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LI V ING IN EUROPE Issue 3 - Oct/Nov 2013

INSIDE Jonathan Christopher: Designing for success


Azkals’ Juan Luis Guirado on being Filipino

Get to know ! Inspiring Pinoy entrepreneurs

Invest in real estate in the Philippines TRAVEL An affordable guide to El Nido, Palawan Plus 5 weekend destinations for autumn

The Filipino Expat Magazine



The Filipino Expat Magazine


Expat interviews

9 Copenhagen-based community leader tells us why Denmark is a happy place to live in


10 Azkals defender Juan Luis Guirado opens up on his Pinoy side 12 A pilgrim relives his journey on the Camino de Santiago

Cover story

16 Up-and-coming Filipino-Dutch designer Jonathan Christopher Hofwegen details how he made it on his own


20 Get to know the Filipinos who defied the odds to start their own business in Europe 30 Learn how to start a franchising business with a small capital 32 Know why now is the right time to invest in the Philippines’ real estate industry

On the cover: Jonathan Christopher Hofwegen shows us his atelier. Photography by Robin Kuijs.


Fashion 36 Learn how to break bounderies in men’s fashion

How to make biko


41 Five weekend destinations for autumn 44 Discover the beautiful El Nido Palawan 48 Living in the lap of luxury at the exclusive Punta Fuego seaside community


Readers’ Corner


A note from the editor


Contributors’ page



The Filipino Expat Magazine


READERs' CORNER The Filipino Expat likes to hear from our readers. Keep on sending your thoughts and comments to editor@



The magazine looks great. The varying layout makes me curious on how the next page will look. The writing makes me want to keep on reading and the content is interesting. You have set yourself a high standard. I wish you a good future with the magazine and the website and thank you for letting me be a part of the launch.

Publishers Dheza Marie Aguilar Chris Sta Brigida, MA

Editor in Chief

Diana Uy

Managing Editor

Dheza Marie Aguilar

- Atle Schotel, the Netherlands

Creative Director Robin Kuijs

Congratulations! I like [The Filipino Expat]! Very informative! Well done! More power to Filipino Expat! - Leonor Vintervoll,


Nowadays, good quality, creative platform that particularly focuses on Filipino expatriates is hard to find. The Filipino Expat offers rich information, articles and insights. It’s web portal is enticing, userfriendly and intuitive. With the best roster of talents committed to this initiative despite their busy lives, I feel confident that their efforts will flourish. I wish the Filipino Expat magazine the best of luck and I look forward to more issues to come. Mabuhay!

- Grace “Perpie” Poblador, Switzerland

Editorial Assistant Myra Colis

Reading this first edition of The Filipino Expat Magazine I must say, I find it to be interesting, well written, colorful and neatly designed. It has given me new insights into the Filipinos living here and the challenges they have faced or are still facing. - Wouter de Boer, the


Congratulations to the Filipino Expat! Mabuhay and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors especially in providing informative stories to all Filipinos whether they are overseas or at home in the Philippines. - Joshua Boell

Formentera, Denmark

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Advertising Managers Dexter Matilla (Philippines) Rhea Topacio-Rogacion (Europe)

The Filipino Expat Magazine Published 6 times a year By The Filipino Expat

The opinions expressed in The Filipino Expat magazine do not represent the views of The Filipino Expat company. While we have exhausted every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, neither The Filipino Expat nor its editors, contributors and staff will accept any responsibility for any omission, typographical or printing errors, inaccuracies or changes however caused. Our editorial and creative teams reserve the right to edit any material submitted at our discretion. All texts, photos and graphics have been used with the permission of the author or artists. All rights are reserved. No part of this publication may be duplicated or reproduced in a whole in any form or by any means without the publisher’s prior written permission. Comments and complaints should be addressed to: The Publisher The Filipino Expat Magazine Lorentzlaan 74 3112KP Schiedam The Netherlands Telephone +31 (0) 624407692 Email Website



veryone dreams of achieving financial freedom. It’s true that most Filipino expats are earning better wages compared to their kababayans in the Philippines. However, that does not necessarily mean that they are doing better or managing their finances well. In fact, there have been many reports that a good percentage of Filipinos living abroad have yet to imbibe the concept of saving and investing money. Even more heartbreaking are the stories of Filipinos who have worked for many years overseas and earning well but returning or retiring to the Philippines a poor fellow, if not in the same situation as before. According to surveys, Filipinos abroad tend to send a large portion of their income to their families back home, which financial experts say, is a bad habit that we need to break. For this third issue, The Filipino Expat has gathered its resources to give you informative and inspiring stories that we hope will help you reach financial freedom. We have filled our pages with features on our kababayans who have found success in their business ventures in Europe despite the cultural differences, lack of capital, limited expertise and connections and so on. Our cover story chronicles the journey of fashion designer Jonathan Hofwegen, from a young kid getting inspired by fashion to having his own clothing company, dressing up some of Amsterdam’s popular celebrities and selling his clothes in Hong Kong. We also have stories on passionate Filipinos who made a business out of what they love to do such as hairdressing, pampering clients, baking cupcakes or cooking.

Azkal defender Juan Luis Guirado with shoot coordinators Windy dela Cruz and Neil dela Cruz on a photoshoot break in Madrid.

We’ve even included a piece on investing in real estate in the Philippines. Thanks to a boom in the country’s property and construction industries. And granted we don’t have enough millions (in pesos or euros) yet to put up our own fast food chain for example, we can opt to own an affordable but reputable food kiosk franchise or two in the meantime. Tips can be found in the article titled, “Winning the food business through franchising.” How can we forget our readers’ craving to satisfy their wanderlust if not their love for food? FilExpat’s publisher Dheza Kuijs and husband Robin traveled to Punta Fuego, an exclusive seaside resort community in Batangas, Philippines, for an unforgettable and relaxing staycation. Their escape to another paradise island El Nido is also a must-read. Foodies who are missing the kakanin called biko can follow the delicious recipe of Ken Subillaga. Plus! We have an exclusive on Philippine Azkals player Juan Luis Guirado. Contributor Nats Sisma Villaluna has all the juicy details in a feature titled, “Close Encounter with an Azkal.”

Dheza Marie Aguilar interviews Jonathan Christopher Hofwegen for the cover story.

Happy reading!


The Filipino Expat Magazine



Winderlyn ‘Windy’ Dela Cruz is a graduate of Bachelor of fine arts major in advertising at the University of Santo Tomas, Manila. Her scope of expertise includes photography, illustration, painting and motion graphics. She formed the band Sanka, now Strange Fall. She was the guitarist of the band until she moved to Spain. Now she produces and composes songs for them. She lives in Madrid.

Ruelle Albert Castro is a career journalist, learning the ropes of being the typical streetsmart guy. Part-cynic, part-optimist, story-telling (or chronicling your story) is his business.

Myra Colis is a Filipino entrepreneur who believes in the power of data in driving businesses to success. She provides consumer market research, communications/marketing, and skills training support to micro, small, and medium enterprises in Europe via her own startup company, E3 Data Intelligence Services ( She lives in the Netherlands.

Kenneth Subillaga is finishing his PhD at the University of Santiago de Compostela. He teaches English as well as bakes personalized cakes for his business Tartas de Disenos, www.

Nats Sisma Villaluna came to Spain to study Masters in International Sectorial Economics at the University of Santiago de Compostela in 2004. From 2005 to 2008, he worked as a volunteer for various Spanish NGOs in Madrid. In 2009, he took up Masters in International Cooperation at the University of Barcelona. Today, he is juggling two jobs: teaching English and volunteering at Centro Filipino in Barcelona. He is a member of The Filipino Writers Association in Spain as well as Grupo Concierto Filipino. Nats is a lover of books, good food and art films. He travels a lot during his free time.

Maria Kristine Fleischhacker also writes for The Filipino Expat website. She served as a volunteer in Latin America before moving to Switzerland. She is completely fascinated by European landscapes and architecture. She loves exploring the cuisine, as well as the literature, of each country she visits but her heart remains in the Philippines. At present, her greatest challenge is to speak German without faltering. She is married to a loving Hungarian.

Ronald Pronk is a fashion photographer who co-owns Jitty’s Hair and Make-up in Amsterdam. He is passionate about photography and helping people find their full potential. His works can be seen at


The Filipino Expat Magazine

The Filipino Expat Magazine



Kulturang Pilipino 2013 October 12, 2013 FanaKulturhus, Nesstun, Norway Kulturang Pilipino 2013, organized by HawakKamay Bergen, presents traditional Filipino folk dances as well as a fashion show of the traditional terno with a modern twist by Numer Exconde. Call or email Ma. Bernadette Baylosis at +47 0 906 43 009 / webmaster@hawak.kamay. org

Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Seminar September 2013- March 2014 WereldHuisThe Hague The Netherlands The seminar aims to educate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on financial literacy, thus empowering them on making proper choices when it comes to their money. Registration is until Oct. 3. Email Rhea Topacio at lse.

Filipino Fighting Arts Seminar October 30, 2013 Bad Kreuznach, Germany The seminar is open to anyone interested in gaining an in-depth understanding and knowledge background of Filipino martial arts. FFAA’s goal is to promote and share the Filipino martial arts around the world at the highest technical level. For more information, visit

Dances of Paradise Islands October 20, 2013 The Venue, MK Milton Keynes, England Premier Filipino dance group Lahing Kayumanggi performs traditional songs and dances from the different islands of the Philippines. For tickets, visit or

Fibre Filippine October 17-20, 2013 Rome, Italy All roads lead to Rome as 13 exhibitors representing handembroidered products using traditional Philippine fibers made of pina, abaca and banana present their pride to the Italian audience.


