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Find your daring adventure in business or travel

Business and travel; work and play – these are the least similar things, and yet when you think about it, there are lots of parallels between doing business and embarking on a journey. Both require a sense of bravery and intrepidness, not to mention the willingness to take risk or accept discomfort, the need for strategy, planning and efficiency to be successful, then finally there’s the end game of being able to set foot on unchartered territory - whether that is virtual as in ‘success’ or physical as in getting to your goal destination – the payoff is both rewarding. In this Illustrado special issue, we take you through the excitement of both business and travel. We share with you the Philippines’ grand plans to wow audiences at Dubai Expo 2020 – a milestone undertaking for our country not only on the cultural front but also for trade

and industry. We share lessons on winning during the downturn here in the GCC from some seasoned business leaders and inspire you with stories on rising Filipino-founded startups as well as prominent Filipino-owned businesses. We then loosen the proverbial necktie, to bring you for a virtual flight to our favorite destinations around the world (this time around!), and give you insider travel tips from Pinoy locals living in your favorites cities. Whether you’re looking for business or holiday inspiration – or both, this issue which strangely albeit effectively combines both, is written for you. LALAINE CHU-BENITEZ Editor-in-Chief

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Take Control

With Kaya






Showcasing its brilliance, diversity, and heart in an exceptionally groundbreaking way.




Now, Filipino-founded businesses are competing with the best of them in various sectors.

WINNING DESPITE THE GCC DOWNTURN Lessons on Resilience, Agility, and Opportunities






Ones to watch in Southeast Asian’s booming tech scene Filipino startups have carved out a new playing field



For your next holiday destination, nothing beats tips from the people who actually live there.

128 AIRBNB LISTINGS TO MAKE YOU SWOON Enjoy the journey but thread mindfully

64 TOP 12 DESTINATIONS WE LOVE THIS YEAR If you are nursing an itch to travel but can’t decide where to go, here are twelve destinations that we love


PHILIPPINES SET TO SHINE AT DUBAI EXPO 2020 Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Ramon M. Lopez has been tasked with taking the Philippines to Dubai Expo 2020, as the Chair and Commissioner-General of the Philippine Organizing Committee (POC). Of this momentous project, Lopez shares: “I commit to working closely with our partner agencies in organizing the Philippine participation. I am confident that with this one country approach, we can successfully achieve our goals. I am, like everyone here, excited to see the banner of the Philippines flying high at the Dubai Expo 2020.”

Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Ramon M. Lopez

Global expos have always been championing culture, innovation, and human ingenuity of all forms, from all over. During these landmark events, countries gather to exhibit their successes and game-changing ideas that ultimately pave the way towards a brighter and more progressive tomorrow. With each world fair a historic milestone, the highly-anticipated Dubai Expo 2020 is set to host over 190 countries as well as millions of guests from around the world. Aside from being a notable feat for the UAE – as the largest event ever staged in the Arab world – Expo 2020 is a once in a lifetime opportunity for participating countries. For the Philippines, this will be the most significant international showcase of the nation’s best in terms of trade, tourism, and investments. Secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Ramon M. Lopez has been tasked with taking the Philippines


to Dubai Expo 2020, as the Chair and Commissioner-General of the Philippine Organizing Committee (POC). Of this momentous project, Lopez shares: “I commit to working closely with our partner agencies in organizing the Philippine participation. I am confident that with this one country approach, we can successfully achieve our goals. I am, like everyone here, excited to see the banner of the Philippines flying high at the Dubai Expo 2020.” While participating at the expo, the team aims to highlight the Philippines’ extraordinary facets as a creative and compassionate nation with a modern, vibrant economy that’s ready for business. The Philippines also aims to forge meaningful relationships with other countries and key groups that could lead to future collaboration in the areas of tourism and investment opportunities.


The Design and Vision for the Philippine Pavilion

Last June, the DTI revealed “Bangkóta,” the ancient Tagalog word for coral reef, as the theme inspiring both the Philippines’ participation at Expo 2020 and the design of its pavilion. This particular theme not only highlights the Philippines’ rich biodiversity, but the tangible parallel that exists between the coral reef and Filipinos: both grow into colonies that thrive throughout the world.

Arch. Royal Pineda of Budji+Royal Architecture+Design

Designed by Arch. Royal Pineda of Budji+Royal Architecture+Design, the creatives in charge of the pavilion wanted to convey a compelling story by incorporating in their design a quality that is intrinsic to Filipino DNA. “Part


of being a modern Filipino is being permeable,” Royal voices. “We decided to use the coral reef as a concept because, as the largest living organism, it is connected, and it exists all over — much like how we see Filipinos being deployed globally. Permeability will be obvious in the pavilion’s architecture, and we aim to express it in everything.” Elaborating further on the pavilion’s overall design, Royal adds: “We don’t want to compete with any countries out there in presenting an architectural presence. Instead, we want to be truthful and honest in what we can present with our own design logic and creativity as Filipinos.”


The Pavillion’s curvilinear facade and mesh materials

DTI leads 1st POC meeting for the Philippines at EXPO 2020 Dubai

Marian Pastor-Roces, curator, and overall content developer for the Philippines in Dubai Expo 2020 believes that visitors will play a crucial role in all the stories told on-site. These stories will be narrated through digital-driven content, film installations, and other interactive contemporary art forms like augmented reality (AR). The design of the Philippine pavilion and its facilities will, therefore, echo the concept of cultural sustainability. Besides welcoming other cultures to appreciate and learn from Filipino heritage, Bangkóta will also be an avenue that encourages an international community to speak their truths and ideas on what the future of culture maybe. The Philippine Pavilion will be situated in the Sustainability District of the expo site and will span an impressive 3,163.25 square meters – of this; there will be eight primary areas, including a specialty café, and a retail venue. After Dubai Expo 2020

inevitably ends, it will be dismantled, and then restructured as a permanent exhibit in Clark, Pampanga – reaching full circle. Royal regards this as a wise investment because Filipinos in the motherland who have not experienced their country’s journey during the expo will be able to do so permanently. Throughout the expo, each participating nation has been assigned a ‘national week’ and ‘national day’ to recognize something of particular significance to them as a country. As chosen by the POC, the Philippines’ national week is set to take place from the 14th to the 20th of March 2021, with its national day being on the 16th. During this entire week, Filipino organizers will be focusing on our nation’s pre-Hispanic findings as well as our true origins as people. The organizers express: “We plan to enlighten the world of our forebears who have been in existence with an advanced culture


way before Magellan’s widely accepted ‘discovery’ of us.” The celebration taking place on the 16th – falling on the 500th anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines – aims to instigate a shift away from our colonial past, as well as reset the mentality of how Filipinos think of themselves and present themselves. Taking place in Al Wasl Plaza, the 700,000 Filipinos in the UAE will be invited to take part in this momentous occasion as a ‘Rain Choir.’ After over three decades of Filipino presence across the emirates, the Philippines has finally been given the enormous opportunity of showcasing its brilliance, diversity, and heart in an exceptionally groundbreaking way. For its strong community that has been deeply entrenched in the country and region, the Dubai Expo 2020 will be a historical moment to underline its undeniable mark in this part of the world.



Lessons on Resilience, Agility, and Opportunities By LALAINE CHU-BENITEZ

For a lot of companies in the UAE and the GCC, the economic downturn of recent years on the back of low oil prices, coupled with slow economic growth and low consumer spending was the ultimate test of survival and resilience.

For a lot of companies in the UAE and the GCC, the economic downturn of recent years on the back of low oil prices, coupled with slow economic growth and low consumer spending was the ultimate test of survival and resilience. While many companies buckled under immense financial pressures, the strongest, fittest and most agile of enterprises have used the soft economic situation as a time to evolve, pivot, expand and reaffirm their strengths and relationships. Proving true the adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” these companies show that there are also upsides during the downturn and that even innovations can be birthed during the most challenging of times.

For retail legend Ishwar Chugani, Managing Director of Giordano which has been operating in the region since 1993 with some 230 stores under his team’s purview, a flexible approach is as important as a solid start in a downturn.


With every retailer in the region inevitably affected by challenges, he says the brand was able to prevail by focusing on what the customer wants and needs. “You need to be able to bend with the times and not snap against it. Companies who take pro-active steps and have the flexibility to respond to the market changes are less affected than those who take their time or do nothing at all. By continuing to focus on our customers’ requirements in terms of quality merchandise along with a great shopping experience, we have managed to enhance customer loyalty even in tough market conditions.” He also adds, “Our strengths lie in our ability to deliver what our customers’ need and what is relevant to them whatever the season.


It is the trust that we have developed with our customers what has helped us through these difficult times.”

CEO of Prime Group of Companies, Mary Jane Alvero Al Mahdi echoes the same views. She says that despite a weakening of their income in lieu of reduced sales and slower payments from clients, her company employed agility to move with the times to deflect the negatives. They expanded their offerings, taking their business from construction laboratory to analytical chemistry, allowing them to provide other useful services like food analysis, making their company a onestop-shop for clients. They have also gone into public-private partnership and

have taken the time to invest in marketing and market research while strengthening their team and cutting down on costs. She shares, “We have capitalized on our existing customers, continuously invested in quality and mastered our core competencies. Most importantly, we maintained our reputation because we strongly believe that it is every Prime’s employee commitment and responsibility.”

impact was minimal to our retail business since most of our regular customers put more value on quality. The decline in expat customers was covered by the increase in new local customers. Still, we focused on maximizing the use of our available resources to improve operational efficiency and grow our customer relationship rather than expanding our market coverage.” Jovy also states that they have used the time for professional development as well as product innovation, allowing them to launch Filfood – a food innovation initiative created to bolster the local Filipino food sector. Apart from the impetus to innovate and expand into new areas to generate revenue while strengthening customer bonds, the entrepreneurs have also found other upsides which they have leveraged fully to help improve their bottom line.

Strengthening relationships and improving product and service offerings was also central to Jovy Tuano’s strategy in the last two years. The CEO of Asia Gulf Trading and Founder of La Carne Premium Meats reveals, “The negative


Ishwar shares, “There were a lot of opportunities available to us despite the soft economic situation. We were able to open new stores in good locations at lower rents. Landlords have also become more understanding of the situation and


are open to renegotiating rents, which helps to reduce our operating overheads. Contractors and suppliers were more flexible in their terms and prices during tough times, and we were able to negotiate better rates and payment terms.” “We have also reviewed our suppliers,” Mary Jane concurs. “This [downturn] has opened opportunities to take advantage of cheaper prices from suppliers of equipment and technology that could help us to update our services.” Another upside to this challenging period for businesses was the hard lessons companies have gained from having to reexamine and reset their priorities in order to survive and thrive, in effect allowing them to focus on what’s most important to their organization. “Tough times encourages companies to go back to their roots and do what it does best. An economic downturn highlights the tiny fractures of a business that went unnoticed during the good times. This has given the smart retailer a chance to learn from the legacy of the past to form the wisdom of the future,” Ishwar points out. He continues, “Shopping is all

about relationships. Today’s customers rarely buy from a company; they buy from a person, a person they trust, a person that is knowledgeable and a person that delivers what is promised. Companies need to go back to basics to make shopping enjoyable and make sure factors such as time, treatment of the customer, efficiency, price point, physical and technology aspects are taken care of as all of these elements are importance in terms of customer’s expectation of their in-store experience.” Still, on relationships, Mary Jane underlines the value of keeping strong bonds in helping businesses weather the storm. She says, “Every company must develop and maintain strong relationships with their customers. What matters is not whom you know but how you are known to them.” She also adds that investment in technology is essential. “Technology leverages the world towards a platform of understanding. Adapting to this trend, companies benefit from enormous economies of scale in production, distribution, marketing, and management. People want all the things they have heard about, seen, or experienced via the new technologies.”


Jovy on the other hand, emphasizes on the need for companies to stay nimble and effective, “As the saying goes ‘Innovate or die!’ Collaborate with other industry players and put your ears on the ground. Listening to fast-changing customer demand is vital to pivoting your business model to ensure a flowing revenue stream. Also, convert fixed cost to variable cost and improve liquidity by maximizing cash sales over credit sales.” With a more promising economic forecast as 2020 approaches and with the World Bank and economists projecting that growth in the UAE is expected to strengthen over the medium term, companies are optimistic, not only with the gains that are expected to come in conjunction with the Dubai Expo 2020 but also for the country moving forward. “We are all very optimistic not only about 2020 but beyond 2020,” Ishwar remarks. “The region has all the ingredients to support the growing retail market. The UAE’s geographical location will always be an asset, and the continued influx of regional and international tourism will keep feeding the growth. We are


fortunate to be located in a very resilient and dynamic market. There will always be opportunities to expand, but we have to be on top of our game, and for us, it does not just come down to fabrics and fashions but also the value and service we offer our customers.” Mary Jane sees that the Dubai Expo 2020 will have a direct effect on their business. “Our core businesses are related to certification, inspection, and verification of goods. Since Dubai Expo 2020 will be attended by participants from different countries, I can see clearly the opportunities which will open up for Prime.” She says that the company also plans to sustain and drive further the initiatives they have taken during the downturn, “We have set our footprints globally. Prime has opened branches in India, the Philippines, and Japan. Maintaining and sustaining these offices and laboratory will not be easy to sustain, but with the right amount of courage in

facing the challenges and appropriate measures to monitor impacts on our business activities, we will be able to achieve positive results.”

Advice for Other Entrepreneurs Do differently from others. Master your craft, know your edge in the market, and be strategically competitive. Most of all, maintain and invest in customer relationships. Always value your customers. Mary Jane Alvero Al Mahdi – CEO, Prime Group of Companies You can only grow your business if you innovate or change the way you produce or trade your products and services to meet customer expectations. Jovy Tuano – CEO, Asia Gulf Trading A company’s culture is the ultimate competitive advantage. Competitors can steal your products or services or even


key employees. However, they cannot steal a great company culture. Forget about product distinction. Today’s retail market is short on the ‘distinct experience,’ so when you create one, you create an instant relationship with your customers. To succeed, retailers need to embrace the challenge of relationships by leveraging technology as a means to establish and maintain an omnichannel so as to connect with shoppers effectively. Retailers also need to empower their associates to serve the customers quicker and more efficiently. The future will offer every business an opportunity for growth provided; we prepare for it and have a clear strategy on dealing with today’s fast-changing digital world and knowledgeable consumers. Ishwar Chugani - Managing Director, Giordano Middle East


GROWING TOGETHER WITH THE GLOBAL FILIPINO LBC exemplifies the bold growth mindset of a Philippine brand serving the OF market

Mark Agalo-os VP for Middle East Operations

Philippine-based companies have been looking towards the OF market and the rest of the globe for growth and expansion in the last decade. The sector is nascent with brands mainly from the real estate, banking, franchising, food, telecoms, and fintech segments seeking to establish their local presence to leverage OF purchasing power. Despite the interest, however, the prevalent strategy appears to be that of cautious limited investments in both market initiatives and manpower, leading to limited gains. LBC represents the antithesis to the latter. With 6,400 branches, hubs, warehouses, partners, and agents in over 30 countries, and 13,000 employees across the world, the company is one of the few who have fully committed to establishing a wide geographical spread, and strong penetrative on-the-ground presence to follow and serve their Filipino customers wherever in the world they might be. LBC set-up shop in the emirates eleven years ago in a bid to better-serve the growing OF population. Mark Agalo-os,

VP for Middle East Operations shares, “The core of LBC’s mission is to link and bridge customers. We understand that beyond packages, goods, money, we move hopes, dreams, aspirations, and love. With that in mind, we move with utmost care the packages they entrust to us because we know what each padala means both to the OFs and their families back home. With this purpose, we decided to open our first branch in the Middle East in Karama, Dubai 2008.” The company started with two trucks and one branch, loading one 20-foot container on a weekly basis. They further expanded their presence in April 2016 when they opened an 11,700-square-foot warehouse in Dubai to accommodate growing demands in the UAE and across the GCC. Today, LBC runs 7 branches in the UAE alone and provides services across the emirates with its fleet of 20 vehicles and over 200 store agent partners. The OF market being unique in itself presents a different set of challenges, according to Mark: “The diversity of the Global Filipino across the Gulf means that there are different customer demands and preferences. More than anything, the Global Filipino has become empowered. They own businesses, occupy high positions, and have become leaders in the creative field. This evolving market made us level up our services to meet their changing demands.” To address such market developments, alongside producing sturdier Balikbayan Boxes and customized reusable crates, LBC now offers end to end attestation services for a more functional all-in courier solution and even logistics solutions for SMEs. The number of Filipino-run SMEs in the region has been steadily increasing


over the years – and the need for a reliable logistics partner become another opportunity for growth for LBC, “To support SMEs, we offer warehousing, inventory management, specialized delivery, courier and parcel deliveries and other on-demand deliveries in the UAE. By giving SMEs the right support, they will be able to focus on other aspects of the business because they know that with our strength, our expertise, and our network, we will deliver.” Though comfortably in leadership position being in service to Filipinos for over 70 years and with their decades of experience as the Philippines’ leading and most trusted courier, cargo, remittance, and logistics provider, the company remains committed to growing, and improving to reach more Filipinos and expanding its services to meet their changing requirements. Mark also shares, “When you partner with us, you will share not only our network of 6,400 branches, hubs, warehouses, partners, and agents in over 30 countries, with 13,000 employees worldwide, but also our years of experience, expertise, and knowledge.” Mark believes that as with LBC, there are always opportunities for any Philippine brand in the global market given the Filipino caliber. He remarks, “Currently, technology is the name of the game, and in an economy where the demand for immediacy and convenience spells customer satisfaction, it is up to the company to level up their strategies, structures, and processes to meet and deliver their customer’s expectations. For us at LBC, our goal is always to move forward to meet the evolving needs of the Global Filipino.”




STARTUPS Easily the promising ones to watch in Southeast Asian’s booming tech scene, Filipino startups have carved out a new playing field within the market, quickly rising through the ranks boosted by the success of the first Philippine unicorn Revolution Precrafted, which signed a US$3.2billion deal to manufacture luxury apartments in Dubai in 2018. The country has become a hotspot of startups, boasting roughly around 500 brands mostly owned by serial entrepreneurs who seek to improve the quality life and provide solutions to pain points in the motherland, while keeping an eye on potential expansion opportunities abroad. This year, with Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the Innovative Startup Act also known as Republic Act No 11337 – which seeks to provide benefits and incentives for businesses that aim to develop innovative products, processes, and business models, the sector’s growth is expected to escalate even faster. Though still a minority in the field here in the UAE, Filipinos have also started making inroads with a handful of companies gaining some attention. We look at some of the promising Filipino-founded startups both in the Philippines and the UAE disrupting the market to make the lives of people better.




DENARII CASH Established Since: 2017 Founder: Jon Edward Santillan A money transfer application based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Denarii Cash enables overseas workers to send money home with absolutely zero fees, and the best exchange rates. Starting with the OFW community in the Gulf, Denarii will soon be providing their services to Indians, Pakistanis, and other nationalities. As an overseas worker, you can download the app and buy credits through ATMs, vouchers, or kiosks. Once the credits are in your account, one can select where to send it to from Denarii’s 10,000 cashpoint partners and major banks in the Philippines and other countries. Upon transfer, both the sender and receiver will receive an SMS once the money is ready for collection. Founder Jon Edward Santillan is a second-generation migrant worker who has been living and working in the UAE for over fourteen years. “Just like the typical Filipino, I started with a visit visa and worked hard to achieve my

success,” Jon says. In 2009, he joined Abu Dhabi Media as a Performance Marketer managing The National, Al Ittihad, Abu Dhabi TV, Abu Radio, and other website properties of Abu Dhabi Media. Jon was also a Manager at Etihad Airways, where he soon after became a Senior Manager. Furthermore, he was also a Senior Performance Consultant at Al Mosafer and Tajawal, an online travel agency company of Al Tayyar, which is now known as Seera. As a migrant worker, Jon recognizes the importance of every cent that one earns – and it was from this reality that Denarii was born: “The money we earn is the money that eventually ends up sustaining our relatives back home. Since there are limited remittance options for migrant


workers, I felt there was a strong need to help overseas workers send their hard-earned money home with zero fees. Given my expertise in the tech and FinTech industry, I think my ultimate aspiration for founding Denarii Cash is to help them do just that.” Since completing the MISK 500 program in Riyadh (a startup accelerator), in 2018, Denarii Cash remitted over 500K USD, and the company is growing by 400% on a month over month basis. Besides also being backed by prominent FinTech investors from the US, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, Denarii has gained even more distinction after taking home first place at the 4th Dubai Smartpreneur Competition (organized by the Dubai Chamber where more than 1000+ applications were screened). The startup was also accepted at the Muhammad Bin Rashid Initiative Fund in the UAE, organized by the Ministry of Finance in Dubai.



