on a hillock and is the oldest stupa in Nepal. A stupa is a mound-like building housing the relics of Buddhist monks or nuns that is used as a place of meditation. I was again happy to see lots of completed repairs to monuments affected by the earthquake.

Dinner was spent with the executives of the Nepal Tourism Board, headed by its CEO Mr. Deepak Raj Joshi at the restaurant and shopping complex of the restored Baber Mahal Palace. The Tourism Board is working very hard to reinstate Nepal’s ranking as one of the world’s top holiday destinations after last year’s destructive earthquake. I got up early the following day for a visit to the fifth century Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal’s most sacred and holiest Hindu Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was a thrill because it was the annual Janai Purnima Festival – also known as the Raksha Bandhan festival, which was being observed across the nation that day. Like everyone else there, I had a Hindu priest tie a Raksha Bandhan (tie or knot of protection) around my right wrist. The sacred thread is believed to bring good luck. The temple complex is located on the banks of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists. The river is important because Hindus are cremated on the banks of this hallowed river, and Nepalese Hindu tradition dictates that the deceased must be dipped three times into the river before cremation so that the reincarnation cycle may cease. expat | 45



Auspicious timing After a very fascinating and amazing experience in Pashupatinath, it was time to go to the Boudhanath Stupa—one of the largest in the world and one of the most famous tourist attractions in Nepal. It is on the historic trade route from Tibet, and is here where Tibetan merchants rested and offered prayers for many centuries. Tibetan refugees settled around Boudhanath when they entered Nepal in the 1950s. The stupa suffered major damages during the earthquake but is undergoing major structural renovation. Interestingly, there was an important occasion being celebrated that day at the site. It was the coronation and enthronement ceremony of the eight Chiniya Lama, or Abbott of Boudhanath. A spectacular pageant with monks playing all kinds of instruments and devotees in intricate bright costumes, followed by the Chiniya Lama on a horsedrawn carriage, was the highlight of the event. Nepal’s Prime Minister and the Chinese Ambassador were guests of honor and I unabashedly forced my way to take photos of the dignitaries and the Chiniya Lama even with lots of security around.



Yamaraj, on this day. Customarily, every family who had a member die during the past year must participate in a procession through the streets of town leading a cow. If a cow is unavailable, then a young kid dressed as a cow is allowed as an alternate.

I was in for a treat that night as Pamfa invited me to a dinner with show at Bhohan Griha Restaurant. The restaurant’s name means “House of Food” and occupies a four-storey, 150-year-old mansion once owned by the priest of the royal court. It was nice to watch Nepalese dances and listen to authentic music as I dined on sumptuous Nepalese cuisine.

In Bhaktapur, instead of a cow, a chariot (taha macha), made of bamboo wrapped in cloth and displaying a photo and other possessions of the deceased, is transported by the families around town resulting in a long parade of chariots. Musicians and Ghinta Ginsi dancers follow the chariots and merry makers with painted faces and outrageous costumes as well as children dressed as gods and goddesses also participate in this jubilant festival.

On day four, we headed to the other ancient kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley called Bhaktapur. I was very lucky because I timed my visit when lots of festivals were being celebrated. The festival was the Gai Jatra which is celebrated in all parts of Nepal, though it is in Bhaktapur where it is most enjoyable. Literally, Gai Jatra means “Cow Festival” and people in ancient times started worshipping the god of death,

Buddha birthplace In the afternoon, I took a local flight to Pokhara—Nepal’s second largest city. Pokhara is a popular tourist destination boasting tranquil lakes, and the Annapurna Range with three out of the 10 highest mountains in the world as a backdrop. It was not the right season to take in the views because of the humidity, but I appreciated the charming Fishtail Lodge on Fewa Lake

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where I spent the night. From Pokhara, it was a long drive to Lumbini the next day. I was very eager to be in Lumbini because it is the actual birthplace of The Buddha. We got to Lumbini late in the afternoon so I decided to check out the border with India. It was busy with people going in and out from both directions, carrying merchandise they bought from either side of the border. In the morning, we drove to the sacred pilgrimage site of Maya Devi Temple which enshrines the traditional site of The Buddha’s birth. The site also has a sacred Bodhi tree, ruins of temples, a pond and Ashoka’s Pillar, which identified the place where The Buddha was born. Colorful Tibetan prayer flags and Korean lanterns are strung all over the gardens, especially


The most convenient way to fly to Nepal is on Malaysia Airlines’ daily service from Manila to Kathmandu via Kuala Lumpur. To book your Nepal adventure, contact:


Goldlink Travel & Tours 2nd Floor Siemkang Building, 280 Dasmarinas St., Binondo, Manila Phone: (02) 242-2200; (02) 313-6494; (02) 3103186 to 87 Fax: (02) 243-9174 e-mail:; enquiry@ website: Malaysia Airlines 23rd Floor, LKG Building, Ayala Avenue, Makati City



on the trees where a huge group of Sri Lankan pilgrims were meditating under the shade. The large monastic zone where only monasteries can be built is another fascinating attraction. Different countries with Buddhist communities have established their own monasteries showcasing their distinct styles of architecture. My favorites were those of Germany, Thailand, Nepal and Korea. Approved and recommended There was enough time for a few more sites to visit that afternoon after arriving from Lumbini by air, so we drove from the airport directly to Narayanhity Royal Palace where the infamous royal massacre occurred. On June 1, 2001, the then Crown Prince Dipendra killed 10 members his family, including his parents King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya. The King’s brother, Gyanenda, became king until 2008

(9) Gai Jatra Festival in Bhaktapur (10) Bhairava Nath Tepple in Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square (11) Nepal’s largest Boudhanath Stupa (12) The many stupas of the Swayambhunath Temple complex (13) Tranquil Fewa Lake in Pohkhara (14) The Shakyamuni Buddha Shrine in the Golden Temple of Patan (15) Baubles, bangles, beads and intricate bejeweled boxes handcrafted in Patan

when the Nepalese Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a republic and abolished the monarchy. We then went to Patan, the third of Kathmandu Valley’s three kingdoms. I really like Patan because it is known for its astounding tradition of arts and handicrafts. Starting at its splendid Durbar Square, I was able to browse through a myriad of shops selling the remarkable creations of master craftsmen. There were stores selling “thanka”– elaborate paintings on cotton or silk portraying Buddhist deities, scenes or mandala; singing bowls, jewelry, pashmina and silk products, embroideries and other handmade crafts. Unfortunately, it started to rain so we decided to shorten our stay in Patan and return to the hotel which is located in Thamel, a commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu and its tourist center for over four decades. The Dalai-

Phone: (02) 843-6674; (02)759-1478 e-mail: website: Malaysia Airlines is the national carrier of Malaysia, offering the best way to fly to, from and around Malaysia and the world. It is among the few airlines to have won both a Skytrax five-star rating and World’s Best Cabin Crew award. Malaysia Airlines takes their over 40,000 guests daily on memorable journeys inspired by Malaysia’s diverse richness. Since September 2015, the airline has been owned and operated by Malaysia Airlines Berhad. As a member of oneworld®, Malaysia Airlines and its partners in the global alliance offer a superior, seamless travel experience to more than 1,000 destinations in 150 plus countries, with special privileges and rewards for frequent flyers, including access to more than 650 airport lounges worldwide. Up to 90 destinations will be serviced across Asia, Africa, the Americas and the Middle East via a new codeshare partnership with Emirates, signed in early 2016.

La Hotel is a terrific Nepali designed and inspired boutique hotel in the heart of the tourist belt near shops and restaurants. The hotel service is second to none and the rooms are relaxing and tasteful. I would again stay there on my next visit to Nepal. So ended my Nepal adventure. Flying back to Manila in the comfort of a Malaysia Airlines flight, I realized that there are still many more places to discover in Nepal such as the cold desert in Mustang, National Parks including Chitwan and the earth’s highest peak – Mount Everest. I invite you to make Nepal your next travel destination You won’t regret it. expat | 47


Discover a place where time is leisurely lived out and enjoyed in chill, island paradise style “If you’re looking for high-rise condos and buildings, you won’t find those here. We aren’t New York, nor would we want to be,” exclaimed Saipan local, Jorge – beaming, despite the ungodly hour – as he drove us from the airport to the Fiesta Resort in Garapan, the hub of activity in the laidback US Commonwealth. We had flown in on the red-eye, and darkness obscured the way to our tropical refuge away from home for our almost week-long foray into Saipan Island. By gracious invitation of the Marianas Visitors Authority, an exciting agenda, on the isle which would prove as

captivating as it was chill, lay in store. At daybreak, the breathtaking beauty of this paradisiacal place in the Northern Mariana Group of Islands unfolded before our eyes. And, just as Jorge had pointed out, there were no massive monstrosities of metal and mortar. Neither was there the din and cacophony of the big city, nor did time whizz by like the idiomatic New York minute. Instead, as we happily discovered, time undulated, second by second, in slow, graceful, blissful fashion, to the beat of island life’s primal rhythms.


Island, on the edge of the Marianas Trench

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In a

Saipan Second Words by Angie Duarte Photos by Andie Duarte Syyap

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Into the great, wide open With a total land area of 115.38 square kilometers, Saipan is fairly small. Yet the first thing that impresses you is its seeming vastness. Wide, open spaces stretch on far as the eye can see. Densely thicketed hills, mountain ranges, and forested cliffs jut into the stretch of sky, or drop down to meet seas of a vivid spectrum of blue. On a sunny day, of which there are many, the crystalline waters sparkle as precious jewels: hues of aquamarine, turquoise, and sapphire dazzle the eye and soothe the soul. Waves from the Saipan Channel and from the Marianas Trench, the world’s deepest ocean, hypnotically lap against sandy shores, belying the often strong currents beneath them. Forbidden Island lies at the very edge of the mysterious trench (hence, deemed taboo), and the panoramas afforded at the lookout point atop a nearby cliff are simply spectacular! Those of a more adventurous bent can hike down steep paths and take a dip within secluded – therefore, safer – natural pools within “forbidden” stone walls. In the interest of safety, it is best to go with a trained guide, such as those from Marianas Trekking, as the hike is of some difficulty. Enthralling views across the island are in no short supply: head over to Bird Island Lookout and take in the sweeping scenery, or make your way down a hundred-something steps (yes, you do have to make your way back up, again!) to marvel at the convergence of waters - often resplendent with a reflection of rainbow colors – and secret lagoons within The Grotto’s stony crags.


Adventure, naturally! One boat ride away, to the nearby islet of Mañagaha, unspoiled beaches of powdery white sand await, bearing the promise of great fun in the sun and surf. We went snorkeling in the nearby house reef, after which others in our group took to deeper waters for a session of introductory scuba diving. Parasailing allowed for a bird’s-eye view of the captivating environs, while a banana boat ride back to the resort made for the perfect way to end a day of adventure, served up naturally. A tip for those looking to enjoy Mañagaha minus what can be a madding crowd of tourists: wait until the last commercial boat leaves at 4 p.m., then the island will be all yours! But do this only if you have made prior arrangements for a private boat off the island; otherwise, you will find yourself marooned until morning. On land, a good way to see Saipan’s lush hills and mountains is by Utility Terrain Vehicle. Companies such as Let’s Go UTV Tours offer thrilling rides into verdant jungle-like terrain, all the way up to Saipan’s highest elevation – the peak of limestone-covered Mount Tapochau. Rising to a height of over 1,500 feet, the mountain offers a virtually limitless, 360-degree view of Saipan.

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(1) Blue waters, in all shades, approaching Mañagaha Island (2) Mañagaha Island is the perfect spot for beach bumming (3) Walking down to the Grotto (4) Sea life and shipwrecks, under the water’s surface (5) Breathtaking vistas at Bird Island Lookout (6) A remnant of typhoons past (7) Sapan trip organizers, Abs Ong and Keoni Hosono, muddy from the UTV ride (8) Off into the beautiful horizon, on Mañagaha Island

Truly, nature is awesome in Saipan, and those who inhabit the island stand in respect of both its beauty and its seasonal ferocity. The ravages of storms past are seen in undersea wrecks, as well as the occasional typhoon-torn ship stranded offshore. History, heritage, and high-rolling Aside from its underwater flora and fauna, Saipan is known for its many sunken wrecks. Scores of feet under the ocean’s surface, war-time ships and planes lie in watery doom. Ironically enough, these symbols of destruction now teem with life, having become home to an abundance of sea creatures. The sight is as eerie as it is enchanting, and I found myself holding my breath in wonder, several meters under the sea, on board the Deepstar Submarine.


History and heritage are showcased at the Last Command Post, which lends a glimpse into the Japanese occupation of the island. Nearby Suicide Cliff – from which thousands of Japanese soldiers are said to have jumped to their deaths, after having lost the war – and Banzai Cliff bear testament to a bygone era, and a continuing legacy. Yearly, hundreds of Japanese tourists visit these memorials to offer prayers for deceased ancestors.

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GLOBAL VIEW For heritage of a more artistic kind, Banana Painting with clan chief and local radio personality, Gordon Marciano, in his home in the idyllic little village of Falpi, is an entertaining must-do! Started nearly four decades ago by Marciano’s uncle, Douglas Rankin, printing and painting with the cells of a banana stalk is an art form that is unique to Saipan. Rankin has since passed, but his creative genius lives on through his nephew’s commitment to this clever, artsy expression. Cultural dinner shows are also rather popular, with the best of Polynesian and Micronesian dances featured at hotels like Fiesta and at Kenoa Resort. Meanwhile, those out for a more glitzy, Vegas-inspired pastime will find it at the Sand Castle Dream Theatre at the Hyatt Regency, where magician Jason Hudy wows audiences with his sleight of hand and glamorous follies revue. Fancy a game of chance? Then the gaming floor at the Sunshine Casino at T-Galleria is just the place to hobnob with high-rollers. Saipan has something for every traveler!


“A LOT can happen in a Saipan second. For when times moves slowly, you can chose to fill it, however you wish”


The chops for Chamorro cuisine While meals are most often enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home or backyard, Saipan is not without its share of delicious dining haunts. Chamorro cuisine, although a melting pot of many influences, is characterized by healthy ingredients and simple methods of cooking, such as roasting and baking in earthen ovens. My most favorite sampling of more traditional-style cooking was at The Shack, a quaint but super busy coffee shop along Beach Road. Orders flew off stovetops, and The Shack’s scrumptious version of customary Chicken Kelaguen (shredded chicken infused with lemon, grated red ginger and coconut, served in a flour flatbread or in a crepe) quickly found its way into my very satisfied stomach. There are several international restaurants, as well, with delicious Asian fare; among these, Costa Café at Aqua Resort, Kinpachi Japanese Restaurant, Café at the Park, and Himawari, all in the Garapan area.

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Expat tips

• Saipan’s tropical weather can sometimes


be unpredictable, but the best months to visit are generally from February to early June, which are the island’s summer months

• Need help mapping out your journey to

Saipan from the Philippines? Contact Abraham Ong of Aviareps for some assistance and valuable insight! Email him at

• Do remember that Saipan is a

Commonwealth of the United States of America, and those visiting must have either US citizenship, a valid US Visa or must hold a passport from a country that is a member of the Visa Waiver Program. Also, do double check on ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) regulations to find out if you need to apply for one. Better safe than sorry!