The Filipino Expat Magazine

Happy in Denmark


By DM Kuijs

One of the picturesque views in Denmark.


he United Nations General Assembly’s second “World Happiness Report” has ranked Denmark number one. Judy Jover, a Filipina expat in Copenhagen, Denmark, tells us why: How long have you been living in Denmark? I have been living here in Denmark for more than 15 years. Prior to that, I’ve lived in Switzerland for two years, France for two years and Germany for two years. What can you say about the country’s quality of life? Denmark has a very high standard of living. It has something to do with the very high tax we pay. However, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Good schools and good medical care are some of the things we don’t have to worry about. If you lose your job and you are a member of a union, you will actually get enough money every month to be able to get by. The Danish system is very well organized. This “security net” protects Danish citizen. I’m quite happy with my life here in Denmark. I feel safe and secured especially when you have children. Their welfare system is generous. I don’t mind paying almost

42 percent of my earnings as I can see it’s put to good use. How would you rate the kind of life you have now? I would go for 8 on a scale of 10, being the highest. I am satisfied with all the social benefits Denmark has to offer to its citizens. But being a foreigner in this country, it’s something else. There are still some gaps I have to fill in before I could go for 100 percent satisfaction. Moving to a new country means starting your life all over again: New language, new identity, new challenges. Fitting in is another story. No matter how long you have been here, the high education you’ve achieved and the vast experiences you have had, you still settle for something less or work harder to be at a certain level of acceptance here.

The iconic Little Mermaid statue that attracts thousands of tourists.

disabled. Thus everyone is feeling happy and has nothing much to complain about. What are the top three things that is being done for the citizens of Denmark that you wish is also being done by the Philippine government to its people? 1. Health care service for all. 2. Green lifestyle – Respecting the environment, recycling and using renewable energies. 3. Innovative society – the concern of the government is always on working conditions, education and community development.

Do you agree with the World’s Happiness Report that the well being of the citizens are being prioritized by policy makers in Denmark? I very much agree with that. Denmark has developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all -- including the children, the elderly and the

Judy Jover The Filipino Expat Magazine



up close and personal with an azkal by Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna photos by Windy dela Cruz


hen we visited Malaga, Spain a few months ago, we never expected to share a beer or two with the Spanish-Filipino Azkals player Juan Luis Guirado. Standing 6 feet and 2 inches tall, the Malaga-born Guirado gamely shared his story with us, narrating his journey from Malaga to Manila to represent the Philippines in the international football arena. “I think I was already playing football when I was born. I started playing when I was young in all corners of our neighborhood in El Palo, Malaga. That was everyday. I began playing professionally when I turned 18,” shares Guirado. The 33-year-old defender/midfielder was playing for the Spanish team, Racing Lermeño, until January 2012. He joined the Azkals February of the same year. Those who have been following the humble and down-to-earth Guirado always remember how he helped the Philippines win over Palestine during a close match back in March 2012. That was when he scored his first international goal, giving the Philippines the much needed lead. The game ended at 4-2 in favor of the Philippine team. “It was through my cousin Rafa [Garcia] who made me consider playing with Azkals. Seeing that the team was improving and Azkals was looking for players around the world, he asked us if we would like to play for the team,” recalls Guirado. According to Guirado, there were many considerations before he

Azkals defenderJuan Luis Guirado at the Monumento de Rizal in Madrid, Spain.

joined the Azkals. Among them included the economic situation in Spain plus the fact that he just started working at Frito Lays for Pepsi Company. But Guirado was determined to become an Azkals player. And he never once regretted his decision. “For me, it was and still is the most beautiful thing that has happened to me, professionally. More than the pride on being able to represent a lot of people and although I was not born in the Philippines, I feel every bit a Filipino every day of my life,” admits Guirado.

“Although I was not born in the Philippines, I feel every bit a Filipino every day of my life” 10

The Filipino Expat Magazine

Guirado shows some moves.

He got game Juan Luis Guirado is arguably one of Azkals’ most prized players. It doesn’t hurt also that he is halfFilipino and so proud of it, making it so easy for fans to connect with him. Guirado tells us more about what it is like to be playing for the Philippine team:

Guirado proudly wears the Philippine flag.

Guirado’s family was equally happy and supportive of him. The Azkals player was born to a Filipina mother, a native of Ilagan, Isabela. His mom, Angela, belongs to the famous Aldeguer clan in the Philippines. She met her husband Juan Luis senior, a true blue Malaguneo, during a visit to her cousin in Spain. Guirado’s younger brother, Angel Guirado, is also a midfielder at team Azkals. “My siblings and I have always been exposed to the Philippine culture thanks to my mother. My mom, who is always brimming with happiness and optimism, cooks a lot of Filipino dishes. It´s always fiesta at home,” enthuses Guirado. According to Guirado, he was five years old when he first visited the Philippines for the first time. He remembers the colors and the rice fields. His second visit was eight years ago, enjoying more his stay by spending more time with his relatives and going to places like Ilagan and San Fernando. He loved pancit, crispy pata and lechon. “I am always amazed by the happiness and optimism of the people in the Philippines. And the heat! You can’t forget that,” reveals Guirado. Guirado was recently tapped to do a project in Payatas. It was an eye-opener, he says. “I didn’t doubt for a second in saying yes. I wanted to see the reality of life, and if I can help in any way I can, I will always be there. They taught me a lot of things and I enjoyed more than I expected. I hope to go back soon to learn more and enjoy more than I expected,” admits Guirado. Guirado says he has always been a Filipino at heart. “Right now, I am trying to learn and improve my English and Tagalog. I want to take this opportunity to learn more and more things about the Philippines. I even show off my Philippine passport every time I travel and I see Filipinos at the airport,” shares Guirado. Guirado says that in Spain, he can now actually point out a Pinoy in the crowd. Once in Burgos, he stopped a Pinoy and called out, “Kabayan! Pre, kamusta?”

What is the difference between playing in Spain and in the Philippines? As far as national leagues are concerned, Spain has the best football league in the world and the second divisions have a higher level too. In the Philippines, there are still more things to improve on as far as the structure, organization, and/or learning in general are concerned. But lately, it has shown a lot of improvements in all aspects. Who are your favourite football players? I don’t have favourite players. Each one has something to offer like [Zinedine] Zidane has class; Ronaldo, power; Cristiano [Ronaldo], his competitiveness and speed; [Lionel] Messi, his decisiveness. What have you learned during your first year with Azkhals? A lot of things! The language, the culture... each player, everybody without exception has given me something. Each of us comes from different places with different cultures. I learned to be more humble, to see the reality of life, respect others and to always feel lucky and grateful for everything that I have. I am seeing the world, different places that I would have never gone to. I have discovered that every Filipino from different parts of the world accepts and meets us in a very special way. I feel privileged. I get to play with the best players in every international match that we participate in. Until when are you going to play football? I will play until my body permits me to. I work hard and I take care of myself really well for this dream to last a longer, possible time. But no, I will never abandon football, age doesn’t matter to me. -Nats Sisma Villaluna

The Filipino Expat Magazine


A pilgrim’s tale

Nats Sisma Villaluna

By Dheza Marie Aguilar

How are your divas (feet, shoulders and back)? The divas are fine now. My shoulders and back had already stopped aching on the day I arrived in Santiago. Though my feet still have some traces of the previous blisters, they no longer complain when I walk. In one of your blog entries, you mentioned that you were not really sure of the reason why you were doing the Camino for the third time. Have you found your answers?


or almost a month, Nathaniel Sisma Villaluna has amazed and entertained us with his blog entries on The Filipino Expat website, chronicling his

journey on the famous Camino de Santiago. His inspiring stories definitely made us laugh, squirm, reflect, wonder and even feel encouraged to try the pilgrimage ourselves. Nats, as friends fondly call him, is now back in Barcelona, settling back to the life he temporarily left behind. But we know that this pilgrim’s tale is not yet over. He will make many more journeys on the Camino and delight us once again with his funny anecdotes, insights, and musings. FilExpat has recently flown to Barcelona to check on our celebrity of the hour.


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This is a very difficult question, actually. Days before I left for Roncevalles to start my Camino I had been asking myself every day, “Why am I doing this? Why am I subjecting myself to a month of torture and suffering?”. I just felt that I had to do it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could. I had always wanted to do the whole French route. Alone. These past few months, I was restless and I felt the need to be with myself to think things over. I thought walking the Camino was the best way to do it. It just came at the right time. There were many reasons as a matter of fact. But after several days of walking, everything just fell into place. Deep inside me, I knew and felt the real reason why. It´s difficult to explain to tell you the truth. But at the end of the day, it is not the “Why I did the Camino?” that really matters, it is the, “I am so glad I did it,” that counts. What would you consider your fondest memory from the 26-day journey? A lot. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my entire life. Looking at the hundreds of photos I have taken, everything was like a dream. Funny, because I can still remember even the smell of the air, the heat, the sound of my walking stick hitting the rocky paths, the “Buen Camino” greetings from fellow peregrinos or the locales. I remember the food, the conversations that I had with complete strangers.

Antonio, another pilgrim whom Nats calls ‘The Historian of Aragon.’

Every time I started my walk in the morning, the feeling of adventure, recklessness and fatigue. And every time I reached my destination at the end of the day, the feeling of elation, excitement and relief and yes, fatigue. Everything. Even the pain in my feet, back and shoulders. Believe it or not, I can still remember the pain with fondness. These small details made up the whole amazing journey.