ACUDEEN Established Since: 2017 Founder: Magellan Fetalino For the longest time, Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been facing financial issues without many options to turn to for support. Besides being a secondary priority for many financial institutions, SMEs are often left waiting indefinitely for receivables – and this immensely hinders what they can do to move forward as a company. Dedicating all their efforts to support SMEs, Acudeen has developed technology that renders the financing of alternative assets like receivables more accessible to businesses that need it: “Through us, SMEs no longer need to wait 30150 days for their receivables to mature before they get paid. They can liquidate these receivables within 3-5 days. What the technology brings to the table is the speed of delivery (of funds) and bridging of trust (automated backroom for risk assessment) with formal funders,” says Founder and CEO Magellan Fetalino. Magellan took Entrepreneurship

up a at the

B.S. in University

of Santo Tomas, and Digital Public Relations under Ateneo De Manila University’s PRSP IIDM Program. He is a graduate founder of Founder Institute and is currently taking up his Masters at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business. Magellan also completed a business program at the Alibaba Business School. As a founder, he brings a lot of technical expertise to the table – evident from the projects he has been a part of. He is a partner of Original Pitch Venture Capital, a member of the Board of Trustees of Fintech Alliance Philippines, a Board Director of the Philippine Association for Digital Commerce and Decentralized Industries, a Board Director of Kyopay Technologies in Myanmar, and President of The Global Filipino Investors. Understanding and acknowledging the financial struggles SMEs frequently encounter, Magellan ultimately aspires to help fellow business owners feel more secure concerning the future of their companies: “When it comes to access to finance, financial institutions are very liquid – there’s a lot of money to lend. But with years of bad experiences with


small and medium enterprises, it became challenging for banks to trust SMEs. This is the reality that our SMEs are facing today. Fortunately, with the new laws, the new initiatives, and the innovations that we have today, one can only wish to finally give an ordinary entrepreneur or proprietor an alternative and more accessible financing to look forward to in the years to come.” Acudeen has been providing services since 2017. In their first year of operation, the business closed 100M PHP worth of invoices, and then 500M PHP the following year in 2018. Of this, Magellan attests: “This year, we believe that our ambition of Project 5B PHP of SME invoices can be achieved. Today, the market has been primed on how receivable discounting works, and easily understands how to utilize us for their businesses. From a push strategy in 2017, we are now reaping the pull effects.” To date, Acudeen is serving more than 1400 SMEs that have registered to sell receivables.



BEAMANDGO Established Since: 2015 Founders: Mariliese Tan, Jonathan E. Chua, and Albert Christian Go BeamAndGo is a payment and digital marketplace that provides OFWs with an alternative form of remittance that is convenient, transparent, and sustainable. Usually, money sent back home is used to fund the costs for food, bills, education, or medicine. However, an unfortunate reality is that the OFW’s beneficiaries can sometimes misuse it. For instance, since remittances mainly come in the form of cash, people can take advantage of this by not spending it wisely. With BeamAndGo, all of this is prevented. An OFW, for example, can purchase a digital supermarket gift certificate that will then be sent to loved ones back home. These digital gift certificates can then be availed of immediately at participating stores. One can even pay for insurance, healthcare, airtime load, and other utilities and useful services via the platform.

Christian Go, and Mariliese Tan. Back in 2013, acquainted with the issues OFWs collectively face with remittances, Mariliese came up with the idea for BeamAndGo. Coming from the corporate world, she partnered with Jonathan and Albert to help solve this issue that plagues many households across the Philippines. Jonathan has over twentyfive years of experience as a business leader, technologist, and investor and has been involved in the architecting of nextgeneration software solutions for a diverse range of companies. Albert brings 12 years of experience in the line of financial technology, corporate communications, and consumer marketing to the table. Together, they have built a successful business that has gained recognition from the likes of Forbes Asia, Bloomberg Asia TV, The Straits Times, CNN Philippines, and Bloomberg Philippines.

The startup was co-founded by CEO Jonathan E. Chua, Senior VP Albert

As of today, BeamAndGo has over 180,000 registered users internationally


– primarily in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, and the Middle East – and partners with numerous brands in the Philippines that all implement their services – 800 supermarket branches, 800 pharmacy branches, 2000 petrol stations, and 2500 convenience stores. The platform even offers door-to-door packages, Jollibee packages, home appliances, and mobile load, and has affiliations with digital wallets, cash pickups, and payment kiosks around the world. BeamAndGo’s ultimate aspiration lies in helping OFWs support their families wherever they may be in the world. They too aim to reduce the number of years a migrant worker needs to be away from their home. “This can be achieved by providing migrant workers with the tools to control their remittances, access to ethical loans, and a way to save money and earn interest. Basically, move them from being unbanked to being banked,” the founders share.




MARKETPLACE Established Since: 2018 Founders: JoJo Gumino-Ocol & Jun Ocol

The reality is this: while the Philippines relies quite heavily on its agricultural sector, the ones fueling the industry suffer immense financial disadvantages – Philippine farmers and fisherfolk constitute 68% of the people living under the poverty line due to low earnings and increasing market costs. On a mission to solve such an issue is the Agrabah marketplace. This social enterprise startup empowers our farmers and fisherfolk by helping them find potential partners and foster reliable connections that facilitate transactions at a fair value. Armed with over twenty years of experience from complementary backgrounds Jojo-Gumino Ocol and Jun Ocol co-founded Agrabah Marketplace. Jojo has over ten years of experience in human resources, business development, and corporate partnerships, while Jun also

has a decade’s worth of experience in the agricultural value chain as a distributor. With such insider insight, they don’t only plan to help farmers and fisherfolk sustain a fruitful living; they too envision a future where they can yield predictive analytics that allows suppliers to know what to grow and when to grow based on market needs. Jojo and Jun share: “We’re energized by the innovation we’re leading, and every individual has an impact on that success. We love that we can make a difference to the community, to our team, to our customers, and to an entire industry. Agrabah is on a mission to make agriculture great again.” Expediting product transactions since March, Agrabah Marketplace has helped supply over 78 metric tons of agricultural


produce to their institutional clients via their B2B marketplace. In the process, they’ve benefitted the lives of over a thousand coastal farmers across the Bicol region. With the future bright, they plan to expand nationwide as well as launch their B2C marketplace in the upcoming months so consumers can enjoy fresh produce sourced directly from local farmers. For Jun and Jojo, there is no time better than the present to invest in Filipino startups – they attest: “The Philippine startup ecosystem is slowly, but steadily growing. New businesses need more support both public and private not only in terms of funding, but also mentorship, training, and resources.”




should be used beyond the corporate and capitalistic sense and should be used to support sustainable goals.” Established Since: 2016 Founders: Jayn Sy, Rupert Calvin Sievert & Athena Lavega As a company in the agritech and cleantech industries, Farmwatch Solutions conducts remote environmental and energy monitoring for agricultural and industrial buildings. Founded by Jayn Sy, Rupert Calvin Sievert, and Athena Lavega, the business examines the different environmental parameters affecting livestock farms and provides data coupled with an expert-based recommendation system to help their clients effectively manage their buildings. They also do energy monitoring and management for biogas generators and green buildings. “Farmwatch’s goal is to ensure that animals and humans alike get access to better living conditions through efficient and expert environmental monitoring,” the founders share. CEO Engr. Athena Lavega has a master’s degree in electrical engineering and is a professor at the University of the

Philippines Los Baños, while CTO Engr. Rupert Calvin Sievert is an electronics and communications engineer as well as a professional full-stack software and hardware developer. Handling operations and finance is Jane Sy, who has a degree in pharmacy, and a master’s in both marketing management and science in entrepreneurship. Together with their diverse skill sets, they seek to champion sustainability by reducing ecological impact utilizing technology. When it comes to their ultimate aspiration as founders, Jane expresses: “Speaking on behalf of the Farmwatch team, our ultimate aspiration is to really marry technology with environmental science. We want to be able to provide solutions that would greatly benefit the world and help ease the staggering damages in our environment. It might sound too idealistic or ‘millenniallike,’ but we fully embrace such notions because we think that intellect and skills


Growing in their operations, Farmtech Solutions received a government grant from the Department of Science and Technology to further develop their product and gather more data through pilot deployments. “We have deployed mostly in poultry farms in Mindanao and do biogas energy monitoring in Luzon. We have partnered with several IoT (Internet of Things) private companies to increase the value of our services and scale our operations.” “I can honestly say that we are eons away from the rest of the world,” attests Jane regarding the Philippine startup scene. “The thing with “catching up” is that while we try to do so, the advanced countries are also moving forward, so I don’t think we can truly catch up in that sense. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the lack of skills or great minds, it’s the traditional and unfriendly ecosystem we live in that hinders most of the startups. We first need to disrupt the ecosystem, be more open to discussions, veer away from power-tripping government agencies, and just honestly support startups without the red tape.”



BURKET.PH Established Since: June 2018

group of companies in the Philippines. Their CTO Jeff graduated Magna Cum Laude in Computer Engineering and held many technology and digital marketing roles in Hyundai, while COO Roy held operations and human resource roles from Henkel.

Founders: Herbert Joei Bactong, Roy Benedict Julian, Jeff Clarenz Turla, Alexander Soriano, Benedicto Manreza, Juan Celso Flores Burket.Ph is a business to business social network, marketplace, and SaaS (softwareas-a-service) all rolled into a single platform called a Market Network. With ambitions of becoming the next LinkedIn or Facebook for businesses, Burket aids Filipino businesses in discovering more local opportunities through products and services matching – that integrates artificial intelligence, and an easy to use social network interface. “This gives potential buyers a way to look for, and manage new suppliers without going through or searching cluttered directories. As well as this, suppliers will be easily discoverable,” its founders attest. Burket is currently a free service but offers additional features through a fixed monthly subscription. If you are a supplier and deals with other

businesses or a buyer and needs new suppliers, Burket is precisely the tool for you. Burket’s founders – Herbert Joei Bactong, Roy Benedict Julian, Jeff Clarenz Turla, Alexander Soriano, Benedicto Manreza, Juan Celso Flores – come from various multinational companies including Bank of America, Henkel, BPI, Smart, Hyundai, DB Shenker. The team members have experience in roles such as technology, marketing, operations, and business management, among others. CEO Herbert was previously the CTO of BPI Securities and President of an IT subsidiary of a


Despite starting development only last July 2018, and recently launching their Alpha version mid-March 2019, Burket has shown such promising growth. From the first two months, they were able to aggregate 200+ unique companies and over 800 products and services. Coupled with this, their week over week user signups grow at about 12.5%, and an increase of 95% in their site visits is seen monthly. Furthermore, Burket was part of the KMC/Impact Hub Space for Ingenious incubation program in the Philippines and will be an Alpha exhibitor this upcoming RISE conference in Hong Kong. Regarding their ultimate aspiration as a business, the founders share: “Our vision is to see Burket become the go-to platform if not the only platform that allows companies to connect and do business in the Philippines. We want to help MSMEs become more discoverable and have more opportunities.”



ALL ACCESS Established Since: March 2019 Founder: Brandon Joseph

Coming on the heels of the rising coworking industry in the UAE is Coworking All Access, a membership-based platform which gives entrepreneurs and freelancers access to various co-working spaces and business centers around the UAE. “We understand that most entrepreneurs can’t afford to explore all co-working communities and enjoy their personal life beyond work. Hence, we are giving our community access to the best spaces and personal services so they can work hard and build their network while enjoying a much healthier lifestyle,” shares founder Brandon Joseph. The startup expands beyond the idea of typical coworking space services by offering networking and lifestyle perks including access to mentors, curated events, restaurant deals, complimentary gym and yoga classes, salon and spa deals, as well as time off by the pool at 5-star hotels around the city.

Since launching the website in March, the company has already generated close to 400 signups, as well as a lot of interest from coworking space operators. Aiming to further differentiate their offering, they are also planning to publish Cowork Magazine ME in August 2019. Brandon, who has a robust background on the startup and coworking industry in the region brings with him technical, creative and management skills as well as his network developed through running


FUNDXB a series of events popular with Dubai’s young entrepreneur set. He shares, “We would like to see All Access as a platform that is vital for freelancers, startup entrepreneurs or mobile workers that can provide true work and life harmony. We envision it to be present not only here in the UAE, but also around the Middle East and in major cities across the globe someday, leveraging on the strong partnerships and supporters of our humble project.”



TANGERE APP Established Since: January 1, 2018 Founder: Martin Xavier Peñaflor

While market data is instrumental to the research and development facet of companies, it is not the most obtainable considering the high price traditional market research companies often charge for it. Undermining this reality is Tangere App. Empowering Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s), Tangere App provides affordable and real-time market research. For companies that can’t afford the typical PhP1-2 million price, one can have access to the results of nationwide studies that include over 1,800 respondents for as low as PhP70,000. They have also invested in the ‘Rolls-Royce’ of Business Intelligence, Tableau Analytics, to deliver interactive data analytics to their customers based on the results of the market research. Founded by Martin Penaflor, Tangere facilitates the collection of data via mobile application. Based on incentives, respondents can earn points by voting for different survey items available in the app, which in turn can be used to win in raffle draws and for points redemption.

As the chief architect of Tangere App, Martin was an internationally certified business process consultant for SME’s and Large Enterprises from multiple industries before starting the company together with friends from the Market Research and Data Analytics industries. “Our main goal as a company is to provide the same competitive advantage, formerly enjoyed by large enterprises to SME’s. For our Tangere community, providing an alternative platform for them to express their opinions on key issues in the Philippines and at the same time giving them the chance to win items and redeem points is our main priority,” Martin expresses.


Officially launched via Google Play Store in May of 2018, Tangere App has grown immensely. The company currently has 70,000 subscribers purely by word of mouth and has graced the number one spot multiple times on the Google Play trending list. Moreover, they have closed deals with various SME’s in the food and manufacturing industries in the Philippines – namely Gerry’s Grill and Pampanga’s Best – and their survey results have been presented all over mainstream media including CNN, Philippines Star, and ABS-CBN news.



TRIPZEEKER Established Since: 2017 Founder: Kim Co Lim These days, finding smart ways to save money has never been easier, thanks to platforms like TripZeeker. This online meta-search engine allows travelers to compare the prices of numerous tours, activities, and attraction passes for where they’re going. When using TripZeeker, all you have to do is search for tours on the website. You’ll then be given a list of all the available tours with prices from the partner websites based on the keyword typed – it’s that simple. Currently, TripZeeker has aggregated over 85,000+ tours from across the globe. The startup was also featured on regional and local media platforms like CNN Philippines, INC. Southeast Asia, Vietnam Finance, TechShake Asia, Today Singapore, and Entrepreneur Asia Pacific. Founder of TripZeeker, Kim Co Lim was a former stockbroker at Maybank ATR Kim Eng Securities, and RCBC Securities, Inc. She holds a BS in Management Accounting and has a diploma from the Ateneo Graduate School of Business – having completed a Certified Securities Specialist

Course. She is also an Ambassador for the Philippines in the Asia Pacific MSME Trade Coalition (AMTC), and in an NGO based in Singapore. Aside from Kim’s comprehensive background in business, she is a travel aficionado at heart – and with this passion, aims to make TripZeeker the leading travel website in the Philippines and the most significant international tour comparison platform. Elaborating on her aspirations as a founder, Kim shares: “I aspire to create a travelbased marketplace that enables travelers to browse, compare and book from millions of travel options related to tours, activities, and packages. And to have the opportunity to reshape harmony in the global travel ecosystem by helping travelers to discover the best travel deals and help local tour operators to have more reach online. Being one of the best travel destinations in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is truly world-class, and we should have our own leading travel website. With the help of people who believe in our vision, it’s not far-fetched.”




STYLEGENIE Established Since: 2016 Founders: Abbie Victorino, Minrie Macapugay and Rione Palacios Due to its unrivaled practicality, online shopping is quickly surpassing the need for its traditional counterpart. When it comes to buying fashion, e-commerce is one thing. However, platforms that provide you with specialized styling from the comfort of your own home is a whole other ballgame. With FashionTech company StyleGenie, customers are sent an expertly curated collection of clothes that caters to their style preferences. From this, people can try before they buy. The StyleGenie team expresses: “Our mission is to grant style wishes and boost our customer’s confidence through smart and sustainable fashion choices.” How it all works: after signing up on their website and creating a Style Profile, you get to choose a Style Box that has been curated just for you. StyleGenie then delivers the clothes to your doorstep – from the collection, you get to keep and buy what you like, and they’ll pick up the rest. StyleGenie was co-founded by CEO Abbie Victorino, Minrie Macapugay (Chief Tech Officer), and Rione Palacios (Chief

Curation Officer). Branding expert Rione is a skilled retail executive with strengths in brand management, marketing communications, and fashion styling, while all-round tech expert Minrie is an IT consultant, front end JavaScript developer, and product development head. Together with Abbie, an experienced leader with a proven track record in international fashion buying and e-commerce solutions, the StyleGenie team endeavors to innovate the online shopping experience: “Through Style Genie and its services, we do not only sell clothes, but instead offer styling solutions so people can discover their true personal style, become conscious shoppers, and actively support the sustainable fashion movement. On the other hand, our platform offers our partner brands, especially the local ones, a way to sell their products with the use of data-driven technologies and personalized style-matching.” Established in 2016, StyleGenie now has an active client-base of over 30,000 users and 2500 paying customers. Initially starting in the Philippines, the business seeks to


expand to Singapore, Jakarta, and Kuala Lumpur later this year. As a company, they have even bagged a couple of awards along the way – StyleGenie received the title of best e-commerce startup from the Philippines at the 2018 ASEAN RiceBowl Startup Awards and was chosen as one of the top 32 Asian startups at the 2019 Jumpstarter startup competition in Hong Kong. Seizing every opportunity for growth, this business has been a part of many startup programs. StyleGenie was incubated by the Ideaspace Foundation in 2017, and then the Asian Institute of Management in 2018. It was also accelerated by the 2018 UNCTAD (United Nations Conference of Trade and Development) x Alibaba E-Founder Fellowship Program, as well as the 2019 Simona Accelerator for APAC Women Founders (a collaboration between Digitaraya – a startup accelerator in Jakarta – and Google for startups in Indonesia). Through all these endeavors, Abbie has huge aspirations for StyleGenie: “My vision is to become the first femalefounded style tech unicorn from the Philippines.”



KAHON.PH Established Since: 2017 Sector: Logistics Founder: Nick Padilla and Carlos Domingo

As the first tech-enabled full-service storage solution in the Philippines, Kahon. ph is elevating the concept of storage by integrating technology in the practice of decluttering. This startup, co-founded by Nick Padilla and Carlos Domingo, eliminates the logistical burden of having to bring items to a storage facility, providing customers with unlimited storage space on-demand: “Packing, pickup, storage, and return — we’re there every step of the way to help you make space for things that really matter.” Through the combination of digital and physical realms, they have created an efficient, hassle-free self-storage experience. Currently, Kahon. ph offers storage by the box (kahon) and storage by the square-meter (kwarto) on a subscription basis. Since the company’s inception, has had over 2000 square meters stored and has managed over 6000 of its customer’s items. Starting with the Greater Manila area with hopes of expanding throughout South-East Asia, the future bodes well

for founders Nick and Carlos: “We’ve had a 6-fold increase in revenue for the first quarter of 2019 compared to that of the same period last year and with an overall annual growth of 122%. We still believe word-of-mouth is the most effective way for other people to get to know us and we’re glad that our customers see us as a service worth recommending.” Nick attributes his know-how on real estate and flair for creativity to his experience at Zalora, Rockwell, and the Powerplant mall - having worked in the digital innovation arm of these companies - and to attending trade shows growing up. For Carlos, after his stint at Ace Saatchi and Saatchi and Publicis Jimenezbasic, he left the advertising industry to manage the family business, which is one of the first third-party local logistics companies, VGL Industries Inc. Before starting, he took on the significant role of Director at the family business, then later he worked as the CEO/General Manager at Excelcare Logistics Inc. Together, they aim to change


the traditional storage industry by leading the shift away from the closet or bodega, and by making the preferred storage solution across the Philippines.