(9) Gordon Marciano schools us in the art of banana painting (10) Sweepong view from the peak of Mount Tapochau (11) Glen Hunter serves up The Local, delicious Chicken Kelaguen at The Shack (12) Deepstar’s Yellow Submarine allows visitrs to experience Saipan’s underwater life (13) Cultural dancers in traditional costume at the Fiesta Resort (14) Old cannons, which date back to the Japanese occupation of Saipan, at the Last Command Post

Where Ohana meets Shaka Saipan’s laid-back vibe is indeed infectious. Smiling faces greet you, with the shake of Shaka hands: hang loose is the order of the day, every day! The locals, Chamorro and Carolinian, alike, are no strangers to hard work, but are likewise well-acquainted with the values of enjoying life, especially in the company of family and friends. A strong sense of “ohana” – family, in the extended sense of the word – pervades daily life, and it is easy to feel a spirit of belonging and ease wherever you go. Admittedly, I was completely charmed by Saipan’s outward beauty, but totally taken in by its inward grace. So, what can happen in a Saipan second? You can shoot the breeze, climb a hill, dive in deep, do everything, or nothing at all, soar in the skies, splash in the surf, make friends, belong to a new family, lose yourself, find yourself, fall in love with life for the first time, or all over again. A LOT can happen in a Saipan second. For when times moves slowly, you can chose to fill it, however you wish. 14

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Expat Associate Publisher Vernon Prieto gives us a glimpse of the historical sites to marvel upon in the countries of Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia in the second leg of his Balkan Oddysey

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A Balkan Oddysey Second of 4 parts Words and photos by Vernon Prieto

In the previous issue, I wrote about beautiful and exciting Albania—considered by many to be Europe’s last frontier due to many years of isolation during its communist past. In the second part of this four-part Balkan series, I recount my adventures in Romania, Bulgaria and Macedonia. At Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, I experienced the first of many pleasant surprises that was to amaze me on that trip. As I was boarding for the flight to Bucharest, Romania’s vibrant capital city, I was thrilled to find out that

we were going to fly on Turkish Airlines’ 300th Aircraft— the Airbus 330-303. After a short flight of approximately one hour and 20 minutes, I arrived in Henri Coanda International Airport, and after clearing immigrations and customs formalities, was whisked to enchanting Sibiu, one of many walled cities built by the Transylvanian Saxons in the mid-12th century. The charming city has a distinct German character, with three squares dominated by churches and palaces and lined with colorful houses on cobblestoned streets.

The beautiful Council Square of Brasov, one of many Transylvanian Saxon Cities in Romania

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Traversing Transylvania From Sibiu, I traveled to Brasov, another Transylvanian Saxon City. The Transylvanian Saxons were German immigrants invited by Hungarian King Geza II to settle in Transylvania (which was then part of the Hungarian Kingdom) and defend the south eastern border of the kingdom. The Germans achieved administrative autonomy, and formed guilds of craftsmen and merchants which effectively brought the Saxon communities considerable power and wealth. I spent the night in Brasov and enjoyed the wonderful attractions of the city the following morning. Brasov is similar to Sibiu but I prefer Sibiu a bit more. That same morning, we drove to visit two of Transylvania’s many fortified churches, seven of which are inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The fortified churches were citadels built to play a defensive role during war. The townspeople would flee to them in times of invasion from marauding enemies like the Ottoman Turks. I visited the ones in Prejmer (UNESCO listed) and Harman. We made two other stops before reaching Bucharest. First stop was a visit to the infamous Bran Castle, the home of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, the fictional blood thirsty blue-blooded vampire. It was disappointing to know that the inspiration for Count Dracula, Vlad the Impaler (who had neither fangs nor a penchant to drink blood) never lived in the property. The castle, now a museum, was owned by the Hungarian monarchs, then the city of Brasov, and later the Kingdom of Romania. It was the favorite retreat of the last Queen Marie and is now owned by her heir, Princess Ileana. Next, we crossed from Transylvania to Walachia and stopped in Sinaia where stands the majestic Peles Castle, which was built by King Carol I between 1873 and 1914. Nestled in the Carpathian Mountains, the palace is considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces 56 | expat


in Europe. From there, we departed for Bucharest, the modern metropolis that still maintains its wide, tree-lined avenues and magnificent Belle Époque buildings. Romanian ostentation The best way to enjoy Bucharest is to stroll along Calea Victoriei or Victory Avenue and discover impressive edifices such as the Cantacuzino Palace, Military Club, National History Museum and the celebrated Revolution Square. Not far is the Lipscani District, a hodgepodge of various styles of architecture and home to cafes, antique shops and art galleries. There, I made several awesome discoveries like the ruins of the Old Princely Court where Vlad Dracula supposedly kept his prisoners; and the gorgeous Beer Cart Restaurant (Carul cu Bere) where I enjoyed a wonderful Romanian dinner. The neo-gothic designed restaurant opened in 1879 and is visited by some 2,500 customers a day, 40


percent of which are tourists. The next day, I made a quick stop at the colossal Parliament Palace, the symbol of the late dictator Ceausescu’s building megalomania. The building is considered the second largest office building after the Pentagon. Bidding Romania goodbye, we headed across the border to Ruse in Bulgaria. The appealing city is known for its preserved buildings from the 19th and 20th centuries. The city is also famous for the many outlet shops selling local fashions, as two of the city’s main industries are textiles and tailoring. Ruse is also the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage listed Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo, a complex of rock-hewn churches, monasteries, chapels, and cells established in the locality of Ivanovo village during the 12th century. The rock churches are decorated with outstanding frescoes depicting Gospel scenes.


(1) The Museum of Archeology, Agency of Electronic Communications and Financial Police Buildings on the other bank of the Vardar River in Skopje, Macedonia, (2) Tsarevets, a medieval stronghold in Veliko Turnovo in northern Bulgaria (3) The haunting Bran Castle in Transylvania, made famous in Bram Stoker’s fictional Gothic Horror novel “Dracula” (4) Colorful murals adorn one of the Rock-Hewn Churches of Ivanovo near Ruse, Bulgaria (5) The Presidency Building with The Council of Ministers Building in the background in Sofia, Bulgaria (6) Inside the solid walls of Harman Fortified Church in Harman Village, Romania (7) Ruins of a Roman Amphitheatre under the pedestrian street in Plovdiv, Bulgaria (8) The Monastery of Saint Ivan of Rila, better know as Rila Monastery in Bulgaria’s southeastern Rila Mountains


time to head out to the delightful Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital after a visit to one of Bulgaria’s most visited attractions – the beguiling Rila Monastery. Located in the Rila Mountains 117 kilometers from Sofia, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest monastery in Bulgaria and has been the guardian of the country’s Christian faith for centuries. The attractive buildings have a Mamluk influenced architectural style, with grand porticos, striped exteriors and domes.


Bulgarian bloom After a delicious lunch, we headed to Veliko Tarnovo, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The highlight of this captivating city is the medieval stronghold on a hill called Tsaravets – a fortress housing the royal and patriarchal palaces. A sound and light audio visual show is carried out in the evenings during the summer tourist season. Lights, music and church bells depict accounts of the fall of Veliko Tarnovo to the Ottomans, as well as other chapters in Bulgarian history. Day two in Bulgaria was a drive to Plovdiv with a stop in Kazanlak, the center of rose oil extraction in Bulgaria. The rose of Kazanlak is one of the most identifiable icons of the country. Everywhere around Kazanlak Valley are plantations of rose bushes displaying their pink or white blooms. Kazanlak is also the home of another UNESCO World Heritage Site


– Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak. The town also has a rose museum and lots of shops selling rose products like soaps, cosmetics, perfumes, sweets, teas, etc. The rest of the day was spent in the lovely city of Plovdiv. We started at the old part of the city, which was undergoing lots of sprucing up, getting ready for 2019 where it is set to be the European Capital of Culture. The new part of the city is modern, upbeat and has a large pedestrian mall with lots of designer shops and cafes – perfect for the traveler who needs his or her shopping fix. What was most interesting, which I also saw in Sofia the following day, are the ancient ruins of a humongous Roman Theatre under the shopping street which can be viewed from several areas along the thoroughfare. Exploring Sofia After spending a night in Plovdiv, it was

In Sofia, I stayed at the impressive Sofia Hotel Balkan, a Luxury Collection Hotel under the Starwoods brand. Oddly enough, the hotel is located in the same building as the President’s Palace. The building is part of the Largo Architectural Complex, which includes the Council of Ministries Building and the National Assembly of Bulgaria. In front of the edifices is the yellow cobblestoned Independence Square displaying the flags of the NATO countries. In the center courtyard, between the hotel and the Presidency, is the Church of Saint George, Sofia’s oldest church. Around the church are ruins from earlier centuries. The best way to explore the city is by foot. Under the city streets are ruins of the ancient Thracian and Roman city of Serdica, as well as the Church of Saint Petka of the Saddlers. These can be viewed from the underpass between the TZUM Department Store and the Sofia Hotel Balkan. Not far is the Banya Bashi Mosque, Sofia’s only functioning mosque. It was designed in 1576 by Mimar Sinan, the greatest Ottoman architect who also built the Sultan Selim Mosque in Edirne and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. A stone’s throw away is the Statue of Sveta Sofia, which was erected in 2000 in the spot once occupied by a statue of Lenin. expat | 57


GLOBAL VIEW SPOTTING > Romania, Bulgaria & Macedonia

Other sites worth visiting are the Alexander Nyevski Cathedral, National Historical Museum, Ivan Vazov National Theatre, the National Art Gallery and of course, the 10th century Church of Sts. Nicholas and Panteleimon – better known as Boyana Church – a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Sofia’s residential neighborhood of Boyana. Busty Macedonia After spending enough time in Sofia, it was time to go to Macedonia. We reached Skopje that same morning and I was agreeably shocked by what I saw. The Macedonian capital was like a theme park with so many gargantuan and lifesized statues of famous Macedonians. A mammoth statue of Alexander the Great takes center stage in the main town square. Around him are less enormous statues of other prominent figures. Across the Vardar river are the new government buildings accessed by the Eye and Art Bridges exhibiting statues of Macedonians of antiquity and more recent history. Aside from the statues, there were also numerous fountains around all the city squares. Across the old Stone Bridge in Karpos Rebellion Square are more statues, including a massive statue of Philip of Macedon. A short walk from here is Skopje’s captivating Old Bazaar which is deemed one of the oldest and largest Ottoman marketplaces in the Balkans. Looming above the city is the Kale Fortress, sitting on the highest point of the city.

The Memorial House of Saint Mother Teresa is not far from Macedonia Square. The saint is very famous in Skopje and the rest of Macedonia because she was born here in 1910. The memorial was built at the site of the former Sacred Heart of Jesus Church where Mother Teresa was baptized and where she took her First Holy Communion. It was inaugurated in 2009 and houses a museum displaying photographs and personal belongings of the saint, as well as a chapel. It is visited by many locals and tourists alike. Pearl of the Balkans I reserved my last day in Macedonia in the lakeside town of Ohrid – a wonderful place to end the holiday. The “Pearl of the Balkans” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the banks of tranquil Lake Ohrid, which is shared with Albania. In fact, you can see Albania on the other side of the shore. It was here in Ohrid where Saint Clement, a student of Saints Cyril and Methodius, simplified the Glagolitic alphabet before spreading it throughout the Slavic area. The simplified alphabet became known as Cyrillic because Saints Cyril and Methodius are credited with devising the original Glagolitic alphabet.

Turkish Airlines has been chosen as “Europe’s Best Airline” for the sixth consecutive year in the 2016 Skytrax World Airlines Awards. Skytrax is the most respected global airline passenger survey organisation in the industry and its World Airline Awards is described as “the Oscars of the aviation industry.” Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance network. To book your own Balkans Odyssey, contact: Rajah Travel Corporation 3/F 331 Building, 331 Sen. Gil Puyat Ave., Makati Telephone: (02) 894-0886 Facsimile: (02) 817-7903 e-mail: website: Turkish Airlines 14/F BDO Equitable Tower, 8751 Paseo de Roxas, Makati Telephone: (02) 894-5419 or (02) 894-5421 or (02) 864-0600 (reservations) or (02) 8545419 (sales) Telefax: 902) 864-0598 e-mail: or website:

Activities in Ohrid include all kinds of water sports, fishing and boating. Attractions include the old town, the ancient Roman Theatre, and the churches of Saint Sofia and St. Jovan Kaneo. Ohrid is also known for the fabulous Ohrid pearls. They are artificial pearls made from the scales of the plashica fish using a time tested technique from the Lake Baikal area of Russia. The pearls have the beauty and luster of a real pearl and can compete with the other more prominent international brands of imitation pearls. In the next part of this series, travel with me on my next Balkan Odyssey to Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

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The most convenient way to travel to the Balkans is via Turkish Airlines, which departs daily from Manila Terminal 1 at 9:30 p.m. and arrives in Istanbul at 4:30 a.m. the following morning with ample time to connect to any of the twice-daily flights to various capital cities and other key destinations in the Balkans. Turkish Airlines flies to Bucharest, Cluj and Constanta in Romania; Sofia and Varna in Bulgaria; and Skoje in Macedonia.

(Top) The Memorial House of Mother Teresa near Macedonia Square in Skopje (Left) Placid Lake Ohrid in Macedonia

URBAN GRIT While it is a term that can mean dirt, grit also means courage, resolve and strength of character. Similarly, some of the very things deemed “dirty” are also some of the traits, which give character. Such is the case for this metropolis – with its grit making the city come alive and come into its own unique identity. Have a gander at some of the elements of the grittier, edgier side of the Metro. “In the Clouds” by American artist Bunnie Reiss / Location: Mango Tree Bistro, BGC / Photo by: Andie Duarte Syyap

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(1) Charlotte by Los Angeles USA-based artist Nate Frizzell, Timezone building’s outer wall, Bonifacio High Street (2) An Anti-Pork Barrel mural at The Collective space in Malugay, Makati, buy street artists’ group, Gerilya



(3) Mother Nature by Dee Jae Pa’este, commissioned by Bonifacio Art Foundation

Painting the town red (and blue, and green, and…) Street art explodes across the Metro, in a kaleidoscope of color and creativity Words by Angie Duarte / Photos by Andie Duarte Syyap

There was a time when the writing on the walls was considered no more than mere vandalism; usually the work of revolutionary young radicals with a bone to pick with each other, with society, and with The Man. Though the writing on the walls has always been an expression – explicit or cryptic, licit or illicit – of something-or-other, today it is viewed as more than just that. It is a statement, yes (a LOUD and BOLD one); but it is also art form of the gritty, urban, public kind. No high brows and snooty critics here, thank you very much.

Maestro. Only, the street artist’s museum is not confined within the walls of a building; rather, showcased on the pedestals of urban landscapes, proudly emblazoned on just about any solid surface. And the audience is not limited to those who have access to the museums, but is as massbased as it gets. Street art is accessible and empowering, and has exploded across many cities of the world (such as in Georgetown in Penang, and Sao Paolo in Brazil) – including Metro Mania – in all its colorful, contemporary, gutsy glory.