Nats made friend with Canadian couple, Mark and Isabel.

at the camera, very happy. Below the photo, there was a note that read, “Por ti lo haría mil Which do you think was the most challenging veces Kevin, hijo mío.” (For you, I would do this part? a thousand times Kevin, my son). Beside Kevin´s photo was a photo I can think of three gruesome “It was the of a middle-aged woman hugging a days as the most challenging tiger on her lap, healthy and happy. ones. First was walking to hottest day of And then below the photo, a note Pamplona, which was the second the year and I read, “Our Dear Trudy 1942-2011”. day, I had blisters all over my was soaking, Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable. feet. My shoulders were bruised It was like something hit me. I panting and couldn’t explain it. As I looked and my back was aching big time because of my heavy backpack. around, I was all alone in a vast burning in Second, was walking to Logroño. of green and the road ahead the Spanish space It was the hottest day of the year seemed unfamiliar and endless. and I was soaking, panting and summer heat. In front of me were two healthy burning in the Spanish summer I ran out of and happy looking individuals, heat. I ran out of water and both already gone. I suddenly water and remembered my father, friends my nose was bleeding. Third, walking to O Cebreiro. It was my nose was who had passed away. Images of a strenuous 30-km walk with Kevin´s old mom or dad walking bleeding.” eight kilometers of steep trails. the Camino for him went flashing I almost gave up. At the end of in my head. No matter how hard the day, when I finally reached I tried, I couldn’t stop crying. I was O Cebreiro, I treated myself to a crying and crying while walking. I only stopped really, really heavy and sumptuous dinner. when I saw a farmer from a distant. I told myself, “So it´s true. I had just my “breakdown How and when was your so-called breakdown moment.” But it felt good afterwards. moment? Do you believe that miracles happen in the That´s true. I was a bit skeptical at first, but at Camino? the same time, I was looking forward to having this moment –my own “breakdown” moment. I am a believer of miracles. And yes, miracles On my 17th day, on my way to Foncébadon, I happen on the Camino. Small things actually. was all alone walking in the middle of a wheat Pure coincidence, maybe. But then, sometimes, field when I saw a big cross. Beneath it was a it is hard to explain. One of the reasons why I photo of a very young man, healthy and smiling did the Camino was my mother. The Filipino Expat Magazine


Signs guide pilgrims during their long journey on Camino de Santiago.

anyone to talk to. I talked to God. I knew that he was walking with me, listening and watching. I always felt His presence every time I got lost and was about to throw the towel. And it felt good. Really. How would you advise those who want to walk the Camino as well? My advice is to be psychologically and physically prepared. Take care of your feet. Our feet can dictate us if we can continue or not. The first few days will be very, very difficult. Don’t be afraid of doing it alone because along the way, you will meet a lot of interesting people.

“ I came to know what I am capable of doing as well as my limits.” What have you learned from this journey?

I didn´t mention this in my blog because it was something that I was not ready to talk about back then. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo an operation back in August. Everyday, during my walk, I offered my prayers for her safe operation, her full recovery and for the cancer to disappear. I finished my Camino. August came and she had the operation. The operation went fine and there was no need for chemo. Her cancer was gone. It was like, “God, you answered my prayers!” How did your religion influence or help you in this journey? I can say that I have a beautiful relationship with God in my own way. And yes, it played a very important part in my journey. I was alone most of the time. I didn’t have

I learned a lot from this journey. I came to know what I am capable of doing as well as my limits. I learned to go with the flow as what Antonio from Aragon told me. That life is like doing the Camino. There are different routes and paths, but there is only one destination. We have burdens to carry but it´s up to us whether to give up or go on. It´s a decision to make. What paths to take –whether by the highway, in the middle of wheat fields or on rocky roads. Life is not easy. Because if it were, it would be boring. After my Camino, I came up with this line that can best describe how I felt while walking: Stubbornness of the mind, recklessness of the spirit and humility of the heart. If given a chance, would you do it again? I think I would. But this time, it would be a different route. Maybe, I would take the North route, by the coast. They say it’s very beautiful and very difficult but let´s see. Why would I do it again? I don´t know yet. But at the moment, I would like to hold on to the memories of my recent Camino that are still fresh in my mind.

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IN THE NEXT ISSUE: Christmas Special 2013 We will feature stories on how Filipino expats spend their Christmas in Europe plus articles on Pinoy holiday fare, winter food, travelling in the tropics, winter holidays and other Christmas stories from here and home.


Robin Padilla tells us his most memorable Christmas celebrations and why overseas fIlipino workers are close to his heart.

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Cover Story

Designing his way to success By Dheza Marie Aguilar Photos by Robin Kuijs


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s we climb the narrow stairs up to his atelier, I tell fashion designer Jonathan Christopher Hofwegen, “With stairs like these, you shouldn’t be coming home drunk.” Hofwegen laughs, reading my mind about the wild and glamorous parties that someone like him is regularly invited to. “Oh, it’s manageable,” he chirps. “’Socializing is part of the job.” We reach the second floor of the house he shares with his partner Bart in Rotterdam. Here, he has a small reception area furnished by a worn out couch as well as a kitchen counter where he makes coffee for his guests. Then we notice the two open rooms –one full with samples and fabrics while the other, with patterns, mannequins and sewing machines. We enter his work station. On the wall above his computer are different photos and other images which Hofwegen says inspire him. Alongside the little works of “art” are self-help quotes touching on working hard and being original. Destined for fashion Hofwegen was born to a Filipina mother and American father. When his mother re-married his Dutch stepfather adopted him and took the whole family to The Netherlands. His exposure to fashion started at a young age, when he would see his mom dress up in stylish clothes and shoes. Growing up, his mom would always tell him to try to look his best even if his pockets were empty just so he would feel good about himself. He never forgot his mom’s wise words –fashion can make anyone not only look good but also make them feel rich as well. So when it was time for Hofwegen to pursue a course in university, it didn’t come as a surprise that he would choose something that had to do with fashion. Hofwegen finished his bachelor’s degree in fashion and apparel design at the Willem de Kooning Academy. He then pursued his master’s degree at the prestigious Dutch fashion school ArteZ Institute for the Arts and became part of the Generation 12 class.

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Even then, Hofwegen would be nominated for several fashion competitions in The Netherlands. He was most proud when he was chosen by no less than renowned fashion designer Marc Jacobs as the only non-German finalist for the Design for Tomorrow Berlin competition in 2011. Although he did not bring home the coveted 1st prize, he won the Henri Winkelman young creative entrepreneur award two years later in his home country.

clothes should be wearable. So much so, that even their creators will want to put them on. “I only want to create clothes that I will wear myself. I don’t get it how some designers can make things that they won’t wear themselves. I find it a waste of money and materials,” observes Hofwegen.

Hofwegen’s designs can be described as androgynous. He mixes and matches contrasting fabrics, uses solid colors and highlights fluidity “I don’t have to be a celebrity designer but I consider my designs as in his sillouettes. He goes as far as experimenting couture. I only with different make one piece materials for each of “I only want to create like wood to my collections and they’re all clothes that I will wear incorporate with his fabrics. handmade. I myself. I don’t get it how His inspirations use high quality can be as materials,” they can make things Hofwegen considers his designs as couture. diverse as notes the anatomy Hofwegen. that they won’t wear of insects to potential in the fashion industry themselves. I find it create pieces, At 26, especially in Europe. If only they are which can Hofwegen has developed and promoted more here,” a waste of money and transform his own label laments Hofwegen. materials” into different aptly named looks when Jonathan Entering the fashion world exposed to Christopher light. Jonathan also uses traditional Homme. The clothes under this line Hofwegen admits that it is not easy Philippine fabrics made of pina and are already being retailed at the K11 being a young fashion designer in banana fibers. mall in Hongkong. Dutch celebrities The Netherlands. To gain experience, including Jandino Asporaat have he worked for the Dutch fashion “Philippine fabrics, especially those sported his designs. designer Franciso van Benthum made of banana fibers, are very good for almost a year before taking his raw materials. They have great Hofwegen believes that designer master’s degree. He also worked for fashion store Sophie#1234567+ as both production managemer and assistant. In some of his designing gigs, he was not even paid for his work. Having his own label, says Hofwegen, is not all it’s cracked up to be. “Sometimes, I do not earn much with my pieces because I buy my fabrics which are of very high quality,” confesses Hofwegen. To augment his income, he designs clothes for other fashion houses. Hofwegen and his partner converted their second floor into the designer’s atelier.


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“Sometimes you just have to do what

everything himself –from looking for sponsors to marketing and managing his finances. He was able to start his business thanks to his savings plus a government grant that especially offers financial assistance to artists like Hofwegen. Hofwegen’s multicultural background, he says, has helped him to become more creative and entrepreneurial. He is quick to add that growing up in a Dutch household has influenced him to become business- minded as well.

Hofwegen makes sure his financial figures are correct.

you have to do,” says Hofwegen. While he understands that networking is a crucial part of his job, Hofwegen sometimes finds it difficult to combine partying all night and working on his designs the next day. “If I were younger, I wouldn’t mind. But now I feel tired easily after doing an all-nighter,” the designer laughingly shares.

Hofwegen advises aspiring entrepreneurs to read a lot, especially when it comes to subjects on finance. It is best, he says, to be surrounded by people who know how to handle their money well. Ask for advice on how to make your hardearned cash grow. Networking is also key to having success in business. You just have to be willing to spend time and money.

“Having a business is a lot of work and a lot of investment. Sometimes you have to work 20 hours a day and it can get really difficult. You have to have passion otherwise you will not survive”

“Having a business is a lot of work and a lot of investment. Sometimes you have to work 20 hours a day and it can get really difficult. You have to have passion otherwise you will not survive,” ends Hofwegen.

Having good business sense Recently, Hofwegen has partnered with a friend to launch a ready-towear collection for women. These clothes will be sold in over 120 shops in The Netherlands. “I have become more businessminded since the first show in Berlin. At one point, you will realize that you have to have income,” says Hofwegen. As an entrepreneur, Jonathan is very hands-on. He prefers meeting with clients than conversing with them through electronic mail. He is practically a one-man show, doing

The designer puts some finishing touches on a suit.