MR. GEEK MOBILE SOLUTIONS Established Since: May 2016 Founder: Rowi Bautista

Since being founded in 2016, Mr. Geek Mobile Solutions has been catering to Micro, Small, and Medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) delivering specialized tech services ranging from customized mobile apps to software development. Alongside this, they also offer free mobile apps through another platform – MyStart-Apps (MSA). With hopes that their services provide their clients with an equal shot at success, founder Rowi Bautista remarks: “We intend to level the playing field for micro, small and medium Enterprises by providing technological innovations to achieve market dominance that leads to high profitability.” Mr. Geek Mobile Solutions has closed several significant projects with top companies like BDO and Toyota over its

three years of operation. As well as this, the startup represented the Philippines at the 2017 Asian Entrepreneurship Award competition in Japan and won a pitching competition at a business convention held at the University of the Philippines in 2018. As the founder and CEO of this company, Rowi is a serial entrepreneur among other things. He is the founder of Mr. Click (a digital marketing agency in the Philippines serving the needs of MSMEs), Mr. Pluffy (a leading cotton candy company with over 70 outlets nationwide), and is also a co-


founder at myBOSS (a Fintech company that offers back-office support services). Rowi has even built and sold his first tech startup in 2015, which specialized in microchips. Besides currently pursuing his Master’s in Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business, he plans to cultivate Mr. Geek Mobile solutions as a company further: “Our Vision is to be the number one mobile solutions provider for micro, small and medium enterprises in the Philippines in the next five years.”



SNIPPETMEDIA Established Since: 2016 CEO: Christopher Star

Imagine consuming quality online content while being rewarded for it at the same time. As a leading news and entertainment app based in the Philippines, SnippetMedia provides brands with a unique opportunity to share content with an audience of over 1.5 million. When individuals read, watch, or share the content, they accrue points which can then be exchanged for real items. SnippetMedia’s CEO Christopher Star who builds and launches startups in Southeast Asia is armed with an extensive background in marketing for web/mobile

startups, and has a proven track record in user acquisition, business development, community management, content creation, and audience retention. He has worked for various industries in the sector for over fourteen years including prominent brands such as Lazada, GuavaPass, DateTix, HappyFresh, Paktor, and Duriana. “We bring together a group of skilled, driven, enthusiastic, and professional individuals who come together every morning to bring you the stories that matter,” Christopher shares. Having


had over 2.5 million active users in the Philippines over the last eight months, he aims to bring about innovation when it comes to content as well as the media industry through integrating both in a seamless platform: “I want every bit of content to be rewarding for every user. We aim to reinvent content consumption and revolutionize online advertising.”



GVER Established Since: September 2017 Founders: Lalaine & Mon Benitez

As climate change and the world’s waste problems come to the fore, businesses that provide sustainable solutions lessening people’s environmental impact become more and more important. Enter Gver – Your Friendly Marketplace for Sharing. Founded in 2017 Gver presents a novel mode of consumption built on top of sharing. With the brand pitch - “get stuff for free, just pay for delivery and give away what you don’t need,” the startup differentiates itself from other marketplaces in that the business model is give and take, not buy, sell or trade. Founder Lalaine Chu-Benitez shares, “Billions worth of useful goods end up in landfills around the world, while billions more are lying in our closets at home. But

while so many of us have too much stuff, more and more are finding it harder to afford things. By facilitating sharing and removing the pains of the secondhand markets - no selling/negotiating, no meetups and no having to arrange for transport, we give people amazingly cheap, easy and safe access to goods.” The platform has currently over 4,000 members and has facilitated the give-away of thousands of items ranging from clothes to books, household items, even entire furniture sets. 2018 marks a new milestone as the brand started collaborating on CSR initiatives with companies to give away old furniture, equipment, and materials. Recent corporate partnership projects include the redistribution of over 150 pcs


of second-hand hotel furniture worth an estimated AED25,000 from Jebel Ali Resorts and Hotels to the community, and the release of thousands of ceramicware to benefit restaurants across the city. Such exercises prove that sharing is a win-win situation for both the companies where storage and disposal of old materials are both time-consuming and costly and for the receiving parties that are able to acquire useful goods conveniently delivered to their doorstep at the most minimal costs. Lalaine adds, “In the future, we see Gver side by side the world’s largest marketplaces, not only because it is a great idea whose time has come, but because the world needs this. We as humans need this type of business to succeed.”


ON THE RISING PHILIPPINE STARTUP SCENE “I enjoy seeing Filipino startups trying to solve problems that plague the Philippines: unbanked, inefficient farming, inefficient marketplaces, worker’s rights, poor infrastructure, logistics. This is different than what you see in places like the US. So, “catching up” is probably the wrong term, because it is different. Before conquering the world, there are enough problems in the Philippines that startups can solve.”

Jonathan Chua, BeamAndGo The Philippines is an emerging market with a lot to fix, and this provides plenty of opportunities for startups to create solutions to long-standing problems. The local startup ecosystem is still young and growing but teeming with potential and talent, evidenced by how well a good number of homegrown startups are bagging awards at global competitions. Just like how the neighboring country of Indonesia has GoJek, we think having an equivalent or even better startup to lead and represent the country will help put the Philippines on the map as a place to look out for in terms of innovation.

Nick Padilla and Carlos Domingo, Kahon.Ph Our Filipino startup community is full of great people with great minds, full of passion for making it to the top and becoming the “unicorns” of the world someday. However, we are challenged with the lack of substantial support from the industry in terms of finance and other resources,the government in terms of laws and regulations, and academe in terms of providing an avenue for the young students aspiring to be entrepreneurs someday.

Things are looking up for entrepreneurial talents in the Philippines as the startup sector is projected to be rising at rapid levels in the years to come. Here, founders weigh-in on the current state of the country’s startup scene.

The Philippines, in general, is already catching up, and significant improvements have been made even for 2019 alone. However, it is still apparent that the Philippines is way behind other Asian countries in terms of support both from investors and the government. From our experience alone, investors are not very receptive to the idea or early-stage startups as they still tend to think traditionally and looks for significant revenue before investing. However, the ecosystem has greatly improved in which a lot of incubations, competitions, and events geared towards startups have grown in numbers that encourages founders to build or continue on with their startups.

Herbert Joei Bactong, Burket.Ph The startup scene is very young but growing rapidly, so it is an exciting time to witness such amazing progress. We have world-class talent, but we need more entrepreneurs with passion and perseverance with a global perspective in solving problems. Money is also not entirely an issue because a lot of investors are interested in putting their bets in Filipino founders. However, we can further improve the ease of doing business in the country to help expedite turning such interests into actual investments.

Christopher Star, SnippetMeida The Philippine start-up scene is truly on the rise. It may not be as enormous compared to regional neighbors in Asia like Indonesia and Singapore, but we are surely making huge improvements with the help of incubators, the Philippine

Rowi Bautista, Mr. Geek Mobile Solutions


startup community, corporates, private sector, local and regional investors and the government that supports and encourages more Filipino innovations. They are doing a good job of creating an environment where startups can thrive. Having overseas Filipino workers excel around the world only proves that Filipinos are skilled and adaptable. It’s only a matter of time and hard work when we can be at par with other developed countries. What needs to be done better is more collaboration between founders, more access to funding, and a more global network.

Kim Co Lim, TripZeeker “Despite slow progress, the startup scene in the Philippines has constantly been catching up. Its slow momentum is probably due to the fact that most Filipinos are not as risk-averse, prioritizing ensured salaries by working as employees rather than risking through entrepreneurship. In addition, I think that progress in our startup industry has been focused only on certain industries. Notable homegrown startup companies are usually traditional businesses and franchises. Solid progress in the tech industry isn’t quite as impactful, but we are seeing good progress. Nonetheless, I think that the startup scene in the PH is ripe for real progress. Filipinos are starting to lean more towards entrepreneurship, and the government has also been generous in providing help and assistance to startups. I’m very optimistic about the startup industry for the Philippines.”

Jon Edward Santillan, Denarii Cash


FILIPINO-FOUNDED COMPANIES in the UAE and Beyond The local Filipino business sector has been growing by leaps and bounds in recent years, ascending from the traditional mom and pop shops catering to an almost exclusively Pinoy community – bolstered not only by the growth of the Filipino market but also by the expansion of businesses outside the community to cover multi-cultural consumers and companies across the country and the region.

corporate and industrial services, education and training, advertising, marketing and content production, travel, beauty and so much more. With the process of establishing fully foreignowned businesses via free zones becoming easier and the stimulus initiatives coming from the government, the community of Filipino entrepreneurs in the UAE is assured of even further growth into the future.

Now Filipino-founded businesses are competing with the best of them in various sectors from traditional categories like food and beverage,

Here are some of the most prominent Filipino enterprises in the country.


ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE AGENCY Since: 2016 Founder: Joseph Francis Bihag

As the agency that makes the impossible possible, Almost Impossible Agency has developed digital campaigns, branding projects, websites, apps, activations, and retail solutions using machine learning and artificial intelligence. While artificial intelligence is new in the market, Joseph Francis Bihag and team have implemented its usage into their workflow, bringing forth projects like their collaboration with Bee’ah (where they designed workwear using passive cooling technology). They have also revamped Nestle Middle East’s digital portals, and have produced several banking solutions for ENBD and Liv Bank via mobile technology.



ILLUSTRADO – CREO Since: 2013 Co-Founders: Lalaine and Mon Benitez

Illustrado FZ-LLC is a multi-disciplinary communications company having operated since 2006. Originally established as a publishing business, with Illustrado Magazine – the only Filipino lifestyle publication in the UAE and Gulf Region as its main brand, Illustrado also included marketing and advertising services within its offerings, under the brand CREO in 2013, as a natural extension in the enterprise’s growth, reflecting the founders’ expertise and multinational experience in supporting renowned brands in the region for over two decades. The company offers big creative and strategic communication edge, typically the domain of big-budget brands,

providing comprehensive services from strategy to conceptualization, to planning, to production and execution, within a small “no muss-no fuss-no layers” accessible set-up. Their work spans projects for multinationals, local companies, as well as government departments, and SMEs in fields as diverse as consumer goods, electronics, fashion and luxury, pharmaceuticals, food, hospitality and tourism, B2B, real estate, CSR, advocacy marketing, furniture and banking, medical marketing and etc. Their clientele includes a host of prominent global as well as regional brands. Illustrado-Creo’s strength in the market can be attributed to the team’s adaptability,


versatility, and sheer experience in the sector. As the times change, the team maintains its tenacity through learning and keeping up to date with technology. “In the commercial world of advertising, art and ideas are commodities” awardwinning Creative Director Mon Benitez shares. “Bringing ideas to life through traditional manual work is laborious and time-consuming. Technology has enhanced the way we present in so many ways through a short span of time. On remaining competitive, Mon states the following: “Being creative is one thing, but if you can’t execute it in the best and most efficient way possible, it will be a letdown. When you have the right tools, your ideas will stand out more.”


APE CREATIVES Since: 2014 Founder: Rollan Rodriguez Since its founding in 2014, Ape Creatives has evolved into a reputable full-service studio of multi-disciplinary artists and designers. Founded by Rollan Rodriguez: a seasoned industry veteran, artist, designer and purveyor of the lowbrow/urban art movement, the creative team has gone on to explore unique approaches with new ideas and concepts, pushing the creative boundaries of client work. Through their specialization in design concepts, brand identity, illustration, and experiential design, their body of work has received the gold award in lettering category and the silver in typography at the 2018 Indigo Design Awards in Tokyo, Japan. Their work has been commissioned by Nike, Rove Downtown, Barako Grill, Al Qasba and more.

JUNGLE BEIGE Since: 2016 Founders: B.J De Guzman, Michael Taylor, Florian Moser, Khalid Bin Hadher Jungle Beige is a creative agency and consultancy for lifestyle industries and cultures in the Middle East. Founded and led by brand multi-talented brand creators, the team has tackled a number of industry tasks with a creative approach on many fields – from social media strategy to branding and content creation. The partners who’ve made up Jungle Beige today have also played pivotal roles in creating Amongst Few, Bikers Café and Airwerks. In just three years, the brand has already established an impressive track record of work with international clients, among which are Levi’s, Puma, Coya, and Radisson Blu. They have also worked with regional brands such as Amongst Few, Myocum and Cartel Coffee. Founder BJ De Guzman, a graduate of New York University was part of the startup team for Complex Magazine ( He then moved to the agency side, where his clients included Diego, Nestle, Unilever, American Airlines, Microsoft and others. As Jungle Beige continues to grow, BJ strives for his business to be the new industry standard of creative work. He shares, “It starts with having the right team members and network of suppliers. Then it’s about trying to make the most beautiful, engaging, and disruptive work possible. Finally, it’s about being on the same page with your client to make sure that beautiful, engaging, disruptive work sees the light of day.”



PRIME GROUP UAE Since: 2016 Founders: Abdul Latif Al Gargawi, Salah Ameen Al Awadi, Abdul Majeed Malek, Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi

Founded in 2016 through the collaboration of various industry talents, Prime Group has evolved into a leading authority in quality and compliance solutions providing across Asia and the MENA region. Having over 400 staff members across its group of companies across the Middle East, Prime boasts a highly experienced team of multitalented individuals capable of managing its wide range of services within the fields of testing, inspection, certification and training. Focusing on certification, the group has had a profound impact on the halal food industry, acting as a catalyst and gateway for international halal food to the UAE. “We aim to raise the awareness of exporters on the opportunities within the Halal sector, both regionally and globally and to educate them on the halal system in the UAE.” Co-founder Mary Jane Alvero-Al Mahdi says.

Since its official launching, Prime has certified over a hundred Philippine exporting companies not only to the UAE, but also the Middle East, Africa, Europe and America – and has worked in tandem with well renown brands across the world such as the San Miguel Food Group, Unilever, Nestle, Goldilocks and even Jollibee. Prime’s defining characteristic behind their reputation lies within their exacting service standards, further backed up by their technical expertise and knowledge of the market. The company has been


recognized as one of the most outstanding certification bodies by the UAE government through the Sheikh Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development. “Our reputation is based on a consistent track record of punctual and meticulous service delivery; extremely cost-effective services; a very high level of technical expertise in giving customized solutions; and multiple awards won locally and internationally.” Mary Jane shares. “The end goal of all our businesses is to ensure alignment with the best international standard practices. In doing so, we create an environment of trust.”


PLAY MIDDLE EAST Since: 2015 Founder: Edwin Duria Managing over 250 high profile clients including Samsung, Pearson Education and JC Bamford Excavators Ltd, Play Middle East has maintained an excellent track record in its four years of Business Consultancy. Through founder Edwin Duria, the company has devoted its cause to assisting individuals and entire companies in their licensing ventures – providing registration, renewal, cancellation and amendment services. The company has been accredited through various government organizations in the UAE (DWC, DMCC, RAKEZ and Ajman Free Zone) and across the world - striking business partnerships within the UK, Gibraltar, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand.

DAGAZ MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCY www.dagazhr. Since: 2011 Founder: Cristina Calaguian Spearheaded by Cristina Calaguian, Dagaz Management Consultancy excels in providing Human Resources consultancy, general business management consultancy, recruitment, events management, publishing and education training services within the MENA region. Through the years, Dagaz has functioned as a gateway for talent into the career world – a devoted supporter of career development and job opportunity, having lent its helping hand to commercial and governmental organizations, along with a handful of individuals and people with determination.



THE FILIPINO INSTITUTE Since: 2015 Founder: Gabriel John Rimando

For almost five years now, the Filipino Institute has given the first step towards life-changing opportunities to Pinoys in the Middle East by providing quality training. The institute specializes in giving short courses that are designed to fit a number of industry fields and skillsets. From language classes to industry skills and practical talents, the Filipino institute offers over 70 courses and has effectively equipped over 80,000 Filipinos with invaluable industry knowledge. Initially operating from Dubai, the overwhelming support of the Filipino community has bolstered the company’s expansion across the region. Now, there are 15 branches spread across the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain. With the goal of contributing to the Filipino community’s welfare in the region, founder Gabriel John Rimando has made education cheap and accessible

through his platform. As a certified International Management Accountant, Public Accountant, and Personal Trainer, he has always had a mindset for sharing skills and helping the community. Through guiding many Filipinos to excellence, he aims to inspire more people to awaken their innate talents and capabilities. To gain success, Rimando believes in rising above the competition by continually improving one’s services and skills to maintain a competitive edge. Risk-taking is equally essential.


He believes that, despite the occasional loss, risks can become catalysts for trying harder. Lastly, he encourages his peers to follow the rules, sharing that “Rules don’t limit you. They give you the opportunity.” Through social entrepreneurship, Gabriel John Rimando has created a friendly and accessible environment where learning is considered as the primary tool for advancement. Combining accessibility and affordability, the Filipino institute has become a vehicle for success for many of its students, equipping them towards their career evolution.



Since: 1999 Founder: Remedios Chu

Since 1999, De La Salle Montessori (DLSM) Nursery – Dubai has been providing high-quality early childhood education and care. It has nurtured thousands of children and their families with a safe, protected, and enriched environment for learning that has encouraged physical, mental, social and creative development. Headmistress Ian Chu Guerrero shares “With our proven “whole child” approach, we are proud to have helped shape students who have entered the primary school system and excelled in academics, sports, leadership, and extracurricular activities.”



FILBRIT TRAINING CENTER Since: 2016 Co – Founder: Mayet Galang Evans

PHILIPPINE BUSINESS SCHOOL Since: 2017 Founder: Lyndon Magsino

“Shaping the global business leaders of tomorrow”, the Philippine Business School positions itself among the most innovative business schools and training facilities in the UAE. Composed of Filipino professionals and businessmen, they offer an international standard of executive education in partnership with a prestigious university in the Philippines. Aiming high, Lyndon Magsino pushes for the Philippine Business School to be among the premiere of its kind, being the first purely Filipino– owned educational institute with national and internationally recognized education leaders.

Filbrit provides over 300 training courses that cover a wide scope of talents, skills, and certifications. Despite amassing quite the following and a growing number of students, learner and tutor priority has been at the core of the institution’s practice, in compliance with UAE law and forged through their close relationship with the KHDA. “We want our clients to be safe and secure when attending our training, which is the best way to ensure that they benefit from our high-quality teaching.” Co-founder Mayet Galang Evans says. Fueled by their success in the sector, Filbrit now has now expanded with branches in Dubai, and two in Ras Al Khaimah and learners in the UK and Romania. Their business activity has increased by 100% since opening, and the number of courses has also multiplied exponentially. The founders are now are exploring options for franchising. “Being an entrepreneur is tough, but I never give up,” Mayet says. “I believe in following my dreams with enthusiasm and strength.” On staying competitive and keeping ahead of the game, planning is essential to her workflow. “Having many options is the secret to being successful. Finding the balance between planning carefully and being flexible is what will keep you competitive and will turn your business into a triumph.”






HAYAT ‫الـــحـــيـــاة‬ HAYAT INSTITUTE Since: 2018 Co – Founder: Lorraine Alfonso

PHASES FZE @phasesbasketballacademy Since: 2016 Founder: Alex Callueng

Hayat Institute is a subsidiary of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for SME Development. Accredited by various government organizations (both local and international), the institute provides Occupational Safety Training, Advanced Medical training, Professional Management and Development Training and Technical and Occupational Skills training. “Empowering the community is the main focus, where training is the equipment that the people need in turning them into lifesavers for a happier, healthier and safer UAE.” Co – Founder Lorraine Alfonso says.


USA Basketball Coach Gold Licensee and former high school and college basketball coach in the Philippines, Alex Callueng who is mostly known for his fashion photography work, established Phases Basketball Academy in 2016 to encourage the youth to be better individuals through basketball training. The company runs a Basketball Clinic for kids ages 4 to 16 developing athletic-oriented youth through strength training, conditioning, and team building exercises. They also organize basketball leagues under the supervision of partner schools so the students can also show their skills gained from the workouts as well as engage in healthy competition. Lead by qualified coaches who are also fathers who appreciate the uniqueness of each kid, Phases aims to make a difference in the lives of their students on and off the court with practical life training that promotes discipline, motivation and resilience.