Gone are the days when street art was frowned upon. Today, street art is appreciated with just about the same awe and wonderment as one feels when gazing upon prominent paintings in a “proper” museum. The street artist has found his or her place of recognition and respect on art world’s roster, alongside many a

Evolution of the art form Those well-versed in the interdisciplinary relations between society, culture and art generally agree that street art has its beginnings in 20th century graffiti, such as those that started appearing on city walls, public buildings, and even trains in New York in the early 1920s. Attributed to

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gangs, the graffiti of the time was usually an expression of rivalry between groups, or an anti-establishment form of rebellion. This mode of expression reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s, at which time it escalated to a socio-political movement. Graffiti became the voice of generally disconcerted youth culture, and what a colorful, eye-catching message this voice delivered. Soon enough, the “responsible adults” began to take notice of what the “juvenile delinquents” were doing, as graffiti became more and more visible, and more and more artistic. Photographers (such as American Martha Cooper) took interest. Shutterbugs of like mind– fascinated with this new, vibrant, vivid manner of assertive articulation – started taking pictures of graffiti. These photos quickly found their way onto gallery walls, and eventually, into





(4) Pangako by Anjo Bolarda Bonifacio High Street, Lane P, BHS (5) We are what we pretend to be by Nate Frizzell, R.O.X., Bonifacio High Street, facing 7th Avenue (6) Wonderland by artist collaboration Faile, One Global Place, 26th Street corner 5th Ave, BGC (7) Painted heart by Dee Jae Pa’este, Bonifacio High Street


people’s homes. Such was the beginning of the legitimization of an activity formerly deemed destructive and illegal. From anarchists to artists Today, much of street art still maintains its provocative tone and edgy nature. However, it is now, in most parts of the world, widely accepted as a legitimate form of modern art. Once seen as a work of anarchy and lawlessness, the “vandal” is now regarded as artist, in the true sense of the word. As is the case in other artistic methods, street art is an extension of the artist, and a reflection of his or her innate creativity. The spray paint can is the artist’s brush, an urban surface, his or her canvas, with and on which to set forth the visualization of a message. The imagery created is stunning, bombarding the senses, and provoking the mental faculties. Thanks to artists like Banksy, Vhils, BLU, Stinkfish, and Margaret Killgalen (Google is your friend, feel free to search and read about them!), to name but a few among many, street art has expanded from its graffiti origins. The


(8) Pilandok by Egg Fiasco, Bonifacio High Street, Lane P (BHS 4)

umbrella of street art now covers a variety of forms: stencils, murals, installations, 3D collages, billboards, prints, stickers, mosaics, performance art, and, more recently, video art. Art works range from smallscale projects (such as trash cans, and park benches), to full-on large-scale pieces (like the side of an entire building). To this end, some artists have banded together to collaborate, especially on massive pieces, which are virtually impossible to do alone.

parking access ways/tunnels at Ayala’s Glorietta Mall, Aguinaldo Highway in Bacoor, Cavite, to name a few spotsturned-galleries.

Local flair In Manila, street art has risen to new heights – literally and figuratively – over the last few years. Murals and large-scale projects bedeck high-rise city buildings, brightening the cityscape with their own unique aesthetic.

In recent years, a documentary filmmaker from the US, Kim Dryden, and a FilAm storyteller Austin Smith, crowdfunded Filipino Street Art Project. The documentary film and transmedia project delves into Metro Manila’s street art scene, narrating stories of the street artists from the perspective of their work. This project is a good source of information, for those wanting to learn more about street art on this side of the colorful globe.

Some great places to view Manila’s street art are all throughout Bonifacio Global City in Taguig (with work done by local and foreign artists, alike), especially along the High Street parking lots, The Collective on Malugay Street in Makati, the stretch of Goodfriend Bridge in Marikina, Nagtahan Bridge, DelaRosa walkway in Makati,

Popular street artists include Lee Salvador, a collective of artists known as Gerilya, Triskaideka Masuerte, KooKoo Ramos, Brian Barrios, Egg Fiasco, among many others on a lengthy list of fertile minds.

The best way to view street art? Park your vehicle, put on your walking shoes, and get ready for an eyeful of art. expat | 61


The urban inkchantress

Artist Camsy Valencia inkchants, with her modern-day skin masterpieces

Words by Angie Duarte / Photos by Macjanry Imperio Tattoo art photos by Eric Hotchkiss

I chat with artist Camsy Valencia above the familiar buzz of the tattoo gun. I got my first tattoo many moons ago, and to my ears, that whirring sound is always oddly comforting. As Valencia speaks, it becomes all the more evident to me that this waiflike beauty is more than mere ink artist; she is a modern-day enchantress, of sorts. An inkchantress, if you indulge me a play on words. Her talent captivates and enchants (inkchants!); her work transforms skin into enduring masterpieces of customized, highly meaningful art. Tattoos are empowering; healing, even. Most designs are well thought-out, and are extensions of a person’s soul and psyche; the hidden, made manifest in inked glory. Some designs are meant to help one move on from a traumatic experience; others, to honor an idol or loved-one; or to commemorate a milestone. Others, still, are meant as a protective talisman. Then, of course, there are tattoos commissioned for the sheer aesthetic value of having one’s very own piece of personalized wearable art. In Valencia’s hands, these designs are brought to life – beautifully, meticulously – and set free to unleash their almost mystical mojo; to fulfill the purpose for which they were created.

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Inkception Valencia started tattooing in 2009, after a four-year stint in the field of Multimedia Arts. She found herself hooked after she got her first piece, a custom design by Island Tattoo’s Tatu Peng, etched on the center of her back. “After I got my first tattoo, the thought of being the one holding the tattoo machine kept playing in my head,” Valencia shares. “So I got a kit, did a tat, loved it!” Although the decision came as a bit of a shock to her family – for whom, according

to Valencia, “Tattoos were not a ‘thing,’” the young artist persevered and pushed on, honing her craft under the tutelage of Peng, Gary Canlapan and other veteran tattooists at Island Tattoo. Inspired by the artful, eclectic styles of SakeTattooCrew (the biggest ink shop in Europe, based in Chelandri, Athens, and founded by graffiti artist, Sake), Valencia went on to develop her own signature look. “I do blackwork fusion of mandalas, geometrics, pointillism, and ornamental art,” she shares.

(Top) Camsy Valencia, with a steady and light hand, masterfully inks a custom blackwork mandala (on the lower shoulder), beginning with the process of tattooing the outline (Left) Valencia’s artful drawings and sketches, along with several of her past tattoo studies, decorate the walls of her studio


Inkvolution Eight years, 19 more tattoos (on herself), and hundreds of skin masterpieces later, Valencia has developed a strong cult following in the world of ink. She is a true creative soul, and her talent and flair extend to painting and drawing, as well as singing and playing the keyboard with a band called Auburn Anne. “I don’t think [I have] a specific type of clientele. But I have been getting a lot of yoga practitioners, ever since I started doing mandala art,” Valencia points out with a lighthearted laugh. “But I guess I can say that my clientele leans towards the professional end of the spectrum.” The fact that her clients are primarily from the professional field speaks volumes of the evolution of tattoos, in the last decade. Whereas inking one’s skin was once considered a dirty, illicit activity associated with criminals, rebels, and the dregs of society, it is now looked upon as a legitimate expression of art, for which “respectable” people are willing to part with more than just a few of their pretty pennies. “I’d say there’s a huge difference [in how tattoos are now perceived] from when I started being aware of tattoos. Now – and I’m sure most people have noticed this – you can’t walk 10 feet inside a mall without seeing someone with tattoos. Maybe even less [number of feet that you walk], since not all tattoos are visible to the naked eye,” she says. “But actually, what’s even more noticeable in the ‘evolution’ of the industry here in the Philippines is the abundance of talent and originality [among tattoo artists], nowadays,” adds Valencia.

(Clockwise from top left)Valencia, absorbed in the meticulous details of designing a custom tattoo; Carefully positioning the design stencil, with the help of fellow creative soul, Eric Hotchkiss; Two among many of Valencia’s artistic custom blackwork tattoos – an intricate back piece and a stunning arm piece

Inkchantment Valencia’s own artistic style has undergone great evolution, to become the inkspired art that it is today. Recently, she made a decision to focus solely on blackwork, for which she has gained much attention.

special of canvasses. “The most fulfilling part is being able to express my artistry using a more permanent medium. The most challenging? Having to hurt people to express said artistry,” she quips.

”I guess in my case it’s mainly just a matter of preference. Like a musician who decides to play only his or her favorite genre. My works used to be so colorful and I experimented on so many different styles. Now, my whole folio is very thematic and all blackwork art,” she explains. Nine of 10 designs which Valencia makes are customized and highly personalized for each client. “More often than not, the client approaches me with an idea, and I do the rest,” she notes.

Like any true artisan, Valencia does not rush her work, preferring to do tattoo pieces over a span of two or more sessions in order to ensure quality and proper healing. The process can be painstaking – pun definitely intended – but well worth the extra effort. She does not take on designs which she feels are not suited to her style of artistry, thereby minimizing any form of error or regret. With a light but steady hand, she brings forth her spellbinding forms of inkchantment, one careful line, dot, shape, or shade at a time.

This urban inkchantress is passionate about her art, and finds great fulfillment in being able to work her magic on the most

For more information on Camsy Valencia, visit her Facebook page @eclecticbaby

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The underground economy of the

Black Market

Step onto the thriving trading floor of one of Manila’s best urban haunts Words by Angie Duarte / Photos courtesy of Inez Moro and Black Market Manila

The black market, according to the Business Dictionary, is an “Illegal free market which flourishes in economies where consumer goods are scarce or are heavily taxed.” It is further defined by economist Edgar Feige as an “underground or shadow economy,” which is “characterized by some form of noncompliant behavior with an institutional set of rules.” In Manila, Black Market is defined as a market that deals in unforgettable clubbing experiences. It is the club that defies the norm – thrilling and thriving, in so doing. So much so, in fact, that the hip nightspot has been ranked among the urban jungle’s top go-to places for some sizzling fun beyond the setting of the blazing tropical sun. And If dance, drink, and nearly downright decadent diversion were illegal activities, it would likely be safe to say that many folk would be willing – happy, even – to do the time for their crimes. 64 | expat

A club is born Black Market is not the newest club in town: it opened its doors to the fist pumping public in 2013, a bustling, boisterous baby birthed by husband-and-wife dynamo deities of dance, Anna Sobrepeña Ong and Erick (DJ Mulan) Ong. Black Market may not be the newest, but it is definitely among the most vibrant. On a scene where trendy clubs fade away quicker than the flash of a strobe light, a third anniversary (and going strong) is definitely something to rave about. The club’s initial conception began over a decade ago – 15 years ago, to be more precise – when Anna and Erick first got together. Theirs was a romance that was sparked at, ironically enough, a club. This affair of the heart eventually burned brightly into a business partnership, set to the not-so-ambient tunes of rock-solid rhythms and a frenzied volley of beats.

Black Market’s main floor showcases the hottest DJs and explodes with clubbers in sync with the music

“Let’s just say we sort of met in a club though friends. Six months later, we were married. That was 15 years ago,” shares Anna. From this union, their first club baby was born: B-Side at The Collective on Malugay Street in Makati. That baby quickly became the favorite child of musicians and music aficionados out for some live band tunes. Some years after B-Side, a second baby followed when Anna and Erick thought up another venue; one which offered something beyond the ordinary scene. They christened it Black Market. Elusive, eclectic, electrifying Together with their partners, among them DJs Red-I and Astrid, and Jeff Ong, Erick’s brother, Anna and Erick searched for the perfect spot, and found it an industrial warehouse tucked away off Chino Roces Extension in Makati. “After a few years of operating B-Side, Erick, Jeff and Red felt the need to open a venue that was focused on DJs and not just live bands. For months, we searched for the venue until Erick was confident that we found the right one,” says Anna. “Our next step would be to find the right mix of partners since we knew that we would need a good team to get this going,” Anna recounts. “As for the name,


(Clockwise, from top left) Black Market’s “hidden” speakeasy, Finders Keepers; Mao’s Den on the second level, packed to the lanterns with music and dance fiends; Anna Sobrepeña Ong (3rd from left) with the Zombettes, Ornussa Cadness and Sanya Smith; Erick “DJ Mulan” Ong on the deck

we felt that Black Market would embody what we wanted to create. And that was to create something that was not readily available just anywhere.” The end result is a club marked by a highly intoxicating, elusive and electrifying eclectic mix of music and merriment, with more than a touch of mayhem. The Market’s many moods Because Black Market plays, according to Anna, just about “anything, for as long as it’s good music and somewhat relevant to the times,” there is something for almost everyone’s clubbing preferences. The sheer number of genres and sub-genres that have emerged on the music scene is dizzying, but those who frequent Black Market know that only music that validates itself – meaning that, on some level, it is good music – makes it on the playlist. Different nights highlight different selections, all of which are first curated by the club’s partners or by guest DJs. Most of the action happens on the main floor, and explodes upward into the mezzanine, with its neon graffitipainted walls, and the surrounding steel catwalks and balconies.

“Black Market shows you the different personalities of the partners. You’ll see it through the different nights we have such as Bad Decisions, The Drop and Riot House. I think that is why it stands out, since our partners are composed of people who have been in the music or art industry since the 90s and we all share the same passion and vision,” Anna expounds. Commodities on the Market Aside from the main space, Black Market trades in other sought-after commodities. Clubbers looking for music that is, perhaps, a little more niche can hang out at Mao’s Den, a more intimate room on the second floor. Anna describes this Chinese lantern-lit venue as “just as crazy as the main floor” and one that is used on occasion for “artists who want to go on the deep end of their craft.” Those who prefer to chill over a cocktail (or three) choose to hang out at Black Market’s “hidden” speakeasy, Finders Keepers. Though full service is offered at the bar, patrons enjoy the cleverly concocted cocktails which play on the palate and pack a pleasing punch! As for club grub, Taqueria Real – which serves up bestselling tacos, burritos and quesadillas, among other Mexican eats – is right outside Black Market’s main doors. Angelo Mendez, among the club’s partners and the man in charge of the Taqueria notes the authenticity of the diner: “We’re ‘Makati’s Mexican-owned taco shop,’ as one of the owners is really from Mexico.”

When grime is good Yes, far as urban grit goes, Black Market is definitely among the grittiest and grimiest. But in a great way. The club and its owners have worked hard to achieve grit status, and show no signs of cleaning up. In fact, the good folk behind Black Market just recently opened a new club and bar; the former is called XX XX, and the latter, 20:20. “Both are pronounced twenty-twenty,” Anna says. “Still in the same area as Black Market but caters to a different audience,” she adds. Anna credits their success to other market traders – pioneers in the local clubbing scene – who have paved the way, before them. “There have been many before us who have paved the way: Kemistry, ABGs, Verve Room, to mention a few. These were the places where we all met and grew up in. There was a time where there were just a few spots that would take that narrow road, but these days it seems that there are more venues that offer not just the usual clubbing music. This for us is great! It feels like the city is starting to be a real city and not so sterile. A little grime is good.” And, a little grime goes a long way, on the Black Market. Black Market is located at Warehouse 5, La Fuerza Plaza, Chino Roces Ave., cor. Sabio St., San Lorenzo, Makati. For more information and for event schedules, visit expat | 65


Rest In Pieces:

In memory of discarded debris Words by Angie Duarte Photos courtesy of Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery

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This is the story of Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery, and their quest to raise urban junk from the dead

A keen eye for creativity and a knack for breathing new life into urban junk are talents possessed by the young, imaginative minds behind Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery; makers of custombuilt furniture and functional art. This shop is way more than your run-of-the-mill furniture atelier, and the folk behind it – collage artist Arlene Barbaza, architect Leah Sanchez (now based in Vancouver, Canada), and interior designer Binggoy de Ocampo – are far beyond your usual furniture makers. This shop is the Nirvana of customized furniture, and its founders are the demigods of junk’s afterlife: the life of repurposed existence. At Resurrection

Furniture and Found Objects Gallery, things that have been thrown out, deemed useless, declared dead, are brought back to life in fine form and function, as beautiful, useable eclectic pieces of highly artistic furniture. In the aftermath of a storm Resurrection’s origin story lies in the aftermath of what was among the most destructive storms to hit the Metro: Typhoon Ondoy. Those who remember will know that although winds were not as phenomenal as other tropical twisters, Ondoy brought with it massive amounts of rainfall, and flooding of Biblical proportions.