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A ‘Unique’ beauty portal in Zürich By Maria Kristine Fleischhacker


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Ildeme Mahinay Koch personally attends to her clients, above; Unique also offers beauty products, right.


n a country famously known for top quality brands like Rolex, Lindt, and Victorinox, an enterprising Pinay braved the odds by opening U’nique Personal Grooming by Demee right in the middle of Switzerland’s financial hub. Ildeme “Demee” Mahinay Koch, or “The Goddess” as many clients call her, says “grooming people” is her passion. The Filipino Expat Magazine


Unique highlights personalized grooming services to clients.

From Dubai to Switzerland

started her grooming business.

Koch was already enjoying success dealing with luxury beauty products at a consultancy company in Dubai when she decided to move to Switzerland to be with her then future husband in 2007.

“I saw that there is a gap in the market here in Switzerland. Grooming services here are not yet that complete and sophisticated. In the Philippines, customers are warmly welcomed. Here you are just a number. I felt there is a job for me to do,” enthuses Koch.

“It was hard to leave a good career and to move from a people-friendly environment to an almost aloof one. I also got used to being around modern and forward-thinkers in Dubai when it comes to fashion and beauty. I really felt the culture clash,” reveals Koch. Upon arriving in Switzerland, she immediately enrolled herself at the Swiss Business School to get an MBA. After graduation, she applied for a senior management position at a company only to be advised that she can only be a management trainee for the time being. During this time, she was already married to her Swiss fiancé. Koch felt all the more driven to succeed. She decided to go back to that one thing she loved doing –making people look good –and


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Koch opened U`nique, her first personal

“The real hard part of the business is finding the right people. I learned that I must not be too Filipino, not to be too lenient.” grooming concept in May 2010 in Zürich. She would later realize that there is no short cut to success in any business. The road to success Although she had the full support of her husband, Koch would experience

loneliness and discrimination. She says that at first it was not easy but later on she made many friends, some of whom helped her out in her business. Eventually she became pregnant with her son Oliver. “He is one of the main reasons why it has been easy for me to overcome my loneliness. He makes me more determined in the business,” shares Koch. Thanks to Koch’s vision combined with her amazing energy and charm, U`nique is now a talk of the town. Koch describes U`nique as a “grooming lounge,” prettifying and pampering clients from head to toe. U`nique offers services like hands and feet grooming, waxing, facial massage, eyelash extension, to name a few. It is the first in Zürich to offer nail grooming services to kids. The place has been praised for being the first one to have sinks attached to the floor for feet grooming purposes.

Women are treated like a queen at Unique

U`nique has been featured in a few magazines and has been a beauty hub from young to adult professionals, models and pageant winners and contestants. Women who come to the salon are treated like queens. They are served champagne and some appetizers with live music in the background. “My clients stay longer in the salon because I like to connect with people. In fact, some of my clients have done their business transactions here,” says Koch adding that the place is also a good venue for parties and business. According to Koch, it took them almost a year to start the grooming service. She and her husband found the place through a friend. They had to do some upgrade and renovations that included adding personal touches to the interiors –from the chic wall colour down to the cozy upholstered chairs. Koch is thankful that business and government transactions in Switzerland are very systematic. She had no trouble at all registering her business. Koch hopes to offer more services and open more branches. “The real hard part of the business is

finding the right people. I learned that I must not be too Filipino, not to be too lenient. Be a little bit tough or you will be abused. Adjust to your environment but never lose yourself,” says Koch. Koch adds that having a realistic dream as well as knowing your limits are among the keys to success.

“Every business starts with an idea. Be reasonable to your family and relatives especially when helping them. Never forget yourself,” finishes Koch. U’nique Personal Grooming by Demee is located at Langstrasse 187, 8005 Zürich, Switzerland. Call +41 44 5588 252 or email



f o t o g r a f i e

Corporate and portrait photography

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A ‘cut’ above the rest

By Myra Colis Photos by Ronald Pronk

Jitty Dela Cruz has gone a long way from his humble beginnings in the Philippines. This native of Malabon is now living a dream in Amsterdam, owning an 11-year-old salon named after him. Jitty’s Hair and Make-up salon is the go-to place for fellow Filipino expats whenever they want to have their beauty fix. The salon has carved a niche in the market by offering unique hairstyles and colors to customers in that side of The Netherlands. Dela Cruz’s journey to being a Filipino expat in Europe and an entrepreneur at that is truly inspiring. His parents couldn’t afford to send all their children to school that the young Dela Cruz opted to drop out of college back in the Philippines. His mom would eventually introduce him to famous Filipino hairstylist Jun Encarnacion, who taught him everything he needed to learn about the trade. Later, Dela Cruz would fall in love with a Dutch expat named Jack, a senior executive at an insurance company in Manila. In 1984, Dela Cruz left the Philippines to finally join Jack and his family in Amsterdam. Dela Cruz wasted no time advancing his career and expertise by taking short courses on hairdressing in London and Paris. But Jack would die of poor health in 1993, before Dela Cruz could even realize his dream of owning a salon. A year after Jack’s death, Dela Cruz would meet his life and business partner, Ronald Pronk. The two decided to put up their own business banking on Dela Cruz’s experience and know-how on beauty salons. They were fortunate that they did not have to spend too much, investing only in shampoo bowls, second-hand chairs and hiring two part-time hairdressers to start the business. Through the years, Dela Cruz and Pronk have grown their small venture, employing seven people today. Pronk acts as salon manager. According to Dela Cruz, Jitty’s Hair and Make-up salon has had its share of ups and downs. “The first three years of operations were the most challenging times mainly because we were offering the same services as our competitors. We needed to stand out,” recalls Dela Cruz. The couple decided to enroll themselves in business management courses and other related workshops. They would later learn to

Jitty dela Cruz fixes the hairstyle of a model during a show. focus on Dela Cruz’s innovative way of cutting and coloring hair to promote the business. They also invested in honing the skills of their staff by partnering with companies like L’Oreal Professional. The latter provided not only advanced training to Dela Cruz’s beauty team but also allowed them to be sent abroad to expose them to outside trends. The partners’ foresight proved more than profitable. “Putting up a business requires you to have a have a feel of the market. Do research, study what you have to offer, make a sound business plan, and be realistic. However, what’s most important is you have to believe in yourself, take those bold steps to reach your dream,” advises Dela Cruz. Jitty’s Hair and Make-up salon showcases sleek interiors.


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Dela Cruz takes pride in creating innovative hairstyles.

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Aiming high and doing it right By Dheza Marie Aguilar

Chona Abiertos Tenoria


hona Abiertas Tenoria is the type who only dreams big.

“When you dream big, even if you don’t realize that dream, that’s an achievement already especially when you have done all you can to get it,” explains Tenoria. A woman of many talents, Tenoria considers finishing law school at the age of 50 as well as starting her own law firm in Barcelona as her biggest accomplishments to date. She was given the Dr. Jose Rizal award for “most outstanding Filipino entrepreneur” by the nongovernment organization Centro Filipino Tuluyan sa San Benito in Barcelona in 2012. Humble beginnings Tenoria had initially wanted to


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“When I started law school, it was so hard. The medium of instruction was Catalan. I could understand Catalan but not speak it.”

For five years, she fought to get her residence permit. She worked as a babysitter while pursuing several studies that included information technology, nursing, and business administration. “When I was working as a babysitter, I was often crying, thinking of my one-year-old daughter in the Philippines,” Tenoria narrates, adding she also supported her brothers and sisters in the Philippines.

migrate to the US. In fact, her entry to Spain was simply her way of getting a Spanish visa that she thought would help her go to America without a hitch. That was the plan. Fate would have it differently.

Tenoria’s luck changed when she landed a job as a housekeeper for a prominent businessman; something she did during weekends. Realizing she was capable of doing more than household chores, Tenoria’s boss hired her as his personal secretary.

In 1987, Tenoria arrived in Barcelona, Spain.

Her employer’s old age and declining health made her think of

Habeas Corporation works on cases like immigration, criminal, tributary, fiscal, taxation among others. “I know that many Filipinos who come here are professionals and they are very smart. My advice to them, especially to those who have come here without going through the right process, is to be legally recognized. There are so many ways. For example, I am encouraging them to look for scholarships or government grants. And if you want to have a business here in Europe, it must be registered,” finishes Tenoria.

Tenorio with partner Sonia Rosales Gallegos and associate Marcos Nicolau Ramon. her future. This Filipino expat, at 45, decided to study law. “I barely made it on the last day of the qualifying exam for the College of Law at the University of Barcelona but I still ended up having one of the highest scores,” proudly recalls Tenoria. According to Tenoria, studying law, especially for someone like her who could not speak Catalan then, had been difficult. “When I started law school, it was so hard. The medium of instruction was Catalan. I could understand Catalan but not speak it. I had to translate the words in three languages in my head and that was very tiring,” shares Tenoria. Tenoria specialized in labor law, finishing law school in five years while juggling a fulltime job. “I did not have much social life, spending countless nights in front of piles and piles of law books,” says Tenoria.

Starting her own business Tenoria could have worked for other law firms but she preferred to have her own company, Habeas Corporation, to be able to help her kababayans more. “That’s one of the reasons why I chose to specialize in labor and employment as well as in social and security. These are the areas that concern most Filipinos in Europe,” confesses Tenoria. Tenoria partnered with her Mexican schoolmate Sonia Rosales to start Habeas Corporation. “During my first year of living here [Barcelona], I saw many injustices that our kababayans regularly experience. And it is still happening up to this day. I want to help,” points out Tenoria. Tenoria and Rosales constantly organize free seminars and special conferences for Filipinos to help them be informed about their rights as well as obligations in their host countries.