CMG CARGO Since: 2010 Founder: Michelle Guinto

PAPA MOVERS Since: 2015 Founder: Anna Mariel Papa

CMG International Movers and Cargo Services LLC has become one of the most trusted freighting and moving services among Filipinos in the UAE in recent years. While based in the UAE, the group has also overseen the transfer of inventory overseas in all aspects packing, storing, assembling and dismantling. Recently, CMG has introduced a unique spin to the balikbayan box with their reusable Kabayan Drums that protect baggage sent back home. The company now also offers local pick-up, delivery and moving services.

Founded by Anna Papa in 2015, Papa Movers has overseen the moving in and out of many residents within the UAE. Through its 24-hour services and dedicated team, the company covers every aspect of the moving process from packing, cargo delivery and long-distance transport and heavy lifting – guaranteeing a smooth moving experience. The company has also expanded their services to cover storage as well as residential and commercial cleaning.




MEETING GARMENTS TRADING LLC Since: 2005 Founder: Regina Martin-Marauta

VANTAGE INTERNATIONAL Since: 2014 Founder: Maria Josephine Panagsagan Abina

Meeting Dance and Leisurewear is a one-stop-shop for durable, highquality clothes, shoes and accessories that caters exclusively to the growing dance community and fitness enthusiasts of the emirates. “We pride ourselves on providing dance and active wear that is both chic and comfortable.” Founder Regina Martin-Marauta shares, as the company has become famous for selling highly sought after gear for jazz, modern and ballroom dancers in the region. The company’s brands include popular industry names such as Danc-In and Deha from Italy.


Aiming to encourage opportunity and unleash innate potential, Oman-based Vantage International is one of the foremost Filipino product distributors in the region. In following the “Bayanihan” spirit, Vantage International supports and uplifts various local and regional businesses in the Philippines. With over 400,000 business partners across the globe, Vantage has amassed one of the largest online catalogs of affordable Philippine products, quickly growing as they partner with new businesses every day. “We believe that people are our most valuable resource.” Maria Josephine Abina shares. “We believe in the potential of everyone, to rise and build a better life for themselves and their families.”



ENTREPINOY FZE Since: 2016 Founders: Felicito V. Hernandez, Gertrudes Quebral, Hyden Restificar, Samirah Quintilla & Sheryll Bacay Agbing

Advocating entrepreneurship as a catalyst for positive change has always been at the core of Entrepinoy’s values. Established in 2016, Entrepinoy has facilitated the distribution of many of the Philippines’ socially-responsible high-quality goods to the international market. From exporting and distributing organic rice from Mindanao and other home-grown products like Barako coffee, they have supported many entrepreneurs in the motherland. On empowering local businesses, the founders share “Entrepinoy endeavors to find a solution to a problem and become change agents. We want to help find ways to provide a venue for people to live, create opportunities and unleash potentials.”




program to help develop the local Filipino food and beverage industry, by pushing for its more extensive patronage among the multi-cultural audiences of the UAE. By introducing quality products, ingredients, as well as quality guidelines for F&B service operators, Filfood has begun its ascent to a successful track record moving forward.

LA CARNE Since: 2014 Founder: Jovy Tuano As one of the only premium multi-brand meat retailers in the country, La Carne has risen to become one of the benchmark names of its kind. Working as a specialty meats supplier in the UAE, it has provided award-winning beef and lamb from Australia, the USA, Japan, New Zealand, and South Africa to its many patrons. La Carne has provided its customers with a wide variety of options including custom orders available upon requests such as 12hour smoked brisket and halal sausages.

La Carne aims to become a value-adding educational hub for premium meat in the nation’s capital while innovating the way steakhouse level cuts are made available to UAE residents. Through their online store and loyalty program, they have shared educational content with their patrons and improved transparency between client and seller. With an ever-evolving ‘Kaizen’ mindset and a focus on community engagement, La Carne has become an excellent and trustworthy customerorientated authority within the country.

FILFOOD INNOVATION Since: 2019 Founder: Jose Jovy Tuano

Filfood began this year as a food innovation


Within one year of its launch, Filfood has spread its influence and coverage to 118 F&B outlets in Dubai and the nation’s capital, along with collaborating with 20 top Filipino brands and trade partners for events. Senior Filipino chefs, cooks and bakers are also working with the company in order to elevate the Motherland’s food culture from a classic to a contemporary level. As a result, there has been a visible increase in international guest presence at Filipino restaurants among participating outlets. “My goal is the wider acceptance of Filipino food in multi-cultural communities around the world.” Founder Jose Jovy Tuano shares. “This way, it becomes a component of international menus, culinary dialogue, and education.”



OFF THE HOOK Since: 2016 Founder: Rolly Brucales

OUNCE ouncedxb @ouncedxb Since: 2013 Founder: Alberto Opena

Since its opening in Abu Dhabi, Off the Hook has become famous for serving healthy Louisiana-style seafood, providing sumptuous food in the most natural way possible with a family oriented “kamayan” style dining experience.

Ounce has steadily made a name for itself within the UAE through its expertise within event and facilities management, consultancy and catering for numerous events. Famed for its specialization within beverage mixology, the company has worked closely with MMI and has become the brand ambassador for many well-known labels such as Jack Daniels, Macallan and San Pellegrino. The brand has also introduced a unique flavor into the field by way of their “Tagai” craft cocktails, which are inspired by Filipino culture.

It has become one of the most popular dining destinations with its warm atmosphere, top of the line customer service and friendly price points. Off the hook has four branches spread out across the UAE (and a fifth one opening very soon). They were nominated for 2017 Best Seafood Restaurant by Timeout Abu Dhabi and has won The Filipino Time Preferred Seafood Restaurant Award. While it’s easy to become generic in a growing food industry, off the Hook has stayed true to its concept since day one, vigilantly analyzing and identifying market trends and refining its family style


dining concept. Founder Rolly Brucales has known work from a very young age, first beginning as a helping hand in his Bicolano family business. After 8 years of accounts experience in the UAE, he expanded his horizons through networking, sales and PR. After finding the right partners, he opened Off the Hook in 2016. As the father of the OTH family, Rolly believes that everyone must go home with something, “lahat tayo dapat umuwi ng meron”. He encourages financial stability and pushes his employees towards professional growth in their endeavors. Through this, he aspires to grow Off the Hook into a worldwide brand, believing that Filipinos can be successful entrepreneurs who not only provide jobs, but also contribute to the building of a strong Filipino community.



ADOBO RESTO 24/7 Since: 2014 Founder: Dowel Deligos

ESKINITA Since: 2017 Founder: Aldo Aguilar

Adobo Resto 24/7 serves authentic Filipino cuisine to the Filipino community in Muscat, Oman while introducing it to the many locals and foreigners in the country. With a culinary focus on dishes from the southern regions of the Philippines, Adobo offers a different take on Filipino food in contrast to its northern counterparts in the country – while presenting dishes at a high standard with homecooked execution and family-style serving.


Situated in Deira, the heart of Dubai, Eskinita Restaurant serves Filipino and international street food with favorites including grills, sizzlers and fusion drinks, to the growing Filipino community. It has established itself as a casual hangout and events place for many Pinoys, even hosting open mic sessions where individuals and groups could showcase their musical talent.



CO CHOCOLAT Since: 2016 Founders: Luchie & Iman Suguitan

Founded by sisters and ‘Cacao Doctors’ Luchie and Iman Suguitan, Co Chocolat has introduced a new concept within Dubai’s diverse field of gourmet offerings. Through their brand ‘Co Chocolat’, they have intrigued the Dubai foodies by introducing healthy chocolates with a wide variety of tastes. Their products are developed with health as the number one priority. With minimal use of refined sugar, Co Chocolat develops its products with natural cacao and natural sweeteners (coconut, dates

and other fruits), as well as superfoods that promote healing. “We are committed to ensuring that each bite may either relieve stress, enhance mood, serve as anti-oxidant, boost energy, improve the immune system, be anti-inflammatory, mildly relieve pain, enhance vitality, improve gut flora, or promote heart health.” Co Chocolat has also maintained a strong relationship with local farmers in the Philippines. By collaborating with small businesses run by cacao farmers in


Mindanao through their parent company (OFW para sa Magsasaka), they have made community traceability the core of their work. Through this, they have also increased overall productivity and stability within the cacao farming sector. Through its accomplishments in bringing locally sourced Philippine products to the UAE, Co Chocolat has become a shining example of a business model formed through mutual cooperation and sustainability.



BRUSKO BARBERS Since: 2018 Founders: Roy Cruz, Abi Gaddi Cruz, Algene Suria & Malu Gallardo More than just a barber shop at JLT, Brusko Barkers redefines the male grooming experience. A breath of fresh air among Dubai’s hustle and bustle, it is one of the only high-end Filipino–owned barbershops in the region. By combining old school service with a modern backdrop, the brand has become famous for mastering both classy and edgy stylistic executions by way of their experienced, veteran barbers. Influencers across the region have also quoted Brusko as their preferred go to grooming service. The homegrown brand has gone on to gain industry recognition as a finalist for the ‘Best in Grooming’ category at the Men’s Health & Women’s Health Middle East Awards in 2018.

STRAWBERRY NAILS AND HAIR SALON StrawberryNailsDubai Since: May 2014 Founders: Deffany Guillar & Rema An Caballes In recent years, Strawberry Nails and Hair salon has garnered a reputation for its wide variety of one stop services, ranging from: haircutting, styling, hair coloring, hair keratin and treatment, body waxing, massages, nail services and more. Conveniently situated at the heart of Dubai, the Strawberry team’s versatility has opened up new opportunities for business, as they now provide for private event occasions, parties and functions. “Our ethos is to create a style that will flatter you as an individual, or to be on point with the latest fashion trends, ensuring you always leave the salon as a happy client” founders Deffany Guillar and Rema An Caballes share.




MODERN BEAUTY LLC Since: 2018 Founder: Maimai Duncan INDULGENCE BEAUTY SALON Since: 2013 Founder: Emelyn M. Basingel With customer satisfaction at its core, the Indulgence Beauty Salon’s team has consistently provided high quality hair, nail and skin services to the growing Filipino community within Dubai. All services are complimented with a relaxing atmosphere and top of the line beauty products. With a competitive edge over the market due to its highly affordable prices, founder Emelyn M. Basingel states “Our team of Filipino Beauty experts is proud to say that regardless of our affordable prices, we don’t compromise our quality of work.”

A new supply venture within Dubai’s glamorous multimillion-dollar beauty market, MODern Beauty began as a startup established in 2018 with the goal of presenting a new twist to the industry. Through its assortment of vegan, paraben and cruelty – free products, the brand aims to introduce an organic alternative into the field, with emphasis on environmentally friendly values though its new sustainable business model.

BOBET’S BARBERSHOP Since: 1989 Founder: Bobet Roque Since 1989, Bobet Roque has dedicated his life to honing his craft of men’s grooming. A solid fixture within Oman, Bobet’s Barbershop is a full-service gentleman’s barber shop dedicated to providing men’s grooming services at affordable prices with high quality products within an enjoyable, relaxed atmosphere.



MPQ TOURISM Since: 2013 Founder: Malou Q. Prado

MPQ tourism stands out among the most well-known travel and tours agencies serving the Filipino community in the UAE. With a range of client services spanning international airline ticketing, visa services, travel insurance, hotel bookings, travel packages, customized travel itineraries, tour services and more, MPQ Tourism guarantees a smooth travel experience for its customers – providing services beyond expectations.

Always delivering, MPQ Tourism has catered to a rapidly expanding clientele since its 2013 opening, providing top of the line service and always completing set goals and business objectives. Their strong presence within the market facilitated the expansion of the company from the UAE to the USA, with branches across Dubai, and Las Vegas. MPQ has also bagged a the partnership with the Dubai Aviation Corporation (Fly Dubai) among many other merits. They have received various accolades since their opening, including Best Travel Agency at the Middle East Hospitality Excellence Awards for three consecutive years.

Her formula for success emphasizes several considerations. First, she encourages entrepreneurs to understand their competition well, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of their market and their company. Knowing the customers comes in next. As customer expectations change rapidly, Malou puts importance on always keeping up with their needs. Differentiation comes in third: “It’s essential to give customers good reasons to come to us rather than a rival. We develop a unique selling point that taps into what they want. It should be clear and obvious - no-one should have to ask what makes us different.”

Founder Malou Guinto – Prado is an accomplished entrepreneur with expertise within the travel and tourism field. Through her initiatives, she has led the MPQ team in developing a work ethic focused on strong customer service. With dedication and hard work, she strives to build MPQ into a globally known brand that caters to all travelers Filipino and otherwise, while hoping to inspire future entrepreneurs.

Malou and the MPQ team actively practice the art of effective marketing, striking good relationships with their clientele at every opportunity. “Our principle is if we keep our customers happy, they will eventually give us more customers through word of mouth.” And with the rapid development of social media and the internet, she believes opportunities can be seized within arm’s length.




Since: 2018 Founder: Ellanie Villena

Angel Wings International is a prime travel, events, and lifestyle management agency that places customer satisfaction at its core by catering to its international clientele through unparalleled service. By keeping a close eye on various tourism trends within the market, the company continually innovates through its offers on business and leisure travel to provide clients with a wide range of solutions. Founder Ellanie Villena shares, “Planning, developing and adapting destination resources to the evolving needs of the market is the key to success.”

With more than a decade of experience within the hospitality industry, Jocelyn Reyes established Time Travel Tourism in 2015. Carpe Diem is their tagline, and with it, they provide prompt service to a multitude of clients with tailormade packages to suit a variety of needs and requirements. With representatives all over the Philippine islands, Time Travel Tourism also seeks to market the Philippines as a travel destination by closely working with agencies across the region.

KING FISHER TOURS Since: 2013 Founder: Richie Ernie Bato The first Filipino-owned chartering company in the UAE, King Fisher Tours Leisure Yachts & Boats Rental LLC is dedicated to serving fishing enthusiasts and anglers alike – offering a wide roster of services including shared and private fishing trips, cruising tours, marine services, and boat utility services. With customer satisfaction as a top priority, founder Richie Ernie Bato shares “We are a full-time professional charter service with you – our clients – in mind, believing in our clients’ needs and providing the best prices and best services.”



FOURTE EVENTS teamfourte Since: 2016 Founder: Cecil “Khel” Rcuenco

Creating lasting memories through beautiful, thoughtfully executed events, Fourte has combined the principles of events management and style consultancy in order to attain its reputation as we know it today. Composed of a handful of the uber chic and talented of Dubai’s Filipino community, Fourte’s dedication to beauty and meticulous eye for detail has resulted in some of the most stunning and memorable events within the region.

The team has catered to numerous local and destination weddings, and their works have been featured in Bride and Breakfast, Inside Out UK, Esquire Middle East, and Promo. They have also done private gatherings and have consistently handled Omniyat’s corporate events for the last two years. Fourte functions differently from other creative enterprises out there, emphasizing a “No Wedding Package Policy” and approaching their clients with bespoke, tailor-made services. Through this, the team has created highly personalized one-of-a-kind events for its many clients and patrons. “That’s the thing about working with people, no experience is the same, and


it was all worth the learning it brings.” Founder Cecil “Khel” Rcuenco says. He believes in quality over quantity, and for that to be achieved, listening to clients stands as a top priority. “Know where you stand in the market. Create the needs for your clients. It is vital that you get to know them as a person. They are the real reason we thrive in business. Own your uniqueness and originality of concept.” Fourte’s services have also expanded beyond their initial offering of wedding events and style consultancy. The team now also handles model styling for different brands, celebrity styling, private events, as well as the creation of model portfolios.


DIGITAL CREATIONS EVENT MANAGEMENT AND PR AGENCY Since: 2014 Founder: Michael Da Costa Digital Creations is a Dubai–based full-service Event Management and PR Agency that strives to bring brand messaging to people through creating and managing small to large-scale events for its clients. Big names that Digital Creations have worked for include Fashion Forward, Novotel, Lush, and Eros Group. Accessible and providing affordably-priced projects to clients, the company also offers PR, endorsements, sponsorships, product placement, marketing, and promotional strategies – along with talents consultancy for a variety of projects.

HOUZ OF ZEN Founder: Rozen Antonio Houz of Zen is a niche and creative boutique event management company that specializes in creating beautiful, personalized experiences through bespoke flower decorations along with beauty and fashion photography. “Whether it is creating that one exquisite arrangement for the perfect finishing touch or completely transforming a space, we have the knowledge and creative expertise to set the perfect setting and ambiance for your event,” Founder Rozen Antonio says. The company’s clientele includes some of the most respected fashion houses and luxury hotels in the country.



NICHE MODELING AGENCY Since: 2017 Founder: Glitzy Robles

ANNA MODELS Since: 2016 Founder: Anna Llagas

Despite being entirely new in the UAE’s fashion industry, Niche Modeling team has quickly acquired several strengths and feats, making it a top-ranked modeling and talent management firm, as well as an events and media production agency. The team has racked up projects from startups and global brands alike and has worked for wellknown names including Louis Vuitton, Aldo, Ounass, Bambah, Hia Magazine, Illustrado, Jute Magazine, Amato Couture, Vero Moda, Dubai Mall, ShoeExpress, Red Tag, Sharjah Bridal Fair, Anotah, Namshi, Iconic, Wojooh, and Samsung, among others. The agency also collaborates with the top international modeling agencies established in France, Italy, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Russia, Canada, Ukraine, Spain, Poland, and many more.

A boutique agency providing modeling and production services to UAE and other GCC clients, Anna Models plays a crucial role in discovering new talents and bringing them to success. The agency was founded by Anna Llagas, a well-known and experienced fashion model in the country who is well versed in managing the commercial side of the industry. Representing ethnically diverse models for the runway, as well as editorial and commercial campaigns, the agency aims to produce new talents and represent them internationally.



MILO TORRES PHOTOGRAPHY Since: 2004 Founder: Milo Torres ALPHA MEDIA PRODUCTION SERVICES FZE Since: 2016 Founders: Oliver Serrano & Ernesto Flores Alpha Media Production Services has become one of the premiere media agencies among the Filipino community. Armed with 15 years of professional experience, the team is composed of seasoned industry professionals and creatives. Through the leadership of co-founders Oliver Serrano and Ernesto Flores, the agency has worked with over 500 satisfied clients and has maintained a record of over 1000 successful projects – from award-winning television projects collaborations with large brands, institutions and government entities including the Philippine Department of Tourism, Schindler, Shell, ACM, and GMA.

With over 15 years of professional media experience, Engr. Milo Torres is one of the industry’s most formidable talents specializing in industrial and commercial sectors, championing in product photography, company profile design development, multimedia, website design, and video coverage. The company provides services for events, conferences, workshops, weddings, and private functions, serving each and every client with personalized and affordable packages. With one of the most impressive industrial portfolios out there, Milo’s company has served high profile clients such as Dubai Duty Free, Sharjah Duty Free, Air France, Turkish Airlines, Movenpick Hotel, Patchi, Sony Gulf FZE, Leo Burnett and Action Impact among others. “Know your customer’s expectations,” Milo says. “It is pivotal to give your customers a good reason to come to you rather than your rival. Maintain your compelling advantage by focusing on your most valuable asset.” He also emphasizes that staying ahead of the competition is critical, “You need to find out who your competitors are, what they are offering, and their struggles and weaknesses.”




SANDBOX CREATIVE Since: 2017 Co-Founder/Managing Partner: Kristine Abante Sandbox is a multi-disciplinary one-stop media production agency with expertise in delivering professional quality creative content. With its diverse, young team of creative experts, they specialize in the photography and videography of food, fashion, events, and products. They also offer branding, graphic and web design and 360-integrated marketing campaigns. While relatively new within Dubai’s mediascape, Sandbox has nailed business collaborations with Sofitel, Reebok ME, Jumeirah hotels, Al Futtaim, ABS-CBN, and the UN World Food Program.