(Opposite page) The Upwrite-old piano made into a desk; lower part is now a cabinet (Top left) Hele (by Buccino De Ocampo and Resurrection Furniture) acrylic on wood the rectangular piece is the back of an old TV (Top right) Two thirds of the Resurrection design team,Arlene Barbaza and Binggoy de Ocampo (Bottom left) That’s So Coolcoffee table made from the shell of an old air conditioner top is a removable tray; with added drawers and shelves (Bottom right) Type Ko si Luz- lamp made from reclaimed wood and computer keyboard

We look at a piece of junk and explore the possibilities of what it can become, but always out of the box - not limiting ourselves to what can normally be done”

“It was around the time after Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, when we first thought of using scrap material to make furniture and accessories,” recounts de Ocampo. “So much waste was visible then, so we felt that it was a good idea. Apart from helping reduce waste, there is a certain charm in being able to use and update old stuff to make them appealing to a wider audience.” Two years after Sanchez and de Ocampo, friends and former classmates at the University of the Philippines, had set up shop to showcase their creative flair, they met Barbaza. Still propelled by thoughts of the typhoon, the idea of repurposing furniture became even more imminent. “We wanted a niche market, and it was Leah who initially suggested that we do repurposed furniture. Having just come from the Ondoy experience, it seemed

timely and appropriate,” shares de Ocampo. And so it came to be that the three artists got together for a common, noble – and, if you have seen what they can do, you might even call it divine – cause: to raise urban junk from the dead. Out of the box To do what they do best, Barbaza, Sanchez and de Ocampo have to think out of the box; way, way out of the box. In so doing, they have come up with pieces so seemingly offbeat, yet so undeniably useful. To boot, each piece is more than just mere furniture; each piece may very well be considered a work of art. “We look at a piece of junk and explore the possibilities of what it can become, but always out of the box; not limiting

ourselves to what can normally be done,” Barbaza points out. “We’d like to think that our furniture and accessories are functional art pieces.” “Our pieces are seldom thoroughly planned. Or even if we think we’ve thought of every detail of a design, we are never certain of the outcome, especially since we work with different types of discarded materials. Trial and error has already become part and parcel of our process,” she adds. Form + function Apart from the artistic edge worked into their furniture and accessories, Resurrection takes pride in the fact that their pieces are as reliable in function as they are eyecatching in form. “We have the luxury of giving more attention to form without sacrificing function,” Barbaza notes.

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Take it from the experts! Resurrection’s Top 5 Home Design and Decorating Tips: 1. Designing a room is much like doing a composition (musical or visual art)— the different elements in a room should highlight certain pieces or a focal point. 2. Practice restraint 3. The elements in a room should show your personality 4. Don’t be quick to throw away. Give objects around you a second look 5. Re-use things; no need to buy!

Among their more unique, functional creations are The Upwrite (a piano desk; the name is a marriage of write and upright), and the Key Latis (a sunburst mirror, made, in part, of piano keys; named for a play on the Filipino word kilatis, which means to scrutinize, as in one’s face in a mirror). Upon rebirth, after a production period of two to three weeks (although some pieces are more challenging and take longer to resurrect), the items are christened with clever names before they find their way into a new, usually eclectic, home. One person’s trash is Resurrection’s treasure We have all heard the saying, and we all know how it goes, but at Resurrection, this adage is taken to heart. The team is always on the lookout for what others have chucked, on the prowl “everywhere and anywhere,” as Barbaza puts it, or keeping an eye out for renovation projects and estate sales. They likewise source items from friends who are spring cleaning, downsizing, or moving homes. The team, of late, has been using a lot of computer parts, although in general they tend to use all sorts of scrap material, and odds and ends. Among these oddities which have been repurposed or integrated into new creations are CPUs, keyboards, ceiling fan parts, piano parts, old grillwork, old TV sets, and other sundries. “We really use whatever junk we come across!” Barbaza enthuses.

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In tune with the times The trend of repurposing furniture is an exciting one that has been taking the design world by storm, on a global scale. It is akin to bringing a bit of history into your home: be it the story told by an outdated computer, a worn-out piano, a vintage item or some other antique, and yes, even the tale of urban junk. This design aesthetic is not only a fresh and imaginative take on furniture, but also a move towards a greener and more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. It is an idea that is in tune with the times, and – here in the Philippines – Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery is among those at the helm of it. What started out as a small, niche market of clients has now expanded to include “people who think out of the box, who like unique items, who are more conscious about saving the environment, people who have a nostalgic bent for stuff of an earlier era where furniture was less mass-produced,” explains Barbaza. Out with the old, and in with the new? Not really. In this case, the old becomes the new, in the wondrous act of Resurrection. To learn more about Resurrection Furniture and Found Objects Gallery look them up on Facebook and on Instagram @resurrectionfurniture, or visit their showroom at 10A Alabama St., Quezon City.

(Left) Key Latis- mirror made from piano keys (Above) Les Monstres (by Diklap Aytin and Ysab for Resurrection Furniture) Acrylic enamel on discarded French window


Urban Revival can take on varying shapes – heritage conservation, shaping urban identity, inclusive mobility, community-driven enterprises, and even rural empowerment – but ultimately, it all boils down to a yearning for more livable cities we can all love to live in. The people, groups and places in the following pages exhibit the many aspects of working towards a better urban life. Photo by C. Jude Defensor

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ESCOLTA and the incubation of possibilities Long before the High Streets, Central Squares and Uptowns of the Bonifacio Global City ilk, there was Escolta—a street in the old downtown district of Binondo, Manila, which served as the premier business and commercial center of Manila for close to a century. Those days have long gone, with the remaining few structures that survived conflict and time standing merely as reminders of the area’s glamorous past. But a movement is simmering, powered by a community of kindred spirits, to revitalize old Manila through art, heritage, culture and community-driven enterprises. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Art by Macjanry Imperio / Photos courtesy Roberto Sylianteng

Trade history Its rich history goes deep—created in 1594, Escolta stands as one of the oldest streets in Manila. Strategically located parallel the Pasig River, the commerce that pervaded the area, which would remain synonymous with the street for centuries, traces back to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade when immigrant merchants peppered the area with a gamut of goods. During the American occupation, Escolta, once dubbed “Manila’s Queen of Streets,” was the capital city’s answer to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, with the dapper bourgeoisie flocking the streets’ myriad of shops and industries. But the 1945 Battle of Manila would not be kind to a number of the skyscrapers – art deco and neo-classical structures – and the flourishing trade in the area, which eventually led to the exodus of businesses from the district. The decades that followed saw Escolta and the Binondo area regress to a state far removed from its heydays filled with panache. That was then. But for a group of creatives, the future is now.

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Make Lab Set inside the First United Building (FUB, which in a previous life was the site of Berg’s—a posh shopping center in the 1930s described, among other things, as “a repository of delights”), the movement simmered a few years back with Saturday X Future—a weekend market that served as a space where artists and makers were given a platform to sell their crafts. Building on the momentum generated by Saturday X Future, it recently went through its next evolution—HUB Make Lab, which apart from being a retail space, serves as a business incubation arena for creative startups that also provides a launching pad in the mold of reasonably priced spaces—allowing local enterprises not only to showcase and sell their unique creations, but to become part of a community where they can participate in unique, creative exchanges. “There is no doubt that this movement will inspire other Filipinos to create their own initiatives despite the odds and minimal (or non-existent) financial support from the government,” says Jose Tong, artist, architect and co-proprietor of tropical lifestyle store General Merchandise. Environed by what remains of a structure built in 1928, HUB is an eclectic mash of ideas, ventures, and perhaps more importantly—possibilities.

both the community and the scene. “There are several things going on at the space. Saturdays usually have the most events; sometimes you get the chance to find hidden artworks around the building, and even projections onto other buildings,” shares artist/designer and HUB community member Twinkle Ferraren. “There’s a lot to uncover – sometimes there’s a sunset rooftop party (if you’re lucky), workshops, random events like poetry reading, Manila Nostalgia Nights and a lot more!” she adds, citing the artistic community, vendors and creative companies’ burgeoning initiatives that breathe new life into the area. Adds Tong, “The Philippines is notorious for its nondescript monstrous malls, which certainly are convenient, but are rather culturally bland and are screaming profit rather than inspiring nobler values such as community, culture, deep appreciation of history, livability of the city, national identity and support for local artists, craftsmen and their fledgling, but community-driven small enterprises.”

“If you’re the kind of traveler who is tired of the

generic basicness of malls and global brands, which you can certainly find in your home city, come to First United Building and discover locally made products by our dedicated makers, and immerse yourself in a more authentic and direct experience of the Filipino culture, both of the past and present”

For the pedestrian shopper, you can expect a myriad of crafts, from natural scents, homemade soaps, Kraft notebooks and Coptic journals to clothing lines, home accessories and various décor. But inevitably, with a wealth of creativity pervading the insides of FUB’s walls, the scene goes far beyond the consumption of artsy crafts and trinkets.

There’s also a museum that showcases the rich history of the area; a resto-pub offering local craft beers, a hidden coffee shop featuring brews using locally sourced beans, and regular events that nurture

The earnestness of the community to support each other, whilst also supporting the rekindling of Escolta street and the Binondo area – an important fabric of Old Manila’s glorious past – is unmistakable. And for both locals and foreigners, it is akin to walking the streets of a living, breathing museum – a four dimensional window to the past, and the possibilities of the future.

For more information, visit, or find them on facebook @thehubmakelab

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Metro spectral She’s been wont to say that in the abject pile of mess that is Metro Manila’s warped sense of urban development, instead of seeing failure, she envisions potential. For years, she has advocated revitalization of inner city neighborhoods and inclusive mobility. Now as the face of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s new phase, Julia Nebrija has the chance to walk the talk. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Art by Macjanry Imperio Additional photos courtesy of Julia Nebrija

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Urban planner and new assistant general manager for operations of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Julia Nebrija has only been in the country for eight years. Yet, as an avid biker (who continues to make the conscious choice not to own a car) and an even more zealous urban explorer, she probably knows the ins and outs of the metro better than many locals who have lived here all their lives. Despite the obvious hazards (and pollution), she has biked the Metro Manila loop (as part of a personal thesis she calls Project MNL); considers the Pasig River ferry her favorite mode of transport; found herself (momentarily) topless after engaging in the mortal combat that is riding the metro’s rail transit; and everyday, walks from her place in Rockwell to the MMDA office in Guadalupe – rendering her government assigned “driver,” a chaperone. Nebrija has an innate affinity for cities – even for a megacity like Metro Manila that many would be quick to dismiss as a

labyrinth of failures. In the multi-layered muddle that resulted from an approach marked by shortsighted strings of quick fixes, Nebrija opts to look beyond the failure. She sees possibilities. “Young, creative people everywhere are turning ‘problems’ into opportunities. In Escolta (a historic street in Old Manila), we’ve seen this in the last year with many new creative businesses taking root in the First United Building (FUB) and investing their time, energy and ideas to revitalizing that area,” Nebrija says, pointing out the ongoing redefinition of “public spaces” by enterprising creative types. HUB: Make Lab is the movement spearheading the next evolution of the re-imagining of the Escolta district. HUB, which calls the art deco 1928-built First United Building its home, has become an incubator for creatives to establish a semipermanent location for startup enterprises. And a vibrant example of the possibilities Nebrija envisions.

I think young people won’t wait for change to happen for them – the proactive ones are taking it upon themselves to create the types of urban lives they want, and are finding that through business initiatives, they can participate on an equal playing field

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I’m most proud of the awareness we’ve been able to build around our advocacies. You can regularly hear people say ‘we need to move people, not cars’ and even the term inclusive mobility has made it to APEC and the Senate. This is the accomplishment of many advocates over many years, and I’m proud to be a small part of that effort

“The Escolta area is ripe for revival,” says Seb P. De Jesus, owner and designer for 1372 Designs, which features KARITON – a venture that sells handmade journals, notebooks and other crafts made from recycled paper and various repurposed materials that would’ve otherwise been thrown away. “A number of creatives have already made Escolta their home. What drives them here is the history and heritage that Escolta carries. Not to mention, the competitive rental costs compared to Makati, Ortigas or BGC. Moreover, the area is full of possibilities for re-purposing and re-using the existing buildings.” Viva Manila As a board member and executive director of NGO VivaManila, Nebrija was part of a similar movement that built a community of kindred minds and spirits that worked together towards improving the creativity and livability of the city. “VivaManila started as a hashtag that my neighbors in Malate and I used to share why we love living where we live. People would always ask, ‘Why do you live in Malate?’ So we started using #vivamanila to tell why – beautiful sunsets, parks, interesting places to eat, cultural events. The hashtag turned into a few events and then we decided to launch Viva Manila.” Among VivaManila’s ongoing programs are Intramuros Pasyal—a car-free day in General Luna, Intramuros, where the group turns the street into a public space with markets, performances and various activities for all to experience and enjoy; Transitio – a commemoration of the Battle of 1945 – is an annual event that translates into a night of music, ritual and celebration for the Manila that can once again be; MNL Urban Design Festival is a collaboration with like-minded groups that features talks on urban design, tours, parties and other activities—all aimed at showcasing the issues and possibilities of Manila in a way that is both interesting and fun enough to engage a wider audience. “People make cities” – this is something Nebrija believes in deeply. So while it may

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take a while for Metro Manila to have proper sidewalks, bike lanes or pedestrianexclusive zones, she champions creating possibilities from what already exists. Be it abandoned buildings in Escolta or parking lots rendered empty during weekends, Nebrija believes one of the most important things in creating a more livable city, and one that has our own identity, is taking initiative.

coordination with local governments for “urban renewal.”

Adds Nebrija, “I think young people won’t wait for change to happen for them – the proactive ones are taking it upon themselves to create the types of urban lives they want, and are finding that through business initiatives, they can participate on an equal playing field. It may be hard to enact change through government, but it’s possible to start a small business and, at least in your corner of the city, put your ideas forward. This has the power to be a great multiplier.”

“Now that I’m in MMDA, I have the chance to walk the talk. For years I’ve been chipping away at these issues as a consultant and an advocate. It’s totally different to be on the outside, suggesting ideal solutions. It’s another story to try and make it happen. But I think in a way, everything I’ve done until now has prepared me to take on this challenge,” Nebrija tells Expat.

And over the past 10 years, multiplied it has. Because of the need to localize both lifestyle and business due to the mobility constraints of the increasingly paralyzing traffic, almost each city has seen the emergence of similar urban revival movements—Maginhawa St. and Cubao X in Quezon City, Lilac Street in Marikina, Aguirre Avenue in Parañaque, Kapitolyo in Pasig, Poblacion in Makati, Intramuros, and parts of Malate/Ermita have steadily increased lifestyle options that have allowed its dwellers to stay in their own hood. “Neighborhoods are one of the most special parts of a city; it’s extremely valuable urban fabric. As of now, our concept of ‘center’ are the Central Business Districts. These ‘fringe’ areas are challenging the concept of what it means to be a desirable urban environment for living, working and playing,” she was once quoted. Walking the talk Under the new administration, the MMDA – which was previously tasked with the metro’s traffic management – has been repurposed to focus on solid waste management, flood control projects and

With her work as a consultant for communities, civil society organizations and government agencies—all of which were, in one way or another, aimed at creating a more livable Metro Manila—she now finds herself facing the perfect challenge for her background and passion.

Julia calls it an “amazing challenge” to finally be in a position to enact real change. And while there were far more lucrative posts she could’ve chosen over working for the government agency, she says it wouldn’t have made sense to have done all the work she has and not grab the opportunity to work within the MMDA platform. Expounds Nebrija, “I started working in the Philippines with an NGO doing livelihood projects in a dumpsite; now I oversee solid waste management for Metro Manila. One of my first consultancies with the World Bank was to conduct a post disaster needs assessment after Typhoon Ondoy in 2009; now I manage the flood and sewage management division. I’ve strongly advocated for sustainable, inclusive mobility and now I work with various agencies on traffic and transport for Metro Manila. As the list of responsibilities goes on – public health, safety, environment, planning – I find something to draw from my past experiences. “ For a growing number of Philippine residents, the change that came with the new administration may not have been the sort they had hoped for. But with a refocused MMDA, and a young mind eager to realize her gamut of ideas, the metroscape may well then be on its way to an urban revival we’ve all been praying to see.