“I know that many Filipinos who come here are professionals and they are very smart. My advice to them, especially to those who have come here without going through the right process, is to be legally recognized”

Habeas Corporation is partnering with The Filipino Expat Magazine to give free legal advice to our kababayans in Europe, especially those living in Spain. Send in your questions to with the subject line Legal Advice.

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Savoring Pinoy cuisine in Germany By Dheza Marie Aguilar


“Cooking was just a hobby. The idea to open a Filipino restaurant came about because I saw that there was no one doing it in my area. I saw an opportunity.”

n the city of Mönchengladbach, near the Dutch border, proudly stands this little diner called Sisterz, the only Filipino restaurant in North Rhine-Westphalia. The first thing that you will notice upon entering is the dining area decorated with thatched roofs supported by bamboo poles. Then your eyes move to the candle holders which are also made of bamboo. Mounted on the walls are photos of Philippine attractions. The unique interiors as well as the delicious food is what makes Sisterz a favorite among Filipino, Belgian, Dutch and German diners. Established in 2004, Sisterz has survived the economic crisis that is crippling most businesses in Europe, thanks to its loyal and happy customers. These diners come to the restaurant in droves to sample bestsellers like pork and chicken barbecue, pinakbet and other dishes swimming in coconut milk. Their special menus that include lechon baboy and mussels served Filipino-style, are a hit as well.


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Pork barbeque is among the restaurant’s bestsellers.

Marijean Godel and her family.

Sisterz features thatched roofs supported by bamboo poles as part of the restaurant’s ambiance.

“Starting your own restaurant is never easy. It is important to have enough capital or savings to start one. However, it is more important to love what you do for you to achieve success”

Leche flan is among the favorite desserts.

From passion to business Owner Marijean Godel, a native of Nueva Ecija, has been living in Germany since 1984. Her love for food and cooking led her to start a catering business in 2003. A year later, Sisterz was born. “Cooking was just a hobby. The idea to open a Filipino restaurant came about because I saw that there was no one doing it in my area. I saw an opportunity. After all, those who risk nothing, gain nothing,” says Godel. Godel did not have enough capital when she started Sisterz. She had only that burning desire to turn her idea into a reality. So she borrowed money from her family and even sought the help of her now exhusband to help her finance the business.

Chicken barbeque, inasal-style is a mainstay in the menu.

“At first it was really difficult. Apart

from not having enough capital, I had to face the fact that Filipino food is not very popular especially among Germans. But through God, we survived all difficulties,” shares Godel. Godel does most of the cooking while her sisters and her mother help in serving their customers. As in-charge of the kitchen, she regularly updates her recipes to make sure that her European diners will continue to enjoy and appreciate Filipino cuisine. According to Godel, she owes her success to her passion for food. “Starting your own restaurant is never easy. It is important to have enough capital or savings to start one. However, it is more important to love what you do for you to achieve success,” notes Godel. Sisterz Restaurant Postgasse 24, 41061 Monchengladbach, North RhineWestphalia, Germany

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Franchising : The road to winning the food business By Ruelle Albert D. Castro Photo by Dexter Matilla


he next time you think of starting your first business venture, we have two words for you: Food and franchise. Experts say, you can even do that while you are living abroad, including Europe, so long as you’ve done your research and hired the right people. According to the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA), the franchising model provides “high success rate” mainly because it allows a franchisee to benefit from the experience and wisdom gained by the concept originator. Abby Alcaide, consultant at Filtrepeneur Franchise, Inc, agrees, “This [franchising] is already a proven formula which has already earned the business some confidence.” But why food? Alcaide says that food, being a basic necessity, quickly finds a ready market. “You don’t even need to sales talk people into buying your products. You can simply stand on the side waiting for a buyer to come to you,” says Alcaide. Sound advice Alcaide adds that there are various brands to choose from depending on your budget and interest. For example, the Philippines’ number one burger chain Jollibee would cost a potential franchisee from P15 to 30 million inclusive of the costs in putting up a branch. Meanwhile, smaller brands like fresh fruit shake marketer Big Chill charges franchise fee starting at P750,000, depending on the size and type of store. “The franchise package includes location feasibility study, site inspection with market analysis, landlord negotiation and tenancy agreement oversight, shop financial planning and budgets, in house training of initial crew, and shop opening assistance among others,” says Phil Oakden, head of Big Chill.


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Food cart franchising is a tried-and-tested business venture.

“(In food cart franchising) You don’t even need to sales talk people into buying your products. You can simply stand on the side waiting for a buyer to come to you”

Those with limited budget can choose from a slew of options.

Filtrepeneur Franchise, Inc., (www. has at least 15 food franchising brands catering to those with small capital. Alcaide says that about 70 percent of the company’s franchisees are returning Filipino expats from the Middle-east and Asian countries. They’ve had inquiries from the US, especially those who are working as nurses or physical therapists. Franchising on a budget A food cart franchise can cost as low as P25,000 already including the typical equipment to run the business as well as staff training. “Franchisees are given training on managing their businesses which includes bookkeeping and taxing matters, which is also covered during the consultation phase, ahead of the

actual training,” says Alcaide.

The training has to be attended by the franchisee and its staff, usually one or two, before they are allowed to operate the business. “We make sure that the business owner and their staff are well-informed about what to expect in their franchise business before they are given the business package which include the food cart, signage and equipment,” explains Alcaide. As an added security to the business operation, Filtrepreneur makes sure that the location of the franchise doesn’t compete with the company’s other brands. “We also have locators that can suggest viable locations for a franchise applicant if they still don’t have an idea where to put their business,” says Alcaide. On top of the franchise fee, a franchisee have to spend for utilities as well as staff salaries and rent which will be part of the

business’ monthly operational cost. If the business is good, a franchise, according to Alcaide, can produce return on investment in two months on the average. Alcaide says that a typical franchise needs to generate sales of at least P2,500 a day in order to recoup expenses, assuming rent is P10,000 a month. “Of course business profitability depends on location. When the business is ideally located, return on investments can also be achieved as early as one month,” notes Alcaide. PFA shares the following guidelines for those interested in venturing into the business: 1. Ask yourself why you want to own a franchise; 2. Look for opportunities that are in harmony with you and that greatly interests you; 3. Do your own research to have a complete understanding of the business, track record of the franchisor, and your personal resources, among others; 4. Look into the product or service and what makes it stand out among other businesses; and 5. Make sure that to get a good site selection. Ask a franchisor about the territory rights. PFA also conducts seminar on wise franchise investment in partnership with Philippine embassies/consulates abroad.

Send your love from Europe to the Philippines through Pinoy Balikbayan Box

The lowdown on entrepreneurial success Do you have what it takes to build your own thriving business? There are indeed many factors to consider before you quit your 9-5 job or dive straight to registering a company, from self- assessment and preparation to regulatory factors like taxation. This short article will not cover them all, but it summarizes key ingredients for entrepreneurial success: Let passion drive you, guided by your intellect Know what brings out the best in you and develop a business idea around it. Inevitably, majority of people, including your loved ones, will tell you that starting your own business is a risky move, an unstable career path, a stupid decision, or simply a waste of time. They could be right, but using your intellect as you prepare yourself and your sound business plan could also prove them wrong. Find a need and fill it Almost all success stories of small and medium enterprises begun with the founder’s urge to identify any need and find solutions to fill that need, no matter what it takes. In the Philippines, you can find a potential market in every corner. Simply look around you, watch people, and listen to them. What unmet needs can you find that you can possibly help with? As soon as you start generating business ideas from these problems, have a clear long-term vision and go for it! Fear not, failure is an ally Having a sound business plan does not guarantee success. Trial and error is fundamental when it comes to solving problems. Needless to say, every successful venture has failed more than once. Failures exist to redirect you to the right business strategy, right product or service specifications, right market, and even the right goals. Be innovative and keep learning Keep abreast of current events, customer preferences, and other new and emerging trends. Embracing change and constantly einventing yourself will pave the way for more personal and business growth. Invest right when the time is ripe Usually, it takes three to five years or even more for a startup company to be profitable. When that happens, make use of your profits well. Hire the right people for your company and empower them with new sets of skills. Invest in improving your products and/or services.


Mobile: +31 (0) 613183722 pinoy.balikbayanbox

- Myra Colis

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Property developers are on a mad rush to build condominiums in Metro Manila due to high demand. Photo shows Tribeca Residences in Sucat, Paranaque.

Why invest in real estate in PHL? Why not? by Ruelle Albert D. Castro


he Philippine economy continues to post sterling performance, recording 7.6 percent growth for the first six months this year according to government figures. Safe to say that under the country’s present economic setting, real estate opportunities are turning into an attractive avenue to park some of the hard-earned cash especially for Filipinos abroad. Danilo Ignacio, property consultant at Social Security System (SSS) and former president at Eton Properties Philippines, Inc., says that investing in the Philippine property market today will give higher yields than alternative investment options such as bank deposit rates, bonds, and mutual funds. “Property owners enjoy stable capital appreciation of real estate properties,” enthuses Ignacio, who also worked as head of property development at Robinsons Land Corp. With property investments, a buyer gets to benefit not only from the value appreciation of the land but also from the potential cashflow it can generate in the leasing market. David Leechiu, country head for another property consultancy firm Jones Lang Lasalle, says the property market is assured of a six-year run. “This year is going to be better than last year, and it will be much better next year,” observes Leechiu.