THE MELRISH STUDIO Since: 2009 Founders: Melon and Arish Perez Fueled by a passion for storytelling and a knack for all things art, Melon, and Arish Perez opened their own studio in 2009. They have specialized in the art of storytelling, handling the creative ventures of various corporate events as well as small businesses through photography, videography, design, and animation. “We want to give you works of art, images that will make you skip a heartbeat and take your breath away, and videos that will tell your brand’s story.” They have worked as the official storytellers of the Middle East Film and Comic-Con and the Dubai Muscle Show, and have collaborated with Ikea, Al Islami, Arabian Adventures, Cisco and more.




CUBE3 BY JEF ANOG Since: 2017 Founder: Jef Anog

ALEX CALLUENG PHOTOGRAPHY Since: 2015 Founder: Alex Callueng Fashion editorial and commercial photographer Alex Callueng has always believed that the greatest works of art come from one’s burning desire to create. Now neck deep into his craft, Alex has quickly exceeded the level of many veterans within the country’s fashion mediascape, evolving into an international photographer that has served some of the most prestigious glossies in and out of the region including Vogue Arabia, Harpers Bazaar Middle East, Harpers Bazaar Russia, L’Officiel Middle East, Grazia Middle East, Illustrado Magazine, Haya Magazine, DOTW Magazine, Men’s Fitness Mag, Crave Magazine, and Ezy Health Mag Singapore, among many others. Adaptable and always flexible, Alex’s key to success lies within his work ethic – where he encourages individuals always to be openminded and willing to evolve beyond their current level.

Jef Anog is one of Dubai’s most respected and wellestablished photographers. Combining his love for photography with his professional theatre background, he has always had a talent for bringing out the dramatic and beautiful within his many clients. Through his company, Cube3, he shoots fashion editorials, commercial portraits, ad campaigns, events, businesses, and private commissions. He holds numerous accounts as the preferred photographer for many corporate brands and local fashion houses within the region, having worked with Michael Cinco, Dubai Tourism, Emaar, St. Regis, Apparel Group, Majid Al Futtaim and more. As the preferred photographer for many clients, Jef has also done commissioned shoots abroad, and his works have been featured in numerous magazines including Forbes Middle East, ELUXE Paris, Garage, Velvet and Illustrado.



ROZEN ANTONIO PHOTOGRAPHY Since: 2016 Founder: Rozen Antonio Rozen Antonio is fashion photographer based in Dubai famous for his works for the UAEs top couture designers – i.e. Michael Cinco, Amato and Ezra Santos, not to mention Ryan Pacioles, Garimon Roferos plus a host of other luxe brands. Rozen has been artistically creative all his life, and transforming even the simplest things into pieces of art has always been his talent. Rozen’s photography offers endless indulgences for creative brands. His ardent sense of how to create dazzling looks and transform it into fashionable and stunning imagery has given him a definite edge in the highly competitive industry.

HYKU D PHOTOGRAPHY Since: 2016 Founder: Hyku Desesto Female entrepreneur and photography all-star Hyku Desesto has taken on some of the biggest clients with her photography and videography brand since its establishment. After entering Dubai as a newbie on the scene, she has quickly expanded her network and business, setting up an office, and hiring full-time employees. Since then, Hyku D Photography has worked with Vogue Arabia, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Adidas, and more.





CHRIS CALUMBERAN FZE Since: 2015 Founder: Chris Calumberan One of the Filipino pioneers of the local industry, Chris Calumberan has become an ambassador of Filipino photography in the emirates – his work has made a mark on Dubai’s automotive, industrial, beauty, retail, corporate and F&B sectors. His clientele includes prominent brands such as McDonald’s, MasterCard, Audi Magazine, Enoc, Tonino Lamborghini, and more. Currently, he is also working on creating a platform that further adds to the industry via content creation. The creative entrepreneur swears by his longstanding good reputation, comprehensive network, and positive Filipino values and qualities that people in the industry have come to rely on, as part of his success. He also underlines the importance of keeping updated, taking care of mental and physical health, and keeping close relations with previous clients, not to mention practicing the Blue Ocean Strategy, a marketing tactic that aims to create and capture uncontested market space, to keep ahead.

CELEBRATE CO. LLC Since: 1988 Managing Partner: Eden Borja Established in 1988, and formerly known as The Card Shop, Celebrate Co. LLC has become a prime supplier of novelty items, collectibles, gift wrapping materials and recently, uniforms within its 20 years of business in the UAE. The company has had a long-standing collaboration with ENOC convenience stores and Zoom stand-alone outlets, selling their gift-wrapping materials, greeting cards, balloon decorations, and accessories. They have also built across the years an extensive corporate network, with clients like Mars GCC, Hilton Hotels, Dubai Marine Hotel, Jebel Ali Hotel and the Metropolitan Hotel among others, offering their services through specialized packages. 2017 saw the addition of quality uniforms within their product lineup. Through their experienced team, they have designed various corporate and school uniforms for Kids Town Nursery, Capital Schoo, and Avalon Heights World Private School. Expanding like never before, Celebrate now oversees the manufacturing of its products, keeping up with industry standards and finding ways to innovate their design and production offerings.



AHSANT PREMIUM HOTEL SUPPLIES Since: 2009 Founder: Iman Suguitan Ahsant designs and manufactures leatherwear and accessories for hotels using high-quality wood, resin, steel, acrylic, and indigenous materials. With clients across the Middle East and Africa, Ahsant has won the Best Hotel Partner in the MEHA region (Middle East Hotel Awards)” in 2015 and the 2017 “Best Luxury Hotel Supplies Company” category in the UAE Business Awards.

GULF LAW Since: 2010 Founder: Barney Almazar, Esq. Gulf Law is a firm that offers a wide range of legal services through its team of certified, talented legal professionals. Their services include companycommercial law consultation, foreign investments, company formation, taxation, oil and gas, immigration and relocation, family, wills and inheritance, employment, real estate, intellectual property, debt collection, dispute resolution, and litigation. Through flexible prices and consultation plans, the company has represented and supported a diverse client base around the UAE and abroad, a large portion of which are the OFW population. Eliminating the need for extra paperwork and procedures, they have become one of the most efficient law firms within the industry. Led by Atty. Barney Almazar, the firm is well-reputed for handling portfolios of high net-worth individuals in Southeast Asia, as well as leading the US$125million Filipino acquisition of a UAE company. “Gulf Law is steadfastly committed to providing clients with superior legal services in a prompt manner and at a reasonable cost, through a sound technical knowledge of the law,” shares Atty. Barney Almazar.



We aim to standout in the UAE’s uniform industry with quality service built over 2 decades of experience and client trust.

+ 917 4 3252733


Top 12 Destinations We Love This Year! B y A LW E E V I L L A R O S A

For the longest time, traveling has been considered a luxury only for the privileged few who can afford the expensive air tickets to bring them to their dream destinations. But over the years, the increased commercialization of air travel and the tourism

industry, in general, has opened doors to more options for travelers. Bolstered with the popularity of social media, traveling has become one of the fastest-growing trends, especially for the younger generation. Traveling nowadays has become an important part of modern life. It’s very enriching to discover new things and



Copenhagen is the epitome of Scandi cool. Modernist lamps glow on top of futuristic minimalistic tables, bridges buzz with cycling commuters, while eye-candy locals dive into pristine waterways. Denmark’s capital of cool is undoubtedly unstoppable. New-Nordic Noma has gourmands swooning with its hip digs, urban farm, and groundbreaking Scandinavian menus. The city’s booming street-food scene is smashing it. A lot of locals have rebooted old places and attractions into food and craft markets. Amusement parks like Tivoli Gardens are beating the winter blues with a new February season, while waste-management center Amager Bakke has jaws dropping with its rooftop ski slope and hiking trails. The Danish Architecture Centre has moved into Ellen van Loon’s buzz-inducing cultural center BLOX.


other ways of life - to meet different people, taste local food, view aweinspiring architectural styles, visit museums or just roam around the streets of the city that’s totally brand new to you. It’s common knowledge that traveling is key to understanding other cultures and a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the world we live in. And discovering new places to visit and obsess about is half the fun! If you are nursing an itch to travel but can’t decide where to go, here are twelve destinations that we love and hopefully you’ll fall in love with them too!



The city where Asia and Europe meet is one of historical wonderment and contemporary innovation. Once referred to as Constantinople, the Turkish city of Istanbul is a cornucopia of cultural discovery. The mighty Bosphorus River surges through this modern-day melting pot, continually breathing new life into an ancient city. Spend a perfect day exploring Istanbul’s storied streets, from its iconic mosques to buzzing markets. The country’s largest and most famous city, Istanbul is home to some of the most beautiful buildings and landscapes in the whole of Turkey. It is known as the point where east meets west, both geographically and culturally, and has a myriad of beautiful churches, mosques, and palaces which pay homage to the city’s diverse and fascinating history. The city’s art and architecture have been faithfully preserved, making it one of the best places to experience the remnants of the Byzantine and Ottoman empires together.



You won’t need any convincing to visit the bright, buzzing metropolis that is Tokyo, the epicenter of Japanese food, fashion, and late-night fun. With its two international airports, Tokyo is usually the first and last stop on every traveler’s trip to Japan, but the city deserves much more than a quick, jet-lagged pitstop. It’s a distillation of the best and worst the country has to offer – clean, safe and convenient, but also crowded, expensive and conformist (just squeeze onto a rush-hour train if you don’t believe us). It’s also endlessly varied, with wooden buildings sitting next to modern towers forged out of glass and steel, and haute cuisine restaurants alongside shacks that have been serving the same three noodle dishes for generations. Whether you’re interested in food, art, sports, architecture, nightlife or fashion, you’re sure to find Tokyo fascinating.




India’s city of stories. Kolkata is undoubtedly an extraordinary city. From prisons that housed revolutionary poets to streets where serial killers once roamed, there’s so much more to Kolkata, provided you know where and how to look. Apart from Victoria Memorial, Howrah Bridge, bright yellow taxis, chaotic traffic, relentless heat, the sea of people, and the much-chronicled poverty, you will find this city very charming. A city with an unabashed personality, Kolkata is meant to be experienced and not just seen.


Going to China has been a challenge for a lot of international travelers. The long flight, language barrier, and lengthy visa processes are enough to put off even the most intrepid explorers. But things just got easier with a new policy that allows foreign visitors to explore Beijing – sans visa – for up to 72 hours. Beijing is a big city, and with limited time to see all the sights, you really have to plan your trip because this ancient capital has a lot to offer, including history, architecture, art, cuisine, music and more. One thing is for sure; you’ll have an amazing time!




MONTENEGRO The secret is out for Milan, London, Paris or Barcelona, but Europe has an abundance of destinations that you may not have considered visiting before. Set in the most remote part of a bay is the UNESCO World Heritage site of the old town of Kotor. One of the bestpreserved sights of the region, which boasts a rich cultural tradition, Kotor is a beautiful town set on a fjord-like sea inlet. Jump on a boat and visit the manmade island of the Lady of the Rocks, or climb up the Venetian castle to enjoy all-encompassing views over the town. Get lost in the maze-like streets and squares of Old Town, where you’ll stumble upon the Romanesque-Gothic style St Tryphon’s Cathedral, built in the 11th century.




Novi Sad is a chipper town with all the spoils and none of the stress of the big smoke. Locals sprawl in pretty parks and outdoor cafes, and laneway bars pack out nightly. The looming Petrovaradin Fortress keeps a stern eye on proceedings, loosening its tie each July to host Serbia’s largest music festival. You can walk to all of Novi Sad’s attractions from the happening pedestrian thoroughfare, Zmaj Jovina, which stretches from the main square (Trg Slobode) to Dunavska. It isn’t nicknamed the ‘Athens of Serbia’ for nothing: its history as a vibrant, creative city continues today in its established galleries, alternative music scene and a vibe that’s generally more liberal than that of other Serbian cities. Novi Sad is 2019’s European Youth Capital, and in 2021, it will become the first non-EU city to spend a year with the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture.



For many, stepping off a plane into Kathmandu is a pupildilating experience, a riot of sights, sounds, and smells that can quickly lead to sensory overload. Whether you’re barreling through the traffic-jammed alleyways of the old town in a rickshaw, marveling at the medieval temples or dodging trekking touts in the backpacker district of Thamel, Kathmandu can be an intoxicating, amazing and exhausting place. The 2015 earthquake destroyed several temples in Kathmandu’s UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, but most areas emerged unscathed. Stroll through the backstreets, and Kathmandu’s timeless cultural and artistic heritage still reveals itself in hidden temples overflowing with marigolds, courtyards full of drying chilies and rice, and tiny hobbit-sized workshops. This endlessly fascinating, sometimes infuriating city has enough sights to keep you busy for a week, but be sure to leave its backpacker comforts and explore the ‘real Nepal’ before your time runs out.




Quieter and smaller than its grand neighbor Fez, Meknes feels rather overshadowed and receives fewer visitors than it should. It’s more laid-back with less hassle, yet still has all the winding narrow medina streets and grand buildings that it warrants as an imperial city and one-time home of the Moroccan sultanate. Sultan Moulay Ismail, the architect of Meknes’ glory days, might be a little disgruntled at the city’s current modesty, but visitors will find much to be enchanted by. Remnants of no less than three sets of fortifications, ingeniously incorporated into the city’s road networks, make it clear how important this city once was. The king’s tomb sits at the heart of what remains of the original imperial city, flanked by an almighty royal granary, the magnificent Bab El Mansour – the likes of which even Fez can’t compete with – and Place El Hedim, a local mini-me of Marrakesh’s famous square Djemaa El Fna.


Home to a historic old town of Roman ruins, medieval churches, cosmopolitan cafes and quality museums set on a small peninsula, Zadar is an intriguing city. It’s not too crowded and its two unique attractions – the sound-and-light spectacle of the Sea Organ and the Sun Salutation – need to be seen and heard to be believed. While it’s not a picture-postcard kind of place from every angle, the mix of ancient relics, Habsburg elegance and coastal setting all offset the unsightly tower blocks climbing up the hilly hinterland. It’s no Dubrovnik, but it’s not a museum town either – this is a living, vibrant city, enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. Zadar is also a key transport hub, with superb ferry connections to the surrounding islands.




From its sleepy tuk-tuk drivers to its cafe society and affordable spas, this former French trading post is chilled, to say the least. Eminently walkable, the historic old quarter of Vientiane beguiles with glittering temples, naga (river serpent) statues, wandering Buddhist monks, and boulevards lined with frangipani and tamarind. Meanwhile, with most of its old French villas now stylishly reincarnated into restaurants and small hotels, Vientiane is achieving an unprecedented level of panache with a distinctly Gallic flavor. Whether for the well-heeled traveler or for the backpacker, the city holds itself well with its offering of low-cost digs and street markets, as well as upscale boutique accommodation and high-end culinary destinations. Whether you spend your time in Vientiane chilling at an old-fashioned bakery with a novel in hand, shopping in silk shops, or swigging Beerlao while drinking up the fiery sunset over the Mekong, once you leave you’ll miss this place more than you ever expected.

TA I P E I ,


Taipei is a friendly city whose allure lies in its blend of Chinese culture with a curious fusion of Japanese, Southeast Asian, and American influences. In many ways, this 300-year-old city is like a living museum. The Taoist temples hum with the prayers of the hopeful; the wooden boards of Japanese-era mansions creak under the feet of visitors; while the treasures in the National Palace Museum date back to 5000 years. Merchant villas and military barracks have been restored, reworked and now live again as a museum or a shopfront. From the heirlooms of a tea merchant to the memories of a cemetery for the victims of the White Terror, Taipei is a city that takes great pride in celebrating its history – both the triumphant and the tragic.



TRAVEL TIPS from Locals in Your Fave Cities When it comes to preparing for your next holiday destination, nothing beats insight and tips from the people who actually live there. Enjoy the sights and sounds, find hidden gems beyond the usual tourist haunts, and eat and drink while keeping tabs on your budget just like the locals would. And if you’re feeling a little weary from being on the road, and crave the comforts of home, it’s good to know that there’s always a Pinoy fix just around the corner in most destinations across the globe! So, travel far, travel wide, but also travel well with these insider tips from locals in your fave cities.





“Lose weight before coming to Korea! The food is so good; it is impossible not to eat a lot! Your clothes will depend on the season of course, though for me the best season to travel is during Autumn. The colors are so vibrant, the wind is cold but not freezing, and the sun is always up. ”

Fast-moving and progressive in fields like technology and fashion, yet remaining true to tradition and heritage – Seoul, South Korea’s capital and urban heartbeat is a must-visit for your next city getaway. Home to the world’s speediest internet and some of the most diverse ethnic enclaves, only do you find enormous skyscrapers – like the Lotte World Tower – soaring over ancient temples – such as the Gyeongbokgung palace – in a city like Seoul. Dr. Rebecca Desiderio lived in Seoul for a year with her family, while her husband worked for an airline based in Korea. Having the privilege for R&R and

time to travel as a stay at home workingmom, she shares her tips for enjoying in the 600-year-old cosmopolitan city. Before you go Lose weight before coming to Korea! The food is so good; it is impossible not to eat a lot! Your clothes will depend on the season of course, though for me the best season to travel is during Autumn. The colors are so vibrant, the wind is cold but not freezing, and the sun is always up. Plus, the OOTD you get to wear during Autumn is superb against the flashes of orange, yellow, red, green and brown!


Must do’s and must see’s There are so many places to see and things to do in Korea. Here are some attractions worth checking out. Gyeongbokgung Palace. Getting to tour the place while also wearing the lovely and dainty Hanbok is a fun experience! You will feel transported to the era of Korean Dynasties. Myeongdong Shopping District is a must. Try to book your hotel near this area because it will be more convenient. Most tour pick-ups and drop-offs are in




Myeongdong. One day is not enough to have a shopping spree in this area. Here, there are thousands of shops, especially those that sell beauty products. You just might go crazy over facial masks and CC creams! They also have food market stalls that open from 4 pm. Nami Island, Garden of the Morning Calm – this tour is famous because its seen in a lot of Korean Dramas. Perhaps a little overrated for me - though in Autumn, it would be nice to see. Not in the wintertime, however. What to avoid Korea is very safe, and the people here are very helpful. Although speaking English is difficult for most, people try their very best to assist. One thing to take note of is that they are very strict about health declarations here. Thus, if you are not feeling well and have the flu, I advise you to postpone your travel. Customs officers at the airport might stop you at the quarantine area in immigration. Moreover, they are also very particular with trash segregation all throughout the country. Be very aware of which waste basket you put your trash in. Littering and not segregating trash

properly is frowned upon. You may even be reprimanded. On public transport, seats are allotted to pregnant women and the elderly. Do not take these seats. Best foods to eat Korean food is very distinct. Ranging from spicy to sweet, the food presentation is also insta perfect! Try their cakes and breads; they are to die for! Soft Tofu Stew or Soondubu Jigae - usually cooked in an earthen pot, with soft tofu much like taho in a delicious fish stock base with little beef. Then you get to add shellfish, hot pepper, eggs, beef strips. Tteokbokki - streets of Korea are filled with this white cylindrical rice cake. It comes with a variety of sauces - spicy, sweet, etc. It’s like the Philippines’ galapong with sauces - Koreans are crazy about this! Korean Fried Chicken – forget about KFC! When you bite into the chicken, you will be surprised by the amount of flavor it has. The chicken is coated in a sticky, sweet, and spicy red sauce, while the batter is unbelievably crispy. This is a must-try. ILLUSTRADO 76

Bibimbap – mixed rice served with a spicy red Korean sauce called gochujang, with lots of veggies, beef, and an egg on top. It is impossible not to be addicted to this. Hidden Gems Check out the lovely parks in Seoul. There are no entrance fees, and they’re clean as well as insta perfect. Moreover, eat at restaurants along the streets, rather than at fancy restaurants because they truly serve the best. Street food is clean and so fun as well. Visit the little local shops you see along the road, including the traditional tea houses – they serve many types of teas - both cold and hot. Another shopping destination to visit is the Terminal Bus Station (take the train from Myeongdong, or any other train station). The whole underground section is full of clothing stores. Kabayan comforts I don’t get to see a lot of kabayans, but they do have communities at the churches. They usually have picnics as well as a Filipino market every Sunday near the Catholic Church in downtown Seoul. There they sell a lot of Filipino food and products as well.