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Beyond reconfiguring the babel of urbanized opportunities and shooting for greener pastures overseas, Chris Torrance envisions a paradigm shift to business models that empower rural Filipinos – a shift he believes will be the catalyst for real, countrywide change. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Photos by Kim Co Lim

Before the practice of outsourcing drove the industry’s operations to large-scale, mechanized production overseas, the Central Luzon province of Bulacan held the distinction of being the textile capital of the Philippines. Those days are long gone. In 2014, Chicago native Chris Torrance, came to these shores confident in his abilities to make a difference. Two years later, through Ambension Silk Enterprise, a small rural community in Angat, Bulacan is beginning to harvest the fruits of his vision, one silk scarf at a time. Expat sat down with Torrance to better understand how his silken dreams have reinvigorated the province’s textile industry, while empowering a group of rural Filipinos by encompassing the entire silk value chain within the Ambension business model.

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Weaving a revolution “Ambension is a small-scale startup with the lofty goal of revolutionizing and revitalizing the silk industry in the Philippines through the implementation of the Eri silkworm,” explained Torrance. “We consider ourselves a ‘farm-tofashion’ brand. We grow our own food for the silkworms (cassava and castor plant leaves). We raise our own Eri silkworms. We harvest and process our own silk cocoons. We spin the processed raw silk into hand spun yarn. Finally, we weave the yarn into finished products.” Part of the genius of this model allows for cassava farmers, who already use cassava tuber as a root crop


The notion that opportunity in the Philippines is only available in urban areas or outside the Philippines needs to be rejected. A re-framing of the issue to provide rural Filipinos with true opportunity to innovate and create will be the catalyst for real, countrywide change in the quality of life in the Philippines”

for sale, to have an additional revenue stream through the raising of Eri silkworms and harvesting Eri silk cocoons – all without damaging their root crop business. Said Torrance, ”The notion that opportunity in the Philippines is only available in urban areas or outside the Philippines needs to be rejected. A re-framing of the issue to provide rural Filipinos with true opportunity to innovate and create will be the catalyst for real, countrywide change in the quality of life in the Philippines.” Inclusive sustainability While outsiders may look at the model and hastily label it as a novel practice, Torrance is quick to point out that Ambension is a business first, above all else – and the social impacts, a natural byproduct of their model. And this inclusive sustainability – which allows income generation within the process itself – is key to the future success of Ambension.

“Our silkworm waste can be used as fertilizer for their root crops, cutting down on inorganic or expensive fertilizers. Our silkworm pupae can be used as a protein rich food source for fowl, which is present in many rural Filipino communities. Local

communities raising Eri silkworms can create multiple revenue streams from the cassava or castor plant. They are also independent of supply chain problems endemic in the Philippines,” furthered Torrance.

(Top) Artisans Lilibeth, Jenny, and Michelle creating new designs on Ambension’s compact and portable tabletop loom (Middle) Eri silkworms enjoying their first feeding of cassava leaves after hatching (Above)Eri silkworms are sorted into groups of 150 to eliminate overcrowding and to ease monitoring and recording

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We plan on proving that a small Filipino silk business can be globally competitive in the high fashion industry”

(Top) Ambension’s tabletop loom is safe to use in the home; thus allowing artisans to earn additional income while spending quality time with family (Above) Quality control checks are challenging with handmade products when inconsistencies are what makes each product unique (Left) Jenny, Michelle, and Lilibeth act not only as Ambension’s artisans, but also as brand ambassadors and future skill trainers

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Embracing pride and ownership The Ambension model may have proven to be viable in just two years, but as with most things, it took a process to get to the point they’re at now. And vital to its success was how the entire team bought into the idea. “Work was viewed as a repetitive activity that resulted in payment for services,” Torrance explained of the work environment that initially met him at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm (GKEF) in Bulacan. “We had a major problem with ‘Filipino time,’ or the notion that being late is just a part of Filipino culture. We had employees, but were not yet a team. Over time, an ownership of the model by everyone on our team evolved. To call it pride is too simple. But all of our team started to see the potential of our model, the quality of the product, and the desire by the public to either own our silk products or implement our model.”

“Once there was belief in the business, we began to see real change. Filipino time was all but eradicated. Our team wanted to be on time and working to ensure the quality of everything we did. The production of silk became a passion and not a profession. Our local Filipino artisans wanted to push the boundaries of what was possible with Eri silk. This involved creating new products and applications for the silk. This change was only possible with a true belief in what we are doing, and how we are doing it by everyone on our team,” he beamed, insisting on passing the credit for Ambension’s early success to his team. It is this very change in mindset – a paradigm shift, if you will – that Torrance sees as integral for real, large-scale change in the Philippines. He shared, “There is vast opportunity in the Philippines. True change in the rural Filipino mindset will not come from foreigners telling Filipinos that they can

be great. Inspiration is a wonderful thing if it is matched with hard work and action by those inspired. It is the position of Ambension that Filipinos know best how to motivate their fellow countrymen and women. To this end, we plan on proving that a small Filipino silk business can be globally competitive in the high fashion industry. Hopefully, this will inspire others to create, innovate, challenge the status quo, and dream bigger with or without foreign support. The resources are there, but it seems that foreigners are the ones taking advantage of them. I know this is a hard thing for many Filipinos, but don’t be shy! There is a whole wide world out there that needs to see what a country of 103 million is truly capable of.” For product updates and news on the Ambension team, follow them on Facebook and Instagram @ambensionsilk For more information and inquiries, email

The Ambension team enjoying the view from the GK Enchanted Farm. From left to right: Gino, Marlon, Michelle, Lilibeth, Jenny, and Chris.

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Nipping city limits in the bud

It’s a window to the many possibilities, and a medium that inspires thinking outside the box. As Metro Manila’s oft-suffocating density increases, creative ideas for better urban living are of the essence. The budding movement that is urban farming is one such idea. And Grow Urselph, who claims to be the Philippines’ first advanced garden center for indoor cultivation, has made it possible for everyone to make a difference with even just the tiniest of spaces. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Interview by Via Baroma / Photos courtesy of Grow Urselph

The seeds of the urban farming movement in Metro Manila have been planted for a while now. In Quezon City, the Joy of Urban Farming – a program launched in 2010 – continues to impart the values of growing your own food to emphasize health and nutrition, as well as a way to alleviate poverty. Starting with just three pilot farms, the local government re-purposed available areas into urban farms, which they scattered across barangays, public schools, and parishes, among other places. While not every city has followed the lead, and not everyone has access to these urban farms, a number of small companies have sprouted in recent years to further the movement – a few of which have brought in technology that allows for you to grow your own produce, even in a small corner of your condo.

People get inspired to think outside the box when they see what is actually possible. This is what urban farming teaches you to do—to look for new and exciting ways to grow, not only your plants, but also yourself.”

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Grow Urselph—a company founded by two garden enthusiasts—is one such company. Green change “We were always conscious of our food and how important it is to eat healthy. With the advancements in lighting technology and gardening techniques, we saw that it was possible to grow quality food in the comfort of your own home,” Grow Urselph’s Bernard Bechtold told Expat. Grow Urselph offers Microgreen Kits (which start at just PhP100) that allow you to grow radish, red beet, broccoli and alfalfa anywhere from one to two weeks. And you need not have an innate green thumb to do so. “People are surprised at the quality and the results of the crop you can grow in a controlled environment and small space,”

We believe that urban farming is the natural response to some of the problems occurring in cities. If we want to create an environment where we can live well together in harmony, we need to take a step back and look for solutions found in nature.”

shared Bechtold. “People get inspired to think outside the box when they see what is actually possible. This is what urban farming teaches you to do—to look for new and exciting ways to grow, not only your plants, but also yourself.” For more sophisticated setups, they also offer grow tents and LED grow lights (which can range from PhP15,000 to PhP50,000). The tents are made from superior 600D Mylar Reflective Fabric, which result in a grow tent that is not only more durable that most tents in the market, but allows for maximum light and electricity usage because of its reflective mylar material. The lessened heat buil-up also helps produce larger yields and higher quality crops. “We believe that urban farming is the natural response to come of the problems occurring in cities. If we want to create an environment where we can live well together in harmony, we need to take a step back and look for solutions found in nature,“ Bechtold added. Grow Urselph is in itself its own seed – one that looks to inspire people with the healthy self-sustainability and creativity brought about by urban farming; and one that aspires to create a leading chain of retail gardening centers. Said Bechtold, “We believe that by making more grow information and equipment accessible across the country, we can see more green change coming.” For more information on Grow Urselph, contact (02) 3726004, (0905) 273-7540, email, or visit

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Escuela Taller:

Preserving culture, building for the future At its core, it’s all about people. In a nutshell, they empower the Filipino youth by imparting with them skills to preserve Philippine built heritage, whilst instilling in them the sense of personal and national pride. This is Escuela Taller—and they are preserving culture by building towards the future. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay Photos courtesy of Escuela Taller

“Escuela Taller de Filipinas Foundation, Inc. (ETFFI) is a training center situated in Intramuros – the historical walled city of Manila. The main objective of this training center is to equip the youth with knowledge and specialized skills to help them uplift their economic status while focusing on the preservation of heritage structures,” ETFFI Communications and Special Projects Officer Isabel Pérez Gálvez tells Expat. Since it began its operations in 2009, the foundation has produced over 250 heritage restoration workers, comprised mostly of underprivileged out of school youth from Manila districts like Paco, the Baseco compound and Tondo. Adds Gálvez, “ETFFI provides them skills in traditional construction and conservation methods through the “learning by doing” concept of teaching, where the trainees participate in on-the-job training projects, restoring structures that belong to the community and to the Philippine heritage.” (Above) Trainees during the Electrical Workshop. Escuela Taller likewise promotes gender equality and the access of women to employment in the construction and restoration fields (Right) An Escuela Taller trainee at work at the Woodcarving Workshop. The Carpentry and Woodwork training program is designed to train workers in traditional carpentry works such as wood joinery and assembly for framing systems without the use of nails, as well as wood carving.

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p Escuela Taller graduates next to a restored heritage building, the Dauis Watchtower. In 2014, with the support of the Ayala Foundation, Inc., Escuela Taller launched a satellite training program for Traditional Masonry Construction and Restoration works in Dauis, Bohol


(Above) One of the biggest projects of Escuela Taller so far is the restoration of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish church exterior walls and doors. This hands-on training activity started in 2010 when a piece of stone fell from the exterior wall molding (Top right) Escuela Taller Batch 4 at Paco Park. In 2015, the National Parks and Development Committee requested technical assistance from Escuela Taller who performed sample maintenance works on the walls of the old cemetery as a hands-on activity of the graduates and trainees (Right) It’s been three years since a massive quake hit Bohol, yet a number of churches and structures are yet to be repaired. Escuela Taller looks to lend a hand with that.

Apart from giving the youth a renewed sense of purpose, these skilled workers, through participating in its protection, they likewise develop a sense of ownership of their own heritage—which uplifts cultural gratitude among citizens, and develops national pride. More importantly, Escuela Taller’s strategy guarantees an effective application of the required theoretical knowledge and gives them better access to employment following completion of the formation.

“The change in the aptitude and the outlook of ETFFI graduates after they graduate from Escuela Taller is one of the most fulfilling works. Through their newly acquired skills they are able to uplift their lives, start to believe more in themselves. The empowered youth is our reward,” Gálvez said when asked what the foundation deems most fulfilling about the work they do. And soon, Escuela Taller will be taking their empowering and pride-building act to Bohol—a province damaged by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake back in 2013—a good number of which were old churches and heritage structures embedded in the cultural fiber of its people. Throughout this issue on “Urban Revival,” the placed importance on sense of ownership and pride has emerged as a common thread between those pushing for a better Philippine quality of life. The way Escuela Taller services both the community – by preserving heritage structures that help define the local’ identity – and its students is truly a cause we should all get behind. To become Escuela Taller’s friend and partner, contact (02) 527-6623. For more information, visit

Photo by Klara Fernandez

The skills Masonry (34 days) Construction painting (17 days) Shielded metal arch welding (34 days) Electrical installation and maintenance (58 days) Plumbing (34 days)

ETFFI is a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) accredited training and assessment center. The above training services are available to all willing to pay PhP20,000 per course. TESDA also has the Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) as well as the Private Education Student Financial Assistance (PESFA), which awards free training services to qualified youths.

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Of heroes, heirlooms, and heritage Read up on how this unique Cebu hotel venerates Cebuano culture and legacy Words by Richard Ramos Photos courtesy of Palm Grass Hotel

While majority of tourists delight in dabbling in the local culture of the place they are visiting, it isn’t every day that one can learn about the culture without leaving their hotels. And we don’t mean reading a book or browsing the web on your mobile phone. An outlier in this regard is this seven-storey downtown hotel in Cebu, which houses more heritage facts and artifacts than many museums, and perhaps more than all hotels and resorts put together. As probably the only of its kind in the country (and certainly the only one in Cebu), Palm Grass Hotel has quietly made a name for itself through its distinct and unique corporate mantra, which venerates local Cebuano culture and legacy. Guests can’t help but be entranced by the nearbottomless pit of information and displays in the hotel, which include little-known trinkets, overlooked heroes, old pictures, quaint rooms, among other vibrant installations brimming with information.

(Top) Who needs a flowing fountain when you have the “banga” fountain? These clay pots, stacked atop each other, were once used by Cebuanos to carry and store water in the olden days

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In place of a lobby fountain is a “banga,” huge jars stacked atop each other from which water flows onto its base. No sofas around, but one may seat on a “galanera” – a traditional bench with a storage area beneath, where those with time to kill can indulge in any of the 30 plus books penned by local Cebu-based authors and writers. While you’re at it, do have a bite or two at the Kapihan ni Lumaya (Lumay’s Café), named after Rajamuda Lumaya who was said to have established the Rajahnate in Cebu. The grub From the menu, guests can have their pick of some of the top Cebuano dishes named after Cebu’s finest heroes. For soups, there are Tinowa nga Manok Bisaya ni Alejo Minoza (sour soup with Visayan chicken), Luy-a Dayaspora ni Alino (antioxidant), or Pangpagana ni P. Solon (a revitalizer); for mains, Expat recommends Gisadong Nukos ni Lapu-Lapu (squid), Kinilaw nga Isda ni Dagami, and Crispy Pata ni Guivelondo. Wash these down with health drinks such as Tropikal Kombinasyon ni Lucio Herrera, or the Bunga de Eskrambol ni Justine Pena (Pena was one of the three Katipuneros who sewed the original Philippine flag), or the Pangpapukaw ni I. Guivelondo (quite the awakener), named after a descendant of the owners. There are also modernday value meals available at rock-bottom rates. While enjoying the above, Cebuano songs and artists rule the centralized sound system. Heritage gallery The hotel has its own heritage coordinator, a charming girl named Quennie Alboro,


(Clockwise from left) All rooms exude Cebuano nostalgia by way of its meticulous design and bits of local and national trivia; Test your musical skills on the “kulintang” an ancient musical instrument consisting of gongs; The Galleria Independencia reveals a quick run-through of the three phases of Cebuano history; The rooftop offers cool relaxation by way of its cascading pool and a bar

who led me on an hour-long tour. Only then did I fully realize that there was so much I didn’t know about Cebuano culture and personalities that, as a proud local, I felt rather shamed. But then Alboro and I agreed that this was so because school textbooks focused mainly on Manila-based personalities for the past several decades, leaving little room for regional and local counterparts. A definite must-see is the second floor which hosts the Galleria Independencia, a mini-museum of sorts. This area highlights three different phases in Cebu history; pre-colonial, Spanish era, and the 1898 Cebu revolution as depicted in a timeline by Josua Cabrera, a local cartoonist. There were even glass etchings containing 300 names from a total of over 3,000 Katipuneros who rebelled against the Spaniards. As well, three function rooms are also available at reasonable rates. Alboro also informed me that the hotel guards don the “vestidora”— a white outer

vestment worn as an amulet by local hero Leon Kilat who believed it to be resistant to bullets. More amulets in metal form can also be viewed in an enclosed case at the Galleria. During the tour of the room categories, it was evident that all 79 rooms have that unmistakable aura of the past and the present. Walls behind the headboards are inscribed with a Philippine map and several historical facts in both Cebuano and English. This affords the non-Cebuano visitor a crash course on the Cebuano history and language as well. Modern-day amenities such as a flatscreen TVs, mini bar, shower facilities, among others, compliment the stately atmosphere. Take note that all floors are named after local martyrs and chieftains. Nightowls can head for Dagami, the hotel’s roofdeck bar, and enjoy drinks amidst the pool and waterfalls. Inaugurated just last September, the bar was named after Chief Dagami of Gabi (now known as

Cordova municipality) who revolted against Spain. One can find several mementos depicting local culture such as a balangay boat, cutlery, containers, native drinks, and such. I was lucky enough to have met Radel Paredes, a homegrown artist/sculptor/ teacher who also gave me a mini tour of the place Palm Grass Hotel is the first lodging facility in Cebu to offer a Sinulog Promo. Interested visitors have until Nov. 30, 2016 to book a room and enjoy discounts up to 50 percent off. Minimum stay is two nights from January 1 to 14, 2017. So best to book early in this accessible and strategic hotel situated just a minute’s walk from department stores, nightspots, fastfood outlets, and others. Expat tip: Most taxi drivers may not be familiar with the hotel. This may sound like a joke, but just tell the driver you wish to go to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Parlor along Junquera Street in the downtown area. Palm Grass Hotel is just a few seconds walk away. A sprawling parking area is available nearby.