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Condominium Living In the residential segment, the estimated four million housing unit backlog (a recent study conducted by the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association of the Philippines) makes investment in condominiums very palatable. A sign of the confidence in the market include the mushrooming of residential towers all over Metro Manila. Developers, according to property consultancy firm CB Richard Ellis (CBRE), are taking advantage of the low cost financing of a housing unit, taking note of people’s need to live near their work and places of leisure as opposed to owning house and lots outside the city. “The liquidity in the market enables developers to provide more affordable payment terms to buyers. Low cost of borrowing are likewise spurring development expansions in the residential/ housing industry,” explains Santos. In Jones Lang Lasalle’s most recent report, it noted that much of the condominium developments in the country that will rise until 2018 are located in Metro Manila. Of the 149,920 condominium units set for construction in the next five years, majority of them or 144,330 units, cater to the middle-income segment of the market.

Quezon City holds the bulk of the supply, followed by the Makati central business district (CBD), Ortigas CBD (Pasig and Mandaluyong), and Bonifacio Global City (BGC)/Taguig. Jones Lang Lasalle noted that in this segment of the condo market, units are priced at a range of P1.5 million to P10 million, with unit sizes measuring up to 150 square meters (price per square meter is between P50,000 to P110,000). The property consultancy firm’s study also showed that of the upcoming supply, more than half of them are priced under P3 million, while 32 percent of the supply is priced at a range of P3 to P6 million. The rest caters to a market that can shoulder a unit costing over P10 million. High rental rates Colliers Philippines, another property consultancy firm, has noted that there is a supply mismatch in five of Manila’s known CBDs --- Makati CBD, BGC, Rockwell, Ortigas CBD, and Eastwood in Libis. Particularly in Makati and BGC, “the majority of the upcoming supply is not seen to fulfill the requirements of the end-users and expatriates, as only a quarter of the total inventory is allocated to multi-bedroom units,” notes Colliers. This results for premier three bedroom rental rates in the Makati CBD to be priced at P790 per square meter per month on average. “This translates to a monthly rate of P197,500 for a 150-sqm unit,” says Colliers. In BGC, rents stand at P780 per sqm per month. “Rents in both CBDs will improve by 7 to 8 percent in the next 12 months as the demand and supply gap remains narrow,” says Colliers.

Increasing property values Both Jones Lang Lasalle and Colliers say that property values have gone up since 2010. The former says that prime commercial properties in Makati have gone up to P130,000/ sqm from just a little over P90,000/sqm in 2010. Colliers meanwhile say they expect land values in Makati, and BGC to grow between 8 to 9 percent between now and the second quarter of next year; Ortigas properties are seen to grow by 6.4 percent. Between 2009 and the first half of the year, the inflationadjusted prices of luxury condomiminium units in the Philippines have grown by a compounded annual rate of 8 percent, while the values of existing high-mid/luxury residential condominium developments have grown by 3 percent within Metro Manila. Plaza Azalea As in the case of Plaza Azalea project by developer Landco Pacific Corporation, the value of its lots has almost doubled to P7,000 to 20,000 per square meter. “We are pleased with the sales velocity and market appreciation of our projects. This is because whether it’s a leisure community, resort-inspired condominium or luxury home community, Landco consistently delivers its brand promise of ‘Life at Your Lesiure’ to our customers,” said Maritess de Ocampo, AVP for corporate communications, Landco Pacific Corp. Playa Azalea is Landco’s premier luxury island resort community on Samal Island, Davao. It boasts of a 400-meter stretch of white sand beach and world-class leisure and resort amenities such as the Aqua Park, which features a river pool with infinity edge, kiddie pool, cabanas and snack bar. There is also the newly completed Hilltop Pavilion, which gives magnificent views of Davao City and Mount Apo.

A few real estate companies are offering retirement havens outside of the city.

“The liquidity in the market enables developers to provide more affordable payment terms to buyers.“

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Property developers are also offering leisure living.

Robinsons Residences advocates city living.

“Never think of investing if you are not really ready financially. “

Meanwhile, Landco’s Terrazas de Punta Fuego has lots that are now selling 60 to 75 percent higher in a per square meter basis, at a range of P10,000 to P14,000, since it was launched in 2002. In Landco’s condominium project Tribeca Private Residences in Sucat meanwhile, units for the first of 15 towers already saw a price inflation of 72 percent, at P95,000 per square meter, since its 2007 launch.

Caveat emptor As much as outlook is rosy for the property market, broker Edwardo Miguel Roldan says buyers still need to be discerning of what, where, and when to buy.


“First and foremost, think of your finances. Never think of investing if you are not really ready financially. Just because the payment terms are attractive, you’ll grab the product immediately,” cautions Roldan.

If there’s one thing investors can be thankful for the low interest rate environment, it’s the fact that they have democratized acquisition of properties more for buyers.

Second, in buying a property, make sure the developer has a good track record; though that is not to say that buyers should ignore small players, adds Roldan.

Bobby Dy, Ayala Land senior vice president, observes how property amortization as a result of the low interest rate has become more accommodating.

Roldan said that if one is buying a property for cashflow considerations, buyers should make sure it is located in areas where there will be an ample demand for the unit.

“Just a decade ago, a borrower has to pay a 12 percent interest for a 10 year loan,” says Dy.

“In choosing a real estate development you should also make sure you like the building, and you are comfortable with the unit density per floor as well as the amenities. Make sure you are comfortable on the people density in your building because sooner or later it will also become your home,” recommends Roldan.

De Ocampo expressed optimism that Tribeca’s development plan will interest Filipinos living in Europe.

Today, one can apply for a property loan payable within 20 to 25 years with an interest rate at 10 percent, according to Dy.


“This means that previous loans that had to be amortized at P17,000 a month is now amortized at P7,000 a month,” explains Dy.

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“Fashion designer Jonathan Hofwegen designs clothes that are edgy yet wearable. He likes to mix and match contrasting fabrics, juxtapose bold with neutral colors, experiment with different materials like wood, and highlight silhouettes that hug the body in the right places. He takes inspirations from nature, graphic art, and most especially his Filipino roots.�


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Handcrocheted sweater made of wool and cashmere, with cut out and crochetted skull print. glow in the dark embroidered pants

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Pina drape coat with white seams


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Flip over tank top sweater

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PERFECT location

BEST value

CLEAN and QUIET rooms

GREAT service

Tulip of Amsterdam B&B is a brand-new hotspot in town, combining traditional Dutch culture with modern comfort.


Tulip of Amsterdam B&B Kloveniersburgwal 9-HS 1011 JT Amsterdam Tel: + 31 (0)6 3911 1030 Fax: + 31 (0)8 4874 8722 Email: Website: The Filipino Expat Magazine

Plan your way to a fun weekend break

By Dheza Marie Aguilar Photos by Robin Kuijs


eekends are sacred. It’s the only time that you can forget about work for a while and simply think about enjoying yourselves. And one way of doing that is planning a quick getaway to nearby cities. Whether you are on a mission to shop until your pockets are empty, embark on a cultural immersion, or drink a glass of wine or two at a nice restaurant, Europe will never disappoint. We’ve listed down five of our favorite weekend destinations this fall:

Venice, Italy One of Europe’s most romantic cities, Venice’s uniqueness lies in its narrow alleys and canals, singing gondoliers, and centuries-old buildings. Autumn is the most ideal time to visit Venice especially in the months of September and October. That’s when the hot Italian summer gives way to cool breeze and longer days, the sun setting much later. Enjoy the time spent here with a glass of fine local wine at one of the al fresco restaurants located along the canals. Coming here at this time of the year also means bumping into less tourists, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful views and museums without having to wait in line. Venice is a very expensive city. If you are on a tight


The Grand Canal in Venice, Italy.

budget, skip the gondola rides. You can still enjoy the Italian city’s famous canals by simply walking around. When dining out, choose a restaurant that does not have loud gawkers outside their doors. You might want to forget shopping for a while. But if you do have money to spare, do indulge yourself with a leather product or two as Italy is well-known for that. Book your hotel outside the city proper because they tend to be more affordable. You might have to forego rooms with a view for the meantime. But if you can afford it, book a room with a terrace overlooking the Grand Canal. Venetians take the vaporetto (water buses) to get around the city for good reason. It is an inexpensive way to get around Venice. Follow their lead and enjoy a sightseeing of old buildings lining the Grand Canal without spending too much. Take the vaporetto to visit islets like Murano, famous for its glass-making industry and Lido Island, the summer haven of locales. If you go during the tail-end of winter, usually on the last week of February or first week of March, you might find yourself right smack in the middle of the grand Venetian carnival. So make sure to pack your masks, capes, hats and what have you.

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The Atomium in Brussels.

Brussels, Belgium Brussels is easily reachable by car or train from France, The Netherlands, Germany or Luxembourg. It is also a short plane ride away from other European countries. With two international airports serving this city, plane tickets are very affordable especially if you book well in advance. The capital of the European Union is home to unique architecture as well as a vibrant cultural scene. Like the rest of Northern Europe, Brussels can be a bit chilly during autumn so bring your trench coat and a pair of good walking boots to blend in with the fashionable Belgian crowd. Although, you will probably be spending a lot of time indoors checking out museums and palaces. Start your day early by hunting for some antique treasures at the popular Sablon Antiques Market at the Palace du Grand Sablon. Sellers from all over Belgium and sometimes from neighbouring countries come here to sell family heirlooms like Chinaware, all sorts of jewelry, silverware, pre-loved mink and fur coats and other designer bags and shoes. For art enthusiasts, head over to Royal Museums of Fine Arts. Meanwhile, those who are interested in the European Union political landscape can go to the Parlamentarium (The European Parliament’s Visitor’s Center). No one leaves Brussels without visiting its famous Atomium, an iconic building originally constructed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, located outside the city proper. Near the Atomium is a big park where you can relax after a long day’s sightseeing. To reach Atomium, take the metro via Heizel station.

The Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

Geneva, Switzerland Geneva is another very expensive city. But if you want to sample some of the world’s best chocolates, check out luxury watches, and experience one of Europe’s great shopping hubs, this is the place to be. There are lots of things to do in the city that are for free. It only involves a lot of walking as well as dropping by Lac Leman, the lake that stretches from Geneva to its neighbouring country France. The boardwalk along the lake is a good place for running or walking in the morning or even at noon. At the Jardin Anglais (English Garden), located at the back of the Flower Clock, you can have your lunch while enjoying the view of one of the largest fountains in Europe, Jet d’Eau. This after window shopping along Rue du Rhone and Marche, Geneva’s famous shopping streets. Through a short bus ride, you can go to another park, Conservatoire and the Botanical Gardens. Here, you indulge in a leisurely, quiet afternoon with only the birds singing and the flowers blooming as company. You can even take a nap in the middle of a rather busy city. At Lac Leman, you can book a boat ride around the lake. Watch enthusiasts can learn more about the long history of watch making in Switzerland by visiting the Patek Philippe Museum on Rue de Vieux-Grenadiers. The three-story complex chronicles the turbulent beginnings of the early watchmakers, the Huguenots, who escaped persecution in France and ended up in Calvinist, Switzerland. To save money, you may want to skip wining and dining at expensive restaurants. Instead, look for affordable Asian restaurants like Kwai restaurant located along Place de Cornavin.


The famous Flower Clock in Geneva. The Filipino Expat Magazine

Budapest, Hungary Among the cities in this list, Budapest is my favorite. It rivals France and Italy when it comes to beautiful architecture. It also competes with Germany when it comes to fantastic river views and thermal baths. You can experience all these without having to break the bank. You can choose from a variety of activities: Go on tours of old castles, museums and historical buildings; take a river cruise along the Danube, shop at the Central Market, walk along the Chain Bridge or have a picnic on Margaret Island. But for a truly Budapest experience, don’t miss experiencing the city’s famous thermal baths which you can opt to do indoors or outdoors. It is one of the favorite pastimes of the locals especially during winter. Join a pub crawl, an activity that takes tourists to different bars located in abandoned buildings. Just make sure you won’t drink too much palinka or the local equivalent of vodka. Not many tourists know of Budapest’s “underground” attractions. This is for those who want to know more about the history of the city. Tourists are led to cellars, underground caves, museums, and hospitals, among others.

Prague, Czech Republic Visiting Prague during autumn lets you have that feeling that you’ve just entered the land of fairytales. I remember standing at the Charles Bridge on a misty afternoon and seeing Prague’s gothic cathedral looming in the distance. The sight was enchanting and eerie at the same time. To experience local flavor, try Prague’s world-famous pilsner and kozel beers paired with some utopence (pickled sausage) or knedliky (dumplings). They won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

The Danube river in Budapest.

Watch a ballet or an opera at the grandiose State Opera House. But book in advance. Come in your best cocktail attire to blend in with the locales. If you are not into cultural shows, maybe a puppet show at the National Marionette Theatre will interest you. Prague is the unofficial capital of puppetry in Europe and the puppet masters here offer one of the funniest versions of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni. The ticket can be a bit expensive though. For souvenirs, head to the Old Town where you can find shops selling typical Czech puppets. Czech puppets being sold in souvenir shops in Prague.

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El Nido: Unforgettable paradise by DM Kuijs Photos by Robin Kuijs


t has been five years since I visited El Nido for the first time. Until now, I can still remember its quiet beauty and calming athmosphere. So much so, I always recommend this amazing paradise to friends and acquaintances who ask about places to visit in the Philippines. This place reminds me of three things: One, it’s like a mini-Philippines thanks to its cluster of islets, 45 in total, populated by warm and friendly people; two, this is where I fell in love with my Dutch husband (the photographer of this story); three, our love story, in retrospect, started my journey to Europe. El Nido lies at the northeast of Puerto Princesa, Palawan’s capital. In recent years, it has been cited as one of the most beautiful beaches by international media outfits including CNN and the publishing company Conde Nast. The island’s powdery, white sand;


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turquoise blue waters and secret coves draw many beach goers especially Koreans and Japanese to its shores. On a good day, you can have the beach all to yourself or your loved ones. The beach can be a bit crowded sometimes. But you are still promised a relaxing sojourn by the beach, away from all the stresses of everyday life including your mobile phones and laptops. We will never forget the beautiful sunset at Corong-corong beach, a secluded area not usually visited by tourists. That was where we spent the day exchanging opinions on life’s profound questions and drinking vodka to muster the courage to propose (at least for my husband). Or the next day when we went swimming with the sharks while I was still numb and drunk from the vodka of the night before. These were the days when we didn’t have smart phones and our main source of joy was nature and the tranquility she brings. Writing this article might not be able to

give justice to the beauty of El Nido but I hope this will show you even a glimpse of what could be enjoyed and experienced there. For starters, El Nido is a typical, rural town that thrives mainly on fishing. Everyone here speaks English, or at least try to. The locales always have a ready smile especially when they’re talking with foreigners. And contrary to popular belief, El Nido is not that expensive a destination. In fact, apart from the highly commercialized resorts in the area, there are a number of affordable accommodations to choose from. Things to Do El Nido offers several activities to last you up to two weeks without getting bored. Because we only stayed for five days, we only managed to do the usual tours. But if you have more time to spend, we suggest that you make the most out of your trip.

“El Nido is not that expensive a destination. In fact, apart from the highly commercialized resorts in the area, there are a number of affordable accommodations to choose from.”

One of the many coves in El Nido.

There are three basic island hopping tours around Bacuit Bay called Tour A, B and C which go around the islets of Small and Big Lagoons, 7 Commando Beach, Secret and Hidden Beach and Helicopter Island. A tour can cost from €34 to €120 per person if you are renting a boat for two people. For groups of four to six, it will be more economical to hire a boat that can take you around Bacuit Archipelago for one whole day. Doing the latter allows you to have a say of where you want to go.

Powdery white sands and turquoise blue waters define this paradise.

Don’t book at the first restaurant you find offering you tour packages. Chances are they are more expensive and time limited. Walk around a bit and do your own survey of other tour operators. Be sure to bargain for as low as you can. You might need to reserve snorkeling gears like fins, masks and goggles a day before your tour. Each cost approximately €1,50 each. We were lucky to have found Mang Edgar, our boatman who offered swimming with

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French restaurant Squidos is a favorite among foreign tourists.

Sunset at Corong-Corong beach.

the sharks, an activity which is not usually included in tour packages. Those who are interested in kayaking around the islets can avail of kayak rentals that roughly cost €12 for the whole day. You can also opt to rent kayaks for half a day at half the price. Fishing and windsurfing gears are available starting at €120 per person. El Nido Boutique and Art Cafe can arrange the said activities plus rock climbing among others. You can reach them at (+63 2) 920 446 9135 or email them at Dining in El Nido As mentioned, El Nido offers good food and drinks at pocket-friendly prices.


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Our favourite French restaurant is called Squidos, a modest-looking hut made of bamboo with a thatched roof located on the main street. Tourists can have their fill of a small selection of typical French staples. The owner/ manager/waitress is a Filipina married to a French guy who is also the chef. We loved their chocolate crepe,a twopiece crepe topped with a generous serving of chocolate syrup, for less than €1. Beside the office of the Boat Association is Aplaya, a budget-friendly Filipino restaurant offering fresh seafood and a nice view of the sea. We had a whole tuna, good for three persons, for €3. Since it is located right

on the beachfront, you sometimes have to move your table farther up during high tide if you don’t want your feet to get soaked. If you need assistance, the friendly staff at the restaurant is always ready to help. For those who can’t start a day without their caffeine fix, The Coffee Shop serves the best espresso on the island for roughly half a euro. Sit by the table outside the cafe and watch the town wake up while you enjoy your coffee and the cool breeze from the ocean. Accommodations Since we didn’t have much time to spare, we decided to stay at the first hotel suggested by our English friend Maz Murphy, the Four Seasons Hotel.

The name sounds expensive but we only paid a little less than €40 for an air-conditioned room with a double bed, a balcony with the view of the sea, free wi-fi and breakfast of your choice to boot. There are other accommodations with beachfront views that are available for almost the same price. It is best to scout the place first to get a better bargain. When we were there five years ago, a Korean company was building what is now known as El Nido Beach Hotel. Room rates there start from €52. Getting there There are regular bus trips going to El Nido from San Jose Terminal, near the

New Public Market off the National Highway, in Puerto Princesa. Remember to wake up very early in the morning because the first bus leaves at 6am while the last bus leaves at 7:30am. It’s better to reserve your seat a day or two so you are assured of good seats. Bus fare is about €4 per person. There are also air-conditioned vans that charges €10/person. The trip is eight hours long so be prepared for a long, bumpy, rocky and adventurous ride. Those coming from other parts of Palawan like Taytay, Sabang or Port Barton, there are boats you can hire to go to El Nido for €35 per person. But we don’t recommend this for three reasons: First, you are sure to get wet

Art Cafe restaurant is one of the main business points in the island where you can book tours, use the internet, buy souvenirs and eat.

during the boat ride; second, you will miss the great sights along the way; and third, there’s nothing like the adventure of going through rough roads to reach El Nido. Believe me, you wouldn’t regret taking the bus. If you prefer flying, there are private planes that can take you directly to the island. SEAIR has regular flights from Manila.

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A quick escape from the chaos of city life by DM Kuijs Photos by Robin Kuijs


anila can be overwhelming for some Europeans who are not used to long traffic jams and the mall culture. For example, a recent trip in August made me realize that most of the activities that you can do in Manila are confined in big malls. And if you happen to have a meeting there, anticipate the possibility of getting stuck in traffic for one or two hours, making you late to your appointment.