“Unlike other foreign communities that stick to one or two places, Pinoys are scattered all over Japan, particularly in Aichi, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kanagawa. There are Filipino communities and religious groups/institutions almost everywhere, not to mention Filipino restaurants in major cities. In Tokyo, there is this annual Pinoy Expo of food, talent and pageantry also attended by other nationalities.”

The world’s largest city, Japan’s capital, Tokyo, is a harmony of ultra-modern neon-lit skyscrapers, serene temples, and cultural centers within its eclectic urban landscape. With different attractions across its districts, the city is chock-full of activities and sights to see – from the vibrant, fashionable people of the Harajuku district and never-ending lights of Akihabara to the izakayas and temples in Asakusa. Filipino blogger Robert Ilagan (also known as Robatology) has been living in Japan for the last few years. Landing a job as a teacher, he has made Japan his new home and now shares his experiences with over 50 thousand Filipino subscribers across the world.

Before you go Japan climate varies greatly from North to South. It is temperate here in the Kanto region, where Tokyo and my prefecture Kanagawa are located. August is the hottest month with an average of 26 degrees Celsius in the Kanto region, while winter drops towards 5 degrees Celsius. The best time of the year to visit is around March to May for spring and October to November for a cool Japan feel. Summer here is hot and humid, and sometimes you’ll feel like you’re in the Philippines. So, wear shorts to the max! Bring a light jacket from June to July as it is the rainy season. Japan has a lot of


Hawaiian influence too, so you can never go wrong wearing matching floral shirts with your partner. Must do’s and must see’s Tokyo generally has a lot of attractions, but it is also the gateway to many other attractions across Japan itself. Don’t miss out on Disney Sea, the Imperial Palace, Mount Fuji, the Sapporo Snow Fest (all the way north) and Osaka Castle. In my area, there is Kamakura, where you can find Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and the statue of the Great Buddha, which stands over thirteen meters high. Try riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) and




visit the Robot Restaurant and Ramen Museum too, and don’t forget to walk in the middle of the busy Shibuya crossing to catch your best selfie moment! What to avoid Japan’s generally safe, but like anywhere else in the world, there are some places you’d have to take heed of, like Kabukicho (Tokyo’s red-light district), which often attracts freaks because of its nature. Roppongi is also known for drink– spiking incidents. Caution is advised to all, so don’t go out alone. On the bright side, the crime rate in Japan is very low. To avoid creating conflicts or annoying locals, please don’t eat as you walk, wear shoes indoors (leave them by the door) or leave tips (tips are not needed, but service is always expected to be excellent). Traveling on a budget Many people think that Japan is expensive, but there many cheap options, in fact. You can buy meals from grocery stores. If you want them even cheaper, go there from 7PM onwards. Fast food is also cheap here (Mcdonalds breakfast costs US$3). Vending machine restaurants also offer meal sets for less than US$5. For shirts, visit Uniqlo – they have a bargain

section that sells items at 50% off. For souvenirs, trinkets, and household items, go to Daiso or Donki (Don Quijote). The general price at Daiso Japan can go as low as half the regular price in the Philippines How to get around The train is the best method of transport for tourists. Buy a Pasmo or Suica card beforehand at the airport to save time and money. They can also be used for convenience stores. Buses are comfortable and much cheaper than bullet trains for long-distance travel if you don’t mind sleeping there. You can buy bus passes as well. Best foods and places to eat There’s plenty of great food in the country. Not to be missed are sushi, sashimi, okonomiyaki, teriyaki, and onigiri. It’s best to have okonomiyaki at a restaurant where it’s made right before you. Onigiri has a lot of different exotic flavors, and you can practically grab them anywhere for as low as 100 yen. There are over 200,000 registered restaurants in Tokyo alone, with 230 Michelin star rated ones too! So, you’ll never run out of options. Just secure your budget!


Hidden Gems Golden Gai near Kabukicho, with its dimly lit alleyways, graffiti walls, and bawdy signs, is a world away from the brightness of Shinjuku. It offers a lively bar atmosphere over 200 micro bars and dining establishments with the nostalgic feel of Old Tokyo. It was formerly a black market hub, which now attracts tourists and an eclectic, artsy crowd. There’s also Jinbocho (Book Town), a small college neighborhood in Chiyoda with about 180 book-related businesses. Find some treasures at Book-Off stores that offer recycled items. They have vintage fashion, vinyl, and jewelry boxes waiting to be discovered. Kabayan Comforts Unlike other foreign communities that stick to one or two places, Pinoys are scattered all over Japan, particularly in Aichi, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kanagawa. There are Filipino communities and religious groups/institutions almost everywhere, not to mention Filipino restaurants in major cities. In Tokyo, there is this annual Pinoy Expo of food, talent and pageantry also attended by other nationalities.






“Singapore is great for holidays all your round. But you might also want to time your trip to coincide with some of the most festive periods in the city. These include Chinese New Year period - January to February, National Day – August, Formula 1 Night Race September and Deepavali Festival of Lights – November. Stay for at least 5-7 days, so you really get to visit all the key places and get a good feel of the city.”

Since the release of the landmark film ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ in late 2018, there has been renewed interest in the Lion City – Singapore as an exciting travel destination, not only for its sights and sounds but also its unique vibe. The city represents quintessential cosmopolitan Asia where cultural richness and charm from its amalgamated community of Chinese, Malays, Indians, and Eurasians meld effortlessly with the sleek high-tech cityscape and modern comforts afforded by one of the most affluent countries in the world.

Grace, a senior lecturer-mentor at the Institute of Technical Education School of Nursing, and Larry Angel, a teacher at the Raffles Girls’ Secondary School, together with their three children migrated to Singapore 14 years ago. Here they tell us about the best of the best in their city and how to make the most of a holiday there, whether you are just passing by for a short trip, or staying to relax. Before you go Singapore is a very humid country. We only have two seasons - rainy and dry. Light clothing is a must during the


summer season. Walking shoes are also necessary in Singapore, as we usually walk longer distances. Must do’s and must see’s When in Singapore, visit museums like the Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning. The museum was built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles to Singapore in 1819. Part of the essential Singapore holiday trip is a visit to Resorts World Sentosa, to see the many park attractions which




could take you days to cover; the Marina Bay Sands with its world-famous Skypark; Jewel Mall which houses the tallest indoor waterfall; Gardens By the Bay a fantastic nature park; and the Singapore Flyer. What to avoid Singapore is a safe place. This is the reason why my family migrated, especially for my visually impaired son, who thankfully, can travel around Singapore alone. Public transport is very accessible, and all places are disabled-friendly. My only advice for travelers is to make sure you stay hydrated. Traveling on a budget To save on money when you travel to Singapore, I highly recommend eating at hawker centers instead of restaurants and mall food courts. There are so many of these centers around the city offering an amazing variety of fresh-cooked food at great prices! Instead of using taxis, take the bus or the MRT. The MRT, in fact, is the best way to go around the city. To buy souvenirs, go to Chinatown, Bugis Street and 24 Hours Mustafa Shopping Centre. You’ll be spoilt for choice. Even better, if you are coming specifically for shopping, visit during the Great Singapore Sale (GSS) from May to June.

Best foods and places to eat If you’re here only for a short visit, make sure you visit these areas to have a fill of local favorites – Makansutra, Lau Pa Sat (satay street sauce), Maxwell Road and Chinatown. All of these spots are near the usual tourist spots like Esplanade and Chinatown. If you have the time, you can also try theses highly regarded food centers. Do expect long queues but it’s definitely worth the trouble. Meals cost between SGD$3.00 to $5.00 - Old Airport Road Hawker Centre for prawn mee, lor mee (lomi), rojak, char kway teow (stir-fry fried flat noodles); Tiong Bahru Market for chee kuay (rice cake) and curry rice; Katong Shopping Centre for chicken rice (delicious Hainanese boneless chicken), katong laksa and laksa. Hidden gems These places and activities are not as popular as the usual touristic haunts, but they are highly recommended – hiking at the McRitchie Reservoir and Southern Ridges; fishing and prawning at Orto (near Khatib MRT); a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens; watching free concerts and other performances at the Esplanade.


Best time to visit Singapore is great for holidays all your round. But you might also want to time your trip to coincide with some of the most festive periods in the city. These include Chinese New Year period - January to February, National Day – August, Formula 1 Night Race - September and Deepavali Festival of Lights – November. Stay for at least 5-7 days, so you really get to visit all the key places and get a good feel of the city. Kabayan comforts If you’re feeling homesick or in need of Filipino comforts, go to Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road which is the definitive Pinoy hideout in Singapore. Eat at Jollibee various branches around the city or Iskina Lechon (Ayer Raja). Every Sunday morning, head out to your nearest basketball courts to see our ‘kabayan Lebron James wannabees.’ Around the city, there are also Filipinos performing in bands, and choirs like the Filipino Voice Symphony (FVS) where I am a member. Every December, the Filipino community attends Simbang Gabi at 8PM in various churches around the city.






Hanoi is a very laidback city. However, the weather can be crazy. From April to August, it can be very hot and rainy at the same time. So, do not forget to bring comfortable clothes. During the winter season (late November to February), the temperature can go down to as low as 12 degrees. A jacket is essential during this time.

Known for its centuries-old architecture, exciting nightlife, and delectable cuisine, Hanoi, Vietnam is one dynamic destination that reveals something new to travelers with each visit. As one of the world’s most ancient capitals, the eclectic mishmash of old and new in plain sight is truly one of a kind. At the heart of Hanoi, tourists can discover some well-preserved museums and colonial buildings – including the Temple of Literature – making it a fantastic place to explore by foot. However, just a short ride away from Hanoi’s city center is its lush countryside. Here, travelers can

escape the hustle and bustle of the city center by driving by picturesque rivers – like the famous Ha Long Bay – verdant landscapes, and charming villages. Living here since 2017 and working as a communications specialist for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security, Eisen Bernardo shares travel tips from the perspective of a Hanoian. Before you go Hanoi is a very laidback city. However, the weather can be crazy. From April to August, it can be very hot and rainy at


the same time. So, do not forget to bring comfortable clothes. During the winter season (late November to February), the temperature can go down to as low as 12 degrees. A jacket is essential during this time. Must do’s and must see’s Hanoi is known worldwide for its delicious food. Having a food trip in the streets of Hanoi is a must. Tourists should try at least five traditional Vietnamese dishes. Drinking is also a favored pastime here. There are many IG-worthy cafés around the city center as well as in West




Lake. Visitors should also try to drink in a Bia Hoi (a streetside draught beer restaurant). As for cultural attractions, there are numerous temples (like the Temple of Literature); museums (I highly recommend the Museum of Fine Arts and the Ethnology Museum); landmarks (check the Flag Tower, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Citadel of Thang Long, St. Joseph Cathedral, and Long Bien Bridge); lakes (Hoan Kiem and Tay Ho); and of course, shows (water puppet and the bamboo circus at the Opera House). What to avoid Hanoi is relatively safe compared to other major cities in Southeast Asia. But, I recommend that tourist should refrain from riding cyclos (bicycle taxis) and some regular taxis. I experienced overpriced rides before. Traveling on a budget There are many boutique hotels in Hanoi that provide excellent service – some even offer free breakfasts. Book there and not at expensive hotels. Also, eat and drink in streetside restaurants and bars - not only is food highly affordable

in these places, but you get to experience authentic Vietnamese cuisine. Moreover, install transport apps (i.e., Grab, GoViet, Be) for more fixed fares. How to get around Vietnam is a motorcycle country. Renting a motorbike for a day can only cost you 5 to 10 USD. It gives you a real taste of what it’s like being a Hanoian. You can also get into the narrow alleys in the Old Quarters (which is the city’s center) very easily. Best foods and places to eat My personal favorites are bún chả (barbecued pork with rice vermicelli); bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich); bún cả (fish noodles); bánh cuốn (steamed rice rolls); pho (Vietnamese noodles), and of course chả cá (grilled fish with dill and turmeric). Hang Dao Street is considered the one-stop food street in Hanoi. Also, try Vietnamese coffee (egg coffee, coconut coffee). Streetside restaurants and cafés are just everywhere in Hanoi. As long as you are not picky, you will discover a lot in terms of food. Additionally, visit Ta Hien (which is known as Beer Street). There are numerous streetside bars there serving great drinks and finger foods.


Hidden Gems • Ride a motorbike along the mosaic wall • Lotte Tower Viewing Deck • Go to Au Co flower market at night • Visit art cafés/gallery (like Manzi) • Visit the Trinh Cong Son walking street in West Lake • Eat in a Vietnamese buffet restaurant Best time to visit November to January is the best time of year to visit because it’s cooler. Walking around Hanoi can be so much fun. And of course, you will enjoy eating and drinking is more enjoyable with cold weather. Kabayan comforts There is a Pinoy restaurant in West Lake serving traditional Filipino dishes. There are also Catholic/Christian churches where you have the opportunity of meeting other Filipinos in Hanoi. The Philippine Embassy in Hanoi is also in the city center and just walking distance from the famous Bun Cha Obama restaurant.





“If you feel like having an easy day, take the six-hour LA tour. Glamorous neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, eateries, shops, skyscraper, and famous homes of the stars are among the many attractions seen on these tours..”

“Los Angeles is so stubbornly its own thing… To love LA, you just kind of have to let it be LA.” – Damien Chazelle Visiting LA is like seeing the rest of the world without taking a plane – it truly is a microcosm of our planet in terms of food, culture, and people. Home to a vibrant food-truck culture, breathtaking beaches, contemporary architecture, epic theme parks, and of course, the center of world entertainment – Hollywood, travelers will always have something fun to do in LA.

Los Angeleno Girlie Ellsworth shares her top travel tips for when it comes to visiting the So-Cal destination. “Living in LA, you get to talk and mingle with people from different walks of life. One can experience the sheer diversity of culture here just through trying out ethnic cuisines. You might even find yourself gyrating to the sound of the tambourine in a Middle Eastern restaurant while enjoying lamb and couscous – that’s LA for you!”


Must do’s and must see’s There is a little of everything for everyone. For the moviegoer in you, LA offers Universal Studios and other Theme Parks. Be lost amidst props and settings of your favorite movies and sitcoms. If you feel like having an easy day, take the six-hour LA tour. Glamorous neighborhoods, iconic landmarks, eateries, shops, skyscraper, and famous homes of the stars are among the many attractions seen on these tours. If this isn’t for you, hop on board a double-decker




bus tour at your own pace, thanks to the convenient schedule from 24-48-72-hour ticket options and departures. Walk for two hours and get the feel of the city. This is great for cardio and allows visitors to explore historic Downtown Los Angeles. Visit architectural sites from the Golden Era of Hollywood. Immerse yourself in the colorful graffiti, indulge in a snack from a food truck vendor, and chat with the friendly locals. If you’re the athletic type and love to get a good workout, there is the hike/walk path in Griffith Park. You can also discover the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, and Greek Theatre, among other things. You will also hear beautiful music coming

from the Hollywood Bowl. This is truly an enriching cultural experience. Best foods and places to eat For your palate, there are numerous authentic ethnic restaurants featuring just about as many countries in the globe. Some well-visited places are Porto’s Bakery, a family-run Cuban Bakery, which is a favorite amongst us Pinoys. This spot makes for a nice quick stop for lunch. Try their sandwiches and potato balls and end the meal with your choice of sweets like the guava roll. Moreover, there is the Grand Central Market that offers a variety of authentic food from tacos, falafel, curries; basically, anything your taste buds desire.


Kabayan Comforts In case you miss Filipino food, they have the Sari-Sari Store – a Filipino concept restaurant. They feature rice bowls for breakfast and lunch. There is also the historic Filipino Town, a great neighborhood dining adventure. To simply describe what LA has to offer to an outsider is too hard of a task, as there is simply too much to mention. The best way for travelers to find out what LA is like is by being where the action is. Come and discover the adventure that awaits in our City of Angels, Los Angeles, California.





“As a travel enthusiast, I’d say never avoid anything! As long as you are being a smart and mindful visitor, being open to new things by fully immersing yourself wherever you go helps you enjoy your stay even more. Do be aware however that it rains all year round. Besides, Irish people are great craic (fun)! You will always be greeted with a smile, some of the friendliest and most empathetic people I have come across. I’ve never felt like I was an outsider to the country – they are an unreal bunch!.”

A quaint capital brimming with personality, rainy Dublin, Ireland, delivers on diverse nature – from rocky shores to lush parks – remarkable food and drink, inspiring history, to amazingly scenic small-town vibes. You can delve into history by connecting with tales of Vikings and Irish clans at the Museum of History and Archaeology, and then go cliff-walking and seafood binging at Howth all in one day. Former Dubairesident wow based in Ireland, fashionenthusiast and freelance makeup artist Gilbert Reid tells us why Dublin should be the spot for your next adventure.

Before you go Before visiting any new country in general, travelers should prepare for a couple of things. For one, prepare for the weather. Ireland is called the ‘Emerald Isle’ by many because it’s so green – and this is because it rains pretty frequently. So, bring a raincoat. As for winter, pack some heavy clothing options, and lighter ones for summer. Jackets are always a must! Travelers should also know a little bit about the country itself. Being aware of Irish culture, customs, and rules comes in very handy.


Must do’s and must see’s Coastlines, cliffs, mountains and long walks – we have it all! If you love nature, Ireland is the place to go! There are numerous walking/hiking/bike tours that allow you to explore the city and its natural wonders in a more active and surreal way (activities like this can be found here: Aside from this, you can take the boat and visit quaint coastal towns like Dalkey and Howth in Dublin bay for a truly beautiful daytrip escape. Traditional pubs, small towns, and castles are definitely to not be missed.




What to be aware of As a travel enthusiast, I’d say never avoid anything! As long as you are being a smart and mindful visitor, being open to new things by fully immersing yourself wherever you go helps you enjoy your stay even more. Do be aware however that it rains all year round.

waterfront part of Malahide by foot and get your grub at the local pubs and cafés. Alongside this, always compare prices, and make sure you get the best possible deals in hotels, food, tours, and even at pubs. You can save money by packing your own little nibbles when traveling.

Besides, Irish people are great craic (fun)! You will always be greeted with a smile, some of the friendliest and most empathetic people I have come across. I’ve never felt like I was an outsider to the country – they are an unreal bunch!

How to get around Dublin has a good bus system and a couple of tram/railway lines. However, walking brings you pretty much everywhere. Walking provides you with that authentic active Irish lifestyle, and brings you closer to the locals.

Traveling on a budget Typically, city-center prices are more expensive. One tip for travelers on a tighter budget would be to visit smaller towns and villages near Dublin. So, hop on a bus or a train and visit a small town like Malahide, north of Dublin. Home to the picturesque Malahide Castle, you could definitely spend a relaxed day here getting lost in the lush green spaces. While here, you can also visit the

Best foods and places to eat Spuds! Irish people have a great love for their spuds (potatoes). This is the number one ingredient for the best Irish stews, fish pies, and shepherd’s pies, along with bacon and cabbage. Traditional chippers (places that serve fish and chips), local pubs, and fresh food markets are aplenty in Dublin, and grabbing some food at these places is the best way to introduce yourself to the local palate.


Hidden Gems One word – pints! Not a place, but an activity. There are many interesting nooks across the city that deserve to be explored, but having a pint is the absolute best way to socialize with the locals – an activity often left out of a visitor’s itinerary. You get to speak to anyone and everyone once you set foot in a pub. Best time to visit It all boils down to you, and your preference. Every season provides you with the opportunity to experience Ireland in different ways. If you’re a lover of the cold, autumn and winter, if you’re looking for milder temperatures, spring and summer. Kabayan Comforts In every city, town, and county there is a Filipino presence. You will never run out of activities, and home comforts as they still practice our ways. Communities are welcoming to new members and will never let a kabayan be left behind.





“Being that Paris is the international center for art, among other things, you should consider visiting some of the famous museums here. These are my recommendations: The Louvre Museum, L’Orangerie Museum, Orsay Museum, George Pompidou Centre, Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac, Grand Palais, and Petit Palais.”