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An advocate of fusing global aesthetics with Filipino sensibilities, Architect Jason Buensalido shares his thoughts on why local design should reflect its people’s identity



Why identity is important in urban fabric Words and photos by Jason Buensalido

Looking around Metro Manila, it’s hard not to miss the unplanned, uncoordinated and uncontrolled growth of the urban environment – exemplified by how formal communities and informal settlers’ colonies sprout in no build zones – such as on the banks of waste-clogged esteros (creeks), along eskenitas (extremely narrow alleys) and railroad tracks, and even in floodprone areas. Jason is the Chief Design Ambassador and Principal Architect of Buensalido Architects—a design firm committed to introducing fresh, bold, progressive and innovative concepts to the Philippine design setting. Along with his team, he bears the torch of contemporizing Filipino architecture and uplifting the local design scene with the goal to bring the nation global by staying true to their identity.

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Lack of infrastructure has resulted in poor quality of life for urban folk, who waste long hours in horrendous traffic, bear with inefficient public transport systems, and overall suffer from poor living conditions. All these are due to lack of foresight in planning, weak political will on the part of local authorities in implementing rules and regulations, and a corrupt government that allows violations of existing laws. Since discussing solutions to such problems and issues is not within the scope of this article, allow me to focus instead on how we can start being true to our collective identity and have this manifest in our urban spaces.

The search for urban cultural pride To begin with, the architectural designs that prevail in our cities do not reflect a distinct Filipino identity. We have Mediterraneanthemed homes pretending to exist in the Tuscan sun, or villages whose Swisschaletlike residences look absurd in the tropical heat. We have shopping malls that could have been lifted from canal-lined cities




(1) A spacious courtyard at the heart of this residence not only becomes an oasis for the users, but also functions as a source of light and ventilation for the spaces within the house (2) Weaving Functions: Architecture and Landscape are woven together to become one. Canopies of this propsed show flat transition into steps, allowing the community to use the building as a park (3) This hotel draws insipration from micro-scopic patterns in nature. Specifically, hexagonal patterns that one would see in beehives, turtle shells, bubbles, dragonfly’s wings, and even leaves (4) A Sunscreen wraps around this curvilinear theatre, protecting its interiors from heat gain (5) Visitors’ gaze are magnetized by the festive directional lines that clad the façade of this outdoor mall, piquing interest and inviting people to move through the linear park that the structures flank

in Europe and which might be better seen at theme parks. We have high-rise structures—patterned after glass towers in the West—that trap heat and humidity within their spaces. We are awed by the amazingly designed edifices in other countries, are inspired by these, and simply “copy and paste” these in our local settings with nary a thought about our country’s climate and weather patterns, our own cultural heritage, and our economy. We embrace anything foreign, thinking of it as better than our own, and this mentality clearly does not exempt architecture. This has led to property developers incessantly pursuing this direction, seemingly trapped in a vicious cycle. 4

With a bullish economy driven by OFW remittances and BPOs, the promise of a cleaner government, and a hoard of investors coming into the country, there will be a surge of urban development in the coming years, at a speed that we have never seen before. If we do not acknowledge the need for a strategic application of the Filipino identity in our environment, then the stuctures that will rise during this surge will continue to be pathetic copies of architecture in other countries— and we will miss our chance to stir a sense of national and cultural pride through our urban developments. We will continue to live amidst urban spaces that replicate foreign experiences, rather than exude an authentic sense of place that can only be felt here. 5

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It is, therefore, high time for all the stakeholders in urban revival to reflect a strong sense of ‘Filipino-ness’ in our spaces—be it open spaces, housing complexes, shopping malls, airports, or high-rise structures. We need to pool our thoughts and talents together to attain a truly uniqe Filipino experience in our cities in order to truly claim our place in the world as a unique destination. I admit that the idea of ‘Filipino Architecture’ is still loosely defined, especially in the contemporary context. Perhaps this is because we never pushed it to evolve as we allowed foreign-themed ideas to populate our cities. This is precisely why we need to collectively define it. That is what we, in my practice, are attempting to do. Though architecture is physical and tangible, we can step back and take the time to understand our collective traits as a culture—the non-tangible habits, patterns, behaviors, and beliefs—that are seen to manifest in all aspects of our identity. We call these Four Points of Filipino Culture in Architecture; and these are: Optimism, Personalization, Weaving, and Responsive Vernacular Models.


Optimism Living in a developing country, a large number of Filipinos are underprivileged, yet we manage to smile as we try to surmount our problems. We are one of the most optimistic people in the world, always choosing to see the bright side and hoping that we will overcome our trials in life. This is why our architecture needs to be aspirational and emotionally uplifting – symbolizing the Filipinos’ capacity to hope. Vibrant colors injected into urban experiences represent the Filipinos’ indomitable spirit. Just as our vintas (traditional boat from the island of Mindanao characterized by vibrant sails), jeepneys, fiestas, and baro’t saya (traditional garb) are smorgasbords of vibrant colors, we believe that color can be one of the strongest indications of Filipino-ness in architecture.


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(6) Stone-clad bands are woven in and out, up and down, and around the cylindrical shaped spaces of this cultural building, forming a unique architectural tapestry (7) The ceiling design functions as a visual cue for the visitors of the condo space to gaze through the space and eventually towards the panoramic views of the skyline as seen through the corner windows (8) Extracting the principles of the bahay na bato, the Sofia Townhomes was once dubbed as ‘The Most Beautiful Townhouse in the Philippines’ with its ‘wind walls’ or concrete fins that channel the wind to circulate deep into its interiors, and its deep overhangs that project shade and shadow over the glass fenestrations.


Personalization Filipinos have a penchant for stamping their identities in all sorts of things. Our jeepneys and tricycles, though bearing identical bodies, become our own when we adorn these with decorative stickers, borloloys (trinketry), and even colloquially humorous signs (like “Basta driver, sweet lover”). We concoct our own dips for chicken inasal (a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi, and those deadly red hot peppers) and decide how much patis (fish sauce) we put in our sinigang, or bagoong (shrimp paste) in our kare-kare. Because Filipinos love to personalize their experience of anything, the spirit of participating in the design and experience of our spaces should be captured in our urban fabric. 9

We need to pool our thoughts and talents together to attain a truly uniqe Filipino experience in our cities in order to truly claim our place in the world as a unique destination” 10

Weaving Weaving could be one word that encompasses the entirety of our culture. Our identities are woven from different cultures—our descendants migrated from all over Asia, and we were colonized by Spain (for more than 300 years!), the US and Japan. The combination of all of these hybrid identities is what makes us uniquely Pinoy. Weaving is also always evident in tangible culture: the banig (hand-woven mat), vinta, barong tagalog, baro’t saya, and the salakot (traditional widebrimmed hat). Even the traditional bahay kubo (nipa hut) is simply woven cogon or anahaw leaves applied in architecture. We should base our architectural gestures on the idea of weaving, of coming together as a community, to achieve a sense of recall about who we truly are.


(9) Surfaces are woven together in this simple yet elegant house – walls are woven with canopies, eaves are woven with walls – ultimately forming unique, well-ventilated open spaces where the family can interact and bond (10) A clubhouse for a premium subdivision in the south, the form of the structure roots from the topographic forms of the mountainscapes that surround the site (11) Existing in a themed subdivision, this house takes a defensive stance towards the immediate environment that cannot be controlled by the owner. This house is inward looking, oriented towards a central courtyard, resulting in a house whos back is facing the street, sheltering the spaces within from the uncontrollable urban environment.

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URBAN REVIVAL What we are saying is that this is how we understand our culture and this is how we apply it in our architecture, which others can adapt to or even improve on. We are likewise saying is that it is high time we lose the cultural inferiority complex, the third world victim complex, as well as the crab mentality, and start pooling our resources and talents together to try and discover what it means to be a Filipino in the contemporary setting, and to slowly but honestly reflect it in our urban spaces.


I believe that when there is a truly collective effort to do this, then the result will be an interesting conversion to a sense of national pride. This pride in identity—in being an authentic Filipino—has actually started to manifest in other local industries to varying degrees. Our quaint culture is now being flaunted in graphic design, in our export-worthy furniture, in the revival of heritage cuisine, in fashion, and even in

Responsive vernacular models We propose to extract the principles of responsiveness of the bahay kubo and the bahay na bato (stone house) and apply these to the contemporary setting. These vernacular architectural models responded to climate by employing natural ventilation strategies; the local culture of family by having large open spaces and flexible rooms; and even available technology (the bahay kubo used bamboo while the bahay na bato used mortar to bond stone). So why not ensure that all of our structures respond in the same way? However, since available technology and modern culture are different from those in the era of the bahay kubo, then the structures should also respond in a distinctly modern way. These points are not prescriptive definitions. We do not claim that when one follows these points, distinct Filipino Architecture will be the result.


hospitality. Other foreign cultures have seen this almost exotic authenticity and have patronized it. It is time for real estate, architecture, and urban design to follow suit. When we start building structures that are truly Filipino, people will realize that there is no need to look elsewhere for inspiring design. Visitors will flock to our country not just for our beaches, but also for a unique Filipino urban experience.


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(12) Personalized Houses form a vibrant atmosphere: Via shifting boxes that function either as porches or balconies, buyers are allowed to be part of the design process by allowing them to choose from a pre-selected pallette, their preferred color of their house, according to what is meaningful to them. The result is a festive collective atmosphere, where the sense of ownership is high and individualism is achieved (13) Ventanillas Re-invented: Similar to the ventanillas of the bahay na bato, slats wrap around the entire shell of this house. These contemporary re-interpretation of the ventanilla blocks direct heat but allows wind to cool the interiors, and gives privacy for the users within (14) Large communal spaces allow families to converge, encouraging and reflecting the family-orientedness of the Filipino culture.


Five talented local chefs display their flair for innovation by creating recipes exclusively for Expat and the spirit of Urban Revival; restaurateur/sommelier Paolo Nesi gives us the low down on the tricky craft of pairing Pinoy cuisine with wine; be privy to the perfect blend of coffee and community in southern Metro Manila; and experience old world charm combined with modern palates at Guevarra’s

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Reviving the

Classics a reawakening of the palate Words and photos by Ching Dee

Classic dishes have become classics for a reason: a culinary legacy, the preservation of a culture, a nostalgic glimpse into one’s culinary past. But every now and then, a few intrepid souls will come and take classic dishes to give them modern twists —a reawakening of the palate using familiar flavors with modern techniques and the flair for something new and exciting. In this issue, our guest chefs — a celebrity veteran chef, a MasterChef, the genius behind the only Filipino restaurant in Conde Nast’s “best restaurants in the world” list, a brave, experimental chef, and a self-made culinary success — created special dishes for Expat Travel & Lifestyle and shared their take on the urban revival of classic fares.

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chefs, dishes, ways to revive the classics

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Sau del Rosario Avant-garde Capampangan

As a young boy in Angeles City, Pampanga, Sau del Rosario regularly went to the market with his mother at five in the morning to get the freshest produce of the day. His mother taught him how to cook and respect food in the best possible way. By the age of five, he already knew how to make his own rellenong bangus (stuffed milk fish). Del Rosario grew up watching his father go to work as a professional chef every single day — even on holidays and weekends. The responsibilities of supporting a family with eight children pushed his father to work and miss some of the important events of their childhood. “I love my dad and I am grateful for his hard work, but I told myself, I don’t want to be like him… I don’t want to just work, work, work all the time,” del Rosario told Expat. At the University of the Philippines, he took up hotel and restaurant management and landed a front desk job in one of the most prestigious hotels in Metro Manila. While he enjoyed dressing up to the nines and meeting different kinds of people everyday, the call of the kitchen was just too strong to deny. He started helping out in the hotel kitchen during his free time. He would take off his coat and neatly fold his sleeves to get to work. It wasn’t long before the executive chef of the hotel noticed how much of a natural del Rosario was.

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And the rest, as they say, is history. In his 20-year culinary career, del Rosario has helped conceptualize and open dozens of successful restaurants and hotel outlets in the Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. But his classic French training and his love for robust Asian flavors have become his signature flair. Today, del Rosario is helping revive the culinary scene in his hometown of Angeles City. In December 2015, he opened his first concept restaurant Café Fleur in a beautifully restored 1898 Narciso home in the heritage district. Months later, the rest of the house opened and two concept restaurants were added: Leh-Leh and Babo. All three outlets offer avant-garde

Capampangan cuisine — del Rosario’s take on the nostalgic flavors of home but with a modern touch. “I do not want to bastardize our food, this is the food of my childhood,” he said. “But I also want to make it more relevant, give it my modern take, so that guests will have something new to try every time they visit Pampanga.” Now that he’s a lot older and richer in experience, del Rosario found a new appreciation for all the hard work his late father did. “Now I sort of know what it was like for him,” he shared. “I understand him better now. Why he had to give up some things for himself so we (his children) could have the best life possible.”


Bistek a la Café Fleur Ingredients Squeezed juice of two calamansis 4 tbsps soy sauce 2 tbsps Worcestershire 2 tsps sugar, salt and pepper to taste 4 pcs (150g each) beef tenderloin 2 tbsps butter 2 tbsps olive oil 2 tbsps red wine 1 onion 2 cloves garlic, chopped to four slices (25 g each) foie gras 2 whole mushrooms, sliced then grilled 8 tbsps sweet potato mashed, seasoned with salt and pepper + 2 tbsps butter and 2 tbsps olive oil for frying beef Some garnishes How to Marinate beef tenderloin with calamansi juice, soy sauce, garlic and Worcestershire overnight. The following day, heat frying pan greased with butter and olive oil. Fry beef on both sides and bake for 2-3 minutes in the oven at 325°F. Set-aside.