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So after staying in Manila for a week, jumping from one meeting to another and mostly being held hostage by congested roads, we were aching to spend a weekend by the beach surrounded by palm trees and peace and quiet. After all, that’s what we came here for. One Saturday afternoon, we headed south of Metro Manila to enjoy a staycation in Punta Fuego, an exclusive

Clockwise from left:The Member’s Lounge and the reception area overlook the double infinity pool; A late-night massage before dinner time; Chef Cefri Avinante entertained us with good food and conversation.

seaside community by Landco Pacific Corporation in Nasugbu, Batangas. Upon arriving, Landco’s Trixie Velasquez immediately gave us a tour of Terrazas de Punta Fuego, another Landco luxury property perched on a hill offering breathtaking views of Batangas. I could imagine a lot of Europeans, including me and my husband, wanting to settle down here when they reach retirement age. On the opposite side of the property is De La Cresta, also a residential development surrounded by old trees, facing the West Philippine Sea. We then took a stroll around the Spanish-Mediterraneaninspired cottages that are enjoyed by members of Club Punta Fuego, the country’s premier seaside membership club.

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Left:Fried shrimps coated in cuttlefish’s ink on a bed of crispy noodles. Right: One of the directional signs to the casitas

We capped our day lounging by the beach and watching Member’s Lounge, ordered my double whiskey and watched the beautiful sunset. We took our sweet time enjoying the a group of Koreans having fun at the double infinity pool. cool breeze from the sea kissing our cheeks and the calming silence of the place punctuated by the sound of night insects Since I still had time to kill before dinner time, I went for a 45raring to play in the approaching darkness. We could even minute spa treatment. The hour was rather late already that make out the insistent crashing of I ended up being the facility’s only waves to rocks from a distance. customer at that time. It was pure “We capped our day Manila’s hustle and bustle seemed bliss when the masseuse started too far away. We knew we will have kneading my back. lounging by the beach the quiet and relaxing weekend we’ve and watching the been longing for. We made reservations at the San Diego restaurant for dinner. We were beautiful sunset. We All unit and lot owners at Terrazas served with plates of delicious fare took our sweet time and De La Cresta have access to the that Chef Cefri Avinante says were main club, situated about 15 minutes made from the freshest ingredients, enjoying the cool breeze away from both properties. The club sourced from local farmers in from the sea kissing our has several amenities that include Batangas. 33 casitas and 15 seaside suites, cheeks and the calming swimming pools and infinity pools, Our appetizer was shrimp coated silence of the place several restaurants, sports facilities with ink from cuttlefish followed by a including jet ski and diving, spa and a delicious pumpkin soup. Afterwards, punctuated by the sound nine-hole executive golf course. we enjoyed a plate of fruits and of night insects raring to nuts salad with vinaigrette which We finally decided to check into our according to Chef Avinante is usually play in the approaching very own casita, which to our delight served to break the savory taste of darkness.” had a gorgeous view of the sunset the first two dishes as well as refresh and the beach. A bowl of fresh fruits and prepare the palate for another and a bottle of wine were waiting for set of dishes. us soon as we entered the room.The sweetest mangoes we’ve Our main course was grilled tenderloin and prawns in had so far were the first to go. peppercorn sauce with buttered vegetables which we paired We still had a few energy left so went out and took a few with a bottle of red Spanish wine. We finished the meal with more walks around the different areas of the main club. a generous plate of tropical fruits which included my favorite As my husband took photos of the sunset, I went to the rambutan.


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Guests enjoying the sunset and the double infinity pool at the club house.

More than the delicious food, we enjoyed the company of chef Avinante who personally delivered some of the dishes to our table. He would talk to us now and then, sharing with us his work experiences as a chef at top restaurants in Kuwait wherein he served sheiks among others. We retired to our room with stomachs full and spirits lifted. Not feeling like sleeping yet, we decided to sit by the balcony of our room and enjoy a bottle of beer. As we looked at the flickering lights of the houses in the distance and listened to the crashing of the waves, now more violently because of the coming storm, it seemed like nothing else mattered in the world. We would have wanted to stay a couple more nights if only we didn’t have to fly back to The Netherlands in the next two days. We couldn’t afford to get caught in a coming storm and thus, miss our flight. Looking back now, that wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. Maritess de Ocampo, assistant vice president for corporate communications of Landco Pacific Corporation, says that lot owners in Punta Fuego have the option to activate their club share at Club Punta Fuego. Those who prefer being a member only, meaning they don’t want to buy a lot and build a home in the property, they simply need to purchase a club share. For more details on Club Punta Fuego, call (+63 2) 7514027 or visit The club is also available for functions and weddings. Call Fuego Hotels and Properties at (+63 2)553-8888 or visit its website at

A sidetrip to Aquaria Calatagan, Batangas, the playground of the country’s old rich, is also home to a Landco Pacific Corporation property called Playa Calatagan’s Leisure Tourism Estate, a resort community that offers seaside condominium units with access to the beach and the Aquaria resort. The tourism estate is still on its early stages of development but the Aquaria beach resort is already open to the public. The property highlights 48 kilometers of white sand beach and a slew of activities to choose from. There’s a threestory high water slide, several cove pools, kiddie pools, wooden cabanas which can be rented out for a day and even a sunken bar. Those who want to stay for the night can rent a tent and sleep under a canopy of stars at the camping area of the resort. The staff can even prepare the bonfire and marshmallows for you. For more information, call (+63 2) 836-5000, email or

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Biko for dessert Text and photo by Ken Subillaga


he Philippines is not only famous for its beautiful islands and beaches but also for its delicious and mouth-watering desserts called kakanin, derived from the word kanin, which is a Filipino word for rice. Nobody knows how these kakanins actually started but legend has it that during precolonial times, Filipino ancestors used to offer them to gods and visiting friends or relative. They have generally used rice as a base for most staple sweet products of any type. They were cooked in bamboo shoots or banana leaves. Cooking technique, recipes and tastes have been practically preserved up to the present times. Now, these staple desserts have practically evolved into either simpler or more complicated with lots of variations depending on where one is coming from. Biko is one of the kakanins that I adore since I was a little boy. This delicacy reminds me of my childhood days when my mom would prepare this in the morning while we were out on the woods and when we were back home, the sweet smell of burnt coconut milk combined with the aroma of caramelized muscovado just filled the whole living room. The good thing about this delicacy is the simplicity of its preparation. So let´s start!

Ingredients: To cook rice: 1 ½ cups malagkit rice (glutinous rice) 1 ½ cups coconut milk 1 cup water lemon leaves To prepare the biko: 2 cups coconut milk 1 cup dark brown sugar or muscovado To prepare the topping: ¾ cup condensed milk ½ cup coconut milk

Procedures: 1. Cook rice. Rice should not be overcooked so they don´t get mashed up later. Set aside. 2. Put pan on medium heat, bring coconut milk to a boil. When the boiling slows down a bit, add the brown or muscovado sugar. Stir constantly but slowly. 3. When the coconut milk-sugar mixture has started to caramelize, add the cooked malagkit rice. Slowly but mixing constantly to avoid burning the rice at the bottom. 4. Transfer the rice mixture to the baking pan. Level the top up with a spoon or a spatula. 5. Pour the coconut-condensed milk mixture on top and bake at 170 ºC for 15 minutes or until the top portion caramelizes. Yield: 16 slices in a 10 square-inch baking pan. Tips for better tasting biko: 1. Cook malagkit rice with lemon leaves. This gives off a tangy flavor and mild aroma which is just perfect for this kind of delicacy. 2. Don´t over-cook the malagkit rice as it will be cooked again with the coconut milk-sugar mixture. 3. Don´t refrigerate the cooked biko to prevent the rice from hardening from the inside. Just keep them in a cool and dry place. 4. Line the baking pan with baking paper to easily remove them later when slicing. 5. Rice doesn´t need to get rinsed like what we normally do in the Philippines. If you intend to rinse your rice, take away 1 cup of water from your recipe when cooking rice. 6. In the Visayan region, people add half a teaspoon of powdered ginger to the cooked mixture for a different taste.

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For the love of cupcakes Text and photos by Rhea Topacio


t all started when I baked my daughter’s first birthday cake. The design was too much and the taste, just fine. I was very disappointed with myself. Like any other parent, I want the best for my children. I did not want to make the same mistake again. So my husband, a baker, and I, a part-time graphic designer, went on a quest for the best recipes and designs for cakes and cupcakes. On August 2012, we began giving samples to our friends for some taste test. Our cupcakes were a hit and before we knew it, we were already taking orders. During that time, I did not have a regular job as I could not speak Dutch. It was then decided that we venture into a business that we can easily do at home. Taartini Designer Cupcakes was born. We could not forget that day when we realized we actually delivered 16,000 mini-cupcakes in six months. All things considered, Taartini Designer Cupcakes is all about making cupcakes that are special for every customer and occasion. Our flavors maybe simple, but our designs are unique. We never thought we will reach this far. But we did. Now, our goal is to bring smile and joy in every Taartini cupcake box by creating more beautiful designs and flavors for our clients. Taartini Designer Cupcakes Alburgplein 91, 2134 DM Hoofddorp, Netherlands Email

Love what you do Mompreneur Rhea Topacio shares her recipe on starting your own home-business:


Make sure you love what you are doing. In this kind of business, your emotions can affect the results of your baked goodies as well as the design.


Think outside the box. Do not confine yourself to what is conventional and comfortable. If you do, you will be just like anybody else in the industry/market.


Aside from earning, aim to bring happiness and satisfaction to your customers. Happy customers talk more about your products and most importantly, they come back.

4 5

Remember that competition maybe healthy, working together is healthier.

Always have that unique selling point. Think of what will make your products different from the rest. That attitude will separate you from the crowd.


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Issue 3 Investment and starting a business