Paris, France, has, and will continue to be a favorite destination for avid wanderlusters. A timeless city known for chic designer boutiques and a buzzing café culture, Paris’ iconic cityscape spliced by enchanting avenues and the River Seine will never get old. Besides popular attractions like the Notre-Dame cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, Paris is a city that is not afraid to push creative boundaries. As the global epicenter for fashion, cuisine, art, and culture, being at the heart of it all would be an experience beyond exciting. Ryan Arbilo runs a gallery only five minutes away

from the Eiffel Tower, and is the first international Filipino photographer to exhibit at the most prestigious museum of photography in Paris – the “La Maison Européenne de la Photographie.” Having lived in Paris for the past fifteen years, he shares practical tips for holidaymakers planning to visit the ‘City of Lights.’ Before you go Before you go to Paris, you must be aware of the weather first. For example, if you visit during winter, a coat and heat tech clothes are a given. For spring and fall, however, you should still pack a couple


of light sweaters. As for summer, Paris can be just as hot as tropical countries – reaching highs of 42 degrees Celsius. Being able to adapt to the weather here is super important. Must do’s and must see’s Being that Paris is the international center for art, among other things, you should consider visiting some of the famous museums here. These are my recommendations: The Louvre Museum, L’Orangerie Museum, Orsay Museum, George Pompidou Centre, Quai Branly Museum – Jacques Chirac, Grand Palais, and Petit Palais.




What to be aware of Paris, in general, is a safe city. However, travelers should be mindful of some things – as they should when visiting any new country. Travelers should be aware of pick-pockets and occasional strikes in public transport like trains. Traveling on a budget For exchange rates, always compare places where you can convert currency. This is because there are different commissions in different places – for instance, the highest commissions are taken from currency exchange branches at the Champs Elysees, whereas the best exchange rates are found in Opera or in Chatelet. If travelers want to send money via an ATM, I advise that you use MoneyGram, PayPal, or Western Union as they don’t have taxes. Also, avoid touristic places to eat, like in front

of the Eiffel tower or anywhere in Place Trocadero. How to get around The best ways to get around in Paris include Metro, bus, and RER (train). Best foods and places to eat There are so many places travelers can go to for delectable food. My personal favorites when it comes to this are Chatelet – an avenue located in the heart of Paris that has pretty much everything for everyone – and Le Marais – a fashionable district filled with galleries, boutiques, and cafés. Hidden Gems If you’re not one for super touristic sites, and you want to experience something equally interesting, then these places are for you. There is Pantin – a commune


in North-Eastern Paris that has many cultural/historical/art sites to visit, including some interesting parks like La Villette. As well as this, there is also Vincennes. This commune offers a lot of things to do like in Pantin and even has a zoo at Bois De Vincennes – its urban park. Best time to visit Paris is excellent all year round, but from June to September is a particularly great time to visit. Kabayan comforts The Philippine Embassy in Paris arranges a bunch of activities every month, and there are Filipino groups here that help lift your spirit whenever you’re feeling lonely. There is a Filipino store in Paris’ 16th district, and also a Filipino restaurant near the Nation train station.





“We still go back every summer to our red wooden house in a lakeside forest, about twenty minutes away from Stockholm city. Our village is situated near a nature reserve so summer is spent hiking around the forest, picking berries and mushrooms and swimming in the lake.”

Although Stockholm may be known for its cool climate – as with most Scandinavian destinations – its atmosphere and people are undeniably warm and welcoming. Whether you plan on visiting Gamla Stan (the capital’s medieval urban core), having ‘fika’ at a cozy neighborhood café, or exploring the Stockholm archipelago traversing the city’s waters by boat – there’s plenty of things to experience. Agnes Pedrosa Mårelid, now based in Abu Dhabi, has lived in Sweden since 1997 until later relocating in 2008. Despite now living in the emirates, Agnes still feels a sense of home whenever she goes back to Sweden: “We still go back every summer to our red wooden house

in a lakeside forest, about twenty minutes away from Stockholm city. Our village is situated near a nature reserve so summer is spent hiking around the forest, picking berries and mushrooms and swimming in the lake.” She shares tips for your next visit to Stockholm. Before you go Sweden has four beautiful seasons and each season is as beautiful as the other. Being far up North in Europe, Sweden is famous for the midnight sun during summer. It is when the sun never sets but come wintertime, daylight could be just a few hours. Winter guarantees plenty of snow and up in the North, the famous


northern lights abound. One thing a traveler should know when visiting Sweden is that there is no such thing as bad weather, only wrong clothes. This means that every season is to be enjoyed with the proper attire or gear. If you come in the summer, be prepared to bring rain gear as it could rain anytime. And if you are visiting in winter, the proper winter wear that can withstand subzero temperatures should be at hand, the right winter shoes for walking on snow and not slipping on icy paths, and of course, one must be equipped with knowledge on the layering of garments to keep the body warm.




Must do’s and must see’s When in Stockholm try to take advantage of both city sightseeing and a visit to the islets out in the archipelago. A visit to the Old Town (Gamla Stan) is a prerequisite. Apricot-colored buildings with black roofs line up along cobbledstone pathways of Drottninggatan in the Old Town. Quaint shops huddle up all the way to the end of the street, the tempting waft of newly baked waffles in a nearby ice cream shop signals that the Royal Palace is not far. The majestic and imposing Royal Palace sits on top of the hill overlooking the lake and the National Museum across. A stone’s throw away from the palace is a boat terminal with cruises and boat sightseeing that will bring you around the Stockholm archipelago. I recommend a visit to Vaxholm, an idyllic island which is an hour boat from the city proper or check out culture, cuisine and history at Fjäderholm Islands. Another landmark not to miss in Stockholm is the well-preserved Vasa warship from 1628 at the Vasa Museum located in Djurgården, a long walk or bus ride from the city proper. There, also visit Skansen, the world’s oldest open-air museum featuring a mini-village of old houses and farmsteads teeming with life from the past. What to be aware of Stockholm’s shops and restaurants prefer that you pay by card. Sweden in 2023 will be the first cashless city in the world. In Sweden, there is also freedom to roam – the public has a right to access public and privately-owned land, lakes and rivers for

recreation and exercise. It means nature is for everybody! Fika (coffee break) is a way of life. You find plenty of Swedes in coffee shops with a cup of coffee in hand and a cinnamon bun. At work, people take breaks to find time for “fika”. Traveling on a budget Sweden can be quite expensive to visit, but there are ways to save money. Get the Stockholm Pass which gets you access to 60 wonderful places of interest as well as boat sightseeing in the archipelago. If you are in the city for three days, the 3-day Stockholm Pass for twelve major attractions is recommended. This includes hop on and hop off bus and boat sightseeing, all for USD133. How to get around Walking is the best way to get around. But, for long distances, there are very punctual buses and trains. Avail of the SL card which can be bought as a day pass/ week/month’s pass – not for unlimited rides in buses and trains however. Best food and places to eat Try fika at Vete Katten in Kungsgatan near the Haymarket, and then Swedish fish and seafood dishes at Sturehof in Stureplan. If you want the feel in an indoor marketplace, try Melanders Fisk at Soderhallarna at Medborgarplatsen. Toast Skagen is a national seafood delicacy and Swedish meatballs is the national dish. Every Swede would claim that their grandmothers make the best


Swedish meatballs but in the absence of a grandmother nearby, most restaurants along Old Town serve meatballs. The best one I ever had in Stockholm was at Restaurant Prinsen in Östermalm. Hidden Gems Hermans Restaurant and Garden Café. Atop Sodermalm hill overlooking a panoramic view of the Stockholm inlet and the Old Town is a garden restaurant that serves the best vegetarian lunch buffet in town. Mälarpaviljongen at Norr Mälarstrand is a garden pavilion restaurant and floating bar by the lake with a perfect view of the archbridge Västerbron. It is romantic, it is unpretentious, and it is good food. Try the smoked salmon and their house rosé wine, and enjoy Stockholm summer by the lake – yes, right in the middle of the city. Within Djurgården island, just right behind Skansen is an organic garden called Rosendals Trädgård where you can enjoy walking around the rose and aromatic herd gardens. Their garden café serves apple pies and rhubarb pies and wonderful Swedish desserts. Best time to visit Summer is definitely the best time to visit. July to August is perfect for more activities outdoors. But I have brought friends to Stockholm during the winter and it is lovely in the winter with all the snow around us. Walking on a frozen lake is an unforgettable adventure.





“Get ready for a cold world! While Iceland may have its seasons, the strange quirks of the country’s weather make it hard to recognize. The rule of thumb is: layers.”

Iceland, the land of fire and ice has maintained a long-standing reputation for being one of the most geographically stunning countries in the world! Boasting the most dramatic landscapes, the country is covered with volcanoes, hot springs, waterfalls, geysers, massive glaciers and more. It is home to many legendary sights and is one of the hottest (and coldest) travel destinations for adventurers and thrill seekers alike. From the weather to the landscapes, Iceland is a stark contrast from the rest of the world alone, and getting around requires its fair share of knowledge and tips. Meet Marvi

Gil Ablaza, who has been living in the country for quite some time. Here are some tips and insights she’s gathered over the years: Before you go Get ready for a cold world! While Iceland may have its seasons, the strange quirks of the country’s weather make it hard to recognize. The rule of thumb is: layers. In the summer temperatures can swing from 8 to 23 degrees Celsius but can go down to 5 on rainy and windy days. Bring a light down jacket, 1-2 pairs of


thick second layer leggings, socks and a warm hoodie. Winter comes as early as October, but sometimes as late as after Christmas. Wind is more of a concern over snow, so bring thick jackets, wool socks, hiking shoes and crampons for icy sidewalks. Weather is wet and windy during Spring and Autumn (April-May / SeptemberOctober). Do NOT bring umbrellas unless you want to get blown away. Bring a raincoat and a light jacket for the occasional cold day.




Must do’s and must see’s The quintessential Icelandic tour will take you to Gullfoss (Golden Waterfalls), Geysir and the Thingvellier National Park (the site of the first parliament and rift between the North European continent). The Golden Circle bus tour is also cheaper if you travel in a group (check out for choices). West Coast, South Coast and Snæfellsness Peninsula are three of the most beautiful self-drive destinations in the summer.

the capital city. For maximum fun, we suggest doing a mix between guided and self-driving tours. Plan your trip in advance, as vehicle rent can be cheap, but gas is expensive. Bus tours are also a fun, cost effective alternative.

What to avoid Avoid long distance and self-driving tours in the winter, as strong winds can often be the cause of accidents (yes, cars can get blown away from the road).

Best foods and places to eat For those looking to buy food, the best place would be the budget grocery chain called Bonus. They are all over the country and can be recognized by their pink piggy mascot. Else, Iceland has an amazing food scene! There are plenty of places across the capital city alone to food trip. There are also excellent Asian restos in Laugavegur, the capital’s main shopping strip.

Traveling on a budget Everything is expensive in Iceland. Make sure to pack your essentials and then some. Alcohol is also very expensive in this country. Do consider shopping from the duty free as you enter the country. Also, DO NOT buy water, as Iceland’s water supply is clean, plentiful and free. There are water fountains all across the country, so bring a refillable water bottle.

Spend at least two days in Reykjavik in order to get the most out of the capital city! Go for a walk and explore the nightlife and buzzing food scene. Valdis Ice Cream shop has become a hit for its weird and wonderful flavors (like pepper or beer). Ice cream helps a lot on cold days too as it equalizes body temperatures. Do try out Icelandic hotdogs too, made with lamb. They are extremely delicious!

How to get around Iceland is a nature lover’s paradise, and much of the best attractions are outside

Kabayan Comforts There are no real Filipino restaurants in Reykjavik, but there are Filipinos who


sell Filipino food online. Check out Pinoy Taste Reykjavik and Pinoy Kakanin Kopavogur on Facebook. Rice is life for many of us Filipinos, and you can always ask for them in many restaurants. If you are searching for a Filipino restaurant, check out Matstofan, the oldest Filipino restaurant in the country (situated in Borgarnes). On a side note, below are links to Filipino-owned businesses that you might also want to check out to find some Filipino presence: City Car Rental, one of the bigger rental companies in Iceland, owned by power couple Evelyn and Diddi. Sjavarbarinn/The Seafood Bar is a no frills restaurant by the harbor owned and jointly run by Analisa and her husband Magnus. You can find Lisa at the restaurant if you wish to drop in for a chat. Mr. Don Tattoo. In the heart of the Breidholt neighborhood, this tattoo shop is run by Pinoy artist Don Ycot. Cirila Snyrtistofa. Beauty expert and Pinay transformation artist Cirila holds court at this cozy beauty parlor and spa. There are less than 2000 Filipinos in Iceland, so everyone knows each other (and we’re great friends too). We always welcome our kababayans here, a country that both perplexes and fascinates. See you soon!






“It’s easy to get around Tallinn via public transport (bus and tram). Buy a smart card (Ühiskaart) from supermarkets and R-kiosks (there’s one in the airport). During summer, go around using rental bikes and scooters that are scattered around the city center. Download the apps Mö (bike), Citybee (scooter) and Bolt (scooter), enter your payment details, et viola, you’re good to go!”

Tallinn, Estonia may not be the first city that comes to mind when planning a getaway vacation – to many, however, it is Europe’s best-kept secret. Home to a small population, Tallinn is serene and lively all at the same time, while also being breathtakingly beautiful. It’s also brimming with fascinating sights to see – from medieval streetscapes to its hip cafés and youth culture. Beyond Tallinn’s city walls lies charming avenues of brightly painted houses, beaches, docks, parks, and of course, sprawling forests. Elaine Caguiat Santos has been living in Tallinn for over a year with

husband Bob. She currently works at an iGaming company, Global Gaming, as an HR Business Partner, while Bob is a Full-Stack Developer at TransferWise – FinTech unicorn company. She says, “If you want to reboot, experience a mixture of old and new, you love nature, looking for serenity and relaxation, then Estonia is the perfect place.” Before you go Estonia is a small and very technologically advanced country (they created Skype!). It’s part of the EU so you need Schengen Visa. We use the Euro (€) for currency.


All shops accept cash cards/debit cards, though, farmer’s markets only accept cash. Generally, it’s quiet here, even at the city center. Please bear in mind that locals love their space and the quietness of surroundings. Most young people speak English. The older ones only speak Estonian and Russian. Dress for the season. Estonia is located near the arctic circle. In Summer, temperatures range between 10 to 25 degrees. In winter, layering is essential.




Temperatures range from 0 to -30 degrees celsius. Thermals, pants and a knitted jumper/sweater (second later), a down winter jacket (top layer - waterproof and windproof preferably), a beanie, a woolen scarf, winter gloves, wool socks, as well as winter boots with insulation and traction soles are essential. Must do’s and Must see’s Old Town: it’s the oldest and one of the most well-preserved medieval cities in Europe. It’s an excellent place to walk around and experience history. There’s a lot of museums, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Forest and Bogs: 50% of Estonia is covered in forest, being one of the greenest countries in Europe. If you love and want to explore nature, hiking and bog shoeing is a must. Spa and Sauna - It is part of their culture and can be traced to hundreds of years ago. If you want to experience the Estonian sauna way, try the smoke sauna and jump into the cold icy lake during winter. There are a lot of spa and sauna hotels and tours all over the country. White nights: White nights in Estonia start on the 24th of June – they call this Midsummer’s Day or Jaanipäaev (St. John’s Day). This happens when summer days extend into the night, and there’s barely any darkness in sight. During this

time, there are a lot of festivities, foods, drinks, singing/dancing, and bonfires. Christmas Market in Old Town: Tallinn Christmas Market has always been at the top of the list for best Christmas Markets in Europe. Drinking hot chocolate or Glögg (mulled wine) while roaming around the old town when it’s snowing is a great experience. What to avoid Estonia is generally safe. Though locals love to drink, so best to stay away or avoid drunk people. Traveling on a budget Estonia is very affordable in general compared to other European countries. Airbnb costs are even lower. You can get a good flat in Old Town/City Center for as low as 35€ to 45€ per night. How to get around It’s easy to get around Tallinn via public transport (bus and tram). Buy a smart card (Ühiskaart) from supermarkets and R-kiosks (there’s one in the airport). During summer, go around using rental bikes and scooters that are scattered around the city center. Download the apps Mö (bike), Citybee (scooter) and Bolt (scooter), enter your payment details, et viola, you’re good to go! Public transportation is available until midnight only. If you go out partying and you need to go back to your hotel


or Airbnb, you can use Bolt, Yandex or Über. By the way, you can access wi-fi everywhere even if you’re in the middle of the forest (with data). Best foods and places to eat Mom and pop café’s abound in the city center. Try these shops for breakfast or afternoon snack with tea. During the Christmas season, blood sausage, sauerkraut, and potatoes with Glögg are typical eats. For an everyday lunch or dinner staple however, locals often eat meat or fish, accompanied by a side salad, and a type of grain with sauce. Estonians put sour-cream and dill in most of their dishes. If you like beer, then there are several local craft beers you can drink and enjoy. Hidden Gems Fifty percent of the country is covered in forest and one of Europe’s greenest countries, so definitely go hiking, swimming in the lake, and bog shoeing in the forest. You’ll most probably have the whole forest to yourself. Best time to visit All year round! If you want to experience White Nights, then come during summer or for the 24th of June to be a part of Jäänipäev (St. John’s Day) festivities. But, if you want to experience a winter wonderland, then definitely during travel here from late December to early March.





“Visit any season. Summer from June to early September is pretty cool in the mountains. Autumn is best for that Instagram “fallen leaves” look starting from late October to late November. In Spring from May to June, there is the Sakura blossom Georgian style. But Filipinos in the Middle East love the winter season. The ski resorts are open from the second week of December till late March (sometimes till mid-April).”

European sights within a short threehour plane ride, with lots of affordable holiday options on offer, has made Tbilisi, Georgia a favorite getaway for folks in the emirates in recent years. The beautiful terroir, coupled with old-world charm, topped by excellent food and adventures makes Tbilisi and easy choice for holiday-makers. Our virtual Filipina tour guide former Dubai-resident Ruby Bebita has been living in Georgia since 2013 and has been doing tours for fellow Filipinos around the country under Camp Borjomi Tours, as only an uber friendly and knowledgeable kabayan

can. Ruby also has a Facebook page – Juanderers, where she shares information with those who are planning to visit the country. Ruby gives us the lowdown on bohemian Tbilisi and beyond. Before you go For Filipino residents in GCC countries all you need is your passport with your GCC residency, as well as travel insurance to cover your stay. Keep your booking confirmation and ‘show money’ ready as well, just in case they ask you at the airport. Exchange your dollars for Georgian Lari (GEL) at Tbilisi Airport, as


they have lower rates here for all Middle East currencies. For winter travel, pack warm clothes. Dress in 2-3 layers and do not forget to bring waterproof gloves, warm scarves, winter bonnets, and thick socks. Autumn is also cold, with snowfall starting as early as late November. Spring can still be cold, so keep in mind to bring light jackets at that time. On the other hand, summer is just like in the Philippines. But do bring a light jacket if you’re going to the mountains.




Must do’s and must see’s In Tbilisi, visit the Bridge of Peace, take the cable car to Mother Georgia, walk to Narikala Fortress and eat khachapuri and mtsvadi. Outside Tbilisi, experience paragliding in Gudauri. Then, bathe in Borjomi’s thermal waters, which is touted to be good for skin conditions such as eczema, callouses, and dull skin. Go on a vineyard tour in the Kakheti region, especially during the grape harvesting season in October. If you have more time, go to Svaneti or Tusheti and visit the towers there. What to avoid Georgia is relatively safe, but as in any place around the world, always be careful. Watch out for beggars who might tug on your leg asking for money or overlyfriendly taxi drivers who might make you feel uncomfortable especially if you’re a solo female traveler. Near the Mother Georgia statue, there’s a flower seller who likes to put flower headbands on tourists and demand money aggressively. Avoid her and do not take her photo. Beware of some bars and restaurants in the touristic areas that might add items that you did not order in the bill. It’s always advisable to bring your guide or someone who can read Georgian with you when you dine out or go to such places.