Using the same pan, add the marinade + 4 tbsps red wine until caramelized or reduced its quantity to half. Add more butter and season with salt and pepper.

I do not want to bastardize our food, this is the food of my childhood, but I also want to make it more relevant, give it my modern take, so that guests will have something new to try every time they visit Pampanga”

To assemble: scoop out sweet potato and embed the cooked beef. Pour the sauce on it and place the foie gras on top of the beef. Garnish it with mushrooms, onions, etc. Serve.

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Lica Ibarra Twist of culinary fate

Sitting behind her desk in a bank doing the same thing every single day, Lica Ibarra realized she was meant to do something else — something more. “I used to say, ‘this is it, I’m going to quit today,’ but I never did it,” Ibarra recalled, succumbing to the mundanity most of us face daily. The only thing that kept her sane was her stolen moments at work where she would watch cooking videos of her favorite chef, Heston Blumenthal, research about food, and study new techniques for her next potluck dinner. But as fate would have it, she would eventually give in to her best friend’s nudging to audition for the first season of MasterChef Asia. She made her audition tape with her young son and showed different facets of her personality: her love for her family, her passion for football (she used to be part of the national team), and her natural skills in the kitchen. It turns out those were the very things the judges were looking for. From one call back after another, Ibarra soon found herself on a plane flying to the MasterChef Asia kitchen in Singapore. Despite not winning the top prize, she went home with more cooking experience and knowledge than ever before.

until she woke up one day and rendered her resignation letter. She was out of the banking business in the same week.

“It was a huge learning experience for me,” Ibarra, a self-confessed sweet tooth, told Expat.

“I was worried because I just said goodbye to a stable income, but at the same time, I felt that I was doing the right thing,” she recalled.

“I mean, not just in terms of skills, but I also found out that I am capable of so much more. The challenges in real life may not be the same as the ones in the MasterChef kitchen, but it fueled me to keep on learning and experimenting.”

Weeks later, she was enjoying drinks with friends and started talking about opening their own restaurant — a place where they can pay homage to the greatness of Filipino food but with her unique modern touch.

Like the fire she used to cook remarkable dishes for the judges on MasterChef Asia, the fire inside Ibarra continued to burn

Roughly three months after that fateful night over a round of beers, Ibarra and her friends opened Kartilya — a refuge

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for “millennial Filipino food” in the heart of Bonifacio Global City. Her modern Pinoy dishes and dedication to making everything from scratch using the best ingredients took Kartilya from a newly opened restaurant to the talk of the town. Today, Ibarra spends most of her days working hard in the restaurant (she even said goodbye to her weekends in the football field), but she says that aside from taking care of her son, she has never felt more fulfilled than when she’s in the kitchen making delicious food for people to enjoy. “Everyday, I am so grateful that I get to do what I love for a living,” she said smiling. “It can get tiring, but I don’t mind. I know this is what I was born to do.”


Mango Crumble and S’mores Crumble RecipE 300g all-purpose flour 175g white sugar 200g butter, cubed at room temperature 90g walnuts, roughly chopped Pinch of salt How tO Pre-heat the oven to 190°C Mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until well combined Rub a few cubes of butter at a time into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs Place the chopped walnuts and mix well Spread the crumble mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown Mango Purée RecipE 2 ripe mangoes cut into chunks 75g sugar 25ml water How tO Combine mangoes, sugar and water in a blender and purée until smooth Italian Meringue RecipE

The challenges in real life may not be the same as the ones in the MasterChef kitchen, but it fueled me to keep on learning and experimenting”

200g white sugar 118ml water 4 egg whites 2g cream of tartar How tO Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Cook until sugar syrup registers 240°F on a candy thermometer. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar in a bowl until soft peaks form. This should take about 2 minutes. While the mixer is running, slowly drizzle in hot sugar syrup on a medium speed. Increase speed to high and whip until desired stiffness is achieved.

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Patrick Go Gustatory explorer

For Patrick Go, every dish is a story. Every ingredient tells a tale. Every chef, a storyteller. And Go tells a beautiful tale of adventurous Filipino-Chinese cuisine with a modern twist at the new Black Sheep in Makati. His love affair with food was casual at first — enjoying new restaurants and experimenting in the kitchen once in a while — until he realized working in the corporate world wasn’t for him. Go came from a family of bankers, but when he decided to pursue his culinary degree, his family supported him all the way. “This is the food I love, the flavors I grew up with,” Go tells Expat. “I came from a family of foodies. So, at a young age, I was already [exposed to different types of cuisine] and culture.” This strong familial support system is one of the reasons why he is so inspired to pay tribute to his family’s Chinese ancestry while embracing their Philippine home. “Chinese food is so diverse, there is a certain way that all these flavors go really well together. Meanwhile, Filipino food is so robust, very flavorful, yet very comforting. So why not combine the two?” After earning his culinary degree, he worked with chef Jordy Navarra at the old Black Sheep in Bonifacio Global City. When Navarra decided to open his own restaurant, he passed on the Black Sheep torch to Go — and he has kept the fire going. His menu at the new Black Sheep is both simple and complex at the same time. It contains less than 25 items, simplifying the choice for most diners. But the dishes in

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Chinese food is so diverse, there is a certain way that all these flavors go really well together. Meanwhile, Filipino food is so robust, very flavorful, yet very comforting. So why not combine the two?”

the menu are complex in terms of flavors, textures, preparation, and presentation. Go made sure each dish is well thought out and carefully executed every single time. “I love trying out new things, improvising usually leads to fun discoveries,” Go shared. He adds that just like most chefs, he hates waste, so he usually thinks of new ways to utilize ingredients and tools. Like how he uses onion and garlic peels to flavor the smoke and infuse meats with additional

layers of flavor. “You will just keep on doing the same thing over and over again unless you’re willing to explore new ways to enhance your skills,” Go says, sharing words of wisdom for aspiring chefs. “You have to be naturally curious and you have to be willing to try and, yes, even fail at times. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make you any less of a chef, it makes you a better one.”



Urban revival for me means highlighting something very cultural and traditional, and giving it a new perspective. This dish represents the merienda tradition of Filipinos where they usually have simple biscuits and spreads in the afternoon�

Urban Revivaal Tuna Kilawin with Lychee Ingredients Tuna loin 400g Sesame oil 20ml Rice vinegar 50ml Salt (to taste) Spring onions 50g Lychee 60g Cilantro 20g Plain biscuit/cracker Charcoal Coconut wood shavings Garlic/onion peel How to Cut tuna loin into small cubes Marinate and cure with vinegar, salt and sesame oil mixture Cure for 5 mins. Start the charcoal heat very low, and put the coconut wood shavings and garlic/onion peel on top until smoke appears Put tuna loin cubes in a small bowl and put on top of the smoking charcoal Cover the tuna for five minutes Mix smoked tuna with cubed lychee Serve on top of the crackers

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Nicco Santos Asian flavor love affair

He is the genius behind the only Filipino restaurant in Conde Nast’s “Best Restaurants in the World” list. He is the mind behind the most talked about restaurant concept in the metro, which features authentic Peranakan cuisine. He is Nicco Santos and he is a lover of robust, mouthwatering Asian flavors. At the now globally acclaimed Your Local — his first baby — Santos brought Singapore’s authentic cult-favorites like Chilli Crab and Chicken Rice to the Philippines and created an awardwinning bun out of Malaysia’s Beef Rendang. He also made an insanely elaborate Salmon Donburi with almost a dozen components of culinary perfection. At his newly opened restaurant in Bonifacio Global City, Hey Handsome, he brought full-bodied Malay flavors and lined up authentic Peranakan dishes in his carefully curated menu. He even named the restaurant after Singaporean hawkers’ favorite term of endearment for their patrons who patiently wait in line, similar to the Philippines’ “Hello, Pogi!” “These are flavors that I personally love,” Santos told Expat about his love affair with Asian flavors. “It was just a matter of [tweaking the recipe a little bit] to cater better to the Filipino palate.” In his travels, he never fails to get inspiration for possible combinations that’ll eventually give birth to culinary ideas. He believes that perfect balance

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between sweet, spicy, salty, and sour always hits the right spot every single time, no matter what country you’re in. Despite the boldness of his flavors and how adventurous his dishes are, Santos is a self-confessed introvert who makes a daily effort of coming out of his shell to interact with other people. “It’s a constant commitment to interact, to connect, because normally I will just stand in a corner and watch people,” he shared. “But I wanted to make things happen, I wanted to change things, so I knew I had to learn to communicate.” Mustering all the social strength he has, he

joined a seminar at the Asian Institute of Management. And since then, he’s learned how to connect with other people, which has led to a connection with his staff on a much deeper level. So proud is Santos of his team that he insists that the biggest factor that helped him decide to open Hey Handsome was to give his team an opportunity to get promoted — to level up their game. “I treat them as family,” Santos said. “We work together, we grow together... I have been with some of them long enough to see them learn the ropes and then excel at what they do... It makes me very proud to see them get better everyday.”


Char Kway Teow Ingredients 10g Ginger 10g Garlic 50ml Sweet soy 20ml Sesame oil 8ml Fish sauce Salt Pepper 100g Hofan noodles 5g Powdered Chinese sausage How to In a wok, sauté ginger and garlic until golden brown Add sweet soy, sesame oil and fish sauce. Saute for 2 minutes

Season with salt and pepper until we get our desired taste

We work together, we grow together... It makes me very proud to see them get better everyday”

When it has reduced and thickened up a little, toss in homemade Hofan noodles Turn off heat and plate immediately to avoid overcooking the noodles To finish it up, sprinkle a few powdered Chinese sausages on top

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Self-stewed success

Before JM Sunglao became a professional chef, he grew up turning life’s lemons into lemonades. His love affair with food started at a young age as a spectator-slash-apprentice under his own lola’s (grandmother) tutelage. His culinary career started by selling packed lunches from one office building to another in Angeles City, Pampanga. “I would go with my mother, selling packed lunches in offices,” Sunglao recalled. “Sometimes I would go alone. I’d take a small cart and fill it up with containers. I would walk under the sun just to sell all of it. It was really hard work, but I learned a lot.” The lack of spoons and platters of the silver ilk while growing up served as life lessons for the young chef-in-the-making. “At first, I felt really bad for so many reasons… But now, I realized I had to go through that phase in my life to be a better person,” he added. Being a natural in the kitchen, Sunglao joined a few cooking contests and emerged victorious in a number of them. He even took home the top prize in “Appetite Wars” by a famous publication. His genuine determination and passion for cooking enabled him to save up for culinary school, where he had to work more than he ever had — to do well in school and to keep himself in school. Because of this, he developed an elevated appreciation for the rougher path taken that has rewarded him with being able to do what he loves – and an understanding that absent favors and hand-me-downs, he’s earned everything he has, and learned eveything he knows through his resolve.

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Photo courtesy of Ian Gaffud

Sunglao also dabbled in the glitzy industry of male modeling and pageantry. In 2014, he represented the Philippines, and despite being a reluctant neophyte, took home the coveted title of Mr. Asian International – besting dozens of contestants from all over Asia, and landing a few print and ramp modeling gigs as a result. But when asked which career he loves more, Sunglao answered without skipping a beat. “I would much rather be a chef than a model,” he said with a contented smile. “Every time I’m in the kitchen, every time I’m cooking, I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is my purpose.” Sunglao — a self-confessed cheese

lover — has helped conceptualize several restaurant and food service businesses. From coming up with recipes, research and development, and delicious experimentation, he makes sure each dish has a touch of his signature style that he calls “Filipino innovative cuisine.” Today, he is also working on several restaurant concepts of his, as well as running a business he co-founded called Dr. Chefy, which makes fashionable yet functional customized aprons for culinary professionals. “I want to stay true to my roots,” Sunglao professed. “Whatever I do, I want to present my food and myself without pretensions — straightforward, honest, and down-right good.”


Cheesy Baked Caldereta with Roasted Truffled Bone Marrow Mashed potatoes IngredientS 4 pcs medium potatoes Water 2 tbsp butter (softened) 1/4 cup milk (warm) salt peppee How tO In a pot filled with water, put the potatoes and turn to boil. Make a fork test if they are soft enough. Drain the water Mash them up with a masher, then add butter Then add the warm milk, (you may not need all the milk). Mix well using a spatula. Season with salt and pepper Beef Caldereta Ingredients 1 kg Beef cut into cubes 1/2 cup Green olives 2 tbsp Olive oil 1 pc Green bell pepper cut in julienned cut 1 pc Red bell pepper 2 Cloves of garlic finely chopped 1 pc White onion chopped 300g Tomato sauce 1 tbsp Tomato paste 2 pcs Carrots cut into cubes 4 pcs Bayleaf

1 tbsp Peanut butter (optional) 1/4 cup Green peas 1 tsp Dried oregano 1 can Liver spread Salt Pepper 5 cups Water How tO Heat up a casserole with olive oil over low heat Sauté onions then garlic until translucent Turn the heat over medium heat, add the beef until they turn brown Add the bayleaf, oregano and pepper Add the tomato paste and mix well Add the water, cover and let it boil for 30mins (pressure cooker) 1 to1.5 hours for a regular casserole until fork tender. Check the meat occasionally, you may need to add water. Add peanut butter and liver spread. Mix well. Add the tomato sauce. Continue simmering until the meat absorbs the flavor of the sauce. Add the green peas, carrots, and bell peppers Season with salt and pepper, then simmer for another three minutes Turn off the fire, set aside and let it cool down

Truffled Roasted Bone Marrow and Arugula Salad

¾ cup Parmesan cheese 1 cup Mozzarella cheese

IngredientS 4 pcs Bone marrow cut in halves Salt Pepper 1 tbsp Truffle oil ½ cup Parsley 1 cup Baby arugula 4 pcs Sliced baguette ¼ cup Butter How to Preheat your oven to 400 F Put the marrow, cut side up in a baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper Roast for about 15 minutes. It’s ready when it starts to bubble around the edges. Drizzle with truffle oil and set aside Spread some butter to sliced baguettes and toast them Mix in arugula and parsley, drizzle with truffle oil and season with salt and pepper 4 Cheese topping

How to Mix in ricotta and cottage Mix in parmesan and mozzarella Baking the Cheezy Caldereta: In a small baking dish, layer the Caldereta up to the middle of the container Add the mashed potatoes and spread evenly using a knife Add the mixture ricotta and cottage, then top with mixture of parmesan and mozzarella Cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes Remove cover and bake again for another 12 minutes until the cheese melts and turn golden brown Remove the baked Caldereta from the oven Place the baked Caldereta on a plate; on the side, place the toasted breads and bone marrow topped with the salad Serve while hot

IngredientS 1/4 cup Ricotta Cheese 1/4 cup Cottage Cheese


I want to stay true to my roots, whatever I do, I want to present my food and myself without pretensions — straightforward, honest, and downright good”

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Expat contributor, restaurateur and sommelier Paolo Nesi, with decades of living in the Philippines under his belt, gives the lowdown on the oft-tricky business of pairing wines with Pinoy fare

Filipino food and wine pairing 101 Words by Paolo Nesi

in Filipino food is never on its own and is normally accompanied by either sweetness, saltiness (brine) and or hot spice. The last consideration that you need to remember is that Filipino food in general is neither heavy nor bold in flavor or structure, making the pair with those first growth wines almost impossible. So, to wrap up, when you eat Filipino food you have to take into consideration the following: Vinegar and soy sauce Acetic acids that will make wines taste less acidic and fruitier. Umami Makes the wines taste more bitter and accentuates the tannins and oak aging making it unbalanced. Texture Be careful about drinking wines with full body, high alcohol and high texture. Sequence I know that it is common to have most of the dishes brought in at whatever sequence in the middle of the table, but if you can, please ask your waiter to bring them in order of texture and structure with light dishes – vegetarian first, then fish, and white meat before the red meat so you avoid going back and forth with your wines as well (this, if you brought more than one wine style).

I am about to organize an International Wine & Food Society (IWFS) lunch at Abe for my fellow members and already got quite a few queries along the lines of “Wines with Filipino food? Seriously?” Yep! Seriously! Ok, here is the thing: so many people tend to match their “best” wines such as first growth Bordeaux or Grand Cru Burgundy with Filipino food and that, admittedly, is a hard task. But there are plenty of quality wines that fair well without breaking the bank.

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Filipino recipes often include vinegar, soy sauce and MSG (mono sodium glutamate), although the best restaurants replace the MSG with stock (broth) reductions. Vinegar and soy sauce are full of acetic acid that is hard to pair with wines, but in Filipino food, normally the vinegar is accompanied by sweetness, making the dish very mellow in acidity, and therefore easier to pair. MSG is the “culprit” of the taste that Japanese have singled out as umami (savory); this is another very hard taste to match with wines, but again the umami taste

Now that we came up with the broad basics, lets talk about the best wines to pair with specific Filipino dishes, but not before mentioning that taste buds are unique to individuals as their finger prints. Therefore, what might work for some will not work for others and the suggestions below are proven to work only for the vast majority. How do you know if the wine and food pairing is a good one? Mainly in two ways: 1. The food and the wine taste better together than on their own 2.The wine and the food “sail” together in your mouth without overcoming the other


The dishes

1 Chicken or Mutton Adobo Here again we encounter the problem of the soy sauce, but since it is heavy in proteins, the mellow acidity of the soy sauce makes it quite simple to pair with wines with medium acidity and little residual sugars such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling or Zinfandel.

2 Spicy Sisig Here, we have to take into consideration the amount of hot spiciness because it will make the wine taste more alcoholic, and enhance the sweet tendency of the liver, as well as the proteins and fat of the pork. So I recommend a wine light in alcohol and fruity such as Sauvignon Blanc (not the early picked, overly herbaceous, but the one more ripe with aromas and taste of tropical fruit) Beaujolais Village, non expensive Merlot, South of France Rosé wines.

5 Chicharon, Crispy Shrimp

Binondo, Crispy Pata

4 Kinilaw na Tanigue This is one of my best Filipino dishes – and when made with small shrimps is even better. It is also one of the hardest to pair with wines because of the high acidity. My friend and fellow IWFS member Jay Labrador recently brought an Egon Muller Riesling Spatlese 10% ABV with high residual sugar which matched the Kinilaw peeerfectly! So pair it with wines such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, good quality Moscato as long as they have good acidity and high residual sugars to balance and mellow down the acidity of the dish.

Here is an absolute must-pair with Traditional method sparkling wines and even better N.V. Champagne Brut or Extra dry.

Now, what about if you have the option of only one bottle of wine to go with the whole meal? Gewurztraminer from Germany or Alsace, Rosé wines from South of France, Pinot Grigio or light Valpolicella from Italy, ripe Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Verdejo from Rueda in Spain, Beaujolais or a Chenin Blanc from South Africa would be my suggestions.

3 Laing with Tinapa Here you have a lot of aromatic flavors such as ginger, onion, garlic and shrimp paste, so I suggest pairing it with wine that has the same aroma and flavor intensity such as Gewurztraminer.

6 Leche Flan The best pairing is sweet (douce) champagne, but otherwise just go with any sweet sparkling wines from champagne to Novellino or sweet wines. Here, the pairing is very simple sweetness with sweetness. Please do not waste dry Champagne with dessert!

Hopefully this guide will open you to a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to Pinoy food and wine pairing. Mabuhay! Make sure to sample Palo Nesi’s renowned authentic Italian cuisine at L’Opera Ristorante, Baldicci, and Prego.

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Steam Yard Coffee and Community

Brewing connections

In a nondescript area on the fringes of southern Metro Manila, there’s a movement on the brew. At its core, it’s about good coffee as much as it is about community – but in its earnestness, it’s bound to be so much more. Words by Timothy Jay Ibay / Photos courtesy of Steam Yard

There’s a distinct character to the space – unmistakable, especially for an area not particularly known for curating its own vibe. A record player sits on the corner of the coffee bar, as bags of special coffee beans line the walls. The bar’s chalkboard columns profess love for the good brew through calligraphy; and further down the space is a peppering of shops that, from the onset, looks like a smorgasbord of quirky finds. Steam Yard Coffee and Community was built on siblings Miejay and JM Madla’s vision to make specialty coffee in a space environed by honesty and casual warmth. But in its short existence, the space has already transmogrified into something that transcends the vision. The local brew “Our coffee is 100 percent locally grown Philippine coffee. We source out the finest beans from all over the country, supporting farmers who produce our beans,” shares Miejay, while pointing out that the Philippines is one of the few countries that produce the main viable coffee varieties (Arabica, Liberica, Exelsa and Robusta). It’s impossible to miss the irrepressible passion for coffee at Steam Yard – from the proprietors, to the baristas, there’s a collective effort to not only serve you an excellent cup of coffee, but to make you understand where the beans came from and what goes into that cup. It matters not if you know zilch about coffee, Steam Yard will suggest the perfect brew, and what food and pastry goes best with it; making it a coffee run you need to soon make.

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It’s the perfect blend of coffee, social entrepreneurship and community – coming together as a coffee stop you need to make when in southern Metro Manila


It’s important for a community to have a place where people can get together and figure out common interests and needs”

The community Apart from building relationships with their suppliers and farmers, Steam Yard has also provided select online sellers a space to connect with their customers. “We believe that the most successful company efforts are collaborative by definition. We’ve dedicated a space for online sellers to showcase their products and bring them closer to their target communities,” Miejay explains of the culture of community Steam Yard brews. Furthering, “We are active members

of the community we serve. We want to make connections, for personal and professional reasons. We understand that it’s as important to touch the lives of our customers and clients, as it is to reach out across the country to interact with growers, suppliers, sellers and advocates.” And the connections continue to extend further, as Steam Yard has already hosted a variety of workshops and events to foster the community even more. Calligraphy, water color, and scrapbooking workshops have been held at the space, as well as open mic nights for musicians and

spoken word artists. “We’ve created a place that has an almost public house kind of feel. We want to combine that with our baristas who care about coffee local brands and people. It’s important for a community to have a place where people can get together and figure out common interests and needs.” Steam Yard is located at 49 National Road, Muntinlupa City. For more information on Steam Yard, follow them on Facebook @steamyardcoffeeph and on Instagram @steamyardph

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Dinner with a side of nostalgia, please How Guevarra’s combines old world charm with new world palate Words by Ching Dee / Photos by Leovic Arceta

Long-time best buds Warren Sy and Timothy Go found the 1920s Macasaet Mansion along P. Guevarra Street in San Juan City in 2012. At that time, the mansion had clearly seen better days. But despite its weathered state, the two saw its potential. “It’s always been my dream to restore an old house and turn it into something like this,” Sy told Expat. And by “this,” Sy is referring to Guevarra’s—a buffet restaurant slash homage to true Filipino dining culture. Named after the former senator and statesman who helped secure the TydingsMcDuffy Law, Pedro Guevarra, the restaurant evokes the charm of an old

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home while boasting the conveniences of modern life amenities. It took six months of continuous renovations to restore and renovate the 96-yearold home to its former glory. The main architecture of the house was maintained, but the interiors were modified to accommodate the 200-seater restaurant.

Guevarra’s was co-founded by Warren Sy and Tim Go, along with shareholders PJ King, Vic Go, Ray Co, Jeff Siy, Roland Laudico, and Jackie Laudico

“We always say Guevarra’s is like an extension of your home,” said Sy.

their signature style of service, aptly called “Project Alaga” (Project Care)

“This is like your lola’s (grandmother) home in the province and you’re there for a vacation and your relatives just take care of you and feed you all these wonderful food — home-cooked, fresh, traditional.”

“All of our staff undergo a very specific service training under Project Alaga to make sure we take care of all guests in a very personal yet professional way,” Sy explained. “We want guests to not only rave about our food but about the overall experience.”

True enough, Guevarra’s takes pride in


Guevarra’s is a taste of old Philippines and we believe that’s why people keep coming back — it reminds them of good memories of their own homes”

Speaking of food, Sy and his team worked with celebrity chefs Roland and Jackie Laudico to create their mouthwatering buffet menu, which is often augmented every quarter with a few seasonal additions. For the holidays, they’re rolling out their special Yuletide Menu, which includes Roasted Turkey, Classic Fish Mayonesa, and Christmas Suman (sticky rice cake).

Kare is still packed with ox tripe and vegetables and served with a dollop of bagoong (shrimp paste), while their fried chicken was amped up — resulting to their very own Fried Chicken Adobo.

“Our food is a mixture of old and new in a sense that we still have traditional Filipino dishes, but Chef Roland and Chef Jackie added a little modern twist to a few recipes,” Sy pointed out.

With more than a dozen selections for the meats alone, there is always something to love and new to try everyday at Guevarra’s. And yes, with their almost scandalously affordable rates, dining here is an option for most, which makes it the perfect venue for family reunions.

The fare at Guevarra’s is your typical selection in Filipino fiestas, but made more relevant to new world palates. As for classics, they do it the old fashioned way, because they believe you should not mess with perfection. That’s why their Kare-

Making all dishes from scratch also ensures that their dishes have a very distinct flavor that you can’t get anywhere else.

They even have a huge garden where you can hang out before and/or after dinner, which also just happens to be perfect for photo ops. The garden is also a favorite

for couples who are looking to tie the knot in a garden wedding. The people behind Guevarra’s definitely hit the sweet spot when it comes to wooing diners with their blend of great food, prime location, and affordable prices. “We want to make good food more accessible to more people,” Sy said. “Guevarra’s is a taste of old Philippines and we believe that’s why people keep coming back — it reminds them of good memories of their own homes.” Guevarra’s is located at 387 P. Guevarra Street, San Juan City. They are open for lunch and dinner, Monday to Sunday. For more information, visit their Facebook page @guevarrasrestaurant. For reservations and inquiries, call (02) 705-1811 or (02) 7051874.

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A tale of old friends The Fiesta Nacional de España and Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s farewell Diplomatic events have been a staple of my life with Expat for many years. But after having been elected as vice mayor of the Northern Samar municipality of Catarman—a modest, developing area in Eastern Visayas that has seen its share of high-level visiting envoys—I’ve unfortunately been left out of the loop from the fore mentioned types of gatherings. But while I’ve missed old friends and familiar faces from the diplomatic circle, it only made two recent events I was able to attend all the more special, which were, interestingly enough, with two countries that the Philippines has tremendously deep historical ties with—Spain and the US. Last Oct. 12, the Embassy of Spain in Manila held reception commemorating the Fiesta Nacional de España (Spanish National Day). As these things normally are, it was a celebration of continually deepening diplomatic relations, as well as the shared values and cultural ties of the two nations. For me personally, it was an opportunity to catch up with friends. A little over a week later, the Manila Overseas Press Club hosted a farewell cocktail reception for outgoing US Ambassador Philip Goldberg. The unusually terrible traffic that night mattered not, as


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guests made a point to brave the Metro Manila road chaos to bid farewell to the US Ambassador. While a cloud of uncertainty has swept over the longtime allies’ relationship, the sheer number of distinguished guests – a former President and a number of current senators included – made evident just how much respect Ambassador Goldberg earned during his three years in the Philippines. Apart from being an intimate send-


off, Ambassador Goldberg and his government was presented with plaques of appreciation from Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez and former Leyte congressman Martin Romualdez for all their efforts during the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda. And as an homage to the sense of humor that the Ambassador frequently displayed during his stint in the country, his golf mates presented him with a special French wine—the Chateau du Tertre.













(1) US Ambassador Philip Goldberg (extreme left), with Babe Romualdez, former President Fidel V. Ramos, former Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, former Tacloban mayor Alfred Romualdez and BizNews Asia’s Tony Lopez.

(7) Dr. Andreas Kalk and German Ambassador Dr. Gordon Kricke

(2) Armenia Consul Jose Periquet and Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno

(9) Alfred Romualdez; Babe Romualdez; and Greggy Araneta

(3)Spain Consul General Javier Garcia; Monaco Consul Fortune Ledesma; Megaworld Kevin Tan; and Expat’s Butch Bonsol

(10) Former President Fidel V. Ramos

(4) Senate President Franklin Drilon and Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa

(12) Former Spanish Ambassador Ignacio Sagaz; Aurora Sagaz; and Jesus Tambunting

(5) Singaporean Ambassador Kok Li Peng and Canadian Chamber

(13) Foremer President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

(6) Fuego Hotels Managing Director Alfredo Roca; Ana Sobrepena; and Mitch Garcia

(8) Russian Ambassador Igor Khovaen; Arthur Lopez; and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg

(11) Bangladeshi Ambassador John Gomes and Belgian Ambassador Roland Van Remoortele

(14) Elena Colome; Marixi Prieto; Betsy Westendorp; and Olga Severino Martel

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ALAMAT A taste of the scene, a tale of a people Words by Timothy Jay Ibay Art by Macjanry Imperio Photos courtesy of Rufo Cuenca

The local brew movement has seen tremendous growth over the past five years – a development that has led both to a proliferation of craft breweries and pubs around the metro, and the sophistication of the populace’s beer palate. But while the sudden wealth of choices for good craft beer has created a buzzing new scene, no place has created a truly Pinoy pub vibe. That is, until Alamat came along. “Alamat is a Filipino pub that features the best local craft beer from all around the Philippines—Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” says Alamat co-owner Cassie Laus. “In Alamat, everything has a story; from the brews, to the food, to the design. When you come to Alamat expect to try the best beer you’ve ever had, expect great music, good service, and expect a really good time.” 114 | expat

Nestled in the burgeoning Poblacion scene in Makati, Alamat not only puts the spotlight on some of the best craft beers in the country, it also serves as a nod to true Fiipino heritage. Like when they say they serve authentic Filipino grub, they don’t mean popular, albeit colonially influenced fare like adobo or sinigang. Elaborates Cassie, “We serve tribal and ancestral dishes, which Chef Nino Laus turns into easy to eat “pulutan” (bar chow) that matches perfectly with our beer and Filipino cocktails. We also have a deli selection – we serve regional sausages and make our own artisans sausages as well, like Sisig sausage, Dinuguan sausage, and Chicken Inasal sausage to name a few. Hella good!” And because Alamat is as much about interesting social interactions as it is about great brews and grub, conversation pieces welcome you as soon as you walk through the door. The bar counter artfully mimics the side of

the iconic jeepney. A kris sword that was gifted by an actual datu (tribal chief) in Mindanao is among the pub’s interesting ornaments. Pillows are made out of T’nalak—traditional cloth hand woven by the T’boli tribal folk, which are also called “dream weavers” because the intricate patterns on the cloth supposedly come from their dreams. “We like showcasing anything Filipino, because we are proud of our culture and people! We lean away from being like other bars who pattern their design, food drinks, and experience on what’s popular in the US and Europe. We want to give people the Filipino experience,” explains Cassie. She describes the Alamat vibe to be “very homey, festive, but mostly interesting” – with the latter being just like the beers on tap they serve, the dishes on their plates, and the stories to be told among kindred souls. Alamat is located at the 2nd Flr., 5666 Don Pedro St., Barangay Poblacion, Makati. For inquiries, contact (0917) 530-2580.

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Travel & Lifestyle Philippines

URBAN REVIVAL ISSUE Vol. 10 No. 3 2016


A Publication of Expat Communications Inc.

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Expat Travel & Lifestyle Magazine: URBAN REVIVAL ISSUE