Traveling on a budget Buy delicious khachapuri from the street shops for 1-2 GEL if you are in budget mode. Eat shaurma (yes, they call it that way) for lunch. They cost 5-7 GEL each. Take the bus, Marshrutka or Metro in the city. Either you travel cheap or convenient. You choose. If you crave Asian food, look for Fire Wok takeaways. A box of fried rice with meat or noodles would cost 7-8 GEL only. Best foods and places to eat Don’t miss Khinkali House. They have reasonable prices plus daily entertainment with Georgian singers, traditional dances during weekends, and a dancefloor for everyone. The Maclaren’s Irish Pub is a favorite among locals and expats alike because of their music and food. If you want fine-dining Georgian restaurants with a theme park feel, you can go to Ethno Tsiskvili Restaurant where you will find a mini waterfall, a big garden, a collection of different restaurants some with their own live band and a mini tram! Hidden Gems Tusheti. Not for the faint-hearted, the Tusheti-bound route is one of the world’s most dangerous roads! The trip is an adventure in itself. The destination village of Bochorma is the highest inhabited village in Europe.


Borjomi is famous for its hot springs. Although Borjomi water is known throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, there are hidden hot springs that most day tour tourists do not see and experience. Bathe in your birthday suit! Just make sure that the villagers do not see you! Bakuriani - when winter is done, and Gudauri is nothing but a ghost town in summer, the other winter resort opens to the public with their cable cars, ski lifts and the train to the summit as part of their summer activities. Best time to visit Visit any season. Summer from June to early September is pretty cool in the mountains. Autumn is best for that Instagram “fallen leaves” look starting from late October to late November. In Spring from May to June, there is the Sakura blossom Georgian style. But Filipinos in the Middle East love the winter season. The ski resorts are open from the second week of December till late March (sometimes till mid-April). Kabayan comforts We have a small Filipino community that gets together during special occasions, communicating through our group chats. In terms of food, the number one Asian takeaway is headed by a Filipino chef, Ace, who worked in Dubai and is my partner in catering services.





“Sydney is a generally safe and accommodating to tourists from all countries and backgrounds. However, there are a few things to take note of. Shopping centers are not open as late as other cities in Asia, particularly on Sundays. Also, public transport doesn’t accept cash. Pre-paid Opal cards need to be purchased before getting on trains, buses, and ferries.”

Looking for iconic beaches, wine regions, and all-around cosmopolitan vibes? Look no further! Sydney is one of the largest cities in Australia. Famed for the stunning Bondi Beach, Sydney Opera House, the Blue Mountains and more, the city is home to a surprisingly diverse range of attractions. It is also a backpacker-friendly city, with a wide variety of accommodations and activities on offer. Having lived there since his early childhood, when his family migrated there in the ’70s, Filipino Sydney resident Johmar Gazo, says Sydney is truly a beautiful city. Here, he shares his tips and insights on getting around the capital of New South Wales.

Before you go Make sure you have the required visa. Sydney has a mild climate, but the seasons can also be misleading, so bring layers of clothing to be sure. If you’re visiting in the summer, swimming gear and sunscreen are essential. Bring a good pair of walking shoes because Sydney is a city to explore by foot to be able to find the many hidden gems. Must do’s and must see’s Sydney is a beautiful and vibrant city with its stunning harbor and waterways, sandy beaches, and green national parks. Sydney siders enjoy their food and their coffee, the arts and the outdoors, and being near the water.


When in Sydney, a stroll around the Opera House and the beautiful grounds of the Royal Botanical Gardens is a must. Walk around the historic laneways of the Rocks and explore the history of the old convict days. On the weekends, the Rocks Market has a colorful array of stalls for souvenirs and gifts to bring back home. On a sunny day, walk across the Harbour Bridge to North Sydney to watch the boats underneath. On the Northside of the Harbour, walking along the foreshore of Kirribilli and Milson’s Point and Luna Park is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon. Take a ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and enjoy both the ferry




ride in Sydney Harbour as well as the sands and cafés at Manly Beach. Finally, you can’t visit Sydney without sinking your toes into the fine white sands of Bondi Beach. Walk along the popular cliffside from Bondi to Bronte Beach and see ‘Sculptures by the Sea’ if you’re here from October to November. What to be aware of Sydney is a generally safe and accommodating to tourists from all countries and backgrounds. However, there are a few things to take note of. Shopping centers are not open as late as other cities in Asia, particularly on Sundays. Also, public transport doesn’t accept cash. Pre-paid Opal cards need to be purchased before getting on trains, buses, and ferries. Traveling on a budget One can make their dollar go further in Sydney by using public transport to get around. Many tourist attractions are also free to the public like the Art Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Art, and walking across the Harbour Bridge. There are dining options from high-end restaurants to simple cafés. The water is clean and drinkable from the tap, so carry a water bottle that you can refill, so you don’t have to buy bottled water. Best way to get around The trains, buses, and ferries are easy to use and will get you to most tourist

attractions. The new Metro will take you from the North-West side into the lower North Shore of Sydney. Taxis and Uber are also available, but are generally more expensive. Best foods and places to eat Experience a pub lunch that includes an Aussie steak, meat pie and chips, or fish and chips and a local beer in one of the many historical pubs in the Rocks. For a classic Aussie Pie, the signature “Harry’s Tiger” pie at the legendary Harry’s Café de Wheels in Woolloomooloo can’t be missed. If you fancy more traditional Asian cuisine, go wander in Chinatown. The Super Bowl on Dixon street is one of my all-time favorites – and they’re open until late. For the hip Asian food scene, head on over to Spice Alley in Chippendale. Aussie seafood is delicious and Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont is where you get the best catch. It’s a great place to have an early lunch of fresh oysters, mussels, fish, and calamari. For a modern Australian meal with a beautiful water view, one of my favorite places is Bathers at Balmoral Beach where you can dine while watching the boats from the cozy indoors. Hidden gems In my bachelor days, I lived in Lavender Bay and would often spend time in Wendy Whiteley’s Secret Garden. It’s a


magical garden by the harbor with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Walking or riding around a bike around Darling Harbour, Barangaroo, and Pyrmont is a great way to capture the sights of the city. I also enjoy hiking and kayaking, and the Spit Bridge to Manly walk is a favorite to enjoy the sun and the foreshore of the northern parts of the harbor. I often set off with my kayak from the Spit Bridge and paddle to Balmoral Beach for a coffee and a swim. When is the best time to visit? Sydney’s temperate climate makes it an easy place to visit all year round. It really depends on one’s preferred experience. During the summer months from November to January, the warm and long days mean a lot of time spent outdoors – and in the water. January is the time of the Sydney Festival, and there are plenty of activities around the city. The colder months are great for hiking and long walks. During May and June, the annual Vivid Festival showcases Sydney and its buildings through the magic of lights and is spectacular. Kabayan comforts There aren’t a lot of Filipino restaurants, but the ones I can recommend are Mama Lor in Rooty Hill and Rey’s Place in Darlinghurst. There are also Filipino festivals throughout the year, like the Filipino Food Festival and the Filipino Cultural Festival.





“Though Melbourne may not boast the grandest landmarks compared to Sydney, we have the famous Flinder Street Railway Station – a building that is more than a century old right in the heart of the city. The spot has become one of the most iconic landmarks in Melbourne.”

Diverse; this is one word that perfectly captures the essence of Melbourne. As the coastal capital of Victoria, Australia, Melbourne is a hip and dynamic melting pot of cultures, landscapes, food, and activities that always keep travelers on their toes. Whether you’re visiting the city’s Federation Square – a venue for arts, culture, and events – for a dose of unique character, or strolling down the Royal Botanic Gardens taking in the city’s charms, there’s never a dull moment there. Arriving in Melbourne over a decade ago via job relocation, Jun Tacio – head of IT at Prima Printing Pty Ltd – shares his tips for when it comes to making the most of your time in Melbourne.

Before you go Be aware that Australia is located in the southern hemisphere. This means that the timing of different seasons is not in-sync with the northern hemisphere. Winter season runs from June to August, Spring is from September to November, Summer is from December to February, and Autumn is from March to April.

clothing depending on what time of the year and where in Australia you are traveling.

With that said, the southern states of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory) have relatively colder weather than Queensland, Northern Territory, and Western Australia. So, travelers should pack the appropriate

Must do’s and must see’s Though Melbourne may not boast the grandest landmarks compared to Sydney, we have the famous Flinder Street Railway Station – a building that is more than a century old right in the heart of the city. The spot has become one of the most iconic landmarks in Melbourne.


If you are heading to Melbourne, it is always good to have a warm jacket and a pullover handy. Locals here will tell you that Melbourne usually experiences four seasons in a day.




A must-do in Melbourne is to join a bus tour and visit the 12 Apostles. It is not a religious shrine; rather, it is a collection of limestone stacks off the shore of Port Campbell National Park, by the Great Ocean Road. The trip along Ocean Road itself will remind you of traveling along Kennon Rd going up to Baguio City. Albeit, the snaking Ocean Road gives you an open ocean vista which Kennon Road does not have.

hotel rates are high in Melbourne. Make sure though, that the place that is walking distance to a train station, as that will be the cheapest way to access the city.

tourists to be found, only locals walk along this long stretch. People go about their daily walks and exercises during the mornings and afternoons here.

For food and fruits, visit Queen Victoria Market in the city. It’s open from 6 am to 2 am, except on Mondays and Wednesdays. You will find fresh veggies and fruits, as well as cheap prepared meals. Ready meals are also available in supermarkets.

Caribbean Markets on Sundays. You need to have your own transport to get there. Buy anything from bulky home furniture to tiny sewing buttons. Foodstuff and fresh produce are aplenty.

If you’re a foodie, then Melbourne is the place to be in Australia. You can find high-end fine dining to fast-food style eateries here. Most popular in Melbourne are the laneways where you can find different restaurants, bars, and food stalls that will rival those only found in Europe. This city is also well known for its local cafe culture. Barista-prepared coffees will definitely win over your discerning palate.

How to get around The best way to get around the city is by walking. Melbourne is compact’ hence you can walk from one place to another easily. But if you don’t want to walk, hop-on and hop-off the tram as long as you are within the free-tram zone in the city (which is almost 90% of the place). However, if you need to travel to other zones, you should get a MyKi card available from 7-Eleven stores and train stations.

What to avoid Avoid bringing in fruits and homeprepared food into Australia as ‘pasalubong’ if you don’t want to get stuck at customs at the airport. Other commercial foodstuff should be declared on the customs entry form, or else they will be confiscated, and you will also be fined. Traveling on a budget Save on accommodations by looking for a place to stay outside the city as most

Best food and places to try Check out Melbourne’s meat pies! You might also want to try a kangaroo steak or burger! Don’t forget to check out the laneways when looking for a place to eat. The famous food laneways in Melbourne are the Degraves Street, Centre Place, Hardware Lane and Tattersalls Lane (part of Chinatown). Hidden gems The Chelsea beach in Melbourne. No


If you want to experience a quaint country town, then hop on a train or drive to Bacchus Marsh – a pretty little town 50km from the city. The Boyd Community Hub along City Road is mostly overlooked by tourists. It houses a small library and an information center – it even offers free wi-fi. So, if you want to switch off or be alone, this is the place to visit. A tram stop is actually next to it. Kabayan comforts Around Melbourne and its suburbs are Pinoy stores selling Filipino food, canned goods, frozen meat, and fish products, as well as soaps and toiletries from back home. Several Filipino restaurants have also opened. Easily accessible in the city is GJ’s Grill beside Queen Victoria Market. There’s also Reynaldo’s Restaurant, which is a short tram ride to North Melbourne. GJ’s Grill serves all things inihaw and dishes like sinigang. Reynaldo’s serves everything you can think of - from lechon to pansit, to halo-halo.





“Aside from a waterfront cycling and walking track, Southbank has free public ‘beach style‘ swimming pools, cafes, casual and fine dining restaurants, pubs, as well as lush green spaces with free BBQ facilities. Southbank is also home to the Queensland Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.”

Brisbane, A.K.A. Brissie, is the bustling waterside capital of Queensland, Australia. Even with sites like Southbank and Brisbane’s CBD fueling the city’s social and cultural pulse, this contemporary metropolis still retains an unwavering connection with nature – apparent with spots like the city’s Botanic Gardens and Mt. Coot-Tha – and that laid-back Queensland lifestyle. Boyet Damot – a contracts and commercial management professional in the construction industry – gives us a glimpse of what it is to be like a local in Brisbane.

Before you go Filipino passport holders require a valid tourist visa to visit Australia. Philippine Airlines operate non-stop direct flights from Manila-Brisbane four times weekly. Bear in mind that because Australia in the southern hemisphere, seasons here are opposite to those in the northern hemisphere. A popular time for tourists to visit is during the cool winter and spring months (from June to November) and possibly up to the start of the summer season (in December).


Must do’s and must see’s If you have only 2 days in Brisbane, be sure to visit Queen Street Mall at the CBD which has a collection of department stores, boutique shops, and restaurants that cater to a range of culinary preferences (traditional Australian, Mediterranean, and Asian). Also in the CBD is King George Square, which is the city’s premier public square, and the City Botanic Gardens. A leisurely 15-minute walk from the CBD is Southbank, Brisbane’s premier cultural and lifestyle destination popular




among tourists and locals. Southbank is located across the Brisbane River and can be reached via Victoria Bridge. Aside from a waterfront cycling and walking track, Southbank has free public “beach style” swimming pools, cafes, casual and fine dining restaurants, pubs, as well as lush green spaces with free BBQ facilities. Southbank is also home to the Queensland Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. If you have 3 days or more in Brisbane, be sure to visit Mount Coot-Tha (7 km west of Brisbane). You can take a taxi or uber to Mount Coot-Tha (the fare would be between $20-$35 depending on the time of day) or the public bus (Translink Bus 471). The Lookout at Mount Cootha commands a panoramic view of the city. Enjoy the view while enjoying an espresso, a light snack, or lunch at either the Kuta Cafe or The Summit Restaurant. Before heading back to the city, visit the Sir Thomas Planetarium at the foot of Mount Coot-Tha and discover the secrets of the universe! Admission is free except for shows at the Cosmic Sky Dome. Finish the day at the Botanical Gardens (different from the City Botanic Gardens in the CBD) - admission is also free. If you still have some time during your

stay, take a leisurely cruise around Brisbane River on board any of the CityCat or CityHopper boats and hop on/ off at any of the stops to explore the area. Hop off at Kangaroo Point and try your hand at abseiling. What to avoid Brisbane, like any Australia city, is a relatively safe city with modern public transport and public services (including police support services). If you intend to hire a car and drive around, note that Australia is a righthand drive country. It may not be recommended if you are not familiar with right-hand drive cars and righthand drive traffic rules. Australia is very strict on drunk driving, and violations attract a hefty fine. In using public transport, be sure you have the correct single-trip tickets or better yet, get a tap on/off GoCard a smartcard that can be used on ALL public transports. There is a heavy fine for riding public transport without a correct ticket. Traveling on a budget Depending on preference, accommodations can range from the five-star hotels in the city to backpacker hostels and AirBNBs. Reduce your data roaming bill by using the free Wi-Fi within the CBD, or you can spend time


at the Brisbane City Library where you can use computers with free internet access, aside from free Wi-Fi. There are also reasonably-priced restaurants for the budget-conscious, especially fast food joints at Post Office Square where lunch meals are as affordable as $7 per set. Best foods and places to eat If you like steaks, check out Brisbane’s “Worst Vegetarian Restaurant” at The Norman Hotel. Other personal favorite restaurants within the Brisbane CBD are as follows: Japanese ramen - Men Ya Go; Mediterranean/Greek - Jimmy’s on the Mall; British & Aussie fare: - Pig and Whistle; Korean - Maru, Madtongsan; Vietnamese - Fat Noodle by Celebrity Chef Luke Nguyen (located at the Treasury Casino on George Street) Kabayan comforts Craving Filipino food and delicacies? Head out to Best Friends Kainan sa Valley at Fortitude Valley (just one train station away from the Brisbane City Central Station plus a 3-minute walk) and sample traditional Filipino fare at their turo-turo or carinderia style food stall. Another favorite Filipino restaurant is Yes Please! Filipino Restaurant near The Gabba stadium at Woolloongabba (less than a 10 minute uber or taxi ride from the CBD). They serve all-time Filipino favorite dishes like crispy pata, sisig, all the silogs, dinuguan, sinigang, and many more.






B y A LW E E V I L L A R O S A


In a charming neighborhood with wonderful restaurants and shops, and sights within walking distance, as well as the city center, Plaza Catalunya for about 5 minutes. I love the atmosphere in my neighborhood, you will find local and specialty stores (organic food, vintage clothes, vinyl records, wineries, vintage decor), a mix of cultures, the architectural style of the old city, good restaurants, terraces in summer, cultural centers. We also have one of the buildings considered artistic heritage: the Palau de la Música, just 3 minutes walk. Also, another landmark of the city is the Arc de Triomf. Reference point to get home. Or the Parc de la Ciutadella, a beautiful park IXX century, a great place to go for a walk, jogging, yoga, dance or swing tip-tap on the center stand or just breathe fresh air.


The Bower is one of three cabins in a close-knit hamlet nestled in the Wootha rainforest, only 10 minutes drive from the township of Maleny and 20 minutes to Woodfordia. Relax in front of the warm wood-burning fireplace, enjoy the abundant birdlife from your private deck, soak in the antique claw-foot bath, and lose yourself in the celestial clerestory views.


Admire the effortless blend of vintage and modern convenience and style of this sunny loft in central Budapest. With highlights like bold, contemporary artwork, monochrome accents, and a spacious walk-in shower, this home embodies bohemian chic. The flat is located just a short walk from Oktogon, one of the most popular areas of the city. Király Street is about five minutes away from where guests will find ruin pubs, cocktail bars, and wine tasting. There’s also plenty of dining options!




Have breakfast alfresco within the pinkish walls of a terrace and enjoy the breathtaking views of the magnificent baroque cathedral of San Giorgio and ancient Modica. The typical local-style house has recently been completely renovated and furnished with style, the kitchen and bathrooms have received designer upgrades; some of the original details are still present in the soft color of the local stone, the beamed ceilings and doors, the old painted ceramic tiles and some antique pieces of furniture. Modica is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.


Sip a refreshing glass of the natural spring water, then take a dip in the secluded natural pool at this nature-inspired, architectural masterpiece in the forest’s heart. Pick bananas, look for monkeys, and watch blue butterflies fluttering by too. The Arca house is located inside our ecological sanctuary called Aldeia Rizoma in the middle of the Atlantic Forest, at the border of Bocaina National Park, one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. One hundred meters from the entrance gate of the property, there’s a local restaurant called Barão—a simple place, but very authentic, with delicious food. The local community of neighbors in that region live in harmony with nature and are our dear friends.


This home, built in the 1920s, was recently restored to accentuate its original charm. Experience history and modernity in the private suite featuring repointed original brick, rustic finishes, an interior courtyard, and a shared rooftop patio. The property is located in La Roma, known as the artistic area of the city. There is always something happening, such as shows or exhibits. There are also a number of hotspots to indulge in international cuisine.


Marvel at this meticulously designed, eco-friendly villa overlooking idyllic rice fields. Some luxuries include a private swimming pool, smart TV, soundbar, and cooking and massage services. Relax in total privacy still close to the best beaches. Set within a secure and secluded development, it only takes a few minutes to reach a number of beaches such as Echo Beach, Batu Bolong, and Berawa. Canggu Club and more are all within a short stroll away. Popular upscale resort Seminyak is nearby, too.




Feel immediately drawn to the wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows with an accompanying balcony. Enjoy the large, welcoming sitting area, while gazing out at the gardens. Wander around, discovering the stunning furniture and modern decor accents. Hohe Warte is a densely populated hill in Vienna′s 19th district, Döbling. This exclusive area was home to many Presidents. Wander just two minutes to the 37 tram line which goes straight downtown. There, discover many restaurants, bars, and shops.


Walk through a jungle-like secret path to a quiet beach from this tropical cabin. Surrounded by tropical palm trees, this space provides the feel of camping out and features modern comforts. Sit outside at night to take in the view of the night sky. Just steps away from a beach ideal for surfing, fishing, and hiking. Located just minutes away from “La Cueva del Indio”—Indian Cave—and Arecibo Lighthouse, and a short drive from Cueva Ventana, Las Cavernas del Río Camuy, and the Tanama River.


After a day of sand and sun, curl up by the fireplace in this delightful bungalow that captures the spirit of the neo-bohemian living. With vaulted ceilings, cheerful decor, and vintage touches, it feels open, bright, and welcoming. Rugged, beautiful landscape with picturesque mountain views and wide open cloudless blue skies. The morning crisp light to the sunset glow. The perfect spot for any photo shoot.


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